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"Graduation Day" is the season finale of the WB Television Network's third season of the drama television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, consisting of the twenty-first and twenty-second episodes. They are also the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth episodes of the show overall. The two constituent episodes were split into two broadcasts; "Part 1" first aired on May 18, 1999 and "Part 2" first aired on July 13, 1999. The second part was to originally be aired on May 25, 1999 however was postponed due to the episode's content. The episodes were written and directed by executive producer/show runner Joss Whedon.

The episodes are the last to feature Angel (David Boreanaz) as a series regular due to the character starring in the spin-off series Angel. Fellow series regular Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter)—who had been with the show since its first episode—also left the series to star along side Boreanaz.

Plot

Part 1

While the Mayor prepares for his Ascension, Buffy battles Faith to save Angel's life.

Expanded Synopsis

The episode opens with the gang preparing for their graduation: Cordelia and Xander discuss the color of their gowns, and Willow speaks to Buffy about all she'll miss about high school. Buffy is considering skipping graduation to fight Mayor Wilkins, until Xander joins them and informs the two that he's to be the commencement speaker at graduation. Faith visits college professor Lester Worth on behalf of the Mayor, and kills him. She reports the kill to the Mayor, who has Faith change into a dress and tells her the ascension is her day as well as his. In class, Anya speaks to Xander, and when he mentions the ascension, and Anya's expression becomes grave.

In the library, Buffy shows Giles and Wesley the newspaper which details the murder of Worth. Buffy suspects Faith to be the culprit and the three agree the professor must have known something the Mayor wanted kept secret. Xander and Anya arrive, Anya having experienced a previous ascension. She tells them about a sorcerer who became the pure-demon Lohesh - unlike human-demon hybrids like vampires, pure-demons are much stronger and much larger. At Buffy's house, she packs a suitcase for Joyce and convinces her to leave town for safety. At Willow's house, Willow complains about chaos the ascension would mean and yells at Oz for his detachment from the situation. Oz interrupts her with a passionate kiss, and when Willow asks what he's doing, he replies that he is "panicking". The two finally consummate their relationship.

Buffy and Angel discuss Worth's work, which Buffy doesn't understand. The two discuss the confusing nature of their relationship, when Angel is struck in the back by a crossbow arrow from Faith. At the library, the arrow is removed, and Giles and Wesley go over Mr. Worth's files, which indicate that Worth found a gigantic carcass underneath the rubble of a volcanic eruption, which he believed may have been a new type of dinosaur. The group assumes this must be some sort of demon, when Angel falls to the ground - the arrow has been poisoned with a toxin fatal to vampires. Faith reports her attack to the Mayor, and amuses him with a few stories from her childhood before he continues preparations for the ascension. Wesley tells Buffy the Watcher's Council refuses to help Angel because he is a vampire, but Willow's research reveals the poison has a cure - the blood of a Slayer.

Buffy arrives at Faith's apartment, and the two battle, eventually taking the fight to the roof. Meanwhile, Giles and Xander find that the Mayor will transform into the demon Olvikan, and find an unseen picture of him in a book - the illustration is four pages long. The Mayor is also alerted to the trouble at Faith's place. On the edge of the roof, Buffy stabs Faith with the knife Faith had received from the Mayor, and Faith congratulates Buffy for killing her, then leaps off the roof onto a truck on the street below. The fall knocks her out, and Buffy watches as the truck carries her away.

Part 2

Buffy and the students of Sunnydale High battle the Mayor during their senior graduation.

Expanded Synopsis

Buffy leaves Faith's apartment after their battle, and the Mayor appears inside the broken window overlooking the roof and orders his minions to find Buffy and Faith. Xander and Giles are in the library, and Cordelia enters and demands to know what happened to Wesley, who is upset and leaving the country. Giles informs Cordy that Buffy has quit the council and no longer requires a watcher. Willow and Oz are watching over Angel, when Buffy arrives and sends them away. With Angel near death, Buffy hits him until he shows his fangs, and forces him to drink her blood to cure himself. Angel rushes Buffy to the hospital, where she is saved. In a nearby room, another doctor is informing the Mayor that Faith is in a coma. The Mayor overhears nurses talking about Buffy, and attempts to suffocate her before he is stopped by Angel and leaves.

