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July 05, 2003
by Daniel Erenberg
How about a bit of self-deprecation to start off? I Googled my name last week because I’m a massive dork and I found a site called Whedon-Esque that’s been posting yours truly’s articles. However, I was astounded to read the comments and how utterly depressing they were. They ripped me apart repeatedly over the course of many weeks. Terrible. So I came to Slayage to see the updated comments of my loyal and loving fans and realized that not too many people had posted comments, it being the first week without our Webmaster (expect new links by the end of July). Please post this week. Thank you.
This week, solely to boost readership, we have a guest writer that I will do a point/counterpoint with. The subject we disagree on is that of season seven. The guest writer is the beautiful and talented Stacey Kupersmith, a frequent poster on the boards over at the wonderful Buffyguide.com.
And without further ado: STACEY KUPERSMITH’S VIEWS ON SEASON SEVEN
The fertility of the ground we were planted in at the beginning of Season 7, was astounding; from a writer’s standpoint, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was the stuff dreams are made of:
Our Antagonist: “The First Evil”. It knows EVERYTHING about you that you’d prefer to go to your grave with: all your deepest fears, things you’re devastatingly ashamed of. Oh - and it knows how to manipulate you mercilessly with all that information. It does all this (by the way) while never letting you in on the joke: that the real puppet-master behind your demise, is you. (Insert “hands rubbing together” noise, here.)
Season seven could have been the stuff of legend: deep, dark, insightful, exciting, hilarious, touching, moving, inspirational, and filled to the rim with character growth; and all of it born out of facing and conquering (or not) our most paralyzing fears.
But it wasn’t that; it really – wasn’t – that.
At first (hell – I held onto this notion straight through “Chosen”) I thought it was because you can’t have the good guys figuring out how they’re gonna win WAY before they NEED to win, ‘cause that would make the finale anticlimactic. Every conversation I had about Season 7 had “Just you wait and see” worked into it somehow; it was even my automatic signature for the posts I made for most of the season… (Good thing people I know over there aren’t terribly fond of crow). But after “Bring on the Night”, I waited -- and waited… and after episode 21 aired, I knew we weren’t going to get the end we deserved. I was angry; and to be honest, I still kind of am.
So -- how could it have been better? Glad you asked…
It is one thing to ‘think and speak’ about realizations, but it is quite another to truly ‘own’ them. I would have paid – cold - hard – cash to see Buffy ‘realize’ what she’d done (S6), and then witness her actually discuss it with the people that meant something to her. So what if Buffy has spent most of her life closed off; she’s growing up, changing, discovering things about her ‘self’ that give her a broader view of her emotional landscape; break cannon and have Buffy and the Scoobies (including Spike) have a REAL conversation.
Who among you wouldn’t have LOVED an episode (or a two-parter) where they were all trapped in some dark, dank hole, where they truly believed their lives were over, and all their truths come TUMBLING out. Example: Willow says, “By the way Buffy, since we didn’t get to finish this before, I never told Xander ‘Kick his ass’, I told him to tell you I was re-cursing Angel.” Or: Buffy pisses Willow off and then Willow brings up the ‘Freudian slip’ from “First Date” about how she was ‘in love with Spike”. I’d also longed for there to be some sort of dialogue between Buffy and Willow about Willow resurrecting her, a conversation between Dawn and Spike about their connection before Buffy was brought back from the dead, and some real conversation about Xander’s bias against vampires with souls, while he was perfectly okay sleeping with and getting engaged to a former vengeance demon, who, in fact, did more damage over more time than either of our souled vamps ever did.
We could have watched Buffy actually ‘work out’ some of the issues she brought up in Conversations with Dead People. Did she need to resolve every problem she’d ever had, or get past everything/everyone she’d lost or given up? A resounding “No”. But don’t make us dig and crawl and push our way through poor-excuse metaphors and sixth grade subtext and – well – just plain goo, to find what we really needed to hear from our heroine. We needed to know that she’d really learned from where she’d traveled.
