So, the finale episode for Season 1. I've been putting off posting on this episode and I think it's mostly because I have so much to say about it but also because it would have to be up there as one of the most important episodes of the show for me (along with The Gift, Hush, The Body and I'm sure a bunch of others which I'll point out on the way). For me it's such an important episode because it sealed the deal - I was well and truly hooked on this ride by this episode. It wraps up the season - whether Buffy likes it or not, she's the Slayer and will rise to the occasion. By this episode, the Scoobies have formed a tight group. And in this episode, Joss Whedon does something that augers great great writing lies before us - he breaks the rules and kills off the main characer. You can't do that! And yet, Joss shows us that yet he can and he will and he will do it over and over and over. And he'll tease and taunt us - sometimes its the end and sometimes not and he will always leave us guessing till the very end. But the best thing about Joss is he never takes it back ('cept for that ep in Angel, but we'll get there ...)
Joss breaks all the rules, he keeps us guessing and he does it with a brilliant sense of humour.
So, the prophecy: the Master shall rise and the Slayer shall die.
Such a serious episode which opens with an ominous earthquake heralding the final days of drama and stuff and then the Master looks at the Annointed One and quips: What d'you think? 5.1?
This episode is filled with lots (more) of angst and some climax moments that we have been stumbling towards all season. Xander finally bites the bullet and puts his cards on the table with Buffy, only to be rebuffed. It's horrible and we watch and admire his bravery but squint to look away, knowing he will be turned down. Willow too gets her moment when Xander then turns to her and wants to take her to the dance instead of Buffy. We applaud Willow when she declines and wince knowing how hard that must have been to do since she really would love to go with him. It's time for me to fall hard for Willow - so strong in character, she wants Xander on her terms or not at all. Go girl power!
Buffy will face the Master and she will die - the discussion between Angel and Giles about the prophecy is the first of many instances where they try to shield Buffy from the horrible truth. They do it because they love her but in so doing, they underestimate her strength and power and wits. Again and again she thwarts the prophecies and rises to whatever challenge comes her way.
I love the bit straight after their conversation where Buffy finds out about the prophecy and tries to avoid it - she's still so young here and in a way a childis response in that she tries to run away from something that she doesn't want to have to deal with. Later on in the series, she has accepted her duty and just gets on with it. But later in the series, she has experienced the rest of this episode ... But here we see how Buffy always views "being the Chosen One" as a job and not as a birthright or a part of her makeup. It's something she shows up to do and chooses to do and therefore, at any point she has an exit or an option to decline.
Buffy: Read me the signs!
Tell me my fortune!
Giles, I'm 16 years old... I don't want to die.
Oddly, early in this episode Joyce gives Buffy her prom dress. It's an odd moment almosy the only one in the whole series where she's cool and clued up. But it also makes her one who dresses Buffy up in her "virginal sacrifice" look for the rest of the episode.
One of the memorable scenes for me is the moment where Willow realises, I think, once and for all that this is serious and real and seriously real.
Willow: I've seen so much. I thought I could take anything. This was difficult ... I'm trying to explain it so you understand ... I go to that room everyday. When I walked in, it wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun. What are we going to do?
Buffy: What we have to do - and yay she's back! And she's the Buffy that we come to know and love - dong the right thing, doing what has to be done even whilst knowing it means she could/will get killed in the process.
(Willow: Buffy I like your dress)
I love Ms Calendar and so I love that this is the episode where she finally is let into the fold:
The part that gets me, though, is where Buffy is the vampire slayer. She's so little.
Ms Calendar: You fight the Master and you'll die.
Buffy: Maybe. Maybe I'll take him with me.
I love the little wave out to the Trekkies amongst us, I guess cause I am one, with the following quote:
Xander: I'm sorry, calm may work for Locutus of the Borg here,
(indicates Giles) but I'm freaked out, and I intend to stay that way.
And the slight begrudging of letting someone else into the circle:
Willow of Ms Calendar: How come she's in the club?
