In the twenty-first episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies and the Potentials prepare for the end of the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
This finally feels like it’s the end.
You know, it might be because I’ve been in denial, but I haven’t really felt like Buffy was coming to an end. It’s a weird thought because I’ve spent almost a year of my life in the Buffyverse. I started this just a couple weeks prior to Christmas last year. The Whedonites broke my site in the first 60 seconds. Then it was broken six more times over the course of the next ten months. Then I agreed to do Angel, and this project became even longer because of it. (This could have ended months ago had I not watch Angel, so that’s another reason I’m happy I chose to watch all of Angel.)
And here I am. After this, there will be one final proper review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer left. As the the title of this episode conveys, this really is the end of days. Tomorrow, we’ll be super sad. Well, I have some Buffy stuff I’m doing here and on Mark Reads in the very near future, but I won’t spoil the surprise. But I have now made it through 143 episodes of this show, and it’s now obvious to me that I’m going to have to brace myself for the end. It’s nice, then, that this episode deals so heavily in the characters instead of the plot. That’s important, too, but it’s not the only focus. Ultimately, that’s what I’ll care about most in the series finale: where are these characters taken? Am I given closure as I bid them goodbye?
This episode sets up the final step of these characters’ journeys. To cover as much as possible, I’ll split this up chronologically.
Buffy is back! Sort of.
Could you imagine being casted as the unnamed Potentials who get killed in “End of Days”? My god. The main Potentials and Faith aren’t killed, but they’re forced to face off against three Turok-Han vampires, who came from… somewhere? Where exactly did they come from? That’s not important. What is important is that the First lets Buffy escape from Caleb and she’s able to save the remaining survivors of the bomb blast. God, her entrance is just so majestic. She drops from the ceiling and uses the Scythe to utterly destroy the three übervamps in less than thirty seconds. Holy shit, that thing is powerful! But her return to the team isn’t glossed over, either. While everyone is happy to see her back, Buffy isn’t so sure she’s ready to jump into being a leader again. I love that the show addresses this. It’s smart. It’s got a great sense of continuity. Buffy’s confident, especially since she’s got the Scythe now, but she’s not taking this return lightly. Hell, even the Potentials aren’t. Amanda vocalizes the idea that they were all punished for choosing Faith over Buffy. That’s not fair, obviously, but I understand why they feel so dejected about what’s happened to them.
Even Giles is cautious around Buffy, deferring to her instead of trying to rule over her. It’s clear he’s learned his place in her order, though I admit that the thought of their dynamic now makes me a little sad. I really like Giles as a character and I miss how things once were. Still, at least he’s here on the show and helping out.
This episode sure is full of a lot of dramatic scenes of people just talking. I AM OKAY WITH THIS. Again, I care more about character development than plot. Most of the time. I’m guessing that this entire conversation is foreshadowing for Willow deciding that she’ll use powerful magic against the First in the next episode. It’s nice that Giles is there to support her; it seems he’s turned to mentoring Willow more now that Buffy has sort of rejected him.
Okay, I NEARLY CRIED when Buffy gave that heartfelt speech about how much she cares about Xander. Stop it. YOU STOP IT. I still have another episode to survive. DON’T DO THIS TO ME YET. But it’s so goddamn true! You know, that’s something I’ve loved about this show. I did not like Xander when this show started, and I’ve watched him grow to be the one constant in Buffy’s life. He really does give her strength. It’s just so beautiful.
So I totally didn’t figure out what Buffy asked Xander to do until he chloroformed Dawn. WHOOPS. However, I wasn’t that surprised that Dawn found a way to get back to Sunnydale. Well, wait, I was utterly shocked that she cared a taser. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Oh my god, does she just always have one with her??? Anyway, I was a little disappointed that Buffy would send Xander and Dawn away in one sense because I agreed that they deserved to be there for the end. Could you imagine how heartbroken you’d be if your best friend sent you away, and then they died? Plus, it’s not the first time Buffy has tried to keep Dawn out of trouble, so I was hoping that she wouldn’t do this again. Still, it was also kind of sweet. If she didn’t survive the battle with the First, then Dawn and Xander could still have a life.
I’d say I’m conflicted but Dawn is clearly heading back to Sunnydale, so we’ll just see how this ends.
