Could this actually be the last post I make about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? After more than 140 episodes, it feels like the end of an era. I’ll admit that watching Buffy wasn’t always the most pleasurable experience and sometimes it was downright tedious. But damn it, guys, what am I going to do with my life now that it’s over and I can’t talk to you about it? That said, I think the reason for most of those times is a double-edged sword — this wonderful community. They say correlation doesn’t equal causation, but maybe it’s no coincidence that I began to greatly enjoy BTVS once I stopped forcing myself to view three episodes a week (or just three episodes).
When it comes to season seven, I will say that I think the show improved from season six. Viewing the show over a span of nine months or so, having the entire thing take place in Buffy’s home may have felt redundant or even claustrophobic, but for me, it truly worked. (I watched in like a week, obviously.) Of course, I don’t think anything will ever truly compare to season five, which I think is a great achievement. Season five is so fantastic because it’s not about supernatural forces much. I know that this show likes to play with metaphor, but season five was really about raw human emotion than any other season, and it really worked… even for a show that deals with the supernatural. Season seven is structured in a way that appears it has blinders on.
I know that season seven is another one of those polarizing ones, and I can’t completely disregard that. A lot of season seven feels completely random in a way that Buffy never feels, all the way to the series’ final scene. And relationships sort of don’t ever truly get resolved. I may be disagreed with in a very radical sense here, but the closure for anyone on the series was absolutely null. Someone was dismembered. People who deserved to live more than others died. It’s all very such is life and not as preachy as the show can get. I’m not saying that the show is “preachy,” I just mean that compared to the sort of themes that are present in this season, it can feel that way by comparison I mean, it’s no secret that one of the running themes is that Buffy just does not possess the ability to save everyone from everything, especially when it’s not supernatural. We’ve seen it before, but it was extremely in close focus during “The Body.” In this season, we have it again during “Help.” It was just… well, she’s going to die anyway.
And a lot of this season is like that: Willow moves on. Buffy is a bit more hopeful. Xander and Anya talk. Dawn copes with being Normal. After having an entire season where everyone sort of hits rock bottom, this season was basically about everyone rising up from that rubble — and it’s not a quick process, it’s sort of just rolling with the punches, and had there been more seasons, they may or may not have found true stasis. I can’t ascertain if it’s brilliant or just sort of boring. Judging by the backlash, I’d assume some people just think it’s wonky.
Which brings me to the Big Bad of the season, The First. In any other season, The First could have been extremely engaging and would have propelled some of the characters further into the abyss of themselves. However, by design, season seven is about these characters sort of having found themselves already, if not well on their way. It might have gotten a bit gimmicky, but imagine The First during season six when everyone was questioning their motivations — and how it could have greatly toyed with them all. It would have been a much more fun villain, I don’t think there’s any doubt. In season seven, The First kind of seems extremely badass but then stops midway into the season. Though, I have to concede, it doesn’t stop before it allows Dawn to doubt Buffy’s intentions throughout.
Well, let’s talk about the characters one by one.
Buffy: A lot of what I think Buffy is about this season is being open to the community that surrounds her. It’s a recurring theme the entire series, where Buffy is sure that she’s meant to be in isolation of some sort. Sure, Buffy has an epiphany at the end of season six where she declares that she wants to show Dawn the entire world, but that’s after a moment of breaking through her deep depression and having just survived an apocalypse. There’s no more time, because here comes another apocalypse. This season, even, Buffy reassures Giles that if it came to it, she would sacrifice Dawn for the greater good. A lot of season five was spent on Buffy driven by emotion almost to a fault, but only after pushing away her boyfriend for not connecting with him enough. Buffy feels like she wields all this power and never knows exactly how to balance it all. In season seven, she declares that everyone should follow her, no discussions. Some of it is to not feel any pain whenever someone in her army bites the dust, but as we’ve seen (and Buffy has realized in season six), life is beautiful because of emotion.
In a way, season seven is like one final test: what kind of leader will Buffy be? And is it, whichever she chooses, inherently the best? When she tells Giles that she would sacrifice Dawn, it’s the reason I think she’s also lobbying to keep Spike around. She knows that in the warzone, all of these people are susceptible to death — and even if she may have feelings for Spike, he’s useful, regardless if he’s a casualty or not. But in the end, Buffy doesn’t choose Dawn, just like The First/Joyce told her. And it’s not because she doesn’t think Dawn is powerful, it’s because at the end of it, Buffy isn’t willing to blindly sacrifice Dawn, unlike she declared; she decides to have Xander basically kidnap her and take her away. However, season seven isn’t about running away because you’re normal, it’s also about finding the power within — and Dawn has come to realize this by that moment.
