Mar 17 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Counting down from three... two... one...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched

“Touched” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner  

The wind-up of the last TV season of BtVS has truly begun by the time we get to “Touched,” which opens with an immense meeting that is all Scoob and no Slay. Everyone’s gathered except Buffy, Spike, and Andrew. Buffy, of course, got the boot last week, and Spike would have made the Scooby uprising far more difficult, what with his enormous powers of guilt-tripping. Andrew’s absence is simply a bonus.

The topic of this meeting, mostly, isn’t who do they fight or how do they win so much as it is who’s in charge, and how do they decide things? I hate this kind of thing in real life, and am practically getting hives just watching it now. Mercifully, Faith points out that they’re all exhausted and scared and should maybe adjourn to bed. Great idea! Except then the power goes out, creating a new bubble of panic. 

The good news is the sudden onset darkness isn’t a prelude to an attack. The bad news is that the power company has given up on electrifying Sunnydale.

Elsewhere, Buffy is telling a gun-toting homeowner to get the heck out of Dodge while she takes over his house.

Over at the mission where many monks met their miserable murderous end at the mitts of Caleb, Spike and Andrew are waiting for night to fall so they can motorcycle back to the group. Spike is antsy because, as usual, he’s worried about Buffy. It’s safe to say a Scooby coup isn’t the ill he expects to befall her.

(I’ll buy that the monks don’t have a land line, but why not send Andrew out with twenty-five cents in search of a pay phone, Spike? What’s the worst that can happen, really? He doesn’t come back?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Faith

Faith, meanwhile, has come up with the beginnings of a plan: catch a Bringer, squeeze it for info, use said info, and win! Kennedy kicks up a bit of a fuss, because she’d much rather go to the high school and throw body fluids at the seal of Danzalthar. But Faith is done with consensus building. She points out the obvious—she’s the boss of them—and starts talking strategy. Perhaps by way of empowering Kennedy, she sends her out with the Bringer-grabbing team—as bait!

It turns out that Bringers rip their tongues out, but Dawn has found a spell that will overcome that particular barrier to conversation. Go Dawn! Progress may be slow, but everyone seems to feel like things are moving forward.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, First, Caleb

And they are: plans are being enacted under the evil vineyard, too. Caleb and the First have an army of Bringers digging something out of the rock. Despite being blind, they’re not digging in the wrong place. Firstie warns Caleb that Buffy darn well better not get her mitts on whatever they’re excavating. I say leave it where it is, then. The only thing dumber than digging it up is erecting a neon sign saying “Check out what we found!” Or, possibly, telling the Slayer you have something of hers and then digging it up. Or maybe looking into the Ark of the Covenant. (Hey, at this point we don’t know what’s in there.)

At this point, Spike and Andrew return to Chez Slay and learn about the ousting of Buffy. Spike hits the group with an enormous dose of the truth as he sees it, calling them sad, ungrateful traitors and then exchanging a few recreational punches with Faith. Finally he stomps off and goes scenting after Buffy. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Spike, Faith

No, really, he tracks her by smell! The limited access to shower facilities at Ravello Drive has a sudden unexpected payoff.

The Scoobies, especially the Willow part of the gang, may feel a little guilty in the wake of Spike’s outburst, but what can they do? Recant? Apologize? No. They get on with making the Bringer speak. The spell takes over Andrew’s mind, and I have to say his low-key performance as a sock puppet of evil is just about my favorite bit of Tom Lenk acting in this season. He’s sort of malevolent and pathetic. Wormy—which Andrew is too—but in a very unAndrew-like way.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Willow, Andrew, Kennedy, Giles, Xander

Bringers are not overly clever, so this one gives them a wide-ranging summary of their activities. One line item is “building an arsenal beneath the dirt.” That’s a promising target, right? The arsenal is located and a plan of attack comes together. Faith starts to realize that this time it’s her, not Buffy, who’s going to be the one ordering teenaged girls into a battle they won’t all walk away from. But hey, no pressure.

Spike finds Buffy, who is crushed by the gang’s rejection. She’s also not at all interested in his attempts to jolly her up. I see in this a bit of an echo of her catatonia at the end of S5—once again, she’s hit the edge of what she can endure, or at least she thinks so. And once again, it’s going to take a heck of a pep talk to snap her out of it. She is really feeling low.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Faith, Mayor

But why have one demoralized Slayer if you can get them both in that state? The First comes to Faith, and naturally it’s wearing the form of the Mayor. I’m happy to see him, and I’m sure all of you are too. He tries to play on Faith’s not-so-fluffy feelings about Buffy, bringing up their past, and working to set them on each other.

Spike is no born cheerleader. Even so, he eventually becomes frustrated enough by Buffy’s don’ wanna, don’ hafta attitude that he breaks out into a passionate and remarkably well-written speech about how, essentially, he sees her, he knows her, and he understands exactly how awesome she is. Then he tells her to get some sleep, and she nigh-on breaks his heart by asking him to stay with her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Spike

They snuggle up, kind of carefully, as if they’re both made of glass. Awww!

Robin finds Faith just as the First is leaving. She’s rattled, but she trusts him with the truth, and he’s able to help a bit. Then things get romantic. Before she pounces on him, she takes a second to ask if she’s out of line. Oh, Faith. That is so grown-up and responsible of you!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Faith, Robin

And, speaking of sex, Kennedy has arranged for her and Willow to get some intimacy time. Willow’s nervous at first, since it’s all too easy to imagine this going in a direction that will lead to her trying to destroy the planet or at the very least see if Andrew can hack life without an epidermis. Kennedy says she’ll keep her grounded and smoochies ensue.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Willow

XandAnya, meanwhile, do not have sex. Ditto Giles, Dawn, Andrew and most if not all of the Slayettes. Anya is hilariously bitter about how she’s not getting any.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Anya, Xander

And Buffy gets some sleep while Spike more or less treasures the moment and marvels at the trust.

We get a little interlude next, where the First, as Buffy, expresses a bit of envy over these (literally) touching moments. That ability to connect makes it jealous... even if its idea of connecting is to break someone’s neck. Caleb’s take on this boils down to, “Yuck, people are filthy animals who will give you cooties. Don’t be weird, okay?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, First, Caleb

Come morning, final prep for the assault on the arsenal begins. Faith sends Willow, Xander, Dawn and Giles to check on Buffy. Dawn questions the why of this, but doesn’t outright object. Faith also treats Robin like every other disposable boy she’s every boinked: don’t call me, hon, and I won’t call you. Okay, so there’s still some learning to be done there.

