Buffy Season 2 Review

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Introduction]

“My love must be a kind of blind love.” – “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19]

Adolescent love. Some call it ‘puppy love’ or ‘teen love’. From a detached point of view this is a topic that is incredibly easy to trivialize, mock, or simply think of as an assumed rite of passage, but to those living it… it’s a hurricane of uncontrolled emotions. Season 2 chronicles the very common adolescent experience of investing way too much emotion into one person at the expense of their own personal development. This immature — “kind of blind” — form of love can have effects comparable to that of seriously addictive drugs, what with its euphoric highs, devastating lows, and potentially life-altering consequences. This is the obstacle that Buffy must overcome in Season 2, and it manifests in the form of Angel(us).

Season 2 has many positive qualities going for it, but the one that always sticks out the most to me is it’s romantic surrealism — its sense of tone, atmosphere, and emotional intimacy. An early scene that embodies this is Buffy’s ‘sexy dance’ in “When She Was Bad” [2×01], with its slow ‘in the moment’ directing, surreal music, and warm color tones. This haunting romantic vibe permeates the entire season, not just in tone but also in writing: e.g. Buffy’s pointed prophetic dreams and the deliberate overload of romantic melodrama leading up to “Innocence” [2×14].

Probably the biggest compliment I can offer Season 2 is that I can literally feel what Buffy goes through. This is a quality Buffy the Vampire Slayer can offer that few other shows can match, and one that will be present in its most emotionally compelling seasons (i.e. 2, 5 and 6). Back when I was in high school I certainly had a few crushes — fawning and fantasizing about girls I knew very little about — but I never acted on those crushes. I’d find a way to learn just enough about them to realize they wouldn’t be very compatible with me anyway, and that it would be a mistake to let my physical attraction overpower the importance of establishing a deeper personal connection.

I bring this up only because Season 2 is so good at conveying Buffy’s internal state of heart and mind that I can completely understand and empathize with her experience and decisions despite not having ever made those choices myself. In other words: I never experienced full-blown adolescent love but am able to feel what it’s like to experience it through Buffy. That’s an impressive and exceedingly rare feat for any form of art!

When we left Season 1, the show had just begun to offer signs of life thanks to Joss Whedon deciding to step behind the camera in “Prophecy Girl” [1×12]. Season 2 doesn’t just improve the production values though. Whedon’s vision here is ambitious, deep, and shockingly coherent. It quickly establishes its primary themes — the dangers of adolescent love and the world becoming increasingly morally complex — and then expands on them through a variety of new characters, relationships, and conflicts, both external and internal. The season then impressively juggles all of these new elements with confidence, which is apparent in its well-paced structure.

We witness the formation and/or peak of several relationships in Season 2, and every important character gets pulled into the season’s web. I really appreciate how the season examines these relationships, highlighting how each one offers a different approach and that they all relate back to Buffy’s relationship with Angel. Xander and Cordelia are an example of a purely superficial relationship where both parties have selfish motives; Giles and Jenny showcase the only adult relationship out of the bunch, which provides an example of a more healthy pace and selfless way of expressing love; Willow and Oz offer a situation where one person is being selfish (Willow) and the other is being selfless (Oz); finally, Angelus’ continued ties to Buffy highlight how easily selfish love can become dangerous and obsessive.

This is, without a doubt, one of the show’s very best seasons, and it almost gets everything right. While Season 2’s first half may occasionally suffer from a lack of subtlety, the last half is quite likely the best individual arc the entire series ever put out and is loaded with life-altering characterization, incredible depth, creepy tension, real stakes, death, and powerful emotions. Even more impressive is how it accomplishes all of this without sacrificing its witty humor and youthful charm. None of this would work as well as it does, though, if the choices made by the characters didn’t have any real consequences. Fortunately, Season 2 establishes that this isn’t a show that sidesteps tough consequences anymore. The characters won’t be leaving the season anything like how they entered it.

So without further ado, let’s start digging into the details!

Note – Whenever you want to feel Season 2’s vibe, check out these very resonant songs:

“Paralyzed”, by The Cardigans (for the first half of Season 2)

“Easier Said Than Done”, by Morcheeba (for the last half of Season 2)

 


[Cons]

  • Inconsistent first half.
  • Occasional subtlety problems.
  • Scattered development for all characters not named Buffy.

I’m thrilled to say that there is very little to complain about in Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If there is one key thing holding it back, it’s easily the first twelve episodes. As a whole, they are simply inconsistent, with some being great — “When She Was Bad” [2×01], “School Hard” [2×03], “Halloween” [2×06], etc. — and some being wholly mediocre — “Some Assembly Required” [2×02], “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04], “Reptile Boy” [2×05], “Bad Eggs” [2×12], etc. Interestingly enough, the only outright flop in the season is the oddly placed “Go Fish” [2×20], but that’s an outlier among the fabulous. That first half, though, really does struggle in stringing together consecutive good-to-great episodes.

So, what exactly is bringing these episodes down, then? Well, I think it mostly boils down to subtlety, or the lack thereof, and in some cases there’s a bit of thematic redundancy. Episodes like “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04], “Reptile Boy” [2×05], “The Dark Age” [2×08], and “Bad Eggs” [2×12] all have a meaningful thematic purpose within the season, but they’re just far too heavy-handed in how they deliver their messages. Examples include Ampata’s pining for a normal life to Buffy at the frat house to the ridiculous flashes Giles gets of Eyghon to, well, just about everything in “Bad Eggs” [2×12].

It’s a little too easy to see the seams where the writers are trying to balance subtext and text. Unfortunately, it’s not until “Surprise” [2×13] when they finally realize what the correct approach moving forward is. The subtlety flaw comes up in enough early episodes that it adds an edge of weakness to what is an otherwise remarkable season of television. A few other flaws include some isolated instances of boredom, weak execution, and questionable writing, seen most notably in episodes such as “Some Assembly Required” [2×02], “The Dark Age” [2×08], and “Go Fish” [2×20], respectively.

The only other flaw of note is in the relatively small breadth of character development offered by the season. Don’t get me wrong: all the major characters get their moments of growth and time in the spotlight here, but there are perhaps too few well-defined arcs for pretty much every character outside of Buffy herself. While I do think this area could have been handled a little better, I tend not to complain much when the lead character gets the kind of brilliant arc that Buffy does in Season 2.

 


[Pros]

  • Impressive thematic consistency.
  • Incredible character development for Buffy.
  • Real stakes and occasional creepiness.
  • Earned emotional resonance and an unparalleled sense of intimacy.
  • Vastly improved (from Season 1) production values, music, and directing.
  • Weaker episodes that still have value and are respectable.

If it’s not evident already, Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite seasons of television. Its strengths play to what I, as a viewer, crave most out of the form: a consistent intimacy with the characters, quality character arcs, coherent and deep themes, and earned stakes. It’s to Season 2’s credit that it accomplishes all of these things, and with an operatic ambiance at its heart.

At the core of what the season accomplishes is its strong thematic direction, which is used to inform Buffy’s life-changing character arc — i.e. the themes and Buffy’s arc are completed entwined with each other. Season 2 is designed to offer the first step of guidance for Buffy’s larger journey towards adulthood. The season is very clearly split into two halves: the first half, through “Bad Eggs” [2×12], functions as a setup to later episodes/seasons and gives Buffy a series of warnings about how selfishness is the bane of lasting love, where the last half shows the consequences of ignoring those warnings.

“Some Assembly Required” [2×02] gets things going by setting up the battle that will be waged between Buffy’s heart and mind regarding Angel. Daryl was so obsessed with having someone to love that he tried to build a girl out of body parts; Ampata, in “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04], was so desperate to have a chance at love that she was willing to suck the life out of people to keep herself alive; Buffy, in “Reptile Boy” [2×05], frustrated because everyone was trying to micro-manage her life, lashed out by throwing herself into an unhealthy environment; In “Halloween” [2×06] we see Buffy beginning to show signs of giving up self-growth to indulge in a princess fantasy. Why? Because she thinks that’s the way Angel would prefer her to be. Giles, in “The Dark Age” [2×08], reveals a darker past where he intentionally lost control of himself to Eyghon (‘I, Gone’), resulting in subsequent deaths.

All of these episodes are on point thematically to offer Buffy warnings, signs, and lessons that, if heeded, would have saved her tremendous amounts of emotional suffering. “Lie to Me” [2×07] then sets up the back half of the season by establishing the difficulty of making hard choices and parsing ambiguous motives. Everything comes together in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] when Buffy has to sacrifice the relationship she so badly wanted and send Angel to hell. This experience leaves Buffy harrowed and shut down, but not gone. Nearly every episode in Season 2 serves a key thematic purpose. This journey wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling if Buffy’s mistakes had been quickly washed over. Without being true to the consequences of life, the destination ends up being unsatisfying and hollow. Thankfully, Season 2 has the guts to take the story where it needed to go.

“Innocence” [2×14] is the first time in the entire series where we get a real sense of payoff. As good as “Innocence” [2×14] is, it wouldn’t resonate nearly as much as it does if, say, Angel had gotten his soul back by the end of the episode or if there were no lasting repercussions from Angelus’ time roaming free. After laying a bit of creepy groundwork in “Phases” [2×15] and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16], “Passion” [2×17] comes along to remove any remaining doubt about the show’s commitment to showing permanent consequences. The death of Jenny Calendar is the defining moment of the season, and an important one for the series at large. It validates our investment in the drama, heightens tense moments to come, and achieves a wonderful sense of emotional realism.

Following “Passion” [2×17] is a group of incredibly creepy and atmospheric episodes, with “Killed by Death” [2×18] offering solid follow-through and “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19] soaring with its eclectic mix of horror, compassion, and beauty. The themes and character writing aren’t the only reasons why Season 2 works. The productions values have really stepped up from Season 1 as well, best illustrated by the vastly improved directing (Whedon!), music (Christophe Beck!), special effects (wasps!), lighting (sexy dance!), and visual staging (Angelus on Buffy’s bed!).

Not only are the highs of Season 2 way higher than the highs of Season 1, but the lows are higher too! Aside from the stumble that is “Go Fish” [2×20], all of the weaker episodes this season have some thematic and character value; episodes like “Some Assembly Required” [2×02], “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04], “Reptile Boy” [2×05], and “Bad Eggs” [2×12], while certainly not good, all have something to say that ties into the larger themes of the season, making their presence far more welcome and worthwhile than their closest Season 1 counterparts.

In all, Season 2 packs quite the wallop in every important area that Critically Touched cares about. Its positives vastly outweigh its few negatives, and what we’re left with is something meaningful, moving, powerful, scary, and beautiful.

