Music: “The Greatest” by Cat Power

I first started listening to Cat Power my freshman year of college. I don’t even remember where I first heard her, but I can bet it was from Pandora. No, I take that back. It was from Bones. Brennan was listening to The Greatest and I grasped so hard to the song that I continued on to play it just about everyday while in college. It just holds so much meaning and opens up my mind and pretty much wakes me up. It’s ironic, because Cat’s voice is very raspy and she generally sings in a whispery sort of fashion. So, for this song to wake me up means that I drop everything, clear my mind, and focus.

It’s just a beautiful track. “Once, I wanted to be The Greatest.” What does it mean to be the greatest? What does it mean to be all that you are and above all that you are? It takes a lot of courage to surpass your own strength and rise up. Be brave. Challenge yourself. Then, as a woman, this song really throws that feminist punch. “No wind or waterfall can stall me.” It’s easy to lose focus and dwell on feelings and emotions from those around you. Even romantic ones. And I’ll open up a little right now and say that not so long ago I almost let myself fall hard for someone and change all of my plans based on whether or not that someone would finally realize that I was pining for him.

And, I won’t punish myself for this moment of weakness. I allowed myself to feel and open up, but at the same time it just wasn’t something worth what I was willing to give up. Fortunately, I have moved on and gotten my head back on with my eyes peering forward. Romance is nice, but you have to truly and wholly love yourself and what you’re doing first. Be completely happy with who you are and all that you have accomplished before you share that love with someone else. At the time, my mind was too clouded and I wasn’t happy with my personal journey. I just wasn’t finished with my plans and I wasn’t focused enough. Diving into something like a relationship could have ruined me.

Anyway, this song always just drives home that feeling of being in control. Yes, I am allowed to be emotional. To be strong. To be selfish. To be happy. To be focused. I am allowed to be the greatest…compared to others and compared to myself. I am allowed to rise up.

There are just certain musical artists that speak to me. Ryan Adams, Coldplay, Radiohead (Thom Yorke), and Cat Power. It’s like, Ke’ara, shut off everything around you and listen. Focus. I’ve read a lot about Cat Power’s personal journey in the music biz, and some of it is heartbreaking and most of it is encouraging and inspiring. She’s gone through a lot and has had some breakdowns on stage and she’s had some blossoming moments of pure beauty.

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Because live music shouldn’t be this brief, mindless, performance in front of strangers. It should be a moment to feel every once of emotion that you put into the music. It’s your song. It’s your story. It’s your soul. And sometimes it’s not pretty. It’s not perfect. It’s not some robotic, straightforward, constructed thing. It’s bits and pieces of all sorts of rushes of feelings. And it should show. It should reach out and smack those in the audience. It should make them feel… you.

Cat Power does that and I think with this entertainment industry, her truths and raw emotion just doesn’t get read or understood the way it should. Because those people just aren’t prepared for it or on that same wavelength. There are just too many facades in the entertainment industry, and Cat Power is basically one in the handful of artists who are just beyond those standards. Way beyond. She’s one of the greatest.

‘Til next time.

 

 

Film: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Music recommendation:  Their War Here by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL

Sadly, Hans Zimmer just announced his retirement from scoring superhero motion picture films. 

I’m going to go ahead and tackle on this big one. Normally, I don’t review new films – mostly because it takes me a while to actually get myself interested in all of the new stuff that comes out. But this guys. This film I have been waiting on for years. Even before it was announced. Though, I left the theater not knowing how I felt about Batman v Superman. There were just some many things going through my mind and even as I type this, I still don’t know how I truly feel about the movie.

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I didn’t hate it, but there are so many things that are keeping me from saying with out a doubt, I loved it. The goal for this post is to air out all of my feelings and hopefully come to a decision about how I feel about Batman v Superman. The title still makes my cringe, so that can’t be a good start. 

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As an avid DC Comics fan, I have been wanting a live-action Justice League / more than one DC hero collaboration film since I started watching Bruce Timm’s influential DC Comics animated series including Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League: Unlimited. Especially those last two.

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Ta-da!

These series are normally what I use as my DC Comics bible and guide. When and if I miss a few comic issues, I feel like the series are the holy grail for the main and most interesting story-lines and transitions throughout DC Comics. In fact, a lot of the animated series and films are great references to know what’s going on in the comics. JL and JLU just seemed to get everything right and keep me entertained and educated in my DC Comics familiarity.

And I understand that the animated series were just another method of telling the stories of our favorite DC Comics heroes – just like the comics, live action-television series, and films. The main reason that I love Smallville is because I like how the series includes plot points and characters from the comics. They aren’t exactly like their comic versions, but the show allows me to see what I have been reading live and in living color, so to speak.

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Confession: Early in my Smallville watching days, I used the animated series as my reference guides while watching the show and became angry during times when I thought the show missed out on capturing stories and characters exactly like the animated versions. I understand now that that was ridiculous and unfair, but at the time it was just how much faith I had in the animated series.  I wasn’t accepting the concept that Smallville was another creative version of these characters and another way to depict the classic stories while bringing in new stories…and characters.

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Hey Chloe!

The founding members of the JLA for me were always Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter. They were the league. The core. Seeing an ensemble of superheroes calling themselves the Justice League without ALL or most of these members just never seemed truthful or right to me. I loved Smallville’s version of the JLA with Clark, Green Arrow, Impulse (Bart Allen), Aquaman, and Cyborg – but deep down I felt like it was an off-brand version of the true JLA. Later on, Hawkman, Stargirl, Black Canary, and Martian Manhunter joined the league as well. Even though these characters were actually rightful Justice League members, I wanted my Batman and Wonder Woman.

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Yeah, but where’s Batman?

In JLU, nearly every DC Comics hero is invited into the league, but the founding seven were the head honchos. The decision makers. When I would see the outlier heroes fill in or be spotlighted instead of the seven, I felt like something was missing or that I wasn’t getting the full story. With the exception of The Question, who really brings his A Game. None of the less, it is amazing to see The JLA in live-action form on Smallville. The current DC Comics television series like Arrow and The Flash are also great with their superhero collabs. I still have yet to invest some time in Supergirl and Gotham, but I’m sure they’re doing their share of DC Comics hero assemblies. The Flash just made his way over to Supergirl – a crossover to another series and network. How cool is that!

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With all of this said, let’s talk about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The actual purpose of this post. And yes, HUGE spoilers are ahead. 

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The Trinity

Batman…the Demon Knight?

One of the most exciting things for me about the film is that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman finally meet on the big screen. Warner Bros had to reboot the whole Batman character (again) just to make this happen. Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise is just totally different from the path Zack Snyder is taking these characters and the DC Cinematic Universe. Although Nolan’s darker depiction of the DC Comics world really kicked into gear the tone for future films. His films are more grounded in realism, whereas Snyder doesn’t hold back with showing the super in superhero. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and The Bat Vigilante of Gotham is every bit of what I loved about the animated counterpart.

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All the doubt and outrage about Affleck’s casting should be hushed down to a complete silence. I actually never doubted him as I am one of those people who actually loves the Daredevil film. We’re a rare group, apparently. Affleck is brooding as Batman and hell-bent on giving the bad guys their justice. He’s even charming as Bruce Wayne – when he’s not hung over. I am a little iffy on how hungover he is in the film and how vengeful he is towards his regular ol’ street foes. The gun wielding also kind of struck a nerve just like Superman’s last encounter with Zod in Man of Steel. My SEVEN YEAR OLD BROTHER was like…why the fudge does Batman have a gun?

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Batman also seems stupidly blind by his rage and too unreasonable to understand who Superman is and what his beliefs are. He doesn’t even try to look beyond the media’s portrayal of Supe’s and all of the blasphemy about the destruction to the city as a modern God among men. As I watched the film, I really was like ‘Bruce, come on! Wake up and smell the coffee and put down the scotch!’ I realize that he’s been Batman for years, way before Clark came out as the Man of Steel, and he has seen his fair share of misfits and dangerous foes – like The Joker. But there’s just something off about how angry Bruce is at Superman. Bruce Wayne would have the means to arrange a meeting and just hear Superman out. They probably could have skipped the whole fight and became friends sooner rather than the inevitable later.

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I also wanted to see more of the playboy high-roller Bruce Wayne that made his way through the hearts of even the strongest of ladies. Even Lois Lane. Maybe it’s because (and I am almost positive it is) this version of Bruce has been a vigilante for so long and he’s become more Batman than his normal self. He’s ticked off throughout majority of the film and when he finally does crack a smile or quips, it stays with you. Just like in JL.

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I love how cocky he is when he meets Clark Kent for the first time. He throws it in Clark’s face that Metropolis worships Superman, an alien from another planet with the ability to take over the planet if he wanted to. So why so much hate on the Bat vigilante, Clark? In their conversation, Clark becomes less of a boy-scout and stiffens up more like Superman when he basically gets dissed by Bruce, who also turns off the charming act and his rage festers through as Batman.

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It reminds me so much of when Clark and Bruce meet in Superman the animated series. I couldn’t tell here if they realized at that moment who each other really were. Well, Clark probably does due to his super hearing allowing him to overhear Alfred tipping Bruce off about what Lex is hiding. Then again, he may just think that Bruce is some sort of spy or federal agent. I like to think Clark is smarter than that, though. Even Jimmy Kimmel isn’t buying it. 

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Bruce in BvS is kind of how Smallville’s Clark becomes between seasons 7-10. His exterior is harder, colder, and his personality is drier than his younger self. He has seen too many bad guys and has had his heartbroken. His destiny gets in the way of him having a normal life. His best friend, Lex, officially turns evil and his father dies. It’s all enough to turn good men cruel as Alfred says in BvS.

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By the way, I love this version of Alfred. He looks like he has so much swag. No, but seriously he seems to have more of a valued friendship with Bruce rather than just being his older guardian, butler, and confidant. He’s still the one that tries to talk sense into Batman.

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Alfred is tech savvy and makes Bruce’s Batman gear. I do agree that he looks more like Commissioner Gordon here, but Jeremy Irons is fantastic as usual. He’s the cool Alfred for the new generation.

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Let me just add some swag…

Superman…the Man in Question?

I actually really wanted to see more of Clark Kent. Yes, Superman deals with a lot of crap in this film as Lex frames him to be this God-like tyrant. Superman has this very solemn demeanor when he’s saving people and when the government and media blast his name and try to define who he is. He’s just too darn sad and offended.

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On the other hand, Clark Kent had some fight in him, personality-wise. He’s happy with Lois and he pushes Perry White to shed light on Batman rather than settling to write about sports. When he’s Superman, he’s either pissed at his foes or he’s heartbroken to see that the people he’s saving and fighting for can so easily misunderstand who he is and his intentions. There’s no middle ground. I need to see that middle ground, where Clark and Superman meet.

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You tell him Clark!

We’re rushed into this story and we don’t really get a chance to see what happened to Clark after Man of Steel. How has he been dealing with his journey as Superman? He just figures out about his true identity and origins in Man of Steel and his first spat with the bad guys is less than graceful. In BvS, we hear a lot about how Bruce has been affected, but not how Clark is coping. He just shows up to save Lois here and there, saves civilians who worship him like a God, and gets slandered by the government. Then he runs away and I couldn’t help, but slap my knee in anger.  

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 He eventually comes back home, but it bothered me how easily he would just up and leave – giving up on us, I mean, the civilians in the film. With such a big opinion on Batman, I feel like Clark’s perspective on Superman and his ambition should be spelled out for us. What type of hero do you want to be, Clark? Do you even consider yourself a hero? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

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Team Leader

It’s also nice to see moments with Martha Kent when Clark feels like the world is against him. She reminds him that he doesn’t owe the world anything and he could just hang up the cape and live his life under the radar. There’s also a dream sequence where the deceased Jonathan Kent appears to Clark and gives him some sage advice. Though, I was too distracted by trying to figure out what was going on to pay enough attention to what he tells Clark.

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What I love about Smallville is that we get the journey of Clark Kent with his parents and friends. We get to see him grow into the hero that he wants to be and make decisions about how separate his ‘human’ identity lifestyle should be from his hero one. Sure, it gets muddied and blended often times, but atleast we have the opportunity to see Clark chose a path rather than just having him thrown into one. The Kents really play a huge part in guiding him.

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With great power, comes great…

There’s just so much Bruce Wayne in BvS, that I feel like Clark Kent gets the short end of the stick. We get Bruce’s motivations, even if his origins and history as Batman is more unknown apart from the tidbits that we get in dream sequences and him mentioning his dealing with clowns. Plus, there’s the graffitied Robin costume hanging up and his parents’ graves that act as sore reminders that he has lost those close to him.

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We need to know what’s going on in Clark’s head. As the future leader of the Justice League, I want to see that leadership role taken seriously. He needs to be the one to keep his conrads focused and motivated to do good for Earth and the intergalactic space. To work with various governments (especially The United States) and to personally form a connection to Earth that grounds them to avoid the team becoming an isolated powerhouse. Those that could flip the switch and start chaos. That were the aliases come in. Or, their assumed true identities.

Lois Lane…the Key?

What makes the Justice League human enough to fit in and appreciate the human race? For Clark, it’s his connection with his adopted family and Lois Lane.

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We get a feel for their relationship in BvS, and how Clark and Lois have have fallen madly in love with each other. Clark is there for Lois when she’s a damsel and when she’s being reckless. I was scratching my head to understand how and when they became so close to the point that they live together and Clark has a ring for Lois by the end of the film. This is that missing time after Man of Steel where Clark makes some big decisions and we aren’t given the opportunity to see them before we get BvS. Sure, it’s lovely to see that Clark and Lois have taken their relationship to the next step, but for Superman to rush in to save her neck even in the most dangerous of situations where he risks his own reputation – I want to see the first date and the whole decision to move in together! I need substance.

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In Smallville (though the whole Lois and Clark relationship gets rushed around season 8 after Lana Lang leaves) we get to see Lois falling for Clark after all the time she lived with him and The Kents. They annoyed each other and Clark found Lois to be reckless and a little over the top. Lois found Clark to be too much of a boy-scout. Little did they know that they were opposites destined to attract.

