Buffy 1×02: The Harvest

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: John T. Kretchmer | Aired: 03/10/1997]

“Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] succeeded because of its overwhelming focus on establishing the characters and setting up some of the core themes that will fuel the show at large. “The Harvest,” on the other hand, flips the script and spends most of its time going through the motions of wrapping up the opening plot, which wasn’t very interesting to begin with. The best aspects of the episode lie on the margins, in small character moments, evolving group dynamics, and fleeting beats of depth.

An example of something “The Harvest” does right is the early scene in the library. This is a solid scene that establishes the basic interplay of the core cast. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also fairly funny, with some of Whedon’s trademark wit shining through. Giles shows off his knowledge and dedication, Xander shows off his insecurity and loyalty, Willow shows off her naiveté and that she’s willing to bend the rules to help, and Buffy shows off her superiority complex and confidence. How all of these characteristics play off of each other will become a central point of conflict for this group in the future.

Each of these character moments are expanded upon a little later in the episode. We find out that Buffy is capable of accepting responsibility and owning up to when she’s wrong, even though she admittedly has a personal stake (potential friend) in the outcome. Willow goes a little too far defending Buffy from Cordelia’s verbal attack, showing a penchant for vengeance that hints at a lack of discipline and emotional control. Xander improbably finds a way to follow Buffy into the sewers to help out his friend Jesse, which reinforces his loyalty and hints at his role in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. All of these moments add up to give “The Harvest” some substance.

On the sideline are character moments involving Angel and Joyce. I particularly enjoyed the beat where Buffy asks Angel if he knows what it’s like having friends, only to get an unexpectedly sad non-response. This nicely establishes Angel’s role as an outsider and gets him a bit of sympathy from both Buffy and the viewer, which becomes more important when Buffy begins feeling things for the guy.

Later in “The Harvest,” Joyce becomes the voice of the show by grounding Buffy from going out in the middle of a crisis. Joyce says, “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.” Beyond the amusing irony within the episode itself, it very much speaks to how Buffy uses metaphor and symbolism. Season 1 is a sequence of largely stand-alone stories that toy around with the show’s basic premise (which I talked about in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01]). The problem with this particular season, though, is that the metaphors tend to come across heavy-handed, which is because they are communicated through plot rather than character. I appreciate this early Joyce scene because it gets its point across through character interaction rather than plot machinations, which is a preview of the approach Buffy will stick with after this season.

My favorite scene of “The Harvest” occurs immediately after the disagreement between Buffy and her mom. Buffy reaches into her closet and pulls out a big chest. Once opened, we see that the top layer is filled with various girlie items: a bra, a cat figurine, photos, pink envelopes, and more. Beat. Buffy pulls the top layer off to reveal a hidden area filled with various slayer items: stakes, holy water, crosses, garlic, and more. This is a beautifully subtle moment with some neat symbolic heft. First of all, think about how much this parallels the shot in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] where the camera moves from the sunny surface of the high school, down through the dirt in the ground, and then settles underground to reveal the Master’s lair (itself standing in for Buffy’s subconscious fears). Just as Sunnydale has two faces, Buffy has a complex duality that rages within her – an internal war between, as termed in “The Replacement” [5×03], Buffy-Buffy and Slayer-Buffy — that will take all seven years for her to fully understand.

While these moments of characterization and depth help “The Harvest” maintain some sense of relevancy, the rest of it unfortunately doesn’t hold up as well. One of the largest problems is too many long, poorly paced scenes that are trying way too hard to be suspenseful. Rather than suspenseful, what we end up with is copious amounts of boring. Most of these problem scenes are centered on the villains. I’m simply not invested in the very uncharismatic Luke, the slightly over-the-top Master, and the extremely generic Jesse. Luke, in particular, is talked up as a dangerous vampire, but reality shows that he’s a pathetic fighter and more than a little intellectually challenged. In general, the villains spend way too much time posturing, and the directing actually accentuates the ridiculousness of it all. The back of forth of the villains and the heroes is edited in a way that comes off as really schlocky. The action sequences can be generously described as troubled, being both poorly directed and lifeless. And then, finally, over in the library, we get a whole lot of dry exposition from Giles and Willow.

By the end of “The Harvest” Buffy may have succeeded in stopping the, well, Harvest, but it only serves to delay the inevitable confrontation with the Master. Remember that Buffy didn’t have nightmares about Luke, but rather creatures from the Hellmouth, various demons, and mostly the Master himself. The real challenge lies ahead.