And I’m sorry, but it wouldn’t have killed you to put in a ‘real’ and lasting Buffy/Spike smooch in one of the last episodes. I understand you wanted to please all Buffy shippers, but we needed to see that kiss; I needed to see that kiss. Is it because I’m a B/S Shipper? No. It is because it completed her development around their relationship, and her growth as a woman because of it. A kiss would have made ‘sense’. No kiss, was just a tease, and the cut out scene in the finale was just cruel; I don’t mean ‘funny’ cruel, it was unnecessarily cruel.
Other issues: Willow… oh, Willow. Anyone up for counting how many times she flinched when ‘magic’ was mentioned? [sigh] With all due respect to the writers (and that’s a lot)… when Willow was on Angel, was anyone else at ME aware they were making Willow a kick-ass-in control Wicca, while she remained a scared and docile young woman in Sunnydale? I excused it as ‘it was a spell she’d done already’, but that was just so I wouldn’t be pissed about it for days. [insert: “I wish I hadn’t recently quit smoking” sigh] On top of that obvious ball droppage, Willow simply didn’t need to be afraid ALL season; we could have listened to her talk it out with someone; anyone. We could’ve had a conversation between her and Spike about ‘choosing' good in light of what they 'could' do (You have seen Alyson and James act, right? Three words: Boat – freakin’ missed.) We could have watched her learn on her own, through her own discovery of empowerment. Oh, and one more thing: We could have watched her go through some mourning that was worthy of who she lost…
Now don’t misunderstand me, “The Killer In Me” had some interesting and heartfelt moments, but one episode does not a ‘mourner healed’ make. She didn’t lose someone to illness. She didn’t get to sit by Tara’s bedside and say her goodbyes. She witnessed her lovers’ murder! That takes time to recover from; it takes A LOT of time to recover from. I’m grateful we got at least ten episodes, but not telling her story regarding Tara wasn’t honorable to Willow’s character; it wasn’t finished, and it wasn’t enough. As for the “Kennedy affair”: There was just no chemistry between Aly and Iyari. I could have enjoyed this relationship if there had been any noticeable attraction or enjoyment between these two young women. And for the record: I simply refuse to believe that no one noticed the total lack of heat between these two in casting sessions. [/I am one with the universe… breathe in, breathe out…]
Xander never growing (outwardly) past his decision to leave Anya at the alter. More discussion was required about that choice and the reasoning behind it. What we got in “Storyteller” was great, but not nearly enough; and it didn’t help that they had sex a few times after that. And Anya wasn’t supposed to really ‘change’; I get that. There’s always someone who just doesn’t grow; and that’s fine. But how about making her useful, and her lack of growth utterly apparent. Cut her off from Xander completely, show us she simply doesn’t have the tools to really grow, and send her packing. Two years ago, you would have - and it would have been more dramatic than the Ginsu Knifing was. It also would have been nice for Dawn to have a purpose at all this season, or to have Giles even remotely behaving like himself. And who could bring this Giles issue up without mentioning this: The ‘oh my god, was he beheaded?’ shot/storyline.
Question: Were things so chaotic over at ME, that y’all needed to resort to ‘cheap shots’ like this one? Did you really think we would believe you were going to kill Giles? (cough*which is exactly why you should have*cough) [Do not throw stones: I ADORE Giles]) And if you didn’t think we’d believe he was dead, then the game you thought you were playing with us by doing the ‘don’t touch, don’t ask’ crap, requires me to ask this: DID YOU COMPLETELY FORGET WHO WE ARE? I’ve heard the writers say “our audience is brilliant”… what happened?
