22 years ago, Joss Whedon scripted a forgivably awful, though undeniably charming horror film called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which dared to challenge the active-male/passive-female dichotomy typically embedded within the genre he was tackling. Unfortunately, its subversive take on the common monster hunter/damsel in distress tropes may have been too cutting-edge for the industry executives funding the project, and Whedon’s original vision was regrettably scratched. What was supposed to be an earnest representation of female empowerment, turned into a complete and utter comedic mess. But in all fairness, when the fictionalized balance between Good and Evil rests on the shoulders of a demon-slaying high school cheerleader, it’s not particularly hard to understand why.
While the film barely garnered even a fraction of the success the television spin-off received, it was still the catalyst that sparked a pop culture phenomenon so pervasive, it became a legitimate field of serious academic study, and spawned an industry of novels, video games, clothing, magazines, statues, and comic books, etc. The TV show ended in 2003 after an impressive 7 season run, but the story continues to thrive at Dark Horse Comics, with Season 8 having debuted in 2007, followed by Season 9 in 2011. And in honour of last month’s explosive release of “Buffy Season 10” (review here), and “Angel & Faith Season 10” hitting stands today (April 2, 2014), our friends at Dark Horse have challenged us to recap the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Here we go, abridged for your reading pleasure…
Season One picks up in Sunnydale, California, where Buffy Summers and her mother, Joyce have just moved, following the events that transpired in the film. Or more accurately, the events that transpired in Whedon’s original script. Having been expelled from her previous school for burning down the vampire-infested gym, she enrolls at Sunnydale High and actively tries to shirk her slayer duties, much to her new Watcher, Rupert Giles’, chagrin. Unfortunately, her school sits atop a Hellmouth, which is essentially a beacon for supernatural trouble and evil. So, as they say: resistance is futile. Giles, who is posing as the school librarian, is there to train and guide her. Joining the good fight are her new friends, Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg, who bravely help Buffy take on the never-ending slew of vampires and demons, despite their lack of slayer abilities. Together, this merry band of misfits must stop the Hellmouth from being opened by an ancient vampire called The Master, whilst dealing with the usual teenage angst, and a bourgeoning romance with a brooding, souled vampire named Angel.
Unlike Season One’s condensed narrative of mostly “Monster of the Week” standalone story arcs, and the subtly innocent tone of the series, Season Two takes a darker turn, and includes one of the most emotionally intense, overarching storylines that slow-burned its way through 22 episodes. Buffy returns to Sunnydale after spending the Summer with her father in L.A. and tries to cope with the life-altering events that happened during her stand-off with The Master. Vampire lovers, Spike and Drusilla, are brought into the series to wreak havoc on the Hellmouth and shed some light on Angel’s soulless past. New slayer, Kendra Young, who was activated after Buffy fulfilled the prophecy regarding her and The Master in the Season One finale, makes her way into town. Willow begins studying witchcraft and starts dating a teenaged werewolf named, Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, while Xander and Cordelia Chase begin a relationship of their own. Things start to heat up between Buffy and Angel, until their romance hits critical peak and Angel loses his Gypsy cursed soul as a result, becoming the series’ new villain, Angelus. Much of the latter half of Season Two deals with the fall out of the curse, as the “Scooby Gang” tries to prevent another apocalypse, and go head-to-head with a sadistic Angelus in the process. By the end of the season, after multiple notable deaths and close calls, Willow manages to restore Angel’s soul, but in order to save the world, Buffy is forced to send him to Hell. Unable to cope, she skips town without telling anyone.
