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  • Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Created By: Joss Whedon

"The Buffy Files: Chapter 7"

A Look Back at Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season Seven

By STEPHEN LACKEY     November 21, 2006


Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Seventh Season (1997)
© Fox

So, it all ends here with season seven of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  I must say I entered this season with the most trepidation; not out of concern that the season would be bad but that after this season ended there would be no more episodes to watch.  Over the past six seasons I’ve really become hooked on the series, even with the bad seasons.  During an interview on the season six box set Whedon commented that the fans complained that season six was just too dark,  So with season seven he decided to lighten things up a bit. Early on he himself said “sad Buffy good episodes, happy Buffy, bad episodes” so going with a lighter tone concerned me. 

In this season Whedon decided to bring everything full circle with the “big bad”.  This new evil is a shape shifter, and he seems to know about virtually every villain Buffy has ever faced.  At the same time Sunnydale High School has been rebuilt and is reopening for business.  Buffy must now allow Dawn to go to the same school, located on top of the same Hellmouth that she suffered through.  While Buffy finds herself coming full circle others in the “Scooby gang” are finding themselves restarting from a new place.  Willow is finishing a rehab with Giles in England and Spike is hiding out trying to regain his sanity after his soul was given back to him at the end of last season.  The full circle motif is complete when Buffy is hired as a counselor at the high school, so she’s back roaming the same halls that she did years earlier. 

Around the world there are young girls who have the ability within them to become slayers.  Should Buffy die she will be replaced by these “Potentials”.  While the evil is building its power and army it servants are spread across the world killing off the potentials in an attempt to end the slayer line forever.  When Giles learns of this he sends Willow home and he himself returns to help Buffy rescue these slayers.  Soon Buffy and Dawn’s house is full of “Potentials” from all over the world and she is tasked with not only protecting them but also training them for the inevitable battle to come.  She does her job, but she know that some of them, maybe all of them won’t survive the battle so she never allows herself to get close with them, not even knowing all of their names. 

In a pivotal episode “Conversations with Dead People” the “Big Bad” lets his abilities be known in a powerful and emotional way.  Buffy finds herself fighting a vampire who is an ex-classmate.  They end up talking about her problems and all the emotions she is going through.  In a more moving sequence, Willow is visited by the ghost of a high schooler who died in a previous episode named Cassie.  Cassie tells Willow that she has been sent by Tara.  Finally Dawn is attacked by an unseen force that eventually reveals itself to be her mother, who has returned to give her a warning.  By the end of the episode, Buffy and Willow both catch on to what the “Big Bad” is up too but before that much of the heartbreak Willow is going through and Buffy’s feelings of isolation and fear of a potential relationship with Spike are all laid bare. 

The episode “Sleeper” is also strong as we learn in this episode that Spike has been taken control of by the “Big Bad”.  More importantly, a story arc with the new Sunnydale principal wanting revenge on Spike for killing his mother comes o a head.  The battle between Spike and the principal shows just why Spike is so good in this series.  At the end when he tells Buffy that the principal gets one free one, but next time he’ll kill him, you believe it.  The principal is one of the weaker parts of this season; he’s nothing more than a plot device and a diversion to stretch the overall story arc out to the end of the season.  I found him almost as boring as Riley was. 

After the episode “Never Leave Me” Andrew, from season six’s group of nerd villains, takes on a new role in the series.  He slowly becomes a member of the Scooby gang, working with them against the “Big Bad”.  Mostly he’s just comedy relief and he’s really good at it.  I hated him as a villain but as part of the Scooby gang he adds a nice layer of levity.  Andrew’s standout episode is easily “Storyteller” in which eh creates a documentary called Buffy: Slayer of the Vampires.  My favorite part of this episode is when he makes fun of one of the bloated speeches Buffy makes to the girls.  I’ll talk more about that later. 

