Buffy and her friends had to stop Mayor Wilkins from ascending and eating Sunnydale High's graduating class.
With Buffy out of town, Xander, Willow, and Oz attempted to keep the Sunnydale vampire population in check while Giles jumped at any possible Buffy sighting. Buffy was really in Los Angeles working as a waitress until a former acquaintance asked her to help find someone. In the process, Buffy spent a little time in a demon dimension where she was reminded of what it meant to be a slayer.
Buffy returned to Sunnydale to very ambivalent friends and family. They were all glad to see her, but most were also very upset that she abandoned them over the summer. A zombie attacked helped them learn to just be happy that Buffy was back.
Soon afterward, two new people entered Buffy's life. One, Scott Hope, was a potential love interest, but he did not last too long. The other, Faith, was another vampire slayer who was called after Kendra was killed near the end of the second season. Initially, Buffy did not like having another slayer around, but she eventually grew to accept Faith as a partner.
An old person also returned to Buffy's life. For unknown reasons, Angel appeared again in Sunnydale, minus clothes. For a little while, he was feral, but he eventually recognized Buffy and started to regain his sanity. Buffy hid him from the other characters until Xander stumbled upon him. The other characters were very upset that Buffy hid him. Eventually, the First Evil haunted Angel and tried to get him to turn against Buffy. As a response, he tried to expose himself to sunlight, but it suddenly started to snow. For some reason, this blocked out the sun and saved Angel.
While trying on formal clothes, Xander and Willow kissed. They continued to kiss in private despite their relationships with Cordelia and Oz. Eventually, Willow tried to cast a delusting spell, but Spike returned to town and kidnapped them and locked them in Spike's old lair. They thought that they were going to die and kissed again, just as Oz and Cordelia arrived to rescue them. Oz eventually took Willow back, but Cordelia did not forgive Xander.
On her eighteenth birthday, members of the Watchers Council arrived in Sunnydale to test Buffy. This test involved drugging her to take away her powers and sending her to fight against a vicious vampire. This plan went horribly awry when the vampire killed two of the watchers and kidnapped Joyce, but Buffy still defeated it and passed the test. Giles, however, failed his test and was fired.
This meant that a new watcher was needed. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce arrived in town soon afterward. He was had book knowledge but no real field experience, which became obvious when a demon kidnapped him and Giles. Fortunately, Buffy and Angel rescued him.
Faith had become a bad influence on Buffy. Buffy was tempted by Faith's impulsivity and belief that slayers were superior to normal humans thus not responsible to their laws. However, there was a schism when Faith accidentally killed the deputy mayor. Buffy was guilt-ridden, but Faith did not seem to care and even blamed Buffy for the killing. This split eventually caused Faith to decide to work for Mayor Wilkins.
Mayor Wilkins, meanwhile, was planning an ascension. For a long time, the characters did not know what this meant, but they could not be blamed as the writers did not know either. Eventually, Giles concocted a plan to have Angel pretend to lose his soul again and work for the Mayor. This caused him to find out that Faith was working for the Mayor and learn a few details about the ascension.
Eventually, the characters learned more details. Buffy learned about a Box of Gavrok that was supposed to be essential for the ascension. She and Angel managed to capture it, but, in the process, Faith captured Willow. They eventually traded the Box for Willow, but Willow was able to smuggle out some information on the ascension, enough to show that it involved Mayor Wilkins becoming an immortal demon.
More information came from Anya, a former immortal demon who used to punish unfaithful men but is now trapped in the persona of a high school student who is attracted to Xander. She had seen an actual ascension and knew that it involved turning into a real demon rather than the human-demon hybrids that Buffy et al. were used to. Furthermore, it involved much carnage.
At the prom, Sunnydale High expressed its gratitude toward Buffy for all she has done for them over the last three years. This allowed her to use them to form an army that defeated Mayor Wilkins and his vampire minions with much less loss of life than what would otherwise be possible. In the course of the battle, Sunnydale High School was destroyed.
