These first two episodes are more about world-building than storytelling, but the world they create is immediately compelling.
This recap of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1, Episode 2, “The Harvest”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Surprise! Despite the pretty suspenseful cliffhanger at the end of the pilot episode, the eponymous Buffy the Vampire Slayer does not, in fact, die 50 minutes into the show’s seven-season run. (Jesse will though — RIP. If it makes you feel any better I don’t think any of the characters ever mention him again.)
Buffy manages to escape Luke and the cemetery, fleeing to the safety of the Sunnydale High School library. Willow and Xander are brought fully into the fold very quickly considering that they’re two children with no superpowers, but I appreciate how gung-ho they are about helping.
(Also, I didn’t mention this in the first episode, but its probably worth telling the world how weird it is for me that when I watched this show as a kid I remember crushing on, like, Xander, but now its impossible for me to ignore how adorable young Giles is in his little tweed suits. The passage of time makes fools of us all, and now I stan an uptight librarian with a dark past.)
Buffy realizes that the vampires are using the sewer system to get around, so she goes to rescue Jesse (Xander tags along but does literally nothing but complain and get in the way so we have his number very early on in the proceedings). Willow does some very 90s hacking to get plans of the sewer system for Buffy while Giles researches the Harvest — look at the Scooby gang working together! (Except for Xander who, not to be mean, is pretty useless.)
It’s also around this point that we’re treated to some more cryptic clues about the Harvest from Angel. And I don’t know if its the writing or the acting (probably the latter), but the chemistry between Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz is all kinds of weird in this episode. It reads like an audition where the actors have never met before and only casually glanced at the script. And he’s trying to sell the sad puppy dog look way too hard.
So anyway — the Harvest. As Giles explains, the Harvest is this weird blood ritual where Luke the vampire becomes a Vessel and eats a bunch of people so that the Master can grow big and strong enough to go above ground again. This, presumably, would be a Bad Thing. It’s all kind of vague, low-grade evil, but I am digging the Gothic erotica vibe between Luke and the Master.
Of course, the best place to carry out this plan is the Bronze, where there are plenty of tasty morsels running around for Luke to munch on. And that’s where our first major set piece of the show takes place. Honestly, there’s still a little work to be done in terms of the vamp facial makeup and dental prosthetics (I’m getting flashes of Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and that is not a compliment) but it’s fun. Buffy’s bit where she tricks Luke into believing that he was about to be destroyed by sunlight when actually sunrise is “in about nine hours, moron” — this is a glimpse of what’s to come when she reaches her full quipping power. And the image of her on stage at the end, the way she’s framed in such a dominant and confident pose, is incredibly striking and very unlike how we’re used to seeing teenage girls depicted on television.
Oh, and Xander accidentally dusts vampire Jesse. He’s really broken up about it just kidding I cannot stress enough how much no one mentions him ever again.
Best Moment: Cordelia and Harmony are being little monsters in computer class (remember, this is the 90s), and while they’re working on a coding assignment Willow convinces them that the DEL key stands for deliver rather than delete. They delete their entire assignment. Classic Willow.