Sunday, 26 June 2011
BUFFY: 3.20 ‘THE PROM’
WRITER: Marti Noxon
DIRECTOR: David Solomon
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
Buffy and the gang are looking forward to their school prom. However this being Sunnydale nothing is going to go smoothly. Firstly Angel has heartbreaking news for poor Buff. He breaks up with her, as he knows they have no future together. He also tells her that after the Ascension he will be leaving Sunnydale to make things easier (plus he has his own TV series to get to in LA). As well as Buffy’s personal pain there is also the small matter of a bunch of vicious and human-brain-hungry hellhounds to deal with. They’ve been bred by a disaffected student and trained to kill anyone in formal wear. Determined that her friends will get their perfect high school prom, Buffy takes it upon herself to single-handedly hunt down and kill the beasts before they can start their high school student brain feast.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Hmm, nothing too obvious. The hellhound stuff is just a daft action-orientated hook to hang this episode’s important end of season story points on e.g. Angel’s decision to leave and Buffy being recognised and trusted by her fellow students as ‘Class Protector’.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Nasty student Tucker Wells and his vicious hellhounds. And possibly Angel for being pretty darn insensitive to poor Buff with his timing.
WHY IT ROCKS
The script. Marti Noxon wrote a deeply emotional and beautifully affecting script. Sure, the A story is silly hellhounds looking to chomp on formal attired students, but the really important stuff is what is happening with Buffy and Angel and with the rest of the gang. Angel’s realisation and decision is a long time coming, taking Joyce’s intervention as well as The Mayor’s earlier words to finally push him to act. After all he is the responsible adult. Buffy, as her mom points out, for all her smarts, strength and power, is a young girl in love, blinded by her love and by her lack of life experience. So it’s left up to Angel to make the responsible decision.
The acting. All are great here but once again SMG brings her big game. She runs the gamut in this episode from childlike glee to utter heartbreak and devastation to tough and stoic warrior. Sarah really does encapsulate the full character of Buffy Summers here. Sure, she is smart, hugely tough and quick with a witty quip or three but deep down she remains an emotionally inexperienced and fragile child. Something her mom knows very well and something others (Angel especially) easily forget.
Anya’s hilariously blunt, rude and inept way of asking Xander to be her date for the Prom.
Tucker Wells’ use of various famous high school movies to train the hellhounds to attack Sunnydale High Prom goers.
Angel’s disturbing dream of his and Buffy’s wedding day. The effects used to show Buffy burning to ash in the sun are horribly effective. But prior to her human torching Sarah does look truly beautiful in Buffy’s wedding dress. As she does later on in her prom dress.
Xander, Cordy and Cordy’s prom dress.
Giles’s exasperation with Wesley over Cordelia.
The awards ceremony at the Prom and Buffy being given her unexpected ‘Class Protector’ award by the Prom Committee – as represented by Jonathan. This could so easily have been extremely corny and daft. But luckily it is written, performed and directed with restraint and with genuine heart and doesn’t for a moment go in for needless sentimentality. It is simply a beautifully poigniant and perfectly charming scene. And it works because we all know that Buffy has truly earned this. And also it plays a major role in allowing to happen what needs to happen in the season finale. It’s emotional and character driven but also plot driven as well.
Buffy gets her one perfect high school moment right at the end, though it is tinged with sadness with the knowledge that all things – school, relationships, (favourite TV shows) etc. - come to an end.
WHY IT SUCKS
The hellhound plot serves as nothing but a functional element to add some action and monster mayhem to the story, though you could argue it hammers home the award Buffy gets and that people have noticed her and do appreciate her.
The hellhounds look rubbish. Just guys in silly rubber costumes prancing around on all fours.
For a guy who’s been around 240-plus years Angel sure can be a thoughtless inept tool at times. His timing for dumping Buffy is truly terrible. Couldn’t he have at least waited until after the Ascension as odds on they’d all die anyway so problem solved? Yeah, I know this wouldn’t have worked well dramatically or plot-wise seeing as how it has to be set up that Angel is leaving for his own series. But still, you can’t help but curse the guy for doing what he does when he does.
Buffy becomes ‘Class Protector’ in one of the series’ most perfect scenes.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Anya (asking Xander to the Prom): “Men are evil. Will you go with me?”
Xander: “One of us is very confused, and I honestly don't know which.”
Anya: "Look, I know you find me attractive; I've seen you looking at my breasts."
Xander: "Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open."
Giles (to Buffy regarding her break-up with Angel): "I understand this sort of thing requires ice cream of some kind."
Giles (to Wesley, regarding Cordelia): "For God's sake, man, she's eighteen. And you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it, would you? And stop fluttering about."
Buffy (to the gang, determined): “I'm gonna give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every person on the face of the Earth to do it.”
Xander (looking worried): “Yay?”
Jonathan: “We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight? Did she....um...This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write in ballots and the prom committee asked me to read this. "We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you. But that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here."”
Student: “Hyena people!”
Jonathan (continuing): "But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you. Or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history. And we know that at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class offers its thanks and gives you, uh... this." It's from all of us. And it has written here, Buffy Summers — Class Protector.”
AND ANOTHER THING
The movies that Tucker used to train the hellhounds were: Prom Night, Pump Up the Volume (which Seth Green and Juliet Landau were in), Prom Night IV, Pretty in Pink, The Club, and Carrie.
Buffy's wedding dress in Angel’s dream was designed by famous fashion designer Vera Wang.
Sarah didn't actually get to go to her own prom. She was at the Emmy Awards instead.
The lovely song that Buffy and Angel dance to at the end is called Wild Horses and is performed by The Sundays (available on the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack). It is actually a cover of a song by The Rolling Stones.
HOW MANY STAKES?
It’s all very PROMising for the big finale. 3.5 (out of 5)