Howdy, folks. Welcome to the first post of the Buffy/Angel Rewatch. A couple of notes before we get started:
- This Rewatch/commentary will be conducted by myself (Ian/Iczorro) and one of my fellow podcasters, Sarah/Superwhovianfreak. We’re going to revisit the episodes, and then tell you what we think of them with the benefit of fuzzy nostalgia and vague memories of future plotlines.
- We’re going to try and get out an article a week with two episodes per article. Once Angel starts up in the episode order, it will likely be the episodes that aired chronologically in-universe. Scheduling will be dependent on how good we are at writing quickly, but for now that’s the plan.
- This and all other posts will contain spoilers for the entire Buffyverse, possibly even including the post-TV graphic novels, or even other properties in the Whedonverse in general. In other words, in the unlikely case that you are watching these properties for the first time, I would suggest waiting on reading these until you’ve gone through them all at least once (well, the two main series at issue, in any case). They’ve been off the air for years, you shouldn’t need a spoiler warning, but we’re just nice like that.
- Because of that, a general foreknowledge of what’s going to happen is assumed. We’ll try to explain things that may not be obvious to the casual watcher, but for the most part we’re going to assume that you guys pretty much know what the deal is.
- There’s likely going to be some fandom type abbreviations as we go along, especially considering the way the Whedonverse impacted American English, but if at any time something we say isn’t clear, feel free to ask us what the hell we’re talking about in the comments. We’re kinda doing this for ourselves, but we also want it to be fun and accessible for others.
Today’s post will cover the first two episodes of season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, and “The Harvest”, in which we meet/catch up with a harmless blond high schooler from Los Angeles, and Neidermeyer from Animal House is in desperate need of a skincare regimen.
So, if you’ve got all that, we can get going. Buckle in. As we get started, it’s going to be a bumpy (but fun) ride.
Buffy S01E01; Welcome to the Hellmouth
What Happens: We open floating through a dark and ominous high school, with creepy, brooding music. There’s a break-in in the biology lab. Some guy climbs through the window with a demure blond. He wants to take her up to the roof so they can see the whole town. He gives off the standard creepy, early 90’s sexual predator vibe. The blond asks if he’s sure no one is there. He’s sure, and as he turns back to her, she’s in vamp-face and goes for his neck.
Buffy is in bed, dreaming fitfully of blood and vampires and olden times with angry villagers. Similar to the nightmares Kristy Swanson had in the Buffy movie. Her mother calls upstairs to wake her up. Her room is still littered with moving boxes, they’ve clearly just moved in. Joyce says she doesn’t want to be late for her first day, and Buffy says, “Yeah, wouldn’t want that.”
Joyce drops Buffy off at school, tells her to have a good day, she’s gonna make friends and do well.
“And honey? Try not to get kicked out.”
We get our first glimpse of Xander as he skateboards down the sidewalk through the crowds of kids milling about before the day starts. He sees Buffy and does the classic “guy crashes into something while ogling the hot girl” bit. He goes up to Willow, begging her for help with his homework.
“I need help with the math.”
Buffy goes to Principal Flutie’s office, where he tells her she’s had quite the high school career. Then he rips up her record, telling her the past is the past. Then he notices what’s on the ripped up record and starts taping it back together, badly.
“I know my transcripts are a little… colorful.”
“We’re not caring about that. Do you think colorful is the right word? Not, uh… dismal?”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“You burned down the gym.”
“Yeah I did. But you’re not seeing the whole picture. That place was full of vampi… Asbestos”
Buffy exits the office after Flutie passive aggressively suggests she behave at Sunnydale, and accidentally drops and spills her bag. Xander rushes up to have her… er, help her. He flirts with her badly, and as she walks off. Xander notices that she forgot her…wooden stake.
In history class, Buffy sits next to Cordelia, who offers to share her textbook. Cordelia knows who she is, that she’s from LA, and offers to get her in with the popular clique. She has to pass a basic coolness IQ test first though.
“Vamp nail polish?”
“So over. James Spader?”
“He needs to call me.”
“Trendy, but tasty.”
Having passed this late 90’s version of In vs Out, they come up on Willow at the drinking fountain. Cordelia is mean to her, and Willow scurries off. Cordelia lets her know that the key to popularity is to know her losers so that she can avoid them. Buffy gets a concerned look on her face. Cordelia invites Buffy to The Bronze, the local all ages nightclub, which is in the bad part of town, about a half a block from the good part of town.
