In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Well, okay. Not really “alone” because a lot of people do it. Shut up, you don’t know her life. Anyway, in every generation there is a chosen one. She will recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
All the monsters look like wieners.
If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
When we last left Buffy, she was in a sarcophagus with a vampire on top of her. So, you know. Not an ideal situation for most people to be in.
Who am I kidding? This is probably the ideal situation for over half of you guys. Sinners.
Buffy kicks her way free and runs, because she consistently, throughout the entire series, knows when she’s been beaten. Or might get beaten, which in slayer world means death. But I appreciate a heroine who knows when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, so to speak. She busts ass out to the cemetery, where she finds Willow being attacked by a vampire. She rescues Willow, and then Xander, but Jessie has been kidnapped by the vampires. Then it’s opening credits times.
After the credits, Giles does an impression of the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
Lost in time, and lost in space.
Giles tells Buffy, Xander, and Willow that the earth is way older than they think, and it began as a demon realm. Which is like, the exact opposite of what conservative Christianity teaches. So, demons and vampires roamed the earth, until they lost it, and now Giles and Buffy have to convince these poor kids that all this shit is real.
I find it difficult to believe that these kids have lived in Sunnydale their entire lives, but they’ve never seen a vampire. In seven seasons of this show, we’ve seen the town mobilize against witches, adults revert to their teenage selves, people’s dreams become reality, so and on so forth. If that shit just started happening when Buffy showed up? Everyone would have left town. So we have to assume this has been going on for some time. But if people were paying attention to what was going on around them, they would be teaching their kids, “Hey, there are vampires, and they will eat the fuck out of you so, you know, don’t go into dark alleys with strangers.” No one has ever told Willow and Xander there might be vampires, but it seems highly unlikely that no one in Sunnydale has ever noticed the paranormal side effects of living above a Hellmouth. See #8. They’re willfully ignoring the fact that they’re surrounded by monsters, and in doing so they’re keeping their children ignorant when what they really should have been doing is moving away or arming them with stakes.
So, remember Jessie, Willow and Xander’s friend from the first episode? Don’t worry, this is the last episode you’ll have to remember him for. No one else does after this one, either. Anyway, Darla and Luke, the Master’s minions, bring Jessie to the Hellmouth to feed the Master. Here’s something I don’t understand about Darla: in the rest of the series, she seems pretty smart. Granted, we only really get to know her through flashbacks, and later on Angel, but she clearly has cunning in those appearances. Here, she brings Jessie to the Master and blurts out about how good he tastes.
Imagine your friend called you, and she was like, “Hey, I’m swinging by McDonald’s, do you want anything?” and you’re like, “I want a Shamrock shake.” Then they get there, and they’re like, “Hey, that Shamrock shake is soooo good this year, I think they changed the formula,” and you realize that they don’t have their own shake. They tasted your shake. This is the face you will make:
Bitch, I know you did not sample my Shamrock shake.
The Master calls Darla out on her shady-as-fuck taste testing:
“You’ve tasted it. I’m your faithful dog. You bring me scraps.”
The Master says he’s waited for “three score years” stuck in the Hellmouth (I don’t know how long that is) and when he ascends everybody better hope he’s in a better mood. Holy shit, I’m pretty sure I’ve had that argument with my husband before.
One thing that does perk The Master up a little is the knowledge that there could be a slayer close by. Then we cut back to the library, where Giles explains what a slayer is:
“Alright. The Slayer hunts vampires. Buffy is a slayer. Don’t tell anyone. Well, I think that’s all the vampire information you need.”
Buffy says that since she let Jessie get kidnapped, he’s her responsibility, even though Xander wants to go in all guns a-blazin’ and Willow wants to go to the police. Then we’re back in the Hellmouth, where Jessie is standing around listening to Luke and The Master talk. The good news for Jessie is, they’re not going to murder him right away. They’re going to use him as bait, to try and lure the slayer to them.
Back in ye olde school library that no students beside Buffy, Xander, and Willow go to, Willow finds some plans for the underground utilities in Sunnydale. The utility tunnels and sewers are basically an underground city for the vamps, who can move about freely without ever having to go into the blazing hot sunlight that would kill them. You know, like people who live in Houston scurry about underground to avoid the weather. Call me crazy, but the last thing I would vote for, were I on Sunnydale’s city council, is any improvement of modern civilization that would make it easier for vampires to get me. Of course, this is assuming that anyone in Sunnydale has ever actually noticed the vampires in their midst.
