Cultural Catchup Project: “Graduation Day” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

“Graduation Day”

June 7th, 2010

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“The Future is Ours”

In many ways, “Graduation Day” is a story simply told.

Filled to the brim with shared anxieties and common goals, the two-part season finale is almost claustrophobic in its focus on how our central characters respond to the circumstances which are threatening to change their lives forever. Conveniently conflating graduation and ascension, the series uses the end of the world as a way to exaggerate (within reason) the fear of the future, the uncertainty which defines high school students as they prepare to enter the real world.

As two hours of television, it’s a densely plotted rollercoaster which operates in carefully designed half measures which create conflict and chaos without losing sight of the psychological ramifications within the episode’s action; as the conclusion of Buffy’s finest season to date, it’s a reminder of the ways in which the series has forever blurred the line between human and demon to the point where empathy is no longer a one-way street, uniting the series in a way that it may never be able to achieve again.

I didn’t get to talk about the episodes leading up to this one due to time restrictions, but they are all part of the series’ journey to this point: “Enemies” reveals that Faith is unquestionably joined with the Mayor, while “Choices” brings the Mayor into Sunnydale High and gives him a chance to get in Angel’s head about his relationship with Buffy (I’ll get to “Earshot” a bit later). And in “The Prom,” that final moment of Buffy’s school chums acknowledging her work in saving them from assured destruction on countless occasions is a nice bit of foreshadowing for where we eventually end up in “Graduation Day: Part Two.”

In some ways the reason I didn’t write about those episodes in detail is that they did feel like setup, which isn’t a problem so long as the payoff is successful. “Graduation Day” is only as strong as it is because these episodes showed us the development of Mayor Wilkins’ relationship with Faith, and because they allowed Faith and Buffy’s feud to fester enough that we buy its explosive conclusion (of sorts) in the finale. I could have written about the incremental steps by which Angel and Buffy’s relationship came to a close (again, of sorts), but what happens to them in the finale adds a great deal of complexity to those earlier developments. They’re all strong episodes, but they’re really strongest when you consider them as the prologue to the ascension.

There’s a risk with any sort of endgame like the Mayor’s ascension, as the characters spend so much time talking about it that it needs to live up to those expectations. What works about the ascension is that the show is never content to simply use the threat of the event to tell its stories: because the Mayor is such an interesting character, and because he now has Faith on his side, every episode is building character relationships as much as it’s building towards the moment when the Mayor will suddenly become the essence of a demon. Sure, that becomes the action climax of the finale, but it’s not enough to carry this story, and Whedon is smart not to allow it to do any heavy lifting. The ascension is in some ways the afterthought, the threat which motivates the characters and yet in no way defines them. The idea that the Mayor’s human weaknesses remain even once he takes his demon form is a fine example of this, indicative of the notion that no ascension can change that which we’ve seen develop over the past few seasons.

“Graduation Day” has many parallels, but the most telling is the way that the Mayor’s relationship with Faith mirrors both Buffy’s relationship with Giles and Angel’s concern for Buffy. There was a point where it seemed like the Mayor was heading into some unsavory territory with Faith, as Harry Groener is creepy enough that “pervert” doesn’t seem to be entirely far-fetched for his character. But over time we’ve seen Wilkins become a surrogate father for Faith, not unlike how Giles has become a surrogate father for Buffy. The Mayor has always straddled that line between demon and human in a humorous fashion, stopping amidst a discussion of the supernatural to comment on something mundane, but in Faith we saw a relationship that we found familiar. That scene in the hospital is perhaps the most telling of all, shifting in one shot from Angel having delivered Buffy’s body to the emergency room to Wilkins standing over Faith’s comatose body as he searches for his revenge. When he tries to kill Buffy in that moment, is isn’t an attempt to keep her from stopping his ascension, it’s an act of fiery revenge, and one we can compare to Giles’ paternal affection or Angel’s love for Buffy.

That hospital scene is done in close proximity, bringing the two sides of the conflict into contact with one another within a neutral space which leaves all of the tension to the characters themselves. It’s not dissimilar to Faith and Buffy’s fight, which all takes place in close quarters – the apartment is fairly cramped (being a set, and all), and even when they fall out to the balcony it creates a small space made even smaller by the use of handcuffs. The series has spent the entire season building up Buffy and Faith as characters, along with Mayor Wilkins and Buffy as antagonist/protagonist, but rather than blowing their conflicts into epic proportions everything remains on a small scale until the ascension. These types of small scenes refuse to allow the battle between Buffy and the Mayor, or Buffy and Faith, become a small part of a broader struggle to save the world: at every point until the climactic battle, the entire episode is intensely personal, a mean feat considering that the end of the world is the central threat within the episode.

That’s Whedon’s modus operandi here, though, as all of the characters are forced to ask themselves what they would do if this is truly the end of their lives. For Angel and Buffy, they’re facing the end of their relationship and have to ask themselves what kind of future they are going to have if they do survive. Meanwhile, Oz and Willow wonder what would happen if they never get another chance to be together; as a result, Oz and Willow consummate their relationship, while by comparison Angel and Buffy cross a different threshold, Buffy forcing Angel to feed off of her in an unquestionably erotic ritual which shatters a barrier within their relationship which allows Angel to remain alive but which in some ways pushes them further apart. It’s perhaps the tragic equivalent to Cordelia and Wesley’s realization that they share absolutely zero romantic chemistry: your boyfriend feeding off your blood is not dissimilar from an awkward kiss or one’s “first time” (except for the obvious differences of degree), as it’s something that forever changes a relationship. Buffy and Angel’s connection is nothing even close to normal, but by offering both romantic and comic equivalents to the same situation it helps keep their star-crossed tragiromance from seeming too out of place.

Whenever you create a finale like this one, which ends with the entire student body banding together in order to fight off a horde of vampires and the embodiment of an enormous snake-like demon who used to be the town’s mayor, you risk losing everything else which happened in the season (or the rest of the finale). Buffy’s decision to kill Faith (or put her into a coma, as the case may be) is a huge moral step for the character, and there’s a risk that the focus of the conclusion could lose the gravity of those actions. However, the episode makes the argument throughout that a graduation is more about the journey than about receiving that piece of paper, and the same goes for Buffy. The dream sequence where Faith informs Buffy how to defeat (or distract) the Mayor is a fine example of the ways in which Faith’s doesn’t leave Buffy’s memory. It is Faith, after all, that leads the Mayor (in demon form) to chase Buffy through Sunnydale High, eventually arriving to Xander’s “Demon Shower” gift of a heaping pile of explosives. Her near-death (I know enough to know that the coma isn’t going to last) experience is allowed to remain ethically complex, as Whedon doesn’t let Buffy off the hook so much as he forces her to live with her decision and demonstrates her growth and maturity in being capable of doing so.

And that is ultimately the meaning of graduation in an episode like this one: it’s about Buffy stepping out from under the Watchers’ Council and charting her own path, and about the series moving beyond high school to something bigger. I was expecting more people to die in the episode to be honest (I’ll get to the one major death in the bullets), as in some ways I’ve come to understand Whedon’s major event episodes to be in some capacity defined by who doesn’t survive until the end of them. However, you realize at a certain point that people don’t need to die for things to change. Buffy nearly kills Faith, and Angel nearly kills Buffy, and the psychological impacts of those events are almost as powerful as if they had truly died.

Graduation isn’t a definitive ending, it’s a crossroads on a student’s journey into adulthood, and “Graduation Day” feels like it’s designed to play the same role. This is the end of Mayor Wilkins’ story, yes, and in that sense it’s a bit sad: Groener was fantastic, the characters was complex in his human/demon dualities, and one could imagine how this season could have just kept going on forever and remaining entertaining based simply on his presence. However, sometimes a show has to evolve beyond a particular story, for better or for worse: I am acutely aware of some of those who believe that the show falls off from this point, and some have even suggested that I abandon the show in favour of Angel due to the dropoff in quality. However, while I may or may not end up agreeing with them in the end, I’m not watching this in order to simply enjoy myself: I’m watching to see the series evolve, and so I’m more excited than concerned by the divisive nature of the coming seasons.

For now, “Graduation Day” stands as the sort of finale while delivers a healthy dose of action without losing sight of the season which came before it, perfectly capturing the qualities which made season three so strong while also identifying the ways in which those elements (Faith, Wilkins, Angel and Buffy’s relationship) evolved beyond their initial introductions to get to this point – it may not have the sort of bold glimpse of the future which defines a finale like Lost’s “Through the Looking Glass,” but it contains the same sense of built-up tension being released in an entertaining fashion which resonates emotionally for all involved. If I had ever doubted the claims that Whedon is particularly strong with finales, I think “Graduation Day” would end that doubt once and for all.

