Buffy Season 3 Review

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Overview]

The high school years are over! This season is quite popular among many fans and it’s obvious why. This is great material which manages to even top S2 in many (but not all) ways. The areas where it really succeeds are the surprisingly high consistency between episodes and its reliance on character interaction to propel the plot. Faith as a character is an embodiment of this and is ultimately the reason why this season resoundingly works. I do, however, have some noteworthy problems with the season which I’m going to discuss first. None of these complaints largely affect my enjoyment of the season, but they are worth noting.

The more I think about it the more this entire season is about identity. This theme is given to us in a big way during “Anne” [3×01] . During that episode Buffy is struggling to find her identity, thinking that she can separate the Slayer from the person. It turns out this theme didn’t stop there. In “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] Faith comes into town with all kinds of identity issues. It’s obvious she’s had a rough life and hasn’t found herself yet. The entire point of “Homecoming” [3×05] was Buffy’s attempt at being known for something other than slaying. I think while she’s come to terms with the fact she can’t rid herself of being the Slayer, she still wants acceptance in the normal world every now and then — to be noticed.

Identity comes back in a big way during “Helpless” [3×12] when Buffy temporarily loses her powers. She tells Angel, “Before I was the Slayer, I was… Well, I, I don’t wanna say shallow, but… Let’s say a certain person, who will remain nameless, we’ll just call her Spordelia, looked like a classical philosopher next to me. Angel, if I’m not the Slayer, what do I do? What do I have to offer? Why would you like me?”

Buffy isn’t the only person dealing with identity issues either. “The Zeppo” [3×13] is entirely about Xander’s identity issues, “Doppelgangland” [3×16] and “Choices” [3×19] tackle Willow’s issues, and “Consequences” [3×15] explores Faith’s problems. Even Cordelia has to redefine herself after her family lost everything. We see this new Cordelia, which will be fully explored on AtS, in “The Prom” [3×20] . I will elaborate on all of these characters in their individual segments below. I’d also like to mention that this is the season where the Scoobies begin to lose their closeness.

Buffy’s summer adventure has permanently hurt the cohesiveness between her, Willow, and Xander. Anyone remember the end of “Killed by Death” [2×18] when the three of them are snuggled up together on Buffy’s bed watching TV and eating snacks? Did anything remotely like this happen during this entire season? Buffy’s not the only one who’s begun to separate from the others. Xander not telling Willow about his sexual encounter with Faith in “The Zeppo” [3×13] really hurt her and their friendship. They are never fully honest with each other after this. One of the main themes of S4 is the separation of the Scoobies, and it’s not a surprise that it happens due in part because of the seeds planted this season.

Here’s the way I view the season overall: It begins with Buffy returning home after her summer of trying to be Slayer-free. The group, rather unfortunately, works out their issues with her in a matter of one episode and a zombie attack. Then, however, the season gets interesting with the arrival of Kendra’s replacement, Faith. Right off the bat we see that Faith makes an excellent counterpoint to Kendra. After “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] , though, we don’t see much of Faith until “Revelations” [3×07] and are instead given some acceptable but cheesy episodes like “Beauty and the Beasts” [3×04] and “Homecoming” [3×05] . While we are treated to some fantastic episodes along the way, the story arc really takes a while to get going and meanders along until “Consequences” [3×15] , where Faith hooks up with the Mayor. As can be seen by the nearly nonstop stream of episodes scored 90+ from that point on, the season gets in high-gear and sprints to the finale, much like S2 did after “Innocence” [2×14] . This is a fantastic season.

 


[Cons]

  • The quick return of Buffy after the events of “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] .
  • Angel’s return from hell and reconnection with Buffy.
  • Willow and Xander’s illicit relationship.
  • The reduction of emotion, danger, and pain from S2.

Lets begin with the first problem on the list: Buffy’s return from her self-inflicted exile. While “Anne” [3×01] does a decent job at tackling the issues really facing Buffy, it doesn’t go into it in the depth that I was wanting. There’s a scene very early in that episode where Buffy is sitting on her bed holding a can of something, completely frozen in silence. That moment tells me more about what Buffy’s feeling than anything in the rest of the episode. I strongly believe a dark two or three parter focused heavily on Buffy would have been a far more powerful way to begin the new season. On top of that, the lightweight scenes back at Sunnydale High with the Scoobies ended up restraining the tone that I wanted even further. I feel they really missed an opportunity here. Then in “Dead Man’s Party” [3×02] the issues of her return are glossed over and not resolved just because some cheesy zombies crash in. The writers just missed the boat on these two episodes. Instead of geniune emotion and a powerful return we get zombies. I say big missed opportunity, and there aren’t many of those in this series.

Next on the list is Angel and his unfortunate return. I’ve got two major complaints with this development, the first of which is that it reduces the lasting power of “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] . That is a beautiful episode which ends in tragedy. To have Angel back at all, let alone so soon, really spoils some of the S3 atmosphere along with the importance of the S2 finale. It’s fortunate “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] is such a good episode to help make up for it.

My other problem with Angel’s return is its affect on Buffy. At the end of “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] we see Buffy at the mansion laying down the ring Angel gave to her back in “Surprise” [2×13] . She puts it on the ground and says, “goodbye.” She stands up, breathes in, and then walks away. That is a beautiful moment and while I was sad for Buffy I was also very pleased that she was ready to move on. But instead of moving on Angel immediately returns.

Now that Angel’s back, what the writers did with him must also be evaluated. I’ll focus on his specific development later, but my main issue is with his reconstituted relationship with Buffy throughout the season. It starts off well enough with Buffy secretly paying visits to help him regain his strength, starting in “Beauty and the Beasts” [3×04] . Then in “Lover’s Walk” [3×08] Spike crashes into town and basically forces Buffy to see that she and Angel can never be “just friends” and that they can’t be together. Buffy wisely breaks it off here. I would have been fine with this, but in “Amends” [3×10] the two of them share a special moment where Buffy admits she can’t bare staying away from him anymore.

So now they’re back together again. This is of course until “Enemies” [3×17] where Buffy tells Angel she needs a break. After a little one-on-one in the next episode they’re back together yet again. Finally in “The Prom” [3×20] Angel finally takes the initiative and, based on mountains of evidence that their relationship can’t work, breaks it off for good. This on and off routine just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t help but be slightly annoyed by how the two of them acted. Angel was letting Buffy play him like a yo-yo and never spoke up until “The Prom” [3×20] .

The next issue I have is probably my biggest: an out-of-character relationship that lasts for several episodes. You know what I’m talking about; the Xander/Willow ‘thing.’ I made it clear in my reviews that I hated this development and didn’t buy it at all. This came out of nowhere. Xander has never been interested in Willow romantically. While it’s true that she once was interested in Xander, that’s long passed. Willow and Oz are great together and I just can’t see her doing this to him, so I view this whole affair as poor writing. It appears the writers broke Cordelia and Xander up primarily because they knew Cordelia was going to leave the show after this season. So yeah, they needed to break up, but they could have found a better way than to force Willow and Xander to have “illicit smoochies.”

When I saw this season for the first time I was eagerly awaiting an episode to come along that took the characters’ emotions and threw them out in the open for all to see. I was waiting to see material of the likes of “Innocence” [2×14] , “Passion” [2×17] , or “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] . That episode never arrived though. “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] went by and I wasn’t left sitting there emotionally drained and thoroughly shocked. Instead I was let down by the reduction of emotional intensity and danger which the final group of episodes in S2 had. This problem could be attributed to not taking full advantage of Faith’s aggressive tendencies or it could possibly even have to do with the Mayor himself. While the Mayor’s a wonderful character, he’s simply just not scary. After “Passion” [2×17] I was worried for all the Scoobies, but I can’t say the same here. This season may have more consistent episodes than S2, but the emotional level never reaches what was accomplished in S2. This doesn’t bother me a ton, but it is something that I think detracts from the lasting impact of the season.

 


[Pros]

  • Faith’s arc.
  • The Mayor and the countdown to his ascension.
  • Episode consistency.
  • The balance between ‘fun’ and ‘arc’ struck in the second half of the season.
  • Character development.

The way I see it, Faith is really the cornerstone of the season; it’s why it works so well. She comes to town a little wonky, tries to bond with Buffy a bit, gets betrayed, still shows some vulnerability, and then gives in fully to temptation. Her character is so adeptly written and developed that it amazes me. When she walked into the Mayor’s office in “Consequences” [3×15] it wasn’t an out-of-character move, and that’s very impressive. The Mayor is also a lot of fun, but with fun often comes a lack of danger. I was never scared of the Mayor, but he was so uniquely entertaining that the countdown to his ascension was fun to watch anyway. When both Faith and the Mayor started working together the season took off and found incredible focus. The father/daughter relationship that developed between the two, which in many ways parallels the Giles/Buffy relationship, was wildly fun to watch. These two characters are what really make this season as good as it is.

Setting up awesome circumstances is one thing, but actually writing quality episodes is an entirely separate game. This season sported a really impressive “solid episode” count. As can be seen in the season breakdown, 13 episodes were scored an A-range or a P. That’s over half of the season! This is the kind of quality viewers dream of and here it is, already present in S3 of BtVS. I’m not sure I can say at this point that any other season can top S3 in this area. Kudos to the writers for taking full advantage of the smart situations they set up.

As I’ve already mentioned, the second half of the season was especially stellar. Aside from simply putting out strong episodes, the writers struck an awesome balance of ‘fun’ and ‘arc’ episodes. Once “Consequences” [3×15] came around the season alternated between a fun episode like “Doppelgangland” [3×16] to a arc episode like “Choices” [3×19] . When combined with the high quality of the episodes (with the exception of “Enemies” [3×17] [3×17]) the phrase “perfect entertainment” springs to mind. The character development that was seen this season was also very well done. Buffy got a little bit less attention than in S2 which gave more time for the supporting characters like Willow, Oz, Giles, and Faith to shine. Most of the time these characters were handled with great care. Now lets take a closer look at every important character this season beginning with, of course, our beloved Buffy.

 


[Buffy]

I mentioned earlier that Buffy wasn’t the focus of the season like she was in S2. That’s not to say she didn’t get loads of development though. I’d like to begin by going back to the theme of the season: identity. This theme resonates with Buffy most obviously in “Anne” [3×01] but doesn’t stop there. When she says to one of the slave guards “I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. And you are…?” we see her finally accept who she is: an even blend of both Buffy and the Slayer. This is important because she was frequently frowning upon her slayerness in S2, and after “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] even tries to completely separate herself from it. My only complaint with this great realization is that it only took one episode.

Nevertheless, Buffy isn’t trying to fight herself anymore — she’s accepted that she’s the Slayer and is somewhat at peace with it. We see this fully represented in “Helpless” [3×12] when Buffy loses her powers for a while. There is a key moment when Willow’s telling her about how nice it’ll be to be that normal person she wanted to be in S2, but as soon as Giles walks in the room she runs over to him and immediately wants to know if he can cure her problem.

All of this doesn’t mean that Buffy’s lost interest in being recognized as a person though. In “Homecoming” [3×05] she explains to Cordelia that she wants to be known for something outside of just slaying, which is a fair request to be sure. Interestingly enough in another dance-titled episode, “The Prom” [3×20] , she actually gets to see the entire senior class giving her that recognition she so badly been wanted in “Homecoming” [3×05] . This is a truly sublime moment for the character and a perfect farewall to her high school years. In the first three seasons she has gone from care-free hero to more serious hero who wants a normal life to accepting hero who just wants to be recognized as a person. With that recognition finally given, Buffy’s first-act (S1-S3) journey is complete. While all of this has been happening she’s grown up too. Her experience in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] definitely hardened her a bit.

