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Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Season 3, Episode 21 “Graduation Day, Part 1”
So, Graduation Day is finally (almost) here. As far as we know, Buffy and Angel are still broken up, but… come on. It’s a tossup. Everyone’s nostalgic, including a blonde popular girl who was always mean to Willow, and Percy, Willow’s dumb, muscular tutee, who thanks her for not beating him up again like that time she was Evil Vamp Willow. Except for Xander, who’s convinced he’s going to die, because as we know, Graduation Day is also Ascension Day. The Mayor is going to be the graduation speaker, on the very day his plan is to turn into a demon and “snack on populace.” Not a good sign for the seniors.
Buffy’s plan is to let this happen, but fight and defeat him somehow, while I guess all the cap-and-gowned seniors just watch? Meanwhile, the Mayor is busy doing some very disturbing prep for the big day. First, he sends Faith to stab a kindly old gentleman named Professor Worth, whose research the Mayor is apparently interested in. Faith is totally chill with this, and when poor Professor Worth asks why he’s being killed, she just says she never thought to ask. Afterwards, the Mayor dresses Faith in a creepy pink flowered dress like a little girl for graduation day. He says it’s Faith’s day to blossom, just as much as it’s his day. And then he refers to himself as a proud father. Now, of course, there are lots of ways this could be creepier, most of them involving groping of some kind, but this is pretty fucking creepy.
Back to the high school. Anya has developed a crush on Xander, which is… horrifying for Anya, but I suppose a pretty classic teenager response to being ignored and belittled by your prom date. She asks him out to watch sports, insisting that men like sports, and after some rather snarky remarks he actually takes pity on her and agrees to hang out if he survives till that weekend. Well, once he mentions that, it turns out Anya has actually seen an Ascension, where a super-demon took out a whole village, minus three people. It turns out that no one’s ever seen a pure demon on this show, because demons that walk the earth are part human, and at the Ascension a human becomes only demon. And what’s different about pure demons, you may ask? “For one thing,” says Anya, “they’re bigger.” Yipes.
After this, Anya decides to leave town, thinking one Ascension is probably enough. But she doubles back that night to ask Xander to come with her, because she lurrrves him and doesn’t want him to get hurt. When he says he has to protect his friends she tells him she hopes he dies … and then asks for a kiss. That seems like a very Xander-esque move, TBH!
The Mayor’s on his pre-ceremony tour of the graduation arena and drops by the library to tease the Scoobs. When he says he’s going to eat Buffy, Giles stabs him (which of course does nothing). Meanwhile, Buffy tries to get Mrs. Buffy to leave town so she can focus on saving everyone without also having to focus on keeping her mom safe.
Willow’s focus for the episode is, uh, a little different. She picks a fight with Oz for being “ironic detachment guy” and not panicking about the impending apocalypse. So he interrupts her by making out with her. Panic sex! The two of them proceed to be utterly horny and distracted for the remainder of the episode, even when they’re playing internet detective.
Buffy is doing research on the dead Mr. Worth, who was a volcanologist, when Angel shows up to be awkward and carry a box for Buffy. She kind of gets offended and says he’s crowding her. “Are you mad at me for being around too much or for not being around enough?” he says like a dummy. “Yes!” she says. Heh. Then she complains, “This is my last office romance.” Yeah…. famous last words.
Just then, Faith shoots Angel in the chest–but not the heart–from her perch on those big neon letters. Apparently she meant to miss his heart, so it’s all part of some evil plan. Angel survives, but as soon as he’s back in the library, Angel turns all pale and sweaty, and falls over. Turns out the tip of the stake Faith used was poisoned or something. Wesley is going to contact the Council to get their file of known toxins. Meanwhile, Buffy’s job is to tend to a shirtless, sweaty Angel. It’s all very Riverdale. The council refuses to help Angel because he’s a vampire. So Buffy gets all mad at the council for not caring as much about her vampire ex-boyfriend as she does and declares to Wesley that she won’t be listening to the Council anymore. It’s her “graduation” from obeying the Council. I’m torn, because I feel like the Council doesn’t really have a moral obligation to care about Buffy’s vampire squeezebox who might at any moment lose his soul again, but also, the Council sucks and so it’s high time she did turn her back on them.
