"Graduation Day, Part Two" is the season finale of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the fifty-sixth episode in the series. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, it originally broadcast on July 13, 1999 on The WB.
ASCENSION IS AT HAND IN THIS GRIPPING CONCLUSION — As the hours tick away to the fateful graduation of Sunnydale High School's Class of 1999, the impending doom of the Mayor's ascension and transformation into pure demon hangs heavy with Buffy. With Angel near death, Buffy must risk her own life and defy the orders of the Watchers Council in order lead a campaign to save the world.
After stabbing Faith, Buffy stands stunned for a few moments, then drops the knife and escapes from the rooftop, just before Mayor Wilkins enters the empty apartment with a group of vampires. Devastated by the thought of losing Faith, he orders the vampires to find her.
At the library that night, Xander and Giles search for information on Olvikan, knowing the Mayor will transform into it. Cordelia arrives and demands to know what happened between Buffy and Wesley. Giles explains that Buffy has severed ties with the Watchers Council and no longer needs a watcher, so Wesley will be leaving. Cordelia is unhappy, but Xander reminds her that they're busy trying to avert a massacre, so she agrees to help with research.
At the Crawford Street mansion, Willow watches over Angel; delirious, he mistakes her for Buffy and confesses how much he needs and loves her. When Buffy finally returns, she sends Willow and Oz away, then demands Angel drink her blood so that he will be cured. She reasons that if he doesn't completely drain her blood, she could still survive. He weakly refuses, but she strikes him repeatedly to bring out his vampiric side, then pulls his head to her throat. He drinks deeply and cures himself, pulling away when Buffy loses consciousness from loss of blood.
Angel rushes Buffy to hospital, explaining that she's lost a lot of blood. In another room, a doctor tells the Mayor that Faith's head trauma coupled with massive blood loss means she is unlikely to regain consciousness. The Mayor notices Buffy in bed, and tries to smother her until Angel tears him away. The Mayor leaves with a message not to miss the second act, "with all kinds of excitement." The Scoobies arrive, and Angel explains to them what happened to Buffy. They are angry with him and blame him for what happened. Giles persuades Angel to leave the hospital before sunrise.
Dreaming, Buffy visits Faith, who is packing up her apartment. Faith says human weakness never fades, "not even his." She tells Buffy that it's time to go and then Buffy wakes up in the hospital bed. She walks over to Faith and kisses her forehead, then strides into the waiting room, telling her friends to get ready for war.
At school, Buffy outlines a plan which relies heavily upon Xander's past mystical military knowledge and discusses what the Mayor's human weakness is. Eventually Angel realizes it's Faith, given the Mayor's grief at the hospital. Wesley arrives and Buffy tells him the Watchers Council is not welcome. However, he tells her that he isn't there on behalf of the Council, but just wants to help. Grateful, Buffy allows him to remain and everyone starts to set up.
Meanwhile, the Mayor explains to his group of vampires that when the eclipse takes place, he wants the vampires to keep the people from running, as he must feed within the first few minutes to sustain the change. Angel and Xander get to work creating a bomb, which Giles is assigned to detonate. While putting away books, Cordelia and Wesley discuss their feelings and finally kiss, and discover they have no sexual chemistry at all. Oz reassures Willow that they'll make it through this and they share a passionate kiss. In the library, Angel tells Buffy he'll simply disappear when the battle is over, because to say goodbye would be too painful. Buffy is upset, but doesn't lose focus as she pulls out the most important weapon of the upcoming battle: Faith's knife, still covered with her blood.
At graduation, the Mayor starts the commencement address and goes into the meaning of graduation, making Buffy worry he's going to read the whole speech. The Mayor then mentions that there's been losses, and people who should be there, aren't. Just then the eclipse begins, vampires arrive to catch anyone who tries to escape and the Mayor starts to feel pain as the Ascension begins. He regretfully drops his cue cards, and begins to transform in front of everyone, becoming a giantic 60-foot snake demon. The parents and teachers scatter, and the students gather together in one large group as the monster towers over them.
