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Monday, February 25, 2013


[Updated May 3, 2013]

… You like our little songs, don't you? You've always liked them, right from the beginning. And that's where we're going...
...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.

Season 7, like Season 3, has empowerment of others as the solution to Buffy’s challenges. Empowerment of others is the Ultimate Boon, the answer to the question Buffy asked Giles in Grave:
BUFFY: (quietly) I guess ... I wasn't ready before. It took a long time for that feeling to go away ... the feeling that I wasn't really here. It was like ... when I clawed my way out of that grave, I left something behind. Part of me. I just... (pauses, looks Giles in the eye) I don't understand ... why I'm back.
GILES: You have a calling.
BUFFY: But it was my time, Giles. Someone would have taken my place. (Giles grimacing) So why?

She knows she's special but doesn't really understand: "Why me?", a question even more poignant after her death and resurrection. All during S7 she struggled with the sense of isolation. She first tried to overcome it by withdrawing even more into her "special" cocoon, but that only isolated her all the more. Only here in Chosen does she meet her challenge, and it’s not by making herself special, it’s by making everyone her equal.
Let’s fit this theme of empowerment together with the metaphor of the First Evil. As is always true, the main villain represents in metaphor the challenge Buffy has to overcome. As I noted in several posts, the First represents separation or isolation. It’s the voice inside us that tells us we’re not good enough, that others don’t care for us, that we should go off on our own. Buffy’s sense of isolation from being the Slayer has been present since the very first episode of S1, and we were shown it repeatedly in S7. I’ll quote from Conversations With Dead People because it’s simple and spelled out bluntly in scenes Joss himself wrote, but I’ll bet I could find 50 similar expressions of the same point throughout the series, beginning in Welcome To The Hellmouth:
HOLDEN So, all that time, you were a slayer?
HOLDEN "The", like as in "the only one"?
BUFFY Pretty much.
HOLDEN Oh. So, when you said not connected, that was kind of a telling statement, wasn't it - ?***
HOLDEN So, you meet someone, you form a bond...
BUFFY But it never lasts.
HOLDEN Do you mean in all relationships, or just yours?
BUFFY …I think there're people out there who'd make it. I just... target the impossible ones... with deadly accuracy.
HOLDEN You think you do that on purpose? Maybe you're trying to protect yourself?
BUFFY Protecting myself? From heartbreak, misery, sexual violence, and possible death? Not so much.
HOLDEN From committing.***
BUFFY I feel like I'm worse than anyone. Honestly, I'm beneath them. My friends, my boyfriends. I feel like I'm not worthy of their love. 'Cause even though they love me, it doesn't mean anything 'cause their opinions don't matter. They don't know. They haven't been through what I've been through. They're not the slayer. I am. Sometimes I feel - (sighs) this is awful - I feel like I'm better than them. Superior.
HOLDEN And so you can't win. And I thought I was diabolical - or, at least I plan to be. You do have a superiority complex. And you've got an inferiority complex about it. (laughs) Kudos.
BUFFY It doesn't make any sense.
HOLDEN (sits forward) Oh, it makes every kind of sense. And it all adds up to you feeling alone.

Joss: “I lived my life feeling alone. That's just the way of it. I always did. As soon as I was old enough to have a feeling about it, I felt like I was alone. No matter how much I loved my family - and I actually got along better with my family than I think most people do - but I just always felt separate from everybody, and was terribly lonely all the time. I wasn't living a life that was particularly different from anybody else's, a pariah - it wasn't like I didn't have friends, but I just... we all of us are alone in our own minds, and I was very much aware of that from the very beginning of my life. Loneliness and aloneness - which are different things - are very much, I would say, of the three main things I focus on in my work.”

I don't see how it could be any clearer that the First Consequence (TM) of becoming the Slayer is the psychological sense of separation the Slayer feels from the rest of the world. The First – which made itself known to the SG in CWDP – is therefore the metaphorical demon which stands between Buffy and the world at large. Not only does it force Buffy into a position – General Buffy – in which she becomes even less connected, but we see at the end that the First itself, in the shape of Buffy, has the goal of "feeling" the connection to others. Buffy is at war with herself. Note that when the First appears as Buffy, it always portrays her as arrogant and obsessed with power. That’s the superiority side talking, and it’s telling.
Buffy only recognizes this internal conflict when the First/Buffy confronts her in the basement in Chosen. When the First/Buffy overplays its hand by taunting her with her aloneness, that gives her the solution of ending the isolation of the Slayer by empowering others.
Sharing power solves all of Buffy’s problems identified in the early episodes of S7: she no longer has to function as “the law” (Selfless). She therefore will no longer suffer the sense of isolation and uncertainty she faced because she was the only one (CWDP). And she no longer has to save everyone (Help) because not only are others available who might also save them, but lots of people can now save themselves. Empowerment of others solves Buffy’s problem not just for S7, but for her whole career as the Slayer; that makes it a perfect theme for the series finale. Given that, I should explain how I understand the empowerment spell to work.
I’ll start by asking, whom does she empower in Chosen? In a narrow sense the Potentials. Let me just explain in a bit more detail how I understood that process.
As long as Buffy functioned as “the” Slayer, she was necessarily placed in the role of General. I’ve explained the logic of this in previous posts, so I won’t belabor it here. The problem began with the Shadowmen. The evil of the Shadowmen was not that they imbued the First Slayer with power; for all we know, that power was benign. No, the evil was the lack of choice, the fact that they forced her. They isolated her from all other women and made her alone fight the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.
The tactic of the Shadowmen was to fight demons by concentrating power. Within that paradigm, it's not that Buffy was wrong about the fact that she was therefore in charge, it's that she was right. Buffy felt uncomfortable with her role – that instinct caused her to reject the Shadowmen – but she was trapped by the paradigm that said power had to be concentrated in order to be used in opposition. Her answer wasn't wrong, the question was. “It’s about power” needs to be interpreted in the sense of who has it, not in the sense of how much one person has.
We saw in Showtime that Buffy’s actions as “the” Slayer, as General, made everyone conscious of their own weakness. Everyone else was subservient to her. In GiD, Buffy’s harsh attitude was sucking the power out of everyone else.
This is very realistic. It’s pretty well established that a relationship involving subservience distorts the character of both master and servant. This was widely observed under slavery, where the obsequious false cheer of the slave became a stereotype (see Gone With The Wind). It wasn’t just the impact on the slave which was harmful, though. Here’s Thomas Jefferson describing the effect of the process on the masters:
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. … The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances….”
Slavery is an extreme, but the same is true even under lesser forms of oppression, with weaknesses exaggerated (Rona) and strengths hidden or rejected by the victim (Annabelle and Chloe). We also see cases of bravado like Kennedy, who, much as Jefferson described the child, acts like she thinks Buffy would want while training the Potentials in GiD. As I said in my post on Potential, I see the Potentials as representing the less attractive aspects of womanhood precisely because they’ve been forced into a position of subservience.
As we saw in Get it Done, that subservient role was created by a patriarchal structure, which is important because Buffy adopted a traditional patriarchal role as General. It was as if the only change necessary for women was for a woman to replace a man in a traditional man’s role. In fact, the Potentials are at first excited by this (see the look on Kennedy’s face after Buffy defeats the Ubervamp at the end of Showtime). Eventually they’re disillusioned because their condition doesn’t change. Buffy actually perpetuates and even reinforces their subservient role.
Buffy’s speech in BotN was therefore a critical turning point in the season because in calling for an “army” she took the wrong path. We didn’t realize it at the time: the speech was emotionally stirring; we knew there was “only” one Slayer, so it seemed natural for Buffy to take the lead; Giles had pushed her in that direction with his “it’s up to you” comments; and we ourselves structure armies this way. But the whole point of the episodes from BotN through Empty Places is that Buffy is making a mistake. The ability of one woman alone to fit herself into a patriarchal role is not the answer.
By taking on the role of General and protector of the Potentials, Buffy accepted them in their subservient state rather than recognizing that what they needed was not protection but the ability to protect themselves. It’s like the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s not an accident that in the episode titled Potential, Dawn “gives” her power to Amanda even though it wasn’t really her power to give. That’s the solution Buffy adopts in Chosen.
The choice Buffy offered the Potentials in Chosen was not to be empowered, but to participate in the fight against evil. They will be Slayers – that is, someone who joins in the fight – not because they were Chosen, but because they have Chosen. Those who followed her into the Hellmouth didn’t do so because they had power – Willow hadn’t done the spell yet – they did so because they chose to fight. Given the strong similarities between S3 and S7, it’s worth noting the similar decision at the end of Choices made by Willow, Buffy’s metaphorical spirit. And given that, it’s interesting that it’s Willow who provided the opportunity for Anya to choose her own destiny in Selfless.
That’s the narrow case for the way empowerment plays out in S7. But I see the theme as much more generally applicable, as I’ll try to explain.
I know that it's common to speak of Buffy as a feminist icon. Joss has implied this, reviewers cite it in support, authors write books with that as the theme, it's a commonplace on the net. This means something a little different to me than it may mean to others.

