I've Never Seen: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Two
This is a recap of Season Two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and CONTAINS SPOILERS
Across the board, I’m late to the fandoms. From 1999 to 2007, I basically read the Harry Potter series over and over. I spent a few years getting married and having kids. And now I am finally succumbing to the teenage pleasures I denied myself all this time: Gilmore Girls, The X Files, Firefly, and, of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s been a journey to get here. I tried to dig into the series a few years ago when I was home on a maternity leave, but I found the first season REALLY difficult to binge watch (I like to mainline my television) and didn’t care enough about the characters to keep going. Then, a few months ago, I was coming up empty after finishing Sherlock and Firefly. I wanted something thrilling and action-y with some romance and enough drama to make me forget my adult responsibilities. I wanted to fangirl. I tried again with Buffy Season Two.
In this season, we meet Spike and Drusilla, vampires from Angel’s past who are in town to take care of some unfinished business. During the first half of the season, Spike is searching for the cure for his girlfriend’s unstable mental state, and after his exploits are thwarted by Buffy time and again, his mission shifts to the extermination of the Slayer, with the help of the once-again twisted Angelus, Buffy’s former boyfriend who has lost his soul along the way. The addition of the new villians is a boon to this season. Drusilla is delighfully creepy in a performance of childlike damage that could have easily come across as goofy, and Spike’s ardent devotion to her and frustration with anything that stands between them is the perfect counterpoint to the bubblegum brightness that is Sunnydale High.
Dotted throughout the main theme are monster-of-the-week episodes that borrow heavily from old movies: a reptile that desires young maids, a robot disguised as a strict stepfather, a demon that sucks the life from hospital patients. Some of my favorites included the Halloween episode where people became their costumes (super fun to see Buffy and Xander play against type as a helpless medieval courtier and a career soldier) and I Only Have Eyes for You, an episode where the ghosts of a tragedy from the 50’s replay their murder and communicate through dreams. I enjoyed these little breaks from the emotional rollercoaster of the general plot.
Season Two brought me into the game in a more reliable way, and it was the first time I realized I was in this for the long haul. I loved that the side characters became more fleshed out and the overall story felt more complicated (although I still have some eye rolls for a few of the plot points). Sidekicks though: Willow starts expressing her own brand of sex appeal and getting recognition as her brains helps the team, Xander tones down his super uncomfortable habit of fetishizing Buffy and gets into a relationship where his banter can really flourish, and Giles gets some. Go Giles! I also loved the addition of Oz- Seth Green was one of my teen crushes and I thought his cool, honest, simple character was refreshing compared to the constant chatter of all the other students. Yeah, the werewolf thing, but Oz takes even that in stride. ALSO I have to point out that there were lots of awesome 90s mini-backpack and mauve nailpolish sightings.
My biggest guff with this season has to do with the turning point in episode 14, Innocence, where Buffy and Angel take their relationship to the next level, a torrid evening of lovemaking where the consequences far exceed the typical issues surrounding teen sex. No STDS or pregnancy scares, just the loss of Angel’s soul, followed by 6 more episodes of emotional torture, physical pain, and ultimately, death. I was a little skeptical that something like sex with someone you love ends up being a catalyst for such a huge twist in the series. It literally turns someone evil. After thinking it over, I can accept that the show was not trying to villainize the act of sex, which is encouraging, but it still doesn’t sit right with me.
The gypsy curse that reclaims Angel’s soul stipulates that Angel will turn evil again when he has a moment of pure happiness and/or contentment, because that means he has forgotten the burden of his past wrongs. Okay, so Angel has to suffer emotionally for what he did. I still buy it. My problem is that sex with Buffy is the first moment of pure contentment that Angel has had in like, decades. He’s been dating this girl for awhile now. Nothing made him blissfully happy before they finally did the deed? Pure contentment seems more like a perfect meal and afterwards your significant other is curled up with you on the couch and your favorite episode of your favorite show is playing in reruns and you catch it right at the beginning. Or whatever the vampire equivalent of that might be. I get that having it the way it is makes for much more dramatic storytelling, and I find Angel to be much more enjoyable when he’s bad than when he’s simpering around (I find him a little simpery), but I still found my eyebrows raising over the whole thing.
I thought it was badass when Buffy killed him at the end.
What do you think? Are you a Buffy fan? When was the last time you watched? I’m wondering if current viewers take it all in differently that those watched it unfold in real time in the 90s. Let me know what you think, and I’ll be back with thoughts on Season Three!