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The third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer originally aired on The WB television network from September 29, 1998 to September 21, 1999. It was the last season before the spin-off Angel.

Synopsis

Buffy returns from the big city to find her friends have been battling the forces of evil without her. As she struggles to regain her mother's and her friends' trust, a new slayer named Faith arrives in town, quickly winning over all of Buffy's friends. But Faith's arrival is just the beginning of new forces Buffy must face, for a few nights later she encounters Angel, who has somehow returned, feral and violent from the hellish demon dimension where Buffy had sent him. But the real demon Buffy must ultimately face is already on this side of the portal, preparing a special graduation day surprise for Sunnydale High.

Summary

Buffy returns to Sunnydale after trying to begin a new life in Los Angeles for a few months, leaving her friends to fend for themselves in the still dangerous town. Just when she begins to accept Angel's departure, he returns from a hell after being tortured for probably centuries. The unseen mayor of Sunnydale proves to be a bad guy; indeed, mayor Richard Wilkins emerges as the major villain in the third season.

The story is complicated by the arrival of another Slayer, Faith, who had been called after Kendra was killed. Faith is an unstable, leather-clad bad-girl who had an unhappy childhood. She takes pleasure in violence and enjoys one-night stands afterwards. After accidentally killing a human being, she turns rogue and joins the evil mayor, who had built the town of Sunnydale "for demons to feed on" over a century ago. He plans to ascend into pure demon form on graduation day, becoming much larger and more destructive than the demons Buffy is used to facing.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce appeared as a Watcher to replace Giles, who had failed the traditional Tento di Cruciamentum test. Jonathan, who would become a major player later in the series, also reappeared while vengeance demon Anyanka, who would later become a series regular, loses her power and becomes a mortal in Sunnydale.

The season ends with Buffy having to stab Faith, putting her in a permanent coma. The Mayor ascends, but the gang blows up the school with him in it. Knowing that he has no future with Buffy, Angel leaves Sunnydale for Los Angeles and his own spin-off. Though no mention was made of it at the time, regular character Cordelia made the same move.

The main antagonists of this season were Richard Wilkins and Faith Lehane.

Cast

Main cast

In order of character appearances:

Regular cast

In order of character appearances:

