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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E22 “Graduation Day, Part 2”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone was almost driven crazy by a ticking noise coming from her coffee mug. 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 How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?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.
  37. Buffy is an abusive romantic partner.

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.

So, previously, on Buffy…Buffy stabbed the fuck out of Faith, who did a backward press take-off into the bed of a truck to escape being fed to Angel to cure him of dying and also The Mayor is still going to ascend.

Are we all up on what’s going on? Then let’s get on this thing.

Buffy is left on the roof in the aftermath, shocked at what’s just occurred. She climbs down a ladder just as The Mayor steps up to the broken window of Faith’s apartment. A vampire that’s come with him says that there’s nobody in the apartment, and The Mayor reasons that Faith would have definitely taken the fight out of the confined area. Which, to me, makes perfect sense, since there’s so much shit in an apartment that can be used as a weapon, right?

The Mayor is freaking out and having a Gary-Oldman-in-The-Professional moment:

The Mayor: “We have to find them. Put everyone on it. Do it now.”

Vampire: “But sir, the Ascension–”

The Mayor: “Find them!”

I think that line is the only time we’ve ever heard The Mayor actually shout. He’s usually Mr. Sunshine or Mr. I’m-Not-Mad-I’m-Disappointed. But at the thought of Faith being gone, he loses it. The vampire runs away and The Mayor babbles on, to no one:

The Mayor: “Faith’s a good girl. She can take anything they’ll throw at her. She’s gonna be all right. She’ll be all right. She’ll be all right.”

I actually feel bad for The Mayor. Full disclosure, a couple weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I couldn’t find my daughter, and I found the front door was unlocked. I lost my shit, running around the house screaming. Then she comes out of the bathroom all sleepy and cranky, wondering why I was yelling at her. But for those few minutes, I was gripped with the worst fear of my life. So I know what The Mayor is going through and I’m like, damn. I know he’s going to try to kill all the residents of Sunnydale. But…

You know, as I’m starting to think about this…The Mayor might actually be the least evil season arc villain Sunnydale has ever seen. Let’s look at the stats on the Big Bads here:

  • The Master – Tried to take over the world for vampires and turn humans into livestock.
  • Angelus – Tortured and murdered people for fun, tried to throw the world into a hell dimension.
  • Maggie/The Initiative – Bureaucrats.
  • Glory – Tried to throw the world into a hell dimension where she could reign as queen or goddess or something.
  • The Trio – Were insufferable Gamer Gate-type guys.
  • The First – Literally evil. All of it. Like, just evil.

All The Mayor is trying to do is becoming a demon and eat a bunch of people. He isn’t even doing it specifically to hurt people, it’s just a part of the process of attaining his goal.

Anyway, after the opening credits, Xander and Giles are in the library, waiting on word from Buffy. Giles has now ditched the tie and glasses and rolled up his sleeves, but I’m still not clear on why he’s switched from comfy clothes to a suit in the first place.

Xander brought him coffee:

Xander: “Aren’t you supposed to be drinking tea, anyway?”

Giles: “Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.”

That explains the suit, I guess. Mystery solved! Good work, everyone, we can all go home now.

Giles and Xander have yet to come up with any useful information about Olvikan, the demon The Mayor is going to turn into. They’re researching when Cordelia bursts in, furious that Wesley is leaving the country. Giles explains that Buffy has quit the Council.

Cordelia: “But he’s her Watcher.”

Giles: “Buffy no longer needs a Watcher.”

Cordelia: “Well, does he have to leave the country? I mean, you got fired and you still hang around like a big loser. Why can’t he?”

Giles is making a face like he wants to say something, but knows there's nothing to say because everything Cordelia just said is 100% true.

See that? That is the handsome face of a dude who just got brutally owned by a teenage girl. Because he realizes that there is truth to what Cordelia is saying, just like it’s true that Buffy doesn’t need a Watcher anymore. That is the dreamy face of a beautiful, beautiful man who just realized that his character arc for the rest of the series is now set in stone.

Xander reminds Cordelia that a massacre is pretty fucking nigh, and she reluctantly sits down to help with the research.

Back at the mansion, #20, and also, Angel wakes up just enough to sense that someone is with him, but is too delirious to realize it’s not Buffy. He takes Willow’s hand and kisses it, gets a little shoulder grope in, and pours his heart out to Willow, thinking she’s Buffy:

Angel: “I thought…I thought I’d never see you again. I can’t leave you. I was wrong. I need you.”

Willow assures him that Buffy will be back soon.

Willow: “He’s delirious. He thought I was Buffy.”

