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'Buffy' gets a killer finale
written by David Bianculli; from nydailynews.com

"Buffy" is dead, again. Long live Buffy.

I won't spoil any surprises about tonight's final episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the influential and endlessly entertaining series that spent five seasons on WB and the last two on UPN. The series is too good, and the fans too fervent, to risk diminishing the impact of the former or incurring the wrath of the latter.

I'll say only that I've seen the future of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - tonight's final episode, at least - and I loved it.

As "Buffy" has built to both a climax and a conclusion this season, it has done so with enough advance warning and conviction for series creator Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon and others on the creative team to provide a true ending.

In this epic battle of good against evil, with Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) marshaling her army against the demonic forces emanating from the Hellmouth, it really is a decisive confrontation.

"I just realized something," Buffy says at an early point in tonight's finale. "Something that never occurred to me before.

"We're going to win."

Viewers don't hear her plan right away, but we do get to witness the reaction of Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), the former Watcher who began this long narrative voyage as Buffy's very British father figure and mentor, but who has witnessed the pupil outgrowing the teacher.

"It flies against everything every generation has done in the fight against evil," Giles says, he's sounding another typically cautionary note. But then, he adds a sentence that is delivered not grudgingly but admiringly:

"I think it's bloody brilliant."

And it is. But you won't hear it from me.

The finale, written and directed by Whedon, hits all the highs, dark spots and grace notes that have made "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" such a guiltless pleasure since its 1997 debut.

There's humor, lots of it, right alongside the gripping action and grim drama. There are romantic relationships to be further defined, risks to be taken, truths to be unearthed.

There's fiery defiance in the face of death - and there is death.

"Buffy" has spent all season having us get to know the young female charges - potential future Slayers - whom Buffy is simultaneously protecting and training. The always plainspoken Anya (Emma Caulfield) calls them "cannon fodder," and in this final battle, that's what everyone is.

Even the major characters are cannon fodder. They're all at serious risk in this last showdown with the forces of darkness.

Whedon does stage one scene in which the four characters who were around when the series began - Buffy, Giles, Nicholas Brendon's Xander and Alyson Hannigan's Willow - meet again in the halls of Sunnydale High School. The reunion is no accident, but it is very satisfying, in a full-circle, complete-the-story sort of way.

So is this last hour itself, one of the most satisfying series finales in years.


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