2×01: When She Was Bad

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 09/15/1997]

When forced to boil down what Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about into one phrase, I’d have to go with ‘growing up.’ As I alluded to throughout the Season 1 reviews, the show is constructed in a way that details the childhood (S1), adolescence (S2-S5), and young adulthood (S6-S7) of Buffy Summers. It also doesn’t shy away from exploring the messiness of the transitions between each phase. Season 1 of Buffy dealt with the last hurrah of the relative simplicity of Buffy’s childhood mind, whereas “When She Was Bad” forces her forward with a very painful transition into the confusing world of adolescence. The complexity of the show and the characters grows with the complexity of its themes, and that is certainly the case with the marvelous second season of Buffy.

Season 2 makes an immediate visual impact by establishing the Buffy staple of having a tone uniquely suited to its themes. Point me to any season, and not one of them feels like any other. A lot of creative work goes into making this happen, from the writing to the directing to the lighting to the music, and more. When it comes to Season 2, its tone is used to highlight the operatic, romantic undertones that pulsate throughout the season, best exemplified by its surreal and moody music choices, dim lighting, warm color tones, gritty/grainy picture, and more intimate directing. “When She Was Bad” oozes with this tone, from top to bottom.

What exactly does Season 2 explore though? Well, the very first scene of the episode begins to answer that question by visualizing the season’s thematic thrust. Willow and Xander mention that it’s been a slow summer, vampire-wise, yet the moment when they close in for a kiss a vampire suddenly appears between them. The camera even frames the two of them being visually separated by the vampire, whose face is pressed up right in the middle of the camera. Just as Willow and Xander’s romantic moment metaphorically spawns a demon, Buffy and Angel’s much larger moment (in “Surprise” [2×13]) spawn a much more dangerous demon.

Principal Snyder gives us some additional clues to what’s really going on. It’s interesting how he describes the students of Sunnydale High: “There are children everywhere, like locusts, crawling around mindlessly bent on feeding and mating, destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist … they’re just a bunch of hormonal time bombs” [emphasis mine]. This reads as a sub-textual warning that allowing hormones and sexuality to dominate your identity is inherently dangerous, encourages risky decision-making, and often leads to many unforeseen consequences physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Xander even states that “lust! And, uh, thrift” are the demons they face outside of school. He may have been sarcastic in his response to Cordelia, but the show’s playing it straight with us. An awakening adolescent sexuality is not a small part of what Season 2 has on its mind. This is explored in a variety of different ways through the numerous new couplings that form throughout the season.

In addition to establishing what Season 2 is focused on, “When She Was Bad” doesn’t forget to look back on what came before; it knows how important emotional follow-through is. “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] had such an action-filled, abrupt ending that the only emotional fallout we got to see from Buffy’s traumatic drowning was a somber and vaguely fearful “loser” as she looked down at the Master’s remains. For such a pivotal event in Buffy’s life, it would be hollow to begin Season 2 with a care-free Buffy, all ready to get on with her life. Different traumas require different amounts of follow-through (Season 3 nay, Season 6 yay), and I’m pleased to say that “When She Was Bad” satisfies in this regard; for this particular trauma, at this particular time, one episode is all we need to prove the show is staying honest.

Excellent follow-through isn’t just about throwing in some token lines about the past; it’s something that has to be felt. Although Season 1 had moments that showed us that it was capable of that kind of emotional connection (especially in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]), it didn’t make it a priority. “When She Was Bad” tells us that this is no longer the case as it throws us into Buffy’s mind in a complex way that nothing in Season 1 can match. It focuses on the immediacy of her struggles, while strongly hinting at the dangers that lie ahead of her. This is accomplished in several ways, some of which include how she interacts with her parents and friends, and what her nightmares are trying to say.

Although Cordelia doesn’t seem all that important in “When She Was Bad,” her brief comedic moments have more relevance than you might think. Cordelia overdramatically says of her summer, “It’s a nightmare, a total nightmare,” and then “That kind of adversity builds character.” Later on, her first conversation with Buffy even brings back memories of the night of the Master’s demise. Well, Buffy is having nightmares about her experience with the Master, which forces her to have to grow up in order to move on, whether she likes it or not. Huh, look at that.

Through Cordelia we get insight into Buffy; what seemed inconsequential is ultimately insightful. As mentioned in the Season 1 Review, this reinforces Cordelia’s place as an Alt-Buffy – the kind of person Buffy might have been had she not been called as the Slayer. Being called as the Slayer (i.e. to grow up) forced Buffy to be humbled by life at a very young age, which is why Buffy and Cordelia might say similar things about their summer, but their meaning is very different from each other. But it’s no surprise that Buffy’s behavior in this episode gets her compared to Cordelia. This is also one of many examples of Buffy wielding humor like a sword that cuts through to painful emotional truths.

What we learn of Buffy’s summer turns out to be very pertinent to her journey in “When She Was Bad.” Her dad tells Joyce that “she wasn’t sulking or brooding… just distant. There was no connection. The more time we spent together the more I felt like she was nowhere to be seen.” These words are very carefully chosen by Whedon, because we see them used to describe Buffy’s struggles as the Slayer numerous times throughout the show (“Restless” [4×22] and “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] immediately come to mind). They also clue us into what the core themes of the episode are: isolation, loneliness, and not fitting in.

While Buffy’s outward angst may be quite explicit, “When She Was Bad” renders its underlying themes with a superb amount of restraint and subtlety. Notice how Buffy lags behind her friends at school? She then tries to avoid eye contact with Giles when he gently asks her how she’s doing. Her response, a sarcastic but unenthused “I’m alive and kicking” (I love the joke in there about kick-staking the vampire in the teaser), is illuminating. The morbid humor implies that something’s dreadfully wrong. Buffy goes on to tell Giles, “I just work here,” suggesting that she now sees her duty as the Slayer as a job rather than a calling. In “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] Buffy may have taken ownership of being the Slayer — i.e. she’s not trying to actively run away from it anymore — but she still sees it as an obligation rather than an intrinsic part of who she is. “What’s My Line? Pt. 1” [2×09] will explore this theme in more detail.

Later that night, Buffy has a prophetic nightmare that is incredibly insightful. Beyond hinting to her that the Master isn’t quite gone yet, it exposes the current state of her friendships. In the nightmare, we see Willow and Xander ask Buffy trivial questions while showing off the tightness of their friendship with each other (by swapping snacks without words). When Giles comes in as a proxy for the Master and begins choking her — preventing her from breathing, a la the drowning in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] — Willow and Xander continue chomping on their snacks as if nothing’s happening. This makes Buffy conscious of several important facts: she feels (1) isolated from her friends, (2) that her friends don’t care about what she’s gone through and have already moved on, and (3) that she’s got no support system to deal with this trauma and is completely alone.

