We love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We do. It’s one of the best shows on TV. But lately, it’s done nothing but frustrate us. We feel it’s turning into nothing more than a show filled with one-trick ponies – from “I don’t understand” Anya to “Hey, I’m a witch, I can do this” Willow. Below are a few things that bother us, and why.
We don’t recognize her anymore. People change and grow and dabble in the dark arts, we accept that, we do. But what we can’t accept is her irrational inability to understand that there are consequences for her actions. When she cursed her friends and had Buffy almost marry Spike? She made cookies and that made it all better. Excuse me? She continues to practice magic she has no real control over, all in the name of helping Buffy. We can understand this, she doesn’t want to feel helpless. But after a time or two of mistakes, wouldn’t you think she’d exercise a modicum of restraint? Of self-control? Shouldn’t she at least listen when Giles, a man who has conjured up some dastardly evil in his time, voices his concern and asks her to take it slow?
Michelle: Willow is verbally all about the team, but I’m not convinced it’s so. One, her aforementioned gung-ho “I can do this spell, I don’t care what any of you say” attitude, and two, the latest development with Tara. Tara, you may or may not know, is Willow’s girlfriend. Willow is, as we have been told repeatedly – to the point of it being fucking tiresome – GAY NOW. Yeah, thanks. We got the memo, you can turn off the PSA. I have no issue with Willow being gay. I have an issue with being told repeatedly that she is gay, over and over, in various “quirky” situations. Because it’s funny and reasserts her gayness, get it? Well, really, I thought walking hand in hand with Tara, petting her hair and sleeping in the same bed reaffirmed her gayness. For a relationship that was just supposed to be a relationship and not a loud gimmick, it sure has been pretty loud. In one episode, for example, Willow and Tara had a “fight.” Tara whispered that she was afraid Willow was going too far with her magic. This insulted Willow, and she whispered her indignation back. Tara then whispered that she was afraid that maybe she was just an experiment in Willow’s life. Once again, Willow was quietly upset by this and whispered back that she was sorry she hadn’t discovered and toyed with her gay pride before meeting Tara. My goodness, lesbians are the nicest fighters ever, and the actual fight was much longer and more annoying than that, so I’m paraphrasing and saving you the pain.
The point here is that the fight was really just an excuse to reinforce Willow’s gayness and to separate the two, giving Glory the chance to suck Tara’s brain right out of her. And here, folks, lies my latest beef with the witchy one. Tara, somehow released to the care of Willow (and I’m not going to get started back on that piece of bothersome plot contrivance), is now being dragged along as the Slayer and her crew try to outrun and defeat Glory. How irresponsible is that? Not only is Tara’s life in danger, since she is, to put it politely, completely bonkers, but everyone else’s life is put in a little more danger, too. I can completely understand Willow not wanting to leave Tara at the hospital. I am not in any way, shape or form an advocate of strapping people to the bed, but to insist on caring for her in the midst of a battle with a hell god? They should have found someone to watch her until the Glory arc was completed. The fact that they took her along and allowed Willow to whine to an already distracted and traumatized Buffy, “Buffy, we can’t leave her like this” really gets my goat and makes me want to turn off the TV. Come on now people, Buffy doesn’t need any more excuses to shine those tear-filled eyes our way. So knock it off.
Amanda: Joss has said all along that he always meant for Willow to grow into a powerful witch, and also that it “was a logical next step” for her to become a lesbian. But I have dozens of issues with this, the first being that none of it seemed logical to me at all.
When I first started watching BtVS, Willow was the main reason I stuck around. Her shy, lovesick, naive mutterings were what made the show endearing – not just to me, but to lots of fans. Willow the Hacker provided endless solutions to Scooby Gang threats. She was Buffy’s backbone, Xander’s sounding board and Giles’s protégé. And she did all of this quietly, and under the radar, so that when she did have emotional scenes they were infinitely more powerful than anything else on the show. But then came Jenny’s death and the invention of Willow the Witch.
