Prophecy Girl
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Air Date: June 2, 1997

So the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to a close on an… interesting note. This isn’t to say the episode isn’t good, no, just… put together in a funny fashion. Its a nice wrap-up for the major arc of the season: The Master trying to free himself from his underground prison. It also has some wonderful character interactions and some delightful dialogue throughout. Also? Whedon’s first time in the director’s chair provides some of the best shot and filmed content the show has produced thus far.

Of note, the initial battle between Buffy and a random vampire. It showcases everything that is great about this show, while also bringing forth the one thing Joss wanted to do with the show, which was to subvert the stereotype of the helpless girl in a horror story. The slow-motion fall, rise, and subsequent reveal that Buffy is more than ready for this flunkie is awesome, and the pull-out to standard speed broadcasts just how much better Buffy has gotten at slaying, in general, dispatching the vampire within seconds. This works so well because it shows that, as far as the low-level dudes are concerned, Buffy is more than ready for all of them (even if a measly three vampires is considered “growing numbers” – particularly suspect when there is a shot of at least three dozen approaching the school near the episodes’ end. How would Buffy have dealt with that?). This contrasts greatly with her eventual failure at the hands of The Master near the end of the second act of the story.

Speaking of The Master, Metcalf gets his last chronological hurrah in this episode, playing the part wonderfully. Most of the time, after the first episode(s), The Master is resigned to a guest star, barely having anything to do but be goofy and a scenery-chewer. But here? He gets his moment. While his screen-time is likely only barely over double-digits, he makes it all worth it when, after freeing himself, steps above ground for the first time in many, many years, and exhales “my world…!” The threat of the Master is barely ever realized in the first season, likely because the narrative flow, episode-to-episode simply wasn’t fleshed out properly, but here we get a sense of what his overall goal was, referring to the monster that emerges from the Hellmouth as his child, or baby. Who knows how many untold beasts would have spawned from that infernal library had The Master lived?

The rest of the episode has its ups and downs. More Jenny Calendar is never a bad thing, and more time between Angel and any of the other characters is welcome. Its interesting to see Jenny and Angel together on screen, now, considering what their relationship is going to be like, later. Likewise, it upsets me to have recently learned that Giles is offed by Angel – though possessed at the time – at the end of the Season 8 comic line. I just don’t understand why it had to happen that way, but oh well. The acting all around is pretty good, with a few standout moments belonging to Willow as she grieves for her now felled AV Club friends and – once again – SMG’s reactions to both learning she is going to die from Giles and Angel and her realization that The Master is going to kill her down in his wrecked-up church den. She gets  a ton of grief in regards to her acting, in general, but I feel she commands  a decent presence on this show, at least, so far.

Music is better, again, although there is an unforgivable use of the theme song as the crew heads to the roof to finish of The Master. Its cheesy and unwelcome. The effects are a laugh, though, with that giant snake/tentacle demon being laughably bad. I mean, maybe they had to blow the budget since they were wrapping it all up, but my god… it was just painful to watch. There are some narrative choices that seemed odd, too. Cordelia showing up at just the right time was dumb, although it did present an opportunity for her to drive her car through her school, something I can dream about. And the Xander plot, relating to him finally asking Buffy out was dumb, too. I mean, I get it – you’ve worked all season toward it, and now its over so you have to bring all the pieces together, but it wasn’t handled well (though he actually did go home, lie down, and listen to country music, so points, there). And, most importantly, while its interesting and cool that The Master leaves a skeleton, why does it have to have bleached bones and look like something in a science classroom?

Buffy’s death leads into the next season beautifully, with her rage and angst over the events coming full-circle, and the season also presents us with the ramifications of a slayer dying. Remember, like in Highlander: “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!” Now that she’s died, Buffy is more-or-less removed from the Slayer line. This will dealt with in time. So, while this episode does its best to tie up all the ends it can, and it does so most admirably, and while it falls short in a few ways, the thing to remember is that its one of the best episodes of the first season, and – more importantly – the last one. As soon as season 2 starts, we get to see some definite improvements to production value, writing, directing, and even better character development. But, as far as the first seasons is concerned, its mostly cooked and finished. Thank god it did well enough to come back the next season with more episodes, more laughs, and more vampires to dust.

Episode Rating: 88

Death Count: 38 (Including Buffy’s!)
Annoying Scream Count: 22

Additional Notes:
-Xander admits he loves Buffy and gets turned down; this relationship he has with Buffy vs. the one he
wishes he had resonates with me so damn much.
-Xander alludes to Willow being a lesbian without even knowing it.
-The Master’s joy over the earthquake is comical and lovely.
-Why is the locker room so dark? I know they can’t have windows for obvious reasons, but Jesus…
-Best line?
The Master: “By the way…” *he drops Buffy face-first into a pool of water to drown* “…nice dress.”
-Buffy’s mom once again is so damn nice and helpful. Best mom. Her help isn’t 100% in line with what her daughter needs, but its still touching.
-Giles wants to protect Buffy so much; Buffy just clocks him and he drops. Priceless.
-Does the Master have magic powers?!
-No animated gifs this time. Too damned lazy.