With the exception of the Spike, Drusilla, Angel triangle, Mayor Wilkins may be the most compelling major villain of the show. Harry Groener did a great job in creating a very complex character in surprisingly little screen time.
To me, the highlights of the season were the two episodes with vampire Willow. Everyone involved with "The Wish" did a great job in creating a believable alternate reality while giving interesting things for the actors to do. "Doppelgangland" is one of the greatest episodes of the entire show.
As can be expected, there were a number of dull stand alone episodes. "Dead Man's Party," "Beauty and the Beasts," "Revelations," "The Zeppo," and the dreadful "Gingerbread" stand out as low points of the third season.
Cordelia went through a lot of growth during the second season, most of which was erased in the third season. After she broke up with Xander, the writers had difficulty thinking about what to do with her, so they pushed her back to her original persona, only less likable. Her interest in Wesley gave her something to do at the end of the season, even if it were not that plausible.
The writers also failed to make Wesley a fully-realized character. Too often, he just served as a buffoon.
The action scenes continued to maintain the quality shown in season 2. Standout action scenes include:
Most of the comedy was concentrated in a few episodes, particularly "Lovers Walk," "Doppelgangland," and "Earshot." Comedy highlights include:
Faith's betrayal did not affect the characters quite as personally as Angel's did in the second season. However, the characters did go through a fair amount of trauma. Dramatic highlights include:
This season seemed to be more about romances falling apart rather than forming. At the end of the season, Willow and Oz were the only couple, although Anya appears to be interested in Xander. Romantic highlights include:
Buffy ran away from Sunnydale and from being the slayer between the second and third seasons. However, a trip to a hell dimension led to her accepting her identity and her calling. Her homecoming was rough because her mother and friends were hurt by her abandonment. Soon afterward, she once again had to deal with another slayer in town. Like with Kendra, Buffy was upset not to be unique, but Buffy soon accepted Faith. When Angel mysteriously returned to Sunnydale, Buffy tried to hid him from her friends, which they did not appreciate. Her relationship with Angel was complicated as she had to deal between her continuing attraction to him and the fact that she cannot be with him fully. Buffy went through a crisis when Faith accidentally killed a person while fighting vampires. Faith even tried to blame Buffy, but nobody believed Faith. Her feud with Faith came to a climax after Faith poisoned Angel. With slayer blood as the only known cure, Buffy sought to kill Faith.
Willow is now usually described with a two-word phrase. It is mildly surprising how late in the series that either of the words apply to her. The first has yet to be relevant. The other is "witch." It was during this season when Willow developed from someone who dabbled in magic to a skilled practitioner who was occasionally necessary, such as when the characters wanted to steal a box with magical protection. In "Homecoming," she had a "clothes fluke" that hurt her relationship with Oz when he caught her in "Lover's Walk." However, he was able to forgive her in "Amends," so she did not experience long-term harm. Later in the season, she began to resent the fact that Buffy appeared to ignore her in favor of Faith. This changed, however, after Faith accidentally killed Allan Finch. Afterward, Buffy frequently went to Willow whenever Buffy had any worries.
Xander has been the character who was most likely to confront Buffy when she disappointed him. This was manifested most in "Dead Man's Party" over Buffy abandoning the other characters over the summer and "Revelations" over Buffy hiding Angel. During the "clothes fluke," he appeared to be more disturbed than Willow. However, he was able to rationalize his behavior better than Willow did and even tried to convince himself that it was Cordelia and Oz's fault for catching him with Willow. Later, he took the opportunity to make it up to Cordelia by keeping Cordelia's secret and by purchasing the prom dress that she could not afford.
Giles spent much of the time between the second and third seasons desperately searching for Buffy. When she returned on her own, he was the only major character to be simply grateful for her return without any resentment. In "Band Candy," he and Joyce were on the hood of a police car, which caused a bit of tension between them afterward. In "Helpless," he reluctantly participated in the Watchers Council ritual before telling Buffy about it against Council regulations. This resulted in a temporary estrangement from Buffy and his permanent (so far) firing from the Council.
