Buffy arrived in Sunnydale; met her watcher, Giles; made friends with Willow and Xander; and defeated the Master after he killed her first.
Buffy arrived in Sunnydale with a very "colorful" record from her previous high school. Apparently, she burned down the school gymnasium because it was full of vampires. She had hoped to get away from vampire slayings, but two things got in her way. First, she failed to read the title of the show. Second, Sunnydale is probably the worst place in the world to go if one wants to avoid vampires.
In Sunnydale she befriended (to varying extents); Xander, a geeky guy who fell for her; Cordelia, a popular rich student; Willow, a brainy student; Jesse, a redshirt; Giles, the school librarian and her watcher; and Angel, a cryptic guy who warned her about something called "The Harvest." The Harvest turned out to be an attempt to free the head vampire in town, The Master, from his mystical prison. With the help of Xander, Willow, and Giles; Buffy prevented this.
Buffy then had a couple of adventures involving a woman who switched bodies with her daughter to relive her cheerleading glory days and a giant preying mantis who posed as a substitute teacher and almost bit Xander's head off. More importantly, she set out to prevent the rising of a power called "The Anointed One," who was supposed to rise out of the deaths of five people. She successfully staked Andrew Borba, who rose out of vampires killing five people. However, she did not realize that the real Anointed One was a child who was also turned into a vampire in the same attack.
After an adventure in which Xander and four brats were possessed by hyenas and ate the principal, the Master's lead henchwoman, Darla, came up with a plan to get Angel to kill Buffy. It appears that he is a vampire and would kill Buffy to save himself if Buffy were led to believe that he was a threat. This plan backfired when Angel staked Darla instead.
Buffy had a few more adventures. Willow's online boyfriend turned out to be a demon that she accidentally scanned into a computer. Giles ran a school talentless show that was marred by a demon seeking a human heart and brain. A ventriloquist's dummy helped defeat that demon. A boy in a coma caused people's nightmares to manifest themselves. An unpopular girl turned invisible and started harassing Cordelia.
Finally, a prophecy stated that the Anointed One would lead Buffy to hell where she will die as part of a scheme that would lead the Master to escape from his prison. Buffy was not happy about the part in which she dies, but she gave in to her destiny. She drowned, but Xander revived her so she could finish the Master off.
The first season introduced a good ensemble of likable characters. Even Cordelia became likable by the end of the season. The standout was Willow, who in just a few episodes bacome one of the most lovable characters to appear on any television show.
The show has a rich mythology that is gradually being introduced over time.
There were too many episodes with little or no importance. In many cases, a viewer could skip an episode without missing much.
The cast and crew seemed to take a little too long to get to know what everyone is capable of doing. In most of the episodes, they were playing it safe rather than challenging themselves and each other. "Prophecy Girl" was the only episode that showed the depth of talent on this show. Fortunately, there will be many more such episodes in seasons to come.
The action scenes this season were weaker than the action scenes in later seasons. I do not know if this is because the writers did not yet know how to write action scenes, the directors did not know how to direct action scenes, the stunt personnel did not know how to perform action scenes, or if each of the above did not know what the others were capable of doing.
Standout action scenes include:
Cordelia took much of the comic relief duty this season. She frequently gave funny speeches that did not advance the plot but gave the audience a few giggles. The most Cordelia-heavy episode, "Out of Mind, Out of Sight," was also the funniest episode of the season. The only episode that comes close is "The Puppet Show" with the basic rule: puppets = comedy.
Comedy highlights include:
There were signs that the actors are capable of pulling off dramatic scenes, but good drama was the exception rather than the rule. "Nightmares" and "Prophecy Girl" stand out as being the best of the dramatic episodes.
Dramatic highlights include:
The important romantic ties are established early. Willow loved Xander. Xander was attracted to Buffy. Buffy was attracted to this mysterious man named Angel. As it turned out, all but the last were unrequited. Nearly every other romance or potential romance started and ended in a single episode. The only romance that advanced at all is between Buffy and Angel.
Key romantic moments include:
Buffy—At the beginning of the season, Buffy seemed reluctant to embrace her calling as a slayer. However, she quickly realized that she has responsibilities and lived up to them, even if it meant her death. She is attracted to Angel.
