Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sunnydale is history. After blowing up her high school, saving the world, dying twice -- not to mention switching networks -- Buffy finally takes a bow, and seven years on the hell mouth of Sunnydale, Calif., comes to an epic conclusion in true explosive style. By the series' standards, the body count is fairly minimal, but not without tears.

With:
Buffy Summers - Sarah Michelle Gellar Xander Harris - Nicholas Brendon Anya - Emma Caulfield Dawn Summers - Michelle Trachtenberg Spike - James Marsters Willow Rosenberg - Alyson Hannigan Rupert Giles - Anthony Stewart Head Faith - Eliza Dushku Principal Wood - D.B. Woodside Angel - David Boreanaz Andrew - Tom Lenk

Sunnydale is history. After blowing up her high school, saving the world, dying twice — not to mention switching networks — Buffy finally takes a bow, and seven years on the hell mouth of Sunnydale, Calif., comes to an epic conclusion in true explosive style. Yet it’s still as close to a happy ending as creator, director and writer Joss Whedon gets. By the series’ destruction-prone standards, the body count is fairly minimal, but not without tears. (Spoiler alert) Beloved characters figure in the death toll.

Titled “Chosen,” her exit brings the show full circle in a very gratifying way, eluding to elements from just about every season, fulfilling old story arcs and giving screen time to all of the show’s rich supporting characters. Finale has it all: comedy, romance, action and lots of nasty bloodsuckers.

On the eve of a battle with some seriously dark powers, Angel (David Boreanaz), Buffy’s first love, is back in Sunnydale to give her a mystical amulet. The trinket has been prophesized to aid Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in her fight with the First, the original source of all evil and its army of ubervamps.

Everyone has fled the town in the wake of impending doom save Buffy; her Scooby gang of friends; and a bunch of young girls, all potential slayers that have yet to develop their true power. The ragtag group is all that stands in the way of total world destruction. But Buffy and her friends are at their best when the odds are against them. It’s normal life that always seems to be a bigger challenge.

Buffy has been and concludes as an analogy for real life. Life will always be full of tough decisions and hard lessons, and Whedon should be credited for staying true to the natural evolution of his characters. Perhaps that’s what makes them so appealing. Buffy empowers viewers not just because of her strength, but because of her very human weakness.

As Buffy, Gellar has been critical to the show’s success as the embodiment of girl power, making viewers believe that a petite and sometimes daffy blonde could fight and win against incredible odds.

But her less-heralded supporting cast elevated it from mere cult status. Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan and Anthony Stewart Head have shown incredible range providing the show with humor and heart-wrenching drama. The same is true of James Marsters and Emma Caulfield, who came to the show in later seasons. Anyone who doubts the full range of talent of this ensemble needs only to refer to “Once More With Feeling,” the musical episode that, along with “Chosen,” provides some of the show’s finest moments.

“Chosen,” as in other episodes, feels timely because it addresses timeless issues. Here it’s the horrors of war, but over its run “Buffy” has covered the hyena pack mentality of teenagers, the fear and isolation of young adulthood as well as death and dating (sometimes simultaneously).

In fact, it’s fair to say that “Buffy” paved the way for the likes of “X-Men” and movies of that ilk because it legitimized the genre and perhaps even helped to create it. The show blends comedy, drama, action and horror so seamlessly that it defies any kind of compartmentalization. The reason “Buffy” never won the awards or recognition is because quite frankly, no one knew how to categorize it.

Online scholars will have eternity to debate the subtext for quite some time — the vampire with a soul Spike (Marsters) as a Christ figure, the postmodern feminist rhetoric and political analogies. But for viewers, the real thrill ride is over.

Earth may not be doomed anymore, but TV is definitely at a loss.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Series; UPN, Tues. May 20, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Mutant Enemy Inc. and Kuzui Enterprises/Sandollar Television in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, Sandy Gallin, Gail Berman, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Kaz Kuzui; producers, Gareth Davies, Mark David Alpert; co-executive producers, Jane Espenson, Douglas Petrie, David Solomon, David Fury; director, writer, Whedon.

Crew: Camera, Ray Stella; editor, Peter Basinski; music, John C. King; casting, Amy Britt, Anya Colloff and Jennifer Fishman Pate. 60 MIN.

Cast: Buffy Summers - Sarah Michelle Gellar Xander Harris - Nicholas Brendon Anya - Emma Caulfield Dawn Summers - Michelle Trachtenberg Spike - James Marsters Willow Rosenberg - Alyson Hannigan Rupert Giles - Anthony Stewart Head Faith - Eliza Dushku Principal Wood - D.B. Woodside Angel - David Boreanaz Andrew - Tom Lenk

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