The musings of an academic geek yogi
For anyone who knows me well, they will tell you that I love the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In times of stress, I re-binge this campy angsty girl power program and now that my daughter is a teen I have a partner in crime for this guilty pleasure. Hands down our favorite season is 3.
It is insane to me that not every list of top Buffy episodes is not littered with season 3 picks. Every person I know who watched season 3 was glued to the screen every week and completely invested. Over time what draws me back to season 3 is all the tension and twists. It was when the show deviated from its one theme that a tiny blonde girl can kill everything that goes bump in the night to being a drama about the complexities of coming of age. A topic that is so relevant as my daughter is quickly becoming a young woman before my eyes.
The Best Buffy episode of all time is:
Season 3, Episode 7 Revelations
From the first time I watched Revelations to when I watch it again today it echoes so many themes that would re-occur season after season. It has all the characters I love to hate and just love. But it had a trademark that made a show with an already strange premise great, it was an episode filled with misdirection for the audience.
The three reasons I love this episode are:
1. The dichotomy between Faith & Buffy
2. The Scoobies challenging Buffy to choose between them and Angel
3. Giles struggling with his choice to be more of a father than traditional watcher
First: Faith Versus Buffy
Buffy is the all American blonde valley girl archetype. She is a girlie girl that sleeps with a stuffed pig (Mr. Gordo), pouts when she does not get her way and is often costumed in soft colors to accentuate the perception of female fragility. In contrast, her slayer counterpart Faith is clade in red lipstick and black leather with her bra straps always showing and that lives in a pretty gross hotel room. The virgin/whore dichotomy seems personified by the two slayers who have nothing but their roles as chosen ones in common.
In the last season Faith jokingly asks if she is the good slayer now? But fans first asked this question four seasons prior when Buffy was lying to everyone and having a secret affair with Angel.
In this episode Faith has a new watcher arrive named Gwendolyn Post. Before this point the audience never sees anyone who is dedicated to mentoring Faith. As a fan meeting this new watcher helped me see Faith and her Spartan lifestyle as a badge of honor and question what it means to be the good slayer. 20 years ago I was sure the show was going to turn its attention to Faith and move towards Buffy as the villain but by the end of the episode I would learn I was completely wrong.
Forever after the episode aired I resented Buffy and her privilege. She got the watcher father figure. She had a mom who cleaned her room and washed blood out of her clothes and an absentee father that bought her any pair of shoes she desired. Faith had no one until the evil mayor would later adopt her and she would move further away from the idea of being a hero. This is the only episode, until the comics that Buffy seems like a brat who does what she wants while Faith makes hard ethical choices in the face of adversity.
Second: Friends vs. Angel
Buffy is a special slayer because instead of embracing her secret identity she has both a quasi-normal high school existence and slayer support network via her friends. But this episode is when everything goes to shit because her friends think she is bionking her previously-homicidal boyfriend.
Many fans, myself included were on Team Angel and drawn into the dysfunctional love story of an underage girl and her ex sadistic serial killing hundred year old boyfriend. This episode gave me some perspective that even in spite of the beautifully framed stolen moments that maybe Buffy and Angel finding their way back to one another was a bad idea.
In the episode, Xander comes across Buffy secretly kissing her vampire ex-boyfriend that hurt everyone only months before; until that moment all the Scoobies thought Angel dead. The next scene is a classic intervention where Cordelia, Willow, Oz, Xander, and Giles confront Buffy about her lies. Unlike normal quipy exchanges this was one of the first episodes where the Scoobies all turn on Buffy. Throughout the show run there is tension in the Scoobie ranks but this is the first time it is so pronounced and justifiably against Buffy.
Thirdly: Watcher versus Father
This episode was key to challenging Giles as a successful watcher. Yes I know a young watcher named Wesley would later come along and unsuccessfully try to usurp Giles but ended up mostly being comic relief
To the dismay of the stuffy ole British watchers council, Giles loves Buffy like a daughter. When a new watcher appears on the scene in this episode Giles seems genuinely threatened. And as a fan, I feel like Gwendolyn Post is a pretentious powerful British woman who reminded me a lot of M from James Bond. The female watcher successfully shows up Giles at every turn until we find out her evil intentions when she knocks Giles unconscious.
Previously I mentioned an intervention scene in regards to Buffy and her poor dating choices. That scene ends when Giles abruptly stops the attacks on Buffy and sends her friends away. Like a good father, Giles was always the one who always stood up for Buffy. But when they leave and she thanks him, he curtly reminds her that Angel tortured me for hours, with pleasure. You have no respect for me or the job I perform. This was one of least fatherly moments of the show for me, in that moment Giles was all watcher and the look on the face of Buffy echoed my own shock as an at home viewer.
Good Slayer versus Bad Slayer
Friends versus Lover
Council Way versus Fatherly Way
This episode was not business as usual in Sunnydale. Revelations is the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it was the one that converted so many of people into lifelong fans and keeps even my 13 year old coming back to watch more Buffy with her mama. As my daughter Inara is coming of age during the Corona, I worry often what lasting impact it will have. But all that worry goes away in the stolen moments when we indulge in guilty pleasures like binging Buffy (preferably season 3).