Wednesday, January 13, 2016

BtVS: Doom: Season 7, “Chosen”

Covering “Chosen,” in which The End.

A woman after my own heart.
            Well, that sort of obligates me to start off on a negative foot, doesn’t it? Anya’s death is bullshit. It’s weak. And I don’t mean colloquially “weak,” the opposite of “dope” or “diesel,” I mean lacking in strength, a cheap and empty grab at some stakes and significance and emotional heft too obvious in its manipulations and machinations to be effective, and is more than a little insulting to the character, depending on your sensitivity (mine is set to High). She isn’t reaching the end of her story, tragic or otherwise (Anya has had precious little story in season 7 anyway), and there are no reverberations or ramifications in her loss. She dies a virtually unremarked upon fodder death, seemingly just because it’s the series finale so someone should die, right? And rather than really cutting to the bone and charting out a story that calls upon Xander or Willow or Giles to pay the ultimate price, the show tries to avoid wussing out by killing no one, and ends up wussing out harder because of how pointless Anya’s death is. Xander gives her a patronizing “That’s my girl,” and less than a minute later he’s making dumbass jokey quips about poor taste stores. Anya deserved much, much, much better than that.
            Spike dies, too, but since even in 2003 we already knew he would be on Angel, that sort of dulls the impact.
            “Chosen,” Buffy’s final finale, faces a unique set of issues, wholly self-created, that no other finale I could think of needed to face—it needs to complete the season’s story while paying tribute to what came before. And those two things, honestly, don’t sit together very well. The show has changed considerably and palpably, in that, well, it’s no longer fun, or breezy, or clever. It’s dour, and everything’s dire. The chemistry and alchemy has been thrown off. Yet “Chosen” valiantly tries to pretend otherwise, and starts finishing stories I honestly didn’t know I was watching, which is sort of understandable, but still baffling. Buffy reaches a conclusion on her relationship status. Spike finally learns he is worthy of his soul. Anya grapples with fear. Willow faces her weakness and temptation and uses magic again. Xander...gets shafted again, sorry Xander. Regardless, those are all pretty good conclusions to stories…that are almost completely divorced from what we’ve been watching.
            Angel’s return, as it must, prompts Buffy to examine the state of her love life, leading to the Cookie Dough speech, except that this season has been almost singularly uninterested in Buffy and romantic relationships. Additionally, Angel brought along a magical doo-dad from his show that’s supposed to help in the final battle. So, yes, we have not one but two very significant inanimate items to spend time on, and I recall when Angel got this magical doo-dad amulet on his show—Wolfram and Hart just gave it to him. Anyway, the amulet must be worn by someone with a soul who is stronger than a human it’s for Spike, okay? He doesn’t bother pretending to not see through this. Buffy, though, asserts it belongs to a champion, and Spike briefly hangs his head before Buffy gives it to him, because she’s insisted he had good in him since “Sleeper,” fifteen episodes ago. Later, when the amulet is doing whatever it does, he enthuses that he can feel his soul, it really is there. Was that an issue? It doesn’t even really work as a poetic excess, the show hasn’t given Spike much opportunity to ruminate or explore if his soul hasn’t made him good. Anya grappled with fear at the end of season 5, and if we’re meant to see that this time she does so without thoughts of Xander and marriage so it’s more meaningful, well, nothing in the text really supports that. And Willow, of course, has been casting spells all season.
            Rolling back to cookie dough for a sec. Besides having little connection to anything the show has been about in a long time, I know a lot of people really like the Cookie Dough speech, but I…I just don’t. It takes a fairly simply concept—that Buffy doesn’t think she’s really ready for a proper relationship—and smears cutsey frosting all over it in an effort to make it seem like a profound breakthrough and statement, while also forcing a pair of cunnilingus jokes. Someone blundering into an unintended double entendre is some classic Buffy, except the cookie dough analogy isn’t so much a blundering as it is an extremely obvious setup for her to say “eat me.” And like I said, she’s expressing a simple idea, and she’s going on about cookie dough—this is a close cousin to the sort of pomposity Buffy used to love skewering. But then, a lot of classic Buffy fails to work here. The quipping has been off all season, primarily I feel after going back to season 2, because it’s not a mask for a character’s fear anymore, so they mostly come off as smugly performing. “Chosen” tries to lighten things up, even recreating the scene between Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles than ended “The Harvest” way back when, but to no avail, because this show isn’t that show anymore. The gang plays some D&D, except it’s not the gang, it’s Giles and Xander with Anya asleep, and Andrew and Amanda (sadly, two of the better characters introduced at this late stage).
            But there is one thing that works great in “Chosen,” and that’s the real end of Buffy’s (TV) story, because it is one we have been watching. It’s not the story of Buffy leading her army into battle, that’s actually pretty disastrous, seeing as she and everyone else was about to get eaten when Spike’s doo-dad started doing its thing. The plan of attack here is really tactically unsound to begin with, and by the by, Whedon is aware that the ultravamps have even more wildly fluctuating power levels than normal here, considering Anya, who wielded a bat with like Shelley Duvall in The Shining, killed two in a row. But, see, he was more focused on the storytelling, which, looking at this I can only say “Nah, man. Nah.”
            Anyway, sorry, get negative again for a minute, took too many ques from Wood who negs Faith into fucking him again, isn’t it nice that he survives. Sorry! Did it yet again. Anyway, no, what I do find actually effective is Buffy’s plan to activate all the Potentials. Mechanically, it’s garbage, requiring the axe and Willow to do some silly acting to convey a sense of awe, and also highlights the stupidity of the First’s scheme, since the montage of empowered girls shows how much killing it has left to do before Buffy and/or Faith is the last, those Little Leaguers can be wily. And some might wonder if Buffy has, in fact, conscripted girls all over the world into her nightly war (at the same time, there have been enough people with no powers, from the Watchers to the Initiative to Willow, Xander, and Anya, who have taken up that nightly war that I don’t think you can call it that).
            Still, this has been a story we watched unfold over 7 seasons—no matter what, no matter how close she gets to her family and friends, no matter how close they get to her, she is the Slayer and, in the end, carries that burden alone. We saw that story, and finally in “Chosen,” it comes to an end with Buffy no longer alone, her burden now truly shared. For her, at least, it’s a happy ending. In the end, the show puts the focus exactly where it should be.
            It was, after all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

            Apex Episode: The sort of mostly successful “Selfless.”
            Nadir Episode: The miresome “Get It Done.”
            Season 4 Costuming Theory Check In: Eh, nothing that stands out too much.

No comments:

Post a Comment