Slim [1937]

The third season of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was marked by the arrival in Sunnydale of renegade slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku), a moody loner who seemed to like her demon-staking calling just a little too much. While Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) was always wary of Faith, the two developed a deep friendship and appreciative rapport--that is, until the evil mayor of Sunnydale (Harry Groener) tapped into Faith's dark side and lured her into his plot to take over the world, first as a double agent spying on Buffy, then as out-and-out nemesis. And as the mayor's ascension approached--which happened to fall on Sunnydale High's graduation day--Buffy and Faith's battles got nastier and nastier, as Buffy attempted to wrestle with her dark side (literally and figuratively), save the world and her friends, and keep her lover Angel (David Boreanaz) out of Faith's evil clutches. Chock-full of exceptional episodes, this third season started out with a bang (the superb season opener "Anne," in which a runaway Buffy finally returns to her Slayer calling) and never let up. Among other highlights, the season introduced former vengeance demon and soon-to-be regular Anya (Emma Caulfield), fleshed out Angel's tortured character (and readied him for his own series), and featured a hilarious doppelganger Willow (Alyson Hannigan), a vampire from a parallel universe, who in Willow's own words was "evil and... skanky... and kinda gay!" (Total foreshadowing there, folks.) The season's pièce de résistance, though, was the two-parter "Graduation Day," wherein Faith tries to kill Angel, and the students of Sunnydale High prepare to do battle with a mutated mayor and his army of demons. Aside from the series' exceptional writing and acting, this compelling year of Buffy was anchored by the consistently excellent Gellar, as well as Dushku's complicated Faith, a girl you truly love to hate. By the time you finish these episodes, Faith will have cast a spell on you that you'll find very hard to shake. --Mark Englehart

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