Well, it’s been a while. As is often the case school holidays tends to delay my Buffy Re-watch progression. So where was I. Oh yes, nearly at the end. Of Season One at least. So now school’s back and I have a little more time on my hands. Let’s locate the box set, fire up the DVD player and watch the season finale, Prophecy Girl. Spoilers ahead…
The episode in brief
- The episode begins with Xander practising his attempts to ask Buffy to the dance. Willow listens attentively and he seems unaware of her feelings for him. Meanwhile Buffy is out doing “the usual”, reminding the audience of what Buffy does best, slaying vampires. Giles is in the library doing research and an earthquake strikes. Beneath Sunnydale The Master celebrates calling out “my time has come, glory, glory” and then casually asks the Anointed One, “what do you think? 5.1?” All this before the credits even roll.
- Against a backdrop of high school drama in the build up to the dance, Giles is acting erratic. Jenny Calendar reappears and reports portents of the apocalypse. As we saw in the previous episode Giles and Angel have worked together without Buffy’s knowledge. Buffy runs a tap and blood comes out. When she goes to talk to Giles about it she walks in on his conversation with Angel and overhears them talk of her imminent death. Understandably she is not happy about it. Buffy’s emotional reaction is brilliantly played out.
- During a mother-daughter moment and in response to Buffy’s statement that she can’t go to the dance, Joyce unwittingly encourages Buffy to defy prophecy. “Says who? Is it written somewhere? You should do what you want”. Giles too wants to defy the prophecy and face The Master in her place. But having previously rejected her calling, Buffy embraces her destiny and allows the Anointed One to lead her to The Master. In a way Buffy’s mother has more influence over her decision making in this episode than her watcher does.
- We are treated to some comedic tension between Angel and Xander, “Stop looking at my neck!”, “I’m not looking at your neck!”. But they arrive just in time for Xander to revive Buffy after the Master had left her drained and drowning.
- We get to see some ugly many-headed puppet creatures coming out of the Hellmouth in the library.
- Cordelia bites a vampire!
Revelations and foreshadowing
- When Buffy overhears the prophecy referring to her death, she asks the question, “One slayer dies, the next one’s called, I wonder who she is, will you train her?” This sets up the calling of Kendra after Buffy’s momentary death.
- The gang find out that the Hellmouth is directly below the high school library when a horde of vampires turn up to join The Master there.
- The lingering camera on The Master’s skeleton (left after the dusting, presumably because he is so old), hints that he will continue to threaten Buffy in the future. The narrative of Season One will only fully be laid to rest at the start of the next season, when Buffy will have to confront the emotional demons created by the traumatic events of this episode. She did die after all.
- If Buffy hadn’t gone to face The Master he wouldn’t have been able to drink her blood and rise. However the fulfilment of the prophecy ultimately leads to his defeat as Buffy comes back stronger and more confident. Although the prophecy that Buffy would die did come true, prophecies never turn out the way you might expect. As Buffy quips, “what can I say, I flunked the written”. This sets a precedent for how unpredictable and often unhelpful prophecies tend to be across the Buffyverse. And yet the characters repeatedly turn to them for guidance!
Interpretation and themes of Prophecy Girl
- The overwhelming message of the episode is that nothing is inevitable. Buffy can defy her supposed destiny and make her own future.
- By defeating The Master, Buffy has made a huge step forward in her destiny. She has shown that she is a slayer who is going to take control of her path. The Master no longer lurks beneath Sunnydale in the shadows, an ominous threat which could engulf the town in darkness and fear. (As he succeeds in doing in the alternative reality episode The Wish). The feared monster that lurks below came up above ground. By allowing that to happen Buffy was then able to deal with the lurking threat of the season. More demons will surely bring horror to Sunnydale in the future, but for now it is a safer place.
- To me this helps confirm the show’s feminist credentials, a woman who was repeatedly belittled by a supposedly stronger and more powerful man ultimately took control and defied the role of sacrificial lamb which was assigned to her by prophecy. Of course she was only able to do this with the help of her friends, in this case Xander plays a crucial role. The theme that Buffy is unique as a slayer because of her friends is a strong one throughout the show.
Line of the week
I may be dead, but I’m still pretty.
That wraps up my re-watch of Season One of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although Prophecy Girl is not one of my favourite episodes it has some great moments, and as I have mentioned previously I think that overall Season One is pretty underrated. What do you think?