“Graduation Day: Part 2”
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
We pick up right where we left off, with Buffy clutching Faith’s bloody dagger on top of the roof, watching the truck drive away with Faith (and her all-important blood).She climbs down just in time for the Mayor to miss seeing her there when he arrives at Faith’s apartment. He sees the wreckage left by the Slayers’ fight, and he immediately puts all of his minions on the task of finding Faith. I’m not sure we’ve had clear evidence before now that the Mayor actually saw Faith as his daughter. She’s been seeing him as a father figure, yes, but up until now, that could’ve just been him manipulating her so she’d stay on his side. But now it’s clear that he feels extremely protective of her and is deeply concerned with her wellbeing.
At the library, Xander brings Giles coffee. They’re still researching stuff about the type of demon the Mayor is about to turn into, but there’s not a lot of information available. Cordelia comes in, very upset on Wesley’s behalf. He’s likely going back to England because of Buffy’s decision to quit the Council. She’s hoping he’ll stay in the country like Giles did, and she reluctantly stays to help them research, annoyed about how selfish Buffy can be.
Yes, Buffy is so very selfish that she’s going to save the life of the guy who just dumped her by forcing him to drink her blood until she almost dies of blood loss. Before she gets to the mansion, Willow is there tending to Angel. He’s so delirious that he thinks she’s Buffy. Apparently he also did the same thing to Oz. *snort* Willow feels bad for Buffy and Angel and about the upcoming Ascension and everything, but she’s also extremely happy about how things are going with Oz. He’s happy that she’s happy. There’s kissing. Then Buffy arrives with no Faith. Oz and Willow clearly believe that this means Angel’s going to die. Why is Oz wearing two button-up shirts? It doesn’t look like the red one is a jacket. Weird.
Buffy asks them to leave, then goes in to Angel’s room. He’s so resigned to his fate that it takes her a while to make him realize what she wants him to do. He tries to get away from her. He doesn’t want to risk her life. He’d gladly drink Faith’s blood instead, but not Buffy’s. She doesn’t give him a choice. She punches him until his vamp face comes out, then pulls him against her neck. Instinct takes over and he bites down. They fall over, and the way the scene is shot, it’s hard to tell for certain if she’s in agony or just really enjoying it. Also, as much as I love this scene, I'd probably love it more if he wasn't such a loud eater. She crushes a pitcher with one hand and kicks a coffee table in half, then loses consciousness. He pulls away, and his arrow wound now lacks all the red and purple inflammation from before. The cure worked! But now Buffy’s life is in danger, so it's not time to celebrate yet.
Angel, once again demonstrating his remarkable ability to put on clothing in the most dire of situations, bursts into the hospital with Buffy draped in his arms. A doctor asks Angel questions about what happened until he loses his patience and rips the handle off a door. It’s one of the sexiest things ever, but once again the internet has failed me, because I was unable to find gifs. The doctor thinks this display of freakish strength means they’ve been doing drugs. Angel lets the doctors work, and he goes to call, I’m assuming, Giles. In another room in the hospital, the Mayor is listening to a grave doctor explain Faith’s condition. She’s not dead, just in a coma. So…we’ll be seeing her some time next season, then. The Mayor is devastated, and when he realizes that Buffy is also there, he walks over to her (with very sinister background music) and tries to smother her. The nurse sees him and tries to pull him off, and then Angel comes back and rips him away from her. The Mayor is on the warpath because of what Buffy did to Faith. He doesn’t choose his words wisely, though. Angel doesn’t take kindly to people who call Buffy a whore. He throws the Mayor across the room. Also, up until Angel pulls the Mayor off Buffy, the entire hospital scene has been one continuous take, and it was fantastic work by all involved. The Mayor leaves, and Angel looks over at Buffy, who’s still asleep.
The Scoobies arrive at the hospital. They realize what Angel must have done for him to be healed and Buffy to be in the hospital. Despite the fact that Angel looks deeply miserable about the situation, Xander reacts with typical insensitive hostility, assuming that Angel was willing to sacrifice Buffy to save himself. Jerk. Angel does nothing to defend himself. Giles sends him away because the sun’s about to come up. He leaves, head down and shoulders hunched.
Buffy is walking through Faith’s apartment, which is full of moving boxes. So…dream sequence. There’s a cat, and then Faith walks up next to her. Neither of them has any injuries, and Faith is spouting cryptic dream speak, some of which is extremely foreshadow-y for season five, which is super impressive. She tells Buffy that the Mayor will still have his human weakness after the Ascension. Then Faith touches Buffy on the cheek and vanishes, and Buffy wakes up. She walks out from the curtains around her bed and finds Faith’s bed. She kisses Faith on the forehead.
Cool pre-battle music starts up (and it sort of sounds like the music from The Fugitive). Buffy, back in her normal clothes, goes out to find the Scoobies. She has a plan.