Episodes

No. Image Title Air date
01 Anne Buffy 01 "Anne" September 29, 1998
Writer: Joss Whedon Director: Joss Whedon
Trying to escape who she is, Buffy finds herself in a city far from home where she is forced to once again face her destiny to battle a demonic force threatening inner-city kids living on the streets. Back in Sunnydale at the onset of senior year, Willow, Xander, Cordelia and Oz try to keep the vampire population in check without getting themselves killed, while Giles searches for leads on Buffy's whereabouts.
02 302 DeadMansParty "Dead Man's Party" October 6, 1998
Writer: Marti Noxon Director: James Whitmore Jr.
After months of being away, Buffy finds life back in Sunnydale less than welcoming with Xander and Willow involved in their own romantic twosomes and Principal Snyder sticking to his guns about expelling her from school. Despite the awkward reunion, the gang must try to come together to face a new undead threat.
03 B3x03 Dave Faith 01 "Faith, Hope & Trick" October 13, 1998
Writer: David Greenwalt Director: James A. Contner
Just as Buffy tries to return to her normal life of going to school, hanging out with friends and saving the world, she is faced with the arrival of an ancient, cloven-hoofed villain and his blood-sucking sidekick, Mr. Trick. Another new Sunnydale arrival, Faith, helps Buffy in her battle against the unspeakable demons and ingratiates herself into every aspect of Buffy's life.
04 S3stills036 "Beauty and the Beasts" October 20, 1998
Writer: Marti Noxon Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
When a Sunnydale High student is found savagely mauled in the woods, Willow fears that Oz in werewolf mode might somehow be responsible for the violent murder. Meanwhile, Buffy secretly discovers that Angel has returned after 100 years of hellish torture, and she suspects that he is the murderous culprit.
05 305 Homecoming "Homecoming" November 3, 1998
Writer: David Greenwalt Director: David Greenwalt
With Cordelia flaunting her sure win in the race for Homecoming Queen, she awakens the Prom Queen from within Buffy, who tries to enlist the entire gang to help her show Cordy how it's done, but some of their allegiances may be elsewhere. Meanwhile, the blood-sucking Mr. Trick assembles a host of killers in Sunnydale for a thrilling hunt to the death to bring down the two slayers.
06 Band Candy Giles Joyce 01 "Band Candy" November 10, 1998
Writer: Jane Espenson Director: Michael Lange
Buffy is forced to grow up even faster when Mr. Trick executes a devious plot to render the town defenseless by causing Sunnydale's adult population to inexplicably behave as irresponsible adolescents. Meanwhile, Buffy struggles to keep Angel's return and recovery a secret while her mom and Giles conspire to schedule her 24 hours a day.
07 S3stills028 "Revelations" November 17, 1998
Writer: Douglas Petrie Director: James A. Contner
Tempers run hot when the gang learns of Angel's return and Buffy's harboring this vicious killer, but they all must band together to fight a demon who has arrived in Sunnydale in search of a highly powerful weapon. Meanwhile, Faith meets her new watcher, a brisk Englishwoman who is disdainful of Giles' haphazard operations.
08 308 LoversWalk "Lovers Walk" November 24, 1998
Writer: Dan Vebber Director: David Semel
Just as Buffy enjoys a minute to revel in her S.A.T. scores and ponder her bright future, the underworld version of Sid Vicious, Spike, returns to Sunnydale a fallen man, a pathetic shell of his former self who has been left in the dust by his love Drusilla and is back to punish every one who is to blame, especially Angel. Meanwhile, Willow prepares a de-lusting spell to keep her and Xander's hormones in check during a double bowling date with Cordelia and Oz.
09 The Wish Cordelia Xander "The Wish" December 8, 1998
Writer: Marti Noxon Director: David Greenwalt
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned-Cordelia, wanting to be rid of all things Xander and his spooky entourage, decides that all of her troubles started when Buffy moved to Sunnydale and wishes that historic event never actually happened. Not knowing that a an evil genie would grant her fateful wish, Cordelia is transported into an altered reality in which the Hellmouth is open and The Master is alive and ruling, with Willow and Xander as his undead minions.
10 Amends Buffy Angel 02 "Amends" December 15, 1998
Writer: Joss Whedon Director: Joss Whedon
As Buffy and her friends make plans for a quiet Christmas vacation, Angel is haunted by visions of his violent, demonic past, including the ghost of Jenny Calendar. Meanwhile, Willow goes to great, seductive lengths to try to convince Oz that he is the one for her; and Xander painfully adjusts to his life without Cordelia.
11 Gingerbread main hand "Gingerbread" January 12, 1999
Writers: Thania St. John, Jane Espenson Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Picking the worst possible night for a surprise "mother-daughter bonding" visit with Buffy, Joyce is haunted by the discovery of two murdered children and feels compelled to take drastic action. When Giles suggests that the killings appear to be an occult sacrifice, Joyce rallies the entire adult population of Sunnydale behind a Salem-like witch hunt, leading the murderous mob directly to Willow and Buffy.
12 3x12 Helpless "Helpless" January 19, 1999
Writer: David Fury Director: James A. Contner
For her upcoming 18th birthday, Buffy eschews her friends' offer of a big party, hoping to celebrate with quiet reflection and a traditional trip to the ice show with her father. But unbeknownst to Buffy, preparations are being made for a life-threatening rite of passage that drains the slayer of her powers and then entraps her with a powerful vampire foe that she must defeat in a defenseless state in order to pass the test.
13 S3stills023 Xander "The Zeppo" January 26, 1999
Writer: Dan Vebber Director: James Whitmore Jr.
Xander's lack of slaying superpowers has him feeling painfully expendable, but his quest to prove he's cool leads him to an unforgettable night that finds him consorting with fast women, raising the dead and rolling with a dangerous crowd that could put Sunnydale in a world of hurt. Meanwhile, Buffy, Giles and the rest of the crew engage in a furious battle with an all-female apocalypse cult that intends to reopen the Hellmouth and bring about the end of the world.
14 Bad girls dancing s3 "Bad Girls" February 9, 1999
Writer: Douglas Petrie Director: Michael Lange
A taste of the wild life leaves Buffy wanting more, and while Sunnydale is being inhabited by a long-dead demon and his vampire minions, Buffy follows Faith into her irresponsible world of reckless slaying abandon. Meanwhile, Giles fights to maintain his sanity in the face of the pompous and stuffy new watcher, while Willow, Xander and Oz ponder their options for life after high school.
15 315 Consequences4 "Consequences" February 16, 2000
Writer: Marti Noxon Director: Michael Gershman
Buffy is haunted by the consequences of her and Faith's reckless behavior as she battles with Faith's apparent lack of remorse to keep her from continuing on her destructive path. Meanwhile, the new watcher Wesley overrides Giles' objections and instructs Buffy and Faith to get to the bottom of the recent murder, while the Mayor and Trick are thrilled by the possibility of imprisoning a slayer for the murder.
16 Doppelgangland Angel Willow Buffy 01 "Doppelgängland" February 23, 1999
Writer: Joss Whedon Director: Joss Whedon
Buffy and the real Willow must save the day when from the bleak alternate universe in which vampires rule Sunnydale, Willow's blood-sucking doppelganger is brought forth into this world and wreaks havoc and confusion on Sunnydale. Meanwhile, Buffy goes into full training mode so she can ace out Faith on the Watchers Council tests, while Faith's unholy new alliance is already paying handsome dividends.
17 Enemies Angel Faith 04 "Enemies" March 16, 1999
Writer: Douglas Petrie Director: David Grossman
Faith and the Mayor's secret alliance becomes an all-powerful triumvirate of evil against Buffy when they conspire to rob Angel of his soul. Meanwhile, Giles has unofficially resumed his role as Watcher, as Wesley is distracted from his sacred duties by Cordelia's amorous attention
18 Telepathy "Earshot" September 21, 1999
Writer: Jane Espenson Director: Regis Kemble
A near-fatal run-in with a pair of oozy, mouthless demons unexpectedly leaves Buffy with the awesome ability to hear other people's thoughts, but this newfound power ultimately threatens to overwhelm and destroy her as the cacophony of thoughts isolates her from the rest of the world and drives her to the brink of insanity. When Buffy's clairvoyance unearths a potential mass murder plan at the school, Giles, Willow and the rest of the gang spring into action to locate the would-be killer and thwart a schoolyard massacre, while Angel endeavors to keep Buffy from spiraling into telepathy-induced madness.
19 Choices Wilkins Willow Faith "Choices" May 2, 2000
Writers: David Fury Director: James A. Contner
Since Faith's turn to the dark side seems to have put the proverbial kibosh on Buffy's chances of ever getting out of Sunnydale to go away to college, Buffy decides to launch an offensive and shut down the Mayor's plans for "Ascension." Meanwhile, plans for the future are the order of the day, as Willow tries to choose among a bevy of college acceptances, Xander prepares to hit the road on a Kerouac-inspired adventure and Buffy and Angel refuse to face the insurmountable obstacles to a successful life together.
20 The Prom Angel Buffy 01 "The Prom" May 11, 1999
Writer: Marti Noxon Director: David Solomon
Spring has definitely sprung in Sunnydale as talk turns to all things Prom, and while Buffy and Angel grapple with the impossibility of a future together, she is determined on keeping a villain intent on crashing the Prom from ruining her friends' perfect high school moment. Meanwhile, a chance encounter between Xander and Cordelia may have reopened their lines of communication, but he is saddled with a demonic Prom date, while Cordy only has eyes for the new watcher Wesley.
21 Faith stabbed "Graduation Day, Part One" May 18, 1999
Writer: Joss Whedon Director: Joss Whedon
As Buffy, Willow, Xander, Oz and Cordelia ready for their long-awaited graduation day, the Mayor makes preparations for his Ascension and transformation into pure demon at the climax of his commencement address to the Class of 1999. With the fate of the world in true peril, Buffy is distracted from her purpose when Angel is weakened with a lethal poison, and it's slayer against slayer when Buffy faces Faith for what may be the last time.
22 Graduation 2 Fight battle "Graduation Day, Part Two" July 13, 1999
Writer: Joss Whedon Director: Joss Whedon
As the hours tick away to the fateful graduation of Sunnydale High School's Class of 1999, the impending doom of the Mayor's ascension and transformation into pure demon hangs heavy with Buffy. With Angel near death, Buffy must risk her own life and defy the orders of the Watchers Council in order lead a campaign to save the world.

