In the final episode of the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, we learn just how much Joss Whedon is willing to destroy everything we love. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Well, if Whedon can get away with this so early on in the existence of the show, I’m pretty sure that it’s only going to get more real as I venture further into this story. Multiple storylines that have been unfolding throughout season one are finally wrapped up, and what I enjoyed about “Prophecy Girl” was that the two major plots were both just as fascinating as each other.
I’ve been harsh on Xander, and my opinion of him hasn’t changed a whole lot, but I think this finale addresses his feelings in the best way possible. Xander is inherently an awkward character, and it’s why he fits in so well with Willow and Buffy. Both of them are pretty awkward themselves when you think about it. While I totally get why Whedon had Xander develop a crush on Buffy, there really was only disaster at the end of that road. I don’t think Xander’s awkwardness is necessarily going to disappear, either, but this was a way for the show to close the chapter on this even being a possibility.
It was inevitable from the cold open that Xander was going to have his heart broken, yet I was worried how the show would handle it. We all know at this point that Willow really likes Xander more than a friend, but she is such a good friend that she’s willing to sit there and listen to him practice asking Buffy out. Sure, there’s a part of it she can use to fantasize about the idea of Xander asking her out, but that only goes so far, doesn’t it?
I think I just didn’t want this played out as a huge joke or as something that’s portrayed as Buffy’s fault. I don’t blame Xander for making an attempt, though; he felt that it would get to him if he didn’t at least try, and you can’t hold him at fault. Plus, he never really knew how Buffy felt about him, and asking her to the Spring Fling was a way to confirm her feelings for him. Obviously, though, the man was oblivious, and it’s one of the character features of Xander that season one has done well. Xander is totally unaware of himself and how others perceive him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really done good things with that, but here, he’s finally honest. That is what I appreciate about him; at the very least, the honesty is what he’s needed all along, especially after the events of “The Pack.” (And I still kind of hope that it comes to light that he does remember what happened when he was possessed, though now I don’t think it’ll come up beyond season one.)
At the same time, Buffy is honest with Xander, and she has to be. And look, even if Buffy does feel bad about rejecting Xander, I don’t feel like Whedon blames her at all. If anything, he portrays Xander’s reaction as the negative thing here. I think it’s totally in character that he would overreact, to make completely rude comments to Buffy about Angel, and to stomp off like a child having a temper tantrum. Even if Xander’s actions are really likable sometimes, he’s given a treatment by the writers to make him a whole person; his heartbreak here is still depressing regardless, and we see how it affects the entire group of friends. I really loved the idea that even after this, Willow has enough self-respect to reject Xander despite how much it hurts the both of them. WELL WAIT I don’t love that this happens, but I just meant that it’s good writing. Willow wants Xander to be more than her friend, but I found it to be a powerful thing to have her say she wants to be his first choice. Of course it sucks for Xander, but the guy has to learn to treat people better than he does or he’s going to continue hurting them. And that goes for himself, too! I don’t really want to see him hurt or see him depressed. (Well, unless that always means he chooses to listen to Patsy Cline. That is something I’d watch over and over again.)
This entire story is incredibly well done, opening up the chance for Xander to either pursue Willow or someone else in season two. However, let’s be real here: The entire plot regarding the Master is overwhelmingly the best thing about “Prophecy Girl.” I just assumed the Codex would say that the Slayer would have to fight the Master, so I didn’t think it would have much to do with the inevitable. I didn’t expect the Master to live beyond this episode, but…oh holy god, this goes off into an area I never anticipated. First of all, it’s great to have Jenny Calendar back in the action, and I hope to see her a lot more in the next season. But I knew Whedon was ready to DESTROY ALL THINGS when he opens the episode with a giant earthquake that caused a whole lot of damage to Giles’s library. (HOW DID I NOT FIGURE IT OUT THAT THIS WAS THE CENTER OF THE HELLMOUTH???) It was time for Whedon to deliver, and GOOD LORD, he certainly does.
So, Buffy would be tricked by the Anointed One, right? And she’d never figure out what the prophecy was, right? And she’d face the Master and beat him in some victorious display of cleverness and power, right? And no one else in Sunnydale would ever figure things out, right? And everyone would live and it would be wonderful, right?
