“End of Days”
Written by Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie
Directed by Marita Grabiak
The bomb explodes before Faith and the other girls can get more than a few meters away. In the vineyard, Buffy slowly approaches the sweet axe, awestruck. Yeah, maybe walk faster? I know it’s awesome, but you’re only a couple seconds ahead of Caleb. In comes Caleb, still cocky even though Buffy found the magical Slayer weapon, because hey, it’s still stuck in stone, right? Pfft, has he never heard even a single version of the Arthurian legend? She’s the Chosen One. The stone has merely been protecting her weapon from anyone else laying hands on it. She picks it up like it’s nothing, of course, and Caleb is at a loss for words.
After the credits, Caleb tries to convince Buffy to hand it over because she has no idea what she’s dealing with. It’s a hilariously weaksauce act. The First appears, as Buffy, and tells Caleb to back off so Buffy can leave. He is extremely reluctant to let her go with the sweet weapon, but the First casually mentions the bomb, so Buffy’s priorities are no longer on fighting Caleb. She leaves. (Would it have been so hard to just swing that thing at his head at least once on the way out?)
Amanda is the first one who gets up from the burning rubble. Slowly, others join her, including a Hispanic girl and Vi, who might have a broken arm. Kennedy’s okay (yay), and she wants them to find Faith. They pull her out of water, then flee, because something is down there with them and it sounds like it might be an übervamp. They make it to some kind of barricade, then hastily climb over it and hoist Faith across. Vi is the last one over, and sure enough, it’s an übervamp chasing them. Kennedy gets them all to form ranks and focus, but there’s another one at the other side of the tunnel.
Back at the house, everyone there is taking stock of their food supplies, which include some of Giles’s favorite cookies. Biscuits, I should say. Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Anya get there, having failed to find Buffy before she left that house. Giles tells them about Faith and the others not coming back. The Scoobies head out to help them.
The second übervamp grabs Kennedy from behind, and then a third appears. Crap crap crap. They grab one girl and dogpile her. What a horrific way to die. Kennedy tries to attack one with a pike, but it swats it aside and grabs her by the throat. Before it can finish her off, Buffy comes to the rescue with her spiffy axe. She kills two of the übervamps in about a second with it, then beheads the third in only a few more seconds. Also, it makes a really cool ringing noise when she swings it.
They all go back to the house, where nobody objects to Buffy being back because of all the chaos of injured girls. Everyone’s really worried about Faith because she was closest to the blast. The girls are afraid the bomb might’ve been karma for them picking Faith over Buffy, but Buffy tells them that’s ridiculous. (Yeah, no kidding. It’s only been a couple of days since Buffy led them into a trap, and she did it knowingly because she thought they’d win. Karma does not work that way.)
Buffy takes the first aid kit up to her room, where they’ve laid Faith on the bed. She, Giles, and Willow discuss the axe. I’m not sure why Buffy calls it a scythe, because that is very much not how scythes are shaped. It’s much more like a short-handled lochaber axe. Buffy says it feels like it’s hers, and it feels powerful. Giles is flabbergasted that this awesome Slayer weapon existed without his knowledge. They wonder if it might be valuable in ways other than as a weapon. They start the research immediately.
Andrew’s using shredded bedsheets to bandage the girls’ wounds. Anya seems to have become fully cynical, and she’s particularly bad at being sensitive about their life expectancies around wounded girl. Andrew points out that the hospital is probably abandoned yet still full of supplies, which could be very useful for them. He invites her to join him on this hospital heist.
Down in the kitchen, Buffy has asked Xander to do something that he is really not happy about. He thinks she’s trying to get him out of the fight because he’s useless. He wants to fight side-by-side with her. She tells him that he’s her strength and she trusts him with her life, which is why she wants him to do this thing.
Willow has discovered that the vineyard used to be a monastery. The monks there told stories about a pagan temple that used to be there even earlier. That seems to be a dead end in research, so they switch to researching famous axes. Giles wants her to try using magic to learn about the axe, but she’s still worried about becoming Dark Willow, especially if she tries magic on an object of unknown power and origin. She does find an entry about a weapon called Mʔ. This piques Giles’s interest. He says the sound is connected to an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph that looks like the axe.
Dawn and Xander are looking for a missing crossbow in his car. Apparently Dawn once accidentally shot Miss Kitty Fantastico with a crossbow. Holy crap, morbid throwaway joke. They discuss one-eyed jokes, and then Xander chloroforms Dawn into the passenger seat before getting in and driving away.
