With seven seasons and 144 episodes under its belt, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a surprise cultural phenomenon that went on to inspire one official spin-off series, novels, comics, video games, board games, fan films, parodies, and academic conferences. And now, Jamie Gerber is here to walk us all through it from the first episode to the last. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries and empowerment of the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer! S2E13: “Surprise” (Writer: Marti Noxon/ Director: Michael Lange) This incredible two-parter not only subverted most every expectation that viewers had about the season but also shifted the entire paradigm of BtVS. It was a game changer that no one saw coming. Unfortunately, it also punished Buffy for having sex, which is something that Joss Whedon never really wanted to do. It just turned out to be a necessary element in the story that he wanted to tell. Whedon took the idea of “I slept with my boyfriend and now he’s acting differently towards me” and added a healthy dose of Hellmouth, turning that boyfriend into a literal monster after he and Buffy had sex. In doing so, he created the most painful and personal Big Bad that Buffy would ever face. This also led to some of the most empowering moments of the entire series. Buffy turns seventeen in “Surprise”, thus beginning the long-standing tradition of birthdays for the slayer going terribly awry. It begins the way many of Buffy’s terrible experiences do: with a dream. Buffy dreamt that Dru – thought to be dead, along with Spike – is alive and well. She staked Angel and then wished Buffy a “happy birthday”. This prompted Buffy to go see Angel in the middle of the night, at which point we once again consider that the steamy makeout sessions between these two can only last for so long. Sure, Angel’s a perfect gentleman, but their epic love story has been unfolding since the beginning of the series. “Surprise” sets major plot points in motion for every couple on the show. Xander and Cordelia are moving towards an actual relationship. Willow is bringing Oz to Buffy’s surprise party as her date. Giles and Jenny recently got back on track, but this episode reveals that she is not who she seems. Lastly, Spike and Dru are planning a party of their own and the guest of honor goes by the name, The Judge. The dynamic between these two has completely changed. Whereas Dru was severely weakened when they arrived in town, she is now fully restored, while Spike is stuck in a wheelchair. So, who is Jenny Calendar, really? Her Uncle Enyos, played by Vincent Schiavelli, reveals that she is Janna of the Kalderash people. They are the Romani clan who cursed Angelus in the first place and it’s Jenny’s job to make sure that the curse holds. Unfortunately, though her uncle tells her that even one moment of happiness is too much, he doesn’t exactly let her in on the details. From here on out, we know that Jenny’s motives don’t match up with everyone else’s. She appears to be taking Buffy somewhere sketchy, but it’s actually just her surprise party. Buffy happens upon some vamps – as she often does – and comes crashing through a window into her own shindig, at which point Oz sees her stake a vamp. He handles it like a champ though. It turns out that those vamps were attempting to bring a package to Spike and Dru, a live arm in a box that nearly chokes Buffy to death. Angel fills everyone in on the legend of “a demon brought forth to rid the earth of the plague of humanity”. No weapon could kill him, so when he was finally defeated by a literal army, they dismembered him and scattered the pieces. Drusilla is now reassembling these pieces. Jenny sees her golden opportunity to separate Buffy and Angel, knowing that someone needs to keep this precious piece of the Judge away from the rest of his body. Angel decides to leave immediately, to which Buffy heartbreakingly replies, “But it’s my birthday.” He gives her a Claddagh ring – our first hint at his Irish lineage – and almost tells her he loves her before being rudely interrupted by Spike’s henchmen. Buffy and Angel lose the fight when Buffy is hurled into the water and Angel jumps in to rescue her. Back at the library, Buffy falls asleep and her dream clues her into where Spike and Dru are holed up. She and Angel rush there to stop the Judge from being assembled…but they’re too late. He can literally burn the humanity from someone, destroying them in the process, and he almost does just that to Buffy and Angel. The only thing that saved them was the fact that the Judge wasn’t yet powerful enough to zap them from afar. Well, that and some quick thinking on Buffy’s part, as well as a very conveniently placed exit. Buffy and Angel were already struggling to control themselves