By Annie Sewell-Jennings
I thought "Chosen" was absolutely flawless.
When you're looking at a series finale, I think there are several things you want to see accomplished. I think you want to see all of the major threads wrapped to conclusion. You want justice to be done to the run of the show, and you want the overall message to be preserved and celebrated. And with BTVS, you want to see the season arc tied up. But most of all, you want something to be there that will make you not only feel that the show is over, but make you want to go back and rewatch every single episode over and over and over again.
Joss did all this and so, so much more.
Every major plotline throughout the years had closure. Every character came full circle. Every relationship was given its dues. Every message ever presented in the Buffyverse was celebrated. And the best part was that after watching "Chosen", you didn't just feel that the show had come to a satisfying end -- you felt as though it came to a satisfying beginning. And that's tough.
Overall, this season has been one of the weaker seasons. Has it been the weakest? To me, no, but I'm one of those odd people who find S4 the weakest (and I say that because that season did not emotionally resonate with me the way that, say, S5 or S6 did). There were certainly some flaws, and there was definitely a loss of momentum towards the end. The characterization seemed flat, and there was definitely a feeling of "is any of this going anywhere?"
Well, Joss certainly pulled a neat trick last night -- not only did he make the show come alive again, he also made the rest of S7 suddenly make sense. And yes, it did. It really, really did. He did his show justice, and he did the characters justice.
We've been watching this magnificent show for seven years. Seven years of struggle and screaming and laughing and crying. And last night was the final chapter on the Buffy story -- so, how did it fit with the other pieces of the story? How did it bring them all to a close? How do we connect "Chosen" with everything else ever presented to us in Buffy philosophy and mythology? Why is this such a satisfying ending?
Let's start with the characters, from minor to major....
Andrew: When we first saw Andrew, he was a total geek. A little shadow-boy, desperate to find his place in the world, much like our original Scooby four. He was trying on evil to see if it fit, and it didn't. He killed his best friend in the process, and then had to snap out of his fantasy world of superheros and supervillains, and rejoin reality. He had to make connections with the real world, something I doubt Andrew has ever really done before in his entire, geeky little life.
Post-"Storyteller", Andrew believed he'd found his purpose -- to die for the cause. That would be his redemption for the murder of his best friend. But it wouldn't really have been satisfying to watch Andrew die in "Chosen", and not just because the little dweeb has wormed his way into our hearts this year. Because death isn't a purpose. That's not what the Jossverse has taught us. Have we had our martyrs? Certainly. Have we had sacrifices? Yes. But there's a difference between heroes and sacrifices such as Angel, Buffy, and Spike and little confused Andrew -- they all lived first. Full, rich lives, in which they'd experienced the good and the bad, the brilliant and the radiant.
Andrew hasn't done that yet. He's a virgin. Not only sexually, but spiritually. He hasn't experienced the world yet, and the Jossverse message has always been a celebration of life before death. Besides, it's not the dying that counts -- it's the fact that Andrew was willing to pay for his sins and save the world with his own life. That makes him a good man. That's his redemption. And that's his closure, too -- the world open up before him, and he's finally ready to take a hold of reality. Go, Andrew. Now see if you can get a kiss from Xander.
Anya: I doubt that very few characters have progressed as far as Anya has in the past four years. She started out as a villain, a monster-of-the-week, and ended up one of the brightest souls and most radiant characters on the show. Has she made her mistakes? Yes. Has she found her own redemption for them? Yes, and it happened before "Chosen".
Anya found her own redemption right around "Selfless", and has spent the past year finishing things. Finishing her relationship with Xander. Finishing herself and her journey throughout humanity. Her conversation with Andrew about secretly loving the fact that humans never give up fighting was really the finale of her arc -- and "Chosen" was her release. She loved the human race, even scared little Andrew, enough to give up her own life for them. She'd made her peace with Xander and with the rest of the world. Her death in "Chosen" was brave and true, and Anya was never so beautiful as when she held that sword and met her destiny with courage and valour. Go, Anya. You are the bomb.
Giles: He started as a Watcher, and ended as a Watcher, and that was simply perfect. For the past couple of years, we've seen Giles waver and waffle, ever since losing his position as a Watcher in S3's "Helpless", and he never quite regained that title or that stability. He wandered through life in S4, and while in S5, he briefly regained his title and his confidence, Buffy's death in "The Gift" absolutely devastated him, and I don't think he ever really recovered from it.