Cultural Observations

  • I’ll be ruling on the future viewing schedule on Wednesday, in case you’re dying of suspense.
  • As I noted on Twitter, the circumstances surrounding “Earshot” being held from airing as a result of the Columbine shootings are really intriguing – when watching the episode, I wasn’t aware of how the situation played out, and I noticed some lines and some images that seemed to hit a bit close to home. I can actually see why they pulled “Earshot” from air (especially the line about school shootings being “all the rage” or something similar), but what I don’t understand is why “Graduation Day Part 2” was treated in the same fashion. Yes, students are armed in their fight against the demon, and they collect the supplies necessary in order to blow up the school, but it’s very clearly being used to fight a killer demon, while “Earshot” uses Buffy’s newfound supernatural mind reading powers to discover an unquestionably human plot. Either way, it’s something I’m curious to come back to once I feel safe browsing Wikipedia and the web in further detail on issues like this one.
  • A moment of silence for Principal Snyder is in order: in some ways the third season never really got to spend much time with Snyder, never fully allowed to become part of the Mayor’s plot and left as a sort of nuisance, but that makes his death here (complaining that the demon was ruining the order of the graduation as oppose to panicking about the giant demon) all the more saddening. With the series leaving the high school setting, Snyder’s death was predictable and certainly a bit funny, but I quite liked the guy and felt bad for him (and for enjoying his death a bit too much).
  • The other big movement in this episode (and previous episodes) was bringing Anya closer to the fold. Her interest in Xander, seen both in “The Prom” and here, is being played with just the right amount of humour, as she struggles to engage with her newfound human emotions while simultaneously being disgusted by the very notion of them. As noted, the season has a very clear message of merging the demonic and the human, and Anya is a fine example of that, so her continued presence in the series will be a way for that to continue to evolve.
  • It’s unique coming to the series from my perspective, as I can make comparisons that those watching at the time would never have: for example, the handcuff fighting sent me to an episode of Chuck from earlier this season, while the “school bands together to fight against demon” felt a lot like the conclusions to a large number of the Harry Potter books. It’s sort of like reading the Bible after you’ve watched Star Wars in a way, realizing that the order in which we view things colours our impressions of their connections with one another. I know that, if anything, it was Rowling who cribbed from Whedon (I don’t think there’s any sort of cribbing involved, they’re not exactly original ideas), but yet I can’t help but read it the other way, which is (hopefully) part of the fun of this project.


Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

123 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: “Graduation Day” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

  1. As always, an excellent article, thanks!

    In some ways I feel that “Graduation Day” is an almost boring episode to re-watch, because the plot (Mayor –> giant snake, defeated by entire school during graduation ceremony) seems so straightforward. But as you say, that’s hardly the point. A LOT happens in the characters’ development, and it’s both fascinating and funny.

    And, yes, I’m dying of suspense! Looking forward to your decision on Wednesday.

  2. It’s funny you should mention Chuck. There have been several occasions as I’ve been watching the show where my mind has drawn parallels between the two shows, both in terms of general story arcs as well as the characters. Hoping Chuck’s 4th season goes better than Buffy’s though (you can count me among those who thought the show was never the same after Sunnydale HS)!

  3. buffywrestling

    Ah, Principal Snyder: “Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet.”

    One of the things I love about BtVS is the fight choreography & the way it its filmed: There are no choppy edits that are prevelant in almost every other action show; it’s straight up filmed like a Fred Astaire number or a older Jackie Chan film, the characters shot from head to toe. I don’t get distracted by the stunt doubles & I get the intensity. The Buffy/Faith fight in the apartment is brilliant.

  4. Karen

    Another really excellent review. Thanks! One thing I’d like to add is that when watching the final episodes and the two-part finale of S3 nowadays, I am struck not by the moment of graduation as a crossroads, but by the really strong (but implied?) sense of community within the Buffyverse. That thread, running underneath the themes of change and uncertainty, makes the upcoming changes all the more powerful and poignant. I’ve seen so many great shows prefer the safe, easy course of “sticking with the formula that works” and Joss takes the hard way.

    <> I strongly disagree that there was a drop-off from this point. Without spoiler comments, I can only say that *even if* I grant the problems in S4-S7 that some claim, there are so many powerful and wonderful strengths that they far outweigh any weaknesses. However, this is a discussion for post-S7! I am so psyched to read your views this summer.

    • I also disagree that there is a drop-off from this point. The show is *different* from this point on, just like any show that has to move its characters from high school to college. The transition isn’t perfect, but they handle it an awful lot better than some other shows.

      So yeah, you never quite get back the awesomeness of the Scooby Gang in high school… but there is PLENTY to enjoy in later seasons! 😀

      • Eldritch

        I enjoyed all seven seasons. My pet theory why seasons 4-7 get a bad rap is that they grew up as the characters grew up. Dealing with more grown up relationships, those seasons were less glib and jokey.

        I think it’s this change of tone, not a decrease in quality, that some fans respond to. They want more of the lighter, breezier Buffy. As to quality, there’s just no argument that later season episodes like “The Body” and “Once More With Feeling” lacked quality.

        • AO

          Eldritch, I’d agree with your theory in regards as to why some fans dislike S4-7, but only in regards to some.

          I appreciated the “change of tone”, but feel that there were a lot of other issues that cause me to have problems with some of S4-7.

          I’d certainly agree that “The Body” and “Once More With Feeling” were quite well done, but that doesn’t change my opinion that certain other Episodes were challenged and a few were quite poorly done.

    • AO

      I strongly disagree that there was a drop-off from this point. Without spoiler comments, I can only say that *even if* I grant the problems in S4-S7 that some claim, there are so many powerful and wonderful strengths that they far outweigh any weaknesses.

      I have to strongly disagree with you. Speaking as someone who very much supported what Whedon tried to do in theory, I’d say that maybe the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, but if they do, it’s not by much.

      There are stretches where S4-7 work quite well for me, especially most of S5 and the first half of S6, but certain actors, characters, writing, and Out-Of-Character-ness cause me to burn with a fiery hatred. 6×16 is one of my 5 least favorite Episodes ever and 6×17 (#1 on that list) is the only one that I absolutely loathe (and it single-handedly damages my enjoyment of both shows). It is hard to discuss this without spoilers, and we should wait for the proper time(s), but some of us who have problems with the later Seasons base that opinion on what I feel to be very legitimate concerns.

      • Eldritch

        “6×17 … is the only one that I absolutely loathe (and it single-handedly damages my enjoyment of both shows). It is hard to discuss this without spoilers, and we should wait for the proper time(s)..”

        I can understand why the open endedness of 6.17 has honked a lot of fans off. I felt some uneasiness myself while watching it. Yet, I thought it had a certain brilliance to it. I liked what Whedon had the brazenness to do in it.

        Hope we can discuss it in more detail when season 6 comes up.

        • Raine

          I’m excited for the discussion of 6.17 as well, since I actually quite liked it. It got me back into season 6, after being bitterly disappointed in 6.9 and 6.10, and ambivalent about 6.11 through 6.16.

          I’ll also add here that I like seasons 4 and 5 a lot–though it might make a difference that I didn’t watch Buffy when it was airing so there were a few plot twists I knew ahead of time, as well as plots that I expected not to be awesome (therefore wasn’t disappointed by).

        • I am also excited for 6.17 when we get to it.

          I’ve never before had a conversation with someone who thought it ruined things, so I will be interested to hear the other side.

          Personally, I think it’s just fascinating!

        • AO

          Yeah, in theory I quite like it (even though a somewhat similar concept had been done already in Star Trek: DS9). My problems have to do with the execution. I’ll definitely try to post once it comes up.

          • Susan

            “I am acutely aware of some of those who believe that the show falls off from this point, and some have even suggested that I abandon the show in favour of Angel due to the dropoff in quality.”

            I am one who pretty much loves Buffy start to finish. Some seasons are definitely weaker than others, but I’d still rather watch the worst ep of Buffy than about 90% of anything else that’s ever been on TV.

            I’ve said in other comments that I’m not a fan of the main arc in S4, and I think the Big Bad in that season is pretty lame, comparatively. Still, there are AMAZING episodes–including “Hush”–in S4, and the characters develop in really interesting ways throughout the season.

            If pressed, I would probably agree that S2 and 3 are the best seasons overall and, by definition, then, there is some kind of overall drop-off in quality in following seasons. But, IMO, it’s a drop from A+ to, at worst, B+.

            Moreover, the only episodes of the whole series whose *quality* I find problematic occur in S1 and S2.

            There are later episodes that I don’t like, but my problems with those have more to do with fury at certain characters or real discomfort at the situations in which they find themselves. My visceral responses, albeit negative, are, I’d argue, more a testament to the high quality of the eps than the opposite.

            “6×16 is one of my 5 least favorite Episodes ever and 6×17 (#1 on that list) is the only one that I absolutely loathe (and it single-handedly damages my enjoyment of both shows).”

            There are other eps that I love despite or even because of the strong negative emotions I feel when I watch them. 6.16 and 6.17 are such eps. I’m so pissed off at the end of 6.16 I can’t describe it, but I think it’s beautifully done throughout, and Emma Caulfield totally knocks it out of the park.

            And I like the mindf*ck of 6.17.

            Of course, I really like S6 overall, even though (because?) so many eps are really hard to watch. I agree with a comment below that it’s “ballsy.” And, I think, exactly right for where the characters after the end of S5.

            FWIW, my personal ranking of the seasons would be 2, 3, 7, 5, 6, 4, 1

          • AO

            “There are other eps that I love despite or even because of the strong negative emotions I feel when I watch them. 6.16 and 6.17 are such eps. I’m so pissed off at the end of 6.16 I can’t describe it, but I think it’s beautifully done throughout, and Emma Caulfield totally knocks it out of the park.

            I can definitely understand loving an Episode that evokes a strong feeling, whether it’s a positive or negative one. As for 6.16, I’d definitely agree that several actors did an excellent job, Emma Caulfield chief among them. But my main problem is with another character, who I feel was either not written and/or acted very well. I didn’t at all like the decision that the show made on what direction to take there (perhaps partly because doing such a thing seems so foreign to me on a personal level), and maybe that colors my impression. For the show to convince me of that decision then I needed them to really sell me and I don’t feel that they did that. So I was quite frustrated, both because I didn’t buy the decision or why the character made it.

            “And I like the mindf*ck of 6.17”.

            I liked it in theory, not so much in the actual execution. And especially not for the broader implications that it has in the grand scheme of things.

            “Of course, I really like S6 overall, even though (because?) so many eps are really hard to watch. I agree with a comment below that it’s “ballsy.” And, I think, exactly right for where the characters after the end of S5.”

