Spoilers The spoileriffic Buffy rewatch and review thread

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by tafkats, May 6, 2019.

  1. tafkats

    tafkats Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 17, 2003
    Angery and magnesium
    I started this rewatch a few years ago, but picked up the pace inspired by tomalak301's thread. However, this thread will be full of spoilers (not just for the episodes being recapped, but for basically the entire rest of the series as well), so it's intended for people who either (a) have seen the entire series already, or (b) don't care.

    Our adventure starts, of course, with ...

    1x01: Welcome to the Hellmouth

    We open with some good old-fashioned schmuck bait: a guy and a girl in a darkened high school, presumably sneaking off to play Hide the Salami in the cafeteria. One is a vaguely sinister-looking guy and the other is a pretty blonde girl, and anyone who has even the most passing familiarity with Joss Whedon can predict that she'll end up kicking his ass. What might not be as obvious is that he turns out to be the innocent one in all this, and she wants to wreak bloody death on him and everyone he knows. Which she proceeds to do.


    (Vampification also makes your hair go all staticky.)

    After the opening credits, we see pretty much your standard supernatural nightmare scene, whereupon Buffy is woken up by her mother, the caring-but-perpetually-oblivious Kristine Sutherland. Before dropping Buffy off for her first day of high school, she leaves her with these parting words: "Honey? Try not to get kicked out." Thanks, mom.

    Sunnydale High School is a '90s cyclone of '90s semi-grunge music, girls with '90s bangs, and oh lord, '90s Xander Harris with his '90s shirt, '90s skateboard, and '90s parted-down-the-middle hair.


    (Thought I was kidding, did you? Nope.)

    Xander proceeds to get distracted by Buffy, specifically the rear half of Buffy, and takes a spectacular gainer into a handrail. This is followed by some banter with Willow, who we are promptly informed will be The Smart One in our eventual trio of Brains, Brawn and Heart, and don't think that metaphor won't get used over and over again for the next seven years.

    Cut to Ken Lerner, who joins Kristine Sutherland in our pantheon of well-meaning-but-clueless authority figures, and also treats us to some pretty awkward line delivery. ("We're not interested in what it says on a piece of paper, even if it says ... whoa," he is supposed to say, but the "whoa" comes out as a sort of truncated "wuh," leading us to wonder if he's having a stroke.) Principal Flutie is basically a good guy but completely useless, is the message we're meant to take away from this scene.

    Xander meets Buffy and proceeds to make an ass out of himself, in a scene that will be cringe-inducingly familiar to anyone who was ever an awkward teenager. ("Maybe I'll see you around. Maybe at school. Since we both go there.")

    Buffy meets Cordelia, who is promptly revealed to be a bitch, and that's about all the character development she'll get for another year or so. Then she meets Giles, who tries to fulfill his role as Mr. Exposition, but fails when Buffy won't let him finish a sentence before fleeing the library as if it were on fire, which it will be eventually, so maybe she's just getting a head start.

    Next we come to what is possibly the worst piece of dialogue in the entire series. After the first episode, Joss & Co. stopped trying to write how they imagined popular teenagers in southern California talking, and just made all the characters talk like the writers themselves. This was a good move, because here's what their attempts at teen dialect sounded like. I'm going to quote the whole damn thing so you can revel in the awfulness of it:

    Bitch #1: "The new kid? She seems kind of weird to me. What kind of name is Buffy?"
    Bitch #2: "Hey, Aphrodesia."
    Bitch #1: "Oh, hey!"
    Bitch #3: "Well, the chatter in the caf is that she got kicked out, and that's why her mom had to get a new job."
    Bitch #1: "Neg!"
    Bitch #3: "Pos! She was starting fights."
    Bitch #1: "Neg-ly!"
    Bitch #3: "Well, I heard from Blue, and she said --"​

    Whereupon we are mercifully spared from any more attempts by thirtysomething comedy writers to sound sixteen by the sudden appearance of Schmucky McSchmuckface's dead body falling out of Bitch #3's locker.


    Outside, Buffy approaches Willow, who has some kind of inexplicable pin on her dress ...


    (Seriously, what is that? A bowling pin next to a hand grenade?)