Spike received a lot of attention this year - and rightfully so: he was the biggest catalyst for the changes in Buffy’s character; the unparalleled plot device for her story coming full circle… but if you blinked, you might have missed her realizing it. I’m sure there was an apology in there somewhere from the Buffster to Spike, but I just can’t find that shooting script right now. [sigh] Was it because he had tried to rape her, and therefore having Buffy apologize to Spike for anything left you fearing you were sending a ‘conflicted message’? On top of that, you give us “Beneath You”, and the end of that episode [bravo], and then you drop it. Honestly, I’ve never, in all my years of watching television, heard a louder THUNK [/kisses, gaf]. If there was ever a crime and a subsequent charge that involved assassinating a ‘moment on television’, you’d be up for First Degree Murder, with Special Circumstances.
So why all the bad plot twists, severe lack of character development, and a total absence of plot; and the weakest “Big Bad” in the history of the show? Truly – wretched - planning. Regardless of whether anyone knew what SMG’s decision was going to be, it should have been planned out completely like it “was” the “last” season. Even if it hadn’t been, you knew she would defeat “The First”, so – ‘ending’ basically the same. You could have given us hilarious – no holds barred conversations and episodes based on countless issues all these characters could have resolved human trait (and you did a little of that through Ep. 10); but after that, it became devastatingly obvious that this boat was not being helmed, and our boat continued to take on water through the finale.
Ultimately, what we got was… ‘fine’, and if I hadn’t seen the first six years of Buffy, I’d’ve been ‘fine’ with that. But here’s the problem: I DID see all the other years, and I NEEDED more. I DESERVED more. And you know what? I think you knew that and wanted to give us that, but just couldn’t get it done. That job ain’t easy; six and a half years of doing the same thing ain’t easy. And as human beings, who have lives of their own, and other commitments, something had to give, and “the show” (to our dismay) is what gave. Now, it is easy for me to stand back and say “Joss had too many things on his plate, and his first work related baby (BTVS), which was born out of his love, sweat and tears, was utterly neglected by him because of that fact.” No. Do I believe it to be true? Yes. Do I understand it? Absolutely. Do I empathize? Absolutely.
I post regularly on a board about Buffy, and I have to say that this was NOT an easy piece to write. I loved SO many things in season 7, and many of those things changed my life forever (no drama queen energy here, this is real stuff [shameless - well, not so shameless - plug: See ‘Humanity: Season 7’ post on Buffyguide.com in the Watcher’s Diary]); but to be honest, what I was ultimately left with was the feeling that people who used to consider me to be quite intelligent, forgot I existed, seemingly didn’t give it their all, and were simply not being led.
Perhaps amidst the chaos that is creating television and living their lives, they neglected the two things that mattered most, US: the fans and THEM: the characters. I can forgive a lack of story and plot, I can block out continuity boo-boo’s and a few gaping holes in a story arc; I can forgive a certain lack of character development and redundancy, and I can forgive many missed opportunities that were blatantly obvious-yet ‘never see it coming’-ways – that would have kicked the collective audience’s ass… but I won’t forget and will have a difficult time forgiving ‘them and us, being forgotten’. I invested too much, we invested too much; you, Mutant Enemy and Joss, had invested too much to allow for such slap-dash planning. And I’m truly saddened by that. I’m saddened that one of the most brilliant shows to ever grace any screen had to end on such a disappointing note. And as moved and touched as I was by most of Chosen, it didn’t make up for everything else that Season 7 wasn’t.
Alas, I will never get a ‘different’ ending for what was the best show I’ve ever watched. And I will never get the character development I was hoping for in the dynamic that I was so enamored with… and in light of that truth, what should I say to the Writers, Producers, Cast and Crew of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”?
“Thank you for everything” could still – never cover it.
Okay, Get ready for: DANIEL ERENBERG’S SLIGHTLY LESS LONG VIEWS ON SEASON SEVEN
Okay. As the long-time readers (that’s right, since January) of the column know, I was a big fan of season seven, even rating up their with seasons two and three as the best produced by the show. I say this, because all of the tension that had been brewing for six seasons finally came to a head at the end of the show. Episodes like “Conversations With Dead People”, “Storyteller”, and, of course, “Chosen”, reconfirmed my belief that Buffy is the greatest show on television.
