Monday, August 5, 2013

Top 5 Episodes of Buffy Season 3

Anya has powered through another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so here we are to once again rank our favorite episodes. It’s impossible to read any list of “best” Buffy episodes without thinking, “I can’t believe s/he included/left out [Episode]!” Hopefully you can find some of your favorite moments below, and that we can at least all be in agreement that Buffy is an all-around great show.

Season Three is an all-around great season. Unlike the rough and intense ride of the darker and more emotionally taxing Season Two, this season is much steadier trip, slowly building up to its cathartic ending. This season will probably be the only time where our list of favorites actually follows the sequential order in which they aired. This season may not reach the intensity of Season Two, but in terms of overall watchability, this season has fewer episodes that you might be tempted to skip on a rewatch (perhaps the fewest out of all the seasons). As usual, spoilers throughout for the entire show through this season.

5. “Band Candy”

“Whoa, Summers, you drive like a spaz!”

We begin with “Band Candy.” Buffy, resenting her mother and Giles for denying her the freedom and privileges of adulthood, spends a day in their shoes, when all the adults in Sunnydale are turned into obnoxious teenagers from eating Ethan Rayne’s tainted candy bars. We finally get a taste of the days Giles spent as “Ripper” and we also get a hint that Joyce liked to have a lot of fun in her youth. We love Willow seeing her shirtless, stage-diving doctor at the Bronze and we love the eventual payoff to Giles and Joyce’s cop car sex with Buffy’s temporarily telepathy in “Earshot.”

This episode is the only time on the series that Principal Snyder is ever likeable, and even then, it’s only from the knowledge that was such a clueless boob in high school. Pretty much everything that he says is gold, but highlights include:
“Oh! There’s some foxy ladies here tonight!”
(to Oz) “You’ve got great hair.”
“Let’s go do doughnuts on the football field.”
“I can do that too, I took Taekwondo at the Y!”

4. “Lovers Walk”

“You’re a very bad man.”

After being spurned by Drusilla, Spike returns to Sunnydale to give the pot a rather generous stirring. The drunk and depressed Spike enlists (read: extorts) the help of Willow to win Drusilla back with a love spell, kidnapping her and Xander and storing them in his old factory lair (“He’s probably just got ‘em locked up in the factory.” “...How thick do you think I am?”). During his time in Sunnydale, he has a wonderful reunion with Joyce (“Well, Spike, sometimes, even when two people seem right for each other, their lives just take different paths. When Buffy’s father and I started having trouble-” “But this is different, our love was eternal, literally! You got any of those little marshmallows?” “Let me look.”) and calls out Buffy and Angel on their bullshit “friendship.”

Willow and Xander allow their sexual tension to culminate at the worst possible time, celebrating life (and its probable end) with a heated kiss, just as Oz and Cordelia come to the rescue. After a stairway collapses, Cordelia is impaled and the scene fades to funeral, causing the audience to spend a (retrospectively) humorous 30 seconds thinking she’s dead, before the camera pans to Buffy and Willow walking outside of the cemetery talking about how she’s okay. Classic.

3. “The Zeppo”

“Did I mention that I’m having a very strange night?”

This is one of Paul’s all-time favorite episodes. Ordinary Xander Harris finally gets to shine on the center stage, experiencing a wild night of raising the dead, losing his virginity, and saving the school, only his friends are too busy preventing another apocalypse to notice. The usual meat of the show (Buffy’s relationship drama, Big Bad/Monster of the Week) is pushed to the side of the plate, allowing Xander’s plotline to be main focus of the episode. The audience thus only gets to see snippets of the action happening with the show’s de facto major players. We hilariously barely get to see the Hellmouth monster (“My god, it’s grown.”), and we never get to see any part of Angel’s brush with death or what Giles did that Buffy called “the bravest thing” she had even seen.

The show makes fun of its, at times, over-the-top action and drama, also featuring a delicious scene where Xander interrupts a soap-level of camp exchange between Buffy and Angel. Xander is forced to get through the night with his own special set of skills, receiving no aid from his supernatural friends. This gives him a boost in confidence and maturity, allowing him to end the petty war waging between Cordelia and himself.

2. “Prom”

“We’re not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed you.”

“Prom” is a no brainer for this list, and the only episode so far that has really eked tears of our Anya. Although she flatly refuses to buy this whole Angel comes all the way back from the dead but still has the same deal going with his soul curse and they can never be together thing, we see the breakup coming from a mile away. Once the Mayor got in Angel’s head it was so. over. We have all that that high school moment where Buffy lays her sad little Slayer head on Willow’s lap and says “I feel like I’m dying”. (Fun Wikipedia fact: Sarah Michelle actually did cry for like half an hour after their onscreen breakup, and they had to close the set for her to recover.)

Paul warns Anya that the end of Prom is the happiest moment that will ever happen on Buffy: the Class Protector Award, and Angel coming through in the end for a last dance. We know Buffy’s sacrifices and hard work are rarely recognized, and that shiny little umbrella really hit Anya where it hurts. That and Angel in his goddamn tux prompting a “I knew he’d come through for me! Uh, her. Yeah, come through for her” text. The whole episode is an emotional rollercoaster, even engendering sympathy for Cordelia when her poverty (and sad, sad “relationship” with Wesley) is revealed.

1. “Graduation Day”

“Guys, take a moment to deal with this: We survived.”
“It was a hell of a battle.”
“Not that battle, high school.”

Graduation: a perfect finale for Buffy’s time in high school, and some of the most tense moments of the season, especially for a first time viewer. The Mayor is Paul’s favorite Buffy villain EVER, and we both enjoy his chipper attitude and sunny tone mixed with his completely fucked everything else. His affection for Faith highlighted how pathetic and love starved they both were, and they fact that Buffy lured him with her knife, of all things, was the final cherry on that twisted sundae.

Paul is a big fan of “Poor old Faith”, which Anya can’t get behind. Despite her hatred of Buffy’s foil, she did enjoy watching her arc play out on screen. Is this what Buffy could have been without her support system? It’s a tragic arc, from start to finish. The stabbing, the spiteful jump to avoid helping Angel, the final visit to Buffy to help her win in the’s all Faith through and through.

Speaking of arcs, we can see that this episode/finale is the end of an era. High school is over, and some of our characters are heading their separate ways. Anya was forced to admit that Angel won’t be back for real this time, Cordelia is off to be vapid elsewhere, and Xander isn’t quite making it to actual college for the time being. We liked that this really felt like an ending, though only a couple episodes into season four, Buffy herself says “it’s basically just like high school.” Too true, Buffs.


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