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The World Isn't That Bad

Over the last few weeks the news has seemed pretty bleak. There have been shootings, ax attacks and people being driven down in their cars. Isis seems to be as strong as ever and it's hard to forget about global warming during the hottest summer in recent history. And all of that is before you get started on politics which may not be the worst of it, but it certainly doesn't seem to be likely to solve it.

But that's all in your perspective. None of those things are good of course. No one wants to see anyone be hurt or scared. But the problem is that as a society it seems like we are focused on the negatives. It's easy to see why we dwell on the one hate filled person who decides to go into a bar and start shooting. It's dramatic, it's traumatic and everyone agrees that it's terrible.

But that last part might be worth focusing on too. Virtually everyone agrees that minorities, whether they are homosexual, black, French, German, Christian, Muslim deserve to be safe. That is the reason that it hurts so much to see that they aren't. That's why we fight over how best to fix the problem.

There is something else that a lot of people seem to be missing in the doom and gloom of an election year. Things are getting better in almost every way. It may be hard to believe if you watch the news but violent crime is down and life expectancy is up. There are people that really believe that we can end extreme poverty by 2030 and as much as everyone may dislike the current choices in political candidates the country isn't going to end by making a bad choice because our founding fathers had to the good sense to build in checks and balances into the system.

It's time for all of us try to remember that we live in a time when we can cure diseases, where the blind can see and the deaf can hear. I can pick up a phone and hunt virtual monsters and make new friends doing it or go online and play board games with people on the other side of the world. I can buy a car that will literally drive itself down the freeway or go into a virtual reality. We have private companies that can not only send rockets into space but land them safely. We have people who are actually afraid of what we will do when robots take all of our jobs. We live in an age of wonders where we have become so accustom to miracles that we forget that in many ways that is exactly what they are.

Sure the world sucks some days, and when someone evil decides to hurt people we should be angry. It is right to want bigotry to go away and for better choices in our political leaders. But even on the worst day it's important to remind ourselves that we live in the safest, most peaceful, most enlightened and most advanced time in human history. We need to remember that the reason it's so traumatic when someone drives into a crowd of people is because it doesn't happen all the time. So cry with the people who are in pain, and donate blood and money if you can. But try to remember that on the same day that one person does something hateful that, just in the USA there were also 6200 weddings and someone is born every 7 seconds and in every one of those terrible events there are far more people who risk their lives to help than are trying to hurt people.



The White Mage Omnibus

The White Mage Saga is never going to be my favorite series and it's probably not going to be the first book I recommend to anyone, but then I'm a bit old for the series and not it's target audiance. Still it is a good, solid well told story and I have every intention of reading the next books in the series whether that means listening to audio books or for those that don't yet have them reading them with my own eyes.


I got the first three of the books of this series on audible as the White Mage Omnibus. About thirty hours of good storytelling for one credit. It is well read and in the style I prefer with small adjustments on characters inflections but without someone actually doing voices.


Once you get down to the story it seems a bit familiar because it is. The story is of a fifteen year old girl who discovers she has magic and has to go to a school for mages to learn to use her magic. She is of course the chosen one who must unite the magical and non magical world and of course fight a great evil.


While this sounds like Harry Potter specifically and every young adult fiction story in the last fifteen years it has its own personality. It also avoids many of the pitfalls of this type of story. It starts by not making the fifteen year old girl in the story seem stupid, flighty or boy crazy. She has important things to do and while she wants to have friends and has to deal with them that isn't the center of the story.


Another thing that help with this is that the time that passes in the story is considerably compacted compared to something like Harry Potter. Each of the books takes place over about three months rather than a year. This gives the characters less time to adjust to everything and because the threat is always imminent there is far fewer lulls. I am also fond of it addressing some of the issues with having a world of magic hidden from the average human. This isn't just the way it is or even a good thing, it's the result of things that have happened and something that needs to be dealt with.


There are a few things that I didn't love about the stories though many of them are nitpicks or personal preference. From time to time it would go on tangents that while important followed characters that you knew little or nothing about but would become important later. This isn't ideal though it is understandable and doesn't happen much.

 The White Mage Omnibus: Books 1-3 Audiobook

Another of the minor nitpicks was that the books end on cliffhangers. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I understand the thought process that you want to make people excited to read the next book, but in my opinion a novel, even a novel in a series, should feel like a complete section of the story. Have your cliffhangers between chapters and feel free to have threads between books that need to be resolved. The problem is that in most cases the cliffhangers in most books feel contrived and aren't even really suspenseful. You're not going to have the next book start with your main character dead. The world isn't going to be blown up in a nuclear Armageddon three books into your seven book series.


