“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide

Hey, want to check out on the complete series? A guide to all seven seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” as well as its spinoff “Angel,” can be found in “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides,” now available on Amazon!

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.

Also, this happens in "Angel." Helloooooooooo 1997 David Boreanez!

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.

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on February 16, 2011, in No Spoilers, Skip It/Watch It Guide, TV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I have tried to convince people before not to watch “I Robot, You Jane”, and they ALWAYS watch it and are ALWAYS sorry. The only good thing about it is that single Xander line about why they’re getting books: “To read, makes our speaking English good.”

    But “Nightmares” is actually pretty good! It explains what happens to Buffy’s dad, and has some good character developments, especially with Giles.

    • Fair point to you about the Giles character development; I may just have a mental block about that episode. Something about the way the nightmares are integrated into the narrative just felt really heavy-handed to me.

  2. Thank you for doing this! I watched the whole series several years ago and I am trying to show it to someone else who is skeptical about whether or not they will like it. I never watched “I Robot,” and I never will, but I remember there being some others that I didn’t skip in my initial viewing experience, but that I could have certainly lived without. Of course, I had no memory of which episodes those were. I’m so glad I found your page!

  3. Someone should do a character development & funny moments excision on the skipped episodes, making sure to grab the moments of Xander wit and Buffy’s disappointment at her dad overlapping with Giles stepping more into that role. And they should extract whatever other salient moments exist in the skipped episodes.

    I kind of liked the Puppet one. Don’t shoot me. It had some funny moments in general and with the Scooby/Giles dynamic. And I also have a thing for puppets. It’s like some sort of puppet blindness wherein my brain is overridden wherever puppets are involved and automatically I like it, meritoriously or not. Hey, we all have our crosses to bear. It could be worse.

  4. I am Buffying so hard right now, you guys. Seriously.

    Like, if I am Liz Lemon, and Buffy s2-5 is a buffet of sandwiches. And I am Liz Lemoning those sandwiches.

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