In one sense, having Buffy as a feminist icon may mean that the message we get from her and from the show is directed mostly (exclusively?) to women. That is, that feminism is a way to empower women, to encourage them to work through the specific problems they face. I think that this interpretation of the show is very valuable; certainly I felt my own daughters watched with this perspective and learned from it.

But the show always meant something additional to me. To me, feminism is a lens, a perspective, through which to view human problems. In my interpretation, the message Buffy sends is for women, but it’s not just for women, it's for all of us, male and female alike. As I said in the Introduction, Buffy may face her problems as a woman, but all of us, no matter our gender, should identify with her as much as we do male heroes. As Joss put it, he wanted Buffy to be “a hero, not just a heroine, but a hero.”
For me, the Central Metaphor of the show is that Buffy is us, the viewers, and we are her. In this larger sense, she has no color, she has no gender, she has no age; she is a human figure. That’s not to diminish her role as a woman, it’s to universalize it. In the same way, Martin Luther King faced his problems as a black man, but the lessons of his struggles aren’t limited to that; he’s a hero to all of us, black or white. When Buffy empowered the Potentials, I felt she empowered me. And everyone else too. She didn't diminish or reject her own power, she made me aware of and enhanced my own.
At the end of Chosen, Buffy achieved the thing she’s desired since we first saw her in Welcome to the Hellmouth. She’s “just a girl”. Buffy’s now “normal” not because she lost her power, but because everyone else has theirs back. A “normal” life is not an unempowered life, it’s an empowered life with everyone else empowered too. She is now "normal" only in the sense that we no longer live through her, but with her.
There’s an inherent tension in the show's Central Metaphor: if only one is Chosen, can she really stand for me as a separate individual? The answer is yes, as long as the metaphor holds. But the metaphor is unstable precisely because it has to focus on a unique individual while simultaneously trying to symbolize all of us. Chosen resolved this dilemma. “Look around”, Buffy says. “If you can be a Slayer, you will be a Slayer. Can stand up, will stand up. You are me after all.”
In my view, Joss did something incredibly daring in S6-7. Having created the greatest hero in all of American literature in S1-5, he turned around and asked, in effect, “do we really need heroes, or can we all be heroes?” Joss: “It was very important to me to say, ‘Ok great that you've worshipped this one iconic character, but find it in yourself everybody….’”
Before I review the season as a whole, I need to revisit some points I made in my posts on S3 and explain how the empowerment solution of S7 fits with Joss’s absurdist philosophy. As a brief review, I argued (Gingerbread, Graduation Day) that absurdists distinguish between rebellion and revolution. The former is fine, the latter is not. Revolution is bad because it attempts to deny the fundamental nature of the world, to make it into something it’s not. This leads to violence and terror.
At the end of Chosen, Willow tells Buffy “we changed the world”. So they did. That, however, doesn’t mean Buffy accomplished a revolution. The reason it didn’t is that the world we saw until Chosen was an artificial construct. The Shadowmen (Get it Done) isolated the Slayer by imbuing her alone with power. All other women were held in subservience. For the Slayer, the fact of her power was a very mixed blessing, as has been apparent for some time (at least since S3). By using the Scythe to unlock the power which had been artificially confined for so long, Buffy didn’t change the fundamental nature of the world, she restored the world to its natural state, one that the Shadowmen – the founding Patriarchs – had artificially corrupted. Buffy restored the balance.
Now I can review how the themes of S7 were established and played out in the individual episodes. Here’s Joss explaining his idea for the season in an interview in Cinefantastique magazine: “Let's go back to the beginning…. And the real beginning was girl power. The real beginning is what does it mean to be a slayer? And, not to feel guilty about the power, but having seen the dark side of it, and finding the light again.”
Lessons set that goal: It’s about power. Note that it wasn’t Buffy who said that in the sequence at the end, it was the First in Buffy’s form. The statement was still true, but not in the way the First meant. To compare the way in which the understanding of power changed over the final seasons, start with Checkpoint, where Buffy asserts her individual power against Glory and the WC. Then go to Two To Go and Grave, where Willow seeks to match her power against Buffy’s, only to be undone at last by Xander turning the other cheek. Here in S7, Lessons gave us the First’s implication that the key issue was the amount of power possessed by one individual; Same Time, Same Place and Potential signaled the shared power theme; and Get it Done had Buffy understand that the amount of power wasn’t important.
Also in Lessons, Willow told Giles that “It’s all connected”. As we learned in subsequent episodes, “it” might be all connected, but Buffy wasn’t. Connecting to others by empowering them turns out to be what defeats the First, the metaphor for separation, of selfishness. We saw that prefigured in Lessons itself with Buffy’s advice to Dawn at the end (my emphasis): “You guys are gonna be OK. School is intense, but you'll do all right as long as you're careful. And you might want to think about sticking together.”
Same Time Same Place also gave us the theme of isolation with Willow’s self-imposed separation from her friends. That’s what Willow’s spell did – it shifted her out of the same plane as her friends and left her feeling desolate and alone. Note the similarity of the metaphor with what Buffy told Spike in Touched: “Being the slayer made me different. But it's my fault I stayed that way. People are always trying to connect to me, and I just slip away.”
STSP also introduced the eventual solution Buffy would adopt in Chosen. At the end of STSP, Buffy joins hands with Willow and offers her power because Buffy has so much power she’s giving it away. This theme was reinforced in Potential when Dawn acknowledged Amanda as a holder of the power.
Beneath You gave us the hint that Buffy’s problem – more generally, the Slayer’s problem – arises in the subconscious, while Help spelled out the psychological dilemma Buffy couldn’t solve while she struggled in the inappropriate role of General. Help also gave us Xander’s hammer analogy so that we understood the necessary balance in using the power we have.
Selfless and CWDP drove home the theme of the Slayer’s isolation, reinforcing what we thought we knew from the previous 6 seasons – that there can be just one Slayer – and setting up the twist in Chosen. The constant reiteration of Buffy’s status as “the” Slayer left both Buffy and the viewers with no way to break the logical box which confined Buffy as the General precisely because she was the only one.
BotN and Showtime show Buffy taking the seemingly logically inevitable but wrong path of General. I promised in my post on Showtime to explain what Beljoxa’s Eye meant, and how it fits into the season themes, so I’ll do that here.
BELJOXA'S EYE The First Evil did not cause the disruption, only seized upon it to extinguish the lives of the Chosen forever.
GILES Then what has caused the disruption? What—what is responsible for letting this happen?
BELJOXA'S EYE The Slayer.”

