Yes, this review contains Spoilers.
Season 1, Episode 1
Welcome to the Hellmouth
Commentary: A note before I start… I’ve never taken a film course, so when I say “Scene ##” I’m usually meaning that we’ve left one set and jumped to another, or/and we’ve faded to a commercial break and then come back - your mileage may vary. Just because I list a new scene doesn’t mean that it’s an “actual” new scene in the officially acceptable definition. Get over it.
Teaser: This is where it all starts! SMG Buffy, Aly Willow, Nicky Xander, ASH Giles, CC Cordelia and KS Joyce. The Hellmouth, Sunnydale, the burdens of Slayerhood… all of the wonderfulness starts here.
We open on a pan, at night, of Sunnydale High School. It’s dark and quiet as we drift through hallways (well, actually A hallway… there’s only one that will become almost as hard a worker as the actors) and to a science room.
The quiet is broken by the sound of shattering glass. A boy and girl slip in through the window, just to look around. The girl is jittery (hrmph!) and stud-boy (who doesn’t do anything for me, either here or on CSI: NY) is trying to entice her to the roof to enjoy the view over the town and of course, to get some play from her.
We get the “I heard something!” and the standard response, “There’s nobody here - let’s make out”. Boy convinces girl that there’s nothing to be worried about. This is where we would queue killer to either jump out at boy and immediately kill him and then terrorize girl for minutes before finally doing away with her, or for boy to be a killer and terrorize girl… etc.
Not here, though. Instead poor scared girl spins around to reveal a monstrous face and nice large fangs to sink into startled boy’s neck. Queue Rock Intro.
Darla, when she's not being seductive and cute.
Scene 01: We open on Buffy Summers… though we don’t know her last name yet. She’s in bed and obviously having nightmares. This involves a pool of red liquid (blood?) and a cemetery. We also get flashes of a really ugly vampire (who will be The Master) and a demon of some sort (who will be Moloch). We also get a book with a big ole “Vampyre” on its cover (from this episode), Angel’s cross (from this episode) and the vampire crowd (from Episode 12).
Commentary: And we know this, of course, because we’ve all seen BTVS by now and we know that these scenes were culled (like the opening credits) from stuff that will occur later in the Season. I’ll just say here that it’s a nice budget conscious way of showing us that this is our heroine and she’s going to be special… not to be confused with speschul.
Buffy is awoken by a shock jump with growl of The Master’s ugly mug. We then hear presumably her mother yelling up to her to make sure she’s up. We can see boxes that are still not unpacked strewn around the room. We know here that it is Buffy’s first day back at school - and with the boxes, we can guess she’s new to town.
Scene 02: Cut to the school again, this time with crowds of high schoolers and busses arriving. We see a Jeep Cherokee pull up in front of the school.
Commentary: I was gonna put high schoolers in quotes, as some of these “kids” we’ll get to know are SO obviously beyond the right age… but then I’d have to do it every single time and that’s too much trouble. Besides, we’re watching BTVS so we’re already exercising our suspension of belief or we’re not going to get anywhere.
The Jeep belongs to Buffy’s mom, of course. And, she give Buffy the “first day of school in new town” rah-rah speech about how she’ll make friends right away and it’s all good and so on… but then she also tells Buffy:
“And Honey? Try not to get kicked out….”
As Joyce (and we don’t get her name yet) drives off, Buffy is checking out the school nervously.
Our heroine, Buffy Summers... when she had some roundness.
Cut to a boy dangerously swerving on a barely in control skateboard. At least he’s polite… he’s asking nicely for the swarming students to please get out of the way. He’s not doing badly (well, yes he really is - but he’s staying on the thing) until he sees Buffy at which point he stops watching in front of him and careens into a hand rail, getting knocked on his butt.
This is witnessed by a red-headed girl with awful clothes… awful! … who smiles down at him, obviously amused. We find out the girl is Willow and the boy will be revealed to be Xander. And, these two are obviously friends.
Willow Rosenberg, who's clothes will terrorize us for the next 4 years.
And her friend, Xander Harris. He becomes my lust object once he gets a haircut.
