Mon
Feb 20 2012 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Worst Part is the Stains

One of the many things I appreciate about Joss Whedon’s shows is that they wrap up at the end of the year. Viewers aren’t left with a big lingering battle about to unfold at the finale; each season finishes as though the story’s over. Sure, there are loose threads to pick up later, and some of them are mighty tantalizing threads at that, but even so you get that bit of satisfaction that comes from experiencing a story’s end.

(This is merely a taste thing, and I’m sure some of you prefer the cliffhanger. Which is cool too, of course!)

Like all storytelling choices, this rhythm has its repercussions. In the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it means that the Sunnydale slaying season is essentially a nine-month proposition, (like hockey, but with death!) especially in those early years when the gang is chained to the school calendar. Evil winters at the Hellmouth; like migratory waterfowl, the demons splash down in California every September. They eat civilians, build their numbers and chase after power. By May, the really dangerous vamps are dead, fleeing or at the very least trounced and licking their wounds deep underground. This gives the Slayer downtime to... well, it varies from year to year. After S1, Buffy heads off to L.A. to wheedle shoes out of her father and mope about having died at the Master’s hands. 

(We can deduce from this that Buffy’s already not one to view resurrection as a glass-half-full situation.) 

So as autumn returns, Willow and Xander are having a little end-of-summer moment, a brush with the possibility of the relationship Willow wants so badly. Then the first flocks of vampires return, quashing romance and incidentally bringing their primary predator with them.

“When She Was Bad” begins with a little handful of reunions, a collection of scenes wherein everyone close to Buffy goes “Hey, you’re back!” and, in return, gets a chilly hint at how she’s in pretty rough shape emotionally. She’s mean to Cordelia, tells Angel she’s so-so over him, beats the stuffing out of her practice dummy, and torments Xander with the infamous Sexay Dance. She’s so far out of line that Cordelia tries to talk sense to her.

Willow and Xander, meanwhile, have gone to Giles and complained that Buffy’s been enchanted, or possessed or something magical and bad. Giles counters their adorable and innocent theory with one of his own: Buffy has big “I was kilt and now I’m not, so much” issues.  It’s classic self-destructive behavior—alienate your support system, go it alone, fail, and then yell “I told you I was doomed!” as vampires devour you. You all remember this one from undergraduate psychology courses, I’m sure.

Things get worse in Buffyland, of course, when it turns off that the fall kick-off to the Evil Season is grabbing Cordelia, all as part of a larger plan to resurrect the Master. The Scoobies assemble to talk strategy, and Buffy attempts to cut them loose, triggering the first big team meltdown of the show. Our Slayer takes a lot of crap from her friends, mother and Watcher over the years, and at times I found this incredibly painful to watch. This time, though, I have to say—they were pretty gentle, and their complaints seemed pretty fair. Willow points out that she’s walking into a trap. Buffy’s all shrug, while Giles seems on the fence... probably because part of him agrees that Buffy shouldn’t be taking her fellow teens out on the hunt.

She runs off to the Bronze, alone, to save what turns out to be a decoy Cordelia. The minions of the Anointed One grab Miss Calendar, Willow, and Giles, leaving Xander behind to ladle out guilt and clue her in on the scheme.

Then Buffy casually tortures their vampire prisoner for info on where the resurrection’s going to happen. 

Yeah. Torture. This is morally allowed under what I call the Orc convention—I’ll write more about this another time, but essentially it’s the idea that the forces of evil use soulless cannon fodder, guys who are happy being evil and who have no capacity for any kind of redemption. The heroes aren’t being unheroic if they maltreat soulless beings, the rationale goes. There’s no moral ambiguity and we can all just skate past it. We don’t have to pause and go “Ick” and think ill of anyone for beating on orcs. Good thing there are no nice demons in the Buffyverse... well, none yet anyway.

In this case, the torture always seemed a little ill-considered to me, because they want the vampire girl to talk, and yet Buffy shoved a cross down her gob.

Okay, digression over: the torture works, and we’re off to the final fight scene! Yayyy! Buffy takes out her issues on the Master’s bones with a sledgehammer, Angel moves in for the hug, and the way is paved for a warm and fuzzy Core Four reconciliation at school the next day.

“When She was Bad” makes a decent epilogue to the Master story arc. It serves as a recap of the story so far, and simultaneously reconnects us with all the important folk of the S2 Buffyverse: not just the kids, Angel and Giles, but characters like Joyce, Principal Snyder and Jenny Calendar. And with the school year begun and slaying season open for business, things are picking up, because the bitter winds of fall are blowing Spike and Drusilla ever closer to the Hellmouth.


A.M. Dellamonica has a short story up here on Tor.com — an urban fantasy about a baby werewolf, “The Cage” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
59 comments
Anthony Pero
1. anthonypero
And so begins my personal favorite season of either Angel or Buffy.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Vampires being migratory explains a lot about summer here in Minnesota.

But also, I did like that Buffy had some effects from being dead (kind of) and didn't just bounce right back.
Dr. Thanatos
3. Dr. Thanatos
And as summer ends, we are treated to the "we're back at school" gags. My favorite is from season 3 when coach says "if we train hard, work as a team, and keep the number of mysterious deaths to a minimum, this could be our year to go all the way to the championship!"

