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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Harvest

Joyce: "I know. If you don't go out, it'll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you're a sixteen-year-old girl."

What is delightful here is that it really will be the end of the world.

This is not a very good episode in the grand scheme of Buffy things, but it gives us a couple of important firsts: (1) Buffy averts her first Apocalypse, and (2) our core of four main characters, Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles, start bonding as we get the first of many exposition scenes in the school library. There are even staples such as Giles researching the end of the world, Willow computer-hacking into the city's plans, and Xander following Buffy into the tunnels as her Boy Wonder wanna be ("It's this, or chem class.")

I'm not a big fan of the Master; despite an occasional bon mot, he's just too unambiguously, mustache-twirling evil. His over-the-top melodramatic scenes with Luke are almost too much. But it's great fun to watch Buffy outwit Luke at the end; it's amazing that a vampire as stupid as Luke could have lived so long.

There is a little Cordelia character development as she completely rags on an absent Buffy while working on a mandatory programming assignment in the computer lab. Willow, already showing more gumption than in the first episode, takes revenge by telling Cordelia to hit the "deliver" key. It seems that nearly everyone blanks out or rationalizes the supernatural things they see in Sunnydale, as Cordelia does ("rival gangs"). But Willow and Xander retain their knowledge of the truth, right from the beginning. Were Willow and Xander fated to help the Slayer?

Back once again in the mausoleum, Buffy once again encounters her handsome, mysterious stranger. She learns that his name is Angel, that vampires don't like Angel, and that Angel has no friends. Stay tuned.

Bits and pieces:

-- The trunk in Buffy's bedroom is a transparent metaphor for Buffy herself and her life, with the perfume, ribbons, and girly stuff above, and stakes, crosses, and holy water hidden beneath.

-- At the beginning of the episode, Giles refers to the Bible as popular mythology. I'm just mentioning this because I like it.

-- The infamous Sunnydale sewer systems and engineering tunnels are a convenient plot device that enables vampire characters to move around in the daytime without bursting into flames.

-- Librarians are usually pretty good with computers (I'm a librarian) and I cringe whenever I see Giles fumbling with one and calling it a "dread machine." Giles is more of an archetypal wise man character than a real librarian, though, and I don't insist on reality in my fantasy shows.

-- Harmony (Mercedes McNab) is introduced in the computer lab scene as Cordelia's friend. She is listed as Harmony in the final credits, although she is not referred to by name in the scene.

-- In the tunnels, rats literally crawl over Buffy's petite, well-shod feet, and she doesn't even wince. No girly screams for our Buffy.

-- Ever notice how no one on television has screens in their windows?

-- The Master has been stuck on the Hellmouth for sixty years. The vamps are waiting for the humans to die out and the old ones to return. Good luck with that, guys.

-- Xander is wearing what might be the ugliest shirt I've ever seen: green, and covered with toadstools.

-- This week's dog reference: The Master says to Darla, "I'm your faithful dog. You bring me scraps." And in the Bronze, Cordelia says that pre-vamp Jesse was following her around like a little puppy dog.

Quotes:

Xander: "Okay, this is where I have a problem. See, because we're talking about vampires. We're having a talk with vampires in it."

Giles: "All right. The Slayer hunts vampires, Buffy is a Slayer, don't tell anyone. Well, I think that's all the vampire information you need."

Giles: "You have no idea where they took Jesse?"
Buffy: "I looked around, but soon as they got clear of the graveyard, they could have just, voom."
Xander: "They can fly?"
Buffy: "They can drive."

Giles: "It may be that you can wrest some information from that dread machine. (pause) That was a bit, um, British, wasn't it?"

Xander: "This is just too much. I mean, yesterday my life's like, uh-oh, pop quiz. Today it's rain of toads?"

