"Lessons" is the season premiere of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the hundred twenty-third episode in the series. Written by Joss Whedon and directed by David Solomon, it originally broadcast on September 24, 2002 on UPN.
WELCOME BACK TO THE HELLMOUTH — Dawn starts school at the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High, while Buffy patrols the new campus on the look out for anything out of the ordinary — and for good reason. Dead people hunt Dawn and Buffy, Spike reappears, and there's a new principal at school. In England, Giles helps Willow to learn to control her power and begin to forgive herself for her actions in Sunnydale.
In Istanbul, a dark-haired girl is running, looking over her shoulder in fear. She's being chased by men in hooded cloaks. After a heated chase and a near escape they catch her. Two hooded figures hold her down, while a third figure raises an arched, shiny, silver dagger and stabs her.
Buffy is in Sunnydale training her sister on how to fight vampires. She instructs Dawn that fighting (and slaying) are about power. They discuss the fact that Sunnydale High has just reopened.
Meanwhile, Willow is studying with Giles in Westbury, England. She studies magic and meditation with a coven of Wiccans that Giles knows. They discuss Willow's powers, and how witchcraft is no longer a hobby or an addiction she can quit as the magic is now a part of her. She is learning control, but feels frightened and distraught because she "killed people." Giles reassures her that she can be helped and become "Willow" again.
Xander is working construction at the new high school which Dawn is to attend. He shows Buffy his discovery that the Principal's office is right over the Hellmouth (where the library used to sit). Buffy follows Dawn into the school where she meets Principal Wood. She wanders into a bathroom, where she finds a talisman. A dead girl appears and threatens her, saying that Buffy was unable to protect her, and that she will not be able to protect Dawn either.
Anya is still in the vengeance business and is drinking coffee with fellow vengeance demon and friend Halfrek. Hallie tells Anya that the other demons are noticing a lack of quality in her work, and that "something big is coming."
Buffy tries to warn Dawn, but winds up only embarrassing her. Dawn then sees another dead student. She hurries to the bathroom where she meets Kit Holburn, who has also been seeing things. They are about to leave the bathroom when the floor caves in and they wind up in the high school basement. Willow, back in England, has had a vision. She saw "the earth's teeth" — the Hellmouth. She tells Giles, who has taught her that everything is connected, that not everything that is connected to the earth is good.
Dawn and Kit run into another student in the basement, Carlos Trejo, who says he saw a dead janitor. They are soon confronted by the three dead people. The dead people tell them that everyone dies at Sunnydale, and they will be no different. Dawn calls Buffy on her new cell phone. Buffy descends into the basement to help Dawn, but cannot find her. Instead, she finds a dishevelled Spike holed up in a small room.
Having not seen Spike for months, Buffy is shocked and initially wonders if he is real. He is now half-crazed and rambles incoherently, also bearing scratches around his heart which he explains as attempts to "cut it out." He does manage to tell Buffy that the dead students are not zombies or ghosts, but "manifest spirits" raised by a talisman. Buffy decides to leave Spike where is he for now and calls Xander, telling him to find and destroy the talisman. She then hears Dawn screaming, and runs to her rescue. She fights the spirits off as Xander wrestles with one. He breaks the talisman and the spirits disappear.
Buffy then sends Dawn, Kit, and Carlos off to class. Principal Wood is impressed that Buffy was able to convince Kit and Carlos to socialize and go to class, and says that they are the only two students with school records as large as Buffy's had been. He offers her a job working as a counselor at the school, and she gladly accepts. She wants to be able to keep an eye on her sister, the school, the Hellmouth, and the new principal.
Spike is now huddled in a corner in his basement room. He says that he had a speech to Buffy prepared, but she would not understand. A figure that appears to be Warren is seen pacing around him. He begins to give a speech about how great he is. He turns into Glory, then Adam, followed by Mayor Wilkins, Drusilla, and the Master. Each of them continues the speech, but each in their own particular voice and using their individual personalities and manner of speaking. The Master says: "It's not about right. It's not about wrong." He then transforms into Buffy and says: "It's about power."
- This is the first of multiple episodes to begin with the murder of a Potential Slayer, until their pivotal stand in "Chosen."
