We’re here to talk about Buffy. And Willow and Xander and Angel and Spike and Giles and Faith and Cordelia and Anya and Tara….and fine, even Dawn. It’s the Great Buffy Re-Watch! Does the world need more blog posts about Buffy? Probably not. But I’ve never let a fear of being redundant stop me, so let’s do this thing. Oh, also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. LIKE ALL THE SPOILERS. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Ahem, okay, let’s get started.
So, obviously the way the teaser to this episode lays out the entire thesis of the series – we should all be afraid of tiny blonde girls – is brilliant, as Darla chows down on some 30-year-old playing a high school student.
It’s weird to think about now, that the first person we really connect with on the show is Darla – no Buffy in sight in that teaser – and it’s interesting to see her characterization in this first episode. She’s much more timid (timid as vampires go) than in her later appearances. And so many of those later appearances on the show are actually flashbacks. So it’s odd to see a character, who we will come to know as a super in-control, ancient vampire chick, be all tentative and hesitant here. But, you know, at this point the writers are still figuring out the mythology and the backstory. I don’t remember what my point was here….I guess just that it’s fun to watch the show find itself and figure these things out as it goes.
But enough about Darla. The meat of the episode is about Buffy, the new girl, on her first day of school. One of the things I really love about this episode is that Buffy is able to quickly suss out the power dynamics at Sunnydale High, and when faced with the choice to go along with Cordelia’s mean girl routine or lose her potential popular girl status, she opts for the latter.
I think I may speak for many of us when I say that I was definitely more of a Willow in high school, and the kindness that Buffy displays by simply talking to Willow and treating her like a person, is kind of an amazing thing to see in a teenager. Kids are mean, and tend to go along with others being mean, but not Buffy! She doesn’t have time for that nonsense.
Side note: I am very afraid of teenagers.
Early season one Buffy is so open, and ready to give out her affection. She just wants to make friends with some nice people and make her mom proud. Sure she’s got some baggage from burning down her old high school gym in LA – but hey, it was full of vampires so, totally justified. That openness will get trampled on real soon, so it’s nice to see it here, however briefly.
And speaking of trampling on Buffy’s innocent young heart, this episode also features our introduction to Angel. This fuckin’ guy.
Like, fuck off, Angel. Your mysterious stranger routine is annoying to me. To be fair (although, why?), my first time watching Buffy (other than a few scattered episodes), was after Angel’s tenure on the show was over, and I was all about Spike. And I do really like Angel on his own show. But the big romance with Buffy makes me wanna barf. If you really think about the age difference it is so gross, and Angel should have obviously known better. If they had met a few years later, maybe things would have gone differently. Maybe a romance of equals would have been more possible. I don’t know. But here, in this first meeting, he’s giving off major Angelus vibes…you know, smirky, kind of a dick, makes you want to punch him in the face. And Buffy feels it too, because she later tells Giles how annoying Mr. Tall Dark and Broody is. If only she had retained that irritation and concentrated on how tacky his outfit is, as opposed to the hotness of his face. Alas.
The thought does strike me that he’s being a dick on purpose because he doesn’t want her to like him – I feel like there’s a future episode that might clarify this. If that’s the case, and he really is trying to avoid getting too friendly with Buffy because he knows it’s inappropriate, I might begrudgingly give him some credit. And then take all that credit back because he’s still the adult in this situation and should have tried harder.
Enough about Sir Broods-A-Lot. After encountering Angel, Buffy goes to the Bronze, and there is more bonding with Willow before she spots Giles looking super awkward trying to blend in with the youths. He bothers her some more about killing the vampyrs, and she spots one putting the moves on Willow.
Side note: She spots this vampire because his outfit is super tacky…and I would like to point out that it is a bit similar to Angel’s. Ahem.
Anyway, the vampire, Thomas, lures Willow out to a crypt where Darla joins the party with Xander’s BFF, Jesse (whom she has already bitten). Buffy arrives just in time, with Xander in tow, to stake Thomas before he takes a chunk out of Willow. She sends Jesse and Willow to make an escape with Xander while she fights and quips with Darla. She takes a few seconds too long to stake Darla – less quippy, more stake-y! – and Luke shows up. Luke is the worst. He’s another childe of the Master, and he’s always chanting and praying, and going on and on about how great the Master is. Look, Luke, Darla is still the Master’s favorite, so just get over it.
Unfortunately, although Luke is a buzzkill, he is also very strong and manages to get the drop on Buffy. The episode ends as he goes in for the kill….
The Big Bad Report:
We get a brief intro to The Master…pretty cool all rising out of that pool of blood and stuff. At least, I assume that’s blood. It could just be really dirty water. I digress.
The Master doesn’t have a ton to do in this episode, and the real active evil-doers are Darla, Thomas (RIP), and Luke. As children of The Master, they are prepping to free him from his underground prison via a ritual called The Harvest. Yeah, that sounds like something that needs to be stopped.
My Favorite Kicky, Punchy Stuff:
When Angel is being all creepy and trailing Buffy to the Bronze, she swings up on this beam above the alley and does a handstand on it until he goes past. Then she swings around and kicks him in the back of the head. GOOD.
The Eric Balfour RIP Jesse In Memoriam Award…
…Goes to that 30-year-old high schooler in the opening teaser that Darla kills and then stuffs in a locker. Hey, he shoulda been more careful about leading some girl into a dark, empty building. RIP dude!
Oh my god Giles’ face when he slams that big book of Vampyrs down in front of Buffy. He’s so proud!
“I think boys are more interested in a girl who can talk.” Oh Willow, you sweet summer child. It makes me sad to think that in a few years she’ll be telling Giles it’s not a good idea to piss her off because she’s so powerful.
Principal Flutie seemed like a nice guy. That is going to be a shame.
Why does Buffy think this guy might be waving at her? Ah yes, this clearly NOT high school-aged individual that I have never met must be waving to me. And I am super happy about this because….?
Oh, right. Xander. He’s “late 90s teen movie guy” here what with the crashing his skateboard as he checks out the new girl. And if this had been a 90s teen comedy, he probably would have ended up with Buffy. A thought which must haunt him even now.
Pop Culture Reference That I Do NOT Get:
“Live in the now. You look like DeBarge.”
Wikipedia tells me that DeBarge was an R&B Funk band mostly active in the 80s. Now my question becomes, why does Buffy know this reference?
PRACTICAL LESSONS FOR REAL LIFE:
If someone tries to convince you that going through a cemetery is a great shortcut, that someone is a vampire and you should find a Slayer immediately.
Okay, what do you think about this episode? Any highlights I’ve missed?
Next up: “The Harvest.”