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February 05 2008

Patrick on Joss Whedon: Joy, Art and Realism. Writer Geoff Klock debates a friend's criticism of the ongoing BtVS comic series, revisiting some familiar flashpoints in the show's history (S6-7) while offering his perspective on Whedon's vision for the characters.

"I thought Tara's death was one of the more amazing things about the Buffy run -- it showed a capacity for surprise six seasons in (not an easy thing to do); the emotional shock was real and powerful.... For me this works, this is strong writing."

"Shakespeare's King Lear -- a horrific vision of nihilism -- cannot be dismissed as a soul-killing picture of a bleak, crummy world totally absent of time travel and jet-powered apes. It cannot be dismissed in that way because, for all of its dark subject matter, you have to be happy to have found something that well written. In that way the crummy real world is redeemed -- because you just experienced a work of unbridled GENIUS. The content is not the point, the form, the language, is."

[Bold = my emphasis] This is an interesting angle on how the series writing was handled that I'm not sure I agree with personally. I see content and form/language as equally important, or at least not as necessarily oppositional to one another in achieving a desired artistic result. Valid? No? Discuss.]

You can debate the relative merits of seasons 6 & 7 forever. The very fact that season 6 is so controversial is a joy to me, as it's my favorite.
So obviously, I disagree with a lot of Geoff Klock's observations, and most all of his friend's conclusions.
But the only statement with which I take serious issue is "Most fans will tell you that the end of season six and arguably all of season 7, are bad." I've spent enough time on enough discussion forums to know that this simply isn't true.

You can definitely say that season 6 is the most polarizing season, and that literally no one was completely happy with season 7. But, "bad"? That is such an absolutist judgment about such a multi-layered topic, it simply isn't worthy of the label "criticism".

As for season 7: considering the degree to which serious fans were invested in every character, every story arc, every aspect of every minute detail of every word of dialog and nuanced glance between characters by the final season, I see no way around the fact that most everyone was unhappy with it, in one way or another.
The interesting part is how varied are the reasons for disliking the final season.

My first viewing of S7 was so seriously skewed by my passion for a certain ship, I knew at the end that I needed to watch the whole thing again, with a serious eye to not letting everything else fall by the wayside. I suspect the same is true for many BtS fanatics, in whichever direction your ship sails ;-)

By the time I'd gone through the entire season three tines (second and third viewings on DVD) I think I had a much more objective view. It was IMO one of the more uneven seasons, but the task the writers had before them was simply Herculean. Bringing this magnificent yarn to a close must have been incredibly daunting.

I think it was, overall, better in conception than in execution. But I also believe that statement is true mainly regarding the Potentials. I totally loved the concept of taking us on the journey from "the one" to "the many". And the irony of Buffy, who for the entire series had been so ambivalent about all the power she possessed (or more to the point, ambivalent about the responsibility that came along with that power) handling the situation so badly.
But the fact that the potentials were so appallingly irritating, made it a tough sell.

There was some very uncharacteristically cluncky handling of certain episodes or parts of episodes. But there were also real gems to be treasured and some eps that stand with the best - (Sleeper, Never Leave Me, Conversations With Dead People - no matter where you stand on the Tara/Casie issue, the ep was about so much more than that - LMPTM, Dirty Girls).

And Beneath You, which was so much more than the "see how well Joss and James Marsters do Shakespearian tragedy" finale (although I can't imagine a better reveal of the major plot point of Buffy learning that Spike has a soul). I thought the entire ep was pure BtS gold. Xander to Anya: "Did you turn this nice lady's ex into a giant worm monster?"
And Selfless, both horrifying and hysterical. The sub-titles in the flashbacks were worth the price of admission.

OK Wiseblood, this is what you get from "Valid? No? Discuss". ;)

[ edited by Shey on 2008-02-05 11:19 ]
I see season 6 and 7 as The Pixies album "Trompe Le Monde" if that's any help (head and shoulders above the competition but not quite as good as what went before).

In fact my rationale can be explained by the following

Buffy season 1 as Come On Pilgrim

Buffy season 2 as Surfer Rosa

Buffy season 3 as Doolittle

Buffy season 4 and season 5 as Bossanova

Buffy season 6 and season as Trompe Le Monde
Simon, I'm actually one of those people who thinks Trompe le Monde is the best Pixies album. And, cheers, I think I'll listen to it tonight. If I had time, I'd try a similar comparison with Smashing Pumpkins albums.

For me, season 6 was, as a whole, weak. But not in the same way as Angel Season 4. I understand why S6 of Buffy had to be so dark (the pay off for the Buffy resurrection) so I don't mind it and I don't hold it against the writers etc. Unlike Season 4 of Angel which I'm rewatching now...

As for S7 of Buffy, I like it and didn't realise people didn't like it. It's not Season 3 or Season 5 but it's a fitting end to the show, has some great moments and took some risks.
It cannot be dismissed in that way because, for all of its dark subject matter, you have to be happy to have found something that well written. In that way the crummy real world is redeemed -- because you just experienced a work of unbridled GENIUS. The content is not the point, the form, the language, is."

Completely agree with this. The content of a story can be unrelentingly bleak but if it's beautiful then, with a simple step back, it's uplifting by the very nature of its creation. We did that, y'know ? It's proof that we're capable of creating amazing things and no world where that happens is completely worthless.

That said, i'm as big a fan of escapism as the next person and if i'm happy to view dramas that reflect real-world bleakness, i'm equally happy to watch e.g. 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' where - literally - the four friends ride off into the sunset or Stargate SG-1 where characters do (occasionally) die but never in absurd, hopeless ways - it's the fictional version of reality, where death has meaning and heroic sacrifices actually matter.

