I now have 10 episodes remaining in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve already mourned for the loss and started working out the subjects I’m going to write about the show (I have three posts in mind, as of now). But as I watched last night’s episode, “Showtime,” it occurred to me to take a breath and think about the show before the final revelations are known.
Buffy has accomplished much as a piece of popular culture. Almost comically so. It is the most studied popular culture property, and it’s not even close. Academics, like tweens, sci-fi/horror fans, Whedon fans, and cultivators of good taste in general all agree: Buffy is a dynamic, revelatory, unique and strange piece of television–and fans of the show will make sure you know it is brilliant. I’ll do my part in that realm after I’ve finished the series.
Bur for now, what most holds me rapt is the willingness of Whedon and his writers to continually find ways to break the internal rules of the system Buffy and the Scoobies inhabit. This tendency is a staple of the Whedon oeuvre in my opinion, and keeps me coming back to his various works. But this is my first time through Buffy, and in this show more than anything else of Whedon’s does this principal hold true. Over and over Buffy takes 2+2 and makes 894. The show creates individuals existing in a very detailed world, only to tip the world ever so slightly, and blow up everything. Likely that holds true of many shows. But something about these turns in Buffy seem different. I’m not sure how.
But it makes for exhilarating entertainment. I can think of 5 occurrences off the top of my head, over the course of the 6.5 seasons I’ve watched so far, that completely knocked me out. Episodes as a whole, plot points, creative tricks, in every element of the show, there are actual, truly surprising, surprises. That’s a rare feat.
So I wanted to take the moment to acknowledge that before the final outcome is revealed. Whenever I start a show, I hope that it’s ending makes me truly sad. And Buffy has accomplished that, if nothing else. These final 10 episodes are coming with excitement to find out how it all will unfold, and sadness that it will have unfolded. It may not live up to what has come before. Finales often don’t. But if there is any finale that can surprise, I’d imagine it to be Buffy.