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mygif

I think you describe well how the first three hang together well – after starting into the fourth season after those I’ve really only gone onesey-twosey with episodes: Once More With Feeling (6.7), The Body (5.16), Selfless (7.5) and then live the last few episodes of the show when they were broadcast, to catch up. I guess that makes me a half-hearted fan, I didn’t plow through all the Buffy-Spike masochism, but I think there’s two ways of looking at it, maybe the same way as (gasp) Harry Potter – once they’re out of high school it’s hard to keep narrative structure the same (those wandery passages of the last Potter book where they’re camping). I understand the argument that they “grew up” and honestly looking at the earlier episodes now many of them seem plain cutesy, but the later episodes are in a tougher spot narratively – it’s not a clear analogy any more, as you point out. Living in a WORLD with evil and indecision and terror is harder than living in a HIGH SCHOOL with evil and indecision and terror. You can blame in on the structure in the latter. In the same way I feel like Angel hit a different stride when they took over Wolfram and Hart – then the building and law firm play a role, an identifiable, boundaried landscape in the narrative – a structure that’s easier to work with and watch.

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mygif

In my mind Buffy ended when Angel did. Season seven wasn’t exactly a satisfying ending and, as much as I wish season seven (and large chunks of six and four) didn’t exist, the temporary lack of direction following the graduation and the permanent one following the network change aren’t enough to invalidate them. On the other hand, Angel ended pretty much the only way this universe could have ended; with a message to keep on fighting.

Anything past that is superfluous.

Besides, despite its cinematic origins, Buffy will always be a tv show in my mind. The comics, novels, ect make for a fun Star Wars style of “expanded universe” but they don’t really “count” as being part of what I consider canon.

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mygif

Season 4 is maybe the weakest season, I can’t believe you consider that a good season but not 5, which was strong and had the best finale out of any of them.

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I absolutely agree. Seasons 1-3 are it for me. There are a few absolutely stellar episodes in season 4 (like Hush), but they don’t make up for the rest.

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I mostly agree with you, but I thought at the time and also think now that the show should have ended after Season 2. To me, that’s the perfect ending right there. (Nothing against Season 3; Season 3 was great, and the subsequent seasons also had great stuff from time to time.)

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Buffy ended when the Trio showed up.

because a show that was all about understanding ans acceptance and moving on and growing up suddenly said no, the nerds, they’re not acceptable. They can’t move on. They can’t grow up. They must be destroyed.

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I also love season four. One to three are a unit, yes, but there’s a lot of goodness in four, and a decent amount in five, the finale of which is the best episode they ever did, and probably the best ending they could have hoped for.

Then it kept going for two years. I forgive it, because of the musical, and Andrew (sensational character find of 200… 1? 2?), but something was missing.

In the comic, *everything* is missing. But I buy it anyway. Help me.

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@Beacon: I’m not saying that the latter four seasons (plus the comics) are “invalid”, I’m just saying that they don’t come out of the same central concept as the first three seasons. They’re sort of “The Further Adventures of Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, if you will, rather than a unified narrative.

@KenB3: The problem with Season Four is the exact opposite of the problem with Season Five. Season Four has a lot of strong individual episodes, but the story arc isn’t quite given time to develop. (In particular, the mid-game, where Buffy joins the Initiative, was tremendously rushed. Honestly, it could have been a season by itself.) Whereas Season Five has almost no individual episodes worth watching; it’s an exercise in straining the story-arc material out of a thin gruel of “Buffy fights a lame snake monster”, “Buffy fights a lame robot”, “Buffy fights a lame meteor creature”, et cetera. The story-arc material could be good, if compressed, but as it is, it feels waaaaaaaay too slow.

It’d be interesting to see a version of the series that compressed Seasons Five and Six into one season; both Glory and the Trio waste too much time talking about their plans and not enough time doing them. If the Trio was comic relief during the Glory arc, then evolved to be the main villains for the back half of the season, it might have worked a lot better.

