One of the fun things about this rewatch is discovering that episodes I remember unfondly are actually pretty good. I don't know if that's nostalgia, or comparing the show to what's on nowadays (which I guess is nostalgia of a kind too), or just having hindsight and the big picture. Or maybe it's being older and less fickle and judgmental. (HA! No.) In any case, I remembered this season starting slowly and wobbly...ly, but actually this disc is pretty decent, showing off how nicely the writers, directors and actors have settled into the show, even if the story isn't moving so swiftly.
I remember being hugely disappointed by "Anne" originally, and that feeling definitely holds when you watch it directly after "Becoming." From a storytelling perspective, I understand how it's important to show where the characters are now after the events of last season, before bringing them back together. But if this were, say, a movie, it would be a brief prologue before getting on with it, instead of an entire week's installment that we have to wait impatiently to move on from. Fortunately, now we don't have to wait! And now I can appreciate the good here too.
I love the handling of the exposition in the opening scene, with the Scoobies trying - badly - to pick up in Buffy's absence. I love the first day of school sequence, which includes not just our heroes but a bunch of supporting players, like Gay Larry (but no Jonathan?). It's the after-school-special-ness of the runaway teen stuff that bugs. And the excess of mopey Buffy scenes. I get it, and she's certainly earned her sadness, but it's just no fun to watch. See also season six, but at least then she wasn't separated from the rest of the cast. The fun chemistry everyone else has, even while they're wallowing, is delightful.
Holy 1998!: Giles references getting a meal on a flight. Xander and Cordelia haven't been in touch all summer, which she's spent in Mexico; no email, no Facebook - though her family's rich, you'd think she could spring for an international call.
Quoterific: "If we can focus, keep discipline, and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!"
Dead Man's Party
This episode is also a lot better than I remember it. The MOTW is lame but it's not actually about that at all. I love Buffy best when the characters behave like real high school students, and so many of the interactions here have that quality. Alyson Hannigan continues her MVP streak from the end of last season, with her totally believable awkwardness around Buffy, and the big group confrontation at the end is great (though I'm not sure even teenagers would be so crass as to have that fight in front of all those random people).
That's So 1998: Joyce's book club read The Deep End of the Ocean. Willow calls Buffy's house when she's running late to meet her somewhere else entirely.
Quotetastic: "It's angry at the room, Mom. It wants the room to suffer."
…and one I still use now and then: "Chock full of hoot with just a leetle bit of nanny."
Faith, Hope and Trick
Has David Boreanaz been in the opening credits all season and I just didn't notice? He's been around in dream sequences, but that seems like a bit of a giveaway, especially given how this show liked to play with the credits later on.
Anyway, Faith's first appearance is a little meh, maybe because the episode is so stuffed, with the apparent introduction of the new Big Bad (I love that fake-out, and I also enjoy Mr. Trick so much more now that I know he's not going to be around for very long), Buffy's return to school, and a gigantic dose of Willow-Oz quirky adorableness. I love that Buffy spots a vampire by his outdated clothing and dance moves, a trick from the movie. And aw, Giles. "There is no spell." The development of his fatherly relationship with Buffy is so slow, all the way through the series, and it's awesome.
It's never occurred to me before but Faith kind of makes no sense. Buffy's supposed to be an anomaly, not found and trained as a small child, raised in isolation from other people. Faith seems to have lived a pretty full life as a juvenile delinquent, before being called to slayage a few months ago when Kendra died. It makes her a great character, but it makes Buffy a little less special. Though I guess so does all of season seven.
Quotalicious: "So I told him that I loved him, and I kissed him. And I killed him."
Beauty and the Beasts
This is the weakest episode of this batch, with a repeat of "drugs are bad" plus a whole bunch of "hey, maybe don't beat women mmkay?" And worse, it's muddled. Pete's a monster all on his own…except he's not, he made potions or whatever that fucked him up. I feel like the point is that there's a vampire and a werewolf out there but the real monster is this abusive guy, and making him even a little supernatural undermines that, in a way the show rarely did. Plus, as well-drawn as the world of the high school is, with its Larrys and Jonathans, it's a pretty safe bet that if a new character is introduced and he has more than five lines, something's up. Which makes the whole "is the killer Oz or Angel" thing here pretty suspense-free.
And how did Buffy get pants on Angel?
I do love that Giles' watcher books would be listed in the card catalog. And Giles' tranquilized pratfall is, well, "right bloody priceless."
Now That's What I Call 1998: I don't know if this is actually a 90s thing but what's with all the red pants? Like primary red. Netflix red. Willow had a pair in the last episode, and Xander has them in this one. I've noticed them before on the show. Nothing against them, it just seems like A Thing.
I got nothing for quotes on this one. Yawn.