Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Welcome To The Hellmouth / The Harvest   Rewatch 
January 15, 2015 8:09 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Buffy Summers arrives at Sunnydale High looking for a fresh start. Sunnydale, being a center of demonic energy known as a Hellmouth, has other ideas.

Welcome to the beginning of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer rewatch! For the first season at least we'll be doing two episodes a week on Thursdays.

In this two part pilot Buffy arrives on the scene, meets the major characters, and stops the first of many horrible evil plots.
posted by yellowbinder (50 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Bonus: The original pilot featuring a much truncated version of the story and Other Willow.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:14 AM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

One thing I will always love about the pilot is that it didn't shirk away from (a) simply letting us mentally fill in the blanks of what happened between the movie and "now" and (2) unapologetically altering some of the world rules.

No more vampire-spotting PMS because man would that have gotten tiresome. Vampires crumble to dust because otherwise how do you explain all these corpses everywhere? That's the shrugged answer I recall seeing Whedon give in an interview several seasons in and it's interesting how well that works to help the "why don't people notice this shit?" question.

The canon change is maybe not all that big a deal but it felt that way to me as a long-time comics reader where everything has to be explainable somehow, no matter what the contortions. In the years since we've seen endless time and attention paid to series reboots and changes, so it's not like it's not out there. Since I hate that crap I was thrilled that the series just did what it needed to do to set up the ongoing and off we went.
posted by phearlez at 9:57 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

It is really deft at providing universe exposition. As pilots go it gets us into the series fairly painlessly. Not perfectly, mind you. Angel's shiny velvet jacket is a little painful.

So much goodness! The Darla opening! Cordy's cool test - Vamp Nail Polish, so over! Xander stealing Willow's Barbie. Giles at the Bronze! Cordelia suffering through computer class with Harmony.

Slayerly duties already causing a ton of friction at school and home. Joyce is heartbreaking as the single mom who wants to do right - "No. The tapes all say I should get used to saying it. No."

The Master is a good starter baddie. Darla's nice here although not official Darla yet, just a minion. Wow now I'm having flashes just to the Master/Darla relationship developed (much) later and even that excites me. The show as often great at referring back to its own past.

Not always, I can't even remember a future reference to Xander dusting his best friend. But we get a good start here. Looking forward to discussing the series here!
posted by yellowbinder at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

One thing that really starts the series off is how it takes common tropes and reverses them. That opening with Darla which begins like a fairly played out horror movie suddenly reveals who is the real predator. The second trope reversal is Angel who introduces himself in a initially threatening manner. Both of these tropes reveal in the world of Buffy that women are powerful (Darla eats her date, Buffy takes on what appears to be an attacker) and who the real predators are is often difficult to identify, which sets the tone for the series from the outset.

The moment in the Bronze where Buffy identifies the vampire by his outfit is great. We begin to see that what will make Buffy such a successful slayer is instead of doing this the way it's always been done (and resulted in the death of many slayers) she does it HER way and uses her natural strengths (in this case fashion).

Brian Thompson plays Luke in these episodes, but he returns later to play the Judge. He was also on another vampire series before Buffy, Kindred: The Masquerade.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:09 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably my favourite show of all time. I know it's flawed, and it has some terrible episodes in there, but it came out at the perfect time for me. I would watch it every Thursday at 6:45. I was around 12/13 when the show started, so had some interesting reactions to the show. For instance, I found the Buffy/Angel relationship tedious, although in retrospect I can enjoy it more (even if it does seem super creepy), so didn't like Season 2 that much the first time round.

I remember its premier fairly strongly, I had seen trailers and had been quite interested in seeing it, and this episode made me very happy. It's a pretty great pilot as pilots go, and a lot of things work about it. The main cast are all pretty good at being their character already, with the exception of David Boreanaz who comes across as a bit wooden here (also, is almost in daylight in one scene. Angel is almost in daylight a loooot in this show). There are some bad line readings here and there (the scene with Harmony, Cordelia and the long haired guy who never reappears is pretty bad), some of the effects are kooky.. but it works. The primary relationships are established really well, Buffy's character is fairly well set out.

The show even sneakily tells you it's central metaphor, with Joyce saying "Everything is life or death when you are 16". The show will sometimes struggle with it's approach to metaphors being embodied by mystic forces, as it leads to some bizzare contradictions in the canon of the show, but when it works, it really works, and adds a beautiful layer of depth to the show that some struggle to have.

