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May 30, 2004
by Daniel Erenberg
Close Your Eyes
Now that Angel has finished we resume our review of the Buffy Seasons.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Two
Buffy 2.1: “When She Was Bad”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
This right here is my personal favorite of any of the Buffy (or Angel for that matter) season premieres. It sets up the characters for the second season beautifully and, in a bold move, makes our titular heroine quite unlikeable for the majority of an episode that could have been a huge jumping-on point for many new viewers. The threat of vampire Absalom and the Anointed One seems old hat for viewers of season one, but they’re reinvigorated by the sharp dialogue and already surprisingly accomplished directing from the Whedon. The characters are all reintroduced so well in their first scenes and we get welcome reappearances from Hank Summers and Jenny Calendar.
Buffy 2.2: “Some Assembly Required”, written by Ty King and directed by Bruce Seth Green
This is one of the only missteps of season two. It’s almost like the writers felt pressed to think of a classic monster that they haven’t tackled yet and came up with Frankenstein’s Monster who, here, is recreated as a dead high school football player who is getting an assembled wife from the corpses of good-looking high school girls via his brother and his clearly insane friend. On the plus side, the rapport between Giles and Ms. Calendar is explored to good effect.
Buffy 2.3: “School Hard”, written by David Greenwalt from a story by Greenwalt and Joss Whedon and directed by John T. Kretchmer
This is where the season really starts. We’re introduced to the incredibly, nigh unbelievably good characters Spike and Drusilla played insanely well by James Marsters and Juliet Landau respectively. The action is great, Angel is used to great effect as a character, and a new status quo is set, not only in Sunnydale, but on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And in a beautiful scene, Spike kills the Anointed One (dubbed here as the Annoying One) and takes over as the new head honcho of the Sunnydale Vampire Underground. Wonderful episode.
Buffy 2.4: “Inca Mummy Girl”, written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer and directed by Ellen S. Pressman
This is another one of those “Buffy Takes On A Classic Monster” episodes that are never as good as you want them to be. And this one isn’t. But it remains notable for the first appearances of Daniel Osbourne (who makes a really great first impression here) and Jonathan Levinson (used to good effect as “Hostage Kid”). This one barely works and is a misstep after the great prior episode.
Buffy 2.5: “Reptile Boy”, written and directed by David Greenwalt
Alright. I admit. This one isn’t very good either. Its metaphors remain obvious and underdeveloped after all these years. But it has some genuinely great scenes. Buffy’s graveyard bout with Angel is beautifully written by Greenwalt and played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz and is a glorious sign of things to come. When Angel says “This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after”, and Buffy replies “No, when you kiss me I wanna die”, you feel it. Also, Willow is excellent and perceptive, and Charisma Carpenter gets to show off her comedic chops.
Buffy 2.6: “Halloween”, written by Carl Ellsworth and directed by Bruce Seth Green
This is the one that, for whatever reason, got me hooked on Buffy. The story, and the conceit behind it, are terribly interesting and Ethan Rayne is a diabolical new character. Meanwhile, we get more Oz (in yet another great scene or two) and Spike and Drusilla are great once more. We’re also introduced to some vaguely dark origins for Giles that everyone wanted so badly to resurface. Maybe one day we finally will get “Ripper”.
Buffy 2.7: “Lie To Me”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
This is a sadly underrated episode, the first of Joss Whedon’s forays into non-conventional Television episodes. We are introduced to a beautifully layered character, Billy Fordham, only to have him brutally murdered by Spike (and, later, Buffy). This is also one of the darkest episodes of Buffy. There is comedy via Xander’s jealousy of Ford, but for the most part, this one leaves you with a dark and sad feeling in the darkest recesses of your chest. The episode ends with a conversation between Buffy and Giles that rips your heart out every time.
Buffy 2.8: “The Dark Age”, written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali and directed by Bruce Seth Green
This wasn’t all it could have been. It could have been a darkly psychological exploration into the mind and heart of Rupert Giles. But there’s blue goo and stuff. So that wasn’t achieved. I’m not being entirely serious of course. The Demon Eyeghon is genuinely horrifying, especially when inhabiting Jenny’s tasty body. Ethan is once again great, but perhaps he was brought back a bit too soon.
Buffy 2.9: “What’s My Line, Part One”, written by Marti Noxon and Howard Gordon and directed by David Solomon.
The first appearance of Marti Noxon! And, oh yeah, Kendra The, uh, Other Vampire Slayer. This one’s pretty good. The dialogue about career day is marvelously interesting and funny and reeks of Noxon. Also, each member of The Order Of Taraka that we’re introduced to is genuinely disquieting. The cliffhanger is good too. Oh yeah, and Willow meets Oz in a fascinating and funny scene.
Buffy 2.10: “What’s My Line, Part Two”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Semel
This one, for whatever reason, feels rushed and even a bit cheesy. The fights are okay, the dialogue is pretty good, and the last scene of the reemergence of Spike, rather than working as a dark forerunner to later stuff, actually works as a comforting assurance that we’ll get to see him again. On the plus side, Xander and Cordelia get together, which was a masterstroke, and the last time we see Willow and Oz together, we’re treated to some truly sweet Seth Green-Aly Hannigan stuff that tears at the heartstrings and makes you smile.
