“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 7 (2002-03, UPN), episodes 1-5 — “Buffy” (7 p.m. Tuesdays, UPN) is regaining some of its poignancy as Spike (James Marsters) has gone insane trying to cope with the return of his soul. Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) continuing inner struggles add heft while Buffy’s new job as high school guidance counselor provides the laughs.
— John Hansen, “The Golden Age of TV is over (but at least we have ‘Firefly’),” NDSU Spectrum, Oct. 25, 2002
ndsu spectrum: tv commentary
‘Buffy’ fans gotta have Faith
By JOHN HANSEN
Sept. 20, 2002
Going into Season Seven, there is evidence that Buffy may be going on her final patrol. Recent reports suggest that the writers are digging up the past — the new season is said to feature the return of several old villains, and Dawn is beginning her career at Sunnydale High as Buffy did way back when. With both UPN’s and star Sarah Michelle Gellar’s contracts expiring after this year, some suspect that the end of Joss Whedon’s beloved vampire drama is near.
There is also evidence to the contrary. Most of the cast is inked for an eighth season. And then there’s the possibility of spinoffs. Spike, Giles and Dawn all come to mind as lead characters.
But really, “Buffy” fans just gotta have Faith. Faith the Vampire Slayer, that is.
Since her introduction in Season Three as a brash young slayer who wrestled alligators naked, called Buffy by her first initial, practically raped Xander, killed a couple of humans, joined up with the Mayor and ended up skewered on her own knife by Buffy, Eliza Dushku’s character has been the show’s most giddily entertaining figure.
When she returned for four episodes of “Buffy” and “Angel” one year later, both shows got an instant adrenaline boost as Faith turned the corner from evil back to good. Gellar’s masterful performance as Faith-in-Buffy’s-body in “Who Are You?” was equaled by Dushku’s breakdown in “Five by Five,” when Angel realized her killing spree stemmed from self-loathing.
Then Faith turned herself into the police, and Dushku went on to pursue bland roles in films like “Bring It On,” “Soul Survivors” and “The New Guy.” (She currently can be seen in the brilliant “City by the Sea,” but one out of four isn’t very impressive.)
But you can’t keep a good character down. “Buffy” comics and novels have sprung her from jail three times. Now she’s finally slated to return on “Buffy” and “Angel,” most likely during February and May sweeps.
But will this mark just another guest appearance? If Gellar leaves the show — which would be a shame, as she is the best TV actress of the past decade — Dushku could be the savior. It would be fascinating to explore the group dynamic between the reformed Faith and the Scoobies, most of whom hate her. (Although Willow, who killed a human last season and didn’t turn herself into jail, couldn’t claim the moral high ground this time.) Dushku could take over for Gellar in Season Eight and lead the show into interesting new territory, much as Robert Patrick did for David Duchovny on “The X-Files.”
Even aside from the buzz caused by the Faith announcement, Whedon’s shows have a lot going for them this season. On “Buffy,” Willow recovers from her magic addiction by visiting Giles in England, where we might finally get some clues about the Watcher’s shadowy past. On the increasingly dark “Angel,” Wesley continues to brood (cool) and Angel, trapped at the bottom of the ocean all summer, shifts to Angelus mode (even cooler).
And then there’s “Firefly.” Although Whedon’s fans haven’t gotten too worked up over this non-“Buffy” project, you can bet that “Firefly” will immediately surpass “Farscape” and “Enterprise” as TV’s best space drama. The Star Warsian philosophy of a gritty future where spaceships are held together with chewing gum will be a refreshing change, and the cast is appealing. And any show featuring “Higher Ground’s” Jewel Staite gets a thumbs-up from me.
In all likelihood, “Firefly” go the usual one-and-done route of Fox’s Friday shows. Name recognition won’t get Whedon a second year on a night when no one watches TV, as Chris Carter (“The Lone Gunmen”) and James Cameron (“Dark Angel”) discovered.
But that’s fine. Once “Firefly” ends, Whedon can get back to more important matters. Like getting Faith her own show.