I digress, Buffy believes that fighting the good fight by her lonesome is what is meant to happen, until she finds out that the initial watchers were emotionally stunted, well, weaklings. And she denies the power they offer her, which I think is a true defining moment, that she would rather stay emotionally connected than just worry about the war. She has finally found something that resembles balance. And it all manifests itself into her empowering all potentials around the world with the power they’ve always had within, all it needed was to be activated — old, misogynistic rules be damned!
In the end, I think we have a Buffy who is very well aware of who she is, flaws and all. And for the most part, she’s done loathing herself for them. A lot of the burden of being a slayer is having to be meticulous and almost pristine, but Buffy has come to terms with the fact that humans have flaws. And in the end, that’s what makes Buffy and icon for any female character: not flawlessness, but fleshed out human beings. With those flaws, Buffy is perfect. That’s the point.
Dawn: A lot of what Dawn does this season is basically just be in the background, which I know is intentional but also a recurring thing since the end of season five. After Dawn was no longer key-material, she was sort of relegated to being a normal human being… and that kind of sucks, especially when you’re surrounded with so many people with so many talents. But I think it all culminates itself so beautifully in “Potential” with what Xander tells her that I couldn’t possibly care. And Dawn finally understands what’s at stake and still wants to fight alongside her sister and company at the end.
Willow: After Willows loses Tara, she sort of loses herself all over again… in a much more human way than losing herself to magic, so it’s no surprise that the first thing that happens to her when she gets back is turning invisible. A lot of Willow’s insecurities are rooted in the idea that she’s just not good enough, anyway. And while I’m not the biggest fan of Kennedy, it’s still sort of classic Willow to feel a bit uncomfortable with being, well, courted in this way (regardless of how antique that may sound), because Willow’s still not used to being in the spotlight for being herself. Once again, we have a final test: Willow gets to feel just how great magic is when she reaps some of Kennedy’s power. But the true testament is when she disperses that power back, in a sense, during her final spell of the series. Willow has also found herself: someone who is powerful and empowering.
Xander: In season seven, Xander completely understands himself. He may be the most self-aware character on the series at that moment, in my opinion. He may just be ordinary, but the point is that we need people who are ordinary. I have to admit that given the fact that the series is mostly about female empowerment, having one of their lead male characters be powerless is sort of an obvious manifestation of the metaphor they’re going for, it’s also about the idea that… well, yeah, we do need people to just fix windows. I also think it’s just a nice contrast to Buffy’s character, who in early seasons yearned so much to be normal, and how Xander thinks that being a normal being in this space is just that much harder. No one will write about Dawn or Xander in history books but in a sense they kept the machine running. And even more importantly, it doesn’t devalue the struggles that they face even in comparison to being a slayer with the weight of the world on your shoulders. Xander may be ordinary, but he knows it, he can see through it (which is probably why his eye was gouged, ouch!), and accept it. And when Anya says that people continue to fight, even though it’s stupid, it applies to Xander so very much.
Anya: This season, Anya kind of resolves her relationship with Xander in a way that implies they love each other but they’re just at different levels of understanding who they are at the moment. But it’s just tragic that once Anya has the epiphany of the human race, she dies. And it’s not an extraordinary death, either. It’s a very in-the-middle-of-the-warzone death. She doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory, like Spike. She sort of… just dies. Because that’s how most of us go, without having made much of a mark, even if we were all-powerful vengeance demons. Anya has come to understand this, and in a way her journey is complete. RIP Anya.
Spike: During season seven, Buffy continues to insist that Spike has changed because of his soul. Now, a lot of that does have to do with her feelings for him, sure, and maybe even the idea that she’s willing to sacrifice him if it meant the entire world was better off. (I think she sort of knows that’s what’s going to happen.) But in the end, the real test to whether or not Spike has changed is if he’s willing to sacrifice himself. And by that point, he has proven Buffy right with her declarations all season long.
