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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

  1. #821
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    It was actually the last time I rewatched Season 6 that I had this 'awakening' if you will, of just how poor Dawn's home life was that season. It was terribly depressing.

    You could of course go with the obvious examples such as "Wrecked" where both Buffy and Willow abandon Dawn to spend the day alone whilst they sleep off a night of bad decisions. However, whilst it certainly was unfortunate, I was more struck by Buffy's behaviour in "As You Were" when she freely admits that Dawn "is counting on her" and she's "not going to let her down by letting [Spike] in" and yet, she does so anyway. The shot of her dropping Dawn's dinner on the ground, if you even want to call it that, whilst she makes out with Spike is actually pretty awful. And then in the next scene not only is Dawn faced with a squished and no doubt cold dinner but she then admits to Buffy that she simply can't eat that processed junk for another night, implying this has been a regular occurrence.

    It's then reminiscent of scenes in "Wrecked" where Willow finds Dawn in the kitchen trying to concoct a bizarre peanut butter quesadilla. Dawn does her best to be positive about the experiment only to admit that it tasted horrible the moment Willow offers to take her out for a meal and a movie (and we all know how that turned out). This scene is reminiscent of my childhood when I was home alone with no idea how to cook and I'd come up with these gross mishmash dishes to starve off my hunger. Except, those occasions were few and far between and I knew that when my parents got home I would have a decent meal. Accompany this with Buffy telling Riley in "As You Were" that all she had to offer him and Sam were ice cubes and it paints a very bleak picture for poor Dawn.

    And then there's the fact that Buffy neglects Dawn for most of the season and excuses this to Dawn and her friends on the account that she's working around the clock at the Doublemeat Palace and slaying, when in reality, she's spending much of that time away sleeping with Spike. On top of this you have Dawn living with an addict who gets her into a serious car accident, Spike who has seemingly dropped any care and attention he had towards her at all and Tara who makes an effort to stay in touch but has moved out of home.

    I'm even annoyed by Buffy in "Dead Things" when she chooses to wake Dawn up in the middle of the night to admit to her she hasn't been everything Joyce was and that she's turning herself into jail. Now, I get that Buffy was having a breakdown over her belief that she'd killed Katrina, and overall I'm very sympathetic towards Buffy throughout the episode, but why wake a fifteen year old up from a peaceful sleep to deliver her gut-wrenching news that you're leaving her... and to whom, exactly? It's so unnecessary, dysfunctional, and honestly just cruel and unthoughtful.

    I love Buffy and I'll defend her from high heavens but I really noticed on my last rewatch how poor she was a guardian. I know she was still very, very young and practically a child herself, that she was suffering from clinical depression, and that she hadn't asked for this responsibility either. It makes it all somewhat understandable but I admittedly resent her for how poorly she treat Dawn in episodes like "As You Were" when she herself vocalises that she's letting Dawn down and then does so anyway.

    It must've been awful for Dawn to go from a stable home environment with Joyce, with home cooked meals ("chicken and stars"), security, and a healthy parental relationship, to either fending for herself most nights and scrounging for things to eat or eating Doublemeat Palace food multiple times a week. It's even worse that she was suffering from such loneliness and pain that it summoned Halfrek to Sunnydale and she thought she had to accept this whilst she felt sorry for Buffy that she was "all tied up" with DoubleMeat Palace and slaying, when in actual fact her sister's really sneaking off to Spike's crypt instead of spending any time with her. I do agree with AndrewS that I think it's partially why I find Buffy's decision to leave her with Spike in "Villains" to be so upsetting. She's consistently let Spike in at the detriment of Dawn's well-being and in this episode she makes another really poor decision to prioritise her really sad (and I mean that empathetically) toxic relationship with him over Dawn's possible safety. It's a far cry from her protectiveness of Dawn in Season 5.
    - "The earth is doomed" -


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  3. #822
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    I do think that Dawn is a barometer through the season for how poorly the adults around her are handling their issues. She is dismissed, forgotten and neglected regularly. She bears physical injuries that require medical attention at times when others are self-medicating in effect by using coping mechanisms that serve to provide physical release/highs/escapism. The symbolism of how what you eat affects your health and happiness, what you take in to your body physically like the experiences that build into your mental/emotional wellbeing, is repeatedly featured in the season and regularly represents the general quality of the overall input being received. As Mogs outlined there's no doubt that Dawn's dietary contributions are questioned and her burnt cooking attempts and experimental concoctions really represent her isolation and loneliness. She is crying out for attention and affection and Buffy faces this more through the episodes, but seeing it doesn't instantly fix it. She knows that she is distant and struggling to give her sister the emotional support that she needs and is often falling short in meeting her practical needs too. I do agree generally with Mogs' post above about this issue and I think it is a deliberate part of how they show how the group isn't functioning well and how Buffy is struggling to cope through the season. The combination of Doublemeat Palace following Provider over on AtS I think really underlines this aspect of duty/responsibility.

    In Villains though I feel Buffy's awareness of failing to meet Dawn's needs actually plays a part in why she agrees to take her to Spike's crypt. There is a resigned/unhappy tone to her agreement to do so to me. I think she is seeing it as meeting what Dawn is asking of her at a time when Dawn is trying to deal with having just lost yet another adult that was part of her previously established support network with Tara. And this comes with having found her and been alone doing so which I can imagine was an experience that emphasised a very traumatic sense of isolation and abandonment again. Dawn had clearly reacting badly to the news that Spike wasn't being included in the group any longer in Seeing Red after the events of Entropy, she was upset that he wouldn't be coming around any more (which implies there was some regularity to his visits that she personally saw/felt which would then be seen to be stopping). Because of the chip and Buffy's belief that Spike wouldn't hurt Dawn, whether that is a misjudgement or not it is a consistent point of view, I think she genuinely felt that she was best meeting Dawn's needs in agreeing to this. Perhaps even above what she might perceive in consideration of the wider circumstance to be a personal preference to not do so.

    Having read the differing thoughts though I can't say it isn't very fair to question the choice. Would Buffy really be happy with Spike and Dawn spending time together generally still after the attempted rape? How would she perceive the attack on her changing things. As I said in an earlier post, I think the AR changed Spike's perception of himself and served to prompt him to look to change, but it was really yet another reminder to Buffy of the issues she already knew were there in the limitations of his soullessness and it supported why she didn't feel it was a possible romantic relationship to pursue. But she had believed that he wouldn't hurt her and there is anger and a sense of betrayal too at the end of the scene between them in the bathroom. But we also briefly see that Spike is showing contrition, presumably before he is then told firmly to leave or fled fast enough to leave his coat. I don't think that undoes what just happened between them I hasten to add and underline very firmly. But it could mean that Buffy's perception of his emotional state afterwards is not a focus on him as still acting violently or intent to hurt her. So with that in mind too I can see Buffy looking to put aside her very justifiable anger because she is compartmentalising it as her problem with Spike and the situation as needing her to do so. Along with it providing Dawn with a currently needed sense of security.

    There's an interesting correlation across to A New World in AtS here and it also works alongside the season wide story element of Buffy shielding Dawn from the world too much as well I think. In putting aside her feelings and any reservations to take Dawn to Spike as she has asked, Buffy is again shielding her from the real world. She is allowing Dawn's perception of Spike's reliability to stay static without the new information which could change her feelings (and we see very much does). That desire to protect someone seen as vulnerable to the world around them is similar to Angel's chase after Connor when he flees the hotel. In both cases there is a belief that the children being 'out there' puts them at risk. But their perceptions of those they are looking to protect possibly doesn't truly reflect reality. Overly shielding Dawn isn't helpful and in this situation in fact goes against what she would want if she knew the truth and Connor isn't alone as Angel believes.

    Buffy's choice certainly could also be seen to be reflective of how difficult it is to get away from abusive relationships. Especially with that notion of her having seen Spike's regret. Forgiving abusive partners and believing assurances that these things won't ever happen again is something that we often hear of. There are elements mixed up in all this when there are genuine feelings for the abusive partner and hope that they will change, or with the abused party making excuses for them. In real life there are plenty that can't or won't change and getting out of the relationship is definitely the healthy decision. Spike and Buffy's relationship was mutually abusive but Buffy was able to see this and withdraw. Because of his soullessness the relationship certainly reflects this scenario of an inability to change as well though, and the true lack of reliability he offers is underscored firmly by the attempted rape, even after Buffy had ended the relationship. I don't agree that the relationship is toxic in S7 as I think that the inverse mythology then also allows them to move away from the problems that cause the limitation between them in S6 in a way that isn't reflective of real life with a real/meaningful shift able to happen suddenly to Spike's emotional and moral capacity with the inclusion of the soul. I find the relationship then as pointedly changing from the abusive past to a new positive and mutually empowering dynamic. But that's no doubt going to get discussed across next season and it will be interesting to see where/why people feel differently on such things.

    It has been really very interesting to see how much discussion and debate has come from this aspect of the episode and I have certainly questioned and considered it more after hearing everyone's perspectives. I do think Buffy was simply trying to make what she felt was the best decision in the circumstances, was looking to listen to Dawn at a very difficult and upsetting time, whilst obviously still dealing with a lot of her own personal issues and had barely any time to process the attack itself let alone all the new traumas that were piling up as well as the pressure of the moment. But there's no doubt in my mind though that the chip is a major factor of why she is at all willing to do it. Having now watched the eps finally I'm going to give some time and thought to WfB's review and consider the rest of the episode.
    Last edited by Stoney; 13-09-19 at 04:07 AM.

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  5. #823
    Scooby Gang Willow from Buffy's Avatar
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    I've started reading your "Seeing Red" review, American Aurora. I really love the way you write and you put your finger on some many important point. Since Willow is my favourite character, I had to weigh in on the discussion on Willow as a cool girl/psycho lesbian bitch.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    I’ve seen some rants on the net about Buffy as a “faux” feminist show – and many center around the depiction of Willow Rosenberg as a “cool girl” who quickly devolves into a “Psycho Lesbian Bitch” until she’s tamed by the men around her. The whole Light Willow/Vampire Willow/Dark Willow divide irks them – because they feel she feeds into pernicious and even homophobic stereotypes that are damaging.
    So, as people may have noticed, I am fiercely defensive concerning the merits of Willow as a character. Therefore, I want to try to unpack all of this and provide my take on it. I'll try to be open minded, but the bias is strong

    I reject the idea that Willow is a cool girl off hand. In my opinion, there are two cool girls in the Whedon canon. They are Fred from AtS and Kaylee from Firefly. Whedon often gets accused of only writing manic pixie dream girls, which is a trope that is closely related to and largely overlaps with the cool girl. Even if the two mentioned are egregious examples of this, none of his other female characters fit into this trope. Cordelia, Zoe, Dr Sanders, Sierra, November, De Wit, Anya, Dawn, etc are not cool girls. And neither is Willow.

    Willow tries to be a cool girl in the first two seasons, but she is not very good at. The cool girl is accomodating and tries to adapt to whatever she thinks men will like. In fiction, this is unconscious. The cool girl is simply cool. Fred just loves tacos. She does not eat tacos to impress Gunn. Kaylee loves fixing spaceships and she wants to have tons of greasy sex with the uptight Simon. That's just who they are. But Willow tries to win Xander by being his friend, so it is a conscious effort on her part. However, Xander falls in love with sexy teachers, slayers, cute foreign girls and the cheerleading queen. He does not fall in love with his buddy, who is good at movie quizzes and wants to help him do his math homework. Willow may be accomodating, but she isn't that cool. She is Xander's "guy friend who knows about girl stuff." She is un-sexed and friend-zoned.

    As the show progresses, Willow grows to be more impressive and way cooler, but she becomes less accommodating and more difficult. Not more difficult than a person has a right to be, but too difficult to be a cool girl. The exchange you quote from "Doppelgangland" is a good example of that, but there are many other examples of Willow demanding to be heard and taken notice of. And then there is the fluke with Xander, which I know upsets a lot of fans. Many fans don't want Willow to be the kind of girl who finds infidelity "sexier ... somehow," but that is who Willow is on the show. She isn't always perfectly wholesome.

    In fact, many fans find Willow the be the furthest thing from a easy going cool girl and describe her as arrogant, condescending and judgemental.

    And then there is Oz, who may actually be a cool guy. When Oz is introduced on the show, they make it very clear that he is a sensitive guy, who would never judge a woman on her appearance. There are several scenes of Devon, Larry or Xander trying to get Oz to join in on some classic gawking and objectification, but Oz never plays along. He is unthreatening and kind. He loves all of Willow's quirks. Seriously, who falls for a girl who tries to boil herself inside an eskimo outfit at a nightclub?

    And throughout the show, Oz mostly remains a very low maintenance, supportive and undemanding boyfriend. Being in a band gives him some cool points, but he does not engage in any unseemly activity associated with musicians. And he has some previous sexual experience, but he won't push Willow.

    For a lot of shy, un-kissed young nerds, Oz must have seemed like the perfect guy. Kinda cool, kinda sexy, but not in a threatening way. Loyal and sensitive. He is a good listener, who hardly ever speaks, especially not about himself.

    As for the psycho lesbian bitch and hysterical woman allegations, those are a little harder to combat. First off, though, I want to point out that prior to S6 and even to a degree in early S6, Willow and Tara's relationship is shown to be a very healthy and supportive. It doesn't turn bad until S6, and S6 isn't a good year for heterosexuality either (looking at you, axe murdering and judgemental Xander and stalky-the-clown-turned-attempted-rapist Spike).

    Then, I wonder whether Willow truly deserves to be called a psycho bitch. Was she a psycho bitch before Dark Willow? She does some bad stuff, sure, but that seems really harsh. Dark Willow may be described as a psycho bitch, but she is out fighting some truly monstrous men.

    Now, I get that Willow's reaction to Tara's death connects to some cultural belief concerning female hysteria and insane lesbians. But aren't storylines where men go insane from grief very common? Is Wesley a psycho bitch when he stabs Gunn in the chest after Fred's death? Is Angel a psycho bitch when he fires Wes, Cordy and Gunn in S2? Is Giles a psycho bitch when he goes after Angel in "Passion" and yells at Buffy for saving him? Is Xander a psycho bitch when he threatens to murder Buffy in "When She Was Bad," because Buffy was moody prior to Willow's abduction?

    I think there are situations when hysteria feels like the only natural response. There are many times I want to get hysterical, because the world is so cruel and unfair. But getting hysterical in real life is a bad idea, so I try to avoid it.

    Willow goes hysterical after an insane experience. Personally, I forgive her for it. Maybe her response is the only sane one. The love of her life lies dead in her lap and her best friend is bleeding out, because of some maniac with a gun.

    Then I would like to argue that Willow is not the show's main lesbian. Tara is. And isn't Tara the furthest thing from a psycho bitch?

