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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E21 “Graduation Day, Part 1”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone is seeing Billy Joel in concert today. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

We’re here. The end of season three, the end of Buffy and the gang’s high school days. The end, in fact, of the high school. But that’s in part two.

Part one opens with a “Previously, on Buffy,” recap of season three, then we’re at Sunnydale High, where Xander and Cordelia are picking up their unfashionable graduation robes. They’re still snippy with each other, but it’s not as brutal and hate-filled. You know, because of the end of the world and all.

Xander: “I’m telling you. I woke up the other day with this feeling in my gut. I just know. There is no way I’m getting out of this school alive.”

Cordelia: “Wow, you’ve really mastered the power of positive giving up.”

Xander: “I’ve been lucky too many times. My number’s coming up. And I was short. One more rotation, and I’m shipping stateside. You know what I mean?”

Cordelia: “Seldom if ever.”

On the stairwell, Harmony asks Willow to sign her yearbook. You know, to remind us that Harmony is a character on this show.

Harmony: “You know, I really wish we would have got to know each other better.”

Willow: “Me, too!”

Harmony: “I mean, you’re so smart. I always wanted to be like that.”

Willow: “Thanks, you’re so sweet!”

Harmony: “I hope we don’t lose touch.”

Willow: “No, we’ll hang out!”

Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha. #21. There is no way anyone saw the eventual development of Harmony’s greatness at this point. Also, I love that a seemingly throwaway line of dialogue set up her entire character arc for the rest of the show, and her eventual transfer to Angel.

Buffy watches the end of this interaction with no shortage of amusement.

Buffy: “Don’t you hate her?”

Willow: “Yes, with a fiery vengeance. She picked on me for ten years. The vacuous tramp. It’s like a sickness, Buffy. I’m just missing everything.”

Oh, how I remember those days. At my high school, the seniors were done with school like a month before the actual end of school. And for like a week, I kept showing up for my classes. Other students would be like, “You’re free. Why are you still here?” Well, because life totally changed in a single day. I was supposed to quit everything I’d known since age five cold turkey? That’s a lot to ask of someone who can’t legally buy alcohol to cope with their feelings. I totally get what Willow means here, and watching these episodes really brings back those feelings, which I’m sure a lot of you share, dear readers.

Let’s not forget to slap a #6 on here for the “vacuous tramp” remark.

Buffy, on the other hand, says she doesn’t get what the big deal is because it’s just a piece of paper that changes nothing. She says she’s not even planning on being at graduation, anyway, because she’s going to be busy fighting The Mayor. Which makes me think that maybe, maaaaaaaybe, Buffy is having a little bit of that I-wish-I-could-be-like-normal-kids thing and is trying to convince herself that it doesn’t bother her. Xander has bad news for Buffy about her plan to skip the ceremony; Mayor Wilkins is their commencement speaker.

Buffy: “The Mayor at graduation? A hundred helpless kids to feed on. You got any other surprises for us?”

Buffy, no. Don’t say that shit before the credits.

We cut to an apartment that looks just like Giles’s apartment but shot from a different angle, where a nice guy named Professor Worth answers his door to find Faith there. He invites her in, pleased that The Mayor is interested in his research. Faith asks if they’re alone, then makes it clear that she’s going to kill the dude. He asks her why, and she tells him that she didn’t ask. We pan away and hear his pained death noises, then go to the credits.

When we rejoin our regularly scheduled program already in progress, The Mayor is tidying up Faith’s apartment while she tries on a dress he picked out for her to wear to his Ascension:

Faith's dress looks basically like a sleeveless oversized polo shirt that buttons all the way down. It's bright pink and a floral print, something Buffy would wear.

She doesn’t like it (didn’t see that coming), but The Mayor thinks she’s breathtaking.

The Mayor: “Any boys who manage to survive will be lining up to ask you out.”

You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that The Mayor–despite threatening to murder her and all, but hey, he’s a fucking monster, what are we expecting?–really loves and cherishes Faith. I believe that he genuinely wants good things to happen to her. And that breaks my heart because even if it’s meant from a place of love, he’s still manipulating her to gain her loyalty. Like, whether or not any of this is pure, paternal love for this abandoned child, she’s still being played like a fiddle. The only love she receives is compromised love. I know she’s evil, but I want to hug her. Fuck, I want to foster her and help her get her flipping G.E.D. and into college and shit. Because she could be a good person, no matter how irredeemable the show tries to make her.

Faith tells him that the dress really isn’t “her”:

The Mayor: “Not you? Lemme tell you something. Nobody knows who you are. Not even you, little miss seen-it-all. The Ascension isn’t just my day. It’s yours, too. Your day to blossom, show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you’ve done, what I know you will do… No father could be prouder.”

Faith: “I hope I don’t let you down.”

The Mayor: “Impossible.”

