WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SEASON OF BUFFY?

I’ll bet everyone misses the blissful idylls of summer vacation after school lets out . . . except for the parents, who can’t wait for the hallowed halls of academia to take their kids back in September. As scholars go, so go we teachers, riding the waves of a much-needed break from school routine. Summer is the time for revels and reverie . . . like beaches, beer and baseball.

Oh, wait – I think you’ve reached the wrong blog. You must have been looking for the gym dude next door at AhSweatMastery! You won’t find me at the beach (my skin is too mole-y), downing beers (the whole gluten thing) or involving myself in any way with baseball, not since that traumatic Little League incident of ‘64. No, my hours are spent pursuing finer pleasures . . . like bridge, books, and binging.

By binging, I of course mean television. This summer, I decided to binge watch Buffy, the Vampire Slayer for the first time since its original showing twenty years ago. Twenty years is a long time, and to my dismay, Buffy, one of the greatest shows that ever aired, as well as one full of water cooler moments I used to share with my students, is not on young people’s radar much. And yet, many of the shows they watch today are successful because they follow the template created by Joss Whedon, the man who conceived and produced the series. And so I thought that if we Buffy fans – and you know who you are – talked it up a bit, maybe we could drum up interest. Hey, I’ve got 147 followers here, so anything can happen!

 

So here’s the big question for you guys? What was your favorite season of Buffy? To my surprise, my answer to this question changed upon re-watching the series. To recharge your memories for our discussion, I provide the handy guide below for each season. I’ll provide a basic overview, as well as some of the highlights – and, yes, low points – of each season to get the ball rolling. Then it’s up to you: let’s see if we can get a good discussion going and generate some new viewers.

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SEASON ONE

  • Timeline: Sophomore year of high school
  • The Big Bad: The Master (a very old vampire)
  • Core Characters:
  1. Buffy Summers – Whedon’s answer to “the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie,” only this one has been Chosen to guard the world against supernatural bad guys and has been endowed with super powers
  2. Rupert Giles – Buffy’s Watcher, appointed by a Council of Watchers to train the Slayer and guide her to make the best choices
  3. Willow Rosenberg – shy, sweet and brilliant, a computer geek who becomes Buffy’s unlikely best friend
  4. Xander Harris – a lovable, goofy nerd and Willow’s oldest friend; in horror movies, he would be the funny dude who gets killed second to last
  5. Cordelia Chase – the beautiful, popular and mean cheerleader who starts out as a sort of nemesis to Buffy

Other Important Characters:

  1. Joyce Summers – Buffy’s mother, newly divorced
  2. Angel – a mysterious hunk who acts like a guardian angel to Buffy in her fight against vampires

The Big Metaphor: The whole point of Buffy was that Whedon used horror movie tropes to explore important issues and events in the lives of young adults. This season was about how hard it is to pick up at fifteen and moving to a new town and a new school. Yes, Buffy had burned down the gym in her last high school (hey, it was stuffed with vampires!), but she’s also dealing with her parents’ divorce (and the fear that her Slayer shenanigans caused it). Starting over is hard enough even without having to deal with vampires, witches and a host of other ghouls. This season is about Buffy having to accept her slayer status, but along the way it’s about making friends and joining in.

Best Things About the Season:

  • The arc with Angel is a prime example of how Whedon will set up our expectations of a character and then confound them. The twist of Buffy’s guardian angel being a vampire himself is only the first of many twists; Angel’s story sows the seeds for the next three seasons and creates one of the greatest teen romances in TV history.
  • The Master, while far from being the greatest Big Bad in the show’s canon, is amusing in a Noel Coward-like way, and he has an interesting assortment of minions, including a flip vampiress named Darla.
  • The season suffers from too episodic a structure – Whedon is still working on his abilities to balance the serial-like nature of his story with captivating stand-alone episodes. (Eventually, even the stand-alones will be beautifully integrated into the running storyline.) Still, the patchwork of adventures thrust upon the Scooby Gang (Xander’s name for the group) gives viewers a chance to get to know the characters in action.

Worst Things About the Season:

  • It’s too short. The other seasons contain a full twenty-two episodes, while this one has only twelve. That’s because Buffy started as a mid-season replacement in the spring. It means that the overriding story arc feels rushed.
  • After all the build-up, the Master’s plan turns out to be a big dud. However, the failure of this Big Bad has a Big But: for a brief moment, Buffy dies, and this event will spark some great story developments for the rest of the series.

