As mentioned in my Pretty Maids All In A Row post, here is a list of all the Buffy novels. I plan to buy, read, and post about each. Though lets be honest, it’s a fool’s errand, and I am more fool than most. I’ll italic the ones I own, and I’ll bold the ones I’ve read. Oh yes, I’m including Angel books too.
Greetings, Glancers! As with 80% of my new series of posts, this will probably stop before it ever gets going. Usually I get bored, or am sucked into some new temptation, or the reality of the magnitude of the task hits me and I go play Minecraft instead. For now, I’ll endeavour to actually complete this post and publish it – I’ll put it under the already barren Book Reviews portion of this site rather then creating a new Buffy Books section. Or do I put it under the existing Buffy Reviews section, which I planned on using for my thoughts on each Season and Episode but gave up shortly after starting. Decisions decisions. Pointless decisions.
I’m a big Buffy fan. I watched it when it first landed on BBC2 and it quickly became my favourite show. I have the box sets, I have the T-shirts, I drop dialogue into everyday conversations like perverts drop their pants at the play-park. I’ve read (most of) the comics, and hated them. I then moved on to the books, more as a way to keep connected to the world, more as a collector and completist. Reading them was always secondary – they’re almost certainly going to be crap, right?
Well, I did plan on reading them, but I wanted to read them in order. Order of release, or chronological order following the lore of the show? Who knows. That meant that I was rapidly building up and out of order collection, picking up second hand copies of books whenever I found them, and stacking them in a bookcase to my wife’s chagrin. When she asks why I never read them, I say I can’t until I have the first book in the series. She sensibly asks why don’t I buy that one, to which I reply I’ve never found it in a second hand shop. She sighs and asks why I don’t just buy it new. Well well, that would cost big money, while second hand costs little money. Then she tuts and walks away.
I’m now in a place where I can start reading the series. I’m also less Presbyterian about following my own rules and realise that there probably isn’t much crossover between books or chance of missing something important. These things are barely canon, they all have different others, and it’s clear when there’s a particular series of books following a central arc. As long as I don’t do massive shifts from one Season era book to a different season, we should be good.
My plan was to read them, then post some sort of mini review of each. Not full reviews, not even reviews like what I write in my movies posts. I wanted a simple framework which I could easily follow for any post, one which would hinder my inherent long-windedness and decrease the likelihood of boredom beheading my creativity.
For now I see the framework as – Synopsis, Era, Connections/Breaks from the show, General thoughts. Boom. I’ll do a secondary post with the list of Buffy novels and their rough order, so I have a place to store that list and so you can see how it all breaks down, should you be in the least bit interested.
At the time of writing, I’ve only read Spike & Dru. I’ve read the comics, which won’t be covered in this series, and I’ve read some of the Tales Of The Slayers series and Omnibus Comics which also will not be included. No novelizations either, though I do own those. This is just for the novels. Of which there are a lot. Not Warhammer numbers or anything, but still. I mention this because, well, I don’t read as much as I used to and because I have a massive backlog of books I want to get to. Hell, the last Stephen king book I read chronologically was Doctor Sleep, and it came out in 2013. He’s my all time favourite author and he has released 13 novels since then which I own, but haven’t read yet. Throw in all the non-King stuff too and you see what I’m getting at.
So, maybe this will be the only Buffy book post I make. Maybe there will be more to come. I have to read the things first.
SYNOPSIS: Set in the middle of World War 2, Pretty Maids All In A Row follows Spike and Dru as they travel the globe looking for a mystical object known as Freyja’s Strand after Spike promises it for her birthday. Or anniversary – I’ve already forgotten. In any case, that quest is secondary as the bulk of the plot sees Spike & Dru hunting down and killing various Potentials. We also follow the current Slayer and Watcher, Sophie & Yanna, as she do their thing and try to stop Spike & Dru. Finally, we see some inner workings of The Council as they try to keep the Slayer bloodline alive.
ERA: Pre Season 1. Pre movie.
CONNECTIONS: As you’ll gleam from the synopsis, we spend a lot of time with Spike, Dru, and The Council. Edna Giles is a minor character – the Grandmother of Rupert. Here she’s one of the Council higher ups. We also meet both Harold and John Travers – Quentin would of course be the Head of The Council once the show begins. Additional characters or groups from the show are briefly mentioned or turn up – Kakistos, the Order Of Aurelius, Xin Rong. Some of the potentials listed would go on to appear in other Tales Of The Slayers stories and maybe future novels.
The major break from the series though is when – SPOILER ALERT – Spike kills Sophie, making her the second Slayer he has killed. In the show it is known that Spike has only killedtwo Slayers – Xin Rong and Nikki Wood. Sophie would make that three. The author, Christopher Golden, wrote the novel before the show made the Nikki Wood reveal and was of course a little miffed. These things happen.
MY THOUGHTS: About as expected for a Buffy Novel. There’s enough solid connections to the lore that you feel back in the universe. However, it’s pre-Buffy and non-Joss, so the dialogue and humour is not there. Nor should it be. It’s also noticeably more violent and sexual than the show, with Spike & Dru shagging every few pages and plenty of scenes of children being killed. The Spike & Dru here are much more ruthless than what we see on the show.
I like the idea of following some of our longer established characters to see what they were up to before the events of the show. That’s what an expanded universe is all about. But the book leaps about too much for my liking, from time and location and plot. This wouldn’t be so bad if it amounted to anything, but most of the asides don’t seem to propel any plot or reveal anything we don’t already know about the characters. It all feels a little messy. I never enjoyed the Potentials plot in the show, not because those characters were annoying, but because it opened the door to too many uncomfortable questions about The Council finding Potentials and creating a whole mess which was always there, lurking under the carpet, but which had at least been out of sight and out of mind. Pun intended.
The main characterizations are mostly spot on – we can be picky till the cows come home but I want these mini reviews to be mini – and Sophie is an interesting enough character. Her Watcher, less so, with some added mysticism tacked on. There’s too much throwaway stuff from turning Nazis into soldiers, then that plot simply stopping, to Skrymir being something of a damp squib. The whole story probably could have been written without him being part of it.
Have you read Pretty Maids All In A Row? What did you think? How does it compare to other novels in the series? Let us know in the comments!
Greetings, Glancers! I’m back again to lovingly twist tinsel around your throats and tug until your baubles burst – in other words – to make you read these words about Christmas. If you liked my Christmas songs post, you should seek counsel with your local priest or GP promptly, but while you wait, why not make things considerably worse for yourself by browsing this post too? What’s the worst that could happen?
In case you didn’t know by now- I love Christmas. I love the TV, I love the atmosphere, I love the presents. I may be in my thirties, but some childhood traditions never go away – I still get the Christmas TV times and highlight all the TV shows and movies I want to watch or record. One of the things I loved most when younger was getting off school in the run up to the big day, and planning out my day of watching – waking up to catch a few 7.00 am cartoons, then seeing which movie I could watch in bed before breakfast. Even on Christmas Day, I would switch on the TV in my room while going through my stocking – Channel 4 always had the best stuff.
As much as the internet is populated with all the classic American TV specials – The Grinch, Charlie Brown etc – those never entered my Northern Ireland childhood in any real sense. I saw them, but they seemed too cutesy or foreign and as such were not deemed required annual viewing. Much of my list consists of shows which were force fed by my family or which I found myself returning to each year by myself once I gained such critical faculties. Don’t worry US readers – there’s a lot more American content here than there was in my TTT Christmas songs list.
I was too young for a lot of the more traditional British Christmas specials – Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies etc, and I won’t be including any soaps, even if Eastenders and Coronation Street have both had their fair share of memorable one-offs. Remember that time when Bradley fell off the roof, or when Archie was done in by Queen Victoria? No, neither do I. No, old soap episodes aren’t the sort of thing you watch each year as they are ever replaced by new episodes, the Langoliers munching up all that has come before. No game shows or compilation clips shows either, both stalwarts of December viewing – sorry QI and It’ll Be Alright On The Night. Also, The Office will not appear in any guise. Because Ricky Gervais is a dick. Finally (finally!) there’s no ranking because I can’t be arsed.
Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
For whatever reason, I never saw much, or any of Alan Partridge in my formative years. It was around the age of 18 that I started watching the odd episode here and there before blasting through it all a few years later. In this episode, Alan is hosting his very own special festive edition of his show and invites guests including a devout Christian lady, a Carry On style innuendo spouter, and the disappointed and increasingly angry Chief Commissioner of the BBC, setting up nicely for the following Partridge series. The format is essentially the same as the others – Alan awkwardly interviewing increasingly ridiculous guests and trading insults, but with a nice Christmas backdrop and theme, and a slightly longer running time.
Beavis And Butt-head
Beavis And Butt-head had the occasional special episode during their run, and while many of the entries on my list are satires on British culture, this one is of course US aimed. That’s not to say it isn’t universal, or at least understandable in Western White culture. There’s A Very Special Christmas With Beavis And Butt-head – the name itself a send up, which sees the useless pair watch a bunch of Christmas songs on TV. It isn’t that exciting an episode, but as always their reactions are amusing and they do get to sing along near the end. Due to those pesky copyright laws, this one is very difficult to find in its original form.
The second episode(s) is Beavis And Butt-head Do Christmas. It’s split into the usual two separate episodes, this time linked with a festive theme. Huh Huh Humbug is another version of A Christmas Carol – but don’t worry, there is absolutely no moral here. Beavis falls asleep while his boss lectures him, and dreams that he is in fact the boss. While trying to watch Porn, he is visited by Ghost Butt-head and a bunch of other familiar faces who show him his past, present, and future – the past being particularly funny. The plot doesn’t go anywhere, but they never do. The second one is It’s A Miserable Life and it has a little more story, with Butt-head being visited by his guardian angel who shows him how wonderful life in town would be without Butt-head messing it up. Again it’s funny seeing the little twists within the world – Stuart and Beavis are now best friends and it seems like Beavis has sunk to Stuart’s level by wearing a Winger shirt – the horror. These ones always take me back to my pre-teen and early teen years and still get a chuckle.
Bottom – Holy
Bottom is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, with two performers and writers at the top of their game, bringing the unfocused anarchy of their 80s work into the self-referential 90s. Aside from being about getting drunk, ‘doing it’, and slapstick ultra violence, the show has always skewered everything from British traditions to the sitcom format itself.
While Bottom also features a fantastic Halloween themed episode, it’s Holy which really gets the juices going, literally at times. Richie and Eddie, the Hammersmith Hardmen, are trying to celebrate Christmas with Richie in usual jubilant, devoutly English form and Eddie simply wanting to get pissed and watch Goldfinger. We have the unwrapping and sharing of presents, hope and disappointment in unequal measure, charades, Christmas Dinner mishaps (including the hilarious loss of a finger and even more hilarious fixing of said finger), and even a Christmas miracle. It’s one of the finest British comedy episodes of all time and it’s the one which is most quoted by me in the run up to, and on the big day itself. Has heeeee been?
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Amends
I talked about this episode in my Season Three Buffy Review so I won’t go into details here other than to say that this isn’t your traditional, drop in and watch, episode. There’s a lot of back story going on, as well as plenty of foreshadowing, but if you’ve seen the whole show a few times then you’ll be fine. The story follows Angel still trying to readjust to life on Earth once more, while being tormented by visions of The First Evil, showing his past brutality and encouraging him to kill himself, or kill Buffy. Buffy, meanwhile is trying to host a normal, family Christmas dinner and invites Faith along. If you’re not a Buffy fan it won’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a nice change of pace from the centrally comic or horror themed episodes.
Being (one of) the biggest show(s) of the decade, Friends was obliged to have a variety of Holiday Specials – Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas are all covered. There are a few Christmas episodes, as well as other which were filmed around that time of the year and feature New York in all its snowy glory, so you have a few to choose from. In The One With Phoebe’s Dad, the gang are off doing different Christmasy things – Joey and Chandler leave their shopping too late, Monica is on selfish baking mode, Ross and Rachel fight while the heating is off, and Phoebe drives to meet her father. In The One Where Rachel Quits, Rachel quits, Joey gets a job selling Christmas trees, Phoebe witnesses a tree massacre, and Ross helps a scout after breaking her leg. In The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie Ross is dating two women at the same time and ends up falling asleep on the train and going to Canada, Phoebe is writing a Christmas song, and Monika a Joey scheme to earn respect and money. The one With The Rockin’ New Year’s Eve features some Christmas fun while The Holiday Armadillo is the most famous Christmas episode and features Ross trying to teach his son about Jewish traditions as well as Christmas. Finally, we have The One With The Creepy Holiday Card which sees Ross and Mona’s relationship at breaking point, and The One With Christmas In Tulsa where Chandler is forced to work on Christmas Eve. Watched together, the amount of laughs, nostalgia, and Christmas tone will definitely get you in a festive mood.
I could be wrong on this, but I think there were two Christmas episodes in the 90s for Harry Enfield And Chums – it’s difficult given the show hasn’t been released on DVD and it changed its name at least once. These are quite difficult to track down, though you can find it them on Youtube. The shows were sketch based, featuring a wide array of classic characters in various scrapes. The Christmas episodes were extensions of these, with most of the sketches featuring a (mostly very sleight) festive slant both simple characters and those with some sort of progression. Along with this, there was usually a sing-song or longer section such as the characters singing ‘Perfect Day’ or parodying Titanic. There’s were repeated every so often on BBC and now on UK Gold, so catch them to remember a simpler time and some of the based character catchphrases ever.
Inside Number 9
Inside Number 9 is undoubtedly one of the finest TV shows of recent years – an ode to film-making, a love-letter to the creative craft. I know quite a few glancers of this blog are massive movie and TV fans, but may not be as exposed to British Television as those over here. I implore you all to watch this show – if you love horror, comedy, film in general, then this will be a new favourite for you, with the show ranging from gut-wrenching emotional episodes, to horror homages, all down with the typical sadistic wit, love of language, and sinister twists that you would expect from Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton.
For those who don’t know, Inside Number 9 is an anthology programme – each episode featuring a new cast of characters and a new self-contained story, generally set in a single room or location. While the absolutely wonderful The 12 Days Of Christine features Christmas in some key scenes and is referenced in its name, it’s the Series 3 premier The Devil Of Christmas which should be a future viewing tradition. It’s a retro piece, set in the late 70s, and follows a family on a Christmas holiday where one of the locals explains the legend of Krampus. The episode, aside from being a faithful attempt at recalling 70s anthology horror and TV, is very funny, and very dark, and should not be missed. Black Mirror made it big – this should be just as big.
