When She Was Bad

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"When She Was Bad" is also the name of a book by Patricia Pearson
"When She Was Bad"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Buffy 2x01.jpg
Buffy destroys the bones of The Master
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 1
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Production code 5V01
Original air date September 15, 1997
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"When She Was Bad" is the first episode in the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode was written and directed by series creator and executive producer Joss Whedon. The narrative follows Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returning from her summer vacation showing textbook symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, brought on by her encounter with The Master in the previous season's finale. The Anointed One (Andrew J. Ferchland) attempts to revive the Master with a ritual involving his bones. However he requires something from the Slayer and sets a deadly trap in motion.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) are quizzing each other on film quotes on the outskirts of a cemetery; Willow is doing poorly. The pair comment on the quiet summer in Sunnydale since they buried the Master in the graveyard. A tender moment ensues when Xander playfully puts ice cream on Willow's nose, but just as he is about to kiss her, a vampire appears behind Willow. Xander intervenes and is barely holding out when Buffy shows up and kills the vampire. She tells her friends about spending the summer in Los Angeles with her father (Dean Butler). At home, her mother (Kristine Sutherland) is a bit uneasy about Buffy's shopping spree. Her father explains that he felt guilty when Buffy appeared distant.

At school, Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) expresses again his disgust with students (likening them to locusts) to Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). Giles spots Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) and slips away; an oblivious Snyder babbles on. Giles finds the gang and explains that although they have closed the Hellmouth, the mystical energy still attracts evil forces to the town. He asks Buffy to resume her training after school.

Whilst practicing, Buffy has a vision of the Master and begins furiously hitting a dummy. At night, she dreams of being killed by him when Angel (David Boreanaz) appears in her room to warn her of the childlike Anointed One (Andrew J. Ferchland). Buffy coldly brushes him off. He tells her he missed her and leaves before she can reply. The next day, the young Scoobies run into Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), who seems unmotivated to keep Buffy's identity a secret. Buffy heaps an insult on Cordelia that her friends find "too good." At the Bronze, Xander and Willow wonder about Buffy's behavior. Willow tries in vain to recreate the ice-cream moment. Buffy then arrives in a very revealing dress and mocks Angel. She begins a slow, sensual dance with Xander that makes everyone squirm.

Meanwhile, the Anointed One and his acolyte Absalom (Brent Jennings), are forcing their vampires to dig up the Master's bones barehanded through consecrated earth.

Back in the club, Buffy leaves Xander hanging mid-dance. Cordelia confronts her outside and tells her to get over her problems. Buffy leaves and Cordelia is kidnapped by two dark figures. They throw her into a basement with an unconscious Ms. Calendar. Buffy walks to the grave that holds the bones of the Master, and finds it dug up.

At lunch the next day, Giles shares Xander and Willow's concerns about Buffy, who shows up to tell them about her discovery. Giles remembers some revivification spells and Buffy is angered that he never told her. Snyder shoos away the students and tells Giles he would like to expel Buffy.

That night, the Scoobies learn that a revivification spell needs the blood of the "closest" person to the deceased. Cordelia's necklace, wrapped around a large rock, is thrown through the library window. Buffy leaves for the obvious trap, saying in frustration that she cannot look out for them while slaying.

Outside the basement where Cordelia was held, Buffy tries to pick a fight with Angel, who ignores her. Inside, they find one female vampire. Buffy realizes that the trap is not for her. At the same time, Giles realizes that the Latin text actually said that the ritual requires the blood of those physically nearest to the Master when he died – in other words, Giles, Willow, Cordelia and Ms. Calendar.

Buffy returns to the library to find a bloody Xander, who angrily warns that if anything happens to Willow, he will kill Buffy. They go back to the female vampire, whom Buffy tortures into confession by slipping her cross necklace down the vampire's throat. Buffy interrupts the ritual while Angel and Xander rescue the others. Before she leaves, Buffy smashes to bits the Master's bones with a sledge hammer, finally confronting her feelings over being killed (albeit briefly) by the Master.

The next day, Buffy apologizes for her behavior and is pleasantly surprised to find herself forgiven. Meanwhile, the Anointed One gazes at the scene of destruction, and simply remarks, "I hate that girl."

Cultural references[edit]


  • This episode begins a tradition: in this and all subsequent season premieres, the teaser is set largely in (or beside) a cemetery.[1][2][3][4][5]
  • David Boreanaz is added to the opening credits.[6]
  • At the end of the episode Xander proposes mini golf and Willow counters that there is no course nearby. However, in a later episode, "Ted", Buffy, and her mother play miniature golf. The Mayor also suggests a game to Faith in "Enemies", however it is entirely possible that since these are later episodes, a golf course was added to the city in the intervening time. Or that Buffy, Willow and Xander are talking about walking distance, whereas Buffy's mom can drive.
  • When Buffy destroys the Master's bones - her first few hits are clearly visible enough to have destroyed most of his bones - but several scenes later Buffy appears to be destroying the same bones again.
  • This is the first episode where Cordelia shows her compassionate side after witnessing Buffy alienating Xander and Willow, implying that she is not as vain and self-centered as everyone thinks she is. Another episode, "Helpless," would have Cordelia again to be the compassionate person she actually is, and later on in the spin-off Angel as she matured.

Arc significance[edit]

  • In Issue 35 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight it is revealed that the Master has been resurrected as the protector of The Seed of Wonder, which is the source of all earthly magic.
  • Cordelia is reluctantly adopted into the Scooby Gang, though her participation will be lighter than other characters.
  • The episode serves as a parallel with the eventual season finale, "Becoming" – the gang wonder if Buffy has lost her soul, and her dialogue with Angel on the way to the Bronze foreshadows their eventual duel at the end of the season. The vampires luring Buffy into a false conflict so that they can mount an attack on her friends is also repeated in "Becoming", when Angel calls Buffy to a cemetery and spars with her while Drusilla and a team of vampires attack the library. When Buffy realizes Angel's trick, he mocks her with, "And you fall for it every single time!" referencing the attack in this episode.


"When She Was Bad" pulled in an audience of 2.9 million households. When the episode was aired as a repeat in November 1997, it actually scored a higher 3.1 million household rating.[7]

Noel Murray of The A.V. Club gave "When She Was Bad" a mixed review. While he praised the opening and closing scenes as well as other smaller moments, he felt that it dealt with the characters' emotions "erratically" and was not positive towards Buffy's attitude and carrying over the Master plotline.[8] A review from the BBC called "When She Was Bad" "another excellent episode", praising how it tied up plot threads from the first season and developing the relationships between characters.[9]


  1. ^ Joss Whedon (1998-09-29). "Anne". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 3. Episode 1. The WB. 
  2. ^ Joss Whedon (1999-10-05). "The Freshman". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 4. Episode 1. The WB. 
  3. ^ Marti Noxon, David Solomon (2000-10-26). "Buffy vs. Dracula". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 5. Episode 1. The WB. 
  4. ^ Marti Noxon, David Grossman (2001-10-02). "Bargaining, Part One". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 6. Episode 1. UPN. 
  5. ^ Joss Whedon, David Solomon (2002-09-24). "Lessons (Buffy episode)". Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 7. Episode 1. UPN. 
  6. ^ BBC episode guide
  7. ^ "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Second Season". Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Murray, Noel (3 July 2008). ""When She Was Bad", etc.". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "When She Was Bad: Review". BBC. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 

External links[edit]