Scene 03: We follow Willow and Xander inside with some weak banter re: math and libraries. Inside we meet Jesse. We get this scene to show us that there is some interest in new girl and the fact that Willow, Xander and Jesse are a sort of geeky-triumvirate.
Scene 04: We leave behind our three friends to rejoin Buffy, who is obviously checking in with the Principal, Mr. Flutie. The gist here is that we learn that Buffy has transferred because of an “interesting school career” back in Los Angeles.
We find out that Buffy was kicked out of her old High School for burning down the gym… but it was because it was “full of vampi-- asbestos”.
Commentary: This is a great scene really because of the line delivery from Principal Flutie. He starts out all ‘touchy feely’, ‘new agey’, ‘be the kid’s friend’ and ends up completely sabotaging the effect by how he is clearly going to be watching her to see to it she doesn’t burn down any more school buildings. Obviously Buffy’s first day is turning out to be starting less then stellar.
Scene 05: We cut to the hallway where Buffy is leaving the principal’s office. She is digging in her purse, not watching where she’s going and gets ran into. The contents of the bag spill, which gives Xander the chance to talk to the new girl that he’s already quite infatuated with on first sight…
“Can I have you? Uh… can I help you?” And he really doesn’t do much better after this, either… “Maybe I’ll see you around sometime. Maybe at school. Since we… both… go there.”
Commentary: Nicholas Brendon really does a nice job on this minor scene here. You can tell that he can tell that he’s floundering when he gets to the “Maybe at school…” line, but doesn’t know how to get himself out of finishing the sentence gracefully. I also have to mention that Nicky should never wear shaggy bangs.
Buffy leaves him standing there with a look on her face that says… “Okaayyy… weird” and he’s left feeling very unsuave and very pathetic. During the pick up, somehow, she manages to not notice the huge-ass stake that has come from it. Xan calls after her that she forgot it, but she … somehow… doesn’t hear it.
Scene 06: Jump to Buffy in class where the teacher is lecturing on the Black Plague and its use as a siege weapon… an early form of germ warfare - which is true. Dead bodies carrying plague were used via catapults to introduce the disease into keeps, castles and other walled off communities. Which is gross, but not very shocking when you see what we are still doing to each other today. The real point of the scene though isn’t Buffy learning about the Plague (though vampires will be referred to as plagues) but that she gets to meet our ongoing, but minor player in S1 - Cordelia Chase - who will have much, much more to do with the Buffyverse later. It’s Cordy who refers Buffy to the library where she’ll meet the most important member of her circle to come - Giles.
But right now, we’ll stick with Cordelia. While in the class room, Cordy comes out pretty well - she shares her textbook, offers to show Buffy where the library is - but we will quickly find out that she’s actually a mean-spirited bitca….
Cordelia Chase: Popular, knows it, makes sure everyone else knows it.
Scene 07: Hallway, where Buffy is walking with Cordelia who gives the former the “cool test”. Buffy passes with flying colors and her future success at her new school seems assured.
Commentary: Can someone please tell me how Cordy could possibly be the one to test Buffy for coolness (and thereby inclusion in the popular crowd) when she's walking around in those lime green pants and dark brown top?? EWWWWW.
And our duo reaches the water fountain where Cordelia is very unlikable. She really rips Willow up here verbally with no prompting whatsoever. Something that SMG does a really good and subtle job of reacting to with the look on her face while all eyes are on Cordy:
“Willow…! Nice dress! (said with maximum sarcasm) Good to know you’ve seen the softer side of Sears.”
Commentary: Now to be fair, Willow does herself absolutely no favors. First, it’s obvious that Cordy is being sarcastic and biting, but Willow responds seriously to her. Second, she’s in high school, but actually tells the popular girl that her mom still picks out her clothes and lastly… the dress is barf-er-ific. Something that continues to be the case all through Will’s high school career. But that still doesn’t give Cordy license to be a huge, spiteful bitch, here.
“O-oh, w-well, my mom picked it out.”
“No wonder your such a guy magnet. Are you done?” And when she says ‘are you done’, she’s really saying it in a tone that let’s Will know that she is, in fact, done.
Cordy warns Buffy that she’ll have to learn to know her losers on sight, so she can avoid them. It’s also clear that Buffy thinks she was pretty harsh, but she doesn’t say anything.