UGH I CAN’T DEAL WITH THEMES OF ETERNAL LONELINESS. This is like my favorite trope/story archetype and as I say in today’s Mark Watches video, it presses every one of my emotional buttons. Faith and Buffy have one of the most intimate moments of their friendship, and it’s about how they will forever be alone. No matter how often they try to get close to others, the very nature of what they are gets in the way. I even liked the idea that they couldn’t get along with one another because they fundamentally don’t understand what it’s like to have someone close to them who can empathize with their life. It’s just TOO MUCH.
NO STOP IT SO MANY FEELINGS THAT ARE ALL SQUISHY AND ADORABLE. Oh my god, James Marsters, how do you act. I have never seen Spike portrayed so vulnerable. It’s brilliant, and that scene between Buffy and Spike is just too much. These two characters have come such a long way from the last season, let alone Spike’s introduction. Amidst the end of the world, they’re able to strip down to the barest of emotions. In a sense, it was very similar to what occurred between Faith and Spike. With so little time left in the world, they do away with dramatics. They are honest. And in that honesty, Spike admits that he is terrified of what he feels for Buffy. Now, even a year ago, I would have completely read this scene differently. I might not have even seen it as that important. But I’m in a loving relationship for the first time in a long while, and I remember that terror I felt when I realized I’d fallen in love. Love can be a scary, messy thing. And while I don’t think this show has portrayed it perfectly, I appreciate the message all the same. I don’t know that Spike and Buffy could ever have a normal relationship, but my god, I loved this scene.
NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SHOW. WHY DO YOU KEEP PUMMELING ME WITH FEELINGS? Look, Anya has largely been relegated to background noise this last batch of episodes, and it’s not my favorite thing. She’s such a rad character and I wish she was featured more prominently. Now, I’m not saying the Anya/Andrew scene makes up for that, but it does a lot to make me feel good about where these two characters are before the finale. We’ve got one guy who is frightened that he will lose his life in the apocalypse, and then we’ve got Anya, who ran away during the last one. She chooses to stay because she admires the human propensity for fighting for what matters. And that’s important not just for Anya’s characterization. Andrew has struggled with what it means to be good, and he views this final battle as the ultimate test of his morality. In that sense, it’s important for him to hear this validation of humanity from Anya. It means he matters.
In the hours before the most important battle of their lives, Anya and Andrew share their fears and their hopes, and then they have a wheelchair fight.
Too many goddamn feelings.
You know, they’re kind of introduced so late that I’m slightly suspect of them, but I do like the idea that there was a ~mystical~ group looking after the Slayers. I suppose I don’t understand the logistics of them, though. Did they always just hide around, waiting for a Slayer to battle the First? Well… okay. Still, it’s a neat idea, and it’s clear that they’re not the answer to the battle with the First. The Guardian tells Buffy to use her other weapons, and I assume that means her friends. Right? RIGHT? Oh god.
Caleb and Angel
GODDAMN WHAT IS WITH SHOWS KILLING PEOPLE PROVIDING BACKGROUND/EXPOSITION WHILE THOSE PEOPLE ARE GIVING ME CRUCIAL INFORMATION. Oh god, LOST did this so much!!!! Anyway, Caleb’s back, imbued with the power of the First inside of him, which somewhat explains why he’s so powerful. He’s the prototype in a sense. He is what all of humanity will become. And he begins to kick Buffy’s ass until THE GREATEST CAMEO APPEARANCE IN THE WHOLE SHOW EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T A SURPRISE AT ALL oh my god OH MY GOD I CHEERED SO LOUD WHEN ANGEL SHOWED UP I MISSED HIM ON THIS SHOW I FORGOT WHAT A RAD DYNAMIC HE BROUGHT HELP ME I AM HAVING FEELINGS ABOUT THE FIRST THREE SEASONS OF THIS SHOW HELP ME.
And then Buffy slams the Scythe into Caleb’s stomach. He’s dead, and Buffy embraces Angel and kisses him in a moment of joy, and I am so fucking stoked about absolutely everything and then NO YOU STOP IT. STOP IT. NO. WHY???? No, they were on good terms, WHAT IS SPIKE DOING THERE? Oh my god, Spike, do not listen to the First. PLEASE DON’T.
Oh shit, just one more left.
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