As a whole, “The Harvest” is a sluggish piece of work, and even a chore to get through at times. Thankfully it’s got just enough meat on its bones to be relevant. If it had some more depth or been centered more on character work or had a much stronger plot, I could see myself liking this one a notch more, but as it stands it just barely climbs out of its own grave. It’s no doubt a disappointing conclusion to what “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] started, but at least it helps set up much better times for the show.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Giles explaining the basic history of the Buffyverse. It’s a little exposition-y, but necessary.
+ The irony of an old vampire master being stuck in an old buried church.
+ Willow looking terrified at Giles invading her personal space in the library.
+ Buffy’s neat flip over the gate – albeit, a gate I don’t think we ever see again.
+ The long-haired hippie guy poking his head into frame around Cordelia’s computer monitor. *laughs*
+ Hey, there’s Harmony! It’s quite funny thinking about how she ends up in the final episode of Angel, 11 combined seasons later.
+ Buffy not flinching at all when a rat scurries across her feet.
+ Buffy going bowling with Vampire Jesse.
+ Strange but memorable shot of the vampire pack arriving at the Bronze, all slo-mo and menacing.
+ Buffy’s chipper attitude after crashing the vampire party at the Bronze. She brightens up an otherwise boring sequence.
+ Buffy’s hero shot being covered in blue, which will be a consistent motif that represents the power and isolation of the Slayer, among other things. This will be explored in more detail later.

– The odd editing in the cemetery scene in where Buffy is rescuing Willow and Xander.
– Buffy, all melodramatically, saying “Jesse,” when both she and the viewer barely know the guy.
– It’s still a shame that it takes so long for Cordelia to show any signs of depth, because she’s not very interesting in “The Harvest.”
– David Boreanaz’s acting is simply awful in this episode – stilted and unconvincing.
– Xander’s “heads up” crack during the fight at the Bronze is silly, poorly delivered, and just not funny. It doesn’t help that the characters haven’t yet earned the right to even attempt a joke that goofy.
– The entire end fight scene is such a clunker!


Foreshadowing

* Luke says to the Master, “taste of this, and be free,” in reference to Buffy’s blood. His proclamation turns out to be quite prophetic come “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. As does the Master when he says, “I believe she’ll come to us.”
* Willow suggests that Buffy could blow something up as a way to get kicked out of school. Well, come “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] …


[Score]

60/100

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59 thoughts on “Buffy 1×02: The Harvest”

  1. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 1, 2007.]

    I thought that Buffy talking about beheading was hilarious.

    It was very consistent for Buffy to get grounded by her mom for her slayer related activities. Having to sneak out of her bedroom window every night to kill demons and stop apocalypses. It is very sad that Buffy–a very ethical goody two shoes–is letting her mom think she is a trouble making delinquent because she knows she won’t believe the truth. When she first told Joyce her secret she put her in a mental institution against her will for 3 weeks. The second time she told her (actually staking a vamp in front of her!) she kicks her out of the house. Poor Buffy.

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  2. [Note: Marie posted this comment on May 11, 2007.]

    I have watched this episode several times and have enjoyed it each time. The plot is a little slow, but I think that is in order to make the show seem more realistic. I don’t think I would be able to find out where Jessie is before Buffy does. The character dialogue and characters again keep the show interesting.

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  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 3, 2007.]

    I don´t even notice the slow pacing because I´m having so much fun with the episode. Yes, Luke is corny but I love the scoobies and I love the dialogue. The dialogue is what makes this episode so damn enjoyable. It´s nice to see them all cute and carefree here.

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  4. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on December 26, 2007.]

    My biggest problem with this episode is the zero emotional reaction to Jesse’s death, conversion to vampiredom, and staking. I mean, OK, so Buffy had only known him for a day or so and was probably pretty much used to that sort of thing by then, but Xander and Willow really ought to have reacted in some way.

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  5. [Note: Michael posted this comment on August 3, 2008.]

    I disagree with Andrew. They take time to deal with Jesse’s death. Xander’s reaction is pretty well-acted. They definitely could’ve taken more time to show this rather than the constant and annoying sequences with Buffy wandering around dark hallways, with scary music playing in the background.

    WTTH is definitely the better of the two because it is more about the characters than the fairly lame Harvest storyline, but this episode still was not downright BAD. I’d give it more like a 55/100 myself. I’ve been rewatching S1 though and trying to be a little less harsh on these episodes because of the obvious circumstances of the crew not having enough $$/resources to create the amazing kinds of episodes they do so later on.

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  6. [Note: Rob in Michigan posted this comment on February 18, 2009.]

    I have to say that I think you’re too harsh on this one, too. Although there are some harsh moments, for a season premiere it did what it needed to do. And, yes, the Scoobies forgot about Jessie’s death awfully fast which is a definite negative. On the positive, was Buffy’s beating the vampires in the Bronze, especially the way that she uses her brain to trick “The Vessel”.

    Angel blows, frankly. David, uh, was awkward, sure. But, for the most part, it worked well. And, we get a sense of who the characters’ are right off the bat. And, we like them. I like this as a departure from Buffy, the Movie and the start of the series.

    I’m pretty sure that I’d see this in the C range, but it’s good for a “we need to explain who the main guys are and what the setting is” and the shock of Jesse being killed was a good twist.

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  7. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 20, 2009.]

    Major pro in this episode? Willow throwing the holy water in Darla’s face to get her off Giles. Score one for the computer nerd!

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  8. [Note: Emily posted this comment on August 31, 2009.]

    I’m on my sixth rewatch of Buffy here….and decided to read- and comment on- your reviews again. You really do a great job of reviewing and helping me understand the show, Mike.