Luckily, Willow can identify the poison. It’s called Killer of the Dead, and a vamp did manage to defeat it once … by draining the blood of a Slayer. Buffy decides to kill Faith and bring her to Angel to drink her blood. Whoa. The post-coital Willow and Oz just barely manage to keep their hands off each other while using The Internet to figure out where the Mayor has put up Faith.
Xander decides to be useful, as happens about once every six months. He finds Buffy on her way to kill Faith and says he doesn’t want to lose her (Buffy), meaning not that she’ll die but she’ll change if she does this morally questionable thing. But Buffy, unmoved, goes to hunt Faith–armed with Faith’s own knife. Hey, it’s irony! Or something! So Buffy changes into a Bad Girl outfit and goes over to Faith’s ridiculously swanky hotel room (seriously, it’s giant, and has a crazy loft window seat the size of a bed, and… basically must be costing the Mayor a fortune, even in a town on a Hellmouth where no one should ever want to visit) and they have a big fight that ends up with them both falling out of the window.
Buffy handcuffs their wrists together for what turns out to be no reason at all. I thought she had some kind of intricate plan with those handcuffs, but uh, no. Janes says it was just to stop Faith from running away, which I honestly can’t see Faith doing. The girls just fight and slam each other around a little with the cuffs, and then Faith breaks them with her superstrength, so yeah. It basically accomplished nothing. Although I’m sure they inspired a thousand sweaty Faith/Buffy fanfics, so not nothing. And this fight scene is really good even if I was very confused the whole time about the handcuffs.
Finally, Buffy whips out Faith’s knife and, just as Faith is about to throw her off the roof, gives Faith one good stab in the gut. Faith, not one to be cowed, congratulates Buffy, “You did it,” and then knocks her out with a right hook (or whatever it’s called when you slam your right elbow into someone’s face) and jumps off the roof onto the bed of a passing bus so that her blood won’t help Angel. Buffy stares over the roof, clearly wondering what she’s done.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Willow is standing in the middle of a busy staircase signing people’s yearbooks. Rude! If this were New York someone would push her down those stairs.
- Poor Professor Worth! Jeez, those stabbing sounds were… graphic.
- Faith, with her crop top and pin-straight hair, looks much more like I remember high-schoolers dressing at this point in history than Buffy with her knee-length skirt.
- If they know the Mayor is going to eat everyone on Graduation Day, why don’t they like, call in a bomb threat and get it canceled? So confused.
- Wesley and Giles are doing fencing practice in the library, but Wesley is so outmatched that Giles can read the newspaper while still handily beating Wesley. This is satisfying on a base, I-hate-Wesley level.
- Xander and Cordy cut fifth period together after Anya decides to skip town! My little shipping heart skips a beat. But it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere.
- As for Anya, like, let’s be serious. Anya has basically zero charisma (I’m sorry, I really like the actress but she’s playing this character very… dour) and yet I’m still shocked that she would go for Xander, while also being sort of shocked Xander would go for her.
- I got worried when Willow called out Oz for being too detached, that maybe it was an implicit comparison to the panicked Xander. But it seems to have worked out OK for Oz, if you know what I mean.
- Mrs. Buffy suddenly wonders if she should’ve sent Buffy to a different school. You’re just thinking of this?!
- Willow still has Amy in a rat cage in her room. I don’t know if this is great continuity or terrible continuity. Like what happened to Amy while Willow was kidnapped?
- Before getting shot, Angel says Buffy is acting like a brat. Gee, maybe don’t date teenagers when you’re 400 if you don’t like them acting like brats.
- Ewwwww, the Mayor’s gonna eat one of those giant spiders?! Yucky!
- Faith demands to be given a task, like rendering someone dead or maimed. “You little firecracker,” the Mayor grins. This relationship continues to be at least as creepy as Wesley + Cordy.
- Willow’s massively turned-on sigh when Oz touches her hair while they’re doing their sexy cross-referencing database searches is sooo funny.
- On the other hand, I like that Willow was using the word “drive” to mean “be the one on the keyboard” years before I learned that terminology.
