Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Our Warnings: Spoilers are always present. This review, because I frickin' love the episode so much I want to make out with it, is screen-cap intensive. I couldn't help myself.
Blurb: As the Spring Fling dance approaches, Giles discovers an ancient book foretelling the Slayer's death at the hands of The Master.
My Blurb: Giles didn't "discover" anything. He received the book from Angel last episode, you stupid blurb writer. Watch the fricking series!
Scene 01: We open in The Bronze with Xander's voiceover. He is finally confessing his feelings....
Shockingly, we see him saying confessing his feelings for Willow?! And, she is sitting with a large grin on her face!
Xander is unhappy with the way he's worded things and we're quickly brought up to speed. This isn't some sudden realization on his part, or some bizarro world, no. He's only practicing his big speech on Willow before he meets up with Buffy. His plans are to finally confess to her that his feelings are not just friendship and to ask her out on a date.
After a few more stumbles, Xander tells Willow he needs to do this now before he loses his nerve. He asks her where Buffy is, but Willow tells him she's out doing the usual.
Scene 02: We see Buffy come into frame in slow-mo and hit the ground. A vampire looks down on her, in artful half-shadow and smile down at her. Meanwhile, Cordelia stops kissing her boyfriend, who is not Mitch (I warned you last episode that he disappears as fast as he made the scene). She tells him that she hears someone outside, which he tells her is ridiculous.
Several yards away from Cordelia's car, Buffy does a back roll to her feet and gets into an attack stance. The vampire grins, but Buffy smiles back as she draws out a wooden stake. This is all in slower than normal speed as well. When time resumes its normal speed for us, the vampire attacks and Buffy quickly stakes him.
She tells the air with mild sarcasm, "Three in one night. Giles would be so proud."
Commentary: There is more than meets the eye to this scene that I want to point out: First, notice that the vampires are on school grounds here - this is something that we haven't seen outside of the first victim in WttH. It is a clue as to how big what is coming in the episode is.
Secondly, notice Buffy's look of joy here. Now, it is sardonic, I'd say, but it is also speaking to how comfortable Buffy has gotten with her abilities, if not herself (as we've seen throughout the season, she remains unwanting of the Slayer mantle... but at times like this...). Note how even after she is knocked down to the ground, she doesn't panic or look fear-struck. Compare this Buffy to the one who nearly got her life handed to her by Luke in WttH. One might even speculate that her brief time as a vampire during the Nightmare episode might have calmed the worst of her fears about them. This is actually setting her up to find out that she doesn't know what a vampire can really do or how unprepared she is for them... or at least for one who isn't just 'crush, kill, bite'.
Three, note that Cordelia has become much more sensitive to the world outside her bubble. She hears Buffy hit the ground relatively far off and reacts where the old Cordelia would have no doubt been completely oblivious to anything not in front of her lips at that moment.
Finally, Buffy's final line is also a foreshadowing that things have changed in some way... not only was a vampire killed by her on the school's campus, but there were more than one of them gathered on the same night.
I love how the sequence of the fight is filmed, too, with special emphasis on the faces and expressions of the vampire and Buffy. You can see the vampire's confidence suddenly shaken when Buffy pulls her stake and smiles at him with a, "Let's do this" expression.
Scene 03: The scene fades onto a rooftop with a large skylight. We look down through the window panes and see Giles scurrying about with a look of purpose. Switching our POV into the library we close in on Giles' office, where he is looking something up in a book..., possibly the Codex from last episode. He has found a passage and translates it to 'The Master shall rise....' and is excited that he's located what he needs to discover The Master's plans and how the Slayer should respond.
As we know though, The Pergamum Codex is a book of SLAYER Lore. Anything it has to say about the Slayer is probably not going to be good, since prophecies so rarely are. Giles reads something to himself and exclaims a surprise at whatever he's read to himself.
He reaches over for a cup o' hot drink (tea with milk would make sense, being Giles). He is momentarily puzzled as the teacup rattles on the saucer, but it quickly becomes evident that there is a quake.
Scene 04: As the quake picks up strength, the saucer smashes to the floor and Giles' office loses some shelves. In The Bronze, Willow and Xander dash under the stairs to the mezzanine above them. Kevin and Cordelia shake inside her car, as the alarm goes off. Buffy looks around herself, tree swaying in the background. Back in the library, Giles takes cover in a doorframe, while around him cracks appear in the walls and some of the stacks shift to the side. The library floor buckles.
Commentary: All of this, of course, is a clue that a big moment is coming and that the Hellmouth is located directly beneath Giles' feet.
Below ground, The Master is reveling in the tumbler as he takes it as a sign of an impending freedom. As it subsides, he asks Colin, "What do you think? 5.1?"
Scene 05: The following day, Xander, Willow and Buffy leave class complaining about how boring it has been. Xander drops anvils on Willow to get her to run off, so that he can get Buffy alone and talk to her about dating. Xander finally tells Buffy that he likes her a lot and that he wants to be more than just friends. He very sweetly tells her "I want to dance with you".
