Monday, April 6, 2009

DVD review - Buffy season 3, episode 1

Beginning my viewing and reviewing of season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer...


Episodes 1: Anne

Synopsis: Now living in the big city, Buffy helps a woman whose boyfriend has mysteriously disappeared, while back in Sunnydale her friends battle the forces of evil on their own. (written by Joss Whedon, airdate 9/29/98)

After season 2's finale, it made sense to have a Buffy-on-her-own episode so that she can realize that she is who she is and has to do what she has to do. I think part of the problem for me was the "villains" - I didn't care much about them, I didn't get their complete motivation and Buffy really didn't stop them (she just rescued a dozen or so of the newest recruits). Sure, the portal closed but who is to say they can't open another one. It just felt incomplete.

This episode was okay, but I quickly realize what was missing - the friends and allies. Buffy is best when she has the others to play off of - Giles, Willow, Xander and Cordelia. Luckily, we got a glimpse at the gang trying to carry on, rather hilariously at moments, defending Sunnydale in Buffy's absence. Those scenes, as few as there were, made this episode much more enjoyable. Thankfully, Buffy came home at the end so now we can get back to business as usual - defending Sunnydale from whatever crawls out of the Hellmouth.


Michael O'Connell said...

And we have finally reached the very first episode of Buffy I ever saw! After two seasons of so many people I knew telling me how much I HAD to see it, I finally gave in. This is back during a time when I wasn't as much of a completist as I am now. I'd actually step into the middle of a TV series (shudder). That's mainly because then, we didn't have the option to do things like buy or rent the set on DVD...or download them...or go to Hulu. Back then, your only hope of catching up on what you missed was whatever reruns they decided to show you between the first-runs. Man, things have changed fast, haven't they? Remember when reruns were a GOOD thing?

So, here's where I started (and Aaron with me). Probably not the smartest starting point. At least the episode started, on broadcast, with the "previously, on Buffy" thing that summarized the dramatic finale from last season. Wow...I realized I'd stepped into something big. And what followed, as my first episode of Buffy, was an episode that was NOT in Sunnydale, where I didn't know what was going on, and that was very non-typical. So while I wasn't blown away (after everyone telling me how much I would be), there was enough there to make me come back the next week. And most of that "enough" was the Scooby gang. Their part of the episode really did it for me.

So, now, on the rewatch...

I remember on my first DVD rewatch (back during my kidney stone incident in 2004...the perfect excuse for BUFFYTHON!) I felt this was kind of a weak episode, compared to what was to come with the rest of season 3. Looking at it now, it does have its problems, but I'm much happier with it. As you stated, after what happened in the finale, we needed Buffy away and on her own. And we needed to see what life was like back in Sunnydale without her. And we needed for her to complete her inner journey and realize who she was again and get over what happened with Angel. All got accomplished.

What made me really enjoy it this time was the Sunnydale stuff. I love the time jump, once again coming back after summertime, letting us catch up with what's been happening (and letting our imaginations fill in the rest). I love how they answered the question about who's been handling the vamps. Go, Scoobies, go! Okay, so they weren't great it at, but points for trying, gang. What a fantastic opening ("Okay, big boy, come and get it". "Wasn't he on the gymnastics team?". "Yeah, he was. Cheater!"). While we see they're rather fumbly at it, this was an important transition time for the gang. No longer are they just untrained norms getting in the slayer's way. They've got some experience now, and some (certainly not much) street cred...or, graveyard cred, as it were. They're building into a good unit. But as we're shown, the unit's missing something, and that's Buffy. This ep used one of my favorite visuals of the series, by the way...Xander and Cordy with the vamp between them, her falling into his arms, and into a kiss, after the vamp is dusted. Awesome.

I loved the mood amongst all the NPCs, that sense of loss, of waiting, of wondering when (and if) Buffy is going to return. I loved Giles rushing off to follow leads to try to find her. But I really loved the scene with Joyce and Giles. How she's not only missing a daughter (that she told not to come back), but that she's been left alone for three months to deal with this slayer knowledge that's been dumped on her. Of course she'd resent Giles, and I'm glad that got shown. This whole ep was a great way to show how much Buffy means in everyone's lives.

That was the "B story". As for the "A story"? Yeah, not too much of a winner. Pretty okay idea, don't get me wrong. But it felt like an intrusion in the overall series. We just came back to the show after such a huge event, and we want to know about that, and what's up with things in Sunnydale...we don't really care so much about this. And what was not helping with that was the annoying vamp-wannabe girl. Really didn't find myself caring too much for her, though I do always love nods to continuity, so it was cool seeing someone from that ep come back. The whole time difference/work you till you're old and used up thing was okay. But yeah, it had some plot holes with it and didn't have full resolution. I found myself thinking, okay, you six or so are running away and trying to get out...but what about all those other people still stuck down there? I think the disappearing portal was just to give the writer (in this case, Joss) an excuse to not have to deal with that.

But still, wasn't a bad ep. I got a new appreciation for it this time around, so no real complaints. I'm just happy to finally be back in season three, the one that meant the most to me since it was my gateway. Bring it on!

Martin Maenza said...

You did not start watching until the beginning of Season 3? I did not know that. I can see how, if this was my first episode, I would have been "really? this is what's so great?".