As Giles elaborated later, the problem arose because Buffy lives. Anya misunderstood the import of that, blaming herself and the others for resurrecting Buffy. That was a nice mislead. Now we can see the true interpretation: Buffy’s resurrection meant there were two slayers; if two, why not a hundred? Buffy has always been uncomfortable with the idea of another Slayer; she was very invested in the idea of being the One. That’s one reason she was so uncomfortable with Faith’s return:
There's only supposed to be one. Maybe that's why you and I can never get along. We're not supposed to exist together.

As it turned out, Faith’s existence was a major clue to Buffy’s solution.
Get it Done took us to the source of the Slayer’s dilemma. By concentrating power in “one girl in all the world”, the Shadowmen forced every Slayer to operate within the confines of a patriarchal structure. That, in turn, guaranteed the isolation that was inherent in that role, which was essential to preserve patriarchal control.
We learned in Storyteller and Lies My Parents Told Me that Buffy was trapped in a narrative, and that the narrative consisted of lies told to her, in fact told to all Slayers, by the Watchers ever since the Shadowmen. The basic lie was the one which rested at the very heart of the Slayer line: that there was only one girl in all the world, etc. Buffy had heard that lie before she ever came to Sunnydale, and Giles repeated it in their second conversation in Welcome to the Hellmouth. Other lies flowed from that source, e.g., “The Mission is what matters”. Neither Nikki Wood nor Giles knew that was a lie, but it was. Neither did Giles know that it was a lie that the Mission required that Buffy be the General, but it was a lie all the same.
Dirty Girls and Empty Places demonstrated the inherent flaws in the structure. They also showed us just how difficult it was to overcome the existing assumptions about the Slayer, to break out of the established paradigm. The problem was not that Buffy was a bad General, though she certainly made mistakes, the problem was that Buffy hadn’t been and wasn’t willing to give up the idea that she was the Chosen One. The line is unstable because we have more than one Slayer (Faith), but one of them is refusing to share the role.
To give you some sense of how literally inconceivable it was for Buffy to share the power, I’ll re-post one of shadowkat’s comments after Empty Places. Note that she completely got the problem, but even as perceptive as she is, the hold of “ONE girl in all the world” was so powerful that she couldn’t see the solution:
“They are playing by the old rules. The paradigm. Set up by the Shadowmen, The Council. In the Angel episode Inside Out [which aired between LMPTM and Dirty Girls; no coincidence] - Gunn says something interesting to Fred about how if they are being manipulated, then it's time to flip the playing board. Start your own game. That when push comes to shove? No one knows the final score. You still have a choice.

Buffy and the SG are letting the FE dictate the rules to them. It sets up a big bad - they go fight the big bad. It opens up the seal, they go off to close the seal. It kills some of their team, they fight amongst themselves, giving it greater power. They don't like one slayer? They choose another slayer to lead them. … I have a hunch Faith is going to inadvertently make the same mistakes as Buffy. Unless she stops playing by the rules. And since she like Buffy has somewhat bought into them...I doubt that will happen.

The question therefore is - how do you change the rules? What are the SG and Buffy and Faith doing wrong?

  1. Is it that they are fighting the bads the First sends to them in combat? Should they just stop fighting?
  2. Is it that they are fighting amongst themselves?
  3. Is it that they've put the mission above small things like respect, human comradeship, kindness, friendship, compassion?
  4. Is it that they've stopped listening to each other and instead are talking at each other, projecting their worst fears on each other?
  5. How can they flip the board, if they don't even know they are on it? Or how to flip it?
I don't know.”

