Thursday, 30 June 2011
BUFFY: 3.22 ‘GRADUATION DAY – PART 2’
Short WB promo
WRITER: Joss Whedon
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
With Faith gone all hope for curing Angel seems lost.
Because of this, and without telling her friends, Buffy makes a potentially deadly decision. She goes to Angel and forces him to drink from her.
A now cured Angel rushes an unconscious Buffy to the hospital where she undergoes an emergency blood transfusion. At the same time in a neighbouring hospital cubicle the Mayor is watching over a comatose Faith when he overhears talk of another young girl having been brought in. He goes and finds Buffy lying unconscious. Losing control he tries to smother her. Angel appears and stops him just in time, forcing him to leave. While unconscious, Buffy shares a dream with Faith who seems to give Buffy some vital but cryptic information about the future. Buffy wakes up. Feeling revitalised and knowing that the Mayor is to be the keynote speaker at their graduation ceremony, she lays out her plan to the gang, and to Wesley who turns up offering to help. There are tasks for everyone and time is short.
A few hours later and as the class of 1999 gather outside Sunnydale High for what should be an important right of passage, the Mayor begins delivering his inspiring keynote speech. But he is soon interrupted when the sun goes suddenly dark, thus signalling the beginning of his ascension. In front of the horrified gathering, the Mayor begins his long planned transformation in to a huge snake-like demon, his gang of vampires arriving under cover of the new darkness to keep the gathered students (needed as demon food for the Mayor) from escaping.
This is the moment Buffy’s plan goes in to action.
The scoobies have forewarned and forearmed all of the students against what the Mayor has planned for them. Xander takes immediate control, turning the Class of 1999 in to an instant army complete with hidden flame-throwers, swords, axes and flaming arrows. The students valiantly and successfully fight off the vamps with the help of Angel, while Buffy taunts the now fully demon Mayor in to chasing her deep in to the school. They crash through walls and doors, until they eventually reach the library. Buffy then leaps through a window, escaping, just as the demon Mayor notices explosives packed everywhere. As Buffy leaps clear we see Giles push down on a plunger…
And Sunnydale High School explodes in a huge fireball. It is destroyed utterly, killing the Mayor in the same way the demon from long ago was killed under the volcano.
Later, as the emergency services put out the fires and tend to the wounded, Buffy spies Angel. For a time the vampire and slayer just look at each other in silence. Eventually Angel turns and disappears in to the smoke, leaving behind Buffy and Sunnydale for pastures new.
Exhausted, the gang (minus Angel) reunites outside the smouldering wreckage that once was their school. Together they take a moment to savour the fact that they survived, as Oz points out, not just the ascension, but high school itself. Moment over, they wander off chatting and joking.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Same as in part 1. It’s all about moving on, graduating, and ascending to new levels in life. Angel literally moves on, away from Buffy and Sunnydale, while the Mayor also moves on, just not quite how he’d hoped. And, of course, the gang and the entire class of 1999 move on from high school for pastures new. And they do it the only way they could in the Buffyverse: they destroy the school thus putting the past firmly behind them, literally burning their bridges to childhood. The future awaits them. Life awaits them. The adventure continues.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
The Mayor (human and demon) and a bunch of nasty vamps
WHY IT ROCKS
All the same reasons that part 1 rocks, plus you get the epic pay off with a big school-based students vs. vamps smackdown and a huge snake demon eating people left right and centre. What’s not to love?
A lot happens. As with part 1 there is a lot of story being crammed in here. But it works and nothing feels rushed or extraneous. It all fits seamlessly together to bring our characters to where they all need to be for the big actual and thematic showdown. Joss is the grand master of this. His season finales burst with intelligent drama, action and humour, all underpinned by real thematic foundations.