- So Buffy tells the Council they have to help Angel because she doesn’t want to watch her “lover” die. Ewww, don’t say “lover”! Gross! Also, he dumped you, so… I think the correct way to gross everyone out here would be “ex-lover.”
- Ooh, a mini montage with Buffy prepping for the fight, an ill Angel … sweating, and Faith fighting a punching bag. Love it!
- I also love that Buffy puts on red leather pants and a leather jacket for her fight with Faith. It doesn’t seem to be the best fighting outfit (doesn’t she need more flexibility?) but it effectively gives you a visual that Buffy is Breaking A Little Bad.
- I can’t believe Buffy tried to kill Faith (or really killed her!) to help her boyfriend after all the self-righteous lecturing she did that ONE TIME Faith killed a human thinking he was a vampire!
Notes from a True Stan:
- I feel like WB shows set me up to believe that people would all of a sudden be nice to each other in senior year out of nostalgia. Spoiler: they didn’t.
- I always thought this joke about a teacher playing hangman with his seniors was silly, but my friend just told me a story about her Physics teacher showing them various Disney movies for the last six weeks of their semester, so…
- Buffy recognizes Faith’s murder handiwork just from a blurry crime scene picture in the paper? Who is she, Dexter?
- Also, what is this “I could never kill Faith” Batman nonsense? If someone’s imminently trying to kill you or other people, it might be okay to kill them!
- Ah it’s so scary when the Mayor just shows up in the library! It’s supposed to be their sanctuary!
- “Oh you know, Buffy, looking back at everything that happened–maybe I should have sent you to a different school.” Ha! Oh, Joyce.
- Poor Amy is still a rat! But, as Oz points out, she has a habitrail so she “seems to be in a good place emotionally.”
- Buffy says to Angel, “This is my last office romance, I’ll tell you that.” Famous last words! [Ha, we both wrote the exact same thing! –Nerdy Spice]
- Ha, I like when Buffy says she’ll count to three, rips out the arrow on “one,” and Angel grumbles, “I knew you were gonna do that.”
- I love Oz’s little smile while Willow jabbers on about how she “feels different” after having sex. (Again, not a thing.) They’re so cute together.
- Ugh, why does Anya even like Xander? He’s horrible to her! Why do all of these intelligent, beautiful women keep throwing themselves at him like he’s Don freaking Draper? Grr.
- Her little “Aren’t we gonna kiss?” is so funny, though.
- I hate to say it, but–Wesley’s kind of right? Faith did do this to distract Buffy from the Ascension, and Buffy was willing to let Angel die to save the world last season!
- That being said, totally support her decision to quit the Council. Fuck those guys.
- Aw, it’s cute when Xander says he’s afraid of “losing” Buffy, but he only means metaphorically. They have so much faith in her!
- I also like that Buffy preps for her fight with Faith by changing from a perfectly practical outfit–a light sweatshirt and a bun–to an entirely leather outfit and her hair down. Why? [Haha, I was saying the same thing! Those leather pants do not look like they allow for enough roundhouse kicks! But they make the fight look way cooler. –Nerdy Spice]
- Ewwww he’s eating the spiders! And the legs are sticking out! Nerdy Spice is not going to be happy about this.
- This Buffy/Faith fight is my favorite of the whole show. The fight choreography is riveting.
- OMG Buffy, don’t just sit there, grab her before she falls!
Season 3, Episode 22 “Graduation Day, Part 2”
We pick up where we left off, which is–not a good place! The Mayor is about to Ascend at graduation. Buffy tried to cure Angel by stabbing Faith, but then promptly lost her (you had one job!). Meanwhile Angel is still super poisoned, and close to death–he’s so delirious, he mistakes Willow for Buffy and goes on and on about how he made a mistake and could “never leave [her].” Awkward!
Buffy comes back from her mission practically catatonic, and Oz and Willow leave her alone with Angel. Buffy wakes Angel and tells him she can cure him–and then she very dramatically takes off her jacket and says, “Drink me.” It’s all very sexual. He says no, he won’t kill her, and she says it won’t kill her if he doesn’t “take it all.” (At which point, it occurs to me that it’s very important how much blood Angel actually needs. Could he be cured with just a little Slayer blood? Shouldn’t they have at least tried that first, before this whole “we need to kill Faith” debacle? And now that we’re on the subject, shouldn’t she have taken Faith alive anyway, so her blood would keep flowing? So many questions.)