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ladypeyton said on August 14th, 2010 at 2:50 am

A year ago I would have said, “Buffy ends when Joss wants to end it”, but I’m completely hating Season 8 (although Angel: After the Fall kind of rocked, so I’m going to amend that opinion to, “Buffy ended when it left the air”. I reserve the right to re-amend that opinion if Joss ever takes it back to television.

Although he’s going to be busy after The Avengers because we absolutely, positively need another Doctor Horrible. Preferably as a series on cable. Stars has been doing good things lately…

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@Dan Coyle: Lets be fair, Warren was every misogynistic, liberterian asshole troll nerd from the depths of Something Awful and /4/chan. He was everything wrong with nerd culture…

And if you’re defining the show as just “Dealing with High School + Monsters” then yeah it ends with graduation…

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Dan: But Jonathan and Andrew did move on and grow up (Andrew particularly; Jonathan’s story kind of ended when he got stab’d). And Warren (unlike Jonathan) had never been a particularly sympathetic nerd. And the similarities between Xander and the Trio were often pointed out (Xander was a huge nerd, though for obvious reasons he could never pull off the “unattractive” vibe they tried to give him in the earlier seasons), and I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Xander never moved on or grew up after high school.

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@John: Completely agreed on the inverse problems of seasons four and five. (And the high quality of season four’s done-in-one episodes. “Hush” and the one where Jonathan becomes Buckaroo Banzai for a day would be enough to make that season a keeper.)

I thought season four would have been much better served if the main villain were not Adam but Dr. Walsh. She had just done her heel turn and become a much more fascinating character when the writers killed her off; I would have loved to see that dynamic play out the last half of the season (particularly if there were a few weeks where the viewers knew Walsh was evil but the characters didn’t). Maggie Walsh was a compelling character with a completely believable set of internal conflicts, who would have prompted equally believable conflicts in Buffy and Riley; Adam was just a plot device and should have been kept as such.

Also, it would have been interesting to see Buffy play off against an evil female authority figure. (Glory doesn’t really count.) Given room to grow, I think Maggie Walsh could have rivalled the Mayor as one of the best antagonists. Oh well.

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mygif

That said, I have to disagree about Andrew. Funny how he and Principal Wood, the two new characters, were the only two worth watching in season seven.

Hmmm… I think seasons six and seven have *exactly* the same problems you diagnose in seasons four and five, respectively.

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ralphdibny said on August 14th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I agree completely. What Seasons 1-3 do so well (not perfectly, but really well) is balance the individual episodes with the season-long arc. As you note, the balance is off after Season 3, with some seasons too focused on the arc, while others don’t focus enough on it. It’s a balancing act developed for comics, of course, but I don’t think anyone had done it in TV before. Now almost every show tries to do it, and most do it terribly. The only other show I can think of that did it well was the first season of Veronica Mars.

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@ Kadin: I agree. The Trio were bad guys for being nerds, they were bad guys for refusing to accept adulthood. Note that every other adult character in Season 6 has or is actively looking for a job (except Willow – FORESHADOWING!), while they plot and scheme and play D&D and Goldeneye.

They’re essentiallly the personification of unfulfilled potential (and mysogny in Warren’s case).

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Oh, and to actually answer the question: At the moment, I’d be tilting toward the end of Season 7, but Brad Meltzer’s arc (no, really, Melzter did good work on a comic) really got me back in to Season 8, so I’ll reserve judgement until after Joss’ big finale.

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mygif

“(And the high quality of season four’s done-in-one episodes. “Hush” and the one where Jonathan becomes Buckaroo Banzai for a day would be enough to make that season a keeper.)”

Those episodes were outstanding. That aside, I’d go with three as the ender.

“I thought season four would have been much better served if the main villain were not Adam but Dr. Walsh. She had just done her heel turn and become a much more fascinating character when the writers killed her off”

Oh, yes.

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mygif

I find the early series of Buffy, particularly series 1, hard watching due to the acting, especially among some of the main cast.

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I used to like 5 as the end, because it’s one of my favorite seasons and Buffy’s death brings her time as the Slayer to a close, but I have to agree with the idea that 3 is the last time we see the core concept in action.