At some point in the night Spike must have fallen asleep, because Buffy has crept out of the borrowed house, leaving him a note which presumably says “Your feet are still cold, and also I’m going back to the vineyard.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, Spike

What Buffy has figured out is that she is much much faster than Caleb. She hits him with a bit of a taunt and then sprints around the barrel room, letting him merrily bash fine French oak to wet fruity splinters. In time, he accidentally reveals a secret trapdoor to the sub-basement. Look! The Bringers have just finished unearthing and polishing her Slayer Scythe. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched, scythe

Ooh, she thinks. Pretty.

As for the arsenal assault, Faith does some good leading and the Slayettes take out a number of Bringers. Everything goes great until it turns out that Team Evil was smart enough to not only leave explosives on the scene, but to not include “We built a bomb” on Andrew’s random list of bad guy activities. Faith finds the device just seconds before it goes off.

Not long ago I threw a question to my various social networks: what is the dumbest show you will happily rewatch? (Mine, incidentally, was Alias.) Answers included Gilligan’s Island, Xena, Hercules, The Legendary Journeys, two thirds of the Stargates and Sinbad. (Feel free to share your candidates.)

A few people did say Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and I have to admit I was surprised. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched

I knew there’d be some disagreement about the yardstick for dumb—don’t get me wrong. It’s an inherently subjective judgment. But I rather imagined that something most fans would agree on was that BtVS, even in its least stellar moments, was pretty clever.

This episode is a case in point. It’s a workhorse, but at this point in the ark—as you’ve all mentioned—things are getting plot coupon-y. The previously unmentioned Scythe has turned up to ease certain story problems—like the Turok-Han infestation and Buffy’s total isolation—along, and in one short episode Angel and his lips are going to turn up with a certain handy amulet. The cast has gotten unmanageably big, and the overall tone, the mix of fun and drama, is just not up to the standards of S2 or S3.  

Even now, though, BtVS is talking about the importance of connection and trust, and misogyny. It’s digging into the various meanings of “It’s about power.” Anya’s making us laugh and Faith’s growing up. I would argue that, barring a handful of episodes, there was a lower than average level of dumb on seven years of this show than in most. And that’s why we’ve hung in, I suspect, through “End of Days,” which might arguably be considered another mixed bag, and on from there to the utter awesomeness that is “Chosen.”

But first, or rather next: Kaboom! 

A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth of fiction up here on! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second of The Gales, "The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti, in early March!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
XandAnya, meanwhile, do not have sex.

Uh, yeah they do. It's just AFTER the moan about it some more. But there's a shot of Anya on top ripping off Xander's shirt in the "touchy" montage.
2. James2
Spike and Buffy's conversation remains one of Season 7's highlights.

It's easily my favorite Spike moment of the entire series.
3. Dianthus
@2. Right there with ya, tho' I have so many favorite Spike moments I'd be hard-pressed to choose.

Really didn't care for most of the sexy stuff in this ep. Didn't feel Kennillow at all; Raith, meh...Xanya at least had a history.

I used to think, like many others (?) that there was no Spuffy sex in this ep 'cuz of the AR. Now I wonder...they're fast approaching a metaphorical/metaphysical union, and more likely Joss just didn't want anything to lessen its impact. Sigh.
OTOH, there was a certain amount of upset just over this, never mind they're fully clothed and they've totally forgiven each other their trespasses.
On the other, other hand (Sunnydale, after all), I'm of two minds on this scene. During the night, their roles change and it's Buffy who's comforting Spike. They even contrive to make her look bigger than him (not easy, and he's not even a big guy). Spike's been thru a rough time of it, and in need of comforting himself, but it's a reminder (like we need one) that she's really the strong one.

There are echoes of s2 (Spike to Buffy: "I'm all you've got.") and s6 in here as well as The Weight of the World. Buffy allowing Spike to comfort her, without resistance, is a pretty big step for her. Talk about learning. Then too, given that Joss compared her mental state in s6 to clinical depression, she was, technically speaking, crazy. She wasn't talking in riddles or naming all the stars, but crazy just the same.

Slightly OT: in The Freshman, Buffy's soon-to-be-dead new friend mentions W. Somerst Maugham's Of Human Bondage. It's the story of Philip Carey. He's orphaned as a young boy (like the author), spends a year or so with his aunt and uncle, who then send him off to boarding school. Reading is his escape. Later in life, he falls hard for a woman named Mildred. She is cold to him. A few short quotes struck me as appropriate:

* "He would rather have misery with one than happiness with the other."
Spike will express a similar sentiment in one of the comix.

* "Oh, it's always the same, she sighed, "if you want men to behave well to you , you must be beastly to them; if you treat them decently they make you suffer for it."
Buffy would never say this aloud, but it pretty much sums up her experience with men.

* "It might be that to surrender to hapiness is to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories."

Aaarrrggggggghhh! Angel lips! Lips of Angel! Farking bastidge.
4. Dianthus
OT: I watched the Veronica Mars movie yesterday. Even if you've never seen the show, I'd recommend it. If you have seen the show, I think you'll love it as much as I did.
5. Alex C.
But I rather imagined that something most fans would agree on was that BtVS, even in its least stellar moments, was pretty clever.
I agree completely.

Insofar as BtVS contained 'dumb' moments from episode to episode, for the most part I think that it was a very self-aware dumbness, and the creators almost always knew how to poke fun and laugh at their own work. By itself that's not very special - if Buffy had just been a genre parody show, it never would have become genuinely iconic in the way that it did. What really made it soar was that they also knew how to treat the important moments of the show (i.e. the ones that really mattered to the characters) with complete seriousness, and those two things complemented, rather than contradicted, each other.

(Also, anybody who ever says that BtVS is a dumb show, as opposed to one of the most wickedly clever shows of its time, should be sat down and made to watch "The Body", or "Once More With Feeling", or "Restless". Their swift apology will then be accepted.)

Like you say, the mix of fun and drama is where it's at, and while the last season may have been a lot more hit-and-miss than the others (I'd cite S5 as well as S2 and S3 - imo the fifth season will always be the crowning accomplishment of the show), the magic is still there, and this episode is proof of that.

Speaking of which, have I mentioned that I think this is a really great episode?