This is honestly one of the coolest relationships in Buffy. How often do we see villains having healthy (I mean, as healthy as they could ever possibly be) relationships? It’s a concept I honestly would never have thought to explore. “These people are bad, so they’re not capable of love or family” is a really easy narrative trap to fall into. Which is one of the reasons I love this show so much. There were so many brilliant people writing the most amazing, unexplored perspectives.

Willow arrives at school, where Percy catches up with her to tell her how much she helped him as a student:

Percy: “Hey, listen. Thank you. I mean, for helping me. Being so patient. And, also, for not kicking my ass like you did at The Bronze.”

Willow: “You know, Percy, that was actually…for your own good.”

So, I guess Percy is finally going to graduate at age thirty-six.

Percy is seriously not even slightly teen-looking.
Could they not find someone older for this role?

Percy announces that once he’s out of high school, he’s going to forget everything he learned, which bums Willow out. Oz tries to cheer her up by reminding her that Percy will probably die at graduation, anyway.

Xander is late to a very important class, where the teacher is sadistically passing time with a game of Hangman. While the game is happening in the background, Anya asks Xander to go on a date with her over the weekend. He turns her down, citing her tendency to tell grisly stories of vengeance during dates, at which point she offers to watch “sports” with him:

Anya: “Men like sports. I’m sure of it.”

Xander: “Yes. Men like sports. Men watch the action movie. They eat of the beef and enjoy to look at the bosoms. A thousand years of avenging our wrongs, and that’s all you’ve learned?”

Hey. Hey, Xander. Xander.

Xander.

What you’re experiencing is exactly what women experience with men all the time.

But, as Anya points out, she’s trying to learn how to interact with humans, and Xander softens to her plight a little bit. He starts to tell her that if he lives through The Ascension, they can go out, but she gets this horrified face like, “Uh, what was that you mentioned?”

Cut to Buffy holding up a newspaper announcing the professor’s gruesome murder. We are at the beginning of my all-time favorite Buffy scene. I know, I know, I say that about every scene. But this scene involves Giles fencing with Wesley while reading the newspaper and easily blocking Wesley’s rapier without even looking.

It’s like I keep saying. Giles knows how to do all of this amazing shit and it just sort of happens without anyone commenting on it or it ever really being a plot point. Of course, Giles would be a master fencer. Why not? He can hotwire a car, demons owe him favors, he can conjure dark magic… Giles must have the most fascinating off-screen life.

Anyway, I finally get to use this meme:

A picture of Giles and Wesley fencing in the library, with the text: "FENCING IS SEXY:" and beneath it, "Okay, fencing is only half sexy now. The other half will be sexy in about two and a half seasons on the spinoff show."

You have no idea how long I have been aching to use this in a post. This used to be my desktop background, in the days when I actually closed programs.

By the way, I’m loving Giles in his casual Friday outfit all of a sudden. Warning, I’m about to talk about #2, so if you don’t like it, scroll to the next paragraph. Okay, notice how after he had his whole “For god’s sakes, man, have it at it,” speech in the last episode, he’s suddenly showing up to the library without the tweed and ties and suspenders. I can’t remember that happening before. This is definitely a move toward less-uptight, more mid-life crisis Giles as we see him in season four, but the timing of him abandoning the clothes Buffy poked fun at so often gives great head canon.

Okay, you’re safe now, guys. They realize right away that Faith killed the guy, and Giles suggests he’s tying up loose ends. After all, he’s planning to kill everyone in Sunnydale. Why did this guy have to go first?

Wesley: “Ah! By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, The Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it!”

Buffy: “What page are you on, Wes? Because we already got there.”

Wesley orders Buffy to go to the professor’s house to investigate like it’s his idea and Buffy wasn’t going to do that anyway. He tells her not to let her feelings about Faith override their main mission, which is stopping The Mayor. Giles, on the other hand, tells Buffy to remember that Faith has an advantage over her because Buffy has a moral code and Faith does not, and tells her to be careful. So, we’re seeing Giles sliding out of the Watcher role. Everything happening right now, in these two episodes? Is setting up the series through season five.

Xander shows up with Anya, who has lived through an Ascension. She tells them about her experience eight hundred years before. A sorcerer ascended and became a demon who destroyed an entire village, leaving like three survivors. As she struggles–and ultimately fails–to recount the horrors she’s seen, Wesley mansplains demons to her. To Anya. A demon. He tells her that the research he’s done suggests it won’t be that bad. I can’t believe he didn’t start out with “Well, actually.”:

Wesley: “Ahem, I’m sorry. Lohesh was a four-winged Soul Killer, am I right? I was given to understand that they’re not that fierce. Of allt he demons we’ve faced–”

Anya: “You’ve never seen a demon.”

Buffy: “Uh, excuse me. Killing them professionally four years running.”

Anya: “All the demons that walk the earth are tainted, are human hybrids like vampires. The Ascension means a human becomes pure demon. They’re different.”

