Unaired Pilot

Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon

Lizbet's Review | SunSpeak

Lizbet's Review

A boy and girl break into a deserted school. The girl -- blonde, ethereally dressed in gauze, and ever-so-slightly vacant -- follows him to the theater stage, where he nearly drops a trapdoor underneath her feet. When he pulls her closer, she stops, afraid that she's heard something. After his assurances that there's nothing out there, she turns, fully fright-faced, and kills him.

Buffy Summers' first day at Berryman High School is looking good. Principal Flutie can't remember her name to save his life, but he welcomes Betty... Bambi... Barbie... whoever she is warmly. Meanwhile, Xander is having a problem. With the math. His best buddy Willow is on hand to bail him out by studying with him, for the standard fee of a shiny nickel. As Willow moves away, the resident bitch-queen Cordelia and her posse diss her outfit, and then diss Xander when he dares to speak to them. While Xander is searching for a devastating comeback, Buffy bumps into him and drops her things. She introduces herself and asks the way to the library. Xander points it out, admires the view as she walks away -- and finds the stake she dropped.

Buffy charges into the empty library and turns around, almost bumping into the librarian, Mr. Giles. She tells him she's taking Euro-centric history, but backs away when he offers her a text on a different topic: Vampires. The encounter unsettles her, and Buffy is troubled through her next class. When the bell rings, Willow approaches her with an offer to help. Buffy, who lacks a best subject, accepts cheerfully.

As they walk through the school, Willow admits to her dorky nature. Buffy tries to convince her that she's pretty, but Willow won't listen. Buffy then asks about the librarian. Willow tells her that Mr. Giles is new, and from some British museum. They are interrupted by Cordy et al, who take Buffy under their collective wing and away from Willow.

Blue and Aphrodisia discuss the new girl while getting ready for gym class -- a discussion cut short when a body falls out of a locker. Meanwhile, Xander catches up with Buffy and returns her stake. Playing tour guide, Xander points out the Housers (gansta-wannabees who are crippled by their upper-middle-class status), and Panga-in-breeds, who are always looking for the perfect wave. Buffy picks out the theater class and the drama club on her own, and no one could miss the Dirty Girls walking by. Xander doesn't have an affiliation at present (although he's waiting to hear back from the Dirty Girls).

While he and Buffy laugh, Willow approaches them, troubled. There was a body in the locker. Cordelia confirms it, and the unlikely group watch Buffy run off. Buffy meets Principal Flutie coming out of the girl's locker room, and he immediately apologizes for this happening on her first day of school. Buffy is willing to be consoled, however, and asks to see the body. Upon discovering that it, as she suspected, has two holes in the neck, she heads for the library.

Mr. Giles doesn't seem terribly surprised by the news, but he is surprised that Buffy wants nothing to do with Slaying. Infuriated, she tells him that she loved her life before she knew she had a destiny, and she even loved her life for a little after. But she lost everything she valued (including her first Watcher), and now she wants nothing to do with it. Unfortunately for both Buffy and Giles, Xander is in the stacks, and overhears the conversation.

Buffy meets Xander outside the Bronze that night and inquires after Willow. Willow apparently has a boyfriend, a fact that seems to unnerve Buffy. After quizzing Xander on Willow's guy's appearance, Lionel Richie look and all, Buffy charges off. Willow, meanwhile, is on the stage of the theater with a blond guy, shy but willing to hang out with him. She's troubled by the death of the boy found in the locker, and the blonde guy says he got what he deserved, coming up here with a stranger, how stupid could you be. Willow turns -- to find Blond Guy in full fright-mask form.

As Xander is asking if this is a "vampire slaying thing," he and Buffy hear a scream from the auditorium. Buffy bursts in to find Blond Vamp noshing on Willow, and attacks him. Unfortunately for Buffy, he's soon joined by two of his closest friends. Xander and Willow attempt to get away -- and are sidetracked by the blonde vampire from the beginning. Willow gets her off Xander by pressing a cross to her forehead.

After dispatching one vamp, another asks Buffy who she is. Slowly, Buffy draws herself up. "The Slayer," she says. The vampire runs, leaving Buffy with Blond Guy, who fights her to (his) death.

The next day, Giles scolds Buffy for her sloppy fighting and allowing others to find out who she was, while Willow and Xander defend her. Buffy is unfazed. "Don't sweat it. The world's in beauty hands. Trust me." And she flips a stake to land in the heart of a Nosferatu poster across the quad.

