Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 1 Episode 3


Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Mar 17, 1997 on The WB

Episode Fan Reviews (66)

Write A Review
out of 10
962 votes
  • The Witch

    With the introduction of the show out of the way, "The Witch" is left with the job of giving the viewer a taste of what it will look like on a regular basis. If I was watching this for the first time now I'd be left moderately entertained but not very critically impressed. What we have here is what I'd describe as an 'amiable' yet also fairly forgettable 'monster of the week' episode. It has a single neat twist that utilizes the "high school is hell" theme to tell a decent little story, but sadly also has minimal lasting relevance to both the season and the characters.

    "She said I was wasting my youth. So she took it," says an Amy stuck in her mom's body, a chilling statement no doubt; a statement that strikes at the core of what this episode is about. The supernatural is used as a springboard to say something about the human condition, in this case being parents who selfishly live through their children. One of the things that separate S1 from what the show eventually becomes is its focus on plot and ideas in abstract rather than character; rather than telling its story through characters we care about and have them learn alongside the viewers, the show is simply making its statement and then forgetting about it in the next episode. This is sadly true of most S1, and is ultimately one of the problems plaguing "The Witch."

    "The Witch" certainly earns some points for how it plays with its premise, but Amy happens to be one of the only recurring characters to get very little solid character development and psychological depth throughout the series, so what begins here doesn't end up being terribly relevant to her future beyond a basic level.

    With Amy's involvement being largely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, all that's left to remember the episode by is in its miniscule effect on the main characters. I do give it credit for at least taking a baby step towards a character-based approach. "Amy" tells Buffy that she trains hours with her mother for cheerleading, which causes Buffy to try to wedge open a connection with her own mother. I actually found Buffy's attempt sweet and Joyce's complete black-out of her daughter's desire for connection a little sad despite the eventual apology. Once Buffy finds out what Amy's mom did to her, though, she's not so quick to want her mom all gun-ho in her activities. Per usual, I think balance always wins the day. It'd be great for your parents to show some support in the things you love (provided they're not dangerous activities), but not so much that they put their own successes or failures from their own youth on your shoulders.

    Early in the episode Buffy tells Giles she wants to do something "safe," in regard to cheerleading. A good metaphorical lesson learned from "The Witch" is that sometimes "normal" isn't necessarily safe at all, and that the Hellmouth will make sure Buffy's life is always normal turned upside down.

    The only other relevant bits in "The Witch" include Xander's continued pining for Buffy despite her obvious lack of physical interest in him and his continued obliviousness to the fact that Willow totally digs him, which clearly makes him completely blind. How could you not find Willow here absolutely adorable and totally dateable? I mean, really.

    "The Witch" is a fairly enjoyable episode even though it's definitely plagued by S1's terrible production values, awful score, and psychological shallowness in relation to the characters. There's nothing specifically wrong with the episode's core; it just has so little lasting importance to the series from both a plot and a character perspective. It does have its moments, though, and sports a decent little self-contained plot. At the end of the day it's not very memorable but it does have just enough stuff to be a decent first stand-alone entry for the series.