(and the bleak approach usually offers hope of some kind anyway, even if it's just the "small heroics" that come from a character being kind when they didn't need to be - not showing that would be as far from reality as escapist fiction is. Also, in a sense, even the absurdest of deaths can be strangely uplifting if you are, as Terry Pratchett would say, someone who's "looked at life and seen the joke". Just being able to do that is amazing by itself I reckon ;)
I love season six with great passion, because unlike many fans who hated Buffy, Xander and Willow and felt sorry for Spike, Anya and Tara, I actually felt greater sorry for Buffy, Xander and Willow. Even thought they were more interesting than their other halves. Loved that the big bads were the heroes of the show. My only criticism is how Giles left, writers could have found a better reason that doesn't make Giles look like Hank Summers.

Season 7 had the chance to be the greatest season of them all, but failed. Uneven plotlines, rushy story, forgotten plot-points, characters that fans loved were pushed to the background (Xander, Anya, Giles and Dawn), characters fans couldn't care less for were center of attention (Wood, Andrew, Potentials), poorly written scenes like the last scene in Empty Places, Giles' character, and Angel's arrival in Chosen.
I, of course, have a different take. I view S6 as victim of writer arrogance, and S7 as a victim of writer indifference. S6 is when the writers undid everything that they had built over 5 years, got too smart for their own good, and alienated some of their fans. Me, included. I loath S6, totally, and watch few eps from that season and those not often. This is the season of Joss' absence, and it shows. By S7,with new writers, they did not understand as well the fictive lives of the main scoobies, who ended up being shunted to the side and turned into caricatures of themselves. Willow was a pale shadow of the woman she had been; Xander was sidelined so that ambiguously gay Andrew could provide comic relief; Dawn was just a kid, Giles was MIA, and we had crazy Spike and George Bush Buffy. With a bunch of redshirts who we were apparently supposed to care for. If I loath S6, I am indifferent to S7. I realize I will be a minority of one here, but the loss of Tara was a deal breaker. And since we have been down this road before, I do not need anyone questioning my love of the show or telling me I am not a fan because I do not like these seasons. I'm still here complaining, right? :-) Don't answer that!

PS. This will be a 100+ post thread, I betcha!

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2008-02-05 13:58 ]
Simon, I'm actually one of those people who thinks Trompe le Monde is the best Pixies album. And, cheers, I think I'll listen to it tonight. If I had time, I'd try a similar comparison with Smashing Pumpkins albums.


Cool. I thought I would try something new. The trouble with talking about season 6 and 7 is that you know the arguments off by heart and you know exactly what each faction will say at any given moment.

These days the debates are getting to the stage where we're going through the motions like two middle aged boxers wearily punching each other for the sake of it.
When I read the first part by WetRats, I realized that this is why I'm having trouble with the Angel comics. That there are no more heroes, only survivors.
Season 7 was a good idea badly realized, in my opinion. Flashes of brillance lighting up the gloom- yes, I did love all of Beneath You, for instance. And I loved Season 6 although it was not my favourite.
These days the debates are getting to the stage where we're going through the motions like two middle aged boxers wearily punching each other for the sake of it.

Yep but don't forget Simon, "It ain't over til it's over" ;). Apropos phrase in a thread about season 6 BTW.

"Going through the motions
Walking through the part
Nothing seems to penetrate my heart..."

We're in a re-watch cycle right now and in S6 on the Buffy side (watching alternating eps of Buffy and AtS). Its way fun to see how things hit you differently. Being able to re-watch/re-read and find new angles and feel differently about characters and events is great fun and (IMO) a sign of how layered and wonderful the work is. And, yes, I do very much enjoy S6 and specific eps of S7 (we'll see how it does on re-watch, I'm told its better compressed than drawn out over months).
Sadly not that familiar with the Pixies but S7 is my favourite Buffy season. I’d find Klock’s critique more persuasive if rather than baldly stating ex cathedra style that everything post Seeing Red was badly written (despite its apparently excellent subject matter) he’d provided some clarification of what he meant by bad writing. Preferably with examples and animated Venn diagrams.

Reading between the lines his criticism seems to be that insufficient time was given to Willow’s redemption story or those of of Anya and Spike, which sounds like a problem with content as much as form. I don’t personally find redemption stories that interesting (seen one seen them all) and much prefer the story I thought we did get. The one about isolation, responsibility and connection; about Buffy learning that other people can not only help her but can be her, can stand in her shoes. I thought that story was written quite brilliantly.
Seasons 6 and 7 compete with each other for last place on my list (whereas Seasons 2 and 3 compete for first place). Dana5140 pointed out that Season 6 was the "season of Joss' absence, and it shows." I felt that way when S6 originally aired, and feel that way today. I have no way of knowing the precise extent to which Joss's creative hand fell off the wheel in S6, only that it did. The ideas and themes, ironically enough, were perhaps the most ambitious and dramatically powerful in S6. But, as others have observed many times before, the execution just was not there. Where S6 generally failed to execute, S7 generally failed to excite. That season started off promisingly (Conversations With Dead People ranks among the series' best), meandered in the middle with perfunctory filler eps, and recovered, somewhat falteringly, in the final few. The overall impression it created was one of fatigue. Everybody, even the actors, just seemed a little tired.
Love season 6. Won't rehash the why yet again.

Love many of season 7's episodes, but as a whole I think the arc suffered from trying to say so much in so little time. The pace was kind of insane. So when I watch "Showtime" it is awesome, but when I watch it with others in sequence, I get distracted by the way the ubervamps go from superstrong to strong to meh and Buffy's emotional rollercoaster gets difficult to follow. But in single episodes, it is amazing.

Except for the part where they kick Buffy out. Even in the context of the episode, that never quite made sense.
I try to resist diving into big fandom debates like this... but I can never resist for long.

