Season 3 is my favorite season of Buffy. So much happens that really changes the face of the show and causes all the characters and even the feel of Buffy to mature into greatness.
So after the horrible events at the end of the second season, Buffy skips town and becomes a waitress in a cocktail bar (jk, she works at a diner). When she returns, we see that the other Scoobies have been haphazardly trying to pick up her slaying duties. I found that scene of Oz, Willow and Xander trying to slay so sad. They miss Buffy, but now that they all know what goes bump in the night, they can’t just abandon Sunnydale the way she has. The resentment is palpable.
This comes to a head in the second episode of the season when they all get into a screaming match about Buffy being selfish. I always found it weird that they had this huge fight about her secret identity right in the middle of a party, but oh well. Then…zombies. It was good that everyone, especially Willow, called Buffy out — but I do sympathize with needing to run away from it all. There’s a lot of pressure on this little girl to constantly save the world. Plus, she just killed her boyfriend. Cut her some slack.
That being said, the episode where she loses her powers really shows that Buffy needs to be the slayer as much as vampires need slaying. She complains so much about not being normal but once she loses her specialness, she freaks out. This needed to happen so she could appreciate her own strength and power — her unique place in the world. It was a great plot device to drive Buffy to accept herself with or without powers and then to ultimately know that she is meant to be the slayer. But! God, the breaking of trust between her and Giles was the saddest.
Angel is back. Their relationship gets more annoying to me this season. I like both characters, but I hate how they turn each other into dopey dopes. Though, I guess it’s a good reminder that Buffy is still just a girl, as No Doubt would say.
She nurses Angel back to health and the two spend all season going back and forth on breaking up or being together. The point the evil mayor makes about their age difference and her aging while Angel stays the same is so incredibly on point I can’t understand why the two of them look like it’s never occurred to them. On the other hand, who hasn’t been in a relationship that they knew was doomed but because they were so in love, they went into denial? I’ve done it. Buffy’s done it. We’ve all done it.
Xander grows a lot this season. He starts out being a total dummy and cheating on Cordelia with Willow. Look, I’m glad they finally addressed the tension between Xander and Willow but I wish they would have done it earlier and not had it be some weird affair. Xander’s wanting Willow came out of nowhere for me. I didn’t really care about Xander and Cordelia’s relationship (although seeing that she put their photos in her locker killed me. Girl had so much trouble accepting that she could be vulnerable enough to even like Xander and then he does this to her) but for Willow to do this to Oz seemed way off. Xander and Willow have unresolved whatever, sure, so maybe this was the last straw needed before Willow could finally let him go. It was just a very unfortunate straw.
Personally though, Xander grows up. He realizes he is needed, but he doesn’t need the glory. He matures. (And not just because he loses his virginity to Faith, though I do have a big problem with how her violent turn on him isn’t addressed — w/r/t what it’s doing to his psyche. She straight up tries to rape and kill him.) He especially shows his growth when he buys Cordelia her prom dress. It’s a nice way for the characters to make amends before she leaves for LA.
The mayor is a hilarious weirdo. Does anyone else think he’s an allusion to Twin Peaks? That’s the vibe I get now that I see him, after having watched Twin Peaks earlier this year. His storyline and place as a villain is strange, but overall, I like him. I’m getting a little tired of every season working up to some big evil massive prophecy that’s supposed to happen and then the Scoobies stop it, but I think it worked for Graduation Day.
Faith is a HUGE part of Buffy’s life this season and her arch as Buffy’s mirror and foil — her friend and her enemy — is such a good and heartbreaking path to take the character down. Faith is that friend that you love, that fascinates you but who is ultimately unreachable with reason and logic. This is what makes her a terrifying foe.
Faith is unpredictable and irrational. She is sociopathic and violent — but the writers make it clear she longs for family and has had a terrible life. She is the anti-Buffy, and she develops throughout the season so well. She’s one of the best written characters I’ve seen on any show. Faith reflects what Buffy could become if she accepted her dark side. Their relationship is handled so delicately and sadly. I immediately understood, this time around, why so many people ship Faith/Buffy. I get it now, you freaks! It’s awesome and so tragic.
Willow’s Black Magic
Willow’s becoming her own witch! It was great seeing her stand up to her mom and to really come into herself as a person. (Oh, the parallels between the supernatural world and teenagery!) She has sex with Oz. She confronts a bad version of herself from another dimension and sheds her “boring” image. (“I think I’m a little gay,” she says of her hot doppleganger. SO. MUCH. FORESHADOWING.) She’s on the path to becoming a much darker Willow, which we see in later seasons. I love this character so this is kind of like watching a car wreck. Oz is also the best. I am happy Willow gets with Tara next season, but for the record, I loved that detached little werewolf. Damn you, Seth Green.