Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I'm glad (in a way), then, that Buffy ended last night. The time was right. Seven seasons ago I was newly married, and Buffy wasn't anywhere on my radar screen, let alone my cable system. By season two, however, I'd started hearing word about this show I absolutely had to watch. Word also arrived that the WB was coming to Columbia's cable system. The first Buffy they ever showed was the season finale of season two, when, in order to save the world, Buffy stabbed Angel, the love of her life, through the heart and sent him to hell. We caught most of the season in reruns over the summer, and barely missed a Tuesday after. Carrie was as big a fan as I was, and Tuesdays were our date night, of sorts. She'd get done teaching just as Angel was coming on, which we'd watch together. The VCR was hooked up to the bedroom TV, so once Angel was over, we'd curl up together in there to watch the Buffy I'd taped while she was teaching.

Since we split up two years ago, the one dependable thread between us has been the Buffy (and Angel, of course) episodes I tape every week. As a broke musician, she can't quite justify cable, so I'm her source for Buffy. Meanwhile, I spread the addiction to Christie, who shows up every Tuesday for her dual fix of Buffy and snuggling on the couch. There's something about a Hellmouth that promotes snuggling on the couch.

So, the show's been through seven seasons, and I've been watching for five years. Buffy's died twice, came back (both times), ran away, came back, flipped burgers, buried her mother, found and lost loves true and not-so-true, learned how to follow, learned how to lead, and, of course, saved the world. A lot. In that same period of time, I got married, bought a house, buried a friend or two, learned how to work eight hours a day, toasted my best friend's marriage while my own was coming apart, started learning how to be a manager (which is so not the same thing as leader), and figured out that saving the world was, for me, nowhere near as important as learning how to get along with the folks in the next cubicle.

I guess you could say I grew up on Buffy.

Can you say "Best. Finale. Ever."? Yeah, it had its flaws. What show doesn't? Like most of the fanbase, I found most of last season almost unwatchable, but tuned in again for the last few eps, just so Joss could break my heart. Again. Unlike most of the folks I've been reading, I actually enjoyed this season quite a bit. Something resonated with me about an incorporeal villain who attacks you by whispering in your ear, repeating your own worst fears back at you. As did Buffy's struggles with becoming a leader, and finding herself responsible for the lives of others.

If you believe Joss, last season was meant to be about growing up and learning to stand on your own. This season's theme, then, was "Okay, so I'm grown up. Now what the hell do I do?" The answer last night gave us was "You keep going no matter what, turn to your friends when you need help, and whatever power you have, find a way to use it well and pass it on."

But Buffy's never been about the theme, or the moral, or any of that boring crap. It's about the connections between the characters, and it's about dialogue. Like Buffy uttering the stereotypical "just killed the bad guy" wisecrack, and then cracking up about it. I think she might have even slapped her thigh. The repartee skittering back and forth like water bugs on a deep, dark lake of love and camaraderie. Or, you know, something like that, but not quite so icky. There was violence, and sex, and wit, and even a few of those icky emotional moments that have been known to make me squeeze out a tear or two.

In short, the finale had all the things that made this series great television, and little of the stuff that didn't. There was loss (anything less would have felt like cheating), but in the end you felt like the characters would walk off with lighter burdens. I can't speak for anyone else, but it was just what I needed.

Thanks, Joss, for seven seasons of damn good TV.

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