Thursday, March 6, 2008

Serenity- Those Left Behind

NON-BUFFYVERSE RELATED

What Is It?: Serenity- Behind TPB (Written by Brett Matthews and Joss Whedon, meant to bridge "Firefly" and "Serenity.")

Timing: Between "Firefly" and "Serenity."

REVIEW (and Art): While the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight" comics make me feel like I'm hanging out with old buddies, this trade paperback feels more like a phone call from an old friend. Not that I was ever as big a Firefly/Serenity fan as I am of Buffy/Angel, that's a given, but I won't say I didn't expect a little more from this. Here, I'll break it down with an old fashioned list of + and -

POSITIVES
+ All of the characters are written and drawn pretty well, and each is given the amount of screen time they deserve.

+ The comics (there are only three of them) collected in this book tell interesting stories, and the end is particularly poignant.

+It reads like a lost episode of Firefly, bridging the series and the movie, and--ask any fan--there's nothing wrong with a new Firefly episode.

NEGATIVES
- I don't know if it's just me on this, but it irks me that the size of this book is different than that of normal trade paperbacks. I'm not talking thickness, I'm talking height. This is a short book, closer to the size of a DVD than a trade paperback collection. It looks kind of out of place next to my other trades, and I find myself wishing it was bigger. But, I digress. (NOTE: The hardcover has now been released, so this problem is void. You'd be senseless not to by the hardcover. It comes complete with new art and a mess load of extras.

- It's kinda boring. No new ground is really covered.

- The only real complaint I can think of is also something I mentioned in the positives: "It reads like a lost episode of Firefly, bridging the series and the movie." While that is good and all, the fact is that it reads like an OKAY episode of Firefly. It reads like "The Train Job," expect even still, not as interesting.

I love Joss Whedon and I (with perhaps a bit of a bias) believe he is the best writer of our age, but I am not as enthusiastic about Firefly/Serenity as the Browncoats (super F/S fans) tend to be. The show was great, the movie was great, but I just think that Buffy and Angel were leagues better. I liked this trade, and I'll read the next one if there ever is a next one. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wish Joss would just concentrate on the getting "Buffy Season Eight"--and now "Ripper" and "Dollhouse."

Characters We Know: Book, Mal, Jayne, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Simon, River, Inara, and (SPOILERS:) Lawrence Dobson, The Hands of Blue, Badger, and The Operative

Rating: 7/10


NON-BUFFYVERSE RELATED

25 comments:

Loki said...

The odd thing here is that I *am* as much of a Firefly-fan as I am an Angel/Buffy-fan (well, okay, not quite, but that's 'cause there's so many more episodes to tie bonds to the characters on the two other shows and not about relative quality - because if you compare Firefly's thirteen episodes to the first thirteen episodes of "Angel" or "Buffy", it beats them to a bloody pulp and leave them sobbing. To find thirteen _consquetive_ episodes that can plausibly compete with it, you need to go way into Buffy and Angel's third seasons, possibly even all the way to the fifth ones), and I still feel about this comic just about the exact same way you do.

It's decent. It's funny. It's nice. It's alright. It's absolutely everything you'd like to give a thumbs-up - and that's ALL it is. It's not hilarious, it's not engaging, it's not particularily exciting, it's not shocking, it's not sad. Which I find odd, considering it has Book leaving and everything, but hey.

It also has Dobson. Who I absolutely fraking completely loved in the pilot. Getting the reappearance of that character without the brilliant actor's portrayal seems more like a "hee, this could have been but now never will!"-joke at my expense than anything else - especially when he's then eradicated for a cheap gag.

But I'm still looking forward to "Better Days". Because despite it all, it was good. It couldn't be anything else, I guess. 'Cause it's Firefly.

PatShand said...

I agree with you about the comic, but that's a given because you're agreeing with me (lol).

But, about "if you compare Firefly's thirteen episodes to the first thirteen episodes of "Angel" or "Buffy", it beats them to a bloody pulp and leave them sobbing. To find thirteen _consquetive_ episodes that can plausibly compete with it, you need to go way into Buffy and Angel's third seasons, possibly even all the way to the fifth ones)"....

Holy Deathwok clan do I disagree.

Angel had an incredibly strong first season. There were some stinkers, but there were some in Firefly too. Both Buffyverse series had much stronger pilots than Firefly's tedious "Serenity." The acting, writing, and basic mythology of both Buffyverse shows also puts Firefly to shame. It might have been prettier, shinier, and newer... but it still doesn't match with anything the Buffyverse put out, IMO.

Don't get me wrong, I love "Firefly." But for me, it's just a Top Tener of a series. Doesn't crack the Holy Five.

Loki said...

Angel had an incredibly strong first season.
Agreed.

There were some stinkers,
I wouldn't go that far, but it did have some that were weaker than most stuff with Joss' name on it, yeah. Relative to the rest of the show, they were stinkers, but relative to tv in general, I feel that's way harsh.

but there were some in Firefly too.
STRONGLY disagree on that. The closes it got to a weak episode was "Safe" - even your apparently disliked "Train Job" was a lot stronger than most stuff I stumble over on the TV. Firefly wasn't perfect, don't get me wrong, but I have never before nor since seen such a high consitent level of quality in a first-season show that didn't even get the benefit of a season finale.

