Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 2a)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.

<--Season 1  Season 2b-->

Season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the beginning of the greatest period in the show’s run. There were still a few “monster-of-the-week” episodes but these began to feel like chapters in a larger, ongoing story. Whedon and company continued to explore High School in a horrific universe as an allegory for important issues in the real world:

When She Was Bad:

Season two starts off right away by reminding us we are not in traditional TV land with this series. The events of the previous season finale would have been quickly forgotten in a normal series; here they are still having an impact. Sure Buffy defeated the Master last year, but she did die in the process and all the while she is a 15 year old girl. Even with this whole episode to process all these issues, the writers will continue to deal with the repercussions of things in season one for years.

Some Assembly Required, Inca Mummy Girl, and Reptile Boy:

Three “standard” monster-of-the-week episodes, but with a higher level of message as is expected with Buffy. The first of these may be the worst of the season as it riffs on The Bride of Frankenstein with little to no new ideas. The mummy episode makes an attempt to explore Buffy’s situation as the chosen one by comparing her to the sacrificed Incan teen. They will do a better job of this in later seasons.

Reptile Boy is a little better. It falls into the category of “preachy” episodes that come every so often in the series. The lesson here is: frat boys are bad. There are interesting if not so deep explorations into religion. The Buffy approach to religion tends to be very similar to the Christian idea of false pagan beliefs; namely, that all religions have a supernatural origin where a demon is behind the object of worship. Appropriate for the frat-boys-are-evil theme, the demon here is a giant phallic symbol.

School Hard

This is a landmark episode for the introduction of Spike, an important character that will remain important right up to the end. The religious nature of vampires is explored in this episode as well. It seems vampires in the Buffy-verse crave religion and people telling them what to do just as much as people.


This monster is more sci-fi than supernatural. Where the plot is thick in cheese, the character exploration here is very well done. If your story is built around a teenage girl with super strength who kills monsters, at some point you have to address the question: what happens if she kills a normal person by accident?

Halloween and The Dark Age

Halloween is a fun episode that explores our core characters through the device of costumes that possess their wearers. Xander gets to be brave and assertive. Willow learns to come out of her shell a bit. Buffy gets to see that her natural strength, while not traditionally “girly” is not all bad.

Giles’ past begins to be explored this season as well. We learn that he was not always a straight-laced librarian type. In his youth, he fell into a worse-than-usual crowd who played around with conjuring demons. Once again, people in the Buffy universe face long-lasting consequences for the mistakes they make.

Lie To Me

This episode is timely for the Twilight age. A group of misguided teens decide they want to be vampires. They have developed a romantic view of the “lonely ones” and want that life for themselves. They are typically arrogant in their beliefs and reject anyone who tries to warn them of the danger they are playing with. To them, vampires are not evil, they are merely misunderstood. Fools.

What’s My Line Parts 1 & 2

Since Buffy died at the end of season one, the next slayer has been activated. Buffy gets the chance she has been dreaming about. She could let this new slayer take over and have a normal life. In the course of this two part episode, however, Buffy discovers that what she has is not a job or an imposition, but a vocation. She discovers that she was born to do this and it is the most worthwhile thing she can be doing.

Bad Eggs:

Some consider this one of the worst episodes in the series. It is really quite fun and comic. The undercurrent here is teenage sex drives, and is a great build up for the opening of the second half of the season…

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