Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Prophecy Girl   Rewatch 
February 18, 2015 10:55 PM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Amidst earthquakes and other apocalyptic omens, Giles uncovers a prophecy: The Master will rise, and the Slayer will die.
posted by yellowbinder (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow is this suddenly Buffy.

This is Whedon's first directing credit (on the series and period) and it's spellbinding from start to finish in a way the first season, though proven to be better than remembered, just hasn't been yet.

The episode starts strongly, we resolve the Xander crush and he's not entirely awful about it. There's an awesome slowmo fight sequence near the beginning, the vamp and Buffy's small expressions - a slight widening of vamp eyes, a hint of a smile - convey just as much fun as what the Master will later term "the feeble banter portion of the fight." Giles is worried about something, there's an earthquake, vampires are stepping up their game...

And then we learn that Buffy will die, and at the same moment so does she. Gellar sells the laughter and anger and denial and sadness and acceptance and bravery so well. The slayer's inevitable fate has come knocking, and she's still a girl who's barely lived.

Of course she immediately wants to run from the prophecy. She tries to talk Joyce into a night out of town, and mourns the futures, the dances, the loves she won't have. When vampires slaughter Willow's AV Club friends, she knows she has to uphold her duty. The slayer can't quit, only fight until she dies.

It's a common trope that prophecies are self fulfilling, and the show doesn't feel the need to reinvent this one. She's led to the Master, she fights, she dies. Just a little. What comes back is Buffy, complete with theme song accompaniment. She dispatches the Big Bad, saves the world, and is off to party in her pretty dress. In leaving us for the season, the show as we all know and love it has finally arrived.

Random notes that I scrawled before eventually just staring rapt at the screen:

I love that while Willow will be a doormat for Cordelia, there's no way she'll be Xander's pity date. There's nothing she wants more than to go to a dance with Xander, but she's not going to do it if it's not on the right terms.
I also love that Jenny pays enough attention to Giles to differentiate his outfits. It's pretty much an unchanging tweed uniform in my mind.
I feel like there's a sitcom in the Master and the Anointed just hanging out in that sewer all the time. Honestly, what do they talk about all the time?
Cordelia driving her car through the school is wanton destruction fun, topped by her biting a vampire.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:26 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

[As a meta comment I've been loving the restrained pace of the rewatch and great discussion we've had. I'm all for staying the course and continuing with Season 2 next week but if a lot of people want to take a brief break or have other suggestions I'm open!]
posted by yellowbinder at 11:29 PM on February 18, 2015

I'm happy with the current pace, having a lot of fun.

"Giles, I'm 16 years old. I don't want to die."

Buffy Summers is a great hero. She is very classic in that sense, in that she will, again, and again, march to battle even when everything says that at the end of it all, she will die. Or lose the people she loves. Or maybe lose the entire world to save her sister. That's just who she is. It's hard sometimes, in later episodes, when people are calling out Buffy, to not want to sit them down and make them list all the things that Buffy does, that essentially no-one else can do. In this episode, all it takes is Willow describing her horror at the vampires attack for Buffy to be spurred to action. Essentially, when she realises that she needs to do this to protect her friend.

Let's look at how great everyone is

-Giles moving ever closer to becoming a father figure, being willing to go face the Master alone to spare Buffy suffering.
-Willow's horror at the murder of three students, and her refusal to be a pity date.
-Cordelia is lovely talking about Kevin, then saving everyone with some mad driving skills
-The Master, twisting the knife about the prophecy
-Joyce, doing her absolute best to help her daughter, but only dressing her up to die (my heart breaks at that scene, it really does).
-Xander finally getting a moment of glory. Xander is often the butt of jokes, and his attempt at romance fails miserably. But he is the one who refuses to accept Buffy's fate, and runs straight for danger, spurring Angel into action and saving Buffy's life!

So yeah, easily the best episode of season one. Bring on season 2!

Random observations
-Giles knocked out count up to three
-There's some really cheap looking scene transitions in this epiosde
-"I wasn't looking at your neck"
-That library demon at the end is very, very goofy.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:24 AM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

Cordelia is lovely talking about Kevin

I agree! It was a really humanizing moment for the character!

