Friday, September 19, 2008

The Last Buffy Wednesday (17 September)

So, despite my constant stalling and feet-dragging, tyranist and I finally reached the last two episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

First up was "End of Days," written by Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie. I would've expected Marti Noxon to handle this one, but she's not been writing them this season (unless he works on all of them the way Joss usually does).

So, Buffy pulls the weapon (which we'll call The Scythe, because that's what I think it's called) out of the stone, signifying that she is to wield Excalibur. That is why I am your king. Immediately, Caleb is afraid, but the First (still in Buffy guise) has him reveal to Buffy that the others were just blown up in a trap in the sewers. Buffy goes after them.

At the site of the explosion (which, apparently, was seen on television but has been deleted from the DVD release*), a couple of the girls are dead, but Skinny Amanda and Kennedy come to and pull Faith's unconscious (but still amazingly alive) body out from under the water and carry her to safety.**

They're not safe for long, though, as an Ubervamp shows up, snarling at them. The girls think just maybe they can take it on if they work together, but two more appear, and they begin to doubt. But then, Buffy also appears, her cool Scythe in hand, and she slices and dices those Ubervamps into dust-flavoured julian fries.

Buffy takes Faith and the girls back to her house, and they apologise for kicking her out the way they did. Buffy blames it on the writers and forgives them, then goes to Giles and Willow and shows them her new weapon. They do some computer research on it while Buffy goes up to see how Faith is doing.

There's something about the Scythe weapon that the Slayers comment on when they touch it, it feels like it belongs to them, and it may help Faith recover. I'm fairly certain this is the weapon Melanka Fray wields in Joss's "Fray" comic book, which tyranist let me read. Faith is bummed that she let the girls down, or let Buffy down, or let herself down, and Buffy makes her feel better.

Then she goes down to the basement and does the same for Spike, telling him how much she appreciated his words to her the night before and staying by her side like that. He mentions that it was the most intimate he had ever been with anyone, and there was no sex involved. And I'm reminded of the old Arab proverb that says when the beast looked upon beauty and beauty stayed his hand, he was as one dead.

Buffy also goes and gives Xander a speech about how important he is, and the special task she's given him. He doesn't want to do whatever it is, and wants to fight at Buffy's side for the last episode, but she convinces him to do it.

Not long after, Xander and Dawn go out to his car to look for something (it might have been a crossbow, as Dawn mentions she doesn't like crossbows after what happened to Miss Kitty Fantastico), and he puts a chloroform rag over her mouth, knocking her out so he can drive her out of Sunnydale and to safety.

Dawn awakens as they're driving, and Xander gives her the letter Buffy wrote to her. Before she finishes the letter, she pulls out a taser and zaps poor Xander with it, the car spins out of control, and both of them die in flames and broken glass.

Oh wait, that's probably what should have happened, but no, he just passes out and she is somehow able to drive from the passenger side, turning the car around and heading back to Sunnydale.

Caleb and the First Evil have a conversation, where he's really contrite for having failed her/it (I call it "her" because she always looks like Buffy now). To make it up to her, or maybe because it's just kinky, he offers to let the First enter into his body, so it can feel and touch and experience puppy-throttling first-hand. This never really goes anywhere (at least that I remember), but it was an interesting concept, and I've got to give it to both Nathan Fillion and Sarah Gellar that despite their more-iconic personas, they were both convincingly scary.

Andrew and Anya have gone to the grocery store, which was abandoned, and grabbed lots of free food. They get the idea to go to the hospital and do the same, because cafeterias always have the best jello. No, actually, it's because there will be plenty of medical supplies for the taking.

They go there, and Anya tells Andrew about the impending apocalypse in Season Three, and how she got the hell out of town, but this time, she's going to stay there, because she's gotten to understand human beings enough to know that there are some things worth fighting for, maybe even dying for. I guess this scene shows us how much she has grown as a person from when she was first introduced. And from that day on, she was as one dead.

I'm not really sure how Giles and Willow's research leads Buffy to the cemetery, but she goes there and actually enters the pyramid-shaped crypt that's been in the background of, oh, half of all the episodes. Inside, she finds a woman who mentions that she's from an organisation older than the Watchers that also try to help the Slayer line. You see, back in the Beginning of Days, when the African shadow dudes created the first Slayer, they made sure there was only one at a time, so that they couldn't team up and rule the men or something (it's kind of like the Sith rules in the Prequels), but it doesn't have to be that way. With that Scythe weapon, Buffy could actually--

But urk, before the woman can finish her exposition, Father Caleb appears behind her and snaps her neck. Serves her right for not having a penis, right?

