Welcome to the Hellmouth

What show is better than Buffy? Seriously? Skins is the only show that could possibly compete, and really, they’re completely different. When I first started watching Buffy, I couldn’t stop until I had finished the entire thing. I finished all 7 seasons in under 6 weeks. I probably didn’t go out the entire time. I was living in Sunnydale, immersed in Buffyland. When I finally finished season 7, I felt like I would never love another show again. My body felt drained, and even though Buffy was living happily ever after, I felt like she had died. It was so depressing I couldn’t watch anything but the Office for weeks.

This is really my first pass through the series again (aside from rewatching a few favorite episodes here and there), and I thought while I’m at it, I’ll try some recapping.

I love the opening of the first episode. It’s so campy and creepy. And Darla! She was so pretty this episode. I don’t remember her being so cute in human form later on.

And the first vampire! The first time I saw this, I really was just…WTF…I thought it was the most ridiculously fake looking thing. But that’s part of Buffy’s charm – the series can be cheesy and fakey at times, but then it catches you off guard when it suddenly becomes poignant.

Buffy’s having creeptastic dreams about vamps and monsters. When she wakes up, she’s obviously sketched out, but not shaken. She’s had dreams like this before.

Buffy’s so young and innocent way back when! Once you get up to season 7 and she’s supposed to be like 23, and she’s grown up and become all slayer-serious, it’s nice to go back and see Buffy when she was just called. Accepting her destiny as a slayer is something Buffy struggles with throughout her entire journey, and the beginning is no exception. She knows. She absolutely knows that she is the Chosen One, that she has this responsibility, but she’s young enough to know that she definitely does not want it. But maybe she’s just old enough to realize that she has to.

Oh haiiiii Joyce Summers! It’s hard not to love Buffy’s naive, well intentioned mom. Even when she’s exasperating and just doesn’t get it because the WORLD IS ABOUT TO END, HELLO, I still love Joyce Summers. It’s a mother/daughter relationship that is surprisingly real. The whole show is cheesy and predicated on the supernatural, so this is one of the parts that reminds you that these stories have real meaning.

I also love the “Try not to get kicked out.”

Enter Xander:

I always associate this type of haircut – the floppy, gaptooth in the center bangs – with really dorky, annoying teenage guys. This instinct turned out to be quite correct with Xander. I will never understand the girls who thought he was cute, or really, anyone who ever liked him. I guess he has his moments, but I’ve never been able to warm up to the guy.

He’s immediately smitten with Buffy and skates into a hand rail. And here’s Willow! She looks twelve, which makes me feel a bit pervy. But she’s apparently quite smart because Xander wants her to tutor him at math, and not in a sexual way. And this is weird: I never once had to check out a math book from the library. I’m pretty sure my high school library didn’t even have supplementary math textbooks. But whatevs, Willow sends Xander to the library to pick up “Theories of Trig.”

I think it’s cute that Eric Balfour attended high school in Sunnydale before moving to Chino and becoming an abusive jerk on the O.C.

Then Buffy gets to chat with Friendly Principal Flutie about how they’re all partners in learning and will strive to have the common goal of not burning down the gym.

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clean slate/david blood

Buffy gets frazzled by the threat wrapped in puppies and rainbows and smacks into some girl, spilling books and stakes all over the hallway. Xander is painfully awkward in a too-lame-to-be-believable way.

The way Xander’s holding that stake makes it very clear why Buffy doesn’t want him to come vampire hunting with her.

Buffy shares textbooks with Cordelia, who is trying to decide if she’s hot and submissive enough to hang out with her. After class, Cordelia also inexplicably sends Buffy to the library for textbooks. Isn’t this a public school? Don’t they usually provide textbooks without students having to check them out of the library?

Buffy and Cordelia measure each other up on their walk to the library, Cordelia by asking Buffy’s opinion on current events (nail polish, James Spader, frappucinos, and John Tesh), and Buffy by watching Cordelia bully Willow away from the water fountain.

Cordelia definitely gets the best lines this episode. Buffy’ll develop some pretty sweet punning skillz as her training progresses, but for now, Cordelia is the queen of snark. I hope Tina Fey was inspired by this episode when writing that Sears line in Mean Girls. Or maybe just great minds think alike.

I’ll have to keep an eye out as I go through these early episodes for exactly when Willow stops dressing like she’s 12.

Buffy goes into The Library (home of ALL THE TEXTBOOKS and a hellmouth) and it’s Giles!!