            I also appreciated it for trying to be “ballsy”, and think that that direction for at least some of the characters did make quite a bit of sense, but I think that they made some tactical mistakes in how they handled certain characters and their arcs, and by not providing a bit more balance to those Episodes/characters who were so “hard to watch”.

        • iYan

          FWIW, I loved 6×17 (no other show could to that ending), but I won’t comment more to avoid spoilers.

          Re seasons – S5 is my favorite season, so I don’t agree with the “quality falling off after S3”. Second half of S6 definitely has problems though.

      • Becker

        I’m interested in what you have to say because I seem to agree with you on S6, but not so much on 6.17. The ending was severely problematic, but otherwise was interesting. I wish we could get into that more now.

        • Susan

          I think we’re all going to have to start taking notes to remember all the things we want to talk about when we can finally talk about them!

          No rush, though, Myles. 😉

        • AO

          Thanks, in some ways S6 might be the most interesting to discuss because it was so ambitious, and the extent to which it succeeded and failed in the many things which it attempted will probably lead to a great deal of discussion and debate.

          I do agree that 6.17 was interesting, at least in it’s concept (though I’ll always wonder if any of the writers had seen S6 & S7 of ST: DS9 which had something quite similar), and some of my strong feelings about it do come from it’s ending and the implications that result.

          • Eric

            I have problems with 6.08 and 6.09. ( the… subtext here is rapidly becoming text), and don’t care for 6.16, but I love 6.17. I think it ranks with “The Zeppo” as one of the best alternative takes on the Hero’s Journey, but we will have to wait to discuss it.

  5. greg

    I distinctly recall Alyson Hannigan being on ‘Politically Incorrect’ making rather sarcastic comments about the network delaying the finale due to Columbine. (though the metaphor of a giant snake named “Dick” probably does have SOME real-life counterpoint in high school society, though I can’t quite put my finger on what that might be) And, even on the DVD, the final scene is pretty clumsily censored. You can still see Xander’s mouth move (Xander: “Guys. we blew up the school! It’s the best day ever! You know what the best part of high school was?” Buffy: “When we blew it up?” Xander: “Yeah! That ruled! ‘Cause you know the thing that made it so special?” Buffy: “Was that the school blew up?” Xander: Exactly!” Buffy: “I begin to find you troubling.” Xander: “Oh, come on. you were all thinking it.” Willow: “I was” Cordy: “Pretty much” Oz: “Uh huh.” Buffy: “Yep.”) but some awkwardly looped lines that don’t even come close to matching are there instead.

    For me, the most surprising moment in the last part of season two was the mayor talking to Faith about the loyalty of a dog. THAT was the moment when I sat up straight an took notice of the paradigm shift. Up until then, I was sure that he was eventually going to betray her. Heck, EVERYONE betrayed everyone else this season at one point or another. But he wasn’t going to, and he didn’t. The mayor wasn’t finally defeated because of his evilness, but because he truly loved and cared for Faith. The good guys defeated the bad guy because of his good nature. That was a nice piece of misdirection. Also, who doesn’t love a “Rock n Roll High School” ending? After last season, where Buffy had to sacrifice keeping her secret from her mother, I was wondering if she was gonna have to sacrifice keeping her secret from everybody else, but Jonathan took care of that earlier (By the way, how much do I LOATHE that Jonathan managed to get a date to the prom so soon after being up in the tower with a rifle? That’s easily my least-favorite moment of the whole season.) and the sacrifice this time turned out to be her having to compromise her ideals (nice “becoming an adult” moment) by trying to kill Faith.

    Everybody else let Faith down, but the Mayor never did. In a very depressing, nihilistic way, she was right to have turned to him. Giles was just too loyal to Buffy to be a father figure to her, and the Council was just too councily to give a crap about the emotional needs of their slayers.

  6. Beth

    I am interested to see what you think of the seasons after this one. While Season Two and Three are unquestionably good television, it seems like those that favor them above all else, and who say that there was a drop in quality, are a very vocal group that doesn’t necessarily represent how most Buffy fans feel. Everyone is most certainly entitled to their opinion, and no one opinion is correct. I personally tend to gravitate to the later seasons – I think Five is my favorite (it changes) – and I feel the characters only get deeper and more complex. I completely agree that the series gets darker as it goes on, and that can be a bit depressing at times, but it also feels more mature to me – and resonates a bit more. Just, of course, my own humble opinion.

    Great review, as always – I love these episodes. “Choices” is a great episode and one of my favorites, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle up to “Graduation Day” but which expertly ramps up the intensity and suspense.

    • lyvvie

      “Choices” must feature the sweetest Buffy/Willow moment of all time, when Willow tells Buffy she’s going to UC Sunnydale and Buffy tackles her to the ground. Aww.

  7. “Graduation Day” is certainly a great finale but it can’t hold a candle to the much more intimate “Becoming” (or, say, S5’s finale) in my eyes.

    It really saddens me to hear that people are still spouting off that the show takes a dive after the overrated (but still great) S3. I’ve spent not a small amount of hours trying to make a case for the the later seasons being superior, in many (not all) ways, to the earlier ones, especially when taken as a whole. For example, individually, I feel Season 5 bests Season 3 in every single way. Unfortunately I’ve found that although there are plenty of people who think the later seasons are brilliant in their own unique ways, the people who feel the show’s quality ends at S3 tend to be a lot more vocal about their views. This makes it seem like there’s more later season discontent than there actually is.

    Even Season 4 isn’t as bad as many fans make it out to be too. From a character perspective, it’s actually quite well done. It’s in other (to me, less important) areas where it falters in relation to S2 and S3.

    So, yeah, just go forward with an open mind and you’ll enjoy it a lot more. And remember that there’s a lot more of us who love the later seasons than it seems. 🙂

    • Beth

      I also agree that Season Four is underrated. I actually like it quite a bit (episode by episode, maybe not as an arc). However, I don’t say this as much because it tends to draw vehement protests and ire from some (not all!) who dislike it.

      • greg

        Season four is still my favorite season of the series. (followed by 3, 5, 7, 6, 2 and 1)

        Oddly, I also think season four is the best ‘Gilmore Girls’. And ‘Angel.’ And ‘The Wire’ (imagine how angry I am that ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Arrested Development’ stopped short at three!) Probably something about that being the point where the writers start being braver and playing around with the safe elements of the series, which can run the risk of annoying fans who like their shows to be comforting. (that didn’t sound too condescending, did it?)

        I look forward to arguing why season four both rocks and rules in more detail in good time, once spoilers are no longer an issue.

        • One of the aspects I love most about Buffy is how every season is completely different from the other seasons. There’s no repetition at all, just natural evolution. Each season has it’s own tone, feel, music, themes, etc. Due to this I feel like every season is awesome in its own unique way (outside of S1). Although I can confidently say I feel that S1 is the worst season and S5 is the best season, the rest are a toss-up as they’re all pretty close together in top-notch quality. S4 probably comes in second-to-last, followed by S7 in third-to-last, but I still love both of those seasons despite their weaknesses.

          (Some very generic spoilers and thoughts ahead about the seasons to come)
          I found the main narrative of S4 to be pretty sloppy most of the time. The season’s themes just didn’t come together as well as other seasons and there was some missed potential. It’s my least favorite season outside of S1 (although still significantly better than S1), but the character material is *wonderful* so I still love S4. There’s some sublime episodes in there too.

          S5 is the king of the crop for me. Everything snapped into place that season. It’s like they combined the best elements of S2 and S3 and merged them together into one near-perfect super season.

          S6 is simply ballsy and, when analyzed under a microscope, exceedingly well put together and characterized (outside of one unfortunate mid-season stumble). The season puts up a mirror not only to the characters, but also the fans of the show forcing both them and us to look inward. It’s hard and it’s painful, but the ride is psychologically complex and is extremely rewarding to get through (imho).

          The latter half of S7 is the first time where I felt the writers were getting a little lazy in certain areas. But with that said, their swan song was still largely riveting, well themed, and excellently characterized… maybe just not with the characters some people wanted more attention given to. S7 has some ballsy moments too (think LMPTM) that don’t shy away from complex situations.

          • greg

            “I found the main narrative of S4 to be pretty sloppy most of the time. The season’s themes just didn’t come together as well as other seasons.”

            Yeah, I know. As much as I love it, it’s almost as if the narrative was just pieced together from a bunch of other narratives in hopes of it being stronger and better, but it just went off in unexpected and unfortunate directions instead.

        • One of the things that Buffy taught me was how to be okay with narrative discomfort. The payoff is almost always worth it.

          (And it was hugely discomforting, especially considering that my favorite TV show up until that point was The X-Files, where NOTHING ever changed.)

        • Becker

          You thought Angel S4 was the best? That I find interesting as I actually flat out quit watching in that season and that show was a deeply important part of my life. (If you knew me, you’d know why) I look forward to learning what are differences are when the time comes. I’ve stopped watching shows before, but usually because I was only kind of into them and just had other things to do, but S4 (to my memory) is the only show I once loved that I had to stop watching due to a new hatred for it. I normally feel that what they did to get to S5 is a cheat, but I was actually so very glad they did it and ended up mostly enjoying S5 because of it. Wish I could say more.

      • That is EXACTLY what I’ve always thought! Whenever I’m going through the whole series, I always think “Ugh, not season four again…” but then I love almost every episode!

        Agreed, the problem is that the overall arc is weak. As far as the writing, plotting, and character development in individual episodes go, I thoroughly love it.

  8. lyvvie

    Great review Myles. As you say Graduation Day in some ways is very straight forward but it’s the way that Whedon makes is personal that really works.

