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From Dailytelegraph.news.com.au

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy out with a bang

Thursday 13 March 2003, by Webmaster

IF you’ve never watched Buffy before, you probably aren’t planning on starting now.

Any discussion of the show quickly polarises people into diehard fans and the rest of the world, who are usually faintly amused at the devotion it inspires in others.

Although it’s spawned a host of other angsty, supernatural programs such as Roswell and Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is impossible to categorise. Comedy, drama and horror action are there in equal parts, but it’s really all about redemption.

Buffy the TV show debuted back in 1997 as a mid-season filler based on a B-grade feature film written and directed by Joss Whedon, who has done a much better job with the small screen.

Darker themes quickly grew out of the premise of a petite blonde teenager who is destined to protect the world from vampires and demons. The doomed love affair between Buffy and Angel, the vampire-with-a-soul, was the first tragedy: an ancient curse meant that their trysts made Angel go bad; Buffy had to kill him; he came back to life and reformed, but they couldn’t be together so he moved to LA to star in a surprisingly good spin-off. Buffy floundered for a while in the fourth series when she went to college and had a boring human boyfriend, but the characters continued to grow - Buffy’s best friend Willow fell in love with another woman, and her other buddy Xander started dating a former vengeance demon, Anya. Dawson’s Creek it ain’t.

In the fifth series Buffy’s mother suddenly died, sending our heroine into severe anguish, which was only exacerbated by the sudden appearance of her younger sister. In that series’ spectacular finale, Buffy sacrificed her life to save the said sister, Dawn (to the disappointment of those who pointed out that Dawn was a whiny, irritating excuse for a character).

Last year Buffy was resurrected, only to lead viewers through new depths of unhappiness as she retreated from her friends and got hot and heavy with then-nasty vampire Spike. Meanwhile Willow took gruesome revenge after her girlfriend was accidentally shot.

Although Buffy, Spike and Willow were all redeemed by the last episode, the desperation of last year’s series left even serious fans wondering whether it had run its course. Meanwhile in the real world, its star Sarah Michelle Gellar had become a household name, and last month she confirmed she wouldn’t be signing up for another series, making this the last season.

But it looks like ending on a high note. The Hellmouth that lurks beneath the grounds of the very SoCal Sunnydale High School is back with a vengeance, after the original school was burnt down three series ago. The Hellmouth was the focus of the early Buffy years, spawning all sorts of demons, vampires, zombies to keep the show kicking along. The school has been rebuilt and Buffy has scored a gig as student counsellor, while Dawn is a student there.

(Sydney and Brisbane Buffy fans beware: this review is not for the episode you’ll be seeing this week. Thanks to some very poor programming by Seven, you’re all a week behind the rest of the us.)

Tonight’s episode is an absolute gem, despite being essentially a filler in the wider story arc. It’s Buffy humour at its best, as a dopey high school boy manages to bewitch the four main females. The action borders on slapstick, but the superb acting and script make it work beautifully.

This year’s climax is apparently going to build up over five episodes to the ultimate showdown, which will feature the unexpected return of some characters.

There are rumours of a future Slayer series based on Dawn - although it’s hard to see how the actor who plays her, Michelle Trachtenberg, could hold up a spin-off.

But if there’s one thing Buffy fans have learnt, it’s to have faith in the strange mind of Joss Whedon. And at least Angel looks set to continue.