Cordelia, despite herself, was falling in love with Xander in the beginning of the season. This ended when she and Oz found Willow kissing Xander in "Lover's Walk." Her character experienced negative development by reverting to her first season persona as the source of insults, but without the superficial but humorous comments. In "The Prom," she started to forgive Xander in her heart. She was instantly attracted to Wesley when he arrived in Sunnydale, at least until they actually kissed. At some point during the year, her father's tax evasion finally caught up to him, and the family lost everything. Cordelia had to work at a dress shop in order to earn enough money to buy a prom dress on layaway.
Angel returned to Sunnydale at the end of "Faith, Hope & Trick." For a little while, he was feral, but he regained his sanity. In "Amends," the First Evil took credit for returning him to Sunnydale and convinced him that he would eventually hurt Buffy, so he tried to expose himself to sunlight. An unknown entity, however, blocked out the sun. For much of the season, he tried to deal with his feelings for Buffy and his fear that acting on those feelings would cause him to lose his soul again. Eventually, after lectures from Mayor Wilkins and Joyce, he decided to leave town.
Faith was called as a slayer after Kendra was killed in "Becoming, Pt. 1." Faith appeared to have a rough childhood and might not have had a watcher to guide her until after being called. Soon after being called, a vampire named Kakistos killed her watcher, and she traveled to Sunnydale. Most characters welcomed her and even Buffy eventually accepted her. However, she felt alienated from the other characters when she was not invited to Buffy's intervention and when Mrs. Post manipulated her.
Faith somewhat reconciled with Buffy when Buffy invited her to Christmas Eve dinner. She resumed patrolling with Buffy until she accidentally staked a human. She initially tried to cover up the killing and pretend that she did not care about it. However, she eventually accused Buffy of the killing. Unfortunately for her, nobody believed her, so she went to work for Mayor Wilkins. Mayor Wilkins served as a father figure for her and made her feel accepted and valued more than at any time since arriving in Sunnydale. She started intentionally murdering people at the Mayor's command.
Mayor Wilkins greatly resembled a psychopathic version of a father in a 1950s sitcom. He wanted to maintain control over the more unpredictable elements in order to ensure that these elements not interfere with his long-term goal of ascending. Top among the unpredictable elements were the two slayers in town. He was cheered by the possibility that one might end up in prison for Allan Finch's murder, but sent minions to kill the slayers when it looked like it would take too long. This worked much better than he could have hoped as it led Faith to go work for him. He developed a fatherly relationship with Faith and was genuinely upset when she ended the season in a coma.
Joyce was upset that Buffy ran away from home at the end of the second season and was very clingy once Buffy returned. In "Band Candy," she and Giles were on the hood of a police car, which caused some tension between them later on. The less said about her in "Gingerbread," the better, so I will not go any further. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that Buffy would be better off without Angel and told him so. This convinced him to break up with her.
Anya started out as a patron saint for scorned women who would use these women's wishes to curse unfaithful men. She was in town to get Cordelia to make a wish to curse Xander. This did not work out as planned and ended with Anya losing her power center and thus her immortality. She made an attempt to regain her power center in "Doppelgangland," but failed. Afterward, she developed an attraction to Xander, but she has yet to care about his friends or about slaying.
Oz was hurt when he found Willow kissing Xander in "Lover's Walk," but he forgave her in "Amends."
The following characters won Most Valuable Player awards in the third season:
The following characters received consideration for Most Valuable Player:
Looking at the numbers above, it is hard to believe that Buffy and Xander started the third season tied for the most MVPs. This season, Buffy decided that she had enough and scored eight MVPs. Xander did not even get one until the season finale, when he barely beat Buffy. Faith is off to a great start. In just one season, she is already in a tie for third place with Giles. Unfortunately, her coma will make it difficult to keep up unless she recovers quickly. Willow and Angel are tied for for fifth place with four MVPs each.
