Throughout the third season the one thought I had again and again was how relentlessly enjoyable a show Buffy is to watch. It’s pure fun (except when it’s heartbreaking) and once again that all comes from a feeling that only a few very special series are able to create: Watching it is like being friends with the characters.
We know them—what makes them great, their flaws, their fears, all their little inside jokes. Seeing them interact isn’t just watching the story unfold, it’s as if we’re hanging out with them too. And the connection only gets stronger as the series goes on, so please Joss, stop hurting them.
Season 3 actually has a pretty rocky start with everyone treating Buffy horribly after she comes back to Sunnydale, but once it gets past that and introduces Faith things pick up. Her arc wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but as the emotional core for much of the season, her journey and relationship with Buffy worked really well.
What didn’t work was watching Xander and Willow cheat on their respective others with each other. It got to be infuriating, actually, because I already borderline disliked Xander as a character and seeing Willow jeopardize her relationship with the much cooler Oz over someone who already had his chance with her was not fun.
But luckily that ended pretty much the way it should have, though Cordelia’s subsequent removal from the Scooby Gang (as I understand they’re called) was unfortunate. Luckily Xander redeemed himself with “The Zeppo,” perhaps the funniest episode thus far.
That was the best of several great episodes (“Band Candy,” “The Wish,” “Earshot,” “Dopplegangland”) that used a clever central premise to play with character dynamics, all to stellar effect. More of that, please.
Then there was the central villain of the piece, the overly-amiable Mayor of Sunnydale who founded the town expressly so that he could turn into a massive demon a century down the line. Not sure he was ever more terrifyingly effective than last season’s all-bad Angelus, but he was damn fun to have around. Hopefully the show can continue the trend of unique and compelling evildoers.
With the characters all graduating from high school and some of the cast splitting off to star in Angel (a spinoff series that I will not be watching at the moment, regretfully. While I do think it would be great to experience them side-by-side as they first aired, it’s just a lot to commit to right now) this definitely marks a big moment of transition for Buffy. Somehow, I’m confident it’ll still be worth watching.