Our first season finale! Highlights for Raúl:
- Buffy finally squares off against The Master alone with disastrous, prophecy-fulfilling results.
- Buffy dies (for the first time, and far more temporarily than in the s5 finale) and is revived through the devotion of her two hopelessly unmatched rival suitors, bad boy Angel and boy-next-door Xander.
- Buffy faces off with The Master again, still alone, but this time to spectacular, skylight-smashing results.
- In the meantime, the Hellmouth opens and a tentacled monster bursts through the library floor as Giles, Willow, Cordy, and Miss Carpenter try to hold off a horde of vampires!
The finale also heaps on the horror by having an entire A.V. room full of students murdered. I found the scene a bit unnecessary, but it afforded Willow and Cordelia a chance to express shock and sadness while mounting the tension from the escalating threat. Yet I’m not sure how such a grisly mass murder could easily be explained away in the pre-Mayor Wilkins era.
The episode also contains Buffy’s official rejection of Xander. Frankly, unrequited love (or unreciprocated horny teenage lust) tires me out, so I’m glad to see Buffy laid it on the line so everyone can move on. Don’t worry Xander, there’s Cordelia and a Nordic demon in your future!
Really, it’s Buffy’s love life that looks a lot cloudier, but she’s not concerned about that here. Instead, she has to grapple with an ancient prophecy that seems to guarantee her doom. She attempts to quit the slayerhood to save herself, but once duty calls via the media room massacre, she springs back into action, and faces down her destiny with a contrast of regret and resolve, to match the contrast of her outfit and accoutrements – a white formal dress picked out by her mother and a giant crossbow from Giles.
The climactic battle in the library was fantastic for a season finale: the monster exploding from the floor, vampires clamoring at the barricaded door, loads of screaming – we’ll see it again done with a bigger budget, but this, our first glimpse at an incipient apocalypse is like a first kiss with Armageddon.
Yet for all the low-rent spectacle, the finale feels unearned. While the eleven prior episodes wonderfully set up the characters of Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, and to a lesser extent Cordelia, and the cavalcade of creatures and malevolent beings (not just vampires, but an insect lady, an evil witch, an invisible girl, a pack of hyena-possessed teens, plus demons who collect body parts and wreak hellish havoc online,) firmly establishes Sunnydale as a mecca for monsters, the seasonal arc with The Master and The Anointed One gets a bit lost in the mix.
Moreover, they’re overdoing it with the apocalypse early on. How many season finales end with the world teetering on complete destruction? Wasn’t the threat enough for The Master to walk the earth and for Buffy to die? But I suppose that upping the stakes made for a grander end to the first season and primed the audience for bigger things to come in the second.
I didn’t need the near end of the world, however. I just needed Buffy to battle The Master, and amidst all the chaos, that’s what rewarded me the most. So while I find faults with episode, I maintain that it’s one of my very favorites from the short first season, tying up the twelve-episode story arc with Whedon propping the door open for a possible second season, should the series be renewed. History has spoken on that count, which reminds me, I’ve got to get going on s2:e1!