In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
The second season finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer packed quite a wallop for fans of the show. Not only did we see the supposed death of Angel, but we also saw our title heroine abandon her family and friends, emotionally adrift after the events of the finale. The third season picks up a few months after that climactic event, with the rest of the Scooby Gang (with new member Oz in tow) trying in vain to fill her slaying shoes and Buffy living in Los Angeles, working in a diner as a waitress under the assumed name of “Anne,” which is also the title of the season premiere. As school starts up again at Sunnydale High, the gang is disappointed to find out that Buffy hasn’t shown up, though perhaps they shouldn’t be because she was expelled. Willow is surprised to find out that her beau Oz is repeating his senior year, and Xander and Cordy, seeing themselves for the first time since she went on vacation with her family, find it difficult to rekindle their romance from the previous school year, with neither one of them willing to make the first move.
One day at the diner, Buffy encounters a homeless teenaged couple at one of the booths and recognizes the girl as one of the vampire wannabes from the Season Two episode “Lie To Me.” She introduces herself as Lily and doesn’t seem to recognize Buffy. Later that night, however, Lily approaches Buffy as she walks home at the end of her shift. She tells Buffy that she does recognize her and that she will keep her secret, stating that she knows what it’s like to have to disappear. Back at Sunnydale, Xander comes up with a plan to snare a vampie that had gotten away from them the previous night, with Cordy as bait, and Giles visits Joyce, stating that he is still trying to track Buffy down, though all of his efforts have been unsuccessful so far. Giles tells Joyce that she shouldn’t blame herself for Buffy running away, and Joyce tells him that she doesn’t, but she does blame him. This information shocks Giles, though he doesn’t argue.
After another late shift at the diner, Buffy runs into Lilly again, who tells her that her boyfriend Ricky has disappeared. She agrees to help look for him, and their attempt to get information at the local blood bank, where both Ricky and Lilly donate blood, seems to provide a dead end. While searching the streets for Ricky, Buffy comes across the corpse of an elderly homeless man that she had seen the previous night and is shocked to find that he has the exact same arm tattoo that both Ricky and Lilly had. She concludes that the dead old man is actually Ricky and that something has drained his youth from him. She relays this information to Lilly, who doesn’t believe her and suggests that whatever evil force had taken Ricky away was in Los Angeles because of Buffy. As she flees Buffy’s apartment, Lilly is approached by Ken, a young man who is passing out flyers for a teen runaway shelter known as Family Home. Ken convinces Lilly to come with him by stating that Ricky is living at Family Home and is waiting for her.
Buffy breaks back into the blood bank, convinced that they have something to do with Ricky’s death, and she finds his name in a record book with the word “CANDIDATE” written beside it. When one of the nurses spots her, Buffy convinces her by force to give her more information, which leads her to Family Home. She forces her way into the building and discovers a strange ceremony being conducted by Ken in which Lilly is being submerged in a pool of black water. Buffy battles with Ken, and both of them fall into the pool, which is actually a portal into another dimension where healthy young runaways are enslaved by a race of demons. Ken reveals himself to be one of these demons by removing his “face,” which is nothing but a mask, and tells Buffy that time moves much faster in this dimension than on hers. When one of their “candidates” grows too old to work over the course of several decades, they are brought back up to Earth to die.
When the new crop of slaves is being indoctrinated, they are instructed to say “I’m no one” when asked their names, which is exactly what the older version of Ricky said the last time Buffy saw him alive. Buffy defies the demon and proudly states her name and title before knocking him out and leading Lilly and the other runaways in an escape attempt. Ken sneaks up on Lilly and holds her at knifepoint, but as he rants to Buffy about the importance of their work, he is pushed off the platform they are standing on by Lilly. As the group runs to the portal, Ken once again tries to stop them but is impaled by the falling gate and is killed when Buffy smashes his head in. When the runaways pass through the black pool, the portal disappears. Meanwhile in Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang’s plan to ensnare the escaped vampire works, albeit not without a little dumb luck, and in the heat of the scuffle, Xander and Cordy reignite their passionate and tempestuous relationship. The episode ends with Buffy returning to Sunnydale and embracing Joyce when she arrives at her door.
