Season Four (spoilers!) - from Backstage
Enter the Dragon (GD2 spoilers!) - from Entertainment Weekly
Boundaries: Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer
An Old Idea or A New Beginning?
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) first aired in March 1997, many associated it with the movie. Those who watched a few episodes, however, soon discovered that this new TV series had a uniqueness of its own.
It had elements of comedy,
drama, science fiction and mythology. Its characters quickly defied
all boundaries which have previously been placed on teenagers in television.
Its main character, Buffy Summers,
is "the chosen one" - the only girl at any one time who is designated as
a vampire slayer. As a slayer, Buffy developed remarkable powers
of strength, yet she continually searches for a "normal life" within the
course of the series.
Her quest succeeds at least to some extent through the relationships she is able to maintain with her friends. Buffy develops an immediate bond with Xander and Willow over their mutual status as 'outsiders' at Sunnydale High. All three are labelled as 'different' by many of the students primarily because they have qualities that make them stand out from the crowd.
The Gang Emerges
Xander Harris has a sort of bumbling yet endearing awkwardness about him and a biting cynicism which he never usually attempts to censor. Willow Rosenberg is a shy, reserved yet extremely intelligent and caring individual. Both Xander and Willow find a new companion in Buffy, a newcomer to their school. When strange things start happening on campus, including mysterious deaths of students, Buffy is always on the scene. Her association with such morbid happenings is heightened by the fact that the most popular girl in school, Cordelia Chase, accidentally catches her with stakes and other vampire slaying equipment. Cordelia is at first open to the possibility that Buffy might have what it takes to be among the popular, but soon rejects her identity and associations. In contrast, Xander and Willow are flattered to have her companionship from the beginning and Buffy soon takes them into her confidence. Rather than being disturbed by Buffy's identity, Willow and Xander are enthusiastic about being part of a team with her. The three find leadership and guidance in the form of Rupert Giles, the school librarian. Mr. Giles happens also to be the designated 'watcher' of the slayer. Although he initially finds Buffy to be a bit insufferable, the two will eventually form a close parent-child relationship. Giles provides Buffy not only with expert knowledge, but prudence, wisdom, and most important, unfaltering support.
A Mother and a Vampire
Buffy does have a parent in her life, her mother, but Buffy initially feels unable to confide in her. Buffy fears that the details about her identity and her life-threatening duties would be too much for her mother to handle. Eventually, her mother does find out the secret, but even before this happens at the end of season 2, Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers, remains consistently supportive of her daughter. Although she is sometimes strict with her and occasionally expresses disappointment in Buffy's grades she has a strong desire to see her daughter comfortable and happy. As if Buffy's life wasn't complicated enough, she develops another relationship during the first season which proves to be quite dangerous. Angel is a more than 200 year old vampire with a difference - he has regained his soul. How did he manage to do that, you ask? Well, it wasn't actually his doing. He was cursed by a group of gypsies whom he attacked as a vampire. The gypsies thought that the most appropriate way to make Angelus (Angel in his pure vampire form) suffer would be to return his soul to him so that his conscience would have to struggle with all the horrible things he had done over the years. And struggle he does. We find out later in the series that he has been living in the street, barely maintaining a will to live, when he is found by Whistler, a mysterious demon. Whistler makes a proposal: Angel can either stay on the streets and rot away or he can come and help someone who needs him. This someone is Buffy. When Angel sees her for the first time from afar, he immediately feels a deep connection for her and in effect, falls in love with her on the spot. He says later that he saw deep into her soul at that moment and found a new purpose for living.
Although Buffy seems to be annoyed by his mysterious presence initially, she eventually falls for Angel just as deeply. They do not develop a relationship immediately because both have reservations about how they can coexist, considering the nature of their identities. Angel eventually earns Buffy's trust and that of the group. Xander is the only one who remains dubious of Angel's motives, although some would say that this distrust has its source in jealousy - Xander is infatuated with Buffy from the beginning.
Miss Popularity, a Shy Nerd and a Dorky Goofball?
One of the ways in which BtVS defies boundaries which have previously been placed on teen series is in its continual emphasis on change. Nothing remains constant for long in Buffy's world - whether it be a character's identity or the nature of their relationships. For example, although Cordelia is labelled as the popular, superficial, callous, and unscrupulous member of Sunnydale High, she soon defies all attempts to stereotype her by showing a great deal of humanity. If she were to represent only a stereotype, one would not find her joining Buffy's group (also known as the Scooby Gang) and on many occasions helping others, risking her status by dating Xander and eventually falling in love with him, or being devastated by Xander's infidelity.
Willow and Xander also experience growth and change. Through her friendship with Buffy, Willow gradually becomes more empowered. Although she has been able to count on Xander's friendship for some time, Buffy seems to appreciate Willow in a way that no one else has before. Buffy recognizes and cherishes Willow's intelligence, compassion, and loyalty. Willow appreciates Buffy's confidence, determination, and strength. When these two are together their own sense of individuality seems to shine even brighter. Willow begins to feel more useful and welcome than she ever has in the past and this allows her to develop her strengths even more. By the third season, she is confident enough to pursue and refine her interest in witchcraft, despite her concerns about its potential dangers.
While one might place Willow under the label of 'shy nerd' during the first season, one would probably refer to Xander as the 'dorky goofball.' However, like Willow, Xander goes through many changes by the end of season three. Although he often seems unwilling to take on extra responsibility, Xander has an underlying sense of loyalty and determination that is apparent in his actions, if not in his words. One must be couragous to willingly engage in the battle against demons, yet Xander sometimes portrays himself as being awkward and even cowardly. While he is not as shy as willow, one could argue that he does lack a certain degree of confidence in his own abilities and that this manifests itself frequently in cynical and sarcastic comments. By taking on the role of soldier in 'Halloween', Xander finds that he does have a great deal of inner strength and confidence. His willingness to play a greater role in the group's activities seems to increase from this point on. Though he sometimes feels underappreciated by the group (especially in 'The Zeppo') he forms a particularly close bond with all the female members of the gang and is willing to do almost anything to defend them. Although prone to infatuation, we witness the development of his sensitive side through his romantic relationships with both Cordelia and Willow. His relationship with Cordelia in particular becomes one of the most surprising and endearing of the series. Through their eyes we are allowed to see more in each character than we ever had before.