In my opinon, out of Angel's first thirteen episodes, all of the following are weaker than "Train Job" (whereas on Firefly the only one I like less is "Safe") :
Sense & Sensitivity
Parting Gifts
Expecting
She

That's four out of the thirteen that I'd rate below Firefly's second weakest.

On Buffy, which has the in this context benefit of getting a season finale in the first thirteen episodes, I'd list the following on the same criteria:
Techer's Pet
Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
I Robot, You Jane
When She Was Bad
...and possibly Witch, I'd need to re-watch that one to make sure.

Angel's first season is awesome. But it's nearly twice as long as Firefly in its entirety, and has the benefit of a season plot being brought to a conclusion. Considering that, I think it falls way short of Firefly's feat.

Firefly, by the way, grew on me, a lot. I think that after my first watch-through, I'd be inclined to agree with you on most of this. After the second one, it was as though something clicked - I think my expectations where shifted or something - and suddenly I loved it. "Out of Gas", for instance, is one of the best episodes of television I've ever seen, it'd probably be on my top ten list ever, which is an enormous accomplishment for a show in its first season without anything to build on. "Serenity" is an incredible pilot. "Shindig" and "Our Mrs. Reynolds" are hilarious, "Ariel" is really powerful, "Bushwacked" is really eerie. Etc.

Both Buffyverse series had much stronger pilots than Firefly's tedious "Serenity."
Strongly disagreed, again. Both the other shows have very good pilots, absolutely, and especially Angel. But I loved "Serenity". I wouldn't go as far as to say I think it's better than "City of...", but I think it is comparable. Slow-paced, yes, but never tedious.

The acting, writing, and basic mythology of both Buffyverse shows also puts Firefly to shame. Disagreed. I find the acting and writing is about the same, whereas the mythology is much better on Firefly. On Buffy, it's a haphazard "what kind of a boogieman would fit today's episode? Let's make one up instead of doing any form of research"-mythology where the only really original or particularily interesting invention is the Vampire Slayer herself and the Watcher's Council that comes with her. On Firefly, it's a very interesting, very real-feeling world that I need much less suspension of disbelief to take seriously. And note that I usually prefer fantasy to sci-fi (and I do, even here - poorly constructed fantasy-worlds are still fantasy). Buffy/Angel make up for a lot of the haphazardly thrown together stuff by doing a good job at referencing it in hindsight and keeping it alive and relevant. But that's hindsight patchwork. There's no plan, no system, no real work put into making the Slayerverse (I prefer that term to "Buffyverse" as it feels more showneutral and doesn't put Angel in an inferior spot in the same way - the one big concept seperating this universe from generic fantasy is the Vampire Slayer, so it's a denominator that feels natural) make sense, they make it up as they go to serve individual episode's needs at the expense of the whole. Never once felt that happen on Firefly. So the world-construction is better by far.

It might have been prettier, shinier, and newer...
Than seasons 1 of the other two? Indubitably. But compared to, say, Angel's fourth season or Buffy's fifth, Firefly isn't visually superior in my book.

but it still doesn't match with anything the Buffyverse put out, IMO.
You're obviously entitled to disagree, but I really think it does. Not with the Slayerverse's high peaks, obviously - nothing on Firefly can match "The Gift", "The Body", "Not Fade Away", "A Hole in the World", "Lullaby" and that kind of episodes - but considering how short it was, that's a very unfair comparison. Compared to the first thirteen episodes of each of them, and only those, it comes out as greatly superior. Compared to the other two in their entirety, though, it's obviously just a shiny pebble in a pond of awesome.

Don't get me wrong, I love "Firefly." But for me, it's just a Top Tener of a series. Doesn't crack the Holy Five.
Oooh, an excuse to make a list.

Alright, I'll try. Making a top fifteen, so I get to mention a couple of runners-up. I'll make one rule though, comedy-shows are disqualified, I find it too difficult to compare stuff like "Scrubs", "Blackadder" and "Arrested Development" to stuff like "The Sopranos", "Angel" and "Rome". Keep in mind this stuff changes around a lot, especially when you rewatch stuff that you haven't seen in ages and it surprises or disappoints you:

1. Angel
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
3. Battlestar Galactica
4. Firefly (never have and probably never will see a show with this much potential)
5. Deadwood (if it had gotten to end properly, this one could've gotten all the way up to second place)
6. Veronica Mars (third season penalizes a little, the first two alone would probably have gotten it higher)
7. Rome
8. The West Wing
9. The Sopranos
10. Babylon 5
11. Zorro
12. Wonderfalls
13. Lost
14. The Inside
15. Prison Break

I would like to mention also that I seem to recall really liking Ally McBeal, but I was really young back then and I haven't had a chance to rewatch enough of it to know how I'd feel about it in its entirety now. I do suspect it'd get in on the top fifteen somewhere, though.

PatShand said...

Gotta go to work now, but I'll give you the Holy Five. I'll comment and debate with the rest later, you betcha ;]

1 & 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel (tie)
3. Veronica Mars
4. Six Feet Under
5. Wonderfalls

Loki said...

Never watched Six Feet Under, so that one might very well warrant the placing by my tastes too.