There's some really cheap looking scene transitions in this epiosde

The Willow wipe! What's up with that?
posted by yellowbinder at 12:34 AM on February 19, 2015

Cordelia driving her car through the school is wanton destruction fun, topped by her biting a vampire.

This episode is where I fell in love with Cordelia, starting with the moment she shows up with her car:

Cordelia: The library? Great! *guns it*

Her biting a vampire was just icing on the cake, after that.

I feel like there's a sitcom in the Master and the Anointed just hanging out in that sewer all the time.

I am reminded of this.
posted by mordax at 1:26 AM on February 19, 2015

Yes, while I've enjoyed many of this season's episodes, this is the first one where it's really great.

Buffy's dummy-spit after finding out she's meant to die is spot-on. It actually reminds me of Jesus's solo in Jesus Christ Superstar at the garden of Gethsemane when he questions his fate. There's a similar feeling of why was I chosen for this? No one asked me, I'm going to bugger off. Nicely underscored here by Buffy pulling off her cross and leaving it behind.

And the scene with Willow and Cordelia and the AV club... The innocent violence of the cartoon and the bloody handprint on the screen. It's beautifully done. Willow then starts to pay the price for everything she's been through, which is just as real as Buffy's realisation of what it means to be the Slayer.

The only part I hate is the Anointed One just walking away after leading her to the Master. What a let-down.

Anyway, I'm happy to keep going if others want to. yellowbinder, fab job with the posting, let us know if you need a break.

Oh, and Xander actually does go lie in bed and listen to country music. Beautiful.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:16 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not commenting. I'm not even *watching*, because I've seen this show so many times that I can visualise the episode based on the descriptions. But I am enjoying following, so I would also love if you continued.
posted by tracicle at 5:55 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Angel was a nice episode, but Buffy's reaction to the prophecy is when the show really gels for the first time, hitting the notes that later seasons will make such beautiful music out of.

Two complaints about the ending, though. One, the whole thing where the prophecy is fulfilled through Buffy needing CPR is weaksauce (it does set up the much better prophecy twist in S2, though). Two, if Angel can't give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, how does he talk?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:47 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

My head canon on Angel's reluctance to perform mouth-to-mouth is that he was afraid that in that situation, he might not be able to resist trying to turn her, and she might not be able to resist being turned.
posted by notbuddha at 11:57 AM on February 19, 2015

if Angel can't give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, how does he talk?

At first, I thought about Angel's lungs like a set of bagpipes: They can make all sorts of sounds, but do they breathe? But of course, if all you need to do is move around some air, then they should be perfectly fine for rescue breathing. Maybe that was just his way of saying "I'm just a simple Irish boy from the 1700s, and because of that I never took a Red Cross training class in junior high."
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I always had problems with that not-breathing thing too. At one stage I was trying to write fiction about vampires (yes yes, so clichéd) and I spent a LOT of time obsessing over little details like this. I think I wound up thinking it was just too hard and clearly vampires mostly kind of reflex-breathe because it's an unconscious somatic habit, like blinking (which they also wouldn't need to do) but that if something happens to deprive them of oxygen (like Angel rescuing Giles, Xander and Willow from the gas in the previous episode, which did set us up for this one nicely) it doesn't actually bother them because they don't need to breathe.

This does not help in this situation, where it's basically the bellows action that's required. Angel should have been able to do that. So I'll go with notbuddha's suggestion - he could have, but it would have been too dangerous.

But also: Buffy's dress is clearly made out of some futuristic material which has automatic self-cleaning properties. It's clearly muddy, as is her back, when they first get her out of the pond. Later it's perfectly white again. Silly colour for a Slayer to wear anyway, though I can't deny it certainly made a pretty picture.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:46 PM on February 19, 2015

Vampire physiology was a little all over the place. Let's set aside "how does he talk" and say, sure, he doesn't breathe. Spike comes along in two episodes (NEXT WEEK!) smoking up a storm because he's such a badass. So clearly vampires CAN at least mimic breathing if they want to, so....