Add A Werewolf and the Gang is Complete
Before Willow ever acts on her long-standing romantic feelings for Xander, she gradually develops a relationship with the most recent addition to the Scooby Gang. Oz is a year older than Buffy, Willow, and Xander and is a member of a local band called 'Dingoes Ate My Baby' (anyone missing Seinfeld? :)). Immediately established as quite a sensitive being for his ability to admire Willow from afar (he first spots her in her adorable Eskimo outfit in 'Inca Mummy Girl'). Oz defies all stereotypes from the beginning (except perhaps that of SNAG). The parallels between Oz and Willow develop beautifully as they continue to encounter each other under different circumstances. Although the sparks don't fly instantaneously, there is no doubt that they immediately share a sense of mutual appreciation.
Things become a bit more complicated when Oz discovers, with the help of the gang, that his infant cousin has turned him into a werewolf (by biting him). If Oz is not locked up under a certain time period around the full moon then he will roam around following his most beastly instincts. Fortunately, no one in the gang holds this against him, but rather, volunteer to look after him during these times of the month.
The gang's generosity towards Oz is duly rewarded as they often need all the help they can get. Although Giles has a seemingly endless source of knowledge to offer at the most crucial moments, Oz also has a great deal of wisdom to offer as well as an unshakeable sense of inner strength and serenity. While everyone else may be panicking, Oz often remains calm in the most adverse of circumstances, and when your job is to battle anything that decides to manifest itself from the Hellmouth under Sunnydale, you really can't have too much calmness and serenity.
Some of the Initial Opponents Loitering Around This Hellmouth
In the first season the gang's major opponent is a rather nasty demon called The Master, followed closely by a bratty child known as The Anointed One. Although they manage to defeat both of these enemies, things become a bit more challenging when two deliciously evil vampires come to town. Their names are Spike and Drusilla and although they seem to show a unique degree of humanity in their devotion to each other, you can forget about witnessing any degree of mercy if you're anyone else. Spike and Dru become Buffy's worst nightmare (Spike has previously killed two slayers) and ironically enough, Dru was sired (made a vampire) by Angelus.
Speaking of our allegedly reformed vampire, it turns out Xander's doubts were well founded. Yes, we all know there was an element of danger to him - we just didn't know how much. Angel and Buffy had been through a lot together by the end of season two. Angel has seen Buffy die and come back from the dead (she had quite a battle with the Master); Buffy has seen Angel being dead (he can morph into his vampire form at will). And they have fought a lot of emons together along the way. All of this probably would have formed a pretty tight bond between them if they hadn't shared a mutual attraction since their first meeting. So, what's the danger of them acting on their feelings? I mean, even if there is more than a two hundred year old age difference, Angel's got his sould back now and he couldn't possibly be like Angelus again, could he?
Miss Calendar and Her Past; The Unwelcome Loss of a Soul
Well, I hardly know of a writer that could resist incorporating such a twist. Talk about changes! It turns out that Sunnydale High's computer teacher, Jenny Calendar, also has more than a passing interest in demonology. Miss Calendar and Mr Giles form a bond over this common interest. Miss Calendar starts helping the Scooby Gang more and more and gradually a relationship with the otherwise lonely Giles. OK, the gang gets more backup and Giles gets some much deserved companionship - nothing could be better, right? Well, remember the little point I've been making about the characters in this TV series? That's right, they defy all boundaries. Just when you think you know exactly who they are, they suprise you - you discover another layer. Miss Calendar is actually a descendant of the gypsy family which cursed Angel with the return of his soul. Her uncle charges her with the responsibility of making sure that Angel never experiences a moment of true happiness - because this is the only way he can lose his sould again. Well, Jenny doesn't share this all-important information about Angel, or the nature of her true identity, with anyone in the group. But the truth is, she doesn't really suspect that Angel is in danger of being 'truly happy'. She underestimates the power of Buffy (a mistake many demons also make). Angel spends one passionate night with Buffy and it literally proves to be too much for his sould to handle. At the middle of the second season, we suddenly have not only Spike and Dru in town, but to Buffy's horror, Angelus also.
Angelus as One of Those Big Bad Things Lurking in the Dark
Buffy has little time to be in denial. If Angel lives up to his namesake, Angelus could be renamed "Antichrist" and it would be quite appropriate. Angelus does have access to Angel's memories and he is disgusted by them - in particular with his love for Buffy. One could say that Angelus is on a mission to redeem his demon nature in the same way that Angel sought to redeem his human nature. Angelus' first step in his mission from hell is to join the forces of Spike and Dru. At first, both are ecstatic to have him around, but Spike soon longs for the days when he and Dru had more time alone. Angelus and Dru have a bizarre romantic past. Angelus became obsessed with Dru, who was once a sweet and innocent girl in London. He killed her entire family - driving Dru to a sort of insanity. But she still attempted to resist him and withdrew to a convent. Just as she was about to take her vows, Angelus attacked her and made her a vampire in her demon form, Dru seems no longer to resist Angelus' affections (if you could call them that) but is rather thrilled by his presence. Spike is quite possessive of Dru and does not appreciate this. His dissatisfaction will eventually become a very important gift to the Scooby Gang.
