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June 22, 2004
by Daniel Erenberg
Two Slayers and a Mayor
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Three
Buffy 3.1: “Anne”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
This was an odd, schizophrenic start to a tight and well-strung season. We begin with Buffy in LA doing everything she can to not fight demons. We’re reintroduced to a minor character from season two’s “Lie To Me”, and the rest of the gang fight demons to rather comedic effect back in Sunnydale. It’s a dark and rather uncomfortable episode, in many ways a precursor to Angel or season six of Buffy. I like it.
Buffy 3.2: “Dead Man’s Party”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by James Whitmore Jr.
This is often overlooked because of the rather silly zombie subplot, but it does contain one of the great Scooby conflict scenes, a precursor to stuff like “The Yoko Factor” or “Entropy” or even “Empty Places” in season seven. Noxon’s always been better at character pieces than monster stuff, which isn’t a bad thing. This was a big influence on season six where the major villains were very much human. And where emotion was what ran rampant.
Buffy 3.3: “Faith, Hope, and Trick”, written by David Greenwalt and directed by James A. Contner
This is the beautiful start to the seasonal arc of year three. We are introduced to Scott Hope, the new (short-lived) love interest for Buffy, Mr. Trick, a wonderfully flashy new vampire nemesis, and most importantly the incredible Faith who gels with the cast instantly and shows darker hints at some demons lying within her heavenly frame.
Buffy 3.4: “Beauty and the Beasts”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
This is one of the big disappointments of the year. After the major cliffhanger last week, a big one was expected, but we instead got this rather weak outing. From the pretentious opening voiceover to the forced-feeling conflict and wholly uninteresting Jekyll/Hyde monster of the week subplot, it was just an all around weak outing.
Buffy 3.5: “Homecoming”, written and directed by David Greenwalt
This is the kind of episode that we weren’t allowed to see by the end of the show: just an all-out hilarious episode with no real metaphor or underlying darkness. Just some good old funny. The closest thing to an episode like this in later Buffy was “Him” in season seven, but nothing can touch Greenwalt’s glorious vision of high school rivalry.
Buffy 3.6: “Band Candy”, written by Jane Espenson and directed by Michael Lange
This is Magic Jane’s first episode, and it feels rather like a sitcom. Which could have gotten old fast, but Jane grew as a writer in later years. As for this one, it’s funny, particularly the Mayor who dazzles for the second week in a row.
Buffy 3.7: “Revelations”, written by Douglas Petrie and directed by James A. Contner
This is a highly charged episode and the writing debut of the great Doug Petrie. In a lot of ways it reminds me of last year’s seventh episode “Lie To Me”. Just like last year’s Ford, we are introduced to yet another well-defined single-episode character Gwendolyn Post, who the audience (and Faith) grow very close to. There’s also some real flashes of brilliance from a lot of the actors, particularly Nicholas Brendon and Eliza Dushku.
Buffy 3.8: “Lover’s Walk”, written by Dan Vebber and directed by David Semel
BRILLIANT!!! We’re introduced to season three’s version of Spike (and there really is a different version in each season) and it’s even better than season two’s “School Hard”. I love this episode. I can watch it over and over again. It’s touching, hilarious, and fever-inducing. Spike’s monologue to Buffy and Angel about how they could never be friends is the one of the best things that’s ever been written for the show (wish I knew whether it was Futurama’s hilarious Dan Vebber or Joss Whedon that actually wrote it).
Buffy 3.9: “The Wish”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Greenwalt
Here’s how much I love this episode. I think it’s the best episode of the entire show that Joss didn’t write or direct. But we do get the two next best things in Noxon and Greenwalt. This episode is conceptually brilliant, beautifully filmed, incredibly structured, and has amazing performances by every one of the principle cast members. And we meet Anyanka. She’ll come back I’m pretty sure.
Buffy 3.10: “Amends”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
A very Buffy Christmas. A lot of Buffy fans hate this episode because of the sentimental Christmas spirit ending, but what few choose to remember is that the entire crux of the story is built around one of our main characters, Angel, wanting to kill himself. That’s not sentimental at all. I like this one. It’s great seeing Jenny Calendar again, and we get our first glimpse of the brilliant villain The First.
Buffy 3.11: “Gingerbread”, written by Jane Espenson from a story by Thania St. John and directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
This one bores me. The story is interesting enough, and the metaphors are well handled, but this one always leaves me cold. It starts off great with a wonderful opening scene, but as the witch hunt moves forward, I’m left with an awkward detached feeling. I’ve never figured out why. But whatever. Lots of people really like this episode. Make of that what you will.
