Season 7, Episode 22
Original airing: 5/20/2003
My Rating: 64
The Good: I liked this episode much more than it deserved. There are some serious logic issues, which there have been all season, but it did a good job of wrapping up several relationships and touching on the purpose of the whole show’s existence.
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer came out it was designed to basically celebrate the idea of the powerful girl. Wandering into a dark alley doesn’t make her a victim. It’s pretty obvious this episode is a love letter to that idea. Buffy literally slices Caleb open from the crotch up while Angel is incapacitated. Buffy “gifts” the potentials with their powers after pointing out Willow, a super powerful witch, is going to break a rule imposed on them by old men from centuries ago. The montage of potentials gaining their powers only shows women/girls who seem happy to be getting them and the image of the one girl standing up to an abuser was particularly powerful. So I think the show really hit this part out of the ballpark.
Along with this was Buffy’s discovery of her need to grow and develop as a person before she really can be in a fulfilling, long-lasting romantic relationship. I also liked that she’s able to be honest about her feelings with Angel and Spike. It seems a bit like she’s keeping them both on a string, but at the same time, I think she makes it pretty clear where she stands. So it’s up to them how much they want to hang around.
Anya’s death was well done. It’s quick and brutal, leaving the scene of her wide-eyed body to really bring it home. Xander’s necessarily brief search was rather heartwrenching.
I really liked the scene between Robin and Faith in the basement. He manipulated her rather excellently into looking at men in a slightly different light. I don’t really get why he’s so into her and willing to go through all this effort. Perhaps he’s just drawn to a challenge? Either way, I thought the dialogue was well done and the “prettier than thou” joke was great.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I liked Kennedy in this episode! She finally had the right words for Willow in the bedroom scene and she managed to admit she was a headstrong brat without it feeling out of character. I also really believed that despite herself, she would have taken Willow down during the spell if needed. Because that’s what Willow would have wanted.
I really liked the end of the episode (Robin’s fake death excluded). I started crying as soon as Dawn hoped out of the bus and hugged Buffy. I didn’t stop till the credits were rolling. It hit home to see our Scoobies looking out over the ruins of Sunnydale and Buffy’s wonderful little happy smile really sealed the deal.
The Bad: There are some pretty serious issues in this episode that I think could have been resolved if they had more time to be explained and introduced. The biggest left fielder is the amulet. But the silliness and morality questions surrounding The Plan were of a major concern to me.
But let’s start with the more minor issues. Robin’s fake death was really annoying. It wasn’t funny and I think in some ways it made Anya’s death less potent. Of course the series is going to end on a funny note, but I don’t think mocking death was a good way to go after all that intensity.
Angel’s appearance seems rushed and unnatural. He makes a lot of jokes and jumps to the Buffy and Spike relationship pretty quickly. He has no explanation for where he got the amulet or his information on the First. The jealousy he sparked in Spike last episode was commented on by the First and then completely ignored later. In the end, it felt like a wash. Why was he really there except as fan service?
The amulet Angel brings actually beats out the appearance of the scythe as ludicrous. Just last episode I was complaining about how the scythe felt like a huge bandage on the story and then we get something even MORE powerful from an even MORE obscure source with even LESS information on its abilities.
The worst part is how much of The Plan to prevent the end of the world depended on these two items and their abilities – which no one really knows. If one assumption had been flawed, everyone would have been screwed. Why does Buffy think the scythe is capable of activating the powers in the potentials? Why does she go into the Hellmouth with them before that activation takes effect? Why depend on the amulet to save them when they have no idea what it does and Spike points out it isn’t doing anything at first? What was Buffy’s real plan? It seems like it was – Welp, I hope the potentials get all strong and stuff and there’s enough of us. Otherwise we’re screwed. She had no way of knowing the amulet would wipe out all of the Turok-Han and close the Hellmouth.
I think if a bit more time had been dedicated to these objects and research about them, this would have felt more solid. Buffy decides to rush ahead with very limited knowledge and a lot of guess work. With Caleb dead, it didn’t seem like there was all that much of a timeline on the apocalypse.
I was disappointed to see how easily the Turok-Han overwhelmed all the new Slayers. It led to The Plan really feeling flawed when they made it upstairs. But I was even more annoyed to see how easily the humans upstairs were able to dispatch these monsters. The Turok-Han have been so reduced in power it makes the threat feel like even less. It also seems The Plan would have failed without the amulet, which makes it even more annoying that the amulet was just introduced and so important.
What I found most unsettling about it all though was the idea of forcing Slayer powers on all the potentials around the world. That’s fine for the ladies at the house who have some clue what it means. But all I could think of was the women who wouldn’t understand this power, might not want it, might abuse it or have someone else use them because of it, and a myriad other issues which could arise. Plus, Buffy made such a big stink about how unfair it was to do this to an unwilling woman in Get It Done (S7E15). She even references the obnoxious Shadow Men in this episode. Then she turns around and does the exact same thing. I think we’re meant to miss or ignore this in favor of the Woman Power message, but I just don’t think I can.
Logically related to this issue of imbuing potentials around the world is the question of the age discrepancies when every single potential at the house is early teens. Why then do we see middle-aged mothers and young girls also affected? The biggest question is why any of these women are still alive at all. Weren’t the Bringers hunting them all down and killing them? Were they only capable of finding the teenage potentials for some reason? It makes the First’s plan to wipe out the Slayer line look pretty stupid.
Favorite Moment: It’s beautiful to see the core four standing around before the battle, joking and mocking. I loved the tie in to the very beginning of the show with Giles line of the world being doomed. Lovely.
The Bottom Line: Despite major logic flaws and the lazy feeling generated by the introduction and subsequent importance of the scythe and the amulet, I liked this finale. In the end, it came full circle to the show’s ultimate point – women are powerful. It also had some wonderful character moments and ended with an excellent shot of Buffy. But I really think you have to be a fan of the show to appreciate the good parts of this episode. As an hour of television, it’s just not that good.