It’s been 20 years since Welcome to the Hellmouth, the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, aired. I’ve been in love with this show for two decades now. I saw all episodes as they aired on TV. I binge-watched all 7 seasons after the series ended — twice. I’ve rewatched my favorite episodes countless times. I named this blog Baddieverse after Buffyverse, the fictional universe inhabited by the characters in Buffy and Angel. So yeah, I’m a fan.
I think it’s just appropriate that on Buffy’s 20th anniversary, I’d revisit Sunnydale again, starting with the first two episodes. Consider this my love letter to Buffy on our 20th anniversary. Welcome back to the Hellmouth, self.
Welcome to the Hellmouth
I’ve got to be honest. I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I liked the kind of horrible movie that preceded the TV show. Plus, I thought Sarah Michelle Gellar was a total babe. Just look at that cutie pie slayer:
Buffy the Cutie Pie Vampire Slayer
The series premiere takes its sweet time introducing us to Buffy, her Scooby Gang, a bunch of vampires, and the freakin’ Master. It’s mostly set-up, but the right balance of comedy, action, and horror makes it all worth it.
By the end of the episode, it’s established that Buffy is a reluctant hero surrounded by clueless teenagers, a potential love interest, new friends, and an emerging army of bloodsuckers. This perfectly sets the tone and the status quo for all characters — a status quo that will be changed and blown to bits several times later in the series. This is where I knew Buffy the Vampire Slayer was something new. I was in love.
And just as vampire business was picking up in a cemetery, TO BE CONTINUED. The first of many juicy cliffhangers.
After setting up the basic concept of the show and who the characters are, The Harvest gives us the first Scooby Gang adventure. We see them work together for the first time with Buffy the reluctant fearless leader, Giles the father figure, Xander the goofy friendzoned comic relief, and Willow the shy wallflower itching to break out of her shell. While Welcome to the Hellmouth was all about the introduction of these characters, The Harvest shows us the origin of their team dynamic.
This is also where we see Buffy being a total badass for the first time, dusting vampires left and right while cracking wise. Most important of all, she defeats her first big bad by outsmarting him. The ditzy cheerleader turns out to be a cunning strategist when it’s slayer time.
It’s a very straightforward episode with lots of action, quips, and very ’90s TV special effects. A perfect complement to the mostly character-centric first episode. But while a big bad was vanquished and a complete story was told, a bigger baddie still looms in the horizon. The team is still finding their footing. The people of Sunnydale are just beginning to notice that strange things are afoot. A larger story is yet to be told.
Before Buffy, most episodic TV shows featured characters who dealt with different situations every episode but never really evolved beyond who they were. Everything was resolved by the end of each episode. Nothing changed. There were no cohesive overarching storylines running through entire seasons or series. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in just two episodes, broke the mold.
The arrival of Buffy is definitely a watershed moment in TV storytelling. It made me appreciate how fictional characters can be as real as you and me. It showed me that the weird and the mundane can be mixed to tell compelling stories about the ordinary and the fantastic. It taught me that fiction can be silly, serious, and satisfying, all at the same time. It’s one of the greatest TV shows in human and vampire history and I will stab you in the heart with a wooden stake if you say otherwise.