I came to both series late and am just now making my way through Angel and after watching all of Buffy and most of Angel, I have to agree with your statement about them bumping off supporting characters. I’d go one further and say that Whedon and Co need to learn when to stop torturing all of their characters. I made it to the last couple of episodes of Angel Season 3 and just gave up before the season finale. I thought the idea of Holz giving up his vengeance for love of his adopted son was a great twist on its own, but then they had to ruin it with the “untwist” of that all being part of the larger revenge scheme.

And that’s when I realized how tired I am of Whedon constantly heaping misery after misery on his characters. He makes a point in both shows about the family one makes outside the one they’re born into, but he takes every opportunity to tear those families down until we get whole seasons of these characters just being horrible to each other. I’ve read plenty of complaints about the Dark Willow storyline, but when you look at it through the Whedon Character Torture-O-Scope, Dark Willow is the logical conclusion for his character arcs.

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mygif

The Short Answer: “Buffy” has not – and will not end. Ever.

The Long(er) Answer: I’m very much compelled to agree that “Buffy” ended after S3, because I think it is, hands down, the best season. In terms of both narrative and character, it was tight, logical, and (almost) flawless.

That being said, I’m currently in the middle of my once-yearly “Buffy-a-thon” except, this time, I’ve been watching the seasons in reverse chronological order. (Who, me? A nerd? Nonsense!) In light of this post, I think that perhaps Seasons 4 – 7 should be seen as the story of the emotional and psychological *aftermath* of coming of age on the Hellmouth. I once read an article about Buffy, where the gist of it was, “How is this girl still standing after everything she’s been through?” Perhaps the point of S4 – S7 is that she’s not. (“Going through the motions”, indeed.) In this case, I think the answer to the question of when “Buffy” ended is “Season 7″: not so much because it was the series finale, but because it marked the end of “Buffy” as the “One girl in all the world, etc., etc., etc.”. (In this view, S7 can also be seen as a beginning, this time for Buffy Summers, the girl.)

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mygif

Any argument for the whole silly notion of Buffy “ending” at any point before it finished its televised run is one that just makes me roll my eyes, snort and make a “wanking” gesture.
It’s one of the tiredest, most-tedious-to-get-caught-in-discussing-with-someone-who-thinks-it’s-interesting points of discussion in all of “Buffyology.”
Just seeing the title of the post made me groan and deflate a little in my chair.

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That’s OK, Ed. The use of the word “Buffyology”, even in ironic quote marks, makes me cringe, so I guess we’ll just have to learn how to put up with each other. :)

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While I loved seasons 1-3 of Buffy, I think it was in season in the intervall between season five and the first half of season six when the show dared to play with its mythology enough to allow for the idea of “Vampires could, if prevented from violence, be redeemed”, with Spike. Sadly, the writers shied back from that premise and made a mess of the story and the Buffy/Spike romance, also to not infuriate Buffy/Angel fans. Eh, old shipping wars. ^^

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So this essay is the Buffy version of the “they were better before they signed onto a major label” discussion.

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I am not a Buffy fan.

I am not saying I hated it, but in the beginning I did gave it a chance because all I could think about was the horrible movie and I inaccurately thought the series would just be more of the same. By then season one was past and I did not have an urge to play catch up. I have caught episodes since and I have been impressed with the quality of the show, both the writing and acting.

So I am not going to comment on when the series should have ended because I am woefully unqualified. I just want to comment that this was an excellent article in that it points out how a series can have an excellent sense of closure at one point, and largely due to money concerns the series can be run into the ground to the point where it can become unrecognizable. Producers are always shooting for at least a hundred episodes because that is the number where it becomes easier to sell in syndication, and some shows just don’t have enough in them to make it that far. I felt that way about Alias; season four should have been the end. By season five half the cast left and Jennifer Garner was pregnant and we were supposed to believe she was going to do spy stuff in the field with that swollen belly. It was a sad shadow of it’s former self.

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@priscillafox27 said on August 14th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I completely agree. 5 stars!

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To each his own and all of that. I’d have said that if the series stopped at season 3, it’d have been very good, but not great. I love the way the last four seasons upend much of what we thought we knew and make things more complicated. That seems to me to be the natural follow-up to the message of Lie to Me — we may want pretty stories with easily identified heroes and villains and yadda yadda, but that’s not real. And at the end of the day it’s not even that interesting.

