1.1 Welcome to the Hellmouth
Buffy isn't in the teaser - it opens with that classic scene, the bad boy in the leather jacket and the petite blonde - who turns out to be a vampire (Darla) and totally kills him.
After the credits it's Buffy's first day at school and she rapidly meets Cordelia (so the show passes the Bechdel test in the first 10 minutes), Willow, Xander and Jesse.
Fantastic, quirky dialogue throughout - among many favourites:
CORDELIA: Don't you have an elsewhere to be?
and there's the first meeting with Giles (also newly arrived in Sunnydale), and then Angel...
ANGEL: Let's just say I'm a friend.
BUFFY: Maybe I don't want a friend.
ANGEL: I didn't say I was yours.
And after the vampires catch Willow and Jesse:
BUFFY: Well, we can do this the hard way, or... actually, there's just the hard way.
One thing it's easy to forget is how rich and lush it was visually - it looked like a film. There really hadn't been anything on TV like it before.
1.2 The Harvest
Willow's nerdhood is revealed when she pulls up a map of the city's sewers having previously hacked into the system. Buffy retraces her steps and finds Angel waiting for her. He's too "afraid" to tackle the Master's minions and warns Buffy against it, but she needs to save Jesse:
BUFFY: Do you know what it's like to have a friend?
ANGEL doesn't reply.
BUFFY: That wasn't supposed to be a stumper.
One of the best twists is when Jesse - apparently rescued - turns out to have been turned. Xander helps Buffy escape as they emerge into a large electrical substation. Giles explains about the hellmouth in the library, the first of many exposition-in-the-library scenes to come.
GILES: Opening dimensional portals is a tricky business.
The vampires head to the Bronze to feed, led by Darla in one of the first scenes underscored with rock music. Buffy defeats them. Xander dusts his friend Jesse.
ANGEL: She did it... I'll be damned.
Giles points out that this could be just the start of the perils attracted by the hellmouth:
GILES: It may be that we are all that stands between the Earth and utter destruction.
BUFFY: Well, I gotta look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school.
XANDER: Oh, yeah, that's a plan. Cause lots of schools aren't on Hellmouths.
WILLOW: Maybe you could blow something up. They're really strict about that.
BUFFY: I was thinking of a more subtle approach, you know, like excessive not studying.
GILES: The Earth is doomed.
Of course, Buffy will get kicked out, blow something up, and they will be all that stand between the Earth and utter destruction - a lot.
Buffy wants to take up cheerleading again.
GILES: You have a sacred birthright, Buffy. You were chosen to destroy vampires, not to wave pom-poms at people. And as the Watcher I forbid it.
BUFFY: And you'll be stopping me how?
We learn that Buffy's mom is opening a gallery. There is a moment of misdirection when we think Cordy could be the witch. Later, when Amy is believed to be the witch and Giles takes Buffy to her house, we see Giles' ancient car for the first time. Giles claims that the spell to undo Amy's mom's spell as his "first casting".
Cheerleading is shown to be a serious, dangerous business - I suppose that's the reversal of expectations in this episode. Buffy falls out and makes up with her mom. Xander tries several times to ask Buffy out but ends up being called "one of the girls".
1.4 Teacher's Pet
Buffy's nice biology teacher Dr. Gregory gives her a pep talk, then he is killed before the credits. Angel warns Buffy that something is coming ("fork guy") and romantically lends her his leather jacket. Xander, having seen this, is smitten with the shapely substitute biology teacher Miss French. But Buffy, hunting fork guy (helped by the local police - one of very few times we see them hunting vampires or indeed at all), sees him run away from Miss French.
GILES: Yes, she's lovely. Er, in a common, extremely well proportioned way.
While being seduced (and drugged) Xander can only think of Buffy.
XANDER: Your hands are really... serrated...
In another scene it continues to emerge that Willow can only think of Xander. In another reversal of typical TV themes, the heroine rushes in to save the helpless males from losing their virginity.
Once the monster is dispatched, Angel turns up again, and doesn't want his jacket back:
ANGEL: it looks better on you.
Suddenly, he can now act and has good hair. In the first two episodes he had bad hair, bad shirts and couldn't stop smiling. Now with v-neck t-shirts and a mysterious smile, he looks like a worthy romantic lead, possibly a rogue demon hunter, the audience might think.