We get a sinking feeling almost immediately, however, as Buffy starts talking about their friendship... oh, no... she's going with the "Let's just be friends" thing. But, Xander valiantly carries on, insisting that their past relationship isn't relevant... "Either you feel at thing, or you don't".
Buffy is a "don't". She tries to apologize for hurting his feelings, but Xan throws having to be undead to make time with her in her face (One of the many times he'll saying something harsh in reference to Angel). She calls him on it, and he apologizes to her and then stalks off leaving Buffy bummed.
Scene 06: Cutting to Giles in his office, he's on the phone with someone. Dialog suggests it is someone that can only visit at night, hinting that Angel has given Giles his phone number last episode to contact him when he thinks Buffy may need help.
In the background, computer teacher Jenny Calendar has arrived in his doorway. Giles tries to dismiss her, but she tells him that something is going on and she's guessing (by the fact he looks like he's been up all night) that he already knows what is going on. She explains that people know she's into the occult (as we learned in "I Robot, You Jane") and sends things her way. She reads off some strange information leading her to conclude that the signs are pointing to an apocalypse being seriously nigh.
At first Giles is reluctant to trust her, but she reminds him that she helped him combat the cyberdemon in the internet. She tells him that a Brother Luca is sending her weird messages that she doesn't quite understand, but that she's scared something big is happening around them. Rupert tells her to contact Brother Luca, but she doesn't like his tone and asks what's up with her ordering her.
He snaps at her to just do it ... before apologizing and telling her he'll explain everything later. Giles is more than obviously deeply affected by whatever it is that he read about The Master and The Slayer in the Codex the night before. His state of mind isn't helped by Brother Luca's emails to Jenny mentioning the Annointed One, who was supposed to be dead (Buffy thought she'd killed him in "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date", but she had the wrong guy).
Scene 07: In the hallway, Cordelia is walking with her new beau, Kevin. She is also responsible for getting The Bronze ready for the Spring Fling dance set for Saturday night. When she sees Willow, she excuses herself to speak to her:
"Willow! I love your outfit!"
"No, you don't."
"No, I really don't, but I need a favor."
I don't know why this amuses me so. Cordelia's favor involves the soundsystem. The Bronze won't let the school use their expensive sound system, so they have to bring their own and Cordy figures Willow would know about that electronic stuff. She asks for her help, even sweetening the deal by claiming that she'll talk to Willow at the dance and everything! I mean, how could Wills refuse?
Commentary: There doesn't seem to be much point to this scene, except it is actually telling us something about Cordelia. The fact that she would go to Willow for help, in the public hallway, and speak civilly to her and promise to socialize with her later is all pointing to the profound impact of Buffy's having saved her from Marcy last episode. Cordelia Chase would certainly be in the top running for characters which have changed the most over the Buffyverse on television... And Willow's top is really threatening to give me a headache.
Willow notices Xander off screen and quickly takes her leave of Cordelia, leaving Queen C looking a bit confused (No one walks away when Cordy is speaking... what was up with that?).
Scene 08: In classroom, Xander is throwing a tennis ball against the blackboard. When Willow asks how things went with Buffy, Xander is angry and bitter. He complains all Buffy sees is Angel. Willow tries to be sympathetic, despite her own feelings for him.
But when he asks her to go to the Fling with him, she declines, shocking him. She also makes her own feelings clear and, even more interesting, she her dialog suggests that she knows that Xander knows how she feels about him. But she isn't the doormat she was in WttH... being around Buffy and helping to fight evil has given her a new strength, and not even a chance at dancing with Xander will allow her to smother her own pride.
"Hey, I know what we'll do! We can go. Be my date, w-we'll have a great time. We'll dance, we'll go wild... what do you say?"
"There's no way."
"Willow, come one...!"
"You think I want to go to the dance with you and watch you wishing you were at the dance with her? You think that's my idea of hi-jinks? You should know better."
"I didn't think."
Commentary: So, Xander has also not been blind to the fact that Willow's feelings have also evolved. As we learned back in The Witch, Xan has been carrying a torch for Buffy since immediately, while Willow has been in a slow burn for Xander. It's nice to see that these things didn't completely slip by unnoticed by everyone else, even if it was easier to pretend otherwise. And, I am so proud of Willow for saying No, here.
Scene 09: That evening, as cheerleaders are heading in after practice, Buffy is putting together her ensemble to go hunting. One of the cheerers points out the weird girl, leaving Buffy to huff to herself in frustration. She goes over to a sink off the locker room to freshen up. But when she looks in the sink, it isn't water that comes from the taps, but blood.
Scene 10: She makes a beeline for the library to tell Giles about the weird sink. When she comes in she gets a little smile as she sees Angel there meeting with Giles. They're having a heated conversation and Buffy hangs back enough to listen in on what they're talking about. Giles is adamant that something is happening, but Angel doesn't want to believe him.
"I wish to God I were [reading the text wrong], but it's very plain. Tomorrow night, Buffy will face The Master... and she will die."
The camera lingers on Buffy's face as this sinks in and then we cut to commercial.