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My favorite episode: The drama teacher in me can’t resist the charms of the ninth episode, “The Puppet Show”. If metaphor is Whedon’s métier, the high school talent show as a real-life horror fest is one of his best. The ventriloquist controlled by his dummy may be a hoary horror chestnut, but writer Ellen S. Pressman plays with our expectations in a plot that’s full of twists. Plus, it’s basically a whodunit! And it’s very funny.

Overview: This is the season that is at its best when its focus is on Buffy, which makes sense as the girl had been on Whedon’s mind for a long time (resulting in a very bad movie – thank God Joss didn’t give up!) Watching her try to fit in – by trying out for cheer, by dating, by seeking out friends – provides most of the best and funniest moments. Whedon takes his time sowing the seeds of the Romeo and Juliet-like love between Buffy and Angel. Even so, there are hints of ensemble greatness to come, as Whedon’s gift for showing hidden depths of character provides moments of heroism for smart Willow, Everyman Xander – and even Cordelia.

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SEASON TWO

  • Timeline: Junior year of high school
  • The Big Bad: Spike and Drusilla (old vampire cronies of Angel’s) and, ultimately, Angel himself
  • Core Characters:  No changes
  • Other Characters:
  1. Oz: Willow’s thoughtful musician boyfriend, with a dark secret. (Hint: think full moon.)
  2. Jenny Calendar: the school’s computer science teacher appeared in a couple of first season episodes, but here she becomes an integral – and surprising – part of the storyline.
  3. Principal Snyder: After a pack of human hyenas ate the last principal, a new school leader emerges. With the sharp casting of Armin Shimerman, the new principal proves that you don’t have to be from Hell to be a demon.

The Big Metaphor: The age-old concern of teenage girls about having a bad boyfriend plays out with world-threatening consequences in this Slayer/Undead variation on Romeo and Juliet. In fact, junior year seems to be the time when students really start to “hook up,” often with disastrous consequences. Everyone here gets their shot at an unsuitable romance, although most of them find ways to make it work.

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Best Things About the Season:

  • After a bumpy start, Whedon begins to abandon the largely episodic nature of the show by introducing the really cool characters of peroxided Spike and batty Drusilla to the mix. These two provide enough storyline to last through Buffy’s run and spill over into the Angel
  • How many variations on the question, “What are the consequences of teens having sex?” have we seen before? Will he call me again? Will I get an STD? Will my boyfriend turn into a soulless, bloodsucking monster hell bent on destroying the earth??? It’s the first great switcheroo of the series, and it gives Buffy’s first romance the tragic overtones that its Shakespearian antecedents demand.
  • With Buffy and Angel firmly established in an epic storyline, Whedon’s staff can set their sights on the supporting characters, giving them depth and setting up ideas that will be reincorporated in ways that will yield rich rewards further down the line. Hooking up Xander and Cordelia accomplished so much: it turned Cordelia into a more multi-faceted person and made her a central, if reluctant, part of the Scooby Gang. And it saved Xander from the running joke of single episodes where the girl he dates turns out to be a monster. (Ironically, once Whedon conceives of this plotline as a larger arc for Xander later on, it turns into a great idea.) Willow gets a very cool boyfriend in Oz, who is every mother’s nightmare – a musician. (He’s also a werewolf.) Even Mr. Giles gets a makeover as we start to learn about his bad boy days.
  • Some of the standalone episodes are among the series’ best including “Ted,” which explores the very real fears that happen to a child when her divorced mom starts to date seriously (and examines those fears as only Buffy can), and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” which takes another old chestnut – the love potion – and makes it both hilarious and disturbing.

Worst Things About the Season:

  • Buffy’s “death” at the end of the first season creates a new slayer. The bad news is – it’s Kendra! (Despite a much needed and refreshing breaking of the color barrier, Kendra could have been less . . . boring.) The good news is that Kendra only lasts a few episodes, and her death will bring us the badass marvel that is Faith.
  • Some of the standalone episodes are just so-so: “Some Assembly Required,” “Inca Mummy Girl,” and “Reptile Boy” have their moments but make us wonder where this is all going. Fortunately, most of these take place at the start of the season . . . and then things really get going.