The following characters figured something out this season:
The following characters received consideration for this award:
Giles and Buffy continue to dominate this award. Giles is now in the lead with 16 awards, but Buffy is within reach with 15. Xander is a distant third with six.
The following characters did the most to hinder their cause this season:
The following characters received consideration for Goat of the Week:
In a bit of an upset, Nobody has the most Goats for the season. The characters have clearly messed up less often than normal. This performance by Nobody put Nobody in a tie with Giles and Angel for the most Goats with four each. For a while, the third season looked like it would be another deadly one for Goats. Eight of the first 14 Goats this season died in the episode in which they won a Goat. However, the final eight Goats all survived.
"Unbelieveable! 'Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead.' Americans!" Giles ("Dead Man's Party")
"Sunnydale, town's got quaint. And the people, he called me 'sir.' Don't you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know; strictly the Caucasian persuasion here in the 'Dale, but, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute that death rate. I ran a statistical analysis, and hello, darkness, makes DC look like Mayberry and ain't nobody saying 'boo' about it. We could fit right in here, have us some fun." Mr. Trick ("Faith, Hope & Trick")
"Scott, there you are, honey. Hey, good news. The doctor says that the itching and the swelling and the burning should clear up, but we gotta keep using the ointment." Faith ("Homecoming")
"I won't remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you have jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harboring a known murderer. But sadly, I must remind you that Angel tortured me for hours, for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn't. You have no respect for me or the job I perform." Giles ("Revelations")
"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight and you'll shag and you'll hate each other until it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children; it's blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but, at least, I'm man enough to admit it." Spike ("Lover's Walk")
"You think you can fight me? I'm not a demon, little girl. I am something that you can't even conceive: the First Evil, beyond sin, beyond death. I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me, but I am everywhere: every being, every thought, every drop of hate." The First Evil (as Jenny)
"All right, I get it. You're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?" Buffy ("Amends")
"It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man." Angel ("Amends")
"Mr. Mayor, you're dead wrong. This is not a good town. How many of us have lost someone who just disappeared or got skinned or suffered neck rupture? And how many of use have been too afraid to speak out? I was supposed to lead us in a moment of silence, but silence is this town's disease. For too long, we've been plagued by unnatural evils. This isn't our town anymore. It belongs to the monsters and the witches and the slayers. I say it's time for the grownups to take Sunnydale back. I say we start by finding the people who did this and making them pay." Joyce ("Gingerbread")
"Things are way out of control, Giles: first, the thing at school, and then my mom confiscates all of my black clothes and scented candles. I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious, again. How many times have you been knocked out anyway? I swear, one of these times, you're going to wake up in a coma." Cordelia
"Wake up in a ...? Never mind, we need to save Buffy from Hansel and Gretel." Giles
"Now, let's be clear. The brain damage happened before I hit you." Cordelia ("Gingerbread")
"I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see, and I worried that it would be bruised or torn, and more than anything in my life, I wanted to keep it safe, to warm it with my own." Angel
"That's beautiful, or, taken literally, incredibly gross." Buffy
"I was just thinking that too." Angel ("Helpless")
"When are ya gonna get this, B? Life for a slayer is very simple: want, take, have." Faith ("Bad Girls")
"Why do they always gotta be using swords. It's called an Uzi, chump. Could have saved your ass right about now." Mr. Trick ("Bad Girls")
"Faith, you don't get it. You killed a man." Buffy
"No, you don't get it. I don't care." Faith ("Bad Girls")
"I know what it's like to take a life, to feel the future, a world of possibilities snuffed out by your own hand. I know the power in it, the exhilaration. It was like a drug for me." Angel ("Consequences")
"For a thousand years, I wielded the powers of the wish. I brought ruin to the heads of unfaithful men. I brought forth destruction and chaos for the pleasure of the lower beings. I was feared and worshipped across the mortal globe, and now I'm stuck at Sunnydale High, mortal, child, and I'm flunking math." Anya ("Doppelgangland")
