Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: e-Letters? e-Letters!

We get into the second half of season 1 with "Angel," "I Robot... You Jane," and "The Puppet Show."

A quick update this week. I'm still licking my wounds over the result of the AFC Championship game.

"Angel" is, I think, the first great episode of the series. The reveal of Angel as a vampire has really lost none of its impact, even though, 17 years later, we all know he's a vampire. I wasn't watching BUFFY when the first season first aired - was it a completely upsetting shock at the time?

It also strikes me as a secret that would have been harder to keep in the age of social media - though this phenomenon is likely more prevalent for movies than for TV shows. Bitch all you want about JJ Abrams, but I love that he tried (and managed) to keep the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch's character in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS a secret until the movie was released. Sometimes, it's nice to actually BE surprised by a surprise, you know?

I'm sure we'll talk more about the Buffy and Angel relationship as the rewatch continues, but I love how "Angel" introduces many of the key themes that the show will explore with respect to their relationship over the next couple of seasons.

While I thought "The Pack" was a bad episode (though not everone feels the same way), "I Robot... You Jane" is bad in an entirely different way: it's a complete howler. I promise not to keep comparing BUFFY to THE X-FILES, but "I Robot..." is as terrible as THE X-FILES season 1 episode "Ghost in the Machine", another disaster revolving around a nonsensical plot involving computers. Both shows just sound so tone-deaf when talking about technology. For chrissakes, "I Robot..." features someone using the term "e-letter" when talking about email. E-letter!!!!

Two positive things about this episode. It introduces Robia Lamorte as Miss Calendar, and I look forward to revisiting her techie vs luddite banter with Giles, when it gets better than it was here. And the final scene, with Buffy, Xander and Willow all lamenting their bad luck with love is really nicely done: funny, but undercut by real hurt. As Buffy says: "Let's fact it - none of us are ever going to have a healthy, normal relationship." Girl, you have no idea.

"The Puppet Show" introduces Principal Snyder, who will prove to be a very effective antagonistic authority figure during Buffy's high school years. (And in hindsight, Armin Shimerman reminds me of Enrico Colantoni, so I'm getting some weird Keith Mars dissonance.)

This is an episode I really like. It's pretty much a standalone, but it's got that great mix of creepy and funny that this show excels at, and a surprising amount of pathos over a dying ventriloquist's dummy. And the closing credits sequence alone is enough for me to give this episode a thumbs-up. (And for now, note that Willow ran offstage. We will come back to that.)

Angel: A
I Robot... You Jane: D
The Puppet Show: B+

What did everyone else think?


  1. I came late to Buffy, so going in I knew Angel was a vamp, but I still really enjoy this episode. The part that always stays with me is that Angel still wants to bite Joyce and Buffy, even with a soul. It seemed like an important distinction, even before we find out anything else coming up in season two. Sure, he has a soul, but the thirst is still there. That's important to remember.
    As for the other two, I understand why you like the puppet one, but I've always really hated it and I can't pick a reason why. Disappointment in the two episodes following Angel maybe? Or just how damn creepy the puppet is?
    Either way, Darla is dead and season one is coming to a close! Yay!

    1. Lauren, that's an excellent point about Angel's desire to bite Joyce and Buffy. It's remarkable how much they establish regarding Angel's situation in the few brief scenes in this episode.

      And assuming your "Yay!" applies to both parts of the sentence that preceded it, I second your "Yay!" about Darla being dead. :)