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January 09, 2003
by Daniel Erenberg
Spoiler Free Is The Way To Be
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BUFFY SEASON 7 EPISODES UP TO 7.09
Flash backwards five years.
I'm at home in my living room sitting in a since-retired recliner watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer. On screen, Jenny Calendar is shocked and surprised to see Angelus in front of her. Angelus proceeds to smash her computer to bits. Ms. Calendar gets away and a heated chase ensues. Finally, Ms. Calendar, all on her lonesome, reaches the top of a staircase where, once again, she's shocked and surprised to see Angelus in front of her.
In my seat, staring intently at the screen, I begin to think of ways in which Jenny Calendar could escape this brutal attack. Perhaps Buffy, the resident Vampire Slayer, could show up behind him and, in a heroic move, fight him to bring the focus off of Ms. Calendar. Perhaps Ms. Calendar could pull a cross out of her back pocket, surprising the demon to the point that she'd be able to slip away.
Either one of these scenarios could have occurred. But neither did.
On screen, Angelus grabs the computer teacher and snaps her neck as the WB cuts to commercial. This sudden death shocked me, which brings me to the real subject of this particular article. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its sister show Angel pride themselves on these sorts of moments. However, with the emergence of "spoilers" on numerous websites on the Internet, these moments are being lost on many fans.
Before season six began, I bought my first computer. When I went online, I discovered that there is a vast landscape of websites devoted to Buffy, now my very favorite show. The first website I found was BuffyGuide and I savored every word on the site. Soon after that, I discovered BuffyWorld, BuffyCritic, Slayage, Michael Hickerson's Review Site, and many, many other websites. Finally, I found Ain't It Cool News, a mega entertainment site that offers reviews of each and every Buffy episode days before it airs for the first time. These reviews reveal every plot point of every episode, holding no boundaries.
Throughout season six, I became addicted to these spoilers. I read them the moment they were posted. I even sought out an additional site called The Spoiler Slayer, which is devoted entirely to these spoilers.
Cut to late season six. Same living room, new chair.
On screen, Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay are sharing a moment of elation. However, I know already that Tara is seconds away from being shot. I watch with a jaded stare as the events I read about previously unfold on screen.
This was the moment I realized that I had to get off of spoilers. It's a shame that no support group exists for this addiction.
As season six came to an explosive close, I resolved never to read spoilers again. It was rough going throughout the summer as questions came at me from all sides. Is Willow better yet? Will Dawn begin training? Is Giles okay? What is Anya doing with her vengeance powers?
Then the dust cleared and I came to a realization. This is the FUN of the show. I began to remember the great surprises that have shaped the show. I remembered my shock when Kendra told Buffy that she's the slayer. I remembered how stunned I was when Faith turned against the Scoobies. I remembered how dumbfounded I was when Dawn popped up at the end of the fifth season premiere. Most of all, I thought about Jenny Calendar's death and regretted the knowledge I had about Tara's.
Amber Benson (Tara) was finally put into the opening credits in her final appearance. If I hadn't read the spoiler, I wouldn't have thought much of it, but being that I did read it, I knew that it was a clever trick and gave a sly smile at what the producers did.
Spoilers change the show for me and I'm glad to be rid of them because, thus far, the current seventh season has had an abundance of surprises.
I now can't imagine having known beforehand about the death of Jonathan Levinson, a personal favorite, at the hand of his own friend, or the twist ending of "Help", or the shapeshifting shenanigans at the close of Joss Whedon's masterpiece, "Lessons".
I don't mean to sound like some sort of preaching numbskull. I don't discourage people to read spoilers. For some people, I suppose, it helps to enhance the show. Some people can't handle the sense of surprise that Mutant Enemy's shows lend.
Hey, I even continue to read and love Hercules The Strong's reviews on the aforementioned Ain't It Cool News website. I log online immediately following an episode of Buffy, or Angel, or even Firefly (until its recent cancellation) and read the AICN review.
I try not to discourage it but I honestly think that the better way to watch is to go spoiler free. Really, the sight of Angel trapped in a wooden box, falling downward and downward into the depths of the ocean sent a chill down my spine. By the time that episode, "Tomorrow", aired, I was already pushing away the spoilers and my guess is that the cliffhanger ending would have been infinitely less effective if I had indeed known about it beforehand.
Joss Whedon is a master plotter, the best mind working in television today. He's surpassed Bochco, Kelly, Sorkin, even his own father and granddaddy. Each season of each of his shows have a wealth of completely brilliant moments, scenes, fights, themes, dialogue. Pretty much, he's a "you name it, he can do it" sort. Most of the best episodes of Buffy were penned (and sometimes directed) by him. He's nurtured Angel into a successful spin-off that can stand on its own. He's created a new show that takes place outside the Buffy universe we know and love and has created characters with emotional depth and morals.
He's created universes and I don't think we should spoil the surprises that they have in store for us.
|Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on email@example.com.