Another interesting area explored, using Faith as the catalyst, is the darkness that lies within Buffy. With Kendra we saw the cardboard Slayer in action. She was trained and quite restrained with her emotions. She made Buffy look a bit flippant and wild. Her replacement, Faith, charges into town and gives us the complete opposite. Faith is the embodiment of flippant and wild. She makes Buffy look a lot more like Kendra! There’s something fascinating that all three of these girls have in common: the dark roots of the Slayer’s power.

We learn in “Get it Done” [7×15] that the First Slayer was chained to the ground and infused with the essence of a demon. So all these girls have that darkness within them. Faith frequently lets is rise to the surface while Buffy is aware of it inside her but is constantly pushing it away. In “Bad Girls” [3×14] Buffy lets herself give into Faith’s philosophy of “want, take, have” for a while. The end result had Buffy feeling terrible about what she was apart of and realising that completely giving into the darkness within her would ruin her. That’s why in “Consequences” [3×15] she is so eager to help Faith. Buffy knows Faith is sliding out of control and getting out of her reach to help. Buffy did her best to help her but, alas, she was too far gone already.

The most interesting piece of dialog between these two comes when Faith gives it to Buffy verbally on the docks in “Consequences” [3×15] . She says, “You know exactly what I’m about ’cause you have it in you, too … I’ve seen it, B. You’ve got the lust. And I’m not just talking about screwing vampires … It was good, wasn’t it? The sex? The danger? Bet a part of you even dug him when he went psycho … See, you need me to toe the line because you’re afraid you’ll go over it, aren’t you, B? You can’t handle watching me living my own way, having a blast, because it tempts you! You know it could be you!” Buffy doesn’t shoot her down very convincingly, basically admitting what Faith is saying about her is true at least on some level. Buffy does have all of that in her, but she tries very hard to never let that control her. This is why Buffy succeeds at being a Slayer and Faith miserably fails.

A big part of the season involved Buffy’s conflicted relationship with Angel. I’ve already throroughly discussed what I didn’t like about their relationship this season so here I’ll discuss some of the things I did like. One of the positives is definitely the sexual tension that is pretty much held onto all season long and is finally released in the powerful, and strangely erotic, biting scene in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] . There are several episodes which really do a solid job at playing around with this tension.

The ‘training’ scene at the mansion with Angel early in “Helpless” [3×12] and the erotic foreign film they saw together in “Enemies” [3×17] both come to mind. Overall I really like the Buffy/Angel relationship but, as I expressed before, the on/off nature of it this season didn’t sit too well with me because of how many times it was, well, on/off. I was greatly sympathetic with Buffy, though, when Angel broke up with her in “The Prom” [3×20] and left town in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] .

By the end of the season Buffy is confident in herself and her abilities. It seems to me that “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] and “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] are about change and the future. We observe Buffy sarcrificing of herself when she encourages Angel to drink her so he can be cured. This is the latest example of her nature of sacrificing herself for others and is another step on the way to her death in “The Gift” [5×22] . But as Faith says in Buffy’s prophetic dream, “miles to go.” In S4 and the beginning of S5, Buffy gets to further explore her relationship skills and sexuality before really having to face adult responsibilities head on. So it’s time to enjoy the remnants of childhood with Buffy before she is forced to completely grow up.

 


[Willow]

This is a good season for Willow! I think she got just as much development as last season — possibly even a bit more. My only problem with the development that did happen, which I’ve already discussed in detail above, is her “illicit smoochies” with Xander. I think I’ve harped on that topic enough though so I’ll move on. The theme of identity that this season has adopted hasn’t left Willow by the wayside. As she continues to increase her abilities with black magic we’ve seen her become tougher and actually useful in helping Buffy and the group fight. These skills really started being discussed in “Gingerbread” [3×11] when the town gets put under a spell to burn witches. We see her making a protection spell for Buffy as well as standing up to her mom about her use of magic. If nothing else, this episode shows us just how entrenched Willow’s become in it.

The S2 episode “Halloween” [2×06] was an important step in the growth of Willow’s self confidence. In my review I mentioned how she became assertive in a time of crisis and did it naturally, without any magical assistance. This season’s big “Willow development episode” was “Doppelgangland” [3×16] . Here we see that magic has clouded her natural development and is now the primary factor driving it. The episode establishes early on the theme that Willow is “old reliable.” She takes a bit of offense to this term and seeks to change her behavior.

That’s when Anya comes along and asks Willow to assist her in a dark spell. Willow is all too eager to agree because all season she’s wanted to further develop her magical abilities. When the spell fails Willow, very ironically, says “Look, m-magic is dangerous, Anya, i-it’s, it’s not to be toyed with.” I say this is ironic because Willow doesn’t actually, deep down, believe what she’s saying. She’s fooled herself into believing that she uses it to fight evil and that it’s not turning her dark. The truth is that the magic is slowly turning her dark and she’s not even aware of it. The first sign we see of her black magic obsession begins right here in this episode!

At the end of “Doppelgangland” [3×16] she says to Buffy, “I see now where the path of vice leads. I mean, she [Vampire Willow] messed up everything she touched. I don’t ever want to be like that.” It appears that Willow has learned an important lesson, but then Percy cuts in to show her that being a badass has its positives. Vampire Willow beat the crap out of Percy in the Bronze earlier on so he now thinks Willow is a badass. This is, in effect, telling Willow that being a badass will give her power and respect which are both things she ultimately wants. Looking at Willow’s development after this episode I can’t help but feel she took this experience heavily. In “Choices” [3×19] we see her willing to put herself in a dangerous situation to help the gang. Not only that, but when she gets captured she is able to use magic to escape and stands up to Faith while being threatened. This new, if I may, ‘persona’ of Willow has now fully taken over.

All throughout S4 the cute little inncocent Willow is gone even though she tries to hide this change. “Restless” [4×22] directly addresses this when Tara, in Willow’s dream, tells her “Everyone’s starting to wonder about you. The real you. If they find out, they’ll punish you, I … I can’t help you with that.” While all of this is gradually happening Giles continues to make comments about how dangerous and dark it is to be using this kind of magic. This is all fantastic setup for what’s to come.

Hand in hand with Willow’s growing magical abilities comes the separation from her friends. I’ll begin with her relationship with Buffy. In “Dead Man’s Party” [3×02] we see her avoiding Buffy because she’s kind of angry at her for taking off and not telling anyone. By the end of the episode it appears they’re back to normal, but in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] she tries to get Buffy dating again thinking it’s the right thing for her. Willow obviously has no clue what Buffy is going through and completely ignores the obvious fact that Buffy hasn’t fully gotten over the loss of Angel yet. For a while Buffy and Willow don’t share any personal thoughts with each other — not until “Consequences” [3×15] . In “Bad Girls” [3×14] we see Willow trying to offer help to Buffy who’s caught up bonding with Faith a bit. Everyone’s taking a whole lot longer to communicate honestly with each other this season, though, and Willow waits until Buffy comes to her before opening up and letting her feelings loose. She probably thought Buffy came to her to talk about the same subject. The two of them are still good friends but they aren’t as close as they were before.

Next is Willow’s distance from Xander. I’m not sure what the direct result of this is, but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with their kissing affair earlier in the season. After that I’m having a really hard time recalling the two of them communicating with each other, in a personal one-on-one conversation, for the rest of the season. When Xander’s secret about him and Faith comes out Willow ends up crying (“Consequences” [3×15] [3×15]). These two use to be best friends and could tell each other anything, which definitely isn’t the case anymore. This moment puts the final nail in the coffin because they’re never extremely open with each other again. We see all this separation explode out into the open next season, especially in “The Yoko Factor” [4×20] . It’s amusing how in “Primeval” [4×21] , the next episode, they appear to fully reconnect and grow close again but in actuality they haven’t.

The final thing I want to talk about is Willow’s relationship with Oz, because it’s really evolved in the background of the season’s bigger issues. There’s three key episodes that best showcase their progress as a couple. The first is “Lover’s Walk” [3×08] , which is when Willow and Xander are finally caught kissing each other. Oz immediately breaks it off with Willow for a while to think things over. In “The Wish” [3×09] he tells Willow, “Look… I’m sorry this is hard for you. But I told you what I need. So I can’t help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself. That’s not my problem.”

The result of their away time comes in “Amends” [3×10] when Oz decides to give their relationship another shot. Willow is not going to screw it up this time though. In the same episode she offers to have sex with Oz and he turns it down. He tells Willow that she doesn’t need to prove anything to him and is exactly the moment they become a solid couple again. So when Oz ‘panics’ in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] and finally decides to make love to Willow, it feels right. I really loved Willow with Oz so it’s a real shame Seth Green decided to persue movies.

 


[Xander]

This season also has Xander attempting to find his identity. The entirety of “The Zeppo” [3×13] deals with this. But first I’m going to talk about what happens to him before his “identity episode.” Aside from being very vocal in “Dead Man’s Party” [3×02] about Buffy’s absence, he was very outspoken about finding out Angel’s back in town and kissing Buffy again (“Revelations” [3×07]). Buffy counters his verbal assault by saying, “Right. This is all nobility. This has nothing to do with jealousy.” Buffy just nailed Xander’s problem: jealously (and possibly a smidgen of hatred) towards Angel. Xander’s concerns are valid in this scene, but his motives are not. Later on in the same episode Faith jumps to stupid conclusions and goes off to kill Angel. All Xander says in response is “can I come?” This problem has been a consistent trait of his for the first three seasons and it creates very interesting situations.

Another important early Xander thread to address is his relationship with Cordelia. We knew from the start that this probably wasn’t going to work in the long run, but to everyone’s surprise it is Xander who is the cause of the split — he kept kissing Willow. I applaud the writers for breaking this couple up so that Cordelia can prepare to join AtS and Xander can be free to explore himself a bit. But, as I’ve mentioned several times before, they should have found an in-character way to accomplish this.

With things more or less calmed down and his relationship with Cordelia completely finished, “The Zeppo” [3×13] gets to happen. In this clever episode we see Xander get to be the hero without anyone even knowing what he did. Oh yeah, he also spontaneously loses his virginity to Faith in her apartment. Aside from the fact that Xander gets some action, this episode really highlights Xander’s character throughout a big portion of the series. He appears to realise something about himself, like how in “The Zeppo” [3×13] he seems to learn to not have so much doubt in himself, but he barely retains any of that development. Xander isn’t one to change easily. With Willow in “Doppelgangland” [3×16] we not only see a change of attitude in that episode, but also the subsequent ones. It’s gradual but it’s definitely there. We don’t see this with Xander as much.

As the years go by, though, these experiences begin to slowly register in his conciousness. His experience in “The Replacement” [5×03] and then what he did in “Hell’s Bells” [6×16] appear to definitely stay with him. So eventually he does grow, but it just takes him a whole lot longer than the other Scoobies. This doesn’t bother me because some people really just don’t learn from their mistakes very well and change is really difficult for them.

Even though it appears that Xander didn’t take anything away from his experience in “The Zeppo” [3×13] , it turns out he actually did. The dress he helped Cordelia buy in “The Prom” [3×20] is an unsung moment that really shows what he’s made of. This displays how amazingly kind and giving Xander can be and is a moment which is just as unsung as when he didn’t feel the need to tell anyone about his experience of stopping a bomb from detonating in the school boiler room.

