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This is one of the show’s most unusual and original episodes. But while most of the BtVS episodes with an unusual format belong to its best (Hush, Restless, The Body, Once More, With Feeling, Conversations with Dead People), The Zeppo is, at the same time, a great episode and a very bad episode  – depending on whether you look at in isolation or within the continuity of the show.

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So, I’ve finished my re-rewatch (!) of season 1. I expected it to go faster, but there were a lot of distractions – from unexpected work, to the fact that, well, it was hot summer weather and most days were being spent on a beach, and a lot of nights out in the city. My impressions were mostly the same as the last time, which is no surprise since the last rewatch was just over a year ago. I took notes of the few things I didn’t notice before or didn’t include in my previous reviews, but most of it were fun minor things, from fashion choices to various details to mistakes you only notice after you’ve watched the show a few times.

You can check my previously posted reviews and ratings (out of 5 stars):

1.01. Welcome to the Hellmouth (3.5)
1.02. The Harvest (2.5)
1.03. Witch (3)
1.04. Teacher’s Pet (1.5)
1.05. Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (3)
The Pack (3.5)
1.07. Angel (4)
1.08. I, Robot, You Jane (2)*
The Puppet Show (3)
1.10. Nightmares (4)
1.11. Out of Mind, Out of Sight (4)
1.12 Prophecy Girl (4.5)

Season 1 overview (3.21)*revised rating

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Finally, here's a couple of songs used in BtVS season 1. See you next when I re-rewatch the first 11 episodes of season 2.


Dashboard Prophets - "Ballad for Dead Friends" (from The Harvest)

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Today yesterday is was the 20 year anniversary of the release of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. (Note: Well, it was when I started writing this, when I finally get to post this, it will still be 31st July in the Western hemisphere...or parts of it... so it still counts... ) Perfect time to revisit the way it all started.

I remember seeing the movie on TV a few years before I started watching the show, and finding it a mildly funny but average, not very good and mostly ordinary teen comedy that tried to poke fun at vampire movies. I was always struck by how different the show is to the movie. Rewatching it now, after a long time, my impressions are the same, only more negative, because I can now see how much potential it wasted. This becomes especially obvious when you compare it Joss Whedon’s original script, which is available online, and which I read last week for the first time. A much better movie could have been made from this, and one that would have been a lot more in the spirit with the TV show. On the other hand, if the movie had matched Joss’ intentions, maybe he wouldn’t have felt compelled to take his idea to the small screen... So maybe it’s better it worked out this way.

The movie was declared not canon by Joss, so nothing from it actually has any bearing on the show and the comics continuity, but Joss has never filmed another version of Buffy’s origin story.

I will also revisit the only canon version of Buffy’s origins is the 1999 Dark Horse comic The Origin, which gives a more faithful adaptation of Joss’ original script, much closer to the spirit of the show, and attempts to reconcile the story with the TV show continuity (including scenes based on the flashbacks from the show), since there are quite a few discontinuities between Joss’s script and the movie on one side, and the show on the other. Joss has said this about this comic:

The origin comic, though I have issues with it, CAN pretty much be accepted as canonical. They did a cool job of combining the movie script (the SCRIPT) with the series, that was nice, and using the series Merrick and not a certain OTHER thespian who shall remain hated. First off, a reminder if you don’t remember, here’s a synopsis: Buffy starts off as a cheerleader in Hemery High school in LA, one of the vapid, shallow valley girls. She hangs out with 3 equally shallow friends (bitchy Kimberly – played by Hilary Swank, particularly airheaded Jennifer, and another girl called Nicole who doesn’t get fleshed out much), a bit more bookish Cassandra (who later becomes one of the vampires’ victims) and has a shallow, vapid and casually sexist jock boyfriend Jeffrey (who hangs out with a blatantly sexist jerk, Andy). They have a couple of somewhat antagonistic encounters with Pike and his friend Benny, who are supposed to be lower class/poor punks types, but it’s pretty clear from the start that a meet-cute romance is being set up between Buffy and Pike. (I like the sound of that.) Meanwhile, a really old and powerful vampire (who’s referred to in the script by other characters as a Vampire King), Lothos, has arrived in LA with his minions, and they are starting to turn the locals – mostly high school students – while Lothos wants to kill another Slayer. Yes, Lothos is supposed to have killed several Slayers at least – which, at the time, might not have sounded like such a feat, but after having seen the show where Slayers were made to look almost as superwomen and where killing two Slayers is a huge feat, is almost incredible. Someone else who’s arrived in LA is Merrick, a Watcher, who’s looking for the new Slayer. When he first tells her she’s the Chosen One, Buffy is at first incredulous, as you’d expect, but he manages to quickly convince her, since he knows about her Slayer dreams. She’s reluctant to accept her new role, but she manages to kill her first two vampires the night when Merrick first takes her to the graveyard to patrol. Gradually, she becomes more and more involved with slaying and in the process alienates her friends and boyfriend, but also gains new friend/love interest/sidekick in Pike, who’s meanwhile learned about vampires being real because his best friend got turned into one. After Merrick’s tragic death, Buffy has a crisis and almost decides to quit and go to the school dance instead and be just a regular girl, which Pike disagrees with. At the dance, where Buffy is shunned by her friends and dumped by her boyfriend (or rather, learns that he’s already left her a break-up message on her answering machine) but gets to dance with Pike who’s decided to show up – but then the vampires attack school during the dance. Buffy kills a bunch of vampires, with the help of Pike and a few other students, fights with the arrogant Lothos and kills him. In the end, Buffy has grown way past her old friends and old lifestyle.

I’ve noticed that Joss recycled some of his original ideas for Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest: the way Buffy kills Amilyn, Lothos' main henchman, in the script (but not in the movie nor in The Origin), is very similar to the trick she plays on Luke in The Harvest. As far as the things that did make it to the movie go: there are also similarities such as Pike/Xander having to kill his best friend who's become a vampire; some of the original arguments between Buffy and Giles are a bit like those between Buffy and Merrick; Gary Murray the school counselor is a proto-Flutie; and Lothos is a bit like a mix between the Master and a non-ironic version of Dracula, with a bit of Luke's early rhetoric. We have vampires attacking the school on a big night again in School Hard.