VM got a hard beating during season 3 in my book, which is why it's so much lower than on your list. I never took the slightest liking to or got the slightest interest in Pez and they just kept using him more and more, they underutilized Wallace to the point where his appearances felt forced, the only two interesting characters among the new ones were removed rather quickly (the Dean and the criminology professor), the main interesting point from the previous season was removed in the season opener (Kendall), and, way more important an issue than anything else, it didn't have the brilliant season plots. And to make matters worse, the few arcs it DID have didn't involve Veronica nearly as personally and intimately as the first two seasons had, which meant that they felt less interesting and engaging - they felt more like just another one of her day-to-day-cases that happened to take more time to solve.

That being said, the season had some brilliant episodes and scenes. It was still far weaker than the previous two seasons.


And I'm lookin' forward to the rest of your comments. :D

Thomas said...

I'm not feeling verbose, but I basically agree with Loki. Except that I'd go even further. I think it's astonishing how much Firefly made me care about its nine main characters in just thirteen episodes. (Well, I didn't care that much about Book, he was OK, but the other eight were fantastic.)

Loki said...

I agree. I think it's astonishing how much they made me care about the characters even with just the first FOUR episodes, really, counting the pilot as two. After Bushwacked, I really cared about these people - Mal, Simon, Kaylee and River, at least, and Wash and Jayne followed shortly. Zoe and Inara might have taken a little longer before I was completely sold on. You make a good point with Book - I never realized, but he probably is the character I grew the least attached to. Maybe due to his mysteriousness, you don't get as close.

PatShand said...

"Never watched Six Feet Under, so that one might very well warrant the placing by my tastes too."

Oh, you must. It's one of the smartest shows I've seen.

"VM got a hard beating during season 3 in my book, which is why it's so much lower than on your list."

I never understood the Season Three hate. The format was a bit eehhhh, but they did the best with what the network ordered them to do. I thought the two main mystery arcs were perfect, and the final episode is one of my favorite moments of television ever.

"I never took the slightest liking to or got the slightest interest in Pez and they just kept using him more and more, they underutilized Wallace to the point where his appearances felt forced,"

About Piz, I agree. Horrible character, horrible story. But that was kinda the point by the end of the Season. That little look between Veronica and Logan, and then Piz noticing... He was so insignificant to Veronica Mars (the series and the character) that I can ignore him (lol)

"the only two interesting characters among the new ones were removed rather quickly (the Dean and the criminology professor), the main interesting point from the previous season was removed in the season opener (Kendall), and, way more important an issue than anything else, it didn't have the brilliant season plots."

Loved the Dean, but I disagree. I really, really liked the mystery arcs.

"And to make matters worse, the few arcs it DID have didn't involve Veronica nearly as personally and intimately as the first two seasons had, which meant that they felt less interesting and engaging"

But... I thought this season was even MORE Veronic-ery than the previous two. She was very removed from her friends, so we got more time with her. The cases were less personal, yeah, but I think the rape case AND the murder of the Dean at least eventually became as personally to her as the bus crash. Nothing could live up to Lilly, and I think making these initially not directly involve he was the right choice.

Again, I'll elaborate on the previous post later. lol

Loki said...

I don't HATE season 3, I quite like it. But it doesn't grip me nearly as much as seasons 1-2 did on any level. Individual episodes might, but the whole doesn't.

I am very much aware it's weaker due to the network's specifications and not because of some artistic choice - but that doesn't improve the actual season. I'm not rating the creators' intention, I'm rating the product.

PatShand said...

Loki said... "I wouldn't go that far, but it did have some that were weaker than most stuff with Joss' name on it, yeah. Relative to the rest of the show, they were stinkers, but relative to tv in general, I feel that's way harsh."

Well... I Fall To Pieces is pretty bad, especially considering Joss co-wrote. The idea itself was way, way too much.

I said before... "but there were some in Firefly too."

Loki replied... "STRONGLY disagree on that. The closes it got to a weak episode was "Safe" - even your apparently disliked "Train Job" was a lot stronger than most stuff I stumble over on the TV. Firefly wasn't perfect, don't get me wrong, but I have never before nor since seen such a high consitent level of quality in a first-season show that didn't even get the benefit of a season finale."

Eh, I don't know. Overall, it was the strongest one-season show there is other than "Wonderfalls" (IMO of course), but there were just some episodes I flat out didn't like. Overall, I thought the latter half of the season was much, much stronger than the former.

Loki said... "In my opinon, out of Angel's first thirteen episodes, all of the following are weaker than "Train Job" (whereas on Firefly the only one I like less is "Safe") :
Sense & Sensitivity
Parting Gifts
Expecting
She"

I'm surprised you mentioned "Sense & Sensitivit" and "Parting Gifts" but not "I Fall To Pieces." Those two, I thought, were quality episodes. Not as good as I'd expect, but for the show just getting on it's feet... not bad. Plus, great moments for Kate and Wesley in the eps, respectively.

Loki said... "That's four out of the thirteen that I'd rate below Firefly's second weakest. On Buffy, which has the in this context benefit of getting a season finale in the first thirteen episodes, I'd list the following on the same criteria:
Techer's Pet
Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
I Robot, You Jane
When She Was Bad
...and possibly Witch, I'd need to re-watch that one to make sure."