    Willow is not introduced on the show as a lesbian. We only learn that Willow is a lesbian after she meets Tara. Therefore, I would argue that people will generally not see Willow's lesbianism as being her most central quality. It is different for Tara, because we first learn to know her as Willow's first girlfriend. If we asked people to write words relating to Willow and then words relating to Tara, the word lesbian would likely show up much sooner for Tara than for Willow. This is both because we have known Willow for so long before she comes out, and because she according to her own admission still lack Tara's "lesbo street cred."

    We see this in the discussion between Xander and Buffy in "Family." Xander spells it out. He can still figure Willow out, even if she has this "new thing in her life." But Tara is this unknown scary lesbian. They don't know anything about her, except that she "likes Willow."

    This mechanism can be seen in real life. If we have prejudices against a group, we often see people whom we know as being less representative of that group than other members of that group. A racist person can have a black friend, but that black friend isn't as scary as the other black people who live downtown. A homophobe may have a gay friend, but this friend likes sport, unlike other gay people who just watch musicals and braid each other's beards.

    On AtS, Gunn is black, but he is also a person, unlike the friends in his crew, who are just black stock characters, and therefore a purer expression on how the writers generally view black people. Gunn is a fairly reasonable black person. He doesn't have the same aggressive pack mentality as his old friends.

    And so, how could someone argue that meeting Tara, who is the kindest person in the world, turned Willow into a psycho lesbian bitch? I guess that may have something to do with the last point, namely that it is heterosexual men who manage to calm Willow down. Without a calm Oz in her life, Willow's hysterical woman-ness is allowed to run wild. Oz did show some scepticism towards Willow's magical experimentation, and Willow's magic is connected to her womanhood, lesbianism and her hysteria.

    But is Xander's appeal to Willow a triumphant hetero-masculine moment? I would argue that it is not. It is a deeply humbled Xander who begs his oldest friend to stop what she is doing. It is little more than a plea to acknowledge the love that has existed between them for almost their entire lives. Xander isn't strong. He is not confident. He does not appeal to rationality. He has made some admission about himself since "Entropy" and "Seeing Red."

    The scenes with Giles and Willow in England is a different deal, though, because this really feel like Willow submitting to the judgement of a sensible and rational man. I truly wish we had seen Willow with the coven instead of with Giles. And while there is some great Willow moments in S7, she does not get back to being the Willow I truly love until after the seed is destroyed in the comics. S7 has a mostly muted and unsure Willow.

    Phew! Really hope that didn't sound like a hysterical defense speech

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Buffy engages with violence on a daily basis to fight the wrongs of the world – her power comes from conquest and so she has to be morally beyond reproach in her mind or she’s nothing more than a killer. But Willow doesn’t have that kind of agency – she’s winnowed in by her own fears of doing the wrong thing and realizing her greatest fear – that she’ll reveal she’s essentially worthless and unlovable.
    I think Willow sees Buffy as everything she herself is not. Buffy is cool, confident, assertive and attractive, while Willow sees herself as a grey mouse dork.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Luckily, she comes from a progressive family – and so coming out of the closet wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been because her parents hadn’t labeled it as “wrong” as it might be for someone in a more fundamentalist home.
    I find Willow's relationship to her parents very interesting. On the one hand, Willow is happy that her mother is supportive of her coming out. On the other hand, Willow is dismayed that her mother only shows momentary interest in her life, because Willow's choice of partner is socially brave.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Despite Willow’s moral grounding and reticence to break rules, I would imagine those forbidden words of dark magic that opened up the very nature of life and death would be a fatal draw for a brilliant woman who constantly repressed her own inner nature while being constantly ignored, teased, and beaten down by adult figures (and even her own peers) and was forced to play the Cool Girl who is always helpful and always positive throughout six seasons of Buffy.
    Yes! Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Yes! Very important point!

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  7. #824
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
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    I've just caught up in time before the next review.

    Quote Originally Posted by Willow from Buffy View Post
    There is quite a bit of discussion about who the so-called big bad of season 6 is. I always found life to be an unsatisfactory answer, because BtVS has always been about the hardships of life. Saying that season 6 is about life feels like a cop-out. It is too vague. Then again, what is Buffy's main problem in season 6? It is all the little things—the little things who by themselves are too small to really be much of a thing—all those little things we colloquially refers to as life—life dragging us down, making us incapable of dealing with the big things.
    This is an interesting perspective on the season, which I think I mostly agree on. I think Buffy's main problem in the season is dealing with trauma and her depression is a symptom of that. But then I do agree that those little life challenges add in to facing 'life' in a way that she isn't able to. I suppose I see the challenge as life in the sense that it is about more than the little things, but how able you are to process and deal with everything in context. Why sometimes all those little things can be too much to deal with. In this way the repeated focus on time and how the past affects the present and future is the way in which just living life is the season's focus. How your past experiences/traumas still influence and affect you can make dealing with the here and now so much more difficult than the task at hand appears. And how well you are relating to others around you, how your relationship dynamics are helping or hindering, also greatly affects your ability to process and deal with everyday things. And obviously those relationships have their own histories that influence the present too.

    So all the aspects of past and present that affect your perceptions and capacities for managing what you need to are considered, rather than facing a specific 'big' challenge towards growing up such as getting a job or going to college. It's everything that builds into who you are and where you are at at each point that gives some of the context to how well you can cope. In this sense life itself is the challenge for two reasons. Because the story considers the context of what you have experienced, what you have lived through already, as an integral part of where you are as an individual and in your different dynamics. It then looks at your capacity in consideration of individual struggles in dealing with those little things in life. If it happens that factors fail to support each other and aid you in coping, then even little things can make any additional struggles you are going through and the daily challenges so much harder. As you say, if bigger issues then come along too there is just no way to absorb that as well. Buffy starts the season trying to deal with trauma and her distance from her friends. All the little life pressures that add on then help to hold her down and make it harder to cope with that underlying problem. When issues like The Trio come up they are greatly dismissed as there just isn't the capacity to address it like they could/should be. Or even see it for the danger it holds.

    I see Joss as an absurdist. The Buffyverse is chaotic and unfair. It takes a tough person to make it. Heaven is the opposite of that. It does not really feel like a place at all. Buffy describes it as a wonderful, serine state where even the pains of being a fleshy body living in harsh materiality is gone. To me, that has always felt like a horrible place for Buffy to end up—Buffy the fighter, Buffy the survivor, lounging in some immaterial opium den in the sky.
    Yes there is something absent in how Buffy describes herself in heaven and it continues and works with her sense of disconnection on her return and the feeling that she isn't really 'back' for quite a lot of the season either. Of course she can never be who she once was and attempts to return to previous selves fall flat because their experiences have changed them and that can't be undone.

    So, I do think it makes sense to say that life is indeed the big bad—not life itself but “life” in quotation marks. The resolution to the season comes in “Grave,” when Buffy accepts life and promises Dawn that they now both will have the strength to deal with “life.”
    The choice to reconnect changes things for Buffy as it will allow her to have support as well as a better sense of the reasons for facing the challenges again and the potential of life ahead of her.

    I really like your consideration towards who really are the villains of the season that the episode presents and how this works separately from the 'big bad' being faced. As I've said recently, I think that both Willow and Spike are seen to abuse power during the season and both are violent and violate others. But we understand that at the height of these actions in the latter part of the season, Willow is running on grief and Spike in selfish and soulless desperation showed the limitations of his moral understanding. Neither took a calm/considered choice to do what they did, even if we can see how it did build on from previous behaviour. Whilst it isn't clear as it isn't concluded at this point (and the mislead is running as to Spike's current intentions too), but the biggest distinguishing aspect that removes a sense of villainy for me comes with how they respond to their actions. In this way it contrasts to The Trio who have been actively making the choice to try to be villains through the season and not only stand against those they see as the heroes of the story but also disregard any social/moral boundaries and the consequences of their actions if it gets them what they want.

    The Trio have also been violent and violated others, and have done so repeatedly and without looking to stop or take responsibility for the things they have done. But does it fall more on the shoulders of Warren who has presented himself as the leader fairly consistently, unless it benefits him not to. As you ask, are Jonathan and Andrew only villains by association? They were presented as a team from the start and were clearly in agreement about their plans and overall intentions. Yet we've seen Jonathan steadily separating, from both his different response to the unplanned death of Katrina as well as increasingly from the internal fissure as the plans plotted against him develop. But we've also seen how directed Andrew appears to be by his wish for Warren's affection and approval. Does this separate him too or is it meaningless against the fact he still actively joins in and clearly revels in the possibility of gaining strength and dominance to violent expression in Seeing Red? At the same time that Jonathan is choosing to try to help Buffy survive and win, drawing his own line and actively not supporting the choices of the other two. So it isn't always straightforward with the bad guys "easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats" and situations change and can do so rapidly. As the events from Seeing Red to Willow's final act in Villains also displays. Certainly the mix of those we can consider villains in play at this point is very intriguing.

    The question you raise about the lines between the actions of a hero against villains and when it is acceptable to kill are excellent and often it is a matter of subjective perception. This is why society constructs rules and laws for people to agree to and then abide by. But we have considered through the season too how the judgement of society on what is acceptable in how people behave can be a negative constriction too. And so often in the supernatural world human laws and controls just aren't enough. I found Willow's choice to torture and kill Warren really very shocking when I first saw it. I still do even though it is to a lesser extent than the impact of that first time viewing it. But the determined fixation on vengeance taken to its most extreme action in violence like that is still hard to see. But I do think the driving emotions and the blindness that caused creates sympathy. Even at the hardest points to view, what drives her is clear and the significance of it is expressed by the intensity of her grief being possible for Rack and Anya to sense. I can't see it as right to kill him, but I also don't think that Warren had indicated that he had any real remorse to the crimes he committed in the season and wouldn't continue to be a danger to others as soon as he was free again.

    Across in AtS's A New World a similar consideration can be seen in the uncertainty of how to react to Connor, and whether he will be a threat to the group or just in need of guidance and support. New now to the world he has landed in they are unsure what he knows of social boundaries and not knowing why or how he is back disadvantages them from assessing the situation well. Similar to Buffy and Xander when first reunited with Willow, they're operating without understanding his intentions. The fang gang also don't know Connor's perception of them and how affected he has been by both his experiences and any influence by Holtz. His ability to converse implies that he spent some years being raised by Holtz. In truth Connor's whole perspective on his father has been controlled by Holtz as he has taken him and then raised him to satisfy his own wish for vengeance. Here again, we can understand the underlying emotions, traumas and histories that influence the choices the characters make. But there is a great deal of deliberate consideration and a lack of any desire to stop or change that means Holtz's ongoing choices will be revealed to have a great deal of villainous intent driving them. Connor, however, who has been misled and deliberately influenced to fulfil someone else's wish for revenge, could be considered more of a tool although he acts out of individual choice. Yet to a great degree he is another of Holtz's victims.

    This season, Buffy shows us the dangers of rejecting life and disassociating ourself from our own bodies and experiences. Spike is her opposite in this regard. His engagement with life is extreme and reckless and shows little regard for others. Spike gives Buffy many useful lesson through the season, but he represents a different kind of danger.
    That is really interesting and works well against their conversation in the bathroom scene I think. Spike emphasises passion as consuming and burning but Buffy, who already called a stop to their destructive affair, doesn't want to give in to escapism and pleasure at any price. She is able to see and consider the lack it offers now and the temporary nature of such an approach to relationships as she is steadily moving towards reengaging herself fully again.

    The idea of the two characters representing two extremes of engagement that affects them and those around them like this is really interesting to consider alongside the observation that SpuffyGlitz made in the rewatch revival thread about how a number of episode titles work in relation to impacts on the body and senses and a sense of chaos. And it this sits well against the experience through the season running from being forced into her body and life again, right through to choosing to actively engage by the season end.

    The episode does feature a bittersweet reunion of three core Scoobies, who haven't been acting as a team much this season. Of course, it ends up being short lived, but it is still nice seeing everyone in the same car. It is important to note that Willow's first act after absorbing the dark power is to save Buffy. I have often wondered, though, as to why she would bring Xander and Buffy along to hunt Warren. I suspect that she (consciously or not) wanted to provoke the confrontation that happens after Willow destroys the Warren!Bot. It seems like Willow is quite happy to let them see her flay the real Warren. Maybe she is hoping they will save her or maybe she just wants her to share her pain. I dunno. It may simply be that she is instinctively drawn to her friends and she wants them to be there as her world ends.
    That Buffy and Xander don't understand what has happened to Tara and so to Willow at first again serves to show the significance of what influences us and affects the ability to understand and support others. The need to share her pain I can see being part of it, but also the desire to press her intention with or without their support as this is such a defining moment for her.

    Dawn stays with Tara's body, whereas Willow leaves her behind as soon as she is resigned to her death. Over the coarse of these last three episodes, Willow will become more and more unwilling to talk about Tara. From the next episode on, she will threaten violence upon everyone who mentions her name. I do not talked a lot about Dawn in the following, but Dawn is a very important character in this season, and up until the point of Tara's death, Dawn and Tara have both often served as authorial voices, but now we see Buffy start to reclaim that role.
    Both Dawn and Tara have been the ones on the outside affected by the struggles that Buffy and Willow have been going through. Both have been used to illustrate the emotional highs and lows, the costs and consequences of actions and perhaps in losing Tara it presses the importance of Dawn. In this sense the confrontation between Willow and Dawn and the threat to Dawn works well for the build in to Willow's wish to save the world from the pain of living. And of course this aligns with Buffy's statement in The Gift that the hardest thing in the world is to live in it and yet contrasts in looking to avoid facing the hardships and pain of doing so. Of course facing the pain of living is something that has already been raised in the season against how hard it was for Buffy to be back. Repeatedly in the earlier part and a running theme in OMWF that led to the reveal of her having been in heaven. This ties then to the idea of being gone as being easier and the comfort of a disconnection from the hardships of life. As this greatly reflects a lot of the journey that Buffy has been on this season but has started to work beyond, it perhaps makes sense that those affected by the coping mechanisms from before step down/are removed as Buffy starts to reclaim a sense of leadership more clearly again.

    I really enjoyed your consideration of the dual nature of the Buffyverse. How they use the boundaries between fantasy and realism, the magic and the mundane, at varying points and how Willow's response to the inability to reverse Tara's death can be seen as an objection to those boundaries. I have never considered how the text switches from the fantastical comic book weapons used by The Trio, to the literal weapons employed when Katrina's killed and Buffy and Tara are shot. Excellent observation.

    I have always tended to read the flat lining noise when Buffy is in hospital and Willow saves her as Willow's magic interfering with the monitors and removing them, the need for them, rather than Buffy dying that time. It's an interesting idea though, especially seen as Willow breaking the narrative boundaries usually maintained, and I'll consider it when I watch it next. I really like the point that in breaking the boundaries, in using her power for revenge in the 'real world' rather than fantasy, Willow is then seen to be unaffected by Warren attacking her with the axe but kills him with magic. It's an interesting perspective on these final few episodes for Willow and I think works in an intriguing way against the notion that Willow (and Buffy) come to accept darker sides of themselves through the course of the season and how they use their power is a significant part of this. As the context of the show utilises boundaries to inform where and when the characters act, the choice to not misuse the power they have at other times is always an aspect of this too. It's interesting too then when moving forwards into the next season when their powers are combined to break the constraint of the original story parameters to empower others.