Behind the scenes

  • This season debuted a new title card, with the most recognizable logo for the series.
  • Despite Spike's appearance in only one episode, he's still featured on one of the discs in the Region 1 DVD set.
  • This is the only season of Buffy in which Angel appears in every episode. 
  • This season features the most vampire deaths of the series.
  • Joss Whedon has stated that, while season two "exceeded his expectations," season three was "a struggle, because I was so happy with the year before. I was, like, 'Can we do it again? Is the magic gone?' Which is good, because you keep working really hard. Year two got so personal and strange and it got heavier than I expected it could have. We really got to go there emotionally, mostly because we had actors who could do anything, which is something we didn't know when we started. But I would say a couple of things about third season. One, it proved that there was life after Romeo and Juliet. Our goal was to keep it fresh, which we did. And we got to explore Faith and the dark side of being a Slayer and calling that whole thing into question was really exciting and the point. And knowing that we had a countdown on high school stories when we'd only been in high school for two and a half years. There was discussion of whether we should be Saved by the Bell and they're in high school forever, and the decision to have them graduate meant for the first time that we were going to get into some serious changes just in terms of the look and the feel. We also knew that Angel was going to be leaving. Knowing we had limited time to play up both high school and the Angel/Buffy romance sort of galvanized us and made us pull out all of our stops with what we could do."[1]

References

  1. Ed Gross, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Turns 20: Joss Whedon Looks Back". Empire, March 9, 2017.
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