Fox Home Entertainment presents
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season (2002)
"I am finishing this once and for all."- Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) from the episode Chosen
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Other Stars: James Marsters, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Anthony Head, David Boreanaz, Amber Benson, Emma Caulfield, Eliza Dushku, DB Woodside, Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, Adam Busch, Azura Skye, Andy Umberger, Kristine Sutherland, Juliet Landau, Iyari Limon, Indigo, Ashanti, Harry Groener, Mark Metcalf, George Hertzberg, Clare Kramer, Nathan Fillion
Director: Joss Whedon, Nick Marck, James Contner, Rick Rosenthal, David Solomon, Michael Gershman, Alan J. Levi, David Grossman, Douglas Petrie, Marita Grabiak, David Fury
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence)
Run Time: 16h:50m:00s
Release Date: 2004-11-16
DVD ReviewAll good things must eventually come to an end, and as much as I loved the clever and witty dialogue that was a mainstay of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it had started to more than show its age by the time this seventh and final season came about in late 2002.
That's not to say this swan song is the equivalent of the horrendous final season of The X-Files, where it ended up being a painfully drawn out experience that failed to deliver a satisfying resolution. Buffy usually came through when it had to, and even if the main story arc had reached such end-of-the-world proportions that it demanded a proper slam-bang payoff, creator Joss Whedon peppered this final season with more than its fair share of strong episodes mixed in between a handful of filler bits that only served to water down the flow of underlying mythos.
Odds are that if you're reading this you have more than a casual awareness in the show, so I'll dispense with too much backstory because we're all probably on the same page anyhow. With the Scooby Gang having just a final 22 episodes to stop the ultimate "big bad" from destroying the world, season seven kicks off with reopening of Sunnydale High School (plopped onto the portal to evil known as The Hellmouth, of course) where former evil-killing-student/resurrected dead girl/disgruntled burger slinger Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) takes a gig as a counselor to not just earn some extra scratch, but to keep an eye on things. The addition of mysterious Principal Robin Wood (DB Woodside), whose real agenda crops up later in the season, adds the creative luxury of a supporting player who may or may not be 100% trustworthy.
I was never really a fan of the whole "Spike loves Buffy" subplot, though anytime James Marsters—as the chip-implanted Billy Idol-looking vamp with the tinglies for the Slayer—gets some well-deserved screentime it's a good thing. Their doomed affair gets the obligatory attention in season seven, in between the usual battles with evil, building to almost justifiable bit of sacrifice in the series ender Chosen that is diluted, in hindsight at least, by the subsequent season of Angel.
Slayer/vampire love affair or not, things begin to hit a measurable stride by the third episode (Same Time, Same Place), where the apparently rejuvenated Willow (Alyson Hannigan)—fresh from a power-controlling respite with a coven in England, recovering from the whole Dark Willow thing—ends up a captive of a flesh-eating demon. This is one of the nastier eps, featuring copious skin gnawing and a double-thumb eye poke, and one of the few real standalone chapters that works on its own. The reintroduction of everyone's favorite lesbian witch, necessary to complete the sanctity of the Scooby Gang, plays off the whole "rescue Willow" storylines of the first couple of seasons.
But it is the fourth episode (Help) that brings out one of the absolute best of the show's entire run, a wonderfully bittersweet bit of storytelling about Cassie Newton (Azura Skye), a introverted high school girl who just so happens to know that she is going to die in one week. When the Buffster—good counselor that she is—finds out there's also a cult messing with evil forces, she tries to intervene to prevent Cassie's predicted death. What makes Help so memorable is Skye's performance, where she cuts loose with a beaut of an acting job that is so naturally effortless that she manages to make everyone else look like they're in a sloppy high school production of Our Town; Skye, with a quiet sweetness that never once seems like acting, simply runs roughshod over everyone else in this one. For comedic purposes, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) gets off a quotable zinger when he learns what it means to "google" someone, but Help is all about Skye, and she is a joy to watch.
Midway through the season is where diehard Buffyphiles began to split into two camps with regard to the direction creator Joss Whedon was taking the show, with the onset of a house full of teenage "Potentials" (aka slayers-in-training), and the whole concept of who was next in line after Buffy seeming to fly in the face of what had been laid out in previous seasons. The end of the world was coming, but a houseful of Potentials not have been completely logical, or perhaps more accurately "consistent" with the whole mythos, and it bordered on becoming a weird "girl power" subplot, with Buffy as the patron saint of empowerment. But that's before Potentials started dying, which I took as show of good faith from Whedon that the series was not going to end with a whimper. The development of a forced lesbian tryst between Potential Kennedy (Iyari Limon) and Willow tries to be a bit saucy, though it seemed unduly pointless, but more importantly lacked the genuine chemistry Willow had with the recently dead Tara (Amber Benson).
All of the familiar faces from past come home to roost at some point, with the expected return of watcher Giles (Anthony Head), bad-girl slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) and brooding former Buffy love Angel (David Boreanz). Former Nerd Herd villain third wheel Andrew (Tom Lenk) also returns to Sunnydale from a Mexican exile as the Scooby's Gollum, a former foe taking the side of good.