At Buffy's signal, everyone rips off their robes, revealing weapons and crosses. Under Xander's guidance, the students attack the demon with flame throwers and flaming arrows. Principal Snyder is eaten by the snake-demon in mid-lecture. Some students break from the group and run in fear — right into the mayor's vampires. Students in the rear, including Oz, mount a ranged counterattack with flaming arrows, driving the vampires back into another group at the rear led by Angel. They fight the vampires and are able to stop them from attacking the students, however Wesley, who accompanied Angel's squad, is downed with a single punch and spends the rest of the fight lying on his back asking for help.
The attack on the Mayor continues, however Larry is killed when the snake swipes him with its tail. Buffy tells everyone to fall back, and Xander leads them down while telling them to prepare for hand-to-hand combat. Willow wishes Buffy luck before leaving. The vampires attempt to attack the students, only to be astounded when almost the entire graduation class plow down the stairs, more than ready to fight. Cordelia manages to stake one, Jonathan throws himself on a vamp, however Harmony is grabbed and bitten.
Suddenly, Buffy calls up the demon-mayor, taunting him while still holding the knife. She then starts to make a run for it as the monster gives chase. She leads him through the school as he smashes the place apart following her. Buffy reaches the library, then dives through a window to the outside where Giles is waiting. The demon smashes through the doors to find the room filled with explosives. He says: "Well, gosh." Giles then hits the detonator, killing the Mayor, obliterating the library, and completely destroying Sunnydale High School.
As Wesley is taken away in an ambulance, Giles congratulates Buffy on a job well done, presenting her with her diploma, which he pulled from the rubble. After he leaves, Buffy sees Angel at a distance. The two stand and look at one another for a brief time before Angel turns and walks off into the night.
Buffy meets up with her friends and they prepare to head for home. Before they do, Oz tells them they should take a moment to reflect on the fact that they survived. Buffy comments that it was a hell of a battle, but Oz corrects her he doesn't mean the battle: they survived high school. After taking the moment, the friends walk away from the remains of the school. A charred yearbook lies nearby bearing the legend: "The Future is Ours".
- Angel is the second vampire to drink from Buffy, previously bitten by the Master in "Prophecy Girl". She'll also be bitten by Dracula in "Buffy vs. Dracula" then Spike in Desperate Times.
- In the Buffy/Faith dream, we encounter the first foreshadowing of Buffy's death in "The Gift". Faith's comment "Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0" comes 2 years (730 days) before Buffy dies. In "Restless", Buffy sees a clock in her room during her dream reading 7:30, which Tara tells her is completely wrong, as one whole year has passed.
- The term "Little Miss Muffet" is a reference to Buffy's little sister Dawn's arrival; a crazy man also refers to "curds and whey" when he accosts Dawn in "Real Me" and Glory makes references to "sitting on a tuffet" when she goes looking for the Key in "No Place Like Home".
- Having fallen in a coma, Faith will wake up in episode "This Year's Girl".
- Buffy kisses a comatose Faith in the forehead, who previously kissed her in the forehead in "Enemies" after telling Buffy she she was not ready to be a murderer.
- Wesley will reveal in "Parting Gifts" that he was fired from the Council once Buffy quit.
- The Scoobies prepare to Wilkins' Ascension during their graduation, as they discovered his plan from the Books of Ascension in "The Prom".
- Buffy refers to when Xander became "soldier guy" in episode "Halloween", asking him to call upon what he learned then.
- Xander thinks Buffy wants to use a rocket launcher, a reference to when he used his soldier-knowledge to break into an military base and steal a rocket launcher, in "Innocence".
- This marks the second time in a row that the principal of Sunnydale High has been eaten alive. The first, Robert Flutie, was eaten alive when a group of kids possessed by hyenas ("The Pack"). On his predecessor being eaten, Snyder said that that's what happens when you're soft on students ("The Puppet Show"). He is the 9th member of the faculty to be killed.
- This episode portrays the first time Cordelia ever dusts a vampire, as well as the first time Angel and Wesley fight side by side. Angel and Cordelia will reunite in Los Angeles in "City Of" and the three will be part of the Angel Investigations during the Angel series.