Buffy goes into the library looking for a history textbook of her very own, where we meet Mr. Giles, the librarian. He knows what she’s looking for. He drops the big, dusty, old “Vampyr” tome on the counter, and Buffy backs away, saying that’s not what she’s there for.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m way sure.”
When Giles turns around, Buffy makes good her escape.
Buffy goes out into the courtyard at lunch, and tries to befriend Willow, who is very submissive. The rest of the proto Scooby-gang comes up, Xander being much more charming now that he’s not one on one with the new hot girl. Jesse mocks Xander in an offhand way. Xander gives Buffy her stake back.
“Only thing I can think is that you’re building a really little fence.”
Cordelia interrupts, asking why she’s with these people, and Willow tries to protect Buffy, saying she’s not hanging out with them. Cordelia doesn’t care, gym class is canceled due to the dead guy in the locker room. Buffy asks how he died, and everyone is a little put off. Buffy excuses herself and goes to check out the, apparently, unattended dead guy who is covered with a sheet in the girls locker room. She finds bite marks on his neck, so she goes to Giles in the library. She tells him about the vamp attack, and that she doesn’t care. She doesn’t want to be the Slayer. Giles gives her the Watcher’s council mission statement.
“In each generation, a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One. One born with the strength…”
“The strength and skill to hunt the vampires, stop the spread of evil, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it, ok?”
Giles tells her about Sunnydale, detailing all the supernatural bad things, and how they’re real.
“What, you like, send away for the Time-Life series?”
“Did you get the free phone?”
Buffy pushes back, since being a Slayer sucks, and she wants to have a life, and friends. Giles is momentarily speechless, as Buffy leaves, then follows after her. Xander comes out from the stacks, where he had overheard the whole thing.
Giles chases Buffy down the hallway, in kind of a pushy manner, putting his arm to the wall in front of her. He tells her it’s getting worse, Sunnydale has seen a rise in incidents lately.
“Something is coming. Something… Something is…going to happen here. Soon.”
“Gee, can you vague that up for me?”
Giles says something bad and supernatural is going to happen in Sunnydale in days, if not less. Buffy asks what can possibly be so bad in Sunnydale?
Cut to the Master’s cave, which is full of torches and candles, and a pool of blood, in front of which a rather large vampire is chanting “The sleeper will wake”.
Back to Buffy, who is trying to figure out what to wear to The Bronze that night, and Joyce comes in to check in/chat with her. She’s trying to be supportive, but not smothering supportive. Joyce is optimistic about Sunnydale. She may have found a space for her art gallery. She has her positive vibes pants on.
Buffy walks towards the bad part of town, going to The Bronze, and someone is following her. She ducks into an alley, and soon Angel enters that alley, but Buffy is nowhere to be seen, because she’s doing a friggin handstand on a pipe above him. She swoops down to kick him in the back, Olympics gymnastics style, and lands in a fighting stance, asking why he’s following her.
“I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry. I don’t bite.”
Angel tells her that she needs to be ready, she doesn’t have a choice. The Harvest is coming, and she’s standing on the mouth of hell. He tosses her a box, and tells her he’s a friend, though not necessarily hers. He broods off into the distance. She opens the box and sees that he’s given her a rather large silver cross necklace.
At The Bronze, a doorman collects the entrance fee, but checks zero ids. There is a very 90s post-grunge (tail end of grunge?) band rocking out on stage. Buffy feels alone and out of place, until she sees Willow at the bar. She goes up, and Willow turns out to be waiting for Xander. It’s established that she and Xander are not together anymore since he stole her Barbie doll – when they were five. Willow doesn’t date much, since guys tend to like girls that can talk, rather than just make gibberish sounds around them. Buffy advises her that life is short, and you should seize the day, cause you might die at any time. Then Buffy sees Giles on the catwalk above and moves to leave.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Oh, that’s ok, you don’t have to come back.”
Buffy, bemused: “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Giles is there to convince her to try harder at Slayering. Buffy says his friend already told her all about The Harvest and the Hellmouth, but she’s not into it. Giles gets confused and intense. He mentions her nightmares. Buffy says she’ll slay the occasional vamp, she doesn’t have “like, fluffy bunny feelings” about them, but she’s “not gonna get way extracurricular with it.” Giles says vampires are so hard to spot, but a Slayer should be able to feel them anyway.
