Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 22

It's finally time for Chosen, the last ever episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (on TV, at least!). Sniff.

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike loved Buffy, the Potentials were an army, the First could be any dead person it wanted, the scythe was a magical Slayer weapon, Angel was back, and the First said “that bitch.”

The lights come up on Buffy and Angel kissing. It’s really odd seeing them together like this again; we’ve moved so far away from that dynamic that it’s just weird. While they’re still doing the cutesy basking-in-one-another’s-presence thing, Caleb reappears, battered and bloody but still somehow standing, and asks “Are you ready to finish this, bitch?”

So, we’re about three minutes into the episode and there’ve been two uses of the word “bitch” already. Wow.

Post-credits, Caleb and Buffy fight, briefly, and then Buffy uses the scythe to cut him in half, starting from his crotch. Heh. Angel blathers for a bit before giving Buffy a mystical necklace which, apparently, is for a champion to wear – someone with a soul, but who is stronger than human. Angel’s ready to fight by her side, but Buffy rejects his help, sending him away to set up a “second front”, in case she fails and the world starts to get overrun with evil. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep him in the fight, though, to stop that happening in the first place? The writers are very definitely not letting this be about a man fighting Buffy’s battles for her, though, and there’s even a bit of dialogue between Buffy and Angel about how she’s not a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued, to really drive that point home.

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Walking back from the vineyard, Angel asks Buffy if Spike’s her boyfriend now, and gets all snarky and jealous and, er, it’s really awkward, because Angel, in Angel the series, doesn’t act like this. And as if Angel acting all out of character weren’t bad enough, it’s time for Buffy to give a speech which may be one of the most embarrassing moments in the entire seven seasons of this show. I really don’t want to think about it, so let’s just skip this scene and never say the words “cookie dough” in association with relationship issues ever again.

When Buffy gets home, having sent Angel away to set up this second front, she finds Dawn waiting for her – ready to kick her in the shin for being a dumbass. Heh. Buffy fills everyone in on Caleb’s eventual fate and then goes to talk to Spike, who’s angry in the basement. There’s a lovely, touching moment where he asks for the necklace, she hesitates and says it’s to be worn by a champion, and then when he looks utterly dejected, hands it over to him, demonstrating her ultimate faith in him. Awwww.

Since Faith is occupying Buffy’s room, Buffy sleeps cuddled up with Spike – except she can’t sleep, and while she’s pacing about, the First comes calling, initially manifesting as Caleb but eventually becoming Buffy herself, reeling off the all too familiar “one girl in all the world” speech to taunt Buffy and remind her that she’s alone, leading an army of girls who won’t know real power until she’s dead. This kind of backfires for the First, though, because it just gives Buffy an idea. Not that we’re going to get to hear it right now: the scenes in which Buffy gets all the Scoobies onside and then rallies the Potentials are cut short, so we won’t know what her plan is until it’s fully in motion. Then there are a few quick scenes of everyone preparing themselves on their last night before the battle – Faith and Robin discuss the possibility of having a relationship once all this is over, Willow and Kennedy have a very cute conversation about whether Kennedy could kill Willow if it came to it, and Giles, Andrew, Amanda and Xander play Dungeons and Dragons. Most of these preparation scenes are great, brief but containing everything you need to know about all the characters and their feelings about the coming apocalypse… but it’s also not really anything we’ve not seen before. Weirdly, Chosen actually does it better than most of the long, dull, talky episodes that preceded it. But it’s still a relief when morning arrives and the troops head into battle…

A lone yellow school bus is parked outside the deserted and vandalised campus of Sunnydale High School. It’s fitting, really, that this is where the final battle takes place, even though Buffy and co graduated long ago. There’s a sense of having come full circle here that’s fitting for a finale. Robin leads everyone decisively through the school halls, and Buffy directs each group to the relevant place – the Potentials to the Seal with her, Willow and Kennedy to the principal’s office, and the “civilians” upstairs, guarding the exits of the school – Anya and Andrew together, Xander and Dawn together, and Giles and Robin together.

Before the fight really starts, the original Scoobies assemble, briefly, and there are deliberate echoes of the end of a very, very early episode (either the first or the second, but I can’t quite recall which!) as Buffy, Willow and Xander babble about inanity and Giles turns away, declaring that the world is doomed. I sort of want to cry; I love this show so, so much, and this is the very last episode, and, my heart aches for these characters I’ve loved so much for so long!

It’s time for action, though, so let’s get on with it. The Potentials, Faith and Buffy stand around the Seal of Danzalthar, cutting their hands to drip enough blood onto the Seal to open it. Meanwhile, Willow is gearing up to do her spell, just as the Slayers and Slayerettes walk into, well, Hell. A vast, CGI hell that looks like it’s been lifted from Lord of the Rings, but Hell nonetheless. The girls stand on a precipice, with thousands of über-vamps milling around beneath them. Buffy says she’s not worried, as long as Willow’s spell works, and we cut to Willow doing the spell – which, really, should have been done before everyone walked into Hell, but in the interests of narrative tension had to wait until now – and we’re treated to a flashback of Buffy’s rousing speech, the one we didn’t get to see earlier. She tells the girls that she’s going to change the rules: there will no longer be just one Slayer, but every girl who could ever be a Slayer will be a Slayer; they’ll all become Slayers. The power won’t be restricted to one lone, desperate struggling girl, but handed out to all of them, so that they can work together. Buffy says she’s realised that the rules we’ve previously been playing to were set by a bunch of old men, but that Willow has more power than all of them, so she’s ripping up the rulebook.

