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May 07, 2004
A Praying Mantis, A Ventriloquist Dummy, and A Robot From The Internet
by Daniel Erenberg

Last week, I wrote a piece called “When Is A Door Not A Door?”, which was basically an episode by episode review of the whole of Angel’s fifth season. In writing this article, I grew comfortable with both the concept and the format. So I proposed a series of articles that will basically be episode by episode reviews of each season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel (and perhaps Firefly and Wonderfalls as well, if I’m not completely bored in two months). You can expect two articles a week, and I’ll be taking a break one week to write a review of Angel’s series finale “Not Fade Away”, written by Jeffrey Bell and Joss Whedon, and directed by Bell.

So, without further ado…


Buffy 1.1: “Welcome To The Hellmouth”, written by Joss Whedon and directed by Charles Martin Smith

What can I say about this one? It was the first, and it still holds up today quite admirably. The opening sequence is interesting and captivating, we’re introduced to the genuinely terrifying villain The Master, and the regular cast of Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, Cordelia Chase, and Rupert Giles gels instantly, quelling any bad memories that the original film might have brought you. The dialogue is superb, a Joss Whedon trademark, and the supporting characters, like Luke, Darla, Joyce, Mr. Flutie, and especially Angel, are as interesting as the main cast. If there are any complaints, it has to be with the cheesy faux-horror music score (a problem that was fixed with a vengeance with the addition of Christophe Beck in season two), and the lack of apparent depth in the Cordelia character (something that was completely fixed by the end of the season).

Buffy 1.2: “The Harvest”, written by Joss Whedon and directed by John T. Kretchmer

There’s no change in style or feel from episode one, but it’s here that we first begin to get a glimpse of a darker side of the Buffyverse. The stakes (no pun intended), certainly, are higher, with the kidnapping and transformation of Jesse in a few scenes that really hit hard for a first-time viewer. We’re introduced to a load of new character nuances, and for the first time, we get to see Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This is also the second episode in a row with a darkly intriguing Angel scene that subtly foreshadows his vampire nature.

Buffy 1.3: “Witch”, written by Dana Reston and directed by Stephen Cragg

This is Buffy’s first real stand-alone monster of the week episode, and while it succeeds on many levels, it fails as a story. It also doesn’t hold up as well as Joss’s opening epic. We’re introduced to Amy Madison, a fantastic new character well played by Elizabeth Anne Allen. There are plot twists galore (not all of them make total sense) and it keeps your interest with its quick banter. It even does a good job in setting up a nice dynamic between the four main cast members. However, it left me somewhat cold in the end. I found myself not really caring. Plus we still have to deal with the bad makeup effects (like the girl with no mouth) and the downright awful music.

Buffy 1.4: “Teacher’s Pet”, written by David Greenwalt and directed by Bruce Seth Green

Better. Closer. Warmer. Greenwalt pulled off a rather interesting episode with a spectacular monster of the week. Ms. French, the Praying Mantis is a wonderful character. You even sort of feel for her until she tries to kill Xander. Perhaps she’s just working as a teacher. Though probably not because Dr. Gregory’s body was found in a freezer. Meanwhile, we get more from Xander, a character who, right around this point in the series, became a favorite of mine. Also, Greenwalt is the first writer to really give us a glimpse of the voice that Angel will have in future episodes. The man can write.

Buffy 1.5: “Never Kill A Boy On The First Date”, written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali and directed by David Semel

This is an interesting offering. The book Dusted, by Lawrence Miles, Lars Pearson, and Christa Dickson says that NKABOTFD was the turning point of the series. When Buffy became Buffy. I don’t know if I’d agree with that. While it does have some good one-liners, a solid predicament, and a brutally chilling ending, it still comes off kind of flat, mostly because Buffy’s latest beau Owen is a bit slack. We never really care for him and because of this Buffy’s closing decision lacks punch. However, we get the first of many wonderful conversations between Buffy and Giles. This one really makes you think. But I still think it could have been more.

Buffy 1.6: “The Pack”, written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer and directed by Bruce Seth Green

I love this episode. I think it’s one of the best of season one. By this point, practically every character is well-defined (even with the notable exception of Cordelia, this is an exceptional achievement). The episode is brutal, violent, and it hurts to watch. Just like most of the best Buffy episodes. The scene where Xander and his new Gang stalk up to the school as Far’s “Job’s Eyes” plays in the background is beautiful, and the infamous Dodgeball scene is terrifying to watch. This one really hits its mark.

Buffy 1.7: “Angel”, written by David Greenwalt and directed by Scott Brazil

To me, this right here was the turning point of the series. Greenwalt remained the one writer that can truly nail Angel’s voice, and this is a devastating episode. The cast continues to gel, Darla returns to great effect and dies (but she’ll be back), and we get some fantastic revelations about Angel. I, for one, didn’t really see it coming the first time I watched it, and the reveal of Angel in vamp-face is insane. David Boreanaz and Sarah Michelle Gellar gave some of their best performances in this one. The back story created for Angel is rich and deep and full of possibilities. “Angel” was a sign of things to come.

