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Perri's Review | Dawn's Retrospective Review

Perri's Review

This episode, the two-hour pilot, got me hooked on Buffy in approximately fifteen minutes (I was resisting strenuously, or it would have been much sooner, about the time Xander got knocked off his skateboard).

Buffy Summers, having been kicked out of her old school due to the aftereffects of Slaying a gym full of vampires, moves to the small town of Sunnydale with her mom to start over. She makes friends with Willow Rosenberg (resident nerd), Willow's friends Xander Harris and Jesse, and Cordelia Chase (Miss Popularity), and has a run-in with the new school librarian, Rupert Giles, who is aware of her identity as a Slayer. Unfortunately, a dead body also turns up in the locker room, obviously munched by a vampire. Buffy continues to inform Giles that she wants nothing to do with Slaying, but encounters a tall, dark, and annoying stranger, who gifts her with a cross and warns her about 'The Harvest'. Then, she is forced to try to rescue Willow and Jesse from vampires which have abducted them (getting herself firmly placed in the 'weird' category with Cordelia in the process).

Buffy saves Willow and Xander (who came along for the ride); but is forced to return to the sewers to attempt to rescue Jesse, with a little more advice from the stranger, Angel. Again, Xander tags along, but both of them almost die when Jesse is revealed as a vampire. They escape back to the library, where Giles has discovered that the Harvest is an attempt by an very old vampire, the Master, to gather enough power through 'The Vessel', a chosen vampire named Luke, to escape from the mystical prison he inadvertantly trapped hismelf in when attempting to open the Hellmouth (a convergence of power that represents a closed gate to Hell). Concluding that the vampires will strike at the Bronze, the local teen nightclub, Buffy and company head for battle. After getting grounded, Buffy shows up at the Bronze too late; the Harvest has begun. The crew breaks in and, as the Slayerettes start herding people out through the back door, Buffy takes on and defeats Luke, stopping the Harvest.

It's the pilot, how much can there be? The Master is established as the imprisoned villain of the piece, we find out about the legacy of the Slayer, the rules of vampires in this universe, and about the mystical convergences of the Hellmouth. Xander's instantaneous crush on Buffy begins, and Angel makes his first appearance, giving Buffy The Cross.

The rules of vampires, incidentally, are very traditional (aside from the demon possession bit). They can be killed by stakes, sunlight, fire; injured by holy water and garlic; and are very strong and effectively immortal. They apparently can't fly or do the bat thing, though.

Well, we start with Buffy, who rates very high on the high school coolness test, except for this little tendancy to do weird things like fight vampires. Buffy would desperately love to be a nice, normal teenager, but, even when rebelling, can't deny her responsiblity as the Slayer. She's got guts, loyalty and common sense, befriends outcasts Willow and Xander, and wears insanely short skirts -- truly, something for everyone to admire. *g*

Giles is so very British, and so very intense and dedicated to his job as Buffy's Watcher; she's going to drive him absolutely berserk. But he's also very compassionate, trying to give Willow and Xander a way to be involved that won't endanger them, and he truly believes in his duties as Watcher; he also gets something of a kick out of the supernatural and the possibilities of the Hellmouth.

Willow is starting out as a very typical high school outcast; dresses the complete opposite of fashion, is extremely shy, and very smart. But she has nerve -- not only does she set Cordelia up by getting her to delete her own computer program, but she takes on Darla to defend Giles in the Bronze. Her long-standing friendship with Xander has potential for some good stories -- her crush on him is already subtly apparent.

Xander is, well, a 16-year-old boy. Distracted by pretty girls, not big on schoolwork, more guts and loyalty than common sense. He's willing to take on vampires to defend his friends, when even he knows it's a stupid thing to be doing. Major crush on Buffy at first sight is adorable, and his reaction to losing Jesse, first to the vampires, then to real death, is the best piece of character development we get. He never gives up on Jesse until it's too late.

Angel, the traditional Cryptic Wise Man, appearing out of nowhere, being obnoxious, then disappearing again. It would be very easy to dismiss him as a typical wisecracking annoyance of a plot device, except for the way his face absolutely shuts down when Buffy asks him 'Do you know what it's like to have a friend?' I started falling for Angel just about then, and completed it at his whispered 'Good luck'.

Cordelia starts out acceptably nice, insults Willow and quickly drops in character from there. Obnoxious, spoiled, shallow -- not going to like her. Nope.

The Master is going to get very annoying, very fast. Not a bad villain -- threatening, powerful, and seriously over-acted -- but I'm not going to be able to tolerate too much of him. Darla is equally annoying, but Luke is genuinely scary, especially when he jumps into the coffin after Buffy and goes for her throat.

Best Moments:
The twisted opening, with the innocent, frightened blonde turning into the vampire. You know pretty much right away what you're getting into....