While the gang tries to thwart any superfluous demon presence, it turns out that it is not as difficult for Buffy to fight Angel as one might think. True, she does not take advantage of an opportunity to kill Angelus when the gang has a just defeated a dreaded demon called The Judge. But Buffy does seem able to recognize that Angelus is in no way Angel. So, she can justify hurting Angelus, if not killing him (for doing so would guarantee that Angel could never come back). One might think that any reservations she had would quickly disappear in the face of Angelus' horrible series of attempts to demoralize her. He makes vampires out of people she has befriended, threatens people she loves (including her mother) and continually stalks her.
The Death of A Character and other Fallout from Angelus
And it gets worse. Jenny Calendar feels horrible because she must live with the thought that she might have prevented the loss of Angel's soul. One could argue that this was not her responsibility and it seems particularly harsh when the gang in effect excommunicates her. Jenny wants to make up for the fact that she kept secrets from. She has just completed restoring the spell that will restore Angel's soul when - wouldn't you know it? Angelus walks in on her. It is hard to forget what happens next. Angelus destroys what he believes is the only copy of the spell by obliterating Jenny's computer. Then he chases Jenny through the school, finally cornering her on the staircase. He proceeds to brutally kill her by breaking her neck but what he does next is even worse. Jenny and Giles had been reconciling their differences and before her death, Jenny promises that she will drop by Giles' house as soon as she takes care of something (completing the spell - as we find out later). Angelus goes to Giles' house before Giles returns and decorates the entrance-way with rosepetal, leaving a note for Giles that says 'upstairs'. What Giles finds up there is not the joyful reconciliation with the woman he loves, but her dead body lying across his bed.
In the minds of many avid fans, this is where Angelus crossed the line from being ultra annoy to being just blood curdlingly evil. Quite a few have expressed depths of dismay over the loss of Jenny and in Buffy's world, there's no doubt Giles incapsulated these feelings. This brings up an important question: who will watch out for the watcher?
Giles: Not Your Typical Watcher
Up to now, I have not discussed the character of Giles that much but he deserves a great deal of attention. Always hardworking and dedicated, often isolated and underappreciated, Giles takes the role of watcher quite seriously. When we first meet him, it seems as though he might be the now cliché stuffy, conservative Brit. Worse, he's a British librarian. But Giles is not someone who feels as though he must follow all the rules. You might be thinking, well, anyone who is a watcher, a person who is dedicated to fighting demons, cannot be your typical conservative. Through the course of many episodes, however, one learns that the Watcher's Council, plagued with the fate of many other bureacracies. Located in England, it is made up of, presumably, a bunch of British academics who ensure that the slayer and watcher at any give time follow a strict set of rules. These rules are supposed to be in place for the protection of the slayer in particular, but they are antiquated rules and any rules which are not open to interpretation can be dangerous. This is the realization that Giles must come to. The Watcher's Council is so far removed from what is going on in Sunnydale, that they cannot possibly grant anyone there insightful advice.
Buffy never has much respect for the Council. She sees that they do not take special situations into account - such as that of Angel. At first I think she associates Giles with his lack of flexibility. But Giles takes a very hands-on approach to leadership, and once Buffy witnesses his high level of involvement and personal commitment to each of the gang's battles; she develops a great deal of trust in him. Giles, in return, is willing to indulge Buffy's often unconventional ways. He also willingly accepts the help of Angel and even comes to rely on him for knowledge and insight. Angel, I believe, develops a healthy respect for Giles as well. However, Angelus is not so generous.
Demon Worship in the Closet
I must also add that Giles is no typical watcher for another reason: his past. In some upcoming episodes (which don't really have a crucial place in the overall plot, but do have quite an influence on the way you perceive Giles), we see that Giles once had a wild side! Alongside a friend named Ethan, he participated in some very dark magic. It seems they formed a cult around practicing black magic. Well, wouldn't you know it, Ethan comes back to haunt Giles. In one episode, Ethan opens a new costume shop right before Halloween and everyone who rents a costume from him turns into what they are representing (including Buffy who turns into a 18th century girl, Xander who turns into a soldier, and Willow who turns into a ghost.) Of course, Giles has to stop him. When the two meet, Ethan insists that he knows the real Giles and that who he is 'pretending' to be now is not the real him. Giles tends to disagree and beats the hell out of him! Ethan does escape though . . .
In a later episode, Ethan returns. He is hired by Mr. Trick to lace some candy that the school is selling with a secret spell. Anyone who eats the candy will revert to adolescence. Although it is pretty funny to see familiar characters in this state, the madness must of course be stopped. Before the gang can do so, Giles and Joyce get together - a source of great embarrassment to them in their adulthood. Buffy doesn't find out about this until later.
There are Only Two Chosen Ones
Back to the present where there is now a second slayer. What!? What about that whole 'chosen one' legend? Remember, though, that I briefly mentioned that Buffy actually died at the hands of the master? Yes, she was resurrected, but during the few moments of her death, another slayer was chosen. Kendra, the new slayer, actually appears first in an earlier episode in which she is sent to Sunnydale to stop a deadly gang called the Order of Turaka(sp?). We witness a great contrast between the way in which Buffy and Kendra operate. Buffy goes by instinct on many occasions, still relying on Giles to supply any of the necessary information she might need. Kendra, in contrast, studies the Slayer's Manual and many other texts daily, as well as completing a great deal of physical training. She does not divulge her identity to anyone, and lives in an isolated existence under the guidance of her watcher.
At first, Buffy feels threatened by Kendra's quest for perfection. Kendra, too, feels threatened by Buffy's more impulsive and intuitive nature. In particular, Kendra is disturbed by Buffy's relationship with Angel. Although the two do develop a deep respect for each other, it turns out that Kendra need not have feared so much for Buffy's safety in the presence of Angel, as much as her own.
