by Liliana Costa
& Trista Holmes
In honor of Halloween month, we are reviewing a number of TV shows with supernatural themes. Check out our review last week of the TV show Supernatural.
From March 10, 1997 to May 20, 2003, a pop culture phenomenon, that was considered to be one of the best television shows to hit the air waves, graced us on the small screen. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a mix of horror, comedy, romance and melodrama. It spanned for seven seasons and the witty dialogue of the show continues in comic book form to this day.
“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”
Buffy Summers, portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar, appears to be a normal high school student, except for the fact that she wields the power of the Slayer, an ancient line of female heroines who are chosen to fight demonic forces. After being kicked out of her old high school she relocates to Sunnydale, CA with her mom in hopes of pursuing a normal life in a town where nobody knows them. Unfortunately, Sunnydale happens to be located on a Hellmouth. A center of mystical convergence, the Hellmouth attracts all sorts of supernatural beings and dark forces to it.
Though the Chosen One spends most of her time in cemeteries, and saving the world from the newest impending apocalypse, she’s not the only one fighting the unhallowed beings of Sunnydale. Buffy has gathered around her a group of friends, that are referred to as the Scooby Gang. Willow (Alyson Hannigan) who becomes a very powerful witch, Xander (Nicholas Brendon), and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) join forces with the Slayer and her Watcher, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). As the Scoobies grow and change, so do the members of the group, adding to the mix Oz (Seth Green) who happens to be a werewolf, a former vengeance demon, Anya (Emma Caulfield), Tara (Amber Benson) another powerful witch, and Buffy’s mystical kid sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), each one bringing a little something new to the table. Also joining the Scoobies are two unlikely demon fighters, vampires with a soul, Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters).
Throughout the series you quickly come to realize that Buffy isn’t only about fighting demons and evil forces, but also deals with the everyday life of a teenager who is struggling against her destiny. The Slayer and her friends deal with the struggles in life including love, romance, life and death. Combining everyday battles with characters that fans can easily relate together with stellar dialogue, secured the show as one of the most memorable and most quoted, of our time.
Buffy has had some of the most well-written episodes in television, among those are my top three favorite ones. Show creator, Joss Whedon, received response from critics claiming that the show’s success was due, largely in part, to its dialogue. In order to prove the critics wrong, Whedon wrote the episode, “Hush.” With twenty-seven minutes of no dialogue and a riveting musical score, Hush was highly praised and went on to be nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a drama series. Hush takes place when a group of fairytale monsters, known as The Gentlemen, steal all the voices from the inhabitants of Sunnydale. The Slayer, along with the Scoobies, are left to figure out how to return the town to normal and restore everyone’s voice. This episode also introduces a new face to the Scooby Gang. Amber Benson would go on to play Willow’s girlfriend Tara, who played a pivotal role in the series for the show’s progression and fans alike.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from “Hush”, an episode that’s primary focus was on the music and interactions between the actors, was season five’s episode “The Body.” Described as one of the most heart-wrenching and best episodes ever broadcast, “The Body” dealt with Buffy and the Scoobies coping with the real life loss of Buffy’s mom, Joyce Summers.
The emotion throughout the episode is palpable as the Slayer and the gang deal with death, something that was an everyday occurrence for them, except that this time it was real and not by mystical means. The emotions that Whedon evoked from the actors were raw and believable. These same emotions lead to one of the most groundbreaking scenes for the gay and lesbian community. In an effort to comfort Willow, Tara kisses her, presenting the first onscreen kiss for the couple. Whedon was met with resistance from the WB network, who did not want the kiss in the episode. Whedon threatened to quit if the network didn’t allow it and them giving him the go ahead to do so, allowed the glass ceiling to finally shatter. Those among the LGBT community have often stated that the relationship between Willow and Tara was one of the reasons that they chose to come out, or why they hadn’t taken their own lives, because they realized that it was okay to be who they are. This episode was just one more step in the growing up process of the show, the network and the characters.
Season six set the stage for one of the most loved episodes of the show by fans and cast members alike. The episode, “Once More With Feeling”, goes through the motions of an average day in the life of the Scooby Gang, but with singing and dancing. After Xander summons a dancing demon named Sweet, the entire town of Sunnydale bursts into song and dance. The Scoobies end up revealing their deepest secrets and worse fears in song, which gives us a chance to hear the actors display their vocal capabilities. Each piece of music was written by Joss Whedon and diversifies anywhere from retro pastiche to breakaway pop-hit, to lyrical ballad, to down right Rockabilly. This particular episode is not only fun for the audience, but also allows the Scoobies the ability to come to the realization that they may not have things figured out as well as they think.
These, along with so many other episodes, have made Buffy one of the most loved television shows ever to air and it has become one of those classics that people won’t soon forget. In fact, people of all ages are still discovering it, and will be continuing to do so for years to come.
After surviving as a mid-season replacement, something which almost never survives in a prime time lineup, as well as surviving a network jump and continuing onward in a series of Dark Horse comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has more than stood the test of time.
Check out more fantasy, horror, and supernatural TV, movie, and book reviews and articles in our Fantasy section. You can also find interviews with Buffy’s Amber Benson.