“Reach out with your mind, your senses. Focus until the energy washes over you, until you feel every particle of…”
Giles is baffled, but Buffy points out that the guy’s clothes are about a decade out of date. Unfortunately, the vampire is chatting up Willow, who has taken Buffy’s dating advice, and is attempting to seize the day. Buffy goes downstairs, but Willow is nowhere to be found. She breaks off a chair leg for a stake in the darker, quieter area by the bathrooms, only to be startled into grabbing Cordelia by the neck, stake raised, who was coming out of the lady’s room with a group of friends.
“God! What is your childhood trauma?!”
Buffy asks if she’s seen Willow, then continues her search, past Jesse, who is flirting with Darla (the blond from the cold open) in another part of the bar.
Transition, the Master rises from a pool of blood in his cave, and Luke, the big thug vampire, assures him that with the event of The Harvest, the Master will soon be made stronger, and freed from his cave.
Over to Willow, who thinks she and this guy are going for ice cream, but he leads her into the cemetery.
Buffy runs into Xander on his way into The Bronze, and asks if he’s seen Willow, who left with a guy.
“Oh, I hope he’s not a vampire cause then you might have to slay him”
“Was there a school bulletin? Was it in the newspaper? Is there anyone in this town who doesn’t know I’m the Slayer?”
Xander realizes she’s serious, and they head off in search.
Out-of-date vampire guy takes Willow to a crypt, and forces her in. Darla follows them in, trailed by a woozy, bleeding from the neck Jessie. Darla gets the show’s very first late 90’s CGI vamp-face transition. Buffy walks in with Xander and starts quipping at the vamps, finishing up with: “Now, we can do this the hard way or, well… actually there’s just the hard way.”
Late 80’s vamp guy tries to grab her from behind and becomes the show’s first dusted vamp. Buffy monologues at Darla after a brief tussle, only to be grabbed by the back of the neck by Luke. Darla goes to reclaim the rest of the Scooby gang, who are surrounded by vamps out in the cemetery. Luke throws Buffy around a bit and takes his turn monologuing before throwing her in a sarcophagus and lunging at her… Credits.
Ian: The inaugural episode. It’s been a very long time since I watched this show. I missed it. This is a show that kind of kicked off the idea of a show having a fandom. It’s the show that led to the development of the https://tvtropes.org/ website, which we’ll probably reference a lot (though don’t visit that site unless you have all the free time at work, it will eat your life away. Way too easy to rabbit-trail there for hours).
Ian: Watching this first episode, it’s very dated. Not the ideas, but the filming, the references. James Spader needs to call a 16 year old? Was she bingeing John Hughes movies? It reminds me of going back and watching the first season of The Sopranos. It just… feels 90s. The fashion definitely felt dated. There is no doubting what decade this show started.
Sarah: Who wasn’t binging John Hughes movies in the 90s? These were the standard that wove their way into pop culture references throughout teen dramas. This actually felt very HS to me. James Spader would have been 37 at the time, so very natural for a teenage girl to have a crush on an older guy. In HS in the 90s when movies were portraying the appeal of having a sugar daddy that turns into true love, or true love conquers all, the desire of wanting to be with a mature older guy was very in. I remember sitting around the lunch table in HS discussing Justin Timberlake at the height of his NSync days with equal fervor of Brad Pitt. This does however conflict with the modern culture mindset of predatory abuse and older men abusing their authority.
Ian: I guess I just can’t help picturing Spader as his current late-50s self on The Blacklist. I do remember that he was very hot in the late 80s, hell, even in Mannequin with the slicked back hair he was still pretty cool. Just feels weird that a highschool girl in 1997 would have a crush on him, let alone that popular girl culture would reference him as the go-to hot guy. Then again, I’ve never been a girl in highschool, so what do I know?
Ian: We meet all these characters that we’re intimately familiar with, but it’s a pilot, so we’re getting the broad strokes of their personalities. Buffy is the fish out of water who has empathy and wants to fit in, but also do things her way. Joyce is trying to be cool-mom to a teen that has had issues (to be fair, she doesn’t know that this teenager is a Chosen One who can’t seem to avoid the undead). Xander is witty, Willow is smart and self-effacing, Cordelia is popular. Giles is English (Sarah: he has the tea and crumpets stiff upper lip personality of the 90s british TV stars). Jesse is… not long for this world. Darla is not the Darla we get to know later.
Sarah: Even with just one episode in you can see where Buffy’s ultimate struggle is going to be. Finding balance in a world of supernatural vs a normal life, it started the genre where shows like Charmed and Supernatural followed suit. Very relatable scenes for her as a teenage girl trying to find the right party dress, it’s very indicative of insecurities that plague every girl in HS. To quote the fish out of water reference ICzorro made, after a huge upheaval in anyone’s life, remove the supernatural element for a moment. Buffy is suffering now from her mom and Dad divorcing. Everything has changed and your self identity is completely shot at this point. So you can see how Joss is laying the groundwork for this character’s development into the person/Slayer she is going to become. Everyone else at this point is a little superficial on the surface, their development is going to come as the series progresses.