    When you mentioned just one death I was trying to remember who and I decided you meant Larry! Snyder had some great lines, I love him telling Willow to spit out some gum and another kid ‘I saw that gesture, see me after graduation!’.

    No True Blood/Earshot comparison? That’s what always springs to my mind when I see that episode. Although hearing peoples thoughts is hardly a new idea, I do find the way it’s handled to be fairly similar, and of course neither Buffy or Sookie can read Vampire’s minds.

    I also strongly disagree with the idea that the show falls off from this point. Out of the next four seasons come my 1st and 2nd favourites. But you’re definitely right to say they’re divisive. Looking forward to you reviewing them. And Angel (whenever or however that will be).

    • On “Earshot”: I don’t watch True Blood but saw the pilot and so understood the comparison.

      However, what I *really* forgot to mention about the episode was, like with “Choices” (as noted above), is the conclusion: Giles running into the tree was comedy gold.

      • lyvvie

        “Earshot” has to be one of the funniest episodes of Buffy. I love that we get payoff from the “Band Candy” episode, seeing as there has been that awkwardness between Giles and Joyce in a few episodes the ‘revelation’ makes perfect sense.

        “You had sex with Giles?! You had SEX with Giles?! On the hood of a police car? Twice?!”

        • Eldritch

          In one of her commentaries, Jane Espensen said it was their intent that Giles and Joyce had sex in “Band Candy,” though somehow it wasn’t mentioned expressly in the episode. So she was giddy with glee when they were able to pay it off in “Earshot.”

          • Jane Espenson’s commentary on Earshot is fantastic. I love that woman so much!

            And yes, Buffy’s lines about Joyce and Giles having sex — the lines with Joyce and the ones with Giles — are pure gold.

            I remember somewhere reading a list of all the times Giles gets knocked out over the course of the series, and they included him running into the tree at the end of Earshot — the explanatory comment was something along the lines of, “Okay, he doesn’t exactly lose consciousness, but it’s funny.”

            Which reminds me of a game you can play where you try to name all the (potential) apocali in the Buffyverse. And inevitably no one remembers the one in The Zeppo.

  9. Cartman86

    I honestly cannot ever see anyone stopping after season 3 of Buffy. Seasons 4-6 are great (and contain the top 4-5 best of episodes of the show). I even enjoyed season 7 the second time I saw it. If there is a drop off it’s nowhere near the type you see in 24 or Heroes. I regret even having to say that, because Buffy is not Buffy without those 5 amazing episodes.

    • I’m too curious about which 5 eps you’re thinking of! Can you list which eps they are, in your opinion? Numbers, if the titles are too spoilery.

      • Christopher

        To answer for myself (I didn’t see voluntarymanslaughter’s post until I had submitted mine) I would say the following episodes are the top 5 episodes of the show. I’ll use episode numbers:

        SPOILER WARNING (if anyone thinks episode numbers will give too much away)

        4.10, 4.22, 5.16, 5.22, 6.07

        • Becker

          5.16, absolutely, positively.

          4.10, 4.22 and 6.7, not for me, but I have issues with those that I can get into at this time, but those problems are more personal taste than anything else, and therefore will not knock a person for counting those on this list. If that made sense. 4.22 being the mostly likely of the three that I would add to my list.

          5.22, I have a lot of issues with this each of which alone keep it off, and all of which together push it further down.

          Sadly, I can’t really make my own top five list as I’d really have to re-watch the episodes I liked and I don’t have the time. But I would have to consider the following with 5.16: Angel, Passion, BBB, & 5.7, plus The Pack, which is the episode that got me hooked on the show. And a few others I really enjoyed from S2&S3.

      • Jac

        can i hazard a guess?

        Hush, Restless, Fool For Love, last ep of season 5 and Once More With Feeling?

    • Christopher

      Absolutely! And, along with those 4 or 5 top-notch, excellent episodes there are a huge number of very strong episodes. There are some clunkers, as there were in seasons 1-3, but they are vastly outweighed by the strong ones.

      I do hope you approach the next season with an open mind, Myles, and not too much expectation that it’s all going downhill. I’m sure you will.

      Lastly, I want to agree with everyone about the wonderful review. Your observations about the claustrophobic nature of the culminating scenes is an interesting and, I think, accurate insight. Thank you, and I’m looking forward to your thoughts going forward.

    • Becker

      I’m one of the people who thinks the show went down hill after S3 with 6th being bottom and 7 being a pale attempt to return to form, putting up with 4 or 5. But people seem to think that because I don’t like those seasons as a whole that I don’t like anything about them. Every season has its moments and The Body is one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I don’t have that episode on DVD, I just have a screener set of Discs 1 & 6 which I re-watched this season. At the time, I thought that 5.1 was one of the best openers in a long time and that the following episodes were quite strong, but on re-watching them, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I once did for reasons I’ll have to wait some time to get into. I actually enjoyed 5.20-5.22 more than I once did, but still have all the issues that made me have severe issues with them at the time which keep it from keeping up with the finales of the previous seasons. Again, I’ll have to wait to discuss the many problems.

      I do not recommend stopping watching Buffy at pretty much anytime, even in the seasons I don’t like. There is one episodes of S6 I’ve never seen ,but because I was out that night and since I didn’t like the season much, I’ve had no urge to see it, especially since I know what happened, I don’t feel the need to if I don’t have to, and I don’t. 😉 Angel S4 is another thing though. I don’t know if I would say not to watch it, but I just had to stop about 2/3 or so through it. S5 was a big giant improvement there though.

      • Susan

        I think I’m with you on Angel 4, Becker. I know a lot of people who think the central arc of that season is just awesome, but I find 4.17-4.21 really unpleasant. Moments of unpleasantness start at 4.07 (with one seriously oogie scene in an otherwise amazing ep), but still the eps are mostly wonderful until 4.17.

        Well, really, 4.17-4.21 are also well done eps overall; the main story just upsets me. But that’s a discussion for a later time.

        • Becker

          It’ll be interesting when the time comes to see if we agree on that or not. I think we might definitely agree on one aspect of it at least. But I had a whole series of massive issues and minor issues with that season, some of which started earlier, some which seemed to negate everything we ever knew about everything. Oy.

  10. James

    Season four has more than enough amazing episodes and character interactions to compensate for the overall arc. Everything just feels so refined and comfortable within the writing and execution that regardless of the lacking A plot, makes it incredibly enjoyable to watch.

  11. AO

    A good review of the end of S3. I wish that it could have been longer, and dealt more in depth with certain Episodes, but I know that there were a lot of time constraints involved.

    I had hoped to comment in more depth, but I’m now too worked up with thinking about some of the grave, grave problems (no pun intended) with certain Episodes and character arcs in S4-7 😉 .

    • I’m not sure what you’re referring to here AO. The only notable stumble character-wise is in mid-S6 (imho).

      As for individual episodes as bad as your claiming, there’s only really a couple of them in all of S4-S7 as far as I’m concerned, one in later S4 and one in mid S7. Sure there’s a few other ‘mixed bag’ episodes, but those generally contain a lot of wonderful character work mixed in with the negatives. S1 and the first half of S2 had more episodes with “grave problems” than the rest of the series combined as far as I’m concerned.

      • AO

        The only notable stumble character-wise is in mid-S6 (imho).

        I’d definitely disagree that that was the only one. Though I very much agree with the one that you mention (I’m assuming that we’re thinking of the same one).

        As for individual episodes as bad as your claiming, there’s only really a couple of them in all of S4-S7 as far as I’m concerned, one in later S4 and one in mid S7.

        6.16 & 6.17 were two of my 5 least favorites ever. And 6.17 certainly has redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have serious problems with it.

        There are a lot of different criteria for what makes a bad Episode, and one of the fun things about BtVS (imo) is that an Episode might be quite successful in certain ways, but not in others. A lot may depend in how each viewer looks at a specific Episode and where their priorities lie.

        Using a minor example that we can actually discuss, 3.5 always bugs me a bit because the abandoned Cabin that Buffy and Cordy hide out in had both electricity and a working landline. I usually am quite good about employing suspension of disbelief, but for whatever reason it fails me here and I have trouble buying into the probability that both of those services are still working when our heroines need them. So I have a problem with the Episode. I know that it’s not an issue for just about anyone else and I don’t even know why it stood out to me, so I do my best to look past it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a (relatively minor) problem for me.

        The problems that I have that come later are definitely more substantial (at least imo), though they may not be so for some others such as yourself. That will hopefully make the discussion more interesting when we get to those Episodes.

        • Thanks for clarifying AO. It’s interesting that you list 6×16 as one of your least favorites. I don’t often see that episode picked out like that. I don’t agree with that assessment at all, but I can why you might feel burned by it.

          6×17, on the other hand, I’ll defend to my grave. 🙂 I think a lot of fans get way too hung up over the plot (especially the end) of this episode and really lose sight of the big picture as it relates to a certain character’s arc. I think it’s a tremendously powerful and compelling episode — one of S6’s bests. I look forward to defending this one hard when Myles eventually gets there.

          Then again, it’s important to note that I rarely get bothered or hung up on plot. Character and theme weigh significantly heavier for me than plot does.

          • Becker

            It’s going to be a long time before we can get into it, but one of the things that killed me about S6 was with the characters and changes that made no sense at all. And quite possibly not what you might think I’m talking about. Oh, spoilers, why do you mock me so?

          • AO

            You’re welcome mikejer.

            I (believe I) can understand where you’re coming from when you discuss the “big picture” in regards to 6×17, but I think that in the truly big picture that we have an obligation to always remember the end of that Episode.

            I’d like nothing more than to not be “hung up over the plot”, but find it difficult to do so in this instance. I place a lot of importance on character too, and because that Episode succeeded so well in some ways, I find that I can’t get past what I interpret it as saying. It would be easy and convenient to get past it easily, but that wouldn’t be giving it the respect that it deserves.