The series closed as it began, with Joss completely subverting our expectations. The opening words in Touched gave us the answer: “Power to the people.” Giles, naturally, rejected the phrase contemptuously. Only later in that episode did Buffy’s path to the solution begin when she recognized her isolation, but the crucial insight doesn’t come until she faces the First in Chosen. What Beljoxa’s Eye told us, in the usual cryptic manner of oracles, was that Buffy was so invested in her role as Slayer that she wasn’t ready to answer the question Faith posed to her in Empty Places: “Can you follow?” Giving the Scythe to Faith in Chosen symbolically marks that moment.
To put it in the terms of the Hero’s Journey, Buffy used the power of the Scythe to enlighten the world with what she has learned. The Scythe, as I said in my post on End of Days, is merely a symbol, in this case of “female nature”, “the symbol of decisive resolve, of determined differentiation on the path of individual or collective evolution.” The Scythe represents feminine power, “girl power” to use Joss’s phrase. Accessing that power and sharing it with everyone is indeed the Ultimate Boon.
Since some of the criticism of S7 involves the core members of the SG, which I’ll treat as including Spike, let me talk about them both in story line terms and in metaphor.
One of the beneficiaries of the Boon was Spike, though not directly. I think Buffy inspired Spike’s road to recovery, though I don’t think he did it for her; he says as much in Touched. He did it for himself, which makes his sacrifice in Chosen all the more meaningful. Of course, Spike has always hankered after the Grand Gesture, and it’s fitting that he got it. Spike’s blood opened the Hellmouth in BotN. His soul closes it. Kind of like Andrew’s tears in Storyteller.
I’ve seen the complaint that it was Spike who actually did the work of destroying the Hellmouth, not Buffy. This seems to me to miss the point on two grounds. First, the point of the episode was not to destroy the Hellmouth – there’s another one in Cleveland anyway – but to empower the Potentials as Slayers. That was done by Buffy (through Willow). Second, the criticism ignores the similarity to GD2, where it’s Giles who actually kills the Mayor; Buffy merely taunted him and led him to the explosives. In both cases, though, it was Buffy’s idea and her organization which led to the destruction of the symbolic source of evil.
Spike’s reaction to Buffy’s declaration of love – “No you don’t. But thanks for sayin’ it.” – is perfectly consistent with his words to Wood at the end of LMPTM. Because Spike still sees slayers as devoted to “the Mission” above all else, he can’t believe Buffy loves him in the only way love is meaningful to him. He loves her that way, but thinks she can’t ever love him. The irony is that the empowerment of the Potentials leaves open the path for Buffy to love someone like that.
I think it’s also possible that it was Spike’s way of saying "You can go, you don't need to stay here with me." Had he not said that, Buffy might have stayed. Instead, Spike was able to do what he said he wanted in Grave: Give her what she deserved. In this sense, you could see it as the same lie Rick tells Ilsa at the end of Casablanca.
Giles’s role this year seems to be widely disliked. As I’ve said several times, Buffy’s decision to take on the role of General was a big mistake. In my view, her decision to take this role was a failure of mind, in the sense that her mind was out of harmony with her heart and spirit. Basically, the role of General was an extension of Buffy’s understanding of the Slayer’s role since at least Graduation Day 2. She stated it straight out in Selfless, in the passage I’ve quoted so many times before: “You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the slayer is always cut off. There's no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don't apply. There's only me. I am the law.”
If the Slayer is, by default, “the law”, then it only makes logical sense that she should be the one in charge. As a practical matter, the final call will always be hers. She may take advice along the way, just as any General does, but at the end of the day only the Slayer can decide to slay. It’s inherent in the “fact” of there being just one girl in all the world.
When did Buffy formally adopt this role? In BotN, when she gave the stirring speech at the end. And when did Giles show up? Yes, in BotN. What did Giles tell her in that episode? “I'm afraid it falls to you, Buffy. Sorry. I mean, we'll do what we can, but you're the only one who has the strength to protect these girls—and the world—against what's coming.” Then he said similar things during the course of the next several episodes, at least through Lies My Parents Told Me. I see Giles’s philosophy in that episode as one of the lies we’re told by our parents. So the metaphor holds: Buffy’s mistake in S7 is one of mind, and it’s Giles who is, in substantial part, the origin of that mistake.
Ok, but there’s still Giles the character. I’ve made this point before, but Giles’s behavior seems to me very true to life. He has a “child” who has become an adult, but spent the past year making serious mistakes of judgment. She may seem to be on track now, but she’s faced with a huge challenge and he’s not confident that she can handle it on her own. The temptation to step in as a parent is overwhelming, as I can personally attest. Giles has so much invested in Buffy, and is so concerned because of what happened in S6, that he pushes too hard. This is why he seems so unsympathetic in the middle of the season.
If I’m right that the problem in S7 is an overreliance on mind, then it stands to reason that Buffy’s heart and spirit will feel somewhat left out and uncertain about their role. I think this describes Willow and Xander pretty well.
Willow’s case is obvious. As a character, she’s uncertain of her magical power for the very good reason that in S6 she abused it. Metaphorically, it’s important in S7 that Willow be unsure of herself, lacking the inner confidence that her power is for good and that she is worthy of it, because that’s how Buffy feels, as she told Webs in CWDP.
Willow’s struggle to balance her power – the theme of Xander’s conversation with her in Help – appears repeatedly throughout the season. Sometimes she’s too cautious, at other times she goes overboard; that’s why her use of magic seems inconsistent, at one minute unable to do a locator spell, in the next bringing Buffy back from the Shadowmen. Buffy struggles in the same way with her own exercise of power. The parallel between the two friends is explicit in Get it Done, where Anya describes Buffy’s “everybody sucks but me speech” and Willow sucks power from Anya and Kennedy.
I should note that Kennedy plays an important role in Willow’s progress precisely because she makes it clear that she is attracted to Willow the person rather than Willow the powerful witch (from whom she actually recoils after GiD). Willow needs that reassurance that she’s valued for herself, not for her magic. In my view, Spike plays a similar role for Buffy in Touched (and see trivia note 11).
By sharing power rather than grabbing it (contrast Chosen with Get it Done), the spirit is purified. The white, clearly feminine magic which purifies Willow – more than a little bit orgasmically, it must be said – tells us metaphorically that Buffy’s spirit is now pure because her spirit reached out to others and shared with them. In Get it Done Willow had taken power from Anya and Kennedy. Here she opened the channel of power for others – a channel the Shadowmen had closed – without taking any for herself. I’ll stress this because I think it’s important: the Scythe did not give power to the Potentials. No, as I interpret the spell it unlocked power already there, power which had been stifled by the decision of the Shadowmen to limit that power to one girl in all the world. The Scythe was the catalyst for the spell, nicely connecting with the conversation between Anya and Willow in GiD about the need for a catalyst.
I said in my post on End of Days that the Scythe was a symbol akin to Excalibur. It seemed to apply to Buffy in that context, but here we see that the symbolism reached much further, namely to everyone whose power was unlocked.
In assessing Xander’s role, we need to consider the status of Buffy’s heart. She’s doubly conflicted. First she’s conflicted about the seeming requirements of Generalship. For example, I think there’s reason to doubt that she really would sacrifice Dawn to save the world, notwithstanding her statement to Giles, because her kiss of Dawn at the end of LMPTM suggests she herself has doubts. Second, she’s uncertain about her relationship with Spike. This is perfectly mirrored by Xander’s on again/off again hesitancy about Anya. Both Xander and Buffy must decide how to deal with a recovering demon – I set out my theory of Spike at some length in earlier posts, and Anya is in the same basic position – and they aren’t sure whether to commit or not.
As a side note, I’ll suggest that since the two relationships are being paralleled both in story and in metaphor, your attitude towards one may affect your view of the other. Thus, if you believe Xander really did love Anya, it makes most sense to believe that Buffy really did love Spike. OTOH, if you doubt that Buffy loved Spike, that’s a good reason to doubt that Xander loved Anya. I should emphasize that I don’t think it’s absolutely essential to see the two relationships like this, but it’s suggestive.
Since we’re speaking of Anya, some viewers were upset that Anya died. Given that her role vis-à-vis  Xander was intended to parallel that of Buffy and Spike, it made sense for both Anya and Spike to die (and see trivia note 20). Note that she died doing something truly, nobly Selfless. Joss: “Andrew learning that the thing that he's sort of reviled for, making up stories, becomes the thing that he helps Xander with, becomes the thing that he actually is good at, giving her the epic death that she didn't actually get to have.”
Back to Xander, it’s only after Buffy has her insight about her isolation in Touched that she can restore her heart and spirit to their rightful place. She starts with Xander in the kitchen scene in End of Days, committing her human half (Dawn) to his care. With her heart now able to influence her judgment, she then welcomes Giles (“I really do.”) and Willow (“This woman is more powerful than all of them.”) into her plan. Xander protects Dawn in the fight, Giles organizes the escape, and Willow unlocks the Slayer power. The whole Buffy, united in heart, mind, and spirit, fully deserves her smile at the end.
BtVS began by reversing our expectations: instead of the blonde girl being the victim, she kicks the demon’s ass. The show stayed true to that theme even at the end – all these years Buffy and her friends have tried desperately to keep the Hellmouth closed, but at the end the secret was to open it themselves.
Rahael (AtPO): “What I was thinking also was that in a meta way, Sunnydale exists because Buffy is there. Kept all to herself, her power simply kept her in Sunnydale, imprisoned. Sunnydale (and indeed, the show, BtVS) exists because she is the one girl in all the world. But when the power is shared, all through the world, Sunnydale collapses, and the world lies open for the Scoobies.”