Season two is one of my favorites but I have to also hold on to S5, the advent of The Imaginary Sister...
Alyx Dellamonica
4. AMDellamonica
I think S2 is a fave for a lot of people, though I have big big love for S3, too.
Dr. Thanatos
5. Lsana
One quibble I have with this article is saying "Whedon’s shows wrap up at the end of the year." Buffy did, yes, but Angel seemed to me to be as much about cliffhangers as any show out there. Season 1 ends with Darla's resurrection, season 3 with Cordelia ascending and Angel being dumped in the ocean, season 4 with them taking over Wolfram and Hart, and even the freaking series finally ended at the cusp of a great battle with evil. Season 2 pretty much wrapped up all its threads, but that was the exception not the rule.

I actually kind of liked the contrast when both shows were running: Whedon did both styles very well, and it was nice to get something different. But I don't think it's quite right to generalize about "Whedon's shows" based on Buffy.
Tomas Gerst
6. IamnotSpam
Here it is the quintessential mind fudge that I have ever seen. Poor Xander, I mean even if he wasn't a raging bowl of hormones already; to have the object of his every dream give him the come on and then ratchet him up the flag pole just to let him drop was sheer torment. Especially when it was the first time watched, rewatching is just not the same. We know by then that everything works out ok, but the first time, biatch what a thing to do to a guy who saved your life. I wanted to punch the wall. I want to call this Xander low point #2. I think being teacher's pet/baby food back in S1 was LP #1. Correct me if I am wrong please cause I may be forgetting something. Of course he has a few more to go this year. We ought to keep track of these. Esp. as we get closer to "I am not everyone's buttmonkey".
Dr. Thanatos
7. Dominiquex
I have to say, I loved how many issues Buffy had when coming back this episode. It brought a brittle emotional reality to the fact that we're supposed to believe this is a teenager. who kills. demons. Of course, the redeeming quality of the show is that no matter how self-destructive the characters get (is there anyone in the course of the series who's immune?), the other characters are there to bring them back.

I can't say how much I love this show - thank you for your rewatch Alex!
Sorcha O
8. sushisushi
It's really interesting to read about this episode, having recently watched some of the final season 7 episodes which were being re-run on tv here, particularly 'Empty Places', where the assembled Scoobies and proto-Slayers basically fire Buffy as their leader. The dynamic of Buffy vs support group is still there, but the tables have totally turned - it's the (much expanded) Scoobies blowing off Buffy as gently as they can, rather than Buffy blowing them off. It's also an interesting revisiting of the theme of the Scoobies being protected by Buffy - by the end of season 7, they've immensely powered up from the early seasons, but have still just got their asses kicked (also dead and maimed, in some cases). In 'When she was bad', they are only starting off on that journey (or returning to it in the case of Giles, I suspect).
Dr. Thanatos
9. Gardner Dozois
I found it a little odd that she spent the summer sulking, deing depressed, and having Issues when at the end of the previous season she came back from the dead full of energy and sassy black-humored snark, but I suppose you could say that it all caught up with her later.

Spike and Drusilla came along just in time. I was getting really bored with the Anointed One (or "the Annoying One" as Spike aptly calls him), and would not have wanted him to remain the Big Bad for the entire season. The original plan was to kill Spike at the end of his introductory episode, and changing their minds was one of the smartest decisions the BUFFY showrunners ever made.

I think the season with the Mayor is my favorite overall, but there's lots of good stuff in this season as well.

The seemingly migratory nature of vampires brings up a basic concept weakness of the whole show. There's ONE (1) Slayer, and she's stationed in a small town in California. You'd think that everywhere else in the world, without Buffy around to keep them down, we'd be up to our asses in vampire. And, in fact, when we finally get to see Los Angeles, in the first season of ANGEL, it does indeed turn out to be swarming with vampires, happy as vampire clams that there's no Slayer around to trim back the herd. You'd think that vampires would have taken over the world completely by now, except maybe in Sunnydale.
Jack Flynn
10. JackofMidworld
I woke up yesterday to find that my 16 year old daughter had just turned on the Season 1 premiere. I made the mistake of saying something along the lines of "you can't watch the whole first season in one day." Not only did she and her stepmom prove me wrong, we even moseyed into Season 2, so I just watched this episode last night (right before going to a friend's house to watch Walking Dead).

Maybe the biggest thing for me? Having seen how Cordy turns out in the later seasons, it was nice to see her being human in this episode, after being such a for the whole previous season.
Alyx Dellamonica
11. AMDellamonica
Lsana--yes, true, right. Most of the Angel cliffhangers made so little impact on me that I forgot about them. I am so corrected. (I should have prizes to give out for this! For I will be wrong again.)

Spam--so agree! We should have a Xander great lines count and a Xander low moments count.

