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.
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.
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.
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.