“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
A quick bit of back story: Karmically I feel obligated to write this guide, because I never would have watched Buffy without my friend Nicky. Nicky was a good friend from high school who moved to Arizona my senior year; for the next five or so years, I’d visit every once in a while for a few days of sitting on her couch and watching TV. (It was glorious.)
It was on one of those trips — right before the premiere of Buffy season four, if I recall — that Nicky said “Okay, it’s time for you to understand Buffy,” and using her insane archive of videotapes (Nicky taped everything) I proceeded to get a highly compressed version of the first three seasons, which was instrumental in helping me fall in love with the show.
The first season of Buffy is a season spent figuring out tone and plot and character; there are a few great episodes, but nowhere near the number that would follow in subsequent years. So, if you’re new to the show that made Joss Whedon a nerd god and wanna get to the good stuff faster, here you go!
Buffy Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
1. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”: Watch it. It’s the pilot, and it’s definitely got some gawky awkwardness to it, but you can’t skip the first chapter of a book.
2. “The Harvest”: Watch it. Technically, this is a two-part series premiere; this wraps up all of the set-up.
3. “The Witch”: Watch it. Most of Buffy‘s first season is made up of stand-alone episodes like this, exploring normal high school stuff through a supernatural lens. Most of these episodes aren’t great and I’ll be encouraging you to avoid them. But this one is actually pretty solid, and sets up a secondary character who will become a surprisingly important part of the seven-year narrative.
4. “Teacher’s Pet”: Skip it. This is the first episode to focus on Xander, and Xander is great, but this episode is not.
5. “Never Kill A Boy on the First Date”: Skip it. Not great. There is a small bit of plot development with regards to the Master and his Evil Plans, but it’s not worth watching the whole episode for (and if you’re watching on Netflix or DVD, the Previously On will catch you up on that plot bit right quick).
6. “The Pack”: Watch it. This is a Xander episode worth your time, and it’s great stuff, mostly because it goes ever so slightly darker than you’d expect.
7. “Angel”: Watch it. Essential stuff, and possibly my favorite episode of the season. Things heat up with Buffy’s mysterious stalker duder, back story is revealed and an Epic Love is born.
8. “I, Robot… You, Jane”: Skip it. It does introduce another teacher at Sunnydale High, one who becomes a big part of the story down the line. But it’s pretty terrible. Buffy‘s understanding of how computers work is not exactly advanced. Or accurate.
9. “The Puppet Show”: Skip it. This is the first appearance of Armin Shimmerman, who’s a delight all through Buffy’s high school years, but again, not great.
10. “Nightmares”: Skip it. Don’t know what it is about this episode, but I don’t even think I’ve gotten all the way through it before.
11. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”: Watch it. I mean, technically you could skip this — another stand-alone, and a relatively silly one — but I’m oddly fond of it. Clea DuVall guest-stars (sorta) and the ending is great.
12. “Prophecy Girl”: Watch it. The whole season leads to this episode, and it’s pretty bad-ass. My friend Nicky, when she showed it to me, put it like this: “It’s everything Joss Whedon wanted the movie to be.”
It’s worth going back and rewatching these skipped episodes, once you’re a few seasons in and feeling nostalgic for Buffy’s more innocent days. But for right now, trust me and keep your eyes on the prize: Seasons 2-5.