    Did you ever notice how Xander says, after he kicks the trash can, “I don’t like vampires. I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good.” I don’t know if Joss meant this as a foreshadowing, but in all 7 seasons, Xander has unqualified, complete dislike of all vampires- including Angel and Spike. Seems to me like he took this stand and never wavered once- even when he was proven otherwise.

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  9. [Note: Mr. Valentine posted this comment on February 5, 2010.]

    I never really liked the first season. To me most of the episodes looked like bad acting. But, hey.. they were still growing into their roles.

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  10. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 2, 2010.]

    Yeah, the first season wasn’t much great, but still it is needed for the series to understand it. What I like about S1 and 2 a bit that it looks like a big hommage to B-horror films. So unique for a tv-show. But indeed the show starts really with S2.

    Plus, I find the opening credits of S2 one of the coolest ones. I think they should have kept this audio version for the rest of the seasons. The bassline and drums is so badass, the opening with the organ, like a old vampire flick and its a bit faster. And that scream in the middle, haha.

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  11. [Note: AttackedWithHummus posted this comment on March 22, 2010.]

    There is also some foreshadowing (which I find clever) in Angel saying “I’ll be damned” – a hint to his reveal as a vamp.

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  12. [Note: Darth Rosie posted this comment on April 6, 2010.]

    one of my all-time favourite scenes:

    ############

    WILLOW: (interjects) No, she’s not.

    CORDELIA: What?

    WILLOW: She’s not a psycho. You don’t even know her.

    CORDELIA: Excuse me? Who gave you permission to exist? Do I horn in on your private discussions? No. Why? Because you’re boring.

    HARMONY: Okay, I think the program’s done.

    CORDELIA: Finally the nightmare ends! Okay, so how do we save it?

    WILLOW: Deliver.

    CORDELIA: Deliver? Where’s that? (searches the keyboard) Oh!

    She hits the “Del” key, and her program disappears. She stares at the screen in wide-eyed, open-mouthed horror.

    ##################

    you can see here that willow has always had a taste for revenge! this is some incredible forshadowing …

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  13. [Note: Max posted this comment on April 6, 2010.]

    you can see here that willow has always had a taste for revenge! this is some incredible forshadowing …

    ______________

    Or rather just over analysing things. I doubt this was intended as that.

    It was just sticking up for her friend rather than a slow build up to where they were going to take Willow in s6.

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  14. [Note: Kris10 posted this comment on May 1, 2010.]

    This grade made my eyes bulge a little. I can’t help but think you jumped on the Buffy bangwagon after the party had already started. Most people who champion the later seasons tend to knock season one. I understand, I really do. But… damn, you guys don’t get what you’re missing. I wish I could explain, but it’s not totally rational. It’s the fuzzy feelings you have for the beginning, expressing themselves as A s for everything that is Season One.

    That said, I enjoy reading your reviews.

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  15. [Note: Guido posted this comment on May 1, 2010.]

    @Kris10, I guess there are two ways of looking at Season One: its stand-alone merits, and its contribution to the overall 7-season run. I feel strongly that ratings for Season One should not rely on comparisons to later seasons. Except for a comparative reference to Darla’s character in Angel, this review seems self-contained. However, I agree that the rating seems pretty harsh, which leads me to wonder if the “sins of Season 1” phenomenon hasn’t creeped in a bit.

    I like to imagine Buffy-Season One as a show that was never renewed, and yet we all still remember it and love it (which I think would indeed be the case). How would the ratings look then? Only Mike can answer that. It will be interesting to read his ratings when he revisits this season in the future (as he has indicated he plans to do).

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  16. [Note: Kris10 posted this comment on May 2, 2010.]

    I think all fans have different criteria. When I first started watching the show, even the fashion choices were a factor. (Buffy’s platform shoes KILLED season three.) Now that I’m no longer 12… my criteria have changed, and I look at the show more comprehensively. That helps me understand the criticism people level at season one, but to me, it’s like judging the geocentric theory by today’s standards, or listening to Fats Waller after hearing experimental jazz. Knowing what we know now, we know the road goes so much farther and deeper. But (going back to Buffy), when you didn’t yet know how the stories were going to unfold, or how the characters were going to develop, at that point, season one was pretty darn awesome. I agree that a different sort of lens is required to fully appreciate the season.

    I’ll definitely be checking back to get his “revamped” take. 🙂 Thanks for the response.

    And I greatly appreciate the use of the Buffy font in the captcha box!

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  17. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on July 22, 2010.]

    Mike, even though I usually always agree with you take on things, I don’t see the pacing problem you talked about in this episode.

    It didn’t have the best plot ever, but the little things that were good, were actually great.

    Like Buffy staking a vamp with a tree branch! Awesome.

    Also, Buffy tricking Luke was great.

    It’s true The Master sucks as a villain, but he can be funny.

    All in all, I would rate this episode a C-.

    Just my humble opinion.

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  18. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 22, 2010.]

    Lizzie, I will be rewriting all my S1 reviews very soon. Expect the same overall opinion of the season but much more thorough and nuanced reviews with more precise scoring.

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  19. [Note: Tyler posted this comment on July 29, 2010.]

