BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy Summers -
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Rupert Giles -
Anthony Stewart Head
Willow Rosenberg -
Xander Harris -
OTHER BUFFY SEASONS
OTHER VAMPIRE SHOWS
It's the seventh and last year of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and that means that the team have to come up with something extra special if they plan to go out on top. Fortunately, this is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and going out on top is never in doubt.
Despite the fact that this is an extremely strong season, there are very few standout episodes. Apart from the quite stunning finale Chosen and the hilarious Him there is just a very high level of quality throughout. The main plot arc starts early on in the season and then dominates throughout with none of the 'creature of the week' episodes found elsewhere.
This is a season about fear and about the loneliness of being a leader. The First evil is all about instilling fear, about using terror and frightening people to the point of suicide, but that's not all. There is the fear of failure, all the worse when lives are at risk, the fear of leaving behind a deceased loved one, the fear of having to face friends that you have greatly wronged.
Most of all, though, it is about the characters, the people we have come to love over seven years.
Going out on top? There was never any question.Top
Sunnydale High School, the place where Buffy fought the forces of evil for three years before blasting it apart, is reopened, much to her alarm, not least because it is now Dawn's school. On the first day, she ventures inside to find a group of vengeful spirits out for her blood. She also finds another surprise in the basement.
It's a new season and it starts off bright and sunny, as if to ward off the oppressive darkness that threatened to mire Season 6. There's plenty of fun dialogue in the early part of the episode and even as the main part of the plot gets underway the quips continue to fly. Buffy herself is much lighter and brighter, back to the peppy, zippy character that we first loved and that makes a big, big difference.
It's a low key opener, but that's fine as it contains hints about what is to come, setting the scene. There's the girl running through Istanbul, chased by cowled figures who kill her without compunction. There's the evil in the basement that takes the form of all the previous monsters that have assailed Buffy and claims to be older than creation itself. There is Willow in England, trying to come to terms with what she did at the end of the last season and there is Anya, a vengeance demon whose heart does not appear to be in the job anymore. The school principal also appears to be too good to be true and too interested in Buffy, even offering her a job to keep her on the campus.
And then there is the suprise occupant of the school basement. He's completely lost his mind, it seems, until the big evil of the season is made manifest to him.
Welcome back Buffy. It's been too long.Top
'From beneath you it devours' - words that Buffy sees in a vision of another young girl being hunted down and killed by cowled figures. They might refer to the giant worm creature that is stalking a woman with the aim of eating her. Spike emerges from the school basement to offer his help, but can he be counted on? The solution to the problem lies closer to home than the gang might have thought.
This starts off as another fun episode - worm creatures always fun and hard to take seriously. Anya's involvement allows for some sharp dialogue too. But what this episode is really about is Spike's madness. Though he appears to be in control and truly changed, it becomes clear that he is still evil and then that he is completely insane. It's a smart and well-written hint of darkness, played to the hilt by James Marsters, even if he does keep taking his shirt off for the benefit of the female fans. It is, however, also a hint about the descent into depression that marred the last season and hopefully not a sign of things to come.Top
Same Time, Same Place
The gang show up to greet Willow when her plane lands, but she isn't on it. She, on the other hand, is disappointed that they haven't forgiven her enough to meet her off the plane. Then a body shows up at Xander's building site with all of its skin missing. Hoping that Willow hasn't started her human flaying all over again, the team look for an alternative culprit whilst Willow enlists the aid of Anya to track down the real killer.
This is a lovely mixing of the light and the serious. There is plenty of humour (both Anya and Willow asking each other at the same time if they were responsible is a classic moment) all around, but when Willow gets trapped with the demon responsible, frozen stiff by its poison and its starts to peel off her skin whilst she watches helplessly then things get cringe-inducingly yucky. This is genuinely disturbing stuff, leavened by Dawn's similarly frozen state and Anya's delight at having a poseable human Barbie.