I can’t remember, did anyone on the show ever use a pencil to stake a vampire? This is how Buffy finally manages to surprise and kill Lothos in the script version of their confrontation, after he’s cornered her in the school corridor; script direction says that there’s almost something like respect in his eyes as he’s turning to dust (and Lothos, up to that point, has been very contemptuous and dismissive of Buffy and other Slayers).

Differences between the movie and Joss’ original script

Joss Whedon wrote the original version of the script for Buffy when he was 25. According to this old article (linked today on Whedonesque – thanks, Whedonesque!), „The project began gathering steam last fall, when producer Rosenman "flipped over this weirdly funny script by a 25-year-old with red hair flowing down to his ass.“ “ (See evidence of the latter.)

The same article describes the Buffy movie as a mix between Wayne’s World, Heathers and Beverly Hills 90210. Well, that’s true - but only if you take out Heathers...

The script is well worth reading – it’s really not cheesy and campy the way the movie is, and it’s not a comedy: it’s much darker and it’s a horror/action teen drama with some humor in it. In other words, similar to the show. However, the people who made the movie obviously didn’t take the story seriously at all and figured it had to be a broad cheesy teenage comedy. You can see it as soon as the open narration about the Slayers starts – similar to the one in first 2 seasons of the show – delivered in a mocking, campy voice, while we see a brief scene of Kristy Swanson with a silly expression, in what is supposed to be one of her dreams about past Slayers. There are a lot of changes between this version of the script and what finally got filmed. But even when there were no changes in the dialogue – and in the majority of the scenes, they kept the original dialogue– the directorial choices, acting, music, choreography, even hairstyling and costumes, made all the difference.

Kristy Swanson isn't bad until you compare her to Sarah Michelle Gellar, she has no spunk and charisma and badassery that SMG so easily instills into the character. Swanson is physically much bigger, but tiny SMG is a much bigger presence in every other way. Luke Perry (Pike) is just being Luke Perry, i.e. has the same dull expression throughout. The worst of all is Donald Sutherland (Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick), who looks bored throughout the movie, probably waiting to finish shooting the dumb teen movie and collect his paycheck – he even looks bored in his death scene!

The music is dreadful – the songs are all very mainstream, in a bad way (unlike the much more interesting choices on the show); the score is more 80s than 90s, and occasionally sounds like elevator music - especially in above mentioned Merrick’s death scene.

The movie removed almost everything that was even a little bit darker and more serious. Gone are the opening scenes from the script, showing some of the Slayers from the previous centuries, including the scenes of Lothos killing Slayers. Instead of being really scary, the vampires in the movie are just ridiculous. Lothos’ henchmen Amilyn, in particular, is quite scary in the script, but a complete joke and an OTT comedy character in the movie – he even gets a comedy protracted death that goes on and on. Script!Lothos is a truly intimidating figure (and a vampire who’s supposed to have killed several Slayers has to be!), but in the movie, despite being played by Rutger Hauer, a guy who knows how to be scary, even he is made into a bit of a joke. In one of the many eyeroll-worthy cheesy moments that the director/script doctors/whoever thought was a good idea to add, Lothos plays a violin to hypnotize Buffy (?!) and in another, he dies saying „Oops“.

But the worst of all is Buffy’s fight with the vampires outside the gym, which could have been great (and is in the comic), and which is described like this in the script:

Buffy is defending herself in an astounding blur of gymnasti
and martial arts. Leaping, throwing kicks, punches, and the
odd stake, she manages to scatter them enough to make a run for it.

...and in the movie, it looks like this: Kristy Swanson goes out of the gym, makes several somersaults for no reason at all and comes up against one of the vampires, and all the vampires stand in a circle and attack her one by one, waiting until she’s finished with the previous ones, like in the awful old martial arts movies. She also starts her fight with Lothos by making a few somersaults for absolutely no reason.

The Buffy's and Merrick's relationship far less antagonistic in the movie – he shows that he’s grown fond of her by telling her she is „truly exceptional“ while in the script (and in the comic) he criticizes her for being „vacuous“ and for not paying attention, lectures her that being a Slayer is not just about super-strength and argues with her, asking her if she thinks she’s special – he buried five girls who trained much harder than she did. They certainly form a bond, but they do it in the typically Whedonesque snarky manner (a bit like Buffy/Giles in season 1). One of the best moments (which, fortunately, made it to the comic) is when Merrick realizes that Buffy is not paying attention to his lecture about vampires and is looking into her notebook instead, and says „I have huge antlers growing out of my buttocks“, confirming that Buffy isn’t really listening , and then hurls a stake right through Buffy’s notebook. And in very Jossian fashion, those two still come to really care about each other. In the script (and the comic), he gives his life largely to protect her, and Buffy's attempt to have a eulogy on her own after his death is really poignant:
Ummm, our Father, Who art in Heaven,
duhmm... hallowed be Thy name.
Uhh, kingdom come, daily break, I
don't know. I don't even know if
you're religious. You probably
are. But you're dead, you know.
You're just totally dead. and...

She sits heavily on his grave.

... and I don't know what to do.
You were the one who... I don't
know if the training was over. I
don't even know if I passed. You're
so stupid! How could you be so
stupid? What am I supposed to do
without you? You son of a bitch!

She stops, looks down for a moment.


None of that is in the movie.
Other big changes include:
  • Merrick’s death: in the movie, Lothos kills him because Buffy was too much in „thrall“ to react, and then dies in her arms. In the script, Buffy wasn’t even there until the end (and she never seems in much of a danger of being hypnotized by Lothos), as she was busy killing vampires in another place, and Merrick kills himself with a gun to prevent Lothos from turning him and using him against Buffy. (Although maybe this isn’t explained as much as it is in the comic.)
  • The movie removes the dark moment when a bunch of students, including Buffy’s (ex) friend Kimberly, decide to practically throw Buffy to the vampires to save their own skin: since the vampires (many of them formerly students who were turned) were outside yelling „We want Buffy“, the students yell in panic that she should go out so the vampires could have her and leave them alone. What they didn’t realize is that the vampires are going to attack the gym anyway, breaking the windows. In the script, after the fight is over, Buffy silently walks away from the students who wanted to sacrifice her (with the exception of Pike, who was fiercely on her side, and a few others.)
  • The script ends with: a news report about the attack (described as an attack of a gang of „crack-crazed gunmen“) that had a death toll of 12; followed by a scene showing Buffy’s ex-friends and ex-boyfriend gossiping about her and how „crazy“ she’s become; and a scene with Buffy and Pike going to an old castle – presumably to look for some old vampire to slay. The movie, on the other hand, ends with a protracted news report – which completely lacks the mention of any casualties, are we supposed to think that no students died? – followed by a bunch of stupid jokes (and then some more of Amilyn’s protracted death scene).

