Saturday, January 9, 2016

BtVS: Doom: Season 7, Episodes 18-21

Covering from “Dirty Girls” to “The End of Days,” in which bleeeeeeeeeaaaagh

Know how bad this has gotten? It’s gotten so bad, not even Faith saves it. She tries, oh Lord how she does try, and she almost succeeds. Her taking the Potentials to the Bronze gives some desperately needed life and energy to those empty space-fillers to the point that some of them come dangerously close to exhibiting personalities. Throughout her first scene with Spike I practically screamed for her to grab he and Anya and flee the series. You could do it, Faith! Faith the Vampire Slayer was supposed to happen! Alas.
            Faith drops into the show with a much more lucid and compelling story—convincing everyone she has struggled with her past mistakes and indiscretions, allowing her to be an effective leader and even role model—than whatever is supposed to be Buffy’s story right now. Yet most of that story gets tossed into one scene, where the First shows up to her in the form of the Mayor to jab at her doubts and worries with its usual battle axe subtlety. Meanwhile we get plenty of scenes where Buffy shouts the same stuff about Leadership, War, and Death while basically nothing happens. Oh, there’s a scene where everyone is fleeing Sunnydale because of the bad vibes and “supernatural occurrences out in the open” or somesuch, but we see exactly none of that.
            Anyway, Nathan Fillion has arrived. While many of my fellows cheer any time and every time he shows up in anything, I’m indifferent. He shows up here as the First’s most devoted and powerful supplicant, and what is he? What form would befit the greatest devotee of the essence from which evil was created, that which cannot be defeated for it lives in the darkest impulses of every man, woman, and child? Well, see, he’s a girl killing preacher who speaks in the patois of rejected lines from a later-rejected Justified first draft.
            Imagine I’m squeezing the bridge of my nose in irritation and bafflement, because I am.
            Look, I get it, you want Buffy to have something with personality she can punch in this last stretch, and why shouldn’t that something be some sort of figure of patriarchy. So it almost feels insulting to make that figure this fucking cartoon devil-worshipping priest who’s one “Ah say Ah say” away from Foghorn Leghorn. Incidentally, the First is supposed to be some sort of gestalt evil-within-human-hearts thing, but why does it look like the Devil?
            Probably for the same reason everyone calls what is obviously an axe a “scythe.”
            The centerpiece of these episodes is Buffy leading an assault on a winery that gets two nameless Potentials killed (or perhaps named, the way one blurted out “Cor blimey!” before getting ganked makes me think it was Mollie), and costs Xander an eye. Significantly, Xander’s eye gets mentioned a lot more often than the dead girls. Anyway, they get their asses kicked, which prompts a big meeting where Buffy proposes they march right back in there. Because she thinks there’s probably probably something they’re hiding there. Instead, Faith gets voted leader, despite Buffy scolding that “democracy doesn’t win battles,” which is very convincing given how many her authoritarianism has won, and “this isn’t a popularity contest.” Losing the impromptu election she makes the hard choice and the sacrifice of leaving in a snit.
            Like I’ve said before, I always rather disliked Buffy’s war footing, but this leader who should be followed because they are the leader and they swear, guys, seriously, they swear, they have very, very good reasons for sending troops in there, how dare you, how dare you doubt them is the sourest build up to the Iraq invasion horseshit I can recall. Everyone doesn’t turn on Buffy because they’re scared weaklings who lack f…fealty. They do because this Buffy is bad at leading, really, really fucking bad.
            Anyway, for having the temerity of doubting Buffy’s amazing plan to go back right to where they already lost, the Potentials led by Faith end up in a trap that nearly gets them all killed. One nameless Potential gets very slowly caught and scratched to I guess death while the rest look on and do nothing to stop it, valorous lot they are, bang up training job. Buffy, however, also gets nearly killed in a trap except the First lets her go, so I guess it’s a wash. She finds the axe everyone calls “scythe,” saves everyone (this being something the character remains good at). Or everyone by that one Potential that Kennedy practically tossed at the ultravamps, I guess.
            Then it’s all about the axe. Everyone’s talking about the axe. First off, as I’ve said repeatedly, they keep calling it a “scythe.” Second, it looks very silly, owing to its apparent origins in a comic series Whedon wrote but I, at least, never read, so it’s hard to care about this inanimate object. But that’s where the energy gets invested—Xander and Anya have had virtually nothing to do all season because we’ve been focused on Firsts and Potentials and now a goddamn axe.
            Even better than all the time it takes up is that the axe also leads to a last-minute and needless reveal of an allegedly significant bit of lore, the existence of the Guardians (or more properly, the Guardian), apparently immortal matrons who distrusted the Watchers, made the axe, and have been watching the Slayer, and yeah, I chose that word on purpose, because this is buuuuuuuulllshiiiiiit! Episode #143 of 144, and you’re going to try to reveal the real allies, only they didn’t intervene because they “couldn’t until now,” and just because the Watchers are dicks and the Guardian is a woman, I’m supposed to buy it? The Watchers were dicks, patriarchal, paternalistic dicks, but they were also actually there, and many of them, we hear, actually died getting their charges to safety while this crone archetype sat in a fucking pyramid in California. “We, unlike those evil men, wanted to help and protect you, so we made this secret weapon, put it in a rock, buried the rock, told no one, and sat around for thousands of years while you, personally, fended off five or six apocalypses and died twice, and then I waited here even after you found this thing I’m still inexplicably calling a scythe despite the fact that scythes aren’t weapons, they’re farming implements, for you to come to me.” Screw you, old ass hippie lady, you ain’t done shit, you don’t even know Buffy’s fucking name! Early Buffy was, as I’ve noted, very smart about its feminism, but this, the Wicca shit, and the goddamn girl killer priest are fucking dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb ass fuck dumb.
            Luckily, Fillion shows up to kill the old hippie lady, and then Angel shows up to help kill Fillion. Angel arriving is actually great—it’s really the first real indication in these episode that anyone realizes the show is ending so they need to start putting a final stamp on stories or elements. But wait, what’s this? Spike sees Buffy and Angel making out, and the First starts goading him again? Going into the finale, that will cause some issues.
            When the mountain is chipped away, the first second of eternity will have passed.

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