The show is still very early, but it’s establishing themes which will last throughout its entire run and which you need to keep in mind as we go along. NKABOTFD demonstrates again that Buffy hasn’t really accepted her slayer role – she wants a normal life and she’d rather be dating or going to the Bronze than “going into battle” with Giles. Her desire to be a “normal teenager” means that various diversions from her destiny tempt her to leave the Chosen path. This is the first episode to offer such a diversion, but it won’t be the last.
Twice already, first in Witch and now here, we see that Cordelia and Buffy have parallel tastes/desires. Both wanted to be cheerleaders, both want to date Owen, both find Angel full of salty goodness. This therefore seems like good place to make explicit something that the show will continue to hint at and will eventually tell us directly: Cordelia is Buffy’s “shadow self”, i.e., roughly speaking, her weaknesses or shortcomings. Cordelia is what Buffy would be were it not for her destiny as the Slayer and her willingness to accept responsibility for her powers. I’ll talk about this in more detail when we get to Out of Mind, Out of Sight, so for now just take it that this is one way I see Cordy’s role.
For this reason, as was true in Witch, the fact that Cordelia wants to date Owen is itself a message that Buffy shouldn’t.
Buffy recognizes at the end that “normality” is unattainable in this case. Owen himself told her “there's a lot more important things in life than dating”. I think the lesson is even more specific than that – she must not allow Angel to interfere with her destiny. I say this because Owen is a “type” of Angel: he’s tall, dark, and broody. It would be hard to find a closer analogy to Angel, and we, like Willow, can already see the chemistry there. Owen himself won’t do – he was judged and found wanting.
We learn something else about Buffy in this episode that will be a consistent theme throughout the series. Her desire for normality alienates her from her destiny as the Slayer, creating an almost split personality: “Owen: It's weird. Buffy: What is? Owen: You! One minute you're right there. I've got you figured. The next, it's like you're two people.” Buffy will always, to some extent, see herself as having a Slayer side and a human side.
A question for you to consider: why is the Anointed One, the Master’s “great warrior”, a child? I’ll explain my own interpretation when we get to the season finale.