Caleb fights Buffy, and I'm going to say that he's even faster and stronger than he was before, now that he has the First Evil in him (it might not have been true, but it makes the story better). In fact, he manages to throw Buffy down and take the Scythe away from her. Before he can deliver the killing blow, however, a fist comes out of nowhere and knocks Caleb to the ground.

Who could it be?

My niece couldn't guess, but she hadn't seen "Special Guest Star David Boreanaz" at the beginning of the episode, giving things away like I thought they had learned to avoid.Buffy kisses Angel, and it's like no time has passed. But we see that Spike was there too, maybe hanging back to give Buffy aid if she needed it (or maybe because it was just written that way in the script), and the First Evil reminds him (and us, as if we needed reminding) that she's never gonna feel for him what she feels for Angel. The end.

This wasn't much of an actual episode, really, so much as it was a set up for the series finale, which I'll just go on to right now.

"Chosen" is the last episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and they got some nobody named Whedon to write and direct it. I was really hoping for one of those writers who worked on one episode back in Season One to do the last one. Ah well.

It begins immediately after Buffy and Angel's reunion, with Caleb getting back up (I guess he was stabbed too), black blood oozing from his eyes. Buffy tells Angel that this is her fight, so he steps back and watches her move. I guess Spike has buggered off by this point.

Caleb strikes again, and Buffy battles him before swinging her weapon and axing him right in the crotch for it. Uncomfortable, ain't it? It was also uncomfortable to describe that to my seven year old, but she didn't seem to mind so much.

Buffy slices Caleb in two, leaving him finally and truly dead. Now that they're alone again, Angel tells Buffy why he came (besides the fact that it's the end of the series and he needs to cameo): someone in Los Angeles knew of Buffy's upcoming battle and gave Angel an amulet/necklace thing that is destined to be carried by someone who's more than human but has gained a soul. Buffy knows who it's for, and Angel offers to fight alongside her--which might have been interesting, no?--but Buffy tells him to gather his forces in L.A. to stop the outflow of evil in case she fails.

Angel then leaves, but not before a romantic moment of contemplation of a future together that should have been irritating, but only served to show that Spike simply can't fit into Buffy's heart, when two-thirds of it are permanently roped off for Angel's return.

Buffy comes back to her house and finds Dawn waiting for her there, upset at Buffy's attempt to protect her. Buffy goes to the basement, where Spike is whacking a punching bag he's drawn Angel's face onto. She gives him the amulet and he dismisses her, still angry about what he witnessed. But he's quick to give up on his anger when it looks like she's actually going to leave. We don't know what happens next (Joss says it's up to the viewer to decide if they talked, fought, had sex, or just did that sleeping thing they did two episodes ago), but when the sun comes up, Buffy leaves his side and starts upstairs.

She is met by Father Caleb, and then by herself, both guises of the First Evil. It tells her to run away while she still can, and Buffy tells the First to get out of her face. Which, I didn't realise until later, was a pun. She decides that, because the First told her to flee, it's afraid she will win.

Buffy rallies everybody together, and explains her plan, which includes going to the high school and opening up the Hellmouth seal themselves. Willow is going to cast a spell, and she's really nervous about it. She tells Kennedy that it's the biggest spell she's ever cast, and asks her to kill her if she becomes Dark Willow in the process. Kennedy agrees . . . and you know, if I ever become Dark Outfield again, I'd like you to kill me too.

Or at least try.

Principal Wood and Faith have a scene together, where she tries to brush him off the way she does all her sexual partners. He promises to surprise her before this is all over.

So, daytime arrives, and they all go to the high school in a school bus (Spike goes too, but hides under his coat). Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles have a nostalgic moment before going their separate ways. Everyone has their orders. Willow and Kennedy are casting a spell on the Scythe in the principal's office, Giles and Wood are guarding the main exit to the Hellmouth, Xander and Dawn are guarding a secondary exit, Anya and Andrew are guarding a tertiary exit, Wesley and Cordelia are on another show, and everybody else is going down into the basement to attack.

All the girls cut their hands and use their own blood to open the seal, which leads to a gigantic underground cave, where Saruman's forces mine and pull down trees and make weapons. Well, actually, they're thousands of Ubervamps that waste no time spotting the intruders and attacking in all their terrible, CGI glory.

Upstairs, Willow casts a spell on the Scythe, and we find out what Buffy's plan was: using the essence of the Slayer weapon, Willow is going to activate every single Potential on earth. Literally every girl who COULD be a Slayer will become a Slayer.

Willow's power grows and overtakes her, but instead of turning all black and veiny, her hair goes white and she becomes a much less-frightening version of Galadriel in that movie series I've already referred to a little too much. I guess she was able to tap into positive, white magic, or maybe just the positive white part of herself.