    Tara is the centre of Willow's existence. Throughout the season, Willow has lost many of the things she treasures, such as the control of her super-Willow magic, the respect of her friends, etc. She is at a low point in her life. This makes Tara all the more important. Tara becomes the light at the end of the tunnel as Willow struggles to get back on her feet. But when Tara dies, Willow immediately abandons her. She suppresses her grief with anger. Therefore, without the puritanical ethics of champion- and slayerism, Willow is even less herself.
    This is really powerful. The symbolic abandonment of Tara in the bedroom tying to Willow separating from who she was as we see her take a path of questionable ethical choices in embracing her anger and desire for vengeance. I don't feel like Dawn in wanting Warren dead personally, but I understand what is driving Willow and can't hand on heart say I wouldn't feel that if it was someone I loved so fiercely. That you'd lose something of yourself in the process though is very true. Willow makes it clear that she is accepting of the consequences of not returning from this. With her perception of the future so bleak and blank from the loss of Tara, nothing feels able to hold her back.

    Your exploration of Dark Willow is great. There is a detachment in Willow during her acts in Villains that relates to the desire to abandon her own morals in order to act driven by the desire for vengeance. Considered against her contradictory wish to both follow rules and enjoy freeing pleasure in breaking them is really interesting for a sense of continuity of character in being able to switch in this way. But of course that does come with that loss of part of herself, what had to be switched off to be able to act this way. I watched Carrie too long ago to remember much of it at all but really enjoyed the correlations you drew. I agree that there's strength to fighting back being represented but a clear line that is crossed too. Considering Willow and Tara's differing fears and tying Willow embracing her desire for vengeance, the turn back to magic, as a push against remaining plain old Willow and existing in despair I think works really well with that literal step away from Tara. It fits the shutting down she does emotionally that means she is avoiding facing her grief but clouding it in her anger.

    I'm going to try to add in watching Carrie before S7 and really hope you'll join then with your thoughts on that season for Willow too.

    Tara stands in stark contrast to all these characters. Tara, in season 6 especially, is purely a stabilising force. And even if she was killed by a violent misogynist, her death is not a consequence of who she is. Warren does not even intend to kill her. Her death is just a random result of his cruel and thoughtless behaviour.

    It may be that the writers did not see the true value of Tara and that the decision to kill off one of TV's few gay characters was terribly misguided, but I think people have been too quick to place her death within a tradition where she does not really belong. I think there are many other character in the Buffyverse who are problematic, though, such as the ones mentioned, as well as Andrew and Lorne. But Tara is a heroic character, whose heroism (except for one axing) did not lay in violence.
    Great points about the writing of Tara's death. I'm not very knowledgeable at all about tropes, but I would have thought if anything it could better be argued that Tara's death is more problematic because it happens to serve Willow's story. I have mixed feelings about these situations as I do think such things happen suddenly in real life and so aren't invalid to use and to gain the impact on those around the person who dies by doing so. But I can understand why people who are invested in the character that is lost suddenly could feel resentment for such an ending to be given.

    Buffy spends the summer in Heaven, separated from her body, which decomposes back on Earth. Being thrown back into herself proves to be a shock. Buffy struggles the entire season with depression. Worst is the feeling at she came back wrong. She feels unfamiliar in her own skin and among her old friends. She is disconnected from herself and from the world.

    Spike is very much in tune with his own body and his id, so Buffy seeks solace with him. However, sleeping with Spike only alienates Buffy even more from herself, as she does not recognise herself in the person she is becoming.

    In “Seeing Red,” Buffy suffers two attacks against her body. The first comes from Spike, the second from Warren. At the risk of being crude, you could say that Spike fails to penetrate, while Warren succeeds

    These attacks fill Buffy with terror. Throughout the season, she has been reckless with her body. She broke a house with Spike in “Smashed.” She gave up control of her body to Spike in “Dead Thing,” when she let him cuff her. She rejoiced when she was turned invisible in “Gone,” finding near non-corporeality freeing rather than terrifying. Now she has come very close to first being raped and then being killed. It reminds her that the body is precious, and that in order to live in the world, we must accept that we are temporal creatures of flesh.

    When Buffy wakes up, she finds her whole world in disarray. Tara is dead, Willow is on a vendetta, Anya is a demon, Dawn is yet again traumatised and Xander feels helpless and useless after all his recent mistakes. Knowing that she stands to permanently lose everything she cares about, Buffy rises to the challenge.

    Buffy does not lose herself to the moment. She sympathises with Willow, but she reminds her that they don't support vendettas against humans. It is this integrity that separates a champion from others.
    I agree this response from Buffy feels like another moment that is moving her into better, more complete connection with the world around her and those she cares about. We saw at earlier parts in the season when she was listening to others talk, Willow facing the problems with magic or when Anya and Xander expressed concerns about Willow, Buffy had a tendency to relate it back on herself whilst they were talking. Her focus on what she was going through and the secrets she was keeping forced a barrier in her ability to give her attention completely to what was happening around her. The misjudgement of the danger of The Trio fell to this too. The potential of disappearing in Gone had her afraid to die again, but she was still distanced. These latest attacks, her brush with death again, the loss of Tara and the potential loss of Willow too are additional experiences all gathered on the fragility of life and definitely play their parts in her reconnection and how her focus on Willow and the situation at hand unfold now.

    Thank you for a really enjoyable review WfB. I'm very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Selfless too and hope that you'll continue to join us for the remainder of this season and for comments through the next too.


    Some additional thoughts... There are a few other ways the episode is interesting when considered against AtS' A New World. Firstly there is the difference that loved ones make and how they affect actions and choices. This has really heavily dominated this season as the themes of betrayal, protection, fears of the future and influences from childhood have featured so much. Now Angel is reacting to the shocking return of his son, the wish to get to him and reconnect, while Willow is acting in reaction to the loss of Tara. As I raised before, their understanding of each other and perceptions of intentions are somewhat restricted and when understood will be found to conflict.

    There is also an interesting comparison to be made between Willow and Connor as ones who are perhaps operating with a simplified focus and view on the world. We imagine that a modern world is a confusing place for Connor, just as the new world Willow is faced with, that Buffy wakes to and Xander is watching play out is baffling and alarming to them for how it has suddenly changed. There is a simplification on the focus that both Connor and Willow take though in their roles of avengers. Connor's intentions around Angel are still hidden but he takes a part of defender as well as the label of destroyer. To Sunny he is a saviour and protector and her perception of him is very different from Tyke who he beats and maims. Both Willow and Connor act specifically as predators towards someone that has previously taken that role and, even if unintentionally, directly (Warren-Tara) or indirectly (Tyke-Sunny) caused another's death. The role of predator is emphasised when both look to scent/sense their intended victims. Both perhaps could be considered to be taking a role of an avenging angel.

    There's no doubt there is judgement involved in the actions both Willow and Connor look to take and there are examples in the Bible of God passing judgement and angels carrying it out. These attacks can be considered reminders of God's overarching power, but also deemed as examples of protectiveness and guidance to the rest of humanity. This notion of divine judgement was something that interested me as an angle to consider as A New World is also the episode that sees Lilah present Wes with a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy as she presses on him the seriousness of the sin of betrayal. The influence that people can have on others underlined here again not only in the sense of judgement being dolled out through the direct confrontation between Willow and Warren and Connor's return to Holtz but by Wes' later contemplation of the book.

    The rifts and divides that occur between characters features heavily in both episodes along with attempts to bridge the gaps and reach out. Willow is able to teleport and literally leaves Buffy and Xander behind as a block when they want to communicate with her and persuade her to reconsider. But then Anya's reacquired status as a demon is revealed as she is able to sense Willow and help Xander and Buffy find her. After Connor falls through a rift from the dimension where he had been taken, Angel is prevented from following him yet again as he flees out into the daylight. But others in the group are able to follow in his place and feed information to him of what they find to lead him to Connor. His determined protection of his son when he finds him seems to begin to impact the preconceptions we realise Connor came back with a little. Those that care and are looking to help and support are sometimes able to and sometimes not. The ones struggling in the world are found again, but only briefly before separation reoccurs. The attempt to connect and communicate is repeatedly hampered by what keeps drawing the focus of the other back away.

    We've discussed already the choice Buffy makes in taking Dawn to Spike's crypt so I won't repeat my perspective on that, and it is there of course that Buffy finds out about Spike's absence. The gulf between them after the events of Seeing Red is now given a literal separation of distance as he has left town and again we see a situation where intent is hidden alongside the sense of a focused drive and mission commanding someone's actions. When we cut to see the beginning of what Spike has gone to do his determination and outright refusal to be affected further by the opinions and perceptions of others about his decision is clear straight away in telling the villager he isn't asking for permission to enter and in how we see him respond to the criticisms of the demon about what he wants. After seeing what is generally considered to be a foreshadowing picture in the cave paintings of Warren being flayed, we see another running on their emotions and acting with their eyes on a fixed goal they are immovable about. Spike seems to utilise his resentment at all that has happened to him and the inequality he feels judged by, combined with his anger at the demon, to prepare for what might lie ahead. And we get one of the biggest clues given to what his intent may truly be (aside from the repeated times his soullessness has been flagged over two seasons as the key issue of course) when the demon talks of Spike's wish for restoration. The same terminology as was used in the spell performed on Angel in S2. The intention here is to mend a rift of course, but with the desire to keep uncertainty and possibly mislead the audience, emphasis is given to Spike's resentments which have regularly played a part in his response to both the chip, and reduction in status it created, as well as towards the ways his love for Buffy and wish to be accepted he has felt has changed him and is now driving him to seek further change.

    Both shows leave situations very much up in the air and clearly to be continued. As Spike invites the demon to give him his best shot, Connor reunites with Holtz and the question of intention is raised again. Willow's intention however to turn her attention now to the others she holds responsible for Tara's death is made abundantly clear though. The impact of Willow calmly surveying Warren as Buffy and Xander look on in shock and simply responding with 'one down' when asked what she has done is a favourite moment of mine. It just hums with emotion and the tension that the episode has built up so well as Willow tracked Warren down. That instant awareness as you understand her intention by mentally finishing the phrase which links us straight to the next episode is simply great.
    Last edited by Stoney; 14-09-19 at 08:34 AM.

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    Dear Willow from Buffy

    First, apologies for taking so long on this…

    Most boringly, a long visitation of migraines….

    Second, very much yes to this—

    Willow from Buffy
    I like Willow and I like season 6.
    Third, I have nothing to say about Buffy’s decision about Dawn: so much of interest has been said; the episode gives so much more to think; and your review explored that more so beautifully—

    Last, not being given to linearity, what I offer here will move more transversally across your piece, between ideas, connecting disparate points, drawing our their implications and my differing, at times, readings—differencings most often provoked by the fine complexities of your thoughts…. This means that there are points of your review that I will not mention: know that I do not because, finding them perfect, I have nothing to add…

    But enough of openings…


    Utterly loved your reflections upon the title—

    In response, a turn, habitual on my part, to the dictionary, in this case the 1844 Webster’s, since it happens to be on my bed (it was Dickinson’s dictionary: “and for years, the lexicon was my only companion.”)”

    VIL’LAIN, n. [Fr. villain….According to the French orthography, this word is formed from vile; but the orthography in other languages connects this word with vill, village, and this is probably the true origin…]

    1. In feudal law, a villain or villain is one who holds land by a base or servile tenure, or in villenage. Villains were of two sorts; villains regardant, that is, annexed to the manor... or villains in gross, that is, annexed to the person of their lord, and transferable from one to another. Blackstone.

    2. A vile wicked person; a man extremely depraved, and capable or guilty of great crimes. We call by the name of villain, the thief, the robber, the burglarian, the murderer, the incendiary, the ravisher, the seducer, the cheat, the swindler, &c.
    Doubtless this did not came into the minds of the writers, but as I care little, if at all, for authorial intent… What interests me is the lowly origin of the villain—as property, bound to land or lord, “dehumanizing,” as you wrote, WfB—if I were to trace the history of the word through the OED, we’d doubtless find that the meaning changed as villains were freed from manor and lord, thus came to be seen as threats to those who once owned them… Villains are indeed evil and wicked, as Noah tells us, but they are lowly evils—I am thinking, here, particularly about your fine analysis of the of the Trio—bound to others or their own passions, lacking the stature of Big Bads, their purely apocalyptic drive for power—

    This journey through the lexicon does not tell us who the “Villains” are, but it does separate them from the season’s Big Bad. Yes, Willow begins a final conflagration, but, as you point out, WfB, this does not make her the Big Bad: it does not, for she will be, at that point, no longer driven power, by its desire (as she will have been, briefly, in TtG), will be, instead, driven purely by anguish…. But more on that when we get to Grave….

    This leaves, of course, the question of the Big Bad, and I like your suggestion that it is “life”—although I would extend it, add that it is Life as well: not life but Life, Life thought specifically in terms of the trauma of Buffy’s resurrection—

    Here, I am thinking of a discussion Stoney, SpuffyGlitz, and I got into on the ReWatch Revival thread, where Stoney argued that we tend to focus so much upon Buffy’s depression in S6 that we tend to overlook her trauma—the trauma that birthed it:

    For Freud, trauma is a missed appointment, an experience the subject does not actually experience—hence its inaccessibility to consciousness. For most, this is a missed appointment with death… But for Buffy, because she was already dead, was not facing death’s (im)possibility, her trauma was formed by a missed appointment with Life—

    At the same time, trauma emerges not simply from that missed event alone: as Cathy Caruth, interpreting Freud writes, "for those who undergo trauma, it is not only the moment of the event, but of the passing out of it that is traumatic; that survival itself, in other words, can be a crisis—"

    For her awakening displaces the subject in time (and space, body): displaces her in relation to the time of her non-experience and to that of trauma's repeated disruptions—moment to moment, the subject finds devastated her ability to form meaningful connections between ideas, feelings, things, people...

