Greatest TV Seasons: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Two (1997-1998)
What is the greatest season of your favourite TV series? And what makes it stand out from those seasons around it? Every fan will have their own opinion of what is great and what isn't and here at The Digital Fix, our team of writers are going to complete the possibly impossible task of selecting what season of their favourite shows makes the cut above all others.
Our next pick is Joss Whedon's iconic fantasy horror TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Season one started strong - a mid-seaaon TV remake of the film of the same name, that played with stereotypes, gender convention and horror and made the most of its 'its school as literal Hell' format. But it was also still prone to a little hokiness. Season Two changed that, retaining the sense of fun, horror, post-modern referencing and teenage drama and ramping it up into must see television.
Season two was the year that Spike and Drusilla arrived in Sunnydale, a second vampire slayer entered the mix, that Buffy and Angel's love came to fruition and he became her mortal enemy Angelus. It was the year that Cordelia and Xander hooked up, Oz entered Willow's life and she took her first steps towards becoming a witch and Giles' past as Ripper was revealed. It was the year of doomed love for Giles and Jenny too, as she died at Angelus's hands. It was the year that Buffy faced the Judge and killed Angel to stop the world being swallowed into Hell by Acathla. A lot happened in that second season.
Is it as tonally consistent as the equally brilliant third season? Not quite - there's probably nothing as bad as Bad Eggs in season three. But it does have the greatest season arc of any season in Angelus. Spike and Drusilla are brilliant too, the former in firm villain mode and Dru a wonderfully deranged vampire unlike anything we had seen before. It also had the greatest emotional resonance of any season. I know many people who cried by the end of season finale Becoming.
The most difficult thing about picking the five best episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer season two is narrowing it down to five episodes. It feels a crime to miss out classics like School Hard, Halloween, Phases and not have both parts of Becoming in this list. But such is the high standard of season two. So without further ado, here is the cream of the crop...
Season Two's Five Greatest Episodes...
This was the moment Buffy The Vampire Slayer went to another level. After Drusilla reassembled the Judge and Buffy and Angel finally give in to their love and have sex on her birthday, the world is changed as Angel looses his soul and becomes her mortal enemy.
It's a powerful, multi-layered episode with a everything built that season coming to a head and coming crashing down around everyone. Willow learns Cordelia and Xander are an item, while Giles is betrayed by Jenny as her true purpose in Sunnydale is revealed. Buffy goes through the ultimate first-time rejection as her boyfriend becomes a monster and even acter killing the Judge with a rocket launcher (a cool moment courtesy of Xander's Halloween-infused memories) she still can't bring herself to kill him. It's a moment that will have tragic consequences throughout the rest if the season...
2.16 Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Buffy The Vampire Slayer produced many great comic moments - many of which Joss Whedon expertly spliced into episodes to break up the drama and horror. But Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered is the first truly iconic comedy episode and it's a doozy. Bowing to peer pressure, Cordy breaks up with Xander, forcing the love sick puppy to exact revenge by getting fellow classmate and witch Amy to cast a spell to make Cordy love him again, just so he can break up with her.
Cue every woman in Sunnydale except Cordy falling in love with Xander. The tension builds up superbly until Xander is pursued by mobs of love sick women, including Jenny Calendar and Buffy's mum, Buffy herself who gets turned into a rat by a jealous Amy and best of all Drusilla, who wants to turn Xander into her enternal lover. It's awkward, it's funny and the perfect comic palate cleanser in the midst of the darkness of the Angelus arc.
Quite possibly the greatest episode in the show' s history, Passion sees Angelis step up his game as he murders one of the Scoobies, cementing him the season's true big bad Buffy has no choice but to destroy. It's a incredibly heartfelt episode as a reconciliation is teased by doomed lovers Giles and Jenny. After betrayals in both sides, she finds the gypsy cure to restore Angel's soul.
Passion is an episode that teases a happy ending only to have it brutally torn away as Angelus hunts Jenny down and kills her. The scene where Giles returns home to roses and music, happy right up to the moment he finds Jenny laid out for him on his bed, is a disturbing twist, sending him into full Ripper mode as Buffy is forced to save him from Angelus. If you thought Buffy The Vampire Slayer went dark with Innocence, then you were totally unprepared for Passion...
2.19 I Only Have Eyes for You
Another haunting episode in the midst of the Angelus arc, what makes this episode so special is the way it brings out the trauma of the last few episodes (Angel losing his soul, Jenny's murder) and plays it through the lens of two ghosts haunting Sunnydale High as they live out their doomed final moments. School boy James and teacher Grace found themselves torn by their love for each other, resulting in James shooting Grace and then himself. When they start possessing others, the death toll rises.
