Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Graduation Day   Rewatch 
July 22, 2015 9:26 PM - Season 3, Episode 21 - Subscribe

As the Mayor's Ascenscion looms, Faith tries to take Angel out of action. Buffy gives Faith her knife back, Anya tries to give Xander a way out, and Willow gives Oz all her parts. On Graduation Day, Sunnydale High's Class of '99 makes a desperate and costly stand.
posted by yellowbinder (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
"You know Buffy, looking back at everything that happened, I wish I'd sent you to a different school."

This episode marks a payoff of Buffy's protection of her class, and a final goodbye to Sunnydale High. It could have been an ending, but I'm very glad it wasn't. Interestingly, the structure of this two parter is similar to Season 7's, in that we have the initial boss, Faith, to dispense of before the final conflict. The show finds a use for Angel here, as a damsel in distress for Buffy to sacrifice herself for (although given how well she is a little bit later, it's not the greatest sacrifice!)

The final fight between Faith and Buffy is really great, I do like how the show spends some time with Faith and Mayor, who seem to have formed a genuine relationship. The mayor is overwrought when he discovers what Buffy has done. I like Faith bragging about jumping off the 40 foot rock. She is, and always has been, desperate for approval from someone. She's not a person who is confident in herself, and that shows constantly. There was no question that Buffy would win their fight, but Faith does manage to take away what Buffy needs: her blood.

Then we have the final fight with the Mayor, which is really great. It's nice to see this extended case of characters fighting the mayor, and as I said before, it's a real pay off for the work the show has done over three seasons in expanding it's notable faces.

[I do have one minor gripe, which is the use of explosives to kill the mayor. The show often explains why it doesn't use modern technology as not being very effective, but every time they do, it's super effective! The rocket launcher at the judge, explosives for the mayor, even the gun Darla used was actually pretty disabling when it hit Angel. I know it didn't want to be that show, but one wonders how effective a shotgun wielding slayer would be]

-Willow and Oz consumate their relationship, and it's very sweet
-Wesley and Cordelia have the worst kiss in history
-Also, amusingly Wesley trips over in the final fight and Cordelia kills a vamp like a bad ass.
- Land of Hope and Glory is played at the proms (a collection of concerts in the UK), so it's weird to have it as a graduation theme, but I'm aware that this is standard
-Poor Larry
-Those explosives were really well set. Powerful enough to ruin the school, but not powerful enough to get Giles and Buffy, who were standing 30 feet from the school
-The vamps job is to prevent everyone from running. The first thing that happens? All the parents successfully run away
-"We attack the mayor with hummus"
-The dream here includes a coded reference to Dawn (little miss muffet counting down 1,2,3. The clock is also set to when the fifth season would have aired if there hadn't been a delay)
-The first blood sucking as sex scene.
-"Aren't we going to kiss?" Anya is wonderful
-Oh, and Buffy quits the council!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:14 AM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those explosives were really well set. Powerful enough to ruin the school, but not powerful enough to get Giles and Buffy, who were standing 30 feet from the school

Shaped charges are amazing.
posted by Etrigan at 5:49 AM on July 23, 2015


Xander's convenient magical military training was extremely thorough.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:58 AM on July 23, 2015


wait, please explain the Dawn reference?

And was there talk at the time that this would be the series finale? It would have actually been a great ending, though I'm happy to have gotten another four seasons. Even though that led to Dark Willow and the Potentials; which now that I write it could be the worst ever Buffy tribute band.
posted by skewed at 7:06 AM on July 23, 2015


wait, please explain the Dawn reference?

Faith says, "Oh yeah. - Miles to go - Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0." 730 days is two years -- this is season 3, and Dawn arrives in season 5 (of course, it would be two years to the end of season 5, but whatever).

And was there talk at the time that this would be the series finale?

Not at all. Angel was about to spin off, and BTVS was the #2 show on the WB for this season.
posted by Etrigan at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Or, it doesn't even have to be real ebola, we could just get a box that says ebola on it, and chase him. With the box."

I'm less than halfway through the two parter and will fill in as I get there. But I'm still totally struck by the scene of the Mayor invading the library to taunt the gang. It feels like such a violation of a safe(ish) space, and Giles' stabby outburst, while extreme, is ultimately entirely in character.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:45 AM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just pop into these threads to sigh over Oz a little bit.
posted by Windigo at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2015


Fire bad. Tree pretty.