At the end of the second season, it's time for a breathtaking showdown. Kendra comes back to help out against a frighteningly awful demon that Dru, Spike, and Angelus are trying to resurrect named Acathla. So far, Angel has not been successful in resurrecting his stone awfulness, the big A, but that is only because he lacks the proper information. When he kidnaps Giles in order to find out what he needs, things become a tad tense. Add to the mix the fact that Willow has found a disk left behind by Jenny which contains the spell to restore Angel's soul, and you can savor the delicious complexity.
A Demon Love Triangle
I must backtrack a bit more and mention that Dru and Spike experienced a reversal of roles over the past few episodes. When we first encounter Dru, she is quite weak and unhealthy and must rely on Spike for a great deal. One of Spike's purposes in bringing her to Sunnydale is to ensure that they are in a place where she can feed often (delightful imagery) and be rejuvenated by the energy of the Hellmouth. Well, Spike eventually ascertains that a generous amount of generic blood will not do it for Dru - she must feast on Angel's blood in a special ceremony (since he is her sire). This goal is accomplished before Angel turns back to Angelus (note: Dru's into torture) but not without a price. Spike is severely injured when Buffy comes to rescue Angel (a huge organ collapses on him). So, for several ensuing episodes, Spike becomes the weak one who must now rely on Dru's strength.
Enter Angelus. He brings back with him a passion for Dru and delight in abusing Spike. Spike's less than thrilled. Spike seethes (with rage).
Now Dru and Angelus, excluding Spike to a larger and larger extent, have this master plan regarding Acathla. Spike, usually amused by the possibility of armageddon, isn't if Angelus has anything to do with it. So, Spike suprises us by turning to Buffy (yes, the villians on this show have layers too!). Buffy cuts a deal with Spike: he helps her defeat Angelus and she'll let him and Dru live, as long as they leave town. Spike agrees, gleeful with the thought of the days of Angelus disappearing forever.
The Showdown: Will It Be Three Deaths or Two?
Well, there's one more problem with the plan already. No one realizes that Angelus has kidnapped Giles (once again, no one looking out for the watcher). Because Angelus has lost all respect for Giles there is no debate about whether or not to torture. Angelus has a penchant for the process, rather like Dru. Giles resists admirably until Dru makes him hallucinate and believe her to be Jenny. Under these sort of unfair conditions, no one can blame Giles for being duped. It is almost more than one can take to witness his joy at what he believes is a reunion with his beloved Jenny. If you didn't hate Angelus before, you do now.
Oh, but I haven't finished (I'll get there someday!). Angelus lures Buffy into a trap so that Kendra can be isolated and defeated. Buffy arrives too late and finds Kendra dead. Now she seems determined to kill Angelus no matter what. She and Xander arrive at the scene of the demon resurrection/torturing of Giles. While Xander frees Giles, Buffy engages in a fierce battle with Angelus. Spike manages to pull off a very satisfying surprise by literally standing up to Angelus. But the final moments come down to Buffy and Angelus again.
There's a big twist.
Just at the moment when Buffy is about to kill Angelus, Willow successfully restores Angel's soul. This is done through some incredible effects, focusing specially on the change in Angel's eyes. In the most bittersweet of scenes, Buffy kisses him tenderly before telling him to close his eyes and shoving a sword through his heart, immediately sending him to the pits of hell. It was too late for her to choose not to do so, as Acathla had been brought to life, and the only thing that could stop armageddon was the death of Angel/Angelus (I guess the hellmouth is generous enough to accept either).
The Gang Fights On - Without Buffy?
Thus, ends season two. It would seem that everyone involved would absolutely need a break between moments of sheer hellish chaos by this point. Buffy decides to distance herself from everything she has known in an attempt to deal with what has happened. She leaves Sunnydale, perhaps never to return. Buffy does stay away from Sunnydale for the entire summer, but not forever. However, the gang does not know whether she is ever coming back. They have no idea that the spell worked and that Angel got his soul back at the last moment. Because they are unaware of this, Buffy's friends also have no idea why she left them. The gang does their best to fulfill Buffy's duties, but they lack her physical prowess. While Giles is extremely concerned and anxious, Buffy's mother is perhaps the one that suffers the most.
If You're Not the Chosen One, You Often Can't Quite Understand
When Buffy finally does return, everyone feels a bit resentful toward her, especially since she remains unwilling to explain her motivation. This is one of Buffy's tendencies: to isolate herself needlessly. She underestimates the ability of her friends to sympathize with what she must go through. So, she wastes time feeling a bit sorry for herself when she could have just asked for help. When she does disclose what has happened, everyone is shocked. There is not an awful lot they could do about it until they knew, so I don't think anyone need have felt bad (except perhaps Xander who had been more callous than he needed to be).
By this time, Buffy's mom has learned the majority of her daughter's secrets. It is a safe thing to assume that Buffy's sudden departure has done nothing to persuade her worried mother that her daughter's line of work is not psycologically detrimental.
A New Trick; Betrayed By A Kiss
Anyway, there must be new demons to dash to pieces by now, right? Yes, there's a new vampire in town named Mr. Trick. With his sneaky and adequately devilish nature he lives up to his name quite aptly, but he is no replacement for Spike and Drusilla (here's hoping they will come back to stay again!).
While Buffy makes a rather uncharacteristic - (more surprises) - attempt to compete against Cordelia in, of all things, the election for Homecoming Queen, Mr. Trick has a competition of his own in mind. Before I tell you what the details are though, I must describe something I neglected to mention before. As I have said, relationships within the show do not remain static. Look at Buffy and Angel, or Jenny and Giles. So, remember how I mentioned that Xander becomes involved with Cordelia but also someone else? That someone is Willow, his best friend and also the very girl who has had a crush on him for many years. The friends are trying on their homecoming outfits for each other when Xander suddenly notices that Willow is in fact beautiful! (don't ask me why he hadn't noticed this before) Despite the fact that Willow and Oz are now quite a happy couple, Willow and Xander share a mutual moment of affection in the form of a kiss. Afterwards, both also share quite a twinge of guilt. One soon realizes, though, that this is more than a temporary loss of sanity which occurred.
