During my sabbatical I've caught up with a great deal of television that has been sat on my shelves in the 'must watch' section; this includes shows like Mad Men, Eureka, Frisky Dingo and more besides. But the DVD I finished watching most recently was the third season of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, a season I haven't seen since it first aired back in what was it? 1998-1999?
I have a lot of fond memories of Buffy's third season, it's the season that took the structure created by the initial two seasons and built on the various concepts within. What resulted was the season with my favourite Buffy big bad - The Mayor of Sunnydale; Richard Wilkins the Third. I adore the fatherly persona the immortal Mayor projects; he's concerned about things like family values and foul language - but also the hypocrisy of the man knows no bounds. He's willing to steal, murder and do just about anything to complete his goal of ascension into demonhood, but then he complains about the decline of good old fashioned family values in America, beautiful.
The season also follows a lot of other characters and has a great selection - from the face/heel turn Slayer Faith (face/heel turns being something Buffy:TVS has a lot of), the return of Angel (in a rather "I was dead, well I got better" moment) and his subsequent departure to spin-off Angeles, all the way to the quite brilliant Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (though in Buffy he's nowhere near as great as he becomes in Angel). It's a season that's just packed with coming of age events and quite literally stuffed to the gills with amazing characters - fortunately at no point does the show feel overcrowded, which is quite an achievement in writing.
The stand out episodes of the season are, for myself: Band Candy (especially the revelation that Giles and Joyce slept together during the episode), The Wish (Mostly because of Anya - but it is a great 'what if'), The Zeppo (it's such a fun concept, having a sidekick character take centre while everyone else deals with some almost implausable situation that is just shown through snapshots - it also gives Xander his first serious character development in a while), Bad Girls (of course - face/heel turn ahoy!), Doppleganger (Vamp Willow is fun, Anya is funner and the foreshadowing of Willow's eventual sexual tastes is brilliant in hindsight), Earshot (for the payoff of the Giles/Joyce Band Candy incident) and of course the two part Graduation Day is a great closer - "Well Gosh!".
The third season of Buffy does not contain any single episode that stands out as 'one of my favourite episodes' (I might write about that on a future date), but it is a consistent and entertaining piece that brings many of my favourite characters into the story and it's a great piece about the trials that occur during the end of "teenager-hood".