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A couple of days ago my husband started rewatching Season 2 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This is something we do at least once a year in our household. One of us will get a craving for Buffy and inevitably, we’ll pull out the DVDs and the marathon begins. Unfortunately for me, I’m buried in DVD reviews, so plopping down on the couch and devoting hours of my life to a Buffython just isn’t in the cards for me right now.
That said, seeing the Scoobies on the TV every time I walk through the living room has inspired me to give some more thought to one of my all-time favorite TV series. One of the things I’ve noticed about our Buffy marathons is that we don’t always start with the first season. Sometimes we’ll start with the second season. Other times we’ll only watch the later seasons. I’ve come to realize that while all of the seasons fit together to complete an overall story, each one has its own unique flavor. So here is my breakdown of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, season by season:
Season 1: The Friendship Begins:
In season one of Buffy, the title character moves to Sunnydale and despite trying to deny her calling, is immediately drawn back in to the dark world of vampire slayage. Buffy befriends Willow and Xander, meets Angel, the dreamy man she eventually learns is a vampire and she begins to develop a father/daughter-ish relationship with her watcher, Giles. The season was full of stand alone episodes; some of which I have a hard time rewatching (“The Pack.” Ugh). Its not a terrible first season but it certainly pales in comparison with the ones that followed.
The Master was the first big villain of the series and looking back, he was kind of cheesy compared to the villains who came later. It didn’t matter though. Season 1 served its purpose in bringing the group together and establishing the beginnings of the bonds that would carry them through high school and into adulthood.
Season 2: Loves and Losses
The second season of Buffy is chock full of romance. Spike and Drusilla, Xander and Cordelia, Willow and Oz, Giles and Jenny – hell, even Joyce got some action (ok, so he turned out t be a violent robot-man but still…). Whedon put a fantastic twist on teen angst in this season by taking high school heartbreak to a whole new level. After Buffy gave “it” up to Angel, he turned into Angeles and spent the remainder of the season tormenting her and her friends. To add insult to injury, the Slayer had to kill Angel at the end of the season.
Part of what made the second season so enjoyable was the Big Bad. The writers quickly dried up the whole “Anointed One” plot (thank you!) and brought in three fantastic baddies: Spike, Drusilla and Angeles. Spike and Drusilla showed up in Sunnydale with a plan to take over the place and live like rock stars. While Spike was the vampire who just loved to be evil, Drusilla was literally one crazy bitch. The contrast between the two characters made for some really great scenes.
Drusilla: "I'm naming all the stars."
Spike: "You can't see the stars, love. That's the ceiling. Also, it's day."
Drusilla: "I can see them. For I've named them all the same name. And there's terrible confusion."
Then there was Angeles. Prior to his return, the only thing we knew about soulless-Angel was that he was really bad. Getting to see Angeles in full form truly painted a picture of just how horrible evil can be. With Spike, a bit of power was all it took to satisfy him. With Angeles, he wanted to see people hurt. Knowing Buffy and her friends intimately allowed him to take extreme pleasure in causing them pain. This made the mission much more personal for Buffy.
Season 3: Conflicts and Corruption
The third season of Buffy was so much more than just the Scoobies’ final year in high school. Well, it was their final year but it was also the season of Faith, the Mayor, the beginning of the end of Buffy/Angel, Xander and Willow’s affair, graduation and eventually, the parting of ways for some of the characters. So much of what happened in season three paved the way for what was to come in the following years.
The Mayor was the primary threat in Sunnydale in this season. Every season’s villain had a quirk and with this one, it was germs and cleanliness. He wanted to take over the world but he also wanted people to wash their hands before they ate. He was a strange but mildly comical villain that was almost hard to take serious – until he turned into a giant worm and tried to eat everyone at graduation.
Faith was the secondary villain. Being a Slayer, she had the same powers as Buffy. But unlike Buffy, Faith didn’t have a group of loyal friends to support her while she was in high school. She ended up being taken in by the mayor, responding to his fatherly nature like a troubled foster child. The mayor gave her the support and encouragement she hadn’t found anywhere else and in return, she used her abilities for evil. Naturally, Buffy ended up defeating her in what was probably one of the most violent chick-fights in TV history.
Season 4: The Bridge Between Adolescence and Adulthood
I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed the fourth season of Buffy in rewatches a lot more than I did the first time I viewed it. As this was the first post-high school season, everything felt kind of unfamiliar, which was a little bit frustrating. Cordelia and Angel were gone, Xander wasn’t in college, Buffy was the outsider again and Giles’ apartment replaced the library as the new Scooby headquarters. Then of course there was The Initiative and Adam, which I found to be a fairly dull villain. Though in retrospect, I love the fact that we got to see what demon slayage is like from a government/military point of view.