 


[Buffy]

Love, sex, obsession, selfishness, the loss of self, forgiveness, letting go, and a re-established identity. These are the many subjects that confront Buffy in Season 2 — a gamut that leaves her forever changed. The primary focus of Buffy’s arc is falling in love for the first time and allowing those powerful emotions to put her in a compromised position. In the first half of the season, Buffy’s passion for Angel steadily grows stronger until it reaches critical mass in “Surprise” [2×13]. The second half of the season then deals with the fallout and consequences of these choices and addresses some very intimate emotions and tough choices.

Buffy left Season 1 a child who had made the decision to step on the difficult path towards adulthood. The first stop on that trip, of course, is adolescence, an often awkward and traumatic period in any person’s life. Sometimes these traumas stem from external sources, like parents neglecting their children or bullying at school, but other times the traumas are caused by one’s own poor choices in the face of overwhelming evidence that suggests a healthier route. In “When She Was Bad” [2×01] we see a Buffy struggling to accept that she’s already left childhood behind, which is why the Anointed One (remember that guy?) is still around. Being able to let go of the past will be a recurring theme for Buffy throughout the series, and that’s no more apparent than in the premiere and the closing episodes of the season, albeit for very different reasons in each case.

As dry as the episode is, “Some Assembly Required” [2×02] turns out to have a lot of thematic importance that applies to Buffy’s character arc in the season. In Daryl, ‘the body’, and Chris, ‘the brain’, we have characters that represent the two sides of the debate that will be raging in Buffy throughout Season 2. Buffy must confront the struggle within between the body and the mind in matters of love and duty, despite the added hurdle of having an absent parent (Joyce/Chris’ mom). This kicks off a string of episodes that present warnings and lessons to Buffy of the dangerous choices that lie ahead.

“Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04] has Buffy defeat Ampata, who is killing others to keep herself alive with a literal kiss of death; “Reptile Boy” [2×05] has Buffy acting selfishly, which unintentionally leads her into danger; “Halloween” [2×06] shows Buffy how dangerous losing yourself in a fantasy can be, which is what her entire relationship with Angel represents; “Lie to Me” [2×07] prepares Buffy for the complex choices that adolescence will often throw at her and that sometimes there are no easy answers in life; “The Dark Age” [2×08] uses Giles’ past and the demon Eyghon (meaning, ‘I, Gone’) to highlight how dangerous relinquishing control of your body in the service of a physical or emotional high can be; finally, “Bad Eggs” [2×12] is the ultimate metaphorical manifestation of how messy sex can be when its repercussions are ignored.

Despite all of the warnings, Buffy made some selfish choices anyway: sleeping with Angel in “Surprise” [2×13] and letting Angelus live in “Innocence” [2×14]. This left the rest of the season to deal with the consequences. The second half of the season is also spent offering Buffy solutions to resolve the mess she’s gotten herself into. “Phases” [2×15] expresses the benefit of controlling one’s sexuality and redirecting those energies into more constructive endeavors; “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16] shows what can happen if love is allowed to be twisted into obsession.

“Passion” [2×17] is the ultimate consequence of Buffy’s loss of identity and uncontrolled passion, resulting in the death of Jenny Calendar; “Killed by Death” [2×18] and “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19] switch gears to focus on the need to heal wounds and accept forgiveness; finally, “Go Fish” [2×20] and “Becoming” wrap up the season by forcing Buffy to let go of Angel, move on, and in an awesome act of inner strength, take back her inner self from Angelus and put the beat down on him with it.

In all of this, perhaps best exemplified by her experience in “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19], Buffy begins to understand the complexity and consequences of intimate relationships — this is the primary purpose of the season for Buffy. In her first taste of adolescence, Buffy comes to realize how our individual choices in life can affect the people around us and the full extent of the danger posed by losing oneself in another person or thing, as she did with Angel. In all of this trauma Buffy also learned how to begin the healing process and the virtues of forgiveness, whether deserved or not.

Buffy’s character arc doesn’t just touch on the primary themes of the season though. In topics that are related to those themes but take on their own life, Buffy is also forced to confront some fundamental questions about life as the Slayer — questions both internal and external. The “What’s My Line” episodes focus on what being the Slayer means for Buffy prospects in life. Kendra is used as a contrast to Buffy, but also as a means to reveal that Buffy can’t just treat her role as a job — it’s an intrinsic part of her life. This is something she begins to lose sight thanks to a selfish love for Angel, but then finally comes to embrace in the final moments of the season by doing what needs to be done and sending Angel to hell.

There’s also a nicely subtle thread running through the season that sets up what’s to come in Season 3. This thread relates to Buffy’s battle with authority. We see examples of this in her numerous clashes with Joyce (and “Ted” [2×11]), her occasional frustration with Giles when his demands seem unreasonable or he ignores her (e.g. “Reptile Boy” [2×05], “The Dark Age” [2×08], and “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19]), her constant battle with Principal Snyder, and the growing hints that Sunnydale’s Mayor might be pulling some of the strings in her life. These threads all come together in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] when Buffy assaults a police officer, evades the law, gets kicked out of her home, is expelled from school, and then leaves town entirely.

Even with all of this going on in Season 2, Buffy still consistently shows us her hero cred. As often as she can be selfish, she can be equally selfless, and generally far more often than the other characters. Jumping off of “Prophecy Girl” [1×12], Buffy continues having to make increasingly difficult sacrifices to survive and grow. “Killed by Death” [2×18] reminded us that Buffy’s instincts as a protector pre-date being called as the Slayer and is a core part of who she is. Buffy may be flawed, maybe even childish at times still, but she continues to put her life on the front line of a nightly battle at the expense of living the normal life she would have always preferred. No matter how difficult the choice, Buffy will make the sacrifice and do what she can to keep people safe, despite being ‘just a girl’ on the inside.

Buffy leaves Season 2 fleeing from Sunnydale with a hardened heart that will take years to begin to soften. The season does an exemplary job at taking a core theme and exploring every little facet of it through the characters and their arcs, particularly with Buffy. This is a character that has fundamentally changed her outlook on love and will have numerous wounds to begin repairing with friends and family as Season 3 gets started. Buffy’s romanticized, naïve notions of love have been defeated. Buffy may have chosen the longer, more traumatic route to arrive at that destination, but she got there nonetheless. New challenges await her in Season 3.

 


[Willow]

On the surface Willow is an absolutely adorable character that is easy to root for. After all, she is so young, naïve, and innocent and helps Buffy fight the forces of darkness with technical skills, book research, and eventually magic. Looking at the series with the retrospective eye, though, reveals that Willow might just be giving us a bit of sleight-of-hand. Don’t get me wrong: at the core, I think Willow’s a decent person, but that superficial likeability can make it extremely easy to overlook her flaws. As the series progresses, these flaws start to seep to the surface with increasing regularity, but there are some notable signs of an ominous future right here in Season 2.

In “When She Was Bad” [2×01], Willow comes off as overly cavalier towards Buffy, not seeming to pick up on the fact that she’s not quite right upon returning to Sunnydale. Rather than trying to reach out one-on-one to Buffy, Willow comes to the conclusion that her odd behavior points to possession. Fortunately, most of early Season 2 paints Willow in a very favorable light, and even by the end of the premiere we see that she doesn’t hold Buffy’s emotional outburst against her.

An example of Willow at her best is when she comes to the realization that Xander will only ever see her as a friend, despite the hope to the contrary after their near-kiss in “When She Was Bad” [2×01]. In this regard, “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04] is a turning point for Willow as she decides to move on to new dating possibilities. It’s no small coincidence that this is the very moment Oz is introduced to the show. This decision proves to be an important one for Willow, because afterwards we see an immediate impact on her confidence: in “Reptile Boy” [2×05] she assertively snaps at Angel and Giles for placing too much pressure on Buffy.

“Halloween” [2×06] is perhaps the episode that shows Willow at her very best in all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s, of course, Halloween, and Buffy is trying to use the occasion to push Willow a little bit out of her comfort zone by getting her to wear a skimpy-ish outfit, but Willow won’t have it. Instead, Willow sticks with an ultra-conservative ghost costume, thus covering her body entirely — head included.

The genius of the episode is that everyone gets turned into their costume. This causes Willow to become an actual ghost, thus shedding the exterior costume and leaving her only with the interior one underneath. The crisis forces her to get somewhat comfortable in the outfit and — with Buffy essentially unavailable — take charge and relay information between Giles and the others. This represents a kind of natural personal growth for Willow that will become masked by her increasing use of magic.

At first glance, Willow’s relationship with Oz and the experience of being in a relationship seems to be a good thing, but it actually begins to uncover some of her biggest flaws. “Innocence” [2×14] is informative in this regard. It’s here where Willow discovers her former crush, Xander, is sharing some heavy kiss time with their shared enemy, Cordelia. Willow’s reaction is incredibly understandable even if it’s not her place to judge Xander’s choices.

The real problem is what she does with this information. Willow tries to bait Oz into a make-out session as a way to get back at Xander, which Oz immediately calls her on. So Willow’s motives to spark a kiss from Oz stem from a very selfish part of her, one that surfaces again in “Phases” [2×15] when she tells Buffy that Oz should “hurry up” and make a move on her. To Willow’s credit, though, she’s quite accepting of the whole werewolf situation and even tries to understand what going through that might be like. This is precisely why they share their first kiss at that very moment.

The final topic of Willow’s arc is her introduction to magic. This all gets started after Jenny is killed and Willow is left to finish teaching her class. The very first spell she tries — banishing a spirit from the school — doesn’t go so well in “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19]. Another opportunity presents itself in “Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21]: to return Angel’s soul to him, which ends up being a lot more successful. Giles, though, gave her a dire warning about how exposing herself to this kind of magic might open a door she can’t close. It turns out that that warning was completely accurate.

In both of Willow’s spell attempts in Season 2 she was motivated by a pure desire to help the group, but that won’t be the case for very much longer. We’ll see, very early in Season 3, that the door Giles warned about is wide open now. As time goes by, Willow begins to use magic and its power as a kind of false confidence rather than doing the work necessary to gain it in a more natural way. Eventually, the magic will become inseparable from her. We leave Willow here in Season 2 about to embark on a very exciting yet very dangerous new phase of her life.

 


[Xander]

Xander’s arc throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, more than anyone else, a story about the guy who isn’t chosen. Where Buffy has a calling, Giles has a job, and Willow finds magic, Xander is almost always in a state of perpetual limbo and flailing around trying to find something that sticks. This directionless state is very evident in Season 2, where instead of a coherent character arc we see a grab-bag of varying actions, impulses, and attitudes. We see Xander at his worst and at his best; we see him being helpful and being incredibly petty.

The key topics Xander deals with in Season 2 involve sexual confusion, confidence, jealousy, and vengeance, the first of those likely being the most prominent. Within the span of one season we see him want to kiss Willow (“When She Was Bad” [2×01]), lose interest in her yet again the moment Buffy returns to Sunnydale, continue to lust over Buffy in his thoughts, start to fall for yet another supernatural girl in Ampata (“Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04]), and then embarking on a bewildering “relationship” with Cordelia that predominantly involves a whole lot of lusty make-out sessions in hidden places. While Xander does eventually start to care a little about Cordelia, he’s primarily in it for the physical interaction.

