Overall Rating: 9.4
A healthy helping of bad-assery concludes this back-hand slap at bureaucrats and their tiny little lives of false power.
Read it and weep, Washington! This is what America would like to tell you.
There's no doubt in my mind that Joss Whedon is a libertarian. His staff general has a healthy dislike for governmental authority and prefers the power to be in the hands of the individual. In this episode, Buffy, for the last time, butts heads with the Watcher's Council...and once and for all, she provides proper boundaries for their authority. Watchers watch...real heroes DO...Buffy is not an instrument (as they would have her believe)...the tools are the ones who cannot act in the face of evil...who can only provide support. The watchers are the instruments. As she grows, it's nice to see Buffy realize the full scope of her capacity to do good and gain confidence in her power.
The episode would be a borderline feature even without the grand finale. Glory rises to whole new levels of wicked hilarity and creepiness. Spike's creepiness continues to grow (I love that the writers are making Spike into an instrument for good by forcing him to act well in his own self-interest. He's no better as a person, but acting selfishly in the service of good will begin to teach him about the virtue of being good and prepare him for the subconscious realization that he actually WANTS to regain his soul. Giles - rather than being complicit with the council, has also grown. He now realizes that Buffy is the hero here and that he can only hope that his advice might serve the greater good.
Top all of that off with a good dose of trademark Buffy wit and you have a solid 8+ hour of entertainment pushed to a better score by the big finish.
Humor: 9.5 (especially during the interviews)
Dialogue: 9.0 (particularly between Buffy/Giles and the council)
Plot Movement: 8.0 (Glory's role is expanded, but...for an all-powerful God...she moves a little more slowly than I can believe)
Characterization: 9.5 (Anya is adorable as always, Buffy finds her true voice, and even the members of the council are unique enough to be intriguing)
SMG puts in one of her best performances in recent memory (thank God that dead weight Blucas is gone...what a LOAD off!), Tony Head and Emma Caulfield are at the top of their game, James Marsters continues to shine...
Pencil pushers...desperately seeking meaning for your own little existence is understandable, but get the f*** out of the way of the leaders. Stop preening and flashing your egos and help out for the greater good, not your own vanity.