- Dawn comments that she is taller than Buffy. This has been apparent since the episode "Crush" and mentioned by Buffy in episode "Normal Again."
- Dawn fails to kill the vampire by missing the heart, which Buffy claims she also did fighting her first vampire. This can be seen during a flashback in "Becoming, Part One" and her retelling of the story in The Origin, Part One.
- Xander appears with a new car after his previous one was damaged by Willow in "Two to Go."
- At this point, the Scooby Gang has the fewest active members at any time in the series: Buffy, Xander, and Dawn. From the previous season: Willow turned evil and is now being rehabilitated in England, Giles moved back to England, Anya became a vengeance demon after her failed wedding, Tara was killed, and Spike left Sunnydale to regain his soul. All will return to the Scooby Gang throughout the season, with the exception of Tara.
- Sunnydale High was last seen almost 2 years earlier, in "Out of My Mind", still burned to a husk and abandoned. Here, it appears for the first time in its rebuilt form. It would be a fixture of the rest of the season, before being destroyed once again, at the series' finale, "Chosen".
- This episode marks Dawn's first day at Sunnydale High. The First remarks to Spike, "We're going back to the beginning." The first episode of Buffy depicted Buffy's first day at the old Sunnydale High ("Welcome to the Hellmouth").
- Buffy warns Dawn to stay away from "hyena people, lizardy-type athletes or anyone that's invisible" referencing the monsters who appeared respectively in episodes "The Pack," "Go Fish," and "Out of Mind, Out of Sight."
- The character of Principal Wood is introduced. He is later revealed to be Nikki Wood's son ("First Date"), one of the slayers that Spike killed ("Fool for Love").
- Buffy and Xander discuss the layout of the new Sunnydale High and the location of the principal's office over the Hellmouth, an area which previously rested over the library, first revealed in "Prophecy Girl."
- Xander mentions that the last two principals of Sunnydale High were eaten; Principal Flutie by the Pack ("The Pack") and Principal Snyder by Wilkins after his ascension into Olvikan ("Graduation Day, Part Two").
- Dawn gets a mobile phone, the first we will see the Scoobies use since Cordelia in "Welcome to the Hellmouth." Buffy is also seen with her own for the first time.
- Buffy says, "There's always a talisman." In episode "Once More, with Feeling," Xander accidentally summons the demon Sweet through Sweet's talisman.
- Two girls and a boy (Dawn, Kit, and Carlos) form a friendship on the first school day after fighting the supernatural together, which is similar to the way Buffy, Willow, and Xander started their friendship in "Welcome to the Hellmouth."
- Having worked at Doublemeat Palace since the episode "Doublemeat Palace," Buffy is now employed at Sunnydale High. As he reveals in "First Date," Principal Wood created this counseling position for the express purpose of luring the Slayer.
- This episode reintroduces the First Evil, this season's Big Bad (although it is not identified until "Never Leave Me"). The First makes an initial probe of Sunnydale's mettle under Buffy's reign by tormenting Angel four years earlier, in the episode "Amends."
- At the end of the episode, the First appears as notable Big Bads from previous seasons, in reverse chronological order: Warren Mears (season 6), Glory (season 5), Adam (season 4), Mayor Wilkins (season 3), Drusilla (season 2), and the Master (season 1).
- This episode marks the first appearances (as visions) of Warren since "Villains," Glory since "The Gift," Adam since "Restless," Mayor Wilkins since "This Year's Girl," Drusilla since "Crush," the Master since "The Wish," and the First Evil since "Amends."
- The First as Glory says "my name will be on everyone's lips, assuming their lips haven't been torn off." In "Intervention," while Glory is torturing Spike, she drags him by his lip, tearing it.
- The First as Adam calls Spike "number 17," a reference to the Initiative's code name for him, Hostile 17 ("The Initiative").
- During Dawn's training, Buffy gives her a lesson about power, which becomes a major theme this season, especially for the Slayers and Potentials. In "Two to Go," Willow says "I get it now. The Slayer thing really isn't about the violence. It's about the power."
- The First (in the guise of Buffy) describes it not being about good or evil, but it being about power; Holland Manners also says this in the Angel episode "Blind Date."