Xander getting knocked off his skateboard staring at Buffy. All right, it's high camp, but it was still hilarious and so very Xander.

Meeting Willow and the guys. Xander bibbling, Willow being quite sincerely funny, and Buffy trying to pretend she's normal and not turning on her new friends when Cordelia shows up.

Buffy and Angel's first meeting. She knocks him on his butt, he's so deliberately annoying, and he gives her The Cross. The scene immediately following with Giles is just as priceless, even more so when you go back after the relationship with Buffy and Angel develops. Buffy is just protesting waaay too much.

Willow reacting to the discovery of vampires. "Breathe." "Breathe." "Breathe."

Angel and Buffy in the crypt; the repartee abruptly breaking off when she hits him with the 'Friends' question -- great chemistry between these two, right off -- and him finally giving her straight-forward help.

Xander catching up with Buffy. He freely admits he knows it's stupid, but he still comes and refuses to go back.

Xander reacting to Jesse's transformation. The sudden, jarring explosion when he kicks the trash can, immediately going back to firm control -- wow.

Buffy killing Luke. Tricking him with the fake sunrise, then staking him, then the smart-ass, 'It's in about nine hours, moron' -- utterly classic.

Xander's face-off against Jesse, and Willow's rescue of Giles. 'Nuff said.

Angel's "I'll be damned.' Not quite what you expected, is she, Angel? *g*

The last scene. The kids go wandering off, totally unconcerned with the disasters about to befall them, trying to decide how to get Buffy kicked out of school, with Giles staring after them in total, resigned bafflement. Rolling on the floor time.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5. A very solid pilot -- everyone gets introduced and a little bit of character development; the mythos and background are laid out nicely, but without lots of long, boring exposition; the dialogue and action scenes rock, and the ensemble hits their collective pace virtually instantly. But it's still a pilot -- there is some boring exposition and the characters start out a little cliched. But worth watching and rewatching to catch the stuff you missed the first five times through. And it is a good jumping-on, hook-your-roommate episode, which many pilots miss (can we say Babylon 5 and ST:TNG pilots?).

Dawn's Retrospective Review

It was January of 1997 since the pilot, and yet it seems like so much longer. Fandoms usually take a while to build, with word-of-mouth playing a contributing factor. Buffy; The Vampire Slayer, on the other hand seems to have had a huge impact for a series with 11 episodes in its first season and just past the 11 episode mark of its second. Less than a year after it's beginning, its fandom is larger than many achieve after years of development.

Going back and rewatching the episodes, I thought it would be fun to write up a few reviews from the perspective of someone who's seen the characters change and develop. :)


Buffy arrives in Sunnydale, ready to make a fresh start at a new school. For those who watched the movie, we are informed immediately that this isn't a remake or a close copy. Buffy's mother, instead of being a fluffy-brained idiot, is a museum curator, and Buffy's parents are divorced. The Buffy that walks into the Sunnydale high school is a lot more vulnerable, and yet smarter, than her movie counterpart.

The character's are introduced one by one. Xander falls head-over-heels for Buffy before they're even introduced, and Cordelia accepts Buffy into the in-crowd of SHS. Buffy appeals to Willow for help with her homework since she was "told" Willow was the one to ask if you wanted to pass.

It's all fairly normal until Buffy walks into the library, and "Mr. Giles" recognizes her name and tries to give her a thick tome on *Vampyres*. From then on, the action picks up until you're ready to scream at every bunch of commercials that you're fast-forwarding through.

The dead guy found in the locker room leads to a confrontation with Giles where Buffy makes it *very* clear that she has no intention on being the "Slayer" anymore. A conversation that Xander overhears -- and thus leading to his eventual inclusion into the "Slayerettes".

Buffy, still trying to fit into the "in" crowd of SHS goes off to the Bronze, and meets up with Angel on the way. After he tosses her a silver cross inside a jewelry box, she goes inside where she then encourages Willow to "live for the moment" and then meets up with Giles again. He's being emphatic, she's in *not-caring* mode -- until she sees Willow going off with a vampire. It's seems there's a master vampire trapped beneath Sunndydale, and he's hungry for a few young treats.

It's the start of a long night. After almost staking Cordelia, she knows her social status is on the hit-list, but goes after Willow anyway and picks up Xander along the way. A fight in a mausoleam with vampires Luke and Darla leads to Xander, Willow and Jesse (Xander's buddy) very much believing in vampires. In the end though, while Xander and Willow are safe, Jesse's missing and Buffy's doesn't know where to look.

