AKA Exposition and Witticisms
Who said romance is dead?
We kick off the great saga of Buffy with the lamest date ever – Welcome to the Hellmouth. A Sunnydale high school graduate of indeterminate recency has brought his petite blond friend to see the gym roof. Apparently the petite blond agrees that this is lame, because she gets all snarly and attacks.
Credits: Howling! Guitars! Cheerleaders! Potions! Stakes! Dancing! Hero formations!
Maybe high school is the real Hellmouth
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wakes up from a cryptic nightmare. If the boxes in her bedroom weren’t expository enough, her mother’s urging to not be late to (or get kicked out on) her first day at her new school lets us know she is new in town.
Meanwhile, a teenage boy is clinging for dear life on a skateboard he evidently got that day. This is Xander (Nicholas Brendon) friend to Willow (Alyson Hannigan), resident nerd. She agrees to help him with his trig and suggests he pick up a specific text in the library, “where the books live.” Xander and pal Jesse say the phrase “new girl” back and forth in increasingly distressing ways.
Buffy meets with Principal Flutie (you can call him Bob, but should you?). He desperately wants to give her a clean slate, but he backtracks pretty quickly after learning that her expulsion was the result of burning down a gym that was full of totally not-vampires.
As Buffy is leaving the office, she quite literally runs into Xander. He helps her pick up the spilled contents of her bag with all the goofy charm he can muster. So much charm, in fact, that she forgets her wooden stake.
In class Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) shares a textbook and many Sunnydale social insights with Buffy, including the need to identify losers on sight. She invites her to The Bronze that night shortly after insulting Willow’s dress – a bold move in lime green pants, Miss Chase.
Slay it ain’t so
In a suspiciously ornate library a suspiciously British librarian named Mr. Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) thrusts a book labelled VAMPYR toward Buffy. But Buffy hates archaic spellings so she quickly leaves.
Since her plan to acquire textbooks has fallen through, Buffy seeks out the tutelage of one very confused Willow. Xander tries to be way too witty (aside from his “tiny fences” joke he makes when returning her stake. I’ll give you credit for that, X). Cordelia runs up to let Buffy know that gym is cancelled due to the dead guy in someone’s locker. Buffy responds in the totally normal fashion of asking if he had holes in his neck and was drained of blood.
Cordelia does not have that information, so Buffy makes easy work of tearing off the gym door and checking out the scene for herself. After confirming her fears re: vamps, she has it out with Giles. He lectures her about her sacred duty as Slayer, his sacred duty as Watcher, and the extra-supernatural nature of Sunnydale. Buffy is well aware of her responsibilities. She is also aware that it is a lonely life. Slaying meant to be a secret identity situation, a la Bruce Wayne/Batman. Too bad Xander was in the stacks and overheard the whole thing.
We quickly cut to a super dramatic, quasi-religious underground monologue given by a very large vampire.
Then we are back to Buffy. She is struggling to pick out an outfit for tonight, a task she was good at once upon a Slayer-free high school experience. Her mother is trying very hard to remain positive about their move.
On her way to The Bronze, she senses she is being followed. She does this slick little handstand maneuver to turn the tables on her pursuer. He calls himself a friend (but not hers), refers to Sunnydale as the “mouth of hell,” and warns of a harvest. Oh, and he gives her a cross necklace.
[At this point, omnipotent as I am, I warned my first-time viewer husband Trav that this is the least dramatic we will ever see this character. He does not believe this can be possible.]
At The Bronze Buffy and Willow get to know each other a little. Willow details her friendship with Xander (he once stole her Barbie). She also describes her difficulty speaking in front of most guys. Buffy gives her the most generic carpe diem life advice ever. The she spots Giles and excuses herself to confront him.
[Trav cannot emphasize enough how distressed he is that Giles is hanging out at this teenage club.]
Buffy gets out some interesting insults, including “skanky” and “textbook with arms” (only one of which is appropriate for a librarian, and I’m not elaborating on which). At the same time, Giles chides her on not honing her
Spidey Slayer senses to locate the vampires that are definitely in this club. She wins the argument with a fashion technicality. But this is a short-lived victory, because she sees that the vampire she spotted is leading Willow outside. Buffy tries to intervene but only succeeds in nearly staking Cordelia, who now officially hates her. We see that at that moment Jesse is talking to our petite blond vampire from the beginning, Darla (Julie Benz).
The “why” in Vampyr
Back underground our monologuing vampire, Luke, is monologuing a much uglier vampire out of a red hot tub. This is the Master. He is 1) apparently trapped underground by a mystical forcefield and 2) very hangry. MonoLuke informs him that Thomas and Darla are out hunting for him now.
On her way to save the day, Buffy runs into Xander. He fesses up to eavesdropping in the library earlier. He then insists on helping her help his friends. Darla, Thomas, and their “dates” have wound up in a mausoleum. Jesse is slightly paler than before because Darla had a nibble on the way over. When Buffy and Xander arrive at the scene, Buffy stakes Thomas. He disappears in a cloud-of-dust effect that I will give due credit to for it being 1997. While she fights Darla, Xander and Willow carry Jesse out only to be surrounded by more vampires. In the mausoleum, a new player has entered. He throws Buffy into a coffin and MonoLukes his way all the way to a “To be continued” card.
I asked Trav for a one-sentence review for this episode: “All I can think about is how creepy the librarian is coming across.”
Welcome to the Hellmouth is a fairly pilot-y pilot, what with the exposition, but it’s pretty dang fun and sets you up for action, fun dialogue, and the hope that that SFX will improve along with way. (2.5 / 5)