Some stray things I noticed this time round

-Buffy's quip to the vampire attacking Willow is "hey!".... Not her best.
-In the tunnel scene the vampires actually act far more like zombies than vampires. They politely advance verrry slowly.
-Darla is really good in this episode, and you can she why the show brings her back after this.
-yellowbinder is right about poor Jesse. I think he gets one or two mentions, but when Xander and Willow reminisce about their past, he never gets mentioned. Cold.
-On a similar note, when we flashback to vampire adventures of the past, Darla is there, but apparently not Luke.. I guess he was just slumming it somewhere
-It's not ever very clear what determines how strong a vampire is. Experience is clearly important, but other than that we don't know.
-I don't think it's ever explicitly made clear, even in Season 3, but the earthquake which trapped the Master was caused by the Mayor, I think.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Jesse is just one in a long of the fallen of Sunnydale who are both gone and forgotten.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:02 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

This show was responsible for a lot of my Internet firsts: I moderated at a posting board devoted to discussion of all things Buffy, and later to passing around episodes. Back then, if you wanted illicit file transfers, you needed to know people with ftp sites. Also, we called them 'potatoes' for some reason I no longer remember, and that makes me feel like Grandpa Simpson.

Favorite quip in the whole thing was probably, "There's the hard way or... actually, there's *just* the hard way." Truer words were rarely spoken in Sunnydale, by anyone. :)
posted by mordax at 5:25 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just finished up watching "Welcome to the Hellmouth", and I'll have more comments after I watch "The Harvest", but I thought I'd post a bit about how I first came to Buffy fandom.

I was in college when the show hit, and literally heard nothing about it (other than that it existed, and was based on a movie that I hadn't seen) for the entire first season. My first episode was the "Surprise"/"Innocence" two-parter in the middle of Season 2, when a friend of mine threw together an impromptu VHS watching party in her dorm room. My first memories of Buffy involve being immediately fascinated with the adorable redheaded nerd girl who was Buffy's friend, and excitedly pointing out "Scott Evil" (I did not know Seth Green's name at this time. Nobody did.) to everyone in the room. I remember laughing out loud when the Judge gets blown up, and enjoying the quippy dialogue. I didn't start watching on the regular until Season 3, when my sister (on her own) became a die-hard fan and converted me into the same. Once they started showing daily reruns on FX, it became indispensable appointment TV for me and the rest is history.

I think this is also as good a place as any to point out that Mark Metcalf, who played The Master, was also the same actor who played Niedermeyer in Animal House, as well as the uptight authority figures from Twisted Sister's videos for "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock". When I first learned this fact, I immediately imagined The Master as an ancient and immensely evil Doug Neidermeyer, which somehow improved both Buffy and Animal House in my mind. And now I give this knowledge to you...
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:33 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Thank you for that knowledge. I will cherish it.
posted by double bubble at 6:50 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Watching Welcome to the Hellmouth for the first time is one of my top ten, all-time greatest television experiences. I had started casually watching Buffy and Angel during their fifth and second respective seasons. Only if I happened to come across them flipping channels. And then some channel started Buffy reruns from the beginning and I decided, I'm gonna do this. First scene, blonde girl turns her head and ... DARLA! I screamed and fell in love with Joss Whedon right then and there.
posted by double bubble at 6:58 PM on January 15, 2015

This show was responsible for a lot of my Internet firsts: I moderated at a posting board devoted to discussion of all things Buffy, ...

posted by double bubble at 7:00 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm know for a fact that the U.S. channel that first started showing sequential BtVS reruns was FX, if only for the fact that their non-stop promos for The Shield with Michael Chiklis (which was then titled Rampart) in the fall of 2001 are permanently burned into my head as a side-effect of watching and taping each one five nights a week. (This was a few years before DVD season sets were a thing, so dedicated TV watchers had to be super-proactive.)
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:07 PM on January 15, 2015

I always like to imagine the Master and the Maestro from Seinfeld are somehow the same character.

I came in around the tail end of season two as well. I was hooked with episodes like Bad Eggs and Go Fish, hardly the show's early peaks!

The promos I always associate Buffy with are those that ran on the New VR, a random Ontario channel that showed first run episodes here. Every single week they'd run a trailer for Angel, and every week it would spoil the twist or ending of the episode. The one I still remember (spoilers for a random Angel episode) showed a demony thing saying "The sacrifice is impure!!!" And then the whole episode was about Wesley pretending to be Angel and saving a woman from being virgin sacrificed and not really succeeding, but then the demony thing saying "The sacrifice is impure!!!" because the woman is not actually a virgin which thanks New VR for mildly spoiling Angel every week.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:00 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just finished "The Harvest," and am now even more excited to re-experience the entire series through the eyes of a grown-ass adult. One thing that really stuck out for me this time was how Whedon and episode directors Charles Martin Smith (who I just remembered was the lead in Never Cry Wolf) and John T. Kretchmer (who also directed the early BtVS classic "School Hard") did a lot to firmly establish the show's approach to cool action on a small-network TV budget. My favorite action bit here is the one where Buffy stakes an offscreen vamp with a pool cue, and all we see is the stick protruding into the frame from the left, wiggling in place and then tipping upwards as the vamp falls back and dies -- not only is it a funny gag, but it saved the producers several thousand dollars in FX.