Stacey argues that some stuff was never brought up, like Spike’s almost brotherly relationship with Dawn, and some stuff was over-embellished, like Willows magical addiction. Sure, this is true. Season seven was packed, and on such short notice, they couldn’t fit everything in. I do, though, think an admirable effort was made. Joss himself said in a recent interview that he planned to devote an entire episode to Dawn getting her first boyfriend, and that the story arc would ensue throughout the season, but he also said that with all of the epic goings-on that the fans wouldn’t care about Dawn’s dates. And I’m positive that he’s right.
Another of Stacey’s major complaints was the lack of a supreme romantic smooch moment with Spike and Buffy. She says that this was done because of the need to accept all Buffy shippers. I disagree. I enjoyed the subtlety with which the Spike/Buffy relationship was handled. I loved the two speeches he made in “Touched” and “End Of Days”, and even more I loved his final Han Solo-esque line in “Chosen”.
Some characters weren’t given enough. People complain all the time about the Giles subplot about him possibly being the First. However, this wasn’t major, just a nod to the fans to keep the brains churning. Willow grieved over Tara and then had a fire-less relationship with Kennedy. Sure, Iyari Limon didn’t have the greatest chemistry with the wonderful Alyson Hannigan, but the majority of the extra casting was great. Bringing in Tom Lenk to play Andrew was a stroke of genius. Also, the actors that played many of the Potentials, including Molly and Amanda, seemed really good for the parts that they were playing. Not to mention the fact that we had the brilliant Nathan Fillion come in to play Caleb. As for Xander and Anya, I think they got plenty. Xander is my favorite character and I was plenty satisfied with how he was portrayed. Instead of going for the big Emmy-draw cry after Anya was killed in “Chosen”, Joss chose to create a much subtler one on one scene between Nick Brendon and Tom Lenk that was maybe the most effecting and tear-inducing scene in the history of the series.
The Big Bad was The First Evil, a character that we saw less fleshed-out in the season three Joss offering “Amends”, and I counter that it was an effective Big Bad. It wasn’t so much that it offered a grand season-closing fight scene like Angelus or Adam or Glory did. It’s the emotional aspect she brought to the table; talking to Faith as The Mayor, speaking to Buffy as Spike, talking to Dawn as Joyce (a fact that has now been confirmed by Joss), The First was always an effective shaker-upper. I enjoyed the non-corporeal aspect of the character as well, offering an interesting, albeit minor, mystery of whether Giles was The First.
Season seven was also great for me because of all the great characters that returned for great effect, among these Faith and Rupert Giles. In season seven the writing was fresh and not stale, and the ideas were as thought provoking as at any time in the series’ history.
Yeah, my comments aren’t as long as Stacey’s, but I think I get my point across. Season seven personally affected me. The writing was great (all hail Drew Goddard and Jane Espenson, and everyone else), the ideas were interesting (Joss and Marti deserve the praise), and the characters maintained their believability and emotional ties. Season seven was a satisfying, dare I say perfect, end to the series. I loved it.
Everyone give a round of applause to Stacey and a less enthusiastic pat on the tushy for me. And please comment. Please.
|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.
I actually liked the way they ended the show. Yeah, Kennedy was a brat and I wish she'd died, and yeah, I hated that they killed off Anya, but overall it was so well done. I must've cried a million times when I watched Chosen, and I really do like the way all the Potentials were called...did anyone else think that little girl on the baseball field was hilarious? And I thought that the Buffy/Spike bit at the end was perfect. After all, she knew he was going to die, so what better way to enable him to die happily? And as for Anya, while I hate THAT she died, I think that the writers chose the best WAY for her to die, and it kind of does show character development on her part. After all, would she have died defending someone else any earlier on in the show? She didn't even pull a Graduation Day on us.
