June 08, 2003
Thoughts On Season Seven
If you had asked me at the beginning of January, where I felt Season Seven would fall amongst the others in my rankings, I would have laid money that it would have been Number One. Up until 'First Date', the season was nothing but one good episode after another. There may have been a few that weren't as strong as the others ('Same Time, Same Place' and 'Showtime'), but overall the season was shaping up quite nicely.Then something happened, and both the show and the season lost it's drive and way.
I think the actual plotting of the episodes is partly to blame, and it's something that began to appear about mid-season. Around the time of 'Bring On The Night', I began to notice that the episodes kept on breaking the same way. The first half of the episode deals with things looking grim for the Scoobies, there's the obligatary Buffy speech about how people are going to die, lots of 'Kick The Spike', Willow whining about not being able to control her powers, Xander fixing the furniture, then a big climatic underground battle.
Once or twice would have been sufficient, but over half of the episodes this season followed the same storyline. There may have been a few variations here and there, but count them yourself. How many episodes ended with a battle in a basement, construction site, cavern, or sewer? How many episodes did we get with Buffy making speeches? How many times did Willow express doubts about doing magic? How many scenes featured Spike screaming in pain, and how many times did Xander fix that living room window?
The sad thing, is that the season itself had so many opportunities to take an entirely different path. Rather than invigorating the series and the story arc with the arrival of the Slayers in Training, they turned out being not much more than cannon fodder. Especially after 'First Date', when they began including more and more extras in the role of SIT's. In the final scene, despite all of the SITS seen running out of the basement, we're only treated to a look at Kennedy, Vi, and Rona. Where did everyone else go?
While I had my doubts about 'The First' early on (I never thought it would be a good 'Big Bad'), making it corporeal partway through the season would have been a great plot arc. Instead, the writers failed to use it or its resources (The Bringers, UberVamps, and Caleb), and decided that taunting the Scoobies to death was the best way to defeat them. Even Glory was a better season-long 'Big Bad' than 'The First'.
To add the failure of 'The First', the plan it had didn't seem to make any more sense than its actions. Was it trying to eliminate all the SIT's and then kill Buffy. Willow's spell revealed that it had failed rather poorly at wiping out the SIT's. We never got a decent explanation of why the Slayer Lineage or History made Buffy the key to all of its plans.
In fact, the cons of the last five episodes that I listed earlier, are essentially the same things that killed the season. Rather than giving us a tight, solid storyline for the season, we're left with too many characters, too many storylines, and too many questions.
In the end, the season simply failed to live up to it's Potential. Which is kind of ironic, considering the main storyline.
Now that all is said and done, at least for now my final rankings for the various seasons of Buffy will be as follows.
1) Season Four - (5 stars)
2) Season Three - (4 stars)
3) Season Two - (4 stars)
4) Season Six - (3 stars)
5) Season Five - (3 stars)
6) Season Seven - (3 stars)
7) Season One - (2 stars)
Season Seven ended up ranking about the same as Season Five and Six, but just below those two. To understand why, it's important to consider the quality of the season story arc along with the individual episodes. I've never been a fan of Season Five's story arc, but I think it has some of the finest episodes in the history of the series. The same holds true with Season Six and Season Seven. In the end, the ranking of those three seasons falls solely on the quality of the story arc. Unfortunately, Season Seven is the weakest of them all in my opinion.
The big change is that Season One has dropped to last, and it's really nothing against the season at all. It's just that with the short number of episodes, the fact that it was filmed as a complete story before it even aired, and the general 'getting to know the characters' feel, I don't feel it compares to the rest.
I also wanted to include the star rankings, so that you didn't get the impression that I absolutely hated Season Five, Six or Seven. To be honest, there are highlights to every season. Yet it should come as no surprise that the seasons that featured a season-long 'Big Bad' are some of the weakest from my point of view.
Of them all, Season Four will always be my favorite. If only because nothing is overlooked, and nobody is left out in Season Four. We have visits from every recurring character in the series, romance played heavily in every character's story arc, and the drama and comedy was perhaps the most evenly balanced of all the seasons. In addition, this season changed our perceptions of every character on the show, partly because everyone was growing up. From the most surprising changes (Willow falling for Tara, Spike being chipped, Giles mid-life crisis), to some of the smaller insights (Faith's realization of what she had become), to some of the foreshadowing (the corrupting power of magic on Willow, Spike and Buffy's attraction to each other, Jonathan's turn to the dark side), this season stands above all the rest.
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