“Buffy’s Relationship With the Scoobies”

I have something of a problem with Buffy Summers’ relationship with her close friends, also known as the Scoobies:

“BUFFY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCOOBIES”

I just finished watching the “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” Season Three episode, (3.07) “Revelations”. I find myself recalling the scene in which the Scoobies revealed to Buffy that they knew that Angel, the souled vampire whom she was forced to kill in the Season Two finale, (2.22) “Becoming (Part 2)”, was still alive and she had been keeping his presence a secret from them. Apparently, one of the Scoobies, Xander Harris, had decided to spy on Buffy, due to her secretive behavior and found her kissing Angel.

Now, I realize that they had a right to be angry that she failed to tell them about Angel being alive. The latter had spent the second half of Season Two as their main antagonist, due to his losing his soul. Because of this, he had caused a great deal of problems for them. He had also summoned the demon Acathla in order to bring about the end of the world. Buffy was finally able to defeat him in “Becoming (Part Two)” . . . but not before fellow Scooby Willow Rosenberg had restored his cursed soul.

But . . . God, this scene when the Scoobies had confronted Buffy in “Revelations” had pissed me off! If there is one thing about Buffy’s relationship with her Watcher Rupert Giles and the Scoobies that has burned me is that she has allowed them to dictate her behavior and moral compass, due to her own fear of losing their friendship. Has Buffy ever put such pressure on Xander, Willow or Giles? I wonder. For years, they put her on this pedestal called “THE SLAYER” and rarely allow Buffy to be herself or have her own life.

Xander was the worst offender of them all. I do not know how this character came to be so beloved by the series’ fans. Granted, Xander could be entertaining. But of all the characters, he was probably the most self-righteous of the bunch. And he has allowed his self-righteousness, along with his jealousy toward Buffy’s relationships with both Angel and Spike to compromise his morals without any remorse. Good examples would be his lie to Willow about Buffy’s wishes regarding Angel in “Becoming (Part 2)” and his attempt to murder a chipped Spike in (6.18) “Entropy” for having sex with the fiancee he had dumped at the altar. Even in “Revelations”, he was behaving in the most self-righteous manner about Buffy’s lie regarding Angel . . . yet, at the same time, was kissing Willow behind his girlfriend at the time Cordelia Chase’s back. Some would say that at least his infidelity with Willow was not a threat to anyone. But his and Willow’s actions ended up hurting Cordelia in more ways than one.

The Scoobies’ attitude toward Buffy reached its pinnacle in Season Six. In (6.01)”Bargaining (Part 1)”, Willow, with the assistance of Xander, his second girlfriend Anya Jenkins and her girlfriend Tara Maculay’s assistance, brought Buffy back from the dead . . . without her consent or anything. An act that led to a year long depression for for the Slayer. And they did this, because they needed “THE SLAYER”. They believed that Sunnydale needed a Slayer. Despite the fact that Sunnydale had managed to exist without a Slayer for nearly a century before Buffy’s arrival.

Is it any wonder why Buffy began to emotionally distance herself from her friends” in Season Seven?

Advertisements

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two – At Mid Point

 
“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” SEASON TWO – AT MID-POINT

Ever since the second season of Marvel’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, many television viewers and critics have waxed lyrical over their belief over the series’ improvement from Season One. And yet … the ratings for the show seemed to reflect differently from this view. Regardless of the opinions of others or the ratings, I have my own views about the show’s Season Two.

I am going to be blunt. I do not like Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. In fact, it has turned out to be a major disappointment for me. Last season, many fans and critics complained about the show’s pacing and slow revelation of the season’s main story arc. For them, Mutant Enemy’s handling of Season Two’s story arc has improved a great deal. I disagree. I had no problems with the development of Season One’s story arc. For me, it was no different from the formats for previous Sci-Fi/Fantasy serial television shows like “BABYLON 5”, along with Mutant Enemy’s “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”. All three shows began their story arcs for each season slowly and eventually build up the story arc to a mind boggling conclusion.“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” did the same. Many fans, critics and even Marvel claimed that Season One’s slow build up and occasional breaks had more to do with allowing the season’s story arc to build up to the plot for “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”. I say bullshit to that.

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, like many other television shows with twenty-two (22) episodes per season, usually took occasional breaks in order to stretch out 22 episodes within a time period of seven to eight months. This is nothing new. These breaks have been going on for many television shows for a long time. In their impatience and occasional stupidity, many forgot that. Many also seemed to have forgotten that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” was a serial drama about government agents that work for an intelligence organization … not about superheroes and superheroines. For some reason, many fans ignored the show’s title and honestly expected the constant appearances of costumed Marvel superheroes and superheroines. Why? I have no idea. But Disney (who owns the ABC Network), Marvel and Mutant Enemy decided to heed the complaints for the sake of ratings and change the series’ style.

What did they do? Well, they introduced new characters – especially new agents – in the wake of the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the spring of 2014. How did Mutant Enemy introduce these new characters? Actually, they did not. Instead, new characters such as Alphonse “Mack” McKenzie, Lance Hunter and Isabelle Hartley had already been recruited as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when the first episode, (2.01) “Shadows”. The episode also quickly introduced a new villain, a HYDRA official known as Daniel Whitehall, with a flashback to the past. The new characters, along with familiar characters such as Phil Coulson, Melinda May, Skye and Antoine Triplett, were quickly thrust into a new mission, which quickly morphed into part of the season’s new story arc – the recovery of an alien object known as the Obelisk. Everything about this episode seemed to hint “speed”. Missing from “Shadows” was Agent In fact,“speed” seemed to be the essence of the plotting and pacing for the first half of Season Two.

I find it ironic that many fans complained about how certain characters like Akela Amador, Chan Ho Yin and the Asgardian refugee Dr. Elliot Randolph seemed to have come and gone with the wind. Yet, they failed to realize that similar characters in Season Two did the same … or appeared in at least two to three episodes before disappearing. I refer to characters like Isabelle Hartley, Carl Creel, and Senator Christian Ward. But this did not bother me … except for their handling of Agent Amador and Senator Ward. What really bothered me was the handling of certain recurring or main characters.

