"I just wanna be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy. I don't even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one."
Ahh, Season 3! I hardly knew ye! It came and went so fast the first time around, with little old me irritated and confused by its resolution. But I'm pretty sure Season 3 is widely regarded as the best in all of Buffy, and now that I know better what will become of the new major character (whose name begins with an "F" and ends with a "orced character development"), I hope I'll see the light!
Right off the bat, we have some notable changes: new opening credits, this time featuring Seth Green (!), and a cute new big girl haircut for Willow, but unfortunately no big girl personality.
But when we begin, it looks as if nothing has changed at all. A vampire rises from its grave. We see a woman's legs in fashionable jeans doing a power stance and hear her make a terrible joke. Only it's Willow--and the words "Come and get it, big boy!" rocket to the top of my Top 10 Things I Never Want To Hear Willow Say Again.
The Scoobies have spent the summer trying to pick up the slack that Buffy left, but are hopelessly inept at slaying. As for Buffy, she wakes up at her apartment in a sordid hellhole of a town full of ugly street fronts and whining ambulances. It must be Los Angeles.
Meanwhile at Sunnydale High, it's the first day of school, and we get an impressive continuous shot beginning in the library with Willow and Giles and continuing into the hallway where it picks up various conversations. Cordelia and Xander are all excited to see one another again. Oz surprises Willow by telling her he's going to come back to Sunnydale High to finish his senior year. Larry the oaf thinks this will be the best year EVER!
Impressive as this shot is, the Scoobies seem awkward and aimless without Buffy. And I don't mean in the obvious sense, I mean in the sense that the actors don't seem to know what they should be doing or what their relationships were to one another for the past two seasons.
Buffy works as a waitress in a cheesy diner with a name tag reading "Anne." Her boss is gross and she gets sexually harassed by two trucker dudes, but while Buffy wouldn't have put up with it, "Anne" lets it go. Two of her customers are Rickie and Lily, the latter looking suspiciously familiar...
It's Chanterelle from Lie To Me! She chases after Buffy to thank her for saving her life, and renounces the vampire groupie cult. One notices that they've given Chanterelle/Lily a 90s heroin chic makeover, but there also seems to be an attempt to draw a parallel between her and Buffy, with juxtaposed close-ups of each of their faces showing how similar they look. And they do bond, commiserating about how they're always changing, picking up new names, disappearing when necessary.
If you didn't get the major identity crisis thing, everywhere the two of them go, they see old people muttering to themselves, "I'm nobody! I am nothing!" Cue a montage of lost young people looking sad and dirty and hopeless.
Over the summer in Sunnydale, Giles and Joyce bonded over searching for Buffy--a daughter figure for both. Giles hops on a plane at any mention of Slayer-ish activity to no avail. Joyce thanks him for helping, but also blames him for making Buffy what she is. Joyce is still not understanding the whole One Girl In All The World "SHE IS THE SLAYEEER" thing.
Lily comes to Buffy begging for help when Rickie goes missing. They search his old haunts, where the people they question all put on their best eerie suspicious faces. Buffy stalks around various dilapidated buildings until she finds the body of an old man--with Rickie's tattoo! Mystery abound.
When Buffy breaks the news to Lily, we get some more Major Themes that, having seen the rest of the series, I was impressed cropped up this early! Lily refuses to accept that Rickie is dead, but the new, jaded Buffy has little patience for grief. She gets agitated and insists that Lily is just going to have to deal because these kinds of things happen all the time. Bristling at this treatment, Lily asks if Buffy didn't bring the monsters and evil with her because she's the Slayer. We will be angsting over this for the next three seasons.
Buffy just totally doesn't want to deal with this BS anymore, and is quite angry at whoever is doing evil in LA for interrupting her one true wish--to be alone. This wish has replaced the one to be a normal teenager, as she's now accepted its futility.
Lily runs into the street where she sees a kindly straight-laced lookin' dude who runs a cultish-seeming home for young people. He tells her that Rickie is very much alive and staying with them, ominously insisting, "He's no more dead than I am!"
Blah blah, Buffy does some investigating so she can get back to her peace and quiet and tea cozies, and finds herself trying to sneak her way into the youth home, telling them, "I'm bad! With the sex, and the envy, and that loud music us kids listen to nowadays!" She breaks in just in time to see Lily fall through some oily looking goo into a gigantic warehouse that = hell.
In case you didn't get the identity crisis thing from the name-changing and the "I'm no one!" old people and the weird cult, Buffy and Lily find the warehouse/hell to be full of people in nondescript burlap sacks working as slaves. Evil preacher guy explains that time moves more quickly in hell, so they bring young people with no friends and no life to work until they die--all of which happens in the span of one day on earth.
But Buffy's had enough. Faced with life in an eternal hell dimension, she rediscovers her mission in life, kind of like when Angel saw her in 1996 and thought she was a babe. The slaves are forced to stand in a line and renounce their identity by answering the question, "Who are you?" with, "No one." But when they get to Buffy, she says, "I'm Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and kicks the crap out of them. This is one of those rousing moments that makes you wanna stand up and cheer, like when the underdog hockey team scores the game-winning goal or a group of ragtag youngsters from the streets win the song and dance competition.
Long story short, Buffy leads an insurrection that involves Lily summoning her inner resolve and taking care of business on her own. It's actually a pretty hilarious moment--Preacher Guy takes Lily hostage before all the rest of the slaves, and begins a grand speech about the price of rebellion. Lily cuts it short by pushing him off the ledge.
With renewed sense of purpose, Buffy offers her apartment, her job, and the name "Anne" to Lily. She heads back to Sunnydale, the episode ending in a tearful reunion between her and Joyce. But oh, the angst is sooo not over.
A good episode, though not totally memorable. Adequately sets up themes. Deals with Runaway Buffy. And remember this face in the future:
Favorite moment: Way at the beginning of the episodes, when the Scoobies minus Buffy try to stake a vampire on their own, Oz makes a last ditch effort to throw a stake in its back while it runs away. The triumphant music swells, Oz winds up, and...