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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 3, Episodes 21 – 22

December 8, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3-22 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

One Heck Of A Finale! A BTVS Retrospective, S3 E21-22


Episode 21

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Two-part season finale time, everyone! Buckle in because I hear this show gets SUBSTANTIALLY worse next season!

We lead off with the newly re-friended Xander and Cordelia (actually, given their history, this is the very first time they’ve ever been actually, purely friends), with Xander lamenting he is likely about to die. Buffy and Willow join up with him to talk about The Asce–the thing where the Mayor will become a demon on graduation day. The Mayor has also been invited to be their commencement speaker.

Faith visits an old man named Professor Wirth and kills him. He asks why, and she responds that she never thought to ask, but the Mayor wants it. Later, back at his office, Faith is wearing a pink dress with flowers on it that The Mayor bought her. He says he will take her out to get her an Icee, and her character looks way too happy about that. I mean, it’s no Playstation, Faith, so calm down a bit.

Percy approaches Willow at school to thank her for “her” tough love; he got a good grade! Oh no, this guy is going to die, right? Poor Percy who we barely know or care about!

MORE classroom activities as this episode just meanders along pointlessly for a while! Xander and Anya are in class together, with the teacher playing Hangman since its the last few days before summer. Xander is a dick to her even after prom night, but this broad STILL hangs on his very presence.

I just… this can’t just be me, right? He is objectively the worst character in this series depending on how Mommy Summers is doing on any given day (and luckily, she is barely around). And yet, they CAN’T STOP throwing any woman on the show at him. It’s infuriating. Not just because I hate him, but because he’s supposed to be the “relatable” (for assholes, I guess?) down-on-his-luck boy who never wins. But every attractive girl in this school eventually gets with him. It’s such blatantly bad wish fulfillment from Whedon.

Anyway, he mentions the Ascens–The Mayor’s plans to Anya, and her face drops.

In the library, Anya tells the team the truth: she has seen and lived through an–the… the thing the Mayor is going to do. She tells them it will bring forth a real, true-form demon, not the Earth-tainted half-breeds that Buffy has faced. It will be enormous and quite powerful. It might even have FIVE hit points!

We cut to The Mayor and Principal planning Graduation Day. Principal is being a straight-up suck-up, and The Mayor is happy for all the work he has done to keep the peace at the school. He promises to repay that debt to Principal. Okay, we’re not stupid; you might as well have had him say “I promise you will get exactly what you deserve…” and then smile maliciously into the camera.

The Mayor detours into the library to taunt the Scooby gang, and I wonder why they don’t just overpower him and throw him in Library Jail. He’s not super powerful yet!

(You know. For as much as I’ve said I grow weary of the SunnyDale High backdrop to these first three seasons, I will direly miss the absurdity of Library Jail if/when it’s gone)

The Mayor threatens Buffy, and Giles stabs him with the fencing foil he just randomly happened to have been holding. The Mayor laughs that off and promises “one heck of a speech” at commencement.

One heck of a speech.

Joss Whedon wrote that line and was like “Yep, that’s what I’m going with”.

I know the character is a dork, but what a good time to drop a “one… HELL of a speech”. Or a “It will… knock them dead”. Or “It’ll be killer”. Something! Anything else.

But no, we get “One heck of a speech”.

This is really the same Joss Whedon that did Serenity and Firefly and Avengers? That was involved in The Cabin In The Woods? Dr. Horrible?

I don’t buy it.

Xander implores Anya to stay and help the team stop The Mayor, but she just wants to flee. The last one of these she saw was devastating, and she wants to get as far away as possible. She rushes off, and Cordelia approaches. She and Xander agree to skip 5th period together, but we never see what that means. Are they making out again?!

Willow and Oz are in her bedroom looking for a spell to defeat The Mayor, and Oz is being flippant about the whole thing… much to Willow’s chagrin. He kisses her and says that is his version of panicking. Wait, are they going to bang in front of Rat-Amy?!

Angel and Buffy investigate Professor With’s apartment together, and they find a folder that might have the information they need. They leave the apartment carrying a box with JUST the folder in it, and I just love that. Like, they brought a box to carry whatever they found, and they were going to use it, god damn it! You don’t just not use a perfectly good box. So one (1) folder and nothing else? PUT IT IN THE BOX.

More forced Angel/Buffy melodrama that I can’t even remotely find a place in my heart to care about. And then Angel is struck down by an arrow through the chest! Faith, who is clearly shooting her bow from at least one time zone away because it was dusk where Angel and Buffy were but full-on night time where she is, tells her minion that she missed his heart on purpose. Ah, so it deflected off his Plot Armor, got it!

