“BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: Buffy and Riley”

Below is an article I have written about the breakup of Buffy Summers and Riley Finn in the Season Five episode of “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” called, (5.10) “Into the Woods”

“BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: BUFFY AND RILEY”

I have read many opinions regarding the breakup of vampire slayer Buffy Summers and her Season Four/Season Five boyfriend, Riley Finn on many discussion forums, blogs and message boards about ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”. The prevailing viewpoint seemed to be that Riley had ruined the relationship with his behavior and attitude in Season Five. I might be one of the few fans of the show who might harbor another opinion. Then again, I might not. Let me explain.

At the end of Season Three, Buffy’s vampire paramour – Angel – had decided it would be safer for her if he left Sunnydale and her for good. Following Buffy’s graduation from high school, she enrolled in the University of California at Sunnydale. And not long after starting school, she met Riley Finn inside a student bookstore for the first time. As it turned out, Riley was not only a Teacher’s Assistant for one of the university’s instructors (Maggie Walsh), he was also an Army officer and demon hunter for a government-sponsored organization called ’The Initiative’. And unbeknownst to both Buffy and Riley, his mentor Dr. Walsh had been feeding him drugs to enhance his physical prowess. Not only did the couple spend most of Season Four coming to terms with Riley’s participation in the Initiative, but also dealing with Maggie Walsh’s other experiment – namely a human/demon cyborg hybrid named Adam. But after their adventures with the Initiative, Adam and other demons; Riley resigned from the Army and became part of the Scoobies.

But all was not as well as it seemed by the beginning of Season Five for Buffy and Riley. Buffy began sneaking away from Riley at nights to engage in her usual Slayer activities. She suddenly found herself the older sister of a fourteen year-old adolescent girl named Dawn, who was in reality a mystical object known as the Key transformed into human for by a group of monks and sent to Buffy from protection from a hell god named Glory. The drugs that Maggie Walsh had fed into Riley began having a deteriorating effect upon his health. Riley had the drugs removed from him via an operation by a former Initiative doctor and became slightly weaker. Buffy discovered that her mother, Joyce Summers, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Worst of all, Riley began harboring suspicions that the blond vampire slayer did not really love him. It finally ended for Buffy and Riley in (5.10) “Into the Woods”when two things happened: 1) Riley was approached by his old friend, Graham Miller, to consider rejoining the Army and a new version of the Initiative; and 2) Buffy learned via chipped vampire Spike that Riley was seeing vampire whores who suck his blood for money. After a bitter fight between the two, Riley left Buffy and Sunnydale for good.

Ever since ”Into the Woods”, many ”BUFFY” fans have placed either most or all of the blame of the couple’s breakup upon Riley’s shoulders. First of all, many have accused his character of over-the-top machismo. They claimed that Riley could not handle being physically weaker than Buffy after his operation in (5.04) ”Out of My Mind”. They used his actions with the vampire whores as example that Riley tried to be “monstrous” enough to be a worthy mate for Buffy . . . and fell short.

I must admit that I found the above claims about Riley very hard to accept. Granted, he possessed a black-and-white view of the world before meeting Buffy. And this conservative viewpoint led him to join the Army, allow Maggie Walsh to recruit him into the Initiative and help the latter capture Oz in (4.19) “New Moon Rising”, despite Buffy’s protests. But Riley made bigger mistakes. After resigning his Army commission, Riley should have taken the time to make a life for himself outside of Buffy. He could have continued his studies at UC Sunnydale or try to become a teacher. Perhaps one of the reasons he failed to pursue another profession was that the only life he really wanted was in the military. I see nothing wrong with that. As long as Riley went through life with his eyes opened and without the naivety that Maggie Walsh had exploited in the past . . . he could be on the right track.

But Riley tried to make his life all about Buffy (just as Spike would attempt to do so between late Season Five and Season Seven) and it was another mistake on his part. Even worse, he failed to inform Buffy of his true feelings about everything – his lack of a direction in his life, the vampire whores and Buffy’s growing emotional distance – until it was too late. Quite simply, Riley made three major mistakes. He failed to make a new life for himself outside of Buffy, he cavorted with vampire whores in order to explore his inner darkness and most importantly, he failed to communicate with Buffy.

On the other hand, Buffy also contributed to her breakup with Riley. I suspect that she had been using Riley as rebound from Day One of their relationship. She was not only rebounding from Angel’s departure, but also from the idea of a relationship with a supernatural being. To her, Riley was her ”Joe Normal”. And this was a mistake. There is a chance that some part of Buffy had deep feelings for him, but I doubt that it was enough for a long term relationship.

