Chosen (Joss Whedon)
“Chosen” is not the best season finale (seasons 2, 3 and 5 have better ones) but it is an adequate way to end the entire series. I have major issues with the empowerment spell and with the huge role that Spike plays in the conclusion and that taints it for me.
Joss Whedon has this to say about Buffy’s cookie dough speech: “She comes to this conclusion a little bit out of the blue, and that’s my fault, but we knew that emotionally, that’s where we wanted her to get.”
And this about the Scythe: “Some people have complained that the magic that this Scythe – originally from the Fray comic that I was writing at the same time – is a little too convenient. And my answer to those critics is, “Well, don’t tell everybody!” It is convenient, and that doesn’t really bother me, because ultimately, to me, the magic, the phlebotnum is always secondary to what needs to be said. And what needed to be said had to do with empowerment.”
And this about the Ubervamps: “Some people complained, again, that the vampires were too easy to kill. That they were supposed to be stronger than other vampires. And the fact of the matter is… it’s true. Like the convenience of the magic, it’s true. Because, again, I was more interested in showing the empowerment than I was in the continuity.”
These three quotes from Joss Whedon’s commentary to ‘Chosen” (transcript by stormwreath) make it clear that he doesn’t care if a story is a little strained if the story being told has heart. However, what happens if the heart is in the wrong place?
This is what he says about Anya: “That was because I needed a toll, I needed this battle really to feel like a battle – and I couldn’t kill any of my Core Four and still call it a happy ending. I couldn’t kill Dawn and still call it a happy ending either. So Anya got the nod. And to make it as unheroic as possible just felt very real and very creepy – and that shot was in fact her last shot.” (I like that Anya was steeled by the thought of bunnies but, otherwise, just another woman to add to the pile.)
And here’s what he says about Spike: “Another beautiful image. Our boy, going down for the last time. Even though everybody already knew he was going to be on Angel…”
Well, I didn’t! I thought he was bloody dead. And answer this question: who gets to die in a literal blaze of glory and whose body is left buried under Sunnydale? Many people die in Buffy and, in a series with a disproportionate amount of female characters (compared with any other TV series that is), many of them are women. What I resent is the number of women who die compared with the number of men who leave rather than get killed off. And this Spike thing is even more galling. He dies (completely incinerated) and yet there he is in bloody Angel. Joss is famous for his character deaths which are tremendously resonant and powerfully effective which some people justify by pointing out that death happens and is even more likely to be early and violent in the Buffyverse (this is undeniable) but when the deceased return from the dead then where is the power in that?
I have problems with the empowerment of thousands of young potentials; not with the ones that Buffy explicitly asks if they want to do this thing (“So here’s the part where you make a choice…”) but with the ones who have it thrust upon them. It is done without their consent. How is Buffy different from the Shadow Men who did the same to the first Slayer? When she met them in “Get It Done” she is miffed with what they did to the First Slayer “You violated that girl, made her kill for you because you’re weak, you’re pathetic, and you obviously have nothing to show me.”
A few other remarks:
If you are going to use lines like “he had to split”, it really helps when the character then laughs at its cheesiness.
Dawn kicking Buffy in the shin is acceptable violence.
Spike’s drawing of Angel on the punchbag is amusing.
I liked Robin and Faith together. Faith’s horror at, perhaps, not being that great at sex was most amusing (“Dude, I got mad skills.”). However, I don’t like Robin’s “death”. Back to Joss: “Dying – having a character die then suddenly bringing them back is something you can only earn after you’ve actually killed a couple of people. So this was a nice opportunity to say, “This isn’t over yet.” Have the call-back and – but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t legitimately offed a few beloved characters.” I really detest that fake-out storytelling: it feels like cheating to me and is also a tad repetitive since it had already been done to Cordelia and Kaylee.
Giles and the others playing Dungeons and Dragons was also amusing particularly since he summed up his S7 persona: “I used to be a highly respected watcher, and now I’m a wounded dwarf with the mystical strength of a doily.”
