Buffy Flashback

I’m as excited about Joss Whedon’s season eight of Buffy comics (though not as excited as I am about his run on the X-Men) as the next person still mourning the show. Jeff Jensen chats with Whedon about it in EW, which is also lovely, but I must call attention to this one wrong-headed bit at the beginning of the piece:

And save for that love it/hate it sixth season, the show never failed to deliver the goods.

I really, really hope that when Jensen says this, he’s acknowledging that in a good and true universe season seven wouldn’t even exist. It was TERRIBLE. Or has the collective wisdom on this changed? I fear going back to watch it. And while I’m in the camp of loving most of season six (yes, the magic = drugs subplot and what happened to Tara were wrong, but the musical was so very, very right), I still kind of feel like the end of five was the real finale. I will stop now.

21 thoughts on “Buffy Flashback”

  1. I feel like all I ever do here is agree with people. I think you’re right. Season 7 left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t look back on the show as fondly as I used to. And the last episode specifically was an awful end to a good show.
    Six had a lot of flaws, but you’re right in that it had some really great moments.
    I tend to think of most series that go for that long having similar arcs. They tend to peak for me at Seasons 2-4 almost consistently and then go downhill from there.

  2. I remember being completely disappointed by Buffy season 7, especially compared to what was going on with Angel season 4. It seemed like as Angel got better, Buffy got worse. Of Season 7, I liked the Anya episode, and the Andrew episode, and the rest I could really do without.
    However, I only started watching Buffy during Season 6, so I just can’t accept Season 5 as the real finale.

  3. I thought season 7 started off very strong. “Conversations With Dead People” is as fine an episode as any the show produced. Unfortunately, the show experienced a vertiginous drop in quality right after that episode. A lot of interesting plot threads were dropped and dumbed down, and the series’ resolution was far less than it could have been.
    That said, I think terrible is going quite a bit too far in describing the season. It’s not perfect, and no less fundamentally flawed that season 6 was, but I’d still rate it above the soporific season 4.

  4. That’s really interesting, Abigail — I’m not exaggerating when I say I found most of it unwatchably bad. I would cringe and change back and forth between Gilmore Girls and it. My memories of it are wooden acting, even more wooden writing, and Buffy being forced to speechify endlessly. That said, there are bits of the last episode I really, really liked. I want someone to make a “watch these bits of season 7” list and then I’d rewatch, but even Nathan Fillon (aka Captain Tight Pants) disappointed me! I’ve never talked to anyone prior to this who thought the season was worth defending, which is why Jensen’s line took me by surprise. Oh well. Mileage. Variable.
    Rajan and Bill: Mostly agree, especially about Angel. It was sad to that show go down just as it had found a fitting new voice.

  5. I haven’t rewatched Season 7 since it aired, but my recollection is that it was pretty good until the potential Slayers showed up, and it was pretty bad after that.

  6. I want someone to make a “watch these bits of season 7” list and then I’d rewatch
    Oh, God, you would say this at one o’clock in the morning, wouldn’t you?
    Truthfully, it’s been too long since I sat down and watched the season for me to remember specific scenes. From what I recall, most of the time it was a fairly even mixture of good bits and bad (the speechifying, heavy-duty Spike woobie-fication, too much emphasis on the potential Slayers). “The Killer in Me,” for example, is a terrible episode because it cements the Willow/Kennedy relationship, but it also finds an interesting way of dealing with Willow’s grief and guilt over Tara’s death, and the conceit of putting Willow in Warren’s body is nothing short of brilliant, not to mention beautifully carried off by both actors and editors.
    I thought Nathan Fillion did a good job with a thankless, stereotyped role. He was genuinely scary, if only because he could, and did, hurt our heroes, but the misogyny angle was hopelessly overplayed.

  7. I was annoyed by lots of Season 7 also – but that moment in the final episode where the camera flashed on all of those girls suddenly getting powerful – the girl playing baseball, the one on the floor in a defensive position and I recall one suddenly putting her hand up and stopping a fist that was aimed at her face – well, that was stellar. I loved it. I loved the idea of Buffy no longer just being “the one”. And I also liked the follow-up on Angel the next season with the girl in the asylum who became a Slayer and how it affected her (and Andrew at the end taking her away with “none of these slayers have slept with you Angel” – too funny).
    I also thought Spike’s moment of redemption in teh finale was pretty cool and the reverse Han/Leia moment between him and Buffy – “I love you” – “no you don’t”. Nicely done.

  8. Well, just to toss my “its a big world out there” two cents in: I quite liked all of the seasons of Buffy, and quite disliked (though there are episodes) all of the seasons of Angel. So, I guess I disagree with you all. I’ll not go on and on about it (because, I am surprised to discover, I find that reactionary and upsetting), but this “it’s good” and “it’s terrible” thing has to stop. It’s subjective.

  9. It’s somewhat subjective and certainly no one is — or would — deny any one person or even a whole bunch of people the right to like/love all or part of season seven of Buffy. Even I will concede that it did have some moments. (The bad far outweighs the good for me, unfortunately, and I am still not backing off TERRIBLE unless and until I feel compelled to rewatch it and change my mind. I do concede that sometimes you need distance to be able to truly give a season of television a fair chance. Fans can be wrong, and brutally so. And, yes, of course we all love Andrew.)
    That said, I do think it’s possible to take a tough look at how successful something is artistically and come up with some sort of (always, always arguable and negotiable at the individual level) consensus on quality. I remember season seven being an abomination (as Justine says) and was honestly wondering if there was an alternate universe out there of people who thought it of the same quality as the rest of the show. Apparently there is — sorta.
    I still blame Marti Noxon. And I’m still mad that season wasn’t good.
    Besides: What are blogs for if not the occasional visit into reactionary and upsetting territory?