Buffy 2.11: “Ted”, written by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon and directed by Bruce Seth Green
This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. It has John Ritter (in a fine, fine performance) as a robot disguised as, well, John Ritter seducing Buffy’s mom. However, it can be looked upon as an exploration of the lengths that Buffy’s duties can extend to. This was in many ways a forerunner to the “Bad Girls/Consequences” arc of season three. The dialogue is really great here (thanks to Joss and David) and there are some genuinely odd and funny references (The Captain and Tennile?).
Buffy 2.12: “Bad Eggs”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Greenwalt
Not as bad as everyone always makes it out to be. The Mother Bezoar and her demon spawn are fun and creepy nemeses that held my interest just fine. The characterization is really good, and the further developments of the Angel/Buffy relationship and the Xander/Cordelia relationship are genuinely satisfying. On the other hand, there are the Gorch brothers, who are both boring. And unfunny. And needless in an already loaded episode.
Buffy 2.13: “Surprise”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by Michael Lange
This is the start of the second half of season two. It’s an important episode. When watched by a first time viewer it seems lovey-dovey and actually rather annoying, but in hindsight it works as the end of the Buffy/Angel relationship as we know it. Noxon’s dialogue is good, the Oz/Willow relationship adds more and more layers (and gets cuter and cuter) and the imminent threat of the Judge is a genuinely terrifying idea. Meanwhile, quite a cliffhanger.
Buffy 2.14: “Innocence”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
Easily one of the best episodes of Buffy. The title tells you what this is about: Innocence in its purest form, and the loss of it as well. Angel turns into the evil Angelus very early on and he carries the episode on his awesomely mean shoulders. The Morning After scene between he and Buffy is bone-chilling, as is the scene where he reveals his vamp-face to the Scooby Gang. The revelation about Jenny Calendar is shocking and entirely plausible, Oz and Willow get perhaps their best scene ever in the van, there is a definite abundance of Rocket Launcher, and Angelus gets kicked in the nuts deservedly. Finally, the beautiful final scenes where Buffy makes a heartbreaking confession to Giles and shares a quiet birthday moment with her mom.
Buffy 2.15: “Phases”, written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali and directed by Bruce Seth Green
This is pretty mediocre as an episode, especially considering the previous one. However, as an Oz-driven centerpiece it works wonderfully. Seth Green (the actor) is utterly fantastic in this episode and Alyson Hannigan works truly well with him. The metaphors are memorable, interesting, and even funny at times. But there’s lots of Buffy mope-age. Also, the werewolf hunter Cain is one-note and uninteresting, and speaking of the werewolf, the costume is embarrassingly awful.
Buffy 2.16: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by James A. Contner
Really funny stuff here. It’s been a while since we had a good Xander-centric episode, and with the whole Cordelia relationship, we really had to have one at this point. And it’s very good. Not to mention, all the girls, from Ms. Calendar to Buffy to Amy to Willow to Drusilla to Joyce are at their sexy best. Meanwhile, we get utterly hilarious stuff from Giles and Oz (who continues to impress).
Buffy 2.17: “Passion”, written by Ty King and directed by Michael Gersham
Behind “The Body”, this, to me, is the second hardest episode to watch. It’s brilliant. It’s quite brilliant. Angelus’s narration is beautifully written, and it’s all lushly shot by Gersham. But the scenes of Jenny getting killed, Giles finding her body, and the voyeuristic shots of Angel watching the girls receive the news about her death, are horrible to watch. I don’t use horrible meaning bad. I hope you get what I mean here. One of the best of the season and the series as well.
Buffy 2.18: “Killed By Death”, written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali and directed by Dean Sarafian
…Which brings us to one of the worst of the season and series. The beginning scene is inexplicable, the monster Der Kindestod is shoddy, one-note, and ripped off from many sources, and Sarafian’s direction seems stiff and grainy. It does contain one great scene though. Xander talking to Angelus in the hospital is classic stuff.
Buffy 2.19: “I Only Have Eyes For You”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by James Whitmore Jr.
Better. This one is good, but not great. I’d wager some of you that connected with it more would disagree with me. Certainly the acting is great, the special effects are ever-improving, and the Giles’s denial over Jenny’s death is heartbreakingly believable. But the Poltergeist subplot doesn’t work as well as it should and mars an otherwise very good episode.
Buffy 2.20: “Go Fish”, written by David Fury and Elin Hampton and directed by David Semel
Umm…a calm before the storm. Strictly monster of the week, but not bad. A sign of things to come from Fury. There really isn’t much to say about it.
Buffy 2.21: “Becoming Part One”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
This is brilliant. Utterly, utterly brilliant. Framed by flashbacks that work almost too well to be fiction, introducing the new character of Whistler who is too interesting to never have shown up again. The acting is wonderful. The imminent threat of Acathla is beautiful set-up for the season finale. The direction of Joss is pretty and dark all at the same time. Meanwhile we get a cliffhanger that tears your heart out, accompanied by narration from our new best friend Whistler that has you thinking for days.
Buffy 2.22: “Becoming Part Two”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
Not much could top this one. Everything I listed in the above episode holds true for this one too and it adds the noticeably heart-wrenching score, the epic closing battle sequence, some beautiful moments with our supporting cast (particularly Oz, Willow, and Xander), and a finale that leaves you crying for months. Now exiting Sunnydale…
|Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone except for the mind-numbing loneliness he feels on occasion. If you’re a beautiful woman that’s fallen in love with Daniel, or you just want to talk Buffy with him, you can contact Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.