This the the first part of the season 1 opener (the second part being The Harvest).
We are introduced to Buffy Summers, a blonde sixteen year old girl just trying to fit in at a new school in Sunnydale. Over the course of the episode she is revealed to be more than she first appears - a vampire slayer. This episode introduces the mythos of the Buffyverse and the recurring characters in a neat manner, using both snappy dialogue and action sequences to define them. Considering the episode is only 40 minutes duration, Joss Whedon effectively showed us a glimpse into Buffy's history (being kicked out of her previous school; evidently being popular at her old school); the quirky and cute relationship between Xander and Willow that will play such a huge part in future seasons; the fatherly attitude of Giles towards Buffy; the wonderfully realistic relationship of confused mother and hormone-y teenage girl in Joyce and Buffy. He also finds the time to shoehorn in the Master and Darla - two recurring characters over the course of the first season - and shows us Angel for the first time.
This episode is tremendous mostly for being the start of something amazing. Held up on its own, it is a solid but not wonderful entry into the world of Buffy. We are mostly shown glimpses of the brilliance that is to come, in some of the dialogue between the characters. In all honesty, if it were to be shown for the first time today, I would be interested enough to tune in for the next one, but not blown away and raving about it to all my mates.
Just a few thoughts:
- love that the first part before the credits subverts the usual cliche of the baby-voiced girl being weak and in trouble.
- the Buffster is wearing loads of make-up here! And could her skirt get ANY shorter?! I like that she is more curvaceous than in later seasons - is this a commentary in general on how women have become more and more obsessed with size zero over the years since BtVS was first aired?
- amusingly, this is the first and only time we see Xander on a skateboard (maybe because he is so bad at it?)
- it is lovely seeing Giles being patient but slightly exasperated and overwhelmed - this Slayer is definitely NOT what he expected. It is great that Whedon introduces from the get-go the conflict that Buffy faces as a Slayer who just wants to be a normal girl - this sense of reluctant duty will be taken through the whole seven seasons.
- Willow is so cute! I especially love the reference to her and Xander breaking up because he stole her Barbie.
- Wonderful foreshadowing when Buffy says: "It's not like I have fluffy bunny feelings about them" when referring to vampires.
Biggest frustration? Angel's introduction. Later we find out that Angel has already been watching Buffy for a while, so why act as though he's never even seen her? The mystery of who and what he is was handled quite clumsily at this early point. Honourable mention goes to Jesse, who is never referred to again after these opening two episodes, despite the fact that he and Xander seem to be quite close friends.
Quote of the episode:
- Buffy: Dead?
- Cordelia: Totally dead. Way dead.
- Xander: It's not just a little dead, dead?
- Cordelia: Don't you have an elsewhere to be?