The Witch


Tonight, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It’s the Witch episode! And not the PC, Wicca types, either — there’s eye of newt, cauldrons… No broomsticks however, though Willow does ask. Amy’s mum is determined to live her cheerleading childhood again through her daughter, but not in the usual way…

The Good

Xander registers his approval of cheerleaders at the beginning of the episode, and I can only agree. It’s a good showground for even more fantastic Cordy-brand bitchiness. Charisma Carpenter really is fantastic. Sarah Michelle Gellar gets to be funny this episode too, when the witch casts a sillifying spell on her. There’s a lot of scope for Willow being adorable, especially when she chews on a pen in one scene.

When Buffy’s taken ill, the gang’s still panicky and nervous, it’s very refreshing. Not that you’d want a series where they never developed confidence. Giles gets positively angry, showing a lot of dedication to Buffy, and some quality dramatic reading of Latin. There’s a nice twist this week, and Buffy works it out again, very plausibly. This seems like an odd thing to highlight, I suppose, but you get a lot of TV shows where the hero makes sudden, almost unjustifiable leaps of logic for no reason other than plot convenience.1

The Bad

Amber, the really good cheerleader at the start, is quite plainly not a teenager. The sound effects are better this week, and I don’t have that much to comment on. However, I must call our novice heroes to account on some sloppy work. The villain is in Body A. They’re casting a spell to (amongst other things) switch her back to Body B. So what do they do with Body B? Have her in the room right next to them, free as a bird. And not, say, tied up in the corner.

And how could I forget Cordy’s painfully directed brush with death? The street is small, not much more than three car-widths across. A car has smashed through the fence on one side, knocking shrubs onto the street, and everyone has gotten out. There’s a girl in the middle of the road, wearing a bright green top. The driver is looking straight ahead. But he continues on at a crazy pace, knocking the door of the crashed car. Why? Because he’s a stunt-driver. With one shot of him looking down at something in the glove box, we could have upgraded this from “Bad” to “cliché”.

The Nonsense

It’s dangerous to poke holes in magic spells, but I’m going to try. The spell to make Amber teh cheerleader catch fire is an odd one. Her hands are set on fire first, after a lot of smoke pours out of her. This suggests that she’s heating up from the inside, given the general unflammability of hands. But when Buffy covers her with a blanket, the fire goes out as if it was just a normal fire. If it’s really hot around her, why doesn’t the blanket catch alight? If it’s really hot inside her, why does wrapping her up help?

When Amy seems surprised at her spell’s effects, no one considers that she might be pretending to be surprised.

The Interesting

It’s 1996 at Sunnydale High. Willow tells Buffy that she and Xander are “the Slayerettes,” which is pretty daggy but better than “the Scoobies.” Amy makes her first appearance in the show, and isn’t nearly as irritating as she will later become.

This episode marks the proper beginning of the Xander/Buffy/Willow love triangle, hinted at in the opening episodes. And it’s so much fun. Xander spends the episode trying to ask Buffy out and inadvertently crushing Willow’s hopes by telling her she’s “one of the guys.” Then, while drunk from the Witch’s curse, Buffy tells Xander the same thing. The look on Willow’s face at this point is priceless.

The Tally

There’s a first time for everything — this week it’s Giles getting knocked out. There’s a particular pressure in these tallies to record the ones that will actually be mentioned in the show later.

There are no casualties, though the witch might as well be dead. Should that count?

The Conclusion

More polished than the opening two parter, but not quite as cool either; lacking the crazy violence and mythic overtones. Great fun though, with all the regulars shining brightly.

  1. Like that show where the hero decided at random that her blood was just like her sister’s and saved the day based on that. What show was that again?
That's the thrill of living on the Hellmouth! There's a veritable cornucopia of fiends and devils and ghouls to engage! ... Well, pardon me for finding the glass half-full. — Giles

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