Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 20

I remember the first time I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I came to it quite late (Season 6 was on TV by the time I managed to catch it). I was 9 or 10, I think, and one of my friends really wanted to show me the musical episode (her family made me a bacon sandwich, they slathered it with butter but I was too awkward to tell them that butter made me sick to my stomach so I muddled through). I remember her trying to get me to sing parts even though I had never seen it before (the result was not pretty) but from then I was hooked.

I would retreat up to my bedroom or my parents’ bedroom before I got a TV for all to myself to watch episodes as they came onto BBC 2. Shortly after I found myself falling in love with Season 6, BBC 2 started playing earlier episodes, I think on Sundays. Whenever I went out I would beg my mum to record the episodes I would be missing for me. (I think I still have my home-recorded versions of Becoming (parts 1 and 2) stashed on a shelf in my childhood bedroom. Eventually, getting fed up of having to record things for me all the time, my parents got me the video box sets for my birthdays and Christmases. I now need to get a DVD box set, as they changed the design when I was half-way through replacing my videos (the shame). It is from there that I found Charmed, and Dark Angel, and fell in love with supernatural fantasy and sci-fi dramas, and later paranormal fiction.

When I think back, so many of my interests now are directly related to discovering that show. Obviously, I couldn’t let the 20th anniversary pass me by without creating a post devoted to my favourite series. I couldn’t decide what to focus on so this will be a mixed bag of favourite episodes, favourite characters and anything else I haven’t yet thought of but will inevitably end up including. I hope you enjoy my lovey, gushy nostalgia.

Favourite Characters

There are so many great characters in Buffy but these three are characters that have always stuck out to me for one reason or another. That’s not to say I don’t love any of the others, I do, they all have their own little sections of my heart. I don’t think there’s a single character that I thought the show could have done without. Good job.

1. Willow Rosenberg

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There has never been a day when Willow was not my favourite. I adore Willow, from nerdy Willow to scary veiny Willow. I think Willow probably had the biggest journey of any character in the show, she is so different in the last episode from the shy, meek little girl we see in the first. She goes through addiction and comes out the other side, she learns to appreciate herself for herself rather than what others think of her, and she becomes so very powerful in the process. (Willow is also part of my two favourite relationships in the entire show so there’s that.)

2. Daniel “Oz” Osbourne

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How could Oz not be on this list? Everything that came out of his mouth was golden. I would love to have even an ounce of Oz’s chill. There is also the matter of Oz and Willow to consider, the amount of love and care he showed towards her, and the ‘Who is that girl?’ moments, before they were officially a thing, stole my tiny heart. Oz is possibly my favourite male character from any show ever. Possibly.

3. Spike

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Spike has made some bad decisions and done some incredibly questionable things (even when he was ‘good’) but I am a sucker for an only-sort-of-if-they-have-to hero. I am not ashamed to say that I have a drinking glass with Spike on it which I still use to this day. I do not condone most of his actions but that doesn’t make him a bad character – it just makes him a mostly bad person (with little hints of goodness here and there).

Drusilla deserves a special mention here because I adore her too. My mad little darling.

Favourite Monsters

I am not counting Big Bads in this section. Other than Dark Willow, I don’t actually have a favourite Big Bad, they were all enjoyable. Warren is arguably the most terrifying because he is real. He is a real thing, a real thing that happens on a regular basis. ThoughtCatalog have a really good article on this, you should read it.

But the little monsters? Yes, I definitely have favourites.

1. Gnarl (Same Time, Same Place – Season 7)

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Gnarl was creepy as hell, his childlike, sing-song way of speaking combined with the slow, painful death he inflicts on his victims (and later Willow, though luckily Buffy gets there and slays him before he can do any fatal damage) is possibly one of the most creepy things that happened in Buffy. It’s an episode I revisit quite a lot, though while Gnarl is incredibly creepy, he is also oddly compelling.

2. Gachnar (Fear, Itself – Season 4)

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In the words of Xander, who’s a little fear demon? Gachnar is ridiculous. The whole episode sets up for something that could be truly terrifying and we get Gachnar. That’s one of the things I love most about Buffy, so often Whedon makes you expect something and then throws something completely different at you – it was never predictable beyond its general premise.

3. Der Kindestod (Killed by Death – Season 2)

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This one freaked me out. It still freaks me out. It’s the face. THE FACE. I do love that he’s wearing a hat though, that’s a nice touch.

Special mention here goes to the Gentlemen from Hush. More on that later.

Favourite Episodes

This was incredibly difficult, as I was determined to stick to three (and a special mention) for every section. My choices are predictable, which only goes to show how good those episodes were. Imagine picking your favourite three puppies of 144 incredibly cute, wobbly little puppy faces – that’s what this decision was like… only scarier.

1. Hush (Season 4)

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Obvious answer number one. But come on? An almost word-less episode which still manages humour and is exceptionally creepy to boot? This episode still scares me.  Tall floating men who do nothing with their face but smile? Eek. Screaming without screaming? Not something I would ever want to happen. If I am screaming, I want people to know about it. It’s so different from every other episode and yet it fits into the narrative perfectly. It definitely showcases the often-forgotten score. I love scores so it was great for me to find an episode which really appreciated its background music (or would it be foreground music in this case?). It’s just an all-round fantastic piece of television.

