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Stoney
12-08-14, 07:22 PM
Here's the new thread for the Season 3 rewatch.

As we are doing one episode a week this season I've suggested we aim to post each weekend to give ourselves a little more structure and to keep the pace going. To help I've put a guiding Fri date next to each episode so people can be prepared for when their reviews are due. No doubt we will agree what break happens around Christmas closer to the time. Below is the reference list of those signed up to do the initial reviews and, as always, I'll keep an episode list below that links to each review when they're posted.

So, as we carry on chatting over Becoming II, get disc 1 loaded up and ready for norwie's review of Anne. :xd

____

*post each weekend, Fri date given as a guide

3.01 Anne - norwie (15 Aug)
3.02 Dead Man's Party - Local Max (22 Aug)
3.03 Faith, Hope & Trick - Stoney (29 Aug)
3.04 Beauty and the Beasts - TimeTravellingBunny (05 Sep)
3.05 Homecoming - Stoney (12 Sep)
3.06 Band Candy - Dipstick (19 Sep)
3.07 Revelations - King (26 Sep)
3.08 Lovers Walk - Stoney (03 Oct)
3.09 The Wish - TimeTravellingBunny (10 Oct)
3.10 Amends - TimeTravellingBunny (24 Oct)
3.11 Gingerbread - Stoney (31 Oct)
3.12 Helpless - Local Max (07 Nov)
3.13 The Zeppo - Sosa (21 Nov)
3.14 Bad Girls - Dipstick (28 Nov)
3.15 Consequences - TimeTravellingBunny (12 Dec)
3.16 Doppelgangland - Local Max (19 Dec)
3.17 Enemies - Rihannon (02 Jan)
3.18 Earshot - Local Max (09 Jan)
3.19 Choices - Dipstick (16 Jan)
3.20 The Prom - Local Max (23 Jan)
3.21 Graduation Day Pt1 - King (30 Jan)
3.22 Graduation Day Pt2 - King (06 Feb)



SEASON 1 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?19768-BtVS-rewatch-SEASON-1) thread
SEASON 2 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?19794-BtVS-rewatch-SEASON-2) thread
SEASON 4 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?20053-BtVS-rewatch-SEASON-4) thread
SEASON 5 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?20152-BtVS-rewatch-SEASON-5) thread
SEASON 6 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?20386-BtVS-rewatch-SEASON-6) thread


SEASON 3 episode links3.01 Anne (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=698888#post698888)
3.02 Dead Man's Party (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=699176#post699176)
3.03 Faith, Hope & Trick (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=699497#post699497)
3.04 Beauty and the Beasts (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=699835#post699835)
3.05 Homecoming (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=699997#post699997)
3.06 Band Candy (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=700232#post700232)
3.07 Revelations (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=700476#post700476)
3.08 Lovers Walk (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=700720#post700720)
3.09 The Wish (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701019#post701019)
3.10 Amends (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701262#post701262)
3.11 Gingerbread (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701388#post701388)
3.12 Helpless (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701575#post701575)
3.13 The Zeppo (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701812#post701812)
3.14 Bad Girls (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=701928#post701928)
3.15 Consequences (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=702166#post702166)
3.16 Doppelgangland (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=702274#post702274)
3.17 Enemies (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=702463#post702463)
3.18 Earshot (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=702747#post702747)
3.19 Choices (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=702898#post702898)
3.20 The Prom (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=703061#post703061)
3.21 Graduation Day, Part 1 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=703167#post703167)
3.22 Graduation Day, Part 2 (http://www.buffyforums.net/forums/showthread.php?p=703365#post703365)

norwie
15-08-14, 11:53 PM
So I'm off to the family meeting a few hours early hence the review will be up sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning (Sunday evening for you westerners oversea ;) ).

Things to look out for:

Ghandi explained!

Sobibor!

Forearm tattoos!

Batman vs the Red Army!

Mirroring first vs last ep!

And, finally, why "Anne" is the best ep ever. :loveeyes:

norwie
19-08-14, 01:41 AM
"First of all, a film is created out of interests, money and careers, then intentions, crafts and manias. Only in what remains, from what the participants are able to do either too much or too little flows the unknown, unconscious, that which makes a film not only wiser than its authors, but also smarter than the system which produces it."




Buffy "Anne Frank" Summers.

Buffy "Working Class Hero" Summers.

Buffy "Sasha Pechersky" Summers.

Buffy "(Not-)Ghandi" Summers.

Buffy the Slayer.

Most awesomest episode of all awesome episodes. In this episode, Mutant Enemy loose their cool and get down and dirty with the heavy themes.

I'm not going to comment too much on the Sunnydale scenes since the meat of the episode lies elsewhere. I'm sure some of you diehard Willow/Xander/Scoobies fans will give a way more detailed rundown than I ever could. :)

We open up with a scene from Sunnydale where the Scoobies fight a vampire willingly. The scene is played for laughs - message: the Scoobies are alright.
(But the underlying tones are that the Scoobies do not only miss Buffy in her capacity of the Slayer, but as a person: "I feel we took her punning for granted", says Xander.)

Then we cut to Buffy's beach dream which shows her guilt over killing the one she loved (her subconsciousness accuses: "Not even if you kill me").
I think the rest of this scene is romanticist filler, such as the rather nonsensical "dialogue" between Buffy and dream-Angel.

THEN "we" wake up to Buffy's working class reality.

Her working place is aptly named "Hell(en)'s Kitchen", firmly establishing that this is real, Buffy's awoken from her petty-bourgeois dreams as a Sunnydale middle class white girl into the reality of the working woman's life. The men are not knights, the work is shitty and the pay is poor. All Buffy has left is a room, work and a lot of guilt come the night. The heroic "Me!" from last ep. is seriously shaken and deconstructed. But, fear not gentle reader: Buffy will reclaim her "Me!" stronger than ever before: In the name of history far greater than her personal love story of having to send her abusive Ex to hell (quite literally, since this is the Buffy show). Last season it was about Buffy's individualistic and very personal identity in the face of personal abuse - this time it is about collective destruction as much as it is about personal abuse; it is about the whole of mankind. Sure, this isn't an apocalyptic episode on the surface. But below it is much more about the apocalypse than any other episode on the whole show. It is not about a "highschool is hell" metaphor but "life is hell"/"Hell on Earth".

We then meet Rickie and Lily who are caught between the antagonism/contradiction of their respective romanticist dreams and the(ir) economic reality. They have blown their little savings on seemingly fleeting dreams of forever love. Kitschy tattoos and and even kitschier lines blown into each other faces. (Especially the tattoos will get deeper meaning once the episode steams on.) In this regard the two are a mirror to Buffy (and Angel) - but also a reminder: What we live through is tattooed into our being forever, no matter how "dreamy", or "fleeting" it may have been.

Lily recognizes her one-time hero in Buffy: You can take the girl out of the Slayer duty - but you cannot take the Slayer out of the girl.

This scene also has some grim humor in the discussion between Anne, Lily and Rickie about what to eat:

"If they have no bread then let them eat cake."

We cut back to SD - and the happy and carefree overtones of the first scene get a bit of a deeper meaning here when Giles reminds the Scoobies of the possibility of gruesome death at the hands of vampires. It is still played mostly for laughs, especially the sit com-esque pairing scenes Xander/Cordelia and Willow/Oz. Here, it is firmly established that the characters left in Sunnydale are still very much into the " petty-bourgeois dreams as a Sunnydale middle class white girl"/boy. This spills over into the Scoobie's playing at slaying (I should take up rapping... :D), especially when we get to Buffy's case of missing people in LA.

Tangent: Buffy's whole Working Class Hero life plays in Los Angeles, a sprawling industrial mega city, the petty-bourgeois children's dreams play in nice suburbian Sunnydale. Another contrast which makes Buffy's experiences "real", and the lives of the Scoobies the "minority report". While Buffy's social identiy lies pretty much in SD (her friends, her mom, her Giles, her emotional core) the world at large is (her) LA.

The scene shifts again to Buffy: we meet Ken, who is at first glance a parody of a zealous religious, then we get into the story of the life in hell. Lily tries to establish a friendship with Buffy which hints at her admiring Buffy, at reaching out to Buffy and in her own inner Slayer. Buffy rejects the Slayer - but we get a first glimpse at not-entirely-lost-Buffy when she dives into traffic to save a "no one".

We get a look at "the lost and the damned" of society, the scenes are shot grimly and with no warm blanket or metaphor to cover our eyes and make us sleep tight and safe at night.

Now we finally get to a very important scene in Sunnydale when Joyce cuts right to the core of it in her fight with Giles:

She accuses him (rightly) of estranging Buffy from her, of breaking up the maternal home of the Summers women. Giles is the - male - intruder here, the Watcher's Council man who told Buffy time and again to hide her activities from her mother: Patriarchy stealing away the daughter from the mother, destroying the relationship a woman has to her foremothers, making them pliable to the male will. The WC do not want the Slayer to learn wisdom from her mother but form her into a tool to be used, abused and thrown away by men. (Of course Giles is taken aback: I don't think he is aware of this, he only has the best of intentions - the effect is nonetheless the same). Ah, rich material here.

Back to hero Buffy: She's on the case of missing Rickie, showing her smarts and finally finding him. She identifies him by the forearm tattoo. No, it is not a number on the TV show but when we later learn about the truth of the circumstances of his suffering and death it becomes quite clear. The only mark of identity after the Enemy stripped away every trace of identity he had for himself:

http://www.findembassy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/tattoo-his-arm-former-inmate-auschwitz-nazi-german-46944.jpg

- - - Updated - - -

Part II follows in some hours - i have to edit some material which I had forgotten about.

- - - Updated - - -

During the Buffy detective story we witness another time just how smart Buffy really is: alternating deduction, brains and brawns in successful combination to unravel the mystery (another little hint at Buffy's smarts is in her conversation with Lily about her names: Buffy knows stuff. Even exotic stuff. ;)).

In just no time she's standing at the gates of hell and finds herself in Sobibor – I mean Ken's industrial hell.

The way Lily and Buffy are captured and their attitude towards their situation firmly establishes the key differences between them: Lily is the civilian caught up in her own desperation while Buffy is the soldier („Warrior of the People“), determined to analyze the situation and finding a way out of it.

Buffy in the concentration camp:

http://compass-images-3.comcast.net/ccp_img/pkr_prod/VMS_POC_Image_Ingest/23/569/media-2812653062663735190-EDEscapeFromSobibor_2x1_1280x640_23651510.jpg

So. Sobibor.

As you all know there were just over 40.000 (forty thousand) concentration camps all over Europe during the reign of open fascism over here. Most of them were „dual purpose“ camps: Annihilation through labor. Some however were pure factories of death – no workshops beyond the ones necessary to run the camps, just the industrialized destruction of human lives. And while Auschwitz remains the name foremost associated with the millions murdered in the Holocaust and the Shoa – it was still officially a „work camp“. The life expectancy in Auschwitz was 3 to 6 months.

Sobibor was different. There were no factories. There were no meager food rations. There were no barracks. The life expectancy in Sobibor was about 3 hours.

Sobibor was different in other ways: It was the place of a successful uprising of the 600 prisoners held there to run the camp which led to the destruction and abandonment of the camp: Alexander „Sasha“ Pechersky, a soviet jewish RKKA officer led an armed revolt on October, 14th during which two-thirds of the members of the SS were successfully killed and again two-thirds of the prisoners escaped the camp. (Tragically, only around 70 of the escapees survived the following man hunt and the war.) In the aftermath of the successful insurrection the camp was abandoned by the nazis and no further human lives were destroyed at this place. Which makes the escape from Sobibor probably one of the most successful life saving acts of all times. By comparison: In Auschwitz – a „labor camp“ - between 1 million (conservative estimates) and 5 million (estimation by the commander of the camp) people were murdered. The death camp Sobibor had the capabilities of murdering much, much more people until the liberation by the RKKA. But, October 14th, 1943 was the last day anyone was murdered there.

Now, you wonder why I put a picture of Rutger Hauer above. Well, you could all watch the documentary about Sobibor but knowing that you are all pop culture vultures – there's a movie from the 80s named „Escape from Sobibor“ which depicts the events quite well and shows Rutger Hauer in the role of Buffy Summers – I mean Sasha Pechersky. I recommend it. (Pechersky survived the escape and continued to fight against the Enemy until he was severely wounded during Operation Bagration after which he helped write „the black book of the Holocaust“ by Ehrenburg and Grossman and worked as a – music teacher.)

Now, that was not a detour, but a precizision of the the events depicted in the episode „Anne“. The whole scenery in Ken's hell is the scenery of a concentration camp of the 40s in Europe. Prisoned slaves are worked to death for the profits of the demonic master race.

This is maybe the most political episode of BtVS, with clear references and paralleling of concentration camps (hell on earth, but also completely removed from everyday life), their real purpose (accumulation of capital) and their inner workings (annihilation through labor).

And, indeed, fascism is the "ultima ratio" of capitalism (which turns this around to the start of the episode: Buffy as a working class woman, working in "hell's kitchen").

Buffy's stay in the hell of the working class has some of the most epic scenes and lines from the series: „I'm Buffy the vampire slayer – and you are?“ (which is the „Me!“ scene of the ep and a strong reaffirmation of Buffy's self). Buffy standing, hammer and sickle in hand in the workshop over the corpses of the slain demon fascists, the Enemy of the people - reminding us who actually destroyed the beast.

(In the words of the class enemy:

"History knows no greater display of courage than that shown by the people of Soviet Russia" Henry L Stimson, Secretary of War.

"We and our allies owe and acknowledge an everlasting debt of gratitude to the armies and people of the Soviet Union" Frank Knox, Secretary of the navy.

"...the scale and grandeur of the Russian effort mark it as the greatest military achievement in all history." Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief Southwest Pacific Area.)



There's also the infamous line „humans don't fight back!“ which is a shift/displacement of the well known phrase „Jews don't fight back“.

Part III follows shortly thereafter.

- - - Updated - - -

So, Buffy – the one who fights back - leads an armed revolt and leads the prisoners to freedom, in the process smashing Ken's skull with her working class hammer while giving the impression of a „really angry Ghandi“.

This is a funny and but also sombre scene as it plays with the image Ghandi has in western society and rejecting the message (as understood by most westerners) altogether.

The truth about Ghandi is a bit more complicated than just „Pacifism!“. During his life Ghandi developed – as all humans do – and changed positions. The „Umkhonto we Sizwe“ - „Spear of the Nation“ - the armed arm of the South African liberation movement ANC (Nelson Mandela was the first leader of the Spear of the Nation) developed much of it's theory from Ghandi's work. While Ghandi became more and more stubborn in his stated pacifism until he wrote that shameful letter to the european Jews he was not always like that: In the beginning, his peaceful protests were more of a strategy to reach his goals and not the stone set principle it became later. Ghandi was in favor of the British wars against open racism and urged his fellow Indians to join the British forces. Only after it became apparent that the peaceful protests actually worked (in the isolated situation of 400 million against 100.000....) he elevated the strategy to a principle.

So, Buffy's not wrong when she says that a „really angry Ghandi“ would smash Ken's skull. The world has never witnessed a „really angry Ghandi“. ;)

At the same time of this little irony I applaud Mutant Enemy to depict Buffy as a contrast to the image of a peaceful Ghandi: There's human action in this world which demands an equally forceful counter action. Without the likes of Sasha Pechersky the ashes would cover the world from Lissabon to Vladivostok; Africa and Asia would be slave camps and mass graves (moreso than they already are).

The end scene is Buffy returning to Sunnydale while Lily takes up the mantle of „Anne“, the Working Class Hero. Lily is inspired by Buffy to fight, to „become“. She stays in the urban working class world while Buffy leaves the working class and returns to her petty bourgeois family and dreams – but she's learned a valuable lession: Solidarity wins the fight. It is no wonder that she employs these lessons in the finale of the season, raising a student's army to defeat the mayor. And while „Graduation Day“ is a piss poor adaption of that principle (white middle class petty bourgeois youths will never be a decisive force in this world...) „Anne“ is actually a really great depiction of bravery, solidarity and smashing the chains (and Ken's brains) yourself (because there's no one else who will do it for you).

Buffy is the spark, maybe the – militarily speaking – driving force of insurrection. But only together victory is possible. This is what the season shows in it's first episode, as well as it's last. (Whedon is so obsessed with symmetry it is really funny. :) )

(And just for the record: I LIKE „Graduation Day“ - i just love „Anne“ so much more, as it is much more intense and much more true to the world we live in. „Anne“ has real depth, while „GD“ is just cool.)

Oh, I promised Batman vs. The Red Army. Hm.

This is actually a little bit of cheating as that actually happens in a sort of thematical crossover from „Anne“ and „DMP“. We get the children playing at „Nighthawk“ (Batman) and the woman smashing the fascist's skull.(„Hey, Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?“). Red Army wins.

Bits and bytes.

Buffy holding the gate open is a really powerful image derived from myths of the hero using his/her body/mind to hold open the gates; think Moses and the Red Sea. Here, Whedon's knowledge of classical and antique hero myths really shines through.

„Anne“ from BtVS and Anne from AtS have very little in common. Business as usual. The two narratives just don't work together.

This is the real Alexander Pechersky:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ru/thumb/4/48/Pechersky.jpg/200px-Pechersky.jpg

This is the real Buffy Anne Summers:

http://images.yuku.com.s3.amazonaws.com/image/jpg/873359608412c12572950434a208f2a24202e17_r.jpg

This is the hymn of the Jewish resistance fighters:


http://youtu.be/QEgopg7I4_s


Zog nit kejnmol as du gejst dem letstn weg,
chotsch himlen blajene farschteln bloje teg,
kumen wet noch undser ojsgebenkte schoh,
’s wet a pojk ton undser trot – mir sejnen do!

Fun grinen palmen-land bis wajtn land fun schnej,
mir kumen on mit undser pejn, mit undser wej,
un wu gefaln is a schprits fun undser blut,
schprotsn wet dort undser gwure, undser mut.

'S wet di morgn-sun bagildn unds dem hajnt,
un der necht wet farschwindn mitn fajnt,
nor ob farsamen wet di sun un der kajor,
wi a parol sol gejn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.

Dos lid geschribn is mit blut un nischt mit blej,
’s nit kejn lidl fun a fojgl ojf der fraj,
dos hot a folk tswischn falndike went
dos lid gesungen mit naganes in die hent.


Never say this final road for you,
though leaden skies cover over days of blue.
as the hour that we longed for is so near,
our steps beat out the message, we are here.

from lands so green with palms to lands all white with snow,
we shall be coming with our anguish and our woe.
and where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
there our courage and our spirit have rebirth.

the early morning sun will brighten our day,
and yesterday with our foe will fade away.
but if the sun delays and in the east remains,
this song as password generations must maintain.

this song is written with our blood and not with lead,
it's not a little tune that birds sing overhead.
this song a people sang amid collapsing walls.
with grenades* in hand they heeded the call.

therefore never say the road now ends for you,
though leaden skies may cover days of blue.
as the hour that we longed for is so near,
our steps beat out the message, we are here!

*the word used in the Yiddish original is „naganes“ which means „(Mosin-)Nagant“ - a standard issue soviet infantry rifle.

Local Maximum
19-08-14, 04:43 AM
Norwie, thank you so much for writing that. I admit that I'm very intimidated about following that with any comments at all.

The first thing I wanted to mention is that the very first scene, in addition to establishing that the people in Sunnydale are alive and so on, also mirrors the end of the L.A. plotline: we see a vampire crawling out of a grave, suspended between two woman's legs with a stake exposed. We are meant to think this is Buffy, before the reveal that it's Willow, who is very explicitly attempting to fill the role set by Buffy, "the slayer." She's cut her hair into a sexy 'do, which at this point is a fairly radical change for her. In the same scene, Willow refers to Buffy as "the slayer" before Xander calls her Buffy, and refers to her in the past, and that's when Willow tells Xander not to use the past tense rule. Willow misses Buffy and tries to pretend she's not gone, but she tries to "become" "the slayer," in some form. I can't help but point out that Willow's legs are the key element of the shot, when last we saw her was in a wheelchair (without the use of her legs): the image deliberately calls forth how badly injured Willow was in the finale, and thus how close to death she was there.

I think what this is setting up, for the main story, is the nature of heroism and myth. It is true that the Sunnydale scenes are lighter in tone, but Willow did almost die immediately before Buffy's departure; I think her desire to try to fight vampires (I think the operation is headed by Willow here), even though it's got a relatively low success rate, comes from the same desire to "save themselves" that Buffy is able to activate in Lilly. And so again symmetry: the episode's beginning is a play on Willow, the victim who just barely woke up out of her vampire-induced coma in the finale, attempting to become THE SLAYER THE MYTH, just as Lilly becomes ANNE THE MYTH; Buffy is a person, and her heroism and strength also shine brightly and inspire those around her. Which is how the collective action heroism works -- alone, Buffy can save herself and maybe some others, but fundamentally her task in the episode (and, indeed, the series) is to be able to bring others to the point where they can fight as well. The duality of THE SLAYER/ANNE, that Buffy is Buffy Anne Summers the Vampire Slayer, reflects Buffy's position as both everywoman and divine warrior. Willow and Lilly have somewhat similar names, and I think they are paralleled, with Willow's radical reinvention from wheelchair-bound, long-haired "victim" to short-haired "slayer," while not entirely successful, is something akin to Lilly's more extreme transformations of self. I see Willow and Lilly them as the episode's comic/tragic takes on Buffy's inspirational power in particular and, more generally, the inspirational power of the myth that Buffy taps into. The Scoobies are able to succeed in slaying once they start functioning properly as a team, and the couples are able to get over their forms of romantic disappointment, in its own take on the "collective action" and "escape from the pain of romantic disillusionment" in the main plot.

I guess my embarrassing Willow fondness makes me want to point out, too, that the episode opening with Willow having reinvented herself as a fighter, when last we saw her was recovering in a wheelchair from a near-fatal vampire attack, does fit in with the themes norwie discusses as more than a joke, IMO. After all, what is Willow's attempt at radical-self transformation into a fighter, brought on partly to help fight back the vamp horde and partly by feelings of powerlessness from a near-death experience and the departure of her gentile friend/saviour whom she misses, but evidence that Jews do fight back? :)

That "past tense rule" line makes me think, too, of the way Buffy is stuck in time, reliving the moment where Angel dies in her mind, which later on connects to the demon dimension in which a hundred years pass in a day. People feel themselves "stuck" in moments which end up being eternal. There are various perspectives on this -- the Sunnydale denizens are trying to stave off the possibility that Buffy might not return, Buffy is trying to stave off the internalization of having killed Angel and him being gone (rather than being dead only "in a dream"). Freezing time like this causes them some degree of pain and is even a kind of mini-death -- some for the Scoobies, a great deal for Joyce, and a huge amount for Buffy. But on some level they "want" to stay frozen in this moment, where there is hope, just as Buffy on some level "wants" to no longer be Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, early in the episode before she is called back to action. The demon prison then becomes the horrible exaggeration of these concepts -- both the loss of identity in Buffy's case in general, and also the idea of living out one's entire life, essentially, in an eternal present, with time never moving forward. It is the demons giving Buffy an excess of what she gives to herself that allows her to see how poisonous it is, and break free of it -- to reclaim her identity, and to allow time in her life to move forward again. In keeping with norwie's comments on the mirroring between the season's beginning and end, this is in some sense what "graduation" (or "ascension") means -- the acceptance of the passage of time, that one phase of life can truly end and another begin, rather than living out one's entire life in the prison of a single moment or the past.

To the board: the 22nd is my girlfriend's birthday. I might be a little late in posting on DMP, but I will try not to be.

cil_domney
19-08-14, 08:24 AM
Norwie -

Great analysis especially as our world is going through yet another horrendous time of great political and economic power struggles. The, what for me is one of the fundamental structures of the entire series "find your inner hero" is so clear and significant in this episode. All of the characters move through that theme as the entire graduation class will do in the finale.

Just a quick comment regarding the injured legs and the idea of Willow's needing to transform herself from the grievous injuries - this can also be applied to Spike, his legs had to heal so that he can leave his wheelchair and join Buffy against Angelus. And while Spike had his own agenda to save Drusilla; to mend their relationship he nonetheless turned to Buffy just as Lily will. I love how all these characters and their stories are connected in the events and in the symbolism/metaphor. Spike removed the fantasy blinders from chanterlle/lily who will then find way to Buffy in LA and Buffy will help Lily find her inner hero/warrior and her path back to her freedom and a better life and to use that phrase for independence "stand on her own two feet" just as Spike did and Willow is doing at the start of season three.

I'm off to watch the episode now - but again, congratulations Norwie on your outstanding review and to Local Maximum for the excellent post.

vampmogs
19-08-14, 01:33 PM
I love Anne. I hope to talk about the rest of the episode later on but just to touch a bit on Buffy and her story in this episode.

Once again Whedon really does do a magnificent job portraying someone going through depression. I love the scene where the episode abruptly cuts from Sunnydale High to Buffy sitting alone in her apartment. It’s the f***ing half-opened can of food in Buffy's hands that gets me. That's what convinces me that Whedon must have suffered through bouts of depression or at the very least is extremely attuned with those who have. Because it nails it so perfectly – that you can be halfway through doing the most menial of tasks and then suddenly you lose all energy, or those horrible thoughts creep back in, and it just paralyses you. Without getting too personal, there are a lot of days when I will have driven home from work and I arrive at my house and I just can't get out of the car. The engine is off, the car is parked, but I will sit in my car for a good 15 minutes or so because doing something as mundane as walking to the front door is too overwhelming. Or out of nowhere you'll be hit with a motherf**cking wave of pain and it stops you dead in your tracks. And more often than not it's the moment when you're completely alone when it'll creep up on you. And that’s what’s so insidious about the disease because not only does a part of you want to indulge in that pain and wallow in your depression but even when you purposely go out of your way to stay busy and focused all it takes is for that inevitable moment of loneliness (waking up in your empty apartment, driving home alone from work, doing something as mundane as taking a moment to open up a can of food etc.) for it to take hold of you. And Buffy “wants to be alone” because the idea of socialising and forcing herself through pleasantries really does sound too exhausting and unappealing in comparison to staring at a blank wall and indulging those depressive thoughts, but it’s not like she wants to be in that state either. And the episode captures wonderfully how it’s a tragedy that Buffy isn’t there experiencing her first day of school but at the same time there’s just no way in her state she could have possibly faced all of that chaos and not have found it completely overwhelming.

I also really appreciate the Buffy/Anne scenes when Anne first approaches her on the street. Buffy couldn’t imagine anything worse than going to a “rave” of all things (large crowds, dancing, loud noises, and an abundance of strangers you have to socialise and exchange fake pleasantries with – exhausting) but of course she comes off as unfriendly and rude to Anne who doesn’t understand and interprets it as rejection. And, well, it is a rejection but not because Buffy is some cold bitch, and then we have that incredibly awkward exchange where Buffy tries to offer Anne money as a way of an apology and THANKGOD the crazy old man interrupts them with his “impoliteness” because it’s so incredibly uncomfortable. Whedon’s writing just feels particularly authentic here. He’s known for capturing human emotions and making his characters relatable but I think in this episode he really excels himself.

I think what this episode does also do really well is explore how both Buffy and Anne are in a pretty crappy situation but react to it pretty differently. And maybe this is presumptuous of me since we don’t know a great deal about Anne but despite being homeless, I don’t get the sense that Anne is actually suffering from depression. Not that she’s perfectly happy mind you or that her situation wouldn’t merit someone actually going through that but in my personal opinion (and very, very semi-professional phone counsellor level opinion, so take it with a grain of salt) she doesn’t behave like someone with clinical depression. Unlike Buffy, she’s outgoing enough to approach a stranger on the street and try and strike up a friendship, she’s keen to go to the rave party, she does seem blissfully in love and happy with Ricky even if their relationship seems a little naïve, and despite her pretty horrendous circumstances she does tend to see the positives in what she can (finding fun in being able to sneak into the cinema and not dwell on the fact she can’t actually afford to see a movie etc). And that’s another thing I find authentic about this episode because depression isn’t necessarily dependant on your circumstances. In MANY ways Buffy has it far better than Anne. As nowie notes, Buffy gets to return to middle-class suburbia and to a mother who loves her whereas Anne remains in a crappy apartment, with a crappy job, a repulsive boss, and a family she’s still estranged from. But you can be incredibly rich (take Robin Williams for example) and still be prone to bouts of depression whereas someone less fortunate than you may not be.

And whilst Anne appears to be a more glass-half-full than Buffy and more emotionally well, it is noteworthy that Ricky and Anne couldn’t find a job between them whereas Buffy comes to LA and manages to secure herself a job and an apartment. There’s definitely a sense that Anne (and Ricky) aren’t suffering so much from depression as they are just needing a bit of a kick up the pants and Anne especially needed to be taught to rely on herself more so than always somebody else.

Local Maximum
19-08-14, 05:36 PM
Vamps, that's a great discussion of depression. However, I sort of object to this:


And whilst Anne appears to be a more glass-half-full than Buffy and more emotionally well, it is noteworthy that Ricky and Anne couldn’t find a job between them whereas Buffy comes to LA and manages to secure herself a job and an apartment. There’s definitely a sense that Anne (and Ricky) aren’t suffering so much from depression as they are just needing a bit of a kick up the pants and Anne especially needed to be taught to rely on herself more so than always somebody else.

I agree that Anne (and Ricky) need to learn some new life skills. However, I really disagree with this "suffering from depression"/"need a bit of a kick up the pants" dichotomy. Anne is "optimistic," but she also reads to me as someone with mental health issues, a likely candidate for addiction (the raves, you know), probably some PTSD. Her ability to present herself as super-friendly, to go to raves and be around other people, to approach Buffy, need not be evidence that she's secretly got all the tools she needs to succeed, but a reaction to her circumstances. She seeks out people because she has no ability to function on her own, not, I think, because she's not trying hard enough, but because she's learned a kind of powerlessness. I'd definitely peg her for at least dependent and avoidant personality disorders, for instance (avoidant of whatever topics it were that hit her in the past, dependent on others), and borderline -- which is often associated with angry outbursts, which doesn't fit Anne exactly, but is associated with manipulation (I think that some of her clinginess is actually unconscious manipulation to get people to stay around her), a pattern of extreme, marked changes in identity, a pattern of unstable, intense relationships, a tendency to idealize/devalue others. This set of issues of Anne's are pretty devastating to live with, especially while homeless, and while I strongly suspect being an abuse survivor.

I think her "optimism" is part deliberate escape from reality into a fantasy world, and part a way of making herself seem likable and appealing to others who are possible candidates for people to take care of her. She is "optimistic" because she has to be. We see her from Buffy's perspective and don't know all of Anne's inner life. However, I suspect Anne has settled on "pleasant, hopeful" as a life strategy, because she has completely given up on taking care of herself as an option. If she starts outwardly being sad, she will lose any chance of other people taking care of her. Even going to raves, I think, doubles as both distraction from pain, and, perhaps, the opportunity to form another network of people who might be able to take care of her. That she so quickly, almost instantaneously, says "I'm no one" suggests that, on a deep level, she is basically ready to give up to despair at a moment's notice. It doesn't seem like she is so willing, because she dogs Buffy the way she does, but I think her clinginess is, again, something of an automatic defense mechanism; she is able to function while she's trailing some person she thinks is "better" than her, and trying to suss out what will make them like her enough to take care of her so she doesn't die. Buffy never stops living during her depression, but she can turn into herself because, fundamentally, she is able to function while completely turned in -- she can "get a job," find enough calories in order to sustain her body. She can be depressed and not die. I think that if Anne gave in to despair in the sense that has the qualities of clinical depression, she would die. Her reaction to trauma, pain, mental illness is to reach out to others instinctively, almost with panic.

In general, I think the episode does show Lily/Anne as being more at risk than Buffy. Lilly is much more likely to be taken in by Ken than Buffy is. We basically see that -- Lily's despair makes her believe anyone who comes to her offering her a way out, even if it's a demon. It's not really a case of her being emotionally well. She's just on the edge, very nearly living on haflhearted good vibes, and she's bound for a crash. Buffy only ends up in Ken's hell dimension because she is a hero -- because she wants to help Lily (in something like a repeat of Buffy getting involved in Willow and Xander and Jesse's problems back in WttH). Buffy is suffering terribly, but she is not actually at risk in the same type of way that Lily is, of ending up in the demon prison/concentration camp. Buffy is at risk for suicide, by contrast, in ways we later see emerging more explicitly in s5/6; she is at risk herself, in a big way. However, Lily's emotional unwellness manifests in ways that make her easily exploited and killed, and easy to believe that she deserves to be exploited.

I don't think a kick in the pants is the thing she needs, is sort of my point -- I think she fundamentally has been trained by trauma and lack of proper emotional support to believe that she's incapable of functioning on her own, and seems to have a series of mental health issues that spring up from that or are exacerbated by that. That her experience with Buffy is able to teach her to start the difficult work of self-reliance and healing doesn't prove that all she needed was a pep talk -- one could just as easily say that Buffy's going back home after rediscovering herself in hell proves all she needed was to kill some fascist demons to remember that she is the one with all the power in her situation. It is maybe "true" to a degree, but it doesn't cover the whole story. I think Anne's ability to pull herself together, which she can only do as a result of the Buffy myth, is incredibly heroic, and I think she's overcoming a lot of mental health issues in order to do it. This makes Buffy's overcoming her own trauma and metal health issues no less heroic, but I don't think Anne's issues are a separate category from mental health.

Dipstick
19-08-14, 08:26 PM
Great review, norwie. Way to kick off the season. Great responding posts, everyone. I really liked what Local_Max had to say about Willow and Anne. To further riff with norwie's interesting and dare I say, apropos theme.

My grandfather warned my siblings and I to "Always keep a bag packed" because in his view, Jews are in danger everywhere even in 2014 United States in a comfortable income bracket. He didn't coin the expression- I've heard it elsewhere and some feel it's being borne out in Israel and parts of Europe right now. And my family is 100 percent Jewish as far as I can trace it but I didn't lose any known relatives in the Holocaust. My mother's side emigrated to the US a couple of generations before WWII and my dad's family is from England. Many German and Western European Jews were prosperous and middle class. Hitler's rise to power began slowly and it felt even slower in non-German countries. In early WWII, Jews were being oppressed through rhetoric, stigma, discriminatory laws, occasional but increasing violence and on the verge of greater horrors while still being bourgeois.

Part of the Holocaust WAS Jews living the petty bourgeois life but aware that dark, evil powers were rising and gaining power and waiting for the bottom to drop out of their lives. And that's Sunnydale. That slow burn of dehumanization which starts off mild and becomes dystopic is one of the scariest things about the Holocaust for me. (Which isn't to say that almost immediate machete-squads in Rwanda doesn't carry an equally potent horror.) In Holocaust analogue, Buffy saw and broke out of a concentration camp. The Scoobies are leading the resistance stop avoid that late Holocaust dystopia which the Mayor and the Wishverse Master want to create right there in Sunnydale. (Season 3 theme?)

Thus far, the demon-town the Mayor built just works to eradicate the human race with secret nightly killings, the government propagates misinformation while helping demons exterminate the human race if it needs the political favors (Larconis and the babies) and tries to lock up or expel resistance fighters like Buffy. I'm sure the Mayor actually loves that property values are depressed in Sunnydale and he may even nudge it along. He certainly doesn't keep watch or maybe even knows that Mollock occupied valuable computer-factory space. Like a totalitarian dictator, he wants to tout his prosperity but he doesn't want his citizens/chum to sell their homes and move away. I wager many Sunnydale denizens are underwater on their homes, sold on buying a house in a So Cal beach town with a UC university but they find that they can't sell because there's a unsaid stink of a reputation. A big part of the Holocaust was how the Nazis tricked and stole from the Jews and anyone they wanted to persecute. i.e. Instructing Jews to come with all of their jewelry and their best clothes to the concentration camps so they can interview well for good jobs so they can rob more possessions before they murdered their rightful owners. Or the Nazis drawing starved, weak Jews out of the ghetto to the concentration camps by promising food down the tracks. Ditto the Mayor saying that all students needed to attend their graduation ceremony to get their diploma so they're all there to be food for him even though the students should be guaranteed a diploma from the state of California as long they comply with the credit requirements.

It's a all in a lead up to creating conditions to eat and torture humans en masse by daylight. The Scoobies are definitely in the theme and their surface middle-class attitudes and Willow's heritage are part of how they feel like Western European Jews and resistance fighters.

Norwie, I admired how you brought in Sobibor. However, Buffy's resistance is like Sobibor but different. When Buffy says, "I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And you are?", she's claiming the full spectrum of Buffy inherent in this show's very silly name that puts people from appreciating its awesome. ;-) There's a valley-girl element of the name Buffy and the sass-frass of "And you are?" However, there's also the slayer in "the vampire slayer". Buffy isn't just some girl. She's a super-hero with the strength to take all of those hell demons and the moral clarity and training that she can kill evil demons in hell as opposed to starved, weakened Jews who need to kill human guards (including many women) to resist.

Moreover, Buffy was captured five minutes before she mounted her coup- she wasn't subject to years or months of dehuminzation and stripping of resources and friends in the real world like the Jews or gypsies, etc. in WWII. It feeds into my earlier point. A lot of what's scary about the Holocaust was steady progression of dehumanization before the Jews even got to the camp. Per the end of Anne, Buffy could always go home. A concentration camp victim couldn't in the middle of WWII or even after the liberation. Even before they even got to the camp, their property was stolen, their Aryan or even Christian Eastern European friends voluntarily or were forced to turn against them, and they were likely starved, weakened, and abused into compliance. It's all part of why Sobibor or the Warsaw Ghetto resistance was so rare.

I really liked what Local_Max had to say about Anne's mental condition. I'll add that Buffy didn't kick Anne in the pants. Buffy had her tough love temper tantrum of "I can't solve your problems, go away" but that was wrong and Buffy went back on it to rescue Anne. That's one of the keys of the ep. Anne needed to be rescued because there are rapacious, sneaky, evil, powerful forces who manipulate kids without resources into being slaves. The Ken-hell dimension problem wasn't frivolous. It was huge and Anne and the other kids needed a Slayer. Really, only a Slayer and a really talented, experienced one at that could have beaten back all of those demons in hell and kept that gate up for all of the teen slaves to escape. LOL, I'm sure Acathala is like a totally different thing but Angel didn't figure his way out like Buffy did here or come to think of it, like Connor did in Quor-Toth or like Fred did with some AI help in Pylea. OK, now I realize that I'm just being bitchy....

And then, Buffy followed that supernatural help to give Anne a leg up on her human challenges. A place with a little help on the rent and a lead on a job. Because clearly, no one had ever done that for Anne. I think the ep makes very clear that Anne was abused in her childhood home and thus, kept changing her name. Anne immediately took that *help* (not a kick) to become comfortable and then, provide other youngsters help. Buffy does say firmly that taking care of yourself takes practice and she treated Anne like an urgent partner in the hell-saving (as she would her friends)- but Buffy was like, 98 percent help and 2 percent kick and that's what worked. Not Buffy's earlier stance which was, 98 percent kick.

Stoney
20-08-14, 01:15 AM
Really interesting review norwie and great following posts. You all definitely upped my appreciation of this episode.

I think the Xander/Willow side follows on well from the hospital scene in Becoming 2. They are both shown to be very focused on their current relationships throughout the episode, Willow even seems somewhat wearily amused by Xander and Cordelia’s drama/bickering. Although I don’t like their coming romance storyline it does work that although she doesn’t scan as jealous at all to me, conversely, Xander’s problem at the start with “come and get it, big boy” can be taken to be a touch in part due to his possessiveness. As a point of characterisation for Xander it works generally but it also fits in with them heading towards their romantic interlude being prompted by Xander finally noticing Willow sexually as she is drawing that attention from others.

I vaguely remember discussing with Max and Dipstick, and probably others too, about Willow taking on roles during discussing Nightmares and another time about her taking on role characteristics of others. Willow in her comfort zone is very different to scenarios where she actively tries to find/consider how to present herself. The opening scene for me really looks at this again with Willow trying to fit the ‘slayer’ gap as Max said. But then her unusual excitement over the prospect of homework when school starts again the next day serves to emphasise that she is out of her comfort zone here fighting vampires. The start of S6 is a great contrast to this though where Willow has by then gained a confidence in the skills she personally can add and she is very much in command as herself.

As much as I oft criticise Joyce, I feel for her deeply in this episode. I agree with norwie that she is right to be angry at Giles, even though I think she is conveniently not looking critically at herself. Well not openly so. But her fears show in not wanting to leave the house in case she misses Buffy. She is trapped, crippled by her fear and remains inactive outside of distracting household chores. She can’t be the one to go out trying to affect the situation so she remains passive to its resolution. Although, as Xander points out when Giles is heading out on yet another lead, the resolution really lies with Buffy’s choice to return. But the guilt Joyce must be feeling for her part in pushing Buffy away, in not noticing the signs, mixed in with her fear that Buffy might not return or that she might not be there yet again when/if Buffy turns to her for support, must have her on an emotional knife edge. The intensity for her is huge and I genuinely get a lump in my throat when that knock on the door comes at the end of the episode, knowing that the utter relief would be overwhelming.

One of the things that really strikes me in this episode is how deeply the points of ‘fear’ thread through it. Hell isn’t just a loss of hope and proof of despair as Ken puts it. Those emotions certainly are playing key roles but oppression also feeds off and into fear. We can do it to ourselves as well as being subjected to it by others. A lack of hope and despair need, I think, to be bound by fear for inactivity to be the response. Our instinct is fight or flight, so to stay still is a significant lack of reaction. Of course here and in history it is what was relied upon - they don’t fight back, “that’s how this works”. Fear stops the masses using their superior numbers to take control back. No one wants to be one of the definite casualties that action would undoubtedly result in. Or be on the receiving end of the consequences to pull everyone back in line if it fails. I think it does, in actual fact, show that whilst there is despair it doesn’t sit alongside a complete loss of hope necessarily if people do nothing. There is some hope that you may not die if you do as asked, that they might let you go or a real opportunity to escape may just appear without risk. Hope is definitely battered and despair is suffocating, but there is fear behind inaction.

Buffy needed this time to mourn. She didn’t feel she would be able to do that back home. She doesn’t feel that her grief would be accepted or understood. She fears going back and facing everyone, going back to being the slayer when it hands out a brutal reality that comes with severe loss (of love and/or life itself by her experience). But she also fears letting go of her pain and moving on. As Max says there is a want to stay frozen and that works alongside norwie’s point about the tattoo as a ‘forever’ mark on a life. I see the significance of Anne’s return into her life, someone from Buffy’s own past, as emphasising the truth to Buffy that life does change and it will move on. She can need this time and wish things were different, she can want to be alone and grieve but life just won't stay static for her. Willow wishes for the impossible in Buffy being there the next day as if nothing happened. The next day will roll up regardless but if Buffy arrives unexpectedly or not, it can’t be as it was before.

On a lighter note, I love Oz in this episode, the dismal stake throwing is excellent, his discussion about his repeating year with Willow was great and this is just classic Oz, I love him so…

Oz: I don't know. I think we're kinda getting a rhythm down.
Xander: We're losing half the vamps.
Oz: Yeah, but . . . rhythmically.

cil_domney
20-08-14, 04:00 AM
- - - Updated - - -

Ken: Humans don't fight back. (enraged) Humans don't fight back! That's how this works! (to the guards with him) Get down there!

(the guards finally manage to overpower Buffy and bring her to Ken. He's got a big knife.)

Ken: One of you fights... and you all die! That... was not... permitted.

BUFFY: Yeah, but it was fun.

Ken: (smiles) You've got guts. I think I'd like to slice you open and play with them. Let everyone know! *This* is the price of rebellio...

(He's about to slice into Buffy, but Lily shoves him off the ledge)


The brilliance of the scene and the theme, IMO, is that Lily/Anne with the greatest simplicity and lack of bravura makes the choice to push The Oppressor Ken Monster off the ledge. Once she can make that choice she takes control of setting herself and the others free. Buffy was her guide/hope/caretaker, but at that most important of all moments chantrelle/lily/anne becomes those women we see in the “are you ready to be strong” montage. Lily/Anne may not have transformed into a powerful warrior and protector but she changed her life and her world and that of all the other prisoner/slave victims. This for is the Great Power Transformation of the episode. One person, just like Gandhi did, can change the lives of millions by his example. Buffy/Gandhi brought C/Lily/Anne to the point where she understood and accepted the vision that she could fight against Ken/Oppressor and gain her freedom and control of her life. If C/Lily/Anne, irrespective of all the guidance or strength that Buffy offered her; had she not faced her fears and overcome her vulnerability and destructive dependence on others, she along with all the others would have remained prison/slaves.

Ken’s “Humans don’t fight back! That how this work.” – Tells the truth of it and for me, this is my fundamental significance of the episode. The great power that each person holds within themselves if they will understand it and use it. Transform that individual power and join it with others and you have the heroic resistance fighters of WWII and the millions who fought against the insanity and evils set loose during that period of human existence. You could take Buffy and Lily/Anne and the Scoobs finding their own strengths and inner hero - drop them down in our time and their story is still a true reflection of the political dynamics of our lives. People who value their lives and freedom have always to value, take care that the Oppressor/Ken Monsters don’t destroy their lives, as they did millions in WWII. It was true then and it continue to be true today.

Buffy may have been lost and living her life in LA HELL – but as Kendra told her, it’s not a job this duty of being The Slayer/Chosen One. Being the Slayer is who Buffy is and she falls right back into that role when she has no other choice and the lives of others are at risk. Buffy can’t, no matter how much she wants to escape life and her pain from all the events she has lived through in Sunnydale – If she wants to live she must face all the sorrows and pain of life. To find life again, it was an inescapable truth that she had to find her Slayer strength and Life Force Strength again and return to her home and life in Sunnydale. She had to face not only the loss of Angel, but just as importantly she had to face her guilt and, unfortunately the part she played in the deaths that come from her inability to kill Angelus. And that guilt had to be a huge factor in all these events. They show that fantasy beach dreamscape and Angel but right beside Angel we can imagine stands Jenny and the victims of Angelus.

Local Maximum
21-08-14, 06:29 PM
Dead Man's Party - teaser

Hi gang! So I will be attempting to do my post on Dead Man's Party tomorrow morning. I can't guarantee it, but I will try.

However, as a "special treat," I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a little teaser. Part of what makes Dead Man's Party very difficult to talk about is that it's a very controversial episode, which brings out very strong emotions. And further, a lot of people find the perspective of the gang (in particular Willow, Xander and Joyce) hard to understand, or, to put it more generously, view the gang's behaviour differently than I do. There is probably some controversy over interpreting Buffy too -- but the show devotes more time to her POV, and I don't see Buffy's actions and reactions as being as potentially opaque.

So, I wrote a somewhat short fic in which I attempt to represent, as I see it, the POV of several significant characters (Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, and Joyce) in the days leading up to Buffy's reappearance. I got a little bit of advice on it from Dipstick. Also, in general, I think this fic owes something to beer_good_foamy's excellent s6 AU fic which similarly focuses on multiple POVs and is of a much higher level of artistry, Building Character (http://beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com/223452.html). Totally unrelated, but recommended.

I hope this is to everyone's satisfaction -- I think in some ways this is a more efficient and effective way for me to communicate how I see the POVs of the Sunnydale characters before Buffy arrives back in town, so I see it as on-topic, though I also admit that it's an indulgence :)

Life Without Buffy

Giles

After the incident with Angel, I was recommended bedrest by the typically charlatan American doctors. It was hard to drive for a few weeks, however, and in those first few weeks of searching for Buffy I nearly got into an accident. I decided after some consideration not to inform the Council that my slayer had disappeared. I pored over the old diaries for any hint of what others had done when a slayer had disappeared, and as expected there were no records of it. I wondered how many times a Watcher was faced with this same predicament, and, like me, failed to record that anguish for eternity out of shame and failure.

And then I considered that none of them could quite understand my current situation: Buffy Anne Summers, already at her young age having saved the world multiple times over, had to kill her lover. It is immaterial that her lover happened to be a creature of darkness. In the moments in which Drusilla appeared to me in Jenny’s guise I felt my rational mind stripped away from me and I would have given anything to be back with her.

It is possible, I suppose, that young Miss Rosenberg’s spell was successful. Perhaps once we are in a somewhat less intense state of crisis I should do a survey of her powers. Regardless, it is unlikely that a novice could practice a spell so far beyond her ability, and it is easy to attribute her experience of—how did she put it?—“something going through me” as mere mystical superstition from someone totally inexperienced. Unless…. A mental note to consider the possibility of what Willow’s success would have entailed for Buffy, and I could recognize some devastation. When Buffy is back, there will be time to determine the exact cause of her departure, and perhaps the exact emotional wounds, and provided I can maintain her trust we should be able to work together to turn these into more effective tools for the fight.

It does become exhausting to travel all over this ridiculously large country. Had she only disappeared back home…. I do not believe for a moment that Buffy could have survived the Master’s assault, defeated the Judge, and saved the world from the threat of Acathla and found herself bested by some mediocre specimen. She is out there and she is alive; it is a matter of finding her. That I have not done so is my failure. But it will not be long.

Xander

OK, a week gone by since she got back and only two or three fights with Cordelia. Things got tense for a little while last week when Cordy said point blank to me why we bother doing this slaying thing while the slayer is gone. “I mean, don’t the vampires like follow her stake or whatever?” We do it, Cordelia, because we care. We’re her friends. “Oh please, just because I lowered myself to date you because of hormones and the lack of other prospects doesn’t mean little vampire queen is going to.” Yeah, like I care what she thinks of me. None of this is about me, Cor. But I realize she’s got a point and I should make a little bit of effort. It is, I guess, a little easier to know what I’ve got with Cordy when she is not here breathing over my shoulder. Now if only Cordy could go away for a few months again it’d probably be love.

We’ve staked a few vamps. Willow is finally starting to quiet up about you-know-who now that school is back in session. Giles looks tired, man, like a broken man, and last week he didn’t even yell at me for shelving the books wrong. I was worried and I checked with Willow to see if maybe I accidentally figured out how to do it right, and Willow patted me on the arm and said maybe she should handle this stuff from now on, which I think means that Giles’ not yelling at me really is a bad sign. Willow says that she visits with Mrs. Summers with a gift basket or something every other week, dropping off more and more smelly “protection spells.” She doesn’t talk about it but when she comes back with that forlorn look I can sort of tell.
Look, I get Will’s present tense rules and all but time to move on. Buffy’s gone. She came to Sunnydale, she saved our lives a bunch of times, but eventually we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves. If she can’t handle a little vamp dusting just because he used to be her honey, and hey maybe I could have been better about that but look let’s face it, forget it Jake it’s Sunnydale. Willow’s demon robot boyfriend didn’t exactly make her run for the hills did he? You tell someone how much you care, you fight along someone for a few months, eventually it starts to feel as if you really matter for once, but of course you don’t. She’s out there doing who knows what and who knows who, and if she’s lying in a gutter dead maybe she should have stayed in touch with the guy who would risk everything to go and bring her back to life. But hey. We’re alone out here. And it’s great that for a bit of time it seemed like we weren’t, but, let’s face it, we always have been.

Fine with me.

Willow

I think Xander gets my present tense rule, or at least after I explained it to him a few times and looked around and finally found his old grammar book still in its original packaging somewhere in his basement—didn’t I buy him that?—and anyway he’s been good about it, and Oz is Oz. Buffy’s definitely coming back, and it’s just a matter of keeping things right for her so that when she gets back she’ll be like HEY GUYS and we’ll be like BUFFY! and tackle hugs and mochas, well, okay she wasn’t there when I started drinking mochas but I’m sure she’d approve, she’s got this big sweet tooth. And Xander gets grumpy when I mention her sometimes and he gets all weird looking when I mention Angel and I get it, I do, I definitely am not happy with the guy but Xander has to maybe realize that it’s not for us to judge, I mean, we don’t have a soul on/off switch and it’s not like Xander is Mr. Perfect when he has evil spirits messing with him. I mean, okay, so probably my spell didn’t do anything, Giles is right that I’m an amateur witch and so I shouldn’t expect etc. etc. but I keep thinking, if Oz went all wolf for some reason and I found out I were gonna have to kill him and then were going to die and then I found out I could save him and then we had a chance to go away together I’d…well, okay, so maybe I would want Buffy to come along anyway but you know what I mean. And if she did kill Angel, it takes time to grieve, I’ve learned all about the grieving process, definitely, and she was kicked out of school and there was the murder charge and— That’s way too much.

OK, those vampires? Turn out to be a lot scarier than I thought but also not. I mean, look, still here! And hey, sometimes we get one and it’s just this rush, like I’m doing something! I matter! And then it fades pretty fast, and it is maybe not worth all the time I almost die, but still. I wonder if that’s what Buffy feels like all the time? But then the rush kind of comes down the next day and there are aches all over. I keep trying to find spells that help with that but nothing that’s anywhere near my power level, and the one time I tried I ended up getting this rash and my whole body smelled like sulphur for a week. Which had the effect that none of the vamps wanted to come anywhere near me when we tried patrolling, which is good because no one going near my neck but bad because I was trying to chase them to stake them and they would just run away and then they’d rrrr and go after Oz or Xander so, you know, not trying that again. It was kind of a drag that first week or two before I could get out of the wheelchair and Oz came every day when my parents were out which was most of the day but I still don’t quite want them to see him because they might not understand, I mean, his hair which is. And Xander brought over some packed lunches. But there’s a lot of guy-time and I kind of wished that… I mean, I invited Cordelia over, but it turned out that we didn’t have much in common except talking about how dumb Xander was and I went along with it but I kind of started feeling bad about that after a while even though it was nice that someone else noticed the way his eyebrows don’t line up right, or maybe Cordelia was just humouring me which, wow, character growth!

It is weird not teaching again. Snyder said that the district superintendent basically said that they have to pay me if I’m going to teach a whole class again, so they are going to cut out funding for the class entirely and possibly the entire computer cluster. I tried to say something but then he started pretending like he couldn’t hear me. I mean, it’s fine, it gives me more time to focus on researching magic and asking Giles, when he’s around and not off looking for Buffy, about slaying and trying to find controlled studies on what foods tend to make dogs happier so I can plan a big surprise treat series for Oz’ next birthday which happens to be a full moon, and I don’t really miss the sweat that comes from being in front of a whole group of people which is kind of terrifying in a way that nearly dying every night because of vamps isn’t as much. But I guess what I really miss in history class is taking an extra set of notes for when Buffy’s sleeping or hasn’t shown up because she’s had some big slay-event and seeing her smile when I give it to her, or hanging out and sharing things, and for once having a friend who I don’t have to spend hours reassuring of his manliness every time we go shopping and I think Oz might be cooler about it than Xander was but it doesn’t seem like it’s worth a risk and it’s okay, I’m sure Buffy misses me, she’s just got reasons.

I do wonder sometimes if maybe she’s, y’know. The d word. But Giles basically tells me that there’s no way, and I believe him—I mean, look at how Xander and Oz and me and apparently Cordelia now are doing, and Buffy’s a superhero and we’re just us. She’s definitely alive out there, and I mean, if she’s not, well, I mean, no, there’s no point even thinking about that. So she’s going to come back, and she’s okay, and she’ll be back and obviously she’ll say why she’s been gone so long and it will be because of reasons we’ll understand and she’ll be impressed by what we’re doing and she’ll be so happy to see us and she’ll say how she wanted to reach us but couldn’t because she was, like, undercover or something maybe. And she’ll be so happy that I, I mean, we, took care of slaying and stuff for her and then we can go back to normal.

Cordelia

So you know what’s weird? I got into school and I saw Willow and I’m so proud of myself that I didn’t say anything about her silly shorter haircut which please, and then I talked to Xander Harris and there’s a big nothing. Of course there is, what was I expecting? And I took out some books from the library from Giles and he talked for a while about something, I wasn't really listening, and then later on I go to classes and teachers prattle on. And then eventually I’m settling in at home to plan out my outfits for the next few weeks and make some catalogue orders and Willow calls me and tells me that they’re going vamp hunting, and can I please come along, as if I don’t have anything better to do, and I’m like, well, why are you even doing this?

Willow said, “Well, you know, we’re trying to fill in for Buffy until she comes back….”

And I said, “Wait. Buffy’s gone?” I knew there was something different about school this year!

Joyce

After we finished reading it, I found out that they’re making a movie of Deep End of the Ocean for later this year. Pat says it’s not a good idea to see it.

The first few weeks, I just kept the door closed to her room entirely. I took a few weeks off at the gallery of course because Mr. Giles said that it’s best to stay home while he goes out looking for her because she could come home at any time, and I couldn’t miss the phone call. I stopped sleeping and stopped moving and time just seemed to slow, and then the call finally came that I was past due on the rent for the space and if I didn’t start making more money soon they were going to close it down. So, I went back to work, pretending it matters, because if she comes back I have to have a house for her to come back to. And then a lady comes in and tells you she’s interested in tribal art and you realize that you’re actually interested in the questions she’s asking and you’re not just on autopilot, and for a second you’re alive again, and then the pain comes back all over again.

The first few times at work and eventually at the book club, Willow and Xander agreed to take care of the phone in case she called, and Willow started leaving little gift baskets. She kept bringing them even after they stopped coming over to watch the phones because it seems more and more obvious that she’s never going to call. The police shrugged when they come by and said that they know now that they got the wrong woman and that the murder charges were dropped. I screamed and screamed at them until my voice is hoarse and they just keep shrugging and then they left and I cried, and then the next day felt like the same as if the police never came. There’s no Buffy to say to, “Look, you can stay here now, you’re safe.” I’m the one who kicked her out.

Hank came over a few times; in fact, he’s come over more times in the past few weeks than in the entire time since we moved to Sunnydale, like it’s easier for him when Buffy’s not there. He kept getting this tone in his voice as if, obviously he’ll be there for her when she comes back, but, underneath that, we all kind of figured it would end like this, and maybe it’s better that it’s finally happened. I felt so angry I almost threw a plate at his head, but then he didn`t actually say it. Maybe it wasn’t him who almost said it but me.

----

So, I guess what is best is probably to hold off on discussion of DMP proper until I do the post for that episode, but I hope this will "set the tone." Until tomorrow!

norwie
21-08-14, 10:58 PM
Ok, so Max will post the next review very, very soon. I'm sorry i couldn't participate in the very interesting discussion about "Anne" (but then, i already said my piece ;) ) but as anticipated, YOU guys did justice to the Scoobies. :) I totally agree with Max, btw. when he says that Lily/Anne is depressed in different ways. Also, very short here, Dipstick: I hear you. I think the Escape from Sobibor did actually happen because Pechersky - like Buffy - wasn't in there for a very long time, just three weeks after his arrival the Escape went on.

So thank you all for your interesting thoughts - may work be held at bay so that I'm able to discuss with you all this weekend. :)

And just because i can!

Bonus material - Yiddish working class song (in Yiddish/English):


http://youtu.be/6KFVVKFxr60

Local Maximum
22-08-14, 01:39 AM
You know guys, it has been only three days or so since norwie posted the finalized version of his post. I don't actually mind waiting until early next week to give the Anne post the room to breathe. Or I can probably still post tomorrow (or if not, Saturday or Sunday) if people think that's best. I can go either way -- I don't know if this is important enough to be worth polling for.

Stoney
22-08-14, 02:00 AM
I think that we need to keep a regular pace or it grinds up and people stop coming because it gets too ad hoc. It went really quiet half way through S2, I think because we had become so irregular. Having said that, there does need to be some degree of realistic flex in there. The Friday dates are a guide to mark the weekend really. If reviewers look to put the reviews up during the weekend (Fri-Sun) I think that will keep the schedule going well enough without being too rigid. So up to you really I would say. :)

Rihannon
22-08-14, 07:09 PM
Hey guys, sorry I'd been kind of absent. Trouble and sorrows are like bullies, aren't they? They like to pile on and gang up against people that is just trying to go on with their lives... And then it's really hard to find time and/or motivation to participate in enjoyable things, like this forum... Also, for some reason discussing Buffy always touches deep things, and right now I don't have the energy needed to get in touch with my feelings.

But I do enjoy reading what you guys have to say, a lot. ;)

Great review, norwie! I really enjoyed it and made me look Anne under a whole different light.

Local Maximum, what a treat of a teaser. Willow's part brought a smile to my face, and Cordelia's made me laugh out loud. Introspective fics are awesome when the characters are 'spot on'. Well done!

Local Maximum
23-08-14, 11:11 PM
Dead Man's Party - the overlong post.

Opening Summary

Well, I’m really sorry this came out later than I intended, and also ridiculously long. It took a lot out of me to write this, and I think editing it rigorously would take more out of me.
Over the past few days, as I’ve been mulling over how to approach this controversial episode, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for me to evaluate interpersonal dynamics in an “objective” way. I don’t pretend that this is a flaw of mine alone, but I think that I maybe have a harder time than most. I find it easier to understand where a given character is coming from, what their thoughts are, and how this impacts their behaviour, than I do evaluating their behaviour or even suggesting better alternatives. I’m not saying I’m wholly unable to make judgments, but it’s something of a weakness of mine.In some ways, I think this weakness is well matched to Marti Noxon episodes. Episodes like this and “Into the Woods,” and to some extent much of Marti’s writing and influence on the Buffy/Spike relationship, drive people crazy because the episode seems to argue a point that fans as a whole disagree with. But I think the contradictory messages that people see come down to the fact that Marti, perhaps more so than any other writer, is firmly committed twriting people in their potentially ugly humanity, depicting imperfect people expressing their perspective in a forthright but imperfect manner. I don’t want to say that her work is without judgment, but I think that her commitment in episodes like this one is more to showing how people behave than providing a neat moral.

I am going to focus much more on the gang's response and POV than Buffy's in this, as I see them, because, as I said earlier, I think that there is more effort to show Buffy's POV at every moment in-story, for good reason. Also I talk way too much about Willow, but, you know!

The reason for this introduction is that there is a lot of writing on DMP that takes the position that either the episode is flat-out bad and incoherent, or that it depicts the Scoobies in an incredibly unfavourable light—that the behaviour of Willow, Xander and Joyce toward Buffy is incomprehensible unless one writes them off as genuinely cruel and unfeeling people who don’t care about Buffy. I disagree with that pretty strongly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Dead Man’s Party is an episode in which both “sides,” of Buffy on one side and Willow/Xander/Joyce on the other, make significant “mistakes,” none of which render any of them unsympathetic to me. I will further argue that the gang’s shutting Buffy out early in the episode is, far from being the result of a lack of love for Buffy, but from an excess of love, which has been rendered somewhat toxic in Buffy’s absence. I might, ultimately, be wrong—but it is the best I can do.

So here is what I think the basic thrust of Dead Man’s Party is. After a several month absence, Buffy returns to Sunnydale after a trek into hell, attempting to “go back to normal” with her old life. In the process, she finds that she’s not welcomed back with open arms; everyone is a little reluctant to get close to her, and she finds, too, that in the interim, her friends and family’s lives have moved on at least a little bit. Buffy’s friends and family, meanwhile, have pain and resentments built up over the intervening time when Buffy was gone, which make them move into various displacement or avoidance tactics rather than confronting them directly. This intensifies Buffy’s feelings that she is unwanted. It all culminates at the big party the gang plan to put a cheery face on their interactions, where one last snub from the gang sends Buffy packing, and Willow finds her. The built-up anger and resentment gets released, with Willow, Joyce and Xander telling Buffy how hurtful her absence was, and Buffy responding by saying how much the actions of those around her made her feel unwanted and unwelcome, and they have no ability to understand what she went through and why she left.

Just when the confrontation starts heating up, the zombies attack. This immediately brings the gang together—by shifting their anger from each other, to a metaphorical representation of their communication breakdown.

While the ways things manifest for Willow, Xander and Joyce are very different, there are enough similarities to talk about them as a unit to a degree before specifying their differences. The three major questions, I think, for these characters are:

1. Why do they avoid the possibility of intimacy and connection to Buffy when she returns?
2. Why are they angry with Buffy at the party?
3. Why does the zombie fight help get them past this? (Or, does it at all?)

I think the major questions for Buffy are:
1. How does Buffy see her reintegration (or lack thereof) into Sunnydale? What does Buffy want to happen?
2. Why does Buffy decide to pack to leave again at the party?

I’d say that both sides make significant errors. I think that Buffy’s friends and family don’t really account for how hard the experience of killing Angel was on her, nor on the very legitimate fear that she may be nabbed by policemen if she returned. (Buffy doesn’t bring this up in this episode, and I don’t think it’s central to her reasons for staying away—but it’s a big part of why she left.) They fail to recognize how lonely Buffy’s time away must have been, and how in need of proper support and welcoming she must be. Buffy, meanwhile, fails to recognize that going for months without her will make it hard for her loved ones to adjust to her return. She tries to go “back to normal” with a speed that the others are not ready for. I think that she fails to recognize how much her absence hurt those around her, that living on a Hellmouth is itself no picnic, that their lives mattered to, and as such she misinterprets the gang’s emotional distance and difficulty letting go of aspects of the lives they’ve built during her time away as a sign that they don’t want her back, rather than a sign that they are afraid she’ll hurt them again.

Buffy’s experience, overall

Buffy killed Angel. The same day, she saw her sister slayer’s body; she was wanted for murder; kicked out of school; kicked out of her home because her mother could not handle Buffy being the slayer. Xander told her that Willow said, “kick his ass,” and yet Willow apparently did the Angel curse anyway, right before Buffy had to send him to hell. It’s the most painful moment of Buffy’s life up to this point, and one of the most painful moments in her history. The only way to deal with that pain was to shut down, leave Sunnydale behind, and cut herself off from any reminders of her old life. In L.A., she’s haunted by dreams of Angel, at the centre of everything. Her existence as Buffy and her existence as the slayer are so tied to Angel that she can access no other parts of herself, and only reinvents herself as “Anne,” the waitress; it’s only in the pit of hell (hell being, in a sense, where she sent Angel) that she rediscovers herself, and goes back to her family. She says later on in this episode that she wanted to call Willow et al. so many times. We don’t see, in Anne, direct indications that Buffy missed anyone but Angel, but I believe her. I think, though, that Angel looms so large that it was almost impossible for her to think about Sunnydale before returning.

Buffy does ask Xander if he thinks that Giles will be mad, when they knock on Giles’ door. On some level, Buffy does expect that people will be mad that she left. In addition to her fears that people will be angry with her, Buffy returns to Sunnydale to find that she’s been replaced. Buffy is completely, unequivocally alone, whereas Willow has Oz—we note Willow paying attention to Dingoes Ate My Baby over Buffy at the party, later on the episode, Xander has Cordelia, and seems to be on some level flaunting this relationship with unseemly PDA, and Joyce has Pat. People have moved on, it seems, and there seems no room in their lives for her. Her desire to rekindle the connections that she had with her friends and loved ones are constantly stopped, culminating in the crowded party drowning out the possibility of intimacy. The town, and the world, that she killed Angel (and a part of herself with it) to save seems no longer to have a place for her.

In the process, I think Buffy tries to restart her connection with her friends and family by retreating into old patterns. She enters by saving her friends from a somewhat ineffective slay-session, and at Xander’s offer for the gang to continue slaying while Buffy is settling into their new life, Buffy dismisses it quickly, noting that she wants to return to the “kid stuff” of slaying and school. She reflexively, understandably dislikes Pat, who seems to be trying to undermine Buffy from the beginning. While Buffy presents herself cheerily, I think that she’s still just barely holding herself together on the inside, feels isolated from the rest of humanity, and feels guilty both about killing Angel and about leaving everyone behind on the Hellmouth for so long. Buffy’s somewhat casual attitude is, I think, a measured attempt to turn back the clock on her relationships with those around her, to fall back into old patterns rather than take the riskier (though ultimately necessary, and hopefully rewarding) path of settling into new patterns, which, at least to some degree, would require a kind of re-negotiation of terms of relationships, which would court conflict, of which Buffy has had more than enough. With Angel dead, and yet still “living on” inside her dreams (which, in some respects, is the place he’d always lived most strongly), a big part of Buffy’s spiritual and emotional life is deadened and is on some kind of autopilot. Part of what makes Buffy’s dedication to staying in Sunnydale so touch-and-go is that she really is angry, too; angry with Joyce for kicking her out and failing to deal properly with Buffy’s slayerness, angry with Xander and Willow for the “kick his ass” even while also working on an ensoulment spell, in particular and with Xander for his consistent criticism of her over Angel in general.

That the gang seem to be able to function without her, and that no one seems to want her around, leads to her decision to pack up and leave. Buffy's coming to the conclusion that she's unwanted (and her belief, I think, that it's not really anger so much as disinterest that leads to the gang's snubbing her) reinforce her fears that she's both unloved as a freak and "bad girl" and that she's primarily useful to the others as a slayer and saviour, who, if the gang are able to save themselves, is no longer necessary to them. I think this is a fundamental misreading of those around her. That is not to say that they are fair to her, or that Buffy’s feelings of hurt, disappointment, and betrayal that her friends and family react more coolly than she had expected are without merit. But still, Buffy misreads Joyce’s comments to Pat as evidence that Joyce wishes she hadn’t come back, which she obviously doesn’t; takes Xander and Willow’s distance as evidence they don’t want her there. If an emotionally healthy Buffy really believed that her friends et al. didn’t want her there, she would, I think, tell them flat-out that’s what she believed, rather than sneak off with no possibility of ever talking to her again: it is a kind of final action. I don't think she's thinking rationally at all, and maybe even would have come back. (I do think it's worth noting that had Buffy actually left permanently, it seems likely that, on a long enough timescale, they would probably have died -- at graduation, if not before -- the life-and-death consequences of what decision Buffy makes are always playing in the background of this story.) I think Buffy does believes that she’s making things easier for everyone, that they’ll get along well without her, and so on, when she’s leaving, but I think it’s also a kind of martyrdom that doubles as an escape hatch from difficult feelings.

Basically, though, Buffy wants to be loved, and she wants to love them. She struggles with reconnecting to her mother and friends, is brokenhearted at Willow standing her up and so on—and while she’s angry and hurt that they seem unable to recognize how deeply traumatic the experience with Angel was, finding out that they were genuinely hurt by her departure, and that this is the central reason they keep away from her, makes her at least feel loved again, though it also adds to the weight of responsibility resting on her.

Buffy is chastened at the episode’s end, to a point that a lot of people think is unfair. I can see the point. Of many coping mechanisms seen in the series, running away, or shutting other people out, is not one of the worst ones.

The Gang’s Reasons, As a Group

According to Buffyworld, these are some of the lyrics to the song that Dingoes Ate My Baby play at Buffy’s party, while Buffy talks to (and is snubbed by) Willow and then Xander, and then overhears Joyce talking to Pat—the scene where Buffy eventually decides to start packing again.


You can send me a savior
That lives till the end of time
Time
The promise of heaven
But that only leaves me dry
Dry
Too many saviors / And I won't die
I never cried, but I needed more from you
I found my life without you now
And I never mind / I'm only half as blind
Cause I needed more from you
And I never mind
I'm only half as blind
Cause I needed more from you

The lyrics do contain significant hints of Buffy/Angel, but I think the lyrics are most directly about the gang’s relationship to Buffy. Buffy came in, for Willow and Xander especially, as a saviour—a hero who rescued them from vampires and from low social standing. “The promise of heaven” as the possibility of being with Buffy—romantically in Xander’s case, as best friend in Willow’s. But then she went away. “I never cried, but I needed more from you. I found my life without you now.”

I think the basic pattern of this: they are hurt and angry at Buffy for her absence, because their lives are fundamentally built up around Buffy. This is especially true of Joyce, but it’s true of all three of Joyce/Willow/Xander to a degree. Buffy is the most important thing in their lives—and Buffy’s departure, fundamentally, is not about them. Some of it is about things totally beyond Buffy’s control, like being wanted for murder and being kicked out of school. But ultimately, these aren’t the main reason Buffy leaves either. The primary reason she leaves them is Angel, and the pain that accompanies that. Their lives are oriented around Buffy, and they’re put in a position where they have to wait for months with no idea whether Buffy is ever coming back, or is even alive. It is ultimately about power—they had no say, whatsoever, in their relationship, just as, for weeks, they had no power over their situation with Angel looming over them. In addition to this, since no one there knows (though Giles, perhaps, already suspects) that it was Angel (i.e. souled Angel), not Angelus, Buffy had killed, it seems as if Buffy’s disappearance follows on what was basically what everyone had expected, and been waiting for, for weeks and months--for Buffy to go through with ridding them all of the man terrorizing her and them.

Ultimately, I think the anger and displacement is not about a rational appraisal per se, so much as a generalized feeling that Buffy’s absence comes down to Buffy not caring about them, and not respecting them, as much as they care about and respect her. Willow nearly died in Becoming, for instance, and while Buffy called her and talked to her briefly on the phone, to Willow’s knowledge Buffy never checked in on her physically to see if she was all right. The gang, especially Joyce, wonder if Buffy could be dead—but while it’s not stated outright, I think it must eat on their minds, whether Buffy wonders whether they’re all right. They’re living on a Hellmouth after all, and while it seems as if things have been relatively apocalypse-free in Sunnydale, there are still enough new vamps being made that the gang slays nightly and gymnastics team members die. They recognize, abstractly, that Buffy was going through something hard, but I think it gnawed at them, for months, that Buffy ultimately did not care enough either to let them know she was okay, or to see that they were okay, and not dead.

I think the feeling that Buffy does not respect them is the other major source of pain and anger, though I suspect that this springs up less from Buffy’s absence as some of what she says upon returning. In particular, her reaction to the gang’s slaying is largely disinterest with a hint of gentle mockery, even though it’s pretty obvious they are trying, on some level, to impress her. Now, to some degree Buffy is right—their slaying operation is not really up to snuff. But it’s sort of the paradox. If Buffy really thinks the gang’s attempt to slay vampires were childish and pathetic, and if she really finds slaying to be “kid’s stuff” for her, then she left them, for months, to do a task she finds super-easy and their even attempting to do is stupid. It makes her leaving them to fend for themselves in the Hellmouth even worse. I think their feeling that Buffy thinks their attempt to make do in her absence is idiotic makes them want to demonstrate all the more how they are not dependent on Buffy, which leads to them bringing up their emotional walls. They feel that Buffy genuinely doesn’t think their lives are important. When Willow brings up that she’s been going through stuff too, Buffy does look genuinely surprised, as if it genuinely hadn’t occurred to Buffy that people in Sunnydale had lives of their own and were going through changes and that life was continuing. I don’t think Buffy means anything by it; she is very much used to her life, and her issues, being, for good or ill, the most important around. From Primeval:


Buffy: But I want it together. Will, I miss you. And Giles, and Xander. And it is my fault. I've been wrapped up in my own stuff, I've been a bad friend.
Willow: You're the Slayer, Buffy. Your stuff is pretty crucial.

It is really understandable that Buffy feels “wrapped up” at this point in her life, and I think the gang should be much more sympathetic to it. But ultimately, it frustrates the gang that Buffy seems not to recognize that their lives are important too. On that, I think they have a point. In Buffy’s absence, their lives are still oriented around Buffy; they worry about Buffy, think about her all the time, and it causes them pain that she’s gone. There is little evidence in Anne that Buffy thinks about anyone from her Sunnydale life but Angel. Buffy, of course, has completely shut down during her time in L.A., and once she returns to Sunnydale she absolutely wants to rebuild these relationships with these people, as epitomized, for instance, by her looking longingly at the picture of her, Willow & Xander.

All that said, of course, this feeling of powerlessness and unequal relationship brought out by the fact that Buffy just left them, with no possibility of contacting them, for months, is on some level just a fact of life: people have the right to walk away, most of the time. I think Buffy has a right to run away if she wants to, in other words. However, I think talking about rights somewhat obscures the issue—because, of course, Buffy’s friends have every right to not continue to be friends with her, should they so choose, and they certainly have the right to be standoffish. That is not to say that they are correct in doing so. More to the point, Buffy’s getting ready to pack again because the gang were so standoffish sets everyone off, I think, for this reason: if Buffy can take two or three months to herself leaving no word, then she should be able to accept the gang taking two or three days to keep emotionally distant enough to adjust to her presence again. When their dodging intimate conversations with Buffy for a tiny fraction of the time Buffy was away for turns out to be unacceptable to Buffy, their attempt to bury their hurt fails and they get very angry.

What they need, in order to stop being angry, is to be able to see and understand that Buffy’s absence was not a matter of failing to care about them, for Buffy to acknowledge that their lives matter and that she does care about them, and for Buffy to understand that their snubbing her was not, hopefully, the result of lack of love.

A few specifics:

JOYCE

In order to talk about Joyce, I want to start talking about Pat. Joyce and Pat’s friendship actually epitomizes much of the conflict within the ep; Pat is a friend that Joyce has made over the time Buffy was gone, and Buffy and Pat don’t quite get along properly, even though there is a façade of them doing so. Pat comes to represent, I think, the part of Joyce that *has* moved on from Buffy’s departure, and has formed a life which is not about Buffy.

Pat is the person with whom Joyce has this conversation, somewhat intoxicated by alcohol and by the still-unusual experience of having a friend and confidante:


Cut to the kitchen. Joyce and Pat are having a little fiesta of their
own, and pour some schnapps into two glasses. They raise their glasses,
clink them together and each take a good sip.

Joyce: Whew!

Pat smiles and nods at Joyce.

Lyrics: Seize these worlds

Pat: Now, how you holding up, Joyce, hmm? Really.

Lyrics: Or never live again

Joyce: Really? I'm . . . I don't know.

Lyrics: Seize these worlds

Joyce: While Buffy was gone, all I could think about was getting her
home.

Lyrics: Or never live again

Joyce: I just knew that if I could put my arms around her and tell her
how much I loved her, everything would be okay.

Lyrics: Seize these worlds

Pat: But?

Lyrics: Or never live again

Buffy reaches the kitchen and overhears.

Joyce: Having Buffy home, I-I thought it was gonna make it all better,
but in some ways, it's almost worse.

Lyrics: Seize these worlds / Or never live again

Buffy takes it hard, and goes back to the stairs.

Joyce has reasons to find it difficult for Buffy to be back. While Buffy was gone, her actions could no longer have any effect; she was powerless, but at least there was no way she could make her situation worse, since Buffy was not there. Now, every action is a potential landmine which could send Buffy running away again. This is the source, I think, of her “four-course meal” and attempt to give Buffy snacks, and her pattern of smother/retreat. She’s anxiously trying to find the right key to win Buffy back so that Buffy won’t leave again.

Like Willow, Joyce tries to hide her anxiety behind a pleasant mask, but unlike Willow, Joyce also has to deal with the nitty-gritty of getting Buffy’s life back together—finding her a school, trying to figure out how much she should discipline (or not) Buffy, whether she should let Buffy leave the house or not, knowing each time Buffy leaves that she might not come back. Every decision, and every statement, is now of monumental importance, and the stress that comes from just waiting for her to make the wrong move is almost overwhelming. I do think that the stress, in other words, of facing the potential of losing Buffy again—whether it’s losing Buffy permanently emotionally even if Buffy stays in the house, or if Buffy goes out to see her friends and never comes back—is in some ways greater than the stress of having lost Buffy. I don’t think this is a sign that she doesn’t love Buffy or want Buffy around—and I think it’s the type of thing that a person should be able to say to their friend, in confidence.

The problem, among others, is that Joyce is too bold—she shouldn’t be talking like this when Buffy might overhear her, to make it obvious. And I think the thing is, there is a sense in which Pat and Buffy are in competition; that it’s in Pat’s interest for Buffy and Joyce to stay isolated from each other.

Joyce gets criticized often, and I understand why. But fundamentally, I find Joyce very sad and sympathetic, because I think her life is very empty. She has Buffy, and she has the gallery. She may have friends and acquaintances, but we never see them. We see her in two romantic relationships, post-Hank, one of them with Ted who is a killer robot who drugs her into submission; and the other is Brian, whom she goes on a single date with a few days before her death. She says this in Fear Itself:


Joyce gets up: “I thought it might be easier. You must have noticed that I am not exactly the social butterfly I was when I was with your dad. I don’t think I made a single new friend the year we moved to Sunnydale.”
Buffy: “Why not?”
Joyce: “Fear. I didn’t believe I could trust anyone again. It’s taken time and a lot of effort, but I’ve got a nice circle of friends now. - I mean, don’t get me wrong. I – I’m still a little gun shy. It certainly didn’t help that my last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal robot. (Sits down next to Buffy) I will *always* be here for you. And you got Mr. Giles and your friends. (Buffy looks at her) Believe me, there is nothing to be afraid of.”

Certainly, there are a few people who go to her funeral, and so Joyce maybe does have some friends. But I kind of doubt that she has a “nice circle” of friends. The four times I can recall Joyce specifically interacting with another adult who was *not* one of Buffy’s circle (I’m including Giles in Buffy’s circle) are with Ted, Pat, Sheila Rosenberg in Gingerbread, and, eventually, Brian (offscreen). Ted was a monster who abused Buffy; Sheila and Joyce fell under the same spell, and their friendship, while under the spell, was based on leading up to eventually killing their own daughters. Every single relationship Joyce has in the series that is not about Buffy ends up being harmful to Buffy—and most of the time, those have to be destroyed.

It’s Joyce who brings in the zombie mask from her work—the other major thing Joyce has outside of Buffy—and the zombie mask ends up on Pat; Pat becomes the leader of the zombie horde, and defeating Pat by knocking her eyes out is what ends the big zombie threat, which is the thing that comes to end the big emotional threat. Strip away the metaphor here, and the thing that solves Buffy and Joyce’s problems is for Buffy to completely destroy the one person important to Joyce who is not Buffy.

That Joyce is also a burgeoning alcoholic seems to come up both here and in Becoming, and I think that this leads to much of the intensity of her confrontation with Buffy. More so than the other characters, I think Joyce really believed it was likely that Buffy would die; she had never before heard about Buffy being the slayer, and so she has not seen Buffy’s ability to face down death and even come back from it, as the others did. Joyce does admit that kicking Buffy out of the house was wrong, but she seems not entirely to recognize how deeply this impacted Buffy:


Joyce: (interrupts again) You can't imagine *months* of not knowing. Not knowing whether you're lying dead in a ditch somewhere or, I don't know, living it up--
Buffy: (interrupts in turn) But you told me! You're the one who said I should go. You said if I leave this house, don't come back. You found out who I really was, and you couldn't deal. Don't you remember?

People are beginning to think this is a drag and leave.

Joyce: Buffy, you didn't give me time. You just dumped this thing on me and you expected me to get it. Well, guess what? Mom's not perfect, okay? I handled it badly. But that doesn't give you the right to punish me by running away.

Buffy: Punish you? I didn't do this to punish you!

Joyce is locked in her own POV there—it’s so obvious to her that she didn’t actually mean for Buffy never to come back, that she thinks that Buffy herself would never believe Joyce actually wanted her out. Joyce, I think, believes her screwup was big enough that she does deserve to be punished, and she thinks in those terms.

Joyce’s failure to really understand what Buffy is going through is also related to her lack of knowledge of the Angel situation. We don’t know how much people filled Joyce in on what was going on, but there is nothing in Becoming proper to suggest that Joyce knows that Buffy has to kill Angel, nor does Joyce really know much about their relationship at all. Certainly, she knows by Lovers Walk that Angel is a vampire, and thinks of him as still the evil-stalker that he was in Passion. But even if someone told her, I don’t know that Joyce can really understand how deep those wounds go. It’s not as if the others do, either.

In any case, I feel for Joyce in this episode because of the emptiness of her life without Buffy. And on some level, Pat really was an impediment to Buffy and Joyce bonding again. But that she had to be destroyed suggests to me a kind of tragedy, that it really is not possible for Joyce to have other priorities in her life besides Buffy, because they tend to get in the way of Joyce’s closeness to Buffy—which means, further, that any attempts Joyce makes to fill up the holes that Buffy leaves behind when she leaves her or shuts her out are doomed to failure.
This is, I think, the crux of why Joyce fails so often as a parent to Buffy. To have the proper perspective on her daughter, Joyce needs to have some kind of life that’s not built up around being Buffy’s mother. However, any attempts she makes to form a life that’s not based around Buffy end up becoming destructive to Buffy. I think there is a touching story in here about the plight of single mothers, and mothers generally, and as an adult child of a single mother I find Joyce, including her not insignificant failings, very recognizable. And once again I think it’s not an inability to care about Buffy, but emotional damage from an overall empty existence.

XANDER

You know, here’s a telling moment in the episode:


Xander: Let her finish! You at least owe her that.
Buffy: God, Xander! Do you think you could at least stick to annoying me on your own behalf?

The funny thing, of course, is that Xander *doesn’t* annoy Buffy “on his own behalf.” Willow talks about her feeling of abandonment, Joyce talks about her feeling that Buffy is trying to punish her. Xander tries to maintain pseudo-objectivity throughout the proceedings, and basically everything Xander mentions is about someone else. When Buffy asks “Do you think he’ll be mad?” of Giles, Xander suggests maybe Giles would be mad; he indicates that Buffy leaving her mom to cry over her and not letting Willow finish as big mistakes; he talks about Buffy leaving “her post.” There is no big moment where he talks about Buffy hurt him. Now one could say, of course, that she didn’t hurt him by leaving, and I agree to a point—I don’t think Xander suffers as directly as Joyce or Giles does, or even as Willow does. And yet, when Xander mentions that Buffy made Giles lay awake every night worrying about her, isn’t is likely Xander’s also talking about himself?

I do think that, like Willow, he has his identity built up around Buffy, but unlike Willow I think that he has decided by the time Buffy come back to give up on waiting around for her. In Anne, when Willow talks for presumably the millionth time about wondering where Buffy was, Xander shifts to talking about Cordelia. This pattern continues into this episode, in which Xander (deliberately, I think), demonstrates how he doesn’t care about Buffy anymore by making out with Cordelia very publicly and grossly. On some level, I think the displacement, from Buffy to Cordelia, is Xander’s way of demonstrating that he is not beholden to what Buffy does—that he is not hurt by her departure from their lives. It’s a defense mechanism that is also avoidant, like Willow’s, but the mechanism doesn’t quite break down the way it does with Willow’s, into admission of feelings of *personal* betrayal—no “You were my best friend.” Maybe because it’s hard to talk about how important Buffy is to him without on some level confronting whether or not he still loves her.

But I think there is something else going on here. I think that thing also comes up in the way the Xander/Buffy confrontation nearly escalates into violence. Here’s the thing: Xander comes from an abusive household. We don’t know much about this “yet,” and, unless I’m forgetting something, it’s Amends which starts making the drunken fighting explicit. In Hell’s Bells we see his father yelling at his mother, and Xander’s big fear is not so much the two-way string of attacks back and forth, but of him becoming the monster in the relationship. His parents yell at each other, but it’s ultimately his father who is the bigger ogre, and his mother, while she may yell back, is helpless before him. This history of growing up in an abusive household has partly led to Xander being a person very quick to explosions of (verbal) anger. But I think it also is what is behind the way he jumps so dramatically to Willow and Joyce’s, and even Giles’, defense.

Buffy is physically much stronger than anyone around her. And as I said before, in certain respects, Buffy has all the power, while she’s away. She decides exactly when she’s coming back, which Xander pointed out, with a tone of bitterness, in Anne. Xander has jumped very dramatically to Willow’s defense before, in WSWB; he has seen both Willow and Giles recovering from terrible injuries, not long ago; and Joyce, I think, hits some of the same buttons of powerlessness that his mother does. When Xander jumps to defend Willow and Joyce, and even Giles to an extent, I think Xander is casting them in the role of his powerless mother, and casting Buffy, with her incredible physical strength and her making all the decisions about where she is, in the role of his ogre father. I think this is part of why he doesn’t back down, at all, from the possibility of a fight—on some level I think Xander imagines this as the thing he has been training for forever, confronting the super-strong individual who neglects their own responsibilities as head of the household and hurts defenseless women and old men with their actions.

Along those lines, I think Xander has some points that are correct in his verbal unleashing on Buffy. Buffy leaving her “post” is not a fully morally neutral act; the Hellmouth is the Hellmouth, and townspeople have likely died because the Scoobies are not an effective fighting force. More to the point, her friends could have died. I think Xander’s right that Buffy “needs” to know how much Joyce and Giles and Willow were hurt and emptied out by Buffy’s departure, and on some level I think he’s not even wrong that they are not in the best position to self-advocate. But he completely neglects Buffy’s own perspective in the assault, writing off Buffy’s pain, and Buffy’s own right to make her own decisions. The idea of Buffy having responsibility to her “post,” for instance, is a difficult one—and I think Xander’s casual acceptance that staying put is Buffy’s responsibility comes from accepting the myth of the slayer a little more than seeing Buffy’s full humanity.

Xander’s writing off Buffy/Angel as “boy troubles,” I think, is also partly a defense mechanism and a reaction to guilt. Xander’s Lie doesn’t get brought up explicitly (well, not until, very briefly, in Selfless), but I think it hangs over these eps like a shadow. Xander needs to believe that Buffy’s pain over having to kill Angel, which Xander may recognize his Lie may have worsened, is fundamentally not that bad, or else he’ll have to face a much greater guilt.

WILLOW
I’m going to talk about Willow the most, both because of personal biases and because Buffy/Willow is the relationship which gets the closing scene devoted to it. So, what have we seen of Willow since Becoming?

Willow takes over slaying, and tries to become the slayer. That she is taking on a Buffy role basically means that Buffy is still the centre of Willow’s existence—but Willow is stepping in to, temporarily, fill the void. She’s keeping Buffy’s life warm for her, so that Buffy will be able to return. She maintains the “present tense rule” in order to stave off the possibility that Buffy may never return. That Willow had to make and enforce a rule about this suggests that the possibility that Buffy would never come back was fresh on their minds. Keeping such a fear out of one’s mind is actually hard work—essentially, in a Kubler-Ross stages of grief model, Willow is stuck, and forcing Xander to stick, in “denial.” That denial leads to a kind of sadness and despair.

It’s noteworthy how different this is from season two. Over the summer between seasons one and two, Willow and Xander went back more or less to their pre-Buffy life; Buffy was gone to L.A. and they knew she was coming back at the end of the summer, so they were free to do what they pleased. They weren’t in touch with Giles, they weren’t slaying, and they didn’t see vampires. Why the difference? Well, for one, yes, I do think that Willow’s nearly dying and ending up in a wheelchair is a factor. Additionally, the vampire problem seems bigger—that Willow and Xander could walk openly by a cemetery in When She Was Bad without expecting a vampire is hugely different from the situation here where they fight vamps nightly. I think that the near-death experiences for both Willow and Giles (from the torture) in “Becoming” bonded the gang together more strongly. Anyway, that Willow makes slaying so central to her identity suggests that she’s committed, much more strongly than before, to Buffy’s mission. Even in Buffy’s absence, maybe especially in it, her life is much more strongly oriented around both Buffy and the idea of Buffy.

There is something faintly pathetic about Willow’s naïve hope that Buffy could show up at school. It’s the same type of pathetic hopefulness that characterized her unrequited love for Xander. Compare, from Angel:


Willow: Sometimes I have this fantasy that Xander's just gonna grab me
and kiss me right on the lips. (huge smile)

Buffy: You want Xander, you've gotta speak up, girl!

Willow: No, no, no, no. No speaking up. That way leads to madness and
sweaty palms.

From Anne:


Willow: Wouldn't it be great if Buffy just showed up tomorrow? Like
nothing happened?

Xander: She can't just show up, she got kicked out.

Willow: Well, yeah, I-I know. I just wish . . . I wish we knew where she
was.

Willow deals with grief and loss by surrounding herself with some aspect of the person who has departed her life; she takes on Jenny's teaching and magical abilities. She talks constantly about Buffy, and takes over Buffy's calling, re-modeling herself on Buffy in some ways. Later in the series, she'll surround herself with Oz' stuff as a way of preventing herself from accepting that he's probably not coming back, until she's hit hard by his permanent departure in Something Blue; she magically hugs Tara's clothes in Wrecked; she says, in The Killer in Me, that on some level Tara was with her the whole time since her death, in part. And again, patterns from the overall series are helpful here: Willow tends to view every loss, at least the non-death ones, through the prism of her own insecurities -- that Xander/Oz/Tara/Buffy/Giles/etc.'s rejections of her are because they find her boring, as if they're about to scream (as Xander does in her Restless dream) "OH WHO CARES?" at any moment. I think Willow's reaction to Buffy has to be understood in this context -- that Willow has already been putting off mourning the loss of their friendship, and, I think, that Willow can't help but believe that Buffy's departure is some kind of comment on Willow, even if intellectually she kind of sort of knows better.

I mentioned the parallels between Willow and Lily/Anne in Anne; I think that the comparison extends to their personalities generally. Willow’s attempt to slay is very far from Anne, at the episode’s beginning, but her hopeless “optimism” seems to me to be of the same kind—a foolish, even ludicrous optimism that goes into denial of reality, and which is very clearly a balm over fears. And while Willow is excited for school, because she likes the structure of homework and classes in her somewhat empty life, the excitement fades to glumness very quickly; at the Bronze, the first night, Willow is sad, and wonders where Buffy is. This is months after Buffy left; while it’s likely that the beginning of school triggered a new round of nostalgia, I sort of get the impression that Willow has been stuck in this loop for three months, of having a big proportion of her mental landscape devoted to Buffy, wondering where Buffy is, when she will return, not letting herself move on because she’d view actually admitting that Buffy may never come back seems like a form of betrayal. She has, I think, a lot of built-up feelings of loss and grief over Buffy's absence from her life, and slaying and wistful optimism have been her main weapons keeping it at bay.

When we get to the episode itself, after Willow’s attempt to boast about their good stats on vamp-killing is shot down by Oz’ reality, this exchange happens, when Buffy asks whether Willow's free the next day:


Buffy: (to Willow) Will?

Willow: Um, tomorrow I--

Buffy: Oh, come on. Friends don't let friends browse alone.

I don’t think Buffy seriously means anything by it, but after letting Willow “browse alone” for months, Buffy doesn’t even let Willow finish her *sentence* about her plans for the next day. The basic asymmetry is that Willow fears Buffy doesn’t think Willow has anything better to do but to wait around for Buffy to enter back in her life, which is also what Willow fears is true. Willow’s response,


Willow: Okay. I had some schoolwork, but . . . I can change my plans.

is a reaction to that—a vague, passive-aggressive attempt to regain power, to indicate that she has to make an effort to change her plans, that she did have plans and has to make new ones, to remind Buffy that she is a person with her own internal life, but all she wanted to do was “some schoolwork,” which is a phrase which goes straight to hurting Buffy. Willow has schoolwork, unlike that troublemaker Buffy! And Willow only reluctantly seems to rate her heretofore best friend over schoolwork. I don’t think Buffy lets Willow’s response in and of itself hurt her, but it contributes to the pattern of feeling like they don’t really want her back—that their lives are normal and that Buffy is just some kind of crazy freak imposition on their life.

I think Willow was wrong to stand Buffy up. We’re not privy exactly to Willow’s reasons. But I think it comes down to fear. I think she’s afraid that Buffy will confirm, on some level or another, that she believes her life is more important than Willow’s; that her months-long departure was because she doesn’t particularly care about Willow but still wants Willow to be at her call when she deigns to be in Willow’s presence. I think that Willow is worried that Buffy’s return is not really permanent, a fear which turns out to be founded at least partly in reality—that the wrong move can send Buffy flying away, and a common tactic to deal with an excess of fear is to go into avoid-mode. And I think that Willow *feels angry* at Buffy, that second stage of grief that Willow has been putting off for months by living in the perpetual present, and which ultimately can’t be put off indefinitely. There’s a big pattern within Willow’s character for the series of going long periods of time repressing anger, keeping it at bay with either hopeless optimism or avoidance or distraction or escape from reality, and then it finally bursting forth at a crucial moment, and it’s only after the release of anger that she can find some kind of peace. In some senses that is what her overall story over the length of the series is about. It happens here—and I think Willow’s outright avoiding Buffy is a way of preventing her anger from bursting forth, because I think Willow suspects it would be wrong to tell Buffy she is hurting. So she stands Buffy up, and then votes for the party to be such that there will be so much noise that they don’t have to talk to Buffy directly. It’s notable that Willow tries to curb Xander’s somewhat nastier “meet any pimps on your journey?” attitude at the Scooby meeting, because, I think, she *wants* to be good to Buffy, or is unwilling to admit to herself that she has these negative feelings about her friend. When she seizes on Dingoes playing and a hootenanny as a good strategy, she is finding ways to avoid being close enough to Buffy to say the wrong thing, while also rationalizing the choice as something Buffy might conceivably like; I think she believes her own press to a degree, and isn't lying exactly, but is aware on some level that these tactics are designed to ease her back into life with Buffy in a way that reduces Willow's pain and discomfort.