Lost – The Constant
Lost, you say? Lost never had a Christmas episode! Well, you’re wrong, and not only are you wrong but you’ve forgotten the single greatest episode of the series. Not only that, but you’ve forgotten one of the best episodes of any TV show, ever. The Constant culminated in the resolution of many crossover-plots and saw, finally, the happiness of my favourite character on the show. There aren’t enough words I can give to praise this episode – the acting, the writing, the way it all comes together – this is how the series as whole should have ended in terms of quality and tone. While I still enjoyed the last episode, The Constant is the pinnacle of the show. My love for it can be stemmed all the way back to all of those 70s, 80s, 90s cartoons and shows I watched and loved, featuring a person or people trying to find their way home – think Dungeons & Dragons or Quantum Leap or Sliders or Battlestar Galactica. Taken further, it all goes back to my love of The Odyssey – a tale I have been obsessed with my entire life. Hell, lets take it further still and say it’s related to those times I got ‘lost’ as a child and didn’t know how to get home or find my parents. Lost brought this idea into the new millennium, in a time when the world became smaller and there were no more undiscovered lands to explore – The Constant wringing out emotion, drama, adventure, tension, romance, time-travel, parallel balls, and all the rest of it into a single satisfying whole.
Christmas though? Yes, because Desmond has to make the call to Penny on Christmas Eve to let her know… well, I don’t want to get into the plot. This is frankly impossible to watch unless you’ve followed the show from episode 1, closely. Even watching as a standalone when you’ve seen the series before is difficult because you’ll miss most of the intricacies and details and will likely forget many of the more minor characters and references. However, if you’re a superfan, then this makes for excellent Christmas viewing and will warm your heart and make you believe in miracles.
Merry Christmas, Mr Bean
Out of all the shows on my list, Mr Bean is the one my kids have watched most regularly at the time of writing. I try to get them to watch this around Christmas each year, but they prefer the one where ‘Mr Bean shows his bum to all the little kids’. Their words, not mine. Merry Christmas, Mr Bean has a load of iconic and hilarious moments – the most famous of which is of course that Turkey on the head scene. The episode follows Mr. Bean preparing for the big day by doing a spot of shopping. His girlfriend drops hints that she wants a ring, a proposal, leading to much hilarity later on, while Bean messes around with a Nativity scene, leads a Brass Band, raises money for charity, and steals a tree. In the second half he decorates his house, posts a card to himself (which always makes my eldest laugh), makes a hash of Christmas dinner, and designs his own cracker. Mr. Bean is one of my oldest and most most favourite series and another which never fails to warm my soul.
Only Fools And Horses
I’m not even going to bother listing the various Christmas themed episodes for Only Fools And Horses…. incidentally, for any of my US glancers – are you even aware of half these shows? What British shows did you get (before the days of downloading and streaming and Kodi etc) on your shores years ago? A lot of these probably don’t translate well, but if Monty Python gets an audience worldwide then I don’t see why others can’t. Out of all the shows on my list, this is likely the biggest British institution. There have been a whopping sixteen Christmas episodes, starting in 1981, and ending in 2003. The ones I am most familiar with are the ones in the 90s, coincidentally around the time I started watching the show, having previously dismissed it as grimy and depressing. Namely, the 1996 Christmas Trilogy which sees Del Boy and Rodney dressing up as Batman and Robin and then, finally, becoming millionaires. It’s classic British humour, but it helps to have a history with the characters before indulging.
Peppa and pals have been around for years now, and with each new generation parents get roped in to watching and end up realising that it’s actually really good. I mean, it doesn’t have the same invention as Ben And Holly but it’s more of a family show. There are now a whole host of holiday themed or one-off Peppa episodes, but the Christmas ones were among the first. Peppa’s Christmas was the first episode to run longer than five minutes, and sees Peppa having to remember what all of her friends want from Santa – then he pops in to say hello. Later on the show started doing multi-episodes where the story followed on from the previous episode – we have one where the family visits a Santa’s grotto followed by an episode where they wake up on Christmas day to see what presents they have, and later still there’s an episode where they see Mr Potato in panto. Due to the short running time you can blast through these quickly, but it’s good to supplement them with some of the snow-themed episodes, like when the family build a snowman, go to a snowy beach, and go skiing. These are great for younger kids and cuddling up to watch and get into the Christmas spirit. At time of writing there is a new Christmas episode coming – by the time I post it should have been shown in the UK.
What quickly became the Daddy of the festive episode, thanks to the yearly Treehouse Of Horror episodes, and later more regular Christmas episodes. Even though the show is largely unwatchable now, you can still revisit those classics, including the very first episode – Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire. It looks terrible now, but it still sucks you in and avoids a lot of the terrible, flat humour of Season 1 by piling on the charm. I’ll move next onto the least best episode of the classic era of the show – Gift Of The Magi. By this point in the series the scale was tipping over to having more misses than hits, this one following an evil toy company trying to unleash a new must have on citizens. It’s an okay episode, but not one I’d recommend watching every year. I’d say the same about Skinner’s Sense Of Snow except I remember less about it aside from people being trapped in school. There’s also one about Lisa becoming a Buddhist. No, stick with the good ones; Miracle On Evergreen Terrace sees Bart accidentally burning the presents and lying to the town and features the immortal ‘where is Christmas’ line, and the best of the lot, by a huge margin – Marge Be Not Proud. This one nails what it’s like being a boy at Christmas, from putting up with the lovingly bought, but terrible videogames or knock off action figures (I am Carvallo), to jealousy, to wanting to be loved, and all that other junk. This is the one to watch every year. Recent years have seen almost annual Christmas episodes, but I haven’t seen any of those that I’m aware of – I’ll get round to them eventually, but watching the show now is at once a chore, depressing, sad, and infuriating.
What is there to say about this – you have to watch it. Is this a thing in the USA, or anywhere else? Let me know. Like Mr Bean, it’s universal because it’s mostly silent, even though it’s inherently British. Follow it up with Father Christmas and The Snowman And The Snowdog for added points.
Wallace And Gromit
Although none of them are honestly Christmasy, the fact that they were released and are always shown at Christmas means they have become part and parcel of the whole package. You can take your pick of any of them, but you’re best watching them all over a few days – A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, A Matter Of Loaf And Death – and while you’re at it, watch a few Timmy Time and Shaun The Sheeps too.
The Vicar Of Dibley
I say this is just as much of a British institution as Only Fools And Horses and any other sitcom which has lasted more than a few years. It is harmless, family oriented humour which anyone can ‘get’ which makes it great for watching with older kids. I hope my kids end up with a similar sense of humour to me, tending towards the zany side, playing with conventions, playing with language, more on the bizarre, non-sequitur side of the scale. The Vicar Of Dibley has just enough of this, mixed with traditional laughs to make it cross borders, and its Christmas episodes work well enough as standalones, though you’re better with a grounding in the characters. There are a few Christmas episodes, the one where Geraldine has to go to all the different meals on the same day, the one where Alice has her baby, the sort of double episode where it’s Geraldine’s 10th year in Dibley and the anniversary of Live Aid.
The League Of Gentlemen – Yule Never Leave
As mentioned above, my sense of humour was waiting for this show to come along. I already loved Bottom and everything Vic & Bob did, and this came along to merge both styles as well as my love of horror. The League Of Gentlemen instantly became my favourite show after its premier, but this Christmas Special is one to whip out and return to thanks to its anthology nature. Sure it means more if you know about the characters, but it’s a better choice to watch on the spur of the moment than any other episode as the series was fairly plot heavy.
I love anthology series and movies, and in this special episode, the Vicar is trying to have a bit of peace at Christmas but is disturbed by three visitors, each with their own macabre tale – the highlight of which is the Herr Lipp story. If you want to laugh your balls off this Christmas, this is the one to watch – I highly recommend you watch the series from beginning as it’s an all time great. Even better is that we’re getting new episodes this year as part of the 20th anniversary!
The Royle Family
This was grabbing all the headlines around the time The League Of Gentlemen first came out, and as such it was like Oasis Verses Blur all over again. I didn’t watch the show for quite some time, and the pieces I saw of it, all the slow panning cameras of people sitting, eating, yawning, scratching themselves, pissed me off. When I finally did watch, I began to appreciate it. I mean, I still hate all that slow panning stuff and the repetition, but I love the characters and the dialogue. The series last for three seasons, and had two Christmas episodes, but since the original run it has been brought back a number of times for specific new Christmas episodes. Again, it’s perfect for family viewing, but better suited to having teens in the house as the kids won’t understand any of it. I’m not sure I’ve even watched any of the other later Christmas episodes, but I must do that this year as we won’t be getting any more after the tragic passing of Caroline Ahern.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air
The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air remains, well, fresh. It’s still LOL funny today, has more one-liners, yo momma, and fat jokes than anything else, and is still a better written sitcom with more fully formed characters than most around today. It’s one of those shows which influenced me to the point that I can’t answer a simple question without including some sort of joke or sarcasm. I used to tune in to every new episode on BBC 2 and laugh my ass off, and the show still gets regular viewing by me today. The show had a bunch of Christmas episodes – all are worth revisiting in December, from Will decorating the house, to the one where they are robbed, and the one with Boys II Men, or the one where Hilary decides she wants a baby…. or does she?
The Fast Show
The Fast Show was the master of one-liner, catchphrase character based, surreal skits and sketches. It feels weird now looking back at a show which was often based around building up to a certain character saying their unique catchphrase, but the show was so much more than that, creating a world of interesting and weird characters with a wealth of humour and drama. As the name suggests, the show was quick moving, with sketches rarely lasting over a couple of minutes. Everyone had their favourites – while most loved the likes of Ted and Ralph, it was always the weirder side of the scale that I enjoyed – Johnny Nice Painter and the ‘what if you feel down a hole’ guy. Johnny Depp made an appearance, many of the characters featured in spin-offs, other shows, or ended up having their own dedicated series, and it has been brought back for various new series or specials over the years. The Christmas Episode as exactly as you’d expect it – more sketches with the usual suspects, though with a Christmas twist or backdrop. It will either be entirely bewildering to any newcomers watching now, or you’ll be sucked in and left gasping for more – for regular viewers it’s another great one to watch at Christmas for a quick collection of laughs with old favourites. SLAP. IT. IN.
The X Files
Like Lost, you may think it’s a bit strange that a show such as The X Files would contain a Christmas episode. Why not, though? WHY NOT? There are two episodes which overtly features Christmas – in Christmas Carol, the ongoing saga of what happened to Mulder’s sister is avoided and instead we look at Scully’s dead sister Melissa. Melissa had been killed off in an earlier episode, but here, during a Christmas trip with the rest of her family, Scully begins receiving phone calls from a young girl who sounds just like her sister – investigations and twists ensure. It’s not the most festive episode, and you’d need to be a longstanding fan to follow everything, but it’s still good. On the other hand, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a monster-of-the-week festive experiment. By this point in the series, the writers were creating more outlandish and unique episodes outside of the main arcs, and this was one of the most popular – I can remember watching this in bed in its original BBC run and chatting about it in school the next day. It’s Christmas Eve again and Mulder ropes Scully into investigating a haunted house – ghostly hijinks ensue in what is simply a good fun romp – its standalone nature makes it a strong candidate for one-off viewing.
3rd Rock From The Sun
I was a huge fan of this during its original British run, but it was one of those shows that no-one else seemed to watch. It was the right mixture of surreal and traditional, the performers were excellent, and the writing and jokes were always top notch. Jolly Old St Dick is probably the best festive episode, with Sally and Harry getting part-time Mall jobs at Christmas, leading to plenty of laughs, Dick being arrested, and Tommy again becoming frustrated with August. Happy New Dick almost qualifies but focuses more on New Year, while Gobble, Gobble, Dick, Dick is based on Thanksgiving.
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone must surely rank as one of the greatest, most rewatchable, and most influential series of all time, and even it was no stranger to the Christmas episode. The Night Of The Meek deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other Christmas Classics such as A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, being a hope-based story in the midst of troubling times. It centers on an alcoholic store Santa on Christmas Eve, a well-meaning character who wishes that just for one day all the beaten, downtrodden, and hopeless people he knows could be happy. This being The Twilight Zone, his wish comes true, and for a change there isn’t a stinging twist in the tale. Next up is The Changing Of The Guard in which Donald Pleasance learns on Christmas Eve that his job is going to be given to a younger man, so he contemplates suicide. Enter a guardian angel to show him that this would be a mistake. There are plenty of other episodes of the show which feature snow or moral quandaries suitable for watching at this time of the year, and as always if you’ve never seen the show, there’s no better time to start than today.
I’m not going to bother listing all the festive or Christmas related shows here – any or all of the Mr Hankey episodes will do nicely here, and most are delightful and hilarious send ups of various tropes and cultural norms.
I freely admit that anyone not from Northern Ireland and of a certain age will have no idea what this is. It’s a bit of a cheat given that it’s not actually a TV show, but a comedy recording – I have it on cassette but you can find it on CD or online. What is it? It’s a comedy recording by one John McBlain – a wonderful impersonator from my country whose voices are second to none and whose comedy centers on British and Irish politicians. Even if you listen to it as a non NI person, you’re unlikely to understand the voices never mind the references or know who the various players are, but for me it’s a vital part of Christmas tradition. There are actually two versions of it (at least) – Christmas at Adams’ and Christmas at Paisley’s but they’re essentially the same.
For existing fans of McBlain’s Spittin series, this is a joy – you’l already be familiar with the characters (caricatures of their real life counterparts) – the ultra violent beast Ian Paisley, the cowardly pervert Gerry Fitt, the shit-stirring Adams, John Cole who tries to hold it all together, and many more – even Bill Clinton pops in. They are all getting together for Christmas dinner in one of the homes which Gerry A owns (or should I say frequents, for various reasons) and to have a bit of a chat and a party. Naturally all hell breaks loose, there’s piss in the soup, Robert craps himself, Fitt cuts down a tree and wrecks himself…. yeah, I’m laughing my head off typing this but you are likely losing the will to live. It’s packed with one-liners, hilarious gaffs, great moments, and it’s also fucking disgusting. Click the link above, but be warned, this is racist, sexist, makes jokes about the handicapped, pedophilia, and anything else you could possibly be offended by… but it’s all funs and games.
Warehouse 13 is such a wonderful show – it’s the geek show that not even geeks talk about. It’s a lighter take on something like The X Files with a great cast, interesting ideas, lots of sexy ladies and (sort of) lads, and it’s written by Jane Espenson – if you’re not sold, you’re not worth talking to. Basically, there’s a big warehouse in the middle of nowhere which houses mysterious, mystical, and powerful artifacts – items with the ability to stop time, to give super powers, to hurt people etc, and they are typically based on some historical moment or famous person. A group has been protecting these artifacts for hundreds of years, preventing them from doing harm or falling into the wrong hands. Each episode follows a different artifact, though there are larger arcs too. Oh yeah, loads of Buffy people and other famous guest stars pop up too.
Anyway, the show has a couple of Christmas episodes which are, again, best viewed if you’re already a fan but still are entertaining standalones for the uninitiated. Secret Santa sees Claudia trying to reunite Artie with his father, while Myka and Pete investigate a Christmas artifact which seems to be making Santa evil while The Greatest Gift is a little more trippy as Pete accidentally sends himself to a parallel universe where he doesn’t exist and has to convince his friends to save him and send him back. Both episodes are a lot of fun, have plenty of drama, laughs, and Christmas cheer, and are good as an early December entree.
I think that’s enough yapping for now. Even as long as this post was, I’m sure there’s a load of shows and episodes I’ve missed. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are, what your Christmas viewing routine is like, which shows you absolutely couldn’t miss when you were young, and if I don’t speak to you again before the big day – Merry Christmas!