    As you rewrite these, you might give some more consideration to “corny” Luke! He’s surprisingly nuanced and fun for his short time in the series. Consider his prideful embarassment as he describes the last time he was defeated in battle (he remembers the year!) or how he genuinely doesn’t understand why people aren’t volunteering to sacrifice themselves for the Harvest.

    Even though you’re right–these episodes wear a bit on multiple viewings–I never get tired of old Luke.

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  20. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 28, 2010.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

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  21. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on August 28, 2010.]

    I actually liked this one a lot, simply because I thought it was an acceptable conclusion to the opening storyline. It’s not brilliant, but not bad.

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  22. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on August 29, 2010.]

    I am having so much fun with the characters that the plot doesn´t bother me.

    And how cute is Willow here?

    btw, I think you going through the series again to polish up your reviews is a very good idea.

    Like

  23. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on August 29, 2010.]

    Good review Mike, as good as the ep lets you do it!

    Not a fan of Harvest myself, except that recently I had a little epiphany. You talk beautifully about the scene between Buffy and Angel. Myself, until recently I couldn’t really appreciate how the ship begins, how Buffy’s feelings developped in season one. And I watched this scene again and now I get it, it starts just here when she can relate with him like with no one else. He alone can understand the loneliness….

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  24. [Note: Tom posted this comment on September 6, 2010.]

    “Hey, there’s Harmony! It’s quite funny thinking about how she ends up in the final episode of Angel, 11 seasons later.”

    11 seasons? Wouldn’t it be 8?

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  25. [Note: Michael Carruthers posted this comment on September 16, 2010.]

    MikeJer is probably including the other seasons of Angel with the “11 seasons later” comment..

    It’s freaky how much I actually agree with you.. Pretty much everything is spot on. Especially the comment about Buffy’s scene with Angel, one of the episode’s only really decent scene. The way Angel behaves, all quirky, mysterious and just non-Angel-like, is sooo annoying for the first few episodes. But when Buffy mentions about friends, he instantly turns into the brooding Angel we come to know later on. This, to me at least, shows that his whole “mysterious ‘friend'” thing is just an act to lead Buffy off his scent. It makes up for some of Angel’s crappy scenes this season, such as the one in WTTH where Buffy first meets him.

    Though Xander following Buffy into the sewer is decent character-wise, it didn’t really make sense. He would’ve seen Angel in the mausoleum. Angel definitely didn’t have enough time to get down the stairs behind Buffy before Xander would’ve seen him, the only real explanation is that Angel backed into some shadow in the mausoleum or staircase so as to not be seen by Xander.

    Also, in the sewer scenes, why are the vamps walking so damn slow? Wouldn’t they want to EAT Buffy and Xander, or take them as a serving to The Master? They walk reaaaally slowly towards them and take forever to catch up once they get into that dank room where Jesse makes his big reveal. Clearly The Master wanted them dead from his frustration following this. Was just really cheesy, you can tell the show is trying to set itself up as too much of a horror series, but it’s still non-sensical. The vamps would’ve definitely caught up, even if they were walking..

    I think you were a little soft on this episode 😉 Or maybe I’m just a harsher critic. There were a few things to like here – for example, I also really liked your favourite scene of the episode, and also loved the slow-mo shot of the vamps: its the only time in the whole episode or the one before that they seem the slightest bit scary – but most of it was Buffy wandering through darkened hallways with crappy music, or Giles explaining everything at the library. And Luke and The Master’s exclamations during The Harvest itself were just awful, and laughable. “MOOOOOOORE!!! GIVE ME MOOOOOOOOOOOORE!” And The Master’s “NOOOOOOOO!!” when his plan fails. LOL! And I hated the “we averted the apocalypse” line. Ummm, how? THAT was going to cause the end of the world? Some vamps feeding at the Bronze? The whole harvest plan would’ve not gone anywhere fast 😉 Anyways, the series gets a lot better later on with the whole ‘apocalypse’ thing.

    I’d say a 50/100 from me. And even that feels really generous.

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  26. [Note: debisib posted this comment on December 17, 2010.]

    uhhh…

    Master (to Luke the vampire): My blood is your blood. My soul is your soul.

    … The master is a vampire. He should have no soul.

    if they knew angel would be the vampire with a soul, why would they ignore it in this line?

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  27. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on January 24, 2011.]

    Visit the forum made me want to watch Buffy and Angel again. I’ll take the opportunity to read the reviews after each episode, just to compare my feelings freshly, so thank you for the great work.

    About the soul, in the first episode, they talk about a “demon soul”. I like to imagine that vampires have demon souls as opposed to human souls. I also remember vampires talking about being soul mates and we can notice that they have their own codes about “family”, “loyalty”, “endanger the race”, “being a shame for their kin”. In brief, the human soul gives you the ability of making emotionally the difference between good and evil, and therefore the capacity to feel remorse, the notion of guilt or the satisfaction of having done a good deed. I think the demon soul makes vampires something more than just basic animals: they do have feelings, they have needs to bonding, they have a conscience, but definitely not with the same standards as humans.

    Well, writing it makes it feel a bit silly, but I like let my imagination take over in those puzzling and inexplicable situations.