This year, I think that the reason we had Pod!Giles was because that position was finally thrust upon him again. Giles was the last Watcher left, and all of the responsibility fell onto his shoulders. He had to rescue these scared, frightened girls and represent the dead Watcher's Council. He had to take charge in a lot of ways, and after not having done so in years, I think he was at a loss. Particularly when he saw that Buffy no longer really required a Watcher, in any way whatsoever. It's that typical feeling a parent gets when he looks at his child and sees that they really are "all growed up". He was trying exert control, trying to figure out where he was, and hence the horrendous mistake he made in "Lies My Parents Told Me" when he tried to kill Spike.
However, in this episode, I think the reason why we saw the return of the Giles we all know and love (and not just because Joss was at the helm, though that certainly has a LOT to do with it), was because he finally just let go. The look of pride in his eyes when Buffy gave her plan out was just beautiful. He could look at this girl he'd trained and suffered with, and he could see that she was finished. She was done. She'd made the right decision, and he was proud of her. His training mission from the very first episode is truly over -- and it's perfect that way.
Xander: With Xander, I think it's always been one very big issue: "Fight or flight?" Ever since the beginning, Xander's had to deal with his own fears of inadequacy and failure. Look back at his dreams in "Restless" -- everytime he makes a bad decision, or chooses to duck responsibility or betray himself and those he loves, he ends up back in the basement of debasement. He left Anya at the altar in "Hell's Bells" because he did not have enough faith in himself to fight for what he wanted, for what he loved. I still agree that it was the right thing to do at the time, because Xander was not mature enough to face responsibility.
But in this last episode, we have this issue in a very literal way. Buffy sends him away with Dawn as an act of protection, but in the end, he's there. Even after the loss of his eye, even after everything he's gone through, he comes to stand up for himself and fight at the end. Xander makes the right decision -- he fights instead of flees. He fights for the world, and he does it well. He survives. Xander is brought to whole, finally, and the tragedy is, of course, that Anya will not be around to share that with him. I think that if she'd survived, they would've gotten married finally. Sad, and yet perfect.
Willow: All throughout the run of the show, we've dealt with Willow and her power issues. At first, her great desire for power as means of compensating for her shyness and insecurity, and then her fear of power because of her abuse of it in S6. She's been terrified of magic this year because of her magic binge in Season Six. Afraid to let herself go, afraid that she'll lose herself again. But finally, we find in this episode that only by letting herself go can she ever find peace. The magical, breathtaking spell she performs in "Chosen" is her redemption -- she gave life instead of taking it away. Gave power instead of harvesting it. That is what saved her, finally, and gave her enough faith in herself so that she could finally have a bit of peace. Beautiful, beautiful, and brilliant. Willow was radiant and whole, at last.
The Potentials: Let's start with the opening of "Lessons", and our potential being killed in Istanbul. She runs, afraid and confused, while hunters track her down and take her to pieces. The girls we see in "Bring on the Night" are confused and powerless, girls that Buffy and the others must protect and shelter. They're potentials, untapped, needing power. Uncertain and afraid of the world around them, these special girls singled out and hunted by the evils of the world. Where is their place? Where do they belong?
They are us. We are them. Little wells of untapped potential, needing power and confidence. When the spell goes through them all in the magnificent, Jossian sequence of awakening in "Chosen", we see them suddenly become flush and beautiful with power. But it's not just magic. Not just power. It's confidence. Independence. They see what they can do, and they do it. Vi standing there and looking down at this army of thousands, and smiling out a "These guys are dust" is the essence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Knowing that there is power within ourselves to destroy those who want to destroy us. Knowing that we all can stand up and be strong, not because of magic or power, but by the knowledge that we simply are strong. They have come into their own, just as the characters have over the years, and we are all the better for it. Brilliant.
Spike: Ah, Spike. Who can't forget his magnificent entrance into this show? Driving into Sunnydale in his bad-ass Desoto, running down the lovely "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign and stepping out, cooler than ice, in all his leather and cigarettes and wicked, wild energy.... Spike was larger than life. And yet, as the years went on and we grew to know him better and better, we found that underneath all that bravado and black, he was as lost a soul as any other character on Buffy, or any one of us. Desperate for love and validation. Desperate for something "glowing" and "effulgent". Desperate for meaning and purpose. Desperate to become something brilliant and lovely.
And last night, that's what he became.
