I LOVE this episode. I’m kind of gutted it didn’t quite get an ‘epic episode’ rating. If you ever needed proof that we’re trying to score objectively and fairly this is it. The episode generally scores very highly, except for ‘funnies’- there’s just not a lot of room for humour in such a sad episode.

After the pretty depressing end to Season 2, the opening of Season 3 isn’t much better. Buffy isn’t even in Sunnydale. She’s living in a squalid studio flat, working in a diner and trying to pretend she can just step out of her role in the world. Meanwhile Giles and the Scoobies are trying to keep the vampire population down, pretending that Buffy will come back and everything will be fine.

This falls into the category of episodes where Buffy is alone, and at her weakest, which for me are always her shining moments. She’s trying so hard to ‘check out’ of her life, and responsibilities but she just can’t help herself. She’s always the Slayer. When Buffy meets Lily she doesn’t recognise her as the sycophantic vampire groupie from Season 2, but Chanterelle/Lily recognises her and immediately begs her for help. Buffy is resistant, and kinda harsh on Lily because she knows that she’s saying to Lily what she thinks she should be saying to herself- “These things happen. You can’t just close your eyes and hope they’re going to go away.” Of course, that’s exactly what Buffy has been doing and in this moment she realises that she can’t run away from her own life.

And here comes my favourite part. Badass Buffy is back. She tears through evil Ken’s operations like a whirlwind. Once she puts her mind to it, it really doesn’t take her long to figure everything out. I think Buffy is sometimes overshadowed by Giles and Willow in her group, they have book smarts, and Buffy always undersells herself. She trusts her instincts and follows her intuition, but she’s really not stupid. It just takes an episode when she’s all alone to really let her shine. I love the fact that Buffy lets herself wallow in self-pity, she indulges her sadness, and she believes she’s a down and out, but the second that someone else tries to make her feel that way you see the fire in her eyes. When they’re trying to beat her independence out of her, she comes back in true Buffy style:

“I’m Buffy. The vampire slayer. And you are . . . ?”

It’s one of the most quoted, and most referenced lines in the entire show. It’s not just the line, it’s the way she says it. Like her name is the most important thing in the world. Like life can do what it likes to her, but it cannot take away who she is. At the end of the episode she swallows her pride, overcomes her fear and heads back home.

Welcome back to Sunnydale.