Those minor issues, as well as a couple of characters that I never really connected to were very minor though and in general I would say that if you're looking for another young adult fantasy series to read that this is a good choice and a far better choice than many books that are far better known. So ignore the teenage vampire books, turn away from the half gods and read about the last Oracle.  


The Hugo Awards. Let's do Better this Year.

The Hugo Awards are here again and it should be a moment when I'm excited. I love science fiction and fantasy and having a list of books that came out that are good should make me happy. But sadly the last few years the Hugo Awards have left a bad taste in my mouth and so before that happens this year I'd like to make a few minor suggestions to the people involved.


The first one would be please, leave the politics out of it. I'm not saying you can't like things that lean towards your political preponderances or even vote for those. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't vote for or nominate something because of a political message. If you don't feel you can support a writer because of something that truly offends you I understand that, and even respect it in some sense, but that doesn't mean you should nominate someone just because they will counter that. You should vote for the people who write good stories and leave the politics at home. Your opinions and views can inform what you like, but they shouldn't override it.


Next, please try to think for yourself. The first of these is please, read the stories before you vote and if you haven't read enough to have an opinion then feel free to not voice an opinion. There is no shame in deciding not to vote. This shouldn't be all that hard. From time to time you may read a story that you really don't care for, (There have been more than a few especially in the short fiction categories that I just didn't like.) but it's easy enough to just not vote for it and exposing yourself to new ideas isn't all that hard. I have no idea if there are slates of stories that people are "supposed" to vote for this year. I honestly don't want to look it up because the whole mess annoys me. But ever if you agree with people and think it's a good idea at least look at all the stories first so you can have some credibility and the awards don't become a complete farce.


And most importantly, if we could all just try to act like adults that would be great. And I'm sure everyone is now assuming that it's the other people who are acting childishly. That their side of the issue is great but the other people are awful. Here's the problem. If you're on a side of this you're part of the problem. If you think that science fiction needs diversity I'm right there with you, but we don't have some magical page limit and the gatekeepers have been largely kicked to the curb. Anyone can publish their own book and put it within reach of anyone in the world. And while encouraging what is left of the establishment to be more open is great the awards ceremony isn't the place to do it.


On the other hand if you happen to think that people are being picked for awards for reasons other than the quality of the writing then don't vote for them. You can even point out, respectfully, what you think should have won and suggest good stories to read. What you can't do is act like the world is coming to and end because the same thing that happened to other people for most of history might be happening to you. Is there some backlash against the old white men who have been the most common winners of hugo awards. Probably. Is that fair to the current writers, many of who weren't involved in that. No, not really and I hope that we can find the balance. But the truth is that sometimes when you correct a problem you over correct. That's not entirely fair, but then the world has never been entirely fair.


I can almost hear people now shouting that the other people started it. The name calling and accusations of cheating are already starting in my mind and I've avoided the subject. And that's my point about being adults. "He started it" isn't the argument any adult should ever use. It annoys me when children use that. More importantly, you're not winning any converts to yourself in all this. You're not making the hugos better you're making them far far worse. So please grow the hell up. Stop calling each other names and take the advice of someone far wiser than me and be the change that you want to see in the world.  


The Flash Versus Zoom: Barry's Selfish Decision 

The Flash is one of my favorite shows on TV. I almost always enjoy it. I like the characters and I like the writing. Which is why I was so frustrated by some of the decisions made in the episode that came out today. (Season 2, Episode 18 "Versus Zoom"). But before I can get there I want to point out what I like about the what the show did and warn everyone that there will be spoilers.


First, I really like that Barry isn't willing to just let Zoom go because he's on another world. The willingness to risk himself to protect other people is what makes him a hero and not just a vigilante. It's that attitude that makes the character and the show special and when it gives up on that for the sake of story convenience it becomes a far bigger problem than it otherwise would be.


Beyond that I like most of the character moments in the show. Barry continuing to grow in his connections with the people on the show and the idea that he makes the people around him better is important. Whether it is Wells, Cisco, the Wests or even Zoom I believe that is what makes him a good character and they showed that.


And then they threw all of that away and had him make a decision that was selfish to the point of being borderline evil. They went out of their way in this episode to make it clear that Barry knew that Zoom was a serial killer and that he was willing to cross dimensions in order to stop him from tormenting his entire world. And then he decided that he was willing to save Zoom's life and make him much stronger so that he can hurt far more people in order to protect one person simply because he knows him.