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Irishgirl said on August 15th, 2010 at 1:01 am

“Whereas Season Five has almost no individual episodes worth watching.”

Huh?? How about ‘The Replacement’? Or ‘Family’? Or ‘Fool For Love’ or my god ‘The Body’ and ‘The Gift’?? Just the existence of these last two episodes negates your statement completely.

“One of the big problems with both ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ was that neither series knew when to stop bumping off supporting characters.”

Yeah….see, death is a part of life. It has no rhyme or reason. It happens to all of us and, most of the time, when we don’t expect it. It’s unfair and painful. In real life, it’s not just the ‘red shirts’ who die. That’s why he ‘bumped off’ characters. Realism. You missed that when doing your ‘Themes of Buffy’ run down.

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@LurkerWithout

The fact that you typed “/4/chan” sums up the horrifying ignorance of your comment perfectly.

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katefan: Season 1 was very weak, s2 is a massive improvement (though there are a couple of bad episodes, it’s very strong overall). You should give it another chance.

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@Ex: Because he spelled something wrong, his argument that Warren personifies the bad side of geeks is invalid?

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I agree totally that 1-3 are a cohesive whole, I reject the concept that that was the “real Buffy” as a show. I think your points are valid, but the core of your essay is weaker.

1-3 can be seen as an entire arc — the teenage years, and 4-7 as a completely new show. Season 4 would be more valuable held against Season 1 in comparison. Where Season 1 floundered in single episodes, its arc was strong, yet the opposite can be said of Season 4 — where the arc whithered on the vine, but single episodes are some of the most memorable. Heck, the season ends with a self-contained episode.

Following this, 5 is the new 2 — stronger than its predecessor in every way, because it finds a balance between the two and is in every way more exciting and emotionally devastating. “The Body” then becomes the adult version of “Innocence” or “Passion,” where the pain of loss becomes less about learning that loss exists and more about how to deal with loss when it hits you where you live.

6 and 7 combined form the new 3 — a new love, a mirror for a villain (although it being a core cast member in 6 more closely resembles 2), and the finish to an arc introduced in 3 yet without resolution — that of the First Evil, and a resolution of the second shows core metaphors.

Thus, season 8 represents the third show, and the third act of a life. The second act was not about adults, in my opinion. Seasons 1-3 are adolescence, where we put away childish things. Seasons 4-7 are where, without childish things, we are adrift, in our late teens and early 20s, wondering when we’ll feel like adults. The third series, the comics, is where true adulthood lies, and its repercussions — hard decisions that contradict everything that meant something in the first act. In essence, doing what we used to believe was selling out, and understanding why people do so. The question then becomes, can Buffy reclaim her core values with all new purpose, or will she succumb to the adult lamaise and become that which she fought against, to protect her own?

Just a thought.

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The only reason I watched 4-7 was Spike and every season had some excellent eps. Season 4 had the very funny Pangs followed by Something Blue and the wonderful Hush. I think my favorite ep was Fool for Love in season 5,but The Body and Anya’s confusion over death was heartbreaking. In season 6 we have the great musical Once More With Feelings, Dead Things, Smashed where Buffy and Spike brought the building down and the very sad Seeing Red. I loved all the eps at the start of S7 when Spike was crazy in the basement, the one in the church was very telling. Once all the would be slayers came on board the show went downhill for me, did not like most of them and it was hard for me to enjoy the show…even with Spike being in it. The last 3 eps kind of made up for the middle of the season.

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For me it ends when Joss started to pull away from the show and left MN in charge. The earlier episodes/seasons had the perfect mix of humor and seriousness. But the snappy patter soon disappeared and the stories were no longer layered. Too much time was spent on the arcs. With the introduction of Dawn and death of Joyce (turning Buffy into a single mom) just didn’t work. She spent the last year-and-a-half being too crabby to put up with.