There have been complaints about Mutant Enemy’s handling of its minority characters … well, its African-American characters. I never understood why it was so important for the Mike Peterson character to disappear after the Season One episode, (1.22) “Beginning of the End”. What the hell happened to him? Ten Season Two episodes have aired since and not once has the series revealed his whereabouts. Come to think of it … what happened to Akela Amador? She was imprisoned by Coulson’s team … even after they had learned that HYDRA had coerced her into pulling off several robberies on their behalf. HYDRA had released prisoners such as Raina and Ian Quinn, after the S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War. What about Agent Amador? What happened to her? Off all the new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents introduced during Season Two, only two got the shot end of the stick. One of them was Isabelle Hartley, who was killed off in “Shadows”. The other character was Alphonso “Mack” MacKenzie, who was more or less used as some kind of therapy tool for the Leo Fitz character, before being transformed into some kind of zombie in the episode, (2.09) “…Ye Who Enter Here”. As of the season’s mid-season finale, (2.10) “What They Become”, Mack is no longer a “zombie”. But no one knows if he has fully recovered. I fear that Mack’s fate will become similar to that of the Elam Ferguson character from AMC’s “HELL ON WHEELS”.

Ruth Negga continued her role as Raina, the mysterious woman who had aligned herself with HYDRA and later, a man named Calvin Zabo who might be an Inhuman. As it turned out, Raina is also an Inhuman … like Skye. However, she underwent a physical transformation:

image
And Skye … did not:
image

 

Why? Why Raina and not Skye? Why did a character portrayed by an actress of Irish and African ancestry transformed into a non-Human form?

Finally, I come to Antoine “Trip” Triplett. The show’s “Legacy” agent, who had played a major role in the defeat of John Garrett, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-turned-HYDRA mole at the end of Season One, seemed to have been shoved to the background by the writers under showrunners Joss and Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and producer Jeffrey Bell. Why? Mutant Enemy and Marvel claimed that Britt was under contract to the BET series, “BEING MARY JANE”, which meant in their eyes, they could not use him as much as they “wanted”. Hmmm … more bullshit. They were able to use a great deal of Britt in the second half of Season One. And the actor appeared in less than half of the latest season for “BEING MARY JANE”. In fact, the latter has been scheduled by BET to end in 2015. What was the point in sidelining Britt in that manner? And why did they killed off Britt’s character with some of the most contrived writing I have seen on this show in “What They Become”, without allowing him to have a major appearance in said episode? It was just disgusting to watch.Speaking of contrived writing, I encountered a good deal of it in Season Two. The writers for “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” went through of minor story arcs with the speed of a ballistic missile. I realize that Season One had its share of one-shot episodes – especially in its first half. Again, I have no problems with this. One-shot episodes were pretty common in televised serial dramas like“BUFFY” and “BABYLON 5”. But in Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, the writers would set up a story arc with a great deal of build up and end the story arc within two to five episodes. The series ended up wasting potential characters and story arcs like Carl Creel, Jemma Simmons’ role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. mole within HYDRA, the introduction of Senator Christian Ward and the Daniel Whitehall character. Mind you, Whitehall lasted for ten episodes. Only, I had not expected him to be introduced so fast … and killed off so soon. Speaking of speed, I had no idea that the Skye character would be exposed as an Inhuman – part of a race of superhumans who had been engineered by aliens such as the Kree – so soon. Halfway into Season Two? I found this rather quick, considering that Marvel has plans to release a movie about the Inhumans in 2018, four years from now. Do they really expect“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”, with its sketchy ratings, to last that long? If so, they could have waited a little longer.One last example of the show’s fast-paced narration was its tendency to shove two or three subplots into one episode. Other television shows have done this as well. But in a serial drama format, most writers would include the main story arc and a minor subplot that had little to do with the former. Mutant Enemy’s writers did not utilize this style. In order to keep the story arc going at neck break speed, they would shove two plotlines that had a great deal to do with the main story arc into one episode. This resulted in several episodes coming off as convoluted and very confusing. Several critics have complained about this, but most viewers and critics are pretending that this is a sign of improved writing from last season. Apparently rushed storytelling is now Mutant Enemy/Marvel’s idea of writing for sci-fi serial drama. Really? Speed writing for viewers or critics with the attention span of lice?Another problem I had with Season Two of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” is the character of Grant Ward – former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and HYDRA mole. Why is he still alive? Why? I suppose Marvel and especially Mutant Enemy still want actor Brett Dalton around. Just recently, producer Jeffery Bell said the following about the character and the actor:“What we love is that Brett Dalton is this actor that brings this complexity to this guy, a lot of the way that James Marsters brought it to Spike on Buffy and Angel.”

Okay, it is official. Mutant Enemy has a hard-on for Brett Dalton. But when I read the above quote, I did not know whether to laugh or upchuck. Look … Dalton is a tolerable actor. He is pretty solid. But I CANNOT believe that Bell had the nerve to compare Dalton with the likes of James Marsters. To this day, I consider Marsters to be one of the best actors or actresses I have ever seen in a Mutant Enemy production hands down. One of the best … ever. Dalton is nowhere that good. Now, I will admit that although Spike proved to be one of my favorite television characters, I have no love for Grant Ward. I disliked Ward when he was one of the “good guys” during most of Season One. When he proved to be a HYDRA mole, my feelings for him did not change on whit. I realize that Mutant Enemy was trying to make him complex. But thanks to Dalton’s performance, I simply failed to be impressed. But my dislike of the Ward character has nothing to do with my opinion of Dalton as an actor. I also disliked the vampire character Angel, also featured in“BUFFY” and “ANGEL”. But despite my dislike, I cannot deny that actor David Boreanaz’s portrayal of the character was superb. Another actor that made a name for himself portraying a morally questionable fantasy character was Julian McMahon, who portrayed the human-demon hybrid for three seasons in “CHARMED”. Like Marsters and Boreanaz, McMahon was superb in the role, despite producer Brad Kern’s shabby handling of the character during his last year on the show. Hell, he proved to be the best actor during the show’s eight season run. I noticed something else. Ever since the premiere of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Two, Brett Dalton seems hellbent upon impersonating McMahon. Why, I do not know. Brett Dalton is no Julian McMahon. He should simply give up the effort.

Also, Mutant Enemy’s efforts to retain the Grant Ward character has resulted in some seriously contrived writing. After Ward’s capture in “Beginning of the End”, new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Phil Coulson decided to keep the former agent at the new hidden base. Why? So that he can provide the new S.H.I.E.L.D. with information on HYDRA? What could Ward possibly know? He was a low-level HYDRA mole. I doubt that John Garrett knew everything. Hell, I doubt that Garrett, who can be very manipulative, told Ward everything. Anyone with brains or common sense should have realized this. Why keep Ward around? So that Dalton can do his Julian McMahon impersonation every now and then? Then Mutant Enemy decided to hire actor Tim DeKay to portray Ward’s older brother, Senator Christian Ward. DeKay appeared in two episodes – (2.06) “A Fractured House” and (2.08) “The Things We Bury” – before his character was killed off camera by Ward. Aside from giving the writers an opportunity for Ward to escape imprisonment, what was the purpose of DeKay’s presence on the show? I cannot decide what was more wasted – the Jemma Simmons w/HYDRA mini arc, Antoine Triplett’s Season Two presence, or the use of the Senator Christian Ward character. Even when the writers finally had a chance to rid the show of Ward in the mid-season finale, “What They Become”, they kept him alive with some ridiculously contrived writing. I suspect this is Mutant Enemy and Marvel’s way of giving Ward some kind of redemption by the end of the season. If so, this will proved to be the fastest redemption arc in television history. And right now, I found myself feeling disgusted over the whole matter.