When she pulls off Giles’ face to reveal the Master, it suggests that on some level Buffy is angry at Giles for being the one that metaphorically forced her to grow up before she wanted to; the one who kept lecturing her about responsibility throughout Season 1; the one who found out she was going to die. Giles is representative of duty — the ‘job’ — that led Buffy to death, and right now his presence is a reminder of how dangerous her life really is.

It’s interesting how before this nightmare Buffy isn’t particularly harsh towards anyone – removed, sure, but not hostile – instead taking her frustration out during the training sequence. The nightmare, though, causes an immediate shift in behavior to where she becomes increasingly reactive and hostile to those around her. Angel is the first to get the brunt of this when he appears in her bedroom window, which, can I just take a moment to say, is kind of creepy. Buffy even brings up stalking later in the episode. I don’t believe these details are accidents. Consider how this feeling will be played out when Angelus is unleashed, and particularly in “Passion” [2×17] — the setup being done here is haunting.

Getting back to their conversation, when Angel says, “don’t underestimate the Anointed One because he looks like a child; he has power over them,” it really brings home what the Anointed One himself represents: permanent childhood, and the power that can hold over an adolescent who simultaneously wants to grow up but is fearful of that growth (to understand this feeling visually, go watch Dawn’s dance with Sweet in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07]). This is why as soon as Buffy accepts the path forward by the end of the episode, the Anointed One loses all of his power (and will be casually killed off in “School Hard” [2×03]).

Buffy quickly tires of Angel’s usual doom and gloom talk, and although he asks how she’s doing, he’s clearly not there to give her comfort and understanding – he’s there to talk ‘work.’ Despite making it clear she wanted Angel to leave, it is very heartening to hear Buffy say that she missed him, despite that he likely didn’t hear it. This is Whedon’s way of reassuring us that we haven’t completely lost Buffy over the summer – she’s still the person we knew from Season 1 and will be able work through what she’s going through. This is one of those little moments that go a long way, because it makes it that much easier to sympathize with Buffy even as she behaves poorly.

In the car the next day, Joyce makes an honest attempt to find out what’s wrong so she can help her daughter, but this only serves to make Buffy feel even more isolated. This is because she can’t share this trauma with her mom (thanks to Giles instructing her not to, and because Joyce might freak out). That’s just plain rough: you’re going through a traumatic experience and you can’t tell you parents in fear of, at best, misunderstanding and, at worst, endangering them! At this point Buffy is feeling trapped in an ever-tightening box of pain, and she’s terrified of what awaits her in the future.

The lyrics of the song playing during this scene emphasize this: “It doesn’t matter what I want/It doesn’t matter what I need/It doesn’t matter if I cry/Don’t matter if I bleed/You’ve been on a road/Don’t know where it goes or where it leads.” Despite no one intentionally trying to make her feel bad, the ignorance and indifference to Buffy’s life lead her to feel detached from everyone – perhaps even above them (not unlike how Marcie, of “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” [1×11], felt, albeit to an extreme degree). Buffy even tells Willow to “grow up,” which is right in line with what this episode is all about. Buffy’s stepped on that road to adulthood, but Willow and Xander haven’t caught up with her yet, instead making jokes about groping.

When Cordelia stops Buffy outside the Bronze later in the episode, she tells Buffy to “get over it,” which is truthfully what needs to happen. But that’s usually easier said than done. When you’re in this kind of downward emotional spiral it’s very difficult to get out before hitting rock bottom, at which time everything comes pouring out all at once. Cordelia brings an important reality into focus: Buffy’s acting like a child in this episode. She wants understanding, comfort, and someone to take care of her, and she’s lashing out because she’s not getting any of it. But she’s not a child anymore. The time has come where she must grow up a bit and face these emotions all by herself.

As harsh as this is, that’s what being an adult is often about. To an extent, you’re all you’ve got, particularly when you don’t have a very strong family. When Buffy walks back to the Master’s grave after the whole dancing incident (which I’ll discuss in a moment), she is shocked to see her fears rising from the grave again. The thought of the Master being back is both terrifying and painful. The music and lighting in this scene — notice the blue moonlight streaking across the graveyard, a symbol of the life of the Slayer — are really spine-tingling, and such an improvement over Season 1!

All of this brings me to the brilliant dance scene. I opened the review with some comments about how the tone of the show has dramatically changed, but this scene at the Bronze really brings it home. Buffy is ice cold towards Angel, probably because he’s on the right track by asking her what she’s afraid of – something she doesn’t want to confront. After casting him off, she plays Xander like a fiddle. Buffy targets him like this for multiple reasons: (1) to stick it to Angel for suggesting that her behavior has anything to do with him, (2) to pay Xander back for his incessant fawning over and idolization of her, and (3) to punish him for treating her experience last year so casually.

The actual dance just might be the most unique I’ve ever seen put to film. It is a pure outpour of emotion set to odd, surreal music. The reactions from everyone are perfect: Willow shows concern and heartbreak, Angel shows confusion, and Cordelia looks like she’s seen this before (which leads to that pep-talk outside the Bronze). I love how Whedon directs this scene — the guy really knows what he’s doing. It’s one of those moments where acting, directing, and music all come together to create something really special (and it won’t be the last time we get this confluence of elements this season — see “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19], for one example).

On the acting side, Nicholas Brendon and Sarah Michelle Gellar knock the scene out of the park. Xander initially shows confused excitement at getting to have this moment with Buffy — a desire he spelled out clearly in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12] right before she kindly rejected him. Buffy, though, takes the lead and mocks him with her sensuality, even going so far as asking, “Did I ever thank you for saving my life?”, and then taunting, “Don’t you wish I would?” Buffy moves herself in a deliberately intimate, sensual manner that is exceptionally moody, but utterly brutal. More than anything else, this scene is a dramatic rendition of Buffy’s sexual awakening, a staple of adolescence.

Whedon lets Buffy be in the moment, thereby allowing the scene to breathe. The camera slowly circles Buffy as she casually sways her body to the music, eventually turning her back to Xander and rubbing up against him — not in a crass way; rather, in an intimate way that establishes her sexual dominance over him. Care to take a guess at what the lyrics of the music are at this very moment? Not surprisingly, they’re revealing and thematically prophetic: “A woman in the moon is swinging to the earth.” The moon and moonlight are constant symbols of Buffy’s struggles throughout the entire show, so much so that the moon appears in the opening credits, with the title written right on top of it.

What does the moon represent? Well, for Buffy, it is being covered in darkness, isolation, and loneliness. This lyric is speaking to Buffy’s constant feeling of separation from those around her (being “in the moon”), and attempts to connect with them are intermittent and fleeting (“swinging to the earth”). This is a major — albeit understandable — struggle for Buffy, an issue that will take years for her to work through and come to fully understand (see “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07]).