Oz: “You too, huh?”

That’s such an under-appreciated line. Imagine Oz sitting there, getting hand kissed and told how much Angel needs him. Oz’s reaction would be so chill. He would just sympathetically roll with it.

Willow says she feels guilty because she’s so happy at the intimate turn her relationship with Oz has taken when everyone else is miserable and fighting for their lives. But not guilty enough to not make out a little, right before Buffy comes in. She’s silent and intensely distracted, and doesn’t answer Willow’s questions about Faith. Instead, she tells Willow and Oz to leave, so she can be alone with Angel. When she sees him, he tells her he’s ready to die, now that he’s gotten a chance to see her. And she’s like, no, I can cure you. Drink my blood.

Hey, Buffy? This is literally the stupidest decision you have ever made. The stupidest. Once again, you’re placing a huge number of people in danger to save one person. The night before the Ascension, you’re willing to die and leave your non-Slayer friends to fight The Mayor all alone, so you can save your ex-boyfriend’s life. Is this supposed to be romantic, or proof of their great love? Because it’s not convincing me. It just makes her look like a selfish, over-emotional jerk.

Angel refuses to drink.

Angel: “It’ll kill you.”

Buffy: “Maybe not. Not if you don’t take it all.”

Hold up. In the last episode, the cure was “draining” the blood of a Slayer. Wouldn’t that imply taking it all? I feel like that’s what’s being implied, and that’s why Buffy absolutely had to kill Faith. The stakes were up: there’s no way for both Slayers to live if Angel was going to be cured. Faith was going to definitely have to die.

This is something that Joss Whedon does that infuriates me (among other things), and that he doesn’t have to do because he’s a great writer. He backs himself into corners for the sake of drama, then retcons and either assumes we’ve all forgotten or expects us not to remember for the sake of his story. This happens again in season five when Olaf the troll is suddenly a troll god without any previous mention of him being one so that Buffy can use the god power of his hammer to harm Glorificus. Just out of nowhere, “oh, forgot to mention, this past character was a god,” to get our heroes out of a hopeless situation. That’s what this feels like:

Buffy: “Angel, the blood of a Slayer is the only cure.”

No. “Draining” the blood of a Slayer is the only cure, and that’s what made killing Faith a noble and selfless act, rather than straight up murder, which the Slayer doesn’t do.

In any case, Angel uses his remaining strength to run from the bedroom to the more cinematographically effective living room, where he continues to refuse to drink from Buffy. Then Buffy picks the obvious solution to the problem: punching Angel in the face several times.

You know what? We’re going to add a new number here. One that pains me, because I love Buffy as a character, but one I can’t really ignore. #37: Buffy is an abusive romantic partner. When Buffy doesn’t get what she wants from the men in her life, the solution is quite often violence against them. And it’s almost always framed as “for their own good,” like when she physically fights with Angel to stop him from self-immolating in “Amends” (also written by Whedon). Considering how often abusers use “for your own good” or “I’m just trying to protect you” as excuses for their behavior, this is really skeezy. A strong, feminist character can’t condone intimate partner violence, and she damn sure can’t commit intimate partner violence while everyone claims she’s a feminist icon. So, add #6 to this scene, as well.

This scene is also a good example of #16. Angel is on his death bed. How could three consecutive punches from the Slayer not massively harm him?

Well, they don’t. He immediately goes vamp, she bares her neck, and he drinks her blood. Which, by the way, is basically sex, as they topple to the ground and grind on each other while he’s draining her blood. This isn’t unusual for vampire stories; in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, it’s made clear on a few occasions that vampires aren’t really into sex, since drinking blood is an experience that’s far more sexually gratifying. Carmilla and Dracula both used blood-drinking as a metaphor for sexuality. Basically, all of vampire mythos is dripping and quivering with sexy, sexy blood drinking. However, it’s not quite as cheesy as this scene, wherein Buffy moans, crushes a pewter pitcher like a beer can, and kicks through Angel’s coffee table as she violently orgasms to the point of death.

Buffy's hand, squeezing dents into a metal pitcher

I wish I was making all of that up. Please, Joss Whedon, I beg of you. Never, ever write a sex scene ever again for any reason.

After the commercial, Angel (now fully cured because he drained the blood of a Slayer, which was what the cure was in the first place so I don’t know why Buffy thought he didn’t have to drink a lot) takes our surprisingly-tan-for-an-exsanguinated-body heroine to the hospital. Wuh-oh. This place has a really bad track record, but okay. Angel tells the doctor that something bit her, which has got to be a regular occurrence at this hospital. But when Angel rips the handle off the door, the doctor isn’t like, “You’re a vampire,” but asks if they were doing drugs.

