What's that faint sound we hear in the distance? It's "Graduation" by Vitamin C. (Bring on the throwback playlists!)
The end of high school life is nearing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 21, and the Scoobies are preparing for their biggest battle yet. There's no way Mayor Wilkins will let the Scoobies enjoy a peaceful send-off from their old lives.
Get ready for a thrilling two-parter that makes this one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's best dual episodes ever. Let's find out why by rewatching "Graduation Day (Part 1)."
There's something about Graduation Day during a high school career that makes everything nostalgic. It's like if a pair of '90s rose-colored glasses got placed over your eyes; every little detail becomes a heartwarming goodbye.
I've felt this twinge of sadness. You've probably felt it too.
It's no surprise that most of the Sunnydale High students were feeling this sadness. They were saying goodbye to many classmates they would potentially never see again. The onslaught of goodbyes were both for the characters and for us as viewers.
Were we ever going to see Harmony or Percy again? At the time, we didn't know what laid ahead for these supporting characters. Obviously, they will appear again in the future, but for a somber moment, this was their goodbye.
The favorite of the goodbyes had to be between Harmony and Willow.
For three seasons, Harmony treated Willow with such disdain and elitism. Seeing them try to force a conversation as they wrote in each others' yearbooks is hilarious. You could cut the awkward tension with a knife.
Neither planned to ever talk to each other again, but the nostalgia of graduation brought them together. This moment was peak comedy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's funny side.
Also, we can't forget the end of year filler classes!
Who hasn't played a game of hangman or watched endless movies in the final weeks of the semester? Once the final assignments are turned in and the tests are done, there's nothing much else to do.
The teacher's absolute joy of hosting a game of hangman is a mood. (You go, Glen Coco!)
Say what you will about Mayor Wilkins, but as a Big Bad, he knows how to cover all his bases. He and Faith lined up all the pieces he needed to get ready for Ascension Day with ease.
Once he became the commencement speaker, you knew that major bloodshed would be happening soon. All of the students and teachers would be at his mercy in a confined place. Since he planned to turn on the same day regardless, everything lined up perfectly for him.
Faith's attack on the professor seemed confusing at first. She had a penchant for murder, but the sudden death of an unknown bystander didn't look like it connected to anything.
Giles and Wesley deduced that the professor knew something about the Ascension and could help. However, his involvement was a stretch a best. Would the Scoobies have even known about the professor's knowledge if Faith and Mayor Wilkins hadn't killed him?
Still, preparation is the cornerstone of success.
Plus, the fact that Principal Snyder turns a blind eye and is complicit in the Mayor's shady dealings makes him just as responsible for the attack on Graduation Day. He should've known better than to let a dangerous villain conduct the ceremony.
The scene of Faith wearing the summer dress perfectly showed the depth of her father/daughter relationship with Mayor Wilkins.
Only the mayor could get her out of her comfort zone to try something new and be the person she was on the inside. He truly wanted the best for her, even if he was an insane megalomaniac who wanted world destruction.
In his future state, Faith would survive and thrive as the daughter by his side.
I wish Buffy the Vampire Slayer had shown more familial moments between them. The few scenes we got were sweet and tender, but it would've helped to give a full view of her devotion to him. Her future near-death state and his sadness still have its impact; however, the context could've gone deeper.
Buffy's reluctance to initially kill Faith once again showed the stark contrast between the characters. Even after everything Faith did, Buffy couldn't see herself harming Faith and resorting to her level.
One of Buffy's strongest core traits is her humanity.
Throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer's run, she fought hard to hold onto her humanity and live her life instead of resorting to the Slayer's killer instinct. Kendra treated this trait as a noble duty (almost in a robotic manner) while Faith approached this as a hedonist. She thrived in the pleasure of killing and fighting.
Buffy didn't want to lose her human side.
Her conversation with Wesley and Giles in the library showcased the steps she would take just so that she could avoid that outcome. However, she fully braced herself for the possibility of killing Faith. The real test was if SHE would allow herself to go to that outcome.
You have to give it to Anya, she saved the day by providing the essential missing pieces to the mayor's plan. Without her backstory, the Scoobies wouldn't have been able to properly prepare for the transformation.
Her explanation in the library is a scene that I've rewatched countless times these last 20 years.
Wesley: I'm sorry, uh, Lohesh was a four-winged soul killer, am I right? I was given to understand that they're not that fierce. Of all the demons we've faced...
Anya: You've never seen a demon.
Buffy: [Raises hand] Uh, excuse me, killing them professionally four years running.
Anya: All the demons that walk the Earth are tainted, are human hybrids, like vampires. The Ascension means that a human becomes pure demon. They're different.
Anya: Well, for one thing, they're bigger.
I didn't accurately guess that the Ascension meant to transform into a pure demon. All of the clues alluded to transforming into a demon, but many characters became vampires and such in the past, so the terror level didn't seem too high. However, based on Anya's sheer fear, the Scoobies had reason to worry.
The demon in her story decimated an entire town; Mayor Wilkins would've leveled Sunnydale into ash. And as someone who lived through it once as a vengeance demon, her determination to leave town immediately made sense.
If the mayor couldn't be killed by conventional means, what hopes could the Scoobies have? Giles attacking Mayor Wilkins in the library did nothing.
I'm surprised there wasn't more of a mass exodus from the town. Buffy got Joyce to leave, but did the other Scoobies force their parents to leave too?
