So, that’s how it ends, I guess? The TV version of things, anyways. A pretty lackluster conclusion that just plodded along and equaled the minimal stakes of the previous season. There never seemed to be any consistent movement with the story, especially when they had a small kernel of an idea, with the potential vampire slayers, and stretching it out for the entire season.
To start off the season Buffy gets a job as a counselor at the newly built Sunnydale High, which is really just a reason to have a reason for her to back into the thick of things and gives us some of the school backdrop again, like from the first few seasons. Xander is also hilariously tied into this all as his construction company is doing work on the school. Willow of course is still reeling from that whole “trying to destroy the world” thing and the death of Tara. So, more Willow wallowing, basically.
I always wanted more backstory into the whole idea of being a slayer, what it takes and where they come from, which they never really delved much into, surprisingly. They brought the idea forth as the central framework of this season, but never really materializes beyond anything more than a device to further separate and differentiate Buffy and Faith and cause dissension between the groups with Buffy’s preferred method of attack.
Honestly, for a final season, and a show of this magnitude and genre, nothing really out of the ordinary happens, and is pretty by-the-numbers in terms of revelations and expectations. Willow finds a new lover, not much happens with Xander, besides the token death of Anya that he seems to not take THAT hard given the circumstances. Buffy becomes on the outs with her group after Faith ousts her, but of course Buffy wins herself back into their winning graces by the end. Giles is still kicking around on the outskirts, doling out his sage old mentor wisdom, and dang, I thought for sure he was going to die during this thing. Spike is back and not much happens with him until the end of the season, as they still are just obsessed with using Spike solely through his relationship with Buffy. At least Buffy doesn’t take him back after that whole weird rape thing from last season. So, of course Spike sacrifices himself to help defeat their enemy.
So, overall a pretty disappointing end to the series, that unfortunately was waning this way as it went along. Coming into the show I couldn’t help but be influenced by the praise and stature the show has received and achieved, and while ultimately I see where it’s coming from, it never fully hits that mark for me. I enjoyed how the show was able to very deftly switch up its format from the first few seasons of more procedural based into longer form stories across a season, even if these weren’t always executed perfectly. The first few seasons also teased dealing with Buffy’s psyche and how she would have to deal with the psychological effects of killing and how it effects the people around her. They never really did anything with this, beyond the occasional hardship of her normal teenage things, but I definitely thought they could’ve milked that a lot more.
Buffy would almost immediately become my least favourite character and would remain in that position for the entire series. I understand having her deal with romantic relationships, and that’s all well and good and expected, but it remained an overbearing thread in each season, often with her being the most hyperbolic when dealing with these guys in her life. She also always would give off this air of being better than everybody else with her way always being the best, usually in her dealings with Dawn. Beyond all this, though, what of course the show does best, and I imagine why the show is so beloved is the characters it created, their growing relationships between each other and the eventual sense of lived in they give off, like you’ve known them your whole life and know how they’d react to each situation, they felt like people you would know. Besides all that demon-killing stuff.
The success of the show is no doubt influenced by its timing. Starting in 1997 and ending in 2003 it no doubt was one of the major influences in the new era of television in the 90s, mixing strong teen characters and their subsequent drama with a supernatural element that gave the show a lot of freedom to explore wide depths of drama, horror, comedy. It allowed no restrictions really in the type of material it tackled and would do so full force whether it was the very real death of a family member, gay relationships, rape or even concept episodes featuring songs. The show was able to push boundaries because of its framework and thus I think why the last few seasons were a lot more freer in story and plot than the more focused and defined early seasons. It’s a show that largely deserves its praise, even if its just as well known as what it shaped after it.