The Last Guy to Arrive at the Buffy Party: Season 3

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I finally finished watching Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not once did getting through the marathon of episodes feel like a chore.  Season 3 picks up, naturally, after the events of Season 2, and so it’s understandable that Buffy isn’t going to be in a real good place mentally.  After all, she just stabbed her vampire boyfriend through the chest with a sword and forced him into a Hell-like dimension.  After two seasons of Buffy, I was very happy to see that all the main characters were back and, more importantly, stayed true to the idiosyncrasies that made them so endearing in the first place.  I liked the addition of the new Slayer, Faith, and I thought Mayor Wilkins was a terrific villain, but I never really warmed up to the new Watcher, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.  I’ll explain why below, along with writing about the rest of my thoughts on what turned out to be a great season of television.

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Just to get it out of the way, I liked Season 2 just a tad bit better than Season 3.  It’s definitely very close, but the episode where Angle broke Ms. Calendar’s neck still stands out to me and, for that reason, I’ve got to go with Season 2.  Still, that’s no knock on Season 3 at all; I thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, Season 3 felt like an extension of Season 2, and being that I loved Season 2 so much, this is meant as a compliment.  Alright, with that covered, let’s move on to Season 3 itself.

One of the things I like so much about this show is that characters who go through major events or trauma don’t simply brush off whatever happened and go back to normal.  Instead, their experiences shape who they are as well as the choices they make in the future.  So in the first episode of Season 3 when it’s revealed that Buffy ditched Sunnydale to become a waitress in an anonymous town, it made sense.  After all, she’s a high school girl who’s been battling demons and played a major role in the death of the guy who took her virginity, so it follows that she’s not going to show up to school all cheery and ready to learn.  And when Buffy does return, all is not well with Willow, Oz, Xander, and Giles, as they’re all pretty pissed off that Buffy ditched town without even saying goodbye to her best friends.  Sure, they’re happy to have her back, but they don’t act like nothing ever happened – something I think a lot of shows would have done.  In fact, true to form, Xander tells Buffy off and puts it all out there.

I figured Angel would be back – I mean, he did get his own spinoff show – so his resurrection was expected.  I thought the dynamic between him and Buffy was interesting throughout the season and helped to add another layer of complexity to the ins and outs of high school life.  Xander has become my favorite character (only because Spike was pretty much absent from this season) and I found myself laughing out loud at his stupid jokes all season long.  It’s almost embarrassing, but the guy cracks me up.  Of course, he’s more than just a clown, because as he’s shown in the past, when push comes to shove, Xander always steps up for Buffy.  Same can be said for Willow, and it’s cool to see that she’s pursuing her development as a witch.

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I figured it was only a matter of time before Xander and Willow kissed, and I was glad to see that it didn’t go over so well with the rest of their crew.  You can’t help but feel bad for Oz, who comes across as the nicest guy in the world.  And you even had to sympathize a little bit with Cordelia who, despite all her bitchiness and self-involvement, turned out to be a pretty loyal girlfriend for Xander.

As for the new characters:  I thought Faith was a great addition to the show, especially considering Buffy’s crew has such a positive influence on her; it was great to introduce someone who had the opposite effect.  Faith served, in many ways, as the polar opposite of Buffy, and this was shown through the choices both her and Buffy faced.  Specifically, after Faith had killed a civilian while hunting vampires, it was clear that to Faith, collateral damage is all just part of the war against demons and vamps and something that has to happen.  To Buffy, collateral damage is totally unacceptable and, even though it was her friend Willow, she’d rather try and save an innocent person at the expense of a larger strategy whereas Faith would let that person die and not even think twice about it. Faith was a formidable foe for Buffy and all the things Buffy wasn’t – in short, she was a well-written character and served to drive the show forward.

Keep in mind that I’m referring to Faith as a character, not Eliza Dushku as an actress.  I’ve never really held much of an opinion as to her ability as an actress, but in this show, I thought she was awful.  Am I alone on this?  Or is Dushku a sh*tty actress?