Angel and Buffy report the folder to Giles; they read it and discover that Wirth found a demon carcass. Angel collapses after the arrow is removed due to a lingering poison. Wesley agrees to contact The Council about poisons that would affect vampires.

Meanwhile, at Willow’s, it seems that they DID bang in front of Rat-Amy, though the show shares my concern by displaying that some of their clothes ended up covering parts of her cage. But man, she got that acute rat hearing now, you know? So she knows! Is this sexual abuse on Willow and Oz’ part?!

Mayor and Faith talk about their plans while he prepares the spider box from a few episodes ago. He has to eat the spiders inside? What? All 50 billion? Faith is antsy to kill or maim someone, but The Mayor sends her home. For no reason whatsoever, Faith regales him and us with a story about how she used to jump off of rocks into a quarry when she was a kid.


is this episode


with so much nonsense?

Were they writing this one as they went? Do I have a concussion or something and my perception of time is askew? What does any of this matter? Rock diving. Yeah, great.

Anya returns to Xander with a last shot pitch for him to run away to the safety of Tahiti with her. He refuses; he has to help his friends any way he can, even if that means defusing another bomb in the boiler room planted by zombies! They bicker until he walks away, and Anya yells after him “Aren’t we going to kiss?” Hahaha, the scene really made it feel like that was imminent, so good moment for Anya to call out the subverting of our expectations! That’s a plus-one for you, episode.

Wesley tells the team that The Council refuses to help any vampire, even Angel. That is so frustratingly short-sighted. Buffy declares she is quitting The Council! If they won’t help her, she won’t do what they want anymore.

Wesley: This is mutiny!

Buffy: I like to think of it as Graduation Day.

And just like that, all of the good will from “Aren’t we going to kiss” just evaporates into the atmosphere.

There really aren’t two Joss Whedons in Hollywood? Are you sure? I mean… if you say so…

Regardless, with Wesley’s failure, Willow effortlessly discovers the poison: Killer Of The Dead, a vamp-specific poison. The only way to cure it is to drain the blood of a slayer.

That is just… so, so convenient.

Buffy says she will go kill Faith. Oh good! Another fabulous Eliza Dushku fight sequence filled with wild kicks that miss their target by a yard.

And that’s what we get: an extended brawl to end the episode. Buffy stabs Faith in the belly, but has taken enough of a beating to not be able to immediately capitalize, allowing Faith to dive off of her roof and into a passing truck bed…

Episode 22

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Buffy stands on the rooftop with her bloody dagger–the dagger The Mayor gave Faith!–in some level of shock until the Mayor and his goon squad show up and she bails. The Mayor demand his minions find Faith, and he seems to genuinely care about her being missing, which shocks me because I really thought he was just a cog in the machine to him.

Xander, Cordelia, and Giles are talking, and Cordy demands to know why Wesley is acting weird. Giles says he is going back to England since Buffy quit and he has no purpose here anymore. Cordy is furious at Buffy for this, but she still agrees to help the team stop… the bad Graduation Day thing.

Willow is caring for Angel, and he wakes up and thinks she is Buffy. When he passes back out, Oz notes he did the same thing to him, and this is not played for laughs. You have to remember: this is 1999. Gay Panic humor was all the rage! So respect to Whedon for not falling into that trap with this line from Oz. It had much more weight this way!

Buffy comes in and kicks Willow and Oz out. With Faith MIA and presumed dead, there is only one slayer left for Angel to drain! He, of course, refuses, so she punches him three times, and… that does it? Angel’s never getting invited to the Green Lantern Corps based on his willpower, I guess! He bites her, then pushes her down and writhes around on top of her, still feeding, while she… breaks some furniture. It’s all very erotic, you know?

Do Buffy fans look down on Twilight fans? Because… you know. The Adventure Of Mr. Pot and Mr. Kettle.

Remember when Spike and Dru needed to kill Angel to repower Dru? But they didn’t complete it. They did, like, 85% of killing him, and that was enough to power Drusilla back up? Same rules apply here! Angel doesn’t drain too much of Buffy’s blood, so he’s able to get her to the hospital for a transfusion! Every spell and potion in the Buffyverse works on the Italian Chef Principle: the recipe may say you need a certain amount, but just eyeball that shit and you’ll be fine.

Guess who’s right around the corner in the hospital? Why it’s The Mayor and a comatose Faith! Apparently getting stabbed in the belly can put you in a coma; who knew? The medical staff report it’s unlikely that Faith will ever wake up, and this distresses the hell out of our antagonist! He overhears that Buffy is in the next room. His attempt to smother her with a pillow is thwarted by Angel.

