Thursday, July 05, 2007

The End of Buffy Season 3

5 July 2007

Part of me hopes this is a very short entry, but part of me hopes I have a lot to say.

So, this week, prior to our Buff-a-thon, we watched the last episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." As far as swan songs go, it was fairly good, tying up several loose ends and saying goodbye as poignantly and briefly as possible. I do feel the show went downhill this year, and when it came back from its extended hiatus, it was much less entertaining and much more bogged down in seriousness than before. But they knew they were canceled, right? So I forgive some of them for being dour.

I also have to be honest and admit that one of the episodes we watched recently was pretty nearly unwatchable. A nasty voice in the back of my mind whispered, "THIS is why the show got canceled." Still, I hope I can remember the show at its best rather than focus on its flaws or the many people who hated it. And though I wasn't a fan of "Sports Night" or "The West Wing," I do plan on watching whatever show Aaron Sorkin tries next, based on my experience with "Studio 60."

So, on to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." There were three shows left in the season, "The Prom," and "Graduation Day" parts 1 and 2. I'll not refer to tyranist as "The Captain" in this entry. If anything, he let me drive, and gave me the option of only watching "The Prom" and leaving the other two for another night.

"The Prom" was another Marti Noxon episode. Damn, this was good. I believe, and tyr may correct me on this, that this was the first episode that I cried during.

So, the Senior Prom is coming up, and everybody is pairing off in preparation for it. Willow and Oz are a given, but Angel seems uncomfortable whenever Buffy talks about it. Giles and Wesley are both chaperoning that night, and it would seem that either no one has asked Cordelia, or more likely, she has turned everyone down who has asked her. Oh, and Anya asks Xander to go with her, since she is stuck in teenage human form and she's noticed him looking at her chests. Dang, is she an amusing character! I hope to see a lot more of her in the future.

Buffy and Angel seem pretty cozy now, though there was a groanworthy moment when Buffy wakes up after sleeping in his arms and opens the drapes to see what time it is, letting in a skyload of white sunlight. Some of that I'm able to write off to the foibles of youth and that they're just so darn in love that . . . but dude, Angel's lived as a vampire for a long time. He should know better.

Hey, it's quite possible that's intentional. That he's so into this girl that he's getting sloppy. And so is she.

And that leads us to a surprise visit from Joyce, Buffy's mother, who comes to see Angel alone and have The Talk with him. Obviously this is just a show and nobody knows what a real two hundred year old vampire would be like, but it's interesting that she talks to him like a peer (ie an adult) and not like a child, yet she still takes the superior position of the protective mother. She tells him it can never work between her daughter and him and that he ought to do the honourable thing and leave to do his own series. I think she used those exact words . . . but I could be wrong.

So, the next night, Bufanda and Angel are down in the sewers, monster-hunting, and as she's babbling on about the prom, he springs the "We have to talk" on her. Essentially, he breaks up with her, and she gets super defensive about it, and her heart is broken.

Our other plot is a teenage boy who has been training feral demons (I believe they were hellhounds) to attack anyone dressed in formal wear, forcing them to watch movies like Prom Night IV, Pretty in Pink, and Pump Up the Volume. As if the mayor's upcoming ascension isn't enough, he's going to have his hairy servants crash the prom and kill people at will.

There comes some time after the breakup where Buffy is very, very sad and an interesting thing happened: I found myself feeling very sad for her. Or with her. Or from her. I asked tyranist, "Why is this getting to me? I hate Angel?" I guess the point is that she doesn't.

Gathering her inner strength, Buffy decides to be selfless and go out and fight monsters so her schoolmates can have a perfect Senior Prom.

Xander also discovers that Cordelia and her family are broke, and that she's working in the town dress shop to be able to buy a prom dress. He doesn't tell anyone about this, and instead pays for her dress when she's not looking. Odd.

That night, Buffy single-handedly takes down the anti-prom kid and his hellhounds, and enters the prom by herself, a little late. Tyranist and I were both sure that Giles would dance with her, but we were wrong. Wesley does dance with Cordelia, though, and Anya seems to be really enjoying her time with Xander. They start giving out awards, and Jonathan the Geek gets up and reads a statement praising Buffy Summers for saving their lives over and over again. He presents her with a golden umbrella as Class Protector and mentions that their graduating class has the lowest mortality rate in years. She gets to go up and receive the recognition she deserves.

And I was BAWLING. Sorry, Dad, maybe you were right about me.

