In the first season finale, Buffy learns that it has been prophesied that she must face the infamous Master, whose ascension would mean the opening of the Hellmouth, and she will unfortunately perish in the battle. Initially, she decides that she quits and refuses to battle in the Master in fear of dying at the age of 16. However, after consideration of what’s at stake, she assumes her role as the slayer and takes the fight to the Master. Buffy dies, yes, but Xander is able to (literally) breathe life back into her, and Buffy is able to defeat the Master once and for all. His demonic facade disappears after she slays him, and he becomes a mere skeleton.
Throughout the course of the episode, there were a few references to the “double life” that Buffy (and all the other characters, as well) leads. After a night of slaying and no recognition from Giles, Buffy disgustedly states, “I broke a nail, alright. I’m wearing a press on!” While her priorities at this moment in time are amusing, they are understandable from the perspective of a high school girl in the 90s. Towards the end of the episode, Buffy slays the Master (and some of his minions that have escaped the Hellmouth) in her flowing spring fling dress. This mashup of her typical high school life with her unbelievable slaying life couldn’t be less pronounced during these scenes.
After Willow and Cordelia happen upon a classroom of murdered Sunnydale students, Willow freaks out because the classroom and students were so familiar to her. In reference to the Master’s minions, she painfully states, “They made it theirs. And they had fun.” Her disgust with the actions of these supernatural beings is similar to the hatred held by many members of medieval European communities plagued by witch trials towards the supposed witches. Despite the very little incriminating evidence towards the witches in the latter scenario, people’s attitudes were still remarkably similar to Willow’s in this case.
The penultimate episode of the season dealt with themes of exclusion and being an outcast in the vicious society that is high school. It began with a focus on Buffy as an outcast, which is precipitated daily by Cordelia and her iron hold over the student body. In reference to the time that Buffy attacked her (1×01), Cordelia states that she doesn’t “know why the school accepts mentals.” Buffy also feels like an outcast when she’s with her own friends; she doesn’t understand Willow and Xander’s references to middle school versions of their peers, and she isn’t popular in Sunnydale like she was in L.A.
When the episode begins, it seems as though the focus will be on Buffy’s position in the social hierarchy. Instead, it becomes more so about the nature of an outcast in itself. Cordelia admits to feeling like an outcast among the student body; despite being surrounded by hordes of people at any given moment, none of them truly know her and they only ever nod and agree with her. The “big bad” of the episode is Marcie Ross. After being perceived as invisible at Sunnydale High School for months and even years, she becomes invisible (things like this can happen at the Hellmouth). Willow and Xander find “proof” that she is a social reject when they noticed that the only thing written in her yearbook is “have a great summer,” over and over again. They explain to Giles that this is the ultimate sign; people only ever write “have a great summer” when they have absolutely nothing to say. Now, as an invisible outcast, Marcie has made it her goal to destroy Cordelia’s life – she starts with her boyfriend, then moves onto her best friend, and then Cordelia herself.
The focus on this episode of the lonesome outcast poses as an interesting parallel to the archetypal woman accused of witchcraft in medieval Europe. Our classic convention (which we have begun to complicate in class by scrutinizing the historical records) is an older woman who didn’t fit societal norms; she was accused of witchcraft because she threatened the structure that society had worked to build. In this episode, Marcie was the outcast, not because she chose to be alone or had abnormal interests, but because she was constantly ignored by her peers despite her efforts to get their attention. This is different from our classic convention of the medieval European witch, and it is intriguing to put the two in conversation with one another.