Category Archives: Season 2

Final Thoughts: BtVS Season 2

Buffy’s second season is its definitive one.  Fun as the first season could be, there was some clear trial and error going on as ME tried to figure out the characters and the world.  Season two dispensed with the elements that didn’t work and capitalized on the ones that did.  While far from the best season, it was the first one to actually feel like Buffy. Continue reading

I want to become someone

As I’ve said throughout these write-ups, season two is the first “real” season of Buffy; it’s the point at which the character-dynamics really started to click, the storytelling became more ambitious and the series’ execution began living up to its potential.  With that in mind, “Becoming” parts 1 & 2 have a lot to live up to; beyond simply being better in most respects, Buffy’s second season has been steadily raising the stakes for all concerned.  Thankfully, these episodes are up the challenge, delivering the Scoobies’ most epic adventure to date while still keeping everything rooted in the character relationships we’ve been exploring all season. Continue reading

*sniff* UGH!

Angelus’ brief appearance in this episode is cut short immediately after he takes a bite out of Gage Petronzi (Wentworth Miller in a funny-for-all-the-wrong-reasons guest spot).  See, Gage and his swim team buddies have been dosed with Soviet-developed, fish DNA-laced, uber-steroids in order to win the big meet.  Overcome by the foul taste in his mouth, Angelus exits the episode in disgust, no doubt seeking more appetizing fare elsewhere.  If only we could join him. Continue reading

You don’t forgive someone because they deserve it; you do it because they need it

This episode illustrates the perfect integration of a monster-of-the-week episode into the larger season-arc.  “Killed by Death” did a fine job at maintaining the tension of the Angelus storyline without actually having anything to do with that storyline.  In contrast, “I Only Have Eyes For You” masquerades as an arc-focused episode.  The key ingredients are all here: Giles is coping (or trying to cope) with Jenny’s death, Buffy is still coping with the loss of Angel and the suffering he’s caused, and Angel is plotting how to cause yet more suffering.   This episode leverages all of these elements to tell an emotionally impactful story without really advancing any of them. Continue reading

I thought I might try violence

“Killed by Death” is season two’s foray into “straight” horror and it’s hasn’t aged as gracefully as season one’s “Nightmares.”  The creature design on Der Kinderstod is certainly creepy and the hospital is a classic setting, but the kids are annoyingly generic and Buffy’s childhood trauma (never mentioned before nor will it be again) is a pretty lazy shortcut.  It’s also superfluous given that killing children (even bland ones) should be enough to get Buffy motivated.  “Avenging Celia” is a subplot that’s best ignored if we’re to appreciate what this episode has to offer. Continue reading

Passion is the source of our finest moments

“Surprise” and “Innocence” may be “the” seminal episodes of season two, but “Passion” is my personal favourite.  This is the story that really sold me on the fact that Buffy wasn’t just some above-average fantasy-fair that I could casually watch; it was something special.  Character death has become a staple of serialized story-telling but, back in 1998, it was almost unheard of.  Lost is generally credited with introducing character-death as a means of advancing rather than resolving plots, but Buffy did it over a decade earlier.  Jenny’s death isn’t the culmination of any story-arc, its sole purpose is to let the audience know that that the shit just got real.  Angelus is not just Angel killing extras and saying mean things to Buffy.  He’s a monster whose crimes cannot be forgiven or forgotten.  The episode’s real genius is not just in turning a beloved character evil but in making the audience understand, and even enjoy, that evil. Continue reading

Got the love

Xander episodes tend to be the most reliably amusing fare Buffy has to offer and it’s a wonder the series doesn’t go to this well a little more often.  Then again, maybe it’s not.  “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is a departure not just in putting the focus on a different character, but in having a more straightforwardly comic tone.  There’s still plenty of horror tropes here, and even a bit of character-drama, but there’s never any real sense of danger or pathos.  It’s a fun break from the usual Buffy fare, but it couldn’t be called such if it occurred more often. Continue reading

And then he went through all these changes

I’d forgotten that “Phases” came immediately after “Innocence.”  In retrospect, the order makes a lot of sense.  We’ve just seen real and lasting damage done to the primary romantic relationship on the series and so the threat to the Willow/Oz pairing seems a lot more credible, particularly when that threat is the boyfriend turning into a monster.  The show’s at risk of becoming a one-note exploration of lust-metaphors and betrayals, but this episode smartly assures the audience that, even with all those uncontrollable hormones, teenage love affairs need not end in heartache. Continue reading

Actually, it explains a lot

I’ve struggled for some time with what to write regarding “Surprise” and “Innocence.”  There’s certainly plenty to say but this two-parter is among the most written-about Buffy stories and I feel the need to offer something more than just another look at the bad boyfriend metaphor.  This episode has a singular place in the Buffy cannon; it pays off Buffy and Angel’s relationship before this point and defines it afterward; it credibly turns a beloved hero into a loathsome villain within the space of a few scenes; it’s the first of many times that real, indelible tragedy would strike the Scoobies; and, for me at least, it finally reconciles the discordant sexual themes that have troubled the series from the beginning. Continue reading

The problem with the English language is all those pesky words

“Bad Eggs” is one of Buffy’s more straightforwardly fun monster-of-the-week episodes.  There isn’t a lot of heavy character work here and the themes of parenthood and consequences are dropped before episode’s end in favour of a straightforward body-snatchers narrative.  It’s a good story, despite these flaws, as the Gorches bring the funny and the Scoobies are suitably creepy while being controlled, but with two such inconsequential episodes in a row the series has lost what momentum it had with “What’s My Line?” and is beginning to feel a bit smaller. Continue reading