Cultural Catchup

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

Season One

Introduction [April 9th, 2010]

  • 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.

Story and Scale in Hellmouth and Harvest [April 10th, 2010]

  • 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.

An Expectational Course Correction [April 11th, 2010]

  • 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.

Love is a Battlefield [April 17th, 2010]

  • 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.

Hellmouth [versus/and/within/without] High School [April 20th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the subtle distinctions between how Hellmouth influences Buffy’s high school setting in the episodes leading up to the first season finale.

Promise and “Prophecy Girl” [April 21st, 2010]

  • 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.

Season Two

Season Two’s Cult of Personality [April 24th, 2010]

  • 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”).

Capsule Review: “Lie to Me” [April 25th, 2010]

  • Some brief thoughts on the seventh episode of Buffy’s second season.

Capsule Review: “The Dark Age” [April 26th, 2010]

  • Some brief thoughts on the eighth episode of Buffy’s second season.

Capsule Review: “What’s My Line Parts 1 & 2” [April 27th, 2010]

  • Some brief thoughts on the ninth and tenth episodes of Buffy’s second season.

Capsule Review: “Ted” [April 28th, 2010]

  • Some brief thoughts on the eleventh episode of Buffy’s second season.

Capsule Review: “Bad Eggs” [April 29th, 2010]

  • Some brief thoughts on the twelfth episode of Buffy’s second season.

“Surprise,” “Innocence,” and the Art of the Game-Changer [April 29th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the ways in which this two-parter skillfully negotiates the show through an important transition within its second season.

Post-“Innocence,” It’s Personal [May 2nd, 2010]

  • 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.”

“Becoming” [May 4th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the two-part finale to Buffy’s second season.

Season Three

The Challenge of Clarity Amidst Chaos [May 7th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the start of the show’s third season and fallout from the second season finale.

“Faith, Hope & Trick” [May 8th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the introduction of Eliza Dushku’s Faith and the complexities of the third episode of the show’s third season.

Capsule Review: “Beauty and the Beasts” [May 9th, 2010]

  • Brief thoughts on the fourth episodes of Buffy’s third season.

Breaking Up is “______” to Do [May 14th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the indiscretions of Willow and Xander, and Cordelia’s role therein, within (mostly) “Homecoming, “Lovers Walk,” and “The Wish.”

Meet Mr. Mayor [May 15th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the arrival of Mayor Wilkins (Harry Groener) into the series’ narrative, with focus on “Band Candy” and “Gingerbread.”

Bewitched, Bothered but Familiar [May 19th, 2010]

  • 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.”

Plumbing the Depths of Darkness [May 23rd, 2010]

  • 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.”

“Doppelgangland” [May 29th, 2010]

  • An extensive analysis of the sixteenth episodes of Buffy’s third season.

“Graduation Day” [June 7th, 2010]

  • 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]

Season Four

New Beginnings in “The Freshman” and “City Of” [June 19th, 2010]

  • 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.

“The Harsh Light of Day”/”In the Dark” [June 22nd, 2010]

  • 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.

Pulling Back the Curtain [June 23rd, 2010]

  • Analysis of the series revealing its future plans for the season in “Wild at Heart” and “The Initiative.”

“Pangs”/”I Will Remember You” [June 28th, 2010]

  • 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.

“Something Blue” [June 30th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the playful, yet meaningful, development of Willow’s character in the ninth episode of the fourth season.

“Hush” [July 1st, 2010]

  • Analysis of the fourth season’s tenth episode, often considered one of the series’ best.

Taking a Turn in Season Four [July 4th, 2010]

  • 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.

One Faith, Three Narratives [July 8th, 2010]

  • 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.

Stuck in a Story You Can Get Out Of [July 10th, 2010]

  • 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.

“Restless” [July 12th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the fourth season finale and its use of dream sequences to bridge the gap between the fourth and fifth seasons.

Season Five

“Buffy vs. Dracula” [July 16th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the start of the show’s fifth season, where Dracula is used for both successful dramatic weight and somewhat frivolous comic material.

The Functionality of Ms. Dawn Summers [July 19th, 2010]

  • 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.

One Past, Two Perspectives [July 26th, 2010]

  • 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.”

“Into the Woods,” Caught in the Weeds [August 2nd, 2010]

  • 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.

“The Body” [August 5th, 2010]

  • Extended analysis of one of the series’ definitive episodes, focusing on its use of silence and its resonance beyond initial viewing.

“Forever” [September 3rd, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the tension of emotional release within the first episode after the tragedy of “The Body.”

“Intervention” [September 4th, 2010]

  • Discussion of how Jane Espenson gets the season back “on track” by reintroducing comedy in the wake of tragedy.

