Start of Season 7 (7.1 - 7.11)
Lessons about slaying, incorporating a little self-knowing dig.
DAWN: But he's new. He doesn't know his strength. He might not know all those fancy martial arts skills they inevitably seem to pick up.
It seems quipping, sparky Buffy is finally back. The dialogue in this episode is already more Buffy-like than it was at any point in season 6.
BUFFY: You're unconscionably spiffy.
Certain things, besides the fact that Dawn is significantly taller than Buffy now, can't be denied.
XANDER: the last two principals were eaten. Who would even apply for that job?
Also cellphones exist! Well, it is 2002.
DAWN: Isn't this reception amazing? I'm in the fricking basement!
There's fighting creepy dead guys, Dawn has met a girl and a guy on her first day, and is quipping like a slayer. It's really looking, or sounding, a lot like it used to.
JANITOR: You can thank your sister for this.
DAWN: Thanks, sis.
7.2 Beneath You
GILES: The taxi's here.
WILLOW: I know.
GILES: And in keeping with a quaint old British tradition, you would now be expected to get into it.
There's a moderately slow-moving plot involving a woman whose boyfriend Anya turned into an underground monster. Xander gets her to turn him back so that's all right. Buffy doesn't even need to fight anything (very unusually). All she contributes is call an ambulance with her cellphone.
SPIKE: Angel — he should've warned me. He makes a good show of forgetting, but it's here, in me, all the time. The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve, and I got it. They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn.
BUFFY: Your soul.
SPIKE: Bit worse for lack of use.
7.3 Same Time, Same Place
WILLOW: Welcome home, me.
A promisingly interesting plot to do with people not being able to see each other. But you know it's not invisibility because they've done that.
DAWN: Well, if she's doing that - ducking Giles - then, she's evil, right?
XANDER: Well, I've avoided Giles tons of times. Just meant I was lazy, not evil.
BUFFY: I hope you're right, because defeating Lazy Willow... probably less hard.
There's a clever scene with Spike having two conversations at once and sounding loony - showing you what it's like in his head. Presumably it's like the sort of thing we saw going on with Angel in season 3's Amends when it turned out to be The First Evil showing Angel all the people he'd killed to try and get him to kill Buffy. Oh, a clue!
Sunnydale apparently has a beautiful cemetery with a lake which we haven't seen in all these years. Well, it's nice that Tara is in the one that isn't vampire infested.
WILLOW: Have you googled her yet?
Wow, it really is 2002. But there are still demons in the school library.
CASSIE (to SPIKE): She'll tell you. Someday she'll tell you.
I'm sure nobody missed that little prophecy.
DAWN: I guess sometimes you can't help.
BUFFY: So what then? What do you do when you know that?
A mature question that the younger Buffy would just have refused to face. Maybe they will be getting back to the theme of what is a Slayer, which was developed in season 5 and then forgotten in the aimless season 6.
BUFFY: Strong, successful males say "giddy"?
There's a flashback to the year 880 which resembles a badly restored old film. That's amusing.
BUFFY: I killed Angel! Do you even remember that? I would have given up everything I had to be with... I loved him more than I will ever love anything in this life. And I put a sword through his heart because I had to.
The fight between Buffy and Anya is set up well - they both "have a job to do" - and of course Anya really is slaughtering people.
D'HOFFRYN: Isn't that just like a slayer. Solving all her problems by sticking things with sharp objects.
ANYA: My whole life, I've just clung to whatever came along.
XANDER: Well, speaking as a clingee, I kind of didn't mind.
This is clever writing. It's a subtle reminder that Xander never chose Anya, just let her choose him and call all the shots. The only thing he did on his own initiative was propose, then that turned out to be a mistake.
Giles still gets to say "Previously" but is reduced to the tiniest glimpse in the credits, and Tara is gone altogether.
Buffy seems to be revisiting haircuts from season 1.
BUFFY: So, do you have plans later, or are you just gonna go down to the docks and wait for the fleet to come in?
The episode goes on and on without any monsters or librarians saying "dear lord!" and it's the halfway point before we even have the slightest hint of a harmless little spell. It's a bit like Xander's spell in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered but much less apocalyptic.
DAWN: Ohmigod! I'm the pushy queen of slut town.
In fact we get a flashback to that earlier episode, and later, the completely predictable moment when RJ comes to the house and the lesbian falls for him.
The scene where we find out that Buffy still has her rocket launcher is funny though.
7.7 Conversations with Dead People
DAWN: Oh. Ah, she'll think it's blood.
This is a many-track story, none of which meet, evidently. Buffy meets a vampire who has news of Scott the hopeless boyfriend from Faith, Hope and Trick.
HOLDEN: Scott Hope said you were gay.
BUFFY: What? I dated that ringworm.