As the show ends, we see Buffy contemplating the possibilities of the open road. That was deliberate metaphor – she can choose, rather than be chosen, and the possibilities are limitless. When Dawn asks Buffy “what are we going to do now?”, she’s talking to all of us. We are Buffy.
Trivia notes: (1) Angel’s “not remotely reliable” source for the information on the First came from the AtS episode Home. (2) Angel’s description of the amulet as having cleansing power like “possibly Scrubbing Bubbles” refers to a commercial cleaning product. (3) Buffy asked Angel if he was “going to to go all Dawson on me”, referring to the main character of the TV show Dawson’s Creek. (4) Buffy’s statement that she’s “not done baking” references FE/Warren in Lessons: “She's a girl. Sugar and spice and everything...useless unless you're baking.” (5) Xander’s “party in my eye socket” line plays off a line from The Simpson’s episode Homer at the Bat. (6) I take Spike’s dream – “I’m drowning in footwear” – as a reference to the Shanshu prophecy. Spike is barefoot; that is, he’s sans shoes. (7) We first heard “Into every generation, a slayer is born. One girl in all the world. She alone will have the strength and skill to …” in Welcome to the Hellmouth. (8) Buffy’s decision to open the Hellmouth makes her speech in BOTN prophetic: “I'm standing on the mouth of hell, and it is gonna swallow me whole. And it'll choke on me. We're not ready? They're not ready. They think we're gonna wait for the end to come, like we always do. I'm done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Oh, we'll give 'em one.” (9) Faith’s claim to Wood that she has “mad skills” is American slang meaning she’s great at, uh, it. (10) For Trogdor the Burninator, see the link. (11) Joss said of the scene where Buffy and Spike stand facing each other in the basement that “to me it's almost the most important shot in the show because it shows the mystery of their relationship and that's one where I wanted the audience to fill in the blank. I wanted whatever you want to have happened to have happened. If people believe that on their last night together they made love great; if people believe that on their last night together they talked all night, if people believe they had a fight, great. Whatever it is, it's up to the viewer; the viewer has earned that.” When I watched Chosen the first time, I assumed they had sex, and that’s still how I interpret the scene. (12) Xander’s proposal of miniature golf references several previous episodes, notably When She Was Bad: “Hey, I got a plan: how 'bout miniature golf.” (13) Buffy’s shoe craving may reference Spike’s dream or her own shoe shopping noted by Hank in WSWB. (14) As the core 4 part from each other in the hall, they do so in reverse order of their introduction to Buffy in WTTH. (15) Giles’s statement – “The earth is definitely doomed” – echoes his concluding line in The Harvest. (16) Buffy, Faith, and the Potentials opened the Hellmouth by using Andrew’s knife from Storyteller. (17) The scene of all the Turok-han, like the one in Get it Done, is an homage to the Peter Jackson movie version of Lord of the Rings. (18) Buffy has always won by changing the rules or finding a creative solution. Her insight to empower the Potentials reminds me of Captain Kirk’s response to the Kobayashi Maru. (19) Note the pun when Buffy tells the First to “get out of my face”. In American slang, that means to get away from me, to stop challenging me. Here it also means “stop taking my form”. (20) Emma Caulfield asked Joss to kill off Anya. She’d been having contract disputes with the network and didn’t want to return. Joss intended someone to die, and this made the decision easy. D’Hoffryn may have predicted Anya’s death with his final words in Selfless: “ANYA You should've killed me. D'HOFFRYN Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. From beneath you, it devours. Be patient. All good things in time.” Fittingly, Anya’s last word was “bunnies”. (21) Spike’s “school’s out for bloody summer” comes from the Alice Cooper song “School’s Out”. (22) When Buffy’s and Spike’s hands burst into flame, I see that as a reference to the opening lines of “Walk Through the Fire”: “I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into it and it’s black./Why can’t I feel?/My skin should crack and peel./I want the fire back.” (23) Spike triumphed with his soul glowing. One might say effulgent. (24) Buffy’s “I love you” fulfills Cassie’s prophecy to Spike in Help (“She’ll tell you”). (25) Since Spike was the one who created the huge crater, having the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign fall over is a neat reference back to School Hard and Lover’s Walk. In both episodes, he drove into Sunnydale and knocked over the sign with his car. (26) Giles mentioned the existence of another Hellmouth in Cleveland, which was first noted in The Wish. (27) The last word we hear Buffy say is “Spike”. (28) Chosen is the 100th episode since the First Evil was introduced in Episode 44, Amends. Just as Episode 100, The Gift, completed Buffy’s journey in the sense of bringing her to adulthood, so Chosen did in the sense of eliminating the loneliness of that journey.


  1. What a terrific write-up! You really help me see this show from a very different perspective, and your analysis of Season Seven has given me new appreciation for this oft-maligned season. Your reading justifies many elements which seemed clunky or out-of-character on first view.

    I didn't watch along with your write-up, but at my next Buffy-marathon (a semi-quarterly indulgence with some of my Whedonaphile friends), I will suggest we watch some of these Season Seven episodes, with an eye to seeing them through your philosophical lens.

    Any thoughts on Buffy sending Dawn away (only to be thwarted by Dawn's spunky refusal to be side-lined), if Dawn is Buffy's human self? Is there a symbolic reading of this, beyond its plot/character relevance?

    1. Thank you. I hope your marathon session goes really well.

      Your question is a very good one. I think that I'm inclined to see it as character driven, rather than metaphor.