Giles—Giles is a prototypical mentor character. Just about the only way in which he deviated from the prototype was that he did not die approximately two-thirds of the way through the season as a way to show that the hero must face the villains on her own. (Random examples include, Sean Connery in The Untouchables, Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Qui-Gon Jin in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, Kosh in Babylon 5, and Merrick in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) Giles has grown to care about Buffy, and perhaps Willow and Xander, as if they were his own children. Particuarly in "Nightmares" and "Prophecy Girl," he saw his role as being Buffy's protector as much as her trainer. He is more comfortable around books than around modern technology, but he does appreciate Willow's computer skills.
Xander—Of the core characters, Xander is the only one who does not have special knowledge, skills, or abilities that are useful in their mission. However, he still participated and was accepted as a member. He appears to be aware that Willow is attracted to him but probably does not realize how much. He is instead attracted to Buffy, even though she has shown no interest in him.
Willow—Willow had already established herself as an incredibly lovable character. One of the biggest mysteries of the show was how so many people could resist her charms. Unfortunately, she is attracted to the one person for whom it would make sense not to be attracted to her (i.e., one who knew her when she was five years old). She is also very brainy and is very good with computers, which has been a very useful skill.
Cordelia—Cordelia started out as the comic-relief character and as the stereotypical rich, popular snob. Her role was mostly to make comically superficial speeches and to put down the other characters. She grew as a character over the season, especially in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight." She revealed herself as someone who feels lonely despite her popularity. She knows that people nod in agreement to what she says just to be popular even though most of what she says is nonsense. There are hints that she might prefer to have real friends like the main characters.
Angel—Angel started out as "cryptic guy," a person whose sole role is to show up, give a worthlessly vague warning about some threat, and disappear. In "Angel," we finally see who he is, a 200+ year-old vampire who used to be especially evil until Gypsies cursed him with a soul. He is attracted to Buffy and does not seem to worry about being a cradle robber.
Joyce Summers—Joyce is a loving and supportive mother who has to deal with the fact that her daughter has a reputation for getting into trouble. She wants Buffy to be able to come to her when Buffy needs her even though Buffy asserts her independence even more than they typical teenager. It might help if Joyce knew that Buffy was the slayer and what being a slayer means, but, except for maybe Principal Snyder, she is the only important character not to know that.
Principal Snyder—"The Puppet Show" firmly established him as being not just an authority figure but an authoritarian figure. He disdained the touch-feely attitude of his predicessor and instead wanted to impose order on the school. He does not seem to like Buffy and her friends. It is not clear if this is because he does not realize that Buffy is responsible for preserving what order that does exist or if he sees her as a threat because she is not under his control. It is also possible that he is a villain and fears that Buffy will be a formidable opponent when she finds out what he is up to.
Ms. Calendar—Ms. Calendar is a computer teacher who is also a technopagan. She is comfortable sparring with Giles even though she is noticably younger than he is. (in fact, Robia LaMorte is only two weeks older than Charisma Carpenter and nine months older than Nicholas Brendan.) She thinks that Giles is a snob for preferring books to computers even though she is just as snobbish in preferring computers to books.
The Master—He was a vampire who has two simple goals: (1) free himself from his prison, and (2) rule the world. Like most villains, he depended too much on his minions, who were largely ineffective against Buffy. He did do well against her in a fight, winning one of their two encounters (two out of three if one counts the encounter in "Nightmares"). Unfortunately for him, he lost the one encounter that was definitive.
The following characters received Most Valuable Player awards this season:
The following characters received strong consideration for Most Valuable Player:
Before reviewing these episodes, I would have guessed that Buffy would have won the majority of the Most Valuable Player Awards. I definitely would not have predicted that she would not even get the plurality.
The following characters did the most to solve the main mystery of the episodes:
The following characters received strong consideration for a Sherlock Holmes:
I knew that Buffy would do better in this category than most people would suspect, but I still would have expected Giles to get the most awards.
The following characters did the most to sabotage their own cause in each episode:
The following characters received strong consideration for Goat of the Week:
Giles got very lucky. Of the ten other characters to win this award, eight died, one went to jail, and one was trapped in a cheerleading trophy. Giles won this award twice and managed to escape both times.