She seems to be genuinely planning to go apologize to Buffy when Buffy’s in her room—the expression on her face is one of sadness and regret. And then Buffy’s packing! And finally all her pain comes pouring out. She does listen to Buffy to a degree—she says she wants to know what Buffy was going through, and just wants Buffy to talk to her. There is some implicit acknowledgment in her saying “this isn’t easy, Buffy” that she was wrong to stand Buffy up. However, it’s true that, by the point where she’s angered by Buffy’s packing her bags, she’s mostly focused on how Buffy hurt her. I think this is understandable, but it does lock Buffy away from her a little bit, and it makes it hard for Willow to fully hear what Buffy’s saying, even though I think that she was somewhat getting through to her before Joyce enters. The crucial turning point in the conversation, and the episode, is this exchange:


Willow: This isn't easy, Buffy! I know you're going through stuff,
but . . . so am I.

Buffy: I know that you were worried about me, but--

Willow: No! I don't just mean that. I mean, my life! You know? I, um . . .
I'm having all sorts of--I'm dating, I'm having serious dating with a
*werewolf*, a-and I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires, and I
didn't have anyone (starts sobbing) to talk to about all this scary life
stuff. And you were my best friend.

In a lot of ways, this is the best strategy for talking to Buffy: not talking about why Buffy was wrong, or even about why they were all worried about Buffy, but talking specifically about what it is that Buffy missed with them, the details of her disappearance and abandonment and the fact that Willow is upset because Buffy was her best friend and she needed her and she wasn’t gone. I think what Willow says is true. When she talks about “scary life stuff,” of being a witch and of having “serious dating” with a werewolf, it’s possible to say that Willow is being melodramatic here—that these problems, while maybe a big deal to her, are nothing on the level of what Buffy experienced, and Willow should know that.

Certainly, they are big deals, and Willow’s fears aren’t irrelevant fears. For one thing, we audience members, with our crystal balls of future episodes, know how both Oz’ werewolfism and Willow’s magic are going to end up. While Willow and Oz will eventually part on good terms in “New Moon Rising,” and Willow will be able to fight the light side of magic in “Chosen,” Willow will eventually both become so obsessed with magic that it becomes entirely self-destructive, to the point of near apocalypse; and Willow has good reasons to be concerned about Oz’ werewolfism being a problem, both because of the parallel between her relationship with Oz and Buffy’s with Angel, which she has to be aware of, and because Oz, a few nights a month, literally turns into a killer animal. In two episodes Oz will be a prime brutal killing suspect, and in a year and a bit Oz will tear the woman he cheated on Willow with apart in front of Willow before turning on her. Willow’s whole romantic self has been oriented to supporting Buffy’s relationship with Angel, even after it went sour, that Buffy’s not being there to help Willow through her dating a potential killer leaves a feeling of emptiness.

It may be scary to be dating a werewolf, but Buffy had to kill her lover. It may be rough slaying vampires, but it’s central to Buffy’s identity that she must do so. It may be rough that Willow ended up in the hospital in a coma, and nearly died, but Buffy actually died a year before! It feels awful for Willow to be abandoned by the closest woman in the world to her, who is something of a mentor and best friend, but Buffy was kicked out of her house by her mother. While Willow’s life hung in the balance in a semi-competent slay with Oz, Xander and Cordelia, Buffy’s life hung in the balance from fighting to rescue homeless people from a hell dimension prison. In spite of the joy that Willow has in her life, I think that the fears and anxieties Willow has are ones that are pretty legitimately horrifying for a seventeen-year-old, or, hell, for a person of any age. Willow has struggled, and will continue to struggle, with feelings of emptiness, despair and self-loathing, which she tries to keep at bay. The fear that Buffy’s departure means that Buffy doesn’t care about her plays right into Willow’s core fears that she is unlovable and will always be, and maybe even deserve to be, abandoned. But all this still on some level pales in comparison to Buffy having to kill Angel, and it may be that Willow’s inability to put at bay her own sadness, when there is at least some joy in her life, and when Buffy is much closer to the edge, marks Willow out as self-absorbed and solipsistic. The main area in which Willow "has it worse" than Buffy is that during Buffy's absence, and in other aspects of their relationships, it was Buffy who had all the control (power) of what their relationship was and when, if ever, they would be in each other's lives again, which strikes to the heart of Willow's feelings of powerlessness.

Willow’s missing Buffy, and needing Buffy to support her, comes down to the loneliness that she’s struggled with her whole life; and I think that, as I indicated earlier, I think it’s hard to really expect Willow to adjust, in a day or two, to Buffy’s absence perfectly, without any emotional outbursts, when Buffy had taken months to adjust to her sadness. I guess I’ve lived, for much of my life, in a situation in which I’d suffer pain and depression of the sort that the only people with whom I could actually reasonably discuss it is people who, by most objective measurements I could apply, were suffering worse. So many of Willow’s wounds are internal, less the result of hospitalizations and comas and more the result of parental neglect, emotional bullying and an overall lack of ability to love oneself; while she does suffer, physically, externally, and suffers a lot more as the series goes on, I think the deepest wounds, at least for a long while, are mostly invisible, and that makes it hard for her to ask for the help she needs, and hard to evaluate whether the emotional requests she makes when she does ask are reasonable.

I do think Willow should be more open to hearing what Buffy has to say—but I want to repeat that I don’t think it’s a lack of caring for Buffy that leads to her difficulty hearing her. I think it’s the opposite. Buffy is so central to Willow’s life that Willow couldn’t imagine living without Buffy by choice. That Buffy could live without Willow by choice, for months, is something hard for Willow to understand as anything but an abandonment.

Unlike Joyce, who doesn’t really understand what Angel means to Buffy and sees everything through the lens of her own actions, and Xander, who I think deliberately decided to be uncharitable, I think that Willow tries very hard not to let her frustration with Buffy come to the surface before the confrontation in Buffy’s room—not just earlier in this episode, but in Anne as well. And so in some senses, it is the most important to believe that Willow’s feelings of pain at Buffy’s departure comes from a legitimate place; Willow *tries* to be generous, and then fails, and at the episode’s very end, Willow’s attempts at "generosity," which kind of misses the mark of true understanding even as it sort of approaches it, become a kind of joke:


Willow: It's okay. I understand you having to bail. I can forgive that.
Mm, I have to make allowances for what you're going through a-and be a
grownup about it. (gives Buffy a slightly smug look)

Buffy: (smiles) You're really enjoying this whole moral superiority
thing, aren't you?

Willow: (smiles) It's like a drug!


And who are most likely to become addicted to drugs, but those with a kind of emptiness inside? I do think that Willow’s pleased reaction to the fact that she has a “moral superiority thing” is a reaction to the fact that until that moment in Buffy’s room where Buffy started packing again, Willow was doing everything she could to suppress disappointment with Buffy, turn that frown upside down, and just focus on how great it will be if Buffy comes back. So I think I know why Willow seizes onto it with such gusto and even pleasure; Willow may see herself as the “good girl” in certain useless, school-loving ways, but mostly I think she idealizes Buffy, and there is a kind of rush that comes from that dynamic being temporarily reversed. When Buffy does open up at the end of the following episode, on Giles’ urging, about how Willow’s spell ended up hurting Buffy, Willow is chastened, and I think any trace of moral superiority over Buffy fades after the fallout of the Willow/Xander affair; when it comes back again, in little bits, in Consequences after Willow feels shut out by Buffy and Faith, Willow instantly regrets it when Buffy breaks down crying and yells that she doesn’t know her own strength. The balance of the relationship from Willow’s POV—in which Willow largely sees Buffy as her superior in most respects—is eventually restored.

[B]Zombies!

As I just said, I think Xander is particularly harsh in his charges against Buffy, to some extent for reasons that have little to do with Buffy herself. However, I’ve always found Buffy’s mocking “Nighthawk?” and striding up to him to be less than great behaviour. Her body language suggests that she is ready for a fight—and it’s important to remember that she’s many times stronger than Xander. She’s responding to harsh verbal criticism with a return insult and a reminder that she can beat him up if she wants to. This is subtle, and perhaps not even entirely conscious, but I think it’s in the same general category as, say, Willow resorting to threats after Giles yells at her in Flooded. That Xander is overly harsh doesn’t actually excuse the implicit threat in her body language. That Xander then responds and starts escalating with his own body language doesn`t reflect well on him either, though it’s, again, noteworthy that everyone knows what would happen if Buffy and Xander actually got into a fight, and so Xander responding in kind to Buffy is more like a martyr-ish demonstration that he doesn’t care if she beats him up rather than believing he stands a chance at actually hurting her physically, IMO. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse—because I think he knows he can hurt her emotionally.

It’s notable that the zombie attack happens right at this moment—where the verbal anger is about to explode into violence:


Buffy: (steps up to Xander) Oh, you wanna talk acting like an idiot,
Nighthawk?

Oz: Okay. I'm gonna step in now, (gets between them) being Referee Guy.

Willow: No, let them go, Oz. (gets a look from him) Talking about it
isn't helping. We might as well try some violence.

A zombie suddenly smashes though the living room window and comes in.
Others follow right behind.

Willow: I was being sarcastic!

Because Buffy’s so much stronger than Xander, I tend to weight her implicit violent threat heavier than Xander’s response, but there’s little doubt that both are heading for a confrontation when the zombies attack—which means that both “sides” have reached the breaking point. At that point, I think it’s pretty clear that the gang’s and Buffy’s anger have gotten away from them and they are no longer representing their perspectives with calm and objectivity. The gang’s squeezing Buffy out, and Buffy’s readiness to leave them forever, have caused damage that has gotten away from them. And at this point, the zombie attack becomes an externalization of their problem. The episode lampshaded the zombies’ meaning earlier on:


Xander: Yeah, and you see how well *that* one worked out. You can't
just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you.

Cut to the street. The zombie has Giles bent back on the hood of his
car.

So the zombies are, metaphorically, buried stuff which comes back from the dead after it’s been gone, starting with a “stray” cat whose apparent exit from their lives is followed by its surprise return. (I don’t entirely know what to make of it, though it’s not the only slayer/cat connection in the series.) By this point in the episode, the gang’s buried anger is out of control—the situation is getting worse and worse. But then fighting the metaphorical representation of the anger “solves” their problem. I think the real life equivalent of this is the recognition that old resentments and emotions have to be dealt with, and that once expressed, it becomes possible for people to work together again to solve it.

The End?
The Scooby gang is back together at the end, but things aren’t quite right, at least not permanently. Soon, there will be more secrets. Buffy will keep Angel’s return a secret. Willow and Xander’s affair with each other will be a secret. Buffy and Willow will be subtly at odds again when Angel and Oz are different suspects for a brutal slaying, though Willow will be unaware of it. I think that the gang’s feelings of hurt from Buffy’s leaving them to the time on the Hellmouth, and the feelings of hurt from Buffy feeling herself unheard and attacked by her friends, lead to their difficulty sharing with each other, and the time apart also means that it`s a rocky path to find a new workable dynamic again.

It has been said that the ending is unfair, because the last scene primarily marks Buffy as apologetic, and Willow as holding the moral high ground, as if Buffy had acted badly and those rallied against her had done nothing wrong. It is possible. But I think it matters that this is a scene with Willow. Not Xander, who at the end of the first half of season three will be chided and ashamed of his pattern of behaviour which this episode doesn’t resolve. Not Joyce, whose difficulty dealing with Buffy being the slayer comes up again in Gingerbread, and leads to Joyce being the villain of the piece, albeit under demonic influence. Willow is not blameless here, and as it turned out (and as she will find out at the end of the episode following this one), her well-intentioned spell on Angel ended up causing incredible pain. But basically I think the scene depicts a two-way comic airing of grievances—Willow thinks Buffy was wrong for “abandoning” her, Buffy thinks Willow is being too judgmental, acting like a harpy—but their love for each other is able, at least for now, to wash away those hurts, now that they are able to see that the other has basically dealt as best they could with difficult emotional circumstances, and they are attempting, haltingly, with a tough road ahead, to being better friends.

Other topics of discussion

Well, I’ve already gone on long enough!

Giles: I think the reason that Giles accepts that Buffy is back as easily as he does is both that he understands the pain of having lost a loved one more intimately than the others do, and, further, because, as a Watcher, he is somewhat more trained to expect “problems” from his slayer, and to be able to apply some professional distance. More so than the others, Giles has had a great deal of tragedy in his life, in particular including tragedies involving the slayer/watcher field. The others are very young, or, in Joyce’s case, have had very few life-or-death traumas. I think part of it, too, is Giles’ focus on duty—which prevents him from feeling “put out” by Buffy’s departure in the same way as the others, since it’s to some degree an expected part of the job. This does have its downsides, though. That Giles gets so wrapped up in investigating the zombie cat ends up meaning that he does the same thing that Willow did earlier in the episode for more emotional reasons—he stands Buffy up, fails to go to her party. It turns out to be a good thing, though.

More Jonathan!

Snyder!

OK done. I do think that this could use some editing. But I've found writing this, while rewarding for me and hopefully the readers, very emotionally draining! So, this will stand, I guess. I might not be able to respond to comments, which is by no means a sign that I am not interested. Lots of love, board!

Dipstick
24-08-14, 09:33 PM
Absolutely fantastic review, Local_Max.


All that said, of course, this feeling of powerlessness and unequal relationship brought out by the fact that Buffy just left them, with no possibility of contacting them, for months, is on some level just a fact of life: people have the right to walk away, most of the time. I think Buffy has a right to run away if she wants to, in other words. However, I think talking about rights somewhat obscures the issue—because, of course, Buffy’s friends have every right to not continue to be friends with her, should they so choose, and they certainly have the right to be standoffish. That is not to say that they are correct in doing so.

This, in particular, really stands out as brilliant because some really put Buffy's relocation as a "Freedom to travel, Privileges and Immunities Clause of the US Constitution" but the Scoobies' stand-offishness and anger as a horrible violation of a social and moral contact.


In order to talk about Joyce, I want to start talking about Pat. Joyce and Pat’s friendship actually epitomizes much of the conflict within the ep; Pat is a friend that Joyce has made over the time Buffy was gone, and Buffy and Pat don’t quite get along properly, even though there is a façade of them doing so. Pat comes to represent, I think, the part of Joyce that *has* moved on from Buffy’s departure, and has formed a life which is not about Buffy.

Pat is the person with whom Joyce has this conversation, somewhat intoxicated by alcohol and by the still-unusual experience of having a friend and confidante:

Pat is also kind of a vulture of tragedy in her human form. It meshes with becoming a zombie, a spirit that can be animated through the death of a human being. Pat appears "animated" as a human by Joyce's drama and suffering, like she'd be pathetically moving through life as a non-entity looking for some course or project to give her life meaning. But now, Joyce's drama with Buffy gave Pat A Cause. To be Joyce's comfortador as Joyce lives through every mother's worst nightmare. However, with Buffy's return, Joyce is no longer living her the worst nightmares. Instead, Joyce should be given the space to re-bond with her daughter and enjoy her better fortune.


I think Willow was wrong to stand Buffy up. We’re not privy exactly to Willow’s reasons. But I think it comes down to fear. I think she’s afraid that Buffy will confirm, on some level or another, that she believes her [Buffy’s] life is more important than Willow’s; that her months-long departure was because she doesn’t particularly care about Willow but still wants Willow to be at her call when she deigns to be in Willow’s presence. I think that Willow is worried that Buffy’s return is not really permanent, a fear which turns out to be founded at least partly in reality—that the wrong move can send Buffy flying away, and a common tactic to deal with an excess of fear is to go into avoid-mode. And I think that Willow *feels angry* at Buffy, that second stage of grief that Willow has been putting off for months by living in the perpetual present, and which ultimately can’t be put off indefinitely. There’s a big pattern within Willow’s character for the series of going long periods of time repressing anger, keeping it at bay with either hopeless optimism or avoidance or distraction or escape from reality, and then it finally bursting forth at a crucial moment, and it’s only after the release of anger that she can find some kind of peace. In some senses that is what her overall story over the length of the series is about. It happens here—and I think Willow’s outright avoiding Buffy is a way of preventing her anger from bursting forth, because I think Willow suspects it would be wrong to tell Buffy she is hurting. So she stands Buffy up, and then votes for the party to be such that there will be so much noise that they don’t have to talk to Buffy directly.

True. I think there's also a vibe that Willow/Xander/Oz and to a lesser extent, Cordelia, are a real team now. I think Willow may also be uncomfortable at being pulled from the herd to deal with Buffy directly. Willow doesn't want to say or do anything that could put the whole group dynamic out of order. Moreover, Giles and Buffy set rules that they can't talk about Buffy's summer. Since Willow's been prohibited from questioning that pink elephant, Willow has no idea what to talk about. Xander voices that frustration (crudely and obnoxiously) in the library.


In a lot of ways, this is the best strategy for talking to Buffy: not talking about why Buffy was wrong, or even about why they were all worried about Buffy, but talking specifically about what it is that Buffy missed with them, the details of her disappearance and abandonment and the fact that Willow is upset because Buffy was her best friend and she needed her and she wasn’t gone. I think what Willow says is true. When she talks about “scary life stuff,” of being a witch and of having “serious dating” with a werewolf, it’s possible to say that Willow is being melodramatic here—that these problems, while maybe a big deal to her, are nothing on the level of what Buffy experienced, and Willow should know that.

I really agree that this was the best strategy. It's actually flattering to Buffy. Willow isn't talking about how she missed Buffy's preternatural muscles or even picking out her most obviously victimization in her coma/wheelchair injury to accuse Buffy of not supporting her there. Willow is saying that Buffy was indispensably helpful as Willow's best friend and adviser in how to navigate everything from dating to slaying to witchcraft. The "trivia" or "Sounds good. What're you bitching about?" of Willow's complaints puts fans off but IMO, it actually draws Buffy in to hear about concrete, mixed bag positive but challenging stuff that resides in Sunnydale that Willow wanted Buffy to be a part of.

Moreover, Buffy was drowning in her guilt that she let Angel down by killing him and that's why she decided to let her friends and family down by leaving. Willow's choice to emphasis Buffy's role in her life as a best friend gives Buffy a clear signal that she's important to someone and that Buffy can be a best friend and start winning at life just by being present. Buffy isn't permanently tarnished because of the Angel-drama, doomed to just squat in apartment under another name. Buffy Summers, the human being, has a good role in play in Sunnydale even if she did kill Angel.


Giles: I think the reason that Giles accepts that Buffy is back as easily as he does is both that he understands the pain of having lost a loved one more intimately than the others do, and, further, because, as a Watcher, he is somewhat more trained to expect “problems” from his slayer, and to be able to apply some professional distance. More so than the others, Giles has had a great deal of tragedy in his life, in particular including tragedies involving the slayer/watcher field. The others are very young, or, in Joyce’s case, have had very few life-or-death traumas. I think part of it, too, is Giles’ focus on duty—which prevents him from feeling “put out” by Buffy’s departure in the same way as the others, since it’s to some degree an expected part of the job. This does have its downsides, though. That Giles gets so wrapped up in investigating the zombie cat ends up meaning that he does the same thing that Willow did earlier in the episode for more emotional reasons—he stands Buffy up, fails to go to her party. It turns out to be a good thing, though.

Also, Giles closed off discussion of how Buffy spent her summer which IMO, allowed the Scoobies' anger and suspicion to fester. IMO, Giles has a Watcher's confidence and an adult's confidence that he can eventually get Buffy to open up about her traumas. He uses that confidence in the next ep. The Scoobies' have the impatience of children. They feel that if the discussion is closed on how Buffy spent her summer and her feelings about leaving them, than they'll never find out the truth and they'll have to act out a phoney charade indefinitely. I can relate- I get impatient and curious and feel that if I don't hear the news right away, than it's always going to be kept from me.

Local Maximum
24-08-14, 10:55 PM
Absolutely fantastic review, Local_Max.

Aw shucks. :)


Pat is also kind of a vulture of tragedy in her human form. It meshes with becoming a zombie, a spirit that can be animated through the death of a human being. Pat appears "animated" as a human by Joyce's drama and suffering, like she'd be pathetically moving through life as a non-entity looking for some course or project to give her life meaning. But now, Joyce's drama with Buffy gave Pat A Cause. To be Joyce's comfortador as Joyce lives through every mother's worst nightmare. However, with Buffy's return, Joyce is no longer living her the worst nightmares. Instead, Joyce should be given the space to re-bond with her daughter and enjoy her better fortune.

Very good point. We don't have any clue on Pat's life, but while she's not very good to Buffy, the fact that she's become Joyce's bosom friend, seems to live from one grown-up club to another, and ditches those to hang out with a bunch of kids and her best friend Joyce, suggest that she's either some kind of Single White Female-style person looking for lonely people to fall into her web or, I think, more likely, that she's lonely and seeking a purpose in life, as you say.

If Buffy were "just" an "ordinary" teen runaway, Pat undermining Joyce and Buffy's relationship with little passive-aggressive remarks about Buffy going wherever she's going still wouldn't be cool. However, it's notable that Joyce is presumably sworn to secrecy by Giles and by her own shame. So it's not as if she can tell Pat anything about Buffy being the slayer, even if Joyce actually knows about the Acathla/Angel part of the story (dunno). Joyce points out in this very episode how much easier it would be if Buffy's full circumstances could be discussed openly -- with the school board and police -- but I don't get the impression that Pat knows those specifics. And without those specifics, Buffy doesn't make much sense -- she burns down buildings because she's a Sheila-from-School Hard-style troublemaker. Of course, Sheila probably has her reasons and significant emotional damage too, or did before Dru&Spike killed her, but anyway.

It is sort of unrelated, but it reminds me of a time after a difficult breakup where I was telling a friend about he circumstances of the breakup, and had to keep skipping over the mitigating factors that explained my ex's behaviour, because they were secret, and finally (incorrectly, though I was trying to do the right thing for real) spilled the beans on several personal secrets in order to try to make her behaviour sound more reasonable. Talking around secrets and conversational no-fly-zones is actually really hard, and it's easy for the conversation to get shaped around a one-sided view.


True. I think there's also a vibe that Willow/Xander/Oz and to a lesser extent, Cordelia, are a real team now. I think Willow may also be uncomfortable at being pulled from the herd to deal with Buffy directly. Willow doesn't want to say or do anything that could put the whole group dynamic out of order. Moreover, Giles and Buffy set rules that they can't talk about Buffy's summer. Since Willow's been prohibited from questioning that pink elephant, Willow has no idea what to talk about. Xander voices that frustration (crudely and obnoxiously) in the library.

Right. In addition to the general question of whether the various relationships are now destabilized by Buffy's reentry, the Scoobies as a unit have changed in nature -- they are sort of their own thing, with Buffy as an absent, idealized "centre" but a centre far away. It's actually hard to re-establish their prior relationship, and I do think that Buffy's quick dismissal of Xander's offer to help, and generally her initially encountering them while attempting to slay and the result being Buffy throwing them away from danger, makes it hard for them. They want to keep slaying, but Buffy's reentry immediately removes that avenue toward meaning; Buffy is the leader again, kind of by default of slayerness. And while I think, ideally, Buffy would be more welcoming of other people to meet her in slay-land, they don't have Buffy's natural gifts or her natural charismatic leadership. It's hard to get squeezed out of leadership and a mission by default, especially when it's not possible to talk about it directly.

It's a very good point that they can't talk about what ACTUALLY HAPPENED with Angel. That also makes Giles being the one to "extract" the info out of Buffy in Faith, Hope & Trick interesting and, in some senses, frustrating. I ran out of steam before mentioning the Giles/Snyder ending, with Giles outright threatening Snyder and using physical force. But both that and his "trick" in FHT are moments that are justly applauded as Giles doing what he can to help Buffy without looking for a reward, but the dark lining is sort of skipped over -- Giles makes big decisions through somewhat dubious ethical means. It's hard to complain about him threatening Snyder, but, really? Is threatening a guy to get what he wants a sustainable strategy? Is it actually genuinely better for Giles to bamboozle Buffy into admitting her trauma for her own good, rather than talking about it directly, or letting her admittedly less-carefully-sensitized friends deal with it? We are seeing a good and caring side to Giles' manipulations, but they are manipulations, and they have something in common with the bigger Cruciamentum-style way of being cruel "to be kind."



I really agree that this was the best strategy. It's actually flattering to Buffy. Willow isn't talking about how she missed Buffy's preternatural muscles or even picking out her most obviously victimization in her coma/wheelchair injury to accuse Buffy of not supporting her there. Willow is saying that Buffy was indispensably helpful as Willow's best friend and adviser in how to navigate everything from dating to slaying to witchcraft. The "trivia" or "Sounds good. What're you bitching about?" of Willow's complaints puts fans off but IMO, it actually draws Buffy in to hear about concrete, mixed bag positive but challenging stuff that resides in Sunnydale that Willow wanted Buffy to be a part of.

Moreover, Buffy was drowning in her guilt that she let Angel down by killing him and that's why she decided to let her friends and family down by leaving. Willow's choice to emphasis Buffy's role in her life as a best friend gives Buffy a clear signal that she's important to someone and that Buffy can be a best friend and start winning at life just by being present. Buffy isn't permanently tarnished because of the Angel-drama, doomed to just squat in apartment under another name. Buffy Summers, the human being, has a good role in play in Sunnydale even if she did kill Angel.

That's a very good point. Part of the reason I took so many paragraphs talking about that moment is that it's so clearly important for Buffy to recognize that people need her and want her, and that this need/want is the reason they're being weird around her, well, Willow anyway. It's uncool to admit that you really need someone, because that puts pressure on them to be around to satisfy your needs; but it's also, you know, a big component of friendship to want someone and on some level need them. It is pretty essential to Buffy's feelings that she's unwanted.


Also, Giles closed off discussion of how Buffy spent her summer which IMO, allowed the Scoobies' anger and suspicion to fester. IMO, Giles has a Watcher's confidence and an adult's confidence that he can eventually get Buffy to open up about her traumas. He uses that confidence in the next ep. The Scoobies' have the impatience of children. They feel that if the discussion is closed on how Buffy spent her summer and her feelings about leaving them, than they'll never find out the truth and they'll have to act out a phoney charade indefinitely. I can relate- I get impatient and curious and feel that if I don't hear the news right away, than it's always going to be kept from me.

That's a good point -- especially since the truth only comes out on Giles' terms through benign deceit, which no one else is in on, and even at the end Willow just happens to be "lucky" enough to be in the room to find out this big deal crucial information. Which, I don't think she's *entitled* to know it, but I think the gang are entitled to at least ask. It's always worth noting how much Giles' little comments do tend to set the tone -- though it's also worth noting that his attempt to shut down the hootenanny failed, and so Giles' suggestions are not always taken.

Stoney
26-08-14, 03:53 AM
Great post Max. I think the brilliance of this episode lies in how well it presents all of the different points of view and the elements of them that are fair as well as how the emotions can unfairly push perspectives towards selfish tunneled vision too. I can feel sympathy towards them all but also see them step over the line. You have definitely expanded my Willow understanding too and Dipstick’s point on Buffy’s importance outside of her slayer role to Willow, the significance of Buffy seeing that, is great.

I love the small moment at the beginning where Buffy is stood in her room and there is a sense of discomfort. It is her own bedroom, filled with her belongings and they manage to show that she feels changed, out of place. It really sets the tone for where the episode will go for her and the difficulty in trying to return. The Buffy/Joyce exchange that then follows over the mask, Joyce finds it cheers up the room where Buffy sees it is angry at the room and wants it to suffer, works to also flash that they aren't 'getting' each other and that there are underlying emotions brewing to clash. I also like to think that Buffy gets a bit of a slayery vibe here that she/Joyce mistake as subjective dislike! The scene also plays well in the tension that is being felt with the wider group too and ultimately where else the episode ends up heading with Buffy's quip...
Joyce: Will you be slaying?
Buffy: Only if they give me lip. (smiles weakly)
I do tend to find Buffy's harsh dismissal of how tough the time she has been gone has been on the others who have been trying to take on the slayer duties difficult (although I am equally in her corner at several points too as I said before I feel sympathetic to all of them). On this point I have to see that not only is there a lot of defensiveness in that response and avoidance of the situation that she left, the one she has returned to and reclaiming her role, but the unfairness of the duty/life of the Chosen one is just being pressed on others instead of the innocent girl who is thrust into it all (albeit with superpowers). This aspect, the reality of being Chosen where your very life comes second, fits against Snyder's cruel dismissal of Buffy's future. So in both having to step away from her education to deal with real life issues and taking work to manage her financial burdens (with the gorgeous uniform too!) there is some foreshadowing in Snyder's nasty comment here...
Snyder: I'm quite sure that a girl with the talents and abilities of Buffy will land on her feet. In fact, (leans toward Buffy) I noticed as I came in this morning that Hot Dog on a Stick is hiring. (Buffy gives him an angry stare) You will look so cute in that hat.
I have to say I always found the idea of the gang arbitrarily deciding without Joyce present to change the invitation and organise a band astoundingly bizarre and rude. Obviously I assume they went back to her with the suggestion rather than just turned up with drums etc(!) but the fact that it didn't get conveyed down the line to Buffy just illustrates the discordance going on.


I will further argue that the gang’s shutting Buffy out early in the episode is, far from being the result of a lack of love for Buffy, but from an excess of love, which has been rendered somewhat toxic in Buffy’s absence.

I think it works well to the inactivity induced fear and avoidance we talked about around Anne too. In part they don't really want to know what might have happened to her. Xander's horrible 'meet any nice pimps' thought alludes to the underlying fears that they have probably considered and are actively not talking/thinking about.


I do think it's worth noting that had Buffy actually left permanently, it seems likely that, on a long enough timescale, they would probably have died -- at graduation, if not before -- the life-and-death consequences of what decision Buffy makes are always playing in the background of this story.

The personal role Buffy plays for people as well threads throughout and I like that the threat of the episode actually doesn’t come from Buffy’s job but from Joyce’s work. That feeds well into the realignment coming for them here and almost represents Joyce's changed awareness of Buffy's real world and therefore that her personal reality has changed. As the parent Joyce should be the protector but her choices require Buffy to step back into her role again and Pat, the substitute confidant a role Buffy often played even for her own parenting, is removed. As you say this focuses Buffy back as the centre for Joyce too.


Joyce is locked in her own POV there—it’s so obvious to her that she didn’t actually mean for Buffy never to come back, that she thinks that Buffy herself would never believe Joyce actually wanted her out. Joyce, I think, believes her screwup was big enough that she does deserve to be punished, and she thinks in those terms.

Joyce does have a habit I think of projecting onto Buffy. This comment in the circumstances is fair as well as harsh and most definitely can be flung back at herself too...
Joyce: Buffy, you made some bad choices. You just might have to live with some consequences.
I think Joyce struggles hugely with her disciplinary role, constantly seeking the support of others' opinions on her daughter, like she believed Ted’s perceptions/thoughts, and she studies texts on parenting to try and get guidance. I do think she wants to be a good parent but I don’t think it is instinctual for her and her accusation in Buffy not giving her time just shows how she finds it difficult to consider the perspective of the child rather than her own. She didn’t give Buffy time, she gave her an ultimatum and to try and turn it into Buffy’s error and simply a mistake Joyce made that should be forgiven is too one-sided. It also works into that element of her seeking Buffy’s support again on the parenting she receives which emphasises how alone Joyce feels.


In any case, I feel for Joyce in this episode because of the emptiness of her life without Buffy. And on some level, Pat really was an impediment to Buffy and Joyce bonding again. But that she had to be destroyed suggests to me a kind of tragedy, that it really is not possible for Joyce to have other priorities in her life besides Buffy, because they tend to get in the way of Joyce’s closeness to Buffy—which means, further, that any attempts Joyce makes to fill up the holes that Buffy leaves behind when she leaves her or shuts her out are doomed to failure.

In some ways it is a beauty in Dawn’s arrival/inclusion that she is part of Buffy’s world but also part of Joyce and is something that Joyce leaves with Buffy, a further connection to her and their past together that Buffy would never have had to enjoy if Dawn had not arrived. As much as the situation also places more demands on her too!

I do criticise Joyce an awful lot but I do see that many of her problems come from her isolation rather than from any hint of not loving Buffy. I would hate to go it alone, it is tough a lot of the time with kids, particularly the emotional pressure and the need to try and not get it wrong but often failing spectacularly. Particularly when you don’t feel like you are a person outside of what they want of you.


Maybe because it’s hard to talk about how important Buffy is to him without on some level confronting whether or not he still loves her.

I think this is part of the thing with Xander. Buffy let him down on a personal front in some ways when she rejected him romantically far earlier than when she left. What Buffy loses for Xander when she goes to LA is some of her heroic status, the way he idolised her strength/superpowered persona. I think that is why his attacks seem to focus on her duty rather than on a personal hurt because it is her destroying her own image to him that is ‘new’ in his Buffy issues, not her rejecting him personally. So the awkward make out scene with Cordelia is seemingly underlining having moved on firmly romantically but the attack isn’t on that basis. As an aside I thought the Cordelia neck kissing bit was truly awkward because it was so lacking in passion and Xander seeming so ‘separate’ to what she was doing whilst he talked with Buffy just made that worse.


But both that and his "trick" in FHT are moments that are justly applauded as Giles doing what he can to help Buffy without looking for a reward, but the dark lining is sort of skipped over -- Giles makes big decisions through somewhat dubious ethical means.

It falls well within the watcherly role I feel. Despite the point that Joyce was trying to convey (as well as her own avoidance obviously) about blaming Giles for Buffy’s situation, Giles I don’t think sees the other side of what he does well until he pushes away from the Council. There is a practical supportive role to it all that is great and Giles love for Buffy has him step in where other watchers may have just walked away, but the power balance between watcher/slayer is also there of course.

A couple of additional light comments... One aspect that always confused me in this episode is why do the zombies vanish when they were actual physical beings? There were a couple of light moments in scripting from Cordelia that I liked. The consistency with her being on dip again made me smile and I really just like this...
Cordelia: Nice pet, Giles. Don't you like anything regular?

norwie
28-08-14, 06:57 PM
Hey Dr Freud! What a great (psycho)analysis of the acting characters. I'm 100% with you when you write that it is more about how the characters do (realistically, and ugly) act than some kind of morality play (personally, i find BtVS always the weakest when the writers actually do go there and "morality play" for us). You wonderfully laid out where the characters are coming from and when the communication breaks down (and how it is re-established).

It is totally refreshing to read this perspective since it is so far away from how i generally analyze the story. (You go into the characters while i take the broad brush... ;) )

And i'm sorry for not going more into detail - my health is still in ruins and there's a war at my doorstep which actually takes most of my energy these days (since i don't want to wake up dead because of idiot politicians).

Dipstick
29-08-14, 02:41 AM
Great point that Pat doesn't know the whole story. She does take on a villainous role in MoTW to mirror her counter-productive role with Joyce/Buffy but she's also a victim by getting zombified.


Right. In addition to the general question of whether the various relationships are now destabilized by Buffy's reentry, the Scoobies as a unit have changed in nature -- they are sort of their own thing, with Buffy as an absent, idealized "centre" but a centre far away. It's actually hard to re-establish their prior relationship, and I do think that Buffy's quick dismissal of Xander's offer to help, and generally her initially encountering them while attempting to slay and the result being Buffy throwing them away from danger, makes it hard for them. They want to keep slaying, but Buffy's reentry immediately removes that avenue toward meaning; Buffy is the leader again, kind of by default of slayerness. And while I think, ideally, Buffy would be more welcoming of other people to meet her in slay-land, they don't have Buffy's natural gifts or her natural charismatic leadership. It's hard to get squeezed out of leadership and a mission by default, especially when it's not possible to talk about it directly.

Moreover, Willow was closer to Buffy than Xander in S1-2. However, IMO, the Buffy/Willow twosome really has preeminence over the B/W/X threesome in S3 and early S4. (IMO, the pendulum shifts to Xander in S5.) The B/W final scene, Willow having her separate emotionally-laden "best friend" confrontation in Buffy's room, and the B/W hug to end the fight are a big part of the B/W-centric S3. I do think that both girls kind of want it this way for S3 and early S4. Buffy is angrier at Xander. Whenever Willow, Xander, or Giles are designated as Buffy's closest confidante in a given point of the series, they RUN for the position. However, the B/Wness of it is a sea change from S1-2, let alone a whole summer of Willow/Xander/Oz against the world.

Still, there's some vibe that Xander and Oz have failed in Willow's mind at being her confidante where Buffy would succeed. LOL. Willow really doesn't want to talk witchcraft with Oz or Xander. She doesn't want to discuss her Oz-love life with Xander- for obvious crush-history and "Xander can be inappropriate" reasons. Willow talks slaying tactics with Oz and Xander but as it turns out, not her fears and concerns about slaying. As you said, Buffy is the distant-center-of-their-world when she's away. Willow primarily wants to talk witchcraft and broader concerns about slaying with Buffy, her general and supernatural mission-bearer (and I'd argue Giles at this point but Giles isn't paying attention back) but not so much with Xander or Oz who can't provide that clarity or leadership-approval.

But more than that, there's a kismet that's pretty unique between Buffy and Willow. Willow loves Xander and Oz but she really doubts whether they really listen to her or tune her out in a "too many thoughts" haze.


But both that and his "trick" in FHT are moments that are justly applauded as Giles doing what he can to help Buffy without looking for a reward, but the dark lining is sort of skipped over -- Giles makes big decisions through somewhat dubious ethical means. It's hard to complain about him threatening Snyder, but, really? Is threatening a guy to get what he wants a sustainable strategy? Is it actually genuinely better for Giles to bamboozle Buffy into admitting her trauma for her own good, rather than talking about it directly, or letting her admittedly less-carefully-sensitized friends deal with it? We are seeing a good and caring side to Giles' manipulations, but they are manipulations, and they have something in common with the bigger Cruciamentum-style way of being cruel "to be kind."

On another "Giles is flawed" point, it was pretty ridiculous of him to insult Joyce (and *all* Americans) for not knowing that that the Mask raises the dead. Particularly since big shot Watcher-guy saw the Mask just a few hours ago and saw nothing unusual about it. How could he expect supernatural amateur, untrained Joyce and all Americans to know the difference? I'm not sure if it's a *really* arcane artifact/symbol or it's more evidence of Giles being kind of flaky as a Watcher from the academic side of things. To say nothing of the fact that Giles has been complicit in lying to Joyce and having a life or death relationship with her daughter behind her back- which Joyce reamed him out for in the last ep. (I think Giles's bitchy aside actually stems from some anger/competition with Joyce for lecturing him so thoroughly for, in his mind, doing his job to serve the world.)

vampmogs
29-08-14, 08:02 AM
I think it's better I don't comment too much on this episode because my opinions of Xander and Joyce wouldn't be kind (and that's an understatement) but I do want to say that I *love* how Cordelia comes to Buffy's defense at the party. I think it's really great considering how she's never particularly liked Buffy. Of course she could have expressed herself better but the sentiment is really appreciated and I think it's a shame Buffy was too upset and too defensive to really take that in or express gratitude.

The way Xander trivialized what Buffy went through with Angel as "boy troubles" was really unfair and I like that despite being Xander's girlfriend, despite not particularly liking Buffy, and despite being just as fearful and antagonistic towards Angel as the rest of them, Cordy was able to see that and stood up for her. And as untactful as she articulated herself she actually showed a certain understanding of why Buffy was drawn to Angel ("I'm Buffy, freak of nature. Naturally I'd pick a freak for a boyfriend...") that, frankly, nobody else ever has, or at the very least have never expressed out loud.

Go Cordy!

Oh and I LOVE Giles in this episode.

Stoney
29-08-14, 06:38 PM
I'll watch FHT tonight so I'm unlikely to post this evening but it will be this weekend to keep on track. :)

Stoney
31-08-14, 08:28 PM
3.03 Faith, Hope & Trick

When you have a main character introduction you are close to guaranteed to have an episode with plenty of character points to look at as we see the dynamics/reactions to the new person in the mix. Faith definitely stirs things up from the start.

Faith is a character that I really enjoy even though I find her a little cliché in some exaggerated characterisation notes as the 'bad girl/school drop out'. But as she is a character that has a very projected persona in a defensive way this exaggeration works well I think. It would be hard for a character like Faith to come in and not cause waves when she is outspoken, brash, confident and radiates sexual energy. This episode is perfect for seeing all of this was identifiable from the get-go. That she has that combination plays heavily into the worldly bad girl image and Faith’s assertive and flirty side has a distinct lack of visible boundaries, seen straight away as she uses herself like a honey trap for slaying. Quick aside, Cordelia’s comments on the outdated dancing and Buffy’s subsequent vamp conclusion are a nice call back to Buffy's own arrival in Welcome to the Hellmouth when she and Giles are identifying vamps in the bronze. Anyway, the first direction we get to consider Faith and her behaviour comes from Cordelia's pov…

Cordelia: Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave.

Faith deliberately uses her sexuality and as we get to know her better we hear a very disillusioned view of being able to rely on others and on men in particular (Revelations), perhaps even with indications of abuse in her history (Consequences), certainly an expectation people aren't to be trusted and that they try to use you. With alcoholic parents Faith was undoubtedly neglected and in the S9 A&F comic continuation we eventually meet her dad and it is clear that reliability was not something he demonstrated during her childhood. Faith’s self image is fascinatingly complex and it is clear that she views interacting with people as a mix of performance and manipulation. So much so that I think presenting a 'face' is automatic. At first she is of course covering the truth of what prompted her to come to Sunnydale and so her immediate extensive posturing, over confident 'five by five' attitude and saying that she doesn't consider not winning etc, isn’t really surprising as she is hiding the truth that she is running scared.

Are Faith’s stories all tall tales? Probably, or at least presented for maximum effect I suspect. She bursts into the scene and is larger than life at a time when Buffy is somewhat subdued and unsure of herself. I think it would be erroneous though to say that Buffy and Faith clashing is just because of this unfortunate timing on Faith’s part. It is in the mix for sure and Faith being so bold and brash makes Buffy self conscious of how withdrawn she still is, her ready acceptance from the others underscoring how awkward Buffy’s own recent return has been. Even though Buffy knows that it is obviously a totally different scenario because Faith has no history or complications with any of them (yet!), it is still a sharp contrast that must sting somewhat. But we saw how defensive Buffy was about everyone’s reactions with Kendra and how possessive she felt, so the current circumstances aren’t the only thing playing an influence from Buffy’s point of view. But the reason Buffy and Faith flare so much is because the issues are coming from both directions, as well as a general outlook and personality clash. From Faith’s perspective it must be somewhat intimidating to try to walk into others’ lives, particularly where you will feel so directly compared to an established member and her own insecurities expect her to be the one found wanting. Rivalry and jealousy will drive and mark Buffy and Faith’s interactions.

It is a shame, particularly in an episode that presses on Buffy’s feelings of loss with Angel that she is forgetting/ignoring the sense of connection and ‘sisterhood’ that she gained with Kendra. The intensity of the Bangel relationship is something I struggle with the untended maintenance of once a good distance is made after this season ends, but at this point it makes sense to me that Buffy is talking in terms of missing Angel. Although a good proportion of their relationship and time spent together was hormone driven(!), their connection and need for each other was based around their unique situations and how they straddled two worlds together. Of course Buffy would miss that, particularly at a time when she feels some disconnection from her friends/family. And the slayer connection is emphasised during the episode but somewhat openly rejected by Buffy (more on that later). But Buffy and Faith can understand each other, to some degree, on the level that Buffy is currently missing…

Faith: God, I could eat a horse. Isn't it crazy how slayin' just always makes you hungry and horny?
Buffy: Well... Sometimes I-I crave a nonfat yogurt afterwards.
-- (then following Kakistos’ defeat) --
Buffy: You hungry?
Faith: Starved.

Personally I think the subtext some see with Buffy and Faith distracts. I’m not a fan of interpretations that insert unintended dynamics (and aren’t they just always sexual ones, ha) if they are disruptive. I think the contrast of Buffy’s relative sexual innocence and Faith’s more worldly outlook are an important part of what emphasises dissonance in their relationship from the start on a personal level. Their different general outlooks and personalities formed within very different social backgrounds builds how they don’t ‘get’ each other despite the slayer connection. That would I feel be pulled down somewhat by an underlying attraction existing. Although I acknowledge Buffy is definitely one to lack/avoid some points of self-awareness (again, back to this soon), I just don’t think this subtext works well for understanding the foundations of the dynamic between the two slayers.

Buffy just came back from LA after her taste of living the working class life. But it was a setting that she choose to step into and could then step straight back out of. Buffy and Faith’s family lives/upbringings are a world apart and their attitudes and personalities have a gulf between them. They are constructs of completely different environments. But then so were Buffy and Kendra. The difference here however is the rivalry is heavily toned with resentments and jealousy from them both and the two clash readily, they don’t personally understand each other very well, and so even if they do have that slayer connection it isn’t bridging the gaps that exist.

Finally to that connection dismissal and avoiding self awareness... The disharmony Buffy feels is emphasised by Faith showing a level of comfort/acceptance over her calling and an overzealous enjoyment of the fight that Buffy feels she doesn’t have. But as we saw during the career fair (What’s My Line), there are slayer qualities that are fundamentally ‘Buffy’ that she doesn’t recognise or rejects and we do see that she does deal with her emotions through a violent release too (When She Was Bad, Ted). But they aren’t aspects that Buffy is ‘seeing’ in herself, aren't ones she chooses to openly acknowledge and that desire to avoid accepting/noticing those facets in her own character add to her pushing away from Faith. Later she will try to don the persona of the ‘bad girl’, to get what she sees as the benefits of living life as Faith does. But it is a sham, it isn’t about seeing truth in herself I don’t think but about escapism and feeling like you are acting as another would and you can therefore easily reject it and separate yourself from it again.

There is very much a chicken and egg situation with Buffy and Faith’s relationship and their reactions to each other. It certainly could have been different if just one of them hadn't contributed to the mess of influences between them so much. Perhaps if Buffy wasn’t so possessive of her life and aggressive towards Faith but had eased her insecurities about belonging and been accepting there wouldn't have been so many problems? Or, if Faith had been upfront about how she was feeling and spoken up about what had happened with Kakistos straight away, abandoning her bravado, they could have supported each other more readily?

Buffy acknowledges she is overreacting to Giles but the point that she feels she is trying to get her life back is made repeatedly through the episode and Faith is disrupting this. But it is Buffy who takes it close to being a physical confrontation with Faith. Physical aggression towards people who are making her emotionally uncomfortable really is a ‘go-to’ response for our slayer…
Faith: What are you getting so strung out for, B?
Buffy: Why are your lips still moving, F?
Faith: Did I just hear a threat?
Buffy: Would you like to?
Faith: Wow. Think you can take me?
Buffy: Yeah.

This is an area where Buffy really can let herself down I think and in part that is because, as I said about the violent release of fighting, it isn’t something she openly recognises in herself. The inappropriateness that things got close to becoming physically aggressive in the DMP argument with Xander, again with Buffy taking that step, is really underscored for me when even her playful punch at the picnic clearly hurts Xander. Whether Buffy is lashing out, or showing clear signs of being willing to, with regular Joe’s or superpowered people, it is a negative and destructive response mechanism that serves to avoid the emotional issues in a similar vein to the physical release of pent up emotions and tension that fighting can give. It takes a long time in my opinion for Buffy to start to see how she does this.

It is hard to say if feeling truly accepted would have, with a bit of time, allayed Faith’s comparative self-image issues and dampened the insecurities/jealousies. Would she have been so vulnerable to The Mayor’s acceptance and appreciation if she felt she had it elsewhere? Although I think Buffy’s accusations of Faith looking to steal her life are, at this initial point, pretty unjust (but foreshadow we know of course for the developing chip about all Buffy has and then literally next season in WAY), I do think that Faith’s automatic and sometimes unconscious approach to appeal to people does have her undermining Buffy in places. I have to wonder how much of the resentment at having to ‘share’ the calling we see expressed in Enemies is there from the start, with Buffy’s continued survival having stolen something from Faith if she perceives the status/role as not fully her own. She has clearly arrived having heard stories of Buffy’s deeds, her ‘infamous’ status, how did she feel before she had even arrived in her ability to fit in, be liked and accepted? Her flattery to Xander/Willow and Giles I think initially is about acceptance with everything she has just been through and lost. Although she is openly disparaging about Buffy to Xander and Willow I don’t think that that is about trying to take them away from Buffy as such, but is more about trying to ‘sell’ herself by emphasising/presenting their differences in the only way she thinks she has over Buffy, being more cool, fun and adventurous.

Faith’s isolation is only subtley probed this early but I find it sad that when Buffy and Joyce are out of the room it seems that maybe she is trying to ‘stock up’ on food whilst it is available rather than purely just letting her table manners slip unobserved. We later see the conversation with the hotel manager about paying the room rate to make it clear that Faith is running on empty. There is no reason why the scoobs should be particularly aware from the point when Faith arrives how little she has, they didn’t even know then that she was really going it alone, but they do now. It is at times like this that I find The Council’s attitude towards the slayers really appalling.

I actually really like the contrast in the episode of how light everyone else’s reaction is to Faith’s arrival when so much is simmering instantly for the two slayers. There are quite a few tonal similarities to Ted from Buffy and equally the others are all a lot more laid back and welcoming because they simply feel a lot more casual about it than Buffy does. The two responses that do stand out to me the most though are Joyce’s and Xander’s, but for what it speaks of their other issues rather than specifically about their response to Faith herself.

I think Joyce is really genuinely trying to get it right but she doesn’t manage to press her own wants and subdue her preferences in lieu of reality enough. The fact that she is very blatantly trying to talk to Faith to gain an insight into Buffy who is sat right there shows that she is still very unsettled and uncertain about it all. She wants the situation to be different to what it is and I do completely get that. Finding acceptance over your child being in this unfair life/death reality is no small ask and I am sure that I would automatically find myself rebelling against it all the time, no matter if you also want to give the best support that you can. Joyce’s delight that Faith was here so could take on Buffy’s duty was then short lived as she was hit side on with the hard reality that Faith’s presence is proof of Buffy having died before. That Buffy is able to assure her and the scene end at that just tells me that Joyce will be trapped in this fluctuation of trying to accept Buffy’s reality with wanting to reject it for now. It is a really hard situation for her and, for once, I’m in her corner with how much she struggles here.

Xander on the other hand, hmmm… I think this episode really starts to outline the mismatched interest level held in their relationship between Xander and Cordelia. When Cordelia asks what is with Xander and slayers I find it quite sad because I think that Xander’s attraction to Cordelia originated in the same interest, her being a strong/confident women. It probably is a contrast to his mother, someone who accepts being in an abusive relationship, and there is a consistent leaning from him to this opposing personality type. Unfortuantely I think that her relationship with Xander does somewhat sap Cordelia of her self image as she becomes the one more invested and with her having taken a significant step to go against her peers/perceived ‘acceptable’ matches to be with him. I just don’t think after their initial hormonally charged moments that Xander is as interested in Cordelia. I think the disparity in their depth of feelings is perfectly outlined by how Xander responds to Faith. He doesn’t in any way whatsoever hide his attraction to her and it isn’t presented as being just humour (inappropriate or not). To be completely frank I just find it disrespectful and callous that he will repeatedly press for the ‘naked’ stories with Cordelia sat right beside him and her snap that he should ‘find a new theme’ is a pretty mild response considering how he is acting. I don’t think that Xander is consciously choosing to act like this but his lack of consideration isn’t lessened by that fact. It is interesting that Cordelia is openly a little catty later about Faith’s ‘hair colour’, her insecurity briefly surfacing.

I personally have no issues with how Giles drew the details from Buffy. I take Max’s point that it has a darker edge to it in the manipulation but I think that Giles is genuinely acting in Buffy’s interest here. It must be hard for him to hear Buffy’s open distress about the events surrounding sealing Acathla/killing Angel. Not only in terms of seeing her so upset and understanding then what caused her to leave, but also in hearing her upset over the death of the person who tortured him and killed Jenny. I’m sure in the moment of recounting Buffy is lost somewhat in her thoughts, memories and letting out her secret and pain about the soul restoration. But part of why she probably left was the fear of her emotions not being understood, her grief being dismissed. But Giles welcomed this scenario and gently pressed for it. So whilst I see that he might be considering the greater ‘slayer’ good of Buffy confronting what happened and whilst he might be behaving as a watcher doing what he needs to control/prompt his slayer at a time when he longs to be off on watcher’s retreat(!), he is also putting aside his own feelings to try and encourage Buffy to do this for her own good and I can't help but respect him for that.

Now Scott, hmmmm, I feel sure that he is supposed to be a genuine, nice, ordinary guy that really likes Buffy. But whilst he is charming he is also somewhat creepy. I accept he might have been encouraged by Willow but his repeated attempts to get some interest are one thing, the friendship ring however is just waaay too intense. You haven't even had one date yet, back off man, geez!! But it serves to give us our further link with the ring from Buffy’s dream earlier. Although Buffy has opened up about what happened now she is still going it alone on her feelings, and the continuing guilt about what Angel will be experiencing in hell. So, in keeping with her dream perspective of the Scoobies watching silently on, she isn’t seeking support still to give them voice. Understandably considering this and as it is such a personal goodbye, Buffy opts to go alone to the mansion to leave the ring. Then hell kicks out an Angel and Buffy will, in keeping with these consistently still protected emotions, keep his presence a secret too when she finds him.

A little bit more… Although I’ve never been massively keen on the character, I like that Mr Trick is shown to have a wider perspective than just serving Kakistos’ vengeance. It is nice to have a cunning vamp in the mix and from the start he is focussing on the opportunities the hell mouth presents, so him becoming aligned with The Mayor works well. The episode kept The Mayor’s background presence in place that started last season as his relevancy this season builds. As Faith faces Kakistos and deals with her fear and Buffy not only confronts the situation regarding Angel’s death, she and Joyce also confront Snyder too. So again we have the phone link with Snyder and this time he seems worried about speaking to The Mayor as Buffy’s return to school that he was delighted to report last season is reversed against his wishes.

I found the extent of the pressure from Willow for Buffy to start to date this episode a little surprising until I sat back and thought on it. As she/Oz and Xander/Cordelia don’t feel they can act freely as a couple around Buffy it seems to have spurred Willow into asserting herself a little too much when she takes it as far as basically inviting Scott to meet Buffy at the bronze. Obviously it plays into her finding out the extent of Buffy’s distress with the restoration reveal at the end, but the confidence of it is a little flash of the Willow to come who wants to make decisions for others for the best but is currently in opposition to the Willow of high school who is uncertain about even stepping foot off campus for lunch.

Odd bits… The big staking effect was pretty bad. Oz’s summary of becoming a werewolf is great ‘I got bit’, as is him awarding bonus points for language use when Scott says ‘mosey’. Willow’s gaffe at the picnic really amuses me. I know it is a pretty childish gag but it is done so well with great timing/delivery by AH and SMG.

Willow: Ooo, Scott Hope at eleven o'clock. He likes you. He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren't ready then. But I think you're ready now, or at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation, or-or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like.
-- (Buffy snaps her head around at Willow and gives her a shocked look) --
Willow: Oh! I didn't mean the *bad* thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing that you... (glares at Oz) You're supposed to stop me when I do that. :biggrin1:

Dipstick
01-09-14, 05:06 AM
Great review Stoney. I'm quite drunk so I don't know I'm making the right call here but I take issue with contrasting points:


I personally have no issues with how Giles drew the details from Buffy. I take Max’s point that it has a darker edge to it in the manipulation but I think that Giles is genuinely acting in Buffy’s interest here.


I found the extent of the pressure from Willow for Buffy to start to date this episode a little surprising until I sat back and thought on it. As she/Oz and Xander/Cordelia don’t feel they can act freely as a couple around Buffy it seems to have spurred Willow into asserting herself a little too much when she takes it as far as basically inviting Scott to meet Buffy at the bronze. Obviously it plays into her finding out the extent of Buffy’s distress with the restoration reveal at the end, but the confidence of it is a little flash of the Willow to come who wants to make decisions for others for the best but is currently in opposition to the Willow of high school who is uncertain about even stepping foot off campus for lunch.

I think it's more manipulative and "making decisions for you" for Giles to lie that they're basically on Defcon 4 with needing to secure Acathala closed so Buffy better disclose everything than for Willow to tell Scott Hope that Buffy will be at the Bronze that night (typical for Buffy) and Scott Hoe should feel free to approach Buffy for a date if he wants to make that pitch. Giles can dishonestly manipulate Buffy into telling her most traumatic experiences because he lies, as a Watcher, that it's Buffy's DUTY TO REPORT and that's fine; Willow just tells Scott that Buffy is at the Bronze and talks up Scott as a normal, good prospect of a boyfriend and it's part of her baddie bad making decisions for others.

I'm generally pro-Giles here although, I have reservations. He pretty sanctimoniously shut down the Scoobies straight-out asking Buffy what happened in DMP like they were invading Buffy's privacy and destablizing her by asking blunt questions. I kind of think that Giles should tried to ask Buffy straight-out without the mind-games. However, *Buffy* indicated that she was grateful for Giles's intervention and she didn't want to talk honestly about what happened- and she continues to cleave to that dishonesty about Angel to come. Giles had little choice. Buffy showed little interest in talking openly about what happened but no one can deal with Buffy fairly and helpfully without knowing the truth. I could see where Giles felt that he had to resort to manipulative Watcher tactics. Although, no one appeared to ask Buffy straight out what killing "Angelus" was like to give her the chance to open up on her own without being tricked into it. And that someone should have been Giles since he shut down questioning Buffy in DMP and he had an inkling.

Willow (kind of pushily) pointing out Scott as a good prospect for Buffy and telling Scott that Buffy would be at the Bronze (which is typically shared among teens information) is small potatoes compared to Giles. Willow was pretty above-board about everything. Willow wasn't trying to get Buffy to unload big dark secrets. Willow wasn't using her office as a important evil-fighting Scooby to get Buffy to reveal personal trauma "for the good of the world" when it was actually to hear Buffy's personal trauma. Buffy's choice to not date Scott Hope was entirely based on whether Buffy liked Scott Hope/disliked Scott enough to shut down Willow's match-making efforts to her pushy face. Buffy's choice to discuss the personal, difficult details of killing Angel to Giles was positioned as either- Buffy cares enough to seal off Acthala from the world or she doesn't- because Giles made Buffy's personal disclosure into a slayer thing.

Stoney
01-09-14, 09:23 AM
I think it is just supposed to be played that Giles realised Buffy would close down about it and need time/opportunities that were not directly challenging her to choose to reveal what had happened. Obviously we didn't see an alternative scenario play out but I think the whole thing is written to be viewed to see it as a good/clever call on Giles' part and play into his building personal feelings affecting his choices with Buffy beyond just putting strict watcher demands on her. I even thought Willow looks impressed when he tells her there was no spell, not as if she just found out Giles violated Buffy's trust.

As for the comparison with Willow's/Giles' tactics. They aren't the same situations for a start and they aren't actions that deserve the same weight. Willow was in part pressing Buffy for her own good and in part because W/O and X/C were having to restrict their relationships (or felt they should) around Buffy and Willow just wants everyone happy/relaxed and in a place where that doesn't have to happen. They have just had the summer of enjoying that and suddenly now on Buffy's return they are feeling restricted so I can understand for sure. But Willow does go down the road of making decisions for people that she shouldn't so there are indications leading up to that of a personality that could head that way. That doesn't mean that those indications are 'baddie bad' choices and show eeeevil urges coming through. But they do show a tendency to try and control and press people in directions she feels are for the best. I think Willow pushes it a little too much in this episode with Scott and I think I probably feel that because I don't think all of her motivations are purely Buffy orientated, whereas in contrast I think Giles puts aside his personal feelings about Angel in what he is trying to do for Buffy. Buffy did say she wasn't looking to snare Scott although she does want to get her life back, date/shop etc., but they make it look very arranged, not just 'we'll be at the Bronze' but 'come after 8 to see Buffy'. It is a small thing, I just think it is pushing a little too much straight away again without giving Buffy room. There isn't any heavy weight behind Willow's choice here, some might see it purely as being a good friend trying to help Buffy move, which I can see, particularly at a point in the episode when Willow doesn't yet understand the weight of what Buffy went through before the reveal, but I think the mixed motivations give it a hint of where she will go when she does take things way too far. Even though this isn't that.

Dipstick
01-09-14, 03:04 PM
I think Giles's trick was entirely clever and mostly good. As I wrote above, Buffy *needed* to unload this to move on and she wasn't talking on her own. However, it gives me pause that no one just asked Buffy straight out without any tricks- and that's partly because Giles shut that down in DMP. IMO, the most ethically incorruptible thing would be to ask Buffy straight-out. There is a bit of a darker lining that when a supervisor/teacher tricks a student into revealing trauma for false purposes. It's unusual. I think in most real-world cases, it would be side-eyed. Here, it's more acceptable because Buffy's personal life bleeds in with her world-saveage non-stop.

Meanwhile, Willow's match-making just seems *really* typical. On two occasions, I had girl-friends try to match-make by telling a guy that I'd be at a certain party. On Facebook, my friends and I frequently announced and tagged that we were all going to a certain event before it happened without consulting the other before making it out status message. Moreover, Buffy said in the teaser that she wanted to date and she gave Scott the half-smile thing. Willow reasonably took that as a sign that Buffy wanted to date Scott, to at least move on and have normal fun, but Buffy needed a little help and nudging because Buffy was in avoidy mode- which is more or less accurate.

I think there are issues with Willow's overly-zealous *demeanor* because she's way too hung up on the need to date in order to be psychologically whole. That's a big flaw of Willow's and it affects her own romantic life and her friendship with Buffy through the TV series. However, Willow wasn't making choices for Buffy; it was pretty standard match-making.

Stoney
01-09-14, 03:28 PM
I don't think Buffy would have responded to direct questioning as her manner on her return was trying to brush over it all and 'get on with it' so I think Giles just quickly surmised that a direct approach would get little response and make her close down more and then any 'tricks' probably wouldn't work thereafter either because she would be alerted to them trying to probe. I can see what you are saying about it, including that he shut down the others, but on this occasion I just think he made the right call.

I didn't think she was making choices for Buffy but she was pressing again after already having done so and getting Buffy's mixed reactions. As I said, I can see why some would just see it solely as a friend match-making and I am only seeing it as a 'hint' or 'indication' towards an outlook of guiding towards what she feels is best, nothing weighty, certainly nothing 'bad'. Perhaps the over zealous demeanour is just because of the weight that she puts on dating to be whole as you say. But I do think one of Willow's motivations alongside it all isn't Buffy based but is based on how much better/easier it will be for the group if Buffy was happy and dating too. Again, nothing evil in that intention but it has some self motivation in there and I think that does give her the extra impetus to keep pressing on with no pause. I can see your point though, about the dating = completion pov, it makes sense totally or partially from that viewpoint as well. Certainly her actions in how readily she was willing to pass the idea of Scott as a possible partner onto Faith instead when she thought they were showing an interest in each other works well with that.

Local Maximum
02-09-14, 04:21 PM
Great review, Stoney. A few thoughts on the ep:

- The big class issues that norwie talked about so eloquently (and Dipstick in particular followed up on as well) in the Anne discussion show up here again in Faith and Mr. Trick. Trick, in particular, is talking about economics and race disparity, and very clearly wanting to move the model of vampirism away from old-school feudal resentments and revenge plots and overt power plays as exemplified by Kakistos and into a more predatory-capitalism model, exemplified by the various fast food moments (among others). This sets up the season, which, in following the lead set by Anne, is much more explicitly about big economic and political systems than the more relationship-driven, passion-oriented season two. We'll see the Master's AU dystopia in The Wish, the assault from the Parents Television Council Mothers Opposed to the Occult in Gingerbread, the Council's organization in Revelations and Helpless, culminating in the Mayor's centuries-long plan to accumulate enough political power to move out into the open as a monster. This is part of the series' overall movement from the tiny to the large-scale; the season before was, again, focused on personal relationships and the way history peaks through those, and the season after will focus on the encroaching of national technological interests into the personal world. This season is partly about Sunnydale as a town, and the economic/political engine that runs it, and Trick starts us looking at that within the town. In that sense, Dead Man's Party sort of goes along the same lines -- ending as it does with a collective effort to beat back the zombies.

- So, Trick lets us know to think about economics (and race). Faith enters and we think about class. As Stoney said, there is some similarity between Faith's life on the edge and Buffy's over the summer in L.A. I think Buffy's immediate resentment toward Faith is some recognition of their similarity -- that the qualities that mark Buffy out as "the good slayer," her more reserved demeanor when it comes to food, sex and fighting, her lack of recklessness, her, well, education, are ones that are at least partially the result of the fundamental elements of life being doled out differently. Buffy has a mother, a middle-class life, an education, a set of friends, and, currently, a Watcher. Faith doesn't. Faith is showier, more dangerous, more violent, and her attention-getting stories are designed to win people over. On some level I think she is trying to take what Buffy has. But to recognize this for what it is -- that Faith has very little, and Buffy has so much -- is a problem in itself.

Because a part of Buffy wants to give all that up. Faith desperately wants the good slayer mantle, the mission, the mother, the watcher, the Scooby gang, and a part of Buffy just wants to retreat into herself, live out the rest of her days with the traces of Angel, to just let guilt and pain consume her. She wants to leave Sunnydale and build a life away from all these people who may support her but also place demands on her. There is no one close to Buffy who hasn't hurt her, or whom Buffy hasn't hurt, already, and will do so again. Part of the story of season three, which closes out (to some degree) in Choices with Buffy's rueful recognition that she's never leaving town, is that Buffy does want out of the very things that Faith wants to take from Buffy. And that's a problem, because if someone else envies what Buffy has, why isn't she happy with it? How can it be that Buffy really has been, in certain respects, and compared to certain other individuals, "lucky," and still has this desperate sadness in her, this urge to run away?

The answer, I think, is one that is supplied, this season, in Earshot: everyone has pain. Everyone is hurting. The instinct to compare to each other is there and overwhelming, and the fact that everyone hurts doesn't mean that we shouldn't help others who are even closer to the edge than ourselves. But it is painful to recognize that however badly one might be doing, other people have it, in some respects, worse, and still to be able to hold onto the recognition that one's own pain matters. Jonathan has none of the burden of Buffy's calling and none of the pain of Faith's orphan status, but his pain is enough to drive him to the brink of suicide. One's own pain matters. And it's that recognition, though it takes different forms by the season's end, that allows, I think, for the ability to see Faith, albeit very briefly, not as an enemy who attempted to steal her life, someone who signed up for a campaign to kill the entire graduating class of Sunnydale with glee, but as a sister, battered by the world (and by Buffy), and in the dream world where they are not so naturally opposed share a moment of grace.

- Comparison with Faith is how Buffy makes the decision to "move on" from Angel. Faith was hurting because she got her Watcher killed; Buffy was hurting because she got Angel killed. Recognizing that Faith is acting erratically because she won't let go of her guilt allows Buffy to recognize the value of moving on. And so she tells Giles (and Willow) what actually happened, and she admits, in language that does not shy away from the darkness of those last moments, "I told him I loved him and I kissed him and I killed him." And, you know, there are definitely things I like about Scott Hope. I'm on board with any Buster Keaton fan. But yeah, I mean, there is something inauthentic about the whole thing, something which actually makes a lot of sense when we add the Conversations with Dead People reveal that Scott was a closeted gay teen, whose efforts to make himself mega-charming and meta-awkward seem pretty clearly "trying too hard."

- On the Willow discussion, I see Stoney's point. I think it's important to remember that the gang doesn't know that Buffy and Angel, souled Angel, shared that intimate moment at the end of Becoming, may not know about the details of the ghost-reconciliation in I Only Have Eyes For You, and that as far as most of the gang knows the end of Buffy/Angel as a relationship was back in Surprise/Innocence and the rest of that intervening time Angel has been nothing but a guy trying to kill them all for fun. That does mean that the gang should be more sensitive to Buffy's desire not to put herself out there again, but given that Scott is unlikely to kill everyone, it seems as if he represents the Hope for the future.

I do think that Willow's effort to set Buffy up is kind of hopelessly naive; she doesn't, I think, fully recognize how badly Buffy is scarred by what happened with Angel, even when the evidence is staring her in the face. But I think she's also responding to the rules of her friendship with Buffy as she thinks they are, and as Buffy basically set up: they bond over Willow helping Buffy with homework, over slaying stuff, and over talking about boys. Buffy pushed Willow into dating and into showing her sexy self off in the early days; Willow sees it as her right, nay, her duty to push Buffy back into the dating pool the way Buffy pushed Willow.

But yeah, there is something dysfunctional about Willow's inability to deal with other people being sad around her, and her absolute need to make things right, somehow. It's actually a healthy trait in moderation, linked as it is to empathy, compassion, and a desire to express love and affection through acts of service. She wants to help. She wants to make things better. But, oh yeah, she also needs to help, and needs to make things better. I think in some respects that this comes from something like what I talked about with Buffy/Faith earlier; on some level, for Willow to have a boyfriend whom she loves and to be so happy with him seems wrong and incomplete when Buffy's out there alone. I think she wants to share the experience of having a boyfriend with Buffy and so there's some self-interested desire to have a companion on this particular adventure, but I think she also just feels like it's unfair that she be happy in a certain way when her best friend isn't, and feels bad. Which, you know, finding out that her desire to make things work out for Buffy led to her ensouling Angel and sending him to hell leads to her shocked with guilt, which also makes her immediately try to correct the action, to make it right somehow. But there is no spell. In moderation and with limits, Willow's desire to make the lives of those around her better is not just a useful trait, but an exceptional one. But the big problem is the realization that sometimes there is no spell; sometimes people will be suffering and there is nothing to be done at all. And sometimes it'll be her fault.

Willow does bring up Angel and when he came back feral from at the beginning of season six, incidentally. I don't think it's the sole reason by any means that Willow believed Buffy was in hell...but I do think that the fact that Willow inadvertently helped send Angel to a hell dimension weighs on her once Buffy dies by mystical energy. On some level it seems the right time to make right an old wrong of hers, to save someone from hell instead of condemning someone to it.

Dipstick
03-09-14, 12:59 PM
Faith’s isolation is only subtley probed this early but I find it sad that when Buffy and Joyce are out of the room it seems that maybe she is trying to ‘stock up’ on food whilst it is available rather than purely just letting her table manners slip unobserved. We later see the conversation with the hotel manager about paying the room rate to make it clear that Faith is running on empty. There is no reason why the scoobs should be particularly aware from the point when Faith arrives how little she has, they didn’t even know then that she was really going it alone, but they do now. It is at times like this that I find The Council’s attitude towards the slayers really appalling.

Faith's economic problems are directly contrasted in this ep with the Watcher's Council spending money on an expensive-sounding retreat with kayaking and night-caps.


Xander on the other hand, hmmm… I think this episode really starts to outline the mismatched interest level held in their relationship between Xander and Cordelia. When Cordelia asks what is with Xander and slayers I find it quite sad because I think that Xander’s attraction to Cordelia originated in the same interest, her being a strong/confident women. It probably is a contrast to his mother, someone who accepts being in an abusive relationship, and there is a consistent leaning from him to this opposing personality type. Unfortuantely I think that her relationship with Xander does somewhat sap Cordelia of her self image as she becomes the one more invested and with her having taken a significant step to go against her peers/perceived ‘acceptable’ matches to be with him. I just don’t think after their initial hormonally charged moments that Xander is as interested in Cordelia. I think the disparity in their depth of feelings is perfectly outlined by how Xander responds to Faith. He doesn’t in any way whatsoever hide his attraction to her and it isn’t presented as being just humour (inappropriate or not). To be completely frank I just find it disrespectful and callous that he will repeatedly press for the ‘naked’ stories with Cordelia sat right beside him and her snap that he should ‘find a new theme’ is a pretty mild response considering how he is acting. I don’t think that Xander is consciously choosing to act like this but his lack of consideration isn’t lessened by that fact. It is interesting that Cordelia is openly a little catty later about Faith’s ‘hair colour’, her insecurity briefly surfacing.

I agree with a lot of this. To combat Internet-fandom nonsense, Cordelia slut-shames Faith in this ep alone about as much as Willow and Buffy have ever slut-shamed Cordelia over the whole course of both series put together. (Then according to my recollection for trivia's sake, Cordelia isn't even in the same scene with Faith other than two minutes in Consequences over the rest of Faith's run on BtVS. There's a relatively passing connection in AtS S1 but Five by Five/Sanctuary are very light on Cordelia. And then the real Cordelia never sees Faith again. Some unexplored territory for fanfiction.)

I do agree that Cordelia seems much more invested in C/X. It feels like a step-back for Xander. Cordelia walked into the relationship knowing that Xander was kind of obsessed with Buffy and Willow but everyone couldn't determine where the friendship/fealty to the mission of Good v. Evil started and where the romance stopped. However, Cordelia (totally righteously) didn't expect Xander to drool over strangers in front of her.

I agree with Local_Max on everything in his last post. I agree that there are things to like about Scott Hope. We'll get there later but I think he was well within his rights to dump Buffy even if he wasn't gay and confused, but that element does explain the sudden awkwardness and how he wasn't particularly moved by Buffy's cutely attired Homecoming self if he didn't find her personality fun to be around. I also found Scott's grief about Pete/Debbie affecting. I also agree that Angel's story does play a subliminal role in Willow's choice to resurrect Buffy. It upped Willow's fear than even supposed CHAMPIONS with trumpets before and after the word end up in hell if they're sacrificed by heading through portal meant to guide someone or the world to hell.

Local Maximum
04-09-14, 06:17 PM
Hey, so, while we're on this episode, what do you guys (...well, gals...I mean, "you guys" is just how my dialect does second-person plural) think of Willow & Xander & Giles falling a little into Faith's orbit, possibly at Buffy's expense, i.e.:


Willow: Hey, don't you have that health science makeup?

Buffy: Oh, yeah. Actually, I could use a little coaching.

Willow hops off of the table, smiling. Xander grabs his things behind
him.

Willow: (to Faith) You know, you can hang out with us while she's
testing. You wanna?

Buffy mumbles to herself, realizing she's just become invisible to them.

Xander: Say yes and, uh, bring your stories. (smiles as he walks out
past Faith)

Buffy: (goes to the table) You guys go. It's fine. Fine! I'll just...
(sits) sit.

Faith: (to Buffy) Okay. Hey, later. (to Giles) *We* will talk weapons.

She follows Xander and Willow out of the library. Giles watches her go.

Giles: (points) This, um, this new girl seems to (sits on the table)
have a lot of zest. (smiles)

Buffy glares up at him. He quickly changes the subject.

This is sometimes interpreted as Willow & Xander being bad friends to Buffy, Willow leaving Buffy to study on her own because she likes the new girl. This can even be read, and has been read, as Willow & Xander (& to a degree Giles and Joyce) simply replacing their favourite slayer automatically; that they instantly form a new favourite and the moment they have a new superpowered friend ditch Buffy to hang out with her.

I mention that because that's sort of how my cowriters described it a bit back when I was doing the notes with Maggie and Strudel, and I think there is some truth to this; Xander, for instance, does seem to have this big attachment to Strong Women which he allows to circle through from one woman to the next, often getting distracted by the latest pretty face to appear to him. Willow is really desperate for female companionship, especially female companionship from someone cool who can validate Willow as one of the cool ones. Giles enjoys Faith's flattery, as well. On some level, they are all dependent on Buffy to give their lives meaning, and that means that another slayer could give their lives meaning just as well -- so Willow ditches her normal friend-helping-role of helping Buffy study to show the new slayer around, and later her matchmaking instincts start to go with setting Faith up with Scott instead of Buffy.

I do think that some of the enthusiasm Willow and Xander have for Faith is that she is new and they can make a fresh start with her, whereas things with Buffy are still a little tense and awkward, because Buffy just came back, and there are still mysteries as to why she left that they can't really talk about without it being awkward, or uncomfortable, or defying Giles' recommendation that they not talk about it. I think that Willow still sees herself to some extent as occupying the moral high ground with Buffy, and as a result I think she's more likely to ignore Buffy's desire for help studying than she would normally be.

But personally I think they aren't really doing much wrong. Willow not hearing Buffy's question of asking for her help studying is insensitive, but on some level it actually does make sense that Faith needs new friends and needs someone to show her around the campus where evil is constantly happening than Buffy needs Willow's help studying. Willow is not actually, or should not actually, be expected to be constantly on call to help Buffy with school at every moment, to the exclusion of Willow making new friends or showing people new to the town around. It also seems at the time that Faith is only going to be around for a very short time, since Faith's cover story is that she's only visiting while her Watcher is away at the retreat and will be gone at any moment. Willow makes new friends very rarely, if ever, and being able to have a connection with someone who not only tolerates her but seems to actually like her, and not in a condescending way but in a way she actually sees her as cool (!!!) is a pretty golden opportunity.

Moreover, there is no betrayal inherent in making friends with Faith -- and if there is, well, wow, sucks to be Faith! The idea that they have to make sure Buffy's all right with them hanging out with Faith suggests that there really isn't enough affection in the world for Faith to get any at all.

I really like the point Stoney made about Faith filling a similar role to the one Ted played for Buffy, and I think this is really accurate to how Buffy views Faith's intrusion on her life. It's also part of why it's a bit of a shock for Faith to turn out not to be the villain as of this episode. In a lot of ways, I think that this season overall is an expansion on the themes only dealt with glancingly in Ted. In Ted, there really was Something Wrong with Ted, as we found out, but some of Buffy's pain really was that she wanted her mother all to herself. Buffy is territorial, and I think she is used to...well, not necessarily always being treated well by her friends, but often being at the centre of their world. When Xander yells at Buffy or tells her off, he is at the least still paying attention to her; it's weirder for someone else to be, like, really important to them.

Some of it really is also just that Faith is an intense flatterer, and Willow & Xander, and to a lesser extent Giles and Joyce, absolutely crave that kind of affection and sense of worth, because, in W&X's case especially, they have so many insecurities. For Faith to say how much she would have been tempted to stick around at school if she had friends like Willow & Xander carries particular weight when Buffy...just left them for several months without word. I think that is part of why Willow starts thinking that Faith is right and Buffy does need to loosen up!, for which she kind of automatically apologizes (for using the "B" word). I think they are needy enough that another awesome and strong person to validate them is really, really attractive, and I think it's not really a betrayal of Buffy to spend time with Faith, who obviously also needs some kind of connection to others as well.

However, I bring this up because "Willow & Xander just want a slayer and don't care if it's Buffy!!!" seems to be an interpretation that shows up, enough that I think it's worth bringing up. Thoughts?

Dipstick
04-09-14, 07:44 PM
I really agree with your last post, Local_Max. Ironically, I think the "Willow and Xander were a*sholes for tripping all over themselves to be friendly to Faith instead having best-friend loyalty to Buffy" camp has many shared members in the "Willow and Xander were a*sholes for never being friendly enough to Faith" camp. I do think that Xander was rude to interrupt Buffy's chance to share her most impressive slay so Xander could ask Faith about the alligator story that she mentioned before so he could then, interrupt *Faith* to see if that story also occurred while Faith was naked. However, Xander was mostly being rude to Cordelia. However, there was some rudeness to Buffy that Xander's desire to hear entirely new and sexy slay-stories instead of ones that he already heard or lived through came before Faith's request to hear about Buffy's victories and Buffy's desire to share some of her own slay-life instead of just hearing Faith go on and on. However, that still does not sink to the level of Xander wanting *a hot slayer*, Faith and Buffy are inter-changeable.

Moreover, Willow and Giles also work in this ep to soothe the Buffy/Faith rocky relationship and bring the slayers closer together even when it does nothing for their own social lives. Willow non-verbally pushed Buffy to invite Faith to dinner when it looked like Faith didn't have a family to come home to- even though that dinner was going to be 0 % Willow. IMO, Willow romanticizes the deep heroic, trusting bond that should exist between slayers or slayer/watcher up until Willow can see it severely costing her own relationship with Buffy. However, Willow regularly pushes tighter Buffy/Giles through the series. Giles explained away Faith's rambuntiousness to entice Buffy to see Faith in more sympathetic, cooperative eyes.

Moreover, the Scoobies still care about Buffy in this ep after Faith appeared- much more than they care about Faith. Buffy's confession that she killed Angel *really buries* the same-conversation- reveal in the library that Kakistos killed Faith's Watcher horribly and utterly traumatized Faith. Giles still has his "jealous of the Watcher's Council"/"coincidence and leprechauns" banter with Buffy. Giles was definitely flattered by Faith's compliments- but Giles seemed bent on keeping things distantly professional with Faith in contrast to his friendly intimate relationship with Buffy. Willow speaks bluntly and spiritedly to Faith because Faith doesn't seem that fragile and Willow *likes* Faith but she doesn't super-care about Faith's feelings. In this ep in particular, Willow second-guesses a lot with Buffy because Willow feels she really ought to be very gentle with Buffy. De-couple. The guilt after Buffy caught her and Oz making out. "You really need to find the fun, B.....Ufffy." "If you're done with Scott...oh, not that you used him." Willow and Giles are friendlier to Faith than Buffy would want- but they still prioritize Buffy through the ep.

And in a negative on the Scoobies way, after the welcome-wagon for Faith is over, the Scoobies do pull away a little even though Faith still seems to want in their club. Which emphasizes your point that the Scoobies' friendliness is part of how Faith seems to be a short-term vistor ala Kendra. I mentioned before that Faith's "watched Kakistos murder my Watcher horribly and then fled around the country from Kakistos" trauma got buried underneath the "Angel was cured reveal". Buffy's observation that Faith was living hand-to-mouth in a sleazy motel where she couldn't make rent and her landlord was horribly murdered didn't even seem to make the news for that library scene.

Faith was uber-friendly to Willow/Xander at the Homecoming dance but Willow and Xander were distant because they were pre-occupied with their guilt/drama mostly but also partly, their fealty to the Buffy/Cordelia drama because Buffy, center of their lives, was displeased by the Homecoming competition. In Revelations, the Bangel drama took center stage where Buffy did get a lot anger thrown her way but also best friendy support (Willow) and final foregiveness to re-affirm their bond (Xander, Giles) and big interpersonal concern (all of the Scoobies). Faith had serious drama with Mrs. Post but it didn't get anywhere near the same concern.

Local Maximum
04-09-14, 08:28 PM
Yeah, I mean, in addition to the above, I think it's worth noting that the one time Willow actually fails to listen to Buffy's actual request is re: the makeup test quoted above, and even there *Willow* had to *remind* Buffy about it -- Buffy says "Oh yeah" before she mentions her desire for coaching. It's pretty telling that Willow is hyper-aware of Buffy's own academic schedule. And Buffy's "Oh yeah" reaction does make it seem as if her request for some coaching was not so pressing a need that she had asked Willow for help, like, before the time of the test (which seems to be in the *very* near future from then). If you want a friend to coach you, give them at least a little notice, right? It's not Willow's responsibility as a friend to *not* show the visiting slayer around because Buffy wants some 11th hour coaching which she hadn't brought up until now.

But I still bring it up because I do think it's a shame that Willow doesn't respond directly to Buffy's most explicit request for help from her within the ep. She *does* meet Buffy for the picnic, which may be Buffy's idea, at the beginning, and as Dipstick points out she backs down apologetically repeatedly when Buffy has implicit criticisms of her -- for the W/O makeout at the Bronze, for using "B" (though there Willow was criticizing Buffy's lack of sense of fun), and of course big time at the episode's end. I do think that there is a reason people think Willow is not there for Buffy as much as she could be, and at times seems not to quite get where Buffy is coming from. I think that Willow's problem is not as simple as not trying hard enough to be a friend, because I think she tries very hard, and within this episode *most* of the time she is still dedicated to trying to make Buffy's life better. Willow knows Buffy's academic testing schedule; Willow knows who might be a good match for Buffy; Willow thinks that it'd be great for Faith and Buffy to be pals; etc. But she can sometimes, in the midst of her attempts to make a great life for Buffy, miss what Buffy actually wants from her. She's a little like Joyce in that respect. I think Buffy does generally benefit from Willow's more general plans to make things great for Buffy, so it's not as if Willow is totally working in a vacuum, but I think it does happen that Willow expends her friendship energies in the wrong direction. Some of it, though, is that Buffy is often closed off and a little inscrutable; Willow not hearing/listening to the "I could use some coaching" moment is IMO not really the norm for Buffy/Willow miscommunications. Willow is also really unused to the type of super-close female friendship that she has with Buffy, as, I suspect, is Buffy, who might not have had a best friend like Willow back in her Spordelia days.

Stoney
04-09-14, 09:40 PM
All of the different interactions have underlying pulls/motivations from each person involved and it is a hot mess of insecurities and reassurances. Willow/Giles/Buffy/Xander/Joyce are all still reacting to the end of last season, the summer and their reunion. Faith is unlucky to walk in at a time when there is quite a lot of sensitivity around. It does mean that she is able to provide reassurance, validation and a sense of worth to the scoobies after Buffy's 'desertion' then tense return. But she is also kept as the also ran when it comes down to it rather than having carved her own slot. As Dipstick points out, the very valid issues she has are swept aside by other things going on. Her jealousies then follow on from Buffy's issues and it all goes base over apex.

In some ways Faith can satisfy a 'Buffy' slot for the others, but only in the sense that they get along with/work well with the slaying life. That doesn't mean they couldn't form friendships that are important and individual with both Buffy and Faith, the same as with anyone else, so I don't think they did anything 'wrong' in being welcoming to her. I don't think there is any maliciousness in how the scoobies treat either slayer, although there is some insensitivity at different points that added in to Buffy and Faith's individual issues and just helped things gets so mucked up. The situation needed Buffy and Faith to find ways to deal with their own issues and their reactions in how the other made them feel and find a way to run coexisting roles effectively. The scoobies could help/hinder both of them in doing that but it is fundamentally the Buffy and Faith of it that pulls everything down imo, not the scoobies actions/reactions.

vampmogs
05-09-14, 04:55 AM
I do think that the Scoobies react so positively and enthusiastically towards Faith because of how complicated and uncertain their relationship with Buffy has been. Here's a girl who is a Slayer like Buffy but without all the emotional baggage of the past couple of years. She's friendly, open, fun, and on paper, at least, unsecretive and emotionally uncomplicated ("very personable"). She's also reminiscent of a less world-weary and beaten down Buffy who Willow met back in Welcome to the Hellmouth ("seize the moment because tomorrow you might be dead"/"You really do have to find the fun, B-uffy"). The Scoobies, aside from Giles, never reacted so positively towards Kendra and whilst that may at least partially be because Kendra wasn't as outgoing as Faith I also think it's due in large part to how closer (and less resentful?) they were with Buffy at the time. There's an element of passive aggressiveness in the way Xander abruptly interrupts Buffy to ask more stories about Faith. I think I'd even go as far to say that consciously or subconsciously Xander is actually getting satisfaction out of throwing it in Buffy's face about how over her he is and how hot he finds this new Slayer. That is of course far more rude and insulting towards Cordelia (the actual girlfriend) but I do think it's a sly dig at Buffy. There is also, of course, Faith telling Buffy that apparently Willow and Xander have filled her in about Angel and how Buffy needs to "deal and move on but she's not." Now, I do think it's likely Faith may have relayed that far more abruptly and callously than Xander and Willow did to her but I don't think she's being dishonest when she says that was their general attitude. We already know how unsympathetic Xander is of Buffy's Angel issues and whilst Willow is more understanding she's also tried to pretty aggressively push Buffy towards dating Scott. So there's definitely this feeling that the Scoobies are a little exasperated by Buffy's issues and gravitate towards Faith because she's the shiny new toy.

Which also follows the trajectory that once Faith is revealed to have very real issues of her own, and once Buffy opens up about what really happened with Angel, the Scoobies become less interested in Faith. Faith is no longer the carefree, lovable distraction and Buffy is no longer opaque and distant. And I don't think that makes the Scoobies bad people even if I feel badly for Faith that the overly enthusiastic welcome she receives doesn't really last. A lot of it is subconscious and we also have to remember that the characters are only 17/18 and don't know how to handle the monumental and extremely complex issues/traumas that girls like Buffy or Faith have. Sometimes avoiding is the easy answer because they just don't have the life experience or the maturity yet to have any idea how to deal with them. Not to mention that Faith is too jaded to put the effort into maintaining friendships the way Buffy did. In many ways Xander and Willow are 'shiny new toys' to Faith just like she was to them and the novelty soon wears off. Faith is being brutally honest when she says that if she had, had friends like Xander and Willow in high school she'd still have dropped out. Whereas a big part of Buffy wanting to experience high school is to have those friends and that compels her to stick with it.

In regards to Faith, I do think on paper that she reads like a total cliche but she's written so well that I find her very realistic. I love her introduction in this episode because it foreshadows so much about her story (literally trying to steal Buffy's life in Who Are You etc) and why she is the way she is. I do think that it's unfortunate that Faith popped up at a time when Buffy was less willing to share her life and comes across as cold and distant. I do place a large share of the blame on Buffy for how they nearly come to blows early in the episode. However, whilst I can't blame Faith for thinking that Buffy is being a tightly-wound bitch I do take issue with the way Faith tries to sabotage her relationship with Xander/Willow or to a lesser extent, even with Joyce. She has just popped up on the scene and she's already trying to drive a wedge between Buffy and Willow/Xander by throwing it in Buffy's face that they spilled her personal history with Angel (and articulating it in the way that makes it very apparent Willow and Xander are fed up with her). And she takes another pointed dig at Buffy when she says that "she doesn't let that negative thinking in" and revels in how much Buffy's mother appreciates her positive attitude in comparison to her own daughter. This is all a precursor to Faith's issues later on ("You get the Watcher, you get the mom, you get the little Scooby Gang. What do I get? Jack Squat!") but in a way it definitely feels like Faith is already trying to steal Buffy's life. I think this may partially be about feeling that Buffy doesn't appreciate it thus she doesn't deserve it, but also of course Faith being desperate to have friends and a family of her own. It's both sympathetic (she just lost her Watcher) and also a little creepy.

I've never really had a problem with the methods Giles' used to get Buffy to open up. It is deceitful and manipulative but I do believe it was his way of making it easier for her to talk about her pain if she felt there was a practical need for her to do so. I'm actually in the middle of watching S6 right now (I got way ahead in my rewatch) and it reminds me of how Giles is able to clearly see that Buffy is hiding something then as well. I can see why it has shades of some of the more problematic things Giles will do later in the series (for 'her own good') but here I feel it can only help Buffy rather than hurt her.

Stoney
05-09-14, 09:29 AM
I do think that the Scoobies react so positively and enthusiastically towards Faith because of how complicated and uncertain their relationship with Buffy has been.

It definitely is all in the mix. They can't turn off/forget everything that they are going through with each other, it will influence no doubt. I think your point about Xander getting satisfaction in showing his interest in Faith over Buffy is probably a fair one. There are definitely insensitive points but I would say that they aren't malicious and I suppose I think/feel that because I do believe they aren't premeditated or conscious choices to be cruel. Even there with Xander, which is probably the most 'intentional' of the examples we have discussed, he isn't literally wanting to push Buffy aside, but it is as you say a sly dig. But I still fall to insensitive and thoughtless rather than malicious, but perhaps there that is a little generous??


There is also, of course, Faith telling Buffy that apparently Willow and Xander have filled her in about Angel and how Buffy needs to "deal and move on but she's not."

See I always just saw that as Faith not really knowing the details, that she was probably given the most scant overview which of course wouldn't include the trauma of what happened in terms of the complete/successful soul restoration they were unaware of. Considering Faith's attitude towards guys/relationships I think that the perspective of 'deal and move on' could entirely be her summation of where Buffy should be at, irrespective of any way that Willow in particular would have put it across, as she currently understood it. I do think Willow is over zealous in her dating focus for Buffy but, even with her own benefit/motivations for doing it in there, it doesn't come across in an exasperated tone of 'move on' but an encouraging 'because it'll be great and we'll all be merry' way.


Which also follows the trajectory that once Faith is revealed to have very real issues of their own, and once Buffy opens up about what really happened with Angel, the Scoobies become less interested in Faith. Faith is no longer the carefree, lovable distraction and Buffy is no longer opaque and distant. And I don't think that makes the Scoobies bad people even if I feel badly for Faith that the overly enthusiastic welcome she receives doesn't really last. A lot of it is subconscious and we also have to remember that the characters are only 17/18 and don't know how to handle the monumental and extremely complex issues/traumas that girls like Buffy or Faith have. Sometimes avoiding is the easy answer because they just don't have the life experience or the maturity yet to have any idea how to deal with them.

It all plays its part as everything does but I think going forward the way Buffy and Faith fail to find a coexistence they are happy with or how they fail to recognise/deal with their own issues that cause the jealousies they feel towards the other are the biggest problems. And that comes with their own immaturity and where the assignment of Wes really does play its part in making things worse. Part of me wants to generously say that the Watcher's Council are as at sea with how two slayers should be managed as Buffy and Faith are themselves but I feel too angry/exasperated with them to do that really. If Buffy and Faith were both compliant and as Council-formed as Kendra had been then their oppression would serve to remove half of these issues but the Council knows that they are not. So we are left with an institution of adults who have the power to consider/analyse/support these two young girls practically and emotionally and.they.don't. Part of me is angry towards Giles who is there on the ground seeing all of this unfold and being blinkered about it. But a larger part of me is angry towards the institution in the background that continues to treat slayers as disposable weapons.


I do take issue with the way Faith tries to sabotage her relationship with Xander/Willow or to a lesser extent, even with Joyce. She has just popped up on the scene and she's already trying to drive a wedge between Buffy and Willow/Xander by throwing it in Buffy's face that they spilled her personal history with Angel (and articulating it in the way that makes it very apparent Willow and Xander are fed up with her). And she takes another pointed dig at Buffy when she says that "she doesn't let that negative thinking in" and revels in how much Buffy's mother appreciates her positive attitude in comparison to her own daughter. This is all a precursor to Faith's issues later on ("You get the Watcher, you get the mom, you get the little Scooby Gang. What do I get? Jack Squat!") but in a way it definitely feels like Faith is already trying to steal Buffy's life. I think this may partially be about feeling that Buffy doesn't appreciate it thus she doesn't deserve it, but also of course Faith being desperate to have friends and a family of her own. It's both sympathetic (she just lost her Watcher) and also a little creepy.

At this early stage I think that a lot of it is unintentional and is just a side effect of Faith doing what she knows to do, to present herself to appeal to people. Her performance/manipulation that is her base behaviour for interaction does do a compare/contrast with Buffy to try and be seen as 'more cool/fun' and that is in part because she understandably, and most likely consciously, sees the obvious fit for her as being the space Buffy is occupying. But I'm not sure at the early stage how much of it is trying to differentiate herself rather than push Buffy out. I don't think she walked in intending to try to usurp Buffy.

Faith is presenting a face deliberately for dual purpose as she hits Sunnydale, to win these people over and to hide her fear about what happened and that she is now a target to be sought/killed. If you consider her fears the fact that she has run to Buffy, the slayer that you can't keep down, speaks more of a desire to be protected/included. Saying how she doesn't let that negative thinking in to Joyce is more part of what she is doing to hide her fear from herself too I feel, rather than taking the opportunity to have a pointed dig at Buffy in front of her mum. There is so much posturing and facade with Faith from the get go that is defensive rather than about Buffy and then her resentment and insecurities latch onto what Buffy has that she doesn't and her real desire to literally steal Buffy's life grows. A life she in part feels that Buffy's survival has stolen from her anyway. But I'm just not sure how much of that was there before she arrived, how formed already that perspective was and playing its part over and above wanting to survive and feeling these people may be an understanding sanctuary.

And so I then come back to the Council's responsibility (and Giles' as their representative) to manage and be considerate and supportive to these two girls. It reminds me in some ways of the extreme social corruption of Lord of the Flies where there is no 'mature' guiding hand and the fighting impulses/influences of group acceptance and civility clashing against individuality and the desire for power. And yet there are people there, theoretically influential and powerful people who should be playing a role! The advantage that The Mayor is able to take as the older corrupter is more startling when there is no 'good' equivalent level of proactive support to counteract it. Gwendolyn's evil and Wes representing all that is corrupt in The Council's ways failing to provide it. Giles is almost treated as bobbing in the wake and trying to fight his way out of the flow too much during the season to be what they needed him to be.

norwie
05-09-14, 11:24 AM
Aw! You're all so considerate - don't you dare and change that attitude to step on my woobie Faith! I guess i'll come back to the discussion of my favorite relationship on the show (Buffy + Angelus/Faith/Spike) in one of the future episodes. (As of now i'm sadly occupied with preventing a war single-handedly.)

Thanks to all of you! :kiss:

vampmogs
05-09-14, 01:16 PM
It definitely is all in the mix. They can't turn off/forget everything that they are going through with each other, it will influence no doubt. I think your point about Xander getting satisfaction in showing his interest in Faith over Buffy is probably a fair one. There are definitely insensitive points but I would say that they aren't malicious and I suppose I think/feel that because I do believe they aren't premeditated or conscious choices to be cruel. Even there with Xander, which is probably the most 'intentional' of the examples we have discussed, he isn't literally wanting to push Buffy aside, but it is as you say a sly dig. But I still fall to insensitive and thoughtless rather than malicious, but perhaps there that is a little generous??

