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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 3, Episodes 1-2

August 11, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3-1 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

It’s Pet Sematary Now: A BTVS Retrospective, S3 E1-2


Episode 1

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Season three starts off with the gang attempting to pick up an M.I.A. Buffy’s slack by hunting vampires, but… they are not particularly good at it. They are good enough to not die! But not to actually defeat any bloodsuckers. Their dialogue alerts us to the fact that school starts back up tomorrow. Buffy’s been gone all summer!

Didn’t every show do this back in the typical TV show calendar era? TV seasons ended in May and started in September, so every show about school-age kids treated the summer break as this negligible occurrence wherein nothing happens. Buffy’s done it twice now!

We see Buffy on a beach somewhere, and hey… Sunnydale has one of those! Guys, she’s just at the shore! But then Angel appears with her, and I assume she is imagining him, but no… the whole thing is a dream. Turns out she is in a seedy hotel in a bad part of town somewhere. We know it’s a bad part of town because there are SIRENS, not because the setting is particularly derelict. Hollywood still gotta make their ugly look pretty.

We cut to Buffy working in a diner under the pseudonym “Anne”, and she is being harassed by some skeevy looking patrons. She considers whomping them… but does not. There are two heroin-addicted looking kids with huge matching heart tattoos… and the girl seems to recognize Buffy…

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, the school library is BUMPING. Activity and students all over the place! Hey, the new crop of freshman actually use books, I guess! Good for them. Giles and Willow are openly talking about vampires amidst all the hustle and bustle. Cordelia returns from her vacation to a Mexican resort, and she is way too nervous to see Xander again; she thinks he will have moved on.

No, writers. Just no to all of that. This character is not that pathetic. Cordelia has a whole human being full of characteristics, and being pathetically demure is not one.

What else happens here? Willow sees Oz in school and discovers he failed last year and has to retake his senior year. She is NOT best pleased, though he thought she’d find it endearing. We pass Larry the football player with what is the line of the series so far where he notes the team should have a really good year if they can avoid all the usual mysterious deaths. I see you seeing me, series!

Xander approaches Willow and is equally geeked out to see Cordelia. Willow reassures him. A bit later, the lovers reunite… extremely awkwardly before parting.

And here’s the kicker: All the school stuff starting from the library through to the unpleasant reunion? An uncut take. Anyone who knows me knows what a total sucker for those I am. So credit where it is due: Excellent direction early on in season three!

The girl from the diner follows Buffy out onto the street, and hey… we have seen her before! She was in the vampire fan club thing that Buffy’s friend from LA started up for his brain cancer. Her name then was Chantrelle, but now she is going by Lilly. She is easily influenced and picks a new name whenever she starts a new life. A homeless guy bumps into them, says “I am nobody”, and goes to stand in traffic. Buffy pushes him out of the way of a car (the car then irrelevantly hits her, but she suffers no ill effects).

Buffy finds a guy named Ken passing out flyers (fliers?) to a group home he runs for the young and homeless. This leads into a montage of homeless people living on the streets to the turns of sad 90’s indie pop. It’s a proto Sarah McLaughlin humane society bit, but with society’s unwanted! This leads into footage of the band playing this song at The Bronze (oh, we’re still doing this, I guess), and Xander is fucking moping about a girl BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS. He has created a scenario in his head where Cordy was getting with a cabana boy all summer. He and the gang are still trying to perfect their hunting, and he suggests using Cordy as vampire bait because he’s a jealous, possessive asshole who is never happy.

It’s like this douchebag has a level cap where he can only become SO tolerable once every ten episodes or so, and once he hits that, he starts regressing again.

Not to be outdone in the shitty character department, mom shows up in a scene talking to Giles. Giles gives her reassurance that Buffy will be okay and that mom isn’t to blame. She turns and says something to the extent of “I know; YOU are to blame” and runs Giles down. Fuck all of the way out of here, lady. Giles should have retorted “Oh you know what? You kicked Buffy out of your home, so I’m wrong; it IS your fault”. Everyone is too nice to this bitch.