The witchiness itself isn’t what put the character of Willow on a one-way ticket to over-emoting. It was a combination of lots of things. Her relationship with Oz, for instance, was perfectly sweet up to the very moment he left her sobbing in his bedroom. But Joss had to go one farther and bring him back, giving Alyson another chance to show off her stellar weeping skills. It became over-the-top. Willow’s relationship with Xander (yes, my pet issue, shut up) fizzled before it could really begin, and their friendship – one of the original backbones of the show – was suddenly gone, never to be truly revived or discussed. And now there is Tara, who has sort of filled the naive shoes of the early years Willow. This relationship was supposed to grow and evolve, and instead it’s just been beaten over our heads in very not-subtle ways. Through all of this, Willow has gotten almost cranky and unlikable, taking the show down with her.
Amy: Since the gurlies have so perfectly addressed my issues with Willow/Xander and the whole GAY THING, I’ll just touch on one other. What happened to brainy Willow? Remember? In “Puppet Show” they were all worried that Willow would be attacked by the brain-seeking killer since she was so smart. Where did that smart gurlie go? I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that she’s turned into this impulsive chick who never thinks. Who is snippy and rude and doesn’t care about her friends or what they’re feeling. So, why did the writers buy into that and start writing her as such a contrary character? Willow was my favorite. I overidentified with her, and now I don’t even see a small sparkle of the person I once admired and adored. She once was just happy being who she was: A hacker-geek who was in love with her best friend. Now, she’s so hellbent on proving something, anything, that she’s not even likeable. At all.
Which brings us to Buffy and her crying. We get that she’s a Slayer, and has the weight of the world on her shoulders and all, but she used to be stronger. We suppose an argument could be made for the fact that her psyche is being worn down as she continues to face horrors on a daily basis, but an argument could also be made that the Buffy crew is gunning for an Emmy, and it’s tiresome to watch.
Michelle: I miss first season, quip-filled Buffy. Buffy showed promise at the beginning of Season Five, when she decided to explore her roots. Whatever happened to this? Joyce getting ill got in the way of her mission, but still, there’s darkness in the Slayer’s roots, and how long can they ignore that? She has continued to let Spike live, for the sake of the plot and women fans everywhere, but did not chase down and destroy Drusilla, a vampire she knows to be deadly, and for what reason? There wasn’t one. I don’t understand the character anymore. I don’t even want to.
Amanda: I never liked Buffy. To me she has always been an extraneous character, around which all the important action occurs, but whose own actions rarely contribute to the outcome. I, frankly, don’t care what the show is called. The character of Buffy has never been at its heart. To me she is a hideously selfish person, first hooking up with Angel and clinging to him no matter what the consequences, then running away when things got too difficult, all the way to right this very moment in the series, when she’s all boo-hooing with guilt over not being able to save Dawn. Snap out of it, sister, and quit feeling so sorry for yourself. I lost the ability to feel for you seasons ago.
Amy: Nope, never liked Buffy. I agree with everything Amanda said.
Xander is the thinking-girl’s object of lust: A funny guy who also knows how to be tender and passionate. We have all loved him from the beginning, but have found it increasingly hard to hang onto him as he’s been pushed to the periphery of the show. Like Willow, he was once an integral part of the show, but UNLIKE her, he never even got the opportunity to go out and do something to further his plot, liking becoming GAY.
Michelle: I also miss quip-filled Xander. He is but a hollow shell of what he once was. There was a rumor going around that Xander would come into a destiny of his own soon, and it doesn’t seem to be happening. I’m really sad about this, because I’d like for him to have more to do than be supporto-guy and background-guy. I keep waiting for something to happen…and it never does. Either give the guy a plot, or give him back his skateboard, because I’m becoming dangerously close to bored with the lad, and that’s not something I ever want to happen.
