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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

By Filip Vukcevic

Tuesday 23 November 2004, by Webmaster

Buffy goes out with a bang and not a whimper. Kinda.

November 22, 2004 - The seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was its weakest year - however, the ’weakest’ Buffy is still leagues ahead of most other television shows. While it wasn’t as good as what had come before, it still managed to pack one hell of a punch.

During the final year of Buffy series creator Joss Whedon was working on three shows at once; Buffy, Angel and Firefly. While the man is very talented (or just plain nuts) there is no way even he could run three shows without the quality suffering on one of them, and Buffy took his absence the hardest.

The show was by no means bad, it simply wasn’t as exciting and as excellent as the previous seasons. Each year it had managed to up the ante either character-wise or in terms of exploring a new complex theme; eventually the show had to slow down and that is what happened here.

The main reason the show fell short of its usual high standards was the fact that it let almost all of its main characters either fall by the way-side or become flat and boring. Several secondary characters were introduced, and they took time away from the development of the core group.

Giles was toned down so much that he was noticeably different from who you remember from past years. While Xander (Nicholas Brendan) managed to retain his good-natured humor, you felt as if his character was neglected and his relationship with Anya (Emma Caulfield) was left to flounder. Willow (Alyson Hannigan), normally one of the quirkiest and most endearing characters, was the most uninteresting she’s ever been.

And finally there’ the title character herself, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar). While the character did learn something over the course of the year, and while she did grow, it wasn’t nearly as profound or as interesting as what had come before. It just didn’t feel as big as it should have - you’ve seen the show do better than this and you’re expecting it to wow you like it has in the past, but it just doesn’t happen.

Then there was Spike (James Marsters) who, as many have commented, suffered from TFS: The Fonz Syndrome. That is, he was so overused and overplayed that his unique style and charm had totally faded. This year we get a Spike overload, and while it is interesting, it doesn’t feel right when the cost is having the development of the other characters suffer.

This final year saw the introduction of ’The Potentials,’ Slayerettes who had the potential to be full-blown Slayers themselves, but had not yet been called, since there can only be one Slayer at a time. While the idea of giving Buffy a defacto army of teenage girls to general sounds good on paper, it didn’t translate very well to the screen.

The Slayerettes weren’t written well and they just came off as annoying, unrealistic, or boring. Not to mention the fact that, once again, their inclusion and development meant that less time was spent watching more important characters like Xander and Willow continue to grow and change.

Another reason this year isn’t as stand-out as its predecessors was that there wasn’t anything to it that punched you in the face. In the past we got an amazing musical, we got a brilliant dream episode, we got to see the effects of the death of a loved one, we got to see a lover go evil.

Each of the previous seasons had a depth that this one was lacking. There wasn’t anything that smacked you in the forehead and glued you to your seat. In addition, the villain this year, the ’First Evil’, was easily the most uninteresting and dull bad guy the show has had. A real pity, because in a story like this you need a strong villain just as much as you need a strong hero.

I cannot end this review, however, without mentioning the very last episode of the show, the Whedon penned and directed finale, Chosen. Was it as amazing as season five’s conclusion, The Gift? No, but it was still a damn good ending.

It reaffirmed the very mission statement, not just of the show, but of the character. Buffy was conceived of as a female icon; a powerful, strong, and real woman. In the end we see that not only can she be strong, but all women can.

If it seems that I’m dwelling on the negative here, then that’s true. Each time the show fumbled a character or slipped-up, it did something right. While we did get an overload of Spike, much of it was good stuff. While the Slayerettes were annoying, the effect they had on Buffy was interesting to see. While the season may not have been a roller-coaster, it was, definitely, one hell of a ride.

Score: 7 out of 10

The Video

Lucky for us, this last set is the best one visually thus far. The episodes are presented in their broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 and they all look very good. Colors are strong and the picture is quite sharp. Also the grain and dot crawl that plagued the previous transfers is all but gone.

While the transfers are strong, there is a down-side. There are several scenes that take place in very dimly lit areas and while stylistically it’s moody and cool, the image suffers. Black levels aren’t as strong as they could be during these scenes and separation isn’t too good, leading to a very soft look.

Despite this flaw, I’m very happy with the overall look of each of the 22 episodes. They’re all definitely a big step up from broadcast quality and will look great in the years to come.

