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!
Every season of Buffy that I’ve seen so far had at least one central villain that hung around for the majority of said season. The shortened introductory season gave us The Master and The Anointed One, while Season Two gave us the formidable triple threat of Spike, Drusilla, and Angel once he lost his soul. Five episodes into Season Three, we finally get a glimpse of the character who will most likely be the “Big Bad” for what I assume will be the next seventeen episodes or more. Unlike the previous two seasons, this villainous character appears to be mortal and prefers to work in a subtler, more clandestine fashion than the baddies we’ve seen in the past.
The hidden villain of Season Three is revealed early on in the fifth episode, entitled “Homecoming,” as the Mayor of Sunnydale himself (Harry Groener), previously mentioned only by Principal Snyder and the Chief of the Sunnydale Police Department as someone who is knowledgeable about the town’s numerous macabre secrets. His importance to the episode and to the season as a whole is revealed at the end of “Homecoming,” which is otherwise concerned with Buffy campaigning against her frenemy Cordelia for the title of Sunnydale High’s Homecoming Queen while Trick assembles an assortment of menacing individuals of human, vampire, and weird-looking spiny demon persuasions to hunt and kill Buffy in an event that Trick gleefully entitles “SlayerFest ’98.”
Buffy is the only member of the Scooby Gang who doesn’t have a date for the prom, having recently been dumped by her would-be beau Scott Hope. Her last-minute decision to run for Homecoming Queen is an attempt to help boost her wounded ego as well as a way to get revenge on the self-centered Cordelia, who neglected to tell her when the school pictures would be taken. The campaign gets so heated that the rest of the gang arranges for both competitors to share the limousine they rented for all of them, so that they can try to hash out their differences on the way to the dance. When the limo stops at what they assume is the dance, they are both surprised to find themselves in the middle of the woods. A video message from Trick informs them that they are about to be hunted, as he assumed that Faith was accompanying Buffy on the limo ride, as she was supposed to be the first one picked up in the Scoobies’ original plan. This forces Buffy to fight off her attackers while protecting Cordy.
While taking shelter in a nearby cabin, Cordy admits to Buffy that she has true feelings for Xander, while Buffy admits that she just wanted to have a normal high school experience for once. Having come to a mutual understanding, the two work together to fight off their attackers and make it to the dance. When they finally arrive, both of them comically ragged-looking from their tussle in the woods, they discover that their furious campaigning was all for nothing when the two other competitors are awarded the crown, in the first ever tie in Sunnydale Homecoming history. Trick, meanwhile, is escorted by Sunnydale police to the office of Mayor Wilkins, who offers him a job helping him to control certain “rebellious youths” in town.
In addition to our introduction to the Mayor, “Homecoming” also gives us a major plot shakeup as lifelong friends Xander and Willow finally give in to their mutual attraction and share their first kiss, which automatically makes them feel guilty since they are currently involved with Cordy and Oz, respectively. That will no doubt provide some juicy plot developments this season. “Homecoming” also gives us a return appearance from Lyle Gorch (Jeremy Ratchford), the vampire cowboy from the Season Two episode “Bad Eggs,” who once again shows that his bark is far worse than his bite (no pun intended) when he is scared off by Cordelia of all people. There is also a rather poignant scene that occurs early on between Buffy and a still-recovering Angel in which she reveals that she’s been seeing other people that adds a nice dramatic taste to an otherwise lighthearted episode. While not the most significant entry in the show’s early run, “Homecoming” provides a nice blend of humor and plot development and offers a nice tease to what will likely be the main storyline of the entire season. 4 out of 5 Bugged Corsages.
With the following episode, “Band Candy,” the show continues to impress with its ability to tell dark stories that still have a light, humorous tone. This episode has arguably the most laughs of any episode I’ve seen so far, and yet it ultimately deals with a rather dark subject. The basic premise of the episode is that a number of Sunnydale’s adults (including such noted authority figures as Principal Snyder, Rupert Giles, and Joyce Summers) all start acting like immature, irresponsible teenagers after eating chocolate bars that the school ordered to raise funds for their band. We discover late in the episode that these tainted candy bars were created by Giles’ old school chum Ethan Rayne in order to detain all the adults in Sunnydale so that they can make a sacrifice to a serpentine demon named Lurconis – and that the sacrifice involves stealing all the newborn babies from the town hospital in order to feed them to the demon. We also discover early on that Mayor Wilkins is the mastermind behind this ploy when he reveals his plan to Trick, further cementing his status as the main villain of the season.
As usual, the main threat of this episode has a thematic link to what’s currently going on in Buffy’s life. In this episode, Buffy is being subjected to a rigorous schedule drawn up by Giles and Joyce so that they both pretty much know what Buffy is doing at all times. Buffy of course resents this constant monitoring but still finds time to steal away on occasion to check on Angel, who is still recuperating at his old hideout. When the adults start reverting back to their rebellious teenage personas, Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang are understandably horrified to see people whom they’ve been brought up to see as authority figures act like they themselves normally do. When a number of middle-aged townfolk show up at the Bronze and proceed to party like it’s 1965, the Scoobies decide to investigate the cause of this strange phenomenon, while Joyce and Giles, who has reverted back to the antisocial “Ripper” persona of his young punk days, proceed to vandalize and steal from local shops and make out on police cars.
Buffy eventually catches up with Giles and Joyce and quickly gets over her horrified reaction to their hormonal PDA in order to convince them to help her and the Scoobies track down the people responsible for what’s going on. The gang reluctantly is forced to take along Principal Snyder, now acting like a nerdy wannabe party animal, when he follows them on their quest. They eventually find the factory where Ethan is overseeing the packaging of the tainted candy, and after a brief chase, he is forced by Buffy to reveal that the tribute to Lurconis is taking place in the city sewer. Buffy arrives just before the babies are presented to the demon, and she fights off the vampires while Giles and Joyce rescue the helpless infants and Mayor Wilkins slinks off, unseen by the heroes. When Lurconis shows up to claim his tribute, Buffy kills him by igniting a gas fire and burning him. The next morning, everything seems back to normal – or at least what passes for normal on the Hellmouth – though there is some noticeable awkwardness between Joyce and Giles.
“Band Candy” is yet another highly enjoyable episode that offers some fine character moments from nearly everyone in the cast. I got a real kick out of seeing Giles, Joyce, and especially Snyder act like kids, as their behavior seemed to show what each character must have been like during their adolescence. In addition to this, we also get more tension between Xander and Willow, who continue to explore their illicit flirtation. The most fascinating aspect of this episode, however, was getting more information on Mayor Wilkins and what his role is in all the strange goings-on within the town of Sunnydale. It’s obvious that his alliance with Trick is going to result in some major challenges for the Scooby Gang and could potentially make him the best and most entertaining villain this show has provided so far. 4.5 out of 5 Pencil Stakes.