In their thorough mainstreaming of the script, they also removed pretty much everything that could have been consider somewhat edgy:
  • Every single reference to teen sex (including a scene in which Buffy, while looking for vampires, finds her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey, who’s just dumped her, and his new date Jennifer, Buffy’s ex-friend, clumsily having sex in his ca);
  • A few instances of bad language (but OK, that was to be expected);
  • Coach’s speech before the game that happens to contain a casual reference to homosexuality („So I don't care about your minds. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you're worried about your grades. Maybe you dog just died or you've suddenly found that you're attracted to other men. I don't care!”
  • Pike’s off-hand mention/joke that his guidance counselor mentioned prison as the possible future for him
  • Pike and his friend Benny’s punk style looks. In the script, Pike is described as having spiked hair, a taste for long coats and black, and wearing Doc Martens, while his friend Benny has a shaved head, suspenders and also Doc Martens. In the movie, they are... Luke Perry and David Arquette looking like Luke Perry and David Arquette usually do, and not really visibly different than Buffy's boyfriend Jeffrey and the other jock guys. (Joss seems to like introducing punk-ish looking characters from time to time: Spike, Satsu and Simone in the comics.)

One of the small changes that particularly pissed me off is how they filmed the scene near the beginning of the movie which we first see Buffy kissing her boyfriend Jeffrey, and his friend Andy acts like a complete sexist ass and asks „Jeffrey, dude, can I borrow her?“ In the script – and the comic – she just normally comes up to Jeffrey and they kiss, while Andy and Jeffrey’s other friends and Buffy’s friends are standing near by. In the movie, she runs and leans into Jeffrey’s car to kiss him – he’s in the driving seat – not bothered that her butt is practically lying in Andy’s lap (since he’s in the front seat). I guess they just couldn’t show a high school boy being blatantly sexist without giving the audience the opportunity to say „Heh, it’s the bimbo’s fault for hanging her ass in front of his nose“?!

So, as we’ve established, the movie sucks big time. Nothing I haven’t known for years. The only difference is that, having read the script, I can vouch it really wasn’t Joss’ fault.

Now we’re going to take a look at the differences between the script/the movie on one hand, and the show on the other. While the huge difference in tone is all due to the execution and script changes, there are a few things that don’t match with the show because Joss later changed his mind. Of course, the discontinuity doesn’t matter, since neither the movie nor the script are canon.

Discontinuity between the movie/the script and canon

Several things from the script and the movie that Joss changed for the TV show:
  • Vampires don’t dust when staked – except, for some reason, Lothos (maybe because he’s 800 to 900 years old). This is something that Joss decided for the TV show, in order not to have Buffy leaving a bunch of dead bodies around.
  • Vampires can float.
  • Vampires don’t show in photos.
  • Buffy doesn’t burn down the gym during the big showdown with the vampires.
  • A lot is made of Buffy’s need to preserve her secret identity – Merrick insists that vampires mustn’t know who she is, or they would he hunting her rather than the other way round. Which, come to think of it, makes sense – but was completely different on the show, where every vampire and demon knew who she is and, with rare exceptions (like Spike or Mr. Trick and the participants of his Slayer Fest ’99), it only made most of them want to stay away from her. That’s actually one change that I’m not sure the show ever properly justified. It’s almost unbelievable that no vampire or demon ever targeted Buffy’s family and friends in order to get to her, except briefly Angelus (who nevertheless didn’t do much on that front). There is a reason why Bruce Wayne thinks he needs to wear the mask to protect those he loves. See my comments on The Origin.
  • Buffy’s parents are portrayed as neglectful and almost always absent; her mom pays so little attention to her that she mis-remembers her boyfriend’s name. (This is more like the family background Willow has on the show – except that her parents are also stricter. Willow’s mother Sheila seems to constantly ignore her, and can’t properly remember the name of her best friend Buffy.
  • (More in the script than in the movie) Buffy’s family also seems richer, more in Cordelia’s league (at least this is my impression – for instance, at one point she mentions a trust fund from her grandfather that she spent on shoes) than on the show, where they’re firmly middle-class types.
  • (Script element; not mentioned in the movie, IIRC) Merrick says that the Watchers are all from one coven in a small English village. This is very different from the powerful (but really incompetent and stuck up their own arse) organization we first see in season 3.
  • (Script element; not mentioned in the movie) Slayers have superpowers even before they are called: Buffy is mentioned to have had amazing gymnastic skills as a younger girl.
  • (Script element; ignored or changed for movie) Script!Buffy is not a virgin. Her boyfriend Jeffrey is spending the night with her – he’s by her side when she wakes up from a nightmare; and during a school football game, one of the students starts talking to Merrick (and annoying the hell out of him) and gossiping about Buffy, saying that people are talking that „She’s had sex“. This was probably a part of Whedon’s idea to subvert the cliche of the blonde who dies in the alley – in movies, teenagers who have sex usually die. But this didn’t make it to the movie (Buffy is waking from her nightmare alone), I assume as a part of the overall removal of any reference to teen sex; and of course, it also isn’t in The Origin (where Buffy also wakes in her bed alone), for a different reason – because it would clash with canon, since canon!Buffy only lost her virginity in season 2.
  • Merrick first approaches Buffy in the football field (script) or in the school gym (movie). In the flashback in Becoming I, he approaches her right in front of the school.
  • Buffy is dating a school jock called Jeffrey, until he dumps her because she’s been busy with other things and he’s „got needs“in his own words (but she has other things to worry about, and has been falling for Pike anyway, so it’s no tragedy). But, in the flashback in Becoming I, Buffy is talking to her friends about a boy called Tyler and saying he’d have to beg her on his hands and knees to go with him to the dance... which he’s supposed to do after practice, so she’ll wait. (See my comments about The Origin below.)