God damn it. Why didn’t they use this more later in the series? This is bullshit. This was such a great world building concept and I didn’t even remember it existed because it’s never used again! They could have so done something awesome with this in Season 7 when they go into the Hell Mouth. I think they use it during the last season of Angel, hence the dragon.

Snyder shows The Mayor around the graduation preparations. While The Mayor is pretty confident that everyone will show up, Snyder is worried about troublemakers.

I think we know which troublemakers he’s referring to.

Anyway, The Mayor is quick to put Snyder’s mind at ease:

The Mayor: “You’ve done a great job here. I know things are, um, well, different here in Sunnydale. We’ve both seen all sorts of things. What’s important is that we keep it under control, and that’s what you’ve done.”

Snyder: “I believe in order.”

The Mayor: “Sunnydale owes you a debt. It will be repaid.”

All right. Let’s discuss Snyder’s Javert-like tendencies while we still can. Like the other high school stuff, Snyder’s storyline is wrapping up, and I want to make my case for #28 while I still can. Snyder believes in order. And The Mayor is right, Snyder has seen some shit. Shit that he knows is unnatural and shouldn’t be happening in the real world. Now, let’s think back to “Gingerbread,” and how Joyce and the rest of the weirdos in town lumped the Slayer in with the rest of the demonic creatures. We know that The Mayor has given Snyder a commendation before. So, it makes sense for Snyder to believe that Buffy is the bad guy and Snyder, the man who also values order, is one of the good guys. Why? Because order is good. Order is his belief. If things are orderly, things are right.

An interesting thing about Snyder as a character is that he doesn’t seem to see himself as the hero of his own story. He sees order as the hero, and he’s content to be the sidekick. What is The Mayor, the authority at the head of local government, if not a personification of order? When The Mayor says Sunnydale owes Snyder a debt, Snyder is reinforced in his belief. He’s done right. He’s fought the forces of chaos. And now he’ll be rewarded.

So, in summation, #28. Buffy and chaos are a package deal, so she’s as much a threat to order as any of the other monsters. Snyder is fighting on the side of right against yet another paranormal nuisance plaguing the disorderly town.

In the library, Willow is surprised to find everyone hanging with Anya. They explain that Anya is helping them with the Ascension mess. She doesn’t think The Mayor is ascending with the same demon that she saw centuries before. They’re trying to figure out which demon it could possibly be when the guy who would definitely know shows up.

RED A-FUCKING-LERT. THE MAYOR IS IN THE LIBRARY.

You guys. YOU GUYS. I feel beyond violated when this happens, even though I know it happens every time. I feel so unsafe. Like me, personally. I feel like The Mayor is going to get me. He is hours away from ascending and here he is, in the one place where we, the viewers, should feel safe. This is…ugh, this is such good writing. This is Joss Whedon at his best. I mean, there’s a reason he has a reputation for being a game changer. I’m not a huge fan in other respects, but credit where credit is most certainly god damn due.

So, The Mayor saunters in to make small talk. Giles gets up and puts himself directly between the teenagers and The Mayor. Well, I mean, as “directly” as one can in the blocking required for a television shot. More tellingly, he puts himself between Buffy and The Mayor. Quentin said the test from “Helpless” wasn’t just for Buffy, but for Giles because Watchers can’t become attached to their Slayers. This scene makes me wonder about Faith’s first Watcher being killed by Kakistos. Did she try to protect her Slayer by putting herself in the line of fire? How many Watchers die that way?

God, what I wouldn’t give for a spin-off from The Watchers’ Council’s POV.

Buffy sasses The Mayor, and The Mayor tells Giles:

The Mayor: “That’s one spunky little girl you’ve raised. I’m going to eat her.”

And Giles. Stabs. The Mayor.

Mayor Wilkins standing in front of the library desk, shocked and offended with a sword jutting out of his chest.

He picks up the rapier from fencing before and stabs it directly into The Mayor’s chest. And he knows it’s not going to do anything. The Mayor is invulnerable. Also, he probably could kill Giles or something. But Giles doesn’t care because that crosses a line. He did not put up with these obnoxious teenagers for three years only to fail with freedom tantalizingly within his reach. You do not joke about that.

Giles is so super furious, the tendons on his neck are standing out.

See that sweater? That is the sweater of a man who has already retired, friends. Like, he’s so not going to die three days from the end of this job, because he has already ended the job. He probably slept in those clothes. It’s a miracle that he shaved. Giles is done being the school librarian, and he will murder anyone who stands in his way.

The Mayor is offended by Giles’s behavior, but obviously otherwise unharmed.

The Mayor: “Whoa! Well, now that was a little thoughtless.”

He pulls the rapier out of his chest and admonishes Giles for setting a bad example in front of the kids.

The Mayor: “I smell fear. That’s smart. Some of your deaths will be quick, if that’s worth anything.”

