Buffy Season 1 Review

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Introduction]

Welcome to the Hellmouth, everyone! Analyzing Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an interesting endeavor. It’s obvious that the show Buffy becomes later on very much evolves out of the trial and error that is persistent throughout this inaugural season. What sticks out the most is a lot of innocence and charm that try their hardest to mask the season’s more unsavory elements. These charms work their magic in helping me give the season a bit more leeway, but I still can’t ignore its critical mistakes. Even the most flawed seasons to come (i.e. 4 and 7) have incredible strengths to help balance out their flaws. Season 1 has no such level of strengths and even more severe flaws, which is why it is without any doubt the weakest season of them all. All is not lost, though, as some depth can definitely be found here.

The basic underlying theme of the show, at least in its early years, can best be described by the phrase ‘high school is hell.’ The show wants us to look at the struggles of high school, and of adolescence, through a supernatural lens. This is a decent thesis for the show’s early years, but how much it will resonate really depends entirely on how well it’s presented. Where Season 2 and Season 3 expand on this thesis in great detail, letting the basic theme informing but not taking over the stories, Season 1 seems all-too content to let this thesis stand on its own in what manifests in a large number of simplistic ‘monster of the week’ metaphor episodes. It realizes its primary theme – detailing Buffy’s transition from childhood to adolescence – quite well, if sparingly, but it doesn’t aim for much more than that, particularly on an episode-to-episode basis.

The assumption here might be the lack of a serialized narrative (although I do generally prefer them), but that’s not exactly the problem. Rather, the underlying issue is the overall lack of serialized character development. Seasons 2 and 3 have an abundance of slowly building character development while Season 1 settles for metaphors that generally only run as deep as the plot they’re in, thereby lacking that all-important emotional resonance. If the metaphors aren’t channeled into something memorable enough for the characters to hold onto, why should I be expected to care?

Despite the numerous issues plaguing this season — its cheesiness and shoddy production values being the most explicit – there are some moments when it breaks free from its self-constructed storytelling prison. This is best reflected in the journey Buffy goes through in a handful of key episodes. I also appreciate the stark contrast Season 1 has with the rest of the show, particularly the later seasons. The characters are truly children here, true to its theme, with only the seeds of their strengths and flaws evident. There’s a certain sense of glee in seeing them so completely free of the burdens they will come to bear as they grow into the murkier years of adolescence (starting in Season 2) and the often even more harrowing years of young adulthood (starting in Season 6). This contrast, however, is one of the reasons why the material to come is so powerful. Conversely, how dark things get down the road help me appreciate things now all that much more. Both ends of the show complement each other extremely well.

Some of the staples Buffy is known for are present right from the beginning. This includes episodes that utilize underlying themes to service the story and, occasionally (for this season), the characters as well. Also there is the show’s refreshingly clever use of language; the dialogue on Buffy is one of its biggest strengths right from the get-go, although like everything else it gets even better later. The acting from most of the main players is fairly strong out of the gate, particularly with Sarah Michelle Gellar getting the opportunity to show her stuff on several occasions — never more prominently than in the finale, “Prophecy Girl” [1×12].

I’ve noticed that some fans like to give Season 1 a ‘free pass’ in terms of evaluating it critically. I don’t feel this is a wise maneuver, as it dilutes the comparative analysis of the seasons to come. Let’s not sugar-coat Season 1: it’s a flawed collection of episodes. I do understand where the kind sentiment comes from though, as the characters try their best to charm away those flaws. The season has its temperate ups and its frigid downs, but one thing I can safely say about it is that it’s a lightweight, fun, and often charming group of episodes, with the occasional splash of long-term character building and thematic relevance. Season 1 leaves us with a show that has learned from most of its mistakes and is ready to step it up a notch the next time around. Season 1 may be a little unformed, but it’s definitely an important part of the show.


[Cons]

  • Limited episodic character relevance; little character growth and insight.
  • Several extremely flawed episodes, but no brilliant ones to provide balance.
  • Little plot momentum and relevance; the villains aren’t well connected with the protagonists.
  • Music! Sound! Directing! Production values! Cheese! Ow!

Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer often gets excused by its admirers and slammed by its detractors. What’s reality here? Well, as is often the case, it’s somewhere in the middle. This is not a great season of television, but a slightly above-average one. Its strengths are to be recognized, but its flaws too large to ignore. This is easily the weakest season of Buffy and represents its most unformed stage. The largest single factor truly dragging the season down is the lack of character relevance in its numerous stand-alone episodes. Whereas later seasons used its stories as a springboard for serialized character development, even within the context of stand-alone plots, the stories here are just that: isolated stories that offer little value to the whole of the show outside of the occasional thematic nugget.

Episodes that are separate from the primary narrative can still offer what I crave: smart character development and/or insight. A great example I like to use to illustrate this point is the Season 5 episode “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15]. This is unquestionably a stand-alone in that it has absolutely no direct connection to the season’s narrative surrounding Glory and Dawn. Yet this episode still manages to provide critical growth for Buffy that helps drives her arc in the season, and show, forward. Television at its best, in this viewer’s judgment, has at least some serialized narrative elements but, much more importantly, has consistent serialized character development. As I pointed out in the introduction, later seasons will accomplish this at an unparalleled level, but Season 1 falls short.

An episode lacking character relevance can still have varying levels of quality, and Season 1 gives us several examples to choose from in this regard; just look to the differences between “Witch” [1×03], “I Robot, You Jane” [1×08], and “The Puppet Show” [1×09]. The first of these gives us a modestly clever story with a relatable metaphor that largely works within the confines of itself. The second of these has something it’s trying to say, but completely fails at delivering it in a convincing fashion. The last of these has next to nothing to say at all – it doesn’t even really try. In all three of these examples there is almost zero character development, yet they are all still of vastly varying quality. This season not only has limited character relevance, but also inconsistent story quality and a weak larger plot/villain in the Master and his lame followers.

One final con that cannot be overlooked, as it is fused to every episode, is the very poor production values and general overload of cheesiness. This includes the music (score), sound effects, special effects, directing, and overall film quality. I understand that Whedon’s trying to use this to his advantage to riff on B-Horror movies, cheesy effects and all, but it really doesn’t work for me – the emotional resonance gets lost in a sea of cheese. I will admit that this aspect may come across as more playful and inventive for fans of B-Horror, of which I’m generally not.

Season 1 is littered with problems, but it’s clear that they are all put to good use in the evolution of the show. Season 2, right from the beginning, displays a new confidence in several of the areas that were previously lacking. By the time “Innocence” [2×14] rolls around, we’re looking at a completely different quality of show, albeit one that was built out of the success and failure of before.


[Pros]

  • Fun, innocence, and charm.
  • Clever dialogue!
  • Decent insight and character growth for Buffy.
  • Thematic relevance.

When I watched Buffy for the very first time, the first thing that jumped out at me was how delightful the tone of the show was when it kept its goofy side at bay. The show and, by extension, the characters had this wonderful sense of innocence about them. The characters all had their hearts in the right place, yet simultaneously demonstrated the seeds of flaws that were open to future exploration.

It is to the show’s strength that watching Season 1 multiple times does not dilute this feeling in the slightest; rather, it enhances it! Knowing the wonders and tragedies on the horizon makes me treasure how relatively quaint this season is. What’s intriguing is how this virtue actually makes the wonders and tragedies of the future so, well, wondrous and tragic. It’s the circle of life, the light/dark contrast, and the mark of a well-constructed show.

These feelings are manifested in several different ways. One of them is in how Whedon outlines all the central characters as being very likeable, well-intentioned (sans Cordelia) kids (sans Giles). Having so many pleasant characters to spend some time with is a fabulous way to get viewers onboard the ride to complexity, confusion, and tragedy. Another way comes from character interplay, which highlights Whedon’s gift for linguistics. The dialogue on Buffy, while not fully refined in Season 1, is still witty, snappy, clever, and endlessly fun to listen to. Having otherwise uninteresting conversations transformed into a delicacy for the ears is quite the treat, and something I rarely get to experience — to this day — in television and film. It’s a pleasure simply listening to the characters talk to each other, which cannot be understated, giving the show tremendous rewatchability.

Despite how enjoyable to watch Season 1 often is, I’d still be hesitant to give it an overall positive evaluation if it had a complete deficit of substance. Fortunately – as I’ll get into in much greater detail soon – Buffy’s character arc comes together as a coherent collection of writing. From Buffy’s total reluctance of her duty in the premiere to the difficulties in trying to accommodate a double life in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05] to the insight, and thematic lessons, she learns about others in “Witch” [1×03], “Angel” [1×07], and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11] to the crushing reality of the sacrifices demanded of her in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12], the season is surprisingly solid in establishing Buffy as a unique three-dimensional character with complex strengths and flaws. I can only applaud it for accomplishing all of this – it’s the season’s backbone.

Only Buffy gets treated as a fully realized character, but Season 1 does at least throw the other characters a bone every now and then. We see some of Xander’s flaws exposed, Willow’s insecurity and intense curiosity highlighted, Giles’ approach to the mission, and to Buffy, evolved, Angel’s backstory, and, although it took ages, Cordelia actually becoming something other than a walking caricature. I wouldn’t call any of that remotely adequate for what I’m looking for out of the core supporting characters, but I still appreciate those baby steps towards more complex character writing.

Season 1, while not the deepest season, does at least fit nicely into the larger picture of the show. It not only introduces its use of subversion to surprise us, but it also has a clear idea of where its characters – particularly Buffy – are at, and where they’re headed. Several episodes and individual moments provide hints that everything happening represents a transitional period for the characters – that transition being the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. At the end of the day, that’s what Buffy’s prophetic nightmares are really about.

Season 1 may be lacking the brilliant episodes and complex character development we will come to expect from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s got just enough charm, just enough innocence, just enough wittiness, and just enough Buffy to be a fun and worthwhile introduction of what’s to come. These feelings don’t excuse the season’s mistakes, but they do help make those mistakes less glaring than they otherwise would be.


[Buffy]

Buffy is my favorite fictional character in any medium, and I think that she’s one of the most deceptively complex characters written in television history. This may sound like an extreme statement, but it is my hope that by the end of my analysis of the entire show you’ll come to understand why I feel this way. Even within the confines of Buffy the show, the character is rarely anywhere near the top of peoples’ favorites list. If anything, I often see her near the bottom of that list. Most fans I’ve run into seem to find her extremely selfish, childish, and whiny. Is there any truth to this? Well, sure! At times, Buffy is selfish, childish, and/or whiny. You know what she also is, particularly in Season 1? A kid!

Children, adolescents, and even young adults are all generally very prone to short-sidedness, emotions-over-brains, ideological opinions, and overwhelming selfishness. To criticize Buffy for these flaws is to criticize oneself at that age. Let’s also remember that Buffy is only, I believe, 22 years old when “Chosen” [7×22] closes out the whole show, and that the underlying theme of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is growing up.

While Buffy may act like a – shock – kid sometimes, that shouldn’t stop us, the viewers, from looking at the character as adults. That means trying to keep an open mind, looking at both her weaknesses and her strengths, and putting ourselves in her shoes in a way that means understanding her life experience rather than imposing our own experiences and opinions onto her. What do we see when we actually do this? Clearly we see a girl who may have her flaws, and may very well act her age at times, but is also quite extraordinary; it’s a girl who is struggling to find balance between a sacrificial ‘duty’ to save peoples’ lives, and her own wants, needs, and desires. When objectively thinking about her life, I see a person who is far less selfish than most, regardless of age.

I mean, think about it: if Buffy doesn’t routinely go out to slay demons, risking her life, other people will die. That’s a heck of a burden. Add to that that most slayers don’t even make it past 18, let alone in their 20s, and it paints a pretty bleak picture for Buffy’s life. How would you handle that, at 16 years old no less? With this is mind, Buffy begins to look even more special. Despite how impressive a person she is – and will become — I love that she’s still a human being through it all, and isn’t always giving and selfless; I love Buffy because she’s not Kendra and not Faith – extremes at either end. Buffy is the one striving for that healthy balance in between. To cap it off, it doesn’t hurt that Buffy’s quirky, complex, beautiful, fun to spend time with, and possesses tremendous heart and moral clarity. All in all, Buffy Summers is quite a remarkable girl.