            I’d like to say more, but I worry that I’ve already said too much. So I’ll leave off for now and look forward to when the right time comes. 🙂

        • Becker

          I figured the cabin in 3.5 was a season hunting cabin so the person might pay to keep the power and phone instead of having to pay extra fees to reconnect and disconnect each year, and allow the owner to pop in randomly for whatever reason and work on whatever. But, I never really thought about it too much as a lot of things were going on at the time.

          6.10 was possibly my least favorite episode and the one that set that whole season down a different and imo bad path than I had hoped for.

          People like to say that fans didn’t like S6 because it got too dark. If that was my problem, why would I love 5.16 so much? Man, he needs to watch quickly. 🙂

          • AO

            It occurred to me that it might be a hunting cabin, but it looked rather run down for that to be the case. I don’t blame you for not giving it any thought, as I said, it’s not at all an important aspect of the show to anyone but me. 😉

            You’re right that 6.10 did set some things in motion, though I saw it most as a continuation of the themes already established in the Season. I would agree that I didn’t care for what was begun there. That’s one example of a theme that was interesting in theory, and could have been good, but didn’t work out nearly as well as it might have.

            “People like to say that fans didn’t like S6 because it got too dark.”

            Yeah, I agree that there’s often far too much assumption and simplification that goes into that theory. It’s probably true of some fans, but hardly true of us all. Hopefully Myles will have a lot more time now that the regular Season is over and will be able to watch faster.

        • greg

          The REALLY odd thing is that we’ve already seen that Cordelia has a working cell phone (in ‘Welcome To The Hellmouth’), so its not as if the writers needed a working landline for the episode to make sense.

          • I think they did a little ret-con on Cordy’s cell phone from the pilot. It’s pretty clear that cell phones don’t “exist” in Buffy’s world until Season Seven.

            Angel gets his own cell phone when he moves to LA, but it’s a running gag that it’s useless — either it doesn’t have reception, or he’s forgotten to turn it on, or he doesn’t know how to pick up his voicemail, etc etc 🙂

          • Becker

            I don’t think she had pockets in that dress. 😉 And if she had a purse, it was going to be a tiny one and might not have fit her cell in it.

  12. Jac

    Myles like Christopher said keep an open mind about the later seasons,

    apart from S1 i find it extremely hard to rank S2-7 so i don’t even try anymore.

    upon rewatching S3 i forgot how much Spike isn’t in the season, you’ll realise how much you missed him soon like you realise how much you miss Faith later aswell (oh dear i’m not sure even i followed that )

    your comment on who you saw die on Graduation Day is interesting too Myles but thats all i’m going to say about it blondie bear

  13. Cheyne

    One thing I love that I found out later was that Alexis Denisof chose just to get closed lined and knocked out of the battle with one hit. Joss had a plan to show him fight with some respectability but Alexis was like ‘ I thank it will be really funny if’. Comic gold.

  14. Witnessaria

    “Whenever you create a finale like this one, which ends with the entire student body banding together in order to fight off a horde of vampires and the embodiment of an enormous snake-like demon who used to be the town’s mayor…”
    Yes, whenever that happens in a tv finale…as it so often does. lol
    Enjoying your reviews; can’t wait to hear more. Hope the (sure to become) ever more contentious comments to your blog about different seasons’ qualities don’t dampen your experience.

  15. Becker

    Note to Myles, if you didn”t already know this tidbit. Joss was banned from filming in Torrance for some time after they blew up the school as they did it at 3am and it was a much larger explosion than they had expected and really pissed off the neighbors. 🙂

  16. The Broox

    Although they are seemingly small bits (f0r one who is unaware of where character arcs are going) there are two important facts to note concerning the final battle. The first is that Cordelia stakes her first vamp during the fight, an indication of the ways in which she will change in the future. Secondly, Harmony is bitten by a vamp during the brawl. Harmony has one of the most interesting character arcs in the show in (both in an out of universe) IMO, and this marks a turning point.

  17. James

    Yeah, Cordy’s stake moment is still one my favorite “fuck yeah!” moments in the series.

    Can’t wait to read Myles’ thoughts on her development throughout Angel.

  18. Susan

    Just read your recent tweet, Myles: Even though we tend to head off into our own little insider tangents, your excellent, thoughtful analyses are still the fodder for our ravings. I’d say we’re getting more excited to read your thoughts and ride out on them as far as we can go.

  19. Beth

    Although it’s way, way premature, I’m going to preemptively give my support to S6. It’s actually the season I’ve watched the most in the last few years. It just sucks me in with a strong start and then before you know it there’s OMWF and TR. I seem to always be pleasantly surprised by how much I like 6.9. From 6.10 to 6.12 is pretty rough, and I tend to downgrade the season in my mind during this part – I remember almost giving up on watching the series on the air when 6.10 aired (of course I didn’t). I no longer rewatch 6.12 at all. But then there’s the great 6.13 and I even like 6.14 and don’t mind 6.15. From 6.16 to the end I pretty much can’t stop watching. And, yes, I love 6.17, and I really don’t mind the ending of that ep. And we all can agree that the very end of 6.21 is one of the most awesome moments in the series. 🙂

    Anyway, we’ll get to all that, haha.

    • Gill

      I agree with you about S6, Beth – it’s dark but so powerful and 6.13 gets into my top ten or at least top fifteen. There are a couple of bits I hate with a vengeance( an incident in 6.19 in particular, and what I consider to be an OOC resolution to 6.15), but the season as a whole is a study of a certain aspect of life which I find utterly compelling. Agreed about the awesomeness of the final moments of 6.21 too!

  20. Gill

    Another fascinating review, Myles, though I do wish you’d had time to give more consideration to “Earshot” and “The Prom”. In the former, Buffy’s discovery of what happened in Band Candy and the way she handles it are outstanding comedy, perfectly handled by all concerned. Graduation Day works on so many levels – arguably real consummation for Angel as well as Oz/Willow. I love Oz’s final comment about what they’d survived too.

    As for coming seasons, count me in the clan who believe the show just got better and better. S4 has a weaker overall arc and the introduction of a character fans still argue about a great deal, but it has some of the best individual episodes – the run for 4.8 to 4.12, for example, is outstanding. I’ll be interested to see your reactions to certain plot twists in particular. From my POV you have much of the best yet to come. And it’s worth remembering that few people who are dead necessarily leave the show permanently!

    • Susan

      “S4 has a weaker overall arc and the introduction of a character fans still argue about a great deal, but it has some of the best individual episodes – the run for 4.8 to 4.12, for example, is outstanding.”

      I’m wondering when we’ll all start arguing about that character. Because, you know, we really should wait awhile, spoiler-wise, but I don’t know that we’ll be able to. 😉

      4.8-4.10 and 4.15-4.22 are great runs (with 4.18 a snag in the middle there, and I don’t think 4.11 and 4.12 are quite great). I love 4.9 SO MUCH! 4.6 is beautiful, too. Too bad the main arc is so weak; this would otherwise be a stellar season.

      • Gill

        I’ll grant you 4.11 isn’t as strong, though certain costume choices give me glee every time, but what’s not to love in 4.12? The continuity! The unusual performance by a regular! The driving!

        4.09 is beloved particularly by one faction, I suppose, though I adore all the storylines in it. And yes, there are so many stellar episodes in a weak season. Except that it’s only weak by comparison with what we’ve come to expect of this show – it still beats most other seasons of most other shows hands down.

        One point in respect of S3 and Myles’s review – in restrospect some of Faith’s words in the dream sequence amuse me even more. “Myles to go. Counting down from 730.” anybody? *g* 😉

        • As a proud member of that particular faction, I say, yes! 4.09 is indeed particularly beloved! (As well as being one of the funniest episodes in the entire series, IMO.)

          But I have a good excuse! I watched S7 with a friend before ever watching any of the rest of Buffy, so I couldn’t help but prefer the character in question.

          (This led to odd questions when I started with S1, such as “Wait, where’s Dawn?” and “Since when does Buffy have a mom?” and “Why am I supposed to care about this brooding guy?” 🙂 )

          • Christopher

            SPOILERS ^^^^^ 🙂

          • JJ

            Not even! Myles already knows everything I referred to!

          • voluntarymanslaughter

            For some reason wordpress identified me as JJ — the name I go by in the real world — instead of voluntarymanslaughter. Whatev, it’s still me. And I stand by my claim that I didn’t spoil anything for Myles 🙂

          • Eldritch

            Well, he certainly does now!

          • voluntarymanslaughter

            Dude. He has said he knows about Dawn. He has said he knows about “The Body.” And obvy we all know about Broody Guy.

          • Susan

            I’ll vouch for voluntarymanslaughter –I believe Myles has said that he knows about Dawn (though not precisely *what* he knows about Dawn) and, I think, “The Body.” Right, Myles?

            But yes, we should all be careful–it gets harder and harder with every review!

          • Susan

            I’m actually not a member of the faction that might love 4.09 for a very particular reason.