Gardner--I know!! We could do a whole thing where we came up with questinable No-Prize style explanations. Here's mine: a Slayer's life is rarely much longer than that of a mayfly. She's called, she kicks some butt, the vamp population's thinned a bit... and then she kicks, and the next one's is called in proximity to another target-rich environment.
Tomas Gerst
12. IamnotSpam
I like yours but since mine was similar but way wordier Ill consider it said and just add a couple of things. Hellmouth, Council and homegrown Vampire Hunters. See way too much time to think on these things.
First I think that Hellmouth activity affects Slayer location. I forget when but I remember it being said that the Hellmouth moves around occasionaly and opens other places when things align and such. Also that the Hellmouth attracts the supranatural. So there you have the moth and the flame drawing baddies and maybe creating some baddies right where the Slayer is going to be active. I mean Buffy first gets her powers in Los Angeles only an hour or so away from Sunndale where the mouth is trying to reopen. ( I really dont remember how far Sunny is from LA but I did not think it was too far.)
The council seems to be in the business of watching out for hot spots and has agents that presumably do more then move paper and sit on their collective behinds when they find them. They were reponsible for Buffy's mom getting her job in Sunnydale to get her to move there and put Buffy right in the middle of ground zero. They would probably be working to cull any wild life elsewhere in the world maybe even pointing them in the direction of Sunnydale if they thought they needed too. (Spike and Drusilla?)
Hunters (ala Holt from Angel) or "Rogue Demon Hunters" or local gangs of homeless (Gunn) who for personal reasons go after the suprernatural critters in their local area would also keep their population down.
You also have the critter who knows that to keep safe they must keep a very low profile or they will run into the people above. Most of the bad guys also know that too much snacking might wake up the sleeping giant that is the rest of the population. Clue in the whole world of humans and vampires will make a quick footnote in the 'extinct are we' newspaper. Also some critters seem to like to take other critters out.
Also again realized more from Angel then Buffy, there are plenty who are assimilated more or less into the regular population already.
So there's my dollar added to Dell's two cents.

Reread it and realized I left out a whole other section which would be under the labels of Religion and Government. You problably have whole secret sects going after some critters like the ones that were after Glory in season 5. Holt got help from some religious refugees from Spains revolt against the inquisition when he captured Angel in Rome. Then you of course have your secret goverment agencies which Riley left and then rejoined when he left. Given all that its a wonder the poor critters ever stick there heads up above ground at all.
Tomas Gerst
13. IamnotSpam
Since I am frothing to write anyway, let me talk about the one thing that I wanted from Buffy/Angel that I never really got much of. Can you guess, it was stories about earlier Slayers. I would have loved to see Buffy getting whole stories/dreams of earlier slayers fighting the good fight, loving, being betrayed and eventually dying. I know some were written but I never caught any of those. I just always expected there to be more in the series of slayers gone by.
Dr. Thanatos
14. Gardner Dozois
I think it would have made more sense if vampires ONLY appeared in Sunnydale, because of the mystic energies of the Hellmouth, or at least that they were drawn irresistably there from elsewhere by the same. It would make more sense then that there's only one (1) Slayer at a time, if she was located where the problem was and it wasn't much of a problem anywhere else. Of course, when it then came time to spin off ANGEL, they would have had a problem...

Still think that in spite of all the rogue demon hunters, religious cults, and so forth that we'd be up to our asses in vampires everywhere OTHER than Sunnydale. It could actually be worse than that, because the credits say, "In every generation, there is a Chosen One," so if you have to wait for another GENERATION to grow up before there's another Slayer, once the current Slayer is killed, it could be a decade or more without a Slayer before you got a new one!
Constance Sublette
15. Zorra
What worked beautifully on Buffy was the re-thinking of the traditional television series' recurrent sets. Especially the sitcom living room sofa. That worked so well that I didn't even realize what it was for a long time.

The Bronze was another constant gathering space that didn't lose its provision of familiar / comfort for the watcher for a long time, despite so many not comfy events taking place in the Bronze.

The show's team had all that worked out already at the very start of the first season. Those things worked a lot better than the first episodes, or so it seemed to me. But then I'm the heretic who believes Season 4 is the best one, all around.

Love, C.
Dr. Thanatos
16. Gardner Dozois
It was the result of a low budget, I'm sure (not enough money for lots of sets), but I was always amused by the fact that the first step in world-domination for EVERY demon, monster, vampire, whatever, is to take over The Bronze. "Once we take over The Bronze, the rest is easy! The world is ours!" If invading space aliens from Mars had ever landed in Sunnydale, I'm sure the first vital step in their invasion plans would have been to take over The Bronze as well.

They were still doing this occasionally as late as "Once More With Feeling."

Actually, considering how many of the customers got killed on a regular basis, I'm surprised anybody ever went there. Those onion flowers must have been REALLY good.
Dr. Thanatos
17. wingracer
I believe it was a Neil Gaiman novel that said something along the lines of "hell has the best music" so of course the demons would be drawn to the Bronze.

Zorra, don't feel too bad. I'm a heretic too for thinking season 6 is my second favorite.
Dr. Thanatos
18. a1ay
I left out a whole other section which would be under the labels of
Religion and Government. You problably have whole secret sects going after some critters like the ones that were after Glory in season 5. Holt got help from some religious refugees from Spains revolt against the inquisition when he captured Angel in Rome. Then you of course have your secret goverment agencies which Riley left and then rejoined when he left.