The good critics over at Soulful Spike Society once pointed out that many of the glitches and continuity errors in "The Zeppo" are actually little touches to add to the overall effect of the show not taking itself seriously. I can't claim that this was the case for S6 and S7, but Buffy has a line at some point in S7 about how she didn't even realize it was Christmas. This always sounded to me like the writers screaming, "Oh, s***, we're riding an arc and we don't know how to get off."

Every season has a few problems (except maybe S3). Every season has a few clunkers. Season 6 was, in some ways, the universe of "The Wish" slowly coming to life before our eyes, and the reason "The Wish" is so intense is because we hate to see it happen and yet can't look away. Season 7 had a beautiful beginning and a beautiful end, and while they kind of lost their way in between (why was everyone so focused on Spike?), the season's still worthy of the name Buffy.

I think I could fix a lot of Season 7 just by introducing Caleb earlier instead of the Ubervamp. And as for the Potentials who "we have no reason to care about" -- those Potentials are stand-ins for an entire generation of young women. A generation which can get annoying at times, true... but should be cared about nevertheless. And Buffy getting kicked out was beautiful for both her and for Faith, because both sides had good points and it took both the Slayers in great new directions of self-discovery. (I love S7 Faith a little too much, perhaps...)
Every season has a few problems (except maybe S3). Every season has a few clunkers. Season 6 was, in some ways, the universe of "The Wish" slowly coming to life before our eyes, and the reason "The Wish" is so intense is because we hate to see it happen and yet can't look away.


Really? :) Must... resist...
metoai: You say "And as for the Potentials who "we have no reason to care about" -- those Potentials are stand-ins for an entire generation of young women." Yes, I understand that. But as individuals characters they are largely disposable, and they are sad replacements for core Scoobies who lost significant amounts of screen time as a result of focusing on characters who really did not matter nearly as much. Would you rather watch Rona, or Willow? Amanda, or Anya? I mean, I can't even remember all their names, but they got tons of screen time in opposition to the characters around whom the show revolved. To me, that is just inexcusable, and an indication of writers brought in new who wanted to put their own spin on things without respecting the world in which they were playing. But that's me, ymmv.
""Shakespeare's King Lear -- a horrific vision of nihilism -- cannot be dismissed as a soul-killing picture of a bleak, crummy world totally absent of time travel and jet-powered apes. It cannot be dismissed in that way because, for all of its dark subject matter, you have to be happy to have found something that well written. In that way the crummy real world is redeemed -- because you just experienced a work of unbridled GENIUS. The content is not the point, the form, the language, is.""

I may be the only one who disagrees with this, but I must say that to me, the content is much more important and holds a much more crucial place in story analysis than form. Content is the ultimate redeemer, the characters themselves create either a dark and bleak or brilliant landscape, and even when a story is dark and crummy, part of the genius behind it is not language or form but about what the content maintains about the story and the world itself. It's content is an inexorable part of the overall story itself and has just as much impact on the genius or greatness of the story because, in the end, we don't read stories for the brilliance of the language, we read them to understand and view the world in a way that only the author can depict.

Seasons 6 and 7 fail on both of those accounts, and that, not the notion that it was badly written, is the single greatest downfall of those seasons. What I find interesting is that while I love season 5, many do not, and I think the reason here sort of illuminates my point. They would claim that season 5 is badly written as well, and to counter, I would claim that the content of Buffy's existential journey is something that overcomes that perceived shortcoming. In that sense, content saves the story, the story of Buffy's journey through darkness and back overcomes what some might perceive as less than brilliant writing, and though I think the writing of season 5 is on par, the form of the narrative along with the brilliant content and characters rise above. In that sense, content and form can and should work together, they must go hand-n-hand, and though neither on it's own can make a story brilliant or genius, one can help to save the other. Thats whats wrong with worlds that are endlessly nihilistic and bleak, the story is not brilliant simply because the form is brilliant, the story must have more than the bleak in order to be something more, it has to maintain a level of content that informs the story enough to allow the form to work. The same could be said about seasons 6 and 7, if the content or the form had risen high enough the story might have been saved, but that was not the case in some eyes, and thus, we get the endless debate. The content and the form go hand in hand, and I think thats important.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2008-02-05 20:28 ]
I don't think the author is talking about the technical merits of the piece jerryst3161, I think they're talking about its worth to us as fiction and claiming that a bleak story can still be uplifting (and a net gain for humanity if you like) on a meta level if it's brilliantly implemented (which I agree with) and NOT that the content can be rubbish but redeemed by the form (or vice versa).

And a mere 17 comments before we have a definitive statement about the supposedly objective (lack of) merit of seasons 6 and 7. Cool, I think we're getting better at this arguing stuff ;-).
jerry: I think I'd be more comfortable with the word "create" in place of the word "depict" in your comment "we don't read stories for the brilliance of the language, we read them to understand and view the world in a way that only the author can depict." See, the author can depict nothing; depiction occurs in the reader's "mind's eye" if you will. They create the world, and we end up depicting it as we interpret the text. And look, saje, only 19 comments before reader response! And we are 81 short of my prediction. :-(

;-)
Oh, slippery slope, Dana5140, as depict means to delineate or create as well as to show or interpret. So, you both win, and we all drink! 20 down, 80 to go ;)
We should totally work out a shorthand for these concepts, I reckon we could get these threads down to about 80 characters with the right encoding scheme ;-).

(or maybe we should have t-shirts printed to make our positions clear - "I went all the way to the dawn of the post-modern era and all I got was this lousy reader response theory" or "I'm with weak logical positivist>>>>". Course we'd need to upgrade the site to deal with video too but I think in the long run, we may actually save bandwidth ;)
See, we already broke t'intarwebs.