The first half of Season 2 is generally more favorable to Xander than the second half. Turning into an Army soldier for “Halloween” [2×06], in particular, gives Xander a nice little confidence boost that ends up attracting Cordelia to him that much more. But he had some nice moments of confidence even before that, notably when saving Cordelia from a fiery death in “Some Assembly Required” [2×02] and looking out for Buffy at the frat party in “Reptile Boy” [2×05]. Xander also sneaks into a local military base to snatch a rocket launcher in “Innocence” [2×14], kills a vampire from behind to help Buffy in “Phases” [2×15], courageously stands up to Angelus on Buffy’s behalf in “Killed by Death” [2×18], and joins the swim team to help investigate mysterious deaths in “Go Fish” [2×20].

Unfortunately (for the person, not the character), Xander’s flaws often outweigh his strengths in Season 2. We see a whole lot of consistent jealousy, selfishness, and pettiness out of him. Examples include his lack of empathy for Buffy in “When She Was Bad” [2×01], his incredibly condescending comments about Buffy’s male interests in “Lie to Me” [2×07], and his judgment of Willow for staying with Oz after the werewolf transformation.

The final stretch of the season really shows Xander at his worst, such as when he goads Amy into enacting fresh vengeance on Cordelia for dumping him in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16] and then keeping his motivation a secret afterward, claiming he “deserves” something for not being able to tell the difference between Angel and Angelus, blowing up at Buffy for her complex feelings regarding an attempt to return Angel’s soul in “Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21], and — of course — ‘The Lie’ in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22]. All of these moments bring out the worst in Xander, and can often make him — jokes aside — a difficult character to like early in the series.

Despite all of his very evident flaws, I strongly feel that he’s an important presence on the show. There needs to be a character that has no special abilities or talents to provide a contrast to the rest of the group. His occasional pettiness also creates some nice sparks of drama between the core characters that might not otherwise be there. One of the many things I love about Buffy is how its characters are given the freedom to be flawed, say mean things to each other, and really disagree with each other on important issues. This works so well because all of the core characters, no matter their many flaws, are all ultimately decent people striving to be better. Fortunately for Xander, we get to start seeing some real progress in this regard in Season 3.

 


[Giles]

For the most part, Giles is a character that is inextricably linked to Buffy; almost everything Giles goes through as a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy is also going through. Rarely, if ever, does he get an arc that is completely independent of Buffy. Here in Season 2 this connection materializes in the form of a — you guessed it! — relationship with Jenny Calendar. Most of the relationships in Season 2 are built to show Buffy the different ways of being involved with another person: e.g. Xander and Cordelia show the superficial side, Willow and Oz show split intentions, while Giles and Jenny show the adult side.

This is why Giles’ primary arc in Season 2 is his relationship with Jenny. We get an indication that this is the case right from the start, with Giles zoning out Snyder in “When She Was Bad” [2×01] to chase after Jenny and then going on a “date” with her in “Some Assembly Required” [2×02] at an event — football — that they both know Giles has no interest in whatsoever. The key take-away is how mature their courting is, and how gradually it’s built over the course of the season. Although both of them share physical attraction for one another, they — unlike Buffy and Angel — don’t let that blind them to the process of learning about the other before things get intimate.

This learning process turns out to be vital for both of them. In “The Dark Age” [2×08], Jenny gets possessed and used by a demon that Giles — during his youth — is partially responsible for summoning. Although Giles’ mistakes may be in the past, they (“Ripper”) are still a part of who he is now, and the consequences of his past deeds continue to reverberate in the present. This is a red flag for Jenny, which prompts a pause in their continued relationship and is smart on her part.

Unfortunately, Jenny isn’t free of a hidden past either. Shortly after she decides to accept Giles’ past and continue forward in their relationship, the situation flips in “Innocence” [2×14]: Giles discovers that she’s a part of the very gypsy clan that originally cursed Angel and that she was sent there to make sure his suffering continues. This revelation proves to then be a red flag for Giles, who decides to put a pause on their relationship once again.

As time wears on, Giles begins to be willing to accept Jenny’s past and her involvement in the loss of Angel’s soul. Here’s the rub though: most of the harm Jenny caused went to Buffy, Giles’ charge and most important responsibility. Unless Buffy offered some measure of forgiveness to Jenny, Giles is adult enough to keep his distance despite personally wanting to resume the relationship. This is a wonderful example of a parent sacrificing their own desires for the sake of their child — an example Joyce could learn from a hundred times over (“Ted” [2×11], anyone?).

Jenny’s murder in “Passion” [2×17] hurts Giles immeasurably. It doesn’t help that Angelus murders Jenny right after Buffy gives the okay for Jenny to reconnect with Giles. Buffy will end up experiencing something very similar in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22]. Contrary to how he acted all season, Giles loses control to go after Angelus in a moment of passionate fury, very nearly getting him killed, which would have left Buffy completely without adult guidance going forward. This may have been completely understandable and human of him, but it doesn’t negate the risk he took indulging in his passion.

The impact of Jenny’s death spills into subsequent episodes, particularly “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19]. When an angry spirit begins re-enacting a 1955 murder, Giles is quick to assume the female spirit that had been murdered is Jenny. In a last ditch attempt to say goodbye to her, Giles becomes obsessed and disheveled, thus leaving the kids at great risk as they try to stop the real spirit. This leads Willow to try a spell for the first time on her own and without any guidance, which may have cracked open a door that Willow will never be able to close.

Fortunately, Giles is eventually shaken out of his stupor by seeing how much danger the kids are really in. It also becomes clear that Jenny would never be as cruel as the spirit is being. Coming to this realization allows Giles to begin the process of moving on from Jenny’s death and getting his focus back on helping Buffy succeed.

Giles’ arc in Season 2 is very nicely done. It’s mostly used as an example and comparison point for Buffy as she embarks on her first significant romantic relationship. Buffy should have spent more time learning from Giles’ example rather than poking fun at him, because of all the relationships highlighted in Season 2, Giles and Jenny had the smartest, strongest, and most beautiful of them all. Jenny will be missed!

 


[Cordelia]

Cordelia, in her time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is an example of what Buffy might have been like had she not been called as the Slayer — a mostly selfish, privileged teenage girl with the occasional bully streak. True to this notion, Cordelia’s relationship with Xander is a comedic, superficial, and less melodramatic parallel to Buffy’s relationship with Angel — melodrama which is even mocked in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10]. For most of Season 2 Cordelia is wrapped up in this ridiculous and mostly amusing relationship, but she gets a sprinkle of unrelated standout moments too.

In “When She Was Bad” [2×01] Cordelia is the one who is able to offer Buffy no frills advice during an emotional breakdown; in “Some Assembly Required” [2×02] Cordelia offers Xander a heartfelt ‘thanks’ for saving her life; in “Reptile Boy” [2×05] Cordelia pulls Buffy to a college frat party to hook up with older guys only to quickly recant and return to guys closer to her age after what happens; in “Killed by Death” [2×18], Cordelia is resourceful and quite helpful to Buffy and the Scoobies.

If there’s one singular moment to remember Cordelia by in Season 2, though, it’s when she ditches Harmony and her old group of friends to be with Xander, despite knowing it will tarnish her image. This is a key moment where she actually follows-through on her claim of being an independent thinker who is capable of making her own choices, regardless of what others may think. As challenging as this move was, Season 3 will test Cordelia even further.

 


[Oz]

Anyone searching for the best way to introduce a new character should look no further than Oz. Making his first appearance in “Inca Mummy Girl” [2×04], he immediately ingratiates himself to the audience by noticing how adorable Willow looks in her Eskimo costume. This works even better because Oz doesn’t interact with any of the core characters in that episode, thus not raising the audience’s suspicion that this will eventually become a series regular. Everything about the way Oz is gradually introduced to the various characters throughout Season 2 is wonderfully subtle and natural, which makes it easy to find his added presence to be a welcoming one rather than an intrusive one.

It’s not until around “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10] where we really start to get to know Oz a little better; it’s here where his fun personality starts to shine. Although Oz rarely gets the dedicated character development I feel he deserves, his personality is one that really resonates with me. Oz just has a wonderfully dry/understated sense of humor and timing about him, which is much closer to my style of humor than the more slapstick style of one Xander Harris. Contributing to this is that Oz’s jokes tend to have a bit of sophistication to them, which is a joy to watch.

Oz isn’t in very many episodes in Season 2, but when he is he makes it count. Most of the season focuses on his budding relationship with Willow. (Of course.) I appreciate how Oz, the guy, is the one showing restraint in letting things get physical too quickly, while Willow, the girl, is the one that feels pressure to rush into it. Oz’s restraint, best seen in his rebuttal to Willow’s attempt to spite Xander in “Innocence” [2×14], is admirable and endears the audience to him even further. It’s always nice to see a teen have a motivation for a relationship that isn’t purely physical.

Things get complicated, though, when Oz turns into a werewolf in “Phases” [2×15]. Beyond fitting into the season thematically, this development also serves to make things as difficult as possible for Oz to remain in control of his more basic urges. True to his quality of character, he agrees to lock himself up during the time when he has the least control over himself: the days around and including the full moon. For a recurring character Oz is used quite well, although I wouldn’t have minded to see him around a bit more often at the end of the season. Despite becoming a series regular in Season 3, he sadly might actually get even less to do. Regardless: Oz is a very welcome addition to the show!

 


[Angel/Angelus]

Angel primarily exists as ‘the love interest’ for Buffy up until the midway point of the season. This incarnation of the character is, to be frank, quite dull, having a generic brooding, mysterious quality about him that attempts to misdirect both us and Buffy from the fact that he doesn’t have much of a personality or direction in life at all. On his own, separate from Buffy, this all adds up to one boring and uninteresting character, and a generally poorly acted one to boot. This may sound damning, but fortunately his presence still offers real value to the season. This comes down to how his relationship with Buffy helps shape her character arc, most of which has already been discussed.

There are two episodes in the season that provide the bulk of Angel’s backstory and inform why his personality is the way it is: “Lie to Me” [2×07] and “Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21]. In the former, we learn about what he did to Drusilla, that Buffy has good reason not to completely trust him, and of several ominous hints that their relationship will not end well. In the latter, we see the kind of person Angel was before he even became a vampire: an aimless, selfish pretty boy who often came home drunk from the local tavern. This “man” was easily wooed by Darla and was all-too eager to run off with a stranger with the implication of wild abandon. It is with this background that we look at Angel, a guilt-ridden version of the same man. Take that guilt away, though? Well, that’s when things get really ugly.