I really do not know what else to say about “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Other than I have washed my hands of this show? I cannot believe this is the same television series that I had fallen in love with, last year. I have to end this article before I find myself in danger of upchucking again. Dear Mutant Enemy. You have become such a disappointment to me.

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

Below is a look into (1.08) “I Will Remember You”, a Season One episode from “ANGEL”

 

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

One of the most popular episodes to air on ”ANGEL” is the eighth episode of Season One called (1.08) “I Will Remember You”. This particular episode served as a follow-up to the Season Four ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episode, (4.08) “Pangs” in which Angel, the vampire with a soul, had paid a surreptitious visit to Sunnydale in order to protect his former love, vampire slayer Buffy Summers, from a malignant spirit during the Thanksgiving holidays.

After Buffy had learned of Angel’s visit to Sunnydale, she pays a visit of her own to Angel’s detective office in Los Angeles. There, she confronts him about his surreptitious assistance back in Sunnydale. They are attacked by a Mohra demon. When Angel kills the demon, he is restored to mortality by its powerful blood. After The Oracles – a link to The Powers That Be – confirms that Angel is human again, Angel and Buffy spend a blissful night together. Unfortunately, Doyle receives a vision that the Mohra demon has regenerated itself. Instead of recruiting Buffy, Angel leaves her to kill the demon for good. In the ensuing battle, Angel discovers the consequences of having only human strength. Buffy must come to his rescue and slay the demon herself. Angel returns to The Oracles, who that if he remains human, Buffy will face the minions of darkness alone and die much sooner. They agree to turn back time, so that Angel, accepting the entire cost of the bargain, can kill the Mohra before its blood makes him human. They also inform him that Buffy’s memories of their day together will erase once time is turned back.

I might as well be frank. I really dislike this episode. I almost hate it. Honestly. And although I am not a fan of the Buffy/Angel relationship, the one thing I truly dislike about this episode is the paternalistic manner in which Angel treats Buffy, once he agrees to the Oracles’ bargain. One, I suspect that Angel could not deal having human strength. It still amazes me that many fans have castigated Riley Finn for being unable to deal with Buffy being stronger than him; and yet in this particular episode, Angel seemed to be suffering from the same problem. Then he does something even worse by making that deal with the Powers to resume being a vampire . . . after being told that Buffy would have no memories of their day together. As far as I am concerned, he committed psychic rape via the Oracles and the Powers to Be. Even worse, he only told Buffy about his decision . . . seconds before she lost her memories.

Some fans have used Buffy’s alleged desire for a ”knight in shinning armor” as an excuse for Angel’s behavior. Many of these fans still view Buffy as that 16-18 year-old featured in the series’ first three seasons. And apparently, so does Angel. I really do not see how this desire of Buffy is supposed to condone or excuse Angel’s decision to becoming a vampire again at the expense of Buffy’s memories. Others point out that the Oracles had informed Angel that order to prevent circumstances from repeating exactly, he alone will remember all they have shared. Let me see if I understand this. Angel could not tell Buffy that he had erased her memories of their day together, in case the circumstances of that day repeat themselves. Yet, Angel went ahead and informed Buffy that she would lose her memories seconds before she lost them? If Angel wanted to avoid a repetition of that day repeating, he could have told Buffy what had happened . . . and add that they could not stay together, in case the circumstances of that day would be repeated. But Angel did not bother. In fact, he remained silent. Personally, I found his actions appalling.

To me, Angel was a selfish and controlling bastard who could not handle the lack of vampire strength needed to deal with the supernatural beings he had fought, in the first place. Without that strength, he could not be a hero. One, he was stupid enough to go after the Mohra demon when he lacked the strength to fight it. He could have easily allowed Buffy to do so in the first place. And when he found himself forced to depend upon Buffy’s strength to take down the demon, he turned to the Oracles to get his strength back. And all of this happened before he learned of the details surrounding his return as a vampire. I suspect that deep down, his act of sacrifice was nothing more than bullshit. I have always suspected that Angel was nothing more than a control freak, who got his kicks making decisions for others . . . without their consent. If he had really cared about Buffy, he would have never agreed to the spell in the first place. Or . . . he could have told her what happened after the spell went into effect, just as I had pointed out in a previous paragraph. Or he could have told her what he was considering, before he allowed the Powers to Be remove her memories and turn back time. But he did not, because he simply viewed Buffy as a child who had to be controlled . . . by him. And considering that Buffy ended up dead a year-and-a-half later (with Angel not around), it seemed that Angel had given up being a human for nothing.

”I Will Remember You” strikes me as a good example of why I have never been a fan of the Buffy/Angel romance. It has always seemed like an unequal relationship that was never able to develop into an equal one. This episode also reminded me that many seemed to prefer a fictional romance between an infatuated adolescent female and lovesick older man obsessed with her youth and his need to be controlling. To me, the relationship was nothing but a patriarchal wet dream. And Angel’s actions in both the”BUFFY” episode, ”Pangs” and this episode seemed to confirm this.

“DARK SHADOWS” (2012) Review

“DARK SHADOWS” (2012) Review

I have never been a diehard fan of director Tim Burton. Honestly. In fact, I can only think of one or two of his movies that really impressed me. Okay, I can think of two . . . before I saw his latest opus, “DARK SHADOWS”

The last Burton film that really impressed me was his 2007 Oscar-nominated film, “SWEENEY TODD”. I did not love it. And I have no desire to see it again. But it did impress me. So, when I discovered that he did a big screen adaptation of the 1966-71 ABC television series, I reacted with mild interest. I have never seen the old television series. And to be honest, I have no real desire to watch it. It was the humor featured in the trailer for Burton’s new film that led me to see it.

“DARK SHADOWS” told the story of Barnabas Collins, the 18th century scion of a wealthy Colonial family, who is transformed into a vampire by a scorned lover named Angelique Bouchard, who also happened to be a Collins family servant and a witch. After transforming him into a vampire, Angelique led a lynch mob that captures Barnabas and buries him alive in a chained coffin in the woods. Two hundred years later in 1972, a group of construction workers accidentally free Barnabas, before he feeds on them. He later makes his way back to the Collins manor and finds it inhabited by his mid 20th century descendants; family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, her 15 year-old daughter Carolyn Stoddard, Elizabeth’s brother Roger Collins, his 10 year-old son David; and their servants who are caretaker Willie Loomis and David’s governess, Victoria Winters, who is a reincarnation of Barnabas’ lost love, Josette du Pres. One last occupant is David’s live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman.