Although it’s not discontinuity, I wonder why the show and later canon comics never mentioned Buffy dreaming about the lives of the previous Slayers. The only Slayers who seem to pop up in her dreams are the First Slayer and Faith. A lot more was made of the Slayer dream connection to the previous Slayers in Dana’s story in AtS Damage, in the Tales of the Slayers, in Fray, and in season 8 issue The Chain, but none of those are about Buffy. How interesting would it be if Buffy ever had Slayer dreams of being Nikki Wood, for instance?

And now let’s look at how this is resolved in The Origin.

The Origin comic revisted: canon version of Buffy’s origin story

This 3-part comic, written by Christopher Golden and Brereton based on Whedon’s script for the movie, restores most of Whedon’s original script, attempts (for the most part, successfully, though there are a few problematic spots) to reconcile it with the show canon, and – unlike the movie, is very close to the tone and spirit of the TV show.

I reviewed The Origin comic before, at the very beginning of my Buffy rewatch. A few words in addition to this:

The only big problem I have with the comic is with the artist drawing green, pointy-eared vampires. That aside, the art by Joe Bennett is very good. They obviously wanted to make a complete break with the movie, so none of the characters look like their movie counterparts. Of course, Buffy looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar rather than Kristy Swanson, Joyce and Hank look like they do on the show (in the movie, Buffy’s parents both have dark hair and look ridiculously tanned and a bit trashy) while Merrick looks like Richard Riehle, who played him in the show flashback. But the other characters, who never appeared on the show, are all given a new look: Pike has white hair and a goatee and doesn’t look like Luke Perry (in later, non-canon Dark Horse comics, he looked different and had brownish hair, but didn’t look like Perry either); Lothos has long red hair and looks nothing like Rutger Hauer; Jeffrey is blond, while movie Jeffrey was dark-haired, each one of Buffy’s friends has different hair color and hairstyle than their movie counterparts, etc.

I really like the way they portrayed Merrick in the comic – he is passionate, stern and determined, a very strong figure – completely different from Donald Sutherland’s bland, sleepwalking through the role version. Pike is also a lot more animated and likeable. The vampires are scary and the fights are well drawn.

The comic restores most of Joss’ best lines and moments from the script, and adds some new ones (Buffy: „Don’t think of me as late – think of me as time-impaired!“) though, unfortunately, they also added a really dumb joke (when Amilyn has his arm ripped off, he seems more concerned about his jacket – „This was real leather“). There’s also one screw-up: the inscription on the newly sired vampire reads „1972-1990“, even though it should be taking place in 1996. But this is nitpicking now.

Let’s see what the writers of the comic did about the continuity issues:
  • Buffy burns the gym down. She does it because it’s the only way to kill a bunch of vampires that have attacked the school: she tricks them into the gym, locks the door with a bike chain and sets the gym on fire.
  • Most of the aspects of the script that don’t fit with canon are left out.
  • Merrick warning Buffy about her secret identity is still a part of the story, but Buffy basically says „Ah, screw that“ (not in those words) after Merrick’s death.
  • A brief scene with Buffy’s parents is included here as well – and Buffy seems to be unsatisfied and to think that they aren’t spending enough time with her (which we only see in her bitter comment to herself that they’re „real quality timers“), but there are no moments of Joyce being clueless, and we don’t know if Buffy’s parents are really neglectful, or if Buffy is seeing her parents as more neglectful than they really are. On the show, it was established that the problem with her parents was that they didn’t get along and argued a lot for years – but never that they ignored Buffy.
  • The scenes from the Becoming I flashback are included: Merrick approaching Buffy in front of the school, and their conversation is word for word taken from the show.
  • The Tyler/Jeffrey issue: they tried to solve this, and I’m not sure if it works. To reconcile it, they changed the dialogue for a part of Buffy’s conversation with her friends. She says she got over Tyler long time ago, and one of the girls adds that nobody would pick Tyler over Jeffrey anyway, and it’s Jeffrey that Buffy says she is waiting for after the practice, not Tyler. But this creates a bit of discontinuity with the show, what about that? There is a way to fanwank it:
  • The entire comic is framed as Buffy’s narration – so one could say that her memory may not be entirely accurate. (Maybe she and Jeffrey were over before she met Merrick, but she conflated two different timelines and thought he was still her boyfriend and that it was the night of the vampire attack that they broke up.) Buffy is telling Xander and Willow about her days in Hemery High and how she became a Slayer.
  • The last LA scenes we see are taken from the script, but with some changes: Buffy’s gossiping ex-friends mention that she was expelled from school. We also see Buffy and Pike going to the castle. However, it’s actually a castle in Las Vegas – a change I don’t like, since it’s just Dark Horse’s blatant attempt to set up one of their later (non-canon) comics, Viva Las Buffy, which is about the adventures of Buffy and Pike in Las Vegas.

The comic doesn’t explain what happened to Pike and why he and Buffy went separate ways; when Xander asks Buffy about it (he even says that Pike seemed like a good match, which is really unlike season 2 Xander! Though I guess he might have said it just because he’d prefer anyone to Angel - and Pike does seem like a guy Xander might like),
she just says it’s a story for another time.

Pike was clearly created as something of a Whedonian perfect guy – he’s the only teenage boy in the movie/script/comic who isn’t sexist (Pike’s friend Benny is just as bad in that regard as the jocks Andy and a rather good fighter for someone with no superpowers, he has no problem accepting Buffy’s strength and leadership – in fact, he accepts it and likes it much more readily than Buffy herself, which is a source of strife for a while. (Canon says nothing about the reasons why he and Buffy split, but in the comic Viva Las Buffy, he leaves because he realizes he’s just a liability for Buffy. In another non-canon comic, Note from the Underground, he finds Buffy in Sunnydale a few years later, he helps her but is confused with all the things that have happened to Buffy since, and ends up telling her friends stories about Buffy’s LA past.)

