As Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns 21, the team at ReWatchable celebrates the end of an era.
December 15, 2015 the hosts of ReWatchable released a preview episode. Nothing special, a host-driven discussion introducing the next series ripe for review. But it turned out to be anything but a run of the mill episode.
This episode marked the beginning of the podcast’s longest assignment. The hosts were signing on for two and half years of discussion. A slow burn through a series that casts a shadow on almost every other series to come out of the early aughts.
For the superfans, those who love and cherish the show, it would take two years of holding back what might otherwise be considered well-known facts for 20 years. For the newbies, those who somehow avoided the series for over a decade, it would take a new approach to the casual internet browsing.
Buffy is a cultural jaggernaught. And thanks to streaming, almost everyone has access to it. Looking back on the kick-off episode, nearly 100 episodes later, here’s what we were looking forward to the most:
- The references
- The character growth
- The newbie reactions
- The ’90s fashion and awesome special effects
Some of those came true. Others, over time, we discovered came at a cost (namely character growth). We fell in love with characters, out of love with characters, and tested what makes this series special.
Buffy celebrates another anniversary and will continue to remind fans of the show every March about its legacy. But as ReWatchable reviews the series finale of Buffy, some mixed emotions are on the table. Exhaustion, elation, confusion, uneasiness.
For over two years we’ve been reminded almost daily of the series. And with only two episodes, remaining after seven seasons, the end is in sight. What has this experience meant to some of the hosts? Here’s a bit from superfans and newbies alike.
Name: Karen Rought
Fan status: Superfan
“Pancake Quartet” is one of my favorite episodes of ReWatchable because of our discussion of “The Body.” I was anticipating and dreading finally watching this episode of Buffy again because it’s so incredibly devastating, and as I mentioned in the episode, hits a lot closer to home for me now. Even though I had to keep starting and stopping the episode again, the podcast discussion flowed freely and was surprisingly cathartic. At this point, Ariana has not been quiet about her dislike for this show and Mitch has not been quiet about his dislike for Joyce, but I felt like we came together to analyze this episode more closely than we have nearly any other installment of the series. Between the choice to not include music and decision to shoot this episode a certain way, there’s so much to glean from these 40 minutes of television. It may not have been our funniest episode, but it was certainly one of our best.
Rewatching Buffy has been a journey. When we started out in DECEMBER 2015, we all knew this was going to be a monumental task. Two and a half years felt so arbitrary. I couldn’t comprehend it. But now I do. And I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong — if I could go back in time and change anything, I wouldn’t. I never could’ve anticipated some of the reactions to this show (especially the newbies hating it so much at times), but I feel better because of it. No longer am I watching one of my all-time favorite series in a bubble. It’s helped me to recognize what’s truly good about Buffy, and what’s not. And that’s valuable information to have, especially as a superfan.
We’ve done a lot of shows under ReWatchable’s banner. I feel like, in a lot of ways, Veronica Mars began our true friendship as co-hosts and Avatar and Korra solidified it. Buffy has tested it, but I think we all came out the other side relatively unscathed. This will always be a huge milestone for the podcast, and I’m grateful to everyone who battled on toward the finish line.
But as much of a struggle as it has been doing a show of this size, it made me take a closer look at the Scooby Gang. Times have changed and so have my feelings about certain characters and storylines. I’ve lost love for Xander but have gained plenty for Dawn. I can see the genius in Joss’ vision just as easily as I can now see his hypocrisy. I’ll forever love season 1 for what it promised us, and forever love season 7 for the legacy it left us with.
And as corny as it may seem, it doesn’t really matter what show we watch, as long as I get to discuss it with my friends every week. Here’s to hoping ReWatchable holds up better than Buffy after 20+ years!
Name: Mitch Clow
Fan status: Newbie
“Without Amy” is the episode’s title. Anyone who’s listened to any Buffy ReWatchable episode with me on it will understand the significance immediately.
As Karen recently stated, Buffy overall has been a journey. I can’t even think back to how different I was when I started doing this show for ReWatchable. With that, my opinion on Buffy has changed dramatically from when I first started watching it. Note to self: when Natalie says that I’ll like a show because it never forgets anything, heed her advice.