Xander: "You've done some beheading in your time?"
Buffy: "Oh, yeah. There was this time I was pinned down by this guy that played left tackle for varsity. Well, at least he used to before he was a vampire. Anyway, he had this really, really thick neck, and all I had was a little, little X-act-o knife..."

Jesse: "I can hear the worms in the earth."
Xander: "That's a plus."

Xander: "I don't like vampires. I'm going to take a stand and say they're not good."

Cordelia: "Senior boys, hmm, they have mystery. They have... what's the word I'm searching for? Cars."

Buffy: "What exactly were you expecting?"
Xander: "I don't know, something. I mean, the dead rose. We should at least have an assembly."

It gets a lot better than this. One out of four stakes,

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

20 comments:

  1. One little comment first. I remember when I first started watching Buffy, I didn't like the Cordelia character. She was just way to over the top for me. I really thought that Charisma Carpenter was a terrible actress. It's not until much later that I began to like Cordy. I think the writers began to write her as a real person in the second season. Of course now I'm just way ahead of myself.

    As for this episode: It was good. Never liked the Master much myself. This season was more about getting to know the characters then the Big Bad. Julie Benz is just fantastic and you can see why Joss is so in love with her.

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  2. The only good thing about this episode is watching the Scoobies work together for the first time.

    I think it is obvious in the first season that there was no real "plan," certainly in terms of the mythology. It's a sign of how much we all love this show that we are as forgiving as we are with all the ret-con that will eventually happen.

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  3. The BUFFY RE-WATCH is on! Post your comments! Remember, no spoilers for future episodes. If you'd like to talk spoilers and foreshadowing, you can post them here. And tweet the link and/or like this review on Facebook, pretty please?

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  4. This one definitely wasn't as entertaining as the first hour. It felt far more exposition heavy (as you note, Billie). But it was certainly fun to watch the Scoobie Gang's first forays into team work. "The Earth is doomed."

    Loved seeing Harmony for the first time! It was a nice little surprise, because I'd forgotten she shows up so early in the series.

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  5. As mentioned above "team work" is the best part of this episode.

    What I liked the most about this "team work" part is that right off the first two episodes our core characters know what's going on and really work together. I don't like it when a TV series grug endlessly the secret of lead character being something more than a regular human.

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  6. I agree that the Master is too over the top. He has never been a favorite of mine. However, Darla seems pretty good, especially in the first part of the pilot. The best part of Luke is definitely when Buffy tricks him about the sunlight. I get a kick out of it every time.

    So what is the deal with the jar of communion wafers in Buffy's trunk, which I noticed for the first time? Is she planning on force feeding vamps with them? Also, I always laugh at the ways Buffy appears to be the bionic woman's daughter in this episode.

    While rewatching it this time and the last time I did, I have noticed how much more I can relate to Joyce. As a mother of teens myself, I can't even imagine how worried she must be about Buffy's behavior. The first time I watched it, I was just annoyed by her cluelessness.

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  7. I forgot to mention in my last post how impressed I am with the way in which the main characters of Buffy, Giles, Willow, and Zander are fleshed out quickly. They have such great chemistry right from the beginning. I am not sure I ever cared so much about characters this quickly with the possible exception of Lost.

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  8. Joyce: "I know. If you don't go out, it'll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you're a sixteen-year-old girl."

    Great review Billie, and that comment by Joyce is the one that always gives makes me smile when I rewatch this series. Joyce didn't know how right she was - literally.

    Totally agree about the Master. And I also think that the whole vessel/the harvest story is a bit silly.

    Everytime I see this I can't help but feel sorry for Jesse. I always want him to make it somehow, he would have been a great addition to the gang.

    Found these old WB promos on Youtube.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctu9s0lsmKQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxeNz0RiVhw
    Love it when David Boreanaz flirts with Shannen Doherty.:)
    It's amazing how far some of these actors/actresses have come. Katherine Heigl, Michelle Williams and Katie Holmes to name a few...

