I feel like it’s safe to say, in the last few years, we’ve survived at least a couple of planned apocalypses (to my knowledge). Back in 2011, there was a guy named Harold Camping who claimed to know the day and date of the rapture. That day came and went and (surprise!) the rapture didn’t happen. The Mayans had us fooled for centuries, making us think that the world would end on December 21, 2012, thanks to their long con calendar. But the world’s still here. ‘Cause… well… check it out. So to celebrate the averted apocalypses, I think it fitting that we have a little Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. But not the every episode kind of marathon. Just the episodes where Buffy had to save the world from total annihilation. Right then, let’s get on with it. There’s a lot to cover before the next apocalypse is upon us.
“I may be dead, but I’m still pretty.” -Buffy Summers
All during that first season, the Master had been desperately trying to get out of his mystical, underground prison. He made several attempts to rise and fulfill his own plan of opening the Hellmouth and destroying the world, but each of those attempts failed. In the end, it took the blood of the Slayer to give him the strength he needed to escape. An ancient prophecy predicted that the Slayer would fight the Master and be killed by him. And that’s exactly what happened. The prophecy left out the part where Buffy’s friends would show up, perform mouth-to-mouth, and save her from drowning. In slasher movies, the good guys tend to make the mistake of not making sure the killer is really dead. Here, the Master makes that same mistake. He leaves Buffy for dead and gets a nasty surprise when he sees her again and she turns him to dust. Apocalypse number one averted.
Becoming, Part 2
“Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or… God… even studying! But I have to go save the world. Again.” -Buffy Summers
So Angel used to be one of the good guys. And then he became one of the bad guys. He comes across this horrible demon that has the ability to suck the world into hell, except it was turned to stone a long time ago. Angel figures out how to reawaken the demon, so Buffy has to stop her ex-boyfriend before the vortex opens. To do this, all she has to do is run a sword through Angelus and into the stone demon. But there’s a wrinkle in the end. Will performs a spell that restores Angel’s soul, so he’s suddenly one of the good guys again. But it’s too late, the demon is waking up and the portal is opening. Buffy is forced to send Angel to hell in order to save the world. Apocalypse number two averted, but with heartbreaking consequences. Try not crying when that Sarah McLachlan song plays while Buffy rides that Greyhound out of town.
“Stay calm… little fender bender. It’s not… the end of the world…” -Xander Harris
But, Xander, it is the end of the world. Oddly enough, that’s not the main story of this episode. Things were kind of backwards for the Scooby Gang this time. The A story here revolved around Xander trying to find his identity and some kind of confidence. In the background we have Buffy and her posse fighting against a group of demons called the Sisterhood of Jhe, an apocalypse cult that exists to bring about the destruction of earth. They very nearly succeeded, coming about as close to opening the Hellmouth as the Master did almost two years before. While Xander saves the school from being blown up by a group of undead high school students, Buffy reseals the Hellomouth and averts apocalypse number three.
Giles: “It’s the end of the world.” Buffy, Willow, and Xander: “Again?”
Like the previous potential apocalypse in the series, this one sort of takes a back seat to the main story. That being the relationship between Buffy and Riley. Riley’s this guy that Buffy has started dating, who happens to be part of a covert government outfit called The Initiative. These guys go around capturing demons so a few government scientists can experiment on them. Riley discovers that Buffy’s the Slayer and they sort of have a hard time reconciling all those issues while trying to stop another group of demons from opening the Hellmouth. The good guys get back to the burned down high school, stop the ritual just in the nick of time, and it brings Buffy and Riley a little closer together. Apocalypse number four averted.
“Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” -Buffy Summers
The fifth season started out a little confusing. Suddenly Buffy had a little sister that none of us had ever seen before. Dawn was really a mystical key that would unlock the barrier separating dimensions and it became Buffy’s job to protect her from the Big Bad of the year, Glory. Unfortunately, even though Glory is defeated by the Slayer, one of her servants manages to begin the ritual, meaning that Dawn gets cut and her blood opens the doorway. Unspeakable hell dimensions begin bleeding into reality which wouldn’t stop until Dawn’s blood stopped. Translation: she dies. But Buffy realizes that Dawn was made human using some of herself, and that her own blood would do the trick in closing the portal as well. Buffy sacrifices herself to save the world. Apocalypse number five averted, at the cost of Buffy’s life. Again.
“Six years of side man… Now I get to be the Slayer.” -Willow Rosenberg
Wait, Willow’s the Big Bad? Yes, she is. And let’s not spend too much time dissecting how that happened. Let’s just say that the sixth year started with Buffy’s resurrection and then spiraled into a really big mess. There was a musical, there were nerds… it just wasn’t the best year for our heroes. But, as is usual, it culminated in someone deciding that the world would be better off destroyed. So Willow, having a taste of the big evil, makes her way to Kingman’s Bluff where she channels some wicked witchy energy into some demonic statue. And then comes Xander to save the day. He doesn’t hit her. He doesn’t drive a wooden stake into her heart. He just tells her he loves her. He reaches out to his best friend and brings her back to humanity. In saving Willow’s soul, he saves the world. And Buffy really had nothing to do with it this time. Apocalypse number six averted.
“I wanna see how this ends.” -Spike
As series finales go, this one was pretty good. The First Evil spent the final televised season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer preparing to start a war against humanity. It was ready to tip the scales, tired of the balance between good and evil. This all culminated with the opening of the Hellmouth. Again. This time, the opening would involve an army of super vampires that would spill out wiping out everything in their path. Buffy makes a preemptive strike. She and her army of potential Slayers march into the Hellmouth to take the fight to the First. Meanwhile, Willow performs a spell using a magical, ancient Slayer weapon. This spell makes every potential Slayer into a full-fledged Slayer. And suddenly there isn’t just a chosen one (or two, since we still count Faith), there are a chosen many. The tide turns in the battle against the First Evil, but really it isn’t Buffy that saves the world this time. Spike’s mystical amulet combined with the power of his recently regained soul destroys the Hellmouth, and Sunnydale with it. In the end, Buffy and the surviving Scooby Gang stand at the edge of an enormous crater to survey the damage. Buffy smiles as she thinks about the possibilities of what comes next.
Now, other Buffy fanatics may look at my list and claim it’s incomplete. What about the Mayor’s ascension on Graduation Day? What about Adam, the demon/human/cyborg hybrid that the government created deep inside The Initiative? Don’t they rank an apocalyptic battle? Yeah, I don’t count those as truly end of the world scenarios. The mayor turned into a giant snake. I’m sure he would have completely decimated Sunnydale in his rise to demonic power, but I just don’t think he had global destruction on his mind. And Adam? Pretty sure if Buffy hadn’t stopped him, the government would have found a way to step in and end things. Again, probably would have eventually ended with Sunnydale being wiped off the map, but not a worldwide catastrophe.
But, I’m not perfect. My memory, while it may be pretty decent when it comes to all things pop culture, is not what it once was. So if you think I’ve missed anything, let me know. But, just bear in mind that, in the fictional universe that Joss Whedon created, Buffy the Vampire Slayer saved the world. A lot.