Can I skip early episodes of Buffy?
June 27, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Buffy newbie here. How long before the show gets good? It does get good, right? Can I skip some of these early episodes? How many?

Whatever the opposite of trailblazer is, that's me. A decade late, I have become a huge Whedon fan. I fell head over heels for Dr. Horrible, and am now on my second or third watching of Firefly. (Still haven't seen Serenity, more because I'm saving it than anything else.) I remember back in the day, so many people raved about this Buffy show, but I never bothered to watch it because it sounded moronic. Now I'm ready to be proven wrong, but after the first three episodes, I'm not terribly impressed.
I just went through previous discussions here on Metafilter, and the constant refrain is that the early eps weren't very good. Can I skip to the good bit? When does that start? Will I miss key plot points if I skip?
posted by CunningLinguist to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The first season is nowhere near as good as the rest of the show, but you should stick with it anyway. There's a lot of character development that you'll miss if you skip episodes.
posted by something something at 10:14 AM on June 27, 2010 [12 favorites]

Personally, I think the first season is not so good, the second season is good but not fantastic, the third season is fantastic. Third and fourth seasons are the best, and I also really like the fifth. The sixth has some great episodes (including the musical episode!), but overall I didn't like it as much, and I did not like the seventh season.

However, I wouldn't skip any episodes, I think it's best to watch everything in order. If you're really getting bored though, I guess you could skip to the third season and watch that in order to fall in love with the show and the characters. Once you love them, you'll find the first season much more watchable. Again though, I'd try to get through it all in order rather than skipping around as the best way to watch.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here are a few eps from the first season that you might want to watch:

"The Pack" gets referenced later, but it introduces the main conceit about Xander throughout the series.

"Angel" introduces a main character throughout the series.

"I, Robot. You, Jane" has some classically horrible writing that needs to be heard to be believed.

"Prophecy Girl" brings the conflict between the Master and Buffy to the fore.

The second and subsequent seasons are much improved.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

The show didn't really hit it's stride until season 2 in my opinion, but watch the whole thing anyway. Seasons 3-6 are some of the best television ever made, but you won't get as much out of them without the continuity of watching seasons 1 and 2.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:16 AM on June 27, 2010

Agree with something something. One of the great things about Buffy is how self-referential it is. You may not need to watch the first season with full attention, but you'll miss some of the jokes and significance of character arcs of the later seasons if you skip it entirely.
posted by ilikecookies at 10:17 AM on June 27, 2010

It starts to get good in the second season. It really hits its stride in the third season, in my opinion. I wouldn't recommend skipping the whole first season simply because a huge part of Buffy's genius is how well everything builds on each other, both in terms of the season-long arc and the character development over the whole series. Buffy's romantic relationship in season 2 directly builds on season 2, and in general season 1 between Willow/Xander/Buffy is really the groundwork for the whole series. And minor characters from season 1 sometimes pop up again later as major influences on the show.

That being said, if you're keen on skipping season 1, you have to at least watch "Witch," "The Pack," "Angel," and most definitely "Prophecy Girl." Those are the ones that have the most impact later on. (And "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" has a pretty good weird ending that I love.)
posted by lilac girl at 10:18 AM on June 27, 2010

If you're not compulsive about watching all the episodes all the way through in order (an affliction I suffer from, alas), I'd say you can skip directly to Season Two. Season One has some moments I remember fondly, but when I recently tried to start re-watching the series I found the first few episodes excruciating. The series gets better when they get past the monster-of-the-week structure.