In honour of the (now not so) recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.
Sorry, it’s been a while since my lost Buffy post. Too many ideas, so little time and will. Aah, Season 5. Depending on who you ask this is either where it started to go wrong, or is the peak of the show. While I would never say the show ever went wrong, I do prefer the earlier seasons – the humour, the lightheartedness, the camaraderie etc. With Season 5, things begin to get serious, and dark. Not in a ‘my boyfriend turned evil and I may have to kill him’ way, but in a ‘my future is going nowhere, I have no hopes or dreams, all my friends are moving on without me, I have too many responsibilities that I don’t want, and everyone I love is dying’ kind of way. There’s an unnamed atmosphere too that niggles me, a mixture of colour, texture, and sound rather than plot and character. But on the plus side, we have some of the finest episodes of Television ever made in this Season, we have massive, unexpected twists, we have plenty of powerful emotional episodes, unforgettable moments, and the show still manages to be fresh, funny, exciting, and scary at various points. It’s difficult to argue against this being the most consistently well serialized Season, and it’s easy to see why so many say it is the best.
Buffy Vs Dracula
Another enjoyable Season Pilot, Buffy Vs Dracula does exactly as the title suggests. Out on patrol in the early moments of the episode, Buffy is confronted by a tall, dark stranger who claims to be Dracula. The real Dracula. Starstruck fun and games ensue. There really isn’t a lot more to it, story wise – the ladies are enchanted by the Count, Xander does a Renfield, Giles almost does three sisters, and it appears that Dracula cannot be killed and so disappears for another day. What the episode does do is set out a lot of the big stuff that will be happening throughout the rest of the Season and the Series as a whole – Giles feels like he is no longer needed and confides in Willow, not Buffy, that he wishes to return to England. Willow is casually using magic more and more, needlessly. Riley doesn’t appear to be giving Buffy everything she needs and while she appears distant, seeking out her own truths, he is hurt and depressed – Spike stirs the pot making Riley feel more useless. There is a scene on a beach where each of the couples is present and happy – a thundercloud and storm hits, and they all run to get out of the rain – foreshadowing. In the end, Buffy manages to convince Giles to stay (before he could get a chance to announce his departure) by asking him to be her Watcher again, and for them to go deeper into the history of The Slayer to learn about the source of her power. And finally, in the final scene of the episode we get one giant WTF as a young teenage girl appears in Buffy’s bedroom. Oh, didn’t you know? Buffy now has a sister. Hiya, Dawn!
There is a lot packed into this episode, but much of this is only apparent upon re-watches. It’s nice to get some humour in there, usually in the form of Xander being Dracula’s willing slave. In a funny hint towards the lack of humour coming in the rest of the Season, Xander announces he will no longer be the butt-monkey of the group. The appearance of Dawn is probably the top or second most problematic point in the show’s history which continues to divide fans (the other one being Buffy and Angel or Buffy and Spike). I never really had a problem with Dawn – she may be whiny at times and more often than not make stupid decisions which get her into trouble, but Trachtenberg is a capable actress and she brings a believability to the character. It simply seems at times that the writers didn’t know what to do with her, or how to write her, but her inclusion is a positive and of course of vital importance. As overall Season openers go, it isn’t particularly strong but it does lay out its intentions very well, with both clear and subtle flags. I like it though, because it gives a few of the last glimpses of the good old days before….
Favourite Moment: Xander’s addition of ‘Bater’ to various words to try to hide the fact that he is working for Dracula – ‘the dark Master…. Bater’…’the unholy Prince….Bater’.
It’s no surprise that my next episode is another standalone, predominantly humour based episode. While the previous episode told us all about Dawnie, from her perspective, this one is all about Xander – a character who was largely put to the background in the previous Season. Like in Season 4, Xander is struggling to find his place in the group, especially now that he no longer wants butt-monkey duties. He has a stable relationship, but his work prospects and general outlook on life are poor. He doesn’t allow himself to see his own strengths, something all the more depressing when surrounded by Slayers, Witches, Demons, Vampires, soldiers, and brainiacs. He’s just a normal bloke, with plenty of flaws, and no super powers. The episode attempts to show us, and Xander himself that he is capable, that he has many strengths that others in the group do not possess – human strengths, but he just needs a little shove to see them, and to believe in himself. That shove comes in the form of a demon call Toth, who blasts Xander accidentally after trying to hit Buffy – Xander is spit into two forms – apparently good Xander, and bad Xander.
It’s a familiar trope, the old two bodies gag, and the episode revels in the charm of Brendon’s performance. We follow ‘good Xander’ as he stumbles between misfortunes, watching as ‘bad Xander’ seems to hypnotize everyone he meets, getting a new job, apartment, and getting a little too close to Anya. It turns out though that both Xanders are the real Xander, just that two sides of his personality were divided among the two bodies. Seeing that all the supposedly incredible stuff the other Xander was doing was him along, the newly joined Xander seems to have overcome his issues. Of course we know that ‘Weak Xander’ will continue to cause problems in the future, allowing doubts to persuade him to take ill-advised paths. While all of this is funny and revealing, we get some other important plot threads – Riley confesses to Xander at the end of the episode that Buffy doesn’t love him (Riley), Spike has a weird obsession with Buffy to the point of him having a doll version of her, and Joyce gets a sore head. It’s those late in the episode gut punches which go a long way to why the Season doesn’t always get in my best books – everything is going so well, and boom – depression. Good for the show, not good for me. Another solid episode, if not outstanding.
Favourite Moment: Anya’s plans for having two Xanders, and her disappointment at not getting some… plans.
I like Tara. I just don’t love Tara as many do. I really wish I could, but for most of the series run she just seems like a less interesting version of Willow who rarely finds her own personality or voice. I don’t think that Amber Benson is the best actress, or at least shows me enough as Tara to convince me (excellent singer though). However, the episodes that do focus on her, or something major happening in her life are usually very strong, and that strength stems from the emotion. Family finally delivers some much needed backstory for Tara, while cementing that core Buffy idea that family does not necessarily mean a blood connection, it’s who you choose. This of course is highly ironic given the importance of blood connections in this Season. Did the writers know this? Were the purposefully including Tara but preparing for her exclusion? Probably not.
The episode centres on Tara’s family coming to visit, and her being nervous about it all. We learn that Tara has essentially been a slave her entire life, and that her family doesn’t think much of women, especially not strong, clever, homosexual women. Tara has been lead to believe that she is a demon by her family (as a means of control) and they have come to Sunnydale to order her to return home with them. It’s not clear why such a controlling family ever allowed her to leave in the first place, but hey ho. Tara casts a spell so that her friends won’t see her demon side, but that happily coincides with Glory sending a pack of Demons to wipe out Buffy and her friends. We get an exciting finale as the gang blindly fights of invisible monsters. Just when it looks like the gang is about to blame Tara for all this, and send her back with her family, they instead embrace her, and form a wall of protection stating that she is part of the Scooby family. Tara realizes she is loved, finds out she’s all human, and we all cry. Amy Adams disapproves. The ending is fantastic, and a genuine, heartwarming tearjerker.
That’s not all that’s going on of course – the episode directly discusses my feelings about Tara – the group all say they like her, it’s just that they don’t know enough about her. Presumably from this point on it’s known that Tara and the others become close, but with the exception of Dawn and Tara, it doesn’t really happen. We learn a little more about Glory, the gang tries to research her but come up blank, and Buffy decides to move back home from Uni to be closer to Dawn and Joyce and protect them. She tells Giles the truth about Dawn, and how it is important that no-one else finds out. Spike continues to hang around and in his spare time he fantasizes about Buffy (or while shagging Harmony). Riley continues his spiral of depression by drinking alone at bars, and gets hit on by a sexy vampire. Lots of stuff then, and most of it can be tied in to the episode’s central theme. It is nice to finally get this information on Tara, and it is nice to have her fully accepted into the group, and the final scenes are classic Buffy stuff.
Favourite Moment: Everything in that final Magic Shop scene, from Anya asking what kind of Demon Tara is, to Spike punching Tara, to Buffy’s final word on the matter – ‘we’re family’.
Fool For Love
Keeping with the idea of Buffy seeking to learn more about her Slayer history and lineage, Fool For Love delves deep into the dark history of a number of Slayers but via the memories of Spike. Buffy is on a routine patrol and fights a routine vampire, but almost dies when the vampire uses her own stake against her. The fact that Buffy goes to Spike for this information is an interesting one and feeds into their slooowly growing relationship and the decay of Riley/Buffy. Giles is sure to have plenty of information on Slayers going back for centuries, and although she does discuss this with Giles first, it seems the Watcher’s literature comes up short. Spike is the only person she knows who has fought several Slayers and killed two. In seeing the flashbacks through Spike’s eyes, we learn a lot more of his character over five different periods – before he was a vampire as a romantic failed poet, his fledgling days terrorizing Europe with Angel, Drusilla, and Darla, in China where he kills his first Slayer, New York a century later where he kills his second, and a few months prior to the central timeline where he is dumped by Drusilla. The ‘fool for love’ in question appears to be Spike, as the interesting construction of the episode shows a rollercoaster series of events for Spike which take him full circle, and finally branches off in a potentially new direction – he starts out as a loser, becomes a feared vampire but eventually his somehow retained human feelings and characteristics show him to be the loser he always was, with both Cecily and Buffy uttering the same hurtful line to him. It’s in the dying moments of the episode where we see the truly new Spike for the first time, as he consoles Buffy even though he has no idea what is wrong with her, even though moments before he was planning to kill her.
It’s the script and the construction of Fool For Love which make it so strong – not only does it tie in well with the Angel episode Darla, but it revels in the dance between Spike and Buffy, between vampire and Slayer. Spike reveals that all Slayers have a dark side – a death wish, that having the burden of the world on their shoulders means that when the end comes they are glad for it; A Slayer may fight and win for years, but one single moment of doubt, of wanting it to be over is all an opportunistic vampire needs to kill her. Spike also draws attention to the fact that Buffy is admittedly different as she is not a lone wolf, but uses her family and friends as her strength. This all ties in with the dual forces tugging for control in Season 5 – with family being the source of strength for every character, but with the echoing sentiment that ‘Death Is Your Gift’ becoming increasingly important (if ambiguous). The death wish argument continues to be important all through Season 6 for Buffy, and even for Spike in Season 7. Also notable is the fact that there are not many laughs in the episode, the beginning of Season 5’s descent into much gloomier, depressing territory.
Favourite Moment: All of the flashback scenes standout, but just for a change I’ll pick a fight scene – Spike’s fight with the Chinese Slayer.
Listening To Fear
I’d rank Listening To Fear as one of the most frightening Buffy episodes. Not only because the Queller demon is icky and skittering and yuck, but because of the reality of what is happening to Joyce and the way in which it is handled. We are watching a character we (mostly) love disintegrate as the tumour in her head causes her to lose her grip on reality. We are helpless in many ways, most notably that this is a medical condition that can’t be cured by magic or a stake, and because the demon in the house, in Joyce’s room is sitting there looking at her but no-one would realise she is talking about it because she has been ranting like a loon for the whole episode anyway. It’s also maybe the only time in the entire show that we deal with an alien, as the Queller is extra-terrestrial.
The demon doesn’t actually need to come from outer space, it seems like an excuse to throw in a few one-liners. The whole thing about the demon being summoned to rid the world of ‘crazy’ people is a little silly too but it does lead to the revelation that Ben knows Glory and is somehow connected to her. More important though is that while Joyce was off getting magical crazy person gifts, she saw what all of the other insane people saw – that Dawn is not real. She talks to Buffy about this, but in a touching scene says that it doesn’t matter if she’s not real, she is still her daughter, and she is still Buffy’s sister. She asks Buffy to take care of Dawn if anything should happen to her, before being wheeled into the operating room. Elsewhere Spike is still creeping on Buffy and belittling Riley any chance he gets. Those moments when Joyce suddenly switches and lets rip with some vulgarity are genuinely shocking and the scenes with the Queller demon in her room will make you uncomfortable – again there is not much humour or light-hearted stuff on offer.
Favourite Moment: The entire bedroom scene with Joyce, filled with little heartbreaking and terrifying moments, from Buffy sobbing while she does the dishes, to Dawn beating it off her mother.
Finally, praise be to Jane Espenson, a comedy based episode! We’ve needed this after the slow burning agony of the last string of episodes and after the departure of Riley. There’s a lot going on here, with Spike crafting speeches to his creepy Buffy mannequin, Buffy trying to move on without Riley, Giles trying to get information from The Council about Glory, Anya and Willow fighting over Xander, and a giant Troll rampaging through Sunnydale in search of ale, wenches, and babies. A lot of pack in, but Espenson and Director Hibler handle it all well. We get snippets about Anya’s past life as it turns out her and Olaf used to be a thing, we acquire Olaf’s Hammer, we learn that Willow thinks rat Amy is watching her and scheming, and that she is using magic increasingly without remorse. In the climax we see that Xander can’t choose between letting Willow or Anya live, yet Anya chooses to sacrifice herself (before Buffy gets her heartbroken rage on). An episode with some laughs then, not one which advances the series arc in any meaningful way (until watching in retrospect), but a respite from the gloom. There are some laughs, a few hilarious moments and plenty of good one-liners, but it doesn’t rank up with the funnier, earlier episodes.
Favourite Moment: Buffy bursting into tears over Xander and Anya’s ‘miraculous love’.
Checkpoint brings back, to the delight of no-one, The Watcher’s Council. As expected, the gang is nervous about this to varying degrees – Buffy is concerned that they will put her life in danger again with some silly set of tests, Giles is nervous that they will be looking down at him as a former employee and traitor, everyone feels they need to be on their best behaviour, Anya creates an elaborate back story so everyone thinks she is an apple pie eating patriotic non-demon, while Spike flirts. There’s a lot of fun in the episode with all of the lies and exaggerating and stress, but the episode does a lot to push forward the main arc about Glory and Dawn, as well as strengthening a few of our characters. It contains a few standout moments and shocks, and another wince-inducing, punch the TV moment.
The episode begins with a look at both the Scoobies and Glory’s freak outs – Scoobies for the aforementioned reasons, and Glory because she is growing weaker and more distressed at not being able to find The Key. The Watchers Council arrives and forces Buffy, surprise surprise, through a series of tests and interviews – if she doesn’t comply not only will they withhold information from her regarding Glory, but they will deport Giles. PUNCH TV. Ooh ho no, that isn’t the punch TV moment I referenced above, that comes courtesy of some random dickhead lecturer in one of Buffy’s classes. The whole University thing has been sadly neglected this Season, and this acts as the nail in the coffin – it’s nowhere near as bad as when the dickhead lecturer shouts at Buffy in The Freshman, but its enough to make Buffy feel like education is worthless. Buffy suggests an alternate way of thinking (what University should be about) but the lecturer ridicules her in front of everyone in a prime example of what is known as tiny cock syndrome. The scene does of course serve a purpose, leading to Buffy’s decision in the final scene of the episode which ironically is one of the biggest and best fist-pumping moments in the whole show – yay! Basically, Buffy feels like she is losing control and others are either making decisions for her, taking away choice completely, or not allowing her to think and act for herself – she’s Buffy, I think she’s earned a little credit.