Even though this episode originally aired when I started high school, as opposed to at the end of it, I later came to appreciate how well it captured the little nostalgic rituals of ending an era (promising to hang out with people you were never close to in the first place, for good reason; the winding down of everything, feeling like you’re killing time before something actually important happens).

Faith: Sorry, friend, boss wants you dead.
Professor: Why?
Faith: (stabs him) You know, I never thought to ask.

That’s Faith’s character in a nutshell. Blind, unthinking loyalty, until she feels she’s been wronged/deserted. (Now this scene also makes me think of how Andrew retells it completely wrong in S7’s “Storyteller.” A Vulcan!)

At least Percy thanks Willow, even if he’s still an idiot.

I think someone mentioned the Hangman scene last week, but as a teacher (college, not high school, but still), I can relate.

Buffy calls it “The Box of Gravlax.” Hee! (I would definitely eat a whole bunch of gravlax. Immortality would just be a bonus.)

Giles' stabby outburst, while extreme, is ultimately entirely in character.

I love the gesture, impotent as it is. He’s just so protective of his kids. It’s also a fantastic bookend with what proves to be the Mayor’s undoing: Giles stabs him because he says “That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her,” and then Buffy and Giles lure demon-Mayor to his doom by taunting him with the knife he gave to Faith and she stabbed Faith with. It’s a bizarro-mirror of love for one faux-daughter, and the Mayor certainly doesn’t restrain himself with violent outbursts in front of the children.

The consummation of Willow and Oz’s relationship is super damn sweet, and it’s nice to have an instance of sex not leading directly to some major evil. He said earlier that he wanted it to happen because they both needed it to, and that scene did a really good job of convincing me that was the case. (Also, I say, “Should this be a quiet moment?” a lot.)

Angel stumbling on his way into the door makes me laugh. I’m happy to have the writers lampshade how quiet he normally is (especially with the MAJOR DRAMA that is to come)

Xander gets to do some nice stuff in this episode that’s played pretty low-key, given the circumstances. Sarcasm about male stereotypes, refusing to leave his friends, thinking of the moral implications of Buffy killing Faith. Every time he gets to be quietly heroic, it’s a good look on him. (It’s weird hearing them call him “the Key,” especially after the prophetic dream.)

You can tell how morally grey Buffy’s actions are by how much leather she’s wearing in that fight with Faith. Those red leather pants, man.

"Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.”

When Angel deliriously kisses Willow’s hand, all I can think of is “ours is a forbidden love” (and then Oz says “you too, huh” and I just really want that to be another deleted scene DVD extra).

This exchange is very “Buffy”:
Willow: Faith told you? Was that before or after you put her into a coma?
Buffy: After.
Willow: Oh.

The students all coming together to fight is a heartwarming image. Of course, these brief moments of awareness never seem to translate to people remembering and helping to fight on a more daily basis. It’s still nice, though.

Didn’t Charisma Carpenter beg Joss Whedon to let her dust a vamp in her final episode before she moved to Angel? I think that’s why that happened. Also, Jonathan gets to tackle a vampire AND hug a lady! Good day for him.

I swear it took me like five watchings of the final episode to realize that Buffy called the demon-Mayor “Dick” because it’s short for Richard, not because she was randomly uncharacteristically potty-mouthed (okay, maybe it’s both).

The effects when the Mayor says “Well, gosh” are not great, but it amuses me anyway.

I always tear up when Giles gives Buffy the diploma. I think he misuses the “dramatic irony” term, though. Then the “we survived…high school” (the show pretty much lays its metaphor bare at that point).

I won a binder decorated as the Sunnydale yearbook in a Buffy trivia competition and I love it. The Future Is Ours!

Okay, if this was a quiet moment, I failed.
posted by ilana at 12:21 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I still get a bit choked up about Faith and the Mayor.


That being said, Armin Shimerman's final episode in his second best character role is also a little bittersweet.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Buffy gives Faith her knife back

heh.
posted by phearlez at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do really love the scene in the hospital where you can see the Mayor and Giles mirroring each other. They both genuinely love their champions.

Oh but Angel just walking away without saying anything. I know he said he would, but I never forgive him for that. (Of course the whole I'm hundreds of years old, but can't wait until AFTER prom to dump you so I do this weird thing where I dump you and then come back for prom and then it's over again, but I'm helping you and then I leave without even a wave thing is seriously awful.All those years and he learned absolutely nothing about dating.)


