The Wheel and Axle

Buffy Week, Day 3: Five By Five

by on Mar.27, 2017, under Film & TV, Geeky, Queer

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Season 3 Credits

Continued From:

Buffy Week, Day 2: Also, There’s A Really Big Snake.

And here’s the continuation of my Top 30 Buffy episodes, with the Top 11-30 in chronological order and not in order of quality or preference.

23. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. Season 2, Episode 16.

Giles: I cannot believe that you are a fool enough to do something like this.

Xander: Oh, no. I’m twice the fool it takes to do something like this.

Coming right after the Willow/Oz-centric episode Phases, this classic shifts the focus to Xander and Cordelia, a match made in Hellmouth. While it may not be one of best episodes ever, this was truly one of the memorable ones for me: all at once hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. It’s a riff on the classic “love spell gone wrong” trope, except with vampires and a slayer that goes rat.

Moreover, this is where we finally start to see Cordelia become even more three-dimensional, a journey we saw start in Out of Mind, Out of Sight. She finally, officially integrates into the Scooby Gang without losing her edge.

Also, hordes of women – including an axe-weilding Willow, a couple of wiccans, as well as Drusilla and an amusing Joyce – chasing after Xander because of a botched love spell is just too, too funny to ever forget.

22. Becoming, Parts 1 and 2. Season 2, Episodes 21 and 22.

Xander: Cavalry’s here. Cavalry’s a frightened guy with a rock, but it’s here.

Here’s another two-part story that would be in my top 15 had I decided to rank my 11-30. Although perhaps not as affecting for me as Surprise/Innocence, this arc is pretty much the spiritual successor of that pair – the bookends, so to speak. Like the first pair of episodes, this season finale is another game-changer that leaves the world of Buffy different: Kendra dies, Joyce learns the truth about her daughter, Willow gets her first taste of magic, Xander proves his loyalty, and Angelus is re-souled to become the good Angel again.

But it’s the apocalypse, and Buffy seemed doomed for eternal unhappiness, so she sacrifices the guy she loves to save the world. Then she runs away from home. Even in triumph, Buffy feels defeat. It’s a recurring theme in Buffy’s life, and while she grows and matures from this, she will never truly recover. And that’s what makes Becoming fascinating.

21. Dead Man’s Party. Season 3, Episode 2.

Giles: Unbelievable! “Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!” Americans.

This is one of my favorite episodes because of how they handled the conflict between the Scooby gang after Buffy returns home from running away at the end of Season 2. There’s a lot of tension beneath the surface among the characters, and everything comes to a head during the climax as hidden resentments boil over. The confrontation at the party among family and friends is one of the most uncomfortable scenes for the Scoobies I’ve seen, and yet the humor is not lost. In the end, a zombie attack helps bring everyone back together. As zombie attacks tend to do. This was another episode that was hilarious, horrifying, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at the same time.

20. Faith, Hope, and Trick. Season 3, Episode 3.

Faith (to Oz): As long as you don’t go scratching at me or humpin’ my leg, we’re five by five.

How could I not love this episode when it introduces Faith, perhaps my favorite character in the Buffyverse? Faith is one of the most complex and well-delineated characters in Buffy history, her character arc as a tragic heroine on the path to destruction then to redemption being one of the most compelling across the entire franchise. Simultaneously the saddest and the coolest of the bunch, Faith is a dark mirror to Buffy, and she was so popular a spin-off was considered. Eliza Dushku became one of my favorite actresses because of Faith, whose journey began here, so this episode has a special place in my slayer’s heart.

19. Band Candy. Season 3, Episode 6.

Willow: “Kiss Rocks?” Why would anyone want to kiss… Oh, wait. I get it.

Another farcical, meant-to-be-nutty episode, this is one of my guilty pleasures in the array of Buffy stories. We get to see a different side of Sunnydale when the adults start acting like juveniles after eating some magically-enhanced candy.

Giles, Joyce, and Snyder are at some of their best here, and we get some of the funniest quips and situations of the season. Seriously, what teenager (or any son or daughter, regardless of age) would want to see their mother take out a pair of handcuffs that were apparently used for something kinky?

Even though Band Candy can be clunky at times, the goofiness is just too endearing to ignore. But if you think the comedy is not your cup of tea, then there’s the matter of babies being taken to be sacrificed to a sewer demon. Dark enough for you?

18. Gingerbread. Season 3, Episode 11.

Willow: I worship Beelzebub. I do his biddings. Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them. All bow before Satan! Prince of Night, I summon you. Come fill me with your black, naughty evil.

This is another guilty pleasure of mine. Standard “villain of the week” fare as far as Buffy episodes go, but underneath, it is a pretty solid moral tale: how hatred and discrimination can stem from good intentions. Here, we see a literal witch hunt in Sunnydale, complete with stakes and book burning. The metaphor of burning witches for being different, for being “other” – as instigated by well-meaning parents controlled by, well, Hansel and Gretel – is as relevant then as it is today. The episode also is a social commentary on personal freedom and liberty as well as a critique of the suppression of knowledge and empowerment.

It must be noted that Willow’s scene with her mother is just one of my favorites ever, and I still laugh whenever I hear in my head, “Do you see any goats around? No, because I sacrificed them!” I’m still waiting for an opportunity to use those lines somehow.

Continued In:

Buffy Week, Day 4: This Isn’t Just Some Fanboy Thing.

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