Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 5: Selfless
Written by Drew Goddard; Directed by David Solomon
The crazy new costume designer strikes again! In Beneath You, it was Spike and his horrifying blue shirt; this week, it’s Streetwalker Willow in her wacky red tights.
Anyway, a lot of people are crazy about this episode, but I consider it rather overrated. It’s worth watching, though, because it’s the last time Anya gets any meaningful character development. Trouble is, it seems to exist for no reason other than to cap off the “return to vengeange” plot that was introduced late in Season 6. What was the point? Was it because they realised the plot wasn’t a very good idea after all? Buffy does, of course, have a moral obligation, and indeed duty, to kill demons, especially those who are themselves making a habit of slaughtering people wholesale. How on earth could they justify keeping Anya alive after what she’s done? Buffy does, after all, stake random vampires as they rise from their graves before they’ve had any chance to kill anyone. If she’s not going to give them the benefit of the doubt, what’s so special about Anya?
Answer: Emma Caulfield. She was originally going to be a one-shot villain, but Joss Whedon liked her so much that he kept her around until the show ended (although he did give her a crappy pointless death in the final few minutes because he was pissed off that she’d decided to quit whether or not the show was renewed). It’s the same with Spike and, I suspect, a number of other characters who Buffy, for no tangible reason, allows to live, simply because people like the characters and their actors. In all honesty, Buffy might as well have killed Anya in this episode, as was her intention, because Emma gets precious little to do from hereon in, other than get drunk with Andrew and have a surprise bout of kitchen-floor sex with Xander just before the final battle.
This was the first episode written by a new writer, Drew Goddard, as his first ever gig in the industry. A number of people have commented that, had he run the final season, it would have been a whole lot better and actually lived up to the promises of “going right back to the beginning”. I can sort of see why: he does well with the continuity in this episode, referring all the way back to Xander’s “kick his ass” lie at the end of Season 2, and also throwing in a fun musical number set at the time of Once More With Feeling (although it’s vastly inferior to anything in that episode). These are just window-dressing, though. The “kick his ass” line is promptly buried without ever being exploited (if the writers wanted to drive the gang apart, surely dirty secrets from the past such as that should have been the perfect tools with which to do so), and the song is nice for what it is but ultimately empty. I’m not saying the season wouldn’t have been better with Goddard in the driving seat, because at least then someone would have been steering it, but, based on his contributions to the Buffyverse, I don’t think he’s the wunderkind some people have made him out to be.
Overall rating: 7/10.
Next time: Him.