Buffy and Faith share a coma dream! Or just Buffy has one about Faith? It’s ambiguous. Very ethereal, too, with things blinking in and out of existence in the dream. Buffy wakes up, walks over and KISSES FAITH’S HEAD for no discernible reason, and tells the Scoobies it is time for war.

At the library, Buffy has told the team her plan, but we aren’t privy to it yet, just that the gang is telling it’s crazy! Wesley shows up; he wants to help! Oh man, this is where we start getting awesome Wesley, right?


Speaking of which, Wesley and Cordy get some alone time during preparation. They share the most awkward kiss imaginable and both hate it. So that was the joke payoff to several episodes of build of the two having a crush on each other.


Willow and Oz bang in Oz’ van right on school grounds. We don’t see, but it presumably goes much better than Cordelia and Wesley’s kiss. I hope they brought Rat-Amy, and that’s the only way Oz can get it up now. Wait, what? I did not just say that. Moving on…

Angel tells Buffy he is leaving right after graduation day and the defeat of The Mayor. He has his own show to attend to, damn it, because the studio and network want more money!

And with all that build out of the way, it’s FINALLY time for graduation. The kids are seated, Macho Man Randy Savage’s entrance music is playing, and Principal introduces The Mayor for his commencement speech. The Mayor gets well into his speech before he starts to experience some kind of seizures or cramps or something. The sun is eclipsed, and it’s time for THE ASCENSION–OH NO WAIT–

Image Credit: WWE

I almost got all the way through!

The Mayor turns into a giant snake monster, and if you thought this show had bad practical effects, wait until you see it’s computer generated ones! The Lawnmower Man movie watched this episode and thought it looked rough!

The big plan reveal is that BUFFY HAS ARMED HER ENTIRE CLASS. They toss off their robes and reveal a multitude of weapons, including several kids with FUCKING FLAMETHROWERS HOW BAD-ASS IS THAT?!

Principal has a fit that graduation day has descended into mayhem, so The Mayor eats him, and I hate Hate HATE that resolution. What a waste of a character! Why bother with the subplot that he knew about The Hellmouth or vampires if THIS was the plan for him? That’s a terrible payoff! If they just kept him as a smug asshole with his head in the sand, then sure. A deserved ending. But he clearly knew stuff, and that angle went nowhere!

I’m spending a LOT of time on this, but did you ever watch something and think, “Oh, they just made this up as they went and forgot their own plot points?”. That’s this. That’s the conclusion to Principal’s arc. They built something up dating back to the middle of season two, and then just… forgot that they did it. So they clowned this character for whom I was expecting an actual resolution.

But I don’t know what I expected. Fool me once, shame on you, BTVS. Fool me 38 times…

During the chaos, Wesley tries to help out, and he gets clotheslined by a vampire and is laid out for the rest of the fight. Whoops!

Buffy taunts The Snake-Mayor (SNAYOR!) into chasing her into the school. She leads him into a room filled with explosives, and they blow up his face and bury him under the rubble of the school, akin to how Professor Wirth found the last ascended demon buried under volcanic debris.

The day is saved! I guess. As far as climaxes go, it’s better than “Kicking The Master Through A Skylight”, but not as good as “Awesome Sword Fight Between Buffy And Angelus”. So… ehhh.

As the medics arrive on site to resolve stuff, Giles hands Buffy her diploma which, despite its being, you know, a piece of paper, survived all the flamethrowers and giant rampaging snake god and all that. Buffy sees Angel from a distance as he gives her a “See you in the first crossover” look and heads off to a new timeslot…

Season three did almost the exact opposite to me as what the first two seasons did: I started really liking the filler Monster Of The Week episodes, but I found the actual central plot rather “blah”. The Mayor was no The Master, Spike, or Angelus. He never felt threatening–and he never WAS an actual threat until the last episode–and his goofy demeanor felt more like weird characterization the writers liked doing than something organic.

I’d have really liked for Mayor to have used his mayoral powers to be a bigger thorn in the team’s side. Like, oh I don’t know, QUIT LETTING LEGAL PROBLEM TROUBLES JUST GET HAND-WAVED AWAY. But there’s no reason this character had to be The Mayor of SunnyDale. He could have been any dude. Nothing he did mattered as to whether he was The Mayor or not.

But we got Faith, who I’m sure will be back and might eventually be a big bad all on her own. Spike and Drusilla have to return at some point. There’s promise for storylines to come!

We might get new supporting characters with Cordy, Angel, and Wesley all out the door. That’s… not great. Cordelia was my favorite person here, and without Angel, it feels like the show just wasted three seasons’ worth of time on a romance plot that is just leaving. The counter to that? How often do you see a Will They / Won’t They where they don’t end up together? So that’s a nice twist!

All in all, I do think S3 was the best season so far. The show started doing the most things right so far, and that’s pretty rad!