  10. p.s. Mr. Cavin: CONGRATULATIONS!!! Sending presents now to the lovely bride and groom.
    Thanks and goody. Only, send ’em fast or send them to Kentucky (for we arrive back in the US in a matter of some twenty days). Speaking of that–rumor has it there is a package in the kitty at the office right now, and I should find out what that is tomorrow when Sunshine gets off work. Thanks in advance.
    Re: Buffy. Well, I don’t know if it is good or bad, and I am not sure how artistic success is to be measured. Certainly, no one was talking about canceling the show, and advertisers were still paying up. I don’t know too much abut the need for a hard look at the quality, either. But here goes: I do know that I found the final season uncomfortable and challenging, and I really appreciate the emotional arc where characters who have grown into people I no longer love suffer the indelible weight of the aching ramifications of the things that have been happening to them for years (not to mention the crazy-making effect of the rising hell). Now, I am not saying that this was a pleasant season to watch, but I still appreciate how complex these characters became, and how the show was never content to waddle only within the formula that once worked. After seventy eight seasons of mind-numbing Cosby, I feel like this may be quite a consideration of quality.
    And why is Marti Noxon to blame? She’d been writing Buffy since season two, and fulfilled Greenwalt’s Angel credit on Buffy after season three. Joss was still very much in charge of Buffy all the way till the (bitter) end, and I suspect he’d be the person who should be garnering any blame or whatever.

  11. Re: Judging artistic success, I always try to determine what the intention is and how well the thing succeeds at it.
    I’ll give that season another look at some point based on your and Abigail’s protests. I thought season six was challenging and complicated in terms of characterization (mostly), but didn’t see it in seven.
    I’d always had the impression that Marti Noxon was basically running things on that final season, although I know publicly Whedon has never acknowledged this (and he’d be too classy to throw someone under the bus). Could be true, could not be true… but the blame is routinely laid at her feet by lots of the peeps. (But, hey, she wrote What’s My Line 1 and 2, two of my favorite episodes.)
    There is a package — the long lost birthday contest books and some other stuff.

  12. I still haven’t recovered from the bitter disappointments of Seasons 6 and 7. Okay, there were a few decent episodes (the musical, most memorably), but overall I found the writing quality surprisingly poor and there were just too many incidents of character development that were not properly rooted in the careful character evolutions of the five previous seasons. The editor in me wanted to red pencil 90 percent of the scripts and send them back for further work. A sad demise for a once-brilliant show.

  13. That’s pretty much how I feel, Terri — though I liked some parts of season six very much. I just remember seven being shockingly flat. I’m actually kind of curious to rewatch it now, maybe at some point over the holidays, but I also fear it will make me bitter anew. We rewatched Season 3 not long ago and it was even better than I remembered.

  14. Maybe TV shows just can’t sustain themselves past the fifth season. I point to Gilmore Girls as further evidence, and how the sixth season started out so promisingly, and then slid into a black hell of despair and hackneyed cliches that it simply couldn’t claw its way out of. In this case, it probably is a very good thing that Angel was cancelled when it was.
    In defense of Season 7, though: if you rewatch it, you sort of realize that there’s a lot of political commentary going on. Similar to what Angel was doing at the same time with the idea of beneficent colonization, Buffy’s last season became almost a metaphor for the war on terror. Hence Buffy’s incessant (Bush-like) speechifyin’. But the acting was wooden, and I got the impression from most of the principals that they were counting the days until they could ditch the franchise forever. And Nathan Fillion was incredibly disappointing, mostly because of the writing.

  15. I hated Season 7 when it first aired. I think part of that was due to scheduling problems…it had a slightly shortened season if I recall right and there were constant repeats that really hurt the arc.
    I was “forced” to re-watch it about 2 years later with Clint during our Buffy marathon (all 7 seasons back to back on DVD) and I found myself appreciating S7 much more the second time around. I thought it tied up the story much better than I originally thought, and I liked Whedon’s way of giving Buffy a new life, even if I didn’t particularly care for baby slayers. And I loved Spike at the end, but I was always a Spike fan, through all of his phases.
    After doing the marathon, season 6 emerged as my favorite of all of them, even topping season 3. I think I just like dark and adult Buffy better.

  16. to me what is bad about both season six and seven (and is ultimately the major problem with buffy overall) is that, largely because of season 7, there is no overall thematic arc to the series as a whole. each season should have been a chapter in an overall story, and i think up until season four or five, they were right on track for this. the series lost its way as soon as the writers stopped concerning themselves with the grand scheme of things. (like, “what is this show about?”) i think if season 7 had pulled everything together, the dreary badness of season six could MAYBE have still worked in hindsight. unfortunately, season 7 has mostly nothing to do with anything. instead of tying anything together, it introduces lame villains, plotlines that go nowhere (see also: DAWN), and a bunch of lame-o slayerettes in dumb outfits. (wardrobing was never a strong suit on this show to start with.) i think a big part of the problem, thinking back, was that the fate of the show was up in the air for much of season 7. at different points, to my recollection, they were toying with the ideas of doing a Faith spinoff, a Dawn spinoff, and a Slayer In Training spinoff. Instead of trying to wrap up the show, the producers seemed like they were caroming aimlessly from one spinoff setup to the next.
    also, a few unrelated points: i have a problem with the fact that buffy (the character) turned out to be a total rainy day in the end. i know they were trying to make a point about the burdens of responsibility etc, but for the sake of the viewer, please! we have followed this character for seven years, and in the end, it turns out to be a story of her journey to total bitchdom. stupid and sad. finally, i thought it was a major cop out to pull the GIRL POWER card at the end. Despite the fact that buffy is a powerful girl, it was never the point of the show, and the way they suggested otherwise in the finale was, to me, quite condescending. Ok i have to stop thinking about this.

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