In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will never be quite successful at her attempts to cook quinoa. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- 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)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
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.
“Prophecy Girl” opens with a guitar riff that sounds suspiciously like Anna Ferris’s “Forgiveness” song from Just Friends. Xander is saying:
Xander: “You know how I feel about you. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? There’s never been anyone else for me, but you. And we’re good friends, and it’s time to take the next step. Would you, um… date me?”
And Willow looks like this:
- You know how I feel about you. If Buffy knows how she feels about him (and she does, he’s right, it’s obvious. Especially after he gave her an inappropriately personal engraved bracelet), why is this speech necessary? If she knows and hasn’t acted on those feelings in kind, then it’s also obvious that Buffy doesn’t want to date Xander. But that’s not entering into his thinking at all.
- There’s never been anyone else for me but you. This puts a sense of obligation on Buffy; if she rejects Xander, he has no one to love, and he’ll die alone, so she better put him out of his misery, ignore the selfishness of this statement (which doesn’t consider whether or not there may be someone else for Buffy), and love him in return.
- It’s time to take the next step. He’s not asking, he’s telling. “I am done being friends with you, I’ve served my time, you now owe me sex.”
Giles: “‘The Master shall rise, and the slayer…’ My god.”
So, whatever he read in there, it was super bad. He doesn’t get much time to recover from his shock of bad news, though, because his tea cup goes all Jurassic Park, as an earthquake rattles Sunnydale.
You know who loves earthquakes? Villains. Villains love earthquakes:
Willow: “Even I was bored, and I’m a science nerd.”
Buffy: “Don’t say that.”
Willow: “I’m not ashamed. It’s the computer age. Nerds are in.”
This aired in 1997. Willow is a psychic.
Xander gives Willow his secret “get the hell out of here so I can ask Buffy out” signal, and then Xander asks Buffy out. He doesn’t go with the Nice Guy speech he was practicing, and that’s good, but… it doesn’t go the way he probably wanted it to go. For example, Buffy’s face goes like this:
Buffy: “I don’t want to spoil the friendship that we have.”
Xander: “Well, I don’t want to spoil it, either. But that’s not the point, is it? You either feel a thing or you don’t.”
Buffy: “I don’t. Xander, I’m sorry. I just don’t think of you that way.”
Xander: “Well try. I’ll wait.”
Xander: “No. Forget it. I’m not him. I mean, I guess a guy’s gotta be undead to make time with you.”
Buffy: “That’s really harsh.”
Xander: “Look, I’m sorry. I don’t handle rejection well. Funny, considering all the practice I’ve had, huh?”
Buffy: “Xander, I’m sorry. I don’t wanna- “
Xander: “You know what? Let’s just not.”
Jenny: “I’m not stupid. This is apocalypse stuff. Throw in last night’s earthquake, and I’d say we’ve got a problem. I would say the end is pretty seriously nigh.”
Giles: “I don’t know if I can trust you.”
Jenny: “I helped you cast that demon out of the internet, I think that merits some trust.”
Good point, Jenny. She tells Giles about a monk who’s been spamming the internet with talk of a prophecy about The Anointed One. Giles tells her to contact the monk, and Jenny points out that Giles hasn’t given her a lot of details to go on, and he’s all, “Just do it!” and I’m like, “Yes, Sir!” but Jenny Calendar isn’t as susceptible to gruff Giles orders as I am. She’ll do what he’s asking, but he has to explain why later, and she’s really not thrilled at being spoken to like that.
In the hallway, Cordelia is making plans for the Spring Fling dance with… wait, did she dump the guy that got beat up by a baseball bat in the last episode?
Cordelia: “Willow! I really like your outfit.”
Willow: “No you don’t.”
Cordelia: “No, I really don’t. But I need a favor.”
This is one of the reasons I like Willow so much. She doesn’t play along with Cordelia’s bullshit, or try to act impressed that Cordelia is talking to her. Cordelia asks Willow to help set up for the dance, because Willow is apparently awesome at sound systems due to being awesome at computers. Or something. I don’t get that logic. But the important part is, Willow doesn’t fawn all over Cordelia and that makes me like her even more.
Willow spots Xander moping in an empty classroom, so she goes to comfort him. And of course, he totally appreciates her support and deals with his rejection gracefully:
Willow: “How’d it go?”
Xander: “On a scale of one to ten? It sucked.”
Xander: “Well, I guess it could be worse. I could have gangrene on my face.”
Willow: “Well, what’d she say?”
Xander: “Apart from ‘no’ does it really matter?”
Yes, I think it does, Xander. Because the reason Buffy gave you wasn’t, “You’re a douche and I never want to see you again.” She didn’t say, “Ugh, gross, how dare you!” and pepper spray you in the face. She said she didn’t think of you that way, but that she valued your friendship. A girl wants to be your friend? You’re right, it really could be worse.