The new Watcher, Wydam-Pryce, seemed like a sissified version of Giles – and I suppose that’s what he was meant to be – but I didn’t really find his inclusion in the show necessary.  To put it another way, I don’t know that his presence affected anything or anyone on the show and the season probably could have progressed forward naturally without him.  I didn’t dislike him – I just didn’t develop a strong feeling one way or another.  By the way, how old was he supposed to be?  In his twenties?  I hope so, considering he could barely stand up straight in the presence of Cordelia.  If he was in his thirties…wow. But hey, it’s not like that sort of thing doesn’t happen.

Finally, Mayor Wilkins was great.  The actor who played him – Harry Groener – was always entertaining on screen, and despite his upbeat, friendly style of speaking, you could tell that something evil and sinister lurked beneath.  Mayor Wilkins was certainly a worthy opponent for Buffy, and his recruitment of Faith helped affirm his role as this season’s main villain.  I just wish Trick could have survived a little longer.  That guy was awesome.

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So, overall, and like I wrote above, this was a terrific season, certainly on the same tier as Season 2.  The individual episodes that stood out to me the most were “The Zeppo,” where Xander hangs out with a zombified version of the guy who asks Dirk Diggler to beat off in Boogie Nights.  Just on a pure “fun” level, that episode was great.  I also really enjoyed “Doppelgangland;” it was great to see a bad version of Willow parade around Sunnydale and the reactions from Buffy and the rest of the crew.  The biggest standout moment for me in the whole season, though, was when Buffy finally got her well-deserved moment at the prom and received recognition from her classmates for basically saving their lives time and time again over the past few years.

One more thought before I wrap this up – it’s tough to articulate, but I absolutely love how despite all the supernatural disturbances that threaten Sunnydale, Buffy and her crew are still high school kids with real, high school problems.  It’s great to see that while the gang has to deal with the Mayor’s ascension and cope with the threat of the destruction of the world, they’re still stressing out over prom.

Anyway, I’ll be moving on to Season 4 this week, and I’m guessing that it’ll pick up with all the kids enrolled at the local college.  Is it going to be Saved by the Bell college years in Sunnydale?  We’ll see, but Season 2 and 3 are a tough act to follow.  Further, I felt like the first three seasons provided an organic arc, with graduation serving as effective closure.  So, I remain a bit skeptical of Season 4, but I’m fully confident it’s going to be, at the very least, fun to watch.


  • sylkmatic

    Dont Worry I just started watching Buffy this past Spring. I am 3 episodes away from finishing the series. I must say while the first few seasons of Buffy are great, the show starts to get stale around the 5th and 6th season. I feel like the writers missed out on a lot of good opportunities to create truly memorable stories. As well as the character interactions in these last few seasons is a lot less believable then before. Especially since a chracter like Xander who has been on the show since day 1 has not changed while everyone around him continues to evolve if it be through new powers or hardships.

  • Russell

    Unfortunately, overall seasons 2 and 3 are the best of the series…2 being my favorite.

    But on the bright side, most of the best individual episodes and “holy shit” moments of the series come after season 3. The “silent” episode in season 4 you’ve probably heard of, and the musical episode in season 6 which sounds stupid but is just brilliant. Plus Nathan Fillion in season 7…I could go on and on with personal favorite moments.

    Aside from the gayish title, do yourself a favor and watch Angel too, just don’t tell your friends. 🙂

  • StuM

    I also did a Buffy (and Angel) marathon when at Uni, doing each series in a day (they was lent to me by friends) and its a great way of enjoying the shows. Series 3 is awesome, and my fav Buffy series. However, Series 4 was something of an anti-climax after going from strength to strength between S1-3. Not to say its a bad series, its not that bad, just after watching S3 its hard to top. The plus side is after S4, is S5 which closely follows S3 in my fav series.

  • Michael

    Season 4 isnt as good as season 3 in my opinion. Luckily it seems the reason for this is Angel started and took some of the kick assery that is Buffy.

    Its going to be a hassle and take longer but if you want the full experience you have to start Angel season 1 now. I ended up watching them, buffy season, then angel season, and it seems to work in terms of spoilers whenever they reference the other show.
    Plus Angel kicks ass, I can guarantee you that after watching a bit of Angel, your opinion of Wesley will change dramatically.

