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Following on from the shocking and heartbreaking finale of Season 2, Buffy Season 3 swings into gears as our fierce warrior battles all things that the darkness has to offer and survive high school at the same time. Spoilers will follow in this review.

Buffy Season 3After sending Angel(David Boreanaz) back to hell, Buffy(Sarah Michelle Gellar) has fled Sunnydale. When we catch up with her, she is working in a dodgy part of Los Angeles, using her middle name of Anne. She is plagued by dreams of the lover she had to sacrifice and can’t come to terms with it no matter how hard she tries. She is brought back to her senses after an encounter with a demon and decides to head back to Sunnydale, to face her responsibilities. At first, reconciling with Xander(Nicholas Brendon), Willow(Alyson Hannigan), Cordelia(Charisma Carpenter), Oz(Seth Green) and her watcher Giles(Anthony Stewart Head) is hard, but it eventually gets easier. Trouble is always round the corner for this slayer and the dramas keep on coming. Buffy and the gangCordelia and Xander’s relationship is changed after he and Willow share a passionate kiss. Rejecting the gang, Cordelia heads back to her bitchy self and her shallow friends, yet still can’t shake off the memory of her relationship with Xander. Oz on the other hand, eventually forgives Willow. A new slayer, Faith(Eliza Dushku), arrives in town. She is a charismatic and loose living girl with internal emotional scars whose friendship with Buffy begins to disintegrate after Faith kills a human, which is against the rules of  being a slayer and shows no regret for her actions. There is also the matter of the Mayor, this season’s Big Bad. To everyone else he is a chipper guy, but he is in fact involved with the underground demons and plans on becoming a demon once it’s graduation day and he can ascend to becoming a stronger power than he already is. And to top all that off, Angel is back from hell, leading Buffy to question their relationship with one another. For my money season three is one of the best season’s in the whole Buffy saga.

The scripts are as sharp and witty as ever, whilst effectively conveying the pains of becoming adults faced with a very literal hell.  The characters are really starting to grow and you feel genuine sympathy for them in their adventures, especially Buffy who must deal with what life throws at her as well as dark forces closing in. This season gets an extra dynamic through the introduction of Faith, who is played with tough yet vulnerable strength by Eliza Dushku. She’s such an interesting character to watch and in a sense we see that Faith is how Buffy may have ended up if she had grown up neglected and alone in the world. When Buffy becomes friendly with Faith, she flirts with the idea of being a bad girl. She is then brought to her senses by witnessing Faith kill a human and must therefore sever ties with her. Buffy and FaithAll of this leads to some feisty action sequences between the two as the clash of personalities stokes the flames of an already burning fire.  Season 3 also introduces the character of Anya(Emma Caulfield), a former vengeance demon now stripped of her power who must live a human life. She will later become a very prominent character in Buffy and Emma Caulfield is really funny in her early episodes. Also giving Season 3 an edge is the villain in the form of Mayor Richard Wilkins. He is such a creepy yet darkly funny guy who is treacherous to say the least but the kind of the person you just love to hate. Some of the lines he gets to deliver are so strangely funny and ironic such as “Who’s up for a root beer?” after killing an employer who disobeyed him.

The love between Angel and Buffy reaches its end as he struggles to think of a future for Buffy that won’t bring her harm. Their relationship is so emotionally moving and tragic in that they both love one another but are torn apart by all the hell breaking loose around them. It’s sad to see Angel go and he is certainly a missed character in the show. Another point of praise is the exploration of Buffy’s relationship with her mother Joyce. Having been forced to tell her mum of her duty, Joyce has taken time to get her head around it. They may come to blows, but we see how each would do anything to protect the other from harm. This season contains some of the most emotional in the season. Buffy Class ProtectorThe crowning one for me is when Buffy is awarded Class Protector at the prom. Initially believing that no one realises that she saves their lives on a regular basis, she is shocked but very happy to receive the award as the entire student body applauds her bravery and her beaming smile tells a thousand words. If this moment doesn’t get you tearing up, then I don’t know what will.

Our splendid cast delivers amazing work throughout Season 3. Sarah Michelle Gellar adds maturity and strength to Buffy as her life as the slayer continues. We are also shown the vulnerable side to her that wants to just be a teenage girl and isn’t immune to weakness. In other words, Gellar is phenomenal in her portrayal of a girl growing up fast. David Boreanaz bows out of Buffy in style as Angel, imbuing him with sensitivity, danger and melancholy as his doomed relationship comes to an end. Nicholas Brendon is ever reliable as Xander, who provides moral support and jokes, while Alyson Hannigan is luminous as Willow, who this season begins to hone her gift for magic. Charisma Carpenter also bows out of Buffy, and she provides Cordelia with enough barbs and humour to make sure she is a well-remembered character. Seth Green adds mordant and ironic humour to the role of Oz, while Anthony Stewart Head touchingly portrays the way Giles cares for Buffy in a father-daughter way.

Easily one of the show’s best seasons, Buffy Season 3 is not to be missed.