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This is completely bogus. I thought that Season Four was the worst season (even though it still had some good episodes), not one of the best. Honestly? I liked Season Six the best. My favorite mini-plotline were the seven episodes between Smashed and Older and Faraway because they were hilarious. A show can change. Look at The X-Files, for God’s sake.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer has all of the hallmarks of a coming of age story. This is the essential plot for Seasons 1-3. After that, it is repeated in a college setting in Seasons 4 & 5 until it drifts far from the original core vision in Seasons 6 & 7.

Beyond the high school setting, the writing experiments are mostly variations on the monster-hunting theme. As in what would it be like to date a soulless vampire? What if I had my own slayer army?

Because those questions are rooted in the monster-hunter themes, they do not resonate as well over time as the relationship aspects fully explored in the first three seasons as Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander learn to function as a mock family unit.

What was interesting to me was the marginalization of people who knew things in favor of the punchers with the creation of the Slayer Army and the destruction of the Watcher’s Council. From a distance it seems to have more to do with an interest in staging interesting fight scenes and less of an enthusiasm for having old guys point out things in even older books.

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Mr.Floppy said on August 15th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

The central concept of the series is growing up.
And Buffy didn’t stop growing until the very end of Season Seven, when she finally was not the only one who can do the job, so she can be whoever she wants, find her true identity.

So, sorry, but you didn’t understand the show.
I’m really tired of the whole “Buffy later seasons sucked”. They were amazingly mature.

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Name me a show that was the same at the end of a seven year run as it was at the beginning… I think you’re misunderstanding the point of characters in a television series. If the first 3 seasons were the same as the last 4, the character wouldn’t have grown, which is unrealistic. I think that if Buffy hadn’t had the last 4 seasons (especially the last 3 because the 4th season is by far the worst) it wouldn’t have the following that it does today. I still remember the first time I watched the entire series all the way through and there wasn’t a single moment where I felt as if the show lost it’s way. And while the 3rd season finale, although definitely one of the best, was not enough of a conclusion for the show to have ended at that point. Even though I miss the TV show, I think the 7th season finale was the perfect ending to a wonderful series.

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The X-Files proves that a show can change, but also that a show can drag on too long. I won’t claim that the series ended about ten seconds before the end of Season 7, but that is in retrospect probably when I should have stopped watching. Certainly, I would defy anyone to justify the final season — aside from the utterly loopy “Brady Bunch” episode, it just wasn’t much fun.

Buffy‘s seventh season was not its most successful. By then, apocalypses had been done, the title character had already died twice, and it ended up not having anywhere else to go. Were there not at least three “rousing speech” scenes? And were they not all damp squibs? Even for all of that, it wasn’t the disaster that was the X-Files‘ last televised gasp.

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Farwell3d said on August 15th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Season 4 was always, by far, my least favorite season. But I’d rank season 6 as the single greatest thing in the history of pop culture and entertainment. (And yes, I’m serious.) Ranking all the seasons, I’d go

6
5
2
3
7
1
4

But, I’m off the opinion that it hasn’t ended. I’m a Buffy-aholic, and I need my fix, and Season 8, uneven though it has been (more on that in a second) has delivered.

Season 8, to me, is a lot like season 4, actually. Season 4 started with them having to really regroup and reload the characters. They had to replace Angel and Cordy, which at first they tried to do with Riley in Angel’s spot and Spike in Cordy’s. That really didn’t work, and they wound up eventually moving Spike into a very different take on the “spot” Angel filled, while Cordy was perfectly replaced by Anya (who, early in season 4, was much less of a regular character, and felt temporary.) Plus, as you mentioned, big changes. High school, the easy metaphor of high school as hell, and the basic structure was all gone, and they had to establish new locations, new metaphors, and a new structure.

So, now we have Season 8, with Anya and Spike gone from those same two roles, and the entire Sunnydale and Hellmouth gone, plus an even bigger transition to a new format/medium. It’s been up and down, much like Season 4 was. Which give me hope, because Season 4 leveled off what had come before (which I loved) and paved the way for the best television run I have ever seen with Seasons 5 and 6. So, here’s hoping Season 9, with it’s shorter time frame, multiple mini-series, and 5 years of experience working it into an ongoing comic, shows the same improvement.