The above episodes for me are the standouts of the first two thirds of the season.  I like the full circle theme of the season but I don’t really care for the slayer army.  Any time you have an army with one person to lead them you are sure to get a ton of bloated cheesy patriotic (to whatever cause they are fighting for) and some heavy handed melodrama featuring lines like “we’ll fight, some of you will not come back, but that’s the cost of war”.  You know that kind of thing.  When these speeches started to roll off Buffy’s tongue I was immeasurably disappointed.  This series has, even at its worst been deeper and more intelligent than that.  While discussing what bothered me about the season I also didn’t like most of the “Potentials”.  I know they are written for me not to like, but I didn’t like them for other reasons.  Many of them were poor actors and the writers didn’t give much character development to them either.  They just felt like canon fodder and they had way to much screen time just to be “red shirts”.    

Throughout the seasons Buffy has resorted to “I’m the slayer so you’ll do what I say” when she got scared so seeing that taken to the extreme was interesting.  With that said, the best of the season started for me with the episode “Dirty Girls”.  In this episode Buffy’s mirror, Faith returns to the fold thinking that a full fledged slayer could come in handy in this fight and she feels the need to redeem herself for all the evil she’s done.  Faith is solidly on the side of good now, but she’s still a “bad girl”, she’s brash, she follows her emotions instead of logic, and she’s always up for a party, not necessarily the best influence for the “Potentials”.  At the same time the “Big Bad”, now known as The First has a new ally too, a preacher (Nathan Fillion) with a southern twang and enough power to kill the slayer and anyone else that stands in his way.  Nathan Fillion (Firefly) is a riot in this role. 

The discovery of how The First will be beaten is masterful, and it leads to the only good speech Buffy makes all season.  When she speaks to the “Potentials” of her plan to use Willow’s magic and her new found super weapon to open the full power of the slayer up to every potential, even the ones who have become “Potentials” yet it’s moving and it flows like poetry.  The scene of the young girl about to hit the baseball subtly realizing suddenly the power she can now put behind the bat is amazing without going over the top.  This final spell brings Willow’s story arc to a close with her becoming one with the good magicks leaving all that was evil behind her.  The battle that follows and all of its casualties is epic and appropriate to the ending of this phenomenal series. 

