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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post

    Well, in most instances of drama, intent of character matters. It matters in terms of law as well - that's why we have varying degrees of murder depending upon intent.

    I honestly don't think Spike's intent was to take agency away from Buffy. That doesn't mean that he wouldn't have taken away agency from Buffy as the end result - but that's not how he would perceive it. This is not to say that Spike wasn't a rapist - he most surely was and talks about it in season seven - but I think that he saw Buffy very differently from your average woman-on-the-street because she was a Slayer and he wasn't about to take away her agency without believing that she wanted it because he's in love with her. He doesn't really want to hurt her. He thinks she'll like it.

    We basically get a confirmation of this in Smashed
    This isn't most cases and this isn't murder. It wasn't his intent to hurt her in Seeing Red, either. The operative word there is "much". It wasn't Andrew or Jonathon's intent to hurt Katrina. It wasn't Willow's intent to hurt Tara.

    Spike implies here that Buffy wants to be beat down as much as him. And he states she's afraid to give him the chance to hurt her - why? Why say this if he's just planning to rape her? He's implying throughout this entire fight that Buffy wants it rough - likes it rough - wants to be hurt - and she's just afraid of her own desires.

    And in Entropy:

    Buffy can see things more clearly now that she's out of the relationship and healing from her trauma - and she realizes that Spike is seeing a different situation than what she's seeing because he's soulless - he's trying to love her and even be romantic in his own vampiric way with the dichotomy of the rose petals and the handcuffs that shows how torn he is - and she feels sorry for him. There's a certain level of condescension there as well - and Spike bristles at the thought that she's not treating his love as real because he's no longer human.
    Oh, I read that slightly differently, but that's another discussion.

    Have fun with Buffy. And she'd like it. She wants it deep down in his mind. Doesn't make him right about Buffy - it just shows that he's f**ked up.
    I don't disagree with you on this, but it doesn't matter what HE thinks. What matters is what would have happened. Yourself and PuckRobin have drawn the parallels with The Trio on this. THEY didn't think they were doing anything wrong, either. Spike is soulless and messed up, yes, but that doesn't change the situation Buffy would have found herself in, much like Kat.

    Bear in mind, I'm not suggesting there is rape in S6 Spuffy (other than the AR, of course). I'm saying that's the point. That's the deconstruction. Buffy is meant to stake the vampire in the alley, not herself. I'm not saying I agree with the message there-in, either. That's why I think it's stupid. Ultimately, though, I'd say that *is* the message otherwise we wouldn't have Xander's rant in Seeing Red, reminding Buffy and the audience.

    Sadly, Buffy does want Spike to do bad things to her and lets him in because she's longing to relieve herself of all responsibility to avoid dealing with trauma. Which only makes Spike more convinced that he's right because he doesn't understand the real reason why Buffy is having sex with him until he gets his soul.
    I'm not arguing that.

    It's the same to me - trying to win her favor and do what he thinks is right is the same thing as trying to be her hero. You're splitting those hairs a little fine, I think. But if the word "hero" or "champion" bothers you, then let's adopt your definition.

    To repeat myself and edit out the bad words, I think Spike was always of two minds about his relationship to Buffy. On one level, he wanted to control Buffy and force her to love him and accept the darkness and bow to all of his demands. On another level, he wanted to be what he thought she wanted - someone that she would love despite his evil soulless state - and this led him to sometimes sacrifice his own comfort and existence to be what she wanted.

    But I meant hero or champion only in terms of what those words mean to Spike. His definition of hero doesn't match reality - but it doesn't make it unreal for him as Buffy says. And I don't think it necessarily matters if Buffy knows or not - he knows - and to him, it justifies his stalking and constant pressure - he feels that she should be grateful to him for what he's done.

    What we seem to be arguing here over and over again is Spike's intent - and I'll continue to maintain that his motivations are guided by his soullessness - in many cases, he's unable to read what's clearly in front of him because he hasn't the capability. This sound like mitigation of his evil deeds - but it's not - it's just the way in which the soul functions in the Buffyverse because of the narrative of Angel.
    It's more the phrasing I disagree with. Spike isn't Riley. He doesn't want to be her hero or her shelter, he just wants her to see him. It's why he's a better match than Riley, IMO.

    What makes you think Buffy isn't obsessed with being a normal girl? Doing a quick search of the first six seasons, she mentions it an awful lot. It's pretty self-evident to me that she slowly grows out of that fantasy in seasons five, six and seven as she embraces her power.
    Because the thought of losing her power terrifies her throughout S1-S5. There is a rather large difference between wanting to do some normal things and wanting to BE normal. It's stated pretty bluntly to Cordy in Homecoming. Even in WTTH she doesn't have a problem slaying, she just didn't want it to take over her life and cost her everything.

    I'm betting that filming the actors under that awful rug was not easier to shoot - it actually looks like a nightmare where the actors most likely had to film multiple times because the rug has tremendous weight and no give - plus a very hard edge that would easily reveal the actress's halter top or bra if Buffy even slid half an inch upwards or the rug slid downwards from all that weight - it probably tops 50-60 pounds. A soft blanket or rug or a tablecloth or article of clothing - anything else - would have been more flexible and would have made things a lot easier.
    Directors don't care much about actors comfort. See James and his sock in Wrecked. It's easier to shoot because it blocks more. It's big so you can get a bit wider. It can tunnel to alleviate the weight, especially during the actual sex scene. It's already there, so you don't have to explain why they drug anything over to where they were. Spike's coat is in no way big enough to do that and besides, they used it to obstruct in DMP. A soft blanket or sheet might be easier on the actor, but much harder in the editing room given the scene.

    Ultimately, it's just making a choice. Sure, they *could* have conjured up a bunch of things. They just chose a rug.

    I don't understand what you're saying here - one is meant to be a contrast to the other in a dramatic sense. They ARE tender in Buffy's bed - it says so right in the script. Your interpretation doesn't negate what the writer has actually written.
    ... No, it doesn't. Her kisses become hard and hungry as she rolls on top of him.

    I'm not sure why you're bringing up Riley or Angel - do you actually believe I'm saying that Buffy wants Spike to be tender in her bed? If so, no, that's not what I'm saying at all. This isn't some Spuffy romantic dream. Her unconscious (or Slayer sense or whatever) is placing Spike where former boyfriends have been - and then suddenly shifting to show her the reality of their relationship and how she's given up all moral choice to lose herself with him. It's a warning signal.
    That's what it sounded like to me. Nor do I see how it's a warning signal. It's standard dream storytelling. You start off not knowing it's a dream. Joss has used it before all the way back in S2 when Giles tries to strangle her.

    It's not important as to whether they've done it in Spike's bed - what is important is that the writers chose to show us otherwise because they wanted to impress on the viewer that this relationship is anything but conventional. That's the pertinent point.
    I sorta-kinda agree with you.

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    American Aurora (16-09-18)

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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Here’s second to last of my responses to your marvelous review of Dead Things! I was going to try and fit it all in, but it's too damn long.

    Dance has been connected to both sex and dance. And perhaps it’s appropriately thematic that when we find Xander the next day in pain. Willow attributes it to the dance move “the Funky Monkey”. It looks like something Xander could have pulled with Anya after their time at the Bronze. The placement of this moment right after the Buffy and Spike leaves the audience with the suggestion that the vampire and the slayer practiced a Funky Monkey of their own.
    Yes, that’s fairly obvious!

    XANDER: Oh! I think I pulled a jive muscle last night.
    WILLOW: The Funky Monkey claims another victim.
    The word “jive" is jazz slang derived from the Wolof word "jev" – Wolof was the main language in Senegal, which was spoken by a majority of the slaves brought to America from west Africa. Originally referring to verbal deception or trickery, it was adapted by jazz artists to describe music that was tricky and quick-witted – and the dance moves followed suit.

    The funky monkey derives from an early jazz term for song and dance that was earthy and genuine. The phrase generally meant to let it all hang out and dance like a monkey – to move naturally as opposed to artificial. Of course, it had an erotic component as well – wild sex that was spontaneous and energetic. Xander’s joke about pulling a jive muscle mixed with Willow’s “funky monkey” joke gives us a vivid description of the dance Buffy and Spike were doing up on the balcony of the Bronze.

    And also the unpleasant aftermath of a night spent partying – with pleasure sometimes comes pain. A victim of overindulgence, Xander looks like he’s pulled a groin muscle as he hobbles up to the Magic Box, clutching above his left thigh. It can’t be too bad, though – Willow’s smiling at Xander’s joke as she walks beside him, feeling rather justified in her belief that Swing dancing leads to a loss of dignity. And there’s a slight parallel to Willow’s own monstrous crash due to overindulgence – but this time, the consequences are nothing more than a pulled muscle. The joke curdles though, as they encounter Tara leaving the Magic Box with a large book in hand and Willow is reminded of the costs of her own excess.

    It’s an awkward reunion for both Willow and Tara.
    That’s an understatement – the last time Willow saw Tara, she was coming home early in the morning in the company of Amy in Wrecked and still blithely performing magical spells. Now Willow is in the recovery stage of magical withdrawal accompanied by Xander – a much improved companion – and on the way to recovery.

    It’s immediately obvious that she’s hoping Tara has dropped by to check in on her – and see how she’s doing - but the guilty look on Tara’s face says otherwise. Tara’s been researching the spell that Willow used to bring back Buffy – and she’s not about to let Willow know how Buffy fears she’s come back wrong. And once again, we get the magic word for moral agency:

    WILLOW: Tara. What are you doing here?
    And Willow immediately realizes that her question sounds like an interrogation – it’s none of her business why Tara is going to the Magic Box although Willow would like the answer to be: “To see you.” But she doesn’t dare say it – because she’s already done enough to manipulate Tara.

    There’s a contrast with the previous scene in which Spike is all Dominant – Willow had previously tried to manipulate Tara and take away full agency with memory spells and now she’s desperate to show Tara that she’s willing to give up that power in order to regain Tara’s trust. It’s very much like the journey that both Angel and Spike take after victimizing Buffy in Seasons Three and Seven – their repentance for their previous monstrous deeds rests upon a relinquishing of that power to Buffy.

    And what’s fascinating about this scene is how it shows us the change in Tara – which changes the dynamic between them. From the start, Tara was mousy and frightened because of her family experiences and negative self-image over possibly being a demon and it was Willow who pulled her out of her shell – her tiny dorm room – and into the wide world. When they first face a bad guy, it requires equal amounts of strength to cast the spell to defeat him.

    As their relationship grew, it was self-evident that Willow’s power began to outstrip that of Tara and the discrepancy in power soon created an inequity in their relationship that was even worsened by Glory’s mind suck. Tara at that point was almost infantilized - yet Willow took care of her even while powering up more through black magic to revenge herself on Glory. So when Willow undoes Glory’s action in The Gift, there remained a huge power imbalance between them that was heightened by Willow’s position as the group leader in Buffy’s absence.

    But the seeming failure of Willow’s resurrection spell to bring Buffy back right causes a rift that only grows as Willow and Tara butt heads on the proper use of magic.

    It’s difficult to determine what constitutes inherent magical talent in the Buffyverse, but both Tara and Willow seem to be naturals at it. The difference rests in how they perceive it from an ethical standpoint – Tara’s view of magic was passed down through her mother, who seemed to teach her that it was a great force to be used sparingly and wisely because of its destructive properties. Whereas Willow comes from a scientific viewpoint in which all experiments and tests are essentially amoral – facts triumph personal feelings and magical means to an end are no more morally questionable than any other technological ability.

    But science itself doesn’t tell us what to do with such information once obtained – or its inherent dangers if used unwisely. One could genetically engineer a virus or bacteria to cause the death of millions – the specific scientific knowhow that leads to inventing the virus may be amoral – but the consequences are not. Magic makes things easier – but there are always consequences. For some, the discoveries outweigh the negatives – for others, they don’t. So these fundamentally different ethical takes on magic are what eventually tear Willow and Tara apart.

    What makes it worse, of course, is that Willow tries to win the argument by using magic to wipe Tara’s mind – a coercive act that places Willow in the Warren seat and Tara as a bot. And when Tara finds out, her reaction is just as angry as Katrina was – because she loves Willow, she gives her one more chance – and even though she lacks the magical strength of Willow, Tara finds the moral strength to leave the second time Willow mucks with her mind.

    I hope to talk a lot more about their relationship in Seeing Red, but I think the most important take away from their breakup is Tara’s question in All the Way: Why use magic when you can do something naturally? One can question this high-minded moral stance when fighting the forces of darkness who will use anything in order to harm and destroy – but from Tara’s point of view, the negative consequences of too much magic are destroying Willow and must be stopped. And now that Tara’s left Willow, she’s finding that she’s a much stronger person than she thought – she’s not as reliant on Willow as she used to be.

    So when the two women meet again after Willow’s crackup, there’s a real tension there. Buffy told Tara that Willow’s been good:

    TARA: I knew this was gonna happen. What did Willow do now? Did she ... she hurt anyone?
    BUFFY: Wha... uh, no, no, um... Ta-Tara, this isn't about Willow.
    TARA: I-I thought that's why you didn't want to meet at the house.
    BUFFY: Uh, sorry, it's, um ... Willow's fine, uh, she, she's been doing really well. You'd be proud of her.
    But it’s one thing to hear it – and another thing to see it. One assumes that Tara still worries that Willow is lying about using magic and one can see Tara hedging a bit as she tries to maneuver the unexpected meeting.

    WILLOW: I mean – uh, it's okay for you to be here if you have things that – you have to be here for.
    As Willow and Tara eye each other warily, Xander looks at Tara with hope shining in his eyes – if anyone can heal Willow, it’s Tara. He looks between the two women for a moment as they face off, unsure as to whether Willow will be okay by herself but the longing on Tara’s face leaves no doubt that an angry conversation is probably off the table. Xander politely excuses himself to let them talk privately and smiles first at Willow and then smiles and nods almost imperceptibly to Tara – an “I’m glad you’re here” nod – as he hobbles into the Magic Box.

    XANDER: Yeah, I'm gonna go bring Anya up to speed on that monkey situation.

    Tara offers up a sweet smile for Xander’s efforts. She once called Xander a sweetie, and some of that affection can be seen on her smile.
    Tara not only smiles, but nods back reassuringly at Xander – she’s okay with being left alone to talk to Willow – but her smile fades as she turns back to Willow, warily, clutching the large book to her body.

    TARA: There's a monkey problem?
    WILLOW: Only if you don't stretch first.
    There’s a moment of silence and then Willow looks at what Tara’s holding, trying to make any kind of small talk to fill up the silence between them.

    WILLOW: The Brekenkrieg Grimoire? Light reading?
    Tara freezes for a moment, concerned that Willow might figure out she’s been taking a look at her spell to resurrect Buffy. Or perhaps she’s afraid that a magic book will trigger Willow’s addiction.

    TARA: Uh, yeah, I was just –
    And Tara is at a loss for words – she’s not a very good liar. But Willow doesn’t seem to care why Tara’s looking at it – she’s only interested in the fact that Tara’s there in front of her.

    But Willow’s jokey comment is meant to mask the more serious issue. What split these two up was Willow’s addiction to magic. And now here’s Tara with a magical item – a reminder of what came between them, and Willow’s problem. Tara feels awkward, much like the friend of a recovering alcoholic found holding a drink.
    That’s a great metaphor, PuckRobin – Tara does hide the book the way a person might cover up a bottle of booze in front of an AA member. And Willow immediately gets that:

    WILLOW: No, it's okay. I, I didn't expect you to stop doing magic just because – you don't have to hide it. I'm not – I'm doing better. No spells for thirty-two days. I can even go to the magic shop now. As long as someone's with me at all times.
    Which probably explains why poor Xander – bum leg and all – is accompanying Willow to the Magic Box instead of staying at home and icing his pulled muscle. There’s another kind of physical tension going on in the scene as Willow keeps her hands clenched in front of her after swinging them at her sides with Xander – the hands representing not only a gesture to relieve tension, but the “hands off” approach of Willow in her no-magic state.

    Willow quantifies she’s doing better by specifying “No spells for 32 days.” And while she smiles with pride at the number of days, Willow also tries to keep it honest by saying that she can go to the Magic Box as long as there’s someone with her at all times.
    Great point, PuckRobin – unlike Willow’s earlier lies, she’s really owning her own accountability in casting spells – embarrassingly admitting that she needs a sponsor in order to even enter the Magic Box. Tara looks down guiltily as Willow speaks because she’s not actually doing magic for herself – she’s hiding it because she’s researching Willow’s magic to see if Willow brought Buffy back, well, wrong. Tara does smile when Willow tells her how long it’s been since she cast a spell but becomes flustered when Willow suggests that Tara’s there to see her.

    WILLOW: But, uh, but it's better now, it really is. You know, if you were checking on me.
    Oops. Willow goes a little too far in honesty-talk and Tara looks ashamed as she admits she isn’t there to see Willow:

    TARA: No, I wouldn't – I was just looking for Buffy.

    Tara initially short-circuits the hope in Willow’s attitude, but stressing that she wouldn’t check up on her. Maybe Tara was still feeling guilty for saying “I knew this would happen” when she wrongly assumed that Buffy wanted to talk to her about Willow falling off the wagon. Those hoping for a Tara/Willow reconciliation have their hopes slightly dashed when Tara (“breaking the moment” as the script puts it) asks Willow to tell Buffy it’s important they talk.
    Yes, PuckRobin, Willow looks pained at Tara’s response – she was obviously hoping that Tara was there to see her. And I’m sure the audience was pained as well. It’s interesting that Willow doesn’t ask why Tara wants to see Buffy. Especially because Willow hasn’t seen much of her at all.

    WILLOW: Oh. Well, I haven't seen her since last night. She's not around much these days. We kinda miss her.
    Willow says this mournfully, as if to tell Tara that she’s suffered yet another loss that’s almost as great as that of Tara. And there’s a slight edge in her voice that perhaps Buffy might be spending time with Tara instead of the gang and excluding Willow. Tara shakes her head vigorously as if to fend off that notion and even makes it seem as if Willow’s much more likely to see Buffy than Tara to make Willow feel better.

    TARA: I'm sure she feels the same way. If you see her, can you tell her that I need to talk to her? It's important.
    WILLOW: Yeah. Of course I will.
    TARA: Thanks.
    And Tara hurriedly walks past Willow with her book under her arm as Willow stands silent with a look of regret on her face. But suddenly, Tara turns around and calls out her name.

    TARA: Will? I'm – I'm glad you're doing better.

    But again reconciliation is teased when Tara turns back and says “Will…” Of course, Willow turns around. Tara says “I’m …” And then she pauses. It’s not a typical Tara stutter or stammer. She’s self-editing here. And goes for a positive but guarded statement. “I'm glad you're doing better.” The script elaborates “There's so much more to say, but it's still too soon. Tara settles for an encouraging smile, heads off.” We’ve seen Buffy flash a fake smile to cover up her thoughts elsewhere in this episode. Here, Tara appears to allow herself a brief smile to show Willow that there is more than awkwardness and guarded emotions here. Tara truly does care.
    Willow stands for a moment watching Tara’s retreating figure before turning to go into the Magic Box. It’s fortunate that Xander is there and knows of her meeting with Tara – it’s exactly this kind of event that might trigger Willow to backslide. For once, it’s Tara who has all of the magical power – researching Buffy’s condition – and Willow who is deliberately trying to avoid magic and do things naturally.

    Of course, the whole scene also conveys the information that Tara has some news for Buffy – and we’re not sure from Tara’s reaction to meeting Willow whether it’s good or bad news. Buffy herself is convinced that Tara’s going to find something wrong with her – why else would she be ignoring her family and friends and seeking out Spike night after night for fun and bondage games? And we see Buffy walking through the graveyard slowly with her iconic stake – she’s walking towards Spike just as Tara walked away from Willow and it’s obvious the two scenes are meant to parallel each other. Tara has the strength of character to walk away from Willow now – whereas Buffy does not.

    The scene ends with the beginning chords of “Out of this World” by Bush, a song from their 2001 album Golden State. The music continues to play into the next scene, where we find Buffy wandering through a graveyard. Seemingly she’s on patrol. As for Spike, he’s in his crypt – smoking and pouring himself some blood mixed with Burba Weed. The open shirt, the candles --- this feels like performance art. As if he’s hoping that Buffy will catch sight of him as some dark and sophisticated lover and not the working class rebel fixated on spicy buffalo wings and blooming onions. His sex with Buffy makes him feel like a sexy man. And nothing says sexy man like acting as if you’re in an Old Spice commercial. In “Entropy” Anya talks about how her relationship with Xander brought out her sexy dance. Spike responded “I have no dance.” What we see here is perhaps Spike preparing his equivalent of a sexy dance. Or maybe he can sense that there will be some appreciative home viewers catching sight of this.
    Ha! PuckRobin, this is about as hilarious a takedown of the “sexy naked Spike scene” as I can think of – what the writers and directors do for ratings!

    Surely Spike is expecting Buffy after her shift – he’s preparing for her arrival by lighting multiple candles and drinking a little blood out of his fancy new wine decanter into a beer glass. No more plastic bags for Spike – his blood-drinking has been thoroughly domesticated so as to not gross out Buffy. No more boring black T-shirts – he’s switched for something a little less frightening and more seductive. His bling has taken on epic proportions – a necklace, two rings, a bracelet – even his hair is a little longer than usual in the back. As he takes a drag on his cig, he senses something – an enemy, a friend – and then smiles when he realizes who it is.

    Spike’s vampire senses confirm his wishful thinking – Buffy is coming. Of course, he smiles at the thought. Outside, we see Buffy approaching the crypt. Inside the crypt, Spike moves to the door. He rests his hand and ear to the door. And on the opposite side, Buffy does the same. It seems like an attempt at intimacy on Buffy’s part. One that is mitigated by having a thick door between them.
    Buffy walks up to the crypt, places her hand on the door as if deciding whether to go inside and then leaves as Spike stands on the other side. That’s pretty much all that’s to this scene in terms of action – the rest is all psychological. But an analysis of this scene and how it relates to the lyric shows that it’s surprisingly well-matched – and metaphorically tells us everything we need to know about the relationship at this mid-point in their relationship.

    I have to be honest and say that I’m not fond of musical montages because they often cheapen dramatic situations – and there’s a certain level of cheese to this one that’s typical of 90s shows. But it’s unusually choreographed to fit the lyrics exactly – and so it’s worth looking at to see what the creators are trying to say with the song.

    The lyrics seem to use death as a metaphor for the death of a relationship – the first verse refers to a death or an ending – when we die, the place we return to is home where we are remembered – reminiscent of Buffy’s “heaven.” The second verse describes a relationship that has gone bad – it has become like death – uncertain as whether either person is dying or living (drowning or waving) yet both need to be saved. Things could go either way dependent upon the decisions that both make and yet the self-made barriers both create send them spiraling backwards instead of forwards. The song ends with the singer asserting they are alive – and yet, the relationship makes them feel as if they’re both dead.

    It’s about a very harmful and destructive relationship in which both people need to be saved – and yet, they cannot save each other. Which neatly fits the Buffy of Season Six. We only hear the first part of the song in the episode – the part that focuses on death:


    Buffy walks by the graves at night, iconic stake in hand, as she walks towards Spike’s crypt.

    Spike pours blood from a fancy new decanter and takes a smoke in his crypt.

    Spike pauses after adding burba weed to his blood when he senses Buffy outside

    Spike’s nose flares and he smiles rather smugly at her approach

    Buffy slowly walks up to the crypt door from the outside.

    Spike slowly walks up to the crypt door from within

    Spike smiles and puts both bare hands on the door as if he can feel Buffy on the other side

    Buffy tentatively puts her gloved hand on the door.

    Spike places his head against the door and closes his eyes in ecstatic expectation

    Buffy grimly stands opposite with her hand still on the door as she pauses, eyes open

    Spike stands still with his eyes closed and his mouth opens in a gasp of anticipation

    Spike suddenly makes his move and swings opens the door

    Spike walks outside the door to find that there’s no one there

    Spike scans the graves nearby and sighs in frustration

    Buffy walks briskly away from Spike’s crypt.

    Spike strides out of the crypt. He looks around, but Buffy is nowhere to be seen. And the song playing in the background, “Out of this World” by Bush again has a comment to make. Spike has opened the physical barrier -- the crypt’s door – but he’s left alone. There’s a harder barrier to surmount -- the emotional barrier. Hence it’s appropriate that the background song states “And the barriers are all self-made.” In “Chosen” Buffy tells Angel that Spike is “in her heart”. And here, we see that he’s in her thoughts. She’s trying to cleanse her thoughts of Spike, with about as much success as when she hung garlic around her room in “Wrecked”.
    When Buffy waits outside the door to the crypt, it’s more than just a pause – it’s a momentous decision for her because death lies on the other side. More than death – oblivion – as Buffy loses herself in sensation and allows Spike to relieve her of all responsibility. Spike, on the other hand, savors the sensation of knowing that Buffy will walk into her crypt of her free will and embrace him. He doesn’t have to stalk her or lure her inside – she’s begun to crave him like blood and she soon won’t be able to stop. It’s too easy to relinquish all control and let Spike make her choices for her.

    Spike’s smirk when she nears – his surety that he’s won – makes her entrance that much more meaningful. But when Spike struts towards the door, sure of his hold over Buffy, the smug look on his face slowly evaporates as Buffy just stands before the door, unable to make the choice to come in or not. Her hand rests on the door which pushes inward to his crypt – and Spike presses against the door knowing she’s on the other side. Both at this point can sense the other – the script makes that clear – and it’s a battle once again to see who will open the door. Will Buffy open it from her side – or Spike from his? A seemingly meaningless action that carries great moral weight that determines the outcome of the season.

    The barrier separates them isn’t just self-made – it’s real and the danger lies on either side. In mythology, characters who descend into the underworld – the Kingdom of the Night – show increasing signs that they are becoming a shade themselves. Buffy in many ways has been longing to return to that coffin and the oblivion of heaven for some time. It’s a regression into primal indistinctness, a flight into the cosmic night that represents a total disintegration of the personality. It’s no longer what one is, but who one was that matters – by embracing Spike night after night, she’s become a shade of herself – one who walks and talks and seemingly lives a life – but is living utterly in the past and the life that she’s lost. This descent into Spike’s tomb is a literalization of her descent into hell and the eventual darkness of madness from which it’s nearly impossible to come back oneself – which will be touched upon soon in Normal Again.

    But Spike is coming out of the darkness in a sense – he’s blinded by the light, but still willing to brave the sunlight to see Buffy. As all vampires are, he’s a captive of his demonic nature – seemingly never to return again to the light of civilization. Spike could immolate in the sunlight if he isn’t careful and Buffy could suffocate in the darkness, losing her identity altogether. But the yearning for what the other has is palpable on both sides as both meet in the middle, hands on door – unconsciously, Buffy longs to die and Spike longs to live.

    It’s notable that Buffy places a gloved hand on the door as opposed to Spike’s bare hands, creating even more of an artificial barrier between them. It’s a signal that Buffy will have the strength to walk away from temptation – and death – whereas Spike finally gives in and opens the door. In doing so, he reveals that he’s nearer to opening the door to the living world than she is to closing it. But she’s close – like a recovering alcoholic, Buffy tells herself over and over again not to return to Spike’s door – but think about something else.

    BUFFY: Don't think about the evil bloodsucking fiend. Focus on anything but the evil bloodsucking –

    Andrew and Jonathan tried to deny Katrina’s identity and reduce her down to merely “the brunette”. By remaining deliberately ignorant of her true identity, the two geeks were able to carry out their plans without being troubled by conscience. So, Buffy is trying to strip away Spike’s identity. She’s thinking it will be easier not to use him if he’s a mere “evil, blood-sucking fiend” with no disturbingly contradictory attributes.
    Yes, PuckRobin, Buffy is depersonalizing Spike in order to remind herself of who he is and what he represents. What’s odd is it should be the opposite – the more depersonalized Spike is to her, the easier it should be for her to use him sexually. Which tell us that what draws her to Spike is a complex mixture of deadly vampire and human attributes – some stemming from Spike’s demon and some from the original William Pratt. As she says, she likes him “sometimes” – which makes her decision to enter his crypt even harder.

    Buffy hears a scream. It’s a simple, uncomplicated part of her task – or so she thinks. Buffy looks up to whatever questionable divinity watches over Sunnydale and says “Thank you”. Buffy spots some robed demons chasing a woman, who sharp-eyed viewers might realize is Katrina…The scenes continue to jumble together. We see snatches of a massive fight and past moments in a new sequence. Then in the midst of battle, something touches Buffy’s back. She spins around and delivers a super-powered punch to the stranger. But the stranger is Katrina herself. Buffy is horrified by what appears to have happened to Katrina. While she goes after Katrina, Spike finishes off one of the demons. Spike follows Buffy and finds her staring over Katrina’s body. Buffy is still in shock because of these strange events. As Spike takes it in, we view the scene from behind the trees. It’s the vantage point of someone watching Buffy and Spike. It’s revealed that this mysterious watcher appears to be Katrina herself – seemingly back from the dead for a second time – like Buffy herself.
    Which mirrors the point-of-view on the balcony where Buffy and Spike were screwing while watching the people below. The Trio watching the reality of the “construction of reality” that they’ve created – Katrina the dead thing switched out for Jonathan the living thing to fool Buffy into confusing the two –the irony compounds as Spike runs up – instead of a living thing mimicking a dead thing, it’s a dead thing mimicking a living thing.

    We’ll find out later that Buffy’s disorientation is due to the Rwasundi demons creating, to use Anya’s term, “a localized temporal disturbance”. That would suggest that Buffy was shifting and cycling through different events – that while things may have happened in a linear order for Spike – that Buffy was moving in time. But then Anya also talks about about how human perceptions work, and that the demons create vivid hallucinations. Those further details suggest that maybe it is only Buffy’s memories of events that are altered. And the idea of hallucinations suggests that some of these events may have never happened at all. When the phony Katrina turns back into Jonathan, we see Jonathan has bruises around his eyes – this suggests that Buffy’s blow did connect – although not with the lethal force Buffy imagined. But if the Rwasundi had not been present, if this hadn’t been a massive set-up by the Trio, there would have been a human explanation for what Buffy experienced…people remember vivid but jumbled details, reordering the remaining fragments to form their narrative. Details – let’s say the way Buffy punches a demon and Spike – can be spliced together.
    Yes, PuckRobin, and it’s so close to the temporal torture in Life Serial that it’s obviously a metaphor for Buffy’s temporal confusion after her resurrection. The course of events is hard to decipher here because of the timey-wimey hijinks and some of it doesn’t make sense. Spike and Jonathan/Katrina are shown in separate scenes with Buffy where she appears to be alone – so one assumes that Buffy is experiencing a different reality from what Spike and Jonathan/Katrina are experiencing. We see her at several moments alone in the clearing, a large tree clearly behind her. But in one scene, Jonathan/Katrina is lying on the ground and Spike isn’t present. In another scene, he is lying on the ground next to Jonathan/Katrina. So we’re not just seeing the scenes themselves out of temporal order – we’re actually seeing hallucinatory aspects of the straightforward events – the persons involved – either removed or layered on another in various scenes. So Katrina may not even have been there in the first place except for the last moments.

    When Buffy runs away to see what’s happened to Katrina, her reality has left the frame. And yet we still see Spike and the final demon fighting as Spike calls out her name with another demon lying prone on the ground. And yet we still get the same sense of displacement as Spike’s leg is grabbed by a demon – and then suddenly he’s in a different place and tackled from the side. So even Spike the vampire is affected by the temporal displacement – which doesn’t seem to end until he puts his fist through the last demon’s heart and brings him down.