All of the elements in this scene blend together perfectly, from the camera to the lyrics in the background to Buffy literally “swinging” to the beat of her life – physically ‘there’ with Xander (the lyrics even going on to say, “I’m riding on a camel that has big eyes”), but emotionally and spiritually out of reach. This is spellbinding television, and a marquee moment in Season 2 that is impossible to ignore.

At this point, Xander and Willow think Buffy is possessed. Giles, on the other hand, is far closer to the truth, which is that Buffy is displaying a lot of the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He now understands that she experienced an emotional and physical trauma, and, as an adult, is the voice of reason. But there are limits to his understanding. He doesn’t know that she’s having what turn out to be prophetic nightmares about the Master again; he doesn’t know how distant and isolated she feels from her parents and friends. This is why he can explain and contextualize her behavior, but he isn’t able to help her much — that she must do on her own.

Now Buffy has nowhere left to fall. When she finds out that her friends have been captured for a ritual sacrifice, Buffy recognizes that her self-indulgence has put them at risk. This breaks down her attitude and forces her to begin facing her internal demons by defeating actual ones, which takes us to the big showdown near the end of the episode. Buffy gets a massive cathartic release by slaughtering a ton of vampires and demolishing the Master’s remains with a sledgehammer. As the Master’s bones go flying every which way, Buffy gets a healthy ‘in memorandum’ cry over the fact that her childhood is forever gone – it’s time to move on to the challenges that await her in adolescence, which will end up making this trauma look like a day at the spa. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, supernatural foes are always metaphorical obstacles to growing up, which brings us back to what the show is really about.

Cordelia unknowingly makes a good point at the end of the episode, saying, “It stays with you forever. No matter what they tell you, none of that rust and blood and grime comes out. I mean, you can dry clean till judgment day. You are living with those stains.” This is getting at the fact that, no matter how much the characters may want to forget these emotional traumas, they can’t; Buffy will carry this experience with her forever, and it helps shapes the woman she will become. I also see this, on a meta-textual level, as making a statement that the show is largely done with episodes where the characters don’t remember anything. The writers are forcing Buffy to grow up, so they have to force the show to grow up too.

The very final scene in the classroom may be overly melodramatic (no thanks to the only lazy song choice in the episode), but it speaks to another theme that will become more prominent as the season progresses: the healing power of forgiveness. Buffy is worried that her self-involvement has destroyed her friendships. But, good friends as they are, Willow and Xander save a seat in class and make Buffy feel welcome again – they’ve forgiven her, which shows that they now understand her a little bit better. Is this moment a bit cheesy? Yeah, it is, but after everything Buffy went through, it feels earned.

“When She Was Bad” is an accomplished and rousing opener that gets Season 2 out of the gate on fire, and has really grown on me over time. Its flaws are minor and inconsequential, leaving us with an underrated episode that is densely packed with emotional intimacy, significant character development, an incredible amount of deceptively subtle details (that went over my head even after several previous viewings), extensive thematic relevance, and a boatload of ominous foreshadowing for the rest of the season. “When She Was Bad” displays a storytelling maturity that just wasn’t there in Season 1, which is a really good sign for what’s ahead. Welcome to Season 2!

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Yay for Christophe Beck! The music (score) is a massive improvement over Season 1. I’m thrilled I don’t have to talk about bad music on a regular basis anymore!
+ Giles and Jenny are really fun to watch together. More than that is their importance as the only adult example of a developing relationship – they set an example of how to do it right.
+ The training session is a little over-the-top, but it serves its purpose to clue Giles into Buffy’s state of mind. Plus, it’s always fun seeing Buffy’s strength wear out Giles.
+ Absalom is a vampire with personality! I’d say it’s a shame he died so fast, but we get Spike in his place.
+ Willow’s attempt to recreate the romantic moment at the beginning of the episode is so adorable… until Xander makes it heartbreaking.
+ Giles’ disgusted reaction to drinking the pink soda.
+ Vampire torture via cross-in-the-mouth. Nice.
+ When Buffy tells Angel, “I’m gonna kill them all,” it’s a nice little callback to “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01]. Then, Buffy didn’t want to get “extra-curricular” with vampires unless she had to. No longer: Buffy’s changed.
+ Buffy’s vampire-dusting entrance to the ceremony to resurrect the Master: funny and punctual.
+ The big fight scene at the end is pretty well done.
+ The Anointed One’s ending quote: “I hate that girl!”
+ Not a fan of Jenny’s hair in this episode.
+ The teeth on the decoy vampire at the Bronze are really silly-looking.
+ The episode risks overdoing Buffy’s angst with the approach it takes, and for brief moments I think it does, but not by much.


Foreshadowing

* Xander nearly kisses Willow. This shows that Xander and Willow have some romantic feelings for each other, something which is brought up again in “Homecoming” [3×05].
* Joyce says, “I’ll just be happy if she makes it through the school year.” Well, Buffy doesn’t, and Joyce is very unhappy about it.
* Principal Snyder says, “That Summers girl. I smell trouble. I smell expulsion, and just the faintest aroma of jail.” By the end of the season Buffy gets expelled from school, kicked out of her house, and becomes a wanted murder suspect.
* The lyrics in the dance scene bear a striking resemblance to the opening and closing lyrics in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07]. Both episodes touch on/deal with Buffy’s isolation, loneliness, and the way in which these emotions manifest (i.e. the superiority/inferiority complex).
* Xander got the brunt of Buffy’s display of sexual dominance, but Angel doesn’t get off easy either. Buffy tells him, “Think you can take me? Oh, c’mon! I mean, you must’ve thought about it. What would happen if it ever came down to a fight, you vampire, me the Slayer. I mean, you must’ve wondered! Well, why don’t we find out? Come on! Kick my ass.” She’s going to really regret having said this when “Innocence” [2×14] comes around.
* At the end of the episode Giles says, “Buffy, you acted wrongly, I admit that. But believe me… that was hardly the worst mistake you’ll ever make.” This line is highly reminiscent of what he’ll be telling her at the end of “Innocence” [2×14], showing that Giles is not only correct here, but also incredibly respectful and understanding of Buffy.
* “When She Was Bad” is like a vignette of Season 6, as both the episode and the season show us how Buffy deals with the trauma resulting from her death.


[Score]

95/100

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70 thoughts on “2×01: When She Was Bad”

  1. [Note: Morrydwen posted this comment on February 26, 2006.]

    First off, I love reading these reviews. They’re really great reading, insightful, and meticulously done. Great work!

    Looking forward to more reviews…keep ’em coming! 🙂

    Like

  2. [Note: AaronJer posted this comment on February 27, 2006.]

    You know, Grounded, there are certain things in this world that are just NOT funny to joke about. I’m very disappointed in your lack of sympathy.

    Like

  3. [Note: Mez posted this comment on September 20, 2006.]

    I just realised how similar Buffy’s character is here compared to the middle of Season 7. Mainly thinking about Get It Done and Dirty Girls.

    Like

  4. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 1, 2007.]

