Episode Title: The Freshman
Original Air Date: October 5, 1999
“Some friends of Buffy’s played a funny joke. They took her stuff, and now she wants us to help get it back from her friends who sleep all day and have no tans.” – Xander
So last time we where with Buffy and the Scoobies, Sunnydale High had been reduced to a smoking hole in the group and Angel had left for L.A. following his break up with Buffy and rejoining Buffy at the start of this season the various members are no less scattered as Buffy, Willow and Oz prepare to start at UC Sunnydale.
Opening to Buffy and Willow on stakeout at a cemetary while they wait for a potential vampire to rise from his grave, Buffy thoughts are more on what classes she is going to be taking than her Slayer duties in a great scene which see’s the pair completely miss the vampire who himself has second thoughts about attacking Buffy and Willow when he notices their arsenal of weapons they have brought with them and instead run of, leaving the pair to continue their wait completely oblivious to the fact that their intended target has just legged it.
Because this is the season opener we frustratingly have to deal with a zoned out Buffy. This time the result of her feeling overwhelmed by the whole College experience especially as she struggles to decide what to study or what she wants to do with her life, something hardly made easier for her when she is chewed out in her first class by the professor. Willow meanwhile only blossoms in College as she reveals in all the benefits it provides her with as she sees college as the place where her intelligence and love of study can be appreciated. It would equally seem that getting laid at the end of last season really worked for her as she returns this season sporting a generally more sexed up look than in previous seasons and Oz…..well he’s just his usual laidback self so I guess somethings never change.
But what about Xander and Giles you ask? Well Giles it seems has taken rather well to essentially being forced into retirement thanks to be fired from the Watchers Council and the school being blown up which has essentially left him unemployed. Still judging by his half-dressed “friend” Olivia in his kitchen it’s clear that it’s hardly been a rough transition for him. At the same time it would also seem that his relationship with Buffy has changed in the time which has passed between seasons, as Giles feels that Buffy is now capable of operating without his supervision which hardly is what she wants to hear especially when she is feeling so vulnerable by all these changes happening in her life.
Xander early on is revealed by Willow to have set out following the destruction of Sunnydale High with a plan to see all fifty states. A plan it seems soon fell apart and left him working as a kitchen porter and occasional stripper it’s revealed when he makes his surprise reappearance at the Bronze lifting the spirits of Buffy who at this point has essentially hit rock bottom. It’s a reunion which only serves to remind us of how important Xander is to the group even though he has no discernible powers compared to his fellow Scoobie members and here he is essentially the key piece in reuniting the unintentionally fractured group who’ve have seemingly drifted apart as a result of the various paths they’ve headed out on.
Now just when it seems that the show is going to get smothered in an avalanche of Teenage angst we get our first villain of the season with the vampire Sunday who along with her gang have been feeding on college freshmen and covering their disappearances by clearing their dorm rooms and making it seem like they quit college and went home in what is quite a genius plan. Worse still for Buffy is the fact that Sunday is more than capable of holding her own against her as she leaves Buffy with an injured arm and forced to flee from their initial confrontation. Sunday is a fantastic villain who is not only a capable fighter but equally capable of going toe to toe with Buffy when they start exchanging cutting barbs with each other. The plan for Sunday originally was for to be a former Slayer who had been turned into a vampire which would have been a great idea to have seen happen especially as it could have really hit Buffy on a more psychological level and could easily have been turned into more than the one shot villain she ultimately becomes here.
It’s kind of a mixed start to the series and one which is certainly helped by having a decent villain like Sunday to face and it’s clear that Buffy is back to fighting form by the end of the episode, especially when she shows off a little spinning stake flair when dispatching Sunday. We also in the final frames get the introduction of “The Initiative” who will soon like Buffy’s Psychology professor Maggie Walsh become a very key part of this season.
Next Episode: Living Conditions