At the diner, Lilly begs Buffy for help–it seems that her boyfriend Ricky has gone M.I.A. as well. The two of them head to the bloodbank at which Lilly and Ricky donated. The nurse reports that she has not seen him, but as soon as Buffy and Lilly leave, she gets that sketchy villain look.

Buffy checks out the dregs of the town and finds Ricky… somehow aged into the body of an old man and having drank bleach to kill himself. Ouch, my dude. There HAS to have been a better way to go. Buffy IMMEDIATELY (or, you know, EFFORTLESSLYTM) suspects the bloodbank is involved.

Good to know the lazy writing came back from summer break.

Ken finds Lilly and tells her Ricky is with his people and he can take her to him. He dresses her up in rags and tells her she needs to go through a cleansing.

Meanwhile, Buffy confronts Nurse Sketch. She gets the info that the nurse is giving someone the names of the healthy donors. Buffy breaks into Ken’s group home to see Lilly’s cleansing, which involves a pool of black goo. Lilly, Buffy, and Ken all fall into the sludge… which is actually a portal to an underground factory or something.

Ken has the two of them locked up and tells them this is an alternate realm where 100 years passes as quickly as one day on Earth. So that explains Ricky’s aging! They take people no one will miss, use them for slave labor until they are too old, then release them to the surface.

Oh neat! So Buffy can spend several episodes imprisoned here and not really miss a beat of the main story back in Sunnydale! We can see her really suffer and fight and claw for her freedom, only to find defeat at every turn as the monsters of this realm try to torture her own name out of her and make her think she is no one. And after several…

Wait, what?


She’s going to easily beat the shit out of everyone and escape in, like, ten minutes?


Yeah, you know. Or do that thing, I guess.

Glad that we introduced that time warp aspect of this realm to not use it at all then.

Ummmm, anyway. Buffy gives Lilly her apartment and diner job, then goes home and hugs mom.


Oh, and in the subplot, the Scoobies kill a vampire and Cordy and Xander make out. Fine. It’s fine. This is fine.

Episode 2

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Buffy, now back home, is unpacking her belongings. She goes to check on mom, who is hanging a Nigerian mask on her wall. She refers to it as “primitive”, and while that word is potentially TECHNICALLY correct here, it does feel weirdly racist and inappropriate to me.

Buffy heads out to check on her friends. She finds them hunting a vampire, and she kills it for them.

They all head to Giles’ house to let him know his student is returned, and we get one of the more frustrating developments yet as a throwaway line from Oz: “”You’re not wanted for murder anymore”.




It’s not like the cops caught fucking Drusilla and pulled a confession out of her. So they have no leads whatsoever as to who killed Kendra. Why have they abandoned the one suspect they had? The one who ATTACKED THE POLICE AND FLED? The one who had previously beaten a guy to [near] death, and then that guy went missing the very next day?

I get that the gang were mostly all eye-witnesses to Kendra’s murder and could testify that Buffy didn’t kill her, but still… there’s a LOT of smoke there. How do the cops not know they were all in on it? They are her friends and constant accomplices. Kendra wasn’t a known part of their group. She was just an out-of-towner.

I just… the mind reels at the writers just hand-waving away the problems THEY CREATED. If you didn’t want to deal with Buffy being wanted for murder, you SHOULD NOT HAVE WRITTEN IN THE PART WHERE BUFFY IS WANTED FOR MURDER. You are the writers! You have this power!

Lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy.

There are no stakes to anything here.

(I mean, it’s a vampire show. There are SO MANY stakes! But… you know what I mean)

Mom and Buffy head to school to talk to the principal. He refuses to readmit Buffy even if she has been cleared of all charges. Her grades were bad, her attendance was bad, she was a disruption, she single-handedly stopped a school shooting… oops! Not that last one. But he hates her and relishes being able to do this. He tells her to get a job at a corn dog hut. Mom says she will talk to the mayor, and Principal just chuckles that threat away.

After discussing Private Schooling vs Home Schooling with mom, Buffy heads out to meet up with Willow and catch up… but her friend does not show.

Buffy heads back home and runs into Pat, mom’s friend from book club. Mom says Willow called and got held up and couldn’t make their meeting, but mom has invited all of Buffy’s friends over for dinner the next night. Buffy finds a dead cat in their basement, and she and mom bury it in the yard.

