The Harvest
Directed by: John T. Kretchmer
Written by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: March 10, 1997

The second part of the series premiere of Buffy fails in many of the same areas as the first half, and succeeds in all the ways the previous hour did, too. The thing about this episode, though, is that – unlike “Welcome to the Hellmouth” – it spends most of its time developing a narrative, rather than getting to know the characters better. This isn’t overly problematic, though, because the character development we do get throughout the episode is pretty stellar and much better than the first half’s dry dialogue.

So, while the episode features the same soundtrack, full of snyth-drums and shrill screeches to heighten (nonexistent) suspense, and while some of the dialogue is corny as all hell (it is slightly better), and while the death sequences are still distractingly bad – in comparison to the later seasons’ dustings, anyhow – the show begins to show promise as its picks up and moves the narrative a bit further.

But before we get to the narrative devices utilized, let’s talk about some other things, shall we? The series’ first real fights are featured in this episode, and they are… lackluster. I get that they were just starting and didn’t have a huge budget, and that SMG wasn’t immediately talented with regards to choreography, but the brawl in the cemetery is just poorly staged and oddly edited. We do get the first showcasing of Buffy’s on-the-fly inginuity when it comes to finding things to use in battle, though. And the show’s first real throw-down, between Buffy and Luke at the end of the episode, is corny and ham-fisted. We’re taught by the narrative to fear this guy, especially when you consider that Luke hasn’t been bested since some time ago, in Madrid (his shame whilst remembering this incident is particularly funny and humanizing… considering he’s a vampire). But Buffy takes him apart with little hassle, tossing around a veritable Spider-Man’s wealth of one-liners and insults while doing it. His final humiliation, cowering before a sun that has yet to rise, is fitting. And many times you can tell its not SMG doing her own stunts, including a backflip, a hand-stand, and – of course, her super-Slayer jumping abilities which are never seen after this episode (and she jumps backwards?!). This battle does give way to Buffy’s first “power-shot” – used in the opening credits.

The pacing, too, is fairly weak throughout the episode. Scenes that should only take a few seconds take forever. While the series is getting its legs as far as ensemble conversations are concerned, almost everything that falls out of Giles’ or Willow’s mouths is just dry as can be, and it all takes forever to say simple things. And don’t get me started about Cordelia and Harmony’s (who makes her first appearance here!) C++ class. Any other sequence of events could have been used to recap that Cordelia was accidentally attacked at The Bronze the night before, but they do it with a class, cutting into her story with boring bits about coding and it just doesn’t work. Its slow and meandering, when it could have been a simple six seconds. This scene does give us two good things, though; Charisma Carpenter’s beatifully delivered realization that Willow just fucked her over on her boring ass assignment… and this dude

:

We get some good character interactions, though. Angel and Buffy in the  mausoleum for instance, showcases the start of their chemistry, and also gives the first hint at Angel’s vampire-ness (Buffy can “sense” him). It also allows for David Boreanaz to deliver the best line of the episode, though its unspoken, with his silent non-answer to Buffy asking if he knows what friends are. And most of the time the Scoobies (who haven’t yet been referred to as such!) interactions with each other are spot-on, if not infantile versions of their future conversations. Xander and Willow’s reactions to vampires being real are awesome (Buffy: “The kinda just went ‘fwoom!'” Xander: “They can fly!?” Buffy: “They can drive.”)

The stuff with Luke being The Master’s vessel, needing to eat enough helpless humans to regain enough strength so that The Master can free himself, the backstory on the Hellmouth (what we have learned so far, anyhow)… these are all great starts to universe building. Showcasing Willow’s dedication to helping and Xander’s loyalty? Awesome starts to their characters, and things missing from the first episode (although it should be noted that the first episode didn’t reveal a lot of places for these character traits to show up). And even here we’re able to glimpse through Cordelia’s bitch exterior, briefly, and see she’s a human being. These things need to be built upon in the coming episodes and, thankfully, they are.

Once everything is done and over with, The Harvest is an OK episode, but just another one of Seasons 1’s weaker stories. The first season became kind of a “monster of the week” series, with each episode being a sort of metaphor to high school, teenage anxiety, and angst. Later on the seasons took on their own lives, with each episode being a part of the larger whole. This is why most frown upon the first season’s content. It features scenery-chewing bad guys (The Master does become a better villain, though, with less lame antics and eye-pokings…), some crummy lines and puns delivered right after deaths (Xander’s “heads up!” after a crash cymbal decapitates a vampire is lame and cheesy), and most of the makeup and effects are sad (Darla’s vampire face is just hideous and makes Julie Benz look goofy and dumb as a post). But it sets the stage for later things to come. It immediately starts showcasing that Buffy can and will use anything to kill a vampire (the pool cue, for instance, is an awesome one), showing how smart and quick she is in the middle of a fight. It shows that anyone can die and nasty things can happen at any time by having Jesse, a character who is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN AFTER THIS EPISODE not only killed, but turned into a vampire. And it brings the wit and the charm. I can’t fault it for being a mid-season replacement show, and I can’t fault it for having its flaws. But I will, anyhow.

Episode Rating: 79

Death Count: 6
Annoying Scream Count: 3

Additional Notes:
-The Master says its been a long time since any of his low-level cronies have faced a Slayer. None of those clowns have faced a Slayer. Poor writing.
-Some nice, tense feelings of being bitten by a vampire having rape-ish connotations. Whedon knew how to write to his audience, play off their worries.
-Giles mentions “Old Ones” – the evil beings that ruled the Earth before making vampires and vanishing. We won’t hear a lot about them, but we WILL meet one during Angel’s fifth season…


-I like how Willow is a badass hacker, and how Buffy can immediately read and figure out the city’s underground electrical and sewer maps and grids.
-Giles leans in and gets his face
real close to Willow’s. You can see its a bit too close in Allison Hannigan’s eyes, even
-Luke would have eaten enough people to free the Master if he’d just shut the hell up and kept eating.
-Some lame effects: smoke on the vampire hand when they escape the sewer, the glowing vampire eyes
in the sewer, holy water’s effect on Darla…
-Darla is a pansy
-lame black-and-white flashback to the previous episode
-The slow-mo walk to music as Darla leads vampires to the Bronze? One of the worst things in the whole series, aside from “Go Fish”

Advertisements