The Prom
Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: David Solomon
Air Date: May 11, 1999

This is the one where Angel and Buffy break up. Its horrible, yes, and tear-indicing if you have no penis. But it is handled well, and it isn’t the major moment of the episode. No, it comes pretty early, after Angel processes what the Mayor had said in “Choices“, his conversation with Buffy’s mom, and the strange -yet cool – dream he had about marrying Buffy, them stepping into the sun, and Buffy catching on fire and burning away (a great effect, by the way, handled very well for what I can only assume was still kinda a shoe-string budget). No, the major theme of the episode is doing what is right, saving the day and such. Buffy could mope around and cry and carry on – which she does, for a bit – but then she strives to provide her friends with the best prom night they could have, one free from hell hounds and the like. She may not be having the best evening ever, but she sure as shit is going to make sure everyone has a great time.

And thats the thing I like about Buffy, for the most part. Generally she is happy finding her own happiness, but one thing this show always manages to get right is her desire to keep her friends and loved ones happy, too. Here, we see that in the most up-front form, with her hunting down demons, slaying monsters in front of civilians, and telling her friends to stop worrying and have fun. And seemingly everyone does. It would be easy to write a campy prom episode, but under Marti Noxon’s scriptwriting, the thing goes off without a lame-ass hitch and its actually fun. Even if all of the clothes are horribly dated by this point. Even Wesley and Giles have some of the best lines they’ve had in a long while, conversing about Cordelia and whether or not Wesley will be going to jail for fucking her (more or less).

There are some great comedy moments in this episode, too. Many of them relating to Anya and Xander’s first real meeting, where she asks him to ask her to the prom. Xander is really reluctant, but the demon-magnet goes for it anyhow, and its going to be a long road for these two from this point on. Its nice to see her coming into the show, again, because she is one of my favorite characters. Can’t wait for more. Also funny? Oz. All the time. All the time Oz. Seth Green continues to provide a dry-as-sin character for us to enjoy and for me to wish I’d gone to high school with.

Buffy has two cool scenes in this episode, one which is awesome from an acting standpoint, and another which is awesome from a Buffyverse standpoint. When she talks to Willow about having been dumped, SMG pulls no punches and delivers gut-blows of pain and emotion. She isn’t the greatest actor (even on this show) but when she needs to cry, she simply lets it all out, all over the place. Here is no different. Her pain comes through loud and clear, and its really nice to see her confide in Willow immediately. Their friendship has been rocky ever since she got back from L.A. but here they are patching up when it is most necessary. The other moment is the lame-ass award they give Buffy at the prom. I say this is awesome, though, because it shows awareness of others that there are monsters and deaths in this school and town. Someone says “hyena people” and someone else says “Snyder” when talking about ghastly things. Classic comedy. Its corny, but it gets the job done. And Johnathan getting to give it to her after their conversation in “Earshot” is a nice touch.

For all of this season’s faults, “The Prom” finds a way to tie up a bunch of character-based loose ends without The Mayor or Faith on screen, once. Even the use of the lame guy, Tucker, and his hell hounds is excellent because it allows Buffy to beat on someone without it being tied to the arc of the season. All of that stuff will be resolved in the next two episodes. Here, we needed to see some closure to some other moments, like Angel needed to leave, Cordelia and Xander finally making some peace (both she and Angel will be leaving, soon enough, by the way), and Wesley finally grow a pair and ask a gorgeous Cordy to dance. While this episode is light on the drama, it is high on the comedy and development of these people we’ve gotten to know so well.

“The Prom” ends season three’s more “filler episodes” and leaves nothing but a major two-part extravaganza on the horizon line. Everyone, here, is smiling and having a good time. Soon enough, there will be none of that. Its all business from here, and not the good kind. People are about to get stabbed, lives are lost, and no one will be safe from the ol’ Whedon chopping block. Can’t even wait.

Episode Rating: 86

Additional Notes:
Giles really ups his “father-figure” game by offering to take Buffy for ice cream when he learns Angel is not taking her to the prom
-Joyce and Angel have the best scene in the whole episode, leaving her as my top pick for TV mom to this day
-Cordelia’s last real good act as a Scooby is providing proof that the monsters are going after formal wear
-Xander’s frustration over the VCR is hilarious
-I hate Angel showing up at the prom. Has he
ever had a girlfriend, before?
-One of my favorite flashbacks in the show’s history is Tucker’s reason for hating the prom