In Which I Detail My Gripes About Buffy

The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 1)Okay. So I’ve had the “I’m a Buffy Fan” post, and let me say right up front that I’m still a fan. Denisa and I continue to watch two or three episodes a night (sometimes more, if we’re particularly in the mood for ice cream), so how could I call myself anything but a fan at this point?


The show has a few issues that really rub me the wrong way. Some of this is, no doubt, a matter of enlarged expectations. I’ve been hearing how wonderful the show is for so long, from so many people, that in some ways it sort of reflects the experience I had watching Citizen Kane, where the expectations were so high, I don’t believe any movie could have lived up to them. What are my gripes, you ask?

Read on. (Some spoilers, but I’m assuming by now, spoilers are fair territory in a series that’s been over for years.)

The biggest complaint I have is that the show is clueless about how to start a season (at least for the first three seasons that I’ve watched). I’ve said I like the characters a lot, and I do. (I must–otherwise some of them wouldn’t be able to annoy me as much as they do. I’m looking at you, Xander. Or you, Buffy’s mom–who I really hate to see arrive in an episode, because she brings a giant bucket of stupid with her wherever she goes.) However, a big draw for me is also the fun the show has. I’m okay having some of the character delving into big Emotional Problems, but when they have everyone being mopey and stupid . . . it gets tiresome. In all three of the beginning so far, the writers get bogged down in conflicts that don’t really go anywhere. I’m willing to forgive the first season, where the show seemed to still be finding its legs. The second season starts off with everyone moping about Buffy having been gone, and it’s just far too much of a downer. It only picks up with the death of that stupid child vamp and the arrival of Spike. (Thank goodness!) The third season recycles the “everyone moping about Buffy having been gone” plot from the second season, except this time it has everyone resent her when she finally comes back.

Let me get this straight: Buffy and Angel fall in love, but they unwittingly complete what’s gotta be the Lamest Curse Evar (I mean come on–he’s cursed by regaining his humanity, only to lose it and turn back into super evil Vampire if he’s ever 100% happy? Sure, Gypsies–let the guy you supposedly hate so much come back to life to terrorize people a hundred years later. Genius.) And Angel goes on his killing spree, and everyone blames . . . human Angel and Buffy, instead of the idiots who came up with the stupid curse in the first place. It would have been different had Angel and Buffy known what they were risking. They didn’t. But still, so much of the beginning of Season Three is devoted to people whining that Buffy abandoned them, then whining that she misses Angel.

Less whining. More slaying.

My second complaint is that overarching plots continue to advance at a glacial pace. Buffy pining for Angel. Xander and Willow. Cordelia doing stupid things. Sometimes these characters seem trapped into doing the same mindless thing for episodes at a stretch, waiting for the time when their plot can finally advance and they can grow. Which leads me to my third and final complaint–the characters seem to be at the mercy of the plot far too often. Too many times, they seem to be behaving a certain way because the writers needed them to behave that way for the episode to make sense. (The brain-dead Gypsy cursers being a prime example of this). If you can see the plot churning, it ruins the effect.

But like I said–I still enjoy the show. There are single episodes that are just brilliant. Band Candy was great, as was Lovers Walk. It’s the brilliance that makes the boneheadedness worse by comparison.

Am I off base here, or am I just finally arriving to the party, expressing thoughts everyone else hashed over years ago?

2 thoughts on “In Which I Detail My Gripes About Buffy”

  1. Your complaints scream “I don’t like TV shows about/for teenagers” to me. The moping and the angst and the bad decisions are genre staples. Nothing wrong with not liking them, but the stuff your talking about may be not so much a writing problem as a personal taste problem.

  2. Hmm . . . I suppose it depends on what your definition of TV shows about/for teens is. I mean, I love Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights–both shows that are very teen-centric. So I think I have the “about teens” down. The “for” teens, on the other hand . . . that wasn’t what Buffy was billed as to me. People talk it up as one of the best shows of all time. There’s no disclaimer there saying “best shows for teens.” Know what I mean?

    From what I’ve seen so far, the beginnings of each season take a long time to get started. They’re tonally different from the middles and endings, if that makes sense. If the show was always at the level of the beginnings, I wouldn’t like it. But it’s not–it’s much better than its beginnings let on.

    As for the moping and the bad decisions, I guess it’s more the inconsistency of the moping and bad decisions that gets me. If the characters just consistently moped and were stupid, that’s one thing. But when they have a convenient flash of moping-free brilliance for an episode, then go back to moping for the next . . . that bugs.

    Again, some of this might be me watching the series for the first time, all in a row, on DVD. At the time the show was being made, that just didn’t happen. I recognize it’s unfair of me to evaluate the show based on modern preferences–and I give it some slack. Shows like Veronica, Lost, Heroes, Alias and 24 really raised the bar when it comes to sustained action/drama series, and I’d argue they built on the back of Buffy to get there.

    But some things (like the Gypsy curse contrivance and the way various characters have reacted to it) are just poor writing, plain and simple.

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