Buffy apparently isn’t aware of the whole Watcher situation, but luckily Giles is, and he’s been keeping a book for her under the counter.

<book>

Unfortunately, Buffy had a weird dream about that book last night, and anyway, she’s trying to retire from vamps, so she runs away from her fate as fast as possible.

A girl named Aphrodisiac (amazing, just amazing) is discussing how Buffy got kicked out of her old school when she opens her locker and Darla’s leftovers fall all over her.

Aphrodisiac’s scream is the perfect amount of cheese.

Outside, we witness the beginning of one of my favorite friendships in all TV. Willow’s smarts attract an admirer for the second time that day, and Buffy is welcomed into the gang without a written exam or a quiz involving John Tesh. (When I was in middle school, my French class consisted of a video of French people saying “J’adore John Tesh!”) Cordelia revokes her acceptance of the Buffster when she sees her choice of friends, but does take the opportunity to spread some gossip about a dead guy in a locker.

Buffy hears “dead body” and her nose twitches in spite of herself. As scared as she is of all the Bad, somehow she knows that this is hers. This body, this life, this fate. So even as she’s running out of the library away from Giles and his Vampyre book, she’s using her slayer strength to break open the locker room door and checking the boy’s neck for bite marks.

She marches straight to Giles, and flips out. Because the point isn’t that bad shit is happening and people are being eaten by vampires. The point is that not so long ago, Buffy was ordinary. She worried about normal high school things like hair and class, and then something happened. Something that she had absolutely no choice or hand in. The part of her that ran to the locker room has accepted her new life, but the rest of her is still yelling at Giles, the closest person who could possibly be responsible.

Giles tries to reason with her, explaining that she owes it to humanity. Unto each generation a slayer is born. She is the gift to the world, and fate has brought her here, to the hellmouth, and she needs to grow the hell up and accept her responsibility.He explains that every supernatural creature she’s ever dreamed of exists, and it’s her job to save the world. Buffy insists that she’s a Vampire Slayer and besides, she’s retired. Why can’t Giles take over? (Meaning, why can’t ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD take over? This really isn’t her thing.)

Giles explains that he’s a Watcher, which is exactly what it sounds like. He prepares the Slayer. Buffy lets out of tirade of things he didn’t prepare her for, but she suffered nonetheless. She knows that his job does not involve him caring about her social life, but she needs him to realize that it was important to her, and an unwilling slayer is not much of a slayer at all.

Giles: “There’s a reason why you’re here, and a reason why it’s now.”

Buffy: “Because now is the time my mom moved here.”

Buffy refuses to acknowledge that anything other than her mom’s new job is the reason for her move to Sunnydale. Instrument of fate? Nope, instrument of the economy.

Xander, lurking in the stacks in search of Theories of Trig, overhears everything. So begins seven straight years of bewilderment for Xander.

Back at home, Buffy is caught up in the exact type of thing a girl her age should be worried about: what to wear out.

The first one, definitely.

Joyce brings her right back to the reality of vampire slayage with all her talk about positive energy, fresh starts, and not hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Unfortunately for Joyce, as soon as Buffy goes out, she picks up a creepy stalker.

Angel in that blue light, just for half a second. So pretty.

Except he’s not Angel yet. He’s mysterious. He Knows Things. More specifically, he knows who she is, and what she wants.

But Buffy didn’t become one of the most powerful female tv characters of all time by subscribing to everyone else’s expectations. She tells Angel he’s wrong; she doesn’t even know what she wants. But here’s a watch and some turtle wax, thanks for playing.

Angel gets it. Unlike Giles, he doesn’t try to appeal to her sense of duty. He simply confronts her with a reality: this is a hellmouth. You’re a slayer. Even if you chose not to acknowledge that, you’re still going to need this crucifix.

Buffy scans the Bronze for a friendly face and finds Willow!

Given how familiar Buffy was with Cordelia’s type, I’m not sure that Willow was the type of person Buffy would have befriended at her old school. This conversation feels so genuine – a little hesitant and polite at first, but soon Willow’s telling Buffy about her boy troubles and Buffy’s imparting her sage advice that she learned from Dead Poet’s Society.

Do places like the Bronze really exist? It’s a pretty sweet club with lots of live music that caters somehow to both the college and high school (and vampire) crowd. I call shenanigans – of all supernatural stuff in Buffy, nothing is a stretch of the imagination quite like the Bronze.

