Monday, March 17, 2008

Prophecy Girl

Ben says:

Let me introduce you to the Joss Whedon recipe:

1) Introduce us to a bunch of characters
2) Make us love them.
3) F*#k them up.

Over the season we've grown to care about Buffy, Willow and Xander, both as individuals and as a group. this season finale has little of the build up of later ones, but Whedon compensates by taking an axe to our favourite characters' feelings and relationships. We care about all three of our leads, but it's impossible for all three of them to get what they want. The scene where Xander asks Buffy out is heartbreaking, more so because we know how inevitable her answer is. But at the same time our feelings are dragged through the wringer for Willow, who is forced to watch it all and then be asked to be a pawn to make Buffy jealous.

And then of course Buffy herself is thrust into a situation which encapsulates one of the central conflicts of the first season: the choice between being The Slayer and being an ordinary teen. Buffy tries for a while to hang onto the notion that she has a choice, but of course there is no choice at all; like growing up, there is no way to unlearn once you've seen the world as it is. There's no way to close your eyes, to go back to the innocence you once enjoyed.

All of our central characters are given some nice moments, and there is real poignancy at several parts of the episode. We see Buffy moved by Willow's hurt, we see Xander's love overcoming his jealousy, we see Buffy accept her destiny with all the pain it entails. And the victory takes us back to the things we learned in episode one; that what makes Buffy more than any old slayer is the friendships she has formed. It means a lot more now that we've been through a year's worth of adventures, as we've seen the dynamic between the four central characters grow. It's the difference between knowing something and feeling it.

Anyway, it's a fitting end to the series. There wasn't much of an arc in this season compared to those to follow. The big bad is fairly simple, and there aren't a lot of character curveballs. The first season is really about the developing closeness between Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles, and it's that dynamic which makes this episode work, and makes it a fitting finale.

I give it five dead Buffys.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is Young Adult SF/F Too Explicit?

That's the topic of discussion over at the Mind Meld. Check out what Ellen Datlow, Gwenda Bond and others have to say on the matter here

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Out of Mind, Out of Sight

Buffy: If you feel so alone, why do you work so hard at being popular?
Cordelia: Well it beats being alone all by yourself.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight

Ben says:

This season sure pulls out some fantastic metaphors for teenage life. In this episode, Cordelia is threatened by a girl who has been ignored, looked through, brushed aside, so often she became invisible. Who has never known how that felt?

In this episode, though, it’s pushed to extremes. The flashbacks of Marcy’s life are truly heartbreaking, and the fact that even the nice kids like Willow and Xander don’t remember her make the story even sadder. Marcy is probably the most sympathetic psycopath so far.

There’s not quite the same level of drama as the last two episodes, but there are some nice moments, including a rare glimpse into the human side of Cordelia, even if Whedon undercuts it (believably) later on. On the whole, it continues the impression that the show has kicked into gear. It doesn’t really feel like the penultimate episode, but then it’s a short season.

I didn’t entirely buy the use of the X-Files type FBI agents who turn up at the end. It’s clever, but it didn’t feel entirely believable in terms of the Buffyverse. If the FBI are that interested in supernatural occurrences, surely they’d be turning up a lot more often.

There’s not a lot to say about the episode really. It’s a simple, effective metaphor. There’s a little interplay between Willow and Xander that give us a taste of Buffy not quite belonging. I can’t remember if this thread is taken up in later episodes. I guess we’ll find out!

Anyway, we’re about done with Season 1! Roll on the finale!

This one gets three and a half Harmonies rolling down the stairs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Alisa says:

This episode is always an uncomfortable one for me to sit through because it's about fear, and core fear - the fear you don't want anyone else to know grips you in the middle of the night. What if suddenly everyone could see, nay experience, what you feared most? There's some kind of fear in that too - the being stripped naked and judged by what you fear. And the two fears that I really relate to in this episode are Buffy's - becoming that which you most hate (whatever that may actually be) and Willow's. In fact, when I was learning to get over my own fear of public speaking, I once gave a speech that included this very thing - Willow's fear of singing in public from this very episode.

I love this episode but it's not one I enjoy sitting through - there's spiders and clowns and permanent night and *shiver*

New Moon

So, I'm about 200 pages into Stephenie Meyers' New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. Gosh this is a totally different book to the first one, isn't it?

Don't check the comments if you don't want to be spoiled.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Willow: So why is this happening?
Giles: Billy.
Xander: Well, that explanation was shorter than usual. It's Billy!