Another important aspect of “The Prom” [3×20] to take notice of is Anya’s odd attraction to Xander. He doesn’t have anyone else to go with so he decides to take the unusual former demon to the prom with him. It seems like it should be the end of it, but she asks him to drive away with him and flee from the ascencion in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] . Xander points out to her that he’s got friends on the line and is going to help in the fight however he can. This is something Anya doesn’t comprehend right now but will by the end of the series. It’s made very clear that college isn’t in Xander’s future. He’s going on a road trip and then will struggle to find work all throughout S4.

 


[Giles]

Giles is the one character this season who isn’t in search of his identity — that’s on tap for next season. For now Giles is entirely focused on taking care of and assisting Buffy in her slayer responsibilities. His Watcher duties are mostly taken away so all that he’s left with is his fatherly love of Buffy and his job as school librarian. Very early on it is evident just how much he cares for her. A really special moment that I need to mention comes in “Dead Man’s Party” [3×02] when the Scooby Gang is gathered in Giles’ house and he heads into his kitchen to make some tea. As soon as he gets away from the group he takes his glasses off and with a nod of his head and an expression on his face, we know he is unbelievably relieved and happy Buffy is back. This is one of those small moments that really touches me. In “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] Giles does something that continues to show his devotion to Buffy’s well being. He makes up the necessity of a binding spell in order to find out what’s still bothering her.

Once Giles gets fired as Buffy’s Watcher in “Helpless” [3×12] we are, once again, shown that he will be forever commited to her as her friend and father figure. He tenderly heals her wounds after the Council’s ‘test’ and stays right by her side as the new Watcher, Wesley, arrives. Although he betrayed Buffy’s trust in “Helpless” [3×12] , it seems as though she can see he was simply following orders, hated doing it, still helped her and her mother afterwards, and completely regrets the decision to go along with it. That’s why she allows him to wipe the blood off her face at the end. It also seems like none of the Scoobies even knew what Giles did to her. Nobody else was around when she found out. Yeah, Cordelia walked in at the end, but it doesn’t appear as though Buffy told her anything. Anyway, I think deep down Buffy never trusts Giles completely again after this, but she does obviously forgive him.

As I already mentioned, most of Giles’ development is in his relationship with Buffy. Not all of it is though. We see Giles put into two separate yet equally entertaining scenarios — one with Joyce and another with Wesley. In “Band Candy” [3×06] him and Joyce have sex on the hood of a police car while under the influence of cursed band candy. After the effects wear off both of them still remember what happened.

This connection that the two of them have throughout the season is very funny to watch. Every time I see them together I can’t help but feel the light sexual tension and embarassment between them. A much different ‘mate’ for Giles is Wesley, the new Watcher, who charges in and makes himself known as young and inexperienced. The scene in “Bad Girls” [3×14] where Giles and Wesley are both wiping their glasses and Giles seems embarassed is one example of the new dynamic that is brought to him. Throughout the rest of the season Giles seems way cooler and gets the opportunity to show everyone that he isn’t just “research man” — he can help with the fighting too.

It’s interesting to think about where Giles is heading at season’s end. He’s lost his job as Watcher, he’s lost his job as school librarian (and he’s the one who blew up the school), and he still has bills to pay and the Slayer to help. His initial thoughts seem to be that he wants to have a life of his own again. This is the situation in which his S4 arc begins.

 


[Angel]

Like Giles, Angel’s entire arc through the season is defined by his relationship with Buffy. That’s aside from the fantastic insight into his character in “Amends” [3×10] of course. When Angel initially returns from hell, him and Buffy are trying the “lets just be friends” method. Spike rolls into town again and completely blows that attempt away. He very observantly says, “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. (points at his temple) Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood… (clasps his chest) blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.” Even though Buffy is the one to separate them now, I can’t help but think that Angel remembered this little speech from Spike when deciding to end their relationship for good in “The Prom” [3×20] . Not just this, of course, but also the Mayor’s speech, Joyce’s warnings, and Buffy’s blind love for him.

Angel’s big moment of development this entire season comes in “Amends” [3×10] . This episode introduces the First Evil and beautifully sets up Angel’s journey ahead in AtS. He’s haunted by Angelus’ evil deeds and is ready to kill himself when Buffy shows up to talk him out of it. He tells her “It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It’s the man.” Her response is basically the mission statement of AtS. Here it is: “Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends. But if you die now, then all that you ever were was a monster … ‘Strong’ is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day.” This event gives Angel the motivation and determination to exist on his own while still being able to be strong and fight the good fight. The miraculous snow at the end signifies that the “Powers That Be” (or possibly God) want(s) him alive because he’s destined to do great things for humanity.

 


[Cordelia]

Up until she beaks up with Xander for cheating on her, Cordelia is nothing more than comic relief. Afterwards, though, we get to see a bit more from her. By far the most interesting developments with Cordelia this season come in “The Prom” [3×20] when we discover that her dad made a mistake on his taxes for twelve years and she’s broke. I’ll touch on that last though. First I want to talk about her revelations about herself after she becomes single again. In “The Wish” [3×09] we see her immediately trying to distance herself from Xander and attempt to rejoin her old group like nothing happened. But things did happen and her old group knows it.

Harmony and group ridicule her and a guy she used to know won’t have anything to do with her aside from a sexual encounter. She’s naturally disgusted and begins to realise just how shallow and demeaning she herself used to be. Slowly over the course of the rest of the season she begins to help out the Scoobies again, especially when her attraction to Wesley gives her a good excuse to show up. This attraction is used pretty much purely for laughs and is proved so during “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] when they finally kiss. I find it incredibly funny to have all that build-up only to get that.

It’s really during “The Prom” [3×20] when we begin to see what Cordelia’s really made of. She’s lost all her money and her home. Xander shows some kindness by paying for the rest of her prom dress and she returns his kindness with a genuinely heartfelt “thank you.” She has a job at a clothes store and is supporting herself the best she can. All of the sudden the Cordelia character has become a lot more interesting again and I kind of feel a bit sad she leaves this show. At least we get to see her help Angel, persue acting, and develop further as an individual in L.A. on AtS.

 


[Oz]

Oz is a really interesting character. He doesn’t say much and he really keeps to the background. He’ll add in a suggestion or two but generally lets the experts take care of situations that arise. One thing to note is that his werewolf aspect is pretty much ignored this season. They locked him up and such during the right times, but how the wolf affects him is barely discussed yet it becomes a big part in why he leaves in S4’s “Wild at Heart” [4×06] . It’s a shame they couldn’t find a way to further develop that this season. The rest of his development is also completely based around his relationship with Willow. There are a few moments that really define Oz for me. One is how Oz handles seeing Willow and Xander kissing in “Lover’s Walk” [3×08] .

At first he tells Willow to stay away from him. Then in “Amends” [3×10] we find out two very important things about him, one being how reasonable he is and the other being how respectable he is. He gives Willow another shot at making their relationship work and then turns down her offer of sex as an “I’m sorry.” That refusal really shows what kind of guy Oz is. We also get to see just how passionately he cares for Willow in “Choices” [3×19] when he, in an uncharacteristic bout of violence, destroys the container that was needed to destroy the box of Gavrock. Then in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] we see Oz take their relationship to the next level, which is where they begin in S4.

 


[Faith]

When Faith arrives in Sunnydale during “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] we see all the pieces to her future laid out on the table. She’s an entertaining, conflicted, and charismatic character who really breathed fresh new life into the series. We find out early that her Watcher was killed by a vampire she couldn’t protect her against. We see her and Buffy dispose of this vampire in the same episode Faith is introduced in though. This frees Faith from past events and allows her to try to do right while in Sunnydale. That’s when Gwen Post shows up, supposedly to be Faith’s new Watcher (“Revelations” [3×07] [3×07]). Gwen manipulates Faith into trusting her and then thoroughly betrays that trust. The episode ends in an ominous tone when Faith pushes away Buffy’s offer of possible friendship and trust. The writers knew where they were taking us and the music at the end is the first hint of the darkness to come out of Faith.

The story behind Faith’s path isn’t one painted completely in dark hues. The writers wisely gave Faith a lot of vulnerability and longing. Her desparate need of family becomes wildly apparent in “Amends” [3×10] when she shows up at Buffy’s house to accept the invitation Buffy and Joyce gave her to share Christmas with them. It’s obvious that she’s very lonely and really does want a warm home to go to. Faith eventually does find a family and a home. After she joins the Mayor she got more than she ever imagined from him. He provides her with a new home where she feels both needed and appreciated for who she is. This is why she so rapidly begins to fall into darkness — she’s become blind to what she’s doing because she is so excited that she is wanted. All of this is certainly no excuse to be doing the evil things she is responsible for, but it helps to know what her motivations are. The fact she has understandable motivations makes it riveting to watch.

Before diving into Faith’s switch to the Mayor I’d like to briefly discuss her attitude towards sex, men, and slaying. At first it appears as though Faith just really likes casual sex, what with her philosophy of “get some, get gone” and all. But Buffy gives little hints that slaying gets her worked up sexually too — that she gets off on the violence. This is proved true in future seasons through Buffy. Faith is still sexually wild in addition to the natural drive of a Slayer. The best example of this is when Faith, fighting but not getting the kill, decides to take a ride on top of Xander. The fact that she kicks him out nearly immediately afterwards is just a built-in part of her personality that likely stems from bad experiences with men. In “Revelations” [3×07] she says “Ronnie, deadbeat. Steve, klepto. Kenny… drummer … You can’t trust guys.” This is why her night spent with Principal Wood in “Touched” [7×20] and the subsequent conversations are so fun to hear. He tries to set her straight in “Chosen” [7×22] : “Faith, there’s a whole world out there that you don’t even know about and a lot of the men in it are pretty decent guys. They’d surprise you.”

Anyway, now it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. Faith’s inadvertant slaying of the Deputy Mayor is the event which started to break down her moral barriers. Before the killing, Faith establishes that she believes she is above human laws. While Buffy is stunned by her involvement in a crime spree and is in shock over being involved with a murder, Faith is more or less indifferent to both. At the end of “Bad Girls” [3×14] Buffy’s tells her “Faith, you don’t get it. You killed a man” and Faith quickly replies, with a creepy grin on her face, “No, you don’t get it. I don’t care!” I don’t believe that’s completely true, but she is burying her feelings extremely deep. This issue is addressed immediately in “Consequences” [3×15] when Buffy wants to tell Giles what happened and Faith won’t hear of it. After a potent scene involving Faith trying to kill Xander in her apartment, Angel gets a few words in and makes a bit of progress until Wesley and the Council charge in and snatch her.

Faith escapes their clutches and is dumped back out into the streets again. With all this insanity around her she opts for fleeing to the docks and leaving town. Buffy catches up with her and they have it out. Faith throws everything back at Buffy’s face to avoid facing responsibility for her actions. In the middle of the debate Faith comes across an opporunity to replace the Mayor’s right-hand man Mr. Trick and kills him. It just so happens killing him meant saving Buffy, so now Faith’s not only joined the Mayor but the Scoobies don’t know it yet.

For a little while Faith is able to, quite effectively, play both sides before Buffy and Angel catch on. With Faith’s new alliance revealed all she has left is her new relationship with Mayor who ends up treating her like his own daughter. This is the kind of love and respect she’s wanted for quite some time now. Eventually the time for the Mayor’s ascension arrives and Buffy stops by Faith’s new apartment to kill her. They duke it out and Faith is left in a coma, which is incredibly smart of the writers. This way they can bring her back whenever is convenient and will instantly have an awesome character to work with. This character is the reason why S3 ultimately succeeds. She is wonderfully complicated and when she wakes up from her coma in “This Year’s Girl” [4×15] she continues to entertain, wreck havok, and evolve.