On the Glory side, Ben foolishly lets slip that The Key is a person to one of Glory’s minions. Although he beats Jinx to a pulp, he stupidly doesn’t kill him, and Jinx revelas the truth to Glory – uh oh. Glory heads straight to Buffy’s house, where Dawn and Joyce are all alone. This scene is pretty scary as we are used to the anti-vampire stuff surrounding houses, but Glory heads on in with no issues. Luckily this leads to some fun between Spike and Joyce – some nice characterization which again makes Spike lovers go all luvvy duvvy. After this, the almost worthless Knights Of The Byzantium attack Buffy – this group opposes Glory and decides that the only way to stop her is to destroy The Key. Sigh, if only they worked with Buffy. I’ve never liked these Knights, finding them out of place, underwritten, and uninteresting, even though the idea of an ancient order of Knights trying to protect the world is interesting in itself. It just doesn’t pay off and takes time away from the more interesting Glory and what is happening with The Scoobies in the rest of the Season. Buffy has had enough, vocally rips the Watcher’s Council apart, and takes complete control of her own destiny – what a fantastic way to end the episode. Unnntil Travers tells us that Glory isn’t a demon…. she’s a God. Oh.
The whole Glory is a God thing is a fine gut punch to close the episode, but in retrospect it doesn’t really mean anything. Sure, it sounds like Glory can’t be killed but we know she is just another bad guy that Buffy will have to defeat somehow – in the end she isn’t really any different from a vampire, demon, or cyborg and this kind of takes the impact out of the God line on re-watches. It’s a memorable episode for the various reveals and plot pushing, and it thankfully does still have some humourous moments – it’s these reveals which distinguish the episode from others in the Season which I find to be very similar and more of a single large episode cut into different parts rather than actual separate stories.
Favourite Moment: Buffy’s entire final speech is glorious, from her delivery and performance, to the reactions and additions and reactions, all capped by the flawless ‘I’m fairly certain I said no interruptions’. Now Buffy is the Professor!
Oh, Sweet Jeebus no. I feel entirely inadequate talking about this episode when so many smarter and more informed and more impacted people have written much better commentaries and reviews of this episode. For anyone who hasn’t read any of those, I’ll simply go as far as saying that this is unquestionably one of the best episodes of TV ever. That isn’t just the fanboy in me – anyone who watches this is moved, and perhaps even changed by the episode. Its depiction of death, grief, and loss, is so raw and unflinching and realistic that anyone who has been touched by death or even been close to it or thought about it will find this an incredibly difficult watch. I honestly can’t say anything bad about it aside from I wish I could watch it more – my favourite episodes by and large I can return to for a one-off watch, but nobody decides to just stick on The Body for an hour’s entertainment. There have been times I just haven’t been able to finish this episode, breaking down and turning it off. Whedon even manages plenty of black humour in the episode – two fake-outs (the ambulance and Dawn crying at school), Xander’s wall punch, the broken rib, as well as some touching stuff with Willow and Tara. How this episode didn’t win every award in the world is beyond me – Gellar, Trachtenberg, Hannigan, Caulfield all give extraordinary performances and Whedon’s direction and writing has never been better. Scratch that – nobody’s direction and writing has been better, anywhere, at any time. There are sooo many good moments in this episode, and so much to talk about, but talking would simply cheapen how I feel about it, and how it is. If you haven’t seen this episode, you owe it to yourself, hell you owe it to the show to go back and watch from Episode 1, all the way up to this point and experience The Body for yourself.
Favourite Moment: Anya’s speech.
I’ve always felt that, after The Body, the remainder of Season Five drags along slowly as if it has admitted to itself that the quality will be inevitably downhill after such a high point. The episodes are less episodic and blend into one whole, which is fine when you have a show as good as this, but it feels too dreary and lifeless. Of course, all of that (or at least a large part of it) is intentional – we are in mourning, and even though we are in mortal danger there is a gaping void and an apathy to current events. However, Forever doesn’t truly fall into this category as it feels more like The Body 1.5. We deal with the events immediately following The Body, namely Joyce’s funeral and its preparations, and how the Scoobies are each coping with the realization that she is gone. We move beautifully between the characters coping individually and within groups – Buffy and Angel, Dawn and Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, with touching cameos by Giles and Spike. Almost every one of these scenes is fine-tuned to twist our hearts that little bit tighter, whether it be Giles listening alone to a song he once played for Joyce, or Spike bringing flowers as a sign of respect for a woman who was good to Spike even though she had no reason to be.We briefly visit Ben and Jinx to remind ourselves that she is still plotting, and witness Ben letting slip that The Key is a human. Oopsee!
The rest of the episode is key (sorry) for quickening and preparing for what happens to Willow in Season 6 as she subtly encourages Dawn to investigate a resurrection spell – a serious piece of dark magic. It is clear here that Willow ‘s coping mechanism for her own grief or to help ease the grief of others, is to resort to the quick fix, the magic, and the things which go against the natural order. This leads to three important encounters; Dawn and Spike – where Spike offers to help Dawn, Spike, Dawn, and The Doc – an excruciatingly creepy scene featuring the excellent Joel Grey, and finally a rather generic action scene where Spike and Dawn try to steal an egg from some demon. This all culminates in a terrific scene with wonderful performances by Trachtenberg and Gellar as they argue over the spell, with Dawn accusing Buffy of being heartless while Buffy admits to trying to avoid the fact that Joyce is gone because it’s only real if she thinks about it. As all this is happening, we see the shadow of a woman pass by the window and head towards the front door….
While the episode can’t compete with the sheer exhausting exercise that is The Body, it is nevertheless another powerful episode which will have you quivering with fear and sadness at various points. At turns devastating and horrifying, the ending is yet another gut punch which we still carry the bruises of.
Favourite Moment: Buffy and Dawn falling to the floor together upon opening the front door.
Here we have it – the end. I mentioned before how I would have been happy had Buffy ended at Season 3 – it was a perfect way to end the show, with the group saving the world once more and looking towards bright futures. I feel the same way about The Gift in that it is a perfect ending to the show, and had it not been picked up by another network and continued for another two years, I would have been happy. It’s everything that a finale should be, and it is again one of the greatest hours of television you’ll ever experience. All those cryptic references from previous episodes and Seasons finally make sense, and Buffy does what every Slayer is born to do – give her life for the world.
We have seen in previous episodes Buffy’s world being stripped away – her friends trying to settle down, her boyfriend leaving, her mother dying, and finally her sister being kidnapped by an all powerful Goddess which she was entirely helpless to prevent. How can she protect the world if she can’t even protect her sister? But as the episode opens, there is a new sense of energy and purpose – we get quick blasts of every single episode before Buffy coolly dispatches a simple vampire in an alley while a bemused boy answers ‘you’re just a girl’. That’s the entire show in a nutshell, and although it grew into so much more it’s nice to see us stripped right back to the basics. Everything about this episode has that sense of closure and finality – from the references to the past, to the pacing, to the old fashioned Scooby plotting, all the way to the end – if we’re going out with a bang, lets make it one that will echo through the ages.
The gang are thinking desperately of ways to stop Glory – if she sacrifices Dawn then The Key’s power will unlock the doors between dimensions and basically rip apart reality, bringing hell on earth – few if any would survive. Killing Dawn is one solution, but Buffy will not consider it even if it means everyone else dies. Killing Ben is another, though nobody thinks Ben will be around. Willow suggests that no-one needs to die as (silly rules of rituals) Glory only has a few moments to perform her ritual so they just need to distract her and stop her long enough for that window of time to pass. Cue Dagon Spheres, Troll Hammers, magic, wrecking balls, Buffy Bots, and every other weapon they can muster. Elsewhere, Glory and Ben prepare Dawn for the ritual wile Dawn berates Ben for being worse than Glory as he is willingly going along with her murder. Buffy confides in Giles that she cannot be The Slayer anymore if these are the choices she is constantly being forced to make, saying she doesn’t understand who to live in a world like this. Willow plots to reverse Tara’s brain suck, Xander proposes to Anya, and the final battle begins.
I love everything about the final moments – there is such a wild mix of emotions that I wish there were some reaction videos of people watching the episode for the first time. Before that though, I think the setting is wonderful, the fight scenes and stunt work are exceptional, and we barely get a chance to catch our breath. There are so many fist-pumping scenes where you will be screaming ‘YESSSS!’ at the TV, coupled with quieter, more tender moments, cold and calculated surprises, and complete shocks where you all be screaming ‘NOOOO!’ at the TV. The final gut punch comes as it looks like The Scoobies have won – they have defeated Glory – but they are too late. Doc appears, cuts Dawn, throws Spike off the building, and makes sure that the ritual continues. While Buffy hilariously dispatches of Doc, we know that the portal is about to open and so Buffy has an epiphany, understands that Death is her gift, says goodbye to Dawn, and leaps to her death. When it all ends, we find Buffy’s body shattered, the Scoobies victorious, but broken and in mourning once more.
A special episode in a special show, and there isn’t anything more any of us could ask for. The cast give some of their finest performances, you will cry until there is nothing left inside, and you’ll want everyone in the world to watch it too. Special kudos to Christophe Beck for coming back especially to write the music for this episode. Naturally it was written and directed by Whedon, instantly a seal of quality. There are so many discussion points in this episode that it will continue to be debated for decades to come – if only I had some real friends to talk about it to face to face, but when I was watching it live most of my friends had stopped watching it, and no-one I know now has seen it. Ah well, that’s what blogs are for. Next up we hit the critic’s favourite Season 6, the series where the show goes too far into the dark side and becomes almost unwatchable – not because of a drop in quality, but because it is unrelentingly grim as the fallout from this episode rip our favourite characters to tatters, and nothing is ever the same again.
What are your favourite episodes of Season Five? Which scenes, lines, and moments make you cry, scream, and laugh? Let us know you thoughts in the comments!
Warning – if you don’t want to cry today, turn away now.
Indulge me. Grief is the great equalizer; Everyone will experience it, and all of us will hate it. We are all born, and we all die. Years from now everyone who ever knew your name will be dust, forgotten and unspoken. Yet, if we all realized the absurdity of the needless causes of grief – murder, war, hatred, then grief itself would recoil and become less of a leather-winged, human-condition encompassing wound, and instead be a mere arbitrary necessity. When we hurt, others hurt. When we kill, we kill ourselves. If we can truly empathize, then we will learn to avoid all causes of grief. If we all knew sadness every day, then there would be no more pain; if we were all depressed, maybe then we’d all be happy.
Nothing makes me so overwhelmingly sad as hearing music which evokes memories both beautiful, happy, and tragic. As much as I love listening to songs, writing songs, it’s always instrumental music from TV and movies which destroy me the most. I have deeply rooted issues with the passing of time, with not doing the things I used to do, and most importantly not being with the people I used to be with, as I suspect many of you reading this do. Listening to any of the pieces below (and many more besides) is always a heartbreaking experience for me, but it’s also cathartic – sometimes we need to scream and hurt or curl up in a ball. So, just for a change from my usual silly posts and ‘comedy-based’ musings, here are some pieces of music which are extremely important in my life, and which also happen to be some of the most beautiful, touching pieces I have ever heard – I may do a second list some time because there are so many. One final note – there will be SPOILERS below so if you haven’t completed and of the films or shows listed below, you may want to skip those entries.