What kind of drug makes all your blood come out some holes in your neck? (#8)

Meanwhile, in another room in the ER, another doctor gives The Mayor some bad news about Faith, who lies battered and unconscious.

Doctor: “The bones are set and the damage to the kidneys is repairable. But the head trauma, it’s…well, it’s simply too severe. You know, it’s a wonder she’s alive at all, with the blood loss. I-I’m sorry, sir. But there’s almost no chance that she’s ever going to regain consciousness.”

IDK, that’s a pretty bold diagnosis for the ER to be making. Maybe a neurologist or a neurosurgeon should be making that call?

The Mayor is heartbroken, and stroking Faith’s hair when a nurse rushes in and mentions “another young girl” is there with massive blood loss, and he puts two-and-two together. He goes to Buffy’s room, where there are absolutely no doctors tending her. I mean, the nurse was talking about doing an anticubital cutdown, which is literally a last resort procedure, but Buffy is tucked into bed all neatly and left alone as though she’s stabilized. Holy shit, #31. She was bleeding to death so badly that they can’t tap a vein, so they have to cut a major one open. That should be a pretty high priority trauma. But since it’s Sunnydale General, The Mayor is able to waltz in and attempt to smother Buffy. A nurse catches The Mayor and calls for security, and Angel runs in and pulls him bodily off.

The Mayor: “Murderous little fiend! Did you see what she did to my Faith?”

Angel: “Hadn’t made plans to weep over that one.”

The Mayor: “Well, I’d get set for some weeping, if I were you. I’d get set for a world of pain. Misery loves company, young man, and I’m looking to share that with you and your whore!”

The Mayor is becoming unhinged as we’ve never seen him before. The loss of Faith has beaten him down, but he’s not broken. After Angel throws him across the room, The Mayor gets up and tries to be his old cheery, scary self, but he’s really messed up.

Oh, by the way, all the medical professionals leave without checking if Buffy is breathing or further injured or anything. Number god damn thirty-one.

Giles, Xander, Willow, and Oz arrive to find that Angel is just fine. He tells them that Buffy put Faith in a coma, and Xander realizes there’s more to the story. Angel tells them that Buffy cured him, and they are not impressed.

Xander: “Well, it’s just good to know that when the chips are down and things look grim, you’ll feed off the girl who loves you to save your own ass.”

Giles tells Angel to leave, and Angel is like, no, and Giles is like hey. The Sun is going to come up. And Angel can’t stay.

Meanwhile, in Buffy’s coma, she’s in Faith’s apartment. Faith is there, too. They have a cryptic conversation that’s actually pretty friendly. And Joss hits us with some #21:

Faith: “Little Miss Muffet, counting down from seven-three-oh.”

Viewers couldn’t have known it at the time, but two years (365 x 2) later, Buffy dies in the season five finale. She dies to rescue Dawn, who was accosted in an early season five episode by a confused man who referenced “curds and whey.” So…

Yeah. This is amazing.

There are boxes all around, and Buffy asks Faith where she’s going to put them all. Faith tells her she doesn’t need the stuff, Buffy can have it. She just has to take what she needs. In other words, Faith’s time as the Slayer is kind of over since she’s in the coma, but Buffy can use Faith’s lessons, mistakes, and good qualities as needed. Then Faith touches Buffy’s cheek, and Buffy wakes up. She goes to Faith’s bed and kisses her goodbye:

Buffy kissing Faith's forehead

Thus completes the circle of the fight they had, which started with “give us a kiss.”

Buffy gets dressed and strolls out to find the gang. And nobody stops her because this is Sunnydale General. She asks where Angel is, and Oz is like, the sun came up, and Buffy is like, “get him,” which makes me say out loud to the screen, “Buffy, the sun is out, he just told you this.”

Buffy: “I’m ready.”

Willow: “Ready for what?”

Buffy: “War.”

At Sunnydale High, Principal Snyder is brooding over the diplomas to Latin chanting, and we cut away to the library, already in progress. Buffy has told the Scoobies about her plan to defeat The Mayor, but we’re not in on it quite yet. Whatever it is, nobody but Buffy seems to think it’s a good idea:

Cordelia: “I personally don’t think it’s possible to come up with a crazier plan.”

Oz: “We attack The Mayor with hummus.”

Cordelia: “I stand corrected.”

Oz: “Just keeping things in perspective.”

