The reason Buffy Season III was simply incredible can be summed up in two characters, Faith and The Mayor. The show hits its stride when these two start to interact. I love the villains in Whedon’s writings, and Faith and the Mayor are two of my favorites. Whedon is really willing to show complex characters in both hero and villain. The season that Angel suffered was the season that Whedon seemed to loose sight of this. The episode of Season 3 with the alternate vampire run reality where vampire Willow and Zander refer to those fighting the vampires as “White Hats” was very humorous because it was so grossly uncharacteristic of the series and the audience was meant to “get” that. Whedon never allows characters to ever merely be White Hats or Black Hats, in the Buffy universe there are no pure heroes and pure villains there are only humans and non-humans doing their best and displaying a wide range of emotions and complicated persona. Sure there will always be the rank and file cannon fodder that Buffy slays on a nightly basis, and the pure innocent students that are slain by the forces of evil, but the major protagonists and antagonists are always complex, always charming, and always very well written. The scene where Faith is missing and the Mayor is looking for her is touching and heart warming. Even knowing that Faith is a cold blooded killer and the Mayor is looking to kill everyone in the town and become a pure demon, we are still allowed to see that he really loves Faith. It was made further apparent when he was with her in the hospital. Again, if one did not know the circumstances of either character it would be easy to assume they were the heroes. Faith and the Mayor were such a good pairing and so effective together. In many ways their relationship is the “evil” version of Giles and Buffy’s father daughter relationship. Whedon allows us to see the Mayor as something more than the evil and horrid monster. We see him as a man, an evil man bent on horrible things, but a man none the less. Season III of Buffy is a masterwork. It is brilliantly funny, heart wrenchingly tragic, triumphant when needed, but above all, Season 3 is “real.” What Whedon does so well is show people. True they are in extraordinary and ridiculous circumstances, but Buffy at its best is never about those circumstances; it is always about the characters within them. I have heard that Season 3 is the last “amazing Buffy.” I think season 2 and 3 will be hard to top. I have seen almost all of season 4 when it was on TV, but I must admit Season 3 has really captured my heart as brilliance. But Spike comes back in Season 4 and comes back to stay so it can’t be too bad!