Well, yes. The rest of the world isn't overrun with demons for the same reason that the rest of Victorian England isn't overrun with criminals because Sherlock Holmes doesn't go outside London very much. Holmes isn't the only crimefighter in England; just the best.
Jack Flynn
19. JackofMidworld
@ Spam - not sure if you're into comic books or not, but there are some of those out there that cover the earlier slayers. Not quite the same as watching one, but...
Dr. Thanatos
20. Dr. Thanatos
Speaking of recurring sets, might I remind you all of the school library, chosen to be the Scooby Cave because it was the one place in the school where our heroes could be certain that they would not be disturbed by any outsiders?
Anthony Pero
21. anthonypero
Which I found hilarious... but also strangely not true, like most of their stuff. I was in HS when this aired. Our school library was always full of people.
Dr. Thanatos
22. Dr. Thanatos
anthonypero,

I never thought it was supposed to be true, but it was supposed to be funny...
Anthony Pero
23. anthonypero
I know, it's just normally, their references strike me as true... so it makes me wonder if they really saw it that way...
Dr. Thanatos
24. Gardner Dozois
The library thing was very funny, but yes, probably not true. I don't think any non-Scooby ever came into the library to look at a book in all of the show's high-school years.

I always thought that tongues would wag at Mr. Giles spending so much time hanging out, day and night, with a beautiful teenage girl. They certainly would today, now that everybody's become sensitized to such issues--but they probably would have then, too. Seen without the supernatural rationale, it's deeply suspicious behavior.
Anthony Pero
25. anthonypero
I think I remember someone wandering in once. Giles made a big show of giving Buffy books and shooing her out. Or maybe it was Willow he shooed out... unsure.
john mullen
26. johntheirishmongol
There was a student who showed up to check out a book, once. The student was chased out pretty quickly.

@11 AMD - Xander fave line. "I'm 17, linoleum makes me horny."

The Bronze was a great hangout, but I didn't get their business plan, or how they let underage kids hang out in a place where booze was served. It seemed like early, they were a coffeehouse, then a club..they kept changing it around. And what parents are letting their kids go out out at a club on a school night?

All that being said, this episode was a good intro to a really good season. Buffy and the Scoobies really stepped up their game, and this was where the writers really took off and added a lot more depth to the storylines. Especially when Spike and Dru got rid the Annointed One, since good villians make for good stories.
Brandon Daggerhart
27. BDaggerhart
The Scoobies assemble to talk strategy, and Buffy attempts to cut them loose, triggering the first big team meltdown of the show. Our Slayer takes a lot of crap from her friends, mother and Watcher over the years, and at times I found this incredibly painful to watch.
Agreed - most of the "interventions" I found to be extremely undeserved and quite frankly, pretty obnoxious - most painfully obvious of all,(spoiler, hi-light to read) the Season 7 one where they kick her out of her own house... I had a hard time liking the Scoobies for several episodes after most of these.
Anthony Pero
28. anthonypero
@TankSpill:

My recollection of that incedent is different. I remember they kicked her out of being the leader, and made Willow the leader. Buffy left the house on her own.

Also, this re-watch is spoiler friendly for all seven seasons of Buffy, so we shouldn't have to white out anything regarding the show.
Sorcha O
29. sushisushi
Actually, they fired her as their leader and installed Faith as her replacement. And then Dawn kicked her out of the house, to be precise.
Anthony Pero
30. anthonypero
Ah, that's right. Thanks for the reminder. I'd forgotten Faith was even there.
Michael Ikeda
31. mikeda
anthonypero@30

Actually you were right the first time, at least about Buffy leaving the house on her own. Basically, she kept escalating the argument until she escalated herself right out of the house.

(One thing that struck me about that particular argument was how completely the course of the argument was driven by Buffy. In most of the other arguments between Buffy and the other Scoobies they tend to feed off of each others anger. )
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
32. tnh
I always imagined that if some long-lived Sunnydale HS librarian had a bad attitude and unreasonable policies (f.i. requiring that students pass an exam in correct use of the library before being allowed into it, and/or requiring handwritten permission from a teacher saying that the thing the student is currently studying really does require a book on N subject), the rest of the school might have so thoroughly switched over to workarounds that didn't require the use of the library that they're still avoiding it, even though the old librarian is gone.

I've never actually heard of that happening with a library. I'm extrapolating from long-ago district gossip I heard about AV departments.

Gardner @24, I've often wondered about the Council of Watchers' apparent assumption that a watcher can turn up at some family's front door and say "Hello, I want to take charge of your nubile daughter."

We know from Faith's history that the CoW has seriously defective administrative procedures for keeping track of watcher/slayer working relationships. When Faith takes off running after her first Watcher is killed, the CoW doesn't contact her. She's unsupported and unsupervised. When Gwendolyn Post shows up out of the blue and claims to be Faith's new Watcher (Revelations, s3e7), there's no authentication process. It ends badly:
BUFFY: Let me guess: Gwendolyn Post: not a Watcher.
GILES: Yes, she was. She was, uh, kicked out by the council a couple of years ago for misuses of dark power. They swear there was a memo.
In an organization as dedicated to recordkeeping as the Coucil of Watchers, this absence of attention to a basic administrative issue can't just be an oversight. There's something going on that they don't want to know about.

You can tell what an organization is concerned about by where and how they dispose their resources:

-- A Watcher going rogue warrants a routine memo (at most).
-- A Slayer who's traumatized, Watcherless, nearly destitute, and is falling into self-destructive behavior gets nothing.
-- A Slayer who may be going rogue warrants a fully-equipped wetwork squad.
-- A Slayer in a coma warrants monitoring by a full-time C0W employee, in case she wakes up and starts talking.
-- A Watcher who sides with a Slayer against the CoW warrants instant dismissal.