But surprisingly, Cordelia is the first to admit that it’s the only plan they’ve got with any shot at actually working. Buffy asks Xander if he remembers any of his military training from the season when their Halloween costumes possessed them, and he does. Because he will remember that for literally the rest of the show, due to it being convenient, even when it doesn’t make any sense. Buffy tells them that she has to play on The Mayor’s human weakness, as per the message Faith gave her during coma time. Angel mentions that The Mayor doesn’t like germs, so Cordelia comes up with the brilliant plan to chase The Mayor with a box of Ebola, or the very least, a box with “Ebola” written on the side. Then Angel is like, Faith is his weakness. Which everyone probably should have worked out already.

Wesley shows up despite being dismissed by Buffy.

Buffy: “The Council is not welcome here. I have no time for orders. If I need someone to scream like a woman, I’ll give you a call.”

Joss Brand Feminism™. It’s not like other girls. (#6)

Wesley tells Buffy that he’s not representing the Council, he’s just there to help and take orders from her. Buffy starts to tell the group how the plan is going to go, and we cut to The Mayor telling his henchmen how his plan is going to go. To sum up without noting every dramatic cut-away, The Mayor’s vampires are going to be able to kill everyone because there’s going to be a total eclipse as soon as the Ascension happens. They can’t eat anyone because all those yummy students are for The Mayor to chow on. But the eclipse also means that Angel can join the fight. Buffy asks Giles if he’ll be in charge of some vague part of the plan, then she says she has something she needs to get, and she leaves the library. The Mayor wraps up his speech to his vampire henchmen with:

The Mayor: “Remember, fast and brutal. It’s going to be a whole new world come nightfall. Don’t want to weaken now. And boys? Let’s watch the swearing.”

The Mayor just keeps on Mayoring. I’m so going to miss him.

Xander recruits Harmony, while Willow explains the battle plan to Percy. But not to us. We don’t know what’s happening yet.

In the library, Wesley and Cordelia are boxing up the important occult books. He reminds Cordelia that if he’s not going to be Buffy’s Watcher anymore, he’ll be going back to England. Unless he had a reason to stay. This is the moment when Wesley and Cordelia are going to finally romantically connect. They kiss, and it’s…

This is the most horrifically awkward kiss in history. Their mouths are connected, but their hands are all weird and their bodies are like a foot apart. Wesley is all hunched over and Cordelia's lips are way too puckered. It's just awful.

not great. They both agree that they have no chemistry:

Cordelia: “Good luck in England.”

Wesley: “Yes, thank you, I’ll, uh, I’ll drop you a line sometime.”

Cordelia: “That’d be neat.”

Oz and Willow roll up to the school in a van loaded with fertilizer that Percy and Jonathan are going to put somewhere. They’re lucky as fuck that they didn’t get pulled over on the drive. Cargo vans full of fertilizer seem to make law enforcement pretty nervous.

Oz promises Willow that everything is going to be okay:

Willow: “Are you sure?”

Oz: “Well, I sound pretty sure, don’t I?”

Willow: “Yeah.”

Oz: “Then I must be sure.”

Willow: “Is that just a comforting way of not answering the question?”

Actually, it’s a sign that Oz somehow becomes Rick Sanchez in another dimension. Since he’s so god damn certain about everything. Anyway, there’s enough time to bone one last time before the apocalypse, so they carpe diem.

Buffy and Angel have a weird moment in Giles’s office:

Angel: “I’m not gonna to say goodbye. You know, we get through this…I’m just gonna go.”

And of course, Buffy is heartbroken. Because why wouldn’t she be? Because if you think about it…she’s not going to know if he makes it out alive, is she? If he just gets staked and goes poof, she might think, well, he took off, he’s probably fine. I know it doesn’t work out like that, but it’s a dick move. #9 for sure. He leaves her alone with her feels, and she unwraps the thing she needed that she went and got. It’s Faith’s knife, still stained with Faith’s blood.

So, it’s graduation time. The students file in, and Principal Snyder gives his opening remarks:

Snyder: “Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet.”

I’m so moved.

Willow runs in late, and The Mayor takes his place at the podium. He says it’s the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale. So like… I don’t mean to be that gal

Why isn’t there anything commemorating this going on in town? No festival? No parade? Nothing like that? Aren’t people suspicious that nothing has been planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city’s founding? Nobody thinks that’s odd?