Buffy spots Giles lurking on the catwalk, and either out of annoyance or maybe curiousity, or maybe, just maybe, because Angel’s warning sounded more real than Giles’ old british maid squawking from earlier, she joins him. Giles is there to try to convince her one more time that this hellmouth stuff is srs bsns. But Buffy knows that. She’s always known that – she just didn’t want to be the one responsible. She tells Giles about Angel and his vague reference to the Harvest. I absolutely adore her reaction to Angel. “I really didn’t like him!” Early Angel/Buffy makes me just mmmf with anticipation. The buildup is delicious.

Giles gets under Buffy’s skin by accurately guessing that she’s been having The Dreams.


One of the best thing about pilot episodes is that they lay the groundwork for all the major relationships of the series. Giles and Buffy thrusting and parrying throughout this episode (not that kind of thrusting, gross) is the perfect, intricate foundation for their complicated father/daughter/teacher/student/friend/advisor/colleague relationship. Giles tries to lure Buffy into his world, and Buffy dances back and forth, torn between Giles and her mother, her old life and her new life. She insists that she’s not going to get extracurricular with the slayage. After all, she wants her personal life.

Unfortunately, vampires have already usurped her personal life. There’s a dude with incredibly bad fashion sense hitting on Willow, and Buffy thinks he wants to go necking in a bad way. And Willow has actually never seen Dead Poets’ Society, and doesn’t know that Seizing the Day often leads to untimely death.

I can’t help but notice that Willow is making some very bad decisions. Not that I make better ones, but this guy is seriously sketchtastic. I expect more from the girl who seems to be everyone’s number one tutor choice.

Buffy follows them, but gets lost in the crowd. She rips the leg off a chair to arm herself, and I die with her badassery.

It’s creepy in the basement though, and instead of a Willow-predator, she finds Cordelia.

The social cost of this mistake will be high, and Buffy knows it. But time is of the essence and the damage has already been done. Cordelia’s brilliant lines of this scene:

“What is your childhood trauma!?”

“Excuse me, I have to call everyone I’ve ever met, right now.”

Eric, who has struck out with Cordelia for the umpteenth time, thinks he’s struck gold with Darla. He doesn’t realize that she’s way too hot to for him.

Doesn’t he realize that’s waaaaaay too interfacial to be genuine?

Down below the Earth’s surface, something sinister is rising up out of a bubbling pot of blood.

A really creepy white-faced vampire-type rises up out of the pot – the Big Bad of the first season. He’s too weak – he needs food and the Harvest before he can return to power.

All I could think of when I first saw the Master was this:

Meanwhile, back at the Bronze, Buffy is trying to prevent Willow from becoming a Master-meal. Word of advice: if you’re young and innocent enough to go to an Ice Cream Bar on a date, you’re far too innocent to take shortcuts through graveyards. I can only assume that Willow is so thrown by the changes in her life (new bff, new life philosophy, she gets to read Theories of Trig with Xander later) that she doesn’t notice that this guy is 1) far too old for high school 2) not good at basic conversation and 3) creepy as fuck.

Xander also thinks it’s weird that Willow’s out with some dude, but because Xander is always operates with 8 fewer brain cells than necessary, he just thinks it’s funny. He does call out Buffy on being the slayer though.

Buffy’s mostly just annoyed and impatient, and brings Xander along to help with the rescue-age. Which Willow badly needs, because the Unfashionable Vampire has brought her to a crypt. Which must be so disappointing considering she was expecting an Ice Cream Bar. Darla joins the party, with Jesse coming after her like a puppy. He also has a vamp-hickey, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s the first play he’s gotten ever. Darla’s still hungry, and apparently not as devoted to the Master and Luke. She’s on the attack when Buffy busts in, with her soon-to-be-legendary slayer wit.

She dusts the man while Xander hustles Jesse and Willow out into the safety of the cemetary. Buffy’s giving Darla a pretty good go of it, but Luke comes out of nowhere and shakes Buffy like a like a rag doll.

“You are strong,” he says. “I am stronger.” Both statements are absolutely correct. Buffy’s getting slammed into coffins and pillars and keeps getting back up with superhuman strength. If we couldn’t tell before, Slayer Strength is a real thing. Buffy gets a few licks of her own in, but Luke tosses her into an open coffin. First, he sneers at her, and offers this insight:

“You think you can stop me? Stop us? You have no idea what you’re dealing with. And like a plague of boils, the race of man covered the earth. But on the third day of the newest life will come the Harvest. And the blood of men will flow as wine. And the master will walk among them once more. The earth will belong to the old ones. And Hell itself will come to town.”

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