    But despite the temporal stutters and the layering of two different timelines and hallucinations, we can figure out the timeline of the other “real” character in the scene before time goes all wonky. Spike enters with his shirt buttoned and his coat on. He sees nothing amiss and walks behind her, saying “So you thought you could just slip away, then? Vampire, remember? I could feel you.” Reacting to something that Spike can’t see, Buffy clocks Spike – he falls to the ground with a bloody lip, wounded. It doesn’t seem to be a reaction to his first line, since Spike is confused by Buffy’s punch. We then see Spike in vamp-face as they fight the three demons and he yells out “Buffy!” as one demon comes at her from behind. As Buffy runs to see what’s happened to “Katrina”, Spike kills the remaining demon with a “Do you mind?” and races down the hill.

    Buffy never reacts to Spike’s dialogue at all – they see to be in two different timeline/hallucinations and when Buffy sees Spike walk up and says, “Spike? What’s happening?” in a quavering voice, Spike delivers his line “So you thought…” without responding to her line at all. The same happens when Buffy punches Spike to the ground and says, “Spike” as he says the magic words that open the golden portal of moral culpability in Dead Things - “Bloody hell, what did you do that for?” And Buffy doesn’t have an answer – or a moral reason – her sense of what’s happening is jumbled and she responds in a dazed manner to see if he’s really there or a hallucination as well. She shakes her head after she punches him: “Spike?”

    Earlier in the hallucination, Buffy heard voices (sounding like the Trio) whispering, “What did you do?” as the Trio displace their culpability for killing Katrina onto her. They’re either seemingly lucky enough to have Spike repeat their phrase – or, more likely, they’ve heard what he’s said and decided to pump it into Buffy’s head so that she’ll blame herself for Katrina’s death. Buffy’s initial comforting line to the crying woman on the ground – “It’s okay. I’m going to get you out of here. Can you walk? Are you hurt?” – seems to come after hitting Spike, so the Trio sees that their plan is working – Buffy’s vow that she’ll save the women will only make her accidental death seem even worse.

    It makes me wonder for a moment what the Trio remember of Katrina’s death. It happened so fast – perhaps they are starting to rearrange details too. Maybe her defensive slash of Warren’s face has become an aggressive first strike in their minds.
    That’s a fantastic point, PuckRobin! I love the idea that the Trio (well, at least Warren and Andrew) are already forgetting the circumstances of the murder and that Warren’s scratch has been expanded into a brutal attack.

    We don’t get to see the actual moment when Buffy learns that Katrina is dead – only her rush down the hill and then Spike following her. The script wisely views it from the vantage point of Spike – who drops his vamp face and races down the hill to follow her. He arrives at the bottom to find Buffy in a stupor, kneeling over the body.

    SPIKE: Buffy?
    BUFFY: She's dead. I – I killed her.
    Earlier, we saw Buffy comically talking to herself as she left Spike’s crypt: “Don't think about the evil bloodsucking fiend. Focus on anything but the evil bloodsucking – “ And when she hears a cry, she looks upward and mouths “Thank you!” Being the Slayer is the last shred of moral certainty that keeps Buffy sane. Fighting bad guys and saving innocents – she knows what she’s supposed to do. So she races forward and ends up murdering an innocent – it’s an indication of an upside down world that shatters her last tangible evidence that she hasn’t come back wrong.

    She doesn’t try to deflect or share blame like the Trio did. She takes the blame upon herself. The Trio stripped Katrina of her human identity – referring to the body as an “it”. Buffy does not do this.
    Great catch – Buffy immediately sees Katrina as a person rather than a body as opposed to the Trio who deny Katrina her humanity. But there are two responses happening simultaneously at this moment:

    We have Buffy devastated that she’s accidentally killed a person – an act that happens every day to soldiers, police officers, drivers – and it’s generally a life-changing event that stays with you for the rest of your life. What makes it even worse is that it was a consequence of Buffy’s superpowers – a normal girl wouldn’t have had the strength to punch Katrina so far that she would roll down the hill. We get here the delayed reaction to Katrina’s death that we should have seen from Warren – Buffy asks “What happened?” in a daze and then as she starts to realize the moral ramifications, of what she’s done, she collapses psychologically.

    And then we have Spike – who is madly in love with Buffy and wants to protect her above all else. And Spike tries to take action as Buffy stands in shock over Katrina’s body. What interesting is that Spike simply stands beside Buffy for a moment, waiting to see what she’s going to do instead of immediately reacting. He’s smart enough to understand that Buffy needs a moment to process this – and wise enough to realize how she’s going to blame herself. He might even have her catatonic breakdown in Spiral in mind when he waits and waits - and Buffy refuses to move. Looking around, he realizes that anyone can find them and he tries to convince Buffy to leave. But no matter what he says to Buffy, she’s not listening.

    SPIKE: We have to go.
    BUFFY: What happened?
    SPIKE: There's nothing you can do now. We have to go before someone sees you.
    BUFFY: What did I do?
    SPIKE: We have to go, now!
    Spike grabs Buffy by the shoulders and pulls her away from the corpse. Before Buffy’s resurrection, this wouldn’t have been tolerated – Spike would have found pieces of himself spread from the Magic Box to his crypt. But she’s in such shock that she lets Spike drag her by her arm beneath a tree where they can’t be seen – or so they believe. Just as in The Weight of the World, Spike calls out her name and shakes Buffy to pull her out of her stupor.

    SPIKE: All right. Listen to me. Buffy.
    Spike shakes Buffy.
    SPIKE: Buffy!
    BUFFY: She's dead.
    SPIKE: It was an accident.
    BUFFY: I killed her.
    Usually it’s Buffy who takes control of a situation – but now Spike is ordering Buffy around like a father – or a boyfriend – or a Watcher. Any authority figure will do as long as it makes her listen to him. As Buffy shakes her head and continues to take in the enormous implications of what she’s done, Spike fights hard to convince her that what happened was an “accident” – and she bears no moral culpability at all for what she’s done.

    Spike assures Buffy that it was an accident. We’ve heard that same line earlier this episode. That’s what Andrew says as he begins to process and accept the murder of Katrina. In Andrew’s case, it wasn’t true. They deliberately kidnapped Katrina, subverted her will and were actively trying to subdue her when Warren violently attacked her. There was nothing accidental about it.
    Yes, PuckRobin, from the viewer’s perspective, Warren was culpable of Katrina’s murder as he was obviously reacting out of anger that she scratched his face. But both Andrew and Jonathan consider Warren’s homicidal action to be an accident – in their minds, he just wanted to stop her, but never intended to kill her. And here, Spike says the same thing. Of course, that’s the excuse that bad guys always use – it was an accident – she ran into my knife ten times!

    Now what Buffy incorrectly believes happened truly is an accident. And it’s the kind of accident that has been discussed in the show before. But then as Buffy believes she’s come back wrong, of course, the obvious parallel would be Faith – the slayer gone wrong.
    Yes – and I get the impression from this and the following scene in the alley that is either a big fan or been told to look at the scripts for Consequences and Five by Five before writing Dead Things!

    But in terms of morality in this specific scene, we get Spike’s first and most important moral imperative – save Buffy above everything else. He’ll be damned if he’s going to let Buffy get in trouble or blame herself for the death of some bystander who would’ve been eaten anyway if Buffy hadn’t come along. And we return to the lyrics of the song that played over Buffy’s journey to Spike’s crypt as Spike holds a dazed and panicked Buffy in his arms:

    SPIKE: I'm gonna get you home.
    BUFFY: No!
    SPIKE: I'm gonna get you home, and you're gonna crawl in your warm comfy bed and stay there!
    The word “home” echoes not only in the lyrics, but what that represents for Buffy. We hear her talk about it in the conventional sense throughout the series, but the word has a special connotation in terms of season six. It comes up soon after she’s been resurrected when Xander realizes that Buffy has had to dig herself out of her grave. As Buffy cringes in the alley, Xander leans down to reassure her that there’s nothing to fear anymore:

    XANDER: Buffy, it's gonna be all right. We brought you back. You're home now.
    Buffy slowly raises her head, looks at him.
    XANDER: Yeah, that's it. You're home. (Bargaining, Part Two)
    Xander is thinking that Buffy’s come back from a Hell dimension – that’s what Willow said – and Buffy’s return to Sunnydale is like coming home again. And a traumatized Buffy does respond to Xander’s word – home – but it’s not the home that Xander is thinking of. A few days later, Buffy tells Spike that she feels like coming back to life isn’t a homecoming – it’s a nightmare exile in Hell.

    BUFFY: I think I was in heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out by my friends. Everything here is hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch. This is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that. Knowing what I've lost. (After Life)
    And so it’s ironic that Spike echoes Xander’s words about “home” since the Summers house hasn’t been exactly comforting for some time now for either Buffy or Dawn – at least not since Joyce’s death – no matter how many breakfasts Buffy and Willow try to whip up. But in the larger sense of home – the normal world where girls don’t patrol for demons and visit a vampire’s crypt for sex but sleep at night in their warm comfy beds – Buffy also feels equally estranged.

    It’s also interesting that Buffy doesn’t notice the obvious – that Spike is taking her home rather to his crypt right around the corner. We find out later that’s because Spike’s going to dispose of the body, which inspires him to say the words that launched a hundred used car dealers and fraudulent hedge fund managers:

    SPIKE: We're gonna sort this out. Trust me.
    And we go back to the beginning of the episode where Spike dangles the handcuffs – almost like a diamond ring in Buffy’s eyes. Because Buffy is looking for an escape from a world that is too “hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch – this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that – knowing what I've lost.” She tried delegating authority to Giles on returning – but on his departure, she turns to Spike.

    As I said earlier, Buffy’s desire is to lose herself in their sexual encounters and forget the outside world and its responsibilities. As she says to Spike, she wants to be “free of rules and reports – free of this life.” Unspoken is the desire to be free of any moral culpability for her actions as well. So the best way to escape that guilt – to absolve oneself of all responsibility – is to place one’s agency in the hands of another. Trusting Spike means she doesn’t have to think or feel – just be and let him take care of everything.

    It’s almost a father talking to a child. Daddy’s going to take control. Daddy’s going to put her to bed. It’s an odd shift in the Buffy/Spike dynamic. It’s also how Spike would take control to help Drusilla who would also get hysterical and had a child-like quality. This is Spike trying to be a good boyfriend. Or possibly more. Spike is also very protective of Dawn, and he’s never considered her girlfriend material. When Spike asked if she trusted him with the handcuffs, it was sarcastic. But here Spike is sincerely asking for her trust. But as Buffy said in the teaser, she does not trust Spike.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree with you. Spike believes he’s doing the right thing by taking over all moral agency for Buffy and is asking her to trust him – not so he can do something terrible behind her back, but so he can save her. Buffy is silently acquiescent when Spike tells her to go home to bed – once again, Spike takes this as acceptance that everything he’s saying is right.

    As she looks to him for guidance, Spike takes their Dominant/Submissive sex games a step further and decides to make this grave moral decision for her. And astonishingly, Buffy allows him to do so, which probably makes Spike feel like he now has her forever. Note the shift from “I’m gonna get you home” and “you’re gonna crawl in your warm, comfy bed” to “WE’RE gonna sort this out.” Just as Spike took care of Drusilla for a hundred years, he’s going to take care of Buffy now and make all her decisions for her.

    Earlier, we saw Buffy refuse to cross over the barrier between the living and the dead – choosing not to enter Spike’s crypt. But, here, we see the collapse of Buffy’s barrier between the moral world of the Slayer and what’s she’s been doing with Spike in her private life. This is punched by the blood dripping from the side of Spike’s mouth – Buffy the Slayer caused that, but it was accidental – like her murder of Katrina – and a visual reminder that she’s allowing an “evil, blood-sucking fiend” to make her moral decisions for her.

    And there’s that moral culpability again that links Spike’s actions with that of Warren’s – as we watch Buffy confusedly allow Spike to guide her, we cut to a HUGE APPLE PRODUCT PLACEMENT LOGO and then pull back to see Warren and Andrew watching the action.

    Meanwhile, we discover that Buffy and Spike are being watched by the Trio – or rather the duo of Warren and Andrew. Their evil plans have been brought to you by…Apple.
    Yes, PuckRobin – The IMac – first choice of serial killers. Complete with software bundles iLife and iDeath!

    “Two problems, one stone” Warren says, smug that he’s got away with it. He’s killed one woman and now he’s trying to destroy the life of another.
    Well, he’s already tried to kill Buffy twice so far – he probably considers giving her a prison sentence to be rather merciful.

    What I always find hilarious about the cameras everywhere is that the Trio STILL hasn’t found out that Buffy was resurrected and that she’s having sex with Spike. Which says that you only find what you’re looking for.

    I mentioned before how the Trio are harbingers of the modern Internet trolls. Of course, there were internet trolls back when Buffy was on air.,,If Warren weren’t dead and/or skinless by 2014, I imagine he’d be joining in the gamergate pile-on. And part of these loathsome online harassment campaigns is cultivating a sense of shame in their victims. And that’s what the Trio do here. They try to destroy Buffy’s life and make her feel guilty. They already started this trend back in “Life Serial” when they made a time-twisting game of Buffy’s attempts at finding gainful employment. Speaking about gainful employment, the Trio don’t have to be crime lords. They can control machines, magic and demons. To hell with Wolfram & Hart, they could get legitimate, high-paying jobs in any corporation in America. But instead, they choose an outlaw existence. It’s common with a lot of the Internet trolls who have start-up crypto-currencies and the like. They could have worked for existing corporations, but part of their identity is to be disruptors. To give a finger to the rules and society that they feel mistreated by. I’ve been speaking of the Trio, but so far we only have seen two members.
    That’s really a fantastic rundown of the modern “Trio” – I can see “Skinless Warren” on 4Chan, ruthlessly doxing his least favorite actors and writers while counterfeiting bitcoin on the dark web as a cryptoanarchist. Or maybe engaging in a tad of ransomware on Tor. I imagine that Warren would refuse to sell any of his inventions on principle that others would control them. He’s a misanthrope and sociopath who doesn’t seem to care for anyone – he just wants to see the world burn. The scratches on his face coorespond to Spike’s face covered in blood – they’re both killers who feel no remorse for their victims – but are marked by them all the same.

    The van door opens and they are joined by their third member – Katrina. The title “Dead Things” is a quote from the Bible, specifically the Book of Job, “Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.” The line suggests a fluidity, that these dead things can bubble and rise to the surface again. And here, Warren and Andrew are viewing their sin made living flesh again. Andrew in particular seems freaked out by this image of Katrina.
    LOVE this, PuckRobin! There’s something haunting about the killer faced with his victim. Andrew’s –practically squirming when “Katrina” comes in the van – he catches Jonathan’s eye and imperceptively nods as Warren congratulates Jonathan.

    Warren compliments the image of Katrina. “Nice job. She totally bought it.” It’s an interesting choice of words, because while “bought it” can be used to mean being fooled by a trick (as they did to Buffy), but “bought it” (and its later variation “bought the farm”) is a euphemism for dying. What Warren says can refer both to Buffy being fooled and to Katrina dying. Perhaps his choice of phrasing was influenced by his guilt? Katrina morphs back into Jonathan – and says sarcastically and ruefully. “Yeah. Some of my best work.” Jonathan’s attitude continues when Andrew asks what happens now.
    I really love your catch of Warren’s phrasing – no doubt unconscious – as he eyes Jonathan with a little consternation. He’s already suspicious that Jonathan isn’t as down with this plan like he should be – and his fears are confirmed when Jonathan bitterly answers Andrew:

    JONATHAN: The night's young. Gotta be some more girls we could kill.
    And this makes Warren bark out order like Spike:

    WARREN: We stick to the plan! Buffy thinks she killed Katrina. Well, it's her problem now.
    And just like that, Warren hands over moral responsibility for the death of Katrina to Buffy just as she handed it over to Spike.

    Warren orders them to stick to the plan – apparently refusing to acknowledge that it was his own misogynistic obsession with Katrina that derailed any plans they once had. He adds that because Buffy thinks she killed Katrina “it’s her problem now”. As if Buffy’s guilt somehow absolves the truly guilty of blame.
    Andrew happily follows orders because he’s terrified of what’s happened – and he soon slips back into a world of total fantasy where Katrina’s death is no more important than one in the comic books he’s reading. But Jonathan is embittered – this isn’t what he signed up for – and it’s ironic that his “best work” was also his worst in another sense. The streaky mascara from “crying” and the blackened eye are strange and lovely visual metaphors for his sense of inner turmoil.

    He realizes that they’ve turned a corner. They aren’t Saturday morning cartoon villains just robbing museums with their non-lethal freeze rays. The Trio are straight-up rapists and murderers, and they just used their magic tricks to destroy another woman’s life. Perhaps Jonathan realizes that when he listed “Girls, Girls” or “Chicks, chicks, chicks” as a primary goal for the Trio, he was really just listing Warren’s potential targets.
    That’s really a fantastic callback, PuckRobin! Unlike Andrew, Jonathan’s looking at their activities in a different light and realizing that he’s crossed the Moral Event Horizon – the black hole from which he can now never escape. There’s a parallel here with Buffy – who believes that she’s killed an innocent person. Both are filled with guilt and horror over what they’ve done – and as we shift to Buffy in her “warm, comfy bed” we see that it’s anything but comforting.

    Freud said that dreams were generally an expression of wish-fulfillment – that they are a stand-in for the desires of the unconscious. Our desires and our internal censor battle one another for supremacy. The manifest content – the narrative – is different from the latent content – the meaning – which is displaced and representative of the unconscious. So the actual content of Buffy’s dream isn’t necessarily its meaning – oftentimes, it’s the opposite.

    We find Buffy restlessly shifting under her covers. Notice her arms are bare at this point, she’s presumably sleeping topless or in undergarments. Buffy still hears the chattering voices asking “What did you do?” Then she hears Spike’s voice. “It’s all right, luv.” He comes into shot, next to her in bed. He says “Shhh. Don’t worry. It will be our little secret.”
    Were these words that Spike possibly said to Buffy as he brought her home? Did he help her up the stairs and place her on the bed? Buffy in her dazed state doesn’t seem likely to care if he’s in her bedroom. It’s possible that her dreams are confused with the last reality she knew – Spike in her bedroom turning off the light – and she dreams that he’s still there with her, crooning comforting things in her ear.

    The bed not only is unmade next to her, but there’s a depression in the pillow that says someone was there recently, so it’s possible that Spike WAS in her bed temporarily to soothe her before leaving the room by the window or elsewhere. We know that she was fully clothed when she was laid on the bed because she wakes up that way – so it’s incredibly unlikely that sex was involved if Spike did make it into her bedroom.

    At the beginning of the episode Buffy and Spike “missed” the carefully prepared bed with white sheets that Spike had prepared. But now here they are – not only in a bed with white sheets, but in Buffy’s house and in her bedroom. Spike has rarely been in this room. He showed up in “Into the Woods” to tell Buffy of Riley’s infidelity. But generally, Buffy has kept her own little secret – her and Spike’s relationship – by exiling it from her home and normalcy. The scene’s lighting is cool and blue, much like the tint that comes with classic “day for night” filming, where a blue filter turns scenes filmed in daytime to night scenes. Also, Spike’s suggestion of secrecy could be called “sweeping it under the rug”, and well we saw what Spike and Buffy did under the rug at the beginning of the episode. Or rather we imagined what they were likely doing.
    Yes, there’s a sense that Spike doesn’t belong in her room that never was the case with Riley – or even Angel. And that’s because Buffy doesn’t really see him as fitting into her daylight world with Dawn and Willow sleeping nearby. Her bedroom has always been the sanctuary to hide from vampires and Buffy hangs garlic the night after sleeping with Spike to prevent his entry. It’s all appearance, though – she doesn’t have Willow uninvited him again and pretty much leaves herself open to his entering at any time.

    Buffy kisses Spike – and while the kisses take on the passionate quality typical of their relationship, there’s something more here. When Buffy starts kissing him, there’s a tenderness – an open vulnerability she hasn’t shown to Spike before. But as we’ll learn for sure in a few moments, this is but a mere fantasy – a dream. Is Buffy dreaming of a tenderness she truly feels? Is it what she feels Spike wants? It’s hard to say.
    I think that the dream (or nightmare, if you like) deliberately starts gently to provide contrast with what’s to come. It’s meant to fool the viewer into believing that it’s real – that Spike has finally gotten what he’s always wanted – to take the “boyfriend” place in Buffy’s room and tenderly make love to her like a real boy – or William Pratt. But the voices should have already cued us in that there’s something terribly ominous about Spike’s presence as he appears in the left corner of the frame while Buffy sleeps.

    Buffy is curled up under the blankets, sleeping fitfully.
    CREEPY VOICES: What did you do, Buffy? What did you do?
    SPIKE: (softly, soothing) It's all right, luv.
    He moves in close behind her, naked under the blankets. She gasps awake, her face strained with fear and guilt.
    SPIKE: Shh. Don't worry. It'll be our secret.
    He kisses her neck, softly, gently. She shudders, pulling him close. She kisses him, searching for solace.
    As Spike gently kisses Buffy’s shoulder and stokes her arm, a light peeps in a bit from the closed blinds, covering them in lighted hatch marks, light and dark. Buffy’s mind conflates the secretive nature of her relationship with Spike – a slayer screwing a soulless vampire – with the murder of an innocent – dark secrets that are both morally objectionable in her mind. Spike’s reassurances that everything will be okay – that Buffy needn’t worry because both their relationship and the death of Katina will remain their secret – are not met with protests, but with Buffy turning over and giving into her violent passion for Spike in another attempt to forget everything that’s happened and embrace oblivion.

    Her kisses become hard and hungry as she rolls on top of him.
    As their tender lovemaking turns into animalistic desire, Buffy starts kissing him harder and harder until her desire becomes too overwhelming and she flips him over, asserting dominance.

    We then jump cut to a naked Buffy on top of Spike. The colour scheme has changed to a golden glow. And with this shift, it is now clear we are in the realm of dreams. Vivid dreams are nothing new for the Slayer – it’s one of her super powers. And when we first meet Buffy in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, she is dreaming. Buffy also has prophetic dreams in the season premieres for the second and third season as well. Angel’s impending doom in “Surprise” is foreshadowed in a dream rich with symbolism. And in the following episode “Surprise”, Buffy gets a tip in a dream that leads her to realize that Jenny Calendar knew more than she was saying – and from that they would learn about the “perfect happiness” clause that caused Angel to lose his soul. It’s in dreams – apparently shared between the slayers Buffy and Faith – that we get our first mention of Dawn. We saw the dreams of the four core Scoobies in “Restless”. Even vampires dreams. Angel and Spike both have dreams that shape their relationships with Buffy. Angel dreamed he married Buffy and then she burst in flames in the sunlight. It was this dream in “The Prom” that finally spurred Angel to break off his relationship with Buffy and leave town to star in his own spin-off. And it was after a particularly vivid dream in “Out of My Mind” that Spike finally realized that he was in love with Buffy. Yes, Bangel ended in dreams, and Spuffy began in dreams.
    That’s a fantastic observation, PuckRobin! It seems to me as well that the dream is more of a “Slayer dream” than a normal dream – just as she had premonitions of the Master killing her, Angel losing his soul, Faith trying to kill her, the Gentlemen’s box of voices and the Shadow Men, this dream is less prophetic than a warning. But even if it is meant to be a normal dream, her unconscious is telling her that she’s not only making a grave mistake in turning over her moral authority to Spike and trusting him – but she’s in danger of losing her moral soul and becoming little better than a soulless vampire.

    But perhaps the most relevant previous dream for this episode is the dream Buffy had in “Consequences”. Faith’s accidental killing – and disposal – of the Deputy Mayor weighed heavily on Buffy’s conscience. She’s drowning and dragged down into the deep by her shared guilt and by the corpse of Deputy Mayor Alan Finch. Here in “Dead Things”, Buffy’s guilt and secrecy surrounding her relationship with Spike becomes intermingled with her shame and horror at Katrina’s death. “Our little secret” as the dream Spike called Katrina’s death and/or his relationship with Buffy. Is Buffy’s passionate love making with Spike merely a dream, or is it a memory of what we didn’t see in the episode’s teaser?
    I think it’s a component of either her own unconscious or her slayer senses making her look at their relationship – so the gentle lovemaking is probably either a composite of Spuffy sex or an idealized version of what sex with Spike could be like if he weren’t a soulless vampire. The important thing is that the human tenderness becomes tainted with animalistic passion – just as Spike called Buffy an animal – as she demands more and more from Spike in her desire to escape.

    Buffy straddles Spike on his bed, her face quickly giving way to animal passion. Her hands sensually run up his arms - and we see that Spike's hands are cuffed over his head. Spike's expression betrays both pleasure and pain.
    The soft light of the moon streaming in her bedroom is changed to the harsh, unforgiving yellow light of fire in the crypt as Buffy rides Spike with a feral expression. Is this how she sees Spike – or herself? And what could possibly be causing Spike to experience both pleasure and pain when it looks like Buffy is doing all she can to give him an explosive orgasm despite the handcuffs. The mind boggles at what could really be going on beneath the camera’s lens to cause pain. A strap-on? Some confining ring? Some weird plug? Do we ever want to know what they use on each other to make Buffy feel disgusted? Nah – let’s just assume there’s something more than meets the eye here.

    One has to assume anyway that the “pain” for supernatural beings like Buffy and Spike comes not so much from any physical torment, but psychological – in the Balcony scene, Buffy isn’t in much pain except emotional as she watches her friends dance.

    Spike had suggested the handcuffs in the teaser, and then Buffy was massaging her wrists when talking to Tara about how Spike could hurt her. The clear implication is that Buffy did indeed wear Spike’s handcuffs. So, is this dream sequence a role reversal – where she and Spike have switched places? Is it Buffy’s subconscious manifesting her inner sense of “wrongness”? Perhaps. But it doesn’t have to be a mere dream. Buffy has not been simply submissive with Spike. Looking at their liaison in “Smashed”, Buffy and Spike were both driving that coupling. So, perhaps they really did take turns with the handcuffs. And yet we don’t see Buffy in handcuffs here. We see Buffy on top. In the dream, she appears to be assuming full responsibility for their relationship. Also, Spike wears the handcuffs like a criminal captured by the cops. It seems Buffy is transferring her own feelings of being a criminal and needing to turn herself in to Spike.
    I think it’s possible that Spike and Buffy changed positions, but the main point here is that Buffy feels herself to be an animal – a feral creature who came back wrong – and she’s inserting herself in the Dominant place of soulless Spike. Despite acting the Submissive to Spike’s Dom, Buffy is actually realizing that she’s the Dominant in their relationship because she is still the one in control – she has a soul and she’s the Slayer. Spike is cuffed beneath her because he’s a serial killer in prison – a creature who has murdered tens of thousands of people – and he’s only kept in check by Buffy. Spike should have been dusted many, many times before this moment – but Buffy has chosen to keep him alive for her own purposes – which are as selfish and rapacious as his.

    Her hands moving up his arms show his helplessness against her – a metaphor for how she dominates him in fundamental ways, changing his nature almost to the point of breaking it. Her hands almost reach his own, but never touch them – continuing the motif of hands reaching through the barrier, but never joining together. Instead, she grasps his wrists as if she were the handcuffs, showing how she has imprisoned Spike with metaphysical handcuffs through his love for her and his impossible desire to be both a physical man who loves her and a monster who must be destroyed.

    Just a quick flash. Buffy violently strikes a shadowy attacker in the woods. We can't make out who it is.
    Now Buffy is straddling Katrina, who is in the same position as Spike was on his bed. She roughly handcuffs Katrina's hands above her head. Katrina's expression betrays both pleasure and pain.
    When Buffy tilts her head back, she imagines hitting someone – Katrina? Spike? We can’t tell. But she opens her eyes to find herself on top of Katrina, holding her handcuffed wrists in the air – as Buffy roughly throws Katrina’s arms back to hit the ground above her head, Katrina ends up lying in the same Submissive position as Spike. And we get a parallel between the criminal Spike and the victim Katrina – the dead thing and the dead thing – both utterly under Buffy’s control as the Slayer.

    The golden colour scheme climaxes in a powerful bright light – just as Buffy does. But this moment of golden light is quickly cut with glimpses of a scene of dark blues, blacks, greens and browns – and it is the moment of Buffy’s perceived transgression – the moment she punched Katrina. While the punching of Katrina – or as we know, Jonathan in disguise as Katrina – clearly happened in some form, what happens next is no mere flashback. Buffy straddles Katrina – and the victim’s wrists are in handcuffs – just like Spike’s. Now Katrina is the handcuffed crook, and Buffy is the cop. Instead of treating Spike like a criminal, Buffy’s now treating the victim like the criminal.
    Yes, PuckRobin – although we can’t be certain whether Buffy’s hitting Katrina or Spike in the shadows. The criminal/victim has now become the Submissive who WANTS to be hit, who WANTS pain, who invites it and asks for it like Buffy. And Buffy has given it to Katrina just as she gave it to chipped Spike who gives it back to a willing Buffy once he’s unchipped.

    Buffy only has sex with Spike when he can hurt her – BECAUSE he can hurt her. The question of moral culpability for their brutal lovemaking lies with both of them – but Spike is soulless whereas Buffy SHOULD know better. But she fears she’s come back wrong. And this is tied into Katrina’s death.

    Then Buffy asks Katrina the same question Spike had asked her when he produced the handcuffs back in the episode teaser.
    BUFFY: Do you trust me?
    Katrina’s initial reaction is a wolfish, ravenous, mischievous grin. If Buffy and Spike had taken turns with the handcuffs, I wonder if Buffy quoted Spike’s line about trust back to him. There’s something of Spike at his most lascivious.
    That’s very possible – but it’s also possible that Buffy sees herself as “Spike” in the dream – it recalls Spike’s words in the opening scene:

    SPIKE: I was just trying to keep up. The things you do – the way you make it hurt in all the wrong places. I've never been with such an animal.
    Buffy is putting herself in the place of the monster because what Spike did to her was HER decision – she willingly conceded agency to him and placed herself in a submissive position. In reality, Spike is the Submissive here and always has been – he’s a soulless vampire without moral agency – and Buffy despises herself because she allows him to believe that he’s finally become the Dominant partner when in fact she’s guiding their relationship herself.

    The dream Katrina’s grin quickly vanishes – as it turns into a grimace of pain. And with that, the scene again shifts back to Buffy and Spike, now grunting and gasping during the act of sex.

    Quick flash. Spike and Buffy are on the floor amid the wreckage of their love-making. They're going at it again, rough and hot.
    The cuts become quicker and faster as more and more connections are being made. Spike is on top screwing Buffy hard as she clutches his forearms tightly, drawing him closer in her, allowing the soulless monster to dominate until she suddenly asserts control and punches Katrina instead in a smash cut to the next scene.

    It’s interesting to note in the dailies that the scene ends when Buffy lifts her head up and bites Spike in the arm hard – one assumes that it was meant to happen directly before the smash cut to punching Katrina, but the editor couldn’t make it work convincingly. So we never got to see the bite marks Spike bragged about.

    Quick flash. Buffy lashes out again. Hits someone. This time we see that it's KATRINA - who goes flying from the brutal blow.