Sex. There are two sex scenes in this episode, both played very differently. First, we see Buffy and Angel go at it. Well, not really. When Buffy forces Angel to drink from her in what is a beautifully directed sequence, it is played as if Angel is making intense love to her, lying on top of her, her legs spread with him between, Buffy moaning, reaching out to crush a fallen jug in ecstasy/pain. Of course this ‘sex’ almost kills her, thus highlighting how impossible and dangerous their relationship really is. It is all based upon pain, suffering and death. The second sex scene is an implied one between Willow and Oz who get it on together in Oz’s van right before the graduation ceremony. They are so happy together that they can’t help but make love in the face of likely death and destruction. Their relationship is based entirely on comfort and mutual support and adoration. It is all good and healthy, unlike the doomed relationship between Buffy and Angel.
Wesley and Cordy realising they are not meant to be together after sharing one of the most awkward and funny screen kisses ever put on film.
The Mayor and Faith. The Mayor grieving for Faith at the hospital and then his subsequent attempt to kill Buffy is brilliant. It adds depth to the already wonderful character. He truly loves Faith and like any father would, he wants to lash out at the person who hurt his ‘daughter’.
The Buffy and Faith dream. While both slayers are unconscious in hospital together they share a dream where Faith imparts some cryptic words to Buffy, trying to tell her things. At the time this was a huge deal amongst the fans, wondering what it was al about. It turned out that Joss was layering in elements for future seasons with major clues being given to major developments two years after this episode aired. Way to go Joss. Now THAT’S forward planning.
Principle Snyder. This is the last time we see Snyder. And Armin Shimerman is typically brilliant. His opening remarks to the gathered students at the graduation are most amusing. Shame he has to go and get eaten by a giant demon. We’ll miss him. Farewell Principle Snyder, it was fun.
The final battle. This is a pretty big scale fight involving a couple of hundred people using flame throwers, swords, bows and arrows and numerous other weapons. It also includes Buffy leading the demon Mayor through the school, knocking down walls and causing mass destruction before trapping him in the library then blowing the whole place up. It’s big. It’s exciting. And it’s so very cool.
Angel leaves. The last we see of Angel is perfect. Across a smoke filled parking lot, crowded by emergency vehicles, he and Buffy share a silent goodbye before he turns and disappears in to the smoke.
WHY IT SUCKS
The big snake demon the Mayor turns in to is not all that impressive. It’s big, sure, but is it really that powerful and scary? Also the CGI is a bit lacking.
The beautifully directed sequence where Angel drinks from Buffy. Deeply erotic and kinda scary.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Oz: “Any change?”
Willow: “He’s delirious. He thought I was Buffy.”
Oz: “You too, huh?”
Buffy:” I’m gonna need every single on of you on board. Especially you, Xander. You’re sorta the key figure here.”
Xander: “Key? Me? Okay, pride. Humility. And here’s the mind numbing fear.”
Cordelia: “Well, that was the most fun you could have without having any fun.”
Giles: "There is a certain dramatic irony attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on predestination, one might say."
Buffy (exhausted): "Fire bad. Tree pretty."
AND ANOTHER THING
The original US airing of this season finale was delayed by almost two months due to ongoing worries about recent violence in US high schools (the fact that students blow up their own school here being the main problem). Eventually Graduation Day – Part 2 aired mid-July 1999 in the US, though it had aired much earlier in Canada prompting mass bootlegging across the border between fans. Joss, hating the US delay, openly encouraged this practice much to the dismay of the WB.
The Sunnydale Class of 1999 yearbook has the phrase “The Future is Ours” on it’s front. This was the same slogan used by Nazi Germany. Also the logo accompanying it is remarkably similar to Nazi symbolism. Not sure what Joss was trying to say here. Maybe because Snyder acts as a bit of a fascist and had been called a Nazi by Cordy it was thought he’d use some Nazi terms and iconography for his big school event. Dunno. But it is kinda odd.
For the third time (see "Becoming, Part Two" and "Amends"), we get a special "Grr...argh" at the end of the credits. This time the little monster is wearing a graduation cap.
HOW MANY STAKES?
Buffy graduates with honours. 5 (out of 5)
And thus sees the end of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3 review. I’ll move on to season 4 sometime soon. But in the meantime, stay “Five by Five.”