The Mayor taunts them by saying they won’t want to miss his graduation speech as he leaves.

After the break, Anya is rushing out of the library. When Xander asks her where she’s going, she says:

Anya: “Anywhere. If there’s a lunar shuttle going up any time soon, I’m on it.”

She is not interested in sticking around to stop what she thinks is an unstoppable Ascension. Cordelia witnesses Anya storming off and asks Xander what’s going on.

Xander: “The Mayor’s going to kill us all during graduation.”

Anya: “Oh. Are you going to go to fifth period?”

Oh my god. That’s how #8 happens. People just get bored with apocalypses.

At the Summers house, Joyce comes home to find Buffy determinedly packing. She panics:

Joyce: “You’re running away again? And you’re taking my clothes?”

Buffy tells her mom to get out of town right away. Joyce protests that she’d miss Buffy’s graduation. Buffy tries to argue that the ceremony itself is pointless, but Joyce guesses correctly that there’s going to be a demon attack.

Joyce: “Oh, you know, Buffy…looking back at everything that’s happened, maybe I should have sent you to a different school.”

She insists that she’s not leaving town without Buffy because she’s not going to leave her daughter behind to fight a demon.

Buffy: “Mom, I know that sometimes you wish I were different.”

Joyce: “Buffy, no.”

Buffy: “I wish I could be a lot of things for you. A great student, a star athlete, remotely normal. I’m not. But there is something I do that I can do better than anybody else in the world. I’m gonna fight this thing. But I can’t do it and worry about you.”

She tells Joyce to trust her, but that she can’t stay without getting Buffy killed.

In Willow’s room, Willow and Oz are still researching magical solutions to the Ascension. In a surprising subversion of #15, Willow is in this scene with a computer, but she’s not the one using it. She’s reading books while Oz does the computer stuff.

Oz: “Nothing useful?”

Willow: “No, it’s great. If we wanna make ferns invisible or communicate with shrimp, I’ve got the goods right here.”

Oz: “Our lives are different than other people’s.”

Willow mopes that she’s not going to be able to stop the Ascension, and I’m suddenly on the fence about why I made #4 a thing. Because even though her magic was useless in saving Angel (and that’s really through no fault of her own), it is useful in the next episode, I’m pretty sure. And in “Chosen”. But she also says she can’t change Amy back into a person, and like…I guess I don’t get that since Amy said the spell out loud every time she did it. It seems like if you know the whole spell, you’d be able to research it and do it. So, maybe it’s that Willow isn’t great at practicing magic, but gets lucky most of the time? And it definitely causes way more problems than it ever solves.

Willow feels like Oz is being really flippant about the fact that they’re going to die in a day or so.

Oz: “Would it help you if I panicked?”

Willow: “Yes! It’d be swell! Panic is a thing people can share in times of crisis, and everything’s really scary now, you know? And I don’t know what’s gonna happen and there’s all sorts of things that you’re supposed to get to do after high school and I was really looking forward to doing them and now we’re probably just doing to die and I’d like to feel that maybe you would–”

Oz cuts her off by kissing her, and the slow clarinet sexy-time Buffy music plays. So, they’re gonna do it. And while I know the “cutting someone off when they’re mad by kissing them” trope is gross, I’m a sucker for it. I would hate if someone did that to me in real life, and if I don’t like a book or a movie or show and that happens in it, I’ll be like, “Oh, that is sickening. That’s so anti-feminist. That’s rape culture, right there!”, but I’ve written at least one scene like that and if it’s in something I like, I’m like, “Problematic? What problematic? I see no problematic.” Because everyone is a little hypocritical in their media consumption.

At the dead professor’s apartment, Buffy is going through his stuff when Angel literally stumbles in. Like, he Anastasia Rose Steel-Grey-Swans right through the god damn door. Giles sent him to check up on Buffy, fearing that she might run into Faith. Buffy sees this as an eventuality. She’s found out that the professor was doing research on volcanoes, but she can’t figure out how it would tie to the Ascension.

Angel tries to carry a box of stuff back to the library for Buffy, but she tells him she can get it. She doesn’t need him following her around. They get into a breakup fight wherein she accuses him of not caring or not taking it hard enough or whatever, and he calls her brat.

Buffy: “I just can’t do this anymore! I can’t have you in my life when I’m trying to move on–”

And then an arrow blasts right through his chest. He collapses to the ground and we pan up to Faith and a vampire hiding behind a neon sign atop a building.

Vampire: “Missed the heart.”

Faith: “Meant to.”

In the library, Giles is for some reason back in a shirt and tie and vest. Like…Giles, you’re doing the opposite of normal. Usually, you wear that stuff to work and change into the sweater/t-shirt combo when you get home. Why would he change his clothes in the middle of the day? Did they think I, Jenny Trout, hyper aware of Giles at every quiver-inducing moment he is on the screen, would not catch this seeming error in continuity?