On the way to the library, we get the exposition about how small Sunnydale is (but it’s growing rapidly… trust me on this). Right now though, it has only one happening place - The Bronze. Cordy tells Buffy she should really show.
Scene 08: The next scene is Buffy going into the now famous library. And, as will become its habit… it’s empty. Which is good, because there is an awful lot of Top Secret-Slayer-Business that will be discussed in this room. Here, we also get the intro to another major character who we will love… Rupert Giles.
Rupert Giles, who you must love - you really have no choice.
At first, Buffy has no clue who he is of course, but he knows all about her. As she’s trying to tell him of the text books she’s going to need, he informs her that he already knows what it is she wants… a big, honking book with Vampyr etched on the cover.
Well, Buffy takes one look at that, one look at Giles and gives him a “That’s not what I’m looking for.” As Giles says ‘ooops’ and puts the book away, Buffy dashes out.
Commentary: As much as I love ASH in Buffy, this scene is a bit awkward… but I think it may be more Joss’ fault. First, they pull the ‘sneak up on you silently and startle you for no reason with a tap on the shoulder’. And then, there’s ASH’s delivery of his introduction which is just… awkward. It may be deliberate as he’s remembering to introduce himself as the librarian, rather than the Watcher - but it’s still really awkwardly delivered and I don’t like it.
Scene 09: The scene switches away from Buffy to some random girls in a locker room talking about Buffy. Already, she’s getting her reputation for being ‘kinda weird’ even though she hasn’t done anything odd yet. Of course, this is really so we can talk about what sort of name ‘Buffy’ is - from a character named Aphrodesia. Okay, it’s a really slight joke, but it’s semi-humorous none-the-less.
Aura gives the rundown on Buffy’s history, though how Aura came by this ‘chatter’ is anyone’s guess unless Principal Flutie is out there gossiping about Buffy’s school record.
Anyway, the fun times gossiping come to a screeching halt (and please, do emphasize screeching - Aura’s screaming is over-the-top and hideously annoying) when a dead body falls out of the locker. This would be the nameless boy who served as a snack for Darla in the opening scene.
Commentary: Pathetically, it took me forever and multiple repeated viewings to realize this was Darla-victim-guy. I had totally forgotten about him that fast. And oh-my-god! Aura - SHUT UP.
Scene 10: We cut to lunch period and Buffy meets up with Willow outside on a bench. Poor, cute Willow - still a doormat here. But, Buffy is actually there to talk to Willow rather than just tell her to get lost so she can have the bench, as Willow assumes. But, it’s not all Buffy is a swell gal… she actually wants to tap Will’s mind to get caught up on the schoolwork she’s missed, starting the year late and all.
Willow inadvertently drops a major clue that all isn’t normal at Sunnydale here by mentioning that the new librarian is new, too. Along with that wacky Vamp-book, Buffy quickly realizes that he’s not just a librarian.
Xander and Jesse arrive after this info-dump and are painful. Especially Xander, who babbles. But, he also has a chance to return Buffy’s weird piece of sharpened wood he picked up in the hallway from the spilled bag. She makes a lame excuse about it being the ‘in’ thing in L.A., pepper spray now being so passé. And, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that Xan is already smitten with Buffy, while Jesse just thinks she’s cute.
Poor Xander - with those long shaggy bangs, you’ve got no chance. Really, his hair is awful, and so is Willow’s.
The best part of this whole scene? Cordelia’s entrance. I love her in this scene… she’s cutting, but not so god-awful cruel like the water fountain scene or the upcoming Computer Lab scene.
I especially like her response to the obviously smitten Jesse: a single hand in his direction and an “Oh, please.”
But even better… (at Buffy), “I hate to interrupt your downward mobility….”
She informs the group of the extreme dead guy found in Aura’s locker. A dead body which Buffy has just a few too many questions about.
And, on the re-watch, keep your eye on Eric Balfour who does some really nice “reacting acting” to Charisma… especially when she delivers the ‘downward mobility’ line.
Jesse, the 'best friend' we dare not speak of... ever again.
OH - and I forgot Cordy’s, “Don’t you have an elsewhere to be” at Xander, too. I’m telling you, Cordelia Chase owns this scene.
