Welcome to the Hellmouth


Tonight, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer… it’s the beginning of it all! Buffy arrives in Sunnydale, the Master rises from a pile of red goop, and that big guy from The X-Files says a whole host of portentous crap. Hold onto your hats, it’s the happy, innocent, fun times of Buffy‘s first season! Where’s Dawn?

The Good

Buffy has it’s first twist opening; how cute. Let’s pretend we’re back in the day when you didn’t assume what you were seeing at the start was going to be upended… I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have seen Darla coming. The episode’s quite dark in tone (colour-wise, I mean) and the library set helps. I love that set. It’s like coming home, seeing it again. Exposition just feels better when it’s done here.

The cast are all good, but Alyson Hannigan is so adorably nerdy and cute that she’s the standout for me. I know she’s far too good looking to be a proper nerd, but she does a much better job of being dorky than anyone in any teen film I’ve ever seen. Buffy herself starts off hesitant, fun, and panicky, and gets her first cool stunt ambushing a certain mysterious stranger.

The Bad

Woah! What’s with the intro into the title music? It sounds like everyone in the band started playing a different song. I hope they fix that soon. The dialogue here is mostly your quality Joss Whedon shininess, but there are lapses. The teen slang needs work. Neg! Pos! Oh my god. I refuse to believe anyone has ever talked like that. The violence is alright but it has supremely cheesy sound effects; WHOOOSHHH goes the air as Luke lifts Buffy into the air.

And then there’s Jesse. Either he’s an amazingly well written and acted loser, or he’s a woefully written and acted irritating person. Every time he’s on screen, I cringe uncontrollably, though. Cordelia’s casual put-down is brilliant: “Oh, please.”

The Nonsense

Buffy susses the vampire at the Bronze by his eighties-style shirt. I wonder how many deeply unfashionable people Buffy has staked in her life. Meanwhile, Luke has clearly been attending classic evil villain school. He almost forgets, but at the very end of his fight with Buffy, apropos of nothing, he realises he’s wasting quality gloating time, and suddenly and prosaically explains the evil plan to Buffy.

The Interesting

In the school library’s first exposition scene, the Slayer explains to her Watcher how vampires are made. Then a Watcher explains what he does to a Slayer. Even Buffy starts complaining later that she already knows everything Giles is saying. She’s lucky there’s no Electro-Magnetic Pulses in this story. Amusingly, given the traditional dialogue in the future, someone says “This is Sunnydale!” as if that’s a reason why weird shit shouldn’t be happening.

And everyone’s so young! Angel’s so thin! Yikes! And, a liar. And, wearing a poncy jacket. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s just adorable, with cute puppy fat and very little angst — Buffy’s goofiness and humour really grounds the episode and it’s hard to imagine the show without it.1 Nicholas Brendon gets a lot of the best lines and delivers them well; he even saves Jesse’s lame “Is it just me, or did you just turn into a stuttering dimwit?” Anthony Stewart Head is brilliant from the get-go.

A quick mention of Cordy’s cellphone, which is almost bigger than Buffy’s stake. Though not quite at first season X-Files level yet.

The Tally

Here, I shall keep track of the casualties of the glorious, epic battle between good and evil. And any other cliches that turn up.

So far, it’s a draw — one human and one vampire.

The Conclusion

This is good stuff. It’s a little daggy, some of the exposition is clunky, but the stars are great, the narrative is nicely balanced between them all, and the mood of the show is already both obvious and very welcome.

  1. Of course, I don’t have to. Hello, seasons six and seven.
Gym was cancelled due to the _extreme_ dead guy in the locker! — Cordelia

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