    I really sympathized with Buffy in this episode. She spent the entire summer having nightmares/prophetic dreams about the Master, the evil monster that murdered her! Can you imagine how you would be if you had the memory of that creature paralysing your body, coming up behind you, sinking his fangs into your neck, and drinking your blood while telling you that the YOU are the reason that he will be able to enter the world again and wreck havok. That if you hadn’t done this selfless act he wouldn’t have been freed.

    Giles understood that she was acting the way she was for a reason. He knew that she was in a great deal of pain and was hiding her emotions.

    She did try to open up. In that bedroom scene when Angel said he missed her. She turned to him with a lot of emotion and said “I miss you”. You could tell she was about to confide in him but he had left.

    Like

  5. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 23, 2007.]

    To me, When She Was Bad was perhaps the most disappointing episode of Season Two. Not the worst – there were plenty of bad episodes in this best of seasons / worst of seasons. But it deals with a great premise – how bad would it be if The Slayer started to indulge her moods and her temper and used her powers to make her problems into everyone’s problems?

    Hey, I’d been wondering about that! How bad *would* it be? Well, she might start – I dunno – saying snotty things and, uh, being mean to her friends and, uh, being bossy and, uh, using a friend who had a crush on her to make her boyfriend jealous. You know, like that other infamous Slayer-gone-bad, Cordelia.

    This episode opens wide the Gates of Hell and sends forth a hamster with halitosis. And, maybe to make up for it, the dialog is overwritten, on-the-nose and in-your-face (“You want to kill them – you want to kill them all!”?? “C’mon! Kick my ass!”?????). It’s as if they were trying too hard to tell us, to make up for not being willing to show us. This is maybe the clunkiest dialog of any Joss Whedon BTVS episode.

    It doesn’t help that we are still mired in the schlock of Season One when it comes to villains. This is perhaps The Annoying One’s biggest episode, although it does contain his one and only decent line reading (“I *hate* that girl!”). And Absolom is more long-winded and boring than The Master at his worst, or even Luke. I’m glad ME finally realized (with Spike and Drusilla) that we can tell who to root for without having to hate every second that the villains are on screen, wishing that they would STFU and go away.

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on August 30, 2007.]

    I have to say this is a great opener. Everyone here is amazing, the dialogue continues to be awesome. My favorite scenes are when Buffy dreams that Giles is the Master; and the awesome Bronze scene: the music is awesome and Buffy is surprisingly a bitch, causing everyone to be uncomfortable. Very good, indeed.

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  7. [Note: Woohoo1729 posted this comment on December 10, 2007.]

    Buffy’s certainly bitchier here than any other moment in the series, as my memory currently serves me. Way over-the-top, but I guess the extreme degree MIGHT be understandable, I’m still not sure if it DOES for sure make complete sense given what she’s gone through…but for sure, not a shining moment for Buffy the character. Thank God her friends don’t hold grudges, cuz I personally remember every instance in my past where a friend has blown up at me like that.

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  8. [Note: Andrew posted this comment on January 4, 2008.]

    Funny, I actually thought the black preacher was pretty cool; certainly miles better than the Master. Even The Annointed One didn’t bother me quite as much as in Season 1.
    I enjoyed this episode immensely. The main plot was admittedly not terribly exciting, but all the stuff going on with Xander, Willow and Buffy was very well done.

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  9. [Note: Telmor posted this comment on January 24, 2009.]

    About Buffy’s bitchiness in this episode: She comments several times in other episodes that pre-slayer she was rather shallow and even Cordelia-esque, so the behaviour this episode could be seen as a throw-back to her old, teen bitch queen, self.

    On the episode, it definitely has it’s moment of brilliant dialogue, but on a whole, not one of my favourites. Far from one of the worst this season, though.

    Like

  10. [Note: Emily posted this comment on February 13, 2009.]

    I just wanted to say that I really love Angel’s lines in this episode: 1- “I missed you.” 2- “Why are you ridin’ me?” I have to admit that I love how Angel’s character is developed throughout the whole show- I actually like him better when he’s in BtVS than when he’s in AtS.

    Like

  11. [Note: Sam posted this comment on March 17, 2009.]

    This is without question one of my favorite episodes. Even though I don’t dislike S1 as much as most people on this board do, When She Was Bad is a beautiful, ominous harbinger of things to come. It is bolder, darker, and sexier than anything we had seen before, and it brings to the foreground the dark, Gothic hybrid of ominous horror and star-crossed supernatural romance. I love how coldly Buffy treated her friends in this episode. It really put her through the ringer, but ultimately she comes out the other side. This one’s a knockout.

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  12. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 6, 2009.]

    There is one thing about this episode that pissed me off to no end: Buffy knew how Willow felt about Xander, but still did her slut-it-up dance with him right in Willow’s face and never apologized once she’d ‘gotten over’ her ‘issues.’ This is how you treat your supposed best friend?

    Like

  13. [Note: nallan posted this comment on September 8, 2009.]

    Love these reviews…thanks mikejer 🙂

    Just finished re-watching this episode and although I found the actual plot kinda boring, I really liked the character development, SMG really conveys the emotions that Buffy is feeling, it almost painful to watch…in a good way of course… 🙂

    I REALLY liked the Cordelia/Buffy dialogue outside the Bronze, it’s onvious that they are ttrying to integrate her into the show more.

    All in all, I loved this season opener, better than some other ones for sure 🙂

    Like

  14. [Note: DFAS Giles posted this comment on October 23, 2009.]

    I can’t believe how much Buffy resembled Faith in this episode, especially some of her expressions and body language in the alley with Angel.

    Like

  15. [Note: Vera@Amsterdam posted this comment on November 16, 2009.]

    Spank your inner moppet or whatever. Best line of the episode. love Cordelia anywayzz so.

    How I have not found this site before is a puzzle to me. You can debate and everything.

    I thought I was the only buffy watcher this long after the show stopped.

    At least once a year I watch the show from S1 through S7.

    Great to read more people are still watching.

    Like

  16. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 3, 2010.]

    This S2 opening credits is so badass. It rocks!! Too bad the audio-version changed forever with S3.

    Plus a great episode btw. Cibo Matto, sexy dance, emotional issues, what more do you need?

    Like

  17. [Note: David@Prague posted this comment on March 31, 2010.]

    I guess I am too big a loser to expect some plot & at least half hearted attempt for logic and credibility?

    ***SPOILERS***

    Come on you ppl, vampires leaving beaten Xander in the library without drinking him ? Are we still talking vampires here ?!

    Also vampires could have easily drunk whole Sunnydale several nearby states while Buffy was on holiday. It really cries for presenting any excuse why they stayed hidden till Buffy returned.

    Vapmires are really shown as sorry lot … it makes me to pity them instead of fear / hate them.

    In S1 – Angel epizode it was stated very clearly that vampires can not enter unless invited. Since then I have seen at least 5 epizodes when they broke inside buldings without invitation.