I may be in the minority of newbies enjoying this run of ReWatchable a lot, but I am proud to say that I have grown to love this series as a whole. While I still miss Tara and can cry thinking of “The Body,” the journey has all been worth it. Whether we were right about Evil Willow, or I was right about #RatAmy, predicting the twists and turns of this show couldn’t have been any more fun.
A standout character that I think deserves an extra mention is our dear Anyanka. Nat once said that she is often compared to this character, and that may be why I find her so likeable. Anya is a standout character that I did not see coming into the fold as much as she has. Her introduction and “boys are stupid. Will you go to the prom with me?” bits were more than I could’ve asked for.
I’ll miss the Sarah Michelle Gellar battle grunts and cries, the awkward Willow dialogue, and the hoaky CGI villains. While I may or may not get into the comics, I will miss predicting what will happen next week with my friends and rushing to my TV to watch the next episodes as soon as I’ve recorded.
And while I definitely forgot about The First’s introduction and probably some other majorly important details, no one can say that I’ve ever forgotten any of my ship names #Bangel #Cangel #Spuffy #Fuffy #DruSpAngLa.
Here’s to throwing any theory at the wall and seeing what sticks! May ReWatchable and the spirit of Buffy live on to bring joy and conversation for years to come.
‘Buffy’ finale prediction:
The First will finally be corporeal, leading to an epic showdown of Buffy and Faith versus whatever the strongest dead person ever was at that time. Just when it seems like both Slayers have met their match, Rat Amy will descend from the heavens above, ready to serve justice on The First Evil, sacrificing herself in the process.
Once the dust clears, Faith will peace out and bring Spike with her over to Angel, leaving Buffy alone to brood for all eternity. Buffy dies peacefully in bed at the ripe ol’ age of 92.
Name: Caitlin Kelly
Fan status: Superfan
My favorite episode was our discussion of “Once More with Feeling.” It was a lot of fun to host an episode where the rest of the panel was newbies — and hearing them all react to the infamous musical episode was a delight.
Though I’ve been on ReWatchable since our first round covering Firefly back in 2013 — it’s hard to believe this podcast has been going for over five years now! — and have been through the highs (Veronica Mars, Avatar) and lows (Pushing Daisies), watching Buffy has been a unique experience. It’s hard to comprehend just how long we’ve been working through this series and just how much has changed in the world and in my life since we started. But our group of hosts, newbies and superfans alike, are incredible and so much fun to watch one (well, two if you count Angel) of my favorite shows alongside.
Watching Buffy this time around has been an interesting experience. I don’t have a lot of memories of watching the show the first time; I was nine when it premiered in 1997 so never watched consistently. It wouldn’t be until years later that I finally completed a full watch as a teenager, filling in the gaps I’d missed when I was younger. Watching Buffy from an adult perspective is definitely different from watching as a teen. I’ve come to appreciate certain characters in ways I never did before (Tara, you were too good for these people) and recognize the problematic nature in others (Xander, whyyyyyy).
Coming of age in the 1990s and 2000s as a young woman, Buffy the show and Buffy the character were hugely influential for me. Recognizing issues in a show that has meant so much to me has been painful at times — as has hearing how much the newbies haven’t liked it. But it has also kept my perspective honest, and I think that’s the most important thing as a consumer of media. So thanks for the fun, y’all. Watching Buffy with you has been a blast. Here’s to finishing Angel and moving onto the next.
Name: Kristen Kranz
Fan status: Newbie
I just remember all the laughter and silliness as we broke down the most ridiculous plot line of Angel ever… or at least that we’ve seen this far (PLEASE tell me it doesn’t get worse!). It may not have been the greatest episode of Angel, but the discussion was fun, and I just remember us all kind of losing it.
I, personally, have really enjoyed my time watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have a handful of friends that are diehard fans of the show, and it was one of my most shameful pop culture related secrets that I hadn’t seen more than one episode of the show. When you take into account that I have been a pretty faithful fan of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, it was a pretty glaring gap in my fandomhood.
The show itself has proven that it was a product of its time, and not all the storylines read the same way anymore, but there is so much fun and entertainment wrapped up in this show, that I knew I would find things to love. Plus, I’m so glad to finally get all those references to Willow that keep popping up!
