Final Thoughts – Buffy Season Seven

I’ve never been so tempted to sugarcoat a review. My memories of this show are so great that it just feels wrong to end things on a down note.  I’ll have something to say about the series as a whole next week, but this is the last time I’ll be reviewing a particular season and I must admit that it simply isn’t good.  Not, “not good for Buffy,” but just plain not good.  There are still some great elements here and plenty to enjoy on a selective rewatch but the parts of the series I loved had to compete for scarce screentime with too many that I didn’t.  It’s still Buffy, and I can’t really say that I hate it but, as a season of television, it fails.

What Worked

Andrew! By far the best addition in season seven’s cripplingly bloated cast, Tucker’s brother brought the funny every time.  More important than his capacity as a joke machine, he had fabulous chemistry with every other cast member.  A few choice tidbits to take away:

Check out Spike and the principal… There’s something going on there.  Sexual tension you could cut with a knife.

A little tale I like to call Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyres.

I respected your ideas for evil projects and I thought you had good follow through.

Speaking of Andrew, “Storyteller” is the best episode of the season and the only real contender to be among Buffy‘s best.  I’d probably call it the show’s finest piece of genre busting and that’s saying a lot.  Honourable mention to “Conversations with Dead People” “Sleeper” and “Lies my Parents Told Me”

I’ll give Buffy & Spike’s relationship a marginal “worked” here.  I wasn’t wild about the conclusion but, for the most part, they managed to explore the ensouled vampire romance without retreading Buffy/Angel.

Further to the above, James Marsters brought his A game this season.  Looking back on it, I’m on the fence about Spike’s arc, but none of the fault lies in the performance.

Caleb.  Nathan Fillion’s always a joy to watch and while his presence was far too brief, it was a lot of fun while it lasted.  Caleb was a refreshingly straightforward representative of misogyny for Buffy to fight, one so entertaining he managed the seemingly impossible task of elevating The First.

I’ll give it up for Dawn as the most improved Scoobie.  She wasn’t exactly a pivotal part of the season but all it took for her to become a worthwhile character was to stop whining and start contributing.  Who knew?

It’s clear from my review, but I’ll say it again, Buffy ended in the best way possible.  Thematically speaking.  Defying expectations was a central pillar of Buffy and for her story to end with her defying her own destiny just felt right.

What Didn’t

Potentials!  This one’s obvious but I’ll say it anyway.  Even if we set aside the fact that their personalities seemed to range between nonexistent and annoying, the fact remains that adding this many characters to an already heavy ensemble was simply ill conceived and left the characters we care about having to vie for screen time with ones we didn’t.

Further to the above, Xander and Willow were pretty lost all season.  I’m not sure which is worse; Xander, who had nothing of significance to do all season or Willow,who had an interesting story completely boggled through inattention.

Add Giles to the list of misused characters as his falling out with Buffy was a story that wasn’t.  I’ll also point out that his return, partial or not, was the first time since season five that the core four have been together for an extended period.  Combined with the return to Sunnydale High this was a colossal missed opportunity for some old school Buffy stories.

The First Evil may be Buffy‘s worst evil and that’s really saying something when it’s got Adam to contend with.  The source of all Bads, big and little, was certainly a cool concept, but “evil itself” is a damn tricking thing to pull off and this season simply wasn’t up to the task.  Faceless and incorporeal, the First was a hard villain to care about and while I can appreciate it being more about mind games than carnage, those mind games came to very little.  Its biggest “win” was convincing Andrew to kill Jonathan and we’d largely forgotten about that by the time the finale rolled around. Shouldn’t the ultimate evil be able to do more than council suicide to one Potential?

There was way too much in this season that never came to anything. What was The First’s plan for Spike?  What was up with the Joyce visions?  Why bother going back to the high school? Where was the implied Buffy/Faith confrontation?

Kennedy.  ‘nuf said.

Principal Wood was a pretty pointless character.  The son of a Slayer wasn’t a bad idea but he didn’t really add anything to the season beyond being a foe for Spike and his presence beyond that confrontation was utterly baffling.  Wouldn’t it have been cooler if he’d been evil and/or died?

Did I say The First was Buffy‘s worst villain?  I forgot about the Turok-Han.  Let’s take a vampire, strip away the humanity that makes them interesting and make them look like an orc.  Yeah, great idea.