Ha ha, of course they don’t. Because #8. But this is a huge plot hole for this very reason. The chamber of commerce, the Moose Lodge, the Masons, I don’t care who does it, if there’s a hundred-year anniversary of a town, someone is going to do something. And there’s no reason that this episode had to take place on this exact date. All we’ve heard is that this is going to happen, that The Mayor designed the town this particular way, and that he’s been working on Ascending. Is building a town a part of the ritual? And then you have to complete it exactly one hundred years later? That sounds stupid. They should have just left the hundred year thing out, because there’s no way I can buy a real world scenario in which a city doesn’t celebrate its centennial.

Anyway, The Mayor starts to talk about the hard work the kids have all put in, and Buffy realizes:

Buffy: “My god. He’s going to do the entire speech.”

Another one of my very favorite Buffy lines. Because it feels so yes.

The Mayor mentions that some people are missing that should be there, and we know he’s talking about Faith. Which leads me to wonder…if The Mayor has all of these vampires, why wouldn’t he at least try to have one of them turn Faith? Just to see if it would wake her up from her coma? It worked in Twilight. I mean, I realize The Mayor hasn’t read Twilight yet, but it seems like even in the Buffy-verse this would be a conclusion someone would come to.

As The Mayor continues to speak, the world’s fastest moving eclipse happens. I’m interested, if anyone here is into astrophysics or whatever (space science? IDK, help me, I’m not smart), can you explain in the comments exactly what would happen to our planet if the moon was booking it so fast that it could eclipse the sun in seconds? It would fuck us up, right?

So, The Mayor isn’t through his speech yet, but he starts to transform. Like a Toastmaster champion, he tries to tough it out and regain his composure.

The Mayor: “My destiny! It’s a little sooner than I expected. I had this whole section on civic pride, but I guess we’ll just skip to the big finish.”

Look, you don’t get to talk about civic pride if you didn’t plan at least a pancake breakfast for this fucking centennial. As the horrified student body watches, The Mayor contorts and writhes:

The Mayor's clothes are all ripped and his head is like, half-scaly demon, half Mayor face.

and transforms into a patented vaguely phallic BTVS approved dick monster:

He's like...a cross between the Loch Ness Monster and and a penis.

Someday I should write a whole big essay about how the high number of phallic monsters on this show is indicative of Joss Whedon’s toxic masculinity. But then I would have to keep thinking about how gross it was that he blamed the actresses he slept with on the Buffy set for his own shitty, exploitative behavior, then said he had no comment to the press because he cared about his family more than his ex-wife does or whatever.

Seriously. Fuck. That. Guy.

So, the parents do all the screaming and the running and the dying as the Mayor looms over the students, who aren’t running. Like, not one parent tries to save their kid? Not one? They just tear ass away to save themselves? This town is full of miserable excuses for parents.

The students all rip off their gowns and bust out swords and flame throwers and crossbows and shit. Like, hundreds of weapons. Giles was in charge of getting them, which brings us to another “What the fuck kind of life does Giles lead on his own time?” question. In just a few hours, he was able to round up hundreds of weapons. Not just the stuff he keeps at home or the library cage. Just scads and scads of weapons.

If there isn’t some kind of file about Giles somewhere, there probably should be. Just for our safety.

Some students try to run, only to be attacked by the waiting vampires, but Xander has a battle plan. He’s basically the general here. The vampires are met with a line of archers with flaming arrows. When they try to flee, they find themselves boxed in between the students fighting The Mayor and a whole big group of students being led by Angel.

The flame throwers (which weren’t really doing shit) run out of fuel, and Larry the bully is killed when The Mayor tosses him out of the way like a handful of Tinker Toys. Meanwhile, Snyder is just about fucking done with this nonsense. He stands right next to the giant, many-toothed demon and scolds him:

Snyder: “This is not orderly. This is not disciplined. You’re on my campus, buddy! And when I say I want quiet, I mean–”

And The Mayor eats him.

I am so sorry to see him go, guys. Snyder fills a happy little place in my heart that loves annoying, pathetic characters.

The vampires try to attack the students, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Harmony is caught by a vampire and violently bitten. Buffy is the only person who stays behind to fight The Mayor. Standing bravely in front of him, she holds up Faith’s knife:

Buffy: “Hey. You remember this? I took it from Faith. Stuck it in her gut. Just slid in her like she was butter. You wanna get it back from me, Dick?”

Playing on The Mayor’s love for Faith really works; when Buffy runs into the school, The Mayor follows, ramming through walls in his pursuit. Buffy leads him toward the library, where all the fertilizer is rigged up to explosives. She vaults over all of it and through the back window, to join Giles on the lawn. He’s got one of those big, cartoon-ish box things with the handle you push down to make things go boom. The Mayor, seeing the enormous bomb waiting for him, just says:

The Mayor: “Well, gosh.”