Score: 8 out of 10

Languages and Audio

Really, what else can you ask for in the audio department other than a 5.1 mix? That would be nice, but the fact of the matter is that this is a TV show and the audio can only be so good in Dolby Surround 2.0.

As with the other sets, the audio is fine, but not fantastic. Voices come through clear and the range is good. There are several very quiet scenes where characters are talking to each other in hushed tones and then there are huge battles with loud music — as in the finale — and they both come across nicely.

Subtitles are available in English and Spanish, and the available audio tracks are English, Spanish, and French.

Score: 7 out of 10

Packaging and Extras

While the extras aren’t as great as those on the excellent season six set, they are still very good and certainly befitting of a final season. We’ve got seven commentaries and six featurettes and they range from okay to great.

On disc three, there’s It’s Always Been About the Fans, which is a short piece devoted to a big Buffy party that the fans held for the producers and actors. Next, on disc six, there’s The Last Sundown which I’m sure many fans will enjoy. It’s a segment with Joss Whedon where he lists and discusses his top 10 favorite episodes. Buffy Wraps is exactly what I was hoping we’d get - it was filmed during the wrap party for the series and makes for a nice goodbye.

There’s also something else that I’ve wanted to see, Buffy 101: Studying the Slayer, a featurette that has interviews with various professors and academic-types where they talk about why Buffy is such an iconic and meaningful show. Each of these featurettes is great because they add closure to the series.

Generation S is ten minutes long and has the girls that played the ’Potentials’ discussing their roles. Finally there’s Buffy: Full Circle the standard season overview. It runs for over half an hour and is decent; it’s still got a bit too much stock footage and not enough info for my taste. We also get a fun gag reel.

Next up are the commentaries; this time we get a nice assortment, from actors to directors to writers. In addition to the tracks I mention below, you also get commentaries for Selfless, The Killer In Me, Lessons, and Lies My Parents Told Me.

Fans will be happy to hear a commentary to one of the season’s highlight episodes, Conversations With Dead People. On this one we’ve got director Nick Marck, writer Jane Espenson and actors Danny Strong and Tom Lenk. It’s fun to listen to, especially when you realize that Tom Lenk is a lot like Andrew in real life.

Next up there’s Dirty Girls with writer Drew Goddard and actor Nicholas Brendon, who steals the show. I’m mad now that we didn’t get any tracks with him in the past as he is easily the most energetic and funny person to listen to. He really is a lot like Xander and his good sense of humor makes this one of the most entertaining commentaries the show has gotten thus far.

Finally there’s the big finish, Joss Whedon’s track on the finale, Chosen. Unlike his track for the season opener, Whedon doesn’t stop talking. From characters to plots to themes, he covers everything. And what makes it great is that he answers questions that I’m sure fans would like to ask him. Was the ’Slayer Axe’ a little too convenient? Yes. What happened with Buffy and Spike that last night? It’s up to you. The fact that he questions his own material and brings up good technical points makes Whedon’s track the best of the set.

Score: 9 out of 10

Closing Comments

If you’re not a Buffy fan, then I’m sure you’ve heard of it. And just like me before I’d watched it, I judged the show by its title and thought that it had to be stupid. After watching the excellent second season - the best point to jump on - I realized how wrong I had been. What I thought was lame teen melodrama turned out to be insightful storytelling that had more depth to it than any television show I had ever seen.

If you’re tired of all of the reality TV garbage that is suffocating television, then I’d strongly recommend you give Buffy the Vampire Slayer a shot. Ten, twenty, even thirty years from now, this seemingly silly show about a vampire slayer and her friends will not be forgotten. What better legacy is there than that?