After all the angst and unpleasantness of "Empty Places", "Touched" is like a beautiful, cathartic balm to watch. This is one of the ultimate feel-good episodes for me, and a quick spin through the highlights is enough to recap why.

Spike returning to confront the Scoobies is all kinds of awkward, but I love it anyway. In theory I feel rather bad that he clobbered Faith (who didn't really deserve it as much as others who were in the room) but in practice I just want to give the guy a big hug.

And then there's what happens after he finds Buffy. At the risk of gushing, I'm just going to say that this might take the prize for being the nicest, sweetest thing that one character ever says and does to another on this show. It'd be lovely all by itself, but the way it gets swept up in the montage of bonding that's going on all round (complete with lovely musical accompaniment) is a real achievement.

It's always a joy to see Mayor Wilkins again, and some props do have to be given to the First here (and not just for shrewd choice/timing). For all that people complain that it was a pretty ineffective bad guy, it has a startlingly solid record of tricking people into doing what it wants despite the fact that it makes no effort to conceal itself: it spooked Buffy into cutting herself off from everyone, turned Dawn against her, made Willow too scared of herself to do heavy-duty magic, sicced Wood on Spike, and was possibly involved in stirring up the craziness in the episode last week. Now it's done it again: in her brief tenure as leader of Team Slayer, Faith has managed to divide them into three seperate groups, scattered and ready to be picked off.

It's also worth noting that having the Bringers dig up the Scythe isn't entirely nonsense, if we remember what it is exactly that the bad guys are trying to do. From their perspective, what happens in Sunnydale is all just prelude - their real aim, once they've popped the cork off the Hellmouth, is to reduce the entire world to thralldom to the First, with Caleb as a template for what all of humanity will become (shudder). Since he wants the Scythe to play with while he does that, it's worth running the risk of clueing the Slayer off - I mean, what the heck is she gonna do about it anyway?

Which brings us to...

Buffy did such a terrible job of making the case for herself last week, that I love that this episode completely makes it for her. Our heroine has never really been one for words (I always think back to what she said to Jenny in "Prophecy Girl" about what to do when Giles found she was gone: "Think of something cool, tell him I said it.") but when it comes to action it's never anything short of delightful to watch her when she's at the top of her game, and that's where Spike's little love-in has boosted her. She hasn't quite yet come to the revelation that all her experiences, through all the seasons, have been building her towards, but before then we get one of my favorite fight scenes of the show. It's the perfect capper to an episode whose virtue comes from the fact that it is overflowing with lovely, golden moments.

Oh yes, and Faith and the Potentials are about to get blown to Kingdom Come. Who's gonna save them?!
6. Sophist
@4: No need to go off topic. There's a Tor review of the movie here.
Jack Flynn
7. JackofMidworld
Then he tells her to get some sleep, and she nigh-on breaks his heart by asking him to stay with her.

This damn near broke MY heart!

And I'd rewatch SG1 and Atlantis in a heartbeat, but I don't know that I'd call them dumb, hafta say. But does Archer count?
Jason Parker
8. tarbis
I don't know that I'd call BtVS a stupid show, but it is one that got noticeably worse the more serious it took itself. It's also one of those shows that no matter how clever it was the fandom over-hyped the good qualities and played down the bad until an unclear picture developed. Which at the end of the day is what fandoms do, but does tend to make fans of a thing poor judges of its overall quality. Also most fans don't like to admit that they like dumb things unless they can cloak it with irony or parody.

Plotwise I'm trying to figure out if the First is lying to Caleb, being really dumb, or the writers are being clumsy about getting the axe into Buffy's hand. It's been known by the villains and audience since last episode that the axe will do nothing for Team First, but they're digging it up anyway. If the First is lying to Caleb then the overall master plan requires that a Slayer get the weapon so of course it's being dug up. (Not like a physical weapon is much of a direct threat to a being like the First and the only real danger to its existence is having her skull caved in on an LA street that very night.) If the First is being dumb then the tension level drops like a rock. In the end the source is the writing team which leaves me wondering why none of them came up with a fix for this plot hole, that is one of the things they're being paid to do.

Also I have to say that they could have spent the episode trying to remind the audience of reasons to like Buffy and it still would have been an uphill battle to like her after the teaser. In a town that has more empty houses than occupied she tosses somebody onto the street to have her pity party. Thanks to the casting director the little blonde throws out one of the few African Americans in Sunnydale, because nobody can read any subtext in that. If she'd taken an empty house they could have saved money not hiring an actor and made the character look better.
Michael Ikeda
9. mikeda

As far as the axe-thingy is concerned, I think that what the First is planning is that Buffy will get the Scythe and then Caleb will take it away from her. In order to do this the Scythe does need to be uncovered. Presumably the First wouldn't mind if Caleb manages to get the Scythe by himself but isn't expecting this to happen.

(As far as the axe-thingy doing "nothing for Team First", I suspect that there would be SOME possible use for a powerful magical item.)
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@8, This entire show is littered with characters, good and evil, being told not to do something, and the entire resolution is that you do it anyway.

Why would Team First take seriously a prophecy that comes from a biased source?

Of all the things to nitpick in these final episodes, this is far from the worst. The Mayor was supposed to be unstoppable, saw how that worked out. Buffy was supposed to die at the hands of the Master, saw how that worked out. Team First was supposed to be unable to use the Scythe, thankfully Buffy got it first before we saw how that worked out.

For all we know, killing Buffy with the Scythe may have been the thing that ended the Slayer line forever.

Also, she wasn't kicking a man out of his house, she was saving his life. Only a moron would still be in Sunnydale at this time, but this guy, more concerned with material things than his own life, decides, "No, I'll ride THIS apocalypse out." That scene wasn't to show you how heartless and uncaring Buffy is, but how traumatized she is, yet still trying to help people. She didn't mean to go into an occupied house, I'm pretty sure she even says something to that effect, but dammit if this guy's still here, she's going to scare him out of town, since nothing else has.
11. Alex C.
@8. tarbis -

1) "I don't know that I'd call BtVS a stupid show, but it is one that got noticeably worse the more serious it took itself."

This, I would completely disagree with. Through its seven seasons, BtVS covers the full range between triumphs and flops in terms of the quality of its storytelling (though speaking as a fan with an unabashedly subjective viewpoint, the balance leans far more towards the former than the latter), and the divide between the two has no obvious connection to how seriously it took itself at any given time. Moments when the show took itself seriously and flopped are no more (or less) common than instances of it failing to deliver what it was aiming for even when it wasn't taking itself seriously - something that would seem to be born out by a simple glance at the list of episodes and moments most people consider to have been the worst of the show.