Oh, right, Angel has been shot. Okay, so, Buffy pulls out the arrow and tends to his wound while Wesley studies the professor’s research. The professor found the carcass of some kind of undiscovered dinosaur buried in a volcano. Giles said it makes sense that The Mayor would want to keep that secret:

Giles: “If it’s the same kind of demon he’s turning into and it’s dead, then that means well, he’s only impervious to harm until the Ascension. In his demon form, he can be killed.”

I’m a little back and forth on this one. Because this is how it must be, from a narrative standpoint. If every sorcerer who Ascended were still alive in demon form, the world would have been destroyed long ago. But I wish they would have given us a little background as to why The Mayor is impervious. Is it part of the Ascension ritual itself? And if so, what’s the point of it not lasting? Or was that a side spell he was using to cover his ass? I really wish I knew these things.

Buffy says something snarky about lava and helps Angel to his feet. He’s unusually weak and collapses to the floor. He’s been poisoned by the arrow Faith shot him with. Giles says they should call the others and get them there, pronto, and Wesley tells Buffy that the Council has all known poisons on file, and he’ll call them to find out how to fix what’s happening to Angel.

You know. Angel. Who is sweating and shivering and taking shallow, labored breaths. (#20)

Meanwhile, Willow and Oz have done the do. They are fully consummated. And when the scene opens, it opens on Amy’s rat cage, partially covered by discarded clothes.

They had sex in front of Amy. And the show chose to make that clear. Um.

Moving on. They snuggle and talk about how everything is different, but the afterglow is interrupted by the phone ringing to summon them back to the land of monsters.

At City Hall, Faith tells The Mayor that she successfully took care of Angel, and asks what her next assignment is. The Mayor plans to eat a bunch of those spider things that ate the dude’s face off, but she doesn’t want to stick around for that. He assures Faith that there will be plenty to do during and after the Ascension, and she shares a story about how when she was a kid, she used to swim in a quarry and she was the only kid who ever jumped off the highest rock. I think this is supposed to be a moment, but it’s like, a weird moment? Is this her graduation nostalgia here? Because she knows that she basically loses The Mayor tomorrow when he’s transformed into a demon? Is she trying to make herself brave, not just for the fight, but for losing another person she loves? IDK. It just feels like it needs more.

At the school science lab, Willow has figured out the poison problem. She gives Xander a list of supplies and sends him to the magic store, but first, he bumps into Anya, who still hasn’t left town. She tells Xander to come with her because she’s developed feelings for him:

Anya: “You’re going to die if you stay here.”

Xander: “I might.”

Anya: “When I think that something could happen to you, it feels bad inside. Like I might vomit.”

Xander: “Welcome to the world of romance.”

Anya: “It’s horrible! No wonder I used to get so much work.”

Xander says he can’t let his friends down, which Anya doesn’t really understand. So she tells him that she hopes he’ll die. Because as Xander puts it, her humanity is a work in progress.

At the mansion, Angel is still dying. Wesley shows up with the bad news: the Council won’t help. Which, you know. Every single person reading this recap or watching this episode could have told you, Wesley.

Giles: “Did you explain that these were special circumstances?”

Have…have you been watching this show, Giles? Obviously, the Council won’t budge on any of this:

Wesley: “We’re talking about laws that have existed longer than civilization.”

Buffy: “I’m talking about watching my lover die.”

Okay, first of all, “lover” is about the least authentic word for a teen character to use. Second, “laws that have existed longer than civilization?” Which civilization? And are we not counting the ancient tribe that created the Slayer as civilized? Is this #17? I’m not a sociologist or an anthropologist or whatever, but I just feel like an organization like the Council would only be able to exist within a civilization, not before it. I’m interested in your thoughts on this. I mean, I’m always interested in your thoughts, but I’m especially interested in this question.

Wesley: “The Council’s order are to concentrate on the Asc–”

Buffy: “Orders? I don’t think I’m gonna be taking anymore orders. Not from you, not from them.”

Wesley: “You can’t turn your back on the Council.”

Buffy: “They’re in England. I don’t think they can tell which way my back is facing.”

Wesley: “Giles, talk to her.”

Giles: “I have nothing to say right now.”

Buffy: “Wesley, go back to your council and tell them until the next Slayer comes along, they can close up shop. I’m not working for them anymore.”

Wesley tries to argue that, uh, this is exactly what The Mayor wants, for her to be distracted. And while I roll my eyes every time another person on Twitter says this or that news story is a distraction, in this fictional world I’m fully on board with Wesley here. Angel is once again proving himself a liability by just being around, and once again, Buffy is putting Angel’s life above the lives of basically everyone. That fact that Giles is backing her is absolutely perplexing to me because he takes the exact stance as Wesley in season five when he’s saying, you know, we might have to kill Dawn. So, I don’t know what’s going on here.