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It’s brilliant, this, and inspiring, and a wonderful payoff for that earlier episode that talked about violating a girl to give her demonic powers, but it’s totally illogical. It’s stirring, but it makes no sense – if the First has become more powerful to balance the good/evil scales, because Buffy should be gone but has been brought back to life, then creating thousands of Slayers should unbalance the scales even further and mess everything up even more. But somehow, I want to not think about that, and go along with the inspiring narrative the episode is laying out before me – Buffy and co are changing the world, shaking off the shackles of centuries of patriarchal oppression and handing power to women, which is kind of just a more explicitly feminist version of what Buffy’s always been about, and if I could just let go of the rules the previous six seasons have taught me I could probably adore this. It’s just that the show kind of had to ramp up the misogyny in order to ramp up the feminism; that’s the point of Caleb, really, to provide a blatantly anti-woman villain for Buffy to chop down before she saves the world, again.

Anyway, Willow’s spell works, and we flash around the world, watching all sorts of women and girls come into their powers, and suddenly all the Potentials are killing über-vamps left, right and centre. Adhering to the traditional horror movie rules, the über-vamps get easier to kill the more of them there are; Buffy even stakes at least one, despite their super-hardcore ribcages we’re supposed to have forgotten we were warned about. Upstairs, the civilians are fighting Bringers, and then Buffy gets stabbed through the gut with a sword and falls to the ground. Faith rushes to her side, and Buffy tells her to hold the line, handing over the scythe. Spike’s necklace starts to power up, Robin gets stabbed, Anya gets killed, and it’s all very intense. The über-vamps tackle Faith, but she passes the scythe on to Rona – symbolic, isn’t it? – and then everything goes quiet for a little while as the First manifests as Buffy to taunt the real, fallen Buffy. Another tactical mistake, since all this does is goad Buffy into standing up again – Rona passes her back the scythe and she’s soon killing über-vamps again.

There are, clearly, way too many über-vamps for the Slayers to take down, but Spike’s necklace is shooting out beams of light which cause the über-vamps to burn up when they come into contact with it, and there’s a rumbling that indicates everything’s about to blow up, so Faith starts to evacuate. Buffy and Spike share a moment – she tells him she loves him, but he tells her she’s only saying that (which I’m no longer entirely sure about, to be honest) – before she, too, runs out, leaving him alone to clear up the mess. Um, which sort of means that a man saved the day after all, but let’s skip over that. As Spike catches fire, the entire city starts to fall in on itself, crumbling away into the Hellmouth, and Buffy runs across the rooftops to catch everyone else, all of whom are driving away at top speed in the yellow school bus. Handy, that.

Finally, they reach the city limits, and stand on the edge of the abyss to survey the damage. Sunnydale is no more; they won. Faith asks Buffy what she’s going to do now, since she’s no longer the one and only Slayer, and instead of answering, she just smiles. Brilliant. I genuinely love that moment. It’s been hard to like Buffy, the character, for quite a while, but in that moment, I just felt a huge rush of affection. It’s been a long journey, and she’s finally at the end of it; she can worry about herself, her own personal development and career and life and love without feeling like she could just get killed or cause an apocalypse in a careless moment. Yay!

So, this is also the end of my revisiting Buffy season 7 project – it’s taken me, oh, weeks. Weeks and weeks and weeks. I started off optimistic, lost all faith in the middle of the season, got irritated, and finally realised that it didn’t matter: season 7 had a definite goal, a definite trajectory, and this was always where it was going to end up. I still feel that a lot of the blather along the way was unnecessary and unwelcome time-wasting, but the finale finally worked for me, in a way it didn’t the first time around. I still have some reservations, but they’re pretty much balanced out by the things I loved: I adore Spike’s journey this season, for example. I love his interaction with Robin, and I think Robin is a really cool, really worthwhile addition to the core cast. I love the way Faith’s come back, and I adore her budding relationship with Robin, too. Almost all of the emotional notes resonated with me, particularly when they related to Xander. I hate the overly silly episodes, and there were several episodes that just went over and over and over the same ground, and the CGI was routinely hideous, but then the ending, where the burden of Slayerdom is finally lifted from Buffy, is just really satisfying. It doesn’t make sense, really, but neither did the ending of season 5 – which, also, was worthwhile for its emotional resonance rather than its logic.

Rewatching season 7 didn’t make it perfect, and I still have a lot of issues with it… but then again, that’s what happens in fandom, isn’t it? Can you ever truly love something if you can’t sit down and pick a ton of issues with it – issues that another über-fan doesn’t have, and which they’re happy to argue about for hours and hours on end?

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Ahhh. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is, undoubtedly, the most important pop culture touchstone of my life. So — here’s to Buffy! If I had a glass of wine, I’d raise it here, but all I’ve got is cranberry juice, so that’ll have to do. To Buffy! It’s been fun.