By the by, Willow more or less hacks into the city’s files to get this information. That’s right. Willow is a goddamned computer genius. Remember that when we get to season four and she hardly ever touches a computer again.
Buffy remembers that Luke didn’t come into the crypt through the front door, and he didn’t follow her out, so the entrance to the Master’s lair will be in that crypt. Which is cool and all, but I thought The Master was in the Hellmouth? Where the fuck is this guy? They made it look like he was directly under the school in the first episode.
Whatever, I’m still going to assume he’s in the Hellmouth.
Buffy tells Xander again that he’s not going to go with her to rescue Jessie, and of course this is an affront to Xander’s manhood:
Xander: “So what’s the plan? We saddle up, right?”
Buffy: “There’s no ‘we,’ okay? I’m the slayer, and you’re not.”
Xander: “I knew you’d throw that back in my face.”
Buffy: “Xander, this is deeply dangerous.”
Xander: “I’m inadequate. That’s fine. I’m less than a man.”
No, Xander, you fucking prick. You’re not less than a man. You’re less than a slayer. And the slayer is always female, so you’ll always be less than a particular female. You can’t handle the idea that Buffy might be stronger than you because #5. If you’re not stronger than Buffy, you can’t save Buffy, thus making her beholden to repay you in sexual attention.
Even Willow and Giles look like they want Xander to get his dick slammed in a car door right now.
Willow is not a disgusting teen misogynist, so she tries a different approach, admitting that she’s pretty freaked out by all the stuff that’s going on, but she needs to help her friend. Apparently, Giles feels that the best way for Willow to help is to engage in further inappropriate student/teacher physical proximity:
Seriously, did no one at Watcher school ever pull him aside and say, “Look, Rupert, you’re kind of an intense guy, and you’re a close talker. Since your job is solely focused on being around teenage girl all the time, you might want to work on that so you don’t end up on that show.”
What Giles actually wants Willow to do is become a research assistant, to help him look for information about this whole Harvest thing the Master is up to. In this one scene, it kind of cements Willow’s role in the group for the entire season. She’s like a little Watcher-in-training, and she never really breaks out of this role too much, even when she gets into magic. We’ll see more of that as we discuss #4 in season 2 and onward.
Buffy promises that if Jessie is alive, she’ll find him, and Giles asks if he should remind her to be careful. And then they look at each other like this:
And I’m not saying this is “proof” of #2, just remember it when we’re in the middle of season four and I remind you of it. Write this shit down, because I am just not good at tagging these posts.
As Buffy tries to leave campus, she is stopped by Principal Flutie. Poor, poor Principal Flutie:
Look at that man. This is not a man who can maintain on a Hellmouth. He sort of apologetically guilts Buffy into not leaving campus during school hours, saying that the Buffy Summers he wants at his school is the one who has her “feet on the ground.” So, of course the moment his back is turned, Buffy just jumps over the gate and takes off. Get it? Feet on the ground? And she jumps? Get it?
Xander and Willow are trying to think up events they might find in local news sources and on the internet that would have some underlying paranormal cause. They get to “rain of toads” and Xander snaps. He’s totally freaked that all he can do is wait around, helpless, while knowing that there is all this paranormal shit going on.
“This is just too much. Yesterday my life’s like, ‘uh-oh, pop quiz.” Today it’s ‘rain of toads.'”
I like this motivation a lot more than his previous, “I’m a man, therefore I should have my maleness constantly validated,” argument. I totally get and can sympathize with “I know something is wrong but there’s nothing I can do to fix it.” That should have been the angle the writers worked all along, instead of, “My maleness is diminished by letting a woman take charge.”
At the crypt, Buffy finds the secret entrance, and Angel finds Buffy. She asks him if he has a key, and he makes it clear that he’s not a part of The Master’s gang. Which is all well and good, but if he didn’t use the secret entrance, how did he get into the crypt in the middle of daylight in the first place? At this point Buffy doesn’t know that Angel is a vampire, the audience doesn’t know that Angel is a vampire, but still… when we do eventually find out halfway through the first season, it’s hard not to think back to this time when Angel was out wandering around in broad fucking daylight, since he couldn’t get through that locked door:
LOL, Angel got photobombed by an angel.
Okay, fine. As much as I dislike Angel as a person, this does set up something fairly important for the universe. See all that diffuse sunlight around him? That doesn’t affect Buffy vamps. Only direct rays of sunlight touching them does.
