Review By Paul Mount, 4 out of 5
So here we go again. BUFFY fans have just about managed to get over the trauma of the end of this very special show and then Fox go and hit us around the head again with this latest (and last) lavish DVD boxset of the adventures of our favourite vampire slayer. But hey, we’re all adults here; we can take it… Waaaaaahhhh…why did it have to end?? It’s not fair!!! I want BUFFY back!!
Ahem. Sorry about that. Sometimes it all gets a bit much, you understand. Anyway, what we have here – and I know you really don’t need me to tell you – is another 22 episodes of the most influential, ground-breaking TV show of the last 10 years, fantasy or otherwise. Those cynics who may have thought the inestimable Mr Whedon and his crew at Mutant Enemy might fumble the BUFFY ball as they cantered down the home straight to the finish line must still be choking on the last remains of their humble pie. BUFFY season seven is another triumph, another wondrous journey into the lives and loves of a group of very special people. If season six was a bit dark and gloomy for some tastes then season seven may be a bit more to your liking. We’re back at Sunnydale High (rebuilt since its unfortunate destruction at the end of year three) in a series reboot which could be interpreted as an earnest attempt to revisit the scene of the show’s earliest glories. Now it’s young Dawn (Trachtenberg) who’s enrolling as the reopened High School’s newbie with big sis Buffy quickly enlisted as school counsellor by the enigmatic new Principal Robin Wood (Woodside, so good in the stunning new season of 24). But this show is about Buffy and not Dawn and before long the emphasis shifts back to the slayer and her latest deadly adversary – a mythical figure from the past which is the embodiment of all evil; quite literally ‘the First’. Potential slayers all over the world are being inexplicably, savagely slaughtered and as the season rolls on the survivors gravitate towards the centre of all Slayerdom to seek out the protection and wisdom of the latest, greatest Slayer of them all. But can even Buffy and her so-called Scooby gang save the potential slayers and, ultimately, the world itself?
Heavy stuff, for sure. But all this monster madness is shot through with BUFFY’s trademark wit and style. It’s only towards the end of the season that the darkness sets in as the odds begin to look decidedly against Buffy as she squares up to the greatest enemy she’s ever faced. Fans of the show’s mighty cast may be a bit disappointed that some of their favourites are sidelined as the action hots up; Xander (Brandon) has never had less to do and yet his presence is pivotal towards the end of the series and his fate at the end of ‘Dirty Girls’ (finally shown uncut here) is eye-watering stuff indeed. Dawn is quickly marginalized , Anya (Caulfield) finally finds redemption (another gruesome sequence shown in full at last) and Giles (Head), after a low-key guest-starring role in season six, plays a larger part in proceedings here as he rejoins the Sunnydale crew for their final fling. Willow (Hannigan), recovered from her journey into the dark side last year, is back on the side of the good guys and her Wiccan abilities which once threatened to destroy the Earth ultimately end up saving it ( and she finds a new honey,too!) whilst the formidable Spike (Marsters) is still on the scene, tortured by his new soul and his enduring (and unrequited?) love for Buffy. Returning geek Andrew (Tom Lenk) provides a nice vein of humour throughout the series and Eliza Dushku’s return as Faith is as welcome as it’s spectacular. Oh, and a certain other vampire with a soul shows his brooding face in Sunnydale again for the last couple of episodes…
The season comprises the usual heady mix of wild rides; relative standalones like ‘Beneath You’, ‘Lessons’ and ‘Helpless’ pave the way for the accelerated drama of the latter half of the season which becomes much more intense as the crisis reaches critical mass. Criticisms? Well, like most shows of this type, BUFFY has become bogged down by its own mythology – newbies won’t have a clue what’s going on – and although Joss Whedon contributes the marvellous, enervating finale ‘Chosen’ there’s no must-see show like his previous ‘Hush’, ‘The Body’ or the fabulous ‘Once More, With Feeling’. Minor niggles, though; the quality rating is as high as ever and as the credits roll at the end of the final episode, as satisfying and life-affirming finale as any show has ever had – you won’t be able to resist shedding a little tear as you say goodbye to this wonderful series and these extraordinary characters forever. Bye bye BUFFY – and thanks.
THE DISCS: Six discs, twenty-two quality transfers and some tasty extras. There are some half-dozen commentaries (featuring cast members this time), the usual featurettes including a nice piece on the show’s cultural impact and legacy, a report from the show’s wrap party (Ms Gellar being absent as she had a prior commitment on the execrable SCOOBY DOO sequel) and a season overview. Gag reel and trailers complete a boxset which is up there with the best of them.