Anyway, the whole thing only gets more sexual from there–Buffy chases him around the room with her exposed neck and, in the face of his refusal, punches him a few times until he gets his game face on. Then she pulls her sleeve off her shoulder (like why? Is he going to bite her shoulder??) grabs his hair, and brings his face to her neck. He bites her, and then falls on top of her in slow motion. And the face Buffy is making–well, let’s just say I can’t imagine the director saying anything other than “the face you make as you lose your virginity.”
Sidebar: Okay, so, I think Buffy’s willingness to sacrifice herself for Angel is very romantic and everything, but like–there’s an apocalypse going on! On rewatch, I don’t quite believe that she would leave her friends and family to die at the hands of the Mayor so she could save Angel, whom, again, she already killed to save the world once.
Anyway, after what feels like a year, he is still drinking. WTF man, are you trying to kill her? He finally stops and rushes her to the hospital–the same hospital where the Mayor is grieving over Faith, who is in a coma and “unlikely to ever regain consciousness.” The Mayor conveniently overhears that Buffy was admitted, and he tries to suffocate her. Rough day for Buffy! Angel stops him–barely, and the Mayor completely loses control for the first time since we met him. He even calls Buffy a whore!
While Buffy is still unconscious, we get our first super-meaningful Joss dream sequence! Faith appears to Buffy in a coma dream and says a bunch of cryptic things to her. Any Buffyheads reading this probably already know the significance of “Little Miss Muffet counting down from 730” and “Be back before Dawn” (okay, that one is kind of obvious), but they both refer to big events down the line. The most relevant part for this episode is that Faith tells Buffy to play off of the Mayor’s “human weakness.” Buffy wakes up, kisses Faith on the head (more fodder for fan vids), and announces that she’s ready for “war.” Yessss.
Buffy apparently woke up with a fully-formed plan to stop the Mayor in her head, as if all she needed was a little R&R (and maybe she did! I figure out a lot of things during REM sleep). We don’t know what the plan is yet, but we know that Angel will be there, since the Ascension will apparently cause an eclipse, they’re recruiting a bunch of students to their cause, and that Xander has some sort of “key role” because of his military knowledge from that one time he thought he was a soldier. Wow, they’re really milking that for all it’s worth, huh?
Also, Angel decides to be the absolute WORST and bluntly tells Buffy that he’s not going to say goodbye after the Ascension. “It’ll be easier,” he says. Um, easier for whom, because Buffy looks completely heartbroken, as she should. And what is up with this man’s timing? She’s literally fighting the Mayor that day, she has better things to think about than her dumb ex! Ugh.
Then we’re at graduation! The Mayor begins his speech, and after a few minutes, Buffy says, “My God. He’s gonna do his entire speech.” Heh. But right after he compares graduating high school to “ascending to a higher level” (I see what you did there), the sun goes dark, and the Mayor doubles over in pain. Then, in possibly the worst CGI ever seen on this show–and that’s saying a lot–he turns into a giant, cheesy snake. Think the Hydra from Hercules, but with only one head.
Buffy cries out, “Now!” and all of the students take off their graduation robes to reveal weapons underneath! The entire class wages a pretty epic war against the Mayor-snake, shooting at him with flamethrowers and firing tiny little crossbows at him. That seems fairly useless, but they’re holding their own–he only eats a couple of kids. A few students try to run away, only to find the Mayor’s crew of vampires, and Angel shows up to lead the offensive against them.
Then, the battle goes south a little. Newly nice Larry gets killed, and then Snyder yells at the Mayor that this is “not orderly” (heh) and gets eaten. Buffy calls for everyone to fall back, and the kids literally stampede out of there, some of them hitting the vampires with baseball bats. A few of them don’t make it out–like Harmony–but most of them do, and Cordelia finally gets to stake her first vamp! (At Charisma Carpenter’s behest.)