My only downside for this episode (and most of the early ones, TBH) is seeing how some of the younger actors didn't quite have the chops built up for the tone and cadence of Whedon's dialogue just yet. It's actually something I've noticed with multiple Whedon-written series -- there's a definite learning curve for the regular actors, and some get it faster than others.

Also, in one of the commentaries Whedon reveals that one of his unrealized ambitions in the pilot was getting Eric Balfour (Jesse) his own clip-package breakout for the opening titles, to fool viewers into thinking that Jesse was one of the main characters, and therefore unkillable by the logic of most regular series TV. IIRC, he did not achieve his goal of killing an opening-titles main character until the first season of Angel.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:36 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

IIRC, he did not achieve his goal of killing an opening-titles main character until the first season of Angel.

I've read that he wanted to kill off that character (I don't want to spoil it for anyone by mentioning the name) and then had trouble pulling the trigger. This apparently caused some headaches in the writer's room for a little while.
posted by zarq at 9:40 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I always thought he got killed off because he was unpopular. Huh.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:51 PM on January 15, 2015

Buffy is also my favourite show of all time, flaws and all, and I was also 12 when it premiered. I refused to watch it at the beginning, since I thought it sounded stupid, and my friend who loved it was not known to have the best taste in serious entertainment. The first episode I saw (twice) was Passion, so it has taken me over a decade to actually warm up to Angel. ("Let's just say I'm a friend." "Well, maybe I don't want a friend." "I didn't say I was yours.")

One of the things my maid of honour (same friend who introduced me to Buffy) and I did in the couple of years before my husband and I got married was to have him do a full series watch with us (we finished exactly ten years to the day the finale aired). We're going through Angel now (which I refused to watch for a REALLY long time. First impressions die hard). I'm pretty sure he enjoyed it from these first episodes, which was a relief. (He proposed a day or so after we watched Doppelgangland.)

The trivia night I was at last night had a Buffy question about which Canadian network showed it, and we joked that our team would collectively leave in shame if we hadn't gotten it immediately, as most of us are hardcore fans. (It wasn't Buffy trivia though. I have NEVER lost Buffy trivia, (and not just the round at my bachelorette party, which included seven themed Buffy foods, one for each season, that had to be put in order).

Anyway, I am oversharing and this should probably be a quiet moment, so I'll just say I regret that these weren't my first episodes of Buffy, and I don't know how I would have reacted had I not come in after having the characters established by the end of the second season. I think the world-building is really solid, though, even if the earth is doomed.
posted by ilana at 10:43 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

IIRC, he did not achieve his goal of killing an opening-titles main character until the first season of Angel.

He did manage to do it on Buffy a few seasons later, in an entirely infuriating manner... but we'll get to that, we'll get to that.

You're definitely right about the cast not all getting the line readings right, but for the most part I think the core three are really good throughout this episode, even if Xander feels a little undefined. Then again, Xander was always a bit undefined.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:02 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I'm know for a fact that the U.S. channel that first started showing sequential BtVS reruns was FX, if only for the fact that their non-stop promos for The Shield with Michael Chiklis (which was then titled Rampart) in the fall of 2001 are permanently burned into my head as a side-effect of watching and taping each one five nights a week."

Totally remember that. It's funny, too, because I never got around to watching The Shield even though years later I learned it was pretty well-regarded. I also remember the Pizza Hut P'Zones ads. (And, yeah, I did give in and have some delivered.)

The FX airings were my introduction to the show (though I'd seen the movie and, in fact, had it on VHS since 1994). I pretty much watched straight through starting in November of 2001 -- both episodes every afternoon every day, beginning with "Ted" and ending with "The Gift" -- would that have been about a month? And as I wrote in the other thread, my first new episode was OMWF.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:50 AM on January 16, 2015

Wow, Eric Balfour! He always plays the same kind of disreputable characters, doesn't he? Claire's drug-addicted boyfriend in Six Feet Under, Duke the sometime smuggler in Haven... a quick IMDB check reveals a lot of other stuff I didn't know he'd done. But I bet he was still slightly scuzzy in those too.