That last one is telling. The CoW invests a huge amount of training in its employees, and much of what they know is highly sensitive information. You don't casually fire a person like that; it turns a major asset into a permanent liability. You only fire them if what they're doing threatens the core organization. Getting rid of experienced and sympathetic watchers can't possibly benefit to the Slayers and their mission, so the value being defended must be the CoW itself.

I'm not going to draw parallels with any real-world organizations, but it looks to me like one of the Council's longstanding concerns is to maintain deniability about how Slayers and Potentials are treated by their Watchers, and to silence and suppress those who get actively upset about it. There's no logical reason for that level of defensiveness if there hasn't been abuse.

To take it one step further: in most cases where a Watcher approaches a girl and her family, she has no supernatural powers. All she and her family have is the Watcher's word on it that she's a Potential, and if she never becomes a Slayer, well, that's how it rolls. Who's to say that rogue Watchers have limited themselves to approaching girls who really are Potentials? Fighting vampires would make it awfully easy to get rid of the evidence afterward.
Dr. Thanatos
33. Gardner Dozois
The Watcher's Council was never portrayed in a particularly sympathetic light, considering that they're ostensibly the Good Guys, on either BUFFY or ANGEL. They're authoritarian, inflexible, bound by arbitrary micromanaging rules, as ruthless as the vampires when need arises--and not to be trusted. Both BUFFY and ANGEL are strewn with examples of the Watcher's Council betraying the Champions Against Evil they are supposed to be supporting in the fight for reasons of their own, often venal reasons, sometimes downright stupid ones. You can never believe anything they say, because they constantly lie to you, often smugly congratulating themselves that it's for your own good, or for a Higher Purpose that you couldn't understand.

They represent The Government, of course, but I wonder if they're not also meant to represent the negative, authoritarian, Heavy Father, possibly even abusive side of Parential Authority, just as Giles and Joyce represent the good, caring, nurating side. This is particularly interesting in that Buffy is portrayed as a girl with serious Daddy issues, whose father has pretty much abandoned her. (He's mentioned a few times early on, but later in the series he pretty much vanishes completely and is never mentioned again. He doesn't even come to Joyce's funeral. I don't think he even comes to BUFFY'S funeral. That's pretty serious abandonment, a father who can't even be bothered to attend his own daughter's funeral. I wondered if this was going to turn out to be a plot point--he'd been turned into a vampire or possessed by a demon, perhaps--but apparently it was just a loose end they never bothered to sew up.)

One of the ways you can tell that this is a fantasy show is OF COURSE these parents would never let some old weird guy come anywhere near their nubile young daughters, let alone assume a form of parential authority over them. That was true even when the show first started, and would be even more of a red flag these days.

And yes, I'm sure some of the more disreputable Watchers are taking advantage of their closeness to young girls to boff them. It certainly wouldn't be the first time teachers and priests have abused their positions of Authority.
Michael Ikeda
34. mikeda
Gardner@33

Buffy's father was never told that Buffy had died.
Dr. Thanatos
35. Gardner Dozois
I seem to recall someone--Xander?--saying that they'd tried to get in touch with Buffy's father about Joyce's funeral, but that they'd been unable to get in touch with him. I kept waiting for this to become significant--I kind of like the idea of Buffy having to fight a vampire version of her own father--but it never did.
Dr. Thanatos
36. JohnnyMac
Dr. Thanatos @3: Thank you! I was trying to remember that coach's pep talk. Classic black humor.

AMDellamonica, love the line "...like hockey, but with death!"
Dr. Thanatos
37. Gardner Dozois
Beside, even if they didn't tell Buffy's father that Buffy had died, if he remains out of contact and unable to be reached for a number of years, say AT LEAST from Joyce's death to the end of the series, it certainly ought to count as abandonment. You'd think that the fact that Sunnydale had vanished into an enormous hole in the ground would at least be enough to warrent a phone call!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
38. tnh
There are two more issues about the Council of Watchers that really bother me.

One is their response to emergency situations that have the potential to either end the world of do massive damage. They don't do squat. They don't even give Giles and Buffy sufficient advance notice of dates and prophecies they've been tracking for centuries.

Buffy and the Scoobies handle plenty of situations like that, but they always do it by the skin of their teeth. We know that earlier Slayers were supposed to work alone. Therefore, either the world ended (which it didn't), or the Watchers used to be a lot more helpful.

The other issue is finances. Keep an eye on how much money they spend. There's the aforementioned wetwork team (with gear and vehicles) that's apparently on permanent standby. Ditto, the employee who watches Faith while she's in a coma. The CoW hold a lavish annual conference to which some but not all of their field personnel are invited. When they question Buffy's fitness during the run-up to Glory's attempted disaster, they fly an entire team from London to California on short notice, which is very expensive. The Cruciamentum has to cost a mint. Their headquarters are sumptuous. None of their employees look like they're buying their clothes at thrift shops. Just the parts of the organization we see represent a serious annual budget.

They have to have a very substantial endowment. That means they have to be receiving contributions from the supernatural-savvy universe, which means they have to be seen as doing what they're supposed to do.

That's out of synch with their treatment of their slayers. They have no problem with Faith living in a roach motel. When Buffy is left orphaned, with a mortgage and a little sister to support, and is working at a fast food joint all day, they explicitly turn down Giles's request for financial support for her.