I know that the impression you're supposed to have is that Barry is sacrificing something in order to protect Wally. The problem is that it just don't work. Zoom is a murderer who is going to keep murdering people. Barry is a hero that is supposed to save people, but instead he made the selfish decision to let who knows how many people die in order to save one person because he knows that person. That's the type of decision I'd expect Dr. Freeze to make. One that is borderline understandable but also clearly wrong. It would be like crashing a plane into a mountain with hundreds of people in it because someone had a gun to your mother's head. It's duress but it's still killing people.


Now of course it is unlikely that any of this is going to really happen because Barry has to get his speed back in order for the show to continue. It's also possible that the characters on the show know something that I don't. In the case of the later in which they gave zoom the power because of some deeper plan then I take this back. But if he simply gets his speed back without it being part of any bigger plan then he just got lucky and getting lucky doesn't mean it wasn't an extremely selfish decision.


I'm not the type of person who turns on a show because it makes a bad decision and the truth is I think this is basically just an excuse to take away the flashes powers so he has to use other skills to stop Zoom. But in many ways that makes it worse. This isn't a logical character decision, it's lazy writing. You could have got to the same place without having to make Barry look bad or you could have made it clear that it was a selfish decision. But instead the show wants us to buy into the idea that this was an unselfish and brave idea and it just wasn't.  


Why Lightsabers are a Bad Weapon

I know they look cool and are fun to imagine but the truth is that the Lightsaber is a terrible weapon. It has a number of problems any one of which would make it far less useful than an average weapon. To examine it fairly I am willing to accept the advantages that using it in combination with the force gives, such as the ability to throw and return the weapon and of course reflecting weapons fire. On the other hand advantages of the force are advantages whether you have a Lightsaber or not so are irrelevant to the conversation.


Let's start with the most obvious problem of the lightsaber. There is a reason that people don't use swords as their primary weapon in modern combat. You can kill someone with a sword but you have to get near them to do that. Even assuming that you can get there safely you have still given the enemy the time it took you to travel that distance to do whatever they wanted, including shooting the clone troopers that weren't within swords length of you. It also has little or no value when fighting anything that you can't get within swords distance of such as planes or any reasonably mobile land vehicle.


The argument against this is that you could deflect the enemy weapons and use that to augment your range. This helps some but it doesn't solve the problem. First, you can only deflect weapons which are aimed at you. If the enemy simply doesn't shoot at you it's of no value. Secondly it is only useful against weapons which you can deflect in this manner. That is to say blaster shots. If you were to fight an enemy that used something as advanced as rocks it would be unable to give you any range advantage. On the other end if they were to use torpedoes or other anything that simply exploded when struck it would be useless.


Of course the primary advantage of the lightsaber isn't offensive. It is defensive. The Jedi aren't really supposed to kill people. And in that case it makes some sense. And to be fair there is little evidence that any other defense in the star wars universe is particularly effective at doing this though since the empire puts its troops in armor it stands to reason that armor should have value. In addition we have seen shields that are small enough to fit on a droid so it should be possible to outfit people with at least reasonably good armor or shields in the numbers that the Jedi need.


But the real problem is that the Lightsaber isn't all that good at defense in any universe where people are putting effort into actually defeating it. The problem is very basic. The Lightsaber can only be in one place at a time. No matter how good your Jedi reflexes are you're at best limited to blocking blaster shots in a single line. So in order to kill a Jedi you simply need a weapon that should be very easy to build. You simply make a shotgun. As previously discussed the range of the lightsaber means they have to get into your range in order to attack at which point the shotgun completely negates any defensive ability of the lightsaber.


Want something with a bit more range, or that uses more typical star wars technology you could simply make a weapon that shot three blaster shots in a triangle a bit wider than a lightsaber. A Jedi could block two of them but the third one would get through. And while you might argue that a Jedi could simply avoid that weapon that attack with use of the force that has nothing to do with the Lightsaber.


The final weakness of the Lightsaber is far less important but it is worth pointing out. That is that Lightsabers are very difficult to make. You need crystals that are very rare and the force in order to use them. If it was an effective weapon this might be worth the effort but for a weapon that has significant disadvantages the amount of effort to make it simply doesn't make much sense as a weapon.