My Xander example is probably the closest I'd come to describing it as malicious. He's the only one who I feel is still harboring some anger and resentment towards Buffy. But as I said, I'm not even sure I'd commit to saying he acted that way deliberately or if it was more of a subconscious act. I definitely don't see their behavior here as an intentional way of hurting Buffy. I just think it's inevitable they're drawn to this new fun lovable Slayer who on paper doesn't have all this baggage that Buffy has. Buffy is still distant and keeping things pretty close to the chest. They don't know how to deal with her trauma. They're not even sure what exactly it is she's dealing with. And we'll see it again in S6 that sometimes it's easier for them to just ignore Buffy's problems because facing it is too painful, complicated and difficult and even to some extent a burden, really. And it's not just Buffy. Willow isn't wrong to feel that the gang are being pretty impatient towards her in S4 as she tries to come to terms with Oz's departure ("You all want me to go through the pain as long as you don't have to hear about it anymore"/"Willow's mood swings. So, so over it" "We're all over it"). It's human nature.



See I always just saw that as Faith not really knowing the details, that she was probably given the most scant overview which of course wouldn't include the trauma of what happened in terms of the complete/successful soul restoration they were unaware of. Considering Faith's attitude towards guys/relationships I think that the perspective of 'deal and move on' could entirely be her summation of where Buffy should be at, irrespective of any way that Willow in particular would have put it across, as she currently understood it. I do think Willow is over zealous in her dating focus for Buffy but, even with her own benefit/motivations for doing it in there, it doesn't come across in an exasperated tone of 'move on' but an encouraging 'because it'll be great and we'll all be merry' way.

Yeah, but IMO 'because it'll be great and we'll all be merry' stems from their exasperation with Buffy's issues. It's as much for *their* benefit that Buffy moves on as it is for her own. Of course a part of them wants her to move on because they see it as unhealthy and just want their friend to be happy. However, a part of them wants her to move on because Buffy's trauma and complicated issues are a burden on the group and some of them (Xander, for instance) don't have much tolerance for the whole Angel issue in the first place. As I said, I do think Faith would have articulated it far more callously than Xander and Willow would have said it to her, but I don't think she was greatly twisting their attitude here. It fits with Xander's attitude on the whole subject, with Willow's eagerness to push Buffy towards Scott, and the way they respond so enthusiastically towards Faith and (mostly unintentionally, I think) push Buffy aside for the 'fun' and 'zesty' Slayer.

Dipstick
05-09-14, 01:49 PM
My Xander example is probably the closest I'd come to describing it as malicious. He's the only one who I feel is still harboring some anger and resentment towards Buffy. But as I said, I'm not even sure I'd commit to saying he acted that way deliberately or if it was more of a subconscious act. I definitely don't see their behavior here as an intentional way of hurting Buffy. I just think it's inevitable they're drawn to this new fun lovable Slayer who on paper doesn't have all this baggage that Buffy has. Buffy is still distant and keeping things pretty close to the chest. They don't know how to deal with her trauma. They're not even sure what exactly it is she's dealing with. And we'll see it again in S6 that sometimes it's easier for them to just ignore Buffy's problems because facing it is too painful, complicated and difficult and even to some extent a burden, really.

I think the Scoobies are really caught between a rock and a hard place. Giles scolded them for asking Buffy about her summer, putting aside the heavier topic of killing Angel and Buffy backed Giles up that she didn't want to hear the Scoobies' questions. The Scoobies feel like they can't ask what happened. Buffy isn't saying anything about her trauma. Willow *plead* in Dead Man's Party that she'd like to understand what Buffy was going through and Buffy said that she couldn't understand. Then, Willow asked Buffy to talk to her and then, Buffy angrily lashed out about the stand-up failed mall hang-out. I really think that the Scoobies, especially Willow, actually would like to figure out what's really bothering Buffy and help her in a deeper way. However, Buffy and Giles have pretty much waved them off. It's pretty impossible to face someone's hurt and connect on a deeper level if the adult of the group and the person who went through the trauma enforce a fifty-foot gag order from the whole ugly topic.

I agree with a lot of what Stoney said. Especially:


At this early stage I think that a lot of it is unintentional and is just a side effect of Faith doing what she knows to do, to present herself to appeal to people. Her performance/manipulation that is her base behaviour for interaction does do a compare/contrast with Buffy to try and be seen as 'more cool/fun' and that is in part because she understandably, and most likely consciously, sees the obvious fit for her as being the space Buffy is occupying. But I'm not sure at the early stage how much of it is trying to differentiate herself rather than push Buffy out. I don't think she walked in intending to try to usurp Buffy.

Faith is presenting a face deliberately for dual purpose as she hits Sunnydale, to win these people over and to hide her fear about what happened and that she is now a target to be sought/killed. If you consider her fears the fact that she has run to Buffy, the slayer that you can't keep down, speaks more of a desire to be protected/included. Saying how she doesn't let that negative thinking in to Joyce is more part of what she is doing to hide her fear from herself too I feel, rather than taking the opportunity to have a pointed dig at Buffy in front of her mum. There is so much posturing and facade with Faith from the get go that is defensive rather than about Buffy and then her resentment and insecurities latch onto what Buffy has that she doesn't and her real desire to literally steal Buffy's life grows. A life she in part feels that Buffy's survival has stolen from her anyway. But I'm just not sure how much of that was there before she arrived, how formed already that perspective was and playing its part over and above wanting to survive and feeling these people may be an understanding sanctuary.

I agree. I don't see Faith deliberately trying to steal Buffy's life here. Faith blurted out that Willow and Xaner caught her up on Bangel in a snit like Faith is getting annoyed with Buffy- not to drive a wedge between the Scoobs. And I'm sure that Faith's flash of anger at Buffy there colored how she report what Willow and Xander said. Faith does a wrong-side-of-the-tracks!Edie Haskell thing with Joyce to impress Joyce, not to drive a wedge between Joyce and Buffy.


And so I then come back to the Council's responsibility (and Giles' as their representative) to manage and be considerate and supportive to these two girls. It reminds me in some ways of the extreme social corruption of Lord of the Flies where there is no 'mature' guiding hand and the fighting impulses/influences of group acceptance and civility clashing against individuality and the desire for power. And yet there are people there, theoretically influential and powerful people who should be playing a role! The advantage that The Mayor is able to take as the older corrupter is more startling when there is no 'good' equivalent level of proactive support to counteract it. Gwendolyn's evil and Wes representing all that is corrupt in The Council's ways failing to provide it. Giles is almost treated as bobbing in the wake and trying to fight his way out of the flow too much during the season to be what they needed him to be.

I blame Giles a lot. IMO, he had both duty and ability to mentor Faith, Wesley, and newly magic!Willow in S3 and Giles came up zero for three. Giles does nothing to comfort/level with Faith about losing a Watcher that she was very close to. In this ep, Willow reports her spell progress and *asks* Giles to pass judgment on her actions but Giles merely focused on the "clucking" thing. This conversation was a great and missed opportunity for Giles to ask some questions about the spells, see what Willow plans on doing magically next, recommending a good course of action. Willow is looking for Giles's input here with the "Are you mad?" If she's acting like she'll guilty accept Giles's negative judgement, I can just imagine how eager she'd be to get constructive and positive advice.

Although, Willow *is* being a little squirrely in an OTT bizarre way. Like, she has to draw attention to herself as a SUSPECT TELLING A TRANSPARENT LIE because she has the temerity to know spells that require sage and the saliva of a virgin even though I see nothing wrong with her merely knowing that. (Unless, she was just shy about broadcasting her virginity in front of Giles and Giles mistakenly took her nervousness about finishing the virgin sentence as possible culpability.) Willow also tells Giles different spells that she told Buffy in Dead Man's Party. Not sure how to read that. Willow told the most negatively consequential spell to Buffy-she contacted the spirit world and that shut down the power on her block. However, Willow told the embarrassing story to Giles that she made fire out of ice on her bedspead. And she didn't tell Giles that she successfully used a glamour to cover up a zit. I think she reported past-summer spells to Buffy and spells in the last week or so to Giles.

Local Maximum
05-09-14, 06:43 PM
As I said earlier, I do think that some of Willow's pushing Buffy to date Scott is Willow trying to repeat Buffy's pushing Willow into the deep end, so to speak, in places like Halloween, with the sexy new outfit, and generally constantly encouraging Willow to get out there and speak up when Willow wasn't ready for it. I think that there is some exasperation with Buffy seemingly not taking the steps to be happier (and, thus, being kind of a drag) is in there, but I think it's all kind of swirly. Female bffs don't let female bffs pass up great dating opportunities, RIGHT? Willow bases her idea on what good friendship is on what Buffy showed to her earlier on. This is both a strong good-faith effort, and also kind of solipsistic, an inability to recognize that the circumstances Buffy has are different than the ones Willow had at in s1/early s2. However, I also don't think Buffy fully understood Willow's "shyness" issues, which run deeper into actual pools of self-loathing. But then, I also don't think Willow was letting that actual self-loathing show.

Buffy also ultimately comes to the same conclusion that Willow does -- that it's a good idea for her to put Angel behind her, and to date Hope in order to do so. It is the course of action that seems logical, reentering teen life and teen dating as a salve to the unhealthy, very un-high school relationship. Personal aside: I once dated a woman who had just come back from spending a few months in Montreal, where she had been in an unhealthy relationship and had started developing a coke addiction, and she mentioned a few times how remarkably normal our relationship was and how this sort of helped her rebuild her sense of the world; how, on some level, the previous relationship was fading more and more into a dream. Of course, our relationship wasn't actually all that normal, and it ended badly. Why do I share this anecdote? I think that dating, in a normal way, is seen as such a..."normal" part of teen/young adult life that dating is genuinely viewed as a way of establishing and reestablishing the ground rules for how reality works.

Buffy wants normal now. This is what she's always wanted, or, sort of. Willow is pushing Buffy into being the Buffy that Buffy has always wanted to be, on some level. She's kind of pushing her into being the Buffy that Buffy kind of was helping Willow to be, too! If Willow/Oz can cure Willow's buried self-loathing, and the way of getting over Xander's rejection, obviously Buffy/Hope can do something similar for the spectre of Angel! That time that guy Buffy dated murdered a bunch of guys -- that is over; that was an isolated incident; that was months and months and months ago. More to the point, the more personal connections Buffy has in Sunnydale the happier she'll be with it and the less inclined to leave forever.

I don't think that Willow's nerd issues and Buffy's lover turning evil and having to be brutally killed are actually equivalent traumas. I also don't think that Willow literally thinks in those terms. I guess my long-standing issues with depression are linked less to trauma and more to social isolation, benign neglect, and self-hating nerddom -- so I think that Willow's kind of always doing badly in the internal world, less from trauma (though traumas do pile up for her as the series go on) as from a deficit of love combined with general contempt from most of her peers that has trained her to hate herself. It's possible that I exaggerate this, and woobiefy, and, okay, so maybe I do. I think it's important to me for my well-being to keep emphasizing that these problems are real problems, not necessarily dwarfed by Buffy's, because I don't think that all wounds, or my central wounds, are the kinds that come from obvious external events. But anyway: for Willow, the cure, for now, seems to be to be in love, and to have someone else love her, and her relationship with Oz, despite its significant unconventional elements, is still close enough to the narrative of a high school boyfriend that she's briefly convinced that that is the answer to all problems. It's not, not just because Buffy's problems are different, but because it's not actually the answer to Willow's problems. Relationships can be very good things, and they can help heal old wounds, but they can't be the whole of that healing. Love is a real thing, and Willow's love for Oz is a real thing. Who knows, maybe Buffy and Scott, in a different set of circumstances, could have found love. Maybe? I mean, we don't really know enough about him. But that love by itself isn't enough, without something else underlying it. Willow's relationship-centricity at the moment bleeds into everything, and her sense of value is so contingent on her being a Good Friend To Buffy! that she needs to be working overtime to do this most important of things for her.

At the episode's end, Buffy thinks that Hope is the answer. But Hope is different from Faith :). Hope, the feeling, is important, but hope ultimately is really hope for a specific good outcome: that x,y,z good things will happen and that this will make things better. Faith, the feeling, is different -- faith means believing in something even when there is evidence to the contrary, belief that is not based on an expectation that things are suddenly going to be coming up roses, but that there can be meaning in an empty flower bed. Hope gets dashed pretty quickly, especially if you only keep Hope around absent-mindedly, and especially if two of Hope's best friends die brutally. Faith is the long haul. The best explanation I've heard for what the name Faith represents is: Buffy's faith in herself, in her dark side, and, expanding outward, in humanity as a whole. She leaves Faith in a coma at the year's end, and hitches her star to the hyper-rational Maggie and Riley for a while, who, in their different ways, have ideas about Being The Best You Can Be!!! But Faith is imperfect, and, as the season goes on, Faith will become a straight-up murderer of innocents, or, well, one presumes Lester's scientific expeditions weren't legitimate cause. I think for some people -- and I include myself among them -- believing in one's own worth requires, ultimately, believing in all humans, especially ones whose sins and evil deeds hit closest to home. Buffy accepts Faith, to a degree, at the end of this episode, and makes it a point to court Hope, but it's Faith she needs to learn to love as the series continues, even if she's rejected Faith for years at a time and only comes to some shaky understanding with at the very end of the series. (I hasten to say, but Willow has a parallel arc; I think the closest to the "love her dark side" external character is Anya in early season seven.)


I blame Giles a lot. IMO, he had both duty and ability to mentor Faith, Wesley, and newly magic!Willow in S3 and Giles came up zero for three. Giles does nothing to comfort/level with Faith about losing a Watcher that she was very close to. In this ep, Willow reports her spell progress and *asks* Giles to pass judgment on her actions but Giles merely focused on the "clucking" thing. This conversation was a great and missed opportunity for Giles to ask some questions about the spells, see what Willow plans on doing magically next, recommending a good course of action. Willow is looking for Giles's input here with the "Are you mad?" If she's acting like she'll guilty accept Giles's negative judgement, I can just imagine how eager she'd be to get constructive and positive advice.

Although, Willow *is* being a little squirrely in an OTT bizarre way. Like, she has to draw attention to herself as a SUSPECT TELLING A TRANSPARENT LIE because she has the temerity to know spells that require sage and the saliva of a virgin even though I see nothing wrong with her merely knowing that. (Unless, she was just shy about broadcasting her virginity in front of Giles and Giles mistakenly took her nervousness about finishing the virgin sentence as possible culpability.) Willow also tells Giles different spells that she told Buffy in Dead Man's Party. Not sure how to read that. Willow told the most negatively consequential spell to Buffy-she contacted the spirit world and that shut down the power on her block. However, Willow told the embarrassing story to Giles that she made fire out of ice on her bedspead. And she didn't tell Giles that she successfully used a glamour to cover up a zit. I think she reported past-summer spells to Buffy and spells in the last week or so to Giles.

Yeah. I mean, Giles...basically makes a call to put his boundaries at Buffy, and that's it. That's...okay, insofar as Buffy needs someone in her corner, but wow, it's actually literally his job to Watch Faith at the episode's end and he seems completely disinterested. And Willow is practically begging him for any kind of attention. Willow's SUSPECT TELLING A TRANSPARENT LIE really does seem to me to be Willow putting on a very obvious "Oops, I'm doing something bad again! I let it slip!" thing designed to ask for guidance while halfheartedly pretending that she just said that accidentally, like she's saying "OK, gonna go do some drugs...I mean, not do some drugs! ha ha. .... Did you hear me?" At least with Willow it's not literally his paid job that Giles is shirking.

Stoney
05-09-14, 08:57 PM
I do have the same issues with Giles that I have with the Council, but I tend to try to be understanding that Giles is starting to break form. It doesn't excuse him monumentally letting down these young charges that he has literal responsibility for, and the others that he knows he is in a position of authority for and is a de facto mentor to, but it is something. Buffy fled her duty because of the pain of what it cost her and her uncertainty/hurt from those around her. She had some time in LA to come to some level of terms with her grief. Giles' grief over Jenny was pretty effectively smothered by his duty still and his personal worries for Buffy. I think that Giles is struggling in S3 with his own loss and the deeper sense that he can never be truly happy in the position that he is in. He despises having to deal with little worms like Snyder and play those games and he doesn't actually want to be a leader to a group of teens and deal with all their troubles. It is hard enough just trying to protect and guide his one slayer and he feels that he hasn't done that well either. Giles welcomed Angel and did nothing to establish/research the security of his soul and the risks of the situation. He even encouraged Buffy at points to spend time with him and as much as that doesn't make what happened his fault I think he is having problems processing where he went wrong and what he reasonably should/shouldn't have done in the events that resulted in the death of the woman he loved and an emotionally devastated slayer. Having Faith arrive who is going through additional troubles isn't even vaguely hitting his 'must do' list when he feels inadequate in spinning the plates he is already in charge of. He comes through for Buffy on an emotional level I feel in getting her to open up but he doesn't know what to do with it, it has just helped her some. Giles is still trying to fit himself into the box of watcher even though he is frayed around the edges and increasingly uncomfortable. He stumbles all the way up to his dogged following of Council procedure in Helpless which breaks this bleak miasma of uncertainty of who/what he is for him somewhat. I am still angry with him. It isn't good enough and his failure has a detrimental effect on those relying on him. But I don't think he is wilfully negligent, rather than he is too splintered in himself to provide good structured support at the moment. That doesn't stop the fact that he is the one on the ground though seeing what is happening and as much as The Council is an abject failure in caring for its slayers' personal wellbeing in their systems/attitudes, their eyes and ears are Giles'.

Dipstick
05-09-14, 11:46 PM
I agree with all of that, Stoney. Giles didn't ask to be a Watcher but his job led to a lot of pain and trauma, a bunch of which occurred in the last year. Moreover, Buffy is such a strong personality that Giles finds it very easy to fall into a trap of "How To Be a Successful Watcher: Be there to support Buffy 100 percent so Buffy can Reach Her Full Awesome Slayer Potential". Giles isn't a social worker; he's a Watcher. When you get down to it, Giles's Watcher-y opinion seems to be that Buffy is so awesome that she can save the world and protect Sunnydale so Buffy is the right slayer to get his attention and the team's resources to help Buffy out. And you know, that's pretty true. Buffy at the helm with the Scoobies/Watcher support has far more demonstrated results for success than Faith. The world hasn't crashed and burned because Giles didn't help Faith enough and Giles is in the business of world-saveage.

However, I still think it's more prudent to invest human resources in both slayers. Yes, Buffy's incredibly talented but she's fallible and world-saveage can get too hard for one person. Giles's risk pays off if you just consider the world but it could have been a mistake to not invest in Faith. Through S3, I think Giles spends a lot of time monitoring Buffy and training Buffy in exercises that serve only cute comedy functions on TV that could have been spent with Faith. I think Giles has a lot of down-time- although not as much as S4. I don't think he invites Faith to the library just to be included in the meetings. Faith only comes when she's getting an assignment for a mission and the rest of the time, she's stewing in her motel room or getting up to no good. If Spike could live for awhile in Giles's house in the next season, I don't see why Faith couldn't have had the sofa or some extra room that we didn't see but I think exists given the exterior shots of the house.

However, Giles doesn't think in those terms. His brain is focused on Buffy. Moreover, Giles considers Buffy a sort of leader on who gets care in the gang. After Faith starts to go bad, Giles puts his faith that Buffy's friendship can steer Faith right and Buffy makes a choice to put herself and to a lesser extent, Angel more in charge of the Faith situation.

As for Willow, I start out by defending Giles because I think he had plenty reason to believe that Willow is a good, smart girl who could teach herself magic safely and wisely. Giles actually seems to choose cluck at Willow sporadically and lock books away primarily to establish himself as the adult in charge to scare her off really bad stuff. For a little more than three years, one could argue that his hands-off approach was mostly fine. I don't think Giles was counting on Willow becoming as powerful as she became. Even when Willow's magical acts indicated major power, it's easy for Giles to underestimate Willow as a powerful witch because she's so cute and helpless. And again, Giles is so Buffy-focused that he only treats Buffy like the key instrument of a person to fight evil who needs to be trained, helped, prepared because the fate of the world rests on Buffy's preparedness. The team does need Willow's magic but at the end of the day, Buffy frequently delivers the final savey blow.

TimeTravellingBunny
07-09-14, 06:41 PM
I have to apologise for being late, but unfortunately my review of Beauty and the Beasts will be posted tomorrow, because I currently don't have Internet on my computer due to a problem with phone wires (I'm using ADSL). I only have Internet on my mobile phone now. But I should have it fixed by tomorrow.


BTW, I've just learned that my phone autocorrects Beasts to Bradys. :lol:

Stoney
09-09-14, 09:15 PM
Hiya TTB, any joy with the internet connection?

It's so slow, with only one episode a week, I'd prefer to keep the pace up and stick with the timings and have a double weekend if need be rather than bump them all along, but if anyone has any other views/preferences shout up.

Sky
10-09-14, 07:05 AM
Hiya TTB, any joy with the internet connection?

Since she and I live in the same country. I can confirm the problems with ADSL. Yesterday I didn't have internet for a whole day! It seams internet provides have some problems.

Stoney
10-09-14, 08:26 AM
The joy of technology! Thanks Sky. I guess we will just wait for connectivity!! :xd

TimeTravellingBunny
11-09-14, 05:47 AM
The problem is fixed, I have to finish something for work now, but I'll post the review today. Sorry about the delay.
I also can't wait to comment on the previous episodes, I didn't have the time earlier to join the discussion.

- - - Updated - - -

This ended up being really long and wordy, even longer than my previous review I wrote a couple of years ago on my LJ.

I also have lots of comments on the previous three episodes, but I'll post them tomorrow, since I haven't had the time before to read the entire discussion.


Beauty and the Beasts

The structure of this episode reminds me of Phases – it’s that time of the month when Oz needs to be locked up, and he is again the initial suspect in a murder that someone else has committed. And Angel is again another suspect – but unlike in Phases, this time Angel is innocent, too – there is another monster who is really committing those crimes. And just like in Phases, this frame allows the exploration of issues such as masculinity and the question of what causes violence, the supposed natural aggression or the performance of a gender role imposed on men; and the question of where exactly the line is between a human and a monster. However, Beauty and the Beasts explores these themes in a much more serious and darker way.

This is, of course, also the episode in which Buffy learns of Angel’s return. I feel that this episode deals with their relationship and the fallout from season 2 in an emotionally honest way that was rare in season 3. Abusive relationships are a major theme of the episode, and it has a lot of interesting things to say about that topic, particularly with the way it reflects on Buffy/Angel, recognizing that it can also be seen as a story of an abusive relationship. Is Bangel a tragic romance, or a metaphorical story about a bad experience with an abusive boyfriend? And does it have to be just one or the other, or can it be both?

I like this episode quite a lot, and I think it’s quite underrated. (Well, apart from the design of the werewolf, which still looks awful and resembles a gorilla more than a wolf.) I’ve seen people even call it misandric and claim that the episode is saying that “all men are beasts”, i.e. insensitive, violent, abusers etc. – which I find to be really off-the-mark, and which only works if we assume that Faith, of all people, was meant to be the show’s spokesperson in this episode. Faith, who voices this belief early in the episode, is clearly hinted to have had lots of bad experiences with men, which are coloring her views. (Incidentally, we already saw characters give „all men are beasts“ speeches in Phases - that time it was Buffy, coming on from a terrible experience with Angel in Innocence; but this was obviously temporary, since in this episode she calls Faith’s views cynical and doesn’t agree with her.) And later in the season, we see that Faith herself is very violent and dark, particularly in Consequences (which, incidentally, is written by the same person as Beauty and the Beasts, Marti Noxon), where she sexually and physically assaults Xander, who she had previously treated as a sex toy. Violent impulses and abusive behavior of women are explored quite a bit on Buffy, just not in this episode, because they thematically don’t fit in this episode, which is focused on comparing three specific relationships: Buffy/Angel, Willow/Oz and Debbie/Pete. And what we actually see happen (even if we disregard the existence of all other men in the show) doesn’t support the “all men are naturally violent/abusers” reading at all.

The character whose views seem most likely to be the closest to what the show is trying to say, is actually Dr. Platt, the school therapist Buffy has to see, who turns out to be really smart, understanding, nice and funny. And of course, as it usually happens when Buffy meets a sympathetic, intelligent and understanding authority figure in school, other than Giles – he has to die a gruesome death in the same episode. (The same fate befell the nice biology teacher in season 1.) But before that, he has lots of useful things to say to Buffy, such as:

“Look, Buffy, any person—grown-up, shrink... Pope—any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright. We all have demons.”
“Demons can be fought. People can change. You can change.”

This is another one of the major themes of the show. Our demons, the dark side, the possibility of change. But for Buffy, the words, although they referred to her own ability to heal after her experience with Angel, would acquire a different meaning once she learns that Angel is back – still with a soul, presumably, but in a mad, beastly state of mind, and once she starts wondering if there is any hope for them to become more human again and fight the demon inside – something she tries to question Giles about. She comes really close to telling Giles about Angel’s return, but doesn’t actually do it, claiming she just had a dream of Angel’s return. (The only person Buffy felt comfortable confiding in was Platt – although she would not have told him the supernatural aspect of the story. With the Scoobies, there is a whole lot of Angel-related baggage that makes it hard for her to decide to tell them about it.)

Giles explains that time runs differently in the Acathla hell dimension (similarly to what Buffy had seen in another hell dimension, the one from Anne) and that Angel has presumably been tortured for hundreds of years already – and that everyone experiencing something like that would go insane. This is horrifying, and Angel losing his mind seems as a likely consequence of such an experience. Unfortunately, neither of the two shows ever really follow up on this is a satisfying way: Angel is significantly better in the very next episode, in just two episodes he is completely normal, and we don’t see any permanent consequences on his psyche at any later point (as opposed to, say, the way we saw them with Connor before the mind-wipe). This is why Angel’s time in hell doesn’t feel as real as many other things in the shows, things we actually get to see on screen, and why people seem to practically forget or ignore it most of the time.

In the same conversation, Giles voices another one of the show’s major themes:

Buffy: "In my experience, there are two kinds of monsters. The first type can be redeemed. And, more importantly, they want to be redeemed…"
Buffy: "And the second type?"
Giles: "The second - is void of humanity. It cannot respond to reason. Or love."

But which is which? Surprisingly (or not), in this episode, and in many other situations on the show, it’s those monsters who are technically human that are, or that have become, “devoid of humanity”.

Let’s take a look at our three “beasts” in this episode. On one end of the spectrum, there is Oz – a super-nice guy, rational, cool, laid-back and perfect boyfriend when not in wolf shape. He really doesn’t have any control over his wolf side – or at least he believes so (despite the lack of control, he never actually killed anyone on any of the nights he was free – before Veruca in season 4, in which case he had other reasons to resent her), and no memories of anything that happened when he was in his beastly state. This is one of the things that would make it really difficult to blame him even if he had committed one of those murders, but another thing that’s incredibly important and that marks Oz as a really good guy is that he takes every possible precaution to ensure he doesn’t hurt anyone. The contrast between regular Oz and wolf!Oz seems really drastic at this point. Some say that Oz being a werewolf is supposed to show that even the most calm, rational and laid-back people (or, some would say, men) have a beastly, violent “id” inside. But I would say that maybe it’s exactly because Oz is normally so rational, nice, collected and laid-back that his “wild” side tends to come out especially violently. We saw in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and we will see in Choices that Oz can actually have some really passionate, intense emotional reactions, when he is fully Oz, not the wolf – usually having to do with someone he loves, i.e. Willow. Season 4 will explore this later and show that Oz’ intense emotions, such as rage and jealousy, can make him wolf out even if it’s not the full moon or even if it’s daytime. (In New Moon Rising, he notes that he is particularly likely to become like that around Willow, which is somewhat similar to Pete saying that Debbie makes him that way.) But Oz remains a genuinely good guy because, whenever he understands he is a danger to others, he does everything to protect them from himself; he goes away to get himself healed/fixed so he wouldn’t endanger people. But I’m getting ahead. In this episode, Oz is the guy who actually does have some (super)natural violent urges but who never chooses to hurt anyone, but is instead constantly choosing to do the right thing and not hurt anyone.

On the other end of the spectrum is Pete – the only “beast” in this episode who is shown to be irredeemable. Pete is human, or was human, but he chose to make himself into a monster, in order to be more powerful and “manly”, and therefore supposedly more attractive to his girlfriend. It seems extremely unlikely that this was ever necessary: Debbie is completely in love with Pete, and I’m pretty sure she likes him perfectly well and much better when he is not being a monster. But, for Pete, none of this was ever really about Debbie, though he believes otherwise. It’s all about his own issues and insecurities that he projects on her. The show has emphasized the difference between real love and selfish obsession before, and what Pete feels for Debbie is the latter. It’s the type of love that manifests itself as an extreme possessiveness and jealousy, which leads to resentment, animosity and violence towards the object of affection.

Pete’s and Debbie’s relationship is the textbook example of an abusive relationship. When I watch the episode, I can’t help thinking of my mother’s story of her awful life with her first husband, who used to beat her up and was pathologically jealous and controlling – story she used to tell me as a cautionary tale. I always found it hard to imagine my mother, who I knew as a strong, blunt, independent woman, as this shy, scared young woman she described her former self as, who needed a couple of years before she finally left her abusive husband – but she was young and very much in love. He was her first love, and she moved to another town to be with him and his family. They met at the university, and he was charismatic, handsome, popular, both of them were intellectuals, and he didn’t have any substance abuse issues. I’m saying this because people often have these popular stereotypes about what abusive husbands are like and imagine them all as lower class, uneducated, alcoholic… when in fact, it’s often not like that at all. In spite of being attractive, popular and successful, he was pathologically insecure and jealous to the point of paranoia: my mother used to say that she had finally realized that he had a huge inferiority complex, partially because of his screwed-up parents/family situation. He would accuse her of cheating on him or flirting with other men, all the time: she had to walk down the street looking at her feet, because he would otherwise accuse her of ogling the men walking by; she couldn’t even read her favorite newspaper columns on political and social issues, because he would accuse her of being in love with the 60-year old columnist she had never met. But at the same time, he would always fill her head with the talk about how she is going to be nothing without him, that she would drink, roam the streets like a crazy person and sleep with everyone, if he ever left her. Going by all this, Pete’s characterization seems spot on. He is a talented scientist, nice-looking, seems normal, nice, funny, cheerful; he and Debbie appear to be a perfect couple in public, to the point of being saccharine sweet: the first time we see them, he has just given her a flower; they are always laughing and hugging. You have to look really closely to see subtle hints that things are not right, like Pete’s upset look when Debbie says something a bit positive about Platt, after going on about how much she dislikes him (which may have been for Pete’s benefit – but probably also because Debbie really didn’t like Platt’s advice about her relationship with Pete). Pete gets jealous of every man who even talks to Debbie, and when he gets into the “beastly” form, he is accusing her of cheating on him, calling her a whore and denigrating and insulting her, in addition to beating her up. That’s not someone who is able to really love, that’s someone who sees his girlfriend as an object and feels the need to control her because of the rivalry with other men that’s in his head and the imagined affront to his pride. Then he goes back to his “nice”, normal self, apologizes and manages to make her feel sorry and even start to comfort him, but what she doesn’t notice is that he is still managing to accuse her and make her feel guilty (“You know you shouldn’t make me mad. You know what happens”).

Pete acts as if he has this uncontrollable beastly side that he developed only because he wanted to impress her; but it becomes increasingly obvious that this is just a manifestation of what his personality is like, even without any scientific enhancements or monster transformations. That’s why, in the end, he doesn’t even need the potion to turn into a monster, and why all semblances of love for Debbie turn into nothing but murderous rage and misogynistic hatred. In contrast to Oz, he didn’t have to deal with any natural or supernatural violent and beastly urges; he chose to turn himself into a monster because of his fantasies of powerful masculinity.* (Men turning into monsters in order to be more powerful or more successful is something we have seen before, particularly with the blatantly-obvious-steroids-metaphor of the swim team in Go Fish, and it also makes me think of season 6 and the nerds, their attempts to be villains, and Warren’s development into a full-fledged villain despite being 100% human.) Pete is in a way the opposite of the titular Beast from the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale – he appears to be fully human and nice, until he transforms himself, or rather reveals himself to be a monster.

(*As an aside: this makes it even more ironic when we learn at the end that one of the stories kids at school tell about Pete is that he went crazy from too much estrogen, after supposedly taking all of his mother’s birth control pills. It’s as if their first idea of a monster is someone who is gender-nonconforming, and a man becoming monstrous is naturally linked in their minds with the idea of a man being too feminine.)

Where does that leave Angel and his relationship with Buffy? Somewhere in between Pete/Debbie and Oz/Willow, I would say. Angel did not choose to be a monster. He tries to fight his demon while he has a soul. However, when he is soulless, he is a deliberate, calculated monster who enjoys cruelty, which is very different from what Oz is. And we see, particularly later in AtS, that he can do some very disturbing things even with a soul. Of course, in this episode, Angel does not behave anything like the soulless evil schemer, he behaves in an animalistic way, but the memories of his history with Buffy are there in her mind and in ours. Buffy, in her conversation with Platt, describes, or agrees with the description of her relationship with Angel as a classic case of a relationship in which the one you love is initially nice, but then changes and becomes abusive, but you are not able to extricate yourself because you are in love, emotionally dependent and still hoping that he could change for the better.

Platt: Lots of people lose themselves in love. It’s no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is: you can’t stay lost. Sooner or later, you have to get back to yourself.
Buffy: But if you can’t?
Platt: Love becomes your master, and you’re just its dog.

It’s interesting to compare this line with Spike’s famous line from Lovers Walk “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it”. But unlike Spike, Buffy is not ready to embrace being “love’s bitch” and we will see her becoming less willing to take emotional risks when it comes to romance, trying not to be “love’s dog” again… though with variable and questionable degrees of success. It is even present in this episode, which Buffy spends trying to date “a normal guy” and move on, wondering if Angel is still redeemable, being concerned about him, but also unsure of whether she should ever try to rekindle a relationship even if he is (which is confirmed in the next episode, in which she is taking care of Angel, but still trying to date Scott Hope).

Buffy gives a harsh speech to Debbie, laying it as it is, but I think that she can’t help seeing disturbing parallels to herself and Angel, any more than we can. Debbie has indeed “lost herself” in love, trying desperately to convince herself that Pete does really love her, making justifications for him, hiding the truth of his behavior from others, trying to protect him. In the end, she dies for it at his hands. Buffy is not like Debbie: she never completely lost herself, she is able to care about others and fight her ex-boyfriend, and even kill him to save the world… Yet, perhaps she is so angry when she’s talking to Debbie because she as angry at herself, or trying to resolve some issues in herself, even subconsciously: “While you guys enjoy your grim fairy-tale, two people are dead.” “Anybody who really loved you couldn’t do this to you.”

(And here’s a great detail I noticed in my previous rewatch - look at the poster on the locker room behind Buffy (http://i51.tinypic.com/2ilo6zs.jpg) while she is talking to Debbie and what it says!)

The resolution of the episode is both hopeful and unsettling. After a fight between two “beasts” – Pete and wolf!Oz – Buffy fights Pete, but does not manage to defeat him. It’s Angel who eventually kills him, using a chain to strangle Pete. Buffy is oddly frozen, and even somewhat disturbed by the sight. One can say, on the Doylist level, that it was a plot device to allow Angel to save Buffy’s life, before dropping to his knees (in a scene that’s visually reminiscent of Pete crying and dropping to his knees in front of Debbie earlier), whispering her name, showing his love and devotion to her that is still there. Or we could see it as a result of Buffy having issues with killing Pete because he is technically still human, while Angel has no such scruples… but we can also see it as symbolic for Buffy’s inability to successfully and completely deal with her relationship with Angel, the fallout of season 2 and the problem of the “bad boyfriend” for the entirety of season 3.

It is also important for Angel to symbolically kill Pete as a representation of a dark part of himself. In the end, Angel is portrayed as someone who is still capable of redemption; on BtVS, a monster who is trying to be a man is always portrayed as more sympathetic, morally superior and redeemable than a man who decides to be a monster. (See also: the arcs of Spike and Warren in season 6.)

Taking this to the real life level again, behind the metaphors - while Pete and Debbie are a reminder of how dangerous it is to continue to find justifications for the abuser and how this makes many victims unable to end the relationship, I feel like it would have wrong to imply that anyone who has some sort of problem that may result in violent behavior – say, PTSD, mental illness, personality disorder, alcohol or drug addiction – should be written-off as a “lost cause” unworthy of love or a second chance. Which is why it’s important that Oz is successfully dealing with his condition, and that there may still be a chance for Angel.

The moment when Angel drops to his knees in front of Buffy, as well as the episode’s closing scene, in which she is silently watching Angel, who is writhing in pain on the floor, belong to those ambiguous scenes – and there are many such in BtVS – that can be seen as romantic, but also as disturbing. And I love that ambiguity. This is no Twilight, but it’s also not a Lifetime movie. When he drops on his knees in front of her, it is certainly a moving scene, but Buffy’s silent facial expression and body language do not show any happiness; it’s not a “ooh, he saved me, this is so romantic” or even “oh, he is back and still love me” moment for Buffy. She does even not touch him while he’s hugging her legs (unlike Debbie, who was stroking Pete’s hair). Her face only shows a lot of pain and uncertainty about what lies ahead and what she should do. She is certainly very concerned about Angel and his state, and deeply feels for him, but she seems also to know at that moment that, whatever happens, all the angst, drama and pain she had tried to leave behind is back into her life.

Dipstick
11-09-14, 08:58 PM
Great review, TTB. I'm gonna be a little bit of a hater. A lot of the characters really aren't on their best behavior. Faith comes out the best!

Xander/Giles/Buffy are all flawed in the "fall asleep" thing to varying degrees. Xander clearly made a choice to reassure Willow that he'd stay up on Oz-watch and then, immediately tried to fall asleep once her back was turned. Not cool, Xander. I have wondered whether this is standard "Xander is totally indolent" stuff or whether it's supposed to indicate that Xander is still a little aggravated and passive aggressive about Willow/Oz in preparation for the Fluking story which starts in the next ep. This is a continuing pattern but Xander displays rude frustration with Cordelia throughout her limited time in the ep. Barking at Cordelia for shrieking at the cadaver....like Xander just did two seconds ago. The sarcastic, "You were in your special place, Cor, which is why I adore you".

Then, Giles bitches Xander out. It would just be a little hepped up if not for the fact that Buffy was supposed to be on SUPER-IMPORTANT SLAYER WATCHING OZ BECAUSE HE MIGHT BE A MURDEROUS BEAST and she fell asleep. The hypocrisy morphs it into "Buffy is Giles's Watcher's Pet at best" and "Giles treats Xander like shit" at worst. Buffy's sin is a little less because she fell asleep out of pure exhaustion but it was pretty silly of her to flake out on her UPER-IMPORTANT SLAYER WATCHING OZ mission, especially since she dismissed Faith who was prepared to stay up all night. (Faith probably slept most of the day.)

Buffy absolutely screws up by hiding Angel's return. It's even more aggravating because she's still relying the Scoobies' resources to suss out Angel but without doing the Scoobies the respect of telling them what they're answering. Buffy fishes Giles for information about surviving hell dimensions and Buffy gets all up in Willow's grill about DEMANDING the answers to the autopsy report so Buffy knows whether Angel did it. Even though Willow is understandably hesitant about walking the fine line between delivering incendiary and prejudicial information or delivering dishonest cover-up information about Oz and doesn't need Buffy insensitively barking "What did it say! Was he bit!" to the point that Giles had to intercede and stop Buffy.

Buffy does even more of a disservice to Willow and Giles by declaring to Platt that they'd freak out or "do something" (kill Angel). We can see later by Revelations that this wasn't the case at all. Moreover in that speech, Buffy leaked Willow and Giles's names as involved before telling Platt the entire story which Buffy surmised would convince Platt that she was loony-bin material. It's a big violation of Willow's and Giles's confidentiality/trust that could have affected them negatively if Platt was alive to hear Buffy's entire story. I understand that Buffy was shocked and desperately looking for neutral adult voice to help her but she went about it all wrong. And as Giles points out in Revelations, part of Buffy's actions does stem from a lack of respect for Giles and her friends.

Meanwhile, Willow and Oz are definitely the healthiest couple of the three per TTB's review. There's a lot that's admirable about how they get through this as a couple. Willow is genuinely comforting and nurturing when Oz is a wolf- the reading, meat feedings, hesitance about tazing, etc. Oz immediately accepted responsibility as a potential suspect without hemming and hawing. However, I enjoy Willow as Oz's advocate. See:


Cordelia: Oz ate someone!
Willow: He did not!

It's all in the delivery.

However, Willow advocates for Oz but she also investigates and honestly reports her findings. She wants to clear him, not cover up for him. Oz locks himself up to avoid hurting anyone, even when it's humiliating like when everyone gets their assignments that they can do as people and Oz is about to leap into action but he remember. "I'm going to...lock myself in a cage." Aw, baby. Willow risked her life by getting Wolf!Oz to chase her to give Faith a clear shot with the tazer.

However, I really don't care for Willow's "I mean, this time, it's not your boyfriend who's the cold-blooded..." It's pretty insensitive to Buffy. And Oz isn't a cold-blooded anything. Even if we accept the wolf as him, it's a primal hot-blooded beast. Not a calculated Angelus-type. I also wonder if this comment is meant to presage The Fluking. In their relationship, I think Willow does find Oz's stand-offishness and....coldness frustrating in contrast to warm-blooded, passionate Xander. Oz somewhat demonstrated that earlier in the ep by insisting on walking off and doing the guy thing when Willow wanted to talk and comfort. Human!Oz is colder than Wolf!Oz. Perhaps, Willow was subliminally alluding to that. Obviously, it's still not fair to Oz to start analogizing any part of him to Angelus. BTW, *I* wasn't bothered by Oz wanting to walk off and do the guy thing. It was a beyond minor reaction to the extreme stress and anguish that he felt to want a few minutes to himself. However, it's a distant, isolation-heavy pattern of Oz's which includes behavior that I had a bigger problem with (not telling Willow that he was repeating 12th grade, heading up to Monteray which is probably far from Sunnydale without telling Willow, all of Wild at Heart).

Then while Willow's cold blooded....jelly doughnut thing was wrong, Oz clearly just files it away to keep as a shot for another time.


Oz: Hey, I may be a cold-blooded jelly doughnut, but my timing is impeccable.

Not the worst thing but kind of calculated and bitchy.

Meanwhile, Cordelia was barely in the ep. And Angel's a total wild, murderous beast. Faith is totally the nice, reasonable, calm one in this ep! Plus:


Oz: Debbie. (Giles looks at him) Well, victim number one, Jeff. He was in jazz band with us. They used to horse around.
Faith: They were screwing?

Adorable.

Stoney
12-09-14, 02:16 AM
There are several things that really stop me particularly enjoying this episode. The continued awful werewolf makeup is one. The terrible human shaped scorch mark void where Angel ‘landed’ also bugs me. It is also a nonsense as well that Angel miraculously turned up at the school to protect Buffy and, most of all, I have to say I think DB’s acting during Angel’s feral state is just rubbish. Plus, as you say TTB, the fact that Angel’s, likely, centuries in hell never has bearing going forward and is easily overcome is definitely unsatisfying. But as you ran through, there are some key thematic areas that are raised and I do think I appreciate more of the episode now thanks to your thoughtful review.

I have to agree with Dipstick that Faith comes out best in the ep. Perhaps Xander’s disregard over the sleep does relate to his Willow/Oz underlying grump, he certainly didn’t like the half monty comment! And yeah, I really dislike that Giles finds Buffy asleep and yet that causes zilch reaction.

I do find Debbie’s situation fascinating and how she has become trapped in loving Pete and accepting his abuse, even to the extent of protecting him. It does sit against Buffy and Angel somewhat, what they went through, what happens when Buffy finds Angel, but also in a lot of Buffy’s anger/frustration towards Debbie we see her lingering feelings of guilt. This melds with fighting inner demons, our darker sides and the desire to change. I think it also works well when considered following the differences between having faith and hope, as Max covered so well when we were discussing Faith, Hope & Trick.

Buffy’s continued sense of isolation is pulling her down again and as she fears the reaction of those around her to Angel’s return, she is again turning away from the support the others can give, their right to know the truth of the situation and potentially again from her duty with the possibility Angel may have been killing to survive since his return. I’m not sure I would have labelled her secretive choice as stemming from a lack of respect, but that definitely plays a big role.

Angel gave Buffy the connection between her home life and slaying life and I think Faith’s easy going vibe in this episode emphasises that Buffy does have other opportunities for that support now but she is holding Faith off. That Pete can be the animal at will in some ways I think reflects how Buffy feels about herself as the slayer and focuses on her guilt, the hurt and pain of it all again. Her separation from the others is a further part of that too of course. And her open anger with Debbie greatly exposes her awareness of these backwards perspectives and the risks of Angel’s return I think.


She is certainly very concerned about Angel and his state, and deeply feels for him, but she seems also to know at that moment that, whatever happens, all the angst, drama and pain she had tried to leave behind is back into her life.

I think Buffy is fearing that she is about to go through it all again. This heightens her fears of the reaction of others too and starts a self fulfilling aspect by her withdrawing on assumptions of what they will say. I think there is also an issue for Buffy in not being able to separate Angel souled/unsouled as easily when he is in this more primitive, beastly state. As the episode starts Willow’s Call of The Wild reading talks about the deeper aspects of nature. Is he souled still? Because she can’t tell. There is something animalistic about him with the needs/nature of the demon commanding basic drives from what she can see. This emphasises how the flavor and tone of Angel unsouled must be informed by his personality and not the deeper inner demon. Buffy I think only feels any sense that it is his souled self that has come back when he says her name after killing Pete. That reminds her of when his soul was returned and yet she has just watched him kill which emphasizes the demon within that can’t be ignored here.

This all works well alongside the visual of Dru’s (presumably) dolls getting shoved aside to find the chains to secure Angel as a subtle reminder of all the complications and hurts that have occurred. Dru obviously being an aspect of Angel's past that was specifically disclosed during the last season and Spike’s defection making it clear that there was a continued relationship occurring with Angel/Dru again. As Scott states, even if you care about someone you never really know what is going on inside them.


But unlike Spike, Buffy is not ready to embrace being “love’s bitch” and we will see her becoming less willing to take emotional risks when it comes to romance, trying not to be “love’s dog” again… though with variable and questionable degrees of success.

Although I feel that it is in many degrees Buffy’s slavish devotion to maintaining the fairytale notions of romance she fixatedly presses significance on for Angel that is what does make her actually “love’s dog”. As you say, the indication of Buffy’s anger towards herself can be heard in some of what she says to Debbie. The mockery of what Buffy/Angel will manage to have going forward is there through Buffy’s derision of Debbie’s ‘Grimm fairy tale’ when considered against Angel’s declaration in The Prom of their relationship as a ‘freak show’.

Seth Green was the episode highlight for me. I felt for Oz at each turn and especially loved the delivery on his reaction to being told Faith would watch him… Oz: What, you're having a Slayer watch me? Oh, good, we're not overreacting.

I also love Giles getting hit with the tranquiliser ‘bloody priceless’ indeed. :biggrin1:

vampmogs
12-09-14, 06:57 AM
I actually like this episode. I've seen people accuse it of misandry but I mostly have to roll my eyes at those accusations as I usually do when BtVS is accused of such things. Both Buffy and Willow reject Faith's opinion and the portrayal of, say, Oz and Pete is wildly different. But it's considered trendy to bash Marti Noxon so this episode is usually considered 'proof' that she's a man-hating jerk :rolleyes:

I guess I'm more sympathetic than most when it comes to Buffy keeping Angel's return a secret. If I were in Buffy's position, I too would be uncertain about how the gang would react and what they may do. Dipstick raises a valid point that for the most part Buffy underestimates the Scoobies here and how they really do react come Revelations (except for Xander who actually does make plans to murder Angel behind her back) but is Buffy being unreasonable to think it could have gone differently? I don't think Revelations necessarily reflects how the gang would have reacted to a feral and uncontrollable Angel who is violently lashing out at anyone who comes near him, including Buffy. Had Buffy taken the gang to Angel in his animalistic state and he tried to attack them or her I don't find it unbelievable whatsoever that they would try and stake him or at the very least put a great deal of pressure on her to do so.

Buffy is still operating under the premise that Willow really did say "kick his ass." Buffy experienced firsthand the lack of compassion and patience Xander has for Angel issues in Dead Man's Party. Her relationship with Angel and the fallout from it caused a great deal of friction within the group and it's something they're just recovering from. I'm really sympathetic why Buffy would be fearful of telling them all and why she thinks "they'd freak" and react pretty negatively to any compassion she showed Angel or sign that she can't kill him if necessary. It makes a lot of sense to me that she'd find it easier to turn to Platt who is impartial. Her breakdown in Platt's office is heartbreaking to me because I think Buffy is dealing with what feels like an insurmountable pressure to figure things out and deal with Angel quickly and she doesn't believe her friends would have much tolerance for her putting off what very well may be the inevitable. Not again. Not after last season and what it cost them. And I think TimeTravellingBunny nails it in her analysis of Buffy's reaction when Angel crumples to the floor and embraces her and describes it as a mix of uncertainty about what she should do and guilt and anger, even, towards herself for the compassion she still feels for him. I just can't blame Buffy for thinking her relationship with the gang is still not stable enough to handle a resurgence of the very same issues that caused so much hostility between them in the first place. And I think part of Buffy feels that the gang have every reason not to understand her because she doesn't really understand it herself but she needs the space to figure it out. Buffy doesn't want to be another Debbie but that's all the gang may see.

Which isn't to say I don't think the Scoobies aren't perfectly justified to be hurt and upset when they find out Buffy has been lying to them. One lie ends up snowballing into a whole bunch of lies (about what she's doing at night, when she pits Joyce and Giles against each other etc) and they have every reason to be angry about that. I also can totally understand why Giles feels it shows a lack of respect for his role and the job he performs. I do think Buffy inevitably gets caught in her own web where as time goes on it becomes harder to tell the truth the longer she leaves it and it becomes less sympathetic when it goes from watching over a feral Angel to doing sexy Tai Chi with him. So I certainly understand their anger and can't blame them for it. I just don't think it's about Buffy having a lack of respect for the gang as much as it is her being caught between two worlds and being unable to reconcile the two. Which is why Buffy/Angel works so well as a mirror to Buffy's Slayer/girl conflict in S1-S3.

I must admit that I never noticed how Giles treats Buffy and Xander to a double standard in this episode. I guess because I didn't find the situations comparable (Buffy fell asleep whilst reading whereas Xander had no intention of even trying to stay awake) it didn't really occur to me that Giles was being unfair. However, that's information only the audience is privy to so you guys are correct.

Stoney, usually I'd agree with you that a character miraculously showing up to save the day is ridiculous but I have no trouble believing it here. Angel most likely tracked Buffy's scent and in his feral state Angel would have been relying on those basic senses more than ever.

I really like the Buffy/Platt scenes. The actor who played Platt had a really great screen presence and it's such a shame Buffy lost another authority figure who she felt she could trust and open up to. I wonder if she ever thought much of Platt when she takes on a counselling role in S7?

Oz's costume is ridiculous but I must admit I love the mayhem in the scene where the gang interrupt Oz/Pete fighting, Giles gets accidentally shot, and chaos ensues. Willow tugging on Oz's little tail makes me laugh every single time :lol:

I totally agree with Dipstick that Willow's "this time it's not your boyfriend who is the cold blooded murderer-" is very poorly articulated. And it makes me cringe every time Oz catches her saying it even though I know it's coming. I get why Oz feels guilty about anything he may do as a werewolf but it's not remotely similar to Angelus at all and it's unfair to call him a murderer or cold-blooded.

That said, I do love all the little details Willow puts into their monthly Oz Watch. The towel up for privacy, his 2 o clock feeding, reading him passages from a book etc. Very cute.

Giles must have later thought back to the scene of Buffy asking him about Angel/Acathla/Hell dimensions and have been pretty hurt. I think more than anyone he has a good reason to be so upset with Buffy in Revelations as he's been really, really great to her in S3 thus far. And speaking of that scene, I do love what Giles says about Angel. It's a real shame that S3 drops the ball examining the trauma Angel went through in hell and the impact this would have had on him. It never really gets factored into his characterization and thus fandom mostly ignores it as well, but it's really pivotal that Angel spent 100 years being brutally tortured and it must have had a huge influence on his psyche. It's also really impressive, as Giles says, that he had enough sense of character and will to overcome that. And whilst a lot of people write off B/A as an idealized teenage romance (and there's certainly some truth to that) it is pretty meaningful that after 100 years of agony Angel was able to still recongize Buffy and it was her presence that go through to him.

Stoney
12-09-14, 08:37 AM
But it's considered trendy to bash Marti Noxon so this episode is usually considered 'proof' that she's a man-hating jerk.

Coming so late to watching BtVS I often miss knowing any of the wider fandom reactions/debates. This quite clearly seems ridiculous for all the reasons you and TTB point out, so I've got to agree with your :rolleyes:.


I guess I'm more sympathetic than most when it comes to Buffy keeping Angel's return a secret. If I were in Buffy's position, I too would be uncertain about how the gang would react and what they may do.

I think at this point it is pretty much totally understandable coming on the back of why she left in regards to the others perspectives. Even with, as you say, Giles being very supportive. It is just that as Angel quite obviously starts to come around to be more himself again it becomes rapidly less so. Or at least the balance tips anyway.


Stoney, usually I'd agree with you that a character miraculously showing up to save the day is ridiculous but I have no trouble believing it here. Angel most likely tracked Buffy's scent and in his feral state Angel would have been relying on those basic senses more than ever.

Ha, I'd never thought about the scent tracking, duh. I have to say though that since the last time she was at the mansion, when she tried to touch him, she has been to see Platt, has been in the library, the girls locker room, back to the library, around the halls and through the window, to the supply room so it does amuse me to think of Angel as racing around all of that like a trail of silly string to get there. :xd


It never really gets factored into his characterization and thus fandom mostly ignores it as well, but it's really pivotal that Angel spent 100 years being brutally tortured and it must have had a huge influence on his psyche. It's also really impressive, as Giles says, that he had enough sense of character and will to overcome that. And whilst a lot of people write off B/A as an idealized teenage romance (and there's certainly some truth to that) it is pretty meaningful that after 100 years of agony Angel was able to still recongize Buffy and it was her presence that go through to him.

Personally I find it just adds to the weakness in the writing of Angel's time in hell. Just because in my mind a true hell torment would involve false visions of people, incorrectly believing you were being saved etc. So to feel it is the connection that breaks through I want to see something 'other' than the times they have already been around each other and it make no difference to him. Perhaps I can fanwank, to sit alongside the tracking part, that it was her continual scent being 'right' that finally broke through. I just think the whole feral Angel/hell stuff is a totally dropped ball. Especially because some of his darker choices going forward could have understandably related to some of his experiences during that time. Not in the sense of excusing or fully explaining them but just adding a richness into his story's overall coherency.

vampmogs
12-09-14, 10:21 AM
Coming so late to watching BtVS I often miss knowing any of the wider fandom reactions/debates. This quite clearly seems ridiculous for all the reasons you and TTB point out, so I've got to agree with your :rolleyes:.

Unfortunately, people still ignorantly conflate feminism with misandry and are really paranoid about it. If a TV series, film or book speaks candidly about having a feminist agenda you can bet your bottom dollar you'll have people accusing it of male-bashing. Apparently a feminist show that explores misogyny (an inevitability) is being misandrist despite having a lot of wonderfully complex, rich and heroic male characters.

And Marti Noxon is pretty much fandom's scapegoat for everything they disliked about the show. S6 haters blame Marti for the darkness that season despite Whedon stating multiple times he was just as involved as before and multiple writers confirming the balcony scene, Buffy/Spike and Willow going dark were all Whedon's ideas. Fans have simultaneously bashed Noxon for favouring Spike and Buffy/Spike above all other characters AND bashed Noxon for hating Spike and keeping Buffy/Spike apart (she talks about this on the Bargaining DVD commentary). Fans have also blamed Noxon for coming back from maternity leave in S7 and supposedly putting a stop to B/X in favour of Spuffy despite no writer ever saying B/X was going to happen in S7 and it being very clear from early on that Spike was going to remain Buffy's love interest that season ("Some day she'll tell you"). Marti has been accused of being a misandrist for both this episode and the AR and that's despite her very candidly stating that the AR was inspired from a personal incident where she forced herself onto her boyfriend. Joss got so fed up with the Marti-bashing that a few years ago he publicly slammed a poster called Vmars on Whedonesque;

Here is Vmars' original post bashing Noxon when she became the new showrunner for Greys Anatomy;


Uh oh. That means that Grey's is officially going downhill. Let's hope that next season isn't a big depressing season where Meredith gets raped and her and dr mcdreamy spend hours upon hours doing S&M and uttering the most cringe-inducing (AND LETS NOT FORGET-- DEGRADING.) dialogue. And TR Knight's character is probably going to develop a drug addiction. Expect all of the characters to be a shell of what they once were (That goes for the show as a whole as well.) I better go warn the Grey's fans...In fact, I think I'll write a pilot. Marti the Show Killer/Slayer.

LOL reminds me of Dru's line:

"Everything I put in the ground withers and dies."

RIP Grey's Anatomy. You have now officially, jumped the shark.

Oh how rude, where are my manners?

Congratulations Marti!! ;)

And here is Whedon's response;


How sick am I of Noxon-bashing? Enough to break my rule of silence, certainly. I've had so many people rag on her for aspects of the show I developed, or praise me for things she came up with. She's been a vital part of everything people love about Buffy since she overhauled the halloween script in season two. She's as good a story-breaker as I've ever worked with. And she's a leader.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, Vmars. You are uninformed and rude. That's mine.

One of the things I'm most ashamed about when I look back on my time in fandom is when I actually believed this nonsense. In my early years I actually let it suck me in *shudders*



I think at this point it is pretty much totally understandable coming on the back of why she left in regards to the others perspectives. Even with, as you say, Giles being very supportive. It is just that as Angel quite obviously starts to come around to be more himself again it becomes rapidly less so. Or at least the balance tips anyway.

I agree. As I said, I think once it stops being about Buffy taking care of a weakened Angel and evolves into them doing steamy training sessions together then it becomes a lot worse that Buffy is continuing to keep his return a secret. The lies spiral into more lies and I can't blame the others for being angry at Buffy. I just think that the more time that passes the harder it is for Buffy to tell the truth.


Ha, I'd never thought about the scent tracking, duh. I have to say though that since the last time she was at the mansion, when she tried to touch him, she has been to see Platt, has been in the library, the girls locker room, back to the library, around the halls and through the window, to the supply room so it does amuse me to think of Angel as racing around all of that like a trail of silly string to get there. :xd

:lol: I just picture him with his nose to the ground like a dog.


Personally I find it just adds to the weakness in the writing of Angel's time in hell. Just because in my mind a true hell torment would involve false visions of people, incorrectly believing you were being saved etc. So to feel it is the connection that breaks through I want to see something 'other' than the times they have already been around each other and it make no difference to him. Perhaps I can fanwank, to sit alongside the tracking part, that it was her continual scent being 'right' that finally broke through. I just think the whole feral Angel/hell stuff is a totally dropped ball. Especially because some of his darker choices going forward could have understandably related to some of his experiences during that time. Not in the sense of excusing or fully explaining them but just adding a richness into his story's overall coherency.

It definitely is one of the most glaring weaknesses of S3 (which I still adore but is not as perfect as I had once believed). I'm not really as fussed about the false visions of being saved as whilst that's certainly one way he COULD have been tormented there's no reason to say it had to have happened. Angel could have been mentally tortured or just physically tortured and I guess it just depends on how 'inventive' his captors decided to be :(

And yes I often feel that a lot of Angel's darkness would be rooted in his time in hell. Obviously it also has to do with his nature but there's no way 100 years of torture wouldn't have a horrible effect on him. I've tried to argue that many times but I can't really blame fans for not paying attention to it when the writing drops the ball completely.

Dipstick
13-09-14, 01:11 PM
I guess I'm more sympathetic than most when it comes to Buffy keeping Angel's return a secret. If I were in Buffy's position, I too would be uncertain about how the gang would react and what they may do. Dipstick raises a valid point that for the most part Buffy underestimates the Scoobies here and how they really do react come Revelations (except for Xander who actually does make plans to murder Angel behind her back) but is Buffy being unreasonable to think it could have gone differently? I don't think Revelations necessarily reflects how the gang would have reacted to a feral and uncontrollable Angel who is violently lashing out at anyone who comes near him, including Buffy. Had Buffy taken the gang to Angel in his animalistic state and he tried to attack them or her I don't find it unbelievable whatsoever that they would try and stake him or at the very least put a great deal of pressure on her to do so.

IMO, if Buffy plead/ordered the Scoobies to chain up Angel and give him a few days to see if he'll cool down from hell, the Scoobies would have fallen in line. The Scoobies basically always follow Buffy's directives re: Angel. Willow, certainly, wasn't going to attacking Angel for being all feral and wild at this point considering Oz. In Revalations, Xander plotted to kill Angel for a short time because Buffy's integrity was at an all time low and she shouldn't vouch for Angel or herself effectively. Plus, Xander was panicked that Angel have the Glove of Mynegon. IMO, if Buffy came to the Scoobies straight-away and came off as forthright and focused on the Scoobies' safety, they would have taken Buffy's lead for awhile on waiting to see if Angel recovered.

However if Buffy really was concerned with how the entire gang would view Angel as a danger because he's actually very wild and dangerous, that's all the more reason to cut in more fighters/researchers to contain Angel or cut in neutral people to assess the situation to give up on Angel. She can't even just tell the story to Platt without cutting in the Scoobies, so Buffy violates Willow's and Giles's privacy by leaking their names to Platt as involved in the whole loony-bin story. Buffy clearly wants exposition from Giles on hell dimensions and an autopsy report to clear Angel from Willow and I bet Buffy would like a tranq run and more guards. I think deep-down, Buffy felt she was ill-equipped to handle this safely in Beauty and the Beasts. However, I think Buffy deals with her indecision and low self-image by painting everyone else as worse. Debbie is an enabler, Willow double-talks and can't spit out an autopsy report, Giles and Willow wouldn't understand and they'd just kill Angel unfairly, Faith is too wild and promiscuous and anti-men to share with even though Faith is like, over-sharing.

I see Buffy's reasons for hiding Angel and I'm sympathetic to a degree but I still think it was a big violation of trust from the get-go that just got worse after this ep. To rank it in the Secrets o'Meter. I look on it less favorably than Xander's "kick his ass" or Willow hiding the details of the resurrection spell or Buffy hiding Dawn's origins or Xander lying about remembering his Hyena times. I look on it more favorably than Tara lying about her supposed demon-hood or the Cruciateum or Riley's vamp hos or probably the Fluking.

Stoney
15-09-14, 02:16 AM
3.05 Homecoming

I always enjoy this episode and I think it is a good little showcase of the issues different characters have and the struggles within the group going forwards.

Alongside all we saw Buffy give up when she fled to LA, this episode highlights again what she lost in becoming Chosen. Rather than economic differences, although that often plays a part in popularity as Faith in part continues to show too, we are focusing more on the political complexities of the group and of high school. This works of course alongside the development we also see with Mr Trick and The Mayor.

The internal balance for Buffy of her Chosen status and the girl within is front and centre yet again. It makes sense as she is trying to reason through Angel’s return and he helped her feel a balance between those two aspects, but she is currently trying to deny herself that and is trying not to flee to him. Really we see, I think, Buffy trying exactly what it is that Angel tells her she should strive towards when he leaves. I support Angel totally in making his choices for himself, but I do think that it is not completely right to make a decision based on what you think it will encourage someone else to do and particularly to tell them that is what you are doing it for, as that does risk placing an emotional weight on their decisions based upon your wishes and point of view. It is sad though that I think this episode shows the underlying truth for Buffy that we, the audience, have seen clearly repeated since NKABOTFD, that Buffy needs integration as separation is never really going to happen. Buffy can’t find the average guy and have the average life, that just isn’t her life now. And I have to question if average is what she really wants anyway as she enters a competition to prove greater popularity and significance! But anyway, slaying does often/normally encroach and I can feel a lot for Buffy on that.

Very understandably following her time away in LA, Buffy is wanting to feel her sense of belonging in Sunnydale firmly again now and outside of her existence as the slayer and her duty. It is really hard then that the reality that she is faced with is that the group dynamics have changed. Xander arguably should be helping Cordelia over Buffy on this occasion. Buffy’s regular withdrawal and absence from the norm does isolate her by placing her on the outside so that she can miss the photographs due to training or the majority of the prom due to being hunted down as the slayer. Her duty is forcing a ‘Marcie Ross’ esque social status and the links to Out of Mind, Out of Sight feeling clear with the prom link too. Even a forced/fake popularity is preferable to strive for as her actual status is such a non-event here. A further Marcie link came with the teacher that also failed to know who Buffy was. It isn’t just students, she might as well not be there at all. The fact that the class she loved was on contemporary heroes just making the teacher's lack of awareness of her seem an even more cruel truth to face. Although we will of course see in The Prom that Buffy’s perception of her status isn’t right and her presence/actions are not as invisible to others as she thinks.

I do feel some annoyance with the group for how they treat Buffy when she is trying to campaign, even though I feel they are put in an unfair position. But they don’t handle it well. I particularly dislike Oz behaving as if he has no agency in how he effects other people’s feelings by taking his uber-chilled easy route attitude ‘as Willow goes, so goes my nation’. I dislike this passivity as Willow may be his reason for being there and his focus but that doesn’t mean his actions don’t affect the group any and he should take some ownership for that.

I think the scripting in the campaign board scene is actually great for showing that Buffy is falling back to quite petty/childish behaviour she should be past as she strives to revisit her past. It is also worth considering that a Cordelia/Cordette approach isn’t a dynamic that she has shared with the Scoobies either so it feeling awkward works well.

Both Buffy and Cordelia are unpleasant to each other during the course of the campaign. Cordelia certainly dropped the ball about the photos but it is Buffy’s annoyed jibe that starts the confrontational tone, even if it is understandable. Although there are elements of them both behaving badly towards the other, they had in many ways come past this level of discord and I feel that it is actually Cordelia’s reversion to being all ‘Queen-C’ that escalates the nasty side of it all. Her attitude regression does make sense against the current social event in causing the rearing of resentment, as I will look at in a mo with Cordelia, but I have to say, beyond the name calling, that I think Cordelia steps even further over the line when she comments on Buffy’s split home. As I say, the economics do also fall in with the politics too here at times.

It is worth a quick aside to note that we have a flash of Buffy’s physical aggression again in response to Cordelia making a move to shove past her. This is in addition to Faith openly stating that she is channelling her rage in her sparring. Again Faith is more comfortable with some of their natural tendencies although here, with just them present, releasing her emotions through violent physical release isn’t something Buffy is denying, although she still doesn’t seem very happy or accepting of it.

It isn’t fair the way the others are placed in the middle though and that is Buffy’s doing particularly I think as she is choosing to start the challenge between her and Cordelia. Asking Willow to let her look at the database isn’t fair and I disagree with Willow that it is her/Xander overcompensating in guilt that is at fault, although it certainly doesn’t help stabilise the situation. Buffy is trying to directly challenge Cordelia over an area that she hasn’t tried to assert herself into before, striving for the popularity vote, and it is that which puts pressure on the group. It sits well alongside Faith’s appearance as another slayer and the potential conflicts that can (and will) arise. In both cases they can coexist and it isn’t until there is direct intention to push the other out, to occupy the same space, that the clashes really come about. Cordelia telling Buffy she is trying to be like her works well alongside the coming Faith/Buffy storyline and Buffy’s focus here repeatedly on the status of ‘her life’.

The episode certainly seems as much about Cordelia and illustrating how her position has changed too within the same social circle. If we again compare with OOM,OOS, Cordelia then was commanding the Cordettes and was an easy/assumed win for May Queen. Now she is angry about Buffy splintering her vote and in part that is because she is angry at the change in social status that she has experienced. That mostly has to do with becoming a regular and active member of the Scoobie gang, which, of course, focuses around Buffy. We will see that resentment about Buffy as the catalyst of change come out in The Wish. But Cordelia somewhat reclaims her position, her inner strength a little perhaps, in (the ridiculous) face off with Lyle Gorch. But despite the nonsense of it, credit to Cordelia, and her character is pretty consistent in this way here and going forward to AtS I think, for being brave to the point of all out ballsy in protecting Buffy when she is down and vulnerable.

So both Buffy and Cordelia come through by working together effectively and at the end there is the brief tease of the cheesy ending of sharing the crown and then they both walk away. It seems clear that neither of them are ever going to be ‘that’ person again and sometimes you just have to let parts of yourself and your past go to move forward. Cordelia getting more assertive in the fight and Buffy going watcherless are both paths they will explore more in their futures, albeit in AtS for Cordelia.

Whilst we have Cordelia openly admitting during the episode to the depth of her feelings for Xander, we have Xander and Willow’s first kiss. I, like many, really don’t like this plot development. I can see that Xander, who is very possessive, has been feeling out of sorts since Willow became so focused on Oz. We had his displeasure at the ‘half monty’ comment last episode and here, just before the kiss, he is again wanting to gauge the physical developments in Willow/Oz's relationship. The Willow of it I also can see. She has pined after Xander for years and he makes a move on her ‘finally’. That would be hard to resist. But I find it difficult to accept how easily she goes there when there have been numerous points this season where she has shown little or no interest/awareness of Xander/Cordelia or Xander’s obvious jealousy of Oz.

The selfish immaturity and callous disregard for their partners is as bad from them both. I admit I feel more irritated at Xander though because it feels more like part of the compulsion for him is about losing a favoured toy, rather than a changing perspective. I can see the argument that he felt differently when Willow was in hospital at the end of last season or that her dating made him look at her differently. But I just don’t feel a depth of romantic feeling is built up to in getting to this, and then it isn’t sustained at all going forward. The end result is that it works best if it is about possessiveness from him I think. I do also roll my eyes at Willow’s now open cutesying about the ‘sweetest thing’ he does with his mouth too. It felt pretty awkward for her to be comfortable to be voicing that after all these years of supressing it and after so little prompting. Sure it could be seen as grasping at the chance to release it all, now that the kiss made it feel ok to do so, but I just struggle to buy into this plot direction for these two. The fact that it continues is even harder to take when you see how miserable and distant they are both feeling at the dance.

It is interesting that in this episode with the small politics within the group being a focus we see Faith trying to be supportive of Buffy in sparring together, chatting with Buffy, encouraging her after the break up and then, even with Buffy not present, showing a loyalty in jibing Scott and splitting up his alternate date at the dance. As Faith is seen as being wilder and more carefree than Buffy it follows on from Scott’s criticism that Buffy isn’t as full of life anymore that she would follow Faith’s lead as a louder force of nature in considering going to the dance without her date. I think those that feel that Faith enters Sunnydale with the premeditated intention to displace Buffy should consider the little snippets we see in this episode that clearly show a person who is trying to become a part of the group, although her manner/methods continue to make her feel like an outsider.

So the Mayor is finally on our screens too and is a character I adore. He is quirky and interesting from the beginning. I love how he epitomises the personable elected leader who promotes healthy living and family values alongside his underlying power crazed corruption and his effortlessly threatening command and control. Following on from Faith, Hope & Trick we see where Mr Trick is taking his perspective of ‘the big picture’ that the Hellmouth can offer in his Slayerfest business venture. It’s arguably a business plan that hasn’t fully considered the complexity of its asset usage(!), but it certainly captures the attention of The Mayor. Through Trick this is the start of the path that leads Faith to his door too. It also works well against the upcoming episode Helpless for placing a slayer in a testing situation against an adversary.

The Angel of the episode isn’t time consumptive although it is significant. He clearly is becoming more compos mentis and DB handles this degree of a distracted and muddled mind far better than he managed to show the totally feral loss of reason imo. His reaction to hearing Giles’ name is brilliantly done as he seems to almost be searching for the links of all that happened in his mind but with a real sense of sadness and concern that shows his increased understanding of what has passed.

On the side of Buffy keeping his presence secret I start to get uncomfortable about it from here. There is the threat that an unstable vamp can pose and when he whirls round at Buffy’s mention of dating someone she seems to feel physically threatened, or at least slightly nervous of him in response. He is unchained now so if any part of her fears that he isn’t stable enough to be trusted that is deeply worrying. Plus, any worries she may have had at them not accepting him when he was less ‘with it’ has faded down now to “they wouldn’t understand that you’re… better”. And I have to ask “in what way?” They wouldn’t understand that he is better than when he was feral from hell or they wouldn’t understand that he is better than when he was unsouled? Because I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t understand either of those things. What I think is really the issue is that Buffy fears they wouldn’t understand her wanting to spend time with him and help him. Either because of what them being together meant for everyone before, or, that they simply may not be comfortable with his presence after everything that happened. It is possibly, in part, projecting her own mixed feelings and uncertainty on them. Certainly as her comment about Scott being a nice solid guy that makes her happy and that she can rely on is clearly a pointed remark and seems, unusually for Buffy, to lay some blame of Angelus directly onto Angel.

Giles’ bumbling, poor handling of his role continues. His passive attitude towards Faith’s arrival seems to meld here with both his peripheral stance when remarking on the fuss over being prom queen despite it showing some issues with the interplay in the group and his ‘joke’ at the dance. His praise to Willow and Xander for getting Buffy and Cordelia talking again shows his lack of involvement there too, even if he did give tacit approval. Then when he learns that something terrible was indeed happening to Buffy he gets knocked out before he can help. That distancing from what Buffy the girl is going through also working towards him playing the Council line in Helpless. This is all perhaps a little harsh as he did make noises about being there to support her when the results were announced, but still I think the overall feeling is that he didn’t have a real handle on what was going on like he should have. I think it also works well leading up to Buffy taking the more able/adult role in Band Candy too.

A couple of light hearted extras to finish with… I have to say I loved the characterisations when they had their photos taken. Willow’s pic was adorable and I thought Oz’s immutable expression was perfect. And this line by Trick just shows how delivery can be key, it’s great…
"...and whatever the hell you are, my brother. You got them spiny-looking head things. I ain't never seen that before." :biggrin1:

vampmogs
15-09-14, 07:43 AM
Great review Stoney! I hope to write something more substantial soon but just a couple of points!

I have to agree that Oz's "as Willow goes, so does my nation" is really annoying in this episode. Oz rarely does anything to upset me and I find his devotion to Willow nice but it's like he has no original thought of his own and is basically just admitting that he will blindly follow Willow in the group. He does something similar in Earshot when Willow runs out of the library over Buffy's telepathy and Oz says "I'm going to follow the red head" and abandons Buffy too. I mean, don't get me wrong, I expect that Oz's loyalty will first and foremost be towards Willow as it should be but that's twice that he pretty much shows complete disregard for Buffy's feelings. As Stoney says, it may very well be that Willow is his main reason for socializing with the gang but he can be pretty callous towards others and how his actions effect them and not only is it pretty selfish but, like, you can have an original thought in your head, dude! I do get running after Willow in Earshot because she was upset but could he not help Buffy just because Willow isn't? I don't think Willow would have mind (in fact, it probably would have relieved some of her guilt if she thought Buffy was getting help from someone) so it's kind of ridiculous. And, hey, maybe he would just rather help Cordelia but if that's true then own it as a decision of your own and not because you have to follow Willow around. It's why as much as I like Willow/Oz and like Oz as a character I'll always prefer Tara for actually caring about what the rest of the group thinks of her and making an effort to socialize and fit in (Family) and for developing pretty close relationships with other people than just Willow (Dawn and later Buffy).

I actually think Willow/Xander does make sense overall. If you look back at their history the two of them always get extremely close when Buffy is either absent or in this case has been absent and is still pretty distant in the gang. They nearly kissed in When She Was Bad and in the Wishverse they're a couple as well. And as others have pointed out, Xander still showed a very possessive side of himself over Willow seeing Oz 'half monty' in Beauty and the Beasts and of course there's still his "I love you" in Becoming II. I think Stoney is correct as well that it would be difficult for Willow not to be tempted as she waited so long for Xander to notice her that as much as she loves Oz and was moving away from that crush, to reject Xander's kiss after all those years of waiting is just too much. I also think it's important that their first kiss happens when they're getting ready for Homecoming and not only reminiscing about their childhood together but talking about how scary it is, to an extent, that they're growing up and leaving the final stages of adolescence behind. It seems like they're reacting to that fear by trying to reclaim a little bit of their childhood back.

I love Faith in this episode. It shows a really nice side of her that she's so loyal and protective of Buffy and tries to get Scott back for ditching her. I do feel a little bad for her that she makes an effort to gossip with Xander and Willow and they're both too guilt-ridden to pay any attention to her. Normally I wouldn't pay much attention to it but knowing Faith and her loneliness/rejection issues I can see her taking that personally and misinterpreting it as them not liking her very much.

Buffy does not react well to Cordy touching her *at all*. It's a very consistent character-trait of hers that throughout the series; Angel touches her aggressively in Amends and she hits him, Angel grabs her arm in Sanctuary and she hits him, Riley holds onto her arm in Into the Woods and it takes a lot of restraint for Buffy to just tell him to take his hand off her, Spike grabs Buffy's shoulder in Smashed and she responds by hitting him ("Don't touch me!). Buffy can restrain herself if a non-super powered person touches her when she doesn't want to be touched (Cordy and Riley) but it clearly bothers her *a lot*. Don't get me wrong, Buffy is perfectly within her rights not to like being touched in an aggressive manner, but it's just something that consistently bothers her throughout the show so I think there's more to it. And Buffy does lash out in pretty extreme ways sometimes like when she strikes Angel in Sanctuary. I've always saw it as a reaction to the nightly violence Buffy has to endure and that it's pretty much a defense mechanism now for her to lash out when people touch her like that. I obviously don't agree with Cordy calling her "sick" but Buffy is a little bit scary there. She lives and breathes violence on a daily basis and I definitely think this is evidence of how the slaying has taken a toll on Buffy's psyche.

Cordy using Joyce and Hank's divorce against Buffy was a really, really low blow. I see that as a pretty big betrayal of Buffy, the gang, and Xander's confidence to use intimate personal details like that against her. She's obviously well aware of Buffy's issues with her father.

I do think it's really uncomfortable the way Buffy tries to revert things back to S1 when she insults Cordelia in front of the gang. She's talking to Cordy's boyfriend after all so it's no wonder her jokes fell flat. And as hard and uncomfortable it is to watch the gang chose Cordelia over Buffy I'm actually pretty sympathetic towards Xander because it would have placed him in an incredibly difficult position. I do think he did the right thing supporting Cordy's campaign over Buffy's as she is his girlfriend and she should expect that kind of loyalty/support/commitment from him. I'm less sympathetic to Willow because I think she should have supported her best friend over the girl who's used her popularity to beat Willow down over the last few years, but I understand that it was Willow's guilt compelling her to do this and to her credit she does feel terrible about it. Considering Buffy doesn't know the reason behind Willow's behavior I would say she's pretty damn understanding all things considered. That would have felt like a pretty big betrayal without the context to understand why Willow was choosing Cordy over her.

Dipstick
15-09-14, 12:36 PM
To defend Oz, I think he did nothing wrong in Earshot. Buffy wasn't visibly distressed when he ran out. Buffy was crowing about her new superpower. Then, Willow got distressed at lack of privacy in her brain and her whole relationship with Buffy and Oz changing. And Oz ran out to comfort the only obviously upset girl in the room who is also his girlfriend. Buffy had a fine- even triumphant- affect before Oz ran out of the room. It just so happens that Oz running out of the room with Willow combined with Xander scooting away combined with Wesley being all "Can you hear me now?" insensitive that it all hit Buffy as sad. (And then, like, a scene later, she couldn't even tolerate people near her anyway as long as she could hear all thoughts.)

Oz is a little more insensitive in Homecoming but I do think that he flat-out doesn't get the emotional significance of the Homecoming race to Buffy. To Oz, this kind of feels like a silly whim of Buffy's that just popped up and he doesn't get and doesn't want to be roped into. On a surface level putting aside Buffy's insecurity, I don't think Oz should have to spend his leisure time working on a homecoming campaign that he's uninterested in against his girlfriend to make Buffy the Homecoming Queen. In Oz's head, Buffy had her leisure time silly whim that she wants to be Homecoming queen. Fine. Oz has his leisure time whims that he wants to be on Willow's side and spend his non-werewolf/non-class/non-band/non-slaying/non-researching leisure time with Willow.

Oz is so well-possessed and original and fully himself that he intellectually understands how a sadder, insecure person needs a title or shiny new thing that makes them very special- but he's totally removed from it. He's more sympathetic to Xander in The Zeppo because Xander was more openly discussing his insecurity and there was a guy-bonding thing as opposed to Buffy to masked her insecurity with Cordelia-snark and orders and peppiness.

vampmogs
15-09-14, 01:13 PM
It's how he phrases it though – "As Willow goes, so does my nation." Like, ok, maybe it’s commendable that he is just being brutally honest, but he's basically saying that Willow is his only investment/only thing he cares about and if she's not around, he's not around. It’s just pretty insensitive how brazenly he blows Buffy off. His investment in Willow can certainly be cute and admirable but I don't know why anyone else in the group should give a shit about Oz if he shows no interest in them outside of spending time with Willow or if he can't even fake interest or sympathy in their 'silly whims.' I get why people could find those qualities appealing about Oz but to me basic pleasantries like indulging people's hobbies or faking interest is sometimes just part of being a good friend.

I just think he could have phrased it better. People don't need to be reminded that you're only socializing with them out of necessity of wanting to socialize with someone else. Even if he doesn't understand the importance of this to Buffy he'd have to be pretty socially stunted not to see how it would hurt her to see everybody just abandon her. I agree with Stoney that it comes across as almost cowardly the way he denies his own agency and attaches it to Willow. Buffy clearly looked to him for support and it just seemed like he wanted to avoid taking responsibility by attaching himself to Willow rather than accept that he was making a decision on his own and that it would have consequences.

And I do think you're right about Earshot. Good point that Buffy doesn't become visibly upset until Oz has already left the room. I think the only reason that scene frustrates me is, again, the way Oz chooses to articulate himself before leaving the room – "I'm going to follow the red head." Maybe it is just being really candid and honest but again it just drives home the point to Buffy that he’s only there because Willow is there and he doesn’t have much interest in her or what’s going on if Willow isn’t present. And he’s actually doing a disservice to himself because as Buffy realises when she’s reading his mind, he was pretty insightful and thoughtful about what Buffy’s telepathy meant and he could have contributed meaningfully to the group discussion. If I were part of the gang I'd just have a hard time getting invested in Oz as his own person if he constantly acts like he's permanently attached to Willow's hip and doesn't want to make any effort to develop a relationship with anyone else or even fane interest in me.

He does improve in S4 though. I prefer it when Oz becomes more vocal and less monosyllabic and he certainly finds his voice in those early S4 episodes. There's also a lot more examples of Oz showing concern for other members of the gang or spending one-on-one time with them.

Skippcomet
15-09-14, 07:15 PM
On the Clothes Fluke...I don't remember when it was first discussed or announced that Mutant Enemy/Joss had decided on a spin-off show for Angel (whether it was before the end of Season Two or shortly thereafter), but almost immediately afterwards there was talk of having Cordelia leave the parent show to join said spin-off. So on a meta-level, the major point of the Clothes Fluke was to give Cordelia sufficient motivation to end her romantic relationship with Xander so she could be fully free and clear to leave Sunnydale. (There's also, I believe, a secondary motivation behind the Clothes Fluke that I'm sure isn't a mystery to anybody here, but I'd like to save discussion of it for a later episode, namely, The Wish.)

The unfortunate thing about the Fluke, at least when the show first aired back in '98-'99, was that there was stilll a massive amount of audience hostility aimed at Xander because of The Lie, which was not helped by the events of episodes like Dead Man's Party and later Revelations (basically, any episode that included scenes of antagonism between Xander and either Buffy or Angel). Much of the online fandom was bitterly and angrily awaiting for The Lie to be revealed, discovered, figured out, or confessed to, preferably in such a manner that would paint Xander in as negative a light as possible so that his punishment or comeuppance would therefore be as harsh and unforgiving as possible, and things like the Buffy/Xander arguments in said episodes and the Clothes Fluke were quickly latched onto as fuel for the fires of Xander-hate, to the point that audience hostility towards him was even greater at the end of Season Three than at the end of Season Two. As best as I can remember, the audience almost universally placed responsibility for the Fluke solely on Xander while giving Willow a free pass, and it wasn't until a couple of years after the show ended that I saw anybody who wasn't either a Xander fan or a hardcore Xander/Cordelia 'shipper level any blame or responsibility for it on Willow's shoulders as well.

I don't think the writers gave much thought, if any, towards the X/C of the Fluke beyond "reason to break them up," as they certainly didn't address it onscreen beyond "Cordelia being extra bitchy to Xander and the others" up until "Xander buys Cordelia's prom dress for her" in The Prom. This aggravated the X/C 'shippers to no end; not only were they in disbelief and denial that the the ship was over (and remained so long after it ended), but they kept waiting in vain for the writers to seriously address the aftermath. Continued guilt on Xander's part, or Xander spending the rest of the season trying to win her back after realizing he was deeply in love with her, or Cordelia at last confronting him about what the hell he was thinking, or something. To say that many were not satisfied by the prom dress purchase towards the end of the season is an understatement.

Local Maximum
15-09-14, 11:32 PM
Catching up:

Beauty and the Beasts: great review, TTB, and great comments, all.

I think a big part of the reason Buffy keeps Angel's return a secret is because she sort of suspects that if Angel really is an irredeemable monster, he will have to be killed, and she really, really doesn't want to do that. Like, I think it goes beyond the question of whether the others will insist on it, because I think it may be true, as Dipstick says, that Buffy could just insist on it strongly enough and the others would probably fall in line. I don't know for sure whether they would, and neither I think does Buffy -- but I think if Buffy were absolutely sure that Angel has a right to live, she would stand up proudly for it and not feel the need to hide it, at least not as strongly. She might still hide it then -- she hides Dawn's Key-ness for a while, for example, but even there she tells Giles right away, and by the season's end she's saying that she'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.

Angel isn't like that. Angel might actually have to be killed, not just because he's a threat to the world, but maybe because he deserves to. Dawn in s5 is a threat to the world but manifestly innocent. Angel is...complicated. The question at hand in this episode is how much control over their inner beasts these men have, and how they should be treated accordingly. Buffy's difficulty is because there are indications that Angel both can and can't control it, does and doesn't want to, is and isn't a threat. Buffy's intuition and heart tell her that it would be wrong to kill Angel, but she also has an intellectual and on some level emotional recognition that by most moral standards, maybe she should. It's easier to cope with these away from others' eyes. I don't think she knows what she's going to do.

This leads to some interesting dynamics. Buffy keeps what's going on from Willow, and that is a big deal. Not only has Willow been supportive throughout the Angel ordeal, and not only has Buffy even taken a step in the previous episode to coming clean with Willow about what pain Willow's actions inadvertently had caused, but, more importantly, Willow even notes the similarities between her situation with Oz and Buffy's situation. And more to the point, Oz is a suspect of the same crime Angel seems at the moment to be guilty of -- and not telling Willow about Angel's return means that Willow (and Oz) have to continue living with the guilt and fear that Oz has just become a killer of humans with no other likely suspects. But part of the problem is that Willow and Oz are, again, the light mirror for Buffy and Angel -- Oz is so split from his "monstrous" form, and his monstrous form itself is so clearly not a moral agent at all, destructive in a purely animal way rather than the cruel way that Angelus practiced in the previous season, that it is too painful to try to talk to her about it.

This is really the episode that torpedoes Buffy/Scott as a ship. Maybe it could have survived Angel's return, under other circumstances. Angel certainly needs Buffy more when he comes back. And yet, I think that it's notable that Scott loses what seem to be his two best friends, horribly and violently. Buffy does care -- but still, her last moments in the episode are comforting not Scott, whose friends have just died, but Angel, who has returned, mouth soaked in blood, from another world. Even lots of fans seem to think that Scott's dumping Buffy in Homecoming is because he's a jerk who deserves Faith to go around ruining his future relationships. (Not really blaming Faith for it.) I don't know whether Scott dumped Buffy because he couldn't connect to her in the wake of his sudden shocking grief -- but I think it's kind of important that it does happen, and that it does end up occupying a small space in Buffy's mental real estate, where Angel looms so large and Scott is the guy she can count on and so on, in Homecoming. She wants to choose the friendly, normal guy, into whose life violence and monstrosity intrudes, but basically her heart belongs to the monster reenters her life with blood on his lips. And maybe that's because it's only Angel who can actually save her from monster attacks, being a monster himself. Scott, for his part, does somewhat push Buffy away from helping him, maybe because there is no way to help him.

I mention this because one of the themes of the episode is actually whether there is something that makes women, as Xander suggested back in The Pack, like guys with a little monster in them. I also want to point out that the show examines the opposite as well, with Xander's (especially) attraction to demons and otherwise dangerous women; I do not think the show is arguing this is some trait of women specifically, though this episode, ultimately, is about three couples of human women with monstrous men. Debbie clearly seems to be the victim of Stockholm Syndrome, and I think the same may be somewhat true of Buffy. But when Buffy and Willow read The Call of the Wild to their animalistic men at the beginning and end of the episode, I think there is something else going on. The title, of course, is a reference to Beauty and the Beast; at a screening of the 1943 French version by Jean Cocteau ended, with the beast becoming a man, Marlene Dietrich is said to have shouted out, "Where is my beautiful beast?" The whole story is about a woman being held captive by a monster until her love redeems him, which has a similar Stockholm Syndrome vibe. But in this case it's also Oz and Angel who are kept locked up by the women.

My Jung is not great, but I think there is something going on here about the Animus; according to the Wikipedia article, the "first stage of animus development" is the male as athletic being -- Tarzan being the example given. Someone who straddles the human/animal boundary. Angelus in season two is not really an animalistic monster, but Angel is in this episode, Oz certainly is, and Pete is something like that as well. I think that the...idea of being attracted to a man/animal has symbolic significance, especially for the way these men represent the women getting into deeper touch with their primal, animal drives of sexuality. The idea that women want someone who has an animal passion and magnetism is, I think, part of what compels Pete to become a monster deliberately, in order to achieve what it is he thinks Debbie wants, and also, of course, to have the power to control her.

"Getting in touch" with the inner animal/monster is actually not an entirely bad thing. Oz and Angel are able to fight Pete only when they're in animalistic/monstrous states. And I think therein lies something of the issue. For Buffy and Willow, I think the desire to tame the animal within Angel and Oz, soothe them and comfort them with The Call of the Wild, is also a way of them getting in touch with that primal part of themselves without losing themselves to it -- something like what Mr. Platt says, losing themselves in "love" (or passion, or wildness, or animal abandon) without staying lost. Buffy watching Angel fall on his knees before her, the romantic/frightening moment, is Buffy letting herself love him again when she doesn't want to, but also Angel letting his love for Buffy overcome his monstrous leanings, and isn't that kind of what humans all hope would happen? That love and music and intellect and art can soothe the beast within, that we can access it without being overwhelmed by it.

I think the animal material is particularly important for this season, where Faith just mentioned slaying making her hungry & horny and where the Big Bad is trying to cast off human form to become a giant animal-demon. Lots of emphasis on eating, animal drives, throughout.

Willow grabbing Oz' tail is one of the best moments ever for me. Because, like, here's the thing about Willow/Oz: she is very, very good about stopping Oz, and even hurting him, when he's being an active danger to those around him. She does it non-fatally, and feels bad about hurting him -- but she never actually hesitates in the key moment. It's a contrast with Buffy/Angel, which is all about hesitation. Now one could say that it's because Willow doesn't love Oz as much, but I don't think that's what it's about; I think that it's just that they have different ways of reacting to the threat. There's this strain of pragmatism in Willow that I think is actually really perfect for this situation, and doesn't lessen her love for him -- especially because I think Willow and Oz are both glad that she stops him from, like, murdering people.

Willow's panicky up-all-night reaction to the possibility is worth noting. It's interesting that she is interested in this animal side of Oz, and even sees him/it as cute -- until it's potentially deadly, at which point she becomes afraid. It's hard to deal with. And I think it's significant that the first conversation Willow has after the end of her reading process is how she can hardly handle Oz half-monty -- i.e., sex is scary. Intimacy with Oz = sex and now the possibility of someone who could become a murder the wrong full moon. Oh.

Will talk about Homecoming soon, maybe tomorrow.

=====

Homecoming:

Great review Stoney. Great comments all.

OK so here's my take on this episode -- might be a bit of the long way around.

Here's what Mr. Trick says, helpfully, in order to clue us in to the episode's themes:


Trick: Competition. Competition is a beautiful thing. It makes us strive. It... makes us accomplish. Occasionally, it makes us kill. We all have the desire to win.

It reminds me a little of the famous "Greed is good" monologue from the movie Wall Street -- a monologue so famous I know most of it despite never having seen the movie. Competition is what separates out the winners from the losers, pushes people to accomplish things, drives them to their goals.

Well, that's great, but I can't help but thinking Mr. Trick might have an ulterior motive for this speech. This is the third time a vampire has ordered a set of assassins in in order to kill the slayer: the Master brought in the Three and Spike brought in the Order of Taraka before this point. We don't know exactly how these things worked, but I kinda figure that the Master used some kind of religious devotion system, and I assume that Spike either did the same or, more likely, was going to pay the Order of Taraka, probably on completion. Trick, on the other hand, sees that he's got a slayer problem, and decides to turn this problem into an opportunity to profit: rather than paying assassins, he gets the assassins to pay for the opportunity to enter the competition with the chance to win all the money. He avoids all risk to himself, avoids paying any money, almost certainly skims a sizable amount off the top of the entry fees, and all but guarantees that most of these dangerous assassins are eliminated in the course of competing. Trick is the casino owner talking about the nobility of gambling while he counts his winnings. The people who don't kill the slayers either die or go home much poorer for having taken part in this competition, and then are led to believe that this is their fault for not being the best one at slayer-killing.

That competition is a mug's game is reinforced by the way Buffy and Cordelia ultimately defeat the Slayerfest competitors. Had these competitors put aside their differences and focused on how to hunt down and kill the slayers, I think they would have had a very good, maybe even great, chance at taking the slayers down (well, Buffy and Cordelia, that is). But they keep getting divided against each other, fighting each other for a taste of the big pie, needing to get all the wealth even more badly because they've given up money even to enter into the thing in the first place. This inability to work together because of the obsession with competition and the competitive impulse even manifests in the brothers shooting each other dead, late in the game.

Tracking the "who actually benefits?" question with the Homecoming competition, there is no fully obvious Mr. Trick analogue in the Buffy/Cordelia battle. I can't help but think that tux renters and dressmakers and limousine companies stand to benefit the most from the kind of high school memories that only money can buy. But I guess if I start following that route I stand a chance of writing a screed that loses touch with reality; suggesting that Homecoming itself is a sham, that manufactured "events" at the high school level don't serve the emotional purposes they are supposed to serve and are part of the capitalist engine is suggesting an exploitative conspiracy when there are just kids wanting to have fun and good memories. I don't want to be like Homer Simpson in this exchange I thought of while thinking through this paragraph:


MARGE: Maybe we should let the dog in.
HOMER: Marge, dogs love the outdoors.
[Shot of the dog whimpering in pain and cold outside]
MARGE: I think he needs a doghouse.
HOMER: What can you do?
MARGE: I bet we could buy a nice doghouse for $50.
HOMER: Marge, you're a tool of the doghouse makers.
MARGE: I am not.
HOMER: Yes, you are. You've been brainwashed by all those doghouse commercials on TV.

- from episode "Bart the Lover"

Still, whoever benefits from the Homecoming competition between Buffy and Cordelia, one thing is for sure: it's not Buffy or Cordelia. They don't quite shoot each other to death like the rifle brothers, but Scoobyville goes from relative stability to a war zone, where the two are fighting over the three people (Willow, Xander and Oz) who actually represent their only social network from the peer group of other students these days. And for what? Cordelia wants to maintain her popularity and, I guess, is self-deceived enough in these pre-"The Wish" episodes that her popularity hasn't taken a hit from hanging out with the very losers who Cordelia up until recently helped ensure were socially isolated. Buffy, on the other hand, tells us what she wants:


Buffy: Because this is all I do. This is what my life is. (lowers her head and steps into the room) You couldn't understand. (shrugs) I just
thought... Homecoming Queen. (smiles) (Cordelia keeps respectfully silent) I could pick up a yearbook someday and say, I was there. I went to high school, I had friends, and... for one moment, I got to live in the world. (smiles) And there'd be proof. Proof that I was chosen for something other than this.

This is good. This is valuable. Buffy wants the races of a "normal life" that she'd left behind, but she also just wants to be appreciated, to show that those years of her life spent at high school were not wasted or "lost years," that she can have some kind of symbolic representation, in the yearbook or hanging up in her closet, that carries all the meaning of human connection and community. She wants it so badly because she's missed so much of her high school years, is mostly socially isolated from all but a tiny clique of other students, feels constantly as if the majority of students view her in the terms Cordelia uses, when things get heated -- freak. She wants to feel that she matters, that she is important to other people.