Buffy 3.12: “Helpless”, written by David Fury and directed by James A. Contner
Fury’s second episode after last year’s “Go Fish” and he comes up with a wonderful idea in the Cruciamentum and he really pulls off the story with flash, wonder, a healthy dose of darkness, and a beautiful bit of pathos. Zachary Kralik is a cool villain, Quentin Travers is an immediately interesting character, and Giles gets sacked from the Watcher’s Council in a scene of wonderful clarity. We also get one of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s best performances of the year.
Buffy 3.13: “The Zeppo”, written by Dan Vebber and directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
The second of two brilliant episodes by Dan Vebber, this one a fantastic study on the art of perspective. It’s beautifully filmed by Whitmore and contains one of Nick Brendon’s greatest performances. It’s funny and interesting and extremely sexy as well (oooh, that Faith!). I’ve always dug this one. I think it’s really well done. Anyone who came up with the bright idea that they should have shown more of the Scoobys’ fight against the Sisterhood of the Zhe didn’t really get it.
Buffy 3.14: “Bad Girls”, written by Douglas Petrie and directed by Michael Lange
Petrie continues his reign as one of the finest writer’s on the staff, and Eliza Dushku continues her reign as the best actress on the guest cast (and super-hot to boot). This is an interesting character piece about absolute power corrupting absolutely, and we get a bit of development within the Buffy and Faith tandem. We also get to meet the wonderfully funny (and soon to be wonderfully depressing) Wesley, and he proves to be the perfect man to really get Giles into the spotlight, and it’s very much worth it.
Buffy 3.15: “Consequences”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by Michael Gersham
Noxon does a fine job in penning the sequel to Petrie’s prior episode. This one isn’t as good or as effecting but it contains some really nice stuff, including the excellent death of Mr. Trick. We get some nice Willow stuff and we get to see more of the Mayor, which is always a good thing.
Buffy 3.16: “Doppelgangland”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
I like this one because you never see Joss do episodes like this anymore. The closest he’s come in years was “Spin The Bottle” in season four of Angel. This is flat-out hilarious, with an incredible performance from Alyson Hannigan and a surprisingly effecting ending. Good Oz stuff here too. In fact, we get a lot of good stuff from everybody. We’re already starting to see a stylistic difference in Joss’s direction as well. His visual style seems a bit more polished and cinematic.
Buffy 3.17: “Enemies”, written by Douglas Petrie and directed by Michael Gersham
This is pretty mediocre until the end. It kind of slogs along for a while before the complete shattering apart of the status quo with Buffy and Angel’s wonderful deception. We also get another really good performance from Eliza Dushku, constantly making Faith a more interesting character.
Buffy 3.18: “Earshot”, written by Jane Espenson and directed by Regis Kimble
This is my favorite non-Joss episode of the whole show, the aforementioned “The Wish”, besides. It actually hit home for me quite a bit back when I first saw it (all the way in SEPTEMBER, thank you WB), and it still hits me the same way now. That stand-off between Buffy and Jonathan in the clock tower grants us some of the best writing in the history of the show, and really excellent performances from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Danny Strong.
Buffy 3.19: “Choices”, written by David Fury and directed by James A. Contner
I like this one. You’re seeing a lot of that in this season. The cool thing about season three was that, though there were a couple of definite stand-out episodes, the season maintained a very consistent quality level. “Choices” is as good as anything this season. It boasts great performances from the regulars and the guest cast (go Harry Groener!) and puts on display the great dialogue and constantly twisting plotlines this show has become known for.
Buffy 3.20: “The Prom”, written by Marti Noxon and directed by David Solomon
Sure, it’s a bit overly sentimental, but Noxon is so good at that stuff that it doesn’t even matter. Xander buying Cordelia a dress, Angel showing up at the Prom after a great break-up scene, and just the awesome cuteness that emanates from Oz and Willow throughout all still bring tingles to my spine. All of this almost makes up for another lame Noxon monster-of-the-week subplot, this time Tucker Wells’ devil dogs.
Buffy 3.21: “Graduation Day Part One”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
AWESOME! I love the “Graduation Day” double-parter. I think it was handled wonderfully and it brought the season to an explosive end (literally and figuratively). In this one we get the Buffy/Faith fight, which completely tears apart everything we’ve seen this year between them. In fact, we get a lot of good stuff in this episode, not the least of which is a great cliffhanger. And we hung. For a LONG time.
Buffy 3.22: “Graduation Day Part Two”, written and directed by Joss Whedon
I’ll never forget how pissed off I was at the world (particularly the WB) when this episode was pushed off until the end of July. I waited. Forever, it seemed. Was it worth it? Of course it was. This episode is the end of act one of the Buffy saga. High school is over. And this episode ends it how it should have been ended. In a flood of tears and hellfire. Because that’s all high school really is in a nutshell. And the Scooby Gang survived.
|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 email@example.com.