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It's hard to slay goodbye

After tonight, Buffy will be gone. Thankfully, some of the characters will live on.

By MICHAEL KANAREK
Published May 20, 2003

Into each generation a slayer is born. She is the chosen one, the only one with the strength to battle the forces of evil. And for this generation, that slayer is Buffy Summers. She has already died (and been brought back to life) twice, and still she fights on.

But since Sarah Michelle Gellar decided to leave Buffy the Vampire Slayer after seven seasons to pursue other ventures, the show draws to a close tonight with Buffy's final battle against the First, the original evil.

Though I don't want to ruin the finale for anyone, I will say that series creator Joss Whedon has done an excellent job of bringing Buffy full circle. But I will still mourn the show's passing.

Sure, I have every episode taped (and I'm replacing those tapes with DVDs as they're released), but to never see another new episode of Buffy will surely be a shock to my system. I even took tonight off from work so I could be at home to see the finale, though I've seen a preview copy. Now what will I do when I come home Tuesday nights?

I should explain why Buffy means so much to me and millions of other fans. Sure, there are TV shows and movies that are exciting, fun to watch and worthy of praise. But few elicit the awe and devotion afforded Buffy. And though the series has never attracted Friends-type viewership numbers, you would be hard-pressed to find a more loyal fan base.

Whedon is due most of the credit. Over seven seasons, he has guided Buffy through attending high school atop the Hellmouth (it's exactly what the name implies), defeating the Sunnydale mayor after he transformed into a giant snake, besting a hellgod and now fighting the First.

Buffy has also faced crises that are all too human: having an absentee father after her parents split up, trying to remain close to her friends after they graduated from high school, coping with the death of her mother and subsequently having to care for her younger sister.

Who would have guessed that a show with so many imaginary creatures could feel so real?

Though its biting humor might not be exactly realistic, it is another integral part of Buffy. The characters utter some of the funniest lines on television. Last week, Buffy and fellow slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) were having a deep discussion about how being a slayer means being truly alone. Then, after a pause:

Faith: "Thank God we're hot chicks with super powers."

Buffy: "Takes the edge off."

Each season has equaled a year in the lives of Buffy and her friends, and fans have delighted in watching each of them grow and develop.

Gellar's Buffy went from a flighty cheerleader wanna-be to a mature adult, a leader. Her best friend, Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, started as a mousy computer geek and has grown into a confident, incredibly powerful witch - and come out as a lesbian. Xander, played by Nicholas Brendon, is now sturdy and responsible, a far cry from his early days when he had a hopeless crush on Buffy. And though Anthony Stewart Head's Giles, Buffy's mentor and teacher, has been more consistent, even he has loosened up from his initial stuffiness.

Even with the end of Buffy, some characters will live on. Angel (David Boreanaz), a vampire with a soul and Buffy's first love, heads his self-titled spinoff on the WB. (Angel begins its fifth season in the fall.) Another vampire, Spike (James Marsters), initially a villain, has since fallen in love with Buffy and is expected to join the cast of Angel next season. Other Buffy characters may show up on Angel occasionally as well.

There's also the prospect of another spinoff. Because Dushku's series Tru Calling has been picked up by Fox for the fall, Hannigan's Willow now appears to be the primary contender.

So for now, I still have Alias to get my fix of butt kicking and Angel to get my fill of monsters and mysticism. But as the characters sang in last season's musical episode, we Buffy fans are wondering: Where do we go from here?

- Michael Kanarek can be reached at kanarek@sptimes.com

The series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer airs tonight at 8 on WTOG-Ch. 44.

[Last modified May 20, 2003, 02:15:52]