This episode opens with Buffy kickin’ some vamp ass, which is especially awesome because the fighting choreography is so bad in Season 1. Seriously. Somehow she manages to kick two vampires, standing on either side of her, AWAY from her with one kick. It makes no sense but it is charming.
I really love the ideology that the world didn’t start out as a paradise and instead was crawling with the big bad evil. It’s also super-interesting to me that the “mixing of demon and human blood” here is described as a bad, horrible thing (making vampires) and comes back in Season 7 when we find out about how the First Slayer was made. It’s just awesome how all of these little details are important to the greater story.
(Something I just thought of, though: What did/do the Old Ones feed on? Giles says that demons are “waiting for the animals to die out” and the Old Ones’ return. But what will they eat without any humans/animals…? The thought of a world full of vegan demons is really, really amusing to me right now.)
So Jesse is kidnapped by Darla and the Scoobies are…mildly concerned, I guess? Willow and Xander are obviously in shock about all the new info they’re receiving, but even Xander’s EXTRA INDIGNANCE seems…misplaced. What I mean by that is Xander definitely wants to be part of Jesse’s search-and-rescue team, but he seems more driven by the fact that BUFFY IS A GIRL AND IS GOING TO GO AFTER JESSE SO HE SHOULD MAN UP AND JOIN HER rather than, oh, I dunno, the fact that Jesse is his good friend.
Disclaimer, for what it’s worth: I really, really, really dislike Xander in the first few seasons and sporadically throughout the whole series. I won’t say I hate him. I won’t even say I dislike him by the end of the show. He will, on more than one occasion, say beautiful inspiring things that make me cry. Hell, I even have a tattoo from one of his lovely monologues. But I can’t get past his immature, insecure, idiotic behavior in the first few seasons enough to honestly enjoy him and I won’t pretend that I can.
This episode really highlights that behavior for me. Xander’s negative and positive qualities seem to be different sides of the same coin. On one side he’s loyal, brave, and dependable; on the other, he’s stubborn, impulsive, and…well…he hurts feelings. Is there a better way to phrase that? Probably, but I’m going with it. At the end of the day, early-series-Xander hurts my feelings a lot. And he annoys me to boot.
Xander: So what’s the plan? We saddle up, right?
Buffy: There’s no ‘we’, okay? I’m the Slayer and you’re not.
Xander: Heh. I knew you’d throw that back in my face.
How is stating a fact throwing it in your face, Xander? What do you even know about the Slayer other than the approxiamately four things Giles just told you? How did you ‘know’ Buffy was going to ‘throw that in your face’ when you’ve known Buffy for all of twenty-five minutes?
Buffy: Xander, this is deeply dangerous.
Xander: I’m inadequate. That’s fine. I’m less than a man.
Okay, look. I’m trying to understand him, I am. I have all the hindsight I need. I know Xander has issues stemming from his dysfunctional family. I know he’s a teenager, an immature one at that. And I know he probably is genuinely worried about Jesse. But…I can still be desperately annoyed by this scene, right? I think what annoys me most about Xander’s ridiculous comments (like above) is that they often go unchallenged. No one’s like, “Xander, I can’t even, just shut up.” Willow responds by being extra-logical (expressing her anxiety as well as her desire to help), but that’s it. And later, when Xander shows up in the sewer, Buffy just…accepts it. NO. TELL HIM TO STOP BEING AN IDIOT. GAHH.
Plus, ugh, being weaker than a girl (even one with superpowers) doesn’t make you “less of a man.” That’s just offensive.
Anyways. Angel appears and is cryptic, as usual, and warns Buffy not to go down into the sewers. I think Angel intuitively understands something about Buffy. Surely he doesn’t mean to scare her away from stopping the Harvest with all his warnings and hint-drops. I don’t believe for a second that he wants her to walk away and allow the Master to rise to full strength. I do believe him when he says that he’s afraid, though. He knows firsthand what the Master, Darla, and the rest are capable of, and he also knows that they’d very much like to see him dead, but I also believe perhaps that he sees something in Buffy that is stronger than himself and he’s okay with that. He knows she will push past her own fears even if he cannot. This is what I like most about him. From their very first meeting, he’s not insecure about her strength. He’s impressed by it, he wants her to embrace it, and he trusts her to use it. That’s awesome, and honestly pretty rare, in fiction as well as in real life. (And OH, his puppy-dog eyes when Buffy asks if he has a friend tug at my little old heartstrings.)
So anyway, Buffy and Xander find Jesse who, if you know how Joss Whedon’s brain works, you already know must be a vampire because of course he is. That’s what I like about this twist. Not only is Jesse pretty annoying so it’s cool that he’s killed off right away, but his death spells out that this show will push the limits. Kill what was assumed to be a main character in the first two episodes, let a demon set up shop in his body and have him attack his former friends? Good stuff. Buffy and Xander barely escape with their lives and the group is marginally bummed that Jesse is dead and then THEY NEVER MENTION HIM AGAIN. lololol I always find this hilarious. He was part of Willow and Xander’s core group, he’s murdered in a really traumatizing way, Xander has to stake him, AND THEY NEVER SPEAK OF HIM AGAIN. I understand that they can’t get all super grief-heavy in the very beginning of the show for a character we don’t really care about, but seriously? Never speaking his name again is kinda overkill. Pun unintended.
What Jesse’s death does do is set the tone for Xander’s (sometimes irrational) opinion on vampires. Of course, it doesn’t seem irrational right now. “I don’t like vampires. I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good,” seems entirely reasonable and, well, perfectly all right in context. However, I’ve always partly attributed this very episode to Xander’s chronic distrust of Angel and, later, Spike. (Am I the only one who finds Xander’s comment about how there are tasty young morsels in the Bronze and he knows that’s where Jesse will be very, VERY weird? Like…dude, your friend was a total creep, and you seemed to be okay with that until he was vamped.)
Joyce annoys me in this episode but I have plenty of time to get into why I dislike her, so that can wait. 😛 Buffy proceeds to
thunder sneak out of the house (tee-hee) and head to the Bronze, where Luke kills like 15 people in front of a full audience who will completely forget everything that happens immediately after it’s done.
To believe that people in Sunnydale are in institutionalized-levels of denial is to suspend disbelief a little. Or a lot. Whatever.
Darla and co. arrive in slow motion. Xander slays Jesse and apparently it’s VERY easy to slay vampires in the Whedonverse and basically if they brush up against a piece of wood, they’re dust.
Buffy fights the vampires, including Luke, and outwits him via fake sunlight and he dies (in slow motion!), again, in front of dozens of people but it’s okay, none of them will remember a thing. Remember?
The episode ends with Giles saying “The earth is doomed” and I love Daddy Giles so much. The Scoobies walk away together and yay! they’re a unit and yay! Willow will always be adorable and yay! one day Xander won’t piss me off every 30 seconds, I promise.