    Buffy's on top of Spike, who lies in the exact position Katrina did when Buffy discovered that she killed her. Buffy has a stake raised in her hand. She swings it hard down on Spike's chest.
    As Katrina goes flying into the air to fall down the hill, we see that it’s Spike who’s lying on the floor of his crypt on the rug, his arm above him just as Katrina’s dead body was found. Spike is both innocent and criminal, perpetrator and victim – as a soulless vampire, he’s both actually at the same time, because he has no free will to determine his actions. His will is primarily instinctive and animalistic – unlike Buffy, who has full agency as a human being with a soul. Her crime is much worse than his – because her natural duty is to save innocents, not kill them; to stake vampires, not screw them.

    It’s probably even trite now to point out the much-talked about psychological connections between sex and death, or even that a French phrase for the sensation of orgasm is “La petite mort” or “the little death”. And yet, in dream sequence, it is appropriate to get one of the most classic Freudian connections. And we find another one as we’re back to the golden-lit scene and naked Buffy is now brandishing a very phallic stake. As the cop here, Buffy now must dole out judgment. She’s become judge, jury and executioner.
    And this is an acknowledgement that Buffy in reality is the Dominant in her relationship with Spike and in her role as the Slayer which she is running away from by allowing Spike to play her role and thereby absolving herself of all responsibility. As the Slayer, she’s supposed to dole out judgment – but she’s failed in her duties – she’s hit the wrong target.

    When Buffy prepares to stake Spike, he’s sleeping – like an innocent babe, not a dangerous criminal. But she still choses to inflict punishment. Even though Spike is a murderer a hundred times over, he trusts her enough not to stake him. And in her dream, she excises all of Spike’s faults. He’s not maniacal. He’s at peace. Buffy sees Spike at his best, so she can see herself at her worst.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree. There’s also a tie here between Katrina and William Pratt – the killing of Katrina was an accident – but so was the siring of Pratt and his eventual unlife as a monstrous murderer. As a creature without true free will whose nature is to do evil, Spike’s killings can be said to bear as much guilt as Buffy’s “accident” of fortune. They are out of his control in a moral sense – a freak accident of nature in which he is a soulless undead animal. Because of this, she is duty-bound to kill him and all such creatures – but his love for her allows her to use him as a method of disengaging from the world.

    Is her subconscious again conflating Buffy’s apparent murder of Katrina with her affair with Spike again. Just as she imagined Katrina in handcuffs, she now imagines delivering the killing blow to Spike? Or could it be this is more sinister version of a game Spike and Buffy played. I mean, we do know that Spike likes a little stake action in his foreplay. I suppose it’s just possible that at some point Buffy and Spike broke into Riley’s collection of plastic, fake wood grain stakes. (And what was Riley doing with those, anyway?) But no, it’s probably again Buffy transposing elements between the two secrets she feels most guilty about.
    Ha! We already saw that Spike likes a little stake action with the Buffybot in Intervention – the way he arches his chest up into her stake while lying helpless on his bed tells us everything we need to know about Spike as a Submissive.

    We see Buffy loom over Spike with the stake, she brings it down, and then we see the stake buried in Katrina’s chest. Sleeping with Spike and killing Katrina – they both fit Buffy’s definition of “wrong”. But one question we should ask is – what’s right? When it comes to Buffy and humans, it’s fairly clear cut. She’s supposed to be a protector, a defender – someone who does no harm. But Buffy is a “slayer”. She’s always drawn a distinction between slaying and killing. In “Bad Girls”, she told Faith that it’s not the same thing. So, what makes it different? The most obvious answer is the thing that makes it different are Buffy’s targets – “vampires, demons and the forces of darkness” as the show’s original intro used to say. And this sense, staking Spike would not be an act of wrongness at all.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I agree. Spike is a monster in her eyes and is complicit in thousands of murders. We’ve seen that he’d be willing to kill again the second the chip stops working. But there’s a problem – Buffy sees Spike as a person – just as she sees Katrina as one. And she knows that Spike doesn’t have the free will to choose to be morally righteous. That only comes with the soul.

    ANDREW: It's not fair. Spike just killed people and he gets to go.
    BUFFY: Spike didn't have free will. You did.
    ANDREW: Oh, I hate my free will. (Potential)
    Buffy suffers from immense guilt because she’s using Spike’s love for her to make herself feel better – in reality, Buffy is the monster because she lets Spike believe that he’s won her over and given over the responsibility of guiding the Slayer. Which can never really happen and will only lead to his eventual staking. In many ways, Spike has been as mindf**ked as Katrina to be Buffy’s sex slave – although he believes he’s manipulating Buffy, in fact she’s successfully manipulated him. And the guilt is killing her as she sees his body covered in scratches and bite marks like a vampire’s victim and then viciously stakes him.

    Katrina lies on the ground in the exact position she was in when Buffy discovered that she killed her - a stake protruding from her chest. Her dead, cloudy eyes SMASH open.

    And yet. Buffy clearly associates Spike with the innocent victim. Buffy doesn’t yet know the true circumstances of Katrina’s death. But there may be some Slayer prophetic power with this association. Buffy feels that she is using Spike. And Warren most certainly used Katrina. Warren mind controlled Katrina into being an automaton, whereas Spike is soulless and not quite capable of making the same choices as one with a soul. Because Katrina is a human, not a vampire, her staked body does not burst into dust. It remains there – another dead thing – as a reminder of Buffy’s sin. The dream ends with the supposedly dead Katrina opening her eyes. Electric blue eyes – much closer to Spike’s than Katrina’s normal eye colour.
    Excellent summation, PuckRobin! Buffy does associate Spike with Katrina – the innocent victim. The conflation of the two crimes – the killing of Katrina and the relationship with Spike – confirms to Buffy that she’s come back wrong – that she’s become the equivalent of Spike – the evil, bloodsucking fiend who murders innocents and harms others. And it sickens Buffy that she’s the one who’s allowing Spike to do these things to her because she knows deep down that she’s really the one in control because Spike has no real moral agency. She’s using him for her own selfish reasons – and pretending that she’s the victim when she’s actually the perpetrator. Both killer of Katrina and user of Spike.

    Buffy had no doubt looked into the eyes of the dead many, many times in her life. However, the most visually striking image of an open-eyed corpse was surely that of Buffy’s own mother in “The Body”. And with that Buffy wakes up.
    Buffy's eyes crash open with a start. She gasps for air, the nightmare fresh in her throat.
    Notice that Buffy wakes up with her eyes open in the same wide way as Katrina and her right hand curled above her head just like Spike and Katrina before she stakes them. Buffy has seen the monster – and it is her.

    We see Buffy that had gone to sleep fully clothed, still in the black top from her exploit in the woods. At the beginning of the scene, we saw Buffy tossing and turning with bare arms. Apparently when we saw Buffy in bed earlier, it was already within her own dream. Spike’s odd way of saying that it would be “our little secret” was part of the dream too.
    Great catch, PuckRobin – Buffy’s small slip of an outfit in bed with Spike was all in her fantasy – which makes it even more probable that it was something she wore while sleeping with Riley and Spike has been transposed into a real life scenario that happened with someone else.

    I’ve always been fond of the “dream within a dream” sequence – it’s such a great fake-out and I have to say that this dream, directed by old Buffy hand James A. Contner and edited by Lisa Lassek, is really superbly done.

    At first, Buffy looks confused and worried. But her face takes on a resolved look – Buffy has come to a decision.
    Yes, for the first time since her resurrection in Season Six, Buffy has made a decision and is ready to assert herself – but it leads to grim results. We’ve seen this plotline before – especially in season three with Faith – and the memory of Faith’s gradual decline into moral depravity must weigh heavily on Buffy as she sets out to do what she feels is right.

    I’ll finish this up and post tomorrow morning, PuckRobin. As you can tell, I’ve really enjoyed responding to your superb review!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 16-09-18 at 06:40 AM.

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    In the interest of saving my comments for a future time so the thread can move along, the only thing I will say now is that I took the voices in Buffy's head ("what did you do?") at the graveyard as the start of her self-reproach, her voice foreshadowing what she says to Spike. It's a really well-done scene, I think. Also, I may be in a minority here but I don't think there was sex on the balcony. Wishful thinking on my part? Probably!!!

    Great comments, Aurora. Thank you, as always.
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    1. Name ten things that are alive – like a tree
    2. Name ten things that are not alive – like a rock
    3. Name ten things that are dead – like a dried flower

    How does Buffy perceive herself after the resurrection? Using the guidelines of the children’s game, does Buffy feel alive? She’s certainly brought back mortal and she visibly ages during the rest of the series. Does she feel dead because of her experience of death? Buffy “died” before in Season One – and has some problems accommodating herself to life again in When She Was Bad – but she still has a sense of herself as a living thing who temporarily dodged a bullet. When she confronts first Kendra and then Faith, Buffy has the sense of being the girl who died and lived – the Slayer who was skipped over in the official chain of succession. In that sense, she is dead. But in another very important sense, she is alive.

    But in Season Six, does Buffy have an irrational fear that she’s more like a creature who never lived at all because of her sense of a heavenly state that eradicated all sense of life and death and time? And if she is alive in a sense, has she come back human with a soul or is she some kind of soulless undead demon or animal with a soul – something other than her previous sense of self that muddies the distinctions between her humanity and that of something else?
    I love your use of this childhood game to launch into a discussion of theological questions behind the soul, etc in the show, but more importantly Buffy’s head space in season six. That she may not be a dead thing, but she doesn’t see herself as truly alive either.

    SPIKE: A man can change.
    BUFFY: You're not a man. You're a thing. (Smashed)

    There’s an interesting turn of phrase – Spike isn’t a demon or a man or an animal here – but a thing.

    For a moment, Buffy’s refusing to place Spike in either the living or the dead category – but in the category of never having lived at all. Her refusal to accept his prior humanity is based solely upon the idea of his soul – as a soulless vampire, he’s little more than animated dust in the wind to her. Then again, this actually may help in terms of initiating a sexual relationship with him – whereas a dead person can evoke guilt and/or pity because of their connection to the human they once were, a dead THING is little more than a rock that never lived at all. Buffy can convince herself that she can use Spike for whatever she likes – and there are no consequences – well, none that matter.
    That’s a fascinating look at it. And her view of vampires does conform to what Giles said in those early episodes – where vampires appeared to be new creatures, just wearing the flesh and memories of a prior human.

    Buffy never treats the souled Angel as a dead thing or a dead human. Angel’s a living thing – because he has a soul, apparently – but she doesn’t consider him truly as a continuation of the mortal Liam. I don’t even know if Buffy knows Angel’s mortal name. She never calls him Liam. But then why would she? Angel to her is generally living.

    I like how when Buffy breaks up with Spike she gives him his humanity by using his human name.

    Yes, I totally agree, PuckRobin. I also understand the significance of the two sweeping their relationship “under the rug” – but wouldn’t that be the most uncomfortable place in the entire crypt? If you follow along with your interpretation, I’d say that Buffy is deliberately trying to make their sex as uncomfortable as possible to keep Spike at arm’s length (figuratively) and convince herself that this is all some kind of unreal fantasy that doesn’t mean anything. One can only imagine the rug burns on their butts and backs as they roll in and out of some heavy rugs with rough padding underneath.
    Wow, I think I might have missed the obvious “under the rug” metaphor. And yes, I don’t think it was coincidence either. It’s too on-the-nose not to be deliberate. I can see her saying “let me choose the least comfortable thing possible” as their covering. Still it works – as both a gag to the famous phrase and as you point out Buffy’s intense desire to avoid the comfortability of a regular relationship.

    But the true Buffy has also been swept under the rug in an ironic reversal of Buffy’s desire to hide – Spike is reading her on a fundamentally physical level and ignoring the emotional turmoil within, instead favoring the idea that all Buffy needs is to embrace her inner darkness and her moral sense of virtue will flutter away permanently. He can’t see how much pain Buffy is in – how she’s holding back her feelings and using sex with Spike to hide from her feelings of suicidal despair after being forced to live again. She’s merely allowing Spike to let her play-act being dead – inside, she’s still bursting with life that he unconsciously covets, but can’t truly understand until he gets his soul back.
    As that expression goes, where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling.

    Spike saw his siring as liberating, but it robbed that body – William, Spike, whatever – of its soul. And perhaps on one level, he can’t perceive what’s gone. Intellectually sure, but on an emotional level? Soulless Spike has the rudiments of feelings, but can he truly feel or appreciate either the true highs or lows that come with having a soul.

    Part of the problem rests in aligning Buffy’s moral weakness with S&M hijinks – just as Faith raising her butt in the air and crawling across Riley’s bed was supposed to signify how BAD she was, Buffy’s willingness to let Spike sexually dominate her is supposed to signify how she’s fallen into a dubious moral state. But in reality, sexual kinks and fetishes have nothing to do with the real world outside – Buffy could have sex with Angel while wearing a “furry” costume and it shouldn’t have zip-doodle to do with feminism or her place in the world outside her bedroom. The moral conundrums should be plain enough without bringing prudish ideas of what constitutes proper sex into the drama – and so, the handcuff move falls kinda flat because it’s really not even that outlandish of a thought that Buffy might want to enjoy playing the submissive since she’s always “on” as the dominant at every given moment.
    As I think I said before, there’s a real double standard in that Wesley can stray from the vanilla ice cream and he comes off as bad-ass and cool, but if Buffy does something less than puritanical, she comes off as being astray or broken.

    And again I’m bothered by how in “Who Are You?”, there were magical moral restorative powers in Riley’s bland sex. Faith becomes more heroic – comes to Jesus – after Riley uses his wholesome missionary position.

    I suppose we should count our blessings that they didn’t use “As You Were” to have Riley heal Buffy of her sins thorough wholesome, godly sex.

    Why Tara of all people? Is it simply because she’s more of an acquaintance than Willow? Perhaps she’s less discerning and judgmental - Willow would surely guess the reason why Buffy was asking in about thirty seconds and also raise the alarm with Xander that Spike’s chip doesn’t work anymore, endangering Spike’s life and Buffy’s relationship with him. Or is it really about something else?
    I think there are a number of reasons.

    Spike’s chip may be based in science – and Willow’s speciality – but the aspects of coming back wrong would require magical research. And Buffy couldn’t ask the recovering magic-user Willow to slip back into old habits.

    And yes, I think there’s some benefit to Tara being a bit of an outsider. Telling Tara about Spike still isn’t as real as telling Willow.

    But I also think it has something to do with Tara’s maternal qualities. Willow is more the kooky best friend. But Tara is more mothering – especially to Dawn. In many ways, Tara has served as the surrogate for Joyce. And Tara even looks visually closer to Joyce Summers than Willow does.

    Perhaps on some buried level, Buffy saw how Tara was a surrogate Joyce for Dawn, and felt she needed some of that quality right now.

    Surprisingly, they’re not dancing to a pop song – or a Joss Whedon song for that matter – but to the beautiful "Grande valse villageoise" (The Garland Waltz) from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet that was used as the melody to Disney’s animated song “Once Upon a Dream” of the same story and its counterpart, Maleficent. The ballet is a classic tale of good witch/bad witch with a spell cast upon the title character Princess Aurora to sleep forever. The good guys only win through enlisting a handsome and noble Prince’s help – he takes down the bad witch and awakens the bewitched heroine with a kiss.

    So it’s a story in which the lead character is asleep for most of the story – she has no agency, she’s a pawn of good and evil witches and she’s saved by a handsome Prince. In many ways, Aurora is just an ideal rather than a real person – a thing of beauty for everyone else to fight over. And yet, even the Prince is just a pawn in the bigger game of good and evil – it’s the good and bad witches who manipulate things to their liking.

    But the implication is that they need a man to break the spell because men are bold warriors who take what they desire and women are passive creatures who need to be awoken with a kiss while remaining completely unconscious. And this dynamic is played out in two ways in Dead Things – with the Trio and Katrina, who “sleeps” like Sleeping Beauty as the men tussle with who is to molest her first until she wakens with an almost blowjob – and Buffy and Spike, who play dominance-submission games with each other, ever-switching between playing the roles of the Maiden and the Prince.
    Wow, I completely missed the Sleeping Beauty reference.

    The whole idea of the handsome prince has taken a bit of a pop culture beating. In the comic book series Fables, Prince Charming is a self-serving cad – the same prince who in all the fairy tales. He cheated on Snow, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

    In the TV series Once Upon a Time, both Snow White’s Prince Charming and Aurora’s Prince Philip are wholesome and heroic. On the other hand, both women – especially Snow – seem tougher and smarter than the men in their lives.
    Maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising as there are Buffyverse connections to both these depictions of Sleeping Beauty.

    The creator of Fables -- Bill Willingham – wrote several semi-canonical issues of IDW’s Angel comic. (Less canonical than After the Fall, but possibly more canonical than the earliest completely non-canonical comics.) Buffy alum Jane Espensen was a lead writer on Once Upon a Time.

    Buffy, Buffy, Buffy – that’s all anyone ever cares about.
    There really is an element of Jan Brady to Dawn, isn’t there?

    Of all the Buffyverse villains who selfishly try to end the world or murder the inhabitants of Sunnydale, none are worse than Warren because he’s a souled human man who seems to be without any real sense of morality. He’s reminiscent of other characters who believe they are Nietzschean supermen – a Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or real life Leopold and Loeb – who murder someone to prove that they are superior to the common herd who are held back by a unquestioning belief in right and wrong.


    And that’s what’s chilling about Warren. Unlike Andrew or Jonathan – who have never met Katrina and therefore can distance themselves from her as a human being, Warren knows Katrina intimately – shared her thoughts and fears and kisses and anger – and he’s STILL willing to hurt her and treat her like a sex toy even though she’s a person to him.
    All three of the Trio are fully culpable in Katrina’s rape and murder. But Warren is by far the worst of the bunch. There’s really no excuse for men of Andrew and Jonathan’s age to ever see a human being as a plaything. But at least there’s some degree of plausible deniability for Andrew and Jonathan.

    What Warren does though – it may be the most evil act in Buffy, ever. I could almost imagine the Master and Angelus being fascinated by both the pervasiveness and the banality of Warren’s evil.

    The Master. Angelus, The Mayor, Glory – they are Bondian supervillains that we’re never going to meet in real life. Not only because of their super powers, and grand schemes, but also their over-the-top action movie bad guy charm. But Warren? That sick SOB is all too real.

    Bravo, Katrina, for saying it out loud. It is rape. And saying this so bluntly to the Trio finally creates a moral line in the sand for the two blinded idiots – when they see things from her perspective, it looks pretty bad.
    I know the show has taken a lot of criticism for being so obvious in its metaphors – such as Willow having a problem. And while there’s the potential for a line like Katrina’s to seem like an Afterschool Special “In case you missed what we’re talking about” line.

    But Katrina’s line works. It feels – even now just remembering it – like as much of a gut punch to the TV audience as it is to Jonathan and Andrew. I remember feeling like a guilty voyeur for having watched other TV shows, etc. that played with this tropes without truly exploring all the implications.

    Yes, PuckRobin and this harkens back to the question – is something alive or dead or never alive. Katrina is initially introduced in the restaurant as a living, breathing ex-girlfriend of Warren’s only to be transformed into a passive Submissive stance as a sex slave bot who seemingly was never alive to living woman again to a dead corpse polluting the Trio’s lair to a living human woman accidentally murdered by Buffy to a dead thing that will implicate Buffy unless thrown under the water to a homicide victim suspected of suicide and given a name once again that identifiers her as an ex-girlfriend of Warren’s. The multiple realities of Katrina shift and transform from alive to dead to alive to dead depending upon point of view.
    That’s a brilliant analysis of how Katrina’s state relates to the title. It’s also another indignity on Katrina thanks to the Trio and especially Warren. Alive, Not Alive, Alive, Dead, Not Dead, etc – all thanks to Warren’s machinations. Even the most basic level of determining humanity is taken from Katrina and given to the sociopathic Warren.

    I’ve spent a lot of time on the Dom/Sub aspect of Spuffy and Master/Slave dynamic of Warren and Katrina (as faux bot) because it is vital to understanding the ethical questions that Dead Things poses. What does it mean to relinquish all control to another person? Is it a liberating action – or is it a way to avoid decision-making? And how does that relate to abdicating responsibility? Is a Submissive person accountable for the decisions of a Dominant person? And what happens if the Dominant partner is morally compromised – or even worse, mentally disturbed? If Jonathan and Andrew are just following orders, then they’re not really responsible for Warren’s actions, are they? And if Buffy relinquishes all sexual agency to a soulless vampire, then she’s not really responsible for all the things they’re doing together, right? If she delegates moral authority to Spike, then she doesn’t have to deal with responsibilities at all – she can simply live in total sensation and leave the thinking to him.

    And I think this explains the narrative arc moving from the killing of Katrina to the Balcony Scene to Spike dumping Katrina in the water after Buffy accidentally hits her. Buffy’s desire to escape this world – to be free of adult responsibility – makes her Dominant/Submissive routine with Spike a metaphor for her unwillingness to grow up. Relinquishing all control to Spike allows Buffy to pretend that she doesn’t have to make difficult moral choices – that she can simply drift in the world instead of engaging with it. In this way, the ethical and the sexual are constantly intertwined in Dead Things in terms of power until they come to a literal climax in Buffy’s dream.

    It’s interesting to think of what Buffy does with Spike is just pretending. Buffy is not truly under Spike’s sway no matter how she feels. Katrina had told Jonathan and Andrew that it wasn’t a game – but for Buffy, this is a game of sorts.

    As for Jonathan and Andrew just following orders, the judges at the Nuremberg war crimes trials probably wouldn’t buy their reasoning.

    As Willow and Tara eye each other warily, Xander looks at Tara with hope shining in his eyes – if anyone can heal Willow, it’s Tara. He looks between the two women for a moment as they face off, unsure as to whether Willow will be okay by herself but the longing on Tara’s face leaves no doubt that an angry conversation is probably off the table. Xander politely excuses himself to let them talk privately and smiles first at Willow and then smiles and nods almost imperceptibly to Tara – an “I’m glad you’re here” nod – as he hobbles into the Magic Box.
    Good catch on Xander’s smile and nod that says both “I’m glad you’re here” and a supportive “You’ve both got this.”

    I think in some ways it was only after Willow and Tara started having problems that the Scoobies really saw Tara as an independent entity – and an amazing one in her own right.

    It’s notable that Buffy places a gloved hand on the door as opposed to Spike’s bare hands, creating even more of an artificial barrier between them. It’s a signal that Buffy will have the strength to walk away from temptation – and death – whereas Spike finally gives in and opens the door. In doing so, he reveals that he’s nearer to opening the door to the living world than she is to closing it. But she’s close – like a recovering alcoholic, Buffy tells herself over and over again not to return to Spike’s door – but think about something else.
    I love your description of opening the door almost like that macho game of chicken – and your insight that Spike backs down first foreshadows what is to come with his character.

    Yes, PuckRobin – The IMac – first choice of serial killers. Complete with software bundles iLife and iDeath!
    I’d say Warren believes himself to be beyond iGood and iEvil, but Good and Evil probably run on Windows.

    It’s interesting to note in the dailies that the scene ends when Buffy lifts her head up and bites Spike in the arm hard – one assumes that it was meant to happen directly before the smash cut to punching Katrina, but the editor couldn’t make it work convincingly. So we never got to see the bite marks Spike bragged about.
    Perhaps the biting is cool if you’re a participant but just looks ridiculous if you’re a third-party observer.

    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree. There’s also a tie here between Katrina and William Pratt – the killing of Katrina was an accident – but so was the siring of Pratt and his eventual unlife as a monstrous murderer. As a creature without true free will whose nature is to do evil, Spike’s killings can be said to bear as much guilt as Buffy’s “accident” of fortune. They are out of his control in a moral sense – a freak accident of nature in which he is a soulless undead animal. Because of this, she is duty-bound to kill him and all such creatures – but his love for her allows her to use him as a method of disengaging from the world.
    And William Pratt really did not know what he was signing up for when Drusilla sired him. Maybe he could have worried about VD or STDs, but becoming a soulless killer? I think if William had known that consequence, he’d have fled the scene.

    Of course, in that sense, are any vampires truly culpable? In the Buffyverse, they are all soulless reflections of demons that existed in a time before human laws or morality. Is it only human perspective that makes a vampire seem evil?

    Buffy suffers from immense guilt because she’s using Spike’s love for her to make herself feel better – in reality, Buffy is the monster because she lets Spike believe that he’s won her over and given over the responsibility of guiding the Slayer. Which can never really happen and will only lead to his eventual staking. In many ways, Spike has been as mindf**ked as Katrina to be Buffy’s sex slave – although he believes he’s manipulating Buffy, in fact she’s successfully manipulated him. And the guilt is killing her as she sees his body covered in scratches and bite marks like a vampire’s victim and then viciously stakes him.
    Spike thinks he’s luring Buffy over to his true dark side, but in reality Buffy’s darkness comes from letting Spike think he’s won. It’s emotions and mind games twisted into a pretzel, and what -- for all the season’s perceived faults –makes BtVS more enriching that most TV shows.

    Notice that Buffy wakes up with her eyes open in the same wide way as Katrina and her right hand curled above her head just like Spike and Katrina before she stakes them. Buffy has seen the monster – and it is her.
    Well spotted, and an excellent reference to the classic Pogo line.

    Thanks for all the detailed responses to my rewatch of “Dead Things”.

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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Here’s the last of my responses to your wonderful review of Dead Things!

    So Buffy has awoken from a dream – and as the Master has said – a dream is a wish your heart makes. And our resident Sleeping Beauty decides to visit her sister one last time before her entire world is turned upside down again. As always, Dawn comes first.

    Buffy goes to visit the sleepy Dawn. Buffy has put on a jacket to go outside. It’s not the black jacket she had on what Buffy believes to be Katrina’s accidental death. Now. Buffy has switched to reddish-brown leather coat. It resembles the colour of dried blood – perhaps emblematic of what Buffy believes to be her sin.
    Love this image, PuckRobin! Buffy is dumping the black for a more stylish supervillain look!

    But when Buffy steps inside Dawn’s room and wakes her up, it feels off – it’s not as if Dawn’s going to sleep anymore that night anyway – why do this immediately – that night? It’s possible that Buffy is mulling how the dead woman’s parents and/or family might feel – she wouldn’t want anyone she knew to worry all evening while their daughter/sister/girlfriend’s corpse was lying out in a clearing somewhere. So there’s some concern that the necessary authorities be contacted so Katrina’s dead body can be treated with respect – rather than left for carrion.

    Of course, Buffy could just make an anonymous call that would do the same thing without turning herself in that minute. And then turn herself in the police station the following morning. So the immediacy of her decision feels rather selfish – like it’s for Buffy’s benefit alone – and without any care for how it might affect Dawn.

    Buffy sits on the bed and touches Dawn’s arm in order to wake her gently. Buffy almost seems like a mother come to read a bedtime story. And in a way, she is. Buffy’s come to confess. Dawn asks what time it is – a loaded question with Buffy’s bizarre time-shifting memories of that evening’s events. Buffy responds cryptically “late”. As in “too late” or “late” as an expression to refer to dead people. The script says that Dawn is responding to the expression on Buffy’s face, but the whole scenario would cause one to worry.
    The question again is why couldn’t Buffy wait until the morning – what’s the rush? The police wouldn’t really process her until the morning anyway and then she’d be sure to miss Spike – who could hardly wander around in the daytime. It would also give her important time to think and consider all of the pros and cons of turning herself in. Besides the fact that Buffy HAS to do this now so Spike can try and stop her without turning into an ash heap, there isn’t much reason for Buffy to go to the cops now unless she’s so guilty and overwrought that she can’t wait another second to confess her crimes and put herself behind bars. Sadly, that’s probably the case – her self-loathing in what she’s done with Spike and then Katrina is blinding her to anything else.

    DAWN: What's wrong?
    BUFFY: I know I haven't been everything I should be – everything Mom was – but I love you. I always will.
    There’s something a bit scary about Buffy coming into Dawn’s room, waking her up and then talking as if she’s planning a “Goodbye, Cruel World” party – any time that someone comes in your room at two in the morning and says “I love you. You know that, right?” – it’s time to consider calling the suicide prevention line. Dawn’s face is rather haunted as she pulls herself up, realizing that Buffy’s behavior now is reminiscent of the Buffy who jumped off the tower in The Gift – or even worse, the Buffy who was eager to dance till she burned in Once More With Feeling

    And what Buffy says next is even more cause for concern.
    DAWN: Why are you talking like this? Buffy?
    BUFFY: There was an accident. In the woods. A girl – she was hurt. I hurt someone.
    DAWN: Oh my god. Is she all right?
    BUFFY: No. I'm sorry.
    Buffy hugs Dawn.
    BUFFY: There's something I have to do. I have to tell what I did. I have to go to the police.
    DAWN: The police?
    BUFFY: Dawnie, I have to.
    DAWN: But – what's going to happen?
    BUFFY: I don't know.

    One of the things people do to deflect blame from themselves is to shift things into third person and passive voice. So, it’s to Buffy’s credit that she puts it back to first person and describes what she did. She accepts more blame than the Trio did. Dawn asks if this hurt girl is all right. Buffy says no, and adds “I’m sorry.” And Dawn gives her sister a supportive hug. That’s when Buffy lets the big bombshell drop. “There’s something I have to do.” She’s decided to tell the police.
    Great catch, PuckRobin! Buffy does tell the story in third person – almost like a fairy tale for Dawn, who’s surrounded by stuffed animals – but she does switch to first person when it comes to her accountability in the tale.

    But Dawn immediately realizes what Buffy’s choice will mean –

    DAWN: They'll take you away. Won't they.
    BUFFY: I'm sorry.
    Buffy apologizes again, but Dawn does not accept it. It’s completely understandable that Dawn would be upset. The choice that Buffy is making would have terrible consequences for Dawn.
    Yes, PuckRobin – sadly, in Buffy’s intense desire to punish herself for her crimes, she’s not taking into account the needs of anyone else. Dawn would be placed immediately in Child Protection Services – and Buffy would likely lose her job – and the house. A lose-lose for everyone. And Buffy knows it.

    And yet, Dawn is lashing out at Buffy when her sister is at her most emotionally vulnerable.
    DAWN: No, you're not. You're never here. You can't even stand to be around me.
    BUFFY: That is not true.
    DAWN: You don't want to be here with me. You didn't want to come back. I know that. You were happier where you were. You want to go away again.
    BUFFY: Dawn –
    DAWN: Then go! You're not really here anyway.
    Again Dawn appears to act much younger than her apparent age.
    Yes, I agree. Although Dawn is still only supposed to be 15 years old, she’s around the age that Buffy was when her parents divorced. Then again, Dawn has been through drama that makes a divorce look like a cakewalk. Buffy must know how traumatized Dawn is already by the deaths of her mother and Buffy – and Buffy doesn’t seem to realize that Dawn is reacting so badly because this is all an echo of their talk on the tower when she tells Dawn what she has to do and jumps.

    In a sense, Dawn is treating Buffy much like Buffy has treated the vampires. Dawn has decided that Buffy doesn’t feel – that she doesn’t care. And if Buffy has no feelings then Dawn cannot hurt her feelings. She’s wrong, of course. Still Dawn leaves the room, and leaves Buffy at her most emotionally vulnerable. If only Dawn could see that.
    That’s a fantastic point, PuckRobin – Dawn is treating Buffy as if her own feelings don’t count – in that sense, Dawn is a typically self-centered teen. But Dawn is also suffering from survivor’s guilt – and the fact that Buffy feels she can’t fit into this world makes Dawn feel even worse – perhaps even that she should have jumped off the tower herself. Her guilt compounds Buffy’s guilt – Dawn is the reason that Buffy is so miserable because she would never have been in Heaven in the first place if Dawn hadn’t been made human by the monks.