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I want to see Lois and Clark get on each others’ nerves and pick and prod at each other before realizing how perfect they are for one another. Sure, I absolutely love how sexy Clark/Superman looks when he’s with Lois, but at times it’s a little too mushy – making Lois look a little needy. I love Amy Adams, but she makes me want to smack Lois at times. I feel the same about Erica Durance’s Lois in Smallville during seasons 8 – 10. To me, Lois should be headstrong and not too much dependent on her super hunky man. But to eat my words, I love when Superman sweeps her off of her feet.

Do We Need a Superman? 

As for his reputation, Superman is really in a bad place with the media and government. All of the mass destruction from Man of Steel divided the people into two factions: those that believe in Superman and those that distrust him. Some people clearly see that he tried to save the planet from Zod and his Kryptonian followers, but some see only the destruction caused by the battle. Bruce is one of those people and so is a good portion of the government. Senator Finch tries to find justified sense in all of the chaos.  

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She believes that power corrupts individuals (Lex Luthor is a prime example) and wants to exercise her strong belief in democracy. She invites Superman to defend his actions before the people who judge him. Finch believes in fairness and doesn’t want to jump to the conclusion that Superman is too powerful to be trusted. Lex Luthor tries to manipulate her, but she doesn’t sip the tea he is serving. Literally.

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The hearing doesn’t go well and Lex sets Superman up to appear a part of a conspiracy that leads the entire Senate building and those in it (including Senator Finch) in crumbles. Superman is obviously left standing looking hella heartbroken that again he’s going to be blamed for another catastrophe. I honestly feel for Superman in this moment. He’s obviously going to be the last man standing simply due to what he is. Him standing there in the middle of it all makes others believe that he had something to do with the explosion or that he caused the explosion. All he wanted to do was air out the truth, which could have saved Bruce a lot of time and effort planning his battle with the Man of Steel and allowed the people all over the world to know that Superman means well. He’s genuinely a good guy. Roll the credits! Skip to Justice League!

JLA Divided we fall

The situation reminds me so much of JL when the league is criticized for having too much power. Sure, the government (creating Project Cadmus) is right to be wary of such a large number of super-powered beings. They could, if they wanted to, take over the planet. Case in point, The Justice Lords.

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They dubbed themselves divine beings, with the power, audacity, and authority to have control over the world. The thing is, the Justice League are the good guys. They constantly prove themselves when they save the world from evil and destruction. However, even Batman begins to recognize that forming an unlimited league accrues too much power and humans wouldn’t be able to do much if the team decided to go rogue. Superman and the rest of the core seven reach out to the government and form an alliance. But who says the government isn’t corrupt?

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Look at Amanda Waller. She and Batman both believe that The Justice League are far too powerful, but their different tactics to keep things under control make them butt heads on many occasions. I can’t wait to see Viola Davis’s portrayal of Waller in Suicide Squad.

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Suicide squad

I’ve always been torn on Waller’s beliefs and motivations. On one hand, she wants to keep super-powered beings from taking over the world, but on the other hand, she uses corrupt methods to do so. Creating a team of super-villains to do good just lends itself to allowing them more access an opportunity to do more evil. And her definition of ‘good’ is relative. She gives the government too much power. It’s like a lose-lose situation. No one side should have more power than the other nor have all of the power. Like Senator Finch says, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

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I do have to admit that Amanda Waller is an amazing character and her dialogue on JL really makes me think critically about government and power and philosophically about what a government is. Waller is a bold woman with strong beliefs. She acts on them without a lick of fear from those physically more power than she is. And that really says something, because she can kick some butt.

Lex Luthor?

Sometimes Waller’s associations are more corrupt than the superheroes that she comes head to head with. Lex Luthor, for example. Now, Lex Luthor is my favorite villain in DC Comics. He’s intelligent, cunning, obsessive, rich, and good old-fashioned evil. His motivations vary, but they are usually along the lines of him wanting to take over the world and have control over super-beings or metahumans to do his own evil bidding.

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In JLU, he’s the most enduring villain. Ever. He plants seeds to give himself power in the government for access to totally classified research and documentation of metahuman and super-human existence. He even runs and gets elected to the presidency in an alternative reality. This really sends Superman off the deep end.

His obsession with power and knowledge is also referenced in Smallville, where Lex’s character is probably the most well-written version that I’ve ever seen or read. Here, he becomes so obsessed with Clark’s and metahumans (re: meteor freaks) abilities that he spirals into a cold-hearted killer and unforgiving foe. We get to see his journey into the nemesis of Superman as he gets sick and tired of all of the lies and deceit from Clark and those around him. He takes matters into his own hands and answers his own questions.

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When he succumbs to his darkness, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Michael Rosenbaum totally nails Lex Luthor and you can’t help but root for the bad guy. Clark tries to cover up so much and in return, Lex becomes outraged with how naive Clark thinks he is. There’s often humor in Lex’s reproach to Clark, other essential characters, and the many scientists and researchers he often has doing his dirty work.

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Bye, Felicia.

You can’t help but laugh as Lex one-ups everyone. There’s a very Shakespearian and poetic relationship between him and Clark, as he initially just wants Clark to trust and love him like a brother. His own father doesn’t show much approval or affection towards him, so he seeks out love and acceptance from the Kents. Of course, they never trust him enough to let him all in. Jonathan, especially.

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As much as I can go on about Smallville and Bruce Timm’s animated version of Lex Luthor, I have to talk about Snyder’s version, played by Jesse Eisenberg.

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Sigh…

I’ll start by saying that yes, he made me laugh, but I absolutely did not take him seriously as Lex Luthor. His mumbling about gods, demons, and power came off as unhinged and annoyingly snarky. Basically, he was his The Social Network Mark Zuckerberg character in a Zack Snyder world. Actually, he was just Jesse Eisenberg in a Zack Snyder world. And that wig! It would be more tolerable if the wig was acknowledged as a wig on Lex’s bald head. But to pretend that it was Lex’s actual hair just makes the character appear more ridiculous and clownish.

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I want to see someone with a more authoritative and strong demeanor play Lex Luthor. I can throw out a ton of actors’ names like Ralph Fiennes, Michael Fassbender (who’s busy playing Magneto in the Marvel/Fox cinematic universe), Thomas Jane, Julian McMahon, Luke Evans, Mark Strong, hell even Michael Rosenbaum could reprise the role and take it to new heights on the big screen. But no, we get Jesse Eisenberg. It would be nice to have someone stand toe to toe with Superman and Batman in stature and strike the fear in those around him. Jesse Eisenberg is more annoying than anything else. I had a hard time trying to figure out what he was saying (or why he was saying it) and what his motivations are besides the fact that he’s Lex Luthor, so he has to be the bad guy.

Here’s what Zack Snyder said about his version of Lex in Entertainment Weekly –

“He’s not any of the Lexes that you’ve seen, that’s for sure, other than him being a captain of industry and one person to the world and another person to himself. And bald, of course. Our Lex is disarming and he’s not fake. He says what he believes and he says what’s on his mind. If you can unravel the string and decipher what he means, it’s all there.”

Since this is a revamped live-action Lex Luthor apart from the Smallville and Superman Returns Lex (played by Kevin Spacey who is acceptable as the old fashioned Lex Luthor), I imagined that he would be a closer version to his animated counterpart. Proving to be undoubtedly evil, funny, strong-willed, and even kind of dashing – in that bad boy sort of way. These previous versions of Lex were just as adamant about their desire to be in control, and we didn’t have to solve a ton of riddles to figure that out.

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Wait, I’m getting to the best part…

When he kidnaps Lois in the film, I wanted her to throw a punch or shove him. I’m 100% sure that he couldn’t take her. He would probably frail on the ground. She just calls him “psychotic” and he feels like he has just been complimented. When Superman shows up, I just shook my head in disbelief that he didn’t just throw Lex off of the building (onto something that wouldn’t actually kill him during landing) or quickly and easily knock him unconscious. But no, the little twerp spews out his dangerous plan and runs the show.

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I guess you didn’t like my evil plan.

Now, what would I do to have seen Superman and Lex actually go at it. That would have been more satisfying than seeing Batman and Supes fight. The battle suit that Batman has could just as easily have been the green kryptonite suit that Lex builds in the animated universe.

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Really?

Wonder Wonder…Is She With You?

We finally get to see Wonder Woman on the big screen…with Superman and Batman! It’s really a huge milestone and something that DC Comics fans have been waiting for since forever. I mentioned how much of a pleasure it is to see the Justice League in live-action, but to finally see Wonder Woman in a live-action film is something that I really cannot put into words. Sure, there were a ton of expectations. From what you’ve read so far, you can tell that I put a lot of faith and respect in the Bruce Timm animated versions of these characters. So yeah, I was looking forward to seeing that type of Wonder Woman in BvS.

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The animated versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are self-assured and forthright. In BvS, they seem to be holding back or second guessing or slightly less confident in themselves (with Bruce Wayne / Batman as an exception). Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is confident (cocky) and she definitely kicks butt, but her Diana is more blah than the version in JL. She kind of just appears and disappears and takes her time getting to the Doomsday (and I’ll get to him momentarily) fight. Of course, she shows up just in time before Batman becomes a shish kabob.

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I want to see more of Diana Prince and what she is up to throughout the film – other than just going to lavish parties, riding in jets, and chilling in her hotel room checking email. There’s also something a little off about Gal Gadot’s acting. Don’t get me wrong, she does an amazing job, but she seems a little detached. I get that the character is this Amazonian warrior princess, but Gadot’s ‘dead eyes’ made me feel like she wasn’t really Diana / Wonder Woman, but just an actress doing what she thought the character would do. Saying the lines. Going through the motions. Maybe we’ll get more from her in the Wonder Woman solo film. I’m excited to see Diana’s origins story and I’m rooting and ‘waiting for Gadot’ to show more expression in her damn eyes.

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I would also like to add, once again, that it was fantastic to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. However, I feel like when she finally shows up to the battle, the CGI becomes a little over the top-top and I couldn’t really enjoy the fact that Wonder Woman was freaking battling Doomsday on the big screen. I do love that Snyder allowed Diana and Bruce to flirt like in the animated series.

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There’s a great chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman in JL. It’s along the lines of yeah, Bruce is a ninja, but Diana is something of a god and she falls for this brooding guy that dresses like a bat.

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Then, she always seems to be the one to save him when he falls short to hang in there with his super-powered conrads. We even see this in BvS where Batman kind of hangs out while Wonder Woman and Superman fight off Doomsday. When Doomsday targets him, his best strategy is to run away as fast as he can. I think this is where some of the humor seeps in.

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Wonder Woman kind of just shows up dressed in her warrior gear and Batman and Superman have to ask each other if she’s with either of them. Now, this confuses me, because I can understand Superman’s confusion as he hadn’t interacted with her before this point, but Bruce has and has seen her photo from the early 1900s in Lex’s metahuman files. Why was he asking who she was with? Maybe he just thinks all of the super-powered folks must roll together. He is just now on good terms to work with Superman. For all he knows, Clark and Diana could have been working together this whole time. He doesn’t know either of their origins.

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Hello…it’s ME!

I won’t even talk about the actual battle between Batman and Superman, because I was wincing the whole time watching it. It was just ridiculous (and predictable) and the reason Batman lets up is even more ridiculous.

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Gotta go save Martha!

The Rest of the League

And speaking of metahuman files, my favorite part of the whole film is seeing The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman make their cameos. Even though the setup is a little bizarre: Bruce shares the files via email to Diana. I think that Snyder could have structured the appearances in a less clunky and more believable fashion. And why the hell did Lex have the ‘cinematic logos’ on the files? Is he making the films? I feel like the clips were honestly just rough footage from the upcoming Justice League film. But nonetheless, I am pleased that their existence is included in BvS. The DC Comics super-powered team is actually happening on the big screen and I can’t stop smiling about it.

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I’m excited to see what the group accomplishes together and how they layout roots for other members to join in the future. I want to see similar versions of the JL animated characters portrayed in live-action.

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Green Arrow: I think you guys forgot someone…

Smallville set the tone for ambition along with the current DC Comics live-action series.  We got to meet, AquamanImpulse (The Flash)Cyborg , and The Green ArrowI really want to see what can be done with these characters in the cinematic universe. There was so much expectation for Ben Affleck’s Batman and I really feel like Snyder can really make this Batman stick. Now, here’s to hope that Suicide Squad’s The Joker will be above amazing to counter Batman. Jared Leto has big shoes to fill after Heath Ledger’s stunning portrayal of the character. His Joker is big enough to last a lifetime. Pretty excited to see Harley Quinn on the big screen too.

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Doom and Doomsday

While we’re talking about DC Comics villains, Doomsday is the big foe that comes in to deliver well, doom. Can I just say that I wasn’t surprised nor was I amazed to see this character. The trailers and promos actually made me numb during majority of the film. I knew pretty much everything that was going to happen – well the major plot points. I knew Wonder Woman was coming (she would have been a huge surprise if Warner Bros would have kept her appearance under wraps), I knew that Doomsday would show up and be created by Lex Luthor (I’ll get to this in a bit), and I knew that Superman and Batman would stop fighting and work together in the end to stop Doomsday. ALL of this was in the trailers.

The trailers took a lot of the fun out of the film for me. Sure, I had the choice to watch them or not, but I look to trailers to be made aware of upcoming films not to have them spoiled. And every time I watch a trailer, I smack myself for falling for it. For being lured in and having majority of the film spelled out. I’m really going to take this to heart and avoid any other trailers for Suicide Squad, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse. I may actually avoid movie trailers and promos entirely. I can almost bank on how much more satisfying the moving-going experience will be for me.

What I am glad that wasn’t in the film is Superman’s fate at the end of the film. It could have been executed more gracefully, but it still came as something of a surprise. Though, I read comics so it wasn’t that surprising to the point that I jumped out of my seat screaming. I just nodded in approval that it was depicted in this cinematic universe. I can’t wait to see how Justice League takes off from here. Seeing Diana and Bruce at Clark’s funeral was great, but not that believable considering Bruce campaigns to take out Superman throughout majority of the film. Diana still hadn’t shared an actual conversation with Clark. So, how? It’s mostly because Snyder is just setting up Justice League and the audience needs to see that oh, they’re an actual team and believe in each other. They’re friends.