Kaboom. No more Mayor. No more school. No more a bunch of the class of 1999. So, that was Giles’s part of the plan. Building a homemade bomb big enough to detonate not just a demon, but an entire high school, leaving basically a crater in the ground.

The more you think about Giles and the stuff he gets up to, the scarier he gets.

Cut to fire fighters and ambulances on the scene. Wesley is on a cart with his neck in one of those collar things, whining about how much he hurts from getting knocked down in the fight. Buffy and Xander wander around the bleeding, injured students, and Buffy’s scanning the crowd.

Xander: “He made it through the fight. I guess maybe he took off after.”

See, that’s what I’m saying. What if Xander hadn’t known that? She would have just gone around thinking, okay, Angel is either dead or alive, but I’ll probably never know. Giles joins Buffy and asks her if she’s okay, and she tells him she hasn’t processed anything yet. He praises her skill and reaches into his jacket. Amid all the wreckage, he went in to find her diploma. He hands it to her and awkwardly starts talking about…well, whatever he means by this:

Giles: “There’s a certain, um, dramatic irony attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on, on…pre-destination, one might say.”

So…#2. Sorry, guys. He went through the burning wreckage of the school to save a piece of paper that might be important to her, then felt the need to fill the silence with a lot of awkward poetic language about destiny.

When Giles leaves to go check on Wesley, Buffy spots Angel just standing broodingly in the distance. They share a meaningful look, and he slowly turns away to walk off into his own spin-off series. Then Buffy joins Cordelia, Oz, Willow, and Xander at one of the benches in front of what is now presumably the smoking crater that used to be their school.

Oz: “Guys. Take a moment to deal with this. We survived.”

Buffy: “It was a hell of a battle.”

Oz: “Not the battle. High school.”

I mean, that’s a good point. They went to Sunnydale.

The five of them walk off into the night:

L-R, Xander, Cordelia, Oz, Willow, and Buffy all walk a tight little group into the night.

and as their conversation fades, we pan down to:

A 1999 Sunnydale High yearbook with a slightly charred cover.

My feels. All of my feels. It’s like I, too, have just graduated from a school that has exploded.

So, the season three two-part finale is probably the strongest ending to any season in the entire show. And I’m counting “The Gift” and “Chosen” in there. The series could have even ended here (although I’m glad it did not) and it would have been a satisfying conclusion. Which is likely very much how the creators intended. Back when I was writing proposals for television series, there was usually one big summary of the first season, followed by shorter summaries of at least two more. Usually, an outline of between three to five seasons was what I was being asked to do. Because this one winds up so neatly, I’m wondering if seasons one through three weren’t pitched first, then seasons four and five added later. But whatever. What I’m saying is, seasons one through three wrap up beautifully and could have stood on their own.

So, as this ends season three of Buffy, so begins The Big Damn Angel rewatch, in conjunction with the Buffy recaps. So, our next recap will be Buffy‘s “The Freshman”, followed by Angel‘s “City Of”, followed by “Living Conditions”, etc. I’m going to try to keep them in the correct order of the story, not necessarily the air dates.

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  1. Quelaag

    I’ve always felt #6, but it’s going to be hard rewatching Buffy after hearing about Joss’s shitty behavior. It’s certainly going to put some aspects of the show in a different light.

    Anyway …

    Maybe Angel wanted to leave in a hurry because of the eclipse. Magical eclipses seem to work differently (in that they defy all laws of physics). But normally those things only last about 2-3 minutes, which would be fairly concerning to a vampire who just nearly escaped death.

    Yeah, if the moon randomly sped up that fast, it would affect the moon’s distance from the Earth. Firstly, that would affect the appearance of the solar eclipse. But of greater concern would be the increased gravitational force and its impact on tides and weather conditions. But then it randomly stops to make the total eclipse longer, so idk, magic maybe?

    They should’ve just written it so that the ascension ritual had to be during a natural solar eclipse.

    September 1, 2017
  2. Jon

    Regarding Buffy hitting Angel and risk of harm. Is it possible she is pulling the blows so as not to harm him or that blunt force trauma doesn’t damage vampires (not campires – can’t type today)? I’m not sure we see blunt force do more than delay them in the rest of the series and that could be to do with them being physically moved by the impact.

    I think an essay on Joss Whedon’s creepiness would be worth reading if you wanted to write it but don’t injure your mind for me (or anyone else).

    September 1, 2017
  3. Sadie

    re: Willow and Oz boning “one last time” — I always understood this to be their FIRST time boning. Because when Willow tried to seduce him, didn’t he day that he didn’t want to have sex with her until he “needed” to? I’m paraphrasing.

