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WELCOME to the HELLMOUTH (ep 1.01)

(a.k.a. Buffy Comes to Sunnydale)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Charles Martin Smith
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Mark Metcalf as The Master
Brian Thompson as Luke
David Boreanaz as Angel
Ken Lerner as Principal Bob Flutie
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Julie Benz as Darla
J. Patrick Lawlor as Thomas
Eric Balfour as Jesse
Co-Starring: Natalie Strauss as Teacher
Carmine D. Giovinazzo as Boy (ex-student)
Amy Chance as Girl #1
Tupelo Jereme as Girl #2
Persia White as Girl #3 (Aura)

Plot Summary

Buffy arrived in Sunnydale hoping not to have to worry about slaying. However, the appearance of one victim and the abduction of possible friends forced her to accept her calling again.


Late at night, a jock and a blonde (Darla) broke into a high school, presumably for a make-out session. Darla thought that she heard something, but the jock forgot that he was in a horror show and denied that there was anything to fear. Darla remembered that she is in a horror show, but she forgot the role that she was supposed to play. Instead of becoming the victim of a monster, she revealed herself as being the monster.

After a fitful dream about various things that Buffy, or her soon to be friends, will see in the coming months, she went to Sunnydale High for the first time. She barely climbed the steps when she caused her first accident. An obviously novice skateboarder, Xander, paid too much attention to her and not enough attention to the approaching railing. Fortunately, Willow arrived to rescue him both from his fall and from his math problems.

Buffy met with Principal Flutie to discuss her "colorful" career at Hemery High in Los Angeles. He wanted to tear up her record in order to give her a fresh start but changed his mind when he actually saw her record. Apparently, he did not want the Sunnydale High gym to be burnt down regardless of the presence of vampires asbestos.

It was not until history class when Buffy learned that she needed textbooks. (It is never clear whether she did not use textbooks in Hemery High or if she assumed that Hemery High was unique in using textbooks.) Fortunately, Cordelia was nice enough to share her book with Buffy and tell her that she can get her own in the library. Cordelia expressed some envy over Buffy having lived so close to so many shoes in Los Angeles. Cordelia was so impressed at that fact that she excused Buffy from having to take the written coolness test. Buffy aced the oral test just in time for Cordelia to spread some venom toward Willow. Buffy was not happy with the abuse, but she did not defend Willow either.

In the library, Buffy asked for textbooks but instead got one very old volume entitled Vampyr from a very effeminate librarian (Giles). Buffy was not thrilled.

Aprodesia and Aura gossiped about Buffy as they entered a locker room. Aura opened her locker only to find the dead body of the jock from the opening scene. She was not happy.

At lunch, Buffy approached Willow for help with Buffy's schoolwork. Willow accepted, but noted that people are not allowed to hang out with both Cordelia and Willow. Willow wanted to go to the library with the cool new librarian, but Buffy was still a little freaked out. Xander and Jesse arrived to interrogate Buffy, but Cordelia rescued her with news that gym was cancelled because of the body in the locker. Buffy appeared to be a little too curious about the death for Cordelia's comfort.

A locked door to the gym provided little resistance to a Buffy determined to investigate. She noticed two puncture wounds in the body's neck. She confronted Giles with the news. Giles was disturbed, but not especially surprised. Buffy rather unconvincingly told Giles that she did not care, but not even he believed her. Giles pointed out that Sunnydale contains not only vampires, but zombies, werewolves, incubi, succubi, and other bogeymen. Buffy suggested that Giles fight the monsters, but he refused the opportunity. Buffy was still not convinced that she wanted to make the sacrifices necessary to be the slayer again and left. We then found out that Xander was in the library and heard the entire conversation.

Giles followed Buffy into the hall to explain that something was coming, but he could not explain what. Buffy refused to believe that there could be much evil in Sunnydale. The camera then panned below the school to a torch-lit cavern where Luke, a vampire, talked about sleepers waking and worlds bleeding.

Buffy chose to distract herself by pondering a momentous decision: should she dress as a slut or a prude when she goes to The Bronze, the local nightclub. Apparently, she does not have anything in between. Her mother, Joyce, was worried about boys being present, but Buffy assures her that it is a nun's club.