(or oops, double post ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-02-05 20:48 ]
"These days the debates are getting to the stage where we're going through the motions like two middle aged boxers wearily punching each other for the sake of it."

This is so true. I really wish there was something new to add, but honestly, it has all been said already.
Nah, nah, nah- we have to go with the Mythbusters credo- "I reject your reality and substitute my own." :-) There's reader response in a very small nutshell. And hey, this NEVER gets old. Hee!
Mythbusters refs always a good thing ;)
Has anyone else noticed that if you recursively sum the numbers of my top 3 seasons (2,3 and 5) you arrive at the single digit 1, which in certain numerological systems means "unity" or "oneness" so that those seasons must, in fact, represent the sum total of existence and the interconnectedness of all things ?

(pretty certain no-one's said that before ;-)
I love season six, it's my personal favorite season, but I think it isn't the best season. I liked the idea that the main characters were the big bad of the season, in the fact they could not get out of their own way. In my opinion, season six was very uneven, "Bargaining", "Once More, With Feeling", "Tabula Rasa", "Dead Things", and the last six or seven episodes were very to brilliant. However, the rest were average at best. "Doublemeat Palace" is awesomely bad, I just love its terribleness. To me, season six's whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Kind of like the New York Giants

Season seven, while I like it, its in the middle. It just failed to reach its potential. There were too many potentials that got on my nerves *cough*Rona and Chloe*cough*. They tried to do too much and fell short. I do think Xander, Anya and Dawn were put into the background in the final season. If they had 30 episodes instead of 22, I think it could have been epic.

If I ranked my favorite seasons and what I think is the best seasons heres how it would go.

Favorite: 6,3,4,7,2,5,1.
Best: 3,2,4,6,5,7,1.

I think season five suffered the opposite problem as season six. I think the sum of the parts were greater than the whole. There are a lot of good episodes in season five, but it leaves me cold. I can't explain it.
S4 does it for me. Tara!
My two cents. Although I agree with many points about S6 and S7 being less than they could have been, I have never been more *excited* watching television than during these two years. This is mainly because of the great love I devoloped for the show for 5 years, and the real dangers these people I loved were going through week in, week out. The only thing that has topped this for me is Angel Season 5. All that being said, and yes - this is going over ground older than old ground, is that It kinda annoys me when some people base their whole opinion of a great, complicated show on their own personal love of one character, or one ship. This is just never how *I* will see television. But that they do is their own buisness, and good for them to have found something they love so much. Each to their own.
I wouldnt change BtS for all the doughnuts in Alaska. (Except maybe some of the potentials I would murder horribly.)
Personally, I love both seasons six and seven. S6 is definitely the worst (look to an episode like "Gone" for reasons why), but I still love it. And I've never understood the major criticism S7 got and continues to get, as I think it's brilliant.

As for me ranking the seasons...

2, 5, 3, 4, 7, 1, 6
I lost interest in this argument when I realised fans of almost every show are having the same one about the later seasons of those shows.
zeitgeist I agree. I liked season 6 when it aired, but, I will admit, it was sometimes too painful to watch. It was grim, and things weren't right, and there seemed no way out. But, I had been previously worried that if Buffy's return to live was easy, that the show would lost, so, I was simultaneously glad to see that it wasn't easy. It is much easier (and better, now) to watch on DVD, since I know it's going to be okay. Season 7 I thought was too much speechy and slow when I watched it originally, especially as compared to Angel that year, but, on re-watching on DVD, the pacing is much better, and the speechy/slowness not really there. Thank goodness for DVDs.
Sungoesdark, almost every show? Which ones are you specifically talking about?

I do agree many shows are made as long as there are just enough viewers, far beyond the merits of the serioes (eg. X-Files). But all in all, the great shows rarely fall to this. Lets see, B5 seasons 4-5 were excellent even with the cancel/no-cancel caused rush/standstill. Angel excelled in last seasons, compared to earlier ones, (I almost stopped watching during seasons 2/3 (can anybody say "karaoke"?)). Veronica Mars, my latest love, continued to shine the season 3, albeit it did show some signs of weakening. Coupling did suffer badly the last season, but that was because Jeff wasn't there, not because of any generic last-season issues.

Now, about this topic. I totally agree with the original article. The season 6 plot was more ambitious (and better(?)) than anything before, and it was executed more coherently. But, the details suffered; character details were dumped, and episodic approach from seasons 1-5 was almost dumped, to be totally discarded the season 7. This in a show about characters, where the plot was there to support the characters, not the other way around.

My first run of Buffy watching ended at season 5, which is where the story would end for me, if it wasn't for the comics. I re-watched the full run last summer, and I actually was so disappointed with 6-7 (although I was kind of prepared) that I had to rewatch seasons 1-5 again and stop there. And the dislike is totally about excecution; I love the season 6 grand plot, and the plot in 7 isn't bad at all, but the lack of finesse in the characters spoils it for me. And the anybody-will-do-anything-to-progress-the-plot approach which made the characters so one-dimensional.

And nothing can ever beat the ending of season 5. I'm such a sucker for happy endings.
The definition of a Buffy viewer : someone that considers a gathering at a cemetery and a last look at Buffys headstone a happy ending.
Have only watched s6&7 twice, something was missing... happiness! I'd happily accept more writing in these vein of 6&7 for more buff on tv though!

My order: 3,2,5,4,1,7,6
... who do we appreciate. Nope, that doesn't work.

2,3,5,6,7,4,1

It's like picking a favourite child though, they all have greatness within.
Right, the graveyard itself wasn't a "happy ending". It was to wrap up the ending. But, Xander and Anya getting married, Willow & Tara living happily ever after, and Buffy free of the burden. "Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay.". Ok, Spike was left hanging, and Dawn somewhat, but still, the doobies were all right. Through all the sadness it ended as well as possible, considering the life expectancy of a Slayer.