Buffy 1.8: “I Robot, You Jane”, written by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden and directed by Stephen Posey

This was a return to formula to season one, and while it did a good job in advancing Willow’s character, it really didn’t work. The monster, Moloch, seems interesting at first as an incorporeal entity living in the computer. There were some wonderful possibilities with this storyline, some that Giles even brought up in one of his trademark Library Exposition monologues. However, once Moloch came out of the computer, in the form of a giant robot, it all just became a bit silly. On the bright side of things, we’re introduced to Janna of the Kalderash Gypsies, here only known as Ms. Calendar. She gets some wonderful, nearly philosophical dialogue with Giles, and integrates into the cast seamlessly.

Buffy 1.9: “The Puppet Show”, written by Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel and directed by Ellen S. Pressman

Another silly monster of the week. There are some decent plot twists and surprises contained within this one, the only problem is the ending, which doesn’t exactly make sense and seems as though it was thought of by the writers to get themselves out of a hole. Sid, the dummy, is boring at first, and graduates into a mildly interesting character, but all in all, nothing great to be found here. Except that is, for the new character of Principal Snyder, played to delightfully weaselly perfection by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Armin Shimerman.

Buffy 1.10: “Nightmares”, written by David Greenwalt and directed by Bruce Seth Green

David Greenwalt continues to elevate his episodes. While this one does get up on a soapbox a bit (hey, don’t hit kids!) it still works really well. The images are terrifying (Buffy as Vampire! Killer Clowns!). And some of the scenes are downright gut-wrenching (Buffy’s father makes her cry…) There’s not much more to say about this one. It works.

Buffy 1.11: “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight”, written by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden and directed by Reza Badiyi

Here’s the one where we get to know a bit more about Cordelia Chase. We finally get a glimpse of the kind of Cordelia we’ll come to know years later on Angel. It’s also the first genuinely good monster of the week episode since “The Pack”. Marcie Ross is an interesting and sympathetic villain, and Clea DuVall plays her really well. The sequence of a tied-up Buffy and Cordelia fighting against the invisible girl is one of the only visually rich scenes in the whole of season one, and the Invisible Assassin finale, while a bit jarring, is still bone-chilling.

Buffy 1.12: “Prophecy Girl”, written and directed by Joss Whedon

Absolutely a great episode. From the opening shot of Buffy flying through the air in slow motion, we’re beginning to see a different Buffy. In fact, we’re seeing Buffy as Joss Whedon envisioned it. The fight scenes are scary and intense, the characters are all given something interesting to do, there are tear-inducers (Buffy’s “I’m 16…” speech), there are some heartbreakers (Buffy turning down Xander in my personal favorite scene in all of season one), even the occasional smattering of cheese works (the Buffy theme song strut). I love this episode. This is the one where everything comes together. This is the one that will go down in history as the precursor to the brilliant season two…

To Be Continued

Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone except for the mind-numbing loneliness he feels on occasion. If you’re a beautiful woman that’s fallen in love with Daniel, or you just want to talk Buffy with him, you can contact Daniel at

Latest Comments

MShep. I gotta ask. "Selfless" episode. Buffy said quote " I've never LOVED anyone like I LOVED Angel(us). Key word here is loved, as in past tense. Not trying to start anything but I'm not sure she's IN LOVE with him anymore. There was also her slip in "First Date". "Why does everyone in this house think I'm still in love with Spike". We all noticed, irregardless of which ship you are but yet the writers ignored that? That was a major admission. So that tells me at some point maybe she did fall in love with Spike. Question in my mind is when did that happen? When he came back to her with a soul? Or when she told him she believed in him in "Never Leave Me"? Or when she rescued him from the First? Or when she made the decision to remove the chip? Angel(us) may not be in contention for the Shanshu anymore either and without that it won't happen with her. I disagree. If it turns out we don't get the movie that says otherwise and based on the information we've been given(Nina and the Immortal) it is OVER.

Posted by: jp on May 29, 2004 11:06 PM

Beth writes: "She impressed me so much in her performance on "Buffy" that I even tried to like her. But her ego was just to big. I always knew she was a snob. Like you said, she never did one commentary on any the Buffy DVD's! Even David is willing to do those. And at least he goes to fan conventions! Sarah thinks shes way too good for us lowlife fans. We're all losers in her eyes.Also, I've heard she can be quite the diva on set as well. I think Buffy was the one good thing she did in her entire career. Like David, she needs to learn to accept her place in the Buffyverse and work it to her advantage instead of against it.

That's quite a generalization. I respect that you have the right to your own opinion, but I think it would be a good idea if you didn't presume to speak for the "fans" as a collective unit, because some of us have differences of opinion. Like me, for example.

I've seen SMG give many interviews about BtVS, her character, the cast and crew and she's always been very complimentary, gracious and professional and has expressed gratitude to the fans. She's never had an unkind word to say about anyone. And apart from one disgruntled stuntman (fired by ME for his own behavior and attitude) who sad nasty things about SMG and other cast members, all her fellow actors have said she's very hard working, professional and thoughtful person to work with (*especially* James Marsters and David Boreanaz).