On the other hand, I think it can be said fairly confidently that most viewers would agree that almost all of the show's best moments came when it was taking itself at least somewhat seriously - again, something that would seem to be born out by a perusal of the opinions of the hive mind, let alone of the much deeper and more extensive critical analyses that I would consider to be a far more reliable guide to what the show was good at.

"Also most fans don't like to admit that they like dumb things unless they can cloak it with irony or parody."

Okay, fine - I get it. You don't think that a show having an enthusiastic fan following is enough to make it a 'clever' show.

In that case, I'll go you one better: if a show has had more academic papers written about it than just about anything else on television (it even has its own journal - well worth a perusal, btw), then can we posit that there might just be something non-shallow about it and its appeal?

Back to my opinion as a subjective fan, I don't think that anyone except the extreme enthusiasts has ever denied that BtVS is a flawed show. Heck, a lot of the most incisive complaints about the things that the show does wrong have come from the fans - IIRC, it's been speculated more than once that the show's flaws may well be a key part of what's generated such an exceptionally large and loyal following well over a decade after it finished.

On the other hand, the cleverness of the character writing, theming, dialogue, and story arcing (among other things that the show does consistently do well) is sufficient that I think it's noteworthy - as is the fact that these things were still present (even if sometimes diminished) right up to the end of the series.

2) Regarding the plot surrounding the Scythe - I honestly don't see this as a plot-hole worth worrying about. The way that it plays is sloppy, and a little plot-coupony, but it works.

The First's ultimate design is to establish its dominion over the whole world, reducing humanity to its thrall, and using its servants (Caleb and any other willing dupes, the Bringers, and the Turok-Han) as the instrument by which it will do so. First, it aims to extirpate all Potential Slayers in the world because (as per the Eye of Beljoxa) there is a direct link between the strength of the Slayer lineage and its ability to manifest itself in the world.

The Scythe is important because it is a powerful magical talisman that is also directly connected to the Slayers. Caleb going after it instead of just leaving it buried isn't problematic to me - he obviously covets it for its power, and doesn't think that anyone can get past him to get at it as long as he's on hand to guard it. The First rolls with the risk of all this, because it thinks that even in the worst case scenario (Slayer gets the Scythe, kills Caleb) its ultimate victory is inevitable, merely delayed.

It's right about that, but what it doesn't count on is Buffy figuring out how to combine the Scythe with her other resources (Willow, a friendly vampire with a soul) to make the delay an awful lot bigger.

3) Regarding Buffy kicking a guy out of his house in the teaser - this one just doesn't bother me. Insofar as it's worth having an argument about it, Buffy was clearly doing the guy a favor - staying in Sunnydale at this point is pretty much a death sentence, which is more or less what she says to him. Making him hit the road instead of trying to hole up and ride out the storm is boosting his chances of survival at this point. True, she could have been a bit more polite about the way that she did it, but considering what's just happened to her, I'm not going to hold it against her that her "you need to evacuate" message is a bit brusque.

As for the issue of why this scene takes place at all, I'd say that's easy: it's because having Buffy simply amble into an empty house and crash is a completely flat scene, and does nothing for her until Spike shows up. As it is, I think that the scene plays well as a neat little bit of dark comedy - and one that doesn't lack a certain sting to it. Just as Buffy is ultimately doing this guy a favor by making him leave, it shouldn't escape notice that she does ultimately benefit considerably from the mutiny and its fallout - in this at least, Giles was right in what he said to Dawn about it all being for the best (doesn't make me less angry at him though).

As for the "pity party" aspect of it - my sympathies at this point are still entirely with Buffy. She threw her heart and soul into what she was trying to do with the group - as we'll hear affirmed in her conversation with Spike - and she got completely burned for all her troubles, left with little to work with except a massive guilt burden and a crushing sense of personal inadequacy - the inferiority complex coming up to devour her superiority complex from below.

She obviously still believes in what she said about there being something important at the vineyard that she needs to go after, but what's the point when she's convinced that she's become an utter failure and terrible person (which also might account in part for how she treats the home-owner guy), not even worthy of her own friends' loyalty?

That's why it is so beautifully touching (heh heh) to watch as Spike (after meeting her in the middle about how much blame she deserves for what went wrong) rallies her spirits, and forcefully points out what she'd forgotten, but what anyone who's watched the show up to this points knows to be the truth: she's an extraordinary, and above all good, person - "a hell of a woman" in the best possible way.

She just needed to remember that, so she could get back to doing the one thing that she can do better than anyone else.
12. Alex C.
@10. Aeryl, you ninja'd me!

Great comment though.
Jason Parker
13. tarbis
Other people can have their opinions of the eviction scene. I see someone exercising an unearned power (Buffy is not FEMA in a disaster zone, a cop with a warrant, or a bank officer with a note) to take away an occupied home. Saving a life wasn’t her goal at the time. Stopping the end of the world wasn’t her goal at the time. Getting a private place to mope was.

Also walking through an empty house is easy to make interesting. Add photos that contrast with the mood, props the callback to something else in the series, moderate unexplained wreckage, or graffiti and the scene sells itself. Drop out the soundtrack for extra creep or use strings for pathos.

@10 Team First would take the prophecy seriously because prophecy in the Buffyverse is always right. It seems to be part of the physics of the place. Occasionally you can cheat the results (i.e. bring a dead person back via mouth-to-mouth after they die at the Master’s hand), but no amount of effort can prevent (see Sahjhan versus Connor).

Also the mayor’s invulnerability had a time limit on it that was explained when he first completed that ritual during “Bad Girls”. He could not be physically harmed until the 100 days expired. After that all bets were off. Making sure the expiration was synced with the Ascension was a solid plan that didn’t pay off for him.

@11 I’ve enjoyed Slayage for many years. It’s a good example of academics writing interesting things about a media item they find noteworthy. Some articles have insightful things to say about the shows, some use the shows to illustrate concepts that have nothing directly to do with the episodes and some articles are not great by any yardstick. However academic writing about a show means it is a show academics find of interest and nothing else. The fact that the scholarship on any subject can be quality says more about the scholar than the subject.