Of course there is a final point that the point of the lightsaber isn't to be an effective weapon it never has been. The Lightsaber is a symbol and as a symbol of a group that is supposed to enforce peace and not war having a weapon that isn't good at offense, is only defensive against small groups of reasonably unprepared enemies and that requires a lot of skill and effort to makes far more sense than a weapon that is actually a good weapon.  


JB-007 Theory

I haven't written much about Star Wars: The Force Awakens because the truth is that I haven't had all that much to add. I like Star Wars but I'm not the type of super-fan that has much new to add, but there was one part in The Force Awakens that bothers me and I came up with an explanation that not only largely fixes the problem but makes one of the side characters far more interesting.


Everyone knows by now knows that Daniel Craig had a cameo in The Force Awakens as JB-007 a Stormtrooper that gets the Jedi Mind trick used on him by Rey. There has been a lot of talk about Rey being too strong in the movies. I tend to discount this in most cases because most of what she did in the movie could be explained away by her being a fairly good fighter and pilot which are both skills anyone could learn.


But the Jedi Mind trick is a bit more problematic for me. They have established in other sources (primarily the Clone Wars cartoon) that it isn't easy to do and takes practice for people who are training under Jedi and while I know there are other theories, but the movie doesn't show that Rey has any Jedi training and that makes the Mind Trick a step to far.


So how do you fix that? Simple enough. She didn't actually use the Jedi Mind trick on him. She didn't have to because JB-007 is a spy for the republic. (Not the rebel alliance which is why the rebels didn't know he was there.) He simply pretended to let the Jedi Mind trick work because it gave him cover for helping Rey to escape. He likely even helped more by dealing with some of the other guards that would have certainly be left to guard the incredibly important prisoner but we didn't see in the movie.


This would also be a great way to set up a spin off spy thriller in the Star Wars universe that could create an interesting way to explain and explore the politics in the new Star Wars universe. Basically Daniel Craig would be a spy infiltrating the organization of the evil mastermind Supreme Leader Snoke and stop him from using his master weapon.


The movie would happen largely in parallel to the events of The Force Awakens. It would explain what the Republic is doing and explore The First Order. You could also have some entertaining and funny moments like him turning off the shields to Starkiller Base at the same time that Captain Phasma meant to lock them out of the system.


I understand that there are likely to be people who question the need to have a movie length back story for small side characters that were never meant to be the center of a story. I would tend to agree, but it seems clear that isn't going to stop Disney for long and taking advantage of an actor who is clearly fond of the source material and is able to play the part that would be required.  


Virtual Reality: Beyond Gaming

Virtual reality is coming. There are a number of excellent looking devices and while they are expensive now the price will come down just like every other consumer device. But they will become truly important when people begin to understand that they are far more than just a way to play games or watch TV.


To me the way to understand this is to think about what it is called. The reason it's called virtual reality and not surround gaming or something else is because at it's best it mimics reality. And while many of us play and enjoy games in reality that isn't all we do and it certainly isn't all we want to do.


For most of us work takes up a large amount of our time and while it hasn't been discussed yet virtual reality has an important place in business. First, the telecommuting has been growing in popularity over the last decade and with virtual reality it's going to become even easier for people to work at home because you could easily create a virtual office and have most of the advantages of an office without the costs.


For me that isn't really what excites me. As someone who spends a lot of time at a computer I like the idea of a virtual office space because it gives me a lot of options. As the quality of the screens improves I could work at a virtual screen while sitting on a virtual beach or being almost anywhere. Or I could have four different virtual monitors so I don't have to change tabs when doing research. And that's just be beginning.


But beyond work there are so many things. The most obvious to me is travel. In the next couple of years I imagine that something similar to Google Streetview will be made for virtual reality. You'll be able to explore the streets of almost any city in the world, explore museums and visit monuments. For someone who isn't wealthy enough to visit all the places he wants to go that is more interesting than playing a video game.


And in many places you'll be able to do more than just wander the streets. It places like New York, London that have been photographed a lot for quite a while you should be able to not only explore the cities but virtually time travel. This could of course be used in games but it doesn't need to be.


There are a thousand other ways to use virtual reality as well. Clearly since Facebook is involved there will be virtual chat rooms, but there is no reason they have to be as simple as that. Instead you'll have virtual movie theaters, concerts plays that you can visit with friends or explore real life places together. You could even sit around a table and play board games.


