With seven seasons and 144 episodes under its belt, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a surprise cultural phenomenon that went on to inspire one official spin-off series, novels, comics, video games, board games, fan films, parodies, and academic conferences. And now, Jamie Gerber is here to walk us all through it from the first episode to the last. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries and empowerment of the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer! S1E5: “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” (Writers: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali / Director: David Semel) This episode gets an undeserved bad rap. Yes, it is the weakest of the few offerings that actually serve to further the main plot, but in the context of the season as a whole, “Never Kill a Boy on the First Day” stands out as one of Season One’s better episodes. Plus, it’s got some pretty great dialogue. Much like “Witch”, this episode deals with Buffy’s desire to be a normal girl. In this case, that means dating. When the shy and frankly, too precious (I mean, he reads Emily Dickinson) Owen takes an interest in Buffy, she’s like, “If the Apocalypse comes, beep me.” Beepers, ah the ‘90s. Buffy’s complex romantic life aside, this story ties into the larger arc by bringing in the Anointed One (a powerful new ally for the Master). Speaking of the Anointed, his imminent arrival (Giles found a prophecy) is scheduled for the same night as Buffy’s first date with Owen. Giles and Buffy wait around for a whole lot of nothing at the cemetery, with him warning her about the difficulties of dating someone unfamiliar with her secret identity. She quips, “In that case, I won’t wear my button that says, I’m a Slayer, ask me how.” By the time Buffy makes it to the Bronze, Cordelia has her well-manicured claws all over a very uncomfortable-looking Owen. It seems like both the cemetery and Buffy’s date were a bust. However, the next day Giles discovers that five died in a bus crash. The Anointed is meant to rise from the ashes of five and among the dead, is a suspected murderer that seems a likely candidate. Meanwhile, Buffy gets another shot with Owen and refuses to miss her date for the second night in a row (“Clark Kent has a job. I just wanna go on a date.”), which leaves Giles heading to the morgue solo. Luckily, Willow and Xander took it upon themselves to follow. Turns out he was right and when vampires show up looking for the Anointed, Giles is trapped. As if Buffy’s date weren’t complicated enough, what with Cordelia honing in and Angel randomly showing up, Willow and Xander crash it to convince her that all the cool kids are hanging out at the funeral home. Despite Buffy’s attempts to politely blow him off and head over there, Owen, taking their words at face value, is close behind. Buffy learns a hard lesson in this episode: she will never have any sort of normal social life. Her attempt almost gets Owen killed. Thankfully, he gets knocked out defending Buffy and misses everything that could in any way be construed as Buffy having superpowers. She kills the baddie, but here’s the twist. Giles was right, the Anointed One did indeed rise from the crash, but it wasn’t the convict. It was a child, the worst child actor of all time, but more on that later. Not only does this installment deal with Buffy’s interest in Owen, but also with the pitter patter of Xander’s heart where Buffy is concerned. There is an adorable moment when Owen gives Buffy his pocket watch (see, too precious) and Xander looks down at his own Tweedy Bird time-telling apparatus. This, compounded by Angel making an appearance (because no one is measuring up to that guy), just feeds into Xander’s general angst over Buffy. Unfortunately for him, she remains ignorant of his feelings. Even when he tries to confess this to her at the episode’s end, all she can see is Owen. I mean, he does “have a certain Owenosity.” Nonetheless, Buffy has to dump him anyway, for his own safety. This may be a fun, lighthearted episode, but it does further the development of our key players. In fact, we learn that Giles wasn’t born wearing tweed. That guy wanted to be a fighter pilot (or a grocer, but let’s go with the former). It was difficult for him to accept his destiny, just as it is for Buffy. This not only shows us another side of the Watcher but also strengthens the bond between him and Buffy. S1E6: “The Pack” (Writer: Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer/ Director: Bruce Seth Green) “The Pack” is another Xander-centric episode and shares several similarities with the last one, “Teacher’s Pet”. The metaphor is equally clumsy, but still strangely effective, as the show sets its sights on bullying and the general pack mentality. The supernatural vehicle used to explore this unfortunate adolescent behavior: hyena possession. That’s’ right, Xander and four school bullies get possessed by hyenas during a school trip to the zoo. While reminiscent of “Teacher’s Pet”, this episode works even better and Bruce Seth Green (the director of both episodes) coaxes a more impressive performance from Nicolas Brendon, who really starts to develop his acting chops here. Following the trip, Xander is not himself. Not only is he kinda mean, but his confidence is much improved. He’s also sniffing Buffy’s hair and hanging out with the four jerks. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Buffy, “And the weird behavior award goes to…” The more time Xander spends with the rest of his “pack”, the nastier he becomes. He’s even cruel to Willow, who admitted her romantic feelings for him to Buffy, earlier in the episode. Xander exploits those emotions in the most hurtful way imaginable but doesn’t quite have the balls to do anything but laugh at Buffy. Willow is too hurt to think straight, giving Alison Hannigan an opportunity to show off her amazing crying skills. Seriously, when that girl cries, I cry. Every time. “The Pack” does an excellent job exemplifying teen barbarity. There is a dodgeball scene in this episode that will be painfully familiar to those of us who found gym class to be particularly abhorrent, myself included. Let’s put the cruel athleticism aside though because that game is hardly the worst of the crimes committed under the influence of hyena. Unbeknownst to the rest of the gang, Xander and his new friends also eat the school mascot! Poor piggy. Meanwhile, Giles just thinks that Xander has turned into a typical teenage boy, but Buffy’s not buying it. “I can’t believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me,” she tells him. When Principal Flutie confronts the kids about poor, defenseless Herbert (the mascot), they eat him too. Honestly, I felt worse about the murder of the pig, but that’s my own issue. Xander misses out on cannibalizing the principal because he’s too busy trying to rape Buffy. It’s a dark scene, and the juxtaposition of Flutie being eaten while Xander attacks Buffy elsewhere is extremely unsettling. Up until this point, he has been such a “safe” character and it is difficult to watch this animal instinct overtake him in such a dangerous way. It’s all good though because Buffy kicks his ass and throws him in a cage. Willow even takes back some of her power by guarding her best friend and refusing to be swayed by his attempts at manipulation. The rest of the pack eventually comes for him, which gives Buffy a chance to lure them back to the zoo. It was actually the zookeeper who wanted to be possessed by the hyenas all along and he was pretty bummed that students were “gifted” instead. What a weirdo! Giles is able to return the students to their true nature and Buffy is able to thrash the zookeeper. Once Xander is back to himself, he claims to remember nothing, but really he’s just embarrassed that his base urges came out. Lucky for him, Giles (the only one to research animal possession enough to know that memory loss has nothing to do with it) can keep a secret. S1E7: “Angel” (Writer: David Greenwalt / Director: Scott Brazil) At this point, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had spent six episodes building up curiosity about Buffy’s enigmatic beau. Whether he was mysteriously showing up to warn her of danger or she was discussing him with Willow, it had become apparent that he was taking up a fair amount of space in Buffy’s head. Although Angel had proven himself an ally thus far, she still didn’t know anything about him. The decision to make him a vampire was a brilliant one, as this makes his burgeoning relationship with the Slayer not only problematic, but poetic as well. Keeping Darla (Julie Benz) around as his sire and the proverbial devil on his shoulder, created a really intense dynamic. Excellent dialogue by Greenwalt, combined with a stellar story made this episode the most compelling of the season thus far. Buffy invites Angel into her home after he swoops in to help her defeat the Three (a trio of uber-powerful vampires sent by the Master), in the hopes of protecting him. The two grow closer, as he reveals that vampires killed his family. Angel winds up crashing on Buffy’s floor and remains in her home the next day as well, at her request. The chemistry between Buffy and Angel is so palpable that by the time they finally kiss, it not only feels right, but necessary. However, their reactions to the kiss are quite different. Without warning, Angel pulls away and reveals his true face. Understandably, Buffy’s reaction to the news that her new honey is a vampire isn’t great and Angel escapes out her window, while she is busy processing this information. That kiss may have steamed up the screen, but in Gellar’s opinion, onscreen kissing was the “unsexiest thing in the world.” As she and Boreanaz became better friends, they did everything they could to make it interesting for themselves. According to Gellar, the two would eat gross stuff before a make-out scene or even pin each other’s clothes to make taking them off more difficult. The spark between Buffy and Angel is so believable that it is difficult to imagine that the whole time, the actors were pranking one another. It does make their acting in those scenes that much more impressive though. Much of the next day is spent discussing whether or not Angel can be the man Buffy thought he was. The verdict from Giles is a resounding no. Research on the subject brings up a two hundred forty-two-year-old vampire named Angelus, who was one of the most vicious creatures ever documented. That is, up until about hundred years ago, when he seemingly disappeared. Meanwhile, Darla pays Angel a visit and we learn not only that she is his sire, but also that he is living off blood bags in his fridge, assumedly rather than killing people. She talks to him just long enough to make him doubt that Buffy could ever understand and love him for who he really is. Whether or not Buffy can accept Angel’s current situation is too much of a gamble for Darla. Some eavesdropping reveals that Buffy loves him and is indeed struggling with the idea of jamming a stake through his heart. So, Darla decides to give Angel a push by attacking Buffy’s mother and framing him in