Ben says:

Wow. This is a classic Buffy standalone, and really a great example of what the early seasons are all about.

A mysterious young boy appears and suddenly everyone's nightmares start coming true.

Simple idea, but it's used here to great effect. Wheden and Greenwalt explore some of the absolute archetypal teenage (and indeed adult) nightmare scenarios: forgetting the history test, turning up to class naked, fear of spiders, fear of clowns, fear of turning up to sing soprano and not knowing the words (or how to sing). There's barely a stone of subconscious paranoia left unturned and there are some great laughs along the way.

But like the best Buffy episodes, this one pulls the rug out from under us, and it gets really dark and sinister, with the gradual revelations regarding Billy's attack, as well as the escalating danger to the others. The moment where Giles encounters Buffy's grave is movingly done, and the finale with the "Lucky nineteen" thing still chills me. It's here that Buffy does what it does best; provides an intersection between the comfort of the fantastic and the horror of real life.

One of the highlights of season 1 for my money, it gets five Singing Willows.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Talent Show

Buffy: Could I have a little support here? I'm not just some crazy person. I'm the slayer!
Xander: The dummy slayer? (awkard silence) There's nothing funny about that.

Ben says:

Okay, let's say this up front. Buffy is right: Ventriloquist dummies are creepy. Any episode with a live puppet who has some kind of control over its master is already several steps ahead in the spooky stakes. Poor old Morgan does such a good job or portraying the fear and confusion created by Sid's life, it's impossible not to feel the freakiness.

This isn't just a scary episode, it's also one of the funniest so far. Any episode that opens with Cordelia singing The Greatest Love of All is gonna have to work hard to top that, but there are some classic lines in this episode. My favourite:

Willow: It could be anyone! It could be me. It's not, though.

And Giles's facial expressions during the auditions alone are worth watching the entire episode for.

We also meet Principal Snyder for the first time, and what a fantastic first episode he gets, describing his predecessor's attitude as "The kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten". This is just one of many awesome lines that Snyder gets. There is also something undeniably sinister about him here. He is set up quite clearly as a fearsome and unpleasant force at the school, and a thorn in Buffy's side.

There are a few clever twists, and we get to see Giles in danger again, which always raises the stakes (Giles or Willow in danger = Ben on edge of seat). And Sarah Michelle Gellar manages to create poignancy out of a scene with a plastic doll... I am actually realising more so this time around than the first time I watched, what a fantastic actress she is.

And I love the ending. "I don't get it. What is it, avant garde?" followed by a very funny rendition of Oedipus the King.

What's not to like about this episode really?

I give it four spooky dummies.


Is anyone out there a fan of Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series?

I just finished Twilight and would love to debrief!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Shiny 2008 Writing Competition Form

Below you can find the form for entry to the Shiny Writing Competition for 2008. Contact the Shiny editors if you have any problems with it or you can't email this into us - for postal or fax information --

I Robot You Jane

Alisa says:

The final scene of this episode pretty much sums up what I love about it:

Willow: "Malcolm. Moloch. Whatever he's called. The one boy that's really liked me and he's a demon robot. What does that say about me?"
Buffy: "Doesn't say anything about you."
Willow: "I mean, I thought I was really falling..."
Buffy: "Hey, did you forget? The one boy I've had the hots for since I moved here? Turned out to be a vampire."
Xander: "Right, and the teacher I had a crush on? Giant preying mantis."
Willow: "That's true."
Xander: "That's life on the Hellmouth."
Buffy: "Let's face it. None of us are ever gonna have a happy, normal relationship."
Xander: "We're doomed!"
Willow: "Yeah!"
(everyone laughs then everyone goes silent)


And that's kinda what Buffy is all about really - the awkwardness of high school, and well, my life, where nothing ever seems to come off just right and everybody else is having the life that you kinda want.

But for me, the main plot is a side issue. I feel bad for Willow that this is the most attention she's ever received from a boy and that maybe that is the reason she is so easily caught off guard by this demon. But ... the rest of this plot is kinda ... yawn ... after the first time you see it.

To me, this episode is all about Miss Calendar! Who rocks! It's about time that another adult joins the circle - it was getting a bit creepy with Giles hanging out mainly with our trio in all his spare time. Surely he needs adult conversation once in a while? Like, about taxes or whatever. And the coolest scene is where he gets up the courage to stammer "there's a demon in the internet" and she calmly looks back, unblinking, and replies "I know". Plus, she's kinda hot.