Season 1 actually does a surprisingly solid job of establishing Buffy as a likeable, realistic, and complex character – all traits which are developed and explored significantly as Buffy progresses. There’s the backstory involving the discovery of her slayer-hood and how that tore apart her old life – and she worries, in part, her parents’ marriage — in Los Angeles. There are also concerns about how much her dad really cares about her – concerns which turn out to be incredibly, painfully well founded. These fears, some of which were brought to life in “Nightmares” [1×10], go far beyond superficial characterization. Rather, they significantly color many of Buffy’s decisions and feelings throughout the entire show, particularly in regard to her relationships. Buffy’s story can be generically described as a coming-of-age story. The problem with that description, though, is how much it short-changes the specific issues and complexities present within it. There’s nothing generic at all about Buffy Summers.

The history that Buffy brings with her from L.A. isn’t the only kind of history that plagues her either. Very early on it is established that Buffy even struggles with the subject of history itself, which carries some subtext. In “Angel” [1×07], Giles tells Joyce that Buffy lives “very much in the ‘now.'” This response is as metaphorical as it is literal, and can be construed as both a positive and a negative.

Buffy often uses modern sensibilities to her advantage, such as when she is able to detect a vampire at the Bronze in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] by using her fashion sense rather than the traditional slayer ability to, as Giles puts it, “hone” her supernatural sense. Buffy’s subversion of traditional sensibilities is often to her benefit, but she is wise to also learn from the traditions that made sense too. This is why, as the show progresses, Buffy not only uses her modern instincts but also utilizes her slayer abilities to their fullest, in no small part thanks to Giles’ training and assistance. History is an important part of the character, as much as Buffy would hate to admit it, and I like that Season 1 dips its toes into the subject.

One of the more noticeable recurring elements in Season 1 is Buffy’s growing romantic involvement with Angel. This relationship completely exposes Buffy’s romantic naiveté and innocence, which are both traits that one can hardly fault her for at 16 years old. While her infatuation and raw excitement over the mysterious and brooding Angel are entirely normal, these feelings don’t necessarily lead to good decision-making; it takes a clear mind and a strong will to recognize this. It’s great that Buffy gives Angel a chance after finding out he’s a vampire with a soul, but he’s much older than her and there’s a whole lot she doesn’t know about him. Despite these warning signs Buffy pushes onward with her romantic involvement with him. All of this danger and emotion swirling around is handled with a pretty decent amount of subtlety, and is a slowly building endeavor in Season 1 which will pay off big time in Season 2.

Despite Buffy’s growing romantic investment in Angel being arguably more noticeable, the big themes that relate to her are those of responsibility and sacrifice. The Buffy/Giles library scene in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] sets the stage for Buffy’s initial struggles. Buffy says, “Prepare me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead! Prepare me!”

When you boil it down, all Buffy wants is what any good kid subconsciously wants: happy, caring, understanding, and unified parents, and just enough freedom to explore and enjoy their burgeoning adolescence, within healthy limits. Between being called as the Slayer and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, Buffy arrives in Sunnydale wanting to escape the trauma of her recent past only to see a near immediate return of all her old problems, amplified. Giles reminds her of the responsibilities expected of her, but as the season progresses Buffy comes to recognize all on her own why she is responsible, and what that really means for both her and those around her.

In “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05] Buffy goes out with what turns out to be “danger guy” (Owen) who, in Buffy’s world, would meet a quick, gruesome death if he continued to tag along. While she’s on a date with him, Giles gets isolated by a group of vampires with no help in sight. Buffy comes to recognize that saving lives and helping others is something she has the power to do, and it isn’t something she can easily turn away from just because she wants to live a more normal life.

As “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] clearly highlights, sacrifice is rarely fun and not something we’re initially inclined to volunteer for, but to not do what one can to help is to let evil surround the world around you without a fight and eventually consume not only you, but also all those who you hold dear. When Buffy learns she’s prophesized to die, her reaction is nothing but entirely human.

As I stated in the review of “Prophecy Girl” [1×12], “After talking with her mom and learning about vampires encroaching further onto school grounds (from a frightened Willow), Buffy finally accepts the purpose her role serves in this world, even if she doesn’t like it. Buffy is beginning to realize (but still has a long ways to go) that being the Slayer isn’t the distraction — it’s those ever-present risky personal temptations that are the real distractions” and “With only an adamant and noble Giles, who understands the stakes well, in the way, Buffy punches him out and picks up her cross, thus signifying her acceptance of what that symbol means.”

It’s at this moment when Buffy takes the very first step in accepting a kind of ownership of this massive burden. Buffy chooses to fight not because she has to, but because she knows it’s the right thing to do. Personally, I quite admire her courage and conviction in the face of her struggles and flaws, and strive to work towards the same. When Buffy goes to face the Master, all the basic elements that define her are symbolized: her strength in the leather jacket and the crossbow, her innocence (both sexually and otherwise) in the white dress, and her courage, selflessness, and sacrificial burden in the cross.

As I pointed out in the “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] review, the Hellmouth itself metaphorically functions as an “obstacle generator” – obstacles which are there to stunt Buffy’s growth into an adult. All the lessons Buffy has learned and villains she has beaten thus far are, respectively, warnings and roadblocks to her personal growth. The moment Buffy stops running from these things – to instead face them head on — the show makes a stark change in writing, music, and visual style. The entire season slowly builds to this transition. “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] finally puts Buffy into a corner, and forces her to decide between remaining a child at the expense of those around her, or to move on to adolescence. Painful as it was, she made the right choice.

Much appreciation has to go out to Sarah Michelle Gellar for knocking this role out of the park from episode one. Gellar performs Buffy in a way that is intimate, dynamic, and extremely palpable, ranging from her inner struggles to her nascent sexuality to her emotional lows to her ability in bringing Whedon’s language to life to her comedic timing to her occasional bursts of unbridled excitement. Extremely emotive facial expressions seem to be one of her specialties, and it does wonders for this role. I can’t say enough how perfect she is as Buffy, as it’s always a pleasure watching her do her thing. The few people out there who call her a poor performer have a very foreign sense of acting ability from what I know.

Buffy’s Season 1 arc isn’t something that consistently pops up in the season, but there are a handful of episodes that almost completely make up for this and add up to a cohesive whole. Buffy heads into Season 2 a different person than when she arrived in Sunnydale in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01]. Drowning at the hands of the Master in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] leaves a psychological scar that haunts her all summer, and is brought to the surface in the underrated Season 2 opener, “When She Was Bad” [2×01]. Buffy is a vibrant, wonderfully complex character. I feel Season 1 does a great job at establishing what she’s all about.


[Willow]

It’s clear that Joss Whedon had thought about Buffy’s journey quite a bit coming into the show, as the character comes across as really formed right from the start. Willow, on the other hand, doesn’t get a lot to do in Season 1 beyond being incredibly adorable. Alyson Hannigan milks the role for all it’s worth and brings Willow to life in a way that, I’m sad to say, the writing this season does not do justice. As we get beyond this season, though, Willow becomes a complex character in her own right. Season 1 barely scratches the surface of what’s going on inside her head.

From “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] we know right away that Willow’s an intelligent girl who has far too little self-confidence, and is walked on by Cordelia and the like in the way a shark might circle wounded prey. We will come to know that she has a desire to shed herself of this shy, introverted persona – to actually become a different person than she is today rather than cultivate her best qualities and work on her flaws. Willow has a very curious mind that occasionally leads her to explore things that are dangerous, exemplified in Season 1 by her encounter with the demon Moloch in “I Robot, You Jane” [1×08]. On the more positive side, though, she is shown to immediately want to help Buffy out, and through the course of the season becomes more courageous for it.

The only real hint of Willow’s future struggles with power and control, and how they will come to mask these initial insecurities, show up in the form of her technology skills. This is her only real ‘power’ at this point in the show (setting aside adorableness for the moment); even so, consider how casually she is willing to do illegal things with these skills as long as it’s for a good cause. This, of course, primes us for the way this personality trait will handle increasing levels of magic use. These seeds begin to be cultivated in Season 2, but I can’t help but wish more could have been done with Willow here in Season 1. It doesn’t help that the only episode to give her the spotlight, “I Robot, You Jane” [1×08], is quite poor and partially allows Willow off the hook for her behavior due to a case of Demon’s Thrall [TM].

Considering how much depth Buffy has right out of the gate, it’s just unfortunate Willow doesn’t get more to do this season. I enjoy the tantalizing little seeds that have been planted, and the initial bits of strength she shows (such as in “The Pack” [1×06] and in not being Xander’s castoff date in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]), but Willow deserved a lot more than this. Thankfully, she’ll start to get it in Season 2.


[Xander]

Xander, in the early seasons, is a character I love to dislike (‘hate’ would be far too strong). He’s the kind of guy that’s fun to have around most of the time, but harbors some deep-seated jealousies and overt selfishness. I think he’s generally written pretty well and is well-intentioned, although he occasionally gets consumed by his flaws. Xander doesn’t come to have nearly as much depth as characters like Buffy and Willow do as the show progresses, but he always remains an important part of the group. Season 1 actually gives him a tad more to work with that it does for Willow, which is somewhat surprising in retrospect. He’s established as a nerdy outcast of the school and, as Season 1 develops, we begin to see his crush on Buffy intensify only to learn that her romantic pursuits lie elsewhere. This heats up the more unsavory aspects of his nature.

This part of Xander begins to become noticeable in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05] and comes up again in relation to all things Angel, despite Buffy making it fairly obvious that she has no interest in him as early on as “Witch” [1×03]. A part of me wonders if Xander would even bother standing by Buffy in the fight against evil had he not been extremely attracted to her, which certainly doesn’t speak well of his character. Nor does what we see of Xander’s desires in “Teacher’s Pet” [1×04], such as dreaming up Buffy to be a weak and scared girl as a way for him to feel desirable and strong. This general selfishness defines many of his actions in the early seasons (the infamous “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] “kick his ass” line being a prime example), but it is also something the show, and Buffy (see “Revelations” [3×07]), fortunately don’t push under the rug. Even knowing all of this, I still feel sorry for the guy when Buffy shuts him down after he asks her out in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. It’s a rough moment for any young teen with a massive crush.

Xander gets decently sketched in Season 1, but it’s largely his negative qualities that are underlined. One of Xander’s better qualities to shine this season is his sense of humor. The season leans on this quality heavily so that he doesn’t just come off as a dick all the time. The humor – which is often quite amusing — does a good job at masking his underlying flaws most of the time, which is why he is generally a pleasant presence on the show. I can’t help but feel how nice it would have been to have an episode focused on Xander that wasn’t so horribly flawed (I’m looking at you “Teacher’s Pet” [1×04]). Then again, it’s not like Willow got any better (thy brow furrows thusly, “I Robot, You Jane” [1×08]).

Despite some of my personal issues with Xander, I genuinely appreciate how his personality is played against the other characters. I love what he brings to the dynamic of the show, and I can accredit Season 1 for doing a decent job at bringing that out. It’s probably important to emphasize that he’s not some terrible person or anything, just often transparently selfish in these high school years. The great part about this is how well these flaws will be used in the seasons to come. Xander becomes far more interesting, and a much better person, with time and growth. By the end of Season 3, I even start to consistently like the guy.


[Giles]

“I’m Mr. Giles. The librarian,” says the Watcher in one of his very first lines of the show. Giles starts off a bit of a caricature of a stuffy old British guy, which isn’t exactly endearing. It doesn’t help that he serves as ‘exposition guy’ in almost every episode. Fortunately, through his ever-growing fatherly bond with Buffy he begins to emerge from this pattern an interesting character in his own right.

The journey Giles goes through is inexorably tied to Buffy, particularly in the high school years. This is why it is so important to make note of how the foundation of their relationship is built. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05] is really the first time Giles is able to seriously connect with Buffy, human-to-human. Giles’ sympathy towards her struggles trying to balance slayer responsibilities with a personal life is something he actually understands, despite how hard he tends to be on her. He goes to say, “I have volumes of lore, of prophecies, of predictions. But I don’t have an instruction manual. We feel our way as we go along.”

When it’s revealed that Angel’s a vampire and that Buffy has real feelings for him in “Angel” [1×07], Giles proves that he’s very level-headed and doesn’t make any rash initial judgments (unlike a certain Xander) – he simply states the facts as he knows them. When he later learns about Angel’s soul, Giles even calls their relationship “rather poetic, in a maudlin sort of way.” While the bond between Buffy and Giles isn’t what I’d call a big part of the season, the accumulation of what is there becomes strikingly clear in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12].

Giles is a wreck trying to figure a way out of the prophecy that Buffy is to die at the hands of the Master. When Buffy overhears him and lashes out, his anguish over his helplessness is palpable. Giles desperately wants to help her and, later in the episode, attempts to do just that. Even after she decides to accept her fate, Giles pushes back saying, “Buffy, I’m not going to send you out there to die. Now, you were right. I’ve waded around in these old books for so long; I’ve forgotten what the real world is like. It’s time I found out.” It’s to his credit that Buffy has to punch him out to prevent him from taking her place.

