End of Season 7 (7.12 - 7.22)
The second half of season 7 starts like the first did, with lessons.
SPIKE: do you think I care about a fair fight?
VI: No, no sir. You don't play by the rules, and I have learned a valuable lesson of some sort.
This time, all the lessons seem to end up highlighting the fact that Buffy used to boink Spike. I'm not sure why, because we knew that, although I never really did understand why she did it.
ANDREW: You don't want me coming along 'cause you think I'm evil.
VI: He doesn't seem evil, exactly.
BUFFY: He's not evil, but when he gets close to it, he picks up its flavour, like a mushroom or something.
The First Evil is mysteriously "in remission", drawing attention to what I'd long since noticed: each season's big bad fails to attack every single episode, and instead almost completely goes away for a while in the middle of the season.
DAWN: Maybe you did it wrong? Was it ambiguous in any way? Did you maybe say potential sailors? Because I do like the water.
Clem has a TiVO. I watched a lot of later Buffy via a TiVO, but then TiVO screwed us all over and withdrew support, so it feels like a thing that dates the show now.
WILLOW: It's like, she's part of this huge power. I know what that feels like. It feels wonderful.
ANDREW: Yes, Willow so captured it. It's like... well, it's almost like this metaphor for womanhood, isn't it? The sort of flowering that happens when a girl realizes that she's part of a fertile heritage stretching back to Eve, and—
XANDER: I'll pay you to talk about Star Wars again.
The fights at the end - Buffy in parallel with Dawn - are exciting.
XANDER: Seven years, Dawn, working with the slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. A witch, a demon. Hell, I could fit Oz in my shaving kit, but come a full moon, he had a wolfy mojo not to be messed with. Powerful. All of them. And I'm the guy who fixes the windows.
DAWN: Well, you had that sexy army training for a while - and the windows really did need fixing.
7.13 the Killer in Me
GILES: Do you think they appreciate the gravity of what we're undertaking? It's frightening, and it's difficult. And then, apparently, someone told them that the vision quest consists of me driving them to the desert, doing the hokey-cokey until a spooky rasta mama slayer arrives and speaks to them in riddles.
There's really a lot going on in this episode - several parallel threads and all of them interestingly new, unless you had twigged ages ago that Giles might be dead and therefore the First Evil and unable to touch anything.
BUFFY: Remember when things used to be nice and boring?
This time Willow's not invisible, she's Warren - well, that's an entirely new thing!
GILES: I assume there's a perfectly reasonable and not at all insane explanation here?
The chip and Giles plots are easily resolved, but Willow's problem turns out to be much deeper - a moment that I assume all of us who have lost someone very close to us have been through. I know I have.
WILLOW: She was with me. We should have been forever, and I, I let her be dead. She's really dead.
7.14 First Date
GILES: It was... extraordinary good luck, of course. And training, years of training.
Giles is worried about chip-free Spike, and Buffy is suddenly worried about Principal Wood, who she saw in the school basement about 10 episodes ago.
BUFFY: You know, it's not even that he's acting that suspicious. It's just, there he is on the hell mouth. All day, every day. That's got to be like being showered with evil. Only from underneath.
WILLOW: Not really a shower.
BUFFY: A bidet. Like a bidet of evil.
WILLOW: Buff, if he's really interested, are you interested back?
BUFFY: I don't know. He's good-looking, and he's solid, he's smart, he's normal. So, not the wicked energy, which is nice 'cause I don't want to only be attracted to wicked energy. Or what if he is wicked, in which case, is that why I'm attracted to him?
This is such Whedonesque dialogue. Did Jane Espenson really write this?
WILLOW: Buffy got a date!
XANDER: No, I did... fine. Way to steal my thunder.
BUFFY: Sorry. If it makes you feel better, it's Principal Wood, and I think he's aligned with the First.
XANDER: Also, like ten years older than you, right?
WILLOW: Which is like 100 years younger than your type!
BUFFY: Yay. Someone who doesn't remember the Industrial Revolution.
Jonathan gets another scene, which is nice.
ANDREW: A lot of her people are murderers: Anya and Willow and Spike.
JONATHAN: Interesting. And you're the only one she makes seek redemption. Does that seem fair to you?
