Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: "When She Was Bad"

Previously on Buffy: Once again we see are shown that Buffy has a memory. Buffy has been traumatized by season one’s battle with The Master and his family and her behaviour toward everyone reflects this. As in season one Buffy comes to Sunnydale from LA. This time she comes back to Sunnydale after spending the summer with her father.

Welcome Dear Viewers: The “last season on Buffy” segment, now introduced by Head, and Willow’s and Xander’s discussion of their respective summers, re-introduces old viewers and new ones to what happened on Buffy in season one. Nice quick way of doing this.

Into Every Generation is Born: Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles) is now doing the “Into every generation is born…” segment and it is much better, in my opinion, for this.

The Hellmouth: The Hellmouth may have been closed in “Prophecy Girl’ at the end of season one but it is not gone. The Master’s family still remains in Sunnydale led by the prophecy boy, the Anointed One. A vampire who continues to speak in the religiously tinged language of the Master leads the “Anointed One’s” campaign to resurrect the Master. It is this that generates the monster plot of the week on “When She Was Bad”. It also reminds us, however, of the arc of season one and asks us to reflect on what the arc of season two might be.

Scooby Love: Xander’s and Willow’s popular culture fill in the blank game almost results in a Xander/Willow kiss. But then a vampire and Buffy appears (“did you miss me?” she asks them). While Principal Snyder is lecturing Giles about the “joys” of the new school year and the tendency of boys to go all hormonal when a girl walks by Jenny Calendar appears and Giles fixates on Jenny. It appears that Giles is smitten with Jenny. Will there be a Jenny-Giles love arc in season two? Snyder, not knowing that Giles has left him behind, says he “might as well be talking to” himself. Actually he is. I love it when Buffy has dialogue humourously comment on the action of the scene.

Buffy’s Got Her Bitch On: Buffy wails on a vampire in the teaser. Buffy trains more intensely and aggressively than normal in act one destroying her training “dummy” in the process. Buffy is mean to all the Scoobies. She is mean to Angel when he comes into her bedroom and tells her he misses her. Buffy responds in kind but too late. Buffy is mean to Xander. She teases him with a sexy dance at the Bronze asking him if he wishes tha she thanked him (metaphor: sexually) for saving her life. Buffy is mean to Willow. She does a sexy dance with Xander knowing full well it will make her jealous. Willow still has a thing for Xander. (the first and second references to Witness). Buffy is mean to Cordy at Sunnydale High and outside the Bronze after Cordy tells her that at the rate she is going she will not even have her loser friends. Cordy tells her to get over her “Joan Collins tude”. Buffy is mean for a second time to Angel as she falls for the “trap” the Anointed One has set for her. Willow and Xander explain Buffy’s behaviour as the behaviour of someone who “possessed”. Buffy’s Dad says she is just “distant”. Buffy, in reality, is just traumatized thanks to last years battle with the Master and Buffy’s struggles with her slayer calling. At the end of the episode Buffy works out her traumas (“issues”) on the bones of the Master by, as Xander says, smashing them into talcum powder. Xander the sensitive.

Character: Buffy is the first to realize that the Anointed One and his minions are trying to bring the Master “back”. Buffy is smart particularly when it comes to slayer stuff. Cordy is becoming more a part of the Scooby gang. She calls them the “Three Musketeers”. Buffy’s impulsiveness once again affects her and the Scoobies. The Anointed One has tricked Buffy into coming to the Bronze to save Cordy so he can capture Willow and Giles (he already has Jenny and Cordy) and begin his ritual to resurrect the Master. This is not the last time that Buffy’s impulsiveness will have dire consequences in season two (see “What’s My Line”). Buffy’s impulsiveness also had consequences in season one. Consequences for actions is a theme of Buffy. Buffy viciously tortures a vamp in the Bronze by forcing a cross down her throat in order to find out where the Anointed One is holding Jenny, Cordy, Willow, and Giles in order to resurrect the Master. Is this a foreshadowing of Dark Buffy in future seasons?

Foreshadowing: Buffy dreams that the Master is masquerading as Giles and that when he attacks her Willow and Xander do nothing to help her. Buffy tells Willow, Xander, and Giles that she can’t look after them when she is fighting (“this is my fight”, she tells them). Are these foreshadowings of what is to come in season two, the theme that Buffy will, in the final analysis, be forced to rely on her own devices to stop the big bad of season two? Buffy asks Angel if he wants to fight her (“come on, kick my ass” she tells him). Is this a foreshadowing of what is to come in season two? The Angelus and Buffy arc?

Mothers and Daughters: Joyce asks Buffy what is wrong. Buffy doesn’t respond.

Popular Culture: There are tons of popular culture references in this episode. In the teaser alone there are references to the films Terminator, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, and Peter Weir's Witness.

High Art: Cordy talking about art and buildings in Tuscany. Tuscany is where Cordy spent her summer vacation.

Buffy, the Craft of Television, and Money: You can really tell that 16mm stock is being used in the teaser of “When She Was Bad” on DVD’s. Look at all the grain. Buffy didn’t have much money particularly in its early seasons. Whedon once remarked that they only had enough money to build one short piece of the Sunnydale High school hall in the studio during the first season. One of the things that “crystal ball” textualists often fail to take into account is the financial aspects of TV shows. It sometimes seems that those who argue that everything you need to know can be found in the text seem to view financial issues along with in a contextless vacuum. Money or its lack, also, of course, influences a host of other factors from hiring actors to building sets. Anyone interested in systematically analyzing TV shows or films needs to, in my opinion, pay attention to the amount of money a TV show has among other things (authorial intentions, for instance).

Locations: Buffy is still shooting at an actual cemetery. Is Buffy still doing location shooting at Torrance High School in Torrance, California? Location shooting, particularly at night, makes making a show like Buffy even more difficult than it already is (the attempt to bring a cinematic quality added to Buffy’s difficulties). Several of Buffy’s craftspeople and actors have remarked on the long days and long nights that went into the making of Buffy. Location shooting not only kills ones life but it can also add expense to a show.

Sets: The Factory makes its first appearance. This was constructed, as was the Bronze, in the Mutant Enemy "warehouse" studio in Santa Monica, California. This set shows that Buffy's set designs, particularly given the limitations of space and money, were superb. Note the gothic elements of this set.

Fighting: The choreography of the fight scenes in this second season premiere seem to have improved between season one and season two. Reason: More stunt work planning? More money? Stuntpeople more comfortable with what they are supposed to be doing? Love how Buffy uses a torch to stack one vamp and set another aflame simultaneously.

Dusting: The dusting special effects have improved. More skeleton.

Music: Superb use of Alison Krauss and Union Station’s, “It Doesn’t Matter” in this episode. This song gives us insight into Buffy’s melancholy mental world. Buffy, as I have noted previously, does this superbly. Christophe Beck is now doing Buffy’s orchestral score and it tells. Buffy’s original score is becoming more orchestral, more like classic Hollywood horror and romance scores.

Cinematography: Love Whedon’s use of the camera to underline what Buffy with her bitch on does to Angel and Willow at the Bronze. The camera moves into close-up on them and they give wonderful facial expression.

This is the End: Love how Buffy ends with the Scoobies forgiving Buffy (a theme in the series) and with the Anointed One saying how he hates “that girl”. This ambiguous ending leaves open what the Anointed Ones next move will be, though we know there will be one and it will have serious consequences which we realise thanks, in part, to the music which underlines the tension and thanks, in part, to what has come before in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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