BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy Summers -
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Rupert Giles -
Anthony Stewart Head
Willow Rosenberg -
Xander Harris -
Joyce Summers -
Riley Finn -
OTHER BUFFY SEASONS
OTHER VAMPIRE SHOWS
It's the first week at UC Sunnydale and whilst Willow and Oz are settling right in Buffy finds it all disorientating and dispiriting. When a vampire called Sunday shows up and kicks Buffy's butt, she considers dropping out altogether, but then Xander returns and the old Buffy resurfaces.
Anyone who's been to college will be able to empathise with Buffy as she manages to be completely out of her depth. The fact that this is Buffy and confidence and self reliance are built into the character make it a bit less believable that she would be so totally overwhelmed.
With all the feeling sorry for herself and a minor enemy in the shape of a bunch of loser vampires, this proves to be a very low key opening episode, but there is the promise of better things to come with the appearance of masked commandos kidnapping vampires in the closing moments.Top
Buffy is still finding it hard to adjust to life on the campus, not least because her roommate, Kathy, is proving to be less than ideal. In fact, she may be the roommate from hell, literally. Then again, it might have something to do with the glowing eyed demons that are giving both girls bad dreams.
Living with anyone is a tough job, but living with someone that you didn't choose and that you really can't stand is hideous. It can send anyone close to the edge, but when the one close to the edge has the power to kill giant snake mayors then things get more serious. This is another low-key affair that never quite gets itself going until Buffy faces off (again literally) against Kathy who proves to be a demon herself.
When the big bad demon shows up and turns out to be a father come to get his rebellious daughter then that's funny, but this is a lesser entry into the canon.Top
The Harsh Light of Day
Harmony, one of Cordelia's bitchy set, shows up in Sunnydale with a new boyfriend in tow - Spike. He's after the Gem of Amara, a jewel that allows him to walk in daylight and makes him invulnerable. Buffy, on the other hand, is feeling very vulnerable after sleeping with her new boyfriend and then finding that he is less than honourable. Even that relationship is doing better than Xander's new found one with Anya, the ex-demon.
Spike's back, something that (for female fans at least) means that there is no need for plot or action or anything else for that matter. Fortunately, Spike is a character that usually brings a good deal of fun along with him. He is played here with usual aplomb by James Marsters, easily stealing every scene that he is in.
In every other way, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER bounces back to top form. Not only is there the usual amount of wit and one-line wonders there is a meaty relationship story for Buffy to parallel the nonsense going on with Spike and Harmony. Adept at killing monsters, Buffy proves to be much less able to deal with the realities of dealing with boys. It's charming and humanises her when all the killing and stuff could make her a cypher.
Best of all, though, is the return of Emma Caulfield as Anya, one time vengeance demon (The Wish). Her courtship (if you could call it that) with Xander is extremely funny, reaching a real moment of genius in Xander's basement (never has a box of juice been so expressive!).Top
Buffy is still cut up about being dumped by Parker, so Willow and Oz decide that the ideal solution is the frat Hallowe'en party. When a magical sigil is accidentally activated by Oz's blood, all the invented horrors become real and the trio plus Xander find all of their fears coming to life. Then there's the small matter of the rising of the fear demon.
A nice variation on the haunted house story, this is a light and fluffy BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER story with lots of humour, wit and cracking one liners. Anya's idea of a scary costume is a bunny outfit and Giles comes to the rescue with a chainsaw(!) The appearance of the fear demon is also pretty funny.Top
Still wallowing in post-Parker depression, Buffy falls in with a crowd of drinkers in the bar where Xander just became bartender. Unfortunately, there is something in the beer that causes anyone who drinks too much of it to regress to primitive times. A primitive slayer is a worrying thought, but a primitive slayer with vengeance on her mind is a dangerous thought.
Another light and frothy story gives Sarah Michelle Gellar a chance to play cave-Buffy and have a whole lot of fun doing it. It isn't a memorable episode, but it does at least see Parker getting his much deserved comeuppance and so maybe we can move on from there.Top
Wild At Heart
OZ breaks free from his cage and encounters a female werewolf. When he awakes, he finds he is uncontrollably attracted to the wolf's alter-ego, but refuses to get involved. Willow gets upset, wondering if Oz has gotten tired of her, but her rival has much more direct ideas about how to deal with the competition.
After a light, bright and cheerful start to the new season, we are thrown into the heart of Willow's darkness as Oz slips away from her into the clutches of his inner animal. This is a gift of a script for Alyson Hannigan who seems to be able to leak at the eyes at will, but gives a powerful showing as Willow's heart is shattered.
Whilst most of the effects featured in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER are top notch, they have never really managed to crack the difficulties of making the werewolf look even remotely believable and so building a whole plot around not one but two of them might seem a little headstrong. That said, everything else is quality drama and reminds us that there is a lot more to this show than just vampires running around.Top
Spike has been captured and finds himself in a government facility carrying out experiments on what they term 'hostiles'. Part of the crack squad of soldiers working for this group is Riley Finn, Buffy and Willow's pyschology teaching assistant, a man who has just discovered that he has a crush on Buffy. When Spike escapes, the soldiers go all out to recapture him, but he tracks Buffy down only to find Willow alone and defenceless.
