The Harvest – or whatever happened to Jesse?

Continuing the Buffy re-watch with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1, Episode 2: The Harvest. Will there be spoilers? Why, yes, of course.

So much for two episodes a week … This week I had a total set back due to being sucked into a hell of PC blue screens of pain. Damn those dread machines. But I am back, and normal service will be resumed. So where were we?

Left on a cliff hanger, that’s where … Buffy about to get bit by Luke, but it’s ok, he is suddenly repelled by the large cross on the necklace which Angel handily gave Buffy earlier. Phew, Buffy is able to get out of the crypt in time to stop other vampires feeding on Willow and Xander. But where’s Jesse? Buffy repeats his name as the theme tune rolls, which is so familiar and comforting. I know exactly the moment to look away – because spiders – yuck. All the main characters are accounted for in the credits, but not Jesse oh dear, that’s worrying…

The episode continues the theme of Welcome to the Hellmouth; that without friends Buffy would not be compelled to take up her role as the slayer. In this episode, friendship and the hope of protecting a new friend, is her primary motivation. Buffy feels responsible for Jesse, and will act to take on the vampires to save him.

Xander and Willow want to help, like Buffy they are motivated by their friendship with Jesse, and so the Scooby Gang comes together. While Xander sulks after being firmly told by Buffy that it’s her job to confront the vampires – not his – Willow utilises her computing expertise. She accesses the city plans to locate the underground tunnels used by the vampires. She carries out further research on the expected “Harvest affair” after Giles asks her to “wrest some information from that dread machine”. The impending “Harvest” reminds the gang that life in Sunnydale could become literal “hell on earth”, and that Buffy will need to accept that her role is not just to protect her friends, but also to save the world.

That was a bit, erm, British wasn’t it?

Principal Flutie tries to prevent Buffy from leaving school grounds, one of the first of many responsible adults who will try to hold Buffy back from her destiny. Buffy then comes across Angel at the crypt, and finds out his name. Angel warns her not to go in, Buffy replies, “Got a friend down there, at least a potential friend”, again, her motivation is clear. Angel’s meanwhile isn’t, he can’t answer when Buffy asks if he knows what it is like to have a friend.

Xander does “something stupid”, and rashly follows Buffy, because “Jesse is my bud ok, if I can help him out that’s what I’ve got to do. Besides, it’s this or chem class.”

Back at the school, Giles is researching in the old fashioned way and hitting the books, while Willow is in computer class doing online research. Cordelia and Harmony are struggling with computer programming and gossiping about Buffy. Ooh sidebar: It’s Harmony’s first appearance as one of Cordelia’s cool group. At this point there is no indication that she will be significant, but she will have a steady stream of appearances in the series, and regular appearances later in Angel. While Cordelia’s personality and strengths will develop, Harmony’s character is quite consistent – she hardly evolves at all – despite going through changes.

Are we going to the Bronze tonight?

Buffy and Xander find Jesse, only to discover they are too late and he has been turned into a vampire, they escape the tunnels into a power plant. Willow and Giles have uncovered that the Harvest will be that night, and that the Master was trapped under Sunnydale during an earthquake in the 30s.

The Master and Luke undergo a connecting ritual so that every drink of blood that Luke has will make the Master stronger and give him the strength he needs to break out of the mystical bubble he got caught in when trying to open the hellmouth 60 years earlier.

Angered by Jesse’s fate, Xander is now confirmed in his hatred of vampires, which will define his character and motivation, “I don’t like vampires, I’m gonna take a stand and say they’re not good”.

“I know, if you don’t go out it will be the end of the world”

But Giles has worse news, the end of the world … if the Master breaks free and opens the hellmouth, literally all hell will break lose. Buffy drops in at home to pick up weapons. Joyce decides this is the time to put her foot down and be a firm parent, “I know, if you don’t go out it will be the end of the world” she states ironically. Not to be deterred Buffy waits for her mother to go downstairs and then climbs out of the window.

At the Bronze, Cordelia holds court with her friends. When newly vamped Jesse comes in he asks her to dance, he’s acting kind of creepy,  but in a cool way, so she dances with him anyway.

The rest of the vampires arrive and interrupt the club night. Luke takes centre stage, he can’t stop making pronouncements though; he should probably just get on with feeding … He’s about to feed on Cordelia when Buffy interrupts him and they fight.

There’s lots of great slayage and punnage, including Buffy decapitating a vampire with a cymbal, and Xander quipping, “heads up”. The gang work together, Willow and Giles evacuating the crowd while Xander accidentally stakes Jesse. Buffy defeats Luke after outwitting him and catching him off guard. The Master stays trapped.

“Nothing’s ever going to be the same”, says Xander.

Next time is why?

The next day, everything is, well, exactly the same. As Giles explains, people rationalise what they cannot understand. Even Cordelia who was about to get bitten by two vampires – first Luke and then Jesse – has conveniently forgotten most of what happened and puts the rest of the mayhem down to rival gangs fighting. Giles addresses the group of new friends and predicts that more supernatural trouble will come and that “we may actually stand between the earth and it’s total destruction”

As Buffy, Xander and Willow walk away jokingly discussing the future, Giles turns away. “The earth is doomed” he pronounces in possibly the best last moment of the second episode of a TV show about teenagers saving the earth from apocalyptic chaos I’ve ever seen.

What’s to love in The Harvest?:

  • That ending!
  • Xander’s shirt. Green mushrooms!
  • Great dialogue:

Willow: Oh, I, I, need to sit down.
Buffy: You are sitting down.
Willow: Oh, good for me.

Giles: That was a bit, erm, British wasn’t it?

Xander: The dead rose, we should at least have had an assembly.

What’s not to love in The Harvest?:

  • Darla (in this episode): She is portrayed as meek in the face of the Master; not the Darla we see in later episodes, who is forceful and powerful. The character benefited hugely from her retrospective development, coming out from the shadows of ponderous figures like Luke, to shine as a monster in her own right in flashbacks in Angel.
  • Luke: yeah, he is ridiculous.
  • Angel: being cryptic and not at all helpful.
  • Jesse’s lack of legacy: Now, I am not a big fan of Jesse. Even before being a vampire he was quite creepy, but didn’t Xander and Willow forget him a bit quickly? Does he ever even get mentioned again? Basically he was the motivation to bring the Scooby gang together, I’m just saying.

Text © Angela S

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