- By appearing as Buffy, Drusilla, and Warren, the First demonstrates for the first time in the series that it can also appear as undead and resurrected individuals, not just permanently dead people like Angel's victims in "Amends."
- Spike says that he tried to "cut it out" after Buffy asks what he has done to himself. He will reveal to Buffy in "Beneath You" that it was his new soul that he tried to get rid of.
- Adam (Only in visions)
- Drusilla (Only in visions)
- First Evil
- Rupert Giles
- Glorificus (Only in visions)
- Harkness (Only mentioned)
- Alexander Harris
- Kit Holburn
- Anya Jenkins
- Master (Only in visions)
- Warren Mears (Only in visions)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Carlos Trejo
- Richard Wilkins
- Robin Wood
- Istanbul Potential Slayer
- Unidentified spirit I (Lessons)
- Unidentified spirit II (Lessons)
- Unidentified spirit III (Lessons)
Organizations and titles
- Devon Coven (Only mentioned)
- Harbingers of Death
- Potential Slayer
- Scooby Gang
- Strange Radio
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Paraguay (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale, USA
- Westbury, England
- Blood (Only mentioned)
- Bringers' knife
- Soul (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale Press
- Vengeance demon pendant
- The unidentified Potential Slayer, stabbed by a Harbinger of Death.
- Pelletti, beheaded by Buffy with a sword.
- The three spirits, banished by Xander when he broke the talisman.
Behind the scenes
- The scenes marked as taking place in Westbury were shot at Anthony Stewart Head's Tilley Farm, a property in the Farmborough village in the outskirts of Bath. He owns the horse seen in the episode, named Otto.
- Willow's mentor in England, Ms. Harkness, is named after the Marvel Comics character, Agatha Harkness, who is also a witch.
- Kali Rocha was performing in the play Noises Off when season 7 was shooting. She was flown in for one day and filmed all her scenes ("Selfless" and this episode) on that one day. She filmed Halfrek's death before a green screen for later super-imposition into the scene.
- In her intervention over Anya's lackluster vengeance, Halfrek praises Anya's previous hard-core performance as a vengeance demon, saying "Do I have to mention Mrs. Czolgosz?" This is exceptionally obscure in-joke directed at Jane Espenson, who wrote a joke in "Superstar" about Anyanka making a male victim fall in love with President McKinley. Leon Czolgosz assassinated President McKinley. The joke was a little too obscure; Espenson didn't catch it.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, and Mark Metcalf are the only actors to appear in the first and last season premieres.
- When the First impersonates the Mayor, he leans down to talk to Spike. This is due to the fact that Harry Groener wasn't available to shoot the scene with the other actors, so he was added in later.
- Dawn would have imagined her introduction to the class:
- Dawn: "...and my sister is a vampire slayer, her best friend is a witch who went bonkers and tried to destroy the world, um, I actually used to be a little ball of energy until about two years ago when some monks changed the past and made me Buffy's sister and for some reason a big klepto. My best friends are Leticia Jones, who moved to San Diego because this town is evil, and a floppy-eared demon named Clem."
- Angle: The students stare at her. Total silence. Smash cut to: Dawn comes out of her reverie — she has said none of this — as we hear a student saying:
- Student: "... Die Hard, Spiderman, and the Matrix, I'm hoping to try out for the swim team this year, I love to swim, and uh, I hope I don't flunk."
- Polite laughter. Dawn just nervously waits her turn. How is she ever gonna survive this?
- Teacher: (Off screen) "Okay, how about you?"
Pop culture references
- Willow remarks how confused she is that Giles rehabilitates her with magic, comparing him to the fictional wizard character Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter franchise.
- Buffy refers to the three spirits as the "Resentful Dead," a reference to The Grateful Dead.
- Dawn assures Buffy that she knows To Serve Man is a cookbook, a reference to the classic Twilight Zone episode.
- Principal Wood comments on Buffy's interaction with the students with the line "Curiouser and curiouser," a quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
- When the First Evil speaks to Spike while impersonating the Master, it not only mentions the [Big] Bang as a widely accepted beginning of all things, but also John's symbolism of the "Word" as the start of creation.
- Dawn says that she is into Britney Spears' early work. Coincidentally, the singer almost played April in "I Was Made to Love You."