Oh, hey, here comes Xander, making it even more worse:
Xander “The polls are in, and it’s time to make my concession speech. Hey, I know what we’ll do! We can go. Be my date, we’ll have a great time. We’ll dance, we’ll go wild, what do you say?”
YES. This is another reason that I like Willow. She’s kind and she’s a bit meek, but she doesn’t let people walk all over her (unless it’s a plot point and vampire!Willow shows up later). And she sees Xander’s “be my date” proposal for exactly what it is: a consolation prize. Willow has heard all of Xander’s romantic practice lines. “Concession speech” was never a part of them, and she doesn’t want that for herself. She tells Xander she doesn’t want to go to the dance with him knowing that he would rather be with Buffy. Then she tells him she’ll see him on Monday, and leaves Xander spouting more Nice Guy lines in the empty classroom.
Later, when night has fallen over Sunnydale high and people are still letting their kids hang around there for some reason, Buffy goes into the bathroom and… wait, she just put that on the sink?
Angel: “It can’t be, you’ve gotta be wrong.”
Giles: “I’ve checked it against all my other volumes, it’s very real.”
Angel: “Well, there’s gotta be some way around it.”
Giles: “Listen, some prophecies are a bit dodgy. They’re mutable. Buffy herself has thwarted them time and time again, but this is the Codex. There is nothing in it that does not come to pass.”
Angel: “Then you’re reading it wrong.”
Giles: “I wish to God I were! But it’s very plain. Tomorrow night, Buffy will face the Master. And she will die.”
Not good news. Let’s see how Buffy is taking it:
Buffy: “So that’s it, huh? I remember the drill. One Slayer dies, next one’s called. Wonder who she is. Will you train her? Or will they send someone else?”
Giles: “Buffy, I-“
Buffy: “They say how he was gonna kill me? Do you think it’ll hurt?”
Ow. My heart.
Angel tries to comfort Buffy, but she tells him not to touch her and decides the best way to go is to quit being slayer. She resigns, and when Giles tells her no one else can beat the Master, that there are signs, she doesn’t take it… well. She hurls a book at him, screaming:
Buffy: “The signs? Read me the signs! Tell me fortune! You’re so useful sitting here with all of your books! You’re really a lot of help!”
Once Buffy seems to be out of books to throw, Angel steps in and gives it a try:
Angel: “I know this is hard.”
Buffy: “What do you know about this? You’re never gonna die.”
Angel: “You think I want anything to happen to you? Do you think I could stand it?”
But Buffy isn’t having ANY of it. She insists she’s quitting. Giles starts to warn her about the dire consequences of the Master rising, and Buffy won’t listen:
Buffy: “I don’t care! I don’t care. Giles, I’m sixteen years old. I don’t want to die.”
Buffy throws the cross necklace Angel gave her on the ground and storms out, and Angel and Giles can only watch her go, probably not because they’re paralyzed with emotion, but because Buffy could kill them both with her hands and she is way angry.
At home, Willow looks longingly at a photo of her and Xander, and picks up the phone to call him. He’s at home, in a filthy room, listening to Patsy Cline. He picks up the phone, then hangs it up, and takes it off the hook. PS. OMG LOOK AT THE PHONE:
Joyce: “Homecoming, my freshman year of college. I didn’t have a date, so I got dressed up and went anyway.”
Buffy: “Was it awful?”
Joyce: “It was awful. For about an hour.”
Buffy: “Then what happened?”
Joyce: “I met your father.”
I hate to interrupt this anecdote, but didn’t Buffy’s parents, you know… get divorced recently? I know that divorce doesn’t magically erase all the good memories and love you had for the other person in your past, but damn. If I were a child of a recent divorce, this would drive a stake through my heart (rimshot). And also, do they have dances in college for real? I went to community college, so I don’t know from sleep-away camp style college. Somebody fill me in on this one.
Buffy makes a comment about how having her whole life ahead of her must have been nice for her mom, and we don’t see Joyce immediately rush her daughter to the hospital for suicide watch because it cuts to a new scene. I really, really hope Joyce had some discussion with Buffy after that remark, because so far, she’s batting a thousand in the parenting department.
The next morning, Cordelia and Willow are walking through Sunnydale high because Cordelia’s date- who she is totally falling for in way she obviously didn’t fall for the poor guy who got beaten with a bat in the last episode- didn’t show up at the Bronze with the AV equipment. Willow and Cordelia spot the guy and a friend sitting in a classroom watching television.
Willow: “I’m trying to think how to say it, to explain it so you’ll understand.”
