In the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies and the Potentials battle for the future of the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
This was supposed to be a joke. Like it’s a thing of mine that I want the earth to open up and eat characters I hate. That’s my thing! So this answer was a joke.
It’s really strange being at the very end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d never tackled something for Mark Watches that was so lengthy and beloved by SO MANY PEOPLE. No, seriously, there are so many of you who have been reading this every day for nearly a year. This show ended a decade ago, and y’all are still here. Bless. But I think it’s easy for me to see why this is such a meaningful and pivotal show for so many people, and I absolutely had to see the end of this in order to understand that.
What this show has accomplished over seven seasons and 144 episodes is not lost on me, and I didn’t want to finish off my commentary on Buffy without appreciating the scope of what I’ve just seen. When I started Buffy, I literally had no clue what I was stumbling into. That first review of mine is laughable in its ignorance. Obviously, I wasn’t prepared for the plot twists. I wasn’t prepared for the darkness this show would bring, or the bleak messages it would impart at times. However, the one thing I’m always surprised about is how I grow to care about a fictional world. There’s a difference between liking something and caring about it, at least for me. I really liked The Hunger Games! It’s a great series! But it doesn’t compare to my love and affection for things like Harry Potter or LOST or The X-Files or His Dark Materials. I’m sure one of y’all can pinpoint the moment it happened, but there came a point during my watch of Buffy where I loved what I was experiencing. I loved the characters so much that I didn’t really care what happened as long as they were doing stuff together. (Which is why I’m more forgiving about this show than some others are. Well, and I lacked hindsight as well, but that’s another issue.) It was then that I set myself up for the emptiness and sadness that I am feeling right now.
This is over. There’s no more.
Yes, there are comics, there is a lot of fanfiction to read, and I will be doing both of those things in the extremely near future. (I’ll have a post up about that. More on that at the end of this.) But “Chosen” is the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I won’t get to see these characters like this again. And you know, it really wasn’t until “End of Days” that I felt like this was all coming to an end. “Chosen” drills this point home in emotional and horrific ways, but it also acts as a satisfying book-end to the series with numerous callbacks to how this all got started.
It’s fascinating to have Angel on this show again, even if it is only for a brief scene at the beginning. I was instantly reminded of the chemistry he brought with him and the dynamic of him and Buffy working together. They are a great team, and I’d also forgot how whiny and childish Angel used to be. Like, once he moved to Los Angeles, he truly became the king of brooding, but here, I’m reminded of how jealous he would get. ALL THE TIME. Oh god, they are an adorable couple, though, and while I’m not really a Buffy/Angel shipper, I totally get it. Even after all these years, these years, they’ve still got it.
I was shocked, though, that Angel didn’t stay around longer. I sort of expected that he’d be here the whole episode, fighting alongside Buffy and all his old friends. In hindsight, it does make sense that he leaves, especially since it leaves room for Spike’s very necessary story. Angel serves his purpose not only by showing up and giving Buffy the locket that she’ll later give to Spike, but to give us closure on what was once a tumultuous relationship for the two. All of this centers around Buffy’s very Buffy-like monologue about her growth as a person. The cookie dough analogy is child-like in its execution, and that’s what I love about it. Even though Buffy has grown incredibly as a woman in the last seven years, she’s been so distracted and overwhelmed by her duties as the Slayer that she just needs to spend some time maturing emotionally. It’s just powerful to me that Buffy can admit that she still has some growing up to do, and it was even more touching that she hadn’t ruled out a future with Angel, albeit a long time away. And with that, Angel leaves, very much like he appeared in the very beginning of this show, stepping into the shadows and disappearing.
Was I crying yet? Nope, but we’ll get to that soon enough. First, we have to have Dawn kick Buffy in the shins. Oh god, please don’t let them fight over this. Dawn can’t leave. Oh, Buffy just gave up? Well… I didn’t expect that. Perhaps Buffy, in that moment, looked at her angry sister, knew she’d done something ferocious to Xander to get him to come back, and just thought, “FUCK IT.” I mean, clearly she can handle herself. Or perhaps she knew that she couldn’t worry about dealing with Dawn with the apocalypse imminent. Either way, so glad Dawn wasn’t sent away again.
