I’ve often heard people say that you can just skip the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve even had a friend who was starting it ask if they could after watching a few. Although I do understand the reasoning behind this, it is undoubtedly Buffy’s worst season, I would argue that there are some gems hidden within. Buffy was just finding its footing. But there are five episodes that are a cut above the rest:
5. Never Kill a Boy on the First Date- This episode isn’t amazing, but it features the very beginning of the tension between Buffy’s love life, and her “job.” Even better, we see a strong development in the dynamic of Buffy and Giles, and how he is sometimes permissive of her in spite of his watcher training (“if the apocalypse comes, beep me!”). We also understand a little bit more about why Willow and Xander can know that Buffy is the Slayer, but why others aren’t cut out for that secret.
4. The Pack- When Xander gets possessed by the spirit of a hyena and turns evil and does that slow motion walk up the hill with his bad hyena/teenager/bully friends, it is pretty nineties. It is also kind of cool. This episode may be on the list solely because it was the first Buffy episode I ever saw, and I was instantly hooked, so I acknowledge the bias. But it might also be because although it is campy, and everything turns out alright in the end, it is also dark. Principal Flutie?
3. Nightmares- I don’t think anybody does dreams the way Whedon does, and though “Restless” in season four is the best example of this ability, “Nightmares” is the first glimpse. Whether it is Xander following a foreboding trail of chocolate bars, or Buffy confronting her worst-case scenario in her relationship with her dad (this exchange tells us a lot about her as a character), the episode is fun and creepy in all the right ways.
2. Angel- This is when we finally find out that Buffy’s attraction to Angel is ironic and star-crossed because Angel is a vampire! A vampire slayer in love with a vamp? It was shocking upon the first viewing, especially because their relationship built really well. But this episode is also just really well written in the first half, and features Darla being Darla in the second half.
1. Prophecy Girl- Initially, I dismissed this episode like I dismissed most of the first season. But, after watching the series all the way through, my heart broke a little the second time I watched it. Buffy is so young, and there is so much pain and trouble coming. She turns to Giles and says “I’m sixteen years old, I don’t wanna die!” It may be a season one episode, but it grapples with the weight of Buffy’s Slayer duty and the actual gravity of the situation. “Prophecy Girl” is a little bit campy, but it is a great glimpse into what is to come.