In my earlier review, I gave the comic 3-, which might have been too harsh – I now think it’s closer to 3.5. One thing I really like about this early Buffy story is that the Slayer was still clearly portrayed as the underdog.The feelings that the Slayers were up against the odds was much stronger in the script and The Origin, when the vampires were not established as being weaker than Slayers. This kind of got lost as the show increasingly started making the Slayers look like almost invincible, unbeatable superwomen (culminating in the utterly ridiculous „Troll Hammer“ moment in season 5) that almost all vampires (except for trill seekers) run from, which doesn’t fit with the idea that they all die very young. And, it also takes something away from Buffy’s heroism and the gravity of her story, IMO, if her task is portrayed as not being incredibly difficult and dangerous.
timetravellingbunny: (Default)

Wow  it's been a while since the last time I posted anything on Livejournal or Dreamwidth. (The last thing I posted was in April.) But  I had a really good reason for this hiatus, due to having been extremely busy these last 3 months with work - I had a huge translation job with strict deadlines, so lots of things got put on hold (frak, I didn't even go to the beach once this summer, despite the scorching heat). I finally finished it yesterday morning (on the deadline date!) so now I'm getting back to "normal".  :) And this means, among other things, more regular posting.

For starters, here’s a little preview of what you can expect to see in this journal soon:

- My big Buffy rewatch finally continues (I wouldn’t hold it against you if you forgot I was even doing it). However, since there have been such big breaks (I can't believe I started it last February and didn't get further than mid-season 3 ) due to various circumstances, I've decided that over the next couple of weeks I'm going to do a marathon of the Buffy episodes I've already reviewed - to remind myself and get a bit of continuity before continuing with the rewatch.

I'm also going to do something I said I wouldn't, and start with watching the 1992 movie (which I've seen just once many years ago, a few years before I saw the show). I didn't plan to include it in the rewatch, since 1) it's not canon, 2) it sucks, but it'll be fun to see it again, see how it all started and compare it with the show, and compare it with the way Joss' script was adapted in The Origin comic, which he has approved as "pretty much canon". I won't do a proper review of the movie, but I'll post a few thoughts. Then I'll marathon season 1, season 2 and the first part of season 3, and post just a few thoughts - any new things I've noticed, has my opinion on anything changed in the meantime or not. And then of course, I'll continue with reviews as usual, starting with 3.11. Gingerbread.

- A few posts at least about the things I’ve read and watched over those last few months. First off, The Hunger Games trilogy, which I’ve read over the last months (how did I manage to read it while working? Because I don’t read books at home, I read while riding on a bus, or waiting at the doctor’s, or having a treatment at the beauty parlor, etc.). After seeing the film back in April, and loving it, and had to read the books . Contrary to some other opinions I’ve heard, I think it got better and better: I liked Catching Fire even more than the first book, and Mockingjay ended up being my favorite. Shit was real from the start, but it got realer, and darker... and the only thing I don’t know is how the heck are they going to keep the PG-13 rating for the other 3 films? I’m definitely going to write at least one long post/review, or 3 different reviews.

- The other thing I’ve read is Joss’s run of the The Astonishing X-Men, which is one of his best works (due both to his writing and the great art by John Cassaday). I’m quite new to the comics world – particularly superhero comics, which up till recently I was only familiar with through the big screen adaptations. I remember liking the first two X-Men films (for the social issues, mostly – despite not caring about things like the Wolverine/Jean/Cyclops love triangle); I haven’t seen the third one (which, from what I heard, is only for the best), but it was X-Men: First Class that got me really interested. However, AXM was quite a revelation with all the well-drawn characters (including some that seemed quite boring in the movies). I intend to keep reading the X-Men comics (and maybe some of the other Marvel superhero comics, too), but I’m really confused on the timeline and the reading order, and the sheer number of comics – maybe Marvel fans like selenak could help me? Please?

- Despite mostly not going out due to work, I made exceptions for going to the cinema to see The Avengers (great) and Prometheus (WTF was that about? Well, at least it makes for fun Internet discussions).

- I’ve also watched seriously or occasionally several new TV shows (again, how did I do that despite the working schedule? Because I would have lost my marbles if I was just translating all the time, since the texts were about finances and banking and really boring and repetitive. My usual MO was to have the TV or radio on: I’ve watched more TV than ever over these 3 months... and I mean, literally TV: just the stuff that’s actually on TV at the time, not DVDs or online shows or anything. I’ve seen the entire Wimbledon championships while working on my computer simultaneously, and  the „choice“ of shows was basically between the stuff that channels like AXN, Fox Crime or Fox Life (which air only TV shows and occasional movies, with lots of repeats and mini-marathons). Some shows that are heavily serialized and really interesting (like Homeland), I actually made an effort to watch with full attention (scheduling my dinner at the same time, or taking a break for work), others (like Life, which is a quirky procedural with a bit of an arc, but still a procedural) were perfect to have on screen while working and pay only divided attention to. New shows I’ve seen – the entire first 2 seasons of The Walking Dead (which is a really good show but infuriating in terms of gender – I’ll probably address that in one of my next posts), the entire first season of Once Upon a Time, Homeland and Spartacus (plus the prequel Gods of the Arena), I am watching Revenge (currently I’m at episode 13, so no spoilers! But the season will be finished in a couple of weeks, since the episodes are airing every day), I’ve also caught up on most of the first 3 seasons of Merlin, watched most/some of Life (in weird order, since Fox Crime tends to schedule the episodes in a strange way) and Sherlock, and started to watch Teen Wolf. I’ve also enjoyed rewatching season 2 and season 3 of Being Human. (I still haven’t seen season 4, which I intend to do soon; but I’ve seen the season premiere, so I’m aware of the big changes to the show.)

And now, I’ve got two memes for you. First, an old one:

1. Leave a comment to this post - specifically saying that you would like a letter.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Post the names of five fictional characters whose names begin with that letter, and your thoughts on each. The characters can be from books, movies, or TV shows.

