In the first episode of the second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy returns from summer vacation still dealing from the trauma of the events of the season one finale. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I know that I usually do separate posts just for predictions, but I really just want to keep this wonderful, beautiful train rolling. That doesn’t mean I want to avoid these pantheons of public embarrassment, but I’d rather not add more days to my one hundred and thirty-two day commitment at this point, especially since I’m going to add Angel to the mix when we get there.
Anyway, I wrote these few predictions before I started “When She Was Bad.” I know it’s far less than usual, but this show isn’t terribly serial in nature, so I feel like I can only sort of guess what will happen in season two, since there will be a lot of one-off episodes.
That being said….I imagine I’ll still be pretty damn wrong.
Predictions for Season Two of Buffy
- Buffy will slay vampires.
- Xander will find someone other than Buffy to crush on, and we’ll see him actually get into a relationship.
- Willow will ask Xander out once.
- We won’t see Buffy’s father at all.
- Cordelia will join the main group full-time.
- At least one more person will learn about Buffy’s true identity.
- We will find out where the Anointed One disappeared to. Didn’t he just….go away? I mean, we didn’t see him die or anything, so…perhaps he’ll go the way of the unaddressed plot thread?
- Angel and Buffy will start dating because CHRIST THEY REALLY NEED TO ALREADY.
- The main mythology of season two will have to do with….um…vampires. Yeah, I’ve got nothing.
- Twenty-six people will die on-screen, and I am going to try to keep track of that. (Vampires don’t count; a dead body does.)
WELL, THERE WE GO THIS SHOULD BE FUN.
“When She Was Bad”
If anything stuck with me after this season premiere, it’s that this is easily one of the most depressing openers I’ve seen on American television. (As a contrast, for those familiar with The X-Files, “Trgufrznar” was one of the most gutting and heart-breaking experiences for me.) (PS: After typing that sentence, I got lost in a Wikipedia abyss based solely on The X-Files. Goddamn it.) I’m a big fan of emotional continuity, and “When She Was Bad” doesn’t fail on this front; in essence, it’s a direct continuation of Buffy’s state of mind after killing the Master in “Prophecy Girl.” Even further, it’s an examination of how trauma can affect a person, and how someone might deal with the guilt and fear that can come from such an event.
Let’s first talk about how goddamn adorable Willow and Xander are. Look, I don’t know that I ship them or anything, and I certainly reserve the right to go to my grave having only shipped Roslin/Adama. But when Xander puts down his defenses, I can see how he’s a nice person, a genuine awesome dude, one that’s separate from the Nice Guy persona he exhibited throughout season one. On top of that, he and Willow just have a good chemistry when they hang out, and I honestly thought Whedon would confirm something here that would give us a new direction for this season. I suppose it is still here, as the two got pretty damn close to kissing one another before that fucking vampire cockblocked the shit out of them.
The return of Buffy is victorious, but is quickly not what I expected. Her excitement is brief, only contained to the cold open, and then we get forty minutes of her moping, angsting harder than Jon Snow on a wall of ice, and being…well, I won’t use the word some characters use and Willow spells out and oh my god I laughed so hard when Xander didn’t even recognize what Willow spelled–
Anyway, you get the point. If there comes a point in your life where Cordelia Chase comes to you and tells you that you need to stop being rude, you’ve probably gone to far. “When She Was Bad” does not romanticize the way that Buffy acts, instead showing us how the way she lashes out at those close to her can actually hurt them. Badly. All summer, she was distant with her father, who tried to compensate with some retail therapy, and he and his ex-wife almost wish Buffy was burning down gymnasiums instead of being so vacant. Plagued by horrific nightmares of the Master, Buffy’s waking day is a blur. In contrast to her rejection (and then acceptance) of being the Slayer in “Prophecy Girl,” Buffy’s acceptance of her role in the world contains no emotion aside from restlessness anymore. There’s no joy in killing vampires. There’s no sense of honor or excitement or danger. It’s pure duty for her, a job she must do, and one she has to do alone. In fact, until the end of the episode, the only time Buffy seems to show any of her expected self was when Angel came to visit her. Even then, she is too late telling him that she missed him, too.
