How do I love Season Three? Oh, let me count the ways.
- The Mayor
- Armin Shimerman’s Principal Snyder
- Angel finally leaving because he’s toxic to Buffy
- Buffy realizing that everyone kind of knew something was special about her but acted like dicks anyway because they were high schoolers on the Hellmouth and then completely (well, kinda) redeemed themselves by naming her their Class Protector
There are so many other reasons, but I figure I’ll just stop there because that’s the answer to today’s challenge.
This is, very plainly, a Willow-centric episode, and I am 100% on board with that. The beginnings of her transformation into the confident, Wicca-practicing powerhouse of later seasons start here, when she defiantly chooses to eat a banana before lunchtime.
Plus, it’s the second time we get to see my fave, Anya, so again, thrilled to be here. She’s not the same quippy, fish-out-of-water gal I know and love, but she was just recently placed back on the mortal plane, so I’ll give her a pass. Plus, she’s failing math.
Anyway, “Dopplegangland” is hilarious, which is probably why it ranks so highly with me, and a lot of that comes from Alyson Hannigan herself. From Willow attempting to be her vampire duplicate to her using her newly discovered confident to “convince” Percy to actually do his homework, Hannigan’s comedy chops really shine here. I’m all for her crying scenes, because damn if she doesn’t bring me to tears every single time, but her timing is near-perfect.
I also look at this episode as an exercise in foreshadowing, specifically in two areas: Willow’s fluid sexuality* and her steady path to darkness. While I’m not sure if Whedon and Co. knew to what extent they were going to push in these directions, it’s fairly clear that they moved quickly, at least on the first, as Willow begins dating Tara in the very next season. There are little hints during the next two seasons that the second was a major theme the writers wanted to explore, but as of this episode, delving into the black arts and having it affect Willow like it does in Season Six and Seven was more cautionary than anything else. But I’ll get into this topic a bit more later on this month. There’s just too much to unpack, especially when it doesn’t even have anything to do with this episode, at least directly.
This is also an excellent episode to look to when you think about what Buffy might have to sacrifice as a Slayer. In previous seasons, she broke up with a guy who didn’t understand the danger her life provided, she sent Angel to hell after his de-souled self opened up an apocalyptic portal, and in this episode, she fears she will have to kill Willow. Thankfully, she didn’t have to, as the vampiric Willow was an alternate reality version of her best friend, but later on in the seventh season, she faces a newly-redemoned Anya after the latter murders an entire house of fraternity brothers. Again, Buffy was saved from having to vanquish a friend, but it was very obvious that she had gotten past her difficulty with it. Hell, she even admitted around that time that she would have let her sister Dawn die if it meant saving the world.
All in all, I think it’s the humor of this episode that keeps bringing me back over everything else. I like to dissect it at other times, but for the most part, I just want to laugh at the hilarity of fake-mean Willow. Plus, this little wave that destroys any semblance of authority she had managed to cultivate up until that point:
Runners-Up: “Band Candy,” “The Wish,” “Helpless,” “Graduation Day, Parts I and II”
* I’m irritated that Willow was declared a lesbian after her first same sex relationship because the concept of bi- or pansexuality would have been a goldmine for story concepts. And super inclusive, instead of like, “Nope, she’s girl-on-girl only now.”