I didn't get into Buffy until I happened to catch one of the episodes with Evil Willow randomly while flipping channels. Probably Doppelgangland, though it may have been The Wish. Anyhow, I was hooked immediately. I later caught up on S1-2, but really, Evil Willow is where it's at and, individual episodes aside, I think S3 is still my favourite.

I'm a bit surprised by how strong the opening is. It covers all the bases, pretty much. It's really hard to see the things that were meant to be subversive at the time (and probably were) like the cute blonde girl turning out to be the killer vampire, etc because Buffy actually did change all of that forever. Nice.

There's such nostalgia in it, though. Buffy may be able to pick the vampires by their dated fashion; I'd be able to pick them by their antiquated computers. I have to remind myself that most people would have been all hand-wavy about the internets like Giles is, because it really wasn't ubiquitous in 1997. I seem to remember later on there's an episode which would have been completely different if someone had had a mobile phone.

Thanks for that alterna-pilot too, fascinating to see how different and how similar it is. Much more self-contained, with no hints of the Hellmouth or ancient prophecies or connections to evils that will continue to resurface. Instead there's a primer on all the different cliques in the high school. I did like the different school principal though; and although I like Other Willow, I can see why they didn't go with her. She actually seems like she might be able to take care of herself. Alyson Hannigan was much better at doing the vulnerable nerdy thing.

Good start! I look forward to the rewatch.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:23 AM on January 16, 2015

I've read that he wanted to kill off that character (I don't want to spoil it for anyone by mentioning the name) and then had trouble pulling the trigger. This apparently caused some headaches in the writer's room for a little while.

I always thought he got killed off because he was unpopular. Huh.

I've read that the performer had personal issues that led to Joss writing him off (as somewhat borne out by later IRL events). You can see traces of the character in later evolutions of other characters.
posted by Etrigan at 4:35 AM on January 16, 2015

I seem to remember later on there's an episode which would have been completely different if someone had had a mobile phone.

"People are bad at communicating with each other" is more or less the through-line of the entire show, in one way or another.
posted by Etrigan at 4:36 AM on January 16, 2015

Oh, first impressions of Buffy! My first episode was "Halloween" where they all turned into their opposites...so I decided that Buffy is the typical screaming victim girl until finally at the end she seems to grow a bit of a backbone, Xander is the badass soldier who encourages her to grow a backbone, and Willow is a sexpot who wears skintight clothes all the time. Also Giles is clearly a psychopath.

I thought 'Meh', and didn't go back to it until the future Mrs. Mogur told me to watch the whole thing from the beginning. Dear reader, I married her.
posted by Mogur at 5:05 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Another thing I'd forgotten from the Buffy pilot; Right off the bat, Whedon lampshades his affinity for bestowing his characters with improbable-but-cool-sounding names:

GIRL IN LOCKER ROOM: The new kid? She seems kind of weird to me. And what kind of name is Buffy?

OTHER GIRL: Hey, Aphrodesia!

posted by Strange Interlude at 6:30 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

OTHER GIRL: Hey, Aphrodesia!


That's genuinely hilarious and I am disappointed with myself for never noticing that!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:44 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

The line that immediate follows: "Well I was talking to Blue, and she said *AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH* (corpse falls out of locker)."
posted by yellowbinder at 7:44 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

From the original short pilot, one scene that jumped out at me as being silly was Giles giving exposition as he went down a tight spiral staircase. When Tony Head was on camera, he'd talk. And when he was on the back side of the staircase, he'd stop talking. So he'd talk on and off literally.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:01 AM on January 16, 2015

although I like Other Willow, I can see why they didn't go with her. She actually seems like she might be able to take care of herself. Alyson Hannigan was much better at doing the vulnerable nerdy thing.

I also suspect that there may have also been some static from the network on the marketability of casting a non-skinny actress in the role. I haven't heard Whedon or anybody else connected with the show comment on the obvious difference between UnairedPilot!Willow and RegularSeries!Willow, but I can't help but think it must have been a factor.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've read that he wanted to kill off that character (I don't want to spoil it for anyone by mentioning the name) and then had trouble pulling the trigger. This apparently caused some headaches in the writer's room for a little while.

The character's wikipedia page has several links on this. There seems to have been a confluence of the character's intensity grabbing focus away from the lead as well as personal stuff. The character was popular though, according to those links, so a reaction to audience dislike apparently wasn't the issue.
posted by phearlez at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also suspect that there may have also been some static from the network on the marketability of casting a non-skinny actress in the role. I haven't heard Whedon or anybody else connected with the show comment on the obvious difference between UnairedPilot!Willow and RegularSeries!Willow, but I can't help but think it must have been a factor.