In a dream, Buffy and Faith have an exchange in Faith's apartment. The two trade cryptic comments, and Faith assures Buffy she'll heal. She also tells Buffy that "human weakness never fades, even his". The two clasp hands, and Buffy awakens and approaches her friends, ready to go to war with the Mayor. In the library, Buffy finishes detailing a plan (which the audience does not hear), and the gang agree the plan is crazy, but is their only option. Giles cautions that the plan is entirely contingent upon Buffy's ability to control the Mayor. Buffy explains what Faith had told her about human weakness, and Angel remembers that the Mayor was seriously grieving over Faith. Wesley arrives and says he is there to help of his own volition, not on behalf of the council. The Mayor and Buffy detail their respective plans to their allies, and Buffy's friends recruit other students to help. Wesley tells Cordelia that he will be returning to England following the ascension, saying he has no reason to stay now that Buffy has fired the council.

Buffy and Angel talk over weapons, and Angel tells Buffy he won't be saying good-bye after the battle. A grief stricken Buffy unwraps the knife she used to stab Faith, still stained with her blood. The graduation ceremony begins and Principal Snyder welcomes the students before the Mayor takes the podium. The Mayor tells the students that it is the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and during the rest of his speech suddenly convulses. An eclipse begins, and the Mayor decides to skip the ending to his speech, and transforms into Olvikan, a giant snake-like demon. Everyone but the students scramble to flee, when Buffy yells "NOW!", and the entire student body removes their robes to reveal weapons and crosses, ready to fight. Xander and Angel lead the students into battle against the Mayor's vampires, and in the chaos the Mayor devours Snyder as he rages at him.

Buffy catches the Mayor's attention with Faith's knife, describing in graphic detail how she stabbed her. The Mayor chases Buffy through the school to the library, where all of the books have been removed and the room filled with explosives. Buffy dives out a window as the Mayor exclaims "well gosh!" Giles detonates the explosives, blowing up the school and killing the Mayor. EMTs and firefighters are now at the school helping the wounded, and Buffy is looking for Angel. Giles presents her with her diploma, rescued from the debris. He leaves and Buffy then sees Angel, and starts towards him, but he turns and walks away. The gang, minus Giles, gathers and Willow asks if she is okay, and Buffy says she is. Oz tells them all to take a moment to deal with what happened, that they all survived. Buffy agrees that it was a great battle, but Oz corrects her by saying they survived high school. The scene fades on a charred yearbook for Sunnydale Class of 1999.

Controversy

During the time of its airing, the episode caused a great deal of controversy in the media. The Columbine High School massacremarker which occurred in April 1999, caused huge tension between the public and the entertainment industry. Buffy at the time was viewed as a very violent show that took place in a high school setting, and was considered inappropriate, especially after the Columbine shootings. The WB Television Network had already pulled the plug on an earlier episode, "Earshot" (which itself would not be aired until September).When the media saw several clips from "Graduation Day, Part Two", the WB feared that several scenes would provoke high school students to do the same thing, especially those depicting the entire graduating class handling weapons against the mayor. On May 25, 1999, "Graduation Day, Part Two" was all set to air. However, only a couple of hours before the network was going to air the season finale, they suddenly decided to pull the plug due to all the pressure they were receiving. Instead, a re-run from earlier in the season was aired without any kind of notice.

The sudden move by the WB received huge attention in the media and thousands of letters were sent to the network demanding them to air the season finale. Sarah Michelle Gellar publicly spoke out against the decision the network had made, although Seth Green agreed that the episode would seem "callous and inappropriate" after the Columbine shootings. The WB would not air the episode until July 13, 1999, almost two months after it was originally supposed to air. At that point, the network felt that all real life graduations had already passed, so it was safe to air the episode. The episode attracted 6.5 million viewers, which is atypically high for the WB during the summertime. Even though the show aired in mid-summer, the ratings for the episode were on par with what the other episodes of the season had received.This episode was aired in Canada at the time it was supposed to have aired in the U.S., however, therefore many bootleg digital downloads were available for American viewers.The creator of the show, Joss Whedon, stated, "Bootleg the puppy."

Buffy novel The Evil That Men Do was also delayed due to the Columbine incident; it was published one year later than planned.

Writing

  • In another father-daughter moment, Faith mentions her childhood as a tough kid. The Mayor calls her a "firecracker" and she reveals that her mother used to call her that, too. In "Touched", the First Evil appears to Faith as the Mayor and calls her the same.


Acting

Starring



Guest starring



Co-starring

  • James Lurie as Mr. Miller
  • Hal Robinson as Lester
  • Adrian Neil as Vamp-Lackey #1
  • John Rosenfeld as Vamp-Lackey #2
  • Paulo Andrés as Dr. Powell
  • Susan Chuang as Nurse
  • Tom Bellin as Dr. Gold
  • Samuel Bliss Cooper as Vamp-Lackey #3


Production details

Music



Quotes and trivia

Part one

  • James Lurie played the teacher Mr. Miller in "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Anne" as well as playing hangman with his class ("They always go for the 'E'").