While the season might not be a fan favorite, it did play host to the Emmy nominated episode, “Hush.” When The Gentlemen steal everyone’s voices, the gang has to try to find and destroy them, all while not being able to talk. What made the episode work was the fact that the characters knew each other so well that they were able to find ways to communicate with one another without using words.
If the fourth season accomplished one thing, it was successfully transitioning the gang out of high school and on to the path towards adulthood. This is something that a lot of teen drama series have failed at, so Whedon gets major kudos for pulling it off.
Season 5: Dawn and Death
The fifth season started off with what was probably one of the biggest “WTF” twists in television. All of a sudden, Buffy has a little sister who has apparently been there the whole time. This wasn’t just a short-term twist, either. Dawn became a permanent part of the Summers household, despite many fans’ strong dislike for her annoying whininess. As though the show just wasn’t big enough for three Summers women, Buffy’s mother, Joyce died of a brain aneurysm. What stands out most for me, regarding Joyce’s death is that she died of natural causes. With all of the dangerous situations she was put in as the mother of the Slayer, her cause of death was something Buffy couldn’t protect her from.
The loss of her mother pushed Buffy further towards adulthood. She became more of a mother than a sister to Dawn after that. The season ended with Buffy sacrificing her life to save Dawn and humanity, once again proving her heroism and willingness to put others before herself.
The villain in this season was Glory, a god who was trapped on earth and looking for a way out, even if it meant destroying the planet in the process. She was as loud, bossy and evil as any villain could get. While everyone played a part in her demise, it was Giles who ended up finishing her off.
Season 6: Downward Spirals
I rank the sixth season of Buffy very high on my list of favorite seasons of the series. In this season, Buffy dealt with being ripped from heaven and returning to her duties as the Slayer. She seemed almost detached from reality through most of the season, which caused her to enter into a fairly destructive, romantic (ok, mostly sexual) relationship with Spike. That part actually didn’t happen until after Giles returned to England. With the departure of the only remaining parental figure, the Scoobies’ lives pretty much went down the drain. When Buffy wasn’t sleeping with Spike, she was working at the Doublemeat Palace. Xander left Anya at the alter and Willow got addicted to magic.
As for the villains, for most of the season, the Big Bad was The Trio. Three comic book dorks who fantasized about taking over the world (starting with Sunnydale). Warren, Andrew and Jonathan were hilarious as villains and given the negativity surrounding the Scoobies, these villains served to add a lighter touch to what might otherwise have been a seriously depressing season. In the end though, Willow turned out to be the season’s true villain. As in season 2, Buffy was once again faced with the task of attempting to kill someone she loved. Fittingly enough though, it was Xander who was able to bring Willow back. Xander’s brave and successful attempt to connect with good-Willow was a much-needed reminder, not only of the bond these two characters shared but also the importance of Xander within the group.
The most memorable episode from this season was obviously, “Once More With Feeling,” the musical episode. Whedon did a brilliant job of not only creating an entertaining musical episode, but also finding a way to work the episode into the overall story arc. So much of what the characters were going through but weren’t able to express in dialogue came out in their songs.
Season 7: The First, The Last.
The seventh season really made me appreciate the value of stand-alone episodes. There were a couple random throw-away episodes early on in the season but once the story got going, the momentum just kept building. In previous seasons, the Scoobies went about their lives, occasionally battling different demons and then as the season drew to a close, the last few episodes would focus on their final showdown with the Big Bad.
There were some moments of mild reprieve in the last season. For example, in “The Killer In Me,” Willow finally deals with what happened with Warren at the end of the sixth season. For the most part though, once they realized that The First was the threat, their mission became the only real story arc. There was no time for jobs or school. The characters were living the mission. They did make time for a bit of romance here and there but that was always tied directly to what was going on in Sunnydale. The suspense and build-up with each episode was almost exhausting but it all paid off in the last battle.
The series ended with Buffy, the Scoobies and the potential slayers defeating The First. Sunnydale was demolished and what was left of the heroes went on to face an unknown future. As the series almost ended with Buffy dying at the end of season 5, I find that I prefer the season 7 ending much more. Sure, it’s often fitting for the hero to die in the end, closing out the story with a true sense of finality but I can’t help it; I’m a sucker for happy endings. With Buffy now having the support of all of the other slayers, its nice to think that she might have been able to take a break from the slayage every once in a while.
Buffy’s story now continues in comic book form and I’m sad to say that I’ve only gotten through the first couple of “episodes.” As for the television series, if only every TV show could be as good throughout its duration. Oftentimes a drama series will shift in the wrong direction over the course of its run and fail to live up to its earlier seasons. Such was clearly not the case with Buffy. Each season built on the earlier ones, allowing the story and the characters to develop. It ended well and thanks to DVDs, fans can revisit Sunnydale whenever they want.
What Is Your Favorite Season Of Buffy?
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