Wednesday, February 3, 2010
"The Meaning Behind the First Evil"
Season Seven of ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” has been a favorite of mine for years. But it has been rather unpopular with many fans of the series. And I suspect that this unpopularity may have centered around the character and main villain of Season Seven – the First Evil:
”THE MEANING BEHIND THE FIRST EVIL”
If there is one nemesis that has baffled fans of ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” for the past six to seven years, it would have to be the First Evil. This entity first made its appearance in the Season Three episode, (3.10) “Amends” and became Buffy Summer’s main nemesis in Season Seven, the last season of the series.
In a nutshell, the First Evil is an incorporeal entity that is manifested from all of the evil in existence. It can assume the form of any person who has died, including vampires and dead persons who have been resurrected. Because of this, it has appeared in various forms over the course of the series as a method of manipulating others. For this reason, the First has appeared as Buffy Summers to the Slayer and her allies. But it has also assumed the forms of Warren Mears, Spike, and Jonathan Levinson on multiple occasions, and a variety of other forms less frequently. It was also able to merge with a corporeal individual, as it had done with a serial killer named Caleb, providing the latter with immense strength. The First Evil’s only real weakness was that it was non-corporeal, and could not do real physical damage. However, it was an expert at psychological manipulation, and could act through its servants such as the Bringers, Turok-Han, Caleb or whomever it could manage to control.
As I had stated earlier, the First Evil made its debut on ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” in the episode, ”Amends”. It tried to drive Angel into killing Buffy by appearing to him as Jenny Calendar and other people he had murdered as a souless vampire. The First Evil told Angel that it was responsible for his return from “Hell” and that he could end his sufferings by turning evil again. Whether or not this was true is unknown. In any event, it did not mind when Angel chose to kill himself, via a sunrise instead. After Buffy's confrontation with the First Evil, she managed to stop Angel from committing suicide.
Using Buffy’s second resurrection in the Season 6 premiere - (6.01) “Bargaining, Part I” as an excuse, the First Evil returned in full force in Season Seven in an attempt to eliminate the Slayer line permanently. Using servants such as the defrocked serial killer Caleb and the Harbingers of Death (or Bringers), the First Evil not only brought about the deaths of many Potential Slayers and Watchers, it also destroyed the Watcher’s Council (no loss there) and nearly came close to killing Buffy, Faith, the Scoobies and Spike. It used both Andrew Wells and Spike to raise the Turok-Han (a race of ancient powerful vampires stronger and fiercer than the regular vampires). It manipulated Spike by using an old English folk song - ”Early One Morning” - into killing again, hoping his actions would attract Buffy’ attentions. According to sources from the ”All Things Philosophical on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel the Series’” and ”Buffyverse Wiki” sites, the First Evil wanted to seize the opportunity to upset the balance between good and evil whenever the Slayer line was disrupted. It tried to manipulate Angel into committing suicide in ”Amends” about a year-and-a-half, following Buffy’s brief death and resuscitation in (1.12) “Prophecy Girl”. And about a year following Buffy’s resurrection in ”Bargaining”, it made its move to destroy the Slayer line and upset the moral balance permanently.
Many fans did not like the First Evil as Buffy’s main antagonist in Season Seven. From what I could gather from many message boards, forums and blogs; they seemed confused about the First Evil’s intentions or what it represented. Nor did they seemed impressed that it was the one Big Bad that Buffy could not destroy in a physical manner. Some fans even accused ”BUFFY” creator Joss Whedon of writing himself into a corner with the creation of the First Evil. Personally, I disagree. I do not feel that Whedon had written himself into a corner by bringing the First Evil back in Season Seven.
It is easier to identify a nemesis that is solid enough for someone – namely Buffy - to physically kill or fight. Nemesis like the Master, Angelus, Mayor Wilkins, Adam, Glory, Warren Mears or even Willow Rosenberg. But the First Evil was a different matter. It symbolized a continuation of the theme from Season 6 - namely "You are your own worst enemy". In other words, I believe that the First Evil symbolized the spirit of Evil that existed in everyone - from Buffy to some minor demon minion or some housewife.
I must be one of the few fans who actually enjoyed Season Seven. But even I had one or two issues about that particular season that did not sit right with me. One of those issues was the appearance of a supernatural being called Beljoxa's Eye in (7.11) “Showtime”. Rupert Giles and Anya Jenkins visited the being to learn everything they could about the First Evil. Instead of fulfilling their wishes, the Beljoxa’s Eye told them that that the First Evil cannot be destroyed and that it exists now because of a disruption in the Slayer's line, which was in fact, caused by the Slayer. Both Giles and Anya concluded that Buffy’s second resurrection brought about the return of the First Evil.
This did not make sense to me. One, I found it hard to believe that the First Evil existed because of Buffy’s resurrection. It had already existed before the events of ”Bargaining”. In fact, I believe that it had already existed before ”Amends”. Why? As I had stated earlier, I believe the First Evil was . . . or is the spirit of evil, itself. It was all of the negative thoughts, emotions and impulses that reside within all living beings. And the late Joyce Summers hinted this during Buffy’s dream in (7.12) “Bring On the Night”:
BUFFY: Something evil is coming.
JOYCE: Buffy, evil isn't coming, it's already here. Evil is always here. Don't you know? It's everywhere.
BUFFY: And I have to stop it.
JOYCE: How are you gonna do that?
