My Favourite 60 (ish) Buffy The Vampire Slayer Episodes – Part 2 (Season 2)

July 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

In honour of the recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.

Season 2

While Season 2 retains much of the Monster-of -the week formatting of Season 1, there is a much greater adherence to the overall arc. Even the most seemingly one-off episode gives a few pointers to the overall progression of the story, and continuity. Season 2 is my favourite of the bunch, as I find it to be the most emotional, gripping, and funniest series, and it contains the episodes I love most. We meet wonderful new characters, we wave goodbye to others, and the show truly bares its teeth towards the end as we descend into much darker territory.

School Hard

The third episode of Season 2 is where the series truly kicks into gear as When She Was Bad feels more like an interim episode to tie up loose ends from Season 1 and introduce us to the darker themes of Season 2, while Some Assembly Required was a simple Monster-Of-The-Week episode. In School Hard we catch up The Annointed One, but more importantly, we are introduced to Spike – double Slayer killer, and his psychotic, psychic partner Drusilla. Their actions in this episode are potent enough to make the viewer sit up and actively feel the series moving into a new, higher gear.

This episode effectively kicks of the Season 2 Arc, presenting us with 2 thirds of the Big Bad, whilst informing us that Spike, Drusilla, and Angel have a past… this intrigue will grow as the season progresses. Other intriguing moments – Buffy struggling to hide her secret identity from her mother in an interesting parallel to a later Season 2 episode, Snyder revealing that he is aware of the supernatural events of Sunnydale, and Buffy’s mum is named and has her first interaction (like everyone) with Spike.

Favourite Moment: Spike and Drusilla’s first meeting with The Annointed One, their writhing together as if a single entity, their banter, it’s a great introduction which the pair rarely match again.

Inca Mummy Girl

This episode rarely makes anyone’s list of favourites, but it’s one I enjoyed from first viewing. Not only do we see some growth on behalf of Xander’s character, but we meet Oz, Jonathan, and it is the first episode to deal with a genuinely tragic figure/tale, and gives us one of our best early ambiguous baddies in The Incan Mummy (most commonly known as Ampata even though Ampata is the foreign exchange student killed early in the episode).

This is important in the steadily growing emotional force of the season, sowing the seed that Buffy is alone even though surrounded by family and friends, as well as preparing us in a small, but genuine way for all the death and loss which comes later. Even though the focus appears to be on Xander, as he experiences the loss of a potential lover, the episode is really about Buffy and her life paralleled by The Mummy, who also had her life stolen away by fate and without her influence.

That’s not to say the episode doesn’t have it’s lighter moments – the various costumes the Scoobies wear (particularly Willow’s Eskimo costume – incidentally, do any of these costumes act as metaphors for the characters a la Halloween?), and seeing Xander trying to act all charming is, well, charming. First seeing this at around the age of 16, Ampata was also extremely cute, and Ara Celi gives one of the best performances of any early supporting character.

Favourite Moment: It’s a toss up between a couple of scenes: Xander and fake-Ampata’s flirtation on the playing field is very sweet, while Buffy and fake-Ampata’s discussion about being chosen is touching, sad, and acted touchingly by Celi and Gellar.

Halloween

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Halloween is an all-round entertaining episode which introduces Larry, Ethan Rayne (giving us our first glimpse into Giles’s mysterious past), and serves a stepping stone to several relationships; Buffy wants to please Angel and agrees to go on a date with him (leading her choice of costume) and Oz and Willow have their first interaction (without actually knowing it). This episode is also important to plot and character development in several ways – Xander’s military costume gives him knowledge that will be important later, and while it gives him a surge of confidence, he appears to lose it again. Willow learns, in a similar fashion that she can lead the group and save the day which is a large step for her, and Buffy learns that she can be herself with Angel. They kiss.

The episode plays with the idea of switched personalities, with Buffy becoming a helpless 18th Century maiden, Xander becoming a hardened soldier, and Willow being some sort of sexy ghost. Elsewhere, Cordelia wears a cat costume, and Spike sees the chaos as a chance to cause havoc, even though Halloween is typically an off-day for the supernatural. Xander and Cordelia spend more time in each other’s company, and Giles and Miss Calendar’s relationship seems to be taking tiny, timid steps forwards. This is a mostly light episode with plenty of action and laughs, one of the last before the series shows its tragic colours.

Favourite Moment: Cordy as a cat? Willow as a something? Buffy scared of a car?

