Oct 5, 2010

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 7

As another summer draws to its end, the rebuilt Sunnydale High is finally opening its doors to a new generation of students. Dawn heads for classes in the new place, while Buffy herself is hired by the charming principal Robin Wood (DB Woodside) to be the new student counselor. But from beneath the school, the Hellmouth is beginning to open, and this time a force unlike any other is prepared to use it for its dark ends. A force capable of touching every part of the world simultaneously, striking at the very heart of its protectors - the Watchers' Council and the Slayer line. And while Potential Slayers are getting killed all over the globe, Sunnydale is becoming both the safest place for the girls to go, and the most dangerous. The First Evil has made its move. And this time the Slayer won't be enough.

Season 7 is not simply the final season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It is one huge, 22-episode Finale for the entire show. Throughout every episode there is a feeling of impending disaster, of a convergence of powers the likes of which Buffy has never faced before. She has slain vampires, demons, monsters born of magic and science, hellgods and even herself, but every second of this season shows you that this, here, now, is - one way or the other - the end of all that she, her friends, or any of us have ever known.

Buffy Season 7 is vibrant with the energy of closure, and it is not surprising that closure, as well as redemption, are the two predominant themes in it. Gone are many of the insecurities, uncertainties and undefined fears of the Scoobies. They have faced terror, darkness and hell itself - both without and within - and have emerged triumphant, even through loss and suffering. Now they are all - Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, Dawn, Anya and in the end even Spike - the thing that so few characters in fiction are - true and real heroes. They are champions, not simply of abstract concepts like "good", and "justice", but of morality and integrity. They have all made mistakes, both small and profound, and the truths they have learned, the justice they represent, are now not something they like or respect, but something they are.

Should you take a step back and look at it in the context of the entire show, Season 7 is a thing of beauty. It is the culmination of a phenomenon that was never afraid to go into places of darkness and shine the light of love and humor on them. It often delivered not what the viewers wanted, but what they needed. And, unlike almost every other TV show ever made, Buffy The Vampire Slayer realized its potential. It was a glorious ride that lasted for seven amazing years of constant reinvention, evolution and growth, and it ended exactly when its time came, with the bang that it deserved.

Every actor in the show gives their best performances here - Nicholas Brandon and Allison Hannigan in particular, reminding us how terribly important Willow and Xander have always been to this show - and there are many fine moments from each of its main writers as well, particularly the ridiculously talented Jane Espenson. Truth be told, it is hard to pick any one moment to praise, as it all fits together so well.

Due to the dynamic of the season arc, there is not much to say about individual episodes, and it would be beside the point anyway. There are gems among them, no doubt - like the hauntingly enjoyable and originally structured Conversations With Dead People, where - due to scheduling conflicts - every one of the characters is in a separate storyline the entire time; or the humorous yet heartbreaking Storyteller, focusing on Andrew's (Tom Lenk) own redemption, facing the truth of what he has done. Perhaps the greatest "year one" episode is Anya's own Selfless, which, in a series of gorgeous flashbacks, shows her journey from a pre-medieval village housewife to one of the most powerful demons on the planet, to an awkwardly honest yet ultimately kind-hearted human. It even features another musical number from her, going back to the night before the events of Season 6's Once More With Feeling.

Season 7 is not, however, about the individual episodes. It is about Buffy's last battle as a guardian of the Hellmouth. The final episode, Chosen, is the culmination of all the tension that has been gathering throughout the whole season. A battle of epic proportions, and one that - were it shot in today's high budget television - would have rivaled anything Lord of the Rings showed us about fantasy. Amazing soundtrack, fantastic battle scenes and effects that are more spectacular than anything Buffy has ever done before, and yet Chosen's true power is not in its action, but in the beauty that comes of reaching the end of a long road. It is in the scene where the four original Scoobies - Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles - discuss what they are going to do tomorrow, and it is in Giles' full-circle comment that yes, the world is definitely doomed. It is in The three inseparable friends going their separate ways to do their part in the final battle, without saying anything, parting with but a slight touch of hands and a knowing smile.

But it is, above all else, in the episode's message. Which is, ultimately, Buffy The Vampire Slayer's message. That you are strong. That there are those around you, on which you can rely. That love redeems, and that forgiveness cures. That sacrifice is only worth when you do it for others, and that we all have inside of us the potential to save the world.

The show ends with a future. A whole new world to explore. "We saved the world", Dawn says. "We changed the world", replies a disbelieving Willow. And so they have, if maybe just a little bit, for those of us that looked at what Joss Whedon gave us without cultural and intellectual prejudices, and opened our eyes to see beyond a cheesy premise and a corny title. Buffy The Vampire Slayer changed us, and for the better. In the end, it was more than just another TV show, more than just entertainment and thrills. It went beyond art, beyond storytelling, and style, and characterization. It went beyond them to come to us. And I will end this long series of reviews by saying that if my posts have inspired even a single soul to watch the show with the eyes to see it for the glorious experience that it is, then I will be content.


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