    I guess even vampires can learn some new tricks probably, huh ?

    5 of 10 (for ice cream, Snyder scenes, sexy dance, shocked Cornelia and for attempt to show emotionally challenged Buffy)

    Like

  18. [Note: Guido posted this comment on March 31, 2010.]

    David, an inscription on the outside of the school reads, “Formatia trans sicere educatorum” (Enter all ye who seek knowledge), which serves as a standing invitation (unintended?) to vampires to enter the school. This is revealed in Passion.

    Xander wakes up from behind a big table, which suggests that he fell there during the fight, and was overlooked. I would think, also, that the vamps were under instructions not to feed and to bring back only the Scoobs that mattered.

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  19. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 13, 2010.]

    Well, I had fun.

    Somehow I was under the impression that this wasn’t a good episode, which was reinforced by the cheesy, predictable beginning — a baddie just happens to come out of nowhere after a summer of dormancy, and by gosh yes Buffy is there at the very second she is needed. Yawn.

    But it got very good after that. Sarah was terrific; she got a chance to show her stuff and she nailed it. Tough to display a sudden character change without it seeming forced, but to me it was fully believable. She was defiled by her contact with The Master. He made her feel cheap. Low. A slut. (Once again, I read a sexual element into their contact.) Her self loathing came to the fore in that remarkable dance with Xander, a dance so cruel and contemptible that Buffy could not complete it.

    Throughout the show, Buffy is confident against the baddies (except The Master), a boldness that I initially regarded as a growth in character — a sign of what she had learned by conquering The Master. But at the end, when she falls to pieces smashing the skeleton to pieces, I realized that her alleged confidence was a front. Like smiling brightly while thinking about the whispers. So it made perfect sense to me when she collapsed in Angel’s arms. That was her point of progress.

    A dark step forward in Buffy’s characterization.

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  20. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 13, 2011.]

    This was a decent episode. Not a blockbuster but not a bust either.

    This episode does have one of the most memorable scenes in the entire show IMO. The sexy dance scene has always stuck with me. I think of it often when I think back on the show. Not because it is sexy (it is) but because I think it a perfectly executed scene. The music is fantastic, the acting is superb (Xander, Willow and Angel’s reaction are all totally on point and you can just tell so much about their characters just by their facial expressions – great acting), and the scene is so uncomfortable that it works. The scene delivers emotionally in so many ways — you can feel Buffy’s pain, you can feel Xander’s desire coupled with confusion and knowledge that it isn’t right, you can feel Willow’s pain, and you can feel Angel’s jealousy. I love that scene.

    The rest of the episode is pretty meh. Xander provides some good comic relief and Cordelia’s line about spanking her inner moppet is great. When Buffy smashes The Master’s bones, it is a great release for her and makes us all feel better, like everything will be alright again.

    My biggest beef with the episode is the end music. My god, it’s awful. It’s music straight out of a cheesy after school episode. If I turned on the TV and that scene was playing with Xander, Willow, and Buffy in the classroom, I would never watch the show.

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  21. [Note: Lead posted this comment on June 12, 2011.]

    This episode was very well directed (with perhaps one of the most well-edited scenes I have ever seen in the form of Buffy’s sexy dance with Xander at the Bronze). I am glad that the writers were wise enough to not just brush aside what happened to Buffy in Prophecy Girl. This is a sign that Season One’s episodic amnesia (as the reviewer has taken to calling it, I believe) has come to an end, and the writers are ready to deal with serious issues. “When She Was Bad” is a very dark episode for this early in the series. It raises the bar on everything: the fight at the end, the music (except for that horrible after-school special music near the end when Buffy has made up with the Scoobies), the direction, the writing, everything takes a huge step up here. Also, the ending is hilarious (“I hate that girl!”).

    Like you, Mikejer, I didn’t really appreciate this the first time I saw it. In retrospect, it is a really awesome episode, though. It is interesting how different my impression of various episodes is getting now that I am rewatching everything in order.

    This is, to my mind, A-range material (90/100). Not as good as the great episodes, but still really good.

    Like

  22. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on October 29, 2011.]

    Buffy spent a summer in LA recovering from a life and death trauma, then came back and was mean to her friends. Maybe they did kind of hold it against her. A year later she spends a summer in LA recovering from a life and death trauma, then comes back and her friends are mean to her.

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  23. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 7, 2011.]

    This episode allowed us to explore Buffy the aftermath. The Master not only killed Buffy but he scared her, he made her feel and experience how short her life span actually could be. So many shows don’t look into the psychology of the characters but When She Was Bad didn’t disappoint. We saw the trauma she went through and this episode was sort of like us watching Buffy on a shrinks couch going through the motions as it were a little of a foreshadow to season six when we see Buffy cope and grow and deal with having been dead and content in heaven.

    We were given particular perception to how Buffy spent her summer vacation being introspective and turning over what she went through in her head instead of coping. The connection her friends have with her is shown and acted well in this episode, they become aware of Buffy having an underlying problem and that theres something she isn’t coming to terms with.

    This compelling look into Buffy’s fears through her dreams of The Master being back was a great way to go and her slow walk to The Master’s grave. The premise that Buffy has come back wrong, or at least not the same is a foreshadow of Season six. Looking retrospectively it is possible to suggest that Buffy’s attitude is her on the verge of being Faith, what saves her from this path is defeating her fears and collapsing into Angel’s arms. This moment of weakness is Buffy’s salvation. Viewers may look at and dismiss that moment but to me i think it was the most important of the episode.

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  24. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 7, 2011.]

    One other moment that could be considered foreshadowing is when Buffy comes back to the library and finds only Xander; this is similar to the situation in Becoming pt 2 when she arrives back and it is Xander she first sees after Kendra.

    Further more is it possible to argue that when Buffy was working out her issues fighting and killing the vampires at the end of this episode to link this to her working out her issues in season six with Spike, there was some fighting before the erm other scenes but it screams to me that Buffy turned to the darkness or the danger in her life to sort of find a solace? I could be way of base and completely deficient in my thinking …what do others think?

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  25. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 7, 2011.]

    Hey Gemma,

    It’s been nice reading your comments the last few days. You’ll get a lot more responses if you join the forum and post your thoughts there! Hope to see you there. 🙂

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  26. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 8, 2011.]

    Hi fray-adjacent,

    Thanks, Its nice to know that someone is reading 🙂 I hope they make sense and that i’m not way of base! I took your advice and joined the forum today my user name if you’re interested is WttHM (After one of my favourite episodes Welcome to the Hellmouth)

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  27. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on June 12, 2012.]

    Wow! Huge improvement from the musical score last season! It actually added something to the episode! What other great surprises can we expect?! Unfortunately for season 1, that answer would be a lot…

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  28. [Note: Great Whazoo posted this comment on July 16, 2012.]

