00:00 – 15:00
Welcome to my deep rewatch—or, DeepWatch, if that doesn’t give you the wiggins—of the 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The plan is to watch every episode with an eye to detail, resulting in not just an annotated synopsis and review of each episode, but a running commentary about story construction, character creation, and all-around worldbuilding.
This project is being done under my own “15-Minute” brand, which also includes “15-Minute Force,” a breakdown of all Star Wars movies (except for the last one—yet), and “15-Minute Federation,” a project doing the same dissection to the Star Trek movies (currently up to Star Trek: The Search for Spock). Because those other on-going projects weren’t daunting enough, I’ve decided to give Buffy the same treatment.
The second episode, “The Harvest,” premiered on the same night as “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” so there’s no “on this date in history” update.
We last left Buffy on a “to be continued . . .” cliffhanger. Buffy was pinned in a stone coffin inside of a mausoleum by vampire Gold’s Gym member-for-unlife Luke. Luke rips her shirt open, leaning in to bite, but is burned by the silver crucifix that Mysterious Guy (I know his name is Angel, but Buffy still doesn’t know that) gave her as a housewarming gift. Buffy presses her sudden, unexpected advantage and knocks Luke off of her. Then, wisely, she runs away through the graveyard.
I believe this was a real graveyard location in this episode. If not, the scenery and props guys did a bangup job making it look like one.
Buffy hears Willow’s screams. A vampire trying to make a snack out of Willow gets a patented Slayer kick to the face. An unconscious Xander is being dragged off by another couple of bloodsuckers, so Buffy has to rescue him as well. One vampire gets a tree-branch stake through the heart, and the other one runs off.
Jesse is missing. Xander volunteers the information that “that girl” grabbed Jesse and took off. Xander means Darla the Vampire, not Marlo Thomas.
End of teaser. Cue opening credits and that rad theme. Begin Act I.
Then, we’re in the Library at Sunnydale High School. Our most elaborate set and a frequent series location. Also, a safe place. Reasonably safe, I mean, by Buffy standards. We had scenes set in the Library (yes, the capitalization is done on purpose) in the first episode, but I think this scene is the first of what I call Rupert-Giles-as-Professor-Exposition scenes.
It’s the morning following their night in the cemetery. Giles is giving Xander and Willow the crash course in vampires, demons, and things that go bump in the night. Here, I’ll let you have the exposition in Giles’s own words.
“The world is older than any of you know, and contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons, demons walked the Earth: made it their home . . . their Hell. In time, they lost their purchase on this reality, and the way was made for the mortal animals. For Man. What remains of the old ones are vestiges: certain magicks, certain creatures . . .”
And vampires, of course, as Buffy reminds her new friends.
Willow seems more able to accept the existence of vampires than Xander, for some reason. Xander seems to trying—and failing—to hold on to the final vestiges of skepticism. But, he can’t deny the evidence provided by his senses. Plus, Buffy can be convincing.
This scene is where we learn most of the facts that we know about vampires and their origins. Vampires are humans infected with a demon’s soul. Vampires kill some humans and use others to make more of their kind. Most are just waiting for humans to die out and the Old Ones to return.
This origin story leaves a lot of room for future embellishments. As I recall, there will be some down the road.
The instructional purpose of the previous scene completed, we cut to an underground tunnel, where musclebound vampire Luke brings potential Scooby Gang member Jesse to the subterranean church that is the Master’s Lair. Darla is there, too. The Master gets angry because Darla had “tasted” Jesse. Luke adds that it is possible that one of the girls, a fighter who knew of their breed, is the Slayer. This seems to intrigue the Master.
Back to the Library. Professor X-position is back at it. This time he’s explaining that Buffy is the Slayer and what the Slayer does. This explanation is less involved than the demon-to-vampire factoid. The Slayer hunts vampires. Not just vampires, as we’ll find out soon, but vampires are her specialty.
Xander wants to know how to kill vampires because Jesse is his friend. Buffy says that Luke said something about an offering for the Master. This means that there’s a chance that Jesse is still alive. She will find him.
Because the vampires in the graveyard disappeared so quickly, Giles suggests that they went underground. Buffy tells her new friends that vampires “really jam on sewer systems.” Sewers give them the ability to get anywhere in town without coming up into the sunlight. Giles says a diagnostic of the tunnel system would help, but would require going to the building commission. Willow says she may know another way.
We cut back to the Master’s Lair, the underground church. The Master is still talking about the Slayer. He asks if there’s any proof that she’s the Slayer. Luke says only that she fought him and still lives. The last time that happened was in 1843 in Madrid. Luke says someone caught him sleeping. I guess this establishes that vampires have to sleep, just like humans.
The Master doesn’t want Buffy to interfere with the Harvest. But, not to worry, they have something that she wants and she’ll try to save Jesse, if she’s the Slayer.