Given that networks have made issues about the whether the lead in a show titled Ugly Betty is sufficiently attractive and that the WB was also difficult in how out Willow could be (why you never see any on-screen kissing till the UPN jump) this strikes me as eminently believable.
posted by phearlez at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2015

I also suspect that there may have also been some static from the network on the marketability of casting a non-skinny actress in the role.

Tangentially: it's disheartening how four of the top ten results on a Google Image Search for Riff Regan are Alyson Hannigan.
posted by Etrigan at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Given that networks have made issues about the whether the lead in a show titled Ugly Betty is sufficiently attractive and that the WB was also difficult in how out Willow could be (why you never see any on-screen kissing till the UPN jump) this strikes me as eminently believable.

I also remember there being a certain wave of fan-hate when Tara appeared, both from people who were outraged (or in denial) that Willow wasn't straight, and from people who felt that Amber Benson (who is, no mistake about it, feckin' gorgeous) was too "fat" and "ugly" to be on the show. That was when I realized that TV casting might be a bit too skewed towards making everyone on every show look supermodel-pretty -- something that is still distracting for me when I watch shows on the WB's successor network, the CW.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:56 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, I assumed the reason why they re-cast Willow was because the pilot actress was too fat, even though she wasn't. I spent a lot of her scenes wondering what it says about cameras, Hollywood and us that you instantly understand that she's the fat smart kid when the actress playing her is just normal rather than super-skinny. My comment above was me deliberately finding a better reason for them to have re-cast - not because I'm interested in thinking well of the Hollywood execs but because I think she did a great job as Willow.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:52 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tangentially: it's disheartening how four of the top ten results on a Google Image Search for Riff Regan are Alyson Hannigan.

When I did it just now I got three Hannigans and a Gellar.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:58 PM on January 16, 2015

I think hollywood execs may have pushed for a thinner Willow but I thought Hannigan's performance was much better in the pilot. Then again, I deeply love Willow and had not seen the unaired pilot before so my bias after watching Hannigan as Willow for 7 years may be at play here.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:18 PM on January 16, 2015

No worries Athanassiel, I got exactly where you were going there. I've just always wondered why Willow was the one element that changed the most drastically from concept film to final pilot, and the unspoken appearance norms for big-studio TV and film casting always seemed like the likeliest explanation to me. I'll grant you, it is possible that it could have been something as innocuous as Regan being unavailable due to other commitments, etc. In any case, it's not something I hold against Whedon or anybody else on the BtVS crew, just part of the (hopefully shifting) cultural norms of series TV production of the time.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:50 PM on January 16, 2015

I got what you were saying too, Strange Interlude! I do think that, aside from the weight/size thing, Regan just seems too capable. Hannigan is really an appealing mix of vulnerable, eager to please, determined to help, scared as hell, bravely sticking up for her friend, etc. I don't know that she's the better actress full stop (haven't seen much of Regan's work and a pilot isn't much to go on) but she certainly displays more range and complexity. I do think Regan did a good job, but she just seemed... stronger, more capable. Which is fine for Willow S2 or 3, but not so much in the pilot.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:54 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Many people on the production team were terrified that the director of the feature would show up and demand to direct the series.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:02 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a latecomer to Buffy. Even though it aired when I was in high school and college and I would have been the perfect age, I didn't actually discover it until a few years ago. In fact, I remember at one point coming across Welcome to Hellmouth and thinking "meh." For some reason it just didn't grip me at the time.

Luckily I had friend who was a huge Buffy fan and a I had a Netflix account and that combination convinced me to try again, ultimately sending me and my husband down the rabbit hole of binge-watching all seven seasons in a summer. I've since rewatched them all at least 2-3 times, bought all the dvds, collected most of the comics, and become a devout follower of all things Joss Whedon. (Hey Fanfare - anyone doing a Firefly rewatch? I'd be all over that!!) In any case, I'm thrilled that you're doing a rewatch here, looking forward to following the discussions!
posted by platinum at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2015

Since this is a bit of a Buffy Fan Origin Story thread, the first (and only) Buffy episode I had ever seen until fairly recently was Becoming, and the last few minutes of it at that, which I think everyone here will appreciate the significance of. I just happened to be flipping through channels on the night of the original airing, and the image of the vortex and the statue and everything else that goes along with that scene always stuck out in my head afterward, even though I didn't have a lot of context for it at the time.

I always knew it was popular and well-liked by people whose opinions I respected, but I just never got around to it until one day I decided it was time and started it up on Netflix. Seven months later I had watched the whole series (and all of Angel), introduced other people to it, learned how to play Close Your Eyes on the piano (the Buffy/Angel theme that's omnipresent throughout season 2)... I've definitely never seen anything quite like it.

