How the Scooby gang can help the Chosen One
As the second-to-last episode rushes toward a final conclusion, it's hard to ignore the fact that ''Buffy'' is about to end. Recent transgressions (like the Scooby gang mutiny and the ad hoc election of Faith as the new leader) and insecurities (like Buffy's regrets about the fallen potentials that she failed to save) have been forgotten. Not only does Buffy have her weapon, but she's been told that she could actually beat The First. And even her friends in the Sunnydale backup crew seem ready to shine. So let's take a moment to remember why we love them and acknowledge their potential for the final showdown.
Willow -- who was there from the very beginning, long before her transformation into a powerful witch -- recognizes that she can be most helpful to Buffy by sticking to basics. For the better part of seven years she has tirelessly researched each foe, stumbling across vital information at hopeless moments with a ''method'' that involves more instinct than reasoning. Already her seemingly random free associations about the scythe-like weapon have helped lead Buffy to the Guardian who told her about its origin and gave some clues about Slayer history.
Xander's sense of humor may have become more sophisticated, but one thing hasn't changed -- the class clown is still trying to ease everyone's pain and sorrow with his witty comebacks. He jokes to cover up the fact that he doesn't want to kidnap Dawn and run away. And, to dispell our sadness about the end of ''Buffy,'' he kids that if she dies he'll bring her back to life again.
Spike was a hamstrung monster when he did things with Buffy that he ''can't spell.'' (He also did things TO her that may have seemed unforgivable.) But ever since he went through demonic trials to regain his soul, he's become a better man -- for her. As a part of his ongoing quest for redemption and self-improvement, he tries not to ask for anything in return. Now he admits that, even though his night with Buffy in the previous episode was the happiest of his life, he's terrified by their closeness, and their uncertain future.
Anya's bedside manner may not be comforting to the injured potentials, but her overly literal take on things adds a fresh perspective. Her impassioned rant against ''lame humans'' who don't know when to give up is a touching pledge of allegiance to their cause -- especially because she makes this speech while stealing medical supplies for some girls she thinks are doomed anyway.
Andrew's childish approach to super-villainy gave way to a childish approach to being a hero, but he's equally amusing in both roles. Though he's a little too susceptible to suggestion to be a major player, he throws himself into every situation with passion. Sometimes that passion may be misguided (like when he tried to play good cop/bad cop with Spike a few episodes back) but he gets it right when he drunkenly declares that he and Anya must find medical supplies. And he's always breaking the tension with antics like their wheelchair fight.
For the most part, Dawn has faded into the background this season -- which may please some viewers who are happy to see her less often. That being said, she sometimes did well (remember ''Conversations With Dead People'' or ''Him''?), and she has a lot of unexplored potential. This week we can thank her for making sure that Xander is there at Buffy's side in the end.
Giles is difficult to appreciate at the moment. Sure, he's been like a father to Buffy, but his behavior has been sketchy all season, leading to suspicions that he's a manifestation of the First. That turned out to be untrue, which still leaves questions about the real cause of his recent decisions (conspiring to kill Spike? losing confidence in his charge? trying to get Willow to use magic on the mystical scythe?). The Guardian's revelation that Watchers descended from the Shadow Men may point to a darker explanation than anyone expected.
Angel may be Buffy's first love, but he isn't a welcome presence in Sunnydale yet. Though he stepped into Buffy's fight with Caleb at a key moment, he then caused trouble by kissing Buffy in front of Spike. In fact, his reappearance brings up unresolved feelings in Buffy that may be responsible for her failure to decapitate Caleb and make sure that he won't cause any more trouble. To redeem himself, Angel better have something REALLY good in that vial he brought from L.A.
Despite the changes that all of these characters went through during seven seasons of "Buffy," all of them seem solidly positioned for the conclusion. With friends like these, Buffy's likely to triumph -- even if she has to make a few sacrifices in the process.
Which character do you think will be the most help to Buffy in the end?