If we're talking complaints, you'd think the Master would make more sure Buffy died. He takes the teensiest sip of Slayer blood, tips her into the pool and takes off. It's a cool image but not really with the sense making. Besides, isn't Slayer blood super awesome, or is that just a myth? I guess he is really driven to be free right now so he doesn't feel the need to drain or kill her right out.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:56 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I agree. The Master should have been all good-to-the-last-drop on Buffy, but nope. One little sip and he's done. Guess the prospect of getting out of his sekrit underground hideout was even tastier than Slayer blood!

Anyhow, wanted also to mention the music, which this episode reminded me is very cool and gets more so as the show progresses. This episode's musical highlight for me is Jonatha Brooke's Inconsolable which is playing in the background of the scene with Buffy and Joyce. It's such an awesome song and so perfect for the moment (as is Xander listening to Patsy Cline, but I already mentioned that). We have a lot more to look forward to, including performances from Cibo Matto, Aimee Mann, Angie Hart/Splendid and Sarah McLachlan, and heaps of awesome soundtrack musicians ranging from the lesser-known to insanely popular.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:26 PM on February 19, 2015

I know we said we were dropping the Angel not breathing thing, but the Buffy wiki says:
When Buffy dies Angel is not able to give her CPR because vampires can’t breathe. However, There are two instances where vampires can, and need, to breathe. A few of the vampires on the show were seen smoking (especially Spike). Also, on both Buffy and Angel, vampires have been choked into unconsciousness. An example of this is seen when Spike choke-holds Drusilla into unconsciousness before leaving Sunnydale. Actually, vampires can inhale air as being able to speak. To make it simple, vampires need air (or even toxic gas) just for mechanical purposes: they just don't need oxygen to purify their own "blood". And the "choking" seems more affecting the nervous system (which vampires retain) than other ones (circulatory and respiratory) that vampires have atrophied.
Which I guess is as good an explanation as any.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:36 PM on February 19, 2015

Whoops School Hard is S2E3 so no Spike next week. I always forget about the Frankenstein episode.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:28 PM on February 19, 2015

Yeah, the whole vampire breathing thing is...interesting. Also, I'd like to point out that this would actually be the first time Xander saved the world with his mouth, though not the last.

The bloody handprint and the cartoons on the screen...it's one of the few moments early on in the series that actually gave me chills. It's amazing how the simplest, smallest things can be the most effective, psychologically.

I find it pretty refreshing that there's a scene where one character asks another out, that character delivers a simple, clear, final answer, and that's that. No hilarious misunderstandings or strung-out miscommunication. Willow standing up to Xander, also clearly, after that, was great. I guess my favourite aspects here are all about moments of startling clarity. Buffy's "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die" is so simple and so perfect for it.

Kind of enjoy the idea that, under every fault line, there's really a trapped ancient vampire. Also, I'd like to hear the story of Joyce meeting Hank at the dance that we never get around to.

Love Giles, always. I guess he sort of deserved the punch to the face. I guess, as in Passion, a punch to the jaw is Buffy's way of telling him she loves him.
posted by ilana at 10:45 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

After a full Season 1 rewatch, I have a better understanding of why it was so hard to turn people on to this show at the time. As has been mentioned by many, the flipping of expectations that we see from the pilot's first moments and throughout the season could easily lead the casual channel-flipper with no knowledge of the show beyond its silly-seeming title to completely miss the greatness beneath.

And my brain is still adjusting to the knowledge (kindly imparted by Strange Interlude in the E1 thread) that the Master is that Mark Metcalf. I feel like I can usually pretty easily make out the actor under the monster makeup, especially after learning who they are, but Metcalf's really well disguised under that Mole Rat Face and Fruit Punch Mouth.
posted by obloquy at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2015

Regarding the breathing thing... I'm inclined to take this in the same vein as vampires not appearing in mirrors, but still appearing in photos: in the Whedonverse, the supernatural has only a passing relationship with physics. It doesn't matter if vampires can move air around, their breath can't restore life. It's not allowed to.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cordelia's car crashing through the school had to have been an homage to KITT. It was too on the nose to be anything else.

Vampires are dead so I like the idea that their breathe can't restore life.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2015

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