My theory is that either the Council has been infiltrated and turned, or has been taken over from inside by a faction of Watchers whose goals and priorities are very different from what they were in the past.

Who's likeliest to have done this to them? Wolfram and Hart. The foundation of W&H's business in this continuum is that they're the only firm to which resident demons can turn for protection, redress of wrongs, and everyday legal services. In order for this to continue, it's necessary for the C0W to continue existing, with their stubbornly polarized view of the inherent evilness of all demons. However, it would make W&H's business run a great deal more smoothly if the CoW were toothless -- or, even better, under their control.
Anthony Pero
39. anthonypero
Of course, the entire council was killed, so this is all moot now. But still, interesting analysis.
Dr. Thanatos
40. Dr. Thanatos
@anthony,

Were they killed? Or was that a clever ploy to make us think they were killed?

Was there evidence of Watcher Council activity in Angel after the end of Buffy?

What better way to go underground, or as the Doctor would put it "go into the shadows" than to have a big flashy explosion and a twitterburst announcing you had been destroyed?
Anthony Pero
41. anthonypero
hmmm... suspicious indeed... ;P Any evidence in the comics? I am comic illiterate.
Dr. Thanatos
42. Gardner Dozois
I don't know from the comics either, but wasn't there a last-season ANGEL episode where Angel and Spike chase Buffy to Italy (a real tease, since Buffy doesn't actually appear in the episode, although occasionally someone will point to a blond woman way off in the distance and say that it's Buffy) and run into a representative of the Watcher's Council? Who turns out to be, of all people, Andrew (think that's his name) from the Three Nerds, who is now, improbably, a Watcher. This would imply that the Watcher's Council did continue to survive and function after the big blow-up in Buffy.

Not that they were ever much real use in the Battle Against Evil anyway, as pointed out above. The decision of the obviously extremely wealthy Watcher's Council NOT to subsidize Buffy financially, clearly a trivial sum to them, so that she had to spend her time working in a fast-food joint rather than trying to prevent Armageddon, greatly increasing the likelihood of Armageddon actually happening, was incredibly obtuse and short-sighted. Penny-wise and pound-foolish. "We'll save some money--but the world will be destroyed. But we'll save some money!"
john mullen
43. johntheirishmongol
I have to agree that the Watchers were way more of a hindrence than a help, with the glaring exception of Giles. Talking about money, the one episode that was funny to me was when Buffy went to the bank to get a loan and was trying to trade on her Slayer skills to get one. She needed to work out a business plan for that.

With the exception of Joyce, and Giles, there really was a total lack of parenting around. We never met any of them, and the few parents we did see were losers. As far as I remember, Joyce only had one boyfriend the entire series, and that was John Ritter, who turned out to be crazy.
Anthony Pero
44. anthonypero
I believe that Buffy was rebuilding a new organization.
Dr. Thanatos
45. Gardner Dozois
And one of the first people she picks is ANDREW? Right. Very shrewd of her.

The Watcher's Council doesn't send any aid when Armegeddon is about to happen in Los Angeles in the series-ender of ANGEL either, leaving Angel and his team to face it alone, or the time before that, when the sun goes out, or at the end of BUFFY when the Hellmouth is opening, and when Giles is invested with magic and sent over to try to keep Willow from literally destroying the world, he's not given that power by the Watcher's Council, but by a group of witches.

Bloody useless bunch, the Watcher's Council.

John Ritter was a robot, not crazy, but yeah, almost all the parents in BUFFY were lousy parents, if demonstrated by nothing else than by the fact that their high-school age kids were always staying out all night and nobody noticed.
Dr. Thanatos
46. Dr. Thanatos
Interesting. I recently re-watched the John Ritter episode and he is the only adult who attempts to impose any order or discipline on a teen in this show. And he's portrayed as a crazed robot.

Given the symbolism of everything else in this show, is it reasonable to presume that the message here is that parents who want their kids to show a modicum of respect and good behavior are killer robots?
Michael Ikeda
48. mikeda
Gardner@45

Basically all of the survivors of the series-ending battle got recruited into Buffy's new organization (as long as they were willing to be recruited).
Dr. Thanatos
49. Gardner Dozois
I certainly wouldn't trust Andrew, nor has he done anything whatsoever to make anyone think he is trustworthy.

Now if it was Jonathan, with whom Buffy had some sympathetic history in spite of the rest of the stuff, I could maybe see it. Jonathan would have made a more credible Watcher than Andrew too. I always thought they'd killed the wrong one. Jonathan, who showed some remorse and the potential for redemption, should have been the one to survive, and perhaps betray the others out of conscience at some critical juncture. Andrew never showed the slightest bit of remorse.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
50. tnh
Dr. Thanatos @46: I took the message of the John Ritter episode to be that someone who's already overcontrolling during the courtship phase is going to be pure hell later on.

Joyce and Giles are the good parents: principled, caring, understanding, courteous without being pushovers, and concerned about setting a good example under extremely trying circumstances. The other outstanding parents -- we should all have had parents that good -- are Fred's, on Angel.

There are other characters who clearly have it in them to take on that role. Dr. Gregory (Teacher's Pet, fourth episode of the first season) showed promise in that direction, but unfortunately he was killed by the preying mantis lady. Principal Flutie was trying to be a good guy while maintaining discipline, right up to the point where he got eaten by a pack of were-hyenas. Robin Wood was rather better at it, and survived, too.