After reading Joss’s words, I should know better than to complain but Buffy’s plan could really have done with better timing like waiting for Willow’s spell to, um, work.
I love the lull before the final fight as other characters disappear to get on with their tasks leaving the original four in the high school corridor and a shot of Buffy on her own: Giles’s remark the “earth is definitely doomed” is a perfect reminder of “The Harvest”.
What happens to Kennedy? I’m pretty sure we never see her after the escape from the Hellmouth. It seems a bit odd not to have a proper shot of her on the bus.
The Welcome to Sunnydale sigh falling into the crater is an important touch.
Buffy’s last words are “I love you” and “Spike” which surely somebody has analysed the significance of.
In the final, final scene, I like that Buffy doesn’t say anything while everyone yammers but just smiles, sadly.
End of Days (Douglas Petrie & Jane Espenson)
The writers do a terrible job regarding the Scythe because it is the most awful plot contrivance. Why does Caleb tell Buffy (via Shannon in “Dirty Girls”) that he has something of hers. Her interest wasn’t even interest until this lumpen villain was shoehorned into the show. Hey! can you tell I’m not a fan? The Scythe really should have introduced a long time ago along with the Guardians.
Now there may be tons of things unresolved in Buffy notably the fiasco of “Empty Places” but at least we know what happened to Miss Kitty Fantastico. I find it hard to get over the fact that the Scoobies behave as if nothing happened between them. I can understand that the writers are running out of time (series wise) but that makes the decision to do something awful like chuck Buffy out of her home even less wise: they really didn’t need to do that traitorous thing.
Poor Eliza, she’s always unconscious in Buffy.
If “End of Days” has a place in my heart, it is because it has one of my favourite moments of Buffy:
I’m not sure what to make of Angel’s appearance except to say that if I had to choose a Buffy boyfriend, I’d go for him. But what was the point of Spike also being there except to annoy everybody; people who ship and people who don’t.
This episode is incredibly dull in parts which is a real shame – Buffy limped to a conclusion.
Touched (Rebecca Rand Kirshner)
I probably wouldn’t have noticed a Potential called Caridad if she hadn’t been played by Dania Ramirez who had the thankless role of Maya in Heroes. Sorry to jump ahead but it seems odd to have her so prominent in “Dirty Girls”, this, and “End of Days” only for her to not be in “Chosen”. [Sign of the times that I am wittering on about the actor who played Maya, for heaven’s sake.]
By the time this episode got to “Sweetie, you’re pushing too hard”, I was feeling a little steamed, what with the hand-held camera and the over-lapping dialogue. What is Buffy coming to when Kennedy has more lines than Willow?
“Yeah, I think so. I just need to get together a few ingredients.” Oh, boring. Sorry. How Willow fell from being my favourite character to this irritating shell makes me really sad. She was actually fun in LA so what were they doing with her in Buffy?
Why does Spike punch Faith? And why does he accuse her of getting what she wanted? She once wanted to have what Buffy had in terms of love and family but I sure don’t think she ever wanted responsibility. Faith often seems misrepresented which means somebody is wrong so when I re-watch Buffy I shall pay more attention to her story (which is taken up very well in Angel).
Why does Giles just slash the Bringer’s throat and pronounce that they had enough information? I reckon Giles is much more to blame for the disaster that follows than Faith is.
I think the writers do quite a subtle job on Spike because essentially he’s pretty dense. He thinks he has Faith sussed but Buffy knows the truth.
It’s always nice to see Harry Groener as the well-mannered Mayor.
Empty Places (Drew Z. Greenberg)
Everyone is leaving Sunnydale. Buffy has a cold. Willow uses the force. Willow cries. Caleb is boring. Faith goes dancing. Buffy reiterates how freaking marvellous Spike is. The First has a cold. Amanda gets drunk. Spike and Andrew have chemistry as they talk about onion blossoms with Andrew’s arms wrapped around Spike’s waist.