Scene 11: When we return, Buffy is in the same place, but this time she gives a stunned laugh to Angel and Giles' shocked faces. She stumbles out into the library with them following her. She turns on them (but I think mostly on Giles).
[Stunned, teary voice]: So, that's it, huh? I remember the drill. [As if she's shrugging it off, but her tone of voice states otherwise] 'One Slayer dies, next one's called'. I wonder who she is. W-will you train her, o-or will then send someone else?
Giles shakes his head a little, at a loss: Buffy, I....
[Buffy is over shock and now she is scared]: Do they say how he's gonna kill me? [Her voice drops softer and she's clearly devastated] Do you think it'll hurt?
Commentary: Needless to say, SMG tears my heart out here. That low, squeaky-almost voice with her tears starting to fall asking if she thinks being killed will hurt... well, she just nails this scene completely. And if Anthony gave Giles any more bereftment in his expression, I just don't know what I do. This scene is perfectly acted and David wisely stays out of the way.
Angel goes to comfort Buffy, but she shouts at him not to touch her [shock and fear are giving way to anger, now]. She wipes her face and meets Giles' gaze... "Were you even gonna tell me?"
Giles is clearly struggling, but he tells her that he had hoped that he wouldn't have to, that maybe they could find a way around the prophecy. Buffy angrily tells him she has a way around it - she quits. Angel tries to tell her it isn't that simple, but now she's lashing out and yells that she is making it that simple. She tells them that they can find somebody else to stop The Master from taking over.
Giles tells her he isn't sure that is possible - that the signs say....
But now Buffy is really angry and doesn't let him finish... she crying more heavy now and grabs one of his books from the table. Throwing it across the room at him, she yells:
"The signs? Read me the signs! Tell me my fortune! You're so useful sitting here with all of your books! You're really a lot of help!"
Angel tries to intervene again, sympathizing with the blow this news has given her, but Buffy turns her anger on him. She asks him what he knows, since he'll never die. Angel tries to soothe her by telling her they just need to find a way to avoid the prophecy, but that makes Buffy yell at him some more; she reminds him that she quit and screams to pay attention.
Giles tries one last time to point out the threat The Master will bring, but Buffy isn't ready to hear about duty....
"Buffy, if The Master rises..."
"... I don't care! [She rips off her cross] I don't care. [Meeting Giles' gaze again] Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I-I don't wanna die."
Giles looks like its taken all of the famous British reserve to not openly weep. I have no such reserve. Buffy throws the cross onto the floor and marches out of the library.
Commentary: And, if I thought SMG had torn my heart out before, here she delivers the coup d'grace. This always leaves me sniffling and teary. It is an amazing scene that holds up very well over the years. What is also equally amazing when you're looking back is comparing Buffy here with the Buffy on Glory's tower....
Scene 12: Elsewhere, completely unaware of the drama playing out in the library, Willow is studying... on a Friday night... when she notices the picture of her and Xander. She sighs, and decides to call him. Xander is lying on his bed, listening to Patsy Cline. When the phone rings, he picks it up, slams it on the cradle and then lays the handset on the mattress so it can't ring through again.
Scene 13: In Buffy's room later, she's going through a family photo album when Joyce comes in. Her mother jokes with her about almost having had a bite of dinner and asks if she'd like to tell her what is on her mind. Instead, Buffy gets a sudden inspiration to just leave Sunnydale for the weekend. She begs her mom to just pack a bag and go off for a mother/daughter thing, but Joyce is a working woman now and reminds Buffy that the gallery is open on the weekends. She also reminds Buffy that the Spring Fling dance is that weekend.
Joyce wonders if maybe no one asked, but Buffy remembers Xander and says she was asked. Joyce then says it wasn't the right someone. She gives some motherly advice about ignoring dating altogether and to just go and have fun. Buffy tries to tell her she can't go to the dance (because of The Master), but Joyce tells her she can do anything she wants to, that nothing is written in stone. She also opens Buffy's closet, where hanging is a brand new white gown that she saw her daughter eyeing.
Buffy complains they can't afford the splurging, but Joyce jokes that with the way she's been eating, they can afford it. She tells her about her time in college when she went to a dance stag and met Buffy's father. It's all very warm, but The Master and his prophecy hangs over everything.
Scene 14: The following morning, Willow and Cordelia are walking together at the school. Surely a sign of the impending end. Cordelia is complaining because the sound equipment was delivered by Kevin the way he promised to The Bronze. Willow tells her it isn't that big a deal, but Cordy's real complaint is that she isn't even angry at him. She regretfully says she might even find it cute, which Willow grins at. Apparently, Kevin has found a way to do what Mitch didn't... get past her self-absorption.
Cordelia and Willow arrive outside of the A/V room, where they find the guys that were supposed to have delivered everything to The Bronze for set up watching cartoons instead. Cordelia thinks a cute for a second, but then remembers that she should probably be mad, instead....
Now, when Cordelia and Willow look in, they don't notice, but something about the scene in the little room catches my eye immediately and I ask Cordelia not to open the door.
[Cordelia to Willow]: They're watching cartoons... that's so cu--! That's not cute. It's annoying. I'm annoyed.