 


[The Mayor]

The Mayor is a very fun character to watch. He’s really not all that complicated and he doesn’t show much variation in his character throughout the season, but his personality is so odd that I can’t help but love the guy. He also has a love of snakes for whatever reason and even pays tribute to one in “Band Candy” [3×06] . It’s his personality that wins me over though. He’s still a politician even though he wants ascend into a demon and he actually enjoys doing both. He’s also extremely loyal to his colleagues and even becomes quite fond of them. That’s why when Faith joins him he takes her under his wing and treats her like a daughter.

The only time we see any severe variation or development in the Mayor is when Buffy puts Faith in a coma in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] . In part two he is shown to be outraged and genuinely affected by her absence. All in all, the Mayor makes such a great villain because he’s very human and jolly while managing to be completely evil at the same time. He’s certainly not very scary or threatening, which could be considered a weakness of a good villain, but he more than makes up for it in personality.

 


[Conclusion]

So that’s it folks. Looking back at the season and the scores I handed out, I’ve got to say this was one hell of a great season. It’s not flawless by any stretch and I found myself really missing the emotional outpours of S2, but there’s still a lot of powerful episodes. The final run of “Consequences” [3×15] to “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] is really impressive with only one episode, “Enemies” [3×17] , missing the 90+ mark. The characters were further developed and the high school years were satisfyingly concluded. As much as I love the first few seasons I’m honestly really glad the writers decided to move on to a new setting for S4 — it keeps the series fresh and innovative.

S3 was about the characters finding their identities which will help them in life after high school. The characters, once again, aren’t the same people they were when the season began. I also feel the need to say goodbye to Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley — three great characters that will be continue their development on AtS. It may be a while, but I look forward to hopefully reviewing their adventures as well. I think that pretty much wraps this review up. Feel free to agree/disagree and post your thoughts on the forum. It’s time to move on to S4 and the next chapter in the Scoobies’ lives. I hope to see you all there!

 



[Score]

90/100

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50 thoughts on “Buffy Season 3 Review”

  1. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on March 27, 2007.]

    agree totally with the on again off again buffy-angel thing! i was willing him to leave town by halfway through the season! IMO the stongest episodes this season, apart from Lover’s Walk (my number 1) revolved around the faith and buffy relationship though the wish and dopplegangland were good too.

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  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 29, 2007.]

    This is an awesome season, with amazing episodes like Choices, Earshot, The Wish, Amends, Lover`s Walk, Dopplegangland and GD2. Really, I love this season(I love all the seasons though). But I have to say I also miss the emotions of S2 and even S5. This, for me is an action packed and funny season.

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  3. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 24, 2007.]

    Season Three is hard to compare to the seasons that went before it. It’s the first and, arguably, the only season without a single really bad episode (the other main contender in that category is Season Five, which is similar to Season Three in many ways). I mean, what’s the worst episode in Season Three? Dead Man’s Party? Okay, let’s watch Dead Man’s Party together, and then we can watch Some Assembly Required or Killed By Death or Where The Wild Things Are or anything from Season One except Welcome to the Hellmouth, Angel, and Prophecy Girl. See? Season Three *rocks*!

    On the other hand, there’s a certain lack of really excellent episodes in Season Three. I have a special fondness for The Wish and would probably rate it a little higher than MikeJer (not top ten, though). But it’s as lonely as the Maytag Repairman among truly excellent Season Three episodes. I mean, let’s watch Graduation Day part II and then watch Becoming Part II or Restless or The Gift or Chosen. See? Season Three *sucks*!

    The word MikeJer uses is “consistent,” and it’s the right word. Now, the most consistent show I ever saw was Home Improvement (lovers of that series may want to skip to the next paragraph), because every episode was exactly the same as every other episode and you could supply the tired punchlines to the tired gags or see how Tim was going to destroy himself this week practically during the opening credits.

    Of course, “consistent” means something entirely different in the context of a series as amazing as BTVS. And I think this is the first season where the ME writers thought everything out from the beginning and planned ahead, or at least the first season when it showed. The stories, the themes, the character arcs, the character development, the episodes – every piece fits, there’s very little that’s random or out of place.

    The central theme of the season is coming of age, youth asserting its independence from age and authority, and the necessarily related issues of choices and consequences (thoughtfully represented by episodes titled “Choices” and “Consequences” – fortunately, the home viewer was not privy to the episode titles until he or she bought the DVD set or became addicted to BTVS websites).

    The very first ep, Anne, has to pick up the pieces of the amazingly traumatic and destructive Becoming Part II. But it dives right into the season themes. Buffy fights authority, and in this case authority doesn’t win. Also, more subtly and subversively, Buffy goes from playing grownup, earning a salary and maintaining an apartment, to doing the truly grownup thing and facing up to her responsibilities back home (Slayer and otherwise). And Buffy’s example grows Lily (nee Anne) from a likeable but useless twit into the beginnings of a person – the plot resolution hinges on Lily’s finally standing up for herself.

    Almost every episode revolves around relationships between the kids and parents or partent figures or authority figures. Dead Man’s Party, for example, centers on Buffy’s relationship with Joyce, which goes through some dark places (Gingerbread, for example) before it gets to the mutual affection and respect of Graduation Day part I. In Helpless, Buffy learns that she can’t trust Giles completely – not because he isn’t devoted to her, but because he’s human and can be pressured / bullied into doing the wrong thing. Interestingly, after that episode Giles becomes more and more snarky and subversive and adolescent-like himself.

    The parade of Watchers (Gwendolyn Post, Quentin Travers, Wesley) gives us different views and versions of authority for the various characters to react to. Faith, of course, is in one way the embodiment of adolescent rebellion, but notice how thoroughly she knuckles under to the authoritarian Miss Post, which just foreshadows her relationship with the more gently authoritarian but more insistently pseudo-parental Mayor Wilkins.

    So, see, how great is the Mayor in this context? I think Harry Groener’s performance was the best of the Big Bads, at least considered specifically as a piece of acting. From lovable to creepy, from goofy to terrifying, at the drop of a hat, and always both entertaining and convincing (the role was also consistently well-written, which certainly helps). The Mayor fits beautifully into the themes and arcs of the season because he is ostentatiously both a father figure (to Faith) and an authority figure.

    Another interesting difference about Mayor Wilkins is that he is human, or at least as human as, say, Ethan Rayne. He isn’t a vampire or a demon (yet) or a witch or a disembodied spirit of evil. And so he’s more accessible in a human way than the other Big Bads. He’s outlived his wife and presumably never had any children, and he’s lonely, like anyone would be. In my opinion, that’s why he falls so quickly into a father-daughter relationship with Faith.

    I don’t agree that Mayor Wilkins becomes emotionally attached to his subordinates as a matter of course – he doesn’t seem at all the same toward Allen Finch or Mr. Trick as he is toward Faith. But he needs someone to love, evil and corrupt though he is, and she needs someone to look up to and believe in (as we saw in Revelations). And it’s a basis for real pathos in his character, which always adds depth and dimension to a Big Bad.

    I think we were supposed to sympathize with Adam because he was a psychological infant with no understanding of the world, but that never worked for me. Nor did Glory’s selfish Coredelia-esque whining, though I’m less sure that it was supposed to draw sympathy. Angelus was a tragic figure in his way, of course, but they could only do that once (that aspect of Dark Willow didn’t really work for me, except in the yellow crayon scene, when it was Xander and not Willow that was providing the emotional content).

    The weakness of Mayor Wilkins as Big Bad was that he couldn’t fight his own battles. That was good in a way because it created a central role for Faith, but it also created a big hole in the logic. Since the Mayor is impervious but no stronger than any other middle-aged politician, why not kidnap him and play keep-away with his henchvamps and Faith? Dump him in a slab of hardening reinforced concrete and see if he can Ascend from there. Might not have worked, but it was worth a try, and would have stopped him from eating the contents of the Box of Gavrok, which he did *after* his little unaccompanied gloat-fest in Graduation Day part I (when Giles stuck a sword in him).

    Still, everything considered, Mayor Wilkins is my favorite Big Bad (again, Angelus is a special case). Quality stayed high, the arcs worked (even without the first-love-first-loss advantages of Season Two), and all the pieces fit (except maybe Beauty and the Beasts). Season Three was a season remarkable and admirable for its overall craftsmanship. We won’t see its like again until Season Five, which got the benefit of all the single-episode experimentation of Season Four. At least that’s what I think.

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  4. [Note: spurious posted this comment on November 3, 2007.]

    One of the interesting things about btvs is how my perception of the series has evolved as I have watched and rewatched episodes. This became clear to me as I watched S3 for the second time. Episodes that I LOVED the first time – like Band Candy – didn’t seem as amazing the 2nd time (although its still a good one, don’t get me wrong). Others that I thought were only “pretty good” the first time really seemed to resonate with me the second time; Helpless is the one that comes to mind – the relationship between Giles and Buffy is really touching, and (as MikeJer points out) it is a defining moment for Buffy, when she seems to accept her identity as a slayer. It has also been fun to view the episodes with the knowledge of what’s to come – to see the beginning of Willow’s descent, for example, which I certainly didn’t expect when I originally watched S3, or to see the introduction of Anya (one of my favorite characters). It seems like I had that feeling the whole time watching this season – seeing the characters through new eyes because I knew what they would later become. I cant think of any other TV series where I have so looked forward to watching reruns; it really speaks to Whedon and writers’ abilities that the show can be so rich on subsequent viewings.

    I also want to thank MikeJer for his reviews of S3. They really enhanced my enjoyment of btvs; as I methodically worked through the season, I looked forward to comparing my thoughts about favorite episodes to his (alas, his thoughts were usually more insightful). I’m about to start my second viewing of S4, and its nice to know I will continue to have MikeJer’s reviews to anticipate. I’m not one to write fan letters, but it’s a great site and you should be proud.

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  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 3, 2007.]

    Spurious, I’m very pleased my reviews are providing an ehanced Buffy experience for you! That’s the biggest compliment a reviewer could hope for.

    Thanks!

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  6. [Note: Darth Bunny posted this comment on June 18, 2009.]

    Okay, guess I should defend the Willow/Xander ‘thing’. Not a super fan, but I never had a problem with it. First, it’s important to the series; in terms of importance, I’d put it in the top ten, after 1. angel’s ‘death in becoming 2. buffy’s death in the gift and 3. Tara’s murder in seeing red.

    Their ‘thing’ was not just a way to get Cordelia to leave. Willow and Xander’s brief fling had long term effects on the show, namely by bringing a major character onto the show: Anya. Her relationship with Xander and Willow have huge ramifications on their characters. She is one of the subtle parts which pushes Xander into adulthood, first by giving Xander a responsibility he must stand by, than by forcing Xander into facing his own weaknesses when he leaves her at the altar.

    Anya also, through her rivalry with Willow, serves as a voice of realism against Willow’s romanticism. Willow was viewed as the spirit of the scoobies, innocent and childlike to begin with, but darkened as the show progressed. Anya however was always defined by her role as a former vegenence demon, a former agent of evil.

    It’s important to note that in hindsight, Willow’s first real sin, her relationship with Xander despite Cordelia and Oz, raised a demon whose purpose was to avenge wrongs in a non-legitimate manner. This mirrors the end of Willow’s relationship with Tara; Willow becomes a vengence demon when a sin is done against her. Combined with her attempts to cover up her desires with magic in ‘Lover’s Walk’, Willow’s ‘thing’ with Xander is foreshadowing of deeper events. Clearly her affair with Xander served long term purposes other than getting Xander and Cordelia to break up.