    So, why the police? Well, in the last couple years Buffy has learned how creepily fascistic the Watcher sense of justice is. Forget police brutality; the Watchers have kill squads. But there’s another reason. Since her resurrection, Buffy has felt less than human and wrong. Spike has tried to convince Buffy that she belongs in the dark – and that it’s a good thing. But Buffy does not feel that way. She doesn’t want to set herself above human laws.
    Great point – I also think that Buffy wants to be punished for what she’s done – something that she may actually feel the Watcher’s Council wouldn’t do because it was obviously an accident. She may also be thinking of Faith and how she’s subjected herself to human laws by serving her time.

    The script has a cut scene where Buffy briefly interacts with Willow, although she doesn’t take the opportunity to explain what has happened.

    Buffy comes out into the hallway, but Dawn's already halfway down the stairs. Willow pokes her head out of her room, thick with sleep.
    WILLOW: What's going on?
    BUFFY: Nothing. I have to go do something. Look after Dawn for me, okay?
    WILLOW: Yeah. Okay.
    Buffy turns and leaves. Willow watches her go, concern creasing her sleepy face.
    This scene is strange – because we already know from the social worker that Willow wouldn’t be able to do diddly-squat to look after Dawn. Child Protective Services will have her in custody faster than you can say “convicted felon” – Buffy is basically leaving Dawn to be brought up in the Foster care system so she can work out her guilt.

    Instead the episode cuts to Sunnydale police station. In an alley around the corner, Buffy is on a slow march to meet her ultimate fate. The script describes her as a “living ghost” but then resolved.
    The direction follows from Dawn’s words in the previous scene – “You’re not really here anyway.” Buffy the Living Ghost pretty much typifies Buffy’s existence since she’s returned from “heaven” by digging herself out of her grave and underlines the title of the episode. She’s almost walking like a zombie to the police station in a daze – not that different from her long walk to rescue Dawn from Sweet.

    It’s notable that Buffy never thinks to call Giles before making this decision – even though he’s in England, one would assume that he’s available on the telephone. But Buffy seems to be ashamed of how she feels – and she’s sadly taken his words to heart in Once More With Feeling:

    BUFFY: You’re really not coming.
    GILES: It's up to you, Buffy.
    BUFFY: What do you expect me to do?
    GILES: Your best.
    Would Giles advise going to the police if this had happened on his watch? The most help that the police ever seem to have done in Sunnydale was provide the gang with police reports of suspicious activity – they’re about as woke as to what goes on in that town as the local newspaper or TV news – which is not at all. Every assailant is on PCP, every demon had bad plastic surgery. Half the time the Sunnydale police are in the pocket of the bad guy like Principal Snyder or the Mayor. Angel works with the police in LA, but that’s because he investigates supernatural crimes unlike Buffy, who patrols the Hellmouth. And the other unanswered question is – if not Giles, why doesn’t Buffy contact Angel? If anyone would know about killing innocents, it would be him.

    But the obvious answer is Spike – there’s no way for Buffy to speak to either men because she couldn’t tell them what she’s doing with Spike – and what he’s doing to her. His stalking, his constant presence in her life are bad enough – but how could she explain the rest? The reason she’s even at the police station in the first place is partially her guilt over their relationship – how she uses him and how she allows him agency over her to escape.

    And like clockwork, Spike darts out of an alley as she passes by. He’s obviously been stalking her ever since she left her house to make sure she doesn’t do anything rash. Buffy’s aware of his presence – but she doesn’t acknowledge him as he walks closely behind her. She’s made up her mind – and this time, he’ll have no part in her decision-making process.

    But Spike feels differently – Buffy trusted him to take care of everything – and he has. And now he needs to stop her from making a foolish mistake. So he puts on his most dominating swagger to intimidate her.

    SPIKE: What do you think you're doing?
    And there’s that question of moral agency asked again and again...

    His words echo a recurring phrase throughout this episode. It’s Buffy who takes the responsibility to ask of herself “What did I do?” And now Buffy intends to follow through with her sense of responsibility.

    BUFFY:The right thing. For once.
    Buffy doesn’t even look at Spike as she says this – she’s expecting him to protest but she has a look of resolve on her face as she continues to move forward.

    As Buffy sang in “Going Through the Motions” “I was always brave and kinda righteous.” More than “kinda”, surely. Buffy’s sense of right and wrong was parodied by Faith in “Who Are You?” when she possessed Buffy’s body and practiced in the mirror. But this season Spike told her “You came back wrong.” And we saw in her initial conversation with Tara at the Doublemeat Palace that Buffy’s internalized Spike’s words. Now she is trying to make up for that sense of wrongness by doing “the right thing”.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I agree. Buffy’s moral sense has always been one of her strongest traits – if a bit too rigid – but as she says, she finds that she’s “wavering” after her resurrection. And her relationship with Spike is representative of that – which is why she refuses to look him in the eye.

    But it’s startling when he takes her by surprise and grabs her – leaping forward to clutch her shoulders as he did after Buffy found Katrina – and flings her to the ground behind him, away from the police station. In many ways, it’s a replay of what happened at the end of Once More With Feeling when Buffy marched into Sweet’s lair and tried to dance her way to oblivion. Spike raced in and grabbed her by the shoulders to stop her – becoming a genuine hero. Back then, Buffy kissed him for saving her life – and he may be thinking that this is just the same thing all over again. One more, into the breach.

    But Spike will have none of it. Spike has suggested that Buffy having come back “wrong” makes her a creature who belongs in the darkness like him. It suggests that perhaps his right and wrong is the inverse of Buffy’s usual view. The position of Spike looms above Buffy in the alleyway is the inverse of a confrontation in “Fool for Love’. There it was Buffy that had thrown Spike to the ground. She was blocking Spike from attempting to “dance” with her – a euphemism for both making a pass and for a classic slayer/vampire duel. Back then, Buffy told Spike that he was beneath her. And now Spike is going to argue against Buffy’s noble attempt at self-sacrifice.
    Great point, PuckRobin! At this moment, Spike feels he’s the Dominant one in this relationship now that he’s unchipped. As Buffy tries to get up, she’s startled to find Spike has his resolve face on as well as he stands between her and the police station.

    SPIKE: Sorry, luv. Can't let you do that.
    Spike can’t let Buffy do the “right” thing – not just because he feels she’s come back wrong and is above human laws. Because it would destroy her life. Because it would destroy him just when he feels he has her.

    There’s a great irony in Spike trying to stop Buffy from going to the police since her first glimpse of him was as some guy asking to call them in order to lure her outside:

    SPIKE: Where's the phone? I need to call the police. There's some big guy out there trying to bite somebody. (School Hard)
    And their first truce together also involved the cops:

    Buffy crosses a street, moving quickly and keeping to herself. Suddenly she is nailed by a pair of headlights which go on accompanied by the flashing of police lights. Before Buffy can react the cop is out of his car, gun drawn. He steps up, never taking his eyes off her.
    OFFICER: Put your hands on your head! Do it!
    He starts moving forward -- then hears something, spins -- and is knocked so hard he flips over onto the hood of the squad car, unconscious. Buffy stares into the glare of the headlights as a figure steps out.
    SPIKE: Hello, Cutie.
    As an anarchistic figure, Spike’s attitude towards the police is not surprisingly – negative. But it wasn’t always so:

    WILLIAM PRATT: I prefer not to think of such dark, ugly business at all. That's what the police are for. I prefer placing my energies into creating things of beauty.
    I’m not certain that poet William Pratt would appreciate this dark, ugly fight, but he’d understand its meaning. As Spike throws Buffy down, we are at what is called a “moral crossroads” in drama – where two or more characters argue for or against something. It functions in the same way as a trial – but the judge and jury are the viewers rather than participants in the story.

    In her review of “Once More With Feeling”, American Aurora talked about the symbolism of the alley as a liminal space. The alleyway exists as a between place – neither the realm of the Scoobies nor the graveyard realm of the vampire. In this episode it also stands a liminal space between the world of rough justice and natural or supernatural law that Buffy usually deals in and the societal law of the police station. If Buffy crosses over to the world of the police station, then she’d leave the world of both Spike and the Scoobies behind for a long time.
    Yes, PuckRobin, you’re absolutely right. And it’s not just the space between the Scoobies and the police – the alley becomes the boundary between civilization and savagery, social order vs anarchy – and here’s the most outrageous part – strict justice vs mercy with Spike taking the merciful part. How is that possible?

    It’s because in many ways Buffy and Spike represent polar opposites at this moment in terms of the law – the fundamentalist and the nihilist – the fundamentalist believing that nothing has meaning or value unless it is founded on cast-iron principles and the nihilist believing that the law does not exist in an objective reality and so no moral choice is necessarily better than any other except in how the individual values it. Buffy is determined to turn herself in because she’s a criminal who has violated the law and must be imprisoned and Spike is determined to stop her because according to Buffy’s codes she’s a hero who will go on to save many lives and that then tips the scales towards merciful judgment.

    And it’s a great scene for an actor to play – the intention of both protagonists is so strong that they’re literally ready to beat each other senseless to achieve it. The acting of both Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters is fantastic in this scene – some of their best work.

    Spike is trying to protect Buffy from her better angels. The world that Spike claimed to represent back on the balcony of the Bronze – a shadow world – is based on secrecy. And what Buffy wants now is the opposite of secrecy.
    Yes and no – I think that Buffy wants to tell the world about her secret crime – but offering herself up as the killer of Katrina is a bit of a scapegoat for the much larger transgressions of hypocrisy and betrayal as she lies to her friends and family while using Spike for her own pleasure and pain. But these are all effects of the real cause of her guilt. It’s really Buffy’s rejection of life that is a fundamental horror to her – as the Slayer who saves lives and controls the dead, it’s a morally transgressive state in which everything else pales in comparison to it – and she wants to be punished for her crime.

    BUFFY: I have to tell them what happened.
    SPIKE: Nothing happened.

    As I mentioned previously, much of this episode’s dialogue has been based on deeds done. And here is Spike denying that anything happened. He’s providing what a skeletal demon of a political operator would come to call “alternative facts”. He argues that if you aren’t believed and there’s no proof then it didn’t happen. It’s the moral equivalent of the old Zen question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Again, Buffy restates what she believes is the facts based on her memory. (Actually, it’s Buffy’s own facts that are the alternative – fabricated by the Trio.)
    Yes, PuckRobin, and a lot of “what happened” is almost indefinable since it shifts and changes with the teller, the history, the time past and the memory involved. Buffy says it over Katrina’s dead body – but the Scoobies are eager to know “what happened” when Buffy returned from wherever she was and Dawn tells her that it’s over:

    DAWN: No! Buffy, no! You're here with me. Whatever happened to you, whatever you've been through, it's over now. (Bargaining)
    TARA: What do you know about what happened? (After Life)
    WILLOW: Well I'm not unworried. I mean, what happened, that was intense. That's gotta change you. (After Life)
    GILES: We still don't know where she was – or what happened to her. (After Life)
    Buffy was always vague about what happened after jumping off the tower – she’s had trouble putting it into words ever since After Life. But she doesn’t have trouble defining what happened that day – she killed Katrina – she’s certain of it. So she pushes back at Spike - she's not getting his daily dose of alternative fact yet:

    BUFFY: I killed that girl.
    SPIKE: Demons in the woods? Time going wonky? They won't believe you.
    What’s ironic is that Buffy is wrong about “what happened” – she didn’t kill Katrina at all and her sense of reality is utterly skewed. If she was more in her right mind, she would be able to see this – it was a setup. And the reality is – why would they believe her at all? If the Sunnydale PD really are “stupid” as Snyder claims, they might think that she’s a crank who’s trying to draw attention to herself. The need for Buffy to do this right away becomes clear – she’s going to show them the body and that will be all the proof they need that she’s telling the truth.

    BUFFY: I’ll show them.
    SPIKE: Show them what?
    Ruh-roh. Sounds like Spike’s “sorted it out” all by himself without telling Buffy.

    Words can be twisted. Memories can be tangled. But Buffy offers the proof beyond a reasonable doubt – the hard evidence. The original script had Buffy state she was going to take the police there and show them what she did. Spike’s response turns the situation around. And now, Buffy asks of Spike the episode’s much repeated question.
    BUFFY: What did you do?
    SPIKE: I took care of it.
    The look of horror on Buffy’s face tells us that placing her “trust” in Spike wasn’t the greatest idea. Visions of Spike possibly drinking from the body, dismembering the body, manhandling the body and even feeding the body to other demons as Warren suggested must race through her mind (and the viewer) as she grits her teeth and asks the question again with growing fury.

    Buffy asks her question even more forcefully.
    BUFFY: What did you do?!
    Which is not only the golden phrase of the episode, but Spike’s first words thrown back at him when he first sees Buffy in After Life/

    DAWN: Spike? Are *you* okay?
    SPIKE: I'm – what did you do?
    DAWN: Me? Nothing.
    SPIKE: Her hands.
    DAWN: Um, I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that.
    SPIKE: I do. Clawed her way out of a coffin, that's how. Isn't that right?
    BUFFY: Yeah. That's – what I had to do.
    SPIKE: Done it myself. (After Life)
    And Spike answers Buffy back with the first words that she spoke to him on the stair:

    SPIKE: What I had to! I went back and took care of it. It doesn't matter now. No one will ever find her.

    And it’s a horrifying thought. Katrina had a family and friends. Now it appears like they’ll wonder forever whatever happened to Katrina. This is a secret that is haunting Buffy and if hidden forever would haunt Katrina’s family. Not that Spike gave any thought to that. I have to think that Buffy’s mind would have flashback to the time when she was in a similar situation. Faith had accidentally staked the deputy mayor. But there’s a key difference between Spike and Faith – it’s that pesky soul. Faith was deeply disturbed in how she processed and dealt with problems. But with Spike, his approach is in his vampric nature. It’s when he shows signs of caring that Spike is unnatural. Also, if Buffy does think back to that time with Faith, perhaps she remembers that Faith was overconfident in her ability to dispose of the body. Fishermen found the Deputy Mayor’s corpse in the teaser of the very next episode.
    Yes, it’s almost an exact replay of Faith’s attempt to hide the body of the Deputy Mayor. Of course, that took place in the one season in which Spike was absent from Sunnydale – so perhaps he was never witness to the futility of trying to dump a body in the river.

    And as soon Spike says “No one will ever find her”, we overhear some cops talking. COP #1: Where'd they find her?!
    COP #2: The river. She washed up half mile from the cemetery.

    Principal Snyder once called the police of Sunnydale “deeply stupid”, and while that’s mostly true, they do seem to have a knack for finding bodies our characters would like to keep hidden. As I’ve mentioned before, the title “Dead Things” comes from The Book of Job in the Bible. “Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.” And things under the water tend to bob up to the surface again. Once again, Spike’s plans have gone awry, making him look incompetent. So naturally he rolls his eyes up to the heavens.
    Of course, this also goes back to your original thoughts about dead things and their meaning in the Book of Job as representative of things well hidden below the surface – even Hell itself – and only knowable by God. Unlike dead things buried in the ground, dead things that float in the water are manhandled, twisted and turned by the water’s movement and become visible again once the gases expand within the corpse caused by the living bacteria within devouring the body.

    What’s odd is that as an experienced killer Spike should have known this – and made sure to weigh down Katrina’s body with heavy stones. But as a vampire, we’ve seen him frequently kill without much interest in the body left behind. Unlike Angelus, Spike never did seem to care about leaving his murder victims behind - he wanted everyone to know who he was:

    DARLA: We barely got out of London alive, because of you. Everywhere we go, it's the same story. And now –
    ANGEL: You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft – all because William the Bloody likes attention. This is not a reputation we need.
    SPIKE: I'm sorry, did I sully our good name? We're vampires.
    ANGEL: All the more reason to use a certain amount of finesse.
    SPIKE: Bollocks! That stuff's for the frilly cuffs and collars crowd. I'll take a good brawl any day.
    ANGEL: And every time you do, we become the hunted.
    SPIKE: Yeah, know what I prefer to being hunted? Getting caught.
    ANGEL: That's brilliant strategy. Really, pure cunning. (Fool for Love)
    Spike’s never been one for plans – he ruins his own plans for the night of St. Vigeous because he couldn’t wait – and he freely admits it himself.

    SPIKE: Hey, I had a plan!
    ANGEL: You? A plan?
    SPIKE: A good plan. Smart. Carefully laid out. – But I got bored. (In the Dark)
    But this is different – this was about protecting Buffy – and Spike for once is angry at himself for not taking proper care of the body.

    SPIKE: Oh, balls.
    Of course, what constitutes proper care of the body is different for Buffy than for Spike. But Spike realizes that it doesn’t matter – mission’s been accomplished, the cops have the body and no one’s the wiser – except Buffy.

    Spike is right. It doesn’t look like the Trio left anything incriminating on Katrina’s body to suggest that Buffy was the killer. Buffy doesn’t know that though, and nor does it matter to her. For her, guilt isn’t dependent on evidence.

    SPIKE: There still isn't anything to connect this to you.
    BUFFY: It doesn't matter.

    It’s the third time the phrase has been used in the episode. Spike had used the phrase himself moments before, assured that he’d taken care of the evidence. And Jonathan had said it to Warren that it didn’t matter that Katrina was only his ex-girlfriend because there was a link for Buffy to follow. Both Jonathan and Spike were using the phrase in a practical sense. Spike was confident the police wouldn’t find anything. Jonathan was confident that Buffy would find something out. What didn’t matter to them was regarding whether the deed could be discovered or not. For Buffy, what matters is what she believes she did. Spike twigs onto Buffy’s sense of guilt.

    SPIKE: It wasn't your fault.
    BUFFY: I killed her.

    Buffy doesn’t seem to be factoring intent into the equation here. She did something … and something resulted from it. To her, that makes her morally responsible. Of course truly the whole thing was a massive con. But neither her nor Spike knows that.
    Of course, in legal terms, an “act” doesn’t make someone guilty unless the mind is also guilty – intention is everything. The “guilty mind” – otherwise known as “mens rea” – determines the offensive that accompanies the actual act. This has been fudged a bit in recent years where drunk drivers can be charged higher crimes than manslaughter because although they never intended to directly kill someone, they knew where their actions might lead. In that sense, negligence or recklessness might bump up the murder charge under statutory law.

    Of course, Warren and Buffy are in two entirely different situations – Warren had just kidnapped a women in his basement and Buffy was acting as unofficial law enforcement. In that sense, Warren’s crime would probably constitute first degree murder under US law.

    1st degree murder is broken down into several categories:
    (1) Intent to kill - you actually wanted the person to die or knew that they were substantially certain to die as a result of your actions
    (2) Intent to cause serious bodily harm (example - if you shoot someone in the leg, only wanting to hurt them, and they end up dying)
    (3) Felony-murder: this means that someone died while you were committing an inherently dangerous felony

    Warren would be charged on - at the very least - the last two counts.

    But Buffy’s homicide was committed accidentally in the line of duty – in a just world, the Slayer would escape personal criminal and civil liability in most instances for crimes that were reasonable under the circumstances since Buffy was pursuing a dangerous suspect. But since the Slayer isn’t recognized legally in Sunnydale, Buffy’s charges would be that of any normal person who was acting in self-defense when three goons attack.

    There’s voluntary and involuntary manslaughter – the latter is accidental homicide which would be Third degree homicide. It wouldn’t even be 'Constructive manslaughter', which means the person was killed, unintentionally as the result of an unlawful act or even 'criminally negligent' manslaughter where no other criminal act was involved, only negligence. It would most likely be dismissed as a justifiable homicide because the act was unwittingly done as an act of self-defense against the three bullies. But even if Buffy were charged, it’s unlikely that she’d see any jail time – unless, of course, her enemies already had given her a rap sheet so full that no judge would give her the benefit of the doubt.

    SPIKE: It was an accident. It just happened.
    BUFFY: Nothing just happens.
    Perhaps Buffy was thinking of her co-worker at DMP who explained how another worker went missing:

    BUFFY: What happened?
    TIMOTHY: Whatever always happens.
    Buffy seems utterly convinced that it’s her fault and there are no mitigating circumstances behind her accidental hit – which is absurd under both natural and custom law. The guilty mind or mens rea would be at play to determine innocence or guilt. But this isn’t really about the woman she killed anymore – it’s really about the battle for her soul – Buffy feels that her crimes demand that she has to be punished and no mercy or forgiveness can be allowed.

    It is commendable in a sense that Buffy believes in taking responsibility for her apparent killing of Katrina. But this argument with Spike plays like a mirror image of her original rationales for kissing Spike. For example, in “Smashed”, Buffy tried to pin her kisses on her reaction to Giles leaving.

    BUFFY: He left, I was depressed, ergo vulnerability and bad kissing decisions. You need to let it go, because that's all it was, okay?
    A beat as Spike sizes her up, then:
    SPIKE: Did it work?
    BUFFY: What?
    SPIKE: You convince yourself?

    Back then, it was Spike who was heavily investing their actions with meaning. And it was Buffy who was trying to deflect it as something that “just happened” with little meaning and downplaying her own choices and agency in kissing Spike. We already saw from Buffy’s dream that her feelings on Katrina’s death and her relationship with Spike are tangled and twisted together.
    Yes, PuckRobin, you’re absolutely right. And this is tied back to her conversation with Spike in the opening scene – when he asks her:

    SPIKE: What is this to you? This thing we have.
    BUFFY: We don't have a thing. We just have – this. That's all.
    Back then, their relationship was so unspeakable that she refuses to give it a word to qualify it – not only is he’s not her boyfriend and she’s not his girl, but she even refuses to allow its existence as a “thing.” It’s a dead thing – like Katrina floating in the water – like Buffy herself, the impossible living ghost.

    And that’s apparent again as the dialogue takes a turn after Spike tries again to physically restrain her.

    SPIKE: You're not going in there.
    And now Spike is becoming angry – his last words are said with a growl as he once again grabs Buffy’s shoulders and flips her around. Buffy relents a bit when she sees the fear in his eyes – she realizes that Spike really does care about her and tries to make a plea for Spike to let her do what she needs to do to stay sane – a plea that would touch anyone’s soul – if they had one.

    BUFFY: I have to do this. Just let me go.

    “Just let me go” – a phrase that could be applied to the Spuffy relationship as it could be to Spike stopping Buffy from going into confession. The connection is made crystal clear when Spike states his reasons.
    Agreed that the words “let me go” have a different significance for both of them than allowing Buffy to go into the police station – it’s about their relationship. Buffy is begging Spike to let her go – for both of them – but he can’t even begin to think that way.

    Stoney has talked a lot about the difficulty that Spike has in distinguishing man vs monster – the strange place that he finds himself in as his demonic impulses to fight, kill, feed, and fight his (admittedly) “wrong” romantic impulses regarding Buffy and her family and friends. This kind of in-between status encourages lashing out due to low self-esteem - the person feeling out of control and helpless when confronted with moral quandaries. And Spike struggles with how to respond to Buffy’s request to let her go – especially when she’s the only thing he has to hold onto that makes him feel alive.

    SPIKE: I can't.
    And Spike shifts from the moral to the personal – he doesn’t care if Buffy’s innocent or guilty – he can’t allow her to destroy her life. So he professes his love for her once again.

    SPIKE: I love you.
    BUFFY: No, you don't.
    This exchange will get a call back in the very last episode of Buffy. Spike is preparing to sacrifice his life so that Buffy and the others can defeat the First. As Spike radiates with a golden light, Buffy stops her retreat to say something in what seemed to be Spike’s final moments.

    BUFFY: I love you.
    SPIKE: No you don't. But thanks for saying it.
    Yes, PuckRobin, that’s a fantastic foreshadowing of Chosen!

    There are a few reasons why Buffy wants to deny that Spike loves her. For one thing, there’s the fact he is a soulless vampire. In the season 10 comics, Spike actually agrees with Buffy’s assessment – that what he was feeling was only the “selfish bastardization of love”, even though at the time it felt like deep and true love. It also makes it easier in some ways if Spike doesn’t love her. As Buffy would later tell Spike, she’s using him. The idea that she’s taking advantage of his love – well, that again fits in with what she considers wrong. And perhaps, as Buffy does at other points during this scene, Buffy is rebutting herself as much as she is Spike. Perhaps deep down she’s not just telling Spike that he doesn’t love her, Buffy is telling herself that she doesn’t love Spike.
    Yes, I totally agree, PuckRobin. Buffy doesn’t want to hear Spike say that – she doesn’t want to believe that his feelings are genuine – because then she’d have to look at how she’s using him as a pathway to escape. All the Dom/Sub sex and all the Balcony scenes in the world can’t disguise the fact that Buffy is taking advantage of the feelings of a soulless vampire. And that’s horrifying to her – because she honestly believes Spike can’t “love” her in the way that she needs him to without a soul. She could never trust him enough, as she says later on. Buffy’s upset because she’s using his love for her to degrade herself – she can’t love him back.

    But it also touches upon Buffy’s discussion with Giles at the end of The Gift about Dawn – Giles tells her that “she’s not your sister” as if depersonalizing Dawn would make it easy to throw her off the tower. And I think this ties into Buffy’s own feelings about herself and her Slayer powers now that she’s back – is she really a living person? Has she come back wrong? Does a soul make someone a person? Are the altered emotional reactions towards human memories enough to make Angel and Spike nothing more than demonic Buffybots?

    The brief hesitancy before she responds says that she’s hesitant to say the words – she’s not trying to be vindictive or mean – but honest from her point of view. But they still strike Spike with the force of a stake to the heart. His face screws up in fury and pain for a moment and his voice chokes up at Buffy’s direct negation of his feelings. She hurt him – so he’s going to hurt her back.

    SPIKE: You think I haven't tried not to?

    WHAM! She clocks him. He flies back a good ten feet, lands in a sprawl amid the garbage cans.

    BUFFY: Try harder.

    So, why did Buffy hit Spike? There’s the question of transference. Buffy herself is trying and failing to get past her relationship with Spike. Back in “Wrecked”, Buffy covered her room with garlic to ward off her attraction to Spike. Earlier this episode Buffy was admonishing herself to “focus on anything but the evil bloodsucking fiend.” When Katrina screamed, Buffy thanked the heavens for the distraction. Buffy might have even make one of those emotional, mental leaps that associates her wish for a distraction from Spike as being the cause of Katrina’s distress. Spike has claimed repeatedly that Buffy belongs in the dark with him. And yet last season in “Crush”, he referred to his feelings for Buffy as “wrong”. Apparently like Buffy herself Spike is trying to overcome his attraction with Buffy. So, he’s not some self-assured figure. He views himself as “wrong”, In “Smashed”, Spike insists “a man can change.” Buffy responds that he’s not a man, but a thing. In the past Spike has insisted he has the potential to be better, but here it appears he’s admitting that rather than trying to be better, he’s trying to remove the reason for being better. He hasn’t changed as much as he claims. He’d like to go back to the way he was. She’s disgusted with both herself and Spike.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I agree. For two seasons, Spike has been telling Buffy that he’s changed, that he’s trying to be good for her, that he loves her so much – and now he’s asserting his vampire nature. He’s tried not to love her – he’s tried to kill her – but he just can’t help himself – he’s a vampire who knows how wrong it is to love the Slayer. His struggle hasn’t just been one of becoming a better man so he can understand her and love her even more – it's also about trying to get back to the dark side. He actively tries NOT to love Buffy because he longs to go back to what he was before – an evil, bloodsucking fiend – as we know from the girl in the alley. We see here the difference of moral degree between Buffy and Spike. As a soulless vampire, Spike is utterly morally compromised with numerous justifications that allow him to view his own immorality and selfishness as a sort of benevolence in the midst of hard necessity.

    I find this to be an amazing moment. Buffy’s relied so much upon Spike since Intervention to fulfill a certain role – or at least give the impression that Spike is strong enough to help Dawn. So much so that she’s literally forgotten the old Spike for now – or dismissed that entire episode in Crush as unimportant compared to the supposedly newly reborn Spike in front of her.

    And this hits Buffy like a blow – he knows that their relationship is just as wrong as she does – he said as much in Crush – but he now admits that he wants to be evil again. This reminder of his true nature – of what he really is – infuriates Buffy. If he was human or he had a soul, he might understand why she has to turn herself in. Throwing Spike’s body into the pile of garbage cans is almost too symbolic to withstand too much scrutiny.

    But he isn’t human and he doesn’t have a soul – which Spike shows readily when he leaps up from behind the garbage can and once again tries to assert his authority - this time in vamp face.

    With Spike knocked down and into the garbage, Buffy proceeds towards the police station again. But Spike races up behind her, grabs Buffy and throws her to the ground. While Buffy knocked Spike into the trash, Buffy lands in the middle of the alley. It seems like it could lead to the kind of sparring in “Smashed” more tit-for-tat battles. But there’s no romantic quality to this duel. The stakes are greater this time – it’s a battle for Buffy’s soul.
    Yes, PuckRobin, it has become about something else entirely. Spike’s attempt to play the Dom here is failing miserably – Buffy doesn’t want to play the Submissive game anymore and she’s standing her ground. So he tries another tactic and this time vamps out to stop her, revealing the full face of the monster, throwing her to the ground. It sounds strange to hear his words of love come from such a feral demeanor – but he’s as steely and determined as she is. And it’s Slay-Vamp fest all over again.

    SPIKE: You're not throwing your life away over this.
    BUFFY: It's not your choice.
    And Spike still cannot comprehend why Buffy feels the way she does.
    Yes, PuckRobin, he’s incapable of understanding what’s going on inside of Buffy at the moment because he’s soulless – he lacks the free will of Buffy. And she’s realized that she’s allowed herself to morally slip into the mindset of a soulless vampire for a night – long enough for Spike to do something awful with the body. But it’s also long enough for her to feel the weight of what she’s done. What began as an attempt to stop her from entering the police station has slowly turned into something else for her – but Spike can’t see it yet. He’s puzzled by her insistence to be arrested – he has no concept of the shame or self-loathing that Buffy bears. She didn’t mean to kill Katrina – so she’s not guilty. To Spike, it’s as simple as that. But not to Buffy.

    It’s only in the alley scene that Buffy gets her moral bearings back and shows Spike who the Dom really is – and that’s only because he lets her. The alley scene is a monstrous inversion of their sex play here with Spike as the Submissive and Buffy as the Dominant who will soon brutalize him in not very sexy ways.

    SPIKE: Why are you doing this to yourself?
    BUFFY: A girl is dead because of me.
    SPIKE: And how many people are alive because of you? How many have you saved? One dead girl doesn't tip the scale.
    BUFFY: That's all it is to you, isn't it? Just another body!
    This is the classic debating tactic when discussing the philosophy of utilitarianism – recasting the ethical problem in terms of selfish individualism vs communal needs. As Spock says, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. In the scheme of things, Katrina's nothing more than a dead thing – Buffy can’t bring her back to life, so why should the world be deprived of their hero? Is that true? If Buffy does turn herself in, how many people would die because she was gone? But if Buffy doesn’t turn herself in, would it invalidate her duty as the Slayer to fight those who harm humans?

    It reminds me of the famous line Thomas More says in the play A Man for All Seasons when it’s suggested that people should just defy the law: “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you – where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down – d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.”

    Not that it means one should obey any law, no matter how unjust. But to skirt the law for one’s own advantage is morally reprehensible. More is a person who possesses "an adamantine sense of self" – and so does Buffy. Without the law, she is truly nothing more than a murderer.