Barnabas convinces Elizabeth of his identity when he reveals a secret room behind the fireplace. The room contains a vast treasure that can help the Collins family restore the family business. However, Elizabeth makes him promise to never reveal his identity as a vampire to the rest of the family. All seemed to be well for the Collins family, until Angelique, who has used magic to extend her life, discovers that Barnabas has been released from his coffin. Angelique has also used her own fishery business to bankrupt the family. Upset that Barnabas has returned, Angelique tries to win back his affections through sex. However, Barnabas makes it clear that he does not love her. And Angelique goes out of her way to ensure the destruction of Barnabas and his immediate family.

“DARK SHADOWS” is not perfect. I am quite aware that it is not ensemble piece, despite the likes of Michelle Pfieffer and Helena Bonham-Carter in the cast. I also realize that is basically about Barnabas Collins. But I do believe that two or three supporting characters were barely used in the story. And those characters proved to be young David Collins, Dr. Julia Hoffman (portrayed by the marvelous Helena Bonham-Carter) and Roger Collins, portrayed by the woefully underused Jonny Lee Miller. And I wish the movie had explained how Angelique managed to survive and not age for two centuries. From what I had read, this was never explained in the television version either. I also found the revelation of Carolyn Stoddard as a werewolf near the end of the movie, very contrived. Either screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith had failed to hint this revelation or I simply failed to notice any his hint(s). And I also found the movie’s pacing slightly uneven three-quarters into the story. I suspect that Burton and his screenwriter, Seth Grahame-Smith, were in such a hurry to get rid of Roger Collins and Dr. Hoffman that the pacing somewhat became off-kilter.

But despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy “DARK SHADOWS” very much. First of all, I was dazzled by Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography. He gave it a rich, blue-tinted look that really contributed to the film’s setting and tale. This was especially apparent in the prologue that introduced the Collins family’s American origins and Barnabas Collins. Delbonnel’s photography also enhanced Rick Heinrichs’ production designs. Heinrichs did a beautiful job in re-creating both the mid and late-18th century Maine, along with the same location in 1972. And I feel he was ably supported by Chris Lowe’s art direction team, John Bush’s set decorations and Colleen Atwood’s beautiful costume designs.

Although I was somewhat critical of Grahame-Seth’s screenplay, I do not believe it was not a complete waste. In fact, I thought it was wise of him to center the main narrative around Barnabas Collins. The latter’s attempts to assimilate into the early 1970s had me shaking with laughter. And Grahame-Seth was wise to not only enrich Barnabas’ love for Josette du Pres and later, Victoria Winters; but also his concerns for his family. Family seemed to be very important to Barnabas, which allowed Grahame-Seth to focus more on Victoria and the Collins family . . . even Roger. Barnabas’ concerns for his family also made his conflict with Angelique Bouchard even more pressing. I am also glad that both Burton and Grahame-Seth’s portrayal of Barnabas was complex. They allowed him to feed on other human beings without labeling him as evil. Barnabas feeds on the blood of others to survive, just as we humans feed on other living beings – both animals and plants. He does not like feeding on others anymore than he likes being a vampire. There is no taint of one-dimensional morality that has marred television series like “BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”“ANGEL” and “CHARMED”. Several critics and many of the old television series also criticized Burton’s film for not being a close adaptation of the show. I find their criticisms a little irrelevant, due to the fact that I have yet to see a film adaptation of a television series to be that particularly close to its original source.

The cast for “DARK SHADOWS” is first-rate. Even those performers forced into roles that were not fully explored did a great job. It was nice to see Burton’s willingness to use again, actor Christopher Lee, who had a brief appearance as the top fisherman of Collinsport, Maine. I have never seen Jonny Lee Miller portrayed such a negative role like Roger Collins. And despite the minimal exposure, he did a great job of expressing Roger’s shallowness and lack of concern for his son and other members of the family. Helena Bonham-Carter was hilariously entertaining as young David Collins’ live-in psychiatrist, who developed a crush on Barnabas. It wsa nice to see Jackie Earle Haley again, who was also rather funny as the Collins family’s caretaker, Willie Loomis. I wish I could say something nice about Bella Heathcote. But her performance as Victoria Winters struck me as a little too ethereal and . . . wooden. Gulliver McGrath gave a sweet performance as young David Collins, but he did not strike me as particularly memorable.

For me, the best performances came from lead actor Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Eva Green and Chloë Grace Moretz. The latter has certainly grown a lot since I first saw her in “KICK ASS”, two years ago. I find her take on the fifteen year-old Carolyn Stoddard to be very eccentric (in a positive way). She also seemed to be a younger version of Michelle Pfieffer, who portrayed her imperious mother, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. I thought that Pfieffer was spot on as the indomitable matriarch of the Collins family, who hid her ruthlessly passionate and maternal nature behind a reserved facade. Eva Green nearly scared me out of my wits with her frightening portrayal of Angelique Bouchard, the witch who developed an obsessive love for Barnabas. Apparently, Angelique’s love and hatred proved to be so strong that she continued to slowly destroy the Collins family, long after Barnabas was locked in a coffin. Johnny Depp has portrayed some memorable characters over the years. But I must admit that his take on the Barnabas Collins character has proven to be one of my favorites. The man was superb. I could describe his performance with as many adjectives as possible. But it would take a great deal of my time. All I can say is that I believe he was perfect.

I realize that “DARK SHADOWS” has disappointed many fans of the old 1966-71 television series. And I must admit that I found a few aspects of Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay rather questionable. But “DARK SHADOWS” proved to be an entertaining movie thanks to Tim Burton’s direction, the story’s concentration on the Barnabas Collins, Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography and the excellent cast led by the always talented Johnny Depp.

“Guidance and Estrangement”

 

“GUIDANCE AND ESTRANGEMENT”

During its seven seasons run, the television series, “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” has generated a good number of controversy amongst its fans, other viewers and the media in its approach to several subjects regarding its main character, Buffy Summers, and its supporting characters. Many of those subjects have included sex, violence, addiction, and discrimination – both gender and racial. But there seemed to be one topic that fans of the series seemed to be in conflict over – namely authority figures and how it pertained to Buffy’s relationship with her Watcher, Rupert Giles.

