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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' nostalgia react: Welcome home, Buffy

Full disclosure: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, was, and probably always will be (sorry, all future TV lineups) my favorite show of all time. When Entertainment Weekly‘s Community gave me the chance to return to Sunnydale and recap season 3 of the series, there was much rejoicing. Please relive this wonderful, witty show with me, and forgive any excessive use of exclamation marks (there’s still much rejoicing).

Season 3 | Episode 2 | “Dead Man’s Party” | Aired Oct 16, 1998

Coming home is hard to do. When Buffy returns to Sunnydale after her summer-long stint in Los Angeles as “Anne,” she isn’t met with the open arms she’s expecting. Her mom, Joyce, is on pins and needles, not quite ready to believe she’s really home for good. Her friends have spent their summer vacation fighting evil alone and the group dynamic has evolved into a Buffy-less one, with Willow and Oz doing some serious dating and Cordelia and Xander making out about as much as they fight (a fabulous ratio for them).

Even though Buffy pretty much deserves to have to work for her re-acceptance into the group and life in Sunnydale in general, it’s hard not to feel incredibly bad for her. This is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is such a good (nay, great) show: You are on Buffy’s side, even when she’s wrong. Too many protagonists range from totally blah (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter) to actually annoying (think Bella Swan), but Buffy managed to be both deeply flawed and consistently likable. That’s why, when she’s timidly asking Joyce’s permission to leave the house or getting stood up by Willow, your stomach turns in knots for her.

So when Buffy’s friends throw her a big welcome-home bash to cover up their total lack of desire to attend an intimate welcome-home dinner with her, it’s kind of depressing. Willow is busy very purposely focusing on Oz. Xander is busy making out with Cordelia, who is busy openly not caring about Buffy. Giles is busy too, but in a more acceptable way: He’s at the library, researching what reanimated the dead cat Buffy and her mom buried the day before. Trouble has always had a way of finding Buffy (she lives on a Hellmouth and attracts supernatural baddies of all kinds thanks to her slayerdom), and I guess she was due with interest after a (by her standards) quiet summer away. So of course the tribal art Joyce brings home from the gallery carries with it the spirit of a zombie god. Them’s the breaks.

zombie_cheerleader-1

Of course, Buffy saves the day with her usual wit (upon driving a shovel into the eyes of the creature: “Made you look”), but this is really one of the episodes where you have to feel bad for/be utterly impressed with Joyce. The house is DESTROYED. A high school house party is crashed by zombies. Short of explosions and fire, I can think of no better way to wreck a home. Joyce is a saint for not stopping the house party, and she’s a pre-Pinterest home-improvement wizard for fixing it back up on a small-town art gallery owner’s salary.

This episode reminded me that: Oz had some of the best lines of the show, and Seth Green some of the best delivery.

Best moment of the episode: Giles going Ripper badass on Principal Snyder to persuade him to let Buffy back into school.

What did you think of “Dead Man’s Party”? Discuss in the comments!