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Some great episodes, a not so great season story arc
on May 11, 2006
Buffy season seven is the weakest season of the series, but it is still above average television. The strength of the season lies not in the season's story arcs, but in some of the individual episodes. For example, "Selfless" artfully examines Anya's past and present life and reveals that she feels like she has never quite fit in as a human, but she no longer has the killer instinct to continue on in her second incarnation as a vengeance demon either. "Conversations With Dead People" ranks right up there with "Hush" in its scariness. The only way that this episode could have been improved upon is if Tara was the face of the ghost speaking to Willow, but with actress Amber Benson unwilling to reprise her role that season, it was really beyond the show's control. "Storyteller" is hilarious as Andrew narrates a film about the Scoobies, and "Lies Your Parents Told You" is another fine showcase of James Marsters' acting talent as we finally learn the source of the "trigger" that the First Evil has been using to control Spike.
Now for what is not good about this season... The series strong point- the growth and interaction of the main characters- is crowded out by the arrival of the potential slayers in episode ten. Giles return, which should have been a boost to the series, just muddled matters even more since he in no way resembles the character we have come to know in previous seasons. Other reviewers have referred to him as "Pod Giles", and I have to agree this moniker fits his season seven persona to a tee. Once the mystery of the season's "big bad" is revealed- an evil force that can take on the form of any dead person but cannot interact with the world around it- there is really no place else to go with this storyline as we do not have in the "First Evil" a villain worthy of reflection such as season three's Mayor or season two's Angelus. Kennedy, Willow's new love interest, is not a convincing actress, and the two's relationship falls flat. Although I would expect Willow to eventually get over Tara's death and move on with a new love interest, I could not figure out why THIS is the person she would choose to move on with. The two have absolutely no chemistry. Spike's big decision to regain his soul and his success at doing so is apparently explained by Buffy to the other main characters offscreen, and we viewers are denied the depth of treatment that revelation should have received. By episode eighteen, when the final story arc is launched, it seems that the writers and actors are phoning in their performances as they know the show will not be renewed for another season.
Then there are all of the plot holes and inconsistency in the writing. For example, according to Giles, after visiting the oracle of Beljoxa's Eye, the First Evil has appeared on the scene because of the slayer herself - because she has died and returned. But Buffy died the first time at the end of season one. So why has the First Evil waited all of this time to appear? In "Showtime" the ubervamps appear almost impossible to kill, so why by the finale are even the potentials slicing through them like butter? At first we are told that the seal over the Hellmouth is not opened by Jonathan's death because there is not enough blood. Then why are only a few drops of Spike's blood sufficient to do the job? Why does D'hoffryn decline to kill Anya at the conclusion of "Selfless", even at her request, but in later episodes has his minions trying to kill her? And the list goes on. Gross inconsistencies in the storyline such as this just didn't occur in previous seasons.
Finally, "Chosen", Joss Whedon's series finale, is mediocre when compared to shows from other seasons that he has written that did not have the importance that this final episode should have had, with a couple of exceptions. I did think that Whedon found a clever way to set Buffy free to live a normal life without her having to abandon her duties. I also liked the scene the day of the final battle with Buffy, Willow, and Xander, the original scoobies, having a conversation reminiscent of the closing scene of "The Harvest", which was the second part of the two-part premiere from season one. As they carry on their superficial banter about shopping, Giles repeats the same line that he said in this same situation in "The Harvest" - "The world is doomed." This was a real treat for long-time viewers and did indeed bring us "back to the beginning" - which was the theme of season seven.