When the series first began in January 1997, Buffy and her mother, Joyce Summers, had recently moved from Los Angeles to Sunnydale; following the latter’s divorce from Buffy’s father, Hank. The Summers’ marriage had buckled under the strain of his infidelity and Buffy’s early activities as a Slayer in Los Angeles. The move to Sunnydale also meant the eventual erosion of daughter and father’s relationship. Since Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick, had killed by a vampire named Lothos; the young Slayer found herself with a new Watcher – the English-born Rupert Giles.

The relationship between Buffy and Giles went through many stages and emotional upheavals. Due to her father’s declining presence in her life, the Slayer began to regard her Watcher as a new father figure. Yet, at the same time, she struggled to maintain a private life of her own – one that involved school and a social life – despite Giles’ insistence upon her focusing upon her training and duties as a Slayer. One such incident occurred when Buffy wanted to forego another training session to attend a fraternity party at Sunnydale’s University of California campus in (2.05) “Reptile Boy”. Despite their occasional bouts of conflict and the crisis surrounding the re-emergence of Angelus in late Season Two, Buffy’s view of Giles as a replacement for her father had grown stronger by mid-Season Three. Then came the Cruciamentum in the episode, (3.12) “Helpless”

The Cruciamentum was a test that senior members of the Watchers Council put each Slayer through on her eighteenth birthday. She must be weakened (namely stripped of her Slayer abilities) and left alone with a vampire to test her skills and resourcefulness. The weakened Slayer rarely survives such a test. As I had stated earlier, Buffy had truly began to regard Giles as a second father, especially since her own father failed to appear and take her to an ice show for her 18th birthday. Unfortunately for Buffy, the Cruciamentum test proved to be the first time that Giles would betray her. Showing more loyalty to the Council than the Slayer, he placed Buffy under hypnosis before stripping away her Slayer abilities with a drug. However, guilt over his betrayal and the danger of a psychotic vampire loose upon Sunnydale led Giles to confess his actions and help her deal with the vampire. Because of his actions, the leader of the Watchers Council – Quintin Travers – accused Giles of being too emotionally close to Buffy and fired him. However, Buffy severed her ties with the Watchers Council and continued to regard Giles as her Watcher. However, the Cruciamentum did not prove to be the last time that Buffy and Giles would clash.

Season Five provided more heartaches and crisis for Buffy than any previous season. Buffy’s relationship with her college boyfriend, Riley Finn, crashed and burned. She discovered that her old nemesis, the vampire Spike, had fallen in love with her. Joyce became seriously ill. And a new member joined the Summers household – a younger sister named Dawn. However, Buffy and the Scoobies eventually learned in (5.05) “No Place Like Home” that Dawn was originally a mystical object known as the Key, which can be used to open portals to alternate dimensions; a group of monks transformed the Key into human form and sent it to the Slayer for protection from the villainous hellgod, Glory. The hellgod wanted to use the Key (Dawn) to return to her home dimension. The memories of Buffy and her associates were altered, along with relevant records, so that they believed Dawn had always existed as Buffy’s sister. Once Glory discovered that Dawn was the Key, her presence became a threat to human existence. Giles certainly believed so and insisted that Buffy kill Dawn before Glory can use her blood in (5.22) “The Gift”. Fearful for Dawn’s life, Buffy asked Spike to protect the teenager from any threat. I can only wonder if she had viewed Giles as a possible threat.

Eventually, Buffy sacrificed her life to stop the threat of Glory and to close the portal that the hellgod had used Dawn’s blood to open. Several months following Buffy’s death, Giles decided to return home to England in (6.01) “Bargaining”. Following her resurrection, he returned to Sunnydale. However, he noticed that Buffy had begun a disturbing trend of depending upon him for everything – including matters in her non-Slayer life. In the episode, (6.07) “Tabula Rasa”, Giles decided to return to England in order for Buffy to gain independence. He did not return, until the crisis over Willow’s turn to evil evolved, following the death of her lover, Tara Maclay.

Giles’ return to England during Season Six proved to have a major impact upon his relationship with Buffy during the show’s seventh and final season. The impact of his disappearance would not be realized, until the two clashed over the status of a chip-free Spike in the episode, (7.17) “Lies My Parents Told Me”. After acquiring his soul in Africa, during the Season Six finale, (6.22) “Grave”, Spike returned to Sunnydale, racked with guilt over his past as a vampire and his attempted rape of Buffy in (6.19) “Seeing Red”. And unbeknownst to himself and others, he was being mentally tormented and controlled by the season’s Big Bad – the non-corporeal being known as the First Evil. Spike’s troubles did not end there. By (7.13) “The Killer in Me”, the chip was slowly killing Spike and Buffy had to request help from her old flame, Army officer, Riley Finn, to remove the chip for good. Spike was finally free from the dangers of the chip, but not from the First Evil.

Buffy and Giles’ clash over Spike first spilled over in an amusing exchange featured in the beginning of the following episode,(7.14) “First Date”. However, Giles’ anxieties over Spike’s chip-free and First Evil-influenced state continued unabated. He continued to insist that Spike be contained or slayed, for the safety of the Potentials and the Scoobies, now residing inside the Summers house. Giles disappeared for two episodes and returned at the beginning of ”Lies My Parents Told Me” with a magical artifact called a Prokaryote stone. Willow used the stone and a spell to penetrate Spike’s mind and make him more conscious of how the First Evil’s trigger worked. Needless to say, the session ended in disaster, with Spike unintentionally hurting Dawn (why Buffy allowed her to hang around, I do not know). Following the failure to break the First Evil’s hold on Spike, Giles conspired with Robin Wood – the son of a Slayer that Spike had killed back in 1977 – to kill the blond vampire behind Buffy’s back. Buffy eventually realized what Giles and Wood had conspired and coldly ended their Watcher-Slayer relationship . . . and friendship.

I am not really surprised that Buffy turned his back on him, following the incidents of ”Lies My Parents Told Me”. As I had earlier pointed out, it was not the first time he had betrayed her. He betrayed her in Season 3’s “Helpless”. But he realized his error and made amends in the end. In late Season 5’s “The Gift”, he continuously pressured Buffy to kill Dawn in order to save the world. Not only did she refuse, but she asked Spike to kill him or anyone else who made a move toward Dawn. Even if Dawn’s death would have saved the world, I do not think that Buffy could have lived with herself if she had killed her younger sister. Her slide into catatonia in (5.21) “The Weight of the World”, following Glory’s abduction of Dawn, struck me as proof that Buffy would have serious problems with anything happening to her younger sisters.