A Replacement; Boiling and Brewing Competition
But to get back to Mr. Trick's competition. He's very cutely named it "Slayerfest '98". The concept is therefore fairly self-explanatory. Trick rounds up four sets of demons all of whom are willing to compete against each other to see who can kill the slayers first. But Kendra's dead, right? Too true, and I forgot to mention that because of that, there is of course a new slayer in town.
The new slayer is nothing like Kendra or Buffy. Her name is Faith but for once I don't think this is a case where the character lives up to their namesake in this series. On the contrary, this slayer doesn't have a whole lot of Faith in herself or anyone else. Xander might as well move over and make way in the cynicism department. Although information about her past is a bit sketchy, it is safe to say that Faith has not had an easy life. She seems to have been hurt by ones she has loved. Because of this, she has developed a particularly dismissive attitude towards men and authority figures. I am sure that after one encounter with Faith, Giles is prepared to take back every thought he ever had about Buffy being uncooperative. With the exception of Xander (who is once again smitten), her reception by the members of the gang is somewhat lukewarm. Although Buffy is pleased to have another slayer to help out, she has overwhelming problems of her own (see below) and, like others, is a little unsure of how to react to Faith's personality. Faith's position of outsider increases in her mind when the gang unintentionally excludes her from an important meeting.
The Haunting Presence that is Angel Never Dies
Meanwhile, Buffy encounters some very unexpected problems. Angel, as it turns out, is not doomed to rot in endless hellpits as we previously assumed. For no apparent reason, he is somehow beamed back to earth and appears in the warehouse that used to be Angelus' hideout. Buffy eventually finds him and after she recovers from her heart attack (not literally), notices that he is somehow different. Maybe it's the fact that he's practically foaming at the mouth or perhaps it's the way he's snarling and convulsing. Obviously, a stint in hell doesn't do a whole lot to accentuate the positives of one's personality. Bottom line - Angel's pretty bestial. Oh, and worst of all, he doesn't recognize Buffy. This plays on Buffy's guilt, to say the least. Rather, she provides him with what he needs (clothes - check; blood - check; fairly large chains to keep him from going on a rampage - check.) And, she doesn't tell anyone that he is back. In this decision she once again underestimates the gang and isolates herself.
Spies Beware of the Surprises that Await You
Enter Xander. He's suspicious about what is going on with Buffy and since he wouldn't mind stalking her even if he wasn't, he decides to go for it. Well, Angel's much more himself now (enough to admit he is still in love with our favorite slayer) but Buffy still brings him a little treat now and then. Xander follows Buffy on one of these occasions and just happens to look in the window at the moment when our heroine and (anti?)hero are sharing an embrace. As you can imagine, Xander pretty much loses it and runs back to tell the gang that the twosome have been secret lovers all this time.
It's no surprise that everyone is now upset. Buffy is angry because Xander was spying on her and everyone else is mad at her for keeping this secret. So, there's a big group meeting about it all - and it's the one that Faith is excluded from.
An Unexpected Doctor Of Love and Why His Wisdom is Needed
But let's segue by turning back to relationships. There's an episode called "Lovers' Walk" that is quite focused on these issues. You'll be ecstatic to know that Spike comes back to town and his return serves as a catalyst for our characters to explore these issues. It seems that things did not all go according to plan with Spike and Dru once they left Sunnydale. Dru resented Spike for turning against Angelus without consulting her. It was Dru's opinion that Spike had lost his edge and become something of a 'soft' vampire.
So, apparently then Spike started drinking profusely and wandered back to Sunnydale in a pathetic state. He is spying on Willow and when he realizes that she is now a witch, has an idea about how to get Dru back: Willow can create a spell that will make Dru fall back in love with him. I won't go into all the details of what happens because you should definitely watch this episode. Spike locks Xander and Willow in a warehouse after he explains the idea of the spell to Willow. Things get a little cozy between these two and wouldn't you know it, they start kissing and right at that moment Oz and Cordelia break open the door. Needless to say, both are devastated by what they find. Cordelia is so shocked that she manages to fall through the old stairs and impale herself on a pole. Later, in the hospital, she tells Xander to stay away from her and we can tell her heart has been broken. (Note: I will get back to what happens with Willow and Oz).
Meanwhile, Spike encounters Buffy and Angel. When he learns that they have decided they will just be friends from now on, he finds it very amusing. Spke insists that this is the one thing they can never be to each other. Something to ponder, indeed. Who knew that Spike had so many layers? I never thought I'd see him being a philosopher on love.
Guilt and Remorse Are Not Her Companions; A Completely Unwelcome Replacement
But we need to return to someone else who has a dark side: Faith. Let's just say she's even more into being a rebel without a cause now that she feels she's not a real member of the gang. That's not to say she's stopped working with Buffy. She does, however, want to change Buffy a bit. So, in the midst of the gang's efforts to defeat a grossly overweight demon named Balthazar, Faith and Buffy go on a little shopping spree. Actually, they break into a store and steal lots of weapons.
This isn't bad compared to what happens next. Faith and Buffy are out patrolling and spot some vamps. Both of them kill their targets but Buffy notices that Faith is being more reckless than usual. She is trying to caution her to pay more attention when - oops! Faith kills what she thinks is a vampire but turns out to be a regular human.
Obviously, there's going to be some consequences here. And things are more complicated than you might think because Giles has been fired! (I won't go into the reasons too much here. Basically, the Watchers Council demands that a watcher conduct a certain test on the slayer's 18th birthday. This test involves disabling the slayer of her strength and then seeing what she can do against enemies. Giles felt this was cruel so he cheated and helped Buffy. The council fired him for it.) So, both Buffy and Faith need a watcher now. Well, Faith did have one for a short time but she turned out to be a renegade ex-watcher from hell.
