Buffy Season 8, and What Makes a Series Good

Throughout my college years, I’d watch my sister squeal every Christmas as she unwrapped another Buffy DVD set. I didn’t know much about the series, but I was filled with that obnoxious self-importance that comes from having decided to be an Academic Who Reads Serious Things. I tried to have a conversation with my sister about Buffy.

“So,” I said. “It’s funny?”

“Yes, but—”

“I don’t like funny.”

“It can be sad, too. And sweet, and sexy—”

“And there are vampires, right?”

“Yes. You see—”

“Sounds pretty silly to me.”

She sighed. “You have no clue.”

Almost ten years later, my eyes fiery holes in my head after having stayed up until 4 am watching Season 2, I gave her a call. “You were right,” I said. “I had no clue.”

I watched it all. I couldn’t shut up about it, not even to my students. I signed up for Team Spike with zeal (if you know what’s good for you, don’t ever get into a conversation with me about this). I cried at the end of Season 5 (and a few other times, too). And I felt a little lost when I finished the last DVD of Season 7. 

So of course I, like many, was delighted when Season 8 came out in comic form, under the (supposedly) watchful eye of Joss Whedon. I’d gotten back into comic books after a long hiatus, and had been turned on to Y: The Last Man, so I was thrilled to see Brian K. Vaughan had signed up for an arc (and his Faith-centric arc still probably remains my favorite in the comic series). I even wrote a letter to the editor, and gasped a little when I opened up an issue to see that it had been printed. I was enthused. I was sold.

And then…I got bored. I’m sorry to say it. I really am. I dropped off somewhere around the Harmony issues (or maybe it was the Oz-has-a-puppy-and-Willow’s-jealous issue). I found myself doing what I do when I know a series is dead for me—I checked the internet to see what had happened to the characters since I left them. 

Lately, a memo by David Mamet has been making the rounds among my writer friends, and it is mostly very smart and applicable to all writers, not just screenwriters. Essentially, Mamet is trying to teach the writers of The Unit how to write plot, and how to make something dramatic. I do wonder, though, if there’s an over-emphasis on making viewers want to know What Happens Next. Because it might make writers focus more on the WHAT than the WANT. I kind of want to know what happens next in S8, but I obviously don’t care quite enough to read it. So somehow you, the writer, need to make your reader/viewer CARE. I think the problem—for me—is that too much happened too fast in Season 8. I lost the character depth, and so fell out of love with the characters and series.

I’m going to pick Season 8 back up, give it another chance, and will let you know how it goes. In the meanwhile, please tell me: what is it about a series (books, TV, comics, whatever) that keeps you going? What turns you off?

Marie Rutkoski is the author of the young adult fantasy novel The Cabinet of Wonders and its sequel, The Celestial Globe (published on April 13, 2010). Both books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, which described the first novel as a “heady mix of history and enchantment.” Her novels have been or will be published in eight languages. Marie holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard University, and currently teaches as a professor of Renaissance drama, children’s literature, and creative writing at Brooklyn College. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.


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