    Also, I always thought it was pretty stupid of Buffy not to just hang out at the hospital until Faith got there and then let Angel suck her dry. And when Faith ended up in the room next to Buffy I fully expected there to be a “Angel’s better but he needs more slayer blood, so faith is going to take over from here.” I mean, you’re retconning in the SAME EPISODE. You couldn’t find a way to make that work?

    September 1, 2017
    • Sarah

      They had sex in part one.

      September 3, 2017
      • sexiersadie

        Dammit, this is what I get for commenting based on memory and not actually watching the episodes in question.

        September 8, 2017
  4. Tashilicious

    I always had a feeling that Whedons “feminism” was faulty. There was something too facile and almost fetishized about it.

    I brought this up when Age of Ultron came out. There was that whole situation about how the script seemed to imply that Black Widow considered herself a moster because she qas sterilized, and the geeky forum I was part of qas having an argument about it. Several people felt it was at the least incredibly poorly worded, but others refused to aknowledge it was problematic at all.

    I, at the time, said that his entire status as a feminist icon came from Buffy, but that even if we assume he was progressive and feminist *for the time in which it was made*, there has been little growth in it since. He has a stock set of nerd fantasy women tropes he recycles, and all of it is quite a bit male gazey. I was told essentially “how dare I attack an ally there are worse things and people!”

    And now the more I look back and think about it, the more I feel that I was not only right, but was too kind. There is certainly enough for a deep essay about his feminist tropes and how they really arent. Heck, Black Widow is at her best when Whedon does not write her.

    Cannot wait for the angel recapa. I always found angel to be the better show. It felt more mature, the worldbuilding was spectacular, Cordelia developed into my favourite person ever, and there wasnt that thin patina of “Arent i just so cool and hip” Buffy seemed to drip. Maybe it was because i only ever got into the shows when I was in college, years after their end. I started with Buffy seasons 1-4, then started angel. Finished angel, never went back to buffy.

    September 2, 2017
    • Angel was better in some ways, but not feminist ones. The number of times girls/women (especially Cordy) end up pregnant by a demon is just wrong. Can’t wait to read Jenny’s take on it.

      September 3, 2017
      • Tashilicious

        Yeah there was a lot of demon empreg in angel :/

        I never meant to imply Angel was less problematic on subject matter (I suppose a lot of ink can be spilled either way on that. I did find Angel was less prone to go out of its way to be “Look at how stronk the women are!” and just had them be people, though it has been a while since i gone through the series so my memory may be faulty, and my view of what it is to be feminist in media has changed since so I guess we will see where that lies when we get to it ), but just the general quality of the show itself, to me, was better.

        Plus Angel has Phantom Denis and any show with Phantom Denis is just superior in every way.

        September 4, 2017
    • Katie

      My take on the Black Widow thinks she is a monster thing, is that it isn’t inherently problematic to have a character who thinks about her own infertility in that way. Infertility is a very painful and complicated thing and people process it in all kinds of different ways some of which are more healthy than others.
      I would even go so far as to say that it’s good to see those kinds of issues being addressed in a film.
      However, when you add in the fact that black widow is the only character who has had their fertility addressed, and that no one else has even talked about family or kids or anything like that, then yes it becomes massively problematic

      September 5, 2017
    • sexiersadie

      SO YES on the criticism of Black Widow! That always bothered me. That, and the deeply troubling undertones of “Abusive men just need a woman strong enough to love them” of her relationship with the Hulk.

      September 8, 2017
  5. Mel

    Jenny my son would love you. You say so many of the things about Joss Whedon that he has expressed in the past. Another great recap, can’t wait for you to start on Angel and the fourth season of Buffy.

    September 2, 2017
  6. Cavalish

    The “counting down from 7 3 0” gets a brilliant call back in the season 4 finale when Dream Buffy looks at a clock reading “7:30” and dream Tara tells her that the clock is wrong, a moment which is overshadowed by heavy Dawn foreshadowing.

    September 2, 2017
    • Jemmy

      The bit where Tara says to be back before dawn.

      September 3, 2017
  7. Jemmy

    I think the show was actually intended to be 3 seasons, then got renewed for 2 more and then two more. I feel like i read that somewhere and it does work exceptionally well with the first 3 seasons. The set up to the mayor through season 2 to the perfect finale to high school.

    I have always loved the part where the kids finally get to fight back. They were intended to be demon food, their parents have done not a damn thing to save them for their entire lives, there are so many levels of wrongness in Sunnydale. but the kids get to make a stand and fight. They fight because they know Buffy has their back, their class protector.

