How can this be?! *shakes DVDs like a cereal box, in the hopes that one last forgotten episode will fall off* Nope, it seems that I really am done. What am I supposed to do with myself now?1 It took me under a month and a half to get through all seven seasons of Buffy, and although I know this is a very different sort of experience than watching it slowly as it first airs, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is another hot-in-the-grips-of-the-story type post, so please bear with me as I squeal excitedly, talk about my feelings, and occasionally resort to caps locks. Needless to say, there will be very explicit spoilers in this post — sometimes in all caps — so if you’re not done with your first viewing of Buffy, please look away now. (And while you’re at it, go finish watching it and then come discuss it with me, kthxbai.)
- First of all, how can it all be over? I’m now watching the second season of Angel and I’m extremely glad there’s more of the Buffyverse for me to explore, but still, it’s just not the same (or at least it feels that way for now). Angel’s great and all, and I’m enjoying season two so much more than season one. But there’s no Willow in Angel and I so need more Willow in my life.
- After a first viewing, I think my favourite Buffy seasons are 2, 3 and 5. My least favourite is 1, and the one I have the most mixed feelings about is season 7, though there was plenty about it that I loved (more on which soon).
- Updated list of favourite episodes: “Family”, “Fool for Love”, “The Body”, “Hush”, “Who Are You”, “Storyteller”.
- Season 6 seems to really divide opinions, but I liked it just fine. The obstacles are less clear than in previous seasons and for most of it the characters are drifting, but that’s actually part of the appeal. As Memory so well put it, for once the Big Bad they all have to face is life.
- I love Tara and Willow in season 6. And in season 5. And in pretty much every episode they’re in. Also, their first on screen kiss was amazing. I was annoyed that for so much of seasons 4 and 5 we’d have fade to black where a straight couple would certainly have been shown kissing (though not annoyed with the series’ creators, I should add, as I realise they were dealing with network restrictions and ridiculous double standards), but I loved than when it finally happened, in the middle of “The Body”, it wasn’t in a titillating or male-gazey sort of way at all.
- Speaking of which, “The Body” is as perfect an episode as you all promised – especially Anya’s monologue. I kind of knew what was coming (not because I’d been spoiled for it, but because Joyce’s illness made me suspicious, and the old “lull you into a false sense of security before delivering the final blow” trick didn’t work on me), but that didn’t lessen the episode’s impact in the least.
- Returning to Tara and Willow: How perfect a scene is this?
- Which brings me to: TARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! NOOOOOOOOO! Say it ain’t so! The thing is, deep down I knew this was going to happen. Over the years I’d come across a good share of discussions of fictional gay and lesbian couples that mentioned Buffy and Willow as an example of a couple that meets with a tragic ending, and I hadn’t completely forgotten – so much so that when Gloria got Tara in season 5, I thought that was going to be it. But then she was just fine, and the old lulling-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security trick completely worked this time – mostly because I wanted it to work. I was in such deep denial than when it finally happened, I was completely taken by surprise. Similarly, I’d seen enough pop culture references to Dark Willow to know that this was going to be A Thing, but whoa. I watched the last few episodes of season 6 in complete shock.
- All this to say that while I completely agree that the trend Tara’s death contributes to is disturbing, I still love these characters and their story so much. Tara and Willow kind of made me feel like I do when reading Wilkie Collins’ novels: I deliberately erase the disappointing and problematic ending from my mind and focus on all the middle bits, because what they offer, the possibilities they raise and the ways in which they’re challenging are so amazing and exciting.
- And because I know Memory is dying to know, here are some thoughts on Spike: I think he’s a fascinating and incredibly complex character, I think his relationship with Buffy is really interesting, and although Buffy + Angel is still my dream pairing (be still my heart), I believe Buffy is a much better show for having split them up.
- Having said that, there’s so much to his storyline I still don’t know how to feel about. The thing I keep coming back to is what the Buffyverse tells us about how much moral agency vampires are supposed to have. I know the official answer is none, but there are small moments throughout the series that challenge this; little things that Spike does before his end of season 6 transformation that contradict the idea that before getting his soul back he had no choice but to be evil. All the reasons why I sympathise with Spike kind of fall apart if I don’t take this aspect of the Buffyverse at face value (and this completely goes for Angel too, of course), and yet I have trouble accepting it completely.
- This is something I’ll be mulling over for a while, and I know I could write a whole essay on the implications of accepting the fact that vampires have no choice. But I bet plenty of people much smarter than me have done it before, which is why I find the idea of diving into the world of Buffy studies so appealing.
- As I hinted before, I feel so conflicted about season 7. First of all, I’m still in complete shock and denial about Anya (why? WHYYYY?!). Secondly, though I love the idea of many Slayers sharing the power and changing the arbitrary rules of the game at the end, I wasn’t always comfortable with how so much of the season evokes the old horror movie trope of a gigantic girl slumber party where one of them occasionally gets killed in a gory way (I wonder if this is what Jenny meant in her comment?). But to be completely honest, I suspect that one of the reasons why I can’t make up my mind about the final season is because I can’t separate my feelings about the ending itself from my feelings about the fact that it’s all over. I need time and distance before I can clear my thoughts.
- Final thoughts: Buffy the Vampire slayer is not perfect, but it’s interesting and complex and rich enough that it can be read in multiple ways – which is pretty much my definition of good storytelling and good art. Sometimes it gets things wrong (as I explained recently, my number one source of frustration it its ambiguity towards female sexuality), but even its flaws are more interesting to discuss than those of many other shows. I know I’ll be returning to it many times in the future, and I can safely say it has earned a firm place among my absolute favourites.
- One final thing: as I said above, I’m dying to explore the world of Buffy studies, but it will probably be a long while before I manage to get my hands on any books. But in the meantime there’s the Internet, which is a wonderful source of excellent and free meta commentary. All this to say that if you have any Buffy links to share, I’d be eternally grateful.
1 Some of you will no doubt say, watch Firefly! Watch Angel! Read the comics! To which I reply, I know, I know – I’m working on it. But allow me the dramatic rhetorical question anyway.