Best episode of this season so far hands down. Not only is there the best ever Buffy fight (between Xander and Harmony) that is just plain hysterical, but there is the return of James Marsters, who is always good value as Spike, and a most wonderful scene in which Willow and Spike both try to deal with their angst over his impotence when it comes to biting her. This is the funniest scene the show has ever done.
The idea of the Initiative, a government agency studying the demons of Sunnydale is so blindingly simple that it's brilliant. It makes perfect sense within the framework of the show and opens up whole new avenues of possibilities. The stuttering romance between Buffy and Riley in the face of Willow's pain is also quite touching.Top
Following a vision of Buffy in danger (ANGEL episode Bachelor Party) Angel comes to town, but doesn't want Buffy to know. The danger comes from the released spirit of the Chumash tribe of indians (sorry, native americans) who is out to wreak vengeance for all the wrongs done to him, including infected Xander with various diseases and killing other innocent representatives of the authorities he holds responsible.
This episode has two purposes, neither of which is very strong. The first is to discuss Thanksgiving, a festival based on the destruction of another culture and the other to set up the ANGEL episode I Will Remember You. This makes it one of the weakest of the season so far, but there is still great fun to had with the debate over the evil nature of the spirit and whether he ought to be killed and Xander's comments about his illness(es).Top
Oz sends for his things from college, making it clear to Willow that he doesn't intend to be back any time soon. Utterly distraught, she casts a spell that will allow her to command her own heart to heal, but it doesn't work. Then Giles starts to go blind, Buffy starts to make wedding plans with Spike and every demon in Sunnydale seems to want Xander's hide.
A surprisingly average episode is enlivened completely by the sight of Buffy and Spike mooning over each other and making wedding plans. So funny is this that it makes you forget that the story is nothing special and just entertains the hell out of you.Top
In Sunnydale, nobody can hear you scream. The night after Buffy has a prophetic dream, all of the people in Sunnydale lose their voices. This is a cover for the Gentlemen, strange creatures that need to collect 8 hearts taken from living people. The people can scream all they like because they can no longer make a sound. Only the combined talents of Buffy and Riley are going to be enough to thwart their plans.
There are very few full on horror stories in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but this is one of them and bloody scary it is too. What starts out as an intriguing idea (to best examine something take it away, so to examine communication take away speech) becomes extremely creepy when the first victim is sliced open unable to make a sound. This is a very scary idea, playing on all our fears of being helpless and vulnerable and it works beautifully.
Then there are the Gentlemen themselves, strange creatures that float silently above the ground with perpetual smiles and strange, fluidic movements. They, and their insane servants, are truly the stuff of nightmares. If they don't frighten you then nothing that has appeared on the show to this point will.
Despite this being the scariest Buffy episode ever, it still has the typical flair, humour and wit that we have come to expect from the show, the fun counterpointing and enhancing the fear, rather than working against it. Full on horror might not be a staple of the show, but after this it would always be welcome.Top
Buffy and Riley try to come to terms with the new status of their relationship. Now that they both know the truth about each other, they have to cover each other with their friends. Easier said than done when a group of demons show up gathering the ingredients for a ritual that will open the Hellmouth that still resides under the ruins of the old High School.
It was always going to be rough following something as special as Hush and Doomed isn't even remotely as good as that episode was, but that isn't to say that it's not good. This is a good episode that only suffers in comparison with its predecessor. The emotional angst aspect comes from Buffy not wanting to get involved with anyone who is involved with her world for fear that they will either end up dead or something much worse. It's easier to take the slight pain of separation than risk the devastation of loss that could follow. This allows Sarah Michelle Gellar to do some more heavy duty suffering, something that she is proving to be quite adept at.
The lighter aspect of the show is mainly provided by James Marsters as Spike. Stripped of all his violence and threat, he is trying to stake himself and really being pathetic. When he finds out that the chip in his head allows him to hurt demons then he's all for helping out kill the bad guys. There are some great lines and more than a few references to Buffy's past that anyone new to the series will not get, but everything works well and the episode is well up to scratch (just no Hush).Top
A New Man
The return of Ethan Rayne brings problems with it, as always. He tells a story of the demons being scared by something called '314', whatever that is. More immediately, he turns Giles into a demon. Buffy, feeling guilty that she has not been spending too much time with her friends sets out to catch and kill the demon that she thinks killed Giles. Giles' only hope appears to lie in Spike.
Buffy finally gains access to the Initiative, their weaponry and their tactics. She immediately shows that she isn't going to fit in there. It's also questionable as to whether Riley is going to be able to take her being so much stronger than he is. The main plot about Giles being the demon is full of fun, witty and clever. When Giles decides to use his new shape to scare Maggie Walsh, it's really funny.
In the final moments, we get to see the Intiative's secret agenda - the creation of a superwarrior from human and demon parts.Top
The I in Team
Maggie Walsh doesn't think that Buffy's going to fit in to the Initiative structure. whilst the rest of the squad chase down Spike, she sends Buffy on a hunt for some demons in the sewers with a defective taser gun. She is concerned that Buffy is turning Riley's head. It's not a concern that she because....ah, but that would be telling.