Kennedy and the other Potentials become Slayers in a burst of light (and I just realised we've never seen this moment before). All across the globe, girls receive an unbelievable amount of power***, and down under the seal, the battle begins in earnest, with our girls able to kill Ubervamps right and left, as hundreds more arrive to take each fallen's place.

Kennedy arrives underground, hacking and slashing Ubervamps with the Scythe. She passes it to Buffy, who ends up getting stabbed and passing it to Faith while she recovers. The Ubervamps skitter and leap, managing to take down a couple of the ex-Potentials, including poor skinny Amanda.

A couple of Ubervamps make it past the girls to reach the surface, but Giles and Principal Wood battle them. Several Bringers also fight, and Xander, Dawn, Andrew, and Anya fight those. Unfortunately, one Bringer manages to kill Anya, cutting her almost in half. An Ubervamp skewers Principal Wood before Giles can kill it, but the damage is done.

The First Evil appears in Buffy's form to taunt her, and Buffy stands again, knocking ubervamps into the air in another LOTR-like scene. Spike wears the amulet he was prophesied to wear, and it begins to glow. It sends a burst of energy upward, punching a hole into the ceiling and into the daylight. Then, a huge ray of sunshine comes down, prisming in the amulet and turning all the Ubervamps in the caves to dust.

The cavern walls begin to crumble, and Buffy orders her army to flee. Spike stands there, bathed in sunlight, yet somehow still alive, but his skin begins to crackle and char from the exposure. Buffy takes his hand and tells him she loves him. His hand bursts into flames, and he says, "No you don't." He smiles and thanks her for saying it, then he turns to dust.

Upstairs, everyone is running for the schoolbus, while the school falls down around them. Xander tries to get Anya, who is lying just a couple of feet away, but can't find her. Everyone, including Principal Wood, manage to board the bus, and it takes off without Buffy.

Buffy gets out of the school via the roof, and runs along its rooftop, then onto the Sunnydale main street, trying to catch up with the bus. Behind her, the entire town of Sunnydale collapses into the earth. Finally, Buffy jumps from the Sun Theater onto the bus and holds on until it gets to safety.

On the outskirts of town, the bus stops. Everyone gets out to look at the gigantic crater that used to be their town. Xander asks Andrew what happened with Anya, and Andrew tells him she sacrificed her life to save his. This gives Xander comfort for some reason, and it's a nice moment.

Within the bus, the dying Principal Wood asks Faith if they made it, and she tries to comfort him too. He goes still, and when she reaches to close his eyes, he blinks and says, "Surprise." Also a nice moment.

The main group stands together, looking at the crater and contemplating their loss. Giles suggests they go to Cleveland, where the other Hellmouth is, and when Dawn asks her sister what they'll do now, Buffy starts to smile. The end.

Well, there you go. The end of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Unless you read the comics, or dream of a world where it goes on forever.

I gotta say, I didn't find myself nearly as moved--or satisfied--by this series finale as much as I did the one on the WB ("The Gift"), or even last year's season finale ("Grave"). I don't know if it genuinely wasn't as good an episode (though I vote for no), or if I just built it up in my head, and maybe expected too much.

Even with all the fan outcry about Season Six being too depressing or dark or unpleasant, I think it was a better year than Season Seven was. That's just me, of course.

But the series itself, taken as a big astounding whole, is more than amazing. My cousin and I spent a night recently, trying to name our favourite episodes from each season, and were shocked each time one of us came up with another truly awesome episode the other hadn't remembered. With "Firefly," the show I continually refer to as the best television show ever made, it's easy to remember each and every episode, and perhaps it was easier for Joss to keep the quality up, since he basically knew it was doomed from the start. But with "Buffy," where the year stretches out beyond December, and the years stretch out beyond that, it has to be a monumental task to stay focused and stay enthusiastic and stay creative and stay excited and stay inspired. And, even though I complained a bit about episodes I found weak, or storylines that went where I didn't want them (or worse, went nowhere), that's not what I'll remember when I think of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I'll probably think of tyranist and me, in his living room, week after week, watching something funny, scary, romantic, exciting, depressing, and unique, and letting it carry us away. I doubt Wednesdays will ever be the same.

Rish Buffy Outfield

*I checked out the TV version, just to see, and yeah, there are about two seconds of extra footage, the explosion, bodies flying, that the DVD didn't have.

**Weird that it took a heck of a lot less than this to kill Buffy the first time, but Faith appears to be part Terminator.

***With an infinite number of new Slayers created, with absolutely no preamble or explanation, training, or a Watcher to help guide them, I can't help but wonder how many Faiths, Dark Willows, Anyankas, and Glorificuses were just loosed on the world. But hey, I'm happy for the cute kid at bat who got to knock one out of the park.

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