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@Irishgirl:

Death is a part of life, yes. The problem is that since Whedon goes to the “death” and “end of a relationship” wells so often, it becomes extremely predictable instead of unexpected.

It is a bad sign that going into the (TV) series finale for Buffy, without having heard any spoilers except that someone was going to die, I already figured out who would be killed off. When you look at Whedon’s past history and the influence of other outside factors, it became pretty obvious with a bit of logical thought. The same happened with Serenity, where I found the existence of an “unexpected” death to be entirely expected and that the person killed was also the most obvious Whedon-choice. With Astonishing X-Men, the same. Dr. Horrible was great, but again the last act was entirely predictable (and Nathan Fillion even makes a joking comment about it in one of the extra features.) Angel, too.

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Walsh was, in fact, intended to be the primary villain throughout season four. Lindsay Crouse, however, wanted off the show, so they had to kill her off abruptly and retool the second half of the season on the fly.

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Dan Coyle said on August 16th, 2010 at 1:46 am

Andrew didn’t grow up. He’s remained an obsequious tool. He’s never paid for his crimes. He acknowledged them, but did he ever really try to redeem himself? Of course not. Andrew is ever nerd turned pro’s fantasy of what they want their fans to be like: horrible people, SO NOT LIKE THEM, but also willing to take whatever shit that’s shoveled.

You think Whedon could have written somehting as awful as Astonishing X-Men if he DIDN’T write his audience off as a nation of Andrews? Or something as pathetic as the all fan service, all the time Buffy S8?

Too bad we’re all he’s got, though…

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I can’t believe how many people I disagree with in these comments! I can’t believe how many people seem to actually enjoy the one-off episodes and find them important to the series! In fact, to me, the only truly awful episodes are the ones that abandon the central plot.

To me, Buffy got better and better with every season. It got EASIER to watch. I will say that I enjoy Season 6 more than 7, but that is the only exception (and I always say that but then later enjoy it much more than I expect to when I rewatch).

And if we’re going to discuss “bad” seasons. Season 1 is unbearable to me. I try to go back and watch it, and I can never make it through the second disc. It’s so evident that the show hadn’t found its pace yet… that is the episode that stands out to me.

If Seasons 5 and 6 hadn’t been made, I wouldn’t even be a Buffy fan.

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I really stopped liking things as much after season 5, even though I only watched the show in reruns. I thought the last two seasons totally ruined the Buffy and Giles relationship, and I hated what they did to Giles’ character. If ASH wanted to leave, they had a lot of ways they could have written it better than the way they did. It’s a conundrum, though, because if it had ended after The Gift, Buffy would’ve still been dead.

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Joanna S. said on August 16th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I have to say that I find this debate interesting; however, like @Peter, I vehemently disagree with much of the grumblings and picking apart of individual seasons here. The overall tone is that, while the characters were in high school, the show was perfect because it fit so neatly into the overarching metaphor, that of “high school is hell…literally.” I mean, really, who survived high school unscathed? No one. So, what we have in Seasons 1-3 is a nice, pretty box with a bow on top that everyone would love to receive as a gift. We love it because we understand it; we accept its rules, and it doesn’t make us uncomfortable.

But it is premature to dismiss everything that comes after as more satisfying in parts than as a whole. In other words, just because you don’t like it, and it makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t always understand the rules (because they’ve irrevocably changed from the pretty box), doesn’t meant that it is unsuccessful. Now, does this mean that every episode is a keeper? No. But that can be said of Seasons 1-3 as well. Does it mean that the show ended once the original premise had to mature when the characters had to mature? Also, no. Seriously, young people trapped in high school indeterminably…yeesh! Now THAT would be hell.

So, what am I driving at here? I’m so glad you asked! The crux of the issue remains, do we stay in high school – in a world that everyone understands (even if we’re Other), in a world that has strict rules (even if we try to defy them), and in a world that has a largely universal experience for every participant (no matter what sphere you inhabited: Geek, Jock, Punk, etc.) – or do we allow our characters to enter the large world where shit, especially shit that one cannot predict, happens? Indeed, how are we to know when someone will drop dead or be killed? How are we to know it would be so hard to find a job or that we may get laid off without warning? How are we to support ourselves when our parents are gone (maybe not dead, but not a major financial help anymore)?

