Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3 Episode 21

Graduation Day (1)

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM May 18, 1999 on The WB
out of 10
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614 votes

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Episode Summary

The gang receives some valuable information from their old enemy Anya, who has actually witnessed an Ascension. She reveals that the Mayor plans to transform himself into pure demon, something that has not been seen for thousands of years. When Angel is poisoned by Faith, Buffy faces Faith for the final time in order to get the only cure to the poison: the blood of a Slayer.moreless

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  • Graduation Day (1)

    Here lies part one of a rousing conclusion to a great season. It doesn't come off perfectly but there's still a whole lot to like. My biggest problem is the fact that it feels like Whedon is holding back all the goods until part two. The only noticeable things that happen in this entire episode are Buffy quitting the council and her big fight with Faith at the end. That means there's a whole lot of setup which rarely entertains as much as a conclusion. On the flip side, though, there were a lot of nice character moments to mostly make up for the lack of plot progress.

    The episode begins with Buffy protesting her attendence at the graduation ceremony. She says "I guess I'll miss stuff, but I just don't get the whole graduation thing. I mean you get a piece of paper and nothing changes. I don't even think I'm gonna go." When I was going through grade school I couldn't help but feel exactly like Buffy. My version of Buffy's statement is "Congratulations, here's another 4+ years of even harder work!" What Buffy said really relates to a lot of outsiders--people who just aren't a part of the school environment. My friends and I were in our own world, a lot like the Scoobies, so I can really appreciate this scene.

    As I mentioned above, aside from the big fight at the end, this is a character episode. We get a lot of development in all areas but primarily Faith, the Mayor, and Buffy. Lets begin by looking closer at Faith. Early on we see her show up at a Geology professor's door (O.T. I'm currently taking a volcanology class!), walk in, and stab him without flinching at all. Sure she shot a guy through the heart with an arrow in "Choices" (3x19), but there's something different about the tactile experience of doing it up close. Faith's completely immersed in her fantasy world where she's powerful and can do whatever she wants. You could even make the argument that she feels like a god, as Angel said she would back in "Enemies" (3x17). Buffy ends up incapacitating her in the end, but when she arises it's obvious that she's still out for blood. It's not until literally being inside Buffy's body that she begins to realize how screwed up she is inside ("Who Are You?" [4x16]).

    Before her demise, though, she gets some quality time with her surrogate dad, the Mayor. This weird relationship, which has been slowly evolving from the moment Faith walked in his office ("Consequences" [3x15]), is often quite endearing. It also makes for an interesting parallel to the relationship between Buffy and Giles. It's interesting to note that both of these fathers love and want the best for their 'daughters.' There is genuine caring on both sides of the table as we see when the Mayor enjoys seeing Faith in that pink dress. The only difference I can see between the two pairs is that the Mayor is fundamentally evil and is helping to fuel Faith's growth as an evil being while Giles is fundamentally good and is helping to fuel Buffy's growth as not only a Slayer, but also as a good human being.

    This observation makes the scene where the Mayor walks right into the library even more fascinating. He speaks directly to Giles, father-to-father, "That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her ... Violent outbursts like that, in front of the children? You know, Mr. Giles, they look to you to see how to behave." I love the way everyone gets incredibly scared and starts backing off the moment he appears. I also love the fact that Giles takes his sword and runs it through the Mayor in an outburst of anger. Great stuff.

    Buffy makes a really touching speech to her mom when telling her she needs to leave town. She says, "I wish I could be a lot of things for you. A great student, a star athlete, remotely normal. I'm not. But there is something I do that I can do better than anybody else in the world. I'm gonna fight this thing, but I can't do it and worry about you." This really sums up the relationship between these two. I actually kind of wish we'd have gotten to see more time spent between Buffy and her mom, but her speech is a really fitting way to essentially say wrap up their relationship. We see them together a few times in S4 and then quite a bit in S5, but most of the S5 interaction revolves around Joyce's illness.