Angelus is such a first rate villain because of his intimate connection to Buffy. He’s gotten closer to her heart than anyone else thus far — he’s her first love. So for him to use that intimacy to tear her down is utterly devastating. This isn’t just a simple ‘boyfriend becomes horrible after sex’ story, though. In his own twisted, demonic way, Angelus still loves Buffy! Where Angel loved her in a tender, romantic way, Angelus loves her in an obsessive, destructive way.

Although it’s never explicitly stated, I strongly believe that Angelus’ goal was to do to Buffy what he did to Drusilla: tear her down, make her a vampire, and then live an immortal live with a soulless, demonic version of Buffy as a partner for the ages. The end goal for both Angel and Angelus was the same: to be intimate with Buffy. This is why the Angelus arc in the latter half of the season is so operatic and powerful. The villain’s motivations are a play on very human failings — lust and obsession — and have a direct connection with the lead character.

When Angel returns in the final moments of the season, dazed and confused by what happened, right before Buffy runs him through with a sword, it’s a great reminder that he had no business getting romantically involved with Buffy and holds more responsibility for the way things went down than Buffy does. Angel barely has any idea who he is and has very little to offer in a relationship. (There’s also the illicit adult/child, slayer/vampire dynamic at play.) Before Angel can have any chance at being able to offer something to others he needs to fully discover what kind of person he is and what direction he wants to see his life pointed going forward. Season 3, to an extent, and Angel the series will go on to explore these questions in more detail.

 


[Spike and Drusilla]

For all the bluster Spike and Drusilla make when they march into Season 2 in “School Hard” [2×03], they’re actually not a very big part of the season. We’re initially meant to view them as the primary villains of the season, but after Spike gets seriously injured in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10] the threat they represent begins to drift. This is, of course, intentional, because Angelus will arrive shortly after this and take center stage, with Spike wheelchair bound until the end of the season.

Despite not being the biggest threat, Spike and Drusilla serve an important purpose to the larger story and themes the season is trying to tell. At the most basic level, these two vampire lovers immediately fit into this season’s tale of relationships. All of the main characters are getting into relationships, so why shouldn’t the villains be in on the action as well? Rather than seeing the Spike/Drusilla relationship as meaning something in of itself, I see each person within it representing a different aspect of Buffy. Spike represents her confidence, impatience, and fire while Drusilla primarily represents her lust (and shares her gift for prophetic visions), the latter of which is never more evident than in “Surprise” [2×13].

Spike is of particular interest because he will come to have a much larger presence in the series down the road. The key concept that his introduction provides is that he is very much a villainous counterpart of Buffy. “School Hard” [2×03] used several techniques to convey their connection, from the symbolic (the red line on their cheeks) to the literal (their unpredictability and subversive nature). Where Buffy creatively slays a vampire in a pumpkin patch, Spike changes his time of attack simply because he gets bored waiting; where Buffy constantly breaks the rules of being the Slayer, such as keeping family and friends close by, Spike constantly breaks the rules of being a vampire, such as ignoring vampire traditions; where Buffy eventually breaks free of the Watchers’ Council, Spike breaks free of the Order of Aurelius.

It’s no coincidence that when Buffy finally confronts her guilt over Angel, forgives herself for what happened to him, and begins the process of moving on in “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19], Spike triumphantly stands up from his wheelchair and is back at full strength again. When Buffy is at her weakest — “Surprise” [2×13] and “Innocence” [2×14] — Spike is also at his weakest. These two do things their own way, which will eventually serve to unite them.

That process of bringing them together begins in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22], when a desperate Spike enlists Buffy’s help to stop Angelus from sucking the world into hell. The scene where Buffy’s tries to explain to Joyce who Spike is will come to define the relationship between them going forward. Spike may think he knows Buffy, but it turns out he’s singing to the beat of her drums. Drusilla will eventually see this change in Spike (e.g. the flashback in “Fool for Love” [5×07]), which is why we will find out in “Lover’s Walk” [3×08] that she left him because of it. It turns out that Spike’s arrival in Sunnydale will end up being a landmark moment in his existence. Season 5 will be when we begin to see these changes accelerate. Spike is yet another complex and colorful addition to the series that Season 2 can be proud of.

 


[Conclusion]

Season 2 is a really special season of television for me, one that transcends the sum of its parts and offers a vastly more complex and emotional experience than Season 1. You’d think this is because I personally relate to the character arcs and themes, but I don’t, actually. Every aspect of the season is built to emphasize intimacy: writing, directing, music, lighting, etc., which all combine to create this incredibly romantic, operatic vibe that can be felt in nearly every episode. It’s not often that a series consistently shows us the inner psychological and emotional lives of its characters, but Season 2 accomplishes this with aplomb.

The strengths of the season are numerous and include an impressive realization of its themes, intelligent writing, incredibly emotional and intimate stories (whether funny or sad), momentous character growth for Buffy, several ridiculously top-notch episodes, copious amounts of foreshadowing, and one of the best villains to ever grace a television screen in Angelus. The weaknesses of the season are few, and only one is of any real nuisance: the notable number of mediocre episodes in the first half of the season that suffer from heavy-handed messages and an overly blunt delivery.

While certainly not flawless, Season 2 still puts together an impressive package. It contains some of the most beautiful and painful moments of television I have ever witnessed, quite possibly the strongest individual arc of the series, and manages to successfully juggle its artistic integrity with a whole lot of entertainment value.

Adolescent love is like playing with fire. If an adolescent lacks strong and united role models in the house growing up, this phase of life will almost always be a psychologically and emotionally traumatic endeavor. Even with good role models the pull of selfish love and nascent lustful desire is immensely powerful. The key takeaway: focus on nourishing oneself and learning about others before getting entangled in intimate relationships. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s certainly clear now: actions have consequences.

Angel was a dangerous fantasy and a distraction to Buffy’s calling as the Slayer in which she almost lost everything to him. This experience will affect Buffy in ways both subtle and not for seasons to come; the fallout of Season 2 will be felt for the rest of the series.

 



[Score]

93/100

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71 thoughts on “Buffy Season 2 Review”

  1. [Note: Lottie posted this comment on October 21, 2006.]

    I was suprised at first that the overall score for this season was higher than that for S3. Admittedly, there are some absolutely brilliant episodes in the second half of the season, but episodes that got As in this season (School Hard, Halloween)look poor compared to As of S3 (Helpless, Doppelgangland). And I think overall S3 is better than S2…. But anyway I just want to say that I really respect you for your brilliant reviews of Buffy. There is so much depth in this show, and it is great to see someone appreciating it for its true value, while still laughing at the jokes! BtVs is some of the best TV I’ve ever watched, so thank you for reviewing it the way it deserves.

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  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    This season is just amazing, and I don`t think it`s just the fact of the latter half of the season(although that helps alot) but I think it is also the atmosphere of the season. Even the first half is mostly good. I think WSWB, Lie to Me, School Hard and Halloween are amazing. But from Surprise till Becoming are really one of the best episodes of the series, really heartbreaking. I love S3 but comparing the two, I prefer S2 because of the melodramatic effect it has on me and because I think episodes like Becoming 2, Passsion, Innocence, Surprise and IOHEFY are greater than some the best episodes of S3, even though The Wish and GD2 are awesome too.

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  3. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    I’m always torn between Season Two and Season Five regarding which was the best season of Buffy. It really boils down to whether I’m looking at the overall average or the top scores. Considered as a complete unit, I have to go with Season Five. But if I’m asked which season had the very best moments, the most quintessentially Buffy moments in the series, I have to go with Season Two.

    It isn’t even a matter of individual episodes. I love Innocence and Passion and I Only Have Eyes For You and Becoming Part II, but I can’t honestly say that they’re better than (or even quite as good as) Fool For Love, Blood Ties, and The Body. Likewise Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered vs. Crush or Intervention.

    It’s the moments themselves that delight and amaze. The moment in the cemetery when Buffy says to Giles, “Lie to me.” The moment when Buffy realizes she’s killed Ted (the first time, before she knows he’s a robot). The scene in Innocence when Angelus verbally tortures Buffy over their sexual encounter, and later when Joyce asks what she got for her birthday and Buffy says, “Older.” Actually that whole scene with Joyce, and also Giles’s speech immediately preceding it. The sequence in Passion when Giles arrives home and finds the rose, and the scene with Buffy after she rescues him (“You can’t leave me. I can’t do this alone”). The entire Buffy/James – Angelus/Grace scene in I Only Have Eyes For You, from the moment Grace possesses Angelus until she/he stops the suicide. The moment Buffy gets Angel back in Becoming Part II, only to realize that she has to sacrifice him, and the whole closing sequence in which Buffy surveys everything she has lost, her face like a fist, under Sarah McLachlan’s “Full of Grace.” There were great funny moments in Season Two also, but right now I’m too teary to remember any.

    All of those episodes have weak moments, clunky dialog, scenes that don’t work, and general lapses in quality control. But the moments lift them up high. These are things – first love, first betrayal, first loss – that the series could only do once. And Buffy as a character never regained the innocence that she lost in the process (nor should she have, but still, loss is loss).

    On the other hand, there are some pretty bad episodes in Season Two, worse than anything else outside Seasons One and Seven. When She Was Bad and Some Assembly Required continue the (comparative) suckage that was Season One, although When She Was Bad has redeeming features. Some people rave about how wonderful School Hard was, but to me it was just the first episode to completly escape the suck (YMMV). The boring, contrived, and pointless Killed By Death dipped very close indeed to the surface of the suck, and I didn’t love Go Fish very much either, positioned as it was as a sudden and inexplicable expanse of silly between IOHEFY and the season finale.

    Do the good and the bad cancel out? In On the Sublime, Longinus argued that brilliance, even momentary brilliance, is superior to sustained excellence. I’m not sure I agree, but when I think of Season Two I always remember Buffy and Angel and the sword, and hardly ever remember Der Kinderstod or Eric the creepy photographer (although I do still gnaw on the memory of The Annoying One from time to time).

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  4. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 22, 2007.]

    The first time I saw season 2 I really wasn’t that impressed and I hurried on to S3 so I could find out what happened to Buffy. Now that I come back to it though, reading these reviews, and letting more of the subtle content sink in, I realize what an amazing job ME did in creating this season. The emotion just rips your gut out, and the humor is great too. I really like this season for all of its firsts and surprises.

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  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 17, 2007.]

    The more I watch this season, the more I love it. Absolutely heartbreaking, hilarious and important to our characters. Episodes like Passion, IOHEFY, Innocence and Becoming show a truly amazing and heartbreaking season and it even gets better with each viewing.

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  6. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 8, 2007.]

    S2 was, undoubtedly, great. Not my favorite, though. I think it’s primarily because 1) I was never too into the Buffy/Angel romance so it didn’t have as big an emotional impact for me. 2) I didn’t watch the show until I was in college so I find it easier to relate to the later seasons when everybody’s older rather than the high school seasons.

    Although choosing a favorite is a subjective thing, and I respect that a lot of people feel that S2 was the height of Buffy perfection. I tend to prefer S5 and some parts of S6 & S7.

