''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' ends its seven-year run on May 20 (9-10 p.m.; UPN), but, as fans know, Miss Summers doesn't die that easily. Not only will the show live on in syndication (and in our Hellmouth-lovin' hearts), but the DVD of the show's fourth season hits stores June 10. Series creator Joss Whedon talks to EW.com about why he's relishing killing off your favorite players, why the Slayer isn't pro-Bush, and why his next project may be a spin-off of an entirely different stripe.
Rumor has it that some of our favorite characters will be slaughtered in the final episode. Was it difficult to kill them off after seven years?
It's hard to kill someone off when the show is still going on. It was hard with Tara [Amber Benson], because you feel that loss. But when you're wrapping things up, it's only fun. Death has such an extraordinary resonance, and you have an opportunity to make it cool or unexpected enough to really affect viewers.
Offing characters is one thing, but is it difficult walking away from the show?
They're kicking me out of my office, so that part's sad. But the part where I don't have to be on set all the time, not so sad. The fact is, spending seven years trying to make every single episode unique is tiring. And ultimately I think that really would've started to show in season 8. But because we knew we were coming to an end, we really drove hard this season, and I think we came up with one hell of an ending.
At long last, Angel is returning to the show. How does that affect Buffy's ongoing love-hate relationship with Spike?
I wanted to make definite statements about both relationships, but I had to do it in the same episode. It was weird. I had to do a lot of structural juggling to figure out how to make emotional sense of the two most important men in Buffy's life showing up at once. So neither of them can deal with the fact of the other one, and Buffy just tries to get through the goddamn day. My qualms became their qualms, because these characters should feel oddly torn. And I think audiences will have many different reactions to what happens.
With Faith and Angel making appearances, were there any other old favorites you wanted to plug into the final season?
I hated to see Tara go, so much so that I tried to get her back this season but couldn't. And I'm not even talking about flashbacks. But she's doing other stuff and turned down our offer, so we just said, Kennedy, front and center!
It looks like many members of the cast have already signed on for other projects. Are all hopes of a spin-off dashed?
We've discussed many possibilities. We have an extraordinary ensemble, some of whom actually survive. But nothing is happening this fall, because Jossy tired, Jossy sleep. So right now we're concentrating on ''Angel'''s fifth season.
The war in Iraq had some eerie parallels to this season's storyline. Was there any thought of making changes?
That was terrible for us as writers. Because our whole plot was about a preemptive war, we would write these antiwar speeches in every scene, even though we'd always end up cutting them. The thought that any of Buffy's rhetoric might be seen as pro-Bush made our blood collectively run cold. Ultimately, I think the show is pretty clear about the price of war, with Xander losing an eye and two of the potentials getting killed. So, even though it mortified us for a while, we decided we had a story to tell about female power, and we were going to live with it. Besides, current events will be gone long after the DVD lives on.
What's next for you?
Right now, I never want to do another TV show again, but talk to me in three days. I hope to explore some of the universes of this insanely creative family I've worked with, because ultimately it's not all about me. But my biggest goal is to somehow, in some venue, get ''Firefly'' back into production. And I also want to make a musical and a ballet. I don't know how, but that's why I want to do it.
Now that ''Buffy'' is almost over, tell the truth: Do you ever secretly watch your Fox competition, ''American Idol''?
I've never seen it. I don't have time for TV shows, but I also really loathe competition and pressure and backbiting. Everything that reality TV is sort of based on is everything I hate. It's just not my cup of milk.