Graduation Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
Buffy allows part of her blood to be drained to save Angel's life, in the final appearance of David Boreanaz as a series regular.
|Episode no.||Season 3
Episode 21 & 22
|Directed by||Joss Whedon|
|Written by||Joss Whedon|
|Production code||3ABB21 & 3ABB22|
|Original air date||May 18, 1999 (Part 1)
July 13, 1999 (Part 2)
|List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes|
"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 and the occurrence of the Columbine High School shootings one month prior. The episodes were written and directed by series creator 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 alongside Boreanaz.
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, her 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. The Mayor waltzes in to the library and smugly comments that he'll eat Buffy come graduation day. Upon hearing this Giles, in a fit of rage, stabs him with a sword; but the Mayor is unharmed, and merely scolds Giles for his impetuous violence – a bad example in the presence of children. He leaves with the cheery promise that some of their deaths will be quick.
At home, Buffy packs a suitcase for Joyce and convinces her to leave town for safety. Willow vents her worries to Oz, and chides him for his detachment; panic would be a more normal human response. 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 an arrow fired by Faith, which misses his heart. 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. 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.
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. Buffy tells Angel that the only cure is the blood of a Slayer and that since he can't use Faith, he'll have to drink from her. Angel refuses and Buffy tries to persuade him that if he doesn't drink her blood, he'll die. Angel accepts this and stumbles away from Buffy, but she stops him and tells him she won't let him die. Angel begs her to not make him drink, but she punches him in the face, trying to turn him. When it doesn't work, she punches him two more times, the second turning him. She pulls Angel's head down to her neck and after a moment's hesitation, Angel bites her and starts drinking. He ends up taking too much and Buffy passes out just as Angel is able to stop himself from killing her. He rushes her 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 goes away, even his". Faith reaches up to stroke Buffy's face, thus awakening her. When she wakes she 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 quit the council. The two kiss, but find it awkward and simply exchange goodbyes.
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 - belying (three seasons of...) Sunnydale residents' typical state of denial when it comes to the paranormal. 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. The two of them share a final, longing look at each other before Angel turns and walks off while Buffy watches him go. 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.
During the time of its airing, the episode caused a great deal of controversy in the media. The Columbine High School massacre, only four weeks before the airing of Part One, was widely blamed on violence in entertainment. The WB Television Network had already pulled the plug on an earlier episode, "Earshot" (which itself was not aired until September), and feared that several scenes in "Graduation Day, Part Two" 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, only two hours before "Graduation Day, Part Two" was due to air, The WB suddenly decided to replace it with a re-run from earlier in the season. This sudden move received huge attention in the media and thousands of letters were sent to the network demanding that the season finale be shown. Sarah Michelle Gellar publicly spoke out against the decision, Seth Green agreed that the episode should have been broadcast in its original slot. The WB did not air the episode until July 13, 1999, almost two months after it was originally scheduled; since nearly all US schools end their term in May or June, it was then felt safe. The episode attracted 6.5 million viewers, atypically high for the WB during summer, and comparable to what the other episodes of the season had received.
Buffy novel The Evil That Men Do was also delayed due to the Columbine incident; it was published one year later than planned.
- 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. 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."
- The yearbook seen in this episode, the Sunnydale High Yearbook, was released as a tie-in product after this episode aired, though not the exact format seen on-screen.
- Cordelia kills a vampire for the first time, something Charisma Carpenter had requested of the series writers several times before.
- Douglas Petrie wrote a Buffy comic that takes place immediately after this episode; Double Cross concerns events after Angel left Buffy.
- In the closing credits, the Mutant Enemy zombie wears a black graduation cap.
- The cat in Buffy's dream briefly turns into Faith, in her comatose state, and then back.
- David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter, series regulars until now, thereafter move to a spinoff series, Angel. Boreanaz afterward appears several times as a guest on Buffy.
- According to Marti Noxon in a DVD commentary, the explosion scene was filmed at 5 a.m. in Torrance, California, where the outdoor scenes had been filmed for the previous three years.
- In the dream when Faith refers to Little Miss Muffet, she is actually referring to Dawn, Buffy's sister who arrives in season 5. In the first episode where Dawn is introduced a man approaches her and tells her she's "all just curds and whey".
- 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.
- Amy is still a rat, despite Willow's attempt to cure her.
- Buffy quits the Watchers' Council; she will not rejoin until she needs information on Glory in Season Five. She explains the decision as her 'graduation.'
- Willow has sex with Oz.
- 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.
- Sunnydale High School, a focus of paranormal activity, is destroyed. It will be seen again as a charred wreck in season four and rebuilt in season seven.
- Xander again shows his military prowess, acquired in episode "Halloween", engineering with Giles the mining of Sunnydale High and commanding the students in the final battle against the mayor.
- Cordelia slays her first and only vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but slays others in the spin-off Angel.
- 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 an inept vampire.
- Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley leave the series to become major characters in the spin-off Angel. Though neither Cordelia nor Wesley appear in any future episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel appears in eight episodes of seasons 4, 5 and 7, either in flashbacks or in person.
- Larry Blaisdell dies in this episode and does not appear again. His death was implied but is not positively confirmed on screen until "Smashed" (season 6).
- The Mayor and Principal Snyder both die in this episode although both will appear again in dreams, hallucinations, etc.
- This episode marks the last physical appearance of Cordelia Chase in the series, as she never returns to Sunnydale.
- Faith mentions "Little Miss Muffet counting down from 730". This plays a major part in the season 5 arc with the introduction of Dawn Summers.
- Kubicek, John. "Girl-on-Girl Action: TV’s Top 10 Catfights". BuddyTV. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Millman, Joyce (June 1, 1999). "Finale thoughts". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- Taylor, Charles (May 26, 1999). "The WB's Big Daddy condescension". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- Bonin, Liane (May 25, 1999). "School Daze". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
- Wen, Howard (May 28, 1999). "'Buffy' fans distribute postponed finale online". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- "Network Outage". Entertainment Weekly (490). June 18, 1999. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
- "'Angel's' Cordelia Speaks the Truth". Zap2it.com. 2002-04-17. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
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