Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | February 5, 2012

Robin’s Review: S3, E20 – The Prom

Synopsis: Joyce pays Angel a visit to remind him of the problems ahead for his relationship with Buffy. As she plans for the Prom, he breaks up with her. Anya asks Xander to take her while he discovers the truth about Cordelia’s financial situation. When Buffy learns that a hell hound is being trained to ruin the Prom she is determined to stop it from ruining everyone’s special night.

The Good: The Buffy-Angel storyline has been oddly constructed this season. However their break up was handled really well. The writers pick and choose when Joyce is aware or in the dark about what’s going on but I believed her concern for Buffy’s future. Between that and the dream I also had no problem believing that Angel would be the one to step up and realise their time was up.

The dream sequence where he saw Buffy burning in the sun was particularly effective. It reversed what we expected to happen while also indicating the damage he might do to her by staying in her life. If the dream was sent to him then it’s also the first indication of his destiny since he returned from hell.

Angel’s acting was excellent during the sewer breakup scenes. Buffy was as solid as ever and the writing captured the conflict nicely. Obviously they are both upset because they don’t want to be apart. But the subtler points saw Angel trying to avoid her anger by pointing out that he was doing what was best for her. And she responded with anger at being patronised because she had already had all the thoughts he was now using against them. A couple of scenes later she acknowledges the strength of his logic but in the moment all she can feel is the pain of rejection and loss (hence her mean comment about his heart not beating). Later on Angel is still trying to soften her pain by telling her he misses her and offering to help fight the Hell Hounds. Now it’s her turn to be strong and push him away.

The Hell Hounds story was thin but served a very neat purpose. Like a lot of people struggling with a break up Buffy throws herself into her work and is determined that no one else should miss out on the Prom because of a demon. It was a typically selfless act from someone who would have been forgiven if she had begged her friends to suffer with her and miss this night. That act was of course a microcosm of three years of defending her school from attack and she was rewarded for it (see Best Moment).

Xander had a good episode, bantering with Anya and being sweet to Cordelia. Her problems were what they seemed like and his response to her was predictably kind. Wesley had some good broad comedy moments too.

The Bad: The Hell Hounds plot couldn’t really be much more than it was. The flippant flashback to what drove Tucker’s actions (one girl rejecting him) was meant to be a laugh line but it didn’t work for me. The Hounds looked vicious in their cages but less threatening out of them.

The Unknown: Angel showing up at the Prom to dance with Buffy was the happy ending which some will like. Considering how heartbroken Buffy was I wouldn’t blame anyone who didn’t like this. You could easily imagine her weeping into his tuxedo because his presence would remind her of what she was losing. I don’t mind this mature final moment but perhaps neither of them should have been this composed after only a day or so.

It’s pretty interesting that the Mayor and Faith were once more left out of an episode. The continuing cries of “What is the Ascension?” don’t add intrigue but instead make that story feel thrown together.

Best Moment: My eyes filled with tears as soon as Jonathan began speaking. I don’t remember having that reaction the first time I watched this. On Rewatch Buffy’s steadfast moral compass has stood out as hugely admirable. To see her receive unsolicited thanks from her whole year was very moving and a wonderful moment for the show. Watching it now it seemed like the quintessential Joss Whedon moment. His ability to make a ridiculous statement (lowest mortality rate for a graduating class) into an emotional moment in the series is a rare gift.

The Bottom Line: A strong emotional episode built around the responsibility of the Slayer. I’m not sure how it leaves things for the season finale though.

68/100

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