[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 07/13/1999]
A perfect conclusion to what looks to be BtVS‘s most consistent season. Is this as good as Whedon’s own “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] from last season? Well, nothing really is since it’s my favorite episode. It’s also interesting to note that I don’t think this episode tops “Innocence” [2×14] or “Passion” [2×17] (2x17) either. One of the few things I don’t like about S3 is the lack of any real danger and minimal outpours of emotion. More discussion on this topic will be had in the S3 review. That’s not meant to diminish what this episode accomplishes though. A lot happens here and all of it is fantastically entertaining. This is an example of an episode being able to fully entertain me without wondering if the good guys will fully win. We got shock and heartbreak last season, so this is actually a nice break from the usual. There are some incredibly powerful scenes crammed in this baby though. So lets dive in!
We pick up right where part one left off, with Buffy on a rooftop outside of Faith’s apartment. She morosely, thinking she’s actually killed Faith, climbs down the ladder and heads back to Angel’s place. This is where, I must admit, a beautiful and oddly erotic scene takes place. Buffy knows she’s the only one who can cure Angel now so she offers herself to him. She tells him to not take all her blood so she can survive long enough to get blood back in her system. He at first refuses to do it. Then she literally punches him in the face trying to get him to vamp out. She finally succeeds and puts his face on her neck. Angel then finally lets the hunger inside him take over a little bit and bites into her. They fall onto the ground together while Buffy is clearly in significant pain. After a few seconds pass, though, Buffy appears to getting some kind of sexual satisfaction out of the experience. The way Angel’s positioned on top of her and in between her legs helps propel this idea further. After crunching a helmet with her hand and breaking some wood with her feet she finally loses conciousness.
I’ve spent so much time describing this scene because I find it envirgorating. In Angel’s eyes drinking Buffy is probably more satisfying, in a way of course, than having sex with her. All season long there’s been massive sexual tension between these two and this is where it’s passionately let out. All that frustration is poured into this moment and the First comes away with its first truthful statement in the show’s run (“you will drink her” in “Amends” [3×10] ).
Angel now, back to more than full health, rushes Buffy to the hospital to get blood back in her system. This brings me to a possible complaint. Why wouldn’t Buffy just carry Angel to the hospital before letting him drink her? Then she’d get immediate medical attention. Was Angel so sick he wouldn’t have made it to the hospital, or is the hospital right next door to Angel’s place? I’m just not clear on why this route was taken. Anyway, Buffy gets tended to and we find out Angel’s strength has increased significantly from having Buffy’s blood in his body.
While Angel is calling the Scooby Gang to the hospital we find out that Faith is alive but stuck in a coma. The Mayor is there looking after Faith and hears about Buffy. So he walks over to her bed and tries to choke her while unconcious. This just really underscores how, even though we kind of love his personality, the Mayor is still extremely evil. Even through this evil we see that his anger stems from his love of Faith. The Mayor is genuinely affected by Faith’s disappearance at the very beginning of the episode, and now he’s genuinely enraged by what Buffy did to her. The Mayor choking Buffy is difficult to watch, so when Angel comes in to protect her with some of her own strength, it’s extremely satisfying.
I’d like to briefly talk about Faith’s coma. I feel this is a really smart move by Whedon and it works on many levels. The first is that Buffy’s not a killer anymore even though, as I discussed in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] , she still feels like she is. When I first thought about this I was kind of disappointed that Buffy got off the hook again (“Ted” [2×11] comes to mind). It would have been fascinating seeing Buffy having to deal with killing a human, but I see now that in this case it’s different. Faith’s a fantastic character that you don’t want to off just yet. With her coma she can wake up any time the writers want and come back into the story. This happens in “This Year’s Girl” [4×15] . So in reality I’m pretty pleased the way the Faith and Buffy arc ends up.
Right before Buffy regains conciousness she has one of her prophecy dreams. The specifics, such as if that’s really Faith or not, are confusing so I’m going to focus on the important information. Buffy, while looking at the cat on the bed, asks Faith, “Who’s going to look after him?” Faith replies, “It’s a she. And aren’t these things supposed to take care of themselves?” I could be stretching here, but since I have seen the series I’m going to put out some possibilities. I translate Buffy’s line into meaning “Who’s going to look after Dawn?” even though she doesn’t know the sex or name of the person. Faith clarifies that it’s a ‘she’ and that Buffy need not worry about these things–they are outside her influence.
