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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

A truism-heavy era ends with ’Buffy’

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Friday 5 March 2004, by Webmaster

A truism-heavy era ends with ’Buffy’

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit, contributor

Inquirer News Service

IT’S the end of an era once again for quality television.

One of the most intelligent and endearing shows on TV, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," aired its final episode in the US last May. The beloved fantasy drama has accumulated some of the most devout, most rabid fans worldwide throughout its seven years of inspired storytelling; unquestioning disciples to creator Joss Whedon’s (and his trusted writer crew’s) mind-bending tales of heroism and growing up.

Smart, funny, angsty and sexy-it spearheaded a slew of copycat shows like the utterly formulaic "Smallville" and the short-lived "Dark Angel", among many others. We Filipinos are currently seeing new episodes of that final seventh season over Studio 23 (although some of us may have helped ourselves to spoilers already), and it’s the perfect time to catch it before it becomes the stuff of TV legend. Its spin off series "Angel" is also facing cancellation, leaving us with two more seasons of the good vampire’s tales that have yet to be shown here.

Some good things never last, but "Buffy" yielded tons of growing-up and other life truisms since day one that pretty much appealed to everyone. Top Ten drum roll, please...

10) School is hell

Every villain that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) faces is a metaphorical manifestation of her (or her friends’) anxieties. The weekly threats are challenges that almost always mirror her problems, and she becomes all the more experienced after trouncing and cataloguing them. Her bogeymen enemies in "Hush" steal voices-coincidentally, she has trouble finding the words to reveal her secret life to then-boyfriend Riley (Marc Blucas) in the episode.

After Buffy quit school, the scenarios took a darker "life is hell" turn, and even more so after her own death and resurrection. Season six was characterized initially by a state of depression and confusion, and later shifted to a sense of direction. Her adventures reflected all that. Growing up is never easy, and we can all relate.

9) Good and evil belie appearances

Picturesque Sunnydale lies on top of a Hellmouth, so all sinister characters are drawn to the place. Bad guys are easily identifiable — usually. Vampires wear two faces: a regular human’s, and a hideous predator’s. The gorgeous Glory (Clare Kramer) is actually a diabolical god. Demons aren’t always necessarily evil.

In Los Angeles, heroic vamp Angel (David Boreanaz) and half-demoness Cordelia have a hilarious do-gooder ally in Lorne (Andy Hallett), who looks like the typical demon from traditional beliefs. Their arch-foes are the good-looking but merciless human lawyers from the Wolfram and Hart firm.

8) Betrayal sucks

But it makes for great viewing! When Buffy and Angel first got intimate, this activated a curse that made the vampire lose his soul. He reverted to his evil ways, killed her Watcher’s girlfriend, and almost destroyed the world.

The reckless Slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) joined forces with Buffy’s enemies after not fitting in with her friends or her moral codes. Lesbian witch Willow (Alyson Hannigan) went insane after her lover Tara (Amber Benson) was killed, beating up her pals Buffy and Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) with vile magic. These were some of the best and most difficult adversaries our heroine has had to face.

7) No one is an island

Survival in Sunnydale depends largely on depending on the right people. During town-wide mystical epidemics, the Scooby Gang is the team to beat when it comes to figuring out and solving these problems. Giles, Willow and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) comprise Buffy’s reliable support group, through thick monster imbroglios and thin.

When everyone breaks into song (like in the "Once More With Feeling" musical episode), or loses their memories or their voices, teamwork can save the day. This extended family includes Buffy’s "adopted" sis Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), reluctant vampire hero Spike (James Marsters), and a few others.

6) Baddies can reform

At least some of them do. Spike’s brain implant prevents him from harming humans, and his love for Buffy made him a valuable ally. He even went on a quest to reclaim his lost soul, and succeeded. Others who were given second chances and are now allies include Anya (Emma Caulfield), who was a powerful ex-demon that granted wishes to hurting women; and Faith, who was convinced by Angel to take the path to redemption.

These volatile figures exemplify the show’s unpredictability; symbolic of hope, change and life’s more pleasant surprises. Some of season 7’s true heroes are former bad guys.

5) Geeks kick major butt

Geek god Joss Whedon’s universe is littered with diverse portrayals of the nerd species. Willow is a master hacker. Giles and the other Watchers are knowledgeable in ancient sorcery and monster books. Xander knows Star Trek languages, and can discuss the differences between red, gold and green Kryptonite with cool geek musician Oz (Seth Green).

Their combined minds have helped in the Slayer’s missions. Their enemies, The Trio, meanwhile, are young brainiac "super-villains" who have been inventive in their use of both science and magic in their schemes.

4)Addiction is a b*tch

Willow’s addiction to magic led to her breakup with Tara. She struggled to stay magic-free for months, eventually reconciling with her ex, who was killed almost immediately. Willow snaps, relapsing and transforming into a furious uber-villain.

Spike’s obsession with Buffy led to the Slayer’s using him for her, um, convenience. But his brain chip doesn’t work on her anymore. When she broke up with him, Spike almost assaults her when she resisted his advances.

3) Death creeps in when least expected

It was shocking to see Buffy’s mother bite the dust, and even more surprising to learn that she didn’t die of supernatural causes. Tara’s death was controversial as it sparked outcries from gay fans citing an old Hollywood cinema clich‚ (lesbians + sex = death and insanity).

When Buffy herself died, every follower was in mourning mode between seasons five and six, but eagerly waited for her eventual resurrection. That’s how beloved and alive these characters have become. Word’s out that some Scoobies will buy the farm in the final episode (sniff!). But in the Whedon-verse, like in certain beliefs in our reality, death is only the beginning.

2) Love bites and how!

Happy endings are rare when it comes to Sunnydale couples. Buffy and Angel can’t be together due to a curse; Riley left Buffy because he felt inadequate; and Buffy left Spike because she doesn’t love him. Every time someone’s this close to happiness, heartbreak rears its ugly head.

Xander left Anya at the altar because he’s afraid of repeating the mistakes of his bitter parents. The crushed Anya chooses to become a demon again, and finds fleeting solace with the jilted Spike. Ah, everybody hurts. Must be a Sunnydale thing.

1) Heroes do what they must

Buffy tries to balance her time between earning a meager salary, raising her rebellious sister alone, and vanquishing hordes of the undead. Her selflessness knows no bounds, fortified by years of tragedy, love and a sense of humor (a very handy survival device).

She’s woman-power personified, inspiring the presence of more young, butt-kicking females in the TV landscape. We still have less than twenty episodes to go, but she and her show are already missed. For an hour every week, the Slayer gave much-needed life to primetime television. And that’s a daunting task, indeed.