When I was about to watch this episode, I wondered if I can still be affected by it, since I’ve seen it several times. Of course, this is one of the most important and iconic episodes of the show, but can it still move me when I almost know it by heart? And…it didn’t exactly make me cry this time, but it’s still an awesome episode you could watch over and over,.
As a season finale, it’s one of the best. It perfectly resolves so many storylines from season 2: Buffy’ s strained relationship with her mother, Snyder’s attempts to find a reason to expel Buffy, Willow’s relationships with Xander and Oz, the Spike/Dru/Angel triangle, the B/A romance and the “Angel loses his soul” story; and in the best tradition of bittersweet Whedon finales, it manages to have Buffy defeat the Big Bad and stop an apocalypse, but leaves her emotionally devastated.
Throughout the episode, things just keep going wrong for Buffy, with just an occasional break. First cops want to arrest her for Kendra’s murder and she has to run away, then she finds out that Willow is in hospital with a serious head injury, and that Giles is kidnapped; Snyder uses the opportunity to expel her from school, and later her mother tells her not to come back home, all while she has an apocalypse to stop. If episodes like Prophecy Girl
and School Hard
were about Buffy surviving because of her connections to family and friends, this one is about coming to the point when you only have yourself to rely on. As foreshadowed by Whistler’s voiceover in part 1, this is where she finds out who she is. And that’s someone who never gives up and keeps fighting, even in the most desperate situation:
Whistler: In the end, you’re all you’ve got.
Buffy: I have nothing left to lose.
Whisler: Wrong, kid. You’ve got one more thing.
Angel(us): No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what is left?
Buffy (stopping his sword with her bare hand): Me.
To make things all the harder for her, she’s put in the position where she has to kill the man she loves to save the world (well, sort of, since Angel gets sucked into hell, but doesn’t actually die). But the emotional cost is too high, and the season 2 finale ends in both triumph and despair, as Buffy runs away from her life, trying to become someone else.
For an episode with so much pain and drama, it also has an amazing amount of humor, sometimes even at the same time. There are two scenes (Buffy and Spike coming up with the lie that they’re in a band, and Joyce and Spike trying to make small talk) that I would rank among the funniest in the show. There’s self-mocking humor even in show’s ending credits this time, as the Mutant Enemy monster doesn’t growl “URGH-ARGH” but whines “Ooh I need a hug!” ( Read more... )