1.5 Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
Mr. Giles is beginning to train Buffy and they are now close enough to spar a little with words.
BUFFY: OK, at this point you're abusing sarcasm.
They learn of a prophecy that the Order of Aurelius is going to bring a warrior to the Master. But no vampire rises in the graveyard so they give up, and Buffy rearranges her date.
BUFFY: Just you and me?
OWEN: Well we could invite the Chess Club but they drink... start fights...
Determined to have a social life as well as being the slayer, Buffy goes on her date leaving Giles to investigate the victims of a bus crash at Sunnydale Funeral Home, where he immediately runs into the Order. Luckily the vampire two or three feet from him fails to attack him, and the two that break into the room where he's hiding fail to search it, so he survives until Buffy is fetched. Believing the newly-risen vampire to have killed her date, Buffy fights the vamp and incinerates him.
The twist comes when after recovering, Owen decides he enjoyed the thrill of danger, and Buffy realises it's a bad idea and LJBFs him.
Giles reveals that he was told at age 10 that he was destined to be a Watcher, like his father "and his mother before him", and they talk about sacrifice and agree "no more Anointed One". Underground, a further twist: a smug Master greets a little boy from the bus crash.
1.6 The Pack
Xander, protecting a nerd from the mean kids, gets possessed by a Hyena spirit before the credits.
Buffy and Willow discuss their feelings for Angel and Xander. Principal Flutie has obtained a small pig to be the mascot for the Sunnydale Razorbacks, the same team that the cheerleaders were supporting in "Witch". Buffy wins at dodge-ball but the mean kids, joined by Xander, continue to pick on the nerd. Xander is mean to Willow too. Buffy thinks this is weird and consults the "expert on weird". Giles thinks "it's devastating - he has turned into a 16 year old boy".
BUFFY: I cannot believe that you of all people are trying to Scully me!
But then the pig is found eaten and Flutie orders the mean kids into his office (where he has a portrait of himself on the desk). Xander is not with them and attacks Buffy. He talks of how Buffy likes men "dangerous and mean - like Angel" which is odd given that Angel has done nothing but talk (and glare a little) so far. Meanwhile the others kill and eat Flutie, further establishing that in this show, even recurring characters can get killed at any time. And eaten.
Buffy lures the hyena kids back to the zoo, where the twist is that the kindly zoo-keeper was actually trying to get the hyena "transpossession" for himself. He succeeds, but Buffy bests him and he gets eaten by the real hyenas, who get their power back, while Buffy and Willow appreciate having the non-mean Xander back.
The first episode with a "Previously..." starts with the Master sending The Three to kill the Slayer, but still has time to drop in on the high school students in the Bronze.
WILLOW: What about Angel?
BUFFY: I can just see him in a relationship: "Hi honey, you're in grave danger. See you next month."
WILLOW: He's not around much, it's true.
BUFFY: When he is around, it's like the lights dim everywhere else.
A despondent Buffy goes home early, gets attacked by the Three before the credits, and saved by Angel after them. She takes him home (inviting him in), where he promptly meets Buffy's mom - she tells her he's "first year community college" - not UC Sunnydale?
Angel stays and the next night they kiss, and he loses control and shows his vampire face. (I wish I could remember what it was like when this twist came - did I have any idea?) Cue some soul-searching for Buffy with her gang. Meanwhile Darla shows up and Buffy's mom invites her in (a chilling moment - I think the scariest in Season 1). Darla attacks mom. Angel hears the scream and rushes in, is handed the body, and is seen by Buffy.
Buffy hunts Angel down at the Bronze, but they fail to kill each other, and Angel explains his curse and dusts Darla instead. The Bronze re-opens, and Buffy meets Angel there (Xander can't watch). They agree they can't "be together" but kiss again anyway. This show wonderfully true to teenage life - what a shame we grow up so quickly. Buffy very soon wasn't 16 any more.
1.8 I Robot, You Jane
The Demon Moloch is captured into a book before the credits. A mediaeval monk seals the book, and the next thing, Buffy unseals it.
BUFFY: Oh great! A book.
The computer science teacher Ms. Calendar, who calls Mr. Giles "Rupert", is helping the library geeks scan in books.