I got the list down to twelve, but I couldn’t get it any lower than eleven, so here we are. Departures won the Oscar for best Foreign Film at the 2009 Academy Awards, but didn’t pick up a nomination for Best Music. Composer/God Joe Hisaishi creates a stunning soundtrack based heavily around the cello (which is an important instrument within the story), with several recurring motifs that recall several fragile moments from the film – love, grief, aging, guilt, loss are all covered in the story, and while the music evokes similar feelings it veers towards a more hopeful tone.The twinkling pianos, the swell of strings, and the lonesome cello in tracks such as Goodbye Cello, Shine Of Snow 1 and 2, and in the best example Beautiful Dead 1 and 2 tend to make me feel warm inside, but when watched alongside the movie never fail to cause tears to well up. Like most, if not all of the pieces on this list, they work perfectly as wonderful standalone pieces, but are all the more powerful if you’ve seen the movie/show. Here’s a link to Beautiful Dead 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TCpeGf3U58&index=10&list=PL93A4C925ACB5984C
People forget what a poignant show (and movie) Airwolf was. Lumped in with other successful action shows of the 80s such as Knightrider, The A-Team, Streethawk, etc it by far had the most heart and depth of storytelling. It’s a show about a man who believes that everyone he ever gets close too emotionally will die, and the series seems to suggest it’s all true – his parents died when he was young, his first real girlfriend died in a car crash, and then he lost his brother in Vietnam (MIA). The movie shows Stringfellow as a tragic figure, capable only of distancing himself from people and sometimes serenading the local wildlife from his cabin in the middle of nowhere, but when he falls for Gabrielle we know it isn’t going to end well. Sylvester Levay wrote the kick-ass theme music we all know, but he also created Gabrielle’s Theme, a piece so sad that it doesn’t even need us to remember her final scenes and death. It’s a piece that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever lost someone they love – it’s incredibly simple, short, and while many will balk at the synth original, if you can find yourself an orchestral version you’ll spend the rest of the day looking for hugs. Here’s a decent version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm1npa_2DhI
Jesus, just reading the comments on the YouTube videos for this post is hurting me. A few of you may be thinking ‘when was The Simpsons ever emotional, but any hardcore fans will know the piece of music I’m about to talk about – one so tender and simple and fitting to the episode it ends. I have a looping of this track on as I write, but I have to keep stopping to think, remember, or wipe away a tear. It’s the specially written end credits for the episode Mother Simpson where Homer finally gets his mother back, only to lose her again. The episode explains much of Homer’s childlike character, and that final shot of him sitting on his car watching the stars while this music plays is one of the all time great Simpsons moments – it’s all the more tragic now that the show has become so butchered over the last decade and more that moments like this are forgotten. If the show had ended here, it would have gone down in history as one of the finest Television endings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6su0Jgwhb4
I’ll cheat a little here and include a few entries from a few films. I’ve always maintained (I may be the only one) that 007 is a tragic figure, not the misogynist killer, womanizing sociopath many think he is. There are a few moments throughout the Bond canon which highlight the fact that he wants to quit, to put it all away and think about himself and the person he loves, but the nature of his work and life will never allow him any stability or lasting relationship. My favourite Bond films feature these moments – For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, You Only Live Twice, Casino Royale to name a few. In Goldeneye we see this revelation quite clearly, with Eric Serra’s aptly named That’s What Keeps You Alone – named after Natalya’s response to James’s stoic ‘That’s what keeps me alive’. For a film that has a lot of metallic and industrial sounds in its soundtrack, this piece is a standout, shocking in its richness. Haunting in its honesty rather than any sentimental soaring of strings, it’s a brilliant, thought-provoking piece never far from my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ebtj1hjFoYI&list=PLBYN0G9h_13HeGW1sFbrc2mvDMzdyZjQF&index=12 (nerd bonus – I always used to listen to this in tandem with the Resident Evil 2 game end credits theme as they felt very similar to me)
Perhaps even more obvious from a tragic standpoint is Casino Royale, which sees Bond lose someone he cares deeply about, like he did previously in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. David Arnold gives us old school Bond tones with a harder 21st Century edge, offsetting the melodic mystery of tracks like Solange with the painful piano and string hooks of Vesper and of course Death Of Vesper. This one doesn’t give me as many real life feels as others in this post, but it brings me back immediately to Vesper’s sacrifice and Bond yet again covering up his pain. When contrasted with the gorgeous City Of Lovers, those softer moments are brutal – such potential, hope, and love, crushed in a few inevitable moments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upamEEDq2XM&list=PLIVs6sKfvkuQP6znMZFux3OF2g2gtRuix&index=14
My final Bond track is from Tomorrow Never Dies – not a film which is remembered for being all that sad, but Teri Hatcher’s character is another who pays the ultimate price for getting too close to the man we’re all supposed to want to be. The Last Goodbye, but particularly the swell in Paris And Bond (by David Arnold again) are both effectively tearjerking pieces which remind us of our own painful memories. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_s4S6ynvcg&index=5&list=PL3CD06F1ABB7B659C
King’s opus is probably my favourite book and adaptation, packed with characters you will fall in love with and whose deaths will leave a hole which will never be filled. WG Snuffy Walden’s guitar-laden, folksy, all American soundtrack is superb from start to finish, with perfect journey music – many of the tracks instantly fill my head if I am heading out for a walk when there is no-one else around, when the streets are empty. There’s that sense of swinging a bag over your shoulder and lighting out, of not looking back, but never forgetting. Moreover, we know the road ahead will be nigh-on impossible, that we, all of us as individuals, as a species, are ill-equipped to deal with what we are dealt, that there will be unforgivable, unimaginable anguish, grief upon grief, and joy so unspeakable that words become absurd – there will be a future we don’t want, we know that, but when it comes we do not give up, we do not break, we overcome, and we stand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCYb3lX9g4g&list=PLAsfPvIbzO_sKDnDkI13NG9Zxg7dG-COD&index=12
Twin Peaks to me has always been a show based on horror, featuring some of the most frightening and upsetting scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Much of the show is rooted in comedy and in ironically twisting the over the top sentimentality of the TV soaps of the time, but in the real moments of sadness there is frustration, sadness, anger, fear, and perhaps most of all, confusion and detachment – two feelings that most people who have not been near death for a while, or ever, overlook. When someone dies, or even when someone leaves, our actions and the actions of those around us seem bizarre and alien, ghostly and purposeless. In these moments it is utterly impossible for the person suffering, or those on the sidelines to understand the loss, because none of us truly understand mortality. Badalamenti’s jazzy score is dreamlike, airy, slow, and soft and while it pulls at the heartstrings as well as any weepie, it is the understanding of the confusion – the understanding that we cannot grasp what has happened, that makes it stand out. There is a void, a literal, sickening void, and we can do nothing about it aside from skirt the rim and vaguely feel aware that the abyss beyond is somewhere we should not be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQg5WUhMP90&list=PL413F2BBFBCDD6C43&index=2
Conan The Barbarian
If you know me via this blog, or if you know me in reality (whatever that is) then you must be aware of my love for both Arnie, and for Conan, more specifically the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack which is so obviously the greatest movie soundtrack ever made that any argument otherwise is akin to arguing with a bullet. While Poledouris fills every scene with bombastic, thunderous epicness, he creates a number of more emotional tracks, from Funeral Pyre to The Leaving to Orphans Of Doom. I think the most impactful for me, from a darker place, is Wifeing – even though it’s the love theme of the movie, it is rent with doom and blackened with inevitability. When we all finally give ourselves up to the dust, and when Crom decides he is finished with us, it would be the utmost reward to have a piece such as this played to our memory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMxamoHkAbY&list=PL6559658E698E288D&index=15
Inevitable, eh? Brad Fiedel’s score for both T1 and T2 are distinct from other movies of their period, and from each other, though both stem from an industrial, darkly technological place. While we all know and love the main themes, which deserve to top any movie music list. Instead, I’m going to pick two other pieces, a piano track from The Terminator which is arguably the track which set me out on this path at an early age, and the intro from T2, the true intro. Yes yes yes, the piano track is basically the main theme readjusted for piano, and yes yes yes it’s a sex scene, but it’s essentially the reason for the story existing – a love story and a story of survival, survival of a couple who barely know each other but are already deeply in love, and the survival of our species. The way the track, and the scene start out, with Reese admitting his feelings (a struggle for a man who only knows pain and death), the realisation that he travelled through time to be with Sarah, and the soft, single piano notes slowing morphing, liquid metal like into melodies, until Sarah joins Reese by the window as the familiar theme comes into view and they tumble into pain. Sometimes I think I’ve never heard a more perfect piece of music, especially when played to that scene. It hurts every single time I hear it, and my love of it only grows. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaUomynGeao&list=PL5C555376D7A573AD&index=13
My pick from T2 is difficult to describe and difficult to find as it doesn’t appear on the movie soundtrack. In the link below it starts at around 23 seconds. When I say it’s the intro scene, people will likely think of Sarah’s monologue over the future war scene, before the glorious, fire-scorched title sequence begins (God, even typing that makes me want to scream ‘T2 is the best film ever’ and watch it again). That’s not what I’m talking about – before that, the very first scene, of traffic heading in and out of LA, and kids playing on swings – it’s roughly 30 seconds long, and the music takes up slightly less than that. The music is basically six notes, and can barely be called music, but it is awesome – I must have listened to it hundreds of times, and watched those 30 seconds over and over, to the point that I often see those cars when I close my eyes. It seems like a throwaway scene, but to me it conveys a billion feelings – one of which is the loss of civilization and humanity. There’s something more otherworldly about those cars than there is in the juxtaposed image of a skeleton sitting in a nuked shell of a car which comes moments later. The message is obvious, showing the before and after effects of war, but it may be the most poignant example of this ever filmed, and those dreadful, plodding six notes, are so dark and bleak that Fiedel and Cameron seem to be saying that there’s no hope for us. Obviously the rest of the film is one big hope-fest, but that opening minute or so it absolutely crushing to me. When that scene eventually merges with the title sequence, I get shivers every time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4hY9BdG6SA
The Incredible Hulk
No list such as this would be complete without The Lonely Man by Joe Harnell, possibly the SADDEST piece of music ever written. Now, I’ve loved this theme my whole life, long before Family Guy ripped the arse out of it. The original Hulk series and the accompanying movies with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno were a massive part of my childhood, and I already have my girls watching them (they may call it ‘Greenboy’ instead of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ but they get it). Hulk will always be David Banner to me, and Banner will always be Bixby. This piece is so haunting and soul-rending that only a crab would fail to tear-up while listening to it. It’s all the more effective now, knowing about Bixby’s life and feeding your own experiences into the notes; it isn’t just about a man who can never possibly fit in, and will never be able to love or escape his demon, but it’s about all of us, the roads we travel, and the people we must leave behind whether we choose to or not.
Shannon. Boone. Ana Lucia. Charlie. Locke. Rousseau. Alex. Michael. Daniel. Juliet. Sayid. Sun. Jin. Jack. Repeat those names while listening to Life And Death by Michael Giacchino. Remember what they did, the good and the bad. Remember the smiles they gave each other and the ones you unashamedly gave in response. Replace those names with the friends and family you lost. Never forget. This track, and its variations are all extremely evocative for those who watched the show from start to finish, but as a standalone piece of music it blends all of the feelings and responses we endure from the point of life slipping away, through all of the memories and the shock, and finally into the acceptance and acquiescence where the pain is never dulled but where we may learn to smile on occasion rather than hollow ourselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twHXrNtG-7c
Throughout his run on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Christophe Beck wove some spectacular music to chart the battlefield of adolescence and the tribulations of adulthood. Each episode is packed with music, incidental and otherwise, and while most of the music showcases and enhances the comedic and action scenes, it is his reflective and emotional creations which do the most damage. In Season 2, the Buffy and Angel love theme would pop up infrequently during a particularly romantic moment, always sounding haunting and in hindsight so gut-churning that it’s a wonder none of us knew at that point that so much would end in heartache. Once it gets the full rendition as Close Your Eyes in the Season Finale, anyone who isn’t a quivering mess on the floor must have fallen asleep during I, Robot…You, Jane and never emerged again. But before we get there, lets recall some of the other tracks which I listen to at least once a week as a punishment and cleansing. Waking Willow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rhg8WOy3Cs) also appears in the Season 2 Finale (possibly the greatest two-parter in TV history) and is strong enough on its own to be the main tearjerker theme for any series with its lilting piano seguing into string middle. Move immediately from that to Remembering Jenny (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjXEDyzFsk) and I lose all power to type until the track has ended. It’s such a simple piece, made all the better (worse?) by the fact that Anthony Head provides the male vocals. It’s the sound of a funeral, the funeral of a life stolen, with all the bitterness and hopelessness one would assume to find. I’ve always said that, had Buffy ended at The Gift then it would have been a perfect, apt place to finish. Then again I’ve said the same about Graduation Day. Sacrifice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMktTe3VlE0), which sees the return of Christophe Beck, closes the final episode of Season 5 (again I’ve listened to it twice already while trying to type this) is a flawless piece of music and another flawless example of how music can mirror and enhance what is happening on-screen as Buffy gives a final speech, hugs her sister goodbye, and leaps to her death to save the world.
But back to Season 2’s Close Your Eyes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5C92qy7mX8). My words to describe my feelings for this are futile. Is it the best piece of instrumental music I’ve ever heard? Probably. Does it reduce me to tears at the slightest provocation? Yes. It will always kill me and I’ll always come back for more. All of the many dark moments in this silly thing we call entertainment I recall with this track in my mind, and many of dark moments I’ve experienced in reality are sombered (unborn words are the best), purified, increased, and beaten back by it. It’s a piece that deserves to be heard by millions more than those who know it, but it is of course best experienced by watching Buffy to get the full impact.
Let us know in the comments below which pieces of instrumental music break your heart, and which tracks have brought you through tough times. Remember folks, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.
John Ritter may be famous for being an accomplished TV and film actor and comedian, but most who knew him remember him as being a good, grounded, humble man. Appearing in countless TV series and films, winning an Emmy, A Golden Globe, and many more nominations, he was also an accomplished voice actor, is will be remembered fondly for his performances as a father figure and straight guy placed in over the top, ridiculous comic scenarios. Personally, I will always remember him in two of my favourite movies of all time – as Ben Healy in Problem Child, and as Ben Hanscom in It, and of course for his memorable performance as Ted in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and memories of Ritter in the comments section below.
In this latest series of posts, I’m going to talk briefly about some of my favourite TV shows of yesteryear, and some which I’m watching at the moment. In ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’ I’ll reminisce about some TV shows that I used to watch, from my childhood up until roughly the time I graduated from University – by and large these will be shows that I haven’t watched since that period, or have only caught a small numbers of episodes of. In ‘Sh*t I Watch’ I will talk briefly about the shows I’m watching at the moment, and will deal with both current series which have not yet been cancelled or completed, and those which I am catching up on having missed first time around. I’ll try to post one of these each week, but as regular Glancers will be aware, my regular posts are fairly irregular.
Some of the shows in both categories which I’ll talk about will be ones you should all be familiar with, while others will be extremely niche and I can only imagine about three other people will have ever heard of.It’s my assumption in these posts, perhaps more than all the other junk on this blog, that you will get a murky picture of the person I both am and once was, and that maybe in a wider lens you’ll get a higher level look at the White, Western, child of the 80s. I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but the most obvious may be that we are what we consume, and our lives are rarely more than a procession of vicarious experience. Drill deeper though and we find a less bleak vision, seeing a communal, shared, loving experience as the most important moments of our lives as a species are no longer things like ‘Which Side Won The War’ or ‘Who Got To The Moon First’ or even ‘Why Are We Here’, but rather ‘Will Rachel And Ross Get It Together’ ‘Who Killed JR/Laura Palmer’ and ‘ WTF is Laddergoat’. Actually, that is kind of bleak. Today’s post is going to briefly summarize the show in question, and list a bunch of TV shows that I haven’t yet watched but which are on my ever-growing list. Between reading, writing, watching movies, playing guitar, playing videogames (on top of the real stuff like living, working, breathing, being married, and being a dad), there isn’t much time for me to watch TV. It used to be that any time a new, interesting show came out, I was first in the queue to see it, but now I tend to wait until a show has finished before I even start the first episode. We’ve all been burned in the past by a heinous cancellation, leaving unanswered questions and beloved characters forever suspended in a black hole of fan fiction and speculation; it hurts. A certain part of me only wants to invest my time in a show that I know has, or will fully run its course. I don’t need any more doubt, or imagination to take up my brain power.
Today’s show is a juggernaut, and arguably the most talked about and respected TV show of the last five years. Game Of Thrones is an epic tale featuring a massive cast of characters and places, with conspiracy, murder, deceit, boobs, and what am I even talking about you already know more about it than I do. I’ve known about the show for a long time, but until this year I hadn’t watched a single episode of it. I still haven’t read a single word of the books which the show is based on. My wife bought me the first three Seasons on DVD for Christmas and as of time of writing I have only seen up to the end of Season 3. I’m not going to give away any spoilers in these posts, either the ‘Sh*t I Watch’ or ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’, hopefully, and so let’s try to keep the comments Spoiler free too! I don’t know why it took me so long to watch the show – I think it’s a cultural thing – I’m not a huge fan of the country I was damned to and if people from here try to claim something as their own, or latch on to something in a popular way, I will generally go in the opposite direction. Of course, that isn’t being fair to the show itself, and it was clear that there was overwhelming critical praise, so after watching a bit of the pilot I decided to give it a go. As expected, it is a treat, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan, and I certainly wouldn’t say it is without its faults. For my two cents, I think there are too few episodes per Season, and I feel that something as large as this appears to be could easily be expanded into a few more episodes each year. For me, there seems to be too much rushing in each episode, and too little time spend with each set of characters. That’s obviously a personal and minor squabble because the show still works wonderfully well. There is a terrific cast of actors, the effort going in to making the show believable is second to none, and it’s always great to see violence and boobs. Do I think it’s better than Buffy? Well no, because nothing is better than Buffy.
I raise the Buffy issue as that’s the benchmark I use for all TV now – no other show has affected me on so many levels as it did, and does. It remains the funniest show I’ve ever seen, with the most well written characters, the best dialogue, the most brilliant plots, and has such a huge emotional power compared to any other show I’ve ever seen. GOT is far from being a comedy, and there are rarely any moments of humour – that’s fine, humour would be out-of-place here. GOT is all about the drama, but in drama you need to have elements of horror or tension, and certainly an emotional connection. I have found it difficult to truly ‘like’ or align myself with any character in the series so far – there are people I like and people I love to hate, of course, and maybe that is also supposed to be the point. Buffy did the same thing though – every character was flawed, but it didn’t make you love or hate them any less. One of the things GOT is also known for is something which Buffy doesn’t get the credit for (outside of the fandom) even though it can be argued that it started the whole thing – the idea, and the reality that no-one is safe. Major characters are killed off at will during GOT, to the point that, similar to The Walking Dead, we genuinely don’t know if anyone is going to make it out alive, and much of the tension in an episode is from our belief that someone we like could have their throat cut in the next scene. GOT has a massive list of characters, and many of those characters do not survive more than a handful of episodes. Buffy had a massive list of characters, alongside its spinoff Angel, and a tiny number of those survive to the end of the show.