Slaymesoftly gave me an F...almost 4 months ago. I really wanted to do the F characters but I didn’t have the time. Here’s the proof I never forget my promises! ;-)




And here’s a new book meme, which I stole from pocochina:

1.) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2.) Italicize those you intend to read.

3.) Underline those you LOVE.

4.) Strikethrough the books you’d rather shove hot pokers in your eyes than read/finish/reread.

5.) *Asterisk for it's complicated.



timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)

Amends is an episode that was really necessary in season 3. Since Angel's mysterious return from hell, Buffy and Angel have both been avoiding the elephant in the room - Angel’s crimes in season 2, and the question what could have brought him back. This is a very dark, intense and emotional episode about guilt, forgiveness and redemption, and a great character study of Angel (setting him up as an interesting protagonist for a spinoff). The climax of the episode – Buffy trying to convince Angel not to commit suicide – has great acting but a mix of great and weak writing. However, what keeps this episode from being a classic is that it has the corniest ending of a BtVS episode ever: the MYSTICAL CHRISTMAS SNOW that convinces Angel his life is worth something.

Now, since this is the show’s only Christmas episode, this was, in a way, to be expected. But I could do without the divine (?) intervention, which takes away from the humanism of the show, and I’d rather not have Touched by an Angel (!) in my BtVS.

Read more... )
timetravellingbunny: (Default)
I love alternate universe stories, and this is one of the best AU episodes I’ve seen. A great AU story is not just fun but reveals something important about the characters, and about how much circumstances shape who we are and what our lives can be. The Wish is a very revealing episode, to a greater extent than I was aware the first time I watched it.

Some people think this episode is overrated, because it’s a standalone that isn’t directly connected to the main arc of season 3, and because 2/3 of it are AU events that none of the characters remember (except Anya). I disagree: the purpose of the episode is for us to see what Sunnydale would have been like without Buffy, and what Buffy would be like if she didn’t have friends and ties to the world. The Wish shows a Sunnydale as a hellish dystopia, a town ruled and terrorized by vampires, and much darker versions of the characters we know. This is actually very relevant to the season – one of its main themes are community and ties between people – and to the show as a whole.

Read more... )

timetravellingbunny: (Spike)

This season so far has been rather lackluster, but this episode is a big improvement. It used the magical trick for making everything more exciting: Spike is back - if just for one episode. It's a very funny episode that first introduces us to Pathetic!Drunk!Spike, but it’s also the episode with a lot of relationship pain. Spike comes back to Sunnydale, moping over his breakup with Drusilla, wreaks havoc, (un)intentionally makes Scoobies reveal some things to each other, starts feeling better about himself and leaves everyone unhappy. The love quadrangle finally gets a resolution, which is a real relief – and much as I dislike this storyline, it’s rather well resolved.

The title is actually Lovers Walk, not Lover’s Walk. See the original script. According to Wikipedia, „the introduction to Rhonda Wilcox's Why Buffy Matters says, "the script apparently does not carry an apostrophe, by the way--making for a short, sad, declarative sentence for a title."

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timetravellingbunny: (Buffy Faith)

The last episode was Jane Espenson’s debut, and this one is Doug Petrie’s – which rounds up the list of core writers that were on the staff until the finale (Whedon, Noxon, Fury, Espenson, Petrie), with the exception of David Greenwalt, who left at the end of season 3 to run the Angel spinoff. It’s an average but important episode - it moves the plot forward by having the Scoobies learn that Angel is back, and has some long overdue character confrontations – even if it doesn’t really resolve anything when it comes to the conflict between Buffy and Xander over Angel, for instance. The other plot is about Faith’s new Watcher, Gwendolyn Post, who continues Faith’s bad luck with Watchers and destroys her already weak ability to trust people. The title likely refers to both the revelation about Angel, the revelation about Post, and the apocalyptic nature of the power that Post would’ve gotten through the MacGuffin called the Glove of Myhneghon, which the Scoobies destroy at the end. (“Apocalypse” = “Revelation”.)

But maybe the most interesting revelation in this episode is that there are 12 cemeteries in Sunnydale (!). Which, come to think of it, isn’t surprising considering the mortality rate. How bad was it when they did not have a Slayer?
Read more... )
timetravellingbunny: (Buffy Faith)
Jane Espenson’s writing debut is one of the funniest episodes in the verse, alongside episodes like Something Blue, Tabula Rasa, Intervention, AtS Spin the Bottle, Smile Time… and I notice that many of those episodes are those with some kind of spell that changes people’s behavior, or where the actors get to play something different from their usual self. Making main characters act wacky but providing a reason for it is a tried and tested way of making good comedy episodes, especially if you portray it as characters showing a side to themselves that you don’t normally see. In this episode, Anthony Head, Armin Shimerman and Kristine Sutheland get to play wild teenage versions of themselves, in a very amusing contrast with their regular selves.

There’s just one problem: the premise of the episode (i.e. the explanation why they’re acting like that) is stupid and doesn’t make sense.

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timetravellingbunny: (Buffy Faith)
Good things about this episode: it finally introduces the Mayor, probably my favorite villain in the verse (if we don’t count Spike or Faith as villains). One of the things that the main plot centers on is really entertaining - Mr. Trick organizing “SlayerFest ‘98”, a contest to kill Buffy and Faith, which results in Buffy and Cordy fighting a bunch of colorful human and demon characters. And for some really good news: Scott Hope dumps Buffy and that’s the last we see of him (yay! ).

Bad things: or rather, just one but a huge one. It’s the beginning of what is possibly my least favorite storyline in the entire show, and the one I’d most like to remove from canon, which is not just because I’ve always hated it, but because I’ve never found it convincing. And I had to endure it for 3 more episodes after this one.

Neutral things: the other thing that the plot is about is the competition for the Homecoming Queen, one of those American high school traditions that I just don’t get. They really have official popularity contests in schools? Creepy. And what is a Homecoming Queen, anyway? On the other hand, the episode derives some fun from the silliness of it all. It’s also an opportunity to have Buffy and Cordy square off and deal with their issues with each other, but for this purpose, Cordy’s characterization and their dynamic have been reverted to what they were like at the end of season 1.

All in all, an average episode by BtVS standards.

