THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy to celebrate Dark Horse Comics' release of Buffy Season 10 on March 19 and "Angel and Faith Season 10" on April 2. So far we've done an overview of why we love Buffy and Season 1.
And now on to Buffy Season 2, wherein we meet Spike and Drusilla, Kendra (the new slayer), Angel's evil self Angelus, and more. While Spike and Dru play the Big Bad for the first half of the season, after the events of "Innocence"/"Becoming" take away Angel's soul, then he becomes one of the worst Big Bads of the entire series, proving how those who love you are the ones who can hurt you the most.
Highlights: There's something magical about the relationship between Angel, Spike, Drusilla (and later Darla). It's great to see Spike caring for an invalid Dru, and likewise Dru looking out for Spike later in the season. Angelus plays both sides, and still manages to screw Spike over even when working with him. And of course Spike seeing turnabout as fair play.
Also, it really felt like Willow, Xander, and Cordelia get some character development this season, becoming more than just sidekicks. Also the introduction of Ethan Rayne and an amazing performance by John Ritter as Ted.
The best part of this season is it deals with some basic issues of growing up. Most poignantly, it faces the all-too-common story of young love, then "now that I've slept with a guy he's suddenly mean to me and turned into a total creep." In this case, Angel actually loses his soul, torments Buffy and her loved ones and almost brings about the apocalypse, but the basic conceit is fairly universal. I also mentioned John Ritter as Ted. Dealing with divorced parents who start dating and the kid sees another, more menacing side of their parents' paramours is all-too-common. Just in this case, he's a robot. And, of course, in "What's My Line?," Buffy is forced to think about her future, even as she just tries to survive high school. All of these could be the story of anyone in high school, which is always what made Buffy so great.
Lowlights: Kendra's accent. Seriously? She's Jamaican? She sounded too much like Miss Cleo at a time when Miss Cleo was part of the zeitgeist. (However, this is muted by Kendra pointing out to Buffy that she treats being a slayer "like a job" instead of a sacred calling. This whole "approach to slaying" plays out in cool ways in Seasons 2 and 7) Also, the fact that they still can't figure out how to pronounce "Angelus." Makeup and theme song still a little funky, but getting better. Remnants of the "Monster of the Week" format still dominate the early part of the season (Incan Mummy Girl, Reptile Boy, Some Assembly Required, Bad Eggs), but at least no killer dummies, amiright?
"Halloween," Episode 2.6. In which we learn that the supernatural think Haloween is overcommercialized, but that doesn't stop Ethan Rayne from raining chaos on Sunnydale as he turns kids into their costumes. So Xander becomes a badass soldier, Buffy becomes a fainting southern belle, and Willow becomes a ghost-whore. While the plot is fun, the character development is even more so. 7 out of 10
"Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," Episode 2.16. "Do you know what's a good day to break up with somebody? Any day besides Valentine's Day! I mean, what, were you running low on dramatic irony?" Yes, Cordelia bows to peer pressure abd breaks up with Xander, who turns to Amy to have her cast a love spell to make Cordelia fall back in love with him. Unfortunately, the spell backfires, and everyone BUT Cordelia falls for him. Hiinks ensure. A silly episode, but a favorite for some of the best one-liners of the season from scribe Marti Noxon. "What rhymes with lungs?" 8 out of 10
Overall rating for Season Two: 8 out of 10. Despite a couple of clunkers, this season overall is one of the best of the entire series. In some ways, Buffy jumped the shark when Angel went bad and their final confrontation. It was just such a highlight that it was hard to top. The good news is, the third season gets even better!