Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S2, E1 “When She Was Bad”

“Whatever is causing the Joan Collins ‘tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it. ‘Cause pretty soon you’re not even gonna have the loser friends you’ve got now.”

Buffy is always such a bitch after she comes back from the dead.

Summer has come and gone since the events of “˜Prophecy Girl’. The Buffster jetted off to LA where she was spoiled rotten by her father and dropped out of contact with the Scooby Gang. Willow and Xander enjoyed a demon-free vacation ““ and by enjoyed I mean “˜bored out of their minds’.  Everyone is looking forward to getting the band back together at the start of their junior year.

Even Snyder makes an appearance to mark the start of the new school year at Sunnydale.

Snyder:  I mean, it’s incredible. One day the campus is completely bare. Empty. The next, there are children everywhere. Like locusts. Crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating. Destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist.

Giles:  I do enjoy these pep talks. Have you ever considered, given your abhorrence of children, school’s principal was not, perhaps, your true vocation?

As happy as they are to see each other, not all is copacetic in Sunnydale. Giles reminds everyone that the Hellmouth is closed but not forgotten, which puts a damper in any thoughts of a demon-less existence. Xander and Willow shared a moment of romantic tension that Xander immediately forgot about and Will keeps trying to recreate. Buffy returns with an attitude and a chip on her shoulder the size of the Master.

Xander dances for Buffy. There is no one in Sunnydale who escapes her bitch mode. She’s insulting to Cordelia and cold to her friends. When Angel slips into her room at night to catch up, Buffy basically throws him out. (Though, in today’s post-Twilight world, who can blame her? Dude has some boundary issues.) He refuses to believe her denial of their connection, so Buffy “˜proves’ it by “˜sexy dancing’ with Xander when they go see Cibo Matto at  the Peachpit After Dark Bronze. It is so awkward. It is cringe inducing awkward. Its cringe inducing, bitchy, tone-deaf awkward, and Cordelia is the only person willing to call a spade a spade; Buffy has some issues she needs to go work through.

Let’s review this: Cordelia Chase, who is not one of Buffy’s friends, is the only one to correctly deduce that Buffy is traumatized and acting out, while her actual friends wave their hands in the air and flounder around about what Buffy has such a bad attitude these days.

She’s so competent, so good at what she does, no one ever knows how to react when she falls apart. Everyone stared at her when she cried and railed about not wanting to die at the end of season 1. Now, in season 2, no one recognizes that Buffy might have some lingering issues from, you know, being murdered, and their amount of sensitivity to her trauma is pretty obnoxious. Even when the end of the episode rolls around and everyone sees Buffy work out her problems with a sledgehammer and a lit torch, she’s the only one doing the apologizing. Not a one of her friends says, “˜Oh, hey, sorry for not asking how you were feeling about that whole death thing. My bad.”

Buffy smashes the master's bones.
I'll grind your bones to make my bread.

The whole sledgehammer thing? Well, it turns out that because the Master left some remains behind (his bones), the Anointed One thinks he can resurrect his old buddy with some human sacrifice. Specifically, the sacrifice of the humans who were standing physically closest to him when he died ““ Cordelia, Giles, Willow, and Jenny. Buffy’s insistence on Lone Rangering it this episode leaves the four of them alone and defenseless (well, Xander was there, but that’s as good as being defenseless). Freeing them from the vampires ends of being therapeutic as it gives her a chance to confront her unresolved feelings, which, because she’s a Slayer, means she beats the crap out of a bunch of vamps and then crushes the Master’s bones into dust so he can never come back. And then she has a good cry.


Whedon sure seems to love a good foreshadowing. The season 2 premiere sets up exact scenes that will be recreated by the end of the season. Buffy comes in to her junior year of high school angry and unwilling to confront the feelings that she has post-resurrection. She’s a great Slayer with fantastic instincts, but like a lot of us, her personal insight is clouded. She can confront what she can hit with her fists. The other stuff? She’s not so good at. And Buffy doesn’t really get better at it either; mid-season we’ll see her apologizing to Giles again because of her inability to deal with her feelings about Angel. There will be another trap laid for her friends that she walks right into, because she’s the Slayer, so all the traps are obviously about her. And when she’s reminded that other people in this universe are players too, she’ll run back to a destroyed and ruined library, where her friends have been attacked. She’ll fall for it. Every. Single. Time.

When people gush over season 2 of Buffy, this is the kind of attention to details that hooks an audience. There’s no wasted symbolism here. The premier and the finale meet up at the head and the tail, a nice little Ouroboros of storytelling. Where is Buffy coming from at the beginning of the season? The same place she flees to at the end. As bad as our girl thinks life is right now, those couple of days of Joan Collinsing it around Sunnydale is a cakewalk for her compared to what’s to come.

For now, let’s leave this episode on a lighter note, with some words of insight from Cordelia Chase:

Cordelia:  It stays with you forever. No matter what they tell you, none of that rust and blood and grime comes out. I mean, you can dry clean till judgment day, you are living with those stains.


Jenny:  Yeah that’s the worst part of being hung upside down by a vampire who wants to slit your throat: the stains.

Cordelia:  I hear ya!

WOW: Hey, I came up with a snappy acronym! Worst-Outfit-of-the-Week. There’s surprisingly little to choose from, considering it’s 1997. You’d think there’d be more satin involved. So the worst outfit of the week is once again awarded to Xander, for this matchy-matchy ensemble. God bless you, Xander, because clearly the costuming department did not.


By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

12 replies on “Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S2, E1 “When She Was Bad””

I cried right along with Buffy, the first time I saw this episode. First I was all up there with “What is her pro-blem?” (~Cordelia voice) but luckily I was quicker than the Scooby gang and finished with a mighty O My God.

This show is still doing things to me.

This episode also contains, as my dad pointed out, the very moment that may have “turned” Willow gay. Xander can be delightfully creey (this week’s Will-Xan minute illustrated that). In fact, he adds, that’s the very thing that creates all lesbians. In response to my dubious “What about gay men?”
“Same thing. Xander can be really creepy.”

He can indeed.

Awesome recap.

“God bless you, Xander, because clearly the costuming department did not.”

Hehehe, but then again neither did the writers. Poor Xander. The only time I really thought he was cool was in the last season. And that might only be because of the eye patch. Hm, I guess he had an awesome bit at the end of season 6 too.

Anyway…ooohhh I’m so excited for ep 3! I can’t wait to read your analysis on Spike and Dru!

Its ok! It’s one of our handy new features. The pilot is so ‘wow, they got picked up from that?’. I have it on my list of ‘other Buffy related things to have on deck’ for off weeks. Original Willow is so different, like Bizarro Willow different.

If you want me to MST3K it, WillowWeen, you should be my Tom Servo to my Joel.

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