[Willow getting into the swing of things]: Right. I'm furious. (Except, she doesn't sound furious at all, which is why it is so adorable.)
[Cordelia]: Men! I don't know why we put up with them.
[Willow]: I hear ya.
[Cordelia takes the door knob - ignoring my plea]: Obviously, Kevin has underestimated the power of my icy stare.
Commentary: I love that line. I want to use it far more often than circumstances have warranted. "You haven't commented. That's annoying. I'm annoyed. Obviously, you've underestimated the power of my icy stare...."
Cordelia opens the door, just to have Kevin fall out at her feet. The vampire holes in his neck are much obvious. In the room beyond, Willow is traumatized to find the other students also drained. Her attention focuses on that wrongness of the television screen and the everything goes white....
Scene 15: It's hours later and Buffy is dressed up in her Spring Fling outfit admiring herself in the mirror. Joyce rushes in and tells her there has been incident involving Willow - it was just on the news....
Scene 16: In Willow's room, Buffy is sitting on the bed with her (having not changed out of her dress, even) and Willow has clearly not gotten over the A/V room scene. She tells Buffy that after everything they've gone through so far, she thought she could handle anything, but this time was different. Buffy, trying to be comforting, tells her it doesn't matter as long as she's alright now. But Willow isn't:
"I'm not okay. I knew those guys. I go to that room everyday. And, when I walked in there? It-It... wasn't our world anymore. They made it theirs. And, they had fun. What are we gonna do?"
Buffy responds that they'll do what they have to, but we can tell she really means that 'I will do what I have to'. She leaves Willow, making her promise to stay in that night.
Commentary: Unfortunately, we have some serious continuity issues in this scene that are so obvious, I can't believe it was allowed to stand. The closeups of Buffy and Willow and their interaction are fantastic of course. Anytime Aly looks vulnerable and sad, you can bet that is where your focus is.
But in the long shots, over her shoulder the room KEEPS CHANGING! There's a wall, there's a door, there's a wall... how did this escape notice?!
Willow's wall, with poster.
Hey! Where did the corner go! Where did that door come from!?
Oh, thank God, the wall came back! We almost lost that poster.
And, now that I've seen it, I can't unsee it and everytime the scene plays, my eyes keep being drawn to the corner behind Willow's head.
Scene 17: Down below, The Master feels the field holding him in and says, "Soon"... he sends Colin up to fetch his prophesied Slayer.
Scene 18: In the library, Giles has filled in Ms. Calender about everything and she's getting clarification on a few points. She expresses surprise that Buffy is the Slayer... "she's so little". Giles asks after her contacting Brother Luca, but he's vanished. His last global post was a bible verse, which speaks of everyone coming together and the child leading him. Jenny thinks it is awfully cozy for being a portent of doom. But Giles tells her it depends on where the child is leading them. He also says that if Borba, the vampire they thought was the Annointed One, then maybe a child actually is, instead, and he's still out there.
Jenny says they should warn Buffy, but Giles is wracked with guilt because of her previous meltdown. He tells Jenny that he will go to face The Master himself. Buffy has arrived though, and from off screen she tells them that he won't be going. She picks up her cross where it was laid down on the table and puts it back on. Giles and her argue, but Buffy tells him that she's the Slayer and it is her responsibility.
When Giles makes it clear that he is going and there isn't anything she can say to change his mind, she punches him out and picks up a crossbow. She asks Jenny to think of something cool and tell him that she said it. Jenny tries to warn her that if she goes, The Master will kill her, but Buffy replies that maybe she can take him with her.
Outside the school, Buffy hear's a child's plea for help. She tells the boy that she already knows who he is and she's ready. Colin leads Buffy away.
Scene 19: A little later, Xander and Willow have both been summoned to the library, where Giles is nursing the bruise on his jaw. They argue a little bit about how Giles could let Buffy go by herself, which Rupert tersely disputes. With everyone's focus on Buffy, Jenny tries to point out that they have an impending apocalypse to deal with, which earns her some scorn.
Willow asks why she's suddenly in the club and Xander tells her he doesn't care about The Master, only Buffy's safety. When Giles points out they don't know where Buffy went in order to help her, Xander says he can find out and runs off. In the meanwhile, Giles organizes Willow and Jenny to research what the details of the apocalypse might be so they can head it off.
Scene 20: Colin has led Buffy to the storm drain that leads to The Master's lair and waves her forward while he remains behind. Buffy looks unsure, but enters.
Scene 21: In Angel's apartment, he hears an insistant knocking... it's Xander Harris (and I don't remember if anyone learned where Angel lived or not, so I can't tell you if this is another continuity glitch). He tells Angel that Buffy has gone after The Master. He tells him that he needs the vampire to lead him to where The Master is located. Angel gives a clumsily delivered line and Xan pulls a cross and sticks it in his face. He makes it clear that he doesn't like him and thinks he's a vampire, but that Buffy thinks he's a man and Xander needs him to prove her right.
Angel observes that Xan is in love with her, to which Xan responds, "Aren't you?".
