Channel: WB Television Network
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendan, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter and Anthony Stewart Head
Any regular reader will know about my strong love for this beloved series. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is mostly certainly a cult show, a small, yet dedicated viewership. The first season started it all off, noticeably smaller than the other seasons that followed it. It is admittedly twelve episodes of trial and error, feeling around the genre, as it finds the style that it shall run with. There is something charming and exclusive about watching this season, which always make it an enjoyable handful of episodes to revisit.
Joss Whedon follows the story on from the movie, but other than a few continuity references, the awful film is never brought up again. Buffy, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, comes to Sunnydale High School, a small town compared to LA, where she was raised, trying to escape her destiny as a vampire slayer. However, fate conspires against her, as Sunnydale turns out to be a hot spot for supernatural activity, situated on top of a Hellmouth, a gateway to Hell. Eventually, her calling ends up dragging her friends into danger, getting them hurt, which gives her the push she needs to embrace her role as a Slayer and begin kicking demon ass.
These episodes are a lot more mystery-based than the action of the following seasons. It feels more thought out at times, often giving us a neat, little twist to stay tuned for. As this is a series that is unsure where it wants to go at this point in time, the villains are pretty much straight out of a Grimm fairy tale book. Buffy takes on witches, an invisible girl and even the head villain is so stereotypically a vampire, it feels copy and pasted from a Bram Stoker text. There is a rustic feel to these episodes, as they have little to prove. Sometimes the mystery side is embellished too much and when it comes to actually fighting the monster, the battle usually only lasts a couple of punches. Sometimes the action is literally Buffy rushing into the room at the last possible moment and beheading the monster, before it sacrifices Willow.
The cast is instantly loveable. Sarah Michelle Gellar is in charge of holding up the series, as most of the supporting cast aren’t developed enough to help her guide the show. She is sarcastic, quirky and kick-ass, everything we want from the lead. Whedon writes her as a ‘laugh-in-the-face-of-danger’ kind of heroine and it really works here. Gellar instantly finds a rapport with the character and before long we definitely believe she is the Slayer. It is an inspired casting choice. The other actors are good here, despite the series not giving them much to work with here. Anthony Head is the veteran actor , although he is given little more to do than play the comedy stuffy English librarian. He can hit the serious notes when called upon though and in future seasons, he shows us what he is made of. Charisma Carpenter tries her best, although her character is so bratty, it is hard to care for her. Nicholas Brendon provides the jokes and Alyson Hannigan finds her feet as Willow, this season long before anyone truly knew how amazing an actress she would turn out to be.
Looking back, this season does put the rest of the series in a bad light. The dialogue comes across as cheesy at times (even if this is a purposeful move by Whedon), and the stories are a little too simple. Some episodes are wrapped up so quickly it can become a deflated ending. The entire season in itself ends on such a bizarre note you can’t help but wonder if the show even takes itself seriously. Whedon focuses on the dating lifestyle of the typical teen girl, but this can lose some of the audience, as it does feel out of place. I can see where Whedon is coming from, but I believe more subtlety could have been used.
The first two episodes are the highlight of the show, maybe proving that another two-parter mystery could have been called for. The pacing is great, the vampires are actually scary (something the series drops in a few seasons time), and we get enough mystery and action. Also, the initial two episodes show the arrival of Darla, played by Julie Benz, a character that is almost definitely the most impressive thing on the actress’s resume. However, when the rest of the season kicks in, you can’t help but wish that it kept to that original spark.
Final verdict: Work is needed here, but it is a pleasant and charming start to what will become one of the most beloved series of the 90s.