After the credits, Willow tells Buffy about her online friend Malcolm. Meanwhile, we see a search for Buffy's record in which her birthdate initially appears as 10/24/80 but in the next shot is 05/06/79 - which can't be right, since we know that it's 1997 and Buffy is 16. (The student record system's display design is also pretty improbable, but at least it doesn't go bleepy-bleepy-bleep as it displays things, like the ones in many TV shows.) Willow gets more involved with "Malcolm" and Buffy gets more suspicious, but has nothing better to do than follow fellow geek Dave while wearing sunglasses. (Not clear how she follows him, when he drives a car and she doesn't.) We learn that CRD, Cadillacs Research Development, used to be the 3rd biggest employer in Sunnydale.
MS. CALENDAR: You kids really love the library.
XANDER: To read makes our speaking English good.
Buffy, who wears a particularly high proportion of clingy tops in this episode, narrowly escapes death when Dave warns her off. Dave confronts Malcolm, who writes his suicide note. Buffy, Giles and Xander figure out what happened with Moloch.
BUFFY: He's gone binary on us!
While Buffy and Xander look for Willow, Giles enlists Ms. Calendar for the ritual to re-entrap Moloch.
MS. CALENDAR: The first thing we must do is form a Circle of Kayliss.
GILES: Form a circle? But there's only two of us. That's really more of a line.
However, they succeed in binding Moloch in his robot body, which in traditional sci-fi "with one bound Jack was free" fashion, Buffy defeats by tricking it into punching a high voltage power line.
Buffy and Xander console Willow by reviewing their dysfunctional relationships so far (vampire, preying mantis and killer robot).
BUFFY: Let's face it. None of us is ever going to have a happy normal relationship.
And she's right. Prophecy girl, eh?
1.9 The Puppet Show
Buffy and company mock the school talent show until new principal Snyder volunteers them for it. Buffy reveals that puppets give her "the wig". A menacing point-of-view stalks an improbably buxom high school student and mutters "I will be flesh!"
SNYDER: This place has a bad reputation... spontaneous cheerleader combustion... you can't put up with that.
They realise the dummy is alive eventually, after finding Morgan, its owner, dead. The dummy fails to kill Buffy, and reveals that he thought she was the demon he's hunting, who needs a heart and a brain.
DUMMY: I knew a slayer in the 30s... Korean chick... very hot.
I can't remember, but I bet the 30s Korean slayer turns up in a flashback sooner or later.
Flutie was a good character, but with Snyder we get a whole extra dimension - authoritative, almost menacing, but also manipulatable and exceedingly funny in his deadpan delivery. I'm really struck how excellent the casting of the show is - there isn't a single weak major character, and Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Joyce and Snider are just perfect and an absolute joy to watch.
Buffy has a nightmare about the Master. She is looking forward to a weekend with her father, who lives in LA and only "comes down for weekends sometimes". The Master and the Annointed One talk vaguely about fear and change coming.
Buffy's friends talk about their fears. A classmate, Laura, goes down to the badly-lit basement and is attacked by a demon. Buffy realises that nightmares are starting to come true.
BUFFY: what, am I knowledge girl now?
GILES: Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Our nightmares are coming true.
(This is referred back to years later in "Once More With Feeling", when Willow suggests that the people being impelled to sing and dance are because "some kid is dreaming and we're all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare".)
Immediately, Cordelia is seen with massive, unmanageable hair. (Later she's seen being dragged along screaming "but I'm not even on the Chess Team, I swear!") Buffy soon finds the small boy she's been seeing around, Billy.
BUFFY: are you Billy Palmer?
(Given that the other victim was Laura, I can't help thinking of the moment in Twin Peaks when Cooper, dreaming, asks "are you Laura Palmer?")
Buffy runs into the Master, who buries her alive. Mr. Giles and the others find her grave.
XANDER: Whose nightmare is this?
GILES: it's mine.
They see a headstone: "Buffy Summers 1981-1997". In a moment I find genuinely touching, Giles laments his failure as a watcher, then Buffy rises as a vampire. With swarms of scary bees threatening the (interestingly terracotta-roofed) town, they find Billy's hospital room, Buffy defeats the Ugly Man and the nightmare is ended. Buffy goes off with her dad, and Xander admits he still fancied her when she was a vampire.
1.11 Out of Mind, Out of Sight
In Ms. Miller's literature class, Cordelia is shown to be a more thoughtful student than Buffy ever is. Buffy reveals that she was the equivalent of the May Queen at her old school. Cordelia's boyfriend of the week, Mitch, is attacked by a baseball bat, but isn't killed.