I came in to GOT not really knowing much about it, and hoping/expecting a world similar to LOTR, a world of fantasy with Dragons, Orcs, and the like, but in reality those fantastical elements have been, so far, kept to a minimum. They are in the background, or they are older than the apparently modern, civilized world which the characters now live in. We do get Dragons, we do get creatures, but the series’ strength is in the clashing of the various houses and their respective values. In that respect the world mirrors our own, and there is a constant sense of fragility, a sense that a single injustice, misplaced word, or relationship gone sour could have apocalyptic ramifications. Like the real world, we have people who live only for honour, and those who only live for glory; those who seek personal gain at any cost, and others whose lives are merely more than a futile journey of vengeance. The best shows allow us to see ourselves, and our friends, and our world in what is presented on-screen, skewed just enough that we are happy to say at the end of an episode that ‘I would never do that’ or ‘that would never happen in my country’. Perhaps GOT’s greatest lesson is that we don’t always have control over our lives, and even the best laid plans can fall apart disastrously due to the smallest unexpected intervention; I think we can all agree that this lesson is one which is inescapable even in our own secluded lives.
Living only a few minutes drive from some of the shooting locations of the series gives an interesting additional dynamic to watching the show, both as a fan and as a fan of the craft; it’s fun trying to spot places you know and it’s cool knowing that there are talented people just down the road making positive history. I’m keen to see what happens in Season 4 and 5 and I’m keen to get started on the books, and while I’m not going to say I’m a GOT nerd, I will say I’m a fan.
Bonus Material Alert! Below is a list of shows I haven’t yet watched a single episode of, but which are on my list. Feel free to let me know in the comments what you think I should watch, or add anything which I haven’t listed – if it’s recent, I probably haven’t seen it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dexter (watched 1 episode but wife decided she didn’t want to watch any more)
In honour of the recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.
Season 4, like Season 1, is more of an origin Season, or a mini-linking Season between the Main Plot Bonanza of 2-3 and 5-7. A lot of new characters are introduced, some old favourites leave, or have vanished already, and perhaps most importantly School is left behind and College/University is here. As expected, there is a loss of familiarity throughout the season for the viewers and the characters, and it doesn’t always pay off – at times it feels like a different show.
As you’ll see below from he number of episodes I’ve picked, this isn’t my favourite season. I’ll admit though, it is probably the funniest season of the bunch, with many standalone comedy episodes. What I love best about Buffy (or at least one of the most important pieces) is how it blends comedy, drama, tragedy, action horror all together – Season 4 has a fairly low emotional drive – it’s all comedy and action, with little horror or drama. Unlike others though, I never had much of a problem with The Initiative or Riley. I thought The Initiative was a good idea, which wasn’t pulled off as well as it could have been, again due to real emotional connection. I can’t stand Maggie Walsh – annoying character, acted badly in my humble, against the grain opinion. Adam was an ok baddie, but I never felt the threat as with Angel or The Mayor. As a linking Season I guess Buffy and her friends needed a break from all the trauma already suffered and that yet to come.
While Season Pilot The Freshman deals (wonderfully) largely with the excitement, fear, and possible loss (or discovery) of self which can happen in those first days and weeks of going off to University, Living Conditions is the come-down, dealing instead with the annoyances of coping with new people in confined spaces and striking that balance between new maturity and fun. Anyone who moved away from home in their youth, particularly those going to College, will find this episode particularly relatable. On the surface it is a silly, funny, Monster Of The Week episode which doesn’t really tie in with the Season Arc, there are underlying moments which hint at or discuss many of the themes which will be prevalent throughout Season 4; nobody trusts Buffy, and she feels like she is on her own, Oz sees Veruca for the first time, we see (without explanation) the Initiative Commando’s, and we meet everyone’s favourite heart-throb Parker for the first time.
Putting all of those moments aside, this is all about humour, and particularly the brilliant writing and Gellar’s wildly underrated comic abilities. Gellar is superb throughout, with super close-ups of her reactions, from gulping milk, to cringing at Cher, to many wonderful moments shared with Oz – moments which are too few and far between over the course of the whole show.
Favourite Moment: Buffy downing that milk – oh man, that is comedy genius, and if everyone watched a gif of that every morning, the world would be a better place.
Arguably the funniest episode of the whole of BTVS, Pangs sees fantastic comedy turns from everyone, with Spike getting most of the best moments. Five episodes lie between this and Living Conditions, and by this point in the series, the main arcs are in full swing – Spike has returned to Sunnydale and has been captured by, and escaped from The Initiative, and Buffy has been spending time with Riley. This episode sees Spike’s futile attempts at getting food, hindered by the chip which he has been implanted with, rendering him harmless to humans, while Xander and his fellow builders accidentally uncover a buried temple. Nothing buried in Sunnydale is ever good, so when Native American spirits begin murdering people and spreading STDs, it’s down to Buffy and the gang to save the day. On top of all that, this is a crossover episode as Angel comes to Sunnydale after Doyle gets a vision saying she is in trouble. There’s a lot to pack in, but as is true for many of the episodes this Season, all of the details can be glossed over in favour of the laughs.
And boy there are a lot of laughs. From Anya’s imaginings of having sex with Xander, to Spike’s banter with Harmony and attempts to get the psychological upper hand, and survive a siege whilst tied to a chair, this is less of a laugh a minute, more of a laugh every 10 seconds. This episode sets up the future wonderful scenes between Spike and Giles and Spike and Xander, and it’s this episode which truly brings Spike into the fold as part of the regular Scooby fixtures. A few commentators have commented on the racially insensitive plot – I think the writers wanted to actually make a point about the White Man killing all, but don’t manage to pull it off. Aside from some such gripes, this is another breathless lesson in comedy, and one which you will be hurting from afterwards thanks to those laughs – if you follow this up with Angel’s I Will Remember You though, you’ll need to hold those laughs dear to make it through that tearjerker.
Favourite Moment: Buffy makes a bear and Spike is not impressed.
Following on from the antics of Pangs is another wonderful laugh out loud episode. Spike is still living with Giles drinking pig’s blood in exchange for giving information. While useful info is not forthcoming, he does show his abilities at seeing what no-one else can, namely that Willow is in great pain. Willow’s powers as a Witch are growing, but she is having difficulty coping with the pain of losing Oz. To try to cope, she drunkenly casts a spell to make her pain go away, but somehow instead gives herself the power to make anything she says come true – Giles becomes blind, Amy briefly turns human, then back to a rat, Xander becomes a magnet for demons, and Buffy and Spike fall adorably in love and announce their marriage. It’s almost a fun mockery of magic and how the series deals with magic, throwing in as many ridiculous circumstances as possible. However, there is obvious (whether deliberate or not) foreshadowing of Willow’s future – her growing power, her reliance on magic, her lack of skill coping with loss, her sexuality, and her future as a force of destruction.
Before the darkness of the next two seasons descend though, the central tone of the episode is much lighter – the characters get into various scrapes, but it’s all humourous and there is no real threat or danger. It’s the utter confusion and chaos between each character, and the reactions of each character to what is happening which brings the laughs. The dialogue is whipsmart and fast-paced, the look on the face of Buffy when she announces she’s getting married, the cute flirting which goes on, and the shocked faces of Xander and Giles are perfect, while references to Wind Beneath My Wings, wedding invitations, and other plans are gold.
Favourite Moment: Xander’s triple question reaction to Buffy’s engagement.
Well, of course this one was going to be here. From a gimmick point of view, from a novelty standpoint, it’s a critical darling. For me though, it was superb writing and plenty of chills, and builds upon the gimmick of no sound by having the plot and character interaction play just as important a role – lesser shows have attempted the same sort of thing, but have failed miserably. Hush is a clear fan favourite too, appearing on probably every fan’s top 10 episodes. It is almost the perfect Monster Of The Week episode – we have a deadly villain who the gang have to investigate and destroy, the characters are put in jeopardy, and they are acting in an unusually weakened state due to losing their ability to communicate vocally. The particular monster – The Gentlemen, are a particularly memorable bunch – genuinely creepy, and filling the episodes with both dread and jump scares. Indeed, The Gentlemen are frequently voted as the best, and most terrifying bad guys in the whole of Buffy. Their gaping, razor-toothed grins, their silent floating, the calm and… happy way they go about their horrific business, all makes a memorable whole. The fact that they steal your voice and surgically rip out your heart helps too. However, as much as I love them, I don’t find them as terrifying as most fans – I find them quite jovial. I’m actually more disturbed by their bandaged henchmen – wobbling disfigured humanoid creatures who twist and spin about wildly, doing the bidding of their masters. What’s their story? Are they reanimated former victims – tortured into a future of blind obedient horror?
The episode pulls together a bunch of dangling threads from the Season so far – the group have been split this Season more than before, with new friends joining the fold and others leaving or featuring less. Certain members feel like they have metaphorically lost their voice already, and it takes something as drastic as the mass void of sound to make the group come together and flow as a unit like in earlier Seasons. Spike is dealing with being neutered by bitching and annoying everyone, Giles is trying to adapt to no longer being a librarian and having less contact with Buffy, Anya is annoyed that Xander can’t vocalize his love, while Willow is growing frustrated that she doesn’t have an outlet for her growing magical talent, and that the Wicca group is more interested in chat than action. Buffy and Riley are also looking for action of a different kind, but their respect secret identities are getting in the way of their relationship. By the time the episode ends, Buffy and Riley’s secrets are revealed to each other Willow has found a peer in Tara, Giles is left alone again, and Anya and Xander continue having sex.
The episode is notoriously inventive – with the Scoobies having to use a projector to discuss their investigative thoughts in one of the show’s best scenes. For a show known in its early years for witty dialogue, it was a brave move to abandon one of its best qualities for much of the episode. The show relies heavily on sound, with music being an important emotive force – again this is largely cut and replaced with a chilling, effective suite with fairytale qualities. It is apt that Buffy’s scream destroys the monsters, and apt again that having finally found her voice again, she is still unable to speak with Riley at the end. It’s a triumph by what was one of the most talented teams in TV.
Favourite Moment: A toss-up (ahem) between Buffy’s staking motion mime, Anya’s sex mime, and of course, those lovely drawing by Giles.
This Year’s Girl
Remember school? Remember Season 3? Remember Faith? For fans watching for the first time, the question of whether or not Faith would ever return is finally answered in this episode in the affirmative. If there’s one thing the appearance of Eliza Dushku’s Faith does for an episode, it’s increase the energy. Her boundless energy screams across the screen, giving everything urgency, and her fight scenes with Buffy are always a highlight – usually more violent and action packed than other fights. We get plenty of energy and urgency in this episode – the first part of a two parter – a two-parter that also features as a crossover with Angel.
The episode beings with a dream sequence – we’ve had a few of these before and we know that a Slayer’s dreams are often portents. We do get foreshadowing here (little sis) and the dream ends violently with Buffy stabbing Faith. We learn that this is actually Faith dreaming, still in a coma, and these dreams, or nightmares, appear to be frequent occurrences – another dream later in the episode features The Mayor and Faith having a picnic, a touching moment, but ruined when Buffy appears, kills The Mayor and again stabs Faith, but Faith later overcomes Dream Buffy and wakes from her coma. While all this is going on, we have the side story of Buffy and Riley chatting about their work and choices, while Willow and Tara get closer. All of this culminates in a superb couple of sequences – Faith watching the video of The Mayor, and Faith’s sudden attack on Buffy at campus, and capping it all off, a brutal fight in Buffy’s house where we learn that the pair have switched bodies.
Much of the episode feels like a prologue to Who Are You, but we get a lot of insight into Faith’s character here. It feels like a goodbye for Faith’s story from the previous Season – we have watched Buffy and Co gradually move away from High School over the course of the Season, but Faith has to do that in the span of a single episode – she learns that she lost, that her truest father figure is dead, and that Buffy seems to still live in a rosy paradise. The dream sequences are interesting – it’s nice to see Faith as the victim and Buffy as the monster.
Favourite Moment: Although Tara’s attempts at punches are pretty funny, that fight scene at the end is epic, one of the most violent in the show’s history, and ends with an awesome twist.
Who Are You
We pick up pretty much immediately from where we left off – Buffy and Faith have switched bodies – Faith is living it up with Joyce and The Scoobies, and Buffy has been taken away in an ambulance, then a police car, then an armoured track driven by Watcher’s Council members – it’s tough being popular. Faith… explores Buffy’s body…. and then variously interacts with the gang, shocking Tara, voice sexing Spike, and sex sexing Riley. Throughout these interactions we watch the gradual disintegration of Faith – each time someone shows her kindness or gratitude, it rattles her, bringing out unexpected feelings of guilt and happiness. This confusion leads her to want to get away from everything, first fleeing to the airport, but then returning to rescue hostages of Adam’s vampire group. It’s a nice way to both finish off Faith’s early storyline, and set up her redemption arc.
While Faith is growing, Buffy needs to use her skills to evade the Watcher’s Council. Learning that they are going to kill her, she beats them and escapes, leading to a humourous encounter with Giles, where she reminds him of his body switching, mother lovin’ past. Once again Buffy and Faith clash, with Faith (as Buffy) destroying Buffy (as Faith) in the midst of a breakdown. Buffy gets the upper hand, switching bodies again, while Faith escapes. We meet up with Faith again in LA, where she clashes with Angel and the gang, eventually turning towards the righteous path in a story that echoes Angel’s own past.
This is a wonderful episode for the fans, with a bunch of important continuity and references which reward long time viewers. There is character growth, largely on Faith’s part, we get more of Tara meeting the gang, we get some funny moments, more crushing fights, and two amazing performances from Gellar and Dushku – once again the actors on this show are incredible. This current run of form in the 4th Season is remarkable -it’s just a pity that we didn’t get a decent Big Bad to truly spark fear or emotional concern.
Favourite Moment: Faith trying out Buffy’s body in the mirror – that’s gots to be everyone’s favourite scene, right?
Woo hoo, another event episode, the middle part of the Season’s ‘Event Trilogy’. Hush had no dialogue, Restless is a Lynch inspired mess, while Superstar flips the Buffyverse on its head, giving an alternate vision of Sunnydale – a Sunnydale where our little friend Jonathan is a hero which men, women, and Slayers worship. It’s a fun episode, taking us back the central comedy stylings of the series. This episode seems to get a lot of criticism from fans, mostly because they don’t like Jonathan – I’ve always liked Jonathan, but again this is another well written piece of comedy, another interesting look at one of the most important, long serving side characters, and features laid-back, fun performances from all.
