WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS:
1. The big bad is diffuse. This season, in an effort to be even more apocalyptic, they decided on an incorporal season villain called “the first evil.” A vaguely couched badness that takes the form of dead people, often Buffy herself (she did, after all, die twice). Frankly, the first is kinda lame, and not very funny. It certainly doesn’t measure up to Glory or the Mayor (although it occasionally looks like the Mayor). It’s “first” appearance (haha) where it slowly winds back through all the villains in reverse order is however kinda cool.
2. The slayerettes – About 40% into the season Buffy is inundated by a collection of 17 year-old idiots known collectively as the slayerettes. They totally suck, are just anoying, gum up the relationships we really care about, and often get themselves killed (good riddance). Only Kennedy has any redeeming qualities — mostly in the form of implied girl-on-girl action with Willow.
3. Andrew – For some reason, this lamest and most annoying of the “Trio” is held captive in Buffy’s house, where he can serve to annoy us, the viewers. He does have his occasional moments and lines, like “Episode one boring?” But mostly he grates on the nerves of the cast and viewer alike. Oh Andrew, why at least couldn’t you have died in “Chosen?”
4. Mysterious documentary-style shooting – Certain episodes have a more documentary style that is not evidenced anywhere else in the series. Notably “Storyteller” (deliberate there for sure) and bits in “Touched” and “End of Days.” It felt amateurish and out of place.
At least the writers knew it would be the last season, and so in a neat and orderly manner arced the story toward a decent conclusion. And the first half of the season starts pretty decently. The new character, Principal Wood is good. “Help” is a great episode and the Anya episode, “Selfless” has some totally priceless 1,000 year flash back scenes between Anya and Olaf the troll — totally priceless, and made all the better for being in some Germanic/Scandinavian tongue and subtitled. “Conversations with Dead People” and “Sleeper” aren’t bad either.
Ug. Then enter the slayerettes. The only compensating bit being the sub-boss bad guy, the “ubervamp” who is pretty cool and kicks some ass, including Buffy’s.
The second half of the season is uneven, including my least favorite episode in a long time “Storyteller,” but the pretty good “Lies My Parents Told Me.” The new sub-boss Caleb is decent too. Then we have “Empty Places.”
I don’t know what they were thinking, but it’s obvious the writers decided they had to separate Buffy from her friends for dramatic effect, and so they stage a show down in which they all turn against her. In no other episode of the entire series is there a moment where so many characters just act completely out of character. I can buy a few of them turning on her like this, but the writers failed completely to give each and every one of them a valid personal reason visa-via their relationship with Buffy to do so. I could barely watch it.
The return of Faith however is good, and the last three episodes are pretty strong, particularly the series finale “Chosen.” Despite the lame cameo from Angel, it does all end up in a pretty good place, and reasonably satisfying — a difficult thing to do after such a long and emotional series. Overall, it’s certainly a must watch, but just not on par with the magnificent pair of seasons that preceded it.
As with the previous two times I’m depressed that it’s over. This time I’m going to make a serious effort at Jos Whedon’s season 8 in comic book form.