Enter Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. He's what everyone initially thought Giles was: a stuffy, conservative academic who isn't in touch with anything except books. Of course, no one stays one-dimensional for long on this show, so, there is some hope for Wesley. Still, let's face it - he doesn't know how to handle Buffy, let alone Faith. And ever since Faith's last experience with a watcher (evil renegade), Wesley's chances are now at rock-bottom. Especially when you consider that this is what he has to deal with: Buffy is having a psychological crisis while Faith just plain doesn't care that she killed someone!
Buffy tries to talk to her about it and safeguards her privacy only to find out that Faith has gone to Giles. Faith tells Giles that it was actually Buffy who killed the man and that she is the one who really needs help. Talk about your backstabbing.
When Buffy figures this out, she is shocked and devastated. She knew there was something wrong with the way Faith was reacting to the situation, but she never expected that Faith would turn against her. Worse, she finds that Giles seemingly believes Faith. Fortunately, once Faith has left the room Giles confides that he was only pretending to side with Faith. Of course he believes that Buffy could never do such a thing - what a relief. Giles simply sees that Faith is in quite a fragile state and he believes that if she were to see everyone turning against her, it might send her all the way off the deep end, so to speak.
Very perceptive - and it probably would have worked if it weren't for a pesky meddler named Wesley. He thinks he has a better plan - taking Faith away in chains to be put to trial by the Watchers Council.
He does actually manage to chain her up inside a truck. However, Faith breaks free mid-transport and beats the living daylights out of our resident know-it-all.
A Relationship Roundup
Newsflash! A brief interlude, to update the relationship front. Xander had a fling with Faith because he was oh-so-attracted by her bad-girlness. Then it sinks in: Faith didn't actually see anything in him. He just happened to be alive and present in the same room.
Oz spends some time away from Willow mulling things over. Willow grovels like an oh-so-cute puppy dog. Oz decides he simply can't be without her.
Turns out Spike was right - Buffy and Angel can't be just friends. We knew that but they finally accept it.
Oh and Cordelia has an incomprehesible obsession with Wesley.
Angel Never Had a Monopoly on Being a Renegade
We return to the saga that is Faith. Needless to say, Giles is quite upset when he finds out what a big huge mess Wesley has created. He is afraid that Faith will now become a renegade in the worst way - she will pull an Anakin.
Well, Buffy wants to make sure this doesn't happen. The two slayers meet by the docks where some baddies, including Mr. Trick, are really intent on killing Buffy. Faith proves she still has some good in her by killing Mr. Trick when he was about to do in Buffy.
Has she seen the error of her ways? Sadly, no. Faith leaves the scene only to go to Mayor Richard Wilkins III's office. What's so bad about that? Maybe she's turning herself in! Yeah, to the forces of darkness and damnation. I have to fill you in on the Mayor. When it comes to the world of politics, he's literally cutthroat. He hires Mr. Trick after he hears about the brilliance that was Slayerfest '98. Now Faith wants to fill the vacancy she created and become the Mayor's new henchperson.
Well, the A-Team has the idea that Faith is working for the Mayor, they have to figure out a way to trap her (she thinks they still don't know). They have a plan that's so secret, you're not even aware of what's happening when they act it out.
Why Faith Finally Finds Someone Who Appreciates Her in Our Quirky Mayor; Secrets
You see, the Mayor is more than happy to have Faith on his side. He sees that she has talent (mostly for killing), strength, and that oh-so-important passion for the job. This is after Faith first attempts to win Angel over through the role of seductress. When Angel says Buffy is the only woman for him, Faith feels scorned. She is now more than happy to help steal his soul.
Faith visits Angel under the pretext that she has now thoughtfully considered Angel's warnings about the darkside. She tells Angel that maybe he's right after all, and while Angel's busy feeling relieved, a sorcerer comes out the shadows. He works his spell on the unsuspeting Angel and before Faith can say "sucker," Angelus is back. The only thing is, he's not interested in Faith either. Ouch. Especially sincehe then beats her up. Still, she manages to convince him that it would be worth his while to come pay a visit to the Mayor. And then they start kissing.
Ouch! Good Thing He's Invincible
At the Mayor's office, we witness the fact that the Mayor is now invincible at least to graduation time. Angelus throws a letter-opener at his hand and when the Mayor pulls it out, his hand rejuvenates. This is not the first time we have seen his power but it's impressive, none the less. He tells Angelus that he and Faith can work together to get rid of Buffy once and for all. Angelus likes this idea of closure.
Dire Straits? Secrets Revealed
Well, it seems like these two may be too much for any one slayer to handle. They encounter Buffy, capture her, and chain her up. Things are looking pretty desperate for her but curiously enough, she's really letting Faith have it. She hits a nerve more than once so Faith is ready to unleash some weapons of mass torture. As she prepares, Buffy remarks that she never knew Faith had so much hate and anger inside of her. Faith replies rather casually that she is the "world's best actor." "Second best," says Angel.
When I first watched this it took a few solid minutes for the brilliance of this plan to register. No, Angelus never really returned. The gang had come up with the idea of Angel pretending to be Angelus. And it just so happened that Giles had a favor coming from the sorcerer (who made his spell look legit to fool the mayor and Faith). The gang thought this would be a way for Angel to do so much needed undercover work to find some info on these very important issues: what's really going on with Faith; who is this Mayor guy; what's planned for graduation day.
Ascension in the Air; The Flip Side of Success
The answers found include: Faith is now pretty much bad to the bone; the Mayor is invincible until graduation day; on graduation day the Mayor will 'ascend' into some sort of grandiose demonic form.