I think I initially expected too much of the show. It has one hell of a reputation, and I think I wanted it to be more than it was. As I tempered those expectations, the fun, lively spirit of the show came through more clearly, and made me more excited to watch more. Plus, I was really looking forward to that iconic musical episode. I’m so glad I’ve finally seen “Once More With Feeling.”
I would like to think that there will be rewatches for me down the road. I would like to watch the first couple of seasons again after watching the end of the series and see how knowing the end affects my read of the beginning. It’s been a long journey, and I’d like to go back to where we started.
I think my favorite character would have to be Willow. I just believe that, despite some serious screw ups, she has really grown throughout the series, and I can’t wait to see how her story wraps up in the end. Think about that shy girl who was happy to hide in the library and wore the baggy sweaters. She sure has come a long way from Sunnydale High.
‘Buffy’ finale prediction:
I would like to hope that a series as iconic as Buffy would end somewhat happily, but this is a Joss Whedon show we’re talking about here. I think I need only say, “Wash” for you Firefly fans out there to understand what I mean. Ultimately, I want to believe that the core Scooby Gang members survive whatever evils this final battle may bring. I don’t think we can escape without at least one tragic death, and so I am going to assume that Giles is the one that doesn’t make it out. In an attempt to make up for his weird behavior of late, he throws himself in front of Buffy and makes the valiant sacrifice to save the Slayer, and therefore, save the world.
Name: Maj Elisabeth
Fan status: Superfan
It’s hard to choose, but an early one would be “#199 – Bye, Rilecia!” because that’s when Riley left on his stupid helicopter and I feel like that was a bonding moment for us all, especially me as I was still fresh at the whole podding gig.
It’s been a wild ride. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that it’s already been over a year since I joined up with ReWatchable, but considering I’ve been following along since the very beginning, I suppose it’s not too strange that it both feels like forever and like the message just popped into my inbox.
It was hard at first to listen to some of the newbies be so critical of BtVS, but at the same time it’s been interesting and eye-opening to get these fresh perspectives. Not only as a superfan, but as someone who’s not American watching this very American show. Discussing the show has definitely given me several new things to consider, in addition to my own. I’ve aged and had new experiences since the last time I ventured into the Buffyverse.
The results of this rewatch have not been as expected. My least favorite season (six, can you believe it) is now possibly my favorite. Buffy’s struggle to connect to the world and her friends, her depression, and everything that surrounds that. Past me did not give it the props it deserved. Characters I disliked are now considered complex and delightful, and others that I used to enjoy have fallen greatly in my esteem.
Xander is probably the biggest lost cause. At least Tara has remained the same under scrutiny (and mostly Oz as well, Willow really didn’t deserve either of them).
And then there’s Joss. Honestly, I sighed just writing that, and I think that’s all I need to say at the moment.
On a personal level, it’s been incredible to get to know these wonderful people even better and to be pushed out of my own comfort zone. They’re amazing and I don’t regret a single late AM hour spent with them. They’re good eggs. The non-Bezoar kind.
Name: Brittany Lovely
Fan status: Newbie
There are so many to choose from. I say this with complete sincerity. So, in the spirit of not taking myself too seriously (it’s one of the best things about this podcast), I will point to the episode following “Once More With Feeling.” “Tabula Rosa” remains one of my favorite episodes of the series. Plus, this particular discussion reminds me of the good old days when Angel and Cordelia loved each other. It encompasses all the moments both series had to offer.
Right now, I feel as though I am the old woman at the end of Titanic. I’m tired, ready to drop the jewel of Buffy into the ocean and peacefully slumber into the fever-dream of Angel season 5. It’s hard to reflect on the series as a whole when you’re drained of all your energy.
The final few weeks of ReWatchable did make me realize something — I don’t know if there is a right way to rewatch a show with such a heavy center of gravity that it makes it seem like everything to come after must orbit it in some way. For half of the rewatch, I felt as if I needed the discussions to get me through. I’d watch an episode, feel very little, and walk away from a discussion rewarded.
There was always one exception to that — anytime Angelus was on the screen. David Boreanaz as a Angelus, in my mind, is on par with Mathew Rhys’ Sad Philip. Stellar performances that come with such ease you can’t help but feel unhinged and dread in their presence.
