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Hu. Because I seem to be in a writerly mood again all of a sudden, I went through my notes from rewatching Buffy - the whole of it; I actually made it through all seven seasons, albeit with the occasional bit of fastforwarding, as well as binge-watching over the Christmas holidays.

# I think I'm simply getting too old for the early seasons. The highschool years... kind of cute, but also kind of boring. Although seeing early Cordelia again makes me seriously angry about what they did to her character in the later AtS seasons. The S2 finale is still great drama, though, and has a lot of wonderful Buffy moments. She's a real hero there. Heroine.

# And speaking of which, maybe it's because I haven't been 17 in longer than it took me to get there in the first place, but I found the Angel/Buffy arc extremely nerve-grating, which is sad, because the whole Angel disaster shapes her character so much. I originally started to watch Buffy around S4, Initiative-ish, and I never liked her a lot, but once I watched the earlier seasons, especially the S2 finale, it all made so much more sense.

And like I've probably said before, while Angel is a fascinating enough character, IMO he's isn't a likeable one. I guess the problem is that I don't believe in the existence of a soul as something separate from the body, so I have immense problems with how Buffyverse - at least in the earlier seasons, after which the boundaries get at least a bit blurrier with Spike - treats it as a get-out-of-jail-free card that automatically make Angel the good guy, even when it was initially forced on him as punishment, and he never wanted it back once he got rid of it, not on BtVS, not on AtS, not for Buffy, not for Cordelia. It makes me especially uncomfortable in view of Angel's 3.10 admission that it wasn't the demon in him that needed to kill, but the man.

Dawn is right, IMO, soul, chip, same difference. Except that Spike didn't get remorse and a soul and the desire to actually change with the chip. He got a chance, and in the end, after a lot of fighting and cursing and backsliding, he took it, and he was able to because even as a demon he always retained more humanity than Angelus, who had none whatsoever. Spike and Drusilla would probably have burned in 2.13 - 'You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.' - Angelus didn't.

Generally speaking, the metaphysics of Buffyverse are inconsistent and constantly evolving according to what JW needed at the time, but at the same time hampered by the fact that he could never entirely abandon the humans/demons, soul/no soul dichotomy, because then there would be nothing to stop Buffy from killing humans, too. The vampires work better as a metaphor for human evil than on face value.

# S4 might be my favourite season overall. It has sarcastic Giles (and can I just say that watching Merlin has given me a whole new appreciation for Anthony Stewart Head...) and snarky Spike, the fabulous and incredibly creepy Hush, the funny and at the same time - in hindsight - quite heartbreaking Something Blue, a decent villain-of-the-season plot, and is actually a lot of fun.

# S5 is a just bit too angsty for my taste. I remembered hating the über-angsty Buffy's-mom-dies arc the first time, and I still hate it. Not because it's badly done, because I guess technically The Body is a good episode, but because— Actually I can't quite put my finger on it. Part of it seems to be that I feel emotionally manipulated somehow. Overwhelmed. Not a fan of Glory either. There are a few Buffy/Spike episodes I really like (the utterly fantastic Fool For Love, the end of Intervention), and pretty much all of the Spike and Dawn scenes are completely adorable, and also there's Tara, but on the whole I'm feeling rather meh about the season. I'm aware plenty of people dislike Dawn, but Dawn is the least of my problems with S5.

Also, the way Riley dumped Buffy is even more annoying than how Angel dumped her at the end of S3 'for her own good'. (And don't get me started on Xander in that episode.) Sad thing is, I remember actually quite liking Riley. But the way he left is in keeping with the beginning, when he comes to the conclusion that he must be in love with Buffy after he hit Parker for his toilet seat comment. Because clearly it's a-okay to say sexist shit about women one isn't in love with.

# S6, the depression metaphor season. Which I guess is part of the reason why I really loved it years ago, but now the resolution - love can save the world, as well as destroy it - seemed a bit too simplistic and didn't strike much of a chord. It still has some of my favourite episodes (Once More with Feeling, Normal Again), but the overall tone is too moralistic for my taste. I can maybe deal with one of those 'You fucked up, and now you must repent, repent, repent, while everyone tells you how wrong you were over and over again' storylines per season, but here it's Willow (twice), Buffy (all the time), Dawn, Spike, Xander, and that's simply too much. It actually made me nostalgic for Torchwood, where there's betrayal and cheating and threats at gunpoint, but at least no one's talking about it afterwards. I guess there's something to be said for 12 episode seasons. And British shows. Generally speaking, my issue with the writing in S6 is that the all characters get pushed in extreme directions in ways that are not out of character as such, but where the hands of the puppeteer pulling the strings are sometimes a bit to visible. (Like in the S7 mini revolution replacing Buffy with Faith.)

And S6 again raises the question about how much a soul does really matter, because looking at the Trio that doesn't so much illustrate the banality, but the triteness of evil, Spike doesn't come out the worst. I'm really not making light of the rape attempt, and I do wish they hadn't gone there, but considering the fact that Buffy had proven over and over again that she could kick his ass at any given time, and he knew it, it's not as completely sick as what Warren, Jonathan and Andrew did to Katrina. And Jonathan didn't have the lack of a soul for his excuse of his twisted definition of love. Or look at Xander at the end of Entropy. If anyone has the moral highgound in that confrontation it certainly isn't he. It's ironic that S6 ends with Spike's quest for a soul, when the entire season has shown that on the whole a soul matters very little when it comes to love, or pain, or cruelty.

