For the uninitiated, Buffy Summers is the next in a long line of vampire slayers. Just a regular high-school student, she accepts the role reluctantly. Things are much easier with the help of her gang of friends; Xander - the goofy and semi-nerdy guy at school, Willow - the meek and bookish brains of the outfit, Giles - the librarian of the high school is also Buffy's watcher (trainer), and Oz (Seth Green) - Willow's guitar playing boyfriend who also happens to be a werewolf.
After defeating one of the oldest vampires in the first season and facing a impossible personal choice in the second, the third season brought a few new faces into the mix in the form of the town's Mayor, who's seems to be hiding something. Someone else hiding something is Faith, a backup Slayer called in that seems to take too much delight in doing her job.
The show, despite being in its third season, remains friendly to new viewers and never gets bogged to heavily in its own continuity. The show always seems to be at its best when it examines the many problems of life by disguising them in the subtext of the monsters that populate Buffy's world.
Fox only provided DVDTalk with the 1st and 6th disc and reviews of the episodes on those discs follow:
Episode 2 - Dead Man's Party: Buffy has returned home, but still feels disassociated and withdrawn from her life and friends. She's not allowed into school and while she was gone, all of her friends continued on without her and are happily doing so in her return. To complicate things, Buffy's mom has purchased a strange looking mask to hang in her bedroom that seems to have an agenda of its own when it revives a recently deceased cat. The Re-Animator and Night of the Living Dead references continue as the house eventually becomes overrun with the living dead during a party the following night. As Buffy deals with her inner demons, she must also deal with the ones invading her home.
Episode 3 - Faith, Hope & Trick: This is a busy episode. There are hints, introductions and revelations aplenty and you should watch it twice to make sure you didn't miss anything. Buffy is well on the path to resuming her life in Sunnydale as the principal reluctantly readmits her to the high school. Later that night, a limo carrying a vampire name Mr. Trick and his ancient master Kakistos arrive. The pair are searching for a slayer and we soon learn that they are not referring to Buffy, but another slayer named Faith that was called into action. Faith is carefree and seems to readily enjoy her job and slaying, but her past is surrounded in mystery when Giles discovers her Watcher is missing. Buffy and Faith soon start patrolling together and it is agreed that Faith will stay in Sunnydale until a new Watcher is assigned to her. Just as Buffy makes amends with her decision to kill Angel, he seemingly reappears at the end.
Episode 4 - Beauty and the Beasts: The four- episode arc on this disc ends on a powerful note in an episode that deals with abuse and relationships. It's full-moon time and that means it's time to lock Oz up. When a student is mauled to death, all suspicion falls upon Oz and Buffy decides to investigate. She discovers an animalistic Angel the next night and manages to subdue him back at the mansion where he returned. With Buffy not wanting to believe Angel is responsible, and no one wanting to think Oz is responsible, the gang keeps looking for another suspect. One is discovered when Oz realizes that the victim and the newest victim were last seen around Debbie and her boyfriend, who is revealed to be a girlfriend beating, Mr. Hyde style monster. Things come to a sad conclusion when Buffy is saved from the boyfriend by a fully vampiric Angel and agonizes over his return.
Episode 21 - Graduation Day part 1: Another busy episode marks the penultimate chapter in Season 3 and the entire gang is bus with their own tasks. Everyone is aware of the Mayor's plans, but with no idea how to stop them, they continue searching for more information. It turns our Anya has witnessed an event similar to what's about to happen and along with clues from a murdered professor, the gang realizes all may not be lost after all. The episode ends with Angel poisoned, Faith presumed dead, Buffy separated from the council and everything seemingly going just as the Mayor wants.
Episode 22 - Graduation Day part 2: Things come to an explosive conclusion, literally, as the gang enlists the help of the entire graduating class in order to stop the Mayor and what he has become. The high school is practically destroyed and numerous students die in this episode that was to originally be aired shortly after the Columbine incident, but was postponed due to the content. The destruction and death end with the inspiring words on the cover of the Sunnydale High Class of '99 yearbook, "The Future is Ours."
With the success that Buffy found on the WB network, that saying was definitely true and Season 3 was the most ambitious season to date. There were numerous large threats, the effects were better and the story arcs became more elaborate. It was also a season for change with numerous cast members leaving (Angel and Cordy) and others making their first appearance (Anya). Buffy had become a hit for the network and Angel would be getting his own show and the changes would continue into season 4.
Video: The video from this season has improved greatly over the previous editions. The 4:3 full-screen presentation is warm and crisp. The contrast and colors have transferred nicely as well. The black and dark tones, of which there are plenty, are some one the nicest I've seen on a set like this.
Audio: The Dolby Surround track works for the show, but could use a little improvement. The music and audio is bright, but the vocals are audible but a little muted sounding. The effects are used well in the surround channels and a 5.1 mix would be great.
Extras: On the discs provided, there are a few extras on disc 6. There are 5 features and interviews. The three features are interesting and run about 5 minutes. They cover Special Effects, Weapons and Wardrobe. The Special Effects is the longest and most entertaining of the three and details the challenges that the crew must face on the short turnaround time that a TV show requires. The Weapon feature shows how and why the weapons are manufactured and chosen and the Wardrobe feature is similar. There is a short interview with creator Joss Whedon on the Graduation episode and the thematic tone he was trying to achieve. The features are finished off with an interview with monster maker John Vulick. This could have been a great piece, but it is cut entirely too short. Just as things get rolling and he's discussed one creature in detail, it's over.
Overall: Fox has done it again, as they have done in the past. They continue to put out some of the best boxed sets of television shows. They have good transfers, decent extras and a great price. Fans of Buffy will be please with the treatment the show gets and anyone new to the series will find Season 3 one of the more exciting and adventurous of the series. There are several great foes introduced, as well as characters that continue to play a part in the ever-expanding mythos that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.