You know what vamps aren’t allergic to? Trying to tell the slayer how to do her goddamned job. Angel stands there with a smug asshole expression and warns Buffy not to go down into the Hellmouth or the sewer or wherever the fuck this Master guy is, but he doesn’t offer to help her. He gives her directions on how to get to the Master, but only after he gloats about how he thought she would find the secret clubhouse entrance sooner than she did. Well, why didn’t you tell her before? Dick.
Wait, I have a #9 now! Angel is a dick!
After creeping around in the dark for a bit, Buffy gets scared by the sudden presence of Xander. He’s there because his friend is in danger, and he can’t sit idly by and not help. Which would go over a lot better if he hadn’t just pulled all that, “I’m not a man because this girl is going to handle it,” thing back at the library. Proving he’s a totally useful member of this mission, he hasn’t brought anything with him to defend himself if necessary. Now, Buffy is liable not only for her safety and the safety of Jessie, but for Xander as well. Xander has brought a flashlight to a vampire fight.
Back at school, Giles has finally found the information about the Harvest, and Willow is still trying to look up information about earthquakes on the computer. In this scene, we meet the absolute sunshine of my life, and one of the strongest female characters on Buffy:
We won’t be able to get into that until later in the series, but for now, let’s make this one #10 on the list, and revisit it when the time comes. #10: Harmony is the strongest female character on Buffy. Anyway, Harmony and Cordelia are talking about going to the Bronze and how nerdy computer class is. Then Cordelia starts talking smack about Buffy. To Willow’s credit, she does try to confront her directly to stick up for Buffy, only to be brutally rebuffed, but the next thing that happens irks me. Cordelia and Harmony have finished their projects, and Willow tricks them into deleting them. Granted, Cordelia is super dumb for believing that the “Del” delete key is the “deliver” key, but come on. As the audience, we’re supposed to delight in seeing girl-on-girl hatred conquered by… girl-on-girl hatred? The point of the scene is that we’re going to enjoy seeing the school bitch put in her place by the frumpy nerd, but that’s not empowering. Destroying someone’s homework is just petty.
In the utility tunnels, Buffy and Xander find Jessie. Or Jessie finds them. And there is a really neat piece of writing, in which Buffy tells Xander that she knows they’re close to the vampire’s lair because they haven’t seen any rats in a while. Aspiring writers, that is the kind of attention to detail that makes your work have depth. It’s not enough to show a rat in a tunnel, you have to also show the absence of rats. You know, if it applies.
Jessie tells Buffy and Xander that he was intended for bait, and the trap springs. Jessie remembers how to get out, though, and he leads Buffy and Xander into a dead end, and whoops, he’s a vampire now, too:
So, Jessie is a vampire, and Xander has to use a cross to fend him off. Jessie’s personality has taken a total 180 as well. This is important, and will be covered in another writing tip in just a minute here.
Remember back in the first episode where Buffy broke a door just by jiggling the handle? And how she’s super strong and stuff? Meet the door that Buffy couldn’t close without a man’s help:
Buffy is super strong, until Xander is there. Xander who, we must remember, was just complaining about not being manly enough when Buffy rejected his help. Now, rather than showing us Buffy saving his life and being all, “told you so,” we need to see her unable to complete a task without the male help she rejected. Because it is unacceptable for a male to be rejected. This isn’t unique to Buffy, we see it in literally every story line out there, on every show, in almost every book. But it still falls under #6.
Oh, and remember Xander’s flashlight? I wasn’t being cryptic there. He literally brought a flashlight, and while they are trapped in this dead end tunnel with vampires clawing at the door, he uses the very same flashlight that Buffy mocked in the earlier scene to find the way out. Buffy mocked the tool he felt was appropriate for the job, but since audiences can’t handle men being rejected, that must be the tool that saves them. Xander spots a vent with his magic flashlight (stand in for his penis, if we want to go all Freud here) and they climb to safety Aliens-style.
Buuuut not before Xander has to save Buffy one last time, when a vampire grabs her leg and he must physically pull her to safety:
Because Buffy, the vampire slayer, protagonist on a show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is too weak to fight a vampire when a man there is rescue her.
