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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7 DVD Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7

June 14, 2005

Director: Joss Whedon, David Solomon, Alan J. Levi, Michael Grossman, David Grossman, Marita Grabiak, Michael Gershman, David Fury, James A. Contner, ,
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, David Boreanaz, James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, D.B. Woodside, Nathan Fillion, Tom Lenk, ,

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DVD Review

The last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a bittersweet affair. Sarah Michelle Gellar made it known that she had grown tired of playing Buffy and wanted to move on—presumably to motion pictures (which is exactly what she did with Scooby Doo 2 and The Grudge). And so, all bets were off as season seven began. Joss Whedon and company prepared to have Buffy and the Scooby gang face their biggest threat yet.

As the season begins, potential slayers are being killed all over the world. Buffy is trying (unsuccessfully it seems) to teach Dawn (Trachtenberg) how to be a slayer. Sunnydale High reopens with a new principal (Woodside) who offers Buffy a job as a guidance counselor. In England, Giles (Head) is helping Willow (Hannigan) recover from her Dark Willow freak out at the end of last season. Xander (Brendon) is now a responsible adult working on a construction crew and Spike returns from his Quixotic odyssey with a soul and more than a little bit crazy as a result.

The addition of Principal Wood is an interesting choice as, initially, we aren’t sure what his motivations are—is he going to be evil like the last one? As the season progresses and his intentions become more apparent, he becomes a fascinating wild card that is thrown into the mix.

To battle this season’s latest big bad, Buffy recruits and trains a group of potential slayers with Willow, Xander and Giles helping out. However, Buffy isn’t used to such responsibility and makes the occasional bad choice. People die and her leadership is even questioned and temporarily usurped when Faith (Dushku) shows up to help out.

The First is an interesting twist on the traditional Buffy bad guy in that it is not a physical threat per se (that comes later with Caleb) but a powerful psychological one as it appears to our heroes as friends or deceased loved ones to instill them with fear and self-doubt. As Giles puts it so well, it is “the thing that created evil.” Of course, this shape-shifting entity gives Joss an opportunity to bring many of the show’s significant characters back for one more go round (i.e. Joyce, Drusilla, etc.).

The episode, “Dirty Girls,” gives the season a significant jolt with the addition of Faith and a new bad guy, Caleb (Fillion), a crazed Southern preacher with superhuman strength as the enforcer for the First. Physically, he is more than a match for Buffy, as she quickly finds out. He’s wonderfully realized by Firefly’s Nathan Fillion who plays his role to the hilt and seems to be channeling Robert Mitchum’s equally demented Southern preacher in The Night of the Hunter (1955).

“Chosen” is rightly the penultimate, grand slam, mack-daddy finale for the show as Buffy and her gang take on the First in a final, winner-takes-all cataclysmic slugfest that makes one wonder if Joss is a fan of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hellmouth and its denizens bare more than a passing resemblance to Helm’s Deep but it is a nice pop culture reference that the show has done so well in the past.

Special Features:

Disc One features an audio commentary on “Lessons” by Joss Whedon and director David Solomon. Joss’ trademark dry, sarcastic wit is evident as he and Solomon playfully make fun of each other. Joss mentions that at the start of the season they weren’t sure the direction Principal Wood’s character was going to take until D.B. Woodside really made the character his own.

Disc Two includes an audio commentary on “Selfless” by director David Solomon and writer Drew Goddard. They talk about how this episode’s emphasis was on Anya (Caulfield) and explores how she became a vengeance demon. Goddard talks about how the actors really learned to say their dialogue in Swedish in one hilarious flashback sequence.

There is also an audio commentary on “Conversations with Dead People” by director Nick Marck, writers Jane Epenson and Drew Goddard and actors Danny Strong and Tom Lenk. Apparently, there was quite the chaotic process making this episode as it ended up being written by four people! The participants talk about how this episode is about being alone and haunted by dead people. This is an entertaining track that fans will enjoy.

Disc Three contains a featurette entitled, “Buffy: It’s Always Been About the Fans” that examines the show’s loyal fan base and how one site, in particular, hosts an annual, six-hour party for the cast and crew to celebrate the show. Joss talks about how he actually monitors some of the online reaction to his show and communicates with the fans.

Disc Four contains an audio commentary on “The Killer in Me” with director David Solomon and writer Drew Z. Greenberg. This is kind of a dry, boring track as they joke and try to think of interesting things to say but end up narrating much of what we are seeing.

Disc Five features an audio commentary on “Lies My Parents Told Me” by director David Fury, writer Drew Goddard and actors James Marsters and D.B. Woodside. This is a solid track thanks mostly to the presence of the actors who talk about their experiences working on the show and dealing with this Buffy mythology-rich episode.

There is also an audio commentary on “Dirty Girls” by writer Drew Goddard and actor Nicholas Brendon. Goddard points out that Joss actually wrote most of the episode and they end talking about the first appearance of Caleb and his importance over the last five episodes. This isn’t as entertaining a track as you would think but it is fairly decent.

Disc Six contains the rest of the extra material, starting off with a fantastic audio commentary on the last episode, “Chosen,” by Joss Whedon. He talks about how exhausted he was by the time they made this episode. He had to work through many pages of the screenplay in a short amount of time. This is an oddly bittersweet track as Joss criticizes his own work with his amusing self-deprecating humour. It is also a very thoughtful commentary from the show’s creator. A must-listen.

“Season 7 Overview—Buffy: Full Circle” takes a look at the season in general as cast and crew members talk about overriding themes. Not surprisingly, Joss says that this final season was about closure and bringing everything back to the beginning.

“Buffy 101: Studying the Slayer” features critics and scholars talking about the show’s enduring legacy and “the genius of the central concept,” as one critic points out. For a genre show, they’ve dealt with very serious issues, like the death of Buffy’s mother. Most of all, it is a show with an artistic vision that has remained consistent over the years.

“Generation S” focuses on the young, potential slayers that Buffy trains to battle the First. The actors talk briefly about their characters and their experiences on the show.

One of the strongest and most interesting extras in the set is “The Last Sundown” where Joss picks his ten favourite episodes from the show’s entire run and why. He also reflects on the show in general and talks about how he wanted to create a strong female hero, like Sarah Connor from the Terminator films or Ripley from the Alien films and tap right into the pop culture zeitgeist. This is a nice look back at the show’s entire run with its creator.

There is the obligatory “Outtakes Reel” of blown lines, pratfalls and general goofing around.

Finally, there is “Buffy Wraps,” a look at the wrap party for the end of the show. You really get the impression that this show changed the lives of everyone who worked on it (and a lot of its fans too) and this is a fitting tribute to this fine program.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 92%

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