Ian: I love the little lines when she’s picking out clothes. *Sparkly dress* “Hi, I’m a slut.” *Long floral pattern dress* “Can I give you this copy of The Watchtower?” (The Watchtower is a Jehovah’s Witness recruiting pamphlet thing.)
Ian: The actors here are a great example of Dawson Casting. Sarah Michelle Gellar was 20, playing a 16 year old. Nicholas Brendon was 26, Alison Hannigan was 23, and Charisma Carpenter 27. I love the cast, but damn. On-set child labor laws must be a real bitch.
Ian: Never watched One Tree Hill. I’ll take your word for it.
Sarah: Don’t unless you like overly dramatic storylines brought to life by admittedly beautiful people lol. I will admit love me some Hillary Burton…..
Ian: Whedon doesn’t seem to have the rules for his universe worked out yet. Vampires have great hearing, but Darla doesn’t hear Buffy state that she’s going to go kill one. Darla, we later learn, has faced at least two Slayers, so she shouldn’t be baffled by why Buffy is so strong. Whatever, there was barely a canon built up yet, so that’s all forgivable.
Sarah: I always felt like the pilot should both be remembered and also dismissed as canon in certain TV shows. A lot of times, especially in a show like this where you are trying to adapt a show from a movie with new and fresh actors, you have a broad vision for what you want to create and sometimes the characters develop more than what you envisioned. With the character of Darla, I don’t know if Joss intended initially for her to be what she became. But as Angel’s story became fleshed out Darla evolved and we can chalk up the Pilot to her not expecting the Slayer to be in Sunnydale, and that’s why she was thrown that this girl was stronger than expected.
Ian: I like that idea. Any time I watch the pilot of a new show, I give it some leeway. Hell, the first handful of episodes get a pass. If I hadn’t watched The Orville past it’s first four episodes – like some podcasters we know – I would be missing out on some truly good TV. It’s good to let a show find its footing before truly judging it.
Ian: From the start we get the Subverted Trope that Whedon made super popular and has carried through most of his work. The stereotypical damsel-in-distress is actually the one kicking all the ass. In that first scene, Darla is playing the innocent prey for the sleaze ball guy, but we quickly find out that’s not who she is. I would submit that Whedon’s work was one of the leading factors of the growing popularity of female-led action pieces coming out of the 90s. And good for him/women in general. I like that it’s a trend that has continued to grow to this day.
Sarah: Joss was revolutionary in that time period. I will admit the movie was a bit corny, but it laid the groundwork for a great show to come. Buffy aside, characters like Willow, who made brainy attractive, set the groundwork for so many female led shows to follow. Cordelia for one you see as the series progresses has one of the more transformative growths I have ever seen on a television show.
Ian: Joss is a national treasure. There are issues with the fact that a man was the one to “help” women achieve the leading status that they’re still aspiring to in pop culture as a whole, but it had to be done, so… gift horse, mouth, etc. Feminism as a concept (i.e. equality) owes Joss a gift card or something.
Ian: I like that while Cordelia at first comes off as super friendly and helpful and nice, Buffy quickly twigs to the fact that’s she’s kind of a bitch when she’s so rude/bully-like to Willow. Cordy is a character that goes through massive character growth before dipping out of this universe, but for now, she’s just a Mean Girl.
Sarah: She was Regina before Regina was a thing.
Ian: I’m a little confused that the school admin left a dead body unattended in a locker room. “We threw a sheet over him, we’re good for now.” Seems a little… lax.
Sarah: This I think was done honestly because it was a pilot, and they had limited set access to film in. We see later in the series Buffy going to morgues and breaking in other places……. But I guess if you are waiting on police to show what else are you going to do?
Ian: I guess I hadn’t considered that it may have been a budget/space constraint thing rather than poor plotting.
Ian: Giles’ intro is very much a pilot intro. We get so much backstory on Ripper later, he grows into such a warm, caring, complex father figure for the Scoobies, but for now he’s just duty-bound stuffy English Watcher/librarian guy. Can’t really blame him. Being selected to be the Watcher for the Chosen One is no light duty. He should take it seriously. But, he comes off almost as creepy as Donald Sutherland’s watcher from the movie. He’s constantly too close to/physically interacting with a 16 year old he just met that day. Maybe in the 90s, it was ok for the school librarian to bar a teenager from walking down the hallway, then have an intense, close conversation with her, then go hang out with her at an all ages nightclub. Maybe I’m glad it’s not the 90s anymore. Of course, we know from our perspective that he’s a Good Guy, but imagine being a student in that hallway, and then seeing them together at the club later. Questions would have to be asked.
