Synopsis: The ascension is happening on graduation day. Buffy is distracted when Faith poisons Angel. The only cure is the blood of a Slayer.
Review: It is hard to review this episode apart from part two, because the two are so intertwined. By itself, this episode is really not that good. Watching Buffy years after it originally aired affords me the luxury of watching both parts back-to-back in the same night. Because of an unfortunate decision by WB, viewers in 1999 had to wait an entire two months to watch part two.
In this episode, Buffy quits working for the Watcher's Council. If Joss Whedon expected this to be some great turning point or milestone, it is not. We barely saw the Council's influence in the last three seasons. We are not going to miss it. Personally, I think this was a bad move. It does not display some kind of "graduation" from dependent slayer to independent slayer. If anything, it displays that Buffy is still immature. The Council makes a lot of sense logically, and I think it enhances the slayer mythology greatly.
I was also disappointed in the Oz and Willow sex scene. Over the course of this series, we have watched Buffy, Xander, and now Willow lose their virginity. This series includes so many good messages, but really messes up in this area. The message it is sending is clear: Losing your virginity is a normal part of growing up. Everyone does it. It is a mistake a lot of teenagers make, and the series could have legitimately dealt with that. I believe they did in the case of Buffy. There were serious consequences. But a lot of teenagers also remain abstinent until they get married. The series could have dealt with that also, but they chose not to.
I understand the whole "the Scoobies are graduating high school, so they are growing up" thing, but this episode is not showing evidences of growing up. Buffy's decision to leave the Watcher's Council is immature. Willow is no more of woman now than she was before. We already witnessed Buffy, Xander, and Willow grow up in what I refer to as their identity episodes, the three episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer you should not miss: Anne, The Zeppo, and Doppelgängland. This episode took too much time focusing on something that has already been established this season. It should have focused on moving the story with the Mayor forward.
The best part of this episode was the subplot involving Buffy, Faith, and Angel. Faith poisons Angel, and the only cure is the blood of the slayer. "To Be Continued..." fades onto the screen before we reach a resolution. This episode spent too much time focusing on unimportant concepts and trying to force unwanted turning points. I give it 4 out of 10.
Objectionable Content: Oz and Willow are seen passionately kissing pre-sex. A few scenes later the camera pans across clothes strewn across the room. Oz and Willow are lying under the covers on the bed together as Willow discusses what it was like to have just lost her virginity.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)