    A big portion of this episode is devoted to Angel's injury and the ensuing illness. Faith's intention is wonderfully smart: poison Angel so that Buffy and all the Scoobies are distracted by that instead of trying to stop the Mayor. The plan works perfectly until Buffy discovers that Faith's blood will cure Angel, which as Buffy points out is quite fitting. The biggest problem I have with this development is how it is executed when Angel's illness begins to worsen. These scenes drag on and far too much screen time is given to Angel suffering and people feeling sorry for Buffy. Unfortunately this really does bog down the episode a bit.

    The big 'event' of the proceedings is the Watcher's Council refusing to offer assistance to Angel. This is what pushes Buffy permanently away from Wesley and the Council. The Council's decision is hardly surprising based on what we learned of them in "Helpless" (3x12). This institution is seriously old school and tradition-based. Giles naturally backs Buffy up as she tells off Wesley. He calls it mutiny while she, more appropiately, says "I like to think of it as graduation." This is a smart move on Buffy's part and not based purely on emotion, even though it appears that way. The Council does have a great deal of knowledge and information, but because of their insane customs and methods it's difficult for them to actually be useful in the fight against evil. All of these issues will be brought back to the surface in "Checkpoint" (5x12) and all throughout S7, especially after the Caleb destroys the Council with a bomb. It's also interesting to note that even though Giles looks down on the Council now, he still is bred on their philosophies and pushes that traditional agenda. We see it many times from him in episodes including "The Gift" (5x22) and "Lies My Parents Told Me" (7x17).

    A smaller moment I really appreciated was Xander's comment to Buffy when she announces that she's going to kill Faith. He says, "I just don't want to lose you." Buffy replies, "I won't get hurt." Xander then says, "That's not what I mean." Xander is concerned that Buffy killing Faith will spark her like it did Faith and end up turning Buffy into Faith. While I believe Xander's concern is valid, Buffy is hardly as confused as Faith was leading up to the moment where she killed the Deputy Mayor in "Bad Girls" (3x14). It would, however, definitely affect her and quite possibly make her darker and quieter. Since this ends up happening anyway in later seasons, it seems to me just stabbing Faith had nearly the same effect.

    All of this setup then finally pays off. The big Buffy and Faith fight scene launches us firmly into the second half of the story and makes for one of the most thrilling girl/girl fights I've ever seen on film. The only competition is Buffy and Faith's other fights in "Revelations" (3x07) and "This Year's Girl" (4x15). The fight is well staged and contains very satisfying jabs at each other in between the action. These jabs actually have great meaning because of the wonderfully careful construction of Faith's character and Buffy's development over the course of the season. My only complaint with the fight lies at the very end, after Buffy stabs Faith. Buffy just lies on the ground listening to Faith go off about stuff when she should have been immediately jumping up, shock and all, and grabbing Faith. Instead she lets her fall backwards off the rooftop down onto a truck. I just don't buy that Buffy would be so shocked that she wouldn't be able to react for Angel's sake.

    I've introduced a lot of people to this series now, and nearly all of them have commented on why Buffy doesn't climb down the ladder super quick and chase after the truck. This seems like a silly complaint to me because as strong as Buffy is she's only slightly faster than most people while running. There's no way she would have caught up with that truck. So this is not a complaint of mine.

    To sum this up I'd have to say that part one gets the job done. It's not perfect, but there's a lot of really great character moments and development. On top of that, the Buffy and Faith fight scene is so satisfying it's worth waiting for alone. My complaints pretty much revolve around the often slow pace and the lingering of Angel's illness. Overall, though, it's a success. Bring on part two!moreless
  • A taste of things to come

    The Good;

    The battle between Buffy and Faith is epic and a long time coming. Note that for some reason Buffy feels the need to put on her shiny red leather trousers before deciding to kick Faith's delectable butt?

    The Bad;

    Couldn't Buffy just let Angel have some of her blood in batches whilst chugging down iron pills by the handful? We know the Mayor's impervious to harm but why don't they just grab him and tie him up when he's in the library?

    Best line;

    Willow (guessing who the Graduation Speaker will be) "Seigfreid? Roy? One of the tigers?" (according to Lorne in Angel Seigreid is actually evil, Roy not so much) beating Xanders 'We're going to need a bigger boat' from Jaws. Xander also paraphrases Private Hudson from Aliens (who in turn is paraphrasing every Vietnam film you've ever seen).

