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Picture credit – http://www.spoilertv.co.uk

While writing this retrospective I’ve also realized that two other shows that I’ve been obsessed about for years also hit anniversaries of sorts: Xena, Warrior Princess celebrated its tenth year off the air last year, and The X-Files also sees its own ten-years-off-the-air reunion this year. Great – another retrospective or two to cover in so many posts, and hopefully get it out by the end of the year. The X-Files also reaches another milestone next year: its 20th anniversary after first airing way back in 1993 (Quick! To the time machine!). I was 12 when the series first aired – do the math and figure out my age. ;)

But let’s not get ahead of myself: Buffy and her exploits still have my full attention. Buffy had her own 20-year reunion last week, thanks to the anniversary of the original film, which has since kicked off quite the devoted fandom and as brought years of demon-kickassery to fans such as me. Who knew that a movie about a vampire-slayin’ cheerleader could have such a huge following so many years later? I thank The Whedon for bringing her to us, and I will forever bow to his talents. A Buffy panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Convention featured cast members from the films and the TV series reminiscing and speaking of their own experiences of being in the film and the series.

Let’s review Buffy’s many adventures through the seven seasons she saved the world constantly in by two-minute recaps. Any longer than two minutes, and I might as well invite you to my place to catch a marathon viewing of it – just bring your beverage of choice. Abbreviated names will be used ‘cause I want to keep this as geek-free as possible for you, Casual Reader, without having to bring out charts, using laymen’s terms, and sock puppets – less of a headache that way for everyone involved.

And let all ye who enter and read be warned – SPOILERS ABOUND. Well, nothing too massive, I should say, but be forewarned.

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Season One

We are introduced to Buffy Summers’ world and her core group of allies that will stay with us through Season Three: Rupert Giles, her Watcher/mentor/father figure; Willow Rosenberg, her best friend/witch/geek-extradonaire; Xander Harris, another bestie/handyman/all-around sidekick; and Cordelia Chase, resident bitch/cheerleader (becomes Scooby later); and Angel, resident vampire-with-soul/love interest. The Big Bad (Buffy’s villain for the season) is The Master, an old vampire out for Slayer’s blood and an escape from the Hellmouth. The Master has in his employ Angel’s sire, the female vampire Darla, who is our first demon appearance in the series in the very first episode “Welcome to Hellmouth;” Darla is later dispatched by Angel. Buffy destroys said Big Bad after he drowns her and escapes from his prison in the Hellmouth, temporarily killing her. But Buffy perseveres and the Hellmouth closes (for the time being), and our show is off to a great start.

Buffy also encounters and fights the following: evil witches (“Witch”), a praying mantis (“Teacher’s Pet”), hyena-people (“The Pack”), and an invisible girl (“Out of Sight, Out of Mind”).

Season Two

Buffy takes a break after dying at the end of the previous season and tries to get back into being a high school junior while avoiding certain death (again). More people join the Scooby Gang and are love interests to two core members: Oz (did the guy even have a last name?), paramour to Willow/guitar player/all-around chill dude/werewolf; and Jenny Calendar, girlfriend of Giles/ IT class instructor/technopagan/victim. Buff and Angel grow closer, and their relationship will later turn out to have dire consequences (passion with Angel = lost soul and becoming Angelus, Angel’s true vampiric self and this season’s Big Bad). Angel’s history is explored as his child and grandchild wreak havoc in Sunnydale: bleached-blonde snarling vamp-punk Spike,) and his sociopathic lover, dreamy and psychic vamp-goth Drusilla. Buffy is also introduced to Slayer Kendra, who was called after Buffy “died” the previous season, but doesn’t make it through the whole season. Meanwhile, Angel restores his vampire family and tries to bring about Armageddon. He also kills a Scooby (Jenny), but in the end Buffy makes the toughest decision of all – stopping Angelus by running a sword through him.

We encounter monsters in the following forms this season: puzzle-piece undead (“Some Assembly Required”), Incan mummy (“Inca Mummy Girl”), robots (“Ted”), boogeymen (“Killed By Death”), and fishmen (“Go Fish”).