They end up in the library with Giles where it seems the pattern of the series is already in full swing. Willow and Giles bond, starting to research together the rumours of "Harvests" and "Vessels". Buffy decides it's up to her to rescue Jesse by herself, getting into trouble with the principle for leaving the school grounds along the way, and Xander trails after her. Fights, fights, fights; wherein we learn that Jesse can now sports a more demonic visage and where Buffy and Xander barely get away by climbing out of the electrical tunnel into what is now a very familiar industrial centre (see "I Robot, You Jane").

The Master assigns Luke to be his "Vessel" so that anyone he killed on that night would increase his strength, and enable him to penetrate the mystical barrier that kept him trapped (and stays trapped and stays trapped... heh heh heh). The vampires head to the Bronze for a feast... only to have Buffy and company arrive after the first couple of courses. Buffy takes on the big-and-nasty Luke, Xander saves Cordelia (time#1 for those keeping track) from Jesse, while Willow and Giles manage to get the rest of the crowd out of the Bronze.

Buffy wins in the end(per usual), Jesse gets bumped onto the stake that Xander's holding, and Willow gets to toss holy water onto Darla's face. After they all go outside, we see Angel come out of the shadows where he'd been waiting without trying to go inside and help. He's surprised, but pleased, that they succeeded.

The next day, it's business as usual as SHS. Buffy informs them that she's seen it before. People don't want to acknowledge that vampires exist -- so they don't.


If the function of a pilot is to set up the characters, then this one did a very good job. We know what Buffy's "sitch" is and gives her a support structure to help her out. That being said, I might as well carp on the few picky points I could find. What else is continuity but a place to complain about plot holes within an ep or respect to others? :)

* Just how did Angel get to the mausoleum in the daytime, and why didn't Xander notice him when he came through after Buffy?

* Was there a cover at the Bronze or not that last night? Cordelia said "no cover", but the bouncer was certainly collecting money and why did he confront Luke and Co.? (Ladies night?)

* When Angel and Buffy first meet, he tells her he's "a friend", even if not hers. Later, she asks him if he knows what it's like to have a friend, and it becomes clear that perhaps he doesn't.


It's really the little things that count, and show how the characters have developed over the course of the series.

The biggest thing that hit me throughout was how Giles was invading people's body space throughout the entire episode. It was very apparent in his scenes with Buffy, but even shows with his scene in the library with Willow. This aspect doesn't show up in later episodes.

Xander's hair was so goofy! It's much better second season.

Willow's hair is *definately* brown. I've been watching it get redder and redder till it's now "accepted" that she's a redhead.

Darla, looking back from what I know from 'Angel', seems inconsistent throughout the episode. She's clearly afraid of Luke, but is delighted that he gets to be the "Vessal". Alternately playful and nasty, I found the scene where she leads the pack of vampires into the Bronze to be most in character with what we know from later on.

Luke, like the Master, never goes out of vamp mode. What's his problem? I guess we'll never know since he ends up in a vacuum bag by the end of the show. :)

Flutie... sigh. It's been a long time since I saw the episode, and I admit to missing his character. Snyder's great, but Principle Flutie reminded me of a non-confrontational teacher pushed into a tough (and it is tough) job as a principle at a high school.

And Buffy? Sigh. Sarah Michelle Gellar managed to portray a three dimensional character from the word go, and can probably be given much of the accord for the success of the series. Buffy has a tough job, she knows it, she complains about it, and then... does it anyway.

Best Moments

I found myself enjoying this episode quite a lot. Surprisingly, it was probably the "non-witty" bits that I liked the most. The one-liners will live in people's .sigs forever, but it's the visual impressions that you can watch over and over. That being said....

"I'm *so* not loving this." -- Buffy

"Don't worry. Buffy's a superhero." -- Xander to Jesse

"She escaped. She walks free when I should be drinking her hearts blood right now." -- The Master

"How on." sploosh. "You've got something in your eye." -- The Master

"I don't like vampires. I'm gonna take a stand and say they're not good." -- Xander

"I'm sorry. That was very British of me, wasn't it?" -- Giles

"I know. If you don't go out it'll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you're a sixteen year old girl." -- Joyce

"I don't get one?" -- Jesse

"The dead rose. We should've at least had an assembly." -- Xander

The look on Giles's face when Buffy asks him whether he got the Time Life books.

Joyce trying to reassure Buffy that she can start over, and leave the "bad crowd" she full in with in LA behind.

The pull-back shot of Buffy lying collapsed on top of Xander just after they escape from the vampires in the electrical tunnels.

Buffy lifting out the top layer of her chest that filled with pictures and ribbons to reveal the stakes, holy water and other vamp hunting implements beneath.

Darla swinging her arms, and joyfully leading the pack of vampires into the Bronze on the night of the harvest.

And finally: "Noooooooooooooo." -- The Master.

Rating **** 1/2 out of 5
A great start to a great series.

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