“Tough Love” [September 5th, 2010]

  • Another short capsule review of the later stages of the fifth season, this time focusing on Willow and Tara’s conflict.

“The Gift” [October 11th, 2010]

  • Thoughts on the conclusion of the show’s fifth season, including thoughts on “Spiral” and “The Weight of the World” along with the finale.

Season Six

“Bargaining” [May 18th, 2011]

  • A look at the two-hour season premiere, as the show battles the logistics of resurrection and a new reality on a new network.

“After Life” [May 29th, 2011]

  • A review of the third episode of the sixth season, which provides a tragipoetic glimpse of the season ahead.

“Flooded” [June 15th, 2011]

  • Thoughts on the fourth episode of the sixth season, a stage-setting for the season to come.

The Perils of a Catchup Hiatus [August 1st, 2011]

  • Thoughts on “Life Serial” and “All the Way” after an extended break in the viewing process.

“Once More, With Feeling” [August 5th, 2011]

  • A look at perhaps the most infamous episode of Buffy, which is also an important pivot point in the sixth season.

Show #2 – Angel

Season One

New Beginnings in “The Freshman” and “City Of” [June 19th, 2010]

  • 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.

“The Harsh Light of Day”/”In the Dark” [June 22nd, 2010]

  • 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.

Seeeing What Sticks in Season One [June 24th, 2010]

  • A look at Angel’s continued search for identity early in its first season, from “I Fall to Pieces” to “Bachelor Party.”

“Pangs”/”I Will Remember You” [June 28th, 2010]

  • 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.

When One Door Closes… [June 29th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the closing of one door in “Hero” and then the opening of another in “Parting Gifts” and “Somnambulist.”

A Case of Deja Vu [July 3rd, 2010]

  • 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.

One Faith, Three Narratives [July 8th, 2010]

  • 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.

Two Steps Forward, Few Looks Back in “To Shanshu in L.A.” [July 11th, 2010]

  • 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.

Season Two

“Judgment” [July 21st, 2010]

  • 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.

The Function of Mystery and the Mystery of Function [July 24th, 2010]

  • 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.”

One Past, Two Perspectives [July 26th, 2010]

  • Analysis of “Darla,” and how Angel’s use of flashbacks compares with Buffy’s “Fool for Love,” which covered the same period.

Fighting the War [July 31st, 2010]

  • 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.”

Moving On while Moving Apart [August 20th, 2010]

  • 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.

“Disharmony” [September 18th, 2010]

  • 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.

“Dead End” [September 29th, 2010]

  • A review of Lindsey’s latest conflict with the Wolfram & Hart leadership, and some reflections on the firm’s place in the series.

Defying Seriality: The Catharsis of Pylea [November 25th, 2010]

  • Analysis of the season-closing Pylea arc, and its somewhat unorthodox – but ultimately effective – strategy of narrative resolution.

Season Three

“Heartthrob” [May 18th, 2011]

  • A look at the thematic parallels and psychological investigation of the third season premiere.

The Disc Stands Alone [June 10th, 2011]

  • Thoughts on the remaining episodes on Disc One of the series’ third season.

11 responses to “Cultural Catchup

  1. Pingback: The Cultural Catchup Project: An Expectational Course Correction (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) « Cultural Learnings

  2. Pingback: The Cultural Catchup Project: Promise and “Prophecy Girl” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) « Cultural Learnings

  3. Seán

    Hate to annoy you but any indication on when you’re next Angel/Buffy review will be up? Really enjoying them so far! 🙂

  4. M.

    You’re doing an amazing job – please update soon!

  5. DaddyCatALSO

    Doubt this will be back up anytime. The blogger’s real life seems to have done for his available time. Pity, I had some serious comments about B”argaining” to make.

  6. Leah

    Hi! I had been following you on Twitter for a while and read articles on other shows. I enjoy your insights. I, too, am catching up on BtVS. I became a Whenonista after Dr horrible, and h e devoured the rest of his stuff. Not having seen Buffy felt like a major defect. I am through Season 4 and like to come here after I watch to read your thoughts

    All that being said, would you PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE hotlink the rest of this page to the mentioned posts? It would make it so much easier for me, and for others who are catching up.

    Thanks for considering.

  7. Karen

    Just a question… I’m accustomed to posts in a thread that are sequential. Is there an easy way to keep track of new posts in the CCP thread, where replies may not be the last post in the thread?

  8. Joe

    When is this going to be resumed?

  9. morda898

    Hey Myles. I was just curious if you were going to be watching “Ringer” this season. If so, I was hoping you could share your thoughts, particularly in reference to Sarah Michelle Gellar, considering your current analysis of Buffy.

  10. Such a shame this never got finished Myles – I have loved reading your analyses so far …

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