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My favorite episode: A running joke of the series is that Halloween is the one night of the year when the Slayer ought to be able to relax, since no self-respecting demon is willing to capitulate to the crass commercialism of the holiday. But in Buffy’s world, these things seldom go right, and the Halloween episodes all highlights of most seasons. (The same goes for Buffy’s birthday, which never goes down well.) The first Halloween episode – appropriately titled “Halloween,” is both a funny and spooky riff on the holiday, giving our heroes something different to do: Buffy becomes an idiot, Willow a sexy ghost, and Xander a hero.

Overview: With a full season’s worth of episodes to play with, Whedon hits his stride in terms of the show’s mythology, it’s main story arc, and the fleshing out of its main characters. Sure, there are bumps along the way, but the transformation of Angel and the focus on all the kooky permutations of love (in addition to Buffy/Angel, Willow/Oz, and Xander/Cordelia, we mustn’t forget Spike/Drusilla and Giles/Jenny.) Love is in the air all season, and it nearly destroys the world!

 

SEASON THREE

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  • Timeline: Senior year of high school/Graduation
  • The Big Bad: Sunnydale mayor Richard Wilkins
  • Core Characters: The same. Oz joins the show as a regular. Buffy’s mother Joyce becomes a more prominent member of the cast as she starts to realize what her daughter gets up to in the graveyard at night.
  • Other Characters:
  1. Faith: The new slayer bursts into town and over the course of the season switches from ally to antagonist. With great power comes great responsibility, and though we don’t learn much about Faith’s upbringing, we definitely see how the advantages of a good upbringing are necessary to ensure that the Slayer grows into her powers in a positive way. (Thank you, Joyce!)
  2. Anya, the Vengeance Demon: Yes, she only appears in a few episodes, so we only get a hint of Emma Caulfield’s comic genius. But she does feature in my favorite episode (see below).
  3. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: the uptight and ineffectual Watcher sent from England to replace Giles.

The Big Metaphor: The question seniors ask – “Will I survive high school?” – is taken to literal extremes thanks to the Mayor’s plan to become a demon and devour the world. While the Scooby Gang gears up for battle, each of our regulars feels the pangs of separation from childhood as the next phase of young adulthood approaches. The romances that were built up so strongly in Season Two fall apart, and Whedon milks each break-up for maximum dramatic potential.

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Best Things About the Season:

  • Season Three picks up the pieces of Season Two in a far more impactful way than we’ve seen before. The emotional fallout of Buffy’s choices haunts her and her entourage for a while. The Scooby Gang are all in an emotionally vulnerable place, causing them to make choices which generate new crises and complications. This is the season where the Big Bad serves to reunite the Scoobies into perhaps their strongest bond until the show ends.
  • Mayor Wilkins, played by the marvelous Harry Groener, is in the running for the best Big Bad of the entire series. Whedon unleashes him slowly, first as a series of ominous mentions, then in short appearances in his political function. He is written and portrayed in multiple colors: nefarious in all the right ways (with a marvelous little chuckle and a childlike enjoyment of his emerging “Big Badness”), the Mayor also is a stickler for social niceties, holding fast to old-fashioned ways and just as happy at an ice-cream shop as in a demon’s lair. He’s a germaphobe with OCD, but his manipulation of Faith becomes a true fatherly concern that surprises even him.
  • The major romantic storyline shifts from Buffy and Angel to the absorbing quadrangle of Willow/Xander/Cordelia/Oz. The permutations of this foursome’s ups and downs are what Beverly Hills 90210 should have looked like!
  • Since the best friends become the main high school plot, there is an opening for a subplot, and the wild, magic-induced hook-up between Joyce and father figure Giles is all that we could hope for. This whole season is a great one for Giles, who gets bumped from his post as Buffy’s watcher for loving her too much.

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Worst Things About the Season:

  • On a personal level, I never really warmed to Faith, but she does act as a good catalyst for the other characters wreaking havoc on Buffy and Angel, bringing out the good side in the Mayor, and turning Xander from a boy to a very confused man.