A quick search of Masterfile Premier turns up the following counts of peer-reviewed articles in academic journals by terms in the abstract: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10, X-Files 26, Stargate 2, Star Trek 35, Star Wars 79, and Disney Princess 4. Searching JSTOR for articles turned up: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3, X-Files 4, and Simpsons 9. All of which leaves me wondering how bad Slate’s methodology was. (Probably they included reviews and non-peer reviewed material.)

It is also worth noting that just because something is occasionally dumb doesn’t mean people can’t say smart things about it or it has nothing smart to say. On a personal I would feel you are using me as a straw man by ignoring the first ten words of the initial comment. (You quoted those words actually and then seemingly ignored them.) If you want to fight a straw man feel free, but please do not pin my name on the training dummy’s chest.
14. Sophist
"If you want to fight a straw man feel free, but please do not pin my name on the training dummy’s chest."

TRAVERS: No, no. Philip will attack the dummy. The Slayer's job is to protect it. Do you understand?
BUFFY: Protect the dummy.
TRAVERS: As if it were precious.
15. Alex C.
@13. tarbis -

1) On the first part of your original comment - I didn't ignore what you said. You said that you don't think that you'd call BtVS a stupid show (I agree), and then that you do think it was a show that got worse the more it took itself seriously - which I strongly disagree with (see above).

I threw in the stuff about Slayage, etc - more as a general (intended to be slightly humorous) comment to the subject of 'dumb' tv that Alyx raised. The main of my response to the second part of your comment which I quoted, comes in the two paragraphs following "Back to my opinion..."

If you think that my comment uses you as a straw man, then that's too bad. I addressed the substance of what you had to say that I disagreed with, and I stand by what I wrote above.

2) "I see someone exercising an unearned power (Buffy is not FEMA in a disaster zone, a cop with a warrant, or a bank officer with a note) to take away an occupied home. Saving a life wasn’t her goal at the time. Stopping the end of the world wasn’t her goal at the time. Getting a private place to mope was."

You're right, Buffy isn't FEMA, a cop, or a bank officer. She's a Vampire Slayer. And since the situation at hand isn't a natural disaster, a crime, or a foreclosure - it's the Apocalypse - I'd say that she outranks all of those (especially since they've all skipped town anyway). And if there's anyone in the entirety of this fictional universe who's 'earned' the right to make a judgement call about whether a supernatural situation has gotten too hot for the civilians to stick around, it's her.

As for whether saving the guy's life was a priority for her, here's what she says to him: "This is not your house. It's not your town. Not anymore." And she's right. The episode makes clear that the power of the First is waxing so much, that vampires can now wander into homes without even needing an invitation. The whole town is about to go under (literally, in a couple of episodes), and Buffy's not out of line to tell this guy that he needs to leave.

Nor is it incomprehensible that all Buffy would be looking to do at this moment is find a place, in her words, to crash. She's in no condition at this point to go after Caleb by herself, she can't go back to the group, and she badly needs some rest.

3) On the immutability of prophecy in the Buffyverse - that's actually ironic, considering that this last part of the story is all about directly defying the terms of the most ancient and important prophecy in their world.
Jason Parker
16. tarbis
Maybe putting the bit about academics in the middle muddled your comment and made you look like someone in search of a straw man. You weren't. Good for you. Although in the future perhaps your attempts at humor could be better placed in the context of your total comment. Similarly I stand by both my original comment and my response so unless we're interested in impersonating goats the matter should probably drop.

2) Off the top of my head the list of people who are better qualified to determine when humans should leave include Charles Gunn, Robin Wood, Winifred Burkle, Alexander Harris, Riley Finn, and anyone else who as faced off against the supernatural without superpowers. That's the thing about power of all kinds, people with it either assume everyone has it or that the limits of the people without are lower than they are.

The power deferential in the scene is so wide that I find it hard not to see theft occurring. (Which given the not at all subtly stated theme of the season may have been the point, but being on thematic point doesn't make the character any more likeable.)

Like I said other people can have other opinions so why you seem set on having a intellectual brawl about it is a bit of a mystery to me.

3) Where in the canon of the series is "she alone" set up as a prophecy? If it is termed that way at some point I don't remember it, but my memory could be faulty. A mission statement and a statement of fact yes, but not a prophecy.

Shoot, depending on how you consider the interaction with the Shadowmen (is it live or Memorex?) the destruction of the Hellmouth could be considered the completion of a prophecy. “Last guardian” and all that.
17. Dianthus
@6. Found it, thanks. Still, if you're a BtVS fan, I think you'd really like Veronica Mars. That show definitely filled a Buffy-shaped void in my life.

The literal writing on the wall in Empty Places read: It is for her alone to wield (or similar). That's pretty suggestive in my book.

Also, too: It's not a bloody scythe! Pity Joss is/was unfamiliar with the concept of a labrys. Nor does it look the least bit ancient. As one of my favorite fanfic authors has said, it looked like something knocked together on Monster Garage.

Smart people can still be stupid about some stuff (we've all been there, amirite?), and smart shows are no different. The X-Files would also be a good example. I stuck with it 'til the bitter end and went to see the second movie in the theater.

The recapper on TWOP at the time questioned why everyone was bugging out over this, when they'd stayed thru so much else. Honestly, it really doesn't make a lot of sense.

There's also a call-back here to Beneath You. Spike's question to Buffy "Can we rest now?" is finally, beautifully answered.

Strawmen do make the easiest targets.
18. Sophist
"Still, if you're a BtVS fan, I think you'd really like Veronica Mars. That show definitely filled a Buffy-shaped void in my life."

You'd think so, given the obvious debts VM owes to Buffy. VM is almost literally inconceivable without Buffy (and that's putting aside the guest roles of Joss, AH, and CC). I know Buffy fans who never got interested in VM, but the heading over at ATPO got modified as follows:

"All Things Philosophical on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, BtVS: The Animated Series, Fray, Tales of the Slayers, Tales of the Vampires, Astonishing X-Men, Alias, Wonderfalls, Lost, BSG, Dr. Who, Veronica Mars"
19. Alex C.
@16. tarbis -

1) Fine. I think that discussion has run pretty much its course for the moment.

2) Since you stated that you think it's a scene that hangs over the rest of the episode for a particular reason, then I'd say that the moment is as worthy of discussion ("intellectual brawl" sounds fun too, though) as anything else.

And however the optics may come off to you, I would maintain that the *point* of having the scene at the beginning of the episode (as opposed to Buffy just wandering morosely into an empty house and lying down to wait for Spike) has nothing at all to do with any power differential that's going on. What it boils down to is what the episode tells us: at this point, anybody who stays in Sunnydale is probably going to die, and so when Buffy, by sheer coincidence, finds the one guy in town who hasn't already packed his bags and hit the road, she tells him in no uncertain terms to scram, too.

