Saturday, 29 September 2012

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 2.1 & 2.2 – 'When She Was Bad' & 'Some Assembly Required'

Saturday, 29 September 2012
Cordelia: You're really campaigning for bitch of the year, aren't you?
Buffy: As defending champion, you nervous?

I was excited to spin my first season 2 disc, knowing Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sophomore year's considered a major turning point for this supernatural drama. Sadly, "WHEN SHE WAS BAD" was more like an addendum to the largely shoddy first season that didn't feel necessary. On the bright side, at least by having Buffy definitively prevent the possibility of The Master returning, we can rest easy now—right? As further salve, there were aesthetic changes and a minor increase in confidence between seasons: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) got herself a better hairdo, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) momentarily saw Willow (Alyson Hannigan) as a potential lover, and the fight sequences carried more panache—although it's a crying shame Gellar isn't a natural athlete, because the use of her stunt-double continues to be conspicuous. I can only hope Gellar starts taking weekend Taekwondo classes, and will be staking vampires herself very soon.

I didn't like the idea of The Master's remains being exhumed by his followers, including the Pointless Anointed One (Andrew J. Ferchland), with the intention of resurrecting him—mainly because I don't think his character has anything left to give. Buffy should be striving ahead with new ideas and villains in a premiere that may be attracting fresh eyes. However, as he proved when he shouldered last seasons's finale, creator Joss Whedon is without equal when it comes to writing these characters. The storyline with Buffy struggling with PTSD, trying to reintegrate back into Sunnydale High after the summer's events, were very well done. The sequence where she tuned into a bitch by dancing sexily with Xander at the Bronze, just to make would-be boyfriend Angel (David Boreanaz) jealous, was worth a hundred moments where a vampire gets a stake through the heart. I also liked that Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) is curious about the gang's activities when she's not around, and even felt compelled to offer Buffy advice about her man trouble at one point, although at other times she was back to being a trivial joke (more upset about blood stains on her clothes than life-of-death situations). Whedon hasn't quite cracked the potential of Carpenter's acid-tongued character yet.

This wasn't the greatest of restarts, but there were signs of a better show slowly taking shape. Buffy certainly felt more nuanced as a heroine, although I'm beginning to find her humour slightly grating. At times Whedon's characters don't really talk to each other; they trade quips that don't sound natural when spoken aloud. I know from having seen Firefly and Dollhouse that this is something Whedon gets better as later in his career.

Buffy: Sorry, but I'm an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies.

I dearly wish "SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED" was better, because it boiled down to Weird Science with a modern-day Burke & Hare taking Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at face value. How can that fail? Unfortunately, there was just too much hogwash to swallow in a story about science nerd Chris Epps (Angelo Spizzirti) reanimating the corpse of his dead brother with the help of buddy Eric (Michael Baccall), and then deciding to give Frankenstein's Brother a "Bride" using the accumulated body-parts of Sunnydale's sexiest. Naturally, Cordelia was the icing on their macabre cake (or her head was) because that character's become Buffy's default screaming victim.

The plot did swerve expectations by revealing Chris and Eric had already succeeded in reanimating a dead body—and were being bullied by their own creation into robbing graves to find him a companion—but it wasn't good enough to compensate for all the other shortfalls. I was more interested in timid Giles (Anthony Head) asking Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) out on a date, to be honest. "Some Assembly Required" was a nice idea on paper, but not enough time was spent making it seem close to plausible that two nerds could bring the dead back to life, or that their "creation" Daryl (Ingo Neuhaus) would instantly turn into a psychopath. It was a creative amalgam of two classic horror ideas, and arguably the cleverest concept the show's come up with yet, but it just didn't catch fire for me. I'm also starting to hate Xander's wise-ass attitude and dislike of Cordelia, and had to question Angel's sartorial choices with his cream jacket. Is that to try and impress Buffy? Or to impress on viewers that he's a good guy?

written by Joss Whedon (2.1) & Ty King (2.2) / directed by Joss Whedon (2.1) & Bruce Seth Green (2.2) / 15 & 22 September 1997 / The WB