    Character death;

    No but Angel on the brink. Faith's murder of the professor and her glib remark about it marks the nadir of her fall from grace. But you note that even then she wants her victim to turn around so she doesn't have to look into his eyes. When she chucks herself off the building it's her first suicide attempt but she'll make another later in Angel.


    Angel with Faith's bow and arrow

    Tied up;

    Buffy and Faith handcuffed together

    Knocked out;

    Angel and Faith in a coma

    Women good/men bad;

    Actually the relationship between Faith and the Mayor is lovely, especially when we see her in her dress. Faith also refers to her childhood in Boston again and you feel her pain. As for Xander he neatly sums up the male of the species;

    "Yes, men like sports. Men watch the action movie. They eat of the beef and enjoy to look at the bosoms"

    Buffy tells Wes 'I love it when you take charge, you man you' but one day she will. Will and Anya still have hostility.


    Faith killing the harmless old prof is beyond horrible. Plus the Mayor's eating the spiders (liquorice?). And Buffy sticks it to Faith with her great big knife

    Kinky dinky;

    What must the Professor and his neighbours think when Faith arrives on his doorstep dressed as she does? Probably how much does she charge per hour? I for one am glad we don't get to hear the end of Anya's shepherd story.

    Calling Captain Subtext;

    Again, violence and intimacy with Faith and Buffy who even penetrates Faith's body with her knife. Faith's goading Buffy about Angel's pain could once again be seen as sexual jealousy. Faith to Buffy "Give us a kiss". Faith also refers to Buffy as 'big sister' (does this make Joyce mom and Dawn her little sister?)

    Guantanamo Bay;

    Buffy is quite prepared to feed Faith to Angel to save him

    Scoobies to the ER;

    Buffy get's a hiding at Faith's hands and Angel nearly dies through poisoning

    Where's Dawn?

    Presumably Buffy get's little sis out of town alongside Joyce.

    Questions and observations;

    Where's this anti-vamp poison been all these years? It would have come in useful, don't you think? Stonkingly good in almost every respect with the promise of even better things to come in pt 2. Love Will's chopper bike. Nice that Willow and Harmony make up before Harmony gets all bumpy. Can anyone please explain to me why exactly the Mayor wants to be a giant snake? What is his plan for Sunnydale? Buffy breaks from the Watcher's Council and won't come back into the fold again until season 5. Just what are the odds that Anya, the only living survivor of an Ascension just happens to be at SDH? Is that the work of God/the PTB?

    Faith's method of surviving her fall off the roof is reminiscent of Catwoman in Batman Returns. Love Giles and Wes fencing which will come in useful for both later.

    Marks out of 10;


  • Graduation Day (1)

    Graduation Day (1) was another terrific episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This episode had lots of information and plots to play with. The Mayor of Sunnydale is about to Ascend and become a pure demon, capable of destruction and devistation beyond comprehension. This was a great episode that puts all the pieces in place for the season finale. This episode finds Buffy realizing that her relationship with Angel is pretty much over for good, and the rest of the Gang are dealing with the fact that they may die on Graduation. It was so awesome and touching what the Senior Class did for Buffy at the Prom. It was a token of appreciation she never expected! This episode was appealing because it relates to the fears we all go through in High School, and graduating. I really enjoyed the story lines, action, drama, and intrigue in this episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!!!!!moreless
  • Season 3, Episode 21.

    Graduation Day is approaching, and Faith shoots Angel with a poisonous arrow. After searching for a cure, they discover that the only cure is the blood of the Slayer. So, in order to give Angel the blood of the Slayer, Buffy fights Faith, but things don't end as planned.

    I loved this episode. It's one of my favorite episodes of season three, just because of the Buffy/Faith fight. I liked when Lester said, "Put that away! I'll scream!" and Faith said, "Who wouldn't?" LMAO! I love Eliza Dushku! Plus, the Buffy and Faith fight at the end of the episode. It was well choreographed and the end was awesome.moreless
  • Another Fantastic Episode.

    Faith was always up to something bad ever since she joined the Mayor on the Bad side of things.

    She has managed to Shot Angel with a Posoinous Arrow, she did not kill him but he can die.