    Maybe Buffy thinks back to how but a government chip – bodies to Spike were sport or food. He has no sense of the potential life extinguished. It’s a scale. Does Spike put himself on the same scale, if he helps the Scoobies on occasion, does that give him licence to be bad on other occasions? Buffy’s heard arguments like this before – from Faith. Spike dismisses Buffy’s feelings by rolling his eyes. Buffy strikes Spike multiple times, which he mostly blocks. Buffy is outraged that Spike isn’t capable of understanding what she feels.

    BUFFY: You can't understand why this is killing me, can you?
    SPIKE: Then why don’t you explain it to me?
    Buffy realizes that Spike cannot understand why the death of Katrina is important – he’s a dead thing himself – and incapable of appreciating the preciousness of life.

    There’s also a parallel to real life here – as former/current demons, there’s a disconnect concerning the moral implications of the argument that can be proven by current neurological tests that try to measure ethical values. Like vampires and demons, psychopaths and people with frontal lobe injuries immediately solve ethical problems by choosing to skirt the law without much fanfare. And this is demonstrated by the evidence of dysfunction in the frontal cortex – the part that deals with emotional response. Those who experience major physiological change – constriction of vessels and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex – have a more personal and emotional response if they believe something is morally wrong. Interestingly, the administration of Prozac represses this activity and often results in the same emotionless decision as psychopaths and neurologically damaged people.

    And tests also show that the longer a person has to deliberate over something, the more likely that they are to choose the wrong path – deliberation actually increases the likelihood that one will choose the many over the few – or the one. Whereas those who rely upon intuition are more likely to accept the law over the greater good. So by delaying Buffy’s entrance, Spike is hoping that she’ll come to her senses from his point of view if he can just keep her engaged – so he allows her to attack and attack and attack.

    Spike doesn’t block her attack. Instead he appears to be goading her into attacking him. She explains in language that Spike can understand – more violence. But rather than dismissing her attacks, Spike tries to take ownership of them.

    SPIKE: Come on! That's it! Put it on me! Put it all on me!
    That’s a fantastic point, PuckRobin! By asking Buffy to hit him – to use him as a scapegoat for her crimes – he’s taking ownership and subverting the Dom/Sub relationship to his advantage.

    The moral viewpoints of Spike and Buffy are utterly irreconcilable and the direction shows this by carefully placing them at various distances from each other. When two characters face each other, we are aware that a third figure – a moral space lies between them. Spike tries to bridge the gap, in all manner of ways – he tries physical violence (grabs Buffy and throws her down), tries to provide comfort (tells her I love you) and finally gives himself up as a scapegoat for her crimes (allowing her to beat him).

    That's my girl –

    Spike has a slightly paternalistic tone again, like back in the woods, he’s going to take care of “his girl”. As if he owns Buffy, if she’s part of his property. It appears he’s wearing game face to look especially demonic and inhuman to prompt more attacks from the slayer. Buffy explodes in fury and knocks Spike to the ground.
    I agree, PuckRobin – Spike is being deliberately provocative here – he’s still pretending to play the role of the Dominant and purposefully tries to play up his demonic qualities so that Buffy can release all of her angst and tension by pummeling him. And it works for a moment – Buffy spars with Spike in the same old way she’s always done – until he calls her his girl.

    Despite his desire to provoke her, he can’t help but invoke his love for Buffy again – he wants her to know why he’s letting her beat him. He wants her to see him as a person even though he’s encouraging her to take it all out on him.

    And this enrages Buffy – she doesn’t want to see Spike as a person at all – like his attitude towards the body-that-once-was-Katrina’s, Buffy treats Spike’s body as nothing more than a corpse – a dead thing – and depersonalizes him in gruesome ways as she beats him almost senseless.

    BUFFY: I am not your girl!

    And now, Buffy jumps on Spike’s prone body and continues to pummel him.
    Buffy has no more f**ks to give about duty or responsibility to others. This is all about herself now. The slow drip-drip-drip of loss and death has broken down any adherence to communal law or tradition – she’s had to formulate her own personal moral center outside of any teachings as everything has slowly slipped away from her. The constant overdose of reality results in her suicidal depression – and it’s a danger signal that when reemerging, her fatalistic impulse has driven Buffy to pay for her crimes or die trying.

    BUFFY: You don't have a soul! There's nothing good or clean in you. That's why you can't understand! You're dead inside! You can't feel anything real!
    But Spike offers himself up as a demonic scapegoat. By punishing Spike, Buffy exorcises the demon within. And it’s a replay of what he did in his torture session with Glory – endure great pain himself to avoid seeing Buffy in such pain. And I think that there’s something of that in Chosen when Spike willingly dies to save not only Buffy, but her world – the idea that he is somewhat outside a “normal” life enables Buffy to live once again.

    And it brings up the troubling idea – is suffering something to be endured – or something to overcome? And if the later, is the avoidance of suffering – the attitude that everything is meant to be – really a monstrous one? Obviously, Buffy’s entire life endeavor is to alleviate suffering – to combat cruelty wherever she finds it. And when she comes smack against the idea that she must sacrifice herself in order that the law can be upheld echoes the end of the series in which the not-so-innocent Spike dies in order that others may live – and there, his suffering is obviously meant to be entirely redemptive by Whedon as is Anya’s sacrifice – and only then can Buffy tell Spike that she loves him.

    But here the suffering is not redemptive - it's purgative.

    BUFFY: I could never be your girl!
    And it’s notable at that moment that Spike shifts from gameface back into his human visage. Whether deliberate or emotionally helpless to do otherwise, it’s Buffy’s avowal that she could never love him that makes Spike give up his monstrous face for his human one. Is he trying to make her see him as a man? Is it out of his control because she’s emotionally wounded him? It’s certainly made a difference in his attitude – vamp face Spike lifts his head and keeps looking directly at Buffy – but human Spike simply lets his head loll back as his hands clench in front of him, holding air.

    Her face looks manic as she shouts at Spike. Because she’s actually shouting about the things she fears about herself. Her speech done, Buffy delivers an even more brutal beating to Spike. The staging in many ways resembles the climactic battle between Buffy and Faith in season four’s “Who Are You?” Faith had swapped bodies with Buffy. So as she’s pummeling Buffy and calling her “nothing”, Faith was actually yelling at herself.
    Yes, I think it’s a deliberate callback to Faith that lets us know Buffy’s really trying to hurt herself and Spike is a convenient target. I think Local Max once said this, but when a second character appears during a moral crisis of a protagonist, it’s as if the cartoon angel/devil right out of medieval theater appears over their shoulder, hovering over the hero, reminding them of both their heavenly duty (angel) and their need to commit hellish violence (devil).

    In many ways, this scene functions in the same way as the AR in Seeing Red – to help the protagonist attain self-knowledge. And that’s Spike’s role here – to be a sounding board and scapegoat for Buffy to understand herself.

    And so it is with Buffy in “Dead Things”. Buffy thinks she’s come back wrong. She doesn’t feel good or clean. And one of the most noted elements of Buffy this season is her depression. And these words she used toward Spike match her own emotional state. “You're dead inside! You can't feel anything real!” Buffy stops and is horrified by her actions. The script compares Spike’s face to the damage that Glory inflected back in “Intervention”. Just as there’s no safe word for their sexual actions, there’s no safe word for their emotional rage.
    Yes, exactly, PuckRobin! This whole scene is a radical subversion of their Dom/Sub games in which Buffy deliberately gave Spike her agency. But now Spike is allowing Buffy to hurt him as hard as she can – which is pretty hard. Vamps must have amazing teeth. When she finally tires of beating him, she pulls back and looks at him with mouth wide open, a look of horror as she sees her handiwork.

    Spike twists the knife in.
    SPIKE: You always hurt – the one you love, pet.
    Spike is referring to the popular American song by the Mills Brothers:


    Strange to say, Spike seems to see Buffy’s abuse of him as a positive thing – it makes him more important to her than anyone else because she’s allowed him to be her sacrificial lamb. Buffy is relating to Spike differently from the other Scoobies – and at this point, Spike takes this private confidence as a sign that Buffy is entrusting him – and him alone – with her real fears.

    Spike seemed to feel that being beaten by Buffy would be the final proof that she was “wrong” and belonged in the dark. He encouraged the attacks to show Buffy wasn’t so different from him – that she too was a “dead thing”. And if they weren’t so different, maybe they belong together. He made the love reference again to plant the seed in her mind. But that seed grows a strange fruit.
    Absolutely, PuckRobin! His vicious wounds are no worse than the scratches and bite marks Buffy leaves in the wake of their sexcapades because in his mind because they’re proof in his mind that she did come back wrong – who else but a monster would do this? And that means they’re fated to be together.

    Spike calls Buffy by name, but she walks right past him and toward the police station. It could seem an especially cruel attack to leave a savagely beaten Spike out in the open when the sun comes. And at that moment, she might not have cared whether he lived or died. But we don’t see where Buffy goes as she leaves the police station. She might have checked on Spike and found him gone.
    Buffy’s reaction is so spectacularly well-played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Buffy crouches over beaten-down Spike, her mouth opening and closing as if wanting badly to say something – even tilting her head as if to say “I’m sorry.” Her fury with Spike is at war here with her natural compassion for anyone in pain and she makes a few whimpers as she views her handiwork. Spike may be an evil vampire, but she’s the one who’s allowed him in – who’s using him for her own means. And now she’s used him again – to punish herself. She almost can’t handle what she’s done – she backs away from Spike in horror and the self-loathing is clearly etched on her face. Spike tries to raise his head as she backs away more - his voice thick with concern.

    SPIKE: Buffy?
    As Spike looks for her to read her face, Buffy turns away from him and looks at the police sign in front of her. Her face becomes determined – she’s even more resolute to turn herself in as the criminal that she is. And this is a cutting moment for many fans – Buffy walks right past an almost senseless Spike as if he didn’t even exist. It’s a brutal ending to the scene as he whimpers her name and clutches at her pant leg, unable to even move more than that.

    SPIKE: Buffy!
    In the original script, Spike had more lines which were probably cut for length:

    SPIKE: Buffy! Don't do this! Please! Buffy!
    Or perhaps it was just too awful to include because it made Buffy too heartless despite her moral righteousness.

    Buffy does see that she is like Spike in some respects. In the episode teaser Spike compared Buffy to an animal, and Buffy’s violent attack has an animalistic quality. But she has a soul, and so she’s horrified by the resemblance. It just strengthens her resolve to be locked up so she can do further harm. But Spike’s plan is not one a normal vampire would conceive. Angelus would certainly be willing to take a punch and smirk, but would he or any other vampire would allow himself to be beaten? If Buffy has some of Spike in her, it appears that Spike has some of Buffy in him. He’s acquired her self-loathing which he now wears on his battered face. Just as Buffy was unwillingly shown the monster in herself, Spike was also unwillingly shown his own humanity. Spike had thought he’d won, but at best it’s a draw.
    Yes, PuckRobin, this is a fantastic point. Angelus would never have allowed himself to be beaten like that – which implies that the masochistic impulse to give up everything for love comes from the imprint of William Pratt. Spike’s plan has backfired because he can’t comprehend the depth of self-loathing Buffy carries – a demon would have gotten it out of his system – but the Slayer can never relent.

    While his bruised face in “Dead Things” is shocking, the original make-up job from the dailies was even more horrific. The powers that be considered it too much. I’ll put it behind the spoiler tag.
    God, that is horrifying! I can see why Whedon demanded a reshoot – as Warren says, there’s no coming back from that – it looks like real torture and Buffy would have lost all viewer sympathy. It’s already terrible enough that we don’t see a scene of Buffy leaving the station and at least looking around to make sure Spike wasn’t still on the ground. Knowing Buffy, I’m assuming that she did that and Spike was nowhere to be found because he crawled off to commiserate with a bottle of booze at his abject failure to stop her.

    This is the low point of her depression. It can only go up from here – Buffy having pummeled Spike to the point where he’d need serious medical attention. In the decade before Obamacare, I imagine Spike probably needed to turn to the lucrative demon egg trade in order to pay his medical bills. Heck, he probably had his pay sent directly to his “doctor”.
    Okay, that’s a great idea for a fan fic – Spike grows the demon eggs to pay off the doctor for his bill to treat the injuries made by Buffy!

    Anyway, Buffy enters the Sunnydale police station. She walks towards the desk – this is the turning point in her life. Her life with the Scoobies, her Slaying, her relationship with Spike will all be over. She’ll be a convicted criminal. However, momentous this is for Buffy, it’s just another day at the Sunnydale PD. The desk sergeant is taking calls, presumably about Katrina. Buffy meekly tries to speak up, and he has to shut her down. Buffy slowly walks away – lost in thought. She hears the sergeant ask into the phone “Listen, you got an id on that body yet?” She closes her eyes in shame, ready to face her sin.
    What’s actually sad about this scene is Buffy’s naiveté in believing that prison will provide some kind of real penance for her “crime” – she regains her agency only to hand it over to an institution that knows nothing of Slaying or the supernatural world and would likely not understand the nature of Buffy’s crime.

    There’s an odd longing here to curtail her own freedom – just as with Giles and then Spike, she wants to hand over her agency to someone else so that she can be free of all responsibilities. And the question becomes – does Buffy really feel that she should go to jail for her crimes? Or is this yet another version of dancing till she burns or screwing a soulless vampire – a way to commit a slow suicide to escape this world?

    If so, Buffy might be making a grave error – the idea of prison may sound like a way to be free from life, but does she really know what she’s getting into? Firstly, there’s the smell and the filth and lack of privacy – prisons aren’t composed of bedrooms, but cells that are visible to all. There’s an atmosphere of constant paranoia that involves drugs and sexual assault. There’s likely solitary confinement to which almost every prisoner is sent because of overcrowding - no books, no blankets, no light, and a 24 hour lockdown. And then there’s the nightmare of loneliness – of losing everyone you love.

    Of course, one could argue that Buffy is already experiencing all of these things already – and at least, in prison, everything she did would be controlled. Zero autonomy – just existing.

    In the previous scene, Buffy had angrily told Spike “That's all it is to you, isn't it? Just another body!” But in a sense, that’s all Katrina was to Buffy too. She is capable of empathy and unlike Spike apparently could appreciate all the things life represents. But it had just been hypothetical to Buffy. She knew that her victim had a life, but she didn’t know the details. No longer will her victim be a mere victim. She’ll now be a person with a name, a life, and as it turns out, an ex-boyfriend. The sergeant repeats the name and scribbles it down.
    DESK SERGEANT: Katrina Silber. S-i-l-b-e-r.
    Buffy’s eyes open. She’s met a Katrina – and perhaps suddenly the body’s face now seems familiar to her. And with that we flashback to “I Was Made to Love You”, when Buffy first met Katrina and her then-boyfriend Warren.

    KATRINA: Warren, just tell her to go away.
    WARREN: I can't.
    KATRINA: You're keeping secrets from me. Other girls, and who knows what else!
    WARREN: Trina – shut up.
    Ugh – just watching Warren in the flashbacks makes one aware of what a disgusting piece of s**t he is – I had completely forgotten how he tells Katrina to shut up in such a nasty manner in front of Buffy.

    And Buffy is remembering that moment as well – and suddenly, Katrina Silber is no longer a dead thing, but a living, breathing woman to her. And it’s self-evident who the prime suspect is.

    The brief flashback ends and Buffy decisively says “Warren.” Jonathan was right earlier when he said “You don't think Buffy'll be able to put that together? That's what she does, she'll figure it out!” And Warren had omitted to tell his compatriots one vital detail – Buffy had actually met Katrina. Thinking about it, Warren’s plan was very risky. Didn’t he worry that Buffy might identify Katrina on sight? Or did the demons cloud Buffy’s mind so she couldn’t see the body’s face clearly. When the desk sergeant finishes his call, he asks “Now what’s the problem, miss?” But he catches sight of Buffy leaving the station. The sergeant does a quick double take at Buffy’s departure, and then he gets back to work. It is a busy night after all.
    Forget it, Jake. It’s Sunnydale.

    The scene then shifts to the Magic Box. The original script has a bit more opening exposition further establishing the chronology. It does call attention to a problem – if Katrina had been dead for a day, why didn’t Spike with his vampire senses realize this was not a fresh kill? I suppose the Trio may have cast a temporary spell to make the corpse seem fresher in order to fool Buffy.
    For that matter, why didn’t Buffy figure out Katrina had been dead for a while? Rigor mortis would have already set in for quite some time – if Buffy was able to check to see she was dead, then she would have noticed the stiffening of the extremities. I agree that it’s most likely the Trio did some kind of spell that would fool Buffy (and Spike) into believing that Katrina was newly dead.

    But the aired episode follows the screenwriting maxim to start the scene as late as possible, and with a strong visual hook. We see a demon illustrated in an old book. Anya asks “Is that the demon you saw?” It’s ironically placed after the police station scene. This is the Scooby equivalent of someone picking the perp out of a book of likely suspects. Buffy’s wrong though. Time didn’t go all David Lynch. The Rwasundi attack scene wasn’t even close to Lynch at his most Lynchian. I love the befuddled look Xander has. Either Anya’s explanation confused him or he’s trying to work out just what Lynch’s Eraserhead was all about. If human perception is effected, what about vampire perception? What did Spike perceive?
    There’s a scene at the end of the temporal sequence where Buffy races down the hill after Katrina and we see the rest of the scene from Spike’s point of view. And he appears to suffer from the same hallucinatory effect as Buffy – a demon on the ground grabs his leg and suddenly he’s attacked from the side by the same demon within a second. It’s only when Spike puts a fist through the last demon’s chest that the effects stop.

    I love Xander’s expression of confusion as Anya tries to explain how the temporal effect works – he looks like me when someone tries to explain conceptual physics or the theory of consciousness.

    But the really striking thing about this exchange between the Scoobies is that it’s not at all dependent on Warren’s connection to Katrina. Presumably if Buffy had just gone to the Scoobies and explained about time going all wonky, Anya still would have been able to identify the demon as being involved and they still would have determined the body had been dead long before Buffy arrived on the scene. In fact, when Buffy brings up Warren – it’s almost like the other Scoobies don’t think he’s relevant. Willow asks “How can you be sure?” It’s a bizarre question given the staggeringly unlikely coincidence of this happening to Warren’s ex-girlfriend – especially when the Trio have summoned demons and twisted time before when screwing with Buffy’s life. Warren had motive, means and opportunity.
    I think this is meant to show the inability of the Scoobies to accept that a mere human could be the murderer in Sunnydale. Faith ran around killing people – but she was a Slayer and had supernatural powers. There were a few humans who tried to feed humans to other demons, but for the most part, they all had a supernatural connection. The Scoobies hadn’t really come across true serial killers in Sunnydale who bashed their girlfriend’s skulls and so it’s hard to shake the belief that demons are generally the perpetrators.

    BUFFY: It wasn't the demons. It was Warren. He knew Katrina. He had something to do with it, I know it.
    WILLOW: How can you be sure?
    BUFFY: You always hurt the one you love.
    Buffy has a grim look on her face when she says this and looks down.

    But instead of saying that, Buffy just quotes Spike’s words. Even though Buffy has been absolved of blame in Katrina’s death, she’s still conflating what happened to Katrina to her relationship with Spike. It seems like Buffy sees herself as Warren and Spike as Katrina. Of course, the subtext of this passes the Scoobies right by.
    Yes, I totally agree, PuckRobin, – she does see herself as Warren here – just a bit – and we saw evidence of this in the dream.

    As the Scoobies talk, Dawn sits in the background on the staircase, constantly rubbing her legs. She doesn’t really care about who killed Katrina – she’s still brooding over the fact that Buffy was ready to leave her to Child Services.

    But Dawn brings her own subtext. She’s supposedly the Scooby that Buffy loves the most, and yet right now she’s feeling very hurt. I know the next episode will deal with how the Scoobies have been ignoring Dawn’s pain, but in this scene, it feels like Dawn is oblivious to Buffy’s and that she is very selfish. Still Buffy could have gone after Dawn to talk, or asked someone else to go as a peacemaker. Instead Buffy gets back to business.

    DAWN: Does this mean you're not going away?
    BUFFY: Yeah. I'm not going anywhere.
    Xander turns around to look at Dawn with puzzlement as Buffy stands to face her – one assumes he’s meant to represent all those at the table who had forgotten about Dawn and are startled by her angry tone – but Dawn leaves just as Buffy stands up with a reassuring smile. Just another way in which Buffy’s hurt someone she loves – Spike seems to be right.

    I think that Buffy’s so ashamed of what she did to Spike at this point that it’s pressing on her mind more than anything else. The way in which she interacts with the other Scoobies shows an unease that’s even more pronounced than usual. Par for the course, Buffy snaps into Slayer mode when she’s emotionally upset.

    BUFFY: We need to find Warren and the others. Whatever they've done – they're not going to get away with it.

    This leads to the ironic dialogue transition. The Trio are in their lair – the scene of the crime – and staring at the computer monitor. Warren points and announces:
    WARREN: We're gonna get away with it. "Injuries consistent with a fall." The coroner's ruling it a suicide.
    The glee in Warren’s voice as he reads the police report, bouncing around and tapping his fingers, is shocking considering he was supposedly in love with Katrina. Not a tremor in his voice or a muscle in his body that reveals any lingering affection for her. He seems to be a true sociopath as he crows triumphantly about how he’s fooled the police.

    Did Spike tamper with Katrina’s body to make it look like a suicide? Are the Sunnydale cops as “deeply stupid” as Principal Snyder once claimed? Or could it be that the cops have figured that even though Katrina may have died through human means – her body has encountered slayers, vampires and geeks with super-powers. Maybe this “suicide” ruling is much like the cops writing off Spike’s attack in “School Hard” as “gang-related, PCP”. Basically it could be the Sunnydale coroner saying “This is above my pay grade.”
    Forget it, Jake. It’s Sunnydale. Rinse and Repeat.

    There is a slight continuity flaw with the coroner’s report. The report has a date of Feb. 5, 2002. It makes sense as that’s the day when “Dead Things” originally aired. However, the next episode features Buffy’s birthday. And we know that Buffy is a “Capricorn on the cusp of Aquarius” (Jan. 17 – 20). Traditional fan lore puts the happy date at January 19 – the day on which “Surprise” (the most iconic of all Buffy crappy birthdays) aired. Clearly whoever typed up the report on Katrina made a mistake and hit “February” instead of “January”. Early January would make sense as a string of episodes occurred within a couple weeks of other beginning with the Halloween episode “All the Way”. Presumably Willow’s 32 Days without magic is counting “Day 0” as Amy’s spell in “Doublemeat Palace”. (Actually a January 5 date might be a little too soon as Spike’s still heavily bruised by the time of Buffy’s birthday. But then maybe he smashed his face against the wall a few times to keep his injuries fresh in order to lay a guilt trip on Buffy.)
    I actually like to think that the cops purposefully post-dated the report to bring down the crime rate – Sunnydale must so busting out all over with homicide victims that the police probably have to do some fancy juggling to justify their jobs. Too many victims and someone gets removed for not doing their job. There’s probably a whole division devoted to changing dates around in order to get the best stats.

    WARREN: The coroner's ruling it a suicide.
    JONATHAN: What about Buffy?
    If Warren is a sociopath and Andrew is disconnected from reality, then Jonathan is the true person with agency here – he knows what they’ve done is wrong and the guilt on his face is almost equivalent to Buffy’s in the Alley scene. And it’s telling that his first thought is of her – not “no one you know” but someone he does know and someone he’s come to care for.

    And Warren seems to sense this – his words are almost bizarrely reassuring that Buffy will be okay after all that they’ve done to set her up.

    WARREN: Well, it wasn't that hard messing her game up. If she figures it out ... we'll take care of her.
    ANDREW: We really got away with murder.
    Warren looks up at Andrew to measure his reaction.
    ANDREW: That's – kinda cool.

    The script describes “A creepy smile bends Andrew's lips. He's definitely warmed up to the idea.”
    It’s almost a form of psychosis – Andrew seems unable to deal with the real world around him and retreats into fantasy – he’s the kind of person who easily slips into conspiracy theories and cults because he’s so easily malleable by someone like Warren. This is not to excuse his actions before and after Katrina’s death, but he seems to suffer from some kind of damaged psychological makeup that prevents him from comprehending reality.

    And this is exactly what Warren wants – he needs cohorts not only to help him with his plans, but to share his moral complicity. He’s a lot like Faith – who tries to blame Buffy for her own actions:

    FAITH: You were right there beside me when this thing went down. Anything I have to answer for – you do too. You're part of this, B. All the way.
    But Jonathan is another story altogether – he’s full of the typical “nerd rage” that young people suffer who were bullied throughout their lives – Spike and Willow and Xander bear some of this as well. It’s overcompensating for self-loathing and an inferiority complex. But he’s not like Warren or Andrew – he feels deeply what he’s done.

    Now in a bit of business not described in the script, Warren turns from looking at Andrew to look directly at Jonathan. The de facto leader of the Trio is definitely sizing up his two associates to see if they’ve achieved his level of psychosis. Andrew seems an apt pupil – being tempted by the “juicy, pulsating candy” of consequence-free murder. Jonathan, on the other hand, has a very different reaction – and we don’t see Warren’s final assessment of Jonathan. Jonathan eyes Andrew and Warren uncomfortably. He's starting to realize just how deep he's in it now.

    JONATHAN: (softly) Yeah. Cool.
    The look on Jonathan’s face could be described as “the thousand yard stare”.
    Yes, he does have that shell-shocked look. But he’s trapped now, for good or bad, in Warren’s world now. If I were him, I’d run to Buffy and the police and cop a plea deal. But Jonathan doesn’t have the moral courage to do that – yet.

    The episode punctuates Jonathan’s hesitant “Cool” by pre-lapping Buffy’s dialogue from the next scene “Are you sure?” In reality, the sound is coming from Buffy asking Tara elsewhere. But by putting the audio over Jonathan’s face, it serves to comment on Jonathan’s moral quandary.
    Yes, it’s a very useful technique to make comparison-contrasts with other characters – and Buffy is undergoing the same kind of entrapment as she faces Tara.

    We join Buffy and Tara at the Summers residence at 1630 Revello Drive, dialogue already in progress.

    BUFFY: Are you sure?
    TARA: I've double checked everything. There's nothing wrong with you.
    One imagines that Buffy was expecting a very different answer – when Willow told Buffy that Tara wanted to see her, Buffy no doubt waited with the same kind of anxiety that patients face with doctors. She probably was trying to figure out what Tara would say – what kind of demon she was or how she differed from a human being – but one thing was certain in her mind. She wasn’t Buffy Summers anymore.

    So her disbelief stems from all the elaborate scenarios that she’s run through in her head rather than anything Tara’s saying. And her memory of what happened with Spike has made it just that more important that she find out she’s come back wrong. Her mention of Spike hurting her has two meanings – physical and emotional.

    BUFFY: Then why can Spike hurt me?
    TARA: Well, I said there's nothing wrong with you, but you are different. Shifting you out of -- from where you were, funneling your essence back into your body -- it altered you on a basic, molecular level. Probably just enough to confuse the sensors or whatever in Spike's chip. But it's all surfacey physical stuff. It wouldn't have any more effect on you than a bad sunburn.
    As Buffy listens to Tara, her face twitches, her eyes dart around the room, her breathing becomes labored – it’s all too much to take in when she’s been expecting a different answer.

    Tara tries to reassure Buffy with a pleasing smile. Tara’s done this before – she tries to do a smile of ultimate Tara-ness to offer reassurance. And it doesn’t work, because it feels practiced, rehearsed, put on. It comes from a place to sincerely make someone feel better, but in a sense it’s not far removed from the kind of fake-smile that Buffy wore at the Doublemeat Palace at the beginning of the episode. And what Tara is serving up is a “double-sweet” burger of technobabble. Spike’s chip is the product of science, so it makes sense that there would be some technical explanation of how it affects Buffy. But words like “molecular” and “sensors” seem out of place in a show largely based in magic and myth. Tara was describing the after-effects of a magical resurrection bringing someone back from the dead. Notice that Tara glosses over where Buffy was brought back from. Her conversation is kept on the science of it. It’s all “surfacey” with no discussion of the moral dimension – particularly that of the soul. But the science of Spike’s chip had a profound impact on Tara’s life. In “Family”, Tara’s family had been gaslighting her for years – telling her she was bad and had demon in her. Spike guessed that Tara’s family had been lying to her. And so, he bopped Tara on the nose which activated his chip, causing him pain. This was proof that Tara was human – not “wrong”. She had the sweetest voice and smile, discovering her true worth as she told Willow “I’m not a demon.”
    Yes, PuckRobin, to Tara, it’s not important if Buffy’s a little bit different – as long as there’s nothing harmful and she’s still essentially the same old Buffy, then it really doesn’t matter. Tara is incredibly careful here not to upset Buffy further and deliberately avoids using words that might trigger another breakdown.

    Buffy’s reaction to Tara’s news is somewhat different.
    BUFFY: I didn't come back wrong.
    She has a look of disbelief and disgust. Tara tries to reassure her again.
    TARA: No. You're the same Buffy. With a deep tropical cellular tan.
    It’s not what Buffy wanted to hear – which surprises Tara. But to Buffy, it’s the worst possible news. She hasn’t come back wrong. And this reveals that Buffy was counting on her supposed “wrongness” to use as an excuse for all she’s done. So everything she’s been doing to Spike and her family and friends is all on her.

    Again, Tara deploys her kookiest grin as a charm offensive. Tara’s trying her best. She’s being supportive. The problem is she’s not been given full information. She doesn’t understand that the idea of being biologically wrong actually gave Buffy a kind of moral comfort. Buffy insists that Tara must have missed something and asks her to try again. Tara has a look of probing concern, perhaps she’s trying to access why Buffy is acting like this. Again Tara smiles as she tells Buffy again there’s nothing wrong with her. More strictly speaking, Tara didn’t find anything. More likely though, she is just speculating a bit on how Spike’s chip actually works. We’ve talked on the Rewatch thread before that perhaps the chip works on what Spike ^thinks^ is human rather than an actual sensor. After all, why can’t the chip distinguish between slayers (with genuine super powers) and human, but can distinguish between slayers with deep cellular tans and normal humans?
    Yes, I wonder as to whether Tara’s not bulls**ting Buffy to make her feel better. Not that she’s lying, but she might be using a very broad inference quickly in order to come to the conclusion that she wants. Since Tara doesn’t really understand how the Initiative chip works, it’s hard to say if she could ever explain why it doesn’t work on Buffy. In my opinion, since the chip works on what Spike believes to be true (mentally or physiologically), there's enough different about Buffy that Spike believes she’s come back wrong even if she hasn’t – and so the chip fires.

    Buffy is still insistent that something must be wrong.
    BUFFY: There has to be!
    Now Tara looks really concerned. Buffy starts to crack.
    BUFFY: This isn't me. It can't be me. Why do I feel like this? Why do I let Spike do those things to me?
    The acting in this scene by SMG is tremendous – it’s just the right amount of anger and self-loathing and despair without going over the top. Buffy is trying to keep it together, but she can’t keep it in anymore. Truth will out at some point and Buffy’s at least chosen the best person she could for confession.