Amanda: Was there ever a design for Xander’s character development? Because it just doesn’t appear that there was. Maybe Joss meant to kill him sometime along the way, but changed his mind. Or maybe he was supposed to hook up with Buffy but focus groups told the producers that would be an icky idea. And I suppose it’s possible that Xander was meant to follow in Giles’ watchery footsteps when Willow veered off to magic instead of books. Whatever the failed-plot rumors, none of them have come to fruition. Instead, Xander is now the Joke Guy, seemingly only around to make with the funny and then leave. What a waste.
With the sometimes-exception of Sarah Michelle Gellar, all the old-timers on this show appear to be insanely bored with their characters. No one is more obvious about this than Nick Brendon, and who the hell can blame him? His character is in a rut. Nick’s once off-the-cuff delivery has gotten stale, and he’s delivering his lines with less excitement than I imagine he orders a pizza. He’s getting over-shadowed by James Marsters every single week, although, to be fair, the writers seem to like Spike and consistently give him good lines. Xander, though, continues to flounder and has become painful to watch.
Amy: Oh, how I loved Xander. I even loved him when he was breaking my poor Willow’s heart. But the recent Xander is nothing like the one I loved. He manages to be a decent friend to Buffy but ignores his friendship with Willow. And he’s “so in love” with Anya? Give me a fucking break. I buy that he loves her, but nothing, absolutely nothing has ever made me think he’s in love with her, nevermind madly. They have sex, they share an apartment. She’s needy and he needs to be needed. But that’s not soulmates, that’s an unhealthy relationship.
And the motion sickness thing was stupid. Yeah.
Anya is a huge disappointment. When she first came on the scene, in “The Wish,” she was a demon looking to avenge Cordy’s misery that took the form of a teenage girl. In this guise she fit in with the crowd, she spoke the lingo and didn’t make any loud pronouncements about the oddity of our world. She had, at one time, been human after all. The longer Anya stays, however, the less human she becomes. We’re not sure if this is because the writers need more laughs or if they’re just not sure what to do with her, but her endless parade of money and sex jokes wore thin a season ago.
Michelle: I’m glad Xander has someone to love, but why does she have to be so fucking annoying? She has proven she can be useful. And this is part of the problem: Usually she seems to be around merely to alleviate the tension with a “Ha ha, I’m funny, I don’t get tact” or a “Xander is a Viking in the sack” comment, but every once in awhile they use her background as an avenging demon to come up with some useful bit of news. Sort of a Basil Exposition in a Betsey Johnson dress, if you will. It’s random and annoying, because usually she serves no purpose but to make “quirky” comments and to make Amy itch. She has shown no growth in the past year, and her stilted way of talking and always looking for pats on the back for making leaps and bounds in the humanity department make me want to slap her. She used to be an avenging demon, for goodness sake. Are you trying to tell us she’s forgotten all of her magic, and that she is content to run Giles’ magic shop, handle money and screw Xander? Urgh.
Amanda: Yeah. I hate Anya. No matter how many funny lines she gets (Ritual sacrifice with pie, anyone?), it does not make up for the fact that she never changes. Not ever. Her schtick is getting old, old, old. My favorite fantasy has always been that Xander would dump her, she’d go steal the coin given to Willow by the vengeance demon, become a demon again to go after Xander, and then Willow would have to use her magic to save him. Then, of course, Willow and Xander would realize their love and ride off happily into the sunset. I might like Anya, then, if she would be a catalyst for such a thing. As is, though, I would just appreciate her dying in some painful way.
Amy: I.hate.Anya.with.a.fiery.passion. She was good in “The Wish.” I even liked her in “Dopplegangland.” Didn’t mind her so much at the end of Season Five. But when she came back to seduce Xander, ugh. Aside from “The Body,” there hasn’t been one moment that I haven’t wanted to beat her senseless. She likes sex, I GET IT. Just like I get WILLOW IS GAY.
When she first showed up in the fourth season, I decided she was a low-class Cordy with none of the intelligence or wit. I have yet to change my mind.
We were glad that Spike was tapped to stick around and fill the role of Really Hot, Naughty, Bad Guy. But what in the hell is he still doing here?