You might find it useful to peruse some episode guides on-line, or people's "best of Buffy" lists. This Season One episode review list grades each episode and also gives some rough overview of the storyline; you could browse through that and watch the episodes that seem interesting to you, that got better grades (you can see that this person agrees with the general consensus that Season One improved toward the end,and you might also decide to watch, say, a Cordelia-centric episode if you really like Cordelia). This "best 12 episodes" list includes one Season One entry.
posted by not that girl at 10:19 AM on June 27, 2010

Also, whatever you do, don't skip season 2 of Buffy, because you're almost inevitably going to start watching Angel after you're finished/while you're watching Buffy and you most definitely need that backstory.
posted by lilac girl at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2010

Okay. Early consensus FTW. I'll keep slogging. (I hate skipping in general, but was wondering where all the awesome was hiding.)

The series gets better when they get past the monster-of-the-week structure.

Whew. I was worried that was going to be the whole show.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2010

I'd skip everything until Spike appears (Season 2, episode 3: "School Hard").
posted by martinrebas at 10:22 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or do what I did. Watch Season 1 with the 10-year-old girl. It's much more enjoyable if you think of it as an edgy "Goosebumps." Be prepared for "Ick, they're kissing."

But seriously, not to be a pain, but "Buffy" is continually hit or miss, every single season. It gets better, but no season is a non-stop awesome fest. (Except for the parts with Seth Green. Man, I loved Seth Green in that.)
posted by Gucky at 10:41 AM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

I would say you could probably skip straight to Prophecy Girl (and that's exactly what I do on re-watch), but should probably sit through "Angel" once with gritted teeth, and would likely actually enjoy "The Pack" as well as finding it relevant for later watching.
posted by Stacey at 10:42 AM on June 27, 2010

Actually, I'd watch only "Nightmares" and "Prophecy Girl," then skip to the much better Season Two.

You can go back and watch Season One later...
posted by darth_tedious at 10:43 AM on June 27, 2010

Season 1 is very uneven, but it has a few episodes that are fun. I recommend: 1&2, 3 (Witch), 7 (Angel), 11 (Out of Mind, Out of Sight -- Cordelia!), 12 (Prophecy Girl).

Season 2 is also uneven, but is of generally a higher caliber. Once you get to episode 6 -- and there are good episodes before that one, School Hard in particular -- the show stays pretty strong through the end of the season, especially in the Big Bad episodes. Episode 20, the fish one, sucked, far more than the stupid robot episode. The two two-parters were really wonderful, and I still think it had the best finale of all the seasons.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on June 27, 2010

Is it possible to gather a group of seasoned Buffy-watchers to suffer through the first season or so with you? That's what a friend of mine is doing.: we get together every couple of weeks, have dinner and drinks, and watch a few episodes. We all enjoy the show, but we also laugh over inconsistencies and standard TV-teen moments. It's good way for her to get the backstory without feeling like it's a slog.

If you're only three episodes in, I'm not at all surprised you think it's dumb: it is pretty dumb at this point. After our first and second Buffy-nights, I turned to my newly-watching friend and said earnestly "It gets better! Really!" We determined that there's so much backstory woven into the goofy stuff that skipping didn't really make much sense.

I really enjoy the show overall, but revisiting the first season is like leafing through a good friend's high-school year book and seeing how adorably dorky that friend was before they grew out of their awkward stage.
posted by Elsa at 10:50 AM on June 27, 2010

Oh, whoops, forgot about the first two-parter in season 2 (What's my Line). The great ones are Surprise/Innocence and Becoming.
posted by jeather at 10:50 AM on June 27, 2010

I started my family at Season Two, Episode 3, "Spike," and that worked out just fine.

Once Spike shows up, the show hits its stride.
posted by musofire at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2010

Think of it like the Simpsons: they don't really figure the show out until the second season, but the first season's worth seeing anyway.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:04 AM on June 27, 2010

Okay so here is an older AskMe about "essential" episodes of Buffy, which you might like to review for suggestions. That said...

