Category Archives: Season 3

Final Thoughts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3

I’ve long maintained that season five of Buffy is my favourite but, after these posts, I think I need to reconsider.  The jury will remain out until I’ve finished with “The Gift,” but it’s hard to imagine another season of Buffy (or any show for that matter) so consistently bringing the goods over 22 episodes.  This was truly the season that Mutant Enemy had the firmest grip on the characters, the world, and the story they wanted to tell and it all came shining through.  Yes, there were some bumps along the way, but this was really Buffy at its best and, as a season of television, I’d stack it against anything else out there. Continue reading

This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet

I’m at a loss for where to begin my assessment of “Graduation Day,” there’s just so much to love about it.  Season three’s finale is one of those episodes that works on nearly every level; we got the epically awesome Slayer vs. Slayer death match we’ve wanted all season, the seemingly invulnerable big bad was satisfyingly outmaneuvered and, as usual, the gang all came together to save the day as a team.  They even managed to squeeze some juice out of Buffy/Angel.  All these things combine to make this one gripping two-parter, but it’s elevated to one of Buffy’s best by how definitive this all feels.  Buffy’s relationship with Angel comes to its promised conclusion; the Watcher’s Council, never particularly useful, gets cut out of the loop; and, in case you still didn’t think this episode was about endings, the gang doesn’t just leave high school, they blow it up. Continue reading

Buffy gets one perfect high school moment

While “Graduation Day” makes for an excellent season finale, “The Prom” is a superior sendoff to Buffy’s first three years.  That’s not a criticism of the pacing, unlike season two’s ill-conceived aside of “Go Fish,” season three’s penultimate episode fits naturally into the arc despite having almost nothing to do with the Mayor’s Ascension.  While it doesn’t advance things, “The Prom” takes time for a meta-celebration of Buffy’s high school years and so feels like part of the larger whole. Continue reading

What are you, the narrator?

As Buffy winds down its time in high school it occurs to me that ME is making more extensive use of the setting than they have since season one.  “Earshot” brought the world of Sunnydale High back to the forefront and “Choices,” “The Prom,” and “Graduation Day” keeps it there.  The decision makes sense, given that this is their last chance to tell these sorts of stories, but it is slightly out of step with what the series had become by this point.  Still, it’s plenty fun to watch and “Choices” does fine job exploring the kind of “life changing” decisions that teenagers are faced with as they leave high school.  Just like the last few episodes a delightful degree of nuance is brought to the situation as Buffy takes a proactive approach to things that are beyond her control. Continue reading

Buffy is all of us. We think, therefore she is

It seems like I’m calling every other episode of season three “one of its best.” This is rooted not only in the show’s consistent quality, but in its seemingly endless variety.  It’s not just that so many episodes offer up a unique monster or supernatural hook, but that these things are used to open up new territory for storytelling.  “Earshot” sees Buffy gaining telepathic powers after her latest misadventure with a demon and, like most great Buffy episodes, it uses the mystical conceit to explore some very real elements of growing up. Continue reading

I’ve got two words that are gonna make all the pain go away. Miniature… golf.

I’ve marveled before about how brisk the pace of season three feels as compared to how drawn out it actually is.  Faith and the Mayor loom large as a pairing in my memory but “Enemies” is the 17th episode of the season and it’s only now that their relationship begins to take shape.  Sometimes things just “click” in a narrative, fitting together in a way that the audience can instantly appreciate without a lot of ground work.  Or maybe the groundwork was laid and we just didn’t know it; perhaps the “evil Mr. Rogers” is the natural answer to Faith’s inability to trust, someone who can offer her love and support without any of Buffy’s pesky moralizing.  I’m actually not that concerned with why these two make such a good pair as I’d rather just sit back and enjoy the hijinks that ensue, and what hijinks they are. Continue reading

Old Reliable? Yeah, great. There’s a sexy nickname

I find it significant that both the Xander and Willow episodes this season involve an identity crisis.  These aren’t the first times the characters have dealt with who they are and who they want to be (it’s a big part of being a teenager) but it is the first time it’s been this direct.  Unlike Xander, Willow has a firm sense of who she is and how she fits into the group, she’s just not particularly happy with it.  While “Doppelgangland” rests heavily on the old “be careful what you wish for/be yourself” themes, it doesn’t let them override the need for self-assertion and growth.  This is a difficult balancing act, but this episode does a masterful job weaving both throughout its length. Continue reading

I hope evil takes Mastercard

While “Consequences” is an excellent episode all around, what really stands out for me is that it finally gives Angel something productive to do.  It’s odd to say that about one of the series’ regulars, but Angel’s done little more than brood and have drama with Buffy since returning from Hell.  His only real contribution to the Scooby gang has been some additional fighting skill whenever Buffy needs it.  Faith’s descent into evil presents a problem that Angel’s uniquely suited to help with and gives him an opportunity to connect with someone other than Buffy. Continue reading

No, you don’t get it. I don’t care

“Bad Girls” is one of those stellar pieces of serialized storytelling that moves the season arc a quantum leap forward by bringing everything that’s come before into focus.  There have been little more than sinister implications to the Mayor’s scheme thus far and Faith, while an interesting character in her own right, hasn’t had much of an impact on the Scoobies.  It’s a testament to the quality of the MOW episodes that the slow boil hasn’t been the least bit frustrating and a testament to careful planning and strong characterization that the sudden shift in pacing feels organic.  Episodes like this one are why I think Buffy was firing on all cylinders during season three. Continue reading

I like the quiet

Did I call “Band Candy” the high watermark for Buffy comedy?  I may have spoken too soon because “The Zeppo” is all kinds of awesome.  Season two’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” gave us a glimpse of Xander’s skewed perspective on the Buffyverse and this follow up plays it to the hilt by not having any mystical interference account for the change in tone; the only difference here is the eyes we’re looking through.  There’s also a pretty solid story about identity issues and manhood going on here, but I’ll save that for the Final Thoughts while I relish just how much fun this series is able to have with itself. Continue reading