Michelle: You will find no greater lover of the Platinum One aside from me, but really, in the Buffyverse, he has no reason to continue to exist. If his sordid past of continually attempting to murder Buffy and her own doesn’t condemn him, his latest stunt of the Buffybot pushed the credibility of his non-life over the edge. Some argue that he’s changed, he’s become heroic, he’s doing things for good now, not for money and the reward of a tongue-lashing by Buffy. However, if he’d been staked when he was supposed to, he wouldn’t have had the chance to grow into this vamp. Sure, he’s an ally now, but is he trustworthy? And how many chances should a Slayer give someone before she dusts him? He tried to kill her just this year, when he thought his chip was out. And yet she continued to let him live. I just don’t get it. I love the guy to death, but I don’t get it.
Amanda: Spike’s chip hasn’t been removed yet because Joss and Company can’t figure out a way to let him stay around once that happens. No. I don’t have inside scoop, but I’d bet lots of money this is what has happened. People – specifically women – like the character and his oozing-bad-boy sexuality. Yet the fact that he’s been hanging around Sunnydale, falling in love with the Slayer and learning to play nice with the other puppies…well, it’s a load of crap. If Riley can rip out his own Initiative implant, when it’s right next to his still-beating human heart, Spike can rip out the one is his non-living brain. I’ll admit that, all contrivances aside, I still really like this character. I think he’s funny, I think he’s sexy, I think he’s shown quite a bit of growth since his first appearance in “School Hard.” But even I can’t justify him being around anymore, when the growth is just an easy way to get out of killing him.
Tara became part of the Scooby Gang really quickly, in a time when all of us were really, really wanting it to go back to the original four of Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles. Although it looked like she was going to be some sort of sage to guide Willow’s witch development (There was even a rumor that she’d turn out to be Amy’s sister), she’s now just a toy in the Willow Is GAY storyline. Make that a toy in really unflattering clothing.
Michelle: Tara, for a few moments here and there, has shown growth. But they have kept the character entirely too mousy, too…I can’t even describe it. It’s like we’re supposed to accept her because she’s cute and shy and Willow’s girlfriend. And I need more than that to justify a character’s existence.
Amanda: This storyline pissed me off from the very beginning, when people prematurely started worrying about the infamous hand-holding scene pointing to GAYness. I tried very hard to defend the show and its writers, saying that, surely, they could be a little subtler about why they were introducing the character of Tara. After all, they had a pretty good track record of being sneaky in the past. Then they let me down. And it was all so horribly NOT subtle that I wanted to turn off the TV and never watch again. Certainly not because of what Tara meant to the character of Willow, but because she didn’t seem to be about anything ELSE. She hasn’t developed at all. She is nothing more than a beautiful shy smile, a girl who shows up to be affectionate to Willow and then leaves.
Amy: Once again, agree with above. I’ll just add that I’m sufficiently creeped out with what the Willow/Tara relationship has become. The scene after Glory has sucked out Tara’s brain, when Buffy makes a comment about Dawn and Willow mimics the Slayer’s actions… “She’s my girl.” That was disturbing. You can’t tell me they can easily go back to a romantic relationship, ‘cuz that’d be incest. And that’s not what I watch this show for.
Who wouldn’t want to have a father figure like Giles? He’s handsome, he’s British, he’s snarky, he’s smart, and he’s done some bad things in his past from which he actually managed to learn something. He even appeared to have an actual storyline of his own there for a while, until they had to go and kill off his girlfriend and blow up his library. Now he’s floundering down in the not-useful gutter along with Xander.
Amanda: There have been several moments throughout the history of this show when I’ve had a crush on Giles. He’s hot! I swear! But I have no idea what his purpose is anymore, other than to take off his glasses and rub his eyes in distress. The Slayer has always needed a full-time father, and Giles admirably filled this role. The writers even managed to be subtle about this, never having either of them directly refer to it, rather intimating it through emotions and genuinely good acting. Last season, he was reduced to out-of-work-singing guy. And, you know, that singing thing was funny for about one bellyfull of laughs. So, of course they brought it back and ruined the whole thing. This season, when the Watcher’s Council showed up to harangue Buffy about Glory, I cringed in disbelief as Giles apparently misplaced his spine and caved under their pressure. Giles needs himself a life in the worst possibly way. He needs a woman, one who isn’t a Gypsy and one who isn’t scared of what he does for a living, and he needs to take an extended vacation until the writers find a new, more exciting place in the Buffyverse for him to reside.