BUFFY: I-I don't know yet, but—
JOYCE: Buffy, no matter what your friends expect of you, evil is a part of us. All of us. It's natural. And no one can stop that. No one can stop nature, not even—
Joyce would eventually be proven right in (7.22) “Chosen, the series finale. When Buffy, Spike, Faith, the Scoobies, Robin Wood, Dawn and the Potentials battled the First Evil’s army of Turok-Han vampires inside the Hellmouth; all they did – especially Spike – was ruin the First Evil's plans to upset the balance of good and evil in the mortal world. In my personal opinion, that imbalance already existed before Buffy’s first death in ”Prophecy Girl”. It never made any sense to me that a balance between good and evil had been maintained by the presence of one Slayer against a slew of vampires, demons and other forms supernatural evil for centuries. I suspect that the First Evil saw the presence of more than one Slayer and a vampire with a soul as a threat to that imbalance. Like many others, the First Evil believed that only one Slayer should exist. And as I had earlier stated, I found this belief rather ridiculous and I am glad that Buffy proved that it did not have to be so at the end of the series.
Would the Watcher’s Council or the African shamans who had first created the Slayer line approve of the idea of more than one Slayer in existence? I rather doubt it. I suspect that they may have feared the idea of dealing with more than one Slayer . . . or even more than two. I suspect that controlling the Slayer or wielding her as a weapon mattered more to the shamans and the Watcher’s Council than the idea of more than one warrior against the forces of Evil. And I would not be surprised if the First Evil – or their own inner darkness – prevented them from considering this possibility.
And I believe that is what the First Evil represented in Buffy’s story – the inner darkness that she, her sisters and friends all harbored within themselves . . . and which they had to learn to acknowledge. Buffy’s conversation with the vampire sired by Spike – Holden Webster – forced her to face and acknowledge her own inner darkness. By (7.15) “Get It Done”, she also realized that her two most powerful allies – Willow and Spike – needed to face their own darkness:
BUFFY: The First isn't impressed. It already knows us. It knows what we can do, and it's laughing. You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can't be done, or else we are not an army - we're just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried. (Spike stands and walks toward the door) Where are you going?
SPIKE: Out. Since I'm neither a girl, nor waiting. All this speechifying doesn't really apply to me, does it? (walks away)
BUFFY: (calls after him) Fine. Take a cell phone. That way, if I need someone to get weepy or whaled on, I can call you.
SPIKE: (turns to Buffy) If you've got something to say -
BUFFY: Just said it. You keep holding back, you might as well walk out that door.
SPIKE: Holding back? You're blind. I've been here, right in it - fighting, scrapping...
BUFFY: Since you got your soul back?
SPIKE: Well, as a matter of fact, I haven't quite been relishing the kill the way I used to.
BUFFY: You were a better fighter then.
SPIKE: I did this for you. The soul, the changes - it's what you wanted.
BUFFY: What I want is the Spike that's dangerous. The Spike that tried to kill me when we met.
SPIKE (angrily): Oh, you don't know how close you are to bringing him out.
BUFFY: I'm nowhere near him.
The above conversation was one of the most interesting I have ever come across during the series’ seven season run. A vampire Slayer – someone considered the epitome of goodness and light – encouraging a former killer to face that darkness that made him such an effective killer. She even gave a similar speech to Willow, who as “Darth Willow” nearly came close to destroying the world in the Season Six finale, (6.22) “Grave”. Many fans had thought Buffy may have lost her mind. I understood what Buffy was trying to say. During Season Seven, Spike and Willow had spent most of it wallowing in guilt over certain acts they had committed in Season Six. I could probably say the same about Buffy. Like Spike and Willow, she learned to face her past treatment of the blond vampire in the episode, (7.08) “Conversations with Dead People”. But duties and the re-emergence of the First Evil made her realize that she had no time to wallow in her guilt. Her rants against Spike and Willow in ”Get It Done” expressed her own impatience with their guilt and tendencies to hold themselves back in fear of releasing the inner darkness that made them fearsome. She forced both the vampire and the red-haired witch to realize that they can only be fully effective by learning to face their inner darkness . . . and controlling it. By facing the many aspects of their nature, could Spike and Willow learn to develop as individuals.
The First Evil’s activities forced Buffy to develop in another path. She had to start learning how to evolve beyond her inferiority/superiority complex and learn to connect with others . . . when the situation demanded. Thanks to her former Watcher, Rupert Giles, she tried to use this aloofness to become an authority figure to the many Potential Slayers that had arrived on her doorstep. She also had to learn not to allow her insecurities and fear (traits that originated from the negativity within) of being alone to give others like her former Watcher Rupert Giles and even her friends a chance to dictate her actions and behavior. Like Spike and Willow, she had to learn to become her own person. She had to stop being afraid to connect with others and at the same time, allowing them to dictate her behavior.
In the end, I found Season Seven to be very complex and mature on a level that may have eluded certain viewers. Before the season first began, Whedon and Mutant Enemy had announced that the series would take viewers back to how it used to be during the earlier seasons. And perhaps that was what they had been looking forward to . . . recapturing the past. Season Seven did just that . . . but with a twist. The season reminded viewers that no one can recapture the past. Not really. In a way, Spike and Willow tried to recapture their former selves – the mild-mannered Victorian gentleman and the shy computer geek. And Buffy, at Giles’ orders, tried to enforce her authority upon the Potential Slayers as the Watchers’ Council had done to her in the past. Even the fans got into the act. They wanted Whedon to take this season back to what "BUFFY" used to be, failing to realize that would never happen. Buffy and the Scoobies could never go back to being what they used to be. Too much had changed for them over the years. They had changed. And so had the series.
Not only did Buffy and the Scoobies' conflict with the First Evil - namely their own inner demons - made them realize they could not recapture their past. They may have learned something else. Battling the First Evil was like battling a part of them. In other words, they had been battling their worst enemy – namely themselves. And in doing so, continued the theme that had been prevalent throughout the series’ run . . . growing up.