Thursday, May 5, 2011

Buffy: Prophecy Girl (1.12)

Prophecy Girl's greatest achievements are achieved through the gut-wrenching humanity of certain scenes. One moment in particular is the aftermath of Willow discovering the various murdered students, in which she tells Buffy how completely horrifying the whole event was. So often the various murders and deaths that occur throughout Sunnydale High are casually dismissed or hilariously poked fun at, but here we have a teenage girl whose life is suddenly filled with killings and horror -- and it's not fun, and it's not something you get used to. The image of blood smeared on the TV screen while kids' cartoons play is effective enough, but Willow's monologue just raises the bar even further.

Xander's final confession to having feelings for Buffy is similarly gut-wrenching. The human aspects of Buffy as a series are so real and palpable, and it's evident right here. The scene isn't played for laughs, or comically awkward -- it's painful. We have a guy who is completely crushed after being romantically rejected, and a girl who has no idea how huge his feelings are and is desperate to let him down gently. But it's still horrible, a scene of so much intimacy that you almost feel like a voyeur watching it.

Near the start of the episode, Buffy is told that she'll die at the hands of the Master, at least according to prophecy. This sets off a chain of mournful moments where she has to deal with that, her nervous giggling at the thought of it, her naive desire to run away with her mom instead of face her killer, and the abject fear on her face when she hits the Master's underground lair. Sarah Michelle Gellar is always wonderful on this show, but it's in episodes like these where she has to convey a variety of different reactions that she truly excels.

The Master, compared to the various other Big Bads throughout the series, isn't hugely threatening. His characterization ensured that he remained pretty stagnant during the first season, literally trapped in a hole in the ground, and his confrontation with Buffy isn't entirely effective. There are some great lines in his cave when he first encounters her, but their rooftop battle is a little flat.

But if you judge this episode on its own and block out the lofty heights of every other season finale, Prophecy Girl is strong. The Scooby Gang (including Cordelia and Miss Calendar) working together is a beautiful sight to behold, and the action in the library at the end (tentacles!) is pretty bad-ass considering the budget at this point. The hour easily blends great character work with some effective action, and while it pales in comparison to the rest of the series, it's a great achievement nonetheless. A-

Guest stars Mark Metcalf (The Master); David Boreanaz (Angel); Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calendar); Andrew J. Ferchland (Colin)
Writer Joss Whedon Director Joss Whedon

1 comment:

  1. I love this ep. I still get shivers every time Buffy says she doesn't want to die. And the way she raves at the love of her life with 'you're never gunna die' is just superb