Season 3, Episode 20 - “The Prom”
Original airdate: May 11, 1999
Project 310 re-watch date: Feb. 13, 2009
Xander Bad Date Alert! This time it’s Anya. Sure, she was a vengeance demon who created an alternate universe where everything was bad, but hey, Xander needed a date for the prom.
OK, on to the actual meaningful part of the episode -- as you could probably guess from the title, it’s all about the prom, though with a Sunnydale twist. One vengeful student is going to unleash hellhounds upon the prom, because, well, basically because he was rejected for a prom date.
As villainous motives go, it’s not great, but it’ll sufice, because that plot is really the subplot of this episode.
The heart of the episode is on the ending of the Buffy-Angel relationship. We’ve had hints all season that this wouldn’t work longterm (from Spike, the Mayor, etc.) but this time Angel finally drops the hammer himself.
Well, actually, he has some help from Joyce. I wonder what Buffy would have thought if she ever found out that her mom helped Angel break up with her. That probably wouldn’t have gone over well.
And while the break-up is sad (I’ll be honest, I teared up a little), it’s needed both for the characters and the creative direction of the show. It couldn’t be about Buffy and Angel forever. And plus, we get that great moment where Angel shows up unexpectedly at the prom to be Buffy’s date. Good times.
As for the prom itself, Buffy is given the class protector award, in one of the most poignant moments of the first three seasons. At its core, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was always about a girl who was trying to live as normal a life as possible, while also being a slayer. And in this little moment at the prom, Buffy got recognition from her classmates -- she got to be a semi-normal part of everyone’s life for just a little bit.
Back when this episode aired, it was shown before “Earshot”, so to people who hadn’t seen that episode, the idea of Jonathan presenting the class protector award must have seemed kind of strange. However, it works perfectly upon re-viewing the episode, because Buffy really did save his life, and did it in the most normal way possible (and yes, I teared up during his little speech too).
Sure, there’s no Faith or Mayor advancement at all, but this episode serves as kind of a first three years wrap-up, before moving into the big finale.