SNYDER: Of course not. There are no dead students here! This week.
Pretty soon Cordelia's sidekick Harmony mysteriously falls down the stairs. The gang (Willow wearing a Scooby Doo teeshirt) wonder if there's an invisible girl in the school. Buffy sees Cordelia surrounded by friends trying out her May Queen dress and suddenly it's clear Cordelia is now a sympathetic character and we should worry about her becoming a victim.
Angel shows up in the library - he wants to help without Buffy seeing him.
GILES: A vampire in love with the slayer! It's rather poetic... in a maudlin sort of way.
Giles mentions lost volumes of slayer lore such as the Pergamon Codex. Ms. Miller is attacked and Cordelia figures out it's all about her, and begs Buffy for help. They have a heart-to-heart and discover some similar feelings around loneliness.
CORDELIA: People just want to be in the popular zone.
Marcie locks Xander, Willow and Giles in the boiler room (with gas escaping) and captures Buffy and Cordelia. Buffy fights Marcie and Angel rescues the others. (Angel has obtained a copy of the Codex, lost since the 15th century, in a matter of hours.) Buffy beats Marcie and the FBI show up to take her away, to join a class of invisible kids studying "assassination and infiltration"... "cool!". A little subtle satire there, folks.
1.12 Prophecy Girl
Xander practises chatting up Buffy on Willow, who of course enjoys it. We see the library through its glass roof for the first time as Mr. Giles discovers the prophecy of Aurelius that the Master read out in The Harvest: that the Master will rise and the slayer will die. Then there's an earthquake.
THE MASTER: My time is come, glory, glory! What do you think, 5.1?
Xander finally (after 12 episodes) gets the courage to ask Buffy out and is LJBF'd. Ms. Calendar comes to Mr. Giles worrying that "the end is seriously nigh" and tells him of some nut emailing her about the Annointed One.
Buffy walks in on Giles explaining to Angel that the prophecy says that "tomorrow night, Buffy will face the Master, and she will die". In perhaps her best scene of the series, Buffy goes through a range of emotions including "think it will hurt?" and "I know the drill - one slayer dies and the next is called" and "I quit!"
Buffy's mom has bought her the awesome dress she wanted. Cordelia and Willow are in school on a Saturday to set up for the dance, and Cordelia is talking about how much she's into he boyfriend Kevin, and they discover Kevin and his buddies killed by vampires. There's a beautiful shot of the sunset over the lush valley Sunnydale. Buffy goes to comfort Willow wearing Angel's leather jacket over her white dress.
Buffy defies Giles to go and confront the Master, and immediately meets the Annointed One - and says she knows who he is, so the prophecy is apparently not entirely true already.
While Willow, Giles and Ms. Calendar wibble, Xander resolutely goes and persuades Angel to show him the Master's hideout. Xander is seen to be Buffy's most loyal friend (despite being rejected - which is rather heroic really), while Angel is passive and weak - his love for Buffy still, obviously, less than his fear of the Master. Buffy finds the Master first and is easily defeated.
THE MASTER: Prophecies are tricky creatures... they don't tell you everything. You're the one who sets me free.
Buffy is discarded after a momentary bite; the Master leaves and Angel and Xander arrive moments later. Angel reports that she's dead, but Xander won't accept it. He suggests CPR.
ANGEL: You'll have to do it - I have no breath.
This is a pretty odd thing to say, as we often see Spike and other vampires smoking in later episodes; perhaps Angel just doesn't have the nerve, or realises that Xander should be rewarded for being the more heroic one of them. Xander does it, and brings Buffy back to life. This is the pivotal point of the entire Buffy story, the thing that the prophecy didn't forsee - that "she alone will stand against the vampires" is wrong, that this slayer has friends who can save her from death.
Willow and Ms. Calendar discover that the vampires, expected to converge on the hellmouth, are coming to the school. The Master watches from the library roof as the hellmouth begins to open in the library itself. Cordelia screams a lot while Giles hits the tentacles with an axe. Buffy fights the Master and this time isn't influenced by his hypnosis; she throws him through the roof and he is impaled and turns to dust. The vampires retreat and the hellmouth closes; the gang decide to go to the dance at the Bronze.
ANGEL: By the way, I really like your dress.
BUFFY: Yeah yeah, it's a big hit with everyone.