Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | February 13, 2012

Robin’s Review: S3, E21 – Graduation Day (1)

Synopsis: The Mayor is to give the commencement address at the high school graduation ceremony. The gang prepare to fight his Ascension at the same time. Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow. The only cure is the blood of a Slayer and so Buffy tries to capture Faith. Anya begs Xander to run away with her and Willow and Oz sleep together. Buffy quits the Watcher’s council when they won’t help heal Angel.

The Good: The sense that things were coming to an end was well conveyed throughout this episode.

The jokes about school ending with games of hangman and the insincere niceties over yearbooks was fun. I liked the contrast drawn between Buffy and Willow’s perspectives. Willow represents those students who enjoyed parts of school and are now able to look back and romanticise the good parts of their experience. Buffy missed out on those good times and is ready to move on. I really liked the link between graduating school and her decision to tell the Watcher’s Council where to stick it. Buffy is the Slayer. It’s not a job to her, it’s her identity. She doesn’t need the Council anymore to know that evil must be stopped. She has her own team in place anyway.

Speaking of whom Willow and Oz were adorable throughout. Her need to see some emotion from him leads to sex and the reassurance that he feels everything that she does. The little shot of him stroking her hair later in the episode was a nice demonstration of how this act has changed their dynamic. Again the theme of change and endings continues here through Willow as she leaves virginity behind.

Xander continues to do the right thing and stand with the Scoobies. Anya carries the comedy for him and does a good job looking confused and lovelorn. Her experience of a previous Ascension fills in some details and the news that the Mayor will become pure demon gives us a sense of the significance of what he is up to. The Mayor’s taunting in the library worked well enough to drive home the threat he presents.

There were several good one liners with Percy working hard until he can “forget all this crap” and the Mayor saying that it’s “sweet” to think of all the nations of the Earth coming together to tremble before him.

The Bad: The repetition of the “local expert being killed” story from Becoming (221) was less than ideal. Though Faith’s reply of “Who wouldn’t?” when Lester threatened to scream was pretty great.

The Unknown: The fight between Faith and Buffy was solid but no more. I couldn’t ignore the stunt doubles for once. After declaring that she couldn’t kill Faith even if she wanted to it seemed hollow when Buffy went to do just that. Her actual shock at stabbing her was good though and fit with what we would expect. Faith’s fall onto the back of a truck felt like a flat end to the episode though. It’s difficult to know how I would have felt not knowing that the show Angel was being planned. It’s also not clear if Faith will come back from this. She takes a pretty nasty looking bump onto the truck but we’ve seen Buffy come back from the dead so it’s possible she could be back in part two.

Once more I don’t know what to make of the relationship between the Mayor and Faith. They are pretty explicitly acting out father-daughter scenes at this point. But what does that add to the story? Are we supposed to feel something when we think about how this man can simultaneously be a loving father and be about to shed any trace of humanity?

Best Moment: Oz and Willow were incredibly sweet together in their post-coital scene. Her gentle fretting over whether he feels the same way she does and his knowing smile was all perfectly played.

The Bottom Line: A solid part one with plenty to enjoy. The questions about Faith and the Mayor still linger though.

65/100

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