and this whole near death experience pushed them right over the edge. Angel finally confesses his love for her and we all know what a panty dropper that can be. It is a beautiful moment between these two, which makes the next episode all the more gut wrenching. Cut to Angel waking up, running out into the pouring rain, moaning Buffy’s name while she’s fast asleep. This episode aired on Monday, with part two airing the very next night, signaling the show’s switch to Tuesdays. It was one hell of a cliffhanger, but at least we only had one night to wait! S2E14: “Innocence” (Writer: Joss Whedon/ Director: Joss Whedon) “Innocence” is a perfect episode. Beautifully written, impressively directed and extremely well acted, this installment proved not only how far the series had come, but also what it was truly capable of. Seriously, the first half of season 2 has some stand out episodes, but this is where it truly takes off. From here on out, the season barrels toward its incredible conclusion at full speed – okay, maybe with a pit stop or two – and Whedon makes sure that by that point we are as heartbroken as Buffy. This episode picks up right where “Surprise” left off. While the Judge is recovering his strength, Drusilla is having a vision. We can only assume that she is seeing whatever is happening to Angel in the alley. A woman of questionable morals attempts to help him. Unfortunately for her, she’s smoking, so she has to die! Angel kills her, mercilessly and without hesitation, leaving us all wondering what the hell is going on. He then confronts Spike and Dru at the factory, at which point the Judge attempts to burn him…only he can’t. There is no longer any humanity in him. He’s got a plan though and step one is destroying Buffy. Meanwhile, the slayer woke up alone and headed home to pretend that she’d been there all night. In a daze, she arrives at school and realizes that no one has heard from Angel. Buffy spends the day wondering why Angel hasn’t tried to contact her and of course, worries that she’s done something wrong. It’s an all too common scenario faced by teenage girls who lose their virginity to some jerk and then blame themselves for his bad behavior. When Buffy finally does find Angel at his place, he tears into her and it’s brutal. He quietly destroys the night that they spent together, stripping everything away until Buffy has nothing left of that night but pain. Whedon has said that he preferred writing Angelus to Angel because it’s difficult to make the latter interesting. He has also said that writing this scene made him feel like an ugly person. I have watched this series so many times over the years and this moment between them still kills me. It’s especially gut wrenching that after all of the horrible things that he says to her, she still tells him that she loves him. That is the truth of this moment. Most people would do exactly the same. He then gives her the dreaded, “I’ll call you,” before leaving her there alone. Buffy isn’t the only one nursing a broken heart. Back at the library, Willow catches Xander and Cordy smooching. This is when we learn about the “We Hate Cordelia Club”, of which Xander happened to be the treasurer! Oblivious as ever, he can’t understand why Willow is so hurt, but she tears up, telling him, “It just means you’d rather be with someone you hate, than be with me.” This conversation is in sharp contrast to the one that she has later in the episode with Oz. Xander may not understand what’s going on, but Oz sure does. He knows that Willow is hitting on him because she is hurt and that it’s not really about him at all. He’s cool with it though, because he’s willing to wait until he’s the one that she really wants to kiss. She begins to fall in love with him right then, but so do the rest of us. Willow returns later because she knows that this is bigger than her feelings. Angel shows up, but Jenny, who has spoken to her uncle, knows that Angel was “meant to suffer, not to live as human” and that the perfect moment of happiness between him and Buffy has taken his soul. Buffy, Xander, and Jenny manage to stop Angel from hurting Willow, but now everyone knows that Angel is no longer on their side. Giles wants to know what happened, but Willow is the only one to figure it out and she’s not telling. It speaks volumes about their friendship that Willow understands so completely without Buffy saying a word. It is excruciating to watch Buffy in so much pain, but after she cries herself to sleep, her dream reveals exactly who she needs to talk to. She attacks Jenny in front of everyone with a brutality that the viewer can completely get behind. We’ve just watched Buffy get dismantled and we want her to get to the truth. Sadly, that truth doesn’t just put strain on the father/daughter relationship between