Wesley: “This is mutiny.”

Buffy: “I like to think of it as graduation.”

They said the name of the thing in the thing!

Buffy leaves to go check up on the magic cure progress, and Giles and Wesley have the meaningful Watcher stare down we all knew would happen eventually.

At the school. Willow tells Buffy that the poison is “Killer Of The Dead”, a poison specifically used on vampires. The problem is that there isn’t really much in the way of survivors. Oz finds something in a book: the only way to cure the poison is to drain the blood of a Slayer.

Buffy: “Angel needs to drain a Slayer, then I’ll bring him one.”

Willow: “Buffy, if Angel drains Faith’s blood, it’ll kill her.”

Buffy: “Not if she’s already dead.”

So, Buffy is prepared to kill to save Angel.

Look. I get it. Angel is dying. Faith is evil. But wasn’t killing humans the reason for the split between Buffy and Faith that caused Faith to turn to evil in the first place? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Buffy for Faith choosing to be evil. That was on Faith. But the lack of support from the Scoobies and the overall tension between them was a huge factor, with the accidental death of The Mayor’s aid being the final nail in the coffin. Everyone was so shocked that Faith had killed a man by mistake, but now they–and the audience–are supposed to be chill with Buffy killing a human? This is a little too hypocritical for me, as a viewer, to stand behind. For me to be like, “Yes, kill her, absolutely, this is the one time where killing a human is okay,” I would have had to see Faith kill Alan in cold blood. I would have had to see her first murder as intentional and remorseless, regardless of the intentional and remorseless kills that followed.

Maybe they’re not chill about it. Xander is cautiously not-chill at the prospect of Buffy killing Faith, but not because of Faith:

Xander: “We’re talking ‘to the death.'”

Buffy: “I can’t play kid games anymore. This is how she wants it.”

Xander: “I just don’t want to lose you.”

Buffy: “I won’t get hurt.”

Xander: “That’s not what I mean.”

So, Xander is basically saying, “I don’t want this to change you,” which is something they all wanted for Faith in the wake of her accidental killing of Alan. So, at least one of the characters recognizes the hypocrisy here.

However, I dislike Buffy blaming Faith here. I’m not sure Faith is capable of coming up with a plan that goes, “Pick a vampire poison that can only be cured by the blood of the Slayer so she’ll have to come to me directly for our final showdown.” The plan was to distract Buffy. Also, I don’t think Faith did any research into the poison. The Mayor probably did, and maybe this was his end goal, to make the Slayers fight. He believes Faith could kill Buffy, so I don’t think he’s betting on her losing, especially now that Buffy and Co. have had a chance to kill Faith before and didn’t take it. But I don’t think Faith is the great tactical thinker, so much as the obedient order-taker.

We cut to a montage of Faith beating up on a punching bag, Buffy staring into a mirror, and Angel struggling to breathe. Willow finds the address for Faith’s apartment, and we cut there, to loud ’90s alternative rock and Faith reading a magazine on her bed in shoes and a leather jacket. So, ready for a fight, I guess. Or, just ready to look cool in the next scene. Buffy enters and turns off the music. Faith asks if Angel is dead yet, and Buffy tells him that Angel isn’t going to die.

Buffy: “Your plan?”

Faith: “Uh-huh. Mayor got me the poison. Said it was wicked painful.”

Buffy: “There’s a cure.”

Faith: “Damn. What is it?”

Buffy: “Your blood.”

So, since Faith didn’t know about the cure, I’m going to assume that her part of the plan was just the “kill Angel, render Buffy incapable of interfering with the Ascension,” not the elaborate one I found unbelievable. I guess I shouldn’t have doubted.

Faith tells Buffy that she can’t take her alive, and Buffy is like, that’s not a problem.

Faith: “Well, look at you. All dressed up in big sister’s clothes.”

This is a #21! In season four, Buffy has a dream where Faith visits and mentions that little sister is on the way or something, and then what happens in season five? Dawn shows up out of nowhere.

Now, prepare yourself, friends. Prepare yourself for an ultimate showdown that is gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun. It’s a Sapphic rumble in the Queerdome! Two bisexuals enter, one leaves! Well, I mean, technically they both leave, but there’s a clear winner.

Why, do you ask, do I find the swirling tension in this fight so homoerotic?

Buffy: “You told me I was just like you. But I was holding it in.”

Faith: “Ready to cut loose?”

Buffy: “Try me.”

Faith: “Okay, then. Give us a kiss.”

And then Buffy hits her. So, quick, viewer! Start equating the violence in this scene with sex, so when Faith delivers lines like:

Faith: “Not getting tired, are you? I’m just starting to feel it.”

You really get the whole effect.

Buffy and Faith (or, their obvious stunt doubles) crash through the window and on to the roof, where she handcuffs Faith to herself.

