" Buffy the Vampire Slayer Review

The Harvest

Series Premiere, Part Two

Out of the closet.

The Harvest: The Review

The stakes.

The Harvest is the conclusion to Welcome to the Hellmouth, the payoff of the hard work of the show's premiere episode, although the hard work was more like play. The Harvest makes one point immediately in the teaser: Buffy isn't in this alone. Even when she is most isolated and self-reliant, in combat, it is the cross that Angel gave her which saves her from Luke, giving her the interval in which to recover and fend off his unwelcome advances; and her new friends, even if of the potential variety, are her primary source of motivation.

Sunnydale ed.

Education assumes another aspect after Buffy arrives at Sunnydale High. Buffy, the outsider, has broken through the ignorance and common delusion to reach Willow and Xander. Before her arrival, they knew nothing of the dangers of their little knowledge. Willow's specious world has been demolished. She and Xander have been borne to the tomb and resurrected. Giles provides the background mythology for vampires, demons, alternate dimensions, the bogey man, and the Slayer, the most important knowledge that can be imparted to children who dwell on the Hellmouth. (The premise of inversion continues with the exposition that Earth did not begin as a paradise, but as an Hell.) The primary facts are: Buffy is the Slayer, and the others aren't, but they can help; the Police are unprepared, ill-equipped, in a word, impotent; the people in general are conditioned to rationalize the threat. Thus, the odds are all against Buffy, especially with regard to the populace. They will not, en masse, be informed by the truth. In the main, Buffy's victories will be won in the dark and will go unnoticed, except by the few.


Buffy's duty as a Slayer is meaningful to her only when it is framed personally, within the scope of her relationships. The general and the universal mean nothing to her. Saving the world is a vague notion. Saving Jesse or Willow or Xander is a personal responsibility. There is something unique to this view, which puzzles Giles, who stresses the unique and solitary life which the Slayer traditionally is expected to lead for the benefit of an all inclusive but faceless humanity. Buffy doesn't care about humanity, only about the people close to her.

The value of friends to a Slayer becomes evident quickly, however, as Willow puts her knowledge of the Internet to use, locating the access tunnel under the cemetery. Xander, also, shows himself to be an asset, courageous and loyal in spite of his better judgment. Indeed, judgment belongs to the world of illusion that he left behind. A talk with vampires in it is a redefinition of reality. His intuitive certainty of the location of the Harvest is the first sign that Xander is not merely comic relief.

Angel is not impressive in either WttH or The Harvest. He provides only enough aid in the form of information to avoid being altogether useless to Buffy. He lurks on the edges of the conflict, curiously ambivalent for one who appears to have made a definite commitment to the Slayer. He might, for instance, offer at least as much physical presence as does Giles, Willow, or Xander, but instead he awaits the outcome outside The Bronze. He is annoyingly cryptic and elusive. He claims to be afraid of the Master, which might well be true. He seems to be unwilling to give himself fully to the mission, lest his hopes be disappointed. That Buffy prevented the Harvest appears to give him unexpected hope

We have met
the enemy.

The Master is the Slayer's unseen enemy. To her, though, he is nobody. Buffy concerns herself with the threat of the moment. She doesn't seek out the Master, but rather concerns herself with his chosen vessel, Luke. Defeat of the vessel is all that is required to frustrate the Master's ambitions. The viewers have the pleasure of the Master's company, however, and he is revealed to have something of a vicious sense of humor, much in the same vein as that exhibited by Cordelia or, even, by Willow. This shared trait effects a convergence of the dark and the light. The fact that the Master, that the Hellmouth itself, is directly below the Library, reveals a keen sense of the dark irony of life. There is nothing in the Master that is not, also, in humanity, only concealed or suppressed, one might infer. In keeping with Satanic lore, the Master is portrayed as a kind of anti-Christ, who is worshipped with a mockery of religious rituals and litanies. Appropriately, he is trapped in the ruin of a church, which he has learned to despise by long exposure. The human and demoniac aspects of religion are inseparable.

Buffy's confrontation with Joyce is unmistakably a straight parody of the teen soap opera. Yes, it really will be the end of the world if Buffy does not go out tonight. Joyce is blissfully blind to her daughter's secret life. The scene plays itself out as painfully and awkwardly as any talk about "real life" between parent and child, because the viewers know precisely the degree of irrelevance of Joyce's rehearsed maternal exhortations and recorded expertise.

The final resolution of the mayhem at The Bronze is hardly surprising, but it is enlivened by Buffy's attitude of disdain. The essential stupidity of Luke and the supremely unjustified self-confidence of the Master, as well as the invention of Buffy, are all spotlighted. Cordelia, fittingly enough, is the beneficiary of the last-second rescue, but she conveniently blocks out the details. She does retain the memory of Buffy's prominence in the event, something that is clearly being set aside for the future.

In Sum

Of course, Xander's observations the next day are a wry commentary on both the human tendency to overstate the importance of an event and the human capacity to adjust. The dead rose, and life goes on as usual. The status quo ante appears to have been restored, except that Buffy has made an impact on several people, and has manifested her strength to the enemy. Floating along on the surface is the placid understanding that life goes on by virtue of Buffy's arrival, which Giles can acknowledge by his own jesting comment. They aren't doomed at all. To the contrary, with such defenders, the world can sleep in ignorant serenity.

More so indeed than WttH, The Harvest lays down the ground rules by which the series functions. The intertwined mythology of the vampire and the Slayer, the relative weaknesses and powers of the opponents, the reasoning against calling in the Police, and tendency for selective memory, each is explained in a few sentences. Of greatest importance, the attitude is set. The most enduring image in the series, Buffy staring down the vampires, the light forming an halo about her head, sums up the character and the show. It is that image that the show will use as its touchstone: the fearless, powerful, shining creature that is the Slayer.

Horace LaBadie

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