Mar 24 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Then there were two...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days

“End of Days,” by Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson

We ended last week with Faith and the Slayettes, going toe to toe with a big honking bomb. There’s just enough time for Faith to shout a warning as it counts down single digits. And then it all blows up in face: kaboom!

As the dust settles on that fiasco, we check in on the mad bomber himself, down in his favorite ancient wine cellar. Buffy, having shed the need to watch out for anyone else’s survival as she tries once again to clean Caleb’s clock, is seeing a bit of success. She has found herself a shiny scythe-shaped object. It’s a gift, clearly, so perhaps its name is Death. Maybe she’ll call it Katie. Either way, Caleb boasts that he’s going to seriously murder her long before she can pry it out of all that rock.

Except—pop!—it wants to come. Later, Buffy will refer to this as King Arthuring it out of the stone. I do love the way Team Joss tends to verb.

Once and future king references aside, this completely foreseeable development unsettles Caleb. He remains game to take her on. The First turns up, though, and says to desist. Firstie also mentions Faith and the bomb. Caleb obediently backs down and Buffy sprints off.

[Neither of them told her where the Slayettes were...] 

At the site of the explosion, the Slayettes are regrouping. Vi has a broken arm. Faith’s not dead, though she is face down in the water. Some of us remember that long ago prom where Buffy drowned. If Faith’s heart stopped and she needed CPR, would one of the Potentials get called? Wait, never mind, I’m way off track here. To add to the pile of suck, the group is trapped in a hole with a bunch of Turok-Han vampires, none of whom has a soul or is in love with any human present. It’s all looking pretty dire until Buffy kicks her way through the rubble, scything all comers.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days

I cannot help feeling that it is a shame, in a way, that we didn’t get to see Faith take on a noseless vampire before plastic explosives and this sexy slayer weapon came onto the scene. I know we don’t have time for everything, or everyone, but I’d have loved to see that, and to contrast it with Buffy’s knock-down drag-out Thunderdome object lesson to the Slayettes.

Over at Chez Slay, Andrew has made a run on an abandoned grocery store and filled the house with important non-perishable food items. XandAnya, Willow and Dawn show up as Giles dives on the Jaffa cakes. These are, as you know, the only food that can truly sustain a Watcher. Faith had sent the Scoobs and the Sib off on a largely pointless mission to spy on Buffy and be conspicuously absent from the fight at the weapons cache. The gang humored her by tracking Buffy as far as the house where she spent the previous evening. In, as you’ll all remember, Spike’s very respectful embrace. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Giles, Andrew

Just around then, Buffy returns with the wounded Potentials and Faith, and the house becomes, in essence, a field hospital. Amanda suggests the failed raid was their punishment for pursuing a Faith-based combat strategy, a suggestion Buffy shrugs off. Now we’ve both walked you into a trap, she says. Que Sera Sera. Still, the Potentials are humbled, and also desperate to have an ambulatory Slayer on the premises. Is she staying? Buffy gives them a firm who the hell knows.

While Faith heals and the Slayettes stew, Willow and Giles are tasked with scythe research. Andrew and Anya decide to make themselves useful by looting the hospital for medical supplies and Buffy hatches a plan whereby Xander will get Dawn to minimum safe distance. Xander’s not so keen on this, since it means he’ll miss what he thinks will be Buffy’s last fight. She talks him ’round, though, and there’s some cute banter between them about whether she’ll die and if he’ll bring her back. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Xander

Then Xander takes Dawn out to the car on a pretext, makes some jokes about having lost his eye, and chloroforms her when her back’s turned.

At the vineyard, Caleb is getting up a tantrum over losing the scythe. As you may have noticed, I feel this is entirely his fault and he should get over it. Don’t want the Slayer to have something? Don’t dig it up. For bonus points, don’t tell her you’ve got it. I am certain this was covered in the core curriculum for Villain 101. And who wrote that curriculum if not the First?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Caleb

Firstie has this swell idea, though, whereby they should merge because it’ll make Caleb tougher. It turns out the point of ordering him to stand down, before, was the Evil It was pretty sure Buffy would defeat him otherwise. She soups him up with dark power, and his eyes get a little Dark Willow-y. No veins, though, so how much ass can he really kick?

Faith comes around. Hurrah! Buffy shows her the scythe. 

“It feels like it’s mine,” she says. “I guess that means it’s yours.” This breaks my heart a lot. It makes me want to write Faith stories. It captures so much of this relationship to date, highlighting all of Faith’s insecurities. She and Dawn could really bond over living in Buffy’s shadow.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Faith

But she has come a long way! Instead of joining the bad guys and murdering whoever shows up, the Chosen two talk through their respective leadership styles, the two combat disasters, and the question of who’s in charge now. Faith comes clean about having felt incredibly isolated when she was heading up Team Slay. She doesn’t say so, but it seems clear she’d be happy to go back to being assistant captain.