Lie To Me

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While previous episodes had mostly been light fare, some had provided a few moments of genuine sadness. Lie To Me is the first episode which truly deals with sadness, loss, and expands upon the season’s theme of ambiguous evils. It’s one that gets forgotten under the weight of the later, more emotional episodes, but it still has a fair amount of power, and its potency remains sharp after many rewatches. Buffy and Angel share some mutual jealousy (Angel with Ford, Buffy with Drusilla), and Buffy is annoyed that the scoobies were working behind her back. It’s the first time Buffy meets Drusilla and we learn more of her back story with Spike, and we also meet Chanterelle who will make infrequent future appearances.

The episode’s force comes from Buffy’s relationship with Ford – he is someone she has known for a large part of her life, and his appearance in Sunnydale is obviously a massive thing for someone who sees herself as an outsider. Ford though has ulterior motives, wanting to become a vampire. We think this is simply an ugly, naive fascination he feels, similar to the rest of the cult he entertains, but his actions are greyed by the shocking gut-punch he delivers to Buffy near the end of the episode – his real reason for wanting to turn. By the end of the episode, Buffy grows much closer to Giles, as exemplified by their Lie To Me discussion.

This is the first true tear-jerking episode, acting as a test for what will be coming in the second half of the season.

Favourite Moment: Angel’s clothing mishap in the Lonely Ones club? Buffy’s argument with Ford over his motives? All good, but I think that final scene with Giles and Buffy is my favourite, beautifully filmed and with nice dialogue, delivered perfectly.

What’s My Line Parts 1 and 2

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The first of this Season’s two parter’s is arguably the weakest, but when your weakest two-parter is still amongst the best couple of hours TV ever you know you’re onto a winner. This is a mixture of mystery and intrigue, comedy and romance, action and horror, we meet new faces, and we see our first major, series-changing twist. It’s also in this episode that Buffy and Angel truly cement their love, while Xander and Cordelia finally embark on their torrid relationship.

The episode begins simply enough, with another pointless rites-of-passage to suffer through – Career Week. Buffy is only getting used to the idea of a (potentially short and brutal) life as a Slayer, dealing with school, and is only starting to negotiate the realisation of a life with an immortal who will never age while she continues to, so the idea that she may never be able to have a normal life comes as a depressing bombshell. However, later events paint her future in a positive light as we see she does have a future, and may have a pseudo-escape from being Chosen.

Meanwhile, Spike is up to his old tricks, looking for a way to heal Drusilla and take out the Slayer. He finds a potential solution to both problems, sending a an ancient group of assassins to do the dirty work for him. This creates a great deal of tension for Buffy as she and her friends are repeatedly attacked by the Order – the problem is that the assassins could be anywhere, or anyone at any time. Xander and Cordelia face off against a maggot man, and in facing death in the face, they kiss. While this is going on, Willow finally gets talking with Oz, and they have an instant, beautiful connection and rapport. Buffy’s first interaction with Oz is to slam him through a locker, believing him to be one of the assassins.

The episode heads towards its twist when Angel goes to Willy’s Bar (first appearance) for information, only to be attacked by one of the (we are led to believe) assassins, who locks him in a cage as sunlight creeps nearer. The episode ends with Buffy and this girl having a fight, only for her to reveal that she is ‘Kendra, the Vampire Slayer’. Gasp! Since episode 1 we have been told that there was only one, a Chosen ONE, but Part 2 reveals that Buffy’s death in Prophecy Girl called forth a new Slayer. Gasp! We get to see Giles’s cute, child-like excitement over this development, Buffy and Kendra argue over the notion of a ‘good vampire’ nevermind being in love with one, Angel is captured and tortured by Spike who plans to kill him to restore Drusilla, Buffy is almost shot, Oz takes the bullet, and we end with an epic church battle between assassins, Spike, and the Scoobies, and although the good guys win, it appears Drusilla is not restored to some super-vampire state. Gasp!