Meanwhile, Buffy occupies the Mayor by taunting him with his “human weakness”–AKA Faith. She takes out Faith’s knife, which still has Faith’s blood on it, and describes to the Mayor how she “slid it into [Faith’s] gut like butter.” Dark! Having sufficiently angered him, Buffy runs into the school while the Mayor-snake’s head follows, bulldozing entire hallways in the process. This part actually looks kind of cool, until the Mayor sticks his head in the library and, after seeing a shit ton of explosives, says, “Well, gosh”–and the animation is truly terrible. Buffy jumps out onto the school lawn, and she and Giles blow up the high school. Graduation!
After the fight, Xander tells Buffy that Angel made it through the fight, but must have taken off after. A few minutes later, Buffy sees Angel skulking from far away. They exchange a wistful look, and he turns around and leaves. A fitting end for a skulky character–but, God. What a coward.
Everything else is very cute and bittersweet. Giles asks Buffy how she’s doing, and she says “I’m tired” and he says, “It’s been quite a couple of days,” like a dad and daughter after a trip to Disneyland. And then he hands her her (slightly charred) diploma and says, “I think you earned it.” Aw! Then the kids debrief together, and Oz makes the subtext text, as they say on Dawson’s, and says, “Guys, take a moment to process this. We survived,” and when Buffy mentions the battle with the Mayor, he says, “Not the battle. High school.” Then they walk away, and we finish with a shot of a charred Class of ‘99 yearbook. Aww.
Notes from a New Fan:
- So random that Wentworth Miller is in the credits for this show years after his single appearance.
- Oz says, “You too, huh?” when Willow says that Angel thought she was Buffy. I am upset we missed the scene where a sweaty Angel tried really hard to get back together with… Oz.
- Wow, these drinking noises are very… graphic.
- I loled when Angel knocked the handle off the door and the doctor said all sternly, “Have you two been doing drugs?” Hee. The nineties were such a funny time.
- When Oz says Angel seems fine and gives him the sideeye, and there’s an awkward pause… I laughed again. So good.
- I don’t get the riddles!
- They joke about committing germ warfare on the Mayor by sneezing on him. It may have sounded silly in 1999, but in 2020 that shit will scare people.
- I’m really, REALLY not surprised that Wesley is a horrible kisser.
- Ahh, did Willow and Oz just have a quicky in that van?! :covers eyes:
- Heh, the Mayor is going to make them listen to his whole speech before killing them. That’s the worst!!
- This transformation of the Mayor into a demon is … let’s just say I’m sure they did the best CGI they could on the budget they were given.
- Aw, it’s surprisingly touching that the whole class united to fight this battle.
- Principal Snyder is the Gennaro of this episode.
- Xander manages to discuss Angel without being a dick for ten whole seconds. Everyone’s growing up!
- Aw, I really hope Faith’s not gone forever… Janes steadfastly refuses to spoil me, but I have a sad feeling she may be gone forever.
Notes from a True Stan:
- The Mayor telling himself, re: Faith, “She’ll be all right, she’ll be all right” is actually very sad. Harry Groener is such a great actor.
- It’s a cheap joke, but I always laugh when Willow tells Oz that Angel thought she was Buffy and Oz deadpans, “You too, huh?” Ha!
- It seems like it was really easy to goad Angel into nearly murdering the girl he loves? Are we supposed to blame his fever or something?
- I always think of this scene whenever a vampire on this show bites someone and they’re immediately dead. It takes a long time to drain someone’s blood!
- I also always think of this scene when people talk about vampire bites-as-sexy times. This, and Dracula.
- Ugh, Angel tries to tell Buffy’s friends that she “made” him do it? She didn’t make him do anything! [I hate to be on Angel’s side but I dunno, she punched him in the face a bunch of times… –Nerdy Spice]
- I guess, looking back, the “Class Protector” thing does serve a larger purpose. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense that all these kids just accept that they need to take crossbows and flamethrowers to graduation.
- Although, wouldn’t most of them just not go?
- Ew, ew, ew, I wish I could Men In Black the Cordelia/Wesley makeout out of my mind. I know it’s supposed to be gross, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.
- I love that all of Sunnydale’s principals get eaten.