It was a struggle to omit exclamation points from the title today. I’m quite excited. I’ve spent months trying to guess if the promises of a return to the good ol’ days of Buffy would come true, and judging by yesterday’s “Lessons”, it should be a great season. 7×01 was the best season opener since season four IMO, showing all the characters the way I wanted to see them. SPOILERS coming up.
Willow is in exactly the right situation; being punished mostly by herself (“I want to be Willow”), learning to deal with magic rather than quitting; I didn’t want to see her in another rehab-like situation. I want her to be Willow. She had some good scenes with Giles, including the humour that was so lacking last year (Willow: “Is there anything you don’t know everything about?”, Giles: “Synchronized swimming. Complete mystery to me.” – great), and some scene-setting for the coming season (Giles: “The hell mouth.”, Willow: “It’s gonna open. It’s gonna swallow us all.” – ominous). Xander didn’t get much of a look in, but he usually gets a Xander-centric episode one or two eps into the season. I’m waiting to see what they do with him.
Buffy has finally stopped whining, so I can actually enjoy when she’s on screen. Her overprotection of Dawn is a nice change since she pretty much ignored Dawn all last season. I loved their training session (Dawn: “But he’s new. He doesn’t know his strength. H-he might not know all those fancy martial arts skills they inevitably seem to pick up.” – self-referential gold). Buffy is great at the ‘mom’ thing (Buffy: “Go. Talk with your mouth full”, or Xander: “How exactly do you make cereal?”, Buffy: “Ah, you put the box near the milk. I saw it on the food channel.”, or best of all Buffy: “And stay away from hyena people, or any lizard-type athletes, you know, or if you see anyone that’s invisible.”)
Things I wonder about the coming season:
- Is the new principal a Good Guy (in the know), or a faux Big Bad? I reckon he has to be one of them, and I think Good Guy is the way they’ll go, since Snyder was evil.
- What was up with the Istanbul bit? No further allusions to the episode opener. Must be important.
- Will Spike be even remotely similar to who he was? I like Spike so I hope they don’t just completely change his character.
- Anya’s not doing real vengeance. This looks like she’ll rejoin the scoobies later.
- The Scrappy Gang: How will Dawn’s new friends fit in?
- That ending! What’s it all about? Obviously Istanbul, Willows sensing of the Hellmouth and this shape-changing companion of Spike’s are related to the season arc.
Things I didn’t like:
- Xander’s near absence
Dawn. She was fantastic. She’s mirroring the old Buffy so well, except for the whiny angst that weighed Buffy down in the early seasons. Michelle Trachtenberg is excellent, and somewhat hotter than before. Admittedly it’s skewed by being a Dawn-centric episode, but nearly all of the good dialog was Dawn’s (“Favorite activities include not ever having to do this again” being among my top choices; Michelle’s delivery was spot on). She seemed kinda useless, or at least unused, last year but that’s all gonna change this year, with the formation of Dawn’s own ‘Scrappy Gang’. Or so it seems.
Overall a quality offering. No major events of magnificent proportions, like “Becoming, part II” or “The Body”, but a solid episode with a decent premise and an above-average season opener. Bearing in mind that I don’t give half-marks, this gets a four star (out of five) rating from me. Roll on next week.
 Yes it aired in America back on September 24th, but the earliest I get to see it is on Sky One, who aired it for the first time on British TV last night.