  • When this episode originally aired, the first ever trailer for Angel was shown. It lasted only four seconds with Boreanaz turning towards the camera, and the words "Angel. This Fall" appeared.


  • On seeing an illustration of the Mayor's eventual demon form, Xander quotes the famous line from Jaws: "We're going to need a bigger boat".


  • Faith's line "Look at you, trying on big sister's clothes" is a reference to the Elvis Costello song "Big Sister's Clothes" on the album Trust. This line also alludes to Dawn's arrival and Buffy being 'the big sister'. The episode in which Faith awakens from the coma she enters in this episode, "This Year's Girl" is also a reference to an Elvis Costello song. At a June 2 concert in L.A., Elvis Costello riffed about God searching in vain for the lost Buffy in reference to Part 2 of the episode, and sarcastically praised The WB for "keeping teens safe from unholy demons."


Part two



  • This episode portrays the first time Cordelia ever "dusts" a vampire, when she runs down the school's steps with the other students.


  • Douglas Petrie wrote a Buffy comic that takes place immediately after this episode; Double Cross concerns events after Angel left Buffy.


  • The Mutant Enemy zombie that always appears at the end of each episode is wearing a black graduation cap.


  • The cat in Buffy's dream briefly turns into Faith, in her comatose state, and then back.


  • This marks the end of David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter as series regulars. Leaving for Los Angelesmarker, Angel the star of a spinoff TV show, Angel. Cordelia also moves to L.A., unable to afford college. However, unlike Cordelia, Angel later reappears on Buffy.


  • According to Marti Noxon in a DVD commentary, the explosion scene was filmed at 5 a.m. in Torrance, Californiamarker, where the outdoor scenes had been filmed for the previous three years.


Continuity

  • Buffy vows Angel would be her "last office romance," but she would go on to establish relationships with Riley and Spike. She also expresses an interest in Principal Robin Wood initially (the new head of Sunnydale High in Season 7) but they only go on one date.
  • This is the first time since "Ted" that Buffy has intentionally attempted to harm another human, and the first instance where it could be considered consciously premeditated. Despite Faith's obviously evil actions, Buffy's reaction after mortally wounding Faith is reminiscent of the reaction she had when she thought she'd killed Ted.
  • When Anya returns to the school to ask Xander to run away with her she tells him that her car is just outside and they can take turns driving, however in season five during the episode "Triangle" it is revealed that Anya is unclear about driving. She still demonstrates her ability to drive in the episode and it may be perceived that she is still new to the concept in this episode.
  • Willow mentions to Buffy in the Season 1 episode "The Harvest" that one way they could get kicked out of school is to "blow up the school".
  • Cordelia and Wesley discover through two bad kisses that their dalliance will lead nowhere.


Arc significance

  • Buffy quits the Watcher's Council, which she will not rejoin until she needs information on Glory in Season Five. She explains the decision as her graduation, but one may view it in the same vein as her protection of Dawn from Glory, which she will view differently two years later.
  • Willow loses her virginity to Oz. The core four have all lost theirs now.
  • Anya helps the Scoobies for the first time, giving them information about a demon Ascension. She also decides to explore a relationship with Xander, which will continue to the end of the series.
  • This episode sees the destruction of Sunnydale High, the scene of a great deal of paranormal activities thus far in the series. As the Mayor said, "Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing."
  • Xander again shows his military prowess, acquired in episode "Halloween", engineering with Giles the mining of Sunnydale High.
  • Although Larry Blaisdell dies in this episode, his death is not confirmed until the Season Six episode "Smashed".
  • In the beginning of the battle between the crowd of pupils and the vampires, there's a brief scene of Harmony Kendall running down and getting bitten by a vampire. She returns in "The Harsh Light of Day" as a humorously inept vampire.
  • This marks the final appearance of Cordelia on Buffy. She later becomes a main character on the spin-off Angel.
  • This is Wesley's final appearance on Buffy. Like Cordelia, he becomes a main character on the spin-off Angel.


Translations

  • Italian title: "La sfida" ("The challenge")
  • German title: "Das Blut der Jägerin" ("The Blood of the Slayer, fem."; literally: "The Blood of the Hunter") As there is no suitable direct translation for the term "Slayer" in the German language, it is normally replaced by the term "Jägerin" ("hunter", fem.) in the German dubbing.
  • French title: "La Cérémonie" ("The Ceremony")
  • Japanese title: "卒業の日" ("Sotsugyō no Hi" - Graduation Day")
  • Spanish title: "El día de graduación" ("The graduation day")


References



External links



Reviews

Part one



Part two




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