Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3 Box Set
October 20, 2003
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, James Marsters, Harry Groener, Eliza Dushku, Emma Caulfield,
First off, if you’re not a fan, you should be. This is one of the defining TV shows of our generation. Second off, the DVDs are half the price in the US that they are in dear old Blighty. Drawback: We’re almost on season 6 but they’ve only just got onto releasing season three.
And one of the best seasons is this, where the beginning of the dark side of the show comes into play with the arrival of bad slayer Faith (Dushku). Not only must Buffy come to terms with her friend’s reckless behaviour, but she has to deal with boyfriend Angel and their own doomed relationship. (He’s an immortal vampire. She’s not.)
A new watcher arrives (the hilarious Alexis Denisof) who makes stuffy Giles seem like James Dean (which proves literally to be the case when a batch of funky candy reverts the parents of Sunnydale to immature teens again. Anthony Head gets to stretch his acting muscles, and when Buffy takes the family car for a spin with Principal Snyder, he comments: “Ooh, Summers you drive like a spaz!”)
Looking back now you can see just how dark season 6 has got, with Willow turning nasty and Buffy coming back from the dead; again.
Season 3 shifts into gear when Faith accidentally kills a real person and can’t deal with the consequences. The beauty of this show is how it explores real teen issues by shifting them into a different context. Thus Faith is Buffy’s dark side, and we get to see what Buffy would be like if she made some different choices. Dushku is always watchable, and this is where she got to break out of the supporting child-actor roles in films like This Boy’s Life and That Night. Her character is cruel, sadistic and immoral, yet she invests Faith with a hidden layer of sympathy that makes her desent into crime even more watchable.
Themes such as losing your virginity, facing up to responsibility and dealing with self-loathing are all explored by using a neat supernatural twist. So characters not only have to deal with real demons, but personal ones as well. An episode about a student who threatens to kill everybody in school with a rifle was taken off the schedules just a week after Colombine happened, but it’s Kudos to the writers that they picked up on such prominent issues:
“They can’t hear your pain,” Buffy tells the shooter, “because they’re too busy dealing with their own.”
With every season we have a major foe/nemesis/opponent to worry about, and this time it’s the invulnerable mayor (Harry Groener), who has plans of…yes, you guessed it. Taking over Sunnydale. Faith becomes his surrogate daughter, and their relationship becomes ever more bizarre (eating giant spiders, sending Faith out to commit murder) but entertaining. The mayor doesn’t like germs (an in-joke about producer David Greenwalt) but loves reading the funnies in the paper. This is a unique character to say the least. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a mint?’ he happily asks a demon in his office. “They’re low calorie.”
There are the full 22 episodes here, and watching them I felt like a kid in a candy store (a whole six months worth of TV in one handy boxset!). Extras include: audio commentaries from writers/directors, various behind-the-scenes featurettes, photo galleries, original episode scripts and interviews. It’s understandable that Fox spread out these extras over each of the six discs, but if you want to watch the season in order, it’s a pain in the ass to go back and find the little featurettes afterwards. Indeed some of these ‘interviews’ last barely five minutes, so why not just make a decent documentary out of them?
The commentaries, though interesting, seem randomly chosen (why do we not get one for the big finale?) and unlike the other Buffy seasons available, there’s no Joss Whedon commentary. On the plus side, you do get little pieces of in-jokes (writer Jane Espenson always thought Alexis Denisof resembled Pierce Brosnan so it springs up in Xander’s dialogue in one episode) and hearing Denisof and Marsters speaking off set with thick American accents is just priceless.
There are diamond episodes here; The Wish and Dopplegangland being my personal faves. Example: When Willow has to impersonate her evil vampire twin and is caught out, her panicked response is: “I’m a blood-sucking fiend. Look at my outfit!”
Rarely is a foot put wrong, but the opening episode is a bit too dark and gloomy when you really want to be reminded just how fun season 2 was before it. And coming from a TV source, and on inferior Region 1, the overall picture quality seems seriously pixelated in dark/smoky scenes. The sound is all over the place too (loud bits are really loud, and quiet bits are ear-straining.) Without the benefit of being a movie production, you have to keep reminding yourself that this is they best they had to work with. No ILM effects or 5.1 sound for Joss Whedon and his pals.
But this is one programme that deserves the DVD treatment and you should feel lucky to have this brilliant series at all. Things went a bit pear-shaped for season 4 (Riley indeed), but came back to the old magic for seasons 5 and 6. But 3 is flawless, so go out and buy it right now.