The question I have about this is whether becoming Homecoming Queen would in any meaningful way reflect these desires. Some of this is because I'm not actually sure what the democratically elected Homecoming monarch is supposed to do. What is the basis for becoming Homecoming king or queen? Being awesome? Being hot? Someone you'd like to have with you at Agincourt? My high school didn't have homecoming at all, let alone a king or queen, and I forget whether there was a prom king or queen. Anyway, the thing is that the Homecoming king/queen is a paradoxical position: it's a way of proving that one is an important part of a community by symbolically being the community's ruler, with, as far as I can tell, none of the power and none of the responsibility associated with being the ruler, but a brief period of getting all kinds of attention and having people hold you up as the "best," which is to say, "most popular," which is to say...?, person of your gender in the graduating class.

So in order to achieve her dream of getting symbolic recognition of her time in high school, Buffy starts a campaign designed to fake close friendships with people she couldn't care less about, bribe people into voting for her, an start muckraking her opponents, including the opponent who happens to be her friend. Her list of weaknesses for Cordelia, on the board, includes "Xander," and she shares this board while trying to get Xander's help to destroy his own girlfriend's campaign. The thing is, had Buffy actually won the competition, would she actually particularly enjoy the symbolic victory of being "Homecoming Queen," which proves that her ability to bribe people into "liking" her and her ability to tear down other girls for shallow reasons was good enough. The thing is, these qualities are not ones that Buffy *actually* admires in herself -- or to the extent that she does, they're ones that Buffy mostly rejects. I view Cordelia as being more internally consistent, because I think she's definitely being shallow, but knows that she's shallow and spends more time valuing her shallowness, whereas I think Buffy is bringing out her shallowness as a weapon in order to trick herself into believing that she's achieving meaning.

The thing is, all that the Homecoming-industrial complex does is convince Buffy that she has to buy meaning, and forces her away from actual connection. Her friends become commodities, pawns used by her and Cordelia against each other. Willow and Xander are trapped by their own guilt and are caught in the Buffy-Cordy crossfire, and they only escape by leaving a message for Buffy-Cordy that they should work things out and be friends again, a message which, curiously, mirrors the message Trick leaves for the two of them that they are the Chosen Two versus a league of assassins. Willow & Xander actually mean well in putting Buffy & Cordy together, and Trick means for them to die (and for Cordy to have been Faith!) but the effect is the same -- the recognition that they have a common enemy, and that the resources they are fighting over, i.e. their friends, are something they can actually share, allows them to get past their rivalry and into a position of connection once again.

I guess I'm hypocritical for supporting Willow & Xander's trick on Buffy & Cordy when I criticized Giles for his trick in "Faith, Hope & Trick" to get Buffy to 'fess up about Acathla. But, well, I kind of like the limo idea better because Buffy & Cordy do learn that they've been played and why, rather than being forever kept in the dark about how they've been manipulated. I am okay with Giles' action ultimately, too; and with W&X, I think it's a maneuver that's earned by the severity of the Buffy/Cordy blowout combined with the actual silliness of the idea that they should be in competition. They should be friends, and I think that W&X recognize on some level that they do share something that W&X can't touch -- Buffy & Cordy are girls who were once extremely popular, and used that shallow popularity as a substitute for their real hunger for personal connection. Their beauty and charisma made it easier, and, in desperate times, still makes it easier to go for getting a lot of people to revere them than to get a small group of people to love them, and being able to recognize this trait in each other and relate to each other allows them to move past this bump.

Really, I think that Buffy's attempt to run for Homecoming Queen is kind of silly -- Buffy feels that she's missing out on the high school experience, and her way of compensating is to be THE BEST AND MOST POPULAR GIRL IN SCHOOL! in like a week with no particular warning and after having not particularly participated in the high school social scene. I think that Buffy even thought she could become Homecoming Queen is kind of telling, because it's notable that most people have almost no chance of winning that type of competition, let alone people who have been out of school. The things that make Buffy actually exceptional are her heroism, which she very pointedly does not try to use with the main rabble of the Sunnydale High populace, though she does use it to convince Willow to betray Cordelia for her.

What I think is notable is that the thing that Buffy really wants is the recognition of the way her actual high school experience -- which consisted of a few close friendships and an incredible amount of self-sacrifice and saving lives -- ends up coming to fruition in "The Prom," when she's not fighting for it. Part of "Homecoming's" purpose, I think, is in setting up that glorious moment in "The Prom" where Buffy gets the full recognition she deserves, and it's the recognition that Buffy didn't ask for. Look, I think that it's important to ask for what you need in life, but when it comes to symbols representing your part of a broader community, "earning" that symbol without recognizing it after performing yet another act to help others is a hell of a lot more meaningful than trading off shallow signifiers of popularity and manipulating or attacking one's friends for an ultimately meaningless crown.

That Buffy & Cordy bond over being former Queens cut down to size, at least a little bit, Willow & Xander are dealing as former nerds who are suddenly flowering into adulthood. And it's weird and scary. In the episode immediately preceding this one, Willow's boyfriend was a likely suspect for a brutal killing. Xander and Cordelia are getting serious -- and they're a relationship whose entire foundation was a series of angry arguments. They have serious relationships with attractive and beautiful people who are also quite scary. And they see each other as children who have been beaten down and convinced of their worthlessness by a hostile world. I get the criticism of the story, but I think it works well that Willow and Xander are fundamentally afraid of how fast their lives are changing, sort of recognizing that they are losing touch with each other as they grow up, and that they don't even entirely recognize themselves as attractive, beautiful people. There is something comforting about being able to share the fundamental change in their lives. Just as I think that they recognize that Buffy & Cordelia share something that they can't quite touch, they share something that they can't quite share with their partners. Willow has wanted this, with Xander, for years, and it really makes sense to me that she retreats to that when things get scary. And Xander just self-sabotages all the time.

I also think that the Clothes Fluke appearing in this episode adds an interesting wrinkle to the idea of competition. Because for all that I think the episode overall argues that cooperation is superior to competition, and that even the idea of competition is often used as a way of manipulating people, there is also another side to that: sometimes you do have to make a choice. There are some resources that are in too short a supply to split, and some roles in people's lives that can only be filled by one person. Willow, Xander & Oz can either help Cordelia or Buffy, but not both. And since none of these high schoolers is at the point of considering polyamory, they have to make a choice. Buffy cannot date both Scott and Angel. Willow cannot date both Xander and Oz. Xander cannot date both Cordelia and Willow. Buffy, Willow and Xander all "know" who the choice they believe they want is -- Buffy wants Scott and then No Guy At All, Willow Oz, Xander Cordelia. But then secret desires are hard to keep down.

I think that Buffy/Willow/Xander's conception of what the "right" choice is -- Buffy knows she shouldn't date Angel again, Willow and Xander both "know" that they "should" not want to betray their current partners -- gets in the way of being able to actually make a complete and total decision. It may be that it is objectively the "right" choice for Buffy to forsake Angel and for Willow and Xander to forsake each other, but I think in all three cases Buffy/Willow/Xander are so focused on their "knowledge" and "guilt" that these are the "wrong" choices that they are not able to step forward and seriously consider what they do want. And, well...I think Willow really genuinely does prefer Oz as a romantic partner to Xander, but her problem is that she can't be entirely honest with herself about the depth of her desire for Xander, and as a result tries to suppress it rather than dealing with it honestly with herself -- sitting down and talking to herself (and to Buffy?) about what she really wants. Similarly, I think Buffy really "knows" on some level that she really can't be with Angel -- not anymore, not after what happened, not with the risks. But I don't think she's really done the work of considering the depth of her desire for him and deciding that even with all that desire, it's still the right choice to stay away. I don't know if I'm being clear here; Buffy and Willow, in particular, have secret affairs which they end, and want to end, in "Lovers Walk," once they are exposed (and, in particular, once the emotional component is either directly or indirectly revealed by Spike). They intellectually know even as of "Homecoming" that they should stave off the secret desire, but I think that they pretend that the desire is not even there, or is some force they can't control, rather than wrestle with it directly. Xander is...a little more complicated, because I don't think Xander has any clue what he really wants or what decision he should make. When she's faced with the possibility of losing Oz, Willow really snaps to Oz being her priority. Xander...I think he really doesn't know, and accepts the one-two punch of Cordy rejecting him entirely and Willow pushing him to not even touch her anymore so her hands, her everything, can be for Oz only as demonstration of his lack of worth. Buffy may lose her certainty that she and Angel must stay away from each other shortly after "Lovers Walk," but for a short time I think that Buffy and Willow both get real certainty there that they lack here. Xander I don't think gets that kind of illumination at all.

In some ways, real honesty about what is at stake, and a willingness for parties to even, on some level, "fight it out," hopefully not with actual fighting, might have saved these couples a lot of pain. It would be extremely difficult for Willow and Xander to tell Oz and Cordelia about the kissing fluke, but if they did tell them that and talked openly about it and about the fact that they weren't sure what their feelings were, there could be some kind of actual decision made about who they felt would be the best romantic partners for them. I don't think the fact that Willow/Oz and Xander/Cordy were couples already should totally trump Willow/Xander as a possibility -- it's not ideal, but if that is really what Willow and Xander want, I think it's not a betrayal to break up with their partners and pursue that, if they do so honestly. But I think they can't do that honestly because even considering it seems like a betrayal, and so they end up hurting their lovers even worse because their commitment to their chosen course of action is shakier. The same happens/will happen with Buffy and her Angel secret. Sometimes people have to get hurt. Some things and some people can't be shared. Willow & Xander, and Buffy with her Angel secret, hide from it here. Cooperation isn't everything.

We're looking at this episode, and this season, about the difference between democracy as ideal and democracy as it is sadly often practiced: the high school class honouring what Buffy means to them, versus Buffy using dirty tricks to manipulate people into voting for her. And so we meet the Mayor in the episode in which we understand the shallowness and vapidity of an electoral campaign and the way it actually transforms heroic individuals into children faking friendships with relative strangers and screaming low-blow insults at each other ("freak"/"whore!"), and in which Trick convinces a bunch of assassins to pay for their chance to die. The Mayor's campaign is to work up to eating the Sunnydale graduating class in plain daylight: this season suggests that politics as it is practiced is the process by which people are manipulated into acting against their own interests.

Emmie
17-09-14, 08:38 PM
Here's my feminist spin on the question: "Who benefits from the Homecoming Queen race?"

If competition is the name of the game, and Buffy and Cordelia don't benefit, I'll suggest that this exemplifies the in-fighting between women in society who are schooled to compete for men's attention. Being beautiful, popular, the belle of the ball -- it's all about being the most desirable object.

How's that quote go? "Winners go home and nail the Prom Queen." Being voted the Queen means you're the most desirable girl in school.

This takes us back to what it means to be the most popular girl in school. What was Cordelia's endgame back in Season 1? Marry a rich guy, look beautiful, rule her social class. And how does she do that? By cutting down other women (and Xander).

That's a feature of a patriarchal society. Women turn against each other in the hopes of gaining the attention of men. Think about Buffy flirting and offering boys home-baked cupcakes to go along with her fifties style dress and hair.

So with women totally preoccupied with competing against each other for male attention in the gender conformist, societally expected manner, what are they not competing for? Jobs. Education. Athletic honors.

What makes it so great in BtVS is that the demonic patriarchy (as opposed to the subversive reality we live day in day out as the norm) comes a-calling and there's no way to not see the detrimental affects of in-fighting in a life or death scenario, forcing Buffy and Cordelia to fight together as opposed to fighting each other.

Along these lines of women vs. women (including Buffy vs. Faith at the end of the season with Angel complicating it all), I love fast-forwarding to Season 7 and women fighting alongside women, tossing the Scythe around the battle in Chosen. Like the end of Mean Girls, when everyone gets a piece of the crown because we are all Homecoming Queens.

Local Maximum
18-09-14, 08:38 PM
Re: Emmie's point:

Love! And I think that's appropriate then that Trick leaves that video beginning with the semi-seductive "HELLO, LADIES" about how Buffy and "Faith" (Cordelia) are, as slayers, naturally pieces of meat to be fought over by predators. The idea that the Homecoming race is training women to tear each other apart and cook and flatter men in order to win the coveted prize of being most desirable object is not all that different from what, you know, SlayerFest '98 is.

We focus on the Queen race, but I wonder what the Homecoming King race would be like? Is Larry out there talking about how great it is to make out with women amirite?, in order to win his own brand of ill-fitting group approval? (I initially talked about him flexing macho-ly here, but I edited it because I think Larry really is "authentically" athletic and into sports and not putting that thing on.) Or is he already "out," and, by being out, out of the running? Or is there some kind of equivalent of the Class Protector gift for Buffy in The Prom -- some kind of competition going on that really is about honouring people, rather than training them to work hard to fill the roles that "society" has apparently slotted them into?

Dipstick
21-09-14, 03:21 AM
I haven't pitched in much for the last two eps! It's been busy in IRL. But here's my review of Band Candy.

I don't have a lot to say about this ep. The ep is funny but kind of dumb. For one, I don't quite believe teenage-minded!Giles pursuing forty something looking Joyce instead of trying to seduce a young, beautiful woman. I understand teen-minded!Joyce being into forty-something looking Giles better because ASH is more impressive looking for all ages. (KS is a nice looking but she's not the female equivalent of ASH like Robia was). And I see teen!Joyce having that older, strong man fetish. However, Ripper wasn't really into older women. Even fully adult Giles goes after younger, beautiful women (Jenny, Olivia,....Anya) and totally judges women for looking older (Maggie Walsh- "that old fishwife!") Call it sexist- but that's how I see the characters.

I also don't get why every adult in town had to be reverted to their teenager selves for a relatively straight-forward theft of babies from the hospitals. It'd be smarter to disable everyone in the maternity ward. However, that's more easily blamed on Ethan Rayne and I do think that the Mayor shares my contempt for this dumb plan. Though, it's a big competence downgrade for Mr. Trick from FH&T and Homecoming. The Mayor did take on a big risk by taking on wildcard, self-interested Mr. Trick as an adviser/independent planner right before his Ascension. The Mayor had done so well in building up to his Ascension and running Sunnydale. It's not clear to me why he took on a new brains of the operation, other than the SlayerFest really was very impressive. However, I can see that the Mayor really changed how he managed Faith from Mr. Trick and the Mayor totally preferred the Faith-arrangement. The Mayor kept Faith on a much tighter leash to use her for the muscles and field-tactical ideas but never as a strategist on important independent projects. The Mayor only gave Faith Ascension information in little dribs and drabs.

I also don't like how Oz/Cordy/Xander/Willow are locked in the library for just one short scene for the second half of the ep. I think we could have learned more interesting things about teen!Giles if he interacted with the teen!Scoobs to effectively contrast how he works and socializes. Attaching Ripper to Joycie's pelvis offers a limited glimpse of Teen!Giles the Seducer but precious little else.

Joyce/Ripper!Giles could be a positive spin on Buffy/Angel. Joyce is somewhat of a Buffy-analogue. We can imagine that Joyce gets down on Buffy and typically suspects the flightiest, most irresponsible reason for Buffy's actions because Joyce, herself, was a rather flighty, irresponsible teen. Buffy is actually far more mature as a teen but she shares some of Joyce's flightiness. Perhaps fighting the forces of darkness every night messed with Buffy's fear spidey senses but she was beyond irresponsible with driving in this ep, even for a teen.

Ripper and Angel are bad boys. However, we know that underneath the Ripper issues, Giles is a good man. Paralleling Giles and Angel implies that the same good man truism is true under the beastliness of Angelus and Feral!Angel. In some ways, Giles is an argument against Bangel because Angel devastates Giles in S2 and S8. In other ways, Giles's....repeated choice to condone Angel and positive mirroring Angel and Giles really works in Angel's favor. It's a mixed bag.

Local_Max discussed how Beauty and Beasts questions whether women really do want monster in their man. I read a novel (I think Marjorie Morningstar) where the son-of-a-bitch romantic interest rather memorably described why "good girls" go for "bad boys". Even rule-following, conventional success driven women see a "bad boy" as a strong personality who can take competitors on. The woman fantasizes of taking all of that independence and strength of personality in a guy and transforming it into a mate that can compete and protect and provide on a high-energy, high-strength level. To some extent, that's the appeal of Ripper and Angel to their teams and even to their lovers (Joyce for Ripper, all of Angel's love interests and most all of the women that crushed on him). Bad boy Ripper can steal the outfit for Joyce. "I'll keep you my dirty little secret" Angel does Tai-Chi like a perfectly coordinated, rippling muscle superhero.

However, Angel and Giles also share a vibe that perhaps their bad boy coolness isn't indicative of a strong personality. Perhaps, it's indicative of indolence and an risk of not being there when the going gets tough. Amends really delves into this with Angel. Ironically, Giles points out that Angel lost his soul because he lost focus on what he was and keeping others safe from him. The First belabors the point that Angelus/Angel stemmed directly from lazy, self-centered Liam. A lot of humans' and major forces' efforts center on betting on Angel as the uber-motivated, strong force for Good or Evil. But what if that super-powered mysterious Tai Chi sexy cool is a product of Liam not caring very much about building a life and then, the product in Angel being pretty ambivalent about actually doing anything?

For Watchers, it's interesting to compare Teen!Wesley in Spin the Bottle and Teen!Giles here. Ironically, Teen!Wesley comes off like a silly flibbertygibit in large part because he *badly* wanted his uber-bad ass, tough-as-nails mythic destiny/career. By contrast, Teen!Giles comes off as totally cool and bad ass because he's doing all he can to drop out of his dangerous, crushing, impossible mythic destiny/career. IMO, Teen!Giles was afraid and he had a genuine and admirable disaste for violence. Giles disguised his deep down fear and IMO, distaste for violence by getting involved in dangerous, dark magic. However, it was drug-like black magic specifically designed to numb Giles to the realities of the world. And he had no stomach for hurting others through magic. "You cried at every funeral."

Giles worked and sacrificed a lot as a Watcher in the last two years and even into S3, although here's where he starts winding down his effort for Team Good but up-ticking his superficial "cool" level at the same time through S3-6.

Both Giles and Joyce have tried leaving a more staid, serious, nerdy impression of their younger selves with Buffy. Giles kept his whole Ripper!self a secret until Eygohn forced the truth out. Joyce spun herself as a Yearbook nerd who was kind of a wallflower as a role model for her seemingly trouble-making, secretive but uncomfortably attractive "tutoring sessions" with a college boy daughter.

Joyce: I was, uh, photo editor. I got to be on every page, made me look much more popular than I was.

Joyce: Says who? Is it written somewhere? You should do what you want.
Homecoming, my freshman year of college. I didn't have a date, so I got
dressed up and I went anyway.
Buffy: Was it awful?
Joyce: It was awful. For about an hour.
Buffy: Then what happened?
Joyce: (smiles) I met your father.

Although, Joyce did give an indication of the Joyce that we see in this ep- pretty sexually free with attention from the right guy.

Buffy: He didn't have a date either?
Joyce: He did. And that's a much funnier story that you will *not* get to hear. Oh, but it was a beautiful night! (exhales)

I don't know what the story was but Joyce is pretty fond about how her philandering husband who presumably broke up their marriage with his cheating happened to leave his date for Joyce right at the Homecoming dance. :lol:

vampmogs
21-09-14, 01:34 PM
Great review Dipstick!

I would have to say that I find Bandy Candy to be one of the most overrated episodes of BtVS (the other is Tabula Rasa). I mean, I like it well enough but I don't find it that funny and I agree with Dipstick that the premise is actually pretty silly. Why go to all the trouble of turning the entire adult population into teenagers just so they can steal some babies from a hospital ward? Since when do vampires need a diversion when they could have just walked into the place and killed anyone in their way? They've certainly never had any problem attacking The Bronze on numerous occasions, or orphanages, or parties etc. My other problem is that the adults feel like caricatures of teenagers rather than believable, authentic portrayals of what teenagers are like. Whilst it's true that Buffy the gang are more mature than your average high school kid thanks in large part to what they've seen and been through, the way the adults are portrayed is pretty unbelievable. It's entirely possible the magic candy magnified these adolescent traits but it's unclear and it takes me out of the episode a little.

Buffy is being really unfair pitting Giles and Joyce against each other so she can keep Angel a secret. As I said in my post on Beauty and the Beasts, I get that the more time that passes the harder it is for Buffy to come clean but the problem is Buffy is having to lie more and more and those lies are getting less sympathetic over time. I wouldn't say Buffy enjoys having this secret because I genuinely believe her in Revelations when she tells Willow that keeping Angel a secret was "too much pressure" and "even made the fun parts less fun", but it doesn't look great seeing her ogle sweaty, shirtless Angel far afar. I do think a part of Buffy liked keeping Angel a secret because seeing him was an escape from the pressure she felt Giles and Joyce were putting on her at home/school.

It's easy to feel for Cordelia the most throughout the Willow/Xander affair. I think the writer's devote more time to Cordy's feelings for Xander probably because the audience may mistake her snarks/insults as lack of love/care for him whereas Oz is more obvious and less complicated in showing his affections. But I also feel it's because Cordy has given up a lot more than Oz to be with Xander. It's really hard to watch her talk to Buffy about "B.C" ('before Xander') whilst Xander and Willow play footsies under the table. She just seems so smitten with him here and it comes right off the back of telling Buffy in Homecoming that she loves him :(

I must say I also find the logic of this episode pretty 'iffy' that Buffy deduces that something must be wrong because all the vamps are absent when the teenager-adults are prowling the streets. First off, we see just a handful of vamps go to the hospital and certainly not the entire vamp population in Sunnydale. Secondly, not all vampires work for the Mayor and it's only his henchmen involved in the sacrifice plot. And lastly, whilst we occasionally do see vampires attack large groups of humans at random it's a lot more common that they'll "pick off some straggler, some stray", so it doesn't make sense that Buffy finds it suspect that they're not attacking swarms of humans even if it is night.

I do LOVE the scene of Buffy/Willow in the car. That felt like a very authentic portrayal of teenage life. I just find Willow's nervousness so adorable and it's great to see Buffy's excitement over getting the key's to Joyce's car and I find her poor driving endearing, really. I'm not sure I agree with Dipstick that Buffy's driving is evidence of her being irresponsible as whilst she was certainly a bad driver I don't think she's deliberately driving dangerously or 'hooning' (the term we use in Australia) because it's fun. The comedy of that scene is that she's pretty oblivious to how badly she's driving and Willow's too polite (and probably wanting to appear carefree and cool) to tell her.

I love Willow's concern that the adults at the Bronze could have heart attacks and that she's not even being snarky but actually totally sincere :lol: A great way to emphasize the gap between teenagers and adults and how they perceive the adults in their life.

I do enjoy seeing Ripper and young!Joyce and both actors clearly have a lot fun with the scenes but, again, it feels more like a caricature of how they would have been rather than a realistic portrayal of their teenage-selves. It's just incredibly OTT and it takes me out of their scenes. I actually think young!Snyder makes the character more sympathetic seeing how lively, outgoing and desperate for friendship/belonging he was as a teenager. It's what Buffy picked up on back in Becoming II ("You never ever got a single date in high school, did you?") as the reason why Snyder was so bitter, resentful and jaded in adulthood. As a teenager he is pretty gross and sadly I get why his peers wouldn't have wanted to hang around him but it is sad nonetheless :(

I do find it interesting that Buffy and Cordy are sitting next to each other in study class and that Cordy isn't seated next to Xander instead, which I'd expect. I can't decide if that's a result of them growing closer after Homecoming or if it's because Xander and Willow have maneuvered things so that they can sit next to each other. At any rate Buffy and Cordy seem fine chatting to each other and sitting close which I found really nice.

A little off topic but it relates to Band Candy;

I understand that these things don't bother most people but one thing I dislike about S3 is the Mayor's vampire henchmen. They're all so generic looking and bland in their black mobster attire. Every season has vamps that are just stake-fodder but the vampires in S3 seem to be seriously lacking in personality, if that makes any sense. It certainly doesn't help that the same stunt men are being used every scene and it's very obvious (how many times does Buffy need to stake the big beefy guy with the large forehead or the vamp with the long, black pointy tail? lol). And the vampire makeup this season seems a little off. Their faces are so ugly looking and not in a monstrous and interesting way but in a 'we're barley even trying' kind of way. And that includes even Angel's game face which they actually talk about on the DVD's. At the beginning of AtS they made a decision to update DB'S prosthetics and give him a new game-face design because by the end of BtVS S3 they admit that his was seriously lacking. I wonder what was happening behind the scenes this season because as far as I know the makeup team stayed the same throughout the years but there's a noticeable drop in quality from S2-S3 before it picks up again in S4 (at least when it comes to the vampires. The demons in S3 look rather good). So, yeah, it's just a personal preference but I find the vampire lackeys this season dull-looking, indistinguishable and lacking in personality. It makes the fight scenes dull and turning the vamps into mobster henchmen loses the horror element which I prefer.

I'm also not a fan of the fight scenes in early S3. They improve greatly midway through the year but they're lacking in physicality in these early episodes. It's another thing I find odd because it's the same stunt team throughout S2-S4 but whilst you really 'feel' the punches in S2 the fights in early S3 feel so staged and overly choreographed. The punches don't feel or look like they're landing and they rely way too much on the stunt double instead of getting SMG to do as many of the stunts as possible. They do improve a lot midway through the season but in episode such as Band Candy they're pretty tedious and a chore to watch. I can't be just imagining it either because I noticed that in Australia at least, the BtVS boxsets have a higher rating for the S2 fights (moderate level violence) than the S3 fights (low level violence).

Dipstick
21-09-14, 02:20 PM
Great comments, vampmogs. I agree with most of your points. I also loled at Willow's, "They could have heart attacks. I also have love for:


Willow: Maybe there's a reunion in town or, or a Billy Joel tour or something.


On a minor point, though:


I'm not sure I agree with Dipstick that Buffy's driving is evidence of her being irresponsible as whilst she was certainly a bad driver I don't think she's deliberately driving dangerously or 'hooning' (the term we use in Australia) because it's fun. The comedy of that scene is that she's pretty oblivious to how badly she's driving and Willow's too polite (and probably wanting to appear carefree and cool) to tell her.

Buffy failed the written test and the DMV wouldn't let her take the road test. I think in pretty much every US state, a person needs to pass the written test to get a learner's permit and drive with an adult in the car. Then, a person needs to pass the road test for an official driver's license to drive alone. Willow's nervousness was apparent to anyone but Buffy was too high on driving to pay attention. She was nonchalant about Willow pointing out a huge-mistake that she left the parking bake on and then, decided that they need music. Buffy wasn't paying attention to driving as safely as possible. She was focused on conversation and putting on music- which is bad on anyone but especially bad for an inexperienced driver who is currently breaking the law by both driving and driving without an adult in the car.

That said, I kind of roll my eyes at Buffy paying for the car repair out of her allowance.


Giles: (sees the dent) I say, your car seems to have had an adventure, doesn't it?

They all look at the severely dented rear door and back panel.

Joyce: Uh, Buffy assures me that it happened battling evil, so I'm letting her pay for it on the installment plan.


First, I don't get how a teen's allowance can pay for the body work of a pretty big dent in a jeep. LOL, at Joyce's installment plan. What teen allowance can pay for that kind of work up-front, even just an auto-insurance deductible and a raise in premiums? Second, Joyce understood that the dent came from battling evil. So, why charge Buffy? Buffy *was* a reckless driver but the actual dent wasn't her fault. As the parent, Joyce failed in her responsibility by unlawfully giving Buffy permission to drive and failing to supervise Buffy so she doesn't commit acts of danger as a minor. Not Joyce's fault because she was under the candy influence. But Joyce, the parent, *did* give her teenage daughter the keys to the jeep and permission to drive it.

Joyce tries me sometimes....

vampmogs
21-09-14, 02:45 PM
Oh fair point about Buffy driving illegally. That's certainly irresponsible so I agree with you on that. My bad.

LOL and good point about Joyce at the end of the episode. Also, in S4 Buffy tells Riley that "Buffy and cars are unmixy things" so I sure hope she's basing that off failing the written test and not Joyce blaming her for the accident which, as you say, wasn't her fault at all. Normally I'd assume she's basing it off failing the test but since it didn't deter her from wanting to still drive in this episode I have to assume it was the car accident which put her off cars. I assume Buffy gets her license eventually (she drives Joyce's jeep in Him) but it's pretty shit if Joyce guilted Buffy into being too afraid to try for years.

Making Buffy pay for the dent even though Joyce acknowledges that it was done fighting evil is up there with Joyce grounding Buffy even though she knew there was a legitimate reason for her not being in the library in Bad Eggs (Joyce believed that there really was a gas leak).

Stoney
22-09-14, 03:13 AM
Well done Dipstick on writing an interesting review for an episode that is pretty poor. Great point about the simpler way they could have addressed their plotting to steal the babies and an interesting comparison with Giles and Wes in Spin The Bottle.

I do like Snyder in the ep and tend to find him amusing throughout, particularly his delivery of “Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!”, ha. His characterisation feels the best in having him trying to press his importance and position but showing how he tries to ingratiate himself to those he feels are the ones in charge around him at the same time. But, somewhat still for him and definitely for the others, the rest do seem like caricatures as vamps said. Especially Giles who just irritates me continuously.

Also, I’m really tired of Ethan and I don’t think it makes a great deal of sense considering his previous encounters that he comes back readily for this as a paid job. He talks about it like a business deal and without showing any glee towards the chaos it brings with it and that seems ooc. It was made pretty clear on his last visits that he is somewhat scared of Giles so I can only assume he thought Giles would be unconcerned by his presence as that was the intention of the chocolate, and so he risked making someone who has a personal grudge against him more unpredictable and just hoped it wouldn’t be a problem. This is before you get into the plan he is helping them with focussing on keeping the adults away but not including any way of dealing with the two active slayers they know are in Sunnydale too!!? :confused3:

As you have both said there are some sizable holes and the logic is so patchy it is just frustrating. The adults are being more than just ‘teenagers’ as they are being pretty extreme in their behaviour as if it is making them high or some such to make them so blasé and carefree. But if that is true and there is something ‘extra’ to it, then it makes no sense whatsoever that it doesn’t also affect the teenagers who eat the chocolate too. The adults are supposedly so unaware that they couldn’t care less suddenly about their children/babies and yet both Giles and Snyder show that they are pretty aware of their roles and responsibilities still but are just opting to ignore them. So we are saying these teenagers could all genuinely be guaranteed to disregard the care of the infants? Really?? Also, they are being immature beyond what the teenagers around them are displaying and yet they are depicting them drinking, smoking and having sex. So what age are the adults supposed to be acting then? It is all just clashing terribly. Plus, as a naturally very protective parent, I saw nothing that would lead me to believe that the instinct to care for your newborn would be overruled to go to the bronze. I think you would have to revert to infant levels of maturity to remove absolutely any awareness of the importance of that responsibility and clearly they didn’t do that. It just really doesn’t work.

I also agree on the issue with Joyce and the car. I think it is completely unreasonable to have Buffy paying for that and reprimanding her when, as you say, she had permission to take it, it wasn’t her fault and she really couldn’t pay for those kind of costs surely anyway.

I also find the Angel/Buffy of the episode far too hammy. The t’ai chi looked really awkward to me as if the concentration on tensing his muscles stopped the liquid flow that should have been on display and the following weak stumble just looks fake. It will be interesting to see how their session together looks on the rewatch because I don’t remember that having such an awkwardness to it like this did. That Buffy has got herself in such a mess with this now that she is lying and trying to manipulate everyone is just bad. But I did feel sorry for her that when she tried to speak to Joyce/Giles openly and pretty maturely about needing some trust/space they just closed her down. It is of course undermined by the fact that she is hiding something so important but the point was, in a general sense, a fair one.

The Willow/Xander footsie and thumb caress really irritated me. I think they were supposed to be funny but the way they are behaving and treating Cordelia/Oz is so far removed from funny that I just find the play towards it grating.

I don’t think I am observant enough to notice the repeating stunt people/henchmen vamps but completely believe you. I do think the vamp make up is bad at this point. Trick always looks like he gains a thyroid problem to me, they do a really strange bulging eye thing with him and it distracts me from what is happening every time they do it.

But to end on a positive note, Oz’s hair looks really cool.

vampmogs
22-09-14, 04:42 AM
Just from memory the vamp with the pony tail appears in Becoming I, Faith Hope & Trick and The Wish. The beefy looking vamp appears in Band Candy, The Wish, Lovers Walk and Choices. The vampire Buffy stakes at the beginning of Halloween is the same stuntman that fights Buffy in Becoming II. The vampire Buffy stakes in B,B&B is the same vamp Buffy and Spike kill in Becoming II and appears in Choices. I get that it's impractical to get a new stunt man for every fight scene but when they have such distinct features (like a long slick black ponytail) it'd have been nice to style them differently or mask their features in some way :lol:

Oddly enough I really don't notice this problem a lot in S5-S7 except for in OMWF when the two vampires that Buffy stakes in the cemetery are the same guys playing the dancing painters in the Giles/Xander/Anya scene. I think this is probably a combination of a lot of things; a new stunt team, a lot more closeups on the vampires, more of the stake-fodder vamps actually have brief lines or personalities etc. I think it only becomes really noticeable in S3 because they tend to dress the vampires in the same 'mobster' outfits for most of the season and the makeup is more noticeably bad (especially on the beefy vamp) so it feels like Buffy is just dusting clones of the same guy.

Yeah, I've watched this show way too much :lol:

I'm surprised that all 3 of us are pretty lukewarm on this ep. In my experience it usually seems to be a fandom-favourite which is why I called it overrated. I'm glad I'm not alone in finding it to be one of the weaker episodes of S3 and of Espenson's scripts (which is understandable as it was her first!).

Emmie
22-09-14, 10:25 PM
Dipstick -- Wonderful review of Band Candy. I've always found it to be a fun romp, but you're right that there's not much there to dig into. One comment though: I'm not so sure Giles (teen or otherwise) has a distaste for violence so much as a fear for his capacity for violence. I think he understands how Buffy, Faith, and eventually Willow can learn to like the feeling of power and self-satisfaction that comes with violence and dominance.

Sorry, I just can't stop thinking of teen!Giles urging Buffy to "punch" Ethan and then jumping gleefully when she did it. I think Giles has a distaste for loss, but he finds violence and the principle underlying violence, chaos, to be tantalizing. That's really the crux for me with his character, why he's such a wild figure in youth who becomes so rigidly self-contained. Because he has a great capacity to love chaos, but he hates loss more and loss is the inevitable result of embracing chaos. So he cultivates the parts of him that love order instead after being so tragically burned by his chaos love affair.

cil_domney
23-09-14, 06:09 AM
I want to watch the episode again before I do more extensive comments but one thing that really sticks with me is the issue of Parents/Adults and the abrogation of their parental duties as symbolized in the incredible contrast of the "privileged CoW retreat" and the misery and dismal economic existence of Faith. Even if we never found out about Faith's family history, we know that the Head Hanchos/Guardians of the Slayer live in luxury or have economic secure lives compared to the hardships that we see of their Slayers. I can't help but wonder about Faith's Watcher and her support of Faith was if what we end up is one of their Slayers having no visible means of support that she would end up having to beg favors from that sleaze ball motel manager just to have a place to stay the night.

Plus, poor Joyce or any parent whose child is placed in such extreme danger by an organization that is dedicated to the protection of humans and their world but who yet does not have the sensibility and respect for the parent/child relationship that would not even tell Joyce; insist that Buffy not tell her mother that she is a Slayer and this huge transformation and extremely dangerous life changes. If the friggin Council of Watcher had supported Buffy, as had Merrick, Joyce and Hank would never had sent Buffy of to that asylum/clinic.

I have never blamed Joyce for her reaction to Buffy revelations about her life and her being a Slayer because the CoW and Giles stacked everything against Joyce and the natural parent/child relationship. That Faith had that happen to her with her parents and then again as a Slayer makes it even more of a crime against Slayers and with Buffy and Faith. Even with Kendra, whose family, in contrast to Joyce, are fully accepting of Kendra's life dedicated to The Slayers, it is still, IMO, a break of what is the normal parent/child relationship.

Even with Giles, the adult figure of authority for Buffy as her Watcher - one of his great failure from the perspective of Parent/Child/Protector is his easy acceptance of his very young girl Slayer becoming involved with his years and years older and years and years life experienced man/vampire. While the premise/metaphor of the series for these earlier seasons is the horrors and very real difficulties of the teenage and high school years are, a lot of the troubles that Buffy and Faith, as well as her inner circle of teen warriors, are very much directly related to the adult/parent/guardians.

And while Faith must be held responsible, and eventually does accepted her responsibility for her actions, she may have been saved from turning to The Mayor if the CoW and their representatives had taken more care with Faith. We see the same total lack of care for the Slayers and the demands on their lives well into series and and to it's end with all the misery that Buffy continues to suffer from the lack of economic support from the CoW.

Good to have finally got up on the episodes - excellent discussions by all for this re-watch. It's good to watch the series again with the perspective of added years in the fandom and being older.

Another thing that struck me so much more this time is Buffy's time with the counselor and his comments about Love and how easy a love that is out of control can make one it's slave and victim.

Dipstick
23-09-14, 01:05 PM
Great point, Emmie. A part of Giles is definitely attracted to violence. I phrased it wrong. I agree that Giles has more of a problem of the devastation and loss that violence can wreak and Eygohn picking off his friends one by one was definitely part of Giles's realization. However, teen and adult Giles like the feeling of triumph and power and release that violence can bring. Teen!Giles definitely internalized the typical Watcher's triumph of ordering their slayer to do violence like a guided missile in a teenage girl meat-suit all the while he was rebelling against being a Watcher. "You're MY slayer! Now go knock his teeth out!"

I do think that pre-teen!Giles hated the day to day grind of violence and studying violence as a Watcher. There's the A&F S1 flashback story about how a Watchers Academy dangerous hunting party turned him off to the career. It's ironic that Giles chose to instead do dangerous magic and beat up coppers. It does indicate a continued attraction to violence, but Giles's desire for consequence-free spontaneous violence where he gets Joyce's coat with a simple fight and he gets desires with a sweet spell. The opposite of the daily grind of violence and training a teenage girl to do violence and inevitable moral compromises of being a life-long Watcher. It's experiencing consequences and loss and brutality in Ethan's gang that moves Giles back to the consequence/loss/brutal life of a Watcher.

Local Maximum
24-09-14, 04:23 AM
Aw, now I feel like I need to defend Band Candy! Actually, I only feel the need to defend it because I think it's a decent ep. I like it very well. However, I do think it's below average. I just think BtVS average is very good. Great review, Dipstick -- I especially like the Giles/Angel parallels, which brings out some degree of shading of the episode's placement in the season for Buffy's story.

I really agree with Stoney that this is a fun ep for Snyder -- that was one of the big things I was going to mention. I think that Snyder is a little like Andrew, whom we'll see later, in that his response to his unpopularity is to try to fit in with any group that will take him. As a teen, that's the possibility that maybe he can hang out with Ripper and Joyce, and maybe if he's super-lucky Joyce might return his affection for her. As an adult, he's basically grown so separate from fun and joy that he hates any indicators of it, and views his primary purpose in life as the maintaining of order, so that he gets the occasional scraps of approval thrown his way from the Mayor, who is actually just priming him up to eat him. I know we'll get there -- but one of the big ironies is that Snyder's moment of being eaten, which is played as comic, is also on some level one of the rare moments where Snyder's inclinations to define the maintenance of order as the sole purpose of his profession actually turns out to be a good thing -- he is trying, in his own way, to stop the mass murder of his students, and he gets a spine/backbone enough to tell off the Mayor as a super-being only in the last moments of his life, and only because he's hopelessly out of touch with how little his authority actually means. Whoops. But anyway, I think this is a nice payoff to Buffy's "You never had a single date in high school" line in Becoming, and the suggestion that Snyder's seemingly irrational hatred of Buffy and glee in cutting her down is partly because Buffy seems to him to be the type of person who would never have had time for him in high school. Taking a look at the version of Snyder who is trying really hard to ingratiate himself with the cool kids and to find someone who will let him in and have fun shows that he actually did try for a while before he seemingly gave up and became a strict enforcer of a no-fun policy; his hatred of teenagers is because teenagers hated him when he was one.

The general ep ties into the season's themes. The Mayor is making a deal with a demon who eats babies. The baby-eating is an exaggerated version of what the Mayor is planning to do -- eat teenagers. And the fundamental reason that Wilkins can get babies eaten is because the parents in Sunnydale are so negligent. Right now he's greasing the wheels with band candy, with Trick and Ethan as employees. Baby-eating is a bridge too far even for Sunnydale parents. But as we mostly see, Sunnydale parents' ignoring the dangers their kids face by living out a fantasy that their town is mostly normal is a real problem -- and one which is going to lead to the teens getting killed, if the teens don't start defending themselves, with some help from the few savvy adults like Giles, Wesley and Angel. Back in the episode notes, Maggie pointed out that this episode's portrayal of Joyce and Giles failing Buffy through neglect by living out their own teen issues presages the more serious betrayals that we get back-to-back in a few eps, in Gingerbread and Helpless. However, in some ways, those episodes are the opposite of this one. They are not being "negligent" in eps 11-12; they are being proactive in fighting evil and stamping out the threats to Buffy, in such a way that also eventually courts killing Buffy herself. Because I've been quoting Simpsons lately, the pendulum swing reminds me of:


Bart: No offense, Homer, but your half-assed underparenting was a lot more fun than your half-assed overparenting.
Homer: But I'm using my whole ass.

The episode starts with the pendulum all the way into overparenting and smothering, and then they underparent and neglect. Teens are particularly hard to parent because they need to have some freedom but not too much freedom, as this episode demonstrates with Buffy's pretty ridiculous jump to driving a car because her mother said she could -- which itself is both a demonstration of teen irresponsibility when given too much freedom, and a demonstration that Buffy also pretty genuinely believes her mother's word is always valid or right, overriding other concerns.

The general swap of responsibility -- the actual teens have to do the parenting to the teenagers -- has, as I think Spring Summers pointed out, resonance in general for one generation coming to "take over" from the older generation, and the older generation eventually becoming dependents rather than caretakers, late in life. The process happens faster here, obviously. And I think there are resonances here: the band candy makes Giles into a teenager the way his mid-life crisis will have him trying desperately to figure out some way of reaching for youth in season four, and the band candy makes Joyce Buffy's charge the way her illness and at times insanity in season five will.

I do agree that the episode's mechanics are dumb. Like -- okay, wait, the band candy makes them into teenagers, but, like, into teenagers that they were, or some imagined kind of teenager? I don't actually know many teenagers like the people we see in this episode. I think what might happen is that the teens maintain their sense of entitlement to their own power and authority that is left over from their adult days, and recognize that there are no real restraints on their behaviour -- this is what happens to teens who don't have any adequate parenting or authority in their lives! (Take note for the Faith plot.) But that still doesn't quite account for the town being unable to recognize that babies will die if not attended to, you know.

I really especially like Dipstick's and Emmie's comments about Giles. We do get more insight into the way he functioned in A&F, but even within show-canon only there is a real sense that Giles' rebellion against any authority figures ("Ooh, copper's got a gun!") is a rebellion against the constraints of his calling. Pocochina on LJ pointed out that Giles' "You're my slayer now do what I say!" attitude is also basically the Watcher/Slayer dynamic stripped down to its essential, without any of the cozy covering: Giles normally gives arguments or, sometimes, doesn't even bother but he seems like he knows what he's talking about because he's got all that British guy authority, but now he's just a punk telling her to do what he says because do it!!! Which I love. The teen in Giles will take anything he can get, and wants to strut his stuff around and punch out anyone who gives him a hard time, and will take what he wants, but I think it's also all a reaction to the fact that he's destiny's bitch. And on some level if he thinks, even on some half-hearted level, that he can convincingly tell Buffy what to do because she's his slayer, then he must recognize that the Watchers Council can tell him what to do because he's their Watcher.

I do like that he backs down before Buffy's strength, as well -- a kind of instant recognition that, okay, yes, if put to the test, Buffy can beat him up, and fundamentally Giles isn't so into the fighting and the rush of violence that he wants to get badly punched out. Adult Giles will push on against Buffy because he has the sense or sometimes self-deception to believe that his techniques and training are in some way a match for Buffy's strength and intuition. But this is, you know, not true. Giles is smug that Buffy throws the ball in a random direction once he's come up with a totally unfair, ridiculous test for her to do, but it bounces and still hits him. Oops. I think Giles' Ripper version has a greater sense of his limitations, even as he tries much more brazenly to play the cards.

I do really like the Ripper/Joyce romance. I like this portrait of Joyce. She is...kind of daffy in a starry-eyed teen with a bit of a wild side but still kind of shy kind of way. It makes sense that she'd fall for Ripper's tough guy stuff, and beam "That is sooo brave!" at his breaking into a window. Unlike Giles, who has more history coming forth in the show via Ethan's periodic visits, not to mention season four and not to mention the comics' very literal version of Giles' second youth, we only know scattered bits about Joyce's background, as Dipstick has pointed out -- the implication of wallflowery girl with dreams of popularity re: the yearbook, the thrill of meeting a man whom she was attractive enough to tear away from his date. It's nice to see Joyce as a teen and get a bit of a sense of what her life was like, if only in passing, during the times she wasn't a mom.

As an aside, thinking about Joyce: I wonder if Joyce's time on the yearbook actually contributed to her love affair with the arts, leading to her managing an art gallery? Actually they're kind of similar jobs, in a way, though of course of much different degrees -- repackager of information and meaning to be given/sold to the public. Not a creator but a curator. In some ways this fits her basic role in the series, which is to represent in some way the foundation for Buffy's sense of humanity and normalcy and life, which Buffy has no way to fully appreciate until Joyce is dead; she is not the one who performs heroic deeds, but gathers wisdom and meaning for others to make use of and thrive upon; the mother. I mean, I know I'm stretching a little bit here, I'm just musing -- but I think there is a sense that Joyce gathers and curates art for other people, which is all part of the mechanism by which Joyce is neither hero nor one who receives particular gifts from heroes, but who somehow acquires enough meaning along the way to instill it in Buffy (and Dawn, though with Dawn it's more complicated since Buffy takes over the Joyce role). I think Joyce rebels against this role in subconscious ways, even as she basically is defined by it. I dunno, it's pretty lonely.

The possibility of a Joyce/Giles union, floated here, is quickly dismissed; neither want to talk about it. But it's a shame, because there was a period in which there seemed to be the possibility of a joining of Buffy's two halves, human and slayer, inner and outer worlds -- and Buffy first plays the two against each other so that she can go spend time with her animus who is maybe Buffy's own attempt to find the same thing, and then their affair quickly becomes a source of embarrassment. I guess it kind of makes sense -- on some level Buffy's "parents" need to be separate, because there is the real possibility that if the two joined together there would be something of a hostile takeover. Separation of powers and all that. Dipstick, if you don't want to be spoiled for late BSG please stop reading!

This is one of the problems, in BSG, with Adama and Roslin's relationship -- in principle it could be viewed as the proper union of military and civilian governments in their proper place, but in practice it has the effect of preventing either from acting as a reasonable counterbalance to the other's excesses, and in particular it mostly leads to the wrong party of the two gaining the real power.

cil_domney
24-09-14, 08:17 AM
Stoney: I think Buffy is fearing that she is about to go through it all again. This heightens her fears of the reaction of others too and starts a self fulfilling aspect by her withdrawing on assumptions of what they will say. I think there is also an issue for Buffy in not being able to separate Angel souled/unsouled as easily when he is in this more primitive, beastly state.

This is a great point of contrast – with Angelus, he was a complete evil killer monster even with the face of Angel. But in this feral primitive state, she can’t abstract Angelus vs Angel, Buffy has to see the demon and that even with a soul – Angel’s demon will always be a part of his life and therefore her life as well. For me, it’s one of the reasons that she is a frightened by his primitive feral condition.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this episode emphasis what I have for a long time now seen as one of the big flaws of Buffy’s character – often Buffy fall into the unfortunate tendency of making events and people in her to be self-centered. She allows herself to sees things with the limitation of how it affects her. Keeping Angel’s return is a good example of her “self-centered” perspective. It’s not so much that she does not respect Giles or the others but Buffy’s limited perspective of what it means to her that is a big part of how she handles Angel’s return.

Stoney: I do find Debbie’s situation fascinating and how she has become trapped in loving Pete and accepting his abuse, even to the extent of protecting him.

This comes back in Buffy’s life in the most extreme and dark reflection when she makes her free will choice to basically kill faith by sacrificing Faith’s life to protect Angel. The story of Pete and Debbie continues to be reflected all through this season. Eventually it is Buffy’s mother who, IMO, acts as the Protector/Guardian by forcing Angel to accept that he and Buffy cannot have a viable love relationship and that Buffy is not capable of making the hard decisions because she is so overwhelmed by her love for Angel.
Regarding Cordelia and Xander and his being so abrupt and inconsiderate of her both in this episode and with his blatant playing up to Faith in HF&T. Cordelia will be exactly the opposite of Debbie when she totally rejects Xander after the discovery of his cheating on her with Willow. The flowers are used again as visuals when he visits her at the hospital.
It’s wonderful how story elements in future episodes continue to connect back on Beauty and the Beast.
Not sure how the episode discussion works – is the discussion basically closed once the next episode review comes up?

Stoney
24-09-14, 09:29 AM
Great post Cil, I really like the point you make about the Cordelia/Debbie contrast of two women in love and I enjoy reading observations about things like the flowers because I only rarely notice things like that.


Not sure how the episode discussion works – is the discussion basically closed once the next episode review comes up?

I can't speak for everyone but despite the set pace and organised reviewer aspect, the general chat is pretty informal and flowing so I don't think anyone will care about you commenting on an episode we have passed. Obviously if you keep pace it is easier to get involved in the active discussion period and you're more likely to get responses, but I can't see any issue with commenting on such recent episodes even if we have moved on. :D

Dipstick
24-09-14, 10:22 PM
Adult Giles will push on against Buffy because he has the sense or sometimes self-deception to believe that his techniques and training are in some way a match for Buffy's strength and intuition. But this is, you know, not true. Giles is smug that Buffy throws the ball in a random direction once he's come up with a totally unfair, ridiculous test for her to do, but it bounces and still hits him. Oops. I think Giles' Ripper version has a greater sense of his limitations, even as he tries much more brazenly to play the cards.

This is really great to tie in Giles's ridiculous balling training session. BTW, Giles tries to spend time with Buffy even through silly, fun training sessions and coaching her through her SATs on one of Buffy's patrols and chocolate bar negotiations. Meanwhile, Faith was stewing in her motel room all alone. Apparently, the Scoobies didn't a slayer to stay up all night to watch Wolf!Oz and Faith didn't get enough information to invite herself to the Homecoming dance as she did in the last ep. So, it's a Faithless ep. Sad for her and sad for the Faith-loving parts of the audience like myself. :)

It's interesting that you point out that Ripper has a greater sense of his limitations despite his brazen exterior. Adult!Giles is certainly more powerful with his institutional authority and the trust and fealty of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think it's reasonable to guess that Ethan has more native magic power than Giles and Ethan was the leader of the bad kids. IMO, other than Giles's duel with Willow aided by borrowed power from the Coven in Grave, Giles never did anything as magically big as the Halloween spell. This could play a role in Ripper Giles's animosity toward Ethan- who you'd think fully Ripper Giles would be friendly towards. Ripper Giles weirdly wants to punch out and beat his supposed friend and partner in crime Ethan for restoring him to his fun teenaged self *before Giles learns about the babies plot*. Ripper Giles's adult memories of Ethan's betrayals and abominable acts in S2 and in their past could certainly account for Ripper Giles's hostility toward Ethan. However, I feel like there's also jealousy and competition and Ripper Giles gleefully uses HIS SLAYER to even that score.


The possibility of a Joyce/Giles union, floated here, is quickly dismissed; neither want to talk about it. But it's a shame, because there was a period in which there seemed to be the possibility of a joining of Buffy's two halves, human and slayer, inner and outer worlds -- and Buffy first plays the two against each other so that she can go spend time with her animus who is maybe Buffy's own attempt to find the same thing, and then their affair quickly becomes a source of embarrassment. I guess it kind of makes sense -- on some level Buffy's "parents" need to be separate, because there is the real possibility that if the two joined together there would be something of a hostile takeover. Separation of powers and all that. Dipstick, if you don't want to be spoiled for late BSG please stop reading!

I didn't read the late-season BSG analysis because of spoilers but I did want to discuss this! I'm also glad that Giles and Joyce never got together because it empower the adults to bond and reconcile Buffy's split lives over Buffy herself. I also think there's something disconcerting about Giles getting to be a live-in Watcher 24/7 over Buffy because Joyce put him in her bed and her home. I actually have less of a problem with the Buffy/Giles ship than the Giles/Joyce ship because that would be *Buffy* choosing to combine Giles as a Watcher and lover for herself rather than Joyce's romantic life shaping Buffy's slayer career. I do see a bright spot in Giles/Joyce in that it would probably would meant more story/screentime for Giles which I badly wanted in S5-7. However, I really didn't want more Joyce-story than we got and I found S5's focus on her frequently boring and obviously, depressing. Although, I think embracing the darkness of Giles, as Buffy's and Dawn's legal stepfather, sending Buffy out to possibly die every night and yelling for Dawn's preemptive execution in The Gift is interesting. But it's the not the Brady Bunch version of Giles/Joyce the dominates fandom.

KingofCretins
27-09-14, 02:16 PM
Haven't forgotten, just have had a kinda full plate. Should be able to get it put up tonight or tomorrow morning early.

EDIT: Still working on it but got called into work and therefore will only be able to pick at the remainder until this evening. Tonight at the latest guys, sorry :(

KingofCretins
29-09-14, 02:47 AM
Revelations

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series, in keeping with my affinity for episodes in which the Scoobies quarrel with each other. On this viewing, though, I found myself also realizing that this episode does also dabble a little in the "Hero of Another Story" trope, with Faith as the trope.

A mix of the chronological and the thematic this time. The teaser cracks me up, almost all because of Giles (in fact, anyone industrious or bored enough to make me a banner set/icon based on Giles facial expressions in this teaser -- the "I'm worried someone might knock over my tea/coffee face", the grimaces at how brutal and reckless the fighting is, and of course, the face he makes going into the credits, I'd appreciate it). From the "Faith the Vampire Slayer" angle, this is her working with Buffy side by side, trying to fit in and rebuild a life for herself following the Kakistos' incident. And then this woman Mrs. Post shows up to screw with any sense of balance she's gaining.

(Not much to say about the Bronze scenes, other than they were already not shy about the LesYay here, especially cutting from the innuendo in the Bronze to Buffy and Faith both falling on their backs side by side. Heh.)

Let me do some break down on Gwendolyn Post, since she comes in strong and we get that meeting so early with her baiting and tweaking Giles continuously. Anyone ever stopped to wonder exactly what her background is for this con? Did she actually get some workups on Giles and Buffy's situation from the Council before she bailed, or steal it? Or is she just masterfully cold-reading the vulnerabilities in all these people from the second she walks up to them, and this is all just a stone bluff from the word go? I'm not sure which I would respect more, but she does a delicious job of it, especially getting (and keeping) Giles on his heels, knowing even when to be warmer and conciliatory and when to kick him in the shin again. Also wonder about the Lagos connection... was he even independently after the glove, or was he maybe put up to this by Post in the first place, to be her mook and then her patsy at the same time?

The only part of her run in this episode that I don't *really* understand is just why she ingratiates herself to Faith so closely. I suppose it's in the hopes of being able to flip her at a key moment, which she actually does, but seems excessive the way she sounds like she actually is going to be around for longer than it takes to get the glove and bounce. The scene in Faith's hotel room is really expert in terms of playing Faith's vulnerabilities. My favorite bit of it? When she refers to Buffy socializing and she says it "just seems so..." and then trails off. She probably didn't even have an end to that sentence, she sets it up perfectly for Faith's gestalt to just fill in whatever she most resent about Buffy for her -- does it seem unfair, does it seem unprofessional? Doesn't matter, Post knows she's planted a context for Faith to internally be angry and resentful about something in Buffy's life that isn't in Faith -- socialization, which she can infer just from the very spartan hotel room.

I'm gonna wimp out on belaboring the meeting scene. Much for the same reason I kinda "meh"'d through this last few episodes, because I realized I was just too battle weary to represent the dissent on the lie and 3.02. I may loop back and add some summary thoughts on those, but eh. The meeting is what it is. I do want to take a second about Xander in the cemetery finding Angel, something I hope people stop to appreciate about how he found out the Buffy punchline. As far as Xander knew, he just saw Angel (later to be called Angelus, that is), the soulless whimsical killing machine, with a super powerful weapon, and not only did he not piss himself, he actually risked his own life (subjectively, see? He had know idea nor even the slightest reason to speculate that Angel was FBBT -- fluffy bunny, bad teeth -- again) to tail him to his own lair... and only there does the world go tilt.

So, Faith, the hero of another story... the story in which she is given purpose and respect by a new Watcher who thinks she's got all the potential and that it's her new companions who have gone off mission, a Slayer blinded by love for an evil demon, the latter of which has a powerful weapon in his possession. Who sees that very monster pummeling her insightful new mentor. Faith does more or less everything that she should do in the episode*, is the thing that sticks in my mind, and I really do wish that by episode's end someone had acknowledged that -- Giles for one, Buffy for another. There's no indication she's left to take anything else away from this besides "silly Faith, next time you'll know to just always assume Buffy knows best and that her priorities are the right priorities, regardless of what your own instincts are telling you".

*Yes, she left Giles, and was even annoyed that Xander wasn't coming with her, but at the end of the day she did leave him there... with Xander, not entirely abandoned.

I have no beef at all with what Xander told Faith, there wasn't a single factually untrue or even intentionally misleading statement in the conversation. The only thing he can be accused of, really, is not framing all open questions according to Buffy's perspective and not his own.

My second true love of this episode besides Faith is Giles. I love him verbally slapping down Xander's irrelevant and nonsensical backtalk on the research subject. I love his equally snarky attitude toward Xander and Willow (and I absolutely believe without equivocation that he saw them and/or just knew what was up at that point). It's proof that shit does in fact always roll down hill :) But I absolutely love his lecture to Buffy. Not a word in that that can reasonably be disagreed with, and I think his final rebuke was sincere and accurate (even if he wouldn't have said it if he hadn't been angry) -- Buffy ultimately does not have much respect for (at the very least) the job he performs, and that by definition means for him whether she would protest or not. At least not at that stage. In fact, I'm not sure she ever gets there until "Buffy vs. Dracula" with respecting that role and appreciating it rather than simply enduring it.

I'm not all that up in arms over Xander and Willow's dalliance. It's improper, it's unfair to Oz and Cordelia, but I guess I'm still fond enough of that 'ship -- even now, really -- that I can't be upset by it. They were kids, they had a lot of pent up feelings they were working through.

The ending of the episode is just painful to me, the way Faith bitterly, wryly refers to the room as spartan. What's hanging in the air between Buffy and Faith is more impactful and more foreboding than even their fabulous Round One, Fight! encounter, the first time they traded blows in anger. Hero Faith even got the better of the terrifying vampire only to be rebuked, she just can't do anything right at all it seems :/

Does it seem to anyone else that Willow's "I have no problem with the Angel secret" voice is the same falsely enthusiastic voice she uses through the first two acts of "Dead Man's Party"? Probably for the same reason.

So it's a Faith and Giles episode, to me, they are the best parts of it. Most everyone else is dicking around annoyingly in one way or another. Biggest complaint about the episode is how tritely and neatly everything is just declared "okay" on the subject of Angel's return, any lingering doubts about the status of his soul, the status of his curse, anything else that could go wrong there, all of it, just "we'll see how that unfolds/I guess I like him again" bow-tying.

Apart from that, though, again, one of my favorite episodes, if I hadn't been so caught up in other stuff probably could have given you another bunch of paragraphs. 9/10.

vampmogs
29-09-14, 12:23 PM
Big episode.

Ok, so I might as well get it out of the way first by saying this is unequivocally my least favourite episode for Xander in the entire series. It's really an accumulation of many of the problems I have had with his character over S1-S3 and it comes to a boiling point in this episode. However, before I continue, I will also say that after this episode I begin to warm towards the character immensely with his actions in Amends being very redeeming in my eyes and overall just a softening, I guess, of the character's less appealing traits. It doesn't mean I never get frustrated or upset with the character again but overall I find that his more positive traits far outweigh the things I find less appealing about him. And we'll be heading into S4 which probably contains my favourite Xander arc in the show and I find him both incredibly sympathetic and endearing throughout. Anyway, I'm not going to be kind but I hope that's tempered somewhat by the fact that I really do start loving who Xander becomes after this is over. It's always darkest before dawn.

I don't have a problem whatsoever with Xander being upset over Buffy's deceit. I don't blame him at all for spiraling when in the moment he learns of Angel's return he also has to witness Buffy kissing him. I do, however, wonder where Xander gets off acting so righteous towards Buffy when he too is guilty of lying to every single person in that room. Is he not cheating on his girlfriend behind her back? Is he not betraying Oz's trust? Has he not, even, spent months keeping it to himself that he lied to the very girl he's yelling at about Willow's message in Becoming? To her credit, as hurt as she probably is about Buffy's deception Willow does not lecture Buffy precisely because she knows she's guilty of lying as well. Meanwhile Xander has no qualms about acting like a total hypocrite whilst he takes it upon himself to once again yell at Buffy and escalate the situation. And I think it's worth noting that when Willow/Xander's affair does come out in the open Buffy does not lecture Xander about her wrong is he is. She does not shame him and belittle him about "falling" on Willow's lips. And Xander has the luxury of not having group interventions staged every time he does something wrong so his mistakes can be scrutinized and Buffy can rake him over the coals in front of everybody. There's certainly this unfortunate attitude that Xander considers it his job to abuse Buffy for her choices when he was no more wronged than anybody else in that room but for whatever reason he can't stick to the group's agreed upon way of communicating with Buffy.

And then he plans to murder Angel behind Buffy's back which I personally consider to be one of the darkest things he ever does and a really great betrayal. Had he not stumbled upon Giles and went through with it, their friendship would most likely have been over forever. And what's worse is that he even tells Faith that Angel is unlikely to have attacked Giles because "it's not his style" but just out of vindictiveness and spite he pretends Angel attacked Giles to Buffy.

All Xander achieved was prove to Buffy that at the very least she was right to fear his reaction. He did try and kill Angel. He did lash out at her for wanting to protect him. And I do think she missed the mark in this episode attributing his behavior to jealousy but it's something she should have said a long time ago. For years she has turned a blind eye to Xander's constant insults and put downs and his gleefulness, even, when Angel did something that may have upset her. For years his behavior was were fueled by jealousy and this sense of entitlement he had over her and bitterness that she didn't reciprocate his feelings. My only regret about her finally calling him out on it is that she did so in this episode and not back in S1 when it would have been more appropriate and she could have nipped the Nice Guy bullshit in the bud. And I get Cordy's knee-jerk reaction to lash out at Buffy for pride if nothing else, but she was accusing Xander of the very same thing in Killed By Death so it's a bit ridiculous trying to pretend Buffy needs to get over herself when it has been obvious to all of them.

Xander's reconciliation with Buffy at the end of the episode is nice but I do wonder if it took being thrown into a wall by Faith as if he's nothing more than an annoying bug to her, to fully appreciate the Slayer who's always been a pretty loyal and loving friend towards him.

I do feel for Faith so much throughout this episode. There are some troubling signs in her personality already (the way she carelessly throws Xander into the wall, the way she leaves Giles wounded on the library floor, and she initiates the violence with Buffy) but for the most part I think she's played by pretty much everybody in this episode. I don't blame her at all for being so jaded and becoming so distrusting of everyone around her. It's hard to see Buffy shutdown and act curt with Faith over Angel and then have Faith retreat into herself because she doesn't understand what she did wrong. Buffy certainly shares a lot of the blame for the breakdown of their relationship after lying to her. I also think Xander is being 'sparse' with the information he provides and is pretty careless the way he encourages Faith's murder mission knowing the likely permanent damage it would cause between her and Buffy. And then of course there's Gwendolyn who exploits Faith's loneliness (and she may even know that Faith's former Watcher was a woman and played on that to her advantage?), manipulates her, guilt's her for her "blunder" at the cemetery, and then mocks her for her naivety which is just heartbreaking, frankly. I also do think the Scoobies were wrong not to invite Faith to the library meeting although I wonder if that was decided because they didn't want Post learning of the situation (Faith was invited to the group meeting in Beauty and the Beasts).

As I said, I do find it a little worrying how Faith lashes out at people in this episode. Slayer VS Slayer violence is one thing and whilst I wouldn't say Buffy 'deserves' to be kicked in the face, Faith at least has justifiable reasons to be so angry towards her. But to throw Xander aside in frustration or like he's no more than a flea is a bit disconcerting given that they were pretty chummy not only a scene earlier. It is evidence of Faith's recklessness in battle which will get her into trouble further down the line.

The final Buffy/Faith scene is incredibly well-written and it moves me every time. The moment Faith calls out to Buffy and then retreats into herself is pretty gut-wrenching and it really sets up the tragedy of their relationship :(

I have to abandon my post now because I need to go out but I might as well post what I've written so far so I don't lose it all. Hopefully I can share my thoughts on the rest of the characters/episode soon.

KingofCretins
29-09-14, 02:23 PM
I am... skeptical... of the choice to interpret pretty much total moral equivalence between any lie and any other lie in this context. One struggles to even begin to articulate all the ways in which Different Things are Different when a lie involves two longtime friends indulging a makeout urge behind their other's backs that never (as far as we know) involves so much as a rounding second base, and the lie of the return of a being whose bad days tend toward the homicidal and terrorizing and all the unknowns that brings.

A US attorney may not have told her husband, truthfully, that he looks ridiculous tucking his t-shirt into his running shorts; that does not disqualify her from pursuing indictments for fraud, one assumes.

As for Xander and Buffy's scene in the library, why assume he is fabricating suspicion of Angel? His point to Faith was that it wasn't his style, bite marks would be nice, but that's a far cry from total ontological certainty that Angel didn't do it. He diverged with Faith on the priorities of the situation; helping Giles, finding a more definite answer. I interpret his comments to Buffy as him having swung back around to erring on the side of suspecting Angel, or at least still considering it a reasonable possibility. He only becomes this callow jerk you describe if you take the extratextual leap that he had firmly decided Angel wasn't responsible.

Faith is not a flawless hero of her own story, it's true, and she is reckless as defines much of her character. I don't mind her flinging Xander away, though... it was indifferent to him, sure, but it wasn't all that likely to produce serious injury and, in Faith's POV, she is still trying to subdue Buffy so she can get back to rescuing Mrs. Post from Angel and preventing him from using the glove, and Xander is now just totally in her way.

vampmogs
29-09-14, 03:15 PM
Willow and Xander's affair devastates their partners. Cordy is an absolute wreck and her pain is bad enough to bring Anayanka to Sunnydale. I really don't get dismissing it as some trivial thing even if you're a fan of Willow/Xander. Regardless, the episode itself acknowledges the similarities in their behavior by having Willow refrain from judging Buffy because she's keeping secrets of her own. It only reflects poorly on Xander that he can act so righteous about Buffy lying whilst he's busy cheating on his girlfriend and has yet to, and never will, come clean about his own lie in Becoming II. Unless you think it was the writer's intentions to make Willow come across as foolish, which I don't, the writer's feel it's perfectly reasonable to compare the two.

Also, I simply have to ask myself if I could ever imagine Cordy and Oz being able to sit there and stomach Xander lashing out at Buffy for her deceit if they had found out about Willow and Xander's cheating. And since there's simply no way I can imagine that ever happening without Cordy, especially, tearing Xander to shreds about his hypocrisy, I think they're similar enough.

In regards to Xander accusing Angel of hurting Giles, I think it's pretty obvious by he's saying it out of spite. He goes from saying "it's not Angel's style" and needing proof ("some bite marks would be nice") to holding Angel responsible the moment Buffy walks into the library ("I guess your boyfriend isn't as cured as you think"). He's not "erring on the side of suspecting Angel" he's blatantly accusing him of doing it. And based on what? When Buffy asks him why he thinks Angel had anything to do with it Xander spitefully responds "we saw what you saw" despite telling Faith himself that it was no proof at all only, what, minutes earlier? C'mon. Not to mention the vindictiveness of referring to Angel as her "boyfriend."

Dipstick
29-09-14, 03:50 PM
I do agree with vampmogs that there's some hypocrisy in Xander making out with Willow but judging Buffy for hiding and kissing Angel. It's not like a wife telling a kindly white lie to her husband but fighting crime in the courtroom. Buffy was getting carried away with her love for Angel and hormones at the expense of the well-being of her team; Willow and Xander were getting carried away with their love for each other and hormones at the expense of Oz and Cordelia. Buffy and Willow/Xander were being deceitful over a long period of time. The two situation are highly analogous. Unlucky for Buffy, her dalliance with Angel is much more serious because of who Angel is and what over-sexuality between him and Buffy can do to the safety of the Scoobies and the world. That makes Bangel entirely the Scoobies' business and fairly subjects Buffy to anger and interventions. However, Buffy's and Willow/Xander's sins are from the same place. Although, Buffy has a mendacious callousness about Bangel's historical results of murder and torture that makes me angrier at Buffy than I am at Willow/Xander. Moreover, I even think that Willow and Xander deep down believe that they have less room to judge because of their dalliance. Willow indicates that in this ep; it takes Amends for Xander to acknowledge the same.

I do find Buffy pretty enraging during the intervention and her dishonesty adds to everyone's anger. To go through the intervention:


GILES
We know Angel is alive, Buffy. Xander saw you with him.

Buffy closes her eyes. Busted.

GILES
It appears that you've been hiding him. And that you lied to us -

WILLOW
Nobody's here to blame you, Buffy but this is serious. You need help.

BUFFY
It's… It's not what you think.

Right away, Buffy goes in for her usual passive-aggressive "You wouldn't understand" crap with Willow. So far, Giles has documented inarguable truths. Willow opened with sympathy. Buffy can't even let Willow, Giles, and Co. spit out what they know and feel without instantly assuming that they're wrong and don't know what the hell they're talking about.


XANDER
Hope not - because I think you're harboring a vicious killer -

WILLOW
(to Xander/hard)
Hey. This isn't about attacking Buffy. Remember - "I" statements only? "I feel angry." "I feel worried…"

I actually think Xander is fair there. Buffy wants to de-legitimize the Scoobs' impressions and knowledge from the word "go"? Xander will call it like he sees it with its ever present bit of truth- Buffy is harboring Angel for any court of justice beyond her bosom and Angel is a vicious killer. Ironically, Xander was using an "I statement" there. *I think* you're harboring a vicious killer. LOL.


Cordelia: Fine. Here's one: I feel worried... about me! Last time around, Angel barely laid a hand on Buffy. He was *way* more interested in killing her friends.

Buffy: But he's better now.

OK, that's a fair point for Buffy to defend herself on. She absolutely has the right to emphasize that Angel's soul is restored.


Xander: Better for how long, Buffy? I mean, did you even think about that?

However, it's also fair for Xander to demand to know whether Angel is *really* better or his soul will fade or he'll work on losing it now that he knows the key on how to do so. (See Reprise). And yes, Xander is right that Buffy has appeared to put little precautions on confirming or ensuring that Angel really has and will keep his soul.


Buffy: (stands up) What is this, Demons Anonymous? (starts to leave) I don't need an intervention, here.

Giles: Oh, don't you? (Buffy stops and faces him) You must've known it was wrong seeing Angel or you wouldn't have hidden it from all of us.


Giles makes some of my argument for me. Cordelia's just told Buffy that she's afraid for her own life because Angel targets Buffy's friends when he's soulless. Buffy couldn't make a firm argument to Xander that Angel will absolutely always keep his soul. Giles just told Buffy that she's busted and they all know that she's been lying to them for weeks. However, Buffy does not apologize for the lie or acknowledge that the group has an important safety stake in what happens. Instead, she reduces her friends who said that they are deeply concerned for their own safety and for Buffy ("Willow: You need help") as a Demons Anonymous banality.


Buffy: (desperate and defensive) I was going to tell you, I was. I-it was just that I... I didn't know why he came back. I just wanted to wait.

Xander: For what? For Angel to go psycho again the next time you give him a happy?

Buffy does strike a better tone here, obviously guilty and wrong-footed by Giles's pointed condemnation of her morality. It's fair of her to say that she initially kept it hidden because she didn't know why he came back. She should bring that up to explain her behavior. I do think that Buffy manipulatively starts turning on the choked voice and pre-water works and asserting that she was going to tell them (when she was actually guilt-lessly lying with no plans to tell anyone) because she decided to ploy for sympathy. However, Buffy did evolve to sort of acknowledging their right to know.

Also, I have a problem with Xander's comment here. It's needlessly inflammatory. There's no basis to accuse Buffy to making a concerted choice to wait on telling the Scoobies until Buffy can "give Angel a happy". At this point, I kind of think that Xander's gotten a high off his Very Important Role in Running the Intervention and he's devolved into throwing wild, unmerited accusations instead of sticking to where Buffy actually failed. Buffy made a good step to the team in her last statement because Giles's pointed, reasonable comment was the tip of the sword in moral rhetorical argument. Xander slashing any old accusatory words around reverses that progress. It explains but doesn't excuse:


Buffy: (raising her voice defensively) I'm not going to... (raises her hand to him) We're not together like that.

Oz: But you were kissing him.


I get that Buffy was defensive because Xander's last needless comment. However, in an intervention about how she lied for weeks, SHE DOESN'T NEED TO LIE AGAIN. Sheesh.


Cordelia: What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover
again?

Buffy: (defensive again) It was an accident.

Xander: What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?

Hmm, this one is close between Buffy and Xander. I do think that Buffy retreated again and told some measure of the truth by calling her kissage an accident. After she and Angel kissed in this ep, Buffy immediately reacted with horror at herself and Angel and self-castigated for that error in judgement. BTW, that's to Buffy's credit. Angel, Custodian of His Own Damn Soul, was the first to move into the kiss and the least bothered by the impromptu make-out session. Buffy's "accident" comment sounds silly, especially after she lied about the kissing. I get Xander's immediate sarcasm there. However, Buffy is telling the truth there and that should have been encouraged instead of belittled.


Buffy: It was wrong, okay? I know that, and I know that it can't happen again. But you guys have to believe me. I would never put you in any
danger. If I thought for a second that Angel was going to hurt anyone...

Xander: ...you would stop him. Like you did last time with Ms. Calendar.

Xander plays rough here. But you know, I get it. Buffy cannot blithely make these promises that that she would NEVER put them in danger and that IF SHE THOUGHT FOR A SECOND THAT ANGEL WAS GOING TO HURT ANYONE. Buffy epically failed at these big, grand melodramatic promises last year. Just among the evil-fighters/team, Jenny and Kendra died. Giles was captured and tortured. Willow was hospitalized. Last year should have taught Buffy that she cannot keep and guarantee these big promises.

That's not necessarily a condemnation of Buffy. Angel is a mega-powerful vampire and no one expects Buffy to be an all perfect, all spidy-sense slayer who ensures that nothing bad happens to anyone. The only thing that Buffy could and must do is be honest with her team, be careful around Angel since she now knows that sexuality could cause his soul to be reversed, and put her very human friends and family first. However, Buffy epically failed at being honest with her team and putting their safety ahead of Angel and then, ahead of Buffy's desire for a non-messy, totally Bangel love nest with zero judgment or interference for anyone else. That's what prompted Buffy to start making big promises that she can't keep to the gang to assuage their anger but she wasn't counting on how the Scoobies lived the second half of S2 and they know that Buffy has to be willfully ignoring history to make this promise. Through Buffy's comment here, Giles looks nauseous and Willow looks incredibly sad and pitiful. Willow and Giles both picked up on how wrong Buffy's statement was; Xander was the only one who reacted combatively straight off.


Buffy: But he's better now. I swear. Look, you guys, he's the one that found the Glove of Myhnegon. H-he's keeping it safe for us in the mansion.

Xander: (spreads his arms) Right! Great plan. Leave tons of firepower with the Scary Guy, and leave us to clean up the mess.

Right here, I think Xander's out of line. Buffy couldn't keep the gang safe from Angel...but at the end, Buffy "cleaned up the mess" by sending the love of her life to hell at a great cost to herself. Xander should get that. Xander was wrong and seems to harbor his own deluded version of history to act like Buffy makes the messes but the Scoobies, led by Xander, are the ones that clean them up. Xander does have a kernel of truth that Buffy left for months to lick her wounds while the Scoobies were left with protecting the hellmouth, trying to find Buffy, dealing with Joyce's initial anger and feelings of loss, probably dealing with Willow's and Giles's rehab and recovery, etc. which is all part of the Bangel mess. However, Buffy, as always, is a huge part of solution to any problem for the world.

I'll end my dissection of the scenes and write other thoughts about the the ep later.

Stoney
29-09-14, 05:53 PM
From the "Faith the Vampire Slayer" angle, this is her working with Buffy side by side, trying to fit in and rebuild a life for herself following the Kakistos' incident. And then this woman Mrs. Post shows up to screw with any sense of balance she's gaining....

Faith does more or less everything that she should do in the episode, is the thing that sticks in my mind, and I really do wish that by episode's end someone had acknowledged that -- Giles for one, Buffy for another. There's no indication she's left to take anything else away from this besides "silly Faith, next time you'll know to just always assume Buffy knows best and that her priorities are the right priorities, regardless of what your own instincts are telling you".

The Faith of this episode is where it is at for me, although it is very closely followed by Giles I'd agree. This is where the lasting damage is done with Faith and the dye is cast. The way Faith has been neglected is the problem I think and well emphasised by her not even being in the last episode. The needs that Gwendolyn picked up on that Faith has are clear, blatant issues and it only takes looking to see them. But the Scoobies don't and this is underscored for me by Buffy's visit at the end when she opens by saying Faith has the place looking nice. There is no firm space made for Faith by the time that Gwendolyn walks in and creates dissonance. It is awful timing because Buffy and Faith were actually forging a bond, albeit slowly, but that direct competition and underscoring of the difference in what they have that Gwendolyn pushed to the fore as well as emphasising Faith's separation to her has done its damage now. The fact that both Faith and Buffy are sporting visible injuries from their punch up in that last scene is a great way to emphasise the damage incurred.

Gwendolyn also presses on Giles' competency which has also been an issue in the disregard for Faith and will become more so for him as his role changes as Buffy gets older and he become somewhat lost. The rebuke he gave Buffy was pretty on the mark and I think is where a lot of his ongoing issues in feeling useless will be emphasised, appreciation and respect sit together with that.

Gwendolyn basically shows us in this episode where both these two are going to have issues with Buffy and fitting into her life going forward.


(Not much to say about the Bronze scenes, other than they were already not shy about the LesYay here, especially cutting from the innuendo in the Bronze to Buffy and Faith both falling on their backs side by side. Heh.)

I thought Joss had said it wasn't intentional. I certainly never thought anything of it. Just goes to prove that interpretation can generate evidence. But you're a lawyer, yes? You probably know all about that. :biggrin1:


Anyone ever stopped to wonder exactly what her background is for this con? Did she actually get some workups on Giles and Buffy's situation from the Council before she bailed, or steal it? Or is she just masterfully cold-reading the vulnerabilities in all these people from the second she walks up to them, and this is all just a stone bluff from the word go? I'm not sure which I would respect more, but she does a delicious job of it, especially getting (and keeping) Giles on his heels, knowing even when to be warmer and conciliatory and when to kick him in the shin again. Also wonder about the Lagos connection... was he even independently after the glove, or was he maybe put up to this by Post in the first place, to be her mook and then her patsy at the same time?

Well Giles says at the end that she was kicked out a couple of years ago so there can't have been much to get on Giles/Buffy before she left. I wonder how she knew about Faith even. She probably has some contacts still that fed her basic information, but I think that she just experimentally jabbed and saw/judged the flinches well. Interesting suggestion about Lagos. I take her work over on Faith to be entirely for the plan B scenario if she needs/wants her to back her against the others. I also wouldn't rule out a degree of professional interest/entertainment for herself whilst she is there to prod and push the new slayer around. She obviously prides herself on manipulation and she wouldn't want the muscles to atrophy!!


The meeting is what it is.

I can see both Buffy and Xander's sides and I think Willow represents the good middle ground. The gang have a right to be pretty angry with Buffy. Giles should be insulted and hurt and I think Buffy's lack of consideration for what he went through with Jenny and being tortured is surprisingly blinkered and callous. Generally I fall beside Willow/Giles, but whilst I do feel Xander was too aggressive in his tone I do think he was mostly in the right though. Buffy getting sniffy with him and saying that he was 'spying' on her just because he happened to see them in a clinch moment, was quite ridiculous. It was defensive deflection rather than intentionally side stepping I think, but he wasn't doing anything beyond tracking Angel and trying to see what was happening when he came upon a situation of her choosing.


I have no beef at all with what Xander told Faith, there wasn't a single factually untrue or even intentionally misleading statement in the conversation. The only thing he can be accused of, really, is not framing all open questions according to Buffy's perspective and not his own.

I have no problem with Xander's anger at Buffy's deceit or in him wanting to treat Angel as a dangerous threat. Considering how blindsided they were by what happened before they are being somewhat careless in assuming the soul is secure and Buffy spending one on one time with Angel without them doing anything to establish his emotional stability coming out of hell is just plain irresponsible.

The curse breaker requiring sex never scanned for me as there was so much important build-up in how Angel was feeling loved/accepted when he and Buffy had sex. After centuries of torture just being accepted back and held by her again could have been enough for a moment of peace/happiness. But the irresponsibility all fits in with their tortured teen dramatic romance, that they simply can't keep away from each other or look at any of it as responsibly as they should. It really stands out to me that Angel is letting this all happen, still the older more experienced in the couple who now knows his very soul is at risk and the lives of others should he lose it. I can see that after what he has been through the desire for affection must be very heightened, but they seem to be getting physically close very readily to me. It does prove his own point that the man within is weak though, that he can't deny himself any of this without literally in the end having to walk away. In one way it seems to clash with the patience of his unsouled actions that he can't restrain himself but not really. Liam and Angelus were both pleasure seekers and Angel as the in-between man is no different, just with a conscience over it that will in the end sit and listen to Joyce's perspective.


Biggest complaint about the episode is how tritely and neatly everything is just declared "okay" on the subject of Angel's return, any lingering doubts about the status of his soul, the status of his curse, anything else that could go wrong there, all of it, just "we'll see how that unfolds/I guess I like him again" bow-tying.

Completely agree.

A minor niggle with the episode was the way Angel just knew everything about where this glove was kept and yet it wasn't something that Angelus exploited. He also is able to identify and prepare to destroy it when Gwendolyn, who was specifically interested in the glove, seemed taken aback when Giles was talking about how to destroy it. You could argue that she just would never have looked into how to get rid of it, but that doesn't sit well against her persona to not be prepared for how the council/slayer may try and deal with it for me, it lacks the T crossing and I dotting I would have expected of her. Then Angel is incapacitated and stays laid down on the couch all the time Buffy/Faith are fighting. Again you could argue he isn't up to full strength yet, but just laying there until it is all over was a ridiculously lazy way to write him out of the fight. Also, him staying in game face for the entire scene even though he was doing nothing stood out to me as weird. Minor things.


I do, however, wonder where Xander gets off acting so righteous towards Buffy when he too is guilty of lying to every single person in that room. Is he not cheating on his girlfriend behind her back? Is he not betraying Oz's trust? Has he not, even, spent months keeping it to himself that he lied to the very girl he's yelling at about Willow's message in Becoming?

Although they are both lying, and I see your point on the hypocrisy of that, it feels very different to me for the reasons Dipstick covers. Buffy is lying about Angel who killed one of them, tortured another, tried to kill Xander and also end the world. The potential ramifications of him being back and her sneaking around with him are miles away from the Xander/Willow scenario. The lack of consideration for the insecurity of the soul is astounding on Angel's return, that Buffy was hiding him when he hurt them all so much, whilst understandable, is entirely inappropriate. For the group to then hear (Xander see) that she is succumbing to being physical with him as well must feel like a complete slap in the face in how much they mean to her. She is lying to them and potentially risking all of their lives. They are both lies but they aren't comparable in seriousness I don't think.


And then he plans to murder Angel behind Buffy's back which I personally consider to be one of the darkest things he ever does and a really great betrayal. Had he not stumbled upon Giles and went through with it, their friendship would most likely have been over forever. And what's worse is that he even tells Faith that Angel is unlikely to have attacked Giles because "it's not his style" but just out of vindictiveness and spite he pretends Angel attacked Giles to Buffy.

Suggesting to Buffy Angel probably attacked Giles did seem petty and about being confrontational again with Buffy. But I have to give Xander a little understanding for his inclination to go after Angel. It is easy to forget that Xander has only just found out Angel is back. There will be a lot of anger/hurt over what they all went through pulled harshly back up to the surface for him. I can understand, particularly in finding out alongside all that that Buffy seemingly can't be relied upon to put them first and not get intimate with Angel, that a part of him would risk sacrificing his friendship with her to protect all the others that he loves by removing the potential threat he sees Angel as being and Buffy's weakness for him posing. I am not saying he should have gone behind her back, or that it wasn't a betrayal of trust, but I can see why he would that has nothing at all, I agree, to do with jealousy. It does sit alongside his attitude in the lie I think. Well, one of his motivations, to remove the emotional side and get the threat dealt with before more people get hurt.


It is evidence of Faith's recklessness in battle which will get her into trouble further down the line.

Oooo fair point, good link in the reckless disregard.


It's fair of her to say that she initially kept it hidden because she didn't know why he came back.

Is it? Surely that is a stronger argument for talking to them about it and securing him whilst they research it as a team. It lends weight to Giles' feeling that she doesn't respect his role because he should be the go-to guy on figuring out why/how Angel has returned and in determining how safe he could be deemed to be. Buffy knows this, it is why she tried to falsely get some information out of Giles about hell dimensions and the state Angel was in when he returned. Definitely not a good reason to not talk to them.


I do think that Buffy retreated again and told some measure of the truth by calling her kissage an accident. After she and Angel kissed in this ep, Buffy immediately reacted with horror at herself and Angel and self-castigated for that error in judgement. BTW, that's to Buffy's credit. Angel, Custodian of His Own Damn Soul, was the first to move into the kiss and the least bothered by the impromptu make-out session. Buffy's "accident" comment sounds silly, especially after she lied about the kissing. I get Xander's immediate sarcasm there. However, Buffy is telling the truth there and that should have been encouraged instead of belittled.

I don't agree. When they were having their training session they almost kissed. That was a warning shot. To end up in a lip lock later feels less of an accident and more that they chose to give in to it for a moment. That the kiss was anything but a brief peck just lends to that sense of them indulging and then getting to play 'horror' at having done so. Post getting to do it mind you!!

Dipstick
29-09-14, 06:45 PM
Gwendolyn also presses on Giles' competency which has also been an issue in the disregard for Faith and will become more so for him as his role changes as Buffy gets older and he become somewhat lost. The rebuke he gave Buffy was pretty on the mark and I think is where a lot of his ongoing issues in feeling useless will be emphasised, appreciation and respect sit together with that.

Giles certainly has his positives in this ep. He's really an effective speaker/debater and I think he pretty single-handedly impresses on Buffy the wrongness of her behavior where Xander (too aggressive) and Willow (too much of a push-over) cannot. I think Giles's greatest intellectual talent is as a wordsmith- he would have made a great lawyer if he wasn't a Watcher.

Although, IMO, Gwen Post is effective in tearing down Giles because Ms. Post has a point about the holes in Giles's research library and his control over his slayer. BTW, "control of your slayer" is a less desirable turn of phrase but it is Giles believes that he should aspire to but he doesn't follow through:


Giles: (struggling to control his voice) Mrs. Post... (pours her hot water) I can assure you that Buffy is both dedicated and industrious, and I am in complete control of my Slayer.

Suddenly his apartment door whips open, and Xander runs into the room.

Xander: Giles! We have a big problem. It's Buffy.

Gwendolyn give Giles a snooty look.

A Watcher like Gwen Post shines a light on how Giles does not live up to the intellectual rigor and preparedness that Watchers aspire to. I know I've said this before but I don't care for Giles dismissing the children to give a speech emphasizing how Buffy owed his a special respect as the *Watcher* as opposed to those volunteer children shmucks.


I can see both Buffy and Xander's sides and I think Willow represents the good middle ground. The gang have a right to be pretty angry with Buffy. Giles should be insulted and hurt and I think Buffy's lack of consideration for what he went through with Jenny and being tortured is surprisingly blinkered and callous. Generally I fall beside Willow/Giles, but whilst I do feel Xander was too aggressive in his tone I do think he was mostly in the right though. Buffy getting sniffy with him and saying that he was 'spying' on her just because he happened to see them in a clinch moment, was quite ridiculous. It was defensive deflection rather than intentionally side stepping I think, but he wasn't doing anything beyond tracking Angel and trying to see what was happening when he came upon a situation of her choosing.

That's pretty much where I am. I think Xander was mostly right but he was too aggressive and harsh. I think Willow was terrific in the library confrontation scene but she devolves into counterproductive quivering mass of pushover guilt when she's alone with Buffy. I think Giles was the best with Buffy, although, I disagree with his inclinations to put the teenagers on a lower place/right to know basis than him because they're not Watchers. Oz is letter-perfect with the impartial blunt truthiness of his comments- but sadly, he doesn't get involved enough. I like the honesty of Cordelia making the whole thing about "Me, me, me" because that's a worthwhile point and Cordelia makes things simple by speaking for her interests without faux-piety but she's so true to form as self-involved high school Cordelia that she can't capture much authority even though she's speaking necessary truths and Buffy feels totally comfortable dismissing her as Queen C.

Cordelia: Hello? Miss Not-Over-Yourself-Yet?
Buffy: (shakes her head in warning) Don't you start with me.

Not a good moment for the Buffster.


Is it? Surely that is a stronger argument for talking to them about it and securing him whilst they research it as a team. It lends weight to Giles' feeling that she doesn't respect his role because he should be the go-to guy on figuring out why/how Angel has returned and in determining how safe he could be deemed to be. Buffy knows this, it is why she tried to falsely get some information out of Giles about hell dimensions and the state Angel was in when he returned. Definitely not a good reason to not talk to them.

No, I agree that Buffy should have told the gang partly because she *didn't* know why Angel came back from a strategic standpoint. And Buffy clearly craved her team's information- which is why she falsely tried to get information from Giles about hell dimensions and why she barked at Willow for a total complete autopsy report that could exonerate Angel when Buffy suspected Angel of the killings and why Buffy ran desperately to talk to Mr. Platt to get another voice offering counsel even as she was leaking confidential Scooby information like a leaky bucket.

However, emotionally, I do see Buffy's argument that she didn't know why Angel was here and whether he'd stop being feral and return his past souled version. With that doubt, I could see how Buffy panicked in the moment and tried to keep Angel to herself because she couldn't provide the answers that would establish as Angel as an Unstakable Totally Safe Souled Member of Planet Earth. Buffy was wrong then, and she was even more wrong to hide Angel for weeks once Angel was capable of speaking and acting autonomously. However, her early ignorance and nervousness about Angel's vulnerable state does provide legit coloring on why Buffy was not honest straight off.

BTW, Angel doesn't catch any anger for keeping himself a secret and he really should. Angel could have asked to apologize to Giles, Willow, etc. He could expressed some discomfort with being Buffy's little secret or evidenced some concern about Buffy seemingly having to lie to her friends about him. By Homecoming and certainly Band Candy, Angel should have used his soul to push for honesty/accountability to everyone that he wronged but he elected not to. And IMO, Angel is *horrible* at making amends with the Scoobies for what he put them through for the rest of S3. Angel doesn't bother seeing Giles until Angel needs a favor. He doesn't bother saying one f*cking word to Willow until Doppelgangland.


I don't agree. When they were having their training session they almost kissed. That was a warning shot. To end up in a lip lock later feels less of an accident and more that they chose to give in to it for a moment. That the kiss was anything but a brief peck just lends to that sense of them indulging and then getting to play 'horror' at having done so. Post getting to do it mind you!!

The kiss as an "accident" like a mistake that Buffy now regrets, not an accidental peck. Buffy was horrified that she kissed Angel and Buffy *does* make a point of treating Angel like a friend and not like a lover until Amends which is some time in BtVS-time.

KingofCretins
29-09-14, 07:31 PM
Maybe it is just me, but doesn't it seem slightly counterintuitive that we have to assume Xander no longer suspected Angel at all of attacking Giles in order to throw him under the bus for being purely spiteful to Buffy in implying that he might have? Which is to say, for Xander to have been just screwing with Buffy, we have to believe that Xander -- Xander -- had completely ruled out Angel, nontextually. Isn't that the *least* likely thing in the world, though? Not like Xander doesn't know Angel doesn't drain every victim.

Still on the disservice done to Faith through this, it really was wrong to exclude her from that meeting. Hell, if anything, Buffy should have wanted her there, would have wanted her on the same page about Angel so she didn't run into him as just another vampire and, as for example, kill him. She is sort of getting the episode III Anakin brush off from the Sunnydale Jedi Council. "You can trust me," says Buffy, but the way to prove that is to trust her.

Stoney
29-09-14, 08:59 PM
I do think Xander's tone/phraseology is confrontational with a deliberate attitude behind it, he is still pretty p*ssed at Buffy. So I did take it as being antagonistic rather than him fully believing Angel did definitely attack Giles, even if he is presenting it as such. I can believe he hadn't ruled it out though, but it seemed clearly pressed to punish and underline to Buffy the risk her loved ones are at potentially. In fairness to Xander it is something she clearly really wasn't considering so I can see why he would do it and want to press that point with the potential example.

There would have had to be have been some very concerted and deliberate effort to gain ground back between Faith/Buffy after this and I do think the weight of that lands on Buffy's shoulders as it is all taking place on her home ground. Unfortunately there is so much going on Faith is just slipping aside.

KingofCretins
30-09-14, 12:13 AM
I have no doubt he was leveraging the possibility just to impress on Buffy the ontological possibility of such a thing, and definitely had attitude; I don't think he actually had made up his mind at all, though. But the universe of suspects was pretty small for anyone who wasn't privy to audience knowledge. Lagos was dead.

cil_domney
01-10-14, 03:20 AM
Is there a way to find the reviews for the individual episodes? where they begin?

Sosa lola
01-10-14, 07:08 AM
Is there a way to find the reviews for the individual episodes? where they begin?

Go to the very first post of the thread. Click on Spoilers and it will reveal the episodes that has already been reviewed. Click on the episode and it will show you the discussion from the beginning.

Stoney
01-10-14, 08:18 AM
Is there a way to find the reviews for the individual episodes? where they begin?

Yep, at the bottom of the first post. I've just added the one for Revelations which I had forgotten about, duh! :D

cil_domney
04-10-14, 05:36 AM
Excellent discussion - thanks to all who participated - I'm working on my notes and will post later - but I just wanted to pitch in with my "Great Discussion" - I really like this episode because it exposed so much about Buffy and Angel and how, IMO, they are involved in such a miserable love relationship and how badly it all will reflect back on the young woman who is overwhelmed and then later emotionally damaged to a high degree from this love.

I love how this episode is constructed with the extreme Monster Boy Friend story of Debbie and Pete - then with the following Willow-Xander years long friends who begin to see each other romantically attracted and then engage in "cheating" which will eventually cause great harm to people they really do love. The third couple is Buffy who like Debbie really has experienced the Nightmare Boy Friend - turned monster. Angel may not kill Buffy like Pete does Debbie, but he sure as hell damaged and almost killed her emotionally - Counselor Platt makes a great exiting point for her about becoming a victim when your love makes you do poor choices about yourself and love. And this is what Buffy has done, IMO, ever since Angel is returned. I don't believe there is one thing that Buffy tells herself and Giles and her friends that is not a way for her to justify what she wants and feels - Having Angel back in her life.

I totally suck at writing so you will just have to go with my less structured style.

These are some of the elements of the episode that were particularly significant to me.

One of the elements that I think made a bigger impression on me this time is how naïve and still innocent Willow is about love and relationships – especially apparent in their post “revelations meeting” at her locker. She goes into “all support girlfriend role” with Buffy and Angel but she does it motivated, I think, from her guilt about lusting after Xander and cheating on Oz. But everything is so completely different for the Buffy-Angel affair. It is totally unrealistic to make the leap from what she and Xander are doing to what Buffy has done with keeping Angel a secret – especially since when Angel returned he was in a state that was extremely dangerous and he could have killed innocent people. Buffy is fully aware of the danger he posed but chose not to tell Giles or anyone that he had returned and in the primitive feral condition. So Willow: totally wrong in projecting her own guilt on to Buffy’s choices.

Another, and this is a Big One for me, is that simple comment “shame on you” Buffy used on Angel. Cause for me – this is it. All of this ultimately comes down to Angel – He is, as someone else states earlier, responsible for himself and his soul and his curse. It’s not Buffy who is in charge of what happens between them; Angel is the adult and the one who should be making the hard choices to save his soul and save Buffy from anymore friggin damage from her love for him.
Instead of Angel taking responsibility for what they both know is an extremely dangerous relationship he is doing training in what, if I have it right is an physical discipline for emotional and physical control. And all would be fine except that Angel is doing this “training” with his torso fully exposed and then he takes that exercise and places himself and Buffy in what I see as a Lovers Position. At this point their training session has moved into physical intimate contact and temptation. And that is all down to Angel, he is the one who makes the move – not Buffy. Later on we she again just how out of control their passions are – Buffy and Angel almost seem like they want to devour each other with those long passionate kisses. By this point, both have made the choice to place themselves in an environment that only leads to temptation. To keep with the symbol of “living flame” that destroys; they are literally playing with fire with their physical contact and it should be Angel taking care of business and saying No More and getting them out of the isolation and tempting secret meeting place.