The Master is not pleased that Buffy escaped, but he’s a really well-written villain in that his main objective hasn’t changed. Have you ever noticed how sometimes in fantasy or action stories, there will be this horrible villain with a dastardly plan, but once they meet the hero of the piece their focus shifts from “Carry out my evil plan,” to “Do everything in my power to kill the hero, even if it endangers my main goal?” I hate when that happens. Here, the Master is really pissed that she escaped. But he doesn’t say, “Bring her to me!” or “Find her!” and send all of his very best minions out after her. He basically just says oh well, the Harvest is coming up, so I’ll look forward to killing the slayer after we get that taken care of. He doesn’t shift his focus. This is awesome, because it makes him a far more dangerous villain. The stakes are higher. If he’s not engaging Buffy, it’s because he’s maintaining forward momentum on something she has to stop. That’s a good bad guy, guys.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Giles is still reading, when the “squeaky door opening sound effect” makes him look up and utter the most plaintively hopeful “Buffy?” in the entire series. Until season 6, when he says it again. We’ll get there. But for now, check out his face:
OMG #2 I will go down with this ship! EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO “EVIDENCE” AT THIS POINT IN THE SERIES!
It’s not Buffy, though, it’s just Willow, and she did some research on creepy 1930’s murders that point to vampires in the area. Oh, so there haven’t been vampire attacks since then. Okay, people of Sunnydale, MAYBE I can give you a pass on kids not knowing about vampires right now, but you never seem to get your act together, so #8 stands.
Back in the Hellmouth, the Master does some weird blood wedding ceremony thing with Luke that will make them “as one” during the Harvest. HOT. The way it will work is, Luke, who can leave the Hellmouth area (if it is the Hellmouth, I’m still not clear on this), will eat people, and every life he take will feed The Master’s power, which will enable him to finally escape the Hellmouth or wherever.
Buffy and Xander get back to the library, where they break the bad news, that Jessie is a vampire. And Willow says that at least Buffy and Xander are okay. Um, yeah, I guess that’s neat and all, but wasn’t Jessie your friend? And he’s a demon now?
Giles explains that The Master is stuck in the mystical portal that is Sunnydale – is that the Hellmouth? – and he needs to consume a certain amount of power to open the portal and get out. One big credit I will give to this series? After these two episodes, I am never again confused about where a villain is or which portal he’s opening. It’s just these first two where I’m super confused.
Before Buffy can take on the Master and stop the Harvest, she has to stop at home for supplies. Then her mom comes in and she’s all, “I got a call from the new principal,” and she’s super worried that Buffy is fucking up again. She tells Buffy she can’t go out, because some self-help parenting tapes say she has to get used to saying no. Which means she hasn’t been saying no for… sixteen years? #3
And you wonder why she burned her old school down, Joyce?
After giving Buffy a speech about how everything in life isn’t “the end of the world,” Joyce goes downstairs to make dinner and congratulate herself on her great parenting.
So, let’s check out the supplies Buffy stopped at home for:
So, this is Buffy’s weapons chest in the second episode of the first season. Don’t worry, it gets a lot better. For one, I don’t think we ever see her use garlic, ever, to kill a vampire, and that seems to be a vampire rule only in these two episodes. I don’t think it’s ever mentioned again. If you’re writing something? Don’t do that. Don’t start using a convention you later abandon. A lot of story telling does this, especially serialized story telling, like a tv show. Remember how in the first episode of Futurama, the dollar was so devalued as currency that everything cost millions and billions of dollars? And then they dropped it when it was too difficult to keep up? It happens to very best of us, but we should probably strive to stay away from it.
Anyway, look at those communion wafers. If this were a video game, that would her range attack. But she never uses communion wafers to kill a vampire! The taste and texture alone should put them way, way off.
Buffy packs her bag and heads out through her open bedroom window, because Joyce was never a teenager and didn’t think, “Hey, maybe she’s going to leave through that open bedroom window.” #3
At the Bronze, Cordelia takes a moment to let us all appreciate how shallow and narcissistic she is, before hitting the dance floor. Then she spots Jessie. Moments ago, she had complained about Jessie following her around like a puppy dog. Now, though, something is different about him. Something that makes him desirable.
Oh, wait, it’s because he stares at her all creepy, then forcibly takes her hand and tells her to shut up as he leads her onto the dance floor. Because that’s what Cordelia, a woman, really wants. To be stalked and controlled. #6
The Master’s minions show up at the Bronze and take over with a fairly dramatic floorshow presentation:
Still better than the Lestat musical.