    ... and we get our first real taste of Willow's personality. Yes, there's the beaten-down-uncool-kid ("Willow?" "Why? I mean, hi!"), but there's also the sardonic wit that would later become one of her trademarks. ("Aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?" "I can't do both?" "Not legally.")

    Xander comes up with his slightly-dorkier friend Jesse, and between Eric Balfour's absence from the main credits and the fact that they're spending an awful lot of time on this guy who is clearly meant to be part of the gang, it's obvious Jesse isn't long for this world. (Joss wanted to put him in the credits for just this reason, but time and money intervened. He would later get to give his sadism free rein in Season 6, but that's a story for another time.) Cordy shows up and is bitchy some more, albeit with better writing than the other popular girls ("Don't you have an elsewhere to be?"), and tells Buffy about the "extreme dead guy in the locker," whereupon Buffy runs off to investigate.

    Buffy creeps into the locker room, and I'm pretty sure she wears a pushup bra through most of the first season, 'cause Sarah Michelle Gellar isn't actually built the way she looks here.


    She finds the dead guy, finds the wounds that make him look like he was attacked with a barbecue fork, and runs off to find Giles, whereupon they engage in Dueling Exposition and we are introduced to the concept of the Hellmouth, which explains why all this weird shit keeps happening in Sunnydale, even though nobody ever notices.

    The other thing nobody notices is the male faculty member getting into a weirdly intense conversation with a female sophomore in the hallway, to the point of putting his hand on the wall in front of her to keep her from getting away, but I guess Sunnydale's Weirdness Censor applies to more than just the supernatural.


    (Boundaries! Boundaries!)

    In between all this, Cordy invites Buffy to The Bronze, a nightclub with questionable carding policies, and we get our first of many mixed signals about just how big Sunnydale is. The Bronze, see, is in "the bad part of town ... about half a block from the good part of town; we don't have a lot of town here." And it is also, in Xander's words, "a one-Starbucks town." But it somehow manages to have two hospitals, a decent-sized regional airport, a natural history museum, a zoo, and a state university. Go figure.

    After a brief and appropriately ominous introduction to this season's Big Bad, an ancient vampire known only as The Master, we see Buffy and her pushup bra picking an outfit for The Bronze. For a moment we think Joyce might actually engage in some parenting, when she asks Buffy if there will be boys there, but when Buffy snarks back with "No, mom, it's a nun club," all she can manage is "Well, just be careful." Thanks, mom.

    Buffy heads to the club, but on the way there she meets David Boreanaz. This was before the acting lessons that made his later appearances more bearable, so the less said about this scene, the better.

    At The Bronze, we get our first look at the Xander/Willow dynamic that will dominate the first two seasons (she wants him, he thinks of her as a friend, and if you've ever listened to a Taylor Swift song, you basically know the rest of it) -- and, oh look, there's Giles! This isn't inappropriate at all. Buffy goes up to him and points this out: "So, you like to party with the students? Isn't that kind of skanky?" He remains suitably square, and would certainly be horrified to know that he's leaning up against the very railing where Buffy will eventually spend her off-hours getting nailed from behind by James Marsters. When he challenges her to spot the vampire that is almost certainly in the crowd somewhere, she zeroes in on the only fashion disaster worse than Xander's unbuttoned flannels, and is horrified to realize he's talking to Willow, to whom she had just given a pep talk about "seizing the moment." Way to go, Buffster.

    Buffy chases after them, almost stakes Cordy, blah blah blah, and now Jesse is chatting up Darla (the blonde vamp from the teaser), and we're back to The Master's lair, where The Master commands his lackey Luke to "bring me something ... young."


    The guy-vamp from the club leads Willow to a crypt instead of the ice cream bar, and if this is her first romantic experience with a guy outside of Xander dismembering her Barbie when they were five, it's no wonder she hops on board the lesbo train as soon as she gets to college. Darla hauls an already-bitten Jesse into the crypt, then she and Disco Vamp menace Willow and Jesse for a while before Buffy and Xander burst in.

    Buffy begins what will be a seven-year tradition of dispensing fashion advice in between good old-fashioned ass-kickings. She dusts the dude who was macking on Willow, then fights with Darla until Luke shows up, and we fade to black with Buffy on her back in a coffin and Luke about to send her to Vampsville.