The fact that she was appreciated by her peers for all that she does . . . well, that was just a moment of true happiness right there.

Then, girls, as if her night wasn't good enough, Angel shows up, dressed in a penguin suit, and gives her the prom night she wanted, as a sort of goodbye gift to her. The end.

I'll not bore you with how good this one was, 'cause I say that every week (and hopefully will continue to do so), but this episode was a little different. Tyranist commented on this afterward, so it must've surprised him as much as it did me, but it took us two hours to watch "The Prom." We kept pausing it to analyse, argue, and interpret the scenes, and then halfway through, I went off on a lengthy diatribe about women and children, both of which tyranist has more experience with than I do. He talked too, and it was a good conversation, which probably would've ended--or at least tested--any other friendship I know of.

According to the calendar, I am getting very old. But I still have a heck of a lot to learn.

As I said when I first started this thing, tyranist gave me the option of quitting while I was ahead. We didn't have to go to work the next morning, and I wanted to keep going, so we watched "Graduation Day" parts one and two. Because they didn't air the season finale for months, this is almost like a season ending cliffhanger.

Graduation is right around the corner, and everyone is excited about it, but our gang is also worried about the Mayor becoming a demon through his "ascension." It seems the Mayor himself will be giving the graduation speech, and is pretty sure he's going to triumph. A geology professor in town has discovered something interesting underneath a Hawaiian volcano, and the Mayor dispatches Faith to kill him.

Anya has some feelings for Xander, and she freaks out when he mentions the Ascension to her. Turns out she witnessed one centuries before and that the situation is all but hopeless.

So, the world may well end, and Oz and Willow hit the sack together. I'm reminded of the girl in AIRPLANE! who goes from aisle to aisle saying, "This may sound forward, but it looks like we may not live through this. And I don't want to die a virgin."

The stuff with Anya was unbelievably funny. When she tries to woo Xander into running away with her and he refuses and she bounces between being attracted to him and wishing for him to die . . . I haven't laughed that hard since tyranist's parents' funeral.

There was a somewhat throwaway episode of the Mayor and Faith hanging out in his office and I tried to figure out why it was there. My big regret with these two episodes was that I started to think that the Mayor's affection for Faith wasn't real, and that he would betray her at his ascension, and she'd be forced to be good again. This couldn't have been farther from the truth, and the big climax was a lot better without those incorrect theories in my head.

Buffy and Angel run into each other, and things are awkward . . . until Faith shows up. She shoots Angel with an arrow, but it doesn't kill him . . . it's coated with a slow-working poison. Tyr and I commented on this: had Faith killed Angel, Buffy would've been enraged and fought all the stronger, but with him dying slowly, she's distracted and off-centre, and therefore less likely to interfere in the Mayor's Ascension.

Buffy is desperate to save Angel's life and they ask the Watcher's Council for advice. Wesley tells us that the Council refuses to help because Angel is a vampire, so Buffy quits the Council, effectively firing him.

From another of those great books in the library (honestly, this show should do more to promote reading than J.K. Rowling), it is revealed that Angel can only be saved by drinking the blood of a Slayer. So Buffy heads over to Faith's to provide that cure.

We also discover that the dead professor found the remains of an Ascended demon, and that the Mayor will indeed be killable (by fire) after he's taken demon form.

A minor complaint: at one point, Buffy refers to Angel as her lover. That word just stopped me in my tracks. A) why had they chosen that particular word, since it's so archaic, and so unnatural to a teenager, who would probably refer to him as "my boyfriend" or "my friend," or best of all, "the man I love?" and B) it reminded me of that sickening Saturday Night Live sketch where Rachel Dratch and Will Ferrell would refer to each other as "luvah." So there's the ick factor there.

Anyway, Faith and Buffy have their confrontation. Faith doesn't think Buffy has it in her to take her down, and it's possible she's right. Of course, it's also possible that I'm a vicious, amoral bastard, so I can't understand what Buffy's going through.

In the fight, Buffy stabs Faith in the stomach with her own knife. This is surprising to her, and she falls onto the back of a passing truck, leaving Buffy without the means to heal her beau. And that's our cliffhanger ending.

Now, you probably know this (especially since I already mentioned it), but if you were an original fan of the show, you wouldn't have been able to see the second half until July, due to the outcry surrounding the Columbine High School shootings.