The truly bizarre example is Mayor Wilkins. He's evil, no question about it. And yet, he knows good parenting, knows how it works. He could never have so thoroughly suborned Faith if he didn't understand how to do the "warm and nurturing" thing. He's the most original character on that show.

All the other families show different degrees of dysfunction. Xander's are abusive alcoholics who resent his existence. Willow's are so focused on their careers that they have no attention to spare. Cordelia's parents screw her over financially in the middle of her senior year. (I've always thought that if only they'd given her advance warning, she could have coped. The amount of money we've earlier seen her run through could easily have financed college with plenty to spare, and Cordelia is if anything a realist.) Amy Madison's mother tried to steal her life. Tucker and Andrew Wells's parents apparently failed to notice that their sons were creating devil-dogs and flying demon monkeys. Tara's family was just plain awful. Spike's lineage -- the Master, Darla, Angelus, Drusilla -- was baroquely awful. Wesley's father was indistinguishable from an evil robot ...

By the time they get to Lorne's family, dysfunctionality is being played for laughs. From Through the Looking Glass, Season 2, Episode 21, as transcribed in the Buffy Dialogue Database:
(Angel and Lorne arrive at Lorne's family home.)
LORNE: Boy. I'd give my left horn to not have to do this.
(We see a group of Lorne's relatives, apparently engaged in some kind of horseplay, in front of their dwelling.)
LORNE: Hi-de-ho!
(The big figure in the middle of the gathering turns around to look towards them. Unlike the other demons of Lorne's kind we've seen so far, this one sports a full beard)
LORNE: Guess who's back.
MOM: Krevlorneswath? Can it be true? I've often prayed that I might look again upon your face.
LORNE: Well, you're in luck then.
MOM: (beard and all, spits in Lorne's face) You have shamed our clan and betrayed your kind.
LORNE: Thanks, mom.
ANGEL: (dumbfounded) Mom?
MOM: Each morning before I feed I go out into the hills where the ground is thorny and parched, beat my breast and curse the loins that gave birth to such a cretinous boy-child!
LORNE: (spreading his hands) My mother!
MOM: Your father was right. We ate the wrong son.
LORNE: Well, enough of this sentimental reminiscing. Just a couple of quick questions, then I'll skeddadle. You remember back around five years ago when I first disappeared - did you notice anything - odd?
MOM: We noticed feasting and celebrations. Your brother Numfar did the dance of joy for three moons. Numfar! Do the dance of joy.
(Numfar starts some weird dance routine, which includes some kicks and hops as well as tapping himself repeatedly on the head.)
LORNE: Actually what I meant was more along the lines of a strange flashing, kind of a weird pulsating... (aside to Angel) You remember when I said we didn't have music in my world? Wish I could say the same about the dancing. (Back to his mom) Lights. Really you couldn't have missed it. Big, bendy, swirly...
MOM: No longer do the dance of joy, Numfar!
LORNE: Nothing like that at all, then.
MOM: Now take your cow and get off my lawn!
I'm not admitting a thing about my own upbringing, but "Your father was right. We ate the wrong son" may be my single favorite line in any episode of Buffy/Angel.
Dr. Thanatos
51. Tom Galloway
Numfar, if I recall correctly, was played by Joss Whedon.

My own gripe with the Buffyverse set up is just how quickly she, and any Slayer, should've been killed. Basically, anyone with even a little magic and knowledge of Buffy should've been able to either take her out from a distance (there's only so long you can keep defending yourself from 200 mph travelling pencils coming from any direction) or done something to make her ridiculously vulnerable (for example, Tara's "You can't see a demon" spell). Any significant magic, used with a brain for strategy and tactics, could've taken her out at any point.
Jack Flynn
52. JackofMidworld
Totally explains why Buffy caught so much flak for not being more secretive with her activities from the Watchers Council. One of the things that I learned from the expanded Buffyverse is that most Slayers don't live past their late teens, maybe their early 20s. Considering that, Buffy and Faith were some of the longest-lived slayers, and only because they broke the rules and had a decent support staff.
Dr. Thanatos
53. Gardner Dozois
You don't even need magic to take out the Slayer. Darla demonstrated the way to do it in the first season, it was mentioned again in the Three Assassains episode, and Spike figured it out much later but didn't go through with it because he was already in love with her by that point. Every time the subject was brought up, they skittered away from it as quickly as possible.

You shoot her.

If you take her in an ambush, by surprise, nullifying her Slayer speed and reflexes, so much the better, but even Slayer speed and reflexes aren't going to do much against an automatic weapon, which can fill the air with lead, or against a shotgun at close range. So you shoot her. Taking away the supernatural element, she's just a teenaged girl, as vulnerable to harm as any other, and has no other defense against attack except speed, reflexes, and fighting skill--which work a lot better when you're defending yourself against an attack with fists or edged weapons. A stream of bullets moving at supersonic speed don't care what kind of fighting skill you've got. Nor does a bullet from a sniper rifle fired at you unexpectedly, for that matter.