I just watched the finale of season 5 last night, and, please yes, the show gets substantially better after its somewhat silly and dangerously low-budget first season. But it's also more than worth watching all the way through.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:16 AM on June 27, 2010

I skipped all of season 1, but I've never really felt the loss. Granted, I'm more of a Firefly fan than a Whedon fan per se, and I mostly started watching so I could figure out what the hell 95% of my friends were going on about all the time.
posted by bettafish at 11:16 AM on June 27, 2010

And to derail just bit, I'm not sure if I'd encourage holding off and keeping Serenity in reserve. It's nice to see the characters again, and there's some resolution but it's not nearly as good as Firefly in my opinion. Just be prepared for possible disappointment.
posted by lemniskate at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2010

posted by CunningLinguist at 11:26 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a notice: Everytime time I tried to watch Buffy people would say "oh, that season isn't so good" or "Oh, that episode isn't so good" and I'd keep watching more and it never got good. Yeah, sure, Joss Whedon wrote some snappy dialogue but overall I'd say the answer is that it never gets consistently good. And I say that as a huge TV nerd.

So if you never get into it, don't feel bad. Watch True Bloodtm tonight on HBO instead.
posted by Justinian at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2010

Buffy was, more than some other shows, a product of it's time. It hasn't aged well.
posted by Aquaman at 11:33 AM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd actually say Season 3 is consistently good. Of course in every season there are clunkers, but that one was hands-down my favorite throughout.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2010

Buffy has to be taken as a whole, as it's a detailed and complex story told over seven years.

As Illyria said in the last season of Angel: "This is only the first layer. Don't you want to see how deep I go?" It makes more sense to think of seasons as layers than as good bits or bad bits.

Also, a lot of the episodes that are thought of as "bad" are just underrated. (And vice versa.) It is worth watching the whole thing as the significance of a detail often only becomes apparent later.

I do acknowledge that parts of it are hard to get through, but it's better to keep going.
posted by tel3path at 11:47 AM on June 27, 2010

I recently rewatched all 7 seasons, some for only the 2nd or 3rd time (1 and 7). I didn't care much for S1 the first time around, but was impressed upon seeing it again with how much of the essential elements of the show are right there in the first season. Things that come later have more resonance if you know everything that came before. And, yeah, it's the beginning of a 7 season story. So, I wouldn't skip it, but I'm an admitted big fan.
posted by Mavri at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2010

Although the second season is more exciting than the first, the truth is that the first season is still pretty indicative of the show in general. The opening sequence of the pilot episode pretty much nails the tone, what with the inverting of genre tropes, the teasing of gender stereotypes, the unhurried story development, and the willingness to let the viewers think they're watching a cliche before turning it on its head.

It doesn't get "better," so much as slowly reveals itself to contain more layers than it originally seemed to. If you don't enjoy watching that kind of stuff unfold, then I think you'll continue to be disappointed.
posted by bingo at 12:59 PM on June 27, 2010

You really only need to see "Angel" for context. But the thing is, if you suffer through season 1 like the rest of us did, then you're just that little bit more attached to the characters when emotionally serious things happen later. Not just the overwrought Buffy/Angel mess, but if you aren't already invested in Giles and Jenny getting together, Willow starting to learn magic, Xander's romantic travails, Cordelia being snooty and self-involved, Buffy's mom pretending nothing weird is going on, &c. then I'm not sure how much you'll really enjoy or be affected by their dénouements.

It's like when someone gets married, or gets hit by a car, or gets elected President; it means a lot more to you if you knew them when they were idiotic post-tweens.

Besides, you shouldn't miss the end of "The Puppet Show". That whole episode is one weird bit of television.
posted by nicwolff at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Buffy was a product of its time. It is also remembered most fondly generally by people who were teenage girls at the time we watched it. I say we because that's me, too. It spoke to me when I was in high school. Now? I still think it's good, but going back and re-watching as a very different adult, I feel differently and don't connect to it as much. So if you don't, just remember that your friends aren't crazy.

