I’ve been a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” pretty much since seeing my first episode, “Triangle,” a goofy season five outing that put the charm on me. That was around the same time the TV-on-DVD movement kicked off, and getting to continually watch the episodes I adored only cemented my love of this little-respected (but much-loved) show.
But it’s only been in the last couple of months that I finally broke down and bought the final season DVD set. Some of my reluctance was that if I bought the final season, that would be admitting that it was over, and I just wasn’t ready to say good-bye (silly but true). I liked the season and all, but that wasn’t enough to get me to overcome that need to avoid The End.
From here on out, I’ll be revealing plot details about the various seasons of the show. If you haven’t seen it and you care about that sort of thing, don’t click to the next page.
What else can I say, after re-watching the season, then I hate the final season of “Buffy.”
That’s not an easy sentence to write; for years, I maintained that season four was the worst season overall, mainly because while the villain was supposedly this big bad demon, Adam was anything but. Season four works really well episode to episode, but with nothing at stake for our Scoobies, the overall arc just fails.
Well, I think that way no more. Season seven is weak from start to finish with only an occasional bright spot here or there. At the time, I thought the show ended well. Six years later, and I’m angry about it all over again.
I didn’t really have too many problems with the much-maligned season six; yes it was a dark time for the Slayer and her friends (I think everyone goes through some dark times in their early 20s) but the show felt like it was still being true to the characters.
The characters, even Buffy, were all trapped in an endless cycle of self-absorption, but it felt real. Yes, these were real people going through hard times and they can only see the pain they’re in. Been there, done that, and it’s only fair they do too.
In other words, the bad behavior I saw in season six is understandable and occasionally excusable. In season seven, the bad behavior, from the characters and the writers, is downright unforgivable.
At the beginning of the season, it felt like this was the final season and that each character was going to play a part in that. Through “Never Leave Me,” that was mostly true. We had some Willow moments, some Dawn, some Anya and Xander, and of course, Spike and Buffy. It was good stuff, from the painfully funny “Him” to the season highlight “Conversations with Dead People.”
Then, the Potential Slayers showed up and it all went to Hell.
The idea of the Big Bad threatening the Slayer line is a great idea – it puts the fight on Buffy’s doorstep, because when she dies (or more accurately, when Faith dies), it’s over. Evil wins.
Awesome threat. Of course, what ended up happening was we were subjected to plots about girls, whose names we don’t know, whose stories we don’t care about, eating up the precious screentime of the characters we’ve loved for seven years. “Bring on the Night” began that stretch and the season never recovered.
I didn’t see that the first time through, but this time, I was a bit disappointed. My favorite character, Andrew, had a great arc, and he grew and changed and began his redemption path and I was happy. (“Battlestar Galactica” was not the first show where I experienced extreme tunnel vision for a character.) But everyone else seriously got the shaft. Except of course, Buffy and Spike.
I get that it’s her story, and that the show has to center around Buffy’s world, but the show isn’t All. About. Her. She’s the main character, but “Buffy” always worked best when it was an ensemble. That attitude left the season right about the time it started sucking (and OD’ing on the speeches).
And this brings me to the unforgivable sin of season seven; General Buffy.
Somewhere online, I’m sorry to say I don’t remember where, someone said, re: Buffy’s leadership skills, that she never was a leader. She was always a loner with superpowers who was all too willing to cut people out of her life when things got tough. She expects her friends to fall in line, no matter what the risk, and they always have because, well, she’s Buffy.
We’ve seen that, we’ve written about it, that’s Buffy. What made her the best slayer ever is that while she fought the good fight, she had something, her life (family, friends, lovers), worth fighting for. She had a reason to stick around, and her love made her strong.
Of course, love can blind too. In season seven, as soon as she learns that Spike has a soul, that he went and got one because of her, he gets a pass on everything that happens. Yes, he was brainwashed by The First, but he was out killing people left and right. Oz was their friend, but that doesn’t mean they let Wolfie run free during the full moon. It’s a stupid move from someone who should know better, who has seen what happens when beasts roam free, but because she’s Buffy (and the writers are always on her side), Spike came come and go at will.
That decision of hers ends up isolating her from her Army, who are justifiably freaked out about this good guy who could go bad at any time and kill them all. Combine that with Buffy’s monumentally boneheaded decision to attack Caleb’s winery, and bam, you’ve got a mutiny.
Generally, I’m anti-mutiny in real life, but in fiction, they are awesome. Here, when the Great Buffy’s leadership is questioned (she led her Army into a trap, people were killed and wounded, and then she told them to go back there because she *knew* Caleb was hiding something valuable, and her Army fought back), the writers had a chance for growth and change in a character who had become completely insufferable (for the characters and the audience). What happened instead is that while the audience is supposed to be on Buffy’s side, I (and many other people) sided with Faith, because at least her plan made sense.
We get another round of “Buffy is always right,” therefore “Faith is always wrong” and everyone else sucks (expect Spike, the world’s most lovable lapdog) for voting against her. I have never been more furious at a show I loved than in “Touched” where, after treating all of the people who love her like they don’t matter, the writers proved that she was right to. Buffy gets to be right because she *has* to be right, all the time. No matter how awful a person she becomes, that’s who the writers say she is. Bollocks.
For a show that had always prided itself in being grounded in reality, despite its supernatural setting, that is a total copout; no one is always right and to suggest so is not only crappy characterization, but a major disservice to the fans. I have always hated that idea, and I always will, and it’s so awful to see in a show I love.
If you watch the DVD extras, even the writers have bought into their own crap, that Buffy is great and a strong leader and she is the best human being ever. Their view and the reality of the show are such odds that I seriously wondered if they were all on drugs during the interviews (although, under the influence of greed is more likely).
What season seven shows us is that the writers, after six up-and-down years, failed us. And that still burns.
I rant because I care. I still get angry because I loved this show once. With age, I love it a little less.