The effort by Giles in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] only strengthens their bond – a bond which will be tested in various ways in the seasons ahead. Giles should have gotten more attention in Season 1, particularly in regard to his turbulent history (which we do get a hint of at the end of “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” [1×05]), but I can’t deny how charming he is by the end of the season, which is a nice turn-around from his stuffy introduction. It’s no wonder Jenny Calendar shows immediate interest in him. The good news for us is that Season 2 will give Giles all that he can handle… and then some.


[Cordelia]

Cordelia was never one of the more complex characters on Buffy, but in time it became believable for her to say something like “what? I can’t have layers?” (“Band Candy” [3×06]), and have it actually mean something. In Season 1, though, Cordelia’s one-dimensionality is at an all-time high. Her presence is often entertaining, but also incredibly superficial and unrewarding. If this was all there was to say about Cordelia this season there wouldn’t even be a section on her, and I’d be one sad cookie.

Fortunately for everyone involved, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11] came along and made Cordelia someone to look more closely at. Through the story of a girl who has become completely invisible, ever popular Cordelia reveals that she actually understands that kind of loneliness, saying, “I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It’s not like any of them really know me. I don’t even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone’s so busy agreeing with me, they don’t hear a word I say.” Now, despite Cordelia having a nice moment of self-reflection, that certainly doesn’t excuse how she often ridicules those who don’t place the same priorities in life that she does. The statement also kind of comes out of nowhere, so it’ll be a while before we actually buy into this version of Cordelia.

Between being saved by Buffy in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11] and seeing the carnage wrought by vampires on school grounds in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] (her boyfriend among them), Cordelia begins to really wake up to the danger that surrounds her, and to the importance of Buffy’s work. This not only warms her up to Buffy a bit, but Xander and Willow by proxy. Thankfully we don’t see a complete turn-around of her attitude towards them or anything that trite, but we do see her being fairer in the midst of her usual derision.

In a general sense, Cordelia is also useful as a visage of what Buffy may have become had she not been called as the Slayer (i.e. to grow up). As I mentioned in the “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] review, “Cordelia is used to show us what Buffy used to be like, and what she can again become if she chooses to be too vain and self-serving,” which puts “Cordelia in a unique position to give us insight into Buffy that no one else can.” What may seem like a funny throwaway comment may actually be something metaphorically relevant about Buffy. We’ll see this in action more often going forward, including in “When She Was Bad” [2×01].

Season 1 gives Cordelia some good material towards the end of the season, and is a good superficial reflection of Buffy, but it ends up being a case of too little, too late for me to fully applaud it. I would have liked to have seen a more nuanced take, and seen it a whole lot sooner. At least the season is able to position her to where an interest in Xander (“Some Assembly Required” [2×02]) isn’t completely implausible. I’m more than happy to leave Season 1 Cordelia behind though.


[Angel]

Angel has the unfortunate fate of being relegated to Buffy’s love interest in Season 1, and not a whole lot more. In the first several episodes he doesn’t even have that going for him and serves only one purpose: being the mysterious brooding-exposition guy. This purpose isn’t even portrayed all that well due to some initially terrible acting from David Boreanaz. Thankfully his acting gradually improves throughout Season 1, and then gets tremendously better during Season 2.

The end of “Teacher’s Pet” [1×04], what with the leather jacket transfer-of-love and all, gives Angel some additional intrigue by tacking on the seeds of romance with Buffy. It’s not until “Angel” [1×07] when the guy gets a real backstory. Even here, though, most of this backstory is told in a fairly exposition-y manner. But the whole vampire-with-a-soul complication does add a nice layer to the character. As I pointed out in that review, “We can see that while Buffy’s trying to balance slaying, school, and romance, Angel’s juggling with his demonic nature, desire for amends, and becoming romantically invested in someone for likely the very first time in his soul-having existence. Right now the thing both Buffy and Angel have in common is their mutual attraction and newfound investment in each other.”

A more subtle element I appreciated was the little connection Angel has with Giles towards the end of the season (see “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11]). They both have one striking thing in common – besides, of course, their desire to fight the forces of evil – and that is that both of their journeys as characters are strongly linked to Buffy for the next couple years. With Angel, though, it’s a romantic link more than anything else. This connection between Angel and Giles is particularly awesome considering how it will be turned on its head when Angelus is unleashed on the world next season (see “Passion” [2×17]).

Overall I’m not too impressed with what Season 1 did for Angel. There’s simply not a lot there beyond a basic backstory, some light romance, and some exposition. Thankfully things get much more interesting going forward.


[The Master]

The Master is a mediocre villain, at best, and there’s no real way around that. He has some nice moments, mostly in the form of comedy, but overall I found him to be pretty underwhelming and at times a tad overly goofy. I only ever found him remotely threatening during Buffy’s living nightmare in, well, “Nightmares” [1×10], and in the mid parts of “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. It certainly didn’t help that the quality of his makeup was so inconsistent.

Despite being an underwritten character, he does offer some thematic synergy with what the show’s all about. From the review of “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01]: “The Master and his followers – while admittedly pretty corny – very much represent ‘the old.’ You see, this group of vampires – the Order of Aurelius – is trying to instigate the return of the old ones. While they wait for their moment, they live below ground and only go up to feed or make more of their kind. Buffy, as a character and as a show, relish reexamining and questioning the validity of the outdated and the old in the myriad of forms they might appear. This is why Buffy will defeat the Master in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12], and why Spike will gloriously scorch the Anointed One in “School Hard” [2×03] with a proclamation about less ritual and more fun.” While it’s nice that the Master serves a light thematic purpose and isn’t just the token villain to be killed, his value sadly goes no further.

I haven’t really talked about the Anointed One because, well, there’s really nothing to talk about. He stands around a lot, learns about fear a bit, and leads Buffy down to the Master’s lair. That’s about it. He does at least serve a thematic purpose, representing the danger of eternal childhood. But after Buffy overcomes her grief in “When She Was Bad” [2×01], he no longer serves a purpose in the show. This is why it will be such a joy to hear him pissed off by Buffy and to see him scorched by Spike, all in early Season 2.


[Conclusion]

Season 1’s central theme is that high school is hell, literally. It has a whole bunch of completely stand-alone episodes that do very little for the characters. These episodes tell overall decent little stories, usually with a metaphor at the center of them that serve as lessons for Buffy, but many of them are not very subtle in their execution. The season also sports fairly awful effects, abysmal music (score), and overall shoddy production values. While all of these flaws seem pretty damning, all is not lost!

The character work that is present largely focuses on Buffy, who ends up forming the foundation for the season to stand on and is the primary reason it resonates for me at all. The themes surrounding her – primarily those of responsibility and sacrifice, and the larger one of growing up — are all very consistently sewn into the tapestry of the show, and will provide many returns as it moves forward. Buffy — the character — also stands in for the show’s wonderfully whimsical attitude towards subverting many old horror tropes.

Beyond the big stuff, there are also some intangibles that really help make viewing this season much more pleasurable than it otherwise would be. These include the inventive use of language, the largely loveable characters, and the show’s wonderful sense of humor. The fact it utilizes all these positive traits with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness certainly doesn’t hurt. Even with all the flaws plaguing the season, it’s still pretty fun to watch most of the time. It’s just that Season 1 is a lot more care-free and consequence-free than all the seasons the come after it, which can be viewed as both a positive and a negative – I admittedly lean more towards the negative.

As for how the show fares going forward? Well, think about it this way: Season 2 alleviates a lot of Season 1’s biggest problems. Some examples include the poor production values, the terrible music, the limited character development, and the complete lack of any truly brilliant episodes. I think it’s safe to say that Whedon learned from both what worked and what failed miserably in this inaugural season. Although Buffy the Vampire Slayer starts out a bit rough, it’s still a lot of fun and doesn’t really dilute the next six often brilliant seasons of what this humble reviewer can still say, without hesitation, is the best television show he has ever seen.



[Score]

74/100

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82 thoughts on “Buffy Season 1 Review”

  1. [Note: AaronJer posted this comment on September 14, 2006.]

    The only thing I really liked about Season 1 is the sharp contrast it has to the later seasons. It’s all like, “Oh no! Vampires! *stab*”, as compared to horrific emotional trauma later on. It makes the later seasons hit harder when you can remember that things used to be so fluffy and nice.

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  2. [Note: Dingdong(alistic) posted this comment on September 24, 2006.]

    I wouldn’t say it’s as cut and dried as that. Season one is the lightest season, but the emotional trauma doesn’t dominate either season three or four either.

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  3. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 14, 2007.]

    I think Season One was the weakest season of Buffy. There’s plenty of good stuff, flashes of the brilliance that would characterize most of the rest of the series (with a few sputters in Season Two and significant sagging in Season Seven). But the performances, the dialog, and the directing are very hit-and-miss, with little apparent quality control. Most of the episode plots are inane and formulaic – introduce the monster, figure out how Buffy can kill the monster, oops it’s dead.

    The effects are mostly awful, and the cheese factor is high in many episodes, especially “The Puppet Show.” The Master was the weakest of all the Big Bads, fun only when he got out of his hole in the ground (mostly in “Nightmares”) or when he was making fun of how boring he usually was (“Oh, wait, that isn’t written anywhere.”). Check him out in “The Wish” to see how much better the actor and the character can be once they drop the bell-book-and-candle stuff and give him a real point of view. And I guess I’ll be the first to mention the worst recurring character/performance ever, The Annointed One.

    Everything that’s good in Season One is stuff that got better in the subsequent seasons. The basic characters and character relationships are wonderful, and the character development was probably the single best feature of the season. That and the fact that, even in a supernatural genre with some pretty silly plotlines, actions always had consequences for the characters.

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  4. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on July 24, 2007.]

    with a few sputters in Season Two and significant sagging in Season Seven

    And virtually all of season three.

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  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    I agree. Although I like S1 very much, it´s very weak, the weakest of Buffy. The thing that surprises the most is the character development. When we get to the later seasons, we stand in awe thinking that the characters came from S1, all happy and not so concerned with all the things they would experience later on. When we see the entire series, we even watch to see S1 as a reminder of those happy days.

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  6. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on December 29, 2007.]

    Hm.
    The Master is frankly rubbish- I think you under-state the case there. I would agree that the only time he comes across as even vaguely interesting is in Nightmares. The Annointed One is worse, if anything. Creepy small children can be very effective if done well; unfortunately this is a ptime example of the opposite.
    As regards the over-arching plot of the series, I don’t think series one has anything really to recommend it at all. It’s saved from total awfulness by a small number of excellent self-contained episodes (Nightmares, Witch and The Pack, in that order, in my opinion, though a few others are also watchable).

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  7. [Note: Nix posted this comment on January 11, 2008.]

    What’s worst about the Anointed One is that *nothing is done with him*. He’s a gun on the mantelpiece introduced with great portentuousness — and what’s the sum total of his actions? To lead Buffy down into the Master’s cave. Any random vamp could do that, not that they needed to because Buffy knew where it was anyway and was going there herself at the time.

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  8. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    i did like season one but you cant really compare it to the rest, its never gonna be better than the rest. its just too short, and they had to stick to the basics really and introduce the show. Thats it, it was like an intro to buffy proper. there is a few little gems in there too, like harvest and the pack.

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  9. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on May 17, 2008.]

    the sad thing about this season is that it is actually unnecisary to the series (which is something that no show should be able to say about its first season). as mike has been doing for his friends, it would be the same (most likely better) to start straight off from season 2 without dragging through season 1 which has a very slow pace and will most likely turn people off the series before it even starts! i mean the other seasons did a great job fleshing out what would otherwise be one-dimensional characters, something that other shows never fully achieve. however one thing that i have to say is great is that since the series starts off bad it can almost certainly be guaranteed to get better. i mean look at shows like prisonbreak and alias and then look at shows like friends and 24. the former shows had excellent first seasons but were left with nothing but decline whearas the latter had mediocre beginings but got better and better with each season.

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  10. [Note: DarknessLostprophets posted this comment on May 28, 2008.]