Willow is in quite a bad place here when she thinks that her friends don't want to see her, but it is handled with just the right lightness of touch to stop it from turning into a downer. The moments when both she and the gang are in the same place are also well done, especially Spike having the same conversation from two angles. Insane he may be, but this time he's not so out of it. The gang is all back together (bar Giles). Let the games begin.Top
Buffy takes up her job as a school counsellor and faces the whole range of student suffering all over again. One girl announces calmly that she's not doing her homework because she's going to die on Friday. Buffy believes that she means it literally and sets about saving her.
Is is possible to cheat Fate? Is the future written? Can Buffy save everyone? If you can't save everyone what's the point of trying at all. This is a curious little episode that seems fairly straightforward, but actually has a whole lot more going on below the surface than it lets. There are some funny moments, dark moments and the ending, whilst not unexpected, is very satisfying.Top
Back in vengeance demon mode, Anya brings a spider demon in to a fraternity house on campus to wreak bloody vengeance on perpetrators of a terrible practical joke. Buffy decides that she has no choice but to kill Anya before a higher body count gets racked up, much to Xander's dismay. There may, however, be another way out.
For a plot that is such a mixed bag, this episode works surprisingly well. There's the basic hunt for the monster of the week (the spider demon), there's the emotional rollercoaster of Xander and Buffy's argument, there's the action of demon on slayer fighting and there's a twist in the tail that shows how evil Anya's boss really is.
The highlights, though, are the sepia tinted flashback to Anya's origin (all swedish maidens and bunnies) and a leftover song from the musical episode Once More With Feeling, both of which are just delightful.Top
RJ is irresistible to women and the woman who is most enamoured at the moment is Dawn. Until, that is, Buffy meets him and becomes her sister's love rival. Then Willow is caught up in it all despite not liking boys and Anya completes the quartet. When these formidable women decide to do whatever it takes to win RJ, lives are put at risk.
It's a long time since an episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER set out with no other agenda than to make the audience laugh and that makes this episode all the more welcome. This is fun with a capital F followed by a capital UN. The plot bothers heavily from Bewitched,Bothered and Bewildered and is even cheeky enough to reference it in a flashback moment, but so funny is the episode that it can be forgiven. The dialogue is sparkling, the comic timing from all involved is spot on and this is just the funniest that the show has been in a long time.Top
Conversations With Dead People
Buffy has to kill a vampire that she used to go to school with, but he was a psychology student and insists on analysing her first. Willow gets a visit from a messenger sent by Tara in the library. Dawn is terrorised by a power that is holding her mother prisoner and two old enemies return to spill blood on the Hellmouth.
There's not much of a plot here, but lots of foreshadowing going on. Something is visiting all of the Scoobies in the shape of dead people. This appears to be a distraction from the Johnathan and Andrew's foray into the school basement and the Hellmouth itself. It was lying to Willow about her needing to kill herself, but was it lying when it told Dawn that Buffy would not be there for her when things get bad?
In amongst all the serious stuff, though, Buffy's extended conversation with her vampire shrink is full of some of smartest, funniest dialogue that the show has ever come up with.Top
Buffy learns that Spike is drinking humans again and can't believe it, so she sets off to find out if it is true and kill him if necessary. when she lands up locked in a basement with all his recently sired offspring, it might be her getting killed.
Something very big and very dark and very dangerous is coming. OK, we get that. The show has been banging on about it since the opening scenes of Lessons. That something is taking the forms of the dead and sowing discord and fear amongst the team. It is using Spike's weakened state to control him. This gives everyone a chance for some serious acting as relationships are stretched and tested and the sense of growing fear is palpable.
The episode plays its big card, though, right at the end as Giles discovers an attack on the Watcher's Council and is attacked himself. That's a cliffhanger.Top
Never Leave Me
Spike is locked up in Buffy's house and so is Andrew, who Willow discovers buying blood to open up the seal to the Hellmouth that he failed to open with Johnathan's murder. As Anya and Xander play mind games to get Andrew to talk, Buffy tries to get the truth from Spike, but an attack on the house tells Buffy what she is fighting, but loses Spike to torture.
