Sunday, March 01, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Here in Renaissanceland, we're working our way through the first three seasons of Buffy. After a whole lot of Firefly and some Babylon 5 (which will get its own post soonish), it seemed a fairly natural progression. We're a few episodes into season 3.

The most interesting thing about Buffy is how small it is, and how big it wants to be. Sunnydale is a small town. Sunnydale High seems small enough that most people know each other. The credited cast is six or seven characters -although some characters, like the principal or Buffy's mom, should be in the opening credits.

But Buffy wants to be big. Buffy is the only Slayer, or at least she should be. Vampires affect the world only when they come to Sunnydale. The fate of the world, or humanity, is threatened multiple times. And the show just doesn't have the budget to demonstrate that.

During the second-season episode "Phases," in which Buffy battles a werewolf, there is a brief stock footage shot of a sunrise over a town. This is a completely normal cinematic method for conveying things like dawn, but was a first for Buffy. More than anything else in the show, the two or three-second shot indicated that there was a town here! with houses! and people! as opposed to a collection of sets.

The second season of Buffy generally got around this by increasing the emotional impact of the big storylines. The fate of the world was relatively unimportant, compared to the fate of the relationship between Buffy and Angel. This led to a fairly satisfying climax, despite the fact that the big fight for the fate of the world took place in a medium-sized apartment with Buffy, Spike, Angel, Drusilla, and two generic henchmen.

The third season has been somewhat odd, in that Buffy appears to have received a "budget" and is using many more extras. Both of the first two episodes involved masses of people and bad guys.

Both myself and the Renaissance Poet have seen episodes from later seasons and have been fairly unimpressed, but we both remember season 3 fairly fondly. So it's likely that we'll stop, or at least take a hiatus from slaying, after season 3.

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