This feels like a filler episode. Only a week after gaining access to the initiative, they try to kill her and she walks back out on them. The real interest comes in the final moments when we see the end of Maggie Walsh's tiring day. It's an interesting twist that is going to take us to places new.Top
The leader of the Initiative is found dead and Buffy is blamed. Riley is torn between the group and the girl. Meanwhile, there’s a new monster in town.
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This Year’s Girl
Rogue slayer Faith awakens from the coma that Buffy put her in Graduation Day-Part One and seeks out her enemy. When that confrontation doesn't go down too well, she decides to go after Buffy another way, through her mother. She also has a secret weapon left to her by her friend the Mayor.
Eliza Dushku is back as Faith and is as great a character as she has always been, full on psychotic. There's nothing like a villain who actually knows they're evil and enjoys it. The twist of the body-swapping device is not as original as we have come to expect from the show, but considering the history of these two girls, it does make for an interesting set up.Top
Who Are You?
Faith is in Buffy's body and finding out a few basic truths about Buffy's life and her own. Buffy meanwhile, has to set about escaping from the Watchers' Council hit squad that have trapped her.
Faith is far too good a character to just get rid of and so she is given something of a redemption here. If you want to know someone walk a mile in their shoes is the saying and that's what this two-part story is all about. She tries to ruin Buffy's relationship and is rocked when she sees a glimpse of real love, she sees how Buffy is loved by the gang and how they fail to completely blame her for all of her faults. In the end, she cannot let innocent people die and that brings her partway back into the light.
Both Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar clearly have a good time riffing on each other's style and both do a good job of it.
It's just a shame that the Watchers' Council elite soldiers are portrayed more like the Keystone cops.Top
When a nest of vampires is discovered, Buffy and the gang call on the help of the ultimate hero - Johnathan. When another monster shows up, apparently sharing some history with the near-perfect hero, Buffy starts to wonder if something is not altogether right with the world.
The endless inventiveness of this show continues to impress. Taking a minor character (almost too minor to be called that) and making him front and centre of a story about wish-fulfilment is a brilliant move and makes this one of the best episodes of the show to date. Changing the opening credits to reflect the new reality that is portrayed is stroke of genius.Top
Where the Wild Things Are
Buffy and Riley are at a stage where being alone together is all they want to do. Anya thinks that because Xander spent one night without her that they are breaking up and Willow and Tara are getting very close. All this sexual tension wakes up something in the fraternity house where Riley lives, something that dates back to the time when the house was an orphanage.
There is some disturbing imagery in this episode that makes Buffy a very grown up show. Apart from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Marc Blucas constantly writhing around on a bed, there is a wall that turns on those who touch it and girls hacking off their hair when they've been 'dirty' and Willow's whole 'more than friends' relationship with Tara. This is challenging stuff, especially when it is wrapped up in a story that would otherwise be as dull as the proverbial water in a ditch.
The most disturbing of all, however, is Anthony Stewart Head folk singing in the local coffee shop. It seems to have no other relevance other than the actor wanting to sing on screen, although it does allow for some funny comments from the gang.Top
New Moon Rising
Oz returns with the news that he can now control the werewolf within and wants to move back into his life. His life has moved on, however, and Willow has to make a decision between the love she had and the love she is discovering. It doesn't help that the Initiative are looking for the werewolf that killed one of their men.
This plot is constructed around the decisions that Willow and Riley must make. Willow must choose between two loves, whilst Riley's choice is between right and duty. That makes it a bit structured and stiff, but there are strong character moments, especially for Alyson Hannigan. The break-in to the Initiative is tense enough and Adam seems to be finally making his move, something that involves Spike.Top
The Yoko Factor
Now that he can no longer harm people physically, Spike uses his evil tongue to create divisions within the gang that threatens to take away Buffy's support structure just when she needs it the most. The arrival of Angel from LA to make amends adds to her problems with Riley.
Following on from events in ANGEL episode Sanctuary, this is a straight character episode with the threat retreating slightly as the gang tear each other apart. It's a nice idea, but it does stall the build up to the finale somewhat.Top
Buffy learns Adam's plan and gathers her friends around her for one last assault on the Initiative. She alone is not enough to defeat Adam and calls upon the spirit of the first slayer to help her.
Finally the Adam story bursts into life and for one episode burns so very, very brightly. This is wall to wall action with an all-out war going on in the Initiative whilst the Scoobies call up a spirit to make an 'uberBuffy' capable of ending the threat once and for all. It's exciting, tense and original. With all of the gang coming together to achieve victory, it also ties up the flapping ends of the torn friendships quite nicely as well.Top
Following the battle with Adam, the gang fall into an echanted sleep and find themselves stalked through their own dreams by a force as ancient as the line of slayers.
Following the all out actionfest of Primeval it is hard to see what the point of this episode is. The action is over, the big bad has been defeated and this can only serve as a disappointing postscript to that. At any other time, it would make for an interesting and surreal episode, but here it just seems tacked on.Top
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