Channel: WB Television Network
Recurring Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendan, Alyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter and Anthony Stewart Head
Buffy seems to have finally got her routine fixed. While Season One saw her struggling to balance her life as a college kid at the peak of her teenage hormones and her evening patrols, where she battled hordes of vampires, as Season Two gets underway, she seems more content to walk this shaky road. While a few obstacles knock her for six, for the most part, she has finally accepted her way of life as the Slayer. Ironically, this is also the season, where Joss Whedon finally found his balance with his zany writing style. Yes, while Season One had far too many moments where the eyes were disapprovingly rolled at a cheesy gag attempting to fill a plot hole or a romantic subplot being bullied into a scene, like a determined child, convinced that two jigsaw puzzle pieces do go together, Season Two is a much smoother animal. The 90s tone is solid, the dry sarcasm feels right and both the action and the teenage romances are correctly timed. Buffy the Vampire Slayer stops becoming a guilty pleasure and evolves into the kind of TV everyone should be watching.
Of course, Season Two is often referred to as the best season in quite some time. It is easy to see why, because it does have some of the key events crop up that will keep coming back for some time. New villains are introduced that will be a constant thorn in Buffy’s side for quite some time. Season One was guilty of killing off too many baddies that could have been a fun comeback later on, but Season Two is wiser, always leaving question marks over what happened to that particular bad guy. Spike and Drusilla are some of the finer villains to come out Buffy. James Marsters somehow cocks up the English accent, yet accidentally improves it, as though this is how we Brits should be talking. He is a meaty character, casually threatening and used with a thin layer of humour that makes him the douchebag you just cannot help but like. The same could be said for his beloved wife, Drusilla. Drusilla is a time capsule – a vampire trapped in the Victorian era she was sired, and as a result, she is one of the loopiest things to come out of the show. She babbles about curses, dead birds and soulless eyes, childlike and easily distracted. Spike is determined to restore her to her full power (she starts the season, weakened), and their love for each other becomes their redemptive side. Sure, Spike just killed off that character we just liked, but when he and Drusilla go home and have a cutesy couple moment, it is hard not to forgive him. We also get Ethan Rayne, who, while not the greatest nemesis the show ever drew up, does act as a neat, little foil to bring some of Giles’ character out into the open. This is the other side of things that makes Season Two a much better season: everyone is developed. Before Buffy and Willow had character arcs, but everyone else were just along for the ride, cracking jokes and looking tough. Here, Giles shows a darker side, Cordelia proves that she does have a kind bone in her body and certain love stories being cropping up, making more characters feel prominent.
There is also a more serious side than last time. Season One wasn’t sure how to quite be serious. The double episode pilot was fantastic, but afterwards the show began feeling strangely episodic, as if it was trapped in a TV format. Big episodes weren’t done justice. Here, Whedon knows just when to dial up the pressure. There are three two-part episodes and each one is cleverly written. Major plot twists and character deaths jump out of the blue at us, really racking up the emotion early. Angel really comes into his own here and Whedon shows us how a vampire love story should be done. Before the whole Slayer loves Vampire story seemed like it was just a play on the forbidden love angle, but a few plot twists down the line and the reality of the situation is really put into context. David Boreanaz was a bit of a blank slate in the first season, but only because the script didn’t give him the material he needed. He definitely gets that here and Angel becomes one of the greatest anti-heroes in TV history. The second half of the season could be accused of over-playing the card slightly, as if the story has to be brought up every episode lest the viewer forgets, but it is hard to deny the power of the finale. It is pretty heart-breaking in itself, but a final twist is brought to the table that just destroys you. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s look of heartbreak and devastation is soul-destroying, one of the highlights of the entire Buffy series.
But the thing I think we all love about Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s second season isn’t the dramatic episodes, but the fun ones. While Whedon slowly improves the dark side of the show as each season comes out, I think he begins to lose touch of the fun, lighter side. Pick up Season Two and most of the episodes can be watched at face value, without any order being needed. Every episode works to take you away into the universe of Buffy and it always hits the character notes you want it to, delivers some terrific humour and provides the action spectacularly. You are rarely disappointed. Season Two sees a trend crop up in the writing of the series that I really appreciate. Whedon will take a story and add a playful twist, so everything we thought we knew about the characters is thrown out of the window. The first example would be the fancy dress episode, where every character is suddenly transformed into their costume for the night. As Spike terrorises the town, the group isn’t quite the group anymore. Buffy is the helpless fairy-tale princess and Xander has become the military leader, their roles reversing with hilarious results. Not only are the jokes something beyond anything we could have expected, Whedon also fits in some side stories that expand on the characters, namely Willow looking at the world differently, when she evolves into a ghost. It shows cleverness, wit and as the series progresses, these are the episodes I look out for.
Final Verdict: This is the height of a great series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as playful as ever yet with more dramatic undertones.