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  9. “All right. The Slayer hunts vampires. Buffy is a Slayer. Don’t tell anyone.”

    I love the fact that the Scooby Gang is developed right from the start, along with the wonderful dynamic each member brings to it. Although Buffy is the heroine of the piece, she is made stronger by those she trusts with her secret.

    Willow is the big brain, able to hack into the city’s system and help Giles with the research. Although she is terrified at all the new information, she is able to put her fear aside to help her new friend. I love the scene where she staunchly defends Buffy to Cordelia, then tells Cordelia to hit the “Deliver” button.

    Xander, on the other hand, is the big heart. He is terrified as well, but he rushes to help Buffy and Jesse without thinking too hard about how much danger he is actually in. He is genuinely upset when he and Buffy are too late to save Jesse, yet he doesn’t hesitate to jump right back into the fray. It’s a poignant moment when Jesse is dusted by Xander’s stake. I’ve always been glad it was an accident and not an intentional act on Xander’s part. That may have been a step too far for this early in the series.

    Giles is just, well, awesome. I love his sarcasm, his self-awareness and his resignation when he realizes that dealing with this Slayer is going to be outside the box. Never once does he reprimand Buffy for bringing Willow and Xander in on the secret; he simply accepts the fact and looks on the bright side. Willow can manipulate the “dread machine.”

    The paternal dynamic is evident as well. He obviously cares about Buffy right from the start and worries about her. He doesn’t hide the truth from her and he treats her and the choices she makes with respect. He may not always agree with her choices, but he will do whatever he can to protect her once those choices are made.

    He’s also looking after Willow and Xander and doing it in exactly the right way. He is tender and confidential with Willow; he tells Xander the hard truth, forcing him to face the fact that Jesse is beyond saving.

    Of course, it is the four of them working together that manage to avert the apocalypse and it is the four of them on whom we focus as the pilot ends. The best part is that it goes out with a sense of humor, “The earth is doomed.”

    TJ -- those promos were great fun! Brought back memories of shows I probably shouldn’t admit I watched and loved.

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  10. I had forgotten how darn cheesy this episode was. The scenes with Darla, Luke, and the Master were almost unwatchable. Don't worry newbies, it gets MUCH, MUCH better!

    My favorite part of the episode (aside from "The earth is doomed") is the scene between Buffy and Joyce. It's such a great mission statement for the show. Especially love the trunk that looks like it belongs to your average teenage girl but conceals Buffy's slayer stuff. It was a great visual to introduce us to one of the general themes of the show: Buffy looking like a normal girl, wanting to be a normal girl, but not being a normal girl.

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  11. Got to the episode a bit late because of other things. I actually remember telling everyone in the house to be quiet while I watched Buffy until my girls started watching it with me! There is something to be said about the anticipation of waiting for the next episode, planning your life around watching it and then enjoying it with your family. Now other things (like grandchildren :)) get in the way because I can watch it whenever I want. I just thoroughly enjoyed watching this again. Yes, it was cheesy but it was sooooo much fun. Thanks for the comments. They make it even more enjoyable!

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  12. I got to it a bit late as well. I'm one of those "dread machine" librarians, so I agree with Giles. Yes, they make our lives easier in the library, but we rely too heavily on them (IMO).

    Did anyone catch the line about no one getting the best of Luke since the 1800s, and then he was caught sleeping? I think he was alluding to the master siring him. I didn't remember the earthquake trapping the master, and I want more information.

    I think this episode showcases how Buffy uses whatever she has available to defeat her enemies-- x-acto knives, cymbals, tree branches. She's the MacGyver of slayers.

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  13. Sad confession: I've watched this episode probably 3 times total. And yet today, for my 4th time, I once again thought Buffy really was going to burn Luke with the sunrise--and was briefly upset that the timeline had gotten so screwed up, that it could be sunrise already.

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  14. Just catching up with the rematch. Main thing that struck me is how out of character Darla is compared to her later appearances.