- In the scene when Buffy is about to rescue Dawn, Kat, and Carlos, right before she kicks in the door you can see she is still wearing heels, but when she goes through the door and kicks the dead janitor you can see she is wearing tennis shoes throughout the whole fight.
- Strange Radio — "So High"
- Douglas Romayne — "In Westbury Field"
- Douglas Romayne — "Istanbul"
- Douglas Romayne — "Just in Time"
- Douglas Romayne — "Lesson One"
- Armenian: "Դասեր" (Lesson)
- Czech: "Lekce" (Lesson)
- Finnish: "Avajaiset" (Opening)
- French: "Rédemption" (Redemption)
- German: "Alles auf Anfang" (Back to the Beginning)
- Hungarian: "Az iskola" (The School)
- Italian: "La consulente" (The [Female] Consultant)
- Japanese: "レッスン" (Lesson)
- Polish: "Lekcje" (Lessons)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Lições" (Lessons)
- Romanian: "Lecții" (Lessons)
- Russian: "Уроки" (Lessons)
- Swedish: “Lektioner” (Lessons)
- Spanish (Latin America): "La lección" (The Lesson)
- Spanish (Spain): "Lecciones" (Lessons)
- Joss Whedon and David Solomon provided the DVD commentaries for this episode.
- The book Chosen: The One includes a novelization of this episode, along with all season 7.
- A Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figure was produced based on Dawn in this episode.
- This is one of only two episodes in the entire series where one of Sarah's real life tattoos can be seen. In the first act when Buffy and Xander are discussing the Sunnydale High, the Chinese symbol for hope or luck on her left hip is seen. It can also be seen in the episode "Grave," when Buffy and Giles are laughing in the training room and as she climbs out of the hole in the ground at the cemetery.
- The teaser follows the trend of season premieres taking place in a graveyard since "When She Was Bad," followed by "Anne," "The Freshman," "Buffy vs. Dracula," and "Bargaining, Part One."
Behind the scenes
|Dawn: "Yeah, but he's new. He doesn't know his strength. He might not know all the fancy martial arts they inevitably seem to pick up."|
|Xander: "How exactly do you make cereal?"|
|Buffy: "Ah, you put the box near the milk. I saw it on the food channel."|
|Willow: "Is there anything you don't know everything about?"|
|Giles: "Synchronized swimming. Complete mystery to me."|
|Willow: "I deserve a lot worse. I killed people, Giles."|
|Giles: "I've not forgotten."|
|Willow: "When you brought me here, I thought it was to kill me or to lock me in some mystical dungeon for all eternity or — with the torture. Instead, you go all Dumbledore on me. I'm learning about magic. All about energy and Gaia and root systems."|
|Giles: "Do you want to be punished?"|
|Willow: "I wanna be Willow."|
|Giles: "You are. In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed."|
|Spike: "The thing is... I had a speech. I learned it all. Oh, God. She won't understand, she won't understand."|
|The First (as Warren): "Of course she won't understand, Sparky. I'm beyond her understanding. She's a girl. Sugar and spice and everything...useless unless you're baking. I'm more than that. More than flesh..."|
|The First (as Glory): "... more than blood. I'm... you know, I honestly don't think there's a human word fabulous enough for me. Oh, my name will be on everyone's lips, assuming their lips haven't been torn off. But not just yet. That's all right, though..."|
|The First (as Adam): "... I can be patient. Everything is well within parameters. She's exactly where I want her to be. And so are you, Number 17. You're right where you belong."|
|The First (as the Mayor): "So what'd you think? You'd get your soul back and everything'd be Jim Dandy? Soul's slipperier than a greased weasel. Why do you think I sold mine? Well, you probably thought that you'd be your own man, and I respect that, but..."|
|The First (as Drusilla): "... you never will. You'll always be mine. You'll always be in the dark with me, singing our little songs. You like our little songs, don't you? You've always liked them, right from the beginning. And that's where we're going..."|
|The First (as the Master): "... right back to the beginning. Not the Bang... not the Word... the true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride. And I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you. Trying to do what's right, just like her. You still don't get it. It's not about right, not about wrong..."|
|The First (as Buffy): "It's about power."|