You can have your own interpretation of the scene, but it cuts completely against the grain of what's actually spelled out in the conversation that takes place, and what we later see. It's also presumably not accidental that Buffy explicitly compares it to her own recent eviction, which only moments before we got assured (by Giles) was something that was "for the best".

3) I would refer you to the very first and last episodes of the series - both Giles and the First quote "She alone" as the prophecy which governs the existence of the Slayer.

In any case, at this point we've gotten away from the original issue, which was why Caleb goes after the Scythe even though he knows there's a prophecy that it is for "her alone" to wield. The answer is easy: why the hell would he care? He's got so much contempt and misogyny all but pouring out of his ears, it surely can't strain belief that he would choose to disregard it.

The entire nature of prophecy in fiction is that people choose to ignore it, or defy it, or interpret it to their own advantage. It almost always comes true (after a fashion) anyway, but that rarely stops them from trying.
Jason Parker
20. tarbis
In the script for "Chosen" the First does not term 'she alone' a prophecy and checking the script from "Welcome to the Hellmouth" neither does Giles. If canon doesn't refer to it as a prophecy/revelation/fore-telling/actual-apocalypse then I for one am not going to assume that it is.

I think you might be mistaking the dancing monkey for the organ grinder in this case with Caleb. He is a dupe, a lackey, a sucker, and (the next episode implies) an addict for the First's power. The First wouldn't let its pet go to the trouble of digging up something that it knew he couldn't use unless there was a plan it didn't bother to share with him (or laziness in the writer's room). Even if the plan is as simple as uncover axe, let Buffy get the axe, Buffy uses axe to find elf woman, follow Buffy, kill elf woman before she can be at all helpful. The problem is that since the First never explains or even suggests to the audience why the axe is being unearthed all explanations are fans trying to spackle what should have been an easy to cover plot hole.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
You have also skipped the point, that the prophecy Spike finds is wrong. It's not for "her alone" to wield, because by the end of the show, she's no longer alone. Buffy herself violates "the prophecy". And that's if it can be even interpreted as a prophecy, I view it more like the Mission Statement of the show about "she alone", it's just indicating that it's FOR the Slayer. There's nothing in that statement that states, "It will be magically stuck in granite and no one but the Slayer will be able to remove it" It's likely they thought they could dig it out, and only then realized it's excalibur-like nature.
22. Alex C.
1) Actually, the canon does in fact specify it as a prophecy. To be precise, in S4 "The Yoko Factor", we have Buffy making clear reference to the "ancient prophecy" about the Chosen One - which we can safely presume to be "She alone" (further supported by the similar turn of phrase in the prophecy about the Scythe - suggesting that the two prophecies are linked).

Even if we didn't have that sort of confirmation (I'm fairly certain there are multiple other references to the prophetic nature of the Chosen One sprinkled through the series), the subversion - or attempted subversion - of prophecy is such a recurring theme in the Buffyverse that I'd be inclined to read it as such anyway. Even apart from the punch that it packs in the finale, it sets up a very nice parallel with the ending of AtS, wherein both shows see their most important prophecy (each of which has been an integral part of the story since the first season) deliberately invalidated by the protagonist.

"The First wouldn't let its pet go to the trouble of digging up something that it knew he couldn't use..."
This right here is the nub. The First does not know that Caleb cannot use the Scythe if he is he able to obtain it, prophecy to the contrary or no.

In one of your above comments, you cited the Sahjhan/Connor stuff from AtS as an instance of the fulfillment of prophecy being inevitable in the Buffyverse. However, this example actually makes my point perfectly: Sahjhan knew all about the prophecy that Connor was going to kill him, but he still went through centuries of effort trying to make sure that it didn't come to pass, and went down fighting in the end, because he obviously believed that prophecy can be thwarted by those who are willing to put the effort into it.

This is the default position of most characters in both parts of the 'verse - with few exceptions, when you encounter a prophecy that you don't like, you insist that there must be a loophole, a misunderstanding, or a way of getting round it. And they're proven right about this (freedom of agency being relevant and important, etc, etc) enough of the time to leave the question hanging open, at the very least.

Therefore, although Caleb was understandably very miffed when he read at the monastery that the shiny murder toy he came to Sunnydale to find had a reservation on it, it doesn't clash with the norms of the Buffyverse that he disregarded this information and went after it anyway. As you note, he's obviously addicted to power and murder in equal measure, so it really doesn't stretch the imagination to think of why he'd want it so badly.

As for the role that his master is playing in all this, from the First's perspective the entire situation is a win-win. If Caleb can, by hook or crook, gain possession of the Scythe, then its chief minion becomes exponentially more deadly/powerful, and therefore even more useful in the coming battle to enslave the world. But if the Slayer gets it then... so what? In terms of the story, by its very nature the First's ultimate victory is the only thing that is truly inevitable (it thus forms the ultimate embodiment of a theme that's played with at much greater length in AtS). The stakes of the battle are about whether and how long that victory can be delayed. In the midst of all this, as the elf-woman says, the Scythe is just another weapon (though I do think there's some thematic importance to what she says to Buffy - but we'll get to that in next week's discussion).

That brings us to what happens in "Chosen". By destroying the Hellmouth and ensuring that there will henceforth be thousands of Slayers instead of just one fighting evil in the world, Buffy ensures that the delay will not only be far longer than it might have been, but may even be extended indefinitely. Of course, I'd argue that that's not even the main point of how the series ends - but that's also a discussion to leave for a future thread.
23. Alex C.
I also feel like tossing in a comment about the Scythe.

A lot of people seem to complain about it, either on grounds of it being a rather naked plot device, or even simply about not liking the way it looks. Neither of these things is especially egregious to me.

In the first place, it's entirely consistent with the previous pattern of Buffy being given a special new toy whenever she foils the Big Bad of the season. Previously we've had Mr. Pointy, the Acathla Sword, Faith's knife, Willow's Enjoining spell, and Olaf's Hammer - and aesthetically, the Scythe is actually quite consistent with three of these (in terms of not looking much like the ancient artifact, but being quite cool anyway).

Moreover, from the perspective of symbolism, there's a strong argument to be made that its appearance is in fact nicely appropriate - it's reminescent of nothing so much as a fireman's axe, which makes it a good callback to Buffy's dream from "Restless".