I mean…seriously, the scene where the trio run into Cordelia and Buffy is mean to her is a great sign of how much she is trying to shed any of her past self, but she does it in a way that’s grossly forced. Cordelia is genuinely being nice…well, for Cordelia, that is. But I was shocked that Buffy went straight for the insult, silencing everyone because it’s really too good. What was she trying to prove? I thought. Why be cruel to Cordelia? How is that going to make your life easier or better? I started to realize that Buffy was pushing everyone away on purpose in some bizarre combination of concern and self-hatred. I think it’s not as obvious as the latter, but Buffy doesn’t want to have to worry about whether or not her best friends are going to be murdered because of who she is. That sort of responsibility is almost worse than the responsibility of just being a Slayer. Of course, Whedon takes that concern and twists it against her because he despises joy, but we’ll get to that in a second.
For me, it seemed that Buffy just gave in to the hatred building in her, the disappointment and trauma of the Master haunting her on such a visceral level that the only thing she could do is just shut down. She’s mean, she’s cruel, and then Joss Whedon writes and directs a scene in which Buffy grinds against Xander and it is categorically one of the most awkward things I have ever seen in my entire life. Does Joss Whedon even breathe oxygen, or does he subsist on the carbon dioxide that his fans expel in bouts of terror and frustration? Because while I appreciate that it’s there, I never, ever want to watch that scene in the Bronze ever again. And it’s not just disgustingly uncomfortable, either: IT’S SUPER FUCKING MEAN. She did that on purpose to Xander, knowing that she rejected him before summer vacation, and playing on that to make him feel like a fool. Look, I have problems with Xander’s behavior last season, too, but this was absolutely unwarranted. It’s too cruel and she went too far to push him away.
Yet it’s this very stubbornness that is Buffy’s near-downfall in “When She Was Bad.” She’s rude to Giles after discovering that the Master’s bones were dug up, and she falls so horribly into the trap set by the Anointed One. Distracted by her own sense of self-confidence, she basically gives the finger to Admiral Akbar Giles and Angel and creates a disaster. To be fair, even I did not understand what the trap was until Angel and Buffy started to ponder why there was only one vampire in the basement where Cordelia and Ms. Calendar were being kept. So, yes, it was a well-designed trap, but still. Without listening to anyone, by pushing them all away with cruelty, Buffy left herself alone and vulnerable. We all know that Buffy is rather capable on her own, and the show wasn’t saying that she’s weak or useless; instead, we are shown how her network of resources and support really do help her, even if she does the bulk of the work. I like this idea that Whedon posits here: Buffy is the Slayer and there’s no changing that, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her having help. And I think that’s an important message in general; I’m a fiercely independent person, and it took me a long time to finally accept this same idea in my own life.
That being said, Buffy’s realization comes a bit too late, and we see how that’s affected everyone else. Xander in particular is furious with Buffy’s tantrum, especially since four of his friends are now STRUNG UP OVER THE SKELETON OF THE MASTER FOR A BLOOD SACRIFICE. God, what a creepy image. It’s outdone by what follows, though, as Buffy saves the day and finally stops preventing herself from being emotional about the Master. Sarah Michelle Gellar really does a phenomenal job when she destroys the Master’s skeleton, conveying the sense of grief, loss, and fear of Buffy that the Master caused her.
It’s nice, though, that Xander and Willow ultimately forgive Buffy, and I think that they both knew that what she went through over the past few months was a terrible experience. I also think they’re just happy to have Buffy back, to see her smile at their terrible jokes and to have her as a friend.
So is it safe to say that the Anointed One will comprise the season two mythology arc? I’m okay with that. Creepy kids rule.