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My favorite episode: There are many great episodes to choose from, and “Band Candy” supplies such great fun watching Joyce and Giles get their inner Rebel Without a Cause on. But my favorite episode is “The Wish,” which introduces Anya, the vengeance demon, who gives Cordelia a taste of what the world would be like if Buffy had not moved to Sunnydale. It packs so much delicious alternate history into forty minutes that you can’t help appreciate the genius of Joss Whedon. If anyone had any doubt what a fine actress Alyson Hannigan is, those doubts are dispelled at meeting Vampire Willow.

Overview: There’s a powerful argument to be made that this is the series’ best season. The big story arc builds to a great climax, with graduation day turning into every student’s greatest fantasy/worst nightmare, depending on where you sat in the cafeteria. Each of the Scoobies has a great deal of soul searching and growing up to do before he/she is ready for the next step – college/the work force and, of course, survival from world destruction – and both the big story and the standalone episodes (some of the series’ best) contribute to every character’s growth. After the devastation to her life wrought by the end of Season Two, the end of high school marks the most complex and maybe happiest finale for Buffy: despite her bittersweet parting with Angel, she is recognized by her peers at the prom . . . oh, and she saves the world – again.

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SEASON FOUR

  • Timeline: First year of college
  • The Big Bad: Dr. Maggie Walsh, the head of the Initiative, who is replaced by her creation Adam, the human/demon hybrid (read “Frankenstein’s monster”)
  • Core Characters: Angel and Cordelia have moved to L.A. (to start their own series), and Oz drops to reoccurring status. Joyce is only in a few episodes, which makes sense now that Buffy has moved to college but is also explained by the fact that actress Kristine Sutherland spent the year in Italy. Spike returns to Sunnydale and becomes a series regular.
  • Other Characters:
  1. Riley Finn: Buffy’s new romantic interest and her most successful attempt at having a human boyfriend.
  2. Anya: The now-human vengeance demon takes her rightful place as a regular and a love interest for Xander.
  3. Tara Maclay: While Oz goes off to ponder his inner wolf, Willow discovers a lot of new stuff about herself, most of it with this shy fellow fellow Wiccan.
  4. Harmony Kendall: Harmony was a recurring high school student, a particularly nasty friend of Cordelia’s, during the first three seasons. Graduation day wrought some big changes on her, and in only a few episodes she makes a big – and very funny – impact.

Big Metaphor: Moving from high school to college, the series takes on a larger campus and a more adult tone. Moving away from home poses great challenges for any teenager, and the potential tearing apart of her comfortable high school click turns Buffy into an emotional wreck.

Best Things About the Season:

  • The very best thing is how the supernatural elements serve the metaphor – and, in some cases, aren’t even necessary in the exploration of what it feels like to leave childhood behind. Having brought the Scooby gang to their closest association in Season Three, Whedon goes about tearing the tight gang apart. Buffy’s insecurities in yet another new setting make her prey to a new vampire chick in town and to the machinations of a hot campus stud who doesn’t need any magical gifts to be a monster. Xander isn’t far behind her, smarting from the fact that he alone didn’t make it to college and is stuck living in his parents’ basement. Even Giles is suffering from the pangs of unemployment, while Willow is destined for some heartbreak when a new (lady) werewolf comes to town. Then, after breaking up the gang, Whedon finds a new way to showcase their combined strength as they battle to defeat the horrors unleashed by the Initiative, a covert military-ops project hidden underneath the University.
  • Willow is reborn! – as a lesbian, a witch, and a young woman who begins to stand on her own, rather than as Buffy’s sidekick. Her transformation will play out over the rest of the series.
  • The same can be said for Spike, whose slow-boil (and painful) redemption begins here. What a break for us that Whedon found the perfect way to extend Spike’s stay and maximize his value.
  • Anya, Anya, Anya! In a season where the three central Scoobies all score new mates, Xander strikes gold with the adorable ex-demon. After eleven hundred years wreaking vengeance on all the men who hurt women, Anya has forgotten how to handle human emotions. (She always struck me as a bit on the spectrum.) Plus, she has a mortal fear of bunnies, which will pop up here and there in adorably funny ways.