All those had really good stuff, IMO. Where's "The Puppet Show," which is pretty much the worst first season episode? I never found anything wrong with "Never Kill...," but it's pretty unpopular.

Loki said... "Angel's first season is awesome."

Isn't it, though?

Loki said... "But it's nearly twice as long as Firefly in its entirety, and has the benefit of a season plot being brought to a conclusion. Considering that, I think it falls way short of Firefly's feat."

I disagree, especially if you take Serenity and plug it onto the end of "Firefly." IMO, the Buffyverse--any season, even Angel's weakest (fourth)--can beat Firefly down. Not saying Firefly is bad, because it's amazing and one of my favorites, but nothing beats the BV.

Loki said... "Firefly, by the way, grew on me, a lot. I think that after my first watch-through, I'd be inclined to agree with you on most of this. After the second one, it was as though something clicked - I think my expectations where shifted or something - and suddenly I loved it. "Out of Gas", for instance, is one of the best episodes of television I've ever seen, it'd probably be on my top ten list ever, which is an enormous accomplishment for a show in its first season without anything to build on. "Serenity" is an incredible pilot. "Shindig" and "Our Mrs. Reynolds" are hilarious, "Ariel" is really powerful, "Bushwacked" is really eerie. Etc."

Loved "Out of Gas" and most of the others you mentioned. "Serenity (pilot)," though, I'm eh. It's just a bit boring.

Loki said... "Alright, I'll try. Making a top fifteen, so I get to mention a couple of runners-up. I'll make one rule though, comedy-shows are disqualified, I find it too difficult to compare stuff like "Scrubs", "Blackadder" and "Arrested Development" to stuff like "The Sopranos", "Angel" and "Rome". Keep in mind this stuff changes around a lot, especially when you rewatch stuff that you haven't seen in ages and it surprises or disappoints you:"

True. I'm on the fence about comedy, but I'd feel like a puppy killer if I didn't put "The Office" in my top 15.

Loki said... "1. Angel
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Niiiceee.

Loki said... "3. Battlestar Galactica"

I've never been able to trudge past the miniseries. I have the first season, and I plan to give it another go after I finish "Six Feet Under" this go around. I've heard much good.

Loki said... "4. Firefly (never have and probably never will see a show with this much potential)
5. Deadwood (if it had gotten to end properly, this one could've gotten all the way up to second place)"

Deadwood, I was scared to buy into because of that exact thing. Is it worth it?

Loki said... "6. Veronica Mars (third season penalizes a little, the first two alone would probably have gotten it higher)
7. Rome
8. The West Wing"

I also have the first season of "The West Wing," which I'll be watching within the year if I get a chance! ahahah I have too many DVDs.

Loki said... "9. The Sopranos"

Same with this. Never saw it, but I have the first two seasons.

Loki said... "10. Babylon 5
11. Zorro
12. Wonderfalls
13. Lost
14. The Inside
15. Prison Break"

Nice on 12 and 13.

Loki said... "I would like to mention also that I seem to recall really liking Ally McBeal, but I was really young back then and I haven't had a chance to rewatch enough of it to know how I'd feel about it in its entirety now. I do suspect it'd get in on the top fifteen somewhere, though."

You might make fun of me for it, but I've loved "Dawson's Creek" since I was so young, and I plan on a re-watch soon!

Loki said...

*laughs* Never watched Dawson's Creek. Have to admit though, doesn't sound too enticing... ;)

Well... I Fall To Pieces is pretty bad, especially considering Joss co-wrote. The idea itself was way, way too much.
Going to reply to this together with:
I'm surprised you mentioned "Sense & Sensitivit" and "Parting Gifts" but not "I Fall To Pieces." Those two, I thought, were quality episodes. Not as good as I'd expect, but for the show just getting on it's feet... not bad. Plus, great moments for Kate and Wesley in the eps, respectively.
Agreed on those last points. Great moments. As I mentioned, so-called bad episodes on "Angel" - or "Buffy" - is still pretty darn good. As for "Parting Gifts" and "Fall to Pieces", I was unsure whether or not to include both of them in that listing, and just happened to end up with one and not the other. I don't really like either all that well, but I feel like especially FtP gets undeservedly much bad rep. I quite enjoyed it, I liked the freak-character, thought he was well played, and the episode felt genuinely scary to me, a direction in which Angel rarely went after the first season despite how easily it would fit the show's mood. Parting Gifts... I think I should rewatch before saying anything definite on it, I simply can't recall it as vividly as I should. It was the one I was the most unsure of of the ones ending up on that list, though.


Eh, I don't know. Overall, it [Firefly] was the strongest one-season show there is other than "Wonderfalls" (IMO of course), but there were just some episodes I flat out didn't like. Overall, I thought the latter half of the season was much, much stronger than the former.

True enough, though I loved a lot of the first half too. I can't hold it against it that it improves as it goes along, though, sorry... all shows with a smackering of quality do, and Firefly way quicker than most.


All those had really good stuff, IMO. Where's "The Puppet Show," which is pretty much the worst first season episode? I never found anything wrong with "Never Kill...," but it's pretty unpopular.

