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  • Created By: Joss Whedon
  • Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar

The Buffy Files: Chapter 2

A Look Back at Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season Two

By Stephen Lackey     October 19, 2006


Buffy Season 2 on DVD
© Fox
So I went outta town over the weekend and I took the second season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER with me on the trip. After season one I was excited to dive into season two. The first season wasn't perfect. It had a few episodes that crashed and burned and the story arc that ran throughout the entire season could have used some fleshing out. What it did have was a fantastic basis for a series and some intriguing characters played by charismatic actors.

Season two starts off strong enough with several well done "one off" episodes before introducing a new character that would prove to be a fan favorite and deservedly so. The character of which I speak is Spike (James Marsters). Spike comes to Sunnydale in hopes of using the power of the Hellmouth to restore his love, Drusilla (Juliette Landau), back to full health. She just barely exists, not much more than a zombie. In his inaugural episode "School Hard", it's obvious that he's going to be a pleasure to watch. I in fact missed him in every episode he didn't appear in. This season also introduced another character I didn't appreciate as much; Kendra (Bianca Lawson). When Buffy was temporarily killed at the end of season one apparently Kendra was dispatched by the council to a replacement slayer for Sunnydale. Kendra is a reoccurring character for the season that didn't have a whole lot of depth in her writing and less on screen chemistry with the other regular actors. Her character never seemed to have any real importance within the storyline of the series.

But then it happened; we hit the midpoint of this extra long season. The series changed with the episode titled "Ted". This episode leads to what I want to talk about in this article; consequences. Part of what made this season so powerful, dark, and moving is that all of a sudden with the Ted episode everything has emotional weight and there are long lasting consequences for what the characters do. In to many shows a major event happens during sweeps week and it's over with by the next episode. Well, starting here Buffy becomes more aware of who and what she is, and it haunts her throughout the rest of the season. Ted (John Ritter) is a new romantic interest for Buffy's mother. Ted seems to be a great guy; even Willow and Xander love him. Buffy finally deals with her father's new place in her life and becomes suspicious of Ted's intentions. Then Ted abuses Buffy in private and no one believes her. Of course Ted does end up being more than anyone could have expected but what's important is that the series steps up to a new level emotionally, and from here on out it all gets darker.

It could be argued that the series turn really started with the two part episodes "What's My Line?" The two parter starts off with the gang going to career day at Sunnydale. While all of her friends contemplate their futures, Buffy tries to settle into the fact that she has no control over her future. Buffy is a vampire slayer and because of that she can't consider any other normal careers or anything else associated to a normal life. Again the two parter has a great monster story but the emotional turn for Buffy is more important and more meaningful for the episodes. I've said it before but it's worth saying it again; what makes good sci-fi/fantasy/horror is real character and drama. It doesn't matter how high concept the series if the characters are grounded and viewers can connect to the drama happening on screen. Buffy goes through the typical pains of growing up, the separation of her parents, and she has the weight of the world all on her shoulders. As much as I liked the series during season one and the first half of this season, I became twice as enthralled with the series from "Ted" on out.

I mentioned the word consequences earlier, consequences play a part in the romantic relationships that are budding in this season. Buffy and Angel, the do-gooder vampire, have fully succumbed to a relationship they know is dangerous at best and tragic at worst. At the same time a secret relationship is blossoming between Xander and his high school nemesis Cordelia. Xander and Cordy keep their relationship secret to begin with for two completely different reasons. Cordy fears that she will lose her standing within the school's pecking order if her relationship with a misfit got out. Xander chooses to keep the relationship a secret because he knows that it will devastate Willow not just because she has always liked him but because Cordy has always treated her and her friends horribly. Even Giles is finding romance with the computer teacher/witch Ms. Calendar. Yes this can all sound a bit DAWSON'S CREEK, but it really isn't. It's not because DAWSON'S CREEK is sugary and childish. This series features young people moving into adulthood in the most unique of situations. BUFFY in an odd way, feels more real emotionally than that show or most others with teenagers for main characters. When the relationships are revealed people are hurt, friendships are changed, and none of it ends quickly as is common for other series.

