FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Harvest
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy Summers has moved to Sunnydale and isn't keen to begin her slaying duties once again, despite being warned that something called The Harvest is coming. However, once her friends are in danger, she rises to the occasion but is caught up in a deadly fight with the vampire Luke.
Following straight on from series opener Welcome to the Hellmouth, Buffy faces off with Luke before he gets scared off by her necklace and allows her to get away, but sadly Jesse remains trapped in the sewers with Darla. This is the episode in which Buffy not only faces her first apocalypse (the first of oh so many) in The Harvest and, because Sunnydale is on the Hellmouth (a fact we find out from Expositionary Giles this week), it's a hotbed of supernatural activity. Basically, Luke, the Vessel, needs to drink a whole lot of blood for the Master to rise. I'm not entirely sure how that's supposed to work even after seeing the episode god knows how many times, but there we go.
Mark Metcalf's The Master may not be as fondly remembered as some of the other Big Bads, but it really is quite a performance. His poor maiming of Colin - "you have something in your eye" - is a nicely shocking moment and a memorable one for a second episode. He does tend to ham it up a little, but with the corny nature of the show, it sort of works and gives Buffy a nice pantomime villain to go up against in her first season. Luke's posturing also provides a grandiose antagonist for the first double bill, all speechifying and big words, building in a clash of the old and the new in Buffy that often crops up through the series.
It's not all positive though; The Harvest displays some of the ticks that would go on to characterise Season One with a few hokey plot moments, bombastic and overly dramatic music and a couple of cheesy performances from the other vampires. The score in particular is a distraction I'd not noticed before but there are whole lot of crashing organs and over the top brass sections. And the prosthetics work is not yet the show's best.
However, this episode does contain one of my favourite scenes of the first season; Buffy returns home to pick up supplies only to face her mother, Joyce (the wonderful Kristine Sutherland) and her new age parenting techniques. After Buffy skipped class in the first episode, Joyce gets the call from the principle to let her know and now Buffy's grounded. The confrontation they have typifies so much about the early half of the show's run with the metaphor of high school as a life or death situation. Buffy knows that on this occasion it is, but for Joyce, it's simply just another case of teenage melodrama.
The episode is also key in establishing the Scooby Gang (though not so called yet) as Buffy relies on Giles, Xander and Willow to help her out in the final showdown, urging them not to go 'all Wild Bunch' on her. It becomes one of the show's most enduring themes, that no slayer is an island and survival is simply not possible without a good support team. Much like high school really.
Quote of the Week:
Buffy: "Well, I've got to look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school?"
Xander: "Oh yeah, that's plan. Because other schools aren't on Hellmouths."
Willow: "Maybe you could blow something up? I hear they're pretty strict on that."
Buffy: "I was thinking something like excessive not studying."
Giles: "The Earth is doomed."
Sunnydale Who's Who: Goodbye Jesse, we barely knew ya! And apparently, despite being friends with him for years, neither did Xander and Willow. He's never mentioned again.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Welcome to the Hellmouth, here.