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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

March 8, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1-2 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

I recently rewatched the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie.

It’s… not great.

I mean, it is what it is, but the acting isn’t anything resembling outstanding and the story is dumb and nothing about it is particularly well made, but… hmm. Pee-Wee Herman is in it? And the entire third act just stars Kristy Swanson’s cleavage? So I mean… it tried. And Jungle Boy Jack Perry’s dad is in it! How cool must that have been to watch this in the early 90’s and say, “Look, it’s the father of future AEW World Tag Team Champion Jungle Boy!”. What a time to be alive the 90’s were.

I wanted to start going through some classic TV series that either I have never seen, or have needed to watch again. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it turns out, falls into the former category. When I ran the idea by my wife, she was thrilled. She is a huge fan of the show and has wanted an excuse to go back to it. I think since we met, she has watched it four of five times. Why not again, right?

I’ve seen very little, but SOME BTVS, sure… an episode here and there. I have an ex who tried to get me into it, but I bailed after about five episodes; it just wasn’t workin for me. Let’s see if this journey through the whole series goes any better.


Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

The series opens in Sunnydale, which… I suppose is in California? And, oh man, the camera work is super low-rent here. We get this tracking shot through a high school straight out of Film Class 101. A guy and his date are busting into the school to make out on the roof because that is a thing. The set up that the girl is in peril is so over-the-top that when she attacks him, it’s a less a shocking moment and more of a relief. But it is a nice little subversion that probably felt fresh in 1997.

(Oh nuts, I missed the 25th anniversary of this show by one year… even though I AM writing this in December)

Opening theme by Nerf Herder, who is an incredibly fun nerd-rock band. I love their first two albums. I saw them live once when they were touring with The Bloodhound Gang, and both bands put on a really fun show. YES! I am a hipster who knows the Buffy theme song band also had songs about Van Halen, Courtney Love, and Pantera fans being in love.

We get a nightmare from Buffy that looks like something right out of Night Of The Living Dead. She wakes up in her bedroom, and we see it is full of partially unpacked boxes. I want to say that this is great visual shorthand–showing without telling!–that Buffy has just moved, but DON’T WORRY: the show talks about her having moved 800 times this episode. So it’s more like Showing And Then Also Telling In Case You Are Stupid.

We get a barrage of recurring character introductions early on. We see Willow and Xander during the opening credits scenes. Then we meet Cordelia, and ALREADY this show makes me feel like shit because I am immediately reminded on Charisma Carpenter’s thoughts on Joss Whedon. At least he’s not making any money off of my watching this. Minutes later we get Giles, who sees Buffy and is like “IS IT YOU”, then throws a vampire book down in front of her. This show is the king of subtlety.

It also follows the comic book trope of “I must protect my identity to keep my loved ones safe”, and even as a comic fan, that feels dumb here. Like Whedon should have been clever enough to subvert that. But maybe he does in future episodes! How does keeping your mom in the dark make her safe? That has NEVER made sense. What’s more, Buffy is pathetically bad at keeping secrets, saying stuff like “I burned my former gym down because it was full of vampires I MEAN ASBESTOS” and “I will start spending my time with the living I MEAN THE LIVELY”. Wasn’t dialogue supposed to be one of Joss’ strengths?

I’m not so fresh to Buffy that I didn’t know what the vampires look like, but… these vampire faces are dumb as hell. I guess it’s a gimmick for the show to hang their hat on, but I’d rather it had… not done this. Why can’t they just look like people with teeth?

Oh, I forgot that we get Angel, like, RIGHT AWAY in the series. I thought he took a few episodes to debut, but nope: here he is. And he is ACTING, man. David Boreanaz was cast because he was handsome. Line reading came later (I mean, he’s much better in Bones, and I’ve seen swaths of Angel and never thought he was as bad as he is here).

Giles keeps hovering over Buffy in public, and NO ONE thinks this is creepy or anything? It’s very creepy.

GANGREL ENTRANCE! The Master is revived by his minions, and he rises up on a platform through a pool of blood. BAH GOD, IT’S GONNA BE A BLOODBATH, KING!

Anyway, this all leads up to Buffy seeing Willow walking out of a club with a vampire, but she loses them in the crowd because of Cordelia. A panicking Buffy finds Xander and demands he tell her where they might be.

But here is the thing!

The vampire takes Willow to a graveyard even though she doesn’t want to go there. And right as he is about to strike, Buffy and Xander show up.

How did they find them? There’s no way Xander was like “Oh, they might randomly go to a graveyard on the way to get ice cream!”. So why even have Buffy lose them? She could have just been following behind. She asks Xander where Willow would go, and he takes her right to… a place Willow wouldn’t have gone.

ANYWAY, pilot episode ends on a cliffhanger “To Be Continued” where a deadly vampire (named LUKE!) is about to kill Buffy.


Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

We pick up where we left off, with Buffy easily escaping LUKE’S clutches because she is wearing a cross. And I hope more vampires are named shit like LUKE. I can’t wait until her next big battle against DAVE! Also: This is a two-part pilot, so I am willing to forgive this for a bit, but PLEASE tell me the fight choreography gets better in this show. I can only watch so much of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s week three of gymnastics class lessons.

The vampires take Jesse to The Master so they all can realize Buffy is a slayer in just… some *chef’s kiss* level bad acting. Take notes, Boreanaz: if you are going to be bad, be COMICALLY bad.

SPEAKING OF WHICH: Angel is back when Buffy heads back to the mausoleum the next day. He remains cryptic and useless. In episode 1, he told Buffy he was “a friend”, and here, he acts sad and confused when Buffy asks him if he was ever had a friend. Come on show, that line was AN HOUR AGO.

Jesse is a vampire! Who could ever have predicted that?! I mean, I guess it’s easy in hindsight as I kept asking my wife, “who is this member of their friend group?” and she had no idea who he was. Buffy and Xander win by climbing out of and escaping the cage, er… sewer. It feels like our conquering heroine just flees a lot, really.

We find out that the vampires are trying to get The Master unstuck from his underground lair, and that if he escapes, it will be THE END OF THE WORLD. Show, it’s episode two, and that is unnecessary; calm down on the stakes, okay? It could just be, like, “…and then he might eat some people!”. Still worth stopping!

HA! Stakes! Because vampires.

Buffy goes home to supply up for the vampire assault, and she is grounded by her mom! I do actually appreciate the counter-balancing of stakes here: the fate of the world is on the line, but also, Buffy hasn’t been a good daughter. How will she escape her punishment to save the d–oh, her mom leaves her alone and she goes out the window. Okay. So mom’s a moron. Got it.

The vampires openly attack a large gathering of kids at the club and kill some of them (by neck biting!), so this means the cat is out of the bag and everyone in Sunnydale knows about vampires now, right? RIGHT?! Because I will be VERY CROSS if the show just rationalizes this away.

Jesse dies by accident when a fleeing club patron shoulder checks him into a stake. Sure. That felt earned.

More bad fighting. More level one gymnastics. And the day is saved! The Master is held at bay, and we were told this ritual could only be done once every 100 years, so *dusts hands off* I guess that’s the last we will see of him!

And that’s the first two episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer! I have watched both of these about sixteen years ago, and I remembered NONE of this. Aside from cryptic and useless Angel. I did actually recall hating his skulking about and doing fuck-all. I just didn’t remember it starting right in episode one.

I have heard season one is bad. I’ve also heard everything after season two is bad. So boy oh boy, I guess I’m waiting for those 12 episodes where the show is watchable before it gets bad again (my wife disagrees with what others have told me and says most everything after S1 is great, but… we’ll see).

Until next time… take care!