So, the plan was a coup, a great success, right? Well, not completely. Faith is even more alienated than she was before and no one wants to see Faith in desperate mode. Also, I think everyone would say that Angel pulled off his role well. Almost too well. Buffy was a little put off by his coziness with Faith and his ability to summon up certain twisted impersonation abilities. It's just not too comforting to know that Angel can flip on the sadistic switch that easily.
Retrieving a Box at all Costs
But no one has too much time to indulge in any other thoughts besides those that involve figuring out how this impending Ascension can be prevented. Angel, Buffy, and Willow decide to break into the Mayor's office in order to steal the Box of Gavrok. No one really knows what is inside it, but it does seem to be important to the Mayor's ascension plans.
One thing's for sure - it's under heavy security. Angel and Buffy do manage to retrieve it, but there's a hitch: Willow is kidnapped.
Of course this is the perfect opportunity for the Mayor to get back what he has lost. All he needs to do is use Willow as bait. The gang falls into his plans. The only one who is not willing to give up the box without hesitation is Wesley and he is shot down for it - especially by Oz.
'Nerds' Have the Power to . . .
Meanwhile, Willow and Faith are sharing a special moment. Faith thinks Willow is going to attempt to tell her that it's not too late - that she can still change her mind and rejoin the gang. Instead, Willow demonstrates how much confidence she has gained in the past year by telling Faith she can never turn back - she's made unwise decisions and she'll now have to live with the consequences. It's very satisfying to see Willow verbally kick Faith's butt.
Willow also scores points for stealing a few moments with the Books of Ascension. Although she doesn't understand much she reads, she manages to steal a few important pages for Giles.
Let's Meet; The Contents; A Principal's Duties Never End
Oh, don't you just love showdowns? It's time for another one when both sides meet to exchange Willow and the box. The Mayor has Faith closeby when he chooses to give Angel and Buffy a little lecture. He's pretty harsh about the fact that they're never going to be able to maintain a relationship. We discover that the Mayor did have a wife that he loved and that he had to watch her grow old while he stayed the same age. The same thing will happen to Buffy and Angel and Buffy will end up resenting Angel for it whether she wants to or not. You're left wondering why the Mayor would care. My argument is that no villian on this show is pure evil - each one has humanity to them.
Important issues addressed, there is nothing left but for the exchange to be made.
Enter Principal Snyder and his drug-busting patrol. I have not mentioned Principal Snyder previously because I don't really have enough time (or space - this thing is already so long) to go into much detail about the minor characters. I think he is one of the best in this category. His efforts to maintain some sort of normalcy at Sunnydale high are often simultaneously humorous and ironic. Snyder thinks there's a drug deal or some sort of underworld bargaining going down. He's right about the underworld part - as his officers soon discover. They open the box and some pretty nasty creatures are released. One jumps on an officer's face and kills him. The box is closed but the creatures that got out need to be killed. Faith disposes of one that might have attacked the group. Everyone disperses and that is the end of the showdown.
Prom Posing A Problem When Faced With a Convincing Argument
Ok, so the next big event for the gang is that teenage rites of passage known as the senior prom. Well, who has a date? Believe it or not, almost everyone except Buffy. That's just because Angel's not too interested in your teenage rituals as a 243 year-old, right?
No! He actually breaks up with Buffy before the prom. You see, not only did the Mayor's message get through loud and clear, but Joyce's message does also. Joyce visits Angel and asks him to consider ending his relationship with her daughter. Buffy needs to be able to have a future with someone who she can have a family with and grow old with. Buffy cannot ever have a normal life with Angel.
It's pretty obvious that Angel's going to follow through with this even though he doesn't want to.
Buffy is upset, devastated and enraged by his decision. She doesn't think Angel has the right to determine what is good for her. But Angel tells her that there are things she will want sometime in the future that he cannot give her. Later, in a discussion with Willow, Buffy admits that deep down, she knows Angel is right.
With hellhounds on the loose, Buffy can at least immerse herself in her work. She makes everyone else promise to focus on preparing for the prom while she tracks down the punk behind the hounds.
A Few Golden Moments; The Humanity of a Male Basher
Everything's solved in time for Buffy to attend the prom after all. It's a good thing too because she is the happy recipient of some much-needed appreciation. The senior class votes for her to receive a new award: Class Protector. Everyone cheers as Buffy is recognized for what she does best. :)
Then, just in time, Angel shows up looking very debonair in a tux. He notes that this is only for one night and they share an embrace as they dance.
Meanwhile, Oz and Willow, Xander and Anya, and Cordelia and Wesley (these two don't really go as a date, though) dance the night away. Who is Anya? She was the the patron demon of all scorned women. For hundreds of years she roamed the world fulfilling women's revenge fantasies. (she even fulfilled a wish of Cordelia's in an earlier episode) However, her powers are located in a necklace that Giles destroys when its energy creates an alternate universe and later (accidentally) brings a vamp twin of Willow to Sunnydale (that's a whole different episode). So, now Anya is stuck in the form she had taken when her necklace was destroyed (she's doomed to remain human). As a human, Anya inexplicably develops an attraction to Xander (no, I am not trying to bash Xander, it's just that Anya has hated men for all these years so it's somewhat surprising.) It is a humorous situation because Anya asks Xander to the prom but then spends much of the evening recounting the horrible things she has done to men over the years.
Her Weakness Poisoned; Resolve
The Prom now charted waters, all that is really left in season three for our beloved gang is graduation. There's an unexpected little issue that springs up before this normally satisfying and happy achievement.
Angel and Buffy are
arguing on the street (things have been a little tense between them since
their breakup.) Then Faith shoots Angel in the chest with a poison
arrow. (She could have aimed for his heart but she decided not too
because prolonging Angel's death will distract Buffy more.) Buffy
takes Angel back to the gang and all furiously set out to find a cure.