The mayor's attack probably would've been the best time to reveal the secret to the parents to get them to leave for their protection.
Xander staying behind to fight in the battle was a noble move for him. When faced with an impending battle, he always sided with defending the forces the good. Leaving with Anya would be easy, but he made the right move.
(Yes, I did just compliment Xander. Miracles do happen.)
Side-note: Was Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 21 really the first time that Cordelia found out about the mayor's plan to attack the graduation ceremony?
The group had to have talked about it with her at some point. Sure, she pushed them away after the whole Xander cheating scandal, but they repaired their friendships after the Prom.
Keeping this big apocalyptic event from her seems kinda reckless.
Willow and Oz's hookup seemed more like a friend hookup than a romantic climax. Like, they were only relieving stress than hitting a big milestone in their relationship.
Sure, Willow had mentioned in the past that she was ready to go to the next level. But, the moment being tied to Oz trying to take her mind off the Ascension and panicking didn't sit right with me.
Couldn't there have been a more romantic way to lead to this connection? The world possibly could've been over; they had the tension available to lead to their hookup.
If anyone shipped this couple, the scene didn't give their relationship the justice it deserved.
Speaking of couples, did Angel expect Buffy to be over their breakup so soon? Of course, she would be upset seeing him around her investigation. Angel needed to give her space to let her work on her anger/sadness.
Buffy had every reason to lash out at him. (Read up on my rewatch for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 20 for the terrible way he broke up with her.)
Angel: Are you mad at me for being around too much or for not being around enough?
Buffy: Duh, yes.
Angel: I don't get you.
Buffy: No, you don't. Not anymore.
Angel: Are you just making this harder to make this easier on yourself?
Buffy: Can we stop with the brainteasers? I just wish it was over. Done.
Angel: Huh. It's not that simple. Once the mayor...
Buffy: I know. World in peril and we have to work together. This is my last office romance, I'll tell you that.
Angel: You want me out of your face?
[Buffy throws down the box of books and starts to walk away]
Buffy: Isn't it a little hard for you?
Angel: How can you ask me that? Just 'cause I'm not acting like a brat doesn't mean I don't feel anything.
Buffy: It's nice to know what you think of me.
Angel: What do you expect me to say when you just attack?
Buffy: I just can't do this anymore. I can't have you in my life when I'm trying to move...
[Angel gets shot and they both fall to the ground]
When Angel got hit with the arrow, you knew that things were more serious than normal. Especially when Faith revealed that she intentionally missed killing him on purpose. She wanted Angel and Buffy to suffer.
As Angel's health worsened, Buffy slide back into relationship-mode quickly to save the man she loved. She would do anything to protect him.
Plus, with the spinoff Angel already in development at that point, something had to be done so that Angel didn't die.
Firstly, Buffy had every right to fire Wesley and the Watchers Council. What have they done for lately? Or, at all?!
The Watchers did nothing.
They didn't give her money to survive. They didn't give her weapons, supplies, and constant contact to help her in her daily Slayer activities. They didn't help save any of her friends. The Watchers Council should've changed their approach to life.
All they needed to do was explain how to cure Angel's poison. If they had done just that, Buffy would've kept them around.
Secondly, one of the cures being Slayer blood was a clever and ironic twist. Of course, the most powerful blood in existence to vampires would be the one thing that could cure it.
But, it's the switch in Buffy's mindset that stood out as the most interesting development. Earlier, Buffy didn't want to kill Faith, but after finding out that Faith's blood could cure Angel, she didn't hesitate for a second.
Wesley: The Council's orders are to concentrate on the...
Buffy: Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you. Not from them.
Wesley: You can't turn your back on the Council.
Buffy: They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way my back is facing.
Buffy would willingly trade Faith's life for Angel's. Her Slayer instinct kicked in pretty fast there.
Also, how did Faith not know about the cure for the poison? That information seems like something they would tell her up front, especially since she's one of the cures.
Buffy's battle with Faith is one of the best fights in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's history. The two Slayers practically destroyed that gorgeous penthouse loft.
The match started off on a tense note as they both knew what would eventually happen: one of them would be fatally injured by the end of the fight.
The stunt doubles did an amazing job choreographing the fight and using every bit of the loft. The set would barely be used in the future, so this fight was a good way to say goodbye.
"Graduation Day (Part 1)" ended on a great cliffhanger that left with our jaws on the floor. This is how to do a cliffhanger!
With Faith stabbed, falling off a building, and landing on a moving truck, there was no way of knowing what would happen next.
Would the Scoobies locate Faith's body to get the blood? Would Angel die of the poison? What would Buffy have to do next if they couldn't find Faith?
Xander: The mayor is gonna kill us all during graduation.
Cordelia: Oh. Are you gonna go to fifth period?
Xander: I'm thinking I might skip it.
Cordelia: Yeah. Me too.
There were so many questions, and it didn't help that Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 22 was delayed for many months. (Real life events caused The WB to delay the second part of the finale because it involved the death of students and a school explosion.)
Luckily, now we're able to find out Buffy's next course of action, and what demon Mayor Wilkins will turn into next. The anticipation is mounting.
Now, over to you, Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans!
What did you think of "Graduation Day (Part 1)"?
Did you think Buffy would kill Faith? Would you have left with Anya? Do you like Sunnydale's cap and gown colors or do you side with Cordelia?
Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We post new rewatch posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.