Delayed Reaction: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There is a confession I must make: I barely finished the last season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (a.k.a BTVS) this month. I can hear the gasps, faints, cries of blasphemy already.

When BTVS aired on the WB all those years ago, it was one of the awesome-est shows out there. The problem was, it wasn’t the ONLY awesome-est show. Every fiber of my being was owned by Dawson’s Creek and Roswell.  Dawson trumped vampires. Although BTVS held my attention for a good few seasons and that was because of my everlasting TV crush, Seth Green, who played Oz on the show. Indeed, as most of my friends were mooning over David Boreanaz as Angel, my breath hitched for the aloof, spike-haired werewolf rocker. Something must have tweaked in my brain because I was convinced that the show killed him off and I dropped watching BTVS.

It was decades later where I was lovingly told, as they patted my head, that Oz was not killed off and that maybe I should re-watch the show. Thank goodness for streaming and DVD rental websites. The cup of nostalgia will never be empty thanks to modern conveniences.

BTVS began as this quirky show from the movie version where a blond waif of a school girl is born as the slayer. She is imbued with strength, endurance, and skills to fight against the undead and all sorts of supernatural creatures. From this premise spawned a deep,deep, deep fandom enriched with lore, history, and an undying devotion to all things Joss Whedon (Creator of BTVS). 

The last episode of BTVS aired on May 2003. Sixteen years later, I finally see it. It feels silly for writing it but here it is: “Spoiler Alert”, as I write my thoughts for a series finale that aired more than a decade ago.

By the time the last season has arrived, Buffy and her squad have experienced so many supernatural phenomena that they barely blink an eye. Buffy has already died twice, there have been about a couple of apocalypses, and  the town is filled to the brim with vampires and demons. Just like the characters, I was starting to feel a little jaded about any upcoming “doom.”

It makes sense that the last season would be taking a look back at not just how much Buffy has developed but into how it all began. The introduction of the “first evil” begins many flashbacks, questioning of history, inner strength, and will power. It was to be essentially the final boss level. At this point, how strong is our hero in body and strength? Will she falter or soldier on? These questions faded away with each episode as I began to repeatedly asked myself, ‘seriously? this is happening?”

Even though I just saw the last season, I cannot even begin to tell you what really happens. Basically, the show introduces the potential slayers. There can only be one slayer but in case she dies, another one can become active. Until then, they are just regular old humans with the added potential of “possibly” becoming the slayer. Since the First Evil was slowly killing off potentials, Buffy and her crew open up her home to house and train these young women. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious door in the basement of the high school (of course) that becomes a focal point. Then it’s the First Evil’s minions that almost whoop Buffy. Then it becomes a mad scramble as they try to save the world. Meanwhile, the whole town has evacuated.

The whole town evacuating is what really bothered me. There has been a gazillion reasons why this town should have been emptied out before. Principals turning into monstrous snakes, an all-powerful black witch, demons, large cemeteries gushing out vampires. Yet something about the last season triggered the evacuation. Then that brings me to the next issue: If the town is emptying out, then there are empty houses. Empty bigger houses.

Watching the very last episode made dealing with the last season so worth it. That episode was absolutely fitting. It encompasses so many aspects of the show and takes it all back to square one. The very best scene is the one where Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles all group together in the hallway corridor. Even though there is a legion of demons eager to kill them all, the halls are ransacked with graffiti and broken furniture, there is this wonderful zen connection between them all. When it began it was just these four in the very same hallway. What made the scene even stronger, was that there were no tears, no gut-wrenching speeches. They glance at one another and then separate. Although they carry on with light banter, there is an iron strength that each character holds within. It speaks volumes about how far they have come, how much strength is within them, and how prepared they are to die. I almost held it together until Xander smiled at Buffy as he released her hand. Tears.Galore.