This is an episode packed with raw emotion and atmosphere. The Scooby gang's attempts to exorcise the ghosts while Giles is desperate in his belief that it is Jenny leads to some wonderful dark, intense moments. But is is Buffy's trauma that carries the story, finding herself possessed by James and Angelus by Grace they live out the anger, torment and guilt they could never share on their own. Buffy blames herself for Angel and this episode deals with that head on.
2.22: Becoming Part 2
I almost cheated and went with both parts. Becoming Part 1 is a very strong start to the finale, playing out Angelus's siring at the hands of Darla and his path from villain to Sunnydale, while the tension between Angelus and Buffy in the present reaches boiling point. The final act is brutal as Buffy is led into a trap and Drusilla leads an attack on the school. Xander has his arm broken, Willow is put in a coma, Kendra is killed and Giles is kidnapped; it's draw-dropping stuff.
Becoming Part 2 builds on that spectacularly, delivering the best finale in the show's history (and it does have some stuff competition). Buffy's alliance with Spike is a joyful twist, particularly as it leads to Joyce finding out her daughter is a vampire slayer and a very awkward conversation with Spike. "Have we met?" The torture of Giles is genuinely gut wrenching, particularly when Drusilla pretends to Jenny and Buffy's expulsion by Snyder - coupled with her mother throwing her out of the house - breaks all her ties to Sunnydale.
But it is the final act that stands out. Buffy fighting Angelus to to death while Willow uses magic to restore his soul climaxes in a genuinely heart breaking moment as he reverts to Angel and she is forced to kill him to stop Acathla from swallowing the world. Who didn't have a tear in their eye by the time Sarah McLachlan's Full of Grace played and a broken Buffy left Sunnydale behind her?
Season Two's Greatest Moments
Spike and Drusilla arrives in Sunnydale, changing the way we see vampires forever as they take out the Anointed One and set up shop (School Hard)
Spike crashes Sunnydale High early, ruining Buffy's carefully planned Parent-Teacher Night (School Hard)
Gile's past as Ripper is revealed in his confrontation with Ethan Rayne (The Dark Age)
I'm Kendra, the Vampire Slayer."
(What's My Line Part 2)
Cordelia and Xander share their first passionate kiss, trapped in Buffy's basement to escape the bug man (What's My Line Part 2)
Ted is revealed as a killer robot, proving Joyce's new boyfriend truly is bad (Ted)
Angel transforms into Angelus, feeding off a prostitute and blowing out her cigarette smoke, in the show's most shocking moment to date (Innocence)
Buffy takes on the Judge with a rocket launcher, proving that modern technology really can take down ancient evils after all (Innocent)
Oz discovers he's a werewolf - we didn't see that one coming (Phases)
Xander desperately tries to fend off Amy and Jenny from their infatuation, much to an annoyed Giles, Drusilla protecting her puppy Xander, much to Angelus's disgust and the mass of lock-crazed women closing in on Xander and Cordelia in the basement of Buffy's house "That was some scavenger hunt!" (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered)
Angelus reveals his presence to Jenny as she translates his curse, hunts her down through the school and kills her (Passion)
Giles discovers Jenny laid out for him by Angelus (Passion)
Angelus smiling as he watches Buffy and Willow hear the news of Jenny's death from outside Buffy's house (Passion)
Angelus and Buffy play out their trauma, possessed by the ghosts of Grace and James (I Only Have Eyes For You)
Spike revealing he's not quite so crippled (I Only Have Eyes For You)
Cordelia trying to console Xander after believing he's been transformed into a giant fish guy (Go Fish)
Buffy is lured into a trap by Angelus as Drusilla and her vampires attack the school. Giles is kidnapped, Willow is crushed beneath the stacks, Xander has his arm broken and Kendra is killed (Becoming Part 1)
Joyce Summers: Have we met?
Spike: Um... You hit me with an ax one time. Remember, uh, "Get the hell away from my daughter"?
The whole scene where Spike is in Buffy's house talking to Joyce (Becoming Part 2)
The final showdown between Angelus and Buffy as Angel's soul is restored and Buffy is forced to send him to Hell to stop Acathla from swallowing the world. We all needed a hug after that... (Becoming Part 2)
What are your favourite moments from Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Is season two the best of the run? Let us know in the comments below...