Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Big Buffy Finale

This post is about something I wish I hadn't known before I saw the series finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Serves me right, I waited five years to watch the thing after it originally aired, and then I saw the promotional blurb to the "Buffy: Season 8" comic book series, which spells out the big difference between Buffy's world and the world after the end of the TV show. Clearly the big finish was designed to be a surprise.

I knew Joss Whedon had a reputation for the empowerment of women. It's clear from his major achievements — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly/Serenity — that he likes writing about strong, confident women. But I was blown away by the scene where Buffy pulls out her Kobayashi Alternative to defeat The First, the source of all evil in the Buffyverse.

Rather than presume I'm the last man on Earth to find out what Rosebud is, I will take the unusual step of continuing this essay in the comments. If the Buffy finale is still in your future and you think you don't want to know how it ends, don't click here. Oh, and don't look at anything having to do with Buffy Season 8, either.


I think this probably was the perfect ending for a series that followed a powerful woman and her friends for seven years. It's interesting, because I also thought the end of Season 5 would have been the perfect ending — but, it turns out, not as perfect and life-affirming as the final finale turned out to be.

As I wrote dribs and drabs along the way, I picked up a consensus that Buffy was at its peak during the first three years, as our heroes muddled their way through high school, and that things sort of lost their way after graduation. I still found it all entertaining, but yes, if Season 7 hadn't redeemed it all, there would have been a couple of Jump the Shark moments. The idea of a paramilitary operation devoted to tracking vampires and demons struck me as a bit over the top for even a program with as wacky a concept as a vampire slayer named Buffy.

And I actually took several months off after finishing the dreadful sixth season. Every season had its own "main enemy," and the foolishness of three geeks banding together to form a nerdy evil trio was just exhausting in its stupidity. Saved somewhat by the drama of the Dark Willow saga, I really really disliked that storyline. I imagined fans tuning in every week hoping against hope and deciding that the show should have ended after five years after all.

But then it all came back together. They even found a way to redeem the nerd subplot. I'm surprised to learn that the show's cancellation was a bit of a surprise because the series finale was so perfect — but then the Season 3 and Season 5 finales would have been terrific ways to end the story, too. I guess Joss Whedon just has a knack for wrapping up a story arc with an air of finality. Look at Serenity (as I have a dozen times or more)!

This isn't everything I meant to say — we're talking seven years of quality TV here (well, six) — but it's a long enough post, so I'll stop here and return to this subject another time.

P.S. The little softball player, Demetra Raven, also plays one of Young River's classmates in the opening moments of Serenity. Cool, huh?

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Blogger B.W. Richardson said...

Well. Hi. A little cramped in here, but what're ya gonna do?

Buffy says "Here's the plan" and then the narrative jumps to "What do you think?" Even skeptical Giles thinks it's bloody brilliant. We're not going to know what the plan is until it's sprung. And from Sweetie's reaction later on, there's a tingly niftiness about how Buffy's solution is to change the rules so that there are far more than one superpowered Slayer in the world.

Even having figured out what was coming from the afore-mentioned comic book promos, I got goosebumps from the flashback — right as it's happening — to Buffy's explanation of the plan and the imagery that crossed the screen as it happened. An awkward little softball player at the plate gets a smile on her face realizing she's about to crush the next pitch; girls around the world gasp in surprise at the sudden power surging through them; and, most compelling, a girl being battered grabs her abuser's fist in midair, stands up and looks him in the eye (just at the moment Buffy says, "Every girl who can stand up ...")

"'In every generation, one Slayer is born' — because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men — (points at Willow) This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the Scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power will have the power — can stand up, will stand up. Slayers — every one of us. Make you choice: Are you ready to be strong?"

As Kennedy the newly minted Slayer said next, watching the encroaching army of thousands of übervampires: "Those guys are dust." What a moment — and what a statement to any awkward girl struggling to find the power within herself. The power is there — it's unlocked — go be strong! It's one of the most inspiring TV moments I've ever seen.

OK, spoilers over, let's go back to the original post.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous sunni said...

Enormously inspiring. You're making me wanna see it again!

12:04 PM  

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