Saturday, April 13, 2013

Graduation Day Pt. 1

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.


This premature nostalgia is lost on Buffy and Xander, who are otherwise preoccupied. The Ascension is nigh, and it appears it will take place at the actual graduation ceremony, where the Mayor will speak.

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."


But the show hasn't given up on fleshing out that backstory! Earlier in the episode, the Mayor congratulated Faith on her murder of the professor by telling her that her father would have been proud. Really? Is her father Charles Manson and nobody told me?

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.


But the dress is really awful tho.

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!


For some reason I don't completely understand, Giles and Wesley are fencing in the library, talkin' about the Ascension. They're interrupted by Anya, who announces that she has witnessed an Ascension, and lived to tell the tale! She explains that all the demons that walk the earth are tainted and human-like. So when the Mayor becomes a pure demon, he'll be like one of those demons only real big? I think?


Right then Mayor drops by the library--it's alarming how scary his presence in this space can be. This is the Scoobies inner sanctum, and while it would be easy for any enemy to just drop in, it's like they just have an understanding that the library is off limits! It's probably in the Geneva Convention.


The Mayor gloats about the Ascension, and reads an excerpt from their research about all of the races of the earth coming together in terror during the Ascension. His response? "Aww, that's kinda sweet! Different races, coming together!"

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.


Angel turns up at the old professor's apartment to help Buffy carry a box? I think it's one of those things where he said they broke up and he never wanted to see her again, but then he keeps showing up unexpectedly for no reason, and he calls her like, "I still love you," and Buffy's like, "This is exhausting!" They fight in the street like an old divorced couple but their bickering is cut short when Angel gets an arrow thru the chest. It came from Faith, who meant to miss the heart. The arrow is poisoned! When will Katniss.


Wesley and Giles discover that the old professor studied volcanoes and found a big dead dinosaur in the ocean. The Mayor wants to hide this information because it means that when he turns into that dinosaur thing after the Ascension, he will no longer be invincible. Yeah!

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!


Wesley goes to the Council to ask if they'll help cure Angel, who is currently really poisoned and sweaty. And I mean, no offense Buffy, this does seem like kind of a ridic request. When they say no, poor Buffy has to shout things like, "I'm talking about watching my lover die!" She can't understand why the Watcher's council won't do anything to cure this vampire, and so she defiantly quits the council. Just like that! Why didn't you think of this ages ago, Buffy? Remember how they fired Giles??


After reading some books in chem lab, Oz discovers the cure for what ails Angel; unfortunately, this cure means draining the blood of a Slayer. A few weeks ago, Buffy might have expressed some moral qualms about what she'd have to do to get such blood, but today? No matter. She'll kill Faith. No prob!

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.


Buffy turns up at Faith's apartment dressed in leather pants and a black top. Faith says, "Well look at you! All dressed up in big sister's clothes." And she does mean literally.


They beat the crap out of each other; it's pretty cool. Honestly, I miss the fight scenes. It's so vintage Buffy. All the acrobatic flips! And they are not even trying with the stunt doubles!

  

Poetically, Buffy stabs Faith right in the gut with the knife the Mayor gave her in Choices. Faith leaps dramatically off the roof to avoid her blood going to cure Angel. Her final words to Buffy? "You should have been there, B. Quite a ride."


Now, pause.

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.


1 comment:

  1. I want to find the best Buffy/Angel youtube mashup set to "We Are Never Ever."

    Giles stabbing the Mayor tops my list of favorite Giles moments. I think I first saw Giles as a sexual creature in that moment. Us gays, always about the stabbing.

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