    I’d also like to add that the Xander/Willow affair ended in Lovers Walk. This same episode had Spike proclaim to another couple, Buffy/Angel:

    “Love isn’t brains children. It’s blood; blood screaming inside you to work it’s will!”

    Love is dangerous sometimes, and its dangerous because it drives people to irrational extremes; love makes people do stupid things. While we could argue what love is, Willow clearly feels for Xander and that’s what Spike emphasizes: the triumph of passion over reason.

    It’s no coincidence that the first episode to showcase Willow’s illegal use of magic also showed the first time her passion overwhelmed her intellect. And this is the scoobies major flaw in season 6: 1. Buffy gives into her desires for Spike, 2. Xander heeds his misgivings about marriage at the wrong time and 3. Willow gives into her desire for control. Passion triumphs here and it separates the scoobies from one another, as seen by the end of ‘Lovers Walk’. Their worst enemy is not some external foe, but internal ones.

    As Faith betrays the gang when she gives in her to her needs for guidance and need for superiority, so too do the scoobies betray one another when they gave in to their adolescent desires. Season 3 is about identity, both the good and the bad. The Willow/Xander affair is the dark side of the scoobies identity. In season 6, this is carried out to its extremes.

    Willow and Xander’s ‘thing’ was not out of character; it was the first sign of dark times to come.

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  7. [Note: Kate posted this comment on July 31, 2009.]

    Season Three to me has the most consistancy between all the episodes, and I loved it. But this series could be so much better if there was more EMOTION in here. Season two was so great because it made you feel. Here, it shows that you are just watching the characters feel. Big difference.
    Also, MikeJer, thank you so much for making this site! I have struggled to find a serious and dedicated Buffy site! Especially that I am a relatively new fan.

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  8. [Note: Darrell posted this comment on February 11, 2010.]

    MikeJer, I’m a new Buffyfan and have just completed season 3. I came accross your site while I was about midway through the first season. Several different people had reccommend that I watch Buffy and while I thought there were a few moments of brilliance (Angel, Nightmares) I just didn’t think it was living up to the hype. I noticed on your site that in your opinion (and I completely agree) the series doesn’t really hit its true level of greatness until about midway through the 2nd season. So I stuck with it and now am completely hooked on the show. As I’ve been watching I’ve been going back and reading your reviews. The site is fantastic and I really appreciate your well thought out insites on this amazing show! I don’t know how often you are going back to the site but just wanted to post to let you know that your hard work is definitely appreciated!

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  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 11, 2010.]

    @Darrell: I still visit the site daily to check new forum posts and comments. I generally read (or skim through) every comment posted to the site. Your remarks are noted and very appreciated. It’s always good to see new people getting into and understanding this brilliant show. 🙂

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  10. [Note: AttackedWithHummus posted this comment on February 26, 2010.]

    A comment on the consistency of Buffy: in addition to being a thoroughly consistent season, I pride Buffy on being one of the most consistent series’ of all time. Many shows – though I may adore them for their comparative qualities to what is on now – fall victim to a lack of consistency. Not only does Buffy never contradict itself when introducing even the slightest, most insignificant piece of information, one of the greatest comedic tactics Joss uses is to be consistent in his references. While this clearly happens on a day-to-day basis in real life it rarely occurs in television and deserves serious recognition.

    Avid Buffy viewer that I am I love to claim discoveries of nuances or clever tidbits within the show. I have seen the entire series thrice and a fourth time almost completely – eliminating episodes I didn’t care for – as well as watching an episode or two as often as I possibly can. It’s a wonder I do any work at all! One of the things I love that consistently pops up throughout the series is the attention to detail with names in particular. I have not read every word on this site (as much as I would like to say that I have) so I apologize if this has been pointed out previously, but nevertheless…

    Mayor Richard Wilkins III is not at all unlike the Richard III of the 1400s. If one cracks open their Shakespeare or even just a history textbook if you can’t stand the denser writing they will find startling similarities between the two characters. While both blatantly state their evil stances, they are simultaneously charismatic and fascinating. They could monologue for hours on end, probing the human condition and their own natures. The two each concurrently represent the contradictory sides of the antagonist and the protagonist. What a great pairing! (Especially considering the Mayor might as well have been alive at the same time as the king)

    An additional point: for all those who watch “How I Met Your Mother,” if you haven’t already, check out the episodes “How Lily Stole Christmas” (2×11) and “Mary the Paralegal” (1×19) for Harry Groener as Clint and Alexis Denisof as Sandy…Rivers. I’m sure Alyson Hannigan enjoyed the reunion with Harry and…well, her husband.

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  11. [Note: AttackedWithHummus posted this comment on April 16, 2010.]

    Sorry to continue marvelling at a discovery that I quite possibly should not take credit for, but I was rewatching some season 3 and was reminded of another parallel between Mayor RICHARD III and King RICHARD III:

    In Shakespeare’s play, Gloucester intends to develop a relationship with Lady Anne in which he represents both her father and her lover. While theirs is more husband-heavy relationship, the same discrepancy of roles is present.

    Just to clarify: the similarities lie most with the “based on” version of this era in England. Shakespeare turned King Richard into a villain to appease the Tudors in power during his writing, but in actuality the king was not as dramatically heinous – nor disfigured, a common myth.

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  12. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 20, 2010.]

    Pretty impressive season. I still get the feeling that I haven’t seen the show’s best yet, though. I hope I’m right.

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  13. [Note: Evanna posted this comment on May 30, 2010.]

    I never really got the hype for season 3. The lack of emotion (as other has pointed out) is a big part of it, but I also never really liked Faith or the Mayor. I don’t know why, somehow, they just didn’t appeal to me. Yes, it’s really consistent, and lacks any really bad episodes, but it doesn’t have that many great ones, for me. Other reasons are the lack of Spike (yes, I totally love Spike, and it probably clouds my judgement on that point but hey, I don’t care), some of my other favorite characters from the series (Tara, Anya, no I do not really count her small appearances) and the fact that Bangel mostly bores me. The first time I watched I even took a big breat from Buffy, around Consequences, since it got a bit boring for me. I am really, really glad I continued to watch a couple of months after, ’cause since then I’ve been hooked, and now I’m completely obsessed.

    Lover’s Walk is in my top 5 however, and I feel it’s a moment where season 3 has the things it’s otherwise lacking, as for instance Spike, and emotion. I also love Doppelgangland, Graduation Day part 2, and The Wish, but as a whole, the season just doesn’t do it for me like some of the other ones do, despite it’s consistency.

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  14. [Note: Aeryl posted this comment on July 3, 2010.]

    I can’t believe you find it difficult to see why Buffy and Angel can’t move on. I guess maybe you have to live it to see it, but having ended a relationship with a guy I really loved and who was totally intertwined in my life through friends, school and work, we found it impossible to stay away and out of each other’s bed for long, even though we knew it wasn’t good for us.

    And I totally viewed Willow and Xander’s relationship as one of those stupid self destructive, dying-to-be-caught things that teenagers do. I remember it very well, since I graduated high school two years before the Scoobies.

    So none of those factors negatively impacted how I viewed the season. And I love Faith. Part of the is my undying love for Eliza Dushku(starting with the anemic little girl she was in True Lies), but part of it is an understanding of her desire to do good, and not knowing how.

    You also bring up her sexual nature, and I’d like to point out that her character was obviously dealing with having been sexually assaulted in her past, probably before she ever became a Slayer. I think her over the top sexual behavior is her attempt to reclaim what was taken from her, when coupled with the desire and longing that slaying leaves her with quite the sex drive.

    My reasons for believing she was assaulted stems from her inherent distrust of men, her desire to remain in control of sexual situations, like mounting Xander in The Zeppo, and her own claims of only staying on top to Spike in Dirty Girls. Her reaction to engaging in standard missionary sex with Riley in Who are You reads to me as a trigger event, being reminded of her own assault.

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  15. [Note: Andreas posted this comment on November 7, 2010.]

    The Mayor isn’t overtly scary, but the more I think of him the more I find him frightening on a much more fundamental level. This is the guy who wants to ban “inappropriate books from the public library. This is the guy who thinks comic books and video games are a bad influence. This is the guy who wants everything to be wholesome. This is the guy who thinks being gay is a sin against God and nature. He is the embodiment of every “Gold Old Days” bigot around.

    Some of the scariest villains are the ones who started out so “reasonable”. The ones you trust. The ones who can justify their arguments in calm and measured tones. The ones whose followers started following because “he’s such a nice man”.

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  16. [Note: Michael posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    You pinpointed my problem with this season: the lack of an emotional core. The emotional intensity of seasons 2, 5, and 6 are what make them my favorites in this series. Season 3 DOES have a surprising number of really good episodes, though, and no really bad ones. I just like some pain with my Buffy.

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  17. [Note: Jamie Oliver posted this comment on June 26, 2011.]

    I think, despite it being a tough call, that this is my favourite season. Great story lines and acting throughout the entire year.

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  18. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 2, 2012.]

    This impeccable season is worthy of the A- score you have given it but in my opinion it should be given an A+!

    This season is full of knock out stand alone episodes, suspense and character fluency, interactivity and growth. Development for the Scoobies was dealt with in a powerful and comedic way. Resonating with Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles and Faith was easy with the mind blowing writing and witty dialogue, the message within this season is one which focuses on identity; finding it, figuring out who you are, where you are in life and the choices you make has been a joy to watch.

    Emotions run high in this season if you ask me. Not so palpably as in Season two’s Innocence and Becoming pts 1 and 2 but they’re still there, the emotions that Buffy and the gang go through in the seasons opener and Dead Man’s Party. In Consequences, Buffy and Faith not to mention Willow go through a volley of emotions, then again in Choices, The Prom. Cordelia is someone i resonated with in Lover’s walk and The Gift. The scenes in Revelations, the anger, the sorrow and the guilt that are unearthed at the intervention the group have with Buffy ware cohesive. The episode Helpless was one of the best of the season’s run for emotional value.

    What else can you ask for? With that great two part final and the characters introduced such as Faith and Wesley and The Mayor.

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  19. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 2, 2012.]

    I’ll be sharpening my criticism for this season when the time comes, but even as it stands my general complaints with the season stand. The emotion of Buffy leaving town are far too quickly brought back home early in the season. Angel’s quick return is a huge mistake and cheapens the emotions even further. These are both signs of the show trying to return itself to the status quo rather than taking bigger risks in its overall storytelling. Season 3 often plays it safe rather than taking risks. It’s a fairly consistent season that has few lows but also few highs. It’s across the board ‘good,’ but rarely exceptional. Whereas other seasons leave me feeling emotionally drained and intellectually satisfied, Season 3 has some stretches that I find a little boring and tame. And that’s the heart of my issues with the season. There’s still a lot to love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not flawless and is easily the most overrated season of this show, for me at least.

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  20. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on February 3, 2012.]

    I understand the point you make Mike, regarding this season being one that people consider overrated, i feel that way about season one; i think people underrate it but thats just me. Everyone has a preference. Even if those preferences are a little confounding! 🙂

    I agree it isn’t as emotional as the second or even the sixth season but its Buffy at; well lets say its good time, it is finding it is feet with the comedy after the darkness before in season 2. However i consider it to be one of the better ones for what it delivers. I stand by the above points i made in my previous comment but Buffy touches everyone and people never 100% agree all of the time. The debates and divergent opinions is what keep me glued to your site Mike, i love seeing others prominent views and thoughts on episodes and characters.

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  21. [Note: JEL posted this comment on December 10, 2012.]