In this case his change of heart is real, despite the doubts of the likes of Spike and Xander, and Lenk's Hot Pocket-loving Andrew develops into one of the funniest characters to come out of the Buffyverse; he gets his moment in the sun with Storyteller, another memorable late in the season ep where Andrew makes his own documentary entitled Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyres. It's a hoot.
Season seven is not the show's strongest set of episodes (though there are some outstanding ones here among the 22) and just by nature of it coming to an end it is really going to irritate some component of the faithful. The usual logical inconsistencies are all here, the final battle of good versus evil eventually occurs, and Whedon concludes things not nearly as darkly as I was hoping for.
But I'm one of those Internet nerds willing to debate the pros and cons of this-and-that about the goings on within the Buffyverse, so you'll have to bear with me.
Did I enjoy the seven season ride? Yes. Did this particular season frustrate me at times? Yes. That combination of frustration and acceptance have always been a part of the Buffy experience, as gaps in logic were always one of the show's apparent birthrights. I can look past that on a show like this where the dialogue pretty much always sparkled, even when a particular episode was mired in predictability. By nurturing a set of oddball characters over seven seasons, I guess Joss Whedon earned himself the right to fudge with his own backstories a little. If I wasn't willing to accept that, I would have given up before the end of season one.
As a final note, for some unexplained reason, Fox has decided to not include the "previously on Buffy The Vampire Slayer" intros to each episode. Normally this would not be a major bone of contention, except that by omitting them a potentially key scene involving Faith is also removed. Shame on you, Fox.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: All 22 episodes are presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I never had a good experience watching the show during its television run, as my cable company usually delivered a fuzzy, grainy image that was often far too dark to make out what was going on. If you care, I have since switched to a dish, and those problems are far behind me. Thankfully the DVD release straightens out some of the broadcast flaws I experienced, and the result is a generally crisp image. There is some fine grain, and the night sequences are not necessarily razor sharp, but it represents a vast improvement, at least for me.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||English, French, Spanish||no|
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, and while the rears only get sporadic use, the upfront elements of mix are clear and generally pleasing. Dialogue comes through fine, with no difficulties in clarity at any time.
French and Spanish language tracks are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 330 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
7 Feature/Episode commentaries by Joss Whedon, David Solomon, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson, Nick Marck, Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, Drew Greenberg, David Fury, James Marsters, D.B. Woodside, Nicholas Brendon
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Extras Review: There are seven commentary tracks spread out across the 22 episodes, utilizing a variety of participants, some more crowded than others. Why Nicholas (Xander) Brendon only gets one track is anyone's guess, and he gets off some great jokes during his track on Dirty Girls, especially discussing his bruises and Gellar's body. It was a treat to hear Tom (Andrew) Lenk on Conversations With Dead People, but he was lumped in with four other commentators (including fellow Nerd Herder Danny Strong), so his input was muted somewhat. Too bad, because the guy just cracks me.
All of the commentaries are pretty light in tone, with director David Solomon and writer Drew Goddard seeming to have the best rapport of all the participants. For me, though, the best tracks feature Joss Whedon, and he shows up appropriately enough for the season opener (Lessons) as well as the season ender (Chosen). Whedon addresses his awareness of fan concerns about the direction the show was taking, and with a casual, dryly comic delivery, his presence provides a fitting coda to the final episode of the final season.
Disc three also holds Buffy: It's Always Been About The Fans (04m:20s), a quickie look at the Internet fan base of the show. In addition to a commentary for Chosen, disc six also contains the remaining featurettes, which include Season 7 Overview: Buffy Full Circle (35m:39s) isn't as much an overview as it a recap of certain characters and plotlines, and includes salient comments from the creative staff and most of the cast. Buffy 101: Studying The Slayer (13m:56s) uses a combo of show highlights and pithy input from Matt Roush (TV Guide writer), Vivian Sobchack (Associate Dean UCLA School of Theater), and Robert Bianco (USA Today critic). Generation S (08m:22s) provides a look at the role of The Potentials, and among other things features interviews a few of the actresses, as well as Joss Whedon and Jane Espenson. The Last Sundown (08m:44s) gives Whedon centerstage to recount his favorite moments on the series. There is also a self-explanatory and pointless Outtakes reel (03m:17s) of flubbed lines and Buffy Wraps (05m:01s) which visits the final bash, and oddly features no input from Sarah Michelle Gellar, but pretty much every other cast member extolling the virtues of Joss Whedon.
I had trouble accessing the DVD-ROM extra entitled Willow Demon Guide, but I'm guessing I wasn't missing much. Apparently I haven't made much impact with my "just say no to DVD-ROM extras" campaign.
Each episode is cut into 15 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsJosh Whedon's often conflicted, but mostly enjoyable Buffyverse finally comes to an end after seven seasons, and while this is not the finest moment for the series overall, there are enough strong eps that make the weak spots more than tolerable. Fans can endlessly argue about the direction they thought the show should have taken, but as a wrap it does an acceptable job tying up floppy loose ends as best it can.
If, like me, you're a follower of the Buffyverse, you know you need this. Maybe I'm just preaching to the choir.
Even with the usual thematic speedbumps, it comes recommended for the faithful.
Rich Rosell 2004-12-07