Cultural Learnings’ Cultural Catchup Project is a long-term endeavour designed to catch up on a number of important television series that for various reasons have slipped under my radar. For more information on why I’m starting the project, and how the first series was chosen, click here.
Show #1 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Some opening thoughts about the challenge of writing about such an oft-analyzed series and the excitement about finally understanding the origins of the Whedonverse.
- Analysis of the series’ two-part pilot, focused on its resistance to traditional origin stories and the challenges of scale in terms of confronting the end of the world through the lens of high school students in small-town America.
- Brief thoughts on how the opening standalone episodes, “Witch” and “Teacher’s Pet,” change up my expectations heading into the rest of the season after the comparatively large scale premiere.
- Thoughts on the similarities between Buffy and Angel’s double lives and the unique context that recent vampire-related romance has created for this particular coupling within Season One.
- Analysis of the subtle distinctions between how Hellmouth influences Buffy’s high school setting in the episodes leading up to the first season finale.
- A discussion of the first season finale, including how it spoke to the themes of the season and how it brought things to a logical resolution which offers much promise for the future.
- An analysis of the role that characters’ personalities – and the changes, evolution and introduction of those personalities – play in the opening six episodes of the show’s second season (“When She Was Bad” to “Halloween”).
- Some brief thoughts on the seventh episode of Buffy’s second season.
- Some brief thoughts on the eighth episode of Buffy’s second season.
- Some brief thoughts on the ninth and tenth episodes of Buffy’s second season.
- Some brief thoughts on the eleventh episode of Buffy’s second season.
- Some brief thoughts on the twelfth episode of Buffy’s second season.
- Analysis of the ways in which this two-parter skillfully negotiates the show through an important transition within its second season.
- Analysis of the penultimate section of Buffy’s second season, running from “Phases” through “Go Fish,” with an episode spotlight on “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”
- Analysis of the two-part finale to Buffy’s second season.
- Thoughts on the start of the show’s third season and fallout from the second season finale.
- Analysis of the introduction of Eliza Dushku’s Faith and the complexities of the third episode of the show’s third season.
- Brief thoughts on the fourth episodes of Buffy’s third season.
- Thoughts on the indiscretions of Willow and Xander, and Cordelia’s role therein, within (mostly) “Homecoming, “Lovers Walk,” and “The Wish.”
- Thoughts on the arrival of Mayor Wilkins (Harry Groener) into the series’ narrative, with focus on “Band Candy” and “Gingerbread.”
- Thoughts on the surprising events surrounding Angel’s return and the familiar (and continuous) responses from the show’s other characters in both “Revelations” and “Amends.”
- Analysis of the stretch of episodes between “Helpless” and “Consequences, focusing on the darkness of the series of episodes as contrasted by the fairly light touch of “The Zeppo.”
- An extensive analysis of the sixteenth episodes of Buffy’s third season.
- Thoughts on the conclusion to Buffy’s third season, in particular the ways in which it bridges the gaps between human and demon as an extension of the season’s work in that area.
Scheduling Decision Making [June 2010]
- Reader comments solicited to help decide how to integrate (or not integrate) Angel into the CCP, and then my final decision on how to handle the future scheduling of the project.
- Analysis of the start of Buffy’s fourth season and its first since Angel split off into its own spin-off, which is also covered in this piece.
- Thoughts on the first crossover between the two series, including the MacGuffin-like deployment of the Gem of Amara within a story about life not living up to expectations for three female characters.
- Analysis of the series revealing its future plans for the season in “Wild at Heart” and “The Initiative.”
- Thoughts on the ways in which “Pangs” balances setting up the crossover with Angel in “I Will Remember You” while continuing the fourth season’s arcs.
- Thoughts on the playful, yet meaningful, development of Willow’s character in the ninth episode of the fourth season.
- Analysis of the fourth season’s tenth episode, often considered one of the series’ best.
- Thoughts on the mid-season twist, in particular its impact on Riley, Maggie Walsh and Adam as characters, along with thoughts on ongoing storylines for the Scooby Gang.
- Thoughts on the crossover event (“This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You”) returning Faith to the series’ narrative, and helping remind us of some key themes of identity at play in the fourth season.