An episode that starts off relatively light descends into some very dark places, hopefully not heralding a return to the relentless depression of SEASON 6. The bleeding of Spike is an unusually brutal moment, the attack on the house sees pretty much everyone get a good beating, the Watchers' Council is utterly removed from the game (and the world in general) and there is no news on what has happened to Giles, last seen with an axe millimetres from his neck.
What's up with that Principal as well? Dead kid in the basement and he just decides to take the body out and bury it? What is wrong with that picture>? And then there's the vampire, the ultimate vampire, that has emerged from the Hellmouth. That cannot be good.Top
Bring On The Night
Giles returns and brings with him three girls who are potential slayers, their abilities waiting to be wakened should Buffy die. He explains that the First Evil has planned the murder of all the potential slayers around the world, thus ending the line with Buffy. After the loss of its guardian, the Hellmouth could spew forth whatever evil it wanted into the world unhindered. The uber-vamp that appeared last time around attacks and Buffy learns to her dismay, that it is very, very hard to kill.
Giles is back, but there is no mention of how he escaped having his head chopped off and he hasn't touched anyone, or anything, since he got back. Maybe we're being paranoid, but then that's what the First wants. The revelation of the potentials and the First's plan is an inspired plot arc, well up to the standard of previous seasons.
Bring on the Night the episode is called and the descent into darkness continues. Spike is tortured throughout the episode with no let up and Buffy gets her ass soundly kicked by the uber-vamp who also manages to take out one of the potentials. Failed and battered, will Buffy slip back into depression and despair. No, she comes around and gives the St Crispin's Day speech before declaring all out war on the First. This is classy, classic BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.Top
Another potential slayer arrives and Buffy just about gets to her in time. When another of the potentials already in the house proves to be other than she seems, the young girls start to panic. In order to gain back their faith and confidence, Buffy has to not only face the uber-vampire, but do it on her own terms.
Starting off well enough with the rescue of the new slayer, this episode then dips in the middle with seemingly endless scenes of the potentials discussing how they are so going to die. Just when this verges on the tedious, the truth about one of their number is revealed, the uber-vamp attacks and finds out exactly what it means to take on a slayer. This makes the latter third of the episode thoroughly entertaining, making up for the middle third.Top
When the coven in England sends word that another potential has been located living in Sunnydale, Willow casts a spell to reveal her and instead reveals Dawn. Not quite able to understand what this means for her life and her relationship with Buffy, Dawn goes for a walk and finds another girl who has just locked up a vampire in the school. Determined to try out her newfound potential slayer status, Dawn heads off to the school to slay the vampire.
Whilst most of this episode is fun, it contains a moment that is quite simply amongst the best that the show has offered since way back in Season 1 and that is a lot of good moments. Following events that have shaken her life to its very foundations Xander extols the difficulty of being the one who is not chosen, the one who does not have power and does not have glory. It is a speech of unexpected insight, power and poetry and Nicholas Brandon does it great service, delivering it with heart. For this moment alone, this will be remembered as one of our favourite episodes.Top
The Killer In Me
Whislt Giles takes the potential slayers out to the desert to commune with the spirit of the first slayer, the gang start to question whether it is really Giles or another manifestation of the First. Buffy and Spike venture down into the tunnels of the abandoned Initiative base to try and sort out Spike's defective brain chip and Willow, having kissed Kennedy, starts turning into Warren, the boy who ruined her life and whom she skinned alive whilst in full on evil mode.
Wow there's a lot of story to get into on this episode and for once it is really imortant to have seen what went on in previous series of the show to really get what is happening. If you don't know what the Initiative was then you will have problems with what's going on underground. If you didn't see what Warren did in Season 6 then the whole Willow turning into him and most especially the final confrontation in the garden will make little sense. For those that have been following since the early days then her story is powerful and anyone coming out of grieving for a lost loved one to look at the possibilities of new love will be able to empathise.
On the other hand, the story about Giles and his real state, corporeal or evil, is witty and fun and has at least one killer line.Top
Principal Wood asks Buffy out for dinner. She isn't sure whether it's because he likes her or because he's evil. Turns out to be neither and what he really is puts Spike in terrible danger.