Buffy then asks, “A higher power guiding us?” Faith responds, “I’m pretty sure that’s not what I meant.” I take this as meaning Buffy thinks it’s a higher power that’s going to bring forth Dawn. Faith points out that it’s not. And it isn’t, monks reform the Key to be Dawn. Buffy says, “There’s something I’m supposed to be doing.” Faith comes back, “Oh yeah. – Miles to go – Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0.” This means that there’s still two years until Buffy’s death and the resolution to Dawn’s conflict. There’s still a lot of work to do before all that happens. Faith then says some stuff I don’t know what to make of but eventually says, “You want to know the deal? Human weakness – never goes away. Not even his.” Faith is obviously referring to the Mayor here.
Buffy concludes, “How are you going to fit all this stuff?” Faith says, “Not gonna. It’s yours … Just take what you need.” I interpret that as meaning Buffy’s now back to being the only Slayer again and that she needs to take the important experiences she had with Faith and move on. This is when Buffy wakes up, walks over to Faith, and gives her a sweet kiss on the forehead. This is an amazingly packed dream sequence. If you look carefully enough you can spot many instances of foreshadowing before, but this dream is proof that Whedon really had things planned out in advance. This is another charm of the series added to the already long list of them.
After the intriguing dream sequence comes another really cool scene. The Scoobies are planning their method of defense in the library. This scene is intercutted with the Mayor’s planning scene in City Hall. These two scenes blend back and forth into each other and is edited expertly; this scene looks fabulous. Even though we’re basically just being fed exposition, it feels important and grand mostly due to that great editing and the wonderful music.
A smaller moment worth mentioning is Angel’s final words to Buffy. He tells her that after the fight he’s going to take off without saying anything. I see why he’d want to go this way, but by telling her he’s not going to say anything kind of defeats the purpose of not saying anything. All this accomplishes is making Buffy feel bad. A poor decision on Angel’s part but still completely in character. It only underscores the need for him to leave.
Now we arrive to the Mayor’s big commencement speech. He tells everyone that the speech really speaks to everyone involved, and it really does. It’s so relevant that I’m going to put it right here. He says, “It’s been a long road getting here. For you- for Sunnydale. There has been achievement, joy, good times,- and there has been grief. There’s been loss. Some people who should be here today- aren’t. But we are. – Journey’s end. And what is a journey? Is it just- distance traveled? Time spent? No. It’s what happens on the way, it the things that happen to you. At the end of the journey you’re not the same. Today is about change. Graduation doesn’t just mean your circumstances change, it means you do. You ascend- to a higher level. Nothing will ever be the same.” Nothing will be the same for these characters and the series. The high school years are now over and the characters, who have grown way past the people they were back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] , will launch into completely new territory. They will struggle to find their way in this new environment much like the series itself will.
The end of the Mayor’s speech leads right into his transformation into a giant snake. This is done with mediocre CGI and is barely pulled off as believable. From a distance the snake looks acceptable, but up close it’s not very good at all. I know budget was the issue here and it’s a shame. Even looking past the cheap CGI, the Mayor comes off as a much scarier and interesting villain as a person. That really says something about how amazingly well the writers built his character. This is a truly unique villain to the television landscape. In many ways I’m sad they did away with him. Anyway…
Then there’s the big fight. In “The Prom” [3×20] all the students came together to honor Buffy as a protector, and here Buffy is able to share her burden with the rest of the graduating class. It’s thrilling seeing the whole class take their robes off and fight back as one army. Some smaller characters we’ve come to love (or quite possibly loathe), such as Larry and Harmony, get killed and I even feel a little remorse for them. This is the way this season had to end. It simply works on all levels and is a smaller example of what Buffy will accomplish in “Chosen” [7×22] . Also, who doesn’t get excessive satisfaction out of seeing vampires being killed by flaming arrows and the school blowing up? The metaphor comes through beautifully: high school is over, time to ‘destroy’ all that fear, annoyance, and isolation. It’s time to move on. This is an excellent episode that caps off an excellent season. Buffy says, “If someone could just wake me when it’s time to go to college, that’d be great.” Sounds great Buffy, I’ll see you there!
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Cordelia still thinking Buffy always has selfish motives.
+ Angel, in his delirium, thinks Willow is Buffy. Oz reveals Angel thought he was Buffy too!
+ Xander still being mean to Angel and not fully understanding the situation.
+ Buffy calling Xander and Angel “little old ladies.”
+ Buffy and the writers remembering to go back to the rooftop to pick up Faith’s knife.
+ The Cordelia and Wesley kiss scene. This is hilarious. All the build-up for that!? Haha.
+ Giles salvaging Buffy’s diploma.
+ Angel’s final goodbye stare and the ensuing walk into the night. This launches his own series.
– The Mayor’s “well, gosh!” They should have just used his regular voice here, because the way it is sounds tremendously hokey.
* Buffy’s dream with Faith is obviously directly hinting at Dawn’s arrival (“it’s a she”) and Buffy’s death in “The Gift” [5×22] (5×22, “counting down from 7-3-0”).