- The death of recurring character Larry in this episode is established at the shooting script but not confirmed on-screen until "Smashed".
- Harmony, seen in this episode being bitten by a vampire, will be confirmed dead — and arisen as a vampire — just three episodes later in "The Harsh Light of Day".
- This episode sees the destruction of Sunnydale High, the scene of a great deal of paranormal activities thus far in the series. The ruins will be revisited in "Doomed", but the school itself won't be rebuilt until "Lessons".
- Willow suggested to Buffy in "The Harvest" that one way they could get kicked out of school would be to "blow up the school", which they finally do in this episode. Xander also mentioned in "I Only Have Eyes for You" that he liked the idea of nuking the school as the final solution.
- Due to his Old One constitution at the time of his death, Wilkins will eventually finish restoring himself and return after about ten years in One Year Later.
- Angel leaves Sunnydale, having broke up with Buffy in "The Prom". They will see each other again in "I Will Remember You", when Buffy visits him in Los Angeles.
- The non-canon story "This One Time" has the reality briefly altered so Angel didn't leave Sunnydale, causing a chain of events in which Fred was never rescued from Pylea ("There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb") and Connor was never born ("Lullaby").
- Larry Blaisdell
- Cordelia Chase
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Doug Jeffries (Only mentioned)
- Justin (Only mentioned)
- Harmony Kendall
- Faith Lehane
- Jonathan Levinson
- Miller (Only mentioned)
- Daniel Osbourne
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Percy West
- Richard Wilkins
- Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
Organizations and titles
Weapons and objects
- Angel's tattoo
- Faith Lehane's knife
- Killer of the Dead
- Kippler Volumes (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale High Yearbook
Rituals and spells
- Unidentified student, eaten by Wilkins.
- Three students, killed by vampires.
- Three vampires, burned by Oz and two students with flaming arrows.
- Larry Blaisdell, killed by Wilkins with his tail.
- Snyder, eaten by Wilkins.
- Harmony Kendall, drained and sired by a vampire.
- One vampire, staked by Cordelia.
- Richard Wilkins, exploded by Rupert Giles (eventually restored).
Behind the scenes
- According to Marti Noxon in the DVD commentaries, the explosion scene was filmed at 5 a.m. in Torrance, California, where the outdoor scenes had been filmed for the previous three years. The explosion was so huge it woke up many of the residents, broke windows and set off car alarms. As a result, the town refused to allow Buffy to film there again.
- This episode contains one of Joss Whedon's trademark extended shots, with the scene in the hospital from when Angel enters with Buffy to just after Angel stops Mayor Wilkins from suffocating her lasting just over two minutes and fifty seconds without a cut.
- The Mutant Enemy zombie that always appears at the end of each episode is wearing a black graduation cap.
- This episode is the last in which David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter are series regulars, and in which Alexis Denisof is a recurring character. The three will return to the Buffyverse on Angel. While this episode marks the final appearance of both Cordelia and Wesley on Buffy, Angel will appear on Buffy at least once (either in person or in flashbacks) in every season with the exception of season 6.
- During the time of its airing, the episode caused a great deal of controversy in the media. The Columbine High School massacre, only four weeks before the airing of "Part One", was widely blamed on violence in entertainment. The WB president Jamie Kellner announced at the time: "Given the current climate, depicting acts of violence at a high-school graduation ceremony, even fantasy acts against a 60-foot serpent and vampires, we believe, is inappropriate to broadcast around the actual dates of these time-honored ceremonies." The network had already pulled the plug on the episode "Earshot" (which itself was not aired until September) and the novel The Evil That Men Do was also delayed one year due to the Columbine incident.
- On May 25, 1999, only two hours before Part Two was due to air, The WB suddenly decided to replace it with a re-run of "Band Candy". This sudden move received huge attention in the media and thousands of letters were sent to the network demanding that the season finale be shown. Sarah Michelle Gellar publicly spoke out against the decision, although Seth Green agreed that the episode would seem "callous and inappropriate" after the Columbine shootings.
- As the episode was not delayed in Canada, many bootleg digital downloads were available. Joss Whedon stated, "Bootleg the puppy."