Season Three finds Buffy living in L.A. and going by her middle name, Anne, while the Scoobies are back in Sunnydale holding down the fort, and wondering where she is. When she returns, relationships are strained, but eventually mended as new characters and supernatural problems begin to pop up. Troubled vampire Slayer, Faith, is introduced, having been called after Kendra’s unfortunate run-in with Drusilla last season. Giles is fired by the Watchers’ Council for his unorthodox fatherly feelings for Buffy, and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is sent to take over his duties as Buffy and Faith’s new Watcher, though no one takes him seriously. Angel returns from Hell, mentally unstable and feral due to the centuries of torture he experienced there, but Buffy helps him overcome his torment. Accidental circumstances lead to Faith going rogue and joining forces with the season’s Big Bad, Mayor Richard Wilkins, who plans to ascend into pure demon form and destroy Sunnydale on graduation day. There is an epic showdown between Buffy and Faith that lands the latter in a coma, and another between the Mayor and the entire graduating class of Sunnydale High that ends in apocalypse-thwarting glory. After realizing they have no proper future together, Angel leaves Sunnydale for Los Angeles (to star in his own spin-off series).
Season Four follows Buffy and Willow as they adjust to college life at UC Sunnydale, while Xander opts to work after graduation, and starts dating Anya Jenkins, the former vengeance demon introduced in Season Three’s “The Wish”. Spike finds himself back on the Hellmouth, but is abruptly captured by a secret government agency known as The Initiative, stationed under UC Sunnydale’s campus. While imprisoned, a microchip was implanted in his head that physically harms him whenever he attempts to attack human beings. Unable to satiate his violent tendencies like a normal vampire, and only capable of injuring other demons, he reluctantly begins to fight alongside the Scooby Gang. Willow falls in love with a witch named Tara Maclay after Oz breaks up with her and leaves town. Buffy begins dating the most boring character in the Buffyverse, Riley Finn, and unknowingly gets tangled up with The Initiative due to his involvement with the military faction. Faith wakes up from her coma. Apparently having never learned from Dr. Frankenstein’s mistakes, The Initiative builds a monster made out of human, demon, and machine parts, and call him Adam. Expectedly, he causes many problems for Sunnydale and the gang, with Spike’s help, but is destroyed alongside The Initiative by season’s end. Interestingly enough, Adam was defeated before the season finale, which instead focused on the personal relationships and growth of the original four characters, and was used as a platform to tease and foreshadow upcoming storylines.
Season Five successfully confounded, intrigued, and shattered the fandom due to its overarching storyline involving Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn. Introduced in the season premiere, the new character went about her life in the ‘verse as if she had been present the entire time. The latest Big Bad is a Hell God named Glory, who has set up shop in Sunnydale in hopes of finding a “Key” to take her back home. Unfortunately, once activated, it would serve as an open door between dimensions, and release hordes of demons into the world. Those charged with hiding the Key gave it human form and sent it to the Slayer to protect. Buffy and Giles start working with the Watchers’ Council again after having cut ties in Season Three, but under Buffy’s conditions and demands. Riley had already left Sunnydale at this point, as his relationship ended with Buffy. Spike continues to aid the gang due to his newly realized love for Buffy. Beloved characters get killed off. Glory discovers the identity of the Key and Buffy pays the ultimate price to protect it and the world.
Season Six is probably the darkest one to date. Sunnydale is overrun with demons and the gang sans Buffy is struggling to cope. Believing the Slayer is suffering unimaginable torment in Hell, they go to great lengths to resurrect her, but they were wrong. Depressed and vulnerable after being pulled out of Heaven, she begins an unhealthy and violent relationship with Spike that ends with him leaving Sunnydale after trying to force himself on her. Willow’s reliance on magic gets out of control, and her addiction causes Tara to leave her. Xander and Anya’s relationship is just another romantic casualty of the season. The Trio, Warren Mears, recurring character Jonathan Levinson, and Andrew Wells, join forces to consistently wreak havoc on Sunnydale and disrupt Buffy’s life. Having been unsuccessful in his attempts to become the ultimate supervillain, Warren shows up at Buffy’s home with a gun, and the outcome is catastrophic. Willow succumbs to dark magic and goes on a vengeful rampage. It’s up to her friends to stop her.