Last spring for my birthday I was with a couple friends, one who had watched the show and one who hadn't, and decided to curate a marathon to introduce the series. My choices were these two episodes, "Angel," "Prophecy Girl," "School Hard," "Lie to Me," "What's My Line" 1+2, "Surprise/Innocence", "Passion" and "Becoming" 1+2. (I wanted to do "I Only Have Eyes For You" as well, but, not quite enough time.) There's a lot of skippable stuff in the first two seasons, but a lot of really good stuff too, and even the stupid one-off episodes will occasionally get a reference later to reward observant fans (like Willow's comment about "hyena energy" three seasons later).
posted by Kosh at 6:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ohhhhh I can't wait to get to "I Only Have Eyes For You."

Been loving the discussion here and in today's threads! Yay Buffy!

I came in around the tail of Season 2. I can't nail down an episode as my first, Bad Eggs and Go Fish are always the ones that stick out for me as initial impressions. Maybe I came in on Innocence? I feel like the wet movie theatre fight with the distracting Quest for Camelot posters everywhere was really early on too.

I got obsessed. I pieced together the episodes through reruns and friends' recordings, dubbing my own copies and cataloging my tapes. I showed 17 minutes of Buffy clips for a French class presentation, which I can't believe I got away with. I sent internet people copies of Graduation Day from Canada when it was delayed in the US. I was overjoyed when I got to watch "Surprise" in Italian when on vacation.

I read the Cross and Stake board for spoilers, which were very often fake and hysterically wrong. There was one going around in Season 3 saying that Oz was going to become a vampire werewolf, and they were going to cast the resouling spell on him, but the spell was going to backfire and resoul Drusilla. In the leadup to Season 5 there was talk of a new character "Cherry," with a fact given that she likes cherry ice cream. This would end up being Glory, and because I had the inside knowledge I was always waiting for a line of dialogue about cherry ice cream that never came.

I remember being so excited every week. I had a few friends over for a birthday sleepover the night Enemies aired. I can recall exactly how fast my heart was beating during the credits. I don't think my friends were into it, but they indulged me.

And then the conversion campaigns, having to explain to people "Okay, yeah it has a stupid name but really." The making and revising and rewatching of best of lists. Trying to figure out the best entry points for your unsuspecting friends. Are they a Halloween person or a Lie to Me person? Lover's Walk? Gimmick episodes would make great entries later - Hush became my standby. I would never start someone on Once More With Feeling but I know a bunch of people who came in that way.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:29 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came to Buffy very late. In fact the first episode I saw was when Anya gets stood up at the altar. At the time, I hadn't owned a tv for 9 years. I bought one a month after 9-11 (I live in NYC and worked in the village). My fiance chose to pack up all his stuff in the middle of the night and leave me a note 2 weeks later. The event made him realize he still wanted to be young and party and not be tied down. This despite the fact he had been the one pushing for the relationship to be serious and to be "going somewhere" (like relationships are supposed to be some sort of road trip with a finish line).

So two weeks later I bought a tv and then discovered I couldn't watch anything on it. EVERYTHING had kissing and romance and all that stuff that would just make me want to sob for hours. All....except for two shows: Law and Order and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon openly admitted that no one stayed happy for very long on Buffy and watching Anya go through her post wedding turmoil was soothing in a way. It was something I could connect to, something that reflected my own pain. After the series ended, I began buying the season sets as Buffy became "comfort viewing."

The one downside of all this is I've never ever liked Xander as a result.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:13 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

The first part of an episode I ever saw was ep 3, the part where she's trying out for cheerleading and is acting brainless. I decided I wasn't interested.

10 years later, I started watching it on Netflix and realized that I had entirely the wrong impression.
posted by stoneegg21 at 6:42 PM on January 24, 2015

I was watching from the beginning. I didn't have high expectations but I was hooked by the small tune playing just before Darla breaks into the school. It's one of the bits from The Twilight Zone or eerily similar. The victim, Darla, turning out to be the predator sold me.

Now, however, I'm finding Xander to be more annoying than I remembered. And the library. How has nobody built a replica of it yet? It's so nice for a high school library.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:34 PM on February 16, 2015

I quite enjoyed Angel's "I'll be damned" line. And poor Joyce. She always tried so hard with Buffy.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:00 PM on February 16, 2015

Last week, the mister and I made our 13 year old daughter watch this. We figured watching BtVS together would make great family fun time. She was not as into it as I had hoped. I'm excited for a rewatch, though.
posted by Ruki at 11:06 PM on February 20, 2015

Since it's the 20th anniversary of the show I decided to do a rewatch and see how it holds up for me after a fairly long time since my last viewing. Not that one needs an excuse to watch Buffy, but I'll use it anyway.