Finally there is education. The simple imagination is to have a virtual classroom. You could have huge numbers of students sit in on a virtual lecture with experts on the subject. But that is barely the beginning. Imagine a history class where you could watch the moon lander or visit a virtual battle site. You could watch the last supper being painted or sit in on great moments in history. An entire class could be at the million man march and that same day visit the events that led up to it. You could see Shakespeare’s plays in the globe theater, have a virtual conversation with Socrates. The chances to learn are endless.


If gaming is what takes to get virtual reality the jump start it needs then I am all for it, and I'm looking forward to the games. But I'm far more excited about the hundreds of other ways that I haven't even thought of yet that I can do all the things I've wanted to do but couldn't and I certainly don't wan to be limited by them having to be games.  


Supergirl: Something that Needs to Happen

I have been watching Supergirl since it came out. It's certainly not the perfect show but it has been worth watching. This isn't a review though it's a single point of one thing that need to happen on the show soon.


At the beginning of every episode you have a voice over explaining who Supergirl is. It's not as good as the voice over on The Flash but it's worth having so people can jump in. One of the primary points in that voice over is that she was sent to earth to protect her cousin, but she went off course and by the time she arrived he was Superman and the implication is fairly obvious that he doesn't need her protection but everyone else does so she takes up his cause of protecting everyone else. A good cause, and one that makes for an interesting show, but she still had a mission.


That is where my point comes in. At some point, preferably sooner than later she needs to fulfill the job she was sent to earth to do. That is to protect Superman.


The first step of course is that they need to cast Superman. But they don't need to have Superman on the show. They need to have Clark Kent on the show. There is no good reason that they couldn't or shouldn't have Lois and Clark come visit the city and Jimmy Olson. It would be fun to see without having to have him do anything super. Ideally you'd have Cat Grant invite Jimmy, Clark, Lois and of course Kara to some sort of event or meal. This way they could interact but not have the obvious conversations because there is someone who isn't in on the secret there.


But primarily this episode is setup. A few episodes later you have Superman be weakened in some way. It doesn't really matter how, but I'd have someone steal his powers. So now they have the powers of Superman and Clark doesn't. Kara learns about this, either from the news of from Jimmy. Metropolis needs help and perhaps more important Superman needs protected because if he dies the person who stole his powers will keep them forever.


The problem of course is that Superman is as strong as Kara and the man who took his powers knows all their weaknesses and is willing to use them and more than happy to kill Kara. Everyone, including Clark, tells her that she shouldn't fight him because he's too strong, but she explains that she wasn't sent to Earth to protect it or to live a normal life. She was sent to the Earth to protect her cousin and that's what she is going to do. Besides, the world needs Superman.


Once the fight starts it's clear that she can't win. He's stronger than she is and a better fighter, but she doesn't stop. They exchange blows that would kill anyone else and in the end Kara finds some way to stop him, but is badly wounded in the process. She is going to die but because she defeated the villain Superman gets his powers back. He flies in and carries her to the Fortress of Solitude (or close enough to the sun to heal her). She of course lives and she and for the first time in the show you see Superman and Supergirl really together.


There are a few reasons that this is important. The first is that DC or whoever is making the decision needs to get over the idea that you can't have a Superman/Batman, ect both in the movies and on TV. It's silly. The argument that it might confuse audiences is stupid because if anything it's far more confusing to have Superman not appear on the show. Does that mean that it's supposed to bet he same Superman as in the movies? Is it the Superman from Smallville? Or is it simply a different superman. One we haven't seen before. Whatever the case you can't clear that up until he's on the show.


Of course the real reason isn't confusion. The problem is that they are afraid, and possibly rightly so, that the Superman that is on Supergirl will be better than the one in their movies. I'd suggest making better movies, but I'm sure their doing their best so I'll just say get over it. Does anyone really think that having a good flash on TV is going to make people want to see The Flash in the movies less, or is it more likely that having a character they already know and care about will make it easier to convince them to see other things that he is in. The same is true of any other characters.


The reason the show needs to do it though is that they need to show that she is Superman's equal. In the scenario I suggest she not only beats someone who has Superman's powers, but someone who has beat him. And beyond that she stands up to Superman to do it defying what he tells her to do because she thinks it's the right thing to do. I might even add a line from Lois pointing out that risking her life to protect him is the exact sort of thing he would do.


Finally, since all of this is seen by the whole world you no longer have to have Supergirl proving herself. She can afford to have Superman or anyone else help when she needs it, but also make her powerful enough that she isn't likely to need it ofter. In this way you can have Superman show up once or twice a season to help with something, or even better to ask for help.