      That's not to say a metaphorical reading is impossible. At the point where Buffy asks Xander to take Dawn away, she still hasn't reached her insight about empowerment. We could therefore see Buffy as still overly protective (as her reference to her words in Grave suggests), and Dawn's return as a necessary component of Chosen. However, I think this adds complexity more than insight, so I'm sticking with the character reading for now. If more occurs to me later, I'll come back to the point.

  2. I just wanted to thank you, too. These write-ups have made so much sense of the whole story. I am terrible at sensing themes, metaphors etc., so your explanations have added so many layers to a show I already really enjoyed. It also made season 6 and 7 more tolerable where they had been somewhat painful to me before, aside from the few shining episodes. Now all of the episodes seem necessary to the whole, and that just makes it so much better. Thank you again!

  3. Hey Mark,

    I haven't read this write-up yet - I've so nearly caught up on my viewing that at this point I prefer to wait until I've seen the episode before coming here right afterwards. I guess I'll have finished S7 by the weekend.

    I just wanted to join the others in extending both my thanks and congratulations to you for what is a really remarkable achievement. I've read quite a few web-based reviews of Buffy that proceed one episode at a time - some of which have been highly enjoyable and informative. But you've done a pretty amazing job here of laying out a unified reading of the entire series that also allows for the show's own . . . um . . . temperament, which itself can be occasionally inconsistent. And like others have said, you've done a particularly fine job of elucidating the strengths of Seasons 6 and 7. I'll definitely send skeptics of those two seasons the way of this blog in the future.

    Well done!

    I'll likely be back soon with comments on the episode and your write-up of it. And there's a good chance I'll pick up your e-book and give it a good look (although that might take a bit longer than the weekend . . .).

    1. Thank you very much! I'll look forward to your comments.

  4. In case I don't have time to comment more specifically, I want to add my congratulations and appreciation. The entire series review is excellent, but I especially appreciate that you provide an outstanding analysis of S6 & S7, my favorite seasons.

  5. Wow. You did it, Mark! I say we party.

    Collection of thoughts and quotes:
    1. I don't love S7, but I love many moments in it, I love what it could've been, and I love the thematic closure on the whole series. Your essays have helped me appreciate it more, so thank you for that.

    2. I agree with trivia note 11. I'm glad Joss left it up in the air, but after all the "heartbreak, misery, sexual violence, and possible death" (CWDP) I hope that Buffy and Spike truly made love for the first time.

    3. I'd have to listen to the commentary again, but I think Joss said that the last (or one of the last) thing(s) they shot in the entire series was that girl who stood up against her abuser. Which is pretty darn cool.

    4. An interesting Marti Noxon quote: "I think it’s [BtVS] an exploration of being exceptional. I mean the whole idea of being a super-hero is the idea that you are unlike other people, and people are drawn to that, but at the same time, it makes you the other...someone that may have trouble relating. It’s inherently a lonely thing, and I haven’t said this to Joss, but I kind of think it’s his life story. Because he’s exceptionally brilliant, and he has abilities other people don’t have. He can take the summer off and write a musical that’s every bit as good as what major composers, who’ve dedicated their life, can come up with. He’s just an amazingly smart, over-capable person. And he lives in a world where his brain functions faster than most people’s. And not that he can leap tall buildings, but the more I look at Buffy’s struggle, I see it’s a study of being exceptional."

    I agree with a lot of what she says, and I also agree with you that the "solution of ending the isolation of the Slayer" is "by empowering others." But there's an inherent loneliness in being human, of course. And I think that Buffy will always be exceptional whether she's the only Slayer or not. But at least she now has the chance build a real life for herself, to have "something outside of demons and darkness" (The Prom).

    5. "By using the Scythe to unlock the power which had been artificially confined for so long, Buffy didn’t change the fundamental nature of the world, she restored the world to its natural state, one that the Shadowmen – the founding Patriarchs – had artificially corrupted. Buffy restored the balance."

    For awhile I was a little confused about the whole Beljoxa's Eye thing and how that fit - I mean, if having Buffy return disrupted the balance, then wouldn't calling all the Slayers completely destroy that balance? Now I realize I was thinking about it all wrong. What you said above works so perfectly that I'm not sure why I didn't see it before.

    I think this part of Joss' Equality Now speech also sums that idea up: "Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it."

    6. I've seen you mention at least twice now that you consider Buffy to be greatest hero in American literature. She's certainly my hero and my favorite character of all time (though I suppose I haven't watched enough movies, read enough books, and seen enough TV to say for certain). But greatest hero in American literature? That's quite a statement to make! I'd be interested to hear why you say that.

    Congratulations on finishing, Mark, it was quite a commitment and you did an extraordinary job. I can't quite seem to move past this show, so I'm sure I'll be back to re-read your previous posts and comment on them when something new comes to mind. Thanks :)

    1. Thank you! I'm very happy to continue the dialogue, so chime in whenever something strikes you.

      Those are great quotes from Marti and Joss. I hadn't seen either one before.

      Yes, the girl playing baseball was the last scene Joss shot.

      I think the debate over who's the "greatest hero" is pretty subjective. Saying it's Buffy is basically my opinion (or judgment). I just think that what she accomplished, within the constraints of the established mythos, makes her stand out.

    2. The baseball girl is not the girl who stands up to her abuser(though that shot is my fave)

    3. Well, whether it's the baseball girl or the girl who stands up to her abuser, it's a nice last shot to film.

      Hey Mark, have you read this Slayage article? "It’s Bloody Brilliant!" The Undermining of Metanarrative Feminism
      in the Season Seven Arc Narrative of Buffy:

      I agree with a lot of what you wrote in your essay, but I also agree with a lot of Spicer's very thorough article. If you haven't read it or don't have time/want to, I think this part at the end encompasses it pretty well: "Writing at the beginning of Season Seven, David Lavery observes that “Buffy’s power source is narrative” (Par. 1). Few Buffy fans or scholars would disagree. Throughout its seven seasons, Buffy has made an astounding contribution to the dissemination of a sophisticated feminist ideology through a commitment to morally complicated, multivocal storytelling. It has done, indeed, precisely what its Season Seven metanarrative claims. But as soon as the show demands that we listen to its message at the expense of its story, it begins to lose this claim to cultural edification. A story of feminist empowerment that is not supported by a plausible narrative does not make a plausible case for feminist empowerment. As Buffy and Faith discover, a leader must be judged by the quality of her leadership. A narrative that endorses a feminist dissemination of power via a plot that undermines this message begins to move in the direction of a dogmatic feminism that requires the ideological support of female power regardless of how that power is used.

