FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Prom
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith's on the dark side with the Mayor, who was a bit too honest about how a mismatched couple like Buffy and Angel could fare as they travel along. Buffy and the gang are still trying to find out stuff about the Mayor's Ascension as Graduation Day looms on the horizon.
Hands up if you cry at this episode.
All of you? If not, someone is either lying or completely stone-hearted. Because this is the episode where Buffy finally gets to be recognised for what she does and is acknowledged as a nice, nearly normal girl who happens to save people's asses a lot. This is also what she does in this episode as a guy called Tucker Wells who no one really knows decides to get revenge on everyone because a girl wouldn't be his date to the prom. A guy threatening violence because he found he wasn't automatically entitled to a woman's time? Never... Ahem. Anyway, basically Buffy decides that this isn't on and goes after the hell hounds that Tucker has conjured up and brainwashed into attacking formal wear.
Though the prom is something that's only just started to take in the UK, it's a concept that is hugely familiar to us through the teen movies we all know and love. The prom is a rite of passage event, the beginning of the end of high school and also the opportunity for new beginnings afterwards. This episode sort of subverts it in the traditional way by packing the episode full of endings; Angel and Buffy break up, he commits to leaving and Cordy has lost everything.
That being said, it's not without humour. In fact, it contains some cracking lines, not to mention it features the best 'asking for a prom date' line ever from Anya: "Men are evil. Will you go with me?" Wesley's constant dithering about Cordelia is always amusing whilst Anya regales Xander with all of her tales of vengeance demoning. Nicholas Brendon's expression throughout that whole scene is pitch perfect. Still, I'm upset this exchange had to be cut out of the final episode for length:
Willow: Promise me you'll never be linear?
Oz: On my trout.
Despite everyone else's joys and woes, the episode is all about Buffy. Going right back to Prophecy Girl when she was determined to go to the dance despite an ancient manuscript telling her she was due to die and through the Homecoming Slayerfest, Buffy is determined to at least fit in a bit and have a normal high school experience. The prom represents another opportunity, possibly the last, for her to do this and she doesn't take too kindly to someone threatening it. Saving the prom may just be another day in the office for her, but the episode's sweetest moment comes as the Class of '99 recognise Buffy as their Class Protector.
Jonathan's speech is another perfect example of how Buffy combines humour with melancholy to produce something exceptionally moving. It's one of my favourite moments of the entire series, precisely because it combines those two things so well. There's Jonathan giving the speech after Buffy stopping him from committing suicide in the earlier episode, Earshot, which carries even more emotional heft given Jonathan's fate later in the series. Then there's the references to how the Class of '99 is graduating with the lowest mortality rate in Sunnydale High history to the weird things everyone has faced at school ("Zombies!" "Hyena people!" "Snyder!").
Coupled with the moment in which Angel appears to dance with Buffy at the prom itself, everything about this episode is pretty much perfect. The sombreness builds well into the general tension surrounding the approach to the Mayor's Ascension, whilst the levity ensures it doesn't get too maudlin. Next week, we hit Graduation Day which not only contains my favourite line of Oz's, it also might be the best two-part finale Buffy produced.
Quote of the Week:
Giles [to Wesley]: For God's sake man, she's eighteen. And you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it would you? And stop fluttering about.
Let's Get Trivial: Vera Wang designed Buffy's gorgeous and floofy wedding dress for this episode. Wang would also go on to design Sarah Michelle Gellar's wedding dress when she married Freddie Prinze Jr.
Demonology 101: Tucker's brother, Andrew, famously goes on to become one of The Trio who kinda suck at everything. He does do some neat film-making later on though.
You can read Becky's look back at Choices here.