Buffy: I have a friend down there. Or at least a potential friend. Do you know what it's like to have a friend?
Buffy: That wasn't supposed to be a stumper.
So one of the running themes of Buffy is friendship. One of the big differences between Buffy and a lot of shows on TV is its strong supporting cast. Buffy's sidekicks aren't just there to be either comic relief or love interests, as is too often, too obviously the case in a lot of similar shows. TV and film in general spend a lot of time focused on relationships and very little time pondering the value of friendship. Buffy is an exception.
The Harvest establishes this theme. In the former, first episode, we were told that at her old school, Buffy had no real friends, or at least nobody who knew about her hidden life. Buffy, arriving in Sunnydale, is basically lonely. And there's a clear dichotomy in Buffy's reaction to the atttempts of Xander and Willow to force themselves on her and help her out. On the one hand, she's resistant, concerned for their safety. On the other, there's a clear longing too. Buffy doesn't resist too hard.
The theme of friendship will be developed and explored through the series, but it's one of the likeable things about this early episode that it's not all about Buffy. Of course, it's also explored in this episode throught Xander's relationship with Jesse. Nick Brendon plays the tension well here, giving Xander a bit of depth and conflict, and making his pain believable (It's unfortunate that in later episodes Jesse is quite shamefully forgotten).
There's also a nice gag in that Cordelia finally finds Jesse attractive now that he's a soulless vampire.
The showdown at the Bronze is quite nice in terms of mood. Another familiar aspect of the show over the years is its commitment to garage bands rather than schmaltzy pop hits, and that works well here. Luke is genuinely threatening, again.
The light trick is a good one. The payoff perhaps isn't that great, unlike other two parters later in the series which come at the end of long character arcs. It all feels a little anti-climactic here. Looking back on this two-parter, I can see why I wasn't hooked immediately, but I can also see the elements which would become so awesome as they develop across the show's seven years.
Oh, and cool to see Harmony here too.
Roll on episode 3.