"It was exactly you, Will, every detail, except for your not being a dominatrix, as far as we know." Buffy
"Oh, right, me and Oz play mistress of pain every night." Human Willow
"Did anyone else just go to a scary visual place?" Xander
"Oh, yeah." Buffy ("Doppelgangland")
"You're right. Faith would never do that." Buffy
"Faith would totally do that. Faith was built to do that. She's the do that girl." Willow
"Comfort, remember? Comfort here." Buffy
"I mean, please, does Angel come up to Faith's standards for a guy? Let's see, is he breathing?" Willow
"Actually, no." Buffy ("Enemies")
"My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it, sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own. The beautiful ones, the popular ones, the guys that pick on you, everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling, the loneliness, the confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening." Buffy ("Earshot")
"Sure, we can work out after school, you know, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother." Buffy ("Earshot")
"You're immortal; she's not. It's not easy. I married my Edna Mae in ought three, and I was with her right until the end. Not a pretty picture, wrinkled and senile and cursing me for my youth. Wasn't our happiest time. And let's forget the fact that any moment of true happiness will turn you evil. I mean, come on, what kind of a life can you offer her? I don't see a lot of Sunday picnics in the offing. I see skulking in the shadows, hiding from the sun. She's a blossoming young girl, and you want to keep her from the life she should have till it's passed her by, and by God, I think that's a little selfish. Is that what you came back from Hell for? Is that your greater purpose?" Mayor Wilkins ("Choices")
"You can laugh, but I have witnessed a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males of the species, and I have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them." Anya
"Then why are you talking to me?" Xander
"I don't have a date for the prom." Anya
"Well, gosh, I wonder why not. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with your sales pitch." Xander
"Men are evil. Will you go with me?" Anya
"One of us is very confused, and I honestly don't know which." Xander ("The Prom")
"You were unfaithful to Cordelia, so I took on the guise of a twelfth grader to tempt her with the wish. When I lost my powers, I got stuck in this persona, and now I have all these 'feelings.' I don't understand it; I don't like it. All I know is I really wanna go to this dance, and I want someone to go with me." Anya
"Be still, my heart. Oh, wait, it is. How come I got the short straw?" Xander
"You're not quite as obnoxious as most of the alpha males around here. Plus I know you don't have a date." Anya ("The Prom")
"When it comes to you, Angel, she's just like any other young woman in love. You're all she can see of tomorrow, but I think we both know that there are some hard choices ahead. If she can't make them, you're gonna have to. I know you care about her. I just hope you care enough." Joyce ("The Prom")
"We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight? Did she... This is actually a new category, first time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots, and, well, the prom committee asked me to read this: 'We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here, ..." Jonathan
"Zombies! Hyena people! Snyder!" Sunnydale High Students
"'... but whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history, and we know at least part of that is because of you, so the senior class offers its thanks and gives you this.' It's from all of us, and it has written here, 'Buffy SummersóClass Protector.'" Jonathan ("The Prom")
"For God's sake, man, she's 18, and you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it will you, and stop fluttering about." Giles ("The Prom")
"I'll tell you, you know, it's just nice to see that some young people are still interested in reading in this modern era. So, what are kids reading nowadays? 'The beast will walk upon the earth and darkness will follow. The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction.' Oh, that's kind of sweet. Different races coming together." Mayor Wilkins ("Graduation Day, Part 1")
"Oh yeah, miles to go. Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0." Faith ("Graduation Day, Part 2")
Evil entities that are still at large include:
Indictments against characters include:
This was a good season for people who look like over half of Californians. Part of this was due to Mr. Trick appearing in a few episodes. Part was also the need for a stunt double for Mr. Trick, allowing for non-white anonymous vampires as well. Characters who did not fall into the minority of Californians who are Non-Hispanic Whites include:
Giles was unconscious in the following episodes: