Welcome to the Hellmouth
Synopsis: Buffy and her mom have just moved to Sunnydale, California. She was thrown out of her old school in Los Angeles because she burned down the gym (it was full of Vampires). But she hopes that this part of her life lays behind her – how wrong she was. A very old Vampire – the Master – tries to free himself from the Hellmouth that is directly under the town. And she can’t even keep it a secret that she is the Slayer. Everyone seems to know: The librarian Giles, her classmate Xander and even some mysterious guy in the dark alleys.
My Opinion: I’ve seen this pilot for the first time on DVD on November 22th, 2007. And I have watched it 10 times in the past 16 months. I know all the lines by heart by now. “It’s dated?” – “It’s carbon-dated!” I have to say I liked it that the whole gang knew from the beginning. It separates it from other superhero shows (*cough* Smallville *cough*). That makes for a great foundation of their friendship even though each and every one will have secrets of their own over the years.
Shortly before Buffy killed her first Vampire on the show she made a remark that rang a bell – I had heard a similar remark spoken in a similar tone elsewhere.
Buffy: Now, we can do this the hard way, or … well, actually, there’s just the hard way.
Darla: That’s fine with me.
Buffy: Are you sure? Now this is not gonna be pretty. We’re talking violence, strong language, adult content …
Jack O’Neill: Assuming – of course – you are the Tok’ra.
Cordesh: And if we’re not?
Jack O’Neill: Well, I guess we all start shooting. There’s blood, death, hard feelings. It’d suck.
Synopsis: She may have saved Willow and Xander, but she has lost trace of Jesse. But she won’t give up that easily and she has help: Giles is her new Watcher and Willow is a computer nerd who can find anything as long as it’s on the net. And she will need that help because the time of the Harvest is close and then the Master will rise if she can’t prevent it. Unfortunately there’s nothing they can do for Jesse: He’s already worse than dead: A Vampire.
My Opinion: I know that life had to go on, but I found the end a little bit cheap. All these victims at the Bronze should have been in terror and should be screaming instead of simply getting slaughtered one by one. And then the aftermath where everyone chose to ignore what had happened. But I don’t know a better solution either. And I loved how she outwitted Luke / the Vessel and then dusted him.
Synopsis: Buffy decides to try out for the cheerleading team. She has been a cheerleader back in LA and she wants to live a normal life here, too – as far as this is possible. But mysterious accidents seem to happen to the cheerleaders of this school and soon there’s no doubt that witchcraft is behind it.
My Opinion: The story of that episode wasn’t that interesting, but I liked certain aspects of it. For example Buffy singing “Macho Man” or her cheerleading tryouts. I also liked that they made their first magic potion with bio and chem class equipment (scalpel, test tube, …).
Synopsis: After their biology teacher had been found dead in a refrigerator, Buffy, Xander and Willow get a new substitute teacher – and she’s hot. Xander and all other guys totally fall for her and she obviously likes it. But what kind of woman is she really when even a Vampire is scared by her?
My Opinion: This is one of these episodes with the obvious storylines. There’s a new teacher when the old one was killed onscreen. You automatically know that she’s somehow involved. She’s insulted when someone calls an insect “ugly”. You automatically know she’s one, too. All the guys instantly fall for her? You automatically know pheromones or some other stuff is involved. Didn’t like it very much.
Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
Synopsis: Giles has found a new prophecy that heralds the arrival of a new enemy. But Buffy doesn’t really take it that seriously because she tries to have a social life besides her Slayer duties. And then she finds Owen, a quiet yet profound guy who is also interested in her. But can she really have a social life without endangering people (that are close to her)?
My Opinion: “Clark Kent has a job!” This episode was about the basic dilemma every superhero has to face: How much time is one allowed to have in which one doesn’t protect other people. And Buffy made the same decision Clark made in Smallville more than one time and Peter Parker made in Spider-Man (“I will never forget these words: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? I am Spider-Man!”). And yet Buffy is different. She has friends that know her secret. Friends that stand by her and fight with her. They are her foundation, otherwise she would be just another Slayer and her life span would probably much shorter.
But I wander from the subject. I never cared much for the “Anointed One” (or “Annoying One” as Spike will put it) because he basically does nothing while he’s on the show except for being a wise-ass. So I liked the episode more for its underlying topic than its main topic.
Synopsis: During a visit to the city zoo something happens to a high school gang – and Xander. They get possessed by the spirit of a hyena and henceforth they behave like a pack of hyenas. They are cruel, nasty and prey on the weak. And they eat the school mascot. But it gets even worse and Buffy, Willow and Giles try to get the old Xander back.
My Opinion: This is one of the rare episodes where the focus is on Xander. And he’s also allowed to be one of the bad guys. I think they played the pack very well. But even though Buffy didn’t kill that zoo guy directly she threw him into the cage. Granted it was in a fight but I am quite certain that in later episodes they draw a fine line between killing monsters and killing Humans.
I also liked it that they played the “forgetfulness” card just to show that it was a bluff. This joker was played far too often on Smallville.
Synopsis: Buffy and Angel (a mysterious man that drops in and out of her life to warn her about impending doom) get attacked by a group of Vampire warriors and Angel gets hurt. Buffy invites him to her home and tends to his wounds. But then the unthinkable happens: When they kiss, Angel turns into a Vampire himself! He flees but returns and has apparently attacked Buffy’s mom. Now Buffy’s out for a kill.