Of course, her own background story, which is soon to be revealed, does dampen the impact of her being all wiccan and down with the hellmouth and all that on subsequent viewings.

It's kinda like Trent Jamieson's "Small Change"

Thanks to Rachel who sent us in this link to a blog post about another house that had a mysterious room behind a book case.

Check it out here

I can't decide if what was behind the bookcase is more or less creepy than in Trent's story.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I Robot, You Jane

Jenny: Wrong and wrong, snobby. You think the realm of the mystical is limited to ancient texts and relics. Since bad old science made the magic go away? The divine exists in cyberspace, same as out here.

Ben says:

Finally! A Willow story! After a couple of Xander stories it's about time Willow gets some play.

Willow gets herself an internet boyfriend, but her buddies suspect something is not right.

Buffy's overprotective nature is easy to identify with. Willow is just so adorable in these episodes that we immediately feel afraid for her, both physically and, in terms of her recent hurt at Xander's lack of attention, emotionally.

Xander's jealousy is cute, and Buffy has him pegged; "You got used to being the belle of the ball."
There's kind of a dark side to their protective sides too, though. Willow is clearly a little hurt that everyone assumes her love interest must be a psycho, and that's understandable too. Willow wants to believe that she's loveable.

Also, Jenny Calendar! I'd forgotten she appeared this early in the series. It's good to see her interplay with Giles. It would have been easy to give Giles a straw-man opponent in the arguments over technology, but Jenny gives as good as she gets.

Giles: It's been so nice talking to you.
Jenny: We were fighting.
Giles: We must do it again some time.

Jenny, too, is more than she seems, as we discover later in the episode. It's a nice surprise.

Again, this episode suffers a little from being quite linear and predictable. The sense of menace grows but there are few real surprises. Or perhaps I've seen it too many times.

The notion that a scanner can release a demon instead of a human reader is a cool one though.
And as the stakes grow the threat seems scarier. And anytime Willow is in danger the level of drama is immediately raised.

I didn't think the story made as much as it could have of some of the interplay between the scoobies, but then I guess not every episode can. And Willow gets a nice moment of hurt and anger at the end. Also, the final bonding moment between the three leads sharing their doomed relationships with monsters is classic.

I give it three ghosts in the machine.


Willow: So he is a good vampire. I mean, on a scale of one to ten.

Ben says:

Since Alisa has declared her own bias, I'll declare mine.

The first time I watched Buffy season one I hated the Buffy/Angel bits, for two reasons.

1) Any time a show has two leads who are *obviously* going to get together, I don't want them to.

2) Angel is a bit of a romantic lead cliche. "Oh, I'm so dark and mysterious, dangerous with a past, older than you, and I have a terrible secret, and did I mention I work out? And oh man, now my shirt's chafing me, mind if I take it off?"

Yawn. Excuse me while I fetch my barf bag. Why not just rope Tori Spelling in as a romantic interest for Xander and we can flush the whole series down the toilet?

Of course, having seen the rest of the series, I now know that Whedon has more interesting things in mind for Buffy and Angel, and this episode is a lot more interesting when you know some of the things that are being set up here.

This isn't a bad episode. The romantic storyline is set up early and pretty quickly undercut by the revelation of Angel's vampireliness. Gellar gets some good chances to play hurt and she does it well. After Buffy's recent troubles with boys, this one comes as a kick in the teeth, and Buffy's mixed feelings are complex and believable. "What it a joke? To make me feel for you?"

We get some nice interplay from the scoobies, with Xander demonstrating confusion and jealousy and Willow slipping into confidante mode. There are, as Alisa has already listed, some snappy one-liners between the four leads.

This is also the first sense we get of the danger that Buffy's mum is placed in through her lifestyle.

We actually get some nice stuff with the Master, for the first time, really. His place as villain of the season is starting to emerge. Darla is a great character here, serving as the embodiment of Angel's dark past. She's also probably the most threatening vampire we've encountered so far, and helps to give a sense that Buffy's job is going to be tougher than thrust and move on.

I got a bit annoyed with the coincidences; Buffy walking in on Angel holding Joyce, the misunderstanding when Joyce talks about Buffy's "friends". It all got a bit English farce for me at one point.

Despite my Buffy/Angel reservations, the scene where Buffy and Angel confront one another is quite poignant, with their acceptance of life's complexities, chiefly because Sarah Michelle Gellar acts it so strongly.