Commentary: I think Angel's "You're way out of your league, kid" is the only line in the script that is badly delivered. David was getting much more comfortable with his line readings, but Angel's personality still hasn't quite been gelled and in retrospect from mid S2 and on looking back, this line just doesn't sound very Angel either.
Scene 22: Jenny focuses the research attempts by mentioning the Hellmouth and asking just where exactly in Sunnydale it's located. If they find where it is, they find where he is.
Scene 23: Underground, The Master welcomes Buffy.
Scene 24: In the passages, Angel is leading Xander to the lair when Xan accuses him of checking out his neck. Angel denies that he was checking out Xander's neck, but Xan quips that he told him to eat before they left.
Scene 25: Underground, Buffy's first attempt at shooting The Master fails. As she's reloading, he tells her that she isn't going to kill him with 'that thing'. Buffy tells him he shouldn't be so sure, but The Master (disappearing from view) tells her she is not the hunter, but the sacrificial lamb.
Scene 26: In the library, little detail is coming up about where The Master will rise in Sunnydale. Giles read a passage stating that the vampires will know his time is imminent and they'll gather. Willow reminds him of The Harvest and they immediately jump to the conclusion that The Bronze will be targeted again because of the Spring Fling dance going on there.
Jenny takes Willow and rushes to the club to warn everyone (I would have loved to have seen what exactly they were going to say....) while Giles continues trying to find a way to prevent The Master of gaining entrance, or to at least find out where the Hellmouth will be opening under town.
Scene 27: Below ground, Buffy is stalking the shadows created by The Master's love of candlelight. Her real life hunt for him reflecting her dream of him when she lost, though I'm not sure she realizes how closely things are playing out to her nightmare. On the ground is the body of the anonymous old guy who we saw in the background way back in an earlier episode, who I won't be able to find now so I can include a screenshot, damn it.
Who were you?! Why were you there, just sitting in the background waiting?!
Commentary: This day player's presence was never aknowledged or commented upon, but I've always wondered why he was just hanging out with the vampires, when he seemed to old and frail to be one. At first I thought perhaps 'thrall'. But over the intervening years (yes, a day player in the background haunted my thoughts... weird) I've decided he was trying to make a Ford-type deal. Who knows what he'd done to not be killed immediately, but he ended up serving as a blood source for The Master and waiting for a turning that never came. Sad, lonely old man - dealt with the devil, and came out on the losing end.
Buffy tries to taunt The Master about hiding so much, instead of facing her. He whispers creepily that he wants the moment to last. Buffy says, "Well, I don't!"
She sees a shadow move in around a bend and focuses her attention on trying to see what it is, and very suddenly, The Master is standing right behind her! "I understand," he tells her, knocking the crossbow out of her hands.
The Master grabs her by the throat....
Scene 28: In the school's parking lot, Jenny is fumbling for her keys and Willow is wondering what they'll do if the vampires have already beaten them to The Bronze. Ms. Calendar points out to Willow they don't need to worry about that, because she sees an army of vampires closing on the school!
And, worse, they can't retreat back to the building because the doors are now guarded by a pair of vampires!
Scene 29: Back underground, Buffy breaks free, but when she runs, like in her nightmare, he uses his hypno-whammy-psychic-stop power on her. She finds her enthralled - aware that she's in danger, but paralyzed. He calmly walks up behind her and takes off her jacket. Buffy is terrified, but helpless and he's so soft-spoken and courteous, but horrible.
Commentary: I love this scene. This might be in my top five of 'Buffy confronts Bad Guy' moments and is easily the most tense of her 'Bad Guy has Buffy on the Ropes' scenes... this sort of combination of music, lighting, acting, and script were really what was needed in the scene where Buffy confronts Dark Willow in the Magic Box. I think this scene here, to me, contains more pathos than the entire Dark Willow arc after the initial shock and bereavement in 'Seeing Red'. And both SMG as frozen, horror-struck Buffy and Metcalf as the at first seemingly admiring Master, only to turn out to be actually taunting her before he kills her, is perfect.
The Master caresses Buffy's shoulders and tells her how noble she was, hearing about his rising and coming to stop him.
But then he adds that Propechies are tricky things. He tells her that if she hadn't come down after him, he wouldn't have been able to break free of his prison... he leans next to her ear and whispers, "Think about that" as tears flow down Buffy's face.
Commentary: This never fails to give me the creeps, and I think it all comes down to that line delivery. The almost gentle, but menacing and mocking tone of voice....
To Buffy's exclamation of shock, The Master bites her and drinks! The Master jerks from Buffy with an exclamation about the power he feels coursing through him from her blood. He drops her and she falls face first into a pool of stagnant water. He makes a snappy comment about loving her dress and leaves her there dead or dying.
Walking to the inviso-distortion field, he pushes his hand through it and in bright light and crashing lightning sounds, he's free to walk up to the surface world.
Scene 30: In the tunnels near to The Master's lair, Xander and Angel are stopped short by the sounds and light. Angel tells Xander that they're too late - The Master has gone up. They rush to his now empty lair...
