3 episodes in and it’s already apparent that I’m enjoying Buffy’s final season infinitely more than season 6 and it’s dour and sadness. Last season was a drag with everyone depressed and Buffy constantly moping around, to the point where I felt it unbearable. This season opened with a surprisingly light and fun opener, penned by show creator Joss Whedon, that felt like an apology of sorts for last seasons emo tone.
I’ve read, thankfully without being subjugated to spoilers, that this season has some rough spots and is quite awful, but honestly I’m pretty hooked on the story. Spike is back in town and seems to have lost something mentally, a frustrating development and yet suggesting that his character is going through some cathartic changes. I’ve always had a soft spot for Spike. Once he had the chipped placed in his head that prevented him from attacking good beings, I started rooting for his character. Unfortunately the writers deemed it necessary to keep him an asshole, to the point where he attempts to rape Buffy, thereby justifying the Scooby Gang’s treatment towards him. This has been the most frustrating aspects of the last couple of seasons. I really want to Spike to come around, perhaps because I identify with him in a way. Of course, not with his rapey habits, but just the idea of a guy who has some serious anger and moral problems trying to become someone good and new. That a women turns his life upside down rings even truer to my own life (maybe some day worth writing about). Seeing Spike attempt to regain his soul last season was cathartic, perhaps wishful thinking to see that an asshole could really change himself. Hopefully this season finally brings his character around.
This episode was also refreshingly rich thematically, dealing with Willow’s return to Sunnydale and her the inability for her to be seen by Buffy and and the crew. It’s a powerful metaphor, representing the pain of trying to regain approval from friends for wrongs one’s committed. The whole theme parallels with Spike’s atonement, and is starting to look like the major arc of this final season.
As always though, this episode ends with boring actions, a petty complaint that for me always drags down the show a notch. For many, this is just a necessary part of the genre, to the point that the Whedon wrote a meta joke about in the season opener, but for me longs for popular art that just ignores pointless action and focuses on the characters. It’s a matter of personal tastes, but it nonetheless brings this episode onto a boring conclusion.
Final thought: props on the bad guy’s character design.