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Bruce’s line about not letting Clark down is the nail in the coffin. I literally looked around the theater to see if anyone else was in as much disbelief as I was. It took all my might to not blurt out…WHAT? The whole patriotic funeral for Superman was enough to make me want to walk out of the theater. Wasn’t the government at odds with Superman and now he’s being honored at his funeral? We never actually got to see Superman and the government officials come to some sort of mutual understanding. Maybe in Man of Steel with the military, but not in BvS. We just get a montage of Superman saving folks in the early part of the film. Cry me a river.

And Clark leaves a ring for Lois? Again, I still want to see where their relationship develops into that level of commitment. Who’s name is on the lease at that apartment they’re living in? Then, there’s the very last scene…inevitable. No surprise. Superman might as well have punched through the coffin. I had to stifle my anger and try to hold on to the love I have for DC Comics and these characters. But, they were pushing it.

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Just to clarify, I’m not mentioning all of this to support that I hated the film, because I honestly didn’t hate it. I was just not surprised and I was too distracted by plot-holes and unanswered questions. Was the film beautifully shot? You bet. Zack Snyder has a way with his camerawork and an eye for special effects. I loved seeing Superman’s flight and Wonder Woman moved like art. 

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I just had too many expectations for the film. It isn’t exactly a sequel to Man of Steel nor is it an origins story for the new Batman. It is kind of something to just tie us over between Man of Steel and Justice League. Snyder lays out the groundwork, but things were hard to decipher at points and motivations were unclear (Lex) while others were formed under false pretenses (Batman).

Why did we need Batman and Superman to be at odds? The film could have been about several future Justice League members (Batman and Wonder Woman) called together to support or defend Superman and allow his side to be aired after the chaos of Man of Steel. They could reflect on their own origins using anecdotes (flashbacks) of how they accepted their abilities to be able to save the world. A stronger Lex could have easily been the foe (with him obsessed with Zod) or a better drawn out creation of Doomsday and his rage on the city (and world) could have been the tie to have them all work together.

Bruce interacting more with Clark and the both of them meeting Diana then strategizing to stop Lex from gaining too much power within the government as he’s inspired by Zod – would have made much more sense, plot wise. Then, the Flash could zoom in from the future to warn them about Darkseid. Something that is actually great in BvS, is Bruce’s dream sequence of a Darkseid infested society with Superman clearly gone bad.

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The Flash warning Bruce about [a rogue/dark] Superman and Lois being the key [to Superman regaining his humanity] is one of my favorite scenes in the film. I was only annoyed that these sequences were dreams and how Bruce just shrugs them off.  Does he always have nightmares? Maybe they’re a result of seeing his parents killed right in front of him? Was The Flash’s warning not a dream, but something else?

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Also, let me backtrack. I still have yet to see a satisfying version of a live-action Doomsday. I really wish that he could talk as that would make him more menacing. Also, wasn’t he just Zod, but deformed? Did Zod still have his memories? And how the fudge did Lex have such an easy access to Kryptonian tech and science? Seriously, if Clark could sense when Lois is near a fate close to death in her many hostage and reckless situations – how come he couldn’t sense when his planet’s tech is being used? Why the fudge hadn’t he known about it still being in the hands of the government after the whole Zod showdown? Shouldn’t he have been on a mission to keep Zod’s body and that ship away from prying human hands?

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If Superman was to ever exercise a stance against the government, it should be to guard anything and everything Kryptonian from humans. He killed Zod, so wouldn’t he have had some sort of Kryptonian burial for him after how bad he felt when he snapped his neck?

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Where was Jor-El’s corporeal memory to warn Clark about what could be created from Zod with the tech and science on the ship? Actually, what kind of tech and science was on that ship to even allow Lex to use his own blood to create a deformed Kryptonian beast as a weapon of destruction? I just have so many questions.

And honestly, Doomsday was more frightening in the animated series. The CGI in BvS just made him off to be another fake thing in the movie. Not believable and not effective. The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk was more exciting and scary. All Doomsday did was blow stuff up. The heated eyes didn’t phase me and his quick exit was just as much unsatisfying. Doomsday is a big and important foe in the DC Comics universe. He should have been shot up into space or weakened and locked up in a heavily armed and secured government facility with the ability to come back in future films. This would make him more incredible and more frightening. It’s basically what JL the animated series does and it works.

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Superman v doomsday

I really am excited for The Justice League live-action film, and I seriously hope that it answers a lot of questions and has far better writing and execution of events and plot. If Darkseid is the main foe, he should be larger than life. I also want to see Granny Goodness make an appearance too with her eerily manly voice that always creeps me the heck out. Since Superman is for sure coming back to life, his fight with Darkseid needs to be epic, again like in JLU. Superman gives an incredible speech during their battle. It’s absolutely epic.

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She was even on Smallville.

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So, my final verdict is that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (such a bloated title, by the way) is a great way to tie us die-hard fans over until Justice League premieres. The long wait and excessive promotion of the film created huge expectations, especially with what we know is possible with superhero assembly films like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men. There was just so much material that could have been used from JLU, a series that I feel is an exceptional depiction of some of the best storylines in DC Comics.

Again, I realize that Zack Snyder and Warner Bros have their plans to recreate or reimagine these characters and their stories. Maybe we need a Kevin Feige type figure to step in, or maybe WB has everything under control. I just hope that they aren’t too concerned with catching up with Marvel and Fox and in the process delivering a bloated mess rather than a careful planned out DC Comics cinematic universe. We’ll see. The film didn’t turn me away, so I will be looking forward to what’s to come. 

Critic Rebecca Cusey from The Federalist describes the film perfectly –

Too competent to be universally panned, too disjointed to be universally praised, too anticipated to be a new revelation, too beloved in subject to be easily dismissed, the film will be one people either passionately love or passionately hate.

Despite critics overall panning of the film, it continues to flourish and be successful according to the the numbers at the box-office.

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Plus, if I had to give only one reason to stick around, it would be to see Ezra Miller as The Flash.

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P.S. Though it was under unfortunate circumstances, I loved seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the film. Glad to see him and Zack Snyder collabing again. He is amazing in The Watchmen.

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What did you think of the film?

‘Til next time.

 

TV: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

Music Recommendation: “Wild Horses” by The Sundays (Re: The Rolling Stones)

Alright, so I tried to ease you all into my loaded brain of fictional obsessions last year, but it’s about to get real! This year I want to talk about some of my all-time favorite series and maybe even do part-twos or threes on the series that I posted about last year. The thing about television is that there’s always something new to discover the more you watch it or you can talk about different aspects of episodes, seasons, and the series as a whole. Or, you can focus on the key themes that link one specific series to others. My last big TV post was on Supernatural and as I was writing it, I couldn’t help but think about my other favorite series with similar thematic structures.

And with that said…

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The fact that I’m even attempting to write a blog post about why Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is one of the most amazing / intelligent television shows in the history of television is INSANE, because I honestly can’t express everything in mere words and plus, I’m not an expert on all things Buffy or even Joss Whedon (for that matter) – even though I think that I am. But you know, I can’t just not write about Buffy. I mean, it’s BUFFY!

I’ll start with how I got into the series. It was my senior year of high school and I was in the midst of applying to colleges and taking on an internship while in school. So, I was going through two huge changes in my life: working for the first time and getting ready for college. You know how college admissions ask for personal essays and statements to explain why you’re a good fit for a certain school / program or why college is even something that you want to do?

Well, like I mentioned in previous posts, high school was just not for me. I felt out of place from day one and just having to go through the motions along with the politics of cliques and clubs and your childhood friends ch-ch-changing just wasn’t something I cared about putting my energy into. After the first semester of freshman year, I was simply over it.

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High school? Nah, I’d rather watch Buffy.

I was a model student, though, and I think the best part about high school was the opportunity to apply to college my senior year. I made sure that I focused all of my energy into getting into college. However, the free time that I had outside of college apps and working – I started watching shows that I wanted to watch when I was younger, but I had  never got around to them back in the day. Buffy was on my list and from the pilot episode (there are two versions) I was more than ready to start binge watching. Six or seven years later, I’m still wishing I was a part of The Scooby Gang.

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Let’s watch all of the seasons!

I also think that it’s hilarious that Sarah Michelle Gellar was actually a part of the original Scooby Gang as she played Daphne in the live-action Scooby Doo films.

Buffy honestly got me college-ready. The wit and the experimental story ideas (season four’s Hush, for example) really made me decide that television (and writing) was absolutely what I wanted to study. Joss Whedon became something of a GOD to me in terms of writing and directing TV, so of course I watched Angel, Firefly, and Doll House after Buffy. If Whedon’s name is on it, I’ll watch it. The whole concept of ‘smart’ writing never really clicked until Buffy and I’m honestly glad that I started watching when I did, because I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the series as much as a kid.

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Yeah, sure the vampires and supernatural beings would have definitely peaked my interest as a kid, but the actual writing and stylistic filming techniques probably would have went over my head. Not to say that I was a dumb kid or anything, but watching the show at the time of applying to college and deciding on my major was just perfect timing. Once I began college, I wrote about Buffy every chance that I got. It’s just one of those shows that you could branch so many topics off of like: feminism and post-feminism, life and death, the strange and familiar, adolescence, and of course, the human obsession with vampires and the supernatural.

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To not make this post an academic essay (or several essays), I’ll just maybe mention these elements within some of my favorite episodes (as well as talk about why I love these episodes) and what they meant as stepping stones in Buffy’s Slayer journey.

And there are tons of SPOILERS for those of you who still haven’t seen the series. I’ll stop you right now, because I would hate to ruin all of the juicy surprising moments in the show. Plus, you just have to watch and take in all things Buffy before you go off reading anything about it. It’s quite the journey, I promise. So, go watch it! Then, come back here.

I’m also going to do something different here from previous TV posts. Normally, I include a music recommendation at the beginning of each TV post (and I did here for Buffy as well), but I’ll also include a music ‘wish list’. Basically, since Buffy included a lot of underground or uber-original / not so mainstream music – a lot of the songs from the series aren’t really known about. You pretty much have to watch to know the music.

Since I love music as much as I love television, I tend to listen to something and think about other mediums totally unrelated to the song. There are of ton of pre / post-Buffy songs that I love and I actually begin to think about the series when I listen to them. I wish these songs could have been in the series and  I could totally see these songs performed at The Bronze or during a pivotal moment. Here are some of them:

Help I’m Alive – Metric

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Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?

Wolf Like Me – TV On the Radio

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Howling. Forever.

Savior – 30 Seconds to Mars

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Don’t save me, cause I don’t care.

Silver Coin – Angus & Julia Stone

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I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

Myxomatosis – Radiohead

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Afraid – The Neighbourhood

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Somebody else is going to end up being me.

Alright, let’s actually start talking about Buffy. I’ll try my best to keep organized, because I tend to go askew when talking about this series.

Season One – What Is a Slayer Anyway? 

“In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the slayer.” – Pilot 

It’s funny that I discuss in my Supernatural post the concept of supernatural ‘hunters’ as it’s a show that came a little less than a decade after the premiere of Buffy. I talk about the women in the show and how there just has to be female hunters, because why wouldn’t there be? Well, now we’re here talking about the biggest and baddest female hunter of all. Buffy Summers. The [then] generation’s newest vampire slayer.

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The first season of Buffy branched from the film that came a few years before it while at the same time becoming it’s own thing. The season focused on Buffy battling the monster-of-the-week (including a witch, a cyber-demon, evil hyenas, an invisible girl, and of course vampires) while also trying to keep up with the crowd in high school and do normal teenage girl stuff. She accepts her birthright of being ‘the chosen one’ that has to fight the baddies, but she also just wants to hang out with her friends, date boys, try out for the cheer-leading team, and possibly not fail her classes.

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I just love Buffy this season with her bubbly personality. This is probably one of the campiest seasons of the series, but it covers a lot of ground work in terms of setting of thematic plots, characters and character relationships, as well as making the audience laugh. There’s a lot less doom and gloom (and I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy some of the doom and gloom in the series), which works because it’s the first season. It was the beginning of the journey and the perfect time for immaturity and fun and Buffy has a load of wisdom for us viewers and her newly founded Scooby Gang.

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When I first watched season one, I laughed mostly at the fact that Buffy was the superhero. Like, I just loved how absurd it all seemed at the time. She would twirl her hair and have these little cute lolly-pops during the day while bantering with Willow and Xander, and by nightfall, she was the one staking vampires and fighting a ventriloquist dummy (who turned out to be the good guy).

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I love hanging with you guys, but don’t forget we have to patrol tonight.

Buffy constantly tries to get out of Slayer training with her Watcher, Giles, who is there to guide her and ‘try’ to teach her the importance of strengthening her Slayer skills and stamina, plus he’s all about that research. He is a librarian, by the way. Buffy trains and follows his lead, but her mind is mostly on the who’s and what’s at Sunnydale High and at The Bronze night club (for teens apparently).

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One of my favorite episodes from season one is Never Kill A Boy On the First Date. Buffy meets Owen, the mellow mature hottie from school that notices (mistakes) Buffy as focused and totally on his mature level. He’s right to an extent, because Buffy does have a lot of responsibility and balances out her school schedule with her Slayer duties as much as she can tolerate. Her blossoming relationship with Owen comes at an odd time when The Master (The Big Bad of the season) receives his anointed one. Basically, his man on the outside to raise some hell. For the longest time, we think it’s this paranoid super religious guy that gets turned into a vampire and kills a bunch of people on a bus. I mean, he ends up being pretty dangerous too, but he’s totally a red herring.

Anyway, as hell is being raised, Buffy ends up making Angel (the then unknown vampire) jealous with her new courtship with Owen. With all that I know about Angel now, this episode just gets better every time I watch it.