Buffy books…, leaving questioning looks in her wake. Yes, her reputation is quickly degrading.
Scene 11: Buffy shows up at the locker room, which has a locked door from the outside.
Commentary: The funny thing about this… if your me anyway, is that when Buffy comes around the corner of the building, she does this “looking around furtively” thing and I totally flashback EVERY time to Linda Carter just before she spins into Wonder Woman.
Anyway, we get a glimpse of that super-hero strength as Buffy easily yanks the locked door open (breaking it) to enter the locker room. She checks out the dead guy and sees the slightly too large neck wound… seriously, just how wide are Darla’s fangs?!
“Oh, great.” Buffy says, shaking her head.
Scene 12: She makes a beeline directly for ‘the new librarian’ and she’s annoyed.
Buffy describes the bloody holes in the guy’s neck and gives a sarcastic, “Isn’t that bizarre? Aren‘t you just going, ‘oooo’?”
But no, Giles is not going ‘oooo’. He’s been expecting these weird things and this just pisses Buffy off:
“Oh, why can’t you people just leave me alone?!”
To which, Giles now gives the ‘in every generation…’ speech. But Buffy confounds his expectation with a “Blah, blah, blah, I’ve heard it, okay?”
Commentary: We get SO much information here, but it avoids dumpage by being laced with humor as Buffy is exasperated and Giles is completely flummoxed at her attitude toward her Destiny. We find out that the show will be about more than vampires, we find out how new vamps are created (them biting you isn’t enough - that just leaves you dead), we get the scoop on Buffy’s “one girl in all the world” deal, and Giles’ role in Slayer mythos (much of this is brought over from the movie, but the details have been radically changed - for the good - for the series so it’s good for newbies and for the movie seers to get the condensed ‘here are the rules we’re starting out with’ here.
We also get the reason Buffy doesn’t want anything to do with Giles or this Slaying-gig in a nicely acted scene from SMG… though none of her acting really knocks my socks off in this episode. But, I really like her upcoming response to Giles when he explains that Watchers don’t have the natural abilities to Slay, he’s there to guide and prepare her:
“Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead. Prepare me.”
Giles is taken aback by her hostility and unable to come up with anything intelligent or comforting to say, Buffy storms out on him. Obviously, this isn’t what Giles was expecting when he arrived to oversee the Slayer’s activities.
Also… oops - Xander was in the stacks (and yet, somehow Giles is unaware he was back there… I never noticed before how obviously shallow those stacks are). Anyway, Xan becomes the first of the ‘you aren’t supposed to know about this’ crowd.
Scene 13: Giles follows Buffy here into the busy hallway and has to tell her quietly that activity in town is getting worse. The fact that there was an attack at the school confirms this. If she doesn’t do her duty, others will die. He tries to explain that the signs he’s seen points to an unspecified, but growing evil upheaval very soon.
Buffy isn’t buying Giles’ panic. This is Sunnydale… insignificant town… just how bad an evil can there be?
Scene 14: We cut to an outside view of the school, but sink underground check in on our vampire menace. Our semi-main baddie Luke is chanting and I have little patience for it, especially on re-watching… he’s melodramatic, faux-Christian rantings go on too long and consume too much time. Plus, he can’t pronounce things without lisping distractingly because of the prosthetic fangs.
Luke, the Vessel - most annoying vampire EVER.
Scene 15: Buffy prepares to go out and is trying to figure out what to wear. She gives us another hint of her past life in L.A. by lamenting that she “used to be so good at this”.
We get a domestic scene here with Joyce and its some nice acting between a mother who’s really nervous about things working out and a daughter who’s ready to put the past behind her, too (of course, her past is Slayer-related, so it won’t work). But we really get a nice sense of the warmth between Buffy and Joyce.
Scene 15: The stalker scene.
Buffy is on her way to The Bronze when she senses that someone may be following her. Now, in the usual horror, she’d run in a panic down a blind alley and then get killed. Or, she’d run in a blind panic down an alley, see the opening at the other end and think she’s safe just to have a killer leap out at her at the last second and kill her.