Read more... )
timetravellingbunny: (Buffy Faith)
After the reveal of the last scene of Faith, Hope and Trick, this episode naturally deals with Buffy learning about Angel’s return, while at the same time it’s a sequel of sorts to Phases – as it’s only the second episode to deal with Oz’s werewolfishness and takes place during the 3 days he needs to be locked up in a cage. There are three eponymous “beasts” - Oz, Angel, and Pete, the actual villain of the episode. A werewolf, a vampire and a secretly enhanced human (sounds either like a fairytale, or like a beginning of a joke). There’s a victim of a brutal murder that looks like a work of a vicious animal, and the narrative plays with the possible suspects. Just like in Phases, there’s a murder victim and the suspicion first falls on Wolf!Oz, but again it’s not him (if that were the case, we’d have a guilt-ridden Oz, which the show didn’t need at the time) but this time it’s not Angel, either.

This episode is hated in some quarters, but I think it’s better than most people give it credit for. It s a dark episode that deals with themes of the monster/man duality, which are some of the themes running through the entire show. A popular complaint about the episode is that it’s preachy with its message about abusive relationships, but I don’t think that’s fair. The story about Pete and Debbie is a textbook example of an abusive man and his battered female partner (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, BtVS has had lots of stories mirroring real life) but this is not a Lifetime movie – Pete/Debbie serves as a compare and contrast to the much more complicated Angel/Buffy relationship (just as the Oz/Willow relationships does, on the other side. The episode asks the questions, but the resolution and any messages we may get from it about Buffy’s own life and Buffy/Angel are very ambiguous. And it has an ending that people might see as darkly romantic and even cheesy, but that on this latest rewatch feels deliberately unresolved and unsettling.
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timetravellingbunny: (Buffy Faith)
This episode feels more like a proper season opener, as it introduces some new characters that are going to be play important roles season 3 (and some whose roles aren’t really going to be that big, but who are there as a temporary distraction) and features the return of an old character that’s framed as a surprise but that everyone must have seen coming long before. (Yes, that would be Angel.) It’s not a great episode or anything, but it’s pretty good in what it sets out to do.

For once, the title actually says exactly what it’s about, naming the three recurring characters introduced in this episode – Buffy’s new love interest (of sorts), Scott Hope; the new vampire antagonist, Mr Trick; and one that this episode is really remembered by – Faith, soon to become one of my favorite characters on the show and one of the most popular characters in the fandom at large.

There’s also some obvious play on words with the title, but I don’t know if it’s supposed to be deep and meaningful or if it just sounds good as a pun on “faith, hope and love” or whatever it’s usually supposed to be. Are the names of the characters supposed to have a deeper meaning? Mr. Trick obviously has the most appropriate name, since a) he’s a tricky fellow, and 2) his entire role on the show is the kind of narrative trick that the show already did with Spike in season 2. But if Scott Hope was named that way because he is supposed to represent “hope” for Buffy to move on… that’s a poor hope indeed. As for Faith… I’ve always wondered why exactly she was named that way. Joss once said that her name was ironic because “she is one of the most faithless characters on the show”. Was she supposed to represent someone who, at first, seems to have “faith” in herself and in Slaying? Which she really doesn’t, as we learn later. Another irony, maybe?

There are three narrative threads in the episode, that more of less come together: Buffy finally starting to cope with sending Angel to hell, and at the same time trying to “move on” by dating a rather bland guy at school, urged on by her friends; a new group of vampires who arrive to town, and whose boss has the intention of killing “the Slayer” (except that, as we soon learn, it’s not the one we think it is); and the Scoobies meeting the other new Slayer, Faith, activated a few months earlier when Kendra died.
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timetravellingbunny: (Default)
This is a not very exciting, but necessary episode that deals with the fallout from the last season before the real story of season 3 starts. Buffy is back home, not wanted for murder anymore since the police have eliminated her as a suspect in the meantime, but she’s still expelled from school and Snyder is refusing to let her back, and her relationships with her mother and her friends is still awkward and very strained. They’re all avoiding the talk about Buffy running away a few months before, and they’re trying too hard to pretend that everything is OK, until it all bursts out at the party organized in Buffy’s honor and they finally have a big shouting match in front of a lot of random people. I guess that could be as good a way to solve your problems as any?

Oh, and then zombies crash the party. Yes, this is the first zombie episode of the show. We’ve had vampires, werewolves, witches, a robot, an invisible person, a mummy, a Frankenstein’s monster, body snatchers (Bad Eggs), so it figures we had to have zombies at some point.

Funniest moment of the episode: when in the middle of the big argument Xander says “You can’t just bury stuff Buffy. It’ll come right back up to get you” and we cut right to the zombies. So, I guess zombies are the metaphor for unresolved problems and consequences of being in denial.

The main plot involves some Nigerian mask that Joyce has brought from her gallery, which turns the dead person who wears it into the demon that even the zombies are scared of. Or something. It’s a rather silly plot, but the episode is not so bad, since it’s not so much about the supernatural plot but about the relationships between Buffy and her family and friends, and it has a lot of good dialogue.

Read more... )
timetravellingbunny: (Default)
Just like the season 2 opener, this season premiere is about dealing with the emotional fallout of the previous season’s events rather than introducing the themes and characters for season 3 (which only happens in episode 3). But at the same time, some of the themes introduced here do turn out to foreshadow some of the themes and characters that are important later in the season.

There are two separate threads in the episode, and their tone is so different they feel like they barely belong to the same episode. One plays like a comedy and is a look at how Buffy’s friends, family and the people at the Sunnydale High are starting the new school year without Buffy. The other is a drama about what happens to Buffy in L.A. – where she’s been working as a waitress, living in a rented apartment and going by the name of “Anne” (which is her middle name) – that makes her reclaim her identity as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and decide to go back to Sunnydale. It’s one of the storylines that shows Buffy starting in a place of vulnerability and despair and then showing her strength and becoming the hero again.

Is this the BtVS episode that feels most like social commentary or what? Homeless people wondering the streets, saying “I am no one”? Villains posing as a religious organization and recruiting vulnerable young people? Ruthless industrial system using people as slaves, obliterating their identities, chewing them and spitting them out when they’re of no use to it? Buffy starting a rebellion and fighting oppression with hammer and… sickle?