Sarah: Donald Sutherland just radiates creepy sometimes. He was President Snow for a reason, yo. But he never got a chance to be as fleshed out as Giles was. In today’s day and age the second he showed up at an underage nightclub he would have been flagged on social media as a predator and harassed. Slowly the bond forms between them though and we see him play Papa Bear to all the Scoobies eventually.
Ian: I like the early appearance of Buffy Speak even if it’s only in there a little. The way these characters settle in to talking over the course of the show has influenced the English language, in my opinion. We’ll get more into it as the show progresses. “Can you vague that up for me?”, “Don’t you have an elsewhere to be?”, and “God! What is your childhood trauma?!” made me laugh, though.
Sarah: Buffy: “Hi! I’m an enormous slut!” (Holds up a blue floral dress.) “Hello! Would you like a copy of ‘The Watchtower’?” (Lowers the dress.) I used to be so good at this. That is one of my favorite lines from the Pilot. Highlights the insecurities and balance she is trying to have. Also followed up by her sarcastic response to Angel telling her she wants to “Kill all the Vampires” with Buffy: “Sorry, that’s incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax. What I want is to be left alone!”
Ian: I like seeing how Buffy just wants to be the normal girl who does her own thing, but as soon as she gets in town, everyone seems to immediately want in on her Slayer-ness. Giles, Angel, Xander, everywhere she turns, she’s outed. It’s a miracle Joyce didn’t find out sooner. Wait, does Joyce find out? I feel like she does. Been a while since I’ve watched this. Season 4ish?
Sarah: Try right before the finale of season 2. She is teaming up with Spike and trying to pass off Spike as the lead singer of her Rock Band. They get attacked and she stakes a vampire in front of her mom. Her mom seriously had a blind spot though because the things she ignored is astronomical.
Ian: I love Joyce. I’m very much looking forward to “Band Candy” and dreading “The Body.”
Ian: This is the shortest season of Buffy, at only 12 episodes, but it already has another Whedon staple, the Big Bad for the season arc. I don’t know that a lot of tv shows were doing that at the time. Maybe commenters can remind us if there were other long-arc hour long dramas going at the time. That being said, and I get that it’s an intro-to-the-world kind of season, this is the second worst seasonal Big Bad (I’m not really looking forward to Season 4; The College Year). The Master and Luke seem so… Bad Guy Template. A little too Ominous Evil, you know? Snidely Whiplash, twirling his mustache under his weird bumpy forehead.
Sarah: Luke was totally cliche henchman, brainwashed slave man to the master. The Masters end goal may have been cliche with world domination sprinkled with religious fanaticism and his cult following. His best lines start to come after episode 3.
Master: “A Slayer! Have you any proof?”
Luke: “Only that she fought me, and yet lives.”
Master: “Hmm, very nearly proof enough. I can’t remember the last time that happened.”
He becomes a sassy SOB at points, but watching Buffy play off of him gives her some of her wittiest quips in season 1. I mean without the Master we don’t get the Fruit Punch Mouth line, and I for one need that line!
Ian:Last little note, and I don’t know if it was intentional or not. Giles saying he chose the Calendar felt like a reference to the soon to be met, loved, then departed Ms. Calendar. Sad.
Anyway, they left us with a cliffhanger, let’s settle that sucker down, shall we?
Buffy S01E02; The Harvest
Picking up where we left off, Luke has Buffy pinned down in a sarcophagus and is about to go for her neck when he suddenly pulls back in pain. His hand is burning from the big cross Buffy has around her neck, courtesy of Angel. Buffy takes the opportunity to run away, and manages to save both Willow and Xander out in the cemetery from the vampires that were attacking them. Jesse, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found. Xander saw Darla take Jesse off before he got hit in the head.
Opening credits. Nerf Herder is the band that does the opening music, by the way.
We go to the library at school where Giles is info-dumping for the Scooby gang. The world was not always a paradise, despite what some cultures would have you believe. Demons used to rule, but over time, man took over. The last demon to flee to another dimension fed on a man, mixed his blood with the mans, and vampires were created, waiting to reopen the portal to the demon realm.