Now, season 7 on the contrary. Albeit it ended in seemingly happy note, there were no success stories. Anya died and nobody noticed, Spike is gone and Buffy is left hanging, Willow is on a rebound which obviously isn't going to last. Where's the love? I did like the changing of destiny. So again, it was not the plot itself but the execution that failed.

About order for the seasons, I really can't do that, besides the last 2 being dead last. All other seasons had many different things going for them. Season 1 just for the start, and some damn good episodes. Seasn 2 had Angelus and the second best season ending. Season 3 had Faith. Four had the best individual episodes, even if the sum of them didn't add up due the lacky grand plot. And finally season 5 was built like the season ending. All good.
I love every season of BtVS.

Imo, the best years are in this order: 5, 3, 2 and 6 are tied, 4 and 7 are tied and 1 comes in last.
There's just no love for season 8 at all these days.
2-3 "episodes" in it's pretty hard to judge "season 8" IMO. Maybe in a year or two.

I like the number itself though, it reminds me of a snowman I had as a boy.
I realize a lot of fans respond to this and that a lot the time this is how "real life" is.

Yet, I am kinda of the opinion that art or literature(especially escapist fiction like Buffy) is under NO obligation to reflect "real life" to that soul-killing extreme. If anything I believe one of the key purposes of art is illuminate and even REDEEM our bleak, crummy world totally absent of time travel and jet-powered apes.


This point I agree with 110%. I've long said I like fantasy in my fantasy fiction. There's a reason why I don't get interested in realistic dramas or reality tv. I have my own reality and drama to deal with. I've dealt with loved one's dying. I don't need a lesson in it.

Essentially I found Season 7 to be unsatisfying...indeed realistically unsatisfying. Because, after the pain of Season 6, what I need is joy and hope that is equal to or greater than the pain. And I'm still waiting for that in Season 8. While I'm not at the point of giving up hope, it's possible that if I don't get it, I will be for no other reason than I'm not a masochist.

Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles...and all the other characters suffer unrealistic heights of pain. No one has ever suffered the pain of being in heaven and being brought back. Relatively few people have seen their lovers accidentally, and surprisingly shot through the heart in front of us. It's as though, in Season 6, pain became the fantasy. And that's just warped, and not in a good way.

That being said, if I'm to experience unrealistic pain with these characters, I damn well better get some unrealistic joy along with it.
3, 2, 4, 6, 1, 5, 7

and most of the episodes I watch again and again are in seasons 4 and 6.
Okay, I'll confess it: Season 6 appeals to me on one level because it's sort of "when young people's dreams go bad." Buffy has to get a dead-end and deadening job in order to feed the family, the parents go away... it really rang true for me.

I have real trouble ranking the seasons, too. I usually say that S1 and S7 are the worst of the lot, with the pairings of 2/3 and 5/6 really carrying the banner and S4 as a slight down-dip in the middle... but hey, even S1 has some really great stuff in it (I've got a newfound appreciation of "The Pack" these days) and so do all the rest. It's like saying, "This the worst Leonardo da Vinci painting ever."

Yes, good characters were pushed aside, and they did indeed try for too much. But Amanda's awesome, and I think Kennedy would have grown on people if she had more time. And not in a fungus-like way. Remember everyone hating Oz and Tara at first? But then, I care about Cassie when all we ever saw of her was a one-shot, and so my caring level is either high or weird, take your pick.
I have a sort of morbid love for S6. It's dank and depressing and certainly not the feel-good family movie of the summer. But there are some really interesting things being dealt with in there.

My problem is that S7 failed utterly to capitalize on any of them.

I won't go into an S7 rant, save to say "DO NOT WANT". I'm convinced that S7 should have been the pay-off for S6 -- and, I think, would've been if SMG hadn't pulled out, which I firmly believe, despite whatever else is said, took everyone by surprise and caused a dramatic shift in the resulting episodes.

Er, anyway. Yes, I think S6 would've been received much better as a whole, had S7 been able to carry the ball it was handed. It didn't, and both seasons suffered as a result.

Pity.

[ edited by Jet Wolf on 2008-02-06 19:21 ]
There's just no love for season 8 at all these days.

Good point. I wonder if we'll ever shift to thinking of 1-9 continuously and all together instead of tv over here and comics over there. Maybe when the comics are over?
S6 saved my sanity. My husband was deployed after September 11th and no one was supposed to know and I was lying to everyone and avoiding them for months and I knew nothing about where/how he was. All I looked forward to was the next Buffy to get me through the week--so I'm kind of biased. I've always wished I could thank all those people involved with the show and tell them how much it meant to me. Shit. Now I'm crying and shaking. It just never goes away...it's like yesterday. Damn that PTSD.

Anyhoo...I find that the different seasons speak to me at different times. I've always liked that thing that that Joss says about giving people stories that they need instead of what they want. I don't know that S6 made happy but it did give me what I needed.

I think we tell ourselves who we are through the stories and characters we are drawn to...they are our mirror.

S7 had beautiful moments but squandered our emotional attachment with too many place holding, cardboard characters. We never got to know those potentials and why would we want to? We were already invested in what--7 people? Don't get me wrong, I loved the whole woman power thang and my throat closes up every time I hear "...Are you ready to be strong?" Maybe if we had had more time with them but I doubt it because they were never made "family" in the words of Kaylee. We didn't care about them because Buffy never cared about them as individuals. They were only there to be talked about or to be difficult. With the exception of Kennedy they were interchangeable and as characters had no impact on the scoobies and their arcs.