      [31] The aim of “Chosen” is not to valorize Buffy at the expense of other characters. Indeed, in his DVD commentary on “Chosen,” Whedon describes his message to Buffy fans as a shift away from Buffy as the central hero: “Okay, great that you’ve worshipped this one iconic character, but find it in yourself, everybody” (“Chosen” commentary). The Slayer activation idea, however, is so inept as a strategy that it can only be pursued by erasing other voices that would question it. Since Buffy, the protagonist, is voicing the plan, this refusal of questioning inadvertently reinscribes her in the role of unchallengeable hero. The manner of the message’s delivery reflects upon both the message and the messenger. By foregrounding Buffy’s voice as correct while denying other voices the right to contribute, “Chosen” subverts its own metanarrative intent, presenting Buffy as the Chosen One who must be followed without question."

      I agree that a lot of the narrative - and a lot of what makes BtVS so darn enjoyable - was sacrificed for the sake of the message in S7, to the extent that it stunted the impact of the message itself. Personally, the most compelling aspect of the metanarrative that you addressed in your essay is this idea of restoring balance by unlocking the Slayers' powers. I know it's a bit silly to say "I wish they had done this" 10 years after the fact, but who cares. I really wish the last few episodes included a more developed, multivocal discussion about Buffy's strategy, with a more explicit nod toward the balance discussion mentioned by Cassie/theFirst in CWDP and raised by Beljoxa's Eye.

    4. I hadn't seen Spicer's article, but I have read similar criticisms. I would agree with the criticism if the empowerment spell forced power on the recipients unasked. I think my interpretation -- that it unlocked power which had been suppressed by the patriarchal structure -- makes Buffy's action pretty defensible.

      Though no one really grasped the basic idea before Buffy's moment of inspiration, the Potentials were at least reaching for the idea of shared power. That was Kennedy's goal all along, and the opening line of Touched was, as I mentioned, "Power to the People". And, of course, Buffy explained the plan to the Potentials who were at the house. Thus, even Spicer's interpretation of the spell works for what we see of the Potentials in Sunnydale.


      Of course, there are issues to explore even under my reading. The problem of a Dana doesn't bother me much. It's inherent in the human condition that some people can't handle their adult responsibilities (shifting to metaphor here). That doesn't mean we don't recognize them, though.

      The issue of people who don't want the power is more interesting. In one sense, we still grant them adult responsibilities when they turn 18, wanted or not. Or, to use a more contentious example, there may be women who would prefer patriarchal control. We still recognize their legal rights, though; they can't abdicate those rights even if they want to (within limits, anyway).

      To me, this brings us back to the metaphor of the Slayer as an adult. Within that metaphor, I'm prepared to defend Buffy's actions in Chosen regardless of the objections of some (and I do think it's only some) who would have preferred to let someone else handle those responsibilities for them.

  6. I have a lot of thoughts that I am not even close to summing up right now.

    But I did want to point out that Buffy summed up her own problem this season, all the way back in I Was Made To Love You.

    " I don't know about you guys, but I've had it with super-strong little women who aren't me."

  7. I don't have time to collect my thoughts—

    But Spring Break arrives in a few days, and I promise more—

    For now, simply congratulations on a job so beautifully, thoughtfully done—

    And more than many thanks—

  8. I don't have time yet to collect my thoughts—

    But Spring Break awaits just days away—

    For now, simple congratulations on a thing gloriously done—

    And more than many thanks—

    1. Thank you, most especially for all your thoughtful comments. I'll be looking forward to your Spring Break. :)

  9. De-lurking to say thanks for these essays ("episode guides" doesn't seem to quite cover it.) I can't even remember how I first stumbled onto this site, but I have been following these Buffy recaps almost the entire way and really enjoying them. Thanks for the insight and for giving me something to look forward to twice a week.

    1. That's very nice. I really appreciate it, and I'm glad you liked them.

  10. Thanks for the great series. That was quite an undertaking. I first heard about Buffy when the drummer in my band bought a pair of fairly expensive microphones and named them Willow and Tara. He and our guitar player and his wife were huge fans. They finally convinced my wife and me to watch the show. We started at the beginning by renting the DVDs (which is how we watch all our TV). We enjoyed it but after reading your essays I realize we didn't appreciate the depth of the metaphor. You've inspired me to buy the complete series to watch it again and appreciate it on a deeper level.

    1. That's a great story about how you found the show. And thanks -- I know you'll enjoy your re-watch.

  11. "Lessons set that goal: It’s about power. Note that it wasn’t Buffy who said that, it was the First in Buffy’s form."

    As written that isn't quite complete. Buffy says that line at the beginning of the episode (talking to Dawn). The First in Buffy's form says it at the end of the episode. So they both say it.


  12. One problem I have with Buffy's epiphany in "Chosen": didn't she already come to this conclusion back in "Potential"?

    In that episode she acts as an instructor to the Potentials, giving them the benefit of her experience, telling them that they're all special and have the power of a Slayer inside them, teaching them to trust their own instincts and stand on their own against monsters. If the solution to Buffy's season/series-long crisis is to empower others instead of focusing on herself as the one and only Chosen One, it seems like she had already arrived at that conclusion circa "Potential", she just didn't have the phlebotinum to back it up.

    1. Yeah, I think she did, but it was restricted. The problem with Potential is that she was still teaching the girls as, well, girls. She wasn't dealing with them from a position of equality because none of them had the power Buffy (and Faith) had. She was still stuck in the mindset of ONE girl in all the world. Her epiphany in Chosen caused her to recognize that truly equal treatment required enabling truly equal power. We could say that the potential was there for Buffy, once she overcame her upbringing.

  13. Today I finished my second run through both watching all the BtVS-episodes and reading your analyses of them. When I first started watching Buffy (about a year ago) I just expected to have some fun with a tv-series about a high school girl and a lot of vampires. I never thought it would be as interesting, rewarding and addictive as I found it to be. And your essays made it even more so, for me they added an extra layer to the whole Buffy-experience. I know I'm far from the first to say this, but still, I want to thank you for it.

    Now my next 'mission' will be to get my boyfriend to join me for my third run (and his first). We'll see how long that takes...


    1. That's really great and very nice of you. Good luck with your boyfriend -- converts are the best once you get them hooked.

  14. Hi Mark,

    I'm not sure if you still check these comments, but I stumbled upon your site a month or so ago. I've been laid up post-knee surgery and decided to re-watch Buffy. I began watching "live" in S6, and caught up on previous seasons via syndication. Because of my skewed timeline, I probably enjoyed these last two seasons more than most others (personally I count S4 as my least favorite, just wasn't a fan of Riley & the Initiative- although, perhaps if the season had gone way they had intended before some of the actors left, I'd feel differently).

    Anyway, I was nearing the end of high school myself when I began watching the series. I missed a lot of the metaphors, foreshadowing, etc, at the time. I came across your site during my re-watch after searching metaphor and Buffy. I just wanted to say thank you for a job incredibly well done!! Reading your essays after each episode (and watching them in proper order for the first time!) allowed me to view the show in a new light and with a greater appreciation for what Joss & Co. accomplished. I also appreciated your no spoiler policy, as I had only vague memories of certain plots.

    I may have to go watch a third time now....

    I'm wondering also if you've read the comics and if you'd recommend them.

    Thanks again!

    1. I get email notification of every comment, so feel free to add your thoughts on any episode.

      And thanks!

      The comics are a mixed bag. I actually haven't read the last 3 episodes of S9, so take that into account, but S9 is much better than S8 so far. The ending of S8, in particular, was pretty unpopular and I tend to share that view.

      The comics format allows them to do different things. That's good and bad, as some of the stuff is just weird (Dawn). Joss calls them "canon", but I treat them as separate and distinct from the show.

  15. Hi, I found your post a few months ago and have been reading through it and I love what you have written up, I've re-watched Buffy at least 3 times and I love it every time and thanks to you I have a greater understanding of it
    And I was just wondering if you would want to do an Angel The Series re-watch when you got the chance? I've re-watched it a couple of times but never gotten any deep meaning from it, and you seem really good at that

    1. First, thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate them. I'd have said so earlier, but I've been hiking for the past 2 weeks and had no internet.

      My basic answer about AtS is that I haven't watched it nearly as often as Buffy, nor given it as much thought. While my view could change in the future, at this point I don't feel like I have enough to add.

    2. I finished up the series last night. Just wanted to say thanks for your write-ups and analysis! They made a great companion as I went through the episodes. Now I'll have to go back and watch some "Angel" for the crossover eps that will have more meaning now.

      I'll miss Sunnydale and all its inhabitants, living or.....whatever.

    3. Thank you, both for reading and for commenting along the way.

      No need to miss Sunnydale, though -- there are always re-watches.

  16. Hi Mark!

    Just wanted to keep the praise train rolling. I'm so thankful to have come across your site during my second watch-through of Buffy. I had been playing along with the episode reviews over at the AV Club, although I was a few years late to the game then got frustrated when I couldn't find some of "Sophists" comments people were so excited about.

    Your analysis of the series is just amazing and makes it all that much more enjoyable than the awesomely enjoyable show it is at face value. I even find myself wanting to read more about existentialism which is probably not the expected outcome when you decide to watch the entirety of a show called Buffy (no really) the Vampire Slayer.

    I'm sure I'll be back because although I've read all of your posts I only started reading them along with my viewing for season 7 so I've definitely got a more in-depth re-watch coming.

    Maybe I haven't poked around on your site enough but have you posted your personal episode rankings?

    Thanks again for all the work and thought you put into this!

    1. Thank you! That's very nice.

      I'm sure that you would make Joss's day if you told him that you read up on existentialism because of him.

      A post on episode rankings is a possibility. A few years ago I sat down and put them all on a list. The problem is, my rankings change as I re-watch. :)

  17. If the series was ending, why would Emma Caulfield be in disputes with the network about returning?

    1. I'm not sure on the details, but the formal decision to end the show came fairly late, near the time when Chosen would have been written. In addition, there may have been talks about her in some other role, perhaps on AtS.

    2. Oh, that's interesting. So when writing it, Joss didn't know it would be the final season? Were there talks of an eighth?

    3. I think Joss did know, but others hadn't been told yet (SMG announced it fairly late and AH jumped all over her for not letting cast and support know before going public). No, I meant that EC may not have known for sure; because the situation was unsettled, there were various contingencies being discussed (who might go to AtS, a spinoff, etc.).

  18. Hi, Mark! As we begin 2017, I just wanted to say thank you for being a very bright spot for me in 2016. Your essays made my first full watch-through of the show so much more interesting and entertaining, and I appreciate you taking the time to put all of your amazing analysis down for latecomers to find and for continuing to interact with us!

    Now that I've seen every episode, I'm already plotting my rewatch. I'm planning to start "Welcome to the Hellmouth" in March on the 20th anniversary -- with your book in hand!

    1. That's wonderful. The kind words are great, and it's even better that you love the show so much.

  19. I'm several years late to the party but I have to comment so here goes.

    BtVS first aired when I was in high school (I'm a year younger than Buffy) and quickly became my favorite show. I watched seasons 1-5 without missing a beat but after I went to college, I didn't get the chance to watch seasons 6 and 7. Later, I re-watched my fave episodes from the other seasons several times, but still never finished the series. I think this is partly because I knew many fans ranked both seasons pretty low.

    Recently, however, I felt compelled to re-watch and finish the entire series. I started following the A.V. Club reviews and fortunately someone had posted a link to your site. All I can say is, wow! How I missed so much layered depth and metaphor before is beyond me. Thank you very much for these analyses, which have made my BtVS experience so much richer.

    Now my thoughts on the final two seasons. I absolutely loved the beginning of season 6, and, of course, OMWF. The rest of the season... well, I appreciate what Joss was trying to do, and I enjoyed some other episodes like Normal Again, but overall, I found the season hard to watch. Still, I do think the depiction of Buffy's depression (and the isolation from the rest of the SG) was right on point. After all, isn't depression a very real estrangement from one's heart, spirit, and mind?

    i went into season 7 with low expectations after reading so many fans' opinions of it being the worst season. Although I don't think it quite reaches the highs of previous seasons (like 2, 3, and 5), I really enjoyed it. And "Chosen" moved me in unexpected ways. I love your thoughts on empowerment. I think the show expertly portrayed the isolation and personal costs of being "chosen". But feeling so special, so "chosen," can also be intoxicating. It automatically makes others the "other", and, as Buffy admits in CWDP, it's easy to develop a slight superiority complex over it. And it absolutely becomes a part of identity, and then you think you deserve it. It's why, I think, privilege (white, male, American, etc.) is so hard to recognize. In the situations where it can be shared, it's even harder to do so.

    That's why I see Buffy's decision to empower others (and by doing so, empower herself) as a sacrifice as well as a gain. She will end the isolation of being the sole "Chosen" one, sure, but she also has to let go of the idea of being special, of being just a little (or a lot) more powerful than everyone else. And that's easier said than done. But she does it anyway and it's a beautiful scene and (IMO) a perfect way to end the series.

    Certainly the ending can be viewed as empowering women and I don't disagree with that interpretation. But I also see it as a message to all of us who enjoy social privilege in some way (especially male privilege) that sharing/sacrificing that privilege to empower others is what makes a hero heroic.

    Sorry for the novel length comment! Thanks again for your insightful analyses on such an important and amazing show.

    1. Thank you! Don't worry about being "late". That's why I leave the site up instead of just relying on the book. Feel free to comment on any of the episodes.

      I like S6 more than a lot of viewers do, judging by internet comments. As you can see, though, I have some problems with it. Despite my criticisms, I see it as a very daring season that took real risks, and I admire that.

      I love S7 and think it's a perfect ending for the show, so I'm happy to see someone else agree. :)