"And they have no purpose that unites them, so they just drift around, blundering through life until they die, which they-they know is coming, yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them. They're incapable of thinking about what they want beyond the moment. They kill each other, which is clearly insane... and yet here's the thing. When it's something that really matters, they fight. I mean, they're lame morons for fighting, but they do! They never... they never quit. So I guess I'll keep fighting too." -Anya on HumanityAfter watching the series finale of Buffy for the first time, I found I had a bit of a rant in me. Don't get me wrong, it was thrilling, there's just one flaw. But please, allow me to begin with how great a conclusion my hero, Lord Whedon, came up with, and rave about how it made me cry and cry and cry, and how everything went as it was meant to - including who lives and dies.
This is a major concern to every author delving into the life or death situation. If the Slayer is going against all odds and is likely to get herself and a few dozen teenage girls killed, the victory can't be without cost. Look at the death toll J.K. Rowling put into the Deathly Hallows, it's just a list of all the people who had to die so that the defeat of Lord Voldemort wouldn't have been too easy. It's the same thing here. You were pretty sure that Buffy wouldn't die, and that the main trio that includes Willow and Xander would probably be secure (especially since Xander lost an eye - that's the most we do to a trio of heroes. Again, see Harry Potter). Anyone else, maybe even Faith, Spike, Giles, little sis, Anya, Andrew, and the rest of the slayers, were fair game. In fact, when you look at that list, the butcher's bill for stopping an apocalypse and saving the world from certain destruction wasn't too high.
So needless to say, I cried a lot. During the scene where Slayers all over the world got up and started fighting (metaphorically speaking), the scene where our witch became Willow the White instead of Willow the Black, when Buffy almost dies, when Faith doesn't give up (but as always it's just barely), when Xander finds out about Anya. All great, well-executed moments that needed to happen in the conclusion of the series. I also loved how they kept reverting to their old high-school selves, joking about going to the mall - an obvious ploy to remind us of the roots of the show, but a heartfelt one.
So now I feel I can talk about my flaw. Every season prior to the final one has been filled with the traditional fluff episodes, where we get a little closer to the plot that will concern the final ones, but mostly everything Buffy comes up against is dust - just sometimes it takes her all episode to find the root of the thing. There's no longer any fear when she fights plain old vampires because we know she can take fifty at a time. This season we had very little fluff, and the introduction of some nemeses that Buffy would actually have a hell of a hard time defeating - they're practically invincible - which is great. Her job seemed to be getting too easy.
And so The First conjures up a demon much stronger than the vampires Buffy usually faces. Those vampires are soulless, human corpses with a bit of demon in them - these are pure demons banished to the underworld. The first one of these creatures that Buffy comes up against takes her several episodes to defeat, and it takes a lot of planning, weakening and determination. So explain to me how in the final episode, when all of the Potentials have been made Slayers (which I concede was an elegant solution for our thrilling conclusion), that they can all fight ten of these things at once, when the first one almost killed Buffy on its own. In fact, even regular humans are able to kill Uber-vamps - just watch Mr. Wood, Dawn, Xander, Anya, and even Andrew take these things out. I'm sorry, did I miss a spell to nerf the vamp's power? To make the Slayers more powerful than Buffy was before, to make the regular mortals more powerful as well? Sorry to ruin the mood, but if you watch this again I'm sure you'll agree. What made this Apocalypse so scary was that where it took great pains to kill a single Uber-vamp, Buffy then saw a vision of hundreds upon thousands of the things. I guess they were built up to be impossibly strong so that victory certainly seemed impossible, and then we just decided we want them to win anyways.
Don't get me wrong, I love what was done making all the Potentials into Slayers and Spike using the Gem to destroy Sunnydale and the Hell Mouth. It was exactly the conclusion the show warranted. The win came at a high price, great Champions died, but we have resolution for Buffy who is no longer carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders alone. Everything was perfectly executed, except those damn once-invincible and now easily dusted vamps. They were, pardon the uber-nerdy phrase, weaksauce.