buffy season 7 (may contain spoilers)Unless I review season 8, the inferior but enjoyable comic series, this'll be it for Buffy reviews.
Season 7 promises to bring it all back to the beginning. Sunnydale High is open again, and Buffy has a job there. Its interesting, and exciting stuff, with the lovely back drop of girls being murdered at the start of each episode with no explanation. Lovely stuff, and the first few episodes are very strong. They present our characters in a healthier place than they were in season 6, but still with issues to deal with. Sadly, this season doesn't quite work.
It feels very much that there was a need to pack a lot into one season here. Season 7 has, more than ever before, a long, ongoing story, which from Conversations with Dead People onwards keeps going until the end. This is a shame, because while Buffy does good plot episodes, its strongest are usually character episodes, with plot happening in the background- see season 4's Faith episodes for a lovely example of this, or indeed Selfless.
This is made worse by an influx of new characters. I'm not too unhappy that the writers wanted to introduce new characters, as certain members of the established cast were fairly well defined. Xander at this point didn't really need another episode focusing on him, for example, and his gradual reconciliation with Anya in the background. Yet they seem to fail to develop most of these new characters, to a frustrating level.
The most irritating example of this was Willow's new love interest. Kennedy is a frustrating character. She is clearly a contrast to Tara, being loud and forthright, but there's no clear reason for her and Willow to get together. We learn very little about Kennedy to warm her too us, and this is annoying. The Killer in Me deals with Willow's feelings of guilt for moving on from Tara, but I'm still not sure why the writers felt she needed to. It is possible to be single and happy, after all.
The thing is, I imagine the point of Kennedy is to force Willow out of her shell, and make her become comfortable with her magic use. But it doesn't work at all, and past Killer in Me the relationship is barely touched on at all. Its a wasted opportunity.
The only characters that really get arcs here are Spike and Buffy. Spike's, mostly, is good. Having got his soul back he is effectively a new man, and seeing him become whole again is good. Spike was always an interesting character, and still is, becoming someone new, different, and finally worthy. My only main frustration is that Spike occasionally acts as if he hasn't even got a soul- see Lies My Parents Told me, which undermines all this.
Buffys arc is probably my main issue with this season. The idea is sound- Buffy has to cut herself off even more than before, leading an army now she is even more excluded from life. Finally, she finds a solution so that slayers no longer have to be alone. My problem with this is that at the end of season 6, and indeed the start of 7, we really do get the idea that Buffy had seen the light, was more hopeful and happy, yet this is utterly sacrificed (to the point of the conversation with Giles where buffy happily tells him that she'd sacrifice Dawn). Its annoying. Whats even worse is the conclusion of this arc is terrible. Buffy is driven away by her friends after a disastrous attack on Caleb (who we shall speak of more soon), in a scene where she is turned upon by everyone she loves. Buffy, is, of course right about going back in (as she always bloody is, so people really should listen to her), and shes goes in alone and succeeds, while Faith leads the others into an ambush. They then make up for the final fight. Except... there were genuine issues raised by all sides, and they're simply NOT answered. Doing this so close to the end of the season was a genuinely bad idea, as it doesn't give the characters time to repair their relationships enough for the climax to work.
The final episode, is, of course, still great, bringing home the main theme of the season, and lots of lovely drama does make it very much worth watching, but I think it could have been stronger. Just a little bit more of character togetherness would have worked wonders. You'll notice I haven't even mentioned Giles, who goes so far out of character as to be utterly unrecognisable at some points.
One final mention has to go to the fantastic Caleb, who really makes the final arc of the season. He carries a brilliant air of menace, and making him a misogynistic bastard was a lovely offset to the message inherent in the final fight. Its a shame, however, that he was killed off at the start of the episode. It would have made much more sense for the first evil to enter him as part of some final desperate scheme, leading to a bit more of a satisfying conclusion.
Best episode here is Selfless, which is absolutely brilliant. I always loved Anya's character, and making an episode all about her, but also about the characters choices (the argument between Buffy and Xander is fantastic), is genius. This is head and shoulders the best in 7. There are other good episodes, Chosen and Conversations with Dead People, but this is the best for me.
Funniest episode is easily Storyteller, which is not only very funny, I think it nicely points out a tendency some of us do have to tell stories rather than to confront reality. Him is also funny, although it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else happening whatsoever (and is probably the first episode to do this in a looong time!)
The worst episode is harder. I don't think any of the episodes are terrible, I just think a lot of them could have been better. Its probably Empty Places for me, it set ups a dilemma shoddily and unnecessarily, which isn't resolved very well at all.
[I'm aware this isn't the best written post in the world, my thoughts on season 7 are somewhat fragmented. Meh)