We've seen him through thick and thin. Seen him struggle with his own crippled sense of morality. Seen him defy his very nature for what he believed in -- love. We've seen him change his stars not only for the woman he loves, but for the ideal he seeks. He went out and got a soul to become someone worthy of the Slayer's heart, and last night, he received that love. And yet, it wasn't what he needed anymore. Because this year, we've seen Spike grow into his own person. No longer whipped by love, no longer its bitch. He's his own man. Does he still love Buffy? God, yes. But it's not what he lives for anymore. He lives not in need of love, but because of love. Because of the love he has for the world around him. He sought out his own redemption in his own clumsy, accidental fashion, and last night, he received it.
As I said above, Spike has always looked for something glowing. Something radiant. And last night, he found it in himself. Standing there, feeling the essence of his own soul. Finally realizing that everything he'd ever looked for, he found in himself, and that was enough. The bruised, broken Spike we saw begging for rest in "Beneath You" finally found it. And there, with Buffy before him, giving him her love, he could look at her and tell her that it didn't matter. Not because he disbelieved it -- but because he needed her to go on. To live. All Spike has ever wanted was her heart, and last night, he realized that his own heart was enough for him.
So go back to the image of that first Spike we saw, barreling into Sunnydale in a storm of leather and wildness. And connect it with the Spike we saw last night -- radiant and whole, giving his life for the sake of the world, and laughing all the way through it. He went out in a glorious death, happy and whole at last, and that's all I ever wanted for Spike -- happiness. He found himself, finally.
Buffy: There was once a skinny, pretty, bewildered young girl named Buffy Summers, who only wanted a normal life and resented (and feared) the mantle of hero given to her. She suffered, and she faltered, and she stumbled down the road of life until she came to this. Her story of finding confidence, of accepting shortcomings both in herself and in others, has entertained us all for the past seven years. She's vulnerable and strong. Pure and fractured. Warm and cold. She's struggled to understand the nature of her power, wielding it alone for the sake of the world, until now. See, power isn't something we can all wield alone, nor should we have to. It's why we have these wonderful characters surrounding her, giving her strength and taking strength from her. We have these connections all around us. Our family, our friends, our lovers. Power isn't something that we can all carry alone. The men who gave the Slayer her original power made that mistake centuries upon centuries ago, and last night, Buffy finally realized this.
Buffy's greatest fear is loneliness, and yet that is what she carved for herself. She was alone, untouchable, unattainable. After she gave her heart away to Angel in S2, she withdrew from the rest of the world when her heart was stepped on by the burden of her power and the misfortune of her stars. And ever since then, she's been struggling to open herself up and find some sense of happiness. She's been terrified that the well of love inside of her would remain untapped forever.
But in this episode, it opens up, and that is how she saves the world. How wonderful is it that the last words we hear from Buffy Summers, the girl who's been terrified to give away her bruised heart, are those three magic words: "I love you"? It all goes back to the Slayer prophecy mentioned in "Intervention": "You are full of love ... Love. Give. Forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature." And so she does, and that is when Buffy succeeds.
She's strong. She's fierce. She's open with those she loves, risking the pain and forgiving those who have caused her pain. She connects with every one of her friends and family, as well as those around her who share her destiny. Only when she opens herself up and shares her power and her strength with those around her, and takes strength from those who love her, does she have the ability to save the world and fight the First. The Chosen One makes her own choice, and her choice changes the very fabric of this world.
The last scene we have of our little Buffy Summers is not of a girl, or a child, or a hero. It's a woman, whole and complete, looking back on her past and smiling upon the thoughts of her future. The world has finally opened up for her, and she can see everything so clearly that even through her grief for all that she's lost, she can smile through the tears and make her choice, whatever that choice may be.
The episode is aptly titled "Chosen" for a reason. Not because of all these girls who are "chosen ones". No, it's because the entire Buffy message has been about choices. Do we choose good or evil? Do we choose selfish motivations over altruistic ones? Do we choose fight or flight? Do we choose to hold on tightly or to just let go? Do we choose fear or independence? Do we choose to accept the life that we are given or do we fight for what we believe in? Do we choose to wear the power alone, or do we choose to give it to all we meet and connect with?
We choose. We make our choices, whether they are wrong or right. In this finale, destiny turns into a choice, and we make our own futures, rather than following fate. Throw out the rules that break us, and make new ones that celebrate us. Defy the world. Make the power. Make the choice.
Are you ready to be strong?
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