This episode is also notably where we see Harmony becoming a vampire.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:35 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This episode is also notably where we see Harmony becoming a vampire.

Pedantry alert! This episode is where we see Harmony bitten by a vampire. We don't know that she was sired rather than killed until that first Buffy/Angel crossover ep.
posted by Etrigan at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2015


Every time we have an extended dream sequence in Buffy, I am amazed all over again at how well Joss Whedon does dreams. Maybe this is just because I have had so many dreams that I've tried to write down into coherent stories and they just don't work. I guess dreams, being such an experiential thing, go better in a visual medium like film. But still, he does do them well.

Oz's version of panicking and the whole thing with him and Willow was so sweet that it made me cry. I think I have been reading the emotional labour thread too much.

We get both the more emotionally developed Xander (his conversation with Anya, in which he demonstrates not only his loyalty to his friends but refuses to rise to her button-pushes the way he always did with Cordelia - difference being, I suppose, that she's not doing it on purpose) and the really, really nasty Xander (jumping to the conclusion that Angel bit and nearly drained Buffy on purpose instead of listening to what she said, which is that she made Angel do it. Because she couldn't possibly have agency or anything, not if it gives him an excuse to hate on Angel some more.) Speaking of Cordelia, is it just me or is she looking particularly skeletal in these two episodes? I want to make her some cookies laden with oatmeal, chocolate and walnuts.

When Angel deliriously kisses Willow’s hand, all I can think of is “ours is a forbidden love” (and then Oz says “you too, huh” and I just really want that to be another deleted scene DVD extra).

Yes, yes, YES!!!!! I'll bring chocolate.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am less of a fan of Buffy's efforts to save Angel than a lot of people, for several reasons:

1) The writers gave Buffy an out from either killing or sparing Faith by a super-convenient truck passing by, and a super-convenient coma.

2) Angel doesn't want to go along with Buffy's second plan. The dude has lived in this world for centuries, and has experienced centuries of the worst that the afterlife has to offer. His is the most well-informed decision about death in the history of the world. It should have been respected, not slapped into submission.

3) I agree with Wes that the attack on Angel was designed to distract from the fight against The Mayor, and I don't think it's a great idea to let Faith dictate what actions Buffy takes right before the Ascension. Thousands of people's lives are at stake, and if Buffy had been killed by Faith or Angel, the results could have been disastrous.

I think it's totally understandable that Buffy couldn't bear to let Angel die again, I just don't think the steps that she takes to prevent it were Buffy at her best.

On another note, i think it's fascinating that the Mayor's fatal weakness is his love for Faith. For a show that often celebrated the positive power of love, it's a little weird to also have love be a villain's weakness to exploit.

I think the episode's a great capper to the high school adventures.

I prefer the way the theme of "sharing power" is explored here to "Chosen" for a couple of reasons:

1) In this episode they gave everyone a choice about whether they wanted to be a part of the fight; in "Chosen" it's clear that some of the Potentials around the world have no idea what's happening to them.

2) In this episode they shared power with everyone in the high school; in "Chosen", it's only Potentials (i.e. girls who were selected by some arbitrary magical process some old dudes put in place thousands of years ago.)
posted by creepygirl at 8:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Pedantry alert! This episode is where we see Harmony bitten by a vampire. We don't know that she was sired rather than killed until that first Buffy/Angel crossover ep.

Which is super weird if you think about it. In the middle of a massive fight, the vamp who got Harm decided to make sure she drank his blood. I guess he thought she was real purdy?

Every time we have an extended dream sequence in Buffy, I am amazed all over again at how well Joss Whedon does dreams. Maybe this is just because I have had so many dreams that I've tried to write down into coherent stories and they just don't work. I guess dreams, being such an experiential thing, go better in a visual medium like film. But still, he does do them well.

Yeah I tend to hate dream sequences in film and TV because there's often a lot of surreal imagery that doesn't advance the plot, but Whedon usually makes them work.

I am less of a fan of Buffy's efforts to save Angel than a lot of people, for several reasons:

You are correct from a logical level that Buffy trying to save Angel is the incorrect thing to do. I think I had a previous spiel about this action making her a slayer... in that I was wrong, this action is what makes her human. I do think the show really cops out on the consequences of this though, because it kind of has to: Buffy is in tip top shape shortly thereafter, which makes one wonder what all the fuss is about.