Principal Wood isn't in Google. He's really good at slaying though, better than Giles. He has a chat with Buffy in a mysteriously silent and echoey restaurant.
ANDREW: Redemption is hard.
Willow gets the first text message ever to be mentioned in Buffy - from Xander, then she notices his cellphone next to her. Huh? It's like they're trying to be very 2003 (Google and all) but haven't quite grasped how texting works.
The restaurant turns out to be more than 10 minutes' drive from the high school - remember when Buffy could run to more or less any part of Sunnydale? Sunnydale has grown, just like the characters have.
7.15 Get It Done
BUFFY: Andrew is our... actually, he's our hostage.
ANDREW: I like to think of myself more as a "guestage".
Andrew has made a map of Sunnydale on a whiteboard, but it only shows a few blocks so it's clearly not the whole place. It has the railway line but not the airport or the docks, and only two of the cemeteries.
DAWN: Trinkets, weapons, one very large textbook. Translation's gonna be a bitch, but... did you know that ancient Sumerians do not speak English?
BUFFY: They're worse than the French. Anything else?
DAWN: Uh, yeah. A box. A big, fat, unopenable box.
Luckily, Buffy can open those in a second, and Dawn can read Sumerian well enough until it all changes into English.
DAWN: It says you can't just watch, you have to see.
ANYA: What the hell does that mean?
XANDER: It's cryptic. I don't like it. Every time instructions get cryptic, someone gets hurt, usually me.
Andrew and the potentials all wait upstairs for most of the episode, which keeps them out of the way but you have to wonder what they're doing up there.
SHADOW MAN: The First Slayer did not talk so much.
It turns out that the First Slayer's power comes from demon spirit. It feels like the episode took a long, slow road to get here. Buffy fights the ancient watchers, Spike fights the demon and Willow does the wicca.
WILLOW: How you doing?
BUFFY: Thanks for bringing me back. Again.
WILLOW: Well, that's what I do.
ANYA: You've been in here for 30 minutes. What are you doing?
ANDREW: Entertaining and educating.
ANYA: Why can't you just masturbate like the rest of us?
This seems to be a comedy episode with a bit of sneaky bringing latecomers up to speed on the plot.
The sight of the whole household eating breakfast does raise the question (to me) of how much that many people can eat, and who buys it all.
ANDREW: Warren was cool. And wasn't Jonathan just the cutest thing?
Though to be honest, if you weren't a long-time fan it would be a lot less funny.
BUFFY: My guess: it's that seal thing in the basement. It's like all the hellmouth's energy is trying to escape in that one little spot, and it's getting all...
ROBIN WOOD: ...focussy.
There's a flashback to Andrew and Jonathan both having a nightmare which include the cheese man and cheese slices from Restless.
ANDREW: There was some carving on the blade. I just thought it was a pattern.
KENNEDY: Found it.
WILLOW: OK, you're Mr. Demon-Summoner. How are you with demon languages?
ANDREW: Whoa, you were right. It's in Tawaric.
It turns from comedy into something more serious. This week's fights are with high school students rioting in the school at night. But Xander and Anya get closure and more importantly Andrew finally gets his redemption.
And the Mutant Enemy gets musical again, no idea why.
7.17 Lies My Parents Told Me
It's an episode all about Spike. The big bad is still on the usual mid-season absence but this season feels like it's tumbling onwards at much more of an unstoppable pace.
ANYA: Spike's got some sort of "Get Out of Jail Free" card that doesn't apply to the rest of us. I mean, he could slaughter a hundred frat boys, and... forgiveness makes us human, blah-dee-blah-blah-blah.
In fact it's all about Spike's relationship with his mother.
WILLIAM: Whatever I was, that's not who I am any more.
Actually it's about Robin Wood's mother as well as Spike's. And a little bit about Buffy's. Fathers seem to be pretty much absent, for some reason.
ROBIN: She was all I had. She was my world.
SPIKE: And you weren't hers. Doesn't that piss you off?
7.18 Dirty Girls
FAITH: Yup. Guess I'm back in Sunnydale.
Sunnydale still has an OR with a big glass wall for spectators. With the new murderous minister, this is a much scarier episode than we've had for a while, but it's also funnier.
SPIKE: I reformed way before you did!