    The only thing that can save him is Faith's Blood and we saw the big fight between Buffy and Fait.

    The Winner was Buffy but will Buffy manage to save Angel in time?

    I hope so.. How will the Mayor feel when he finds out what happened?

    It seems that whenever Buffy needs help from the Council they are enver there to help... A Very Good Episode. It seems that this Series just keeps getting better!moreless
James Lurie

James Lurie

Mr Miller

Guest Star

Hal Robinson

Hal Robinson


Guest Star

Adrian Neil

Adrian Neil

Vamp Lackey #1

Guest Star

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Harry Groener

Harry Groener

Mayor Richard Wilkins III

Recurring Role

Alexis Denisof

Alexis Denisof

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Nitpick: Although Buffy knew that Angel needed to drain the blood of a slayer, she stabs Faith which would cause Faith to lose most of the blood that Angel needed to be cured.

    • Goof: In all other episodes there is a brick wall between the bank and Sunnydale Cinema, with Main Street making a right angle turn to the left. Yet as Faith stands on the ledge after Buffy stabbed her a truck drives straight down Main Street and the brick wall is now gone.

    • Goof: When Giles puts the sword into the Mayor, it look like he puts it right where his shirt buttons are (in the middle of the shirt). But in the next shot, the hole is a bit more to the left.

    • Goof: During Faith and Buffy's fight Faith falls on the concrete floor and gets some white dust on her pants, but a few shots later it is gone.

    • Goof: When Angel enters the apartment just before he says "Not my best entrance", the boom mic is visible right over his head for just a couple of frames.

    • Goof: When Joyce announces "Buffy, I'm home", the boom mic swings down and then up again just at the right side of the doorway.

  • QUOTES (17)

    • (Faith pulls out a knife.)
      Lester: Put that away! I'll scream!
      Faith: Who wouldn't?

    • Wesley: Buffy, they're very firm. We are talking about laws that have existed longer than civilization.
      Buffy: I'm talking about watching my lover die.

    • Buffy: Mom, graduation is a pointless ceremony where you sit around and listen to a bunch of boring speeches until someone hands you a little piece of paper that says you graduated, which you already know, and maroon does nothing for my complexion so don't argue, okay?

    • Faith: Well, look at you. All dressed up in big sister's clothes.
      Buffy: You told me I was just like you. That I was holding it in.
      Faith: Ready to cut loose?
      Buffy: Try me.
      Faith: Okay then. Give us a kiss.

    • Buffy: I'm just glad Faith is such a suck shot.
      Giles: We're sure it was her?
      Buffy: Well, I've narrowed down my list of one suspect.

    • Angel: Anything in there that connects him to the mayor?
      Buffy: I looked through it, but the only thing I understood were the commas.

    • The Mayor: "The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction." Oh, that's kind of sweet. Different races coming together.
      Buffy: You never get even a little tired of hearing yourself speak, do you?
      The Mayor: That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her.
      (Giles puts a sword in The Mayor's chest)
      The Mayor: Whoa! Now, that was a little thoughtless. (takes out the sword) Violent outbursts like that, in front of the children.

    • Buffy: If the mayor's trying to hide, I say we go seek.
      Wesley: Ah, by attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it.
      Buffy: What page are you on, Wes? 'Cause we already got there.

    • Xander: Guess who our commencement speaker is?
      Willow: Siegfried?
      Xander: No.
      Willow: Roy?
      Xander: No.
      Willow: One of the tigers?
      Xander: Come out of the fantasy, Will.

    • Harmony: I hope we don't lose touch.
      Willow: No, we'll hang out. Oh, I'm gonna miss her.
      Buffy: Don't you hate her?
      Willow: Yes, with a fiery vengeance. She picked on me for 10 years. The vacuous tramp. It's like a sickness, Buffy. I'm just missing everything. I miss P.E.
      Buffy: I think it's contagious. The whole senior class has turned into the 60's. Or what I would have imagined the 60's would have been like, you know, without the war and the hairy armpits.

    • Cordelia: Well, you've really mastered the power of positive giving up.
      Xander: I've been lucky too many times. My number's coming up. And I was short. One more rotation and I'm shipping stateside. You know what I mean?
      Cordelia: Seldom, if ever.