And while this was all entertaining and fine and dandy and cute, it was the scene in the basement between Spike and Buffy that really made me stop and think about what I was watching. This is the last episode. And over the course of this show, the relationship between Spike and Buffy is finally coming to its end, one way or another. It’s not my favorite thing the show has ever done, and season six still makes me feel conflicting emotions when I think about it. Still, I can’t deny the importance of the development of romantic and sexual feelings between Spike and Buffy. They’re crucial to understand where Buffy ends up in the final moments of “Chosen.” Her journey through season six was about a rejection of her humanity post-death. That confusion, coupled with a whole lot of justifiable angst, caused her to both lash out at others (including Spike) and massively internalize a whole lot of pain. Amidst this, she developed intense and bewildering feelings for Spike that seemingly contradicted the “goodness” inside of her.
Thinking about that, it’s just so incredible to me that Buffy and Spike exist in a space in “Chosen” where they can be truly tender and caring to one another in a way that isn’t mutually harmful. Well, first Buffy has to call out more “jealous vampire crap,” which is HILARIOUS. I love that Spike and Angel are so quick to claim they have absolutely nothing in common, yet they both act exactly the same when they’re jealous. Oh god, WHY CAN’T THEY DUKE IT OUT IN A ROOM TOGETHER, THIS IS BREAKING MY HEART.
But that call-out is more than just a humorous line. It really speaks to how Spike is finally able to put his guard down in this episode. It’s why he admits that he has no pride around Buffy. It’s why he openly asks her to stay. And even though the words are never spoken outright in this whole season, to me it feels like Buffy has finally forgiven Spike and vice versa.
This episode also very cleverly hides the “plan” that Buffy comes up with to fight the First and the Turok-Han. Honestly, the impact wouldn’t have been as intense had I known beforehand. I’ll get to that moment (WHERE I STARTED TO TEAR UP PRETTY MUCH INSTANTLY), but there are few more crucial scenes that happen beforehand. It’s weird that I am not the biggest fan of Kennedy, given that she represents a lot of tropes I love in characters. She’s a woman of color, a lesbian, she’s bratty and demanding, she’s openly flawed and she knows it, and yet… bah. I blame most of it on the writers. She just showed up, and there was no real exploration of her chemistry with Willow. Granted, I have complicated feelings towards Willow as it is, and I’m going to remain bitter about the loss of Tara until the universe stops spinning. That’s unfair of me when it comes to Kennedy, and I admit that. Still, I wish there was more in the canon of the show to make me feel something about her characterization besides slight disinterest. I don’t think season seven is perfect by any stretch, and one of the problems is how jumbled the massive cast comes off as in the second half of this season. Hell, Anya and Dawn took a backseat to the main cast. And Andrew. Wow, there was a lot of Andrew. Jamming so much into this season meant that Kennedy’s characterization lacked the subtlety and nuance I had come to expect from Buffy. I will say that I’m happy that the show explored another queer relationship onscreen and didn’t shy away from showing physical affection either.
Oh god, okay, so I’m pretty sure that entire scene in the basement of Sunnydale High between Faith and Principal Wood will give me joy and sustenance for the rest of my life. First, I love frank discussions of sex appearing in fiction because I’m so bored with the idea that we should hide them. Plus, the entire scene reads as a sass-off between these two, and ultimately, Wood wins by claiming he is prettier than Faith. 100% done because IT IS ABSOLUTELY SO TRUE. Plus, I am kind of totally behind Faith/Robin Wood as a pairing? Their dynamic is utterly fascinating, especially since they both have such painful backgrounds and defensive attitudes about the world. Ugh, it’s just so perfect! (This is also why I nearly lost it during another point later in “Chosen,” but I’ll get there. I promise!)
