Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, premiered as a mid-season replacement on the WB network on March 10, 1997. Much to the network's surprise, Buffyquickly became the most well-received series for the network and was largely responsible for the newer, smaller networks success. But long before its success, it took a lot of hard work and jumping over hurdles to even get the pilot episode to air in the first place.
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When talking about his goals, Joss Whedon said that he wanted to create something that flipped the cliched damsel in distress character on its head and provoked ideas around female empowerment and heroism.Its safe to say that, from the very first episode, Whedon accomplished what he set out to do in some ways better than others. Here are five reasons whyBuffy the Vampire Slayer'spilot episode is perfect and five why it's not.
The introduction to each episode inthe first two seasons quickly became iconic. In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.
In the first few episodes, this quote is spoken by one of the networks voiceover actors but by the second season, Giles is the one saying these classic words.This doesnot only lay the perfect foundation for the world we are entering, but fans loved to hear it every time.
To cut to the chase, theres a lot of bullying happening right from the top of the episode. It starts with Cordelia spotting Willow across the hall, approaches her, and makes fun of the clothes she is wearing. Needless to say, this part didn't age well.
Granted, it was the 90s and there were different rules back then, but in todays society this scene would never be allowed to air. Even if it did, it would make Cordelias character unforgivable, thus taking her out of the story pretty early on in the series.
The original idea for Buffy stemmed from another brainwave thatJoss Whedon had. Originally, his idea was to write about a diner waitress with super-strength. This idea evolved into a satirical take on a rather common trope in horror movies: the damsel in distress. In the 90s, horror films were consistently portraying women as victimsand they usually showed the blonde cheerleader running for her life, only to fail gruesomely.
Joss decided to tell another version of that story, this time where the damsel fights back and wins. He sets us up perfectly in the opening scene of the pilot with Darla playing the innocent school girl, only to reveal shes the thing that everyone fears.
Theres a quick scene in the middle of the episode with two girls chatting in the gym locker rooms about the new girl at school.As they approach their lockers and one of the girls opens hers, a dead body comes falling out on top of her, giving us our first victim and our first who-done-it.
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The dialogue in this scene reads a little false and weirdly unnatural, probably because of the actors and the choices theyre making. The tone in this scene contrasts that of the rest of the episode,and it almost takes viewers out of the story.
Simply put, the dialogue here is very Joss Whedon-esque. Its quirky, its fun, and most importantly, there are words weve never heard before and are definitely not considered actual words by a Websters dictionary. Its everything Joss Whedon quickly becomes known for.
Some notable examples include words like sitch" instead of situation or lines like Xanders where he asks Willow for help with the maths and when she asks him which part, he simply and cutely responds, The Maths. Joss Whedon would spend the next seven seasons keeping viewers ears tuned in for new catchphrases that are equal parts perfectly '90s and timeless.
Buffy spends the first half of this episode dodging her slayer duties and Giles, who clearly knows who she is right from the start. Buffy struggles a lot with wanting to be a normal teenager, and thats understandable, but her level on denial in the pilot is intense.
It creates a nice arc toward the end when she decides to accept her fate and her new friends find out about her, but that pay off makes the beginning even more confusing. Buffys smart enough to know this is something she cant run from, so her initial denial rings a bit weird in hindsight.
The pilot episode does a great job of establishing who everyone is, without being too expository or obvious about it. They set up our main chapters, hierarchies, and relationships to one another perfectly and clearly.
We know Willow and Xander are best friends and not the most popular, thanks to Cordelias snarky one-liners, and we understand very quickly the dynamics of this high school through the eyes of Buffy, who is courted by Cordelia, but chooses to stick with Xander and Willow. We also get the scoop on the new librarian, Mr. Giles from Willow, who would definitely know the facts due to her nerdy nature and love for the school library.
Angel is an irreplaceable part of the Buffy franchise, but itseems as though it took the writers a couple of episodes to figure out who he really was and where he was going in the first season.
The first episode introduces a very confident, sexy Angel who follows Buffy. When she confronts him, he seems up for the banter but thats not the Angel we fall in love with throughout the first season. We fall for the brooding, mysterious figure whose biggest weakness is the incredible amount of love he has for the slayer.
Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a hit television show, it was a film starring Kristy Swanson as the title character. The film was also written by Joss Whedon, who made sure to tie in the films storyline to this pilot for fans of the original story.
Buffy, the film, takes place in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the TV series picks up on Buffys first day of school in her new hometown of Sunnydale, after she and her mom left LA to start fresh. In LA, Buffy burnt down her schools gym when vampires attacked it and its something she owns up to in the pilot and makes a known fact.
When we meet Buffys new friends, that will soon make up part of her Scooby Gang," we meet Xander and Willow but we also meet a boy named Jesse, one of Xander and Willows best friends. Jesse is a fun character and it would have been interesting to see the friend-groups dynamic with four people, instead of the three we end up with.
It would have also been nice to have another boy in the mix, maybe someone Xander could relate to more, but that never happens because Jesse is killed by Darla towards the end of the pilot episode.
NEXT: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: 5 Characters Who Got Fitting Endings (& 5 Who Deserved More)
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Amelia Brantley is a writer and actor based in Los Angeles, California. Her love for film, television, and theater drove her to pursue her dreams at a young age. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Acting from The American Music and Dramatic Academy and constantly auditions/works in the industry. In addition to writing for ScreenRant, Amelia also blogs, on her own blog, as well as for other entertainment industry online resources. If she isn't writing or self-taping, she's most likely cuddling with her dog, Warner George.
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