Faith – heart breaking episode for her – she got played Big Time yet again from the same organization, even if G. Post was fired, symbolically it is the CoW who should be taking care of their Slayer. Instead Faith continues to live in that dive of a motel. The last scene with Buffy and her comments about making that motel room nicer and Faith’s re-use of “Spartan” is so powerful and, IMO, an indictment of the CoW and their complete lack of support and concern for their Slayer. Where the hell is Faith even getting money to pay for her motel rent? Does Giles know that she is living in that miserable motel? did Buffy tell him how Faith is living in that shit motel? From Faith’s perspective after G. Post finished screwing her over, she makes the logical choice for where she is. But it’s a heart break seeing her almost reach out to Buffy and give over her trust.

As much as a heart ache it is to see what Faith has experienced with G. Post and feeling rejected by not being included in the big and very important meeting with Giles and the Scoobs, it is even more disturbing to see all the foreshadows in this episode. The last scene with Buffy all dressed up like little Miss Prissy holding on to that little hand bag has Faith in the same position, laying on a bed, reading a comic book or magazine is repeated when Buffy comes after Faith to kill and sacrifice Faith as life exchange for Angel. Needless to say, all the Trust Issues have gone to hell between the Slayers , Giles and Scoobs. Not making any excuses for Faith, but she had a friggin hard life before she became a Slayer and she had little support from the CoW when she needed it and she fell back on the life lessons she learned on her own.

Clothing is another element that I found interesting. When have we ever seen Xander looking to totally sloppy - hell, his clothing don’t even fit his body in the scene where he is shooting pool and meets up with Faith. While Xander can be seen as very confrontational and aggressive and hard toward Buffy, I also believe that Xander is right and justified in his anger with Buffy. From the information that he had at this point, that the killer of Jenny Calendar, the killer who went after Buffy’s friends and who had to have killed many people was back. Not only was that person/vampire back, but he sees Buffy once again kissing Angel. Angel/Angelus and the experiences that they lived through is what Xander saw- and that is all he could see because Buffy was keeping her secrets. Another reason that Faith should have been included in that meeting – far as Faith knew and had she encounter Angel, she knew him as a vampire killer that needed to be killed.

By the end of the episode we have Xander back an attired in a really nice red shirt looking neat and attractive – no longer wearing baggy sloppy clothing. Oz is also very neat when he wears that gold and black squared shirt, Faith in this episode does not wear particularly sexy clothing and Willow throughout the episodes looks like such a young and innocent girl. AH is outstanding, as is NB in this episode. Have to love how it is Oz who is the one who calls Buffy on her Kissing Angel since he will find out that Willow is all with the Kissing Xander not by accident. Again, a great connection point from episode to episode.

Last point – back to some of the powerful heart aching foreshadows:

Xander, in contrast to his killing rage against Angel is the person who calls Buffy on her choice to Kill or sacrifice Faith as the Slayer to drain – while Buffy gets the comedy treatment of no body messes with my boy friend what Buffy choice is to basically kill Faith to save her boyfriend. Can help but go back to Debbie trying to save Pete from Buffy.

Faith, trust and rejection issues and being totally taken in her trust of G. Post and that moment when she could have reached out to Buffy but did not. We see how she will be reckless but accidently kills the Mayor’s assistant but then falls for the temptations the Mayor offers her.

Fast Forward to Joyce and Angel and Joyce telling him that he is the one who has to make the hard choices about Buffy and their relationship, something which, IMO, he did not want to do. I know that there are a great many fans who do not see Angel and Buffy as an inappropriate relationship, but Joyce, IMO, has it right – Buffy can’t see beyond her love and it hinder her from making good choices about love and life. We come full circle to Counselor Platt and his Love’s Dog and Joyce asserting her place and role as protector mother.

vampmogs
04-10-14, 11:57 AM
Nice post! Glad to see you participating :)



One of the elements that I think made a bigger impression on me this time is how naïve and still innocent Willow is about love and relationships – especially apparent in their post “revelations meeting” at her locker. She goes into “all support girlfriend role” with Buffy and Angel but she does it motivated, I think, from her guilt about lusting after Xander and cheating on Oz. But everything is so completely different for the Buffy-Angel affair. It is totally unrealistic to make the leap from what she and Xander are doing to what Buffy has done with keeping Angel a secret – especially since when Angel returned he was in a state that was extremely dangerous and he could have killed innocent people.


Have to love how it is Oz who is the one who calls Buffy on her Kissing Angel since he will find out that Willow is all with the Kissing Xander not by accident. Again, a great connection point from episode to episode.

See, these points feel a little contradictory to me :) On the one hand you're saying that Willow is being wrong or naive to draw comparisons between her and Buffy's behavior but then in your second point you acknowledge that there are in fact similarities between them, and that it's ironic that it is Oz who calls Buffy out given his own girlfriend's actions. That's precisely why I cannot separate the situations so easily and feel Xander was justified to act so righteous in his public shaming and condemnation of Buffy. Had Oz and Cordelia learned of Willow/Xander's deceit that group intervention would have went very differently. Willow may have overcompensated in how easily she gives Buffy a pass but I do respect her more for recognizing that she's also guilty of lying to everybody, and keeping secrets, and potentially hurting a lot of people, even if it's in a different way to Buffy/Angel. Whilst it's certainly true that the potential fallout of Buffy/Angel is much more severe and, well, life-threatening, how can it not be even a tad hypocritical for Xander to lecture and taunt her about her 'accidental' kiss when he's busy 'fluking' with Willow on a regular basis? If anyone should understand what Buffy is going through it should be him but unlike Willow he has no remorse whatsoever about hiding his own secrets whilst at the same time shaming Buffy for her deceit.

If we're going to accuse Willow of naivety at the very least we have to accuse Xander of a certain degree of hypocrisy. Had Xander's adultery been revealed in that scene there's not a chance Cordy wouldn't have tore him to shreds, there's not a chance Oz would stomach listening to Xander berate Buffy about "falling and landing on Angel's lips", and there's not a chance Buffy wouldn't have thrown his own secrecy and lies back in his face. And can anybody really argue that all three of them wouldn't have been perfectly justified to do so? Willow gets that. And whilst she may go about it in her OTT Willow-y way I'm always going to respect that more. That's not to say that Willow or Xander didn't have legitimate reasons to be hurt by Buffy's lies or were wrong to be angry or upset about them (given, as you say, the potential fallout if Angel turned dangerous again) but at the very least their affair should have softened the 'high' Xander was on when he was righteously attacking Buffy in front of the group and raking her across the coals.


Another, and this is a Big One for me, is that simple comment “shame on you” Buffy used on Angel. Cause for me – this is it. All of this ultimately comes down to Angel – He is, as someone else states earlier, responsible for himself and his soul and his curse. It’s not Buffy who is in charge of what happens between them; Angel is the adult and the one who should be making the hard choices to save his soul and save Buffy from anymore friggin damage from her love for him.

Instead of Angel taking responsibility for what they both know is an extremely dangerous relationship he is doing training in what, if I have it right is an physical discipline for emotional and physical control. And all would be fine except that Angel is doing this “training” with his torso fully exposed and then he takes that exercise and places himself and Buffy in what I see as a Lovers Position. At this point their training session has moved into physical intimate contact and temptation. And that is all down to Angel, he is the one who makes the move – not Buffy. Later on we she again just how out of control their passions are – Buffy and Angel almost seem like they want to devour each other with those long passionate kisses. By this point, both have made the choice to place themselves in an environment that only leads to temptation. To keep with the symbol of “living flame” that destroys; they are literally playing with fire with their physical contact and it should be Angel taking care of business and saying No More and getting them out of the isolation and tempting secret meeting place.

I agree that Angel shares a great deal of the responsibility and I think it was Dipstick who pointed out that Angel should be discouraging Buffy from keeping his return a secret and lying to everybody. That's a great point and it reflects badly on him and displays a degree of cowardice in that he's not willing to face the gang after how he hurt them. However, I'm not sure I entirely agree that Angel should take on an 'adult' role and make the hard decisions. Angel's paternalistic attitude is often what he's criticized the most for in the Buffy/Angel relationship so I feel we'd be damning him either way if we then criticize him for not taking on the adult role and making decisions for Buffy. I get the urge to, and that's what's problematic about the B/A relationship because there is a messy power imbalance when it comes to their age, but I'm glad Angel didn't try and talk down to Buffy like he's her father. That said, I agree with you that he shares just as much blame for keeping his return a secret and placing them in that compromising position and it's pretty unfair how Buffy has to face the wrath of everybody on her own when he's equally responsible. He should have been feeling guilty that she was lying to her friends and mother for him.

Stoney
05-10-14, 04:39 AM
3.08 Lovers Walk

I thoroughly enjoy this episode. It is a turning point in the season as it finally exposes Willow/Xander and makes Buffy face facts. And also, unsurprisingly, I like it because it is a good starting shot at the coming change of tone for how they will use Spike’s character and where he will be heading.

The tonal shift for Spike is made 100% clear in the contrast of his previous arrival to Sunnydale. In School Hard he was this legendary vampire who had sought and killed slayers, wouldn’t stop what he started, linked to Angel’s murderous past and was as unpredictable to his own kind as well as the good guys. This time he is the ‘moron who chooses to come back’. The entrance may be a repeat visual of smashing down the sign but instead of stepping threateningly out of his vehicle he falls out drunk.

There are three main angles they play with Spike in this episode. The character to mock is set as I say in how he arrives, him falling asleep outside the mansion and how Buffy treats him also leads the audience. This ‘reduction’ in his fearsomeness is backed up with his recount of how Dru, his long time paramour, has dismissed and belittled him. He isn’t to be feared like he was, he is a joke who can’t even pick a clever place to hide his kidnap victims. But we are also shown that he is still evil and as such dangerous. He kills the shopkeeper without care, viciously knocks out Xander (the violence of which is made clear by the visible injury) and makes his numerous threats to Willow. And yet we are also led, with Joyce specifically and also to some degree through comparison with Willow and Buffy/Angel, to see the dejected/hurt lover who is cuckolded and forlorn from the rejection he has received.

I have to say I really like the scene with Spike/Joyce as it plays to a natural mothering role that is interesting alongside the upcoming episode Gingerbread. It scans well for Spike’s character to turn to her for hot chocolate and sympathy too and his eventual fondness for all the Summers women is something that I really like. It certainly is one that has spurred a million fanfiction scenes and references to marshmallows!!

The episode also gives us an important chunk of Spike’s history with Xander and Willow because not only is it through Spike’s return and lovesick actions that their deceit is uncovered but it must have been a personally terrifying experience for them both. This direct attack and negative consequence will no doubt play into their behaviour and reactions with him going forward next season. The removal of the danger via the chip shifts the power balance and it is through Spike’s adaptability that he is able to use his wily nature to gain a different footing with the scoobies. That and a nicely hammered out piece of plot armour!!

So we find out that Spike has been dumped by Dru and his unusual behaviour in placing her first as he did and in making the truce with Buffy is recalled. The purpose of his return is somewhat murky as he initially focuses on taking a drunken melancholy tour of his past with Dru. When he sees Angel his jealousy and resentment flare and this works perfectly with the events of S2 and Dru saying Spike wasn’t demon enough for her when we consider how she behaved with Angel and her delight at his return, how he chose the gifts that spoke to her heart more. It plays perfectly well that Spike’s choice to act as he did in S2 would have really driven a wedge between him/Dru before we even get to hearing her seeing Buffy all around him. Plus, as we will see in Destiny, Spike’s romantic possessive attitude towards Dru is not one that she returns, even though I think it generally entertains/pleases her. So Spike’s reason for returning is cloudy but his focus becomes his jealousy, even if that does then warp into the love spell idea.

I have mixed feelings about Willow’s spell. Whilst I don’t think her intention was ‘bad’ it is wrong for her to try and fix the situation magically and to not tell Xander what she is planning. But I think it shows the extent of her distress to make this situation end. It is interesting considered alongside Spike’s desire for the love spell, as both of them are feeling desperate for the situation to change and both are in the wrong for wanting to affect the other person. Spike is juggling power with weakness in a way that Willow is also balancing. Their future paths will send them in different directions in this sense as Willow's witchery grows and Spike becomes chipped, but both will end up having to face their darker destructive sides.

As was commented at the time when Platt talked to Buffy about being love’s dog in Beauty and the Beasts, we have Spike label himself as Love’s Bitch and man enough to admit it. I can see why he is placing that above the denial Buffy and Angel have been operating under but that doesn’t make it necessarily a good thing. In fact I love the contradiction in him laying things out for Buffy and Angel that they can’t deny about the dynamics of their relationship and yet being blind to his own. His ‘Love’s Bitch’ approach has him equally kidding himself as he doesn’t want to hear confirmation of Dru’s fickle behaviour from Angel. He doesn’t want to face the rejection for what it is and determines to change his approach to win her back. I think it is good that he wants to stop moping about and be assertive, and I like the contrasting renditions of My Way with him leaving defying daylight at the end. But he is still being blinkered and it reminds me again of Beauty and the Beasts and how being such a slave to a relationship can mean that the other person's negative behaviour becomes something seen as being manageable. But there are times when being love's dog can arguably produce very positive results too as it will play its part in his commitment that has him endure Glory's torture and stay to protect Dawn when Buffy dies.

Buffy tells Spike she violently dislikes him and I think this is in part because he reminds her of Angel’s demonic side and all that happened in S2, including the Dru of it all too, and possibly from him disrupting the normal way of things as per the Council’s view on vampires. There is also potentially an unwelcome draw through his competency as a fighter, his adaptability and unpredictability which are things they have in common, as well as his open enjoyment of the fight, a side to herself that she is constantly in denial over. But that dangerous/evil side is very much in place at this stage and his recount of killing the homeless guy directly to her pushes that to the fore. So whilst I think Buffy could stake Spike at this stage, he does also, reluctantly, intrigue her too.

I have to say that I like and dislike the scene with the Mayor talking about Spike’s arrival. I think that it plays well for this patriarchal overseeing control that The Mayor has command of this season. We know he was present and in touch with Snyder last season so an awareness as he has here of Spike’s arrival would make sense. But, having said that, his lack of reaction to Acathla then is somewhat hard to make sense of. It is hard to believe it wouldn’t have disrupted his all important plans and garnered a reaction. But I love Wilkins so I can ignore the dislike and enjoy his brief appearance.

I have to say that I think Buffy is kidding herself yet again if she thinks that she has been fooling Giles et al. Just because they weren’t blunt enough to call her on her deluded belief her and Angel were going to successfully be friends or felt perhaps that they had to support her or accept it, it doesn’t mean they didn’t think it was foolish! But it seems fitting that it is as a consequence of Spike’s actions here that Cordelia’s status will change and the space will be made for him to take up on his return in S4.

So during Spike’s visit he is sympathetic and yet vicious, threatening and dangerous. He is shown as a character that can be foolish and mocked, used to inject humour, but also one who has cunning and the acuity to see underlying truths. It always strikes me as a particularly Shakespearean mix and is perhaps why the role was handled so well by James Marsters. The scene with Angel barred from the Summers’ house with Spike gesturing behind Joyce is a classic, one of my character favourites, and never fails to put a smile on my face.

The extra touches in the episode of showing Cordelia’s and Oz’s contrasting regard/commitment in the witch gift (am I supposed to understand what that is?) and the locker pictures serves to emphasise the betrayals of Willow/Xander. Although I do think the lie that Buffy told, her deceit in hiding Angel’s return, does far outstrip the deceit that Willow and Xander are engaged in, this episode does make the point very clearly about the cruelty in this scenario on those being betrayed. This is also underscored through seeing the despondency Spike feels in his recount of finding Dru being unfaithful. When the truth is finally seen, a well shot scene I think, we have Cordelia’s subsequent fall and the literal deep cut to again emphasize the fallout of what they have done. The way they then have the final scenes showing the four mulling over events and processing what has happened is just great in conveying the jumbles of emotion and that this is a real turning point. There may not have been life/death risks to what Xander and Willow were doing but it certainly isn’t without hurt and consequences. Cordelia’s rejection will also change the group dynamics again and I find her reaction to the reveal is good consistent characterization to having made herself exposed/vulnerable emotionally and then having been humiliated like this. Of course it also leads us into The Wish.

I haven’t been a fan of the Willow/Xander storyline and I thought the scene of wanting to kiss and not being able to resist touching her (“I wish I wasn’t so attracted to you”) illustrates the problem for me. It just doesn’t feel genuine. Objectively I can see that there would be growing up resistance, the appeal of the past the other represents for them, as well as reactions to sharing the other person with new love interests, but the degree of attraction and hormonal appeal seems dubious to me and I suppose I don’t believe it. The fact that it also is pretty much then dropped and doesn’t feature in their dynamic aids that. Whilst I don’t think all friendships are irreversibly affected by a romance, particularly one that is brief, doesn’t get too deep and the friendship is the greater history (these things always depend on all the varying factors involved), the way they acted during it doesn’t match up with how they move forward. Willow’s realization that it isn’t really what she wanted… again, I can see the historical pull that Xander would hold and why they decided to write her going there with him, but it all just underlines for me this feeling of it having just been a bit overplayed.

Speaking of things that are hard to swallow, I always found the degree of academic success they played Buffy as suddenly achieving difficult to take. It isn’t that I have any difficulty accepting that she is bright, but they always play the academic side for her as being ropey and something she hasn’t been able to put time into. Xander’s assumption that she had struggled like him wasn’t strange and so the reveal of her getting (what they seemed to be saying, I know nothing about American testing) pretty exceptional results just seemed a bit of a sudden shift. As they could have had her considering/debating her future and college options without making her results extreme I really don’t see why they did that.

That Buffy is still keeping Angel a secret from Joyce is very frustrating following Revelations, even if I think it is caused by an understandably off-putting and realistic assessment of how Joyce will feel about it. This combines with Joyce’s focus on the opportunities now open for Buffy and Buffy’s conversation with Angel to head towards the decision Angel comes to that he should leave. Following cil’s and vampmogs’ conversation, I do think Angel is stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is a power imbalance due to Buffy’s relatively young/naïve status and an expectation that Angel will play the adult, but when he does a criticism of it. I think that is a fair observation but, at the same time, my issue with how Angel leaves is that it is presented as being a decision taken for Buffy’s best interests made by others. I wish Angel had just explained why he was making the choice for himself.

Few extra thoughts… The whole scripting during the fight scene for Spike around ‘giving baby a taste’ was just such dreadful, dreadful writing. Faith’s absence this episode is hard. Particularly as she is mentioned in the context of the opportunity her presence supports giving Buffy and then, with Giles away particularly, it would have been nice if getting Faith to help/join in had been considered. Oh and then there is this…
Willow: It's a very intimate situation. It's all sexy with the smoke and the sweating and the shoe rental...
Xander: You're turned on by rented shoes?
Willow: That's not the issue.
wtf Willow?!? :lol:!

vampmogs
05-10-14, 08:32 AM
I do feel that the great misconception about this episode is the way Spike, and only Spike, has been saddled with being "love's bitch" despite the whole point being that ALL the characters were being ruled by love and Spike was just "man enough to admit it." Fandom's taken the title and ran with it but despite Spike being more honest about it Xander and Willow were just as ruled by their hormones and Buffy/Angel weren't fooling anybody. That was the point, no? So I've never really understood why the title has pretty much stuck with Spike to the exclusion of all the other characters when it contradicts what the episode was telling us.

Funnily enough I don't have much of a problem with Buffy keeping Angel's return a secret from Joyce. Buffy's rationale for why she's keeping it from her is actually fairly understandable ("she's still having trouble adjusting to the whole Slayer thing. I don't think she's ready to process the information that you and I are friends again") and I don't think she necessarily owes it to Joyce the way she did the Scoobies. Which sounds odd, I know, seeing how Joyce is her mother, but Joyce has given Buffy plenty of reasons to think she'd actually prefer to be kept in the dark about these things even if she complains often about Buffy never letting her in. She spent years turning a blind-eye to Buffy's slaying, she locked her in an asylum then chose to 'forget about it' as a way of coping when Buffy did come clean to her once before, and she didn't react well when Buffy let it slip that she had died in Faith, Hope & Trick. And the latter is completely understandable but I don't think Buffy was wrong to spare Joyce from knowing that she had died back in Prophecy Girl as it just adds to her stress which in turn makes Buffy's life more stressful too. Honestly, if someone wants to argue that Joyce has a right to know what's going on in her own daughter's life I understand it and wouldn't try and argue too hard against that. I get it. But I can't help but feel Buffy actually had Joyce's best interests at heart when she chose to ease Joyce into the whole supernatural world and that some degree of separation is healthy for Buffy too.

That said, I guess an argument could be made that by keeping Joyce in the dark Buffy actually put Joyce in jeopardy. Had she known about Angel's return and his restoration she probably would have been more trusting of him and not the vampire pretending to eat her behind her back.

And I do love that scene for a number of reasons. Spike is very funny when he's taunting Angel and pretending to bite Joyce. And I also love how much Angel seems to actually care about Joyce. I'm not going to give Angel credit for being a decent person and not wanting an innocent woman to die because, yeah, that should just be expected of him, but he does seem to be particularly emotionally invested in Joyce ("touch her and I'll cut your head of") which is nice given how little screen time they've shared. I'm sure that mainly has to do with understanding what she means to Buffy and how devastated Buffy would be if something happened to her, but that's nice too.

I do hate Xander's playfully seductive "and who will I be tickling?" when he picks up the feather. Up until now both characters have been fairly guilt-ridden about the whole thing but seeing them start to enjoy the sneaking around is pretty bad and makes them look more selfish and heartless. In all fairness, Willow does quickly put a stop to it, but whilst it's just a fleeting moment it's definitely my least favourite part of the whole arc.

I'm glad Willow was so guilt-ridden about the affair that she took steps to try and put a stop to it but it's absolutely wrong to put a spell on Xander without his consent and it does foreshadow her actions in S6. Like in S6, Willow turns to magic as an 'easy solution' and like in All the Way or Tabula Rasa Willow intends to place a spell on someone without their consent. She should have been honest with Xander about what she intended to do and let him make up his own mind. I do feel it was some misguided attempt of doing the right thing but Willow's "you said you wished these feelings would go away" is pretty unconvincing given that she knew Xander would be against the spell and thus tried to conceal it from him. I'm less decided on whether I feel Willow was reckless to even attempt a love spell given what happened in B,B&B (which Xander does cite -- "Or have you forgotten that I tend to have bad luck with these sorts of spells?") but in all fairness she shouldn't let Amy's mistakes stop her from practicing magic and honing her abilities. So yes, I understand the impulse to use magic to fix the problem and I'm happy, even, that Willow feels so distressed about the affair that she tries to find a permanent solution, but it is evidence of Willow messing with people's agency and wanting to use magic to skip over the harder and more painful process of dealing through the problem like we all have to. Her arc is wonderfully mapped out.

There's a really uncomfortable tone to the Willow/Spike scenes. Not only are his threats particularly violent (threatening to shove the broken bottle through her face is really horrific) but the rape threat is pretty distressing too. Which is what it is, yes? I don't see it talked about often but it certainly seems to be what Spike is implying when he says he "hasn't had a woman in weeks. Well, unless you count that shop keeper" because, um, why wouldn't he count the shop keeper unless he's referring to something else? And Willow certainly seems to read it that way too -- "There'll be no having of any kind with me. Okay?" It's just another reminder that the AR was not an isolated incident for Spike's character and that fans are being a little naive when they act like it was a step too far. Spike would have raped, often, just like Angel did and I imagine a lot of other vampires as well. It is what it is.

I'll never understand why Charisma's dramatic acting is so bad in AtS when she does such a fantastic job here in the Xander/Cordy hospital scene. It's like she got worse as she went along when you'd think her acting would keep improving? :headscratch:

I love the Cordy death fake out. It's so superbly executed and I imagine it would have pretty much fooled everyone the first time they watched this episode :lol:

Stoney, Oz gives Willow a "pez." I'm surprised you've never heard of them as they've been around for a long time! They basically hold small lollies/candies in them and the head is usually of a famous cartoon character. The most common ones seem to be of Looney Tunes characters :)

Stoney
05-10-14, 10:57 AM
I do feel that the great misconception about this episode is the way Spike, and only Spike, has been saddled with being "love's bitch" despite the whole point being that ALL the characters were being ruled by love and Spike was just "man enough to admit it."

I suspect it is in the embracing acceptance of it. Although, as I say, it can inspire positive things I think it is generally seen as a weaker position. A point that Platt first introduces it to us with really. And whilst I do think that Spike doesn't face the slavish blinkered behaviour that he exhibits under that perspective towards Dru and his relationship with her fully, he does embrace this slave to it notion that others don't consciously do I think. Spike's man enough to admit it isn't just that, he cloaks it around him as an intentional and chosen approach whereas others are shown to be temporarily driven by love/lust or to be acting as slaves to it without facing the truth of it. But yes, it isn't that love being a primary/significant driver to his actions is Spike's remit alone.


Buffy's rationale for why she's keeping it from her is actually fairly understandable ("she's still having trouble adjusting to the whole Slayer thing.

Ah, now you see I don't think that is her primary reason. I think she is mainly driven to keep it from Joyce so that she doesn't have someone who is highly likely to be very anti any feign of friendship pressuring her. It could be out of consideration for Joyce but it does put her at risk in the same way as the others and the main benefit seems to be for Buffy herself to me.


There's a really uncomfortable tone to the Willow/Spike scenes. Not only are his threats particularly violent (threatening to shove the broken bottle through her face is really horrific) but the rape threat is pretty distressing too. Which is what it is, yes? I don't see it talked about often but it certainly seems to be what Spike is implying when he says he "hasn't had a woman in weeks. Well, unless you count that shop keeper" because, um, why wouldn't he count the shop keeper unless he's referring to something else? And Willow certainly seems to read it that way too -- "There'll be no having of any kind with me. Okay?" It's just another reminder that the AR was not an isolated incident for Spike's character and that fans are being a little naive when they act like it was a step too far. Spike would have raped, often, just like Angel did and I imagine a lot of other vampires as well. It is what it is.

I certainly took it as considering raping her. There are a few occasions when it is made clear I think that rape was a common behaviour and I think it falls into an aspect of the soulless vamps that people turn away from as too difficult to hear/accept of characters that we are also supposed to enjoy watching. It seems that Angel benefits greatly from not being seen as that soulless creature except when he is taken out of his default character and therefore 'isn't himself'. Either by the curse breaking or through flashbacks. So, although we do see him linked to this aspect of the vamps' soulless behaviour and fitting the same violent sexual side that Spike's does show too, it isn't in current time so is seemingly easier for some fans to reconcile away from him and delude themselves about and yet accuse and revile Spike for. Angel also benefits from those acts being against nameless or pretty much faceless people from his murderous past (a past that the show tells us to separate him from when we first meet him too). So it isn't against a character we know/care about and therefore find harder to turn away from the effect such acts have on the victim and those around them. But there is the discussed violation of Holtz' wife and the whole scene in Destiny with the bride and Spike/Angel's discussion in the carriage about Angel having had his fill of her followed by Spike's assumption when he returns that Angel having sex is showing that he hadn't done with her yet and both are obviously horrible and not different. We also have a distressed souled Spike speaking to Buffy in Never Leave Me imply that keeping victims hurt/alive enough to cry was what made it worth it and that also seems to be an implied rape confession. That one is even followed by mention of attacking young girls like Dawn too. So I think the sexual violence is consistently shown/hinted at, but it is hard to face that as a character reality and then laugh at their antics in the next episode or root for them to get their romance. The real time issue and Spike being known as a soulless vampire from when we meet him seems to have a great effect on many fans that then can't separate Spike soulless/souled from these acts in the same way they do for Angel.

The strength of the use of the AR and what it means for Spike in how he processes it, the importance of it happening when he declared he doesn't hurt Buffy and the continuation of his arc to become souled lies of course in the shocking realisation that this liability, his vulnerability to his own demon beyond his conscious wishes and as part of his soulless urges was always there. It is why he does what he does to change himself and remove that risk and we accept that the souled versions of both vamps would not commit the same atrocities. It is the importance of the soul inverse laid brutally bare for us and doesn't work the same if people try to falsely isolate it.


I'll never understand why Charisma's dramatic acting is so bad in AtS when she does such a fantastic job here in the Xander/Cordy hospital scene. It's like she got worse as she went along when you'd think her acting would keep improving? :head scratch:

You know I was never keen on BtVS Cordelia as a character and very critical of CC's acting until I saw AtS Cordelia and I have appreciated her in this rewatch more than I ever have before, so I completely agree. They did change the character a little in that she was the leading lady of AtS and I wonder if that was what caused the damage. As I said in the AtS rewatch, I just don't think CC's acting was up to that level of exposure.


Stoney, Oz gives Willow a "pez." I'm surprised you've never heard of them as they've been around for a long time! They basically hold small lollies/candies in them and the head is usually of a famous cartoon character. The most common ones seem to be of Looney Tunes characters :)

Oh OK, new one for me. Whenever I have watched it before I thought he said it was a pen, ha! :biggrin1:

Sosa lola
05-10-14, 01:13 PM
Great reviews, Stoney and Vampmogs! I'll return to comment on a few points but I wanna point out that this episode marks the end of the close friendship between Xander and Willow. Next episode Willow will ask Xander not to touch her, even in a friendly way, and along that I suspect that midnight phone calls are also out, the junk food exchange, visiting each other's homes, even special shared smiles. It's all over. That doesn't mean that they're not friends anymore, no one forgets Willow hugging Xander in The Zeppo, but they're not as close and tight as they used to be. I do think that both characters will try to bring back their close friendship by S5.

cil_domney
05-10-14, 11:05 PM
@vampmogs

Regarding the contrast between the secrets/cheating of Willow and Xander and Buffy and Angel - to me it very much about scale and potential damage. The people who will be directly effected by the secret and cheating of Willow-Xander is limited to four people the potential damage from Angel, when he first returns in his primitive feral state and later is beyond the personal to Buffy - Angel in this state could kill many people; a return of Angelus is certain to involved many other innocent people. This is not to say that I think what Willow and Xander are doing is not wrong; we see that eventually it leads to the almost death of Cordelia and the emotional damage to both Cordelia and Oz as well as the two who could not control their physical attraction and decide to cheat. Buffy wearing that black cap with BOMB is symbolic of all the characters involved in the secrets and poor choices - they all place themselves in explosives situations.

It's my interpretation that one of the reasons that Xander is given such a confrontational and aggressive treatment is to facilitate the re-introduction of Angel as once again "acceptable and stable" also why we have Angel being the savior role - it's a very heavy handed treatment that forces his return on the Scoobs and the viewers. At the same time, all the emotional stress and trauma his return imposes on Buffy set-up the fact that he does have to leave her and Sunnydale. I personally don't see his leaving as a "paternalistic attitude" - point of fact, I don't recall any of the adult/authority figures forcing Buffy to not continue a relationship with Angel even as her "only friends-we are not together" - the only adult/parent/authority figures who does take direct action is Joyce. And I see Buffy initial keeping his return a secret from her mother another sign of disrespect, same as I see it applied to Giles.

Up to this point my connection for this arc is

Angel/Angelus Nightmare Boy Friend monster
Debbie-Pete - reality nightmare transformed boy friend monster - actual death from monster boy friend
Willow-Xander - temptation and failure that leads to emotional harm and almost death on individual scale
Buffy-Primal Feral Angel monster boy friend - potential great harm and danger
Buffy-Angel - potential great harm monster boy friend, poor choices made, temptations and desire
Buffy-Angel-Scoobs - Forced acceptance of previous potential nightmare monster boy friend
Buffy is a modified Debbie - not the extreme individual victim - but a Buffy who is desperate to have Angel return to her back in his Good Boy Friend role - even if they can never go back to their former Lover's relationship.
Spike enters as the replacement-supernatural Nightmare Monster Boy Friend as a combination of Debbie and Pete; victim and love's bitch and monster boy friend - Spike while being the voice of Hard Truths for Buffy and Angel in his own strange twisted perspective actually makes the choice take control of his relationship by forgoing the use of magic and taking matters into his own hands.

Local Maximum
06-10-14, 05:17 PM
Revelations and Lovers Walk are both favourites of mine and I'm sorry I don't have more to contribute at this particular time -- energy level, other commitments etc.

Great reviews though to KoC and Stoney for the two eps and all the comments :)

I do actually really buy Willow/Xander. I understand the objections. But basically, on Willow's end, she...has wanted intimacy with Xander forever. And more to the point, I think she already intuits that "moving on" from her crush on him will, in the long run, lead to a loss of intimacy with Xander. She's got reservoirs of bitterness that he "would rather be with someone [he] hate[s] than be with [her]" even though she's made herself be fine with Xander/Cordy. She does devote herself fully to Oz -- but as Sosa says, it comes at a price.

I actually think that the hug in The Zeppo is part of the overall Willow/Xander tragic-separation arc -- because she hugs him and tells him she loves him because the world is going to end. She expects that he's probably going to die (and she is too). It's something of a mirror of Xander's confession of love in Becoming. And just as Willow accidentally hurts Xander by waking up to Oz, Xander accidentally hurts Willow by banging Faith late the same night. More to the point, Willow finds out in Consequences not just that Xander slept with Faith, but that he slept with Faith the very night of The Zeppo and her foolish, big emotional hug and caution-to-the-wind ILY declaration -- since Xander explicitly says it's the night of the apocalypse demons in the library in Consequences. I think it's easy and even obvious for adults to be able to sort out romantic and platonic love, and not let one overwhelm the other, but I think it really matters that Willow's love of Xander has been *so* tied up with romantic aspirations for so long, and that she feels she has to suppress much of her love and desire for physical affection (I mean, like, hugs, not necessarily kisses). Even her hugging him in The Zeppo is a big burst of affection that she is trying to keep a lid on -- and then he goes and sleeps with Faith, and it's just another iteration of the regular pattern of Xander responding to Willow's hopeless, needy love for him by going for intimacy with anyone else. Willow knows, consciously, that she has no actual "right" to be upset, because she rejected Xander, and that's why she doesn't share her grief with anyone -- she goes and cries alone in the bathroom and seemingly never brings up the pain again. But Xander's not being with her, which is a years-long rejection, continues stinging forever, even if Willow intellectually and even emotionally would rather be with Oz. It's not the whole of their friendship after this.

She does love Oz, and romantically would rather be with him than Xander. But it's really, overwhelmingly hard to suppress her desire for that intimacy with Xander she's craved for years. And it does seem terribly unfair that she should be denied it because he waited until the worst possible time to express it. If she were only not such a good girl she could have both, and that's an incredible heady moment for a girl who has up until recently had no romantic prospects, ever -- and is still stinging not just from Xander's rejection, and Buffy's leaving her for the summer, and to some extent that her boyfriend is a furry potential killer. As a "good girl," she doesn't get to express her contradictory feelings, and indeed doesn't even believe she has a right to them. I don't think she should cheat on Oz and I think she should make up her mind, but I kind of get why it's seductive to be bad in addition to everything else, and on some level she's already sort of associated winning Xander's love with being a bit of a bad girl, which is his type.

And they also do, like Xander and Cordelia back in season two, get put in a life-and-death situation. I find it pretty believable that Willow is actually pretty genuinely terrified by Spike, and that Xander's head injury actually hurts more than the average Sunnydale head injury. They may really be dying here. I don't think they are...at the end of hope, but they are low on options and each other are the only comfort they seem to have -- which brings back the old them-against-the-world feelings from before, which are manifesting as lust at the moment.

Anyway, we know already as if this episode what Willow's primary choice is -- she wants to put an end to the affair, and she goes to magic which is the only way she knows how. I think this is really important and awesome writing. Seriously -- Willow has such difficulty managing her emotions, that she is not sure if she can even possibly live up to the moral standards she knows she has to. And so she tries to use magic to rewrite reality in a way that will make life livable. It's not just a matter of not liking pain; Willow feels so unable to control herself that she just wants to remove the temptation from the board -- and mostly believes that it's the only option. There's a tremendous lack of faith in herself, as well as a lack of faith in Xander. There's a terribly out-of-proportion sense of morality -- wherein the better option for dealing with a high-school-kid-level indiscretion is to do a terrible-violation-dangerous-dark-arts-spell. It's..."cute" at this point because she gets stopped partway through, but Willow's spell is what gives Spike the idea to do his spell and leads directly to their being kidnapped. But the out-of-proportion morality is the result of someone who basically has no idea how to function as an adult or quasi-adult and is terrified of hurting people, which is on some level inevitable. If she can make the guilt go away, how can that be a bad thing? And it is a bad thing, because, you know, consent -- but there's some desperation in there that she can't control herself anymore. I think it's not entirely just about wanting to avoid pain -- I think this really is her way of trying to do the right thing, and she's tempted to give up on it even being possible to "do the right thing" through legitimate/standard channels.

Xander I'm less fully sympathetic to -- but we sort of know that he recognized that he's losing Willow in Becoming. Xander doesn't want to lose her, either. It's different in his case because his feelings didn't have a big romantic component until he actually sees her as having other romantic suitors and until she might actually vanish from his romantic menu at any moment (well, already has!), but I think basically he does find her irresistible because he loves her and senses that he's going to lose her. It's really tragic once again that this will drive a wedge between them -- as well as knocking Xander down even further in the eyes of everyone, which he references repeatedly (c.f., for ex., Gingerbread where he talks about everyone expecting him to screw up again).

SORRY FOR GOING ON GUYS IT'S JUST SO EPIC

I also don't want to imply that they're never close again. I think that a lot of the damage here does get healed...eventually. But I think the difficulty separating out their closeness and intimacy with romantic attraction and them-against-the-world feelings ends up casting them both adrift without much of each other for a while, even while they're still friends, and contributes to Willow's feelings of loneliness and being unloved and Xander's feelings of being a failure and looked down on.

cil_domney
07-10-14, 06:30 PM
Stoney:

I certainly took it as considering raping her. There are a few occasions when it is made clear I think that rape was a common behaviour and I think it falls into an aspect of the soulless vamps that people turn away from as too difficult to hear/accept of characters that we are also supposed to enjoy watching. It seems that Angel benefits greatly from not being seen as that soulless creature except when he is taken out of his default character and therefore 'isn't himself'. Either by the curse breaking or through flashbacks. So, although we do see him linked to this aspect of the vamps' soulless behaviour and fitting the same violent sexual side that Spike's does show too, it isn't in current time so is seemingly easier for some fans to reconcile away from him and delude themselves about and yet accuse and revile Spike for.

Great Point – Angel as the contrasting “Good Vampire” benefits in huge amount by his being introduced as “Angel the Good on Redemption Path” plus you add all the support from Buffy’s dogmatic insistence that Angel and Angelus are separate and not equal and the benefit for Good Vampire increase even more. The viewers must make the connections from a logical, moral and intellectual perspective regarding his current state and history. Feeling guilt and shame and making changes for your future behavior does not eradicated his past – it is still the same individual. Angel , may be on his path of trying to help people to atone for his life as a vampire, but he is not a separate being. His history, both as Liam and Angelus and his curse create Angel.

While, it is not comfortable to remember either character in their Evil Vampire only status, it is their history and part of what eventually they turn away from. There is no story or character of Angel without Angelus and the same for Spike who goes from the dreamer poet and weaker good man into the powerful evil Spike.

Stoney:

The strength of the use of the AR and what it means for Spike in how he processes it, the importance of it happening when he declared he doesn't hurt Buffy and the continuation of his arc to become souled lies of course in the shocking realisation that this liability, his vulnerability to his own demon beyond his conscious wishes and as part of his soulless urges was always there. It is why he does what he does to change himself and remove that risk and we accept that the souled versions of both vamps would not commit the same atrocities. It is the importance of the soul inverse laid brutally bare for us and doesn't work the same if people try to falsely isolate it.

Again – great point. I both hate how they used the AR but Spike and Angel both had to have committed rape many times in their Evil Vampire existence. Spike coming to understand that this evil behavior, in spite of his thinking very differently regarding Buffy, the person whom he has such great love for, will always be possible and he must try to change himself is the most important point of his entire life. But it’s important to remember that the weaker male William would not have been capable of, IMO, of going through the trials and winning; and Spike without the Good Man that was William would not have cared at all about the evil act his committed against Buffy.
The implications of rape against Willow for sure are part of Spike’s character – that he does this to one of the most loved and innocent young woman makes it even more difficult to process with the later Spike in the series. The contrast of that drunken Spike holding a broken bottle against her face - that’s brutal and visually horrific to watch. Their later scene, while played as comedy, it’s still Spike wanting to do great harm to an innocent victim.


Local Maximum:

Willow has such difficulty managing her emotions, that she is not sure if she can even possibly live up to the moral standards she knows she has to. And so she tries to use magic to rewrite reality in a way that will make life livable. It's not just a matter of not liking pain; Willow feels so unable to control herself that she just wants to remove the temptation from the board -- and mostly believes that it's the only option.

Excellent comments on Willow and her emotional trauma and confusion. She wanted so much to be in a romantic relationship with him and he always chose another over her. Not only did he not want her but all his “girls of choice” were in direct opposites to her own personality. Buffy was beautiful and a superhero/leader, Cordelia was such a strong personality and took no shit from anyone, Faith, another strong superhero with total bad ass attitude. All of these girls could not have been anymore different from Willow and it was another layer of how much he rejected her as a person whom he could love and want beyond their great friendship only. Now, when she has finally moved on from his rejection and is “the chosen girl” with Oz; Xander decides that he wants her.

What this young Willow did not understand at this point in her life is that their Great Friendship was of equal, if not better value, than the romantic relationship she wanted. Great friendships are something to cherish and respect. Knowing that you have a great friend, someone you can depend on and turn to when life gets hard; this is a wonderful thing to have in your life.

Dipstick
07-10-14, 07:00 PM
Great review, Stoney and great comments everyone.

I love Local Max's point that Willow was toying a little with being a bad girl to be Xander's type. I LOL here:


Xander: So, do you really need to resort to the black arts to keep our hormones in check?
Willow: At this point, I'm thinking 'no'.

Xander's entirely correct and reasonable argument to protect his own emotions are such a turn-off! BTW, this is the ONE time in S1-5 that I can sort of adopt fandom's Willow Theorem of Evil- "Since Willow did X bad thing in the earlier seasons, it means that she would do X squared or cubed bad thing in S6." Because the X base of immorality/bad ethics remains the same even if greater power/different circumstances could lend it exponential darkness". I'm usually the "Fandom says this action of Willow spells black-haired badness and here's why they're all wrong!" girl so I thought I should point out when I analyze Willow a little more like the majority.

Willow's *second*-mindwipe maps onto this de-lusting spell. It's a similar case of Willow removing a person's feelings/memories to clear up the tracks of Willow's mistakes that could spell hurt and broken heart for her and others and are already making Willow feel incredibly guilty. Although, there are differences. IMO, Willow did, however brattily, essentially pout that she wouldn't do the de-lust after Xander complained. It's a step in a worse direction for Willow to persist after Tara made her objections to the mindwipe- but it's a small enough change that it feels like a straight-up build on past bad behavior.

As long as I'm not acting like myself and voicing majority opinions, I'll even grant that Willow's and Xander's cheating does make outsiders out of axillary-Scoobies Oz and Cordelia. Usually, I think Oz, definitely, and Cordelia, to a lesser extent, have a decent deal in the Scooby-dom. For most of their relationship, Willow was a devoted girlfriend to Oz. IMO, Buffy and Xander usually respect the hell out of Oz. Hell, even when Xander is macking on Oz's girlfriend (which, btw, is not bro-respect), Xander is babbling about how he respects Oz and how Oz is a great guy much more than what Xander is DOING TO HIS ACTUAL GIRLFRIEND which is hilarious to Xander/Oz slash-dabblers like myself. Oz has a chance to take on a more of a leadership/insidery role in the Scoobies- but he generally elects not to.

Cordelia actually has a steeper hill to climb since she has to contend with her negative history with Buffy and Willow. And bluntly stated, Xander isn't as in love or supportive of Cordelia as Willow was of Oz. However, Cordelia has a lot in common with Buffy and Willow kind of respects Cordelia in a weird way. Moreover, Cordelia is really self-possessed and leadery and articulate for a teenager. Even when the Scoobies resent Cordelia, they still end up listening to her because Cordelia makes herself heard.

However, despite those general truths about Oz and Cordelia, their respect-stock plummeted during the Fluking Period. With Xander/Willow actively disrespecting Cordelia/Oz despite any of their better intentions and guilt, Buffy mainly interested in Cordelia/Oz through their relationship with Xander/Willow, and Giles either on vacation in this ep or uninterested with high school philandering and humiliations, Cordelia/Oz really lost their place in the gang. The Scoobies are a really small group. Willow and Xander cheating together really will do it for humiliating and undermining Cordelia/Oz.

Moreover, as Local_Max said, Willow and Xander do have a vibe of "us against the world" in their affair. It's practiced from a childhood when they were all they had but it's also part of being the non-slayer and non-Watcher of the Core Four. Cordelia and especially Oz just recently entered the Scoobies. Moreover as I stated above, Cordelia and Oz do Scoobydom with their fingertips. They're just not as involved as Willow and Xander. I feel like that fuels some of the W/X trysts. Certainly, Xander had been sneering for a bit of S3 about how Cordelia is in the her special place when it comes to evil-fighting. Willow and Xander are the two who are the two researching late into the night in Revelations in the sexy-stacks with their weird, unnamed, subservient relationship with Giles. "You're not the Watcher of Me". Willow and Xander are and have been close enough to Buffy that Spike knows that they're excellent hostage bargaining chips for Buffy. As always, the smallest things are delightful about Willow. I LOL at:


Willow: You were real brave. Do you need to barf?

LOL. It's quite Willow to marry a female lover damsel's gushy "You were real brave" with a childishly blunt and pragmatic "Do you need to barf?"

Now, I actually do think there's some validity that Xander/Willow are much more in the thick of evil-fighting. However, it's obviously no reason to disrespect or cheat on Cordelia/Oz. And Cordelia's and Oz's super-brave, successful rescue and Cordelia's injury shines a bright light on the fact that Willow/Xander aren't the lone-soldiers in the trenches of demon-fighting and high school hell. Cordelia and Oz are doing their part too and they risk a lot to stay in the Scoobies and stay with Willow/Xander.

However, Willow and Xander aren't the insidery plutocrat One Percenters of Scoobydom, even they did undermine and push out Cordelia/Oz in the last few weeks. Like Willow/Xander, Buffy and Angel occupy their own their own insidery sphere of being the romantic heroes of their own story. Many of the posters covered how Buffy and Angel dwelt on their romantic story so much that they didn't consider the rights and safety needs of the Scoobies. It's better because Bangel/Angel is out in the open, but the ep covers how Buffy and Angel continue to play with fire because they act like lovers but lie to themselves and others that they're friends.

Moreover, Angel is working through his own story. I covered how much Angel bothers me for taking zero interest in apologizing personally or trying to make amends to the non-Buffy Scoobies who he hurt last year. To add insult to injury, he sucks at keeping his eye on the ball to rescue Xander and Willow.


Spike: I used to bring her rats. With the morning paper.
Buffy: Great. More moping. That's gonna get her back.
Spike: The spell's gonna get her back.
Angel: Lot of trouble for somebody who doesn't even care about you.
Spike: Shut your gob!
Angel: She really is just kind of fickle.
Spike: SHUT UP!

Through the entire rescue, IMO, Buffy was mostly focused on dancing to Spike's tune to save her best friends. Buffy is somewhat irresponsibly distracted by her personal snarky contempt for Spike and her defensiveness about her relationship with Angel. Meanwhile, I get the impression that Angel does want to save Willow and Xander but he's not *all that* personally invested in it. Angel knows it's the right thing to do and he doesn't want Buffy to lose both of her best friends or her mother to Spike. However, I feel like Angel is on auto-pilot on the rescue part but he's PERSONALLY INVESTED AND PASSIONATE when it comes to defending the veracity of his responsible de-militarized friend-zone with Buffy, maintaining how much Drusilla would prefer to bang Angel than Spike and how Angel >>>>> Spike. It kind of flies over Buffy's head that *souled* Angel competed with Spike over Drusilla right in front of Buffy on a mission in the middle of a "Every second counts...." rescue of her best friends.

I don't know if Willow needs this defending here and whether I'm being premature but I thought her request that Xander not touch her in The Wish was reasonable. Xander meant his touch innocently- but he did put his hand on her thin-tights clad thigh. Maybe Willow felt comfortable with that in the past but she didn't feel comfortable with it anymore. I don't think Buffy would be comfortable with Xander casually touching her that way. I don't have guy-friends that date back to my squalling infant days so maybe I don't know. But I'd reproach a guy who his hand on my thigh if I was wearing a skirt. It's not like Willow objected to a high five or a fist-bump.

Local Maximum
08-10-14, 04:48 AM
I'm glad Dipstick mentioned the "At this point, I'm thinking no!" which is one of my favourite moments. There's something about it. I don't think it's just that she's being petulant, acting as if Xander's responsibility and criticism of her makes him unattractive. I think it's that she says it in a kind of kiddish voice -- that she's taking her sarcastic-voice out for a stroll but doesn't have the full confidence to back it up fully. And in general the idea that it's some kind of insult to say that he's no longer so hyper-attractive that she needs to trick him into a spell in order to resist him. I mean, what kind of an insult is that? An awesome, twisted one. I think I'm not even accurately representing why that line is so delightful -- because it's not even designed to be mean exactly.

There will be plenty of time to discuss it when it happens, assuming that I feel up to it when we get there -- but I do think that Willow's first mindwipe (All the Way) is so fundamentally different from the second (Tabula Rasa). The TR one is definitely, officially designed to stave off a breakup and to remove the pain of Willow's actions on Buffy. The All the Way one is...basically for the same reasons. She's undoing her emotional outburst at Tara at the Bronze, to which she says "What do you want me to do? Reverse time and take it back? Heh, 'cause I could probably...." I don't know that Willow would literally, definitely state outright that she thinks Tara would leave her over this, but she seemed to be on the verge of believing that the Tough Love fight would represent their breakup ("OVER? HOW CAN IT BE OVER? I JUST FOUND HER!") and more to the point their first argument and Willow not going with Tara to the fair meant that Glory got to Tara when Willow wasn't there to protect her. There's also the fact that, say, the one time she spoke out against her mom her mom tries to burn her alive, or the fact that she gets no real warning before her relationship with Oz falls apart except for the vague sense that his watching Veruca too intently is the writing on the wall. It may not be that Willow genuinely believes that one argument means the end of their relationship, but I think she has been trained by years of experience, combined with her own "native" anxiety and insecurity when we meet her, that any conflict is THE END, even if I don't know if she can necessarily pinpoint what exactly THE END would entail. To be clear, I don't think the memory spells would make sense before season six, because I don't think she was quite as desperate before Tara's mindsucking/Buffy's death/summer of defending the town/Buffy's resurrection/demon biker attack/hitchhiker demon. I think the fact that everything is superficially "okay" again doesn't mean that Willow isn't still operating on a basically fight-or-flight operating system that any screwup, or conflict, and the whole fragile world, both internal and external, she and the gang have will fall apart like a house of cards. None of which justifies her actions, of course, but the fact that "rationally" there is no longer an absolute, life-and-death external threat by the time they get past the hitchhiker demon in After Life doesn't mean that associating any action with end-of-the-world-level blinding emotional panic isn't on some level understandable. Lovers Walk helps establish how much Willow's guilt and fear under "less dangerous" times can already have a big impact on her thinking.

In general I think it's worth considering this episode's, and this arc in general's, placement. I like cil_domney's runthrough of the emotional arc of the season so far. In a lot of ways, the political/class/antiauthoritarian thread of season three has been laid already in certain key episodes, most notably in Anne, Faith, Hope & Trick, Homecoming and Band Candy, as well as via the introduction of the concept of an evil watcher in Revelations. The criticism of the Council and Giles by extension more or less started with FHT with the reveal of the Watchers Retreat, and continues through the reveal of Gwen Post as evil power-hungry Watcher which the Council was deeply remiss in dealing with ("They swear there was a memo"), through Helpless and the Cruciamentum, and the Wesley arc, culminating in Buffy's graduation. This runs alongside the criticism of political authority in general with the Mayor. It's notable that Spike is pretty much automatically recognized as an enemy of the Mayor's -- Spike is a dangerous, "loose cannon" anarchist. In a sense then he doesn't have that much of a place in this season. Next season will have Spike relevant when the show's criticism of authority structures takes on psychology and operative conditioning and he can be a lab rat. But for now, it's made pretty clear that he's just a threat to the established order and should be snuffed out. Given my biases and that this episode actually does do some Spike/Willow paralleling (more later?), I hasten to add that to my memory, the only characters that we see Wilkins personally ordering the assassination of, by vampire committee no less, are Spike and Willow (in Doppelgangland) -- and Willow because, like Spike, she's in some sense transgressive, though in her case it's through computer hacking powers. That Wilkins sends a committee to destroy Spike reinforces a theory I have -- which is that the reason that it seems as if threats get more powerful as the years go on is that Wilkins (and probably the Master, as well) had done a lot of the work of keeping the town safe enough for the populace to be controllable -- the demon bikers of Bargaining wouldn't think of going into Wilkins' town, I suspect. That (IIRC) it sounds as if there's some kind of war going on between Wilkins and Balthazar in Bad Girls further supports this. Season four makes this type of thing more explicit -- i.e. that the government/academic setup runs in opposition to the demons and is very effective against them.

This episode belongs to the overall mini-arc which deals with the consequences of season two. I said back when talking about Becoming that Willow definitely chooses Oz unconsicously but doesn't know that she chooses Oz. In a sense that is the big "takeaway" of the Willow/Xander arc, in which Xander's showing interest at the wrong time, and Willow's accepting that interest rather than recognizing that this time has past, does damage to everyone. (I refer to it in these terms because Willow showed interest repeatedly, up until BB&B even, though she was under a spell at a time; it's Xander's willingness to reciprocate that is new, even though the initial kiss was fully reciprocated.) In a real sense, Becoming actually destroyed three couples, and perhaps even more, as possible romantic "endgames," but the story's destruction of these 'ships is not the same as the characters being aware of that ending. W/X was essentially "over" when Willow woke up and said Oz' name rather than Xander's. Buffy/Angel was essentially over when Buffy stabbed Angel through the chest to hell. And, importantly, Spike/Drusilla was essentially over -- well, probably episodes before, but I think what really permanently torpedoed them as a ship was Spike "standing up" against Angel, knocking Dru unconscious and dragging her away, like some kind of stereotypical caveman.

To elaborate, here: on some level, the fundamental element on which all of Spike/Dru was based, IMO, is actually that she made him. She made him a monster -- and he proves his monstrosity by fulfilling her desires for her. I think that's basically what their relationship always was, and Spike's superficial dominance of her can only really be in becoming a "worse" version of Angelus -- killing slayers, that type of thing -- and fulfilling her "need" for someone to continue abusing her. But really, she still controls him for the most part, and even his being dangerous and uncontrolled and anarchic is designed around her desires, at least to an extent. This is not a healthy relationship, to say the least. For one thing, it's bad to have a relationship where feeding on a homeless guy is a cherished memory together! For another, Dru is pretty awful to Spike in general, when Angel is around especially. And for another, when it actually does become clear to Spike that he's not the dominant partner and doesn't have any real power in the relationship, he gets angry and wants to punish her. Now, I think they lasted as long as they did because I think Dru "liked" Spike's anger, when it drove him to greater acts of deviance and evil. However, what happened in Becoming is actually quite different: Spike's anger drove him to...team up with the good guys? Maybe under other circumstances, she may have forgiven or even gotten off on Spike knocking her unconscious and dragging her far away against her will -- but not when his action saved the world and prevented Angelus from releasing a primal chthonic force that would end the world. This followed a long period in which Spike's perceived lack of virility made her lose interest. Spike thought that by beating her up and beating Angelus up he could win her back, and that almost worked, but he happened to accidentally (or maybe not-so-accidentally) side with the good guys in the process of doing so.

With Buffy/Angel, I think it's basically that Becoming, in the flashbacks, basically demonstrated why Buffy was always going to lead to Angel's "ruin" -- that Angel's curse made it so that his desire to do good would always lead him to do evil, and ironically that the fates also seemed to design it so that his desire to do evil would always force him back into being good. (The idea that Angel can essentially be recursed by future victims any time he steps too far out of line as Angelus means that the loop really is inescapable -- he satisfies his desire to be good and make love to a hero while souled, he loses his soul; he satisfies his desire to be truly evil and to destroy the weak while soulless, and he is re-cursed. An endless cycle that even killing Jenny or trying to end the world couldn't prevent.) There is something completely irresolvable in Buffy/Angel, UNLESS she kills him. And she does. Other relationships Buffy can have, as flawed as they are, ultimately can at least allow for the possibility of coexisting with the world, of developing and changing and not being anchored to an eternal devastating cycle the way Angel/Angelus does. Buffy's opting to live instead of die with Angel, both at the end of Becoming and even in Anne, is Buffy's definitive rejection of that relationship.

Now, understand me: Xander and Willow will remain friends, and their friendship will save the world. <3 Buffy and Angel, I think, will always be important to each other. Spike and Drusilla -- well, she will always matter to him, and what he means to her may depend on whether she ever regains her sanity or can come to the world of the good guys. Regardless, though, they are basically over as romantic 'ships as of the season two finale. So why is it that season three begins by resurrecting several of them? I think it's that life is messy, people cling to what is gone, and it's very difficult to grieve something or to truly recognize that it's dead. This episode is mostly about these three couples and the question of whether or not they are truly "over." And the episode doesn't examine this in a straightforward way; the couples are paralleled, but they are not paralleled too directly. For instance, Willow/Xander and Spike/Dru are inverted. One is a couple in which both participants "want" the relationship to end, and are even resorting to magic to force it to end, but don't have the emotional strength to stop themselves until one of their romantic partners nearly dies. Spike, in contrast, is trying everything in his power to restore the over Spike/Dru relationship, including resorting to magic, for a while, to make it happen. Buffy/Angel are pretending that they can live in this intermediate space, neither truly separate nor truly together. Unlike Willow and Spike, they are not attempting to take any action at all to change their situation to the one they would rather have.

So anyway, in this episode, Spike expresses the idea that he may be love's bitch, but at least he's man enough to admit it; and argues that it's a foolish dream to ever believe that it's possible to be friends with lovers. However, this is also the end of the Willow/Xander affair, after which they...are friends. I think it takes some time before they really settle into this friendship as a source of strength and comfort rather than lost opportunities -- but it happens. In this episode, everyone is basically unable to escape from the prisons of their emotional desire to continue these doomed relationships, either unable to resist constant action like W/X or paralyzed into a kind of constant anxious inaction like Buffy/Angel. Spike shows up as the emotional basketcase who reveals to everyone, directly or indirectly, the depth of their emotional feeling and desires, so that, once the desires are exposed, both to each other and to the world, they can then deal with them. Spike is too emotional to be rational, and he believes that's true of everyone. And to an extent he's not wrong -- like, yes, it's pretty true that most 17/18-year-old teenagers aren't going to make all their romantic decisions with clear-eyed logic. But somehow or another, Willow and Xander do control themselves after their life-and-death encounter with Spike pushes them to fully indulge again and then exposes them; and Buffy is able to put some distance between her and Angel, which she manages to maintain until the First Evil starts working its evil magic on Angel. The point, I think, is that denying that those desires are there is the problem, either through secrecy (Willow/Xander, Buffy/Angel up until Revelations) or through self-deceit (Buffy/Angel). Spike's declaration that he's love's bitch, which connects to the therapist's warning to Buffy in BatB that she might become love's dog, is something of an abdication of responsibility for making good decisions in his love life, but as a soulless evil demon he is not particularly concerned about that. The rest of them do have to make decisions balancing their emotional desires with what is good for them and others, and the decisions that they make are the ones that reinforce where Becoming mostly left them -- a greater separation between Willow & Xander to make way for Willow/Oz, and Buffy and Angel trying to stay away from each other lest their epic drama destroy the lives of those around them.

Buffy and Angel won't exactly hold to this -- but Angel will eventually come to the same conclusion that Buffy does here. In a lot of ways, it's the fault of The Universe, or the PtB, or, you know, the writers/producers, that Buffy and Angel are pushed back together at the end of Amends, a miracle in the snow, and that the continual need to be together without being together will turn out to be a driving force of much of the Buffy/Faith arc, since the impossibility of fulfilling her appetites with Angel is pretty central to what makes Faith's continual satisfying of her appetites at whatever the cost seem initially so tempting and then so horrifying to Buffy.

That Spike goes chasing after Drusilla may be in his sense a triumph over puny mortal concepts like using one's intellect to try to make romantic decisions, but we also know how Spike's attempt to go finding Dru will turn out. She'll leave him for a fungus demon, and that's all he'll talk about! Meanwhile, Drusilla has already told him that he's in love with Buffy, which is, yes, actually a retcon that presumably hadn't been thought out by the time this episode was written, but still, it's text and Spike for some reason doesn't talk at length about that when he's ranting to Willow or Joyce or anyone who will listen about the depth of his trauma and unhappiness. Why doesn't Spike mention the most ridiculous, horrible thing Drusilla may have said, and indeed what may be the real reason she broke up with him? Taken in this light, Spike's regular protestations to Buffy and Angel that they are denying their obvious attraction to each other has an air not just of observation, which I think is true, but projection as well. I mean, isn't Spike a little obsessed with Buffy already? And isn't his obsession/hatred of Angel not all about Angel but also about Buffy? Of course, I think his growing obsession with Buffy is also not just about Buffy but also about Angel...and so on. While he is really insistent that he and only he will admit to his feelings about love, there are certain respects in which he will not admit to what his feelings are entirely -- it's the type of thing that only comes to him as a shock in a dream, years later.

It's notable that Spike does show keen emotional insight in certain respects. He knows enough about how humans work to be able to intuit that having Xander there is useful in order to use him as a motivating tool to get through to Willow. He also knows that having Willow and Xander alive are a good bargaining tool to deal with Buffy. I think we see again how much Spike enjoys the human world -- talking to Joyce, for instance. He doesn't like all the things about the human world; he obviously has no interest in hearing Joyce talking about her and Hank, because this is HIS pity party, and he only cares about other people's emotional problems when it is convenient for him to do so, or when it's interesting enough to watch and comment on like it's a soap, which, frankly, Joyce's years-ago divorce isn't to him. But still. I do like too how he got in his very first ep how important Buffy's friends were to her, and that this knowledge is pretty strong within him at this point -- he can access it at any time, without really having to think about it. Which I think not all vamps can do, because a lot of vamps are far enough removed from humans that they have to work very hard to think like humans, except maybe in terms of business acumen like Trick. Of course, Angelus and Darla can do that "thinking like humans" thing very well too.

Spike and Willow are connected in the ep. Their arcs do match up in interesting ways, with Willow's story from Becoming to Grave involving an increase in power and slow darkening of character, and Spike's story between those eps involving a decrease in power and slow lightening of his character. This is not to say that Spike and Willow truly "switch sides"; what happens is that Spike, in his dedication to the dark, has a light side which he attempts, and fails, to suppress, and Willow, in her commitment to the light, has a dark side which she attempts, and fails, to suppress. At the end of season six they take big moves to indulge this hidden side of themselves, and in season seven the whole season for both is essentially about coming to terms with being creatures capable of good and evil, and, as integrated people aware of their desires and selves, consciously choosing good. Willow and Spike, in other words, were searching for something of the missing piece that their lives lacked. I don't think it's as simple as that Willow needed to be more evil, but I think she needed to stop denying emotions and beliefs within herself she had labeled as "dark," and similar for Spike and the light; in season seven they are along the same path in the same direction because they have incorporated their "shadow" selves and now have to deal with life as integrated persons. Both are actually extremely sensitive individuals, and both are in the throes of passions they find it hard to control. If we include Spike's subliminal attraction to Buffy, they are both poised between the past and the future in terms of romantic interests -- Xander or Oz, Dru or Buffy? Spike crying on Willow's shoulder and Willow's instinctive comforting of him has some elements that come up again in The Initiative, in which Willow's comforting him becomes all the more powerful, partly because he's actually less actively dangerous, and partly because she's that much closer to total emotional devastating herself, this being the episode after she nearly walked into traffic after finding Oz & Veruca together, and there is the sense in her conversation with Spike there that she's much more frightened of the possibility that she's unattractive than that she might die. But anyway, I think in that episode her reassurances to Spike partly come from an automatic empathy for another person not just in pain, but in pain because of insecurity and sensitivity. I don't think it's as powerful here, but I think in spite of how terrifying Spike is I think she has a tiny bit of...not quite sympathy or even empathy, but ability to understand him, because she knows what it's like to feel empty and unloved. She's actually at the height of her "attractiveness," in that she has two suitors at once, which is pretty incredible. It's notable that Willow's spell is what gives Spike the idea to do one.

I have long thought that there is a connection between Willow's love for Xander and her...childhood, "weaker" self, the one that she is in the process of starting to erase with a new and "improved" personality with magic, shorter hair and more "confidence." That her attempt to erase her big pull to Xander and to "childhood" involves her "adult" use of magic works in that framework -- as does the way Spike's kidnapping her, calling her a "little girl," threatening her and terrifying her, puts her in a greater position of giving into her feelings for Xander as the only lifeline in a dangerous world that she feels she has no protection against. I think that the feelings of powerlessness here are part of what make Willow go at magic even more. But it's also interesting because Willow is captured because she's a witch, isn't she? And it's also, on some level, what keeps her alive. This is, I think, the first time in which Willow's witchiness is enough of a plot point that it affects Willow's life directly without Willow doing it -- I mean, yes, she's done the important spell in Becoming, but she hasn't been attacked by vamps because of it, has she? And anyway, the way she somehow is both the girl who cries tearfully at the possibility of a strong man shoving a bottle in her face, and the woman who finds it in herself to lay down the law that there will be no having, and to correctly know what his desires are so that she can leverage his need of her as witch against however else he might want to use and abuse her. This is a really interesting point in Willow's journey, in which the trappings of power are really only very slight, but are still present enough to draw attention, and in which it's possible for her to use them to self-protect but she isn't entirely sure how. And as in Gingerbread and Doppelgangland this year (and to some extent Choices, though there I'd argue that Willow walks into that more aware), the tiny amounts of new skills she has developed to protect herself and contribute to the cause of Team Good also make her a bigger target than before (in Gingerbread from her mother, in Doppelgangland first in being exploited by Anya and then her hacking makes her a target of vamp attack), which in turn makes it important to develop even more skills and power to protect herself from the threats that only come up once she's got power. Whew. I do think that Willow's softer side, the one that wants to be protected rather than do her own protecting, is the side that is attracted to Xander and that feels an affinity for her childhood values -- and I think her viewing Xander's bravery in attacking Spike is part of what makes her feel sort of safe with him hen they kiss, in spite of the fact that Spike will probably kill them or they'll die trapped there. And of course that leads to disaster, too. Operation: eliminate weakness can continue as planned.

I do think that this episode makes sense as the end of Xander/Cordelia. I don't think that that relationship was actually torpedoed by Becoming the way I claim the others were. But it was to an extent. On some level, I think Xander was always somewhat displacing his feelings for Buffy onto Cordelia, who was after all a Buffy shadow -- which isn't to say he had no real affection for Cordelia, but I think it was always mixed in with a lot else. In Becoming, Xander betrays Buffy's trust, and he also recognizes with a start how much Willow means to him and how much his neglecting her as a romantic possibility has cost him. Again, to emphasize, there's no reason Xander can't maintain a close friendship with Willow without it being romantic, and I don't think there's anything wrong with not dating her at all. However, I think that Xander is very confused about his feelings; with all the women in his life, there is a big difficulty separating out platonic and romantic feelings. It's clearest actually with Buffy, where I think he has a hard time separating out his idealization and hero-worship of her from "I want you" feelings, which also incidentally works in reverse with Faith, where he has a hard time separating out their purely sexual connection from something more meaningful. Anyway, he registers Willow saying Oz' name instead of his as some kind of loss. He was definitely still into Cordelia as of Anne, but...well, the way he makes out with Cordy so publicly in Dead Man's Party is so obviously also about Buffy really does make me feel like his fraught relationship with Buffy cast a big shadow over his ability to really care about Cordelia. And in that sense, his betraying Buffy and his feeling frustration and jealousy over "losing" Willow to Oz make it difficult for him to continue treating Cordelia well. Which he mostly, in early season three, doesn't do even before the Clothes Fluke. I actually like X/C as a ship quite a bit, even though my somewhat dismissive tone might make it seem otherwise; I think Xander's mind and heart were just so thoroughly elsewhere in these episodes.

By contrast, I do think that Willow/Oz do have a fighting chance. That Pez witch! OMG. And the way Willow responds to it with such excitement and enthusiasm. The way Willow was concerned throughout the summer about Oz' academic activity. Her obsessive worrying about whether Oz was a cold-blooded jelly doughnut back in Beauty and the Beasts. That she is the one who is trying harder to stop the affair -- even resorting to the dark arts -- more so than Xander. Even in little details -- Xander ignores Cordelia's mouthed "no" at the prospect of bowling; Oz is totally on board for bowling. This last one demonstrates not so much that Xander ignores Cordelia, but that Cordelia's wants are a little more incompatible with Xander's than Oz' are with Willow. The way Willow uses the Pez as a way of warding Xander off, a constant symbolic reminder of Oz' presence.

I do think it's pretty possible that there is a bit of a sexual edge to Oz' "Yeah you do [have something for me]" and walking away. Spring Summers pointed out that the Pez is a witch who dispenses candy, and it's by no means a solid, irrefutable argument, but as weird and cryptic as Oz is I think it's not entirely clear that there wasn't something a little...pressure-y about it. I don't mean the gift itself (and I certainly don't think the possible metaphor read was designed in-universe by Oz -- but I think it might have been by Joss). At any rate, we know that Willow has fears about her relationship with Oz getting sexual, as she implies in BatB with the "half-[monty]" comment, and she certainly jumps to using sex as a bargaining tool in Amends pretty quickly. I think her slight worry after he says that "Yeah you do" might not just be guilt over the affair but also fear over what a full-on, serious dating with a werewolf, sexual experience could entail. Even in Amends she seems pretty nervous about the whole thing, and really not like someone who's actually ready to take that step, especially with someone who is a potential killer. So I think that while Willow has these strong feelings for Xander that rival the feelings she has for Oz, her negative feelings about Oz are more about anxiety rather than the kind of...disinterest that I see as the big cause for distance between Xander and Cordelia.

I do think that Cordelia becomes really central to Xander's life again after the breakup. In a lot of ways, I think it's for this reason: I think that Xander and Cordelia's primary dynamic is conflict. They find deep emotional bonds in conflict, and have very little to say to each other in times of peace time. I do think that there are real feelings there, but the feelings are so tied up with their sniping and arguing that when their relationship runs out of obvious conflict it just sort of sputters on; Cordelia thinks about how much she loves Xander and Xander sort of forgets Cordelia's around. When he's lost her, and when she goes back to regularly insulting him, he remembers why he cared about her. At first he tries to ignore her, then tries to play the sniping game back at her and take some sort of pleasure in their antagonistic bond, and then finally tries to make amends for how he had hurt her.

I love Dipstick's point about Angel endangering the rescue of Willow and Xander by taking time to enrage and make fun of Spike for no real reason.

TimeTravellingBunny
16-10-14, 04:23 AM
I apologize for being so late and not posting a note, but I have had a hectic and emotionally (as well as physically) draining few days, due to a very sad and difficult family situation... to be specific, a death of a family member which I had to organize the funeral for, and the situation is even more complicated than that, but I can't get into it now. In any case, I enjoy posting this review, since it helps me mentally unwind.
I've read the discussions of previous episodes and I have a lot to say, but I'll leave those comments for later.

3.09. The Wish

I really love this episode and I think it’s one of the best episodes of the season 3, at least. Admittedly, one of the reasons may be that the things I find least appealing about season 3 – the Willow/Xander fling, which I never could buy as an irresistible attraction that their scenes seemed to be trying to sell,, and the equally forced continued melodrama of Buffy/Angel without either of them addressing the issues from season 2 - are absent from this episode. On the other hand, even though the events of this episode do not affect the storyline, and Faith and the Mayor do not appear in it, it centers around the crucial themes of season 3 – community and ties between people, Buffy’s identity as a Slayer and her effect on the community.

Alternate universe stories can be great, as long as they are well written and reveal something important about the characters, and about how much circumstances shape who we are and what our lives can be – as opposed to those alternate universe episodes that exist only as an excuse to have actors wearing sexy outfits, acting campy and indulging in girl-on-girl action regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters involved (anyone who’s watched the deterioration of the Mirror Universe concept with each new MU installment of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will know what I’m talking about). The Wish does have sexy outfits and a degree of camp, but it never feels pointless or kitchy. It’s because the story has a point, and the AU versions of familiar characters feel convincing as the people they could have indeed become under different circumstances.

The episode consists of two very different parts.

The first part is similar to any other episode – it takes place in the regular universe and shows the fall-out from the revelation about Willow/Xander, with the two of them trying unsuccessfully to get Oz and Cordelia to forgive them. Buffy is a supporting character here, in both senses of the word, offering her friends some good words of advice and the best support and understanding Cordelia has got so far (which sadly does not get appreciated).

The way The Wish portrays Willow’s and Xander’s behavior lends strong support to the interpretation of their “fluking” as, largely, a confused reaction to the prospect of growing up and being in serious relationships, rather than a case of an irresistible attraction, which they both seemed to believe it was in Lovers Walk – since that attraction has pretty much disappeared the moment their significant others left them. However, it’s also becoming clear that their friendship is another relationship that has suffered and is never going to be the same – Xander cannot innocently touch Willow’s hand the way they used to do before, and Willow retorts that it’s not allowed now since it has a different meaning and would feel or look like another instance of her infidelity to Oz. The clothing choices are also interesting to watch: in the opening scene, around Xander and Buffy, Willow wears particularly unsexy clothes - overalls and a dorky shirt reminiscent of her season 1 and 2 fashion choices, then wears something comparatively more stylish when she talks to Oz.

I’ve always liked the calm but blunt and matter-of-fact way Oz replies when Willow keeps trying to approach him at school and asking him to let her talk to him again, even though he has already made it clear that he needs time to sort out his feelings by himself: “I can't help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself”. Willow can indeed be self-absorbed and obsessed with the need to make everything ’right’ immediately, and I like the fact that Oz calls her out on that.

But while I like Oz’ reactions, I find Cordelia’s to be particularly relatable. Cordelia is the character who feels like the protagonist of the first half of the episode: we see her pain and anger at Xander, her hurt pride and her determination to hide her heartbreak, hold her head high and regain her status in the school. We also see her strange deflection of blame onto Buffy, and the way she unintentionally creates the Wishverse with her not-well-thought-out wish that Buffy had never come into Sunnydale. I will side with those who think that her character is at its best in this part of season 3, rather than in AtS, and that Charisma Carpenter’s acting was better here than on AtS. Cordelia is a very well-rounded character here, with more layers but without losing her core character traits. She’s proud, vain, and the humiliation and loss of her status in school hurts her as much as Xander’s betrayal. “Pre-Xander”, the dating game had been about status, power and vanity for Cordy, more than actual romantic or erotic feelings; she has in fact sacrificed a lot of what was important to her because of him, which makes it all the more difficult for her. But all the while we are seeing things (like Harmony and the Cordettes mocking Cordelia by suggesting that Jonathan is the right guy for her) from Cordy’s POV and feeling sorry for her, let’s not forget that Jonathan is being insulted even worse. It may seem like he is used to it, unlike her – but as we see later in Earshot, that definitely doesn’t mean he’s not deeply hurt by the way people treat him. Another moment that drives home how low Cordy’s status in school has sunk is her conversation with a jock that she’s just using to make Xander jealous, but who tells her that he can’t allow his status to sunk by being seen with a “Xander Harris castoff” but that he’ll be happy to date her in secret. Cordy is shocked and mortified, but it’s interesting that this is basically the same way she treated Xander a year ago. (I must say, however, Cordy’s and Xander’s games, as they are both trying to make the other think they’re over them, might almost make me root for the couple again, if I didn’t already know that it goes nowhere.)

Cordelia still has to do some growing up, going by the fact that she focuses on completely wrong things when Buffy offers her genuine friendship and understanding, and then saves her from a vampire (again), but Cordelia blames her for accidentally pushing her into a dumpster while in the process of saving her life; she still doesn’t seem to realize that being mocked by her friends pales in comparison with dying (proving that Wishverse Larry was not that off when he said that looking good was more important to her than staying alive) – the same mistake she then makes when she blames Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale for all her troubles. It’s funny and interesting, though, that she explains her attraction for Xander as a result of Buffy having made him “marginally cooler by hanging out with him”. Who would think that Cordy would admit, even to herself, let alone to someone else, that she actually admires Buffy quite a bit? Maybe it’s what a lot of her resentment of her is about.

As an aside, I wonder how the Cordettes and others at school even found out about what happened with her and Xander. If they know who Xander cheated with (it’s not clear if they do), we don’t see Oz subjected to any humiliating comments about his girlfriend cheating on him, it may be because Oz’s friends are not nasty as Harmony and the other Cordettes, nor were they as alienated by Cordelia as Harmony had been in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; it may be simply because Oz doesn’t care what other people think anyway, so it wouldn’t be a source of pain for him, the way it certainly is for Cordy, who is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to caring about her status.

The episode introduces Anya, aka Anyanka, and the concept of vengeance demons. Here, she is portrayed a dark, villainous character. There is also a major inconsistency with Anya’s later portrayal as a quicky person who always speaks her mind and doesn’t have a good grasp of how humans are supposed to interact; the Anya of this episode, meant to be just a one-off villain at this point, has no problems imitating normal human behavior, blending into the environment of Sunnydale High, or manipulating Cordelia into wishing something terrible; she even exchanged a few fashion tips with Cordy. Even though she’s introduced as the “patron saint of scorned women”, judging by her comments about the Wishverse (“I had no idea her wish would be so exciting”) she cares more about doing some carnage than about the women whose wishes she grants.

The vengeance demons seem to have powers far greater than those of most monsters we’ve seen so far – including being able to change the fabric of time and erase certain people or events from existence. On the other hand, their powers are limited by what other people wish, and they can lose them really easily – Giles smashing Anya’s amulet was enough to not just reverse the effect of Cordy’s wish, but to strip Anyanka of her powers. (You’d think she’d be more careful not to let Cordy keep on wearing it!)

The Wishverse

But it’s the second part of the episode that The Wish is really remembered by – it becomes a much darker episodes that takes place in a hellish dystopia, a town ruled and terrorized by vampires, led by the Master, with evil, twisted vampire versions of Willow and Xander as his favorite minions. Buffy herself, who has never come to Sunnydale or met Willow, Xander or Giles, is also a very different and darker Slayer. It’s a It’s Wonderful Life type story that emphasizes the importance of Buffy for the community of Sunnydale, but also the importance of Buffy’s friendships with the Scoobies for the development and fate of Buffy herself.

Cordelia continues to be our protagonist at first, facing a “be careful what you wish for” situation. No matter how she may feel about Xander and Willow, she is shocked to hear that they are dead. Her restored status in school proves to be unimportant compared to the horrible reality of a world she has created, with the scared students, the curfew, the empty streets at sunset, with Sunnydale as a ghost town. (We still get a glimpse of Cordelia’s casual and classism and racism that’s almost funny in its cluelessness, in the way she talks to the Hispanic janitor.) She comes to understand that staying alive is more important than status, and that Buffy was doing good things for Sunnydale. But then, the episode pulls a Psycho and kills off Cordelia halfway through the episode, some 10 minutes after the Wishverse had been created. This is, of course, just the first of the series of deaths of the main characters in the Wishverse. The fact that she is murdered by being drained by both Xander (who had a thing for her in this universe as well – he calls her “an old crush”) and Willow at the same time is a parallel to the way Xander and Willow emotionally devastated her in the regular universe. But it also looks like a twisted rape-threesome (I don’t enjoy the fact I even came up with and typed these words) and makes for a deeply disturbing scene – all the more disturbing because they are deliberately doing it right in front of Giles, and Xander even taunts Giles about it and tells him that, as a former Watcher, he should “watch”.

Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brandon are amazing as the evil versions of their characters. The best part is that they are still recognizable as Willow and Xander. Vamp Xander is a leather-clad macho guy – Xander probably wishes at times he could be that kind of confident, sexy tough guy, minus the evil part – but he reminds me somewhat of what Xander is like when he stops joking and when he’s really angry or determined. But we’ve already seen evil Xander, and vamp Xander is a lot like the hyena-possessed Xander from The Pack, so it’s vamp Willow who is the real revelation: she has the same cutesy mannerisms, but she’s incredibly creepy and sadistic. With her red-black corset and her legendary catchphrase “Bored now”, she’s the star of the episode so much that Joss later wrote Doppelgangland just to bring her back. The two of them are a particularly twisted, sexually predatory vampire couple to make Spike and Drusilla look innocent and sweet, and at least rival Angelus and Darla. It’s hard to say which is more twisted, Cordelia’s death scene or the scenes of Willow torturing her “puppy” – chained Angel, enslaved as punishment for trying to prevent the Master’s rising – while Xander enjoys himself watching her doing it.

(Speaking of which, if the AU vampire versions have the same sexual orientations as the normal universe characters, does that mean that Willow is bisexual - going by this episode and Doppelgangland - while Xander is mostly heterosexual but a little bi-curious; he appreciates the attractiveness of other men, but would not personally get physical with them?)

The Master makes a great return, with recognizable traits but significantly different from the embodiment of vampire traditionalism he was in in season 1. But I can buy it: many traditionalist organizations, including churches, have “modernized” and started to play with consumerism and mass culture in order to remain relevant and influential. It also makes sense for his character, as a megalomaniac who enjoys power; but (one of the few flaws of this episode) it makes far less sense for the likes of Vamp Willow and Vamp Xander to be so enticed by mass production of blood, when they’re sadists who primarily enjoy the act of killing and draining their victims. Nevertheless, the Master’s speech about the use of contemporary human technology and in mass production, “a truly demonic concept”, is one of the memorable moments of the episode. There are parallels between the Master and the Mayor as Big Bads who represent demonic patriarchal father figures with great political power (the Master, in the vampire world; the Mayor, more polished, charming and human-looking, in the human world), so Master’s return in season 3 makes perfect thematic sense. It fits the theme of the wide-scale power and the contemporary industrialized society where people are treated as meat (see also: Anne).

Since Cordelia’s death, the focus of the Wishverse story shifts to Giles and Buffy. AU Giles is an idealistic librarian who was once a Watcher but Buffy never became his Slayer, who’s also the leader of the “White Hats” (a great callback to Giles’ sarcastic use of the line in his speech from Lie to Me), and Buffy, the Slayer who finally comes to Sunnydale at Giles’ invitation.

Wishverse Buffy is a cold, hard, cynical person without friends and human connections, with scarred face and scarred soul. People often note that this Buffy is in some ways similar to Faith, showing us that Buffy could have also turned out similar to Faith under different circumstances and without Buffy’s support system. There are, however, significant differences: Faith enjoys her powers and loves to have fun; Wishverse Buffy doesn’t seem to feel joy in anything, she isn’t overly sexual and certainly isn’t flirtatious (instead of caring a lot for clothes, shopping and boys, she dresses in a functional way that would have made sense for what Kendra’s personality was supposed to be, as opposed to how Kendra actually dressed on the show), she’s trying to appear cool or be liked, she is only interested in slaying, but (very much unlike Kendra), she isn’t a rule-follower or a believer in her duty and isn’t even close to her Watcher. She is an extreme personification of the angry, cynical lone anti-hero who does all by himself – Clint Eastwood as a cute teenage girl.

Buffy: World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that.
Giles: I have to believe in a better world.
Buffy: Go ahead. I have to live in this one.

Despite it all, I can see in her the exaggerated character traits of the Buffy we know and love – her irreverent nature and the tendency to do things her own way, her determination, her trademark snarkiness (here, far colder and more sardonic). Wishverse Buffy seems like the answer to the prayers of those viewers who dislike Buffy’s “weaknesses” such as girlishness, romantic desires (this Buffy laughs off Angel’s statement that he wanted to help and protect her) or criticize her for her “dependence” on her love interests or her friends (I’ve seen both of these criticizes by some fans). But ultimately, the episode makes the point of subverting the “lone hero who does not play well with others” trope. The lonely, cynical, self-sufficient Buffy is shown to be ultimately a weaker and less successful Slayer, who ends up losing to the Master quite easily, unlike the ‘girly’ Slayer Buffy in Prophecy Girl, who was at first transfixed by fear and thrall, but had a friend to save her, and came back stronger and defeated the Big Bad.

The climax and final sequence of the Wishverse portion of the story is, IMO, one of the best, most effective scenes the show has done, and even though none of these deaths will affect anything on the show, it brings a tear to my eye every time: the slowmotion set to an absolutely beautiful, haunting melody (“Slayer’s Elegy” by Christophe Beck), as Xander dusts Angel and Buffy walks uncaringly right through the dust on her way to fight Master; Buffy dusts Xander; Oz dusts Willow; and finally, the Master kills Buffy, just as Giles finally breaks the amulet in order to bring about the other world, choosing to believe in humanity:

Anyanka: You trusting fool, what makes you think that the other world is better than this one?
AU Giles: Because it has to be.

Questions

The existence of the Wishverse brings some questions, and possibly some illogical moments as well (not that I’m particularly bothered by them, with this episode being so good).

The Wishverse does not seem to exist simultaneously with the normal verse; it has apparently replaced the old universe, or is this just my impression? If that were not the case, there wouldn’t be nearly as much poignancy in the resolution. This seems to be the case since Cordelia finds herself in the Wishverse, without running into another Cordelia who’s already been there. But, Doppelgangland later muddies the waters by having two Willows running around.

What is the Mayor’s role in this Sunnydale? It seems the Master is just in control of Sunnydale and the world wasn’t overrun with vampires; does that mean that what Buffy stopped in The Harvest wasn’t an actual apocalypse? Why is everyone in town still living there? Can’t they run away during the day? How much does the outside world know about what’s going on in Sunnydale, and if they don’t know, how come they haven’t found out? Why doesn’t the US government react? Why didn’t Giles call other Watchers or Buffy before, why did he need Cordy to tell him that Buffy would change things? Or are things as bad in the rest of the world? On that note, I think that, since the plant doesn’t seem necessary if the vampires don’t find a much larger number of victims, it was a sign that Master was planning to expand his influence outside of Sunnydale.

Darla and Jesse are probably dead, but how did it happen? Did Jesse sire Xander, or was Jesse just food and never sired, since they didn’t need to use him as bait? Did Willow sire Xander or the other way round? It’s interesting to note that Xander had developed a crush on Cordy in this universe as well, but it was probably unrequited (similar to Jesse’s), since he never became “marginally cooler” by hanging out with Buffy. Since Xander did not develop any such feelings for Cordy in normal verse, I assume he did not get sired during the Harvest, which Buffy was not there to stop, but lived on as a human for some time and, with Jesse presumably dead and in the absence of Buffy, channeled his interest into Cordelia.

Is Oz still a werewolf in Wishverse? That had nothing to with Buffy; on the other hand, maybe he didn’t hang out with his extended family much in this reality, so didn’t get bitten by his cousin.

Did Spike and Drusilla ever come to Sunnydale? I can’t imagine Spike ever being willing to accept Master’s authority, so they either did not, or they quickly let.

What what happened to Joyce? If Buffy had had a healthy relationship with her mother, I don’t think she would have turned out the way she did. There are many different possibilities– that Joyce was killed by a vampire, that she was murdered by the Council who blamed it on the monsters, or that Buffy was in mental hospital and ran away from it and never came back home.

-----------
Finally, I want to mention one of my favorites exchanges:

Xander: And they burst in rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean this is really all their fault.
Buffy: Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.
Xander: Mine is much more advanced!

Buffy’s retort is one of my favorite BtVS lines to quote in appropriate situations in various online forum discussions!

cil_domney
16-10-14, 06:31 AM
Just a quick note - since I have still to watch the episode again - But I just have to take a moment and say how much I loved your review - so many outstanding observations on the characters and the events in the contrasting worlds. And I totally agree with you on the death sequence shot in slow motion, I also find this to have been one of the best ever in the entire series. This is a great episode to contrast with the events and consequences from the betrayals and secrets that the couples and motivations by all three couples and including Spike who was the chaos figure which brought out the secrets of WX and the self-denial/wished for romantic relationship between BA.

And thank you for taking the time to do the review under the terrible circumstances of the death in your family.

Stoney
17-10-14, 12:30 AM
Sorry you’re having a difficult time TTB and thank you for taking time to do the review for us. I know you said you enjoyed the break of doing this but if you would prefer to take a pass on the next review, particularly as you took on Amends as a favour to help fill the spaces, please feel free to shout up and I’m sure we can find someone to fill the gap. Whatever works better for you.


It centers around the crucial themes of season 3 – community and ties between people, Buffy’s identity as a Slayer and her effect on the community.

I like that the episode underscores who our Buffy is, and in some ways who really ‘rules’ the town. It works well going into the more direct conflict coming with the Mayor. We have previously seen a glimpse of The Mayor’s overconfident complacency about these young ‘uns when he got Ethan in to perform the spell in Band Candy. Their plan just didn’t allow for the teens and the slayers being a threat, and they lost. They even blatantly point out that Buffy survives the demon pinning her at the beginning because Xander and Willow are there with her. So in the Wishverse we see Sunnydale without our Buffy but, most importantly, going back to Spike’s awareness of what makes Buffy different, we see a Buffy without friends and support. And, as you say, our Buffy survived the master and this harder lone soldier didn’t.


It’s because the story has a point, and the AU versions of familiar characters feel convincing as the people they could have indeed become under different circumstances.

Yes, definitely! It is a great episode, definitely a firm favourite and one I think I love more on each viewing. I find a lot of it very emotionally impactful and that final scene really chokes me up. It is impressive they pull you along with it as an alternate reality so well that even though, as you noted, we know it isn’t going to stick, it is so difficult to watch them all die. Them being convincing, being a coherent alternate, matters so much for that.


The first part is similar to any other episode – it takes place in the regular universe and shows the fall-out from the revelation about Willow/Xander, with the two of them trying unsuccessfully to get Oz and Cordelia to forgive them.

Sitting alongside the characterisation in the Wishverse is how well it is written and in character everyone is for the fallout in the regular verse. They are just so believable and were actually pretty predictable in their responses. And they should be for us sometimes. We know these characters and sometimes that is what the story needs you to feel, to connect you stronger to what they are feeling. It is perfectly balanced in this episode.


Buffy is a supporting character here, in both senses of the word, offering her friends some good words of advice and the best support and understanding Cordelia has got so far (which sadly does not get appreciated).

I wonder if there perhaps could also be a point too that she feels a displaced anger towards Buffy in her belief that Buffy was the rival and Buffy’s open belief that Xander was still fixated on her as well combining to shield the threat that Willow posed instead. Maybe. I do think she may have been about to speak to Buffy outside the Bronze before the vamp attack reminded her she feels that Buffy’s life pushed her in the trash.

It was also interesting to hear Buffy say at the beginning that she has been trying to get in touch with Faith and voicing her concerns about her isolation. Obviously it leads into seeing how she could have turned out herself if left alone but, because they don’t successfully reach out to Faith, it is easy to look past a throwaway comment like this that shows that Buffy isn’t entirely distanced from the isolation that Faith is currently experiencing and has been making moves to contact her.


But all the while we are seeing things (like Harmony and the Cordettes mocking Cordelia by suggesting that Jonathan is the right guy for her) from Cordy’s POV and feeling sorry for her, let’s not forget that Jonathan is being insulted even worse. It may seem like he is used to it, unlike her – but as we see later in Earshot, that definitely doesn’t mean he’s not deeply hurt by the way people treat him.

Jonathan is placed so well for these little extras that lead up to Earshot and Superstar. The social impact for Cordelia is obviously character relevant but it is such a nice extra anyway to insert to emphasise social structuring yet again for working with the wider season.


…she still doesn’t seem to realize that being mocked by her friends pales in comparison with dying (proving that Wishverse Larry was not that off when he said that looking good was more important to her than staying alive) – the same mistake she then makes when she blames Buffy’s arrival in Sunnydale for all her troubles.

I have always found Cordelia’s wish and then her death in the Wishverse (which is a truly disturbing scene) particularly impactful because of the link to her age. Teenagers will often feel things so intensely and deeply. Break ups are hard whatever your age but they come with more melodrama for teenagers (in the main, some adults have their moments!). The intensity of wanting things to be different and having a less mature mind for dealing with the emotional lows in the immediate aftermath is difficult. For Cordelia the social reality of her breakup is where she focuses, rather than questioning how she can survive or some such. But that inability to deal with the emotions bubbling is still illustrated for her in burning the photos, her defiant façade and then in making the wish. And she literally doesn’t survive from her overly heightened responses. That absurdity of response and the ultimately serious consequence it generates for a first love-esque high school romance I always find really hard hitting.

Good points about Anya’s inconsistencies, she was a very different character here really.


Giles smashing Anya’s amulet was enough to not just reverse the effect of Cordy’s wish, but to strip Anyanka of her powers. (You’d think she’d be more careful not to let Cordy keep on wearing it!)

It wasn’t Cordelia’s amulet that Giles smashed though, it was one he took off Anya. It is a bit flaky around this because Anya willingly hands over her necklace as a good luck charm but then has it back when Giles summons her so presumably it wasn’t her real one she gave Cordelia and she wouldn’t have given it up never to retrieve it if it had been real. I choose to see the one she gave Cordelia as the equivalent of a calling card, but not her real amulet.


The best part is that they are still recognizable as Willow and Xander. Vamp Xander is a leather-clad macho guy – Xander probably wishes at times he could be that kind of confident, sexy tough guy, minus the evil part – but he reminds me somewhat of what Xander is like when he stops joking and when he’s really angry or determined. But we’ve already seen evil Xander, and vamp Xander is a lot like the hyena-possessed Xander from The Pack, so it’s vamp Willow who is the real revelation: she has the same cutesy mannerisms, but she’s incredibly creepy and sadistic.

Yes, it goes towards supporting the link between human and vamp. Willow’s concern about her sexuality in Doppelgangland even has Angel starting to try and tell Buffy a vamp links to the human before she cuts him off with a look. I understand why it isn’t a truth Buffy wants to hear because it stops Angel being entirely separate.

Great comments about the appropriate fit of The Master’s return and the season wide thematics.


The climax and final sequence of the Wishverse portion of the story is, IMO, one of the best, most effective scenes the show has done,

It is immensely powerful and really gives weight to the importance of the relationships these people have in the true reality. They aren’t going to sweepingly kill off so many characters like this really but it is nice to see how the harsh cruelty of the world they live in can look/feel like.

And yeah, so many questions about that reality. I just assumed that The Master escaping did bring a kind of apocalypse, that demon rule was a wider issue than before and outside of Sunnydale too. I could therefore see Darla being sent off to manage issues or other places. Spike and Dru perhaps didn’t need to come if the Prague events were avoided. And so many other different realities could be true to cover Buffy’s background, the lack of Joyce etc.

There is a touch of foreshadowing coming from Wishverse hardened slayer Buffy for Faith’s coming story –
Buffy: Why don't I just put a stake through her heart?
Giles: She's not a vampire.
Buffy: Mm, well, you'd be surprised how many things that'll kill.

In keeping with the good characterisation of this episode I love that Giles is there helping run the white hats. He is fluctuating this season in towing the council line and being passive but it isn’t just a job to Giles. We see it here, when he fights with his heart away from the Council. He steps forward, and believes and through that he saves them all. It works well against the Giles that will, eventually(!), abandon the cruciamentum.

Skippcomet
18-10-14, 03:14 AM
The Willow/Xander scene in the Bronze, I think, is the secondary, longer-lasting reason why the Fluke was pursued by the writers in the first place. (The first reason, of course, being the breakup of Cordelia/Xander.) People tend to forget that as of the original airing of The Wish, way back when the show was on The WB (and The WB was still a thing), the Willow/Xander 'ship was still very popular among a large and vocal part of the audience, despite the presence and growing popularity of Willow/Oz and, to a lesser extent, Cordelia/Xander. Whereas the Buffy/Xander 'ship was already starting to fall by the wayside in the audience (due to factors like the greater popularity of Buffy/Angel, the growing acceptance of Cordelia/Xander, the even more growing unpopularity of Xander amongst the audience around this time, and the fact that by this season Xander was clearly no longer showing any overt romantic interest in Buffy), the W/X 'shippers were clinging ever more tightly to the belief that the show had somehow built into its DNA the implicit promise that Willow/Xander was the endgame, an inevitability, and that their separate romantic adventures in the meantime were the paths they had to take before they were ready to become the couple they were always "meant" to be. (Yes, even through Anya/Xander, Tara/Willow, the engagement, and Willow's insistence that she was "gay now.") For several years, they even insisted that the Fluke was "proof" that Willow & Xander's inevitability, it was just the Wrong Time.

