14 June, 2011

The Great Buffy Rewatch: The Initiative

                     These three posts -- The Initiative, Pangs and Something Blue -- are another part of Nikki Stafford's The Great Buffy Rewatch on her blog, Nik At Nite;  which, as such the Buffy fan that I am, I was honored to be a part.  Like the first three I did -- The Zeppo, Bad Girls and Consequences -- they'll be broken into three posts, one per episode, with Spoilers as Endnotes.   I hope you enjoy!

I promised Nikki I’d keep this brief. 
My last entry – The Zeppo, Bad Girls and Consequences – ran nearly 6,000 words, longer than most, but she was kind enough to post as-is, and I do thank her for that.  It didn’t feel long (to me, hope you agree), but I did promise to keep this one around 1,500. 
I went back and looked at that first entry.  Yikes, the Zeppo part alone ran more than 1,500 words!  Had I once again bitten off more than I could chew?  I have to admit, I was nervous trying to cram so much fun into so few words.  (So why, you must be thinking, am I wasting so many with this drivel?  Well …)  Buffy’s a lot of fun.  More than anything else, it’s great fun, and we as fans get to enjoy it over and over again (without it ever feeling old;  probably the great compliment to Whedon & Co). 
I started watching from the very first ep, and by Season 2 my then-wife and I hosted every Tuesday night so friends could watch together.  (I actually miss yelling “It’s on!” when commercials ended, but I wax lyrical on that in a Dollhouse article I did:  http://whedonesque.com/comments/24175.)  I’ve always been a “more the merrier” kind of guy, but those get-togethers (especially by Season 4 when, along with Angel, it became a two-hour event) greeeeew;  so much so that a couple people started staying home to watch because our viewings were getting too rowdy.  “I can’t hear!”  “Wait, what just happened?”  (And we couldn’t TiVO back.)  To that end, my dear friend Andy Gattuso wrote up this (I kid you not, it was taped to the outside of the front door every Tuesday night) --

Frankly I was surprised I still had it.  (And I apologize for its crudeness.  I even blocked out a bit.  We were twenty-something then;  oof, it was back when I still smoked.)  Another dear friend of mine, Anne Mialaret, one of the regulars, actually stood out there until the first commercial break.  Now that’s a fan!  So much so, in fact, that when I couldn’t make it to Comicon during Buffy Season 3 to have our WB Posters signed, she got two and gave me one.

Now, if you’ve continued reading this far, I know you’re asking, “Why is he wasting all this time on this?”  Because the show is fun.  Because we as fans enjoy talking about the fun we’ve had watching it as much as the show itself.  Because, as consistently good as it is, and the longevity with which it will continue (and not get old), we’ll continue having fun with it.  So thanks, Andy and Anne.  All fans deserve a few words before we begin.
Speaking of, I better do so.  And so, once again, the camera pushes in on me staring wide-eyed at my laptop, furiously typing away and –
            Opening Credits.

The Initiative
w Doug Petrie
d James A. Contner

I’ve always thought that Season Four works really well – certainly better – the second time you see it.  I remember enjoying it as it aired, but there’s definitely a change in the air.  We no longer have The Library as headquarters.  Buffy isn’t living at home.  Angel is gone.  Oz having just left?  Everybody’s changing.  And, in typical Whedon & Co fashion, the first third of the season are pretty much stand-alones, only teasing with The Big Bad before finally revealing it.  We’ve been poked by The Commandos, but now we’re hit with them head on.  Not to mention the good-looking All-American who might be a new love interest for Buffy is one of them?  Indeed, lots of change in the air.
            In fact, Riley is the best example of Season Four working better the second time around.  For three years we fell in love with Buffy and Angel right along with them.  For my money they’re one of the great storytime romances.[i]  So, yes, it took a lot of time for me to get on the Riley bandwagon.  Years and multiple DVD viewings later.  Now I do like him.  But then?  No, change wasn’t all that comfortable.
            Which was most likely Whedon & Co’s plan, and one of the things that I think makes Buffy work through seven seasons.  While – as I wrote throughout Zeppo et al – they never wrote against character (key in a good show) they do love to shake things up.  And shake things up they do from Initiative forward.
            It’s interesting that it rests on Doug Petrie to make the turn.  He wrote Bad Girls which is Season 3’s turn, and here he is again, revealing for us The Initiative as Big Bad.[ii]  While I prefer my Big Bads to be a bit more fantastic (a la The Master, Spike/Drusilla/Angel, The Mayor)[iii], I guess the idea of a Government anti-demon conglomerate was inevitable.  Somebody was bound to ask, “Wouldn’t they have a hand in this by now?”  After all, we see rumblings of the like as far back as Season 1’s Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight.  That Whedon & Co handle it as well as Season 4 plays out deserves kudos.[iv]  Remember, we’re in the change.

[i] I’m getting ahead of myself, but Pangs begins the two-part crossover with the Angel ep I Will Remember You which only solidified their relationship for us long-viewing fans even after he’d left!
[ii] And I’m indeed getting ahead of myself here, but David Fury’s The I In Team will reveal Adam, the personification of The Initiative as Big Bad.
[iii] Even Glory and eventually The First.
[iv] Especially considering the Penultimate and then Finale.

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