Agreed, they all have good stuff - there probably is no such thing as a purely bad episode of a Whedon-show. I quite like "The Puppet Show", actually. As for "Never Kill...", it's not got anything particularily bad in it, it's just (to me) horribly bland for a Buffyepisode.

Loki said... "Angel's first season is awesome."

Isn't it, though?

Oohyeah. I was lured in by Angel, I watched Angel for almost four years before I started watching Buffy - I watched through all seven seasons of Buffy DVDs while in the middle of the Norwegian TV-airings of Angel's fourth season. I'm still proud that I kept following the Norwegian airings of Angel to the very end before I purchased that as well. My relationship to the two shows is thus very different - I sucked in seven seasons of Buffy in a little over three months, and I watched Angel every week for five years. I think that might be why I'm so sure I like it better - you don't get that kind of a relationship to a show with three months of intensive watching no matter how good it is.


I disagree, especially if you take Serenity and plug it onto the end of "Firefly." IMO, the Buffyverse--any season, even Angel's weakest (fourth)--can beat Firefly down. Not saying Firefly is bad, because it's amazing and one of my favorites, but nothing beats the BV.


I kind of agree with that first bit. As a season finale, "Serenity" (the movie) doesn't really do it for me. I love the movie, it's great, but I honestly feel that "Firefly" is better served when judged independently from it - "Serenity" has its own feel and dynamic, and adding it to the end as though it's an extra double episode or something just feels jarring and odd. Feels a tiny bit like trying to judge Buffy season 7 by including the Season 8 comics. Still, even with Serenity at the end, I feel it can compete with Angel's first season.

Don't agree that the "worst" (more appropriately, less brilliant (am I a fanboy or am I a fanboy, huh? ;D)) Slayerverse seasons can beat out Firefly. I think I'd rate it something like this:
A s5
BtVS s5
A s3
BtVS s6
A s2
BtVS s3
BtVS s2
Firefly
A s4
A s1
B s7
B s4
B s1

Some of this shifts around a little bit depending on what I've watched most recently but, yeah, Firefly is kind of floating about there in the lower middle-section.


Loved "Out of Gas" and most of the others you mentioned. "Serenity (pilot)," though, I'm eh. It's just a bit boring.

I get how you feel that - I watch it, and I catch myself thinking "huh, how come I love this so much, nothing ever happens here?!" but with every re-watch, I still can't seem to get bored by it. A little bit more now than the first three or four times, of course, but nowhere near as much as you'd think from its slow pacing.

True. I'm on the fence about comedy, but I'd feel like a puppy killer if I didn't put "The Office" in my top 15.
I guess I really need to give that show another shot - I watched the pilot, it didn't do a thing for me, and I didn't watch more of it since then. But everybody seems to love it so very much...

On the comedy show-front, I guess I should mention "Scrubs", "Blackadder", "Arrested Development" among the forerunners, and probably "Friends" too, overly dorky though it might be by now to like it.

Loki said... "1. Angel
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Niiiceee.


Buffy's been in danger of being pushed down a couple of times, but Angel's standing firm. BSG got a little weaker in season 3, though, as did VM, and Deadwood never got to finish properly, so it's still hanging in there.

Loki said... "3. Battlestar Galactica"

I've never been able to trudge past the miniseries. I have the first season, and I plan to give it another go after I finish "Six Feet Under" this go around. I've heard much good.

It's really good. Really good. I think you have to watch and see for yourself to be sure you like it, though.


Deadwood, I was scared to buy into because of that exact thing. Is it worth it?

I definitely think so, 'cause honestly, the average quality of the episodes is insane, but... it really is difficult to know how much the very open ending will bother other people. It bugs me a lot, but I was aware of the fact that it didn't get to end properly before I started watching, so not being caught off guard helped a lot.


I also have the first season of "The West Wing," which I'll be watching within the year if I get a chance! ahahah I have too many DVDs.

In my opinion; first couple of seasons are really great, last couple of seasons are really great, the stuff in the middle varies from okay to great but do seem a little drearily repetitive at times. Which is probably on purpose, they want to show just how much of a quagmyre doing politics is, but they might be doing a little too good a job of it for some seasons in the middle there. However, a friend of mine who recently watched the show loved those seasons just as much as the rest - and by all means, I liked them too.

Realizing, now, that I didn't put the sadly cancelled (aren't they all?) "Studio 60 at the Sunset Strip" on my list due to not thinking about it, I'd probably put it in on 11, I think.

Loki said... "9. The Sopranos"

Same with this. Never saw it, but I have the first two seasons.

First season starts off kinda slow, but it gets good rather fast. It's a really bleak show, though, be warned.


12. Wonderfalls
13. Lost
Nice on 12 and 13.

Lost is a little overrated, I feel, but still good. It's never again gotten quite as insanely awesome as it was in David Fury's "Walkabout" back in early season 1, and they do at times get caught in spending tons of episodes going in circles and not really advancing the plot at all, but by all means, it's still entertaining on the most part. And season 4 is looking good, that last one with Desmond was quite great. (They should've killed of Jack a loooong time ago, though.)


You might make fun of me for it, but I've loved "Dawson's Creek" since I was so young, and I plan on a re-watch soon!


I was recently advised by a friend to try watching "Hercules" and "Xena" from beginning to end and am actually seriously considering it, so believe you me - there are lower lows.

PatShand said...