My good friend Matthew went to school in Littleton, Colorado, and he spoke of Columbine often. According to him (and I believe him), there was something of a parent/teacher/politician witchhunt around this time, very similar to what happened in the episode "Gingerbread." He talked about the people who were shaken by the event, the counselors who came to his school, the freedoms that instantly went away, and the few people who used the tragedy to their own ends. It was quite fascinating, and I hope people ask me someday what it was like to experience the Berlin Wall falling down, or the September 11th terrorist attacks, or when Palpatine declared himself Emperor.

Regardless, due to nationwide controversy and perceived insensitivity, the WB Network didn't show the "Buffy" season finale, and even I remember people being upset about that. I wish I'd been among them.

In "Graduation Day Part Two," the Mayor is quite upset at losing Faith and sends his minions to find her. Buffy returns to Angel's side and tells him he should drink her blood. He doesn't want to, but she forces him to. The animal side takes over and he just starts chugging away. When he comes back to himself, healed, he takes Buffy to the hospital.

As luck would have it, Faith is comatose in the next room, the Mayor worrying over her. When Angel goes out to call the gang, the Mayor discovers who is in the next room, but Angel stops him from doing her in.

Buffy has a dream with Faith in it, and somehow that puts the bad feelings aside. When she gets up, she goes over to Faith's bedside and kisses her. I'm sure Faith will show up again someday, and I do wonder how they're going to explain the last few episodes away. I certainly couldn't do it.

So, Buffy has a plan for defeating the Mayor, and while we're not privy to it, she says that Xander's role is the most important part. Other students from earlier in the series are brought in on the plan, and we're told that part of it is blowing the Mayor up with explosives.

During the planning, Cordelia and Wesley finally make out . . . and realise it's not really to their liking. Ah, TV.

The graduation ceremony begins. Partway through, there is a total eclipse and the vampires come out of their hiding places to prevent any students from escaping (see, the Mayor will be hungry after he ascends).

He transforms into a big computer-generated snake-creature and eats Principal Snyder. But the students don't flee in terror. Instead, he throw back their robes and produce weapons, attacking the demon and the vampires.

Xander gives orders, Cordelia kills a vampire, and Wesley is stomped like a narc at a biker rally. Buffy taunts the Mayordemon with the knowledge that she skewered his darling Faith and he goes after her. She runs into the school with him close behind, and sure enough, there are a great deal of explosives set up in the library, which go off after Buffy has jumped out a window to safety. The Mayor is blown to kingdom come. Which I assume would be bad for a demon-linked politician.

The school lies in ruins. Most of the students survived, and Giles gives Buffy her diploma. She looks over and sees Angel standing across the street. Without words, they make their farewells . . . and then he is gone. The end.

And there you are. The episode was a good one, and doesn't seem at all insensitive or bothersome in 2007. I have to admit, the final confrontation with the Mayor would've been a bit better if the demon hadn't been so irritatingly CG, but I don't suppose you could get a rubber monster to do what he was doing. Still, it would've been interesting.*

So, that was Season Three. I guess I should sit down and think about it. Was it better than Season Two? I don't know. It was good stuff . . . I might have to look at a list of the episodes from both years and do a mathematical comparison to determine the victor.

Season One's best show was probably "Prophesy Girl" or "The Pack." But every Season Two and Three show was better than that one. But were the Mayor, Mr. Trick, and Faith better villains than Bad Angel, Spike, and Druscilla? Was Wesley a better . . . okay, I can't think up any more comparisons.

I also ought to name the best episode of the season. Dang, that might be hard. But I can do it. I'll go back and add the best Season Two episode to that post as well. Looking over a list, "The Wish" and "The Zeppo" were my favourites, though there were several excellent runner-ups. I'd also say that "The Wish" was the scariest episode (tonally), and the scariest villain/monster was The First Evil from "Amends."

When this whole darn series is said and done, I figure I'll do my personal top ten list of episodes. And maybe I can coax tyranist into doing one too.

Rish "This Post Is Only A Week Overdue" Outfield

*That reminds me, I caught about five minutes of MANSQUITO the other night on the Sci-Fi Channel, and as lame as it may be, the fact that the titular monster was actually there, interacting with its victims, impressed me. Sure, prosthetics can be limiting, but they at least have soul. The Creature From the Black Lagoon will never look more dated than it did around 1960 or so, when the black & white film stock and wardrobe went out of style. And MANSQUITO may suck (or it may not, I don't know), but it will never be more dated than it was when I saw it last week.

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