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  7. [Note: Kristin Williams posted this comment on May 23, 2008.]

    I think the Demon that what we made that we brought buffy back was crucile and danger and plus the magic that Willow was conjuring is dangerous and very powerful and Leo from charmed is going to help you willow cause it was wrong.

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  8. [Note: Ninaa posted this comment on June 3, 2008.]

    personally, i really did not like season 4 of buffy the vampire slayer, probably because of dumb Riley.. i really did not like him, anyway. This season would haev to be my favorite season, for me aswell it touched so close to home (not that i’ve had a romance with a vampire, in which i had sexual intercourse with and turned him into a monsterous creature, and then watched him get his soul back, and then stabbing him, but you know what i mean) and it had so much emotion in it, you got to see Willow start out on her witch path, and Spike was given a chance 🙂 it was an excellent season, deffintly the best, i agree one hundred percent on your reviews 🙂

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  9. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on April 13, 2009.]

    I don’t agree with you. Season 2 has some very interesting storylines, but it had its flaws.

    One of them was Angelus. I found him a bore. But then I usually find sadists to be a bore. I got tired of him thinking of ways to refrain from killing Buffy.

    Two, I found the season’s storyline rather disjoined. The presence of Spike and Drusilla barely kept it together. They weren’t even the real cause of Angel losing his soul. It was Buffy. And the whole “Innocence”/”Surprise” two-parter was badly written . . . especially the few scenes that featured Angel’s loss of his soul. It struck me as anti-climatic.

    Three, I could have been impressed by the Season finale – “Becoming” – if it were not for one or two plotlines that I found rather flawed, namely those that centered around Buffy’s flight from the police and Angel’s decision to end the world.

    Season Two is not terrible. It has some very good episodes and featured a great emotional trauma for Buffy. But . . . I think it is overrated.

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  10. [Note: Blue fan posted this comment on July 26, 2009.]

    I agree with many people here. Altough S2 had awesome and touching storylines, it wasn’t the best season. The main reason I have is the lack of cohesiveness I found it had.
    I’ll try to make my point. Spike and Drusila come into town with no apparent motive besides being “bad guys”. Someone could argue that the reason was to heal Drusila, but this plot is thrown later into the season and wasn’t directly connected to their arrival.
    And the whole thing of having the demon to suck up the world and send it to hell wasn’t properly developed throught the season. In my opinion, it just seemed too rushed. There wasn’t a “big ending-the-world plan” fron the big bad (such as in S3, 5 and 7).
    On the other hand, I completely agree that many things that occur in this season change the main characters in many ways (Buffy sleeps with Angel and then has to kill him, Giles loses Jenny, Willow starts doing magic, etc) and seeds are planted for their future development in the series, but this isn’t a reason enough to consider S2 the best one (as many people would consider).

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  11. [Note: Emma posted this comment on September 12, 2009.]

    I felt Season Two’s first half somewhat Hold-and-Cold: It varied between the (in my opinion) brilliant (When She Was Bad, Lie To Me), deeply solid and entertaining (School Hard, Halloween, Ted), those episodes that aren’t that great but I just *like* them (Inca Mummy Girl). However, it also had some of the weakest episodes of the show – Some Assembly Required, Reptile Boy, Bad Eggs. A lot of it seems to do with the tone of season 2; even when all the action was going on, it all felt very bleak, stark, and *grey*. With the arc and many of the episodes, this tone worked, and contributed heavy atmosphere. However with many, this tone dragged down the drama and made everything feel much more boring than it should (particularly in The Dark Age). This grey tone appears to be missing in most of “When She Was Bad”, which probably works in the episode’s favor, and shows the transition between season one and two – as that episode mostly worked as a coda to season one.

    However, when the Angelus arc starts, everything just becomes brilliant. “Innocence”, “Passion”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and “Becoming” are all episodes in my top 20 or so, and show some of the most compelling emotional drama in the series.

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  12. [Note: Nix posted this comment on October 7, 2009.]

    Blue fan: healing Drusilla was mentioned by Spike as their reason for arrival in _School Hard_. It’s not a retcon. (And, really, where better to heal a vampire than a Hellmouth with a co-opted human administration? One presumes that normally there isn’t a Slayer in residence… they were just unlucky.)

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  13. [Note: Kate posted this comment on October 7, 2009.]

    Emma, you call ‘Ted’ deeply solid and entertaining? That episode was one of the worst Whedonverse episodess I have ever seen….deeply lacking in every area.

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  14. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 15, 2010.]

    I also like to mension how much I liked the S2-dvd menu. It is scary and artistic. The S5 menu is also nice.

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  15. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on March 16, 2010.]

    I agree with you, Smallprint. I think the S2 DVD menu is the best. It’s very gothic and scary and teen-horror like.

    I also like the S7 DVD menu, but that’s just because it features the awesome “Chosen” score over the various menus.

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  16. [Note: Lauren posted this comment on April 29, 2010.]

    @Sam L: completely agree! the chosen score gets me riled up and excited everytime I hear it. I hate and am bothered by many things in S7, but the score is kick-ass (second only to the Buffy/Angel love melody–always pulls at my heartstrings).

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  17. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 16, 2010.]

    Liked season 2 much better than season 1. Still, a lot more improvement is needed. Tell me, do they ever get rid of the campy MOTW episodes? I really hope so. “Innocence” and “Passion” were great, but they were both followed up by pretty average episodes (although the werewolf one was good since it focused on a major character). Occasionally these types of installments can be really good (see “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”), but more often they’re momentum killers. The arc-driven episodes, on the other hand, are usually amazing (“Innocence”, “Passion”, both episodes of “Becoming”). I’d give the season as a whole a B. I really don’t know how this gets anything higher. There were too many mediocre-to-terrible episodes. I still liked it, though.

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  18. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on June 17, 2010.]

    My dvd-menu score list:

    1. S2: very gothic and artistic, plus scary music

    2. S5: Somber and dark music, very beautiful photos

    3. S7: The cinematic “Chosen” score, nice photos and the cool pentagram witch connects to the Hellmouth seal.

    4. S6 and S1: S6 very spiritual and mystic, no photos of the cast, so that is new. S1: it’s ok for a first season, plus a quote of the ep. is heard when you start the ep. is funny.

    5. then last S3 and S4: S4 is my least favorite, it’s boring and has also some dumb spoilers, like in “the Harsh Light of Day”, you see a pic of Spike. HELLO, that was supposed to be a surprise that he came back and now is Harmony’s boyfriend.

    So, what do you think of the dvd-menus?

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  19. [Note: Flo posted this comment on October 12, 2010.]

    Would I be totally out of line to interpret Angel as a personification of Buffy’s teenage sexual desires and fears?

    I mean, mysterious, good-looking stranger who always watches over her? Who mostly appears when she is alone, and whose whole existance (at least in the first two seasons) seems to revolve around Buffy (both as Angel and Angelus)?

    But the relationship can never become actually real. Even during the short time they do have some kind of normal relationship it is always along and in the dark of the night. And always when they become intimate, Buffy’s fear kicks in: Angel first appears as a vampire just after their first kiss, and becomes pure evil after their first sexual encounter.

    I suppose it is also typical for this teenage love (imagined or real) that Angel’s personality is at its core rather simple: He is either all good or all evil, whereas Buffy’s later relationships with Riley and Spike are much more complicated.

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  20. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on October 12, 2010.]

    Flo –

    “I suppose it is also typical for this teenage love (imagined or real) that Angel’s personality is at its core rather simple: He is either all good or all evil, whereas Buffy’s later relationships with Riley and Spike are much more complicated.”

    Good observation. And yes, it does seem that if Angel didn’t exist, Buffy would have imagined him. 🙂

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  21. [Note: Al posted this comment on April 27, 2011.]

    I’m a latecomer to the Buffyverse. Never really watched it while it was originally aired. Caught 1 or 2 episodes here and there early on, but never really got hooked. Then along came Serenity/Firefly which got me hooked on Whedon, so that I eventually got around to Buffy just recently. I just finished watching the entire series, and came across this site. (Great job by the way).

    So with the series relatively fresh in my mind I thought I’d leave a comment from a newbie perspective.

    For me the first season was OK, nothing worth getting too excited about. That trend carried through for the first half of the second season for me, right up until “Surprise” (2×13) and “Innocence” 2×14. Those two episodes hooked me and I couldn’t wait to see where it went to from there. Even with that there were a couple of letdowns episode-wise. Then you come to the season finale, the “Becoming” duology. After watching those I was literally stunned, that is what turned me from merely hooked into a true fan. Your reviews closely mirrored my own reactions, so I wont re-state them here.

    I just wanted to add that what I think made this season so good overall actually were the bad episodes. There was such a net difference in quality from the bad episode to good episode that by comparison the good ones shone even brighter by comparison. There were later seasons that I liked just as much if not more, but this one will forever hold a special place since it’s the one that made a fan out of me.

    To steal someone else statement from somewhere (here maybe?) this is the seasons of firsts for Buffy (first love, first loss, etc.) and we the viewers are there with her. This journey that she experiences is linear and we too can only only experience it for the first time “the” first time we watch it. That’s what makes the season finale such a profound heart wrenching experience that resonates so deeply for some of us viewers. There is no going back from here for our beloved little Slayer, only forward. This makes the ending even more poignant than ever, as if *that* was necessary. For me, in some respects, her leaving town is necessary for Buffy, it’s her leaving her childhood behind. Yes, there so many other factors at work here, but they have been stated elsewhere, and yes I know that is an oversimplification, but I though I’d just leave yet another layer to her exiting Sunnydale.

    I don’t think I’ve added anything spectacularly new to these commentaries, but I’d thought to leave a newcomer’s (fan’s) impressions nevertheless. If these thoughts have been made before, please ignore this commentary and go on your merry way.

    Cheers,

    Al

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  22. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on August 24, 2011.]

    and I forgot to mention,

    the last season with this bad-ass opening theme from NH.

    S3-7 theme remake is ok, but the first version I liked the most.

    Goodbye version 1 😦 :(.

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  23. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 21, 2011.]

    This season was all about forgiveness and put in Buffy’s words ‘dealing with choices’. season 2 spent a lot of energy exploring our lead girl; Buffy Summers. Her relationship with her mother, her lover and her friends. it also pitted these relationships against her duties as the slayer. Buffy much like in the inaugural season is learning about her calling, and adjusting to her life being different. Thats what makes her relationship with Angel work so well. Yes he is 244 year old vampire and she is a 16 year old girl but she is no ordinary girl, she is the slayer. Buffy’s life works differently to others. Not merely because of her super hero status but the maturity she is forced to have from such a young age, not to mention that her life span is destined to be much shorter than other humans! So the B/A relationship feels right. Angel understands her and her life, they both run in the darkness. Her friends do endeavour to understand and are there for her but they never truly will, its this that escalates Buffy’s relationship with Spike in season 6.

