Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Two
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanez, Allison Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, Nicholas Brendon, and Anthony Stewart Head
Synopsis: All 22 episodes of season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the one arguably regarded as the best. Season-long story arcs came to prominence, particularly the very troubled relationship of Buffy and Angel, the vampire with a soul.
Comment: Although I had seen all these episodes before, going through the DVD over the summer was my first experience of watching them in order. Of course, I had also seen all subsequent episodes of the series, which couldn’t help influencing my view of this set as well. Since there are 22 episodes, I have 22 comments (some of which are spoilers).
When She Was Bad—Buffy comes back from summer vacation as a bitca.
At the time, this seemed very out of character for Buffy. Now, one recognizes Season 6 Buffy in her detachment from her friends and her sexually using someone who loves her. Spooky that her first death and “resurrection” serve as such a foreshadowing of her second, much more traumatic one. Rating: ***½
Inca Mummy Girl—A foreign exchange student has a deep, dark secret.
A weak episode, though not atrocious. The attempted parallel between the doomed Inca princess and the slayer doesn’t quite work. But the episode does introduce Oz, and continues Xander’s odd attraction to demonic females. Rating: **
Some Assembly Required—Nerds create a girl from parts.
Not my favourite; kind of gross. We do see a sweeter Cordelia and just the hint of something between her and Xander. Rating: **
School Hard—Buffy deals with Parent/Teacher night, and two new vampires: Spike and Drusilla!
I wondered if I’d be retrospectively ga-ga over Spike, but no. Was not. Maybe because he’s in vamp face for most of the episode. Still, I really did pick up on the sexual tension between him and Buffy this time. Rating: ***½
Reptile Boy—Buffy secretly goes to a frat party, and runs into a giant snake.
Contains that line that everyone loves, that I don’t quite get: “When you kiss me, I want to die.” Anyway. I got more out of this episode after watching with commentary (see Extras), but it didn’t do too much for me on its own. Rating: **½
Halloween—Wherein the characters become their costumes.
This one is fun. I was quite struck by Nicholas Brendon’s acting skill in transitioning from Xander to soldier boy. Allison Hannigan looks amazing. And Spike is totally creepy. No wonder I didn’t lust after his evil self. Rating: ***½
Lie to Me—Buffy’s old friend Ford has a dark plan.
Ratchets up the moral complexity in the terminally ill Ford, and also furthers the view of vampires as a sort of parasite on the host. What should have been a cute scene between Willow and Angel is made awkward by the silly dialogue and bad makeup. Rating: ***
The Dark Age—Giles’ troubled youth literally comes back to haunt him.
Does a lot to bring depth to Giles’ character. And notice how these created monsters melt just like the created ones in Season 6’s “Life Serial”? Rating: ***½
What’s My Line, Part 1—“I am Kendra, the vampire slayer.”
A few plot problems in this one: Angel’s strange but very convenient inability to move back to human face at will, and also his incapacity to break a bicycle lock. Nevertheless, the second slayer is a cool idea. If you don’t dwell too much on why the Watcher’s Council didn’t realize this before. (And what does it mean for a slayer to be “activated” anyway? Are they just weak, normal girls until then?) Rating: ***
What’s My Line, Part 2—Kendra and Buffy team up to defeat Spike and Drusilla.
Nicely paced episode, though I got a little distracted by the idea of the civilized white girl teaching the primitive how to do things. (I’ve been doing some reading.) Oh, and Angel’s revivification of Drusilla seemed highly sexual (as Spike notes). Rating: ***½
Ted—Mom’s new guy is an evil robot.
Nice job of tying up the loose ends from the previous episode (continuity good). John Ritter is kind of creepy in this role. More shades of Season 6 as Ted threatens to put Buffy in an insane asylum, and as Buffy lashes out at an apparently human person who threatens her (in more ways than one). Rating: ***
Surprise—Buffy and Angel do it on her 17th birthday.
Powerful stuff. Cool dream sequences, though I’m not sure what it means that Drusilla is the vessel of Angel’s destruction? Rating: ****
Innocence—Angel wakes up without a soul.
The key event of Season 2, and Boreanez handles it really well. I don’t like the intimation of the girl getting punished for having sex, but Buffy is treated with so much respect by Giles and Joyce, it doesn’t come across that way. Rating: ****
Phases—Oz deals with the werewolf within.
Paves the way for Oz to become a regular, and develops more Buffy morality, including that you don’t kill human beings, even if they’re monsters some of the time. Rating: ***
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered—Xander’s love spell goes way wrong.
This is a great one—lots of fun, but still with an element of danger. Rating: ***½
Passion—Jenny Calendar’s doomed attempt to restore Angel’s soul.
The pivotal scene of Jenny’s death and its aftermath is so well handled that it overshadows everything else about this one. Rating: ***½
Killed by Death—Children at the hospital are dying mysteriously.
I liked this one better than I did before—that’s one scary villain! And Xander and Cordy’s strange relationship is nicely developed. Rating: ***
I Only Have Eyes for You—Angel and Buffy are possessed by the ghosts of dead lovers.
Nicely develops Buffy’s tendency to blame herself for whatever goes wrong. And the final scene is just awesome—a sneaky but acceptable way to get Buffy and Angel to kiss again… Rating: ****
Go Fish—The swim team seems to be turning into fish.
Again, this one was better than I remembered. Good development of Cordelia. The script hung together well. Xander looked hot in his speedo… Rating: ***
Becoming Part 1—Buffy steels herself for dealing with Angel.
Knowing what’s to come, it seems a bit slow. But it’s great to have the flashbacks, and the final scene is a doozy. Rating: ***½
Becoming Part 2—Buffy loses everything, but saves the world.
Damn. This one is amazing! The Spike scenes are a particular highlight, and the setup for his becoming somewhat less evil in the future. And Angel is going to have to stop listening when beautiful blonde women tell him to close his eyes. Awesome. Rating: ****
The Extras: Not too bad. We have commentaries on Reptile Boy, What’s My Line Parts 1 and 2, and Innocence. Joss Whedon on Innocence is the funniest. David Greenwalt’s on Reptile Boy does add to the appreciation of that episode. Marti Noxon’s on What’s My Line is particularly striking in how she really isn’t familiar with the show’s chronology, but she does charmingly admit to some of the episode’s flaws (the accent, the bicycle lock…).
The three featurettes on the final disc are all worth watching as well. They feature interviews with the cast and with various people who work on the show, and give a lot of insight in how it’s put together. Also on the disc are the short interviews Joss did for the video version.
Usability: The menus are not difficult to navigation, but it becomes annoying to have to sit through the computer animation each time. I also grew tired of the hanging note that played on the menu screens. The discs themselves are kind of hard to remove from the packaging.