The empty places in this episode are in the writers’ heads. I don’t actually mind the notion of a revolt against Buffy’s cold leadership but this is so forced and stupid; Buffy’s closest friends betray her and her own sister kicks her out of her own house (and without a toothbrush and a change of clothes).
But you didn’t earn it. You didn’t work for it. You’ve never had anybody come up to you and say you deserve these things more than anyone else. They were just handed to you. So that doesn’t make you better than us. It makes you luckier than us.
What a load of tripe. That’s right, seven years of not earning and not working, that’s our Buffy.
Aargh, if I hadn’t already reached the rough part of my Buffy relationship then I would probably loathe this as much as “Dead Man’s Party” and “Into the Woods” but…
Three to go!
Dirty Girls (Drew Goddard)
I hate Caleb and not because I’m supposed to. I am also immune to the charms of Nathan Fillion so there is nothing in the human embodiment of an anvil that I can appreciate.
I was aghast after the opening sequences spluttering and saying with a little indignation that I wasn’t happy. Andy told me that I had been like that the first time we watched it but I had expunged that from my memory. And Xander’s dream had also disappeared – yuck.
Still, it was an absolute joy to have Faith back in Sunnydale and Eliza Dushku is not playing Faith in Dollhouse. She isn’t a great actor (but few folk are) so she can’t disappear into a role but her great strength is that she is very funny. Her delivery of “Are you protecting vampires? Are you the bad slayer now? Am I the good slayer now?” was hilarious.
Another racist joke involving Chao-Ahn that wouldn’t be out of place in the lowliest sit-com is desperately unworthy of this show. And this was made after Firefly and the fuss made of its lack of Chinese characters; the consciousness raising was unsuccessful.
I enjoyed the Faith montage which was a reminder of happier times and SMG with a fuller face.
Buffy has always gone into battle half-cocked but she usually doesn’t fail this unsuccessfully. I feel bad that the English slayer is dead and as for poor Xander and his eye! Wow, that was nasty. Still, he was always going to be okay because he’s got balls.
Lie My Parents Told Me (David Fury and Drew Goddard)
I don’t care enough about Spike to get over involved in this episode. Anya nails it when she says “Spike’s got some sort of “Get Out of Jail Free” card that doesn’t apply to the rest of us.” However, I also find that sort of meta-commentary a little too conceited for my liking.
By the way, Buffy, Spike can be triggered at any time and you have unequivocal proof but just let him go because people with souls are never ever bad. It will be okay.
I am disappointed that they decided to have Robin beating up Spike rather than getting on with it because that’s just irritating.
Spike tells Robin that Nikki didn’t love him but his own mother did. The nasty things she said were because he had set loose a demon and it wasn’t his mother speaking. However, Angel hinted more than a little strongly in “Doppelgangland” that the vampire personality wasn’t entirely divorced from the human self (“That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil and…skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay.” – oh happy days).
Giles also pontificates to Buffy that being a general requires her to make difficult decisions but, when she does make those difficult decisions in “Dirty Girls”, he’s protesting. Make up your mind, Mr Betrayer, generals don’t often have subordinates questioning them.
“Spike is the strongest warrior we have.” – no, Buffy, you are.
Storyteller (Jane Espenson)
Andrew, Andrew, Andrew…
This was better than I remembered because I am more sympathetic towards Andrew and I am not spending my time being annoyed that it focused on him. It’s quite an achievement to make you care about a mainly irritating character but this worked for me and Tom Lenk’s performance helped too. Jane Espenson pulled off a similar feat in “I Was Made to Love You” and we only knew April for one episode.
However, it is far from great. The scene at the beginning when Andrew expositioned unnecessarily about the Hellmouth, the seal, the First and the Bringers felt like it was half an hour long. Jane, we know and it’s S7 and you aren’t going to get new viewers now. Dawn should have been in the scene when they discuss the knife. She’s the Slayer’s sister and she, completely out of nowhere, knows all about ancient languages.
Spike’s bad boy act was nothing compared with his posing in “Restless”. I was jolly disappointed that Robin missed his chance to off him.
