Here is the really, really overdue review of the final televised season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Cast and Crew Information

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
James Marsters as Spike
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
David Boreanaz as Angel
Danny Strong as Jonathan
Tom Lenk as Andrew
Eliza Dushku as Faith
Juliet Landau as Drusilla
Adam Busch as Warren Meers
Harry Groener as Mayor Wilkins
D.B. Woodside as Robin Wood
Iyari Limon as Kennedy
Sarah Hagan as Amanda
George Hartzberg as Adam
Elizabeth Anne Allen as Amy Madison
Indigo as Rona
James Charles Leary as Clem
Felicia Day as Vi
Kali Rocha as Halfrek
Clara Bryant as Molly
Kristy Wu as Chao-Ahn
Camden Toy as Ubervamp
Nathan Fillion as Caleb
Andy Umberger as D’Hoffryn
Harris Yulin as Quentin Travers
and numerous others whose characters didn’t get names.

Series created and run by Joss Whedon.
Written by Joss Whedon, Douglas Petrie, Jane Espenson, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Drew Goddard, Drew Z. Greenberg, David Fury, and Marti Noxon
Directed by David Solomon, Nick Marck, James A. Contner, Rick Rosenthal, Michael Gershman, Alan J. Levi, David Grossman, Michael Grossman, Douglas Petrie, and Marita Grabiak

Availability Information

This is available on DVD both on its own and as a part of the complete series box, which is the edition used for this review (though there is no difference on content or authoring for this segment; the complete series box has identical copies of the seven season sets and one bonus disc of additional material.)

Premise

In this final season, Buffy and her crew regroup from the fallout from season six, while the First evil starts pulling together another apocalypse. The First is unable to take corporeal form, which makes it a very different villain from those in past seasons. Buffy can’t win by hitting it, and it can only attack through manipulation and psychological warfare. Those it manipulates do have a significant amount of power, however. The result is a difference in tone from the previous seasons, with actual questions about how they’ll win and a long, slow buildup of tension as the season progresses.

High Point

There are some great moments and great episodes, including the end of “Beneath You,” “Help,” “Conversations with Dead People,” or any of the last seven episodes. Still, for a single moment, I’d go with the overlay of Buffy’s speech over Willow’s spell in the series finale.

Low Point

The painfully slow “Him” should have been used to move forward in another subplot. The main plot just felt like it had to be stretched to fill the episode, filled with jokes and elements that we saw in season two. (In fact, that season two episode was explicitly mentioned here.)

The Review

This feels like one of the more original seasons, given the very different nature of the threat. They also “knew” during production that this would be the final season, so there is a sense of finality that pervades. (They didn’t know that the comic series was coming at this time.) All bets about who lives and dies really are off. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were generally good. The final effect of the series involved some weak blue screening, but that’s also one of the most extravagant effects the UPN network had ever produced. Doing that on TV schedules and budgets is really hard. Unfortunately, it’s also the last effect we see, which doesn’t give a good final impression. Given the number of off screen dustings and other off screen effects, I suspect they were saving time and money for this one, but it still didn’t quite deliver. (Note that I suspect the off screen visual effect involving Caleb may have been off screen due to broadcast standards more than budget or time.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The overall story is very well done, with a lot of psychological impact. Some of the details, such as “Him,” or Giles’ absense after Buffy’s first Ubervamp encounter felt fairly forced. Generally, it was a large scale story that fit together well. The writing in the second half of the season was generally great. The last four episodes draw the entire series together into one culminating moment very well. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting worked very well. The potential slayers are well cast, and Nathan Fillion did great work. The rest of the cast, including the First, were the same cast who have been playing these characters for years, and they know how to do it. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was firing on all cylinders. These people know how to do what they need to do. The sets created for the construction sites and the new high school were impressive, particularly given how early in the season all of the sets needed to be available. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is excellent. A couple of early episodes felt slow, but the last few really pulled everything together. I’m a sucker for two different kinds of superhero moments: first there is the “second wind” moments, when the seemingly defeated hero pulls his or herself back from the brink to win clearly and decisively. Second, there is the moment of discovery, when the hero realizes how much power he or she really has. We see a lot of that near the tail end of the season, and it’s all good. The final episode is riddled with those moments, often simultaneously. It’s a great emotional note to end on. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this was a solid season. It wasn’t as bright and shiny as the early seasons were, but if it was, we wouldn’t believe the seriousness of the threat. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Seven receives 35 out of 42.