Rachel Lovinger
May 21, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Slayer line ends (sob!)

As anyone knows after seeing the opening credits, oh, about 144 times, there’s a main premise behind the ”Buffy” series:  ”In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” Though those words were spoken for the first time many years ago, they held true right up to the final episode. So what better way to buck storytelling convention one last time, and give closure to the series, than to break down the notion that began it all — the singularity of the Slayer lineage.

In the end, it’s the season’s Big Bad — The First Evil (or as Buffy likes to call it, ”The Taunter”) — that helps Buffy realize how to win the fight:  She finally starts questioning why she has to die for the potentials to get their power. Earlier in the season, she watches as the ancient ”Shadow Men” use magic to create the first Slayer by chaining up a girl and allowing demonic forces to enter her. Disgusted by this cowardly violation, she rejects their ”offer” to help her acquire the power she needs to fight the First. But in this week’s episode she realizes that maybe theirs isn’t the only way.

In fact, the Scoobies have their own untapped mystical resources. With the scythe forged by prehistoric forces that fell into Buffy’s hands a few episodes ago, she realizes that she has the catalyst Willow can use to overturn the ”one generation, one Slayer” rule and cast a spell that will activate Potentials everywhere, all at once. (That includes the army of little girls the gang has been protecting and training for the past few months.)

And why not? Why should the power and responsibility of the Slayer be unique and isolating? Why shouldn’t every girl have the opportunity to be the savior of humanity or the master of her own destiny? Why should the chosen ones have to feel so desperately alone? In the end, Joss Whedon sacrifices his own dramatic creation to tell the ultimate story of female empowerment and to set his characters free. His final message (to the viewers and the characters) seems to be, ”The metaphor is finished. Now take what I’ve given you and run with it.”

Presumably, now that Slayers are plentiful, Buffy and her friends can live a somewhat normal life. First there should be a moment of silence for fallen comrade, Anya (who was so convinced that everyone else was doomed to be fodder). But mostly there’s good news:  Giles and Xander are free to meet up with Andrew for all night Dungeons and Dragons marathons. Willow can finish college and continue to explore the joys of a tongue-pierced girlfriend. Wood can show jaded Faith that she hasn’t figured out all there is to know about men. Dawn can resume being a teenager. Buffy can go back to a more normal pace of growing up. And, more importantly, she can go shopping. Yes, life may be comparatively mundane, but haven’t they earned it?

Just in case you aren’t ready to completely give over to a vampireless reality, don’t forget our two favorite bloodsuckers, who aren’t likely to resume ”normal” life anytime soon. Angel returns to L.A. to continue the fight on that front, and to wait for Buffy’s cookies to bake. He’s going to have to wait a long time, but as the man said, he ”ain’t getting any older.” It’ll be interesting to see how the events in the crater formerly known as Sunnydale will affect what happens next season on ”Angel.”

Then there’s Spike, whose heroics with the soul-igniting amulet destroy The First, the army of uber-vampires, and the Hellmouth.  Though he’s consumed by that blaze of power, people who sacrifice themselves in mystical ways in the service of good tend to resurface when they’re needed. (Yup, James Marsters has signed on to join the cast of ”Angel” in the fall.) The question, as always, is how will he have changed when he’s resurrected? And will the fact that Buffy is no longer in the picture eliminate the ”jealous vampire crap?” As William himself might say, ”Not bloody likely.”

So, believe it or not, that’s it for ”Buffy.” What did you think of the series finale?

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