    Are characters albeit mainly Buffy seeks forgiveness from herself and from those around her. A new Buffy is born in WSWB, Buffy will never be the same girl who made an appearance in Welcome to the Hellmouth because of the events of Prophecy Girl. She’s still the fun loving Buffy but she is more aware of morality and what being the slayer means. When the season encroaches on the dark side visually in Innocence, forgiveness becomes the main theme whether it be Buffy seeking forgiveness from the one guy she can’t get it from until the amazing I only have eyes for you, for the choices she made in Surprise to sleep with Angel.

    This season had some amazing episodes and the cohesive bound between Buffy and friends was really escalated. It lead to some prominent scenes but ultimately the poignant battle was fought by her alone against Angelus, the demon in her boyfriend.

    I won’t ramble on any longer having written a comment on every episode of this season but it was truly amazing and i resonated with Buffy on many occasion. All the characters received some fine moments and growth. A big well done on all counts! Oh and the introduction to Spike! Classic!

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  24. [Note: buffy_fan posted this comment on February 20, 2012.]

    Did anyone pick up in becoming part 2 when Xander tells Williow that he loves her and then she calls out for Oz , Xander looks quite dishearted by it all. Which could be part of why he goes along with the affair with willow in season 3. I maybe wrong it has been al ong time since I saw season 3

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  25. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 20, 2012.]

    He does, In fact the foundations for Willow and Xander’s kiss affair started right back in When She Was Bad and had it not been for a vampire they would have kissed. Xander has always cared for Willow but its not really one of the relationships i cheered for in the series. I was All for Xander and Cordelia and Willow and Oz and i loved then of course the Anya and Tara, in fact i may have preferred Anya and Xander to Cordelia but i loved her character. Tara too, with Willow was great especially in Season five. Buffy and Angel a big yes! Buffy and Spike was a one i got, especially with the setting to season six but Xander and Willow? Not a fan

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  26. [Note: Riis posted this comment on June 8, 2012.]

    I always wondered why the gypsies made it so that Angel would lose his soul. I understand that they didn’t want to ever experience happiness, suffer for all eternity, etc…But why release him upon the world again? What’s the sense in that? Why not have him die? Or experience some form of torment? This, along with the much-discussed Alcaltha silliness, always bothered me a little.

    I love the second half of season 2; like many others it really is what hooked me into Buffy and I think that it’s excellent television. Yet, when considering the “Season 2 vs Season 5” question, I take the above issues into consideration. Strictly in terms of the Big Bad, Angel does hit you in the gut in a way that Glory didn’t (nor was she supposed to) but I think that the writers did a better job setting up Glory’s intentions and backstory. It was always very clear why Glory wanted the Key, but Angel’s intentions always seemed less well explained.

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  27. [Note: morriganna posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    I never understood the point of hiding the “catch” in Angel’s curse. Seems self-defeating. If they’d told him “you can never have a moment of true happiness or you’ll lose your soul again”, THAT would be a curse, because his guilt would force him to stay miserable (as in the Angel series). That would be a cruel, and far more just, punishment, by forcing him to punish himself for the rest of his existence.

    And since “true moment of happiness” is so vague, it would still have allowed for the loss of soul in Surprise. You wouldn’t necessarily assume sleeping with your girlfriend would be enough – especially if you feel guilty while doing it. Yeah, the whole “we’re cursing you with a conscience that you could lose at any time anyway just by feeling happy enough” thing never worked for me. Just doesn’t hold up.

    One of the reasons I also preferred her (far more mature) relationship with Spike. Choice is often more interesting than fate. But it makes sense that her relationship with Angel was a teenage one, on both sides, and necessary for her growth and development.

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  28. [Note: morriganna posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    Sorry if you covered the above in one of your reviews – I haven’t gotten to the individual episodes yet!

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  29. [Note: Alex posted this comment on June 12, 2012.]

    Riis and morriganna, my interpretation was always that the gypsies didn’t choose the ‘perfect happiness’ twist in the curse. I always saw it as unavoidable fine-print which they couldn’t work around, so they just had to hope that it would never be an issue. But it obviously worried them, which is why they sent Jenny to keep an eye on things and report back if it looked like Angel might be getting close to breaking the curse.

    Because I saw it this way, I also figured that they didn’t tell Angel about this catch because they didn’t want to risk him trying exploit this weakness to break the curse. They wanted him to suffer for eternity, not spend eternity trying to achieve perfect happiness. Of course once Angel gets his soul back for the second time, he avoids a sexual relationship with Buffy for fear of that happening again. But the circumstances there are very different to when he was first cursed.

    Remember that when he first got his soul back, he spent a considerable amount of time clinging to Darla and trying to be his old self. If he’d known that the curse could be broken, then I think it’s likely that he would have tried to find ways to break it (although whether he would have actually succeeded is an entirely different matter).

    So while I agree that not ever being allowed to be happy is a nasty little twist which makes Angel’s punishment so much worse, I think that only applies to the more mature Angel that we see in the two Buffyverse shows. I don’t know if the much younger Angel would have been quite so determined to keep his soul for the greater good.

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  30. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on October 15, 2012.]

    After seeing all the seasons of BtVS when they first aired, I was pretty sure season 3 was the strongest. But after watching them all again almost a decade later, with a slightly more mature and discerning mind, I changed my vote to season two. Some of the arguments for that are obvious: Angelus (the best and most sadistically evil Big Bad in the entire series), Spike and Drusilla, some of the series’ greatest episodes (Innocence, Passion and Becoming parts one and two for example) and the most viscerally emotional arc BtVS ever had (season 5 is in contention but, for me at least, doesn’t quite match season 2).

    I’d make a few other arguments though. You often hear that Buffy didn’t really get good or become the show we all know and love till about halfway through season 2. I’d take issue with that. The halfway point is of course when Angel became Angelus and all hell broke loose. But all the emotional resonance of that came from what was built up beforehand. We only felt Buffy’s pain because we knew how much she loved Angel and we were so shocked at Jenny’s neck getting snapped and Angel being sent to hell because of how we’d connected with those characters before. I’d say that season 2 – the whole of season 2 – really characterised the show and made it what it was.

    It’s interesting that the writers only really started self-parodying and messing with the format of the show from season 3 onwards, and that the results of that often culminated in fan-favourite episodes. Many episodes that always crop up in people’s top tens, and especially in top fives, are those that did something completely different from the usual Buffy set-up (The Wish, The Zeppo, Hush, Restless, The Body, Once More with Feeling….). But if you think about it you could never show a first-time BtVS viewer one of these episodes and expect them to get as much out of it as someone who saw it for the first time in the right order. All those favourite shows, like everything from season 3 onwards, was built on the foundations laid down in season 2. Personally, I love all those shows that shook things up. But I love Buffy as a show most when it’s doing its usual thing.I also think the first half of the season is of pretty high quality. There are some drops here and there but no more so than any other season in my opinion. Another thing is that there are a lot of underrated or overlooked shows in season 2. You don’t usually see ‘When she was bad’, ‘Halloween’, ‘Bewitched, bothered and bewildered’ or ‘I only have eyes for you’ peppering anyone’s top tens but I think they’re all classics and part of that backbone that the rest of the series was built on. I mean, just think how many times was Xander’s residual army knowledge was played on in later episodes and seasons.

    That said, there are weaknesses of course. But I still think season 2 at its best beats any other season at its best. And ‘Innocence’ gets my vote for all-time greatest episode – the pace, action and emotional content in that are incredible. Much like a lot of season 2 =P

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  31. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on October 15, 2012.]

    Oops, my point about Xander’s army knowledge was supposed to go elsewhere in my comment – obviously that occured in ‘Innocence’, and not in any of the four eps the point follows :-/

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  32. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 14, 2014.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This season 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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  33. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on April 14, 2014.]

    I still don’t think it was selfish of Buffy to sleep with Angel. She was 17 years old, and she was in love with him. She really didn’t do anything wrong until she didn’t kill him in the mall, which is why the whole thing is so horrible.

    Angel, of course, absolutely should not have slept with Buffy, but we all know that Angel is a selfish jerk who uses people who believe in him to get what he wants.

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  34. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 14, 2014.]

    Since I think we’ve already had it out earlier on this, I’ll just say I agree that Angel holds more responsibility and leave it there. 🙂

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  35. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    Congratulations on finishing the polish pass for the first of the six full seasons! What you’ve put together makes up a highly compelling examination of the show – and I look forward to reading your future revisions. 🙂

    Here are some points that I would make:

    1) Although I would not accord S2 as the best season of the show (I still believe that that distinction is contested by the 3rd and 5th seasons), I do believe that it ought to be considered as the most successful one. I think that a strong argument can be made that this was the only season of BtVS that actually exceeded its own ambitions for the story in terms of the power and impact of what ended up on the screen – and thereby stands as an interesting contrast with the later seasons, which tended to be far more ambitious but didn’t always manage to deliver on what they were promising.

    2) Its hits the nail on the head to state that S2 is a fundamentally strong season in almost all regards whose quality is held down only by an unfortunately high number of mediocre or sub-par individual episodes. In this, it is actually the antithesis of the sixth season, which is fundamentally weak but gets boosted by the exceptional or standout quality of many of its individual episodes.

    3) This was the season that not only staked (heh heh) the claim of Buffy to being a show worthy of the accolades later bestowed on it from various quarters, but also of the heroine herself to being a genuinely iconic figure of the genre, to say nothing of being a forerunner to the anti-authoritarian female protagonists that have become such a vital type in popular culture of recent years. Buffy’s development as both a hero and a burgeoning adult have yet to go through many of her most important stages, but there’s no mistaking the role that her experiences in this season play in forging many of the most vital elements of her persona. Angel hurt her in a way that none of the subsequent villains on the show ever really matched, but he indirectly wound up teaching her a lot as well.

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  36. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    Fabulous re-review, Mike! I’m not quite as fond of the season as you are (I think I’m harsher on flaws than you, as evidenced by my love for the consistent S3 and dislike of the shaky S7) but it’s still undeniably up there as one of the peaks of the show, and the Angelus arc is the best in the Buffyverse.

    I’d put “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” as funniest, but I think we’ve had that conversation already 🙂

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  37. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    This is in mz opinion second best season of BtVS, after S3. Exelent review as always. I especially like the point you made, that even thought you (same as me) had no soul wrenching and dramatic high school love, we are still able to fell what Buffy us feeling. Its no small feat. Also, people don’t say this a lot, but i for one really appreciate the effort you put into this site. You have indeed created something that i don’t think exists for any other tv show. One of a kind on the internet. Looking forward to S3.

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  38. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    One thing I find interesting about the style of your review is that you focus a lot on what you perceive as strengths and flaws in the characters as people. It’s a bit different from how I see most reviews done. Most people take the stance on literary characters where they focus almost entirely on “this is who they are” without offering too much of an opinion on whether its a positive or a negative. You do a lot of focusing on how the characters could be better people, and where they’ve gone wrong.