While walking to the Bronze, Buffy noticed that someone was following her. She easily got the jump on a startled Angel. He apparently was waiting for Buffy to come but was expecting her to be different. He acted like he is on her side, but gave her very little help other than a cross necklace and a mention of "the Harvest" and "the mouth of hell."

Buffy seemed pleased to see Willow at the Bronze. Willow admitted that she dated very little. Buffy encouraged her to "seize the day because tomorrow you may be dead." Willow seemed pleased. Buffy then noticed Giles watching over the Bronze and confronted him. He seemed more interested in the Harvest than Buffy was. Buffy said that she would slay a vampire if she sees one, but that she does not want to get "way extracurricular." At least she was able to point out a specific vampire (Thomas) when asked to sense if any were in the room. Giles was more impressed than he was willing to admit. Buffy became very concerned when she found out that Willow was "seizing the moment" with that vampire, which might ensure that she dies even before tomorrow comes. Buffy went to stalk the vampire and ended up attacking Cordelia instead, thus ruining any chance of being in the in-crowd.

Meanwhile, Cordelia once again turned down her "stalker," Jesse. Fortunately or unfortunately, he captured Darla's attention.

Underground, Luke's managed to raise the Master out of a pool of bubbling red liquid without staining the Master's clothes. Luke noted that the Master's servants were out fetching food, like Willow and Jesse.

Thomas apparently told Willow that they were going to an ice cream bar, which did not explain why they were walking through a dark cemetery. She seemed reluctant to enter a mausoleum, but Thomas did not give her a choice. She went to leave just as Darla arrived with a somewhat anemic Jesse, who thought that Darla just gave him a hickey.

Buffy ran into Xander while looking for Willow. He seemed impressed that Willow left with a guy before letting on that he knew something about vampires and slayers. They arrived at the mausoleum just as Darla was about to feed on Willow. Xander wanted to leave, but Buffy wanted to critique Thomas's outfit and fight. She quickly staked Thomas, which terrified Darla. Buffy then made the common mistake of talking rather than killing her foe, which allowed Luke to sneak up from behind. At least this gave Xander time to get Willow and Jesse out.

Luke appeared to be stronger than Buffy. However, he too made the mistake of talking rather than killing. Even worse, he told her about the Harvest, albeit very little that is useful. The episode ended with Luke about to bite Buffy.

The Good

The opening scene is a nice play on the typical cliché where a jock boyfriend wants to make out rather than heed his girlfriend's warning about something creepy.

Flutie had an amusing reaction to reading Buffy's record.

The Bad

If I did not know better, I would assume that Giles was gay. I would not object to that, but I hope that it is not too much of a spoiler to say that the Giles we saw in his first scene bears little resemblance to the Giles we see in the rest of the series.

All forms of fiction have to introduce characters at the beginning of the novel, film, television show, etc. Fantasy fiction like Buffy also has to introduce the world in which the characters reside. This is necessary, but interferes with telling a good story. There is a difference between being important and being good. "Welcome to the Hellmouth" clearly fits the former, but does not fit the latter. The show gets much better than this.

Overall Rank: 132

Action: 1.5

Buffy had a very brief fight with Thomas and a bit longer one with Luke. Overall, there was not much action.

Comedy: 3

Comedy highlights include Xander's pratfall into the railing, Flutie's reaction to Buffy's record, and Cordelia's coolness test. Other than a few Cordelia lines, this episode largely lacked humor.

Drama: 2

Buffy's confrontation with Giles was a little dramatic. Otherwise, this episode lacked drama.

Romance: 5

I suppose that "romance" might be a good euphamism for what the ex-student was planning to do with Darla before she bit him.

Both Xander and Jesse appeared to be attracted to Buffy. Jesse appears to be more attracted to Coredlia than he is toward Buffy, and his attentions eventually went toward Darla.

Willow said that she used to date Xander when they were much younger. It appears that she may still be interested in him, despite the Barbie theft.

Character Development: 5

As one would expect from a series premiere, this episode contains more character introduction than character development:

Buffy—arrived in Sunnydale after a "colorful" career in Los Angeles. She prefers to dismiss her past rather than take responsibility. However, she did act when potential friends were in peril.