Buffy asks Wesley to consult the council. When they refuse to cooperate
because of Angel's non-angelic nature, Buffy is furious. She tells
Wesley that she will never work for the council again.
Giles does not argue with her and although Wesley tries to, Buffy is adamant.
Meanwhile, Willow, faced with the possibility of the end of the world, is feeling closer to Oz than ever. So, these two hit the sheets. When they hear about Angel, though, they are on the case. It is difficult to find information, but when they do, it is not good news. Angel's life can only be saved if he drinks the blood of a slayer. Buffy, when told, decides (a bit too calmly) to bring Faith to Angel, dead or alive.
This is A 'Have To' Situation, Right?
Buffy goes to Faith's apartment and the two of them engage in quite a battle. For a while, it's really not clear who will win. But Buffy's pretty enraged and she finally manages to stab Faith. Faith still has enough presence of mind, though, to fall backwards off the roof into the bed of a passing truck. This guarantees that she will not be the means of Angel's restoration. What Buffy has just done finally dawns on her and the expression on her face betrays her mortification.
Sacrifice is Part of the Job Description
Now, Oz and Willow are left desperate to find some other cure for Angel. They search, but to no avail. Without telling anyone else, Buffy decides that she will offer herself to Angel. They search, but to no avail. Without telling anyone else, Buffy decides that she will offer herself to Angel. Angel doesn't want to have any part in this plan, but Buffy tricks him into it. She continually hits him until his vampire form appears. Then she pulls his mouth to her neck. He feeds on her for quite some time - it is quite a dramatic scene.
Angel finally regains his senses (I should think he would be feeling better after the amount of blood he just drank) and realizes that he must get Buffy to a hospital immediately.
When he arrives at the emergency ward, we see that Faith is already there. The Mayor found her and brought her in. He is absolutely distraught over what has happened to Faith. When he finds Buffy in the other room, the anger factor goes through the roof. The Mayor attempts to suffocate her and he almost succeeds until Angel comes in and stops him. Faith may not be in a position to join him in his reign, but the Mayor is not more than motivated to ascend.
Something of the Bond Remains
While she is recovering, Buffy has a dream. She imagines that she and Faith are working together again, as they once did so well despite their differences. Faith offers everything she has to Buffy and provides her with a clue about how to fight the Mayor: prey on his human weakness.
Buffy is soon feeling better and brings this info back to the group. Despite the fact that she is now a renegade slayer, she is quite willing to engage in an all-out war against the Mayor.
As preparations begin, everyone is trying to determine what the Mayor's human weakness is. In the midst of this, Cordelia and Wesley share a strange moment. Wesley mentions that after the Mayor is defeated (hopefully), he will be going back to England. There is no longer any point in him sticking around. Cordelia says she is aware of this. Then, they kiss. Somewhat awkwardly, they return to what they were doing.
Love Can Also be A Villian's Weakness
So, Angel is the one who finally has an inspiration regarding the Mayor's weakness. It's Faith! Buffy develops a plan around this.
No One (Except your Average Demon) Wants This Ascension
On graduation day, everyone is involved in the fight against the Mayor. He gives his speech but he doesn't have time to finish it all before the sky turns dark from a solar eclipse. As the Mayor transforms into a huge snake-like demon, the students open their gowns, each revealing the weapons they are carrying inside. In an assault led by Xander, they fight the Mayor and the demons he has assembled. We see everyone getting involved that we have come to know across all the episodes. Although their offensive strategy is sound, there are some casualties. Principal Snyder gets eaten, Harmony (the brainless and popular snob) gets bitten by a vampire, and Larry (a gay jock) gets hit by the Mayor's tail.
Buffy then comes up to the newly ascended Mayor and taunts him by saying that she enjoyed viciously stabbing Faith. She challenges him to catch her. He falls for the bait, and as his huge mouth follows her into the halls of the school, Giles sets off an explosion that destroys him along with the whole high school.
In the Midst of Victory there is Uncertainty
Victory is theirs, but it is a bittersweet moment for the Scooby Gang. They feel empowered by what they have done, but now that high school is over, the future seems uncertain for everyone.
Buffy and Angel meet once more after the battle. They do not really say goodbye, but you know Angel is going to fulfill his promise of leaving town. He disappears as mysteriously as he once arrived.
No one really knows what will happen next. Their gathering place destroyed and their bonds removed, will everyone stay together of grow apart? Willow is the only one who has recently asserted that she wants to continue fighting the forces of darkness, but now that Buffy has dismissed her 'chosen one' status with the Council, there are no guarantees that even this will happen. Still, one can remain optimistic. After all, Giles never changed anything he was doing simply because he no longer had a job title.
Summing Up What Has Been Broken
If I am to make my point, I must conclude by noting a few of the boundaries which have been broken. The list is quite extensive, so I will be adding to it in the future. Here is what I am starting with:
Villians: Each one of the villians that became main characters had elements of humanity to them. There is Spike's jealousy, the Mayor's love for Faith, Angelus' need for revenge against Buffy. . .
The Gang: Not one of these
main characters lived up to their initial stereotypes. Cordelia became
an outcast, Xander became an warrior, Willow became a sorceress, Giles
became a non-watcher, and Buffy proved she could not be given any label.
A Note from the Author
I hope everyone enjoyed this essay. If you are a new fan, I hope you found the background information useful. If you are an veteran, I hope you were entertained by the way this familiar information was presented. Please note that my writing was very much a stream of consciousness process. I am aware of the fact that the summaries I have presented are not in exact chronological order. I have however, tried to group them under headings for your convenience. If you have notice anything that you feel I have omitted that is crucial to the overall plot, please email me. I also welcome any comments you might have. No doubt I will be adding to this, and refining it in the future.
Please do not copy any part of this without consulting me. I have spent some time on this, you know! Enjoy it!
Last updated: July 16, 1999
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