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Worst Things About the Season:

  • After firmly keeping us in supernatural territory, Whedon’s creation of the Initiative provides an uneasy merge of magic with science fiction. The slow uncovering of the Initiative’s purpose, followed by its real purpose, followed by the perverting of that purpose into another purpose – well, it makes for a kind of bumpy ride. For the first time, the Big Bad story seems to almost interfere with the more interesting stuff about college life.
  • After all the build-up, the Master’s plan turns out to be a big dud. However, the failure of this Big Bad has a Big But: for a brief moment, Buffy dies, and this event will spark some great story developments for the rest of the series.
  • Riley is very . . . pretty, and Tara serves as the catalyst for Willow’s major character changes. But as characters themselves, they pale next to the others. On the plus side, Whedon acknowledged this fact and played with both characters’ difficulty fitting into the Scooby Gang with interesting results. Riley never fits in, dooming his relationship with Buffy but turning him into a more interesting character. Tara is ultimately accepted into the group, although I personally feel she always serves as a catalyst and never quite succeeds on her own.

 

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My favorite episode: The second episode, “Living Conditions,” posits the theory that the college roommate from hell may truly be from Hell. Based on personal experience, I think this is the episode most grounded in reality of all. The episode “Superstar” is out and out amazing. (More about that later.) But let’s not kid ourselves: the best episode is the season’s standout: “Hush” is brilliant from start to finish, with great villains (The Gentlemen) and one of the funniest scenes ever (the mute council of war held in the classroom). Giles’ slide show alone is worthy of acclaim.

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Overview: Season Four succeeds best when it is focused on the central characters’ attempts to cope with college life. The major changes undergone by each member of the team make for some riveting viewing. The Big Bad storyline is unwieldy but has its merits and some boffo scenery, and the reuniting of the Scoobies at the end is affecting. (Personally, I think Whedon will adapt the Initiative idea much more cleverly in his movie, The Cabin in the Woods.) Lindsay Crouse is wasted in some ways as Maggie Walsh, disappearing from the canvas far too quickly after her real plans are revealed. And Adam is too much of a Frankenstein rip-off to provide any new takes on the idea; Whedon even steals the Monster/little child scene almost verbatim.

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SEASON FIVE

  • Timeline: Second year of college
  • The Big Bad: Glory, whose exact nature is full of surprises I’m loathe to spoil.
  • Core Characters: The same. Joyce returns front and center in her most important season yet!
  • Other Characters: Dawn Summers: Buffy’s little sister. Say what?!?

Big Metaphor: Um . . . wow! This season is all about family. The Scoobies are more united than ever before, and they will need to be since not only do they face the most powerful Big Bad to date, but they will have to deal with losses they never imagined.

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Best Things About the Season:

  • The arrival of Dawn is the best twist ever! I still remember the tingle I felt when she showed up at the end of the first episode. And Whedon takes his time letting us know what the heck is going on.
  • This series occurred long before Game of Thrones, when killing off a main character was a very big deal. (It worked beautifully on M*A*S*H, not so much on All in the Family.) Kristine Sutherland wanted to leave the show, and Whedon gave her a beautiful exit that redefined Buffy for the rest of its run.
  • Giles finally finds a new purpose . . . and it is in retail. Running the magic shop gives the former Watcher something to do; even better, it creates a wonderful arc for Anya, as she discovers and nurtures her inner capitalist.
  • We meet Dracula – and he is a superstar! One of the best standalones in the series!
  • Spike continues to grow more and more interesting. His growing love of Buffy is filtered through his weasel-like evil nature in all sorts of delicious, perverted ways.
  • Riley leaves! ‘Nuff said.

Worst Things About the Season:

  • Honestly, I can’t think of any. Dawn is immensely annoying to me, but then she’s supposed to be!

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My favorite episode: I want to be original here, but “The Body” is so good I have to go with it. Life at its most challenging has nothing to do with monsters or magic. In fact, the vampire at the end serves an important purpose for the now-orphaned Summers sisters.

Overview: I didn’t originally think of this as my favorite season, but it is now. The Big Bad story is complex and surprising and brings about many powerful, life-altering changes for the team. Glory is a complicated figure, funny and scary, and the slow unfolding of her master plan results in many unusual phenomena in Sunnydale. So much crap is thrown at the Scoobies, and their familial bond is tested. But nobody is tested as much as Buffy, and Whedon himself has said that this season could have been a fitting conclusion to her saga. But we have two more seasons to go!

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SEASON SIX

  • Timeline: Third year of college (but only Tara seems to be making it to class)
  • The Big Bad: The Trio, followed by Evil Willow
  • Core Characters:The same. Giles becomes a recurring character.
  • Other Characters: Warren, Jonathan Levinson, and Andrew Wells: the super-nerds who form the Trio. More about them below.