HOLDEN: He says that about every girl he breaks up with. And then last year, big surprise, he comes out.
That's certainly plausible. Plenty of guys who stay in the closet in High School come out later...
ANDREW: We alert the slayer. We help her destroy it. We save Sunnydale. Then we join her gang and possibly hang out at her house.
Andrew's a more complex character than originally expected (like Tara). It's becoming clear that he's more of an opportunist than a villain.
HOLDEN: So, you meet someone, you form a bond...
BUFFY: But it never lasts.
HOLDEN: Do you mean in all relationships, or just yours?
BUFFY: My parents weren't exactly the paragon of stay-togetherey-ness.
The episode gradually gets scarier and scarier - it's very well structured.
HOLDEN: not my God, because I defy him and all of his works, but... does he exist? Is there word on that, by the way?
BUFFY: Nothing solid.
It's interesting that they finally brought that up, because it's an obvious question given that vampires are affected by crosses and holy water. But if two characters who have died don't know, we're probably never going to find out.
This episode stands out as one of the scariest I can think of - Dawn fails to be saved by anyone but herself, Spike can kill again, and lovable character Jonathan gets murdered after being around since season 2 (What's my Line, I think). It's also unusual in that Xander doesn't appear at all, and neither does Tara - despite the segment with Willow clearly having been written for her - which is a great shame.
The scariness continues, with the Scoobies working hard to piece together what's going on.
ANYA: All I'm saying is soulless Spike would have had me upside down and half way to happy land by now.
There are a lot of vampires in this episode.
WOMAN: Is that all I was to you - a one-bite stand?
The Bronze continues to be able to book some good bands.
AIMEE MANN: Man, I hate playing vampire towns.
Now we have, not only Buffy appearing as a vision to Spike, but Spike appearing to himself. (On top of other recently dead people appearing as visions including Warren and Cassie.)
The moment when the trap, made by Spike for Buffy, springs is another seriously scary moment - the series hasn't been this scary for years.
7.9 Never Leave Me
Andrew insists that he can't kill anyone else, to Warren and Jonathan - even the trio are creepy and scary now. But we learn the important fact that the dead can't take corporeal form.
SPIKE: You hated yourself, and you took it out on me.
Even now they're still reinforcing the point that Andrew was the least significant of the trio.
DAWN: How is what's his name?
XANDER: He's got a good chunk taken out of his neck, but he'll be all right. Had to tie him up again, but mainly just to keep him from scratching at his bandages.
This episode is a little slower - there's a particularly pointless scene with Principal Wood - but watching the scoobies work together to interrogate Andrew is fun. And there's a deep theme about self-knowledge which is being drawn out:
SPIKE: Soul's not all about moonbeams and penny whistles, love. It's about self-loathing. I get it. Had to travel round the world, but I understand you now. I understand the violence inside.
BUFFY: Violence? William the Bloody now has insight into violence?
SPIKE: Not the same. As bad as I was, as evil and as wretched as I was, I never truly hated myself back then. Not like I do now.
The Council of Watchers being blown up is almost as shocking as Jonathan being stabbed and Giles being beheaded that we didn't quite see - in fact these shocks seem to be coming at the end of every episode.
7.10 Bring On The Night
GILES: Sorry to barge in. We have a slight apocalypse.
Giles is back and we have a sudden burst of expositiony goodness!
BUFFY: The First. That's what it wants.
GILES: Yes, to erase all the slayers in training and their watchers along with their methods.
BUFFY: And then Faith, and then me.
One of the potential slayers has a deeply unconvincing cockney accent. Could casting really not find a British actress?
We've had a lot fewer outdoor establishing shots this year, but there is a nice exterior shot of dawn over Sunnydale.
GILES: As Neanderthals are to human beings, the Turok-Han are to vampires. Primordial, ferociously powerful killing machines, as single-minded as animals. They are the vampires that vampires fear. An ancient and entirely different race and, until this morning, I thought they were a myth.
It's not clear whether they know yet that Andrew murdered Jonathan.
ANDREW: I admit I went over to the dark side, but just to pick up a few things, and now I'm back.
We didn't have time to get attached to Annabel the potential, but the vamp-cousin that can't be staked is scary enough.
7.11 Show Time
Sunnydale has a lot more buses in it than last time. Potential slayers from around the world are travelling to Sunnydale - it's not clear why their watchers aren't coming too; surely not every last one of them got blown up in London?
BUFFY: Welcome to the hellmouth.
Apparently Andrew did confess to killing Jonathan.
ANDREW: OK, here's another interesting thing: how come the slayer's always a girl?
DAWN: I dunno - 'cause girls are cooler?
There's a good moment when Buffy, Willow and Xander walk out on the squabbling potentials, followed by a nice shot of sunset over Sunnydale. Then later we find out they can still do a telepathy thing.
BUFFY: I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about.