I understand that there are likely people being told they can't do this and I don't know their plans for the show in the future, but I really believe that having her actually do what she was sent to Earth to do, protect her cousin, is a great way to make the character and the show a bit more interesting without having to make major changes to it.  


A Strange Moment

I had a strange moment yesterday watching the Xfiles finalie. (There may be some minor spoilers.) To begin I'll say that the xfiles episode was OK, and that I really hope that they had an actual ending written and decided to go with this when they were told that they would have more episodes. But back to the important thing, me. 

I've been working on a number of short stories lately and was working on one yesterday morning while waiting for an appointment. Here are the notes I wrote about six hours before I watched the Xfiles or had any idea what it was about.

Crispr what is its limit. Could it be used to make viruses to make people sick.

Used as a weapon

Not the Virus Doctor the Gene Doctor (this is for a story with a serial killer.) 

First assumption that he's taking people with gene defects.

Using Crispr to give people genetic defects

How long would it take?

There are a couple other minor questions but if you saw the Xfiles you see my point. I finished my errands, went home, had dinner and then sat down and watched the Xfiles, in which most of the ideas in my notes were in the TV show and since it was the Xfiles I felt some obligation to come up with the most paranormal possibilites of what happened. Perhaps I am psycicly connected to Chris Carter, or perhaps it was the collective unconcious sending both of us the same message. Perhaps time traveling aliens saw my story and brought it back in time to the writers of the xfiles so they could make a mediocor episode of the TV show out of it. 

Of course, also in the style of the x-files I feel the need to have a skeptic. Those ideas are all stupid. As is the idea that either of us stole the idea from the other. (Even if I had written it months and not hours before the show went on the TV). The real answer of course is that lots of people have ideas. Just because you had the idea for a school that teached wizards doesn't mean that J.K. Rowlings stole your idea, or that if you thought of a serial killer who kills serial killers that Dexter was your idea. At best it means that you are good at comming up with basic story ideas. But what most people who aren't writers don't understand is that ideas don't, by themselves, make good stories. There are far more good ideas than good stories and a lot of great stories with mediocor or even bad ideas. 

All that said, it is a wierd mixture of frustrating and strange to watch your idea on the screen even though you had no connection to it and even now I am trying to decide if I have to completely rewrite the basics of the story because even though it will be different it's going to be hard to not think about the xfiles if I write the story as I planned. But either way I think it makes for an interesting story about writing stories. 


Buffy: Once More With Feeling. Best TV Episode Ever.

I don’t watch reruns much. If there is a TV show I really love I might watch it every ten years but even then I tend to skip a lot of episodes. It’s largely the same with movies. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a movie more than ten times and there are very few I’ve watched more than twice. That begins to explain why I think that Buffy: Once More with Feeling is, at least for me, the best episode of TV ever written. The first time I saw it I watched it straight through three times and I’ve watched it many times since. The fact that it’s a musical helps of course because it is far easier to have in the background. But catchy music isn’t what makes this the best episode it’s that it’s a music episode that not only isn’t a throwaway but is one of the most central episodes on the series.

First, the music is great. There is a variety of tunes and it is catchy. But just like all the best musicals it’s more than just that. The songs reveal what is going on in the characters minds and at times mean different things to different characters. And in the case of this episode it forces them to confront all of their problems. And that leads into the second reason it’s such a great episode.

This episode has more character development and discusses more important issues than most seasons on other shows. Among the things that the characters in this episode are going through is fear of commitment, guilt, difficulty in moving on, drugs and depression. And that’s just off the top of my head. 

I won’t touch on all of those, but I will say that Buffy does the best job of discussing depression of anything I have ever seen. And whether you have clinical depression or just are feeling down it’s great to see a character that is a hero that is doing the same. (some spoilers ahead). In this case Buffy is depressed because she was in heaven and brought back to life. She is going through the motions of life, but isn’t feeling any of them. And this episode is the most important part of this arc of the character because it is the episode where Buffy finally tells her friends the truth. 

Finally it deals with one of the most annoying things on TV. No one telling anyone anything. This is perhaps the most common way that plots are dragged out in modern TV as each of the characters hides things from the others. This episode removes that crutch and makes the rest of the season better because they actually have to deal with what happened.

I understand why so many other episodes of TV are often higher on lists than this one. Series finales often feel more important because they are final and it’s easy to assume that the musical episode of a TV show just can’t be all that important. But in the hands of a master this episode moves from laughter to tears, deals with important personal issues for every major character and still fits in several excellent songs.