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Mr. Steal Yo’ Girl

Owen, being the mature and protective guy, ends up following Buffy to her Slayer mission of the night (fearing that she’s in danger) and kind of gets in the way (no more than Willow and Xander – but they know and accept Buffy as the Slayer). So the basic point of the episode is to show the complications that Buffy faces trying to date a normal guy while having to seriously deal with the evil in town.

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And then there was the Angel episode. Since the pilot, I fell in love with this guy. He pops in to give Buffy the scoop on what all the commotion is about in the underground, lingering just enough to make Buffy (and myself) fall for him and he for her. Then, he’s gone in a split second. Leaving us pining for him and wanting more. Angel gives us a chance to really hang out with Angel, which is all the more time to fall even more in love with him. He gets hurt and Buffy rescues him and invites him into her home for a sleepover. The tension is real! Here he is: tall, dark, and sexy. And here is little o’ Buffy, patching him up (he’s shirtless) and giving him a safe place to stay for the night. He’s in her bedroom without her mom knowing!

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You know how you have that one guy in high school (or middle school) that you totally crush on. You think about him constantly. Well, Buffy actually gets to make her dream a reality. It’s so romantic and cheeky. What could go wrong here…

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The season one finale, Prophecy Girl, shows Buffy and the team fighting all sorts of evil. The frightening part is that The Master actually rises and Buffy has to face him. Alone. She is terrified, because she doesn’t want to die. There’s so much more that she has to live for.

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The first time watching this episode, I was so scared for Buffy. Sure, she’s been kicking butt all season. But, I didn’t know how bad The Master would be in terms of the main villain of the series. I didn’t know if she would lose someone close to her (because I knew that she would somehow live with all the other seasons waiting for me to watch). I loved that she had Xander and Willow at her side during her face-offs with the baddies. Seeing how quickly Jesse was killed off way early in the season, I was [not] ready to see who would be next.

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Also, it still hadn’t sunk in that Buffy was the superhero in this story. I didn’t like the idea of her facing The Master alone. To me, it was like an innocent lamb up for slaughter. And indeed, Buffy dies in the episode, but it doesn’t stick. It does however trigger a loophole in the whole Slayer prophecy, which we don’t find out until later. Until then, The Master is put out of his misery and the world is saved, for now.

Also, I just love how snarky and crude Cordelia is in season one. It’s like she tried to avoid Buffy and her squad at all costs, but something always pulled her in. I especially love it when she allows herself to open up and be vulnerable.

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Season Two – Surprise!

Season two of Buffy is definitely ranked high on my list of favorite seasons of the series and favorite seasons of television in general. The big curve ball towards the mid-point is one of the best smacks in the face that I’ve ever received while watching a television series. Also, the comedy is just amplified to another level with Seth Green joining the cast and the characters really finding their own. All of them add something special to the bunch.

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Seth, I knew you way back when.

The Scooby Gang is just on point this season with Oz, Cordelia, and Angel on board. We have the perfect balance of those that make us laugh, cry, angry, and those that make us think. There’s no one just taking up space and wasting time (cough, Riley). Everyone feeds off of each other’s personality, creating some of the best moments of banter.

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We’re also introduced to Spike this season and he’s someone that we’re never going to be rid of. And that’s the way it should be. He and his sadistic lover Drusilla are our initial ‘Big Bads’ this season. Spike crashes into town, introducing us to a whole other level of villainy. Basically, we can’t really hate him, because we love him.

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I remember thinking that I knew Buffy and that I could follow along with her journey pretty easily and that the show was somewhat predictable and straightforward, like the Slayer prophecy. Turns out, Buffy died last season so another Slayer had risen.

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Doesn’t have the same ring to it, huh? And even though Xander did some CPR on Buffy to ‘resurrect’ her, she had still technically died. A prophecy is a prophecy. One falls and another rises.

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The whole point of Buffy having so much responsibility and being ‘the chosen one’ to have to put her life on hold and save others is kind of debunked. There was technically someone else to lend a hand or even take over. Kendra has the equal amount of responsibility and capability to be The Slayer. Which comes in handy this season.

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I also thought that bad guys were to be clearly detectable and the good guys were always the good guys. But, no. Season two was all about flipping the show on its head and letting the audience know that things aren’t always what they appear and the characters that we love can turn into the most frightening. Case in point: Angel.

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Coming from the revelation of Angel being a vampire in season one, I already had a taste of what it could be like if Buffy had to take him down. However, season one set me up to trust Angel and to root for him and Buffy. And the first half of season two surely did.

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Buffy was growing up and thinking more about Angel and growing closer to him – emotionally and physically. Angel is seen trying to push her away, but wrestles with the fact that he has fallen ‘madly’ in love with her.

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Then, Surprise! Watching this episode (and part two Innocence) made me realize what the phrase ‘total eclipse of the heart’ really means. Thanks Bonnie Tyler. Seriously, I was over the moon for Angel. I was falling in love and realizing that I was falling in love with him – just like Buffy. It was wrong, but it was so right.

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Watching them succumb to their love for each other tied my stomach in knots. I just wanted Buffy and Angel to forget about who they were and what their roles were in this whole good vs. evil plot. Then, badda-bing, badda-boom! Angel is no longer Angel. He’s this sicko named Angelus. Basically, he is his true vampire self. Soulless.

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You didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

Angelus joins Spike and Drusilla and straight up disses Buffy. I’m just speechless. And heartbroken. I’m also mad as fudge and more intrigued and invested than I ever was in this series. (Also, if you’ve seen the series a couple of times or you’re just really observant the first time around – you can tell when Angel is Angelus by how chapped his lips are. Like, does having a soul mean that you invest in lip balm?) Anyway, Angelus is hanging out with the Big Bad duo –

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and a heartbroken Buffy has to pick herself up and face facts. Angel is evil now and it’s her duty to put evil vamps out of their misery. But, maybe Angel is still in there – fighting to get out and love her again. Either way, they both have roles to play.

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And if we thought that Angelus was not that bad and the Angel in him would suppress his evilness – um, no. Episode Passion shows us that because Angel loves Buffy, Angelus uses it to pervert their connection. He’s twisted and ‘passionate’ about killing Buffy and those close to her. I mean, she is the one responsible for making him feel like a man and he can’t forgive her for that.

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We truly see the dynamic between Angel and Angelus in this episode. It’s probably my favorite out of all of my favorite Buffy episodes (I say that about all of my favorite episodes). David Boreanaz proves his acting range and gets to be an entirely different person. I love the music and the way Angelus stalks his prey. It’s like he can’t just kill and be done with it. He has to draw it out and be all poetic about it. As much as Angel loved Buffy, Angelus hates her even more. He’s invested in carefully and passionately taking her down.

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We get a brief moment of Buffy and Angel’s relationship in I Only Have Eyes For You. Buffy is drawn to Sunnydale High after hours due to a series of ghost possessions and killings. Angelus follows her there, ready to taunt her and have her alone. They are both eventually possessed by the erratic and scorn lover ghost (Buffy) and the apologetic lover ghost (Angelus), which is the reversal of the gender roles of the originals. Buffy gets to air out her anger towards Angel, eventually shooting him. No one dies during the possession this time, because you know, Angelus is a vampire.

And Buffy calls Angelus a b*tch. It’s a moment that you definitely have to rewind.

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“Don’t walk away from me bitch.”

It’s a relief to see that somewhere deep down, Angel is still in there. But, of course Angelus does all that he can to suppress him. Angel is back, but only for a moment.

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Other highlights this season include Joyce standing up to Spike (which sparks their ‘friendship / toleration’ and even Spike’s admiration of Joyce) and Spike being in a wheelchair. I would also have to admit that this isn’t my favorite season with Spike, but it’s definitely my favorite with Angel. Buffy grows up a lot and has to make one of the hardest decisions in her life…so far. She learns the lesson of love and loss and what it truly means to put herself back together, believe in herself, and do what has to be done.

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Sadly, she eventually feels that she has let her friends and family down by allowing herself to grow so close to a vampire and putting them all in danger. She eventually leaves Sunnydale – her way of keeping everyone out of harm’s way. The season is dark, but it definitely has its lighter moments.

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I can’t forget to mention that Jason Behr guest stars in one of the episodes this season. Yes, Max Evans from Roswell – another one of my absolute favorite series. Sometimes I even question if I like it more than Buffy. They’re different in their own rights, but both series allow me to retreat into this calm that I honestly can’t describe. Maybe it’s the way the characters value each other and the lessons in life and love the shows emphasize. I’ll have a full post on Roswell soon.

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Fan fiction.

Another great moment from this season is Giles’ effort to comfort Buffy in Lie to Me. Along with all of the crap that began to pile onto Buffy this season, this moment was a great way to stop and acknowledge that holy crap, Buffy is in for a lot more, more than she expects. It’s a moment that foreshadows what is to come and to be at least a little privy to understanding that the Slayer’s world is no where near black and white.

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Season Three – Have A Little Faith

Season two always takes a lot out of me. By the end, I am heartbroken and shaken at the turn of events. During my first watch, I just couldn’t imagine how Buffy would recover leading into season three. Where would she be (mentally)? Who would she be? She lost the love of her life. And yes, I understand that she’s still in high school and has plenty of time to discover love again, but let’s be honest… Angel is the real deal. I didn’t care that I had only made it through two seasons. I knew that there were still five more to go, but Angel was it for me. I wasn’t going to tolerate any other love interest besides Angel (and I honestly think that Buffy was in the same headspace at the time).

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Sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare…

Of course, I also knew that Angel would eventually get his own series, so I wasn’t totally bummed or believed that he wouldn’t return. It was just the ‘when’ and ‘how’ this would all play out. Guys, this is what happens when you watch a series after it’s already off the air. You’re aware of some of the big things that will happen from word of mouth and catching snippets here and there. I can just imagine if I had watched Buffy while it was airing and I didn’t know if Angel would come back or if there would be more seasons or a damn Angel spin-off. I would just be stuck in season two, thinking about the good times…

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But, because I was had all of this future knowledge, I jumped into season three like I had ants in my pants. The first time I watched it, though, I had a hard time with the whole Buffy moving to LA and having an alias as a waitress named Anne (her middle name). Of course after my initial run-though, I could appreciate the theme (lost souls looking for a savior / connection with someone) in this episode and how they later appear in the first season of Angel. Even the opening credits of Angel use some of the stock footage from this episode of Buffy.

Anne begins with Buffy trying to avoid any real responsibility or human interaction. She’s living under the radar, working in a little diner. She has noticeably lost her spark and kind of just avoids real eye contact with anyone.

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Bored now.

Buffy is a ‘lost soul’ in the city of angels, but is somehow sucked into the business of helping another teenage girl (and even more lost soul) search for her missing boyfriend. It turns out that demons are running this church that is secretly this underground society using lost human souls as slaves and stealing their youth. Before you know it, Buffy is kicking butt again and bringing the humans back to higher ground.

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This episode was strange for me to watch, because it felt weird being somewhere else other than Sunnydale. It felt even more odd once Buffy was underground in the demon dimension. I felt homesick without the Scooby Gang at Buffy’s side. And if I’m being honest, watching this episode gave me the similar feeling that I had when I went off to my college freshman orientation. I was on my own, in a new place without familiar faces. I quickly began to feel empowered and capable of doing things my way, but it was definitely a process. There was this pit in my stomach of falling down the rabbit hole and never finding my way back. It was scary stuff, but I’m definitely not saying that going to college felt like being in a hell dimension. It was just foreign to me in the beginning and I had to find my footing.

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Student loans!

And the episode wasn’t solely based on Buffy in LA. We get to see the Scooby Gang handling their own in Sunnydale. Just because Buffy headed out of town doesn’t mean that the Hellmouth decided to close up shop for the summer. If anything, the vamps probably felt like they had free range to terrorize more so than usual. But the Scooby Gang wasn’t going to let that happen. Little did they know that there was a bigger bad preparing for an ascension.

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What would Buffy do?

Back home, Buffy faces some understandable hostility from Joyce and her friends, especially Willow. I’m on the fence to who’s side I’m on, because on the one hand: Buffy is someone with this great responsibility and by letting her guard down and falling in love like a regular teenager, she released a great evil on her friends, family, and herself. At the same time, she lost the love of her life. Even before she had to physically vanquish him. He was gone the moment they consummated their love. What does that do to a person? Her friends weren’t easily understanding that.

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On the other hand: Buffy wasn’t getting that she was the one that her loved ones depended on and that they were not built to fight her battles. She can’t just take a vacation and throw in the towel and give up. Who’s going to fight for them when the Big Bad decides to wreck havoc? Buffy is reminded of her role in the larger picture. She’s the Slayer. The one. The only (for now). Eventually they all air it out and Buffy and Willow are solid once again after literally raising the dead with their bickering in Dead Man’s Party.

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Adding on to the mess leftover from season two, lord behold Angel returns at the end of Faith, Hope, and Trick. He’s back in town and he’s more damaged than ever. He’s drawn back to Buffy, but she’s more than hesitant to fall back into his graces. He needs her to set him straight. All of the awful things that he did last season plus his earlier crimes as Angelus come rushing back to haunt him. ‘The First Evil’ takes advantage of his vulnerability and tries to recruit him into the army of evil. Angel can only stand his ground, because of Buffy. His guard. His heart. His soul.

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And explaining to her friends and family that she is hanging out with Angel (first of all explaining that he’s back) is not an easy thing to do. They do not trust him, and rightfully so. Even as Angel himself tries to lend a hand, they treat him with resentment and they are on their guard. I mean, he did terrorize them and kill Jenny Calendar, Giles’ girlfriend, last season. You can’t just easily forgive that. But somehow, Buffy does. The more time she spends with him, the more she learns about herself and the art of balance. Angel has more of a purpose to keep going, eventually understanding that he has his own destiny to adhere to.

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Buffy sees the good in Angel and grasps that it wasn’t him that did those terrible things. Even though – it was his inner demon. So that’s the wedge in their relationship. They try to make it work, but with caution. They cannot give into temptation ever again. But love is love and they can’t deny that. Even Spike has a thing or two to say to remind them.

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Making matters more interesting, we have a new girl in town. Kendra was killed in season two (by Drusilla) so that triggered the Slayer prophecy line once more. A Slayer rises as one falls. So ladies and gentleman I present to you, Faith.