    About the episode, I mostly agree with the review, though I tend to forgive many flaws due to the youth of the show. I’m just glad Luke dies, he bored me to death :-p

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  28. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 4, 2011.]

    How many times do you have a show where character themes carry through an entire show? The whole “Xander feels useless” characterization starts right here in this episode and carries all the way to the end of the show. That is so great. Are there some character discrepancies between these first few episodes and the rest of the series? Yes, particularly with Darla and Angel, but they get it so right with Buffy, Xander, and Willow. It is such a treat to behold.

    I have to say that I loved the story that Buffy was telling about the vampire with the thick neck and the exacto knife. LOL

    One thing that this episode did very well was to establish a feeling of discomfort with the main characters. I assumed that Jesse would be part of the main cast. When they turned him into a vampire, it was putting everyone on alert — no character is ever really safe. This is reinforced with the devouring of Principal Flutie and the again, quite brilliantly and shockingly, with the death of Ms. Calendar in one of my favorite ever episodes.

    And someone mentioned in the last review that they were surprised that they didn’t mourn for Jesse more. I have always imagined that they mourn the death of their loved ones (Jesse, Jenny, Tara, Anya) off-screen after the chaos has been dealt with. I never took it as them being cold or anything.

    We get to see totally bad ass Buffy for real this time. We know she is strong and athletic from the first episode but here we learn just how resourceful the girl really is. It’s pretty fun to watch the last fight scene. Although what is really ridiculous is that where Xander accidentally staked Jesse is absolutely no where near the heart. It was more like in his collar bone. LOL

    And while I love the final scene because of how it really sets up what the whole series is going to be like — they will face awful danger but there will be many laughs along the way — the music in that scene is so terrible. It sounds like music out of an episode of Saved By the Bell – LOL.

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  29. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 4, 2011.]

    And I didn’t think as poorly of this episode as you did, MikeJer. I also liked the computer scene with Cordelia. We got a little glimpse of Willow standing up for herself. Very satisfying to see.

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  30. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 4, 2011.]

    @Michael Carruthers: The apocalypse wasn’t the vampires feeding at the Bronze. The scene at the Bronze was just the vampires giving offerings to the vessel who was nourishing the Master. Once the Master had enough he would be able to break free of his dungeon and his plan was to open the portal to the hellmouth. THAT would have been the apocalypse. While the Master was not the scariest villain, the plan was supposed to be more sinister then you are giving the show credit for.

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  31. [Note: Al posted this comment on May 6, 2011.]

    Just love how

    GILES: The earth is doomed.

    is reiterated at end of the series finale. It’s a great bookend and shows just how well some of the small details get carried through to the end. As much as things have changed in the characters journey throughout the years there is still the spirit of the original series premier there.

    Cheers,

    Al

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  32. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 29, 2011.]

    The final dialogue between Buffy and Willow could be considered as foreshadowing, don´t you think?

    Buffy: Maybe I can still get kicked out of school.

    Willow: Maybe you could blow stuff up. They´re really strict about it.

    Buffy gets expelled from school at the end of season 2 and blows up the school at the end of season three.

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  33. [Note: Rob posted this comment on October 15, 2011.]

    I love Kris10’s “Buffy’s platform shoes KILLED season three” comment. I don’t notice shoes much (“Chosen” being a notable exception), but Buffy’s oddly hued and too-opaque nail polish annoyed me during the first two seasons. I’m also downright scandalized by some of the tops she wears to school. I guess if one of the themes of the show is subverting the old, then I’m one of the things being subverted. Girls in my day were pretty heavy into wool. Like, into heavy wool — crew-neck sweaters and what not.

    I get past it. I never saw the show in its initial run until “The Body” in S5, but I’ve been through the whole thing a few times now and still feel a sense of nostalgia — and relief — looping back to S1 and its characters as yet unburdened by the cares and concerns and wounds they’ll accumulate later. It doesn’t last long, though, and I’m happy S1 is a short one. Pretty soon I am jonesing again for the harder-hitting stuff, like the moment in S3’s “Consequences” where Willow realizes what sort of connection Xander is trying to both explain and not explain that he has had with Faith. Devastating, but we can’t have anything like this yet in S1.

    Look how young everyone is! Xander’s just a kid!

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  34. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 6, 2011.]

    Mike, a great review. One i agree with almost completely. I do enjoy this episode in the sense that it sets up the core foundations straight away; Willow’s and Xander’s eagerness to help Buffy tackle the forces of darkness, Giles acceptance of this instead of proclaiming that the slayer should have no ties which is what Kendra bleats about when she makes an appearance and of course establishing the library as HQ!

    There are some plot devices that make me smile in this episode. One being the back story Giles discusses with the three friends regarding the naming of Sunnydale and the myth behind the ‘old ones’. I particularly like the sentiment of Buffy jumping the school fence after Principal flute having said he wants the Buffy Summers with her feet firmly on the ground in his school. Nice touch to the writers there!