    I’m surprised how no one mentioned the “extra” level of meanness Buffy parlayed to Xander when she asked him “Did I ever thank you for saving my life? I bet you wish I had” (please excuse if my quote isn’t accurate as I’m going by memory). I found it unnerving how callous she was to her strongest supporter (outside of Giles, who, like Buffy, was born into his role). It exempified how dark a place where she was in her mind.

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  29. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on August 19, 2012.]

    Hellmouth quiet while Buffy was gone, and then: “It’s like they knew I was coming back.”

    What if it’s not just the Hellmouth itself that causes all the extra demon activity? Maybe the presence of a Slayer works as a sort of catalyst that fires it up?

    If so, maybe activating all the world’s Potentials at once wasn’t such a great idea.

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  30. [Note: katalina42 posted this comment on September 16, 2012.]

    Surprised that only one person mentioned the parallel between Buffy’s character and Faith’s in this episode. It’s been repeated throughout the course of the series that what makes Buffy different is that she has friends, and this is explored in later seasons when Faith comes around. It isn’t exactly a foreshadowing, but it sets up a theme that is explored even in thr comics today 🙂

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  31. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

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  32. [Note: StakeandCheese posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    Awesome re-review, Mike. I assume this means that School Hard is no longer the preferred starting point for newbies?

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  33. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    Per usual, how you decide to introduce someone to the show depends on what you know about them. 1. Those that have decent patience and are willing to give it time to establish itself should really start at the very beginning, and probably watch most if not all of Season 1. Be sure to let them know that the season has some rough episodes, but they are sometimes referenced and introduce recurring characters. Just say that it gets a whole lot better, because it does.2. For those less patient, I don’t think you’d miss out on too much going with 1×01-1×02, 1×05, 1×07, and 1×10-1×12, which will take out the worst of the season. Just tell them briefly about Amy (and the cheerleading trophy), Jenny’s introduction, Xander getting seduced by a demon, the principal getting eaten, and the resulting introduction of Snyder. 3. For those with no patience, you’re probably going to have to pick one individual episode that you think will best resonate with their personality. Often “Hush” does the trick, but sometimes you need to be creative (e.g. I used “The Body” for my mom, because I knew it would be personal for her, and she thought it was a goofy kid show). If they really like the episode you’ve picked, then they’ll hopefully have more patience to do #2. Starting at “When She Was Bad” can still work, I suppose, but I get worried the impact of some of Season 2’s moments might be watered down a bit without all that build-up.

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  34. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    I meant that WSWB being now considered good meant that #2 was now the best way to go for less patient people.And I used OMWF to get my mom hooked. Unfortunately she won’t watch Angel because all she’s seen of it is watching the Jasmine arc with my little brother.

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  35. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    Whoa! That is a BIG change from the previous review. I mean the score went up like ten points!!! I must say that not only your view of this episode has evolved but your reviews have… I notice A LOT more maturity and depth to them now. This was probably your most impressive review since the one you wrote on “Restless”. What an awesome analysis!

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  36. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on November 15, 2012.]

    Great review! I really like your insights into the foreshadowing and introduction of season-long thematic elements that this episode introduces. Many of them I’d never noticed. I also largely agree with your pros and cons.About that penultimate scene in the classroom: I find it so touching until that awful music starts and just *ruins* it. What a shame!

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  37. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on November 16, 2012.]

    Factoid: When Buffy is having a nightmare about the Master dressing up as Giles and strangling her, that’s David, not Mark. Angelus foreshadowing?

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  38. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on November 16, 2012.]

    Wow! Amazing new review, Mike. I’m so happy you’re still putting effort into this site–you’ve worked really hard at it. I’m very pleased with the upgrade this episode got. I always thought it was underrated.Great to see the update!!

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  39. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 17, 2012.]

    Wow, amazing re-review. You touched upon so many things that the previous review didn´t have. Much more elaborate, with a lot more depth and the next time I rewatch it I´ll certainly see a lot more.Also, love how you compare this episode to season six in how Buffy deals with her trauma and she even cracks morbid jokes both times. We can even see there are three ways to know that something really wrong is going on with Buffy: the overalls (although she doesn´t use them in season 6), a hair cut and morbid jokes.Awesome job, Mike!

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  40. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on November 18, 2012.]

    An interesting review, Mike. My own take on the episode was… well, when I first saw it I thought Buffy’s reaction was completely over the top. On re-watching (and after various forum discussions and whatnot) I’ve grown to appreciate it more, but I still feel there’s a bit of a disconnect between the vehemence of Buffy’s reaction and the sheer amount of time that has elapsed. I would have believed this if it had come a few weeks after “Prophecy Girl” but three months? Are we supposed to believe that Buffy went off with her father immediately after “Prophecy Girl” and never talked to her friends and nobody noticed anything was wrong back then?Of course, that’s not entirely the episode’s fault. It’s because of the seasonal structure of TV. Still, I think that season 3 and 6 solved this better by making it clear that Buffy -was- gone for the entire intervening time period. (Not to say that “Dead Man’s Party” is a better episode, by no means. Just that the timing works better for me.)Anyway, on to your review. I found your comment on the feel of the different seasons of “Buffy” and how that is achieved very interesting, particularly because this is something I do not tend to notice much. But at the same time that leads me to what I don’t really like about the review: it feels like you’re focussing too much on the themes. Yes, Buffy has themes. Yes, they’re important. But when you write about a line in a song about the moon representing Buffy’s loneliness I can’t help but feel that you’re stretching the point. Sure, it -could- mean that. Or the writers could just have figured that moonlight means night and Buffy leads a double life at night. The problem I have with this kind of analysis is that you can read -far- more into a work of fiction than ever went into the writing of it. (Unless it’s “Restless,” of course. That episode has a big neon sign over its head saying “analyse me to death and you -still- won’t have found everything.”) Because the thematic analysis is based on such tiny details that may well have been accidental it’s possible to support wildly different readings of a text and it’s really not possible to prove or disprove any of them. A scientist would say “it’s not falsifiable.” My “favourite” example of analysis of this kind would be the paper on Tolkien I once read that argued Shelob’s lair was a metaphor for Tolkien’s fear of female sexuality, with the spider’s webs representing pubic hair and Sam penetrating her with Sting of course standing for the deed itself… But more than that it’s a matter of preference. When I view television or read a book I tend to suspend disbelief as much as I can and look at things from the points of view of the characters and people in the story, not from without. So when I see Willow and Xander almost kissing and getting interrupted by a vampire I think about what that means to the characters and what was driving them at that moment and what they were thinking and whether they were going to kiss for the same reasons or not. I don’t think about “their relationship metaphorically spawning a vampire” because that doesn’t make any sense in the context of the world and if I start seeing the show in that light it detracts from my involvement in and enjoyment of the story. (Let alone when the Shelob metaphors start appearing…)It’s not black and white, of course. A good review needs to touch on both the thematic side of things and the Doylist analysis on the one hand, and the in-universe progression and Watsonian exploration on the other. For me though, this review focussed too much on the first. Still, lots of good points. I loved your analysis of the dancing scene. And I hadn’t realised how Buffy’s nightmare was the watershed in her behaviour in this episode. That made her behaviour much more understandable to me and helped address the concerns I had when I first watched this episode. All in all I find it interesting to read reviews like these… but I wouldn’t ever want to write them.

