"Welcome to the Hellmouth"
Written by Joss Whedon; directed by Charles Martin

The first ever episode of Buffy begins in a place that will become very familiar to viewers - Sunnydale High School. A boy and girl break into the building to sneak to the top of the gym, where the boy claims one can see the whole town. (Why didn’t they just go up to the bell tower?) The girl, Darla (Julie Benz), is less than enthusiastic, even when her boy toy attempts to encourage her with smooches. He is soon surprised to find out that she is, in fact, a vampire. He is soon dead. She is soon a thorn in the sides of many Buffy and Angel viewers.

We get our first glimpse of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who is experiencing nightmares about an ancient vampire named the Master (Mark Metcalf). Her mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) awakens her for her first day at Sunnydale High and encourages her to "try not to get kicked out." At school, Buffy meets Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendan), who rides a skateboard which mysteriously disappears after this episode. Xander catches up with Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), thus rounding out the soon-to-be Three Musketeers. We establish that Willow is brainy and Xander is…not so much. They also have a friend named Jesse (Eric Balfour), but don’t worry too much about him. Xander and Jesse are excited that there’s a new girl at school.

Buffy meets with Principal Flutie (Ken Lerner), who is at first encouraging but changes his tune when he sees her permanent record - she burned down a gym and was kicked out of her last school. In the hallway, Xander gets his first hint that something about Buffy is strange when she spills her bag and leaves without picking up her stake. Buffy meets Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), an authority on all things cool and one of the most popular girls in Sunnydale. Buffy is excited that she has an in with the popular crowd, but feels badly for Willow, who Cordelia enjoys teasing. Cordelia invites Buffy to another soon-to-be familiar Sunnydale landmark, a club called the Bronze. Buffy heads to the library for textbooks and is greeted by Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), the new librarian. He tries to offer her a book about vampires, but she panics and skedaddles. Girls in a locker room also panic when they encounter a dead body.

Willow is surprised that Buffy, supposedly popular, is not only willing to speak to her but also wants her help in catching up with her school work. Willow explains that Giles is from England and has lots of cool books. Buffy isn’t as thrilled. Xander and Jesse meet up with them and Xander seems to think it’s the perfect time to return Buffy’s stake to her. She passes it off as a weapon of self-defense. Cordelia, surprised to see Buffy hanging out with so-called losers, informs the group that a dead body was found in the locker room. Buffy expresses curiosity and decides to go to Giles for information. The conversation turns to vampires, and Giles speaks the words that will soon become classic: "Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires…." Buffy’s still underwhelmed and doesn’t want to accept her fate. She tells Giles to slay the vampires himself, but he can’t - he’s just a Watcher. He’s unable to convince her to do her job, and neither of them realizes that Xander has been listening to their entire conversation. Elsewhere, a vampire named Luke chants, "The sleeper will wake, and the world will bleed."

Buffy prepares to go to the Bronze while her mother tells her she’s glad that the unpleasantness of her past is, well, in the past. On the way to the club, Buffy meets a mysterious man named Angel (David Boreanaz) who knows that she’s a Slayer and offers to help her. He gives her a cross necklace and warns her about the Harvest. Buffy is unimpressed and declines his help. At the Bronze, Buffy runs into Willow, who’s waiting for Xander (though they’re just friends). Buffy encourages a shy Willow to "seize the moment" and stop worrying about what guys will think of her. She spots Giles upstairs and goes up to roll her eyes at him. She mentions Angel but Giles is unfamiliar with him. Jesse tries to flirt with Cordelia but is rebuffed. Buffy displays her vamp-spotting skills by pointing one out to Giles. Unfortunately, Willow has taken Buffy’s advice and is leaving the club with said vampire. On her way to rescue Willow, Buffy runs into Cordelia, who notices that Buffy is acting a little strangely (i.e. running around with a stake in her hand). Thus ends the short friendship of Buffy and Cordelia. Elsewhere, Jesse runs into trouble of his own when he meets Darla. Another elsewhere, Luke succeeds in raising the Master.

Willow and her new friend take a walk through one of Sunnydale’s numerous cemeteries. Buffy encounters Xander, who is shocked to learn that Willow is in danger. He reveals that he knows Buffy’s a Slayer, so Buffy lets him tag along. Willow realizes that her new friend isn’t quite as friendly as she thought; they come across Darla and Jesse, who have been doing some…necking. Fortunately, Buffy and Xander show up to save the day. Buffy fights Willow’s vamp friend and Darla is surprised to see her kill him. Willow, Xander, and Jesse make their escape while Buffy battles Darla and Luke, who’s just arrived on the scene. As Giles researches the Harvest, the vamps get the better of Buffy and prepare to make her a meal.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Don’t go off with strange boys.

GRADE: B+ The series is off to a good start and adeptly mixes comedy and fantasy.

WELCOME TO THE HELLMOUTH: Darla, Buffy, Master, Joyce, Xander, Willow, Jesse, Flutie, Cordelia, Giles, Luke, Angel

MEMORABLE QUOTES - Giles: "What do you know about this town?"
Buffy: "It's two hours on the freeway from Neiman Marcus?"

Buffy: "What? You, like, sent away for the Time-Life series?"
Giles: "Ah, w-w-w-yes."
Buffy: "Did you get the free phone?"
Giles: "Um, the calendar."

"What is your childhood trauma?!" - Cordelia to Buffy


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