    My favourite moment of this episode though is Both Xander’s and Willow’s inherent feelings for Buffy and her safety. Each character showcases their concern and like for her in their own way; WIllow assisting Giles on the computer (Which serves as a lovely foreshadowing for episodes to come when we frequently see her at the computer. A plot device and character trait that seems to diminish ever so slightly when we get to season 5 and 6 and she concentrates more on the magic side until the episode Smashed where we see her combine the two – I missed hacker WIll immensely) . Xander on the other hand shows his concern by following Buffy, this trait is one of his best and i’m glad it is broadcasted straight away.

    As you have said Mike, Season 1 doesn’t go very far in the way of developing the characters but i do enjoy the fluency and interconnectivity they manage to get and their compassion and love of one another is great to see.

    The final point i will make is that i never felt any lose when Jesse was killed in this episode, this may be for a few reasons. The first is that Jesse on mass didn’t receive a lot of screen time in Welcome to the Hellmouth thus when he was kidnapped and ultimately killed no feelings of loss or sadness were evoked within me. I also didn’t completely believe the friendship between him and Xander and Willow. As a character albeit a fleeting one he didn’t get to me as the others did, he had nothing likeable about him. I am writing this retrospectively and it may be because i have watched the show in its entirety i have seen the four main players grow, develop and change hence my instant like for Buffy, WIll, Xander, Giles etc but not Jesse. ALthough come to think of it i didn’t like him much on its first run. This is the contrary to the season 7 episode Help. Cassie was a good, established character. I liked her and she received enough back story to evoke loss when Buffy couldn’t save her. This episode does manage, in my opinion, to plant the seed for other episodes in which Buffy can’t always save the day.

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  35. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 6, 2011.]

    I read recently (probably here) that they considered having Xander appear in the Conversations with Dead People episode in Season 7, talking to Jesse. For the reasons you mention, Gemma, I’m glad they didn’t. I guess it could have been a nice nod to Season 1 but I don’t know that I even would have recognized Jesse again (and I just watched the series for the first time straight through over the course of 6 months) so any creepy impact would have been lessened by my reaction of “Huh? Who IS that guy?” Does anyone remember whether they actually mention Jesse again after this episode?

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  36. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 6, 2011.]

    Keekey, I read your review and thanks for the shout out 🙂 I didn’t know they were planning on that but i concur. It would have felt contrived in a way if they hard. Jesse was never mentioned again after The Harvest. He certainly didn’t appear in the season 5 flash back seen in the final episode The Gift. I did hear that Joss wanted to put Jesse in the character credits at the beginning of the episode so the audience would be shocked at his demise, this is something that i ponder. Would it really have had the affect Joss was going for? Jesse had no story. His crush on Cordy wasn’t believable along with his friendship with Xander as i said. I fear that this character was poor creation and in the end mere collateral damage to highlight that vampires are dangerous. I still stand by the point i made about his death planting the primary seeds that Buffy although she does try can not and does not save everyone.

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  37. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 7, 2011.]

    Hi Gemma, It’s interesting that Joss Whedon wanted to put Jesse in the opening credits. When I was watching Season 1 straight-through for the first time this summer, I do remember wondering whether Jesse was a regular character in the early seasons whom I’d forgotten all about. Then, when I noticed he wasn’t in the opening credits, I figured he’d be killed off quickly. So I definitely would have been more surprised by his death if he’d been in the opening credits, but I agree that it wouldn’t have changed my overall (fairly apathetic) feelings about his demise. Jesse just didn’t have the immediate appeal that Willow and Xander did. You make a good point, though, that his death showed the audience right at the outset that Buffy can’t save everyone–there will be losses–a point that’s brought home pretty brutally with Jenny Callender’s death in the second season. I didn’t realize how early on Whedon laid the groundwork for that idea (maybe that’s why he considered Jesse an important enough character to potentially merit an appearance in Conversations with Dead People). I really need to watch Season 1 again because I didn’t appreciate while I was watching it how much foreshadowing this series uses. It is such a well-thought out show, which makes it a great re-watch.

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  38. [Note: Odon posted this comment on December 12, 2011.]

    I like when Angel appears to be standing next to a sign saying WATCH YOU — appropriate enough for his “mysterious watcher” role. But when he walks away we see the sign actually reads WATCH YOUR STEP, hinting at events to come with Angelus. The same trick is used in Season 6, with Buffy talking to Spike who’s next to a BEWARE OF DOG sign.

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  39. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 12, 2011.]

    Hi keekey, I agree with you with regards to my shock of a series regular being killed straight away, Joss did succeed with this partly when he added Amber Benson to the opening credits in the episode she was killed but on the other hand the character of Tara was an amazing creation, her character was in the core of the group as WIllow’s girlfriend, Buffy’s confidant, the only one really there for Dawn. With this in mind her death would still have been as shocking as it was without her being in the credits.

    Jesse though was in mind a last minute character, never really going to be a ‘potential friend’ to Buffy. I like the point you make about Joss considering him to be an interesting character to propose the concept of his appearing in CWDP, I hadn’t though of him in that respect.

    I agree with your summary that the show is well though out, many shows claim to be but Buffy is significant. The inaugural season has hidden depths, it is pivotal in implementing the underlying themes. Not that high school is hell but that life is tough, that its all about choices and consequences, dealing with things that aren’t always nice. The way Joss portrays these themes through show instead of the blatant tell is great especially the mixing of humour and horror.