So much happens over the course of these two episodes that it would take hundreds more words just to scratch the surface. Aside from the relationship stuff going on, the episode sees Buffy taking a more mature approach to her role as Slayer, an acceptance, but also an understanding that she is not alone. Each episode moves at breakneck speed, and it’s amazing to watch in retrospect that so much important stuff happens which would have a ripple effect right until the final episode. I think that if I wasn’t hooked by this point when Buffy was first aired, this two-parter sealed the deal and held me in awe. Great new characters – I love Kendra and would have loved to have seen her in more episodes, the assassins are each interesting, particularly maggot man (who looks exactly like a weird guy who got the same bus from University as I did), and it’s nice to see Buffy and Kendra part in a positive way. From now one, things are going to go downhill rapidly…

Favourite Moment: I like Kendra’s reveal, and I like Buffy kissing vamp-face Angel, and I love Cordelia and Xander’s first kiss. Oh how I giggled like a school girl who giggles a lot. But I think my favourite moment is Drusilla emerging from the wreckage of the church, dangling Spike like a broken spider on a thread. They had built her up to be such a mysterious presence that the revalation that she may be restored to full power made me wonder how strong she actually was.

Surprise

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It’s Buffy’s Birthday, and as all BTVS fans know, Birthdays, and Halloween, and – well – celebrations of any kind really – do not go down too well on this show. Beginning with an effectively creepy, and prophetic dream, we see Angel’s death. This leads Buffy into his arms where we get a particularly smokey, sexually-charged scene. Elsewhere, all seems lovely as Oz and Willow prepare for a first date, Xander and Cordelia banter and argue, and Spike and Drusilla conspire to bring back an indestructible demon whose limbs were scattered across the globe; A nice surprise for Buffy’s Birthday bash. This is an extremely important episode in the series – we find out why Jenny is really in Sunnydale and watch the tiny steps towards her tragic demise, and we see Buffy and Angel have sex, which completely changes the tone of the series and sets up the second half of the season.

The first half of this two-parter is the culmination of all the growing passion and tension and romance between Buffy and Angel, finally exploding in a tender, drenched, shivering scene. I love the build up to this as everything surrounding the characters seems so urgent and hectic – it’s hardly surprising that it’s this episode that they decide to get it on. Their lives are put in danger, the pressure of Spike and Drusilla’s threat has been growing, they fail in their attempt to stop the resurrection of The Judge, and their friends are beginning to have doubts about their relationship. And then there is that cliffhanger – when watching this for the first time, although the signs are there, it’s not obvious what has happened to Angel, or what it means – but all that will soon be made gruesomely clear.

Favourite Moment: As always, it’s difficult to pick a favourite for these Season 2 episodes which I love so dearly. I think it gets off to a brilliant start with Drusilla’s shock appearance in Buffy’s dream, in Buffy’s house. For me, that is one of the most frightening moments in the series, and one where a vampire actually seems like a vicious, demonic, thing, devoted only to death.

Innocence

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One of my all time favourite episodes, this continues right where we left off. It’s interesting that we choose to focus on Angel for the first moments rather than Buffy, but we see immediately that Angel is dead and gone, and Angelus has awoken in his place. He kills an innocent passerby, with a devilish glee not yet witnessed by any evil on the show, and we watch as he rejoins his old crew, even surprising The Judge with his complete lack of humanity – the audience knows for sure that a truly terrible creature has been unleashed – any none of our Scoobies know. The rest of the episode follows in a downward spiral – Angel systematically destroys Buffy with his barbs, relishing the torture rather than trying to kill her; Willow is broken-hearted when she catches Xander and Cordy kissing; Buffy almost kills Jenny who is later cast out by the group, especially Buffy and Giles; Jenny’s uncle is killed; Buffy gets older.

This all builds to an effective series of action scenes where Buffy and the gang devise a brilliant plan for destroying The Judge. After this Angelus and Buffy have their first fight, which is bloody, heart-pumping, and quite different from most fights in the show up till this point. Although Buffy wins the fight, she cannot bring herself to stake the vampire, and it feels like a shallow win in the midst of a losing battle.

There is so much to love in this episode, as it brilliantly handles the darker scenes whilst still giving supreme action and the usual strong dialogue. I buzz with every viewing, and was bouncing all over the room the first time I watched. There are many iconic moments – Buffy crumbling under Angel’s accusations which will be particularly painful for anyone who has gone through a similar situation (minus vampires), Buffy’s attack on Jenny is shocking, the end of The Judge is a classic moment, and Buffy and Angelus’s fight is as water drenched as their loving encounter the previous night. It ends on a complete downer, with Buffy, childlike in her mum’s arms, admitting that she has suddenly been forced to grow up. Poor Buffy – a heartbreaking end to a breathless episode.

Favourite Moment: I’ve already mentioned a lot of iconic moments above, and any of those could be a favourite, from Buffy choking Jenny, to the rocket-launcher surprise, to Giles saying he hasn’t lost faith in Buffy.