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And it’s all fun and games when Faith first arrives. She’s edgier and definitely more hardcore and sly than Buffy. She’s a bit rough around the edges and tries to get Buffy to loosen up, learn about some facts of life, and be more street-smart and indulge in their Slayer-hood.

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Out goes the orthodox way that Giles has set for Buffy with taking care of school, patrolling, then having a social life. Teaching her that there’s an order to things. Faith blurs the line between patrolling and having a social and free life. She does whatever she wants and doesn’t do well with rules. She sees herself and Buffy as higher beings. They were born to be strong and take out ‘bad guys’.

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However, Faith becomes more jealous of Buffy’s sense of security and righteousness. She’s the ‘main’ Slayer. The correct one. The one with a support system: a mom, a Watcher (who’s also a father-figure), friends, a boyfriend, and a purpose. And how the hell does Buffy get a pass to be in charge when she’s dating a vampire? Faith is both annoyed and intrigued that Buffy and Angel have a relationship. He’s the definition of danger, and Buffy’s living on the edge.

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Eventually though, Giles is booted from being Buffy’s Watcher due to the whole Angelus ordeal. Giles is just too close to Buffy and their professional relationship has somehow transformed into more of a familial relationship. And that’s somehow distracted him from keeping Buffy in line (which sounds like a load of bologna to me). Wesley is the new Watcher for Buffy and Faith, but of course Buffy’s respect aligns with Giles. Wesley is young and impressionable, but he’s not taken seriously as a Watcher. Not even by Giles. He can’t control or even instruct the girls, so things get out of hand.

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Giles: *rolls eyes*

Faith’s blurred sense of morality leads her to kill an actual person and she seems to be more nonchalant about the whole ordeal than distraught. Buffy is more than frightened by the situation and remembers that there are lines that just cannot be crossed. Just because they are Slayers does not make them gods.

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Faith soon falls prey to being the sidekick of the evil Mayor of Sunnydale – this season’s Big Bad. He gives her a sense and source of love and respect. He’s like a father to her as he guides her be all of the evil that she can and wants to be.

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Mayor Wilkins knows best.

Now Buffy has to battle it out with Faith. She even tries to get Angel to teach Faith about redemption, and I honestly believe that what Angel says to Faith sticks, even if only a little. This begins their companionship later seen more on Angel. If anyone can set her straight and to face her demons and try to redeem herself – it’s Angel. He becomes like a life coach or mentor. A different connection than he has with Buffy. Angel has to pretend to have reverted into Angelus to get close to Faith and the Mayor with some very convincing acting skills. I was definitely convinced, and so was Faith.

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With that, Angel realizes his larger part in the whole good vs. evil dynamic. He still has to redeem himself and have a larger purpose. This leads him to breaking things off with Buffy and deciding to move on to Los Angeles after the battle with The Mayor’s ascension during graduation. Graduation Day (parts one and two) along with The Prom are some of my favorite episodes this season.

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Other things that I love about season three include Angel’s new found sense of humor. It’s like he can joke about the lows (and creepiness) of being a vampire and the awkwardness of being so much older than his girlfriend. He’s from another time and Buffy’s sense to be a normal couple is just ridiculous. He can’t even go outdoors in the daylight (we really need those daylight rings from The Vampire Diaries or at least the *Gem of Amara* from season four).

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And there’s Buffy and Cordelia’s rivalry. Buffy is Queen B in terms of the supernatural. She can kick butt and face evil, but Cordelia is even more of a force to be reckoned with in the hallways of Sunnydale High.

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Oz continues to be an absolute gem in the Scooby Gang. His dry sense of humor (re: honesty) and sarcasm include some of the best one liners in the series.

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Cordelia’s new found sense of hate towards Buffy and The Scooby Gang (Xander cheats on her with Willow) allows her to set her eyes elsewhere – on Wesley. This whole romantic encounter doesn’t become funny until Angel. Because, who were they kidding?

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Just wait until I’m a rogue demon-hunter.

She also lets her steam out on Xander given every opportunity. One of her digs at him creates an entire episode, The Zeppo, where Xander is the center of story A and Buffy and the rest of the gang’s plight to save the world (yet again) is story B.

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With all of that, season three is definitely a strong season. Having Faith join the series gives us the opportunity to see what it would be like to have a Slayer with no boundaries. A rogue Slayer. What’s great about Faith is that though she’s bad, we want to save her and open her eyes to see that she can change. And sometimes it seems like she wants to be someone else…

With all the evil in the Buffy universe, having [one of] the Chosen One(s) turn into something even more wretched really amplifies the grayness of the series. How much bad does one have to do before they become villains? And are some bad guys actually good, because they try to live civilized? Though Faith is put in a coma by Buffy this season, we haven’t seen the last of her.

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Buffy also puts in a real effort to just be a normal teenager this season and tries to enjoy her last year in high school – despite all of the evil that lines up to take a few swings at her. You would think that she’s given up on wanting a ‘normal life’ by now, but she really puts herself out there to be more than just a Slayer.

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Buffy even campaigns against Cordelia for Homecoming Queen. They both end up in a hilarious kidnapping scheme, but make it back to school in time to see that they both lose. Their dry-cleaning bill must have been a nightmare afterwards.

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This season also gears Angel up to be on his own and he becomes lead character material. I hate that he leaves the series at the end of this season, but it’s nice that we get to focus on him on his own turf. And of course I’ll have a post on Angel, as it is also one of my favorite shows of all time.

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So, here’s my side of the story…

…and once again Spike and Joyce have a moment.

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Season Four – The College Year 

The gang is all grown up. They have left the halls of Sunnydale High (mostly because it got blown up during The Mayor’s ascension last season) and they now walk the halls of UC Sunnydale. Bigger halls. Bigger stakes. It’s time for the Buffy college experience.

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Beer. Good.

The thing I love about The Freshman, the  season opener, is that it’s kind of a reboot to the series. It realigns the characters with new locations and duties. Giles is now unemployed and Xander is living in his parents basement. Buffy, Willow, and Oz are freshmen in college and they’re finding their comfort zones in this new territory. Upon first watching this season, I was anxious to see  what the Scoobies would do without Cordelia and Angel – who are gone off to Los Angeles. Plus, I was wondering if we’d ever see Faith again. Anya is introduced in season three and though I didn’t care much for her then, she becomes a treat this season and beyond with her brutal honesty, inability to take things figuratively,   fear of bunnies, and her unhealthy addiction to money.

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In The Freshman, Buffy can’t keep up with her friends as they actually find things that interest them in college. Willow has always been studious, so she’s amped for classes and practicing her witchcraft. Oz is no stranger to campus as his band regularly plays there. It all boils down to Buffy feeling insecure about college as she’s not familiar with the new turf. Not even for her Slayer duties. Plus, her new roommate is excruciating to live with and has an unfit obsession with Celine Dion.

The next episode Living Conditions further touches on Buffy’s new roomie and it’s hilarious. It prepared me for the types of roommates that I could have gotten stuck with in college. Fortunately, my freshman year roomie was a friend from high school and we had a blast together. We’re still close today.

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More on The Freshman – Buffy eventually meets a pretty decent guy who’s struggling with the new college experience as well, however he goes missing and a bunch of hardcore vamps rade his room for his possessions. Later, Buffy’s side of the room gets cleaned out too and the vamps leave a fake note insinuating that Buffy has left school, because she just couldn’t handle it. Buffy meets up with these vamps and gets her a** handed to her by the leader, Sunday. After a pickup talk with Xander at the Bronze, Buffy comes to terms with who she is and regains her confidence. She and Xander team up to confront Sunday, and Buffy shows her what she’s really made of.

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I still got it.

Now that Sunnydale High is destroyed, the Scoobies usual meetings in the library with Giles are a thing of the past. Giles is no longer their librarian, so he’s living it up in his bachelor pad with a new girlfriend, Olivia.

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It doesn’t take long for everyone to make Giles’ apartment the new hangout spot and they discover that Giles isn’t just some dusty librarian, but a normal guy. Who knew!

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One character that will soon make Giles’ place his own home (prison) is Spike, who pays everyone a visit in The Harsh Light of Day. Buffy seems to get this whole college thing under control and even meets a new guy, Parker. Figuring that things are falling into place, she runs into Spike and Harmony (one of Cordelia’s high school besties who was turned into a vampire during graduation).

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I find this episode hilarious along with it’s Angel counterpart, In the Dark. I love Spike and he just gets better from season to season. Here, he’s in search of the Gem of Amara, a ring that will allow him to be indestructible. Of course Buffy can’t allow him to find or keep something that pretty much guarantees that Spike will become ruler of the underworld. Oh, what a thought!

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And speaking of this new guy, Parker – he ends up charming Buffy just enough to sleep with her. He then leaves her high and dry in the morning, which becomes a running gag of guys leaving Buffy the morning after (cough, Angel). He’s exceptionally an a**hole to Buffy the next day, which teaches Buffy a valuable lesson and further makes her privy to the [sometimes cruel] college experience. Not to fear though, this heartbreak leads her to opening her eyes to see someone else, Riley.

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It sucks that Parker is such a jerk, but then again Riley has his head on his shoulders and is great for Buffy (for the moment). In the beginning, I really liked him and he kind of made me forget about Angel. Kind of. Ok, not really. I was doing this thing where I would watch an episode of Buffy’s fourth season and then follow up with an episode of Angel’s first season. It was a cool idea at first, and I got to see some of the continuations from one series to the other (like with Spike and the Gem of Amara).

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The thing is, I began sizing Riley up with Angel and it affected my judgement of him, greatly.

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Bro, do you even lift?

Trying to give Riley a fair chance, I just finished up Buffy and afterwards submerged myself into Angel. I was beginning to notice Angel becoming more of its own standalone show anyway, so the interchangeable watching wouldn’t have made sense down the line other than an episode or two. Angel aside, I thought Riley was decent and he becomes more important to the Scooby Gang as the season progresses. Heading into the fifth season though, Riley starts to bore and annoy me. But, I’ll touch on that later. He’s a different kind of guy for Buffy. He’s the ‘good guy’, without much baggage – if we ignore the whole secret government demon hunting gig. We basically have ourselves a regular ol’ joe.

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One of my other favorite episodes this season is Fear, Itself. Halloween is usually a special event on Buffy (for obvious reasons), and the series never ceases to amaze me with its Halloween episodes. Anya is now heavily seeking Xander’s affections and hanging around the Scoobies more. They’re all invited to a haunted frat house party and end up being prey to a fear demon, naturally. Anya is the one to realize that something is wrong and calls on Giles for help. Her costume is the stuff of legend. It almost beats out Oz’s original getup.

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Speaking of Oz, Seth Green decided to leave the series around this time to pursue his film career. Nothing wrong with that, as he stars in some of my favorite films including Rat Race and Without A Paddle. The thing is that Oz is in a relationship with Willow, so in order for Oz’s departure to make sense is to break them up and Joss Whedon is the king of tragic character sendoffs. Enter Wild at Heart, an episode that I hate to love or love to hate. This episode also introduces Tara – the Wiccan and someone who becomes very important to Willow. For now, let’s talk about Willow and Oz.

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In a nutshell, Oz meets a female werewolf who’s also in a band. They have this animal attraction that causes Oz to cheat on Willow. Veruca, the she-wolf (literally), ends up being more animal than human and tries to go after Willow. Oz kills her and Willow and Oz break up, both distraught by his actions and the whole situation. Oz has to leave to learn how to be in control of his wolf form and to heal from the breakup. I love Oz and I hate to see him leave Willow. Their relationship was already tainted by Willow’s infidelity last season, but I thought that they were growing as a couple. This episode makes Seth Green’s departure epic rather than killing him off or just having him leave with some half-a** explanation.

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The Initiative is probably the most important episode this season to really get the ball running on what we’re in for in terms of the Big Bad, and the show takes it’s time to even give us a Big Bad this season. Spike is captured by some guys in militant suits at the end of Wild at Heart. He’s then imprisoned in a government / militant hi-tech facility and blames everything on Buffy.

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Turns out that Riley is a part of this top secret group, The Initiative, where they track and hunt down vamps, demons, and supernatural creatures. So yeah, government funded male Slayers – without the super powers.

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Riley also realizes that he likes Buffy in this episode. This jump starts the storyline of The Slayer vs. The Initiative. Both have similar goals, but one of them seems to be questionable in terms of morality and incentive. Buffy is naturally born to do what she does while The Initiative seems to be in it for power. The funny thing is that Riley and Buffy are kind of like equals, but on the surface they’re seemingly a rare fit. Go figure.

The most important thing that we learn this episode is that Spike is no longer able to bite or harm a human. He’s basically neutered and the allure of being a vampire is gone out the window. The Initiative implanted a chip into his brain to send nerve-scratching and painful surges if he tries to bite or harm a human (though this gets kind of iffy in season six). When he escapes his cell, he looks for Buffy and tries to bite Willow which sets off the instant pain. So why should anyone be afraid of Spike now? Easy, they shouldn’t.

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Which brings me to Pangs, my favorite of favorite episodes this season. Actually, it’s probably one of the funniest in the series. It’s Thanksgiving and Buffy and the Scoobies attend the opening to a new cultural center at school. I mean, what else is college for.

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Xander is there working on the groundbreaking and accidentally unleashes a Native American vengeance spirit. While Buffy attempts to cook a normal Thanksgiving meal at Giles’ place, the gang is all there to figure out what the heck is wrong with Xander. He’s infected by the spirit and appears feverish. His illness makes him paranoid and delirious, which I cannot help but laugh at!

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Syphilis!

The gang is in for some surprise guests, including Spike, who miserably begs for help. He comes over during the day-time under his ratty blanket to keep from going up in flames. This blanket makes so many cameos and it’s always funny to see Spike flying inside in fear of combusting. That blanket is his safety net.

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Buffy allows him to stay under the condition that he’s tied up and bound to a chair. His chip makes him utterly pathetic in vampire norms, so why the hell not. Spike pitches in his two cents and complains about being mistreated. It’s just so ridiculous and ironic. He’s also in the worst condition when comes an attack on the gang.