The episode sees Jonathan casting a spell on Sunnydale which turns him into a Superstar – actor, musician, demon-slaying hero, military mastermind, all-round genius, and ladies man, with everyone worshipping him. This leads to a lot of humour and interesting interaction, but it isn’t long before the gang realises that something isn’t quite right. It’s interesting that Adam is able to see through the lie immediately, the spell not impacting him, and equally interesting that the gang is able to remember the events and the feelings after the spell is destroyed. There is a fair amount of foreshadowing, with the gang learning of a potential weakness of Adam’s, with Jonathan learning, and showing some skill with magic – not to mention his continuing desire to bend the world to the way he wants it to be and need to be part of a loving family.
Overall this is a silly, throwaway episode, but one with a lot of fun antics and nods to pop culture, such as Jonathan starring as Neo in The Matrix. It’s not the strongest of the alternate reality episodes, but it’s nice to see a Jonathan-centric episode, and always funny watching the group react to bizarre changes.
Favourite Moment: Giles admitting he has a Jonathan swimsuit calendar.
The strangest finale of any Buffy series, and the strangest episode in all of the Buffy/Angel canon, Restless is a critic’s dream – an experimental episode merging dreams, foreshadowing, memories in a non-linear structure, wrapped around a loose plot and filled with memorable, cryptic dialogue, and even more memorable, cryptic imagery. It’s the stuff that bad essays are written on. Call it Lynchian, call it weird – it all at once is skippable and unmissable, unimportant and vital.
After an action packed, but emotion-lite true finale in Primeval where the group dispatched of Adam thanks to an uber-joining-spell, the Scoobies meet at Buffy’s house for a night of relaxing, movies, and chat. The group fall asleep and begin having strange dreams – the episode showing us the dreams of Willow, Xander, Giles, and Buffy in succession. The dreams flow like actual dream, with reality bending wildly, and characters appearing and disappearing without explanation, and saying and acting in strange ways. In each dream it appears that the dreamer is being stalked by a malevolent force, each dream ending with the dreamer being killed. It turns out that The First Slayer is not impressed by Buffy, woken by the joining spell in the previous episode, and is punishing her by killing her friends. In a Nightmare On Elm Street inspired ending, Buffy mentally defeats her foe, and everyone wakes up and discusses. The episode ends with Buffy staring, confused into her bedroom while Tara’s voice from Buffy’s dream again says that Buffy has no idea what is coming.
Phew, as mentioned, there are many terrible essays about this episode, and many well written pieces made by people much better and more dedicated than me. They go into minute detail on each dream, each word, incident, colour, speck. I won’t be doing that here, but I’ll cover briefly the main points in each dream, starting with Willow. Willow’s dream, like those of the others, centres on fear, her fear being that she could return to the mousey, nervous, no-friends Willow of the past after growing into a strong, independent woman. Willow is transported back to school, long hair, loser clothes and all, and is put on stage again recalling some Season 1 antics and fears. Willow eventually is attacked by The First Slayer and has her spirit sucked away. Xander fears are also adolescent and mirror many he has shown throughout the season – that everyone else is moving on while he is trapped in a loop, never maturing, never leaving his parents’ basement. Also punctuating the dream is, of course, a bunch of sex, with the notorious line ‘Do you wanna come in the back with us’ escaping censorship. He eventually has his heart pulled out.
Giles sings and acts as a father figure in his dream, one which is more concerned about anxiety than fear, and as he works out what is going on, the First Slayer removes his head. Buffy’s dream features a cryptic-speak Tara, a wall-living Joyce, a Dictator Riley, and various other quick-fire interactions before she confronts the First Slayer and defeats her. Buffy’s dream foreshadows her own death, the death of her mother, and the appearance of Dawn, and the episode acts (only upon recollection) as a nice bridge into the much darker 5th Season. It would have been nice if some of the other characters from previous seasons had made an appearance – Angel, Cordelia, Amy, Miss Calendar, Faith, even Larry were all meant to appear, but were eventually written out or replaced later. As tragic as that is, it’s great to see Oz and Snyder for one last time, and Harmony pops up in an amusing cameo. An utterly confusing episode for a newcomer, but wonderfully rewarding for the long time fan, especially on re-watch. I remember enjoying this first time around, and of course being a little bemused by it all, but it’s an episode that grows in stature with each watch. Oh, there’s also some moron with cheese.
Favourite Moment: Probably something from Xander’s dream, either the cool sets that he runs and crawls and climbs through only to keep appearing in his basement, or Snyder’s Col. Kurtz scene.
Well, there you have it – my favourite episodes in Season 4. The laughter is done, and all we have left to look forward to is darkness, death, and despair, otherwise known as Seasons 5, 6, and 7. Chime in below with your favourite episodes from Season 4, and your favourite moments. And don’t forget to check out the other Season recaps here:
Please note – the following hilarious translations are not the same as the equally hilarious misheard lyrics, nor are they actual translations currently out there in Pop Land. All I have done is taken a famous song and slapped the lyrics into one of the famous (ly bad) Internet Translation tools – translated from English into Korean, then back into English, with hilarious results. I picked Korean because, based on previous experience, it seems to struggle in the funniest way with the English language, and vice versa. Each week, I’m going to select some of the most famous songs of all times, of recent times, and throw in a few obscure favourites too, all for your enjoyment! Lets start the laughter right now!
Posh twat James Blunt’ s disturbing ode to voyeurism inexplicably shot to the top of charts around the world in 200? and stayed there for a remarkable 12 years and 37 days. While clearly thieving from The Incredible Hulk theme tune, Blunt’ s warbling was pleasing to ugly people everywhere, and his message of… something… resonated with bewildered millions. I think it’s about time we reminded ourselves just how horrible this song is, and maybe get some new mileage out of it.
My life is brilliant. My love is pure. I saw an angel. Of that I’m sure.
She smiled at me on the subway. She was with another man. But I won’t lose no sleep on that, ’cause I’ve got a plan.
There must be an angel with a smile on her face when she thought up that I should be with you.
But it’s time to face the truth, I will never be with you.
My life is amazing. My love is pure. I saw the angel. I’m sure of that.
She smiled at me on the subway is. She was with another man.
Cause I got a plan, but ‘will not lose sleep it is.
You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are in fact, beautiful.
I’m not sure I saw your face in a crowded place, And I do not know what. Cause I’ll never be with you.
In the example that we walked by, she caught my eye.
I could see from my face that I was fucking her.
And I do not think I can see her again, But we shared a moment lasts until it eventually.
You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are in fact, beautiful.
I’m not sure I saw your face in a crowded place, And I do not know what. Cause I’ll never be with you.
You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are in fact, beautiful.
You must be an angel with a smile on her face, I should be with you when she thinks.
But time to face the truth, I will not be with you.
It’s difficult to imagine James Blunt taking time to care about his lyrics. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine James Blunt actually exists. Through the Spac Hole though, there exists untold versions of Blunt, and in the one above he has presented his thoughts in an ill-advised, all to rapey fashion. I can’t imagine it is overly pleasant to catch someone’s eye while passing by and realise that they are fucking you, even if it is a celeb. He does seem genuine(ly creepy) in is assertions that you are, in fact beautiful, though it’s unclear if you means ‘you’re beautiful, despite what everyon else says’ or ‘you’re beautiful, and when I was following you home I wasn’t sure that you actually were’. In the end though, he flips the Shymalan final line twist of the original where Blunt comes to the realisation that he’ll never see this woman again, this woman who apparently was made for him, and in this version deals a blow to her face by telling HER, that she must face the truth because he will not be with her. Nice.
I’ll Never Tell
Mutual hatred and mistrust is an unspoken given in any relationship, and bitter, angry old man Joss Whedon dedicates 3 minutes of his greatest work – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – to discussing this issue, via the gift of song. While unlikely to ever be played as any newly married couple’s first dance, Whedon’ s ditty is bound to lend itself well to hilarious translation.
This is the man that I plan to entangle, isn’t he fine? My claim to fame was to maim and to mangle, vengeance was mine!
But I’m out of the biz, the name I made I’ll trade for his. The only trouble is… I’ll never tell.
She is the one, she’s such wonderful fun, such passion and grace. Warm in the night, when I’m right in her tight… embrace – tight embrace!
I’ll never let her go. The love we’ve known can only grow. There’s just one thing that… no. Cuz there’s nothing to tell.
He snores. She wheezes. Say ‘housework’ she freezes. She eats these skeezy cheeses that I can’t describe.
I talk, he breezes. She doesn’t know what pleases. His penis got diseases from a Chumash Tribe.
The vibe gets kind of scary. Like she thinks I’m ordinary. Like it’s all just temporary. Like her toes are kinda hairy.
But it’s all very well. Cuz Go knows I’ll never tell.
When things get rough he, just hides behind his Buffy. Now look he’s gettin’ huffy cuz he knows that I know.
She clings, she’s needy, she’s also really greedy. She never…His eyes are beady.
This is my verse, hello? She… Look at me! I’m dancing crazy!
You know you’re quite the charmer. My knight in armor.
You’re the cutest of the Scoobies, with your lips as red as rubies, and your firm yet supple tight embrace! He’s swell. She’s sweller. He’ll always be my feller. That’s why I’ll never tell her that I’m petrified.
I’ve read this tale, there’s wedding then betrayal. I know there’ll come the day I’ll want to run and hide.
I lied. I said it’s easy. I’ve tried, but there’s these fears I can’t quell.
Is she looking for a pot of gold. Will I look good when I’ve gotten old?
Will our lives becomes too stressful if I’m never that successful?
When I get so worn and wrinkly that I look like David Brinkley
Am I crazy? Am I dreamin? Am I marrying a demon? We could really raise the beam in making marriage a Hell
So thank Gold I’ll never tell. I swear that I’ll never tell.
My lips are sealed. I take the fifth. Nothin’ to see! Move it along! I’ll never tell!
This is the man I want to do well, he entangled?
Reputation plurality mine, as though my argument was manipulated packets!
I’m in the music industry name, but I’m made to change his. I do not know … The only problem is.
One such wonderful fun and she is such a passion and grace, she said.
I have full right to her warm at night … accept. Tight hug! Love you forever. We know that love can grow there.
No … this is one kind of those. I do not know. Nothing to say cuz.
He snores. Together and she wheezes. Lyrics say, he stopped. Eat this time skeezy cheeses that I can not describe her.
I talk, he winds. She can not find pleasing. With the disease in the Chumash tribe of his penis!
This thing gets scary feeling. I think I like her plain. Like all temporary. I like her hairy toes.
But it’s over very well. God knows I do not know my cousin!
When things get rough, he hides behind his Buffy. Now he ‘Look gettin mad. Cuz he knows that I know.
I’m greedy, she is poor, she is also weak. She is … The beads are not his eyes!
The Hello, Is my verse? She … Look at me! I’m crazy dancing!
You’ll find attractive lump knight in armor you pretty
You, it’s cute lips, Scoobies you like rubies and red And your firm yet supple tight embrace!
He is expanding. She sweller. He will always be my feller. I told her why I’m not a drunk.
I read this story and delivering a wedding. I would run and hide I’m coming days.
I easily said, lying. I tried, but these fears can not I fighting this.
Are you looking for the pot of gold she? Will I look good when you’ve long?
What we did not value the life that I have successfully become too stressful?
When you get too worn and wrinkled, like David Brinkley I?
Am I crazy? “Where am I dreamin? I am married with the devil?
You can raise the beam to create the wedding we really hell. So you can not say that I thank God. I swear I’ll never tell.
My lips are sealed. I am the fifth in! “Nothing to see! Move it! I do not know!
Although the problems between Anya and Xander are largely manipulated and exaggerated from genuine concerns into something much more, we can tell from the original I’ll Never Tell that the problems and fears are many, but unspoken and possibly imaginary. In the translation’s first line we find out that they are confirmed – Xander is insecure, has always been a loser, in school, and work, and he is afriad that if he doesn’t have a successful career (especially given Anya’s fanatical capitalist leanings) that she will drop him. Her first line here is telling – ‘Here is the man I want to do well’ – in other words, she does want him to be a success. Any attempt at further sense is lost as her argument becomes ‘manipulated packets’, whatever that is. She always was a little loopy. As is the way with these translations, within moments, utter insanity ensues, the 4th wall implodes, and nothing is right – ‘Lyrics say he stopped’ eh? ‘I am the fifth in’ – wha? ‘The beads are not his eyes’ – no idea.
The only genuine insights we can uncover are from Xander, although he is clearly confused – ‘I think I like her plain’ to ‘I like her hairy toes’. ‘She is poor, she is also weak’ is fairly insulting, while ‘I told her why I’m not a drunk’ reveals more about coming episodes that he knows. All in all, it’s a mess of innuendo and bizarre cut-ups of half-falsehoods. Still, it’s pretty funny.
In honour of the recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.
I’ve split my list into several parts as there are over 60 episodes, and no-one should be expected to read such a long list in one lunch-time sitting (for those of you reading this when you should be working – hey! Get back to that inbox – those emails aren’t going to reply to themselves… yet…). I’ve done the list in series order, as it is too difficult to make a Buffy list in order of importance – I don’t think there is really an episode I don’t like, and that includes Beer Bad. I either like them, love them, or worship them. I may revisit at a later to give more info on every episode, and why j’adore them so much, but until then, let us join hands and walk through the fire together, and remember our dear friend, Buffy Summers.
You should probably take a bit of a breather from Buffy after the emotional fun and games of Season 2. Not too long though, as I’m sure you will want to know what has been happening to our pals in Sunnydale. Where did Buffy go? How did the Scoobies cope without her? Will she even come back? Have the bad guys taken over the town now that it is Slayer-less? Not to mention all of the budding relationships on the show. Season 3 answers all these questions in the first few episodes, possibly too quickly for some fans, but that’s because we have bigger issues to deal with – Season 3 issues. Namely, a new Big Bad, a new apocalypse (or 2), and a new slayer! Season 3 is probably the most popular season of Buffy, balancing that blend of humour, danger, and plot brilliantly, and delivering a consistent run of excellent episodes. It probably has some of the best fight scenes in the whole series, easily has some of the best standalone episodes, and while the sheer emotional weight has decreased from Season 2, it has better writing and less throwaway episodes.
Faith, Hope, And Trick
The first two episodes of Season 3 deal with the aftermath of Season 2’s events, specifically Buffy being expelled, killing her beloved, being thrown out of her home, chased by the cops, and leaving town, and neatly (or hastily – depending on which camp you fall into) wrapping up her return and the questions over what everyone has been up to for the last few months. Though they are good episodes, particularly Anne, they feel like a holdover from Season 2. In other words, they are crossover episodes, they are old news. Three episodes in and we are waiting for something new to happen, something bold, something to signify that Season 3 is truly getting underway. And with this episode, we get a host of NEWNESS, including Faith, Hope, and Trick, and a big, dirty cliffhanger too!
So, all appears well again in Sunnydale with the kids focussing on school, the Bronze, boyfriends, girlfriends, and Buffy is trying, as always to have a normal life. Enter Scott Hope, a nice, normal chap, who just wants some Summer(s) luvin’. Buffy seems more keen though on trying to get back into school. After celebrating he re-acceptance into Sunnydale High, we bump into Faith, slaughtering a vampire with relish, who promptly introduces herself and floors us and the Sccobies. Elsewhere, we meet the lovely Mr Trick and Kakistos, a vampire and demon combo, merging old school ways with the uber-stylish stylings of 90s LA. Mr Trick is the first ‘modern’ vampire we’ve seen who has truly embraced the fashions, ways, technologies of the day.
