Another Joss Whedon World Ends

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 1 2010 10:44 AM

Another Joss Whedon World Ends

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Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

The last ever episode of

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aired Friday night, with Fox shifting the finale from the show's customary time slot to make way for the season premiere of a reality series about a celebrity chef. And so another richly realized Joss Whedon universe comes to its end, not with a bang but with a whimper.



I count myself among the mourners. Whedon is a first-class TV auteur and his quippy banter, offbeat casting choices, and scrumptiously nerdy characters will always be welcome in my living room. I particularly enjoy his gift for the in-your-face metaphor: high school as hell vortex in

Buffy the Vampire Slayer;

 law firm as demon nest in

Angel

. In

Dollhouse

, we meet a supergenius who plays with human dolls—injecting them with new personalities, dressing them up in silly costumes, and parachuting them into an endless variety of conflicts. Whedon has pretty much acknowledged he based the character on himself.



In nearly every Whedon project (

Dollhouse

is no exception) there arrives a climactic moment in which the specter of the apocalypse is raised. Full-scale doom. Fire and brimstone, blood and bodies. And there's always a ragtag pack of geeky underdogs who must save humankind. I admire Whedon's fearlessness in raising the stakes as high as they'll go, time after time. I also wonder whether—having watched a few of his own beautiful worlds die at the hands of evil entertainment executives—the end of the universe is the most personal metaphor of all.