When the entire time arrives at Sunnydale High (IN A SCHOOL BUS, OH MY GOD THE BANNER OF MY SITE WAS SPOILING ME THE WHOLE TIME AND I NEVER KNEW WHY), it seemed fitting that the final battle of the entire show would take place where everything started. I admit that I was horrifically worried about what was going to happen, not only because I was watching a Whedon show, but because this was it. Joss could do whatever he wanted with these characters and this story. I watched these characters split off from the core group of Scoobies to prepare for whatever plan Buffy had come up with. I winced when Dawn left quickly, determined to stop Buffy from saying anything that might resemble a goodbye. And then those four original Scoobies remained. Willow. Xander. Buffy. Giles. I wished Cordelia was there, but alas, I am very bitter about Cordelia. Regardless, THIS SMALL MOMENT WAS SO IMPORTANT TO ME. By purposely calling back to the end of “The Harvest,” I’m forced to think about where these four characters have gone over seven years. They’re not standing in a mostly-deserted version of the high school they started at, about to battle a foe they have only one chance to beat. Xander’s lost an eye and a fianceé; Willow lost her girlfriend and went evil; Buffy’s had three boyfriends, and they all ended largely in disaster. Or mediocrity, in the case of Riley. SORRY, RILEY IS KIND OF BORING IN HINDSIGHT. And Giles has watched over all of them this whole time. Well, except that time he disappeared for nearly a whole season. Whoops. The camera sweeps around them as they talk about going to the mall on the day after they save the world. It’s such a quintessential scene for these characters as Giles stares at them, incredulous that after saving the world, these three people want to go to a mall. Yeah, so, there are too many feelings happening already. I WAS SO SCARED AT THIS POINT.
And I had every reason to be. When the camera finally revealed just how massive the Hellmouth was and just how many Turok-Han vampires were waiting to attack Sunnydale, I kind of freaked out. A lot. Like, what possible plan could Buffy have come up with that involved her giving Willow the Scythe??? Shouldn’t Buffy have it in her hands? WOULDN’T THAT BE A BETTER IDEA?
It was during the flashback that explained Buffy’s plan that I teared up for the first of many times during “Chosen.” While I have my own problems with how the Shadow Men were portrayed, I can’t deny how powerful it was to watch Willow activate every Potential Slayer currently living. Those scenes – a young girl playing softball, another defending herself against her abuser, the Potentials standing on the edge of the Hellmouth – were a direct refutation of a rule made up and enforced by men who never truly cared what happened to the Slayers. There was always another one waiting in the wings. Here, these women, young and old, realize their full potential, and Buffy and Willow release all of them to create an army that is finally ready to annihilate the first. In the process, Willow channels a power of such pure goodness that she turns bright white. She did not turn evil again, and I’d like to think that she was finally able to cleanse some of the guilt and fear within her. It was nifty, Willow, even if it was a bit of a sappy end to her character’s development.
And then the reality of this fight is right before me. I had no reservations about the brutality of the battle with the First, and I assumed it would be violent. Still, that’s not a way to prepare yourself for watching this the very first time. Buffy is stabbed through the abdomen, and I believed that Buffy would die. Why couldn’t she? She’d done it before and it was the very last episode. Amanda falls before Buffy, who lies on the floor in pain. And then the worst happens: Anya, who finally decided to fight for the humans, who had gathered whatever strength she had left to face her fears and defend the world from the imminent threat of the Turok-Han, is chopped down in front of Andrew.
I had little time to react to this. Andrew is overwhelmed. Principal Wood is stabbed, too, right in front of Giles. Only Xander and Dawn have a positive moment during this intense montage of scenes. As the First, in Buffy’s facade, stands before a wounded Buffy, everything felt AWFUL. Even with the activated Slayers, it seemed they were losing. It was exhilarating when Buffy stood up in defiance of the First, and I felt a rush of excitement, but I was still confused. How were they going to defeat all of these vampires with such a small team?
Sunlight hits Spike, and as soon as the amulet sprayed light out into the Hellmouth, I realized what this entire season had set up: Spike would finally find redemption through sacrifice. As his amulet laid waste to thousands of Turok-Han vampires, I knew he couldn’t survive. The amulet might have been keeping him alive for a few moments, but how would he endure pure sunlight as a vampire?