But the one thing that really annoyed me was Buffy’s habit of treating Riley like fine china, following the operation to remove his physical enhancements in “Out of My Mind”. So what if he had lost some of his strength? He was still a competent demon hunter. He certainly proved that in (5.07) “Fool For Love”. Instead, Buffy treated him like a damsel-in-distress by insisting that the Scoobies help him hunt down the vampire that attacked her. In other words, she became ridiculously macho when it came to Riley. She failed to remember that Riley was an experienced demon hunter, who could help her deal with vampires, demons, etc. a little more effectively than the other Scoobies. It almost seemed as if Buffy was treating Riley with a patriarchal air. And that was a major mistake for her to make with a strong-willed personality like Riley. Another major mistake that Buffy made was like Riley, she failed to communicate with her. Many fans pointed out that Buffy was too busy dealing with Joyce’s illness and the appearance of a new sister to deal with Riley’s demons. But if Buffy could confide with Spike about Joyce’s illness in (5.08) “Shadow”, why did she wait so long to do the same with Riley? Why did she confide in Spike first?

I suspect that in the end, the real problem with Buffy and Riley was that emotionally, they were too similar to each other. Each, in their own way, possessed a . . . reserved, yet occasionally aggressive personality that made them too similar. And instead of creating a balance between two people, it created conflict in the end. Neither of them were really honest with each other. Both had a problem with communicating with each other. Is it any wonder that the relationship failed in the end?

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“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?

Top Ten Favorite “ANGEL” (1999-2004) Episodes

Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes of “ANGEL” (1999-2004), which starred David Boreanaz:

TOP TEN FAVORITE “ANGEL” (1999-2004) EPISODES

1. (1.19) “Sanctuary” – The second of a two-part episode about a burnt out Faith’s appearance in Los Angeles. Following her breakdown, Angel discovers that the Watchers Council and Buffy are after her.

2. (2.07) “Darla” – Angel tries to find a way to save a human Darla from the clutches of Wolfram and Hart, while she remembers her past as a vampire.

3. (5.11) “Damage” – Angel and Spike hunt down a psychotic Slayer who has escaped from an institution and believes that Spike is the man who drove her insane.

4. (2.02) “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” – In this send-up on the post-World War II Communist witch hunts, Angel recalls a traumatic experience during the 1950s at the Hyperion Hotel.

5. (1.18) “Five by Five” – The first half of Faith’s appearance in Los Angeles has the rogue Slayer being recruited by Wolfram and Hart to assassinate Angel.

6. (3.09) “Lullaby” – Holtz, a demon hunter from the past, hunts down Angel, while Darla endures a difficult labor.

7. (4.10) “Awakening” – In an attempt to bring down The Beast and restore the sun, Wesley brings in a dark mystic to extract Angel’s soul.

8. (5.08) “Destiny” – Spike is recorporealized, and the two souled vampires battle it out to drink from the “Cup of Perpetual Torment” to settle the renewed conflict of the Shanshu Prophecy.

9. (4.16) “Players” – Gwen Raiden enlists Charles Gunn’s help to steal a device to control her electrical abilities while Lorne attempts a ritual to restore his empathic powers.

10. (4.04) “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” – Cordelia Chase inexplicably returns from her higher dimension, but she has no memory of who she is and who her friends are; and Lilah Morgan develops an interest in her reappearance, as well.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“Different Paths in Brotherhood”

“DIFFERENT PATHS OF BROTHERHOOD”

While reading an old review by someone named Tchaikovsky about the Season Five ”ANGEL” episode, (5.08) “Destiny”, I noticed that the reviewer discussed a lot about Angel and Spike’s relationship as ”brothers”, whether they were in their souled or unsouled states. When I first viewed that particular season, I noticed one particular thing about it. There seemed to be a great deal of focus upon brotherhood. 

In the relationship between Angel and Spike, viewers had two vampires with the potential to be close ”brothers” when they first met in 1880. However, their feelings for one female vampire – namely Drusilla – fragmented that sense of brotherhood. After his disappointments with his former object of desire, an English debutante named Cecily and his mother Anne, whom he had transformed into a vampire; Spike (or .should I say, William) saw the female vampire as his destiny, someone to love and worship.