Big Metaphor: Accepting the responsibility for one’s actions and dealing with their consequences.

Best Things About the Season:

  • Spoiler alert: Buffy sacrificed herself to save the world at the end of Season Five. Of course, super-heroes have a way of not staying dead, but Whedon took this tired comic book fixture and made it into something amazing. In order to bring Buffy back, the Scooby gang – especially Willow – puts good judgment aside and engages in some unnatural magic, with devastating results. (Didn’t anybody read “The Monkey’s Paw” in high school?)
  • Whedon does something different with the Big Bad this season. After five years of turning high school outsiders into heroes and tossing them into battle against vampires, demons, the U.S. military, even gods, the Scoobies have to face . . . themselves. The Trio posits what would happen if the Scooby Gang turned bad. Whedon wisely opts not to create three all new characters but to bring back three characters from the past: Warren Mears, who in Season Five wreaked havoc on Buffy’s life with his talent for building beautiful sex robots; Andrew Wells, who is the younger brother of a past high school antagonist and is said to have sicc’ed flying monkeys on the prom (Whedon makes gleeful fun of the fact that neither the Scoobies nor the audience quite remembers who this kid is); and Jonathan Levinson. Given how dark this season gets, the comedic Trio provides a nice comic balance . . . at least, until their thirst to be taken seriously takes a terrible turn.
  • A word about Jonathan. I can only imagine the glee of the writing staff as they conceived of ways to incorporate this guy into the landscape. For the first two seasons, Danny Strong was literally an extra, playing Jonathan, a nerdy loser who showed up onscreen to react to the latest horror befalling Sunnydale High. The joke was that he looked vaguely familiar but nobody could quite remember his name. Jonathan got his moment in the spotlight in a great Season Three episode, “Earshot,” where Buffy is inflicted with the ability to read minds, allowing her to understand for the first time how painful it is to be the little high school geek nobody knows. Jonathan reappears in one of the best episodes of the series (from Season Four.) “Superstar” takes us to another alternate reality where Jonathan is the greatest person in the world, to whom everybody, the Scoobies included, bows in homage. (The series credits are even altered to incorporate Jonathan’s new persona.) So it only stood to reason that Jonathan would form a part of the Trio.
  • The musical episode. Not only is “Once More With Feeling” a charming excursion into Broadway territory, but Whedon makes sure that, plotwise, it is a pivotal episode.

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Worst Things About the Season:

  • It’s pretty bleak – not even Anya gets her happy ending – and by the end we are emotionally exhausted. This is not really a criticism, more of a warning.

My favorite episode: Hey, I’m a drama director! My musical theatre class once performed “Once More with Feeling.” So it’s the best! But I want to give a shout out to episode Twelve, “Doublemeat Palace,” which injects some much needed levity into Buffy’s tragic existence (that work uniform!) with a clever new take on the Soylent Green concept.

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Overview: Season Six is really Willow’s season. Buffy returns from the dead in a terrible place and has to fight all season to regain an appreciation for living. Willow is the mover and shaker of this season, albeit a seriously flawed one. She makes one bad decision after another: she has to deal with the consequences of her reanimation spell, she has to battle a serious addiction to magic, which costs her the love of her life, and just as she seems to be turning a corner, an even more devastating loss sends her over to the dark side, where she emerges as the worst Big Bad ever. But with Buffy too busy trying to cope (with some darkly sexy help from Spike), it’s Xander who saves the world this time. It’s a fascinating and dark season – too dark for some fans who tend to grumble about that. (Even Joss Whedon said he conceived Season Seven as a chance for the Scoobies to smile again.)

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SEASON SEVEN

  • Timeline: Transition into adulthood
  • The Big Bad: The First Evil
  • Core Characters: The same. Andrew undergoes a slow reformation period and becomes the least helpful Scooby gang member ever!
  • Other Characters:
  1. Robin Wood: the new principal at the rebuilt Sunnydale High School, a man with some big secrets and a very sexy body! (Hey! It’s D.B. Woodside!)
  2. Caleb: A psychopathic murderer masquerading as a preacher (or maybe he’s really a preacher but a very sick one!) who serves the purpose of The First Evil.

Big Metaphor: Childhood’s end. New beginnings.