As if that little heart to heart wasn’t exhaustsing enough, Buffy goes downstairs and has another one, with Spike. He’s pleased she got the scythe, and indicates that he’s ready to be put in his place once more—that place being somewhere between arm’s length and the ten foot pole. Instead, Buffy reminds him that he’s the one who gave her the strength to pull herself together.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Spike

He tells her that holding her, the previous evening, was the most terrifying and best experience of his life. (Previously, the best night of his life was his first Slayer kill, I believe.) Buffy replies that she wasn’t just using him, this time. The honesty’s a little overwhelming for them both, and they agree to leave the question of Them in an amorphous, we’ll deal with it after the war kind of place. No promises are made. No rings are exchanged.

Anya and Andrew hit the hospital, steal what they need, and discuss why it is that humans fight to the end in these apparently hopeless causes. They express their commitment to this particular battle, live or die, and wrap up with an adorable wheelchair fight. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Anya, Andrew

Elsewhere, scythe research sends Buffy out to a temple, which is inhabited by a white-haired guardian woman of witchery. The woman tells her that the Shadow Men who made the First Slayer became, in time, the Watchers. They talk about how the scythe is a powerful weapon, but hey—let’s not forget that Buffy already has powerful weapons. It’s a good point, and one that hints to me that Anya and Andrew could be looting the local military base next. Or the police station. Before the guardian can say much more, or anything super-useful, Caleb shows up and kills her.

Around now, Dawn wakes up in the Xandermobile, realizes what’s happened, and tasers him into unconsciousness so she can drive herself the eff home. Well, we did already know his heart wasn’t in it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Dawn, Xander

“End of Days” does accomplish some of the usual end-of-season board setting for the battle to come, but much of the groundwork is, as it was in “Touched,” emotional. We see Buffy working to get to a good place with her front-line fighters: Spike, Faith and Xander. Giles and Willow are back in the library, for the most part. The Slayettes are almost incidental and Robin’s not in the picture. 

Andrew and Anya are paired in a light-hearted and mutually supportive way. It’s interesting to see them connect. They’re both minor ex-villains, after all, and both are unlikely to make a key difference in the coming fight. It feels fitting that they’ve taken on logistics and supply for the larger group, even as they make time to spontaneously take care of each other. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days

Strangely, this episode feels less urgent than some of the other next-to-last season enders. There is little sense of momentum coming from the First. We knew Glory was coming, knew the Mayor’s plans centered around Graduation, knew Angelus was going to unleash Acathla as soon as he could unlock its mysteries. Under different circumstances Caleb’s arrival might have spurred a greater sense of an apocalypse on the boil, but his big plan was unearthing the Scythe. 

And how’d that turn out for him? The big surprise of the Buffy/Caleb fight isn’t that she wins, despite the First’s having juiced him up. After all, Buffy regularly demolishes the enormously tough entities who have beaten her once before. No, the surprise is that midway through, when Caleb seems to be winning, Angel shows up and knocks him over, before stepping back and...  gallantly? Letting Buffy finish him off.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Angel

Then BuffAngel lock lips, an event Spike happens to be around to witness, and possibly smell, while the First whispers in his hurtin’ Spike ear, “Huh. That came outta nowhere!”

(Oh, wait, that was me. The First says, “That bitch.”)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days, Spike, First

Finally: Did Someone Leave Their Tesseract in Sunnydale High?

A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth of fiction up here on! Her most recent apparance is in “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,”  the second of a series of stories called The Gales. Both this story and its predecessor, “Among the Silvering Herd,” are prequels to her upcoming Tor novel, Child of a Hidden Sea.  

If sailing ships, pirates, magic and international intrigue aren’t your thing, though, her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. Or check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” a tie-in to the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Thomas Thatcher
1. StrongDreams
I'm sure it's just me, but the appearance of the scythe just took me right out of the story. Not just that any iron tool that was 5000-10000 years old would have decomposed (converted to iron oxide) (which could be explained by magick I guess) but it doesn't even look like something that could have been made by the first men/watchers/shamans who created the first Slayer. It looks like someone designed an alternative Klingon weapon for cosplay.
Dr. Thanatos
2. Dr. Thanatos
Three things about this episode make all the criticisms pale:

1) "Scythe matters"
2) "On the other hand, we're hot babes with superpowers"
3) "He had to split"

I can forgive a lot in the name of quotable lines...
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
That #2 has been my fave for years.
Constance Sublette
4. Zorra
That whatever-it-is-weapon looks like a mutant swiss army knife as conceived by Cthulhu -- it's that non-functionally insane looking.

