Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | February 21, 2012

Robin’s Review: S3, E22 – Graduation Day (2)

Synopsis: Buffy offers her own blood to Angel and forces him to take it. He rushes her to the hospital where she and Faith lie side by side drained off blood. In a dream Faith tells Buffy to look for the human weakness. When Buffy recovers she plots to take down the Mayor. Cordelia and Wesley finally kiss but it isn’t good. Xander helps gather weapons and leads the other students in attacking the Mayor once he ascends. They also take on his gang of vampires. Buffy lures the Mayor-demon into the school and then blows it up.

The Good: The Ascension was meant to be epic and so it proved. The large scale battle was something we had never seen before and was certainly a fun action sequence. The concept of the students all being armed at last both literally and figuratively (with the knowledge of what they were facing) against the Hellmouth was a nice idea. Coming on the heels of Buffy’s “Class Protector” award there was something satisfying about them all standing together to survive.

The use of Faith as the Mayor’s weakness made sense. The story has been told repeatedly that human emotion is the weakness which brings down Buffy’s demon enemies. No matter how much he may have physically ascended, the Mayor couldn’t shake the grudges he bore from his former life. The dream sequence with Faith and Buffy was really interesting. Was this another message from beyond to guide Buffy or was the good part of Faith in any way participating? As Giles tried to point out to a tired Buffy, there was no little irony in seeing her burn down another school.

The goodbye shot of Angel was suitably sad. It also felt like a fitting end after what happened earlier in the episode. Under the influence of fever he blurted out that he didn’t want to leave her. However he then had to drain her blood to survive, an act which neatly captured their whole relationship. First you have the simple fact of him being a vampire and the threat that exists with being around him. Then there is the issue of his curse. The choreography of the draining was deliberately sexual as if to say that this painful act was the closest they could come to a loving embrace. Finally there was the reminder of what happened in “Becoming.” There Buffy killed him to save the world. He was spat out by hell because his work on Earth wasn’t done. Now, a year later, she saves his life and nearly loses hers. Clearly he can’t stay around. His destiny lies elsewhere and they will be safer apart.

The Wesley-Cordelia kiss was something of a cheap joke but they acted their awkwardness well.

The Bad: The draining of Buffy did rather deflate the idea that Angel’s wound had required Faith’s death. Yes Buffy was weakened by the draining but by waking up fine the next morning the story was cheapened. It was a TV plot contrivance that felt familiar and annoying, particularly in a season finale.

The death of Snyder was a letdown. To see him ranting about order instead of fleeing from a demon was a very cheap joke.

The Unknown: The first time I saw this I was bothered by the students all fighting the Mayor. On some level it still does because there would be so many people now heading out into the world with full knowledge of demons and vampires. On Rewatch though it annoys me a lot less. For a start they would have all seen the Mayor turn into a huge demon so there wasn’t a lot Buffy could do to protect their innocence. After three season I’ve also come to respect the shows stance on denial quite a bit more. If these kids head off to College soon they won’t be telling anyone about demons for fear of being ostracised or locked up. The acknowledgement of zombies and hyenas at the Prom also helps soothe my logical brain. I guess if you live on the Hellmouth you just accept the supernatural and spend your free time begging your parents to move.

Was that Faith in the dream and will she wake up? Did Larry and Harmony die during the big battle?

Best Moment: Angel draining Buffy was a clever scene which said a lot about their relationship with one physical act.

The Bottom Line: “Graduation Day” suffers a lot in comparison to “Becoming.” One looks like a show about a teenager who fights vampires and the other came across as gripping drama as good as anything else on TV. It’s a bit unfair to criticise an episode though just by comparing it to the best a show can produce. I still think there was something underwhelming about the Mayor. After all the time we spent with him to have the major pay off be that he chases after Buffy felt weak. Isn’t it possible he would have done that anyway given that she is the Slayer?

Season Three of Buffy on the other hand was a massive achievement. Joss Whedon was ahead of the curve in seeing that the best television can be both episodic and build on larger arc plots. He played with his characters and the universe they lived in to create one of the best seasons of drama you will find.

67/100

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