    And it is precisely Buffy's missed connection with Life that throws her into a crisis of survival, that strands her between Life and Death, far from the very home she inhabits; that drives her far from those she loves, whom she knows she loves—especially Dawn, whom, as vampmogs has so finely shown, she dreadfully neglects, whose Life Buffy fails to sustain, body and soul—, enwebbed as she remains in her displacement from that love's opening into the force that so moved through her, ensuring her survival and that of the world; that propels her, instead, into the dead arms of Spike—

    (Although, as I argue in my NA writing, it is, ultimately, there, in Spike's arms, in the self-shattering she there encounters, that Buffy begins to find a strange, movement athwart herself and him, a passage into the Possibility that Life would be—making their “this” far more complex than, I think, an experience of further self-alienation alone… )

    To take this just a bit further: in Caruth’s analysis, the crisis of awakening, of trauma, becomes a matter of obligation and witnessing. For one who suffers trauma, awakening to survival is a crisis—of guilt, of unintelligibility, of displacement from the known. To witness is, in part, crucial because it requires the subject to take up her responsibility to the dead—or, in Buffy’s case, given the nature of her trauma and her calling, to the Living. As the one who did not exactly survive, who rather suffered a return to Life, she must live so that they may do so, must once again make meaningful connections—within herself and to others, personal and impersonal, those whom she loves and those whom she saves—to the world, to assume her obligations for others, for their indeterminate possibilities—

    In this, the obligation of witnessing does not necessarily involve telling stories: it involves, most importantly, listening to the call of the other; attending, with generosity, without expectations; allowing touch—opening to the changes that call, that touch might bring, to such futurities… But more on this at the end, when I get to your fabulous meditations up power…

    But in this connection, I very much liked your thoughts about Buffy at the end, about her recklessness, throughout S6, with her body and then her acceptance, after the AR and her nearing of death, “that we are temporal creatures of the flesh”—and thus, mortal, given to death—which is part of her reconciliation with the trauma of Life, her becoming-able to witness, to form connections to herself and others once more. This suggests that while Life, along with “life,” functions as the S6 Big Bad, it also functions as its remedy: Life and the connective relations, the unforeseeable movements of becoming, that sustain it—

    (Although I have never read the hospital scene as Buffy actually dying: Buffy is absolutely approaching death when Dark Willow enters, very likely would have died without her intervention, but I have always seen Buffy’s flatlining as merely mechanical, an effect of the crackling magical energy that Willow is emitting—she shuts everything down, further showing, as you write, that she has “breach[ed] the boundary between the magical and the actual,” disabling science with her greater power… )

    But that aside suggests that I ought now shift over to Willow and the problematics of power…


    I utterly adored your reading of Willow, the Dark Willows, and Willow and Carrie, your reflections on power in the ‘Verse—

    However, rather than calling BtVS itself fully didactic, I would say that it has didactic threads, makes didactic statements, while exploring, from multiple perspective, of power, specifically the ethics of power; while thematizes this exploration most fully in S4-7, it also plays itself out in S1-3. Finally, this exploration juxtaposes itself against one of norms, the violence of normativity—

    In S1-5, particularly 1-3, Buffy sparks Willow, Xander, and, to a certain extent, Giles, to move beyond the norms that have been imposed upon them, to listen to themselves acutely, to discover their own powers; in turn, their responsive support of Buffy enables her to embody her chosenness, her power, in a mode that resists the patriarchal, affectless—and unquestionably didactic—norms of the Council, which sought to keep her power in check, under their control, without falling into the ethical error Faith, that of taking her power to be her own. With the exception of the treatment of Willow upon Oz’s abandonment in S4, this pattern pretty much holds until S6, when the Scoobies themselves become the forces of normativity: Xander, Giles, and Willow expect Buffy to return as the Buffy they knew; Tara and Giles seek to impose norms upon Willows use of magic; Anya and Xander himself impose marital norms upon Xander; &c. In the process, they each become lost to each other…

    To Buffy, this intensifies her trauma… To Willow, however, this becomes particularly deadly: from S1 onward, Willow has been the voice speaking for a certain fullness of emotion, for a fullness of love—a fullness she has ever lacked—and against its restriction by any laws or norms. Thus as early as S1, in Angel, when Xander (largely out of jealousy), talks “rationally” of what Buffy must do to Angel, when Giles (out of Council logic) talks of her obligation, when Buffy (out of guilt) finally does the same, Willow alone speaks out of love: “If you care about someone, you care about them. You can’t change that by…”

    Yet Willow’s subversive voicing of love is cut, at an obverse angle, by her inability to bear any sort of emotional conflict—due, doubtless, to her mother, who forced Willow to suppress all conflictive feelings under the façade of the good girl—and, after Oz and the treatment she met upon his departure, her unutterable fear of love’s loss. And it is out of the former that we first see, faintly, Dark Willow emerge: after the Clothes Fluke, when she seeks to magic away her attraction to Xander, his to her, without his consent or knowledge—then again, in S4, when she seeks to end her own pain (although I find it hard to blame her for this, given the normative behavior her friends had sought to impose upon her… ).

    I say we see Dark Willow emerge here, if faintly, because we see her turn magic to serve her own pleasure and pain—pain and pleasure that may or may not be “natural” but is certainly human (I am not sure the human is in the least “natural” in a definite sense, even if it is not supernatural in the show’s sense), to use it as she will, as if it belongs to her self, to salve that self’s pain and loss. And we see Willow turn to magic increasingly as she grows in power: when she goes after Glory, she does so not out of righteousness but vengeance—“I owe you pain,” she says—and must be rescued by Buffy; she mind-wipes Tara out of a desire to erase the conflict between them, again without Tara’s consent; then, even knowing Tara’s horror at her actions, she attempts to repeat them, attempts to mind-wipe Buffy as well, Tara out of fear of loss, Buffy out of guilt. While I cannot but have a certain sympathy for Willow’s attack upon Glory, given who Glory was, a supernatural creature, what she did to Tara, what she intended to do to Dawn and the world, I cannot, at the same time, but see it as related to Willow’s uses of magic upon her friends, her beloved, to salve her own pain—the motivation is the same. Willow does not see the difference between using magic upon Glory and upon her lover and friends without their consent, using magic, in Tara’s words, “to make things to [her] own liking” (TR)—forcing them to fit her ideal, just as she was once forced fit the norms of others, especially her mother’s.

    Nor is Willow’s admission of “addiction”—I have never deemed to be more than a metaphor—an ethical solution. Indeed, it is precisely its evasion. In her conversation with Buffy at the end of Wrecked, Willow says, “It’s not worth it. Not if it messes with the people I love.” If it messes. Willow here effaces her ethical responsibility. And Buffy agrees. Agrees because, largely, she is not listening to Willow at all, is thinking of Spike: “I think it’s right. No matter how good it feels.” Agrees, however, also because she does not want to face the true possibility of Willow’s ethical failure, wants to hold onto the image of Willow’s goodness—as do we (I say all this not to attack Willow in the least: I say it because I find her so complex, fascinating, and marvelous, don’t want to see her watered down). The turn to addiction carries a normalizing force, allows Willow to evade an ethical reckoning with herself while holding onto an ideal self-image, one that she can strive to attain, one that will win back Tara’s love, win back the love and respect of Buffy, Xander, and Dawn. But in line with the normative forces at work in S6, this image is but a reversion to the good, useful girl Willow had believed, ever again believes that she must be. And “the rehab [does]n’t take,” in Rack’s words (TtG), not because Willow falls off the wagon but because there was no wagon to fall off of. Willow was not addicted to magic: she took the power she was given and turned it, violently, upon those she loved in an effort to soothe her own pain, to make the world to her own liking. And because she comes to no true ethical confrontation with herself over this turning, because, instead, she thinks that sacrificing her power will be enough to get her what she wants. recover what she most fears to lose—Tara, her friends—Willow’s violent return to magic upon Tara’s violent death is all but inevitable. The horror of her mutilation of Warren is all but inevitable.

    That said—and this is why I do not find the show itself didactic, despite its many didactic statements—I fully embrace your embrace of Willow’s anger, her anguished “How is this natural?” For on an affective level, working athwart its statements, I think that we are meant to be drawn to Willow, to move with her and Dawn and Xander (“Out of the mouths of babes”), to want Warren dead, dead at Willow’s hands… on some level… To empathize fully with Willow’s loss, the cry of her pain… As I wrote above, Willow has been the voice of love; it thus makes sense that when she finds her love torn—blown—from her arms by the tiniest, most destructive of things, that such love should turn to the most fully embodied vengeance…

    And it’s Tara…

    As you ask:

    How not be with her—?

    And yet how—?

    Willow: I’m not coming back—

    Willow wants her friends to be with her in that car as she goes after Warren, in part, I think, because she does not plan to come back: she wants them to be with her as she goes, at the end. And going, the end—this is all she can see past her vengeance. As Buffy will later say, “This will destroy her—”

    And how can we accept that?

    It’s Willow…

    Willow tortures Warren—

    She shows him Katrina’s ghost to expose his ultimate impotence. She taunts him. She makes him feel what Tara felt as the bullet ripped through her. She renders him so, so vulnerable—strips him of his protective skin, leaving him absolutely exposed. A terrible logic adheres to all her actions—an utterly human logic, magical though the power behind it may be…

    All her magic involves her in very human violence: the very violence that she condemns. The violence and pain of human life to which she has always been so sensitive—that she has always found so unbearable. And in Grave, as has ever been the case, her connection to the world, her filling with its anguish, will lead to the same human response:

    Drawn to one of its logical conclusions, Willow’s emotional fullness will seek to end the world—

    Until its other impossible conclusion draws her back—


    I was going to write about power as an ethical obligation, as a dissolution of self, an impersonal gift and becoming, but as I have done so—at length—elsewhere, as I have already gone on—at length—here, this seems a good point to stop…

    Countless thanks, again, for a most marvelous, thought-giving review….



    Last edited by StateOfSiege97; 14-09-19 at 02:59 PM.

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  11. #826
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    Great post SoS. I especially loved this observation about the dynamics within the group...

    Quote Originally Posted by StateOfSiege97 View Post
    In S1-5, particularly 1-3, Buffy sparks Willow, Xander, and, to a certain extent, Giles, to move beyond the norms that have been imposed upon them, to listen to themselves acutely, to discover their own powers; in turn, their responsive support of Buffy enables her to embody her chosenness, her power, in a mode that resists the patriarchal, affectless—and unquestionably didactic—norms of the Council, which sought to keep her power in check, under their control, without falling into the ethical error Faith, that of taking her power to be her own. With the exception of the treatment of Willow upon Oz’s abandonment in S4, this pattern pretty much holds until S6, when the Scoobies themselves become the forces of normativity: Xander, Giles, and Willow expect Buffy to return as the Buffy they knew; Tara and Giles seek to impose norms upon Willows use of magic; Anya and Xander himself impose marital norms upon Xander; &c. In the process, they each become lost to each other…
    The consideration you give to the evidence of Dark Willow in the earlier seasons, the past paving to the present, is great. As someone whose enjoyment of the verse comes so very much from the quality of the through lines we see for the characters, which so much of S6 hinges on and so plays a large part of why it is my favourite season, I really appreciated you bringing these points up. As always your thoughts to the effects of social pressure and normativity that thread within are excellent. I think there is an interesting aspect perhaps in AtS's consideration of being outside of society and then being thrown in that is shown through Connor's story which would be interesting to consider against normativity. A great deal of his individual struggles and relationship dynamics are affected so vastly by his inability to interact successfully and there is a great deal of damage done by his decisions and willing involvement in those that operate outside of what is accepted. I'd be interested as the two shows run on and we see his story unfold to hear any of your thoughts if you have any to share on such.

    Nor is Willow’s admission of “addiction”—I have never deemed to be more than a metaphor—an ethical solution. Indeed, it is precisely its evasion. In her conversation with Buffy at the end of Wrecked, Willow says, “It’s not worth it. Not if it messes with the people I love.” If it messes. Willow here effaces her ethical responsibility. And Buffy agrees. Agrees because, largely, she is not listening to Willow at all, is thinking of Spike: “I think it’s right. No matter how good it feels.” Agrees, however, also because she does not want to face the true possibility of Willow’s ethical failure, wants to hold onto the image of Willow’s goodness—as do we (I say all this not to attack Willow in the least: I say it because I find her so complex, fascinating, and marvelous, don’t want to see her watered down). The turn to addiction carries a normalizing force, allows Willow to evade an ethical reckoning with herself while holding onto an ideal self-image, one that she can strive to attain, one that will win back Tara’s love, win back the love and respect of Buffy, Xander, and Dawn. But in line with the normative forces at work in S6, this image is but a reversion to the good, useful girl Willow had believed, ever again believes that she must be. And “the rehab [does]n’t take,” in Rack’s words (TtG), not because Willow falls off the wagon but because there was no wagon to fall off of. Willow was not addicted to magic: she took the power she was given and turned it, violently, upon those she loved in an effort to soothe her own pain, to make the world to her own liking. And because she comes to no true ethical confrontation with herself over this turning, because, instead, she thinks that sacrificing her power will be enough to get her what she wants. recover what she most fears to lose—Tara, her friends—Willow’s violent return to magic upon Tara’s violent death is all but inevitable. The horror of her mutilation of Warren is all but inevitable.
    I really love these thoughts. As I have said before it is the path of the abuse of power that makes the most sense to me in Willow's story from the start through and into the events of S6. The idea of the use of magic as 'addictive' is representative of the pleasure that the use of it can bring, the sense of release/escapism, but this intrinsically loops back through to the power that wielding it shows and the use of which realises. I think Willow's story using magic as a metaphor for drugs works in similar ways to the use of Spike and Buffy's relationship as one of an abusive boyfriend. It isn't a tightly drawn representation, but elements can be understood to nod at aspects of such and be almost a prompt to consider from it. The importance of the soul in Spike's story, his journey towards the best of himself, is what draws him away from the abusive boyfriend representation and what allows a separation that generates a different dynamic in the season to come, although still informed also with what has past their relationship isn't constricted by how it has also been used before. And the ethical use of power is what is sustained in Willow's story and how it goes on to be about her internal consideration of the use of magic, about her own internal balance and ethics as a control, and this certainly works better along the principle of power than drugs.

    I also want to say thanks to SpuffyGlitz for your post and thoughts on the little and big things which I realised I failed to acknowledge in my post before. I really enjoyed reading about the references it brought to mind for you, that it is knowledge of the minutiae, attention to the small things, that means Xander can bring Willow back and how the small things can be so engulfing that the big things lurk unsaid too. And again the point you raise about not forgetting the depression and consideration towards her role that Buffy had been so affected by in previous seasons, had played its part in her struggle at the end of S5, draws again to the importance of the past and the experiences that the characters have had leading to where they are that I appreciate the weight of so much.

    I've really enjoyed the conversations around this episode and wish I'd been able to find more time to look for ties through the scenes and draw out more points about how the directions for the characters tied to their past and leading to what is to come more. I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's further thoughts as it enriches my understanding of the show so much and causes me to consider my existing thoughts and perceptions too.

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  13. #827
    Scooby Gang Willow from Buffy's Avatar
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    So, I wrote a really long post in response to other posts, but I didn't finish it, and when my laptop decided it needed to reboot for some updates, it was gone. I am going to sum up what I remember.

    I really like Stoney's description of Dawn as a barometer. I do also largely agree with vampmongs about the lack of care Dawn receives. Still, I think it is easy to be too harsh on Buffy and the Scoobies. The situation around Dawn seems to change a lot during the season. Things are never great. Dawn's unspoken fear that Buffy will abandon her is always there. But there are many good moments, too, and Dawn has a whole group of substitute parents.