Cordelia—drew clear distinctions between cool people and losers. Obviously, she sees herself in the former category. Initially, she was very welcoming to Buffy and helped her out before seeing Buffy spend too much time with people in the latter category.

Giles—appears to be effeminate with poor people skills so far. He is, however, quite persistent.

Xander—developed an immediate crush on Buffy. He appears to be quite awkward in certain situations.

Willow—appears to prefer to avoid confrontation. Although not happy about being labeled a "loser," she did not challenge Cordelia's assessment. She is a great student and has a reputation of being the best person to provide help on schoolwork.

Jesse—is a friend of Xander's with an obvious crush on Cordelia.

Angel—appears to be on Buffy's side. However, he was very stingy with information or reasons to trust him.

Importance: 10

Buffy starts with this episode. This episode introduces most of the major characters in the early seasons and starts to explain their relationships with each other. Some of the characters, most notably Giles and Angel, will soon be very different from the characters seen here, however.

This episode also sets up the season arc. We learn that the head vampire in town is named the Master. He was apparently asleep but is now awake and hungry. He and his servants are preparing for something called "the Harvest."

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

Buffy loses points for talking too much and letting Darla escape. However, she does rescue Willow and Jesse from Darla and Luke, so she gets the first MVP.

Sherlock Holmes Award Angel

Angel seems to know that the Harvest is coming. Unfortunately, he does not give Buffy any useful information other than the name, "Harvest."

Goat of the Week: Thomas

In his brief time on the show, Thomas manages to fail to bring Willow to the master and lost his undeath without giving much of a fight.

Random Commentary

So far, it is not clear why Angel is so cryptic about what he knows. There are classic motivations for being cryptic. Sometimes, the character cannot give much away for fear of being caught, like Deep Throat in All the President's Men. Other times, the character serves as a mentor for the protagonist, like Kosh in Babylon 5. Such a character wants the protagonist to learn to think for him- or herself. Giving cryptic clues points the protagonist in the right direction, but still forces the protagonist to figure out most of the puzzle.

The best guess that I have is that Angel is still not ready to reveal what gets revealed in the seventh episode of this season. He might fear the questions that Buffy might ask if he simply gave her all the information he had. However, he seems to be good at dodging her questions anyway, so I do not see why he does not just give her everything he knows.

At a Borders bookstore near where I live (back when Borders still was in business), there was an employee who dressed as if he were about to go to a 1970s disco. Whenever I saw him, I thought about the quote below about a vampire's clothes being "carbon dated" and wondered if he would show up in a mirror.

DVD Extras

Joss Whedon on "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest"—Joss Whedon discussed a couple of issues. It is better than the general interview with Joss Whedon, but does not need to be watched more than once, and only by people who will not listen to the audio commentary.

Audio Commentary by Joss Whedon—Joss Whedon clearly puts a lot of thought in making each episode and, several years later, remembers the details. He described both details in the filming of this episode and an overview of the series. There are spoilers through episode 6 of the first season and the first half of the first season of Angel as well as references to the second season. This is the best extra (only good?) linked to this episode.

Insights on Buffy overall include:

Insights on this episode include:

Memorable Quotes

"I don't mean to interrupt your downward mobility, but I just wanted to tell you that you won't be meeting Coach Foster—the woman with the chest hair—because gym was cancelled due to the extreme dead guy in the locker." Cordelia

"We [Xander and Willow] used to go out but we broke up." Willow
"How come?" Buffy
"He stole my Barbie. Oh, we were five." Willow

"When I'm with a boy I like, it's hard for me to say anything cool or witty or at all. I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away." Willow

"My mom doesn't even get out of bed anymore, and the doctor says it's Epstein-Barr. I'm like 'Please, it's chronic hepatitis, or, at least, chronic fatigue syndrome.' I mean, nobody cool has Epstein-Barr anymore." Cordelia

"Look at the jacket; he's got the sleeves rolled up. And the shirt, deal with that outfit for a moment." Buffy
"It's dated?" Giles
"It's carbon dated." Buffy

"Now, we can do this the hard way or, well, actually, there's just the hard way." Buffy
"That's fine with me." Darla
"Are you sure? Now, this is not going to be pretty. We're talking violence, strong language, adult content." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Links

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on October 31, 2012