Episode Review: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (“The Harvest”)
Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: Mar 10, 1997 (WB)
Nielsen ratings information: 4.8 million viewers, 3.4/5 in Households (1×01 included in those numbers, because it aired back-to-back)
I think that this episode is even worse than the pilot. And this for multiple reasons. Number one would be the shitty conclusion of a somewhat interesting cliffhanger. When Luke (Brian Thompson) had Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) trapped at the end of the last episode, you would have thought that she is going to have to fight her way out of this miserable situation. But no, Luke saw the cross on Buffy, was scared, which gave Buffy an advantage for like a second, and a few seconds later Buffy was just running away. Yeah, it was a pretty lame conclusion. It kind of reminded me of the beginning of the second episode of BEING HUMAN (the US version), where I was rolling with my eyes as well. Funny was that I couldn’t even see the cross on Buffy’s chest, after she escaped from the terror that is Luke. At first you make the cross a sidekick and let it save Buffy’s life, and just one cut later it isn’t even around her neck any longer. Just to be on her neck for the rest of the episode, and this more than noticeable. Yeah, it was really ridiculous. The second reason would be the zombie-like behavior of the vampires in the sewers, when they were thinking they’ve had Buffy and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) trapped. I mean, they had glowing eyes in the dark, they moved in slow motion (while Buffy was trying to get the door closed) even though they could have simply attacked Buffy and Xander, and they were totally surprised, when they got Jesse (Eric Balfour) thrown at them. The scene in the sewer was really completely stupid. Number three would be the simple fact that Jesse has died. Joss Whedon considered him a “regular character” for these two episodes (and it doesn’t matter whether he had succeeded in doing so), just so he can surprise the audience in killing off a regular early on, and Whedon made him “best bud” with Xander. He loved that guy, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) liked that guy, and who knows how many friends Jesse might have had. In this episode he became a vampire. He was pretty much dead. And the only thing Willow could say is “Well, at least you’re okay”, and the only thing Xander could do is kicking a trash bin. Hilarious stuff. There was absolutely no drama at all. That Jesse was a vampire (and dead!) was taken in like juice. I’m laughing. But whatever.
Yeah, this episode really was ridiculous. Nothing that could be considered good stuff, and probably even one of Joss Whedon’s worst work in his career. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, because some stuff was actually good. First of all, the development of the formation of the “Scooby gang”. That Xander and Willow learned almost absolutely everything about the evil underworld was quite nice, and who would have considered it to happen so early in the show? Normally, when it comes to genre shows like these, the main hero would have had to live a longer and more secretive secret life, but in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Buffy has the opportunity to talk about that vampire stuff with her friends, and she can count on help as well, even after numerous mentions that SHE is the slayer, not them. So yeah, that is a positive thing of the show. Another positive thing was Buffy’s little (attempted) argument with her mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland). I love that Whedon tried to make Buffy’s family life harder than her life as a slayer, and I like that it happened so early in the show. Giving Buffy a standing in her family life after two episodes – it’s usually something you wouldn’t see in a genre show either. And I like it when Buffy has somebody standing above her: her mother.
But the rest was pretty much distasteful shit. The actual Harvest was pretty lame, and the fight Buffy versus Luke was tame as well. I know that this is just the first stage of the series, but I wonder how the show actually made it out of the gate like this, when the action pieces make the show look like a cheap 70s movie, and when the horror moments can’t even work as horror, because they are just completely out of the norm. The Harvest could have worked, if Luke would have had a better presence as a villain (it seemed like he was the major villain for the first two episodes, not the Master), and if the fight between him and Buffy could have been more 90s and more tense. In addition, the Harvest should have been freed of comedic and ridiculous moments. First of all, the moment of conflict between Xander and Jesse. Even though I like the way how Jesse died (I was laughing, this time because of the intended comedy), the “I’m better than before”s from Jesse were not making his evil character work, and they were not leading to anything for Xander as a character. I don’t even think that Xander felt anything, when Jesse was dusted in front of his eyes. Best buds for so long, and it didn’t take Xander many seconds to accept it, and to accept seeing Jesse’s real “death”. Oh boy. And secondly, Darla (Julie Benz) running away from her own danger. I have nothing against that scene per se, but the archived screaming… It was most likely a parody of the horror genre, but it was simply not working at the moment. What was the show during that scene? Comedy, horror, a massacre, or an homage? 3.5/10