The same was always true of the Charmed Ones on CHARMED. Dozens of demons threw themselves at the Charmed Ones, hurling fireballs and hacking away at them with swords and axes, when they could have been taken out at any time by a drive-by shooting from a car across the street.
Dr. Thanatos
54. Gorbag
I don't know about you, but I always wanted to watch Vampire and the Buffy Slayer. I wuz robbed!
Dr. Thanatos
55. Dr. Thanatos
Princesses Slain, Dragons Rescued. Reasonable Rates. Inquire within.
Dr. Thanatos
56. General Vagueness
I like your re-watch, but I'd like it more if it had some of the, let's say, auxiliary or accessory things some others have, mainly how things are connected and, well, trivia. I like the idea of tracing how pathetic/capable Xander is at the moment, who's the awful surrogate parent of the week, the rise and fall (and rise and fall, and rise) of Willow on her road going back and forth from super-geek to witch to lover to addict to spirit of wrath to demigod. Speaking of which, 53 (Gardner Dozois), did you forget when Warren tried it? Maybe they had that partly because they'd shied away from it before, maybe to quell questions and feelings there was a happy sunshiney denial that was part of Buffy or part of that world. He nearly succeeded, and IIRC part of the reason he didn't is that slayers also have extraordinary (or rather, supernatural) abilities to heal and recover. You could say the hospital treatment would have had a significant impact if it hadn't been superseded, and then I'd say it's part and parcel, mostly-- the age in which we have guns (and ones that are accurate, reliable, easy to use, etc.) is the age of better medical care, where something like a bullet isn't necessarily a death sentence. Given both of these and magic, you'd better be sure your first shot is a kill, otherwise you'll just make 'em mad. That doesn't tell us why the Order of Taraka, the mayor's motley crew of killers, et al. were apparently a better choice than one hitman with a sniper rifle, but it addresses the question of vulnerability. (They also kind of address the whole "gun beats fairy dust" thing in killing the Judge with a rocket launcher and using tons of explosives in lieu of a volcano to kill the mayor's final form.)
Dr. Thanatos
57. Gardner Dozois
They had a cover for the vulnerability to guns on ANGEL, where shooting Angel didn't kill him or even slow him down significantly, but Buffy had no such supernatural immunity to bullets. If she wasn't the star of the show and didn't have the scriptwriter on her side, Warren may well have been able to kill her with his attack, pure luck that he didn't, and it's a wonder that more villains didn't think of this form of attack rather than hacking at her with swords and axes, giving her a chance to pummel them. In a later episode, Spike figures out a way around the chip-in-his-head problem and a way of killing Buffy anyway: just shoot her with a shotgun. "I'll have an awful headache, but she'll be dead." He can't bring himself to do it because he's already fallen in love with her by then, but it almost certainly would have worked, barring scriptwriter interference. (By the way, Spike's ability to fall in love with Buffy before he gets his soul back sort of invalidates the whole show's basic premise, that although they have the human's memories, vampires are possessed by soulless demons and are thus incapable of feeling love or compassion or remorse.)

Judging from how long it takes her to recover from other serious wounds, like the stab wound she gets from a vampire in a later episode, a gunshot wound might not have killed her, but it would have taken her awhile to recover from it, unlike Angel, who can absorb and shrug off so many bullets that it sometimes seems like he must be made out of sponge.

Killing the Judge with a rocket launcher, a great moment, reminds me of something else that peeves me: why isn't Xander armed? In later episodes, they give him an ax, at least (although he never seems to accomplish much with it), but in early seasons he's reduced to fist-fighting with vampires and demons, and, not having super-strength, pretty much always gets the shit kicked out of him, night after night. You'd think his experience as Soldier Boy and the episode with the Judge would have given him the idea of taking some military hardware along on missions. Considering that vampires on this show go up like kindling when fire is applied to them, bringing a flame thrower with him would have made him a lot more valuable on these vampire-nest search-and-destroy missions, and might even have destroyed some of the demons they run into.
Anthony Pero
58. anthonypero
Actually, I don't thInk Spike loved Buffy pre-soul. He hungered to be loved by her, and was constantly trying to manipulate the situation to fill that hunger. Sometimes his actions took the appearance of love, but I thought the writers did a great job walking the line, myself. It was Buffy saying she could never love him that finally drove him to get his soul back. Even that was driven by the hunger to be loved, not by actually loving in return. Or, at least, one can choose to see it this way, so as not to invalidate the premise of the show.
Dr. Thanatos
59. Gardner Dozois
I dunno, he was plunged deep into grief when she died, and resolved to help the Scoobies fight Evil thereafter because "that's what Buffy would have wanted me to do," and pledged himself to guard Dawn (who he seemed to feel genuine affection for, by the way, another non-vampireish trait) for the same reason. Sounds like love to me.

Later, in the last season of ANGEL, Spike tells Angel that although Angel had his soul returned as punishment, as part of a curse, he, Spike, not only WANTED his soul back, he fought desperately for it, put his life at grave risk, and went through many torments to get it back--which certainly sounds more admirable to me. For that matter, the very fact that Spike desperately wanted his soul back while still ostensibly being a soulless demon who only had the memories of the man he used to be ("Once the demon takes over, the man is gone forever, he's not there anymore," according to the show) is pretty non-typical behavior for a vampire right there.
Anthony Pero
60. anthonypero
I don't disagree with your last paragraph. I disagree with the motivation behind it. Spike was very non-typical. I just happen to believe that Spike was motivated more by a desire to be loved than actual love. Lets just call my view of "love" at least the kind that requires a soul, to be a tad more narrow than what we usually refer to as love in society.

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