"Gym was canceled due to the EXTREME dead guy in the locker!"
A timid blonde and an aggressive dude break into a high school. It's dark and empty and creepy, and shot with a teen horror film quality a la The Faculty. Blonde hears creepy noises. Guy says nobody else is there. You, realizing that you are watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, are ready for the blonde's imminent death, but...it turns out she's a vampire! This is the sort of gender reversal that Buffy is based on and Joss Whedon, being such a good feminist, is SUPER proud of himself for.
Roundabout the opening credits, I mentally blocked off the next six months of my life to devote to all things Buffy. (I finished the series in 3.) Cats jumping out of trunks! Creepy basements! Dusty books! Vats of green goo! All filmed with The Saturated Sheen Of The 90s and a rockin' theme song!
This episode introduces the premise of the show: one girl in all the world is endowed with super strength so that she can fight vampires and demons, and Buffy is It. But poor Buffy was kicked out of her last high school for burning down the gym and, upon transferring to Sunnydale High, just wants to be a normal teenager. Cordelia Chase, resident popular chick, tests Buffy on her coolness, and these kids seem to live in a world where it is fashionable to wear lime green velour pants, James Spader is a sex symbol, and anyone knows/cares about John Tesh.
But, as luck would have it, Buffy can't escape her role as the Slayer, and will remain bitter about this for the next 7 seasons. Dorky Xander bumps into her and, whoops, stakes come flying out of her purse! She goes to the library where the inexplicably British librarian, Giles, gets all excited and busts out a huge book called VAMPYR.
Then the dude from the beginning falls out of a locker with vampire bites in his neck. Buffy goes back to Giles to yell at him about the extreme dead guy, allowing for Giles to explicate a whole lot about the show in his posh audiobook accent. The basics: Giles is Buffy's Watcher, meaning he was sent there to train and guide her. Sunnydale is located on top of a Hellmouth--don't worry about making sense of that. There are many demons. Anyhow, Buffy does not warm to Giles, even though everyone watching is thinking, "AWWW I WANT YOU TO BE MY UNCLE!"
Buffy wants to be a normal teenager©, so she decides to go to the hip teen club The Bronze. But uh oh, somebody's following her on her way! She stealthily kicks him upside the head and we see...it's David Boreanaz, and he knows about vampires too! So brooding and dashing in the shadows as he says, "You're standing on the mouth of hell!", throws her a crucifix necklace, and disappears into the night. BUT WHO IS HE! Only time will tell.
Now we are introduced to The Bronze. The Bronze is a mystical gathering place where every teenager in all of Sunnydale comes to dance to long-haired, headbanging 90s-rock bands every weekend. Buffy chats with nerdy Willow, who is adorably self-deprecating, but leaves the club with A VAMPIRE! Buffy realizes she cannot deny her sacred calling™, and she and Xander go to rescue her and their dopey friend Jesse. The vampires take them to a crypt, where there's some hugger mugger about bringing young nubile flesh to The Master and why is Buffy so strong and no way there's the blonde vampire from the beginning of the episode!
Willow escapes...but what will become of Jesse? The episode ends with a cliffhanger, as burly vampire Luke lunges on top of Buffy and the screen reads, "TO BE CONTINUED..." What will happen? Will Buffy escape, or will the series be a 143-episode obituary to the slayer who once was? Tune in next time...
This review is about three times longer than all the others, just in case you've not watched Buffy (in a very long time) and need some background. I feel like I have a duty to explain just how delightful the show's first season is--Buffy's dark lipstick! Cordelia is literary bitchy and says things like, "What is your childhood trauma!" Giles never stops wiping his glasses! THE BRONZE!