The most heart breaking scene for me was Anya.  Anya was a revenge demon that had fallen for Xander and decided to relinquish her ways. From what I remember growing up, Anya was one of the most mocked characters. As I re-watched the series, I couldn’t see why. I adored her. I related to her in her naivete, frankness, awkwardness, and unrelenting sense of what she thought was right. Even if it was wrong. We also share the mutual disdain for bunnies (ok I don’t hate bunnies, I just don’t find them as cute. Bearded dragons, however, are ultimately adorable). She may have been shucked to the sidelines a lot but even she developed into a seasoned warrior of the supernatural. So when that demon blade sliced her, I was beyond indignant. It was such a horrible end to a character that did so much (yes, WHEDON. I know).  Then to see Xander attempt to look for and see him completely miss her dead body was just too much.

There are so many things to talk about but here is a quick rundown of the ideas surfacing my mind at the moment.

1.Spike. Oh..the Spike vs Angel debate. I was never part of either side since all of my love was for Oz. I remember liking Spike when I was younger. Although this was before I got to the attempted rape episode with Buffy. It was hard to reconcile any good feelings. Indeed, he is an older creature, he was completely besotted, but no matter how many shades it can be painted, it was still an attempted rape. Immediately after, it was strange to see him and Buffy intereact in later episodes. I had no love for either character. His act tainted his image and her attitude towards him annoyed me. There were scenes between them that I can see why these two characters were side by side. The scene after the “Once More With Feeling” musical really explained it. Of all her friends, Spike really did understand the loneliness and the choices she has to make. I was gratefuil for the transition from infatuated lovesick puppy to one of her stoutest champions. even towards the end. I’m not going to lie. His final act pretty much redeemed itself.

2. Next to Oz, Willow was my ultimate favorite character. She really reminded me of Mary Ann of the Baby-Sitters Club series. Willow, from beginning to end, awed me. Her evolution from the awkward smart character to all power witch makes me so giddy. The slayer may have been destined but without Willow, they would have all been demon chow.

To be honest,  I never saw Willow as a “weak” character. From the very beginning she had complete self-confidence on who she was.  She was awkward and shy but she knew who she was. There was this sense of absolute potential emanating from her. She was never just a best friend or sideline character. She became so important within the scene that when she became Dark Willow, it was utter chaos for the team.  With her absence, they saw how much of a pillar of strength she was.  Willow was never weak. Just growing with ultimate power.

3. Of all the villains, the Mayor was the most fascinating one. He is the best kind of villain: all smiles and charm that can instantly bring down your guard. His motive was purely simply defending the town for his gain. It wasn’t a fight of who was the biggest baddie or just killing the slayer. The Mayor had his own agenda and motive. The slayer was just a gnat. Plus, that epic graduation sequence!

As for the best, my hand tips towards my personal favorite:Glory. She was just pure fun to watch with her bouncy curls, poutiness, and exercising her goddess powers in stilettos. She was also the most successful villain in Buffy’s fatal demise.

4.”Once More, With  Feeling” is awesome. I have the soundtrack. “Under Your Spell” is my jam.

5. Best  creatures: the silent. So eerily spooky.

6. Oz, the werewolf, caught my attention and kept it. He will always be my favorite character and my first television crush. I never saw the traits in Angel that
made fangirls go nuts. All of my attention went to him. Something about an aloof, rocker boy with savage animal strength. No surprise that this saw an upswing in listening to bands like Offspring, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, and Lit.

Did I mention I loved Oz? It is hard for me to establish proper thought sentences at the moment.

7. So many wishes for the last season. I definitely wished the Pastor came early and developed more. His appearance is so late in the show that the impact is not as strong as it should have been. Also, it may have fleshed out some of the troublesome parts of his character and address questions like, “why?. The mysterious guardian woman would have been more profound if it was more than a 10 minute appearance. Also, did anyone else kind of wish for an all out epic supernatural battle? All of the vampires, demons, and everyone fighting against all of the demons? That would have been E-P-I-C.