    I must say i partially disagree with your season one review of buffy the vampire slayer, obviously overall compared to the other seasons, most revelant in this case season two three five and seven, which in my opinion are the better seasons, season six being intresting for other reasons, i.e character development, and season four being utter nonsense, minus faith and angel’s return and restless and primevil, highlights of the entire 22 episode season, anyway back to my original point. I believe that season one is simply ‘starting out’, its the baby steps in the coming to adult part of ones life, its like the first day of starting a new school, you meet new people who will be important in your life and you struggle with your future and the person you are now, in buffy’s case, the slayer and the girl buffy. Certain episodes, i believe are pivotol in creating the buffylore, which becomes the basis of the entire buffyverse, episodes like welcome to the hellmouth, the harvest, angel and prophecy girl, in particular are my favourites as it chronicled the first year of what it meant to be the sunnydale slayer, maybe not superbly but it touched upon it. However i must admit, it is mainly buffy, and only buffy alone that develops as a character, notbly cordelia [shows hints of insight in out of sight, out of mind]and willow also. The master, i must admit is an adequate villian, i think that was the point, he was ‘the vampire’ foe of sunnydale, and the whole being stuck underground is to not only stretch the season to twelve episodes, but to also explore different supernatural elements in the buffyverse, i.e. witches demons etc. and also to allow the entire budget to stretch as its obvious that the makers were aware that this could be a one season show, thats why the purposefully round of everything in prophecy girl, but im extremley glad buffy continued for another six year. Overall, i think season one isn’t perfect, but its crediable to welcoming people to the buffy world as its more apporachable, could this be said for season 6, no, because you need to have follow the characters from seasons one to five to comprehend and enjoy season 6. Buffy started out ok and went on to become the best show on television

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  11. [Note: Nix posted this comment on May 28, 2008.]

    DarknessLostprophets, you didn’t like Hush or Something Blue? Passing strange… Season four has a crappy plotline but it has some excellent individual episodes (counterbalanced somewhat by a couple of truly awful ones).

    Oh, it’s not the first year, either: in internal chronology it’s half a year long.

    And you don’t have to start at the beginning. I started out in the Buffyverse with season 5, and while I lost some fascinating linkups (the Restless / Dracula connections) and the Dawn introduction obviously wasn’t exactly shocking (look! a new character! … everyone’s a new character) it *did* work. And I say that as a completist who promptly watched everything from s1 on, in order 🙂

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  12. [Note: DarknesLostprophets posted this comment on May 28, 2008.]

    oh i throughly enjoyed hush i miss that out, forgive me for that, that was one of the best episodes for buffy, as it was totally different from anything previously done in the show. Something blue on the other hand humoured me but not to the extent that i would call it an memorable episode, its only popular due to the whole spike and buffy thing, dont get me started on the crapness of spike in the later buffy years as that will be a rant that will last 10 years! 😛 I do love spike dearly but i felt in the end of season 6 and throughout season 7, he was a weak loser, with him being depicted as the next angel, the whole vampire with a soul thing, he completely lost his edge of which made him so entertaining and addictive

    On the note of the watching buffy from the beginning, didn’t you at all feel obilivous to particular references of the past of which you never knew of, due the fact of not watching previous seasons? buffy is like a movie, and season 5 for me is like the second to end section of the movie, but thats just my opinion

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  13. [Note: Exit8buffy posted this comment on January 19, 2009.]

    Although good, season one of BtVS was really bad. I hate to say this but it really improves over the years — a good thing. After S1 things picked up — the evil Angel story arc and everything…

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  14. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on August 5, 2009.]

    I can see I’m in the minority here, but I LOVED the master! I just thought he was hilarious. Not my absolute favourite Big Bad, but better than Adam at least!

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  15. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on January 23, 2010.]

    Hm, again.

    I think I might be persuaded that the Master was better than Adam. At least he was clearly silly, whereas the series seemed to be trying to get you to take Adam seriously. But compared to the Mayor, or season 2 Spike, or Angelus, or even Glory, he’s a bit rubbish.

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  16. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on March 25, 2010.]

    The Good: ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’, ‘The Pack’, ‘Angel’, ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Prophecy Girl’. The Master. The beginning of the greatest show ever. Principal Flutie. Amy Madison. Xander badass. Jesse dies. Sarah cute and sexy. Realisation of future relationship failure. The Scoobies stage debut. Willow growing up.

    The Bad: The annoying teen talk, eg: “What’s the sitch” and more that I have pushed to the back of my brain. Xander skateboarding. Jesse dies. Harmony.

    The Ugly: ‘I, Robot…You, Jane’. The amount of bullets in Darlas gun.

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  17. [Note: Guido posted this comment on March 25, 2010.]

    I’m with Lucy. I think The Master is entertaining as hell. I’ve only seen the series twice through—once when it aired, and the second time within the last year or so. I’m on my 3rd re-watch (finishing Season 3). Each time I’ve watched Season 1, I regard it solely on it’s own merits. In other words, I pretend that it is the only season of Buffy to have ever aired. Would you still like the show? Yes!

    Season 1 is what it is. Many reviewers compare and contrast this season with later seasons, which isn’t fair. The show didn’t know it was going to last, didn’t know there would ever be a Spike, or an Anya, and only had a half-season to set things in motion. The only historical context applicable to Season 1 is Buffy the movie. Aside from Joss’ vision, it had no other standard upon which to guide itself. To say that The Master was the “worst” demon is to say that, somehow, Joss Whedon should have known that and made The Master better. Nonsense. This contextual approach enshrouds Season 1 with the expectations of later episodes that hadn’t even seen the light of day.

    Season 1 is pure innocence. Re-watching this season is like going through an old photo album. Some awkward moments might come to mind, but the nostalgia is as deep as ever.

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  18. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 5, 2010.]

    By far “Buffy’s” worst season. It’s not even close. “Angel” is the only episode that even comes close to matching the best of seasons 2-7 (though I also like “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”/”The Harvest” and “The Puppet Show”).

    The rest are absolutely terrible. It says a lot about how bad this season is that the four worst episodes of “Buffy” ever all came from here (“Nightmares”, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, “The Pack”, and “Teacher’s Pet”). Oddly enough, I don’t hate “I Robot, You Jane” as much as most (although it’s pretty bad).

    I honestly don’t know how “Buffy” got a second-season renewal based on this season. I’m so glad it did, but I still don’t know how.

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  19. [Note: Susan posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    I did not see Buffy or Angel episodes when they were first aired but only through repeats on cable TV and later on DVD. So initially I saw many episodes out of order but found enough enjoyment to want to see both series from start to finish. The first season of Buffy didn’t really appeal to me at first but I stuck with it because I wanted to see everything in the proper sequence. The first couple times that I went through season one I did it out of a sense of duty so that I could work my way through to the episodes that I knew I would enjoy. I started from the beginning again a couple weeks ago, and watching late at night I was half asleep and found myself dozing through the familiar scenes. Then I went back to read mikejer’s reviews and the comments of everyone else on individual episodes and suddenly it was a whole new world. With help from reviews and comments I carefully rewatched many of the episodes including Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, Nightmares, and Puppet Show. For the first time, I was able to see much more significance in these shows, not just for their wittiness and insight into character, but also in development of future storylines. However, I can’t imagine noticing or caring about many of these issues if I had been watching originally on network tv with commercial interruptions. I can’t tell you how very glad I am that enough people did see through what appeared to be rather shallow plotlines for this wonderful show to be renewed and to continue for six more years. Thanks to all of you!

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  20. [Note: Selene posted this comment on September 5, 2010.]

    This was indeed a weak season with some truly atrocious episodes, but then it was a mid-season replacement show based on an unsuccessful film that Fox Network was neither heavily promoting, nor pumping money into. I think when you take these factors into account you can understand why it fails to live up to future seasons.

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  21. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 9, 2010.]

    Just watched the entire first season, after seeing maybe 15 episodes (?) of the series a decade ago when it was live. For some reason, back in the day I saw a few Year 1 episodes and then nothing until Year 6 … which was really weird … Buffy’s mom disappeared, Buffy was now Momming some jailbait girl, Willow turned into a witch, all so bizarre.

    At any rate, I’m willing and happy to believe that the series gets better in the subsequent seasons. But … surely you collectively jest in wondering why it was picked up for a second season. A cheesy, limping, tentative BtVS that is lurching through its first few baby steps is fresher, funnier, cleverer, and yes even scarier, than just about anything else out there. From Episode 1, the quality comes through.

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  22. [Note: Jason posted this comment on September 9, 2010.]

    John Roberts:

    I like your writing style, and your insights. Your opinions so far largely coincide with mine. Keep the posts coming.

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  23. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on September 15, 2010.]

    John, got to disagree with you that a “cheesy, limping tenative BtVS” is better than just about anything else. Season 1 of this show was the single worst season of TV I’ve ever watched in my entire life. No, I’m not kidding.

    If it hadn’t gotten better in season 2, I’d have never forgiven myself for wasting that much time with it. That’s how bad this season is (apart from a few episodes like “Angel” and “Welcome to the Hellmouth”).

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  24. [Note: Tony posted this comment on October 11, 2010.]

    Hmm. I don’t know why season 1 gets so little love here. For me, so many memorable scenes and episodes, from Willow saying “why” instead of “hi” when Buffy first greets her, to social psychological commentary like the Hyenas episode, and to three of the most memorable and chilling episodes (the witch, the puppet, and out of sight – in my book, the witch is the closest to actually destroying Buffy, and the ending of Out of Sight was more chilling than anything the Initiative in season 4 could muster). Season 1 does an admirable and exciting job of laying the foundations for the rest of the series. And it’s the season I remember which focuses the most on, and best depicts, the woes and goofiness of high school. It’s a can’t miss season in my book.

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  25. [Note: Tony posted this comment on October 11, 2010.]

    Just want to add that the episode-enders for season 1 were only so-so for me. It’s really the stand alone episodes – Witch, Puppet, and Out so Sight – that I love from this season. Just the perfect bland of humor, scariness, pathos, dialogue, pacing, and social commentary.

    The season-ending episode I love the most, by far, is the one at the end of season 2 – that one can’t be touched! 🙂

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  26. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 5, 2011.]

    I said it in my Welcome to the Hellmouth comments but I’ll repeat here: What I like about this season is that it had some fun stories but it really cemented the personalities of the characters and their dynamics. I don’t mind that there wasn’t a lot of growth in most of them. We just got to learn about them and find out their quirks through the series of stories that were told. I’m glad the formula was ditched in subsequent seasons but I really fell in love with the characters right from the get go with this series and from that standpoint, it succeeds. This sets us right up for their emotional development through the rest of the series.

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  27. [Note: mordcordy posted this comment on March 17, 2011.]

    lol you got a pic of xander on the Giles file.

    Love your analysis mike as always and thanks for the cool S1 screencaps!

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  28. [Note: Conor posted this comment on March 29, 2011.]

    When I first watched Season 1 back in the late 1990s, my reaction was mixed. While I sort of liked it, it certainly didn’t hook me and I soon lost interest in the show. Revisiting the season for the first time in many years, I find it difficult to describe how impressed I was with what I had traditionally regarded as a fairly ineffectual starter season to a truly epic television show. While the budget is clearly lower and the plots and characterisation more one-dimensional in comparison with what is to come, the writers really managed to lay a solid foundation for the series in the course of just a dozen episodes – and produce a reasonably enjoyable season of television to boot. I also feel that I got more out of the season by virtue of my present status as a well-established Buffy fan. I know the quality of the show under scrutiny and can be more patient with this season and its content (and more forgiving of any defects) than a more casual viewer seeing this for the first time is liable to be.

    The core Scoobies are generally well-handled. Their development is still very far from complete by season’s end, but that’s to be expected under the circumstances. Preppy, sixteen-year-old Buffy is a very likeable character. She has her issues, but fortunately these don’t weigh her down like they will in later seasons. Willow is still unbelievably innocent and nerdy, her major crush on Xander simulataneously adorable and bemusing given the changes she will go through both as a person and in terms of her sexuality in the years to come. Xander’s reputation as an essentially likeable character who nevertheless maintains a tendency to annoy the audience is also apparent here, in that it is so blatantly obvious that Buffy has zero sexual or romantic interest in him and yet he persists in his ridiculously hopeless pursuit of her, all the while ignoring the amourous yearnings of his close friend, Willow, who genuinely loves him – albeit in a distinctly teenage puppy love kind of way. Giles reminds me of a cooler, less cowardly version of Season 3’s Wesley. Very stereotypically British, utterly bookish and still naively fascinated by the Californian climate and the supernatural forces that permeate Sunnydale. Although his relationship with Buffy starts out as a mentor-pupil one, by the end of the season the father-daughter relationship between them so central to this series until Season 6 is already beginning to reveal itself. Angel’s development begins in the episode of the same name and, after a shaky initial role in the very early episodes (and some hammy acting on David Boreanaz’s part), his character begins to fall into place from that point onwards. The mainly female major secondary figures – Joyce, Cordelia, Jenny Calendar and Darla – are all well presented and acted, though with the exception of Joyce all have a long way to go before they become truly developed characters in their own right. Not until “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” does Cordelia procure any form of substantive character development – spending most of the season as a forgettable high school cliche – and Darla, though excellent use is made of her limited screen time, won’t really come into her own until Season 2 of Angel. Jenny’s role is best described as minor here.

