After the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer
became a ratings success the show was renewed with a bigger budget and twice as many episodes. Seeds are sown through the early episodes for many of the stunning plot developments later in the season: there's a slow burn for the relationships building between Buffy and Angel (no surprise), Giles and Jenny (nice surprise), and Xander and Cordelia (huge surprise). Most importantly, we're introduced to important semi-regulars Spike and Drusilla ("School Hard"), Oz ("Inca Mummy Girl") and fellow Slayer Kendra ("What's My Line Part 1"). Their appearances tackle youth issues such as sibling rivalry, sexual maturity and rejection.
But nothing that came before it prepared audiences for the latter half of season 2. In the extraordinary double act of "Surprise" and "Innocence" every aspect of the show grows up in a big hurry: the result of Buffy sleeping with Angel is a series of tragedies everyone is powerless to predict or prevent, a piece of powerful storytelling conveyed with pared-down dialogue and remarkable performances from the young cast. All of these threads are tied together then torn apart by the two-part finale "Becoming". With a cliffhanger ending to rival The Empire Strikes Back, the second chapter of Buffy The Vampire Slayer closes in tantalising style leaving everything at stake. --Paul Tonks
On the DVD: The computer-animated menu opens this gorgeous box set in style with a tour through a dark and oppressive cemetery, a lavish display of graphics that's all the more impressive when compared to the uneventful DVD for the first season. Most of the extra features are concentrated on the last disc, which includes the obligatory biographies, trailers and TV spots that add little value to hardcore fans but serve as a good introduction to the world of Buffy for non-adepts. The three featurettes are captivating: "Designing Buffy" offers a wealth of information about the set designs, and even includes a walk through of Buffy's home; "A Buffy Bestiary" features every monster from the second season, and "Beauty and the Beats" explores the make-up artistry and special effects. There are also brief cast interviews, in which James Masters ("Spike") reveals his American accent. All in all the extras make a worthy accompaniment to the spectacular season 2 episodes, though one might regret that Joss Whedon did not offer a commentary on the double bill season finale "Becoming". --Celine Martig
The complete 2nd season of Buffy; 6-disc DVD set.