Passion

Oh Lordy, first there was heartbreak, then there was Passion. Possibly my favourite all time Buffy episode, Passion is has a tragic inevitability throughout which can only be truly appreciated in hindsight. It’s one big mind-fuck, singularly designed to destroy us all. We see how various characters are trying to makes amends for their past actions, namely Jenny, who attempts a spell to return Angel’s soul. Naturally, Drusilla gets a psychic whiff of air about this, and the soulless trio set out to save their beloved Angelus. Meanwhile, Buffy is in the early stages of forgiving Jenny, as is Giles, whilst Angel is continuing his slow-burning torture – killing Willow’s fish, stalking the characters as they sleep, telling Joyce that he slept with her daughter – all creepy of course, but nothing truly dangerous.

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You would be forgiven for thinking this is just another episode of safe television – there is a problem, Buffy and Co. are in danger, Buffy saves the day in the nick of time. But you would be forgetting that this is a Joss Whedon show. Since Angelus arrived, there has been an extra potency to the threat of Season 2, a viciousness that has topped even Spike and Drusilla, but even so, when Angel finds Miss Calendar alone in the school at night, we still believe she will escape – she’s a main character! Alas, Angel catches her under the moonlight, as cars pass by outside, and snaps her neck. With that crack, the series truly takes a step forwards, and marks the first of many main character deaths.

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And yet, we, and Angelus, are not done. We still have to witness the aftermath and reaction – Angelus thoroughly enjoying watching Buffy and Willow’s devastating reaction, and the psychotic, painstakingly artistic way Angelus delivers his ‘gift’ to Giles. And to top it off, we see Giles enter the lion’s den, and almost, almost, destroy the evil trio himself. In the end though, are heroes are defeated, deflated, and don’t know where to turn. The only certainty is that Buffy is now ready to kill.

Favourite Moment: Good Lord, as my favourite episode, I don’t know what to pick here. Everything hurts so much in this episode, I feel like a psychopath picking a favourite moment out of so much misery. I think Buffy and Willow’s breakdown is my favourite moment, as the acting is so strong we breakdown ourselves, even though we don’t hear them speak, even though we are watching through the eyes of a murderer, from a distance.

Killed By Death

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Even with the main arc causing havoc to our characters, we still have time for a few strong monster of the week episodes, some which tie in to the arc neatly, some which feature it in passing. And we have Go Fish. Killed By Death is a standalone which manages to hint at future episodes in Seasons 5 and 6 by showing us a deeper glimpse into Buffy’s psyche, displaying her memories, and keeps the Angelus, Spike, Drusilla plot to a minimum.

This is a mostly standalone episode dealing with Buffy’s fear of weakness, wrapped around a plot about her fear of hospitals – turns out her cousin died in hospital at an early age which traumatized Buffy. Further turns out that her cousin was actually murdered by a Krueger-esque demon. Further further turns out that this demon is lurking the hospital Buffy is taken to in this episode, following a convenient bout of flu. Buffy, in a weakened state, haunted by memories and stalked by Angelus, must overcome the odds to defeat a foe which only children can see, saving the lives of the ward’s kids, and to some extent avenging her cousin.

Der Kinderstod is one of the series most memorable, most scary demons – I would rank him above The Gentlemen. The way he creeps around the dark hallways is unsettling enough, but he seems to have a swagger as if he knows he is unstoppable, has been killing children for decades, and will continue to do so. He is everything we fear in a boogeyman. The scenes in which we actually see him attack are pretty terrifying, those eyes coming out of his head and…. well, you can watch for yourself. It would have been nice to see this episode having a greater impact on Buffy’s character in later episodes, but I don’t think we ever explore the memories and fears presented here too deeply later. It’s proof though that Buffy can still make standalone episodes just as powerful as those concerned with the main season arc.

Favourite Moment: I love the insidious nature of this episode, and how Buffy seems largely helpless. I like the first appearance of Der Kinderstod, walking slowly past the doorway, scary stuff.

I Only Have Eyes For You

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This is a strange episode as around half of Buffy fans will mention it as a favourite, while the other half won’t mention it. True, it does veer awfully close to melodrama at times, but it is so well-crafted, so flawlessly written, and so painfully, brilliantly acted, that I love it. In the run up to the Season finale it is easy to forget it, but it is a must watch with regards to the arc, foreshadowing much of what will happen in the next few episodes. Under the guise of a monster-of-the-week episode, it is really all about Buffy and Angel, their relationship as a whole, and the struggles they have faced and will continue to face this season. Naturally, there are a few surprises and more levels to traverse than Bruce Lee does in Game Of Death.