By the last scene with the Sunnydale sign topping over into the abyss, I could only let out a mega sigh. It hit me what a legacy of a show this was and still is. On the surface, this is just a show featuring vampires and demons. After the first episode, this becomes about friendship, war,human spirit, death, grief, self-worth, love, fear, and almost every emotion one can have while growing up. Ultimately this show really tackled inner growth. How it’s not just obtained by weights or cardio.It’s obtained by experience beating you down, chipping away your structure until you rebuild it even stronger. It’s about picking yourself up when you hit rock bottom. It’s about creating your own offense when everyone and your inner confidence is against you. With growth, comes change, and even more growth.  For this one reason, and many more, the messages that this show conveys resonates deeply and thus why the fandom grows stronger. Even though the last season was poop, the series as a whole should be experience  and appreciated.

8 Comments

  1. I need to catch up with Buffy (and Angel!). I started watching Buffy when the final season started, oddly enough with the last new ep that had aired at that point (when it was rerun regularly on FX, I believe), and holy god that’s so long ago! But I have all the DVD sets, and it’s on my list for rewatching this year. So I’ll be able to comment properly when I read this column later on!

    Also, Delayed Reactions is an awesome category title!

  2. tomfitz1

    I watched the movie, first, then skipped the first season, and didn’t start watching BTVS until the end of the second season. So, I had some catching up to watch before season 3. After that, I watched all until the end.

    ANGEL, I watched from the start to the end. My favorite episodes were the Whedon written/directed ones.

    However, I didn’t read the comic series continuing the tv series of both until years later.

    I’m still hoping for a BUFFY/ANGEL reunion tv-wise, even though, the actors are much, much older. Be interesting to see something 20 years later, eh?

    1. Toni Adams

      I am currently watching the first season of Angel. As in, I was ordered to watch Angel.

      To be honest, that episode where Buffy comes to visit Angel makes me cringe so much! Either way, I would love to see the Scoobies interact again. That would be something to watch!

  3. Le Messor

    Buffy was my favourite show for a long time, and before it I didn’t have a favourite. I don’t like it less, either, there’s just another show I like better now. (Avatar: The Last Airbender, ftr.)

    “If the town is emptying out, then there are empty houses. Empty bigger houses.”

    You may want to avoid Red Dwarf.

    “I don’t hate bunnies, I just don’t find them as cute. Bearded dragons, however, are ultimately adorable”

    Are you sure you’re not Australian?

    “5. Best creatures: the silent. So eerily spooky.”
    I take it you mean The Gentlemen?

    “All of my attention went to him. Something about an aloof, rocker boy with savage animal strength”
    He’s just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules.

    1. Toni Adams

      Ahhh oops I did mean the Gentlemen!!! Quick eye!!

      Funny you should mention Red Dwarf, I was ordered to watch that….

      I’m pretty sure I’m not Australian. Since everything in Australia is out to kill you with those crazy huge spiders. Nope Nope Nope

      1. Le Messor

        The Gentlemen are easy to confuse with the Doctor Who villains, the Silence. 🙂

        If the thing with the houses in Sunnydale bothered you, the fact the guys have the run of the ship and still share a room will bother you more. (It bothers me!)
        Who keeps ordering you to watch this stuff?

        Some of the sheep here (Australia) are safe. It’s just, we don’t like rabbits so much (they’re an invasive species, causing ecological problems) and bearded dragons are from around here.

  4. Tim Rifenburg

    Buffy as a series holds up fairly well to repeat viewings and some episodes stand out as great television. I still prefer the high school years and feel that the Angel spin off ended up hurting Buffy in the long run. (Pulled Whedon’s focus and left Buffy adrift as a character, since the relationship with Angel was an important component to the show and Buffy.) Would love to hear more about your Dawson’s thoughts. Feel the show is severely underrated and it holds up better than other shows from the same time period and others that followed. Like Buffy it dips in quality after the high school years but has a few episodes and storylines that keep you watching.

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