The good news: Season three of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” not only meets the expectations of the second season, it arguably surpasses them.
The bad news: Fox Home Entertainment has continued to neglect the show’s fans by delivering yet another series of substandard extras on what should be a very powerful collection.
When the second season concluded, Spike was apparently destroyed and Buffy’s mother, Joyce (the always under-appreciated Kristine Sutherland) was having difficulty coping with Buffy’s slayer status. Season three brought even more fun with the introduction of three new characters: Anya, the Mayor and Faith.
Anya first appears in “The Wish,” the finest episode of the season’s first half. A wish by the jilted Cordelia brings forth a haunting vision of a Sunnydale without Buffy, including a creepy vampire duo of Xander and Willow. Still, her entertaining appearances and developing love of Xander is nothing compared to the other additions.
The addition of Faith brought a new energy to the show that was visibly lacking in the first few episodes. The bad-girl foil for Buffy, Eliza Dushku’s Faith, played by her own rules and enjoyed her slayer position. Rumors of her return in the current season on UPN make it all the more imperative to see her in action, especially in the episode “Bad Girls.”
The Mayor (a.k.a. Richard J. Wilkins III) definitely took a shine to her. The most entertaining villain in the show’s run, the Mayor’s comical attention to cleanliness and his Xander-like use of puns to diffuse a tense situation made him a staple of any episode. His banter with Mr. Trick was amusing, but his real asset was his work in the season’s two-part finale, “Graduation Day,” which rivaled season two’s finale in excitement and emotional strength.
But while the season featured touching scenes including the prom and graduation, we’ll never get to know what the actors thought about these events since there is absolutely no commentary by the stars in the collection. Nor is there any Joss Whedon commentary except for a few short interviews. Writers make occasional commentary on three episodes, but that is hardly impressive. The featurettes are entertaining but hardly enough to warrant a special features section.
I could have predicted the quality of this six-disc set before it came out. The season was incredible, the delivery almost embarrassing. With David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter off to “Angel” and Seth Green’s delightfully understated Oz off the show, it seems wasteful not to have them discuss their final season together. Perhaps season four will bring more effort from FOX in this department.