I am not sure what Angel (aka Angelus) saw in Drusilla. Perhaps he viewed her as something or someone to completely control, perhaps? As the son of an Irish merchant, Liam never really had any control in his relationship with his father until the moment he killed the latter after becoming a vampire. Despite his rejection of his grandsire, the Master, Angelus found himself controlled by Darla, via her usual subtle way by making him believe that he was in control. And perhaps, deep down, Angelus knew this. Perhaps this is why he had decided to betray William by having sex with Drusilla. Perhaps he wanted to make the other male vampire realize that he was in control and that William’s idea of Drusilla being his destiny was nothing more than an illusion.

Due to Drusilla’s mental state, Angelus was not only Spike’s grandsire, but also acted as the latter’s sire and mentor. Yet . . . the night Angelus slept with Drusilla also marked the beginning of an antagonistic relationship and rivalry between the two. That antagonism intensified when Angel lost his soul in 1998 and became Angelus again; their antagonism deepened. Not only did Angelus resume a sexual relationship with Drusilla; Spike, in a crippled state, found himself unable to do anything about it. Until he healed and formed a partnership with the blond Slayer, Buffy Summers. Spike and Angel’s antagonistic relationship lasted over 120 years.

And yet, after Spike had reappeared in Los Angeles in Season Five of ”ANGEL”, the two vampires slowly began to form another bond. Before that could happen, the two vampires had to deal with another rivalry for the heart of Buffy Summers. After all, Spike had witnessed Buffy and Angel’s reunion kiss in the second to last episode of ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”(7.21) “End of Days”. And in the following episode, (7.22) “Chosen”, Angel learned several things – namely that Buffy and Spike had formed some kind of relationship, Spike had a soul and that Buffy had chosen the blond vampire as her personal champion. The two vampires’ resentment over Buffy spilled over when Spike’s non-corporeal form appeared at the end of (5.01) “Convictions”. Yet, from the moment following their fight over the Cup of Destiny in ”Destiny”, to their bonding over shared experiences in (5.11) “Damage”, and finally to their partnership in episodes like (5.20) “The Girl in Question” and (5.22) “Not Fade Away”; the pair managed to reconnect as ”brothers”. They finally realized that they need each other in their fight against Evil. Besides, with the Fang Gang slowly disintegrating, perhaps Spike became the only person that Angel could truly depend upon.

In contrast to Angel and Spike’s relationship, Season Five marked the final destruction of Charles Gunn and Wesley Wyndham-Price’s friendship. It is interesting that back in the series’ Season Two, they were close friends and partners in a detective agency with Cordelia Chase. Many of the series’ fans would remember the secret handshakes and the ”I got your back” declarations, and the manner in which they had fought together against demons.

But in the end the relationship was destroyed by Wesley’s kidnapping of Angel’s son; and a woman – namely one Winifred “Fred” Burkle. I am not saying that she is to blame for their past or present estrangement. But their views of Fred, along with their personal demons – Charles’ insecurity (which was fed by Fred’s comment about him being the gang’s muscle) and Wesley’s secretive nature and a whore/Madonna view of women eventually brought about a complete destruction of their relationship. Fred and Connor’s kidnapping turned out to be two reasons for their first break-up.

Yet, their friendship resurrected when both men finally decided to forgo a romantic pursuit of said female in late Season Four. But Angel’s decision to allow the Senior Partners, the evil overlords of the Wolfram and Hart law firm erase their memories of Connor and any other memories linking to the vampire’s son. This decision also led to the gang becoming employees of the law firm, Charles’ decision to become an attorney by supernatural means and resurrected Wesley’s desires for Fred. The two eventually began a romantic relationship. All of this culminated in disaster when Charles makes a pact to revive his diminishing legal abilities in exchange for signing the release of an ancient curio stuck in Customs. When this curio resulted in the death of Fred and the resurrection of a demon called Illyia in Fred’s body. A grieving Wesley decided to seek revenge by the attempted murder of Charles. Although both men assisted Angel in the latter’s battle against the Senior Partners and the Circle of Thorn in the Season Five finale,(5.22) “Not Fade Away”, their friendship never returned to the state it had been during Season Two and the second half of Season Four.

I find it amazing that two different male relationships ended on divisive paths. Angel and Spike’s relationship – which began on a rocky foundation saturated with resentment, rivalry over two females- managed to reconnect into a strong brotherly bond. On the other hand, Charles and Wes’ friendship began on a strong note and ended in complete ruin before the series ended. And to think that this all happened during Season Five.