BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON
Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Raymond Stella
Music by Thomas Wanker & Chris Beck
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, James Marsters & Emma Caulfield
2002/990 mins/Color/DD 2.0 Surround
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
They say that all good things must come to an end. But, that doesn't mean that they're going to end well. For six seasons, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER had made for entertaining and groundbreaking television. And while the series had its share of ups and downs, it was easily one of the most fulfilling and creative shows on the air. Yet, Season 7 got off to a rocky start story-wise and when the surprise announcement came that the show was ending, apparently things were wrapped up very quickly. The result is a great show which doesn't get to end on a high note. THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON of BUFFY has just been released on DVD.
(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 7, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 6. So, if you haven't seen Season 6 and want to be surprised by Season 7, read with caution.) As Season 6 ended, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her gang of friends had saved the world yet again, by stopping Willow (Alyson Hannigan) from destroying everything with her magical powers. Willow had lost control of her power following the murder of her lover, Tara (Amber Benson). The finale of Season 6 also saw the vampire Spike (James Marsters), who had been attempting to woo Buffy, go on a quest to find a way to win her love. What he got was a soul.
As Season 7 opens, we find the familiar cast of characters attempting to go on with their lives. Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) is about to start at the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High School (you may remember that the old school was destroyed at the end of Season 3). When Buffy escorts Dawn to school, she meets the new principal, Robin Wood (D.B. Woodside), who offers her a job as a volunteer counselor. Intrigued, Buffy accepts. Willow has been in England with Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) attempting to learn to control her awesome powers. Xander (Nicholas Brendon) has risen through the ranks of his construction company and is now overseeing the construction of the high school. Anya (Emma Caulfield), having been left at the altar by Xander and losing her magic shop to Willow's onslaught in Season 6, is trying to put her life back together. Spike returns to Sunnydale and moves into the basement of the high school, but the introduction of a soul has driven him quite mad. After a series of disturbing events, Buffy learns that an evil entity, known simply as "The First" is gathering its strength to take over our world. "The First" is the most ancient of evils and its power if formidable. As "The First" strikes at Sunnydale, Buffy realizes that she will have to draw on the strength of all of her friends and a group of young, potential Slayers in order to save the day once again.
Personally, I feel that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER reached its peak with Season 3 and that when Angel (David Boreanaz) left, the show lost something. Still, Seasons 4-6 definitely had charm and were entertaining. But, Season 7 shows an unmistakable drop in quality. For starters, the show beats around the bush in getting to the season's main story. While "The First" is hinted at in the first few episodes, it's not until episode 7 ("Conversations with Dead People") that we truly learn about "The First" and its intentions. But, the introduction of "The First" doesn't really save things, as "The First" is one of the weakest villains that Buffy has faced, in a narrative sense. "The First" can take the form of any dead person, so various actors play "The First" throughout the season. (For some strange reason, it appears as Buffy a lot.) Also, "The First" has no corporeal form, so it must send its minions to do its dirty work. The worst that it can do is play mind games on people. So, throughout the season, we hear of the great evil which is coming, but there' never a true sense of impending doom.
The weak villain isn't helped by the weak plotting. As mentioned above, the season gets off to a slow start with several stand-alone episodes. The middle part of the season feels very redundant as we get show after show where Buffy trains the potential Slayers. When a nemesis who can actually be fought (Caleb (Nathan Fillion)) arrives in episode 18, we never really learn who he is or where he came from. The relationships are also poorly defined in this season and the usually thorough character development falls by the wayside. The relationships between Buffy & Spike and Xander & Anya are never fleshed out, and while Andrew (Tom Lenk) adds a great deal of much needed humor to the show, he never seems to be more than a cypher. The one bright spot about Season 7 is that series creator Joss Whedon has maintained a hand in the show, so it doesn't totally fly off-course. There are still some standout moments here, both in the sense of drama and comedy. But, the bottom-line is that this final season is a disappointment and the finale (with its cheap special effects) is particularly anti-climatic. I can only hope that there is a BUFFY movie where Whedon and co. can truly tie up all of the loose ends and give this great series the send off it deserves.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON arrives on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The six-disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from Season 7. The shows are all presented as broadcast, in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The images here look very good, and the transfers rival digital broadcast quality. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing very little grain and no defects from the source material. I did notice that for this season, some of the darker scenes, most notably in episode 2, are extremely dark. The colors are good and the image is quite stable. The shows carry a Dolby Surround audio track, which, as usual, kicks ass. The dialogue is always clear and audible, and the action scenes are loaded with surround sound effects and bass from the front speakers. Every time I watch a BUFFY DVD, I wonder why every Dolby Surround track isn't this good.
The set contains a selection of extras, most of which are disappointing. There are several audio commentaries included in the set: "Lessons" by Joss Whedon and David Solomon (Disc 1); Selfless" by Drew Goddard and David Solomon (Disc 2); "Conversations with Dead People" by Nick Marck, Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Danny Strong, and Tom Lenk (Disc 2); "The Killer in Me" by David Solomon and Drew Z. Greenberg (Disc 4); "Lies My Parents Told Me" by David Fury, Drew Goddard, James Marsters, and D.B. Woodside (Disc 5); "Dirty Girls" by Drew Goddard and Nicholas Brendon (Disc 5); "Chosen" by Joss Whedon (Disc 6). As with the other BUFFY sets, these commentaries are quite good and informative. It's always good to hear Whedon talking about his creation, and the commentaries with cast members are particularly entertaining.
Disc 3 contains a 4 minute segment entitled "BUFFY: It's Always Been About the Fans". This focuses on a fan-based party thrown for the cast and crew and a internet-based radio show dedicated to the show. The rest of the special feature are on Disc 6. "Season 7 Overview: BUFFY: Full Circle" (36 minutes) contains comments from all of the primary cast and crew, except for Gellar, who's never in these extras, as they discuss the storylines from the season and what went into creating the shows. "BUFFY 101: Studying the Slayer" (14 minutes) includes comments from Matt Roush of "TV Guide", Vivian Sobchack of UCLA, and Robert Bianco of "USA Today" as they discuss the importance of the show and its major themes. We get an overview of the potential Slayers and comments from the actresses who portrayed them in "Generation S" (8 minutes). "The Last Sundown" is supposedly Joss Whedon's Top 10 favorite episodes, but he doesn't really comment on all that are listed. "BUFFY Wraps" (5 minutes) takes us inside the finale wrap party -- once again, no Sarah Michelle Gellar. The extras are rounded out by the amusing "Gag Reel" (3 minutes).
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©