Caleb hurls an entire wine cask against the wall of the cellar, furious that the First had him let Buffy go. The First tells him he’s weak; they need to merge again. Ew. The First/Buffy, using sex metaphors, gives him a hard time for talking like it’s a chore, but he actually considers it very sacred. The First is looking forward to being able to merge with any human in the world once its army sweeps the earth. Yikes. It morphs back into its true monster form, then goes inside Caleb. He falls to his knees, and when he looks up again, his eyes are black and his voice way deeper.
Faith is awake, and Buffy’s showing her the Scythe. She can feel the power and the rightness of it too, but she figures that means it’s Buffy’s, not hers. Faith feels pretty crappy about what happened in the Harbingers’ arsenal, but Buffy reminds her that people die in war, so it’s not her fault. This is easily the nicest Buffy has been to her since S3. Faith tells her about how crazy it was leading the group. She gives Buffy props for always being the leader, because it’s super lonely and stressful. Faith wonders if the reason they’ve always had issues is that there’s only supposed to be one Slayer at a time, so they aren’t built for sharing. They sympathize for a moment over their burden.
Buffy heads back downstairs with the Scythe just as Spike gets there. He’s glad she succeeded in finding it, but he’s a bit bummed she ditched him. He says it didn’t have to mean anything, and she seems keen to move on. The Plot A goal is still to learn more about the Scythe. They part somewhat stiffly, but then Buffy goes after him. She reminds him that his encouragement and recon is what made it possible for her to get the Scythe. He admits that spending the night holding her was the best night of his life, and she better not make fun of him for it. He’s freaking out because he never felt closer to anyone, but he knows it isn’t the start of the relationship he wishes they could have. It meant a lot to her too, but not as much, as evidenced by her unwillingness to read into it or talk more about it. He leaves, less stiffly this time.
Anya and Andrew get to the hospital and Anya makes a Jaws reference that makes Andrew love her a little bit. They grab supplies and get real for a moment about the upcoming battle. She tells him about running away for the S3 apocalypse. Since then, she’s learned that humans are super screwed up, never expecting their inevitable deaths and doing horrible things to each other, and yet fighting for what matters and never giving up. So she’s going to stay and fight too. Andrew teases her about liking humans. He thinks he’s going to die in the battle, but Anya has a much better shot. Then they have a wheelchair fight.
Buffy is walking through a cemetery with the Scythe. She finds an ivy-covered gate, behind which is an unusual plot with a small pyramid in it. Oookay. She goes inside, where there are torches on the walls. There’s a white-haired lady in there, wearing robes. She tells Buffy she’s been waiting a long time, the last of the Guardians of the Slayer line. She holds out her hands, and Buffy puts the Scythe into them. She put it in the rock Buffy pulled it from. She and the other Guardians forged it secretly for Slayers to use, without telling the Shadow Men or the Watchers who followed them. The first Slayer used the Scythe to kill the last pure demon walking the earth. Buffy is still baffled that they never knew about any of this. She asks if all of this means she could actually win. The Guardian says that’s up to her. She still has to be very smart about how she uses all the resources she has. The end is coming, but what’s unclear is what, specifically, is ending. Then Caleb pops out and unceremoniously snaps the Guardian’s neck.
Dawn wakes up in the car. Xander checks to make sure she’s fine, post-chloroform. Dawn is not happy, and she gets less happy the more her brain unfogs. Xander hands her a letter from Buffy. She opens it and starts reading, but tases Xander halfway through. Very fortunately, they don’t crash and die. Dawn somehow gets into the driver seat and turns around. Okay, how the crap did Dawn move Xander out of the driver seat without getting out of the car? And even if she’d yanked him out from the outside or pushed him out with her feet, how would she have heaved him back inside? This doesn’t make sense. In any case, she’s not putting up with Buffy’s plan to get her out of town to keep her safe.
Buffy and Caleb fight. He’s very powerful now, punching holes in pillars and dodging her strongest blows. He kicks Buffy into the wall, making her drop the Scythe. He keeps beating her up. She can’t even stay on her feet for more than a few seconds at a time. He starts yammering about how she brought this on herself by ignoring his warnings. He picks up the Scythe to finish her off, but then Angel shows up out of nowhere and punches him in the face. He helps Buffy up, and she is radiantly happy to see him, particularly right now. Caleb gets up, and Angel stands back to enjoy the show of her beating him. She gets the Scythe again, and they resume the fight. He grabs it and tries to stab her, but it goes straight into the wall instead. Dang, what kind of wood is the stake on the end of that thing made of? She pulls it out because there’s probably nothing you could stick it in that a Slayer couldn’t pull it right back out of.
