Congratulations, Class of 2016! From jittery high school students to college seniors, it’s graduation time once again across the country. Many lives are on the verge of winning that glowing title of “adulthood,” pending those pesky final grades. We thought it would be appropriate to revisit one of the most iconic graduation episodes in TV history: Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Graduation Day, Part 1” and “Part 2.” Like a long-lost yearbook, we’ll reminisce about these two episodes and catch up with the cast IRL. Remember, the future is ours!
And in the wise words of Buffy: “Mom, graduation is a pointless ceremony where you sit around and listen to a bunch of boring speeches until someone hands you a piece of paper that says you graduated, which you already know—and maroon does nothing for my complexion, so don’t argue!”
A lot has changed since this two-parter aired 17 years ago, but some things will never change… like our love for the Scooby gang! “Graduation Day, Part 1 and 2” are essential Scooby gang episodes. The first three seasons were really all about the mixture of supernatural elements in between the super hectic life of a high schooler. We followed Buffy, Willow, and Xander—along with Giles and eventually Cordelia and Oz—as they were expelled, bullied, and battered during high school. Then senior year came around in season three.
For starters, season three effectively wrecked the love life of Buffy Summers. (Shout out to her human high school boyfriends, Owen Thurman and Scott Hope!) As if destroying the giant pure-demon snake that was Mayor Wilkins post-Ascension wasn’t too much to ask for on graduation day… The whole Buffy and Angel saga really came to a climax in “Part 2” especially. But just like the finales for season one and two, high school-era Buffy had to save the world, which in turn meant putting her personally life in second place.
After a shot to the heart from not-so-fangirl Faith, Angel drank Buffy’s blood in a last ditch effort to save himself. This tragic moment continued to linger on in their future relationship for the rest of the TV series and into the comics. Post-break up, Angel finally parted ways with Sunnydale and jumped over to Los Angeles, which started the spin-off series Angel. Faith’s life was obviously irreversibly changed following season three. Her coma dreams with Buffy in “Part 2” and in season four hinted at some insane future season spoilers!
But don’t forget, highlighting the Scooby gang alongside our heroine is a classic Buffy season finale thing. Willow went from giddy, cautious witch wannabe in the first episode of season three to a less panicked quasi badass during “Graduation Day, Part 1 and 2.” She really came into her own as a senior at Sunnydale, despite lapses in relationship judgment between Xander and Oz. (We’ll never forget Oz’s genius battle tactic against the Mayor on graduation day—see below.)
Xander’s major character arc became forever tied to Anya because of the events from this season finale, too. Cordelia ended up in the same area as Angel after graduation day, so I guess you could say that the Sunnydale “freak curse” followed her forever. And Giles’ new path from traditional Watcher/Librarian to Buffy’s one true Watcher started to evolve after season three. In fact, everyone’s relationship with one another were pretty much strengthened and ended up on the verge of major change after their last high school battle.
So, the actual graduation day in the end was the least of their problems, but is was still a major life victory for Buffy and the Scooby gang. Anyone who went to high school could relate to their awkward moments and puppy-love crushes throughout these high school-era seasons. But essentially graduation day was the Scooby gang’s last “normal” victory of their teenage lives.
These many years later, we still have these characters in our lives. Buffy, Xander, and Willow are alive and (sorta) well in the comic series published under Dark Horse. Written by the familiar team from the TV series, it picked up right after the series’ seventh season and continues on into the equivalent of season 10, which ends with Issue #29 on July 20. Season 11 of the Buffy comic has unofficially been announced with the return of show creator and all-powerful overlord Joss Whedon. Mr. dark-and-broody Angel is also roaming around in the comic-verse with his ongoing series, Angel and Faith—also in its 10th season—which does a wonderful job reuniting Faith, the misunderstood slayer, with our dark misunderstood vampire hero.
And now, it appears that we’ll be able to revisit our high school Buffy memories with some new content! Just last year Dark Horse announced that Joss Whedon, along with writer Faith Erin Hicks and artist Yishan Li, will be presenting a few spin-off volumes of a new series titled, Buffy: The High School Years. Smack dab at the start of season one (before “Angel,” the seventh episode), this graphic novel series will retrace some of our epic nostalgic moments with high school-era Scooby gang. Buffy: The High School Years–Freaks & Geeks will hit stores June 15, 2016.
So to the graduating class of 2016, congrats and don’t loss touch! In the wisest words of Oz: “Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived… Not the battle, high school.” Let us know what your favorite moments from “Graduation Day, Part 1” and “Part 2” were below and be sure to pick up a copy of Buffy: The High School Years–Freaks & Geeks next month!
Images: 20th Century Fox Television and Dark Horse