            I love 4.09 for its tone and writing, and especially for a specific moment when Xander, among, uh, others, is confronted with the reason that some fans might love the episode. 😉

  21. Carlie

    I’m loving these reviews! And let me add my voice to those defending the later seasons – while I definitely think season 3 is among the stronger seasons, and while I HATE the overall story arch of season 4, season 4 has some of the most outstanding individual episodes of the entire series, and season 5 is my absolute favorite season of all. I just think that in terms of character development, overall story arch, and awesomeness of the big bad, it takes the cake. I don’t have the problems with season 6 that many do – I found most of the story archs others find distasteful to be very believable when put into the context of a young woman struggling with adulthood (I empathized with Buffy quite a bit in these episodes), and I love, love, LOVE Willow’s story in this season. I used to say I hated season 7, but I’ve been watching it again recently (I introduced my boyfriend to the series and we’re finally nearing the end!) and enjoying it much more the second time around.
    Angel season 4 is the ONLY season in the Jossverse that I really, REALLY hate. And I don’t even hate that much of it, just the story arch of one particular character who was my favorite and I felt got completely stomped on in ways that were 100% out of character. It seems to me that fans of the shows are passionately split between loving and loathing the season, with only a few who fall in between. I’ll be interested to see your take on it.
    I really hope you watch both shows at once from here on out – I know you’ve gotten recommendations to the contrary, but I really think, especially in season 4 of Buffy/1 of Angel they were meant to be watched together and lose some of the narrative flow when watched separately.
    Looking forward to future reviews!

  22. Taneli

    I’ve read you mention a few times now that people have gone as far as to recommend you stop viewing the series after season 3 – at least the consensus seems to be that the series jumps the shark after this. I can’t understand these sentiments. To me the seasons 4-7 are the series.

    Before season 4 the series is a monster/mystery of the week series with a teenager kicking the ass of vampires and assorted other baddies. Certainly there’s a lot of character development that pays of during the latter seasons, but up to this point the writers have almost always been too scared to allow the strong characters to be the main focus of the series. Several character issues and clashes are instead resolved with a big fight against a big bad.

    The nature of the series changes drastically, but all for the good. The series finally realizes that a teenager fighting against b-class horror movie ripoffs is a bad premise and this is reflected in the way the season main baddies (with some exceptions) become intentionally quite ridiculous. They are not the main focus anymore.

    While the smaller (weekly) bads were used earlier to get the characters out of situations, where there was some real inner conflict that might’ve lead to growth, they are now relegated to a role, where they are a mirror to the character developments and issues. The writers allow the the characters to solve their issues and develop in the real world instead of upstaging every character conflict with an intrusion from some external threat.

    It is certainly a weird development for a series to relegate its early selling point into a sideshow, but Whedon is best at writing characters and character conflicts – not some fight against some external evil. Nevertheless, we still have hellmouth and all its associated supernatural stuff in there, but the characters of the Scooby gang hold center stage. They are well written strong characters and finally they can act without being upstaged by ultimately inconsequential rubber masked monsters.

    As a result of all of this we have bold decisions by the writers concerning some of the main characters of the show and the series is taken into new directions with boldness that has rarely been TV before or after, we have amazing acting in spades, when the characters are allowed the room to grieve and rejoice and doubt and bond without being constantly interrupted by monsters, we have experimental episodes that are some of the best in the series almost without exception.

    And after all the space given to the characters, we even have a lot more interesting developments on the nature of the hellmouth, the nature of evil, the nature of slayers and all the other non-natural elements of the Buffy universe.

    You definately should not stop watching the series. It finally begins now. Rejoice in being able to see the some of the best seasons of TV ever for the first time.

    [Disclaimer – It certainly has its low points even from this point on and a lot of character conflicts resolved by stupid gimmicks and developments stumped by lack of writer courage. And there are a few episodes and developments that are given proper character driven space even before season 4. However, before season 4 it is rare for the episodes to be character driven, while after season 3 it becomes the norm.]

  23. Taneli

    Just an added comment on Angel – I suggest you don’t watch it together with the Buffy seasons. It is a bad series from beginning to end – well almost. There are some light spots, but they are few and far in between. All its storylines and developments come back to Angel being a whiny bitch about his past cruelties. Ditching Angel from Buffy was a great decision and watching Angel simultaneously with Buffy will only dampen your mood and eat away at the joy of watching Buffy seasons 4-7.

    • Susan

      I really disagree with your assessment of AtS, Taneli. The first season is rocky at first (Whedon seems to need, generally speaking, a half-season or so to get up to steam, IMO), and it’s definitely different from Buffy, but I think it’s a great series. And while I will always be Team Angel, a good case can be made for Angel as a “whiny bitch” on Buffy–but in LA his character really develops.

    • While I think Buffy is a better show than Angel, I think you’re selling Angel really, really short. It’s a really good show with unique strengths. A large part of S2 is great stuff, and a lot of S5 is pretty fantastic too.

      With that said, I definitely agree that Myles should stick with Buffy before starting Angel.

    • Wow, harsh words for AtS! I can understand where you’re coming from. If you don’t like the character, and you don’t care about his backstory, and you’re not interested in the almost Arthurian-High-Fantasy the show evolves into, well, why would you like the show?

      Personally, I actually prefer AtS to BtVS (I know! Heresy!) but a lot of that has to do with how/when I was introduced to the shows. I got into the Whedonverse through a friend showing me Firefly, at which point I thought “There must be something to all this Buffy fandom then,” and checked out the rest. But since I was in law school at the time, I found Angel’s adult-type scenarios more relatable than Buffy’s homecoming-queen-style drama.

      Plus, I was in law school… and there are evil lawyers… what’s not to love?

    • Oh, forgot to say… hehehe, yeah, Angel can be a whiny bitch :-D. Angelus is much, much more fun.

      …at least Angel was allowed to have a sense of humor on his own show, though!

    • AO

      I highly disagree. I didn’t care for Angel that much on BtVS, but his character improved quite a bit in his own series. “Angel” definitely has it’s weak spots, but imo Angel S1-5 is superior to Buffy S4-7.

      • I think there is a good number of people, among those who prefer BtVS 1-3 over 4-6, who were simply more interested in AtS and what was going on over there than they were in BtVS. I love both shows equally, and watched both shows concurrently when they originally aired, but there were characters who were highlighted in BtVS after season 3 I found less interesting than the old, and new characters on AtS. It got frustrating at times, because of this, to not be able to find people who wanted to discuss AtS. All the discussion seemed focused on BtVS.

        That said, I in no way *prefer* AtS over BtVS, and I think the analysis here can only benefit from some kind of “concurrent” viewing.

  24. Tausif Khan

    You eulogize too soon for Principal Snyder lest you forget that Whedon’s characters gain work after they die.

    JK Rowling started Harry Potter in 1990. The first three books had reached America by the time this third season finale had aired. So they were almost simultaneously created.

    However, I feel that Buffy does set the ground for a lot of future television. Look at Season 4 closely and compare it to Davies run of Doctor Who.

  25. Manic D

    Just wanted to jump in to say thanks for your reviews.

    Also wanted to add my .02 on later seasons. Season 5 is my favorite season overall & I would take season 6 & 7 over season 1 & the first half of season 2 as well. They have ups & downs but there it’s still some damn fine TV. (I’ve heard quite a lot of people cite S6 as their favorite even) Season 4 is excellent, not as good as season 3 or 5 IMO, but I find it absurd that anyone would suggest you stop watching after season 3, unless you currently hate the show, that is.

  26. jules

    Not to start a shipper war, but in my own experience, the fans who seem to be most vocal about the show’s deterioration after S3 are the hardest of hardcore Buffy/Angel shippers. I agree with most of the comments here that the seasons of BtVS all vary in theme, scope, and execution, but the entire series is well worth the watch and to stop less than halfway through would be to miss out on several amazing and groundbreaking hours of television. Season 5 is my favorite and I can’t wait for you to cover it.

    That said, I have major issues with S6, not just because “it got dark,” but because the darkness each character had to face was set up very well, and then the execution (IMO) was uneven and in many ways poor, and I hate to say, a cop-out in many circumstances. I don’t hate the season, but whenever I re-watch certain episodes, I always get frustrated and disappointed.

    I don’t think S4 is nearly as bad as most fans remember it to be, or claim it to be at the time. I actually think it deals with post-graduation/college life very well for all of the characters.

    And, Myles, if you haven’t made up your mind yet about how to cover BtVS/AtS from here on out, I recommend doing Buffy in its entirety, then reviewing Angel. I don’t think there’s much to be gained by keeping a close parallel of when each episode aired originally–I think it’s better to delve into/focus on each show individually, both from a reviewer and from a reader’s perspective.

    • AO

      As I’ve been one of those most vocal against some of S4-7 in this thread, I’d just like to put it on record that I don’t ship. I’m in the what often seems to be extreme minority of fans who didn’t want Buffy to wind up with any of the available partners.

      Let Buffy be single!

  27. Jen

    Before reading this, I never realised that people thought that there was a drop in quality after season 3… immediately after, anyway.

    The show changes quite a lot, and I have to say that the seasons which I think of most fondly are seasons 2 and 3, I think that this is only because of when I watched them, and other memories that I have associated with them.

    I definitely don’t think there is any reason for you to stop now! I’m really looking forward to reading your reactions to the later episodes. I might even start to watch along, as I haven’t watched the later seasons so obsessively as I watched the earlier ones.

    On the buffy/angel front, I started watching both simultaneously, but then they messed up the scheduling for them in the UK… Angel was pushed to an awful timeslot on a different channel, and the way that they scheduled them didn’t make any sense. So I gave up on watching Angel. I also didn’t like Angel as a character that much, and season 1 didn’t hook me from the start.

    I did watch all of Angel last year though, and I was happy to find that it is a much better series than I ever imagined it was. If I could go back now and watch them together, I think I would, because I can remember a few times when there were crossover epiodes and I thought… wow, where did that all come from?!

    I don’t think it’s necessary though… whichever you decide to do, I’m looking forward to reading your reviews!

  28. Bob Kat

    Actually that Jonathan would even be *allowed* to get prom tickets is hard to believe in itself. His date wasn’t; I figured she was from another school.