... Only to find Buffy lying face down in the pool of water.
Commentary: In a nice nod to Angel being a vampire, he gets to Buffy far ahead of Xander.
To Xander's look of shock, Angel reports that Buffy is dead! Xander tells him that isn't possible, but Angel reports that she isn't breathing.
Xan glances at the pool. He tells Angel that if Buffy drowned they could save her with CPR, but Angel can't perform it because "I have no breath"....
Commentary: So, let's talk about the vampires and breathing thing, because there seems to be a lot of complaints from casual fans or non-fans that Angel is very obviously breathing here, panting even, which puts the lie to his claims on having no breath. I never found this fair, because Angel is obviously speaking metaphorically - nobody complains they have "no breath" - it is always "I can't breathe" when talking about lung function. His wording here, to me, has always seemed obviously to be meaning something metaphysical without fan-wanking it. We already knew that Angel (beyond David's obvious need to have oxygen) and all vampires can inhale and exhale. If they couldn't then none of them would be able to talk... you have to expand and contract the diaphram in order to expel air out of the lungs and over the vocal chords to make anything more than whooshing sounds. So the complaint is really just a nitpicky slam against Angel or the show, without actually being a legitimate point.
So what is Angel talking about here. We know that oxygen is irrelevent to the vampire. Angel himself has already told us that at least once in 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'. But, why can't he inhale and then exhale into Buffy's mouth in order to deliver the oxygen he can't use? This is where we have to wank around a bit. For me, I think it is tied to the fact of Angel's being, basically, a reanimated and mutated corpse. I think his very physical nature breaks down the oxygen or corrupts its structure in some way that strips it of its life sustaining properties. A lot of fans think of it as being poisoned, but I think that goes too far.
Here's the reason - Buffy and Angel will be doing A LOT of kissing. If Angel was poisoning the air he breathes in, then he'd have to expel toxicity in his exhale. This would have disastrous consequences for anyone that he was standing next to during dialog scenes. So, rather than poisoning the air, I think of it as he simply strips the oxygen of whatever properties allows us to use it to keep our cell-life going. No one is made sick by being close to Angel, including makeing out with him, because there is more than enough actual oxygen in the environment around him to negate the negative impacts of trying to breathe in his exhalations. There isn't any direct negative impacts from the vampires' exhaled air, but it also isn't vitale enough any longer to sustain (or in this case grant) life.
So, there is my combination explanation/fanwankary when it comes to Angel's statement he has no breath....
Xander rushes to Buffy's side and, being human, is able to being CPR while performing chest compressions.
Scene 31: In the meantime, back at the high school, Willow and Jenny look in a really bad situation. It appears that they are doomed, until Cordelia Chase drives up unexpectedly in her car. She has them jump in.
Cordelia reports that she was parked where her and Kevin used to go (which we saw in the second scene), near the football field when she saw all of 'these things' closing in.
Commentary: I like what this says about Cordelia's development, because it is actually another step in her evolution to being more of a 'real person' instead of a stereotype. Cordelia of WttH/The Harvest probably would have been more apt to complain that Kevin's death has left her dateless for the Spring Fling because she was a flat, two dimensional, bitch-character. But by this time, we've been given more hints that the writers are taking her character seriously, even if she's still largely the comic relief, exasperating character. In 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind', she admitted to Buffy of her own feelings of loneliness and isolation from those who are calling themselves friends around her. Here, instead of shrugging off Kevin's death, she skipped the Spring Fling to park and grieve for him, by herself without any of her synchophants. When we see how deeply involved she'll get with the Scooby Gang in S2 and then her development in Angel the Series, it is really nice to notice the foundation that they had been building for her with these sorts of scenes.
Scene 32: Back with Buffy, Xander looks about to give up on bringing her back, when she suddenly takes a gasping breath and spits up the tiniest amount of water in a drowning victim, ever.
There is relief all around.
Scene 33: Cordelia asks what they're going to do as the vampires crowd around her car. Willow exclaims that they have to get back to the library and Cordy gets a determined look. She spins out and then rams the car through the entrance doors and drives all the way down the hallway to just outside the library.
"Of course, we generally walk there," Willow points out just before the car hits the doors....
The women quickly abandon the hall for the library, where they start to barricade the doors. Giles asks no one in particular why they're all coming here as in the foreground behind them, we see tentacles being searching the air from the library floor.
Commentary: This is the only part I don't like. Until the Hellmouth Creature busts up through the floor, everyone remains so dense about the fact that, duh, obviously the Hellmouth has turned out to be right below them. Giles, being the Watcher and having been immersed in researching for the past several hours, shouldn't have been the one to ask why the vampires were showing up. One of the other characters should have done that, so Giles could say something like, "Oh, no" if Joss didn't want the script to come right out and explain that the Hellmouth is opening below the library.
Scene 34: The Master has made himself to the rooftop of the school and is overlooking Sunnydale, reveling in his plans for it.
Scene 35: Meanwhile, Buffy is being helped to her feet. She asks after The Master and finding that he's escaped, goes after him. Xander tries to tell her she's still weak, but she counters that she not only feels strong, but different in some indefinable way.