    I personally felt that one of the biggest draws of this season was in its heavy use of horror elements. While this was something that continued throughout the series in general, in Season 1 the horror feels a lot less diluted. Dark magical forces still feel alien, ominous and deserving of dread precisely because they are so new – to both the viewer and the Scoobies – and the rules of the Buffyverse aren’t yet properly laid out. Somehow, the monsters and villains seem a whole lot edgier and scarier than their counterparts in later season. Even the vampires look and feel more animalistic, more vicious, more…vampiric. It just feels as though an attempt was being made to blend genuine horror with teen drama – and the horror element was brought to the fore in a manner that would have been impossible later in the series, when the Buffyverse (at least as depicted in BtVS) became overly saturated with demonic forces and figures to the point where demons could be found round every corner, routinely socialising in their own (apparently easily accessible) bars and the horror overtones were completely downplayed in favour of the drama. The Master is also a pretty decent first season Big Bad, though I found the manner of his demise disappointingly underwhelming, as I had hoped for a more prolonged and memorable final showdown between this centuries-old vampire and the young Slayer.

    In terms of episode quality, I would say that the quality was reasonably good, all things considered, with “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, “Witch”, “Teacher’s Pet”, “Never Kill A Boy On the First Date”, “Angel”, “The Pack”, “The Puppet Show”, “Nightmares” and “Prophecy Girl” all ranking highly in my book. In fact, there were only two episodes that I would regard as particularly weak – “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, which, aside from transforming Cordelia into an actual flesh-and-blood character, did little for me – and “I Robot…You Jane”, an episode whose minor redeeming qualities could not rescue it from the bowels of mediocrity. My favourite episode would probably be “The Pack”, which combined a very quirky and original storyline with great character work and some genuinely creepy concepts and scenes. The finale was good but not in the same league as some of its later season counterparts.

    All in all, Season 1 was a fun and accessible introduction to what would become one of the greatest television series’ of its respective era. Though certainly flawed, with a lesser amount of character development and more basic overall plotlines than what came to pass in later seasons, it remains an unfairly maligned early venture into the Buffyverse that I feel deserves greater credit and applaud than fans have traditionally conferred upon it.

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  29. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 28, 2011.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This season review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

    Like

  30. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on April 28, 2011.]

    Nice review. Your distinction between serialized plot and serialized characterization is key, and also highly relevant to Seasons 4 and 7, where they somewhat failed at the former but still, to a large extent, succeeded at the latter. Every time I rewatch season 4, I’m less bothered by the Adam plot and more impressed by the character development.

    I think the moment of depth they gave Cordelia in “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” — and the follow-through on that development afterward — was the first time I began the recognize the specialness of the show. Prior to that, I had absolutely no faith that she’d be anything other than a caricature.

    Like most fans at CT, I like Season 1 the least, but I still enjoy the charm and even the camp. I very much agree with you that it succeeds at creating a group of likable characters with a great dynamic and excellent dialog. I’m watching Buffy with a friend (her first time), and I skipped half of S1, only showing “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, “The Harvest”, “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”, “Angel”, “Nightmares”, and “Prophecy Girl.” (I skipped OoMOoS despite the initial impact it had on me.) Now I think that’s a mistake: flawed as season 1 is, the way it establishes the characters and their relationships is probably important in getting a viewer to really care about them. My friend didn’t really get sucked in until “The Body”! (I also skipped a number of early S2 episodes, so she missed a lot of the early Buffy/Angel relationship that you referenced in your review. I think that’s why the Angelus arc didn’t pull her in like it does most people.)

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  31. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on April 29, 2011.]

    Great job Mike. I especially like your Pros section because it is so true. Rewatching the season multiple times is really something amazing because the characters have no idea what will happen in the future and they are so happy here in contrast with later seasons. Also I have to add that these characters really draw me in like no other character or show has done before.

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  32. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on April 29, 2011.]

    Yeah, very good job on reviewing the first season. Thanks a lot.

    But I have a question for you, Mike:

    So when do you complete the reviews for Angel S4 and 5?

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  33. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 29, 2011.]

    The answer is ‘never,’ smallprint. If you jump over to the Angel site you’ll notice that the community is finishing up Angel. I will, however, be contributing a handful of Angel reviews soon. Keep your eye on the news feed over there for updates.

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  34. [Note: xfactor posted this comment on August 11, 2011.]

    I look at the heart of a show. And in contrast to the sadistic nightmare that ruins season 6, the floundering bore of season 7, and the two worst decisions made in this series (Riley as a believable love interest for Buffy and Dawn) that cripple seasons 4 and 5, season 1 had the right balance of the sweetness and the sarcasm, the funny and the heartstrings. It had heart.

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  35. [Note: Sweet J posted this comment on October 9, 2011.]

    I agree xfactor, Season 1 get’s a bad rap but in hindsight with a total of 12 episodes it’s actually pretty good considering it has episodes like-

    Nightmares,

    Out of mind out of Sight,

    The Puppet show,

    Angel,

    and

    The Witch.

    I’d watch them all again before I’d watch six episodes from season 5,6 or 7, any day!

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  36. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on October 27, 2011.]

    I saw Buffy for the first time in Season 4. Within a minute or two, I understood that I’d been missing out and needed to track every episode I’d missed and see them all, in order if possible. I liked going back and seeing the Scooby gang when they were babies, but the best thing about Season 1 is seeing how the show went from where it started to OMG after the cast and crew all figured out what they could do.

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  37. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 5, 2011.]

    Hi Mike, let me start first by saying that i enjoy reading your reviews and respect all the points you make. I agree with most of what you say on mass but there is one fundamental thing i do partly disagree with, and this is Inaugural season of BtVS. Put simply i adore it, i think its one of televisions gems! While i agree with you points on the season being based largely on the monster of the week theme and some of the plots being contrived. I can’t not fall in love with this season and what it does. As Buffy said in WELCOME TO THE HELLMOUTH “it wasn’t that bad”.

    The innocence and the colourful dialogue are just two of the seasons good points. For me this season is my comfort blanket. I saw it on its first run and loved it. Falling in love with Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles was easy. For me the way each of the characters are introduced in their own is breathe taking. Especially looking at retrospectively and knowing how much they will grow and change, the challenges they will all face and overcome. Season 1 for me has a childlike innocence and its been hard for me to find a show with the same ability. Yes some of the monsters were corny, some of the plots didn’t escalate to their best ability and some couldn’t say what they were trying to but this season did do one or two things that i will always cherish it for. It brought to life Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A show i share a lot with, my ups and downs. Not only this but this season lays the foundations and the amazing ground work for what the show becomes, right from the very first episode when it introduces the fictional world we all know, love and desire to be apart of. Each time i watch this season i watch with children’s eyes. This season endeavours to be something and by Nightmares its done it for me.

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  38. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    Yes, this season differentiates the hardcore, original BTVS fans from those that came on late.

    What’s funny to me is that this season gets bashed, yet it somehow managed to jumpstart an entire TV genre that turned mythic with Seasons 2 and 3. It was responsible for the explosion of BTVS pop culture that followed. Somehow, through all these allegedly “crappy” episodes, Joss managed to turn his franchise into an icon. The show really hit its stride mid season 1 around Never Kill a Boy and didnt missfire until season 4.

    Meanwhile, seasons 6 and 7 had the exact opposite effect – they turned off the fanbase, getting longtime fans to lose interest in the show, getting even SMG to publicly admit that season 6 wasnt Buffy. By season 7, everyone was pretty much going through the motions with contrived storylines and just outright boring stretches.

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  39. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    x factor: why are you here? It’s clearly not to engage in a discussion of the reviews, because you have yet to do that. It seems like you just want a place to vent your unrefined thoughts and emotions, and this is just the place you decided to stop for a while. This site isn’t a Buffy episode guide, if you haven’t noticed; there’s actual analysis up at the top that you’re encouraged to read, think about, and debate with.

    If you really want to continue completely ignoring the analysis on this site and endlessly go on about how you feel, you should really just get a site of your own. That’s the whole point.

    So I ask again: if you’re not here for an actual discussion of the material (both the show and my analysis), why are you here?

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  40. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    X Factor,

    I disagree with regarding season six and seven completely, the series on a whole needed to explore the somewhat darker side to Buffy when she returned from heaven. She was in a turbulent place. Her life had stopped whereas her friends were in positions and time frames within their own that had meaning and gave direction to where they were headed.

    Buffy wasn’t going to simply get over her being dead and feeling alone. Season seven saw her having to come to turns with that and utilised her new found peace and place within her world. Both were amazing seasons but they weren’t flawless.

    Season one like any other season receives diverging reviews; put simply not every body loves the same ice cream flavour but that doesn’t mean that any of them are bad. Everyone’s opinion matters.

    I value and understand what your points are but you need to support them and not simply bash.

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  41. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    MikeJer…I think it’s pretty clear what my points are. I completely disagree with the final grade you gave this season. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not alone in feeling that the bashing given to season 1 by you in your review and others on this comment thread is misguided.

    Sure, season 1 has its flaws. Its kind of hokey, production values are really bad, we dont have the same refined plot arc as the others. Lots of one-off episodes. But my point is that this season, unlike the dross that signifies the later seasons, has something those seasons will never have – it got people to CARE about these characters, to invest themselves in this show. This season has heart – they have fun, they laugh, sometimes at themselves, they get hurt, they deal, they suffer, they learn. The episodes are entertaining, and occasionally poignant. Joss got you to care about them. Can the same be said of season 6 or 7? Not judging by the fanbases that got almost completely turned off by them. Even SMG herself publicly admitted that season 6 wasnt Buffy.

    So yes, i think my comments are very relevant to this thread since it supposedly deals with the entire season.

    This is how i would grade the seasons:

    S2 = A

    S3 = A-

    S1 = B+/A-

    S5 = C+

    S6 = C

    S4 = D+

    S7 = D-

    So isnt it obvious why i vehemently disagree with 99% of your grades and why I vehemently denounce the later seasons?

    If you want i will gladly post up specific thoughts on individual epis.

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  42. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    Season 6 was about Buffy finding herself, being lost after the high school years and being brought back. The scenes were emotional and the season was a dark one. Gellar did say that this was a particularly hard season for her because she was Buffy and found it hard to remove herself from the part. She later went on to say that may have been the problem, she may have not been able to see the struggles the character; Buffy, was going through, struggling to find herself. In the same interview Joss said that he did recall a time when he said ok we need to bring Buffy back now, we’ve lost her.

    But my own view is that the show is about a woman who i look up to, a woman who tells you what to do to show the right path and the clear message that everyone deals with pain, feels alone and goes through a lot no matter who you are. Buffy was a powerful woman not merely physically but emotionally too, she sacrificed the love of her life to save the world, she dealt with her moms death and felt different to other girls. The episode The Prom is one of my favourites because Buffy got recognition, she was valued and people did notice her. It was like the fans thanking her for being herself. Buffy as a show and as a character was an inspiration. However i can understand that to represent this on TV sometimes there has to be moments of triumphing over adversity in both her personal and monster killing life ergo Buffy at times has to suffer. Season six was her triumphing slowly.

    Season seven was the lighter side, Buffy had succeeded in overcoming the pain and the stepping back in to her life, she was Buffy again. Buffy re-surfaced.

    I think that to say Joss and the cast didn’t care and love the show or the characters that many fans fell in love with and wanted to be is a little unfair, Buffy was a much loved show, I don’t think the quality of the show dipped in season 6 at all, people and to be honest first time round there were a few scenes and moments that i didn’t like but looking retrospectively i have a new found respect for the season, i didn’t understand the struggles Buffy was going through and WIllow, Dawn all of them really but now i do. This may have been similar for other fans of the show? They may have misinterpreted the mood of the season. Season 7 has some fun and light hearted episodes similar to season one; Him and Helpless for instance, Lessons? Others were deep such as CWDP and Chosen. The only problem i have with this season is that i know its the end which is said and that The First is under used in a few of the episodes.

    Season one is my favourite along with season 3, 2 and 6.

    I would score them as follows;

    Season 1 A- because of its magic and innocence, it was fun and nice to see the characters without any worries. Light hearted 🙂

    season 2 – B+/A loved this season for the new place Buffy was in after the events of Prophecy Girl, stand alone episodes such as School Hard, Halloween, Killed by Death, Ted, Inca Mummy Girl, Phases and Lie to Me. The two parters were amazing and the villains of the season were cool. I rated it a little low because of Reptile Boy, SAR, and Bad eggs.