    As to the MAyor, this is what I was saying. I any other show, he’d be just another hypocrite, like JR Ewing on _Dallas_ or the various interchangeable generals who showed up on _MASH_. A secret bad guy wrapped up in acceptable trappings, showing How Evil the Establishment Is.
    Richard Wilkins started, “somewhen, as basically a very good man. For one or more reasons – fear of death, got a taste of power and wnated much more, felt the 1890s were a decadent time and he wanted to get the power to fight it- he made first one deal, then others, and ended up as what we saw. But he still retained his basic character of, in many ways, the most decent person on the show. (Full disclosure:I’m an unreconstructed Cold War type so those are largely my own values.)

    I was going to avoid mentioning Harmony by name but since that happened already, I ntoiced you missed how this epsiode showed some different sides to her beyond the 2-dimensional adversary she’d always been. When she got bit by the Guy With Freaky Hair vamp, I told my daughter “This is important.” Which meant I caught a moment in a later epsiode by soundtrack alone before we had the visual. (Willow’s comment: “She tortured me for 10 years.” Does that mean Harmony’s family only moved there late in 2nd Grade, or does it mean she and Willow were friends from the start of kindergarten until then?) Sorry, s he’s my second favorite character, so I think about this.

    “Graduation Day 1-2” is the worst example of a flaw _BtVS_ (and other shows, like _HIMYM_) often has; the time frames aren’t long enough. 48 hours isn’t enough time for Angel to get shot, then sick, trying to find remedies, fighting with Faith, getting drunk by Angel, both going to the hospital, Buffy’s recovering (even with SLayer healing,) getting the weapons, recruiting the whole class *and getting them organized*, then recruiting guys form outside the class to form the rear guard (older or slightly younger boyfriends, brothers cousins, plus friends Giles, Angel, and Wesley recruited from their favprite taverns?) would take at least 80 hours, at least.

    As to alter seaosns, generally more peopel like S-5 than don’t. Soem evne like S-7 more than Angel S-4. And the croosvoer episodes do benefit greatly from watching both; not so much the first one, but the second in later S-4 and the one in S-7.

    • voluntarymanslaughter

      I never thought it was weird that Jonathan got to go to prom. I mean, did anyone but Buffy and Co. know that he was up in the tower with the rifle? And of course he wasn’t intending to use it on the other students. (How does one kill oneself with a rifle anyways???) The fact that he got a date is definitely weirder.

      But mostly I was just replying to say, I think it is HILARIOUS, not that you deconstructed how 48 hours isn’t enough time, but that you’ve come up with your own estimate of 80! 😀 Made me laugh.

    • Becker

      The 10 years comment can refer to all kinds of other things. 10 is a nice round number and might not actually mean 10 years. They could have gone to school together but not been around each other. Harmony might have not been her friend, but also not been mean to people until then. There are other options as well. So, it’s really no big deal there.

      8 hours is not impossible when it is a life or death situation and you know how to delegate to the right people. And there didn’t seem to be that many backline people.

      • Bob Kat

        voluntarymanslaughter; I picked 80 because it’s (very roughly) about half-way between 3 and 4 days.

        Becker: Oh, yes, it can mean many things,a nd all those are sensible. However, with my writer’s imagination I came up with quite back-story. Mostly in unposted fics. About how the gang started with 15 kids at Theresa’s 5th birthday party and gradually got whittled down to Willow, Xander and Jesse :-).

        • Becker

          I never got into to really creating any back story for anyone. Especially since the only non-show back story mostly didn’t count (original film) due to vast differences in characters, etc. I only ever wrote one Buffy fan fic which I mostly wrote during one of the brief late S2 periods of repeats. It was definitely after phases but before Oz was being locked in the library cage. It was written to feel like an episode, but not in script form. I think I wrote in it that Spike was faking it in the wheelchair before that aired too. The baddie of the week was a vamp dumb enough to bite Oz, which caused issues for the vamp.

  29. lyvvie

    Some great comments being made here! Wish I was contributing but I just came back to mention a moment I forgot to mention from the finale but which is certainly important (and hilarious).

    When Buffy is packing her mum’s stuff and her mum thinks she’s running away again, I think that’s a great way of bookending the season with it’s opener.

    And then it just becomes funny with, “You know Buffy, looking back on everything that’s happened, maybe I should have sent you to a different school”.

  30. Eldritch

    Buffy learned how to defeat the mayor in a conversation she had with Faith in that dream sequence.

    I’ve never understood where that dream came from. It couldn’t have come from Faith. She was the enemy, not to mention she probably wasn’t feeling too kindly towards Buffy since the stabbing.

    So where did this prophetic dream come from? It just seems way too deus ex machina to me.

    • voluntarymanslaughter

      Okay, this is all just speculation, but here’s how I’ve always thought of those dream sequences —

      They clearly exist in some kind of higher plane where the characters know a lot more things, for example that Dawn is coming. So maybe it’s not Faith and Buffy who are talking, so much as Faith-id and Buffy-id, or Faith-slayer-essence and Buffy-slayer-essence. And although she’s strayed really, really far, at her core/essence, Faith is still a good person who knows they have to defeat the Mayor.

      Another way to think of it is that, in the dream, it’s like Faith and Buffy are stripped of all the petty worldly machinations they’ve been dealing with all season, and without the hate and jealousy and angst and anger, without being caught up in the history of what they’ve each done to the other, they can finally just communicate, Slayer to Slayer.

      I don’t know how convincing that is, but that’s how I imagine it.

      Personally, I’m much more bothered by Buffy’s dream that showed her that Jenny Calendar was the key to figuring out what happened to Angel. WTF? Where did that come from? Sleeping slayers have a Miss-Marple-power?

      • Christopher

        @voluntarymanslaughter, I agree in part with your interpretation of the resources available in the Slayer dream-state, vis-a-vis Buffy’s dream of talking with Faith about how to defeat Wilkins, but I think it goes beyond that.

        I think Slayers have the power, in dreams, to tap into truths beyond those accessible to their conscious minds/egos. I’m not sure Buffy was actually communicating with Faith in the Grad Day dream rather than just accessing information she, as the Slayer, needed to know and which was given to her in the form of Faith telling her.

        After all, when we have dreams about someone, we’re not really interacting with them but with our internal version of them, or, as I’ve heard it put, with an aspect of ourselves that they represent. So I see prophetic Slayer dreams as presenting the Slayer with the information they need in an accessible form, whatever that is for that Slayer at that time.

        If you accept this interpretation, the dream about Jenny isn’t so out of whack. It’s just a piece of information given to Buffy in a special, prophetic dream.

        • voluntarymanslaughter

          That is a good explanation, and I think it applies to all the dream-sequences I can think of, both up to this point and in future seasons. It’s just a little disappointing b/c I want to think that a real part of Faith is there, in the dream we’re talking about.

          Although… if the dream where Drusilla stakes Angel is a real prophecy dream (and I’m sure it is, b/c otherwise why show it to us), then that one is a little murky. Sure, it prophesies that Angel will be taken away from Buffy, but it’s not like Drusilla was a particularly meaningful person to have in the dream.

          • Christopher

            Yes, I know what you mean about wanting the dream Faith to be an aspect of real Faith that is telling Buffy about Wilkin’s post-ascension weakness. I had the same reaction as you when I read Eldritch’s comment: that Faith was, under it all and at her core a good person who had been moved to the dark side by circumstances and irresponsible choices, and that her confiding in and helping Buffy was more in character than all the rest of the stuff that happened over the latter part of the season.

            So let’s say it’s both. 🙂 Maybe there is a connection between Slayers in prophetic dream state, and maybe we are seeing a buried aspect of Faith.

            As far as the Drusilla dream in “Surprise,” I’m not sure the fact that it was shown means it was prophetic (though, as you say, it does foreshadow Angel’s “death”). There are other dreams (e.g. 4.22) that are shown but aren’t necessarily prophetic. And I think even if it is prophetic, Drusilla is an apt character for Buffy to connect with Angel being taken away, since I don’t think the misunderstanding at the beginning of “Lie to Me” is ever fully resolved in Buffy’s mind (when she sees Angel talking to Drusilla by the playground). So Drusilla represents the threat of Angel’s past and of his reconnecting with an old girlfriend (to put it in the frame of a high schooler’s concerns).

          • Christopher

            Now that I’ve said that, I recognize that reconnecting with and being staked by are different things, of course…

        • Eldritch

          So does that mean there’s a piece of information out there which would tell Faith how to defeat the Scoobies, if she would just take the time to dream?

          • Christopher

            I’m not sure if you are serious, but I think maybe this is the case. That if she were tuned in to her Slayer-ness better she would have a dream that would show her the best way to defeat them.

            Or maybe the prophetic dreams only occur when a Slayer is fully aligned with their Slayer duties and Faith isn’t. Like the Slayer strength and healing are just part of the package of being a Slayer, but the more mystical stuff is only accessible when a Slayer is fulfilling their role well and fighting demons of all sorts.

            In this case, of course, Faith’s actions are not in line with the Slayer’s duty. She has corrupted the Slayer power and is using it to support that which it was intended to defeat. Because of this she does not have access to some of the more mystical aspects of being a Slayer, like prophetic dreams.

            This is, of course, just speculation. I think there are some hints later in the series that support some of this, but I’m glad this kind of thing is left ambiguous. It seems the kind of thing that’s interesting to guess at but clear exposition about it in dialogue might spoil the mystery.

          • Eldritch

            “I’m not sure if you are serious…”

            I’m serious enough. Admittedly I’m not comfortable with the idea of information just floating around in the ether. But I’m also concerned with logic and consistency. If this information can be plucked out of the ether by slayer dreams, then it should work as well for Faith as it does for Buffy. So I asked how you saw it working.

