You guys are going to have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. I’m going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.
Three. We are down to the final three episodes of season three and the gang’s time at Sunnydale High. And unexpectedly for Buffy, the finale of her relationship with Angel.
The Angel-Buffy pairing has been showing signs of fracturing all season long – there was the hurdle of her killing him, to get over him, the hell thing, the Faith thing, all the other things – but they kept coming back together. “Choices” and the Mayor’s speech really blasted open the fault lines. And Joyce swoops in to lay waste to the rest of it. I doubt Buffy told her mother the specifics of the lunchroom showdown, but Joyce shows up at the mansion and basically repeats the Mayor’s words to Angel. He’s holding her back. He’s always going to hold her back, just because of who he is. Pair that, the last couple of weeks, and one horrible wedding dream, and Angel is ready to face the truth.
In retrospect, Angel leaving Buffy was one of the most mature decisions shown on the show. There’s a certain mythology in our culture that *bam* love happens, and girl meets some guy at a ridiculously young age, and that’s her soul mate. She will stay with him forever and ever and ever. Twilight, of course, makes its cash off this very premise. It would have been the easy choice to leave Buffy-Angel together. (I’m aware some of this storyline was directed by his spinoff show.) The show seems to finally really look at what it means to have a 240-year-old man in love with a 17 -year-old girl. He’s done everything. She’s mature, she’s brave, but she’s still 17. And her life will forever be confined in at least one way – the Slayer, Sunnydale, and the Hellmouth. If she wants to grow, if she wants to have a chance at a fuller life, maybe he really does need to walk away from her. Buffy gets it, eventually, in Season 7 with her cookie dough speech, just like it takes many of us to see past heartbreak to what good has come of it.
With that in mind, was there anyone who thought the wedding scene was real? I recall assuming it was a dream even upon first watching.
Buffy deals with bad feelings in an entirely reasonable way: by violence against evil doers. The gang has figured out that someone is planning on attacking the prom with Hellhounds. The Slayer may have a broken heart and canceled dance plans, but she is going to make damn sure the rest of them have one normal high school experience. Because that’s what she does. She protects them.
After learning that Hellhounds feed on brains, Buffy heads over to the meatpacking plant. Since the plant runs a vibrant underground blood ring and it’s located in Sunnydale, I have no doubt that the Slayer just walked in, asked who had been ordering brains, and no one blinked an eye. In fact, I bet the meatpacking plant is a very profitable business and if they ever have an IPO, everyone should buy stock.
From there, it’s just a hop, skip and jump to meeting Tucker, who has been tormenting Hellhounds in his basement with teen prom movies and happens to be the brother of Andrew, one of the Trio. In case we get them confused, Andrew was the one who attacked the school play with flying monkeys. The whole monster aspect of this episode is pretty straightforward – Buffy finds the bad guy, Buffy tracks down his pets, Buffy kills his pets, viola! A framework for a story about rites of passage.
In the first season, all Buffy wanted to do was be normal. She resisted her calling and the burdens that came with it. In the second, she accepted them and did it on her terms. By this point, at the prom, we see that it was worth it. People noticed what she did. They knew she was special and that she saved them. Cordelia once said Buffy was invisible at the school that no one would care if she disappeared. Here’s where the school proves Cordy wrong.
I’ll just quote Jonathan’s speech here. It’s practically perfect in every way.
Jonathan: We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight? Did she”¦ um”¦ This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write in ballots and the prom committee asked me to read this. “We’re not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed you. We don’t talk about it much, but it’s no secret that Sunnydale High isn’t really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.”
Student: Hyena people!
Jonathan: “But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you. Or helped by you at one time or another. We’re proud to say that the class of ’99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history. And we know that at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class offers its thanks and gives you, uh”¦ this.” It’s from all of us. And it has written here, Buffy Summers – Class Protector.
Omg, you guys, it’s raining on my face. [Me, too. Every time. -PoM]
She’s never going to be normal. But for one night she can have a semblance of it. The feeling of belonging, of being important, of mattering to the people around her. And she gets her dance, too.
I think we can all agree that Faith is sitting at home during all of this, stewing over Buffy getting to go to prom while she can’t as she has been cruelly ostracized by Buffy and the Scooby Gang. Through no fault of her own!
Next week: Graduation Day, Part 1
Would you Buffy fans be interested in doing a group rewatch of Graduation Day Parts 1 and 2? It’s on Netflix and can be “party” viewed.