Ryan Easby

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season One: Witch (22nd Anniversary Retrospective)

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Ah, Witch. The episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that first uses plot elements of the show as ways to actualize social issues through metaphors. It’s something the show will do many, many times throughout its lifespan, but it all started here. Here, the social issues that Buffy takes up is the idea that parents sometimes try to live their lives vicariously through their children, that they use their children to achieve their own, unachieved, dreams. It’s an pretty intense actualisation to start with, but as we will swiftly learn, Buffy isn’t afraid to pull any punches when it comes to this stuff.

In Witch, Buffy decides that she wants to pursue the chance to live a normal life, in addition to her duties as being the slayer, something Giles is very much disapproving of. Her method of doing this? Joining the cheerleading squad, of course, because what else would a sixteen year old girl consider normal? However, in a dark twist of fate, fellow classmates who are also trying out for the cheerleading squad are being struck down in mysterious incidents.

A girl named Amber has her hands spontaneously combust and Cordelia suddenly goes blind and is almost hit by oncoming traffic. Buffy, Xander and Willow notice a fellow classmate, Amy, acting strange and believes she might be a witch. Now it’s up to The Scooby gang to find out what exactly is going on and stop it.

The interesting part about this whole episode is the twist that comes at around the half an hour mark. It turns out that Amy wasn’t the one perpetrating the magic and causing all of the chaos, no, the person causing the chaos was in fact her mother. Her mother switched bodies with her own daughter months prior to the events of this episode, claiming that her daughter wasn’t living her life to the fullest extent. It’s this, the actualization of vicarious living, that is the driving thrust of the episode.

While the entire cast is great, it does feel like certain characters don’t get enough to do for the episode. Giles, for example, is mostly regulated to comic relief and exposition, and while that’s not entirely a bad thing (Both of those thing are entirely necessary to make a coherent narrative), Anthony Stewart Head has some much more potential. As stated previously, this is the first appearance of Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy Madison. Her performance here is understated, a reminder of the anxiety of youth.

Overall, Witch is a fun, if ultimately unnecessary episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The commentary it makes upon certain styles of parenting is interesting, as is the way it goes about it, but it can’t help but ultimately ring hollow in terms of substance.

Best Moment: The discovery that Catherine has swapped bodies with her own daughter because her daughter isn’t living her life according to her standards. It’s both shocking and unsettling, the idea that if a parent doesn’t believe you’re living your life the “correct” way, they can simply take control of it.

Best Character: Amy, or rather Amy in Catherine’s body. The sheer terror Elizabeth Anne Allen portrays her feels real, and it really helps make the episode feel like it has bigger stakes than it actually has.

Best Line: “This is madness! What can you have been thinking? You are the slayer! Lives depend upon you! I make allowances for your youth, but I expect a certain amount of responsibility, and instead you enslave yourself to this, this…cult?”

*Cut to Buffy in a cheerleading outfit*

Fun Fact: This is the first of only seven episodes to not feature a vampire in any way, shape, or form.

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