    Xander grew up in relative poverty with alcoholic, angry and bitter parents. The Rosenbergs kept Willow dressed and fed in a large, clean home, but they gave her none of the love and attention that Dawn receives. And Dawn and Buffy (really just Buffy) grew up with a single mum, who had to work weekends, who did her best, but who knew she did not have the time/energy to give one/two teenagers the attention they needed. The perfect nuclear family is pretty rare. Dawn has it pretty good most of the time. I think her fear that things won't remain good is the worst of it.

    Great post, StateOfSiege. The mention of Cathy Caruth made something click in my brain. That story about the knight who stabs the talking tree who turns out to contain the spirit of the lover he killed. It reminds me of one of Spike's favourite lines about how we always hurt the one we love. In the Buffyverse, there are so many examples of people who hurt the ones they love the most, often without wishing it.

    Your discussion on addiction and addiction-blaming is interesting. Free will and personal responsibility is something I struggle with personally. I think I don't believe in free will, but I think it is useful to believe we have it.

    Willow does some to emphasise the role of magic in how she lost control, but she also makes some very honest admissions about herself. Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction, but I don't think that is Willow's problem. Just like most of the people who become addicted to recreative or performance enhancing drugs, Willow is trying to fix something in herself. Happy people rarely develop addictions. Therefore, the admissions that Willow make are important.

    So much good stuff in your "Seeing Red" review, American Aurora. It's cool that you have a connection to Marti.

    Concerning the motivation of the vengeance demons: Anya says her in conversation with D'Hoffryn that she has worked for the amusement of the lower beings. D'Hoffryn also refers to them in the third person, so the lower beings may be the ones he work for. I guess we can assume that the lower beings are interested in little other than evil for evil's sake.

    Concerning the irrationality of vengeance demons: Every wish we see puts the client in danger. Cordelia dies, until she is saved when Giles breaks the spell. Halfrek locks Dawn in the house with the others. The man turned giant maggot almost eats his ex and is only barely saved by Spike and the Scoobies. In "Selfless," Anya leaves her client in the frat house with the monster, and Willow only barely manages to save her.

    This reminds me of a great scene with Angelus and Darla. Darla kills a man who was propositioning a street walker, presumably in a symbolic retaliation of the indignities she endured from similar men in life. Angelus then asks, "Darla, why did you kill the street walker?"

    I think this is the tragedy of becoming a demon or a Dark Willow. You get the super powers and get to enact the violence, but it comes at the cost of everything you hold dear. Once you're a demon, you no longer care about the other people who are like you were. They only remind you of your former pain - pain that you may no longer truly feel. It's more like a memory of a state you are desperate not to return to. D'Hoffryn is much like a pimp, and as a good pimp, he appears kind and convinces his girls that he can give them what they want. Punishment only comes when and if his girls realise that this wasn't at all what they once wanted.

    Great discussion on Jonathan, the Trio and misogyny. Jonathan wasn't good enough for the Scoobies. He was one step below them on the ladder. They might sympathise with him, but as Buffy says, they are not saints. This rings true to me. Even as an adult, I rarely do much to make other people feel included. I am much more concerned with my own standing in whatever new social environment I have entered.

    The Trio are often compared to our present day incels, and I think it is a fitting comparison. The question then becomes whether we should pity or despise people like them. Clearly people like Warren and the mass murdering self-proclaimed supreme gentleman Elliot Rodger deserve to be despised. But what about someone like Jonathan? He certainly overstepped a line when he helped abduct Katrina, but what about back in S3? Even in S2 and 3, Jonathan is deeply resentful and carries much self righteous anger. And it's not as though he has no reason to be resentful. We see several examples of cruelties done to him.

    BtVS usually focus on personal responsibility and choice. But the Trio are clearly part of a systemic problem. Do we then blame the system itself or the people? As you point out, the patriarchal society we live in can be a harsh place for men as well as women. But even if they are victims of macho-culture, the Trio internalise rather than reject its values. They want to be the people who dominate and who belittle.

    It is an ethical bind. Many perpetrators were once victims themselves. A boy gets beaten by his father, and he grows about beating his wife and his kid. The bullied becomes the bully. A victim of inscest grows up to be a pedophile. When you are the victim of any type of crime, do you care about the victims tragic backstory? Would it help at all if you could? Jonathan has been forgiven before, but as long as he keeps feeling the world owes him, he will keep enacting his revenges.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Buffyverse tend to emphasise personal responsibility, on matter the consequences. In "Choices," Willow flat out rejects Faith's background as an explanation for her crimes. But Willow's own crimes are also connected to her experiences and traumas.

    I think that is what is so powerful to me about the conversation between Angel and Spike about monsters who were once victim. It's an inconvenient truth. Villains were once not villains.
    Last edited by Willow from Buffy; 15-09-19 at 07:26 PM.

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  15. #828
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    In keeping with tradition, I'm gonna be a day late on "Two To Go". Sorry.

    EDIT: I"m working on it, it's not gonna be any shorter or longer than my others, but I've got a lot of things arguing with my time suddenly. Very sorry Stoney.
    Last edited by KingofCretins; 17-09-19 at 01:49 AM.

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  17. #829
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    Hey, Willow from Buffy!

    I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get back to you, but I’ve been running ragged for a while now, working hard and healing from various things – including a major attack by a hornet’s nest in my parent’s living room (yes, you heard that right) that left wounds (especially a gigantic hole in the back of my hand) and put a major crimp in my heavy typing skills.

    I’m appreciative and thrilled that you took so much time to look at the first parts of Seeing Red and shared your thoughts – thank you so much – some amazing thoughts, really, that I want to address when I finish posting. So many others have also posted terrific responses and I want to post the final parts of Seeing Red and respond to all of them once we get past Season Six and before Season Seven. I’m holding off now to prevent any overlap of episodes but I figure after Grave that I’ll fill in the missing parts! Sorry for the confusion.

    But as I’m so late, I wanted to at least write a response to your wonderful review of Villains – it was brilliant and incredibly thought-provoking and I loved how it encapsulated so many of the themes of Season Six. I also loved the “Three Faces of Willow” discussion of Willow’s alter-ego doppelgangers – I think this is especially pertinent at the end of Season Six where the conception of the self is constantly under siege until the walls finally collapse.

    Willow and Various Vilely Villains in the episode "Villains" Some warning before we start I like Willow and I like season 6. Considering how controversial this series of episodes are, I thought it was a good idea to just put that out there.
    Yes, Willow from Buffy, Season Six tends to create a lot of division in fans where certain characters are concerned. And what’s surprising to me isn’t the amount of vitriol on the internet directed at the dubious actions of Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Any and Spike, but how the writers are blamed and berated for the ways in which they apparently ‘f***ed up the characters and storylines.

    Some thoughts on the title - This episode is curiously called “Villains.” We are not explicitly told who these villains are. This is not one of those episodes where the title appears in the episode. None of the characters uses the word villain. There is quite a bit of discussion about who the so-called big bad of season 6 is.
    I’ve noticed a lot of Buffy fan rewatches are disrupted by a Great Spuffy Meltdown after the AR in which people lose their s**t or even just reveal a general loathing of various aspects of S6 – Buffy’s depression, Willow’s magical “addiction”, Giles abandoning Buffy, the childishness of the Trio, no one helping Buffy with finances, Buffy and Spike’s violent sexual relationship, the Trio killing Katrina, Buffy’s treatment of Dawn, Xander leaving Anya at the altar, the death of Tara, Dark Willow – the list goes on.

    And there’s a lot of merit to the criticism – there are unwieldy character shifts (Willow Power-Hungry – or Addicted? Buffy a victim of her relationship with Spike – or the guilty party? Is the Trio just a group of foolish nerds – or insane murderers?) There’s a sense of ‘make up your mind already!’ in the ever-moving plot snakes that slip and slither their way through the episodes – first turning this way and then that way and never really stopping except to shed their skin and then move forward again with a different form.

    It’s an unsettling feeling that often feels like the writers aren’t quite in control – or even in agreement with each other. How Spike acts in each episode often feels as if it’s predicated on how each writer individually felt about Spike as they wrote their episode – sometimes monstrous, sometimes romantic, sometimes pathetic – and never the Spikes will meet.

    But I think that what makes S6 so unstable is also what makes it fascinating – at least to me. The skewed view of the world formed by so many writers gives it an ominous instability that mirrors the slow deterioration of the moral world view that all the characters have held since the start of the show. Everything that seemed solid has melted into air – everything that they thought they knew doesn’t seem to make sense any more. The glorified fantasy world of the Trio is mirrored in Buffy’s bleak view of the world after her resurrection – which is a metaphor not only for the distorted view of the depressive and the traumatized, but also the change in perspective as we see the world through different eyes. Buffy sees her relationship with Spike as incredibly destructive - whereas Spike only sees it through his own distorted lovesick gaze.

    Which is why I love your rundown of the possible ‘villain’ of Season Six – as you say, the Big Bad of Season Six isn’t ‘life’ in the sense of hardship or big things, but the tiny moments in which our view of life – of the big things – is compromised and shaped.

    I always found life to be an unsatisfactory answer, because BtVS has always been about the hardships of life. Saying that season 6 is about life feels like a cop-out. It is too vague. Then again, what is Buffy's main problem in season 6? It is all the little things—the little things who by themselves are too small to really be much of a thing—all those little things we colloquially refers to as life—life dragging us down, making us incapable of dealing with the big things. I see Joss as an absurdist. The Buffyverse is chaotic and unfair. It takes a tough person to make it. Heaven is the opposite of that. It does not really feel like a place at all. Buffy describes it as a wonderful, serine state where even the pains of being a fleshy body living in harsh materiality is gone. To me, that has always felt like a horrible place for Buffy to end up—Buffy the fighter, Buffy the survivor, lounging in some immaterial opium den in the sky.
    Yes! Yes! I love this idea that the movements in life are so brief and so small that we barely notice them as we keep our eyes on the big things – and yet it’s how they collectively weigh us down and skew our vision that creates the conflict. And this connects for me to your thoughts on the mundane world versus the magical world – the disordered reality of the real world and the finality of death as opposed to a kind of Platonic ideal of pure forms like Buffy’s heaven that lacks any messiness, any instability, any sense of degradation or disgust. I love your description of Buffy’s heaven as a kind of opium den – a drugged out blissful state that is utterly devoid of real life – it’s like something out of Brave New World.

    So, I do think it makes sense to say that life is indeed the big bad—not life itself but “life” in quotation marks. The resolution to the season comes in “Grave,” when Buffy accepts life and promises Dawn that they now both will have the strength to deal with “life.”
    Yes, I totally agree with you! Obviously, Buffy is resurrected a second time there as she digs herself out of the dirt once more – but I think she has a very different perspective on her time under the earth and her relationship to the dirtiness of real ‘life’ as opposed to the oldest, established, permanent, floating ‘opium den’ in the Buffyverse.

    And the ways in which every action we make and thought we act upon define who we are and create our perspective of ‘life’ also creates how we view ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ – and most importantly, the ways in which we craft our own sense of Self and present it to the world means all the world is a stage and every person plays many parts, both hero and villain. Buffy is both, Willow is both, Xander is both, Giles is both, Anya is both, Spike is both.

    But who are the villains? Warren is a villain. He may be the villain of this episode. But he is not the big bad, because he is not Buffy's main antagonist. He is certainly antagonistic, but he is not the main thing keeping Buffy from achieving her goal of reconnecting with life. Warren is certainly relevant to the seasons exploration of consent and regard for other people, but he is not the cause of Buffy's ennui.
    Fantastic point - Warren isn't even a blip on Buffy's radar. We have Warren who longs to be the great villain of S6 – he enters space after space hoping that his reputation has preceded him only to be disappointed. And, yet, at the end, even he ends up acting out the role of the ‘hero’ in trying to convince Willow that killing him will only destroy her – it’s a selfish parody of Buffy’s heroic moral code to save himself.

    Spike is a villain. He has recently assaulted Buffy, making it clear to them both that he is every bit the monster he always has been. But I don't think Spike is the big bad of the season, even if he comes close. This season, Buffy shows us the dangers of rejecting life and disassociating ourself from our own bodies and experiences. Spike is her opposite in this regard. His engagement with life is extreme and reckless and shows little regard for others. Spike gives Buffy many useful lesson through the season, but he represents a different kind of danger.
    I agree that Spike demands extreme engagement with life that is reckless and selfish – and I think that’s a marvelous way of explicating his problematic relationship to ‘life’ and ‘death’ since he is a soulless undead vampire in love with a living person. Spike is naturally disassociated from life – in Life Serial, Spike responds to Buffy’s “Life is stupid” with “I have a dim memory of that, yeah.” We even see souled Angel struggle to remember what it was like to be human in Not Fade Away: “I don't remember what it was like being human. It was too long ago.”

    So I think this shadowy memory of life – distorted through the viewpoint of a soulless vampire – causes Spike to waver between villainy and heroism throughout S6 depending upon the circumstance – held to a vow, he heroically protects Dawn, chipless, he immediately tries to murder a woman in the alley. Spike tells himself and others that he’s a villain, that he’s evil, just as Warren tries to convince others – but regardless of how terrible their actions become, they’re still not the Big Bads of the Season. Though they'd surely like to be.

    Willow adopts her villainous Dark Willow-persona this episode, and then she tortures and kills a man in cold revenge, declaring that she will also kill his two friends, before she vanishes in a puff of smoke. But Willow certainly is not the big bad of the season, even if she will later try to bring on the apocalypse, which is the end-goal of any self-respecting big bad. In this episode, she brings Buffy back to life for the second time this season. The goal of the season is for Buffy to accept life, which is what Willow has been trying to get her to do. It may have been better if they added a question mark after villains, though that may have been too much on the nose. I think the title is pointing to the fact that it can be hard to distinguish between those who are villains and those who are not. Is Willow a villain or is she a hero fighting villains? Is Warren a villain, even when he begs for his life? Are Andrew and Jonathan villains, by association with Warren or through their own actions? Villain is a dehumanising title. A hero is justified to slay every villain in their way. No one cries for the faceless stormtroopers who die when Luke from Star Wars blow up the Death Star. They were on the side of villainy. They had it coming.
    Brilliant point that Dark Willow's real purpose at the end is to resurrect Buffy in a very different way than in Bargaining - the first was a physical resurrection, but the second is emotional and spiritual in nature. In that sense, Willow manages to finally achieve what she set out to do and shifts from ambiguous moral force to a heroine who finally brought ALL of Buffy back to life.

    I think you’re absolutely right to say that the implied question mark at the end of the episode title is key to understanding the episode. Great point that Willow attempts to pull off an Angelus apocalypse or a Mayor ascension or a Glory shattering of dimensions – and yet, it’s all in some ways a desperate performance that unintentionally results in an heroic accomplishment.