    I don’t really mean this to compliment or detract from your reviews, but it definitely gives it a different feel from a more academic perspective.

    I think that’s maybe where some of the disagreements come from. You have very high expectation for your characters. Where most people would say about Buffy, “Yep, that’s something teens just sort of go through,” you lean more towards “Buffy made a mistake.” Once again, it’s not the wrong way to look at it. I just find it differently. You do the same thing with Willow and Xander as well. You go through the ways Willow is good and her flaws.

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  39. [Note: Odi et Amo posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    This is one of the very best review ever to have graced this site, possibly only surpassed by the reviews for “Passion”, “Restless”, & “Fool for Love”. I don’t know how you can impart your own spellbinding emotional resonance onto these reviews without sacrificing any depth of literary analysis or appearing melodramatic. I was checking the site multiple times a day in expectation and I was blown away. Bravo, bravo, bravo.
    (An extra bravo for having marked “Passion” as the best episode of the season. 🙂

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  40. [Note: Darth Rosenberg posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    Wow, am I the only person who has always liked Xander here? Don’t get me wrong, I think Xander has many, many flaws. But I always thought both Buffy and Willow were way more petty and mean than Xander ever was. People always call out Xander whenever he does something wrong, but I think all the other characters are equally as flawed. Xander is just a little more transparent.

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  41. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    Wow, am I the only person that notices the review highlights the strengths and weaknesses of every core character, not just Xander? 😉

    The Xander apologists need to stop being so sensitive. And if you think Buffy is more petty than Xander, please provide evidence to back that statement up, because I don’t see it at all. :p

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  42. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on April 15, 2014.]

    Wow! Mike, I don’t know how you do it… The drive and the patience to write reviews of this caliber is just amazing. You are one talented writer… I look forward to your next review… 🙂

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  43. [Note: Sosa Lola posted this comment on April 16, 2014.]

    I love your reviews. They are enjoyable to read and I especially love your thoughts on Buffy the character.

    I have to defend Xander in episode When She Was Bad though, because he didn’t snap at Buffy until Willow was kidnapped and probably killed – his anger and frustration are understandable and justified considering the way Buffy was treating them in the episode. Not to mention, he forgets all about it and team up with Buffy and Angel to save the others later on.

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  44. [Note: Darth Rosenberg posted this comment on April 16, 2014.]

    I wasn’t really talking about your review and more about comments of people who think Xander is a useless addition to the group. Although I can’t really think of a specific moment when Buffy acted really petty and mean right now.

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  45. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on April 16, 2014.]

    The dance with Xander in “When She Was Bad” was pretty petty.

    But overall, Buffy is not remotely a petty person. She can be a little…I don’t want to say mean, but blunt?…particularly with the Potentials in Season 7. But pettiness is something she has to get over pretty quickly with her job description and need for the Scoobies.

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  46. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on April 17, 2014.]

    Very nice season 2 update review!!

    This unreleased song “Buffy” from Velvet Chain also summons up the first 2 seasons very well.
    It’s from their Buffy EP.
    Check it out!

    Lyrics:

    Where forces of darkness abound
    The demons and vamps always come around
    To satisfy lust for the kill
    To feed on the living, and love evil
    But when they rise up into the night
    The slayer will come, the slayer will fight
    With powers reserved – the Chosen One
    In each generation, there’s only one…

    Buffy – she’s the slayer, oh yeah
    Buffy – the vampire slayer

    The danger is real, oh, Chosen One
    You probably won’t see even 21
    You’re missing your life to defend
    The world again…

    Buffy – she’s the slayer, oh yeah
    Buffy – the vampire slayer…
    — Oooohaaa… she’s the slayer
    — Ohhhhhhh yeah … the vampire slayer

    Nothing else you can do
    So much riding on you
    Every time you make plans
    Hell’s mouth opens again

    Waiting by a grave – Wait for them to rise
    You want nothing more – Than a social life
    Then you fall in love – With a vampire guy
    Cause he has a soul – Looks too good to die
    Wants to help you fight –
    Cause now he feels all guilty
    Could we have more irony?

    You’re the Chosen One
    Your boyfriend is a demon
    Who wants to be a saint
    But gets all rearranged
    Cause on your 17th
    When you two hit the sheets
    The magic spell goes wrong
    And Angel’s soul is gone…

    Buffy, she’s the slayer
    — Ohhhhhhh yeah
    The vampire slayer…

    Where forces of darkness abound
    The demons and vamps always come around
    But when they rise up in the night
    The slayer will come, the slayer will fight

    Buffy….Buffy….Buffy… she’s the slayer, oh yeah
    Buffy… the vampire slayer…
    Ohhhaaaa, she’s the slayer
    Ohhhhhhh yeah… the vampire slayer.

    She’s the slayer…

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  47. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    I really like Season 2. Firstly, because of the risks it takes. Think about this, it is the second season of the show, and while I think that BTVS is one of the best TV shows I have ever watched, Season 1 without a doubt was flawed and not too promising. To apprehend the kind of risks Season 2 of Buffy took, and actually succeed leaps and bounds at it is in itself something that is truly commendable.
    While I am one of the people who wasn’t as emotionally impacted as most people tend to be with this season (Primarily because I haven’t gone through what Buffy has, and also because I find it hard to fall for the Bangel charade.) So while I don’t particularly feel the need to jump on the Bangel bandwagon, I must say Angelus is an excellent Big Bad, and the emotional resonance and impact that he leaves is one that few other Buffy villains can match up to. (The murder of Jenny Calender, the sadistic persona, crushing our poor Buffy’s heart into a bazillion pieces.)

    But I also think if I had to choose, Season 2 wouldn’t be the ‘best season’. Too many annoying mediacore episodes, and a lot of screen time devoted to Angel and Buffy. I wish the other characters had gotten a smidgen more to do. Angel is a bore himself, but his relationship with Buffy just doesn’t do it for me for a lot of reasons many of which Mike has mentioned himself in several of his reviews. It was also disappointing at first of how Spike and Dru were introduced to the season with a bang, only to be defeated so easily. Having said that, I think they were wonderful additions to the show and part of why Season 2 works so well. When I think Season 2, I think “Oh my god, Spike and Dru’s season!” Albeit, this is not the case.
    Maybe this is more a matter of personal preferences, but I wish they had more to do this season. Angelus is a good villain, but wouldn’t it have been awesome if Spike and Dru posed slightly more of a threat? They certainly do have the flair for it. Drusilla can be very creepy. Spike is brash, unpredictable, hilarious and most importantly, fun. If there is one complaint off the top of my head that hits me hard when I think of Season 2 is Spike and Dru, actually the lack there of. They’re both great characters who should’ve gotten more attention.
    Of course, Spike DOES get more attention later on, but that is not as a bad guy.

    This again reminds me of the episode “Halloween”, Janus, and the whole looks can be deceiving concept which DOES work in Spike and Dru’s favor this season.
    We are mislead to believe they’re the big bads of the season, when actually, they’re not. This is intelligently written and greatly portrayed in retrospect.
    Of course, if I’d had my way, the season would focus more on Spike/Dru/Angelus rather than Bangel drama.

    Despite my bigotry dislike of the Bangel relationship, episodes like IOHEFY, Innocence and OF COURSE Becoming part 2 show me how important Bangel was, at least to this season. The concept of puppy love and it’s aftermath was done magnificently. BTVS writers have a way of twisting the knife deeper in by making their characters feel less like characters and more like actual, real people.
    This makes the stakes higher, and the heartbreaks harder.
    Bravo for that!

    One thing that I love so, so much about Buffy is her character. She is this strong female who’s beautiful, dangerous, flawed yet exemplary at the same time. I hate how we don’t get a lot of that in some of today’s TV shows. Instead we get damsels in distress who constantly need coddling, or girls who can’t decide between two hot guys, or simply superficial female leads that just don’t work. Buffy’s characters make me feel emotionally tethered, something that VERY few TV shows have accomplished. The feels are real, the emotions, the drives, everything about them is real. Which is ironic, considering this is a supernatural show complete with a lot of unrealistic exposition.
    I don’t know what it is about this show, but there are key episodes like (The Body, The Gift, etc…) that make me bawl more than I did back when I watched Titanic in 3D.

    Also, I feel the need to say that Buffy CAN be petty at times. I’m not sure if petty is the word to use, more like blunt and impertinent, this isn’t necessarily a flaw, but shaping to her character arc as a whole.
    She’s been pretty mean when she wants to be, we experienced this first-hand in When She Was Bad, she was also downright rude to Spike a billion times throughout the series, sure, he deserved it most of the times, but not always. For example, her sexual assault on him in ‘Gone’, sure, Spike didn’t really mind being used at the time, but it’s still not something you expect from your quintessential, stellar female lead. But that’s what makes Buffy so unique and wonderful, imo!
    Also, I am a far cry from a Xander stan, but feel the need to defend them here. Even though none of us might admit it, we’re all slightly bias to our favorite characters. You do base your analysis on things that others may not base their respect analyses on here which is okay. Having said that, I’ve already mentioned on several occasions why I think Xander is the way he is, but just because he can be more transparent, doesn’t make him the most petty. It just makes him the most honest. Willow has had her share of petty moments. On the other hand, Xander does come off as most petty (I couldn’t stand it when he cheated on Cordelia.), so this is a legit accusation. While I do agree that maybe Xander IS the most petty, I find the reason you gave behind it to be slightly unfeasible.

    Of course, I’m not the one with an amazing site and tons of reviewing experience. So who am I to say anything? 🙂

    So all in all, I think this is a great season, brought down unfortunately by the exhaustive number of mediacore episodes that flow through. Still, one of my favorite episodes (and arcs!) of television. On to Season 3…! 😀

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  48. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    I like this season a lot, and some of the episodes are really brilliant (Innocence, Passion, IOHEFY and Becoming) though I must say that on the whole I definitely prefer season 3- which is actually probably my personal favourite season- because I think that the seasons arc (i.e. the mayors ascension etc.) is much more coherently structured than that of season 2 and the exposition throughout is not nearly so heavy handed and hit-and-miss as it is here. That is, I would agree that Angel’s sudden desire to end the world via Acathla always seems rather rushed and never quite fully explained (presumably as a way to bring the season to a definite close and tie lose ends together) and I do enjoy it but it just seems to come out of nowhere.

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  49. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    I disagree that Angel’s desire to cause the end of the world in the finale was rushed or not fully explained. On the contrary, I though that it suited his character perfectly: he’s the sort of psychopath who, if he found a doomsday device just lying in the street, would immediately set it off just because he could. Remember that he was completely on board with Drusilla’s plan to end the world using the Judge in “Innocence” – the only thing he was lacking between that episode and “Becoming” was the means to end the world, not the motive.

