Never let anybody tell you that Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't go out with a bang... it did! Sadly it didn't go out with the Bang that fans really needed to close up the venerable series. I admit it... I am an enormous Buffy fan, and I think I've earned the right to nitpick a little here. BVS has had some of the best hours of Television History (no hyperbole... it's a fact) and has spawned not only spin-offs in Television as well as comics, not only a wide fan base of loyalists, but even College Classes for goodness sake! It's been a great seven (or actually 6.5) years, and we all deserved to have one of those fantastic mind-bending "What do you mean he was Luke's Father?" endings! Oh, it's Earth Shattering all right... But in a far too literal way.
First of all, the episode was too short, either by Joss' design or because UPN was just dying to debut "The Search for America's hottest T & A" Reality show! Regardless, we could have used a second (or third) hour like we got for the UPN Premeir or even the WB Finale! Although this episode was beautifully directed by Joss Whedon, the writing (also by Whedon) was somewhat choppy. It felt as if Joss the Writer was trying to get all of his excellent ideas into one boffo finale, but his arch-nemesis, Joss the Director continually threw out valid scenes, all the while Joss the Executive Producer was madly trying to make peace between the two others leaving the viewer as confused as a cross dresser at the Men's Wear House!
Last episode left us with Angel returning to help Buffy defeat Caleb (Firefly's Nathan "Captain TightPants" Fillion... one of the many "Joeys" from One Life to Live). Caleb lies dead on the ground while Angel and Buffy touch tongues, and Spike and The First look on in frustration and mockery respectively. The Series Finale "Chosen" begins with a big surprise... Caleb isn't dead... he was only mostly dead, so Buffy takes some more time to chop him in half from Nave to th' Chops (and then some) with uber-ginsu blade The Scythe. ("He had to Split!", quips the Slayer in traditional Joss style!)
Angel hangs around for a shillingsworth of time just to get us to walk down memory lane. Hopes of a traditional end of the world scenario with Angel and Buffy back to back against nasties fall flat as they dance around their "I still love yous" and nods to the future. At one point Angel says he can smell Spike on her, which is a little icky, but it raises the question... if he can smell Spike that well, why couldn't he detect that Spike was in the room? Allergies? So Angel pops up, hits Caleb once, kisses Buffy once, gets hit once, gets jealous and leaves quickly making one wonder if David Boreanaz had a contractual obligation to make Valentine Part II, Revenge of Nose-Bleed-Man! Of course he can't leave before justifying his appearance by dropping off a nice little Trinket that is the key (or one of many) to defeating the First and its nasty army of Wunder-Vampires, the turok han (think as ugly as the Master, and seven times as powerful)!
When Buffy returns home Spike gets over his jealousy pretty damned quick, and they almost immediately become Snuggle-Bunnies again! Spike decides that Angel's trinket was meant for him because he's "ensouled and more than human." Surely not though, right... Surely this is a red herring Joss put forth to fool us and it's really for Dawn, or Anya, or even Angel popping back up at the last minute... but no... this episode boldly states what it's going to do and then does it. No major surprise.
One really cool thing that happens is the way that Buffy ends up planning the destruction of the First and its armies! The First mocks Buffy by indicating how alone she is being "The One!" But what if she wasn't alone... what if all of the Potential Slayers (both with them and elsewhere on Earth) could share the power of the one (or, counting Faith... Two)? Great idea, because no Slayer has ever gone bad and used the power for evil instead of good, right? (I quibble there... it was still cool!) Captain Buffy taps our favorite Witch, Willow, on the shoulder and says Make it So Number One, despite the fear she feels at becoming Veiny-Goth-Hottie Willow again! The Master Plan culminates in an actual harrowing f the Hellmouth which truly has no precedent in the Jossverse. Here we see the turok han (primordial uber-Vampire) hoards just licking at the chops to eat slayer blood pudding. Now thanks to Willow, there's more than just Faith and Buffy on the Menu.