    Season 3 A+ Loved it!

    Season 4 C+ enjoyed the Buffy at college, the fashion got better too! The humour in Pangs, Something Blue, A New Man. Episodes such as the Faith two parters, Willow and Tara and Oz, Fear itself and Harsh light of day. Restless. I rated low because of the main plot arch, not amazing but the show and the writers created some great stand alone episodes, a credit to their abilities, much like the creation of season one. I agree BtVS did start the phenomenon.

    Season 5 B+ i liked the ideas, the episodes were spot on in balancing comedy and drama but i disliked one or two episodes and was waiting for Riley to disappear.

    Season 6 A I thought this season was insightful, it showed Buffy coming to grips, finding herself and it had a nice mix of comedy and drama, the acting too was great. The Trio were fun to watch.

    Season 7 B I like the idea of The First, it just felt a little under developed. Also the Potentials really took Buffy back to its roots with the mythology, one girl in all the world. The high school too! The stand alone gems in the first half and Faith in the latter. Caleb was a great arm of The First. The knowing Buffy lives and that she isn’t alone any more in being different, her acceptance that there isn’t anything wrong with it either.

    The above are my opinions, as i said everyone is entitled to have them.

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  43. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    First of all, x factor, please stop continuously referencing Sarah Michelle Gellar’s thoughts on Season 6 — it doesn’t mean much. You treat her at-the-time comments as if they’re the final word on the entire season’s worth. They’re not. (1) She’s an actor, not a writer. (2) Being only one part of a large production gave her a narrow window into what the season was trying to accomplish. SMG didn’t have the opportunity to sit back and really evaluate the scope of the season with some distance between her and the material. (3) SMG’s opinion doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s. A work of art means something different to different people — that’s the whole point.

    There’s really not much else to say. You not only have a penchant for completely ignoring the actual content of my reviews, by instead placing this huge emphasis on the final score, but you also appear to be ignoring the content of my comments as well. I never said your “points” were unclear. You don’t agree with what you’ve interpreted as my overall impression of the seasons of this show, and you aren’t actually reading any my reviews or, if you are, you aren’t processing anything other than the final score. Which brings me back to the question in my previous comment that you also ignored: why are you here? Why not go put your thoughts on your own blog or something?

    In your last comment, you posted a list of grades to the respective seasons and said “isn’t it obvious why I disagree with you?” Let me be clear with you: you don’t disagree with me, except in the most broad and loose way imaginable, because in order to do that you would actually have to tell me what you disagree with. You’ve never responded to any actual points I’ve made in any review. You just make generalized statements about what you do or don’t like. If you don’t emotionally connect with something, that’s fine — I can respect that. If you don’t agree with my arguments for a particular season or episode, that’s also fine, as long as you make a coherent counter-argument. But there’s more to putting together a substantive analysis of something than your immediate emotional response. It’s called critical thinking.

    When you are commenting on my review, the burden is on you to debate the points I’ve made that you disagree with. What you’re currently doing is bypassing my arguments and just stating what you think. That kind of comment belongs on your own site, not in response to someone else’s review.

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  44. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    What i find funny is that you are so focused on the fact that my comments dont respond to the substantive points in your review. There are MULTIPLE comments on this very thread that made absolutely no reference to your review, and yet you choose to single MY comments out?

    Let’s be real, sir. This has nothing to do with whether my statements relate to your review. You just dont like the fact that I disagree with your views and i do so strongly and with passion. And you dont like the fact that a lot of folks agree with me about Buffy jumping the shark after season 3, whether it be with Riley, the Dawn storyline, B/S, or season 7.

    And BTW, I HAVE responded directly to your reviews by pointing out your flawed grades. Arent your grades part of the “substance” of your review? I’ve also disagreed with multiple points you’ve made about this season and the other seasons.

    And finally, if anyone is getting “emotional”, it is you not me. If you cant handle criticism of what you write, which is ALL opinions and interpretation just like mine are, then a public website may not be the best place to offer your work. If you do not like to have your grades challenged, feel free to delete my comments.

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  45. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    First of all, there’s not much emotion here, except maybe a bemused curiosity.

    The grades I give things are the least important part of the review, by a wide margin. Arguing about the grade is pointless if you don’t understand why I gave something that grade. That’s what the actual review is for.

    Your first comment on this particular review repeated the exact same thing you’ve said in a bunch of other reviews. To paraphrase: you hate Seasons 6-7, and love Seasons 1-3. We all get it. I only responded here because you’re going around a whole bunch of reviews saying the exact same thing — it’s getting old. In each comment, most if not all of the things you’re either praising or condemning are actually addressed directly in my respective review of that season/episode. Yet you have consistently ignored these points and said your piece anyway.

    In your second comment, to correct your assertion that you made no reference to this review, you did reference it: “MikeJer…I think it’s pretty clear what my points are. I completely disagree with the final grade you gave this season.”

    Again, you referenced the grade, but who really cares about the grade in of itself? I know I don’t. What is it you disagree with that I actually wrote? What are the points I made that you disagree with, specifically, and why? You never say, in this review, or any other, and that’s the entire problem. All you appear to care about is the grade, which is only meant as a summary of how I evaluated something. The meat of the evaluation, and where the grade comes from, is the content of the review itself. It’s times like these that I want to remove scores/grades from the site altogether, because they’re ultimately not important and clearly some people get really worked up over them.

    There have been plenty of people that have intelligently criticized what I’ve written and engaged me in great debates over the years. I’ve been running this site for quite a long time now, over six years, and there’s a thriving community of regulars that appreciate the atmosphere it provides. None of them agree with me on everything I’ve written. Some of them disagree with a lot of it. Yet I love debating with them nonetheless. I have absolutely no problem with real debate, and have very consistently encouraged it, as I did with you in my previous comment. But in order to debate something I’ve written, you actually have to, well, debate it, with specific counter-arguments to the points I made and the conclusions I arrived at.

    Forget the grade; debate the substance.

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  46. [Note: AaronJer posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    x-factor, just give some specific points. So far you’ve said little more than “I don’t like later seasons because they are bad.” I’m sure you have some actual opinions on specific events that occurred, please share them.

    The only reason MJ is responding to you negatively is because you’re saying “I don’t like such and such.”

    Then MJ says, “Why?”

    And you pretty much just say “Because it’s bad.”

    You said before “If you want i will gladly post up specific thoughts on individual epis.” <— That. Do that. You have yet to do that. Nothing you say serves any purpose until you do that.

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  47. [Note: Alex posted this comment on December 21, 2011.]

    x-factor, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Mike doesn’t like people disagreeing with him. Plenty of people do so on this site, and it can make for some really fun discussion – but only if you’re prepared to say more than just ‘Mike, you’re wrong’.

    Please do give us your thoughts on the seasons and why you prefer the earlier ones. And while it’s great that you like the earlier seasons more than the later ones, please don’t assume that every true Buffy fan has to agree with you.

    I actually meant to reply to some of your comments a while back, because from several of them I get the strong impression that you have a big problem with the Buffy/Spike relationship and, in particular, the S+M aspects of it. I find that interesting – why do you dislike it so much? You don’t have to reply here, but it would be great if you went back to one of those comments and elaborated a bit because, believe it or not, not everyone shares that view.

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  48. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 3, 2012.]

    A rough diamond, these are the words that sum up this season for me. I value these 12 episodes immensely, all of them divergent individual little gems. The writing, the characters and those intangible moments, the humour and the emotions, most importantly the way the four key characters bond. These relationships whether they be friendship or the beginning of romance or parental ones is what resonates with me.

    I agree Mike that Buffy herself is the foundation, the building blocks in this season. I love Buffy always have, always will. She is my ultimate role model, her strength and ability to face all odds with courage. I second the agreement of her being both the sacrificial lamb and the hunter, have you also noticed that when ever she lays her life on the line; twice literally, she wears white? Prophecy girl, The Gift, When she is stabbed in Chosen she is wearing a white shirt, even in season six when she is shot by Warren she has a white top under her jacket, which may be a pale grey or perhaps white itself!

    The pros out number the cons for me when it comes to the season, i appreciate that i may be in the minority when it comes to expressing my joy and love of this season, i hold it right up there, it being close to my favourite actually coming second!

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  49. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on March 12, 2012.]

    your reviews are sooo amazing!!!!!! I started watching buffy at a really young age, like 8 years old, im 18 now 🙂 so its soo cool to watch episodes again and get a deeper meaning of the episode. its like watching it for the first time. and i can finally understand all the funny punns. I have a question tho..and idk where else to ask. When buffy died in “the gift” why wasnt another slayer called??? i have two theories but idk if they are right. one maybe that she doesnt work for the counsil anymore, or it could be because faith was still alive. thanks!!! p.s i have been glued to this website for the past couple weeks :))

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  50. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 12, 2012.]

    Thanks for the comment, Antoinette. As for “The Gift,” Faith was called because Kendra died, therefore it would take Faith to die to cause another new slayer to get called. That’s always how I’ve viewed it, at least. So your second theory feels right.

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  51. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 12, 2012.]

    Yeah, I was always pretty sure that each Slayer just got one replacement, so Buffy had already had hers and didn’t get another one. I figured that Faith was the newer slayer, so she’d have to die to get another one called.

    Buffy and the others do contradict that quite a few times. In Season 7 especially, there are several mentions of Buffy needing to die to activate the next Slayer. For example, in one of her big speeches Buffy says something like ‘my death could make you the next slayer’. In another episode Dawn thinks she’s a Potential and she says something like ‘but if I ever got to be the Slayer, that would mean Buffy died’. But I think that was just glossed over for the sake of convenience.

    Alternatively, maybe there really was a third Slayer out there somewhere! But it seems unlikely given that the Council never mentioned it. Then again, they didn’t tell anyone about Kendra or Faith before they showed up in Sunnydale either.

    Anyway, welcome to the site Antoinette!

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  52. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on March 13, 2012.]

    Thank you so much!! that makes more sense… i have another question, and its been bothering me for years! in the episode “Helpless” when giles isnt buffys official watcher anymore,and then later on wesley comes to replace him, making him buffys new watcher. why is it when faith appears on angel and she tortores wes, she says he was her watcher and he was in charge of her? was he supposed to be both their watchers.was he replacing both giles and Gwen post? and on another note, am i the only one that never really considered willow a lesbian. I never thought of her as being attracted to women. i mean she liked xander and dated oz, and before tara found men attractive. and then when she met tara i thought she fell in love with her for who she is and it was a deeper love that goes deeper than gender. so i never really like how in smashed she changed the men into women because i never really saw her to be turned on to women. and i never liked her relationship with kennedy. just because she fell in love with one woman, doesnt mean she was attracted women. hope that makes sense, its hard to explain :))))) sorry for all the questions, lol i just have so many!!

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  53. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 13, 2012.]

    Wesley was both Buffy and Faith’s Watcher when he came into the show. Giles was officially fired in “Helpless.” Gwen Post was a former Watcher that was kicked out due to being bad (dark uses of magic or some such) — she was lying to Giles when she claimed to be Faith’s new Watcher.

    The answer to your Willow question is a bit more complicated. Personally, I agree with you that the writers did a poor job at portraying exactly what Willow is or is not attracted to. Early in the show she’s clearly attracted to men, then later she discovers she’s also attracted to women (by nature of falling for Tara in a romantic way), but the writers (through Willow) make this change out to be her becoming all-out gay, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense considering her history. I think they probably should have characterized her evolution as bisexual if anything.

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  54. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 13, 2012.]

    I think the question of Willow’s sexuality is too complicated to really address here and is probably one for the forums, but since we’re on the subject my opinion is that they didn’t do as bad a job with it as some people believe. I understand the confusion that some people have, because she clearly has feelings for Oz and Xander before Tara comes along, but I think the way she discovers her sexuality is actually quite realistic and typical of the way it happens for a lot of people.

    I’m a straight woman so I don’t want to presume to know what it’s like to make that decision about yourself, or offend anyone in the process, but I will say that I’ve known several people who realised their sexuality as a result of a ‘one special person’ situation like Willow’s with Tara. But then after that relationship they continued to date people of the same sex. I think it’s actually fairly common for somebody’s ‘gay’ feelings to manifest first of all as feelings for one particular person.

    I do, however, believe that a person’s sexuality is a very complicated thing and isn’t set in stone, and so I don’t like all the implications that Willow’s now 100% attracted to women and must therefore be repulsed by men. I hate the way it’s implied that she can’t like Xander any more because ‘hello, gay now!’. She was crazy about Xander before, and I don’t like the way it’s implied that her being gay somehow flips a switch and ends that attraction. The idea that she would have to turn RJ into a woman before she could pursue him is very silly too, but I can forgive that because it was also hilarious.