    Season 3 does a lot of things really well, but in a comparison of the central story arcs I would say that Season 2 is quite easily the superior of the two.

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  50. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    What I meant of course was how Angelus was initially hell-bent on destroying Buffy and even tells Spike and Drusilla that he has no interest in destroying the world- “I am really more interested in the Slayer”- so he changes his mind very quickly and suddenly is no longer interested in Buffy, he doesn’t even care enough anymore to want her there when he pulls the sword out of Acathla, he says to her something like “I don’t have time for you!” which is obviously a complete U-turn on his original desires and feelings! It is true that this change came out of the blue and the reason for it was never explained!

    And yes I love season 2 as I love all of the seasons and can see why it may be many people’s favourite, however there are significant flaws at play here which cannot be ignored when making this decision, and personally I think that season 3 handles the plot much better and has some brilliant episodes too which cant be overlooked; two favourites of mine are Bad Girls and Consequences for example.

    I know that this is a very individual decision and one of the main reasons that season 2 cant be my favourite is that I was never really a big fan of Angel (though Angelus himself is a great villain!) and am never all that convinced by the relationship between Buffy and Angel. I would say that Spike is Buffy’s true love as we find out in later seasons and there are hints of that as early on as this season, and I would even favour Riley a great deal over Angel because at least he has some personality- an area in which Angel is obviously lacking! The relationship between Buffy and Angel is a very simplistic one (being all good or all evil) as Angel obviously does not have enough personality to be more of a complex character, which does make him rather dull and uninteresting after a while I have to say!

    I do appreciate Buffy’s arc in season 2 though, and how much she has to go through on the road to accepting her calling as the Slayer, and it is exciting to watch her experience her first love and first heartbreak (as dull as he is!)

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  51. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    I’d take a look at the comments section for the “I Only Have Eyes For You”. To paraphrase a reasonably long discussion, the consensus is that being forced to confront his own feelings for Buffy gave Angelus the motivation to destroy everything. It’s not a perfect explanation, but it does make sense.

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  52. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    Yes I did consider the events of IOHEFY when thinking about this issue, and it would make some sense but I don’t see how it could make Angelus lose interest in Buffy altogether, considering all they had recently gone through together, and if he was angry for still having some tender feelings for Buffy deep inside him (as we saw in the brilliant episode IOHEFY) then surely his obsession with her would become even more bitter and twisted and he would want some nasty revenge on her like to kill all of her friends and family and turn her into a vampire as he did with Drusilla (I think that was what he was originally planning, I just don’t understand why he suddenly moved on from this!)

    Besides, there is really no getting away from the fact that this is not at all well explained in the season, if it was then there would be no need for all of this speculation would there! There would then be some certainty amongst the viewers regarding Angelus’ motives.

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  53. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 27, 2014.]

    Personally, I quite like the ambiguity, although I can understand why one might find it frustrating.

    Like

  54. [Note: Riderofapcoalypse posted this comment on September 2, 2014.]

    I almost completely agree with MikeJer’s comment of:

    ‘This is, without a doubt, one of the show’s very best seasons, and it almost gets everything right’

    Season 2 of Buffy is vastly, and I MEAN VASTLY better than Season 1. However for me, nothing holds a candle to season 3. For me Buffy S2 was still pretty damn good. There’s not a lot to really say other than S2 was all around solid in all aspects. (Obviously there are some exceptions with some things I didn’t like about it). So in a nutshell this season gets a solid 8/10 to a 8.5/10. As you can see, a VERY large improvement from the rating I gave season 1…Maybe they really did get into the occult? Anyways, my reasoning for my rating is below:

    The Good:
    – Buffy’s look changes for the Hell’a better. No more stupid bangs!
    – Episode one. Shows how Buffy is resourceful enough to take care of herself at an early age.
    – Spike and Drusilla. No further explanation needed.
    – The death of the Anointed One. I forgot to mention the Anointed one being one of my fails for my opinion of season 1. So imagine how loud my drunken cheering was for Spike when he tossed that useless excuse for an evil character into a cage and make the kid kiss daylight. Someone explain to me why Luke couldn’t have lived longer to be the Anointed One?
    – Xander finally getting a girl to like him (although short lived) with a mummy girl.
    – The Halloween episode. Funny and allowing Xander not step up and stop being a whimp. (Although this episode can be considered a fail in the long run because the show decided that Xander didn’t forget his magical army training, but decided to never use it again)
    – Jenny Calendar. In the words of Van Halen, ‘To hot for teacher.’
    – Angelus, hail to the king baby.
    – The Judge meets rocket launcher. All the armies of men were needed to kill this monster….and rocket launcher.
    – Xander getting all dem bi*ches in ‘Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered’. Let’s just say this episode’s theme served me well in my head. A robed Buffy, innocent Willow and Joyce all coming onto you….if this is a dream I don’t want to wake up.
    – The final battle between Buffy and Angel in this season. I’m not a sucker for the mushy stuff, but the kiss then sword through the heart was outstanding. As a guy, that struck a chord with me, which says something positive.

    The bad:
    – Personally this season had too much mushy love stuff for me revolving around Buffy and Angel. But they were going for teenage relate-ability so, fine.
    – Jenny Calendar dieing and the poor use of her. I think she could have/should have been Willows magical mentor. Not only does she have the heritage, but remember, those who can’t do.
    – I do very much enjoy Angelus and all he encompasses, but I think they could have pushed the envelope even further.
    – To me, Xander is starting to look more muscular. Thus making it hard for me to believe that he can’t hold his own.

    So, on the hole…..Buffy season 2 was a absolutely smashing success, with the only drawbacks being my personal likes/dislikes. Taking each episode for what it is without any bias, this season could easily score a 9 or even 10/10

    Remember, this is just my own opinion. If you disagree, then more power to you.
    Thanks.
    Riderofapcoalypse

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  55. [Note: B posted this comment on November 16, 2014.]

    The first 12 episodes are corny now but those episodes weren’t so corny back in 1997. If you view those episodes with that in mind, they aren’t actually bad episodes it’s just they haven’t aged well. Go Fish is the only bad episode of the entire season. It’s only redeeming quality is Wentworth Miller! Swoon!!! When She Was Bad, School Hard, Halloween, Some Assembly Required, Inca Mummy Girl,
    Reptile Boy, are great episodes that have something to say that ties into the seasons arc and Buffy’s journey.

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  56. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 31, 2015.]

    It seems a little harsh to say that Angel had no business getting together with Buffy. It’s not like he knew about the soul-loss thing and even though he had sone some bad stuff in the past it probably wasn’t going to affect things too badly. Granted Angel with a soul is capable of some doucheyness also he doesn’t usually hurt the people he likes to an extent where they could get killed. It’s also pretty likely that Angel would have eventually realized that things wouldn’t work long term anyway and after 100-something years of feeling like crap perhaps the dude deserved some relief in his life, in fact his relationship with Buffy is what led to him becoming a better person in the first place.

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  57. [Note: naoss posted this comment on February 1, 2015.]

    Angel is a very old man, while Buffy is 16 when they first kiss, and even younger when he starts watching/stalking her.
    As we feel close to the character, we might look past it, but the implication is still there…

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  58. [Note: Leroy Jenkins posted this comment on March 2, 2016.]

    I think it’s harsh to slate Angel as a character for being boring/poorly acted, as Whedon himself has admitted he didn’t know how to write the character properly St this point. Actors can only work with the lines in front of them and frankly Angel was a poorly conceived character for the first half of the series, similar to an insipid Edward Cullen figure, we can’t get on board with him because his back story doesn’t “suspend our disbelief ” in terms of a 250 year old getting with a 17 year old. And frankly I didn’t see him as that threatening when he became Angelus. He was nowhere near violent or manipulative enough towards Buffy and her crew. And I couldn’t feel scared when he was torturing Giles as you don’t actually see anything. I would’ve liked to see a more extreme evil side to him but maybe they were working with the limitations of an early evening TV slot who knows.

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  59. [Note: Samm posted this comment on March 2, 2016.]

    How could he be any more evil, he was as sadistic as they come. And yes obviously they couldn’t show him torturing Giles with a chainsaw, nor would that be beneficial to the story either.

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  60. [Note: Leroy Jenkins posted this comment on March 8, 2016.]

    People getting very pissed off if you criticise their beloved show. What I’m saying is that the only times Angelus seemed particularly bad were the whole Jenny debacle, and when he tried to end the world. He had so many opportunities to kill/torture/freak out Buffy’s friends and he never took them. For example all he did to Willow was skewer her fish, horrible yes but hardly terrifying. And in terms of torture have you seen Game of Thrones? You never watch Theon getting his fingers flayed but you sure as hell hear it. Obviously they can’t really put content like that in an early evening slot. But no need to be sarcastic.

    Rewatching series 2 – it hasn’t really floated my boat on the whole. It seems to be taking itself far too seriously to be fun, and I’ll watch twilight if I want teenage melodrama. It seems to me that when Whedon tries to focus on romance he can’t really get his script going, that’s why the true love scenes between buffy/angel all seem a bit melodramatic and clichéd. When he focusses on his prime skills, writing thrilling, action packed/ fantasy based drama or subverting common TV and film tropes, I think that’s when he’s at his best. For example the Avengers films are a wonder to behold. I could be wrong, and maybe it’s a case of Whedon just finding his feet artistically at this stage in his career. Or maybe he didn’t have the budget or time to make his work as epic as he wanted it to be, a la Avengers later on. All I know is that when I first watched this series at the age of 8, it massively gripped me, but watching it now, the themes seem a bit too adolescent for me to immerse myself in, which makes sense because that’s where Buffy (the character) is at that stage in time. The Buffy/Angel relationship doesn’t grip me as emotionally complex and doesn’t seem all that compelling as like the show says, it’s puppy love. It’s only by season 3 where the writers seem a bit more comfortable in their own skin and have more fun subverting genre tropes, rather than getting bogged down in melodrama.

    Reinforcing my argument about poor romance though is the whole buffy/spike relationship – the whole thing is such a misery fest, it’s all based around sex and guilt and rarely are there moments of true affection. And Buffy seems incapable of being honest about her feelings towards him. It leaves me cold because it all seems a bit shallow and immature. The only relationship that actually resonated with me was that of Willow and Tara. They displayed genuine affection and love. That was the one storyline/script that had me believing. It could also have a lot to do with Alyson Hannigan’s ability as an actress though. She’s the one character who can always suspend my disbelief, and I think Whedon, realising what he had on his hands, decided to utilize her more and more throughout the series. Contrastingly it’s rare that SMG can actually convince me of what she’s meant to be feeling. Her great timing with the script isn’t always enough to get me immersed.

    It’s a great show but I feel like if Whedon had the budget and knowledge he does now, and was making Buffy for the first time, it would probably be the best TV show ever. Having slightly shorter seasons would also probably help quality control. Must be impossible for American writers to write 22-24 high quality episodes every year!

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