I'm in a wait and see mode with S8 as it has started off with the same problem of squandering of emotional intensity. Still not real excited. The Faith arc has been better because it was more intimate. Personal. I think comics are an inherently intimate medium. I'm glad there are legions of slayers now but I just don't really want to know about them. I'm sure Joss is quite capable of changing my mind though, and I am looking forward to eating my words. With chocolate sauce I think.
BreathesStory, interesting point about us not caring about the Potentials because Buffy doesn't. I think you're on to something. But Buffy herself acknowledges (to Spike, right before he gives her that great speech) that this is where she went wrong. So where, to paraphrase the Shepherd, does that put us?

[ edited by ManEnoughToAdmitIt on 2008-02-06 21:49 ]
Dana5140, I hadn't thought about the implications of the potentials' screen time before, but I agree--I think I would have liked S7 better if they and Andrew hadn't become so integral.
I liked the Potentials. Well not liked more appreciated. Except for Rhona , I liked her. And Amanda and Vi in Chosen and Kennedy in spite of the brattishness. Personal feelings aside, it always puzzles me when people talk about the great amount of screen time they had, as I’m pretty sure if you added up all their lines they wouldn’t come to much more than the Senior class got in S3. What the Potentials did have was a role in the ongoing story, driving and reflecting on Buffy’s emotional arc, something I really wish they’d given the Senior class - it would have made so much more sense of their recruitment for the finale.
ManEnoughToAdmitIt I think Buffy not caring and trying to hold herself separate would have been a whole heck of a lot more powerful if the rest of the group had at least cared about them. Then there would have been that great contrast.

If any of the scoobies had invested time and emotion in them--say Willow in a mothering sort of way to over compensation for you know, the evil. Or we could have seen Xander involved in the running of all the scheduling (highjinks ensue)... or something less lame than that. Just something.
I think it was a good deal more complex than Buffy not caring about them. That she did care was apparent in the scenes where she found Annabel's body or dug Chloe's grave, to give just two examples. The tragedy of it was that in order to avoid another Dawn catatonia situation she felt she had to deliberately distance herself from them. I don't think either Xander or Willow had that problem. Willow did become emotionally invested in Kennedy and Xander was brotherly to all of them. He kept the house together and when he fell it all came down with him.
hayes62
Personal feelings aside, it always puzzles me when people talk about the great amount of screen time they had, as I’m pretty sure if you added up all their lines they wouldn’t come to much more than the Senior class got in S3.

I'm inclined to agree with this, and I'm about to the point of setting aside time to actually go through every episode and total up each character's screen time to see if I can prove it. (My impression is that most of the characters actually get less time than some individuals in the senior class got, even though the season centers around them more.)
They got plenty of screen time en masse, and enough in singlularity. But keep in mind that every minute focused on them was a minute not focused on characters that had taken 7 years to mature and marinate, which in my book is crappy TV writing. You can excuse every Joss decision there is, but no way is S7 the best Buffy ever, and this is partly why; the bigger problem was the abdication of attention to the characters we cared about. Anyone really think Willow was redeemed for murder just because she cast a major mojo spell? Well, the writers did, because the shooting script specifically spells it out, and that ain't no answer to what Willow did in killing Warren, it was an expedient choice because the show was ending. Again, bad writing.
Dana5140:
But keep in mind that every minute focused on them was a minute not focused on characters that had taken 7 years to mature and marinate, which in my book is crappy TV writing.

Yeah, well, that same point could be applied to any other character appearing on the show who isn't one of the main cast. Which, in my book, seriously limits the available stories you can tell and results in even crappier writing. Of course, if one only cares about one story, then I guess it doesn't matter.

Dana5140:
You can excuse every Joss decision there is, but no way is S7 the best Buffy ever


I don't, and I never said it was. But I also disagree with a lot of the complaints leveled against it, and comments like this just reinforce my opinion that the problem doesn't necessarily lie in writer arrogance.

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2008-02-07 03:42 ]
Firstly, about the Potentials: there were definitely several episodes, in about the third quarter of the season, in which they were much more prominent than Xander, Dawn, and Anya (maybe even Willow a bit) (Giles being only a part-timer by this point regardless). I honestly thought ME might've been testing the waters for a Potentials spin-off series or something. I liked most of them, even all of them at times (definitely NOT Kennedy in "Get It Done"), but I agree that there were times when they got in the way of our gang.

As for my favorites... A couple of explanatory notes: I find that I just don't enjoy the characters as much in high school. Still good stuff, still a wonderful show; but, I prefer them as adults. Seasons 1 and 4 have both risen in my estimation the more that I've re-watched them; but, it's still clear that things were still being developed (and that the budget was restricted) in 1. Oh, and while I've really liked Season 8 - really liked much of it - I don't think that I can rank it only five or six "eps" in. (I get that the four issues = one episode idea has gotten very popular, but it feels more like two to one to me.)

While all seasons have great, great eps, based on my personal fondness, and frequency of inclination to re-watch, my ranking:

5, 6, 7 just over 4 just over 3, 2, 1. (All of them over more than 99% of anything else I've ever seen, though.)
Rowan, don't personalize my comments; they are not an attack, and there is no need to accuse me of arrogance. My "You can..." is a rhetorical "you" not directed any specific person or comment.

In reference to your comment about time on other characters, let's be real. Any other character in the show would have been serving the purpose of simple plot advancement; they were not going to introduce even more new characters (save, obviously, for Caleb and the Guardian; the latter was a very, very bad add, in my estimation). These are not characters we care about. The ones we do are the main leads, and these were the folk pushed to the side to make room for a bunch of interchangeable redshirts. Some of us might like some of them, but no way do any us care about them more than we do Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles and Dawn.
Dana5140:
My "You can..." is a rhetorical "you" not directed any specific person or comment.