It was one of the many things wrong with this season.
Ryan Jackson
5. KakitaOCU
It's actually fairly straight-forward and practical.

It's a battleaxe with a wooden butt-spike. The only wierd thing about it is that it's called a Scythe for no particular reason.

The rest is explained by magic. The coloration, the wooden stake being intact, etc. It's clearly not a common iron axe with a stick on it. I also don't see anywhere that it was even nessecarily made by humans. For all we know it belongs to the demon they beat down and entrapped into the Slayer line to provide her power. Hence the feeling of connection and the use Willow is able to make of it next episode.
Dr. Thanatos
6. James2
I'm surprised no one's kvetched yet about Angel's wardrobe not matching the duds he was wearing when he left LA hours earlier ("Home").
Sydo Zandstra
7. Fiddler
End of Days and Chosen are among my favourite Buffy episodes.

Andrew and Anya make a great team, indeed, and it is fitting they end up together in the last fight. That wheelchair fight keeps cracking me up. That is so Joss :D

Season 7 is really a closure season, reaching back to all earlier seasons. So Angel showing up was inevitable. But they did that well. Just a cameo, and he isn't her champion anymore at this stage.

Also, Alyx, this was one of your best reviews of Buffy ever. Maybe because we are hitting the end. I look forward to the next one :)
Dr. Thanatos
8. Alex C.
There are two things in this (imo) fairly solid penultimate episode, that I get the impression are widely disliked, one of which I don't mind too much, while the other I really like.

The first, obviously, is the Guardian that Buffy finds in the temple. Her entire story about a mysterious order of women who watch the Watchers fairly smacks of being something that we should have been told about a long time ago if it was going to have any relevance for the story, and feels a bit like a misstep on the part of the writers. On the other hand, she does manage to draw Buffy's attention back to the same bit of insight we got in the first episode of the season (the weapon is not the power), so there's some thematic build-up, at least. But really this is all just setting up for the fight that follows, and of course for what follows that...

Which brings as to the second thing - Angel. It's fairly apparent that he's only here to fill in a scene in the finale (before reprising his exit from "Graduation Day"), but such objections be darned - I love that he's here. The moment he appears to smack Caleb is almost as good as Giles' reappearance at the end of "Two to Go", and the lovely little bit of lip-locking that follows... well, let's just say that I think nostalgia holds the key to what's going on here, emotionally. Holding in mind everything that's happened up to this point in the 7th and 4th seasons of their respective shows, Buffy and Angel have both been going through an awful lot of sh*t quite recently. A moment where they get to luxuriate in a temporary little fantasy where they're together again, and neither has anything more important in their life than the other, is not entirely amiss, I feel.

Other than that, this episode gets full marks for going about what I think is it's intended work - to sweep away most of the nasty emotional left-overs from the break-up in "Empty Places". Buffy dropping in to save Faith and the Potentials is such a wonderful moment that I'm going to completely overlook the nagging question of how she found them in time, and the conversations she later has with Faith and Spike can be happily counted as exhibits for the writers not having lost their magic at this late hour for good character interactions.
Strangely, this episode feels less urgent than some of the other next-to-last season enders. There is little sense of momentum coming from the First.
I think that's basically right. The problem with creating a villain that by definition cannot be defeated - only thwarted in its latest scheme - is that it's hard to muster that sense of urgency: this is just the last in a very long line of apocalypses to be averted (if anyone's counting, I believe that this will mark the eleventh time that Buffy and her friends have foiled an attempt to end the world).

Still, there's a strong redemptive note to be had. What's more important here than defeating the villain is where the heroes are when we say goodbye to them for the last time. And that's something that "Chosen" does very well.
Dr. Thanatos
9. Dianthus
Alyx, your bit about Caleb's tantrum was great. LOL! As for not exchanging rings, well, Angel may have given Buffy a ring, but Spike gives her the world.

@1. It's not just you.

@2. Quotability is all very well, but #1 has always been a groaner to me.

In GiD, Buffy thanked Willow for bringing her back. It's the thanks Willow hoped for, but didn't get, in s6. Here, finally, it's Spike's turn for similar recognition. He gave her the strength to pull herself together in s6 as well, but she wasn't ready to admit it to herself, let alone him. Going back to the Inner Darkness idea for the moment, I think her acceptance of Spike is key to her decision to share her power with the Potentials.
It's like s5 when Dawn was The Buffy's heart. She accepted Spike into the group after he endured torture to protect Dawnie in Intervention, so much so that she firmly overruled both Giles and Xander (her Head and her Heart) when they wanted him out in Spiral. Next thing we know, she's fully embracing her Slayerness to make the ultimate sacrifice for her sister in The Gift.

