Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Buffy Rewind Review - "Witch"

Review by Paul Steven Brown

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 1 - Episode 3

Now, that was a little bit better.

"Witch" starts out with with Giles' apprehension of Buffy joining the cheerleading squad. He goes as far as suggest its cult-like aspects. It's cute and the type of gag I'd expect from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'.

What makes this episode's plot work is the quality of the set up, misdirection, and then pay off. We get plenty of background on Amy and her mother's glory days as a high school cheerleader. Once it's revealed that Amy is the one cursing the rest of the squad members, it becomes an exercise in how to stop her. However, the writers throw in a nice twist that Amy's mother, Catherine, switched bodies with her daughter. It's not a horribly huge surprise, especially after the scene where "Amy" tells "Catherine" to do her homework, but I thought it worked. There's also some bread crumb laying throughout the beginning of the show with the brownie references and "Amy's" very unflattering description of Catherine's ex-husband.

The horrible relationship between Amy and Catherine works as a good counterpoint and tool to explore Buffy's with her own mother. While the whole parental expectations portion gets a little "afterschool special", it's interesting to actually see the mechanics of the Summers clan's familial dynamics. It would make sense that Joyce Summers is the type of person that is heavily distracted by her work. How else is a teenage vampire slayer supposed to operate under her nose? The pair still seem to make it work and they obviously care about each other, but it's refreshing to see that like most parent/child relationships, it isn't perfect.

I noticed that Joyce runs a gallery that deals with old pieces of art and anthropological items. You can't tell me that this isn't going to come into play. I'll begin counting down the first "cursed artifact" episode now.

This was a strong episode for Giles. Instead of just being a resource for exposition or the one that sends Buffy on her missions, he's forced to take on a more proactive role once the slayer is incapacitated. There was a great moment near the beginning of the hour when Giles' enthusiasm for living on the Hellmouth and its possibilities creeped out the kids. Giles is quickly becoming the most interesting and the best acted of the main cast.

The "Willow likes an oblivious Xander who likes an oblivious Buffy" is going to get old really quickly. Sure it's a teen movie/tv staple, but placing it in the context of 'BtVS' hasn't seemed to do anything new with this trope. At least on Willow's end it comes across a bit more subtle. Xander's obviousness sort of makes Buffy look a bit blind, but then again, this is high school.

Overall, "Witch" was an improvement over the first two episodes, despite the lack of vampires. Also, it was good to see that Buffy will have enemies that can move around during the day, which opens up more story possibilities. Unfortunately, the goofy ending with Catherine trapped inside the trophy was so silly that it potentially undermined what enjoyment I took away from the episode.

The commenting rules continue to apply. Only discuss this episode and the ones prior in the comments section. Please, no spoilers.

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