Season Three

Buffy is readjusting to life back in Sunnydale after running away at the end of the last season and dealing will all of the heavy emotional stuff that weighed upon her shoulders. We are introduced to new Scooby Gang members (albeit temporary ones after this season): sniveling Englishman/Watcher, Wesley Wyndham Price, and crazy/sexy Slayer Faith, whose downfall from grace becomes a major plot point. The new Big Bad is Sunnydale’s own mayor, Richard Wilkins, who is an immortal guy trying to become an in–the-flesh true demon. A tragic event in the episode “Bad Girls” leads Faith straight into the arms of the mayor, and she becomes Buffy’s toughest foe yet: a Slayer who has gone to the darkside. Angel returns from the demon dimension he was sent to, thanks to The Powers That Be (TPTB from this point on). Angel continues to help Buffy until the end of the season, when he leaves after the final battle against Mayor Wilkins, who becomes a huge snake demon and is blown into snake jerky thanks to carefully-placed explosives in Sunnydale High. Faith is incapacitated and in a coma after an epic battle with Buffy leaves her stabbed in the abdomen.

Monster Encounters of the Week include: zombies/undead partygoers (“Dead Man’s Party”), Hellhounds (“The Prom”), asshole, abusive boyfriends who truly become beasts (“Beauty and the Beasts”), and telepathic demons (“Earshot”).

Season Four

After surviving near-death three times (well, actually dying once), Buffy finally graduates high school and heads to college. But the supernatural refuses to break-up with her. Demon roommates’ aside, Buffy gains some new allies in the form of a military team that researches, hunts, and kills demons: the Initiative. But the Initiative’s leaders have their own secret agenda in the form of a secret program that combines all the greatest aspects of demons and humans (well, their body parts), and the technical advances of robotics into one strong, monstrous form: the robo-demon hybrid Adam, Season Four’s Big Bad. Anya(nka), a former vengeance demon/girlfriend to Xander; Riley, Initiative member/teaching assistant/boring-ass boyfriend; and Tara, good witch/soul of the Scoobies/girlfriend to Willow, are our newest members of the Scooby Gang, and they hang around for at least two seasons (their fates are foretold in the next few seasons). We get a surprise visit from a formerly-comatose Faith shakes things up a bit for Buffy, but Faith escapes Sunnydale and heads to Los Angeles after a body-switch with Buffy. Somehow, in between fighting Faith and other baddies, Buffy defeats Adam but then receives strange prophetic dreams from the First Slayer. We learn that she was created by the men of her tribe to rid the world of the demons walking the earth at the time, but at the cost of her soul by mixing demon soul/blood with her.  But things are going to get a lot worse for Buffy in the next three seasons, and she prepares herself for the next huge battles to come.

Some of our cool demon episodes for this season are: annoying demon roommate (“Living Conditions”), fear demons (“Fear, Itself”), slutty female werewolves (“Wild At Heart”), creepy-ass demons that steal hearts and voices (“Hush”), and tons of demons escaping from a secret military complex (“Primeval”).

Season Five

Buffy’s journey and destiny as our hero and protector against the demons of darkness continues with one of her most challenging Big Bads yet: the Hell Goddess Glory (Glorificus to her minions). Buffy first faces off against the original Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula, and the fights escalate. Meanwhile, a group of monks are trying to protect a very important “key” to Earth’s survival by turning some corporal being into a human being. Said human is created from Buffy’s blood and becomes a new little sister that is introduced to us, thanks to memories being altered so that Buffy, her friends and family think that Dawn (the sister) has been around since birth. Protecting this key is very important because Glory, our resident Big Bad, wants to use Dawn’s blood to open a portal to her dimension, thus collapsing her world into ours and forcing us to suffering immeasurable pain and torture. Buffyy has to protect her new little sister while facing some real-life situations that almost bring her to her knees, including the most emotional episode of the series – “The Body.” This episode features the death of a much beloved character, and their death has a devastating effect on the Scooby Gang. But Buffy can’t mourn for long because she still has to defeat Glory. Glory gets hers in the end, but not before opening up the portal to her world using Dawn’s blood. Buffy, remembering what the monks who created the Key told her about her sister’s origins, uses her own blood to close the portal. Buffy’s destiny in becoming our protector pays off, but at the huge price of her life in exchange.

Monsters of the Week: Please check back as I need to re-fresh my memory.