Posted by: Wynni on November 14, 2003 02:26 PM
i really agree with stacey. it was so disappointing-for five years i'd been telling all my friends about buffy being the greatest show on tv, and they finally decided to watch- during season 7! they couldnt believe i think the world of this show. Of course, I had to rectify this so i showed them a few episodes from past seasons. but- i agree with them on season 7... i was so upset, and still am! how could they go out like this? we all know what they can do, and i just dont get this. janine said basically what i feel: "Yes, I know it's over and nothing we say now will change that but" BUT its so horrible.
Posted by: lissie on September 29, 2003 05:18 PM
Season Seven...what to say, yes, it left me wanting more buffy, but even watching any of my seasons on DVD leaves me wanting more Buffy! I have noticed that the comment keeps reocurring about Dawn, that we did not really see Dawn. I can not remember the episode name, but please bear with me, Xander is speaking to Dawn, who is not a potential it turns out, she is being a good little researcher, and he says to her that she is not special, that her ability to be in the background and not have to be in the foreground makes her extrodinary. This made me cry buckets... a nod to Dawn, but also to one of my favorites, Xander!
Posted by: Olivia on August 20, 2003 12:14 PM
i reckon season 7 was good in most ways. Here are some things that i liked and disliked about the greatset show evers final season:
1st of all "Chosen" should have been a movie length episode
i'm one of spikes biggest fans and i addored him but it was good to see him sacrifice himself to save the world and be the hero of everyone.
Some things that annoyed me were angels short appearance in "Chosen i reckon he should of stayed and angel and spike have a huge fight about buffy but when either one of the vamps is about to die buffy comes in, breaks them up and declares she loves them both equally.
I also didn't like the fact that all the potential slayers in the world were called i don't know about anyone else but that for me was a thumbs down.
i loved the fact The First all the way from "amends" in season 3 came back to haunt the scoobies i feel that was a genius idea way to go guys!
am i the only one who noticed that Giles line "the earth is definately doomed" was also said by him at the end of season 1's epeisode "witch"
next Anya i must say I was astounded by Anya's skill, bravery and every thing else she showed in the final fight it's to bad she died.
another thing i think one of these thing should have happened to willow
1: Oz should have come back to fight with the gang and Will choses Oz over Kennedy
2:She falls in love with Xander
3:when sunnydale has been destroyed she realises that Kennedy has died.
If any of the master minds who created buffy the vampire slayer read this i beg you "MAKE MORE BUFFY" because that ending was a real teaser, and i mean a REAL teaser.
Also for all of those who said Buffy and Spike didn't have enough romance where in the name of the Hellmouth were you when they said all those inspiring and often touching speachs to each other?
who else liked caleb? I for one reckon he was Buffys greatest foe for a short period of time and he should of stayed her strongest foe right through till the end it would have been good if he came back to life and took out Xanders other eye. now don't get me wrong Xanders a great guy and i was saddened enough by the gouging of his eye but it would give a good twist.
Overall season 7 has been Great dare i say near perfect. I'd like to say thank you so much so so very much to the cast and crew of Buffy the vampire slayer for bringing the world 7 years of pure excellence and changing my life.
Posted by: Dylan Arnold on August 20, 2003 01:31 AM
Agree with Scott on his July 22nd post about the Big Bad storyline. That was a problem that plagued the past two seasons. Their blunder was as Scott put it not enough good standalone episodes. The first five seasons were loaded with that and it was done in a way that didn't interfere with the main storyarc. Things still FLOWED. We didn't get that the past two years which consequently did slow things down and completely destroyed the overall flow of things. If they had done that this season and they certainly had enough other isuues to do that it would have greatly improved things. Cut down on alot of those dam speeches and the repeats. What they did this year may have been good enough to end a season but NOT a series.
Posted by: Janine on August 9, 2003 11:13 PM
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