One of the most iconic images is Buffy as she heads off on her own to meet her destiny in white dress, leather jacket (Angel's), cross around her neck and armed with the crossbow.
When Xander goes to Angel for help to find Buffy after she leaves to take on the Master on her own we root for him for being so brave or for how deeply his love for Buffy is.
Angel: You're in love with her.
Xander: Aren't you?
I'm never really sure which it is and it has me wondering if his love for Buffy is his motive throughout the series. At this point in the show, it certainly feels that way and standing here and looking down the barrel to all that happens, it feels creepy. But I think perhaps with his falling for other girls, that must move to a platonic love because it never really feels that way later.
I love the odd moments that Joss Whedon chooses to break the fourth wall and to be self conscious and make fun of himself, like in this remark from the Master:
Oh good the feeble banter portion of the fight
And his use of humour in the oddest moments. Xander has been avoiding Angel all season because of his jealousy over Buffy. That makes this scene work so well:
Xander: You were looking at my neck.
Xander: You were checking out my neck! I saw that! (starts following)
Angel: No, I wasn't!
Xander: Just keep your distance, pal.
Angel: I wasn't looking at your neck!
Xander: I told you to eat before we left.
I love the running comments on Buffy's dress all the way through. Even the Master has a go:
Master: And by the way...
She falls face down into the pool of water.
Master: I like your dress.
And she's dead. Joss actally kills off the lead character in the show named after her. Up till this point, you're sure somehow the prophecy is wrong. I mean, Buffy *can't* die, obviously. It's *her* show. And then ... she is! And what does it mean? It means all bets are off - and you always remember, throughout the series. And the other thing we learn to remember is not to take the text at face value:
Xander finally gets to kiss Buffy - by giving her the kiss of life. Just like everything in this episode, things read one way but the act means another. You can never ever get comfortable and think you know where things are at in Buffy. I really love the interesting contrast between Xander and Angel in this scene. Whilst Xander gives Buffy the kiss of life, Angel can only ever give her the kiss of eternal life (or death).
Straight after this shocking scene, we get some comic relief with Cordelia driving her car to the library. Through the school. Who pays for all the reconstruction of the school buildings after each season finale?
And then we have the climax for his scene and for the season:
Xander: No. You're still weak.
Buffy: (stops) No. No, I feel strong. I feel different.
Has her death and her revival changed her? *Is* she different? Cue the cool theme music and Buffy strutting through the streets and suddenly her virginal white dress looks wayyyy sexier. Suddenly she's more confident than we've ever seen her. Perhaps her rebirth *has* changed her. Perhaps she has finally realised that fate and destiny are hers for the taking and that prophecy is in the eye of the beholder.
Buffy: I may be dead but I'm still pretty.
Master: You were destined to die! It was written!
Buffy: What can I say? I flunked the written.
The Master's death has to be the best, most inventive, think-on-your-feet slaying of the whole series. And in a way, kind of anti-climatic - the final fight scene is not 3 minutes long.
Buffy: You're that amped about Hell... (grabs him by the neck) Go there!
And the Master gets impaled (but doesn't get dusted).
In the final scene we see that 1 (Slayer) became 4 (Watcher and two best friends), which became 6 (The Scoobies).
Buffy: Oh, sorry. It's just been a really weird day. (smiles)
Xander: Yeah! Buffy died, and everything!
Willow: Wow! Harsh.
Giles: I should have known that wouldn't stop you.
And ... after all the drama:
Buffy: Sure! We saved the world. I say we party! (looks down at her
dress) I mean, I got all pretty.
Angel: By the way, I really like your dress.
Buffy: Yeah, yeah. Big hit with everyone.
And so we are left with the dress as the final image - the virgin sacrifice which Buffy was and made but which threw the tradition on its head. Our virgin throws on a leather jacket, comes back from death and slays the monster.
And I guess that probably sums up the show pretty darn nicely.