Season 3, Episode 2 - “Dead Man’s Party”
Original airdate: October 6, 1998
Project 310 re-watch date: Jan. 26, 2009
Well, this was honestly surprising. I’d remembered liking this episode when I first saw it, but upon re-watching, it was just really uncomfortable. I think that was what they were going for with the characters, but the viewers shouldn’t feel uncomfortable too.
In the previous episode, “Anne”, we saw how the Scoobies were struggling without Buffy and were actively searching for her. And then, when she got back, they semi-treated her like crap because she bailed on them, without getting anything close to her side of the story.
I feel like the writers (Marti Noxon in this one) forced this whole tension about Buffy’s return onto everyone, rather than just focusing it on Joyce, to avoid making Joyce seem like the bad guy. But here’s the thing -- when Buffy left Sunnydale, Joyce was the only one she had a blow-up with. The tension would have made sense with her. It just comes out of nowhere with everyone else.
That said, Joyce’s big speech with Buffy is exactly what I would have wanted from her. And Buffy’s reaction is phenomenal. In that scene, we see how this episode has a lot of parallels with the beginning of Season 6. But instead of Buffy returning from the dead, she’s returning from running away. Still, she’s keeping a secret (in this case, having killed Angel after his soul was restored), and if she’d just spill on that secret, things would probably be a lot easier.
The zombie aspect of the episode was definitely funny, and Cordy once again had some great one-liners. Still, overall this episode is not one of the better ones from the first three seasons.