Darla and Luke drag Jesse to the Master’s cave, where he is pissed off that Darla sampled the goods ahead of time.
“I’m your faithful dog? You bring me scraps?”
He starts to rant about how he’s been trapped down here for 60 years, and when he gets free, they better hope he’s in a better mood. Darla and Luke opine that the only reason they failed was a girl who is possibly a Slayer. The Master is ok with that, thinking she’ll come for Jesse, who is now upgraded from “meal” to “bait.”
Back in the library, Giles starts to get into the whole “In each generation a girl is born…” part.
Buffy :”He loves this part.”
Giles: “All right. The Slayer hunts vampires. Buffy is a Slayer. Don’t tell anyone.”
They talk about Jesse and the possibility that he may still be alive. Willow suggests calling the police, but that’s quickly ruled out. The police wouldn’t believe them anyway, and what are they gonna do, shoot them?
Giles: “You have no idea where they took Jesse?”
Buffy: “I looked around, but as soon as they got clear of the graveyard they could have just… voom.”
Xander: “They can fly?!”
Buffy: “They can drive.”
Willow points out she didn’t hear a car, and the consensus is the vamps probably went underground. Willow the proto-hacker pulls up city plans that show tunnels go right under the cemetery. Buffy realizes Luke came up from behind her, but she never saw him come through the entrance to the crypt. The entrance to the tunnels must be in there. Xander and Willow both want to help, but Buffy insists it’s too dangerous, which does not make Xander a happy boy. Giles suggests Willow can do her computer thing to help him research The Harvest.
G: “It may be that you can wrest some information from that dread machine. (Everyone looks at him weird.) That was a bit, um… British, wasn’t it?”
Buffy tries to leave campus, looking like she’s off for a business lunch, but is stopped by Principal Flutie at the giant gates that all highschools have blocking off their entrances. He browbeats her into agreeing that she’s clear on what he wants, which is her on campus.
F: “That’s the Buffy Summers I want at my school. Sensible girl with her feet on the ground.” *He walks away.* *Buffy jumps straight over the 9 foot fences.*
Willow and Xander walk down the halls brainstorming search terms for their Lycos search (or Web Crawler, or whatever they used before Google). (Sarah: This is a lie, there was NO INTERNET before Google. Carry On) while commiserating about the fact that their lives are so weird now, but everyone else thinks it’s business as usual.
X: “Nobody knows. It’s like we’ve got this big secret.”
W: “We do. That’s what a secret is”.
Buffy enters the crypt, checks out the giant chained and padlocked gate at the back that she didn’t see the night before. Angel steps out of the shadows behind her. He’s been waiting for her. They snark at each other for a bit before he gets serious and warns her against going down there. The Harvest is coming that night and if she doesn’t stop it, the Master walks. She kicks the door open, he gives her vague directions to where the Master’s cave is, and wishes her luck after she’s out of earshot. As Buffy enters the tunnels, Xander is almost immediately behind her. He couldn’t bring himself to not come try to help. Buffy gives him the quick and dirty tutorial on vamp killing, and also loans him a cross.
Cordelia and Harmony are in computer programming class, and not doing well. Cordy asks why they need to know this stuff, since they have nerds like Willow to do it for them. She starts talking shit about Buffy, and then meangirls Willow when she tries to stand up for her friend. As Willow exits, she tricks Cordelia into deleting her whole programming file.
Buffy and Xander find Jesse, who is chained to a pipe. He says they knew she would be coming and he was the bait. They run from the vamps that come around right away. Jesse leads the way to a small, enclosed room, then vamps out on them. He is stoked to be a vampire.
J: “I’m connected to everything. I can hear the worms in the earth.”
X: “Well that’s a plus.”
Xander holds Jesse back with his borrowed cross as Buffy tries to close the door to keep the other vamps out. They throw Jesse into the hallway and manage to lock the door, then they escape through a ceiling vent as the door gets pounded in. They crawl quickly through movie sized air ducts and make their way out through a manhole in a power plant. Just as Xander is pulling Buffy up, a hand grabs her ankle, only to be burned by sunlight.
The Master is, shall we say… unhappy… that the Slayer got away. He pokes out the eye of a henchman in anger. The other henchvamps (I invented a word) bring Luke to the Master, where he drinks from his wrist, and is anointed with the sign of the Vessel, uniting him with the Master. They’re soulmates.
Willow has found articles about an earthquake that swallowed half the town in 1937, and the rash of obvious vamp kills that preceded it. Buffy and Xander get back to the library and break the news that Jesse is worse than dead. Willow seems… oddly ok with it, because at least Buffy and Xander are ok. Xander kicks over a pile of stuff.