Judging by what the show would shortly become, one can see some initial shakiness in some of the writing and directing choices and a few of the actors not quite settled into their roles or the style of dialogue they'll come to be known for. Nothing surprising there and for some of it I'm sure budget played a major factor, along with prep time and not yet being settled on long term plans for the show.

Buffy's initial dream sequence, for example, is close to textbook TV style use of clips from future scenes to suggest Buffy's intuition of events. The use of the clips, the cuts and especially the music cues that go along with it all are far from "Whedonesque" and it lacks some effectiveness due to it seeming so conventional. So to some of the transitional shots seem like they were done a little on the quick, maybe as coverage, and lack some of the flow and feeling for the show that will be developed later. At the same time, there are also some moments that seem a touch overplanned, or too clearly visualized ahead of time as "big" moments and don't fit the flow because of that comparative difference. Buffy holding a handstand on the bar when see first encounters Angel, for example, is a fine idea, but the choice of angles used to emphasize the moment pulls the viewer out of the action for a bit in a way that is more self congratulatory seeming than intended. These kinds of flow issues, as I see them anyway, will fade soon enough as Whedon and his other directors find the show style.

Scenes like the one showing the two girls talking about what a silly name Buffy is show Whedon off his game a little too. That moment was fine, but the continued talk with its "smattering of alleged slang, the pos, neg, negly stuff, is not right for the show at all, not only because it doesn't come off well as actual speech, but because the crux of the moment is in making fun of these two girls simply because of their speech patterns suggesting an attitude towards a whole group of people due to the culture they inhabit. That isn't a hallmark of the kind of humor the show thrived on, as laughing at characters in that fashion places the audience in a privileged position that isn't earned and it doesn't fit the attitudes Buffy and pals and the rest of show as they will become known for.

Gellar starts off close to the mark for how she'll play Buffy, particularly in her shifts between emotions and in capturing the lighter side of Buffy and in her more conversational moments with Willow, but her attack chatter and some of her scenes of upset are a little shaky as, I suspect, she hasn't quite yet found where they're coming from for her character. She's almost there, but just a little tight still.

Joyce's character doesn't seem fully hashed out in the writing yet, but one can see Sutherland already starting to define who she'll become even with that impediment.

Brendan also is pretty close to where Xander will go as a character, particularly in his lighter moments, self effacement and shifts in tone, but pushes a little too sternly on some of his more direct interactions with Buffy. Seeming a little too aggressive on his "you think you're the slayer" meeting with her late in the episode and not quite disconcerted enough in their first bump into each other. Some of that seems to be in the writing, with it being just a touch off from prime Xanderspeak

Hannigan pretty much has her character down from the start and seems to really enable the other actors to find the right tone in their exchanges. Some of the little things see does really add so much to the character in ways that aren't immediately visible. Her run in at the water fountain with Cordelia, where she wipes her mouth with her hand after turning to face Codry and Buffy is just a little thing, but it suggests a sort of awkard lack of social grace that makes the difference in standing between Cordy and her show through better. Her talk with Buffy at the Bronze where she mentions breaking up with Xander is even better. When asked why they broke up, she says "He stole my Barbie" with a little flash of anger as if the event still bothered her, where the standard reading would be to more simply make the statement in a normal conversational tone and then give the explanation, "Oh, we were five" with a light laugh at Buffy's confusion or otherwise keep things on a conversational tone focused on the present interaction. Hannigan shifts herself to the moment of the theft as she mentions it and then offers the explanation as a sort of apology for leaving the moment as much as for the confusion. It helps build a little extra layer of intimacy in the relationship between Willow and Buffy in adding a connection to the history rather than just a conversation about it.

Carpenter pretty much has Cordelia nailed from the start as well and that too really helps the other actors in scenes with her since she can carry the exchange by her response even if their delivery is a bit off the mark, which happens with Balfour.

Whatever plans they might have had for Balfour, he doesn't have the right demeanor or tone for the role of Xander's friend and Cordelia chaser and it holds back Brendon and, I think, would have really damaged the show had he stayed on as an additional character. Having the kind of boy banter Jesse and Xander engage in would have taken away focus and shifted the tone of the rest of the character conversations in ways that I think could have dramatically changed the dynamics of what the show would become. It isn't just having another guy around, we'll see other male characters do well and give differing counterpoints to Buffy, Willow and the other women in the cast, but having a pair of guy buddies would place too much weight on that bond and could shift focus. Balfour too doesn't come off very much like Xander or a "loserish" guy in his composure. He's too upright and confident in his bearing and his delivery of the lines don't come off as if he's lived the person he's supposed to be, but is playing along with it for grins. He's not a terrible actor I don't think, just not really right for the role he was given.

