Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season

In retrospect, it's difficult to imagine a world without Buffy the Vampire Slayer — or even a world in which Joss Whedon's proposed series about a young girl burdened with supernatural abilities that operates as a metaphor for young girlhood in general wouldn't be laughed out of TV executive offices everywhere. But there it is: Buffy came, Buffy saw, Buffy kicked some ass. Or at least for six seasons she did. For her final bow, Buffy makes a lot of speeches to a new generation of potential slayers and then it ends. To be fair: I love Buffy and would have been crushed had the show ended after its sixth season (or maybe even better, after its fifth and best season). So it's my fault for asking for too much cake and feeling a little sick as a result. But Buffy Seven, for all its pretences to return to the show's original roots, feels like treading water. As the season opens, almost all the principles find themselves alone: Buffy feels her isolation more and more; Willow, in recovery from her bad hair-dye job at the end of season six, is in England with Giles; Xander has been not moving on from high school by actually rebuilding Sunnydale High, where Spike is crazy in the basement; Anya has returned to her vengeance demon roots, while Dawn goes to school. When it's discovered that this year's big bad is killing all the potential slayers in order to end the slayer line, dozens of teenage girls show up in Sunnydale looking for a place to crash. To be fair, Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon deserved a final season to wrap up his themes of female empowerment and good vs. evil, but by knowing it's the final season, the show desperately lacks forward momentum. Nothing that can't be quickly resolved is started and Buffy is left to mentor a new generation of slayers we're fated to never get to know, so it amounts to Buffy making a lot of speeches about how really, really evil the big bad is, and everyone else making self-aware asides about all this speechifying. You know that a show is feeling lifeless when even Faith's arrival can't give it a kick-start. There's no way you'll go without season seven, having invested so much time and emotional energy into this most groundbreaking of television programs. But at the end, there will be a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. This can be filled temporarily by giving some love to the fourth season of Angel — the spin-off's best year, which ran concurrently with Buffy 7. Of course, then you'll just be crushed again by that show's mediocre bow as well. (Fox)