Giles: Y U STILL NO HERE? This season, Giles and Buffy butt heads a lot in that sort of way that fathers and daughters who are becoming full adults do. At times this season, and this isn’t specific to Giles, it greatly irked me that everyone was second guessing Buffy after having naturally (but not formally) elected her into leadership, especially given that was Giles’ intent. Though, he realizes that part of being an adult is being mature enough to ask for help when you need it. In that sense, Buffy is rallying all the support she can muster. I don’t know, it’s weird.
Robin Wood: So I love that the show remembers EVERYTHING, seriously, given Robin’s mother. But… did seriously no one in the writers’ room realize that a character whose name rhymes with Robin Hood survived but Anya died? Ugh, the tears.
Faith: Just really quickly, I like that the show gave Faith a better understanding of the responsibilities Buffy has taken on, in a way she never got to experience when they switched bodies. Also, when the mayor is manifested by The First: that’s the kind of fun I’m talking about.
The Potentials: Ugh. Most of you are just ugh. But it’s okay.
Andrew: I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care! I think Andrew is one-hundred percent absolutely hilarious, guys! I know that this season they gave him a bit of depth as opposed to being completely one-dimensional, but I didn’t really see anything wrong with a bit of comic relief that was otherwise lacking this season.
“Same Time, Same Place:” I’ll level with you and say that the first half of the season is very fun and thrilling, so I may name a lot, but I do love this episode. The previous invisible episodes have been so cheeky and stupid that I was upset, but third time’s a charm, right? I just think it gave perfect insight into Willow’s character, and was creepy to boot!
“Him:” This is a stupid episode but one I thought was absolutely hilarious. I don’t care!
“Conversations With Dead People:” Also known as my absolute favorite episode in the season, perhaps behind “Chosen” (but even then). I think it’s just a daring script and of course is kind of the climax of what The First is and what it can do, packed with powerful performances from all involved. I’m just sad there wasn’t more of the cast in this episode. Beautiful job anyone who had anything to do with this episode!
“Showtime:” This episode is MADE by Buffy and company’s plan to show the potentials that Buffy is in charge. I love a good Buffy speech.
“Potential:” I know a lot of people don’t really like Dawn, but I think this episode is important for her growth, as well as Xander’s, and eradicating the idea that the show is all about using the supernatural to signify power. I really liked this li’l episode.
“The Killer In Me:” Sometimes withering a bit too much into the deep end, I love this episode for showing us the difficulties Willow still faces from the events that took place last season.
“Storyteller:” Once again, I don’t care this episode is hilarious and amazing.
“Dirty Girls:” Faith brings a certain gusto back into the show that I didn’t even know I missed.
“Chosen:” What more can be said of the finale that has yet to be stated? I think it’s a great end to the season and the series as a whole that gives us nice closure for all of our characters, even if it a lot of the isolated events may feel a bit out of left field. Most importantly, it reinforced the entire theme of the series and gave us hope that Buffy has finally found solace in no longer being the only slayer, but also giving and sharing her power to all the potentials on earth. Beautiful final scene.
Also, I basically love most of the episodes in the first half with exception of the first two — “Help,” “Selfless,” etc.
Well, in conclusion, I guess I could just reiterate everything I’ve said and things you’ve all heard and read a million times over. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a flawed series, surely, but at its peak was absolutely engaging, moving, heartbreaking, beautiful, difficult, and compelling in a way that even cable dramas of today can’t do. We love you Buffy the Vampire Slayer; thank you for the seven seasons! I’ll definitely miss the characters, but I think I’ll miss the best-written dialogue most of all. Man that was seriously some good stuff. And thanks to the wonderfully talented cast for portraying these characters for that long. And of course, thanks to the crew who made it all possible.
But mostly, thanks to you guys for telling me to watch and aiding me along on the journey that is Buffy. I feel like I’m more in tune with television watching, as a viewer and critiquer, now that I’ve experienced the series. Thanks a million for that! I know this may be the end for a lot of us, and if it is, I just want to thank you for coming here weekly to read my recaps way back when and still coming back to read these season-long posts now. You’ll never know how much that means to me, honestly. Thanks to Nick Walsh who made this a thing, too! Thanks to all my new twitter friends! Tweet me any time, y’all. And now, for one final time:
If anyone is up for another rewatch/first-watch with me, please suggest some shows! I think we had Supernatural and The X-Files in the running. Or we could go full-on rewatch with a show I’ve seen before. Up to you! Leave it in the comments! And if you’re gone forever, thanks for the memories. Much love!