And yet, that's the first response any time someone attempts to challenge a negative point. Gotta say, it wears every bit as thin as the "Just didn't get it" argument does to you. Look, any of us can present our opinions as ironclad fact all we want, but the guy next to us who also holds his opinions as ironclad fact knows we're wrong.

Any other character in the show would have been serving the purpose of simple plot advancement;

All right, and the point there is? Without someone serving that purpose, there wouldn't be any plot advancement. I love the characters, can't think of any actors I'd rather see play them, and they're what got me interested in the show to begin with, but "I'd be happy to watch ------ sit and read the phone book for an hour" is, for me, pure hyperbole. There needs to be something going on, so you either bring in secondary characters for the primaries to play against, or you have a closed-universe story where six people speak and interact only with each other. I'll take the one we got for seven seasons, flaws and all.
"or you have a closed-universe where six people speak and interact only with each other."

I believe that show is called Friends.
Could be. I watched one episode and decided that was enough...

ETA: And if that's the kind of show people like, more power to'em. But it's not my cup of poison.

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2008-02-07 05:40 ]
Let's calm down a notch, people. (And that means not mentioning Friends to friends).

My tuppence: the characters I care about are the ones the show makes me care about. I cared about the Potentials in S7. Yes, they were annoying and whiny sometimes, just as Buffy herself was when she was first introduced to Slaying; except that she had power, and the Ps didn't. (The only thing that really got my goat about the Potentials was that one bloody awful British accent . . . oh, and the Buffy house-eviction, but they were only partly responsible for that. And the only part of the season that I truly continue to dislike is the interminable Spike-trigger/Ubervamp threat sequence in the middle, which for me just went on and on and on - even on DVD.) Season 6, on the other hand, was just brilliant.
SoddingNancyTribe, you're right. I need to call it a night.
Huh. Friends is kind of the anti-Buffy. Or Buffy is the anti-Friends. Whichever. I never noticed that before.
SNT- The show cannot MAKE you like anyone; that's a decision you make on your own. And I don't say this as a bit of sophistry. Otherwise, we would have no basis to talk about our differences and our fave characters; the writers would have allmade us like who they wanted us to like.
Can't pass on the "rating the seasons" thing.
Mine are: 6,4,5,2,7,3,1.

One is last only because it was a work in progress. I actually think 3 is the weakest season, overall. Faith being introduced and her storyline initiated was necessary, The Mayor is a great character (but not nearly as scary a Big Bad as Glory, or as funny). Lovers Walk and The Wish are IMO the only truly great eps of the season.

Throw cyber-things at me as you will, I think s3 was full of over-rated eps. Dopplegangland (if only the ep itself was as brilliant as the title), Band Candy, (the most unfunny of all "funny" eps). The worst two opening eps of the entire series (Anne and Dead Man's Party), the absolute worst season finale (forget the gorgeous shot of Buffy watching Angel walk away through the artsy smoke, the rest of the ep was a snoozer), and a number of eps I'd rate as close to "just plain awful" as Bts ever got (the afore mentioned first two eps of the season, The Zeppo - and I love Xander, just not this heavy handed ep - Homecomimng).

I've gotten over defending my season 6 love, suffice to say epic tragedy, beautifully realized. And perfect continuity of character development. Every single main character, by the end of sesason 5, was heading for a fall (well, except Buffy, who was busy being dead). But who was in total crash and burn mode, before the dying.
And season 6 gave us the pay-off of that setup, in spades, where a less courageous team of writers would have backed off and toned it down. As well as three of the most brilliant eps of the entire series if not in the history of network TV: OMWF, Tabula Rasa and Dead Things.

Go ahead, ask me why I rate season 4 as my #2 favorite. I'm a late comer to this fandom, I'm nowhere near sick of discussing it ;-)
'Graduation Day Pt 2' is the worst season ender of all ? *throws cyber-things at Shey* ;).

(it's one of my favourites - when the parents fall apart and run and the kids stand up and throw their robes open ready to fight I usually get a wee lump in the auld throat. It's as nice a depiction of the baton passing on as you could hope for IMO, a real graduation)

SNT- The show cannot MAKE you like anyone; that's a decision you make on your own.

Sure it can Dana5140. Give a character a lot of funny lines, repeatedly show them being nice to characters we already like, show them being heroic, have them be self-deprecating instead of arrogant etc. etc. Who likes Xander or even Willow in "Dead Man's Party" (since it was mentioned) ? Most people dislike Buffy during parts of season 7 because she's shown to be autocratic and pompous. Even when Spike was bad he was liked because he was funny and sort of cool with it. Is there much doubt that at least part of the Kennedy dislike stems from her bratty attitude and aggression in pursuing Willow ?

Like or dislike is just another emotion and manipulating emotions (in the best possible way) is what Joss and the other ME scribes were/are absolute past masters at.
Shey: "Go ahead, ask me why I rate season 4 as my #2 favorite. I'm a late comer to this fandom, I'm nowhere near sick of discussing it ;-)"

Me too and me neither. OK, why?

Season 4 has great episodes and introduced my favourite character but, for me, as a overall season it suffers from the offing of Professor Walsh.

I agree with your assessment of "The Zeppo" but definitely can't about "Dopplegangland" which is my favourite Willow centric episode.
moley75:
Season 4 has great episodes

Do you need more reasons to like season 4? Discarding the beer bad it has the greatest single episodes in the series, second only to the musical. Oz/Willow plot, Pangs, Hush, Tara episodes, Who Are You?, Superstar, New Moon Rising, Restless. Hardly any other season has so many episodes that good.