I think the Fluke and its impact on Willow and Xander's relationship going forward was, in essence, the writers' way of trying to tell the W/X 'shippers, "We know you want this, but we're telling you that It's Just Not Going to Happen." Their attempt to drive a stake in the heart of the W/X 'ship, in other words. The W/X 'shippers just refused to accept it, and spent the rest of the season wondering why Xander wasn't either trying to win Willow back or at least suffering in silence as penance for his years of ignoring Willow. The most hardcore of them finally gave up the ghost in Season Seven's Help when Willow good-naturedly told Xander, "I'm over you, sweetie."

Local Maximum
18-10-14, 07:25 PM
Great review, TTB. I'm really sorry to hear about the personal stuff -- the funeral and the "worse." :(

Yeah, I mean, as a DS9 fan -- it's hard to emphasize how great it is that BtVS never produced something like The Emperor's New Cloak :O.

I hope to say more later if I get the energy & time -- this is a great episode, full of lots of details. But I thought I'd write a bit, mostly about W/X, for starters:

I think that part of the reason that Xander and Willow respond positively to the Master's big plan is because they just like being the Master's henchpeople, and as a result are going to idealize the Master -- which is really another way of saying, since they are vampires, that they have learned to recognize "staying on the Master's good side" as the correct way to get what they want. The Master's use of Angel here is pretty smart, as a result: Angel used to be on the Master's side -- and while Darla the episode later suggests it's a very tumultuous relationship, from Angel the episode which precedes this there's a sense that Angel was, while evil, at least at some point well loved by the Master and viewed as a possible successor. Letting Willow (and Xander) torture Angel for pleasure sends two signals: one, look at how much the Master loves them; and two, look at what can happen to them if they cross him in any way. Willow and Xander are soulless vampires here, but they are also (as they are in our world) people starving for affection and love, especially from parent figures, who have abandoned or abused them. The Master, we see, loves them -- and by love, we mean, treats them well as long as they never cross him. It's a runthrough of the Mayor/Faith dynamic, in which his pretty genuine affection for Faith is accompanied by reminders that should she fail him, he will "replace" her. Conditional vs. unconditional love.

In general this episode plays up the "Us vs. the world" dynamic at the heart of Willow/Xander to a destructive extreme. Their harsh killing of Cordelia has to be understood in part by the way she used to torment them. It is not, obviously, proportionate, but vampires care not for proportionate! It's horrifying partly because it's such a specific revenge fantasy, of the bullied nerd getting back at the stuck-up bitch who hurt them, which is pretty common in people who basically see themselves cut off from society. It's horrifying because it's kind of recognizable. But it's also notable to me how Willow and Xander are in some sense stuck forever in their adolescence-victimhood in this universe -- sort of how Spike is in the real universe until he gets his soul. They have escaped being the victims of their parents' abuse/neglect and of their peer group's harsh rejection, and they still have each other! Yay! But rather than finding something like spiritual fulfillment in doing good and an imperfect but ultimately unselfish mutual love in a leader like Buffy who respects and cares about them, they have found...a perpetual living death as henchmen of the Master, who exploits them and will turn on them should they get any ideas (the way Angel gets cruelly rejected). They have each other, and they can torture people and suck their blood and that way prove that the Cordelias of the world are not really "better than them," but they have nothing else, and never will have anything else.

This is the contrast for our Willow pushing Xander away in an attempt to have a real shot at reconnecting to Oz again, while he's in the process of hurting her. In the Wishverse, Oz sends a stake through Willow's heart while she's a monster who takes Us-vs.-Them, her and Xander vs. the world, to its absolute extreme conclusion. In our universe, Oz hurts Willow because Willow is selfishly refusing to give him the proper space, and Willow is trying to push Xander away to avoid falling into old habits so that she can have a chance at being the sort of person that Oz can love, and who can herself love, another human being. Oz somewhat hurts Willow in this universe because she's being somewhat self-absorbed; in the other universe, he kills her outright, for being an awful monster. On some level, being with Xander fully means giving up on the world outside the two of them, of being victims forever, of being rejects from society who thus take their revenge on society because they are wholly separate, and who then will be harshly put down. Yikes. Time to nip that in the bud!

In Willow and Xander's case, vamping means permanent adolescence, and adolescence means, in their case, victimhood. They were outsiders, and are now Outsiders, permanent victims who died before reaching adulthood, and then were given a chance to take pleasure in their death by becoming monsters. The Willow/Xander scene of eating Cordelia is horrifying for various reasons, and it does actually map onto their affair and how it hurt Cordelia -- which also ends with her being bloodily penetrated, in that case by a rebar. But in both cases, there is the history to consider. In the main universe, Cordelia doesn't deserve to be cheated on, but she treated Willow & Xander badly for years and years, asked Willow who gave her permission to exist, bullied the people who were already far down. I don't think revenge is on their minds, but...well, but. There is something karmic in them hurting her back. And in this episode, Willow & Xander are evil, but they are dead -- never to see the sun again, and ultimately when the slayer comes to town and helps out the White Hats they will get roughly executed and their existences ended. And whose fault is that?

"The world sucks because some ditz made a wish?" Larry asks. This episode definitely paints Cordelia as a victim, and someone who suffers; Cordelia really had no idea what she was getting herself into and wants to take the wish back. She didn't know that her wish would be executed properly by Anya. Like, come on! How could she? But she is pretty happy to accept the wish once it comes. And the wish is basically one in which the social order is restored, Cordelia is on top, and the losers are back as losers. Yay!!! But, you know, be careful what you wish for: the losers have lost all the sunny social power she craved, but got some power of their own. I love Cordy in this episode, don't get me wrong, but it's important to emphasize how self-centred she is about all this, completely ignoring the years of Buffy saving lives because her own pain is so intense, and after apparently changing the entire world to suit herself even liking it for a little while before having what happened to her flung in her face. It's It's a Wonderful Life -- but it's It's a Wonderful Life where (arbitrarily) Ernie the Cab Driver decides that he would be more respected in town if local hero George Bailey had never existed. Willow and Xander eating Cordelia is horrifying and disproportionate, but the Wishverse is a place where the series' usual almost Old Testament karmic retribution is stepped up even further. And it's important to remember that the reason Willow and Xander, in this universe, are dead, is because Cordelia made a wish, and even was happy with that wish until the consequences, some of which are pretty obvious, were staring her in the face.

I think the reason Cordelia does go along with so much of it without really thinking about it is not that she actually really 100% believes that she deserves to rearrange the universe, when confronted with the consequences, as that she's got some entitlement issues, lots of pain, and is insensitive. She is very bright, as we know, but she doesn't think things through or question her own actions. She has to spend a day in a world where Buffy hasn't come to Sunnydale and actually see the consequences to recognize why she shouldn't "wish" for it or be happy to live in that world. I do think Cordy recognizes when she hears that Willow & Xander are dead that she's made a mistake, but IMO she still doesn't actually admit it until she admits it out loud -- I think it really does take her being scared for her life for it to sink in that this world sucks and part of it is her fault.

Of course, the person who's really responsible is Anya(nka) -- which is why it's appropriate that she's the only character who suffers negative consequences from the Wishverse in this episode. If Cordelia had just made the wish and immediately regretted it I would not view it as a slam against Cordelia, because people wish all sorts of things. The reason I go after Cordy is because of that period where she's delighted that it came true, and is delighted at the idea that the former losers are back in their place as losers again, totally suffering!!! But yeah, Cordelia is a child/adolescent (they mostly all are); Anya is not, and we see here the shallowness of Anya's Social Justice schtick: her wishes, as often as not, hurt the people she is ostensibly helping, just as we see in Selfless that the spider demon who rips the hearts out of the frat boys eventually would have ripped out the heart of the girl who accidentally made the wish had it not been for Willow's quick defense, and it would have remained dangerous had Buffy and Xander not killed it. However, Anya still believes herself righteous, which I think is actually to a similar trait to Cordelia's -- she is kind of insensitive about the world around her, outside herself. Cordelia has this idea that the world is ordered according to who is most popular and prettiest, and just follows that into her death. Anya has been given by D'Hoffryn a model of how the world works, and accepts that fully and ignores the inconsistencies in it until it actively hurts her. We see the same with Anya later on, barreling forward into capitalism as if it's beyond reproach. She is very, very good at blocking out any facts that completely contradict the core premise she is operating under.

Back to Cordelia, I do think that Jonathan scene is great. One interpretation I've heard is that Cordelia staring at Jonathan is a moment of recognition and empathy for what Jonathan has always gone through, now that she lives in his shoes. I like that idea, though I think Cordelia instantly wants to forget that a huge stratified social structure with losers at the bottom has negative consequences when she makes her wish. It is notable that Jonathan's role here is really devastating, because he's not even the target of Harmony et al.'s torment -- Cordelia is, and Jonathan is just such a loser that it's apparent to all that it's a grievous insult to Cordelia to be paired with him. Poor Jonathan. And on some level, I think the attack on Cordelia, while in no way justified, has to be recognized again as something of a consequence of Cordelia's earlier actions. Harmony is acting the way Cordelia used to act -- or, rather, Harmony is acting the way Harmony acted when she was Cordelia's lieutenant, the way that used to curry favour with Cordelia. And this is also revenge for BB&B. You know, here's the thing: had Harmony started dating Xander in season one, say, instead of Cordelia in season two, with Cordelia having no emotional attachment to the guy, does anyone else think Cordelia would have been nice about it and not mocked Harmony? Had Harmony snapped and told Cordelia she's a sheep and Harmony will do whatever she wants, would this s1-maturity-level Cordelia take Harmony back with open arms? I mean, maybe -- but I doubt it. Cordelia ditches Harmony because Harmony is acting like Cordelia used to, but also adds the extra qualifier (which I do agree with!) that Cordelia is not a sheep whereas Harmony is. For Cordelia to go back to Harmony at this point and ask to not only be her friend, but probably to even be her new leader, has got to be a prime opportunity for Harmony.

vampmogs
19-10-14, 09:55 AM
I'm very sorry to hear about your loss TTB. My condolences.

I love the death montage for a lot of reasons. I think the alternate universe is almost cathartic in the way it lets the characters take out their anger and revenge on each other. Obviously it has no lasting consequences on the actual characters we know and love, and they don't even remember it, but it's like the Wishverse (or rather the writers) are very deliberately having the characters lash out at those who have hurt them the most. Oz kills Willow after she's cheated on him and hurt him deeply, Xander finally gets to stake Angel after hating him for years, Buffy quite brutally beats the hell out of Xander and then stakes him after months of Xander attacking her relationship with Angel and failings as a Slayer and friend etc. There's nothing random about the way the fight sequence plays out. And yet at the same time, there's something truly heartbreaking about seeing these revenge fantasies play out. There's no satisfaction in seeing Xander stake Angel and Buffy not even blinking at his death, or Buffy killing Xander, or Oz pushing Willow up against that stake.

The symbolism of Xander/Willow killing Cordelia is quite powerful. Not just for all the amazing reasons Local Max notes but also in that it's very symbolic of what their affair has done to Cordy. The two of them suck the life from Cordy whilst they romantically embrace (Xander's arm around Willow's head) and that's a pretty eerie manifestation of how Cordy feels in the real world by Xander and Willow's cheating and how it devastated her. It's not cruel enough that they just killed her but to have both of them sucking the life from her in a romantic gesture is particularly sad given recent events and why Cordy even made that wish in the first place.

I do think it's worth pointing out that Angel is quite heroic here even if he fails. In S1 we talked a lot about how Angel is pretty ineffectual as a hero and that he failed in the sense of not taking more a proactive role in helping Buffy, particularly in The Harvest. Here it is revealed that had Buffy not come to Sunnydale Angel would have stepped up and attempted to stop the Harvest himself and whilst he ultimately failed where Buffy succeeded that doesn't lessen his heroism for me. He also leaps in front of Buffy and takes a stake for her giving up his own life for a girl he hasn't seen in 3 years and who has been nothing but rude and unkind towards him in the very brief time they have interacted. Angel would have had good reason to be pretty resentful of the girl who was supposed to be his 'destiny' but never showed and instead resulted in his imprisonment and torture for the past 3 years instead of his hope and salvation, but he still 'takes a bullet' for her all the same.

Cordy is incredibly unfair towards Buffy in this episode. Buffy is very good to Cordelia not just to her face but also in the way she expresses discomfort about this 'us VS Cordelia thing' and her sympathy over her having a rough time. She made a real effort to reach out to Cordelia AND she saved her life and Cordy's response is to blame Buffy for all her problems when she is the innocent party in all of this. I also think Cordy's reaction to the vampire attack highlights one of her greatest flaws when it comes to Buffy and her duties and how Cordy has never much cared or appreciated that Buffy's life is pretty awful a lot of the time. It isn't Buffy's fault that a vampire jumped them just like it was pretty selfish and self-centered when Cordy lashed out at Buffy in Homecoming for SlayerFest and how "she doesn't want to in Buffy's life" and that she doesn't want to be burdened by the death and horror that follows Buffy around. The most grating thing of all is that on some level Cordy understands what a crappy hand Buffy got dealt because she'll use it against her in Choices in a really nasty blow ("sorry Buffy this conversation is reserved for those of us who actually have a future") so she's just being plain awful here. There's definitely some karmic justice to Cordy's arc in AtS when she gets burdened with the visions and a duty she didn't ask for which can disrupt her life without notice and put her through a lot of misery and pain. Hmm.

I do think this is a particularly great episode for Buffy overall. It's nice that she expresses concern about Faith, she reaches out to Cordelia, she's a real understanding friend towards Willow and Xander despite their deceit, and it's pretty lovely the way she tells them both that she got through the Angel ordeal because she had them as friends.

I'm pretty sympathetic towards Willow and her reasons for putting a stop to Xander's touching. It's an incredibly awkward situation to be in when she's trying to gain back Oz's trust whilst still socializing with the guy who she cheated on him with. Most people would try and repair the relationship by ending their association with the person who they were having an affair with but obviously Willow doesn't want to do that given that she's been friends with Xander since childhood and considers him first and foremost her dearest friend. It's not fair to expect Oz to be ok with Xander and Willow being so touchy-feely now that their relationship crossed boundaries and was no longer strictly platonic. It's a part of growing up that the boundaries between friends start to change when romantic partners become involved.

I don't think Xander handles this the best. If he's still trying to win back Cordelia he should be pretty on board with Willow's decision to put some rules on how they behave with one another. And it's not great how he tries to shift the blame onto Oz and Cordelia and then tries to pit them against Cordy at the Bronze given she is the wronged party here.

This episode puts a stop to any ideas that the Scoobies lives would have been better off had they not met Buffy (an idea briefly raised in The Pack and Buffy will apologize to Willow in the upcoming Gingerbread because she'd never had started practicing magic if she hadn't met Buffy). At the same time it also highlights the importance of the Scoobies in Buffy's life not just in how they helped her in the opening teaser but how Buffy dies in the Wishverse without the aid of any friends.

Stoney
19-10-14, 10:57 AM
I love your points about the fantasy revenge sequence of the final death/fight scene vamps. I have to say though, although I can see why Angel might have resentment that Buffy, whom he saw as his destiny, never showed up I wouldn't say that he has good reason to feel that way or how anything that subsequently happened to him could be laid at her feet. Only in that I can't see how/why she would or should be obliged/expected to turn up because he and Whistler have decided she plays this huge part in his life and should?? I do agree though that it is good to see an alternate reality where we do hear that he stepped up in their S1 when Buffy wasn't there.

Interesting point about Cordy's eventual path/duty in AtS. It certainly could be said that it lends weight to the belief that she has a lot of hidden admiration for Buffy really when she goes on to choose to place herself on a similar path.

vampmogs
19-10-14, 12:17 PM
Oh I don't think it was Buffy's fault in anyway. I'd just find it believable if after spending 3 years being tortured in a cage Angel grew resentful of the girl who never showed and who was meant to be his salvation and instead was a no show. It'd be totally misplaced anger but I think it would be very human if it were to get twisted around in Angel's head under such conditions.

Sosa lola
19-10-14, 06:31 PM
I'm sorry for your loss, TimeTravellingBunny. Thank you so much for the wonderful review, I really enjoyed reading it, especially the questions about how the alternative world came to be the way it is.


I agree that Willow had every right to put a stop to any type of touching from Xander, innocent was or not (I used to think he was touching her thigh, but when rewatching the episode he was obviously going for her hands, even Willow confirms it when she specifies "My hands" are not Xander's to touch anymore.) Willow is determined to gain Oz' forgiveness and win him back, and that's interesting because for a long time Willow wanted to be with Xander, and now that she finally got his attention and had him for herself for a while, it just doesn't feel quite right. First, she had cheated on Oz. She had done something terrible and hurt someone so dear to her. Getting together with Xander after cheating on Oz and Cordelia like that feels so insensitive and wrong. I don't think Willow suddenly stopped having feelings for Xander - as her tears in the bathroom in Consequences show otherwise - but I think her guilt over what she had done to Oz outweighed whatever desire she had to be with Xander. Personally, and as much as I love Xander, I think picking Oz over him was the smart move: Oz is emotionally secure with himself, knows what he wants and is clearly in love with Willow. Xander, on the other hand, is emotionally unstable, too insecure, and for a while had complicated feelings for three girls at the same time. IMO, Willow made the right choice.

As for Xander, who does not handle being in the wrong so well, was set on trying to work things out with Cordelia at first. Leaving sixty to seventy messages on her answering machine, and then looking for her at school so they could talk. However, it looks like Cordelia has quickly "moved on." Catching her kissing a jock must have stung badly. While Oz is wallowing alone and asking for space, Cordelia has already got a new beau. And we already know our boy can't handle rejection well, so he goes for defensive, trying to show Cordelia that he doesn't care as well with that horrible fake laugh. However, his whole speech about being in the moment falls flat when he tries it, while he doesn't want to show it, he knows that what he had done to Cordelia was bad, and no amount of fake laughing is gonna change that.

I think Willow stopping him from touching her hand is yet another blow. Xander's place in the group has sunk so low since the first episodes of S3 where it looked like he was the leader. Buffy doesn't trust him enough to confide on him when it comes to Angel or any sensitive topic, Cordelia hates him, Oz hates him – or so he thinks – and now Willow doesn't want them to be close the way they used to be. Right now begins Xander's journey with loneliness until he hooks up with Anya in S4.




The Wishverse does not seem to exist simultaneously with the normal verse; it has apparently replaced the old universe, or is this just my impression? If that were not the case, there wouldn’t be nearly as much poignancy in the resolution. This seems to be the case since Cordelia finds herself in the Wishverse, without running into another Cordelia who’s already been there. But, Doppelgangland later muddies the waters by having two Willows running around.

I've always thought that it had replaced it, but good point about Wishverse!Willow. Perhaps the Wishverse does exist, but Cordelia replaced Wishverse Cordelia?

vampmogs
19-10-14, 08:42 PM
I think the Wishverse replaced the real world but when Anya's spell was broken it most likely splintered off into a seperate dimension. That's how I've always interpreted it.

Stoney
19-10-14, 11:36 PM
But if it splintered off into a separate dimension as the spell was broken then Wishverse Willow would be dead. I can't remember the details of the spell Anya tried to use in Doppelgangland, if they told us. But, perhaps, as she would need to get access to the Wishverse before her amulet was destroyed, she accessed the reality when it was first created but not destroyed. So kind of a time travel spell to break into the alternate reality. That doesn't necessarily mean that the two realities coexisted though, the parallel reality could have been created and the current one just stopped perhaps. I don't know, I really am a flake with this kind of thing!!

Skippcomet
20-10-14, 03:04 AM
Oh I don't think it was Buffy's fault in anyway. I'd just find it believable if after spending 3 years being tortured in a cage Angel grew resentful of the girl who never showed and who was meant to be his salvation and instead was a no show. It'd be totally misplaced anger but I think it would be very human if it were to get twisted around in Angel's head under such conditions.

I'm only half-joking when I say this, and please believe me I'm not trying to be snarky for the sake of being snarky....but that sounds uncomfortably close to the rationale given to justify the vilification of "nice guys" in certain angry feminist circles in describing the whole "Nice Guy" thing. If you step back and squinted at it from an odd angle, at least, the whole "Wait, he had hopes/expectations of some specific behavior from her if he did this, and when she didn't provide said behavior he got resentful? What a sexist scumbag!" But I agree with you, if Wishverse!Angel *had* been resentful of Wishverse!Buffy for not showing up "when she was supposed to" it would be misplaced anger, but understandably human behavior.

Emmie
20-10-14, 03:23 AM
In Doppelgangland, Wishverse Willow was pulled out of the Wishverse by magic seconds before she would've been staked. When she's sent back, she immediately gets staked and says something like "oh fffff" as she dusts.

If anything, I think the Wishverse only exists for this limited loop where the vengeance spell is supported, so the spell Anya and Willow do in Doppelgangland pulls Wishverse Willow out of time, not just from another dimension. The spell goes back in time to when the Wishverse existed, for that millisecond within a millisecond. As if the Wishverse only exists as a possibility within the BtVS 'verse.

Like there's a chronology going along in a line ----- and then there's a pocket universe that emerges and collapses and erases itself --- and then the chronology just carries on as it would have before the Wishverse emerged.

The Wishverse only exists so long as the Wish exists and is supported by Anya's demon powers -- remove Anya's powers and the Wishverse collapses as if it never existed.

***

Max -- great exploration of the impact the wish has on Willow and Xander. It puts another spin on how Buffy's arrival to Sunnydale empowered Xander and Willow to escape adolescence and victimhood, to find their own inner heroes. And how is this done? By helping others. They move past their inner pain by focusing on the needs of others. An importance lesson which Buffy shares with Jonathan in Earshot, a lesson which Cordelia will learn with her visions.

In this light, consider also the greater BtVS theme of growing up vs. AtS supposedly more adult themed show. How in BtVS, growing up means learning to check your selfishness and work for the greater good of others (with a remarkable Season 6 backslide in the growing up department of selfish vs selflessness). However, AtS blows up this idea that being an adult = being selfless; what I mean is that the show is credited with being the more adult one, but the characters are just as self-involved if not more so than the teenagers on BtVS, obsessed with and driven by their own pain and victimhood. Which makes you see how being a teenager and the heightened emotions of every single moment are equitable to living a life on the frontlines of a demon war. Not sure where I'm going with this, just perpetually rankled that AtS is called the more adult show, especially in light of such episodes as Passion, The Wish, The Body, Dead Things... and what does "more adult" even mean? A XXX rating?

vampmogs
20-10-14, 10:18 AM
I'm only half-joking when I say this, and please believe me I'm not trying to be snarky for the sake of being snarky....but that sounds uncomfortably close to the rationale given to justify the vilification of "nice guys" in certain angry feminist circles in describing the whole "Nice Guy" thing.

Well, for one thing, I think it's unfair to characterize them as "angry" feminists just for speaking out about male entitlement and in specific the 'Nice Guy' phenomenon. I mean, sure, 'they're' not happy about that kind of behavior but why would they be? It's all too common and it's something plenty of girls have to face on a pretty regular basis for having the audacity, I guess, to reject a guy's advances or not reciprocate his feelings. I think it'd be best to avoid such stereotypes and labels such as the 'angry feminist' because they pretty much exist to try and paint feminists as man-hating bitter women and are a way of trying to undermine the valid points feminists make on the patriarchy and misogyny. If you're sensing any 'anger' from portions of the fanbase it's probably because so many female viewers have experienced similar situations growing up and that's why it rubs them the wrong way.

And I do think you have to squint real hard to see any similarities between the two. Sure, in both scenarios the guy had certain expectations about what the girl would do but that's pretty much where it ends to be honest. Angel's expectation that Buffy would come to Sunnydale and be the active Slayer is very different from expecting that she will reciprocate your feelings and welcome your advances and if she doesn't you're going to make her feel bad, act like a jerk, 'punish' her with constant criticisms and put downs, and lash out at her for developing feelings for someone else. And whilst it still would be misplaced anger had Angel hypothetically felt this way it's incredibly different to build up resentments after being sadistically tortured for 3 years as opposed to just having this sense of entitlement that a girl should automatically want to be with you because you're such a 'nice guy' (and these Nice Guys after often oblivious to the fact that they're actually behaving like jerks and just convincing the girl even more that they're not worth the time). I do think Angel obviously had romantic feelings for Buffy but I believe first and foremost he saw her as his salvation and opportunity to 'be somebody' and that it wasn't his intention to actually be with her in the beginning (hence the cryptic guy act). When he tells Wishverse Buffy that she was meant to be his destiny I didn't get the impression he meant that in a romantic sense but rather that he'd aid her in her fight against evil and atone for his sins. His resentment, had he had any, wouldn't be that Buffy didn't come to Sunnydale and become his girlfriend but that she didn't come to Sunnydale and be the town's hero/defender and instead he was forced to try and stop the evil himself and ended up paying horribly for it. It'd be unfair towards Buffy but not remotely sexist.

Anyway it's a moot discussion anyway as it was all purely hypothetical. Angel didn't show any resentment.

Lostsoul666
21-10-14, 09:24 AM
I really like "The Wish". However am I the only person who finds the machine that the Master uses to drain the girl of her blood to be kind of silly and pointless? The Master says that she's still alive for the freshness, but wouldn't her blood be just as fresh if he were to bit into her neck with his fangs?

Dipstick
23-10-14, 11:41 AM
Great review, TTB. Sorry to hear about your personal issues. However, you did a great job recapping one of my favorite eps of the entire series. Great comments, everyone. To try to answer one question:


The Wishverse does not seem to exist simultaneously with the normal verse; it has apparently replaced the old universe, or is this just my impression? If that were not the case, there wouldn’t be nearly as much poignancy in the resolution. This seems to be the case since Cordelia finds herself in the Wishverse, without running into another Cordelia who’s already been there. But, Doppelgangland later muddies the waters by having two Willows running around.

In my head canon, the normal pre-The Wish timeline has the normal!verse in one dimension and the Wishverse timeline occurring simultaneously in another dimension. Cordelia's wish meant that the Wishverse dimension (a world where Buffy never came to Sunnydale) invaded and obliterated our normal!verse dimension so that the Wishverse then took up two dimensions worth of space and had an added wrench of Normal Verse Cordelia in the two-dimension Wishverse.

When Giles broke Anyanka's pendant, Giles successfully reversed Anya's spell- allowing the Wishverse to invade and obliterate the Normalverse dimension and take up two dimensional "slots". Thus, Giles returned the Normalverse back to its place and cosigned the Wishverse back to its single dimension. However, what actually happened in the Wishverse after Anya's spell stayed in the Wishverse. Cordelia died, Giles called Buffy, the fight broke out in the Factory, Vamp Willow was staked, "Aw fu...."

This doesn't happen often but I totally agree with vampmogs about Angel! ;-)


I do think it's worth pointing out that Angel is quite heroic here even if he fails. In S1 we talked a lot about how Angel is pretty ineffectual as a hero and that he failed in the sense of not taking more a proactive role in helping Buffy, particularly in The Harvest. Here it is revealed that had Buffy not come to Sunnydale Angel would have stepped up and attempted to stop the Harvest himself and whilst he ultimately failed where Buffy succeeded that doesn't lessen his heroism for me. He also leaps in front of Buffy and takes a stake for her giving up his own life for a girl he hasn't seen in 3 years and who has been nothing but rude and unkind towards him in the very brief time they have interacted. Angel would have had good reason to be pretty resentful of the girl who was supposed to be his 'destiny' but never showed and instead resulted in his imprisonment and torture for the past 3 years instead of his hope and salvation, but he still 'takes a bullet' for her all the same.

Yup, I'm very fond of Puppy!Angel. Puppy!Angel totally bypasses two of the behaviors that enrage me the most about Normalverse Angel even though he actually has more cause in the Wishverse. Puppy!Angel proactively acted like a hero, even without Buffy, instead of his disappointingly unengaged relative to his gifts and stated mission BtVS self. Puppy!Angel stoically retained his loyalty to Buffy and kept his eye on the ball instead of lashing out at her for his bad luck or going way off the reservation unlike his AtS and comics self.

I mean, we could just be seeing the best moments of Puppy!Angel. Normalverse Angel has *a bunch* of moments where he rises above my general disapproving impressions. However, I do think there's something to the fact that taking Buffy (and Xander and Willow) off the board as Sunnydale heroes forced the best in others to come out to fill the void. Buffy (and Willow and Xander) stop enough evil so that Sunnydale feels like a normal, sunny place in the Normalverse. It gives other people the luxury of not having to try so hard; Wishverse dystopia doesn't allow for that kind of self-indulgence.


In this light, consider also the greater BtVS theme of growing up vs. AtS supposedly more adult themed show. How in BtVS, growing up means learning to check your selfishness and work for the greater good of others (with a remarkable Season 6 backslide in the growing up department of selfish vs selflessness). However, AtS blows up this idea that being an adult = being selfless; what I mean is that the show is credited with being the more adult one, but the characters are just as self-involved if not more so than the teenagers on BtVS, obsessed with and driven by their own pain and victimhood. Which makes you see how being a teenager and the heightened emotions of every single moment are equitable to living a life on the frontlines of a demon war. Not sure where I'm going with this, just perpetually rankled that AtS is called the more adult show, especially in light of such episodes as Passion, The Wish, The Body, Dead Things... and what does "more adult" even mean? A XXX rating?

During the AtS watch, I wrote that for Cordelia AU eps, The Wish >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Birthday. One reason is definitely that The Wish primarily discredits the AU because it's horrible for the whole town and non-main characters' pain and terror from Harmony to Larry to the girl in mechanized blood sucker are all a huge deal. Birthday discredits the AU primarily because Angel was crazy and Cordelia never got the fulfilling experience of being a Champion and Cangel can't happen in the AU. Civilians are non-entities.

But then, I do think it kind of characterizes the two series. BTVS with its 10 + averted apocalypses, relatively clear mission statements, and main theme of one human girl and her mostly human friends saving human beings is about civilians and serving the world. AtS with its mere two averted apocalypses (both of which had botched resolutions), unclear mission statements, and main theme of a vampire seeking redemption for himself and wading through season-long plots about his old flame, his son, his new jobs, etc. is about how the main characters feel about themselves.

Although, I do think that BtVS is outward-looking like idealistic youth can be unselfish and optimistic about helping others when they're relatively fresh and unspoiled and their parents/scholarships foot their bills for much of the series. AtS is inward looking like jaded adults can try to do good, but they've already accumulated too much of a past and they've already been through enough that their focus turns to themselves- paying their own bills, resolving their personal issues, moving past their history.

One of the tragedies of the Wishverse is that it drives out classic teenagerness. All of the teens in town are being stunted. Some teens become vampires. Some teens are the first delicious prey for the vamps. The Bronze was taken over and became a spot for vamps. Class sizes are too small. Teenagers can't drive to school, and who knows where else. Teenagers are in a particularly rough spot because they aren't old enough to make the rules or family choices on how to survive. However, they're old enough that they (a) make particularly desirable prey to be turned or eaten and (b) they're at a life-stage where they should be practicing independence but they're too afraid.

It's funny because IMO, the Fluking was the most classically teenagery multi-episode plot that this show ever had and the Wishverse stemmed from Cordelia's pain over the Fluking. No question, the Fluking was wrongedy wrong wrong and Willow and Xander, in their own ways, behave unattractively even in the post-Fluking ep of The Wish. However, you know, kids will be kids.

TimeTravellingBunny
27-10-14, 03:27 AM
3.10. Amends


This episode is unique in that it’s the only Buffy Christmas themed episode – and even though the Buffy version of Christmas episode is a bit less idyllic than such episodes usually are (what with such things as gruesome vampire murders, creepy visions of dead people, dreams about sex that ends with vampire bite/kill, attempted suicide, as well as a primordial evil force and its minions with no eyes), there is a strong theme of forgiveness and people making peace with each other and with oneself. It is also one of the few BtVS episodes that really focus on Angel as a character, and the best character study of Angel the show has done; and as such, it serves as a pretty good setup for Angel the Series. It was also necessary for season 3, as it’s the first episode that finally deals with the elephant in the room, and has some sort of a discussion between Buffy and Angel, as well as Giles and Angel, about their season 2 history and the crimes Angel committed as a soulless monster.

For the most part, specifically until the last 5 or so minutes, it does it really well and it is shaping up to be a really great episode. However, I have mixed feelings about the climactic final scene between Buffy and Angel, which contains some very good and some very bad writing; and much of the drama, darkness, intensity and deep characterization is eventually undercut by one of the cheesiest endings in the Buffyverse – the mystical Christmas snow that starts falling as a Deus ex machina and convinces Angel to keep on unliving, after Buffy seems to have failed to do so.

Many of the characters are “making amends” to those they have alienated or hurt, and trying to mend broken relationships.

The exception is the relationship between Cordelia and Xander – she is not ready to forgive him and has reverted to taunting him about his family and trying to hurt and humiliate him. But this time, Willow guiltily points out that Cordelia has a right to behave that way after what Xander and Willow did. But since Cordelia leaves Sunnydale and goes skiing in Aspen, she is not present for the majority of the episode, and does not fall under the overarching theme (nor is she present when the Magical Christmas Snow starts falling). To humiliate Xander, she reveals that the reason he’s sleeping outside is to avoid his family’s drunken Christmas fights – an explicit confirmation of the hints we’ve had before of Xander’s dysfunctional family life. What I find interesting is that Xander is bothered because he says he didn’t want her to share it with others; which means that Xander used to confide in Cordelia about such personal things he didn’t even share with Willow and Buffy – the latter is something I find very surprising. It seems that the image of their relationship as primarily consisting of kissing and trading barbs but without too much depth, was somewhat inaccurate.

Xander is one of the characters who show real growth in this episode. He finally apologizes for a lot of his behavior and attitude to Buffy in the previous episodes, like Dead Man’s Party and Revelations, and offers her help in researching what is wrong with Angel. He also doesn’t try to deflect blame or play the “us vs Cordelia” game as he did in The Wish, and instead admits that he feels glad she is even talking to him, but also that he’s now realized that he won’t be able to get her back.

Unlike Xander/Cordy, Willow and Oz do mend their broken relationship. Oz finally feels ready to talk and tells her how much he was hurt, but that he misses her and wants to give their relationship another chance. There’s some foreshadowing for Oz’s arc in season 4 and Wild At Heart/New Moon Rising when Oz says that seeing Willow kissing Xander made him feel the way he never felt before - when it was not full moon. However, Oz finds it hard to believe that romantic feelings between Willow and Xander will ever disappear, which prompts Willow to ask Buffy for advice on how to make Oz trust her. Buffy’s relationship advice is pretty interesting in the context of Buffy’s own love life: “Xander has a piece of you that can’t touch – I guess now it’s a matter of showing Oz that he comes first.” (The shooting script has a few lines that didn’t make it to the final episode and that confirm where Buffy was drawing the insight from: “Xander was your first love…that’s hard to let go”.) The parallel to Buffy finding it hard to let go off her first love, Angel, is obvious, but what’s more interesting is that she seems to be thinking about finding another love in the future, fully committing to him and letting go off Angel despite the fact she will probably always have some feelings for him. Willow’s reaction – taking this advice a bit too literally and deciding to prepare an OTT romantic evening for Oz and lose her virginity to him – is typical of Willow: always going to the extremes in trying to “fix” everything. As well as being super-awkward in it: if you’re suggesting to someone that you’re ready to have sex, you should at least be able to refer to it in words (whether you call it sex, making love, anything). And Oz’s reaction is typical Oz, and one of the classic “awesome Oz” moments, very similar to his refusal to kiss Willow in Innocence: recognizing that she is not ready for sex and is doing it for the wrong reasons, in order to prove something to him, and telling her he would want it to happen when they both really want it.

Joyce has one of her best moments ever when she convinces Buffy to invite Faith to the Christmas dinner. The complicated relationship between the two Slayers is seen in the difficulty with which Buffy reached out to Faith, needing to be nudged into that direction by her mother, and Faith’s hurt pride and reluctance to accept, but she eventually changes her mind; she has no doubt rarely, if ever, had a chance for warm family Christmas evenings. And so the Buffy/Faith relationship is temporarily mended, and things get good before they go really bad a few episodes later.

But the meat of the episode concerns Angel, his guilt and self-loathing, which is being exploited by the First Evil, appearing to him in the shape of his victims – a 19th century gambler in Dublin, a servant woman in London (presumably in 18th century), a contemporary family man, and, most often, Jenny Calendar. One of the things this episode is notable for is introducing the First, who will return as the Big Bad in season 7, and its minions, eyeless priests called the Bringers. The concept of the First Evil, as a primeval evil force present in all beings, is really interesting, but its motivations and plans were always confusing. When I posted my review of this episode two years ago on Livejournal (http://boot-the-grime.livejournal.com/21982.html?thread=122590), I wrote that I couldn’t understand what the First really wanted from Angel – first it tried to make him kill Buffy, but then it was content to just let him kill himself. But norwie responded with a great explanation (http://boot-the-grime.livejournal.com/21982.html?thread=108766#t108766): to simplify it a bit - the First cannot allow souled vampires to go from being evil to being good, because that would prove that it is not the most powerful force in the universe. The only thing that still cannot be explained is why exactly the First seems to have completely lost interest in Angel after Amends.

I really like the flashbacks to Angel’s past crimes, despite, as usual, DB’s dreadful Irish accent (now joined by a dreadful moustache), and the visions of some of his victims from various time periods. The scene where he’s assaulting a maid (which Buffy actually witnesses, since she is sharing his dream, in which he is reliving his crimes) has a stronger sexually predatory vibe than any other previous scene of his crimes: it disturbingly looks like a nobleman or merchant about to use his social position to rape a servant who can’t say anything to her employers because they wouldn’t believe her or care (which is what the woman thinks is going to happen before she sees his fangs), and it gets to another level of disturbing when he says he’s going to kill her son, too, for “dessert”. I’m particularly glad that the show gets to give a face and voice to Angel’s victims from season 2 other than Jenny, with the vision of the man who came home to find his family murdered and arranged as if they are peacefully sleeping (which sounds similar to what Angel did to Jenny in Giles’ home), before he realized they were dead and then was murdered himself. (It is interesting that he tends to target father figures for this kind of torture; echoing his original murder of his family, when he murdered his father last.) This example is used by the First to point out why he was more evil than most soulless vampires, taking pleasure in devising special mental torture that included killing the loved ones and manipulating people’s emotions.

Angel’s line “It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, it’s the man” is crucial for understanding his character. When the First tells him “You were a worthless being before you became a monster”, it is echoing his deepest insecurities. The First claims that this talent for evil is the only real talent he ever had; it is trying to play on his desire to be special and to convince him that he can only be special as an evil monster, and that he can never be good or heroic – and a part of him believes that. He went from being a disappointing no-good son, to being an exceptional cruel monster, and then spent 100 years as a souled vampire, lost and confused. This resonates strongly with the flashbacks we will later see in The Prodigal, and the sardonic line: “Father, I have finally made something of myself”, as well as Whistler’s mocking of Angel’s life as a pathetic rat-eating homeless bum, except Whistler was using it to try to steer Angel into the other direction and convince him to try to be a hero and help Buffy, while the First is trying to make him turn evil and kill Buffy. The highly sexualized temptations it offers are somewhat ambiguous – when it says “take her”, does it mean that he should seduce Buffy (is it really likely that she would consent to sex knowing about the danger of him losing his soul?), or rape her? Or to bite her and drain her? In any case, it suggests Angel should “lose himself” in her, which may be about losing his soul. I doubt that he would really lose his soul if he slept with Buffy while knowing about the possible consequences, but Angel thinks he might. (Speaking of which, the shared dream sex scene between Buffy and Angel, which ends in a bite that may be foreshadowing Graduation Day, is one of the most erotic sex scenes in the show, and probably the sexiest Bangel moment besides that bite scene.) This sounds a lot like what Angel tried to do in AtS season 2 with Darla. When Angel got complacent and happy in season 2, it cost him his soul; but now it seems that too much guilt and despair also has the potential to drive him to evil. This doesn’t happen here – Angel decides to kill himself rather than give in. But despair as a source of moral corruption for Angel (even without losing his soul) is something we will see on AtS.

The best scene of the episode is a long overdue confrontation between Angel and Giles, as Angel goes to his house to ask for help. ASH is brilliant in this scene and the entirety of the episode, which is a very strong one for Giles’ character. DB is pretty good playing Angel’s discomfort in this extremely awkward situation. Angel did not approach Giles or apologized before – probably because he couldn’t face him and is aware that “I’m sorry” does not exactly cut it when you’ve brutally tortured someone and murdered the woman he loved. Giles may accept on the rational level that Angel doesn’t deserve to die because he knows this version of Angel isn’t entirely responsible for crimes he committed while soulless, but he still isn’t going to forgive him, and makes this clear – which is far more realistic and human than if he were perfectly fine with him just because Angel is feeling guilty. Still, Giles is someone who always tries to be rational and unbiased; he will make it clear how he feels about Angel to his face, and point a crossbow at him before he lets him in, but he will still let him in, talk to him, and later even help Buffy in finding out what supernatural force may be tormenting Angel, without once addressing his feelings about Angel to Buffy herself. The moment when the vision of Jenny, visible only to Angel, suddenly appears besides Giles, making Angel unable to remain in Giles’ presence, is so strong and poignant that it’s almost disappointing when it turns out it was the First Evil appearing as Jenny, rather than a product of Angel’s own mind.

Giles is a man who keeps his feelings in check and represses his resentments. Notably, he was the only one who did not have a verbal confrontation with Buffy in Dead Man’s Party about her disappearance; perhaps this was a hint that the issues between them they buried would eventually come to bite them. When it comes to Angel and Buffy’s prioritization of him, he expressed his feelings about it strongly in Revelations, in private, as hr only would. But even then, it is notable he only brought up his torture, but not Jenny (whose murder had been brought up by Xander). I always thought it was because Jenny was a too difficult and sensitive issue for him, and that he would never want to use her as a way to score a point in an argument. The relationship between Buffy and Giles will always be characterized by an amount of repression of resentment on both sides; soon we will see the Cruciamentum, and Buffy will never openly express her feelings about Giles leaving her in season 6, until many of those unspoken resentments explode in season 7’s Lies My Parents Told Me.

The only character whose dialogue and characterization in this episode I have mixed feelings about is – Buffy herself, though that is probably due to uneven writing than any conscious wish by the writers (namely, Joss himself, who wrote this episode) to draw attention to some of the problematic aspects of her attitude and relationship with Angel, specifically a certain tunnel vision when it comes to what he did to people other than herself. (I can’t help but cringe a bit when Buffy goes to Giles and pleads that they have to save Angel by saying: “I think we are losing him”, even though it can be excused by her anxiety about Angel’s current condition.) However, Buffy has great moments in Amends. She once again proves that her intelligence is one of her main assets when she makes the connection and realizes where the First’s lair is. (Buffy is the one to work out what is going on in many BtVS episodes, contrary to the popular but incorrect idea that she just uses her fists to solve problems.) She doesn’t allow the First to intimidate her, and responds to it in classic Buffy snarky fashion, mocking its pomposity (“OK, I get it, you’re evil.” “You have no idea what you’re dealing with,” “Lemme guess… is it evil?”) And she’s proactive and determined to save Angel from the First and convince him not to kill himself. In her impassioned, desperate plea to Angel in the episode’s climactic scene on the hilltop, she delivers some of this episode’s strongest lines:

Angel: Buffy, please… just this once… let me be strong.
Buffy: Strong is fighting. It’s hard and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.

It makes me think of her line to Dawn in The Gift: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live for me” and the crucial scene of Once More, With Feeling, where Buffy is the one trying to commit suicide because she can’t go on, and Spike stops her and urges her to live on, while Dawn repeats Buffy’s own words from The Gift.

However, that same scene contains this line:

“I know everything you did, because you did it to me”.

On the positive side, it should be noted this line (as well as the line “But if you die now, then everything you ever were was a monster”) makes it clear that Buffy does indeed acknowledge that Angel is the same person who committed those terrible crimes and abused her for months when he was a soulless monster. Contrary to the popular belief that Buffy sees Angel and “Angelus” (a nickname that was not consistently used for soulless Angel until later in season 3) as two separate beings and completely absolves souled Angel of any blame, there are several instances when she clearly the opposite; and this entire episode would completely fall apart and be absurd if we were to assume that Angel and “Angelus” are different beings, despite the fact that Angel, Giles and Buffy all think of him as one and the same guy.

However, this is a really bad line, because it does not reflect the truth: Angel did target Buffy in season 2, he did abuse her and cause her a lot of pain, but he did not, in fact, do more than a fraction of what he could have done, what he planned to do in order to break her, and what he did to Drusilla when he was similarly trying to break her. Other people were the ones who suffered the most: Angel did much worse to Giles (and to the families of many other people) than to Buffy. On the Watsonian level, this line is not one of Buffy’s shining moments. On the Doylist level, it is really a big mistake by Joss, who unintentionally drew attention to a weakness in the season 2 plot, and the fact that BtVS writers tried to have their cake and eat it with the way they wrote it. When he tortured Drusilla, Angel killed everyone she loved. Realistically, Angel would have murdered Joyce and Willow when he had a chance in Passion, instead of killing just Willow’s fish and leaving creepy drawings. He would have tried to murder everyone Buffy loved. Instead, he tries to kill one of Buffy’s friends only once (Xander, in a comedy episode, where he's conveniently stopped by a love-spell-struck Drusilla), is pretty ineffective in Killed by Death and Go Fish, tries to attack Buffy a few times, and then abandons his plan of breaking Buffy and tries to start an apocalypse instead. I never thought about it the first time I watched season 2, but when I look back on it, it’s clear that the writers 1) did not want to kill off any of the main characters, or Buffy’s mom, and 2) wanted to leave room for Buffy’s romance with Angel to be rekindled. Jenny was therefore the perfect victim: close enough to the Scoobies that her death would resonate, but twice not too major or beloved by the fans and also twice removed from Buffy – Angel was not killing someone Buffy loved, but someone that was loved by someone that Buffy loved. If Angel had killed Joyce, I can’t see Buffy forgiving him and wanting to get back with her mother’s killer, and I don’t think many viewers would have wanted to see that, either. Ditto for killing any of the people closest to Buffy - Willow, Xander or Giles. That’s why this line feels emotionally dishonest: he did not actually do it all to Buffy, and if did, I don’t think she would be standing there and proclaiming her love for him. And Buffy showing her forgiveness for Angel feels wrong if she is forgiving him for what he did to others, the bystanders who got hurt, rather than just herself.

Despite my issues with this line, this is overall a strong, intense dramatic scene that makes me feel a lot of different emotions. It’s even physically intense – Buffy hits Angel to stop him from suicide, he throws her on the ground. SMG’s face has rarely had such a look of vulnerability. Normally, Buffy looks incredibly tough despite her size, but intentionally or not, this time she really looks like a tiny little girl, especially when she goes from telling Angel that he has to fight and that he can beat the First, to tearfully admitting “But what about me? I love you so much. (…) And I hate it. I hate it that it’s so hard and that you can hurt me so much.”

Buffy’s proclamations of love, not only romantic but also friendly or familial, always come in life and death situations or other at emotionally heightened, intense, dramatic moments. The first time she says ILY to Angel, he solicited it from her, and she made an effort to get the words out (Lie to Me). The second time she tells him, it’s when he is breaking her heart and she doesn’t know what is going on (Innocence). The third time is in Becoming II when he’s just gotten his soul back after months of being a monster, and as she’s about to run him through with a sword and send him to hell. This is the fourth time, and it’s in a desperate attempt to stop him from committing suicide. The next time she tells it to someone in a romantic sense, she tells it to Spike as he’s sacrificing himself in the Hellmouth and is about to burst into flames and turn to dust. Even to Dawn or her friends, verbal expressions of love come just before the end of the world or self-sacrificing death, when making up after a difficult argument with each other, or in special situations when she’s forcing herself to say the words (as in Intervention). She’s not someone who regularly says “I love you, honey”, hugs her friends or talks at lengths about her feelings. (Something that Christos Gage, the writer of the current Buffy comics, doesn’t seem to understand.)

The first couple of times I watched this episode, I felt that Buffy’s words should have come through to Angel and made him change his mind. Until one of my Livejournal friends, itsnotmymind (http://boot-the-grime.livejournal.com/21982.html?thread=108510#t108510), made me think about something I hadn’t considered before, pointing out that Buffy is making a mistake similar to Spike in the alley scene in Dead Things: “if you are trying to convince a person not to engage in self-destructive behavior, talking about how much you really wish you didn't love them is probably not the best strategy.“ Come to think of it, it does indeed send a mixed message: “Don’t throw your life away, because I can’t take it, I love you so much!... Though I wish I didn’t, because this relationship is not good for me, and you’re really a burden to me.” Maybe Buffy would have made a stronger point if she had been able to tell Angel that she believes in him and his ability to be a good man, based on what she knows of him and what he has done (as she will to Spike in season 7). She does tell Angel that he has power to do good and make amends, as proven by the fact that the First is threatened by him. But when he angrily asks the rhetorical question: “Am I a thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?” - she does not have a retort other than to tell him how much she loves him. Instead of pointing out his good qualities and examples of his positive actions (granted, Angel had done little up to that point, but there were moments when Angel did good and heroic things, e.g. fighting against the Judge), her strongest argument is that he must fight on and become a better man, or else he would never amount to anything but a monster.

I understand Buffy’s feelings here and find them deeply sympathetic. He was her first love, and a source of great trauma, and the pain and guilt for sending him to hell only made it harder to let go; on some level, maybe it’s not just about saving his life; it’s about saving his soul (not literally) – she needs the only love she’s had up to that point to be a source of goodness and hope, not just badness and destruction. In a way, Buffy needs to prove to herself that Angel can live on and be good, at least as much as the First needs to prove that Angel must die or be evil.

When I think about this as a love scene, I am unsure how I feel about it all. There is something very appealing about such a fictional expression of intense, overwhelming love. But I’m uncomfortable with the fact that Buffy never – not just in this episode, but in general – states any reasons why exactly she loves Angel, any examples of the things that she appreciates and likes about his personality. Her love for him is treated as something that goes without saying, an unchangeable natural state. It almost seems that it is because of their history, that, after giving her heart away for the first time, she simply cannot do anything but “stay lost” in love, as Platt put it in Beauty and the Beasts. While Buffy prioritizes Angel a great deal, I don’t agree with fans who think she tends to idealize Angel; based on the things she tells him here, she doesn’t even think that he’s been a particularly great guy so far. (The only one of her boyfriends she really idealized was Riley, the one she had least intense feelings for.) It could be argued that she, in a way, idealizes, or will later idealize her love for and with Angel, not as a perfect or healthy relationship that she would strive for, but as a great love that almost feels mystical and fated, something that exists on its own with no rhyme or reason, love as defined by Spike in Lovers Walk and Seeing Red (“It’s blood, blood screaming to get out”, “Great love is wild and passionate and dangerous, it burns and consumes”.) It’s true that love is often irrational and hard to explain, that it often comes from the places in the subconscious that we cannot access. But damn, there’s something not quite right about a relationship where you are incredibly in love with someone but at the same time you’re unable to point out to any admirable or appealing qualities they have, or any personal accomplishments or praise-worthy actions they’ve done, or even moments when they made you happy, as a reason why they are not entirely bad and why they should exist on Earth.

To be fair, it is very positive that Buffy is challenging Angel and demanding that he try to be stronger and better. But it also strikes me another instance of people and forces leading and influencing Angel and trying to nudge him into becoming something, from Whistler to the First to, later, Doyle on AtS, and even back to his parents, who expected and demanded (or at least his father did) that he makes something of himself; come to think of it, the “I love you so much, that is a given and can’t change, but I’m not sure if I even like you as a person” kind of love is more typical of familial love, particularly the way many parents feel about their children, than of romantic love.

Would Buffy have eventually convinced Angel not to die? We will never know, because she is interrupted by the Mystical Christmas Snow, which convinces Angel that he is worth it, because apparently, there may be another mystical force that wants him on Earth – presumably a good one? This abrupt resolution is what brings down the episode a few notches. It feels like a convenient plot device – it’s an apparent miracle (?) seen as a sign from a higher power that convinces Angel that he is worth it and should not die. It also feels too much like something from the likes of Touched by an Angel. The idea that there is a benevolent divine force in the world has never been explored before and will never be explored again on BtVS, and will be explored but subverted on AtS with the Powers That Be, which arguably come off as a neutral force, at best, rather than a benevolent one. I would like the episode much better if I could see this ending as a subversion of the cheesy divine intervention trope, but this is really not how it’s portrayed.

Dipstick
27-10-14, 12:28 PM
In this ep, victims who are rightfully angry about being murdered and destroyed are villainized for guilting Angel and speaking furiously to him and hoping that he commits suicide. I think it's a pretty regular writing strategy in Angel's favor to make his angriest and haunting victims evil- Drusilla, Holtz, Sam Lawson, and here, the First. I mean, I don't exactly root for Angel to commit suicide. (Although, it has its pluses for the world....) And I really don't root for him to rape or seduce Buffy into losing his soul. However beyond those goals, The First is creepy and ominous in this ep because the guise of Angel's victims are just too damn frank and literal about the horror that he wreaked on them. They aren't "good victims" like ever forgiving, Mother Confessor white coated" Buffy or even "I'll stand disapprovingly with my crossbow but ultimately help you gain peace" Giles.

Certainly, it's horrible that the First uses murder victims for its own purposes. Victims of grisly, heinous murders have a powerful story with potent guilt, tragedy, many of them are deified in their death. The First uses all of that for its own evil agenda, regardless of how the victim would want to be represented. There is kind of a Palestinian Hamas/Hezbollah vibe to the First wallowing and manipulating the pain of unresting murders to fulfill its own violent agenda. I'd wager that none of the victims that the First assumed would have wanted to manipulate Angel into losing his soul again.

However, I do think it's an open question on whether any of the victims would have wanted Angel to commit suicide or whether they would have spoken to Angel similarly if they could as ghosts. Jenny is the only one that we knew. Jenny is also kind of a special case as a Scooby- who as a group are more forgiving than the average population. Jenny has a bit of a harder, vengeful edge to her- see her cooperating in Angel's punishment, her coldness to Giles for almost getting her killed from his past mistakes. However when push came to shove, Jenny forgave Giles and she worked to help Angel by not ratting out Bangel to her family, defending Angel to Uncle Enyos, and trying to curse him again out of a desire to find a solution that the souled!Angel would have wanted. It makes a hard choice where there's something quite Jenny Calender about her harsher witticisms, especially "I wanted to die in bed surrounded by fat grandchildren but I guess that's off the menu" but "I don't wanna hurt you, Angel, but you have to understand. Cruelty's the only thing you ever had a true talent for" is a bridge too far for how Jenny would speak.

But then, we don't know the other victims. However, they don't take a lead on the manipulation First!Jenny does. Its worth considering whether a 1998-era businessman or a nineteenth century maid or gambler would be so insulting if they knew Angel's whole story. Curiously, the second harshest lines go to Margaret the Maid. Daniel and the businessman are comparatively restrained in their language. The very feminine women victims are the harshest. I'm not sure if it's because Jenny and Margaret would be the angriest and most sarcastic IRL or because the First judged that female criticism cuts Angel more than male criticism. The latter is certainly a possibility. However, there's something right about Margaret's vocal, screechy haranguing as empowerment that she can be as haunting and blunt a ghost as she wants instead of the quiet, tactful, obsequious, timid maid that she was forced into behaving as in life. It's really like she's letting stuff off her chest. "Yeah, cry out! Make a scene!"

Moving on, there's a link between Willow/Oz and Buffy/Angel- the couples where forgiveness is kind of a theme this year and they move into the back half of S3 as full blown romances. In a strange way, there's a similar "What the hell are you doing?", sacrificial lamb, OTT ridiculousness to Willow trying to penitently give up her virginity or Angel trying to commit suicide by sun. But then, Willow's and Angel's acts do successfully reach Oz and Buffy and squeeze out forgiveness and luuurve instead of a recoil from Willow's or Angel's newest display of embarrassing dysfunction. To paraphrase Animal House, "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part! And [Willow and Angel] are just the guys to do it!"

It's the penitent sincerity in Willow and Angel's behavior that gets to Buffy's and Oz's hearts. Oz absolutely broke up with Willow because she was dishonestly sneaking around behind his back. Buffy halted the incipient Bangel flirting/kissing in Revelations because she was shamed for lying to the Scoobies and then, she broke off all contact with Angel in Lovers Walk because she was shamed that her "just friends" bit with Angel was obviously phony. Recent events bred cynicism so Buffy and Oz were moved at their lovers' big displays of permanent, consequence-filled penitence, even if the suicide or virginity bartering were such bad ideas that Buffy and Oz stop them.

Local Maximum
27-10-14, 09:17 PM
Great review TTB and great comment Dipstick.

On Dipstick's point about the Angel/Willow parallel, I do think that there is some degree of similar feelings of worthlessness and dejection surrounding the big suicidal-gesture act and the virginity-bartering act. They are on very different scales because their crimes are on very different scales. But ultimately underneath Angel's Big Heroic Champion and/or Big Supervillain thing is a young adult who engaged in destructive behaviour because he thought it was impossible for him to live up to his father's expectations. On some level, Angel does keep throwing himself into sacrificial plays on some level not just because he wants to make up for his past, though he does, but because he values his unlife somewhat lowly and often doesn't particularly like it. This is often accompanied by grandiosity, but, you know.

With Willow, we know that she could "barely handle" half-Monty back as of Beauty and the Beasts, that she worried that making the first move of kissing made her a slut, that she saw how Buffy's bad first time devastated her. It's pretty clear that Willow's not actually ready. I think Willow doesn't want to have sex and is very afraid of it. But I think that it's not just that her crime is so big she thinks she can only buy it back with an extreme action; I think Willow sort of thinks that she doesn't have anything to offer, and gives up her body as a Hail Mary pass, with her body itself being a commodity to be exchanged.

And while Buffy & Oz are right in the decisions they make, I think that there is something similar about the way their making the call impacts the penitent person. Angel says "Buffy, just this once, let me be strong," and Buffy talks him out of it and then the PTB "talk" him out of it with snow. Great. But Angel tends to follow external signposts as his way of determining what he should do -- the PTB, Whistler, Buffy's example, etc., and even as a vampire and even when she's dust he's following the shadow of Darla or how to achieve external recognition via being the one worthy of Acathla. He bounces around due to external effects over which he has no control, and the fact that he often holds all the power within interpersonal dynamics, especially on his own show, doesn't really change that he is mostly a puppet of forces greater than himself. And the suicide plan is Angel's. Not the First, nor Buffy, nor the PTB, nor anyone really comes up with the idea. "For once," it's Angel calling the shots, and if Angel thinks the only option left for him that protects lives around him then maybe he's right? And if this is also the only way Angel sees where he can finally be free of the external forces bouncing him around, of God or Fate or Random Chance ripping his soul away then giving it back then ripping it away and giving it back again etc., the only way to take some sort of control over his life and himself, maybe he should let it be given to him.

Oz is right about Willow's sex plan, for a few reasons -- one because he is not ready to have sex and recognizes the whiff of emotional manipulation (though I don't think Willow sees it that way), two because he recognizes that Willow is undervaluing herself/her body in thinking of it as such a crass commodity. He's right, basically. But on a longer timescale, the situation becomes a bit different: Willow offers to kiss him and he turns her down; Willow offers sex and he turns her down. Oz initiates sex when they're actually ready, without actually talking about it first. Oz makes the call to spend an extra year at Sunnydale High to be around her without talking to her. Oz doesn't tell her he's a werewolf; Oz doesn't tell her about Veruca; Oz doesn't give her any say in whether he leaves; Oz doesn't tell her he's sending for his stuff; Oz doesn't send word he's coming back to town. When Oz tries to initiate sex in New Moon Rising, it is different, somehow -- I think Oz is similarly trying to use it as a shortcut to intimacy, but I don't think it's a matter of selling his body as penitence the way it kind of clearly is with Willow here. I dunno. Willow did make the first move in that she kissed him first in Phases, and Willow of course has her own secrets -- the Fluke, in particular. Still, when it comes to sex and deep-dish intimacy it's pretty much Oz who makes all the calls, because He Knows Best, and that sort of gives Willow less space to maneuver and be herself.

In addition to the Willow/Angel parallel there is also an Oz/Angel parallel; as in Surprise/Innocence there is a contrast between Angel's total domination by his sexual drive when he knows it's wrong and Oz' careful self-control. Similarly, Angel sleeping with Buffy will make him lose his soul and he still wants to, to the point where he wants to kill himself rather than let that happen. Oz is able to look at the situation and just recognize that he's got himself under control. Oz has some of that Zen self-control that Angel really needs. The only problem is that Oz' wolf, while it only comes out on full moons, is totally out of control, and it's the ultimate contrast to Oz' ultimate control. Oz' line about not feeling the way he felt when he saw Willow with Xander except on a full moon really specifically seems to connect to his outright losing it when he finds out about Willow & Tara being involved in NMR. As is often the case in the Buffyverse, the loss of control is extreme in proportion to the degree of control occupied most of the time; when Oz' defenses do finally shut down he's terrifying and unstoppable without sedation. And I think it's interesting the thing that triggers him is Willow not telling Oz about Tara even though they talked all night, i.e. Willow acting like Oz, or I guess arguably like herself-in-the-Fluking-period but still, enacting a behaviour that is common to both of them. I think part of what interests me about that is that Willow/Oz had big, big passion which was restrained and controlled, and they held something back rather than going all-in the way Buffy and Angel did, and during the Buffy/Angel seasons 2-3 this was the right, safer, better choice. However, the parts of them that held something back and took a cautious approach has a downside, which is that they would hold back information to try to figure things out themselves, leading pretty often to emotional devastation for the other. Sometimes, as with Oz' not telling Willow he's staying for an extra year, it's "cute," but with the Fluke or Willow not mentioning about Tara, or with Oz not mentioning about Veruca or sending for his stuff in Something Blue, it causes a lot more pain. (For the record, I am pretty on board with Willow not telling Oz about Tara, much more so than with the Fluke or with Oz keeping Veruca a secret -- they were, you know, not an item. But still, the story is showing action and consequence; that Oz "shouldn't" freak out and wolf out doesn't mean he doesn't.)

norwie
27-10-14, 09:44 PM
Oh Max - with all the Willow-feels. :)

Re: Dipstick - The more helpless/oppressed iRL the more righteous anger in afterlife (or somesuch). I totally agree that it is empowering: The oppressed do not need to be polite about their misgivings.

Because i still don't have enough time to dig into this in ways it deserves to be dug into - I'lll keep it short: The phony snow show at the end is, imo, a wink by the authors that a situation like this is only solvable by a Disney miracle, ie. don't look for the snow iRL. ;)

Stoney
28-10-14, 05:18 AM
Brilliant review TTB. Your points about the relevancy of the episode for Angel in relation to S2 and going forward to AtS are great, particularly the effect that despair can have on him. I really like Amends but, as you have all been saying, the ending really does take something away from it. All that angst and depth is just dropped. Excellent points about Buffy’s line about it all having been done to her. That always bugs me too. As for the lack of supportive depth in her relationship with Angel to sit alongside the intensity of feelings, it has always been the weakest aspect of their romance for me going forward. In S2 it fitted the first love intense drama and a degree of immaturity. As it goes on past this season and this meaningful connection is sustained as being more than a first love, that there is destiny and yet there is not depth/breadth to it I just find to be weak writing.

I agree the scene at Giles’ house is incredibly good and stands out. The cinematography of the Jenny reveal was just so well done. ASH is exceptionally good at working with the camera angles for those impactful moments that need bang on timing. He managed to emphasise it whilst also being seemingly unaware of what he was contributing so well. Ach, it was just great. I can’t decide whether Angel’s choice to go to Giles and put himself forward like that to try and solve what is happening is really good or really selfish. I think I lean towards seeing it as good in that it feels at that point that he did learn from his complacency, as Giles emphasises it, in not learning more about the curse originally.

I find the Bringers incredibly creepy. I suppose it is on the same basis that people dislike such things as clowns. Things that are very close to looking like humans or moving like humans but are in some way different/off is something that we instinctually react negatively to (a theory know as the Uncanny Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley)). But I was never sold on The First and, as you say, the purpose of what it was looking to achieve here is ropey and then dropped.

Whilst I certainly see that it was thoughtful of Joyce to suggest to Buffy that she invite Faith, I still find it really harsh that they are discussing her spending Christmas Eve in that horrible hotel room as a negative thing and yet would leave her there for Christmas day. I like that Buffy manages to reach out to her but it is such a shame that it got overtaken with slayer duties and that they ignored the wider view that looking at her situation at all showed them.

Xander really stands out for me in this episode. I think the events with Cordelia have shaken things up a bit for him and perhaps some of that comes from not being the victim and not having that ‘lower’ status anymore. Cordelia’s awareness of the social implications and the effect on her standing from everything that happened applies to Xander as well. He is the guy who dumped Cordelia. I don’t mean any of that is a conscious or nasty thought, or that he gets pleasure out of it, but it does alter the power imbalance socially somewhat. I also think that we see when he is outside Willy’s with Buffy that he isn’t mooning after her anymore and he is a far better character imo when they aren’t playing an interest in Buffy which often left him looking bitter/petty. So, despite the negativity of events just past, I think that Xander seems more mature and more confident in the fallout. As you say, there is real growth here.

Learning some of the details of his family situation and how isolated he is is very sad. I find it interesting that he turns to support his chosen family very clearly in the episode as a contrast and his apology to Buffy is significant. I also personally read it as him acting in support of Giles too. Xander can have moments of clear understanding of other's emotions and I think it is the child who spent time outside avoiding the arguments that gives him this awareness of underlying hurt. His understanding over the prom dress, the S6 yellow crayon speech and Dawn's lack of 'potential' status are the other occasions that spring to mind. It is often in these moments when he reacts in a maturely subtle and supportive way that he is at his best for me. Despite him sniping at Buffy about how Giles might feel helping Angel and incorrectly saying he would be petty about it (which I don't think he actually thinks of Giles, it was just part of the snipe at Buffy), his actual awareness that Giles may struggle is the underlying driver. So I think there is an element of him offering to help so that it took some of the pressure/tension out of the situation for Giles by having others involved without directly alluding to doing so and raising the emotional grief for Giles and highlighting the tension between Buffy’s desire to help and Giles’ pain.

I have to say that the snowfall would have had to have been a blizzardous flurry to have that much settle that quickly so it always struck me as silly when it was just shown as being really light snowfall. I always am distracted by the fact that it looks nowhere near sunrise too and yet they are saying it is and behaving with such urgency. Nope, it is pitch black guys, you've got pleeeeenty of time!! :biggrin1: I really like some of the lighter scripting in this episode like Oz’s comment of Willow having the Barry working for her. And I love Willow’s line “But it’s a history that’s in the past.”, it is just excellent and is the kind of line that AH delivers perfectly.


I'd wager that none of the victims that the First assumed would have wanted to manipulate Angel into losing his soul again.

Which is why the gypsy curse having the loophole was always so idiotic. I know Enyos said it was vengeance not justice, but releasing him back to being soulless undoes the vengeance anyway, no? Daft.


I think Willow sort of thinks that she doesn't have anything to offer, and gives up her body as a Hail Mary pass, with her body itself being a commodity to be exchanged.

I always saw it as a direct reaction to Buffy saying that Xander has a piece of her Oz can’t touch and now it is about showing Oz he comes ‘first’. This was the one clear and significant thing she never offered Xander and never shared with him and it raises her relationship with Oz above her one with Xander if she gives him something that could then never be given to anyone else. It also sits well alongside seeing the Willow/Xander fling as being about clinging to their childhood comforts due to the scary realities of growing up that Willow tries to take a definite action to then embrace growing up and moving on with Oz and looking to an aspect of it that she sees as scary.

cil_domney
28-10-14, 08:00 AM
I really like "The Wish". However am I the only person who finds the machine that the Master uses to drain the girl of her blood to be kind of silly and pointless? The Master says that she's still alive for the freshness, but wouldn't her blood be just as fresh if he were to bit into her neck with his fangs?

I personally found the machine very effective visually and as the symbol of vampires/society/workers/victims - the industrial age and mass production uses workers as abstractions - the workers are simply bodies that are used in service to the machine and production. With vampires, humans are primarily there to service a vampires feeding and violence needs - Spike's happy meals on legs. Plus, the visual of the spears entering her body, take us right back to Cordelia being pierced, literally and emotionally by the betrayal of Xander and Willow as was Oz. We can also follow this through to the great ending sequence when all the characters are either killing or being killed by stakes or pierced.


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@Vampmogs:

The symbolism of Xander/Willow killing Cordelia is quite powerful. Not just for all the amazing reasons Local Max notes but also in that it's very symbolic of what their affair has done to Cordy. The two of them suck the life from Cordy whilst they romantically embrace (Xander's arm around Willow's head) and that's a pretty eerie manifestation of how Cordy feels in the real world by Xander and Willow's cheating and how it devastated her. It's not cruel enough that they just killed her but to have both of them sucking the life from her in a romantic gesture is particularly sad given recent events and why Cordy even made that wish in the first place.
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Great points - The scene with Harmony and the other cruel social uppity squad mocking Cordy with Jonathan - this is the point for me where I think Cordelia realizes just how dead she is on the Social Status Range. The facial expression on Cordelia shows in this scene shows how the reality of her fallen status and she also finally knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the cruelty Queen C dished out with such relish. There's a reason that Jonathan, the shortest guy "loser" symbol is used in contrast to the tall, handsome athlete who basically tells her she is only good enough for a secret shag. Cordelia's self-esteem, her former entitled life, and status as "date slayer" has collapsed. Another great, IMO, visual was Cordelia stepping out of her red car wearing those super high heels and looking what I would call "tarted up" to impress. But her warriors gear is of little help; Cordelia is the big loser that day.

One of the things that I really loved about this episodes is how it continues the theme of betrayals - we had the betrayal of Buffy to Giles and all her friends with keeping Angel's return a secret. Then we have the betrayals of Willow-Xander, we also have Dru's betrayal of Spike. Next we have the betrayal of all the children suspected of being remotely related to the supernatural by all the parents and MOO, we have the betrayal of Buffy from her father by his not showing his daughter love and respect for her birthday. Finally we have the betrayal of Giles and the CoW against Buffy with the Cruciamentum. One good thing that comes from all these betrayals is the people learn from them. Giles finds the strength to oppose the mindless acceptance of the traditions and rules of the CoW. Joyce and the Parents of MOO who are mindlessly "doing good" even to the extent of killing their own children get a great lesson and will hopefully be better parents. And Buffy, learns how much she really wants to be the strong woman who can protect herself and her friends and family and how important it is to her that she can be the Slayer and protector. For all the "I want a normal life" Buffy finds out just how important it is to her to be the Slayer.

Local Maximum
31-10-14, 04:01 AM
I wanted to add a few more general thoughts on this episode:

This is the first episode of the series which, IMO, is about the question of whether the world should have a place for Angel as a former murderer. His soul return was given back to him a century before the first season, and in spite of the spectre of Darla hanging over the story, ultimately Angel had (seemingly!) not been a killer for a century. Buffy is not really a great student of history, at least not in season 1 and 2, as we're reminded, and a bunch of grisly murders a century ago is...really not going to weigh on her, or for that matter on the rest of the cast. "Angel," the episode, is more about Buffy and Angel getting past their "natural animosity" and recognizing that they are now on the same side, and can continue being, rather than a serious evaluation of Angel's situation in light of what he's done -- IMO anyway. That is fine; no sixteen-year-old should have to do that kind of accounting. And Buffy's natural openness to Angel being good now, even though he did something awful in the past, fits with the rather short view of history that Buffy and the rest of the cast ultimately have in season one. Angel's crimes are really far behind. In season two, Angel turns out to have a monster lurking within him which will awake and rise and kill them all -- or, well, you know, kill one of them and kill a bunch of supporting characters, which, yes, is kind of a flaw of season two when we compare to the buildup given to it. In some senses, season two is all about setting up Buffy definitively sending Angel to hell, and the question sort of hangs in the air of whether that's what Angel really "deserves" given that he is also Angelus, and the question also hangs in the air of whether he is really much of a real person at all, so much as a dark animus/shadow figure that Buffy has to "get over" to progress as a hero, and who represents Buffy's own potential destructiveness if she doesn't get herself in check.

Anne, as norwie pointed out, is rife with Holocaust imagery, and this season opens up discussions of politics, collective action, and social organization. We're talking about how to build societies, and the danger of building a society in which certain people are "left out," or even actively exploited. So Angelus is largely a figure of privileged, capitalist evil in the past -- exploiting a maid, for instance. We're also introduced very early on to the concept of debt, as Angelus kills a guy for being unable to pay for his debt. This links Angelus to cold-fish moneylender Ebeneezer Scrooge -- this episode is a take on A Christmas Carol, just as The Wish was It's a Wonderful Life, an observation I don't claim to have come up with. But of course Angelus is playing a deeper game. Scrooge was unfeeling, cold, and slippery, and it seems as if he took over his business by exposing his own boss's embezzlement. But Scrooge was also a miser who didn't permit himself any real pleasure; he was living in a drafty house he inherited but had not taken care of over the years. Unlike Angelus, he wasn't exploitative for the sake of being evil, and nor does it seem likely to me that Scrooge was raping prostitutes or whatever. Scrooge was a man totally of his system, with no ability left (before supernatural intervention) to imagine anything in life besides the purely mechanical pursuit of money, for the sake of pursuing money. In some senses, this is closer to Angel as he is now, who is no longer evil but who has lost most ability to recognize pleasure in life, and, indeed, for whom pleasure is a frightening prospect.

Anyway, the game we more or less learn Angelus played in the first scene is mostly the First's racket, too. Angelus exploits some poor slob by making a loan to him which the guy can't possibly pay back, and then eats him when he fails to pay, and convinces the guy it's his own fault. It's very mafia, actually, in addition to everything else. The way this connects him with the First is that the First, if we believe its press that it's the Source Of All Evil!!! or whatever, drags people down into evil, tricking them into working for it, and then once they have racked up some kind of karmic debt that is impossible to pay up, it then owns them. It's a classic Deal With the Devil situation, one of those deals in which the Devil's real goal is just to convince someone that they are already beyond salvation. It's not like Daniel could actually get away or anything, but on some level part of the game for Angelus, I think, is that he convinces people like Daniel or Margaret the maid to "sin," to be in some way in his debt or to be "seen" as doing something "wrong" like making a scene, and that makes them think on some level they deserve it. It's pretty sick, and it's also important to remember that this is what the First is doing to Angel -- playing up the debt that Angel accrued, because of Evil, as reasons why he should work for Evil more, or, at least, take himself off the board.

So okay, it's sick and wrong to use someone's debt to Evil to force them into dying or becoming Evil. Still, those debts don't disappear, do they? It's easy in the case of Margaret to say she's blameless in her fate. And it's easyish to say that Daniel may have made some mistakes in his gambling, and shouldn't have gotten himself into debt with a stranger (or perhaps, with anyone?), but he shouldn't die for it. The question gets harder when we're talking about the kind of debts that Angel has racked up, not monetarily but in lives: the knowledge follows him around that he can't buy that back, ever, not even with death. The debts that Xander owes Cordelia, or Willow owes Oz, or Buffy owes Faith, seem more surmountable to a degree, but maybe the people don't want to be "paid back." Cordelia uses her suffering as an excuse/reason to dole out suffering to Xander, and views it comfortably within her rights given the amount of pain she's suffered as a result of him. Willow tries to "buy back" the pain she's causd to Oz with her body. Joyce tries to intervene on Buffy's behalf, even though she doesn't exactly know what's going on between Buffy & Faith. The problem is that this history, it's still there, somehow:


Oz: I know you guys have a history.

Willow: But it's a history that's in the past. Well, I-I guess most history is in the past.

The history is in the past. But it's still a history, and it's because of that history that we're here today. We can't really escape from it. Can you really just move on from it, focus on the future, pretend that that history didn't happen? If Angel never hurts another human being from this day forward, and saves people's lives, he's still having a positive impact, right? But there is still the knowledge of how he got to be where he is today. That debt will still stand there, a debt beyond human reckoning.

You know, Angel and Angelus are the same guy, but...it's still important that they are different, too, that Angel-with-a-soul is not quite dangerous in the same way as Angelus is (though, as we learn in Angel, and as we learn in this very episode with Angel's monologue about his weakness, and his statement that it's not the demon in him that needs killing but the man), that Liam didn't choose to lose his soul with Darla and Angel didn't choose to lose his soul with Buffy. Psychologically, he is different in a fundamental way; and fundamentally, too, any human ripped of their soul would behave, if not as monstrously as Angelus did, well, still monstrous. That Angel didn't choose to change doesn't change the fact that he, well, has; a psychotic individual force-fed drugs to restore him to sanity is still different than he was before the drugs, whether he accepts it or not. I think the radical change in Angel really is a representation of the question of how to deal with people who really have -- largely through external circumstances -- become a different person. Does what he did before affect him now? Where is the dividing line? Can Angel contribute to society, or should he be permanently left in the cold, or allowed to burn up in the light of day?

And I'm reminded again of Buffy's question in Innocence: "And me? What was I supposed to be paying for?" Whatever you think of Buffy/Angel, it really is true that the fates of people who have done horrible things in the past affect not just them, but those close to them now. I have mixed feelings about Buffy's overall handling of the situation and how she deals with the final scene, because of course Angel still is an active danger -- and more to those around Buffy than Buffy herself, since Buffy can physically defend herself in a way her friends (Faith excepted) can't, if Angel ever turns again. But still, Angel killing himself may deal with some kind of abstract karmic debt (it also may not!), but it leaves the people who love him out in the hot Christmas sun. How to square the "debt" still left over to "society" as a whole, with the possibility of Angel's continued existence meaning something now, not just abstractly but to someone who really cares for him?

Stoney
03-11-14, 04:04 AM
3.11 Gingerbread

This is a pretty dark episode and it works well for me when considering the plan the Mayor has hidden under the pretence of being a caring community leader for them to use a fairytale, something often seemingly light but layered with darker meanings.

There are a few weaker aspects to the episode for me that I’ll get out of the way first. I find the brief appearance, acceptance of then ditching of Michael unnecessary. As he is victimised by his peers whilst Amy is ignored I assume that he is intended to be representative, but it feels awkward to shoehorn a random person in this time. Also, I roll my eyes at the widely open acknowledgement of the supernatural world in Sunnydale as something that the citizens all then yet again readily drop completely. But my main issue is with the initial reactions, like the death of the children is something wholly new. Children get murdered, and yes, humans do do that. It isn’t new and although I’m sure being faced directly with it would bring it to a whole new level, they are acting as if it is the first time they have heard of it. Anyway, they are all pretty minor/typical things.

I like the use of the darker side fairytales often have. It is not just that Hansel & Gretel are framing witches that works well for the witch hunts and vigilante behaviour they are looking to incite. There is also this link with children who are alone, that have been abandoned by their parents. It works well as a continuation from Band Candy (and we see that episode called back through Giles and Joyce’s awkwardness) where yet again the teens are saving the adults from an horrific error. This time though Giles is on the side of the teens, a transition that won’t fully be made until he rejects his own authority figures next in Helpless.

We saw Joyce’s response to Buffy’s return at the start of the season make it clear that she is struggling to come to terms with Buffy being the slayer and in all fairness to her it is a lot to take in. But going forward Buffy is going to have to deal with what Joyce has said to her in this episode, influenced or not, it is still said and it would be fair for Buffy to wonder, considering what has gone before, how much was just her underlying feelings coming out. In some ways I feel sorry for Joyce because I do think that she genuinely wants to understand and be supportive but her underlying feeling is that Buffy shouldn’t be doing it and that clouds how well she can be what Buffy needs/deserves in this area at the moment. At the meeting, when Joyce exposes and names Buffy (slayers) alongside the monsters that control Sunnydale for them to take ownership of the town back from, it is incredibly harsh and SMG shows her hurt and shock really well at that moment.

It follows well after The Wish to have Joyce seeing the effect of demons in the town and yet her dismissing Buffy’s role. The fact that Buffy is hearing her mum denying her respect for her role/responsibility, describing it as fruitless, no doubt adds towards her feeling she should apologise to Willow. But we know what could happen now if Buffy hadn’t come to Sunnydale. And this is, in fact, another episode where we not only see Buffy playing parent to Joyce at the beginning again but it is her quick thinking and deductions which set them onto the right track.

So the adults and members of MOO are under some level of influence and the demon uses their anxieties to stir them into action. They are being driven to ‘protect’ the false children and it removes their love/protective instincts for their own children. I can’t help but find the basic plot of a demon inciting the worst fears of a community through the illustration of children being murdered leading people to murder their own children compellingly terrible. I said in the review for Lovers Walk that Joyce’s mothering of Spike was interesting alongside this episode and it is for that reason. Taking the drive, the urge to protect children and warping it in such a way to make a parent betray that strength of emotion by having them kill their own children is ghastly. As much as I have issues with Joyce’s parenting, and as much as I see problems with her perspective on Buffy’s slaying which this episode exposes again, I do see that her natural urge is there for the demon to exploit.

Interestingly I don’t think it scans the same for Mrs R. We see the contrast through the episode between Joyce/Buffy and Mrs R/Willow. One parent is trying to show an active interest and it is Joyce’s lack of understanding that makes her susceptible and her underlying dislike of what Buffy does. Then we have Willow’s mum who didn’t even know her daughter had cut her hair, knows very little about her life/lifestyle but believes that she understands it all through her professional knowledge. Her abhorrence seems more of a cerebral rejection of what Willow’s perceived ‘failings’ are rather than an emotional one to me. Her big reaction being on hearing Willow was dating a musician being a perfect illustration of this. It is clear despite her academic knowledge that Mrs R certainly fails to understand her daughter as an individual.

The reality of what happens in their town hits Joyce the moment the vampire attacks and I love the delivery KS gives to “Oh, my God! It's Mr. Sanderson from the bank!” It isn’t solely the sight of the children that presses her buttons from her slaying visit. Even though it is this that tips her on into action by making her vulnerable to the demon, she already was struggling with the reality of the supernatural. It is somewhat alarming how easily and readily groups can be gathered and driven and they do show this well here. That the power of the collective has the school and police even actioning their demands against individual rights just emphasises how much strength can be mustered in this way. It reflects in some ways the way the teens will organise and come together at the season end and have their effective strength in numbers. But here there is a darker edge and an illusion of civility to the organisation that their actions call into question long before they go to the extreme of tying those they have deemed a risk to the stake. I love Buffy’s guts in standing her ground in the face of the dismissal she is being given. Joyce may have a plan/lapel buttons but it is Buffy who is out fighting the demons.

This resolve in the face of the direct criticism is something that we see of Willow too in her confronting her mum, the real call for attention that just gets cut off as a need for discipline and that failure at understanding her daughter is bold. The willingness to confront her mum feels really significant for Willow as this is an episode that shows the shift towards a strength/power she is on the path to gaining. At this stage she doesn’t have control of power like Amy displays, but she is literally placed side-by-side with Buffy/Amy as a supernatural target.

I love that Cordelia helps out and reminds us that she got involved in the first place outside of dating Xander. It works well for me that she is again involved in the scoobies in another episode where Buffy is facing the combination of school/slaying/home life as Cordelia often played the ‘could have been me’ character for Buffy’s life balance woes. But Cordelia isn’t peripheral anymore and even though Buffy states in the start of the episode to her mum that slaying is ‘kind of an alone thing’, we saw specifically (again referencing The Wish) the benefit of this actually not being true for Buffy. It also follows well to Cordelia’s ongoing path in AtS that she didn’t opt for selective memory and kept fighting.

Xander’s self focus and worry in this episode I find intriguing. He is more held back by what happened between him/Willow than anyone else is showing and he wants to be noticed. It is perhaps that lack of closure with Cordelia, a fear of being seen as a constant failure, as well as possibly knowing that he has been, in some ways, dumped openly by Willow now as a potential love interest in favour of Oz and that their dynamic since childhood has changed. He is feeling pretty unsettled at this stage.

Although Mrs R and Joyce’s conversation before lighting the books and their horror filled realisation when the demon takes its true form make it clear they were unaware of their actions, it is hard to not see it all as a betrayal at worst and as Joyce dropping the ball by not believing in Buffy’s competency well enough too. Even though that somewhat clashes with how readily she backed Buffy up as the decision-maker in School Hard, and we know she was being influenced here, you can’t help but see/hear the consistency in the issues Joyce is raising of her dislike of the slaying and the normal daughter she was denied. Overall the episode feels very damning of Joyce. They don’t even show her going over to help untie Buffy and then she isn’t even mentioned in the final scene between Willow and Buffy. But as an episode covering parenting failures, betrayal and authority it certainly works very well in the season and particularly sat beside our next episode, Helpless.

vampmogs
03-11-14, 12:35 PM
I really wish I had more time to comment (on Amends as well which is a big favourite of mine) but just very quickly;

This has to be one the darkest lines in the show for me;

JOYCE
I wish I had a normal daughter. Instead I got a Slayer.

Especially considering Joyce is saying that as she starts to burn her daughter alive. Now, yes, Joyce was under the influence of the demon's power and obviously she'd never attempt to kill Buffy under normal circumstances. But I agree completely with Stoney that it's uncomfortably close to the resentment/dislike Joyce has expressed in the past towards Buffy being the Slayer. There's some real Joyce in there and that line is just scary beyond words. I have to agree that the episode is pretty damning of her character as we're really not treated to a scene of Joyce snapping back into reality and helping Buffy in anyway or any favorable moment or line where she's made likable again. I do like Joyce a great deal but in this episode I find her plain unlikable and that feels a little unfair because she was being controlled to an extent but I think it just brought a lot of her issues to the surface.

It also doesn't help that they've been playing with the Slayer/gay metaphor a lot in S2-S3 and in particular with the Buffy/Joyce relationship ("Have you tried not being a vampire Slayer? It's because you don't have a strong father figure isn't it?"/"Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is?"/ "I think they'd be happy to know they have a 'super hero' helping them. That is ok, right? I mean it's not an offensive term is it?"/ "I've tried to be supportive. I've tried to march in the Slayer Pride Parade") so there's some real dark and uncomfortable readings to that line which hit all my buttons.

Whenever I think of this episode I always think of that moment.

Dipstick
04-11-14, 05:38 PM
I'll address both Amends and some of Gingerbread.

Great thoughts on Amends, Local_Max. To add:


On Dipstick's point about the Angel/Willow parallel, I do think that there is some degree of similar feelings of worthlessness and dejection surrounding the big suicidal-gesture act and the virginity-bartering act. They are on very different scales because their crimes are on very different scales. But ultimately underneath Angel's Big Heroic Champion and/or Big Supervillain thing is a young adult who engaged in destructive behaviour because he thought it was impossible for him to live up to his father's expectations. On some level, Angel does keep throwing himself into sacrificial plays on some level not just because he wants to make up for his past, though he does, but because he values his unlife somewhat lowly and often doesn't particularly like it. This is often accompanied by grandiosity, but, you know.

Big word. Moreover, along the similar feelings of worthlessness, Willow's and Angel's big gesture are quite a bit about how they feel unworthy of Oz and Buffy, respectively. Willow and Angel are trying to live up/keep up with what they find so dauntingly wonderful about their SO- and in the same gesture, stunningly miss the mark. Willow is the obvious case- she's trying to sexually keep up with experienced, older, sexually-desirable-according-to-the-high school-rubric Oz. Maybe Willow would have tried the same tack if Oz was a virgin- but I feel like she'd go about it differently. Oz's experience is a part of Willow's rationale of why this seems a good like idea. Yet, Willow misses the mark because when you get down to it, it's Oz's maturity and individualism that she finds the most intimidatingly attractive rather than the notches on his bedpost. And Willow blatantly betrays that she's not as mature in her bid for sex like a "mature....younger...person".

Similarly, I think Angel chose his method of suicide to be self-sacrificing and noble about it. He didn't run into fire or drink Holy Water or tremulously walk during the daylight hours or stake himself- or any easy, instantaneous but no drama or poetry method of death. Angel chose to stand outside in the middle of night waiting for death *for hours* in a really drama queen-y way. I'm sure his internal monologue was "I'm being really strong standing here. I'm doing the self-sacrificing thing, right thing!" for hours as only Angel could keep up such a monologue. My goal isn't to make light of Angel's mental issues. His psyche is seriously troubled. However part and parcel of his troubled psyche is that he wants badly to be strong enough to equal Buffy (or actually, surpass Buffy as her ideal older, male lover). Suicide is the coward's way out but Angel really tries to be a hero in his suicidal presentation. Its does speak to how exhausting it must be to be Angel. Even in suicide, Angel feels pressure to put himself through more fear and pain to live up to the standards that are never going to come easy to him.

-----------------------------------
Gingerbread is one of my favorite eps. It's got a lot of my favorite BtVS things- great satire, a Willow-focus, favorite duos in Buffy/Willow, Xander/Oz, Cordelia/Giles, a spin on fairy tales, a little harder look at how Sunnydale works as a community. Plus some of my favorite lines. This is one of my favorite B/W moments:



Willow: You've seen what we can do! Another step and you will all feel my power!
Buffy: What are you gonna do, float a pencil at 'em?
Willow: It's a really big power!
Buffy (catching on): Yes! You will all be turned into vermin. And some of you will be fish! Yeah, you in the back will be fish!

Fantastic review, Stoney. Although, to defend this ep some:


I find the brief appearance, acceptance of then ditching of Michael unnecessary. As he is victimised by his peers whilst Amy is ignored I assume that he is intended to be representative, but it feels awkward to shoehorn a random person in this time.

I like Michael. He's one of the ostractized, disaffected youths that becomes relevant to the Scoobies when his iss-yews dovetails with the MoTW. See Fritz & Dave, Jonathan, Marcie, Chris Epps, etc. However, the Scoobies aren't social workers or school counselors so they tend to split from these guys when their situations are no longer supernaturally urgent. Moreover, the later seasons indicate that there's a whole magical practioner underbelly to Sunnydale of humans out to do magic between Rack, the Magic Box as a consistently profitable business, Spellcaster Anonymous, the New and Improved Season 7 Wicca Group. It's kind of a continuity split because the first few seasons didn't feature magic as all that common to Sunnydale human residents. Michael and Magic!Amy is a little bit of a rare tie in to the later seasons


But my main issue is with the initial reactions, like the death of the children is something wholly new. Children get murdered, and yes, humans do do that. It isn’t new and although I’m sure being faced directly with it would bring it to a whole new level, they are acting as if it is the first time they have heard of it.

First, I think Hansel & Gretel were working low-grade mojo on anyone who saw/heard of them from the beginning- but the mojo increased with every passing hour in their "news cycle". Second, this is intended to satirize a genuine problem. 300 black school-children died in Chicago since 2008. However, their individual stories were never covered. However, the news was saturated with certain murders and crimes that had the right gimick to whet the public's interest. The public is fascinated by white, attractive children disappearing with some sort of gimick like the kid was in beauty pageants (JonBenet Ramsey) or the suspect murderer was the mother who was also an attractive slut (Kaylee Anthony/Casey Anthony.) Cute, blond fraternal twins clasping each other in death is a hook that would involve the public more than a typical murder.

Some Willow thoughts:

It's rarely discussed but S3 Willow is actively looking for supervision and adult guidance. Willow asked Giles for approval and/or tried fishing for counsel and advice in Becoming, Anne, FH&T, and The Zeppo at least. With her mother, Willow was ultimately relieved that Snyder's locker hunt blew her cover and she could really have a frank discussion with her mom about witchcraft. When her mom wasn't paying attention to her, Willow tried to even get negative/disciplinary attention by throwing a tantrum and bringing up that she's dating a musician. Even after Shelia burned Willow at the stake, Willow was gratified that Shelia invited Oz over to dinner to presumably disapprove of him and criticize Willow for dating him because that's sort of like taking an interest. Local_Max discussed how Oz dictates how their relationship is going to proceed, and almost every time that Oz makes a call on their intimacy (Innocence, Phases, Amends, GD), Willow falls in love with him a little more.

Granted though, Willow doesn't want to be grounded or forbidden from seeing Bunny Summers. Willow is looking for adult approval or at "worst", some lecture on how Willow can successfully and safely do what Willow wants to do anyway, even if it comes with some condescension or limits. Oz is excellent at the latter because deep down, Willow preferred a promise of meaningful first kiss to a kiss just to make Xander jealous or deep down, Willow didn't really want to have sex by Christmas or Willow welcomes a well-intentioned "Be careful with magic because I worry about you but I'll back your magical plays within reason" speech.

But bottom line, Willow wants supervision without a blanket "no" over something Willow really wants to do or believes is the right thing to do. Generally, I agree with Willow's actions but there are IMO rare occasions, where the only answer to Willow is "NO!" But still agree or disagree, Willow's more in the market for a senior aid/mentor than a boss or disciplinarian or a full-fledged parent. Again since Willow's actual parents checked out and she's not being paid for any of evil-fighting activities, I really hear and respect Willow's aversion to a boss with veto power. However, Willow's struggle is that she flies around areas where having a boss or being a side-kick are natural and expected whether it's volunteering at the Magic Box or being Buffy's more useful than a Swiss Army knife helper or being the junior researcher/Witch in a group with a trained, middle-aged Watcher or building up Tara to herself and others as the indispensable big shot of magic. So, Willow kind of makes a tactical mistake where she volunteers wholeheartedly in the Scoobies to primarily defend her freedom and turf as a fighter and secondarily, build herself up as a stronger woman and more powerful witch....and she gets sanctimonious bosses.

This makes Willow very unmixy with Shelia and for that matter, Giles, who doesn't want to supervise in the sense of offering guidance or help but do want to cling to veto power. Shelia also heralds an emerging trend with Willow. No one felt much need to mentor or nurture or monitor powerless, computer geek Willow. However, once Willow started developing *hard-core *magical power, a line emerged of people looking to supervise her, use her as their gun, or just plain old "take a tour" of using her- all full of speeches about how they were doing this for her own good even though they weren't there before Willow developed her power or they don't really take an interest in Willow's non-magical problems like her fear of coming out or risks she incurs by hacking or her friends back on Earth away from Aluwyn's dimension or Rack's porthole.

As a matter of fact, I think everyone who tried to supervise magic!Willow sucked at it to different degrees. Buffy certainly made her mistakes like stupid noises about Willow having a 50/50 success rate or how bad it is to know that some spells require ears or over-pressuring her to do magic in S7 or totally dismissing Willow's concern about the Seedless world in S9. However, in general, Buffy was the best at managing Willow and calling for magic when she needed it, giving encouragement talks, respecting Willow's choice to not do magic in S6, taking the long view of how to get by without asking beyond super-human feats of magic from Willow in S8, drawing the firmest line in protect the Trio at the end of S6, etc.

Buffy is the best (of a sucky lot) for two main reasons. First, Buffy is primarily out to lead an effort to save human lives so Buffy is generally pro-magic from her allies because it's a powerful tool for her but it's *tool* to serve human lives and not the other way around. Second, Buffy cared about Willow before Willow developed magic powers and Buffy was the first person to nurture or love Willow without powers (besides Xander but Xander's not really a nurturer). Shelia acts out the phoniness of a parent who doesn't care a fig for her child....but suddenly, makes paternalistic, controlling rules when she slowly learns that her daughter has powers. "Get your coat, it's cold outside. I SAID GET YOUR COAT, WITCH"

However, Tara who just decided to date magic!Willow *because* she was so powerful or Giles who only developed Dumbledore levels of interest after Willow proved sufficient magical power to be an effective tool or incredible danger fall in the Shelia category.

Willow, the powerless computer nerd, is the same person as Willow, the mega-powerful witch. She can observe people just starting to take an interest in her when she developed power. (Or she *should*. Willow's pathetically gullible for a certain type.) Ignoring and refusing to educate and mentor a person when she's just a lonely human being but suddenly taking an interest when she displays mega-power is akin to treating a human being like they're plutonium.

Local Maximum
06-11-14, 09:48 PM
This episode is pretty good and underrated, and is Jane Espenson's debut. It also has one of the weirdest, neatest metaphors! The episode is built around the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel and the psychological reactions to it. So a quick discussion of that fairy tale seems in order. The story opens with, from the Wikipedia summary, based on the 1853 version:


Hansel and Gretel are young children whose father is a woodcutter. When a great famine settles over the land, the woodcutter's abusive second wife decides to take the children into the woods and leave them there to be by themselves, so that she and her husband will not starve to death because the children eat too much. The woodcutter opposes the plan but finally and reluctantly submits to his wife's scheme. They are unaware that in the children's bedroom, Hansel and Gretel have overheard them. After the parents have gone to bed, Hansel sneaks out of the house and gathers as many white pebbles as he can, then returns to his room, reassuring Gretel that God will not forsake them.

And then they go and the more familiar narrative after that happens -- Hansel and Gretel find themselves in the woods, and then are trapped by a witch who offers to fatten them up so that she can eat them.