Buffy: “It doesn’t matter as long as you’re okay.”
Willow: “I’m not okay. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day. And when I walked in there, it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun. What are we gonna do?”
Buffy: “What we have to.”
That’s really all it takes. Buffy loves her friend so much, and she’s so shaken by how upset Willow is, that she’s willing to go face the Master and die.
Because Buffy is a fucking hero.
Pardon me, this is the part of this episode where I get a tissue and delicately dab at my eyes and pretend like it’s allergies and not crying. I’m sorry, but I can’t force myself to do the dishes if I don’t want to, and here is Buffy, ready to march into death because she has to if she wants her friends to live in a world where the monsters don’t win.
In his subterranean hidey hole, the Master tests the force field around him and, seeing it’s weakening, sends the Anointed One out to fetch Buffy.
In the library, Giles is getting all his weapons out, while Jenny Calendar gives a little rundown of events that will A) clarify what’s happening for any viewers who are stragglers or not paying attention, and B) lets us know she’s in on the Slayer secret club now:
Jenny: “Okay, so, this Master guy tried to open the Hellmouth, but he got stuck in it, and now all the signs are reading that he’s gonna get out, which opens the Hellmouth, which brings the demons, which ends the world?”
Giles: “Yes. That about sums it up, yes.”
Jenny: “The part that gets me though, is where Buffy is the Vampire Slayer. She’s so little.”
That’s one of my favorite Jenny Calendar lines ever. She can totally get all the demon stuff, that makes sense. Buffy being the Slayer is what blows her mind.
I’m going to point this out now, because it ties into my overall #2: Did anyone else notice how Jenny and Buffy have the same speech patterns and irreverent black humor about the supernatural? It’s almost a subheading under #2 for me, that Jenny is a grown up and acceptable version of Buffy for Giles to be interested in. And the weird thing is, it might not even be intentional on the part of the writers, because in the Buffyverse, there are basically two modes for female characters who are given personalities- quirky or bitchy. Some characters swing between the two, but at any given moment, those are their personalities. Since Jenny isn’t bitchy, she has to be another quirky girl, so that could be how she’s ending up just like Buffy. It’s the template.
But moving on, Jenny tells Giles that Brother Luca, the monk who first warned the internet about the Master, has disappeared, and his last email was just a verse from the Bible, the one about “a little child will lead them,” or whatever nonsense was used to justify the Children’s Crusade back in ye olden days. They realize that this means the vampire that Buffy killed in the funeral home wasn’t the Anointed One, and is probably a kid. But Buffy won’t know this. Jenny says they have to warn Buffy, but Giles says:
Giles: “Buffy’s not going to face the Master. I am.”
Then Buffy walks in and she’s all:
Buffy: “No you’re not.”
And she’s wearing her Spring Fling dress and Angel’s leather jacket, and it looks awesome.
Giles is not having it when Buffy says she’s going to find the Anointed One and let him bring her to the Master:
Giles: “I’ve made up my mind.”
Buffy: “So have I.”
Giles: “I made up mine first. I’m older and wiser than you, and just do what you’re told for once! All right?”
He tells Buffy there’s nothing she can say to stop him from going off to death at the Master’s hands in her place, and she says she knows. Then she punches him and knocks him out, so we’re, what, ten out of twelve episodes now that he’s gotten knocked unconscious? Good luck remembering all your smarty pants library stuff with multiple brain injuries, Rupert!
Jenny runs to Giles’s aid, and Buffy tells her to think up something cool and say that she said it when he wakes up. Then she puts her cross necklace back on and picks up a crossbow.
Jenny: “You fight the Master, and you’ll die.”
Buffy: “Maybe. But maybe I’ll take him with me.”
Outside the school, Buffy sees the Anointed One standing all alone. He asks her to help him, but Buffy knows who he is. She tell’s him it’s okay, and with the pretense dropped, they walk off into the commercial break hand in hand.
Jenny: “Uh, I’m sorry to bring this up, but we also have an apocalypse to worry about.”
Xander: “Do you mind?”
Willow: “How come she’s in the club?”
The kids really do not care about the end of the world. They just care about the end of Buffy. And this is a weird logic we will see the characters go through over and over again. It’s a thing I’ve always gotten hung up on in the storytelling with this show. “[Character] might die! But the world might end! Let’s all forget that [character] is in this world and will die anyway, but also the whole world will die and one of those things is way worse than the other.” I guess I can’t say I would react differently, having never been in a situation where I had to choose between losing a loved one or allowing earth’s inevitable destruction, so I can’t say what I would choose either way… but I’m hoping I wouldn’t wrestle with it at least once a year for seven years, if you get my drift.