Spike and Faith are natural allies, of course.
FAITH: Are you protecting vampires? Are you the bad slayer now? Am I the good slayer now?
BUFFY: He's with me. He has a soul.
FAITH: Oh, he's like Angel?
ANDREW: For years and years (or to be more accurate, months) Faith fought on the side of good, terrorizing the evil community. But like so many tragic heroes, Faith was seduced by the lure of the dark side. She wrapped evil around her like a large, evil Mexican serape.
There are lots of Bringers to fight at the climax - remember when the bad guys were mostly vampires? That's really a long time ago, now.
This really is a much, much scarier than usual episode. Caleb even gets to do a voice over - I can't think that we've had one since Angel was evil (not counting Andrew).
7.19 Empty Places
Clem is talking up the apocalypse, and Buffy just listens passively. This isn't the teenage Buffy any more.
There's a basement full of potentials who are also pretty down about their prospects; but only Kennedy and Amanda get to talk to Faith, Buffy and Dawn in the kitchen which maybe tells us something about who the important characters are.
Caleb catches up with Buffy in the deserted high school for a bit of menacing without moving the plot forward except to make it clear that the seal in the basement is important.
GILES: Take Andrew.
GILES: There may be demons lurking about. You never know. He's a demon expert. He can help.
SPIKE: Oh, please.
GILES: Well, he can bring his pan flute thing along. Excellent. Off you go.
This episode has the worst advert-break continuity error I can think of in any episode of Buffy: before the break the cops have four or five guns pointed at her, and afterwards she beats them all in a fist fight, one by one, while they try to hit her with truncheons.
SPIKE: It's not a road trip. It's a covert operation.
ANDREW: Right. Right. Gotcha. I bet even covert operatives eat curly fries. They're really good.
SPIKE: Not as good as those onion blossom things.
ANDREW: Ooh, I love those.
SPIKE: Yeah, me, too.
ANDREW: It's an onion... and it's a flower. I don't understand how such a thing is possible.
SPIKE: See, the genius of it is you soak it in ice water for an hour so it holds its shape. Then you deep-fry it root-side up for about 5 minutes.
SPIKE: Yeah... tell anyone we had this conversation, I'll bite you.
So that's how they do it. Spike has been going on about this onion thing at the Bronze since season 4 or so. It's been a marker for him not being evil, in a way. Finally, the secret is revealed and this plot thread is tied up, as though we're coming to the end, which of course we are.
BUFFY: I don't understand this. For seven years, I've kept us safe by doing this: exactly this, making the hard decisions. And now, what, suddenly you're all acting like you can't trust me?
GILES: Didn't you say to me today you can't trust us? Maybe there's something there that should be addressed.
See, Giles is still needed. There is indeed an issue there, one that's never been addressed head-on, about why it's Buffy who leads and what happens when people disagree. It's leadership by consent and she's sometimes failed to see that.
At the end, Buffy walks away from her own house - didn't see that coming. It's always good to be able to say that!
Do the credits change a little bit every episode, or only sometimes? It's always entertaining to see what's in this week.
FAITH: So let's go over our rogues' gallery. Who exactly do we have here?
It seems the basement is the new library, scene of expositions.
KENNEDY: I've never been the bait before. That was, uh... actually, kind of scary.
I did see that coming. We were supposed to think that Kennedy had gone off on her own after disagreeing with Faith but since Faith wanted to capture a Bringer I saw through that one.
SPIKE: So? You were right. Buffy?
BUFFY: I don't feel very right.
Things are picking up speed again.
MAYOR WILKINS: Ask me a question only I know the answer to. Something like... where did I hide the moon pies in my office?
It must have been fun for them to do a couple more scenes between the Mayor and Faith, just like so many that they did in season 4.
SPIKE: There's always casualties in war.
BUFFY: Casualties. It just sounds so...casual.
Spike gets a beautiful speech about being in love with the Slayer. Angel never quite got a speech like this, though I think he loves Buffy for the same reason.
SPIKE: I'm not asking you for anything. When I say "I love you", it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are.
But you can see why some fans like the Buffy-Spike relationship better than the Buffy-Angel one. Spike's much better with words.
There's really a lot of talking in this episode - it's all talking, between the brief skirmish with Bringers near the start, and almost the end.