X: “I don’t like vampires. I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good.”
Giles tells the Scooby gang that this is literally the end of the world if they don’t stop it. The Master came to Sunnydale 60 years ago to open the Hellmouth, but he got trapped by the earthquake and, what with opening inter-dimensional portals being the tricky business we all knew it was, if he gets out, that will remove the cork on the demon dimension. But if they kill the vessel, they can avert the apocalypse. They leave for The Bronze, but Buffy has to make a stop at home for supplies. Joyce comes in, upset that she’s getting calls from the principal on day two, so Buffy is grounded, even if it feels like the end of the world. After she goes downstairs, Buffy opens her hope chest, removes the frilly girly decoy top, and loads stakes and crosses and holy water into a bag, then makes her escape through her window.
At The Bronze, Cordy is just being the entitled worst.
“Senior boys are the only way to go. They have mystery, they have, what’s the word… cars. It’s like when I’m shopping. I always have to have the most expensive thing. Not because it’s expensive, but because it costs more.”
She runs downstairs to dance to… some 90s post-grunge. I didn’t know you could do that, but she makes it look good. As she turns to leave the dance floor, Jesse is there and is mean to her, so she dances with him, of course. Darla and her crew come Reservoir Dogs walking out of the shadows with their game faces on, and drag the bouncer inside. They shut off the power (except for a spotlight on Luke, center stage. Theater geeks, these vamps, great flair for drama). Luke tells the crowd they should be honored to help with the Harvest, and starts feeding, funneling energy to The Master.
Buffy and the gang show up, but the front door is locked. They split up to find a way in, Buffy goes through the roof windows, as is fast becoming her habit. As Cordelia gets dragged onstage to be fed to Luke, Buffy interrupts. She jumps down so her and Luke can rumble. Giles and company start evacuating the civilians. Jesse pins Cordy down, but Xander interrupts, trying to Vader him (i.e. “I know there’s still good in you”). Jesse scoffs, calling him an “excruciating loser.” Xander gets a stake in place. Jesse is skeptical Xander has the balls to do… Someone bumps Jesse into the stake, and he gets dusted. Darla jumps Giles, but Willow maces her with holy water and she is forced to flee.
Buffy and Luke have thrown each other around a lot, but he is clearly stronger. She picks up a mic stand from the stage.
L: “You forget, metal can’t hurt me.”
B: “You forgot something too. Sunrise.”
She throws the stand through the window behind Luke, who starts to howl in anticipated pain, then realizes he’s not burning. Buffy stakes him through the back.
B: “It’s in about nine hours, moron.”
Luke falls off the stage and goes to dust. The Master stays trapped, howling dramatically, in his cave. Angel, watching from a corner, mutters, “She did it. I’ll be damned”
The next day at school, everything seems normal, and people are rationalizing away what they saw. Buffy is chipper, Willow and Xander are of the impression that the adventure is over, but Giles tells them rather excitedly that it’s not. Other things will be coming, and they may be all that stands between the world and destruction. The kids wander off quipping about how maybe they can get kicked out of school to avoid the responsibility. Giles smiles and mutters, “The world is doomed”.
Ian: Watching the pre-credits scene of fighting in the cemetery is odd for me, because the fight choreography got so much better in later seasons, and also because I’m now used to the quality of fights on shows like Arrow, but we have to remember, this was one of the original niche teen action shows of its kind.
Sarah: I think some of this was done on purpose, to show her progression as a fighter through the seasons. We see this trope a lot in shows, the enemies are a bit more bumbling and as she grows they grow. If she starts as a flawless fighter from the go, where does the character development get to come from? Personally one of my favorite episode back to back fights was Season 2 finale and Season 3 episode 1 at the end. Amazing and emotional.
Ian: Quick trope check, the cross that Angel gave Buffy in the previous episode is a great little Checkov’s gun to get her out of trouble with Luke.
Ian: So Nerf Herder is the band that does the opening music. They have a handful of geek rock songs that I don’t know if I’ve heard, but apparently they are the ones who redid the Doctor Who theme as of 2016.
Sarah: They are no “Dingo Ate My Baby” but then again who is? No I love what this show did with The Bronze was help showcase up and coming musicians to try and give them a career boost. Try to get through Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye to You” with a dry eye (If you do you’re dead inside). I know I keep referencing Charmed but they took this idea and instead did it with established artists at P3.