    This may have been discussed elsewhere (perhaps in the forums which I haven’t read much of), but I don’t remember it coming up in any of the reviews and this (the wrap up of season 3) seems like a place to mention this.One of the things I really liked about this show when it first aired was that Joss Whedon had his characters age “in real time”. So many of the shows set in high school at the time would not let the characters age at all, or age very slowly. (Several seasons per year in high school.) And then the age differential between the characters and the actors portraying them would get greater and greater until it became completely ludicrous. Instead in Buffy, as the actors aged, so did the characters, and the age differential stayed constant. I thought that was wonderful. It was also a pretty brave and risky choice to make. Here was a show that started with the premise to have the problems of high school expressed in terms of supernatural monsters and in 2 1/2 years the characters are graduating and we are leaving the high school setting. From what I read, some fans really didn’t like this; the risk of losing part of the audience was real. For me though, it was one of the attractions.

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  22. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on January 29, 2013.]

    As ever, I agree with most of what is an excellent review. So I’ll try to keep things interesting by highlighting the two biggest things I don’t agree with.

    The first thing was that I don’t have any problem with Angel being reintroduced and I don’t think it reduces the sacrifice Buffy made in sending Angel to hell or devalues the character development of that action. I mean, she didn’t know he was going to come back when she sent him through that portal. And the litmus test on this would be the retrospective viewing of the S2 finale. Does it feel any less emotional because you know about S3? For me, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. In retrospective viewings I’m even more emotional if anything because I know the sacrifice Buffy is about to make. I’m generally in tears before she even reaches the mansion….

    There are three other reasons why I don’t mind the return of Angel, and I’ll give them in descending order of importance: 3) I love AtS and Angel himself goes on to be my favourite Buffyverse character there (That second part is probably a bit unusual, no? Especially for a male fan anyway….) 2) I don’t think the mechanics of Buffy sending Angel to hell presented a problem for bringing him back – she didn’t stake him and she only sent him through a portal, from which, as we will later see many times – even with Buffy herself – people can be brought back. 1) I think Angel’s reintroduction had an important role ro play in both Buffy and the Scoobies’ development. In terms of the gang, Buffy’s hiding Angel from them drove the wedge between the group which permeates throughout season four and carries on from there, allowing each to have their own lives outside the group more. With Buffy herself, it allowed further development by carrying on the first love metaphor through the messy break-up and the growth that comes from moving on. I don’t think she ever would have truly been able to move on had the relationship ended as it did in S2, despite the symbolic leaving of the ring in the mansion.

    The only real problem with Angel coming back, I think, is that they didn’t really explain the why or the how. The portal and the hell dimension in ‘Anne’ were clearly meant to prepare the ground in showing us that someone COULD come back from a hell dimesion but we never get a full explanation of where Angel was or why and how he got back.

    So, the second thing: I found the relationship between Willow and Xander to be quite natural and believable. Yes, they were both in relationships with people they liked but that doesn’t stop you from getting intoxicated with the idea of a new romance. It’s pretty common to get little crushes on other people even if you’re completely in love with and committed to someone. If you’re smart and can control yourself, you leave them as crushes. If you let it go too far though, you can ruin everything. So I think Willow and Xander’s actions were believable. After all ‘Love makes you do the wacky’. Plus, Willow had always loved Xander before and there was the moment they had in ‘When She was Bad’.

    For general comments, I’d say it’s understandable why a lot of people see this as their favourite season (It’s my wife’s favourite actually). Although I love Spike and Tara, had quite a thing for Jenny Calendar and even like Dawn Summers, I think season 3 had the best ensemble cast of characters. The chemistry between them was just incredible. Besides the four core Scoobies, we have Cordelia, Angel, Oz, the hilarious mayor (one of the best Big Bads), Anya is introduced and for crying out loud we have freaking Faith! If Joss Whedon were ever to make a show called ‘Just extended scenes of Faith dancing in nightclubs’ I’d be scoring every episode as an A+ 😉

    I think the cast is what makes S3 one of the most, if not the most, accessible seasons. Such great chemistry and humour all the way through. It was great to see the writers taking risks, messing with the format and poking fun at themselves in this season too, to produce some of the all-time great episodes like ‘The Zeppo’, ‘The Wish’ and ‘Dopplegangland’. I agree the downside to the season is the drop in emotional intensity from S2 but I still think S3 has enough going for it to put it easily in the top two or three seasons overall.

    Will anyone have read this whole comment? Doubt it. Ah well, my own fault for blethering. I’m usually a lot more succinct than this. Something about BtVS makes me go on and on…..

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  23. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 29, 2013.]

    Thanks for the comment! Some good points.

    First, I will agree that Angel coming back wasn’t too bad considering we got another show out of the deal, although I’d still prefer it hadn’t happened if I look at Buffy as a self-contained show. What bothers me more than the fact he came back is how fast he came back. It was way too soon. I was still emotionally trying to process the end of Season 2 and all the sudden Angel is back. It felt cheap. And, for me, it does — much as I love the episode — slightly cheapen “Becoming” for me. Angel’s quick returned simply doesn’t feel earned.

    Second, I will admit that as time has gone by I’ve softened on Willow and Xander’s little flirtation. I still don’t really like it, and still have a bit of a hard time (in terms of character) seeing Willow do that to Oz, but it’s not as crazy as I made it out to be in my original reviews of the season. When I get around to updating the Season 3 reviews you’ll notice a different tone towards it. So while it may not be as wildly out of character as I portrayed it here, I still find it questionable and still don’t care for it.

    I suppose I also disagree with you that Season 3 produces some of the all-time great episodes. Just taking your list, what you have there are three really good-to-excellent episodes, but they have too much competition for me to consider them the top of the pack. “Doppelgangland” is arguably the exception.

    Season 3 is a great season of Buffy, but I just don’t “feel” it like the rest of them. It’s themes are a little less personalized compared to other seasons, it’s got less top episodes, it’s got less dramatic heft, it takes the quick way out on Season 2’s follow-through, and it’s just missing that spark for me. Still, lots of great stuff, and no doubt one of the show’s better seasons — just not in contention (stiff competition and all) for my top three favorites: 5, 2, and 6.

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  24. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    You wrapped my thoughts around season 3 nicely. I agree, especially about the statement about characters. We also get Wesley, how fun is it seeing him here considering how will he end up in AtS? 🙂 However, i still dislike Xander/Willow thing, but on Xanders side. He never was interested in her, so i makes no sense that he would go after her now, especially when he has Cordelia. I’m one of those people whos favorite season is 3. However, is too bad we don’t get any fantastic episodes like Passion or Becoming… But then again, we don’t get crappy episodes like “Some assembly required”. (I’m pretending that “Gingerbread” isn’t in season 3). 😀

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  25. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    Argh, I knew I was leaving someone out. However could I forget Wesley? Yeah, when you watch him in S3, and indeed in AtS S1, it’s pretty incredible to see how much he’s developed, from bumbling idiot to dark guy badass.

    I think you’ve more or less hit the nail on the head with the differences bewteen S2 and S3 in that the oveall quality of S3 is fairly solid throughout but without ever reaching those incredible highs of S2. S2 on the other hand has those highs but doesn’t have the consistency of quality.

    S2 is my favourite because, at it’s best, I think it gets to places none of the other seasons managed to reach. So I forgive it its dips now and then.

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  26. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    Hey Mike,

    I think we’re pretty much on the same wavelength in thinking that Angel’s return wasn’t really earned.

    I didn’t articulate my point about some of the all-time great episodes very well – and I gave some pretty poor examples as a couple actually go slightly against the grain of what I wanted to say. I know a lot of people pick those real standout episodes where something extraordinary and different was done (Hush, the Body, Once More with Feeling etc.) but I prefer the episodes that are the bread and butter of what Buffy is. Episodes like Band Candy or Earshot for instance, which probably won’t appear in many top tens, just ‘feel’ more like what BtVs is to me.

    I take your point about not being as drawn in by the season as others. As Alexei mentioned above, S3 is pretty solid quality throughout but without ever reaching those emotional highs. I definitely think though that its consistency overall puts it up there at the top end.

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  27. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 30, 2013.]

    It’s definitely in contention for one of the top seasons. My Series Retrospective (on the Season 7 Review) breaks down my season ‘groupings’:

    (5) – no compromises
    (2,6,3) – all great seasons, but not without their flaws
    (4,7) – all really good seasons, with moments of greatness, but more glaring flaws
    (1) – flawed, but still with plenty to love

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  28. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on February 1, 2013.]

    Almost the same as mine, if you were to switch 6 and 4. Funnily enough, although S5 has the more consistent quality and is the more finely crafted overall piece, S2 is still my favourite. At its very best (think Innocence, Passion, Becoming 1+2 etc) I think it reached highs that were never quite matched again, be it by BtVS or any other TV show.

    But in the differences of opinion lies the fun 😉

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  29. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on January 6, 2014.]

    Season 3 is my favourite season. It might not stay that way (after first having seen the show around September last year I’ve constantly switched between 2, 3 and 6) but I’m still always going to love it. I think you have a tendency to downplay its (quite frankly incredible) strengths and focus more on the negatives.

    As far as I can see your main complaints with the season are as follows:

    1) There’s not as much emotion.
    2) Angel came back too quickly.
    3) Willow and Xander getting together.
    4) Lack of ‘truly great’ episodes.

    Personally, I don’t think these arguments hold much water, with the exception of the last one. Season 3 does contain lots of emotion and outpourings – perhaps not as much as 2, 5 or 6 but there’s still quite a lot. For example, much of the material regarding Buffy and Angel’s relationship is quite emotional for me (and I’m not even a Bangel fan) Also, Cordelia in The Prom, Willow in Consequences (I think) and most of Lover’s Walk. I will admit there is a reduction, but I don’t think it is too drastic.

    Secondly, I don’t consider Angel’s early return to be a flaw in the season. I understand why you do, but I think this is purely a matter of opinion. It never bothered me and it didn’t cheapen his death in ‘Becoming’ to me either.

    Thirdly, Willow and Xander’s ‘liason’ was nothing to write home about but I don’t think it was particularly out-of-character. After all, the characters are still very young at this point in the show. I think my stance on it is similar to the one that you expressed in your comment – the 26th here I believe.

    Finally, I concede that of all the seasons this is perhaps the one with the least great episodes. There is only one S3 episode which enters into my Top 10 (Doppelgangland) and only a couple of others I would rank in my Top 25 (Earshot, maybe Lover’s Walk and The Wish.) This is a valid flaw in the season, although I’d say you could also level this against S4 (Restless aside, I think Hush is overrated) and S7 (never got the praise for Selfless or LMPTM)

    So while there are some flaws, there are also amazing strengths. As my username proudly trumpets, I am an enormous fan of Faith and I also thought the Mayor was amazing. The consistency was great (I’d personally rank both Homecoming and Gingerbread higher than you) and the character development and themes were also excellent.

    As far as I’m concerned, all this season needed was more Spike. Every season should have more Spike (except S7.)

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  30. [Note: Joy posted this comment on January 6, 2014.]

    I don’t hate the Willow/Xander affair as much as most people do. Yes, it was incredibly stupid and hurtful, but that’s exactly what makes affairs such terrible things. When affairs blow up to the detriment of everyone involved, the cheaters can’t help but wonder, “What was I thinking?” Their friends can’t help but wonder, “What were they thinking?”

    Even though Willow and Xander had paired up with Oz and Cordelia respectively, it seemed as if there was always a part of them that hadn’t moved on, that still wondered, “what if?” Willow still had lingering feelings for Xander, although she tried to deny it to herself. When Willow got involved with Oz, it felt like she hadn’t fully gotten over the heartbreak she felt when she realized Xander had chosen Cordelia over her.