She chooses to dash down an alley on purpose in a very cool scene showing the Slayer’s powers of dexterity. She does a hand-stand from a pipe across the alleyway and when the stalker-guy passes under swings down and kicks him off of his feet.
And, we meet Angel - who at this point is just a mysterious man with vague warnings who seems entirely pointless and an actor who really cannot act.
Commentary: Sorry, D.B., but it’s really painful watching these early scenes. Thank god he becomes much better later (especially starting in the latter half of S2) and he does strong work in both Angel and even better work in Bones.
And what in the hell is with the felt jacket?!
Commentary: Okay, I really-really hate this scene. Angel warns of ‘The Harvest’ and Buffy doesn’t ask for any details about what that is. She asks him instead who he is and he gives an awkwardly delivered and needlessly vague “a friend”. The only decent part of this whole scene is the hand-stand thing and when Buffy tells him that he’s incorrect about her wanting to kill all of the vampires, she just wants to be left alone.
Anyway, so Angel warns her vaguely of the coming Harvest, the opening mouth of Hell and the fact that she has to be ready without providing any actual information. These days we’d call it ‘actionable intelligence’… instead he gives the nearly useless ‘Alert Level Orange’ speech as if that helps.
But, we also do get the cross in a box that will play a part in S1: Angel (the episode, not the future series) in a few episodes.
Scene 16: The first showing of The Bronze! Which is actually a converted warehouse… which is actually-actually the filming warehouses for BTVS. How meta-y in a way.
We have to waste some time highlighting the band playing - which I don’t care about in the least - and plus, it includes scenes of “kids” “rocking out” which is painful to watch. It doesn’t help that some of them (I’m looking at you nameless blond guy in the purple turtleneck) are WAY overacting.
I’m grateful when we cut back to Buffy… and immensely relieved. There is a pretty funny moment when Buffy thinks some random guy is waving at her and she excitedly waves back, only to realize he was waving to a guy standing behind her. Poor, lame Buffy. (lol)
Looking for a familiar face, she finds Willow sitting by herself and eating peanuts. For some reason, Willow is wearing a grandma dress and a fuzzy, brown sweater-thing that makes me think she deserves every bit of the flack she takes about her clothes. Honestly - try a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, it isn’t that difficult.
Alyson Hannigan is cute as a button here, though (despite the clothes - I really hate the wardrobe person for this show with a passion) she tells Buffy about how she doesn’t date much because she has trouble talking to boys. Something, which really, Buffy should be able to guess after the first meeting… Willow reminds me very much of me in that horrible high-school time of life where I was so insecure about not being hot and popular that I also didn’t date… at all. Oh, painful memories, why do you intrude on my Buffy-time?
Buffy also gives really bad advice here for anyone living on a Hellmouth with her “seize the moment” scene. Advice that Willow takes awfully quickly… and nearly gets very punished for.
First, though, Buffy sees Giles hanging out in The Bronze and leaves Willow to confront him up in the mezzanine. And Wills shows she’s kind of pathetic by pointing out that Buffy doesn’t have to come back - it’s obvious that Wills is used to being alone with her own company. But, at least she goes out anyway - which is more than I did - oh, bad memories, please stop intruding on Buffy-time.
Scene 17: We follow Buffy through the crowd and up the steps to the mezzanine in an obvious “we need to fill time” scene, but I’ll forgive it because it’s not stretched out to a ridiculous length. Plus this scene is just fun due to Buffy’s greeting to Giles,
“So, you like to party with the students. Isn’t that kind of skanky?”
But Giles is making the adjustment to dealing with her with the rejoinder, “Oh, right. This is me having fun watching clown hair prance about….”
Buffy and Giles’ sniping leads to Buffy mentioning the Harvest and the “gorgeous, in an annoying sort of way” guy who she assumed Giles sent after her. While Giles is focused on this mysterious warning, Buffy is focused on the guy who she “really didn’t like” (yeah, she doth protest too much).
Commentary: I feel the need to mention here too, that characters constantly claim that Angel is more drop dead handsome then he really is. I think David is pretty scrumptious these days on Bones, but back here he was just another blandly pretty-boy looking guy and once Nicky gets his hair cut, I find him far more handsome. Eh, that’s me though.
