At Sunnydale High, I guess you really can't go back to high school again. The Scoobies capped off the end off the formative years with a bang.
On Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 22, the final battle against Mayor Wilkins was fought with weapons, fire, and a teenage army of classmates who had never battled a pure demon before. The climax is a Top 5 fight for the ages.
This season finale is one for the record books. Let's find out why by rewatching "Graduation Day (Part 2)"!
Picking up right where we left off on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 21, Buffy had major "WTF?!" face. Literally, the solution to Angel's poison drove away on the back of a truck and Buffy looked completely hopeless.
Without Faith's blood, Angel's future seemed grim. However, thanks to that pesky little drowning against The Master, there was another source of Slayer blood walking around Sunnydale.
Buffy has risked her life in the past before, but the last time a vampire drank her blood, she literally died. I'm not even exaggerating her ... she got bit, drowned and died.
Sure, Angel needed blood to live, but couldn't she have gotten a syringe and given him a blood pack of her blood?
Thankfully, Angel survived the poison and lived to tell the tale during his spin-off. However, Buffy's life hung in the balance and left herself at the mercy of her enemies.
The irony of both Buffy and Faith being in a coma at the same hospital wasn't lost on anyone. After the tease of Faith "disappearing into the night," she still ended up in the same vicinity of the Scoobies.
Mayor Wilkins' attempted murder of Buffy was lackluster and foolish. He had his biggest enemy in his sights, someone who nearly killed his daughter, and yet he goes in for smothering?
He is an all-powerful wannabe demon. Couldn't he have snapped her snapped or something?
I'm not siding with the Big Bad here; I'm glad Angel saved Buffy in time. However, the mayor's emotions took over a little too much for him to make an attack that didn't suit his character.
Get it together, Mayor Wilkins.
Buffy and Faith's shared vision is an essential moment for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
During this serene and peaceful detente, the Slayers find a sense of resolution. They lay down their swords to approach all the hostility and anger they held toward each other these last few episodes. If only they had buried the hatchet sooner.
The editors included interesting symbolism about the Slayers' relationship, their personal development, and the future. One such note is the cat. Buffy is the cat; she'll learn to survive on her own without Faith around in her life.
Buffy: There's something I'm supposed to be doing.
Faith: Oh yeah. Miles to go. Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0.
Also, Faith mentioning the "Little Miss Muffet" quote is alluding to the future plot of Dawn's arrival.
Joss Whedon had already been plotting the end of the world and Buffy's drive toward protecting "The Key." It's subtle moments like these that make me love the TV series so much after all these years. With each new rewatch, you discover something new.
I've already known about this Easter egg, but if you didn't, congrats!
Once Buffy woke up, the right course of action was jumping into the preparations against the mayor.
I love the Scoobies involved all their classmates in the battle. They couldn't stand back and leave the students unprepared if the mayor was going to turn into a giant snake monster. So #reckless!
With the potential for the end of the world, the characters pulled themselves into major FOMO mode so that they wouldn't miss out on accomplishing a goal if they did die.
Cordelia: I personally don't think it's possible to come up with a crazier plan.
Oz: We attack the mayor with hummus.
Cordelia: I stand corrected.
Oz: Just keeping things in perspective.
Cordelia: Thank you.
Cordelia and Wesley's kiss was long overdue ... and the best comedic moment of "Graduation Day (Part 2)!"
After all the build-up and flirtation, their kiss ended in awkward discovery and wet steam. Cordelia and Wesley weren't endgame; they were that high school flirtation you have with your crush before realizing that you didn't fit together.
Their uncomfortable pause and civil goodbye are still so hilarious to watch after two decades.
The battle commencement during the graduation ceremony is an uplifting and iconic moment! Who wouldn't want to join in with the Sunnydale High classmates to fight Mayor Wilkins?
Be it the rush of music, the visual of the classmates removing their gowns to reveal their weapons, or Buffy leading an army, this scene captured the significance of Buffy's story during her high school years.
For three seasons, Buffy felt like an outcast who didn't connect with her fellow students. She was shunned and talked about as the weird girl who was always involved in trouble and strange activities. But, after her winning "Class Protector" during Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 20, it showed she had the support of the teens.
Buffy: [Watching the mayor’s speech] My God! He's gonna do the entire speech!
