Eighteen years after the series premiered, we’re still talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More than that, we’re talking about it as if it went off the air only yesterday. The show still feels incredibly relevant and fresh. It was what made Joss Whedon a major creative force in the industry. With this series, the writer/director put himself on the map and in some ways he has never been better, more relevant or more topical than when he was working on Buffy.
The reason for the show’s popularity after all this time comes down to the incredible team of writers. Whedon brought together excellent people on all of his shows who understood the overall vision and worked in unison to drive the story. The result is something that grows and changes throughout its seven seasons, as well as something that is incredibly rich and textured. The narrative in every season, episode and virtually every scene represents something larger than the moment itself, often tapping into the struggle of adolescence or (in the case of the later seasons) moving out on your own for the very first time. As a result, a lot can go unnoticed the first time. Let’s take a look at five moments in Buffy you might have missed on your first watch through.
The Countdown to Buffy’s Death in “Graduation Day”
When Buffy talks to Faith in a dream in “Graduation Day Part Two,” there is a lot of foreshadowing for the arrival of Buffy’s sister, Dawn, which is pretty amazing when you consider that Dawn wouldn’t be a part of the show for another two years. Her line “Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 7-3-0” is a big deal for two reasons. The first half represents Dawn, who is referenced as Little Miss Muffet in her inaugural episode when a babbling homeless man refers to her as “curds and whey.” The second part of Faith’s statement is what is truly astounding. “Counting down from 7-3-0” is referencing an actual countdown. From the airdate of “Graduation Day Part Two” it would be exactly 730 days until Buffy’s death in the season five finale “The Gift.”
There are a lot of stupid throwaway lines on Buffy, things that are funny just because they’re so cheesy, and most of them come out of the mouth of the protagonist. So nobody really thought too much when Buffy’s getting her textbooks on her first day of college and says “I can’t wait till Mom sees the bill for these books. I hope it’s a funny aneurysm.” The tragic irony here is that Buffy’s mother, Joyce, spends most of the fifth season in and out of the hospital before eventually dying from a brain aneurysm in the episode “The Body.” If you haven’t seen the show up to that point then, spoiler alert, it is not in fact a funny aneurysm.
In the season six episode “All the Way,” which was the last of Buffy’s Halloween episodes, Xander wears a pirate costume. It doesn’t seem to symbolize much, but it features an eye patch, which is important. He wears this eye patch for much of the episode, it’s not a throwaway thing. It’s important because, in the next season, Xander gets his eye gouged out by an evil preacher named Caleb. Whether or not it’s the same eye patch when Xander actually has to start wearing one full-time remains unknown. But knowing his character, it probably is.
Technically Miss Kitty Fantastico was the pet of both Willow and Tara, but was purchased by Tara as something to bring the two of them closer together. A pet that would be theirs to share. The kitten is seen a few times in the fourth season and appears again in the season five episode “Family” and never appears on screen after that. You’d think this would be an oversight or that the writers just forgot about her, and that would probably be favorable to the truth. In the season seven episode “End of Days,” when looking for weapons, Dawn states “I don’t leave crossbows around all willy-nilly. Not since that time with Miss Kitty Fantastico.” It’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference, but it does explain why the cat virtually had not been seen since Dawn arrived.
Or if they didn’t, they sure as Hell came close. Most people, maybe on their second watch through, pick up on the fact that Willow’s lesbianism was hinted at in the season three episode “Dopplegangland.” Far fewer people have noticed the brief allusions to Angel and Spike’s shared past that would make a whole heap of sense given the characters and their rivalry. In the fifth season of Angel, Spike explains “Angel and I have never been intimate. Except that one time.” In the canonical comic book continuation, Season Eight, Buffy—who had a dream involving both Angel and Spike—breaks up a fight between the two and remarks “I liked it better when you two were kissing.” Spike starts to explain with, “I’m fairly certain I never mentioned…” before he is thrown out of frame. Whedon even addressed this when some fans eventually pointed it out, stating that while Angel and Spike were both evil in the past, they were not closed-minded.