Commentary: I'm not sure exactly what this means. Is Buffy stronger, as is speculated, or is she just feeling some sort of euphoria over being brought back? We'll find that she is able to shrug off The Master's hypno-power now, but other than that I don't see any evidence that she suddenly has a surge of strength. And whatever change happened, her new feeling of power doesn't seem to last - as 'When She Was Bad' will show us next season....
Scene 36: In the library, Giles hears the vampires coming in through another door in behind the stacks. Willow and Jenny rush off to find out what they can do about blocking them out. And, then we get what may be a continuity error.
Commentary: Okay, the problem with the next observation by Giles is that he says "My office!" as if the vampires have found a third way into the library. This is the only spin that I can think of as to why he gets a panicked look on his face and runs to his office, leaving Cordelia to guard the main entrance to the library alone. Except, Giles' office is an internal room... there are no doors or windows to the outside that the vampires could use to enter, so there is no reason for his look of concern and his leaving Cordelia alone where the vampires are actually trying to get in. His expression, exclamation and action make no sense.
Unnoticed by everyone is a weaving tentacle along the floor, coming very close to Willow's ankle....
At the library door, a vampire punches through the circular glass window in the library door and grabs Cordelia's forearm. She screams for someone to help....
Scene 36: ...Cut to Buffy, Angel and Xander marching toward the school. Buffy is very power-vibe striding and the Buffy theme song, for the one and only time, is playing over an actual scene with an episode. A vampire gets in their path to block their entry into the school, but Buffy seems completely unconcerned. She knocks the vampire hard and he goes down, apparently stunned.
Commentary: Yes, I agree that the Buffy power-theme over the scene is cheesy... I care not. I think it is a good cheesy and I like the moment. Oh, and the vampire? I think it is the skinny guy that is always a vampire minion who shows up over and over.
Scene 37: Buffy arrives at the roof access where she 'just knows' that he is waiting. Angel and Xander are left to guard the stairway so she won't be ganged up on in the upcoming fight. She tells both of the them that one way or another, it won't take long.
Commentary: Oh, interesting tidbit... did you know that the Spanish version of Buffy is backward? Not the Spanish-dubbed version on the American DVD release... I mean the actual Spain version. If you look on YouTube there are untranslated snippage of this episode, and Buffy's always walking headed in the opposite direction of what she actually moved as we saw it. Also, credits and such are backward... even Buffy's tombstone in 'The Gift' is flipped. Isn't that weird? Oh, and also, if you watch the foreign language versions of Buffy (which I do - because I'm a nutso-cuckoo) you can tell, even with limited knowledge of the language, that the translations are off in funny places. This is especially evident when it comes to sarcasm or Buffy making a statement that could mean one thing, if it wasn't for her tone suggesting that she means the opposite of her words. For some reason, apparently both Spanish-speakers and French-speakers have trouble with this sorts of changes of meaning, so often their spoken words are a more straightforward 'this is what Buffy means to say' rather than having her deliver her actual dialog in a smart-assery tone of voice. I don't know why I got off on this tangent, sorry.
Scene 38: In the library, Cordy surprises the vampire that grabbed her through the window by biting his hand. He yells and withdraws and she asks how he likes being bitten.
In the meantime across the room, Jenny and Willow have put an empty bookcase over the passage leading back into more stacks and the vampires are banging against it. She warns Jenny that they won't keep them out for long. Their focus on the vampires, though, is broken by the sudden arrival of the Hellmouth Beast.
Willow is grabbed about the ankle, finally, and goes to the floor with a scream. Giles comes out of his office to see the Monster bust through the floor. Everyone is stunned.
The Hellmouth Beast is a three headed, skinned-dragon, looking thing with multiple tentacles.
Commentary: It actually reminds me of the main beast in "Little Shop of Horrors" for some reason... maybe its the shape of the mouth and the way that we'll see it snicker in a bit.
Scene 39: On the roof above, The Master is watching through the skylight and he applauds the Beast's arrival. He welcomes it into his world, but Buffy's voice comes from off screen to tell him he doesn't quite own it yet. The Master is shocked and appalled that Buffy is standing there when the prophecy clearly stated she was to die.
Buffy snarks at him.
Commentary: As we know, the prophecy wasn't wrong. Buffy died. But The Master himself knows that prophecies are tricky things and don't tell everything ... he should have remembered that and made sure Buffy was good and gone before he left her there....
The Master tries his psychic hold again on Buffy and seems to be dominating her again, making me yell at her for playing around when she knows this is how she lost the first time!
Scene 40: In the library, Giles goes after the Hellmouth Beast with an axe, but has little effect, while Willow is being dragged toward its three mouths.
Commentary: Interesting tidbit - some of the Beast's tentacles? They look just like braided rope. It's true. Unfortunately the camera pan up Willow's leg which the tentacle is wrapped around pauses blurry, so I can't get a screen cap to show you, but trust me - it's a not very clever effect.
