Caleb's arrival seemed like the first indication of the writers suddenly realizing that the First wasn't hugely effective as a big bad. Here, we once again see examples of the show struggling to give the First much definition as a villain, other than vague shading that doesn't really go anywhere. While the major antagonists of every other season had specific reasons for not instantly putting their plan into action (the hunt for the Key, the various trials before Ascension, etc.), it seems more than ever that the First and Caleb are merely hanging around trading barbs. It's something that hit me when Giles spoke about "running out of time", yet with there being little indication of what exactly is coming around the corner. The problem with this season's apocalypse is that, after everything, it's very much been a bunch of people talking about how bad everything is, without much depiction of it on-screen.
That weird lack of direction has occurred repeatedly over the last couple of weeks, first with the abrupt dropping of the 'disruption of the slayer line' as a plot-point, then the removal of First-impersonating-dead-people spookiness, and here with the introduction of the first of two ridiculous deus ex machinas, plot devices pulled from nowhere that conveniently make things a hell of a lot easier for our wounded heroes. Eh. It's all a little tossed together, which is unusual for this show.
End of Days doesn't actually live up to its apocalyptic title, since it's the most overly talky episode in a long while. Many of these scenes felt like repetition of similar conversations from the past (Willow's fear of magic, Buffy and Spike's respect for one another, Buffy's worry about Dawn), but I did love Buffy and Faith's brief discussion about the loneliness of the slayer, and how Faith now appreciates how scared, alone and overly relied-upon Buffy feels every day of the damn week. Similarly, I loved her suggestion that they never got along because they, as slayers, were never supposed to meet in the same time. That was a cool little detail.
Elsewhere, you can understand why Buffy would want Dawn sent away, but it winds up a non-event since it's introduced and resolved so abruptly within the space of twenty minutes. Anya and Andrew have a cute scene at the abandoned hospital, but... I don't know, I'm not feeling Anya anymore. It's hard to rectify her determination to fight and her seemingly-earnest emotions about humanity with her horrible attitude two episodes ago and her useless presence for the back-end of this whole season. Which sucks, because I love Anya. But it's hard. Or maybe I'm just being harsh. I don't know. I'm rambling.
End of Days sets out to be the calm before the storm, a character-driven drama before the all-out war of the finale, but the script offers little fresh in the way of material. There's also the issue of a lack of momentum when it comes to the big bad, and the Scooby Gang themselves being more scattered than usual. The show has sustained its energy over the last couple of weeks in spite of the season's fundamental flaws, but End of Days wound up consumed by them. Blah. C
Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Eliza Dushku (Faith); Nathan Fillion (Caleb); David Boreanaz (Angel); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Sarah Hagan (Amanda); Christine Healy (The Guardian)
Writers Douglas Petrie, Jane Espenson Director Marita Grabiak