Season Six

You can’t keep a good Slayer down, and killing Buffy twice is not enough (drowning and falling from great heights can’t keep her down). The girl is a glutton for punishment, I think. Buffy is brought back from the dead and is technically the hottest undead chick around. There are many different, darker changes that come with her resurrection – such as starting a twisted and strangely loving relationship with Spike, who has since become a Scooby. This season features our weakest Big Bads, the Nerds of Doom: three former Sunnydale High students (Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew) who start chaos and strive for power. Oh, and their main goal is to kill Buffy. Geez – cut the poor woman some slack! She’s died enough already. There’s a few storylines running through this season (Anya becomes a vengeance demon again, Buffy is sleeping with Spike, he nearly rapes her in one of the most uncharacteristic storylines), but the major one involves our redheaded nerdy witch, Willow, and the Nerds of Doom. Warren, trying to dispatch Buffy once and for all, shoots her, but unfortunately also takes some collateral damage with him. Another Scooby death brings about the full power and fury of Willow’s magical wrath, and she seeks vengeance against those responsible for the death of her beloved. At the end of this series the tables have turned and our Big Bad has changed from the Nerds to Willow.  Her obsession with magic turns dark and she threatens to destroy the world so that we would all feel her pain, but Xander saves the day by bringing her back from the darkness and helping her reclaim her humanity. Buffy still has one more season left, and she will face her most dangerous enemy yet – one that has been haunting her since the beginning.

Monsters of the Week: Please check back as I need to re-fresh my memory.

Season Seven

We are now at the end of our series with this final season, and Buffy has faced many trials and tribulations up until this point, and I’ve skipped a ton of storylines too.  I don’t want to ruin and spoil the series for any future Buffy addicts who may be reading this. And if I’ve made even one person curious enough to sit down and watch all seven seasons, then my work here is complete.

Strange happenings are occurring in Sunnydale more frequently than ever before, all revolving around groups of young women seeking out the Slayer. Bringers, blind monks who worship our Big Bad, are dispatching these potential Slayers all over the world, and many escape to Sunnydale to seek out Buffy. Our Big Bad for Season Seven is literally the First Evil, a being without form that has been around since the dawn of men and demons alike. The First tried to get Angel to kill himself in Season Three’s “Amends” but didn’t succeed, but it is now out for Buffy’s blood, and will stop at nothing until she and all of the other Potentials are killed. Buffy’s former Watcher returns with Willow, who has since been rehabilitated by a coven in England after her abuse of magic in the previous season. While coping with Tara’s death, Willow falls in love with Potential Kennedy, who is a younger version of Faith – without the evil tendencies, of course. Spike has also returned to help our Gang, with his soul intact. Preparing for the final battle against the First, its black preacher Caleb, the Bringers, and uber-vamps the Turok-Han, Buffy feels the weight of the world on her shoulders and breaks down, thinking that this could truly be the end of the world (for real), and she and her friends and family will not survive. It doesn’t help that Willow’s recruited the now-reformed Faith to help the Sunnydale team, bringing back old wounds up to the surface, but Faith is here to help, and she ends up leading the Potentials after Buffy gives up leadership to her.

A magical scythe that is the ultimate Slayer weapon is sought after Caleb and the First, but Buffy obtains it and uses Willow’s help to transfer hers and Faith’s strengths into it, spreading their power around to all of the Potentials with them and around the world, turning all Slayers-in-calling into true Slayers. The First fails at destroying the Slayer line that starts with Buffy (our second Slayer) and ends with Faith, who is still technically the called Slayer of the moment (she became The Slayer after Kendra’s death; see Season Three recap). In the end, the Sunnydale Hellmouth is finally destroyed, there are casualties on both sides of the fight, but Buffy and her Gang prevail and finally get to rest for the first time in a very long time. And End Scene.

Monsters of the Week: Please check back as I need to re-fresh my memory.

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Seven seasons in a nutshell. The show is so beautifully complex, well-written, and has a terrific cast of actors that help us feel every emotion that they convey, and we really feel a connection to them. Buffy and her friends could easily be my own, and I see flashes of my own life in various episodes. I related to this show more than any other show growing up because of how close in age I was to our heroes, and their stories were very relatable. For example, Buffy’s coming out as a Slayer was such a heartbreaking moment to watch because it mirrored my own struggles with coming out. “The Gift” is still an episode that affects me the most because of the deaths that I’ve had amongst my friends and family throughout the past six years, and each one has devastated me in one way or another. I find “The Gift” to be emotionally healing for me because it made me realize that I’m not alone in the grieving process, and we each go through our own ideas and struggles with our mortality, and wondering why it had to be them and us.

Joss Whedon has brought such a new perspective to life through his characters and stories, and I will forever be indebted to him for sharing his creations with us. The next post covers my favorite quotes from the series, and the next few after that are my favorite scenes from the series, followed by my favorite episodes, characters, the music of the show, and final thoughts on what the Buffyverse means to this fan. The Quotes post could be up as soon as tonight – wouldn’t that be a miracle?!