FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - When She Was Bad
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy moved to Sunnydale and quickly made an impression on the locals, picking up some best friends, falling in love with a vampire and taking on a really old vampire called The Master. Oh and she died. Only a little.
In this season opener, Buffy must deal with her return to Sunnydale from LA and her recent death-by-drowning at the hands of the Master. She doesn't really do either very well. Yes the title refers to when Buffy goes bad which means returning with some razor-sharp insults and a 'Joan Collins 'tude'. Thanks Cordelia for that one. Over the course of the episode, she's mean to just about everyone, teases Xander with a sexy dance as the jealous Willow and Angel look on with increasingly angsty expressions. She also makes a fairly big error in walking into a certain trap only for it to be revealed as a method of getting her out of the way, putting her friends in danger.
There are a lot of things going on this episode which all seem to serve the purpose of getting back up to speed and introducing new people to wacky concepts like the Hellmouth and banana-coloured platform shoes. Ok, maybe not the last part (though who didn't want a pair of those in the 90s?). The exposition is frequent, but not overwhelming and actually slots into the conversation without holding up a sign saying "THIS EXPLAINS WHAT IS HAPPENING". You can also tell this particular episode was written by Joss Whedon; the dialogue zips (picking just one quote proved impossible) and the characters are welcome and familiar as well as progressing nicely in their respective roles.
Sarah Michelle Gellar clearly has a lot of fun here, revelling in being a bit nasty to all her friends. While Buffy's behaviour may look like a traditional teenage passive-agressive tantrum, it also carries shades of post-traumatic stress. After all, she did die at the hands of the Master and is clearly still feeling the effects with nasty dreams and pensive staring at his grave. I also really enjoyed the interaction between her parents in this episode - it's the final appearance of Hank Summers and they share a great moment of 'I don't understand my child', punctuated by afore-mentioned banana shoes.
However, the big thing I noticed on this rewatch was just how much foreshadowing there is in this episode for the season ahead. Snyder predicts that Buffy will get kicked out, Buffy begs Angel to take her on in a fight, knowing he wonders whether he can take her or not, Buffy falling for the bait, only to discover it's so the bad guys can get to her friends (yep, Angel remembers that) and even Xander and Willow for the third season; it's all in there. On first watch, this would completely pass you by, but returning to it now, it's probably the first time in the series that we see Whedon forecasting what is to come, something which will become more common and more apparent as Buffy progresses. One for the nerds to look out for.
We are re-introduced to the Anointed One who plans to bring back the Master with the help of new poetry-spouting Absalom. Of course, the Scooby Gang handily only buried the Master's bones and didn't salt and burn them Winchester-style as they should have done. Dean and Sam may ask what Buffy would do occasionally, but they were right on this one. Absalom is icky. I don't like him - didn't then, still don't now. It also reminds me of how bland some of the monsters-of-the-week can be, which is why I'm only just talking about him now and brief. Then again, this episode isn't about the villain; it's about our central character overcoming her own personal demons.
I'm introducing a new feature into these post-episode nuggets in honour of the creative ways in which various characters are dispatched. So here we are...
Inventive Kill: It could have been the moment in which Buffy uses a free-standing torch to kill two vampires at once. However, she also roundhouse-kicked a vampire into a tree and on to a branch, dusting him in the process. A freakin' tree.
Quote of the Week (I've cheated with this one - they were all too good):
Willow: I mean, why else would she be acting like a B-I-T-C-H?
Giles: Willow, we're a little too old to be spelling things out.
Xander: A bitca?!
Snyder: There are some things I can just smell. It's like a sixth sense.
Giles: No actually that would be one of the five.
Buffy - Cordelia's ransom note: "Come to the Bronze before it opens or we'll make her a meal."
Xander: They're gonna cook her dinner?!
Who's Who in Sunnydale: Cibo Matto, the band at the Bronze, has none other than Sean Lennon, son of the late Beatle, on guitar.
You can read Becky's look at Prophecy Girl .