# There's an interesting bit about Tabula Rasa. Spike jumps at the idea of being one of the good guys. It's not even about being in love with Buffy (unlike the spark between Willow and Tara, that immediately flares up again); part of Spike, I think, really wants to become again what his human self described himself as in 6.20: a good man. 'You want to return to your former self' is not just about the soul, which I think is more of a means to an end. Another irony of S6 is that Spike doesn't actually want dark!Buffy when he sort of gets her. He thought he would, with all that 'You're a creature of the night' talk, but in the end he wants the Buffy with the white hat and the good cause, the one he can be a knight in sining armour for, and die for.

# S7... Still really liked the ending. Loved the Buffy/Spike arc, in fact the whole of Spike's journey over the seasons. Despite the general fucked-up-ness IMO this is one of the more interesting relationships JW has written, and perhaps more importantly, especially once it shifts away from romance towards friendship, or at least romance-and-friendship, it's a relationship, where by the end both come out as better and stronger persons, having learned something about themselves, whereas the Angel fiasco did nothing but hurt Buffy and made her doubt herself, as did Riley.

Hate Caleb who's by far the scariest and most revolting of the Buffy villains, to the point where I can barely watch him. Actually liked S7 Xander, which is saying something, because this is one of the instances where I simply don't understand why the character is so beloved by fandom.

7. 05, D'Hoffryn to Anya: 'In order to restore the lives of the victims, the fates require a sacrifice. The life and soul of a vengeance demon.' So there are demons with souls now?

7.14, Buffy to Willow: 'Why does everybody in this house think I'm still in love with Spike?' Wait, what? Still? I thought S6 was supposed to be some self-destructive sexual-attraction-only thing?

7.17 ' By the way...love the coat.' Funny how lines cross over between shows.

# A bit of a tangent - there's an interesting thing about Wesley that I never really noticed or considered before, because mostly I treated AtS Wesley as separate from BtVS Wesley: He doesn't change all that much moving from BtVS to AtS, but what constantly had him at odds with Buffy and the rest of the team, even Giles, who on the whole tends to follow Buffy's lead, his uncompromising hardness when it comes to the mission, his willingness to make sacrifices - Willow, Angel - for the greater good, is what will make him the backbone of AI. He never loses that cold strategic thinking, even if he does become part of the team more than on BtVS. It's already there in the S2 finale when he shocks Gunn ('You try not to get anybody killed you wind up getting everybody killed,' and convinces Angel to become his demon persona by reassuring him that he'll be able to change back, and when Gunn calls him on it, says, 'I need him to think it.').

Wesley never completely stops using other people, seeing them as pawns or players in a game he believes he is obliged to win, or die trying, and it would be more cold-blooded if he weren't doing the same thing to himself, too, with a total disregard to what it may or does costs him - with Faith, or bringing Angelus back in S4. Even love never entirely changes that, which it always does for Buffy. He loved Fred (or thinks he does; personally I find it symptomatic that this never really went beyond the unrequited stage), and carries some of that emotion over to Illyria, even while he hates her, but that never stops him from looking at her and also considering her strategic value. Buffy making Angel drink from her blood is doing it for someone she loves, it doesn't go further than that. There's no consideration for herself, for the ascencion, or that she might be needed to prevent it, and this once again puts her at odds with Wesley. Wesely bringing back Angel in 4.1 and then feeding him from his blood is at once similar and very different. There's probably a whole tangle of emotions involved that Wesley himself doesn't care to look at to closely, but an undeniable part is that Wesley still thinks Angel is an a crucial player in the war of Good vs. Evil, and that this is his duty - whatever else it may be beside that.

Giles may be exaggerating a bit when he says Wesley has 'the emotional range of a blueberry scone', but in some ways it's not so far off the mark because Wesley is emotionally messed up. In some ways he expands a little, but he never gets the watcher completely out of his system, even if he breaks with the council; he simply thinks he can be a better watcher working for Angel. His whole relationship with Angel is tied up in that, because he sees working for Angel as a way of doing the right thing, and (IMO), on a more personal level the possibility of Angel's redemption and becoming human again as the proof of the possibility of his own salvation. Except that in the end it doesn't work out that way, and there's no salvation for anyone. Angel gives up his chance of becoming human, and Wesley is the one whom death doesn't bother any longer because there's nothing left he wants in or from life.

In BtVS Buffy is the heart of the show, the moral core; it's she who essentially determines the ethics. Giles may be her watcher, but it isn't he who makes the decisions, and when he tries to, as with trying to get Spike killed in S7, it doesn't work out very well. In AtS it's actually not Angel, who is too weak to be the moral core of anything, but Wesley. Like Lorne says in 2.19, 'Well, it's been a long time coming. [... ] Nice choice of conductor to lead your symphony.'The image that I always thought illustrated this very well was Angel's Thanksgiving dinner vision in 4.01. with him sitting at one end of the table, and Wesley at the other, whereas in BtVS 4.08 it's Buffy at one end and Giles at the other. It's Wesley who keeps AI going when Angel fires them in Reunion, who brings Angel back in S4, then comes up with the plan of bringing back Angelus, and sends off Angel through the portal in search of Jasmine's real name, almost off-handedly sacrificing himself and the rest of the team. And it's also Wesley who sets in motion the catastrophic Connor arc, once again trying to do the right thing. It only temporarily changes in S5 with the memory wipe, but Angel's plan for the final show-down could have been Wesley's.

Is it stereotyping to say that the BtVS finale is more feminine than the desperate, suicidal last stand in AtS? But look what happens to the female characters in AtS - all of them. Cordelia, Fred, Lilah, Darla, Jasmine. I actually like AtS better than BtVS, but it's not a feminist, or even women-friendly show, not by a long way.



solitary summer

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