Because the individually great episodes were less tied to general plot, the whole season didn't build up to greater than the parts.
The weak general plot and the lack of coherence, and the weak plot completion (the Adam ending) didn't really build up, and the (excellent) Restless didn't really save the season plot, it only acted as a great ending / foreshadowing.
Eerikki - I am in total agreement with your assessment and you are talking to the woman who can find tonnes of good stuff in “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are”.

“Hush”, “Who Are You?”, “Something Blue”, “Restless”, “The Yoko Factor”, “Pangs”, “Wild At Heart”, “Fear Itself”, and “A New Man” are all great (and in the case of the first two, brilliant) episodes but as a complete season I don’t rate it as highly as 3 and 2.
No, the Kennedy dislike is very simple, saje- she is not Tara. And you know that. But to make my point, Xander has never meant much to me. He sure does to others. I guess I was not manipulated enough. :-)
Agreed, both on episodes and season arc. Even the beer and wild things were better than most of the crap on tv. And both of them have great things, if just a few.

However, as the episodes were that good, I can't really place it below 2/3/5. Or above. It's really hard to compare, each season have different things going for them. And, as my view has changed between viewings of them, it's no wonder there are differences of opinions between different people. I kind of remember from my first viewing of season 4 the "Adam, not so good -> season, not so good". The later viewings have made the season 4 better and better.

One thing that hasn't really lessened is the general disappointment with seasons 6/7. Which is kind of sad. I should love season 6, Nerds were great, Dark Willow was awesome, I like Spike&Buffy, the gloomyness was great. But, something was lacking, namely the side characters. Maybe I would like season 6 more if the wrap up in season 7 was better. However in season 7, the first time around I thought I just disliked the potentials, but by second viewing I actually ended up liking them (mostly). So, repeating myself, liked the plot, hated the handling of the 'supporting' scoobies of each episode. And the ending episode, just eww. The last minute or so was legen - wait for it - dary (minus Anya), but the getting there was just ridiculous.
No, the Kennedy dislike is very simple, saje- she is not Tara. And you know that.

Well, I know that's true for you Dana5140, ya crazy Taraphile ;) I was more meaning the people that liked Tara well enough but weren't destroyed by her death, don't consider her irreplaceable. It's like Riley succeeding Angel - if you're not a shipper, you don't have a particular axe to grind with either one so if you dislike either one it's likely to be for other reasons.

But to make my point, Xander has never meant much to me. He sure does to others. I guess I was not manipulated enough. :-)

Well, i'm not saying every single one of us marches in lock-step and likes or dislikes whoever had the funniest previous line (threads like this are pretty good evidence against that). On average though, we like/dislike the characters the writers want us to like/dislike when they want us to like/dislike them.

In the strictest sense of course, they can't make us do anything (in your case for instance, Kennedy could've been perfect in every way, she still wouldn't be Tara) since, if you're aware that you're being manipulated (and we all are, even subconsciously), then you can just choose to be contrary but you seemed to be claiming that the writers have no influence over how we feel about a character, which is (no offence ;) patently absurd IMO.
But saje, I'm a reader response guy! :-)
Right, so your response is framed by what you read ;-).
I loved season four in pretty much every way. Adam may not have been the baddest of Big Bads, but I don't think he was meant to be. IMO The Initiative was meant to be the Big Bad of the season. I think that the beautifully shot dream sequence in Restless, of Riley sitting at the glass table with the gun on it, made that perfectly clear ;) as did the dialog in that sequence, although I can't remember it verbatim.
But (again in the uber-brilliant Restless) I also believe that Riley's part in Willow's "Death Of A Salesman" dream sequence made it clear that he was merely a pawn, not a bad guy himself (in case anyone had missed that point).

I've never understood the Riley hatred/dislike, or the perception that the "Initiative" story arc was a weak one. Riley's character is one of the things I loved most about season 4, for a number of reasons. Whatever your ship, I think it was always clear that Riley was never meant to be the "permanent guy" in Buffy's life.

What he did was illustrate a crucial point in Buffy's character development, the fact that no matter how much she wished it to be true, she simply wasn't cut out for a relationship with a normal "Joe guy".
Riley was a beautifully realized "foil for the main characters and the story arc" character, and Marc Blucas played the role to perfection. His conversations in various episodes with Willow, Spike and Xander, moved the storyline along in masterful ways, as well as illustrating key points in the development of these key characters.

My love of season6 is visceral and has a lot to do with the gutsy artistic courage on the part of the writers (and I will never believe that Joss was too far away from the helm, "credits" aside).

But my love of season 4 is based more on the perfect continuity of the story arc and character development throughout the entire season. How Buffy and the scoobies handled noving past the high school phase of their lifes (and in Gile's case, the "high school librarian" phase), the defining moment in the beginning of Spike's long journey from total vilian to hero, Willow's discovery of her true sexual identity as well as her coming into her Wiccan powers in a way that would define her character for the rest of the series, bringing Faith back in two knock-out eps (This Years Girl and Who Are You?) which also brought back into focus the fact that Buffy had been willing to do something so morally anbigious that we weren't going to be allowed to just forget it.
Plus two of the most stunning eps of the entire series, Hush and Restless, as well as IMO the hands-down funniest, most witty ep of the entire seven year run, Pangs.

Um, someone did ask, somewhere up the thread. ;-)
Wow. I agree with every word you just wrote, Shey, including - to quote the greats, - "and" and "the". ;-)
Wow. I agree with every word you just wrote, Shey, including - to quote the greats, - "and" and "the". ;-)

SoddingNancyTribe | February 10, 01:51 CET


Thank you, thank you! I've often been complimented on my innovative usage of "and" & "the" ;-)

[ edited by Shey on 2008-02-10 06:28 ]

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