Longtime Paste readers may have noticed my Buffy obsession. The Buffyverse stands as the primary source of “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” quotes, and my interview in Issue #2 with co-executive producer Marti Noxon (and the opportunity to extol for thinking adults the virtues of Buffy and its spinoff Angel) remains the highlight of my career. While it’s tempting to proselytize again, I’ll merely point the uninitiated and unbelieving to said article-and encourage you to follow it with similar tomes from Salon.com, The New York Times and The Door. In the meantime, I’ll reminisce for the flock.
In the seventh and final season, the Scoobies battle the first and ultimate evil (known simply as The First), who sees an opportunity to end the entire line of slayers and triumph over good once and for all. In the midst of this war, each of them struggles with grief, guilt, redemption, forgiveness, purpose and, especially, power.
On initial viewing, season seven felt perfectly satisfactory, but not excellent. The impending doom loomed larger than in previously averted apocalypses, dampening the group’s normal wit and humor. Even in the tortured-soul dourness of season six, there were many moments of levity. Rather than a series of standalone episodes, featuring a monster du jour atop subtler season/series story arcs, the final season’s installments revolved around the buildup to the final showdown. While not lacking in outstanding episodes, the pace was something new to fans and seemed to sap energy from the show. However, viewed in more rapid succession, the season acquires new life and comes across as the extended epic that it is. As for the bonus features on the season’s DVDs, the outtakes are lame and the commentaries are a mixed bag. The remainder—from the season overview to (my favorite) “Buffy 101: Studying the Slayer”—are lovingly crafted and worth the effort.
So where does season seven fall in the canon? Season six remains the highlight. You won’t find a more skilled extended exploration of existential turmoil on the big or small screen. And I’m not talking “woe is me” teenage angst, but a genuine search for what it means to be human. It’s Bergman for the masses. The more accessible seasons two and three follow next, with their Wagnerian sweep and intensity. The season two finale, a treatise on the power of drama, will leave you shaken. Next, solidly in the middle, lies the final season, followed by seasons five (“The Body” is one of television’s finest examples of subtly and emotional realism), one and four (“Hush” alone makes this season worth owning).
Seven—a number significant for syndication and in Judeo-Christian numerology. And after seven wonderful (though not perfect) years, Joss Whedon and crew take a well-deserved rest. Fortunately, those of us left behind can watch these DVDs in remembrance.