Oh, yeah? A gift for whom?
So, spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the end of Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy dies. Not a natural death — a mystical one where she seals a gateway between our world and thousands of hell dimensions with her blood.
But, does she get thrown into the gateway? No, sir. She makes a “sacrifice” and hurls herself through the gaping hole in the sky.
As I’m watching the episode “The Gift” (the season finale) for the ump-teeth time, it occurs to me that Buffy’s sacrifice isn’t much of one, yet the show wants us to think so with the whole “death is your gift” thing. It’s more like “death is my way out.”
Let’s review the major events of season 5 for a moment. Buffy is served a teenage bratty sister whom she has to protect with everything she’s got by some ancient monks; her meh relationship with her even more meh boyfriend crumbles and he takes off in a helicopter leaving no future address or pager number; she discovers another vampire is in what-he-thinks-is-love with her, but she’s so (for now) not down with that; and — the big one — her mother suffers a brain tumor until her “probably painless” death. In what I don’t think is only my opinion, this hasn’t been the best year for the Chosen One.
Let’s also consider the previous four seasons and the general burden of being Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As cool and powerful as Buffy is, it sucks being the Slayer. She can’t be a normal teenager sneaking out her window to go to parties after curfew. Instead, she’s sneaking out to get dusty with vamps and Mr. Pointy. She has more on her shoulders than getting good grades to secure a spot at UC Sunnydale; she’s responsible for saving the world from evil things that go bump in the night. Oh, and true love? She finds that all right — with a 200-year-old vampire who goes all cray cray after she loses her virginity to him, then she has to send him to hell. As breakups go, they generally suck. But this is a whole ‘nother level.
Back to death being Buffy’s gift. Yes, Buffy saved the world by dying. But, Buffy also saved herself. Watch the scene on top of the tower with Dawn and Buffy in “The Gift” (see link above). When Buffy figures out that the gateway wants “Summers’ blood” which means she can take the place of Dawn as the Key, the look in her eyes isn’t one of terror. There is a sense of peace (dare I say happiness?) that comes over her face as she makes her decision to jump. She turns to look at Dawn and gives her the “Live” speech with certainty and an eagerness to put all of this to an end — not just the impending doom ahead, but the haunting pain behind her. There were very few moments of happiness for the Slayer, even when she wasn’t the Chosen Only One (thank you, Kendra and Faith).
I don’t see Buffy’s jump as sacrificial and selfless. Instead, I see it as a suicide with the whole “save the world” excuse behind it. Buffy is an inherently lonely character as a hero who has powers that only she can possess (until Season 7, spoiler). She has a close inner circle of friends, but none can carry the heavy weight of Buffy’s destiny. And at the end of Season 5, it appears that Buffy could no longer carry it either. Rest in peace (for now), Buffy Anne Summers.