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Monday, February 25, 2013

An Announcement and a Request

As I threatened a few weeks ago in comments, I decided to collect all my posts as an eBook. It’s available here. The eBook differs from the posts in a few ways: I made some minor corrections; I added a few thoughts on further reflection; and, most importantly, I inserted a number of comments into the posts. Still, it’s probably 95% identical to the original. Edit to add: Amazon estimates the book has 800 pages. That's ridiculous, though I guess it depends on things like type size, etc. In Word it had about 460, and that included forced pages in order to make each episode essay begin on a new page. The actual reading length is probably about 380 pages. So don't take the Amazon estimate at face value.

My request of you is not that you buy the book. That would be tacky. Besides, I’m leaving the blog up so you can continue to read it for free. No, my request is that you rate it or even write a review of it. Technically you haven’t read it, of course, but since the posts here are so nearly identical, anybody who’s read these could fairly comment on the eBook.
Thanks in advance, and thanks to all of you who read and provided such thoughtful comments. If comments occur to you on any episode now or in the future, go ahead and leave them. I get notice of them and will respond.

Chosen

[Updated May 3, 2013]

DRUSILLA
… You like our little songs, don't you? You've always liked them, right from the beginning. And that's where we're going...
THE MASTER
...right back to the beginning. Not the Bang... not the Word... the true beginning. (Lessons)
Joss: “And the real beginning was girl power. The real beginning is what does it mean to be a Slayer?”

There’s much to say about Chosen and about S7 as a whole, such that this, like most of the finale posts, will be a long one. As I did with The Gift, I’ll start with the conclusion. It’s always easiest to reverse engineer the season once you know where it’s going. Then, because S7 often gets criticized, I’ll outline how the season themes played out and the paths of the core characters.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

End of Days

[Updated May 3, 2013

Having reached End of Days, it’s only fitting that we finally discover the (symbol of the) Ultimate Boon. In my post on Grave I said that S7 would cover the stage of the Hero’s Journey known as the Ultimate Boon. Wikipedia describes the Ultimate Boon this way:
“The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.” My emphasis.

Here in End of Days Spike tells us that Buffy’s found it (my emphasis again): “And you did it. Fulfilled your mission. Found the Holy Grail.” The quest for the Holy Grail is, symbolically, a quest for the deeper meaning of life. At different times that might mean Christian salvation or, more generally, spiritual progress. We might see it in more secular terms as seeking wisdom or the meaning of life. Success on the quest involves asking the right questions. Buffy’s conversations with Spike and Faith are leading her in the right direction, but she has one more step to take.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Touched

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Continuing the point from Empty Places, the chaos of the teaser in Touched drives home the logical necessity that someone has to be in charge. The group was incapable of even having a discussion, and both Xander and Kennedy suggested that not everyone should participate (without, of course, including themselves out, to quote Samuel Goldwyn):
XANDER
You know, I'm thinking that everyone here shouldn't have a say.
KENNEDY
I just wonder if those of us who have been here longer should have more of a say.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Empty Places

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Et tu Brute?
Empty Places made viewers angry when it aired and I think still does today. It’s comparable to Dead Man’s Party in its plot, and that generated a similar reaction. I don’t like DMP (second bottom on my list), but EP works for me. What’s the difference? Mainly the fact that the abuse of Buffy was SO one-sided in DMP. It wasn’t just that Xander and Joyce, and Willow to a lesser extent, were self-righteous, the episode and its successors implied that they were entirely right. In EP the situation is much more nuanced. We see the conflicted feelings of the SG, we see Buffy’s side, we know that there’s something to be said on all sides. While my heart’s with Buffy, just as it was in DMP, here I can see the point of her critics.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dirty Girls

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Dirty Girls re-enacts a standard horror scenario in order to take us back to the original concept of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seems like a long time ago, but in both my Introduction and in my post on Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest, I quoted Joss on the reason why he created the show. I’ll quote it again here because I think Dirty Girls brings us back to the beginning in a crucial way:
Where did the idea [for BtVS] come from? There’s actually an incredibly specific answer to that question. It came from watching a horror movie and seeing the typical ditzy blonde walk into a dark alley and getting killed. I just thought that I would love to see a scene where the ditzy blonde walks into a dark alley, a monster attacks her and she kicks its ass.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lies My Parents Told Me

[Updated May 3, 2013]

"For when was revenge in its exactions ought but an inordinate usurer?" Herman Melville.
Immediately after the episode which taught us that the narrative has trapped Buffy, we learn that some part of that narrative consists of lies. The brilliantly constructed Lies My Parents Told Me is the fourth/fifth great episode of S7. Why is it so great? Partly it’s the flashback scenes, building on what we saw in Fool For Love, to which there are many references. Partly it’s the major clue about the source of Buffy’s various related problems. But mostly because it poses, in the sharpest possible way, the moral dilemmas Buffy faces this season: justice v. vengeance; redemption; consequentialist v. deontological ethics.
By no means does LMPTM provide definitive solutions to the difficulties it exposes. What it does is pose them in a way which furthers our understanding of several major characters in circumstances where arguments can be made for or against any of them. “Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.” (G.W.F. Hegel) Because it was so carefully constructed, there were probably more internet arguments about this episode than any other besides Seeing Red or maybe the upcoming Empty Places.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Storyteller

[Updated May 3, 2013]

Jane Espenson gives us the third (for me, the fourth) great episode of S7 with her masterpiece Storyteller. It’s one of my very favorite episodes, mostly based on the way Buffy closes the Turok-han pez dispenser (h/t Rob).
The most important thing I can say about Storyteller is that it’s shot almost entirely in Andrew’s POV. In that sense it’s similar to earlier episodes like The Zeppo (Xander’s POV), Doppelgangland (Willow’s), and A New Man (Giles’s). Andrew may think he’s telling Buffy’s story, but in fact he’s telling his own.