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The second special guest is Angel! Angel pretty much let’s everyone know that he’s in town to help Buffy, except Buffy – and Spike. While the vengeance spirit attacks at Giles’ place and animorphs into a bear, Buffy desperately tries to fend him off while the others fight in the background. Buffy is unaware that Angel is right outside helping fight the good fight. Spike, now shot with arrows and impaled with various weapons, hops around fussing at Buffy for egging the spirit on. It’s just so much going on and the comedy is just perfect timing.

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The funniest thing is at the end of the episode when everyone is sitting at the table to finally enjoy their meal. Xander lets it slip that Angel was there all along and everyone looks at Buffy’s reaction. (Notice how Giles just sips his tea. Ooh, gossip!)

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I’m sort of going through this season episode-by-episode mostly because I really love and enjoy season four. The season works so well due to the flow and freshness of the episodes. Coming from two seasons that were pretty dark, season four has a lighter tone – balancing with the more serious episodes nicely. In addition, Joss Whedon does something exceptionally experimental and brilliant this season: making the majority of an episode silent.

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Hush begins with a bunch of bickering and lingering and unfinished conversation. Buffy is trying to figure out the whole Riley relationship, because the right words just don’t seem to come out. Giles sends Spike to stay with Xander, which Spike and Xander immediately disagree to. Spike has gotten pretty comfortable at la casa del Giles, who just wants peace and quiet.

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Hush is probably one the creepiest episodes in the Buffy canon. It reminds me that this show is of the horror genre. Then, taking an analytical approach to watching television, you really have to stop and think about what it means to have a voice – literally and figuratively. The Gentlemen are the stuff of nightmares and watching them float around along with their flopping minions as the entire town goes silent just sends chills to my spine.

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The episode doesn’t skip on the comedy though. Buffy, Giles, and the Scoobies try to figure out who The Gentlemen are and how they can stop them – all in silence. Of course, there’s a lot of miscommunication…

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Buffy Anya Hush

This is also the episode Riley and Buffy discover each other’s true identities and Willow and Tara connect. Actually, let’s talk about Willow and Tara. So, I mentioned Oz’s sad goodbye and Willow’s heartbreak. Willow later realizes that she’s falling for someone new, Tara. Yes, Willow discovers that she likes girls and it’s such a bold move for Joss Whedon and for network television.

We see Oz again in New Moon Rising (sounds like another Twilight sequel) and Willow finally opens up about her new relationship. I was crushed during this episode, because Oz and Willow are just a solid couple and they are just so darn perfect together. I like Tara and respect her and Willow’s relationship. Wouldn’t be fair to just drop Tara just because Oz comes back. I knew that Seth Green wasn’t coming back permanently anyway, which softens the blow. This episode just puts a pretty bow on top of the whole Oz and Willow relationship, making them both ok in the end.

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Ok, before I move on to season five, let’s talk about two of the best episodes in the series. This Year’s Girl and Who Are You. Faith wakes up from her coma and all hell breaks lose. She wants blood and she’s going to get creative in how she gets it. First thing’s first is letting Buffy know that she’s ‘five by five’ and not in a forgiving kind of mood. Being is a coma only stalled her anger.

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When all else fails and the Watcher’s Council is on Faith’s trail, she uses a magical device (left to her by The Mayor) that allows her to switch bodies with Buffy. UH, OH. God, I was on the edge of my seat when I first watched this two-parter (it actually continues on Angel, so it’s more of a saga with Five By Five and Sanctuary). Faith is in Buffy’s body without her friends realizing at first. She really frames Buffy in a whole new light and we truly get to meet Faith without Eliza Dushku’s face. Its a strange thing to hear and see the dirty things she says to Spike. He’s even pissed off that he’s coming on to Buffy (Faith) after what she says.

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This episode is another Face / Off moment. If you read my Smallville post, then you know how much I love Face / Off and exchanged identities. We get to see the good and bad guys with two faces. We get to love and hate both faces at the same time. Think about it this way, I love Eliza Dushku as Buffy (I actually love her as Faith as well). We get to see Buffy’s goodness and innocence but with Eliza’s face. I have to remember that she’s not Faith. The same for Sarah Michelle Gellar: we all still see the rottenness of Faith but with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face. Remember, she’s not Buffy!

The ordeal is kind of twisted and mind-boggling. You have to keep up with who you love and who you should fear. It’s like unleashing your worst enemy on your friends and family and they’re ignorant to the fact that you are not yourself. So, when you do something terrible and they do not realize that it’s not really you, you have to wonder how well some people know you. Even the one’s closest to you. I feel bad for Buffy here as she’s punished (as Faith) and no one’s buying her pleas. She’s basically trapped in a prison, getting exactly what she doesn’t deserve.

Other key moments that I love about season four includes the gruesomeness of The Big Bad, Adam. He’s part demon, machine, and human. I can play around with all sorts of deep analyses of what his character implies about humanity. Honestly though, I really do not care for the Big Bad this season. At least, I think he’s really pushed until the end and there’s just too much build up and little execution.

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With all of that, I really enjoy Spike’s relationship with everyone this season. He goes from being a Big Bad to being a vampire with mixed intentions. The persons that he wanted to kill before become members of his dysfunctional family. And I think that he kind of enjoys having to tolerate them and them having to reserve from staking him. Spike and Giles’ relationship even becomes almost sibling-like.

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Restless, season four’s finale, is kind of strange or rather experimental. The first time I watched it, I was scratching my head – wondering what was going on and what was the meaning within the riddles and quizzical conversations. I actually felt like I was too dumb to watch Buffy or that I wasn’t smart enough to keep up with it. The episode is definitely an acquired taste. If you’re into experimental films / television where you absolutely have to pay attention and call forth prior knowledge while also playing the guessing game – this episode is for you. If you would rather just watch something more straight-forward, I would skip this episode.

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I always feel like somebody’s watching me.

Depending on my mood, I stick it out and watch the episode or I skip it. As much as I love the series and as much as I watch it, I still have a hard time trying to ‘get’ the episode. It’s a little too complex to be a season finale as it opens up so many unanswered questions leading into season five. But being a Joss Whedon fan, I’ve recognized these types of episodes from a mile away in his other series. He does it in Firefly (“Objects in Space”), Dollhouse (“Epitaph One” and “Epitaph Two: Return”), and even in Angel (the Jasmine storyline). These episodes are Joss’s way to switch it up and do something totally different and target a niche audience. He’s basically making sure that we’re paying attention and that we’re thinking.

Season Five – Family and Sacrifice 

Season five is the first season that I had difficulty watching (before season six). It’s so different and darker than the seasons before it. Actually, it is just more mature and thought-provoking. Really big things happen to Buffy this season and she’s on this journey where she has to understand herself, as The Slayer. She also focuses on her family rather than falling in love while her friends have their own lives and loved ones to focus on. Buffy is all about tapping into her true strength and really learning her Slayer ability.

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The most obvious thing that’s different this season is Buffy having a younger sister. No, Joyce doesn’t get knocked up, Dawn’s existence is totally supernatural. She is introduced as no one special. She’s just Buffy’s little sis. Of course, if you’ve watched the previous seasons then you know that that is absolutely not true. Dawn is absolutely something special, because she just pops up this season and didn’t exist before. Now we have to think about all of the events in Buffy’s life in previous seasons and imagine that the whole time, Dawn was around. It’s strange, but so much fun to do. The funny thing is that before long, you actually get used to Dawn and it does feel like she’s been there all along.

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The season begins with Buffy vs. Dracula, an episode plot that I went into knowing that I was going to hate it. I think if the actor/ character would have been less of a caricature of Dracula and more scary or more ‘real’, I probably would have liked the episode a lot more. I also hated Xander in this episode. I thought that Xander was coming a long way from his extreme goofball days, and to have him become a pitiful minion to Dracula was just tacky and wasteful.

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Dracula is THE vampire that we know and his lore should have been handled with more care, I think. I mean, it should have been more epic to see Buffy face off with the king of all vamps. If anything, The Master, was more Dracula-ish and scary. But to be positive, I love seeing the gang hanging out at the beach. It’s a nice change of pace and atmosphere.

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If anything, the Scooby Gang is closer than ever after the events of Primeval at the end of season four. With Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles magically merging the essential parts of themselves together (strength, wisdom, magic/intelligence, heart) to defeat the Big Bad Adam. It took all of them to be strong and smart enough to fight Adam, which meant that their trust and love for each other was whole.

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Playing around on the beach is a great escape to just be normal friends hanging out, enjoying each other. They are admiring the road that they have travelled so far. Little did they know that the road would only become bumpier and jagged from this point on. Their problems would grow tenfold and Big Bads will not only be outside forces, but the Scoobies will have to battle the demons within themselves and those closest to them. Real Me allows us to see another side of Buffy – the big sister – a role that really brings out her protective instincts and makes her lead command on just about everything. She is in charge and her word is law. Ok, so basically The Slayer, but with one more person to closely protect. It’s more of a personal protection, though.

Dawn’s existence allows us to be at home more with Buffy and to see her spend time with her family.

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Dawn, annoyed and jealous of her big sister’s leadership role and know-it-all-attitude proceeds to be a typical little sister – starting trouble and getting herself into situations where Buffy has to save her. And not only is it Buffy’s responsibility to protect Dawn, but also the rest of the Scoobies’ responsibility. This creates hilarious situations where villains like vampire Harmony tease and criticize the gang’s ‘skills’ (or lack of skills) to protect Dawn. Xander and Harmony end up cat fighting (again) after Dawn’s big mouth invites Harmony into the Summers house to eventually kidnap her.

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Flashback from The Initiative

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Of course, this is a prime example of the type of chaos that Dawn creates for Buffy as she has to spread herself out thinner than usual to not only be The Slayer, but also a big sister. Joyce usually knows how to avoid trouble to eliminate the need for Buffy to constantly worry about her (except when it comes to Spike for some reason).

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Dawn is a kid with the wired DNA (well, sort of) to make her sister’s life harder than it needs to be. We get to learn more about Dawn’s existence and sudden presence in Buffy’s life in No Place Like Home. We’re also introduced to the Big Bad this season – The Beast Glorificus or Glory, for short. A red wearing diva goddess who’s a really nuts.

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I was honestly a little discouraged the first time I watched this episode. I was annoyed that the Big Bad, The Beast, was just a ‘hot chick’ wearing a red dress. I couldn’t wrap my head around how she could be this evil force to wreck havoc in Sunnydale. I was also thrown off by her slight-insanity and the whole split-identity thing. Basically, she morphs into a guy named Ben (Frank from How to Get Away With Murder). My hesitation to take her seriously and her dual identity as a man is just so much material for a discussion on gender roles and identity.

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Before he was getting away with murder.

I slowly started to enjoy Glory being able to outmatch Buffy, which in turn forced Buffy to adapt to Glory’s strength if she ever wanted to survive a fight between the two.

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This season is also centers on the theme of insanity and the brain. The things that seem to be your ‘run of mill’ normal are actually bizarre and out of this world crazy. For instance, Dawn is not really Buffy’s sister, but The Key blending the lines of realities and the supernatural demon dimensions.

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And the things that seem to be crazy and impossible are your everyday normal. Like Joyce. She’s been through the ringer with her daughter being The Slayer and being in charge of saving the world from evil. She’s survived the apocalypse…twice. And in the end, she loses her life to a normal brain aneurysm. Just like that. It’s not fair that Buffy can save the world from vampires and demons, but she can’t save her own mother from something that’s just biology.

The Body is an episode that quickly became one of my all-time favorites in the series. It’s a close view of death. Normal death and how it feels to lose someone close to you in an instant. You can’t control it or stop it. The one-take shot of Buffy discovering her now deceased mother, Joyce is a moment that haunts me even today. It’s so realistic that it’s terrifying. To see your own mom lifeless lying on the couch is a sight that I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy. I imagine that there’s a rush of memories with your mom. Her just walking or talking. Or cooking. Or working. Her yelling. Her crying. Her laughing. And now, her dying. Her lying there without her spirit, just a body. It’s enough to actually drive someone insane.

Joyce’s death is one of the most shocking moments in the series to me, next to Angel turning into Angelus in season two. Joyce is the reminder that there are ‘normal’ people in Sunnydale. She’s Buffy’s mom. A role that carries so much importance and weight. Even if she is only mortal, she has a hold on Buffy to keep her from spinning out of control when things get tough. And she’s the one to remind Buffy that she’s human and not just a tool to battle the forces of evil. It’s very heartbreaking to know that Joyce is gone and Buffy has to deal with the loss of her mother internally, because she has to show a brave face for the others and now Dawn – who’s utterly broken by the loss. Joyce has impacted just about everyone close to Buffy – even Spike. She’s the one that brings everyone back down to earth.

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Dawn even tries to bring Joyce back in Forever. It’s one of those episodes that’s hard to watch, because Joyce was such a lovely woman and to bring her back as a zombie or something less than human would be a disgusting way to show her character. “What’s dead should stay dead” – Dean from Supernatural shouts years later. And he’s right. It wouldn’t be natural to bring Joyce back. I like to believe she’s gone somewhere beautiful and to snatch her back to the doom and gloom of reality is just cruel. I was terrified to watch the feet of her now resurrected body walk up to the Summers’ home and see her shadow behind the curtains as Dawn and Buffy fight about bringing her back. Her memory should be enough to guide and protect them.

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Buffy is now forced to express her heartbreak and she tells Dawn that she’s just as broken as she is. “Who’s going to take care of us?” Who’s going to hold this family up and be the adult? Who’s going to provide? Who’s going to love us? The only blood family that Buffy has now is Dawn and technically she isn’t even real. What if this whole Key thing goes away and Buffy is left with no one. Her father is off in LA last we heard. The only time we get to see him is in an alternate reality/dream sequence that Buffy has in season one Nightmares. One of her greatest fears comes to fruition – her father says that he left her because she was too much of a hassle.

And I wish the show shed more light on his later presence. I know we have Giles, but it would be nice to have him check in every once in a while. Even Angel visits more and he’s got his own show and apocalyptic situations to take care of.

