Season 2, Episode 3 - “School Hard”
Original airdate: September 29, 1997
Project 310 re-watch date: Jan. 5, 2009
For some reason I went into this episode thinking I wasn’t going to like it as much as I remembered. I was pleasantly, and very, wrong.
First off, before I get into the good stuff, I have to address something I pointed out in the last Project 310 write-up. We’ve got another instance of the random student showing up early in the episode as if they’ve been a part of the show all along, then being evil or killed before we get to know them. In this episode, it’s Sheila, who appears early on, then gets turned into a vampire and tries to kill Buffy.
Now, onto the beef of the episode, which is Spike (no pun intended, really, I swear). He makes his debut in this episode, and he’s really a perfect bad guy right from the start.
Spike, at his best, is evil, funny, merciless, and desperately in love with Drusilla (not Buffy). This episode has all of that. In fact, Spike’s introduction episode, starting with running over the Welcome to Sunnydale sign and ending with killing the anointed one, might actually be the best Spike episode of his entire seven season run (including Season 5 of “Angel”).
I’m going to talk about this more throughout the rest of Season 2, but despite his masterful entrance in this episode, Spike is NOT the big bad of Season 2. It’s Drusilla. This is confirmed in Season 7’s “Lessons” when Spike is being haunted by The First. Drusilla isn’t a huge presence in this episode, but she lingers over everything Spike does.
One thing I didn’t like about the introduction of Spike (aside from his mispronunciation of Angel’s vampire name) was that Angel was not at all forthcoming with info about Spike. Now, at this point in the series, Angel is still new to the whole “cooperating with Buffy and the gang” thing, but other than giving them a scary warning about Spike, he didn’t really offer up anything close to the truth. After the whole Darla incident in Season 1, I’d think Angel would have learned to be more open about his past when it has the opportunity to help.
My favorite little thing about this episode is the confirmation that Principal Snyder and other authority figures in the town know something about The Hellmouth and the mysterious things that happen in Sunnydale. Sure, we don’t find out much beyond that, but just that little snippet of dialogue between Synder and the chief of police is enough for now.