Even though there are dark things happening in Sunnydale, this episode manages to leaven the mix with a whole bunch of clever lines and nice playing by the series principle actors. It's hard to imagine another show where a man would turn around to his best friend and ask her to 'gay him up' as a solution to his dating problems. But then again it's hard to imagine any other show where his dating problems would extend to a long line of demons who just want to eat, behead or otherwise damage him.
The revelation of Principal Woods origins is straight out of left field, but meshes beautifully with the established mythology of the show, taking a throwaway flashback scene and turning it into something very current and very important. This just underlines the quality of the plotting of the show and just why we love it so much.Top
Get It Done
When one of the potential slayers commits suicide rather than face the painful future promised her by the First, Buffy decides that it is time to take the offensive. Using a shadow theatre stored in the belongings of the Principal's slayer mother, Buffy opens a portal to the past, to the time of the first slayer and the secret of how the slayer line was created.
At a time near the end, the beginning of the mythology is revealed. It's taken us seven years to get there, but finally we know how the slayers were created. The problem is that it doesn't seem to help Buffy all that much. At least Spike is back to his violent ways and will be more of a help and Willow has chanced more magic than at any time since she went evil, but the fact remains that the First is in control and Buffy has seen what it has in store - an army of the nearly unkillable uber-vamps. It's a climactic moment that is shocking because there is no way that Buffy can fight her way out of this one.Top
Andrew is using a video camera to record the slayer in action, making documentary for posterity, assuming that posterity doesn't consist of a world in burning ruins that is. Buffy has more immediate concerns as the school begins to meltdown with all of the evil energy pouring out through the Hellmouth's seal. The only solution is to take Andrew to the Hellmouth and face what he did there.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER has been very short on gimmick episodes and even when there have been ones (no speaking, all singing, Johnathan is the hero) they have all been extremely well done so that the gimmick serves the story not the other way around. Here, though, the gimmick fills out the time that is left flapping by the slight story. If you happen to like Andrew as a character then you will love the episode, but if you think he's an annoying little git then this will be as close to the torture that the First was meteing out on Spike recently that you are ever likely to get and much closer than you ever wanted to get.Top
Lies My Parents Told Me
The First returns from a short respite courtesy of Buffy's killing its ubervamp, which means that it is time to sort out the trigger that allows the First to control Spike. This involves delving deep into his scarred psyche and leaving him vulnerable to betrayal by Principal Wood and Giles.
The Principal Wood/Spike plot arc reaches its height as the slayer's son initiates his plan to kill the vampire that slew his mother. This is the action side of things. On the other hand we have a dip into the early days of Spike's vampirehood, when he was still called William and wrote some truly terrible poetry. These flashbacks have been used extensively in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but especially ANGEL to build up a mythology behind the vampire clan. They are usually fun and this is no exception.
The betrayal by Giles is a particular blow to Buffy and you can feel the delicate group of allies dissolving under the machinations of the First.Top
There are three new arrivals in town. The first is a potential slayer who has been sliced by the second newcomer, a not-quite-preacherman who likes to go by the name of Caleb. The third is Faith, rogue slayer and girl with a zest for life. When Caleb challenges Buffy, she takes the team into action against him, with disastrous results.
Welcome back Eliza Dushku as Faith, one of the most brilliant characters that the show has ever thrown up. The dangerous side of the slayer that Buffy keeps bottled up inside is let loose in Faith, a girl who loves the power, loves the killing and loves the loving. Like most of the team, she was once on the side of evil, but she's back now and makes an immediate impact.
So does Nathan Fillion (FIREFLY) as Caleb. The character, deranged preacher man, really is nothing new, but he plays it as though all the fires of hell were banked up inside the man and the way that he despatches his enemies is shocking in its straightforward brutality. Things are not looking up for the home side. This one man inflicts more permanent damage on Team Buffy in one encounter than any other creature has been able to do throughout the show.Top
Following the disastrous attack on the vineyard where Caleb is hiding, Buffy and her team attempt to regroup. They find one lead that might be of use, so Spike and Andrew go to check that out. Whilst they are away, Buffy determines to attack the vineyard again, convinced that Caleb is hiding something. When the others show reservations about the plan, Buffy forces the issue and is asked to leave.