Head as Giles, is the member of the main cast that comes off least like who he'll become. He isn't off by an enormous amount, but the tone isn't quite there. Even accepting that this is the first time he meets Buffy, so some lack of familiarity with her could explain his discomposure, there is still some feel of Head taking a too conventional direction with some of the dialogue which makes it seem forced. It makes the interactions between him and Gellar a little stiff on both ends, even as you can see them tentatively reaching towards the right balance of exposition, seriousness, humor and reaction between them. Given all the "this is what is going on and it's serious" exposition Giles has to give, and the balance Head and Gellar have to strike between their distinctive character voices, I'm sure finding the right tone for Giles was one of the trickier tasks in the show. Head finds it of course, but isn't quite there yet.

The plot of the episode is pretty basic, working off convention to allow people immediate familiarity with what is going on, and then subverting expectations more around the fringes is a good way to start the series. It keeps the viewer engaged in the characters since figuring out the basics of the plot are easy enough. It provides clear goals and a overview of where things will be headed without taking away from all the introductions going on. It's a bit heavier than perhaps it need be, but not so much that it is a problem. One can see why Whedon cast Benz, her moments with Jesse and at the opening of the show are really way stronger than they needed to be for such a small role, but that kind of thing is another part of what makes the show so vivid and allows it to maintain a place in the culture.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:45 PM on March 11, 2017

Since I went on more than a bit about Welcome to the Hell Mouth, I'll just note that in The Harvest, the early action scenes have Buffy a little too weak and Xander a bit too forceful for a good balance since it places Buffy more in Xander's debt than is ideal given the premise.

The guy who pops out from behind the computer to ask Cordelia about the scoop on Buffy is wacky in a Buffy the movie kind of way, and with some of the scenes with The Master being purposefully a bit overdramatic it gives me the feel that Kretchmer leaned a little too far towards a camp angle on the proceedings at times.

The scene where Jesse wins a dance with Cordelia by telling her to "Shut up" isn't ideal, and neither is having Luke prove his ferocity by killing the only black character of note, the muscular bouncer at the Bronze.

The moment where Buffy goes into her storage trunk and we see all the sorts of paraphernalia a normal teen might have on top, and then she lifts that layer out to reveal her vampire fighting equipment is an excellent one. As are Willow's moments around computers, both when telling Cordelia she needs to "Deliver" her program and when explaining how she managed to locate schematics for the city sewer lines, Cordelia explaining the mystery of college boys and differentiating between "expensive" and "costs more", the classic walk up to the Bronze by Darla and the vamp crew set to "How are You Feelin'", the pool cue staking & cymbal beheading, Xander, of course, having to be the one to, sort of, stake Jesse, and Buffy beating Luke by unexpected deception. All this sort of thing is really getting closer to the finished state of what the show will become.

In that way, the ending scene with the gang all together talking about "next time" is, for me, the real start of the series as that is when everything really gels and the tone of the show is set.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:49 PM on March 11, 2017

My almost-16-year-old niece is staying with us this week and so last night we introduced her to Buffy. We only got through Hellmouth/Harvest but she at least understands that Willow is the best, Xander is a dummy-dumb-dumb and that Angel is super-cheesy.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:10 AM on April 11, 2019

I'm in the middle of a first-watch binge and am so pleased to discover that FanFare has all the episodes! I should have looked around a few weeks ago.

Anyways, I never saw Buffy when it was on, a combination of being repulsed by popular stuff, in particular WB shows (which made Dawson's Creek, 7th Heaven, etc.), which seemed to be aimed perfectly at me a teenager and so of course I hated them (I just stopped myself from writing "barf" at the WB shows, the teenage hate in me lives on!). Also, this was before DVRs, we were not a family that taped shows, and I had school stuff going on most weeknights so I missed this and alot of Friends, which I actually was sad about (it was cool because it was about grown-ups!).

So I'm coming to this as an adult, encouraged by my boyfriend who was the perfect age to have a huge crush on Buffy at the time the show was on. Two initial impressions:

1) All the students other than Buffy, Willow, and Xander look old. Like its really obvious that they are late 20s people trying to play high-school students.

2) From my boyfriend: everyone is sooooo skinny. Granted, some teenage girls can be skinny before they have completely filled out but even the teachers are waif thin.

The series is entertaining, and I'm hooked!
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:30 PM on January 7

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