Scene 41: Buffy, enthralled, goes into The Master's waiting hands. He asks her what made her think she'd best him, when she couldn't do it in his lair. She gets a puzzled look on her face and then mentions that he has 'fruit-punch mouth'. He doesn't know what that means.
What it means is that Buffy is immune to the hypno-whammy, Jerkface! Buffy wasn't enthralled after all, and now she hits him to the ground and tells him to save the mesmerizing for the tourists. But The Master hasn't survived so long only depending on his Jedi mind tricks, as she finds out when he punches her square in the face.
Scene 42: Within the school, Giles has been knocked into a table by the Hellmouth Beast, which breaks in half in a way that no table could without divine intervention, allowing a nice and convenient point of wood to stick straight up toward the skylight. Elsewhere, Angel and Xander come under brief attack by a few vampires trying to get to Buffy and The Master on the roof.
Commentary: Oh, by the way, the vampires attacking the library apparently decided to stop trying so hard to get in once the Hellmouth Monster showed up. You could take this as a logic problem in the script, or like me, that they don't trust the Hellmouth demon not to make a snack of them, too, and decided to just stay away from it.
Scene 43: On the roof, Buffy and The Master are still in hand to hand combat.
Commentary: Continuity flubbage - note that when Buffy flips over The Master's head, she's wearing her prom shoes... when she side kicks him, she's in a pair of black boots - probably so that Sarah wouldn't slip and fall on her ass - it's just a quick shot, but on DVD it's very clear that her footwear changed. Her prom shoes will quickly make their return.
The Master grabs Buffy by the throat again and taunts her that Hell is about to be unleashed on Earth. She tells him if he's so amped about Hell, he should go there. She flips him up and over her head, through the skylight and down onto that conveniently weird piece of broken table, which causes him to dust.
However, unlike every other vampire ever, The Master has some sort of magic about him (I'll fanwank) so that his bones remain behind, crucified on the broken table.
Commentary: And also? The continuity of The Master's position when he falls through the skylight and his position when he's jabbed through the back are in no way consistent.
Scene 44: With The Master's death, the Hellmouth Beast retreats back to its portal with a pained howl. The vampires retreat and the Scooby Gang, Cordelia and Jenny all gather in the library and toast their victory. Buffy though, she seems... more reticent than congratulatory. We'll discover in 'When She Was Bad' that the experience of being killed will haunt her throughout the summer and into the new school year.
With the big win, everyone decides to celebrate by going to the Spring Fling - leaving The Master's bone lying in the ruins of the library....
The Good: Powerful acting by Anthony, Aly and Sarah really add emotional punches throughout the episode. Nicky, David, Robia and Charisma more than hold their own. Everyone is given something to do and they all do a great job of it.
Mark Metcalf does phenomenal work as The Master when he has the Slayer where he wants her. He's scary enough to send chills down the spine when he's standing behind her and whispering that she's responsible for everything he's going to do in her ear.
The pacing of the script is great. There are no scenes that I want to rush through and nothing is just talky, talky, talky... it flows so well from the build up of the signs of the apocalypse through to Buffy's breakdown and decision to go forward in the aftermath of Willow's trauma to the final fight with The Master. I think this episode holds up extremely well.
I like how we were told that Buffy was going to die in no uncertain terms by Giles... and she did! I also love that it is Xander, in a very human act, that brings her back to life.
I really like that Buffy isn't all quips in the aftermath of defeating The Master... she jokes... but you can see on SMG's face and the tears in her eyes that she's not just over the fact that she had been killed earlier.
I love Cordelia choosing to drive the car into the school - that was funny and great!
I like the hints that Cordelia is really changing, by her grieving for Kevin and her rescue of Willow and Jenny. There was no reason she couldn't of raced away from the school in her car, but she didn't.
The scene with Willow in her room was wonderful, as well. I really liked how at first Buffy didn't get just how badly scared Willow was and Willow's almost irritated response that she wasn't alright, that was the whole point - the aftermath in the A/V room, a place she goes to every single day wasn't like being attacked by Robo-Lovers or random vampires. This was different and visually, we could understand that with the juxtaposition of having that bloody handprint over the Porky Pig cartoon.
The Bad: There are the few minor continuity errors and the rather embarrassing 'rope filling in for tentacle' around Willow's lower leg when attacked by the Hellmouth Beast.
I also still cringe a little bit at David's delivery of the "He'll kill you before you even breathe" line at Nicky in Angel's apartment.
Other Thoughts: Joyce again doesn't really get much to do, but the chemistry between Christine and SMG always shines through and I love how she relates to Buffy's mopes in this episode. I also think that Robia LaMorte is one of the most charismatic women out there and I absolutely adore Jenny Calendar. That said, I really love Willow's, "Why is she in the club?!" line in the library. I also do think that the puppetry of the Hellmouth Beast is a little iffy, but it's slimy looking enough to overcome the basic immobility of it and I love after it knocks Giles down, one of the heads very clearly snickers at him.
The Score: I adore this episode. I love the intensity of many of the scenes, I love the comedy relief, I love the danger of The Master and I mostly love how emotionally affecting the acting is.
4.5 out of 5 stars.