My problem with this (literal) pandemonium is that the turok han seem to have gotten so much easier to off lately! Sure they're still as hard to kill as a Vampire, but the first turok han we saw nearly put Buffy in the Hospital... why can Andrew now kill one with a sword? In that the (now super-sized for extra dipping) Scooby gang is out numbered by about a million to one, I had to wonder if they had interrupted the turok han version of Woodstock and all the boys were really, really high! Granted they weren't all dispatched in the typical slayer fashion. Spike's little gift from Angel channeled some sort of soul force from above that burned the turok han like ants under a magnifying glass (not that I'd know). However, it also is to Spike what salt is to a Slug, and he starts falling to pieces like a DNC bill in a GOP controlled Congress. Naturally he keeps it together long enough for a truly touching moment with Buffy before she has to flee. It was sad to see ol' William finally go, but it was great to see him go with some soulful heroic purpose. (I guess he won't be in future spin-offs... Ghost of the Robot must be on Tour or something!)
One more teensy little detail here is that Spike's sacrifice also closes the Hellmouth... which collapses all of Sunnydale into a Hugh Jass sink hole about 20 miles wide. Sure most of the town was evacuated, but how is this a victory? Even a Phyrric victory? What's left of the Scooby-Gang, (and folks, it ain't a lot) stands by the crater and quips humorously. We always knew they could laugh in the face of destruction! My first thought would be "Aw, man that was where I kept all my stuff!" Sure a major tragedy was averted, but does that make it any less terrible that Anya died, or that Spike died, or that so many new slayers died... or that Andrew survived? No way man! (And what about Walt the Postman, and Aunt Petunia who have lived there their whole lives and aren't about to move? We all know those folks! What are they? Chopped Gizzard?) And the seven year saga ends with an open and empty highway... someone asks what Buffy is going to do now... but since there are so many real slayers now she can do anything she wants... and amid the chaos, a beautiful, serene smile graces Buffy Ann Summers' face... and we fade to credits! Well... no money, no clothes, no house, no town, no nothing... I'm guessing it's not going to be pretty!
Again... a second or third hour (or even an extra episode adding tension, not bickering) might have helped the story go from good to great! Still there were some great moments. One scene in which the original four (Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles) stand in a Sunnydale High hallway and quip fantastically in the way only they (and Snagglepuss) can. The scene between Principle Woody (oh, I mean Wood) and Faith was priceless. He even said "I am sooooooooooo much prettier than you are!" ... and he's almost right! A crack-me-up in which Xander, Andrew and Giles are all playing Dungeons and Dragons is a neat diversion. Plus the one-liners were as Joss as ever! There is one beautiful scene in which Willow, in the midst of multiplying and dividing the power of the slayer, becomes a beautiful and pure white witch that is worth every second of uncertainty of what her power might do to her over the past year. The special effects throughout, especially surrounding White Willow, and the turok han are top notch, and much better than can be expected of Television! Speaking of... The final battle scene between the turok han hoard and the Slayers and Slayerettes is incredibly, uncommonly good! The music, the martial Arts, Anya's thoughts about Bunnies to get her mad... it was near perfect! So many of these excellent moments show how many great ideas Joss must have had, and so few minutes with which to include them all. I know what the Buffistas will say... Trust in Joss... Joss is with you... and I do, and he is... I just think that he was the victim of too many last minute great ideas an not enough time to wrap them all up!
All that said, this really is a very good hour of television (better, and much more daring than most cookie cutter shows) during which commercial breaks were interminable! I couldn't wait to see what happened next to these people I grew to care about so much over 7 seasons. I am hoping and praying that another spin-off does happen, or that they can keep Angel going for even more time than planned, because I really am dying to see these people again! With Sunnydale pulling a Le Brea I would expect some of these guys to have jobs on Angel's new Task Force!
Three and One Half Stars to "Chosen" (and out of five stars that's damned good, really)! In Joss-Speak, it was Foamy to be sure, but not quite 5x5! Please don't give me hate mail on this because I think the episode is very good... but for one of the greatest shows in history the Final Episode should have been M*A*S*H-Excellent! Look at the end of Season Three when the Mayor gets spanked! How about the WB Season Finale in which Buffy sacrificed herself for Dawn? Even the end of Season one with the death of The Master was fantastic. Well, at least they didn't kill her off again. Been there... done that. Like I said... it ends with a bang... and it is Earth-shattering... but not in the same way we've come to expect! Now I have to do two things... first board up my windows for fear of lynching by fans of the episode, then hug my knees in the corner chanting "It's just a TV show, it's just a TV show!"