Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7, Episode 22: Chosen
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Eventually, all good things must come to an end - or, as the final two seasons of Buffy prove, all bad things too. The series finale is a commendable attempt to go out with a bang, but given everything that’s come before it, it all seems a bit hollow. Compared with masterful season finales like Restless, or even the show’s true (in my opinion) series finale, The Gift, Chosen is nothing special. The only thing that distinguishes it from any other showdown is the scale of the battle and the amount of destruction left in its wake - so it’s basically quantity over quality.
Still, this feels more like an episode of Buffy than the chain of 14 or so mediocre-to-crap episodes that have preceded it. The characters actually seem to be, well, in character, and the actors look a little more engaged than they have been for some time (I guess they all just couldn’t wait to get it over with). Unfortunately, those hoping for some serious character moments between Buffy, Willow, Giles and Xander will be supremely disappointed. All we get is a false-sounding and painfully staged little conversation full of blithe quips and laughing in the face of danger that tries but fails to recapture the mood of the early seasons. Plus, the inside of the Hellmouth is kind of disappointing - it’s basically just a big cave.
And it doesn’t help that Buffy’s genius scheme to finish off the First once and for all is anything but. Giles says it’s “bloody brilliant” - but it’s not, it’s just as stupid as every other plan she’s had this season. Wander into the jaws of doom and hope she can beat the bad guys? She also tells the Potentials “So here’s where you make a choice” - only she isn’t giving them a choice. She’s turning every Potential in the world into a full-blooded Slayer, whether they want it or not. The title of the episode is Chosen, after all, as in “chosen by Buffy”, not “choose for yourself”. For a show that’s meant to be about girly power and free will, that’s a hell of a lot of girls forced to do something they probably don’t want. And precisely why does she suddenly decide that Willow can use the Scythe to do this anyway? This really is a season where you’re expected to just shut up and accept everything you’re told.
Other niggles. How come the Ubervamps, one of which took Buffy two whole episodes to defeat, can now be sliced down in droves by everyone, including Dawn? How come Sunnydale, which has been shown to have docks and a beach, is now in the middle of the desert? And is the First even actually defeated? Sure, the Hellmouth collapses into itself, disposing of all the evil festering inside it, but, if there’s another one in Cleveland, and LA is such a disaster zone, then one must presume that they’re two-a-penny. Also, Anya’s death was pointless and crummy. I get that Joss Whedon was pissed at Emma Caulfield for saying she would quit even if the show got renewed, but there was no call for that “blink and you’ll miss it” exit, or for the complete lack of compassion anyone feels for her demise. For Christ’s sake, Xander and Andrew (why is he still alive?) are the only people who even notice she’s not there, and Xander barely seems concerned at all. And that shot of the little girl in the baseball court becoming “empowered” is probably the single most cringe-inducing moment in the entire series.
Complaints aside, though, I can’t deny that I got a sense of excitement during the final battle. It’s all basically smoke and mirrors (i.e. a whole lot of explosions and stunts, but no real substance), but it’s considerably less boring than, say, Touched, and less offensive than Grave last year. Yes, Willow’s still hooked up with her rebound girl so Joss Whedon can show that he doesn’t hate lesbians after all (personally, I’ll bet she ditches her immediately after the final fade to black), but her whiz-bang display of white power (eep, that sounded a lot more racist than I was intending) does suggest that she’s managed to overcome the darkness inside her. Spike saves the world and goes out in a fantastic display of fireworks and burning flesh - I have a feeling Giles will have some humble pie to eat for trying to have him killed! (Only, of course, Spike shows up on Angel next season, making his death as meaningless as pretty much every other one on the show.) And I’ve decided that I like Vi - she’s the least annoying Potential.
I’ll give them credit: they went out with a bang. No, it doesn’t make up for the horrors inflicted upon us over the past two years, but all things considered, it could have been a hundred times worse.
Overall rating: 7/10.
Next time: this is no next time! Hooray! I’m free!