Say so long to the slayers
Last week's announcement that Sarah Michelle Gellar will leave ''Buffy'' (and the show won't continue without her) shouldn't have been a great surprise. After all, there were murmurs and rumors all season. The cast and creators were maddeningly vague in statements about the future. And then there's the story line: The Watchers Council destroyed. The potential slayers picked off one by one. A looming showdown with The Source of All Evil. The season had its bright spots and moments to laugh at, but let's face it, there was more hope for the Slayer's future when she was dead.
This week's rerun of ''Selfless'' is a reminder of the powerful recipe of hilarious dialogue, cringe-inducing monsters, and gut-wrenching human drama that first turned a valley-girl joke of a movie into a critically acclaimed TV series. With an eye-poppingly entertaining back story and all the pathos that can be wrung from the collision of love, betrayal, and responsibility, it's a near-perfect episode. Consider the scene where, having learned of Anya's vengeance-fueled mass murder, Buffy, Xander and Willow debate what to do next. These three are the only active members of the gang who have been there from the very beginning. Their deep bond and shared trials can all be read in this one conversation. Even so, there's an unshakable sense of alienation between them -- instead of a celebration of their past -- which makes the scene feel like one of the early steps toward wrapping up the Slayer saga.
Some might argue that it's better for the show to go out while it can still generate strong episodes like this one -- better to wrap it up before everyone gets tired, all the stories have been told, and all the characters overstay their welcome. After all, it's not easy for the heroes to keep slaying demons with adolescent overconfidence when they're settling in to the uncertainty and responsibility of young adulthood. Maybe that's why ''Buffy'' became darker in the later seasons. Even high notes are less frequent and not quite as high as they once were, and the low notes are a lot deeper.
But somehow, no amount of preparation makes the end less of a shock. There was always some hope that, like Buffy herself, the show's creators would pull some trick at the last minute and overcome all obstacles to continue creating this unlikely underdog series. And it's a disappointment that they finally decided to let it go.
When Gellar spoke to Entertainment Weekly recently, in her first exit interview, she sounded as surprised as anyone. This isn't your usual ''I think I can do better'' quitting situation. Fiercely defending the show against any detractors, she admits that the reality of no more ''Buffy'' hasn't sunk in, and when it does she'll have trouble holding back the tears. She not only starred in ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'' but, in many ways, she helped make it what it is. Clearly she's proud of that. Maybe she hoped, as many of us did, that the story could somehow exist beyond her. Well, the ''Buffy''-verse is rich enough to have sired one spin-off already. Sometime in the coming months we'll find out if that magic can be repeated.
What are your thoughts about the end of ''Buffy''?