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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

The State of the Buffyverse - Thebuzz.com Review

By Shaun Narine

Wednesday 8 January 2003, by Webmaster

In our never-ending series of articles speculating on the end of "Buffy," (have you noticed that we’re a little obsessive?), Shaun Narine has contributed a guest column presenting his viewpoint on the various possibilities. Rest assured, like the others, this article contains speculation, not spoilers. Shaun teaches international relations at a university in Canada When he’s not worrying about the state of the world, he worries about the state of the Buffyverse.

The Resolution of Season Seven

I really have no clue as to how the present storyline will be resolved. I think that, right now, there are just too many missing pieces to really put together what may happen. I think it is interesting to point out some of those pieces, however.

The First: what does it want and why? It says that it plans to go out with a bang; it also says that it does not believe in the "balance" anymore. Does this imply that it expects to be destroyed? Is it committing a kind of suicide? Also, its mention of a balance is intriguing; the idea that there is a necessary balance between good and evil is at the heart of most Eastern religions (and some Christian thought, too). To this point, the Buffyverse has drawn a pretty stark division between good and evil, in keeping with Christian mythology. However, the notion that good and evil define each other and are necessary forces of nature is an idea that deserves further exploration. So, what is the relationship between the First and the forces of good? This question is made more interesting by the real possibility that the First is the source of the Slayer’s power - remember that "the Slayer’s power is rooted in darkness" (or words to that effect, from "Buffy vs. Dracula"). This is an idea that has never been explored or explained; maybe the First’s reasons for knocking off the slayers are more complex than just getting rid of the guardians of the Hellmouth.

Second, what is going on with Giles? My own feeling is that he is not a ghost, but he has been touched by a supernatural force that is empowering him - maybe only until he completes his mission by helping Buffy. If that is the case, however, what is that force? Proceeding from the discussion above, it would probably be the benevolent counterpart force to the First - which interceded to save Angel way back in "Amends." I’ve always assumed that force was "The Powers That Be," and maybe it is, but either way I think its presence is being felt and! that adds a dimension to the resolution of events that makes prediction too difficult. BTW, following from this, I believe that Joyce is a benevolent entity representing this force and that her warnings and advice to Buffy are real - though, perhaps, subject to misinterpretation.

Third, what other weapons does the First have in its arsenal? Its claim (and Whedon’s claim, too) that we are going back to the beginning suggests that the Master may make another appearance, but this time in the flesh. Similarly, the First’s appearance as all of the show’s villains suggests that they may all make a comeback - who knows what the First may be able to pull out of that seal in the basement? Maybe the Turok-Han was just one of many manifestations of evil to which it has access. Oh, and Faith’s appearance virtually guarantees the return of Mayor Wilkins, if only as a form assumed by the First. And I’m kind of hoping for a Glory-Willow rematch.

In the "Fray" comic book, a flashback scene talks about a slayer fighting a final apocalyptic battle against the forces of evil that ends by those forces sealed off from the earth, at least for a time. The comic mentions that she had "mystical allies." I’ve read speculation (not spoilers) that this is the battle that will conclude Season Seven. That is possible; on the other hand, the slayer in question might be Dawn a few years down the line. Again, the possibilities are open.

Fourth - and just a throwaway idea - one of the most curious events in Buffy past was in Season One, when the Anointed One came for Buffy to lead her to "hell". In the prophecy, she was not supposed to know who he was - but she did know when he turned up, and followed him to her (temporary) death. If we really are returning to the beginning, maybe that prophecy will finally be fulfilled - maybe there is another Anointed One who is going to lead Buffy to hell, and she won’t know who that person is until it is too late.

A Brief Comment on Spike

James Marsters ! has pointed out that the Spike who loved Buffy was exactly the same as the Spike who loved Drusilla. It seems that obsessive love was simply part of William’s human character, and it is a tendency that was perverted by his becoming a vampire. When Spike loved Drusilla, she wanted him to be an evil, sadistic, brutal killer and rapist - and he was. To please Buffy, however, he needed to become a good person - so, he did. Spike - before he gained his soul - was never motivated by anything other than his own selfish desires to have something he could not attain. Spike, as a soulless vampire, was capable of love - but only the most twisted, obsessive and destructive kinds of love. I think this is an important point to keep in mind, because there is a lot of over-romanticizing of Spike in fandom which - to me, anyway - is really kind of disturbing.

Finally, a quick comment on reading a bit too much into scenes and dialogue from the past: I’m just as intrigued as anyone by seeing various clues and bits of obscure dialogue from seasons past suddenly having a meaning years later. On the other hand, it’s also clear that the Buffyverse has major continuity problems. An obvious example: how does a vampire get sired? The idea that there needs to be an exchange of blood between the vampire and victim was well-established early on - indeed, this fact is a pivotal point in the "Fray" comic book. Yet, it is clear that many people have become vampires just by being bitten - Harmony, Sandy, the vampire killed by Riley in season five and who was created by Vampire Willow in season three, and probably all of Spike’s recent victims. So, this is just a cautionary note - Joss and his people do make mistakes and these can be misleading.