Some of the most memorable quotes of the season include:
"I haven't been able to eat a thing since yesterday. I think I lost like seven and a half ounces, way swifter than that so-called diet that quack put me on. Oh, I'm not saying that we should kill a teacher every day just so I can lose weight. I'm just saying when tragedy strikes, we have to look on the bright side. You know, like how even used Mercedes still have leather seats." Cordelia ("Teacher's Pet")
"You were right all along about everything. Well no, you weren't right about your mother coming back as a Pekingese." Giles ("Teacher's Pet")
"All right, I'll just jump in my time machine, go back to the 12th century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and a show." Giles ("Never Kill a Boy on the First Date")
"Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate? And there's a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor? And, well, otherwise, all his spare time is spent lounging around with imbeciles?" Giles
"It's bad, isn't it?" Buffy
"It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him." Giles
"Giles, I'm serious." Buffy
"So am I, except for the part about killing him. Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons." Giles ("The Pack")
"My diary? You read my diary? That is not OK. A diary is, like, a person's most private place. You don't even know what I was writing about. 'Hunk' can mean a lot of things, bad things, and when it said your eyes were penetrating, I meant to write 'bulging.'" Buffy
"The 'A' doesn't even stand for 'Angel' for that matter. It stands for 'Achmed,' a charming foreign exchange student, so that whole fantasy part has nothing to even do with you at all." Buffy
"Your mother moved your diary when she came in to straighten up." Angel ("Angel")
"This guy could be anybody. He could be weird, or crazy, or old, or he could be a circus freak. He's probably a circus freak." Buffy
"We read about it all the time. You know, people meet on the net, they talk, they get together, have dinner, a show, horrible ax murder." Xander
"Willow ax-murdered by a circus freak. OK, OK, what do we do? What are we doing?" Buffy ("I Robot... You Jane")
"To read makes our speaking English good." Xander ("I Robot... You Jane")
"Malcolm, remember me, your girlfriend? [Wham!] I think it's time we break up, [Wham!] but maybe we can still be friends." Willow ("I Robot... You Jane")
"Let's face it. None of us are ever going to have a happy, normal relationship." Buffy ("I Robot... You Jane")
"That is such a Twinkie defense. Shylock should get over himself. People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she was trying to make it about her leg, like my pain meant nothing." Cordelia ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight")
"If I'm not crowned tonight, then Marcie's won, and that would be bad. She's evil, OK? Way eviler than me." Cordelia ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight")
"Hey, you think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be completely surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in the popular zone. Sometimes, when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me they don't hear a word I say." Cordelia
"Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?" Buffy
"Well, it beats being alone all by yourself." Cordelia ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight")
"So that's it, huh? I remember the drill. One slayer dies; next one's called. Wonder who she is? Will you train her, or will they send someone else?" Buffy
"Buffy, I..." Giles
"They say how he's gonna kill me? Think it'll hurt? Don't touch me. Were you even gonna tell me?" Buffy
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to, that there was some way around it." Giles
"I've got a way around it. I quit." Buffy
"It's not that simple." Angel
"I'm making it that simple. I quit. I resign. I'm fired. You can find someone else to stop the Master from taking over." Buffy
"I'm not sure that anyone else can. All the signs indicate..." Giles
"The signs? Read me the signs. Tell me my fortune. You're so useful sitting here with all you books. You're really a lot of help." Buffy ("Prophecy Girl")
"Giles, I'm 16. I don't wanna die." Buffy ("Prophecy Girl")
"I'm not OK. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day, and, when I walked in there, it wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs, and they had fun." Willow ("Prophecy Girl")
"I don't like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you're a vampire, but Buffy's got this big old yen for you. She thinks you're a real person, and, right now, I need you to prove her right." Xander ("Prophecy Girl")
"I may be dead, but I'm still pretty, which is more than I can say for you." Buffy ("Prophecy Girl")
"I like your dress." Willow, the Master, and Angel ("Prophecy Girl")
The following evil entities are still at large:
Indictments against the characters include:
The most notable nonwhite characters include:
Giles was knocked unconscious in the following episodes: