I've finished Buffy. Whew.
Okay, Season 7. I had only watched two or three episodes of S7 when it was on TV. Having watched the whole thing from start to finish, I find that S7 is better than I remembered. Better than S6, barely.
But it still is unsatisfying, especially in comparison with S1-5. Why?
1. Impoverished narrative. Compared to previous seasons of the show, especially S2 and 3, the narrative density of S7 is thin gruel. One of the things that amazed me when I watched the early seasons of BtVS for the first time was the show's narrative richness. In almost every episode, there are multiple plot arcs unfolding simultaneously: the arc of the episode itself, the overall season arc, and usually a couple of character arcs, relationships waxing or waning, characters growing or imploding. And the arcs all played off one another. It was quite remarkable to watch the gears of the Buffyverse mesh together. I don't think I'd seen anything quite like it before. One of the results of this was very little wasted space: every line, almost every movement meant something, contributed to the overall thrust and meaning of the episode, the season, the overarching concept of the show. Every element of every episode was freighted with meaning.
S7, by comparison, seems anemic. There's only one real narrative going on, the conflict with the First. The major relationships have run their course. There's nothing more to say about Xander and Anya, or Spike and Buffy. Or even Angel and Buffy. Those relationships feel like a joke that has continued past its punch line. Willow's great love is gone, and it's disappointing how easily she seems to acquire a new lover with barely a thought of Tara. Willow is supposed to be having to cope with using her magic properly, but we see little of any struggle after her first couple of episodes.
Some episodes seem to achieve almost nothing in 50 minutes of air time. "Touched" is like that. Lots of talk, very little action, and neither the action nor the talk accomplishes much. The writers seem to be doing no more than killing time.
2. Inadequate use of cast. The 'potentials' never come into their own. None of them get the kind of rich characterization that one expects from the BtVS cast. Even Kennedy is little more than Willow's girl-toy.
Worse, the potentials never act like potentials. Though most of the season they do little more than whine and cower. WTF? Even normal teenagers are known for their insane risk-taking behavior. And these are potential slayers, rare individuals who have the potential to become superhuman, martial-arts-using killers of the undead. Buffy should not have to baby them or cheerlead them. The potentials should be a basket full of saber-tooth tiger kittens, all too eager to get out of the house and Fight Evil. Buffy's problem should be in having to restrain them and prevent them from getting in over their heads, not the opposite.
3. Lopsided homoerotic politics. Lesbians (Willow and Kennedy) are cute and romantic. Gay males (Andrew) are comic relief. Look, I'm your usual het male who'd rather see girls kissing than boys. But even I can see there's a double standard going on here.
4. Shallow regional bigotry. Arrrgggh. Must everyone with a Southern US accent be evil? Hollywood is the Bluest of the Blue State enclaves, and its cultural politics are parochial in the extreme: everyone from another part of the country must be either dumb and naive (Riley) or misogynistic and evil (Caleb), or the First Evil itself (Eve). And a male clergyman with a Southern accent must be the evilest evily evil you can ever imagine! Criminy, Hollywood. Grow up. Don't kill the painted bird.
Caleb is a embarrassing stereotype. It can be done much better. Carnivale's Brother Justin Crowe is an example of how to do a nuanced, fascinating evil churchman.
5. "Does the hero kill the villain, or does God?" This, according to classic pulp writing advice, is what a writer must ask themselves of their story's climax. It won't be satisfying to the reader unless the hero's efforts are redeemed by his killing the villain. But Buffy doesn't eliminate the threat of the First: Spike does. All that business with the +5 Scythe of Whatever, the godhead of Willow, the diffusion of Slayer powers, all of it is a huge McGuffin that counts for nothing, because without Spike and the medallion it all would have been in vain. What the hell? The heroine of a supposedly feminist action show can't even kill the Big Bad at the end of her own show? She has to have a guy do it for her? Say it ain't so, Joss.
Was S7 really that bad?
There were good things about it. I liked the reappearance of Faith. I've never been much of a Faith fan, but she was a compelling presence during the second half of the season, perhaps because the rest of the cast seemed so irresolute. Faith had a refreshing no-nonsense attitude. She had the same attitude during S3, but at that time it was tainted by a depressing nihilism that wasn't so apparent in S7. I really liked seeing her thrust into a position of command when the potentials threw out Buffy. Here is someone who has been no more than a cynical hedonist her entire life, who suddenly finds she has responsibility for other peoples' lives. A chance for growth! Knowledge! Epiphany! Alas, the writers let it peter away.
Occasional episodes are good. "Conversations with Dead People" is outstanding. I also liked "Storyteller." Andrew had a lot of potential as a character, that was only partly realized. Principal Wood, OTOH, never convinced me that he was anything more than an actor acting. In general, the first half of the season was better than the second.
Two continuity questions:
1. Was it ever explained what happened to the troll hammer that Buffy used on Glory? Why couldn't she have used it on Caleb, who wasn't even the equal of Glory?
2. Why isn't there another slayer? If a slayer is activated each time a slayer dies (Buffy -> Kendra -> Faith), then another slayer should have been activated when Buffy died at the end of S5. Where is she?
捕鯨== hogei == (noun) whaling
|Left radical is 'fish' (魚). Right radical is 'capital' (京), acting phonetically to express 'big'. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'The whale is a capital fish.'|