  • joe

    Ya Angel is an excellent show.. Wesley actually becomes a member of the cast midway through season 1, and is one of the high points of the series come season 3 onwards.

  • Velovan

    I’m glad you love it. A few side-notes:

    1. Dushku can’t act. Dollhouse proved that. That said, her involvement with the Mayor made him even more fascinating and she does do a good job of playing the anti-Buffy.

    2. Originally, Trick was going to be the Big Bad for S3. When Whedon saw how absolutely awesome the Mayor was, the writers killed off Trick. This is a bit of a theme in Buffy. Spike was never meant to go past S2 but got written in as a main character due to his popularity. The same can be said for Anya, who made her first appearances in The Wish and Doppelgangland and hangs on from then on.

    3. Season 4 is a season that is hard to appreciate until you’ve gotten past at least Season 5. The big thing is that new characters are introduced, Spike and Anya become main characters and Angel and Cordy and Wesley are gone. As such, the writers have some struggles figuring out how to make the pieces fit. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles are all shifting around to new places in their lives as well, and the show slows for a while. Mind you, this is a necessary thing. It sets up seasons 5, 6 and 7.

    4. Wesley was pointless in Buffy, and I didn’t like him all that much in Angel either. You aren’t alone.

  • Velovan

    Angel wasn’t as good as Buffy. Not even close. What happened to a certain female protagonist (if you watched it you know what I mean) in Season 4 of Angel was character assassination in the highest degree. That whole season was so bad that Tim Minear had to come back after a year off and personally write and direct the finale and the start of Season 5 to fix the giant mess. And by fix, I mean retcon and pretend it didn’t happen.

  • kuros

    In My opinion, Buffy got weaker in later series, but Angel got better. Wesley does get better in Angel (he even gets to go “Dark” for a while) Character Assassination and massive retcon aside, Seasons 4-5 are my favorites from Angel. while 1-3 are my favorites from Buffy.

    I ended up liking Angel more than Buffy in the end, because with Angel they got to go for the adult story lines (Buffy right through to the end was supposed to be all about the trials of growing up) with Angel, they had a cast of characters that where all adults right from the get go, so we didn’t get any of that “Metaphor for adolescence” baggage. (BTW: Fred FTW! my favorite character from both shows put together.)

  • MergedLoki

    I personally find Dushku’s acting in BTVS to be fairly decent. I think she captured faith’s character/personality well.

    just an FYI I highly reccomend picking up the buffy comics if you’re A. into comics/graphic novels and B. a big fan of buffy. As I’ve bought all the S1 – S7 omnibus’s (collections of paticular stories) and they read like lost episodes. It’s all considered Canon (same writers for the show as for comics) so like.. S1 omnibus takes place BEFORE and during S1, volume 2, during S2 etc.

    But yea IMO S2 and S3 of BTVS are two of the best.

  • Sam

    I actually just finished season 3 no more than 10 minutes ago. It was amazing. One thing I really like about the show is that the writers never take the easy way out. There is rarely any sort off deus ex machina. For example when angel was poisoned most shows would have made willow create some sort of antidote, but not buffy, they made angel feed on the only woman he’s every loved. It’s the little things like that and the death of jenny calendar they make the show so great and unpredictable.

  • Dicey

    After seasons 1-3, season 4 will make your eyes bleed. It is my least favourite Buffy season. And yeah, it is nothing to be excited about haha.
    You’re entering serious woe-is-me Buffy territory from season four on.
    But Spike and Anya becoming prominent characters make it all ok.
    So glad to see that you like Buffy, it’s really a fantastic show.

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  • Henrik

    Wesley becomes one of the best characters on Angel. You will be supriced.

  • Carmen

    I’m with you, Wesley’s appearance on Buffy was terrible. However, like everyone else, I truly recommend watching Angel as well, Wesley really comes into his own and is an amazing character.

    You don’t need to Buffy and Angel consecutively. I watched them years apart, which I actually found helped me break the connection between them; they are two different shows with two very different writing styles and story lines and should be treated as much. I think those lines get blurred quite a lot when you watch them in corresponding order. Don’t get me wrong, the cross over episodes are good, and maybe should be watched correctly in order, but it doesn’t take anything away from the show if you don’t, I found.