    • Schmucky McSchmuckface (killed by Darla)
    • Jesse (killed by Darla, though we don't realize it yet)
    • Thomas (Disco vamp dusted by Buffy)
    One-liners that should be turned into domain names:
    • AWholeBigSuckingThing.com
    • WhatIsYourChildhoodTrauma.com
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
  2. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

    Nov 20, 2012
    I want to know why they never had Jesse appear in any alternate universes or flashbacks. Particularly he should have appeared in Anya’s debut.

    Has that actor ever not died? He died in 24 and Six Feet Under too.

    The premiere seemed focused heavily on subverting expectations. The girls being the strong ones. I think it’d be a stronger statement to have s badass woman who doesn’t need magic to be so.

    In terms of obliviousness Joyce actually does a lot better than most of the town her aren’t in the inner circle.
  3. tafkats

    tafkats Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 17, 2003
    Angery and magnesium
    It does seem strange that, despite being Willow and Xander's close friend, Jesse is never mentioned again. Maybe they felt that having Willow and Xander spend time mourning somebody the audience never knew would just end up boring people?
  4. tafkats

    tafkats Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 17, 2003
    Angery and magnesium
    1x02: The Harvest

    We left Buffy in a coffin being menaced by The Master's chief henchman, Luke. She quickly manages to beat him off -- I mean, repel him with her cross -- whereupon she runs after Willow and Xander, arriving just in time to save their asses (this too will be a recurring theme).

    After the main titles, Giles is in the library, delivering a whole bunch of exposition to Willow and Xander. Both the dialogue and the kids walking around outside the library in other scenes indicate that this episode takes place the following day. It's not clear what exactly our Power Trio spent the rest of the night doing after Jesse got kidnapped, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they didn't just go home and get some shut-eye. (We're pretty sure Buffy didn't, at least, since Joyce later gets on her case about it.)

    Our heroes talk about how vampires love to hang around in Absurdly Spacious Sewers, and also apparently there are man-sized electrical tunnels running underneath Sunnydale. Luckily, they are able to access the plans for these municipal labyrinths from the computer in the library, because when she's not busy seeing the softer side of Sears, Willow is also a criminal mastermind. Buffy heads off to rescue Jesse but is interrupted by Ken Lerner, who luckily is fairly stupid.

    Once she gets to the cemetery, David Boreanaz shows up and engages in some more bad acting. He is largely irrelevant to the plot, but he made the casting director all tingly, so here he is. Buffy breaks down the door and heads for the sewer, where she runs into Xander. Xander is also out to rescue Jesse, and she tells him a fun story about the time she had to behead a varsity-football-player-turned-vampire using only an X-Acto knife. "You're not loving this story," she says. "No, actually, I find it oddly comforting," Xander replies. Admit it, Xander, you've never been this turned on in your life.

    Meanwhile, Cordelia and her Beta Bitch, Harmony, are in computer class. "Why do we have to devise these programs? Isn't that what nerds are for?" complains Cordy, because "devise" is totally a word that non-nerds throw around in casual conversation. Cordy gives a largely fictional account of her near-stabbing by Buffy to a rapt audience consisting of Harmony and Jeff Spicoli --


    -- whereupon Willow sticks up for her and is promptly smacked down, 'cause Cordelia ain't the Alpha Bitch for nothin'. But Willow gets her revenge by telling Cordy that the way to save her project is by hitting the "DEL" key, for "DELIVER," and this works, because apparently the makers of this operating system decided it would be a good idea to let users erase all their data with a single keystroke. (Although it was 1997, so maybe that's not totally implausible.)

    Buffy and Xander find Vamp!Jesse, who sounds like a stoner ("I'm connected, man, to everything!"), and then there's some Master stuff that's really pretty boring, The Master being one of the Buffyverse's least interesting Big Bads (although he's still better developed than, say, any Abramstrek villain). The important things to know are that:
    • Tonight, for one night only, The Master will gain strength every time a victim is drained by a minion called The Vessel.
    • The Vessel is Luke.
    • The Vessel is most easily recognized by the fact that he has a Mercedes hood ornament on his forehead.