I’m just sayin’.

Angel is still dying, and in the library, Giles has discovered which demon The Mayor is going to turn into.

Xander: “Boy, it’s a good thing noone ever wanted to check any of these books out, huh?”

Giles: “Yes, it’s very convenient.”

Thank you for acknowledging this, show, as your audience has been screaming it silently since episode one.

The demon The Mayor is going to ascend with? to? what’s the grammar there? Anyway, his name is Olvikan. And the picture is so big, it folds out like a medieval centerfold.

Xander: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

We cut to The Mayor, who is savoring every last disgusting spider creature while a vampire looks on, disgusted.

The Mayor: “My god, what a feeling. The power of these creatures suffuses my being. I can feel the changes being. My organs are shifting, merging, making ready for the Ascension. Plus, these babies are high in fiber, and what’s the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you’re not regular, am I right?”

A vampire bursts in to tell The Mayor that there’s trouble at Faith’s house, and The Mayor is immediately alarmed. So, he really does care about her safety. What an amazing and complex villain. I’m going to miss him next season.

Buffy and Faith continue to fight, now bound by handcuffs. Miraculously, they don’t break their wrists. Faith breaks the cuffs and grabs some kind of long rod to fight with, and Buffy pulls out Faith’s knife. They fight their way onto the roof’s ledge, and Buffy does what she came there to do:

Buffy is stabbing Faith, holding her shoulder and basically pulling her onto the knife.

Like, this moment, you guys. This moment takes my breath away every single time. This is such a pivotal moment in Buffy’s “what is the Slayer” arc that’s going to develop over the rest of the series. What is the Slayer? A killer? No, she rejects that. But she’s killed now. She’s killed a person (I mean, as far as she knows). So, what is she, if she’s supposed to protect humans, but she’s killed one?

Faith is absolutely astounded that Buffy had the balls to go through with murdering her. She actually seems like she admires her. But if Faith is going to die, she damn well isn’t going to lose while doing it:

Faith: “Still won’t help your boy, though. Should have been there, B. Quite a ride.”

Then Faith falls backward over the roof and into the back of a truck, which just keeps on driving. Driving, driving, driving that precious Slayer blood away from Buffy, who is powerless to watch her one chance to save Angel disappear into the night.

TO BE CONTINUED…

17 Comments

  1. Nanani
    Nanani

    Do you mean seniors were -literally- done with school a month early? Or just like a senioritis, checked out and not caring anymore sort of thing?

    My high school graduation was *mumble* years ago but I’m pretty sure I’d remember leaving school early, so I wonder if this is a region/country difference.

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • In my school graduation itself was held like two weeks before school let out, and seniors were officially finished as of graduation. So yeah, we just didn’t go back. Took our finals early and everything.

      August 11, 2017
      |Reply
    • Megan M.
      Megan M.

      At my high school seniors were done a week early. Classes were done and we had a day of fluff where we practiced for graduation and had our little “goodbye” thing where there was a slideshow of pictures from all four years we’d been there, etc., and then graduation was that Friday or Saturday.

      August 11, 2017
      |Reply
  2. Laina
    Laina

    Ahhh I love the Dawn foreshadowing 😀

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply
  3. Once again an amazing recap. Can’t wait for the finale : )

    Quick nitpick. I think it’s Cordelia who respons to Arya storming off, not Arya herself.
    Anya: “Oh. Are you going to go to fifth period?”

    August 11, 2017
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  4. Anon123
    Anon123

    The way I happen to have this zoomed makes a lovely line break:

    “[T]he timing of [Giles] abandoning the clothes Buffy poked fun at so often gives great head

    canon.”

    But in other news, D-:< to the Angel spoiler. (DRAGON???) Hold those spoilers until you get to Angel recaps, if you would please. 😀 (I mostly finally watched Buffy b/c I wanted to stay ahead of these recaps. I'm not ready for another major binge just yet. 😛 )

    Random thought #3: Snyder = Javert is a truly great analogy.

    Random thought #4: "At the dead professor’s apartment, Buffy is going through his stuff when Angel literally stumbles in." Wait, uninvited? This didn't bother me before. Is it canon that the apartment isn't "owned" by anybody anymore, so he can go in, or is it that if you manage to literally trip and fall over the threshold, you can "accidentally" your way in uninvited as a vampire? So confused. Where's a good nitpicker when I need one?? 😉

    Random thought #5: Enjoy your concert!!!

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • @Anon123: The ‘vampires can get into an apartment when the owner has died’ rule is played for comedic effect in one scene in ‘Angel’, so, yeah, I think that counts as canon. Although I did wonder about it on reading this; wouldn’t it automatically become the property of whomever inherited it? It’s now my headcanon that legal transfer of ownership on death doesn’t count in the Buffyverse until the will has been through probate.