- The WB did not air the episode almost two months after it was originally scheduled. The episode attracted 6.5 million viewers, atypically high for the WB during summer, and comparable to what the other episodes of the season had received.
- This line was cut:
- Xander: "Guys, we blew up the school! It's the best day ever!"
Pop culture references
- When Angel punched Mayor Wilkins, he says: "Looks like somebody has been eating his spinach," referring to Popeye, who gained his super strength when he ate spinach.
- Christophe Beck — "Aftermath"
- Christophe Beck — "Drink Me"
- Christophe Beck — "Little Miss Muffet"
- Christophe Beck — "War"
- Christophe Beck — "One Last Moment"
- Edward Elgar — "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1"
- Armenian: "Դպրոցի ավարտումը (Մաս 2-րդ)" (School Completion (Part 2))
- Czech: "Maturita (2. část)" (Graduation (2nd Part))
- Finnish: "Päättäjäiset, osa kaksi" (Closing Ceremony, Part Two)
- French: "La cérémonie, partie 2" (The Ceremony, Part 2)
- German: "Der Tag der Vergeltung" (The Day of Retribution)
- Hungarian: "Az érettségi ünnepség, 2. rész" (The Graduation Ceremony, Part 2)
- Italian: "La sfida (2ª parte)" (The Challenge (2nd Part)
- Japanese: "卒業の日 パート2" (Graduation Day, Part 2)
- Polish: "Rozdanie świadectw (2)" (Graduation (2))
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Dia da Formatura, 2.ª Parte" (Graduation Day, 2nd Part)
- Romanian: "Ziua absolvirii (Part 2)" (Graduation Day (Part 2))
- Russian: "Окончание школы (Часть 2)" (Finishing School (Part 2))
- Spanish (Latin America): "EL día de graduación (parte 2)" (The Graduation Day (Part 2))
- Spanish (Spain): "El día de la graduación (2ª parte)" (The Graduation Day (2nd Part))
- The yearbook seen in this episode was released in two formats: Sunnydale High Yearbook and Sunnydale High Hardcover Ruled Journal.
- This episode is included in The Slayer Chronicles VHS collection.
- This episode is included in The Best of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD collection.
- The battle against Olvikan is featured as an illustration in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book.
- Ryan Inzana's cover for Welcome Back to the Hellmouth, Part Two is a homage to this episode.
- This is the first episode of the series to feature the last appearance of a main character (in this case, Cordelia). Later episodes to do this are "Restless" (Oz), "As You Were" (Riley), "Villains" (Tara), and, of course, the series finale "Chosen".
- The background music when Angel is draining Buffy is the same as used on the episode main menu's sequence of the season 3 DVDs.
- In classic Buffyverse style, writers and producers retire the Sunnydale High School sets by utterly destroying them.
Behind the scenes
|Xander - "Here's your coffee, brewed from the finest Columbian lighter fluid."|
|Giles - "Thank you. (takes it and drinks it before recoiling) Horrible."|
|Xander - "Aren't you supposed to be drinking tea anyway?"|
|Giles - "Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense."|
|Xander - "Okay, but you're destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here."|
|Xander - "Well, it's just good to know that when the chips are down and things look grim, you'll feed off the girl who loves you to save your own ass!"|
|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."|
|Snyder - "Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet."|
|Oz - "Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived."|
|Buffy - "It was a hell of a battle!"|
|Oz - "Not the battle. High school."|
- ↑ "The Mortuary". Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Archived from the original February 15, 2001.
- ↑ Joyce Millman, "Finale thoughts". Salon.com, June 1, 1999. Archived from the original on March 1, 2009.
- ↑ Charles Taylor, "The WB's Big Daddy condescension". Salon.com, May 26, 1999. Archived from the original on May 6, 2005.
- ↑ Liane Bonin, "Why the controversial finale of 'Buffy' didn't air last night". Entertainment Weekly, May 25, 1999.
- ↑ Howard Wen, "'Buffy' fans distribute postponed finale online". Salon.com, May 28, 1999. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007.
- ↑ "Buffy breaks out". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 1999.