As the series went on, I began to feel bitter towards Buffy. Was it the length of the first watch, the lack of character growth? I clung to Angel as my saving grace (but we all know how the dumpster fire of season 4 plays out). So, as we enter the finale, I’m left feeling only one thing — relief.
With a few weeks separation, I think I’ll begin to see the series as a whole, reflect with more meaning. There are a few episodes I am better for watching –“Hush,” “Once More with Feeling” (which I blame for Grey’s Anatomy‘s musical episode), and especially, “Passion.”
This isn’t to say I don’t see Buffy reflected in many other entities today. While I don’t believe it holds up entirely, there is no denying its influence at the time and its importance as a unit of measurement for where we are today.
‘Buffy’ finale predictions
The Hellmouth finally swallows Sunnydale. It’s gone. Forever. Faith and Spike go on an adventure together that eventually leads them both back to Angel, where they can each get the scenes (I feel) I deserve after watching them suffer for so long. Whatever fate befalls Buffy, I just want her to feel relief.
Name: Natalie Fisher
Fan status: Superfan
My memory is so shot and we’ve been doing this so long that I can barely remember individual incidents, but apart from all my hysterical apologizing after “Apocalypse, Nowish” (241 “The Baby Was In The Bed”), my favorite discussion was probably “Love’s Bitch” (episode 196) the Whirlwind flashback two-parter about “Fool for Love” and “Darla.” As a Spike devotee, “Fool for Love” has always been immensely important to me, and I was desperate for the newbies to discover the truth about his past, all the facets of William that most fans take as a given after 20 years of fandom. For my own experience, it was new and wonderful to watch it back to back with “Darla” and see how the two fit together because although I championed doing Angel alongside Buffy in chronological order, that wasn’t my initial watching experience for these episodes, so it made it all the richer.
This ReWatchable experience has been a huge mountain to climb.
At the end of the day, completing Buffy on ReWatchable has probably made me less of a fan than I was when we started it — but it’s a process I’m honestly grateful to have gone through. When I watched Buffy for the first time back in high school, I was not by any means a critical viewer or someone who approached media with any morality or deeper analysis.
My biggest takeaway from this rewatch has been a rather surprising one, given the cult status of the series: that Buffy is kind of… dated, especially in the current climate. We’ve discussed many times on the podcast that the feminism and empowerment that Joss Whedon attempted to craft was great… for the moment it was written in, but that the bar has constantly been raised far over Whedon’s head and that he’s been so caught up in his own hype that he hasn’t bothered to attempt to climb to meet it over the years.
Of course, the allegations about him that came out during our rewatch soured it all a little, but in general, Buffy is full of circumstances and dialogue that would just be plain offensive if they were produced today, and it’s hard to look past that at certain moments. Angel — well, the first few seasons — actually fares a lot better, and aside from a handful of necessary timeline updates, most episode scripts and relationship dynamics would hold up in a series produced today, making it a more engaging experience.
The series, and this podcast, has still provided many delightful moments, from Oz remaining the most perfect straight male character in world history, to Buffy’s complicated relationship with Faith, Brittany’s adoration of Angelus and Mitch’s evangelical belief in Rat Amy. There are many stellar episodes that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
On this rewatch I’ve grown a deep new love for Amber Benson’s performance as Tara, and how much nonsense she put up with, and, as we finish up season 7, the brilliance of Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn. On the flip side, I exit this experience with next to no sympathy for Xander and how normalized his disgusting male behavior is, and, more upsettingly, Willow, a former favorite character who I now utterly loathe.
But most importantly I’ve also come to a more solid understanding of my own beliefs about Spike and his arc — the biggest thing I worried about going in was that I’d lose my love for this character — truly one of my favorites — but instead I’ve processed and solidified my opinion of him and feel just as much conviction about his redemption after years of deep analysis than I did as a dumb weepy teen inspired by his passion.
I do believe that as a feminist and as a genre devotee, I’ve outgrown Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I need more — so much more, nowadays. But the fact remains that without Buffy being what she was at the time she was created, we might not have stepped ahead far enough to be blase about her now — so for that, I’ll always be grateful for her place in history.