    And there it is. Buffy doesn’t want to be normal. She can’t accept that she’s the same Buffy with a special cellular tan. Buffy’s rationalization for her actions is dependent on her being “wrong”. If Buffy came back wrong, it would explain everything. It wouldn’t be “Buffy” who was sleeping with Spike – using Spike – it would be some creature who came back wrong. It would leave classic Buffy blameless, just as Angel was blameless for Angelus’s actions. Even to herself, Buffy seems to be editing the truth. She refers to letting Spike do things. But from what we've seen, Buffy has a lot of agency in the relationship. She unzipped his pants in "Smashed". She toys with him mercilessly in "Gone". It's further distancing from her own actions.
    Yes, at this point in Buffy’s confession, she’s still holding back the entire truth. She can’t admit that in letting Spike “do these things” that she’s the one who’s allowing him to do so. She never does tell Tara as far as we know about the beating in the alley or any other gruesome specifics – so it’s left up to Tara’s imagination to guess as to what Buffy is talking about.

    And again, we return to the ethical question of free will and moral agency. What does it mean to relinquish all control to another person? Is it a liberating action – or is it a way to avoid decision-making? And how does that relate to abdicating responsibility? Why does Buffy let Spike do these things to her? Especially when he’s a soulless vampire who’s morally compromised and has no real choice in the matter?

    As said before, if Buffy relinquishes all sexual agency to a soulless vampire, then she’s not really responsible for all the things they do together. If she delegates moral authority to Spike, then she doesn’t have to deal with responsibilities at all – she can simply live in total sensation. She’s actually using Spike by allowing him to do these things to her – because she’s the only one with real moral agency who can make the decision for them.

    And I think this explains the narrative arc moving from the killing of Katrina to the Balcony Scene to Spike dumping Katrina in the water after Buffy accidentally hits her. Buffy’s desire to escape this world – to be free of adult responsibility – makes her Dominant/Submissive routine with Spike a metaphor for her unwillingness to grow up. Relinquishing all control to Spike allows Buffy to pretend that she doesn’t have to make difficult moral choices – that she can simply drift in the world instead of engaging with it. In this way, the ethical and the sexual are constantly intertwined in Dead Things in terms of power until they come to a literal climax in Buffy’s dream.

    But at first, Tara thinks Buffy means fighting with Spike – but she’s quick on the uptake and after seeing Buffy’s expression, she sees what’s going on. Interestingly, Tara hasn’t been living in the Summers home since the first passionate night of Buffy and Spike and so she can’t even make connections from anything she’s seen between them since then. Her memories of Spike are primarily wrapped around his final actions before Buffy jumped from the tower and then his caretaking of Dawn and aid to Buffy after her return. Tara’s not been a witness to much of the Spuffy relationship and unlike Xander and Willow, she’s never been on the receiving end of unchipped Spike’s monstrousness.

    TARA: You mean hit you?
    Buffy's shame is overwhelming. She can't even look at Tara. Tara starts to understand.
    TARA: Oh. (really getting it) Oh. Really?

    The camera shifts from close-ups to a two-shot to establish the distance between the two women. The distance between is made greater by the doorway placed between them. It almost seems like another alleyway with a way out. It also frames Buffy as someone making a confession.
    That’s a great observation, PuckRobin, and rewatching the scene, I can see that framing by the director, which works spectacularly well. Buffy looks down in shame as Tara uncomfortably takes in the fact that Buffy has been having sex with Spike – Buffy assumes that Tara is grossed out and starts a litany of why she hates him:

    BUFFY: He's everything I hate. Everything I'm supposed to be against. But the only time I feel anything is when we – don’t tell anyone, please.
    These are interesting lines of dialogue – Buffy doesn’t mean Spike in particular, but his soulless state. She’s referring to Spike as a dead thing, distancing herself from who he is to concentrate on what he is. Whereas Tara constantly perceives Spike as a person – not a dead thing – but a living being who may be technically dead, but still has feelings and passions and pain. The difference between their perspectives is probably due to Buffy being the Slayer – she has to perceive demons as the Other – whereas Tara thought of herself as a demon for so long that they're not all that different from her when she comes to know them.

    And here’s the complication – Buffy’s feelings don’t work like she thinks they should. Although is it truly the only time she feels anything. Given by her expressions and tears, Buffy is certainly feeling something in this conversation with Tara. In her dream and in her confrontation with Spike in the alley, Buffy had conflated her affair with Spike and her supposed accidental killing of Katrina. But Buffy’s approaches are completely different. Regarding the Katrina situation, Buffy told Dawn “There's something I need to do now, Dawnie. I have to tell what I did.” Buffy told Spike much the same thing. But when it comes her own relationship with Spike, Buffy is asking people not to tell.
    Great point, PuckRobin! Buffy’s been keeping secrets for a long time now – ever since she returned – and the biggest one of them all is that she feared she’s come back wrong. Ironically, now that she’s found out that she hasn’t, she begs Tara not to tell anyone because her actions with Spike prove that she’s a terrible person who doesn’t deserve the love and respect of her friends.

    Tara says she won’t tell. And Buffy elaborates on her fears.
    BUFFY: The way they would look at me… I just couldn’t.
    TARA: I won't tell anyone. I wouldn't do that.
    Perhaps Buffy is thinking back to what Spike to her on the balcony of the Bronze.
    SPIKE: What would they think of you? If they found out all the things you've done If they knew who you really were...
    It’s a relief that to find Tara so open and nonjudgmental in this scene – which is necessary of course because it has to push back against Buffy’s rigid, almost fundamentalist judgment on herself that precludes all forgiveness. Tara’s not as judgmental as the others, nor has she had the long background with Spike unchipped so she’s more ready to accept Buffy’s unorthodox choice as bed mate. Plus her past as a woman who’s had to hide both her magic and her sexuality allows her to take Buffy very seriously when she asks Tara to keep it under wraps.

    But would Willow and Xander really have been that judgmental? Buffy is most likely also thinking of their negative reaction when Angel returned in Revelations.

    WILLOW: Nobody's here to blame you, Buffy. But this is serious. You need help.
    BUFFY: It's not what you think.
    XANDER: Hope not. Because I think you're harboring a vicious killer. (Consequences)
    And then, there’s an interesting exchange in the script that doesn’t appear in the finished episode.
    BUFFY: You don't know how hard it is. Lying to everyone you love about who you're sleeping with.
    TARA: Sweetie, I'm a fag. I been there.
    It would be strange to hear Tara use such a derogatory term for gay people, even if she’s reclaiming the word. But its exclusion leaves out a key bonding moment between Buffy and Tara. And it cuts some of the real world allegory to Buffy’s relationship.
    It’s an uncomfortable word to use – even in jest – and no gay person I know would use it in that context. Why couldn’t they just use the word “gay”? Agreed that it should have been brought up as a motivator for Buffy and Tara’s discussion.

    Buffy: Why can't I stop? Why do I keep letting him in?
    Tara asks a question to better clarify. It’s a bombshell for Buffy.

    TARA: Do you love him?
    Now that is a bombshell – Buffy wasn’t expecting that at all. But it makes sense in the context of Tara’s previous line about being homosexual. She’s not going to automatically assume that Buffy is bad for having sex with Spike – unlike most of the writers of the show – but try to take their case individually – if Buffy does love Spike, maybe they can work with that. Return his soul or do something else that would make him a suitable companion.

    But this sets Buffy off even worse – because Tara’s warmth and kindness and inclusivity makes her see how she’s talking about Spike as a thing – as a monster – when he’s professed his love to her multiple times.

    Buffy, still sobbing, looks at Tara as if she can't even comprehend the question. It clearly has made it worse. And Tara being the empathetic person she is quickly clarifies to ease Buffy’s mood.

    TARA: It's okay if you do. He's done a lot of good and he does love you –
    She looks at Tara with wonder – and as she starts to see Spike from Tara’s perspective – as a person – she comes to accept what she’s done. And Buffy looks down in dismay as Tara continues to talk.

    Maybe Buffy’s thinking about the times that Spike has protected Dawn. Maybe Tara is thinking again about how Spike stood up to her family and exposed their gaslighting ways. But whatever the good Spike has done – Buffy does not love him. This makes Buffy feel even worse for stringing him along. Once Spike gains a soul he might quibble with Tara about the nature of his feelings, although he certainly believes he feels love. But Buffy’s sense of morality has often had a black and white dimension to it. She has a clear sense of right and wrong. And what she’s doing with Spike is something that Buffy feels is wrong. It's not the sex -- it's because she doesn't love him. She's using him.

    TARA: And Buffy, it's okay if you don't. You're going through a really hard time, and you're –
    The dark grimace on Buffy’s face when Tara says “hard time” is very powerful. Buffy cuts Tara off.
    BUFFY: Using him? What's okay about that?
    Yes, PuckRobin and as in Buffy’s dream, she sees Spike through Tara’s eyes as a person. And she knows that Spike doesn’t have the free will to choose to be morally righteous. That only comes with the soul. Buffy’s using Spike’s love for her to make herself feel better – in reality, Buffy is the monster – Buffy is using Spike because her actions lead Spike to believe that she can love him back. And she finally admits it.

    TARA: It’s not that simple.
    BUFFY: It is. It's wrong. I'm wrong.
    And we get a complete sea change here in terms of moral complicity that actually feels like the Buffy of old who was mainly concerned with helping the helpless and stopping cruelty. Buffy isn’t wrong for having sex with Spike and letting him do those thing to her – Buffy’s wrong because she’s using another person – despite being a soulless vampire, Spike is a person – and she’s hurting them. And this discovery crushes her.

    BUFFY: Tell me that I'm wrong. Please – don't – forgive me.
    Buffy’s pain is so extreme that Tara’s face screws up as if she’s going to cry as well – but she keeps her composure long enough for Buffy to completely collapse in her arms, a supplicant as she kneels in front of Tara, sobbing. And it answers the question “what did you do?’ because Buffy can’t forgive herself for what she’s done to herself, to Spike, to her friends, to Dawn through her own self-loathing and desire to run away from life.

    BUFFY: Please don’t –
    And then Buffy’s head falls into Tara’s lap and the episode ends with Buffy begging not to be forgiven. I had mentioned earlier how these two-shots of the character resemble Buffy making a confession. But in way, she’s not. Those who confess in church seek penance and absolution. Right now Buffy seems to believe she’s beyond forgiveness.
    I always found this to be the photo negative of the scene at the end of The Gift where Buffy is laid out like an incorruptible Catholic martyr – pristine and pure – and the characters shuffle towards her in their grief – but none dare come near her person. In particular, when Spike falls to his knees, unable to walk through the sunlight to reach her, it’s a terrific metaphor for his inability to truly reach Buffy in his fallen state. And here, Buffy falls to her knees, begging for forgiveness because she can’t be the old Buffy before the Fall.

    In contrast, once Spike has a soul, he begs for forgiveness in “Beneath You”. There’s another confessional scene in Buffy. When Angelus stalks and turns Drusilla into a vampire, he poses as a priest. Whereas Tara tells Buffy there’s nothing wrong with her, Angelus plays Drusilla telling her she’s a devil child. Drusilla sobs that she wants to be good. Drusilla is being used by a vampire. But here, Buffy is the one using a vampire. And she would rather accept the devil-child explanation and doesn’t want forgiveness. It touches on some of the fatalism we’ve in Angel, who has a complicated relationship with his past sins.But there’s a more apt parallel. The Angel episode “Five by Five” has a fight between rogue slayer Faith and good-guy vampire Angel. Just as Faith had Angel to support her, Buffy has Tara in this episode. Tara is amazing in this episode. She’s supportive, non-judgmental and she listens. Xander has said how he likes to say “I told you so.” Tara doesn’t do that. She refuses to judge Buffy. It is a bit like Giles’s finest moment in “Innocence”
    Agreed – this is an amazing scene and the end of an amazing episode that wasn’t afraid to really delve into the darkness of Buffy’s depression. The title also reminds me of a famous line from Chesterson: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” And I think that Buffy and Spike and the rest of the Scoobies go against it in Season Six until they succeed in navigating the murky waters of morality.

    Tara meets that ideal – she strengthens Buffy and assuages her grief. It’s setting up Tara as ideal and admirable. And that means – she was doomed to die. In a few episodes time, Tara will be nothing more than yet another dead thing.
    Great callback to the passage, PuckRobin. And that’s a sobering thought about Tara – I hadn’t thought about her death until you pointed it out now.

    This episode has provided an embarrassment of riches for those who choose to do a “deep dive” on the episode. It has a complex view of Buffy – balancing her depression with heroism, The Trio are a prescient vision of a certain, nasty branch of Gamergate Men’s Rights Activists. “Dead Things” packs a powerful punch.
    This was such an astonishing review, PuckRobin! I apologize for the length, but you brought out some really spectacular things in it that provoked a lot of thought. I’m really looking forward to your next review and thanks so much for being such a fantastic writer!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 17-09-18 at 04:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    It’s an uncomfortable word to use – even in jest – and no gay person I know would use it in that context. Why they couldn’t just use the word “gay”? Agreed that it should have been brought up as a motivator for Buffy and Tara’s discussion.
    As a gay guy I can kinda see why Tara would choose that word. It's derogatory and unpleasant which is exactly the point Tara is trying to invoke when she gently reminds Buffy that she definitely does know what it's like to be judged for whom she's sleeping with. Tara's choice of the word is meant to invoke all the unpleasant shame and judgements she's been weighted with all her life. I've used it in a similar context, to be honest.

    However, what does slightly make me pause is the knowledge that the writers have used some pretty inappropriate phrases and descriptors in their Season 6 scripts prior to Dead Things to describe Willow & Tara. In their shooting script for Bargaining they describe their bedroom as being full of "lesbo" things which shocked me when I read it. The script was written by Marti Noxon and David Fury, neither of whom are in any position to be throwing this word around, and it's such an odd description to use anyway. What's "lesbo" about their room other than the fact that two women happen to be sleeping in it? Me thinks the writers were a little too comfortable with themselves over how ~progressive they were being by having one of the first serious lesbian relationships on television and felt that this gave them carte blanch to throw around some edgy terms. So I do wonder if this was another case of them using these terms just because they could.

    I agree with you guys that they probably should have left it in but maybe should have changed the dialogue to say "gay" instead. "Fag" is probably the reason it was cut in the first place. To some degree it's obviously where Tara is coming from. However, I also admit to being a little prickly to equating Buffy sleeping with an unrepentant mass murderer to gay people sleeping with each other. I definitely don't think Buffy should be judged for sleeping with Spike per say, as I don't really see that as relevant, but I would find it odd if Buffy had no moral crisis about the fact she was getting intimate with a guy with the history and even present mindset of soulless Spike. Which brings us to;

    And we get a complete sea change here in terms of moral complicity that actually feels like the Buffy of old who was mainly concerned with helping the helpless and stopping cruelty. Buffy isn’t wrong for having sex with Spike and letting him do those thing to her – Buffy’s wrong because she’s using another person – despite being a soulless vampire, Spike is a person – and she’s hurting them. And this discovery crushes her.
    I agree with you about the shift here and that there's two different things going on. It is morally wrong of Buffy to use anybody, regardless of who they are, and to hurt them in the process. Absolutely. Buffy wouldn't be the character I know and love if she didn't feel this was wrong. The fact that it crushes her is because deep down she is a truly good person.

    But I also do think there's ethical questions to be raised about whom we choose to associate ourselves with/sleep with/be friends with etc. I am of the opinion that the kind of company one chooses to keep can also be a reflection on you. As I said above, my issue is less about the fact that Buffy has chosen to physically sleep with Spike as the sex really isn't the issue for me. But I'd be deeply concerned if Buffy wasn't troubled by the fact she'd been sharing a bed (or a rug ) with someone who saw Katrina as "just another body" and who was guilty of literal mass murder and didn't feel even a twinge of remorse about this. As Buffy begins to spiral in this episode so does her entire moral crisis. At the beginning of the episode Spike jokes right beside her about the time he killed and ate a decorator and the script says that Buffy "in spite of herself" laughs at his joke. As not only "The Slayer" but as a person I find this troubling and I think it's there for a reason. It all goes down from here in this episode until Buffy's self disgust is not only at how she's treated Spike but at what, or whom, she's allowed herself to get involved with.

    I wouldn't want the others to shame Buffy. Absolutely not. But I do think it's important that Buffy has her own internal crisis about it. And whilst I can clearly see where Tara is coming from and, as you say, this is also helped by the fact that Tara has never experienced soulless Spike without the chip, I grumble at the notion that sleeping with an unrepentant killer is the moral equivalence of two gay people sleeping together, or even that how people judge them is both equally wrong. I fully admit that I do have an element of judgement towards men or women who choose to partner themselves with people guilty of terrible atrocities and who feel no remorse about this. For instance, I absolutely do judge Bill Cosby's wife for standing by him on trial and insisting that his countless victims are all liars. Buffy has never went that far - she's never excused Spike's actions or defamed Spike's victims - but in this episode she does laugh at the horror that at least one of them endured, which is unsettling. However, the difference between Buffy and Bill Cosby's wife is that Buffy is in crisis about this and the reason I judge Cosby's wife is precisely because I think her own ethics or morality must stink if she's not deeply disturbed or horrified by her husband's crimes. I don't feel as a gay man I should be in crisis, at all really, for sleeping with another innocent and consenting person, but I probably should be if I was sleeping with another gay man who'd happen to have killed hundreds of people and didn't care. So whilst I'm unequivocally grateful that Tara did not shame Buffy or abandon her but rather comforted her, and I can sympathise with why Tara is relating to the situation, I'd feel Tara is doing a disservice to herself if she rationalised it as a perfect equivalence.

    Nevertheless, it's enough of an equivalence that it works and that Tara is compelled to feel sympathy for Buffy because she knows exactly what it's like to hide the person whom she's sleeping with out of fear of rejection and judgement. And Buffy deserves that sympathy. I actually think what Buffy struggles with the most is, I guess, the naivety of Tara's rationalisations for why sleeping with Spike is ok ("He's done a lot of good" etc) because deep down Buffy knows that this is ultimately a flimsy justification and she's just witnessed first hand Spike's ruthlessness in disposing of Katrina's body and justification for why her death is meaningless and not worth getting upset over. I think at this point Buffy would have actually preferred if Tara had been more judgemental about it to help embolden her own moral crisis the same way Buffy wants Tara to tell her, her own behaviour's wrong and isn't comforted by Tara's lack of judgement.
    Last edited by vampmogs; 17-09-18 at 03:10 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Whereas Willow comes from a scientific viewpoint in which all experiments and tests are essentially amoral – facts triumph personal feelings and magical means to an end are no more morally questionable than any other technological ability.
    I really loved this character observation Aurora, it's a great description of how Willow's approach to both magic and science reflect each other.

    The song ends with the singer asserting they are alive – and yet, the relationship makes them feel as if they’re both dead. It’s about a very harmful and destructive relationship in which both people need to be saved – and yet, they cannot save each other. Which neatly fits the Buffy of Season Six.
    Your further expansion on this song's meaning is excellent. I can see how this would work against the S6 relationship's limitations when both are seeking to feel alive and move forwards separately to do so. Great stuff.

    It’s notable that Buffy places a gloved hand on the door as opposed to Spike’s bare hands, creating even more of an artificial barrier between them. It’s a signal that Buffy will have the strength to walk away from temptation – and death – whereas Spike finally gives in and opens the door. In doing so, he reveals that he’s nearer to opening the door to the living world than she is to closing it.
    I love this observation on the directions they're both taking.

    As she says to Spike, she wants to be “free of rules and reports – free of this life.” Unspoken is the desire to be free of any moral culpability for her actions as well. So the best way to escape that guilt – to absolve oneself of all responsibility – is to place one’s agency in the hands of another. Trusting Spike means she doesn’t have to think or feel – just be and let him take care of everything.
    The repeat of trust here calling back to the handcuff scene is great, but in her dazed state Buffy doesn't really consider how Spike might think it is suitable to deal with things (choices he makes which simply underline his soulless limitations and lack of morality). As you say, in the immediate aftermath here there is a breakdown of those barriers in her life that have relegated Spike and she leans on him now for escape too. But this is too big for Buffy to literally turn off her moral code for and we'll see her struggle to process it all in the fabulous dream sequence and then her choice to take control back and turn herself in.

    Buffy's own sense of being wrong is tied into making these choices I agree. From conceding agency to him in their sexual play, even if she shouldn't feel guilt over things they do just for the acts in themselves it's clearly how she feels, it's now seeped over into other areas of her life and the choices she needs to make. Your observation that the chance Buffy is reversing what happened earlier in her dream by being on top and taking the dominant place with Spike, him cuffed beneath her, works so well for her taking control again in going to the station and helps inform the underlying reason for her attack on Spike. Great point though that part of how that plays out is Spike willingly being submissive too.

    It's fascinating to consider how Buffy's use of Spike, manipulating his feelings for her builds into how she sees herself as monstrous. The lack of expectation for him to make morally sound choices is inherent in how she sees him, marks the difference against his capacities and her belief in him when he becomes souled. But the crumbled barriers that happened here in the illusion Spike took control between them, dispelled as she takes the position of monster and then reasserts control in her choices, also somewhat affects how Buffy perceives Spike because of his feelings for her and her sense that he is a victim to her manipulation. Despite clearly still seeing Spike as a soulless thing on one level, we can see she feels some sense of a genuine connection to him and admits to even liking him sometimes. Her assertion against his capacity for a moral choice in the alley is somewhat contradicted by her belief that he can draw the lines with her, promise to not hurt her. Her guilt at using his feelings and, possibly some genuine gratitude for what those feelings have led him to achieve for her in the past, somewhat clouds her knowledge that he is fundamentally limited in a way that stops him being reliable and should affect her trust. That limitation of course is something that he eventually shows, painfully for them both, when he does indeed hurt her despite his/her belief he could say he wouldn't.

    But these are all effects of the real cause of her guilt. It’s really Buffy’s rejection of life that is a fundamental horror to her – as the Slayer who saves lives and controls the dead, it’s a morally transgressive state in which everything else pales in comparison to it – and she wants to be punished for her crime.
    I really like this and of course it ties through to what Buffy must do to move forwards in actively engaging and choosing to be alive again.

    Buffy isn’t wrong for having sex with Spike and letting him do those thing to her – Buffy’s wrong because she’s using another person – despite being a soulless vampire, Spike is a person – and she’s hurting them. And this discovery crushes her.
    Completely, and when she eventually decides to break it off this clearly plays a key part in why. Even if it is primarily about what her actions have been doing to her and saying about her, it does come with an acknowledgment of how she perceives those choices negatively in how she has been using him too.

    I've really enjoyed reading all your responses on Dead Things Aurora. As usual I couldn't read and say nothing. I actually have sat and waiting my response to Sosa's fab Hell's Bells review. So I'll return in a few hours and see if the board will let me post that, which will conveniently jump us forwards chronologically a touch just before SoS posts the Normal Again review.

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    Just one very brief parting thought before we leave Dead Things and move on to Normal Again. Apologies for breaking my own promise not to post any more on it, but after reading all the posts about Buffy's reaction to Spike's words in the alley, I was suddenly reminded of Spike's words in Lovers Walk - along the lines of "...I'll get back what's mine...mine". Of course he was referring to Drusilla, thinking of her possessively, as something he could own and control.

    Spike wants to control Buffy, as the discussion here has shown. He wants her to be "his" girl. In that moment I agree the scales fall from her eyes and she sees herself as just another of Spike's "things".

    Fantastic stuff, everyone, thank you so much for enlightening me. It's increased my enjoyment even more and made me appreciate the moral perspective in greater depth than I had previously.

    Looking forward to StateofSiege's NA review.
    Last edited by debbicles; 17-09-18 at 08:49 AM. Reason: Removing sweeping judgement!
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    And we're skipping forward a little as we near Normal Again, having a pit stop once more for Hell's Bells.

    Hi Sosa, sorry for my delay in getting around to replying on Hell's Bells. I actually ended up rewatching the episode three times. I needed to see it fresh again by the time I eventually got to reading your review and then again during writing my responses because your comments made me want to go back and revisit a few parts still again!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sosa lola View Post
    The first scene is Xander surrounded by his family and Krelvin, one of Anya’s demon friends. Xander can’t get anything done as he searches for his cuff-links. It’s notable how Xander’s family are depicted as messy and uncivilized throughout the episode while the demons are written as polite and helpful.
    They do really heavily emphasise the mess that Xander's family are and show the demons to be more polite at first I'd agree. The outright rudeness is mostly Tony Harris, there's plenty of reference to the fact Xander's family drink too much and we see they are a bit ignorantly rude and prejudiced. But I don't think it's presented as totally one-sided though, at least not once the tension is there. It's the tentacle demon's blunt interruption of Uncle Rory's latest boring story/joke that starts the bickering which quickly leads into the actual fighting. Although Tony Harris gets up first it's the demon that steps right into Harris' space and makes it literally physical first with the threatening slap to the chest, even if it's in response to further personal verbal goading and Mr Harris then throws the first outright punch. I think the preceding conversation outside between Dawn and the demon teen really emphasises that to an extent it's perspective and both humans and demons can be embarrassing and behave badly, and they then prove it as they both do.

    One thing I’ve noticed is the gentle smile Xander casts Krelvin and how he treats him as a person. Most people believe that Xander has a demon xenophobia: unreasonable fear and hate for demons. The exchange between Xander and Krelvin is very friendly, and later Xander will be upset on Krelvin’s behalf when his father, the real bigot, insults Krelvin and his heritage.
    The teaser scenes are so pertinent to how the episode unfolds. Anya's happiness in getting married consistently blinds her to how others are feeling and she has been ignoring the signs of Xander's disquiet. Still now she'll blithely ignore the potential doom when things are going wrong later (cue the storm's thunder clap and lightening over her statement it's the happiest day of her whole life). The scene at Xander's apartment really lays out how/why Xander ends up making the choice that he does I think when we see his response to his father.

    I agree that Xander is often unfairly presented as having a blanket dislike of demons. I think that he is generally wary of them and his uncertainty around Hallie when she first appeared was a good example of that, but to be honest if he wasn't at least cautious after all they have seen and averted it would be incredibly surprising. What I think is important to acknowledge is that Xander is also wary around some people too, and we see it in his responses to those that have bullied him in the past. As we see he is around his father.

    Uncle Rory is a character we’ve been hearing about for years and this is the first time we see him. I’ve always had the impression that Xander spent more time with Uncle Rory than his own parents. I also feel that Xander’s way of objectifying women and the slut-shaming of Cordelia in the early seasons were influenced by the way Uncle Rory treats women. The way 16 year old Xander talked about his uncle’s double life in the episode The Dark Age had a touch of awe and admiration, like he wanted to be like his cool uncle.
    Wow Sosa, I can't believe I've never really registered the recurring references to Xander's uncle! Considering the instability of his family life the consistent presence of his uncle is definitely another key to understanding Xander and I now want to watch the episode again specifically to have another look at this other male figure that influenced Xander's life and outlook. I think your take that a younger Xander felt some admiration towards him, although he's always clearly been embarrassed by his family and their drinking problems, is probably fair when you consider how he saw having the car as a social/image boost in The Zeppo too.

    Then Xander’s parents show up. I liked the actor playing Xander’s father in his Restless dream more. He was more intimidating. I’d say the man in Restless was what Xander’s father looked like when Xander was a kid and he always remembered him and dreamed about him like that, at his most terrifying.

    In this scene, Tony Harris showed his ugly racist and bullying colors the second he walked in. When Krelvin payed Xander’s mother a compliment, Xander noticed how annoyed his father was by it and attempted to change the subject. As Tony began insulting Krelvin and his demon family, Xander got exasperated and tried to leave the room.

    Interesting that Xander didn’t stand up to Tony here. He never shied away from giving his two scents when he thought something was wrong. Even in OMWF when Giles demanded that Buffy should go alone to face Sweet, it was Xander who questioned that decision later “What if Buffy can’t defeat it?” with a pointed glare directed at Giles. With his own father though, there will always be so much baggage. As a kid, Xander must have walked on egg shells trying to avoid his father’s wrath, and old habits never die. We’re talking 19 years living with his hateful, angry parents. It is not easy to move on from that just a mere two years later.
    I agree we see a lot in how Xander responds to his dad here and he appears to be avoiding confrontation very deliberately. Sadly he is probably wary of how much worse his father might react and behave if he did tackle it more directly. It's the fear that a bully can instil which prompts silence as a response. And of course avoidance is something that we know that Xander uses at points to emotionally protect himself. Something we found out so heartbreakingly when we hear/see how he'll even sleep outside over sharing a roof with them on Christmas Eve.

    Xander looks off to the side when his dad starts insulting Krelvin and then looks to walk away and it's clearly an emotional response. He had tried to head off Tony's nastiness by pointing out he'd already met Krelvin (likely knowing Krelvin had already had a dose of his dad's obnoxious behaviour, which Krelvin indeed then goes on to talk about). He seems somewhat angry as he goes to walk away but I think there is such a heavy dose of resignation mixed in. We'd already heard from Buffy/Willow how disastrous the rehearsal was and perhaps Xander had just hoped that on the day itself his family, his father especially, might be more thoughtful towards him. Not cruel and callous of the hurt he causes his son, or not focused on emotionally pressuring/cajoling him like his mother does. It took such little time for their negative influence to invade his day. His mother's constant references to the photos speaks to me of someone who uses emotional manipulation to guilt people regardless of how they have/do actually treat her. She's clearly hugely insecure and uses her son to try and push for affection and reassurance.

    I think there are a mass of thematic ties to Sleep Tight, the sister episode over on AtS this time. Father issues is one of the clearest. Not just about Angel & Connor, but how the knock on influence from childhood seen between Xander & Tony and the decision Xander reaches can be seen against what we understand, or will come to understand, of Wes & Roger Wyndham-Pryce too. There are years of pain and hurt riding on their shoulders, affecting their perceptions of themselves and who they fear being. The demon inside the singer in Sleep Tight an outright metaphor for what is hidden within us, especially as something there caused by/relating to the influence of others.

    There's almost a grim acceptance of how his parents behave from Xander here that makes his belief in the end that it would be better to avoid the potential pain he could bring more understandable. There's the general theme of distrust towards a father figure but it is the fear of what could be inevitable and destined from within that creates such a huge weight. Wes is also driven by his own father issues in allowing himself to believe that Angel could end up hurting Connor, even despite believing in Angel's love for his son. He had had his own worst self presented to him in Billy which may have made him feel as abusive as his own father and likely he believes that the danger Angel holds within him could get beyond his control too, despite his obvious love for Connor. There could even be a part of Wes acting protectively, wishing that someone had taken him away from the influence of his own dad, having seen the potential negative influence he could be before the damage was done. Plus, because of the disdain Wes consistently received he fears his own failure in whatever he chooses to do too. We really can't underestimate the emotional weight of these relationships, how it affects their outlooks in general as well as their own perceptions of self, their self-worth, and generates fears. It is hard to quantify how hugely influential they are on the choices made. Sadly, it is clear both men are driven by love and wanting to save those they care about from hurt, to make choices for the greater good. But in actuality their acts only might have prevented something, but what they definitely succeed in is creating pain for their loved ones in the here and now. There must have been better ways of going about it.

    Jessica Harris was such wreck of a mess. She was jittery, unconfident and super martyred. Her whining about not being in the pictures seemed to annoy Tony just as much as it annoyed Xander.
    Yes and sadly this probably comes from it being a tedious and repeated tactic to try to elicit attention/sympathy.

    From that scene alone and the past quotes about Uncle Rory, I can safely say that Tony, Jessica and Rory embody exaggerated characteristics that are in Xander himself. Having lived with those people all his life, Xander clearly takes a lot after his family:

    Tony Harris: His sharp tongue, sarcasm and cruelty. In the shooting script, Tony exclaims upon seeing Krelvin: “Aw, Sweet Baby Lord in his high heavenly throne.” That is such a Xander line.