In other words, how would we handle it if we were forced to grow up way before we are ready to or should have to? Remember, Buffy and her friends have only high school diplomas and a smattering of college before they are forced to abandon that which helps one be successful by societal standards and enter life at a very young age, albeit solely in a chronological sense. The answers to these questions become difficult as the show becomes more difficult to watch because it necessarily becomes darker. Sure, there are episodes that make us laugh – I mean, life isn’t horrible or hard all the time, but a show isn’t bad or declining simply because it lets us know that, like life, all good things must end and that every silver lining has a cloud or two. The show reaches a sense of its own mortality about the time Buffy learns that she can do more with her life than expect to die. She does what many of us wouldn’t or couldn’t in a similar situation – that is, she survives. And I would argue that this is the primary lesson throughout all of the seasons – not how important it is to survive high school, but how important it is to take the lessons we learn about people, groups, those in power, etc. that we learn in high school and use them to survive the rest of our lives, and ultimately, to live them to the fullest. In that moment, when she is no longer just “one girl,” she is set free – no simple diploma can accomplish so much when the stakes are so high.

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Disagree, stridently, with OP. Agree very much with puppetDoug.

Seasons 1-3 have more in common with each other than they do with later seasons, yes. But it’s only fair to say that Seasons 1-3 express the core concept of the show in a way that later seasons do not if you first (arbitrarily) define the core concept as the thing Seasons 1-3 were doing. I could just as easily say, no, you’re wrong, the core concept was best manifested in the themes of Seasons 4-5, and the show didn’t even *start* until they left Sunnydale High. And I would be equally as wrong to do so.

But why must there be only one arc, one theme? Did your life chance when you graduated high school? Of course it did. Did your life change when you left college and started making your way in the adult world? Of course it did. Shouldn’t Buffy’s? Why can’t a seven season show, spanning a woman’s life from age 15-22, be “about” more than one thing, and begin to deal with something other than “16 Candles With Vampires” once the title character stops being 16?

But more than that — to dismiss the last four seasons because they didn’t continue to deal with a theme that the characters had outgrown — the conclusion you arrive at — “Buffy” was no longer “Buffy” after Season 3 — is simply ridiculous. To lose the last four seasons annihilates the show, it diminishes the characters, it cripples the social and cultural impact. You have to throw away “Hush”, “Superstar”, “Family”, “Triangle”, “The Body”, “The Gift”, “Once More, With Feeling”, “Tabula Rasa”, “Entropy”, “Seeing Red”, “Selfless”, “Lies My Parents Told Me”, “Chosen”: some of the best episodes. You throw away Anya/Xander, Buffy/Riley, Buffy/Spike, Willow/Tara: pivotal, series-defining relationships. You throw away Dawn, and Glory, and Andrew-as-good-guy, and Dark Willow: vitally important characters and story arcs.

There is simply no way that “Buffy” would have had the impact it did (and continues to have) if it had only been a three season high school coming of age story. The fact that the characters change, and that the stories change with them, to deal with adult themes and problems, not just high school ones, is one of the show’s great strengths. And many (most?) of the greatest episodes, moments, story arcs, and characters come *after* the giant snake.

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Lister Sage said on August 16th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

The movie, because its the only thing I can sit through.

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Frank Watson said on August 16th, 2010 at 6:18 pm

“Buffy” only ends one way, and at one time.

With Joss Whedon’s obituary.

May that day *never* come.

:)

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@wsmcneil: I think you (and by extension, some of the other folks from “Whedonesque” who came to visit–hi, folks!) might be missing the point just a wee, tiny bit. I’m not saying that Seasons 4-7 must be burned, then dropped into a dark hole, then buried and the ground sowed with salt to prevent them from contaminating the purity of the True, Perfect Buffy. I’m saying that they’re a substantially different experience than the first three seasons in terms of tone and concept, to the point where they don’t feel like the same show. There’s a distinct break, a noticeable change from where the show stops being about “high school is hell” and starts being about “college students trying to get through life”.