    After Buffy and Xander break the news about Vamp!Jesse to Willow, Xander concludes that Luke will go to The Bronze to feed, because of "all those tasty young morsels all over the place." Tell us more, Xander.


    Before they head off to stop the massacre, Buffy stops off at home to collect her weapons. Unfortunately, Joyce picks this exact moment to grow a backbone and ground her, although she kind of undercuts herself by admitting that she gets her parenting advice from self-help tapes. At any rate, all Buffy hears is this --


    -- so as soon as Joyce is gone, she pulls out her nineteenth-century steamer trunk (because in addition to being the Slayer, Buffy is also a character in a Jane Austen novel), and reveals that underneath various childhood trinkets is a secret compartment filled with stakes, crosses, garlic, holy water, and what appears to be a big jar filled with either poker chips or Nilla Wafers.


    Over at The Bronze, Cordy is busy being shallow, talking about senior boys and their cars and how Jesse is like a little puppy dog, whereupon Vamp!Jesse pops by and tells her to shut up, and she suddenly finds him irresistible. (Working through some issues there, Joss?) Outside the club, the bouncer intercepts Luke and demands to see his ID, which is a little strange since the place is already crawling with teenagers, although I guess maybe he has to wristband everybody or something. The Vamps storm in and cut the lights, all except for a single followspot that was apparently on a different breaker, and Luke gets on stage to tell them they're all fucked. Like, monumentally.

    Luke eats the bouncer, making him the first casualty of the episode, while Buffy & Co. try to find a way in past the vampire guard. Next Luke eats a pretty blonde girl, and not in the nice way, and he's just about to make Cordy his third victim when Buffy jumps down from a conveniently placed catwalk and starts wreaking mayhem. She stakes one vamp with a pool cue -- offstage, to save on the SFX budget -- and beheads a second vamp with a flying cymbal, because although there wasn't a band tonight, there was a full drum kit randomly on stage, just because. The vampire she chucks it at is holding Xander, who manages to dodge it just in time -- and considering this is the guy who can't even skateboard down the sidewalk without landing flat on his ass, you're taking a pretty big chance there, Buffster.

    Next up, Darla is on top of Giles when she gets doused with holy water by Willow; she runs off screaming but doesn't die, so that she can later be a recurring guest star on Angel. Xander is engaged in a battle of wits with Vamp!Jesse, and you can imagine how well that's going, when a fleeing civilian accidentally pushes Vamp!Jesse into Xander's stake.

    Buffy picks up something long and shiny from the Conveniently Placed Drum Kit. "You forget, metal can't hurt me," Luke taunts, but Buffy has something else in mind. "There's something you forgot, too -- sunrise," she says, hurling her makeshift javelin at a window and letting in ... light from a streetlamp or something. Luke cringes and screams, because being The Vessel doesn't require an IQ test, and Buffy quips "It's in about nine hours, moron" before staking him through the heart.

    The Master gets a Big NOOOOOOO! and we get a nicely lit power shot of Buffy that will remain in the opening credits for the next two seasons.


    Angel shows up momentarily to be useless, and then we're back at school, where Xander and Willow marvel that despite a bunch of undead showing up to cause mayhem and commit mass murder on Friday night, everything is back to normal. Giles utters the words without which very little of the rest of the series would make any sense: "People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't." Buffy decides that maybe life will be easier if she gets kicked out of school, and Giles sighs "The earth is doomed."

    • The bouncer, eaten by Luke (that'll teach you to ask for my ID!)
    • Blonde girl, eaten by Luke
    • Vamp who gets staked with a pool cue
    • Vamp who gets beheaded by an airborne percussion instrument
    • Vamp!Jesse
    • Luke
    One-liners that should be turned into domain names:
    • TheEarthIsDoomed.com, maybe? I don't know.
    In a nutshell: Taken together, Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest are a more than adequate first outing. The fundamental building blocks of the Buffyverse are all introduced, every major character gets a chance to sketch out a rough outline of their personalities, and of course there's plenty of the series' trademark wit. The first-season cheese factor and Early Installment Weirdness are there, but reasonably painless.

    Grade: The two-parter gets a solid B.
  5. CorporalClegg

    CorporalClegg Admiral Admiral

    Aug 23, 2001
    Nuevo México