This leads into Giles giving Buffy her first ‘lesson’ warning that the kids flinging themselves about have no idea of the danger that surrounds them. Buffy only envies their ignorance, but Giles not-very-convincingly tells her she could be right, maybe there isn’t any coming danger despite the signs. He mentions that she hasn’t been having the nightmares, but the way he looks at her, you suspect that he suspects she has been having the Slayer dreams - which she confirms by looking uncomfortable about.
Commentary: And can I just say, as someone who isn’t in the know about what’s going on and looking at this scene, isn’t Giles standing creepily close to Buffy? Wouldn’t people in the mezzanine be like, “Ew, what’s that old guy doing with that high school student?”
Scene 18: Cut down to the main floor of The Bronze, where Cordelia is holding court with her sycophants. Once again, Jesse tries to interest Cordy is chatting with him and once again he’s shot down.
Quicky scene really, but it leads to Jesse looking for someone else who will talk to him which leads to….
Scene 19: A jump back to Buffy and Giles in the mezzanine. This is the scene I like as we get the first Watcher lesson to Buffy about “honing” to sense the vampires and she totally circumvents the lesson by pointing out a vampire based on his disco clothing instead. Giles’ visual frustration when he says the line, “But you didn’t… hone.” is really well delivered by ASH.
Unfortunately, as Buffy spots the vampire, she also spots him turning to leave… with Willow in tow!
Scene 20: Buffy wanders The Bronze, especially into its dark ‘behind the dance floor’ spaces looking to save Willow from her ‘seizing the moment’ mistake - instigated by Buffy, I’ll just point out again, breaking off a chair leg to use as a stake as she goes.
She’s on alert, so is startled into immediate action when someone comes up behind her. Alas, it isn’t a vampire - but is Cordelia. And since she grabbed her by the neck and threatened her with a stake, her short lived ‘popular girl career’ is fatally cut short. It is really funny though:
Cordelia: “God! What is your childhood trauma?!”
Cordy gets another seriously amusing line after Buffy goes off to continue her search for Willow when she whips out a cell phone and tells her sycophants that she has to call everyone she ever met right now.
As Buffy rejoins the throng in the public area of The Bronze, Giles congratulates her on her quick work, but Buffy has to inform him that she hasn’t killed the vampire yet. He further asks if he should come with her to look further, but she puts him off, telling him its one vampire and she can handle it.
As Buffy leaves the Bronze she passes Jesse… who’s chatting up the wrong girl: Darla.
Darla's cute school-girl routine.
Scene 21: Alas, with Darla’s subtle threat of Jesse, we have to cut back underground and spend more time with Luke, who is excitedly waiting for his master to rise from the pool of, I assume, blood.
The Master, our 'big bad' for S1.
Commentary: I will say they did a nice job on The Master’s make up, though. He looks sufficiently menacing that it turns out to be a real shame when he’s only an actual physical threat in Prophecy Girl. He should have been highlighted more as the Vamp-Around-Town that might be able to actually hunt down the Slayer and her friends and mom. It was a really missed opportunity (as seen in S2’s The Wish).
We also find out here that The Master is trapped behind an invisible barrier and that whatever exactly the Harvest is, it’s meant to free him from this prison.
Scene 22: In a graveyard, Willow is nervously babbling to her “date” while he’s giving off all sorts of wrong vibes, which poor inexperienced Wills doesn’t pick up on. Alas, it probably wouldn’t have done her any good even if she did.
Scene 23: Back to outside of The Bronze, where Buffy is looking a little desperate now. Xander comes up to her and is excited to hear that Willow “scored at the Bronze”, but Buffy isn’t amused. When she asks where in town he would have taken her, Xan replies sarcastically that Buffy might think he’s a vampire and needs to slay him.
His jokey attitude quickly changes though when Buffy is not only not amused, but she is clearly afraid that Willow is going to end up being found as a body the following day if she can’t track her down.
Scene 24: Willow is finally getting an idea that she might be being led astray here as Disco Dave leads her to a mausoleum instead of the ice cream bar. He grabs her and throws her inside.
Commentary: The scene here is really uncomfortable because there’s an undercurrent of the threat of sexual violence in this scene. The way that Willow is backing away from him and he (still not in vamp face) starts crowding her right after he’d just played with her hair outside… it’s really unpleasant.