I wanted to talk about the drinking blood scene. It's framed in an extremely sexual way, and I don't know what I think about that. I appreciate that the shot does take the time to stop with the sexy music and go to the creepy blood sucking, but it's a maybe odd thing to do in the first place? I mean vampirism as male sexuality is hardly a new thing, taken to it's most creepy extremes in Twilight (I just watched 5 minutes of that film again the other day, and good god is Edward the creepiest creep who ever creeped), but the show had actually avoided that metaphor for the most part up until now, choosing to make blood sucking something that happened quickly and was over for the most part (like most men, amirite ladies?). You could argue that the point of the scene is to make the viewer think something fun was happening then take that away with the final moments, but we kind of already knew blood sucking was bad. Perhaps the point was that as Buffy was consenting to be bitten this was somehow more magical?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:04 AM on July 24, 2015


creepygirl, you're right - I meant to say how cool it was when everyone ditched their robes and they had their weapons - I'd actually forgotten that bit. Although man, those kids had an awesome natural talent for archery.

My personal theory is that they only decided to make Harmony a vamp later on, but who knows. I agree it's not exactly plausible, but that holds true of so much...

This rewatch I've actually been really bothered by the different rates of blood-drinking. I've already commented on how the Master is able to drain Buffy to the point of unconsciousness with a mere 2- or 3-second suck, and the prolonged sucking that does not result in death on other occasions when the plot requires it. (Let alone the apparently enormous amount of blood coming out from metal tubes being stuck in various locations, in the alternate Buffyverse.) I think this time the plot required the bloodsucking to demonstrate intimacy and depth of emotional feeling, so not only was it sexy sucking, it went on for quite a long time.

I could try to come up with elaborate justifications about how clearly, the Master being such an old and powerful vampire, he can drain his victims in a single, short suck whilst lesser vamps require a longer amount of time. But that doesn't really hold up, we see plenty of redshirt vamps draining redshirt humans in seconds flat because it's not important to the plot to draw it out any longer. Basically, I think the variability is a plot device.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:42 AM on July 24, 2015


As we say farewell to the high school era, here are 3 and 1/2 minutes that will break the heart of any Buffy fans who haven't seen this before: A clip from the proposed Buffy: The Animated Series.

This show was going to be set during the high school days, including Spike and Angel, and Dawn. It came so, so close to happening, on multiple occasions. The whole thing was all designed (in that Batman: The Animated Series, 1990s WB animation style), scripts were written (by the writers from the original show), most of Buffy's cast signed on to do the voices and a fine sound-alike was hired to replace SMG.

But then... it didn't happen, because ours is a cruel and godless universe.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:55 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pedantry alert! This episode is where we see Harmony bitten by a vampire. We don't know that she was sired rather than killed until that first Buffy/Angel crossover ep.

Which is super weird if you think about it. In the middle of a massive fight, the vamp who got Harm decided to make sure she drank his blood. I guess he thought she was real purdy?


Headcanon: There was a lot of blood flying around -- it's entirely possible that she just got some in her mouth while laying near-dead on the ground.

But more honestly, the whole "Drink vampire blood, become vampire" never made much sense to me. The majority of vampires we see aren't anywhere near their sires (not to mention the sheer number that Buffy kills within the first few moments of their existence). Why do vampires bother giving their blood to some human just to leave them to be buried? I choose to believe that while a vampire can intentionally sire someone, there's also the occasional "Hey, didn't I eat you? Oh... you're a vampire now... um, cool... ."
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am less of a fan of Buffy's efforts to save Angel than a lot of people, for several reasons:

You are correct from a logical level that Buffy trying to save Angel is the incorrect thing to do.


It also furthers the theme that love is a major human weakness, but also the thing that makes humanity worth saving, because it makes us take risks. This, of course, results in consequences. There's good love, and bad love, I suppose; it shows everyone at their best and worst. Pretty much every character has a run-in with this:

Giles loses his cool and stabs the Mayor for threatening Buffy.

The Mayor loses his cool and tries to murder Buffy in the hospital, and then the only human thing about the Mayor was his love for Faith, which was the only thing they could use to kill him.