- Thoughts on the positive spinoffs of Adam and the Initiative’s ultimate insignificance in the stretch from “Superstar” to “Primevil” as Buffy’s fourth season approaches its conclusion.
- Analysis of the fourth season finale and its use of dream sequences to bridge the gap between the fourth and fifth seasons.
- Thoughts on the start of the show’s fifth season, where Dracula is used for both successful dramatic weight and somewhat frivolous comic material.
- Analysis of the role which Dawn Summers plays upon her sudden introduction into the Buffyverse in terms of creating new perspective on the existing characters and storylines.
- Thoughts on the use of flashbacks in “Fool for Love” and Angel’s “Darla,” along with how the flashbacks fit into Season Five’s ongoing narrative as developed in “No Place like Home” and “Family.”
- Analysis of the series-changing events of “Into the Woods,” and how it represents a failure of execution regardless of one’s opinion of the character at its centre.
- Extended analysis of one of the series’ definitive episodes, focusing on its use of silence and its resonance beyond initial viewing.
- Thoughts on the tension of emotional release within the first episode after the tragedy of “The Body.”
- Discussion of how Jane Espenson gets the season back “on track” by reintroducing comedy in the wake of tragedy.
- Another short capsule review of the later stages of the fifth season, this time focusing on Willow and Tara’s conflict.
- Thoughts on the conclusion of the show’s fifth season, including thoughts on “Spiral” and “The Weight of the World” along with the finale.
- A look at the two-hour season premiere, as the show battles the logistics of resurrection and a new reality on a new network.
- A review of the third episode of the sixth season, which provides a tragipoetic glimpse of the season ahead.
- Thoughts on the fourth episode of the sixth season, a stage-setting for the season to come.
- Thoughts on “Life Serial” and “All the Way” after an extended break in the viewing process.
- A look at perhaps the most infamous episode of Buffy, which is also an important pivot point in the sixth season.
Show #2 – Angel
- First thoughts on Angel’s pilot and its quest for an identity, along with thoughts on how Buffy starts its own journey independent of Angel’s character.
- Thoughts on the first crossover between the two series, and the ways in which the Gem of Amara is used to help establish Angel’s character and the series’ trajectory.
- A look at Angel’s continued search for identity early in its first season, from “I Fall to Pieces” to “Bachelor Party.”
- Thoughts on how “I Will Remember You” simultaneously emphasizes Angel’s relationship with Buffy while confirming that his journey as a character will need to be largely independent from Buffy’s.
- Analysis of the closing of one door in “Hero” and then the opening of another in “Parting Gifts” and “Somnambulist.”
- Brief responses to six Season One episodes which repeat some of the same introductory patterns present in earlier episodes as a result of the events of “Hero” resetting the series.
- Thoughts on the Faith-led crossover (“Five by Five” and “Sanctuary”) and its role in solidifying the series’ premise, its character dynamics, and its momentum heading into the end of the season.
- Analysis of the series’ first season finale, which successfully hints towards the second season but isn’t as successful at capturing the overall impact of the journey thus far.
- Analysis of how Angel’s second season premiere resists the white board, and sets up for a season with character momentum rather than plot direction.
- Thoughts on the evolution of the show’s second season, which introduces new elements of mystery into its basic structure to heighten the impact of key themes and characters, especially in “Dear Boy.”
- Analysis of “Darla,” and how Angel’s use of flashbacks compares with Buffy’s “Fool for Love,” which covered the same period.
- A look at Angel’s transformation amidst his war with Darla and Drusilla in a key series of episodes featuring “The Trial,” “Reunion,” and “Redefinition.”
- Analysis of how the series handles the split between Angel and the former employees of Angel Investigations, and how the substantial change actually contributes to longstanding themes which remain central to the series.
- A capsule review of Harmony’s visit to Los Angeles, and the intertextual pleasures for Buffy fans being balanced with pleasure for those without such knowledge.
- A review of Lindsey’s latest conflict with the Wolfram & Hart leadership, and some reflections on the firm’s place in the series.
- Analysis of the season-closing Pylea arc, and its somewhat unorthodox – but ultimately effective – strategy of narrative resolution.
- A look at the thematic parallels and psychological investigation of the third season premiere.
- Thoughts on the remaining episodes on Disc One of the series’ third season.