Buffy returns from summer vacation sporting an attitude and suffers from recurring nightmares involving the Master. Meanwhile, the Anointed One and his followers plot their revenge.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Rupert Giles (as Anthony Stewart Head)
Jenny Calendar (as Robia La Morte)


Buffy returns from her summer vacation after defeating the Master and is not the same fun-loving slayer she used to be. Her cold, distant behavior escalates when she discovers that the remaining vampire population are planning to resurrect the Master. Written by Alex

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 September 1997 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title is derived from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "And when she was good, She was very, very good. But when she was bad she was horrid." See more »


When a rock is thrown through the library window with a note attached, Buffy catches it, removes the note and sets the rock on the table to her left. The view cuts away for a moment, and when it cuts back, Buffy has the rock in her lap and sets it on the table to her left a second time. See more »


Absalom: Your day is done, girl. I'll grind you into a sticky paste. And hear you beg before I smash in your face.
Buffy: So, are you gonna kill me? Or are we just making small talk?
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References Planet of the Apes (1968) See more »


Buffy the Vampire Slayer Theme
Performed by Nerf Herder
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User Reviews

Immensely underrated, this is one of the best episodes of season 2
10 December 2015 | by See all my reviews

It is difficult to explain why "When She Was Bad" has the IMDb rating it has. Not only does it tower above all other "Buffy" season openers, it also manages to be one of the most emotionally intense and disturbing episodes that the show has to offer. Of course, intense and disturbing do not guarantee a great episode, but when Joss Whedon is at the helm, great results are almost always achieved.

Buffy returns to Sunnydale after spending her holidays with her father, only to find life difficult to re-adjust to once she begins to have greater nightmares revolving around The Master. She begins to slowly ostracize herself from her friends to the point where she exposes a darkness inside of her.

"When She Was Bad" has a few key themes of "Buffy". As great and helpful as her friends are, Buffy will always be isolated in the world. No one can begin to understand the burden that she bares responsibility to. This idea is captured in as disturbing a way as "Buffy" will ever do so, during Buffy's nightmare where Giles attempts to strangle her to death. Not only is the acting utterly perfect, with Anthony Stewart Head (ASH) exhuming true cruelty, but Buffy's friends are oblivious to her psychological conflict. Buffy fears that she will fail as a slayer, and in the process, fail her mentor, Giles. The tension between the two characters is missed by Willow and Xander, who cannot begin to comprehend the psyche of being a slayer. And yet "When She Was Bad" perfectly rebukes the notion that Buffy needs to free herself from her friends, as we as an audience witness the disasters that result from such actions.

Buffy's behaviour towards her friends is particularly disturbing to watch as a viewer in this episode, and yet, equally brilliant and fascinating. Joss Whedon manages to weave in enough charm, without ever, upsetting the tone of the story. "When She Was Bad" is considerably dark, and in fact, one of the show's darkest hours. Yet, it is funny as almost all "Buffy" episodes are. The opening scene is excellent, as we see a spark between Willow and Xander. It becomes even funnier when Willow attempts to repeat that spark of magic to Xander later at the Bronze, to utter failure. It highlights an important notion of Xander, one that relates specifically to his emotionally naive state of mind. In Buffy's absence, he almost falls for Willow, but at Buffy's return to Sunnydale, he once again begins to hopelessly chase her. It links back to "Prophecy Girl", when a distraught Xander attempts to ask out Willow as a "backup" to the Spring Fling. This episode highlights Xander when it comes to romance: reckless, hurtful and immature.

"When She Was Bad" is the beginning of the "Buffy" that will become acclaimed. One notable improvement over the very mediocre first season is the music, which finally begins to blend with the episode itself. The scene at the Bronze makes excellent use of music, to create a dastardly and haunting atmosphere. One of the finest scenes of the episode takes place at the Bronze, as Buffy attempts to seduce Xander in her emotionally frail state of mind. Xander, who has had the biggest crush on Buffy since first laying eyes on her in "Welcome to the Hellmouth", does not reciprocate such feelings, as he too feels being cheated on. Willow is made to watch as Xander is driven further away from him, as Angel is made to watch their relationship become jeopardized. The scene uses the music perfectly, the camera work is excellent, and features a shining Cordelia moment: wailing on Buffy for her poor choices to deal with her problems.

Season 1 was home to very poor action scenes, due to a low budget. "When She Was Bad" is full of excellent action scenes, great stunt work, and further heightens the intensity of the episode. From this point on, "Buffy" can be watched as both an action/fantasy show as well as a teenage drama.

"When She Was Bad" is a truly excellent episode, that is one of the rare cases where the protagonist experiences a truly dark spell. Rather than resorting to some terrible "Monster of the Week" means of placing the heroine in a difficult position, "When She Was Bad" does so by following in the events of the previous episode. It is a near perfect wrap up to the first season finale, and lays the foundations for the excellent, but inconsistent second season.

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