Buffy reaches the Hellmouth via sewer tunnels. Later in the series, it will be easily accessible from the Sunnydale high basement, and sometimes bursting directly up through the library floor.
Angel is in his apartment, brooding:
Xander: “How can I say this clearly? I don’t like you. At the end of the day, I pretty much think you’re a vampire. But Buffy’s got this big old yen for you. She thinks you’re a real person. And right now, I need you to prove her right.”
Angel: “You’re in love with her.”
Xander: “Aren’t you?”
Back in the library, Jenny Calendar points out that they don’t know where the Hellmouth is going to open. Buffy fans know, don’t we? They ask a distracted Willow to help them research it, and we cut to Buffy entering the Hellmouth with the Anointed One. He leaves her at the entrance, and with tense music playing, Buffy ventures in to face the Master, alone.
Buffy: “You know, you really ought to talk to your contractor. Looks like you got some water damage.”
Master: “Oh good. The feeble banter portion of the fight. Why don’t we just cut to the- “
Buffy cuts to the, all right. She shoots the Master with the crossbow, but he grabs the arrow before it can pierce his heart. While Buffy bickers with the Master and Xander bickers with Angel, Willow, Giles, and Jenny realize that the other vampires will be going to the Bronze- where the Spring Fling dance is happening. The Master gets the jump on Buffy, just like in the dream she had, and Willow and Jenny try to get to the Bronze to warn everyone, but are met with a Night of The Living Dead-style army of shambling vampires who are headed straight for the school.
The Master explains to Buffy that just by showing up, she’s let the prophecy happen; her blood will give him the power to get free, and then the apocalypse, etc. If she hadn’t shown up, none of the bad stuff would have come true. He bites her, drinks her blood, and then leaves her face down in a pool of water.
Master: “You’re dead.”
Buffy: “I may be dead, but I’m still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.”
Master: “You were destined to die. It was written!”
Buffy: “What can I say? I flunked the written.”
She’s pretty and bad at school! I’m so glad they worked both of those in there.
Hey… who wrote this episode, anyway?
I can go on at length about why Joss Whedon as feminism’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy savior is such a huge pile of steaming bullshit, but I won’t. Because I feel like this episode kind of says it all. He wrote and directed it. He had control over the message in it- that Nice Guys deserve the love of the girl they’re objectifying, that they’re the true heroes these girls can’t live without, and that being a “strong” female means getting scared and killed, then rescued by a dude, and that experience builds character, so the “strong” female can confidently downplay her intelligence in her fight with the bad guy.
Look, I understand the draw of Whedon-brand ™ feminism. I really do. It’s actually a great stepping stone, and it got a lot of the women of my generation to look past our culturally limited representations of feminism in the media, but I feel so… I don’t know. Let down that geek culture raises up Joss Whedon as an example of a feminist hero. Why can’t we embrace a woman who delivers these messages? The simple answer to that is, female creators still don’t get a lot of attention or shelf-life in the genre. Before we can fix that, we have to admit to ourselves that if a man who crafts an entire television show around the concept of human women as mindless programmable sex dolls is our idea of a feminist icon, then we still have a lot of fucking work to do.
Buffy fights the Master on the roof while Giles fights the penis monster in the library and Jenny Calendar tries to keep Willow from being pulled into the Hellmouth. Giles is thrown through a table, the breaking of which creates a sharp wooden protrusion right under the skylight Buffy and the Master are fighting near, so yes, yes it is a Rube-Goldberg vampire murdering device, why do you ask?
This has been a really hard episode for me to recap, because until I started examining it, “Prophecy Girl” was one of my all-time favorites. But now, all I can see is the Nice Guy revenge fantasy of proving how heroic and noble and much more better for the girl Xander is than the guy she’s actually into, and how in the end he inevitably proves himself the real hero- again, not the guy Buffy prefers. This suggests further that Buffy is an object; even in the confines of her own story, she’s being judged and shamed for not doing the “nice” thing and going for the “nice” guy. The script is subtly telling the audience, “Okay, she’s going to get the brooding, handsome prince-type guy, but we all know she should really be with the guy who loved her patiently from afar and saved her life, so she owes him.” And note, Buffy shirks her obligation to Xander’s Nice Guy love, and never finds true happiness with the guy she turned him down for. Buffy’s punishment for choosing “wrong” is never having lasting happiness in her love life. That’s pretty harsh. #6
I used to ship Buffy and Xander a little bit, but never again. What has been seen cannot be unseen.
There’s also a lot of Sleeping Beauty/Persephone imagery in this episode, and when meshed with the Nice Guy thing and the giant three-donged penis monster, it somehow makes Buffy even less empowered.
Because of impending vacation, season 2 recaps will start up again in the first week of July. I’m so looking forward to season 2, you have no idea!