But Giles’ betrayal in “Lies My Parents Told Me” proved to be the last straw. Not only did Giles plotted behind her back, he never expressed any remorse for his actions. Worse, he only gave Spike once chance to deal with the First Evil’s trigger before he began plotting with Robin Wood behind Buffy’s back. Giles never took into account that triggered or not, Spike was not the only dangerous person in that house. There was Willow, who was not only a very powerful witch, but still emotionally unsure about herself. And I suspect that if the First Evil had triggered Spike, he would have to deal with Willow, a powerful and experienced Slayer in the form Buffy, and a house full of potential Slayers. Giles never considered all of this or that Wood’s plotting centered on an emotional desire for revenge against Spike. Instead, he allowed his fears and his dislike of the vampire to rule his emotions. And he never expressed any remorse for his actions.

Buffy had been slowly maturing as a person throughout the series’ run. By late Season Seven, it was time for her to realize that Giles did not always have the answers or that he was not always right. It was also time for her to realize that sometimes, every individual has to question authority figures . . . or rely upon yourself and not a parent or a surrogate parent. Back in early Season Six, Giles realized that Buffy could not always depend upon him and that sooner or later, she would have to learn to stand on her own. Unfortunately, the destruction of the Watchers Council triggered a great deal of fear within Giles. He forgot about his resolve about Buffy becoming an adult, and tried to overcome this fear by resurrecting his old relationship with Buffy. By ”Lies My Parents Told Me” he failed to realize that she had matured too much for him to recapture it.

Buffy and Giles had failed to resolve their conflict over his final betrayal by the end of the series . . . despite their willingness to fight together in the final battle against the First Evil’s plans in (7.22) “Chosen”. Their relationship grew worse over Giles’ failure to inform Buffy about his and Faith Lehune’s dealings with a rogue Slayer named in one of the Season Eight stories featured in a series of comic books based upon the series. It was not until their dealings with the being known as Twilight (aka Angel) that Buffy and Giles finally reconciled. Unfortunately, their reconciliation did not last very long. While still under the guise of Twilight, Angel murdered Giles. Pity. It would have been nice to see Buffy and Giles develop an equal relationship between two friends and colleagues.

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) “A Hole in the World”

Below is a look into (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, a Season Five episode from “ANGEL” 

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) “A Hole in the World”

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the Season Five episode, (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, centered on the death of one of the series’ regulars, Winifred “Fred” Burkle. The slow road to her death began when a Wolfram and Hart employee named Knox accepts the delivery of a sarcophagus. When Fred touches one of the crystals that cover the lid, a puff of dusty air is released, making her cough. Later, she eventually starts coughing up blood before collapsing.

It turns out that by touching one of the sarcophagus’ crystals, Fred becomes infected by the spirit of an ancient demon named Illyria. The entire crew searches for a cure, but give up hope when Spike and Angel discover that the only way to save Fred’s life would kill thousands of people. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce tries to comfort Fred as she dies and eventually witnesses the emergence of Illyria.

”A Hole in the World” was a very interesting episode that replayed the same issue from various ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episodes like (3.19)”Choices” and 5.22)”The Gift” and ”ANGEL” episodes like (3.16)”Sleep Tight” – namely the task of making a choice for the need of the few or the many. And the choice that Angel had to make was whether to save Fred from death and the growing influences of a demon that had infected her body, or to ensure that the world would remain safe. Angel chose the world over his friend. And judging from the reactions on the forums when the episode first aired, not many agreed with his choice. I did not condemn Angel’s choice. I believe that he had made the right one . . . just as Buffy had made the right choice for her in ”The Gift”. It did not really matter if the needs of the many were more important than the needs of the few, or vice versa. What mattered was that each person had to make the choice that was more important to his or her heart. For Buffy, Dawn was more important to her; and for Angel, sparing the world from destruction. Or perhaps being a champion was more important to Angel. However, if the choice had been between . . . say . . . Connor and the world; I suspect that Angel would have chosen Connor.

Angel’s decision proved to be some of an irony for Wesley. His reaction to Fred’s death in the following episode, (5.16) “Shells” certainly proved this. After all, I am talking about the ”King of Tough Choices”. This was the same man who felt it was more important to prevent Mayor Wilkins from getting his hands on the Book of Ascension than saving Willow’s life in the”BUFFY” episode, ”Choices”. He was also willing to risk the lives of rebellious Pyleans for a successful revolution in the”ANGEL” episode (2.22) “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”. And in ”Sleep Tight”, he risked his friendship with Angel and the others in order to prevent said vampire from killing his infant son, because of a prophecy. Considering his past history, one can only ponder over his reactions to the circumstances that led to Fred’s death.

And speaking of Fred, what about her choices? One has to admit that many of her choices have led her to this point – a slow death and demonic possession. Fred chose to leave her home in San Antonio in order to attend college in Southern California. This decision put her in the path of Professor Siedel. And her curiosity caused her to open a book that led to five years of bondage in Pylea. After being rescued by Angel Investigations, she made the decision not to follow her parents back to Texas. Instead, she bound her fate with the souled vampire and his companions. This, in turn, led to her employment with Wolfram and Hart . . . and her death by the end of this episode. I have one question – why did Fred open the sarcophagus without first doing any research on it? I must have missed the scene. If so, this only proves to me that Fred never really had a healthy respect for the spiritual and the supernatural, despite her five years in Pylea and three years with Angel Investigations. She has always had a tendency to treat anything supernatural as a science experiment. And in doing so, she may have paid the price for her attitude. It is not surprising that Wesley angrily cursed her curiosity.

I also wanted to touch upon a few other points about this episode:

*While Eve was trying to hide from the Senior Partners, I bet she must have been wondering what kind of situation her love for Lindsey had brought her.

*I could not help but wonder if Fred upchucking blood over Wes was a metaphor or sign of the tragic death that overtook Wesley in the series finale.

*Angel and Spike were quickly becoming quite the screen team by this episode. I enjoyed watching our favorite vamps’ relationship progress from polite antagonism to mutual grief over Angel’s decision. I also enjoyed Spike’s “hole-in-the-world” speech. Very poignant.

*There is an old saying that if you do not have anything nice to say about something or someone, say nothing at all. Considering my opinionated nature, I could not hold back my opinion on the Wesley/Fred romance of Season Five. Watching them share a kiss following their victory over a demon around the beginning of this episode, reminded me of the early stages of Buffy and Riley’s romance in the middle of Season 4 for ”BUFFY”. Wesley and Fred led me to conclude that watching a 30-something man and a 20-something woman act like teenagers in love seemed a little sad . . . and very saccharine.