            Have to say that you’ve done a pretty good job of it. You’ve gone with the flow of logic and consistency by agreeing it works for both slayers. And then gone on to devise a rationale for why Faith probably didn’t have a dream herself. Kudos to you.

          • Becker

            I’m not sure if it works that way as the dreams seem to be there to help defeat evil and the Scoobies aren’t evil. Plus I don’t thin that Buffy and Faith were able to connect in that way until after Faith was in the coma, in which case the dreams would be a tad useless for Faith.

            And, I do think that the Faith in Buffy’s dream was Faith and not just a Buffy mental stand in.

      • Becker

        (This is a reply to a lot of the thread actually)

        One of the first things that Giles says to Buffy in S1 is “Are you having the dreams” so dreams are a recurring thing with slayers, but under used to keep from making things too easy.

        As for the Druscilla thing, I thought her being in the dream showed Buffy that Dru was still alive(ish) and that, at that point, Buffy thought she might not be.

        I thoguht that since both Faith and Buffy were slayers and there should only be one at a time, and with the added fact that Faith was in a coma, that the connection between them was open.

        One thing I loved about this season was watching Faith take the path to the dark side, and do it both by choice and out of rebelliousness. If Buffy and Wesley weren’t all telling Faith how she should feel about things she would have gone a different way. Faith seemed to be a bit remorseful until Buffy told her that she had to be remorseful. I know people who will just about always do the opposite of what they are told to do, the more you tell them to do one thing, the more they go the other way. Angel wasn’t telling her how to feel or act but setting her up to make a decision herself and seemed to be getting through by giving her the good option and forcing it on her, until Wes showed up and sent her further off. And then the mayor wasn’t being judgmental either. She was the first character we saw who evolved into an evil character. All the other characters were introduced as good or bad and pretty much stayed that way (to date) unless something specifically changed them like Angel bout with soullessness. Spike helping Buffy wasn’t to be good, but to keep the status quo of easy food. The mayor may have had some decent characteristics, but he was an evil character. I don’t count a lot of the one ep people like Ford or the Jekyll and Hyde guy as they were both introduced after they had become asses.

        (That got long)

        • voluntarymanslaughter

          Oh, very good point about Giles’ “Are you having the dreams?” line. I had forgotten about that.

          Along those lines, the dreams are explained a bit more in Fray (the graphic novel). I won’t say more because of spoilers, but absolutely everyone should read Fray 😀

          • Christopher

            I have not read it yet but will on this recommendation. Thank you.

            BTW, I saw upthread your defense of what I called Spoilers and I think you are right that he did say he already knew about all those things. My apologies. 🙂

            @ Becker – I like the idea that the fact that they are two Slayers at a time when there is only supposed to be one helps them to connect in dream land.

            And I like your description of Faith’s “evolution” into an evil character.

        • Becker

          Christopher, Thanks. As for the Faith bit, I’ll say what I was thinking about this the summer after this aired, so this, if kept in a pre-seasons 4-7/A1-5 context, isn’t spoilery, but speculative. I not only loved the transformation, but felt that, since we saw the transformation to evil, there was a possibility of redemption. But at that point, there was no guarantee she was even going to come back or not.

          It’s funny as I’m currently watching S1 of The West Wing, which debuted during B S4/ A S1 and Harry Groener made an appearance as the Secretary of Agriculture.

  31. tjbw


    I know that you already said that you aren’t going to quit now that you’ve reached the end of S3, but I still want to tell you:

    DON’T QUIT!!!

    My favorite seasons are still coming.

    • Becker

      Maybe I’m skimming and missed it, but have people been recommending to quit? You’re not the only person to have said this, so I swear I must have missed something.

      Besides, the whole point of the exercise is to watch and evaluate the whole thing. Quitting would negate the purpose of starting.

  32. Morda

    Well since the discussion rages on I might as well add my say into the mix. I LOVE the latter half of Buffy. Don’t get me wrong, for unyielding, unfaltering quality, season three is probably your guy. But episodically nearly all of the genuinely spectacular, seminal episodes (Minus Innocence) occur from a certain mid-way episode in season four onwards. And I think you all know which quieted episode I am referring to. As for Big Bads, well season’s five and (the second thingymigiger blahdebloo fanswillknowwhatI’mtalkingabout event) six probably rank as my favourite villains (Of course the Mayor and Angelus would be right up there with them so don’t worry early Buffy fans – Of which I’m one as well, obv).

    In terms of character development, writing, acting, the Scoobie dynamic, production value and general brilliance I think the latter half of the show really hits the mark. The first two seasons are brilliant (for fans) but the show is still treading water at that point – Unsure of its place or its identity (Until Innocence) and, as I said earlier, Season three is probably the most evenly brilliant season. But for true emotional punch and, indeed, emotional attachment I think the latter half Scooby gang really hits you where your heart is.

    Also, season six – F***ing brilliant. I know alot of people have problems with its intense darkness but I personally adore that season (I adore the whole bloody show, even Bad Eggs and 6×12). I have to say out of all of the seasons it is probably the one I have the most narrative problems with in terms of how much I truly love the characters involved but in terms of true, life-related pain, darkness and more pain, Season six rules.

    It just occured to me that we’re putting the “6×12” thing so as not to spoil the episodes for Myles. But he could very easily wikipedia Buffy and find out exactly which episodes we’re talking about :P.
    Oh well, I guess his opinions on these upcoming shows will be sorely tempted by the hands of a group of ridiculously intense fans of which I proudly include myself.

    Just for further (unneeded) reassurance – DO NOT GIVE UP….ON EITHER SHOW. Whether the show(s) is better or worse in the end is completely decided by the viewer. It’s no so much fact that it’s not as good but is truly just personal preference. The verse gets substantially darker from this point on, what with Angel and season six of Buffy ever looming, but dark doesn’t equate to bad. In fact, it usually means the opposite. All I’m saying is go into this next year (Buffy S4, Angel S1) with optimism and enthusiam and be prepared to be awesome-d by some truly spectacular episodes even if you do find the seasonal narratives a bit lacking.


    Awesome review. I agree with people above that you’d spent a bit more time with certain episodes (Earshot for instance – the ultimate Highschool ep) but overall it was a stellar evaluation. I think Graduation is the best finalé…SO FAR!!!!

  33. Morda

    Damn, I meant to say; “I agree with people above that I WISH you’d spent a bit more time with certain episodes…”

    Oh well

  34. Eric

    Is it Wednesday, yet?

  35. voluntarymanslaughter

    Agreed. I’m all tenterhookey.

    From his twitter, Myles appears to be at a conference, so I suppose he’s just busy.

  36. andi

    Glad that you seemed to have enjoyed season 3 quite a bit…it is definitely one of the superior seasons.

    It’s true that the rest of the series doesn’t compare to the high-school years, but that is by no means a negative. The series is ultimately about the characters, and from the 4th Season on, the story lines really reflect the growth and maturity in these characters. The “black and white” aspect to the show (as far as its protagonists are concerned) diminishes, and the writers seem to revel having their characters dwell in the gray areas of life.

    The series becomes beautifully complex and adult, something rarely seen on television. This is not a show that rests on its laurels; it continues pushing the envelope and evolving its characters, and it is thrilling to witness an established show leave its “comfort zone” (Sunnydale High) in lieu of more ambitious stories and character developments – this is what makes Buffy one of the best shows in television.

  37. Morda

    I have just recently finished watching the first three seasons of Buffy again (In the space of about a week) and something that struck me about the final five episodes of season three is their intense focus on the Highschool setting – Or, at least, on the sort of rights of passage taken up by the denizens of said school.

    Earshot is, in many ways, the ultimate Highschool episode. Buffy’s speech to Jonathan at the climax perfectly incapsulates the essence of what Joss was striving for with the initial section of the Buffyverse Saga. The fact that no one leaves Highschool without emotional scars is, I think, a potent message – One that kids watching it might take in mind when they think of the star addled Jock or Cheerleader who seem to coste through the experience without a scratch. In that sense, and in the fact that the plot deals explicitly with the Highschool as opposed to some external force, makes Earshot the ultimate Highschool episode and – In a manner of speaking – the Ultimate Buffy episode of the first three seasons.

    Choices is all about the future. Each of the characters has a quandray they must overcome or face (Except Oz for some reason) that will decide their next stage of life. This, then, is an important developmental stage in the life of a teenager. The narrative mostly plays through Willow since her staying in Sunnydale is the most extreme notion presented by the group in reference to this theme yet each of the characters still get their moment.

    The Prom, as is so titled, is about the Prom. And, as is made almost didactically clear throughout the episode, is sort of the reward for the teenagers trials and tribulations throughout the highschool period. And for once – FOR ONCE – Joss doesn’t end it on a sad note. This is a happy occassion for the Scoobies and so it should be. Their lives have been unaquivically difficult, so to have this happy pay off is, I think, not only narratively necessary for both the characters and the audiences but also thematically poignant in reference to the main themes presented by the season and, indeed, the series in its first three years.

    Graduation Day then represents the absolute pinncale of Highschool life. Not only is it the absolute end but it is also the definitive beginning – The celebratory mark that brings to light the journey that these young people will soon have to take.

    All five of these episodes work brilliantly within the highschool narrative and I am very pleased to note that Joss didn’t leave this to the way side. You are given the feeling that this is precariously though out. That Joss, knowing HIghschool was coming to and end, used his last few episodes to show the absolute essential episodes in reference to Sunnydale High.

    Wow, that was quite a rant. Really didn’t mean to go on that long. However, this represents something that I find incredibly endearing about Joss’ work. I have watched through Buffy more times than I’d dare count and yet I’d never realised this before. This time around however it stuck out like a sore thumb. The layers played by this show (And all of his others) are so very potent which makes rewatching an incredibly useful and entertaining act. Remember that Myles.

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