Last night was the penultimate episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, so things are picking up. In keeping with the general trend this last season, the episode was both better and worse than any of those in previous years.
Some of the actors (memo to Sarah Michelle Gellar, I’m talking about you) don’t seem to really care much at all about their work any more. Hey, I understand you’ve been doing this for a long time and you’re bored. I’ve been working at my job for more than seven years now, too. But for the series finale, couldn’t you just fake it? You’re actors, so act already!
The writers seem to suffering from the same “I don’t care” malady. These episodes raise the stakes, so that part is better. This isn’t the usual end-of-season Big Bad. This is the Big Bad to end all Big Bads, and Sunnydale is abandoned to its fate. Well, actually Sunnydale is just abandoned, which is a problem. After all, Sunnydale has gone through some tough times before, but nobody has ever left. Now the whole town is gone, and in such a hurry that grocery stores and hospitals are just abandoned?
I won’t even get into the idea that there is enough interaction between Buffy and spinoff Angel that we can see both halves of the same phone conversation by watching both shows but not enough for the folks of Sunnydale to notice that all of Los Angeles has come under the control of a Power-That-Be, or enough for the folks of L.A. to pick up on the end-of-the-world vibe coming from Sunnydale. Oh, wait, Angel did show up in the nick of time, so I guess that’s something. And what the heck was Spike doing hanging out around the corner watching Buffy get her butt kicked by Caleb? Or did he just happen to show up right after that, just in time to… well, if you saw the show, you know, and if you didn’t, you should. Or just read the wildfeed.
Every season has its high points and low points. No episode can hope to be perfectly consistent and logical enough cover every detail in only 42 minutes. But they used to come pretty close. Perhaps the episodes were more simple then, or maybe it was just that the characters didn’t have so much backstory getting in the way. Now it seems that at least one character per episode will act completely out of character, and often it is two or three. Andrew did ask the right question – with the rest of the town gone, why is Anya still around? And where the heck did that taser come from? Okay, the Scoobies have taken to carrying weapons around with them, I get that. But Xander must have checked to ensure that nothing was within reach of Dawn, right? Right?
Oh, there’s no point. This way lies madness. To start down this road would involve asking how it is that a new Luxor-style pyramid tomb with a flimsy (wooden?) door managed to sit in a cemetary in or near Sunnydale without ever being noticed before. If you were the Slayer, or her Watcher, wouldn’t you go on a tour of the area cataloging all tombs and crypts and gravesites? I think I would, probably in season one.
And if you managed to knock Caleb out, wouldn’t you use your magical (and extremely modern-looking for an ancient artifact) scythe to, I don’t know, decapitate him? Of course you would, undead boyfriend with quivering pouting lips or not!
Still, the odds are a little more even now. Caleb can be defeated, even immediately after a tryst with The First. I’m remembering the prophecies, about how Dawn will be alone (“When it’s bad, Buffy won’t choose you. She’ll be against you.”), about how someone will have to… Well, again, if you remember them, you’ve got to be piecing together things in your head and guessing what will happen next Tuesday. And if you don’t, you’ve got a lot of reading to do!
(This post also appeared at W6 Daily.)