At night, the eyes of the Nigerian mask start to glow… and the kitty Pet Semaraties its way out of the earth into the house!

Giles takes the cat to school for some research to see what could zombify a feline. The gang has a discussion on exactly what the gathering at Buffy’s house IS. They settle on it being a big party, so Oz will get his band to play, and they will invite tons of people over.

Cut to the party, and there are about 50 students, a band, and Pat all in the Summers abode, but Buffy wanted a more intimate gathering with her friends. Most of the students there do not even know Buffy. The infamous two-time murder suspect they went to a school with. They don’t even know OF her.

Buffy finds Willow amongst everyone and checks in with her, but Willow is kind of a jerk and more-or-less brushes her off. She then goes up to Cordy and Xander (openly making out) and they also are way more into each other than they are the idea of talking to Buffy. She continues trying to find comfort in her own house but instead overhears half of mom’s conversation with Pat where she says things are worse now that Buffy is back. The slayer heads up to her room to pack up so she can leave AGAIN. Hey, diners everywhere are hiring; it’s the 90’s and the economy is great!

The mask glows again, and dead bodies all over SunnyDale start to rise, including a burn victim who the doctors JUST pronounced dead; he attacks the medical team, so I guess he is not a friendly undead. They all seem to be drawn to the Summers home…

Giles is still researching at the library and sees something in his book about the mask mom had on her wall. He can’t get through to Buffy on the phone because of the party. He gets in his car and starts driving over, but he runs over a zombie. When he gets out to check on the guy, others attack, and Giles–having lost his keys–has to hotwire his own car. Hey, he used to be a troubled youth, so it’s a skill he picked up! Character consistency! You love to see it.

Willow walks in on Buffy packing, and the two of them start to bicker. Willow reminds Buffy that the slayer isn’t the only one with problems! Willow is dating a werewolf and is practicing witchcraft, and her best friend just abandoned her. Mom comes along and sees Buffy’s Go Bag and flips her shit. Buffy storms downstairs in tears.

Mom and Buffy continue fighting, and Buffy pulls the “You Kicked Me Out” card, which brings XANDER of all people to mom’s defense. And I’m sorry… Buffy may be being a child about all of this, but if Xander and mom are on one side, I’m on the other.

Xander continues going in on Buffy for selfishly leaving everyone… until the dead strike! The main characters all rush upstairs; all the nobodies escape into the night. The former find Pat dead from zombie attack, but the mask revives her, too, and she puts it on. It gives her some weird “Stephen King’s It” dead-lights powers that freeze people in place, but a distraction from Oz allows Buffy to ram a shovel into its face, killing it.

This makes all the zombies vanish into thin air, and I feel like there should be repercussions to that in regards to the more newly dead, but I’mma give the show a pass on this one. The cops aren’t looking for John Ritter, so I doubt they are going to care where Burn Victim or Pat went.

Hey, I got to reference the John Ritter episode twice in one article!

Buffy embraces Willow, and all seems to be forgiven all the way around. The two go hang out together later and have some friendly ribbing.

At the school, Giles tells the Principal he will take Buffy’s case to the State Supreme Court, and when the Principal calls him on that, Rupert resorts to physical threats.

Did things bug me about the start of season three? Yep.

– The missed opportunity in the alternate realm with the time passage.

– The charges against Buffy being erased off-screen.

– More of the lazy “we don’t have time for this to be a problem” level writing we have come to know and [emotion].

But all that said, these weren’t bad episodes, the second of which in particular. Both Buffy and her friends/family actually had good points in their frustrations with each other, and the feelings felt valid and realistic all around. You really get the sense of what Buffy’s leaving meant to pretty much everyone, and Giles in particular had some subtly great moments when the kids were in his house. He was off making tea and just smiling to himself at hearing them talk to each other now that Buffy was back. I was HAPPY for this guy.

Also, seriously, the uncut shot in the premiere was great, and I will always give kudos to that.

So it’s a mixed bag, but the show’s promise continues to keep trying to push its head out from under the writers’ inability to make me care about the supposed danger.