This whole episode, Joss Whedon spent forty-five minutes somewhere in the world laughing at me. I know he was doing it, and I know he derived nothing but joy from my shock at how many tropes were upended and how many plot twists took me entirely by surprise. Buffy rejects her role as the Slayer in one hell of a scene showing how talented Gellar was even back in 1997. SHE REJECTS BEING THE SLAYER IN EPISODE TWELVE. Oh god, then there is more Joyce Summers being adorable and the best mother imaginable and giving Buffy that amazing prom dress and I just melt from how cute everything is. God, she really is the best television mother, isn’t she? I adore the subtext of Joyce thinking she knows what’s affecting her daughter, and on a small level, she’s actually right. It’s a desire for normalcy that Buffy wants; you can tell how heartbroken she is when she tells Giles that she’s just sixteen, that she shouldn’t have to face the horror of death when she’s so young. But we’ve also seen over the course of season one how Buffy just wants to have the experience everyone else does in high school, and in a way, her mother’s words are what helps her feel better about her predicament. Maybe she can control some of her future if she really wants to.
In contrast to that, Willow, who has had a much more typical life than Buffy, loses that joy in “Prophecy Girl.” Even since Buffy has shown up, she has managed to keep the horrors of Buffy’s existence away from her own life. But the vampires, influenced by the growing strength of the Master, have stopped obeying any sort of boundary. I was completely horrified when it’s revealed that the Audio/Video Club was murdered, and that Cordelia and Willow found them. For Willow, it’s far too personal to lose people she knew so well, and it’s the final thing to convince Buffy she can’t just let the Hellmouth open.
With that thought in her heart, Buffy walks slowly to her death, knowing who the Anointed One is, knowing that she’s probably not going to survive this. But she couldn’t actually die, could she? It’s the first season. The name of the show is the name of the main character!!! AND JOSS WHEDON DOESN’T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK. Because the prophecy in the Codex? Yeah, IT DIDN’T TELL GILES EVERYTHING. It may have left out the part about Buffy’s death being the thing to free the Master. I seriously just sat agape at my laptop when the Master controlled Buffy with…what? How could he do that? Either way, he drinks her blood, and I thought, “Oh, he’ll just disable her for the time being.” Then he drops her facedown into a pool of water and she drowns. And….what. What????? WAIT WHAT ARE YOU DOING. YOU CAN’T DO THIS, RIGHT? WHAT THE FUCK HOW CAN SHE DIE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.
Oh, god, the Hellmouth isn’t at the Bronze and OH MY GOD WHY ARE THERE SO MANY VAMPIRES. Oh shit, CORDELIA SAVES THE DAY. WAIT. Did Whedon just bring Cordelia completely into the group just now? Oh, I can hardly breathe because Xander and Angel just showed up to find Buffy dead and Xander is trying to do CPR on her and SHE’S DEAD DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
What the hell HOW CAN SHE COME BACK TO LIFE. Is there something in the Codex that explains this? What happens when she dies? Is she still the Slayer? HOW THE HELL DOES THIS WORK. Oh, fuck yes, she’s heading back to kill the Master. THIS IS GOING TO RULE. Why does she look so different? WHAT DID HER DEATH DO???
WHAT THE HELL IS COMING OUT OF THE GROUND IN THE LIBRARY OH MY SWEET SUMMER CHILD THAT IS TERRIFYING PLEASE HELP ME. No, you don’t understand, I LOVE MONSTERS LIKE THIS. Just weird and fucked up and non-CGI puppetry and costuming. PLUS THERE IS A GIANT CREATURE FROM HELL IN THE LIBRARY I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED THIS IN A MILLION YEARS.
I swear, this is one of the most satisfying season finales I’ve seen, and I actually liked that it wasn’t this huge cliffhanger. Most important, though, is that Jenny Calendar and Cordelia Chase sort of have to play a bigger part in the story in season two. Obviously, I’m most excited for Cordelia over anyone else, as I’ve seen a whole new side to her in this episode and the last one. When she puts aside her selfish ego, she can be so much fun while still being sassy, and that is what I want to see more of.
Though I suppose what sticks most for me is the fact that this story was fascinating, emotional, and terribly frightening, a huge leap over a lot of what made up the first season, and it’s like a hint of what can come in the next six seasons. Because “Prophecy Girl” is fucked up. And that’s really what I want from all this. BRING IT, JOSS WHEDON.
Wait, I shouldn’t say that, should I?