      August 12, 2017
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      • Sarah Dixon
        Sarah Dixon

        Maybe it needs to be someone’s home, rather than just property that they own, so there actually needs to be someone living in a place for them to need an invitation.

        August 15, 2017
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  5. H2
    H2

    Harmony – s3 wasn’t really foreshadowing for her. It may be in retrospect, but they didn’t decide to bring her back until Spike’s return and they got an idea of ‘what if Harmony got vamped in graduation?’ It’s in the commentary for that Ring of Amarra ep.

    Faith’s apartment is the same apartment used for Jaime Luner’s character in s4 of Profiler. (Yeah, I notice weird weird stuff when I watch TV.)

    The Dawn foreshadowing is legit – that was planned out way in advance. I think someone said somewhere that SMG knew way before everyone else.

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply
  6. Jon
    Jon

    Thoughts on civilisation:
    I grant it sounds that Wesley is being potentially disparaging to culture that set up the slayers (and this would be fairly consistent with his character) but isn’t there a narrative that sees ‘civilisation’ as a corrupting influence on pure humanity? If so would ‘before civilisation’ suggest something greater than other ‘civilised’ structures and possibly innate to the nature of genuine humanness and therefore utterly unable to be set aside?

    Also how much do you think they had planned the slayer origins at this point? While important element of later seasons they might not be the plot elements that were roughed out years ahead. Not sure – any insider knowledge out there? Certainly the watchers’ council seems to belong to a very different culture.

    August 12, 2017
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  7. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    I don’t think a Watcher’s Council could predate civilization. Possibly because I associate the Watchers with books and record keeping, and I associate that with civilization. The Watchers keep records for future reference, and impart that knowledge to the Slayer. Over time I believe the roles became reversed – initially I feel the Watchers served the Slayer, and now they think the Slayer serves the Watchers. But I think you need civilsation to have that kind of organisation.

    Graduation is one of my all time favourite episodes, both parts. It builds on everything from the 3 seasons and ties it up fairly well (in my opinion).

    The Mayor is a really lovely villain. The foreshadowing over the earlier seasons and the personality quirks. He does care about Faith, he does have a fatherly care for her and in that I see a mirror of Giles’ fatherly care for Buffy. Both Slayers have a father figure who wants the best for them. Both father figures have not always done the best by their girls.

    Buffy choosing to kill Faith is a off note in the story I think. It seems more done for drama than properly written.

    I thought one of the earlier episodes covered the invulnerable bit, the one where Willow gets kidnapped. I’ll have to go back and check sometime.

    August 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      Oh Snyder – you’re right about him. He sees keeping things orderly as the most important thing and Buffy is disorder. I don’t think it occurs to him that the Mayor could be doing something wrong despite all the evidence to the contrary.

      August 13, 2017
      |Reply
  8. Nicki
    Nicki

    I think in many contexts civilization is used as a technical term to mean pre-dating written text, and, often more specifically, written record keeping.

    I can actually see a universe where it makes sense that the Slayer rules predated civilization, especially since we know the first slayer was from a culture that (probably? It has been a long time since I have seen the series) didn’t yet use written forms of record-keeping. Sooo you could take this to mean that the Council of Watchers started out because there had to be a group of people constantly re-orating the knowledge (and also the rules then, I guess) that is so vital to the Slayer before there were books to record all of these things. This would actually make a lot of sense to me, as I always wondered why it was necessary to even have a Watchers Council since there is only ever one Slayer at a time (and thus only one active “Watcher”). But if you consider that there was no way to keep written records when the Council started out as a thing, then you would need a large group of people to pool that knowledge. Though that doesn’t explain why the Watchers Council is in England???

    August 16, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jon
      Jon

      I think that this is a reasonably summary (if probably ret-con). Why is it in England? Maybe the English love taking over and love admin so it fits?

      August 17, 2017
      |Reply
  9. Agent_Z
    Agent_Z

    “Anya: “Men like sports. I’m sure of it.”

    Xander: “Yes. Men like sports. Men watch the action movie. They eat of the beef and enjoy to look at the bosoms. A thousand years of avenging our wrongs, and that’s all you’ve learned?” ”

    Xander’s condescending attitude, he does have a point here. I’ve always been bothered by Anya’s social skills or rather lack of social skills. In her first appearance she has no trouble infiltrating Cordelia’s social circle and passing for a normal girl. Yet from season 4 onwards she acts like she was raised by Data from Star Trek TNG. She’s been around for over a millenia and has interacted with humans for a long time so why did she have so much trouble adjusting?

    September 11, 2017
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  10. Agent_Z
    Agent_Z

    “We know that The Mayor has given Snyder a commendation before. So, it makes sense for Snyder to believe that Buffy is the bad guy and Snyder, the man who also values order, is one of the good guys.”

    I think you meant to say, “and The Mayor, the man who also values order, is one of the good guys.”

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply

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