I’ve already taken plenty of shots at “Chosen,” but to add some more: what the hell was up with that run along the rooftops?  Other season low points include “Empty Places” “First Date” & “Him”

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5 responses to “Final Thoughts – Buffy Season Seven

  1. The final season of Buffy didn’t sit will with me either. All in all it just felt like they dropped the ball when it could have been so easy to deliver something great in the final outing. Thematically I think it was probably the strongest or at least felt the most dramatic because of the speeches and how they tried to paint it as the end. Unfortunately no matter how well delivered those speeches were, it felt like all talk and no show especially if you were to compare to the actual fire rain & sun eclipse on Angel.

    I’m conflicted on the potentials. I agree that they definitely did not work but I would lie if I said that Buffy’s speech to them during Chosen didn’t touch me. Had they not been there however I feel there could have been ample enough time to give to Willow (without Kennedy) Xander and Giles. I always liked the “back to the beginning” theme they were going for but I never liked the school as a way to do it. While the high school years were short I didn’t really see a purpose to revisit it as a setting.

    A few questions for you on some topics I wanted to hear your opinions on.

    Were you opposed to the potentials all together or do you think they could have worked if the writers made the group much smaller?

    Don’t you think it have been much better if The First started out as incorporeal but eventually became corporeal and gained a true face that wasn’t dead people during the season?

    I always thought Wood and the son of the slayer was an interesting one but needed some more room to breathe and cool down before having him settle into the gang. I know you like the idea of him as evil but how would if he came a season sooner and provided conflict while Buffy and Spike were in a relationship& then the next season would deal with some of the fall out?

    • Hi, thanks for the questions and sorry for the delayed response. To answer your questions:

      I think that the potentials could’ve worked (or at least sucked less) with two basic changes: introduce them earlier and get rid of Kennedy. Seeing more of the potentials may seem counter productive, but I think that the season wasted a lot of time in the top third and introducing the potentials earlier would’ve provided more time to flesh out their personalities and, more importantly, integrate their stories with those of the Scoobies. Having a host of new characters for our old ones to play off of presented any number of storytelling opportunities, but those stories needed care and attention. Getting rid of Kennedy has the obviously benefit of eliminating an annoying character, but I also think that, as the most prominent potential, she dragged all the others down. Get rid of her an let a more likable character be their spokesperson.

      A real corporeal face for the First might have helped, particularly in giving Buffy something to punch, but the First needed a personality of its own even while being incorporeal. There was a way to do this though, like most of the season, I think it didn’t get the necessary care and attention. I actually think the real missed opportunity with the First was in creating a more unified mythology for the Buffyverse. We know that it connected to all the evil she’s faced before because… it looks like them sometimes? Pretty lame when you get right down to it.

      Any number of things could’ve improved Wood, though I think that he would’ve been out of place in season six. My real issue with him is that he didn’t actually make a difference to the season. He had his own subplot with Spike, one which only he was aware of 90% of the time, but he had no significance in the wider story

  2. Boaging it up like it was 1999

    peshaw this season holds nothing against either SHIELD or My Little Pony.

  3. Buffy is Buffy so even a bad season is better then most show’s best – and this season is no exception. Where there problems with the story arc? yes. Did they tease us in the 1st episode with all the past big-bads coming back and then completely fail to fall up on that? Yes. Did the First Evil fail to be a competent villain at times (The cobra commander syndrome)? Yes. But did the good of the season outweigh the bad? You betcha. And it did so with room to spare.

    A few issues that seem to have come up in recent comments and reviews – Wood was actually well played as a story. I loved how he thought he was going to win and Spike just mopped the floor with him. I loved how it gave Spike a chance to show how different he is then Angle – he doesn’t need to mop around and brood, he knows he can’t undo the past so all he needs to feel like a good man is to be a good person – so he lets Wood live after mocking him a little. The potentials – shoulda and coulda have been done better, I thought there should only be one potential at a time and it would have been an interesting story to have Buffy (or more correctly Faith) meet the girl who would inherit the power if she dies. And Giles was underused, there is no justification for that. As for Willow’s storyline, it wasn’t the worst, but Xander was more like season 1-3 then 4-6 and I liked that.

    Each season’s big bad was not just a play on each kind of evil but also represented an internal evil. Season 7 was about self-doubt and I think it was the most ambitious one to do and I think its great they went for it. Yeah it fell short compared to say Season 6’s depression or Season 2 broken hearted / abusive ex-boyfriend.

  4. On a very meta level, this season did exactly what Buffy has always done and been praised for: break expectations. Only this time it was breaking the expectations it had created for itself. As a genre-buster the only genre left to bust was that of the genre-buster. A big fuck you to the audience as it may be, doing this for the final season is actually quite fitting.

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