Luke tells Jesse he’s been upgraded from “meal” to “bait.”
Back to the Library, a continuation of the earlier scene. Willow demonstrates her computer hacking skills (a defining character trait and one of her “talents”) and breaks into the city’s schematics. There doesn’t seem to be any sewer access in the cemetery.
Giles seems a little concerned that Willow is committing an illegal act by hacking into city government files. I think he’ll learn to ignore this concern. For the greater good, and all that.
Buffy makes a comment about Luke appearing in the mausoleum out of nowhere. This jogs her memory. He came from behind her, and she was facing the only entrance to the mausoleum. The entrance to the sewer tunnels must be in the mausoleum. These types of intuitive leaps by Buffy will become a regular thing. I’m not saying that Buffy isn’t smart. She’s no Willow Rosenberg, certainly, but who among us are? But, Buffy has a certain Slayer-sense, like Spider-Man has a Spidey-sense. During these occurrences, Buffy’s IQ points seem to take an exponential leap—at least temporarily. As the Slayer, Buffy is very smart about the things the Slayer needs to be smart.
Buffy says she’s going alone. It’s too dangerous for Xander and Willow.
Xander whines about being inadequate and less than a man. Willow says she’s not anxious to go into dark places full of monsters. Giles has another use for Willow in her superhero role as Hacker Girl. He asks her if she can help him research this “Harvest affair” using that “dread machine.” Meaning the computer. Rupert Giles is a bit set in his ways, and his disdain for computers will become a thing. For some good reasons.
I can relate. I studied computer programming in college, and I even sold IBM knockoffs at Radio Shack. But, I never owned a PC until 2000. In fact, I can’t even say I “owned” that one. It belonged to the woman who later became my wife. I can’t say I even regularly used a computer as more than a word processor (and it was difficult to leave my typewriter) until high-speed internet became a thing.
Professor X-position isn’t quite finished. Giles does give us a bit more info about the Harvest than we had before. He says it seems to be some sort of pre-ordained massacre. “Rivers of blood. Hell on Earth. Quite charmless.” Not much more to go on, but it certainly sounds bad, doesn’t it? Prophesies will continue to be an important part of the series, along with countless impending apocalypses.
As Buffy is about to leave the Sunnydale campus, heading for the open gate, she’s stopped by Principal Bob Flutie. She tells the principal that Mr. Giles asked her to get a book for him at the store, since she had a free period. Principal Flutie says that may be the way things are done in Britain, but nobody leaves the Sunnydale campus while school’s in session. When he asks, “Are we clear?” Buffy responds with a “We’re clear.”
The principal has shut the gate. After he turns and walks away, Buffy jumps the fence, Bionic Woman-style.
Willow and Xander walk and talk in one of the school’s myriad hallways (probably just the same hallway redressed for every scene). They are talking about what topics Willow should research to find out more about the Harvest. Murder, natural disasters, the paranormal and unexplained, rain of toads. At least Willow is doing something to help. Xander says he’ll help by “standing around like an idiot.” Willow doesn’t want Xander to place himself in danger either, because that’s another of her defining character traits.
She’s Hacker Girl, Tutor Girl, and Crush-on-Xander Girl.
Xander, so far, is less defined. Yes, he lusts for Buffy and thinks of Willow as just a friend. Otherwise, he’s just Insecure Lad, Horny Dude and Deflects-with-Humor Boy. He seems brave, but not very capable.
When Xander tells Willow she should get to class, she says, “You mean ‘we.’ We should get to class.” Oh, no. You don’t think Xander is about to do something stupid, do you?
Another one of his superhero names. The Human Plot Complication.
Buffy, having escaped from high school, enters the same mausoleum from last night. She seems nervous, jumpy. She finds a locked iron door.
“I don’t suppose you have a key on you,” Buffy says. Mysterious Guy steps out of the shadows. She somehow knew he was there. Slayer-sense, like I was saying.
Mysterious Guy says he knew she’d figure out where the entrance was located. He thought she’d figure it out sooner, though.
Buffy says, “Okay, if you’re gonna be popping up with this cryptic wise man act on a regular basis, can you at least tell me your name?”
Which is how we find out that Mysterious Guy is named Angel. He tells her not to go down there. Tonight is the Harvest. Unless she can prevent it, the Master will walk. Buffy uses her super Slayer strength to kick the door open. Buffy says she has a potential friend down there, so she’s going. Angel tells her to head east, toward the school, when she gets to the tunnel. That’s where she’s likely to find them.
Buffy says, “Gonna wish me luck?”
Here is where we hit our 15-minute mark, very close to the end of Act I. But, you’re going to have to wait until next time to find out if Angel wishes Buffy luck.
Join me next time on our Buffy the Vampire Slayer DeepWatch for Part 2 of “The Harvest.”