For a season premiere, and especially after such a strong second season, “Anne” is slightly disappointing in many aspects. I like that the “Buffy On The Run” subplot only lasted one episode and that we got frequent cutaways to her friends’ amusing attempts to try to keep the vampire population down while she’s away, the main threat of this episode seemed undeveloped. I understood that the demons were meant to symbolize sweatshops that run on child labor, but I would have liked to have gotten more information on what they were making before their inevitable defeat. Buffy’s decision to return to Sunnydale is also never fully explained in a satisfactory way, since facing a supernatural force in LA might have also influenced her to stay on the run to battle other dark forces. I’m glad that she is back in Sunnydale and that her exile won’t be stretched over the entire season, but as a single episode, “Anne” only gets 3 out of 5 Incorrect Gandhi Comparisons.
Things start to get back to “normal” in the next episode, “Dead Man’s Party,” in which the gang discovers that Buffy has returned to Sunnydale, and they in turn tell her that she has been cleared of Kendra’s murder. Joyce tries to get Buffy reinstated in school, but Principal Snyder gleefully refuses. While discussing her future, Buffy and Joyce discover that a stray cat has died in their basement, and they quickly bury it. The next day, the Scoobies discover that the cat has risen from the grave, and Giles captures it in order to determine the reason behind its resurrection.
While things seem to have gotten back to the way they used to be, Buffy feels a bit of tension between herself and her friends, as well as with Joyce, but no one really talks about what’s bothering them. The Scoobies decide to throw a little get-together at Buffy’s house to celebrate her return, but instead of it being an intimate affair with only Buffy’s close friends and family present, they decide to make it a large, impersonal house party with a bunch of people that Buffy doesn’t even know. Neither of Buffy’s friends seem willing to talk to her, and when she overhears Joyce talking about her to her friend Pat, whom Buffy had only met the previous day, she decides to run away again. Willow catches her packing in her room and angrily berates her for ducking out on her. Meanwhile, Giles discovers something horrible about an African tribal mask that Joyce had brought home from her art gallery and rushes to the Summers home. On the way, he runs over what appears to be a man, but when he gets out of his car to help him, he discovers that he has actually hit a recently-revived zombie. He is then surrounded by a horde of reanimated corpses, all of whom have been awakened by Joyce’s mask. Back at the party, Buffy and Willow’s argument spills out into the living room, where Xander joins in, stating that Buffy’s decision to bail was selfish and inconsiderate. Their fight is interrupted by the arrival of the zombified corpses of Sunnydale’s dead citizens, all of whom invade the house. Buffy, Joyce, Xander, and Willow run upstairs to hide out in Buffy’s room with the injured Pat, while Cordy and Oz hide out in a downstairs closet. When they make it to the bedroom, Willow discovers that Pat has died.
Giles arrives at the Summers residence and finds Oz and Cordy. He explains to them that the zombies are attracted to the mask, which contains the soul of a demon named Ovu Mobani, and that any zombie who puts on the mask will essentially become him. At that moment, the zombified Pat rises and puts on the mask, becoming the demon, and the other zombies cower before her. Buffy discovers that looking into the mask’s flashing eyes will induce hypnosis and pushes “Pat” out the window before she can kill Willow. During their battle outside the house, “Pat” locks eyes with Oz and briefly hypnotizes him until Buffy kills the demon with a shuffle, ridding them of all the zombies. Victorious, the group, along with Buffy’s mother, puts aside their differences and embraces. The next day at school, Giles convinces Principal Snyder to let Buffy return to school by threatening him with physical violence, while Buffy and Willow chat about Willow’s newfound interest in witchcraft.
The threat presented in “Dead Man’s Party” was incorporated into the plot a lot more effectively than in “Anne,” and it provided a much more poignant metaphor for the plot. The zombies coming out of their graves provided a strong visual parallel to the characters burying their feelings about Buffy’s self-imposed exile until they finally come out in an ugly argument. Aside from the strong storytelling, this episode also provided a handful of choice Giles moments, from his secret moment of celebration upon discovering that Buffy has returned to his vocal frustration toward Joyce’s careless handling of an evil artifact. I also enjoyed Oz’s hilariously deadpan reaction to Buffy’s violent takedown of the zombie demon and am looking forward to seeing more of his character now that he’s been added to the regular cast as of this season. While the premiere was underwhelming, “Dead Man’s Party” quickly brought the quality back up to its usual level and earns 4 out of 5 “Hootenannies.”