THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy to celebrate Dark Horse Comics' release of Buffy Season 10 on March 19 and "Angel and Faith Season 10" on April 2. So far we've done an overview of why we love Buffy and Season 1 and Season 2.
And now (drumroll please!) Buffy Season 3, which courted controversy and the most eyeballs of the entire run of the show. During Season 3, Buffy was must see TV. Faith. Wesley. Anya. Mayor Wilkins. Mr. Trick. The returns of Angel and Ethan Rayne. The departure of Angel.
Also important in this season was that two episodes had to be delayed by several months after the Columbine tragedy. In one, "Earshot," Buffy gains the ability to hear others' thoughts only to hear someone make a threat against the school. And the season finale, "Graduation Day Part 2" Buffy arms her graduating class to fight Mayor Wilkins' army of evil during his Ascension, which happens to be during their graduation ceremony. Given what happened at Columbine, this isn't that surprising that they'd show some discretion. But, the fact that fans were left on a major cliffhanger at the end of "Graduation Day Part 1" and had to wait from May until September to see what happened next is, frankly, incredible.
Highlights: Tortured brooding. Sexy slaying. Not just one, but TWO apocalypses averted. And senior year. Smarmy Mayor Wilkins and his almost fatherlike relationship with Faith. How this mirrors the evolution of Giles' relationship with Buffy, especially as she goes through her Cruciamentum. The evolution of Joyce Summers, especially in the episodes "Band Candy" and "Gingerbread."
Lowlights: Really not many. Outside of Battlestar Galactica or Breaking Bad, it's hard to think of another season of television where every episode was of a consistent, excellent quality and kept raising the stakes. "The Prom" episode was probably the weakest and least imaginitive of all of them, but it ends with such an amazing, iconic finale it's hard to completely discount it.
"The Wish" Episode 3.9. Cordelia makes a wish to new classmate Anya (actually vengeance demon Anyanka) that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, and suddenly the world is changed. The Master rose. Willow and Xander are vampires. The "White Hat" team of Larry, Oz, and Giles roam the city in Oz's van, protecting people. Why is this so great? Because, first, vampire Willow is still one of the sexiest things I've ever seen on tv, and an incredibly fun character. "Bored now."
Anya: This is the world we made. Isn't it wonderful? ... How do you know the other world is any better than this?
Giles: Because it has to be.
10 out of 10
"The Zeppo," Episode 3.13. I'm a sucker for a good Xander-episode, and this is the Xanderiest episode of them all. The title is a reference to the Marx Brothers, and the fact that each of them has an individual schtick and piece of their group, except for Zeppo. Buffy slays, Angel is a vampire, Willow can do witchcraft. . . Xander is the Zeppo. So, while an apocalypse is about to open the Hellmouth, Xander searches for his place. Upon deciding he's going to be the "cool car guy," he falls in with some guys at school who want to raise the dead and blow up the school. There's a lot of humor in this episode, especially when the series pokes fun at itself with Angel and Buffy telling each other how much they want to be together, but they can't be together. Oh, and also Xander gets used sexually by Faith. And there's a great musical cue that keeps following Xander around that sounds a little bit like a spookier "Elanor Rigby." One of my favorite episodes of all time. 9 out of 10
Overall rating for Season Three: 10 out of 10. There is not a single stinker among the episodes this season. It also marks the highest ratings for the series, and they're well-deserved. Did I mention my deep and abiding love for Faith? It all starts here, and it sews the seeds for Angel's spinoff.