Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3: Thoughts and Observations

When I was in Jr. High School, a bully named Butch died.

Butch wasn't a bad sort, as bullies go. He wasn't mean or vindictive, but he was a big (for Jr. High) black guy (in a mostly white area) and wasn't afraid to push people around to get his way. He didn't have a "gang" in the sense we use the term now, though he and a bunch of other big kids liked to dominate the playground. My only serious bicycle accident, circa 6th grade, came about because I waved to him while gliding down Highland Ave. I figured currying favor with the bullies was a good idea, but was nervous about any dealings with him and didn't notice the parked car ahead. I bumped into the car, and my leg needed bandages.

No one really hated him, to my knowledge, but few liked him much and if he had any close friends they weren't any of my acquaintances.

Sometime in Junior High, Butch was in a car accident and died. Rumor had it he pushed someone else out of the way and took the impact of crash from the front window. I don't know if this was true, but his death was a Big Deal and he was rarely spoken ill of from that day on. It consumed the school for days, and we had a school-wide assembly in his honor. His name came up now and again, all through High School.

So when the students at Sunnydale High just casually dismiss "our high mortality rate" and horrible deaths are all but forgotten by the end of the episode, I'm taken right out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn't like High School either, but the whole "High School as Hell" metaphor just utterly doesn't work for me.

Brief recap, as I'm flixing the series: Season 1 was terrible with a few good moments. Season 2 started out weak, then got very good when the writers and actors figured out what to do with the characters. I looked forward to Season 3.

I was not disappointed... for a while. The season opener (which I had seen at the time; a mistake to see it out of sequence) is okay, with several interesting twists. It focuses on Buffy without her supporting characters. Sarah Michelle Geller's acting is one of the weaknesses of the series so far, but she pouts her way through this one. By Season 3 she's learned to act, a little, and fight. Also by this time, the writers are going farther afield than vampires. The Evil in this episode is really creepy.

Of course, they throw this all away when Angel comes back. I can believe that an immortal vampire survives the hundreds and thousands of years in the demon dimension; that would be a cool aspect to the Angel character. But no, after one mention in the fourth episode, Angel is back to being merely 243 years old.

Oz is developed nicely, though inconsistently. The writers can't decide whether he's Jack Kerouac or Johnny Rotten. His being a werewolf is a small plot bump; nothing much comes of it.

"The Wish" is a very interesting episode. I think this is where they jumped the shark. I call it "Mirror Mirror". Evil Twin episodes are always dangerous. Good for the fans, since they get to see slash fiction their favorites actors behaving badly. But mostly, it sets up a universe that you have to be very careful with. Stargate SG-1 did many shows that didn't happen: They would go back in time to prevent themselves from going back in time, etc. But those non-pasts (or non-futures) were not part of the Stargate timeline, and didn't effect other episodes.

The world of "Mirror Mirror" "The Wish" never quite goes away, even though it didn't happen. The good part was Anya, the witch who tried to create the alternate past. She loses her powers and stays around. White Kryptonite creates a thousand year old High School student! And I really loved that Cordelia doesn't even realize what she didn't do... Willow meeting her bad self almost works and stretches the character into useful development, but while "Doppleganger" works as an episode but exposes the glaring inconsistency of the Buffyverse.

To be sure, you have to allow a certain suspension of disbelief for a world with vampires and demons. But you have to follow the rules you make. No matter what the world, it should be consistent. It's bad enough that vampires are so fragile they can be killed with a pencil. That a distant "Council" has authority... except when it doesn't. That there can be only one Slayer at a time... except when there are two. That ordinary non-vampire non-Slayer humans don't just move away from Sunnydale (how can the town keep up a tax base?)

"Gingerbread" blows the whole deal, for me. The town is up in arms about the monsters... and it's all "town amnesia" (or somesuch) at the end. All forgotten, children in danger but we'll stay around for the bake sale...

My favorite character, Xander, gets toned down a bit in Season 3, which is unfortunate. His role as comic relief is cause for concern in "The Zeppo", a direct steal from American Graffiti as well as a Marx Brothers reference. It almost works. The relationship with Xander and Willow is good for a while.

"Earshot" is the episode that was postponed after Columbine. I happen to see it two weeks after Virginia Tech. While the main plot is about telepathy (people being within "earshot") with predictably funny and tragic results, the subplot about a mass murder at the school drives the episode. Why do these people stay in town? Ah, Buffy gets to give a great speech to the guy with the gun in the belltower...

Well, I don't want to go on too much. The whole Faith/Mayor relationship works well. The Mayor is a delicious character, played not-quite-over-the-top by Harry Groener. What he is doing dominates the second half of the season, and that story arc is okay. (Oz nails his personality, but no one pays attention to him...)

The season comes to a climactic battle, a little bit for all the fans. The Bad Guys getting their comeuppance, Cordelia gets to kill a vampire, the school rallies around Buffy, Quark gets his and everything turns out okay. Except for the people who die gruesomely, of course. Joss Whedon is still Buffy's best director as well as the best writer.

On Neflix' scale of one to five stars, I continue to give Buffy three stars. The second and third season both had excellent episodes and bad ones that knocked it down to about four. But I'm rounding down the DVDs due to the commentaries. The commentaries and interviews, what few of them there are, invariably give away something in the future. This is bad, though less bad if you've seen all seven seasons of Buffy plus Angel. Which I haven't. I'm still not sure I'll duck into Angel.

Well, on to Season Four. But first: Gargoyles.

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