I wonder if we are supposed to be persuaded that Andrew is gay when he ignores two women making out to take a close look at Xander’s handiwork. If Willow and Kennedy looked like they were really into each other then that might have worked. I am more convinced that’s he’s gay because he was completely swept up in the Xander and Anya reconciliation. He’s watched that scene so many times. (I must clarify that I don’t believe that all gay men love a melodrama but it is a handy trope.)
I was uninterested in Xander and Anya’s reconciliation. I never I really bought into them as a couple despite their years together. He was often patronising and condescending towards her. Unfortunately, the show now doesn’t know what to do with her unless Giles is around.
Ah well, we are wading to the end.
Get It Done (Douglas Petrie)
Okay, Kennedy has started to really annoy me. Though not as much as the “what the hell was that?” speech from Buffy.
Anyone want to say a few words about Chloe? Let me. Chloe was an idiot. Chloe was stupid. She was weak. And anyone in a rush to be the next dead body I bury, it’s easy. Just, think of Chloe, and do what she did. And I’ll find room for you next to her and Annabelle. I’m the Slayer. The one with the power. And the First has me using that power to dig our graves. I’ve been carrying you. All of you. Too far, too long. Ride’s over.
It may seem interminable but really it’s not been that long. Plus, poor Chloe, yes, she got done by the First but I do believe that Spike was also a victim…speaking of Spike, I truly find him an objectionable character. “Nancy” as a term of abuse? Not nice.
“We’ve got a bunch of fighters with nothing to hit, a Wicca who won’t-a, and the brains of our operation wears oven mitts.” Funny, but surely the brains belong to Giles?
Ha, over at TWoP: “Every time Willow does a locator spell, a little part of me dies.”
There was a lovely cute Dawn moment when she teases Buffy.
All the potentials are sent up stairs but when Spike is thrown through the ceiling he lands in an empty room. What a wasted opportunity because Spike scattering potentials would have been funny.
The shadowcasters scene was nifty.
First Date (Jane Espenson)
I almost said to Andy before it started that this episode was likely to be one of the worse ever because all I could remember was that Xander had a date and that she was played by a pop star I hadn’t even heard of then, never mind now.
However, except for Xander’s dire story this was a fun episode. Poor Xander, his story was plainly daft and poorly acted. Just what this random demon was going to do with the ubervamp wasn’t adequately explained and highlights a problem that periodically reoccurs in Buffy in which something which had been so crucial or so important or so precious at one point is then treated cavalierly later. And just how Xander sent Willow that text message will remain a mystery.
Actually, I have just remembered something worse than Xander’s story and that was the stupidity of Giles and Chao-Ahn. Yeah, Giles would definitely be that oafish and the jokes were just silly, no, just cheap and wince inducing. Why would she eat ice cream if she was lactose intolerant?
Oh dear, that just leaves Buffy and Robin. And Andrew and the First. Luckily it’s Buffy’s story and she got the majority of screen time, but I have to admit that now I have reached a peaceful state regarding Andrew’s presence on the show I think he is generally quite appealing. Ow, my expectations have dropped. I blame Angel.
Anyway, the best things in the show involved Buffy. I particularly enjoyed the scene of Willow balling socks (exciting day on the set for Ms Hannigan) and the conversation they have. Any dialogue that mentions a bidet of evil is just class. Willow laughing at Buffy and her counselling skills was cruel but amusing.
I keep reading the transcript and I keep coming across stuff I don’t like. I don’t mind Anya being jealous but I detest the use of “whore” and “slut”. Anya’s role is so shitty these days.
On the other hand, Giles’s gruesome flashcards were a treat. And this is what I do like about Buffy, this is like whizzing back to “Hush” and his presentation in the lecture theatre.
Buffy is struck dumb by the realization that Principal Wood is a white-hat and says it all by saying nothing.
I remember being greatly excited when Robin was told that Spike killed his mother. Oh, revenge. How thrilling.