My Opinion: One of my favourite episodes of the season. I really liked Darla’s more practical approach of using firearms against a Human. Luckily her death isn’t the end of her story – as it rarely is in the Buffyverse. And while (until now) Xander might have been jealous of Angel, now his new philosophy is: Only a dead Angel is a good Angel. It’s basically the dark side of Xander’s character and one day his philosophy will include Spike, too.
What bothered me about the first season was that there were too many “special Vampires” in comparison to later seasons. First the “Aurelius” guys from two episodes ago, now these warrior types. They are famous enough to appear in some ancient books yet they are not good enough to survive at least one episode and it’s not even Buffy’s “fault”.
I Robot, You Jane
Synopsis: Ms. Calendar teaches computer class at Sunnydale High and she has started a project to scan all the library books. Unfortunately they also scan Giles’s more “exotic” books and they release a demon into the internet that was spell-bound in one of the books. But before Buffy realizes this the demon Moloch has already some of the students under his spell – especially Willow. She believes that Malcolm is a nice guy and that Buffy is jealous of her. Fortunately Giles, Xander and Buffy don’t have to fight alone: Ms. Calendar is not only a teacher, but also a techno-pagan.
My Opinion: The story is a bit ridiculous yet fun to watch. The whole idea of an ancient demon who uses the internet and builds himself a new body. But I loved the exorcism scene where Ms. Calendar was typing the counter-curse into the computer and Giles was spellchecking her. And the episode ended in a real whedony fashion when the three sat in front of the school and looked upon their past love lives and then concluded they are doomed.
And while I don’t exactly share his sentiment, I really liked Giles’s statement about books:
Ms. Calendar: Honestly, what is it about [computers] that bothers you so much?
Giles: The smell.
Ms. Calendar: Computers don’t smell, Rupert.
Giles: I know. Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell. Musty and, and, and, and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, it … it has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible, it should be, um… smelly.
The Puppet Show
Synopsis: The gang is ordered to participate in the annual talent show while Giles is in charge of the organization. But then a student is murdered and the killer cuts out his heart. And the worst thing is: This was most likely a Human and not a demon. And all points to the weird guy and his ventriloquy dummy. But which one controls the other?
My Opinion: While I liked the whole dummy part and his sacrifice I didn’t like that they showed no pointers whatsoever to the real killer. Sure, they laid a lot of false trails (e.g. to the new principal) but they didn’t hide some to the real one. I also liked that they had to consider that this could be very well a “normal murder”, that not everything bad in this world is the fault of a demon. And I like the new evil yet human principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman, Quark in DS9) – he will become a real PITA for Buffy.
Synopsis: Buffy has regular nightmares at night now but that’s nothing compared to what happens next: Some people’s nightmares become reality at day and suddenly spiders are crawling through the school and a perplexed Xander stands in front of the class – naked. And a mysterious child and a monster appear every time at the school when something like this happens. But this boy is in a coma, how can he be seen in the school?
My Opinion: Does everyone have that nudity nightmare? It is a common theme on TV shows but I can’t remember having such a dream. But I can relate to the clown thingy. I can’t remember it but I must have had a bad experience because I also had a number of bad clown dreams when I was young (and no, it was not It ). I also liked what was done to Cordelia. And I am with Xander: Buffy still looks good as a Vampire.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight
Synopsis: Strange accidents seem to be happening to the people around Cordelia. First her boyfriend gets clubbed down in the locker rooms. Then Harmony gets thrown down the stairs – by an invisible girl. Cordelia is scared and seeks refuge and help in the library. But Giles has another problem: He needs a lost book that contains prophecies regarding the Slayer. But luckily for him there’s an undead guy that can help him.
My Opinion: It was an OK episode but I would have liked to see Clea DuVall more onscreen – but that would have defeated the purpose of this episode. I’ve known her from The Faculty and later from Heroes before I’ve seen her here in this episode. I also liked that Cordelia becomes more involved in the group even though she offends them at the same time she’s asking for help. Something along the lines of “I need help and I thought you were in a gang or something” She may not be three-dimensional yet, but she’s managed to reach 2.1 dimensions.
I thought that it was an interesting twist to let the government being involved in this case. Wolfram & Hart might have been interested, too (if they had been invented at this point).
Synopsis: Xander finally finds the courage to ask Buffy out but she turns him down. And then his rebound girl – Willow, – also turns him down. But from there the day turns from bad to worse – for everyone. Giles and Angel have discovered a prophecy that without a doubt heralds Buffy’s death. She will face the Master and he will kill her. That makes it easy for her: She quits. She stops being the Slayer. But every choice has consequences: Vampires have entered the school and killed several students. For a hero there’s actually no choice. She has to face him, even if it means that she dies. But what are friends for?
My Opinion: Up until now Angel might have jumped in on a street fight but when it became really dangerous he was nowhere to be seen (The Harvest, Prophecy Girl). It’s ironic that it’s Xander of all people who forces him to stand up and fight a real fight. From one moment to the next the size of the gang has nearly doubled. From now on Ms. Calendar, Cordelia and Angel will have a much greater role in the fight between good and evil – on one side or the other. I also liked how Buffy reacted to her prophesied death – it makes the character more human. But in the end she accepts her fate, as she will always do in the coming years and she will do what’s right, no matter the cost.
The Season – My Opinion: A good first season, although not the best Buffy season. The basics are established (regular Monsters-of-the-Week with an overall season arc and a “Big Bad”) and the universe is pretty much set. Luckily they will loosen the corset of prophecies and rituals and they will portray Vampires much more “normal”.