the process. Despite being bitten, Joyce remains ignorant about the realities of life in Sunnydale. After a talk with her, Giles realizes that Darla is the true culprit and with Willow and Xander in tow, he follows Buffy, who is on her way to kill Angel. The two fight, but Buffy can’t quite get the job done. Angel explains his innocence and tells Buffy the truth. He was a monster for well over a hundred years, even killing his own family, until gypsies cursed him with a soul after he fed on a favorite daughter of their clan. Since then, he’s not fed on a living person. When Buffy asks why he didn’t just tell her the truth he responds with, “I wanted to. I can walk like a man, but I’m not one.” Shockingly, Buffy puts down her weapons, offering herself up to him. It seems slightly unbelievable that she would do this, but it’s indicative of the trust and faith she has already placed in him. It is the strength of this bond between them that refused to let her kill him in the first place. Angel and Buffy have now truly seen each other as they are, which solves everything and puts a major kink in Darla’s scheme to bring Angel back into the fold. Part of this episode’s genius is that it gives several perspectives, already proving that this show will not have two-dimensional characters. The fact that this episode makes me feel for Darla is a true testament to the writing. She says, “Do you know what the saddest thing in the world is? Loving someone who used to love you.” It is a deeply affecting moment because Darla isn’t just some demon trying to carry out her master plan. She is mourning the loss of someone she loves. Sure, she then loses all sympathy by trying to shoot Buffy, but the sentiment remains. This is furthered by the fact that her death comes at the hand of Angel, whose betrayal is evident by the way she utters his name before turning to dust. This episode also introduces the idea that vampires can share true affections, despite their lack of a soul. This will be looked at much more deeply when Spike and Drusilla are introduced in Season Two. S1E8: “I, Robot…You, Jane” (Writers: Ashley Gable & Thomas A. Swyden/ Director: Stephen Posey) Full disclosure: This is my least favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seriously, I really don’t like it. Not because its commentary on the dangers of the Internet is painfully dated (although it is) or even because the story falls flat (but does it ever). Those are factors, sure, but it’s the overall tone here that in my opinion robs this episode of any rewatchability. It’s difficult to sit through even the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve rewatched it multiple times over the years, always hoping to find more beneath the surface than I had noticed previously. Unfortunately, in all these years the only redeeming quality I’ve found in this installment is the introduction of Jenny Calendar. This episode basically boils down to a demon in the Internet. Buffy uses a lot of metaphor, sometimes thinly veiled, but usually clever. That could have been the case here. Willow falls for some guy online and he turns out to be a demon. Contextually, this story makes total sense. It was 1997 and the social implications of the Internet were feared as much as revered. Long before the term Catfish was coined, everyone had heard at least one horror story about meeting someone in a chat room that wasn’t who they purported to be. So why not Buffy that story up, by making this predator a literal monster? It’s not a terrible idea in theory. The problem lies in its execution. Adding further disappointment, this is the first Willow-centric episode we get. She deserved better. So, by inputting some old, scary book into the computer, Willow inadvertently unleashes Moloch the Corrupter. This guy, a pretty charismatic dude in his day, preys upon Willow’s loneliness and spends hours chatting her up online. Buffy and Xander don’t approve, but Willow is in too deep from the start and by the time she begins to question her new beau, it’s too late. What follows is a series of events kind of difficult to write about, on account of the fact that watching this episode again was an exercise in torture. Here goes, Moloch manipulates some weirdos, you know, because only weirdos want to be “jacked in”, into attacking Buffy (who he views as a threat) and kidnapping Willow. Oh yeah, and once he has a body built for himself, he attempts to “show Willow his appreciation”, which is not actually as dirty as I just made it sound. Meanwhile, Giles finally trusts Jenny Calendar (the smokin’ hot computer science teacher), upon realizing just how out of his depth he is. They save the day, mostly anyway, but Buffy has to do the heavy lifting. The penultimate scene of Giles and Jenny bonding is sweet and really, one of the only things that “I, Robot…You, Jane” does right. The other being Buffy, Willow and Xander’s conversation about their relationships thus far, and how they all seem to have an affinity for monsters. This is probably the one spot of humor in an otherwise bleak episode. See larger image Buffy : The Vampire Slayer (Season 1) Buffy: The Vampire Slayer – Season 1 Now you can own the entire first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. All 12 classic episodes are available in this 3-disc collector’s edition. From “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” “The Harvest” and “Angel” to “Nightmares.”“Out of Mind, Out of Sight” and “Prophecy Girl,” these Season One are a must for every true Buffy fan. New From: $14.65 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.