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timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)
This was the season where the show become great rather than just good, and it’s stood the test of time. I’d even say it seems even better now that it did the first time I watched it. I always appreciated the great episodes and the Angel-goes-bad arc, but now I can see how even the standalones that apparently have nothing to do with the arc reflect on the main themes. It’s certainly one of the best seasons of the show.

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timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)
When I was about to watch this episode, I wondered if I can still be affected by it, since I’ve seen it several times. Of course, this is one of the most important and iconic episodes of the show, but can it still move me when I almost know it by heart? And…it didn’t exactly make me cry this time, but it’s still an awesome episode you could watch over and over,.

As a season finale, it’s one of the best. It perfectly resolves so many storylines from season 2: Buffy’ s strained relationship with her mother, Snyder’s attempts to find a reason to expel Buffy, Willow’s relationships with Xander and Oz, the Spike/Dru/Angel triangle, the B/A romance and the “Angel loses his soul” story; and in the best tradition of bittersweet Whedon finales, it manages to have Buffy defeat the Big Bad and stop an apocalypse, but leaves her emotionally devastated.

Throughout the episode, things just keep going wrong for Buffy, with just an occasional break. First cops want to arrest her for Kendra’s murder and she has to run away, then she finds out that Willow is in hospital with a serious head injury, and that Giles is kidnapped; Snyder uses the opportunity to expel her from school, and later her mother tells her not to come back home, all while she has an apocalypse to stop. If episodes like Prophecy Girl and School Hard were about Buffy surviving because of her connections to family and friends, this one is about coming to the point when you only have yourself to rely on. As foreshadowed by Whistler’s voiceover in part 1, this is where she finds out who she is. And that’s someone who never gives up and keeps fighting, even in the most desperate situation:

Whistler: In the end, you’re all you’ve got.

Buffy: I have nothing left to lose.
Whisler: Wrong, kid. You’ve got one more thing.

Angel(us): No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what is left?
Buffy (stopping his sword with her bare hand): Me.

To make things all the harder for her, she’s put in the position where she has to kill the man she loves to save the world (well, sort of, since Angel gets sucked into hell, but doesn’t actually die). But the emotional cost is too high, and the season 2 finale ends in both triumph and despair, as Buffy runs away from her life, trying to become someone else.

For an episode with so much pain and drama, it also has an amazing amount of humor, sometimes even at the same time. There are two scenes (Buffy and Spike coming up with the lie that they’re in a band, and Joyce and Spike trying to make small talk) that I would rank among the funniest in the show. There’s self-mocking humor even in show’s ending credits this time, as the Mutant Enemy monster doesn’t growl “URGH-ARGH” but whines “Ooh I need a hug!”

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timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)

So there it is, finally, the season 2 two-part finale. This season has been really amazing, especially its second part, or more precisely the arc about Angel losing his soul and going bad; and Becoming is a near-perfect finale.

There is a big theme of Destiny vs Free will running through this two-parter. As the title says, it is all about transformation, about becoming someone/something else; but part 1 is full of flashbacks that show people becoming something new due to fate, to circumstances they couldn’t control, to something that someone else did to them, or to an intervention of higher powers, while the present day plot is about what is done to our heroes, the situation they’ve been put in – while part 2 is about people making their own choices, choosing how to deal with the situation they’ve been put in.

Review of part 1 )

timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)

This is the kind of standalone episode that would fit well in season 1 – an obvious but still effective metaphor about some particular aspect of the dark side of school life (Witch, The Pack, Out of Mind, Out of Sight). This time it’s a heavy-handed “don’t take steroids, they’ll frak you up” message, with a realistic portrayal of other unpleasant things that surround school sports: ruthless, over-ambitious coaches (something that The Pack already touched on), the entitlement and arrogance of the members of the sports-team (including the pressure put on the teachers to give them better grades even if they are blatantly disinterested in studying or homework), sexism and rape culture. Well, “realistic” apart from that thing where this particular brand of steroids (mixed with fish DNA) makes the swimmers literally turn into fish monsters similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon (which actually gets name-checked). Incidentally, it just occurred to me that this kind of story about humans turning into mutans after being injected some other species’ DNA is exactly the kind of story I hate when Star Trek does it – but BtVS is a whole different story, since it’s not a science fiction show and never pretends to take the “science” of it seriously; it’s a fantasy and it’s all about the metaphor. First we see at the athletes have been acting as aggressive jerks because of the steroids (psychological effects, just the same as in real life), then we see them turn physically into monsters (the disastrous effect of steroids on the body).

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timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)
The second part of season 2 just keeps breaking you heart, doesn’t it – after Passion, here is another moving, dark, haunting (no pun intended) episode. While no main characters die in this one, this is one of those episodes that make me cry every single time. Both for its ghost story about the 1950s tragic romance between Sunnydale high school student James (young Christopher Gorham) and his teacher Grace, which ended in a murder and suicide that gets replayed several times by different pairings of actors – but loses none of its poignancy – and for the way it resonates with the Buffy/Angel story in an unexpected way. And this time it was no different, I started bowling my eyes out since the scene where Buffy is over-identifying with James, to the 1950s scenes between James and Grace, to the climactic resolution as Buffy and Angel get possessed and replay the fateful scene. Writer Marti Noxon has said that the ghosts were really a metaphor for repentance and second chances, and this is exactly what the episode conveys.

timetravellingbunny: Angel's duality (Angel Tarot Temperance)
I know that a lot of people hate this episode, but it’s an OK little early seasons horror story with some nice moments between Buffy, her friends and her mom, although nothing particularly important happens and it could be taken out without the story suffering at all. Nothing puts it above average for BtVS but nothing puts it below either.

When Buffy comes down with flu, we learn she is scared of hospitals because of a childhood trauma when she saw her cousin Celia die in a hospital. It’s the first time we hear anything about any relatives of hers other than her parents. Being rushed to the hospital against her will (after Angel[us] used her condition to beat her about in the graveyard) proves to be a blessing in disguise as it allows her to investigate a series of suspicious deaths of children, not as natural as they seem.

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