I might take up Deadwood then, as you speak so high of it! Sounds good.

About the Buffyverse season ranking, we're pretty much in *general* agreement. This is how I rank 'em.

1: Buffy- Season Three and Five (tie)
2: Buffy- Season Two and Angel- Season Five (tie... both would take first place over my actual first places, but the thing is that the ENDS of both seasons are the most perfect arcs ever aired on television, but the early eps could use work)
3. Angel- Season Three
4. Buffy- Season Four
5. Angel- Season Two
6. Buffy- Season Six, Angel- Season One (tie)
7. Buffy- Season Seven
8. Angel- Season Four
9. Buffy- Season One

Loki said...

I feel that season 5 of Angel is just about as close to perfect as you can get - with a few episodes as exceptions, sure, but I say "close to" for a reason. Season 2 of Buffy, on the other hand, has an awesome season plot, but a lot of (for Buffy) really bad single episodes sprinkled throughout. Mainly in the beginning, yes, but even later in the season - Go Fish, for instance, or Bad Eggs. Angel's Season 5's weak points are mostly only weak relative to the rest of its awesomeness - while Buffy's second season's weak points are weak even when compared to the average episode of weaker seasons like season 4 and 1. Which hurts it a lot on my scale.

Thomas said...

List-making... For me the top group of these are all quite close together, and there's a significant drop-off below that.

Angel 5
Firefly
Buffy 3
Buffy 2
Angel 2
Buffy 5
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Angel 3
Buffy 4
Buffy 6
Angel 4
Buffy 1
Buffy 7
Angel 1

Pretty similar to Pat's list, actually, except I liked Angel 2 better than Angel 3. I liked it when Lorne was still "The Host" and still had his bar. I liked Lindsey and Lilah, Lindsey and Darla, Lindsey and Angel... I'm glad he returned in Season 5, but Lindsey was at his best in Season 2. And the relationship between Lindsey and Darla made them both much more interesting characters. Darla being human, Angel almost saving her, the great Angel/Darla/Dru/Spike backstory crossover event... and Wes, Cordy and Gunn carrying on without Angel and developing a group identity that was about the mission and not about him. And Harmony -- another great element that was wisely brought back in Season 5. And Numfar doing the dance of joy. And the debut of Fred.

Season 3, on the other hand, had... a lot more Fred. Which is hard to beat, but I still think Season 2's good things outweigh it. On the negative side of Season 3, I never really bought into Holtz emotionally, despite his low-voiced creepy charm. Likewise, I couldn't fully buy into Connor in the last few episodes (nor in Season 4). And the ending with Cordy ascending into a higher realm or whatever that actually turned out to be...? I've never managed to make sense of what went on amongst Cordy, Skip, Jasmine, and the Powers that Be, no matter how much fanwanking I do.

So I much prefer Season 2 (and, of course, Season 5) because they aren't covered in that whole mess.

Loki said...

It's a little bit of a mess, but the mess starts only in season 4, and a lot of it is cleaned up pretty well retroactively in season 5, I've always felt.

Angel's season 2 is awesome, and Lindsey (and Holland) are among my favourite characters on the show. Still, I prefer 3, mostly because of the awesomeness that was Darla's pregnancy-arc ("Lullaby" is one of my favourite episodes ever), and because of Wesley's downward spiral throughout it. And unlike you (and a lot of other people), I always thought Holtz was a very good character for the show.

That being said, A2 is among the consistantly best TV I've seen.

If I'm to draw a line like you did, I'm going to draw it something like this (and the more perceptive of you will notice that, yes, my list has changed a tiny bit already - it never stays completely the same), and it's clear that on the whole I like a lot stuff better than you do, I think... ;) :


A s5
BtVS s5
A s3
BtVS s6/A s2 (tie)
BtVS s3
BtVS s2
A s4
Firefly
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A s1
----
B s7
B s4
B s1

Angel season 1 is in a kind of interrim-spot, because its average episodes get much better once its about halfway, with the Faith-episodes and the focus on Lindsey. I'd also like to add that I'm very unsure of B6 and A2 - A2 usually loses out 'cause of B6's much higher amount of Iconic Powerful Moments, like the yellow crayon, Giles' testing of theories, Spike's ensoulment, OMWF, Tabula Rasa, Bargaining, and so on and so forth. A2's quality is much more consistant, however, which makes me kind of want to tip it up above it.

I could very likely have drawn a second line under B5, 'cause the two seasons 5 are just about as good as TV could ever get for me.

PatShand said...

Lemme see if I can't make a division on this list o'mine...

1: Buffy 3, Buffy 5 (tie)
2: Buffy 2, Angel 5 (tie)

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3. Angel 3

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4. Buffy 4
5. Angel 2

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6. Buffy 6, Angel 1 (tie)
7. Buffy 7
8. Angel 4

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9. Buffy 1

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10. Firefly (Love it. But it ain't Buffyverse)



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The first division is simply because those seasons are made up of or contain arcs that are beyond perfect. Those top places are untouchable.

The next division leave Angel 3 by itself. I did that to show that it's exceptional and quite a bit better than the other seasons, but it lacks the perfection that the top spots flaunt.