Season Seven sees the return of the non-corporeal First Evil and the Bringers, set on destroying the slayer line and raising an army of Turok-Han vampires in an attempt for the First to gain corporeal form. Potential Slayers find their way to Buffy after the Watchers’ Council is destroyed, and she tries to show them the ropes. A newly souled Spike is living with the guilt of his soulless past. Faith returns to join the fight, along with new character, Robin Wood, the principal of the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High. A powerful preacher named Caleb begins tormenting the Scoobies, and as the situation escalates, loyalties are tested and characters are betrayed. By the end of the season, Angel returns to provide Buffy with a significant amulet meant to be worn by a champion to help them in their final battle; she gives it to Spike. Willow casts a spell that unleashes every potential Slayer’s powers, and Buffy takes her army into the mouth of Hell for an epic battle. The amulets power activates, destroying all the vampires and Sunnydale in the process. Significant and minor characters perished in the fight, but the TVverse managed to end on a hopeful note.
“Buffy Season 8” picks up a year after the events Season 7 in comic book form, and naturally, has a completely different vibe. The gang has since organized and have hundreds of Slayers stationed around the world, working for them in different squads. Buffy is working with Xander who is based in Scotland commanding Slayer Headquarters. Willow’s powers have evolved under the guidance of the demon, Saga Vasuki, making her an even more powerful asset than ever before. Buffy and her team of Slayers are viewed as international terrorists due to the complete destruction of Sunnydale. Past villains show up posing serious threats and obstacles, and anti-Slayer movements take rise. All of this is connected to the season’s masked Big Bad, “Twilight”, who of course, wants destroy the Slayer line and end all magic on Earth. His shocking identity is revealed, the Slayer army begins to weaken, and an important character falls in the battle to save the universe.
“Buffy Season 9” continues after the tragic events of the Twilight crisis, following the destruction of the Seed of Wonder. The Buffyverse is without magic, but it isn’t long before Willow embarks on a quest to restore it. Buffy now lives in San Francisco where she and Spike take on the responsibility of patrolling for vampires, but he leaves on a space ship to deal with his feelings for her. Xander and Dawn are still romantically involved, but the latter’s health is quickly deteriorating, and the reason why is troubling. This results in Xander making some terrible decisions and ultimately betraying his friends. A zompire pandemic has hit San Francisco, and Buffy works with SFPD officer Robert Dowling, and self-proclaimed Slayer, Billy Lane, to eradicate the problem. Rogue Slayer Simone Doffler teams up with Severin, also known as “the Siphon”, who is capable of stealing magical abilities from demons and Slayers. Buffy gets forcefully recruited by a mystical council to take him down. Willow returns in time with her powers, but she can only do so much with them. In order to save Dawn she needs to juice up on magic in an ancient tomb called the Deeper Well. It’s there where the final battle of the Season rages on against Simone, Severin, and a newly risen giant-sized ancient demon named Maloker. They ultimately succeed in their mission to restore magic to the world and save Dawn, but at a disconcerting cost.
“Angel & Faith” ran concurrently with “Buffy Season 9”, and also picks up after the Twilight crisis. Faith received Giles’ London home in his will, and lives with a guilt-stricken Angel who is trying to make amends following his actions as Twilight which resulted in Giles’ death. If only to make sure he doesn’t lose himself in grief, Faith supports his hunt for the lost pieces of Giles’ soul needed to resurrect him. The season sees complications and interferences by Whistler, Pearl, Nash, and a Slayer squad, led by Nadira, who refuse to let Angel get away with his reprehensible actions as Twilight. Willow makes an appearance on her journey to bring magic back into the world, and Spike also shows up to help Angel and Faith on their mission to restore Giles’ soul, but heads back to San Francisco after hearing about an ailing Dawn. Giles is finally resurrected, but in the body of a 12-year-old boy. Fortunately his memories are still intact. Together, along with Nadira and the other Slayers, they fight to stop Whistler’s plans to invoke a magical plague on humankind. The battle is ultimately won when Whistler realizes the severity of his actions, and puts an end to the madness himself.
If you want to keep up with the current story, issue #1 of Dark Horse Comics’ “Buffy Season 10” and “Angel & Faith Season 10” have already been released! Go buy them now.
Written by – ShadowJayd