Luke explains to them that they’re all going to die, so just stay put while I eat you one by one. Okay, sounds legit, I’ll definitely hang around for that, Luke.
Buffy and the gang roll up to the Bronze to find the doors locked and the vampires already inside. As they formulate their plan, Giles reminds Xander that Jessie is already dead, and the vampire he became is the thing that killed him. This is so masterful, guys, and I’m going to tell you why. You know how they always say that in writing you should show, not tell? Well, bollocks to that, I say. Telling is fine. But you have to show, as well. And this is a great example of that. We’ve already been shown that Jessie is not himself anymore. Twice. Once with Xander and Buffy in the tunnel, once with Cordelia at the Bronze. And now Giles is telling Xander, cluing in both the other characters and the audience that yes, this is how it works with vampires on this show, this is one of the rules of our world, and it feels authentic and believable because we were all shown first. So, go ahead, tell. Tell all sorts of things. As long as you show them first.
As Luke drains the unlucky victims at the Bronze, The Master is starting to get powerful. But Buffy runs in and, and after a series of totally unnecessary flips that are the hallmark of season one combat, she starts fighting with Luke.
While Buffy is fighting, the rest of the gang find their way inside. And by “find their way inside,” I mean Giles beats down a fire door with what appears to be a fucking beer keg. I’m going to file that under a little feature I’m going to call Why does no one question why Giles can do that? See, throughout the series, Giles will just randomly do stuff that it seems kind of odd, and no one questions it. No one thinks it’s strange that he can not only lift a keg, but repeatedly bash it into a door with enough force to break it open? Where does one acquire this skill?
Then a whole bunch of shit starts happening at once. Xander starts rescuing people out the back door of the Bronze, and Jessie attacks Cordelia. Xander decides to intervene. Darla attacks Giles. Luke almost eats Buffy. Jessie taunts Xander for not being able to get a girlfriend. Because you were doing so well with Cordelia there, Jessie. That’s really a mark of a girl being into you, when she’s laying on the ground screaming for help. Willow throws a jar of holy water into Darla’s face, and she runs away, steaming and screaming, while Xander puts a stake in Jessie’s heart:
That dust is the vampire formerly known as Jessie.
Okay, so technically, Xander didn’t stake anybody. He was trying to get the courage to do it when some chick bumps Jessie from behind and drives him onto Xander’s stake. But Xander still looks pretty torn up about it.
Buffy tricks Luke by making him think he’s getting blasted in the face with sun rays, then sneaks up behind him and reminds him it’s still night for “nine hours, moron,” as she stakes the fuck out of him.
Simple tricks to make your vampiring more effective: buy a fucking watch.
Because Luke was the vessel for The Master’s new power, once he goes poof, that power goes poof. Which means all those people died in vein. (Do you see what I did there?) This makes The Master not happy, because he’s once again imprisoned in… wherever he’s imprisoned. The Hellmouth or a subterranean church or something. Whichever. I don’t even care anymore.
This was my exact reaction last night when Hugh Jackman was brutally robbed of his Oscar.
The remaining vampires flee once their leader has been felled. They flee right out the door past Angel, who has been… wait, he’s been here this whole time? #9 Angel is a dick. You couldn’t come in and, I don’t know, fucking help? When you heard all the screaming? Yes, I realize that if you’re watching the series for the first time, you might be thinking, “what is this guy about, whose side is he on,” but I’ve seen the series, I know he’s on Buffy’s side, so why did he just hang around outside, waiting to be surprised when she didn’t die? He even expresses surprise that she didn’t die. So what was the plan, wait until she died, then step in? Get your shit together, Angel.
The next day at school, Cordelia is telling everyone that Buffy was involved in a gang fight, while Xander and Willow cope with the fact that they’re kind of in the slayer club now, whether they want to be, or not. Giles warns them that the next threat they face could be something other than vampires. There’s another good set up, guys. The next episode, the danger they face is a witch. Right here, at the conclusion of the first story (because episodes 1 & 2 were halves of a two-parter), they’re saying blatantly, “Don’t be expecting just vampires.” It’s not an empty promise, because they’ll deliver in the next episode. Giles also tells them that it’s probably going to be just the four of them preventing the end of the world, and the three kids walk off together, planning how they can try to get kicked out of school for blowing stuff up. Giles observes to himself that the earth is “doomed,” and the guitar-heavy 90’s music plays our friends off.
And no one ever mentioned Jessie, ever again. The End.