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I really hope Cordy, Gunn, and Wes haven’t burned the place down.

One of the most powerful moments in the series and one of the most selfless things that Buffy does is in The Gift. She finally musters up the strength to defeat Glory and get Tara’s sanity back (which was taken a few episodes back).

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She has to shut the portal that Glory uses Dawn, The Key, to open and unleash hell on earth. Buffy, embracing her Slayer duty and being selfless, jumps to her death to close the portal. Her blood is Dawn’s blood and rather than killing Dawn to save the world, she uses herself. Of course her friends are distraught. Even Spike breaks down seeing Buffy’s broken body on the ground.

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It’s ironic, because Spike has relished in killing two Slayers in the past. In Fool for Love, Spike tells Buffy that the Slayer has a death wish. She’s going to eventually die. And he’ll be waiting on Buffy when she’s ready. However, in The Gift, we can see that Spike loves Buffy and is in pain to see her actually die. It’s a complete 180. He goes from being this psychotic vampire that has two dead Slayers under his belt to a vampire that cries when the Slayer dies.

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Fool for Love is such a great episode, by the way. It’s a crossover with Angel’s season two episode Darla. We get to see Spike’s past with Angelus and the crew. I love when Spike and Angel are together. There’s so much snappy torment (mostly from Spike) and self-righteousness (mostly from Angel). The two can’t stand each other, yet they tolerate the other…to an extent.

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Spike’s sadness over a deceased Buffy has a lot to do with him falling in love with her this season. For the bulk of the season, he tries to play it cool and pretend that he loathes her, as he should. His habits become sketchy and creepy as he watches her and hangs out in front of her house.

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I honestly do not like the romantic aspect of their relationship. It seems like more of a sick, twisted, stalker, lust, hate-sex (I’ll get to this more in season six) kind of thing. Nothing like Angel and Buffy, where their love just lit the screen when they were together. I absolutely love Spike as a character, but him with Buffy is just not something I ever enjoy watching. It just seems wrong. When Spike kisses Buffy this season, she has his invitation to her house magically revoked.

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But I do adore Spike and Dawn’s relationship. He’s like an uncle who is obligated to protect her, because she’s so precious to him. He’s honest with her without tainting her innocence. He’s aware that he’s a vampire and she’s just a kid, so he mostly jokes around with her while treating her like she’s got some sense. It’s funny, because Spike wants to be this hardcore vampire, but he’s becoming softer and softer as the days go by – much to his dismay. I also love when he calls her ‘lil bit’.

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You’re probably wondering, what the hell happened to Riley, right? I honestly intentionally skipped over his plot in season five, but here is the Cliffnotes version. He leaves Sunnydale after he and Buffy grow apart. He wants to be closer to Buffy and prove his importance in the Scooby Gang, but Buffy is learning more about her natural Slayer abilities and is needing less and less of a romantic interest. So he joins this government mission. Buffy chases after him, but arrives too late. Done.

Riley became more and more useless or rather pointless as Buffy was focusing more on her family and herself this season.

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Maybe I should make a trip to LA.

Other highlights in season five include Anya’s growing money obsession. It’s hilarious. She’s a centuries old ex-demon and now has settled down into the human nature of greed and pride. She and Xander are closer than ever, but she’s still an odd-ball in the Scooby Gang. Doesn’t mean that I love her any less. She’s a realist.

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And we can’t forget the reopening of The Magic Box, now with Giles in charge. The place has previously been a death trap. The cashiers and shop owners were always getting caught in the crossfires of some vamp or evil visit. Spike even killed a few people there. Now, with Giles and the Scooby Gang taking up shop (pun intended), the place is used as their go to for research and training. Anya is basically the manager or head-cashier. She’s totally protective of her role and makes sure that the shop [she] is making money.

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What do you mean discounts?

Season Six – Resurrection and Lost Soul   

Beginning from the first episode of season six, I had a sickened feeling in my stomach. Buffy died last season. Yes, it’s something that has happened before, but not at this capacity. She actually jumped from some ‘I don’t know how tall’ platform, through a mystical energy of hell dimensions, and landed crushed on the ground. We saw her body. Her family and friends saw her body. Lying there lifeless.

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So, what’s a world without Buffy? What is everyone going to do now? Are they going to replace her with the Buffybot? (By the way, I haven’t talked about the Buffybot, because I hate her. A lot.) But seriously, we saw Buffy rise up last season and defeat a hell goddess. She looked inside her Slayer ability to become stronger and smarter. She saved the world again, and saved her sister. A sister that she just met (after regaining her memories and learning about the true origin of Dawn). A sister that we just met. Buffy died for her and we could see it on her face that she felt like her job was done and that she had lived up to her potential and to the Slayer prophecy. Now, she could rest peacefully – away from the savage and gloom of Sunnydale and the world in general.

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I’m done.

Flash forward to Bargaining, Part One. Willow and the Scoobies hold off the bad guys as best as they can with the Buffybot standing in as the real thing. Giles, feeling as if he no longer has a real need to be in Sunnydale with Buffy gone, departs to England. The Scoobies then set to resurrect Buffy with Willow clearly doing some dark magic. I really hate that Willow crosses more and more into the dark-side with her magic. It is selfish of them to want Buffy back so bad that they would resort to the unnatural to have her once again grace them with her presence.

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They believe that Buffy is in some hellish place due to her unnatural death, and it doesn’t occur to them that Sunnydale is the hellish place. The gang is attacked by vampires who raise hell now knowing that the Buffybot is nothing but a fake. With all of the chaos going on, I sickenly watch as Buffy’s flesh reappears on her corpse within her grave. Her eyes open and she claws her way out of her grave. The scene will forever haunt me as I had more proof that Buffy was really dead. She had decomposed. It’s like the Joyce thing all over again.

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Bargaining, Part Two shows further how Sunnydale has become like a huge The Purge type of deal. The vamps do what they want, because they surely aren’t afraid of The Scoobies and without Buffy, their biggest threat is nowhere to take them out. Spike amusingly tries to save Dawn as they ride through the crazed streets on Spike’s bike.

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Once again, I love Spike and Dawn’s relationship. For some reason he ironically is the best person to look out for her and keep her out of harm’s way. He also teaches her about the facts of life, because he’s had a long one.

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In the next few episodes, Buffy deals with her new reality of being alive again after finding peace in the afterlife. She lets Spike know how she really feels, but makes him swear to keep it to himself. He seems to be the only one that understands her and who she can trust. She even invites him back into the house.

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Giles and Tara continue to be at odds with Willow as she is using too much magic and for the wrong reasons. Buffy also struggles with being the head of the household and being jobless. She doesn’t know what to do with herself or what her future holds.

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She tries going back to school, working in construction with Xander, at the Magic Box with Anya, and even trying to take out a loan. She fails at all of the above, mostly due to the new Big Bads this season: Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew – The Trio. I could go on and describe the new baddies, but I freaking hate the whole villain concept and their existence. I thought season six would have a terrifying Big Bad, someone to remind Buffy of the big stakes and to knock some sense into her. Like a demon to drag her to the underworld or an archangel to wreck havoc on The Scoobies for bringing Buffy back to life. But no, we get the geek squad and I am bored and annoyed watching them try to be villains.

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And speaking of bored and annoyed, Once More with Feeling is one of my least favorite episodes of Buffy and television in general. It’s a musical. Everyone’s singing and it’s totally distracting from any kind of plot. The episode is ridiculous and the singing is horrendous. I’m just not a fan at all. This episode coupled with The Trio makes me think that this season is just random and not really going anywhere special. It just feels like Joss Whedon is saying screw it and doing whatever the hell he wants without an actual focus. Some believe that this episode is amazing and brilliant in terms of storytelling and experimenting with narrative styles. I just think that it’s a waste of time. Sure, there were some funny moments, but I honestly just skip the episode when I rewatch the series.

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No thanks.

Switching gears from mentioning the things that I hate about this season, let’s talk about Tabula Rasa. I love this episode. The Scoobies have indeed been through alot in the past five (and change) seasons and I must say as viewers of the series – so have we. Buffy has died – twice. She’s basically a walking shadow of her former self. All of the strength and focus that she managed last season has been washed away and she just looks frail and lost. Giles has been rendered the “grandpa” of the group without a real voice of guidance.

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Willow is dabbling in the dark arts, a 180 from her cutesy days of being Buffy’s sidekick. Xander has become the ‘bitch-boy’ to so many of the villains that I have lost count. He and Anya are now engaged and it finally seems like he is growing up – or does it? Spike has gone from a vicious vampire with nothing but hate for The Slayer to a neutered vigilante with a weird infatuation with The Slayer. Tara is beginning to see Willow in a whole new light that’s not so flashy and exciting, but more terrifying. Anya has a nice foot into the Scooby Gang, as opposed to her days of just tagging along because she was needy for Xander and attention. Then, there’s Dawn. We just met her last season as the typical little bratty sister. She’s still a brat, but now she’s more rebellious than ever with her mother gone and her Slayer sister losing her way. Like I said, it’s been a journey and the Scoobies have been through so much.

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Tabula Rasa is a fresh start, literally. The characters have a blank slate as Willow screws up a spell that she tries to use to make Buffy forget about her memories of being in a paradise afterlife and Tara from remembering all of the fights that they have about all of the magic that Willow uses. The result is everyone having amnesia of who/what they are. It’s one of my absolute favorite episodes. It’s funny and all-around entertaining. A nice depart from the doom and gloom.

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Spike definitely shines in this episode as he believes that Giles is his father, because they are both British. When he vamps out, it scares the heck out of Buffy and stuns himself. Spike’s like, well I didn’t see that coming.

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Smashed is an episode that I continue to find hard to watch. Season six already has me semi-uncomfortable and further watching it only makes me even more anxious to return Buffy back to normal and to put everything back in its right place. Spike and Buffy getting it on at the end of the episode and Amy ‘The Rat’ being turned human again by Willow out of loneliness just creates this catalyst of no-turning back to the bright side Buffy. I mean, I can’t imagine what Angel feels once he learns about Spike and Buffy. Was he and Buffy’s relationship a joke? Is Buffy that screwed up? Apparently so as Spike’s chip doesn’t go off when he hits her. She’s not this innocent/ good thing anymore.

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And if things couldn’t get further away from the happy times of the Scooby Gang, Willow wrecks her friendship with Buffy and disables Buffy trust in her to care for Dawn in Wrecked. This episode is so dark and twisted. Willow is getting off on extreme magical hallucinations through a warlock named Rack. Before long, she puts Dawn’s life at risk when she takes her to Rack’s to get another fix and a monster peels out of her hallucination and into reality. Dawn confronts Willow at the end of the episode and basically tells her that she’s out of control and could have gotten her killed. After all that Willow has done to resurrect Buffy, she almost costs her little sister her life.

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Another episode that makes me uncomfortable is Doublemeat Palace. Buffy begins working at a fast food joint and continues to have gross sex with Spike. Everywhere. It’s all unsanitary and archaic. Despite Buffy being the freaking Slayer, she has to work at Doublemeat Palace, because any other job would require her to have developed real marketable skills during those years that she was saving the world. The episode is suppose to have a lighter tone, but I’m not very amused.

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As You Were is an episode that I love mostly because it is a big slap to Buffy’s face. Riley’s back and I never thought I’d be excited to see him again. He basically serves as a wake up call for Buffy. He’s now happily married and kicking supernatural butt with someone who understands him. He’s doing his job with someone that supports and loves him. Their relationship is wholesome and right. Buffy on the other hand is flipping burgers and screwing a vampire that doesn’t have a soul. She went from having a true love (Angel), dating someone who helped her mature and find the strength to be on her own (Riley), and then there’s Spike. Someone she’s screwing just to avoid thinking about how her life has been turned upside down. Their relationship is indecent and all around perverted. Riley comes back to remind her that, hey, you’re The Slayer. Act like it. Have some respect for yourself.

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Seeing Red is a must watch for season six. Buffy is on the Trio’s trail and determined to end the nerds’ terror upon her and her friends. Earlier, Xander left Anya at the altar and later discovers (along with everyone else) Spike with Anya – who sleep together after they are both rejected (by Buffy and Xander). It’s then all clear that Buffy and Spike have been canoodling and Xander is disgusted at the revelation. Seeing Red allows the two to rekindle their friendship after Xander consoles Buffy after she is attacked by Spike, who tries to force himself on her.

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This to me is one of the most frustrating scenes of Buffy. First of all, Buffy could have taken Spike. She could have kicked his a**. Here, she’s frail and barely escapes Spike. Maybe the episode tries to say that Buffy has been crushed by her misguided trust in Spike and their relationship. She’s lost her will to him. But – I just can’t take that lightly. I also just can’t take that Spike would try to rape Buffy. Sure, he’s fallen for her and is hurt that she rejects him. And sure, he’s technically evil. But I still don’t see him being that deluded to try to rape The Slayer. He’s come too far.

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Xander comes after the fight and sees Buffy lying on the bathroom floor with a huge bruise on her leg. He’s seen Buffy in worse physical conditions, but I think this is the first time he has seen her broken. (And may I remind you that he’s seen her dead – twice.) This time Buffy’s not just physically crushed, but also mentally. It’s enough to make him forget how angry he is at her, and to remember that he loves her. She’s one of his best friends and he’d die for her as she would for him. They’ve been through so much and seeing her, The Slayer, defeated is enough to send Xander over the edge. He hates Spike as he always has and as he should. And this isn’t even the most shocking part of Seeing Red. The episode ends with a crazed Warren (one of The Trio) firing a gun up at Buffy, shooting her, and accidently hitting Tara – killing her.

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It’s also a hard scene to watch and it happens so fast. Willow and Tara have made amends and then Tara is suddenly killed. The shock on Willow’s face and even Tara, who doesn’t quite understand what has happened before she dies. She says, “Your shirt,” to Willow after the blood from her wound splatters onto Willow. Tara dies and we then absolutely understand the episode’s title…

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Villains is an excellent episode as well. Willow grows darker, hell bent on getting revenge on The Trio, especially Warren. She saves Buffy by pulling some magical whammy to get the bullet out of her chest. Anya has once again become a vengeance demon and helps Xander and Buffy locate Warren to keep Willow from killing him. Even though Warren deserves it, Willow killing him will damage her soul and humanity. Just flashback to old Willow in her quirky clothes and adorable relationship with Oz.