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  55. [Note: Riis posted this comment on May 30, 2012.]

    I’d like to weigh in on issue of Willow’s sexuality. Let me start by saying that I’m a woman who has dated both men and women. I was always a little attracted to women but it wasn’t until college that I dated a woman. For the last five years I have exclusively dated women; for a few years before that I dated both men and women. For a long time, I self-identified as bisexual, but as of late, I feel more inclined to self-identifying as a lesbian because, at this point, I honestly just prefer dating women. (Of course, let me offer the standard disclaimer that this is my experience, to provide context, not to offer definitive answers. Everyone is different.)

    There are a lot of things affecting the way I view Willow’s sexuality. For one thing, since Joss hadn’t decided ahead of time which character he wanted to be gay, Willow’s attraction to men was strong in early seasons. However, even if this hadn’t been the case, it’s certainly common enough for someone to have had a strong heterosexual relationship before having a same-sex relationship. Much like myself, I always just assumed that Willow decided she prefers women. Going deeper though, I also suspect that the writers decided they simply didn’t know how to broach the subject of Willow’s sexuality, particularly following Tara’s death and the fan backlash that followed. Many other shows have ignored a character’s sexuality because it’s ‘in-between’ and therefore seen as too complicated. Although BTVS as a whole has handled shades of grey beautifully, the backlash can be so overwhelming from mishandling a character’s sexuality that I understand why the writers didn’t want to touch that with a twenty-foot pole. Since Tara’s death (knowingly or unknowingly) played into the ‘lesbian-sex-equals-death trope, the writers had to tread carefully. Is this a little bit of a cop-out? Definitely! But the question I have to ask myself is whether or not I would rather they leave some questions unanswered or would I rather that they bungle it? My last thought on this (well not really, but I’ll wrap up anyway!) is that since there ended up only being one more season in which to delve into the complicated issue, I’m glad they left it alone. I think that what was otherwise a wisely and tenderly-handled love story could have ended on a supremely sour note (although Kennedy annoyed the crap out of me). One of the things I loved most about it was that it seemed like a natural progression for Willow and I feel they just a good job setting up the Willow/Tara attraction in season four. I do wish that in season five they had addressed Willow’s sexuality (especially since Tara brings it up in Tough Love) but I guess that Tara getting brain-sucked sort of sidetracked everyone!

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  56. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on May 30, 2012.]

    Riis, I agree with you (except on Kennedy; I don’t mind her so much). I’ve often wondered about that aspect of the fight in “Tough Love”: did Willow just change the subject and turn Tara’s concern into something much bigger than it actually was as a way to avoid dealing with Tara’s real worry, which was about magic? Or was Tara genuinely worried about Willow’s sexuality? It certainly is a reality in relationships between women — some women grow tired of being someone’s “college experiment” while many bisexual women (and men) struggle to be recognized by gays and lesbians.

    Anyway, I suppose that if Tara really had been worried that Willow would “head back to boys’ town” then that fear was pretty thoroughly laid to rest by the devotion that Willow showed her after the mindwipe.

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  57. [Note: Riis posted this comment on May 31, 2012.]

    Excellent points Fray! Especially since magic and sexuality are so entwined for Willow and Tara it can be difficult to separate the two in discussions. And really, I’m just partial to Tara. 🙂

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  58. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on August 17, 2012.]

    Regarding the question Antoinette asks above in 52 above. I’m with MikeJer in thinking that Faith’s death would cause the next Slayer activation. Buffy’s death at the end of S5 certainly doesn’t activate any Slayer that we know about, and that’s because she’s no longer The Slayer, at least not in the sense of the succession magic.

    But in the sense of who’s doing the job, it’s obviously Buffy, and this is the reality that the Scoobies and Buffy herself experience. They’re always forgetting Faith anyway. So I’d say it’s the Scoobies, and not the writers, who make the error.

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  59. [Note: NewSpock posted this comment on August 20, 2012.]

    I think season 1 is actually not as bad as many think. Sure season 2’s second half is lots better and season 5 is more complex and deeper, but as a first season it works pretty well.

    It introduces the characters of Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and Cordelia and their interactions pretty well.

    How could the whole Angelus-story-arc have such an effect without introducing the relationship of Angel and Buffy in such a sweet way in season 1?

    And the storyline regarding the Master as the big bad is not that uninteresting: He is trapped and needs other helpers to free him. The idea to use that vampire to suck on people in the bronze so that the master would gain enough energy to break free was entertaining. And the use of Darla to try to get Angel back to the evil side was also great.

    And when all failed for the master he found hope in a prophecy that told about him being freed on a certain day and the ironic notion that it was actually Buffy’s attempt to stop him, what grants him the energy to get free is great as well as Buffy’s acceptance of her sacrifice and Xander’s (friendship!) reanimation of Buffy.

    The downside of the season are some filler-episodes and the useless “Anointed one”.

    Not perfect, but a good base for the Angelus/Buffy-story-arc in season 2 and the establishment of the master allowed for his recurrence in “The wish”, which again allowed the great “Doppelgangland”-episode.

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  60. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on October 14, 2012.]

    As I mentioned in my comment on the season 7 review, I’ve just recently watched the entire series with my wife, who’d never seen Buffy before, but I only discovered these reviews when we approached the end of season 6. I thought I’d go back and work through the reviews from the start, both because I really enjoy reading them and because I’m still mentally cataloguing my own impressions of a my first retrospective viewing in almost a decade of a show that played a big part in my life for seven years. So, why not offer a few impressions here too?For me, watching season 1 is a bit like hanging out with my brother – in both cases I mentally revert to a much younger version of myself. I was 16 when I first watched season one (the same age as Buffy herself of course) and I think I connected with the show on that teenage level. My thinking wasn’t really sophisticated enough to pick up on the metaphors of the monsters of the week so I wasn’t bothered by the unwieldy use of metaphor. The same went for my retrospective viewing. As I say, I reverted to that mindset when watching again so the cumbersome overuse of metaphor didn’t bother me much. Contrast this with my viewing of season 6, both the first time out (when I was 21 or 22 and recently, at age 31) and the ‘magic-as-drugs’ metaphor was really too much for me. I think that says something about season 1 though – that it’s probably the only one that specifically targets the teenage mind (or retrospective teenage mindset as the case may be….) whereas all the other seasons are more universal, both in theme and likely viewership. I get the feeling this may be one of the big reasons why season 1 is the only season in the entire series that feels dated on a reviewing.Having said that though, the seeds of greatness are there from the start, primarily in the amazing dialougue. I remember that’s what really hooked me on the show to begin with – I was so blown away by the way the characters spoke. As I watched ‘Prophecy Girl’ for the first time in God knows how long and Xander said to Willow, about his attempt to ask Buffy out, ‘On a scale of one to ten, it sucked,’ I remembered both how much I laughed on first hearing that and that I spend months looking for an opportunity to casually drop that into conversation myself. I always knew that buffy had affected my speech patterns in a big way but it was only on the reviewing that I realised just how much. About halfway into the first season Xander was talking on screen in one episode and my wife turned to me and said ‘He speaks like you.’ The truth of the matter is, of course, that it’s me who speaks like him.A quick few words on a couple of things that seem to get a bad press:1)The Master. Seems to often be derided as a very poor Big Bad. I have to say, I thought he was quite effective. For a sixteen year-old, there’s no doubt that The Master, from looks alone, is what would constitute a nightmare image to scare the bejeesus out of you. He was trapped in the church but there was always a sense of menace about him (the way he floated his minions to him and killed them with ease) that made me think something bad could go down if he got out. The final fight in ‘Prophecy Girl’ wasn’t much of a, well, fight but that aside I thought he made a good counterpoint to Buffy’s youthful zest and pep.2)I Robot, you Jane. It’s probably because I’m among the most technologically backward of my generation, but I can remember thinking this was quite clever at the time. Up till that point, the only thing I remember seeing on film or TV with an internet theme was the lame Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Net’ so the story seemed relatively fresh for me. Funnily enough though, even sixteen year old me was savvy enough to spot the metaphor on the first viewing so it probably was heavy handed ;-)Overall then, certainly the weakest season and the grade given here is about right I’d say. That’s, of course, when we match it up against all the other seasons of Buffy, and Angel if you like too. But put it up against Dawson’s Creek or any other of the teen shows that were on around the same time as Buffy season 1and it’s an A plus that blows everything else clean out of the water.

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  61. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 18, 2013.]

    I personally love the first season. That said, If I were to breakdown and rank the seasons, it would definitely rank on the lower side.

    I don’t remember too much about how I felt about it upon first watch, other than the fact I was obviously sucked in because I came to the series in basic reluctance. Not to sound too much like another commentator who shall remain nameless, I feel like even though it had considerably weaker episodes than the seventh season, it had, what I consider, the heart of the show. I legitimately love all of the main characters that have been introduced (even the less-developed Cordelia, Angel, and Giles), and don’t have the lingering frustrations I have with some of the (admittedly better) later seasons. As somebody mentioned earlier, I suppose I enjoy the lightweight factor that is such a deep contrast the rest of the series, and enjoy seeing a point where all the characters are more-or-less happy. It’s as if this season has a charm about it that the others don’t (which may actually work in the other seasons favor) which really makes me love it.

    Another thing I love about this season, which I think many may disagree with, is the rewatchability of it. I guess since the episodes are fairly simplistic and aren’t heavily connected to the main story arc (sans the finale and “Angel”), I could watch them while I do other things and get engulfed in the storyline without actually having to focus. However, I have very recently rewatched “I Robot…You Jane” and completely forgot about just how unwatchable it is. It’s unbelievably slow paced and is on a whole different level than “bad” episodes like “The Pack” and “Go Fish.”

    So anyway I’ll conclude this horribly unfocused comment by commending you on this beautifully written review and appreciate that you too have a higher appreciation for “Out of Mind…Out of Sight” as opposed to the monster-of-the-week episodes that didn’t really forward any development for the characters at all in the first season. I always felt my higher opinion on that episode was something not shared by many!

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  62. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 18, 2014.]

    I am always surprised by people who don’t like Buffy the character. She was greatly responsible for the growth of all the other key characters. From becoming friends with Willow and Xander to helping Willow with her fashion and confidence. Even Xander’s career choice was influenced by the destruction that seemed to befall Buffy’s house. Even Cordelia’s arc is influenced by Buffy. Without Buffy’s character the other Scoobies faced a safer but much less fulfilling life.

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  63. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 1, 2014.]

    As mentioned above by a lot of people before me–I can’t even begin to understand BTVS watchers who hate Buffy and call her whiny and selfish. Like ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THE SAME CHARACTER HERE? BUFFY IS THE ONE WHO SAVED THE WORLD TO PROTECT YOU PEOPLE, HER FRIENDS PULLED HER HAPPY ASS BACK FROM HEAVEN AND SHE TOOK IT WITH STRIDE AND TRIED TO AVOID HURTING THEIR FEELINGS, BUFFY GOT CONDEMNED ON ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT SHE EVER DID THAT HER FRIENDS DID NOT APPROVE OF, INCLUDING HER SLEEPING WITH THE ONE PERSON WHO MADE HER FEEL AGAIN! AND ALSO BEING CONVIENTELY HANDED THE WEIGHT OF THE WHOLE WORLD ON HER SHOULDERS AND THEN CRITICISED FOR BEING LESS FLUFFY IN SEASON 7! God, Buffy is just perfect and one of my favourite characters on TV. Anyway, I’ll stop my ridiculous rant now.

    All in all, I happen to like Season 1, too. (I tend to block out the extreme corny stuff and the inadequate character development and the low production values). But, your score is pretty spot on, as it is certainly the weakest season of BTVS. Having said this, we wouldn’t have the rest of the absolutely breathtaking 6 seasons without this one, so I am certainly glad that we did.

    Also, can I just say? Season 1 Buffy, Xander, Giles, Cordy, Angel and Willow?
    SOOOOOOOOO ADORABLE!! I MEAN LOOK AT THEM THEY’RE BABIES AND THEY HAVE NO WORRIES AND THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S TO COME AND THEY’RE SO HAPPY AND JUST FEEEELLSSSS !!!

    okay, ridiculous comment, over. xD

    On to Season 2!

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  64. [Note: Josh posted this comment on August 9, 2014.]