It appears that a ghost is floating around Sunnydale high, possessing innocents, and making them re-enact a horrible murder-suicide. It seems that whenever two people are alone together in the school hallways, the ghost will attack, taking over both parties and recalling the past incident, where a student and teacher have an almighty argument, and die, due to the ending of their forbidden love. Word for word, and action for action, we see this happening a few times through the episode. What stands out is the different atmosphere and suggestions we see with each separate re-enactment, and it’s interesting to watch how the different characters, and actors play the scene. Kudos to Gellar and Boreanaz, as they act the shit out of their scene and deserved to win every award going. I love love love how the ghost flips the two characters so that Buffy is the murderer, and Angelus is the meek, and that kiss they share at the end is all the more devastating knowing what’s to come.

There is so much depth to this episode, I can’t believe I haven’t even mentioned the subplot with Giles believing the ghost is Jenny Calendar, trying to contact him from beyond the grave. An episode centred entirely on that premise still would have been stunning, but Season 2 likes to keep giving, and so we get a true classic.

Favourite Moment: Oh, it’s got to be the entire gun scene with Buffy and Angel, wonderful performances and brilliant, twisty writing.

Becoming Parts 1 and 2

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I honestly don’t know what to say about these, other than they are possibly the best couple of hours of TV I’ve ever seen. How they managed to pack so much in, resolve so many storylines yet leave so many cliffhangers, destroy so many characters yet strenthen others, fill it with so much action, tragedy, treachery, sadness, guilt, humour, and yes, there may have been some happiness in there too, I’ll never know. It has some of the most iconic moment in the entire series, it has brilliant dialogue, music, performances. It’s Whedon’s favourite. I don’t think the show ever peaked again quite like it does here, in terms of range of emotion and plot.

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So, Part 1. We traverse time and space, going back to before Angel was a Vampire, seeing how he was a drunken, harmless waster, sired by Darla. 100 years later, we witness his first moments with pre-vamp Drusilla. 30 years later we see the gypsy curse being doled out. Another hundred years pass, and Whistler (hiya) introduces a near-feral Angel to pre-Sunnydale Buffy. He is instantly smitten and decides to actively atone for his sins by helping the helpless. Skip to present day, and Buffy is studying for exams, Giles is investigating a devilish new museum find, Angelus is preparing the end the world, and Kendra is arriving just in time to give the Scoobies an important weapon and then be murdered. Oh, and Spike is not happy about how cosy Drusilla and Angelus are getting. And Buffy and Willow find Jenny’s floppy with the gypsy spell. And the gang argue over whether it is right or wrong to even restore Angel’s soul. And a vampire kills itself in front of Buffy’s class. Willow attempts the restoration spell, but it’s a trap, as Drusilla and Co attack. Willow is knocked into a coma. Kendra is killed. Xander is knocked out. Buffy is too late. A cop points a gun at her, as she stands over Kendra’s body. An ungodly amount of ‘Holy shits!’ ementated from my mouth as the episode ended when I first saw it. To be continued.

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Unsurprisingly, Part 2 makes things endlessly worserer. Buffy is expelled. Buffy is on the run from the law. Buffy admits to her mother that she is the Slayer (with the help of Spike), Buffy’s mum hits her and throws her out of the house. Buffy decides to kill the person she loves. Buffy leaves Sunnydale. I really don’t want to say much more about it – if you’re ready this, you already love this episode as much as I do, and though it’s always wonderful to read the thoughts and dedications of other fans, I can’t do it justice. It’s utterly, utterly heartbreaking, it has possibly the best fight in the whole show, and even though the world is saved, it ends on such a downer. I don’t think anything I see on TV will ever affect me as much as this two-parter did. It’s much better than sliced bread. As Season 2 closed, I realised, if I hadn’t already, that Buffy The Vampire Slayer was my favourite TV show ever.

Favourite Moment: My favourite moment from Part 1: Buffy’s slow motion run through the school. From part 2, it has to be that screenshot below, followed by the immortal ‘me’.

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As always, please leave your thoughts on these episodes in the comments, and let me know if I missed any of your favourites or picked one of your most disliked episodes. Have a go at the poll too. Tune in soon for my favourite Season 3 episodes!

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