I will say that the latter seasons had a harder time keeping focus: As others before me have pointed out, high school is a pretty universal experience, adult life isn’t, and it’s harder to write a series about life in that late teens/early twenties unsettled period. The result is that the last four seasons jump around pretty wildly: Buffy’s a college student in Season Four, a full-time caretaker in Five, a single parent and dead-end job holder in Six, and then finally they give up and try to return the series to its roots in Seven by bringing back the high school setting. It winds up feeling very disjointed at times.

And it didn’t help that Whedon was losing writers and actors during that period, as well as splitting his attention with Angel and Firefly. The result is sloppy plotting like Buffy’s financial crisis in Season Six (why didn’t she go to the Watchers for money? Didn’t she just unequivocally lay the smack down on them a half-season ago, telling them that she’s the Slayer and they need to support her? Isn’t it their job to make sure the Slayer doesn’t have to worry about mundane crap like the mortgage payment while she’s saving the world? But Whedon and co. wanted Buffy to be worried about money, so logic went out the window so it could happen.)

In short, do I think that post-high school Buffy is not as good as the first three seasons? Absolutely. You can’t lose David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Charisma Carpenter, Armin Shimerman, Robia LaMorte, Kristine Sutherland, and by the end, Amber Benson and sometimes even ASH without the series suffering. (To say nothing of all the talented writers who were trying to make three series at once…it’s not surprising things slipped by, like noticing, “Hey, having a Big Bad for the last season that can’t actually do anything but teleport in and say nasty things to people isn’t very menacing!”)

But do I think they should have given up after the end of Season Three? No. Not at all, under any circumstances. Definitely not.

…I’d have put the cut-off at “Tabula Rasa”. :)

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mygif

Well said.

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Honestly I do feel that Buffy’s best years are season 1-3, without a shadow of a doubt. Season 4 is meh and season 5 is really good, season is beyond meh and season is good.

I don’t think Buffy season 7 though was as pointless as pointed out. It still dealt with the themes of Buffy. She was growing up and finding her place in the world while dealing with responsibility. Responsiblity to the slayers in training, to her sisters, to her friends, to the world. She was finding her place, growing up and becoming an actual grown up.

I think if season 6 dealt more with that would have been more obvious but really season 6 was just them spinning their wheels and creating these depressing stories which showed, yes their lives sucked.

And of course the supporting cast was neither was good post 7. I mean besides Anya who rocked in all sorts of ways(without Anya season 6 would have been beyond dire) and Tara was great but everyone else was pretty forgettable. And truth be told Spike’s new role was always sort of iffy with me(his role on Angel was even worse). The less said about Dawn the better.

But to me Buffy did end with a smile(season 7). It felt very natural to me for it to end that way. I’m actually rewatching Buffy right now and you can see that last episode and say “Okay that makes sense, that is a great way for Buffy to end everything”. Not all shows have(Lost…).

So yeah I do think you can argue that true Buffy was season 1-3 because it’s the BEST Buffy but to me true Buffy was all tv Buffy. The good and the bad. It was a show about growing and besides season 6(which again was horrible save for three excellent episodes0, it did a good job of showing that.

As for the comics, I don’t read them anymore and to me, they aren’t true Buffy in the least. Even Whedon has said that if they are to make a movie the comics will be null and void. So really it’s an alternate universe to me. Buffy ends with a smile in my book.

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Candlejack said on August 19th, 2010 at 2:41 am

Er, aren’t Kuzui and her partners still pushing ahead with a non-Whedon Buffy remake/reboot that makes the entire series null and void?

(I’m not trying to be an ass, I’m seriously wondering if that’s still in the works or if somebody–I’m looking at you, Fran–might have realized it’s NOT A GOOD IDEA.)

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“After that, it’s just a matter of following the character around while she lives her life, and frankly that’s not the same thing as telling a story.”

The author is forgetting the fact that Buffy is a character driven show, not a story driven show. That’s why your argument is completely invalid.

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