    Season 1 obviously doesn’t compare to the rest but in its defense I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally meant to be a different type of show from what it ended up becoming (and became more known for). Season 1 is a kids show. The lightheartedness, lack of major consequences, and cheesiness are negatives if you are expecting gripping drama, but they are perfectly fine for something you’d see on Nickelodeon or ABC Family. In fact, season 1 is great if you look at it from the perspective of being a show aimed for older children/early teens.

    But once season 2 came around and turned Buffy into a much more mature and sophisticated show, season 1’s lack of weight made it look bad to the people who tuned into Buffy to see heartbreakingly relatable episodes like “Innocence”.

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  65. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 9, 2014.]

    I still wouldn’t consider Season 1 a Nickelodeon kids show at all, it’s still too dark and angsty. I feel like the first season was probably more directed to teenagers whereas the seasons after were for teenagers and adults.

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  66. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 9, 2014.]

    Yeah, I’m inclined to side with Monica on this one. If it had been directed towards kids, I don’t think showing a lack of consequences is a positive. Kids need to be made of consequences from an early age so that when they do get to adolescence, they’ll be less likely to make dumb mistakes. Either way, Season 1 is comparatively weaker to the rest of the show. It’s not terrible, but it’s not quite good either.

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  67. [Note: Dobian posted this comment on August 14, 2014.]

    I can’t think of season 1 of any show as being its best season. The point of a first season is to introduce characters and ideas and build a foundation for the future. You don’t want deep character and story arcs in the first season, you just want to hang out with them and get to know them. In that sense it’s really unfair to compare season 1 of BtVS to season 3 or 5 or any of the others, because those seasons are all built off of season 1. Season 1 accomplishes what it set out to do. It introduced the Buffyverse, had a lot of fun one-off adventures, and provided an entertaining comic villain for her to defeat in the end. The Master was supposed to be a relative lightweight compared to what Buffy would face in later seasons, because she’s supposed to be getting her feet wet in season 1 and he’s just the warm-up act for what’s to come. With that, I would give season 1 a higher score, it was a good season.

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  68. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on August 15, 2014.]

    firefly‘s first season was it’s best.

    Uh, wait …

    The Sopranos, Veronica Mars, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and (supposedly – I’ve not seen it) Friday Night Lights all have amazing first seasons, the best of their respective shows.

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  69. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on August 15, 2014.]

    Mad Men season 1 is at least in the conversation as the show’s best, like Season 1 of the Sopranos.

    There’s also the shows that are great for a season or so and fall off a cliff but continue to run for 8 seasons (also known as the Showtime syndrome). I think Dexter, and Homeland at the very least fall into this category.

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  70. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on August 15, 2014.]

    I think Dexter‘s second season is significantly better than its first, to be honest. The Bay Harbor Butcher case was far more interesting than the Ice Truck Killer mystery, even if the conclusion was a little lacking.

    I think Deadwood‘s first season is meant to be its best, as well.

    24 and Battlestar Galactica are also excellent candidates.

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  71. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    Yeah…I usually say (though it’s a little cynical and flippant) that there are basically two kinds of (mostly) good shows: those that start strong but then go downhill in later seasons, and those that get off to shaky starts but then get really good after a season or two. Though actually, a fair number of shows end up doing a little of both–shaky start, get really good, reach a peak, and then unravel a bit toward the end. I’d actually argue that Buffy fits this pattern given season 7, though that’s not to say that there wasn’t anything good about the season by any means (and there are definitely once-good shows that got a lot worse before their ends than Buffy ever did!).

    To be fair, though, there actually are at least a couple shows that I think were strong from beginning to end (The Wire and Breaking Bad both come to mind). I say this, though, not to downplay how good Buffy is (even with its flaws, it’s on the short list for my favorite show ever), but just to acknowledge that–widespread trends notwithstanding–it is possible for a show to not have any “lesser” seasons. So, despite how much I love Buffy, I’m not inclined to get too involved in making excuses for the mediocrity of much of its first season. It’s a common problem, yes–but not an *inevitable* one.

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  72. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    In the long run, I tend to prefer the shows that start off on the weak side, as they tend to keep your expectations to a point, instead of raising them so high that subsequent seasons haven’t a chance of topping them.

    I’ll also add Lost, Alias, and Homicide to Freudian’s list of shows that hit their peaks in their first season. (Season One of Friday Night Lights is certainly great, but I actually slightly prefer Season Four.)

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  73. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    I agree about preferring shows that start weak and get better to those that start strong and go downhill. With the former, you avoid the crushing disappointment of wasted potential and/or botched greatness… Lost is, alas, the ultimate poster child for that phenomenon (in my opinion).

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  74. [Note: Riderofapcoalypse posted this comment on August 27, 2014.]

    Ok, so.

    In a nutshell, while grading S1 on a curve because its the first season and it actually innovated themes of the genre (to my knowledge anyways), I would rate Buffy S1 around 6.5/10 to a 7/10. If you want to see my reasons for this, read below:

    I can honestly say that I don’t know how Buffy wasn’t pulled either during or after season 1. I watched S1 about 4 seasons later, so I didn’t watch it live in the 90’s. So maybe S1 was more identifiable/relatable to the viewers than I think. There were a lot of, ‘wait a minute, wtf?’ moments for me, as well as cheesy moments. However cheesy can sometimes make it better by making us laugh.

    With that being said, here are my win’s and fail’s:
    EX of the Good:
    – Kick ass female main character. Both good looking and a fighter.
    – Vampire Luke. Bad-ass. A shame he died early on.
    – The Master. A bad guy with the gift of gab and a brain. Not a bad first season villain at all. He entertained me.
    – The Pack. So many reasons why I like this episode. Badass/prick Xander made me like the character more and I don’t know why. I read a fanfiction where Xander was possessed by a lion spirit instead of a Hyena…he defended his own and kicked ass instead of being a constant liability for Buffy. It made me appreciate this episode much more.
    – I Robot, You Jane. I liked this episode only because it was so cheesy, it made me laugh more than anything. Again I watched this episode for the first time 4 seasons later.
    – The Puppet Show. After watching this episode, I went to sleep with the tv on as a night light. Other than that, this episode made me laugh a great deal. Red rummm! Red rummmm!.
    – Nightmares. AN AMAZING, STAND ALONE EPISODE. ESPECALLY FOR A FIRST SEASON SHOW. This episode has been the focal point and genesis of so many S1 fan fictions and possible story discussions, it’s unreal. Now granted once you see the giant bee’s near the end of the episode you start asking questions and realize that this episode can be considered idiotic. (Ex: How did nobody just have a fear/nightmare of the world completely going to hell or earthquakes/tsunami’s?). But thankfully, I was distracted by the incredible hotness of Vampire Buffy…Don’t judge me.

    Ex of the bad:
    – Angel. Everything about the character in S1 was unappealing. The acting sucked, the wardrobe sucked, just get the F off my TV screen. I’m surprised Angel wasn’t killed off or re-casted for S2. (Thank god the character got 1000x BETTER)
    – Almost all of the non-extra actors/actresses, including the main cast members, whom were designed to look young enough to be in high school…looked like they were in their twenties. Willow was the only one who looked young enough to still be in high school in my opinion.
    – You’d think Xander would start taking martial arts classes or something if he is going to be on the front lines with Buffy. Or at least carry a super soaker full of holy water.
    – Vampire Luke dies way to early in the season. He was what I think Angel should have been. Bad-ass, but a good guy.
    – Buffy is resuscitated back to life and is somehow unaffected by the Master’s powers. (Well maybe Buffy is able to overcome the Master because his powers work only on living humans? Ok, than explain how Buffy one arm choke-slams the Master…a vampire who is supposed to be much more powerful than your average vampire in every way…over her head in a 180 degree arc.)

    In conclusion, Buffy Season 1 was a pretty good first season but it did leave us asking ‘wait, what the f**k?’ a few more times than I can overlook. Honestly the episode ‘Nightmares’ plays a huge role on the passing grade I gave this season. Without ‘Nightmares’ and the comedy/cheesy episodes, I dare say I would have given Buffy S1 a 5/10 or even worse.

    Again, this is my opinion. So if your opinion of anything I wrote contrasts mine, more power to you.

    Riderofapcoalypse
    Thanks

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  75. [Note: Buff1f posted this comment on September 12, 2014.]

    I finally convinced my boyfriend to watch Buffy with me. We’ve just started the 6th season. You can probably appreciate how I’ve ended up here on your review of season one, the time before misery, adulthood, and death.

    Seeing the Cs, Ds and Fs that litter your season one rankings, it’s clear that your overall C+ ranking is actually charitable. Most of the commenters seem to completely agree with you, and there is an almost flippant certainty that this is the worst season of Buffy.

    Considering the consensus, I feel alone in my frequent desire to reach back to this season. To me, season one is the ultimate palate cleanser. Whenever I watch it, it fills me with deep nostalgia, both for the original Buffyverse and my own dorky but simple adolescence. Everything is shiny and new, suspenseful and funny. Not cheesy, but campy. Humor was such an important element of the first few seasons; it exists in later seasons but in either subdued–or worse–forced forms.

    To be fair, it has been a long time since I’ve watched the sixth and seventh seasons of Buffy. I did not enjoy them very much the first few times I saw them, but that was over 10 years ago. This time around I may give them credit for boldly taking characters where I never wanted them to go, and I’ll likely be more attuned to the greater themes at play. Will I actually enjoy watching these seasons? We’ll see.

    Some shows are very successful at taking their characters to dark places without losing their “charm” (as you put it) and keeping their original audiences just as engrossed (ala Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones). I am not sure that Buffy is one of them. I think that the writers tried to explore darker themes in the later seasons but may have damaged a few characters in the process (Willow and Spike come to mind). I’m tempted to argue that the character growth in Buffy’s later seasons is disingenuous–not because the characters became darker, but because much of that darkness felt rapid, unearned (Buffy’s deep post-heaven depression aside), and there only to serve the season’s plots/themes. I’m not against darkness, but that darkness must make sense.

    If we are to cringe at the monster-of-the-week, light, serial fare of season one, I think it’s only fair that we demonstrate equal cringe towards the heavyhanded dramasodes of later seasons. If season one gets a C+, so does season six! And I don’t care how many stand-out, brilliant episodes season four had: its core plot became a tangled, pitiful mess that should easily be surpassed by season one’s light romps.

    Maybe I’m blinded because these are characters that I grew up with and truly love. For whatever reason, I can watch the F-graded “I Robot, You Jane” in total bliss. There is nothing about that episode that I can hate. Willow attacking Moloch-Malcolm with a fire extinguisher. Buffy in sunglasses and a trenchcoat with cheesy sleuth music synthing away behind her. Of course, the introduction of Ms. Calendar, resident technopagan (even you acknowledge her welcome presence). I even like the concept: demon on the internet. I might be crazy, but I think all of you are missing out!

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  76. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on April 19, 2015.]

    Unlike most of the critics I read on the Internet (including, more or less, this one), I really like the first season. I even like “Teacher’s pet”, and I would never have given this one such a bad grade.
    This first season is clumsy, but it’s what I like about it. It’s true 1990’s television, a bit kitsch but really “cute”. I wouldn’t even say it’s nostalgy talking, because I was really young when this one came out and I’m not even sure I watched it at the time. But, you know, there is innocence and craziness in this season that disappeared step by step throughout the seasons, especially after season 4 (I adore season 5 – but yeah, we lost the innocence of the show with this one).
    I would give this season a B.

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  77. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on December 7, 2015.]

    Consensus says that season 1 was the worst, and that’s fine, everyone likes different things. Myself, I really liked it. For me, it wasn’t “above average TV”… for me, right from the start, it was my favorite hour-long TV show since the original Star Trek… 40 years earlier!

    I liked subsequent seasons more, until s6 and s7, which killed the whole thing, but I still loved s1.

    Of course, I LIKED the stand-alone stories, and often did not like arc-heavy episodes of later seasons (s6 and s7 became almost all-arc… soap opera). That’s true of all series, too.

    I LIKED the “cheese,” the comedy, the B-movie horror feel. And that last is probably the bottom line. My favorite movies are horror. So that probably explains my druthers.

    The Puppet Show is one of my favorites. It’s just plain fun.

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  78. [Note: QueenB posted this comment on December 28, 2016.]

    After re-watching the complete series I have to say the first season isn’t my favorite but is isn’t as bad as some would have you believe it is. The two part series premiere is brilliant as is the season finale (minus the use of the theme during the big fight). I also think when reviewing this season you should take a few things into consideration this series was a midseason replacement series on The WB and it was made on a shoestring budget with a lot of network interferences. I’d give the first season a solid B. I’d also like to point out SMG really showed her range this season and she kills me every time she overhears Giles and Angel talking about her impending death one of many Emmy worthy performances she gave during the seven season run of BTVS.

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