Going back even earlier, there's the scene in Hush where Buffy's miming stakage and Xander mistakes her actions for...something else entirely. There's also Anya's line to Andrew from Storyteller ("Why can't you just masturbate like the rest of us?"). It is, to me, suggestive of what her relationship with Spike is about (on a certain level), as I've mentioned previously. That and Buffy's brief hook-up with another Slayer in s8. We didn't learn much about the other girl, beyond her name. We didn't need to learn anything more about her, because: metaphor.

Going back earlier still, seeing Buffy with Angel (while Spike watches from the shadows) made me think of Dru with Angelus in s2. Dru will always want her Daddy. She tried to turn Spike into something he wasn't to fulfill that desire, and ultimately left him when he chose to work with Buffy instead. In What's My Line part II, Angel even attempts to goad Spike into staking him by mocking the other's inability to satisfy her properly.
OTOH, Buffy can move past her girlish dreams - at least, I think that's the idea. Unhappily, Whedon did not communicate that clearly to his actors, so it didn't quite work. But no, Angel is not her Champion anymore (thanks, Fiddler).

Ultimately, on some level, the show is really about Joss and his issues. After all, what's the point of having your own TV show if you can't make it about you?
Dr. Thanatos
10. Alex C.
Back to the Scythe - I'm going to reiterate that I actually like its appearance. The fact that it doesn't look like an ancient weapon doesn't bother me - neither did the Acathla Sword from S2. As I said in the previous thread - I take it to be a reference to Buffy's dream from "Restless".

Also just realized, I missed an apocalypse in my earlier count. Including the victory over the First in "Chosen", Buffy and her friends save the world a total of twelve times, from beginning to end of the series.

Not bad. ;)
Kit Case
11. wiredog
Hope you can work this into the rewatch wrapup: GraphTV

It looks up the IMDB ratings for every episode of a show and graphs them. Makes it easy to see the highest rated (Once More, With Feeling) and lowest rated (Where the Wild Things Are) episodes.
Dr. Thanatos
12. Dr. Thanatos
@9 Groaner is what makes it quotable. Besides, since when did Willow go for this kind of humor? This is more of a Lily thing, and we don't have time-travel here...
Dr. Thanatos
13. Dr. Thanatos
And to add on, it's a salute to everyone's favorite bigbad, the Mayor. Played by Harry Groaner...
Dr. Thanatos
14. Alex C.
@ Dr. Thanatos -

Heh heh - agreed.

At the risk of re-hashing a well-trod subject, as we close in on Alyx's rewatch of the finale, I keep coming back to my wildly oscillating sentiments about the last season as a whole. On a given day, I am eminently satisfied with its success in crafting a soild farewell-point for the series, but can never quite get over its strange lack of the *spark* that was present in the middle five seasons.

Once most of the discussion about the merits vs flaws of the season have all been boiled down, two things are sticking in my mind at the moment. The first is that the brief reappearance of the Mayor in the last episode is bringing out an awful lot of wistfulness in me, in that it underlines just how big a missed opportunity the First Evil was. As an arch villain, it was never particularly impressive (despite a fairly solid record of spooking and manipulating the characters) but if the writers had only run with it for what it could have been - a ready made vehicle for bringing back any dead (or undead) characters from the show's history to test the characters in the most potentially thrilling of ways - it might have been a Big Bad as memorable as any of the previous ones.

That this didn't happen can be in no small part laid at the feet of the second thing: the extreme botching of the Potentials, who collectively make the Initiative from S4 look like a dramatic masterwork by comparison. Amidst all the familiar complaints, I still find myself somewhat surprised by just how poorly cast they were, in light of the fact that before this season, casting had previously been such a strong point for the show (SMG, AH, NB, and JM all played their respective parts like they were born for it, and a list of the minor characters - both recurring and one-off - who fit their roles like a glove could run into the dozens).

Still, considering the destination, the rough patches on the journey were more than worth it in the end.
Dr. Thanatos
15. Alex C.
A question for you, Alyx.

Will the re-watch of "Chosen" mark your final post in this series, or have you thought about doing a concluding post to sum up your thoughts about the show, and the main characters, and the journey that it took them through from beginning to end?

If the latter, I for one would love to read it. :)
Chris Nelly
16. Aeryl
@14, I agree, IMO, the only castings that really meshed were Felicia Day's Vi, and Amanda. Indigo's Rona is a good performace, but that character carries a burden that ill served that actress.

Most of that probably comes down to budget, at the end of the day. Whereas guest casting is phenomenal, because you can afford more money for a one shot appearance, locking in a huge expansion the cast for most the season meant there wasn't enough money to get quality performers.

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