The next division has Buffy 4 & Angel 2 together. Truth be told, had the Pylean arc not happned, Angel 2 would be right in the same category as Angel 3. But it did. The lameness of that arc brought Angel 2 down to a weeee bit below Buffy 4, which is a pretty good ranking.

The next group is made up of the problematic seasons: Buffy 6, Angel 1, Buffy 7, Angel 4. All of these seasons had really bad moments mingled in with really great, iconic moments. Buffy 6 had OMFW (best episode, period) but it also had Gone. It had Giles, as Loki said, testing theories, but it also had Willow's addiction arc. Angel 1 had "To Shanshu in LA" but it also had doctors falling to pieces. Buffy 7 had Spike thanking Buffy for saying it, but it also had two of the crappiest Willow-centric episodes you could dream up (and not an arc for Xander in sight). Angel 4 had "Apocalypse Nowish" and Scruffsley, but it also had friggin Jasmine.

The next division, leaving Buffy 1 as the worst in the 'verse, is self-explanatory. The ratio of Stinkers to... Non-stinkers (?) is pretty bad. For every "Angel" or "Nightmares," you have a "Teacher's Pet" and "The Puppet Show."

Leaving Firefly so low beyond even Season One will likely be controversial, but its my opinion that the writing, acting, mythology, and core ideas of the story--and the mood and themes--are just so much better in the Buffyverse. Better than anything. So for "Firefly" to even come as close as it does--admittedly, not that close--is a huge compliment to "Firefly."

Loki said...

You keep talking about the fantastic Buffyverse mythology - what do you mean by that, exactly?

PatShand said...

Well... the mythology? lol ;]

Specifically, I love the idea of Slayers, and the mechanics of how it works at all. The Potentials, the scythe, everything about that. I love the vampire stuff. The "dusting" is cool, the "vampire lemon face" is awesome (the 'game face,' as Angel calls it), and the general idea of souls. Also, the Watchers Council, the whole idea of demons existing in our world but humans not noticing, the idea of millions of different dimensions. Everything introduced was awesome, adding layers upon layers to an already perfect pair of shows. See, I know how... inconsistent the mythology could be, BUT they kept it loose so they could keep expanding. For me, all that stuff easily trumps any of the Firefly backstory.

Loki said...

With the exception of the vamp-face (which I have to say isn't as a concept all that interesting, though they make good use of it) and the specifics of the Slayer, I really don't see any of that as awesome mythology. Heck, I don't even see it as *interesting* mythology. It's generic, flat and pretty simple mythology, even the soul-stuff really isn't that original. (And they don't even stay consistant on that one, either) Need a new thing for a new episode? Make up a whole new kind of demon, or dimension, or both.

Of course, I watched "Buffy" having read fantasy literature pretty much every day for something like eight years growing up. It's really easy for me to discount this kind of thing as generic, overused, unoriginal or bland. Contrarywise, I did not read (or watch) a lot of sci-fi growing up, and thus Firefly probably looks more original to me than to you. It's all a perspective thing.


That being said, even taking the subjective perspectives into account, I feel Firefly, considering its amount of episodes, is much richer than Buffy - and reasonably more so than Angel. Admittedly, W&H is a very intriguing and well-working concept. The idea of the Slayer and what goes with it is the same. It's still a far cry from a consistant mythology - they weren't even able to ever agree upon what "demon" meant, despite using the term all the time. Or maybe because of it. In the end, the definition had pretty much been reduced to "non-human, non-known-animal". Ancient creatures from when this dimension was young were demons. Creatures from space were demons. Spirits were demons. Vampires were (somewhat) demons. Creatures from parallell universes were demons. Creatures from Hells (which might and might not be the same as a horrible parallell dimension, yet another two haphazard terms they throw around together with "higher plane/level of existance") were demons.

Buffy/Angel did a WONDERFUL job at not messing it up by contradicting old stuff and by keeping the new stuff more or less in line with the old, and even, sometimes, thankfully, building on the old. But even so, 80-90% of the cases, they'd just make up something new that didn't crash too much with anything established. That's not a rich mythology in my eyes - I expect a rich, interesting mythology to be consistant, make sense, have rules and set a background for the story to take place in. That's not the case with Buffy/Angel. The story creates the background and makes it fit around it. Which might a the sign of a good story, but it's not the sign of a good mythology - the mythology is part of the tapestry, and when they wait with decorating the room until we're standing in the middle of it, then I remain very unimpressed.

A show with *awesome* mythology wouldn't have "Heartthrob" without explanation contradicting everything we know about vampires. A show with *interesting* mythology would not have vampires be immune to electricution in one episode and then see Angel fall to his knees from a simple zat in another. Clearly, the mythology isn't well-defined, thought-out or even important to these shows, what matters is that it serves the story. A show with an awesome mythology would take the rules for how a vampire works and build an interesting and enticing story *on it*. The Slayerverse shows would instead take a story-idea and then bend/ignore/change/make up the mythology *for it*. Firefly, in its short lifespan, exhibited much more of the former system than the latter - maybe because people expect more logic and system in sci-fi than in fantasy, I don't know. Point is, I love Buffy/Angel, and I love the world they built up together that indeed got very rich in the end. But that's as a result of a haphazard throwtogether of different pieces never designed to fit together in the first place. Firefly had a full, well-functioning mythology right from the get-go.