Everything’s all set for graduation. Snyder seems a little anxious. In the library, Buffy has just finished explaining her plan to everyone. Most of them think it’s insane, but they’re on board. Xander feels particularly flattered because she’s giving him a big job to do, which will involve using his memories as Private Harris. Another key part of the plan will be Buffy’s ability to draw the Mayor’s focus. So she has to take advantage of that human weakness Faith mentions. Angel points out that his weakness is Faith. Wesley shows up! He wants to help, not on the Council’s behalf. Aww, Wes.
We transition from Buffy laying out the plan to the Mayor laying out his own plan. (This is good. If we’d actually heard Buffy’s plan, then it wouldn’t have worked.) There’s going to be an eclipse, which means Angel’s going to be able to help fight. The Mayor’s vamps are going to be out in force to wrangle the humans so he can eat them.
Xander and Willow approach other students in the senior class. Hmm, I wonder what that’s about. Cordelia and Wes are boxing up books in the library (so are these Wesley’s books, or are they doing this for some other reason?), and for some reason, despite the fact that they’ve been flirting super obviously for months now, it takes them a whole minute to talk themselves into kissing. When they do, it’s the most awkward kiss in the history of kisses, and it is glorious. They try again with no better luck, and then break apart so that she can formally wish him luck back in England. Crushes abruptly over.
Willow, Oz, Jonathan, and Larry are unloading a bunch of bags of fertilizer from Oz’s van. Then Larry and Jonathan leave, and Willow and Oz remain in the van. All the preparation is done, so now they just have to wait until graduation. But however will two teenagers in love pass the time in the back of this big roomy van until then? Maybe they’ll play Pictionary.
Buffy, wearing possibly my favorite leather-heavy outfit she ever wears (certainly better than the black jacket, red pants number she wore to fight Faith), goes into Giles’s office, where Angel is organizing weapons or something.
He asks if she’s okay, then tells her he’s not going to say goodbye after the battle. If they survive, he’s just going to leave. She nods, but she looks like she’s trying not to cry. She stops him from saying anything else. We see what she went to get earlier. It’s the spiffy dagger she stabbed Faith with.
Cue “Pomp and Circumstance.” It’s graduation time. Snyder gives a rather uncongratulatory congratulatory speech. Willow and Oz, somewhat disheveled, show up just slightly late. *snicker* The Mayor starts his speech, and apparently this is exactly 100 years since the founding of Sunnydale. Buffy is annoyed that he’s clearly going to do his whole boring speech before the Ascension starts. And he does. Mostly. Towards the end, he starts grimacing. The eclipse begins. As darkness falls, the Mayor convulses harder, and then he transforms into a giant CGI snake and lets out a roar.
The parents in the back of the audience immediately start stampeding away, but the students stand staring at the Mayor. Then Buffy yells “now!” and they all whip off their graduation gowns to reveal weapons. And they aren’t just armed; they’re organized. Xander commands them like a general. Some of them have flamethrowers. This keeps the Mayor from moving around a lot, but he still eats some people. At their rear, the vampires are closing in for the attack, and Oz leads a group of archers in the rear guard. They shoot flaming arrows at the vampires. Further back, Angel is leading another front, which consists of Percy, Wesley, and a few other students. They attack the vampires from behind. The Mayor hits Larry with his tail, and he falls to the ground, his neck broken. Snyder is trying to lecture the Mayor about how his behavior isn’t orderly, so the Mayor eats him.
Angel is kicking serious vamp butt in the rear guard. Wesley tries to fight and immediately gets clotheslined. The kids have finally taken out enough vampires to retreat. They surge against the vampires. Harmony gets attacked, but most of the vampires are completely overwhelmed. Cordelia stakes a vampire.
Buffy and the Mayor are the only ones left in the courtyard. She pulls out Faith’s dagger and taunts him until he starts chasing her. She runs through the school until she reaches the library, which is completely empty of books but full of diesel fuel and fertilizer, then jumps out the window. The Mayor realizes too late that she’s led him into a trap. Giles pushes the detonator, and the entire school goes up in a blazing explosion. Awesome.
A few people died and Wesley’s going to need medical attention, but this was definitely a victory. (Why is it still dark, though? It was an eclipse. Those last about eight minutes, if Avatar was telling the truth. Has enough time passed since the end of the battle that it’s actually nighttime now?) Xander assures Buffy that Angel survived the fight. Giles finds her. She’s kind of out of it in the aftermath of all that stress and adrenaline, so it’ll be a while before she can think complex thoughts again. He hands her a slightly charred diploma he managed to retrieve from the wreckage. Dangit I want them to hug. They still haven’t hugged. He leaves to go see how Wesley’s doing. She senses something and turns around to see Angel watching her from across the parking lot, smoke and fire trucks in between them. They look at each other for a long moment, both full of longing (and Buffy blinking a lot), and then he turns and walks away until the smoke obscures him.
