When She Was Bad
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: Sept. 15, 1997

“When She Was Bad” bring season 2 into life with great fanfare. It is a perfect way to wrap up feelings, thoughts, and ideas left over from season 1 while starting something fresh. It does this with a few bumps along the way, sure, but for the most part this episode is a flawless – if at times slightly dull – reminder, for those of us going back in time to rewatch these, of how good this show can get as soon as it comes back after a summer of being gone.

We catch up with everyone rather quickly, actually. Willow and Xander are right where we left them; nerdy and cute together. Their summer, we are told, was very boring and vampire-less. But that doesn’t stop them from almost making-the-hell-out. Of course, a vampire shows up at the right time, signaling that Buffy is likely back. Sure enough, Buffy is back. She’s still sarcastic and dry-witted, but she is distant and aloof, something we’re told about in a “totally-had-forgotten-about-this-scene” conversation between her parents. We have a nasty, bitchy Buffy, someone who hasn’t properly dealt with, well, you know… being killed. She mistreats everyone and even Cordelia, who is in rare form and at least half-interested in helping Buffy deal with her issues, gets treated a bit too harshly. Of course, between Xander and Angel, its anyone’s guess who has the worse treatment from Buffy, but my guess is that Buffy’s super sexy grinding upon Xander’s loins gives him the lead.

The “Big Bad” of the episode is the remnants of The Master’s group of vampires and… well, the remnants of The Master (his bleached white bones, I mean to say). The Anointed One – who “hates that girl” Buffy – needs the blood of those that were closest in proximity to ol’ fruit punch mouth to bring him back. This, of course, frightens the piss out of Buffy who, you know, died at that guys hands, once before. Granted, she killed him, too. So, you know… she’s not eager to settle a “best of three” contest with the guy and would rather stop him. This leads her to doing some pretty stupid stuff, like taking the bait and falling into a trap… or, more accurately, leaving those weaker people around her to fall into a trap. This isn’t the last time Buffy’s headstrong and foolhardy nature gets her friends get her into trouble, something Angel will note upon in future episodes.

The nature of Buffy’s angst is carried particularly well by SMG in this episode, but the resolution of it all seems… too quick. Its the real pratfall of the narrative arc she goes on in this one episode; it only takes one episode. The next time she dies (SPOILER ALERT!) it takes her an entire damned season to get over it. Here, its one day and a bit of bone grinding to resolve her major issues. I get it, its fine. They wanted to showcase that dying has adverse effects on one’s personality (durr) and they didn’t want to get so dark yet as to develop her character that way, yet. But it just seemed like she had a bone to pick (smash) and then it was over. Having said this, SMG’s acting is once again perfect in individual moments, right down to her anguished and emotionally releasing bone smashing and subsequent cry upon Angel’s shoulder. I don’t know why I used to personally give her crap in regards to her acting… she does a fine job. She even gets to go all torture crazy on that lady vampire. Hardcore.

Now for the best parts of this episode: production values! Graveyard scenes aren’t too dark, the action is well choreographed, and the music? Just fine. Some areas, these things yet again grate upon me, but they are so much better, now, than they used to be, that its a step in the right direction. One nitpick I have, though, is that the “signs of struggle” in the school library, after Giles and Willow are taken by vampires, look like TV “signs of struggle” and not real at all. Stuff is just too… nice for a wreck-up job. Again, just a small nitpick.

Between Buffy’s anger, Willow’s cuteness, Angel’s seeming return to being kinda creepy, and Giles becoming more of a father figure to not just Buffy, these characters are starting to resemble the people they’ll become by mid-series, the characters I love the most, before they get wrecked up by the post-S5 events. The themes are getting better supported and the events are starting to get more interesting and “real” – so to speak. Its starting to look like Buffy up in here.

Episode Rating: 86

Death Count: 43
Annoying Scream Count: 23

Additional Notes:
-Why do some of the vampires have long pointy nails? Most don’t, just The Master. Seems strange.
-Mark Metcalf gets to don Master makeup without ever having to say one line. But he
does get his best on screen moment to date during Buffy’s awesome dream sequence:

Trip-hop group CIBO MATTO plays The Bronze. Who the fuck are Cibo Matto?
In an episode of spinoff show Angel, a group of dudes makes a circle, does a chant, casts a spell, and Darla is back. Here, they need Master bones. The bones?!
-The Master
does come back in Season 8 comics, though, which I think I’m going to drop some money on, here in a bit, for future reviews.
-Did Buffy see Xander and Willow almost make out? The fight Xander had with that vampire didn’t last long enough and Buffy was just standing there, no sense that she ran up to fight him off of them. She totally saw it. No other way about it.
-Snyder “loves” the kids in that school. Jesus.
-Best line?