2. The Body (Season 5)

Excuse me while my heart shatters into a million pieces. This episode was another bold decision from Whedon, no background music, moments with no speech, no monsters to speak of – only death. This episode stands out to me for many reasons but the main one is this:

It’s so heartbreaking and powerful and so apt. Joss Whedon, I tip my hat to you.

3. Once More With Feeling (Season 6)

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This is me, is there any chance I am not including the musical episode on this list? No. No, there is not. It was the first episode I ever watched so it has a special place in my heart for introducing me to the series but it also has singing. I love singing. Despite the revelation at the end, it’s a happy episode. I enjoy it, it gives me nice tummy feelings.

My last special mention goes to both Halloween (Season 2) and Fear, Itself (Season 4) – both Halloween episodes. Other than the three listed above, these are two of my most watched episodes (Becoming part 1 and 2 are also up there). Halloween themed episodes of anything are fab and Buffy is no exception. (Though, Season 6’s Halloween episode left a lot to be desired – it being the episode before Once More With Feeling only served to make the musical stand out more, so I can forgive it.)

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Happy Birthday, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – thank you for being one of the constants in my life. You are truly wonderful.

Did you ever watch Buffy? Did you love it? If you haven’t watched it, why not? I’m curious.

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#FolkloreThursday Favourites: Retellings and Folklore-based books

I’ve been following the Folklore Thursday tag on Twitter for a while and it has only just now occurred to me that perhaps I should do some Folklore Thursday happenings on my blog. I am not sure how this managed to pass me by for so long but pass me by it did.

No longer! I am going to try for an interesting folkloric/fairy tale-esque post every week. It’ll give me more excuses to read folklore, so I am excited.

For my first foray into the world of Folklore Thursday, I am going to share some of my favourite retellings and books based heavily on folklore.  Hoorah.

1. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

9781472108685Oh my goodness. I am still not over this book. If you’ve been lurking in this corner of the internet for a while, you already know how much I love this book.

It tells the tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, and it is probably my favourite book. It is the book that made me interested in Russian/Slavic folklore and mythology (an interest which is very much bubbling at the moment). It is lyrical and beautiful and dark and painful, and I will never get over it. Ever.

I will always recommend this book, it is the first book I mention whenever someone needs something to read.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

4407If you’ve not heard of this book before: 1. How? 2. Look it up, look it up right now.

American Gods is fantastic. So fantastic that it will soon be a TV show. I am eager. I’m not sure whether I will actually be able to watch it from my little flat in the West Midlands but I am eager.

Unlike DeathlessAmerican Gods does not just focus on one particular country’s mythology. It has everything, it even creates new things. New gods. New gods which make me want to squeeze them until they break. Ahem. Bit scary there, sorry about that. It’s a jaunt through many mythologies and comes highly recommended.

3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

276750I discovered this book in college, I think. Someone had found it or been reading it and was outraged by the dark, dark story ‘The Snow-Child’. Of course, I had to read it for myself and then I had to buy the book.

Again, this collection draws from a lot of different places and isn’t just a collection of retellings of tales I was familiar with. My favourite stories are: ‘The Bloody Chamber’ from which the collection gets its name, which tackles the story of Bluebeard; and ‘The Erl-King’, a story featuring a figure from Danish and German folklore, who I’ve been interested in since discovering a wonderfully dark piece of Labyrinth fan fiction which uses the tale as its inspiration. If you like a bit of darkness, give both the Carter and the fan fiction a read.

4. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

24886019Of course, of course, there is another Valente book on here. How could there not be? She just has so many greats to choose from! This book is gorgeous, both in the writing and in the illustrations by Charlie Bowater. I have long loved her work and was so happy to discover that it would be paired with Valente’s writing.

Six-Gun Snow White is a Western take on, you guessed it, Snow white and it’s a take only Valente could think up. I adore it. It’s a quick read, I discovered it last year and I am pretty sure I devoured it in one sitting.  It’s a wonderful twist on the tale and is just as very enjoyable experience all round. Plus, the hardback is beautiful.

5. The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly

69136I’ve mentioned this book briefly on the blog before. It’s lovely. Aimed at younger readers, it includes a number of different fairy tales as well as a few little things of its own. Definitely one I intend to read to any potential future children I might end up having.

My love for this book also comes from my experience of it. My copy is delightfully deformed. The book block has been put into the hardcover upside down and back to front. I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the fact that I like to look under the jacket. Much to my amusement, I found the embossed cover upside down on the back of the book. It just seemed to suit the novel so well that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

6. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25493853The most recent read of this list, The Bear and the Nightingale is another book based in Russian folklore. I will be posting a full review in the near future so won’t say too much here. I will say that as soon as I saw the cover of this book that I needed it. I didn’t even know what it was about at that point but I needed it. Just look at it, it’s beautiful.

It draws on folklore that I hadn’t yet discovered, which made me deliriously happy and has a wonderful way about it, which I will talk more about in my review.

I know a lot of people had been excitedly anticipating this book until its release on January 12th – it was worth it.

So there you have it. Six of my favourites. I’m always on the look out for more books of this ilk so please do tell me your favourites in the comments – recommend some books! All of the books! I may have a mighty TBR pile but there is always room for more.

Tune in next week (we hope) for a list of books I want to read, and the week after (we hope even more fiercely) for something that isn’t a list.

Have a lovely Thursday!