Best Things About the Season:

  • The First Evil is an incorporeal entity that assumes the shapes of the dead. This provides the perfect opportunity for Whedon to shower the audience with visits from old, lost friends, like Joyce and all the previous Big Bads. A great deal of the time, the First assumes the shape of Buffy herself, which I can only imagine is possible because the Slayer did die twice! This gives Sarah Michelle Geller a wonderful opportunity to play evil – something she did so well as Kendall Hart in All My Children. (Hey! Why do you think I started watching Buffy anyway?!?)
  • By the end, we really feel like the Scooby Gang has grown up. And although we are introduced to dozens of new characters, in the end it’s the central four – Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles – who really matter.
  • The transformation of Spike from Big Bad to Champion reaches its apotheosis. He makes the ultimate sacrifice – which is totally negated in Angel, but we don’t have to deal with that here – and becomes an integral part of the legacy of the series.

Worst Things About the Season:

  • A huge part of this season amounts to gathering together all the potential slayers in the world – which means lots and lots of girls show up throughout who may matter to the safety of the world but make little difference to us. Most of them are indistinguishable from one another, and their presence and problems take away from valuable Scooby time.
  • Faith returns, and it’s really hard to buy her sudden reformation. It didn’t matter to her in seasons three or four that the world was about to end. Why should it matter now? Five for five, Faith!

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My favorite episode: It’s hard – not to pick a favorite but to find one here! I’ll go with Episode Five, “Selfless,” which centers around Anya’s decision to return to her vengeance demon form. The flashbacks into her history are the funniest stuff of the season, and the episode brings us to a real crisis point: will Anya be able to slough off her mortal feelings and embrace evil again, and if so, will Buffy have to kill her?

Overview: I hated this season when it first aired. Well, that’s strong – let’s say I was very disappointed. I thought it meandered a lot, and it did us no favors jamming the screen with all those Potentials. I enjoyed watching it more this time around because I realize it brought us back full circle to Buffy. Having reconciled herself to getting dragged out of Heaven, the Slayer needs to finally accept the mantle of leadership onto her slender shoulders. The First is a more interesting foe than I remember, and the various guises it takes, combined with the slow withering of Sunnydale as a community, makes for some bittersweet and nostalgic viewing. (I think it helps that I binged the series this time around, and connections to past events were sharper in my memory.) I’m not sure this is the direction I would have taken, but you have to credit Joss Whedon for changing things up again – and for going out in epic style.

Requiescat in pace, Buffy; you saved the world – a lot!

WelcometoSunnydale

Now it’s your turn. Please share your thoughts on Buffy. What was your favorite season? Or episode? Or character? Or twist? Annnnnnnd . . . . . . go!

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13 thoughts on “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SEASON OF BUFFY?

  1. Apologies, Brad–I (for one) am going to have to sit out this one. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Buffy, and I wasn’t all that fond of either one. (I like the general idea–not so much the execution.)

    Still, this post fits in nicely with JJ’s X-Files post, so there’s that… (I do like The X-Files a lot, to be honest.)

    I’m afraid I’m just not a Whedon fan, unfortunately. I thought his Avengers a bloated mess, and I positively despised his desecration of Much Ado. (I know them’s fightin’ words–many people enjoyed his adaptation; I just suppose I’m not one of them.)

    Funny story, though: there’s a local fire chief around here called Biffy. And there’s a fella who always hangs out at the local bar (heck, just call him the town drunk) called Boofy (seriously). So you can suppose, when this show was at its height of fame, how many time these two gentlemen had their nicknames conflated with–er–“Buffy”…

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    1. I had a basset hound named Jay Jay who couldn’t bark! He made a ‘boooof!’ sound, so we nicknamed him Boofy. I never saw the movies you mentioned, but I heard The Avengers was terrible. But I still loved Buffy!

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      1. This at least goes some way to explaining your fondness for the nonsense I spout…

        Can’t help on Buffy, I’m afraid. I may have seen an episode once in which someone kicked something…that’s about all the insight I have here.

