Core Four, library, and a 90's computer, what else could you ask for.
This episode is a little bit of a drag after the first two. Maybe because it's the first one with an episodic plot format, maybe because it's the first one without Angel, but most likely because watching cheerleading scenes is so damn annoying. Seriously, how am I going to sanitize my brain after those chants?
Other than that, though, which comes with the territory anyway, I like the episode. There's even some compensation for the cheers in the introduction of magic (and also, I should say, the conclusion, in which we find out Buffy will not continue on as a cheerleader).
For full transparency, I've probably said myself that the first season is childish and lacks the depth of later seasons, but I was wrong. What I should have said, and still believe, is that the first season is much simpler than the others. It hands us a scenario and then it's up to the viewer to find the darkness or ambiguity in the theme. If you choose to view "Witch" as a silly story about a witch who wants to be a cheerleader, that option is open, which I don't think is the case for certain other subplots.
There's also a kind of lightheartedness that comes from knowing that each difficulty the characters face is going to be over by the end of the episode. Even on the first watch, you know a monster of the week when you see one, so it's hard to care too much about the theme it carries. Again, might be just me, but I think we all agree that there's something separating this season from the others, right?
My favorite part was the big reveal, and the use of magic following and preceding it. It was honestly almost nerve-wracking to think about Amy's mom committing an act so obscenely selfish against her own daughter. Not to mention, the idea that her soul is trapped in the statue is far more disturbing than any gruesome death that a MOTW might meet. Here's hoping she at least got out once Sunnydale blew up.
The Buffy Show: I watched the first couple seasons of Heroes shortly before I watched Buffy for the first time, and I immediately started comparing Buffy to the invulnerable cheerleader character, especially after seeing this episode. I'm still feeling fairly sure that the latter was inspired by the former, but it’s odd that anyone even remembers Buffy for being a cheerleader. It’s just one episode.
A better thing to remember her for is being the one who figures out what's going on with the witch ambiguity. Slayers might be chosen for being remarkable girls, but what Buffy shows here isn't a superpower, it's empathy - she understands what's going on with Amy because she paid attention to Amy's story.
Willow and My Feelings: Even though nothing points directly at her interest in magic, I could totally believe that this was where she started wondering about it. On a somewhat related note, I also liked hearing about her friendship with Amy, considering that she becomes a nemesis in later seasons. It's sort of the same deal as Giles and Ethan, or even Buffy and Faith, which is something I'd like to think about some more in the future, because Xander totally doesn't have one.
Xander and Boyhood: His thing with the bracelet is cute - eh, maybe - but it makes me cringe too because it's so hopeless. I wouldn't be creeped out by a guy putting that much effort into attracting me, but I'd be upset. He's putting a lot of pressure on her.
And as for the girl in the equation, she knows the truth when she sees it. Xander might think he means it when he says always, but he's only known her for a few weeks at this point, and he's a horny teenage guy - not known for being reliable in this area.
That said, this line is great and goes some ways toward patching up the weirdness he created with the bracelet: “No more i.d. bracelets, subtle innuendo, or Polaroids outside her bedroom window late at night --that last is a joke to relieve the tension because here she comes.”
Cordelia and Boyfriends: Charisma Carpenter just nails this role. I still can't get over it. Just listen to her saying the line, “We have to achieve our dreams, Amy, otherwise we wither and die.”
Giles and Objects: I think there's always room to notice a little Ripper in him, even in the earliest episodes. Most of the characters end up having something of a morbid streak, but it's more pronounced in him. Maybe he's just an expert who enjoys knowing his stuff, but I betcha he likes the thrill, too.
The Buffy&Giles dynamic gets some nice development in this one. You can really see their affection for each other growing along with their mutual respect. Especially when Giles is casting the spell, you start to get the sense that he'll move mountains for her and she'll trust him to do it.
Here's Giles holding his glasses. I think there's a bad joke about frames in here.
Here's Giles holding...Buffy!
I completely melt when one of the guys has to carry Buffy in his arms. Is this just a weird me thing?
Everyone Else: Joyce is a mom. She does mom things, good and bad. Must remember, though, that she was starting a new job, moving a couple hours away, and buying a house, right after her only daughter got kicked out of school for reasons she completely didn't understand. She's not going to be at her best.
(You know when she jokes about "great parenting form" right after Buffy storms off? That really sounded like something Xander would say, you know, if he were a parent. Joyce is just a little Scoobyish herself.)
I’ve heard the opinion that Amy’s character arc doesn't make any sense based on her first appearances, but don't forget that we hardly see her. Lots of things could have happened in Seasons 1-3 that we never heard about, so it's hard to say what shaped her or didn't. You know what I never realize on my first watch, though? The rat incident was the second time Amy had been trapped in the wrong body. We don't know how long her mother's switch went on for, but it seemed like a while - couldn't that mess with her head?
Also I want to know if she still craved brownies before she began craving cheese instead.
Here's some fun stuff from the shooting script:
A SENIOR CHEERLEADER (Cordelia two years hence) moves to the judge's table with two other SENIOR CHEERLEADERS.
Cordelia two years hence? Well, that was prescient, wasn't it?
Willow spots AMY MADISON (in cheerleader outfit), nice girl, a little tightly wound today.
I always try to pay attention to the new character introductions, but I guess this one's a mislead, since it's actually describing how Willow reacts to who she thinks is Amy...still, not much warning for future badness, huh?
Morgan is okay. Lishanne is great. Cordelia is surprisingly good, as is Buffy, still a little rusty but impressive.
Oh, so Buffy is good at this? It wasn't quite clear, and I’d prefer that she is. Her Slayer skills should give her a one up.
Some good lines that apparently got cut out:
Morning your Highness, beheadings at noon as usual?
We'll need a conclusive test anyway. There should be one - yes!
The ducking stool. We throw her in the pond. If she floats, she's a
witch; if she drowns, she's innocent.
(off their looks)
... some of my texts are a bit
What else floats upon the water?
And Catherine FLIES into frame, SCREAMING and tackling Buffy. The woman has gone completely apeshit.
Giles, stop being so proper.
You're in America. Brag.
• Buffy loves her buds! She loves her Xander-shaped friend!
• Xander didn't like it when Buffy said he was completely one of the girls, but he has no problem with Willow being his guy friend who knows about girls. I know, typical enough it's not worth the mention, but still.
• I need more people in the real world to start saying “Get down with your bad self”. Can we all collectively work on this?
• I loved the way the world was expanded by our first exposure to witches and magic. The rules were vague, but seemed to remain fairly consistent, which was cool.