From “Dirty Girls” on every episode is excellent and the final moments of the series finale were fantastic.  The camera zooms in tight first with just the original Scooby gang in frame, then just Buffy, and the slightest hint of a smile from her signifying hope for a better future for her and her friends.  It wouldn’t be Buffy without casualties though, Xander's eye, Anya’s death, and most importantly the end of Spike’s story arc.  Spike has come full circle with his character to becoming what he once was and sacrificing himself in a way to pay for all he’s done.  The ending completes everyone’s story arcs but it doesn’t just tie everything up in a bow.  There are still more demons, in a throw away line Giles reveals the existence of another Hellmouth, and there are slayers to find and train.  The series has been thrilling hilarious, emotional, dark, and fun.  I’m really finding myself missing the Scooby gang now, but it was time at seven seasons for the series to stop.  I’m contemplating digging into the five seasons of Angel but I just never found him to be that interesting alone but I wasn’t a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar before I started the Buffy series either.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
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karas1 11/21/2006 6:52:52 AM
First, had Buffy died in season 7, another slayer would not have been called. Buffy died in season 1 and her only replacement, Kendra, was called at that time. The slayer line continued with Faith. Had Faith died, another slayer would have been called, but when Buffy died in season 5, no new slayer was called. Secondly, give Angel a try. He was very different in his own series from what he was in Buffy and they concocted a brilliant supporting cast for him to play off of, both Buffy alums and new characters as well. As for Buffy season 7, it was my least favorite of the series. I found the Big Bad TOO big and bad. There was no way they should have been able to defeat it. The slayers-in-training were dull and Giles was terribly underutilized. I don't think he had more than one or two good scenes in the whole season. Very disappointing.
Phantom21 11/21/2006 8:04:37 AM
Ok... I had to definitely add my input after reading this review (as well as the others) I've been a LONG TIME Buffy fan... There are a few things I need to clear up... First of all... whoever these so-called "fans" are that Joss Whedon is speaking of... are not TRUE Buffy fans... I for one LOVED the dark-side the series took on in Season 6... with a show like this, the darker-the better. Now second item on the list... This "new evil", the "Big Bad", that you speak of... is NOT a new evil. If you had payed attention to the series, especially Season 3, then you would've realized that this villain isn't new... "The First" made its presence known in the Christmas episode of Season 3, its what plagued Angel & caused him to almost kill himself by waiting for the sun to rise, but instead it started snowing. The First can only take the form of the dead.. hence why it was Angel's past victims as well as Jenny Calendar.... Flash Forward to Season 7... in the 1st episode of Season 7, at the very end.. tormenting Spike, The First morphs into each villain & ending with Buffy stating that its time to go back to where it all started "The First" Now about the potentials... Buffy has already had her calling, a Slayer normally dies/lives once... Like Karas1 said, Faith is the one that needs to die in order to activate the next slayer. about the whole "slayer army" thing & the "speeches"... all of Buffy's lectures/speeches before a battle are always great...quite frankly after her little speech to Dawn at the end of Season 5 before she died... I was wondering how they would top it, but they did. I actually enjoyed Caleb, he was definitely a great adition to The First & I loved how The First was always in the form of Buffy when talking/taunting him. Actually one of the best episodes was "Lessons" where Buffy teaches the potentials that its about power. Another thing... the final battle & casualties... is NOT epic... the casualties are good enough, but the battle itself WAS NOT epic in any way... If you go back & look at every season finale (even season 4, before the last episode) is done VERY well & is BIG.... then we have the series finale... which well... is very anti-climatic. Me (as well as a few others) felt that it wasn't given its proper 2-hour finale moment due to the fact that "Next Top Model" premiered that night. The fight should've been longer, not too mention Buffy running across the roof-tops was soo NOT Buffy. The entire season was awesome... It was great seeing similar stuff happen from past seasons & sure Principal Wood isn't the greatest character, I loved the twist of his mother being the slayer Spike killed, and it was even cooler since we had seen a flashback of that slayer in a different episode. Actually that line which Giles says about the other Hellmouth, is not a throw-away line. Karas1, about Giles being under-utilized is a load of crap. Giles was used as much as he was needed, it is afterall about Buffy, not Giles. Oh & about The First being "toobig & bad" is definitely one of the stupidest comments.. there is never such a thing as being too big & bad. and about them defeating it... They actually DIDN'T defeat The First completely. Now before I add what i need to.. I'll will say this, you definitely need to take a look at all 5 seasons of Angel... because the Series Finale of Angel ties into Buffy... Now.. for the main event... There is life in the Buffy universe. Now you may think the series is complete with its "coming full circle" crap, but its actually