The version of the story I had heard, or at least absorbed through cultural references over the years, is the second part -- the large section of Hansel and Gretel being in the woods and being preyed on by an evil witch. In that story frame, the bad guy is very obviously the witch. However, the witch is not an identification figure: Hansel and Gretel are. And Hansel and Gretel are thus the people whose flaws and virtues the readers are supposed to recognize and internalize, and the flaw seems to be, basically, don't let strangers give you candy; people who seem willing to give a lot to you and to take care of you may be fattening you up for the slaughter and to be exploited. But if you include the opening passage, suddenly the story becomes rather different: it is a story about parental neglect. Adults basically leave their children helpless in the woods, and as such are pretty clearly directly responsible for their children's potential death. A witch comes along and offers them a chance to survive, and they take it -- but it's a trap, because she doesn't care about them either, and only wants to use them.

In the grand series narrative, I think that the main characters, Buffy and Willow in particular, do map onto Hansel and Gretel very well -- they are abandoned by parents in different ways (Hank and even Joyce to an extent, then finally abandoned by Joyce by death; Willow's parents have checked out a long time ago), and so they have to learn to survive for themselves, at which point there are "witches" in the woods who offer to show them how. Dipstick's statements about the various people lining up to "mentor" Willow only after she's already powerful fits in here, especially Rack, whose "take a little tour" stuff is very consumption-heavy, and whose moving-around-place has such a secret-cabin-in-the-woods vibe. Buffy has people like Maggie Walsh, Dracula, Ben, to an extent Spike and Faith and Riley (though it's different in their case, since they do think they're doing Buffy a favour) lining up to be guides into the adult world but who have their own deeply skewed perspectives and in the case of Walsh and Ben especially are even lying to her potentially in order to hurt/destroy her. It also maps very well onto this season's particular arc for Faith. The witch who fattens up the children in order to eat them fits in with the Mayor's plan of creating a seemingly "safe" (ha) -- or at least safe enough for people to want to live in to a degree -- town where people seem to live relatively affluent lives just so they can be eaten. And along those lines, Faith the orphan being lured in by the Mayor so that he can "love" her (i.e., exploit her) matches this too, though the Mayor comes to care about Faith for real by the end. There is also the interesting, curious possibility that Giles maps onto the witch, especially resonant since we're shortly before Helpless. And that sort of hints at what the episode is actually showing.

But I think there's something else going on in this myth, at least within the Buffyverse. After all, Willow really doesn't have any magic mentors -- her association with Amy and Michael seems to be a rare thing at this point. One can read "the witch" as a stand-in for all manner of actions, beliefs, and skills that one can develop and be tempted by on the way to adulthood. Children who have always had their food level regulated by their parents might get out into the world and find that they can eat, and then gorge themselves in a way that ultimately hurts them. Replace food with whatever you want. There's drugs and unprotected sex, and there's unlimited books to read, and there's "violent video games," and there's the possibility of defending oneself rather than calling on one's parents, and that also means the possibility of hurting people and getting away with it, and there's PUA forums and revolutionary and/or terrorist literature. True separation from one's parents -- which in some cases only happens when the parents are dead, and maybe even then is in some senses incomplete -- means the possibility of not surviving, but it also means the possibility of overindulging and destroying oneself in the process, getting into some dark stuff. I think the way to read a Hansel & Gretel-centric version of their eponymous tale is that they learn to survive in the woods, nearly destroy themselves by their survival mechanism, and then finally conquer their indulgences and come to some sort of balance, able to survive but not destroy themselves in the process, afterward. This indulgence doesn't have to be food but could be philosophical ideas, and it's teenagers / young adults who are the most radical, which can be good when they are advocating for real, necessary social change, but can be very bad as well.

So here's the key: THE WITCH IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO HANSEL & GRETEL'S SURVIVAL, BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS HAVE ABANDONED THEM. Without the witch, they would have died. And if we take the witch as all manner of philosophy, tools, etc. that the children need to survive, I think we are talking something about the paralleled, dovetailed Buffy & Willow stories that last through the end of the series, where slayerhood and magic are their only chance at survival and also for a brief period of time seem to be destroying them, and possibly those they love along with it.

The witch is adult power which is not held by Hansel and Gretel's actual parents. It is dangerous and can destroy them. It also keeps them alive. The usual interpretation of the story twists this fundamental feature of the original myth as I see it, in a way that maps onto the phenomenon with MOO that the show is satirizing: by removing the reason the children were in the woods in the first place, it makes it a simple cautionary tale that going into the woods at all is Wrong and will lead to death or corruption.

OK apparently I have not talked about this episode itself for a while! So here's what happens:

Two "innocent," perfect children die. Those children are children who parents "want" to have -- they are both obviously "good," obviously haven't done anything wrong, and, in order to survive, must be completely dependent on the parents' goodwill. The culprit for who did it quickly gets pinned on Witches!, because of the Hansel & Gretel spell. And then very quickly, teenagers one might say are At Risk are identified as being part of evil cults. For a while, the parents just do things like what Sheila does -- try to cut out all this messy witchcraft and Bunny Summers from her daughter's life -- to "get the witch away from Hansel & Gretel," in effect. But the problem is that at adolescence, things start to get strange: there is a transition period from child to adult, from innocent to guilty, from victim to perpetrator. The kids' involvement with "dark stuff," slayerhood and witchcraft and eyeliner, stops looking like acting out to prove their specialness and starts looking like they are the problem. And then it starts to look like the only way to protect the innocence of their children is to destroy them entirely.

Joyce's chilling line that vampmogs quoted makes clear the way in which homophobia plays into this, and I think there are some big contours of religious extremism in the parents' reaction to the kids, especially when they get to the Do Not Suffer A Witch To Live The Crucible phase where they are literally burning their own children at the stake for being witches. Joyce's line that she wanted a normal child and got a slayer is an indication that she's on some level killing the real Buffy to hold up as an ideal the image of her child, "uncorrupted" by the outside world. However, the episode makes clear that this style of parenting can come from all directions. Sheila's progressive, bleeding-heart attitude (which we get more of indirectly in Pangs when Willow admits that she's channeling her mother) is one in which she expects her daughter to "rebel" and "act out to display her specialness" and whatnot, but also beleives on some level that her knowledge that these behaviours exist completely insulates her from them actually happening in her own house, and she retreats to authoritarian parenting after years and years of laissez-faire because she doesn't actually like the consequences.

This is all the more devastating because, again, slayerhood and witchcraft are literally the things keeping Buffy and Willow alive. Their town is rotten to the core, demons coming to feed on them every day, and any tool they have to combat that is necessary, even if it is dangerous. In a real life violent frame, that sometimes means kids getting involved in things like gangs to survive, or taking self-defense classes. In the metaphorical frame wherein the demons that Buffy et al. are fighting are metaphorical manifestations of the psychological/spiritual traumas inside that might devour them, magic and slayerhood are the tools that they use to protect themselves emotionally from shattering -- the thing that keeps them from insanity, suicide, or conformity to the point of becoming monstrous in that direction (ala a Harmony-type). The parents fundamentally can't fight their children's battles anymore when it gets to adolescence, and some of that is the parents' fault and some of it isn't. I'd say that Sheila's absence from Willow's life is pretty clearly On Sheila, whereas with Joyce it's a little more complicated (more later hopefully).

Still, the abandonment of the teens to a hostile world is partly because the parents are unable to deal straight-on with the horrors that the teens are just discovering; in order to function with their youthful idealism and perhaps adaptability withered away by time, most adults have to let go of a certain amount of horror that the world is an awful place, and settle into a comfortable belief that certain monsters Can't Hurt Them, uphold a certain status quo or even maybe a set of beliefs about what is wrong with the world that are nonexhaustive, in a way that makes them unable to confront a lot of what is actually going on around them. The show's since-The Harvest insistence that most people ignore the evils of the world, and since-season two? amping this up even higher with Joyce in particular, has always read to me as partly pure satire -- could anyone really ignore what happened at the Bronze? -- and partly human truth that we are all partly able to ignore most of the time. As long as something is made "normal," it can be easily categorized as Just The Way Things Are or ignored entirely, partly because if we actually opened ourselves to everything that goes on in the world we would be overwhelmed and break. I guess going back to the original story, the stepmother insisting on kicking the kids out of the house does happen because she and the father are themselves starving, and while we like to believe, and I think it's good to believe on some level, that parents should always put their children's lives first, parents and adults have this "unfortunate" desire to survive and remain sane themselves, and a certain separation from the threats their children face or are aware of is maybe necessary for that. Children's and adolescents' bringing to their attention the fact that the world can be a genuinely horrifying place, with no real place to stand, doesn't always activate compassion, but a defensive anger at the children/adolescents, as if they are responsible for the problems by responding to it, something pretty similar to Cordelia's anger at Buffy in The Wish.

And, you know, Joyce and Sheila are right on some level to be worried about the darkness in their daughters. In the "gay metaphor" frame, Joyce is 100% wrong, but that's not the sole frame. We have Faith around this season to let us know ways Buffy can go wrong, and at the season's end Buffy will actually try to murder Faith. Buffy's slayerhood, and stabbing things with her bare hands, is actually worrisome. Willow is entering into something scary with no real guidance at all. Amy on some level plays up to the dark potential of this witchly transformation, at the episode's end. Amy may or may not have the power to save all three, but she sure as heck isn't going to bother trying -- she becomes a rat, and saves herself only, and stays a rat for years.

Giles, an adult who really is aware of the way the world is, is the one who breaks the spell, and the Big Bad is revealed as Hansel and Gretel themselves. In this story, I think that Hansel and Gretel represent the entire concept of purely innocent children, killed or corrupted by magic, witchcraft, and Harry Potter books. Those children don't exist and have never existed; the idea of a child with no capability of what is often defined as wrongdoing is ultimately dangerous and corrosive, making "bad girls" out of anyone who has agency at all. Agency pretty much automatically comes with the possibility of using that agency wrongly, so the only way to maintain a child's innocence is to keep them in a perpetual state of dependence, convincing them that the whole world is a dangerous place, and punishing them if they step even slightly out of line -- a clear example of anxious overparenting. Giles doesn't have that particular problem, at least not right now, but he has a rather different problem as an adult figure, which I'll talk about in Helpless. Once the spell is broken, Buffy can slay the monster with a bit of quirky violence; Joyce and Sheila are able to see what they've done, and their behaviour returns to normal, and Joyce goes back to being a so-so parent who tries and sometimes fails badly, and Sheila goes back to not caring about her daughter at all, and all is right with the world.

I think that a lot of the reason this episode exists, in addition to tying into the themes of the corruption of the adult world and ways adults react to it (and harm young people in the process), is probably a result of backlash against Buffy the Vampire Slayer itself. Buffy often ran afoul of parents' watchdog groups, like the Parents Television Council (at one point being their #1 worst show in the year, perhaps unsurprisingly in season six), for depicting sex, violence, magic, etc., in the same way that people tore apart Harry Potter. I think the inclusion of Sheila's progressive position is meant to show that this kind of extreme reaction to violence doesn't just come from religious perspectives; much of the position against violence in media/video games comes from secular progressives. The problem is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn't "creating" violence; its depiction of demons is not the reason these demons, figurative though they may be, exist. Like magic and slayerhood, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the good guys, providing the tools for adolescents (and children and adults) to survive emotionally; even within fandom, the insistence that Buffy is too dark or too many bad things happen to good people comes up now and again, as if the world is not a place in which bad things sometimes happen to good people and things get very dark. I think the hints of goth subculture in Michael in particular suggest the link between "dark" art and the way the oppressed, lonely and bullied find solace and strength through this very dark time. Burn books, burn Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you burn your own children, mothers!

I want to talk more about specifics of Buffy & Joyce and especially Willow & Sheila, so I will come back and do that soon.

Is it okay if I post Helpless early next week?

Stoney
07-11-14, 12:35 AM
Great post Max. :xd


Is it okay if I post Helpless early next week?

I don't think that's a problem. :)

Local Maximum
09-11-14, 03:39 AM
Buffy & Joyce

As an examination of Joyce and her relationship with her daugher, I think the episode is of a similar genre to The Pack. As in that episode with Xander, the things that Joyce do on some level reflect truths about her, but as in that episode, the metaphor frame exaggerates her behaviour so that she's not fully responsible. Both episodes are in some senses the influence of group behaviour on the individual, with Xander finding his identity merging into that of the pack's and thus losing any of his individual moral restraints in the process, and Joyce's connection to MOO ("great acronym, mom!") sapping her of everything besides her nanny-state activism taken to its ideological extreme, with the whole adult town joining and bolstering Joyce's mind to close itself to even her own love for her daughter.

What is particularly striking about both episodes is that the initial event that leads to Joyce's and Xander's transformations is actually their attempt to step into a heroic role. As I talked about in that episode, Xander encounters the hyena possession because, out of a general sense of goodness and to impress his lady friends and Buffy in particular with his personal bravery, he went to try and display his adult strength in stopping a bunch of bullies from picking on a weakling. Joyce, similarly, begins the episode not in her usual alcove of denial about Buffy's calling and its consequences, but attempting to be supportive of her daughter by going to mother her "on the job," bringing snacks, and exposing herself to the physical and psychological dangers of the war zone where her daughter fights. In both cases, I think the irony is in some sense deliberate. There is something comfortable about Xander staying in his pre-series rut of meaninglessness and irresponsibility, and Joyce staying in her pre-Becoming position of being unaware of the scary and dangerous parts of her daughter's life. Like Xander in The Pack, Joyce is trying in a sense to grow up -- though "growing up" has different connotations for a middle-aged woman. In any case, what Joyce finds there in her genuinely well-intentioned attempt to meet her daughter on her own terms shocks Joyce.

Normally, Joyce would just go into denial at this point -- that is the standard coping mechanism through the first two seasons, one which even gets directly referenced in this episode when Willow says that her (Willow's) mom has picked that habit up. That it's something of a choice Joyce has made is an accusation Buffy justifiably launched at her in Becoming in her "open your eyes!" speech. Joyce doesn't really understand the battles her daughter is fighting and never has, but has at least been mostly okay at providing solace and comfort to Buffy's human side while Giles prepares her slayer side for battle, as in, say, the end of Innocence or in their prom-dress talk in Prophesy Girl. I think season three has seen Joyce largely trying to find a way to deal with her newfound knowledge of Buffy's calling and to make sense of her role in Buffy's life now. This is part of what I think her union with Giles was about, though her and Giles' quick desire to forget about it is some signal that on some level Buffy's two lives must remain a little separate. Still, Joyce's increasing ability to connect to Spike (Lovers Walk) and her asking Buffy to reach out to Faith (Amends) suggests Joyce's acceptance of Buffy's slayer half is on the rise, and that she has been taking a greater interest in trying to love and accept it, leading to her helpful momness in the episode's opening. That Joyce seems to have an automatic affection for Faith frustrates Buffy -- Joyce seems to accept Faith more than Buffy! -- but I think Joyce's seeing the good in Faith is a signal that Joyce, when the various hurts and disappointments and secrets that have passed between her and Buffy are wiped clean, is basically happy to accept Buffy's slayer half. Buffy can be integrated and loved by her mother!

But there are catches: there are still those secrets that keep getting unearthed, for one thing, and the resentment as a result of that has built up over time. We get a reminder of this in Lovers Walk, where Joyce threatens to stake Angel and is desperately confused and unable to follow Buffy and Spike's conversation, which vamp she is supposed to specify with, and whether Willow or Xander is a witch. Joyce now has her own secret in her tryst with Giles, which she is intent on hiding and which leads to the awkward moment at the big gathering. That Joyce has her own inappropriate "teenage behaviour" to hide, from a few weeks ago no less, is a factor to consider when gauging the reasons that she throws herself so hard into a fight to expose and remove dangerous teens. Joyce still feels shut out of Buffy's life even when she tries to enter it, leading to resentment, and that Joyce has to shut Buffy out from her own mistakes as well can create some projection.

And the other catch is this: what Buffy deals with as a slayer is legitimately horrifying. Buffy's "job" means that she sometimes finds dead people, and while it's pointed out that dead children are out of the ordinary, they're still a reality of Sunnydale life which is beyond Joyce's conception. To actually be there for Buffy in the way Joyce wants to be, at the episode's beginning, means facing those horrors, and it also comes with the implicit knowledge, if she looks for it, that she is powerless to stop those horrors, and that it's only Buffy who can fight them -- that Buffy is going out each night to maybe, even probably get killed some day, and Joyce can do absolutely nothing to stop it.

Joyce is so shocked by this that she starts explicitly rejecting the notion of denial on which her whole life in Sunnydale, and indeed the entire town, is based on. The demonic, other world can't be ignored anymore! IT MUST BE FOUGHT! AND I'M THE ONE TO FIGHT IT! Joyce has rejected denial as a coping strategy, but rather than coming to something like mature acceptance she's gone micromanager.

I talked about what I think this phenomenon maps onto in the real world, in parents and adults in general when dealing with these damn kids. For Joyce as an individual, I think that a lot of it really does come down to her inability to cope with the fact that she has a designated role in Buffy's life as provider and caretaker which it is actually impossible for her to perform. The dead children represent for Joyce a possible end to Buffy, if Joyce doesn't take control. And removing Buffy's freedoms, one at a time, seems logical as a way of ensuring that Buffy doesn't get herself hurt, rather like Joyce's insistence on waiting years to grant permission to Buffy to drive (which Buffy never does end up doing in the series) or yelling at her for having sex with an older man who is "obviously not very stable" out of frustration that if Buffy had talked to her maybe she could.... Losing Buffy is terrifying, and the idea that it would be her fault for failing to set the right boundaries or saying "no" like all the parenting books she should say somehow even more so.

But Buffy's slayerhood ultimately stands there; she could blame Giles for a while or Buffy's decision not to tell her about it, but ultimately Buffy's slayerhood is that element of Buffy that makes Buffy a danger and that keeps her and Joyce isolated. It's the reason Buffy keeps secrets; it's the reason Buffy died; it's the reason she will die again; and it's the reason that Joyce is unable to protect her. It's a barrier both to mother-daughter closeness and intimacy and it's a barrier to Joyce being able to fulfill her duties of caring for her daughter. The goal is to accept slayerhood, and again her affection for Faith suggests this is possible, but it keeps getting in the way for practical reasons. Joyce's hope that she herself can somehow fight Buffy's battles for her and protect her by forcing her to renounce slayerhood is a brief fever dream that she maintains through the episode, but it's untenable; ultimately Buffy *is* The Slayer, and The Slayer seems to be the problem of Joyce and Buffy's relationship, and under the spell she just goes to burn her.

So I think that mostly Joyce's frustration and anger is at her own powerlessness while she waits around for her daughter to die. Still, that's not the only issue. It is not as if there is any consolation for this, but if there were it would probably come in having some sort of support system, which as we have repeatedly seen Joyce doesn't have. Sheila is another of Joyce's one-episode friends who is largely the result of genre effects and who disappears immediately afterward, and Joyce is left with her career which she seems to enjoy but which is based around Sunnydale because it's the closest town where a decent school would take Buffy in. Joyce's life basically is to support Buffy and to give her food, shelter and love as she grows up, and she might just get murdered any day. It's not an easy package to deal with -- and the irrational feeling that Buffy's Otherness is the thing that stalled Joyce's life and prevented her from having much meaning in it, robbed her both of a loving, close, less fraught relationship with a child and of whatever life as an independent woman would have been, comes to the surface with magical forces underlying it.

Joyce's desire to see some of her own successes reflected in Buffy's life -- her wanting Buffy to work on the yearbook in Witch -- and her frustration at Buffy for choices which reflect her own failures -- i.e., bad choices in boyfriends -- make me wonder if Joyce's excitement about Buffy's SAT scores and the possibility of her leaving is that she hopes Buffy can have something of the life that Joyce couldn't have. I do think that the element of Joyce that wanted a normal daughter, and a daughter successful in traditional, daylight-world ways, comes down to the kind of expectations a parent disappointed in their own life can sometimes pin on their children. I think that most of it really is concern about Buffy and wanting what's best for her, but there is a sharper edge to it that we also see coming out here. And, ultimately, the reversal of the parent-child dynamic is frustrating. Joyce, with her years dedicated to giving Buffy a good life and education, must be frustrated to discover that she's unable to make a difference the way her teenage daughter can; it's another signal that her world revolves around Buffy, but that the reverse doesn't seem to be true, and the asymmetry built into all parent-child relationships takes on an especially frustrating element here. These resentments existing doesn't make Joyce a bad parent; Joyce didn't check out and abandon her daughter the way Hank did, and is even trying to get over her denial of the horror that her daughter undergoes. But confronting that horror unleashes something inside her that she normally keeps under wraps.

The spell breaks at the end, but this episode, like The Pack, doesn't really deal with the consequences explicitly. And that's a shame, because this stuff needs to be vetted, and for Joyce and Buffy's relationship to be repaired requires Joyce coming to terms with Buffy's slayerhood and Joyce's own powerlessness to do anything about it, and Buffy believing that this is possible. Buffy's flaws in the relationship with Joyce are largely related to her secret-keeping, as egged on by secretmasters Giles and Angel, and, well, that doesn't go away exactly, but at least most of the secrecy is gone and over with and Buffy has let herself be seen; the ball is mostly in Joyce's court.

Joyce's arc this season is somewhat fractured. But I do think that there is a resolution to these issues within the season, and perhaps the series, if you look for them. In the episode following this one, Joyce is kidnapped and Buffy saves her, even without her slayer powers, demonstrating that Buffy's heroism and warrior mentality is both something that is in both halves of Buffy, including powerless Buffy, and that it's a manifestly good thing which works to save Joyce rather than hurt her. Joyce having her own secret affair with Giles laid bare in Earshot has an effect of leveling Buffy and Joyce, of Buffy getting a taste of what it is to find out about Joyce's double life, even if it's only a taste. But more to the point, the season ends with Buffy sending Joyce away in Graduation Day, Part I, with this speech:


Buffy: Just promise me that you'll be far away from here.
Joyce: I'm not leaving you to face an awful monster. If I go anywhere, you're going with me.
Buffy: You know that I can't.
Joyce: Well then I can't either.
Buffy: Mom, I know that sometimes you wish I were different.
Joyce: Buffy, no.
Buffy: I wish I could be a lot of things for you. A great student, a star athlete, remotely normal. I'm not. But there is something I do that I can do better than anybody else in the world. I'm gonna fight this thing, but I can't do it and worry about you.
Joyce: Buffy, you just can't ...
Buffy: You stay, you'll get me killed. You'll have to trust me on this. Can you do that?

And that's the bottom line. Buffy is the one who can fight Buffy's battles. Joyce can't. Buffy can't and shouldn't protect Joyce from the knowledge that those battles exist, and Joyce can't and shouldn't go into denial about the daily realities of Buffy's struggle. But only Buffy can fight it, and Joyce can't. Joyce doesn't belong in the slayer frame, and her attempt to solve slayer-y problems eventually just leads to her seeing slayerness as the problem. All that she can do is accept that her daughter is growing up -- that Buffy's teen-metaphor problems of whatever sort (interpersonal, sexual, war, demonic) are Buffy's, and try to live her own life, being there for Buffy as much as she can. Her help, and her ability to support Buffy interpersonally and with food, shelter, love and Real World concerns, being "the strong one in real life" as Buffy says in Forever, ultimately does more good than a foolish belief that she can take over the fighting of monsters and remove them.

Willow & Sheila

I think that the short, brief insight we get into Willow's home life in this episode is very important, and goes a long way to hinting at some very fundamental traits that Willow has. However, ultimately, it's worth remembering that Willow's relationship with her mother does not define her. This is not her "Rosebud" (just as Rosebud wasn't really the one and only key to Charles Foster Kane's life, either). There is no single event or person who explains everything about any of the major characters in BtVS. In Willow's case, Willow herself much more frequently puts her status as a bullied nerd at the centre of her issues, even if we are to let her psychology be reduced entirely to her pre-series life. If this was meant to be the key to understanding Willow, well, it is rather burying the lede to put this key in a midseason episode in season three.

Like most of the parent/child relationships in the show, though, what little information we get does tell us quite a bit about why the character starts with an initial set of traits. My friend ceciliaj turned me on to the book Drama of the Gifted Child, which summarizes, in effect, Willow's situation pretty precisely. Unlike Faith's parents, Willow's parents aren't dead; unlike Xander's, they aren't abusive; unlike Buffy's, they aren't absentee. Willow seems to be comfortably middle-class or upper-middle class, with no particular difficulties with food or shelter. Willow has been given a fair amount of freedom to stretch her intellectual muscles and the time to form and adapt to her inner world. Her parents don't fight ("sometimes they glare," Willow had said in a previous episode) and she hasn't experienced violence within her home. She was not abused and physically she was given everything she needs.

She was not given love, acknowledgment, or respect.

We never meet Ira Rosenberg, who seems to have set some rigid rules that mean Willow has to go to Xander's house just to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and has to hide the life-saving crucifixes on her bedroom wall because there's no way to explain it to her father. Their relationship does not seem to be particularly close; Willow's touchy relationship with her Judaism (which Dipstick has written about elsewhere very well) seems to stem from him, and her difficult relationship with that part of herself has something to do, I think, with her disconnect from him as an individual.

Sheila, though, we meet here. Unlike Joyce, who is the subject of often vicious ribbing but is allowed to be her own person, Sheila is mostly a figure of satire. She's a parody of a liberal intellectual; she sees all human behaviour as the result of circumstance rather than any individual behaviour at all. This means that she is probably pretty good at spotting large-scale social trends, but is completely disinterested in her daughter as an individual person, relatively content that she's successfully hit her marks on all the designated categories of proper parenting. I think that Sheila believes herself to be a good parent and believes herself to love Willow; until the end of the episode, when the spell has taken full effect, there is a notable lack of malice in her treatment of her. This is part of what's intensely frustrating, if you're Willow: what her mother offers is clearly supposed to be love, and from a distance even appears to be it.

I can imagine a few scenarios where this could have happened, via Sheila. Not going too far into personal headcanon, but I could see Sheila Rosenberg, young psychologist, believing that her expertise in child and teen psychology would render her the perfect parent, and as such embarks on procreation as something between long-term experiment which she loses personal interest in over the years, and recognition that her duty to humankind can involve using her expertise to make more well-adjusted, well-balanced brilliant young women in the world. Or, perhaps she started in some other field, maybe sociology, perhaps even switching fields of study into psychology in order to better arm herself with the tools with which to raise the ideal daughter. In either case, the study of parenting in the abstract eventually, or perhaps immediately, becomes so central to Sheila's life that parenting-in-the-concrete is left as a trivial exercise, the details of which presumably work themselves out. I think Willow is likely exaggerating here, but still:


Willow: Mom, how would you know what I can do? I mean, the last time we had a conversation over three minutes, it was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Rogers Show.

Sheila: Well, (makes finger quotes) with King Friday lording it over all the lesser puppets...

Ha! And again, extrapolating somewhat, but I can imagine young child Willow, who wants to enjoy some childhood simple pleasures, attempting to enjoy something made for her and which might potentially connect her to the other children, leading to her mother's critical proclamation that the show is part of what is wrong with the world. Not to discount the idea that there is patriarchal bias on the Mr. Rogers Show, but contained in that little exchange is most of what we need to know: in the present, Sheila misses her daughter's proximate point about their relationship, which should be one of the most important relationships of their lives, and goes on to talk about a much more abstract and impersonal problem involving the role of children's television in promoting unfair cultural biases.

Now, if this were "Bunny Summers," getting kicked out of school and burning down gymnasiums, or Xander Harris, who is in constant threat of failing his exams, one would assume that it would become necessary to step in and do some practical parenting at an earlier stage in their development than 18. However, Willow Rosenberg is a parents' dream, or at least certain parents: high grades, good behaviour, comfortably able to talk about her Jewishness and feminist intellectualism to confer that she has internalized all the assumptions about the world that her parents had. Willow mirrors back to her parents in general and Sheila in particular what they like about themselves, and hides any traits in herself that are unseemly or likely to get disapproval. And she is so, so smart, and so, so good, that she can maintain the perfect dutiful daughter into her senior year, essentially without interruption. Sheila set her little burgeoning intellectual human being citizen machine top into motion, and her increasingly rare moments of checking in on her reveal that she continues to spin with appropriate regularity. Willow is a testament to Sheila's success -- and perhaps to applied psychology in general! Huzzah!

Sheila becomes involved in this episode when she learns of a Big Picture threat to the well-being of children as well as the chance to be involved on the ground floor of an interesting sociological movement that gives her a chance to brush elbows with the Mayor. She sees her daughter for the first time since August or earlier as a result. While Joyce is already, by this point, starting to feel the effects of the demon, I'm not sure that Sheila is. This exchange, for instance:


Sheila: About witches. (Willow and Buffy exchange a look) People calling themselves witches are responsible for this brutal crime.

Giles: Indeed? How strange.

Willow: (laughs nervously, trying to play it off) Yes! Strange! Witches.

Sheila: (goes into lecture mode) Well, actually, not that strange. I recently co-authored a paper about the rise of mysticism among adolescents, and I was shocked at the statistical...

...suggests that Sheila both believes that teenage witches are responsible for the brutal crime, and that it is not actually that strange for teenagers to do so, because the identification with the mystical is to be expected as a result of statistical processes. Her way of dealing with horror is to place it in terms of larger social trends, and while Joyce is getting herself worked into a frenzy to a degree already at this point, Sheila seems to be much more in it for the intellectual interest.

So Willow turns out to be one of those adolescents involved in the rise of mysticism, and they have The Talk. Once again, I don't really think Sheila is being that different from her usual self in this scene, partly because she still doesn't believe that Willow is actually dangerous in any way. Sheila's response is to recognize the overall sociopolitical patterns that lead to Willow's behaviour, in her estimation, and to ignore anything Willow is saying about herself as an individual, or about her subjective experience, that might account for it. This means that she is unable both to see the possibility that her daughter might actually be doing something really wrong as a result of some well of human darkness within her daughter, or that her daughter might be in some kind of danger, and working to defend herself and her friends the best she can. Willow protests that Sheila refuses to consider Willow as "me. Me group," and Sheila mostly laughs this off because the trait of a teenager wanting to demonstrate her specialness is itself expected behaviour for a teen. Sheila's worldview is (nearly) entirely closed; she has already decided how to deal with Willow before she enters, by talking to her colleagues who likely haven't met Willow, because she believes that her and her colleagues' grasp of adolescent psych theory is sufficient to provide the proper correctives to any slight aberrations in behaviour.

And then comes the one and only time Willow seriously attempts to assert herself to her mother as an individual, and she uses all the tools she can come up with -- first rational argument and appeal to her rights to be taken seriously as an individual, then an attempt to shock her mother with truths about herself that she has kept hidden -- the extent of her powers, her dating a musician, the latter of which produces a reaction in her mother that I think is equal parts disgust for Willow sinking so low as to value that kind of artist and disappointment that Willow is following such a cliched path of rebellion against parental authority -- and finally her deliberately faking evil which she does not possess, in order to try to make any impact at all. I think this is a pretty good encapsulation of Willow's general pattern when dealing with others. At the beginning, Willow attempts to please others by being what she thinks they want them to be -- and avoiding any possibility of criticism by stepping out of their expectations. This is the neutral state in WttH of wearing clothes her mother picked out for her, even though her mother will likely not be around to see them. Then she tries to find ways of building an identity for herself that comes closer to meeting her needs at the margins -- hacking being the defining example, and which she does later in this episode while grounded in her room. Eventually these things are discovered by others, and Willow swings wildly from shame and fear at this discovery and elation that it's finally possible to talk honestly about who she really is. And then this quickly degenerates into an attempt to use any tools she has available, including fake ones, to generate any reaction at all, culminating in demanding that the universe fill her up with black, naughty evil. Willow is joking here, but the appropriation of evil as an identity in order to shock loved ones into seeing "the real her," as a final, last line of defense against the feeling of her identity being fully suppressed, is a pretty Big Deal in Willow terms.

Willow's not 100% right in this exchange -- it doesn't quite matter that Willow hasn't done anything wrong before when what she's doing "wrong" now, according to her mother, is actually maintaining delusions. But if Willow's occult identification is actually a genuine delusion, it's hard to see how grounding her is going to produce the desired effect, unless a complete detachment from reality is something that can be dealt with by a punishment/reward system. And really, that's sort of the thing. Sheila regards her daughter's "transgression" with no anger, with the kind of assurance that says that she is an authoritative parent who understands her daughter's actions and will not condemn her for it. Sheila has provided Willow with an environment in which someone of Willow's genetic gifts can thrive; lots of privacy, access to books and ideas, food and shelter, etc., and Sheila doesn't particularly punish Willow. But the conflict-free haven is an illusion. Willow's "freedom" lasts only as long as Willow toes the line and is the perfect daughter, and then suddenly she's grounded and her best friend is ripped away from her because she has "delusions." It may or may not be true that grounding would be appropriate as one weapon in a good parent's arsenal for dealing with this type of problem -- I think I can imagine it being -- but it turns out it's the *only* tool in this apparently progressive household.

In some respects, I think that this has broader implications when it comes to authority and social control. Not unlike Maggie Walsh in the next season, Sheila is an academic psychologist who sees human behaviour primarily in deterministic terms, who sees individual actions primarily as representations of broader social phenomena. This has some advantages. Whereas Joyce, or at least the spell-affected, alternate Joyce, finds violence incomperehensible and settles instantly on the idea that people must be disturbed and evil and thus must be punished, Sheila seems like someone who would be able to, for instance, see street crime as something that is not entirely about the flaws and weaknesses of the individual and more about the social conditions that lead to crime seeming like a viable, and maybe the only viable, option. But what happens, then, is the erasure of individual agency at all. This means that, one interpretation of the theory goes, just create a sufficiently good environment, with freedom and well-provided-for needs and misbehaviour will be eradicated. Which then becomes a problem when humans insist on still being individuals, and thus sometimes either making mistakes or, in Willow's case in this episode, simply doing something the authorities disapprove of, which is actually subjectively justified (since Willow's magic is more a good thing than a bad thing at this stage). And at this point the hammer automatically comes down -- the freedom granted by the ostensibly benevolent authority lasts exactly as long as people use their freedom to do exactly what the authority wants them to do in the first place. In that sense, Sheila's brand of authority is only superficially different from the Watchers Council's. I am, I know, extrapolating a lot from a few lines, but I think that the archetype that Jane E is writing here is recognizable. And if I seem harsh on her -- well, first of all, the episode is harsh on her, but also second of all, I actually have some sympathy for her. I think I am more likely to go off the rails in the way Sheila does in this episode than the way Joyce does in this ep or the Council does, because I am more inclined to view human evil as a product of circumstance than most people. But this has its down side, which is that when creating a better set of circumstances fails to achieve the desired effect, the authority structure can then just be turned automatically to restricting freedom and then violence.

And while it's an exaggeration to say that a parent grounding her child is really so awful, the episode demonstrates the comparison by having Sheila go crazy in a way that is mostly an exaggeration of the behaviour she's already shown. When she does bring Willow out to be burned at the stake, she says this, which is in some respects the opposite of Joyce's hate-filled attack on Buffy: she wants to let Willow go with love. She says, of Willow continuing to write online, that Willow is continuing to challenge her ("I see what you're doing"), and seems to still see Willow's actions and misbehaviour in terms of broader social issues. And then she says, when burning Willow, that the only cure is the fire, which suggests on some level that she's applying punishment out of a belief that this negative reinforcement can make Willow into a better person, in a social conditioning-y way. That's not to say there isn't hate in there -- "I said get your coat, witch!" I love Dipstick's writing on this, about the way in which Sheila's shifting from faux-motherly love ("Get your coat, it's cold outside") to viciousness demonstrates the overall pattern I'm trying to describe, wherein Sheila maintains at least some of the optics of good and caring parenting exactly as long as they get the intended effect, and then gets violent and hateful the moment they fail.

Sheila burning her daughter at the stake is no more an actual statement about her global parenting than Joyce's is. But still, there is some truth in there, just as there's some truth with Joyce, and unlike Joyce there is no real material later in the series that works against the impression we got of Sheila. Sheila goes back into denial. She ignores her own misbehaviour or the mystical elements of her daughter's behaviour because it's too difficult to interpret, but remembers about her dating a musician. Willow still sees her parents on occasion -- Forever, e.g. And she meets Tara, and, as Willow says in The Killer in Me, largely interprets Willow's relationship, which at that point in her life is one of the key things that defines her, as a political statement to be approved of.

As in The Pack with Xander, I think the glimpse of a dark side underlying Willow's relationship with Sheila does more or less stay with Willow and reinforce her suspicions. In The Pack, Willow believed Xander would treat her cruelly and drop her because of her pasty face, and in some senses a more minor, agonizingly slow form of this does happen, but she was able to recognize that Xander really wasn't himself when he tried to trick her into taking the keys, because she knew the real Xander wouldn't do that. With Sheila, there is no clear demarcation of where her mother ends and the monster/possession begins, and I think this more or less goes down to Willow's relationship with her mother ultimately being empty. For all their ups and downs, Willow's love for Xander is ultimately returned. Her mother, not so much. And that their one and only conflict over the years ended with her mother trying to burn her at the stake, whether it was "really her" or not, does wreak its damage.

I guess I have already talked way too much here. But some more on how Willow deals with all this. Within this episode, Willow seems torn between her envy that Buffy's mom pays attention to her and so her accompanying wistful longing for some sign of involvement from her mom, and her fear that her mom will find out about Willow's witchcraft; the two bleed into each other pretty seemlessly, as in this:


Willow: (smiles) Makes me grateful that my mom's not interested in my
extra-curricular activities. Or my *curricular* activities.

The competition between Willow's desire for attention -- any kind of attention -- and her (perhaps subconscious) instincts that this will still end badly. If Willow really thought it was possible or likely that "acting out" would get her *real* attention, I think she would have done so sooner; there is that bit of excitement when she gets into a sort of heated conversation with her mother, there, and when her mother says that she does believe her that she's a witch later on. But I think that she more or less suspected before that what happens here would happen. Her breaking with what her mother expects of her first leads to her mother refusing to see that breaking as an individual act, and not believing any of Willow's statements of her subjective experience; and then, once she does believe, it leads to brutal punishment of burning her at the stake. No doubt without the spell, the jump wouldn't have been that extreme, but I think the jump probably would still have been there, and I suspect that her mother confirms Willow's worst fears -- that being exposed for "herself," whoever that is, will lead either to that self not being believed at all, or to harsh, disproportionate punishment, which maybe Willow believes she deserves.

Ultimately, the effect this kind of parenting has on Willow is probably beyond the scope of this comment, especially since I've gone on enough. But I think that it's fair to describe the parenting as major emotional neglect, which really does tend to screw people up. Welcome to the Hellmouth has Willow saying to Cordelia that her mom picked out her clothes, and that following in her mother's clueless, out-of-touch footsteps gets her bullied and attacked and yet that Willow didn't really try to change that behaviour suggests how much Willow craves her mother's love, which she will never get, at the bottom of it. I do think that Willow's academic achievement was partly because she really does like school and loves learning (though she somewhat derisively says in The Freshman that it was like you had to work at high school to get any knowledge), but partly because it is just the type of thing that would impress her parents, who probably gave her some little scraps of approval along the way that were the closest she could get to love.

Willow never seems comfortable in her own skin, seems always on the verge of not believing her own emotional subjective reactions are real, believes that no one will take her seriously, and fears abandonment at any turn for the slightest error. I think that Willow's exceptional academic performance, her tireless work at experimentation to be a better witch and thus a better contributor to Buffy's cause, her dedication as a teacher and tutor, her throwing herself into the fight against evil even when she had very few tools to defeat it, the quality of her love which leads her to forgiving those who trespassed against her when she doesn't interpret their actions as personal rejections of her (like her ease of forgiving Spike for his attacks on her in Lovers Walk and The Initiative, or Tara's spell in Family, or Buffy's demon-poison induced attack in Normal Again) are all examples of how this type of insecurity and instability actually leads to Willow being a compassionate, strong, brave and hard-working person; she feels a constant need to prove herself worthy of the love that she's just discovering, and that's not all a bad thing. But her hypersensitivity to rejection and her lack of sense of self have a rather obvious dark side, where she interprets actions that had nothing to do with her in terms of her basic framework that everything is about her being undeserving of love (i.e. Buffy's departure post-season two), her identity instability means that she's unable to tell the difference between passing impulses and her general state which, once she's developed power and the illusion of confidence, makes her impulse control particularly bad, and her belief that she's unworthy of love for who she is makes her rely on external things and people in unhealthy and destructive ways. I think the lack of any conflict in her home life suggested to Willow that any conflict will be disastrous, something which this incident in this episode is likely to bolster, and Willow's reactions to conflict of any sort being either to find any method at her disposal, including unethical ones, to suppress that conflict, or to explode in rage, are responses to an environment in which there was no real possibility of conflict being resolved in a loving way. Her lack of love growing up, and her resultant inability to love herself, makes her dependent on the love of others in order to function, which leads to her being manipulative.

On some level, people need to have who they are reflected back to them in order to know what is truly a part of them and what isn't. Willow never had herself reflected back to her by her parents, and was unable to form a stable self-image as a result. It's part of her story in the series to find who she really is. With the possible exception of Spike, I don't think any other character is as stable and chameleonic as Willow, and I think that all results from a fundamental inability to believe who she is, and to believe in her own self-worth. Meanwhile, as *compensation* for this fundamental insecurity, and as a result of her tremendous academic and magical achievements, Willow develops an exaggerated sense of her own importance, which is at constant war with her insecurity. I really pretty strongly think that Willow's moments of arrogance are more about compensation for inner emptiness than "the real problem" in and of themselves, but it's certainly related and a problem in and of itself.

There's a book that deals with situations like Willow's -- it was recommended in a Willow discussion by my friend ceciliaj -- entitled Drama of the Gifted Child, which focuses at least in part on people who are very successful, high-achievers but who nevertheless have a core of insecurity and emptiness. I don't think everything said here matches Willow, but, from the Wikipedia summary, I think it catches quite a lot of aspects:


In her first book (also published under the titles Prisoners of Childhood and The Drama of Being a Child), Miller defined and elaborated the personality manifestations of childhood trauma. She addressed the two reactions to the loss of love in childhood, depression and grandiosity; the inner prison, the vicious circle of contempt, repressed memories, the etiology of depression, and how childhood trauma manifests itself in the adult.

Miller writes:
"Quite often I have been faced with patients who have been praised and admired for their talents and their achievements. According to prevailing, general attitudes these people--the pride of their parents--should have had a strong stable sense of self-assurance. But exactly the opposite is the case... In my work with these people, I found that every one of them has a childhood history that seems significant to me:

There was a mother who at the core was emotionally insecure, and who depended for her narcissistic equilibrium on the child behaving, or acting, in a particular way. This mother was able to hide her insecurity from the child and from everyone else behind a hard, authoritarian and even totalitarian facade.
This child had an amazing ability to perceive and respond intuitively, that is, unconsciously, to this need of the mother or of both parents, for him to take on the role that had unconsciously been assigned to him.

This role secured "love" for the child—that is, his parents' exploitation. He could sense that he was needed, and this need, guaranteed him a measure of existential security.

This ability is then extended and perfected. Later, these children not only become mothers (confidantes, advisers, supporters) of their own mothers, but also take over the responsibility for their siblings and eventually develop a special sensitivity to unconscious signals manifesting the needs of others."

I don't think Willow was ever particularly her mother's caretaker in a direct way. However, I do think that Willow intuited early on that to earn the "approval" which was the closest she could get to "love," she should be the perfect, dutiful daughter, one who flatters her mother's opinion of herself and who aligns herself closely with her mother's views of what is important (academic achievement, political consciousness, etc.), and, I suspect, to flatter her psychologist mother's belief that her academic theory makes her the ideal mother. In this read, admittedly a bit of a headcanon, Willow's very identity is a way of bolstering her mother's professional credentials, which fits in with her mother's pride that Willow dated a woman as a political statement. It all adds up to Willow not feeling that she has any place to be herself, which does lead to, as this quoted section mentions, alternating between depression/self-loathing and grandiosity, neither of which allows her much stability. And along with this, I do think that Willow develops some sense of self over the years which does allow her some measure of peace in her friendships, romances and with herself, though it's a difficult process.

I do think that life on the Hellmouth exacerbates these problems -- I think had Willow gone to Oxford, she would probably still have big emotional problems, but no flameouts on the level that the constant presence of death and violence on the Hellmouth helps bolster. As we see with Sheila in this episode, the Hellmouth takes problems that already exist -- Willow's fear that any transgression, any demonstration of whatever true self she has underneath her attempt to get along with others' expectations of her, will lead to her being ostracized and rejected, gets exaggerated into a belief that she will actually be hunted down and *killed*, the kind of thing that her nightmare in Restless similarly hinges on (though in that case, it's her nerd side rather than her dark side that she fears). The melding of existential fears about one's ability to love and be loved in the world with more literal fears about whether one will survive is in general something that affects all the characters in the show.

I think the influence of Sheila on Willow is felt in other ways; Jane Espenson has Willow acknowledge openly that her mother's influence on Willow's political views is alive and well in her anti-Thanksgiving stance. In general, like Sheila, I think Willow has a tendency to think about problems with others abstractly, to avoid conflict, and sometimes to see problems in broadly political terms rather than personal ones. But at her core Willow is very much about the individual, not the broad social category; her love -- and sometimes hate -- for those closest to her are based on who they are and what they mean to her, rather than the broad categories of who they are supposed to be.

ETA: EDITED with Willow & Sheila section! Will try to have Helpless up in a day or too -- sorry for the delay. This sort of got away from me.

Dipstick
11-11-14, 10:46 PM
Fantastic discussion, Local_Max! My thoughts are scattered....


Sheila becomes involved in this episode when she learns of a Big Picture threat to the well-being of children as well as the chance to be involved on the ground floor of an interesting sociological movement that gives her a chance to brush elbows with the Mayor. She sees her daughter for the first time since August or earlier as a result. While Joyce is already, by this point, starting to feel the effects of the demon, I'm not sure that Sheila is. This exchange, for instance:

In my head-canon, Shelia and Ira seemed odd for residents of Sunnydale- but Sunnydale attracts a lot of those. I picture Ira and Shelia as top-university academics, far above UC Sunnydale's professors. Maggie Walsh was notably, awe-voiced world-renowned for a UC Sunnydale professor but Maggie actually worked at UC Sunnydale because that's the hellmouth location for the Initiative. UC Sunnydale's other professors looked like a bad lot- unprofessionally boorish (the professors that blew up at Buffy in The Freshmen and Checkpoint) or milquetoast, rabbity types (the poetry professor in Tough Love) or the class looked like psudo-intellectual bullshit (the Life Serial class).

Shelia really does come off like someone who usually travels to better cities than Sunnydale- but she actually showed up to this community event because it was the most interesting thing to happen in Sunnydale from a total-plot-of-show-ignorant-adult's POV. There's a vibe that Sunnydale traps blue collar/service workers and people whose economic/life fortunes have fallen like Joyce. However, there's an upper-crust that comes to Sunnydale to take advantage of the low-cost property and doesn't work or invest or investigate the city because they're just there to vulture off the property prices and likely low local taxes. The Rosenbergs are smart and educated but they don't stay to watch their daughter or watch over their community. The Chases seem to be in Sunnydale to live high on the hog in a cheap town that still retained the glamour beachy California town, all based on fraud and lies, where they no doubt avoided paying local taxes as well as federal taxes.


However, ultimately, it's worth remembering that Willow's relationship with her mother does not define her. This is not her "Rosebud" (just as Rosebud wasn't really the one and only key to Charles Foster Kane's life, either). There is no single event or person who explains everything about any of the major characters in BtVS. In Willow's case, Willow herself much more frequently puts her status as a bullied nerd at the centre of her issues, even if we are to let her psychology be reduced entirely to her pre-series life. If this was meant to be the key to understanding Willow, well, it is rather burying the lede to put this key in a midseason episode in season three.

I agree that Willow doesn't really consciously resent her parents and she's more quick to blame the school bullying for her issues. Willow's parental issues lurk deep beneath the surface. Local_Max quoted this line:


Willow: (smiles) Makes me grateful that my mom's not interested in my extra-curricular activities. Or my *curricular* activities.

AH delivers this line dynamically. Her tone is bubbly, happy, and a touch conspiratorial with, "Makes me grateful that my mom's not interested in my extra-curricular activities." AH takes a beat and then sounds upset when she says, "Or my *curricular* activities." Frequently when Willow discusses her parents, she has a non self-aware vibe. Buffy, who apparently only met Shelia in this ep, can tell when Willow is stridently parroting her mother in Pangs before Willow can. When Willow recounts Shelia's reaction to her being gay, Willow sarcastically notes that Shelia thought she was making a political statement and then, gets quiet with more "just thinking about it" grief on the note that Shelia never met Tara.

IMO, the school bullying is nothing but obvious problems that infect Willow's daily life. However, her parental abandonment is subtler and even comes with its own benefits. Willow's never been grounded. IMO, Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg come up with extremely repressive rules like Willow, who grew up with two guy friends, isn't allowed to have boys in her room at all or Willow can't watch Charlie Brown when it's the Christmas special (presumably Ira would ban all Christmas episodes of any show and perhaps all Christmas music). When Shelia gets around to picking out an outfit for Willow, it's the WTTH outfit. Now, Willow and the show kind of regards all of these repressive rules as just a bit of quirky trivia because Willow doesn't really live her life by her parent's rules. Her parents have a "no boys in Willow's room" rule but unthinkingly, placed her in a room where she has her own ground-floor big window leading right outside. If Willow actually had to abide by her parent's rule, she couldn't be a regular character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

S3 catches Willow at a unique point in her life. In S3, Willow definitely asks for supervision and a firm adult hand more than any other time, until her flame-out in Wrecked and then Grave. However, those latter two incidents are their own category where Willow accepted other's rules because she screwed up. In S3, Willow has a mindset that her life has grown very fast in a very short period of time from the witchcraft to Oz to potential graduation and leaving Sunnydale and she feels ill-prepared to deal with all of this new stuff. She also feels a big need to keep up with her peers. At first glance to a teen, Faith comes in unusually mature and self-confident and worldly. Oz is a year older than her and acts much older. Buffy's lived on her own and already had sex with a really old vampire no less.

I mentioned before how Willow basically asks Giles to teach her like, four times between Becoming and S3. In Gingerbread, she was relieved that her mother knew her magic secrets and could talk it out like a parent and she was happy that her mother took enough of an interest to supervise her relationship with Oz. She lamented Buffy's absence as a more mature guide through scary adult life stuff. When faced with controversy, she elevates Giles as the ideal judge and mediator far above Willow ("Giles, no one's doing the I-statements"; "You have to talk to Giles. He'll know what to do.")

Ironically, Willow partly seems on the hunt for mentoring and instruction in S3 because Willow plays both the parental role and the child role. Willow's essentially been raising herself through life. I don't if pre-series Willow panicked that she wasn't being properly socialized or she wasn't getting enough parental help in the bureaucracies of life. Probably. However, S1 Willow was pretty resigned that her socialization was a failure but she had a handle on the basics of caring for herself and she could excel academically without any supervision. However as I said above, late S2/S3 created dramatically different and higher expectations for Willow with the dating and witchcraft and major future life choices ahead. As the main provider for herself, Willow decided that she had to get herself a parent of sorts. ;-) However, as I mentioned before, S3 was pretty instructive on how basically no one wanted to healthily and credibly teach/mentor mentor Willow.


I do think that parents' elevated control and paternalism over teens partly comes from parents realizing that these are the last years when they're going to really have control and power over their kids before the kids turn 18, become adults, and run off. Actually, I do think that people float around Buffy in S3 to make enough of an impression of control in her final days of being a "child" to make sure that Buffy grows up like she's supposed to. Joyce lays down the law the most in S3 compared to any other season whether it's restricting Buffy's driving, Joyce's blow-up in DMP, nudging Buffy about colleges, trying to break up Buffy and Angel. To a great extent, it's because this is the first year where Joyce really found about Buffy's slayer life. However beyond that especially re: Bangel, Joyce is trying to use her final days of Buffy's "childhood" to exert control to cure Buffy's faults to make sure she grows up right. The Watcher's Council gets even more drastic.

The Council takes the slayer's eighteenth birthday to decide if the slayer has what it takes to become a worthwhile adult or whether they should just die/Kralik eats the Council's young. Then, Buffy showed that she has what it takes to become an adult in the Council's eyes but Giles demonstrated that he was unfit to be the final imparter of control through this pivotal period.

Ironically, Giles was the most important adult in Buffy's life in S1-2 and he's kind of the exception. Giles tried to play the Council's game of control in Helpless but he didn't go through with it. Generally, Giles doesn't feel like he has to exert control in S3. With some good and noble reason and some lazy, self-serving reason, Giles generally proceeds like he influenced Buffy into becoming a capable, mini-adult leader who's basically finished. Unlike Joyce and the Council, Giles has confidence that Buffy will come to him for the guidance and help that she needs. Buffy kind of tarnishes this faith by Buffy hiding Angel. However, that doesn't really go anywhere because soon after, Giles commits a far greater sin against Buffy in Helpless. And I'd argue that Buffy spends a lot of S3 doing a lot stuff that Giles would ordinarily hate and Buffy and Giles would really fight about in any other season- hiding Allen Finch's death for days, continuing to date Angel, immediately trading Willow for the Box, focusing on curing Angel before the solving the Ascension, considering going off to college away from Sunnydale- but in this season, Buffy and Giles are bonded by a Wesley to kick around...

It'll take S4 for Giles to wonder if he failed to be enough of an impact on Buffy for her to handle everything as he wants and for Buffy to continue consider him as a crucial resource even after she's graduated out of SHS/the Council.

Local Maximum
11-11-14, 11:11 PM
Great thoughts, Dipstick. I agree that Willow doesn't quite consciously resent her parents, though the resentment is there. I think the difference is, paradoxically, that being bullied by Cordelia or Veruca or whoever is at least an *event*; it's easier to pinpoint people picking on her because it is a specific happening or series of happenings. Whereas her childhood emotional neglect, by contrast, is defined by a lack. That her parents don't ground her or abuse her or do wrong by her in most of the ways that people think of when they think of mistreatment of children means that it's hard for her to form an impression of being mistreated. Even with bullying, where Willow eventually largely frames her having been picked on is her own fault for being such a loser, she seems acutely aware that her experience was not "normal" and needs some kind of explanation, whether it's Cordelia-bullies being awful or herself being worthy of ridicule. With her parents, it's just a big nothing which is not really visible. I think this fits, because Willow has a very hard time identifying what exactly it is that's odd or wrong with her, and keeps grasping somewhat desperately at actions she can undertake to fix herself and her situation. The core problem is that she was missing something socially and emotionally (i.e. love) she needed growing up and now that she's older she has no idea how to handle these and catastrophizes any conflict or mistake or slight. That her parents seemed never to love her makes her feel unworthy of love, but she doesn't think of it in those terms because she never grew up with anything else, and she wasn't injured or abused (until nearly burned alive), so...

Willow starts complaining about her mother's absence in her life in this episode, with various moments where she expresses shock at Joyce's involvement. It is a bit of a contrivance to fill the audience in on Willow's home life before we meet Sheila, who is already acting slightly out of character (not, I think, because of the spell, but because an interesting sociological event is happening) when we first meet her. It may be though that Willow's burgeoning sense of confidence and sense of self is bubbling up here and the contrast with Joyce's smothering parenting combined with her increased (somewhat shaky, easily trashed) self-confidence allow her to express suspicions she's probably harboured for a while, that her mother could be more involved than she is.

It is a good point that her parents laid down pretty oppressive rules. This sort of goes against my headcanon that Sheila viewed herself as a very progressive, liberal parent. However, it does make some degree of sense. For one thing, her father seems to value tradition (TRADITION!!!! TRADITION! / Fiddler on the Roof) from what little we can gather of him, and for another, Sheila could very easily view setting firm boundaries on when Willow starts seeing boys and the like as developmentally normal for a parent. Or probably by preventing Willow from seeing boys they're protecting her from the damage boys can do. Or, perhaps, there were rules set in place at some point and never amended. Or, it's just another kind of automatic, reflexive use of power -- set up difficult rules to follow and since Willow never challenges them openly, there is never any kind of "normal" give-and-take as she passes into adolescence. That Willow is actually a teenager seems not to occur to her mother, who buys her things like that weird WttH outfit in tenth grade. Teenagers who never "rebel" at all are then expected to magically be able to care for themselves entirely once they get to college or the workforce; somehow it makes sense to go straight from not being allowed to have boys in her room to living alone away from parents.

Stoney
12-11-14, 04:08 AM
Joyce seeks guidance from books constantly and is always so focused on the connection she feels she should have with Buffy and Sheila hides her own social ineptitude behind her books and academia as she basically doesn't have the first clue how to really connect to Willow outside cold theories/frameworks. I think there is a good degree of self denial in Sheila's parenting as she avoids facing this inability and focusses on the world where she feels at ease in her work. I do think she wants to be the progressive, liberal parent and for the truth to be that her complex understanding of the issues Willow could face and what is 'normal' behavioural problems means that she is better placed to judge when to step up and when to back off. But that is really an excuse for justifying stepping away so much and masks the inability to connect. And so she remains a clinical and detached parental figure. Laying down a tablet of rules is a good way to absentee parent if your child is of a mind to want to please you and that is really the biggest control that they have placed with Willow I think. Not as a conscious choice I don't believe, but to hold back interaction, caring and love and yet put forth expectations can simply leave a child yearning to gain approval to then be worth spending time with. It is then easy for Sheila to step back and say that they give Willow a lot of personal responsibility and self governance when she has basically been raised to conform. I hasten to say that I think that there is a realistic degree of this in parenting. You are raising your children to understand social structure and to fit in but I personally feel Willow was raised to understand how to fit into the periphery of Sheila/Ira's lives, not how to fit socially other than how to 'achieve' as a way to become successful/independent. The contrasting reaction of course is that a child plays up to seek even negative attention and we saw how that panned out, discipline to push back to conforming rather than the sought attention to gain understanding. We know the demon was exercising a spell but, as Gingerbread outed Joyce's underlying slayer issues (which of course we knew about), I think the 'truth' that is exposed with Sheila is that really she isn't progressive/liberal and we see that when Willow doesn't back down and fit back into being what is expected of her the veneer will crack if pressed.

Local Maximum
12-11-14, 07:44 AM
Right, I think that's it. And one can imagine how easy it is to justify. On the subject of setting so many harsh, repressive rules for Willow, Sheila can say, it's good for children to have structure! On the subject of leaving town for weeks at a time and never spending time with her daughter, she can say, it's good for children to have some freedom! And she can point to Willow's extraordinary academic success, never getting in trouble, etc. as proof that she has hit upon the right "balance" of rules and freedom, where really the "rules" and "freedom" are designed just to make Willow inconvenient, and, arguably, for Willow's success to flatter her parents. I don't think any of this is a deliberate choice on Sheila's part, because she's just so clueless and presumably thinks she's being a good parent, which I think is all the more intensely frustrating for Willow since it makes it all the harder to recognize and believe that her parenting is unusually bad. In the big confrontation scene, Sheila didn't let Willow's criticisms of her in at all, and I think that's bound to make Willow doubt her point of view.

Local Maximum
13-11-14, 12:55 PM
3.12 Helpless

Hey, sorry this is a little later than I intended. And as usual, it's a long one! Sorry I don't have the energy to edit.

So in Gingerbread, Buffy’s relationship with her mother is tested, and as a result of mob groupthink and demon possession, her mother nearly kills her as part of her plan to take care of her daughter and solve her problems for her. Giles was a key to Buffy’s salvation in that episode. It makes sense, then that the episode which follows is about Giles’ failure. Where Joyce overprotects her daughter and threatens to snuff who her daughter really is out in an attempt to protect her image of her daughter, Giles, under the Council’s orders, drugs Buffy in anticipation of a plan to throw her into the lion’s den, putting her into a scenario for which her odds of survival are extremely low. It is a polar opposite of the problem with Joyce: the difference between smothering (Joyce) and abandonment (Giles). Joyce tries to protect Buffy from monsters and impedes Buffy’s ability to fight them; Giles tries to push Buffy into fighting monsters. Both strategies have some value in moderation—it’s important for a parent or mentor to both want to protect one’s child from danger, and to get this child to face danger. In excess, both are horrifying. Buffy’s attempting to slot Giles into the role of her own father comes up in this episode, obviously, and in some senses what Giles does here (or almost does) is reminiscent of Buffy’s father abandoning her to live her own life completely free of him. However, unlike Hank, Giles continues to care for Buffy and continues to remain a part of her life in an active way; it’s just that his way of showing it is badly distorted by his Council indoctrination.

After a brief interlude focusing on Xander, Buffy will rebel for real in Bad Girls before finding herself shocked by what happened in the Consequences morning after. These episodes are directly linked to events here; it is Wesley’s presence that ignites Faith’s further rebellion which brings Buffy into it, and I think that Buffy’s full-tilt desire to join with Faith is directly related to both of her parent figures’ betrayals here. Maggie talked about this back in the notes project, and also pointed out that Band Candy foreshadowed the back-to-back betrayals. I think that these tie in both with the season’s overall themes of authority in various forms, and with the season’s arc for Buffy, which largely consists of Buffy trying to find meaning in those around her by trying on various philosophies and ideas from them, doing her own version of Lilly/Anne’s transformation in the season premiere. Buffy tries recovering her inner Cordelia, finding meaning in being with Angel, connecting to Joyce and Giles, teaming up with Faith, considering leaving town entirely, and all of these fail in some way or another before she finds herself standing more or less as her own boss, dedicated to staying in Sunnydale as the creator of her own story.

As with Gingerbread, I want to start by talking about the fairy tale that forms much of the episode’s spine, and the one that Kralik wants to act out directly: Little Red Riding Hood.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD: INTRODUCTION

There are four major players in the story: Little Red Riding Hood, the Woodsman, the Wolf, and Red’s grandmother. The equivalents in this episode are more or less Buffy as Red, Joyce as the grandmother, Kralik as the wolf, and Giles as the Huntsman. I feel like this story is well known enough that I don’t need to elaborate, but in brief, the story I think is being referenced is this: Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to see her grandmother, whom she’s going to bring food. She dawdles a little on the way, where she encounters a scary Big Bad Wolf. The Wolf learns of Red’s plan to go to her grandmother’s, and steals away to Red’s grandmother’s house, kills the grandmother and then wears her clothes, so as to be able to trick Red into getting close. Red enters; why, what big eyes her grandmother has! etc., culminating in Red noting her grandmother’s large teeth. There are different versions here, but one common one is that Red is eaten by the Wolf, and then the Woodsman (usually male) comes in and cuts Red out and saves her.

Kralik’s setting this story up eventually involves him kidnapping Joyce and using her as bait, which is a pretty direct way of telling the story. However, Kralik also has fun with the story, inverting it in various ways; he dresses up in the red outfit himself, the wolf luring the “grandmother” by pretending to be red instead of the reverse. The statement that he is going to turn Buffy into a monster who will eat Joyce—which is an interesting inversion of the idea of the wolf-in-grandmother’s-clothes who destroys the girl Giles enters at the last minute and saves Buffy from Blair, the Watcher who was turned by Kralik. But ultimately it’s Buffy who saves herself, here. One of the paradoxes that I want to discuss is the way in which the episode plays with and complicates that central myth, and the important question of what that means.

BUFFY

LRRH itself, as a story, is often interpreted as a coming of age tale. The Wikipedia entry on LRRH indicates, citing “Interpreting Little Red Riding Hood Psychoanalytically” by Alan Dundes (which I’m not about to go track down for the sake of this entry), “The tale has been interpreted as a puberty rite, stemming from a prehistoric origin (sometimes an origin stemming from a previous matriarchal era). The girl, leaving home, enters a liminal state and by going through the acts of the tale, is transformed into an adult woman by the act of coming out of the wolf's belly.” Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods (and Whedon has always been very public about how big a fan he is of Sondheim) references the sexual undertones of the story pretty explicitly, where Red says she was “excited, well, excited and scared”; the Wolf can be seen as the terror of male sexuality encroaching on the innocent woman. I’m sure I’ve read someone interpreting Red’s…Redness as being representative of blood and thus of puberty, as well. For an example of the wolf = sexual predator depiction, check out Tex Avery’s Little Red Riding Hood cartoons as an example.

The connection to Buffy’s eighteenth birthday and her transition into adulthood are obvious. And in that sense the episode does actually function. The substory of Buffy vs. Kralik actually happens more or less unimpeded. This is interesting in and of itself. The Cruciamentum passes more or less normally enough to meet Quentin’s satisfaction. And I think in that sense we can say that the mythological rite of passage is complete. The rules change partway through, but basically Buffy fights Kralik without Buffy slayer powers and kills her all herself. Buffy becomes her own saviour, and goes through a horrifying ordeal of figurative death/rebirth from which she comes through stronger.

I do think that she does come through stronger. The episode complicates this in interesting ways, partly because, of course, in order to go through this horrifying ordeal Buffy has to lose some of her trust in Giles. But setting that aside, Buffy learns something which she hadn’t known before. A few things of note:

Sex, family and the slayer: What did Buffy say in CWDP? “See, this is what I hate about you vampires. Sex and death and love and pain—it's all the same damn thing to you.” The teaser, first a Buffy/Angel scene and then a Buffy/Giles one, sets up some pretty weird dynamics that resonate through the whole episode. First of all, we get Buffy and Angel fighting as a pretty clear way of staving off their intense sexual feelings, with the double entendres being obvious enough for the characters to mention. “Satisfied?” Buffy asks. “Not quite the word I’d use,” says Angel. Ew get a mansion you two! Wait they did. This sets us up for the Buffy/Faith team-fighting-shippiness in Bad Girls (Doug Petrie being the most intense Buffy/Faith slasher on staff, methinks) and in general the weird way the Buffy/Angel/Faith dynamics are sort of sexual/fighting in all directions, with Enemies also starting with a reminder of how big a toll not being able to have sex has on those two. Buffy mentions to Giles in the second scene, after she puts down the “vibratory” stones she’s been fondling, how she wants to go out to patrol because she’s got so much pent-up energy. So Buffy’s ability to fight is linked to her sex drive pretty strongly here. The other thing that happens in the Buffy/Angel scene is this curious exchange:


Buffy: Right, birthday. Um, actually, I, I do have a thing.
Angel: Oh, a thing. (trying to be cool) A date?
Buffy: (nods) Nice attempt at casual. Actually, I do have a date. (steps closer) Older man. Very handsome. He likes it when I call him 'Daddy'.
Angel: (smiles) Huh, your father. (frowns) It is your father, right?

Well, they said it, I didn’t! Maybe this line could be taken in a less Freudian way, but this episode also features a vampire whose Oedipal issues rival Spike’s. That said, you know, I think that this is a bit of a tease by the writers rather than any kind of statement that Buffy’s actually got a literal Electra Complex. What this exchange suggests, though, is the way in which Buffy’s issues with men actually involve a) father figures (Hank and Giles), b) lovers, and c) vampires, all of whom on some level have somewhat similar roles in her heart—she has “dates” with fathers and lovers and vamps, and as she moves from childhood to adulthood she moves from her father (or father figure) being the most important male figure in her life to her male lover being the most important one. And also there’s Xander, whose role in her life is to debate Kryptonite and to fail to open jars. Well, more on him next week!

Anyway, Buffy’s “yearly tradition” with her father was notably one which was totally skipped over last year, where she spent the year indulging in her physical self with Angel and that turned out disastrous. The gifts she got that year from the men in her life were Angel’s “surprise” (yikes) and, more happily, phallic, male-coded power given to her by Xander (“best present ever”) and compassion and understanding from Giles. Here’s a theory: with Buffy’s relationship with Angel being what it is, and with her slayerhood having trashed her relationship with her mother last week, albeit through supernatural effects, Buffy wants to retreat to a simpler time in her life, in which she was a little girl. Ice skating is Buffy’s innocent, safe place, with her father. And then, as we see, she even wants to slot Giles into this role, as father to her innocent, childlike, pre-sexual, maybe pre-slayer self.

Angel mentions having seen Buffy when she was called, and we’re thus reminded of that shock. Buffy has already been through something like the initiation she goes through in this episode, but she is reinitiated here, partly, I suspect, because after her desire in season two to reach for what adulthood meant, Buffy is a little bit tempted at this stage to retreat and hang onto parts of her childhood, and thus has to go through the painful process of being re-initiated into sexual maturity and strength.

The Benefits of Slayerhood. Buffy is so used to having slayer powers all the time that she is unaware of what life is like without them. Buffy very frequently, and understandably, rebels against her calling. But it takes losing her powers for her to recognize what life would be like without them. She walks the streets desperately afraid, unable to respond when she’s harassed. She has no protection. And she has a less clear sense of meaning in her life. As she says to Angel, she used to be something like Spordelia. In some senses, Helpless is a kind of weird wish fulfilment fantasy that turns into a nightmare in a way that connects to Cordelia’s wish fulfilment fantasy not long ago in The Wish. Instead of Cordelia’s direct, literal wish, we have Buffy’s pining for some of the simplicity of a childhood which has somewhat tragically passed her by. Unlike Cordelia, Buffy, frustrated though she is with her powers, recognizes pretty much immediately that she doesn’t *actually* want to go back to her pre-powers self. As painful as it is for Buffy to be the slayer, it would be much more painful if she weren't the slayer.

What She Learns. The main time in which we saw Buffy really, *really* scared during the TV series was the Master. The Master was a figure who so terrified her that he actually did to some extent remove Buffy’s powers; he could mind control her to a degree, and so Buffy was helpless. Her bravery in Prophesy Girl was going to face the Master even though she thought she would likely die, and she did, ultimately, die; the resurrection that resulted is what gave her the new strength. Buffy has been scared since, but very rarely has her strength been the cause of her fear. The second season arc was all about Buffy’s emotional vulnerability to Angel rather than her physical vulnerability; she and he were nearly equally matched but Buffy the stronger, and the season ended with Buffy acting the full part of the warrior and stabbing him with a sword. I don’t want to say that Buffy only relies on her strength, which is not the case, but there is an overall pattern of Buffy’s physical strength being the thing Buffy ends up turning to; the biggest struggles of Buffy’s are not so much physical, but of how to marshal her internal energies to use that strength, as in Anne, where what it takes is for Buffy to find her inner slayer again to fight back against the forces of hell. These struggles are certainly heroic, but the physical strength is still a factor.

What distinguishes Helpless from, say, Prophesy Girl, is that Buffy knows that she lacks the physical strength to win the combat with Kralik on physical terms, yet also is unwilling to die the way she did in PG. It’s not that she’s not *risking* it; she certainly is. But I think she walked into the Master’s lair with some sense that it would be, in the grand scheme of things, “okay” if she perished fighting the Master; she has no such weird, paradoxical comfort here, since her death would not accomplish anything: she doesn’t have the comfort of believing that her death would save the world, but her death would only just end with her mother’s death, too. She’s already faced down death, but now she’s facing the possibility of death AND failure, which I think is harder. Normally, Buffy can channel some of her fear and anger into combat strength, just like she channels some of her sex drives into it; here, she has to just keep herself under control and keep her mind sharp and unclouded, wait for the proper opportunity, and strike. I think that it’s easier in some ways to convert fear directly into action, as in combat, than it is to overcome fear and still execute a plan coolly and calmly, and that remarkable inner strength Buffy shows here is a newish development.
Buffy has always been a smart investigator and strategist; her trick on Kralik with the holy water reminds me a little of her trick on Luke with the sunrise statement back in The Harvest, except here it’s more carefully modulated to Kralik’s particular weak spots. But I think here we get a sense of Buffy recognizing that she needs not just to use those skills in a spontaneous creative explosion like in The Harvest or the like, but of actually planning those out. I think Buffy’s much more practiced at spontaneous than planned creative planning, and so this experience does teach her that she has those skills and can call them off. I think this makes sense for where she is in her story and affects how things will progress from here. It’s notable that while Buffy plays the willing sacrificial lamb and then Master-killer in PG and the swordfighting warrior/killer in Becoming, in Graduation Day there are three major actions Buffy undertakes—fighting/stabbing Faith, giving herself and her blood to Angel, and being the general in the battle against the Mayor—only one follows the slayer-as-warrior-alone pattern, and that’s the attack on Faith which is largely the wrong course of action. In the fight with the Mayor, Buffy does most (though not all) of the planning, and doesn’t end up touching the Mayor in the final combat, though she still uses her slayer skill to give him a merry, high-speed chase.

The price of this lesson is that Buffy is traumatized from the experience, finds it harder to trust people, and, mostly, that she might have died. Joyce might have died. This was a risk which she did not sign up for. It’s rather obvious, I think, that the possibility that there may have been some good ends achieved, leading to Buffy’s greater sense of self and emancipation from the Council, does not justify the means. But I think the power of the fairy tale/myth suggests that these initiation rites maybe do have some power, and something is lost in a world that doesn’t present them. Without actually seriously confronting and conquering fear of death or at least great loss, one cannot grow stronger, but this confrontation only has meaning if there is a real possibility of loss, and then, what, do the people who fail don’t deserve to pass? The fate of the slayer who fails the Cruciamentum is left somewhat unexamined, and in some senses that fate is the bigger horror in the episode.

Trust No One. Just as an aside, I do think it’s a shame that Buffy doesn’t try to contact any of her friends when she goes after Kralik. We know that Faith’s AWOL at the moment from Buffy mentioning it early on, and we know why she doesn’t trust Giles. But still, Willow, Xander, Cordelia and Oz maybe could have been helpful here, especially because they actually have more experience fighting vampires without slayer strength than Buffy does. And, obviously, there is Angel, with his super-strength. I think that it’s a combination of a few things; Buffy is ultimately a bit of a lonely warrior when it comes down to it. And I think she may intuit—correctly—that Kralik really does want her to come alone. What would Kralik have done had Buffy come in with her posse in tow? It is maybe the right call to just go in, but I think it is another indication of some of Buffy’s habit to clamp down and trust no one but herself when everything is on the line, especially when her family is what she stands to lose.

In any case, part of the effect of the Cruciamentum—which leads us into the next section!—is to wreck Buffy’s trust of the Council in general, and to do significant damage to her trust for Giles in particular. This allows her to start doing her own leading and planning, as I mentioned above. It ends the period of wishing for a father to take care of her in a childlike way. It is a significant break from childhood and entrance into adulthood. She loses two fathers in one episode—her own father basically disappearing from her life, and her father figure betraying her. However, and I will talk about this more later, Giles’ rejection of and rejection from the Council suggests the possibility of a renewed relationship between her and him. Giles’ connection to authority has been severed, and this places Giles in some sense as adrift as Buffy. That Giles is something of a victim of the Council too doesn’t escape Buffy’s notice, and the possibility of forming a new relationship as something like equals (or with Giles as a support figure rather than a parent figure) is left open.

THE COUNCIL/GILES

Cruciamentum Overview. The Cruciamentum itself is designed to force a concentration between Red and the Big Bad Wolf, with no outside interference, in and of itself. As it happens, it’s Kralik who involves Joyce-as-“grandmother,” and Giles gets involved only at the last moment. Keep that in mind for now. But still, a little analysis. I actually forget where I first read this interpretation of the tale—I am reasonably sure I didn’t come up with it, but I can’t quite place it. The two female characters in the story—Red and her grandmother—are passive, at the beginning and end of a woman’s lifetime. The two men are active—the hero and the monster—who both have tremendous strength in contrast to the women’s apparent weakness. And so one can say that the Male Hero in this story, the Woodsman, exists only because Red gets eaten; if Red doesn’t get eaten, then he has no role in the story at all. If it weren’t for the Male Villain/Molester represented by the Wolf, then it would be a story about two women getting along and eating snacks peacefully, in which there is no role for a Traditionally Manly Man. This actually matches up with some feminist social criticism that the Male Saviour of Women and the Male Destroyer Of Women are not so unrelated: the wolf, the Bad Man who is out to hurt women, serves as justification for the Male Hero to be the saviour of, and protector of, the women, and thus to make themselves seem important and indispensable. If the Wolf did not actually exist, either equality between the sexes would have to exist, or men who want to bolster their narrative of Male Heroes who need to exist to save Weak Women would have to invent him.

This puts me in mind of what Buffy ends up saying to Quentin Travers, and the Council as a whole, in Checkpoint:


You guys didn’t come all the way from England to determine whether or not I was good enough to be let back in. You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives some semblance of meaning.

The ostensible purpose of a Watcher is to train the slayer for combat, to guide and protect her, and throw her into the field. The Watchers Council then alternates between viewing the slayer as their instrument, and identifying themselves as an important and essential support mechanism for the slayer. On the micro level, Giles flounders badly once he realizes that he is no longer needed by Buffy—because, of course, he has no role in the world if he’s not the Watcher to Buffy, especially since he has lost much of the things in his life that have given it meaning otherwise.

The Cruciamentum is ultimately a paradox. If we trust Quentin, it seems as if it is designed to improve a slayer, to make her more independent and to be able to function without her Watcher. However, the Council does not actually want the slayer to be so independent that she no longer needs a Watcher. In particular, when they replace Giles, they do so with Wesley, who tries to lay down the Council law more strongly than Giles did. Wesley’s inexperience in either combat or in dealing with teenage girls almost makes me wonder if the Council really *wanted* Buffy to break from the Council, but I think it’s more a sign of the Council’s cluelessness in general. (And obviously, Wesley actually IS very smart, a skilled researcher, and has real potential as a leader and field marshal—just potential that is untapped.) There is a prominent fan theory that the real purpose of the Cruciamentum is just to weed out slayers in general at a relatively young age, by putting them in a scenario where they are very likely to be killed. I think this is possible, though I don’t think that even Quentin would consciously believe this—Quentin seems to believe his own PR. That the Council fires Giles for acting independently demonstrates, I think, that what they want is not *really* independent thinking at all. And from Checkpoint and Never Leave Me we see how much Quentin et al. really do want to be seen as essential to the slayer, even though they hide this, perhaps even from themselves.

Here’s what I think the real desire is: the Council wants slayers who both fight all their battles for them, and who are also extremely loyal. Slayers who come to view themselves as invincible would start to question the Council. Slayers who live too long would start to view themselves as invincible. Slayers who fail to test themselves or their limits are no real use to the Council at all. So, slayers who fail the Cruciamentum are not particularly good warriors for The Cause, and are thus weeded out. Slayers who pass the Cruciamentum may, like Buffy, develop an independent streak as a result of the ordeal, and feel betrayed by the Council. But the Council can always, as they ultimately do with Buffy, cut off a slayer whose independent streak threatens their control. What may happen instead, in most cases, is that the slayer’s ability to pass the Cruciamentum does *not* actually give the slayer a strong sense of her own independent power and that she has outgrown the Council—though it does have the side effect of allowing for the Council to justify giving even less support. What it would do in these cases, perhaps, is to traumatize the slayer and then convince the slayer that this trauma was “for her own good,” leading to a Stockholm Syndrome-esque attachment to her Watcher, the way children can more closely attached to abusive parents. The experience reminds the slayers of their ultimate vulnerability and, at least subconsciously, reminds them that their powers are on some level something the Council can take away at any time. This makes them both more superficially independent and better fighters, AND might make them more indebted to the Council. The Council, in thrusting the slayers into this horrible situation, get to frame their action as for the slayer’s own good, and then the slayer is in some sense actually indebted to the Council for putting them through the ordeal which transforms them.

All this being said, then, it’s worth noting that if the vampires and demons did not exist, the slayer would have no monsters to fight and thus would have no need of the Council’s support. As we see in the series, Buffy, ultimately, has a wide enough skill set to be able to function in the world even if demons stopped existing; she struggles to balance work and home life and slaying, especially in season six, but she is capable of being both quasi-mother figure, and of working in the world in non-slaying capacities, as a service worker or, better, as high school counselor. Buffy doesn’t always remember that she doesn’t need the monsters to function, but at times she does remember it. Giles has no role in a world with no monsters, or where monsters can be easily dealt with by others—which is something we see often. He needs those monsters, in order to be useful to Buffy. And without Buffy, Giles is pretty much just watching Passions, just as the Council is just watching Masterpiece Theatre. The Council represents the patriarchal idea that men need to exist in order to protect others, primarily women, from monsters, and as such it needs those monsters in order to function, and is adrift without them. It also, beyond gender relations, suggests the way Upper Classes, governments, etc. feel the need to emphasize their own importance to the lower classes, soldiers, etc. who serve them. The existence of vampires gives a (flimsy) justification for the Council's excesses in the same way that the existence of terrorist threats can lead to, say, governments pushing forward greater plans to spy on and oppress their own people "for their own good," and so are in some sense essential. (For a fictional example, in 1984 think the role of enemy empires Eurasia and/or Eastasia, or Goldstein the spy who may or may not actually exist, which are used to justify the increasing elimination of freedoms within the tyrannical Oceania.)

Now, for the most part, there *are* monsters in the world, and that means that many of the real world analogues to the Council—spymasters, high-ranking military officers, government agencies, bureaucracies of all sorts—do have some kind of purpose and meaning in the world. If there stopped being evil, they might have to disband and get “real jobs,” but it doesn’t seem as if evil is going to end any time soon. Still, I think this episode gets at some of those contradictions in organizations of this sort, and in the general idea of Male Heroes as protectors/advisors. In order to apply their test to Buffy, they actually have to bring in a vampire and set him loose on her. It’s as if the Woodsman really did set the Wolf up to go chasing after Red so that he could save her—or, in this case, so that Red could save herself and the Woodsman could *still* take the credit for it.

I don’t know if the Council would think of the Cruciamentum ritual in terms of fairy tales the way Kralik very clearly does. I don’t think so; they don’t seem to have that kind of imagination. But I think that they recognize the power of ritual and narrative as a way of conferring lessons. The Watchers and Kralik share this trait: they recognize that life is a story, and if they are careful they can control the parameters of the story and thus what lesson is imparted to the “hero” of this story they are engineering.

The Council’s Treatment of Buffy and Kralik. There is something else pretty neat in the way the Council deals with Buffy and Kralik. There are hints throughout the series that the slayer is closer to the demons she fights than is generally thought or known, culminating in Get It Done officially revealing that the Shadowmen, the original Watchers, actually made the slayer deliberately in order to fight their battles for them, and infused her with demon energy. And so a slayer is part demon. That demon—frightening, hard to control—is part of the reason why modern Watchers exist in the first place, because a rogue slayer really *is* incredibly dangerous, as we see this season with Faith, just as any human given a huge amount of power and something of a killer instinct is going to be extremely dangerous. I think the demon, among other things, can represent the killer instinct that soldiers need to maintain and nurture in order to be effective fighters, but which becomes devastating if left unchecked in civilian life; the Council’s inability to take responsibility for Faith, and their fear of Buffy, is partially one of governments washing their hands of responsibility for the soldiers they themselves have created (and no longer need). Part of the function of a Watcher is to be able to fight and slay their own charges, or at least the impulses within their charges which are dangerous. This is part of the subtext of Giles going after and wanting to kill Angel in Passion and *especially* Spike in LMPTM. (One could even say that the Woodsman cutting Red out of the Wolf’s stomach is a similar image of men using violence to find the “good woman” inside the monster.) The manipulation inherent in the Cruciamentum is one which ultimately, at least in the short-term, robs slayers of their power and thus of the demon within.

This manifests within this episode in the fact that parallels are drawn, I suspect deliberately, between the way the Council treats Buffy and the way they treat Kralik. Kralik and Buffy are paralleled in general, Kralik seeming to see Buffy as something of a kindred spirit, a reflection of his own mother issues. That Kralik’s mother issues centre on his mother removing her power because she felt powerless herself, and the implication that she may have castrated him (his reference to what she did with the scissors), is a parodic reflection of what Giles does to Buffy in this episode, removing her power (and remember how sex and strength are linked throughout the ep) as a result of his inability to find the mental resources to stand up to the Council for what he knows is right. The biggest parallels are in the way the Council treats them, though. They assign the Watcher Blair to Kralik, and Blair is expected to keep Kralik in restraints and to feed him drugs to make him function. The drug addiction is one way they keep Kralik under control. Blair drugs Kralik just as Giles drugs Buffy; the drugs allow Kralik more or less to function and to be a better monster (better wolf) for the fight, whereas the drugs force Buffy more or less into a worse slayer (more helpless Red). The point, essentially, is that the Council attempts to control the two of them. Most of the time, they want a strong slayer and a weak vampire, so it’s convenient that Kralik is so crazy he can barely function and goes into spasms of constant pain, and Buffy has the demon essence from Watcher ancestors to make her super-strong; in order to push this Red/Wolf myth they are peddling, they use drugs to reverse their usual states.

Of course, the danger is that the Council can’t actually control their own people! Giles and Blair, around the midpoint of the episode, suddenly switch allegiance to their charge. Giles’ infection by Buffy’s goodness and love leads to him coming clean about his treatment of her and siding totally with Buffy. Blair gets sired by Kralik—coming too close to Kralik to be able to stop him!—and then becomes a vampire, totally on Blair’s side. This little taste gives some idea of why the Council fires Giles: of course they don’t want their Watcher being too badly infected by his charge, look at what happens to Blair who got too close to the vampire he was caring for! It’s somehow appropriate that Giles ends up killing Blair at the last moment; his role in the story is not to save Red from the Wolf, but to slay the dark Woodsman who finds himself on the side of the Wolf.

So we see here both that the Council sees slayers in not very different terms from the way they see vampires; and, further, an example of the way in which vampires are as necessary for the Council to continue functioning and proving its importance as slayers are.

Giles. The episode has gotten flak from some critics (Maggie, for instance) for pushing Giles into betraying Buffy without much background. After all, Buffy is terribly weakened and could even die in the days leading up to the Cruciamentum proper. I think it is true that Giles is remarkably callous. But still, Giles is a traditionalist; he’s been indoctrinated into this ritual for his entire time on the Council. And as we see in the series, Giles accepts the contradictory, nonsensical assumptions that underpin the Council all the time, except when he’s feeling rebellious for largely personal reasons. Why does the Watcher get paid and the Slayer have to work pro bono? Why is there a whole Council for Watchers, and yet the field Watcher overseeing the Slayer is largely treated as a second-class citizen, even though this is surely the only truly “important” job if we believe the Council’s own press about themselves? We have Quentin’s argument, which reduces to the idea that if Buffy is worthy she will survive, and Giles would be insulting Buffy by *not* putting her through this horrible ideal. And we’ve already gotten hints about this type of thing earlier in the season. Quentin’s argument to manipulate Giles is not dissimilar to the way Gwen Post makes Giles feel frustrated and unable to control his Slayer, which makes Giles feel like less of a professional and a man.

I do think that there is some distinct possibility that Buffy’s keeping Angel a secret from him still smarts. Angel did kill Jenny and tortured him; and while this is not Buffy’s fault, that Buffy hid Angel’s return from Giles is a decision that Buffy made that hurt him. However, I don’t think the Cruciamentum is a vengeful act. I think the relationship here is that Giles’ sense of injury at Buffy’s betrayal may convince him that Buffy is no longer under his control, and that is both a poor reflection on him and may also lead to Buffy being killed if Giles doesn’t fall back on the Council tradition. I think this also is a mind-game that protects Giles from seriously considering the possibility that Buffy might die; he perceives it on some level, of course, but for one thing Giles' training means that he always, on some level, knows that Buffy might die, and always has to ignore it, and for another the ritualistic nature of what happens is so ingrained in Giles that it's difficult for him to fully appreciate the risks. It's been normalized to him for his entire Watcher life, no doubt, and Quentin has assured him that Buffy will definitely pass, since she is worthy. It's only when Kralik escapes that Giles suddenly switches teams, goes looking for Buffy to protect her and tells her what he's done -- because that was not a part of the plan. It hardly matters that Kralik is just as much or more of a threat to Buffy within the designated parameters of the Cruciamentum than he is as a free agent; he has been indoctrinated into the plan, and the revelation that the plan is something that even the Council can't control properly shatters Giles' confidence in the Council and allows his human concern for Buffy to take over.

In terms of the long arc of the series, we find that Giles’ behaviour here more or less matches up to his strategy all the time. There is a pattern of Giles abandoning Buffy (or to an extent the Scoobies as group) to “fight her own battles” because he needs to let her go, and then attempting to seize control again when Buffy does something he doesn’t like. Sometimes this is relatively low-key; in season four, Giles sort of abandons Buffy to fight her fight in The Freshman, instantly regrets it, and then spends the rest of the season upset that Buffy doesn’t want him around anymore. He ditches first the gang as a whole and then later Buffy in particular in season six, and returns first to yell and then to violently restrain Willow for how she dealt with his absence; this is a case in which, as in Helpless, Giles seems to acknowledge, by the end of the season, that his throwing the others in the deep end of the pool was a mistake (“I shouldn’t have left”). In season seven, once again, he tries to push Buffy to be a general and then insists that the decisions she make as general are wrong and goes behind her back to kill Spike to teach her a lesson. Underneath all his layers of desire for Control, and his somewhat extreme belief that people should be able to fend for themselves without help even if the situation is a deadly one in which it’s unreasonable to actually expect functioning without help, Giles actually does care very much about Buffy (and cares, I think, about the others too, though to a lesser extent). He wants to be useful to her, and he wants to prepare her for life so that she doesn’t need to rely on him. In moderation, these are great traits of a teacher and father figure, but his inability to settle on which of those two roles he wants and his tendency toward extremism in either case sometimes inhibit him from being the positive force in Buffy’s life that he would like to be and often is.

Ultimately, Giles does rebel against the Council’s orders to a degree even early on, even as he follows them. The problem, I think, is at least partly that Giles’ rebellious streak is at least a little bit tied up with his Ripper persona, which he associates with hedonism and chaos. His entry into the Council effectively “saved” him from that Ripper lifestyle, and so it’s hard for him to trust his instincts when they lead him into conflict with the Council. On some level he identifies with Buffy, and also does to her what the Council did to him—indoctrination. It’s noteworthy, of course, that this identification on some level blinds Giles to the fact that they are still different. As much as the Council manipulates and belittles Giles in order to control him, he still is given higher status and greater security than Buffy. Giles’ failure is an unwillingness to listen to his instincts and emotional reactions earlier; by the time he does, and informs Buffy of what’s happened to her, the Council’s restraints on Kralik have already failed and she remains In Danger. He eventually goes to save her, and does save her from Blair (as well as from the attack from Kralik in the streets), his double who finds himself tangling with the monster. That Giles does act to save Buffy, and that he loses his status within the Council is enough to convince Buffy that Giles cares for her, and for her to let Giles back into her life, with the Council itself (later becomes represented by Wesley) becomes the target of her anger.

META

The work of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy involves interrogating tropes of fairy tales, myths, and horror movies, more and more as time goes on, culminating perhaps in Dollhouse and The Cabin in the Woods. And so I think it’s worth noting that this episode both owes something to slasher horror movies even more than most episodes up to this point, and also that I suspect that this episode was written at least on some level as a bit of a fix on the series’ feminism. If women are admirable only because of their supernatural physical strength, what does this mean for most women? And so Buffy is placed through an initiation ritual, passes, and we find ourselves warmed by her heroism; our identification with Buffy demonstrates that all women, and indeed all people, are able to be internally strong even without superpowers. And Buffy is, in the end, only a fictional character, so it’s hard to get too worked up about what she has to go through. At the same time, that the episode emphasizes both the Council and Kralik as being some kind of storytellers, pushing Buffy to go through this initiation myth/rite, actually aligns them with the writers. Is the idea that a fictional character must suffer and must face a situation in which she might genuinely die in order to “test” and “prove” her heroism on some level an indication that we think the same is true in real life? Is the desire for violent stories about fighting and overcoming adversity a sign of some kind of bloodlust on the part of the viewers and producers? I don’t really think so, but I think it’s not easy to dismiss it entirely, and I think some degree of ambivalence is justified by the story.

FINAL, TANGENTIAL NOTE

There’s a song by Sam Sham and the Pharaohs entitled Lil’ Red Riding Hood, which is from the point of view of the Wolf who himself chooses to protect Red from other Wolves…like him. The song suggests how close the male companion, protector and exploiter/destroyer roles can be in these tropes, and I think that the lyrics suggest things that are relevant to Giles, Xander, Spike and Riley, but IMO *especially* Angel, all of whom I think struggle between their genuine desire to help Buffy and be good for her, either as mentor or as helper, and their desire to possess her and even hurt her. This is taking up too much space already, so I’ll put it in a spoiler cut.

Owoooooooo
Who's that I see walkin' in these woods
Why, it's Little Red Riding Hood
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything a big bad wolf could want
Listen to me
Little Red Riding Hood
I don't think little big girls should
Go walking in these spooky old woods alone
Owoooooooo
What big eyes you have
The kind of eyes that drive wolves mad
So just to see that you don't get chased
I think I ought to walk with you for a ways
What full lips you have
They're sure to lure someone bad
So until you get to grandma's place
I think you ought to walk with me and be safe
I'm gonna keep my sheep suit on
Until I'm sure that you've been shown
That I can be trusted walking with you alone
Owoooooooo
Little Red Riding Hood
I'd like to hold you if I could
But you might think I'm a big bad wolf so I won't
Owoooooooo!
What a big heart I have-the better to love you with
Little Red Riding Hood
Even bad wolves can be good
I'll try to be satisfied just to walk close by your side
Maybe you'll see things my way before we get to grandma's place
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything that a big bad wolf could want
Owoooooooo
I mean baaaaaa
Baaa

Stoney
13-11-14, 04:11 PM
Really interesting review Max! I just love all the links you draw between the fairytale and the patriarchal ideas on protecting having a need for the monsters to satisfy this and also government/class power displacements (which reminded me again of Willow/Sheila’s little exchange from Gingerbread about the Mr Rogers Show). I just had a few quick thoughts in response to some of your points.


It is a polar opposite of the problem with Joyce: the difference between smothering (Joyce) and abandonment (Giles). Joyce tries to protect Buffy from monsters and impedes Buffy’s ability to fight them; Giles tries to push Buffy into fighting monsters.

Joyce’s drivers contain both though as there is an abandonment of who Buffy really is in the denial of her ability to deal with things. So abandonment plays there too as internally Joyce is still struggling and is rejecting the slayer side of her daughter which, as you say, impedes Buffy’s ability to play that role as much as the desire to protect, and hence the smothering, does.


The rules change partway through, but basically Buffy fights Kralik without Buffy slayer powers and kills her all herself. Buffy becomes her own saviour, and goes through a horrifying ordeal of figurative death/rebirth from which she comes through stronger.

That is interesting if we compare it to Buffy’s first actual death/resuscitation. Then Buffy was the virgin, throwing herself to the ‘wolves’ in her white dress screaming of innocence and that was taken from her by The Master. That stage pressed her forward to S2 where her sexual innocence was lost. So Buffy is now ‘wearing’ a different colour for this next stage of becoming/maturing, which works well progressively.


Buffy learns something which she hadn’t known before.

As well as the benefits of her Slayerness, there is also the reinforcement that there are natural characteristics to Buffy that are what make her a good slayer. Something we saw emphasized in career week, even though it was something Buffy didn’t want to see as ‘her’.


The fate of the slayer who fails the Cruciamentum is left somewhat unexamined, and in some senses that fate is the bigger horror in the episode.

It is this that I think Giles has to be seen to break away from. The slayer is an asset to the Council, but the individuals are replaceable, whether the council needs them overall for purpose or not. The need/point of the cruciamentum is dubious as you say. It could be to connect a slayer to their inner abilities/strategic mind better to ensure they don’t start to become complacent and rely on their strength too much. So arguably to remove the reliance and potential weakness at a non-critical time, in a non-critical fight, is a harsh yet sensible lesson (not that I would agree with it). I think your point about effectively creating a gratitude for the system that supports/saves them is a really interesting one too. But there is just an unavoidable truth that in the worst case scenario the cost is that a slayer that fails likely dies, and that doesn’t mean as much to the Council as it should and as much as (in this case) it does to Giles. Giles/Buffy’s relationship has its power dynamics in there, as all relationships do, but this aspect, the detachment of care that is an inherent part of a Council/slayer perspective has to be broken from. Not only for Buffy and Giles’ personal relationship to seem genuine, but for Buffy to truly mature and also become the leader that she can be, as you say.


On the micro level, Giles flounders badly once he realizes that he is no longer needed by Buffy—because, of course, he has no role in the world if he’s not the Watcher to Buffy, especially since he has lost much of the things in his life that have given it meaning otherwise.

And that view sits nicely against the contrast of what Buffy’s slayerness seems to have taken from Joyce. Pulling down her role of mother-protector and causing her to end up isolated and feeling they had to move away. For both of her parental figures to truly connect with her they need to change their 'official' original positions/outlooks to connect properly with the ‘other’ side of her.


That demon—frightening, hard to control—is part of the reason why modern Watchers exist in the first place, because a rogue slayer really *is* incredibly dangerous, as we see this season with Faith, just as any human given a huge amount of power and something of a killer instinct is going to be extremely dangerous.

Never more underlined than we see in AtS with Dana too. Interesting that at that point Buffy et al have been placed into the governing role through having activated all potentials and they actively take on ownership of these responsibilities through having done so.


Giles. The episode has gotten flak from some.