    Jessica Harris: Her insecurity and desire for others’ attention. The way Xander felt threatened and upset about Willow dating Oz in Phases even though he didn’t want to date her comes to mind.

    Uncle Rory: Objectifying women and the way he uses sense of humor to ease tension.
    This is such a great run through of the influences that these three have all visibly had on Xander's character Sosa, really excellent.

    And very much like Wes possibly fearful from experiencing something that's within himself and fearing the danger of the demon within Angel, the truth of the influence of what is within you is there for Xander too. He fears being more like his family because he understands that he takes certain traits from them, such as using humour and he realistically doesn't believe the influences can only be good ones. The later development we see in the comics of Xander facing and addressing anger issues is one of the best things they did. I'd have loved to have seen a little bit of one of the sessions with Dr Mike.

    Before the Visions:

    1) Xander losing his cufflinks. An obstacle averted. Now nothing can’t stop the wedding.
    2) The problem with Xander’s cummerbund. He’s been stress-eating for a while and gained more weight.
    3) The overwhelming scene of meeting and greeting his guests.

    Xander already had the thoughts and fears, but he still wanted to get married. He tells Buffy that he’s happy and even when his supposedly never-seen “uncle” tells him it’s a huge mistake to get married, Xander didn’t listen to him but began humoring him.
    Oh I very much agree Sosa, Xander fully intended to marry Anya before. One of the other ties across to Sleep Tight is that the person making the choice (Xander/Wes) is doing so because they are convinced that it is a choice that on balance is the best to protect those they care about and they are manipulated and fed false information in order to lead them to conclude such a thing. The success in both cases is inherently driven on fears but also on how much they love and care for those they are trying to protect.

    In both cases they should have spoken with others before reaching such drastic decisions, taken counsel and sought support, but their fears and insecurities are so significant and so successfully played that these choices seem the best options to them. It's heart wrenching when Xander tells Buffy that he is happy because you know that it's true, he loves Anya and wants to be with her, but we know how his existing worries will be played against him.

    Throughout the visions, our present Xander is living those scenes, feeling the hatred for Anya as well as the betrayal for her cheating. He was there as his wife and kids grow older and resent him even more, and he’d resent them just as much.

    These visions were clearly created out of Xander’s old memories and deepest fears, as the demon will tell Anya later: “His nightmare vision of your future.”
    Yes, I agree this is such a key part in how deeply Xander was affected by the experience. It wasn't just some tale told to him to worry him, he actually experienced it, presented to him as based on a literal future that had happened. His horror as the sequence breaks and worry about what he had done to Anya, what being with him could lead to for her is so much harder to brush off after having had the full experience of being there.

    That the visions also play directly on actual issues he feels, like incorporating a belief in Anya's resentment over him being involved in the fight with Buffy, must generate such a greater intensity in the emotional responses to the experience. It helps to take it beyond intellectual consideration and makes the vision painfully effective. Seeing all these problems and fears come together in a 'worst possible version' would have just been crushing. The financial cost of the wedding is raised by Tony Harris and Anya also implies the dress was particularly expensive, but it is the risk of something greater that bears down on Xander. Vision!Anya's furious demand to have her life back and his fear for what he could do in anger are both at the culmination of the sequence, underlining how extreme the real eventual cost of getting married could be.

    I hadn't remembered the history of Xander's mum having to work when his dad was unemployed. It's yet another factor that adds weight to how corrosive seeing his parents' ongoing behaviour would be whilst he's trying to deal with what has happened, what has just been shown to him. Yes the visions were made up, smoke and mirrors, but the truth of how badly it can be is there playing out live in front of him still. He's been seeing it for over twenty years and it could happen to him too, he could do that to his own wife, his own children.

    2) Xander complains that they never had “touch” for the last twenty years. Touch obviously means sex, but it could also mean hugs of comfort and kisses of love. Their marriage was doomed when Buffy lost her life because Xander couldn’t save her. Losing Buffy in The Gift had affected Xander greatly. He used to be eager to marry Anya, but after Buffy’s death, the doubts and fears clouded his mind and he couldn’t bring himself to be excited about the wedding anymore. In the visions, losing Buffy again made Xander withdraw from Anya emotionally and physically which caused her to find comfort in the embrace of a demon.
    This is a really interesting observation Sosa. Although I always thought Xander proposed a bit spontaneously because of the life and death situation they were facing, I didn't doubt there was a genuine wish to commit to Anya. Seeing his reluctance to announce their engagement alongside Buffy's death in The Gift could certainly tie a negative effect on his confidence and so again in the possible future scenario that could again flare from a similar loss.

    Xander’s biggest fear here is Anya wasting her life on someone doomed to become a bitter, angry old man.
    Yes, as the old man leads Xander away, having expected that he would need convincing, we see the scene where Tony is viciously, needlessly cruel to Jessica Harris. Feigning appreciation for her in a faux toast, she shows genuine surprise and pleasure at the initial appearance of affection and appreciation. To still be able/willing to look for a glimmer of hope that she is wanted, is perhaps something that Xander has witnessed and seen crushed other times over the years. All the varied ways he can see connection between himself, his parents as the real life version and his fears in the awful visions makes them more real. It makes the potential of them too real for him to be able to ignore after just having seen and felt them. To become that person and do that to the person he loves is abhorrent to him. The potential worse and almost more devastating than even seeing her crumble before him hoping for a better future for them.

    With that in mind we see a troubled Xander walking in circles in the kitchen, miserable and emotionally beaten. The best man, Willow, finally shows up and unintentionally reminds Xander of how he had messed up his previous relationship with Cordelia. He was just doomed to screw up.
    Oh that's a great catch. Willow's joke does just pull forward a time when Xander hurt people he cared about and made the wrong choices to the fore at the worst possible time. Of course that would weigh in on how he is feeling and his belief in the genuine likelihood that he could make such a mess of his future with Anya. I agree that he is firm in his decision by the time he returns to the wedding.

    I doubt that Xander thought things through when he decided to ask Anya to marry him. I don’t know if what Anya had said about Xander proposing because the world was gonna end to be true. I do feel he genuinely wanted to marry her then, because it was the “next step.” For a long while Xander was Peter Pan, the kid who never grows up, but in S5, he’s grown up a hell faster than any of his friends in the real world.
    This is a great point. I had, as I said earlier, always really looked on it as in great part a reaction to the risk that lay ahead but you're right that it fitted the path that Xander had been walking that season. Xander had been as unsettled as Giles when they were 'left behind' in S4 as Willow and Buffy moved to college. But he walked a different path in gaining experiences through S4 & 5. It was a great contrasting example of growing up and sometimes he seemed more centred and mature for having struggled and carved a path specific for himself (pun unintended). I can see that getting married would have seemed a logical progression on that path and the 'next step' to consider as you say. With no examples of a healthy adult relationship around him to guide him and no peers in similar circumstances, there's no one to easily turn to for their opinion as to why/when it might be the right time for these things. He really was walking blind.

    But Xander completely forgot that growing up on the outside didn’t necessarily mean he’d grown up on the inside. He still had issues with his parents, as he tells Willow in Forever:

    WILLOW: I'm gonna stop by my mom's first. Been doing that a lot lately.
    XANDER: Yeah. I actually might stop by your mom's too. (she looks at him) Well, I'm not going to *my* place. Those people are scary.

    Willow had managed to reconcile with her mother and they seemed to have a healthier relationship. Xander, on the other hand, still feared his parents and hated being around them. His relationship with them didn’t heal.
    Excellent point. The internal issues and negative effects of his childhood aren't addressed and continue to bother him despite the successes he has managed.

    So, at the wedding and as Xander tells a brokenhearted Anya that they shouldn’t get married, his gaze lands on his parents viciously fighting at his own wedding. They couldn’t even muster the courtesy to behave for their only son in his wedding day.
    Yes and it ties to that initial scene at his apartment to. This is the way they are, it is how they always are and the sheer constancy of that is what is breaking. We're essentially seeing Xander's depth of despair in the way he views himself, his own future.

    Xander was not ready to become an adult yet. He had to sort out his issues and the non-stopping conflict inside him. He still reacts negatively to relationship issues due to anxiety and bad memories resurfacing. He will not be able to commit when he has an inherent distrust and discomfort when faced with relationship drama. Xander will get there when he finally goes to therapy in S10.

    In the episode Xander was able to kill the demon that showed him the phony visions effortlessly. He was never shown to be afraid of the monsters that lurk in the night. However, his childhood demons represented by his parents were twice scarier, and unlike the demon he killed, he was unable to “kill” them. Instead, he fled.
    I'm not sure I'd see it as him not being ready to become an adult, I think he is and he has matured beyond being seen as a child. But I completely agree that he hasn't been able to move beyond the deep rooted fears he has gained through his childhood and how these focus on what he may be in his own future that could be outside of his control to prevent. Of course, as you say, when he finally faces these things directly that is how he masters them, but here he isn't able to now and he flees.

    The situation was too unbearable that Xander just took off without even considering cleaning up his own mess from announcing the cancelation of the wedding to the guests who had traveled from wherever they were from to attend, to facing his enraged father who spent money on the wedding and the enraged demons who would stand up to a jilted Anya.

    For a character known for his bravery, Xander was never more of a coward than in his last scene with Anya in Hell’s Bells.
    Your reading of Xander's feelings and motivations through this episode are unsurprisingly excellent Sosa. As you know, he is a character that I have grown to be deeply fond of and his bravery and loyalty are two of his most admirable traits. But his choice here is made so much worse by the decision to then turn tail and abandon Anya to deal with the situation and it is that I think which actually damages their relationship more permanently. If he had stayed with her, had been able to assure her that this was just about not being ready now and hadn't left her in her misery and humiliation, it might have worked out differently. But seeing him taking that choice really just emphasises how totally eviscerating this experience has been to his sense of worth. He seems to genuinely feel she would just be better off without out him completely at that point and the intensity of it all has him unable to see the wider picture. Heartbreaking.

    Now Anya is one of the characters that I still feel I don't 'know' well and haven't given much direct consideration to. Having definitely gained a greater appreciation for how she may have been feeling post Selfless from your recently posted fic Support, I'm very much looking forward to reading your thoughts on her here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sosa lola View Post
    The difference between Xander and Anya is that they are at different stages in their lives: Xander is still very young. He’s only 21 years old. Most 21-year olds are out in the clubs partying and fooling around, no care in the world. Certainly, none I know are looking to settle down any time soon.
    Although I think you can argue that Anya is fairly 'young' in terms of integrating back into human life/society, that doesn't eradicate the centuries of living that will play some part in what she is looking for and why she might focus on a sense of security above all as she seems to. I don't think 21 is too young an age to believe Xander could be looking to settle though. Again his life experiences aren't the average and living with the levels of risk they do will change your perspective. But then I was married at just turned 23 so that affects my pov here too no doubt. I don't disagree though, that the difference in their life experience can be creating very different motivations for getting married, it's definitely an interesting factor to raise.

    I agree Anya's fears focus on a general sense of insecurity in her new life situation, her mortality and we can see how these generate and feed her fear of being abandoned. Excellent summary of the times she has shown her need to 'secure' Xander to her and has openly exposed/admitted her insecurity in her new found life. There was a very definite shift in the character when she found a little more certainty about her life through her position at the magic box. She was possessive about it, even to the extent of showing outright eagerness to push Giles out the picture and take greater control, very like her behaviour with Xander. Anya has perhaps come to accept that he isn't going to leave his friends or stop prioritising them, but in becoming married to him she was getting something which solidified her importance in a way that she wanted/needed.

    Anya’s need to focus on that one thing could be attributed to her having Asperger's/an autistic disorder as a lot of fans speculated. She was depicted as “odd” even before she was turned into a demon. That’s why she was unaware that her comments to Xander and his friends were hurtful and not socially acceptable. Also, it is why throughout S6, her sole attention was on the wedding. In Wrecked, she couldn’t focus on research because her mind was busy thinking about planning for the wedding.
    I don't remember hearing this before and it is a very interesting idea. Perhaps how she seemed in flashbacks to 880 when there would have been hugely different social norms is problematic to support the theory alone though. I'll definitely be thinking about this when I next watch those flashbacks and whether her behaviour already seems dysfunctional then or if this is when her separation from society began? I've always felt that her oddities could be partly accounted for just by having that huge distance from modern times and where she started. That is if things were just different back then and through her not having operated within human society during all that time she failed to change with them. It seems possible as she very specifically sat on the outside of course, keeping emotional distance, even looking to focus on what people saw as interpersonal failings. A basic difficulty integrating isn't surprising from that alone I think.

    I don't remember consciously noticing/considering the character trait of her wanting just a single focus in the mix too though. There could certainly be a medical explanation for her inability to consider others and what is going on generally around her. I suppose I just always put it down not to a lack of capacity but a lack of inclination, to a selfishness she never felt inclined to cap or adapt. Without any great experience of operating within a collective or the experience of finding she needed to adjust more in order to meet what she individually desired, I'd felt the effort Anya put into actively trying to see things from other perspectives was limited. Yet her distress at not being able to understand around Joyce's death questions the ability perhaps. She definitely lacks social competence though and I'm not knowledgeable on how often social dysfunction is directly linked to psychiatric disorders. Anya's (or Aud's) solution to her cheating boyfriend could simply be exposing existing issues with aggression and social dysfunction, rather than being the start of them.

    I've said before I see Anya's story transposing better with Faith than Spike/Angel. Anya walked knowingly into being a vengeance demon and so being souled isn't her turning point, she doesn't seem to meaningfully change her perception on her past acts when she becomes human again. I assume that becoming a vengeance demon doesn't come with a loss of soul and D'Hoffryn talks of taking Hallie's soul when he kills her. It's only integration over time that changes Anya's perspective it seems and she doesn't even realise this has happened until she has trouble returning to being a vengeance demon. It does seem plausible that there was some degree of psychiatric trouble that already existed, but it could also be that her coping mechanisms had her shut herself off and the sheer distance in time and differing lifestyle accounts for the extent of her disconnection. I can see it both ways.

    Do you put much weight to the idea of her having a disorder?

    Overtime, Anya began to appreciate the Scoobies, but her love for them wasn’t anywhere near her love for Xander.

    ANYA: No, you see, usually when there's an apocalypse, I skedaddle. But now I love you so much that instead I have inappropriately timed sex and try to think of ways to fight a god ... and worry terribly that something might happen to you. And also worry that something'll happen to me. And then I have guilt that I'm not more worried about everyone else, but I just don't have enough! (The Gift)

    This time Anya wasn’t running away because Xander would never run away and leave his friends behind. Her love for him overpowered her understandable need to survive.
    Yes it is interesting to compare her apocalyptic responses and how much Anya has already moved in how she prioritises. Xander does clearly have a pedestaled position in her life, although she obviously has come to genuinely care for the others somewhat too. But you're totally right that her world collapses when Xander breaks off the wedding and it is really in him not staying that that sense of true abandonment hits hard. Throughout her solitary walk down the aisle, she looks utterly devastated.

    I don’t think that it accrued to her that losing Xander didn’t mean losing the friends the came along with him: apparently Willow came to talk to her after Xander had left, she seemed to have formed a nice friendship with Tara (we see them hanging out alone in I Was Made to Love You), and also she still had the Magic Box. The world shouldn’t end because Xander left.

    To Anya, however, it did. The Scoobies and the Magic Box were mostly accessories, but Xander was the real thing. Without Xander, she didn’t care about the other things.
    I agree. There were things that formed around the life she was building with Xander which she should/could have felt were still there, but they were periphery aspects to her. To some extent I can understand it as they were things that inherently built from the connections that Xander had. I suspect that it is rare that a couple splits and they both keep all the friends and social circle they shared together and Anya could fairly expect that if faced with a choice she wouldn't be the one that the others would prioritise. I can't help but feel that the extent of the problem here may be tied to an impression that Xander is pulling out of the relationship entirely by walking away and leaving her to face this alone.

    Anya, just like Xander, gave in to her weakness and made a bad choice.
    Oh that's excellent. And just like Xander (and Wes), Anya has been manipulated by someone playing on her fears and presenting a twisted perspective for their own purposes.
    D'HOFFRYN: (sighs) Oh, Anyanka. I'm sorry. (pause) But you let him domesticate you. When you were a vengeance demon, you were powerful, at the top of your game. You crushed men like him.

    Anya's feeling of weakness in that moment is linked to her lack of power by D'Hoffryn which clings to the fears of mortality that she has alongside her deep loneliness in that moment. D'Hoffryn blames Xander for having changed her despite presumably having the ability to return and offer her her power back at any point. Again we're seeing another negative male role model in action. I assume he wanted to punish her originally and now he wants her back and the best way to get her to turn back now is to stoke her despair for his own purpose. Low and literally isolated in the dark by him, Anya is given an opportunity that offers her some sense of certainty of purpose back. It's very well targeted to how she is most vulnerable.

    Speaking of parallels, Xander wasn’t the only person facing his demons in the episode. Anya was also facing demons from her past. Anya didn’t exactly suffer any consequences for her past crimes, sure she was stripped off her powers and was made to be an 18 year old human girl, but she also got to go to Prom, she got to have an apartment, she got to have a boyfriend who bought her nice things, she was instantly accepted as a new member in the Scooby gang, she got the beautiful apartment she wanted her boyfriend to get, she got to have a job she loved, and eventually she got engaged to the man she loved.

    The first time Anya came face to face with her past was Triangle when Olaf showed up. Except the episode was played for comedy and Olaf, Anya’s victim, was treated as a villain and therefore was killed by Buffy.

    In Hell’s Bells, another victim of Anya shows up, Stewart Burns, and this time he will succeed in turning Anya’s most glamorous day into her worst nightmare.
    Like Faith, Anya is led down a path which leads to a choice to change as her development. It isn't that she needs something adding she lacks, she just needs to face herself and her choices. The impact that Stewart Burns has on the life she has built tumbles it all down in great part because there is a lack of foundation to what she had built. Although Anya wasn't the one that literally stopped the wedding, that she hasn't faced her past and considered what she had done with remorse remained a troublesome blot on the character. Whilst somewhat blinkered, Willow's disquiet over Anya that she voiced directly to her in Triangle, does have some bearing here. Who Anya has been can have consequences that leads to hurting Xander, it just also leads to hurting Anya too.

    Who was the real victim?
    All three were, and all three weren’t. I guess it depends on who you sympathize with the most.
    Really interesting consideration for the perspectives of Burns, Xander and Anya Sosa. I would tend to separate Xander in that I think he is actually considering his choice with more morality bound through it and a desire to limit pain. His poor decision comes within a genuine desire to do the right thing and that separates him from the wrongs the other two committed for me. His choice not to get married isn't inherently wrong of course, although it is horrific timing and he should have talked about his fears more before or certainly after Burns approached him, it is his choice to turn and walk away that I have the most problems with. But even his thoughtlessness on that wasn't done with deliberate malice.

    Anya doesn't deserve the vengeance wrought on her any more than Burns deserved what happened to him. I suppose you could see both as karma. Although it doesn't change my basic pov that they are both victims, both did pave the way through their own bad choices before which deliberately hurt/disregarded others (Burns' wife, Anya's victims). As you say, it does present as Anya facing her demons in a way that she has previously been able to brush aside somewhat from having been separated from her past. But she hadn't truly chosen to move on from it in the way that she needs to, and will come to. Xander's demons which reared and played their part in the destruction of the wedding were again from things which he had no responsibility for. His struggle to deal with the trauma he endured as a child and young adult doesn't seem to me to place him in the same bracket at Burns or Anya.

    As you say, our sympathies and understandings play a great deal in how we perceive the different situations. So in the end whilst I think Burns was punished beyond what he should have been I can't help but echo Willow's statement that it hurts her heart to think of how Anya's feeling and as frustrated as I feel at Xander walking away I'm greatly affected by my understanding of how devastating the visions were for him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sosa lola View Post
    Buffy must have been so determent to give Xanya the happy ending she wants that she took on “Best Man” duties, dressing Xander up and fiddling with his tie (which is an inside joke to SMG not being able to tie a tie.) She’s also the person responsible for keeping Xander’s parents away from the bar (a job she kinda fails seeing as Mr. Harris found the bar and drank to the point of causing a scene and humiliating his wife.) When it was revealed that Xander took off, Buffy did her best stalling the wedding. She did her best to save the wedding, but things were not in her control.
    I think it makes sense to Buffy, a straightforward idea of finding someone, falling in love and getting your happily ever after. She has such constant doubt over herself and how to handle her future that just seeing someone following a predictable path and being happy was comforting. But the idea is too simplistic. Rather like Xander asking her to keep his dad away from the bar when he had already been sat at it for enough time that he was drunk by the point Buffy found him.

    I didn't know the 'can't tie a tie' thing was an inside joke.

    In the last scene Buffy was upset that Xanya fell off the pedestal she had them on.
    It'll always turn out to be too precarious a place to keep things that are alive, things which will inherently keep moving around and changing.

    “Sometimes, two people ... all they bring each other ... is pain.”

    The scene had a bittersweet air to it. Obviously both characters miss each other. When Buffy reveals that seeing Spike with his date hurts, he immediately responds with “I’m sorry.” He did bring the date to get back at her, but deep down he doesn’t really wanna hurt her.

    Spike suggests that he and his date should leave so that he won’t make Buffy uncomfortable, but Buffy insists that they stay and that she deserves the pain – sometimes Buffy is such a drama-queen – but then Spike tells her she doesn’t deserve to be hurt and so on.
    Yes, the overlay of that line to Buffy and Spike's conversation is obviously very deliberate. It is also then somewhat undercut by the interaction between them moving beyond it and exposing that there is some genuine regard between them. Spike does love her and as much as he very clearly and deliberately is trying to hurt her in making her jealous, he doesn't actually want to cause her any deep pain. His sometimes very contrasting and mixed up feelings have been pretty much a constant and were greatly emphasised in OMWF in his indignation and anger against his concern, his wish to be free of her against his desire to not walk away. The mix of fury and passion, anger and care, wanting to see her happy and living but also trying to draw her to him in the dark is all part of the impossibility of their relationship to function on a healthy level as things stand.

    I think this interaction is supposed to be seen a little bit along the same lines - through reference to the pain they have caused each other so far, Spike's uncertainty whether he'll just sleep with his date simply to try to hurt Buffy, his outright statement that he is evil, alongside there being some clear sadness at separation too. It is somewhat deliberately drawing boundaries around the negativity that grew from their physical relationship as it is more in tone to their interactions at the start of the season. The joke around the dress is cute and their exchange is genuinely charming. A real strength in the scene is in showing again that there always was a genuine connection between them. But it is a moment of calm before we're heading towards another storm as the season heads onwards.

    When Spike tells her that they should go, Buffy asks if they’d go to his place – which I assume is still a mess from last episode – and she fears they’d have sex. Spike reminds her that he’s evil, but then tells her that they wouldn’t have sex, then changes his mind and tells her they would… awkward conversation at its finest.
    Yes it's unclear in the end what way Spike will go, his aim to make her jealous has already worked and I think it works better dramatically towards Entropy to assume he dumped her after leaving. He's obviously feeling more torn from the moment than he had expected to. I suspect in part this is because he hadn't actually thought Buffy would admit that she felt jealous and that it hurt her to see him with someone else. Her admittance breaks down his defensive attitude and you can see the genuine surprise in the subtle facial responses JM always gives so effortlessly. Unfortunately this isn't an easy break up with someone that sees the same barriers and I think Buffy's responses here actually perhaps served to give him more false hope that the relationship will be fixable, that she's beginning to admit her feelings for him, that this may actually turn out to be positive progression in the wider scheme of things.

    There's been an ongoing issue about denial running through their relationship alongside the repeated questions over consent, saying one thing and then behaving in the opposite way that reveals the truth. It all feeds into his confusion and the problems that will come from his inability to see real boundaries and accept/hear what he is being told. What Buffy gives him here won't have felt insignificant.

    I've suggested that he perhaps had thought their relationship was at a meaningful point of change when she came to him in AYW and we saw the clear delight from the surprise of her asking to hear that he loved her. Although she then broke up with him later she also called him by name too, rather then labeling him just a 'thing' again. He's floundering and unsure what to do. How to read her responses that feel like progress despite how it contradicts what she is also saying. He clearly may not be seeing it as definitively over. She's now offered him this, a glimpse of potentially some genuine upset at the idea he'd move on. He'll talk in terms that could be taken as current in NA about appreciating what you've got and looking to get her to admit to the relationship to the group. But it is her outright belittlement of what has happened to him and his feelings in Entropy that cuts more deeply and leads him to embrace the suggestion of moving on as he's told. But then Buffy's response to that again confounds him and he hits breaking point when he tries to force her to admit her feelings, finally overstepping a serious boundary in SR.

    This is not to excuse what he does of course, just to look at the progress to it. The relationship is deliberately shown throughout to be confusing for both of them and complicated in many ways. But his lack of understanding and how it gets to the point where what were issues in the relationship and how they conducted themselves mix together to brutally expose his innate moral/emotional limitation unsouled, reveal his inability to be able to walk the line, is very much built towards across the season. The final negative spiral towards Seeing Red starts when Buffy breaks it off and Spike continues to misread the situation but remains certain at least of what is best for Buffy and so looks to push his beliefs of that and what he thinks she is feeling but denying onto her.

    “You have every right to be here” is such an interesting line. Spike was clearly invited to the wedding. Perhaps Anya wanted more people on her side of family to outnumber Xander’s family?
    I wouldn't assume that just because Clem is sitting behind Xander's mum, so it would be fair to assume that Spike would have been on Xander's side too. Maybe in acknowledgment of having worked together over the summer Buffy was gone, or, considering Clem, possibly as one of 'the team,' as per OaFA.

    I have watched my fair share of American weddings on TV in dramas and sitcoms. The best man is always with the groom or at least hovering nearby. As a best man, I think Willow failed miserably. She was with Xander in exactly one scene in the entire episode. Ross Geller did a heck of a job as Chandler’s best man and had made sure Chandler doesn’t run away with karate – and we all know how much media nowadays hates the poor man’s guts.
    The media hates who's guts?

    I agree with you that Willow doesn't stand by Xander in the way that she should have at first and clearly she was drawn by the opportunity to spend some time with Tara, under the cover of generally busying around the wedding preparations. But there is a role expectation that she is failing to meet by doing this. At least it does sound as if she spoke to Buffy first, but from Xander's perspective she just didn't appear when expected.

    It somewhat matches though with Willow not feeling best man-y, dressed like this rather than like Marlene Dietrich. There is constant consideration given through the episode to heritage, traditions, roles and expectations. In such a formal event, clothing is often used as a commonly understood indicator. Although the traditions are noted to differ between the two main groups with Willow's early consideration of whether the blood larva and burlap would have been preferable. Yet her wish to have been in a 'dashing tuxedo number' instead also emphasises the expectations within cultures can be stifling too.

    Preparing for the event is shown repeatedly around donning the appropriate clothing and Xander's search for his cufflinks, something that Cousin Carol has worn in error having mistaken them for a different item/use (rather like Tony's use of Buffy's purse as a sick bag!), is then later followed with his anxious insistence that his cummerbund has to fit. This especially really emphasises the role of items, the need to meet traditions and fit and the cummerbund becomes a metaphor for keeping things under wraps, not exposing things you don't want to be seen. Everyone is carefully constructing their outward appearances as they are putting on the costumes for the roles they are supposed to play.

    As Anya's gown is revealed she bemoans the tradition of not being able to see Xander in it, despite being desperate to see him straight away. A break from tradition which may have averted the degree to which everything fell apart. Within this I think it's very clever that Xander appears in his wedding outfit throughout the visions. As you say, this really draws attention to the effect these experiences are having on the real person, whether the visions are imagined or not, they are deeply affecting him in the here and now. That both Xander and Anya are both in their wedding clothes still at the end, really makes it feel for me that they are both still completely lost in the moment of what has fallen down around them.

    Now Willow’s scene with Xander is filled with love so deep, especially her “my little Xander” that reminds us that these two knew each other since they were babies. While Hell’s Bells wrecks that only stable romantic relationship in the show, it shows us other relationships, platonic and not, at their best: Buffy/Xander, Xander/Willow, Willow/Tara and Buffy/Spike.
    I agree Sosa there's a contrast given alongside the break down of Anya and Xander's relationship that other situations/relationships may be reaching more positive points than they have been at recently. As much as the group have their distance and issues this isn't anything like The Trio who constantly fail to show genuine consideration for each other as PuckRobin explored. There is genuine love and care between these people and we see glimpses here of some of those dynamics. But with some concerns and secrets still hidden, the potential for further disruption remains. In fact, there seems to be a reoccurring sense of discord lingering over the episode.

    The easy way the guests turn to fighting shows how paper thin the surface over some problems can be. The contextual link in the episode to 'bells' should be for the traditional ringing to announce the newlyweds and for the superstitious warding off of evil spirits. Bells chiming can serve as a signal to an event, to a moment in time (I'll get back to the appearance of time shortly). But they don't get to the conclusion of the wedding, evil had already invaded the day. So meanings for the phrase "hell's bell's", which is generally used as an expression to indicate surprise or irritation or to denote violent intentions (knocking hell's bells out of someone), is far more in keeping than any positive connotations which may have been made to the wedding.

    A likely other meaningful link to the title is to a flower, Datura stramonium, also called Hell's Bells, which can cause hallucinations if ingested. As a member of the nightshade family the poisons it contains are dangerous enough to be fatally toxic. This natural yet dangerous mix actually sits well against some colour meanings associated with the green bridesmaid dresses. One of the most positive natural colours but which also has associations to sickness and so the dresses generally strike me as very symbolic of this feeling of contradiction. The flowers and ruffles emphasise the links to nature (and I can see debbicles' suggested tie to Spring and the sense of starting a new life together in context to the wedding), but for me such a lurid shade's vibrancy speaks more of energy than the calming association more natural shades of the colour often offer. Buffy likening it to radioactivity really just draws the ties to toxicity that match the contradiction of nature and giving life with a natural hidden poison within. I like the similarity of meaning in that which can be brought to the naming of Stewart 'Burns' too, with him stoking the hidden fears that prove to be so destructive.

    We see Dawn bonding with a teenage demon over whose family is more messed up (most clichéd teen conversation ever).
    Ha, isn't it just.

    Giles couldn’t make it to the wedding because he was fighting a demon in England, but he did pay for the flowers which Xander and Anya couldn’t afford. The reason the scene where Willow and Dawn discuss this was cut because the writers’ wanted the audience to forget about Giles’ existence to make his badass entrance in Two to Go more shocking.
    The finances of the wedding confused me. Assuming it was all written as a whole, was this scene also intended to make it clear that Tony Harris is randomly lying about paying for everything? Certainly Anya's reference to imprudent spending on her dress didn't make it sound like it had been bought for her.

    It’s raining throughout the episode and rain here symbolizes noise. When Xander walks in into the wedding hall surrounded by his relatives and Anya’s demons, all he hears is disturbing, incomprehensible clatter. None is stronger than the deafening noise inside him as he struggles between the desire to be with Anya forever and his doubts about the man he will grow up to be. After he learns about his horrid future and the possibility that he might have murdered Anya, Xander walks down in the rain as it crashes down, the internal noise intermingles with the external. Rain here could also symbolize “despair”, “pessimism” and “cold”.