not complete... You need to go to your local bookstore (Borders, Barnes&Noble) and pick up: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Queen of the Slayers This book is what really wraps up the tv series. It picks up directly where the how left off at... with the surviving crew & their bus. What happens is... Buffy & the gang go to England, then venture to Rome (While Faith, Pricinpal Wood & Kennedy go to Cleveland to see if that Hellmouth has opened yet) anyway... the Cleveland Hellmouth is active, Big bad battle ensues in Rome, Oz returns & the Angel series Finale also ties into this book as well... Basically I don't want to give anything away... just go out & get the book... A lot happens & it truelly brings the series to a complete whole feeling... Honestly, if they could round up the cast, it'd really make that great long-overdue Buffy movie definitely read it
spacekicker 11/21/2006 2:04:00 PM
Loved season six but thought that 7 fell on it's face. Huge fan of Andrew and that's the only thing that kept me hanging on this season.
Corvus 11/21/2006 3:32:29 PM
Phantom21 - First off, cut the "true fan" comments. Its cliqueish nonsense. There are many types of fans, and when you try to diminish those you disagree with by saying they aren't "true fans", you're just being petty. Secondly, "Queen of the Slayers" was a boring, anti-climactic read. http://www.corvusonline.net/nexus/sci-horror_QotSreview.html
lister 11/21/2006 6:19:26 PM
Corvus, you read all that?
mbeckham1 11/22/2006 9:04:35 AM
The best part of Season 7 for me was Spike. This was the season where he really came into his own as a character. Not just fun or funny which he always was, here he was allowed to ave real depth. Favorite scenes of mine were when he lied down of the cross with it burning him and Buffy realized that he had gotten his soul back. And his guilt and horro when he accidentally killed a human Anya had turned into a monster. When he realized what he had done you could tell the chip was the least of his pains. And thank god they finally got rid of the chip. The episode where he puts Wood in his place was great too. And the final scene between him and Buffy was beatiful. Anya was great as always, even had some good emotional episodes. Her and Willow had a great comedic rapport. Her death bothered me more than most. Faith was great but a little bratty in the begining. Her character had shown alot more maturity in her guest spot on Angel season 4. Seaking of Angel. If you liked the Spike story arc, you must see how it continues in Angel Season 5. At least watch Hell Bound, Destiny, and Damage. Absolute must watch episodes for Spike fans. But really the whole season from the second episode on really explores and expands Spike and Angel's unique relationship. Angel itself is a great series precisely because Angel the charcter is not alone. He is joined by a terrific supporting cast. Starting with Cordelia, somewhat, but not entirely, changed from her Sunnydale days more changes to come as the series progresses. Doyle, an Irish half-demon with a gift for comic releif. Later Wesley from Buffy season, streetwise vampire hunter Gunn, hell deminsion captive genius Fred and kareoke demon Lorne. And much Ancient demon Illyria in a shocking season 5 turn. All brilliant additions, each with their own stories and conflicts explored in the series. But the one to watch is Wesley. his development from the fussy stuck up comic releif character from season 3, to the much darker deadly serious character from seasons 4 and 5 is one ofd the most extraordinary character arcs in television. Seaon one is a little like Buffy season one. Mostly stand alone episodes that establish the premise of the series. Keep an eye outfor Faith's gest spots, not to mention Buffy's. Season two picks up and new very and a very old enemy. Three adds a new layer and the cast really starts to gell as a team, just before getting torn apart. Four is dark and brilliant, look for the return of Angelus and the afformentioned Faith. Willow also makes an appearance. And Five again just has to be seen if you are at all a Whedon fan.
karas1 11/25/2006 6:51:30 AM
Phantom21, about Giles being underutilized, you bet he was. True, the show was called BUFFY the Vampire Slayer, not Giles the Watcher, but he played a huge role at the beginning of the series. Originally it was Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles who fought monsters in Sunnydale. Other characters came and went, but those 4 were the heart. If either Willow or Xander had been marginilized in the manner that Giles was, how would you feel? Giles did NOTHING signifigant in season 7, made no real contribution. All he did was stand around and whine and I found that really tiresome. As for the Big Bad not being too big and bad, there's NO WAY they should have been able to win. One Ubervamp was bad news, almost killed Buffy in one on one combat. Yet at the end the slayerettes faced hundreds of the things and triumphed. There's no way they should have been able to do t hat, slayer powers or no. Because over the years, while Buffy's slayer powers were handy, they were not what allowed her to defeat so many foes over the years. Kendra had slayer powers and look how far it got her! What made Buffy a great slayer was her wits and her support system of friends. These things allowed her to overcome challenges that had brought down many other slayers in the past. But in a situation like the final battle, those things shouldn't have been able to help her much against such an overwhelming foe. The Ubervamps should have just powered their way past Buffy and the slayerettes like they weren't even there.
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