And the ending is quite nice. So all up, a better episode than I remembered it. Not one of my favourites, but a good arc-building ep with some nice moments.

I give it three tortured souls.


Alisa says:

Okay, I probably should have declared this upfront. I'm a massive Buffy/Angel fan. I mean *massive*. Enormous. The biggest. I love love love love them. And I'm also reading Stephanie Meyers' Twilight right now. So ahh ... yeah that may colour your view of me. I'm a hopeless romantic.

So ... sigh ... now we come to the first big Buffy/Angel episode. Yummy!! OMG - when they are in the kitchen and we see Angel's eagle tattoo? Okay, I'm also a David Boreanaz fan. Mmmmm..... But seriously, all that topless close up action and tension whilst Buffy is finding a bandaid. Yeah, you had me at "take off your shirt". Aside: they just encountered The Three and Angel is hurt - would a bandaid *seriously* sort that out?! But nevermind...

Willow: How is it that you always know all this stuff? I never know this stuff.
Giles: Yes well you weren't here researching it from Midnight to 6am
Willow: No. I was sleeping.

Plot - oh yes, there is one. The Master is grumpy cause there is a Slayer in town messing with all his plans. He sends The Three to take her out. They fail. Then Darla hatches a plan to set Buffy and Angel up so that Angel wil take out the Slayer.

This episode also brings us the first Buffy/Angel kiss and Angel's big revelation. Xander (You're in love with a vampire? Are you out of your mind?) gets a chance to be the moral compass by being the one to point out that Buffy has to kill Angel (although he's somewhat biased in terms of the outcome).

Other memorable moments include the Bronze pre- and post-fumagation parties (What's the difference between this and the prefumigation party - more partier roaches); some early Cordelia/Xander time (It's not true what everyone's saying. You don't look like a hooker in that dress.) And Xander's offer for Buffy to stay at his house till it all "blows over".

One of my all time favourite scenes is the one of the weapons training in the library:
Goodbye stakes, hello flying fatality!

I'm not going to need pads to fight you.

And some really great one-liners:
Buffy: 'A' stands for Ahmed, a charming foreign exchange student.

Cordelia: This is a knock off! This is exactly what happens when you sign these free trade agreements.

The Master: Angel, he was the most vicious creature I ever met. I miss him.

Willow: It is kinda novel how he'll stay young and beautful forever. Although you'll get wrinkly and die. Oh! What about the children?

But there is just so much jam packed into this episode.

Did you think she would look at your face, your true face, and give you a kiss?
For me it hits home what this episode is about with Darla's taunting of Angel. There's so much double speak in that - firstly, the revelation of his secret - his true face - it's the most personal thing you can ever show someone else, who you really are. And it's such a powerful YA theme - high school so often a time for awakening self awareness and the defining of one's identity. And the awkwardness that comes with being an adolescent and not really wanting to be different. That line always reminds me of a scene in Babylon 5 where it's the Minbari tradition to watch one's beloved sleep in order for them to reveal their "true face". But of course there's the other double speak here for "give you a kiss" which also means the bite of a vampire.

In this scene with Darla, we see so much of Angel's past revealed and we begin to see how tortured he is. But it's not till his showdown with Buffy at the end when he just wants her to end it for him (I did it with a song in my heart) that we discover he is in excruciating mental anguish: you have no idea what it's like to have done the things i've done and to care. Which of course makes him all the hotter - to both Buffy, and me!

There's two other great things about this episode I want to touch on. First, it marks the first in the long Buffy tradition of donning the BLACK LEATHER and using the crossbow for all the serious showdowns and duels. Here, both Buffy and Angel don the black leather pants and frankly, it looks *awewsome* in the darkened warehouse against the red pool table. This is also the scene I was thinking of earlier (post from a few back) with Darla and the guns and the staking.

The second thing I want to touch on is that this for me is the first episode where we see the group as a solid entity. When Giles discovers that Darla was involved in the drinking of Buffy's Mum he leaves the room and says to Willow and Xander: We have a problem. The "we" is really touching here because it was Buffy who was the target and Buffy who is on the vengeance gig but the other three are in, no questions asked. This is important, I think, because from the next episode on they start allowing others to know their secret and to join their group.

But still ... you can't beat the heart breaking final scene as Buffy and Angel agree that they cannot continue and that they both have to walk away. Gets me everytime to see Buffy's cross burnt into Angel's chest, over his heart!