    And yes, Willow from Buffy, that's a wonderful point that Willow is neither villain nor hero here – like Warren and Spike, she deliberately sets villainy as her goal and yet, it’s all very murky. What’s interesting is how many of the characters are self-aware of being ‘villains’ – they invest tremendous time and energy in acting out the part and try desperately to convince themselves that they are the ultimate Big Bad of the series.

    One of my all-time favorite sociological books is Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and it’s an invaluable text for dramaturgy because it was one of the first books to really discuss the ways in which our personal interactions resemble theatrical performances in which we write, direct and star in a kind of theater of the “Self”. It’s all about how we manipulate what others can know about us – our actions, our appearance, our inner life – and how we control that information through silence, secrets and presentation.

    What makes Buffy so special and different from other similar shows that came before it is the acknowledgement that we are all living in a kind of postmodern drama, constantly stepping backwards to acknowledge the absurdity of any situation – and this mirrors the concerns of modern psychology and sociology that view the social personality as a kind of performance. Buffy characters are always self-referential, always aware that they are in a “drama” of sorts and always self-knowingly mocking their own situations and even citing horror movie tropes as they fight the supernatural. This performative aspect of Buffy – the audience accepting both the artificiality of the situation and the knowingness of the characters/performers – runs through Season Six as all of the characters try to present themselves as villains or heroes in their own drama.

    Will write more soon - sorry, I haven't even gotten to the episode yet! But I really wanted to delve into your marvelous introduction first!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 17-09-19 at 08:02 AM.

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  19. #830
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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    And there’s a lot of merit to the criticism – there are unwieldy character shifts (Willow Power-Hungry – or Addicted? Buffy a victim of her relationship with Spike – or the guilty party? Is the Trio just a group of foolish nerds – or insane murderers?) There’s a sense of ‘make up your mind already!’ in the ever-moving plot snakes that slip and slither their way through the episodes – first turning this way and then that way and never really stopping except to shed their skin and then move forward again with a different form.

    It’s an unsettling feeling that often feels like the writers aren’t quite in control – or even in agreement with each other. How Spike acts in each episode often feels as if it’s predicated on how each writer individually felt about Spike as they wrote their episode – sometimes monstrous, sometimes romantic, sometimes pathetic – and never the Spikes will meet.

    But I think that what makes S6 so unstable is also what makes it fascinating – at least to me. The skewed view of the world formed by so many writers gives it an ominous instability that mirrors the slow deterioration of the moral world view that all the characters have held since the start of the show. Everything that seemed solid has melted into air – everything that they thought they knew doesn’t seem to make sense any more. The glorified fantasy world of the Trio is mirrored in Buffy’s bleak view of the world after her resurrection – which is a metaphor not only for the distorted view of the depressive and the traumatized, but also the change in perspective as we see the world through different eyes. Buffy sees her relationship with Spike as incredibly destructive - whereas Spike only sees it through his own distorted lovesick gaze.

    Which is why I love your rundown of the possible ‘villain’ of Season Six – as you say, the Big Bad of Season Six isn’t ‘life’ in the sense of hardship or big things, but the tiny moments in which our view of life – of the big things – is compromised and shaped.
    I've always found S6 fascinating too and have never felt that the writing is problematic. Rather than the writers being in disagreement as such, because of that sense of roles and performance you describe, it just feels like characterisation with greater depth and breadth I think. Everyone has so many facets to their characters and one of the ways BtVS is such a compelling show to me is that we see this and they work coherently with the characters' histories and against what they're going through at differing points. People often strive to be their past selves (which we see a great deal in S6), their best selves (to fit what others want or what they picture they should be), what breaks social boundaries (to feel free or powerful), etc. Of course all those attempts can succeed or fail briefly or hold for a time and, as you say, views of the world and self shift and change. Their core characters are there throughout and we can see/speculate on what influences the side of themselves that floats to the top at different points. In this sense I loved how you talk later about the performative nature of our interactions with the world and the many roles each person can take...

    And the ways in which every action we make and thought we act upon define who we are and create our perspective of ‘life’ also creates how we view ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ – and most importantly, the ways in which we craft our own sense of Self and present it to the world means all the world is a stage and every person plays many parts, both hero and villain. Buffy is both, Willow is both, Xander is both, Giles is both, Anya is both, Spike is both.

    Fantastic point - Warren isn't even a blip on Buffy's radar. We have Warren who longs to be the great villain of S6 – he enters space after space hoping that his reputation has preceded him only to be disappointed. And, yet, at the end, even he ends up acting out the role of the ‘hero’ in trying to convince Willow that killing him will only destroy her – it’s a selfish parody of Buffy’s heroic moral code to save himself.
    And this sense of performance and the different aspects of the characters and what can make them rise at different points is so well illustrated by what you say here about Warren and really made me question my own perspective that he is the one truly villainous villain we see. As vile as he is when Willow catches him in what he says, how he reacts to the image of Katrina, he is also a victim himself in that moment too. Raising the tie between the consideration of who is a hero and who is a villain in how Warren parodies what Buffy said to Willow, even if it is motivated through self preservation and fear, is such a great point. Does this attempt to be reasonable and protect Willow from herself not count in any way because of the selfish aspect driving him to do it? If not, does his villainy that falls flat and is so easily dismissed also not count because it is ineffective? Do either eradicate or affect that villainy was indeed his deliberate goal?

    For me I still find this is where a line appears as I don't want to see Warren die a gruesome death, but his deliberate intentions towards villainy aren't in the heat of intense emotional moments like Spike and Willow experience in SR and are caught in the wake of following those events. But those ties to the past, the importance of traumas experienced has been shown to be there for Warren too. A great deal of why/how Spike and Willow responded as they did ties back to their pasts too. So the root of his insecurities and villainy is there also to possibly draw sympathy and understanding as well. It is just hard for me to feel it towards him, but there isn't anyone who is a mwhahaha empty villain and, as you suggest, we have been seeing duality in all of the core characters through the season(s).

    One of my all-time favorite sociological books is Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and it’s an invaluable text for dramaturgy because it was one of the first books to really discuss the ways in which our personal interactions resemble theatrical performances in which we write, direct and star in a kind of theater of the “Self”. It’s all about how we manipulate what others can know about us – our actions, our appearance, our inner life – and how we control that information through silence, secrets and presentation.
    I love this. It doesn't have to be deliberate and considered but we often talk of how we are different around different people and in different situations. It isn't that those 'selves' are false, they are just different elements drawn forward by context.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    In keeping with tradition, I'm gonna be a day late on "Two To Go". Sorry.

    EDIT: I"m working on it, it's not gonna be any shorter or longer than my others, but I've got a lot of things arguing with my time suddenly. Very sorry Stoney.
    Thank you for letting us know King, I appreciated you'll post as soon as you're able. Very much looking forward to reading it.
    Last edited by Stoney; 17-09-19 at 11:28 AM.

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  21. #831
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    Just back from a couple of days of training with the Initiative. We have mandatory military conscription where I live, and I have recently been made part of a task force that can be called in to protect the city harbour in case of a terrorist threat. WHOOPI!!! One day running through the forest practicing forward manovoers, and one day at the shooting day. By the end of the last day I could barely lift my rifle. Most of the other soldiers either have machine pistols or these fancy new rifles, while a few of us unlucky ones have this old fashioned extra powerful, extra heavy G3 rifles that heat up so much during rapid fire that it burns the skin in your palm.

    On the plus side, though, I got my hands on this super sexy beret.

    Sorry about the rant I just have a need to vent.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    unwieldy character shifts (Willow Power-Hungry – or Addicted?


    I tend to reject this particular criticism outright. I disagree with two assumptions that I believe this criticism is founded upon. First, I don't agree that Willow is ever portrayed as power hungry. Willow has access to immense power. In "Something Blue," she comes close to making herself omnipotent, but all she wants to do with it is to mend her own broken heart. She is not for a moment tempted to use this power beyond that.

    In "Weight of the World" and "Bargaining," we see Willow run the Scoobies in Buffy's absence. But Willow goal in these episodes is to save Buffy, so that Willow can ceade power back to her, because Willow does not feel strong enough to bear Buffy's responsibility on a permanent basis. If Willow was power hungry, she could have just left Buffy dead. If she took full use of her power, she would hardly need Buffy to keep herself safe.

    What makes Willow panic in S6 is that people who have provided her with a safe and supportive environment in the past (Buffy, Giles and Tara) are starting to criticize her. Willow risked everything to resurrect Buffy and put the Scoobies back together, so that she could continue to have that same safe environment, and now she feels as though things are falling apart around her anyway, and people are blaming her for it.

    Willow uses her power to protect herself. She never seeks power for power's sake. Her motivation is fear, and by S6, that fear has turned to paranoia. Maybe she was on a slippery slope, but as of S6, Willow never comes across as someone who wants to wield power over people.

    In the "Angel and Faith" comic, Willow goes to Quor-Toth with Angel, where she is seduced by the world's dark power and decides she wants to rule it. This makes no sense to me. I don't think there is any part of Willow that wants to rule a hell dimension. The Dark Willow on the show shows no sign of wanting to establish herself as a ruler.

    The second thing I disagree with is the idea that the magic-as-drugs metaphor kills any exploration of Willow's character and completely excuses her actions. I think nothing can be further from the truth, and I think it is such an odd criticism. Nobody has ever claimed that cocaine derailed Scarface. "It was supposed to be money, power, women. When did the cocaine come in to it, huh?"

    If BtVS was set in a world without monster or magic, I would find it very plausible if Willow would start experimenting with drugs. Performance enhancing drugs could help her keep up with her studies and weed could help her relax and calm her anxiety. People don't just stumble onto drugs by accident and become chemically dependent. We use drugs, because they help us cope with some perceived flaw or because we simply enjoy the high. Willow would not slip Tara a roofie, because that is not what her mind-spell points towards, but I could see someone like Willow lying about having cut down.

    I think drugs are a great way to explore a character. How we engage with narcotics say a lot about who we are. What do we need? What cravings do we fall prey to? What circumstances make us lose control? Are we able to stop? What can make us stop?

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Is the Trio just a group of foolish nerds – or insane murderers?
    I think this ambiguity is really the core of what the Trio is. Fiction teaches us that there are "black hats" - people who are bad to the bone - who look and feel both bad and often also bad ass. But I've seen so many cases where the perpetrators are just goofy kids. There's been several rape cases in the media where the perpetrators come across as complete idiots who had no idea of the seriousness of what they were doing to some very drunk girl, and they are often left off, because people feel sorry for them.

    There is a terrorist case going on now with a kid who murdered his Asian adopted sister and tried to shoot a mass of people in a Mosque, but he was stopped by the congregation. The kid is just some nerd who got swept up by right wing rhetoric on the internet. He doesn't look at all intimidating, but he is of course perfectly capable of murdering people. He would probably have fit in perfectly with The Trio.

    I therefore think that the Trio portrays the psychology of a certain kind of violent criminal. Pop culture is mostly created by nerds, so we tend to view the nerd as victim or unlikely hero. We fail to conceive of the pitiable nerd as someone who could be truly malicious and cause real harm.

    There is a video essay on youtube called the Adorkable Misogyny of the Big Bang Theory, which demonstrates that the lovable nerds of that show share many of the toxic attitudes of the Trio.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    And this connects for me to your thoughts on the mundane world versus the magical world – the disordered reality of the real world and the finality of death as opposed to a kind of Platonic ideal of pure forms like Buffy’s heaven that lacks any messiness, any instability, any sense of degradation or disgust.
    Plato has a lot to answer for, and so does all the big world religions. Pagan religions seemed to focus on life, war, fertility, hunting, farming, etc. Modern religions and philosophy have this tendency to view the world as an imperfect reflection of a better world.

    I once wrote an exam paper on the how anorexia and instagram culture is an inheritance from Plato. We all want to be a hair- and fleshless alabaster statue.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    One of my all-time favorite sociological books is Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and it’s an invaluable text for dramaturgy because it was one of the first books to really discuss the ways in which our personal interactions resemble theatrical performances in which we write, direct and star in a kind of theater of the “Self”. It’s all about how we manipulate what others can know about us – our actions, our appearance, our inner life – and how we control that information through silence, secrets and presentation.
    This connects really well to how Willow feels her new self is a performance - a costume that Buffy can strip from her in "Restless" and expose her as the terrified little girl she feels she truly is.

    I often wish I could learn to be less self awareness. When you put all your actions and motivations under scrutiny, it is very easy to feel like some kind of fraud. Everything you do in front of people is done in the hope that they may perceive you in a certain way. We can try to act natural, but what if we don't feel as though we have a natural state? What if all we have is an awareness of the expectations of other people and of the social rewards we could reap if we manage to meet those expectations?

    What I find fascinating about Spike is that he, as opposed to Willow, seems to largely have come to believe his own performance. No matter how many hits Spike takes to his ego, he never truly seems to doubt that he is Spike, killer of slayers and lover of women. The idea that his old William persona may be the truest reflection of his deepest self never seems to occur to him. This also sets him apart from Angel, who is deeply troubled that even as a human with a soul, he never amounted to much, and therefore constantly doubts whether he can truly be a champion.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Buffy characters are always self-referential, always aware that they are in a “drama” of sorts and always self-knowingly mocking their own situations and even citing horror movie tropes as they fight the supernatural.
    It is odd that this is in conflict with what we understand as realism. Realism as a genre tends to be deeply sincere. Therefore, realism isn't all that true to life. Real people make fun of themselves and compare themselves and their life to cultural tropes all the time.

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  23. #832
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willow from Buffy View Post
    Just back from a couple of days of training with the Initiative. We have mandatory military conscription where I live, and I have recently been made part of a task force that can be called in to protect the city harbour in case of a terrorist threat. WHOOPI!!! One day running through the forest practicing forward manovoers, and one day at the shooting day. By the end of the last day I could barely lift my rifle. Most of the other soldiers either have machine pistols or these fancy new rifles, while a few of us unlucky ones have this old fashioned extra powerful, extra heavy G3 rifles that heat up so much during rapid fire that it burns the skin in your palm.

    On the plus side, though, I got my hands on this super sexy beret.

    Sorry about the rant I just have a need to vent.
    Where do you live, if you don't mind me asking? I'm totally naive as I didn't think conscription was something that was current/happened outside of major wars.

    Really interesting points about the general assumption that nerds are pitiful and how The Trio shows an opposing truth to that. I think how tied the histories of all three are woven in is a good way of showing how what could be viewed with pity can actually fuel a response that feasts on the resentments.