We discover that lesbians can kiss on-screen now, but they must remain fully clothed in bed.
Just as you were starting to think there will be no more fighting in this episode, Buffy is back and doing mysteriously much better against Caleb: being quick enough to avoid most of the being picked up and thrown around.
CALEB: You whore!
BUFFY: You know, you really should watch your language. If someone didn't know you, they might think you were a woman-hating jerk.
Some people might be confused by Caleb's hypocrisy: continually scolding women for their language while being violent and evil himself. It could be read as a comment on the historical hypocrisy of Christian churchmen - you only have to think of the endemic child-abuse of the Catholic church - but I think it's actually a way of approaching something that was a subtext of Buffy from the start, that people see men as heroes and women as subservient. The fact that Judeo-Christian-Islamic scriptures propagate that idea isn't the point; the point is that women can break out of this by rejecting it head-on, as Buffy did in Get It Done when she rejected the solution of the shadow men/proto-watchers. You realise that this theme is actually central to Buffy, but has never been addressed head-on before. Well, now it's time.
7.21 End of Days
As is traditional by this point in a series, the episode hits the ground running. Explosions, fighting, and groceries.
GILES: Ooh, Jaffa cakes.
The pace never lets up, the dialog is sparky throughout (as with all the best Buffy episodes), and there is an added frisson from wondering where this is all leading. In season 4, the big showdown with the big bad was in the penultimate episode.
WILOW: So it's true. Scythe matters.
GILES: In addition to being ancient, it's clearly mystical.
Well, it's so shiny.
BUFFY: Yeah, I figured that one out when I King Arthured it out of the stone.
WILLOW: So maybe it's like some kind of traditional slayer weapon.
GILES: I can't imagine how something like this could exist without my having heard of it.
Yes, that is going to take some explaining. Trouble is, Willow's not keen to magic it. She can't do major mojo without her hair changing colour.
WILLOW: If I tried something big, I'd change. And then it's all black hair and veins and lightning bolts. I can hardly do a locator spell without getting dark roots.
Plot threads are being tied up. Remember when Willow and Tara got a cat?
DAWN: Xander, my crossbow is not out here. I told you, I don't leave crossbows around all willy-nilly. Not since that time with Miss Kitty Fantastico.
Characters are making peace with each other. In the previous episode it was Xander and Anya who seem to be settling into "exes with benefits". Now Buffy and Faith must make their peace.
BUFFY: But you're right. I mean, I guess everyone's alone. But being a slayer? There's a burden we can't share.
FAITH: And no one else can feel it. Thank God we're hot chicks with superpowers.
BUFFY: Takes the edge off.
And Buffy and Spike have also reached a point of trust.
SPIKE: Yeah... I hear you say it, but... I've lived for-sodding-ever, Buffy. I've done everything. Done things with you I can't spell, but I've never been close to anyone. Least of all, you. Til last night. All I did was hold you, watch you sleep. And it was the best night of my life. So, yeah, I'm terrified.
There's also a nice scene with Anya and Andrew whose stories seem to be being tied up as they rob the abandoned hospital. The minor characters expect to die, but unexpectedly, they're "cool with it".
Then Buffy goes to a place which I shall call the Tomb of Exposition, which has been in Sunnydale all along but hidden, where a friendly ancient witch explains that the scythe had to be hidden too, to surprise the First Evil. So that explains that, except that evidently it was no surprise since the First had Caleb dig up the scythe and come to the Tomb of Exposition to kill the witch.
What also isn't explained is how Angel and Spike found it too, though it's mentioned that vampires have a superhuman sense of smell (wasn't that just for blood, though?). Angel helps Buffy fight Caleb but Spike doesn't, for some reason, and so ends up watching from the shadows.
ANGEL: That's great. Everyone's got a soul now.
Angel catches on quickly. Buffy's making her peace with so many characters that you might start to wonder if she's going to die, again. She's even reflecting on her relationship history, such as it is.
BUFFY: I always feared there was something wrong with me, you know, because I couldn't make it work. But maybe I'm not supposed to.
ANGEL: Because you're the slayer?
BUFFY: Because... OK, I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking. I'm not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I'm gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I'm ready. I'm cookies! And then, you know, if I want someone to eat... or enjoy warm, delicious cookie me, then that's fine. That'll be then. When I'm done.