Ian: I know we get a lot of time at The Bronze in these first few seasons, so I’m looking very much forward to see if I recognize any of the bands they bring in. Although, like you said, it’s hard to beat Oz fronting the Dingos.
Ian: In these early episodes, most of Giles’ job is just to be exposition man. He’s the guy with all the knowledge, so he mostly stands around telling the gang, and by extension us, all the things we need to know to make the plot work. As the series progresses, they get better at making it feel more organic (for the most part), or at least more entertaining. The overhead projector exposition in “Hush” is a fun way to do it.
Sarah: (EXPOSITION MAN TO THE RESCUE! Seriously google Eric Kripke at paleyfest to see his thoughts on exposition and you’ll LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF.) I’ve read that exposition scenes are hard to pull off, because people who know each other don’t talk that way, especially about their own history. Joss saves Giles because he at least is sharing information that the characters and the audience doesn’t know.
Ian: Again, we’re getting the broad strokes of who these characters are, but they’re starting to shake out into their more 3d roles. Willow isn’t just smart, she’s good with computers and research, and brave even when she’s in shock. “I need to sit down.” “You are sitting down.” “Oh, good for me.” Xander is foolishly brave, and as he laments later in the series, doesn’t really have any special skills to bring the team, but he really kind of becomes the heart of the squad. He’s also basically the teen supernatural drama version of Chandler Bing. I could very much see Matt Perry saying that whole, “I’m taking a stand and saying vampires are bad” line.
Sarah: Willow is smart, she knows when to stick herself out there and when to pull back and play to her strengths. She will never be a superior fighter but her intellect at times rivals Giles. It’s tempered by being overpowering with her innate innocence and belief that the world is good overall. Seeing that innocence get tempered by her experiences and yet remaining innately Willow at heart is a testament to the actress. Xander is the consummate loyal friend, even if it puts him in harm’s way. He has a constant desire to protect his friends, especially in an attempt to impress Buffy. He is the Duckie of the 90s.
Ian: And now I can’t help but picture John Cryer as Xander. What’s the later episode? The Zeppo? He’s the Marx brother that doesn’t get the credit. Alyson Hannigan is wonderful. I watched the unaired pilot version as well, and the original casting for Willow felt… wrong. Hannigan was an upgrade for sure. Also, she ended up marrying Westley (Alexis Denisov) in real life. So, this was a good job for her.
Ian: Buffy is rebellious. We know as the audience that she’s right to be, but there’s two times in this episode where Authority Figures tell her she needs to do something or stay somewhere, and she immediately does the opposite as soon as their backs are turned. The line from Joyce about “When you’re a sixteen year old girl, everything feels like the end of the world” was the first obvious allusion to the fact that this show was going to use monsters and mystical events and apocalypses (which apparently spell check doesn’t have a problem with) as metaphors for the issues of growing up and finding your place in the world. It becomes more obvious in later episodes, like the girl that becomes invisible after being ignored, the college kids that become neanderthals after drinking beer, the weird mist in a frat house that has Buffy and Riley boning for days. But we’re just dipping our toes here, and they were being wiffle bat to the shoulder subtle rather than aluminum bat to the face obvious.
Ian: Cordelia is the worst at the beginning of this series. I know I talked about it a little already, but, ugh. Mean to everyone, all the time, even her own “friends.” They did a job of work to make her so beloved by her end in Angel.
Ian: Not a lot to say about the climatic scenes at The Bronze. Fight the underboss, save the world, wait for Big Bad to appear later. Angel’s line about “I’ll be damned” was a little funny, considering some of what happens to him. Speaking of Angel, Xander was behind Buffy almost right away when she entered the sewer. It was daytime, Angel couldn’t leave the crypt. Did he and Xander nod at each other as Xander followed through the gate?
Sarah: I like the scene where she tricks Luke with the sunrise. Also can they get a less terrifying name than Luke for a big bad underboss? Luke sounds like a pimply kid working his first job at wiener hut. Not to mention Luke has become synonymous with being a surly diner owner and backwards ball caps thanks to Gilmore Girls. Anyways I digress. How stupid are you that you don’t know when sunrise is, specially as a vampire? How long did he think he had been at The Bronze? When she tosses the mic stand yelling sunrise and he starts screaming retroactively tell me you were not having flashbacks to Hocus Pocus. The end where the Sanderson sisters get tricked by the headlight mimicking the sun and he saves his sister. Classic.
Ian: That’s us for this week. Next week, Sarah will be handling the recap and initial commentary, and I will be playing off her ideas. We’ll see you then