Saturday, 20 November 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 12 'Prophecy Girl'

"Bite me!"

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon

What’s the sitch?


Xander finally asks Buffy out to the upcoming Spring Fling dance…only to be knocked back by the “I don’t think of you that way” line. Later on, Buffy overhears Giles and Angel discussing a prophecy Giles has just discovered in the Codex: the ancient book Angel supplied him with. The prophecy tells of how The Master is about to rise and that Buffy will die at his hands. Buffy is devastated. She tells Giles she quits and runs off home.

The next day, Willow and Cordelia discover the bodies of students in the school's audio/visual room. They’ve been brutally murdered by vamps working for The Master. Buffy goes to see the traumatised Willow at her home to offer comfort. Seeing what this has done to her friend and realising that Willow and Xander may well be next, Buffy decides to face her destiny and seek out The Master before anyone else gets hurt. So wearing the dress her mum bought her for the dance plus Angel’s leather jacket, our brave slayer tools up and makes for The Master's lair looking for a showdown.

But in the ensuing battle with the ancient vampire, Buffy does indeed die at his hands by drowning in a shallow pool of water. And The Master, having now killed the Slayer, fulfils the prophecy and rises from his underground prison, arriving on the surface, triumphant in his victory.

Meanwhile, Xander and Angel get to The Master’s former lair only to find Buffy face down in the water, dead. Xander gives her CPR...and eventually she splutters back to life feeling stronger than ever. The reinvigorated slayer then heads up to the surface to seek out The Master for what will be their final battle.

And on the roof of the school library, as the Hellmouth beneath starts to open, Buffy and The Master fight once more.

But this time our girl is too strong for him and the risen vampire, soon bested, plunges down through the skylight to be impaled on some broken wood, killing him outright.

The Master dead, the Hellmouth immediately closes. All is well once more.

Reunited, the gang decides to go on to The Bronze for the Spring Fling dance.

“Sure!" remarks Buffy. "We saved the world. I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty.”

And they all head off for some well deserved fun.

What’s the sitch beneath the sitch?
This is all about fate, destiny and sacrifice. And above all friendship. Despite being traumatised by the prophecy and what it means for her, Buffy puts the safety of her friends and others before her own life. Luckily things don’t turn out quite as she’d expected.

Who’s giving us the wiggins this week?
The Master and the seemingly inescapable pull of fate.

Why it rocks
1. Joss writes and directs. This is the big season finale that pays off everything that has been set up in the prior eleven episodes. The story is tight, well structured, character driven, emotional and has impact. It’s also a lot of fun in a bleak kinda way and is ultimately a highly satisfying finale to the first season.

2. Sarah Michelle Gellar. She slays all before her. Watching her portray such an epic emotional journey in just one episode is something to behold. She starts as happy schoolgirl, then goes to embarrassed, uncomfortable teen, to devastated and terrified child, then to compassionate friend and finally to calm and focussed warrior. When she dons her pretty dress and leather jacket and tools up with stakes and a crossbow the icon has most definitely arrived. It’s like watching Batman put his costume on. Kristy Swanson donned more or less the same gear in the movie but it never had the same impact that it does here…mostly because the film was rubbish and didn’t take itself or the character remotely seriously. Plus Swanson lacked the petite vulnerability, emotional range and sheer acting chops of Gellar.

3. “I quit.” The entire scene where Buffy reacts to the fatal prophecy and quits her slaying gig is one of the finest pieces of writing and acting in the entire seven seasons of the show. And it ends with that most heartbreaking of lines: "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die."

4. Subvert and die. Joss pulls one of his usual tricks and subverts the audience’s expectations. Even with the prophecy we don’t really expect Buffy to die at the hands of The Master. But die she does.

5. Xander the hero. It is fitting that Xander is the one who saves Buffy by insisting that Angel takes him to The Master’s lair, showing that he truly loves Buffy despite her not feeling the same way for him. And finding Buffy dead, it is Xander who brings her back to life. Angel, the one she does love, is the one who’s reluctant to go and help her and is also unable to save her life having no breath for CPR. Along with Buffy, Xander is the true hero of the piece. He steps up to the mark and puts his own fears, hurt feelings, and his own life aside to save someone he really does love. It’s the theme of this episode. And it works beautifully.

6. Play that rockin’ theme. Newly revived and stronger than ever, our girl gets back up and strides off to find The Master for some serious payback as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme blasts out. Love it.

Why it sucks
1. The rubber Hellmouth monster is crap.

2. How come the Master’s bones remain after he dies? Surely they should turn to dust with the rest of him.

3. Not much humour to be found here; it's mostly angst and death and mayhem.

It’s Buftastic
Buffy learns of her prophesied fate and rails against Angel and Giles before running away. Her subsequent conversation with Willow shows us the moment where she decides to face her destiny and save her friends no matter the cost to herself.

Dialogue to die for
Xander: “I'm just gonna go home, lie down and listen to country music, the music of pain.”

Angel: “By the way, I really like your dress.”
Buffy: “Yeah, yeah. Big hit with everyone.”

Buffy (to The Master): “You have fruit punch mouth.”

Buffy: “Sure! We saved the world. I say we party. I mean, I got all pretty.”

And another thing
Prophecy Girl marks Joss Whedon’s debut as a director. And a darn good job he does too.

Cast and crew had no idea if the show was going to be picked up for a second season when this was made as the entire first season was shot and finished a few months prior to it being aired. And so Prophecy Girl is designed as not just a season finale but a show finale too. Luckily for us Buffy hit big and season two (this time a full 22 episodes) was soon greenlit.

How many stakes?
I prophesise five for this girl. 5 (out of 5)

And so ends my Buffy season one recap. I'll move on to season two soon.

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