“Everyone knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts; we all die. And I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.” – Buffy
So here we are at the end of another season and its one which had originally been designed to end the series only to instead end up serving as a finale for the show’s time on the WB Network before it moved over to the rival UPN for the final two seasons. Still as the finale’s go this is a great one especially as having wasted the previous episode either running around on pointless research missions are hanging around in Buffy’s sub-concious finally we get back on track here with Buffy and the Scoobies preparing for war against Glory before she can sacrifice Dawn and bring about the apocalypse.
When this episode was first aired it was genuinely seen as the end of the series with the rumoured plan being that it would originally be a two hour special called “Centenary” which would not only have brought back every major character from the previous seasons but also bring across the entire “Angel” cast though sadly no details are available to say how this would have played out leaving it a teasing prospect of what could have been. Still the ending we do get is far from disappointing and considering the situation Buffy and the Scoobies are in its also surprisingly upbeat.
Opening with a rapid shot recap of the previous seasons before randomly opening to Buffy saving a teenage boy in alley from a vampire in the a scene which has nothing to do with the rest of the episode while more confusing still is how it actually fits into the story especially when it comes off like a throwaway scene they shot just for the opening. That being said its got some good Buffy banter and action so hard to really fault it too much.
The first half of the episode sees Buffy gearing up for War which re-introduces a few new toys from the season such as the “Buffy-Bot” and the Troll Hammer which of course Buffy can weld with ease with both these items coming in very handy in the final battle with Glory and her followers and it was nice to see the writers finding a way to pull from the events of the season. At the same time Willow is built up as being this major weapon in the fight only to restore Tara’s mind and knock over Glory’s minions with her powers and that’s pretty much it.
Willow’s magical abilities continue to be a nagging issue to the series as we are constantly lead to believe that she is only growing in power and yet here like we’ve seen previously the pay off is never what your expectation builds it up to be, which of course is only the more evident when you re watch the series. Here her main magical contribution to the fight really only serves herself by restoring her girlfriends mental functions and arguably weakening Glory’s mental state but how much of it was down to her or the Dagon sphere designed to repel Glory that Buffy arms herself with. As such I just wanted more from her as don’t sell her abilities as being the so called “Big Gun” when he involvement ultimately brings little to the fight. Ironically the one person who really makes a difference to the fight is Xander when he hits Glory with a wrecking ball!!
The other big surprise in this fight comes from Giles who gets the standout moment of the episode as being the one who kills Glory by smothering her human host Ben after Buffy beats her into submission. Now we have had glimpses of Giles dark side in previous episodes, but how cold he dispatches of Ben really made me think that Giles might be setup as the big villain for the next season which sadly was not to be the case. Still its fitting that Giles would kill Ben, knowing that Buffy could never kill a mortal and not wanting Glory to come back seeking revenge takes the extreme step for her.
Glory is fantastic right to the end and she has really been one of the best Big evils of the series even if her confrontations with Buffy were limited she still managed to remain a threatening presence throughout and even her interactions with her devoted minions were great, so seeing her going out fighting really gave her the send off she deserved while making it only the more sad she was never to return after this episode bar an appearance as a taunting vision to Spike.
What this episode will be best remembered for though is Buffy’s death as she throws herself into the portal opened, her shared blood with Dawn meaning that the portal can be closed and the apocalypse averted once more. Of course even before the episode aired a number of sources spoiled the ending with British tabloid “The Sun” even showing the shot of Buffy’s grave at the end of the episode. Of course back then we really did think that this was the end of the show and it that extent it was a fitting and suitably heroic end for the character, even if the original script did have Dawn making the leap and the show ending on a horrified Buffy’s face as he sister vanished with the portal.
Ultimately I feel it was the right decision to kill Buffy though the choice to bring her back we would of course question over the next two seasons but for now this was a great close to the season.