This is a talky episode dealing with the fallout from the events of Dirty Girls. Nothing much happens, but its purpose is to lead up to the confrontation in the house that leads to Buffy being ousted from her own team, everyone turned away from her. Even with all the effort put into the script, that betrayal never rings true. After all that the team have seen and done together the reactions of her closest friends and her sister is just not comprehensible. The face off with Caleb in the school is shoe-horned in just to have some action on show, but that doesn't convince either since he kicks Buffy's butt once again and then walks away, despite having the perfect opportunity to kill her. It makes no sense on the part of the First to let her live and it is not explained.Top
Spike returns to find that Buffy has been exiled from the group. He berates them for their betrayal and then goes in search of Buffy, to provide the support that has been taken away. Faith struggles with the task of leading the group, but word of an underground arsenal takes her and the most experienced potentials into the sewers. At the same time, Buffy goes into the vineyard and takes on Caleb alone for the power that she believes he is hiding.
This episode starts with the same talky examination of character that was at the heart of Empty Places, but then ramps up the action in the last few minutes to set up a couple of cliffhangers. There's Buffy come face to face with a fabulous new weapon and there is Faith who has come face to face with a large bomb about to go 'boom'. This is the kind of stuff that means you can't possibly miss the next episode, especially this close to the end.
The action is also really clever with the manner in which Buffy overcomes Caleb's power being a triumph of the mind rather than brute strength. The reveal of the trap that Faith has taken the potentials into is also expertly handled.Top
End of Days
With the mystical scythe in her possession, Buffy is allowed to walk away from Caleb in order to help Faith's team, still reeling from the bomb blast. The weapon is power, but exactly what kind nobody knows. It's ancient and its mystical, and it also leads Buffy to a meeting with a woman whose task has been to watch over the slayers in secrecy so complete that even the Watchers did not suspect. Caleb cuts the meeting short, infused with the pure essence of the First and powerful enough to kill the slayer, but an old friend shows up to lend a hand.
Wow there's a lot of plot in this penultimate episode and yet it doesn't feel rushed or jam in too much where it can't fit. There is time for a contemplation of the death that is to come and for Dawn to be taken out of the fray by Xander and still have a kick-ass finale as Buffy and Caleb face off. All that's left now is that pesky army of thousands of ubervamps.Top
Following the death of Caleb (for the second time) Buffy explains to Angel why he can't stay in Sunnydale and he presents her with an amulet of great, but unsure power. The First shows up to taunt Buffy, but instead it gives her an idea, a plan of such audacity that it is going to take her and the potentials into the Hellmouth itself to face the entire army of Ubervamps.
We have a theory at the SCI FI FREAK SITE that the best shows get the best final episodes. If that's that the case then BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER's finale needs ot be something quite incredible. True to form, the show doesn't disappoint. Chosen really is something special, a real reward for those that have followed the show from the beginning as well as a spectacle for the irregular viewer.
Of course taking on an entire army of Ubervamps in the heart of the Hellmouth was always going to be spectacular, but there is so much here than just the action. Firstly there is the plan. What Buffy (and the writers come up with) is breathtaking in its audacity, playing with the mythology at the very heart of the show. It makes sense and it is almost enough. Almost.
Nothing is perfect and this isn't either. The amulet that Angel leaves Buffy is too much of a 'deus ex machina' solution, especially after the sudden appearance of the scythe in the last episode. Still, it's such a small flaw that it seems churlish to even bring it up.
Then there's the character stuff. The hip and funny dialogue is right there where it ought to be, but it comes from characters that have been built up over seven years and who are deeply loved by the show's creators. They all get their moments, but it doesn't feel manipulated or manufactured to ensure it. The moment when the four who started it all, Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander, stand together in the calm before the storm is magnificent and will make any true fan want to weep.
Into every generation one girl is born to save the world from the forces of evil. Her name was Buffy and we shall not see her like again.Top
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