Favourite Moment: Faith’s entrance and another classic Buffy reaction.
Season 3 probably contains the majority of the fan favourite standalone episodes, and Band Candy is right up there with the best. Everyone’s favorite bumbling ointment fly Ethan Rayne is back to cause more chaos, and in doing so gives us some of the biggest and most memorable laughs in the series. Thanks to some scrumdiddlytastic candy, that classic parents-believing-they-are-kids trope is invoked, and suddenly The Scoobies have to be the adults. Like many of the ideas which have been used in TV shows since Merlin clenched his bum cheeks and created TV, it is a premise which the writers and cast of Buffy make fresh and unique. We are so invested in these characters by this point that any change is thrilling, hilarious, or heart-breaking. After two seasons of Buffy, who wouldn’t want to see what Joyce and Giles were like when they were young? And who the hell wouldn’t laugh their ass off at Snyder’s ill-favoured, joyous attempts at fitting in?
There is too much to mention in Band Candy that makes me laugh, I’ll just say that the whole crew go away above on beyond here. Special credit must go to Head, Sutherland, and Shimmerman though for their great performances. It is obvious that they relish the opportunity to break free of their respective stuffy characters, but the writers give them such brilliant dialogue and back story that the actors couldn’t help but excel. It isn’t a hugely important episode, we do get another glimpse of The Mayor, but it is the sort of episode you can stick on out-of-order and still enjoy as much as you would on a series rewatch.
Favourite Moment: Snyder tagging along… every moment is comedy gold.
One of the most memorable standalone episodes in the entire 7 year run is one which takes place largely in an alternate Universe (one which is returned to later in Season 3). The alternate version of reality is a common trope, but as this is Buffy we have a variety of twists on the template – namely that the focus is not on the main character (and also that the character whose focus the episode does centre on is killed in the episode!). Cordelia is understandably pissed after the Xillow (Xandow?) incident and decides that all the recent problems in her life can be traced to Buffy arriving in Sunnydale. Sparking up a friendship with new student Anya, Cordy mentions that she wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. To everyone’s (no-one’s) surprise, there is evil afoot and Anya is actually a demon who grants vengeful wishes by scorned women. Cordy is spun away to an alternate Sunnydale which Buffy has never been to. Now the fun really begins.
The first part of this episode is mostly fallout from the previous, and it’s nice to see so much focus on Cordelia as the injured party, rather than Xander and Willow (although they get their moments here too, both in human and vamp form). However, it is the second half which is legendary, with Willow and Xander as an undead couple, The Master back in charge with Angel as his play-thing, and with Giles and a small group of White Hats valiantly holding off the inevitable end of the world. To add to the carnage, Xander and Willow kill Cordelia, but not before she gives Giles just enough information about Buffy and The Wish to bring the episode to its conclusion. This second half is so packed with ideas, humour, scares, and details for geeks like me to harp on about for decades, that it’s understandably an episode which is always listed in any fan’s favourites.
Favourite Moment: The final, masterful battle scene with an uncaring Buffy not flinching as Angel dies (again) and watching our former friends tearing each other to shreds. It would have been a wonderful catharsis if it had have been real.
Aah, Christmas – it’s the most wonderful time of the year, so I’ve heard. Over in Sunnydale though, the land of perpetual scorching sun, I imagine the festivities are lacking. This episode is filled with Christmas cheer, Buffy style – with vengeful spirits of days past, remorseful vampires trying to kill themselves, dead trees, camping, heartfelt gestures and attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation, the re-kindling of relationships, and the first appearance of… The First. Amends isn’t an episode which stands out with moments of LOL humour, or toe-curling terror, but is rather a character-centric episode, focusing on the pain and rehabilitation of several of the team, hence the title. Angel is plagued by nightmares, trying to seek help from the understandably tense Giles, Oz and Willow try to make up, Cordelia is still keeping her distance, while Buffy reaches out to Faith, and it all culminates in a fierce, fantastic, scene between Buffy and Angel. This ending, though Deus Ex Machina, is a highlight of the series, but the best moments are the reappearance of Robia La Morte as The First, in the guise of Jenny Calendar. These are chilling and poignant.
Favourite Moment: Robia La Morte’s back… yay!
BTVS has always been a fine example of merging fantasy and reality – of keeping a ridiculous concept grounded in the mundane facts of everyday life we all encounter. Often the most haunting moments of the series come when the fantasy elements cross the thin line and become almost fully intertwined with the world we understand and exist in – as Willow says earlier in the show – ‘ I’m not okay. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day. And when I walked in there, it… it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.’ The show is most scary when it’s believable, when our truest, most unspoken fears are shoved in our faces and we’re forced to look back. Gingerbread takes a typical Buffy idea, but twists things just enough that is becomes uncomfortable to watch – we are uneasy with the honesty which the story conveys and made to squirm by the fact that these things do happen.
The episode begins with Joyce deciding to help out her daughter’s latest slayage outing, and unsurprisingly this is awkward. Things take a turn for the worse when Joyce stumbles upon the bodies of two young children – sparking an investigation for The Scoobies and a literal Witch-hunt for Joyce and Sunnydale’s other absent/concerned parents. The main drama from the episode comes from the clashing of these two groups and the gnawing sense that the situation and unvoiced fears between the two groups will combust.
Aside from all the main plot antics and progression of Buffy and Joyce’s relationship, we see Amy turning into a rat amidst a lot of Witchcraft growth for Willow, discussion on censorship and persecution, and one of my favourite kills in the entire series – see favourite moment below. Again, you probably won’t find this episode appearing on many lists of best episodes, but as with many 2-3 season outings it has that perfect blend of writing and characterisation, humour, horror, and drama, and light versus dark that later seasons do not match.
Favourite Moment: Gellar’s delivery of the line ‘Did I get it? Did I get it!?’
There are some things Buffy should constantly be wary of – Public Holidays and Birthdays being right at the top of the list. It wasn’t enough that her 17th Birthday saw her losing her ‘Innocence’ and the man she loved, but a mere year later and fate is playing its dirty tricks again. Unknown to Buffy, The Watchers Council has had an essentially pointless, archaic ritual for countless years and that on her 18th Birthday she is forced to go through with it. Although this ritual is horrific, and almost causes her to lose her life, it causes irreparable damage to her relationship with Giles – the only true grown-up she has been able to put almost unwavering faith in. It’s another way in which Buffy is forced into adulthood unnaturally, and without her having any choice in the matter.
This is a rough time for Buffy, not only because she is betrayed by her main father figure – but also because her actual father abandons her in favour of his job/secretary. Luckily, things work out well in the end with Giles losing his job as Watcher, but in the same moments becoming her de facto Father. Special praise should go to Harris Yulin as the ever slimy Travers, and the excellent Jeff Kober as a freakishly horrifying vampire that Buffy is forced to fight. This is another episode which is rarely mentioned by fans or critics, but it is one which is uniquely important in setting up and cementing certain dynamics.
Favourite Moment For some reason, when Kralik licks his lips.
A definite contender for my all-time favourite episode, and for a long time during the first televised run of BTVS I frequently called this my favourite to anyone who would listen and many who wouldn’t. Now, a lot of people have a downer for Xander and have a dubious hatred for any Xander-centric episodes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t genuinely enjoy this anarchic episode. Featuring a day in the life of Xander, we get to see the life through his perfectly normal, loner, geeky sex-scorched adolescent male eyes. Often the most useless member of the Scoobies, but also often the most overlooked and unfairly despised, Xander rarely gets to save the day on his own, but here he gets the chance – mainly because he is ignored by the rest of the group who are busy dealing with some hilariously vague apocalyptic battle – points for the show poking fun at its own ridiculous, high-concept ways. Not only is this one of the most chaotic, fast-moving episodes of the entire series, it’s also one of the funniest, and features many moments which honour Xander and (should have?) further (ed) his character.
Xander has just split from Cordelia, his fault of course, but he’s feeling pretty down about things. Cordelia is back to her best barb throwing self and naturally, Xander is at the top of her list of targets. Just a few weeks ago he was pretty high in the pecking order of the Scoobies and, for the first time, in school. But now he’s at the bottom again. The best way to gain some quick self-esteem and find your place in the world once more? Have a day of wacky adventures which include raising the dead, zombie-car chases, losing your virginity, and saving the school from large explosions. It’s like the Good Book says – if you don’t like this, you’re an idiot.
Favourite Moment: Xander’s driving beheads one of the zombie gang.
After a Xander-centric episode where he gets himself into various scrapes due to feeling down, we get basically the same situation but for Willow. Willow has been feeling bad after the issues with Oz and Xander, for being dumped on by Snyder and Percy, and for being seen as ‘Old Reliable’ by her friends. Meanwhile Anya is sick of being human, mortal, and horny. These two ladies clash (as they will continue to do over the years) and somehow the Vampire Willow from the Buffy-less alternate version of Sunnydale as seen in The Wish is pulled into this reality.
Again, this is a standout episode in terms of plotting, comedy, and performances, with Hannigan arguably giving her best performance of the 7 years. Much has been said about the multiple roles she plays here, it is superb, and the writing really gives her the freedom to move. It’s another vital episode in Willow’s growth and we get hints at what is in store for her in the future, in terms of magic and sexuality. Not a lot of the other characters get much time or growth, but pretty much every appearance and encounter is packed with laughs. A clear fan favourite.
Favourite Moment: When everybody thinks that Willow is dead and Willow appears – great dialogue, great looks between the cast.
For a number of reasons, hardcore Buffy fans suggest that newcomers to Buffy (or people who haven’t yet seen it but want to be convinced) should watch this episode first as a sample – to see if they like it, then start from episode one. It does have some major highlights, it’s tense, gripping, funny, emotional, topical, clever, and respectful, and of course the writing is dead-on and the performances a wonder. Anyone reading this will know that the episode coincided with the Columbine tragedy, and due to the subject matter, was pulled from the schedule for a few months. The episode deals with (not unlike any Season 1-3 episode) someone or something wanting to kill school kids, but here it is assumed that it is a pupil who is going to do the damage. One of the final scenes sees a student with a rifle in the clocktower. However, this is one of the most well-handled ‘issues’ episodes of BTVS and is genuine, realistic, and sympathetic. It’s an episode which supports those who have encountered tragedy or who are feeling suicidal.
The gist of the story is that Buffy gets some demon spunk all up inside her and gains some interesting additional superpowers. Namely, she can read people’s thoughts. This leads to many funny moments, and both Gellar and Buffy have a lot of fun. However, as great power comes with great annoyances, these thoughts soon become deafening and Buffy begins to lose it. She also hears one voice rising above the rest which threatens to kill everyone in the school.
The episode, like so many others, handles a wide variety of genres and tones flawlessly. We move from action to comedy to horror to good cop/bad copy to gut wrenching drama. Everything is genuine, from the heartfelt speeches to the pant-splitting laughs (twice!?)
Favourite Moment: The entire clock tower scene with Buffy and Jonathon is one of the best in the show’s run.
The calm before the storm; the sex scene before the machete through the neck. Overall it’s a strange episode – more of a loose-end-tying-up episode than anything else, acting as a prologue to the finale and it could be argued that this and Graduation Day could really have been a three-parter. To bulk this into a fully-fledged standalone episode, we get a throwaway plot about disgruntled student Tucker, who wants to ruin the Prom by training demon dogs to attack anyone wearing formal wear. It’s all very silly, but luckily it’s played well and isn’t much of a distraction from the central action.
With everyone that has happened between Buffy and Angel, Angel decides that the two of them cannot be together and decides to break it off. Some effect nightmares and prodding from Joyce help him make this decision, and naturally Buffy is heartbroken. Elsewhere, Xander takes pity on Cordelia, Oz and Willow are cute, and Anya tried to remember what it is to be human, while Wesley and Giles try to out – out-of-place – each other – Wesley wins. Buffy is determined through all of this, and with another apocalypse on the horizon, to make sure her friends have one perfect evening. It all leads to the final few scenes at the Prom where the students do indeed get their perfect evening, none more so than Buffy, who is awarded the worst looking Umbrella thing I have ever seen, and is lauded by the many people whose lives she has saved countless times. And Angel comes back for one last dance.
Favourite Moment: I think we can all agree that there can only be one, and that of course is Buffy receiving the class protector award after Jonathon’s speech – a lump in the throat moment if there ever was one, a great unspoken honour finally given a voice, and a fitting send off for our beloved Slayer.
Graduation Day Parts 1 and 2
For this two-parter there isn’t a lot to separate the two pieces, it’s more like a mini movie – season arc plot lines come to a head, several beloved, and some not so beloved characters lose their lives, others leave, some are left with uncertain futures, and those who escape and overcome can sigh a huge breath of relief having made it through school in one piece.
The gang know that the Mayor plans his Ascension on Graduation Day and begin their usual round of Scoobying to work out if there is any way to stop him, before or after he ascends. Anya gives us some scary info on what an Ascension truly means, and what the aftermath can be thanks to prior first hand experience. However, they still have the rogue Slayer Faith to contend with, who not only murders another human, but infects Angel with a lethal poison – the Scoobies are diverted now with their ranks split by having to deal with two threats. The first part dramatically ends with Buffy apparently killing Faith and losing her best chance at saving Angel – through the blood of a Slayer. Part Two picks up immediately from where we left off, leading to some of the Series’ most dramatic and emotionally charged scenes – Angel drinking from Buffy, the Mayor visiting Faith and Buffy in the hospital, etc. As time runs out, Buffy finally works through her plan – a plan we are not privy to until its execution. You all know what happens, and it’s one of the finest moments in the seven-year run – as every student is armed and fights back against the evil horde. The Mayor ascends, the whole school fights back, Snyder continues the tradition of Principals being eaten, and Buffy kills the Mayor by blowing up the entire school. Metaphors abound. The original gang spends their final moments together before eventually going their separate ways. Tears abound.
As I say below, it’s a perfect ending and if the show had not continued beyond this point, it would have been a great place to stop. As expected, the performances are superb and even some of the more minor characters get their moment in the sun. While it isn’t as haunting or as tearjerking as Becoming or The Gift, it certainly ranks high up the list of most action packed finale. As usual, the fights between Buffy and Faith are the best fights in the series’ history and although the humour meter is sacrificed for drama and plot pacing, there are still some bittersweet funny moments dealing with the end of school life, and the typical sarcastic punning we have enjoyed in the previous years. It’s all change for Season 4 – arguably the funniest season – before we begin our descent into darkness.
Favourite Moment: The final moments between the original gang, looking forward to a (hopefully) brighter future, going separate ways etc. I imagine this will forever resonate with anyone who has survived school, it certainly reminds me of my last days (though mine had slightly fewer explosions). When I was watching I, like the characters had no idea what was to come – I don’t I was even sure if there would be a fourth season. If it had ended here I would have been happy, but I’m glad it continued!
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