THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy to celebrate Dark Horse Comics' release of "Buffy Season 10" on March 19 and "Angel and Faith Season 10" on April 2. So far we've done:
Buffy Season 1 (and an overview of why we love Buffy)
Buffy Season 2
Buffy Season 3
Buffy Season 4
Angel Season 1
Buffy Season 5
Angel Season 2
Buffy Season 6
Angel Season 3
The bittersweet pill of the end of a series. What can you say? Like so many great shows, Buffy went out before it overstayed its welcome (and getting an 8th, 9th, and now 10th season in comics!) with a final season that took the series to new places.
Your Big Bad is actually The First-- the ancient, primordial evil that existed before all others. And since The First (whom we saw earlier in the Season 3 episode "Amends" torturing Angel) can appear as anyone who is dead, we get appearances from many dearly departed villains and friends alike.
We also delve deep into the mythos of The Slayer and even deeper into the soul of Miss Buffy Summers. Spike, Andrew, Faith, Willow, Anya, and most other characters face their pasts and seek redemption in one way or another. And we get a cavalcade of new potential Slayers, including Kennedy, who remains particularly divisive among Buffy fans.
Highlights: Andrew. I kind of hated him in Season 6, but he is great in bringing some lightness and humor to the show. The return of Faith! Principal Wood. Ubervamps. Xander still has a way with women in "First Dates." Faith and Principal Wood talking about sex in the finale. Also in the finale, Xander, Giles, Andrew and Amanda play Dungeons and Dragons, encountering "Trogdor the Burninator."
Lowlights: maybe I'm the only one, but I really hate Caleb. I love Nathan Fillion, and he plays him with villainous glee, but I just hate the character. Dawn falls for the high school quarterback with the love-spell enchanted jacket. Willow turns invisible in an episode (because it's symbolic, see?) and gets her skin eaten in strips by a demon with a nose that looks like a penis.
"Conversations with Dead People" Episode 7.7
Buffy fights a vampire named Holden Webster, who Buffy went to high school with. He proceeds to go all Psych 101 on her, analyzing all of her relationships with men, which hits a little close to home for Buffy. Speaking of close to home, Dawn and Willow are tormented by spirits, with Joyce Summers telling Dawn that Buffy won't choose her, and "Cassie" delivering a message from Tara to never use magic again. This is a great episode, as all of the characters are isolated from one another, a common theme in Season 7, and tormented by the ghosts of their past, another common theme.
9 out of 10
"Lies My Parents Told Me" Episode 7.17
We flash back to Spike's first few days as a vampire when he goes back to sire his mother, with whom he has an incredibly unhealthy relationship. At the same time, Principal Wood seeks revenge against Spike for killing his mother, of whom we also get some flashbacks. Several of our characters make incredibly fateful decisions
8 out of 10
Overall rating for Season Seven: 7 out of 10.
I have a theory, one that has born itself out through this binge-watching experience: there is only so much Joss Whedon goodness to go around. In Season 4 Buffy/Season 1 Angel, when one show was "on" in terms of its story arc, the other suffered. Same for ensuing seasons. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Whedon tried to launch "Firefly" in the Fall of 2002, the same time as the beginning of Season 7 of Buffy and Season 4 of Angel.
Drew Goddard and Jane Espenson did, overall, great work keeping the show on the rails, but it was missing the magic that Whedon himself brought. Nowhere is this more evident than the series finale, which Whedon wrote and directed himself. It stands as one of the greatest series finales of all time, pulling together threads from across the series and delivering a satisfying final chapter. Much of he final arc of the season had this same magic touch, while Angel languished with its worst storyline in its entire series.
There's only so much Whedon to go around.
It averages out to some great tv. But for a show that peaked somewhere between "Graduation Day" and "Hush," it was all downhill. So while the show waxed and waned, it delivered in the end. And delivered a bigger world for the comics series to inhabit. Bravo.