Buffy finally gets a swing in under Caleb’s guard, and sinks the blade of the Scythe deep into his stomach. He laughs, but then falls over. Angel walks over to her, and she drops the Scythe to snog him for a bit. Yesssss. Around the corner in that pyramid, Spike is watching while the First/Buffy casts aspersions on the real Buffy’s character. (But here, have a gif of Buffy and Angel snogging.)
“End of Days” ranks pretty high in S7 for me, and that’s partly because I’m emotionally incapable of not liking an episode in which Angel guest stars and there’s Buffy/Angel snogging. Particularly when said snogging undercuts all the annoying Buffy/Spike stuff in the last few episodes AND the annoying Angel/Cordy stuff in the last season and a half in one fell swoop. Also, I freaking love the Scythe. Did I say that last time? I don’t care. It’s so awesome. There is one downside to that, though. I know the Guardian said that she and her buddies kept all this stuff secret on purpose, but when you introduce something like this at the very end of your seven-season show, it feels tacked-on. I would like the Scythe and the Guardians infinitely better if there had at least been foreshadowing on them earlier on. Preferably in an earlier season. It’s really cool lore stuff, and it would’ve been cool to know it in S5, when Buffy was in her hardcore Slayer training phase. (And yes, I do know that the Scythe was in the Fray comics published a few months before these episodes aired, but I'm guessing only a fraction of the show's audience was reading those comics, so it doesn't quite count as foreshadowing in my book, even though it is pretty nifty that the two stories have a sweet prop in common). I also like that Buffy’s back in the group, pretty much no questions asked, but the ease with which she resumed her place only seems to reinforce the idea that the schism between her and the others was a plot-driven development, not a character-driven one. Had it been character-driven, things could not have reverted so easily to the status quo.
I get the impression from Buffy’s interactions with Spike (and her complete lack of hesitation in kissing Angel) that she knows perfectly well that he has much stronger feelings than he does, and her own feelings are just there enough for her to feel guilty about it. It’s an extremely uncomfortable place to be in, and Spike never tries to make it easier because he’s always very vocal about his own feelings. I love Buffy’s scene with Xander. They really haven’t had many one-on-one scenes lately, have they? This is the way it should be, unlike in “Empty Places” when she wouldn’t even sit with him in the hospital. Her scene with Faith is the kind of scene I’ve been waiting for since they first fell out in S3, and it only took Faith nearly getting blown to bits to knock the hostility out of Buffy. Hooray! I think Faith has finally won back Buffy’s respect and trust, and the bit where they talked about the difficulties of being a leader was very powerful.
I’m kind of surprised Xander wouldn’t ask Anya if she wanted out of the fight. I mean, I do like Anya’s scene with Andrew where she explains why she will stay and fight this time, but Xander knows he’s taking himself and Dawn out of the equation because they’re the two most powerless Scoobies (excluding Andrew). Anya is in that very same boat; the only difference is that Xander cares about her far more than Buffy does. So why not make that offer? Given what’s coming in the finale, I feel like it could’ve been even more bittersweet if she’d been offered a chance to run and then turned it down.
It just occurred to me that Anya really hasn’t had much of a story ever since she quit being a vengeance demon. I mean, yeah, there’s been the uncertain relationship status of her and Xander, but what happened to her trying to figure out who she is without latching onto something? This is the first episode since “Storyteller” that she’s had substantial scenes. I do find her odd camaraderie with Andrew interesting. They’re probably the two weirdest people in the group, personality-wise, and they’re both fairly peripheral, since they’re neither Buffy’s friends nor family nor love interests. It’s nice that they have this chance to bond.
Dawn is kind of awesome, with the tasing and the taking no crap from Buffy. Honestly I think Buffy would’ve had a better chance of actually getting Dawn out of town if she had just discussed it with her, because a reasonable discussion in which the teenager is treated like an intelligent person tends to go over much better than surprise chloroforming and kidnapping.
If Spike really wants Buffy to reciprocate his feelings, he needs to back off on the love talk and just be someone she can love until it either works or becomes clear that it never will. He’s supposed to be good at reading people, but he never seems able to tell when Buffy wants to hit the brakes. Or, if he can tell, then he doesn’t have the patience to go her speed.
It kind of seems like Willow is blind to the progress she’s made all season. She’s had a very high success rate for the spells she’s done, particularly the ones she did in L.A., and yet she’s still afraid.
Giles and Buffy sort of had a gesture towards reconciliation in this one. It kind of seemed like just the right amount of reconciliation for Giles. One oblique comment from Buffy about how maybe she was as bad at communicating as he was, and they’re back on friendly terms. Good. They need to stay that way, because I don’t like being angry at both of them for wrecking such an awesome surrogate father/daughter relationship.
“Giles knows his single-malt antiseptics.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.