Buffy and Giles but also destroys the burgeoning relationship between Giles and Jenny. Buffy wants Jenny to curse him again, but Angel beats them to the one guy who can do it, Uncle Enyos. This episode also sets up the love triangle between Spike, Dru, and Angelus. Dru and Angelus leave a bitter Spike home, while they head out for a night of fun with the Judge. Proving that Joss Whedon saves all of the best toys for the episodes that he is helming, Xander has an idea of how to take down the Judge and it’s a rocket launcher. Seriously, has Buffy ever looked quite as awesome as she does in the epic shot that reveals her holding that weapon? No weapon forged could kill the Judge indeed. As Buffy tells him, “That was then. This is now.” It’s an amazing moment. The Judge seemed like he was going to be a major Big Bad, but we all knew that the final fight had to come down to her and Angel: two people that loved each other more than anything fighting to the death. Angelus has her on the ropes until he makes the mistake of taunting her about their night together. She comes at him with everything she’s got, but she just can’t kill him. He tells her as much, leading to the best line in an episode full of them. Kicking him in the balls, she says, “Give me time.” It’s a hugely empowering moment, one in which we realize that our heroine may be down, but she certainly isn’t out. The episode ends with Giles letting her off the hook in a truly touching scene between them. Later, curled up on the couch with her mom, she watches her birthday candle burn out, as “Goodnight My Love” plays in the background. With that, Buffy’s disastrous birthday comes to an end, but her real struggles this season are just beginning. S2E15: “Phases” (Writers: Rob Des Hotel & Dean Batali/ Director: Bruce Seth Green) If witchcraft often serves as a means of exploring themes of female empowerment and sexuality on BtVS, then lycanthropy is a metaphor for male sexuality, but also the beast within us all, which sadly, never ceases pulling our strings. The next two episodes center on two relationships that have really just begun: Oz and Willow, and Xander and Cordy. We’ll come back to the latter couple when we dive into “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, because “Phases” is all about the former. In stark contrast to the heartrending end of Buffy’s affair, is the sweet unfolding of the love story between Willow and Oz. In “Innocence” Oz gave Willow one hell of a speech about freeze frame “Willow kissage,” finally making her heart go pitter patter for someone whose name isn’t Xander. However, love is never simple on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Oz is going through some changes. There is actually quite a bit to unpack here in terms of male sexuality. Aside from the angst that comes with puberty, there is also the idea of living a secret life, which we see in the rather awesome reveal of where Larry’s true heart lies. If this episode suffers from anything, it’s the placement of it. “Innocence” set the series bar at an all-time high and while “Phases” does explore some of the aftermaths of those earth-shattering events, it does so only as a subplot. One of their classmates is dead – must be Tuesday – and the Scoobies are certain that the werewolf running around town is the culprit. Complicating matters is a hunter named Cain, who is eager to add a new addition to his werewolf teeth necklace. However, it’s actually Buffy’s ex-honey who is responsible. Either way, the slayer blames herself, as both beasties are technically her responsibility. Oversexed jock Larry is the red herring here, with werewolf all but stamped on his forehead. This incorrect assumption leads to a hilarious confrontation between Xander and Larry in which it is revealed that Larry is actually gay. Thanks to a bit of a miscommunication, he outs himself to Xander, who he thinks is in the same boat. It is this incident that completely changes Larry’s character from pretty awful to a total sweetheart. That’s self-acceptance for you. Oz is the real culprit, although he doesn’t know it until he wakes up naked in the woods. His cousin Jordy, who happened to be a werewolf, bit him. No one likes being tickled Oz. Seriously though Aunt Maureen, a heads up would’ve been nice! Poor Willow just wants some more one on one time, but Oz is a bit distracted by thinking that he is now a murderer. Buffy urges Willow to take matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, Oz is busy trying to chain himself up before his transformation, so when Willow refuses to leave until he acknowledges her, she almost winds up mauled. It’s a great scene that perfectly mirrors common communication breakdowns between men and women. The werewolf works as a decent metaphor for puberty here, although