Willow: Man, just ascend already.
At the core of their hearts, the Sunnydale High classmates knew they could trust Buffy. She would protect them and they would fight alongside her to save the world.
Buffy Summers is a leader.
So, seeing her classmates stand beside her ready to risk their lives is a powerful scene. Sure, some of them ran away and got killed by the mayor or vampires, but they initially wanted to fight.
Though, let's take a moment to give kudos to the Scoobies and the Sunnydale High students: they turned around a tactical plan in such a short time!
Even with a little hesitation from Harmony, the students fell into line and believed the Scoobies. They armed themselves, mapped out the different battle sectors, and trained themselves enough to fight against the baddies.
Seriously, Larry knew how to use a flamethrower, and a row of students shot flame arrows! That's a quick battle plan to get everyone in place.
The Scoobies had never done something like this before.
In addition to the start of the battle, the scene when the Sunnydale High students fell back and rushed down the stairs brings on all the emotions. It's perfect and uplifting!
You have the comedic visual of the vampires looking overwhelmed by the rush of students charging them. They thought fighting Giles, Percy, Angel, Wesley, and the jocks was a tough scuffle, but the onslaught of students was a shock to their system.
Just look at Willow's expression as she ran down the stairs! (She was in full warrior mode.)
And, we had a few iconic treats, like Cordelia staking a vampire, Wesley getting knocked to the ground, and Harmony being bitten by the vampire. The battle provided continuous moments that made it better than the last.
Speaking of deaths, a few characters were lost in the battle against the mayor.
As mentioned above, Harmony got bitten by the vampire on the stairs. It's not a sad loss because she'll eventually return as a vampire for future episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
(Fun fact: rumor has it that Harmony almost survived the battle. The potential death came down between her and Jonathan since they both came into contact with vampires. Ultimately, Harmony got the death due to the bite.)
Larry died in a rather painful death after being knocked over by Mayor Wilkins' snake tail. It's a shame we lost Larry since his character development turned around and he became a nice guy. However, that sadness might've been the exact reason why we had to lose him.
On the opposite side, Principal Snyder's death is hilarious and justified!
After all the evil he caused and supported, him getting devoured by the mayor was fitting. Did he truly think a giant snake would let him live? Mayor Wilkins is an equal opportunity killer.
I cheered loudly when he got his just desserts.
Mayor Wilkins' death ended in a satisfying bang.
To take down someone powerful like him, Buffy the Vampire Slayer needed something that would deliver the devastation we all expected. An explosion and the end of Sunnydale High met all those requirements.
He should've realized that Buffy was up to something when she teased him with Faith's blade. She obviously wanted to get him away from everyone to fight on new ground.
Buffy: Faith told me to play on his human weakness.
Willow: Faith told you? Was that before or after you put her in a coma?
Bringing him to the library and ending him there with an explosion was a fitting end to the high school years.
The Scoobies spent a lot of time in the library; same with us as well. The library is an iconic setting that housed fights, deaths, and research sessions. Plus, it kept the door of the Hellmouth closed.
Destroying the library finished the chapter of the Sunnydale High years with a symbolic gesture that meant the TV show wasn't looking back. Sunnydale High would be gone, but it would be in our hearts forever.
The same goes for the goodbye of the characters. As Angel walked away in the smoke and the Scoobies stood outside the (now) destroyed school, there was a lot of ambiguity about the future.
All we had known was high school life, but the cast would be moving onto college. Would it be a smooth transition or fall into the classic university tropes? (Obviously, based on history, it fell into the latter.)
But, the journey wouldn't be too bad. The young adult years had its ups-and-downs.
Oz: We survived.
Buffy: It was a hell of a battle.
Oz: Not the battle. High School.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 will always serve as the series' best season.
The cast was electric, the plots built momentum toward a thrilling conclusion, and the acting was (near) perfection. After a season of rewatching the episodes, the proof is in the pudding why I was so excited to take this particular journey with you.
And there's so much more greatness to come.
Now, over to you, Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans!
What did you think of "Graduation Day (Part 2)"?
Were you surprised any of your favorites died/survived? Did Angel's leaving make you sad? What did you think of Faith's coma vision?
Want to join us in rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayers? We'll be posting new rewatch posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.