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  2. Just a couple of thoughts on a Season Seven, which I thought was an disjointed mess, by the way, although it was crippled by actor unavailability – for example, Amber Benson was asked to be he main embodiment of the First, but turned it down, and the episode one final scene is never delivered on. As for Faith’s change of heart, I refer the honourable gentleman to season four of Angel, a show that I much prefer to the last two seasons of Buffy. Spike’s story in season five of that show, while undoing something of his heroic/predictable sacrifice, does bring back fun Spike rather than lovesick mopey Spike. But this was full of inconsistencies for me – for example, that ultimate vampire thing whose name I forget which take three episodes to kill? Fine, but why does the army of them at the end have the effectiveness of a chocolate teapot?

    Oh, best season? Three or Five.

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    1. This is great stuff, PD! I wondered why Amber Benson wasn’t there to at least torment Willow as The First.

      I got through one season of Angel, maybe into the second – and I gave up. The stories just didn’t seem compelling. I hear it eventually got better, but it never had that zing of Buffy at its best. But I agree that fizz was lost after Season Five, even though there’s a lot about Season Six to enjoy.

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      1. As I understand it, Amber Benson did not want Tara, such an inherently good character and LGBT role model, to be seen as evil. Which is fair enough.

        And Angel kicks into form midway through series two when Darla gets SPOILERED and SPOILER shows up, and, apart from a bit of a blip in season three, never drops in quality. Well worth your time.

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  3. I’m working out from this that I bailed at the end of season 4, having been a big fan till then- I can still remember watching the 1st ever epi on its very 1st showing, and telling everyone the next day how good it was. So I’ll say season 3 for me. But, now you have filled me with a longing to see the early ones again and follow through to the whole thing this time. Damn you Brad, I don’t have time!

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    1. At the very least, you should give Season Five a try, Moira. The central story is dark and complex, and it’s all a game changer for Buffy! It’s better than Season Four, which even Joss Whedon admits was a bit of a mess!

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  4. I’ve been away for the summer, and I return to see this post much too late. 😦

    My favourite Buffy seasons are 2, 3 and 5, which I think is the main consensus as well.

    Season 1 is all right, but the show doesn’t fully know where it wants to go.
    Season 2 uses everything from season 1 to its fullest and has the best villains.
    Season 3 brings in Faith. I’m not completely sure that I like the Big bad, but hey, the overall arc is great.
    Season 4 has several good things about it, but is ultimately let down by the Big bads (and somewhat by Riley).
    Season 5 picks up again with a great Big bad and several great individual episodes. It also helps that each character is now so ingrained in the show that everything just fits together so well.
    Season 6 does what it sets out to do so very well, it’s just that I don’t enjoy it much. (It doesn’t help that the Trio are a poor set of baddies.)
    Season 7 at least makes the TV show go out on a higher point than if it had ended with season 6. The baddie is a bit confusing (though Caleb is memorable), and the zillion slayers storyline doesn’t really go anywhere good.
    Season 8 is ultimately too confusing for its own good – at least the Potentials get used here. The Big bad had some promise but the reveal that it was in fact SPOILER kinda ruined that a bit. Haven’t we already seen that?
    Season 9 I thought was better, though still suffers from being underdeveloped. I honestly don’t remember the Big bad, which doesn’t bode well. Some of the individual episodes were quite nice though.
    Season 10 I haven’t followed to the end yet, will let you know once I’ve finished it.

    And Brad, you really shouldn’t have given up on Angel. Season 1 is the worst of the bunch, and as the Puzzle Doctor says, it REALLY picks up towards the middle of season 2. There are some bits in 3 that are dull-ish, but on the whole it’s a great rollercoaster ride to the end of season 5.

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    1. Christian, I didn’t read the graphic novels, so my knowledge basically stops at Seven. I have only watched Seven once – when it first aired – and I agreed then with what you said: too many Potentials to follow with no payoff till the final episode. I also loved Caleb, but watching it this time, I was surprised at how late in the season he actually showed up.

      I had intended to go back now and watch Angel, but it has been removed from all online services, and I don’t want to buy it. I’ll check the libraries and see if it’s something I can binge NEXT summer! 🙂 Otherwise, I’m rewatching BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!!!

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  5. Seasons Two and Three. Season Two is one of the best seasons of any TV show ever; and somehow Joss & Co. captured the flavor of senior year in Three. Best episodes of Two: “Halloween” and “Passion.”

    And there is a Raymond Chandler-esque moment at the end of the “Angel” episode “War Zone,” which introduced the character Gunn. Dialog that RC himself could have written.

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