ANGEL: Any thoughts on who might enjoy... do I have to go with the cookie analogy?
BUFFY: I'm not really thinking that far ahead.That's kind of the point.
This is the fully adult Buffy. Teenagers don't recognise they're not finished. On the other hand, refusing to think about the future sounds a lot like the Buffy in denial when Angel dumped her in season 3.
BUFFY: Angel. I do... sometimes think that far ahead.
ANGEL: Sometimes is something.
BUFFY: Be a long time coming. Years, if ever.
ANGEL: I'm not getting any older.
The scoobies prepare for battle, a plan is made (but not revealed yet, in classic fashion), and there's a touching moment where Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles have a moment together before the last battle.
XANDER: See, I need a new look. It's this whole eye patch thing.
BUFFY: Oh, you could go with full black secret agent look.
WILLOW: Or the puffy shirt, pirate sash...
GILES: The earth is definitely doomed.
This is a brilliant moment aimed at the faithful long-term Buffy fan, echoing the ending of episode 1.2, The Harvest.
I also love the moment when all the potential slayers are activated, particularly the girl playing baseball or whatever game that is.
WILLOW: Heh! That was nifty.
The ubervamps have swords now, but Principal Wood and Mr Giles are able to hold them off, which suggests they're not quite as invincible as the one that Buffy took two or three episodes to kill. Maybe that was one of the strongest ones.
Buffy gets run right through with a sword, much like the injury that put Cordelia in hospital in season 3. The First calls it a "mortal wound", but a few minutes later Buffy is jumping from one building to another as she runs faster than a bus can drive on empty streets. That's really stretching "slayers heal fast" further than it's ever been stretched before.
SPIKE: My soul... it's really there... kind of stings.
Spike seems to get the fast-track to redemption for all the bad things he did as a vampire; it took Angel years to work that guilt off.
BUFFY: I love you.
SPIKE: No you don't, but thanks for saying it.
For long-time fans, there's an echo here of Riley saying "she doesn't love me" in season 4.
SPIKE: I want to see how it ends.
Like the audience, at this point. There's a fantastic aerial shot of Sunnydale collapsing into a giant hole in the ground as the school bus speeds away.
Sunnydale ends as a huge crater in the middle of a flat area of desert, with mountains on the far side - much like the mountains we've seen a couple of times in establishing shots of Sunnydale. However, seeing this was also a huge disappointment to me, because Sunnydale is coastal town, a seaport. Buffy ends up in the docks in season 2's Surprise, there is a beach so close to town that high school students hang out there (Go Fish). So the crater should have been on the coast and should have filled with water.
FAITH: Looks like the hellmouth is officially closed for business.
GILES: There is another one in Cleveland.
A nice reference back to The Wish where that hellmouth was mentioned.
XANDER: We saved the world.
WILLOW: We changed the world.
Buffy says nothing, just smiles.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the world of TV, showing that weekly TV shows can look like a movie and have brilliant, sparky writing every week. It also showed that an action/drama TV series can have a strong, complex, woman lead, though it's hard to think of even one American TV show that has attempted to do this in recent years.
Among its great strengths were the amazing cast - not one of the original main characters turned out to be either weak casting or a scene-stealer. To have the four key characters, and Angel too, still there in the final episode was a joy. Another strength was the almost completely consistent world it sustained for seven years - consistency being absolutely essential in imagined-world scifi or fantasy. I'm aware that I have been picking out little inconsistencies or plot holes here and there throughout my commentaries on the 144 episodes, but they are mostly extremely minor, and jump out at me as a serious fan re-watching the series after many previous sittings.
It has been a huge pleasure to re-watch Buffy as a complete work, including the pinnacle of its awesomeness in season 3, and making it through the trough of disappointment of season 6, when the scriptwriting lost its jokiness for a while and they had all the characters having a depressing time at the same time. It made no attempt to hide its setting in the late 90s, but remains reasonably un-dated, at least to someone like me who grew up in a world without ubiquitous smartphones and internets and so can easily accept that. In my judgement, both critical and in terms of my own enjoyment, Buffy the Vampire Slayer taken as a whole remains the best entertainment TV series ever made.