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Death Becomes Her

by Matt Roush

These days, it's hard even to watch fantasy without an occasional reality check. So when a rickety tower collapses in the climax of tonight's long-anticipated return of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's impossible not to cringe, given the carnage we've recently been living through on TV. But it's also impossible not to care.

Despite its silly title and macabre trappings, Buffy has long been among TV's most emotionally resonant series, using monsters and demons as allegorical devices while a brilliant cast of engaging young characters confronts rites of passage through life and death and the netherworld in between. This witty and wild supernatural drama exceeded its own high standards last season in wrenching episodes when Buffy's mother (Kristine Sutherland) died of natural causes, and when a grieved Buffy (the spirited Sarah Michelle Gellar) perished in the season-finale cliffhanger, sacrificing herself to save her otherworldly sister Dawn (the adorable Michelle Trachtenberg).

It will come as no surprise that there's no way to keep a fabulous slayer down for good, so as the series moves from WB to UPN after bitter financial negotations that resulted in Buffy being split from its first-rate spinoff Angel we initially reconnect with Buffy's battered but unbowed "Scooby gang" as they plot how to raise their bodacious heroine from the dead. Winsome witch Willow (Alyson Hannigan) leads the way, perilously trafficking in dark magic as she seeks to rescue Buffy from limbo.

"You got your somber on, Wil," observes a concerned Xander (Nicholas Brendon). But with Buffy six feet under, everybody's on edge. Except, perhaps, for Xander's intended, the refreshingly kooky Anya (Emma Caulfield), who's bursting to tell everyone of their engagement. "Happy news in hard times is a good thing," she says.

Given the hard times we've all been through lately, that sentiment couldn't be timelier. And the good news we can share without giving anything away no spoilers here, sorry is that in the transfer of networks, Buffy has lost none of its marvelous ability to encompass a variety of stimulating moods, from glib humor to graphic horror, brutal action to tender poignance. (The latter is most profound as the gang bids sad farewell to Anthony Stewart Head's beloved Giles, as the actor returns to England, where he'll reprise the role in a new series for British TV.)

As the thrilling two-hour episode ends, an understandably disoriented slayer wonders, "Is this Hell?"

For Buffy fans, it's heaven.

The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

You know what? 'Nuff said. Forget it. It must've been my multiple-personality guy talking. I call him Idiot Jed, glutton for punishment.
-Xander (Surprise)

Where to Watch:
  Amazon Instant Video


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Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Chosen Collection (Seasons 1-7) BtVS - The Chosen Collection (Seasons 1-7)

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