Season #3, Episode #21: Graduation Day Pt. 1
"Looking back at everything that's happened, maybe I should have sent you to a different school."
This is gonna be a short one. There's just not a lot to say about most part 1s. And for an episode in which Willow and Oz get it on for the first time, Angel takes an arrow through the heart, and Faith plummets to her death, Graduation Day Pt. 1 is pretty blah.
The episode begins on the last day of school at Sunnydale High during yearbook signing. Old enemies come together to say HAGS, I wish I had gotten to know you better, let's hang out this summer! Willow and Harmony say a fond farewell. Percy thanks Willow for turning him into a scholar. Bittersweet, because once they graduate they'll never see each other again. And also because Willow knows something the rest don't--they are probably all going to get eaten in a few days.
Faith shows up at the home of an old professor who is like Giles 20 years from now. She's on a mission from the Mayor to kill him, as he is a "loose end." Faith is creepy and nonchalant--she does "evil" much more convincingly than "troubled."
Later, Faith volunteers to kill or maim anybody the Mayor needs cos she just can't sleep. The Mayor calls her a "firecracker" which, wouldn't you know it, is what her mother used to call her! If only her mother had just hugged her more, she could've used that nervous energy to become a computer programmer.
Part of what makes the Mayor as a parental figure so creepy is that he treats Faith like a tiny child. I'm not sure if this is meant to be comical, or if he's meant to be like the father she never had. Giles treats Buffy like an adult; the Mayor makes Faith dress up in a horrible pink dress, too girly even for Willow. He want her to wear it to the Ascension, which he likens to her debutante ball. "Nobody knows what you are," he says to her.
In class, Anya begs Xander to go out with her. The idea of anyone begging Xander to go out with him is comical in and of itself, but it's Anya's desperate attempt to understand this mortal coil that will be played for laughs from here on out. She suggests, "We could watch sports of some kind. Men like sports! I'm sure of it!" Xander tells Anya that if he survives the Ascension, they can go on a date. Shades of Season 5--but I'm getting ahead of myself!
Now that Buffy knows the Mayor is gonna be really huge, she's freaked out. She packs a bag for Joyce and tells her to get out of town because she can't fight the Mayor while worrying about Joyce. She's said similar things to Angel in the past to no avail. The idea of having a support system nearby is foreign to Buffy, who feels it is her responsibility to go it alone.
Now that Willow knows the Mayor is gonna be really huge, she's similarly freaked out. She tries to confide in Oz, who continues to be the "ironic detachment guy" in the face of this crisis. But they'll all be dead soon! And their graduation robes are so ugly! Willow wishes Oz would panic with her; he basically jumps her bones. "What are you doing?" Willow asks. "Panicking," Oz responds. I gotta say, my opinion of Oz has improved on this rewatch.
Willow and Oz aren't the only ones to share a romantic moment. Anya turns up in the dead of night to ask Xander to come away with her, because the thought that something might happen to him makes her feel "bad inside." Despite his general uselessness, Xander proves his worth to the Scoobies--he's not going to leave! He's going to stick with them til the very end!
Finally, us fans are going to get what I assume many of us always wanted--a battle royale between Buffy and Faith. This comes complete with a training montage interspersed with some shots of sweaty Angel.
When I first watched this episode, I have to say I was almost glad to see Buffy stab Faith. For too many episodes Faith has just been wandering around causing all kinds of problems and being insufferable, and it's about time somebody did something about it, am I right?? I just wanted her off the show.
But having seen the rest of the series, as well as Angel, this scene has lost much of its impact. Buffy doesn't turn grey at this moment like I originally hoped she would. There's been no build-up to her decision that she doesn't mind killing a human. There's no discussion as to whether or not this will change her like it changed Faith. Angel doesn't pretend to be Angelus and make out with her to extract info from hostage Willow or anything. In fact, I don't think anybody ever mentions this again until Season 6. It's a drastic turn for Buffy that's quickly forgotten, which also has the effect of diminishing Faith's arc. Why did Faith lose it, and not Buffy?
As I'm sure we all know, Faith doesn't actually die, which is a shame, in a way. Not because I'm not a fan--by the time she shows up on Angel, I like her a lot more. But because this would have forced Buffy to contemplate her dark side. She could absorb Faith, who has always been her shadow. Considering the path she takes in later seasons, this would have benefited her characterization in my opinion. Faith surviving is a copout.
Favorite moment: Giles stabs the Mayor with a fencing...sword? I don't remember why but it's Giles stabbing the Mayor with a sword.