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  41. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 18, 2012.]

    Iguana, interesting comment.I think what you’re going to want to keep in mind here is that “When She Was Bad” is the first regular season opener in the series. It’s the first time we see the tone of the show change; it’s the first time we see an episode set up a season’s (and not the entire series’) themes; it’s the first time the show makes a transition from one major thematic stage to another. There’s a lot of subtext going on here that I think is valuable in understanding the larger picture of the show.This is an episode that is very much about Buffy and what’s going on inside of her. It’s a very emotional, intimate episode, and there are several ways in which the episode conveys those feelings, which I tried to articulate.I certainly see your concern, and I guess I’ll just say that not every review will be balanced in this way. “When She Was Bad” just happens to have multiple elements that crash together at the same time, which is why the review is more heavily weighted towards the thematic side of the things. With all of this setup established, the upcoming episodes (and reviews) will likely be far more balanced in the way you prefer.Parts of the season reviews and a few exceptions aside, the next time you’ll likely see this kind of review will probably be around “Bargaining,” when another major thematic shift occurs. “Welcome to the Hellmouth” needed a sort of thematic primer to get things going, and then “When She Was Bad” is a stark transition into something new. Now we dive into the specifics of the season with a larger understanding of the subtext already established, and in the background.I hope that clarifies where I’m going with this. Thanks for your thoughts though — I’ll keep them in mind going forward.

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  42. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 18, 2012.]

    Oh, and about the moonlight… I guess I just see too many instances of it that are tied to these themes to cast it off as incidental. I mean, look up the lyrics for the song “Blue” in “Conversations with Dead People.” Joss Whedon co-wrote that song. Think about what’s said by Buffy in that episode about her series-wide character struggles. Sure the lyrics in the song here in “When She Was Bad” may have not have been thought out to that degree yet, but that doesn’t change the fact that the language connects very well with the larger themes surrounding Buffy’s character arc.

    Compare “a woman in the moon” to “I fell into the moon,” and “swinging to the earth” to “and it covered you in blue.” I mean, really. I think these musical connections add a lot of atmosphere and a sense of intimacy towards the characters that might otherwise not be there.

    I really don’t think I’m stretching much on this one.

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  43. [Note: Scott posted this comment on November 19, 2012.]

    Hi mike, just want to say what an amazing site you’ve got here! Been a long time reader but first time poster 😮 Just rewatching buffy (for the 100th time) and deciding to review every ep drawing inspiration from this site and to make the rewatch more fun :). I absolutely love this episode and think its a brill starter to one of my fave seasons (I can never choose between 2, 5 or 6 and usually choose the most recent one I watch as my favourite). Agree with all your points and would give this episode an A as it really gives an awesome tone that carries out through out the season.One thing I have noticed rewatching this season is how much the writers tease the buffy/xander relationship.I have watched the series so many times and I have never ever thought or wanted these 2 to get together and always just seen them as strong friends (plus xander is way out of buffy’s league) but I’ve seen so many instances in s2 were it looks like they are setting us up for a buffy/xander relationship. Obvious examples I have noticed is the infamous buffy xander dance in this episode, their conversation at the end of Inca mummy girl were she thanks him for saving her life and my favourite scene in ‘phases’ were they almost look like their gonna kiss after staking Theresa in the funeral home! Guess my point is after all that rambling is how it amazes me how I can watch an episode for the umpteenth time and still spot new stuff I never noticed before. There will never ever be a show like Buffy again, that makes me sad. Good job I got the DVDs…continuing with my rewatch now, ‘what’s my line part 2 😀 wicked episode. Season 2 rocks x

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  44. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 19, 2012.]

    Thanks for the nice comment! My favorite seasons are also 2, 5, and 6, although 5’s usually the winner due to the fact that it’s more consistent than the other two.

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  45. [Note: Scott posted this comment on November 20, 2012.]

    I deffo agree that season 5 is the most consistent or thee only consistent season but I do hold a soft spot for S2. I’m rewatching it now and it brings back fond memories of my teens and the late 90’s. Great cast, tone, ark and its damn funny too 🙂 one thing that bugs me is why Joyce worries so much about Buffy geiting kicked out of school for causing trouble when she should be more worried about her getting kicked out for wearing criminally short skirts….how the hell she learned to do roundhouse kicks in them i’ll never know 😉

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  46. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on November 23, 2012.]

    This is fantastic review, and really hits on the second gear Buffy seemed to find.I’m not sure I’d call growing up a theme through the entirety of Buffy, but the transition from childhood to adulthood is a massive part of season 2 and this episode really introduces that. I can’t help but go back to the end of what is still probably my favourite episode(s), Surprise/Innocence, where Joyce asked Buffy what she did for her birthday, and Buffy said “Got Older”.The other theme that is really present in this story that is a huge theme throughout Buffy, even bigger perhaps than growing up, is the impact having friends and confidants is. If you abandon them, like Buffy attempted, you turn out more like Faith, or Buffy in “The Wish.” And something Buffy had to learn in this season is it is not childish to have these friends. It is not something you throw away with entering adulthood along with your dolls. They are an essential part of life.”When She Was Bad” is where Buffy really raises its game, and gains that level of depth that really makes the show what it is. It is not a good place to start Buffy, but in some ways, it is the start of Buffy.

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  47. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 13, 2012.]

    I loved this review. It really brought out a lot about the episode. Especially the point about the Anointed One and setting up the theme and tone of the season. Definitely love the dance scene. It’s a long scene but never felt long. I liked Buffy’s eye roll as she started doing her sexy dance with Xander and then the way Xander tilts his face up into the light after she leaves, like he’s realizing what really just happened (I’ve watched that scene way too much). My second favorite scene is when Cordelia is all loud in the hall about fighting demons and Xander tries to shut her up by talking about personal demons and she’s like, uh, no, real ones. But the episode shows that personal demons are important, too. Thanks, MikeJer!

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  48. [Note: Alex posted this comment on January 7, 2013.]

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this already – I searched through the comments and couldn’t find it. Anyway, I haven’t seen this episode in a while but someone on the Snark Squad website pointed out something I’d never noticed. During Buffy’s dream where Giles tries to kill her, there’s apparently a moment where Willow and Xander swap snacks so that Willow is eating junk food while Xander’s eating fruit. They reckoned that this was meant to be an early clue that this was a dream. Nice catch, I thought, though I’ll have to go back and watch it to be sure.

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  49. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on April 8, 2013.]

