Buffyversed is a week by week, episode by episode, re-exploration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look for it every Friday on Goomba Stomp. 

As I’ve mentioned a time or two in the past, season premieres are generally not Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s strong suit. If “When She Was Bad” wasn’t evidence enough for you, then I submit, for your approval, exhibit B: “Anne.”

“Anne” is truly a bizarre episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it weirdly attempts to straddle the line between a typical monster of the week episode, and a mainline piece of canon.

The bait and switch of the hammy dream sequence, with Buffy’s current reality is a solid start to “Anne” but it’s all down hill from there.

After the events of “Becoming”, we find Buffy in Los Angeles, working as a waitress under the assumed name of Anne, and turning her back on her duties as a slayer. Meanwhile, back in Sunnydale, Willow, Oz and Xander are doing their best to fill in for the errant slayer, while Giles anxiously follows any leads he can in hopes of locating her.

Of course the Scoobies’ slayer-wannabe hijinks lead to some of “Anne'”s best and funniest moments, with Willow trying to do a Buffy quip (“Hey big boy?” Xander wonders. “What the hell was that?”), and Oz’s attempt to hurl a stake through the heart of a fleeing vamp being a hilarious failure. “That never really works, does it?” he muses.

Back in LA, as Buffy/Anne fends off sexual harassment from truckers and low-lifes with none of the typical Buffy sass or assertiveness we’ve come to expect, she runs into a girl who is also living under an assumed name, “Lilly”. Lilly is actually the soft-spoken “Chanterelle” (another pseudonym) we met in “Lie to Me”, where she was a wannabe vampire who got a brutal wake-up call before Buffy came to her rescue.

It’s kinda cool to catch-up with one of the folks Buffy has saved a bit further down the road, but Lilly is ultimately wasted by the silly premise of “Anne.”

She recognizes the slayer and asks her for help in locating her missing boyfriend, who has, for some reason, been abducted and taken in by a… *sigh*… demonic slave ring? Yeah, unfortunately, this is where “Anne” begins to go a bit off the rails.

Aside from the obvious problem that it isn’t really clear what the point of the slave ring is for the demon in charge, the introduction of this plot point completely derails the plot of “Anne”, turning into a silly monster-of-the-week episode, and not a very good one at that. With the whole thing wrapped up from the introduction of this plot element, to its resolution, in less than 15 minutes, you have to wonder why Joss Whedon chose to incorporate it at all.

And yes, unfortunately, blame for this one does fall squarely on Whedon’s shoulders, as he is credited as both the writer and director of “Anne.” It’s easy to hazard a guess that maybe Whedon was trying to say something about how quick kids are forced to grow up once they leave home, but the execution, involving homeless teens returning as senior citizens, only to commit suicide, misses the mark by a wide margin.

Hi, I’m abducting homeless teens to work in my weird, demon-prison factory for some reason. See ya later!

Not only that, the uprising and escape scene at the end only sees about a dozen of the kids escaping, leaving us to wonder what exactly happened to the other 200 or so teens we saw working in the… uhh… demon factory or whatever.

In the end, while “Anne” is a largely forgettable premiere, and a really odd way to pay off the events of “Becoming”, it does leave us with two positives before it is through. The first comes in the gnarly shot of a surrounded Buffy holding a stylish ax, and the second in the fact that it motivates her to return to Sunnydale, where she gives Joyce a heartfelt hug as the episode closes out.

It’s good to see Buffy back home where she belongs, even if the path to get her there is a bit mired in self-serious, after school special messages on the issues of teens in the ’90s.

At least “Anne” gives us this bad-ass shot for the season 3 opening credits.

Cristina Says:

“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiancèe makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but Cristina is a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities.

“Wait, I thought you said they become a vampire when they exchange blood. So why are they always waking up in the graveyard?” (I sometimes take for granted the fact that not everyone grew up reading Anne Rice and being utterly obsessed with vampires, and not everyone knows how the typical siring process works.)

*wags finger* “Something is going on with her.” (Cristina sleuths her way to figuring out that the nurse at the blood donor clinic is in on whatever is going on.)

*audible sigh* (In response to Buffy’s sad music beginning to play.)

“It’s something to do with all of the kids on the street, the ones that no one will miss.” (When detective Cristina is on the case, you just try and stop her. I dare you!)

“Oh… it’s kinda stupid.” (Yes, unfortunately the goofy slave labor plot that is introduced mid-episode is a pretty big waste of everyone’s time.)

Silver linings Buffy, say goodbye to that dingy Los Angeles apartment.

Notable Whedonisms:

Whedonisms are a sort of term for (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something we’re using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.

“Well we try not to get killed. That’s part of our whole mission statement: ‘Don’t get killed!'” (Willow explains to Giles that they are indeed trying their best to stay alive as they take over Buffy’s slayer duties.)

“If we can focus, and not have so many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!” (A nameless jock lays out his hopes for the ’99 school year at Sunnydale High. Tough luck there chum.)

“Oh, I’m glad we showed up for depressing night.” (Xander responds to the Bellylove performance at The Bronze with a less than favorable review.)

“Why do I have to be bait? I’m always bait. Maybe Willow can be bait!” (Well, Cordelia does technically get her wish, as a vampire sneaks up on an annoyed Willow, currently listening to Xander and Cordy arguing.)

Yeah, yeah, I know: season 3 is here, but don’t celebrate yet. The festivities don’t begin properly until we’ve had our “Dead Man’s Party”. See ya next week. And BYOB, okay?

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone. He's the managing Games editor for Goomba Stomp, and the creator of the weekly Buffyversed column.