it has been used as such before BtVS. In the end, Buffy sends Cain packing and it’s awesome because the guy had it coming. Willow has no problem accepting that Oz is a werewolf. “Three days out of the month, I’m not much fun to be around either”. “Phases” is a fine episode, beginning a werewolf trilogy that will be continued in season 4. It’s delightful to watch the relationship between Willow and Oz unfold, even as the dissolution of the one between Buffy and Angel continues to leave a trail of wreckage in its wake. S2E16: “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (Writer: Marti Noxon/ Director: James A. Contner) “Passion” was originally in this episode’s place, but Sarah Michelle Gellar needed a break to film her Saturday Night Live appearance, so the writers had to find a way to turn her into a rat for a few days. With or without that in mind, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is a great episode. If “Phases” focused on the physicality of teen angst, this installment looks into the more emotional side. Not necessarily love, but as Giles puts it, “selfish, banal obsession.” However, there is real love to be found here too as Cordy realizes that her feelings for Xander have actually transcended her desire for approval from her bitchy friends. Now that Xander and Cordelia’s tacit affair is out in the open, it has finally become real, which means different things for both of them. For Xander, it means buying a Valentine’s Day gift now that he actually has a Valentine. On the other hand, Cordelia’s friends are mocking her so incessantly that she goes so far as to break up with poor Xander…on Valentine’s Day. To add the utmost insult to injury, he had just poured his heart out to her. This dreaded holiday isn’t going great for Buffy either. Not only has she recently lost her honey, but according to Giles, there will be some sort of horrifying grand gesture to look forward to. Speaking of Buffy’s former flame, he’s not only a thorn in her side but in Spike’s as well. Although Angelus is obviously competing for Drusilla’s affections, he appears to be more interested in tormenting a still wheelchair bound Spike than in actually winning her heart. This is probably also a good time to mention that as much as I miss Angel by this point, Angelus is a far more interesting character. For his part, David Boreanaz looks like he’s having a blast playing Hyde over Jekyll. This episode marks the return of Amy, who has more in common with her mother than anyone realized. After a heartsick Xander catches her handing in invisible homework, he blackmails her into casting a love spell on Cordelia. First, he has to take his necklace back, which unbeknownst to him, she is wearing, despite the fact that she had just dumped his ass in front of everyone. The spell backfires and everyone except Cordelia falls for Xander because the necklace used to perform the incantation actually protected her from it. Also, let’s be honest, she was completely in love with him already. What follows is a series of delightful events. Buffy tries to seduce Xander and gets into a catfight with Amy – also in love with him – who proceeds to turn her into a rat. Xander learns that being chased by legions of adoring ladies isn’t as awesome as one would think. Willow kind of gets the worst of it, considering she already loved him to begin with. That doesn’t keep the spell from driving her crazy too though. Even Jenny and Joyce are sweet on him and the latter’s affections are actually kind of terrifying. Speaking of scary love, Angelus attempts to murder Xander, as a Valentine’s Day present to Buffy, of course. Shockingly though, help comes in the form he’s least expecting: Drusilla. “If you harm one hair on this boy’s head…” Unfortunately, she only saves him so that she can turn him into a vampire, making their love eternal. By the time Giles helps Amy reverse the spell, Xander and Cordy – who he had to rescue from her friends, now intent on kicking her ass because she hurt him – are almost literally hacked to bits by the former’s murderous fans. Balance is restored, and Cordelia stands up to her pals about her choice of boyfriend. “I’ll date whoever I wanna date, no matter how lame he is!” All in all, “Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered” is a great installment. The remainder of the season, although brilliant, is rather dark and this episode serves as a hilarious respite sandwiched between much more serious subject matter. Like the best episodes of BtVS, it’s absolutely unforgettable. See larger image Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Complete Second Season (Slim Set) The complete second season of the TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. New From: $24.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.