    Xander wasn’t aware of what he lost in Willow until after he lost her to Oz. He never had a sexual interest in Willow until he realized that someone else found Willow desirable. Lust and envy for what others have is one of Xander’s biggest character flaws.

    Their unresolved feelings festered until they came out. What they did was disappointing, but quite “in-character”.

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  31. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on January 6, 2014.]

    To me the whole Xander Willow affair was a down-side of the season… Perhaps it wasn’t out of character for Willow, but it was definitely out of character for Xander. It was made pretty clear that Xander expressed no sexual interest in Willow. They were just friends to him and to have him and Willow pairing up in the third season is a little annoying…

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  32. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 19, 2014.]

    I think this episode is the perfect follow up to Season 2. The emotional and mythic heights of S2 were not sustainable. Nor could the show have continued at that pace of character development for 5 more seasons. Even more than “identity” season 3 is about consequences. The consequences of Season 2.

    But this being Buffy, those Consequences don’t proceed in the orderly way they do on even the best of other shows. In any other show, season 2 would have been the capper of Buffy and Angel. In the real world, I think few people EVER recover from such a tumultuous first love. I speak from sad experience… As truly strong people will, Buffy survived Angel, but not without lingering scars. But like strong people, she kept fighting for Angel when she shouldn’t have. Again, I can relate. I think it is far more realistic that Angel does come back. That’s what too often happens in real life.

    Season 3 is also about consequences avoided. Buffy does not become Faith. Cordy doesn’t become Anya. But Zander regresses after his break up with Cordy. And a Willow’s very extended arc is hinted at in Doppelgangland. Though ultimately her friends save her, and that is another theme of S3. Friends, family. Our connections to other people, especially those we love, that saves us in the end. No one is strong enough to stand alone.

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  33. [Note: Robert posted this comment on May 24, 2014.]

    Another great review. I agree with just about everything said above. In many ways this season was a reflection of what came before in Season 2, but as the characters had already gone through so much trauma in the previous season it would have been overkill to replicate it exactly in this season. I think that’s why some people consider this season inferior to what came before, but to me it works because of course the characters (especially Buffy) have grown as a result of what they have endured previously, and so it would be stagnant to expect them to relive the same angst all over again. Interesting how Buffy was considered “impulsive” by Kendra, in a season where Buffy did make a lot of impulsive decisions (especially sleeping with Angel) that she would deeply regret. Then comes Faith, and suddenly Buffy is redefined as “Miss Tightly-Wound”. Naturally after what happened before she would be cautious around Angel, though her desires still drew her to him despite the danger. Still it was a fascinating comparison between the two slayers.

    I wasn’t too bothered by the Xander/Willow thing, especially since his reveal to an unconscious Willow that he loved her in Becoming 2. I still think the “drama” of adding this relationship was just a little early-season filler, as the mayor storyline wouldn’t unfold until much later. But I wasn’t too thrown by it either.

    Angel’s return, on the other hand, was bothersome but understandably necessary. By this time Whedon & co. already knew the spin-off was in the works, so they had to keep his character around for the whole season to entice newer viewers to watch the new show. Plus Angel/David was still in the opening credits, so it was hardly unexpected that he would return. I do agree though that it would have been much better had he returned later, as it did seem to lessen the devastating impact of the Becoming finale.

    To me, though, the character who made the season come alive was Faith. Her progression to the dark side was similar to Angel’s in Season 2, as it came around the same time, except of course her decision unlike Angel’s was voluntary. Interesting though that in a way Buffy was indirectly responsible for both of their turns. Her connection to Angel’s turn is obvious, but it was in large part Faith’s jealousy over Buffy having the “Watcher, the mom, the little Scoobie Gang” that caused her to side with the Mayor. The one thing that Wilkins gave her that the others didn’t was respect, which was something Faith desperately craved. It was only natural as well that Faith wouldn’t automatically fit into the Scoobies. For one thing she wasn’t a student, but for another they had forged deeply-seeded friendships after facing multiple apocalypses together. Though his intentions were dubious, the Mayor welcomed Faith unambiguously and made it clear that he was “the best and most important friend that [she’ll] ever have”.

    All in all I really enjoyed this season. I still remember the blackout of the “Earshot” episode (because of it being due to air a week after Columbine) and the subsequent blackout of Graduation Day 2. How many of us spent countless hours searching online for those bootlegged episode copies? Oh, memories…

    PS – the only scene that I can actually claim to “hate” in this season was in Lover’s Walk – an exemplary episode overall, but I hated that stupid Cordelia funeral fake-out before we see Buffy and Willow walking by the graveyard. My only pet-peeve in an otherwise strongly-written episode (and season).

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  34. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on June 9, 2014.]

    This is truly a great season, however I think my favorite seasons are the same as Mike’s are (2,5 and 6). If there’s one complaint I have with Season 3, is that the emotional fallout and all the causalities and consequences of all that occurred in Season 2 was executed rather briskly. So, technically it ties into your major complaint which is the lack of emotional material. This season could honestly have had tons and tons of emotional material that had to do with the fall-outs of Season 2. But we didn’t get that. The issues were real, the emotional entanglements were real, and so were the mistakes, but everything was waved off too easily. They should have taken more time exploring the problems that they brought up in ‘Dead Man’s Party’ instead of abruptly ‘resolving’ matters with a hokey zombie attack. The issues and aftermath of Becoming Pt2 really needed to be dealt with in a better way. And as you mentioned, Angel returns all too quickly. Buffy’s FINALLY about to move on and then he pops right back into the picture. I don’t actually have an issue with Angel’s return, I just wish he’d returned a little later so that we had gotten enough time to dwell over the events of Season 2.

    As we all know, the Scoobies are drifting further and further apart; instead of giving us more conflict they played most of it for laughs and anything that was vaguely sincere was interrupted or waved off all too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the Scoobies forgave each other, but what the writers portray here isn’t forgiveness, it seems more like denial or putting the issues on the back burner for the time being. That’s what I did not like about this season. Well that, and the obligatory lack of Spike.

    While I can deal with the Willow/Xander ‘indiscretion’ I found it terribly hard to watch and didn’t enjoy how long they carried it on. Season 3 also runs high on Bangel angst, and the on again off again relationship they have is really tiresome, so its good that Angel leaves at the end. This is not to say I don’t enjoy their relationship, I do, but overplaying the same card over and over again makes it lack the quality it once had.(This is something I only expect from TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, there Season 5 is truly horrific and stupid.) Anyway, to me, other than some obvious exceptions, a lot of the Bangel scenes just seemed crammed into the midst and overly melo-dramatic like observed from Xander’s POV in ‘The Zeppo’.

    What I do appreciate in this season are truly great stand-alone ish episodes such as ‘The Wish’, Doppelgangland, The Zeppo and Earshot. I really can’t think of another season that portrays such well-defined episodes back to back. So kudos to the writers for that! I also honestly am willing to give this season an A+ simply because of Faith’s presence. I think she makes up for the lack of some of the other beloved characters yet to be fully explored (Anya, Tara, Spike of course…). Faith is a truly enigmatic and interesting character who I love to watch. Eliza Dushku was surely born to play this role! She carries it with such simplicity and it doesn’t feel contrived or surreal for a second. Faith makes a lot of bad choices and has a huge amount of flaws as a person, but this makes for a compelling character. I love that she’s more than the embodiment of a rogue adolescent running high on adrenaline, she’s conflicted; she’s clever and undoubtedly screwed up. I enjoyed every scene with her, and her chemistry with other actors (SMG especially) plus her screen presence is wonderful. The Buffy-Faith dynamic is just so damn good, I can never get enough of these two.

    So this is definitely one of the best seasons of BtVS, even though I wouldn’t call it the best, it surely has a lot going for it. Characters are given importance in this show, and that makes it one of the best TV shows of our time. I love the electric personalities that almost every character possesses, even ones like Oz and even Snyder for that matter, who do not get much screen-time, seem oddly fleshed out. I also appreciate this season and the show as a whole for its excellent consistency. This is what most TV shows today lack, so I think Buffy deserves more recognition simply based on the fact that they had the best consistency I’ve experienced from a TV show, not to mention how well the actors fit into their roles and give it their all. Each and every one of them, including the Big Bads like the Mayor. Anyway, this was certainly a great run!

    I rambled on again and I apologize for that. I’m on my second run of the season and I must say I’m thoroughly satisfied of my Buffy experience thanks to this site, keep up the good work and I look forward to your new reviews! 🙂

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  35. [Note: B posted this comment on October 30, 2014.]

    Angel escaped from the hell by punching his way out because of his love for and need for Buffy like Connor did on Angel because he loved his dad and needed Angel The First bringing him back was a lie to try to get him to think evil brought him back becausr he was evil.

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  36. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on July 20, 2015.]

    Overall I think it’s safe to say this season is popular due to one main thing: balance. Other seasons would end up focusing on certain characters (mainly Buffy) a bit too much or not have a good evenness between plot and standalones (the last two seasons). This season gets it right with all the main cast getting a slice of the pie (and those who don’t like or do like Buffy can appreciate this) and the story is pretty well balanced as we can have fun but also feel that there is an actual plot happening. It may not have the best opening stretch,there aren’t as many top shelf episodes as some others and you don’t feel as much depression as others either but all in all it’s a solid package.

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  37. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on July 22, 2015.]

    Not sure I agree, mainly because I feel Season Two got the balance between character threads also tying into and running through the main arc spot on. Season Three has a big chunk of episodes in the middle where nothing really happens with regards to Faith/The Mayor/Mr. Trick (for whatever reason). Faith I think suffered for the first 2/3 of the season because after her intro episode, she’s too strong a presence to have as a constant Scooby. Plus, her attitude early on screams ‘I’m going to go rogue’ rather early. I’d have rather seen a more well-rounded Faith as a true alternative to Buffy’s shiny minty heroism, rather than just her dark reflection. With a more interesting, integrated Faith, it would make her deciding to work with the Mayor all the more shocking. Instead it’s not too surprising. You don’t need to be a total loose cannon to have bad/absent parents and to be emotionally scarred.

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  38. [Note: Mike Hartley posted this comment on July 22, 2015.]

    So, when are you updating your Series 3 reviews then MikeJer? Would be good to see how you’ve moved on in terms of your views.

    Personally – I love the series. The look-and-feel is so different from the others – bright, bold colours (not a camera expert, so no idea what they did to do it) vs the moodier visual tone of series 2 (perhaps, in hindsight, more adult-looking).

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  39. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 24, 2015.]

    Not sure. I’ve been pretty swamped by my personal life in recent months, but hopefully I can start digging into Season 3 later this year. 🙂

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  40. [Note: Arya Stark posted this comment on August 10, 2015.]

    Hey Mikejer! First off, your reviews are amazing and I always enjoy your insightful analyses and reviews. Thanks for making them! I agreed with almost everything you said, except for a few things.

    I don’t think the Xander and Willow relationship came out of nowhere. It was pretty much foreshadowed throughout season 2. I.e. in the opening scene of When She Was Bad. Again in BB&B when he rejects Willow he makes it clear that he wasn’t rejecting her b/c he didn’t find her attractive. And then again in Becoming pt 2 when he tells Willow he loves her, and the look of disappointment in his face when Willow says Oz’s name in response to his declaration of love.