The Slayer, in general
Michelle: I mentioned before the lack of exploring of the dark side. I can wait for that, I have bigger fish to fry. The Slayer is an inconsistent creation, if ever there was one. How is it that we need a Slayer in the first place, if men like Xander and Giles are able to take down a vamp single-handedly? At times, it seems Buffy has the strength to leap fences without trying and the strength to knock down a vamp with a single backhand. At other times, a human can stand up to her fists of fury for several blows in a row. She’s hit humans with a force that, when you think about it, should take off a mere mortal’s head. We’re looking for consistency, that’s all.
Which leads us to the fights. Not an obvious segue, I’ll give you that, but trust me, it leads us to the fights. There’s a new stunt squad this year, and kudos to them for stepping in. The fights this year have been lackluster. Buffy has slowed. Most of this is probably due to the change in the stunt double, but after four years of seeing a person fight with power, not just go through the motions, it’s disconcerting. The fight on top of the mobile home, for example, left me cold. There was no power to her kicks, there was no reason for the enemy to get thrown and fly off of the moving vehicle other than “it looked cool.” The blocking was horrid – there were clear shots of missed kicks and the stunt double’s face. The show used to take pride in its action sequences. Now it just seems like they want to get the job done and go home. Not what I’m looking for in my quality TV.
Amy: One little thing: In the movie, Buffy got cramps whenever vampires were around. That makes sense, that the Slayer would have some sort of supernatural sense. Why did that not show up in the series? I was always confused by that.
Once upon a time, Buffy had nemeses that were interesting. The Master was the perfect foil to the young Slayer, and her fear of him was palpable. Then we had Angelus, another stroke of genius. Perhaps it’s too much to expect these two to be topped. Did the villains of Buffy peak too soon?
Michelle: I eventually warmed up to the Mayor, Season Three’s big bad, but I never felt he was a major threat, and they let Mr. Trick go without letting him live up to his potential. Faith turning to the dark side was what finally gave Season Three its much-needed edge. There needs to be an emotional investment, or it just doesn’t work: Faith provided that. Season Four forgot this, and instead of compelling storytelling they gave us the Initiative and Adam. I cannot even begin to describe the disappointment I felt during Season Four. I stopped taping. And that’s saying a lot: I’m a pathetic fangurl, yo. So I had high hopes for Season Five. High hopes. And so far, they’ve been dashed. There’s what, one episode left this season? Glory, as a baddie, does nothing for me. She’s whiny, wears bad clothes and is a horrible villain. I don’t care, quite frankly, who wins.
Amanda: I have only to add that Glory seems to possibly be what Anya could have been had she maintained her evilness in her human form. They have the same types of lines: Always complaining about the frailty of the human form, whining about having emotions, not understanding how anyone can live with human weaknesses. Thankfully, Anya is at least funny at times. Glory, on the other hand, seems to have gotten all the bad discarded Anya dialogue, which is then delivered in the weird not-convincing-at-all psycho voice of Claire Kramer’s. Sometimes I think I would hate this character less if she were played by a different actress. But then I try to unravel exactly what in the fuck her storyline is supposed to be doing, and I realize that the whole thing is just really confusing and uninteresting.
Amy: Here’s what really fucking bugged me about the second to last episode of Season Five… Why the hell are we finding out Glory’s story a week before the finale? And why is some random character brought in to literally sit there and tell us the entire history and motivation of the Big Bad? That’s just bad storytelling and made me itchy. It should have been developed throughout the season, not spoon fed when it was all over. Ugh.