    I agree with most of what has been said; however, I do feel that maybe everyone has been a bit forgiving of Buffy. She was a complete bitch! Yes, she had her reasons and I tried to remind myself of this as I watched the episode, but I still couldn’t help feeling more and more irritated with her as it went on. Cordelia was exactly right (in her very blunt way). She really needed to get over it or at least TRY. I feel that her friends were a bit too forgiving at the end. Whilst it was a nice scene to see, it also kind of sends the message that you can treat your friends like crap with no consequences. If time had allowed, I would have liked to have seen this addressed briefly. Even so, I do like how the episode did address a lot of what was not at the end of season 1 – something BTVS does exceptionally well. Thanks for another great review, Mike!

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  50. [Note: danny posted this comment on December 15, 2013.]

    Although I think the writers overplay bitch buffy and im not to keen on the sappy musical number at the end, overall i find this episode to be a great intro into season 2 that successfully deals with the aftermath of prophecy girl.

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  51. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    Though I’m frequently frustrated with Xander’s harsh comments and flippant disregard for her feelings towards Angel, his threat to kill her if anythimg should happen to Xander is one of the most touching moments of the episode. It shows that his loyalty to Willow after years of friendship ultimately prevails over his idolization and relentless pursuit of Buffy. It’s definitely a triumphant moment for Sander’s character.

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  52. [Note: Robert posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    Great review. This is easily one of my favorite season openers of the show (and for one of my favorite seasons). The emotional resonance of this episode was remarkable, and a refreshing change of pace from most of the episodes from S1. The foreshadowing was also amazing. One thing not mentioned here was the scene of Buffy running into the library to find it disheveled and her friends injured (or missing), reflected almost exactly in Becoming part 1. The fact that she falls for a similar ruse here is something Angelus taunts her with in that same ep (“This was never about you. And you fall for it every single time!”).

    Sexuality is also a big theme as mentioned above, and aside from the obvious Buffy/Angel storyline will be evident in even the minor storylines of the season. From the hysterical love-whammy “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” to the far-from-steller “Bad Eggs” the consequences of poor relationship choices affect just about every character in the show.

    And as a side note – back in the day I remember some people being disappointed when Season 3 came around in that it was “different” than this season. I find it ironic since this season was also certainly “different” than its predecessor, however I’m glad the review mentioned this as a strength, not a weakness for the series. All of us mere mortals who have endured the angst of adolescence can appreciate how quickly we as individuals tended to change in just a few short years. It’s easy to remember that we were not the same individuals at 15 as we were at 18. Wouldn’t we expect the same from any TV character, nonetheless from a character as rich in depth as Buffy Summers? In short, I loved the fact that Whedon wasn’t afraid to follow the protagonist’s progression and to allow the show to evolve along with her. This season was only the beginning of that journey.

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  53. [Note: Odi et Amo posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    God, I adore this episode. As well as being a vignette for season 6 (my favorite Buffy season), it feels to me like AtS’s Deep Down in its tone, thematic resonance, and atmosphere. The final scene is what keeps it from an A+ in my book.

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  54. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 9, 2014.]

    Minor note: you have the lyrics wrong (and the DVD subtitles have them right). A woman in the moon is *singing* to the earth, not swinging. A shame — it would be more fitting still if it were swinging. But it’s singing.

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  55. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 16, 2014.]

    Interesting. I pulled the lyrics for that song from a lyrics website. It said ‘swinging’. *Shrug* Who knows.

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  56. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on December 2, 2014.]

    Also, the morbid humor you talk about reminds me of her morbid humor in season 6. In season 6, that also states that she´s not in a very good state of mind.

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  57. [Note: ML posted this comment on February 17, 2015.]

    In one episode in season 4 (I don’t remember the name, but it’s the one where they fight Adam), Xander is the heart, Willow the spirit and Giles the mind. Couldn’t we interpret Buffy’s nightmare as Buffy representing her childhood and the other as that, like the mind is killing the childhood and her heart and spirit don’t care? Does that make any sense?

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  58. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on February 19, 2015.]

    I plan on commenting on each “BtVS” and “Angel” review just to give my two cents and contribute.

    This is the episode I feel that “BtVS” really begins. It’s my personal go to episode when thinking of rewatching the series. This is my pilot for the show: the episode that showed the audience what this series is going to be about, like it or not. There will be a lot of drama (even melodrama), heartache, thematic relevance, moral ambiguity, characters acting in a way you may not agree with, and of course the fact that characterization comes before plot. You’re going to get what you need from this, not what you want as Joss once similarly put it. The training wheels are off, childhood is over as Mike puts it.

    I can imagine how jarring this episode may have been to fans of the first season. Thankfully, fans started pouring in during and because of this season, so Joss was able to take the series where it needed to go without much backlash (at least initially). He showed he wasn’t going to shy away from taking risks even at the expense of keeping fans “happy.” Characters need to grow and change, even if that means the once lovable character becomes the party pooper (for lack of a better term). But more then that, characters’ actions and decisions will have repercussions that the show will not shy away from, even if you just want them to disappear because you find them annoying or disturbing. Characters will deal with these repercussions and come out the other side not always better then they went in.

    Yet also, it’s a great episode in its own right. But really, it’s all pretty much laid out in the review as to why.

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  59. [Note: SINDY posted this comment on April 7, 2016.]

    “Season 2 makes an immediate visual impact by establishing the Buffy staple of having a tone uniquely suited to its themes. Point me to any season, and not one of them feels like any other. A lot of creative work goes into making this happen, from the writing to the directing to the lighting to the music, and more. When it comes to Season 2, its tone is used to highlight the operatic, romantic undertones that pulsate throughout the season, best exemplified by its surreal and moody music choices, dim lighting, warm color tones, gritty/grainy picture, and more intimate directing. “When She Was Bad” oozes with this tone, from top to bottom.”

    (@MikeJer) YES! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MENTIONED THIS. I HAD NOTICED THIS BUT READING IT AND REALIZING SOMEONE ELSE DID TOO MAKES ME FEEL GOOD, I’M NOT ALONE WHEN IT COMES TO NOTICING THESE SPECIAL THINGS.

    Like

  60. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on June 7, 2016.]

    Oh my god. Oh my god you guys!!

    Willow and Xander mention that it’s been a slow summer, vampire-wise, yet the moment when they close in for a kiss a vampire suddenly appears between them. The camera even frames the two of them being visually separated by the vampire, whose face is pressed up right in the middle of the camera.

    THIS IS EXACTLY THE SAME CINEMATOGRAPHY AS THE SCENE WHEN WILLOW HAPPENS UPON XANDER AND CORDELIA KISSING IN “INNOCENCE” !!!!!!!!

    Like

  61. [Note: B posted this comment on February 18, 2017.]

    This episode is a great season premiere. It followed up on the events that occured in the first season finale while subtly setting up what’s to and showed us that show was growing FB up.

    Like

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