6 Forum messages

  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    24 November 2004 14:46, by Anonymous
    The author was right. Season 7 was dull. I get bored before the episode even starts. Always in Buffy I get so intersted whenever Xander or Willow show up in a scene. But in season seven, they so were not themselives. I get bored in Xander’s scenes. XANDER’s scenes?! That’s something I NEVER thought I’d get to.
  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    24 November 2004 14:55, by Anonymous
    Who wrote this was correct about the neglecting of the core four. They showed Giles as the bad guy and he was noticeably different from who you remember from past years. While Xander the all time comic relief, lost his role to another character and seemed to be neglected along with his realationship with Anya. Willow, the most intersting character, was major boredom. There was no development going on for Xander and Giles, and Willow’s wasn’t nearly as interesting as what had come before
  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    24 November 2004 14:59, by Anonymous
    He’s right. The whole screen was for Buffy (duh, her show), Spike and new boring characters. The rest of Scoobies did not develop nor had a strong story-line, or didn’t have in the case of Xander, that is just very disappointing.
  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    24 November 2004 23:50, by Lucy
    oh well...the show was still better then most of them. Even with the sometimes dull and repetitive plot of season 7. Just remember this one thing people. Remember how mad we were when they pulled the plug on the show...even when perhaps it’s time was wearing thin.
  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    25 November 2004 05:54, by deborahc

    S7 is my least favorite season, for many, many reasons. The reviewer touched on some of those reasons, but I take issue with his criticism of Spike. I didn’t think that he was used too much, I thought he was used too much in isolation from the core characters other than Buffy, and to some extent Anya. S7 was notably bereft of direct interaction and conversation between Spike and anyone else.

    I was particularly eager to see how the Scoobies and Giles would react to the news that Spike got back his soul, because he wanted it, went after it, and fought for it, in contrast to Angel who only has a soul when it’s forced upon him against his will. But this staggering occurrence is not even referred to, let alone discussed, other than by Spike and Buffy in private conversation. Conversation between the other main characters and Spike - a high-point for me in previous years - was notably lacking in S7. These people all had history with Spike, and issues, and it certainly wasn’t as if they never talked to each other before and had nothing to say to each other now. I’m not saying that the show should have revolved around Spike resolving his issues with everyone else. I’m saying that the virtual absence of direct conversation with Spike was unrealistic. And speaking of unrealistic, Clem, Spike’s particular friend, did not exchange a single word with him during their one scene in common, or even refer to him in his second and last appearance on the show when he sees Buffy on his way out of Sunnydale. I really don’t feel that the writers were paying much attention to the integrity of the histories of the characters and the relationships between them.

    Spike’s relationship with Buffy was important, but not to the exclusion of his relationships and history with everyone else.

    The SITs stole valuable screen time away from the characters we were invested in and cared about. To spring them on us in the last season, with the clock ticking and time running out to say everything that needed to be said, was a shock and a disappointment. But don’t blame Spike for twisting Giles into an unfathomable Giles lookalike, or for Dawn, Willow, and Xander’s relegation to little more than window dressing. IMO, it was how they used him, not how much, that was so dissatisfactory.

  • > Buffy Season 7 DVD Region 1 - Ign.com Review

    26 November 2004 03:19, by Ruperta

    How surprising is it that we ended up with a sort of awkward season, when Joss was intent on that "share the power" ending, and started out trying to keep options open for a Season 8, or maybe for a Faith spin-off, or maybe to move Spike to AtS (which was under threat of being canceled otherwise), and all that stuff? How tight and focused is the season going to be, under those circumstances?

    It was a good season despite the disappointment regarding the lack of seeing enough of our regular cast.

    The Potentials took away from all our core characters. They were there because that "sharing the power" ending was very important to get to, and we ended up with an awkward season.

    In regard to Spike in particular, Spike and his amulet was central to that ending - as Xander and his crayon speech had been the year before. But, I don’t think he got anymore screen time than anyone of the other regulars. Somebody would have to time it and prove it to me. I didn’t pay close attention but I’m always surprised when I hear this - when I think of how disappointing it was not to see more of our regulars, I think of all of them, including Spike.

    There was a Spike overload? The only overload was too much time spent on the Potentials. How I wish some of those minutes could have been spent on our regulars - any one of them.

    deborahc mentioned Spike’s soul- getting seemed like it should have caused more reaction, and I agree. And Willow almost ending the world and killing Warren, and Anya letting herself go back to demonhood. . . each got one episode that sort of dealt with this huge huge huge thing that they had done, and then it was on to being overwhelmed by The Potentials, and that lame "is Giles dead" thing (which I guess was just supposed to be silly fun, but it didn’t work.)

    But there were some truly great moments in Season 7. And I still love that ending. It made suffering through The Potential overload worth it.