[Note from Tanya: Sorry to interrupt, but I can’t help it. While I agree with your cautionary note, I have a lot of faith in Joss’ attention to continuity. Also, I don’t know that we can say whether or not Harmony, Sandy, and all of Spike’s recent victims received blood or ! not, at least I don’t recall seeing their entire death scene. Okay, the floor is yours again, Shaun.]

"Faith, the Vampire Slayer"?

I think it is almost certain that Faith will die. I think that is really unfortunate - as one of your readers pointed out, a series with Faith would be really, really great - the whole redemption angle (a la "Angel") would be back and Faith’s colorful history with the other characters would provide enormous possibilities for a whole range of stories. A series in which Willow, Xander and the others gradually become friends with Faith would be really interesting. Given how much all the characters have changed over the years, the dynamic would also be very different than in the past. (For example, the balance of power between Willow and Faith has changed completely.) Also, Faith is a very strong character and would provide both the physical and psychological focus that any successor show presently seems to lack. Joss has expressed his enthusiasm for the idea of a "Faith" show as well. However, for entirely practical reasons, this is unlikely to happen - I have not read anywhere that Eliza Dushku wants to do TV. So, killing off Faith seems the most likely outcome and would make it possible for Dawn to become the next Slayer.

Practical Considerations

What is the fate of Buffy? Entirely on practical grounds, I think that Buffy’s fate depends on real-world considerations. I’ve read one report indicating that SMG may return as Buffy in a limited number of shows next season for an exorbitant amount of money. If no deal can be reached with SMG, then I think there is a real possibility that Buffy will end up dying. It would probably be better to kill the character off than have to explain her absence in any spin-off series. It would also be a cleaner resolution and would seem to tie into the idea that Buffy was brought back for some higher purpose. On the other hand, Buffy has already died twice - it’s become a bit redundant and would no longer! be unexpected.

I don’t mean to appear too practical or real-world conscious here. It may well be that Joss and his group have the ending to the season completely worked out and have allowed nothing but considerations of story to drive what happens. However, I suspect that they may have a number of possible endings, depending on how these real-world considerations play out.

Moving out of the real world and entirely into the Buffyverse, however, what is certain is that if there is a next season - be it a new spin-off series or a Season Eight - Buffy will either be gone or largely absent for much of the season. So, what kind of show is possible? This is where it becomes really interesting to me, and suggests some possibilities for what may play out over Season Seven.

Continuing "Buffy" without Buffy

At present, there is no character in "Buffy" who can serve as the strong center for a new or continuing show. Buffy has been the physical presence and the clear leader of the Scooby gang from the outset - the other characters have always deferred to her. So, of the present characters, who can fulfill the leadership function? The most obvious answer is Willow - she is easily the most powerful of the Buffy characters and by the end of Season Five, beginning of Season Six she had become the leader of the Scoobies in Buffy’s absence. Willow presently has a host of problems however - she is afraid of her own magic and she has major self-esteem issues (as demonstrated many times over the years, and in particular in her reaction to Tara’s murder). To set Willow up as a possible lead for a spin-off, these issues would need to be addressed, at least in part, over the rest of the season. By the end of the season, Willow would need to be far more self-assured and ready for a leadership role. I don’t know if this will happen, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. This kind of transformation, however, would require redefining the character and also focusing far more attention on her devel! opment than seems likely, given everything else going on this year.

One thing I would really like to see is some return of Tara. Yes, I know about Amber Benson’s inability to reach a contract with the production company, but Tara could appear as a CGI figure, a ball of light, or some kind of presence. If Joyce and (possibly) Giles can come back from beyond the grave to help their loved ones in their time of need, Tara should certainly be able to do so as well. I’m hoping that if Tara does make a reappearance, it will be a powerful catalyzing force for change and resolution in Willow. Also, I have to admit that I am a big Willow-Tara fan. As much as I understand the writers’ need to kill Tara to push Willow over the edge last season, I really miss the character and the genuine, deeply loving relationship that she and Willow had. I guess at heart I’m a romantic, and I would like to think that someone as important to Willow as Tara will not simply fade into memory.

Along these lines, I’m not happy about Willow’s relationship with Kennedy. It’s just way too soon. Just from an emotional point of view, there is no way that Willow could have completed the grieving process for Tara by now. I am hopeful, however, that the writers will place Willow’s new relationship with Kennedy within the context of her unresolved feelings of loss for Tara and do something interesting and sensible with the relationship. For example, I can see where someone who feels as terrible as Willow may run into a new relationship as part of a release from the pain. Other than that, however, I think it is a real stretch to assume that Willow is presently emotionally healthy enough to participate in a real relationship. But let’s see what develops.

Other than Willow, I don’t think that any other characters really have the potential to lead. I think that there is a good chance that Dawn will become a new slayer and that Spike may become her watcher/trainer - I also like the connection to "Restless" in this regard. Dawn! could never lead the Scoobies, however - their relationship with her is too different from what they had with Buffy, and all of the characters have grown and changed too much from when the gang was first established.

In Conclusion . . .

I do hope that the series concludes this year - it is far better for the series to end on a high note than drag on past its prime, like "The X-Files". However, I also hope that there is a spin-off - a new show that can fall without tainting the original if it fails, but adding to and deepening the mythology if it succeeds. The characters are too good and the mythology is too deep to just abandon them and there remain many other stories that can still be told about.