    September 3, 2017
  8. Helen22

    This episode (and season) are fantastic, and I agree that it seems planned for this to be a possible finishing point. Buffy can pretty much be divided into ‘high school’ and ‘post high school’. The cast and location changes make it feel like a different show, and while I love both halves, I do picture the high school years when I think about Buffy.

    On a sadder note, is it weird to feel personally betrayed by Whedon? This show, Angel, and some of his other work to a lesser extent, meant so much to me as a teenager and young adult. I was exactly the same age as Buffy all the time it aired and it’s tied in with a lot of significant memories. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it shaped who I am, but it always felt progressive and a sign that the world was moving forward for women. I admired Whedon for creating it. The cracks in the feminism became clear when I rewatched a few years ago, but I put that down to ‘it’s of its time’. At the moment I feel I can still watch and love the show for itself, but something has definitely changed.

    September 3, 2017
    • MB

      I’m with you on “something has definitely changed”.
      God knows it happened to me with more than one prominent feature in my life growing up (the more noticeable ones are Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter) but I think it’s understandable.
      It’s not just the world that judges Buffy with a different set of parameters, but us as well. We’re older and, presumably, wiser and we have more awareness to things that went unnoticed when we were younger. Life experience can suck like that:(

      September 5, 2017
  9. candy apple
    candy apple

    So, I have also had a ticking coffee cup. I bought one of those jadite mugs in an antique store, specifically to mimic Giles’s favorite tea mug from the show. I never put it in the microwave, but still, one day, I kept hearing the most unusual and musical “ping”-ing noise coming from my desk area. I couldn’t figure out what it was. It went on intermittently for hours.

    Later, I discovered that my jadite mug was cracked in a dozen pieces. I guess heating it up just by pouring hot water had increased its internal pressure until it started systematically shattering. I’m not sure how that works, but glass is a famously unstable substance.

    RIP, awesome Giles mug, I miss you.

    September 4, 2017
  10. Doedee

    Funny. I think whedons wife acted shittier. At least on his level.

    September 8, 2017
    • JennyTrout

      Thanks for the input, person who has literally never commented here before.

      September 8, 2017
  11. Robyn Hoode
    Robyn Hoode

    I’m so glad we’ve gotten to the point where we talk about how Buffy is actually not that great in relationships…

    I know we are getting to Riley and I get the arguments. I also completely follow that she is pretty broken and messed up herself (doomed love, destiny, likelihood of early death, daily violence and pain, shitty parents etc. etc.). But. ‘sure, we can be together but don’t ever ask me anything or expect my time or need me EVER or I will ghost so fast… And I’m NEVER going to tell you if the problem is you, I’m just going to let you guess and then get mad when you’re not IN MY HEAD.

    Small point on the punching Angel to get him to drink though – I always assumed calculated to bring out the demon that wants to stay alive but is being repressed by Angel? (but yeah, she’s way too happy to get fisty with her men).

    September 10, 2017
    • fluffy

      It’s not just whether or not Angel gets hurt that matters, imo. He had clearly made the choice to not drink her blood, and she does something to remove his agency in pursuit of the outcome that she wants. That is not ok.

      September 17, 2017
      • Robyn Hoode
        Robyn Hoode

        Yup! I agree however I feel there is a mitigation in that she is a young woman (barely not a girl) and she lives in a violent world and that bleeds into her private life way too often. She is also in love and is ‘doing whatever it takes to save him’. Again, immature and, let’s face it, has NO role model in this. (I guess I’m saying yeah, it’s Not OK. But not necessarily a deep character flaw?)

        She does a bit of forcing people to not die.
        That sounds way more flippant than I mean it.

        September 28, 2017
  12. Seed of Bismuth
    Seed of Bismuth

    Hi just found your website now and have been archive bingeing.
    And this is the time I have to be nitpicky Olaf was not retconed into being a god, his hammer was blessed by the god of trolls.
    Was that still an a**-pull heck yeah, but not as much of a one.
    Since when the hammer was left behind I figured it was going to be a plot point.
    Also head-canon wise I always assumed those that those who complete ascension ascend (heh) to some other demon dimension. And the Mayor was a long time client of Wolfram & Hart hence why they have so little presence in this town.

    June 12, 2018
  13. ncarbide

    Many years later, from out of the darkness, a homosexual asks:

    Do we think that highlighting the death of Larry in this episode suggests that Whedon was eager to “kill your gays” long before Willow ever met Tara?

    August 1, 2020

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