Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 1.2 'The Harvest'
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: John Kretchmer
What's the sitch?
Part 2 of the pilot follows directly on from part 1 with Buffy trapped and about to get bit by nasty vampire lug Luke. Of course she escapes, rescues Willow and Xander but finds out Jesse has been taken. A rescue plan is formed but not before Giles informs them that the evil vampire The Master, trapped by mystical energy beneath the town, intends to use his minion Luke to take the blood of many that night (the titular Harvest) in order to be freed from his mystical prison and thus open the Hellmouth, unleashing all hell on earth and destroying the world. Yikes!
What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
More of the same from part 1. Plus Buffy and her mum's relationship is explored nicely. The troubled teen angle with Buffy's mum fearing that her daughter is headed off the rails again is used to good effect and results in Buffy getting grounded. A major problem when trying to save the world.
Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
Same bunch - nasty vamp The Master (Mark Metcalf), nasty vamp Luke (Brian Thompson) and lovely/nasty vamp Darla (Julie Benz). Mmm, Darla.
Why it rocks
1. If part 1 was the set-up then part 2 is the pay-off. And what fun it is too.
2. Shocks and death. Yep, a major character buys it. A Whedon trademark. Plus real, innocent people get killed as we watch. And a vamp gets his eye gouged out as a punishment. Nice.
3. Mythology. Giles spells out to the gang (now dubbed Slayerettes by Willow) what vampires really are and how they came to be. I loved his explanation about our world's real history, saying that (in a dig at Christianity) “Contrary to popular mythology it was never a paradise...” According to Giles the Earth was originally a demon realm where magic and ancient evil reigned until natural creatures evolved, i.e. man, and learned to banish the ancient ones in to another realm. Now only vestiges of the original demons remain in the form of vampires (really a form of demonic possession) and various other supernatural types. This is all very Lovecraftian with the Hellmouth and the banished ancient ones being straight out of the Necronomicon. Great stuff.
4. The direction. John Kretchmer ramps up the spookiness, tension and excitement for part 2. The sequence underground where Buffy and Xander go to rescue Jesse is great – especially when it turns in to a mini siege. The vamps are really freaky with deathly pale faces, dripping fangs and eyes that shine out of pitch black darkness as they slowly close in for the kill. It's all rather Carpenteresque with a dash of George Romero. Creeptastic.
5. The end fight. At the Harvest, Buffy kicks bloodsucker ass in a well staged smack down. Plus there's a great ending to the fight as “vessel boy” gets it due to slayer trickery followed up by some high impact staking. It's Joss doing one of his usual subverting things again.
6. The last words of the episode. As Buffy, Willow and Xander wander off while making light of Giles' warnings of dangerous things yet to come, Giles turns away and utters in exasperation: “The Earth is doomed.”
Why it sucks
Jesse's final death is anti-climatic and almost throwaway. Plus the stake is nowhere near his heart.
The vamps – especially Luke – come across as a tiny bit thick.
Speaking of thick vamps...why only take a half-dozen or so vamps to The Bronze for The Harvest when there's a potential army of 'em loitering down below? The Harvest is a huge deal and they now know there's a slayer in town to stop it. Stupid vampires. They deserve to get slayed.
The showdown at The Bronze takes place on a Friday night. But at episode's end the gang appears to be back at school the very next day. Tough education system in Sunnydale having school on Saturdays.
We get the hero shot at the end of the final fight. That slow pull-in on Buffy, hands on hips, bathed in blue, staring icily at the remaining vamps...who promptly release their hostages, turn tail and run. Whedon said to director Kretchmer “Give me the Spielberg.” And so he did. Think Indy in Temple of Doom. It's so cool they used it as the final hero shot in the credits.
Dialogue to die for
Xander: “The dead rose. We should at least have had an assembly.”
And another thing
We get to know Angel's name. We meet Harmony (Mercedes McNab) for the first time. Plus Willow shows off her computer skills - something that will come in very handy over the next few years. Oh, and this episode's last “The Earth is doomed” line is repeated by Giles in the final ever Buffy episode 'Chosen' just before Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles split up and head off in to the shows final ever battle.
How many stakes?
It's five by five. 5 (out of 5)