Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 1 Episode 2

The Harvest (2)

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Mar 10, 1997 on The WB

Episode Fan Reviews (60)

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  • The Harvest

    "Welcome to the Hellmouth" [1x01] largely succeeded because of its overwhelming focus on establishing the characters and setting up some of the core themes that will fuel the series at large. "The Harvest," on the other hand, doesn't really do any of that. This is a very plot-heavy episode with a plot that isn't that good. This presents a problem, which translates to a troubled episode.

    "The Harvest" is characterized by a lot of long poorly paced scenes that are trying to play off as suspenseful, but mostly come off as boring. I'm just simply not invested in the corny Luke helping the Master or whatever's going on with Jesse. Luke is talked up a bit as some kind of dangerous vampire, yet he's ultimately a pathetic fighter and more than a little dumb. On top of this, the action sequences can be generously characterized as mediocre, with the big ending action set piece being poorly directed and lifeless. Over in the library not much else of interest happens as we mostly just get a whole lot of dry exposition from Giles and Willow.

    While I clearly have some serious issues with the episode, it's fortunately not a total loss. There are some decent character beats mixed in. I enjoyed the little bit where Buffy asks Angel if he knows what it's like having friends only to get a sad non-response. That beat nicely establishes Angel's role as an outsider and gets him a bit of sympathy from both Buffy and the viewer, which becomes important when Buffy begins feeling things for the guy.

    Another bit of revealing characterization comes from Xander who, despite his better judgment (and Buffy's clear wishes), goes to help his friends out of a sense of loyalty. This loyalty will save Buffy's life in "Prophecy Girl" [1x12] and be useful many times in the future. This turns out to actually be one of Xander's best qualities.

    In the latter part of the episode Joyce essentially grounds Buffy from going out again right at the time when she has to go to save the world. Joyce says "I know. If you don't go out it'll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you're a sixteen-year-old girl." Beyond having amusing irony, it's also revealing of how Buffy uses metaphor. S1 of Buffy, in particular, is a series of largely stand-alone stories that toy around with the theme of high school as hell and it uses metaphor as the vehicle in which to deliver this theme. As the series progresses we see this theme and the metaphors used to serve them used more directly to evolve the characters. So this nice scene with Joyce turns out to be a nice hint of the approach to come.

    My favorite scene of the episode occurs right after the conversation between Buffy and Joyce. Buffy reaches into her closet and pulls out a big chest. After opening it we can see that the top layer is filled with all kinds of usual girlie items. After a brief pause, Buffy pulls off the top layer to reveal a secret area filled with usual slayer items. This is a wonderful moment with neat symbolic relevance. Think about how this parallels the shot, in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" [1x01], where the camera goes from the sunny surface of the high school, moves downward, goes through the dirt in the ground, and then arrives underground to reveal the danger than lurks below the sunny surface. Just like Sunnydale has two sides to it, Buffy has a complex duality in her personality an internal war between, as termed in "The Replacement" [5x03], Buffy-Buffy and Slayer-Buffy -- that will take seven years for her to fully come to understand and come to terms with. This symbolic moment here in "The Harvest" speaks to a central character dilemma.

    "The Harvest" has a few memorable character beats and a few nice moments, but in the end it's a really troubled episode that struggles to keep afloat. If the episode actually had some depth to it or had at least a little substantial character growth or had a notably stronger plot, I could see myself liking this one a notch more, but as it stands it just can't climb completely out of its own grave despite a few attempts to. It's a shame that the pilot episode couldn't finish out strong.

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