Before Joss Whedon was the man at the helm of the most successful superhero movie of all time, he was the guy who created TV’s best loved monster fighter. Yes, there was a movie first, but TV was where Buffy The Vampire Slayer blossomed into a proper phenomenon. If you’re anything like me, you don’t need anyone to outline exactly what made Buffy so special: it’s just a fact.
And in the years since Buffy went off air in 2003, no-one has really taken her place. Sure, there was Angel, and there were other supernatural style TV shows – True Blood, Grimm, The Vampire Diaries, etc – but nothing quite scratched that Buffy itch, did it?
Well, call off the search teams, because I reckon Lost Girl might be the show to finally fill the void.
Okay, as a Canadian-produced cable TV show about a succubus, Lost Girl doesn’t immediately sound like the most Buffy-esque prospect going. But there are a lot of similarities between the two shows, and in its own way, Lost Girl continues to push at the same barriers Buffy did – only a decade later, and with Buffy’s success to pave its way. Let’s look at what Lost Girl has to offer the die-hard Buffy fan:
A kickass heroine
Whedon’s original concept for Buffy was to take the character usually killed first in horror movies – a perky blonde cheerleader – and give her the power to fight back against the forces of darkness. Over the course of seven seasons, Buffy (as played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) became a rounded, interesting person in her own right, and she also changed our perception of horror heroines.
Lost Girl’s heroine, Bo (Anna Silk), obviously owes a lot to Buffy: she’s snarky, streetwise, and more than comfortable with a weapon in her hand. They’ve even got similar fashion sense, if you squint a bit. Bo isn’t Buffy though. For one thing, she’s older; she’s been out of school and in the world for years when the show starts, and that makes a difference to the kinds of adventures she finds herself dragged into.
Like Buffy, Bo knows she’s different from other women, and that she has certain superpowers. Hers manifested in a scary way, though – when she hit puberty, Bo’s succubus side kicked in and she killed her boyfriend in the backseat of his car. She’s carrying the kind of guilt and responsibility Buffy wouldn’t pick up until she was a few seasons in. But she’s also got a measure of self-confidence and self-reliance that comes with age. And that’s kind of nice, because most of us Buffy fans aren’t at school any more either.
Buffy and Angel, Buffy and Riley, Buffy and Spike… Buffy’s endlessly dramatic love life was a big part of the show. And since supernatural romance has only become more popular since then, Bo’s love life is also a massive part of Lost Girl. Plus, er, she’s a succubus, which is a fun complication – while the Slayer might’ve worried that getting involved with her would put her lovers in danger, Bo has to worry about whether she herself might be a danger to her partners.
And there’s loads more angst to go around, too. Without spoiling too much, Bo has two main love interests – one a human doctor, and the other a werewolf cop. One of them has another secret girlfriend, the other ends up getting their emotions ripped out in a magic trade-off. And Bo finds it virtually impossible to give either of them up in favour of the other, which tends to make things difficult. So. Much. Drama.
Both Buffy and Lost Girl are supernatural dramas, so of course there are monsters. As the title suggested, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was mostly about vampires, but had started including other kinds of supernatural creatures by its third episode; Lost Girl has a succubus as its main character, with a werewolf, a siren, and a Valkyrie among its primary supporting cast, plus at least one new and weird threat every episode.
Admittedly, Buffy did better with proper scares than Lost Girl does – the Gentlemen were legitimately creepy, and other beings like Der Kindestod were memorably horrible. You’d have to try pretty hard to feel seriously scared by any of the creatures in Lost Girl, even when cast members seem to be in genuine peril. But it’s creative, and there are generally thematic or metaphorical elements to every new challenge Bo faces.
If Buffy can be summed up as a big metaphor that basically said “high school is hell” then Lost Girl shows the world beyond school can be just as horrible.
A close-knit Scooby Gang
Another part of what made Buffy work was its ensemble cast. Without Willow and Xander and Giles and Cordelia (and the list goes on…) it just wouldn’t have been the same emotional, addictive experience.
So yup, Lost Girl has a similarly sprawling cast of characters who become one another’s extended family: Bo’s BFF Kenzi (Ksenia Solo), sometime love interest Dyson (Kris Holden-Ried), other sometime love interest Lauren (Zoie Palmer), mentor Trick (Richard Howland) and cop friend Hale (K. C. Collins). Plus half a dozen other recurring characters who drop in and out of the story.
Thrown together by circumstance at first, Bo’s Scooby Gang soon becomes a supportive network without whom she’d never be able to navigate her weird world. And each of them gets his or her moment in the spotlight, so that even characters who seem two-dimensional and dull at first eventually grow into more interesting propositions. Half the fun of any given episode is just watching the lot of them interact with one another.
Convinced yet? There are even episodes of Lost Girl that can be compared directly to episodes of Buffy, like Original Skin and Tabula Rasa, or Ceremony and Restless. And Lost Girl even had its own British depowered-villain-turned-ally for a few episodes. It’s not just a Buffy wannabe, though – and it’s got a few things to offer that Buffy didn’t quite manage…
Sex was always kind of bad news in the Buffyverse, wasn’t it? There was the time Angel lost his soul after Buffy lost her virginity to him; there was that time Buffy and Riley ended up trapped in a room sexing away the frustrations of dead teenagers; and there were all those times Buffy hooked up with Spike in a weird self-destructive phase. Yeah, some other couples managed to have sex without disastrous consequences, but for Buffy herself, it was usually bad news.
Lost Girl has no such compunctions about letting its heroine have an active sex life. The show kind of revolves around it, actually; Bo’s a succubus, which means she feeds off, well, sex. Accidentally feeding off and killing her high school sweetheart is obviously a low point, but Bo finds a way to use her powers for good – and eventually, to control them so that her partners get to enjoy the benefits of loving a succubus without dying from it. There’s no sleaze here, just fun and positivity.
Also, Bo’s bisexual, but the show never makes a big deal out of it. Her sexuality is her sexuality, and no-one questions it or judges her.
Genuine female friendship
Not all of Bo’s relationships are sexual, though. Her most important attachment is to her best friend, Kenzi – the two of them repeatedly choose one another over other people, and can always be trusted to have one another’s best interests at heart. There’s no competition in their friendship, just sisterhood, and it’s a genuinely lovely thing.
As much as Buffy had a great female lead and many supporting female characters, it rarely if ever showcased proper friendship between women, did it? Obviously Buffy had plenty of other stuff to worry about, but it would’ve been nice for her to have some female friends who didn’t turn evil and try to kill her at least once. Maybe post-Chosen she can get in some female-bonding time with the Potentials? That’d be a nice reward for saving the world (again).
Don’t get me wrong, Lost Girl isn’t a perfect show. Its limited budget means there’s not a lot of variety in sets, the special effects can be a bit hokey, and some of the guest stars are a bit, um, rubbish. Plus season 2 is far longer than it should be, with half a dozen wheel-spinning filler episodes in its back half, which is frustrating. But it’s got so much charm that I’m willing to overlook those things in order to spend more time in its world, and in a post-Buffy world, you’ve gotta get your demon-slaying kicks somewhere.
(Now’s not a good time to mention that it’s coming to an end after season 5, is it? Ah well, at least we can all mourn it together once you’ve caught up…)