(I feel I should state, after all this, that to me, the important thing is the characters, that they make sense, and that they're consistant. They really are on B/A, and so are the stories. Which is why I love them. But I get a little puzzled when people claim to love their mythology.

Then again, I feel the same of similar comments on the Harry Potter-books, though admittedly I stopped reading after the fourth. I think I might just be jaded on this stuff.)


Sorry, I don't mean to rant. I just am pathologically incapable of being brief.

PatShand said...

Your points are valid, and I've mentioned some of the problems of the mythology in my post as well. Firefly has tighter, more well-thought out, "richer" mythology... but it's also a *lot* more boring. The alliance, the wars, all the planets... Just, in the end, I don't care at all about that aspect of the show. The characters, yes, brilliant. But I've never caught myself debating, wondering, or even thinking about the mythology.

The Buffyverse? Good, bad, consistent or not... It's not only intriguing, I think about it every single day, and I very simply love it. Could write a book on the stuff. As a writer, there is no 'verse--bar none--I'd rather write in than the Buffyverse.

(and that's coming from someone who won't touch fanfic with a Balrog sized pole)

Thomas said...

I don't feel like the mythology of either B/A or Firefly matters very much as mythology. I'm sure I've seen more than one interview with Joss in which he readily acknowledges that as a writer, his focus is on where his main characters are at emotionally, and that he makes up the stories around that.

I think that's an absolutely valid way to write, and it works great for Joss, but it results in worlds that don't have a lot of detailed, independent, mythological existence. Worlds that are obviously the product of a mind that spends a lot more time thinking about the personalities and emotions of the individual characters, than about the history or physics of the world they're in.

This seems to me to be equally true of Buffy/Angel (where magic, demons, and the multiverse work however Joss needs them to work, resulting in a fairly steady stream of arguable inconsistencies) and Firefly (where it's never very clear where anything is in relation to anything else -- how many star systems are there, how many planets, how long does it take to get from Whitefall to Ariel to wherever else).

In this respect, Joss is basically the antithesis of Tolkien -- the founder of modern fantasy -- and probably of some of the founders of modern SF as well, like Asimov and Frank Herbert. Those authors were much more into the history, linguistics, politics, and/or physics of the worlds they were writing about. A lot of fantasy and SF fans love that, including myself to some extent. I happily put up with the contradictions and vague aspects of Joss's worlds, because I'm so in love with the characters. But I'd never tell someone they should watch Buffy/Angel because the mythology is so great.

Thomas said...

Oh, I forgot to say. I love Firefly, of course, but I wouldn't call its mythology particularly tight, rich, or well-thought-out.

Basically, there was a civil war and the separatists lost. And there are a bunch of inhabited planets, and some of them are rich and sophisticated and others are primitive. And there are mysterious scary Reavers, and mysterious scary elements of the central government, some of whom do brain experiments on children. Not that complicated, I'd say. Take the Old West, transpose it into space, and add some other sci-fi villains. But the real draw, as always, is the characters. The space-cowboy setting is cool because it gives our protagonists the opportunity to act like cowboys, not because it posits a world that's amazingly deep and thought-provoking in its own right.

(By the way, why are space cowboys so damn cool? In about a decade from now, I want someone to do an anime in which Cowboy Bebop meets Firefly.)

Loki said...

(and that's coming from someone who won't touch fanfic with a Balrog sized pole)
On this we can agree.


Thomas said what I wanted to say in perhaps more carefully thought out words, I think. However, I feel to specify that my point wasn't that Firefly had a rich mythology - I don't think it does - it's that it feels much closer to such a thing than Buffy does.

See, Firefly doesn't specify a lot of stuff. But it doesn't - as far as I've noticed - contradict itself, either, nor does it bring in new elements willy-nilly when old would do. It doesn't bend the rules, it doesn't say one thing one week and then another three weeks later. Of course, had it gone on for longer, it might've. But fact is it didn't.

I don't love either show for it's mythology, and I'd get behind particularily this part of Thomas' comments wholeheartedly:
"But I'd never tell someone they should watch Buffy/Angel because the mythology is so great."
You could add "/Firefly" in there, too.

In fact, when I recommend the shows, as I frequently do, I find myself actually trying to make preventive remarks about this. I'll specify that I love the show for the characters and their arcs, first and foremost, and that everything else comes second. B/A are awesome. The mythology might be its weakest point, though, it's definitely one of them - weaker than on Firefly. Doesn't mean I think it's strong there either.

I usually look for a much stronger mythology in my fiction (my favourite fantasy books, for instance, would currently be American Gods and A Song of Ice and Fire, both of which are pretty close to flawless on the mythology-bit) so it's a testiment to just how great Joss' shows are that I love them so much in spite of this weakness.

Loki said...

One bit of Firefly's mythology that always DID entice me, by the way, was the Blue Sun Group. Which are, obviously, never actually mentioned on the show.


(Ooooh. I just realized how incredibly awesome it would be if - perfectly subtly - we ever learned the names of the administration of the Blue Sun and they turned out to have names startin' with W, R and H. =D It'd be the Pylea-moment all over again, times five!)

Loki said...

Hm, "Better Days" looks to be way better than "Those Left Behind", if you ask me.