That said: Season One (and later monster-of-the-week eps) are good as far as I'm concerned if it's late and you've had too much to drink and you can't sleep. So if you feel like slogging, slog with a six-pack or a pitcher of margaritas.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2010

I was in the same boat about two years ago. I watched the whole thing through, and never really cared for it. Then I recently, having digested it all, re-watched it and enjoyed it a lot more.

Note #1: the show is very different if you watch it as an adult than the experience most people had, of watching it at Buffy's age.

Note #2: please disregard everything everyone has ever said to you about Buffy herself. Set aside your pre-conceived notions and take her as the show presents her. She's a flawed and conflicted character who often makes bad choices, and a lot of fans gloss this over in favor of OMG BUFFY IS AWESOME.

Note #3: in re-watching the show, I find that a lot of my joy comes from the secondary and tertiary characters and their story arcs, both individually and collectively. Don't overlook The Little People.
posted by ErikaB at 2:25 PM on June 27, 2010

I didn't see Buffy until I was 25, and I've never been a teenage girl. I still love it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:42 PM on June 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

Season 1 is not so good. I was a HUGE fan of seasons 4-7. I never saw seasons 1-3 until recently (last couple of months to be exact). Season 1 is worth watching for the background, season 2 is fun, and Spike and Drusilla are in it. Season 3 starts getting good. I know a log of Buffy-ites hated season 6, but honestly, it is what got me hooked.
posted by fifilaru at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2010

I'm just making my through Buffy now, with my wife and teenage kids. We just finished up season 4 last night, and are also watching Angel, switching back and forth between shows to maintain continuity as the story arcs slightly intersect here and there. We started as Episode 1 season 1 and have not skipped anything.

As a family TV watching experience - it doesn't get much better than Buffy.
posted by COD at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2010

I'll go against the tide and say it never gets "better" and is never better than middling. Don't waste your time. Or, if you watch more and feel it'll just get good in a few episodes and find yourself repeatedly saying this, give it up, close your eyes, and imagine my voice saying, "I told you so."
posted by dobbs at 6:32 PM on June 27, 2010

You are me 2 months ago. I just finished watching all of the Buffy and Angel seasons for the first time, having never discovered them when they first aired. Yes, stick with it, it definitely gets better. I was tempted to skip the monster-of-the week episodes too, which seemed to be about every other episode in seasons 1 and 2, but happily tapered off when the show hit its stride. I felt it was worth watching them all in order though, just to know I didn't miss anything and to see how it all wove together.

I will warn you, as the show gets better and better, you will find yourself up at 1 in the morning rationalizing how you have time to watch "just one more" episode. Oh, and just wait until you start having the Sunnydale dreams!*

COD, just a heads up - season 5 is a little less "family" oriented and a little more sexed up than the previous seasons. Depending on your teenagers you may want to take that into account!

*Funny story about that - two weeks ago I had a dream about meeting Spike and Drusilla, the very next day I was at a completely non-Buffy-related event where I actually in fact met Juliet Landau, the actress that plays Drusilla! I did tell her I was a fan, but was proud of my considerable restraint in not telling her I had a dream about her the previous night. There's just no way to tell someone you've never met that you just had a dream about them and not have that come out creepy.

posted by platinum at 8:20 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The first season's kind of clunky. It's fun, but clunky. You really wouldn't lose that much if you read synopsis of it and started watching from the second, where it hits its stride.
posted by rodgerd at 3:24 AM on June 28, 2010

I watched Buffy for the first time over a summer when I was 26. At the end of season 6 I realized I enjoyed it but I wasn't madly in love with it, I could see how if I watched it while it aired (when I would have been about the age of the people on the show) that I would have loved it.

When I was sitting on the couch watching the series finale with tears absolutely gushing I realized I was WAY more involved in it that I thought. The story as a whole majorly snuck up on me where I wasn't feeling it on individual episodes. Now I just want to re-watch the whole thing over again.

I've also decided my next two dogs will be named Giles & Dru. Dru is BY FAR my favorite vampire in all of creation.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:38 PM on June 28, 2010

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