    And Willow’s reaction to the news that Faith and Xander slept together. I didn’t take her crying as her acknowledging the rift in her and Xander’s friendship. I took that as her finding out that the guy that she spent almost her entire life believing she would lose her virginity to, lost it to some random chick. I think deep down she always believed that moment would be with her. Yeah, Willow loved Oz, but Xander was her first love and it takes a loooooong time to get over that, even if you are happy with someone else. Willow’s crush on Xander was even more complicated considering they had been best friends their whole lives. I LOVED Willow crying about Xander losing his v-card to another girl. It’s a VERY realistic and touching scene that just about any female can relate to.

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  41. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 13, 2015.]

    Agree completely. Willow’s crying in the bathroom is a big pile-up of realisations for her. I think here is the final death of Willow’s romantic love for Xander and it’s a big blow for her. It’s a final, emotional acceptance of what their relationship will always be – just friends. I don’t blame Xander too much here – for all his jerk qualities, he’s always been Will’s friend first and foremost and has never tried to exploit that friendship (however much she wanted him to in adolescence). He is the epitome of the guy-girl heterosexual friendship. It’s a fantastic reversal of the friend-zoning that all guys fear and exactly what happens to Xander himself with Buffy.

    She’s also crying because after having to accept Cordelia with Xander and him finding someone he hates more attractive than his best friend, she finds out that Faith took his virginity. I love your take on this – after everything she’s both subtly and unsubtly hinted to Xander over the years, and after their brief ‘affair’ earlier in the season, he would jump into bed with Faith of all people and not ever her. It’s sad when you see Xander’s declaration of love for her and her semi-conscious call for Oz, because it’s one of the milestones that shows that these two will always be friends, but not together, even if he now wants them to be.

    I also love the almost sad way their kissing in formal wear is referenced in ‘Hell’s Bells’. I like that they wanted to show that Willow still thinks of those moments in high school and acknowledges the ‘what ifs’. [brief aside – I’d have loved to see a conceptual sequel to ‘The Wish’ or AtS ‘Birthday’ that showed possible futures for the characters, eg. what if Willow and Xander had ended up together and Anya hadn’t had a chance with him? Would Xander have proposed, or even left Willow at the altar like he did Anya?]

    I personally know the sting of loving someone and them being utterly oblivious, so I really empathise with Willow here. Getting over that first love is very hard. I always feel most for Willow when I rewatch seasons 1-3, because in some ways she learns and grows the most in that time. Willow in S4 for example is a very different person (if not at her core) from S2, which can’t be said of some of the other characters. I even think Buffy is very similar in S4 to S2, though she has had major emotional roadblocks thrown in her way which distract her.

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  42. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 27, 2015.]

    You know I wasn’t that crazy about the Mayor when I was watching the show originally probably cause I couldn’t get a hold of his deal but after reading and listening to some other opinions I think he definitely holds his own as one of the better Big Bads because his character really was kind of fleshed out. In a way he didn’t really view himself as the average bad guy but rather a person that just happened to be using these dark methods to control people. In a way that’s where the complexity shows up in the character.

    As for the season itself while the lack of emotional destructive was kind of weird compared to the previous season reading and imdb review right after kind of put into perspective that this was kind of the better thought out product just in terms of the structuring involved and the valuable character stuff.

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  43. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on January 27, 2016.]

    [Edited and reposted here, as the post about ‘Enemies’ was as much a critique of S3 as it was that episode.]

    ‘Enemies’ is where the frailties of Season Three are really exposed. After spending so long (ten episodes since ‘Band Candy’) without having the scoobies discover the faintest inkling that Mayor Wilkins may be up to no good (pretty big hint dropped by Balthazar in ‘Bad Girls’), ‘Enemies’ is perhaps the only episode up to now where the clear hand of the writer can be seen.

    The episode for some reason attempts several things, and doesn’t get any of them right. First, the Mayor’s plan has to be revealed – remember we are 17 episodes in here and the scoobies are just as oblivious as they were in ‘Band Candy’ as to who the ‘Big Bad’ might be. We’ve had a major Heel Face Turn of an ally, but they don’t even know about that either. The season has five episodes to go, and they don’t even know who the bad guys are, what their plan is, or even that there’s a double agent in their midst. This season’s ‘arc’ is much too subtle and flimsy compared to Season Two’s. Faith is now being set up as a villain way too late in the season to get much more exploration of her character, though we do see that she comes to think of the Mayor as a father figure.

    The Mayor’s plans boil down to ‘perform dedication ritual’ (Scoobies none the wiser), eat spiders from the box of gavroc (which they’d also not have known about if not for some fortuitous spying by Buffy) and finally become a snake (which they can’t stop). I think it’s a crucial weakness of this season that there is no defining villains until this point 17 episodes in. But that’s where the real flaws of this episode come in.

    The main problem with ‘Enemies’ is that it’s a complete fake-out of the audience. Buffy/Ange/Giles essentially say ‘fooled you!’ to Faith, because this episode has to end with the scoobies in full knowledge of her turn. If they don’t, they’re still way behind the audience. But instead of having them actually discover her betrayal, the writers decide they’ve known since at least the start of this episode, since they have set the whole convoluted scheme up. ‘Enemies’ also requires that the Scoobies learn about the Mayor’s plans for Graduation Day. So instead of us seeing them find out this information, the writers again tell us they already know.

    When did they realise Faith was bad? When did they realise the Mayor had big plans to take place soon? When did they connect the two? Was it the Shaman? If so, surely it’s incredibly lame for them to be told what is in fact crucial information to the plot of the season by a character we’ve never seen before, offscreen no less.

    ‘Enemies’ is a great example of writers sprinting to catch protagonists up with the audience. It’s so lazy to let a season drift like this one does, waiting 17 episodes to actually introduce the main plot of the season. While ‘Choices’ and Graduation Day’ are pretty good episodes, they almost dropped the ball on Season Three. With such a subtle villain it was important to tread very carefully, but with whole swathes of the season devoted to standalone stories, they made the rest of the season feel very rushed, especially towards the end. Let’s look at the episode list from this point:

    17)Enemies – simultaneously learning about the Ascension and Faith.
    18)Earshot – quirky standalone that is out of place here. The Zeppo could easily have been binned in favour of Earshot plus another arc episode dealing with the Ascension.
    19)Choices – trying to stop the Ascension before it becomes impossible to do so.
    20)The Prom – a breather and a wrap-up of some of the High School threads as well as the final Buffy/Angel ‘relationship’ moments.
    21)Graduation Day – a strange decision to try and assassinate Angel at this point, clearly to set up Faith’s removal from the picture.
    22)Graduation Day Pt II – the Ascension itself and the end of the season.

    The season rushes through its main arc in the last six episodes of the season, two of which have very little to do with the Mayor or Faith. A critical lack of enough arc material allows the season to get lazy, which by the end forces them to come with writer caveats just to get the heroes up to speed on the plot. Season Three has many great moments and episodes, but this was its crucial flaw and why it is worse than Season Two – not by a lot, but a noticeable amount. This season is carried on the back of the good standalones. The Wish, Revelations, Lover’s Walk, Helpless, Doppelgangland and Earshot are all episodes I could happily watch out of context of the season. They are in a lot of people’s favourite episode lists. But they carry the season for the most part. I also think Graduation Day is overrated both as a finale and as a Buffy episode.

    I personally had no issue with Angel returning from Hell – it was the weakness of the storylines given to the character generally that made it seem annoying that he was even still around. Aside from ‘Amends’, which is the origin point for all of the Angel series (which still for me stands up much taller and more consistent than its parent series), Angel serves as an on-off distraction for Buffy, who constantly wavers between breaking it off and wanting to be with him just like in early S2. I think this was largely intentional to an extent – Angel had to be the one to end things, because Buffy just didn’t yet have the fibre needed to leave behind the one thing she wanted most.

    I also had no issue with the Xander/Willow romance plotline. It served multiple purposes – Xander finally realising he might love her after all, far too late. Willow finally getting what she’s always wanted, far too late. It’s a classic example of ‘right person, wrong time’ for both, and also has a knock-on effect on their relationships. Cordelia prefers not to fight hard for a relationship that was on unsteady ground to start with, and needs to be off the show at season end. Willow and Oz, at that point, are staying together and looking like they have a bright future. If Seth Green hadn’t decided to leave the series, Willow’s development would have been very different. So the origins and effects of that plotline were well thought out and I must stress that it is NOT out of character for either to feel attracted to the other.

    I do agree that S3 is consistent, but I still feel there were episodes that are on a par with what are generally considered the ‘worst’ of S2, like ‘Some Assembly Required’ and ‘Bad Eggs’. ‘Beauty and the Beasts’, ‘Dead Man’s Party’ and ‘The Zeppo’ (yes, the Zeppo!) are easily the low points of this season. I feel that although largely consistent, the number of sub-par (for BtVS) episodes is still similar enough for this to not be a striking difference between the two seasons.

    I also have a small issue with Faith’s turn to the dark side. First, I disagree with the motivations for killing Mr. Trick – Faith still had enough of a good side left at that point to want to save Buffy from Kakistos’ old toady. Killing him saved Buffy and that’s where the motivation for her dark turn is a little off. For what reason does Faith believe the Mayor will accept her as a minion? The idea clearly only came to her after she killed Trick, because the first part of her conversation with Wilkins is to confront him over sending Trick to kill her. Later on in the ‘arc’, there’s too little time to truly establish Faith’s credentials as a villain. It’s all crammed into 5-6 episodes. Earlier in the season Faith wouldn’t be onscreen for more than a few minutes across 2-3 episodes – this was all prime opportunity to have the Mayor’s arc begin earlier and make Faith darker earlier, rather than mostly absent.

    In all, a season that is often overrated by many Buffy fans. The individual episodes I mentioned above shine, but not overall with any greater consistency than in plenty of other seasons. I think the main reason for it being considered ‘better’ (without any real justification for it) is the strength of certain individual episodes. ‘The Wish’ and ‘Doppelgangland’ pop up so consistently in fan praise, as well as critic ‘best of’ lists, that it’s almost distorted the overall feeling regarding S3 (Faith as a character is also a big contributor to this). I like the season as a whole, and it’s way ahead of S6-7, but generally speaking I regard it below seasons 2, 5 & 4. There’s just too much going on in each of those – S4 may be less consistent, but the thematic shifts and overall arcs were way more pronounced and memorable. Standalones don’t make a good season – every Buffy season (even S1 has at least two) has multiple memorable episodes that push the boundaries of what Buffy could do as a show.

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  44. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 27, 2016.]

    I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s focus on character it where it’s strength lies. Pretty much everyone gets some focus at some point in the season (whereas 2 was mostly Buffy) and the new characters are quite good. The fact that Wesley was able to get a 5 season arc on Angel just based on his relatively small role here is a testament to how good they characterized him. And obviously Faith would get a lot of good on Angel as well.

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  45. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on May 4, 2016.]

    I think that I have finally figured out why I have always treated Season 3 as a lull between the two great arcs of the show. In no small measure, I think this is due to the cinematography and the make up. Riding high at this point, the show adopted a very glamorous look. Everyone looks like an idealized version of themselves. Good Lord, has there ever been a season of television with a more beautiful female cast? I think the show dropped this to some extent later in the season – after “The Wish” but it still made the most of its attractive cast. As a result, the grittiness that marks “Buffy ‘ the other seasons is largely missing here. But finally, the biggest reason Season 3 feels lighter in tone than most other seasons is that the imminent departure of Cordy and Angel forces the writers to short circuit their typically quite subtle and organic development of the major characters. Amends are made in the first season of “Angel,” but I think “Buffy” had to sacrifice some of its usual resonance due to the practicalities of preparing for a spin-off of several major characters.

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