I'm not sure why it's snobbish for SMG not to go to Cons considering that for all the fans that appreciate her work as Buffy, there are others who make nasty and unfounded comments about her personally. I have complete respect for her for the lasting legacy she gave us. Honestly, I don't think she owes anyone anything and being a private person, I think it's her right to spend her personal time as she see's fit.

Now, I adore JM, and I know he goes to a lot of Cons which is certainly his prerogative, and he may actually enjoy them, but he also gets to perform in his band that way and a Con gives him a good opportunity to showcase his music to an attentive audience - so there's double reason for him to be there. I think that's smart move on his part and I certainly think it's a nice treat for the fans. However, it doesn't mean SMG's a bad person for not choosing to do the same.

Carol Hart: "The Buffy/Angel story is over on tv, and anything other than a tv series would only prolong the inevitable end, so perhaps it's best to let it lay. They will all live on though in the written word, film and in memory."

You've made this statement that the B/A story is over a couple times. Are you referring to the Buffy/Angelverse in general or B/A romance?

The 'verse itself may not appear on TV, except in syndication, which would be terribly sad (but I have little fantasy that some cable network will come to the rescue of the fans and give us more of the 'verse someday). As for the B/A romance I don't agree that it's over. They may have been forced apart by fate, they may have interludes with other people, but I don't think it'll ever be over or at least until we hear Buffy and Angel say they are no longer in love each other... Just my opinion, of course.

Finally, while I have issues with a cliffhanger ending to a series finale (although I think it would make a great season finale followed by a 6th season), I think the point is everything's left open to the imagination. I do agree that the Buffy/Angelverse will always stay alive as long as the fans still care about it, and in fanfic, even if we never see another Buffyverse show.

Posted by: MShep on May 26, 2004 10:42 AM

Hey Beth. Makes complete sense. I've never gotten the impression he was looking for a "reward" either. The change that started to happen in season five was a combination of the chip and his growing feelings for her. With Angel, the Shanshu has always been a major factor in him doing good. Whether he admits it or not it's there. Sorry. Buffy is a factor they both share. I think Spike was right back in season five when he told soldier boy she needs a little monster in her man. Look at what she's with now. I seriously doubt the Immortal is human. So that being said, could Buffy love William? That's who she would be getting without his demon. He would be who he was 124 years ago. He'd be a total stranger to her. As Spike, he's her equal in strength and healing ability. With mortality all that is lost. I also think what he feels for her and if this thing with the Immortal doesn't work out will be a factor. What will his emotional state be? Will he still love her ?

Posted by: jp on May 21, 2004 12:16 AM

From what I gathered from last night's episode I think he would accept the Shanshu. It seems to me like he feels he deserves an award for the good he's done. Then again, he might not want to give up his vampire powers just yet. Like Angel, in " I Will Remember You" he might want to continue on as a vamp just so he can continue fighting the good fight. But to me, Spike doesn't seem like the help-the-helpless type. And he doesn't seem like he's on a quest for redemption either. So the only reason that I see as to why he would turn it down is Buffy. He knows that she needs a little monster in her man, so would she be able to love Spike without the monster? The question he would have to ask himself:Do I gain mortality and live a normal life without Buffy or do I want to reject this gift the fates have given me just so I still have a chance with her? Another thing he would have to ask himself is: I've been a vampire for so long, could I even adjust to being human again? His generation has long since passed and things have changed. Could he get used life as a human in the 21st century?The answers to those questions will be a major factor in his decision to Shanshu.

Posted by: beth on May 20, 2004 11:23 PM

Hey Carol Hart. Actually, Scoobie Doo 2 was filmed last spring for a 2004 release like one was done at the end of season five(2001) for a 2002 release. It was a year in between filming and theater release for both. She was in Japan at that time filming a movie. Very true about the Shanshu. For the record, I'm simply stating the facts as they were represented to us in last night's episode. If Buffy was still available, that was his only shot for them to ever be together. Without it , it's over. Done. Finished. As of the moment his soul is still cursed when it comes to her. Now I can say to that camp let it go for now. Carl Werth, had the same reaction to the Immortal. What is this being, how did they meet? The big one for me, whatever it is does it have a soul? Considering that was Buffy's biggest hangup with Spike, we have very little information. For somebody that wanted to be normal so badly it is somewhat of a contradiction. I can't imagine Spike's return stayed a secret that long and it seems to me she would've heard about it and would've wanted to see for herself. This would be something in the TV movie/movies or feature film if it happens in the next year and JM has said he'd be willing to revisit the character of Spike as long as he can believably pull off being the younger vampire. Question for anyone, now that Angel is out of contention for the Shanshu and Spike knows about it and he is offered, what would he chose and why in your opinion. Human or vampire? As far as we know, he's the only other vampire with a soul that unlike Angel(us)'s wasn't forced on him.

Posted by: jp on May 20, 2004 07:51 PM
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