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  40. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 15, 2012.]

    My current thinking is that the use of prophecies and (especially in Angel) powers-that-be is the worst aspect of the Buffyverse, and it partly explains why I like BtVS so much better than Angel, which relies so much more on those plot devices. They are almost inevitably damaging to the coherency of the plot line. Worse, they nullify the choices the characters are making, since it ostensibly could not have turned out other than the prophecy foretold. The only hitch is the usual “prophecy was misinterpreted” thing, and by S3 of Angel, I’m sick of that excuse (Connor was never “born” because Darla staked herself, etc.).

    Thankfully we don’t get much of that in BtVS. I never like seeing Giles or Wesley or Fred or whoever figuring out “omigosh, the prophecy is going to be fulfilled tonight!” Ugh.

    S1 is the only one I can think of where a prophecy is a key aspect of the final confrontation with the season’s Big Bad. I do love seeing Buffy try to grapple with that prophecy, I just think it set a bad precedent.

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  41. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 15, 2012.]

    I might also mention that one of the things that really propelled me through my first watching of BtVS was anticipation for the moment that Joyce finally finds out about Buffy’s slayerness. Every time I see her before that point I imagine myself being inserted into the plot to clue her in, perhaps with demo help from Angel. It’s a lot of fun at points like this (“Everything is life or death…”) that she doesn’t know, but by and large I think Buffy would’ve been better off if Joyce had been brought into the circle earlier. Certainly before “Becoming”. I’d say Giles should have pushed for this along the way.

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  42. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 17, 2012.]

    I understand where you’re coming from Rob regarding prophecy’s in the shows, i never liked the PTB in Angel but conversely liked the one running throughout the shows final season in particular, with either Spike or Angel finally becoming human.

    As for Buffy the first season was quintessential for prophecies, the one girl in the all world speech. I liked it, it allowed us explore and gave us an influx into Buffy’s life and calling. Also it allowed for a great season final.

    It did die after the inaugural season of BtVS but i think the first season was the most cohesive for innocence and the whimsical and finding its feet required a prophecy.

    I disagree with you on the matter of Joyce finding out Buffy being the slayer earlier than she did, i liked the outburst and i fear that subverting what happened would have damaged it, Joss didn’t want Buffy’s parents in the show but i’m glad we got Joyce! I enjoyed her sentimental talks with Buffy when she is actually hitting the nail on the end when she said things about how the world will end if you don’t go to the Bronze! When in Buffy’s reality it would! I also enjoyed the duality of her life, the hidden part of who she was.

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  43. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 17, 2012.]

    But is being chosen as the Slayer the same as prophecy? We eventually find out about the shaman types that got the Slayer ball rolling, but I don’t remember it ever being clear how the mechanism works — whether those three guys are actually involved, or whether the PTB have a hand in it, or whether it’s just some magic that keeps going on its own without any sentient being directing it. It’s not the same as with Angel, in whose life there has been a more explicit intervention (Whistler, Doyle, etc.).

    In any case there’s nothing about being a Slayer that predicts a specific future outcome. All we know is that a shorter life is likely due to the dangers involved.

    Gemma, I agree with you about Joss and the writers’ decisions about Joyce not knowing until the end of S2, it’s a good decision as far as the series goes. I realize that my argument about Joyce was more of an “if the Buffyverse were real” scenario, unlike my earlier point about prophecies.

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  44. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 18, 2012.]

    Rob,

    I think that a slayer, being a little more than human and having the strength and skill to kill vampires and demons; which spring mostly from myths and fairytales….and Bram Stoker! is verging on a prophecy.

    “It’s one thing to think that you’re the center of the universe — it’s another thing entirely to have this confirmed by an ancient prophecy.”

    —Douglas Adams

    The above is a quote from the creator of the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy and several Dr who stories. I think this sums up Buffy being a slayer, the chosen one. But this is just my take on his meaning and the meaning of season one (which is actually my second favourite season after 3)

    How do you feel about the shows final? Chosen? It springs back to the Prophecy of being a slayer, the idea that the prophecy was sort of the answer….well breaking it anyway!

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  45. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 18, 2012.]

    Gemma — perhaps I should say “specific prophecy” then to mean not just a calling, but something more like the “Buffy will die at the hands of the Master on June 2, 1997” that she faces at the end of S1. It’s the specific, predestined event that I’d rather were not possible and that I’m happy BtVS doesn’t use much.

    Isn’t that quote about Zaphod?

    How do I feel about Chosen? Sad. It’s great that the Core Four live, but I feel like I’m the one who dies, since I no longer get to be a part of their world (except by a sort of reincarnation back to S1E1). Aside from that, I’d say that breaking the one-girl-in-all-the-world mechanism was a good thing, considering all the pain and loneliness it brought Buffy over the years, and would continue to bring future Slayers. Great way to wrap up, and I think supports the idea that all the prophecies and other expectations (watcher’s council, etc.) aren’t necessary.

