Cordelia: we have to achieve our dreams, Amy. Otherwise we wither and die.
Nothing could have turned me off Buffy as a character faster than the knowledge that she wants to be a cheerleader. Fortunately this aspect of the storyline is sidelined for the majority of the episode. It quickly turns to a story of obsession, of one girl’s dangerous desire to win at all costs. It’s also a story of parents’ desire to live through their children, and the pressure they put on them as a result.
Initially I thought this story was a fairly predictable story about a fairly uninteresting subject, but I found myself enjoying it despite myself. The story is genuinely horrific, in particular the awful curses manifested on the competing cheerleaders (that no-mouth girl gives me the creeps to this day!). The acting from Amy and her mum in the latter parts of the episode is actually very good, and creates some nice tension too. The twist got me the first time I saw the episode. Even knowing it was coming it still gave me a little chill, because it was acted so well.
There are some great moments for our regulars too. Buffy singing “Macho Man”, the comic entrance of Willow and Xander at the end of the main fight, the escalating tension between Willow and Xander, and Xander and Buffy (the reflection of Xander’s overlooking of Willow in Buffy’s overlooking of Xander is particularly nice). It was actually the characterisation of Willow and Xander that held my interest through much of the first season.
Witch isn’t the greatest Buffy episode ever. It’s nicely plotted and well acted and directed, but there aren’t the layers that there are in other episodes; it’s pretty A-B-C in terms of what it has to say, and I found my attention waning a little (okay, I’ve watched it three of four times!). It’s a good example of a strong monster-of-the-week horror story with a clever metaphor for teenage life. It’s also, to me, the first indication that Buffy as a show would not be all about vampires, that there’s versatility in the format.
So not a bad episode all told…