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What has become of her and what has become of The Scooby Gang? So much darkness has touched them and I just cannot see how they’re going to return to normalcy. Especially if Willow kills Warren, which she happily does. It’s gruesome to say the least.

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The season ends with Willow becoming more powerful than ever. Giles returns to battle against her and is almost killed. Even Buffy can’t defeat Willow. The person who saves the day in the end is Xander, who stands with Willow despite her threatening his life. His love and devotion to his second best friend (actually first) is what returns Willow to normal. And this is where I truly fall in love with Xander. He’s become the ultimate best friend. He’s stuck by Buffy and Willow for so long and has been the butt of every joke. The Zeppo. The guy without any supernatural gifts. But his biggest contribution to The Scooby Gang is keeping them whole. Keeping them from destroying themselves and each other. He’s the one who’s down to earth and there to be the shoulder to cry on.

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We also see where Spike has been since his whole attack on Buffy thing. He’s been trying to return to his original self, and unexpectedly gets back his soul. Ha, like we haven’t heard of that one before. At this point, I’m sick of Spike and could care less about him having a soul. Angel has already been there and done that.

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What Spike did to Buffy is unforgivable, so I’m going to be biting my tongue whenever he’s around. Later on though, I grow to actually forgive Spike as he becomes somewhat redeemable. It’s all about writing your characters well enough to humanize even the demons. Joss does a great job at this.

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Season Seven – Destiny Fulfilled

What I love about season seven is that it’s aesthetically and tonally brighter than season six. The stakes are definitely higher as it’s the last televised season (Buffy continues in graphic novel form), so the showdowns come at the audience one by one with so much energy and intensity. I know that a lot of fans of Buffy actually hate the lightness of the look this season as we have all grown custom to the dark lighting of past seasons (including season four, which was lighter but still held on to the grit). It is a shock to the system and eyes and it took me a while to adjust, but I love it all the same. After season six, I honestly needed the eye-opener.

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I’m going to try something different here from how I approached the last six seasons (by episode for the most part). I’ll just talk about my favorite moments this season as I love the season as a solid whole. I’ll include the episodes when needed. So, here we go…

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Dawn has definitely grown up this season, and if you think about it long enough, she’s the same age as Buffy during season one. Remember how independent Buffy was starting out that season, and how she took care of her friends and even started falling in love with Angel? Well, Sunnydale High is back in commission and Dawn starts high school. Oh, the nostalgia! She’s all grown up with her own plight to make herself useful in the Scooby Gang and become more than just Buffy’s little sister or The Key.

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There’s a hilarious moment in Him as Dawn and her date grind on the dance floor of the Bronze and Willow and Xander admire her assets from behind. It gets better when Dawn turns around and they both realize who they were looking at – and what they were looking at.

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Willow, Anya, and Spike are back in the good graces of Buffy. Even Andrew has made a home at the Slayer’s place. Remember Andrew? One of The Trio from last season? Yeah, he’s hanging (mostly tied up and guarded) with The Scoobies now, kind of like Spike back in season four. He’s the previous bad guy that we’re growing to love. His imprisonment by the Scoobies gives us more time to spend with him and he becomes more like family. I honestly hated The Trio last season and for good reason, but Andrew is definitely one of my favorites this season. He’s hilarious.

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As for Spike, the whole tried to rape Buffy thing last season really put me off as well as the characters in the show. Dawn, who used to be Spike’s sidekick and ally has flipped the switch and if Spike wasn’t a vampire, she’d probably kick his a**. He tried to rape her big sister and she’s not liking him being around Buffy or her any more. She doesn’t understand why he’s back and why Buffy keeps him by her side. Quite honestly, as much as I think Spike is hilarious, I still don’t get it either.

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I don’t like Buffy and Spike being romantically linked. I believe they are stronger apart and just as allies. They are better supporting each other on the battlefield. Spike is more muscle to keep Team Buffy afloat, so him being around is understandable in that regard.

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With all of the lovey-dovey / stalkerish moments gone, Buffy and Spike are able to push through the weirdness and be straightforward with each other. That also means that Spike gets to be funny again without me feeling weird for laughing and Buffy can mock him or turn on her charm that she used to have.

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This makes season seven so much more enjoyable as Spike and Buffy aren’t really being pushed in that romantic direction. It’s more of a partnership in saving the world and kicking evil a**. I love the team up and how Spike has Buffy’s back. Buffy is also rooting for his redemption.

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Spike has a soul now and feels his wrong-doings and tries to do right by Buffy. The whole him falling in love with Buffy last season and even in season five didn’t make sense to me, because Spike was soulless and essentially evil. The ‘love’ for Buffy could only be deluded and just ‘lust’. Now that he has a soul though, I can kind of put up with their odd relationship. It may all be that I’m Team Angel and I am just hard on anyone else being the guy for Buffy.

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Dirty Girls is one of all time favorite episodes in the series. Team Buffy and her potential Slayers along with Spike and Faith (’ll come back to this) go on to battle Caleb – the second man in command of this season’s Big Bad. The Big Bad is actually The First Evil, who wears different faces. Most of the time it’s Buffy’s. Which can get kind of confusing.

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In the episode, Caleb basically kicks Buffy’s a** is one swoop and Spike jumps in to defend her then gets knocked out as well. Of course, Faith gets her punches in, but is also unable to defeat Caleb. After shoving the actual strong hands aside, Caleb does some really bad stuff to the rest of Team Buffy – including to poor Xander. It’s a cool action scene and sometimes it’s kind of hard to watch. It prepares me for the ‘everyone is a target’ attitude of season seven. Anything can happen to our beloved characters.

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It’s also a plus that Caleb is played by the amazing Nathan Fillion. If you’re a Whedon-head, then you know how awesome it is that he guest-stars this season. Also, if you’re simultaneously watching Angel season four, then you see another Firefly rep (season five has another). Nathan Fillion is so deliciously evil on Buffy, but it doesn’t get in the way of his natural tendency to quip and his comedic demeanor.

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Having him as an evil priest that’s all powerful makes up for some thought-provoking TV watching. Because, vampires, demons, and even witches are among the dark and Buffy and the gang play fiddle sometimes when judging them. Caleb is like, screw that – you’re all going to die for being ‘dirty’. He himself is definitely evil though, so his argument is mute.

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Boss.

So, I mentioned Faith. She returns in Dirty Girls after helping Angel out with his own crisis in LA and on a different network. She is definitely one of the best parts of season seven and an additional set of muscles. Faith is a version of The Slayer that brings a lot of things into perspective, like The Slayer in redemption.

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Last season we saw Buffy at her lowest and we’ve seen all of the bad that Faith did in season three and four and even on Angel. So, why does it make sense to have one Slayer calling all of the shots? Buffy being the Chosen One is a mutable and invalid reason, because there’s more than one Slayer alive. Because Buffy has saved the world on many occasions is a valid point to make her head honcho, but then she has slept with vampires and basically given up on her duties last season.

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We also have to think about why Buffy has to do this on her own? She needs help from someone with equal abilities and with an understanding of the loneliness of being the powerful one. Faith is trying to redeem herself from all of the chaos she caused before and she finally gets a taste of what it means to be in charge this season and finally what it means to be the Slayer. I just love seeing the change in leadership – or rather a joint leadership.

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Not that I hate Buffy, but she needs not to be on a powertrip. I want Faith to have the chance that she never had to utilize all that comes with being chosen to save the world. Plus, they are all housing a flock full of potential Slayers, so seeing two types of Slayers gives a nice range of their abilities. Plus, now we have a Team Faith.

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Faith also has a better and more understandable platonic relationship with Spike. I love both characters and value their multi-layers and journey to shake off their dark sides and past crimes. Buffy always had Angel to turn to in terms of vampires and now Faith has Spike. Though Spike and Buffy are somehow romantically linked, Faith is the Slayer that can actually relate to his past indiscretions. They’re both rough around the edges and have a rebellious nature. Now, if they were to get together, I would be totally fine with that and the show would probably have a little more intrigue – well more so than it already does.

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Faith is even shocked that Giles and the rest of the gang are out for Spike’s head. Dawn and Xander surely hate him and Giles wants him dead. What a turn of events that Faith is questioning everyone else’s morality. She’s smart enough to wonder how bad can Spike be that the good guys are crazy enough to try to kill him. She is intrigued as well as on her guard. She is a Slayer after all.

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With the new addition to The Scooby Gang, Principal Robin Wood, we get to explore more of Spike’s history as Robin is the son of the second slayed Slayer by Spike’s hands (teeth). All Robin sees is a monster and is hell bent on serving Spike some justice in Lies My Parents Told Me. And he has a valid hatred of the vamp. However, Buffy’s morals are in the grey area and she has more fight in her to justify Spike’s behavior than to just let Robin (and Giles) off him. Spike did his worst in the past, including killing two Slayers, according to Buffy. Him having a soul now excuses his past life and he deserves to live and be redeemed just as much as a human being. Plus, she’s just not going to fit Robin’s personal vendetta into her schedule.

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So, as far as Buffy is concerned – if you’re against Spike, you’re against her. Robin doesn’t want to be on The Slayer’s naughty list, so he puts his hatred and personal vendetta aside. Robin serves as someone to comment on The Scooby Gang’s unconventional behavior in determining who’s good and bad.

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Which allows for some comedy, especially when commenting on how the group treats Andrew – who shouldn’t even be there. Soon enough though, Andrew grows accepting of his hostage-status and even believes that he is something of an honored guest.

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Robin and Faith also begin a romantic/sexual relationship as he is someone strong and smart enough to soften up her rough exterior. Normally, men are tools that she can use up and throw away when she’s tired of dealing with them. Unlike Buffy, who is 90% dealing with romantic issues per season, Faith never has to deal with men slowing her down or trying to change her. However, Robin is someone different and interesting enough to make Faith second-guest having a romantic relationship or at least allowing someone in. Besides their physical attractiveness to each other, Robin and Faith can actually talk about what’s going on inside their heads.

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It’s funny, because Robin started off interested in Buffy – even if it was to get to know The Slayer and for Buffy to date someone ‘normal’. Of course, their dating didn’t last long as Buffy was too tied up in confused feelings about Spike, and Robin basically only wanted to get close enough to Buffy to get to Spike. I loved seeing Buffy dress up and put a smile on her face. It’s been too long.

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“Daughters” by John Mayer

While we’re talking about Buffy and Robin, it’s good to mention that they meet at the ‘re-vamped’ Sunnydale High. Robin is the principal and Buffy becomes the counselor – a position perfect enough to spread her wisdom when the kids are in shock at all of the weirdness that flows from the Hellmouth beneath the school. Plus, she’s close enough to keep Dawn safe and kick some vamp and demon and ghost and whatever else butt! It’s finally a real job and the perfect job if you ask me. Who else knows what the students are dealing with more than Buffy? She did win ‘Class Protector’ back at her senior prom.

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Sadly the counselor job doesn’t last long as Buffy has to deal with Caleb and The First and all of the ubervamps. She also has to train all of the potential Slayers living at casa-Summers. Good thing she has Faith, Willow, Dawn, Giles, Xander, and even Anya and Spike to help her out. Their methods may be unconventional, but we’re talking life and death, so if Spike has to put the fear in the girls to toughen them up, so be it.

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I was so intrigued with the direction the show was going during my first time watching season seven. I knew it was the end and I had experienced so many emotions watching the previous seasons. Seeing Buffy having to really engage with others beside the Scooby Gang and having her leadership role called into question was something shiny and new to view. I loved the new storylines and added characters. I even appreciated Buffy being booted out of her own house for her and the others to realize that they all have to change and there needs to be more shared responsibility among them. They are not safe and seeing what happens to Xander really opened my eyes to how really bad and long-lasting things can happen to my favorite characters.

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Xander becomes someone totally lovable this season (as well as last season) and I have so much more sympathy and respect for him. He’s hung in there a long time. All of the wiseguy comedic liners were toned down for me to see him as someone serious. He’s the best friend that I could only dream of having. Willow’s role is dialed back as she has to pull herself back to pieces after the events of season six. Giles is there to rehab her magical abilities.

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There is a hilarious scene in Him where Willow and Anya fight over the same guy that Buffy and Dawn are fighting over. I love it, because the guy is obviously pulling some supernatural whammy as you know, he’s not Willow’s type.

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I have grown to love Anya as well and her story-line this season comes together quite nicely. She may have reverted to vengeance, but her bond with The Scooby Gang is enough to put her humanity in check.

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Plus, she was getting on Buffy’s naughty list, so she had to tone it down, before she got vanquished. She and Xander are not officially back together this season, but she can’t deny that she still cares for him. He accepts her bluntness and often rude comments and gestures all the same.

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In the end, we see her protect someone other than herself and though it’s a shocking scene, it’s great to see Anya rise up and become a hero.

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Most of the Scoobies survive, but their place in Sunnydale has all fallen to rubble. Seeing Spike and Anya bite the dust is heart-wrenching, but excellent television writing. Their story-lines have lead them to sacrifice themselves and put themselves out there for the greater good. Plus, Spike is like a cockroach, so I would just tune in to Angel’s final season to pick up the pieces. Speaking of Angel, we get to see him again this season as well.

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Hey. Hey.

I hate that the series eventually ends, but it does so on such a strong note. The series finale is probably one of the most satisfying endings that I have witnessed from all of the television series that I consume. And even though it ends, it doesn’t actually ends. Buffy continues in graphic novel form. I still haven’t invested in reading up on the Scooby Gang’s adventures, but it’s something that I will get around to eventually.

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That’ll actually be something great to do on my next go around watching the series. I watch Buffy at least twice a year, because it’s just a show that I heavily identify with and find resolve in. Every time I watch it, I learn something new about the characters and about myself.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you watch the series and enjoy it as much as I do.

‘Til next time.