I take a step into the Buffyverse for the first time, in order to see what the hype is about by watching the first episode of Season One.
S1x01: Welcome to the Hellmouth
Well, it seems that I’m one of the few people in the SFF community that hasn’t watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it seems that It might be a good time to remedy that error, particularly as I’m also catching up on Supernatural, (currently re-watching Season 1 with my family who haven’t seen all of S1 yet), so it’ll be fun to see how the two shows can compare. At the moment, I’m liking Supernatural better, but Buffy certainly kicks off with an impressive pilot, introducing us to the main cast, the fantastic librarian Giles (Anthony Head), the social outcast Willow Rosenburg (Alyson Hannigan), the adolescent main character Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), – make up our main cast, with the mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz), and the currently completely one-dimensional “popular girl” Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), rounding out the list of the main characters.
The principal theme of Buffy is something that even non-viewers will know – that High School is Hell, and demonstrates this by allowing us to experience various circles of high-school life in the episode. We get to witness the popular gang, lead by Cordelia Chase, who is easily – as mentioned earlier, the most one-dimensional character here, and doesn’t really give us anything to care about her character this early on in the season. The same can also be said for Xander, and although he isn’t anywhere near as unlikeable as Cordelia, I’m hoping that his character develops over the course of the series (some say it doesn’t, others say his growth is the biggest of the lot), but having seen the first four episodes of Season One, I can say he’s probably the most annoying of our four central protagonists, Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles -with Angel not really having much to do in this episode apart from warning Buffy of the danger that awaits her. Whilst Buffy is somewhat of an average character, it’s Willow and Giles that really shine. Anthony Head, who played Uther Pendragon in Merlin, portrays his role as Giles the librarian perfectly here and has easily become my favourite character of the series so far. Second place probably goes to Willow, who gets some great moments in this episode, and I’m glad that Buffy chose to side with her over Cordelia.
There are several things that are good about Welcome to the Hellmouth, the first of the series two-parter. There is literally no time wasted – and we quickly know a lot about the Buffyverse from the get go – and Buffy as a character. The mythology of vampires is also dealt with in this episode, and it’s very interesting to see the conflict between the characters and the monsters. And of course, newcomers will also be pleased to know that Buffy doesn’t spend several seasons fighting Vampires either, episode three, not reviewed here, pits Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow against a witch. There are several great one-liners in this episode as well, and fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and The Avengers will recognise the snark and humours tones that he applies to his characters.
The episode, mainly due to its age – is somewhat dated. Special effects, like Supernatural’s Pilot, are somewhat poor – and the massive phones used in conjunction with the old, massive computers – are to be expected, but it doesn’t really present that much of a problem. The dialogue is somewhat cheesy in places, and ruins a few otherwise good scenes – but most of it is somewhat strong and entertaining.
Whilst Welcome to the Hellmouth is probably not the best Season Premier that I’ve ever seen – that award probably going to either Sherlock’s A Study in Pink, Supernatural’s Pilot, Firefly’s Serenity, Game of Thrones’ Winter is Coming or The Walking Dead’s Days Gone Bye, it’s still a strong one, around the same level as Doctor Who’s Rose. It’s also the first Season Pilot that I’ve seen to end on a cliffhanger as well – even if we know that Buffy will make it out, because they’re not really going to let a main character be killed off early in the series, but it was great for me as I wanted to get right into the next episode (which I did), and watch more.
If you enjoy Joss Whedon’s works and can put up with high school drama, then you’ll enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I reckon Supernatural fans will find something to love here – and although this isn’t anywhere near as scary as that, it certainly presents viewers with a lighter take on the horror genre. All said, it’s recommended, but not perfect.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 1 (1997): S1x01: Welcome to the Hellmouth, S1x02: The Harvest, S1x03: Witch, S1x04: Teacher’s Pet, S1x05: Never Kill A Boy on the First Date, S1x06: The Pack, S1x07: Angel, S1x08: I Robot… You, Jane, S1x09: The Puppet Show, S1x10: Nightmares, S1x011: Out of Mind, Out of Sight, S1x012: Prophecy Girl