    Whilst I do agree that Spike often acts as if he totally believes in his own performance, I don't think it is a completely solid belief, it's just what he desperately wants to believe is true. He's determinedly built an image in great part to prove himself separate to William, but he always fears being exposed as being such still. There was a great deal of time that he didn't feel the image he'd created was challenged, but this was something that has happened to him repeatedly since he came to Sunnydale. His image is both who he wants to be and believed he had become, but it was always also the shield to aspect of William he still saw in himself and didn't want others to notice too. The impression that he doesn't fear it and it doesn't weigh on him is the purpose of the defence and shield that the image he's forged gives him. The mix of belief in it and fear that it isn't true is why identity governs his actions as often as his desire for love and acceptance. So I don't agree that it doesn't occur to him, although I would say that he truly does want to believe that he has separated himself and buys into his own image because he wants it so badly, he does also steadfastly try to hide his fears and doubts in it. The fact that it is in many ways a thin veil though is illustrated to him repeatedly through the series and he often reacts in sorrow or, regularly, aggression to try to pull the defence back up again when that occurs. His response to his upset and exposed weakness on Buffy's rejection at the end of FFL by going to shoot her is a good example, or even all the bravado and aggression that he wraps around his actions when he goes on his quest to be more of a man again by getting his soul.

    It is odd that this is in conflict with what we understand as realism. Realism as a genre tends to be deeply sincere. Therefore, realism isn't all that true to life. Real people make fun of themselves and compare themselves and their life to cultural tropes all the time.
    I love that.

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  25. #833
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Where do you live, if you don't mind me asking? I'm totally naive as I didn't think conscription was something that was current/happened outside of major wars.
    Norway. I think that may be part of the reason why I like the Initiative storyline. For most viewers, it may seem like an odd fit, as the military played no part in their teen life ... but it did for me. Not that I have much in common with Riley or Graham. I am more like Hawkeye (the snark, not the surgical skill). Nevertheless, I think the Initiative does a descent job of portraying tribalism in the army and in frat houses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Really interesting points about the general assumption that nerds are pitiful and how The Trio shows an opposing truth to that. I think how tied the histories of all three are woven in is a good way of showing how what could be viewed with pity can actually fuel a response that feasts on the resentments.
    That wasn't really what I had in mind, though I believe that is probably also true. My point was more about how we don't see certain kinds of people as dangerous, because they don't confirm to our idea of the hardened (and slightly cool) criminal. I can understand that it may be hard for a jury to convict an Andrew or a Jonathan of rape, but if they did it, they did it. Few criminals are evil through and through. Therefore, we should work proactively against these types of violence. But when someone has crossed the line, they've crossed the line, no matter how dorky or pitiful they may seem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoney View Post
    Whilst I do agree that Spike often acts as if he totally believes in his own performance, I don't think it is a completely solid belief, it's just what he desperately wants to believe is true. He's determinedly built an image in great part to prove himself separate to William, but he always fears being exposed as being such still. There was a great deal of time that he didn't feel the image he'd created was challenged, but this was something that has happened to him repeatedly since he came to Sunnydale. His image is both who he wants to be and believed he had become, but it was always also the shield to aspect of William he still saw in himself and didn't want others to notice too. The impression that he doesn't fear it and it doesn't weigh on him is the purpose of the defence and shield that the image he's forged gives him. The mix of belief in it and fear that it isn't true is why identity governs his actions as often as his desire for love and acceptance. So I don't agree that it doesn't occur to him, although I would say that he truly does want to believe that he has separated himself and buys into his own image because he wants it so badly, he does also steadfastly try to hide his fears and doubts in it. The fact that it is in many ways a thin veil though is illustrated to him repeatedly through the series and he often reacts in sorrow or, regularly, aggression to try to pull the defence back up again when that occurs. His response to his upset and exposed weakness on Buffy's rejection at the end of FFL by going to shoot her is a good example, or even all the bravado and aggression that he wraps around his actions when he goes on his quest to be more of a man again by getting his soul.
    I don't know. Spike rarely, if ever, expresses any concern that he may be somehow lesser than what he presents himself to be. I do agree that there are moment when Spike acts to defend his ego, such as when Buffy mocks him at the end of FFL, but how self aware is he really in these instances?

    In "Lovers Walk," Spike admits that his moping and blaming other people was part of why Dru left him. But this admission only comes after Spike gets his mojo back (which only takes a quick brawl). Before that, Spike keeps repeating that they were meant to always be together and accuses Angel of having messed with Dru's head.

    Even William himself seems to believe that Cecily will love him if she only learns to know the real him. He does not immediately flee after he is exposed at the part, but he resolutely insists that he is the man who can make her happy.

    I think it is this belief in himself that I like the most about Spike. There isn't really anything that can break his spirit ... at least not for long. He bounces back from every mistake or humiliation. It is possible that he is suppressing his self doubt, but he does so much more effectively than Willow is able to.

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    Two to Go

    "This is what happened this year".

    The oddness (and uniqueness, since this is never used before or since) of this entrance seemed worth commenting on. It may have been just a function of a new network, I don't know, but I like to think it's actually meant to sell that this year-long recap is necessary and a lot to absorb because things have never gotten farther from where they started in any season. Buffy's return, Willow's fall, Tara's death, Giles' departure, Spike's... complicated, Xander floundering and Anya's relapse. It just stuck out then and sticks out now.

    Teaser

    Watching this teaser makes me think this whole episode is sort of a meditation on killing, arguably moreso than "Villains" was, because this is about what happens after, this is about who it makes you become. And honestly this episode may be the best articulation of the ill-considered addition metaphor of the whole season, because it's the episode that first wrestles with the fact that the person you used to be is gone. But more on that in a bit.

    There is a definite contrast drawn here between Xander, and Anya and Buffy, on realizing the danger involved with Willow. Some of this is clearly intended to highlight Xander’s perspective of Willow as a lifelong friend and obviously to set up the finale in that way, but what sticks out to me and is alluded to by Buffy is that Xander can’t understand their skepticism about Willow just needing to cool off because Xander hasn’t ever killed someone. Anya… obviously has. And has observed just about every form of ill intent that humans can hold for each other. Buffy has killed, justifiably, by this point - and also set out to murder Faith even though she ultimately failed. “Killing changes you, believe me, I know” is a lot of understatement in a little phrase. Of course, another thing with more to say in a bit.

    Actually more to say now, since Buffy opens the subject – she’ll just be more explicit later. This episode actually brings with it a noted departure from “Villains” on Buffy’s absolutism about the killing of humans. What was an absolute in 6.20 is now qualified in 6.21, the moment she tacitly agrees with Xander that Warren “maybe” had it coming but Jonathan and Andrew don’t. Later, she’ll spell this out very plainly to Jonathan, that she considers them the line Willow truly can’t cross without being lost, even though she knew Willow had killed a human in anger. Perhaps Buffy’s own willingness to do this in the past colors her on it? Or is she unconsciously conceding that the Slayer and the witch are still also only human?

    I am disappointed that people have often reacted to Xander as though he is self-centered about his frustration that he can’t keep up with Buffy and Anya in trying to get to Willow, but it feels important. Buffy and Anya are already very tactical in their thinking; this is a strategy game, protect the payload, deliver Jonathan and Andrew out of harm’s way without getting anyone killed by Willow; Xander’s only real interest here is Willow’s well-being. Not to say Buffy is indifferent to Willow’s well-being by any stretch, but you can see immediately through episode she feels her mission strongly – she has the safety of the town to think of and the possible threat Willow might pose to think of.
    Another thought I’ve had for this rewatch? Destroying Xander’s car is kind of revealing of the end of the season. Willow is the smartest of them; she knows implicitly that the only person wrecking the car can stop from following her is Xander. It’s as if she knows where she is vulnerable. Or that of all of them, he’s the one she instinctively is still trying to keep out of harm’s way, out of her way. Or perhaps those are the same thing?

    Act I

    Gotta say, critically, that this episode (and two-parter) clearly wants to achieve a sort of cinematic scope but its production value really can’t reach it. There’s a really artificial feel to everything about the police station exterior, not nearly as real as just a walk-and-talk on the Sunnydale main street ever feels, and far less cinematic than, say, any or all of “Bargaining”. It’s heart is in the right place but its reach exceeds its grasp.

    That said… what a great sense of atmosphere to this scene. It feels… it feels like when the air is still when it doesn’t seem it ought to be, or the hour before a bad storm is going to roll in, before the wind reverses to start really blow toward the low pressure. It sets a foreboding mood, is what I mean…

    … which gets disrupted by probably the most tiresome scene in the episode. I mean, I’m glad we’re having this candid falling out now between the survivors, but this episode definitely spends too much time on them as characters. It’s not all worth it.

    But Anya sure as hell is worth it. I won’t lie, I think this might be my favorite Anya episode in the series. This is bigger to me, than “End of Days”/”Chosen”, and any number of other “Anya comes into her own” episodes. This is the S-tier along with “Selfless” IMO. But seriously, she is amazing in this. She is actually more calm and sober than we’re used to getting out of her in a crisis, none of the frenetic energy or comedy. I won’t lie, this is also one of my favorite notes in… all of it. Like, the show. Those that know me know that the allure of the “secret world” genre of story setting is strong to me, those in the know operating among those out of it. It adds real gravity to the moment that Anya pulls the curtain back on the cop purely to communicate him that things are well beyond his control.

    It occurs to me rewatching this that in another story, this would be a great introduction for some proto-Dowling like character, a cop just thrown into the deepend. That character is the one that stares Anya down in bewilderment, steadies himself, and says “… yeah, okay” and starts unlocking the cell. But alas, this isn’t that story or that guy.

    Like I said, I don’t want to spend much time on the Trio boys, but I am always appreciative of Jonathan correcting Andrew – they did do something. Not even specifically engaging Katrina (whose murder in which they are legally principals), but accepting that from the very first day they decided to “team up and take over Sunnydale” and started acting upon it, they put themselves on this course.

    As Willow perches, bird-like, in the broken wall to the jail cell, I have to declare – pre-veiny Dark Willow is the hottest Willow. This is the correct opinion and your other opinions are wrong.

    Willow’s violent reaction to Buffy having helped Jonathan and Warren pretty thoroughly telegraphs that this episode can only end one way.

    Act II

    I really love that this is probably the only finale-two parter that really puts Buffy and the Good Guys “on their heels”, they demonstrably have no idea what to do. Go through all the others, they have a plan. Sometimes the plan changes mid-stream, but they come up with an idea and execute it. Here, though, they are totally at a loss for what to do. Even the loosest shape of “protect Jonathan and Andrew” isn’t a plan, because… until what? Willow just calms down? Credit to Andrew is that he – because his life is on the line – is the only one who thinks in terms of “this won’t end until Willow is stopped from doing it”, but that’s nothing Buffy or Xander are mentally dialed into.

    Jonathan’s brief aside about who Willow was what I was thinking of when I talked about this episode having the most poignant things to say about addiction, probably without meaning to. As he talks, you can see it settle on Buffy and Xander both that… she’s not that person anymore. Maybe hasn’t been for a while, but she’s not anymore. Maybe never will be again. Connecting her to that past is what Xander can eventually do to save her (and the world, but only by happenstance, he didn’t care about that), but the gravity of what has changed is unmistakable and its important to call attention to.

    Also, I hate this scene – the big “solution”, the “insight” Jonathan provide is… keep driving. They were doing that anyway. I guess this is to set up her needing more power, but if they wanted to make him be useful, come up with some suggestion that meant something.

    I’ve got little patience for the Clem and Dawn scenes. They drag the episode badly. Honestly, over the years I have little patience for Clem in general. He’s like a meme character that never actually became a meme. I recognize that this has to exist to put Dawn into the main plot, but meh. Let’s get on with it.

    Not much to say about Spike’s scenes in the episode in general because the “big stuff” doesn’t happen in “Two to Go” anyway and also… in hindsight, can we all agree that the intentional vagueness is tiresome? Especially knowing in hindsight that the soul isn’t a doublecross? That said, Fire Fist Guy is actually a pretty great gladiatorial challenge for a vampire, that bit was clever.


    Should we assume that the “last resort” emergency magic contingencies must have all assumed Giles was going to be available to enact them? Otherwise, they are worthless. And can we also just hate this episode together briefly for leaning into “magics” as singular noun? And “Wicca” as noun to mean “magic user” out of any context to the spiritual practice?

    I love Buffy’s attitude toward Jonathan. I mean, as an aside, I love that they reiterate here that Buffy has (re)drawn the moral Rubicon for Willow around the nerds, as she says to Xander, but I also love that she doesn’t even pretend to have time for them as people. I feel like this is probably her most “Mean Girl” moment in the entire show in a way, the head-nod at Jonathan. It’s just so “bitchy popular girl” I can’t quite articulate why. I like it. It’s not how Buffy usually acts, and it really sells the rising tension and uncertainty she feels here, because this isn’t normal, any of this, not socially and not “professionally”.

    I would really love to know how Alyson was being directed in this scene with Rack. Jeff Kober does this kind of stuff so, so well, but your eyes can’t leave Alyson. Is the idea here that she’s… kind of into it? Or just acting like she’s into it, that sense of “I’m a junkie who will do anything” to make him drop his guard? But does she need him to drop his guard? I don’t really feel like she would. Or are they letting slip that she really still is a junkie and it does kind of have a hold on her, the things he says?

    Regardless, it’s very satisfying to see her pay back this harassment, this rapey-vibe, with a penetrative act of murder (I have just stopped acknowledging any retcons on this subject – she killed him). And it’s also important to sell the “heel turn” here. She isn’t doing good and right things, not even if you are angry about Tara.

    Act III

    … and he treatment of Dawn is meant to reinforce that. I will make no bones about it – she was going to do it. Dawn will announce that to the audience, but I understood it implicitly watching in real time. She. Was. Going. To. Kill. Her. Because she said a name. Because she showed compassion. These are things that must not go unpunished if you are Willow in this state, running on this power. I won’t use this review to unpack how much of this really “is” Willow’s psyche coming out unchecked, her worst impulsive thoughts. It reminds me a little of the Angel episode “Eternity”, how Wesley acknowledges “… things were said” by pseudo-Angelus that had lasting, hurting value.

    I love the edge in Buffy’s voice when she warns Willow off. It’s a nice reminder of her absolutism about Dawn’s safety, from “The Gift” to “Wrecked”. She loves Willow but she’d scrape her off her shoe if she had to for Dawn.

    The two conversations in the Magic Box are part of why I like the moody atmosphere of this episode. The threat of Willow sets a nice backdrop for real reflection between characters that have needed to have it out. Andrew admitting he is meant to follow is about the most emotionally honest beat you get out of his entire character before “Storyteller”.

    I don’t like the way they contrive Xander and Anya into their relationship talk, because he worries she’ll suddenly side with Willow, but I’m very glad they get there. Emma and Nick have such great chemistry on screen. And damn if I don’t remember why Xander’s my dude. He really, sincerely thinks this is his fault. That he failed by not reacting to the gun more assertively, or at least seeing it sooner, that Buffy was shot, that Tara was killed, and Willow… lost… because of him. It’s not affected, and it provides a real validity to his “I do everything wrong” attitude and Anya’s later rebuke to “do something right”. She doesn’t think this is his fault but knows how to speak to him. There is such a gentle quality between them even when they are arguing that makes me re-appreciate this ‘ship.

