Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 22, 2010

Robin’s Review: S1, E03 – The Witch

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 103 – The Witch

Synopsis: Buffy tries out for cheerleading along with Willow’s friend Amy. Neither makes the team but are alternates. One by one other cheerleaders are inflicted with horrible ailments leading Giles to conclude that someone is targeting them with witchcraft. Buffy suspects it is Amy and when Buffy herself falls victim to a spell she and Giles head out to confront Amy’s mother. It turns out Amy’s mother was so obsessed with reliving her youth that she switched bodies with Amy.

The Good: The underlying analogy here is very clear. Instead of presenting a teen drama about parents putting pressure on their children, Amy’s mum does it literally. She actually relives her youth by swapping bodies with her daughter. It’s a clever twist on a familiar story and it is mirrored nicely by the much healthier relationship that Buffy has with her own mother. That relationship manages to give the “moral of the story” without shoving it in viewers’ faces.

The episode also makes it pretty clear how the show is going to operate for the time being. The formula is – monster of the week appears, Buffy and the gang investigate, the threat escalates and then they stop it. It’s a traditional formula and the show does a good job throwing in humour and character development to prevent things from becoming too predictable. The humour is solid ranging from Buffy’s subtle “Jeepers” after sneaking a peak at a fertility statue to the outrageous “that girls on fire!” line (as Amber spontaneously combusts).

The character development revolves around the affection of Willow for Xander and his feelings for Buffy. In classic rejection proof manner he tries to indicate his feelings for Buffy through a gift and can’t quite get her to notice him. Along the way it becomes clear that while she doesn’t see him that way, he too doesn’t see Willow either. Doubtless those relationships will become one of the major points of interest in the show. It was nice to see that Willow wasn’t presented as being spineless though. She was happy to point out why anyone would want to hurt Cordelia and obliviously or not enjoyed likening Xander to an old pen that Buffy didn’t really notice.

The Buffy and Joyce relationship continued to develop in a plausible way. The key line was Buffy ignoring her mother’s suggestion to join the Yearbook staff and simply stating “I’m not you, I’m into my own thing.” I liked their interplay a lot because the secret identity of the slayer stands between them, pushing them apart. Joyce struggles to understand Buffy’s behaviour and Buffy clearly craved a little more attention from her mum. But neither is really possible at this stage. Buffy actually admits to being a vampire slayer while under the influence of the spell which was an interesting moment.

The witch story fleshed out the kind of supernatural occurrences we are bound to see more of. The spells were a nice choice because they were eventually defeated and thus could be explained away as temporary health issues. The skin growing over the mouth was definitely a creepy concept. The show isn’t afraid to point toward a little creepiness with the final shot of Catherine trapped inside her own cheerleading trophy.

The Bad: Cordelia’s blindness was the least convincing part of the episode. It wasn’t clear how her sight was being lost and it made you wonder why she didn’t simply refuse to drive or indeed take her foot of the accelerator. Worse than that though was her standing in front of a truck whose driver could clearly have put the brakes on before running into her. It’s not a big criticism but the show clearly needs to work on its action sequences. The fight with Catherine continued the pilot’s amusing cuts from characters punching one another to flying into walls in the next shot. It was also very convenient that a classroom mirror was able to reflect magic back wasn’t it?

The Unknown: How easy is it to acquire the powers of witchcraft? Catherine had developed telekinesis which is pretty impressive. Is that something anyone could read about in a book?

Best Moment: Xander and Willow offer to help Buffy and she is concerned that they might be put in danger. Xander replies “I laugh in the face of danger, then I hide until it goes away.” It’s easy to forget what a great line that was. Throughout the 90s characters like Chandler (Friends) and Pacey (Dawson’s Creek) were pioneering this type of ironic humour and Xander was very much a part of that. It’s a funny line which also makes him more likeable for his wit and self awareness.

The Bottom Line: A solid concept episode. There was a nice balance between the story of the week and the continuing character development.

63/100

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