Written by: Joss Whedon, et al.
Directed by: Joss Whedon, et al.
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Allyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, James Marsters, Nicholas Brendon, and Seth Green
- Audio commentaries for select episodes with writers and directors
- Scripts for select episodes
- Interviews with Joss Whedon about select episodes
- Featurettes on set design, costuming and make-up, and creature design
- Domestic and foreign promotional spots
- Production and pre-production still galleries
- 6-disc boxed set containing all 22 episodes of season 2
Released by: WB Television Network
Rating: NR, suitable for 13+
My Advice: Own it.
This set collects the entirety of season 2, picking up after the summer vacation to see Buffy and the gang through another year of classes at Sunnydale High, home of the Hellmouth. Even with the threat of the Master eliminated in season 1, there’s plenty of nastiness to go around. Mummies, lizard people, Frankenstein-style resurrected jocks, and of course vampires populate the Sunnydale night-life, and keep things interesting for the gang and their occult chaperone Giles (played brilliantly by Head). The second season also introduces one of the most popular and enduring characters of the series, Spike (Marsters). Spike, originally intended as a throw-away one-season bad guy, was such an instant hit with fans that the role continues to be central to the show, even after four more seasons have passed.
Among the episodes that constitute season 2, a few stand out as particularly good. The opener, “When She Was Bad,” allows for some well-acted and very human moments for several of the characters, with the interpersonal relationships among the entire “inner circle” of characters thrown into disarray when Buffy returns from summer break with a serious chip on her shoulder, and the gang must deal with the pain she causes while she deals with her issues. The finalÃ©, “Becoming” (a two-parter) gives some fabulous depth to the character of Angel, and his struggle with his darker nature is nicely done, given the story-telling structural support it requires after the whole good/evil flip-flopping of the season.
The performances in this season are pretty good across the board, though some of the players continue to improve their chops in seasons to come. Standouts are Head, in his role as the prissy British Watcher assigned to train and assist Buffy in her slaying duties, Marsters as the mad, bad, and dangerous to know Spike, and Brendon‘s Xander, the stalwart “normal guy” in a crew of Slayers, witches, and assorted beings of power. Brendon is about a decade shy of being the next Bruce Campbell, and I mean that in the nicest imaginable way. His comic timing is unmatched by anybody else at this point in the series, and his range is heart-breakingly proven in “When She Was Bad,” the season 2 opener. Season 2 also sees more development of the character Angel, a vampire striving to redeem himself for past transgressions (who just happens to have fallen in love with the Slayer, who can’t decide if the feeling is mutual, or should be). His dark past comes back to haunt him on more than one occasion, and it provides Boreanaz some great chances to branch out in his portrayal.
The DVD treatment of these discs is solid, with a stack of extras that, while not as comprehensive as it could have been, is good nonetheless. Commentaries for more of the episodes would have been nice, and if scripts could be included for some episodes, why not all? Why not even on-screen as a subtitle option? But the featurettes located on disc 6 are exhaustive, and cover the making of Buffy from just about every possible pre-production angle. Make-up, creature effects, and set design are all spotlighted and explored in great detail.
Aside from the extras, unfortunately, the DVDs have some greater problems. Dark scenes (and there are predictably lots of those in a show about vampires) are frequently quite grainy, making already difficult-to-follow action in the dark almost impossible to make out. During the more brightly-lit moments, the video quality is excellent throughout, but the minute we wander into a dark alley or graveyard, everything goes pixelated. Quite disappointing that a more clear transfer wasn’t done on such a popular (and incredibly long-awaited) series. The sound is decent, though there are a few moments of fuzziness here and there. All in all, the sound problems aren’t enough to be distracting like the video resolution issues.
Despite these problems, the show’s quality is hard to argue against. Excellent production values, interesting stories, solid performances, and real emotional depth combine to make this one of the better series ever aired on television. Add it to your collection today, and look forward to the next installment on DVD.