In horror films if a girl has sex, she gets killed by the slasher, but in Buffy things are even darker if that's possible. When Buffy and Angel finally consummate their love he loses his soul and becomes the evil animalistic Angelis once again. He even partners with Spike and Drucilla and works to make Buffy's life miserable. Angelis is truly evil, even more than Spike. He doesn't want to cause chaos and eat humans the way Spike wants to do, he wants to destroy the world. At

the same time he doesn't seem to want to kill Buffy, he wants to torment and torture her. These episodes are moving and as dark as anything I've seen.

Buffy isn't the only one denied happiness though. It seems that everyone connected to her must share in her darkness. Willow is pushed to move her relationship forward with Oz (Seth Green) only to discover that he is a Werewolf. Giles and Ms. Calendar are ripped apart when he finds that his new love is responsible for the curse that caused Angel to lose his soul when he found a moment of true happiness. When Ms. Calendar tries to redeem herself she pays the ultimate price. Xander and Cordelia seem to have the most typical high school relationship but they can barely seem to stay together.

There aren't any real duds in this season. There are some filler episodes that don't do a lot for the story arc started with Angel but they do often work as metaphors for Buffy or other characters state of being. "Go Fish" is probably my least favorite of the season although it wasn't bad at all. The two part season finale was nothing short of stunning. Part one does a standout job of telling Angel's back-story and his first connection with Buffy. Back to my theme, Angel's end is a consequence of everything he has done for hundreds of years.

may be one of the most moving and perfect seasons of any series I watch. There's a lot of death in this season, but it all matters. Joss Whedon's abilities to create emotion and character shine here. This season I truly see how the man that brought us FIREFLY started here with this series.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 3 of 3
1 
karas1 10/19/2006 7:09:28 AM
It wasn't that when Buffy died at the end of season 1 The Watchers Council chose Kendra to be the new slayer. When a slayer dies some kind of magic happens that choses the next slayer out of a pool of potential slayers available. Why Kendra became the new slayer and not one of the other available candidates is something nobody understands. Kendra isn't an important character in and of herself, she is more important for what she represents. Unlike Buffy, she was identified as a potential slayer by the Council as a baby and she was trained by a Watcher all of her life to fulfil those duties and do nothing else. She has no family, doesn't go to school, has no social life. As much as Buffy whines about how being a slayer cramps her style, she has so much more in her life than Kendra does. And her ties with family and friends make her a better slayer than Kendra ever could have been. Next season we will meet Faith, the slayer called when Kendra died, a wild and undersupervised young woman. We'll see how the power of being a slayer can corrupt.
rockapellaman 10/27/2006 11:30:30 AM
Yes, season two rocked. One of the best seasons from any show I've ever watched. That episode when Angelis returns and Buffy is devastated has so much raw emotion. It's tragic, and Gellar shows her awesome acting chops through that pain. I may be a bit fuzzy about how the magic works when a slayer dies, but it may have something to do with The Powers That Be trying to balance good & evil. The series Angel deals with The Powers quite a bit, so it kind of makes sense. What a great show!!
redhairs99 10/27/2006 3:56:25 PM
I too really liked season 2, however, it did cause one of the biggest inconsistances of the series. From the end of season two until the series finale in season 7, Buffy always says that killing Angel was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. Did anyone else catch the problem with that statement? According to the shows' own mythology, you can only kill a vampire with a stake to the heart, fire, decapitation, or holy water. If I'm not mistaken Buffy ran Angel through with a sword. Granted this spilled his blood and sent him to a "hell" dimenision, but that hardly going to kill a vampire. That was always my biggest problem with the series, and aside from only one other bit of dialogue, I loved the show. That other exception being in Season 7 when Buffy keeps telling the potential slayers that if "she" dies then one of them could be called, which could not happen. Now, if Faith died, then yes one of them could be called, but as we saw (or perhaps didn't see) during season 6, no other slayers were called when Buffy leaped to her death at the end of the 5th season. Anyway, I really liked the show and still watch the DVDs at home, but those were really the two biggest inconsistances I noticed in a series that was usually pretty solid when it came to it's own mythology.
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