    Buffy confronting Willow kinda breaks my heart, because there’s a secret in this scene that Buffy isn’t telling, but one second on that. Willow shifting between the third and first person is also its own sort of wrenching. But Buffy’s secret is this – she’s telling the truth. She knows what she is talking about, with the costs of grief and anger. But that’s not it – she’s telling Willow the truth about the value of living. She doesn’t have this epiphany in “Grave” about not wanting to die. She’s already had it. Maybe it was sitting up in that hospital bed with Xander and Willow, I don’t know. Maybe it was seeing Dawn stricken sitting alone with Tara’s body. But she isn’t wincing in regret when Willow mocks the idea that Buffy could actually mean any of this about wanting to live and there being things to live for because Willow is scoring points, it’s because she realizes there’s nothing she can say in this moment to make Willow believe that Buffy believes it.

    And I love the transition back to the Magic Box. It’s just art-as-television to use this slow camera move and transition between sets to actually show Willow’s power from “the inside”. Also, “abracadabra” Willow is a bad-ass. I love that visual effect. I have no idea what that spell was going to do but I don’t think it would have been pleasant.

    Act IV

    I warned you, I don’t have much to say about Spike. Har har there was more than one stage.

    Tom Lenk plays terror well. And Alyson… Alyson plays terrifying well. Anya is my queen. Like I said, one of best episodes. She just went for it, snuck out of frame with the book and just started trying.

    Buffy Summers is not someone who wants to fight friends. But Buffy Summers is also a preternatural warrior, a fighter. The slow, slow rise in tension as Buffy tries to warn Willow, especially as Willow powers herself up, is amazing. It’s like you can see her steeling herself, see her slipping the proverbial cape-and-cowl of the Slayer on in mid-conversation. Culminating, finally, with Willow striking her and her striking right back. This is Buffy’s world, her arena – she asserts her will through the application of force. She protects the innocent, she destroys the monsters.

    A lot of people disagree with me here, about the stakes in this fight, but I feel pretty total certainty about the drama of this moment. When they face off at last, Buffy’s almost quavering “are we really gonna do this?” isn’t “gee whiz are we having an argument?” It’s the regretful question of a woman asking if she really has to deal with Willow as the Slayer. And she knows that’s the role she must take because she advocates for it – the Slayer *isn’t* a killer, it’s not a hat Willow can put on by just angrily killing her enemies. It’s being the one that has to hurt people she loves for a just cause sometimes, though, and here we are. As a result, I actually interpret this fight as being one Buffy understands may have to go all the way. Willow, I think, is okay with that.


    That said, it is a bit pompous, so I always laugh when Willow says she needs her ass kicked.

    I’m glad they didn’t go super-duper martial arts choreography with this fight. It’s kinda visceral. I’d rather them fight even dirtier, in fact. But that it’s all closed fists and broken furniture fits, because there is a thread of unresolved tension being worked out here.

    I’m glad Jonathan sticks up for Xander and Dawn. Whatever they do after doesn’t diminish this moment – Jonathan isn’t like Andrew and certainly isn’t like Warren, not deep down.

    Willow basically wins the fight. I think that’s the right choice. Not just to raise the tension for the finale but also because Willow should. There is something to that “side man” bit that’s worth satisfying here. But this is yet another place where I differ from a lot of people. Anya’s terror is real because Anya realizes that her life is danger. This isn’t an angry friend; this is a dark and primal force of nature now who means them ill. Nobody’s ever going to convince me that when Willow stalks forward toward Buffy again, now fully in her power and the Slayer fully at her mercy, that she doesn’t mean to kill her.

    But we’ll never know, because Giles makes the save. It’s a fantastic cliffhanger and a much needed fist pump moment.

    I really enjoy this episode because of the confrontation between loved ones, I always think that adds a delicious drama in genre fiction. But it’s also because I believe it’s all “real”, that the stakes are life and death, that it works for me on that level. This is an episode that relies heavily on people coming to terms with their mistakes and their own attitudes in the wake of tragedy, and the hashing out that has to take place before life can move forward.

    It’s a top… 15? Episode of the series for me I think. 9/10 arbitrary units of rating. Sorry for the delay guys!

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  29. #835
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    Thanks for posting on Two to Go King. I'll watch again this week and look to post thoughts before Grave hits next weekend (and I'll see if DeepBlueJoy will be happy posting towards the end of next weekend to give us as much space between as we can get without changing dates. ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Willow from Buffy View Post
    Norway. I think that may be part of the reason why I like the Initiative storyline. For most viewers, it may seem like an odd fit, as the military played no part in their teen life ... but it did for me. Not that I have much in common with Riley or Graham. I am more like Hawkeye (the snark, not the surgical skill). Nevertheless, I think the Initiative does a descent job of portraying tribalism in the army and in frat houses.
    I wish you'd been in the rewatch for S4, your perspective would have been really interesting. I think referring to it as tribalism in itself is a revealing pov.

    That wasn't really what I had in mind, though I believe that is probably also true. My point was more about how we don't see certain kinds of people as dangerous, because they don't confirm to our idea of the hardened (and slightly cool) criminal. I can understand that it may be hard for a jury to convict an Andrew or a Jonathan of rape, but if they did it, they did it. Few criminals are evil through and through. Therefore, we should work proactively against these types of violence. But when someone has crossed the line, they've crossed the line, no matter how dorky or pitiful they may seem.
    I got that, sorry if I went a little off on a tangent. It is pretty terrible to think that a seemingly inoffensive person could get more leniency than someone else who looks different, even if the facts of the cases were identical, but it is probably realistic.

    I don't know. Spike rarely, if ever, expresses any concern that he may be somehow lesser than what he presents himself to be. I do agree that there are moment when Spike acts to defend his ego, such as when Buffy mocks him at the end of FFL, but how self aware is he really in these instances?

    In "Lovers Walk," Spike admits that his moping and blaming other people was part of why Dru left him. But this admission only comes after Spike gets his mojo back (which only takes a quick brawl). Before that, Spike keeps repeating that they were meant to always be together and accuses Angel of having messed with Dru's head.

    Even William himself seems to believe that Cecily will love him if she only learns to know the real him. He does not immediately flee after he is exposed at the part, but he resolutely insists that he is the man who can make her happy.

    I think it is this belief in himself that I like the most about Spike. There isn't really anything that can break his spirit ... at least not for long. He bounces back from every mistake or humiliation. It is possible that he is suppressing his self doubt, but he does so much more effectively than Willow is able to.
    There's both at play I think. Spike does want to believe in the image he's built and it is part of who he is, so it isn't totally false for him to do so. And he does constantly look to assert change and reach for what he wants, even when he has doubts or doesn't think there's a great chance of success. William was a dreamer and Spike has that too. It is just his nature to keep going and his determination and adaptability are key character traits. But there is an inherently blinkered aspect to it that means he can both perform and doubt himself within I think. When he is so down in Doomed it is greatly because he feels so stripped of absolutely everything he is that separates him from just being William again. He's harsh with Willow and Xander because of the 'William' he sees in them and doesn't want to have been brought back down to himself. Finding out he can fight with demons is enough for him to feel like he can affect things and not just be weak, so he bounces back yet again, gains confidence about his image that separates him again. How he became more than William was. But that desire to be something else, be seen differently, ultimately connects to how he sees the inner sides of himself against who he was as a human. It's the perceived weaknesses he pushes against feeling. So I think there is some self awareness that he normally suppresses which we see emerge at the points when he's weakened, it's just that he can just pull himself back or hits out to feel better. Which is greatly because I think he does generally believe he can be who he wants to be and in the side of himself that he has actively built and presented for so many years. But he doesn't forget what/why he wants to be seen differently and those insecurities lurk, he just believes more in having successfully pulled himself away from who he was most of the time.

    His self awareness of the degree to which his presentation of himself is a performance is greater once he's souled, but he still uses his image to protect himself too. His self doubt and internal criticism is just more realistic perhaps. We see the confusion about who he presents as being now against who he is within play out in Get it Done with his need to use an image to connect to who he was, the fighter he could be, which is formed on the belief in that identity as a real part of himself whilst it is also one he's wants to partly turn away from because of how he has changed. But the need to 'wear' the image is also about how part of it is a performance at the same time as his belief is why it can work. And he still actively uses his image as a defence to hide behind too when souled, which we see repeatedly in AtS 5. The belief is why it works for him, but it doesn't truly remove the self-doubts shielded by it too. Spike's self-worth issues are woven through his story and often are at their highest when he is being rejected or when he is around Angel and feels exposed/threatened. That's when we get the clearest glimpses that he performs in certain ways to protect or defend himself and I don't think he lacks all self awareness of that. He's more comfortable perhaps in drawing that shield up because he believes in it as a real part of himself too. Spike matures a good deal through the comic seasons and part of that is losing some of his defensiveness although his doubts of self-worth do still continue. He's more openly vulnerable about his insecurities and self-doubts, but he doesn't present himself entirely differently because of that. Some of the performance of self is a constant, integral parts of who he is, but we can also see how the varying factors over the years and context affects how he wants to present himself, which I think was what Aurora was originally alluding to.
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  31. #836
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    I have to declare – pre-veiny Dark Willow is the hottest Willow. This is the correct opinion and your other opinions are wrong.
    Man of culture, I see.

    Personally, I wouldn't say the hottest but she's definitely in the upper echelon, easily top 5. It's funny, I keep seeing those types of posts - Dark Willow is not sexy!/I love that dark Willow is not sexy!/Dark Willow isn't hot and I like it and it's always some basic straight girl writing it. Like, shut up Patricia, dark Willow is hot and it's not even a discussion. It's Alyson Hannigan, of course she's hot, with those enormous eyes that are somehow even bigger than usual, the dark, sort of masculine hairdo and a bit of that old Hollywood vamp vibe. She looks phenomenal, otherworldly, obviously, but still so, so beautiful. And the cinematography (which is really amazing in this episode) only emphasizes that, I think. The camera focuses on her face a lot with those intimate close-ups - I'm not a movie nerd so I don't know how it's called in cinematographish but you know what I mean, like those two:

    Spoiler:


    Like, damn...
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  33. #837
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    Quote Originally Posted by a thing of evil View Post
    ...the dark, sort of masculine hairdo and a bit of that old Hollywood vamp vibe ... And the cinematography (which is really amazing in this episode) only emphasizes that, I think. The camera focuses on her face a lot with those intimate close-ups

    You're right she does channel some of the old Hollywood vamp vibe... There's theory written about the "passionate failure of the diva" in film so this is really interesting. She's reminding me a little of Vivien Leigh in the pics you posted.

    Spoiler:


    ps. I haven't read KingofCretin's review yet though, really looking forward to it!
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    pre-veiny Dark Willow is the hottest Willow
    I don't see it. Pre-veiny Dark Willow is like a beautiful zombie. She looks great, but there is nobody home.

    But after she kills Rack, she is suddenly full of spunk and sass. The way she slightly sways make her seem dangerously unhinged, as if she is not really in control of herself. And she has freaky eyes and dark lips.

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    Great review King.

    I share most of your opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of this episode.

    I definitely agree that the production values of this episode (and the Dark Willow arc in general) cannot live up to the cinematic scope that the writers were hoping for. BtVS always had a limited budget but I think that the vast majority of the time they managed to achieve a cinematic or epic feel when they wanted to. However, for whatever reason, it's really noticeable in "Villains" to "Grave" how limited the budget was. Honestly, I think it's because the score in these episodes is so OTT and it clashes with how underwhelming a lot of the sequences are in reality.

    At one point I was actually convinced that the scene of Willow raising the temple in "Grave" was meant to be a joke and I looked up the Shooting Script to confirm this. The score is so OTT, and the closeup shots are so dramatic and cheesy, that when it's finally revealed to be this little naff spier poking out from the ground, I was convinced it was the writer's having fun. So I was pretty dismayed when I read the Shooting Script and it was apparently meant to be played with complete seriousness

    In this episode I find both the action sequence at the police station and the truck chase very tiresome. It's just shot after shot of Willow standing there whilst the music tries to tell me I should be excited. I find the more intimate scenes between Willow and the Scoobies way more exhilarating.

    I also agree with you that the episode spends too much time on Jonathon and Andrew. I just don't care. Every time it cuts to them I get frustrated and want to go back to the characters that are interesting. It's especially annoying during their scenes were are intercut between the Buffy vs Willow fight. They feel like total filler and the scene of Andrew pointing the sword at Xander whilst Jonathon points his sword at Andrew are not only unnecessary but, honestly, pretty juvenile ("No you let me go first"). I mean, guys, it's Buffy vs freakin' Willow, there's really no need for filler.

    I do have my problems with some of the writing in this arc. I think some of the dialogue is pretty iffy and OCC ("It's about POWER!" mwaahaha) and, look, I don't buy Willow's motivation for going after Jonathon and Andrew. It doesn't feel emotionally organic to me at all. Her blind range towards Warren felt, if not relatable, at least totally understandable, but I don't buy that she'd turn her attention then to Jonathon and Andrew. They were locked up pre-Tara's death and I don't believe Willow cared enough about them to seek them out so ferociously. It feels contrived so that they could pad the arc out over the course of 3 episodes and to set up a confrontation between Willow and her friends. This idea that Willow has an "addictive personality" and she's now tasted blood is also... what?! I just... huh? However, all that aside, it's no doubt very exciting to see Willow turn into the Big Bad and some of the scenes are really great.

    I love the scene between Buffy and Willow at Rack's den. Willow's vicious verbal spray at Buffy is not only a great summary of Buffy's journey in Season 6 overall (and I love when season finales do this) but it's so cutting, personal and hurtful in the way only Buffy's best friend could be. The shot of the background slowly morphing/changing behind them is also really well done. And you hit the nail on the head about Buffy's character and the tension rising at The Magic Box as she warns Willow to back off. It's really great and well done.

    I also agree with you about how great this episode is for Anya. I also love the scene of her revealing herself to the prison guard and how little patience she has to come up with excuses or cover stories for what is happening. It does bug me that she seemingly forgets that she has supernatural strength and doesn't put up a fight against Willow but her powers have always been so inconsistent that it is what it is *shrugs* That said, her "she doesn't care if you live or die" to Xander is really nasty.

    The one character I would have liked to see show up in this episode is Amy. I think it's a missed opportunity not to have her be at Rack's den and I'd have taken that over all the Jonathan/Andrew scenes or Clem.
    - "The earth is doomed" -


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    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    You're right she does channel some of the old Hollywood vamp vibe... There's theory written about the "passionate failure of the diva" in film so this is really interesting. She's reminding me a little of Vivien Leigh in the pics you posted.

    Spoiler:


    ps. I haven't read KingofCretin's review yet though, really looking forward to it!
    Ah Hedy Lamar. Queen of the old style Hollywood vamps. Anyone find a picture of her and that would be Dark Willow too. Definitely some tradition being carried on here.

    Wonderful posts from everyone, loving them all.
    You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

    "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018

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