Additionally, the importance it has for the story goes beyond its direct role in the plot - insofar as the most important aspect of Season 7 is fashioning a culmination to Buffy's Heroic Journey (the crux of which revolves around her losing and then rediscovering the hero in herself, a key part of which obviously plays out in this episode), the Scythe fulfills a powerful metaphorical function, no small thing on a show where metaphor is so often the key to understanding what's going on with the story.

Her discovery of it here embodies and is intimately connected to the notion of the Ultimate Boon - the goal, and the wisdom it imparts, that is essential to the fulfillment of the hero's quest (in case we didn't get the point, in the next episode Spike will helpfully drop a Grail reference). Insofar as the most important thing that Buffy gets out of this is not just personal vindication, or a badass tool for cutting her enemies into pieces, but the inspiration to solve the central dilemma not just of the season but of the entire show, I'm perfectly all right with the notion of giving it a physical manifestation, especially considering how well it fits with what the show did in most of its previous finales.

A slightly similar point could be made about the amulet that Buffy gets from Angel, and passes on to Spike. The thing itself is far less important than its function of testing whether Spike truly has become the champion that she believes him to be, and is therefore worthy to sacrifice his life in order to save the world. In terms of its origins, the writers could easily have produced the device capable of channeling the power of his soul into a weapon by having Willow make it, or Giles procure it from the Coven, etc - but they went with the other option so they could have a crossover, and Angel could make an appearance in the finale. I actually liked this, for reasons we'll no doubt get into in the next couple of discussion threads.
24. Dr. Thanatos
@23 Alex,

Well said.

The scythe has one critical function, though, that no one has touched on that makes it hugely important.

Without it, Willow would not be able to unleash The One Pun To Rule Them All at the opening of the next episode...
Jason Parker
25. tarbis
The line you're thinking of from "The Yoko Factor" is probably: "I'm starting to get why there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and Friends." This line negates the existence of an "And Friends" prophecy, but does not confirm the existence of a "Chosen One" prophecy. Slender difference, but given the use and abuse of language on BtVS a noteworthy one.

At this point the only way to conclusively solve this question is to dump ever script into a file, search on 'chosen one', 'she alone', and 'prophecy' (with multiple spellings and plurals), and then read about a page of script on each side of every result to provide context. Sounds like something neither of us have time for.

However you have gotten me thinking about why the stance that the First ever entertained the notion Caleb could use the axe bothers me so much. The First watched the Powers leave Earth. It saw the rise of the Old Ones and their fall. It was around to see this funny species of primate spread across the planet and discover all kinds of ways to kill each other. The First as seen prophecy fulfilled time after time after time.

If it hasn't learned by now that you can't fight fate then the First is a bigger chump than Adam. The First can either be a scary mastermind or a being who cannot learn even over geologic time. Whatever something that thick is planning you can’t be frightened of what its plotting only amazed that any part of its plan ever succeeded. I would rather have a story with a villain that I can be scared of than yet another moron.
26. Alex C.

1) Sorry tarbis, but you're clutching at straws here. In the context and manner that that line of Buffy's is delivered, it only really makes sense if her words are passing reference to a prophecy about the Chosen One that they (and the audience) are all familiar with. If there is no prophecy, then the line is an utterly bizarre way for her to make the barbed point that she's obviously trying to make - too weird to have much sting to it. Given how deliberate ME usually were with their dialogue writing (especially for important scenes like this), I think that the takeaway should be self-evident.

When you add in how well the prophecy and its ultimate subversion jibe with the recurring themes of the 'verse, I'd say that the question is solved fairly conclusively. There is an ancient prophecy about the Chosen One (seriously, have you ever known of an explicitly labelled Chosen One in any fiction that didn't come with a prophecy attached?) and we all know what its terms are. That's why Buffy throwing it in her friends' faces like that (which is what she's doing in that scene) is supposed to hurt - and why it gets brought up again in the last episode of the series, right before she figures out how to get around it once and for all.

You can construe it differently if you want to (everyone can have an opinion), but what it boils down to is an interpretation that makes sense out of a lot of what we see and hear in the show versus one that doesn't so much. My preference, needless to say, leans strongly toward the former.

2) Actually, the fact that the First has been around since time immemorial and has been able to observe the entire human existence, is actually an excellent support for why it wouldn't get overly hung up on the words about who the Scythe is intended for. In all the instances where the Buffyverse has dealt with prophecy, the only consistently solid takeaway is that the real chumps are the people who take what they read in prophecy books at face value, and think that the obvious interpretation is the correct one (in fact, out of all the notable prophecies that are dealt with in both series, the Sahjhan/Connor one from AtS is iirc the only one that isn't subverted or left open to question in the end).

The bone of contention here is why the fact that the words "It is for her alone to wield" were carved into a wall by someone did not dissuade the First from letting its servant try to wield it anyway. And the answer is obvious: it's been around the block enough times to know that even if you believe that you can't fight fate (a position which I believe the audience is meant to be highly skeptical of), there is a world of difference between the writing on a wall and what's actually preordained. (Going back to AtS, do you remember how well "There will be no birth" turned out?)

The fact that the Scythe was intended to be for the Slayer alone by whoever made it is no guarentee at all that Caleb can't use it if he can get it. So the fact that his boss signs off on his attempt to do just that remains for me a complete non-issue. In fact, it's worth remembering that he did come within a hair of obtaining it - until Angel appeared at the end of the penultimate episode to lend a hand.

The real mistake that the First made wasn't thinking that Caleb could have taken the Scythe, it was underestimating what the Scythe could do in the hands of the enemy. But since Buffy's idea winds up catching everyone off guard, I'm perfectly happy with this.
27. Alex C.
@24 Dr. Thanatos,

Thank you, and - I quite agree.
Jason Parker
28. tarbis
1) You can have your opinion, but it relies too much on inference and suggestion for my tastes (also an opinion). For me canon is what makes it onto the screen. If something is not called prophecy onscreen then terming it prophecy is an assumption. Much like one can assume Xander used an upstairs bathroom in season four, but an assumption that there was a half bath in some unshot corner of the basement has the same level of validity in canon. Which is null.