Does anyone remember the Season Four episode, (4.16) “Players” and the conversation between Wesley and Fred in that episode? I do. In it, Fred had expressed her disgust over the Connor/Cordelia affair. When Wesley tried to make her to understand what would lead those two to have an affair, the conversation eventually drifted toward Wesley’s affair with Wolfram and Hart attorney, Lilah Morgan. Not only did Fred failed to understand Wesley’s lack of disgust over Connor and Cordelia, she could not understand how he could have become involved with Lilah in the first place. And that is how the conversation (and scene) ended . . . with Fred at a loss over Wesley’s attitude. I cannot say what was going through Wes’ head at the time. But judging from the look on his face and his eventual silence, I got the impression that he realized Fred would never really understand “the real him”. Considering that this conversation began with the topic of Cordelia and Connor, I could not help but wonder if Wesley and Fred had lost their memories of this discussion, due to the erasure of their memories of Connor, at the end of Season Four. Also, Wesley’s kidnapping of Connor proved to be one of the catalysts for his relationship with Lilah in Season Four.

I also cannot help but wonder if they would have ever gotten involved in the first place, due to the mindwipe. I realize that many Jossverse fans tend to view Wesley and Fred’s romance as idealized, I never could accept that prevailing view. I simply found their relationship boring and somewhat infantile. It had an uneasy mixture of a high school romance and incest, due to Wesley’s habit of treating Fred as part-lover and part-daughter. It was not surprising to me that a dying Fred had expressed confusion at the reasons behind Wesley’s feelings for her.

*Fred’s Death Scene was one of the most unbearable I have ever experienced on television. In fact, I found it so excruciating . . . and slow that I was unable to experience any compassion or sadness over her death. I simply felt relieved when she finally died.

I must admit that A Hole in the World” was never a favorite episode of mine. In fact, I have never been that fond of the second half of Season Five. But I must admit that Whedon had written a first-rate episode. Yes, I found the Wesley/Fred romance a bit nauseating to endure. And Fred’s death seemed to go on forever. But Whedon’s handling of theme regarding hard choices and the introduction of the Illryia character made this one of the more memorable episodes of the series.

“The Meaning Behind the First Evil”

Season Seven of ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” has been a favorite of mine for years. But it has been rather unpopular with many fans of the series. And I suspect that this unpopularity may have centered around the character and main villain of Season Seven – the First Evil: 

 

“THE MEANING BEHIND THE FIRST EVIL”
If there is one nemesis that has baffled fans of ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” for the past six to seven years, it would have to be the First Evil. This entity first made its appearance in the Season Three episode, (3.10) “Amends”and became Buffy Summer’s main nemesis in Season Seven, the last season of the series.

In a nutshell, the First Evil is an incorporeal entity that is manifested from all of the evil in existence. It can assume the form of any person who has died, including vampires and dead persons who have been resurrected. Because of this, it has appeared in various forms over the course of the series as a method of manipulating others. For this reason, the First has appeared as Buffy Summers to the Slayer and her allies. But it has also assumed the forms of Warren Mears, Spike, and Jonathan Levinson on multiple occasions, and a variety of other forms less frequently. It was also able to merge with a corporeal individual, as it had done with a serial killer named Caleb, providing the latter with immense strength. The First Evil’s only real weakness was that it was non-corporeal, and could not do real physical damage. However, it was an expert at psychological manipulation, and could act through its servants such as the Bringers, Turok-Han, Caleb or whomever it could manage to control.

As I had stated earlier, the First Evil made its debut on ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” in the episode, ”Amends”. It tried to drive Angel into killing Buffy by appearing to him as Jenny Calendar and other people he had murdered as a souless vampire. The First Evil told Angel that it was responsible for his return from “Hell” and that he could end his sufferings by turning evil again. Whether or not this was true is unknown. In any event, it did not mind when Angel chose to kill himself, via a sunrise instead. After Buffy’s confrontation with the First Evil, she managed to stop Angel from committing suicide.

Using Buffy’s second resurrection in the Season 6 premiere – (6.01) “Bargaining, Part I” as an excuse, the First Evil returned in full force in Season Seven in an attempt to eliminate the Slayer line permanently. Using servants such as the defrocked serial killer Caleb and the Harbingers of Death (or Bringers), the First Evil not only brought about the deaths of many Potential Slayers and Watchers, it also destroyed the Watcher’s Council (no loss there) and nearly came close to killing Buffy, Faith, the Scoobies and Spike. It used both Andrew Wells and Spike to raise the Turok-Han (a race of ancient powerful vampires stronger and fiercer than the regular vampires). It manipulated Spike by using an old English folk song – ”Early One Morning” – into killing again, hoping his actions would attract Buffy’ attentions. According to sources from the ”All Things Philosophical on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel the Series’” and”Buffyverse Wiki” sites, the First Evil wanted to seize the opportunity to upset the balance between good and evil whenever the Slayer line was disrupted. It tried to manipulate Angel into committing suicide in ”Amends” about a year-and-a-half, following Buffy’s brief death and resuscitation in (1.12) “Prophecy Girl”. And about a year following Buffy’s resurrection in ”Bargaining”, it made its move to destroy the Slayer line and upset the moral balance permanently.

Many fans did not like the First Evil as Buffy’s main antagonist in Season Seven. From what I could gather from many message boards, forums and blogs; they seemed confused about the First Evil’s intentions or what it represented. Nor did they seemed impressed that it was the one Big Bad that Buffy could not destroy in a physical manner. Some fans even accused ”BUFFY” creator Joss Whedon of writing himself into a corner with the creation of the First Evil. Personally, I disagree. I do not feel that Whedon had written himself into a corner by bringing the First Evil back in Season Seven.

It is easier to identify a nemesis that is solid enough for someone – namely Buffy – to physically kill or fight. Nemesis like the Master, Angelus, Mayor Wilkins, Adam, Glory, Warren Mears or even Willow Rosenberg. But the First Evil was a different matter. It symbolized a continuation of the theme from Season 6 – namely “You are your own worst enemy”. In other words, I believe that the First Evil symbolized the spirit of Evil that existed in everyone – from Buffy to some minor demon minion or some housewife.

I must be one of the few fans who actually enjoyed Season Seven. But even I had one or two issues about that particular season that did not sit right with me. One of those issues was the appearance of a supernatural being called Beljoxa’s Eye in (7.11) “Showtime”. Rupert Giles and Anya Jenkins visited the being to learn everything they could about the First Evil. Instead of fulfilling their wishes, the Beljoxa’s Eye told them that that the First Evil cannot be destroyed and that it exists now because of a disruption in the Slayer’s line, which was in fact, caused by the Slayer. Both Giles and Anya concluded that Buffy’s second resurrection brought about the return of the First Evil.

