Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Review and Core Episodes Guide
Senior year at Sunnydale High – and the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – proved to be eventful with the return of an old ex-boyfriend, the arrival of a new slayer and the same hellmouth delivering a fresh slew of monster and slayage fun. Airing in the fall of 1998, the serialized 22-episode arc tested Buffy’s loyalty, faith and morality as the school year ended with an unforgettable graduation and a brand new beginning.
After the harrowing, emotionally scarring battle with Angel in the previous season, Buffy is now hiding out in another city as a somber waitress. Anne (episode 1) finds Buffy harder, darker and distant. And when strange deaths begin happening to street kids, she’s forced to intervene telling a broken girl, “These things happen all the time. You can’t just close your eyes and hope they’d go away.” With that realization, she returns to Sunnydale where her friends and mother are just barely finding a way to survive without her.
In Dead Man’s Party (episode 2), a welcome home party for Buffy uncovers the distance between Buffy and her family and friends. Also, a group of zombies arrive as uninvited guests thanks to Joyce’s possessed Nigerian mask artifact. Burying feelings versus talking about it play a part in the healing of relationships.
Dark, dangerous and mysterious, a gorgeous brunette with a chip on her shoulder arrives in town: a new slayer. Hope, Faith and Trick (episode 3) introduces Faith, (Eliza Dushku, Bring it On, Dollhouse), who plays it fast and loose, creating an interesting dynamic with the resident Sunnydale Slayer. Giles, the ever-watchful father figure, finally manages to get Buffy to talk about Angel and her loss. “I’ve been holding onto that for so long, it felt good to let it out,” Buffy says quietly as she walks away. In a bittersweet ending, Buffy places the ring Angel gave her at the last spot they were standing and as the episode fades to black, a small light shines on the ring, growing bigger. Arriving from another time and another hellish place: Angel.
Beauty and the Beasts (episode 4) explore the theme of abusive relationships and the difference between monsters and men. Pete and Debbie, a couple in love, showcases the dark, possessive aspects of an unhealthy, dangerous relationship as Buffy discovers Angel’s return. “There are two types of monsters. The first, which can be redeemed, more importantly wants to be redeemed. The second is void of humanity; cannot respond to reason or love,” Giles tells Buffy. The final scene, a beautiful tableau of the broken wreckage of Debbie and Pete’s relationship is contrasted with a kneeling Angel holding onto Buffy, a relationship brought together with love and healing.
Homecoming (episode 5) lightens the mood with the return of catty Cordelia and Buffy’s inner diva battling it out for the title of Prom Queen. As the two girls face off in fancy dresses, a bored, rich man creates ‘Slayerfest ’98’ a game where Buffy is the target for assassins who battle to kill her. As Buffy and Cordelia race to survive the booby-trapped forest, Willow and Xander begin to feel a forbidden attraction for each other. And the often-mentioned Mayor of Sunnydale is finally introduced: Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener, Star Trek Enterprise, Las Vegas), an interesting man with a wicked collection of scary looking weapons.
Adults and teenagers switch roles in the hilarious Band Candy (episode 6) where Buffy and her friends are forced to babysit the grown-ups in town. The charming yet smarmy Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs) returns, recruited by the Mayor. As Giles, Joyce and Principal Snyder act out their impulses, Buffy is forced to deal with responsibility and adolescence. As well, Willow and Xander’s attraction – and guilt – continues to grow, placing them in a difficult situation.
Acting on their feelings, Willow and Xander make a dangerous choice in Revelations (episode 7), as Buffy and Angel also grow closer. The arrival of Faith’s new Watcher, Gwendolyn Post (Serena Scott Thomas, Nash Bridges, Summerland), also gives Faith reason to doubt her role in Buffy’s group, culminating in a fight between the slayers for Angel’s right to live. The episode ends with a lonely Faith sitting on her grungy hotel bed signaling the beginning of the disconnection between her and Buffy. Trust, having people to lean on, betrayal and practicing restraint are all explored in this strong episode.
Recreating his very first scene from the previous season, Spike (James Marsters), drives over the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign signaling his return. Except this time he’s weak with a broken heart. Forcing the fairly powerful Willow (now a practicing witch) to concoct a love spell, Spike brings the theme of relationships in Lover’s Walk (episode 8). “You’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood, screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch but at least I’m man enough to admit it,” Spike tells a stunned Buffy and Angel. Willow and Xander’s betrayal is discovered, seriously damaging both of their relationships. With Buffy and friends feeling broken and alone at the end of the episode, a rejuvenated Spike barrels down the highway on a mission to get his girl.
The Wish (episode 9) is a Cordelia-centric episode that finds her dealing with loss and grief. When Cordelia wishes that Buffy never came to Sunnydale, Anya (Emma Caulfield, Beverly Hills 90210, Robot Chicken), a wish demon, takes the audience to a world that is bleak, dark and painful. The alternate world of Sunnydale without Buffy is grey, scary and filled with terrible loss and death. Xander and Willow are high-level vampires and this alternate Buffy is strong, dark, and rough around the edges, devoid of joy or passion. In an extremely fun episode where actors get to take their characters to new places, the theme of revenge, regret and accepting life are explored in a beautiful slo-motion scene of death and loss.
Amends (episode 10) is crucial in both Angel and Buffy’s storylines as it hints toward both of their futures. Angel begins to have nightmares and visions about the people he has killed. The First, the ultimate evil, begins to terrorize Angel, and Buffy is powerless. “You can’t fight The First, Buffy. It’s not a physical being,” Giles informs her. As Christmas in Sunnydale takes a dark turn, Angel begins to unravel, making a decision that forces Buffy to beg him to make an important choice: “Angel, you have the chance to make amends. Strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.” A Christmas miracle finds the star-crossed lovers hand-in-hand through snow-covered streets.