2) "There will be no birth" was true. The writers borrowed a page from "MacBeth" by having Connor come into the world via a means other than the birth canal. As for other true prophecies you have the Anointed One leading the Slayer into hell, the Master will kill the Slayer, things changing on Halloween (thanks Dru), Angelus discovering Acathla (shame Whistler couldn't tell the difference between Angelus and Angel), the last guardian of the Hellmouth, she alone will wield (only female characters used the axe in combat although males did handle it), the father will consume the son, the father will kill the son (both vampire childe and bio-son in a sportings good store), the return of Illyria, and the Connor/Sahjhan matchup. Those are ones just off the top of my head.

Characters can position themselves to take advantage of prophecy. They can work the details to get other positive results for themselves or minimize damage. They can pick up where the prophecy ends to twist the overall result. But the fated events occur. One can term the way characters work with the prophecies to be subversions, but the that doesn't mean the events themselves failed to unfold.

If the First had a female servitor lined up then it would have been in a position to take advantage of the axe while not violating prophecy, but the important sexual politics would be lost. If the First was working a plan that relied on the Slayer wielding the axe it would be a mastermind. If the First had some other weapon in reserve to destroy the axe in combat it would be taking a risk, but a logical one. If the First thought it could leapfrog fate and hand Caleb the axe then it really was a moron.

Maybe the writers' room really want to make Buffy about that ability to fight fate and Angel about fate's inevitability. The problem is you can't have a universe where both are equally true. This isn't helped by the fact the prophecy kept coming true on Buffy. Really I wouldn't be surprised if the writers got annoyed with destiny as a plot device since the number of fated anythings was lower in seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6 in comparison to the other three.
Jason Parker
29. tarbis
I feel that I should say for the record that my preferred interpretation of the First is that it was a mastermind with a deeper game than Caleb was told. (On my darker readings the First got a silver medal in the finale by gaining a bunch of superhuman it can manipulate who have no idea of the nature or purpose of their powers and a lot fewer people to teach them.) I'll also admit that this is an interpretation of events and no more literally true in canon than the idea that the First meant for Caleb to utilize the axe. However the first interpretation leaves a villain that I can respect and fear on the characters’ behalf while the second does not.
30. Alex C.

1) I'm fairly certain that you're dodging the point here, which is that your interpretation relies on turning a thoroughly sensical line by the main character into a nonsensical one. Clear reference is being made to a prophecy, and you have to bend over backwards to read it otherwise. But, fine. We'll agree to disagree on this one too.

2) Most of those examples and what you say just goes to further underline my point: that prophecy in the Buffyverse (or at least the undesirable results thereof) can be gotten around if you play your cards right. Which is what Caleb/the First were obviously looking to do.

If we count the Season 8 comic continuation as canon (I can't say I'm much of a fan of it, but it does come with Whedon's stamp of approval) then we have indisputable proof that the Scythe can be wielded by beings who are neither the Slayer nor female (we also have the point that in the fight at the end of "End of Days", Caleb had no problem grabbing hold of it and almost using it to kill Buffy, and that Willow - female, but not a Slayer - was able to make use of it). They won't get the same innate sense of ownership and connection to it that a Slayer would - but at the end of the day the Scythe is just a weapon/talisman - it can be used by whoever holds it. Obtaining it is the issue.

Taken in light of that, the true meaning of the inscription in the monastery then becomes quite clear and rather simple: it isn't an iron law against anyone but the Slayer being able to use the Scythe, it's a statement that the Slayer, as the intended recipient of the weapon by the people who made it (the ones who wanted it to be for "her alone" to wield), is the only one who can pull it out of the stone.

(In terms of making a mythological parallel, the legend of Excalibur is both obvious and useful as an analogy. The blade is gifted/destined for Arthur in his role as the rightful king, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be used by someone else, even if they obtained it by foul means, which does in fact happen a few times in the tales.)

Which brings us back to the issue at hand. The First's desired endgame for the Scythe is simple: it wants it in the hands of its servant (Caleb), to be used in the battle to enslave the world that will ensue after the Hellmouth is opened up. In order for this to happen, the Scythe first needs to be uncovered (check), and then the Slayer - as per the prophecy - to be allowed near it so as to release it from the stone (Buffy showing up when she did meant this happened sooner than anticipated - but that's what improvisation is for). We then get what happens in "End of Days". The First provides Caleb with a major power-boost, and then sends him to the temple of the Guardians to wait for Buffy. She duly turns up, they fight, and Caleb overpowers her. Only Angel's surprise appearance spoils the plan. Otherwise, we can assume that Caleb would have gotten the Scythe, and everything would have (literally) gone to hell.

All of this doesn't exactly add up to what you'd call tight plotting (it's roughly on a par with the ending of Season 6 in terms of stacked up conveniences), but for me that's honestly a non-issue. The forte of the series comes in delivering on the main character journeys - and it manages to do that with aplomb.
Really I wouldn't be surprised if the writers got annoyed with destiny as a plot device since the number of fated anythings was lower in seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6 in comparison to the other three.
Actually, Seasons 3-5 were the site of what I would argue was the best example of a prophesied occurrence (in terms of dramatic execution) of the entire series: the build-up to Dawn's arrival, and Buffy's death in "The Gift".

(Here I would concede that I went overboard in the comment above re. the lack of prophecies that get played straight.)
31. Alex C.
@29. To me, that swings way too far in the other direction. Omniscient masterminds who are going to win no matter what the heroes do (as opposed to just thinking that they will) are even more boring antagonists than incompetent morons. I prefer to go with the middle approach: the bad guys are clearly dangerous and pose a threat, but are also capable of making errors out of hubris, which is what happens here.

The First wanted to destroy all traces of the Slayer lineage (stated as the most important bulwark against its ability to directly manifest as an entity in the world), and I don't have any problems with the idea that obtaining the Scythe (a powerful part of the Slayer legacy) had a role to play in that plan. Remember, despite its constant existence, we're told that until recently (specifically, when the Slayer line was disrupted) the First was effectively checked - that's why there are no records of it. If you assume (as runs my interpretation) that the combined events in "Chosen" have had the effect of undoing that disruption - and ensuring that a similar one is not going to occur in the future - then the First may well have been permanently crippled, even if it still exists on a base level.
32. Alex C.
This is awfully belated, I admit, but something rather obvious just struck me that might rather invalidate most of the discussion above vis a vis Caleb, the First, and digging up the Scythe.

The inscription at the monastery, direct and to the point as it is, is never specified as being a prophecy, per se. Accordingly, the objection that the First should have known better than to sign off on Caleb going after it anyway may just be irrelevant after all.

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