Buffy re-watch: 1.12 Prophecy Girl

Giles, I’m sixteen years old. I don’t wanna die.

So I finally get to the end of season 1. I guess in some ways I’ve been putting this off and I’m not sure why. I think I wanted to give it my full attention as it’s a good episode and deserves it. Also I have been busy with writing, exercise and DIY (yes really!). Anyway I got around to it.

I always think of Prophecy Girl as the best ep of season 1 and the start of a step up in quality that carried on into the next season or two. Now that I re-watch it I’m not so sure. It is still one of my favourites but what strikes me is how much it really is a climax to all the themes and story lines of season 1. Particularly the Buffy-Angel-Xander-Willow quadrilateral.

It’s not hard to see why I would like this episode. It’s got that four-way love mismatch played out to its consequences (Xander is rebuffed and takes refuge in country music). It’s also got a couple of those “moments” that I mentioned about The Pack. There’s a beautifully acted angsty one between Buffy and Giles where she finds out she’s going to die. There’s a cheesy-but-it-still-works one where she power-walks to her show-down with the Master to the tune of the theme song, not breaking her stride to deal with a vampire (“Oh look, a bad guy!” cool). Then there’s the running gag about Buffy’s dress. Xander going to get Angel to help. (“You’re in love with her/Aren’t you?”) and that heart-breaking moment when Willow describes how it “wasn’t our world any more, they made it theirs”. And that bloody hand on the TV still feels creepy and wrong.

Of course there are also things that don’t quite work and never did. Less than a minute after telling Xander, between panting, that Buffy is dead, Angel informs him that he has no breath. That’s ok, I’m very forgiving of such things. It irks me more that the “prophecy” concerning the Anointed One turns out to be that he’s able to lead Buffy to the Master because Buffy knows that’s what the prophecy says and decides she wants to face the Master anyway. Doing what some text says you will do because you read it is not a prophecy it’s a to-do list. But I guess that’s the nature of prophecy in the Buffyverse – tricky as the Master points out.

Those are things that I’ve always known about. What was new to this viewing, was the degree to which the special effects and CGI really were quite poor. That rubber tentacled monster? Did that ever seem state of the art? Perhaps the effect of 11 years of continuously improving special effects has caused me to forget what was normal back then. Or perhaps I had my fan-goggles on and was concentrating on characters and story – which are now so familiar that I’m forced to consider the wallpaper again, as it were. A bit of both probably.

Anyway to sum up. It holds up as a good episode, still probably the best of season 1. I’m not sure it’s as good as what we’re about to see in season 2 though (unless that’s faded with age too). However it has some pleasing interaction between the characters, some unrequited and requited love, a cool fight, some jokes and Buffy dies. Buffy dies and it really matters. OK she’s resussitated two minutes later and much much later she’ll sing about having “died twice” with a glibness that doesn’t fit the impact here – and that’s all fine, but it doesn’t take away from the power of having her die.

8/10

Which means that season 1 has an average of 7.5 – pretty decent. Let’s see how that holds up against coming seasons.

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