    • Xander: Come on guys, the suspense is killing Angel.

    • Anya: Men like sports... I'm sure of it.
      Xander: Yes, men like sports. Men watch the action movie. They eat of the beef, and enjoy to look at the bosoms. A thousand years of avenging our wrongs and that's ALL you've learned?

    • Harmony: You know, I really wish we would've got to know each other better... I mean, you're so smart, I always wanted to be like that.

    • Buffy: I just love it when you take charge, you man you.

    • Willow: Ugh, this is so frustrating.
      Oz: Nothing useful?
      Willow: No, it's great. If we wanna make ferns invisible or communicate with shrimp, I've got the goods right here.
      Oz: ...Our lives are... different than other people's.

    • Buffy: I don't need you crowding me.
      Angel: I didn't think I was.
      Buffy: No, of course you don't. You just show up at the prom and then you disappear into the ozone. For all I know, you left town.
      Angel: Are you mad at me for being around too much or not being around enough?
      Buffy: Duh! Yes!

  • NOTES (11)

    • This is the second time Faith tries to kill Angel. The first time is earlier in season 3 in the episode "Revelations".

    • We learn that Willow rides a bike to school. Apparently she lives rather close to the school.

    • Joss said the part that Angel slips while entering in the professor's office was put as kind of a homage to David Boreanaz, who is pretty clumsy. Also, they wanted to do a funny entrance, not only the incredible-out-of-nowhere ones.

    • When the Mayor confronts the Scoobies in the library, he picks up a random book and reads, "The Beast will walk upon the earth and darkness will follow. The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction." This is the arc that took place in Season 4 of Angel.

    • It is unclear where Anya lives, how she gets money, and how she could afford a car. Perhaps D'Hoffryn compromised (since he would not give her her powers back) and agreed to give her money. She could have a job, but it would be hard for a high school student to find one that pays enough to buy a car and pay rent, bills, etc.. Still, such things have never been explained in the actual show.

    • The motto on the SHS yearbook is "The Future is Ours."

    • During their fight, Buffy repeats Faith's line from "Enemies": "Stick around." Only, she means literally.

    • Willow loses her virginity in this episode.

    • In this episode, Buffy says that Angel will be her last "office romance". She contradicts herself only a few months later, in season 4, and years, in season 6.

    • At the start, Cordelia complains that she wanted the graduation robes to be teal and not maroon in colour. In the original script it was the other way around, she wanted the red but the school went with the blue.

    • Although Angel is able to come into the Professor's home uninvited, it is explained in the Angel episode "Lonely Hearts" that the invitation rule no longer applies when the owner of a home is dead.


    • Teacher: (while playing hangman with his students) Heh, they always go for the 'E'.
      Of course they do: "E" appears more in the English lexicon than any other letter. It has roughly a 12% share and is trailed by "T" (9%), "N" (8%), and "R" (7%).

    • Buffy: Take a beat to love the synergy.
      Most likely, Buffy is referring to the term "beat" as it is used in screenplays and other scripts to refer to a pause in the dialog.

    • Xander: We're going to need a bigger boat.
      Xander quotes a line from the movie Jaws when they saw how big the shark was. The picture of the demon that the Mayor will become is so large it takes up three pages of the book.

    • Oz: But you got the swinging Habitrail going.
      Habitrail is a brand of plastic tubes and such used for hamster (or other pet rodent) housing.

    • Buffy: The Box of... I want to say gravlox.
      Gravlox is a type of cured salmon.

    • Buffy: The Mayor's trying to hide. I say we go seek.
      Hide and go seek is a children's game where all but one of the participants hides (say behind a tree) and one tries to find the others.

    • Willow: Siegfried?... Roy?... One of the tigers?
      Siegfried and Roy are a famous Las Vegas act featuring trained white tigers.

    • Cordelia: Wow, you've really mastered the power of positive giving-up.
      A play on the book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. The book is a famous, early, self-help book that promotes self-esteem and feelings of success. Cordelia mocks Xander and his doomed feelings by contrast with the ideas of the book.