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.