Faith's desperation for love directly leads to betrayal and her eventual coma.

Angel's love for Buffy leads to him hanging around much longer than he probably should, and winds up putting them both in serious danger. Of course, she makes the potentially fatal choice of fighting Faith and then letting him drink her blood (as Wesley points out, it's irresponsible tactically, and she says "I'm talking about watching my lover die.") On the other hand, maybe this was a cop-out by the writers, but it seems like this mostly selfless act of love (death is your gift, anyone?) gives her the information she needs, and new strength and clarity. Sure, it's a dream sequence with Faith, but I imagine she might be processing her own actions and realizing the crazy things people do/choices they make for love.

Joyce is sent away, because Buffy knows her love for her mother will get her killed (or others will die) if Joyce is threatened in the confrontation.

Anya, believing she might love Xander, tries to convince him to flee with her and not help in the fight. Xander's love for his friends causes him to refuse, which is noble but probably stupid on his part (though he is "key guy" and probably helped a great deal).

Willow and Oz retreat into the comfort of each other when they panic. This is lovely, bringing them closer together and giving their relationship a new maturity, although it does lead to them almost being late for the event itself. Definitely the healthiest relationship shown.

Then, for variety, we have the hilariously ineffectual comic relief "love" between the hilariously mismatched Cordelia and Wesley.

In the end, friendship and everyone working together saves the day. It's a bit messy in what it has to say about love, thematically, but...love is messy, I guess.
posted by ilana at 6:26 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Faith says, "Oh yeah. - Miles to go - Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0." 730 days is two years -- this is season 3, and Dawn arrives in season 5 (of course, it would be two years to the end of season 5, but whatever).

This isn't a reference to Dawn specifically, but to Buffy's impending death. There's a more direct reference to Dawn coming up in a future dream sequence in S04...
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:09 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved how Cordelia pauses after the kiss with Wesley, is thoroughly unexcited, wipes her lips with her hand, suggesting Wesley is a sloppy kisser, but then is still trying her best on the second attempt. Gave it her best shot even when things were looking bad.
posted by skewed at 7:14 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Headcanon: There was a lot of blood flying around -- it's entirely possible that she just got some in her mouth while laying near-dead on the ground.

Harm is awful but she deserves more than that. The vamp dropped her thinking she was all done and her last angry act was to bite her ankle. Or grabbed her arm and bit her.

That might make sense for a lot of vampire sire styles. From an evolution standpoint you want the new ones to be strong and prone to fighting.
posted by phearlez at 9:28 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I forgot to talk about the season as a whole, as this seems the appropriate place to do it.

Season 3 is a terrific season of television. More so than Season 2, there is a coherent plot throughout, in that the Mayor has a plan that is always running. There are some "plotty" episodes for the first time, episodes concerned entirely with the season plot. There's also the Faith arc, which for the most part is really good, and works really well. What's also really nice about 3 in contrast to 2 is that it takes the time to give Xander and Willow big plot arcs to follow, which they had to a certain extent in 2, but here there's quite a bit going on. It helps that both Xander and Willow's episodes are really good too.

For me the weak link of Season 3 is Angel. The show needs him to come back for the crossover, but doesn't seem to know what to do with him. There are definitely good moments here and there, but ultimately he just seems to be at odds with the overall story. 3 is about Buffy growing up and making choices, deciding who she wants to be, with Faith as a contrast, a dark side she can go to. It's about realising that the duty she has (and shirked in Anne) is not just something she's forced to do, it's something she wants to do, it's part of who she is. Honestly, to actually make this arc work with respect to Angel, she actually needs to move past him, but that's not something the show is willing to do. Buffy's love life is frequently the most dysfunctional part of the show: other characters can have good relationships, but Buffy's just always seem to need a bit of torment in them.

The other minor gripe I have with this season is that Faith needed to be in a few more episodes. Her arc actually works, and is well performed, but it's a bit annoying how for someone who is central to the show, she basically vanishes for episodes at a time.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:41 AM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like, having watched this a few times now, that the "Little Miss Muffett counting down from 7-3-0" line isn't about Dawn, but about Buffy's death. That timing works a lot better (two years between the season 3 and season 5 finales) and comes as a response to Buffy saying, "there's something I'm supposed to be doing..."

Also I have a thousand things to say about this episode but can't right now.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 AM on July 14, 2018


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