It is difficult because Giles is shown to be intelligent and the utter cold detachment this plays on would have seemed less out of place in Season 1 when he didn't know Buffy well. By now, this betrayal is a harsh one to have written Giles to fall on tbh. So I do think it is hard to swallow without being very damning of him and it is hard to even believe he would have gone along with it just because of the obvious inherent risks as you identify, even with the indoctrination of it as having a purpose being in place. So I think we do then have to see it as also being tied up within his own internal issues. So it works with the flip/flop of extremes he continues to show as you say. That his internal mix of wanting to rebel and also wanting to limit the risks of his rebellion by conforming lead him to, at first, do as he is told. As you say, it is tied up with his own reaction to his Ripper persona and what joining the Council did in giving him parameters/boundaries to contain himself and in this episode it just takes time (that it shouldn’t have) for him to settle on rebellion above choosing to conform.

I'd never heard of the song, really interesting addition. :D

buffyholic
13-11-14, 06:07 PM
I´m also on my Buffy rewatch but I´ve finished season 1 recently. Next week, I´m gonna start season 2 but I like this thread.
And let´s face it: too much Buffy is never too much, right?

Dipstick
13-11-14, 07:22 PM
Terrific review, Local_Max.


But I think the power of the fairy tale/myth suggests that these initiation rites maybe do have some power, and something is lost in a world that doesn’t present them. Without actually seriously confronting and conquering fear of death or at least great loss, one cannot grow stronger, but this confrontation only has meaning if there is a real possibility of loss, and then, what, do the people who fail don’t deserve to pass?

It makes this exchange from Band Candy on the SATs very ironic:


Giles: This isn't meant to be easy, you know. It's a rite of passage.
Buffy: Well, is it too late to join a tribe where they just pierce something or cut something off?



Trust No One. Just as an aside, I do think it’s a shame that Buffy doesn’t try to contact any of her friends when she goes after Kralik. We know that Faith’s AWOL at the moment from Buffy mentioning it early on, and we know why she doesn’t trust Giles. But still, Willow, Xander, Cordelia and Oz maybe could have been helpful here, especially because they actually have more experience fighting vampires without slayer strength than Buffy does. And, obviously, there is Angel, with his super-strength. I think that it’s a combination of a few things; Buffy is ultimately a bit of a lonely warrior when it comes down to it. And I think she may intuit—correctly—that Kralik really does want her to come alone. What would Kralik have done had Buffy come in with her posse in tow? It is maybe the right call to just go in, but I think it is another indication of some of Buffy’s habit to clamp down and trust no one but herself when everything is on the line, especially when her family is what she stands to lose.

Great point. I think Buffy made a mistake by not calling her friends. I agree that it comes from Buffy's Trust No One/Lonely Warrior posture. I also think Buffy was panicked and she actually wasn't thinking very clearly until she arrived at the house of horrors. Going into the house, Buffy didn't know that Kralik had his Achilles Heel/need for regular pills so Buffy wasn't really planning very well until she got into the fight.


The ostensible purpose of a Watcher is to train the slayer for combat, to guide and protect her, and throw her into the field. The Watchers Council then alternates between viewing the slayer as their instrument, and identifying themselves as an important and essential support mechanism for the slayer. On the micro level, Giles flounders badly once he realizes that he is no longer needed by Buffy—because, of course, he has no role in the world if he’s not the Watcher to Buffy, especially since he has lost much of the things in his life that have given it meaning otherwise.

It's possible that the Council actually shies from putting Watchers with spouses and children in the field with slayers for several reasons. First, the Council cares to some extent about its own, especially the lucky few that stay in England. Second, a Watcher with a family is serving a function by raising their children to become Watchers. Third, as you point out above, a single, childless Watcher has nothing else and thus, has to focus entirely on his or her slayer to gain meaning in life. However on that last point, there's a double-edged sword.

I don't think the Council is actually that clueless on matching Watchers with Slayers. Most of the unions have been successful. Faith seems about as difficult as slayers go and she really bonded with her first Watcher and she could have been a good fit with Giles if Giles cared about her. Actually, I'd argue that psychologically well thought-out Watcher-Slayer bonds are one of the main reasons why it's been a persisting institution. The Council doesn't much provide other bonds to the slayer- cash, a regular disciplinary unit, super-close monitoring, etc. The Council most seems to rely on a close inter-personal Watcher-slayer bond in the field.

IMO, the Council is actually pretty cunning in slayer-watcher assignments, given the information they have. The Council's main problem is that while they're smart and psychologically savvy, they don't work too hard in areas that they don't care for or give up their clubby awesomeness in England. This metastasizes in four ways.

1) The Council compiles extensive information about their own watchers because they're interested in themselves. However, they don't really analyze their slayer's psyches or social lives or abilities in much detail. The Council has files that go back to Wesley's failed resurrection at the age of 7, but they don't know that Buffy is best friends with a witch who does lots of big magic for her until S5. So, I think they really do send some talented field Watchers that they've watched and graded closely. However, they fail at matching the best Watcher-skills sets to the best slayer-needs because they don't care to study specific slayer-needs.

AND

2) I think it's possible that the Council never sends the creme de la creme experienced, valedictorian, 007 Watchers into the field because they're too highly placed or too universally loved to give up. I think the Council sends talented Watchers into the field who lack some essential quality to be powerful court favorites which, IMO, show up in the field like Giles's laziness/years of rebellion that interrupted his education or Wesley's inexperience/lack of social skills. I don't exactly what bright lights the Council is hiding under their bushel because none of the non-field Watchers impressed me but I think it's a likely guess.

The Council chose wisely on the surface by assigning Giles to Buffy. Through his rebellious and goody goody days, Giles manged to reach forty-something years by living a life that gave him a ton of useful skills and experience in magic and fighting but never formed romantic/family permanent ties. I don't think Giles is a particularly disciplined or even gifted researcher or scholar but he has wide-ranging talents and he's great at magic for a Watcher. And Giles's deficiencies as a researcher/scholar are assuaged by how all the Scoobies really help him with research. Giles has a great social skills for anyone, but especially a forty-something bachelor.

I think the Council just missed a surprising subtlety. One one hand, Giles's monastic lifestyle was logically appealing to the Council because he hasn't burdened himself with a family and it bespeaks exactly how Giles really regrets the excesses of his youth and became all about the duty and the job. Plus, Giles isn't a weird older bachelor. He's focused on doing the right thing- he's not single because he's too awkward to interact with the opposite sex or because he's on a perpetual pervy older-man hunt for young tail. However, the Council missed out that a socially high functioning guy who failed to have a family out of guilt could very well still have empty nest syndrome.

Now, Giles is discriminating in his romantic aspirations and empty nest syndrome. He only really fell in love with Jenny and he only developed parental feelings about Buffy. I'm a little bit of a broken record when I discuss the strategic reasons why Giles should have taken the Scoobies, especially Faith and Willow, under his wing and into his heart. However, Giles maintains a politely distant "I'm not the Watcher of you" attitude with those guys partly because he already filled up his emotional empty nest. Only Jenny and Buffy were special enough to Giles to really make it into his heart. Basically, Giles just would married the love of his life and had *one* kid and he couldn't exactly deal with having a Key-created kid even if it's a twinsy-package deal with the kid that Giles *actually* considers a daughter.

However while the Watcher's Council missed this subtlety when they assigned Giles, they sure picked up on it after the Cruciateum. The Council rather logically goes in the opposite direction to pick Wesley who is too young to have empty nest yearnings for a teenage daughter. (He's was at the age of guiltily crushing on a teenage girl.) That, in and of itself, should have been fine. I don't think slayer/watcher relationships must be parentified, and I think a parental slayer/watcher relationships can lead to inevitable, crushing disappointments when the lethal, manipulative nature of the bond interferes with the fuzzy, wuzzy parental surface which is a big part of Buffy/Giles and Faith/the Mayor.

However, there's, again, a subtle, problem. According to the Council, the Watcher must be the Boss of the Slayer. Since Watchers don't pay Slayers, watchers who boss their slayers around are LITERALLY slave-drivers. Basically the only fuzzy wuzzy "bosses" who don't pay their charges are parent-coded. It's touchy but civilized society can accept parents who order their children to do hard, dangerous things or parents who make very misguided choices, if the parents don't have a choice and the parents really do love their children through it all. Certainly, Buffy had to hear from Quentin that Giles has a father's love for her for Buffy to twist Giles's actions as misguided parental love instead of an overseer abusing his slave to keep his job with his overlords. Moreover at this stage of slayer-history Buffy's just been abandoned by her real father like in the last month. Giles has modeled the virtues of having a fatherly watcher who does SAT drills and offers ice-cream after break-ups which Buffy has decided is the only tolerable way to have a Watcher. Even-worse-daddy-issues Faith decided that she wants what Buffy has.

Generally, parent/slayer relationship have an edge in gaining slayers' favor but especially, in these times when the father-Watcher has been the dominant relationship and where Buffy and Faith are going to have "sibling rivalry" any way you slice it. Any adult who came into be a credible parent in that scenario is going to be more relevant to both Buffy and Faith when it comes to fighting over daddy or competing on who has the best daddy (and Angel is included in that analysis for all the usual sick reasons).

You know, just thinking about it, I think despite his inability to play Father, Wesley would have had a better chance at gaining Buffy's favor and being her real Watcher if Buffy didn't have the Scooby gang, even if Giles hung around. Wesley's rather redundant because Buffy already has a research/fight team. Now, I don't think Buffy has enough help relative to the enormity of her challenges and the importance of her battle- even in S3 which was the biggest version of the Scoobies. However, I guess the important thing is that *Buffy* falsely thinks that she has a big and successful enough team that she shouldn't even try to wring as much use out of Wesley as she can.

This brings me to Local_Max's point about why Buffy didn't bring the Scoobies to the haunted house to rescue her mother. From a Doylist perspective, it could explain the Council's false confidence that Wesley could take over fine. The Council doesn't really take an audit of the Scoobies until Checkpoint. The course of events in Helpless still keeps the Council in the dark on how many cooks are in Buffy's kitchen and how their educated, but still non-powered Watcher can feel like a redundancy. Buffy won't just roll over and show her belly because a Watcher can read and understand ancient books because Buffy has a lot of help in that area already.


This manifests within this episode in the fact that parallels are drawn, I suspect deliberately, between the way the Council treats Buffy and the way they treat Kralik. Kralik and Buffy are paralleled in general, Kralik seeming to see Buffy as something of a kindred spirit, a reflection of his own mother issues. That Kralik’s mother issues centre on his mother removing her power because she felt powerless herself, and the implication that she may have castrated him (his reference to what she did with the scissors), is a parodic reflection of what Giles does to Buffy in this episode, removing her power (and remember how sex and strength are linked throughout the ep) as a result of his inability to find the mental resources to stand up to the Council for what he knows is right. The biggest parallels are in the way the Council treats them, though. They assign the Watcher Blair to Kralik, and Blair is expected to keep Kralik in restraints and to feed him drugs to make him function. The drug addiction is one way they keep Kralik under control. Blair drugs Kralik just as Giles drugs Buffy; the drugs allow Kralik more or less to function and to be a better monster (better wolf) for the fight, whereas the drugs force Buffy more or less into a worse slayer (more helpless Red). The point, essentially, is that the Council attempts to control the two of them. Most of the time, they want a strong slayer and a weak vampire, so it’s convenient that Kralik is so crazy he can barely function and goes into spasms of constant pain, and Buffy has the demon essence from Watcher ancestors to make her super-strong; in order to push this Red/Wolf myth they are peddling, they use drugs to reverse their usual states.

This is brilliant. I love the point that Council controls and empowers Kralik with drugs and controls and disempowers Buffy with drugs. Also, a lot of the BtVS evil-doers are insane. Just among the Big Bads/sorta Big Bads, Drusilla, Faith, Adam, Glory, and Darth Rosenberg were all directly coded as insane. In fact, Glory was so crazy and off-the-grid that Buffy had to turn to the Council for their help and the Council thought they were the best placed to deal with crazy Faith. Given that I really do think that the Council was psychologically cunning, I think they make evil insanity a specialty of theirs.


I do think that there is some distinct possibility that Buffy’s keeping Angel a secret from him still smarts. Angel did kill Jenny and tortured him; and while this is not Buffy’s fault, that Buffy hid Angel’s return from Giles is a decision that Buffy made that hurt him. However, I don’t think the Cruciamentum is a vengeful act. I think the relationship here is that Giles’ sense of injury at Buffy’s betrayal may convince him that Buffy is no longer under his control, and that is both a poor reflection on him and may also lead to Buffy being killed if Giles doesn’t fall back on the Council tradition. I think this also is a mind-game that protects Giles from seriously considering the possibility that Buffy might die; he perceives it on some level, of course, but for one thing Giles' training means that he always, on some level, knows that Buffy might die, and always has to ignore it, and for another the ritualistic nature of what happens is so ingrained in Giles that it's difficult for him to fully appreciate the risks. It's been normalized to him for his entire Watcher life, no doubt, and Quentin has assured him that Buffy will definitely pass, since she is worthy. It's only when Kralik escapes that Giles suddenly switches teams, goes looking for Buffy to protect her and tells her what he's done -- because that was not a part of the plan. It hardly matters that Kralik is just as much or more of a threat to Buffy within the designated parameters of the Cruciamentum than he is as a free agent; he has been indoctrinated into the plan, and the revelation that the plan is something that even the Council can't control properly shatters Giles' confidence in the Council and allows his human concern for Buffy to take over.

Hmm, this is a tough one for me. I think that critics like Maggie really have a point that Giles is really horrible here without much precedent. I think the main thing that gets me the most is how Giles let Buffy keep up her normal patrol schedule as he was weakening her. Even if he didn't want to tip her off by canceling patrol, Giles could have said that he was accompanying Buffy through the week to monitor her performance to ensure that she had a partner in her weakened state. I don't think that would aroused any suspicion from Buffy but it would have required getting off his butt to spends his nights with Buffy on patrol (and facing what he was doing to her).

Looking ahead, Giles certainly develops the pattern you discuss where he leaves Buffy to hang out to dry and exerts authoritarian control without much time in between the two extremes. However in the first two and a half seasons, Giles pretty consistently helps Buffy as much as possible. Take Giles in Prophecy Girl to Giles in Helpless. In both situations, prophecy/ritual prescribed a super-dangerous, alarmingly helpless posture for the slayer. The slayer is weakened; the slayer will face the Master and she will die. It's true that in both eps, Giles had a point where he accepted the prophecy/ritual even though he hated it. However in Prophecy Girl from the start, Giles was going nuts trying to disprove the prophecy, he even reached out to Angel for counsel to better Buffy's chances, and before anything happened, he was suiting up to fight the Master in Buffy's place. Buffy had to knock him out to stop him from fighting for her. In Helpless, Giles just accepts the ritual where he poisons Buffy into helplessness and makes her face big danger and Giles persists in poisoning her and sending her out to patrol, even as Buffy grows weaker and more concerned about her ability to fight the evil.

Moreover, there are a lot of reasons that would make it more understandable for Giles to be the less caring or more by-the-book Watcher who just sticks to the prophecy that the *slayer* needs to fight the Master in Prophecy Girl than for Giles to take that position in Helpless. Giles is more attached to Buffy. He has more evidence of the Council's flaws/indifference to the realities in the field. In Prophecy Girl, Giles was screwing around with mystically ordained prophecy and the strategic likelihood that Buffy would have a much better chance of beating the Master and stopping the apocalypse even if she died, all for love of Buffy. In Helpless, Giles refused to screw with company-policy.

Although, I do agree with you that Giles bought into how he'd be admitting that Buffy is a failure by not entering her in the Cruciateum. That factor doesn't exist in Prophecy Girl where Buffy's survival didn't feel like a test of her merit- either Buffy succumbs to the cruel whims of prophecy or Giles steps in. However, I have trouble believing that this is the make it or break it factor that made Giles, the Watcher Company Man go for the Cruciateum but not sending Buffy along to her prophecized death. Moreover, it doesn't fully explain why Giles was so callous about Buffy's performance on patrols in her weakened state. (It sort of does if you view a slayer's patrols in her weakened state as part of the whole Cruciateum experience/test.)

It makes it tricky. I believe that if Giles mainly betrayed Buffy in Helpless because he's so programmed by the Council, his similar programming should have driven him to dramatically different actions in Prophecy Girl. The two eps are very hard to reconcile from a Giles-POV. However, I agree with your instinct that Giles doesn't betray Buffy out of vengeance for Bangel but the Bangel events do convince Giles that Buffy's moved outside of Council authority and that's a contributing factor to the main thing driving Giles to do this. However, I don't see Bangel as enough of a tipping point to move Giles from a Prophecy Girl posture to a Helpless posture.

Actually, one can be very unflattering to Giles and say that Prophecy Girl is the outlier for Giles's love for Buffy and courage trumping the twisted Watcher/Slayer expectations, the Watcher's reliance on ritual or prophecy at the slayer's expense, etc. Usually, Giles isn't a Prophecy Girl-type Watcher for Buffy. Chalk up Prophecy Girl to Giles just being particularly vulnerable and raw at seeing Buffy "die" two weeks ago or Giles giving extra help to a baby-faced fifteen year old Buffy that she can't expect when she gets older. However, I feel like that shouldn't be the case and Giles in Prophecy Girl is supposed to be representative of their whole relationship and what Buffy can usually expect from Giles when the going gets tough.

(On another aggravating, minor note, Giles's "throw like a girl" joke is possibly the "in-worst-taste" that any non-currently-evil Scooby has ever made, save Anya. To me, it's more tasteless and aggravating than ANY of Xander's jokes over the entire run of the series.)

Local Maximum
13-11-14, 11:28 PM
Good points both, and I think you are both right that Giles' betrayal of Buffy is a lot for the character to take on, especially from a one-off episode. I think this is maybe a key frustration. It's one of the very worst things Giles does, and it comes a little early in the series compared to the other heroes' darkest hours. To get a little more critical than I was earlier, I think it does show to an extent that this was not part of the original plan for the season; reportedly Fury pitched that Giles gets fired and that was what sold Whedon on the idea for the episode. It does fit in with the season's themes regarding the criticism of the Council and patriarchal authority in general, but it is not as carefully set up as the Giles/Buffy conflicts or potential conflicts in eps like Prophecy Girl and Revelations.

Still, to defend it a bit more, I do pretty strongly think that Giles acts the way he does because he genuinely believes Buffy won't die. I think that's the key difference with PG. I think Dipstick isn't wrong that PG is actually out of the ordinary for Giles -- that he is more caring for Buffy, more willing to throw himself into the line of fire in Buffy's place (as opposed to alongside her, say), than usual. But really, it's the only time in the whole series in which Buffy is absolutely certain to die. Giles doesn't actually know ahead of time that Buffy will die in The Gift and the ending in which Buffy dies but the rest don't isn't a possibility he considers. Giles basically sends Buffy out to maybe die every night; he lets powerless Willow, Xander et al. fight; he is very hands off with Faith. His usual pattern is, yes, to provide guidance and to care, but I think just in order to function at all Giles has to put the realities of how likely Buffy is to die out of his mind. I think he gets very good at this, and his coldblooded risk-benefit calculations are always a little distorted by his blindness to the actual possibility of losing.

The Cruciamentum is not a surprise for Giles. It's an 18th birthday thing. He knew about it when he agreed to be Buffy's Watcher. The time to speak up against it, in other words, was before he went into the field, not when it happens. I'm not saying one can't object to something at the time...but I think that surprises are far more effective at jolting people into making independent decisions and breaking tradition than unsurprising awful actions. As I said, I think this is why the plan being altered -- Kralik escapes! -- immediately gets Giles to reveal the test to Buffy. I more or less agree with Quentin that not much essential has changed because Kralik escapes, except that more innocents are in danger, which is not really Giles' reason for telling Buffy.

I think this also suggests why there is no setup for it, and needs be no setup. Giles isn't actually different in Helpless from what he always was. He always was going to do the Cruciamentum. I think he always had doubts about it, and would always express those doubts angrily toward Quentin -- but he would comply, and believe that this Rite of Passage is not really significantly riskier than what he normally does with Buffy and believe Quentin's claim that Buffy will pass if she is a good enough slayer, or, at least, push his fear that she won't deep down where he keeps his fear regularly.

And you know, it's not like this horrific Rite of Passage is without precedent. There are lots of really violent rituals designed to initiate people into adulthood, some of them being very risky. I don't think this is evidence of lack of love from the people who put them through those Rites, so much as a very strong belief that this is Right. Now, we know with Giles that he disbelieves in the Cruciamentum -- but I think Giles' flopping about protesting to Quentin is more about Giles easing his conscience than actually profoundly thinking it's wrong. It's not so much that Giles is a Company Man, though there is that, as that Giles takes Quentin's fatherly reassuring in the way Quentin intends it -- as a form of manipulation which convinces Giles that the experience of pushing his bird out of the nest after first clipping its wings is just a normal part of the life-death cycle. Oh Rupert, you'll understand when you're older! I think Rupert longs for approval from Quentin in ways that have some commonalities for the way Buffy longs for Giles' approval, even though Giles also knows enough to want to rebel, too.

I meant to mention earlier, but the Council's firing Wesley pretty much suggests that just as they don't like any degree of rebellion in their ranks, they also quite quickly cut their ties with Watchers who fail because they hew too closely to the Council's expectations and orders in a way that blows up at them. In general, it's almost as if the Council takes no real responsibility for anything bad that happens!

Stoney
14-11-14, 02:57 AM
Even if Giles is believing that Buffy will see the test through, even if he is convincing himself of a validity to it, the combination of ignoring the risks her being weak poses for patrol, especially with her reporting her near miss, and the snark about throwing like a girl just makes his attitude seem callous and cavalier. It is ironic that the issue that gets him fired is therefore him loving Buffy like a daughter. Just as Joyce did in the previous episode, him turning off this parental love has to be part of what makes his actions plausible to me. So even if I see it as having broken through and overridden other considerations leading to him telling her and going to help her, I still can't place it alongside the previous issues too comfortably. And there is complete ownership of his choices here too, no demon spell. Accepting some complications in how he responds to the Council's authority and how it mixes in with how he feels about his own inner turmoil still doesn't make his lack of care about how Buffy was feeling scan well though.

I have to say the Angel/Buffy scene is one of my least favourite Bangel moments. I actually like the relationship for the stage they are at and the development it gives them both. But, as I've said many times, I really am highly anti the instant, true love forever unsupported sustained romantic mush. Angel declaring he loved her even younger teenage self on first viewing I find to be creepy and totally unbelievable. For me it actually undermines him having developed any mature feelings for her that hold depth if he 'loved' her at a mere glance, not actually knowing her one iota. I think there is more to it because she was being presented to him as representative of so many things by Whistler but, still, to love her in that instance, well, I just strongly dislike romantic writing like that.

A few other random extra bits of observation... I really like Cordelia's lack of hesitation in agreeing to take Buffy home. She obviously realises that she has walked in on something and despite all the usual Cordelia blunders around the situation, her response to Buffy's request is soft/kind. I have definitely come to appreciate BtVS Cordelia after watching AtS! Also, Joyce had a real tone of pride around Buffy having saved her. And, I have to say, it amuses me how random the time to turn is depicted. No time for a funeral here, Kralic sires and BAM, instant!vampire. Hardly even time to finish relishing the kill, ha. Kralic is of course one of our other clearest examples of the human-vampire sustained characterisation that goes beyond just taking memories.

Local Maximum
14-11-14, 06:32 PM
I guess just one more point in defense of Giles' characterization, I do think that it's worth noting that it's not like "making Buffy a better slayer" is some idle goal. The world may depend on Buffy being the absolute best she can be, and, well, so might Buffy's life. Buffy's supreme confidence in her physical strength can have a downside, as we see, for instance, in the teaser to Fool for Love -- if she begins to think herself invulnerable, she may be unable to properly defend against threats to her person. Similarly, if she comes to see her strength as her only asset, she may end up unable to function in situations where she's physically outmatched, as with Glory. If Giles refuses to do the Cruciamentum and then Buffy dies a year or two later because she was relying on her slayer strength alone, wouldn't he feel bad! I don't think that justifies the test, but I think that's a part of the basic calculation that goes into it. Buffy is more or less certain to die young, but the Cruciamentum, should she pass, is a Rite of Passage which the Council would probably convince Giles might extend her life for a few years past what it would have been. I think it's even possible that this is even true, which again doesn't justify the coldness of the calculation, and the suspicion I have that most slayers don't pass at all.

Cordelia is great in that scene with Buffy, I agree; I have a lot of affection for her at this point. I have to wonder how much Buffy told the gang about what happened with Giles -- I think Willow would probably have been upset about Giles being fired anyway, but somehow the one-noteness of Willow's horror at what happened to Giles, as opposed to what Giles did to Buffy, makes me wonder whether Buffy delivered a sanitized version, omitting Giles' role in drugging her in her effort to displace all of what happened to the Council.

Dipstick
15-11-14, 05:51 PM
The Cruciamentum is not a surprise for Giles. It's an 18th birthday thing. He knew about it when he agreed to be Buffy's Watcher. The time to speak up against it, in other words, was before he went into the field, not when it happens. I'm not saying one can't object to something at the time...but I think that surprises are far more effective at jolting people into making independent decisions and breaking tradition than unsurprising awful actions. As I said, I think this is why the plan being altered -- Kralik escapes! -- immediately gets Giles to reveal the test to Buffy. I more or less agree with Quentin that not much essential has changed because Kralik escapes, except that more innocents are in danger, which is not really Giles' reason for telling Buffy.

I think this also suggests why there is no setup for it, and needs be no setup. Giles isn't actually different in Helpless from what he always was. He always was going to do the Cruciamentum. I think he always had doubts about it, and would always express those doubts angrily toward Quentin -- but he would comply, and believe that this Rite of Passage is not really significantly riskier than what he normally does with Buffy and believe Quentin's claim that Buffy will pass if she is a good enough slayer, or, at least, push his fear that she won't deep down where he keeps his fear regularly.

And you know, it's not like this horrific Rite of Passage is without precedent. There are lots of really violent rituals designed to initiate people into adulthood, some of them being very risky. I don't think this is evidence of lack of love from the people who put them through those Rites, so much as a very strong belief that this is Right. Now, we know with Giles that he disbelieves in the Cruciamentum -- but I think Giles' flopping about protesting to Quentin is more about Giles easing his conscience than actually profoundly thinking it's wrong. It's not so much that Giles is a Company Man, though there is that, as that Giles takes Quentin's fatherly reassuring in the way Quentin intends it -- as a form of manipulation which convinces Giles that the experience of pushing his bird out of the nest after first clipping its wings is just a normal part of the life-death cycle. Oh Rupert, you'll understand when you're older! I think Rupert longs for approval from Quentin in ways that have some commonalities for the way Buffy longs for Giles' approval, even though Giles also knows enough to want to rebel, too.

I still struggle with Giles's characterization (although your arguments are awesome). It was a rite of passage for Slayers to get their Slayer's Handbook. Giles didn't give it to Buffy because he thought it would be a waste of time in her case. Mr. Zabuto apparently impressed on Kendra that memorizing the Slayer's Handbook and regularly studying demon treatises was crucial to her survival and efficacy as a slayer. Wesley and Mr. Zabuto both thought that slayers should check in by phone or in person every time that they finished slaying or obtained meaningful intelligence; Giles left the decision to check in entirely up to Buffy's discretion. Giles doesn't make those demands of Buffy. Granted, this is post-Cruciamentum but Giles said himself that the Council has a long-track record of investigating and punishing slayers who commit anything from involuntary manslaughter on up but Giles elected to not involve the Council at all.

Giles seems to have a track record of picking and choosing not to follow the Council's rite of passagey things because he thinks that Buffy wouldn't warm to the handbook or mandatory book learning or because what seemed to be a stern, English-y court-martial would offend Faith. Giles believes giving Buffy a wide berth to command and operate is more important than Council's caution in demanding regular updates for field watchers. It does come off as not just bad but *confusing* that Giles finally closely followed Council directive when it came to the Cruciamentum. Why was the Cruciamentum more worth obeying than any of these other seemingly less offensive, less dangerous, and less abusive orders?

Now, it's possible that Cruciamentum is treated with more gravity by the Council than the other stuff that I mentioned (except maybe, sending a slayer who killed a human being to stand trial in England). It's treated with more dramatic seriousness by the text. However, I do have a sneaking suspicion that the Council considers *all the above* important. I'm still left thinking that it's weird writing to paint Giles as a rebel from Council doctrinaire most of the time but have him follow one of its worst on-screen orders.

Stoney
15-11-14, 06:48 PM
I think there is something to be said about the weight the Council place on this test. Quentin has specifically come over for it and as, I think(!), this is his first actual appearance it really does place significance on this test as a hoop he wants to see how well they jump through. Perhaps Giles exercises his rebellion normally safely behind closed doors!

EDIT: Having said that, I do still think the characterisation is off, as I said, especially when they are also wanting to emphasise Giles' love for Buffy and separate him from the Council and yet he makes the snark in the face of her distress. I like to think that when Giles went round to the house and discovered Kralic had escaped he was already going to tell Travers that he was pulling the plug. It thwarts the reasoning that it was the change of plan that pushed him out of conforming but the decision made independently makes his character choices better for me and his affection then more believable if it was going to overrule and result in positive action.

Skippcomet
15-11-14, 10:24 PM
I'm still left thinking that it's weird writing to paint Giles as a rebel from Council doctrinaire most of the time but have him follow one of its worst on-screen orders.

I think that one thing people are forgetting is what Travers says in the aftermath of the Cruciamentum. It's not just a test of the Slayer, but also of her Watcher. They want to see whether or not Giles is capable of maintaining the "professional detachment" they think is necessary for a Watcher to order a Slayer night after night out to face situations that might well end up in her dying a horrible death (and presumably, one night, will end up in her death), no matter how cruel or cold-blooded that might seem to people on the outside. Remember, this isn't something that Giles was sent a reminder from the Council that he had to do; the Council sent a team including Travers himself to administer it. Giles' only part to play, as far as the Council was concerned, was to administer the drug to Buffy, keep his silence, and send her to Kralik's location at the planned time. What could he do to stop them from administering it beforehand? Ambush them? Kill them, report their deaths as an unforeseen result of this Cruciamentum, and yet say, "But the Slayer passed, so just stay over on your side of the pond and leave us to it?"

I do wonder, based on this episode, how much Giles has actually reported back to the Council about Buffy. Clearly they know she's still living with her mother, which according to Kendra was not Council operating procedure. They've got to be aware that she's been a Slayer for over three years now, so she's probably already outlived most previous Slayers already. And presumably they're aware that Buffy must have been briefly dead just long enough to activate another Slayer, so that now there are two simultaneously living Slayers (and that they're already on their second second Slayer), something which supposedly has never happened before. Do they know about the Scooby Gang and the roles they've played both behind the scenes and in the field to help Buffy? How much, if anything, do they know about Angel, his soul, the help he's provided both Buffy and Giles, or his relationship with Buffy? Aren't they worried that Faith will probably know ahead of her 18th birthday about the Cruciamentum? Doesn't any of this interest Travers or the Council in the slightest? Or is this more of Joss's famed lack of consideration of the larger picture of things?

One more thing to wonder about...Buffy passed the Cruciamentum, and Travers doesn't use this opportunity (that he helped engineer) to try to point out 'the danger you put your mother in by continuing to live with her,' which at least suggests he's got a modicum of decency within him. He seems to acknowledge that Buffy is not going to be the kind of Slayer who toes the line the Council would like her to tow. But is it not possible that firing Giles is, in its own way, an indirect way of trying to exert some measure of control over her?

Local Maximum
16-11-14, 10:13 AM
It is a good point that Giles didn't bother with the Slayer Handbook, and gave Buffy a wide latitude when it comes to things like involving her friends, allowing her to date a freaking vampire (!!!), and the like. Giles definitely is an unconventional watcher and I was maybe glossing over that in my interpretations of him here. It is worth asking why Giles finds it harder to be his more standard, unconventional self in this episode than in previous ones.

I think there are two things to consider. One is the Council's presence. As Stoney says, Giles reacts differently under close scrutiny from the Council. And as Skippcomet points out quite rightly, the Council's presence means that Giles' hands are...maybe not entirely tied, but still pretty constrained. It's the Council who administers the test, and gives Giles a small task to see if he can do that. The small task is important, and I think that there are options Giles had. He could have told Buffy about the Cruciamentum right away, and told her what the Council was doing. He and Buffy could have then yelled at Quentin directly, or maybe attempted to pull off a thing where Buffy tried to pretend to have lost her strength or something which would likely have failed but might have been fun to watch. Ultimately, Giles would pretty certainly have been fired and taken away from Buffy, at which point a more punitive watcher could have been introduced who would push her through it. Or something similar. I do think that Giles should have told Buffy, and then they could have talked out and formulated a plan, but I think Giles fears the Council's direct presence maybe more than we're used to.

We get some hint of this in Revelations, where Giles feels small when chided by Gwendolyn Post. That she turned out to be evil is a bad mark on the Council and is something Giles could be a little smug about at the Council's expense, but it doesn't really help that much given that Giles totally fell for her act too. In general, Giles' "freewheeling," "rebellious" ways led to Post immediately humiliating him in a way Giles didn't actually get over. Part of the thing is, we're used to seeing Giles as something like a Big Fish in a Small Pond of Sunnydale, where the other adults he has to deal with are people like Snyder whom Giles can, at a moment's notice, threaten into submission, or someone like Joyce who has no background in the supernatural, or even someone like Ethan who for all his power lacks Giles' conviction. Eventually Wesley will fall under the same category, where Giles' greater age and greater fighting experience means he immediately knows how to dominate and humiliate him. He mostly regards the young adults in the Scooby gang with a kind of benign condescension, sometimes not so benign, and sometimes laced with actual respect. There are people like Jenny and, ultimately, Buffy, whom Giles has a bit of a testy relationship with, who can embarrass him but whom he comes to see as something like an equal. There are people like Angel and Robin Wood who have a certain degree of natural confidence and authority which Giles immediately responds to, and seems to think of them as equals without the same kind of questioning he sort of has with Jenny and Buffy. And then there are people like Gwen Post, Quentin, and Maggie Walsh, who get under Giles' skin in an immediate way, and make him feel small and attacked in the areas of his pride -- Britishness, intellect, his skill as a teacher and mentor, his skill as a demonfighter, that type of thing.

With Post, Giles sought to hide his perceived failures, try to make excuses for his failure to instruct better, and the like. Left alone, Giles adjusts his strategies to his pupil and tries to get the best results, and most of the time no one around him actually questions him on his methods except Buffy herself, who immediately sees him as *too* strict rather than the reverse. But when he's being watched by other watchers, he clams up and feels inferior and like he has to justify his usual practices, or hide them. Now, with Quentin, Giles eventually comes to take on the truth-telling rebel role, especially in Checkpoint, and that role eventually becomes his dominant mode with the Council; but at this point I don't think he trusts that part of himself, and the sense of shame and fear he feels propels him forward. It's not that he is placing his own pride over Buffy's life, so much as when he's being watched by the Council and feels the weight of the authority, he ceases to trust his own instincts and finds that he can't fully justify his own instincts.

The second point is sort of related, which is that things have changed since Giles' decision not to give Buffy the Slayer Handbook. Up until Innocence, Buffy was everything Giles could want, deep down -- her flippancy aside, Buffy was brave, resourceful, willing to *die* and still not letting that get her down. The Angelus situation then slowly wore the whole gang down in different ways; Giles still supported Buffy in Innocence, and found a way to push aside his grief over Jenny's death. Then he got tortured and Buffy skipped town. And he was still okay with her leaving, because he knew that if he could only get her back.... And then she hid Angel from him. Again, I don't think that Giles is actually hurting Buffy out of deliberate revenge, but the dominance here has something to do with Buffy's breaking with Giles' authority being more than cute surface-y stuff. I doubt that Giles told the Council about Buffy's disappearance after the Acathla incident, for months, or her continued romantic affiliation with a vampire who almost destroyed the world. Giles is acutely aware that his instincts about using a wide latitude approach with Buffy has a real downside, and that recent events have had Buffy being more strongly disobedient, in a way the Council would not really let go, than in the past. In Revelations, Giles is okay with Buffy again because it turned out Post was villainous, and so it became slightly easier to dismiss his concerns, but I think some of his innate confidence in his instincts about Buffy was shaken as a result of her having hid Angel; this confidence was actually, I think, already shaky from the emotional damage of the Angelus period and his admirable/pathetic (depending on one's perspective) holding onto hope about Buffy's return after her disappearance. Giles' instincts on Buffy rely, essentially, on his trust in her loyalty to him, and his trust in his own ability to tell what she is doing, and not only did Buffy keep Angel from him in a display that he interprets as disloyal, Giles didn't even know! Look where Giles' instincts led him, in other words! In some ways, that Post turned out to be evil might even ironically make him more likely to follow Quentin when Quentin does show up, because it further demonstrates that Giles' instincts in reading others and in reading watchers can't be trusted, because whatever he thought of Post he didn't think she was evil, whereas his feelings of disgust for the Cruciamentum are kind of close to the surface here.

So, I mean, I do think that Giles knew the Cruciamentum was coming all along, and was steeled for it for that reason, but I think that if he had to administer the test himself he would have taken a more "let's not and say we did" approach. However, he doesn't actually have the guts/confidence in his instincts to do that right to Quentin's face, especially in light of his recent failure to "control" Buffy and the subsequent loss of faith in his own abilities that brings on. All he can do is protest somewhat weakly, until the Council screws up by letting Kralik escape and so Giles' independent self takes over.

Sosa lola
17-11-14, 10:43 AM
Hi, everyone, I'm really sorry I haven't been around to read and discuss your amazing episode reviews. I'm extremely busy with work. Is it okay if I posted The Zeppo review this Friday? Again, I'm really, really sorry.

Stoney
17-11-14, 01:48 PM
Sure Sosa, thanks for doing the review when you are drowning in work! I'll push the dates on a week. RL does sometimes annoyingly refuse to be ignored! :)

cil_domney
20-11-14, 02:57 AM
I have a hard time making judgement calls on Giles - he is such a combination of a great watcher and guide to buffy and also he has made some really poor calls from the perspective of a parental guide figure. Part of my problem with Giles is that I was a mature adult when the series began and from my POV as an older woman his conduct regarding Buffy taking up with Angel in a romantic relationship was just so wrong and ill conceived. I think most parental types would never have been comfortable with Buffy becoming involved with an older man, let alone this old vampire. So, for me that is a great big negative against Giles as a guide model.

Then we have how he became so overwhelmed and has his emotional meltdown during the events of Eyghon and the return of Ethan Rayne which placed Buffy and others in direct danger. I'm not saying that Giles is not allowed to be human and can only be Super Watcher, but this, IMO, is another time that Giles made a poor decision and judgement call.

Giles, also against anything that was called for by tradition and CoW rules, should have informed Joyce about Buffy being The Slayer /Chosen One. It was a horrendous insult to Joyce as Buffy's mother and as a fellow human being. And it is plain bunk that CoW demanded his secrecy regarding Buffy as Kendra clearly shows that the CoW does inform parents about Slayers and their children being potential Slayers.

Sending Buffy, in her emotional state to try and kill Angelus so often on her own, again - IMO, bad judgement call - Giles should have been right there with her when she would go out looking for Angelus and trying to kill him. He knew the stress that Buffy was going through and that she was unable to deal with Angel/Angelus because of her love and relationship with Angel. Giles should have been a heck of a lot more pro-active in any attempts to kill Angel/Angelus - so another strike against him in my Giles POV.

By the time we get to the Cruciamentum, Giles is totally against this testing of Buffy - and yet he makes the choice to go along with it - from the perspective of Buffy's Watcher/Guardian/Father Figure that he has taken on, it's a Huge Bad Judgement call, IMO. This testing of Buffy did nothing constructive for her and it did not make her a better Slayer all it did was make Buffy feel this great betrayal by Giles, almost got Buffy and Joyce killed and it did get CoW operatives killed.

GILES: It's an archaic exercise in cruelty. To lock her in this... tomb... weakened, defenseless. And to unleash *that* on her. If any one of the Council still had actual contact with a Slayer, they would see, but I'm the one in the thick of it.

I know that I am being really hard on Giles, but Giles took on the responsibility of being her Watcher/Guardian and I think he failed Buffy big time when he chose to go along with the demands of the CoW - in point of fact, he would have been fired by QT had he refused to go along with the test just as he was after the test. So what did he get for betraying his Slayer?

Sosa lola
21-11-14, 01:56 PM
S3E13: The Zeppo


Let's start the review with a Joss quote (http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/08/21/this-weeks-cover-joss-whedon-agents-shield/) about his newest TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D:

“This is basically a TV series of ‘The Zeppo’ [episode of Buffy], which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least,” Whedon says. “The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one. There’s a world of superheroes and superstars, they’re celebrities, and that’s a complicated world — particularly complicated for people who don’t have the superpowers, the disenfranchised. Now obviously there’s going to be hijinks and hilarity and sex and gadgets and all the things that made people buy the comics. But that’s what the show really is about to me, and that’s what Clark Gregg embodies: the Everyman.”


The Zeppo is a brilliant episode on so many levels. The episode is the definition of meta. It makes fun of the usual dramatic incidences in BtVS that the audience has already embraced by intensifying them and turning them into farce ( The hellmouth opening again, Buffy's "Faith, point to the heart!", Buffy/Angel angst and so on) by changing the show's perspective and narrative from Buffy to the person who hasn't been touched by the dark – the Everyman. How does the Everyman react to abnormal things? What are his/her struggles? In what way does the Everyman contribute in saving the world?

People remember and read about leaders, kings, queens, superstars, but rarely do they read about "themselves." The Zeppo is about the forgotten ones: the bitter soldiers, who come back from war unrewarded, the unappreciated housewives, the unappreciated working class…. etc. It pulls the curtain back to shed light on the neglected and let us realize that without the soldiers, the general couldn't have won. Without the housewife, the house would have crumbled down on the husband and the kids.

And without Xander Harris, the school would have exploded and the Scoobies would have ended up killed.

There's no doubt that an apocalypse is a much bigger threat than a few zombies wanting to bomb the school, yet we get a switch in which the character-development B plot is the center and the action-packed A plot gets pushed to the background. Xander gets his moment to shine the same way Shakespeare's Flastaff did in Henry IV Part 2.

This is not the first time where the viewpoint changes from Buffy to someone else. I'd like to think that Passions was written from Angel's perspective. This time, however, the viewpoint is so askew considering that it's Xander's perception of everything.


Xander Harris:

Fray-Adjacent:


There's no doubt that Xander's position in the group has dropped way down from his Night Hawk days. His friends are growing more powerful, Buffy is much stronger now, Faith is also another strong Slayer, even Willow, who used to be in the same league as Xander, is now practicing magic. Everyone is moving forward and getting better physically, but Xander hasn't changed one bit.

Emotionally though, Xander is more insecure about his place in the group. He and Buffy aren't as close after the whole Angel drama (it's telling that Buffy asks Willow for help and tells her that she needs her right before Xander shows up with his car, but when Xander offers to help himself, she sends him away). Xander and Willow are also not as close after the Oz drama, he and Giles were never close, Cordelia hates him, and he doesn't really know Faith that well. But then there's Oz, the only person Xander was comfortable enough to talk to about his insecurities. The only person Xander saw as an equal – and that's backed up by his speech to Dawn in S7.

It's worth noting that Giles does include Willow with Xander when he said, "I should never have allowed Willow and [Xander]" to tag along in this fight against the new and "improved" creatures. Giles also instructs Willow to stay back for her safety so he can finish the spell by himself later in the episode. So, it's not just about seeing Xander as the only feeble and fragile loser. He and Willow are both still considered feeble and fragile; however, Willow has the good sense of knowing her limits and staying out harm's way when necessary. Xander, on the other hand, "leaps at the fray" with no regards to his safety or abilities. And that what scares his friends, they don't mind having him around to help, they're just scared he's gonna do something foolish and get himself killed. That's why I don't see their giving Xander the shaft in this episode as OOC.

The football thing in the beginning of the episode is another example of Xander "leaping" at anything out of his league. The jocks obviously aren't interested in playing with him, but when they do give him a chance he screws things up. Seems to be a pattern in Xander's life; Cordelia trusted him and he broke her heart, Anya trusted him and he broke her heart.

More Xander put downs by Jack and Cordelia come afterwards. Then when Xander comes over with the car, all confident and proud, Buffy sends him for donuts. Apparently, he's been sent to get donuts before judging by Cordelia's correct guess about evil happening now that Xander is at the donut shop.



"Can I help?

Xander offers his services to each member of the Scoobies and gets rejected.

"Xander's out of this. He nearly got himself killed last time we fought. The whole thing will be easier if we know he's safe." Buffy.

"It's best you stay out of harm's way." Angel.

"Oh, no. Thank you. Uh, probably best if you, you stay out of trouble." Giles.

"I can't stay. Buffy needs this. I love you, Xander." Willow.

While good intentioned, none of them knew that by excluding Xander, they're hitting him where it really hurts – his place in the group. The Scoobies are the only best thing he has in his life. They're his real family and by rejecting him, he's got no one.

And to make matters worse, Willow tells him in the end of the episode, "Xander, you're lucky you weren't at school last night. It was crazed." That must have stung!!! Not including Xander is far worse than anything in the world, even death. Willow should have known better, especially since she told Buffy earlier, "I'd be offended if you haven't already counted me in!"






Sex and Romance:

The Zeppo shows clearly where Xander stands on the issue. Though he talks about sex a lot and have pretended to be sexually experienced before, he clearly wants more than sex from a girl. He wants connection. Car Girl is hot, but she's so boring! He'd rather spend time with Angel over a hot girl because there was no spark. And not only was losing his virginity to Faith unexpected, but it was also rushed! "Like a blur," Xander in Consequences. There was no cuddling, no pillow talks; he seemed too dazed and confused when she kicked him out. Yet, despite it being so obvious she was using him as a boytoy, he believed they actually had a connection.

He doesn't consider sex to be a mere physical thing, it's greater than that. He'd like to get to know someone before jumping into sex, something that usually women are into, but Xander isn't your typical kind of man as Lorna Jowett, senior lecturer at University College Northampton, describes Xander as a "new man" because he can't be a real man. He's the man whose hero is a female leader, who willingly elected a female to be his leader, and who would like to get to know a girl before sleeping with her. That's why he and Cordelia never had sex, he was either waiting for the right moment or saving himself for someone else.

"It's just we hardly know each other." "But sexual interc—what you're talking about, well—and I'm actually turning into a woman as I say this, but it's about expressing something." "Still more romantic than Faith." Xander in Harsh Light of Day.

"Anya, there's a lot more to you and me than the sex. Well, there should be! I mean, a relationship is something that you work at. Work through. Together." Xander in Where the Wild Things Are.




The Hammer is His Mouth:


"I've done some quality violence for those people. Do they even think about that?"

No, actually. What Xander excels in isn't violence. He's very good with his words – he can hurt any person he wants so easily by using his words, he can lift people up with his words, heck he can save the world with his words. And that's what he does to save the school.

Xander was never more confident and cool than when he talked Jack into stopping the bomb. The way he reasoned with him, giving him the odds about trying to run away, showing him the difference between being a walking corpse and pieces of bits, he was remarkably calm and all together, hiding how much he wanted to pee his pants in the guise of cool. That right there is the "new man" Lorna was talking about, the kind of man who saved the world twice by talking the enemy down, no violence was involved, just the power of convincing. The world would be such a peaceful place if men learned to use their mouths instead of their fists.

Producer Fran Rubel Kuzie once said, "You can educate your daughters to be Slayers, but you have to educate your sons to be Xanders."




Little bits about the episode:

*Willow's "callous and strange" comment is adorable.

* Cordelia's role in this episode is literally just to throw digs at Xander. Seeing as it's Xander's point of view, that's probably understandable.

*Xander orders one jelly at first, but changes his mind to four jellies. He knows that Giles loves them. Everything about Xander's adoration of Giles makes my heart ache. :(

*Speaking of Giles, the only thing I wish I had seen in the apocalypse plot was Giles' brave moment, the bravest thing Buffy's ever seen! I would have loved to see Giles the hero.

*The ending never fails to leave a smile on my lips. Aw Xander! It's also touching to know that Nicholas Brendon cried reading the script.

Skippcomet
22-11-14, 12:43 AM
I've been thinking about The Zeppo for the past couple of weeks in anticipation of this review. When it first aired, I was working nights at a restaurant and so set my VCR to record it; when I got home, my then-housemates had already watched in and told me, "You're gonna love it," and they weren't just talking about the focus on Xander. The inversion of the story structure, with the end-of-the-world plot happening more and more in the background (at this point, somebody or something trying to use the Hellmouth to destroy the world has become a trope; of course Buffy and friends are going to save the world, duh) until it becomes a parody of itself while the character focus plot is the real point of the episode, paves the way for some brilliant self-satire of what had already become several tropes of the show, including the over-the-top Buffy/Angel angst of that one scene. The comedic overtones of Xander's episode-long "quest for cool" showcase Nick Brendon's chops for comedy; the climax in the basement over the ticking time-bomb should prove to anybody watching that Xander isn't a coward nor is he "useless.") And it addresses the issue that was then starting to arise in the audience -- that Xander was the only member of the Scoobies without any powers, specialized training, or supernatural nature, and whether or not he still had any place (or business, from the POV of those viewing Xander's presence dimly) participating in the Scooby Gang -- rather adroitly.

And yet, as time goes by, I've developed something of a love-hate relationship with this episode.

The Zeppo, more than any previous Xander-focused episode or even just comedic episode (say, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered), pretty much set the template for how the writers would approach writing Xander as a developing character, as a member of the Scooby Gang, and as a member of the show's cast from this point on till pretty much the show's end. In the show's first 2.5 seasons, he's a fully integrated member of the cast, just as likely to be used for purposes dramatic as well as comedic; what's going on with him emotionally is as important to the narrative at least as much as, say, Willow if not Buffy. That starts to change with this episode; it starts very slowly, and really becomes overt in Season Four, but the writers start to aggressively approach Xander as an object of Comic Relief and less and less as a source of either plot drama or character drama. More importantly, stuff happening emotionally under Xander's surface begins to more and more be pushed off to the side, swept under the rug, and/or flat out ignored as soon as the writers point out it exists, to the point that other characters' story-lines have to go through their first one or two acts before the writers seemingly remember to get around to addressing Xander.

If I sound like I'm pissed at the writers...well, I am, kinda. But it wasn't until recently that I realized that the handling of Xander wasn't actually a case of the writers deciding that they were going to treat a character like crap because they collectively realized they didn't give a damn about him, or of them taking advantage of what was then the First Great Height of Audience Animosity towards Xander by treating like crap the character they thought the audience would let them get away with. It's not even about the writers treating Xander like crap, even if it looks like to most of his fans. It's all rooted in the changing social and group dynamics of the Scooby Gang.

I'm very, very glad that Sosa brings up Xander's diminished status in the Scoobies, and his insecurities about that, although I do have some...quibbles...about how she attributes the causes of it. Yes, the others grown more powerful; yes, the group has grown to include other, powerful members and allies; yes, maybe the threats have started to grow "bigger and badder"; and yes, Xander essentially hasn't changed in terms of power. But it has always struck me as a false note that at *this* point in time, Xander's lack of power is supposed to be at the root of this sudden need of the others for him to be "fray-adjacent." Oh, it's a nice cover...and to be sure, as any longtime fan of superhero team comics will tell you, there's always an element of the audience so obsessed with characters' power that they're consequently incredibly harsh towards characters that are objectively less powerful than others, to the point they're incredibly dismissive of whether or not said less powerful characters 'deserve' to be there. And I'm not suggesting that the Scoobies, Buffy and Willow in particular, aren't actually worried for Xander's physical welfare.

The heart of the matter is that as the emotional bonds of the Scoobies have changed, so has the group's dynamic. The Scoobies started off as a group of friends: Buffy & Willow & Xander and to a slightly lesser extent, Giles. It grew to include Cordelia, Angel, Jenny Calendar, and Oz. But one flaw in this group of friends is that romantic feelings, especially unrequited ones, were part of the mix from day one, ranging from crushes to actually falling in love. As pairings formed, conflicts started to arise or become visible, from Buffy-Angel-Xander to Xander-Cordelia-Willow to Willow-Oz-Xander. It's Xander's misfortune that American culture, when it comes to young romance, nearly always frames it in terms of the fulfilment of the young woman's happiness; young men are often viewed as either being obliged to fulfill that happiness or get out of the way of that happiness. (John Hughes would have made "Say Anything" into a much, much different movie than Cameron Crowe made.) And in the wake of the past year's worth of dramas involving Angel's reversion to evil, Buffy's leaving and return, the initial discovery of his involvement with Cordelia, the Fluke, Angel's return from Hell, etc., Xander has been placed in the losing or "wrong" side of the equation just about every time. Cordelia has broken up with him and made it clear she will not forgive him or take him back (and I marvel at the fact that any part of the audience ever held out hope for a reconciliation between them not just this season but any after), and both Buffy and Willow, quietly, consciously and unconsciously, have chosen their respective boyfriends over Xander, not just romantically but in terms of who they will emotionally open themselves up to and rely on. The Scooby Gang is no longer the Three Musketeers as Cordelia once called them; it's now Buffy & Angel, and Willow & Oz, and Giles, and Faith, and *then* Xander.

That's the hidden, dark secret at the heart of The Zeppo, I've come to realize. It didn't actually start in this episode per se, but it's the first episode that really manifests, underneath all the humor and farce and self-satire, the fact that Buffy and Willow have started to slowly distance themselves emotionally from Xander after months of interpersonal conflict and complications. He's become the friend that other friends distance themselves from without actually ending the friendship, because it's easier and less traumatic to do so than either ending the friendship entirely or trying to confront and resolve the conflicts involved. It's not a coincidence that in the next several episodes Buffy and Willow's friendship will grow even stronger as the trio (heh) of friends becomes more of a duo with a third person off to the side. This distance will keep growing as time passes and as people's circumstances change, more and more, beyond this episode and well into next season, all the while gradually enough that those involved don't realize what's going on, until it reaches the point where the others start taking Xander for granted and even looking down on him. Because that's the downside of increasing emotional distance between people: the greater the distance, the greater the potential for emotional detachement. You can call somebody a friend without actually emotionally involving yourself with them or becoming emotionally concerned about them, except of course in times of great need or when they well and truly annoy you. And it pretty much plays a role in Xander's relationships with Buffy and Willow, and theirs with him, from this point forward till seasons six and seven; in Xander's trying to emotionally fend for himself; in his eventual relationship with Anya; and in everybody's capacity and willingness to emotionally rely on, and be open with, each other.

There's more about this episode I'd like to get into, such as the comparison between how Buffy handles the previous episode's one-and-done betrayal by Giles and how he redeems himself to her, and that impacts her relationship with Giles going forward (much closer) versus this ep's cumulative effect of months of conflict with Xander and how it impacts her relationship with Xander (not so close anymore for a good, long while); or how its initial reception by the audience upon first airing was decidedly mixed (a lot of people missed the satire and thought that the end of the world plot being made the B-story instead of the A-story was a serious blunder); or even how the only thing from this episode that was followed up on was the fallout of Xander sleeping Faith. Anybody mind if we discuss this stuff later?

PS: thanks to Stoney for the editing assist!

Stoney
22-11-14, 02:20 PM
You can just delete all the repeated text when you open your edit box through the link at the bottom of your post Skippcomet.


I just have a huge soft spot for this ep. I agree that the presentation of all the 'usual' drama is done brilliantly and the switch of pov works so well for that. Cordelia seemingly popping up out of the blue just to make bitchy comments is such a nice touch for emphasising the individual character's perception of events because yes, I agree that it probably does feel exactly like that for Xander. I think the other thing that works so well is the fact that these heightened moments (B/A and the fights) aren't actually far off the mark to how those scenes actually do play out at the peak of an episode. But here it isn't built up/into as a scene for the audience and so without that and the full context it just seems so dramatic.

I have to say I think that whilst Xander does show that he feels sex should be more than just a physical thing, he is also more than happy to take the physical without a connection already existing. Both Faith and Anya are people that proposition him and he is happy to accept. With Anya I don't think he even particularly thought it was the start of a thing (possibly in part because of this experience with Faith). There is nothing wrong with having these hook ups if it is a mutually agreeable situation I hasten to say, but I think the lack of a strong example of a loving relationship leaves Xander a little at a loss with how this deeper connection should work. The way he does assume this time with Faith to have been meaningful by default shows that. But generally I think he is also shown to be a pretty typical hormone driven teen in the way he wants and accepts sexual advances. Xander always came across as uncertain and inexperienced in how to approach women to me and I think that was a big part of what kept him a virgin up to this point. It possibly plays a little towards him liking such strong/assertive women who take the initiative.

I agree with Skippcomet that the real heart of the issue is Xander's emotional exclusion from the group that has developed rather than it being a power thing, although that is how it appears to be separating them. What I really love about the episode is that I think losing his virginity plays to both the immaturity and the maturity in him. The exclusion forces a level of maturity in pressing an independence on him but he is still so young and the hormone driven eagerness balances that too. I think for me the beauty of this episode is that it is funny and yet there is a real note of sadness that he is having to go it alone on the periphery of his own support group. It always pulls me back to Cordelia's reveal about Xander sleeping outside on Christmas Eve. So I don't think of Xander as confident and cool when he faces off with Jack, I think he was alone and he has learnt to enjoy the silence and be brave and strong through it. This is the guy who has grown up in an abusive household and has found a way to survive it. It isn't always going to be the best approach and isn't necessarily about facing the thing that is hurting him (telling his parents or his friends how they are making him feel), but he is coping the best he can and I think that is what is immensely relatable with Xander in this episode.

As a total lighter aside, I love ASH's delivery about the missing doughnuts.

- - - Updated - - -

Another additional thought occurred to me this morning. Why didn't they shoot Oz through the bars of the cage? It looked like Giles was going to try and discuss the situation with him (as if he has ever shown any degree of reasoned thought when he goes wolf?!) and shooting him was a last result if they needed to when they let him out... what in heck were they thinking? :confused3:

vampmogs
23-11-14, 10:43 AM
I like The Zeppo but I do find it a little contrived and I think the writing does take some liberties when it comes to characterization. There's some effort to setup why the gang are hesitant to involve Xander in the apocalypse threat but I don't find it particularly convincing. This isn't the first time he's rushed headfirst into battle and it won't be the last, so why is it enough to scare the Scoobies this time and why is it dropped entirely going forward? I agree with others that Xander's emotional distance from the group is a big part of his estrangement in this episode but I don't feel anyone is purposely not including him for that reason. And as out of his league as he may be facing the Hellmouth monster and the Sister demons, the Scoobies will rarely turn down help when dealing with an apocalypse so it's pretty unbelievable. I think I would have found it more believable had the writers given Xander a more serious injury in the teaser to help explain why the Scoobies were so shaken and hesitant to include him. Nothing so extreme as getting his eye poked out, as for example, but maybe knocked unconscious or a broken arm or something?

I guess another slight issue I have with this episode is the relative ease in which Jack O'Toole is able to resurrect his friends. Given the big deal made about resurrections in Some Assembly Required, Forever or Bargaining (which I prefer as resurrections shouldn't be easy or death loses a lot of its meaning) this episode seems pretty inconsistent with the mythology overall. My fanwank has always been that it's much easier to resurrect someone like Jack did, where they remain in their decomposed state, than it is to resurrect someone like Willow did and have her restore Buffy's body back to its full health. But I'm just not a huge fan of how lightly this episode treats resurrection and how none of the guys are remotely traumatized about having been dead or having to dig out of their own graves etc

I do really like the structure of this episode. I actually would have liked to see an episode that focused on the apocalypse plot because it was intriguing, but I really enjoy how Xander's story is the A plot and the end of the world serves as the B plot. I feel for Xander a lot in this episode but I do feel his emotional estrangement is mostly through fault of his own. His friends are romantically paired off but he was too until he cheated on Cordy. Buffy and Willow are closer but, again, that's in large part because Xander has been pretty hostile and unapproachable when it comes to Buffy over the last few months. Had Xander done things differently he wouldn't feel so isolated from the rest of his friends but at the same time I do feel a lot of sympathy for him because he's actually suffering the consequences for that, which is always helpful in making a character endearing. And I do think the Scoobies mean well when they want to keep Xander out of harms way (even Angel is concerned for his well-being and it wasn't in a snarky or intentionally dismissive way at all - aww) but, as I said, I just find it pretty contrived how extremely they behave here.

I have mixed feelings on Cordy in this episode. On the one hand, she has very legitimate reasons to be angry at Xander and I really can't hold it against her at all that she's unwilling to forgive him yet. Xander didn't really handle the fallout particularly well in The Wish (choosing to pit himself against Cordy when he really should have been in full grovel mode or too ashamed to see her anger as anything but justified) and Cordy lost a lot because of Xander. She gave up her social status and all her friends to be with him so his betrayal cut her deeper than even Willow's betrayal hurt Oz. But I don't think that necessarily means that Cordy has a right to say any hurtful thing she likes or that it doesn't start to reflect badly on her that she's going out of her way to cause him misery and pain. She says a lot of really hurtful things in this episode and there's not the slightest hint that she feels at all guilty or conflicted about that. That does start to reflect badly on her regardless of what Xander did and it does say something about Cordy's character that it's how she chooses to deal with her pain (and we'll see how she attacks innocent bystanders like Buffy and Oz in Choices).

The basement scene between Xander/Jack is great but does it really bug anyone else that the bomb's ticking/countdown is just really poorly edited? The time on the bomb's clock changes back and forth more than once and the bomb should have exploded much earlier than it did based on the amount of beeps. I just find it really distracting and wish they hadn't been so careless :confused3:

And it's pretty dark how Oz eats Jack and nobody ever realizes it ("I feel oddly full today"). That's the kind of humor I miss in the freakin' comics.

I do love how Xander deals with the situation throughout this episode. It always makes me laugh when he's trying to take on a typical 'action hero' badass persona and then it fails miserably (the gag of the guy's head being knocked clean off and Xander screaming in terror gets me every time :lol:) and a lot has to be said for his bravery in taking on an entire gang of pretty violent, murderous guys himself. I also think it reflects really well on him that he chooses to not divulge anything about his heroics to the gang. What it meant to him personally is more important to him than getting rewarded for it or any kind of applause. The stuff of true heroics. And I think it's particularly great how he takes the higher road with Cordelia and rises above their petty squabbling.

Stoney
23-11-14, 11:05 AM
I agree about Cordy and I think you are right that patience/understanding wear pretty thin when the person is going out of their way to be mean. Cordy's anger at Xander and her hurt has meant that she has ostracised herself from the group and done so consciously as a fallout response to being humiliated. She has placed herself into this stand off position of wanting to hit back and show disgust at herself for having been socially slumming it but the issue really is, imo, that she would rather be with our guys than back in her old social group. Her ongoing anger at Xander I think comes from him having 'spoiled' her ability to stay within the group and her obvious willingness to still help (Gingerbread, Helpless) shows that really part of her still wants to be involved. So whilst I have lost patience for her cruel snarks I think her hovering on the periphery isn't really, or at least solely, about taking potshots at Xander but about still getting to be there even if its in a perverse way.

vampmogs
23-11-14, 11:16 AM
Oh I very much agree. It's just that I can't muster much sympathy for Cordy when it comes to this because when Buffy personally reached out to her in The Wish Cordy threw it back in her face pretty horribly. And in Choices Cordy lashes out again at Buffy in a really vicious way ("I'm sorry Buffy but this conversation is reserved for those of us who actually have a future") and even attacks Oz ("That's so cute! Planning life as a loser? Most people just turn out that way but you're really taking charge!") who was also a victim of Willow/Xander's affair. I get Cordy feeling uncomfortable socializing with Xander or Willow and feeling like she can no longer be a part of the group because of the affair but she had an opportunity to have a genuine friend in Buffy and she turned it down. She's just went about this all wrong.

I guess I just see a lot of parallels between Cordy's vengeance and Anya's brand of vengeance and how disproportionate it all becomes. Which is rather fitting then that Cordy's vengeance results in the Wishverse and Anya seeking her out. A lot of the time Anya's 'clients' had valid reasons to be hurt and upset but Anya's punishment didn't fit the crime. Just like there wasn't anything particularly pleasant about Stewart Burns going out of his way to hurt Anya in Hells Bells and how he was willing to hurt ruin an innocent bystander's life like Xanders just to get his vengeance. Cordy has a lot of valid reasons to be upset and I feel for her in many ways but she loses a lot of sympathy for me in the way she takes it out on people like Buffy or Oz who haven't done anything wrong and who certainly don't deserve it. And the things she says to Xander, who does deserve her wrath, are getting just too personal and vicious.

Stoney
23-11-14, 01:32 PM
I completely agree. Don't get me wrong, Cordy has good reason to feel anger/hurt but now she is coming across as vindictive and spiteful. My sympathy for what happened to her remains but her behaviour now I just don't support at all, not one bit. I feel exactly the same about Anya tbh and that kind of vengeful attitude is just such a negative approach to dealing with your issues I don't like/support it in any general sense. But I do find the psychology of Cordy's response interesting outside of the vengeance aspect and her behaviour to Xander because she has imo a clear desire to still be around them. I think her wider bitchiness (which is totally out of line and uncalled for too) comes from this, because she resents them all for pulling her out of her social standing and, importantly, for making her not really want to be there anymore either. She wants to hate the lot of them and yet she can't stop herself hovering under the pretence of getting her cruel jibes in. It is pretty self destructive.

Dipstick
23-11-14, 05:21 PM
I agree with vampmogs that this ep is a little "off". I don't quite believe that the Scoobies would cut Xander out of a much-feared and ballyhooed apocalypse. Buffy does choose to include or exclude Scoobies from high-impact combat or key intelligence based on how she feels about them socially or what she thinks of their competence and power levels. See Willow and Wesley in the very next episode. That's a big important truth that this ep captures and I discuss more through this post. But that's more for routine patrols or MoTW problems or strategy which borders on salacious Buffy-gossip. For an apocalypse, Buffy is much more "all hands on deck".

I agree that the Scoobies' behavior would have made more sense if Xander was injured in the teaser. However, that would have obscured the social dynamics at play. If Xander broke his arm in the teaser and he was still wearing a cast, it would be hard to argue that he was being socially excluded. It would be cut and dried that the Scoobs were worried about his safety. This ep was trying to get across a different message- Xander's kind of been pushed out socially and respect-wise.

Buffy and Willow still really care about Xander through this ep. You can call Willow's desperate "I love you Xander" in violation of her "no touching" rule a lot of things- but uncaring of Xander is not one of them. However as much as I believe Buffy and Willow still really, really care about Xander, his fears are emphatically based in reality.

Being on stable, top-notch, inner-circle, golden footing in the Scoobies requires: (a) a fuzzy-wuzzy tight connection to Buffy and (b) *perceived* usefulness in the fight against evil which can mean anything from actual indispensability to some utility but a whole lot of bad-ass aeshtetics. You really need both.

The former dynamic is the most common. A Scooby can have a fuzzy-wuzzy emotional connection to Buffy but if they are perceived as weak kitteny than they get cut out of most of the most important life-or-death emotional moments of Buffy's life because she doesn't think they can keep up safely and effectively. A lot of non-Xander characters have struggled with this. Dawn, Riley, Willow (in the next ep, no less!), Giles, even Tara and Joyce.

However, it's a much more defining part of Xander's life because: (a) he lacks status as the "mom" or "sister" or "boyfriend" that demand that Buffy always have space for him, (b) he's rarely touted as the indispensable bad ass, but (c) he's one of the founding members of the Scoobies and his key moments are as important as any moments in the show so his very role demands respect. Point A and C are especially important for Willow and Xander. There's no familial or sexual bond between Buffy/Willow or Buffy/Xander. There's friendship- but a close friendship necessitates relevance and presence in each other's most pivotal life moments. If Xander or Willow can't be a part of the most crucial "do or die" moments in Buffy's life, than they're pretty irrelevant to her life. There's always a risk that Buffy's emotional attachment to those two can dry up if they're non-entities in the most important part of Buffy's life.

The latter dynamic is kind of rare but it's a real thing. Faith and Robin Wood had badassery going for them- but Buffy wasn't that tight with them so they were on a much shorter nerve with her. In this ep, you'll notice that Faith was out of the Scooby zone for most of the day and evening. She didn't research, prep the spell, fret or banter about the lurking evil or have doughnuts. Unlike Xander, the Scoobies called her in for the fight because they needed her Slayer muscles when the going got tough. However in a season long pattern, they didn't include her in the actual team stuff during The Zeppo because everyone regards Faith as a loner-badass and the invulnerable slayer who walks alone.

But make no mistake, Faith is muscle. She's not any more a part of the in-crowd than Xander because she lacks that fuzzy-wuzzy friendly draw (although Faith was making gains on that point in Bad Girls). It makes narrative sense that Xander has the emotional bond with the Scoobies but they don't have sufficient respect for his skills and Faith has the mad skillz but she doesn't have the Scooby bond. Even though their challenges are opposite, it still puts them out of the library and into each other's arms.

This brings me to the fairness of Xander's exclusion. I'm conflicted. On one hand, I think it's *unfair* that Xander is more out of favor with Buffy than Giles or Angel as Skippcomet suggests. Angel/Giles did much worse to Buffy and IMO, their motives were darker than Xander's motives. However, Buffy does have a sub-conscious recoil from Xander because she seems to instinctively expect digs, snark, pouts, maybe yelling about her choices even in low-stakes conversation. See Buffy's weary "Xander, not now" when Xander was gearing up to snark on Angel in the start of Amends. It does make sense.

Buffy has a number of choices for confidantes and key helpers. Buffy chooses the guy who just tried to poison her and throw her powerless body in with a crazy vampire last week because that's done and done but she rejects the guy who, however rudely, offered unwelcome but valid opinions because he's exhausting to hang out with and being friends with him is like being friends with a stairmaster. </The Social Network> Buffy's not dispensing even-handed justice here. She's subconsciously gravitating to the folk that she feels more comfortable with now.

Willow's a little more of a complicated case because I think Xander rejected Willow as much as Willow rejected Xander. Xander made a choice to try very hard to get together with Cordelia and never gave pursuing a relationship with Willow a second thought. In fact, I don't think Willow's distance actually weighs that heavily on Xander's mind. He's far more pre-occupied with his Cordelia-conflict or Oz's and certainly, Buffy's opinion of him. In S3, Willow is visibly upset at her distance from Xander, specifically, in her desperate "last words" hug in The Zeppo and Consequences . Throughout S3 and really through most of S4 until The Yoko Factor, I never see Xander upset that he's grown distant from Willow, specifically. In S4, Willow actively commutes to Xander's basement (Wild at Heart, Doomed, No I in Team) just to confide/spend time with him. Xander mainly goes to SHS to see Buffy and treats Willow like an after-thought. When Willow's upset in Doppelgangland, Buffy goes after her while Xander hangs back and snarks. The situation repeats with Vamp Willow when B/X think it's human Willow.

IMO, in S3, Willow and Xander pretty mutually see the other as a temptation, "don't want to fall back on nasty habits, hands, hands in new places" and reminder of bad choices and shame. Willow's fortunate in this season because her SO forgave her and she's closer with Buffy and Giles. However, Xander rejected her too as much or I'd argue *more*.

Local Maximum
24-11-14, 02:06 AM
Great review, Sosa.

Minor point: on the editing of the clock scene. First of all, I'm reminded of the fact that Alfred Hitchcock edited a key scene in Notorious which involved characters walking down a flight of stairs so that they walked down more stairs than actually existed, to generate more suspense! Second, I'm not so sure it's unintentionally bad editing. The whole episode is skewed POV. Why can't the bomb's ticking also be? I admit that I hadn't thought of this particular point before a reviewer I like, Spring Summers, pointed out that "errors" like this editing, and also the weird detail that Jack claims that he couldn't resurrect Bob until now but he got resurrected by his grandfather much more recently than Bob was in the ground, may be deliberate "oversights." The ep is sometimes interpreted as, the Scooby stuff is exaggerated but the Xander stuff is "normal." But I dunno -- I think the Xander stuff is also skewed, but in different ways. Xander's climactic Dirty Harry staredown gets extended an extra 20 seconds that don't make any sense in order to amp up Xander's internal level of cool; in order to become the person who can shrug off Cordelia's mockery and the gang's seeming lack of belief in him as a hero, Xander self-mythologizes his awesome confrontation to be 50% more awesome, in terms of how long the time takes. I think the editing being distracting may be not an error, but a subtle tipoff that something is not quite right in the version of events we're seeing -- i.e., that even as Xander really is heroic, it may be that the story of the trials he went through is actually slightly distorted by Xander's POV and maybe memories. I think there is some element of this episode that this is the story Xander tells himself, and it turns out that there are holes or distracting exaggerations in this story, even at the most crucial and emotional and awesome points. I don't think that takes away from his heroism, but it complicates it in an interesting way.

Dipstick
29-11-14, 06:04 PM
This is one of my favorite eps. Top 5 for S3. This ep features a number of power struggles- most prominently a Watcher power struggle, a Slayer power struggle and a villain power struggle in this ep. Introducing a villain diva-off between the Mayor and Balthezar is actually hilarious in a season that features a slayer-diva off between Buffy and Faith and a Watcher diva-off between Giles and Wes. However the result of these power struggles is to firmly state that the main protagonists/antagonists (Buffy, Giles, The Mayor) inarguably deserve their status.

Balthezar: Second Place from the Mayor

Balthazar is a very underrated MoTW. Like the Mayor, Balthazar had a mission to become more powerful through ritual and he thought out a pretty clear game plan. Balthazar had about the same number of vamps in his army as the Mayor. Even more, Balthazar has a real uniformed, weapon-outfitted disciplined, loyal real army. Sorry Spike, but I respect vamps that carry additional weapons besides just their fangs. (Although, per Mr. Trick, an ouzi >>>> a sword).

In the first season, someone could be a trapped, immobilized demon but attain Big Bad street cred by having an army of super-loyal, samurai-code vamps. Pop culture portrayals of vamps usually paint vamps as very independent, counter-culture personalities who revel in their power and evil for themselves. You gotta respect demons who could force vamps into a self-sacrificial army at the behest of the top dog demon.

However, the Mayor is the Big Bad and Balthazar is the MoTW. Even in his last words, Balthazar admits that the Mayor is the bigger bad ass but they were running in the same competition. The Mayor seems to have crippled Balthezar because the Mayor regarded the big guy as a threat. The Mayor can aspire to greater ambitions because he's in the thick of Sunnydale politics, he can blend into the real world. The Mayor worked for decades to curry the "political" favor to achieve a once in several generations (at least) feat by Ascending. As someone who passes as human, the Mayor can own the town. Balthazar, despite his vampire army, long term planning skills, and great MoTW villain wit, is confined to his tub. His ambitions are necessarily much less than the Mayor's. His amulet will lend him greater power; the Mayor's century of back-scratching will give him pure demonic form.

Wesley: Second Place After Giles

The Mayor and Balthezar obviously have the heaviest competition since Balthezar sent an assassin after the Mayor. However, at this point of the story, Giles and Wesley certainly have the second most intense competition going. Buffy catches some fair criticism for how she jealously reacts to Kendra or Faith disturbing her "I'm the only slayer" specialness.

However, IMO, Giles is way more immature than Buffy about working with other Watchers. Buffy reaches a point with Kendra and Faith where she'll really partner with them and she displays compassion for their lot in life. I think Giles softens a little towards Wesley towards the end of the season. Wesley is his most inflexible and obnoxious in Bad Girls and Consequences but he quietly softens *a lot* throughout the season and bends a lot to try to work with Giles as S3 progresses. Wes openly regrets their non-cooperative relationship in AtS S1. However, Giles is always competitive and hostile towards Wes.

Part of this discrepancy is that Buffy is a kinder, more compassionate person than Giles. In her way, Buffy is also more clear-eyed practical about defeating evil at the expense of pissing contests. However, I also think that slayers are more likely to work together in harsh, field conditions than Watchers. Fighters want good comrades in arms. Certain types of strategists/brains of the operation tend to want to be the only ones talking so their ideas carry the day and that's Watchers. Slayers are also more obviously sympathetic cases than Watchers. Kendra's and Faith's traumas were laid right out in the open for Buffy to see.

To some extent, I discussed how, IMO, the Council picks Field Watchers. To sum up, I think the Council tries to send Watchers without spouses and children. The Council seems to send genuinely talented Watchers, although perhaps not the creme de la creme in the political hierarchy of the Council. Of course, there's trade-offs. In my discussion of Helpless, I mentioned the trade-offs to sending Giles, an experienced, worldly Watcher who's lived a number of lives that allow him to do magic and get a job as a high school librarian who can get Buffy to listen to him as a daughter. He's lived enough and accumulated enough independent wealth to not be so beholden to the Council. He's an old bachelor empty nester with space in his heart for a daughter.
His Ripper period seems to have retarded his education.

IMO, Wesley had to be around 22, 23, 24 at the oldest. IMO, he's right outta university. He's a study in trade-offs. His youth and Watcher-centric upbringing means that he's absolutely loyal to the Council because it's all he knows. I also think there's validity behind sending young Watchers into the field. At the very least, it offers the Council institutional memory of Watchers with field experience who go on to take leadership roles in England. However, he's likely only five years older than Buffy and he's far less worldly and practically-experienced. He's in no shape to command her or even mentorly advise her. He would have done better if he got a Potential little girl to raise. (Although, Wesley's is just so Murphy's Law that I don't even want to make that call.) His Head Boy academic and disciplinary excellence at the Academy has terrific indicators for success- intelligence, preparedness for the research side of the battle, a talent at following orders, a track record of effort. However, Wes's early academic excellence comes from a childhood and young adulthood focused on books and little else. Years of merely striving for academic awards and titles imbued him with false, unearned confidence on his preparedness for war.

Even at his ponciest, Wesley really shows valuable insights and talents that IMO, beat Giles. Giles rolls his eyes at Wesley excitedly heading for his books on hearing that the vampires that Buffy faced carried swords. However, it *is* interesting that fanged vampires carried swords. Wes's instincts were darn right. And Wesley immediately identified the cult that carried those swords. Just-fresh-from-the-plane Wesley was wrong that Balthezar was extinct. However, Wesley *did* identify a powerful demon with his own army of vampires who was on the verge of becoming even more powerful, like, before he got over his jet lag.

Wesley’s instincts helped keep the amulet out of Balthezar’s hands to lend Balthezar even more power beyond Balthezar's current army of vamps. Meanwhile, all of these shenanigans were occurring in the very town that Giles was *Watching*. Giles didn’t have a tiny clue. Under Giles’s “watch”, Balthezar probably would have got his amulet and got a big power boost to a very dangerous end. So Giles can shut it with his “You know, your *dead* demon” “snippiness”.

Wesley’s little memorized parables can be tiresome but “A good slayer is a cautious slayer” could be the tag-line for the damn ep and the Buffy/Faith conflict. In a world before everyone carried cellphones, Wesley is not dumb to show up at the Bronze and suggest that Buffy should give him the phone number of where she goes after slaying so he can contact her. Giles should have such a policy. (Although, I'm picturing a funny fanfic where Wesley gets the number to the Bronze, the Expresso Pump, the mall, all of Buffy's favorite haunts, and regularly annoys all of the proprietors as he pompously checks if Buffy's there because he has urgent business to check with her.)

In Wesley's very first line, I see the first clue that Wesley came to Sunnydale with every genuine intention to fight evil in the field instead of wait out his slayer's death while hiding in a library and Wes's pragmatic, pro-modernity nature underneath his stuffy clothing:


Wesley: Of course, training procedures have been updated quite a bit since your day. Much greater emphasis on field work.
Giles: (very bored) Really?
Wesley: Oh, yes. Not all books and theory nowadays. I have, in fact, faced two vampires myself. Under controlled circumstances, of course.

….And yet, Wesley crumbled under the threat of torture. That makes him pretty unfit for the authoritarian leadership role that he aspired to. Obviously, he comes off like a big fat (well….thin) hypocrite when he orders Buffy/Oz/Xander to sacrifice Willow for the Box of Gavrok but he, the adult professional of destiny, is ready to hand over the super-important amulet when a demon threatens his kneecaps. Not just that but by some standards, Wesley rendered himself unfit to merely hear information/strategy sessions because the Scoobies can’t trust that he’ll keep his yap shut when things get pivotal. “He’ll see the big board!”- but keep the Dr. Strangelove reference without the satire.

Coupled with his fear of torture, he sucks at fighting. Now, the Scoobies have included some crappy fighters. I think BtVS S3 Wesley may still better be a better fighter than Tara, non-demon Anya, S5 Dawn, or Oz. However, no one cares to shelter Wesley even as a weak link fighter, who can be proactive with pep and research and planning if he’s a coward. Moreover, the fighty weak links like Anya or early Dawn or Tara get protection and a role to play outside of fighting because a core Scooby(ies) love them. I argue below how these support person roles are necessarily limited because combat is by far the most consistently respected role in the Scoobies (even more in AI). However, you can gain an entry into Scoobydom even though you're a sucky fighter and haven't really displayed out-of-this-world bravery (and in Anya's case, displayed utter cowardice in late S3 through mid S4) if you come in as a girlfriend or sister.

Although, this is my opinion of Wesley’s fitness. And I’m sure that Wesley’s cowardly display affected the Scoobies’ treatment/willingness to accept him going forward on a very pragmatic level. However, the Scoobies can be hypocrites. They included Spike in the loop even though everyone believed that he’d sell their asses to whomever from Adam to Glory for a carton of smokes. Moreover, I’d argue that Wesley already started growing as a person on BtVS and displayed acts of courage as early as the next ep. Plus, it's not just Spike. The Scoobies generally run a big risk by usually telling everyone classified information, even though torturing demons lurk on every corner.

Wesley displayed other weaknesses as well. Obviously, Buffy and Faith didn’t give him a chance. Wesley barely had a chance to talk before both Buffy and Faith decided that they didn’t like him in a totally superficial, mean-spirited way. However, Buffy’s and Faith’s immediate attitude problem with Wesley wasn’t really his fault. By the first handshake, Buffy refused to take his hand. By the first hello, Faith stormed out of the library.

BTW, sometimes I think Buffy misses out on golden opportunities to both better her life and actually, do the right thing out of over-the-top mistaken loyalty. If Buffy was reasonably friendly to Wesley and interested in getting to know him, Buffy could have benefited greatly. She'd get a second opinion from another Watcher instead of leaving Giles as the monopoly on adult slaying advice. She'd get to punish Giles a little for poisoning her and recklessly disregarding her safety two weeks ago and show that he doesn't own her ass. Giles would have to work a little harder to keep Buffy's favor. Wesley's whole arc shows that if one can engender his loyalty, he'll make any sacrifice for that person...or vampire...or Old One.

For Wesley's part, he's not personally invested in Buffy or Faith. He doesn't love either of them like daughters. Giles asks if Buffy's all right when Buffy said that last night's fight was intense; Wesley counts four limbs and a head and surmises that she's OK. However, Wesley's pedantry like asking for the phone number of Buffy's post-slay haunts or trying to plot out the timing of their mission down to the minute comes because Wesley takes his duty to Watch his slayers very seriously. He doesn't have to like them as people; the job is enough to merit his concern. In this ep, Wesley focuses a little more on Buffy than Faith because Buffy is the only slayer willing to deal him on any level whatsoever. That's true for most of BtVS S3. However AtS shows that deep down, Wesley was a lot more internally pre-occupied with Faith than Buffy because Faith ended up much further afield from where a Watcher is supposed to guide a Slayer- to be a whole, active, healthy Warrior *For* the People for as long as possible. It's in stark contrast to Giles who was always far more concerned with Buffy because Buffy was more appealing to him personally until she wasn't in S8.

Faith: Second Banana From Buffy

Faith is also not the Main Protagonist Slayer. This ep tries to lay that at her moral failings- to refuse to take responsibility for her actions.
Faith also has her strengths. Like Buffy, Faith is a slayer and also a *leader*. Morally and strategically, Faith *led* Buffy through the big underground fight with the Illuminati until Finch’s death. That….doesn’t happen often. In the history of the show, Buffy only made herself remotely subordinate as a slayer to (a) Faith in this ep, and (b) briefly the Initiative.

Faith forced Buffy into the fight with the Illuminati. Buffy thought Faith's risky "dive into the hole" would fail. Faith's strategy actually succeeded. Then, Faith got Buffy to retract Buffy’s series-long line about how being a slayer sucks. Faith got Buffy to cut class to slay vampires and then, influenced Buffy’s behavior at the Bronze. Faith induced Buffy to steal and got Buffy to declare the “Want. Take. Have” as her new guiding principle to be a slayer. Faith convinced Buffy, against her better judgment, to break out of the cop car. Faith’s social pressures were enough to make Buffy gleefully stand up her best friend and then, it was enough to get Buffy to pull the slayer card to exclude Willow from a hunt that Buffy already invited Willow to before Faith started living large all over Buffy’s behavior.

In general, Buffy has far more advantages than Faith and the show/fandom covers those. However, Faith comes with her own advantages potent enough to subordinate the Unsinkably Alpha Buffy Summers. Faith has a bold, magnetic personality that certainly rivals and may even eclipse Buffy’s. Faith’s whole life revolves around slaying. This could be how Faith knows about vampire nests before Buffy does. Faith can go after the nests in the middle of the day when the slayers have the advantage over vampires without cutting class. Buffy has to please and balance a lot of people and a wear a lot of hats. Faith can just focus on being a slayer. Faith is fearless in a careless, nihilistic, doomed to die young way. Buffy’s caution is generally much better but in this ep, Faith actually crazily calculated correctly that the two slayers could defeat the Iluminati vampires underground…and that intercepted Balthezar getting the amulet the first time around.

However, Buffy does stop following Faith's lead in this and definitely in the next ep. Buffy actually doesn't stop modeling herself after Faith out of Buffy's ego or jealousy or even Buffy's pride or preference of her own life choices. Faith loses her influence over Buffy's behavior because Faith refused to take responsibility for her actions.

Still, early into Faith's fall (really until she tries suffocating Xander), it's very hard for me to blame her for a lot of stuff. I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't weigh in on the legality/ethicality/black....stainality? of Faith accidentally killing Allen Finch. On the surface, I take a vanilla position. It was clearly an accident. However, Buffy exhibited control and dexterity to avoid making similar accidents i.e. when Buffy reflexively stopped staking Vamp Willow when Willow called out "Buffy no!"

However, not only does Buffy "work out" as she proudly and pointedly proclaims in Doppelgangland, Buffy also gets close, careful training from Giles. A lot of Giles's job is designing specific work-outs for Buffy to improve her strength, her speed, her dexterity, her flexibility, her reflexes, meditation techniques to stop stresses from hurting her performances. Even if Faith's first Watcher was awesome and totally did her job, Faith hasn't benefited from a Watcher for months because Giles hasn't picked up any of that slack. Of course, child soldier Faith will work out her strength before her reflexes to follow orders in combat since Faith never gets those combat-orders anyway. Remember, Faith's been sent out alone to fight the lurking evil in most eps.
There's also something pitiable about the "Faith as a Thief". Faith spouts off Want.Take.Have but she's living in a pit. We saw her try to sell her body to make rent. At the end of this ep, Faith was doing her best to scrub the stubborn stains from her crappy, cheap wife-beater because she's not planning to steal a brand new shirt just because the first one was stained and she's above laundry as a slayer. What did Faith steal on-screen? Weapons to slay demons.

I can be very critical of how Buffyverse characters fall into darkness/villainy in an OOC or rushed way. However, I do believe Faith's fall 100 percent. However, it's not because Faith is a bad seed and Faith's been a bad seed since she rolled into town. Faith's hardened her heart to the world since it treated her so poorly to the point that she's cynical about everyone. The world instructed to Faith that the world functions as a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is just out for themselves.

However, I do think there's something exceptional in Faith that wishes the world was a better place. That spark of goodness drives Faith to endure selling her body to live in a crappy motel while she risks her life fighting demons to protect everyone else. At the start, I actually think that becoming a slayer and meeting Buffy was good for Faith. In her eyes, becoming a slayer was the first halfway lucky break that Faith ever got. From an outside perspective, Buffy and the Scoobies showed Faith that the world didn't have to be a nihilistic competition. But then, it hurt all the more when Faith came to realize that Buffy/the Scoobies *is* a competition and one that she's doomed to lose all the time. "The Scythe feels like mine...which means it must be yours". To a great extent, Faith's not wrong that the Scoobies are a competition and accepting a place in Buffy's world frequently means resigning yourself to second banana status. That has to be beyond frustrating to a slayer who's laying her life down too.

Controlled Circumstances Can Control You!

Balthazar's impotence as a demon confined to his tub reverberates on Willow, Wesley and the Council in general. In S1 when the Master was the Big Bad even though was confined underground, the Council had the most silent influence over Buffy. Giles was the closest to who the Council wanted him to be. Buffy generally listened to Giles. Simple as that. The Council actively starts feeling their limitations in S3 when they tried playing a more active role in Buffy's life and she spurned them. Buffy can comfortably do that because the Council was confined to England for the first three years of her career. They failed to define an important role in the field for themselves without Giles as their representative.

Last ep focused on how Xander felt about being fray-adjacent. In this ep, Willow deals with that. Both Xander and Willow are strangely upset to be banished from dangerous combat zones, LOL. However, they've in this war for two years. Recently, the American military allowed its service-women to serve in combat zones if they're physically fit enough for the job. One of the most important reasons was that service-women couldn't earn promotions or advancement past a certain level if they didn't see combat experience, no matter how they ranked at West Point or how long they've been in the military or what great ideas they had.

"Buffy's Army" operates similarly. I discussed this earlier when we discussed The Zeppo. A huge part of status in the group comes from someone's combat experience and abilities. I'll get this out now- Willow was rationally threatened by Faith. After one great sisters-in-arms bonding experience with Faith, Buffy stood Willow up from Willow's tutoring session without the grace to call to cancel or acknowledge the stand-up in the next day, jettisoned Willow from a mutually agreed on patrol, and barely summoned a yawn at Willow providing Buffy with a protection spell which I think should be pretty damn welcome for a slayer in Sunnydale.

Since Faith accidentally killed a guy and felt no remorse, Buffy's infatuation was verrrrry short-lived. However before Willow learned about that, Willow had reason to fear that Buffy would drop Willow from this patrol and that tutoring session to the point that Willow really didn't play a role in Buffy's life anymore and certainly not the life-and-death war against evil that defines Buffy's life the most deeply and pivotally.

I do think it's interesting that The Zeppo and Bad Girls features Buffy excluding Xander/Willow from the fight. In both cases, Buffy cites surfacey and partly true "I must protect my powerless friends!" reasons but Buffy also excludes W/X because of Buffy's social dissatisfaction with both of them. Xander has it worst- Buffy is pretty tired and annoyed with him full-stop. With Willow, I think Buffy is unconsciously comparison-shopping to see if she can get a more understanding, cooler best friend when Faith appeared like such a great option. Of course when Faith flopped as a friend after Finch's murder, Buffy went right back to Willow because Buffy doesn't have a problem with Willow per se. Buffy is just wondering if she can do better.

Needless to say, I have a problem with this. Other than some understandable coldness for like, a day in Dead Man's Party, Willow's been a terrific friend to Buffy from Day 1. Moreover even if Faith never went dark, I don't see what Buffy quite gets out of the comparison-shopping. Faith and Willow both previously expressed a fondness for each other- although they've lived in totally different worlds up to this ep and Faith's actions will sour Willow toward Faith in the next ep. If Buffy wants to be better friends with Faith, there's no pre-existing reason why she can't also include Willow.

I mentioned earlier than I wished that Buffy tried to embrace Wesley more, for Wesley's sake but also because Helpless gave Buffy ample cause to send Giles a signal that Buffy won't automatically follow him. And I think a Watcher is kind of like a doctor or lawyer or any kind of professional who has discretion to dispense high level counsel- never hurts to get a second opinion. Buffy is playing the wrong game to serve justice or her own cause by rewarding Giles with absolute loyalty, even if he tried to poison her or even if his professional performance as a Watcher could stand a little second-guessing, but then among her peers, picking Faith over Willow when Willow did nothing to deserve that and there's been no indication that Buffy has to even start excluding Willow to be better friends with Faith.

Willow and Xander are my darlings. Part of that is how they instinctively "get" the reason for their rejection (as Willow says in this ep, she's had years of practice with rejection) while also adorably falling somewhat off-kilter from their deficiencies. In the last ep, Xander *was* right that part of his problem is that he lacks "cool". He really has an unquestionable record of outstanding performance in the war against evil. However, he lacks the presence to make a rep that sticks. He has a lot of opinions about how the Scoobs should function but he's only alienated/bothered people in how he brings it up. IMO, Xander was aware of these larger problems but he was too afraid to speak in a paragraph of meta about his issues. So, he boiled it down to "cool" and through trivializing his issues, he fumphered around for a trivial solution that he knew was futile because he knows his obstacles are more serious.

In this ep, Willow's right that Buffy does lean toward Faith partly because Faith is supernaturally gifted. Willow logically tries to sell herself as an equal asset with witchcraft because those are Willow's powers. However, Faith's superpowers appeal meshes with the appeal of Faith's devil-may-care Bad Girl attitude that's drawing Buffy in. Willow's success in off-setting the sulfur fumes of her protection spell with a minty fresh aroma is the opposite of devil-may-care cool and Willow calls attention to that in her pitch.

Local Maximum
30-11-14, 01:21 AM
Great post, Dipstick. Really fantastic. I agree with mostly everything.

I hope to come back later, but I especially want to say how awesome I think the Balthazar/Mayor plot connection you've drawn in is. It also makes me think that maybe there's also an Alan/Trick rivalry going on, with Trick obviously being the guy who can take attackers out and Alan left in the dark. There's some bookending with this and Consequences, because IIRC Alan is trying to switch teams to give secret information to Buffy's team, and it may be because he recognizes that Trick is (ahem) ascending to the Mayor's second-in-command position, and it's not like there's that much security in being the Mayor's third-in-command. This switch connects with Faith's switch: Faith does not have the security and purpose that comes with being the #1 good guy slayer, and so she switches to the Mayor's team after killing and thus supplanting Trick. Trick is easier to kill than Buffy (both physically and emotionally), and Team Evil is much more willing to look on killing the competition favourably.

Stoney
30-11-14, 03:40 AM
I think, as always, there is a real note of sadness with Faith in this episode. She is obviously trying to bond with Buffy at the beginning asking her about Xander, trying to find common ground and an understanding, because she knows that Xander was a virgin, he told her so, so she obviously knows that Buffy hasn’t ever slept with him. Throughout the episode she is trying to connect with Buffy I think on her own ground, their shared ground. She probably feels like she tried to join in with the Scoobies and she ended up feeling excluded so here she is trying to play/press what she/Buffy share that the others don’t. To a degree I think that it is a fair point and we did see with Kendra that her/Buffy came to a degree of understanding of each other and, had it not been for the Deputy Mayor accident, things may have been different and managed to find some balance with Buffy/Faith.

To a degree I think that Buffy emphasises the point to Faith at the beginning that she is very aware that she is out there fighting for her life and that is something that blocks a degree of enjoyment from it for her. Faith calls her on getting a kick out of it and we have seen Buffy use violence to process her emotions several times so there is a real sense that Faith has, to some extent, hit on a truth that we know Buffy doesn’t like to look to herself and see. There is a freedom to having the powers she does and her recent ‘helpless’ spell has no doubt emphasised this. If she ignores the details for a while she can lose the pain of what Giles did, lose the worry of whether she will get to go home at the end of the night. She can enjoy the fight without shame rather than worry about being someone who should concentrate on the test when she may not have the future Willow can have. I don’t think Buffy is looking to do better than Willow but be understood more completely (for herself and by someone else). Don't forget to throw into the mix the trauma of her having felt like she was being drowned, again(!), alongside the exhilaration of surviving and winning the amulet and her turning away from Willow and towards Faith just makes sense to me.

I just don’t see it as a major rejection of Willow. Not a real one that Buffy is intending or would have been likely to stick with (as opposed to finding a new way of splitting her time). I don’t think it is wrong of Buffy to want to spend that time with Faith alone either when they do have a specific connection that the others won’t ever fully understand. Not just in their powers but in the effect that it has on their perceptions of their futures and the view of it as their job and the life expectancy that comes with that, even if their personal views don't align. This angle I felt was greatly emphasised by the discussion about Willow’s college opportunities. That Buffy got caught up in the adrenalin and missed the tutoring session wasn’t great, but again I don’t think it was an awful situation, although I can completely see that Willow would have seen it as a personal rejection, especially then coupled with being pulled out of the patrol. But Buffy wanted to have that time with Faith and I think she probably felt that Faith’s way/approach was not one that suited others to come alongside of. And she was right. Faith’s all in, don’t think go by your gut approach had her kill someone.

I don’t think there is any doubt that Faith was massively affected by what happened. There is a truth I think that she does have a general lack of regard for others, shown with her cavalier attitude towards the policemen they risked killing, but I think her initial reaction and her return to the body showed her struggling to see/accept what had happened. I’m not sure she would have acted differently if it was an incident that had happened when she first arrived. Possibly she would have sought support more but Faith was already less likely to trust than to make herself vulnerable so possibly not. Un