Thankfully Darla shows up at this point, so we’re back to the fun threat of vampires instead of the not-very-fun undercurrent of rape. And, she’s brought another potential victim… Jesse.
We also see here that Jesse has been bit on the neck by Darla… she got a little hungry on the way.
We sort of get a bit of the Sunnydale blind-spot here too, as Jesse, despite bleeding from the neck jokes that he thinks Darla gave him a hickey. Uh, Jess, I know you’re not a player, but even you should know that neck sucking doesn’t usually go beyond the bruise stage….
Willow is shown at this point that her real problem is just beginning as Darla vamps out.
Buffy and Xander have managed to track them down (somehow) and we share quips as Buffy complains about the difficulty of keeping a secret identity while Darla and Thomas (aka Disco Dave) show their complete ignorance of who they’re facing now.
That ends as Thomas is quickly dusted.
While Xander collects Willow and the weakened Jesse, Darla takes on Buffy in hand to hand, making it clear that she doesn’t fear the Slayer. Except, that she should have, because Buffy kicks Darla’s ass (this was before they decided to make Darla such a major character in the Buffyverse backstory of Angel, so later she’s shown as more of a bad-ass in her own right).
It’s also sits bad now after we see more of her throughout Angel and Buffy flashbacks how she cowers before Luke. But, anywho, Luke comes up behind Buffy and picks her up by the back of the neck. He throws her hard into the mausoleum wall and orders Darla to get after the sacrifices for The Master, while he takes care of the “little girl”.
Luke is impressed with Buffy’s strength… but he’s not that impressed, informing the Slayer that he’s stronger than she is, and giving her a solid fist to the side of the face.
Buffy doesn't impress Luke.
Scene 25: In the meanwhile, Xan, Willow and Jesse are running for their lives across the cemetery. They don’t get far.
Back in the tomb, Luke is not impressed with Buffy’s attempts to stake him. Unfortunately, he also feels the need to talk about it with the clichéd “You have no idea what you’re dealing with”. If only he didn’t spend so much time lisping he would have been an impressive and threatening force, but instead you just want him to shut his yap, already.
Scene 26: While Buffy is being tossed around like a less than Slayer-ly rag doll (in a nice stunt where she gets bounced off the corner of a sarcophagus) and Luke’s never-ending voiceover of the coming Harvest goes on and on, Giles is back in the library finding information of said Harvest from, one would suspect, that Vampyr book.
Buffy gets flipped in with the bones in the sarcophagus and just as she thinks that Luke went away, he jumps in after her and leans in to give her the fatal bite….
We fade out on To be Continued.
The Good: The dialog is often snappy and funny, for one.
The characterizations are excellent as we get clear indications of what the relationships will be, even in this first hour.
The set up episode gives us plenty of information and for much of it, it not all, it avoids “info-dump”, i.e. great big wads of exposition that sound like great big wads of exposition rather than natural conversation.
The incidental music is largely effective, especially in the creepy scenes and the action scenes.
The comedic acting - Cordelia especially when dealing with Jesse and Principal Flutie when meeting Buffy in his office. In fact, any scene where Cordy is making a cutting remark - except for the scene at the water fountain - is really funny.
The Bad: Well, much as I hate to slam people personally, David’s acting in this first episode is… god-awful. Stilted, unconvincing, awkward… it’s just… not good.
The vampire teeth and its effect on dialog. The lisping isn’t pretty folks with both Luke and Darla heavily effected.
Luke’s diatribes/quoting scripture/bad-guy talk: SHUT UP ALREADY.
The Score: Buffy will grow to be a lot better than this first episode as the actor’s grow into their roles and the budget is increased for production, but this set up episode hold its own. We get enough of each character to understand who they are and how they’ll relate and we get tons of information about how this world is going to work. There are some issues where scenes are dragged out a bit long (Buffy heading up to the mezzanine to meet Giles, Thomas leading Willow on a path in the cemetery, Luke’s “he will rise, he will rise” which serves no purpose). I like this episode and don’t mind re-watching it, but I often fast forward through Luke’s babbling scenes.
3.5 out of 5.