Buffy is still hurting over the death of her first Watcher, although we get no details on the subject. It is fairly interesting that she actively liked slaying until it had a derogatory effect on her life (and social life).

Buffy just wants to be left alone, although the threat to Willow is enough to put her fully back in fighting mode. Her quiet declaration to the vampire about who she is says a lot, she is the Slayer. The pain of whatever happened in LA is repressed but definitely there.

Xander is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. He doesn't seem to have much of a problem keeping up with Buffy, either when she's charging around or she is changing his worldview on him. He's loyal, alert, and has an eye for detail.

Willow is touchingly, painfully vulnerable. She leaves herself open again and again to be attacked, particularly by Cordelia, and almost seems to invite it at times. Blond Vamp's luring her to his clutches was the cruelest thing he could have done; she so desperately wanted to believe that she could be found attractive, and was so painfully proven wrong.

Cordelia is Cordelia, what Buffy might have been without the Slaying. Fast on her wit and with a love of shoes, she's secure in the place she wants to be, and the closest the evil comes to her is when she reports the death in the locker.

Giles is uptight Watcher extrodinaire. He literally cannot conceive of Buffy not fulfilling her destiny, and he is livid when she seems to put that destiny at risk by letting Willow and Xander know who -- and what -- she is. Giles' only moment of uncertainty comes when he explains that he has a destiny as well, to watch and guide the Slayer in her tasks.

Willow is in love with Xander, although she's willing to be lead astray. Xander can't get a semi-coherent response out around Cordelia. Cordelia has her posse (complete with Harmony). Giles barely interacts with anyone but Buffy, even in the final scene with all three of the teenagers.

Best Moments:
The trapdoor falling away almost under Darla's feet, and the light up into her soon-to-be-meal's face. Nice eerie touch from first time director Joss -- and nice misdirection.

Principal Flutie's inability to remember Buffy's name. She never gets offended, but corrects him -- and once lets him flounder until he finally starts running down the list of Flinstones characters.

Willow and Buffy bonding, and Buffy's attempt to build Willow's self esteem. "Laura Ashley is back -- with a vengeance. You see, they mated her with the Home Depot guy, and that's where they got Martha Stewart."

The scene in the library between Buffy and Giles that Xander overhears. Buffy's extreme desire to leave her past behind is very connected to the death of her Watcher and the loss of the simple, easy life that she had known. Unfortunately, it is utterly alien to her new Watcher, who really can't understand why events in her past would prevent her from putting herself under his control and doing as he expects.

Buffy breaking down the auditorium door and dissing Blond Vamp. "So what is it with vampires and clothes? You always think the march of fashion stopped dead the day you did."

The death of the first vamp, just for the ultimate in cheesy special effects. Can we say cake flour?

Buffy's simple, "I'm the Slayer." Obvious moment, but no less effective for it.

Buffy staking the Nosferatu poster. Never forget your roots.

Comments and Questions:
After almost three seasons, it's hard to be objective, but I miss Alyson Hannigan's energy in this. So few of Willow's lines are of the quotable quality that Buffy and Xander's are, but Aly could take deadbeat lines and make them sing. All the same, this Willow's sweet vulnerability makes it obvious what Buffy is trying to save.

Gotta love Nick Brendon's haircut in this.

Joss, dearie, you really shouldn't have had actors try to deliver lines while going up or down a spiral staircase. Particularly an actor who had to duck on every turn. Kudos to Tony for managing to make it look easy, but it wasn't!

There were a few scenes where Willow and Xander were too comfortable hanging with Cordelia and her crew. Cordy wouldn't deign to notice them, I would think.

I don't want to rate this (it hardly seems fair), but there were quite a few places were Joss was obviously trying to emphasize that this was a show built on smart dialogue. It wasn't nearly as well integrated as it would later be. Too often, cool lines were there for the sake of cool lines. Still, as a twenty minute introduction to Buffy's world, it couldn't be beat.


"My favorite is "Laura Ashley is definitely back... She's back, and this time it's personal. See, they mated her with the Home Depot guy, and that's where you get Martha Stewart." -- Valerie

"And never mind being totally physically different; I can't deal with a Willow who's clearly capable of keeping her brain on one track at a time, and having it be the same one her tongue is on! And who therefore doesn't sound right doing the couple of Willow-babblesque lines she does have... *shakes head* Serious Twilight Zone time." -- Valerie

Back to Episodes.