This did not make sense to me. One, I found it hard to believe that the First Evil existed because of Buffy’s resurrection. It had already existed before the events of ”Bargaining”. In fact, I believe that it had already existed before ”Amends”. Why? As I had stated earlier, I believe the First Evil was . . . or is the spirit of evil, itself. It was all of the negative thoughts, emotions and impulses that reside within all living beings. And the late Joyce Summers hinted this during Buffy’s dream in (7.12) “Bring On the Night”:

BUFFY: Something evil is coming.

JOYCE: Buffy, evil isn’t coming, it’s already here. Evil is always here. Don’t you know? It’s everywhere.

BUFFY: And I have to stop it.

JOYCE: How are you gonna do that?

BUFFY: I-I don’t know yet, but—

JOYCE: Buffy, no matter what your friends expect of you, evil is a part of us. All of us. It’s natural. And no one can stop that. No one can stop nature, not even—

Joyce would eventually be proven right in (7.22) “Chosen, the series finale. When Buffy, Spike, Faith, the Scoobies, Robin Wood, Dawn and the Potentials battled the First Evil’s army of Turok-Han vampires inside the Hellmouth; all they did – especially Spike – was ruin the First Evil’s plans to upset the balance of good and evil in the mortal world. In my personal opinion, that imbalance already existed before Buffy’s first death in ”Prophecy Girl”. It never made any sense to me that a balance between good and evil had been maintained by the presence of one Slayer against a slew of vampires, demons and other forms supernatural evil for centuries. I suspect that the First Evil saw the presence of more than one Slayer and a vampire with a soul as a threat to that imbalance. Like many others, the First Evil believed that only one Slayer should exist. And as I had earlier stated, I found this belief rather ridiculous and I am glad that Buffy proved that it did not have to be so at the end of the series.

Would the Watcher’s Council or the African shamans who had first created the Slayer line approve of the idea of more than one Slayer in existence? I rather doubt it. I suspect that they may have feared the idea of dealing with more than one Slayer . . . or even more than two. I suspect that controlling the Slayer or wielding her as a weapon mattered more to the shamans and the Watcher’s Council than the idea of more than one warrior against the forces of Evil. And I would not be surprised if the First Evil – or their own inner darkness – prevented them from considering this possibility.

And I believe that is what the First Evil represented in Buffy’s story – the inner darkness that she, her sisters and friends all harbored within themselves . . . and which they had to learn to acknowledge. Buffy’s conversation with the vampire sired by Spike – Holden Webster – forced her to face and acknowledge her own inner darkness. By (7.15) “Get It Done”, she also realized that her two most powerful allies – Willow and Spike – needed to face their own darkness:

BUFFY: The First isn’t impressed. It already knows us. It knows what we can do, and it’s laughing. You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can’t be done, or else we are not an army – we’re just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried. (Spike stands and walks toward the door) Where are you going?

SPIKE: Out. Since I’m neither a girl, nor waiting. All this speechifying doesn’t really apply to me, does it? (walks away)

BUFFY: (calls after him) Fine. Take a cell phone. That way, if I need someone to get weepy or whaled on, I can call you.

SPIKE: (turns to Buffy) If you’ve got something to say –

BUFFY: Just said it. You keep holding back, you might as well walk out that door.

SPIKE: Holding back? You’re blind. I’ve been here, right in it – fighting, scrapping…

BUFFY: Since you got your soul back?

SPIKE: Well, as a matter of fact, I haven’t quite been relishing the kill the way I used to.

BUFFY: You were a better fighter then.

SPIKE: I did this for you. The soul, the changes – it’s what you wanted.

BUFFY: What I want is the Spike that’s dangerous. The Spike that tried to kill me when we met.

SPIKE (angrily): Oh, you don’t know how close you are to bringing him out.

BUFFY: I’m nowhere near him.

The above conversation was one of the most interesting I have ever come across during the series’ seven season run. A vampire Slayer – someone considered the epitome of goodness and light – encouraging a former killer to face that darkness that made him such an effective killer. She even gave a similar speech to Willow, who as “Darth Willow” nearly came close to destroying the world in the Season Six finale, (6.22) “Grave”. Many fans had thought Buffy may have lost her mind. I understood what Buffy was trying to say. During Season Seven, Spike and Willow had spent most of it wallowing in guilt over certain acts they had committed in Season Six. I could probably say the same about Buffy. Like Spike and Willow, she learned to face her past treatment of the blond vampire in the episode, (7.08) “Conversations with Dead People”. But duties and the re-emergence of the First Evil made her realize that she had no time to wallow in her guilt. Her rants against Spike and Willow in ”Get It Done” expressed her own impatience with their guilt and tendencies to hold themselves back in fear of releasing the inner darkness that made them fearsome. She forced both the vampire and the red-haired witch to realize that they can only be fully effective by learning to face their inner darkness . . . and controlling it. By facing the many aspects of their nature, could Spike and Willow learn to develop as individuals.

The First Evil’s activities forced Buffy to develop in another path. She had to start learning how to evolve beyond her inferiority/superiority complex and learn to connect with others . . . when the situation demanded. Thanks to her former Watcher, Rupert Giles, she tried to use this aloofness to become an authority figure to the many Potential Slayers that had arrived on her doorstep. She also had to learn not to allow her insecurities and fear (traits that originated from the negativity within) of being alone to give others like her former Watcher Rupert Giles and even her friends a chance to dictate her actions and behavior. Like Spike and Willow, she had to learn to become her own person. She had to stop being afraid to connect with others and at the same time, allowing them to dictate her behavior.

In the end, I found Season Seven to be very complex and mature on a level that may have eluded certain viewers. Before the season first began, Whedon and Mutant Enemy had announced that the series would take viewers back to how it used to be during the earlier seasons. And perhaps that was what they had been looking forward to . . . recapturing the past. Season Seven did just that . . . but with a twist. The season reminded viewers that no one can recapture the past. Not really. In a way, Spike and Willow tried to recapture their former selves – the mild-mannered Victorian gentleman and the shy computer geek. And Buffy, at Giles’ orders, tried to enforce her authority upon the Potential Slayers as the Watchers’ Council had done to her in the past. Even the fans got into the act. They wanted Whedon to take this season back to what “BUFFY” used to be, failing to realize that would never happen. Buffy and the Scoobies could never go back to being what they used to be. Too much had changed for them over the years. They had changed. And so had the series.

Not only did Buffy and the Scoobies’ conflict with the First Evil – namely their own inner demons – made them realize they could not recapture their past. They may have learned something else. Battling the First Evil was like battling a part of them. In other words, they had been battling their worst enemy – namely themselves. And in doing so, continued the theme that had been prevalent throughout the series’ run . . . growing up.