Now it’s on! Season two kicked off with When She Was Bad, featuring some summertime character development for Buffy while harking back to the finale of s1. Next came Some Assembly Required, which hews closer to the monster-of-the-week formula, marking a holding place in the series. The third episode, School Hard, makes a hard left in a new direction and casts a dismissive eye at s1’s leftover villain, The Anointed One, who finally meets his just end being fried by sunlight after being shoved into a cage and cranked into the awaiting day’s scorching rays.
The closing shot, of Anointed smoke wafting up from the cage floor, is my favorite of the series thus far. It’s telling us: okay, that part is over and done with so put on your fucking seat belts because Spike is behind the wheel now and shit is going to get nuts.
Indeed, Spike’s noisy entry into the series thrillingly rejuvenates it while at the same time hastily and delightfully dispensing with the most uninteresting vampire that the show may ever know. I may have mourned the dusting of Luke, the incineration of Absalom, and the free-fall staking of The Master, but the Anointed One’s daylight departure was overdue and most welcome. His character might have worked out with an actor who could combine cuteness and creepiness, but this child actor has neither quality. Andrew J. Ferchland (what’s with the middle initial – was there another Andy Ferchland in the SAG?) dutifully earns Spike nicknaming him The Annoying One, but certainly not anything more. It’s too bad that Jerry Supiran, Jamie from Small Wonder, had aged out of these roles by ’97. He would at least have brought some Olympic-class bad child actor verve to the part.
But, oh, Spike! He is our first major vampire character to appear first in his game face and later with his human face, a reversal of order from Darla and Angel. Just as those Julie Benz and David Boreanaz stunned me by morphing into their hideous vamp visages, James Marsters startled me almost more with his prettiness. That’s what was under all that monstrous make-up? Those cheekbones? They more than distract me from the occasionally wandering British accent. (I think this improves with time, right?)
Spike’s swagger is complemented by his companion Drusilla’s lilting lunacy. She’s our first vampire who seems to suffer from mental illness other than a psychopathic complete lack of conscience, excused by a lack of soul. Admonishing her dolls, especially the naughty Miss Edith, who famously talks out of turn, Drusilla brings a new quality to the vampire world, a daffiness and eccentricity that charms even as she’s sinking down her fangs into the sullen Sheila. Juliet Landau’s secret weapon is her swooping movement, with almost classical hints of a ballerina merged into a silent film star, working in tandem with her voice, looping about as if it operates in its own shaky reality, matching her body as it sluices through space, paradoxically highly directed and quite uncontrolled.
I’m so happy to welcome the two new residents to Sunnydale!
- Spike = Sex. My second viewing makes me especially excited to hear about his past exploits, especially with taking down two Slayers. Spike’s braggadocio carries a sexual air to it, one that he exudes powerfully with a mere gaze at The Bronze when he’s watching Buffy dance. Now I see it – the sexual charge between Buffy and Spike even before they exchange words.
- Let’s face it, James Marsters smolders circles around David Boreanaz, who mostly just broods so far.
- Angel making Xander his bitch! Wow, Xander in a headlock being offered for sharing with Spike by Angel? Could Xander become any more omega to Angel’s alpha? Yet Angel is still clearly jealous – he’s got everything over on Xander except humanity, which is forever out of reach but always painfully in sight.
- After the ambush at Parent Night, we learn that Principal Snyder and the police are in cahoots to explain away the horror – gangs? PCP? again? – but we don’t yet know why. While I really like that they introduce the cover-up and clandestine cooperation between the municipality and the underworld forces, but how this teaming functions never really gets clarified.
- Shouldn’t Willow be tracking these crazy-ass fake news stories when she’s hacking government sites? She could go all Wiccan Nancy Drew on this shit. Personally, all of the Sunnydale city/school/Hellmouth conspiring just makes me excited for Mayor Wilkins.
- Willow has had it with Cordelia! Usually it’s Xander making the snide remarks, but here it’s Willow whose patience has worn thin. First she suggests Cordy try the lemonade that Buffy has made. (I love that B doesn’t know she should add sugar.) Then, after hiding out forever in the janitor’s closet listening to Cordelia’s inane prayers, she requests Cordy ask God to send some aspirin!