Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7b)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.

<--Season 7a

The surprising result of revisiting season seven during this year’s exercise was to discover that it is less compelling than season six. That is often overlooked because the stand-out episodes are well done and memorable and the grand finale—that episode that sticks with one when all is said and done—is so satisfying. It has already been mentioned that the season’s overarching tale plods rather slowly and dominates most episodes in a “soap opera” style. This is only accentuated this half as few episodes have somewhat self contained ideas:

Episode 13: “The Killer in Me”

Willow is magically punished—she actually becomes the evil misogynist man who killed Tara—when she allows herself to move on romantically thereby in a sense symbolically killing and dishonoring Tara’s memory. This episode is a placeholder—padding the season out to the requisite 22 episodes. There is a side story where we are meant to think that Giles might be the first evil, and another where Spike finally losses the chip. The former was never believable and the later had ceased to influence plot, so we didn’t need this story.

Episode 14: “First Date”

This story sets up the fact that Principal Wood was the son of a slayer Spike killed. It also put Xander through the ordeal of attracting yet another monster posing as a woman. Other than that it is also fluff.

Episode 16: “Story Teller”

In one of the best comedic yet poignant episodes of the series, Andrew is filming a documentary of the fight against the first evil. (It is much better in his mind’s eye than the actual product, and we get a glimpse of both versions.) The episode focuses on the mechanics of closing the seal that Andrew opened earlier in the season by murdering Jonathan and spilling his blood. Required to close the seal are Andrew’s tears of true repentance; something that is hard to come by in the way that Andrew continues to construct elaborate stories that exonerate and magnify his role in the evil in which he has participated. Andrew manages to become one of the more compelling characters in the Buffy-verse and this episode is where he ceases to be tragically funny and becomes almost courageously heroic.

Episode 17: “Lies My Parents Told Me”

As Wood and Giles conspire to kill Spike, we witness more of Spike’s past and see one of the footholds in his life that the first evil is using to control him. When he is able to finally forgive his mother (and himself) he demolishes that hold and finally manages to completely be the champion he needs to be for the fight to come.

Episodes 15, 18-21: “Get It Done,” “Dirty Girls,” “Empty Places,” “Touched,” and “End of Days”

The soap-opera-like development and pace of the series is seen in the “first evil” storyline. At some point the writers must have realized that, while the concept of the devil and his role in tempting people to be their worst is interesting, it is not as compelling in a world that has been set up to symbolize evil through actual monsters. Even the major mythology of the show—the concept of a slayer as champion in a world of monsters—begins to unravel when they reveal that the very source of this champion is rooted in evil intentions of men.

In any case, they introduce a physical tool of the first evil and, wouldn’t you know it, he turns out to be a corrupted preacher—a religious professional. Believers may find that offensive, and it could be taken that way. However, it does serve to highlight the way that the real devil in the real world has used religion more than any other tool to tear down humanity. Religion at its core is humanity’s failed response to what they know is wrong with the world. The “shadow men” in this series who forced a woman to take on demonic power to fight demons is a good picture of what religion is. The message of the Bible shows God approaching humanity with a solution, and an offer relationship, not another religion to compete with all the man-made varieties.

Episode 22: “Chosen”

After all the angst leading up to the end of the season; the heroes finally see that they need to stop fearing their rather impotent opponent and take the battle to it. Buffy has Willow (magically and conveniently) activate all the potential slayers in the world, giving her band enough power to hold the forces of evil back long enough so that one of the biggest “dues ex machina” in television history—a crystal introduced at the last minute—can kill all the bad guys.

Even if the plot mechanics are less than fitting for what had been such a well written series, the character moments are good. Sacrifices are made and are moving. Good overcomes evil. The first evil does not overrun the world. However, the unspoken reality is that this devil is still just as active and powerful as before and people are still going to be manipulated. It was never clear why an apocalypse was such a threat when the real danger is the capacity for evil that people demonstrate and continue to exercise.
Here is the once again excelent trailer from Buffyverse Trailers:

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