    What I don’t like though is the axe (oh, so ancient-looking) and the woman in the tomb, any of that stuff that suggests that Buffy is just following a script that the PTB wrote long ago. It takes away from what Buffy and her team accomplish in defeating the First.

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  46. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on June 10, 2012.]

    I thought this episode did what it was supposed to. The characters were well established in the first episode, and now this episode’s job is to develop them. And the writers develop them to an extent, but in my opinion you can only go so far in this episode to develop the characters. I like that they moved the plot right along with the characters; that’s what I wanted in the first episode but unfortunately that wasn’t the case… I have to disagree with you on this one Mike. I thought this episode was satisfying enough in terms of the resolution with the first episode. I even thought it was better than the first episode, mainly because it was more stable, in my opinion at least. However I do agree with your complaint in the first review, the musical score really is awful!

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  47. [Note: Nina posted this comment on December 31, 2012.]

    DB’s acting as Angel isn’t that bad. I actually liked him a lot in season 1. You seem to dislike buffy-angel as a couple.

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  48. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on October 19, 2013.]

    I dislike this episode. I liked The pilot because of the characters. but this one is way too focused on the corny plot. I Agree with everything you wrote though. I LOVE COMING TOO THIS SITE! 🙂 Every review of yours is so well written.

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  49. [Note: Jewel posted this comment on August 19, 2015.]

    While marginally worse than WttH, I do find most people’s opinions of this episode overly critical. I don’t think the plot itself is at all uninteresting, only the corniness that brings it down several notches. As for Luke — yes, his talkiness gets old, but that at least makes his demise all the more satisfying. Not to mention, I’ve always appreciated this early introduction to Buffy’s unconventional method of slaying. Also, while exposition weighs in heavily here, the episode gets it across more or less successfully. In short, ‘The Harvest’ contains all the ingredients that have made the show what it is, they just needed refining.

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  50. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 21, 2015.]

    Agree Jewel, most are overcritical when it comes to this episode. You’ll see this repeated many times with other episodes. It’s like someone handed out cards to most fans that say: ‘you will hate ‘Teacher’s Pet’, ‘Bad Eggs’, ‘Go Fish’…you will love ‘Conversations with Dead People’, ‘Innocence’, ‘The Zeppo’…

    There are episodes that deserve praise and others that are poorer in comparison, but fans should come to their own conclusions rather than reading reviews and thinking that’s the only way to judge them (not a criticism of this site – most reviews here are pretty top-notch, if controversial in approach sometimes. But from the day Buffy aired, people have been using others’ opinions as their own, and that’s too bad).

    This episode isn’t a standalone. It’s actually the second half of a feature-length pilot..it has to tie up the threads of the earlier events and provide a foundation for the rest of the season, which it manages to do very well. I especially like Buffy’s use of unconventional tactics to defeat Luke, something she later explains to Kendra. Kendra’s rigid adherence to form and flow rather than adapting is part of the reason why she dies in the next season – would Buffy had been killed in the same fight?

    Have to wonder why you think Buffy exclaiming ‘Jesse…’ as she looks around in the graveyard is a negative. It really doesn’t matter whether she just met him, she’s visibly concerned because a) she does know him, even if for mere days and b) this is probably the first person she’s seen killed/captured by vamps since LA. I think she would be concerned, because she’s a human with emotions. I thought it was likely that when Buffy went to rescue Jesse she knew deep down it was unlikely he was still alive; she had to go, on the chance he wasn’t and she could save Willow/Xander’s friend. A darker Slayer might have just written him off and not put anyone else at risk, but not Buffy.

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  51. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 21, 2015.]

    I also didn’t think the Harvest was that bad, though to be fair this was before I’d seen the rest of the show so it’s possible it’s worse in retrospect.

    While I’m a bit soft on Go Fish, I would say that Teacher’s Pet and Bad Eggs can go rot in the fiery pit even if they have a few merits. I HATE THEM! I HATE THEM! I HATE THEM!. Then again I’m also soft for Wild Things so what do I know lol.

    Conversations I like (though in retrospect a lot of the stuff relating to the First doesn’t add up). I like Innocence more in retrospect now that I understand what they were aiming for and it has some good elements and sets up a good arc (though that post-sex metaphor is pretty spotty to me). I also like The Zeppo even if some it is contrived (probably one of the few episodes in S1-3 where Xander is actually likeable).

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  52. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 4, 2015.]

    Agree with the post-sex metaphor. I get it, but it’s often overanalysed from the position of metaphor without balancing that out with what is actually happening in the episode (ie the supernatural elements). Teacher’s Pet and Bad Eggs for me are just quite funny, I can’t bring myself to hate them. I really don’t ‘hate’ any Buffy episode – if I were to encounter any at random I could watch it without too much prejudice. ‘The Zeppo’ is pretty low on my personal list, and always has been. I always disliked the fact that there is a major event going on, but its in the background and we instead get to see Xander messing about. I understand the goals of the episode, but for me they don’t work and don’t make me like a generally unlikeable character, which is what Xander was for me in great parts of the series. I always thought that nobody ever told Xander what needed to be said when he was at his most offensive in Season Two. They always just forgave him instantly because they were friends.

    I really warmed to the character in S7, but that was a little late.

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