    I’m just re-watching Buffy now, actually inspired by you, Seasons 2 and 3 are some of the best, but I think the show really hits most of its high notes (that are left to be reached, anyway) in season five. There’s just so much, in both writing and direction that happens and really gives the “wow” factor Buffy’s all about. For me, season four lacks in oomph, but it’s always worth it for the silent episode “Hush.”

    • Madison

      I’m about halfway through Season 4, and I think that “Hush” is the best episode I’ve seen yet. In fact, I think it’s one of the 10 best episodes of television I’ve ever seen, period.

  • Like a commenter mentioned above, most of the best wtf and mindblowing moments happenend after the start of season five, and I had the distinct feeling that the writers and cast were fully comfortable with what they had created and were able to try some new and exiting storylines. There is a character death in season five which completely rocked my world, and the way it was done resulted in one of the most realistic and compelling passing-away episodes in television history. I think that apart from a somewhat weaker season 4, which, like yet another commenter remarked, was mainly to set up some new characters and storylines, the show only got better and better. But then again, I’m an unconditional fan… I certainly recommend watching until the very last episode.

  • Shalekendar

    After watching the whole 7 seasons for the umpteenth time I cam e to a startling and sad realization: Buffy (as much as I love the show) is a whiny little b*tch. Most of the seasons can be summed up as follows:
    1) Everybody hangs out, life is good.
    2) Oh look, here’s someone with cool powers/abilities that my friends don’t have (Usually around episode 8-10)
    3) Buffy ditches her friends for the “cool” new people/organization usually lamenting about how her friends just don’t understand how hard it is being the Slayer.
    4) said cool people/organization typically betrays Buffy
    5) Buffy comes to realize she can not in fact save the world without her friends (Usually episode 18ish)
    6) Tearful apologies and reconciliation just in time to kick the big bad’s buttocks. (Usually episode 21-22)
    It’s been a while since I watch all 7 seasons straight through (ever since I noticed this in fact) but unless I’m mistaken only seasons 1 & 7 vary from this formula. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

    And, for the record, Wesley becomes as serious bad ass in Angel very late in Season 3 early in Season 4.

  • Sam

    @Shalekendar
    I just watched season 5 and it didn’t really seem to fit that pattern. Buffy never left her friends for a “cooler” group and she seemed to believe in them all along.

  • Jessica

    I’ve been a big fan of Buffy for a long time now and I have to agree with a lot of the other commenters in that you might be a little disappointed by S4 of Buffy. While there are a few standout episodes in it, you might feel a little let down after the awesomeness that was S2 and 3. It does pick back up again in S5 though so don’t stress out about it going downhill.
    As for Wesley, while he does get a lot more badass when he crosses over to Angel (I don’t think there is a single other character in the Buffy/Angel universe that changes so completely from how they were originally), I have to agree that I didn’t much like him when he came on the show. Looking back I kind of realize why they created him as sort of a cowardly dolt in the beginning as someone to get kidnapped or in trouble or whatever as the rest of the Scoobies had progressed to the point where they’ve proven they can handle themselves in a fight (to an extent). Still doesn’t mean I much liked him in the beginning though.

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  • Luckie

    I liked season three myself. I thought Faith was exactly what the show needed, even if she was only really in this season. Faith was the polar opposite of Buffy. The way I look at is, Buffy is all light and cheery and the cheerleader Barbie doll (looking) type while Faith is hardcore and really dark and mysterious. They view Slaying completely differently and I was really glad that Faith wasn’t another Kendra, who I adored. Faith could actually do things without her Watcher’s permission and that’s one thing I absolutely loved about her.

    I loved Mayor Wilkins, too. He was perfect for the Big Bad and I could totally understand why Faith turned to him.

    I adored “The Zeppo”, “The Wish”, and “Dopplegangland”. Basically, I love Evil!Willow.

    I can’t wait until you get to season 5 or 6…

    ~Luckie

  • wiccalez

    um… yeah. i’m sure you’ve already figured this out already, but Wesly was intro’d here so he could end up on ‘Angel’