Honestly, I figured the main characters would be spared. Giles, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Buffy, and Spike. Everyone else could die. I expected it. But here’s Spike in his final moments, and he used his body to do good. He saved the entire world from the apocalypse, and he did it by giving up his life. Like, it’s difficult typing this and thinking about their goodbye. Like Cassie promised earlier this season, Buffy finally tells Spike that she loves him, and she means it. He rejects it, but I’m inclined to believe that she actually does love him in her own way.
I was in shock from this point on. Anya was dead. Amanda was dead. Spike was dead. And as the survivors escape on the same yellow school bus that brought them there, Buffy manages one last act of absurdity and saves herself from impending doom by leaping from a building onto the top of the bus. And SUNNYDALE COMPLETELY COLLAPSES IN ON ITSELF. Like, here is a way to end the show: OBLITERATE THE ENTIRE TOWN FROM EXISTENCE. Oh my god, the earth literally opened up and ate the bad guys. Have all of you been waiting for me to get to this series since I first started making this joke during Harry Potter???? I can’t. I CAN’T!!!! I HAVE WANTED THIS MY WHOLE LIFE.
The shock of witnessing the destruction of Sunnydale and the loss of these characters finally hit me when I thought Principal Wood had died. Something was just so horribly tragic about the idea of surviving the collapse of Sunnydale only to die on a bus just outside of town. IT WAS TOO MUCH. But then he woke up again and “surprised” Faith and I am so overwhelmed with goddamn feelings for these two.
I can’t ask for a more meaningful end to Buffy than the scene I was given. It’s typical that Giles ruined the moment by mentioning Cleveland. It’s amazing that this ending still leaves a future to be told. But I was most satisfied that “Chosen” ended by focusing on Buffy’s face as she realized what she’d done. Dawn asks her, “What are we going to do now?” and Buffy realizes that, for the first time in her life, she is not special. Her conversation with Faith in “End of Days” has a new meaning to me. She now shares the Slayer burden with possibly thousands of other people. She is not the Chosen One anymore. She has a life of potential ahead of her. For the first time in the entire series, Buffy can do whatever she wants.
I said before that I cared where these characters ended up more than how the plot was resolved. While I’m satisfied with the resolution of the First Evil arc, I am more than pleased with this show’s ultimate treatment of Buffy Summers. Joss gave Buffy freedom, something she only knew once. (The end of season five.) And now she’s free to live whatever life she chooses. Whether that involves the other Slayers or not is up to her. But she has that choice. The Watchers Council is gone, and she and Willow gave destiny and free will to so many women in the process.
I’m shocked and saddened by the deaths of Anya, Spike, and Amanda. It’s hard to think about their loss, and while I didn’t cry that much while watching “Chosen,” I know that when the shock wears off, it’ll hurt a lot more. It took me nearly 48 hours to write this review, and I’m still numb. Buffy is done. I did it, and even that feeling hasn’t worn down.
Thankfully, this is not the end of my trip through the Buffyverse. Tomorrow, I will post a special thing I can’t tell you about until 10am PDT. I will also use the post to conduct a Q&A/share fest with all of you. This way, you can recommend certain things to me, tell me what I missed, and ask me questions pertaining to the series as a whole. I wanted to make this review focus more on “Chosen” than on trying to summarize seven seasons of the show. So we’ll look back on the show tomorrow.
I will also read the approved comics on Mark Reads as double feature posts once I’ve finished Angel in December. I plan on doing an issue per post! I will announce when they start about Twitter. I reserve the right to change this plan if I can’t do a post per issue. I’LL FIGURE IT OUT.
On top of that, a wonderful member of this community has commissioned me to read The Chosen, a massive fanfic project that is a continuation of the show as if it comprised two more seasons. I will start that within the next two weeks, and will determine how posts work for that as well, since I’ll be reading only certain “episodes” on video. Again, you can follow me on Twitter for these sort of announcements!
So, tomorrow on Mark Watches, we’ve got:
8am: Madoka Magica
10am: Buffy surprise/Q&A
1pm: Angel season 5 predictions
On Monday, I start season 5 of Angel, and on Tuesday, I’ll start Dollhouse! I have a lovely banner to debut, too. OH GOD, SO EXCITED.
Thank you, Buffy fandom, for breaking my site so many times, and for following along for such a long time. It means a lot to me. Onwards to more of being totally unprepared!
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