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  15. I don't have much to add to what others are saying but I totally agree that, at least for me so far, one of the things that I am appreciating is that Buffy's slayer status is not a big secret she's keeping hidden from her new best friends--I would have hated that. The characters seem to work well as a team and I like that.

    As far as Angel's velvet jack is concerned, I don't know anything about the character yet except what I've seen in the first two episodes but since a few people mentioned that the jacket was out of character in the first episode it made me notice that Luke also was wearing a velvet jacket in this episode. Is there supposed to be a connection (I.e. the undead wear velvet for fancy occasions?)? Don't tell me--I want to be surprised:) I also wondered if his comment after Buffy escaped the Bronze ("I'll be damned") was foreshadowing--again I know you all know so let me catch up.

    Other than that, the fight scene was a little blah (except for the humorous sunrise gag which at first made me wonder about continuity errors too) but I liked the three "pesky kids" wondering off into the school yard discussing all the possibilities that slaying has to offer.

    Great review and comments! This rewatch/watch is getting off to a great start for me!

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  16. “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “The Harvest”, when watched together, really feel like a movie, except for the Master not being fully defeated. This second episode succeeded where the first did too: the main characters and their dynamics. Unfortunately, part two focuses on vampire action and, at this point on the show, that’s not really good.

    Buffy has my heart throughout the entire series (ok, maybe not so much during season seven), but Willow gets the trophy of best character on these two first episodes. She has the guts to face Cordelia and defends her newest friend, which is something I really admire, and the “deliver” bit is just perfect! Also:

    “I need to sit down.”
    “You are sitting down.”
    “Oh, good for me.”
    Hee.

    There’s already romantic chemistry between Buffy and Angel. But it’s weird seeing him following her, giving her vague information and then that’s it. Not saying more because it might be spoilers.

    I liked how it really was going to be the end of the world. And then I loved how status quo-ish things were on the following day. The final scene put a huge smile on my face. How much I’ve missed these four characters.

    Things I didn’t like so much:

    - Buffy was way too witty, and that got on my nerves a little bit.

    - I hate how Jesse is left behind for the sake of the plot. I have trouble believing Buffy would even leave the cemetery without him. In the following morning, when Buffy acknowledges that she’s mentally challenged for not figuring out the mausoleum was the access to the Master’s place or whatever, I thought to myself “yeah, you all are”.

    And a little nitpicking:

    - How did Xander leave school to follow Buffy? And how didn’t he and Angel meet?

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  17. Three things I forgot:

    The closing shot of the third act, Darla and the vampires marching to the Bronze, is AWFUL. Who was the editor who decided to zoom in that shot? Awful result.

    I find impressive how quickly Joss establishes everyone’s role on the Scooby Gang. He really knows his characters.

    I love how brave Xander is. That might be my favorite aspect of his personality.

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  18. Just watched this with my 11yo daughter, it took us a while to watch the second half because she's 11 going on 15 (so nothing mom suggests is interesting) and then we set down to watch it and Netflix got rid of Buffy and Angel at the end of March... sigh. Guess I'll have to just get the box set so i don't have to depend on contracts lol.

    She loved it, so I have a feeling that she'll keep on loving it more and more as it gets better. the over - the - top villan scenes were the right introduction with being scary and campy for a person who mainly watches teen titans go ha. I really enjoyed seeing the scoobies come together so fast (i'd forgotten they all find out in the first episode), and of course the start of the little quips and things.
    I am trying to keep her from being spoiled about Angel being a vampire... so we had this little exchange at the end as the vampires were running from the bronze and it shows Angel (but she didn't recognize him)
    "Who's he? Is that a vampire? "
    ".... Um... That's Angel."
    Lol

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  19. Nonei, I think Buffy is on Hulu right now. Which might be why it left Netflix.

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  20. That's what I heard, unfortunately I don't habe Hulu right now. I might have to change that though!

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