As the firetrucks pull away, the Scoobies gather at a bench just off school property. They marvel at having survived both the battle and the thing the battle was a metaphor for: high school. Then they walk away. The camera pans down to a charred graduation program.
Like I already said in the Part 1 review, “Graduation Day” is a fantastic season finale. It even feels like more than that. It’s the finale of the entire high school era of the show, which makes it possibly the most important finale of the series. It needed to be able to wrap up so many aspects of the show in a way that would leave us satisfied and ready to move on but still willing to come back to see what happened next, both for Buffy and for Angel on his new spin-off show. It succeeds magnificently. I mean, what better way to say high school's over than by having the principal get eaten and the school get blown to smithereens? I think my favorite thing about it (not counting the bite scene) is the way they get pretty much all the recurring secondary characters from Sunnydale High involved. Larry, Jonathan, Harmony, and Percy. And the way the entire senior class whips off their gowns to reveal weapons? Very cool. Way to go out in a blaze of glory, Class of ’99. I can't even begrudge them the cheesy CGI effects for the Mayor's demon form. It was 1999, and they were a TV show with a small budget. There are too many things that make Buffy worth watching to care about things like that.
Buffy has most definitely outgrown high school. I’m just so impressed by her. In under twenty-four hours, she battles Faith to the death, nearly dies from blood loss after forcing Angel to bite her, comes up with the plan to defeat the Mayor and all his vamps, carries said plan out, and succeeds. She displays marvelous cunning, ingenuity, leadership skills, and selflessness. She manages to come up with good ways to use every single member of her team. Regarding the bite scene, I’ve seen a few reactions from people who were shocked that she’d do something so reckless for Angel. But come on, this is Buffy we’re talking about. If she’s willing to kill to save him, then she’s definitely willing to die to save him. How could she do anything else, knowing her blood is the only available cure? But I don’t think she went into it believing she would die. I think she trusted Angel to stop in time. Even though they can’t be together, she’s willing to go to incredible lengths to keep him alive. I love that.
*smacks Xander up the back of the head* Angel did not bite Buffy to save himself, you git. Even though he was so delirious that he could barely recognize Buffy, he tried to run away. He only bit her because she forced him to, and he was physically too weak to stop her. Man, just when Xander spends a whole episode being awesome enough that I might actually start liking him, he turns around and acts like this the very next episode. Maybe he’ll give me fewer reasons to dislike him once Angel isn’t around, since Angel’s mere existence seems to bring out the worst in him. He does a pretty good job with the role Buffy assigns him, though, and his annoyance when the students stop being his organized battalion and degenerate into a screaming mob is pretty funny.
Giles’s faith in Buffy could not be illustrated more effectively than by having him be the one to blow up the school, library first. I love it. It’s a huge relief that all the books were evacuated first, though.
Willow and Oz continue to be the show’s adorable power couple. I don’t think they have a single scene apart, unless you count the one where Angel mistakes Willow for Buffy, but Oz is just in the other room for that. The scene where Willow tells Oz that in some ways, this is the best night of her life could easily have come across as horribly insensitive, but thanks to Joss’s writing and Alyson and Seth’s acting, it was perfect. They’re the only couple that made it out of season three stronger than they were at the beginning. So I’m sure they’re going to be together forever now, right? …Right? Guys?
Cordelia and Wesley’s total flop of a kiss is hilarious, but it’s hard to believe it took them this long to actually kiss, as hard as she’s been flirting with him since he arrived. Has she just been flirting but waiting for him to make the first move or something? Bah, whatever. Do kisses like that happen in real life? Two people like each other but discover to their mutual chagrin that they have zero physical chemistry together?
After all the stuff that’s happened in recent episodes to make Angel feel like an actual part of the Scoobies, him feeding off Buffy pretty much destroyed his membership card. Xander will never be able to tolerate his presence for extended periods again, and even Giles has a hard time dealing with this. I think Willow and Oz (who witnessed enough of Angel’s physical decline to believe that what happened wasn’t his fault) would’ve been fine with him, but if he’s no longer Buffy’s boyfriend, Xander is full of vitriol against him, and Giles has a hard time being in the same room with him, then he’s definitely out. But even with such a tense atmosphere, he’s still the one who figures out that Faith is the Mayor’s weakness. Regarding the bit where he tells Buffy he’s not going to say goodbye, I think a lot of people would find that cold, but I love that Buffy and Angel never say goodbye to each other.
“Aren’t you supposed to be drinking tea anyway?”
“Tea is soothing; I wish to be tense.”
“Okay, but you’re destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here.”
“I demand an explanation.”
“I personally don’t think it’s possible to come up with a crazier plan.”
“We attack the Mayor with hummus.”
“…I stand corrected.”
“Just keeping things in perspective.”
“Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.