Well kiddies, here we have the finale of season one. Umm, I'm thinking this is going to be an examination of vampire lore and prophecy. As a season finale this episode is notable in that we FINALLY kill the Master. Unfortunately the whole Master business will not be wrapped up till 2nd season. Just, as a whole this episode is pretty underwhelming. Drama, secrecy...on a whole, this episode acts like a regular episode up until the last ten minutes or so. There's very little buildup in the rest of the series--all of the buildup is in this episode as well as the big climactic moment. Thankfully Joss learns from his first season and makes the subsequent ones better.
Now, as far as the big ol' prophecy section of this episode is concerned, it almost falls into the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy--that is, person learns of terrible prophecy, person does everything in their power to avoid terrible prophecy, and through their actions terrible prophecy comes true. If they had never known about the prophecy, it wouldn't have happened--theoretically.
Unfortunately while this is ALMOST a self-fulling prophecy, its not that simple. Buffy learns of her destiny, tries to avoid it, then faces up to it and in doing so causes it. If Buffy had stayed irresponsible the prophecy could not have come to pass.
However as far as we know, this ends the prophecy--thus we have some wiggle room to save Buffy. Once she is legally dead, as per the prophecy, the Master is free and the Hellmouth starts opening. Through the use of CPR (yay modern times!) she is revived and goes to kill the Master. She succeeds, the hellmouth doesn't open, and the day is saved.
Oooh, the Master has a compulsion ability! Previously untouched upon in the series is the Vampire's ability to compel someone to do what they want with their mind. Now way back when legends speak of incredible fear, of being unable to move in the presence of a vampire, of being mesmerized. This however could just as easily be, well, FEAR. The vampire was thought to be some kind of unholy hellspawn, and people were understandably terrified of them.
Full on compulsion was made famous by Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was a compilation of legends rather than just pure vampire lore. A good deal of Dracula became cannon, however, and as such we have the compulsion here in Buffy.
Nother bit of fun vampire lore--the way the Master dissolves once he FALLS ON THE SHARP BIT OF WOOD (sorry, wanted to point out how anti-climactic it was). I mean, vampires usually turn to ash in the show, but he slowly dissolves into black matter that leaves a skeleton behind. This unfortunately is a bit backwards.
Vampires turn to ash after they're destroyed if their body real-time has been around long enough to just be ashes. If this was a vamp that died yesterday, it will still be a mouldering corpse once staked--just not animated. Vampire bodies are in a stasis kept out of time. Once they are no longer animated, time will ravage the body once again as it would have naturally. Hence, really really old vampires will just be dust, maybe bits of bone. Newer vampires will still be all corpsy and nasty.
Anyways, that's the season finale....or should I say season finally? Tomorrow we start Season two...FINALLY!!