Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 3, 2011

Robin’s Review: S3, E1 – Anne

Synopsis: Willow, Xander and Oz have been fighting vampires all summer while Giles searches for Buffy. Xander worries that Cordelia has forgotten about him and she has similar concerns. Buffy is in Oakland working at a diner and trying to be alone. Former vampire-worshipper Chanterelle, now Lily, and boyfriend Ricky run into her. When Ricky goes missing Lily asks for Buffy’s help to find him. They find him old and dead and Buffy begins investigating a local shelter. It turns out that they are demons taking homeless kids off to work in their dimension.

The Good: While not a great episode this served its purpose beautifully. After the trauma Buffy went through in “Becoming” she needed time to be alone and be reminded of her purpose.

In a way the whole episode served to set up one line. Buffy has escaped to Oakland and is going by the name Anne. Not only is her neighbourhood full of lost souls but is literally full of people claiming “I’m no one.” When Lily comes to Buffy for help once more her calling as the Slayer weighs on her conscience. It’s impossible to dislike Buffy when she puts aside her own desires to help the helpless. Having followed the clues to the demon dimension the guards line up their chattel and unless they respond “I’m no one” they are brutally beaten. An obvious setup? Yes. A good setup? Absolutely. When the guard reaches her Buffy of course responds “I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And you are?” When a show knows itself as well as Buffy does at this point a potentially cheesy moment can be one that leaves me with goosebumps.

Of course Buffy saves the day and through it she realises that it’s time to go home. She has a calling and even though it will take time to get over Angel she knows she is not meant for Oakland. She is meant for the Hellmouth. Back in Sunnydale everyone is keenly aware of her absence and the best scene came between Giles and Joyce. He was searching for her all summer and was now free to tell Joyce about everything that was going on. Now that she had had some time to process what had happened she felt betrayed. Understandably the idea that her daughter had been leading a secret life and looking to another adult for guidance hurt her deeply. Giles was wise enough not to react to this accusation but you could see that he too felt guilty and worried.

The Scoobies lives seemed much the same in terms of their relationships but their daily activities were transformed. The previous summer saw Willow and Xander talking movies and staying out of trouble (201). Now they were spending their nights out hunting vampires and trying not to be killed. Willow and Oz have grown closer while Cordelia and Xander were their cute selves, refusing to communicate as ever. Xander had a great line where Cordelia kept questioning what the plan was and he says “The vampire attacks you…the vampire kills you. We watch. We rejoice.”

While the Oakland demons story had some problems it also had a lot to commend it. The return of Chanterelle (207) was a lovely piece of continuity. The way her lack of a home or fixed identity was used to link her two different roles was clever. She was also the ideal innocent victim to drag Buffy back into action. In her current mood Buffy had no need to lie and I loved her candour as she just admits to the nurse that she broke in to look at the blood donor files. Then when the nurse threatens to call the police Buffy rips the phone off the wall. Nice. The demonic underworld was much grander in scale than I remembered and was certainly a threatening enough location to make the last ten minutes dramatic. There was even a small moment thrown in when Buffy deals harshly with Lily’s grief, clearly because of what she has been through with Angel.

The Bad: The downside was that the “Family Home” demons story was far from subtle. When Buffy first meets Ken he says “You get old fast here. The thing that drains the life out of them is despair.” I know that sort of fitted his sales pitch but it was about as on the nose as it could have been. We never found out what the humans were labouring toward or what dimension the black portal took them to. It was all a little fairy tale-like with Buffy given the appropriate stage to make her comeback. Lily’s response to the news of Ricky’s death was poorly scripted too. Instead of the kind of denial or sadness you might imagine, her first words were “But he takes care of me.” Again that’s a very direct bit of scripting and at times Lily’s “pathetic” act felt a little weak.

There was one bit of editing that felt off. Buffy was already in the demon world and we jumped back to see the Cordelia-Xander kiss scene and then back to the demons. I think the Sunnydale story could have just run through and been wrapped up instead of this slightly awkward change of tone.

The Unknown: Did Buffy’s dream about Angel mean anything? Will Lily be ok on her own? Oz repeating a year felt convenient but then again he has such a laid back persona that it didn’t seem implausible.

Best Moment: I would go for Buffy reclaiming her identity but the final shot of the episode was excellent too. Buffy returns home, at last she is there when Joyce opens the door and they hug. I love that the episode ended there. This felt like an ideal season premiere. It set all the characters back on the path they need to be on and not a moment more. You have to tune in next week to see how Buffy’s friends and family will react to her return; this episode was all about her emotional state.

The Bottom Line: An excellent season premiere in many ways. While not the most memorable story on its own, this bridged season two to three in a compelling and convincing way.

68/100

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