    After Xander reveals his fears and decides he doesn’t gonna go through with the wedding, the noise stops. Everything is clear and calm now, and as Xander steps outside, we can see that the rain stopped and that the sky is bright and clear.
    I love this. How the episode uses the lightening and rain to symbolise inner fears and to create a sense of foreboding doom and gloom is almost over the top in its message. Connecting the rain to the inner maelstrom Xander is experiencing and a sense of white noise from the competing voices and questions he comes out to as well, it's just fantastic.

    Hope you enjoyed.
    Very much so Sosa. I especially appreciated the thought you put into what the intended marriage, their relationship, meant to both Anya and Xander and how you looked back at how they came to be here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rihannon View Post
    The subject of crimes and punishments gives a wide room for discussion, I think.
    Should the punishment be equal to the crime, so the criminal will suffer as much as its victim, no more no less?
    Should the punishment be greater than the sin, so it will become a "cautionary tale" for potential sinners?
    Your thoughts on the balance of crime & punishment here are really interesting Rihannon. As you say, vengeance demons create their own framework for justice and from what Hallie says their ability to sense, to 'hear' someone's pain is what draws them to a potential 'wisher'. But do they actually judge the validity of the accusation or the personal qualities of the person they are granting vengeance for? Is the main objective just to mete out a punishment? As The Wish, Beneath You and Selfless all seem to show, there's an element of 'be careful what you wish for' which means I don't get the impression that a balance of crime/punishment was ever a priority. It is more the utilisation of the emotional distress to get a wish made in desperation or despair. Although there is also the indication that there can be a preferred 'type' of injustice focused on by the demon. But it clearly doesn't even always benefit the person who made the wish, even in the relatively short term. As you say, they seem to take pleasure in inflicting pain and fairness doesn't seem a priority or much of a consideration. In a show that focuses so much on redemption and becoming the best you can be, I think compassion is a good starting point, but consideration should go to whether someone is a wider risk to others.

    I always thought he had good reasons for not marrying Anya, but by no means he should have waited for the wedding to tell her. I guess calling off the wedding before would have taken a lot of guts (and tact, and thinking things thoroughly), since it was very likely that would also mean the end of the relationship with someone he loves. Instead, doing it at the wedding made it a cowardly move, since he hurt her horribly. And what is worse, he did in a way perpetuate the violence cycle, by hurting his loved one horribly, even if he thought that he was saving her a greater pain.
    Like Sosa, I think Xander had fully intended to marry Anya despite his fears until he was persuaded that being married to him would be worse for her. The reality of his parents on top of seeing, actually truly experiencing, those visions was what drove him to call off the wedding. I don't think that he should have gone through with it feeling as he did, but he could have tried to save the relationship at the time if he had been in a clearer frame of mind. For me, it was not staying to face the situation with her and deal with the fall out especially that caused the end of the relationship.

    Also, I think the general comedy tone of the episode makes everything so much sadder and heartbreaking.
    I find the emotional side effective. The only thing that I struggle with is the filler work Buffy tries to do with Anya and the guests when Xander has disappeared, it's too goofy for me. Anya's blind focus on the wedding having her accept the suggestion the minister has gone off to perform a caesarean is a bit too over the top.

    Quote Originally Posted by debbicles View Post
    I'm going to come at this episode from a different angle. In her thread, Circles, Spirals, Symbols: Spuffy, Vertigo, Temporality, SpuffyGlitz terms Hell's Bells the Vertigo episode of Buffy. I've been inspired by you both to look at this episode in a new light of appreciation.
    Now I'm going to have to add Vertigo to my 'to watch' list.

    In Triangle, Xander was willing to sacrifice himself to save Anya. He would definitely pass the test that Winston fails in "1984". But is it enough to be willing to die for someone you love? Isn't it the hardest thing to actually live with them? Every day, day in, day out.
    Being with someone shouldn't be something that you do despite expecting to resent them or it not work though. The chances that you will make them or yourself happy in those circumstances are pretty weak I think. I agree with you that there can be practical reasons for marriage and Cousin Carol's clear loneliness is one of the reasons why some people do turn to marriage. But perhaps if a relationship's starting point is passion and love you need for you to have changed together for a marriage to work based on less than the continuation of what you originally had.

    Also, as my friend Wiki tells me, the phrase Hell's Bells is apparently a nautical expression.
    In the quick googling I did on the title I didn't find that one, it's interesting for the link to the sea captain remark.

    For the last time, indeed. "I love you and will always love you." Anya had seen the destructive power of love, it brought hurt, sadness, pain. But Xander sees her for herself. Anya was a completely different person before she loved Xander. Her voice cuts over Xander walking in the rain. She gets love, finally.
    Anya's developing vows is a really sweet part of the episode as she tries to put into words how much Xander means to her. We get direct call back to her past, who she was before they were together, against who she is now as she prepares for their future. Really at the same time Xander is coming to a decision based on his care for her. But whilst wanting to protect Anya is a significant part of his motivation and that's based on his love for her, it is still negatively succumbing to fears about himself and them.

    The ties across to Sleep Tight really emphasises to me that bad choices can come from very genuine intentions to do the right thing and especially when they are rooted in wanting to make choices for the greater good and where people are made vulnerable to manipulation because of how much they care. That there are fears from projecting trauma that was experienced in the past onto their own futures, some issues rooted in childhood, just brings to the fore how complex and deep the influences on us can be. There's an overriding sense that part of loving deeply is accepting that it makes you vulnerable to pain and capable, despite your best intentions, of causing it for others. To feel that you can prevent some pain or protect from it, can complicate and confuse working out what is the right thing to do because normally we're all only ever guessing at what might be on the road ahead of us. We all have times we might wish we were able to work in hindsight. To be in the position of seeing a possible scenario or hearing of one that is likely/destined and feeling that in that circumstance 'this' would be the right choice. Well, I can see how that could be seductive in offering a sense of surety, that it could be compelling to act upon.

    In a scene reminiscent of Hush and also The Gift, Willow protects and rescues Tara when, as is inevitable, violence breaks out. These two are finding their way back to each other, little by little. The love is still there.
    I have to say, this was one of my least favourite moments in the episode, when Willow saved Tara as the fighting ensued. I've no issue with Willow and Tara reuniting at all, but Tara getting whirled around and turned about in the melee just looked so ridiculously stage school and fake.

    Additional thoughts...
    The theme of time plays its part heavily in this episode, as it has in the season so far. Both here and in Sleep Tight the characters feel under an immediate pressure to make a choice and act. It's in great part why they don't pause or seek counsel as they likely should. The avoidance up to now of facing it openly, before it became so pressured, just adds to the urgency now, creating an emotional pressure cooker. When it finally results in desperate actions it all seems to come somewhat out of the blue for those around Xander/Wes.

    For Xander progression is halted, it's the future vision he was transported to that he is trying to derail after all. So that sense of past/present/future sits heavily over the whole episode and the repeated references across all three throughout emphasises this focus. Past experiences and future hopes and fears, they all affect the present. Alongside the general sense of time, we see continuous focus on actions of preparation, with some indication at points that problems are better fixed when they are shared. Here's just what I got from looking from the teaser through to when Xander steps into the melee alone and is preyed on by Burns...

    • Willow contemplating in hindsight if there is still a chance she could go for the blood larva and burlap.
    • Mention of Anya being a vengeance demon for a thousand years.
    • The experience of the rehearsal dinner the night before.
    • Willow and Xander's connection back to childhood re: her bat mitzvah.
    • It's the happiest day of Anya's whole life.
    • Jessica Harris fussing about being in the pictures, which are of course yet to happen.
    • Tony Harris being reminded he met Krelvin only last night.
    • Krelvin talks of his heritage being insulted.
    • Cousin Carol wondering about whether Krelvin's skin problem would clear up and perhaps looking to date him (there's a sense here she is looking to be able to share her life and raising a child, that she feels it could be easier if she wasn't alone).
    • Xander states they're rolling, the path to the wedding's underway and unstoppable.
    • Xander's cummerbund fitted in the past (as has been said, this links with all that comfort eating, the metaphor for his inner worries causing problems that can't be hidden any longer).
    • Xander having just fifteen/twenty minutes left.
    • Buffy hopes she is as lucky someday, facing that long tunnel ahead.
    • The vows hold promises for the future.
    • Anya is eager to see Xander now, but long held traditions prevent her.
    • Anya's excitement over getting to spend 'forever' with her best friend (emphasis on sharing).
    • The stuffed bison head is frozen in time (and mounted as prey on the wall with perhaps a foreshadowing bridal veil on!).
    • Stuffing being something Uncle Rory used to do and still does for fun.
    • D'Hoffryn's declaration the love they celebrate today faces an almost inevitable decline.
    • Clem's reference to 'ancient ways'.
    • Tony Harris' 'til death do us part'
    • Buffy and Xander going over the list one more time.
    • Buffy will follow Xander 'in a sec'.

    • Generally dressing for the roles ahead.
    • Having breakfast.
    • Karen taking her inhaler (which seems to be preemptively as there are no outward signs of her having an attack, and this sits against Rory's 'fake' electrocution, both perhaps emphasising possible dangers, caution and preparation).
    • Krelvin offering to fix the coffee machine, helping keep things on track (and a nod perhaps to a problem being shared).
    • Tony criticises not being ready yet (which with the tap to his watch kinda spans both lists).
    • Stewart Burns enters in a raincoat and carrying an umbrella, prepared for the weather, as other guests are too.
    • The cufflinks and cummerbund problems get fixed.
    • The rehearsal dinner.
    • Buffy and Xander come up against a hurdle with the bow tie (it's something they need someone else's help for, as Willow is seen helping Tara by holding the dress shut).
    • Anya prepares her vows.
    • Meeting traditions to avoid superstitions of bad luck.
    • The best way to prepare a carcass for taxidermy.
    • Buffy tells Xander he looks ready to get married.
    • Stepping 'into the breach' is a slightly odd expression for Buffy to use for Xander getting ready to head out as it means filling a gap noone else is able to. I think they meant to evoke the similar 'unto the breach' from Shakespeare's Henry V which, although they were looking to fill the breach which was a gap in the wall, unto actually means 'to' not 'into' I believe, and it instantly conveys something different in stepping forward bravely to face the battle ahead. After the rehearsal dinner the sense of facing 'it' again, which goes with the unsaid 'once more' from that famous line, makes this most likely what they were looking to convey I think. It's just unfortunate that 'into the breach' has a specific understood meaning too. In this list it's about facing the battle again.
    • The list of things Buffy needs to manage.
    • Xander heads to meet and greet the guests before the wedding begins.

    Would it have gone differently if Willow had been there to tie the tie? If Buffy hadn't been distracted by news of Spike's date? Again it is everyone's individual focus that is stopping the friends banding together as strongly as they could, even if they aren't destructively focused distractions at these points. Could it have gone differently if Xander had faced Burns' attempt to draw him away with someone at his side? Who knows, but probably.

    There's a general point perhaps that no matter how much you prepare it doesn't mean you can control events and that is part of what plays into the fears and spurs the wish to take action against future worries. But both actions taken by Wes and Xander are about avoidance rather than positively, proactively dealing with the risks and the insecurities that are plaguing them. It's this which ultimately makes them negative responses for me, although I do honestly believe both are grounded in love and genuine concern for others.

    So even when faced with what he is doing to Anya right now in the present, the choice to face these problems and fears alone and prioritise avoiding a possible future remains. Xander believes they went too fast (time again) and denies that they could start over, as if mistakes can't be fixed or choices changed, and their hands separate. Interestingly, it's perhaps uncertain whether both Anya and Xander are just talking about the wedding when they are talking about starting over and 'this' being a mistake or if they are talking about the relationship as a whole. One or both of them could be working on a false understanding of what the other is putting on the line here. Not continuing to discuss what is happening and allowing the separation to expand as they walk in different directions is the key moment. It's the choice to remain alone there that truly splits them I think, and they both turn to face things separately at a time when they could have determined to deal with it all together.

    The talk of lights at the end of the tunnel turning out to be a train sits alongside Buffy's 'I survived' t-shirt. I suppose we can see both to indicate that events we face and hidden problems revealed can be treated as obstacles, not seen as just dead ends. The group face individual struggles this season but will ultimately pull through, it's just how many hits you take on the way and how/if you learn from it in a way that makes you stronger in the long run.
    Last edited by Stoney; 17-09-18 at 11:52 AM.

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    Amazing responses, Stoney! I'm going to reply to some points later.

    One point I wanna talk about in regards to Jessica, I really love how you describe her as manipulative because that's Dr Squidlove's take on her in her fic The Giles Thing - which has, IMO, the most accurate depiction of Xander's parents. I can picture plenty of scenes between Xander and his mother going like this:

    ("You hear the things he says to me."

    "I hear all of it, Mom. I always do."

    "How dare he call me a bad mother. Some model he is, with his parade of jobs."

    "Mom..." He didn't want to do this.

    She smiled tenderly at him, the look Buffy's mom gave Buffy when Buffy was being perky and punny, the look Xander's mom gave Xander when she wanted him to take her side against his dad.)

    A headcanon I used to associate with Xander's mother in the past was her need to pretend that they were a normal family in front of others, but rewatching Hell's Bells, she didn't come across that way. Perhaps it was the nice fruit punch she made for Xander and his friend (Giles in S4) that made me think that way. I'd say that when she's not drunk, Xander's mother is a decent person, albeit too insecure about herself and the relationships in her life. When she drinks she doesn't recognize her only son's voice on the phone and engages in loud fights with his father, unbothered by the kid she was emotionally scarring.
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    I always kind of felt that Xander’s mum was depicted somewhat inconsistently throughout the show. In The Replacement she sounds like she gives as good as it gets when fighting with Tony, including a lot of broken furniture, but in Hells Bells she’s portrayed as being pretty timid when Tony begins losing his temper. And then in The Initinative she sounds like your typical, albeit slightly overbearing mother when offering the boys fruit punch, but her voice and behaviour doesn’t seem at all reminiscent of the mother we see in Hell’s Bells and also seems inconsistent with how neglectful she comes across whenever Xander has spoken about her in the past.

    I guess you could chalk it up to alcohol. A lot of people act differently when they’re drunk and maybe she’s a mean drunk. But she doesn’t turn to the booze the way Tony does when the wedding goes to shit. She just seems all over the place in the few glimpses we ever get of her.
    "You've got ... a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself."

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    Default Normal Again

    The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

    ———William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

    Pain – has an Element of Blank –
    It cannot recollect
    When it begun – or if there were
    A time when it was not –

    It has no Future – but itself –
    Its Infinite contain
    Its Past – enlightened to perceive
    New Periods – of Pain.

    ———Emily Dickinson, 650

    Part here, then, would ye then win release
    From ampler dearth, part, and in peace.

    ———Herman Melville, Clarel

    Thanks, Caveats, Apologies—
    First and most, thanks to you all for bearing with me through illness, recovery, and global self-translation…

    Second, I should note that while holding in its embracing frame to the linear, this reading jumps back and forth, passes too quickly over some scenes that deserve more attention, dilates into the distance, and may verge upon the meandering…. This may be appropriate for an interpretation that takes temporality and the critique of the normative as its primary themes, but it also emerges from my understanding of the episode itself, my sense that it gathers in so much of the future and the past into its folds, opens them out to new understanding… As a result, my reading threatened to metastasize into something quite monstrous—far more monstrous than the form in which it ended its becoming… I have done my best to reel it back to something manageable and coherent, cutting whole sections, if you can believe that after scanning the length of what follows, but I will confess that I found myself inhabited by a constellation of ideas, ideas whose demand proved so implacable that I could not but follow where they led—this has ever been my process as a writer: the work surfaces from somewhere just beside and behind me, and I find my hands and words responsible for its telling…If, this time, my following has led to an infliction of excess upon you, if it has led me to stray from the stated goal, the focus upon this single episode, providing insufficient illumination of it or what surrounds it, then I can but apologize….

    In relation to the above, I do promise, in response to questions or complaints, to explain any questions I have at once raised yet left gaping, any ideas have I failed to fully unravel…. I would also add, add as something of an indirect illumination of my most essential mode of thinking, of becoming, that I am, by trade and way of moving through the world, a critical theorist—as a consequence, this mode of thought could not but bleed into my reading here… And I would add, as well, that if I fail of clarity on the level of theoretical exposition, I promise, too, to make reparation.

    Apologies, further, for any lapses in my attributions of ideas from the works of others here: I have not quoted, as I know I should have, due to lack of space and time, but I have done my best to recall who said what… Where I have lacked in this, I beg forgiveness—

    Apologies, too, for the long, unrelieved blocks of text: incurable Luddite that I am, I remain incapable of adding screen shots to break the blank flow of words…. But I have added section titles to give a sense of what each block contains…

    Apologies, finally, on the part of my dyslexia, which will have produced typos deeply insistent upon resisting all proofing and spell-checking….

    And one last note: I have consulted the shooting script, although I will not be bringing it in here—its primary differences from the text of the actual episode lie in elongations of the Xander-Spike scene and the time Xander spends elaborating upon Spike’s” delusion,” as well as a few other points that go into further detail on matters already clear. For this reason—and, even more, because I find them relevant only to the moment, lacking the insight into the layers of meaning that actions have gathered over the course of the series, because, too, I find authorial intent of limited value in interpretation (call it a professional deformation)—the descriptions of actions that accompany the dialogue I reproduce are my own, not the writer’s, which is why I have enclosed them in brackets, not parentheses. I have also not read any other reviews, articles, on-line comments, or the like (that is not a professional deformation, just a matter of lack of time…).

    Before the Opening: Repeated Scenes and Extended Introductory Thoughts….
    To begin, according to the above, at and before the beginning, with the “Previously On…,” the flashbacks that seek to shape our sense of the to-come:

    As the snippets below indicate, they circle around matters of space, of location—of presence, of absence, of their interplay and interpenetration:

    Xander [in the Magic Box, to Dawn, Anya, and Willow]: …When a Nerd goes into hiding, he really goes into hiding

    Willow [at the Bronze, speaking to Dawn, referring to Tara]: If I did call her, she wouldn’t hang up on me.
    Dawn [in bed, in DT, to Buffy]: You can’t even stand to be with me… You didn’t want to come back.
    Buffy [to Spike]: It’s over… I’m using you, and it’s killing me. I’m sorry—William.

    Anya [Before final rehearsal of her vows and then after her attempt to begin the wedding on her own, when she overhears Dawn divulge Xander’s absence]: This is it… Xander’s missing? What do you mean, Xander’s missing?
    Xander begins with the matter of mere location, of presence-in-hiding, of going missing. For Willow, Tara’s utter absence has begun to soften, begun to edge into the possibility of her return to presence—a return in which Dawn, too, is invested, as it beckons towards a return of Willow and Tara’s enveloping care, the presence of felt belonging—a belonging that Buffy, in her own return to presence, to life, has failed to provide, such that her physical absence from home, from Dawn’s presence, bespeaks a more profound absence even in her being-there, present in the world. In leaving Spike, Buffy claims to be salvaging some essential part of herself, finding a way to end its dissolution, to render her self present to herself—even as, in addressing him by his human name, she gives him a presence fuller than the mere thingness to which she has insistently sought to reduce him, so as to thus efface the possibility that the affective force between them may have a presence, a sense and duration beyond the sheerly physical, its momentary pleasure. Anya speaks her “This is it” as a rehearsal of the vows that she believes will bind Xander to her forever, assure his presence—then, in the face of his absence at the crucial moment of promise, can only react with confusion: “What do you mean Xander’s missing?

    What does it mean to be missing? Or to be found, made present? And what does it mean when one is both? When the missingness cannot be erased, when being found has opened—and perhaps reopened—ever-deepening wounds, when the missingness lingers in every nerve and sinew, in every touch of presence, of the present…?

    In this way, the matter of presence, of space and place, evoked in these scenes calls up the matter of time, of the present, which brings us to the title:

    Normal Again.

    American Aurora, a few weeks ago, recalled that I wrote of BtVS as a critique of normativity, then gave this statement greater focus by locating its center in S6—as if she foresaw, unsurprisingly, much of what I would write now….

    For I, of course, agree—

    Although I would add that that critique is complicated by the thread of normativity that runs through the season’s writing, one that works, at times, to mute its strongly speculative critical force, so that teasing out the differing threads becomes a delicate task…

    But to begin with the title, again, with that “Again”—

    Where and when does the original of which it would be a repetition—and the “Normal” it claims—lie? How can we grasp its duration? The force of its return? Or its cost? And know who pays them?

    Much of value has been given to think, in all that many of you have written above, about the nature and importance of temporality in S6, about the way it punctuates and shapes particular episodes, about the complexity of its forms. At the same time, a running sense of temporal linearity, of before-and-after, persists across the discussions. On one level, this makes absolute sense: Buffy after resurrection does not seem to be the Buffy of before—not the Buffy whom her friends expected to have returned to them, not the Buffy whose missingness Dawn so deeply felt that she sought to snuggle with the Buffy-Bot, not the Buffy whom she herself remembers. Hence her fall into fears of wrongness, into self-blame and -punishment, into the cruelties that striate her relationship with Spike (not that he is not without a role, did not engage in more than a bit of nudging), into her lack of openness to others, those who bear responsibility for her presence and those who so desired it. But a certain normativity shapes this line, the normativity of progressive time, of a movement of recovery that would restore what has been lost and move towards health—it would be, in the terms of this time, but a matter of will, of weakness and strength and personal responsibility, the work incumbant upon the free, autonomous self Buffy is assumed to embody. This is Giles’ pronouncement in justifying his abandonment, one that Buffy herself internalizes, one that Willow’s mistaken assumption of addiction reinforces. This episode shows how much more complex the matter—of temporality, normativity, and their imbrications—has become, and, I would suggest, it puts the notion of “health” itself into question, shows the normative force that shapes it.

    But disentangling that complexity calls for a disentanglement of the constellation of temporal modalities woven into through it—

    Seven Modes of Temporality: Etching (Im)Possibilities of Life—
    Over S6 and across this episode, at least seven different temporalities are in play:

    The temporality of trauma: the event of trauma is distinguished, as I wrote very early in our discussion of this season, by its non-experience. One is not psychically, consciously present to the occurrence of its precipitating event. As a result, the event is not remembered not because it has been repressed—an event must be first experienced to require repression by consciousness, relegation to the unconscious—but inscribed elsewhere in the brain, an elsewhere from which it repeatedly, insistently returns in flashbacks and other, more disguised forms. Time thus convolutes and bifurcates, as every moment of the present is threatened, infibered by the return of the past, every hint of futurity rendered an echo.

    The temporality of depression: to suffer major depression is to exist in a persistent present experienced as the past that is itself felt as absence, for one knows only one’s missingness to oneself, knows only the absconding of the world. One knows that “only” as ever and always, for the future—the chance and change futurity holds, the indeterminacy of hope—comes to be overdetermined, inconceivable, while any memory of another way of being, of another self, of the world, of relation, lies so far distant that it can be felt only as one’s failure, one’s lack of reach. Hence the affectlessness of depression, for, as Jasbir K. Puar writes in The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (2017), “Affect is precisely the body’s hopeful opening, a speculative opening not wedded to the dialectic of hope and hopelessness but rather a porous affirmation of what could or might be.” In this, she continues, affect opens to other temporalities than that of the linear and progressive, opens to becoming—but I’ll save that “porous affirmation of what could or would be” for the end of this section, another modality of time…

    The temporality of Psychosis, of ill-Buffy’s “undifferentiated type of schizophrenia,” to quote the Doctor: This exists utterly outside all norms, all possibilities of presence or relation. An absolute absence. In this, of course, it echoes against Buffy’s memories of her being-dead, where time lacked meaning and her body lacked form—save that there, Buffy knew herself as herself and some relation persisted to those whom she loved, to an elsewhere, to another dimension, while in her delusions, both her body and time itself have determined forms.

    The temporality of the heroic: This was the temporality that determined much of Buffy’s life through the first three seasons, most of S4, and wavering aspects of S5, the temporality of the event, the one in which, as Buffy says to Giles, “We fight monsters—this is what we do: they show up; they scare us; I beat them up, and they go away” (tDA). Heroic temporality is, in its eventfulness, episodic, catastrophic, and cyclical, structuring the shorter and longer periods of Buffy’s life, as represented by single episodes, with their minor monsters, and the arcs of entire seasons, with their Big Bads. It is also creates a kind of defined spatiality—represented most graphically by the Hellmouth itself—, a world of absolute boundaries, of utter right and wrong, of defined certainties, lines to cross or not. And while other modes of time, as represented by school and home, do surface to disrupt the flow of the heroic, the latter still shapes Buffy’s experience of life—until S5, when the major arc of Glory intertwines with the catastrophe of Joyce’s illness and death, which are human, ordinary occurrences, caused by forces Buffy cannot beat up, cannot set fleeing, and she must take up responsibility for Dawn. Heroic temporality thus comes to be insistently interrupted, made by an ordinary violence to interface with another mode of time—

    The temporality of ordinary life in its precarity—the temporality of what Lauren Berlant, in Cruel Optimism (2011), terms “slow death”: “The phrase slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population in a way that points to its deterioration as a defining condition of its experience and historical existence…. It takes as its point of departure David Harvey’s polemical observation, in Spaces of Hope, that under capitalism sickness is defined as the inability to work. This powerful observation about the rationalization of health is an important part of the story, but it is not the whole story, either. Through the space opened by this concept, I offer up a development in the ways we conceptualize contemporary historical experience, especially where that experience is simultaneously at an extreme zone of ordinariness, where life building and the attrition of human life are indistinguishable, and where it is hard to distinguish modes of incoherence, distractedness, and habituation from deliberate and deliberative activity, as they are involved in the reproduction of predictable life.” Life as slow death, which, while all-englobing, presses upon some more than others, largely depending upon their place in social and economic hierarchies of class and race and gender, moves at varying rates of speed and slowness, and it embraces the constant precarities of bills and illness, of daily violence and loss—of klepto sisters who refuse to go to school, of bills and deadening jobs in which every moment—as American Aurora finely noted—is managed, of misogyny and personal cruelties—as well as the pleasures that give us momentary surcease and release, sex and friendship and food (hence the pervasiveness of food in S6, as Stoney insightfully pointed out) and the like. In slow death, with its endemic rhythms, shaped not by ends but endlessness, nothing but thus everything happens, and meaning and memorability come fleetingly, come only as given to dispersion, to “wearing out”—as is the self.

    If S5, with the coming of Dawn, with Joyce’s illness and the consequences of her death, brought slow death to mix and meld with the heroic, S6 is shaped fully by its temporality and tones. Buffy makes the distinction clear when she remarks, in Flooded, that “It’s bills… It’s not the end of the world—which is too bad, ‘cause that, I’m really good at.” And the distinction is made yet more brutal later in the same episode, when her heroism against the demon does nothing to secure her a loan… It thus makes sense that every truly significant act of violence in S6—aside from the AR, which forms a special case—comes as either a human action or one motivated by human action (I am thinking of Puck Robin’s extraordinary discussion of banality and evil here, of the Trio, Incels, and Arendt), that the final move to heroic time and the apocalypse emerges itself from human desire, that Buffy is precisely not the one who saves the world this time, and that the real Big Bad in the season is Life, as what Buffy—and the others—must learn is to live in without always-dying or existing only in erasure. What complicates this task is the way in which Buffy’s life as the Slayer, with its heroic temporality, had begun, in S5, to feel itself like slow death, mere predictable precarity and repetition, one without absolutes or palpable boundaries, “where life building and the attrition of human life are indistinguishable”—

    In The Gift:

    Buffy; This is how many apocalypses for us now?

    Giles: Well, well… Six, at least… It feels like a hundred…

    Buffy: I’ve always stopped them. I’ve always won.

    Giles: Yes.

    Buffy: I sacrificed Angel to save the world; I loved him so much—but I knew: it was right. I don’t have that anymore. I don’t understand. I don’t know how to live in the world, if these are the choices—if everything just gets stripped away. I don’t see the point. I just wish—I just wish my mom was here…

    [Buffy pauses, rises from the couch to leave, then turns around to face Giles again]

    Buffy: Spirit guide told me that Death is my Gift—I guess that means that a Slayer is just a killer after all.

    Giles: I think you’re wrong about that.

    Buffy: It doesn’t matter. If Dawn dies, I’m done with it. I’m quitting.

    This interchange calls for a closer reading than I have time to give; I will just note here the slippage of heroic action, of the event, into bare repetition, the wearing out both Buffy and Giles evince, and the dissolution of the singularity of Slayerness into the common humanity of a killing, the dusting of vampires become one among countless other daily violences. Buffy stopped the slippage, forestalled the dissolution, brought her responsibilities to Dawn in the realm of slow death in line with the temporality of the heroic through the leap of her Gift, through the event of her Death—but upon her resurrection, she finds all she left still there, there and redoubled with financial responsibilities, a demand that she be present to that world of constant precarity, of life as looming and repetitive small crises, of living on and wearing out. And there, even slaying takes on the feel of slow death, of heroism stripped away into bare repetition, such that it fails to return her to a self she might know:

    Buffy: Every single night, the same arrangement:
    I go out and fight the fight;
    But I always feel this strange estrangement—
    Nothing here is real. Nothing here is right.

    And the worst thing about “going through the motions/Walking through the part,” as she will then sing, is that there may be but the part, as American Aurora has so beautifully written—this, too, is an aspect of slow death, of there being only a part to play, a simulacrum, no authentic, originary self to return to at the base, even if that self be but a fiction we have been taught to believe in, such that its absence becomes a source of irreparable guilt we cannot resolve.

    Teleology, the temporality of the progressive movement towards a given, better end: The time that moves in a linear fashion towards a definitive change, the time of improvement, progress, prognosis, getting better. In NA and, indeed, throughout S6, this temporality largely appears in the form of the regulative norms of health, of Buffy’s depression and trauma and Willow’s mistaken addiction, of failed sovereignty of self and weakness, of self-blame and guilt, of wrongness.

    To speak of regulative norms is to recognize our having long resided within the realm of Biopower and Biopolitics—and intertwines the temporality of slow death with that of the progressive. Biopolitics has been theorized by a number of thinkers, such as Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito, but I will be referring to its original articulation by Michel Foucault, first in volume one of The History of Sexuality (1979), then in the lectures collected, after his death (1984), in The Birth of Biopolitics. Foucault theorizes that there has been, since the 17th century, “a profound transformation in the mechanisms of power”: power has ceased to be a simple “power over life and death,” the power to “let live or make die,” where one was subject to the latter only when one became visible to power and the law by acting as a threat, directly or indirectly, to the life of the sovereign. This transformation made all people visible to power, such that they became subjected to—and subjectified through—disciplinary processes—in schools, the military, and related institutions—that focused on the “anatomo-politics of the human body, …on the body as a machine,” designed to form individuals into a “docile bodies,” proper workers for capital and proper citizens for the state. Then, in the early 19th century, what became visible was not simply people as individuals but people en masse, as a species—life itself became visible to power, entered into history. “Power”—which for Foucault is always diffuse, lacking an outside and thus a space of complete escape, ever-circulating without fixed location, although it does habitually linger in, return to certain places and hands—thus became “invested in the social body,… bent on generating forces, making them grow, ordering them, making them submit, or destroying them.” The result was “interventions and regulatory norms” that attended to “propagation, rates of birth and mortality, levels of health, life expectancy, and longevity” and resulted in “the calculated management of life.”

    This led to a reshaping of sovereignty and a shift in the focus of the law, where the latter began to operate more and more as a normative force, exercising a regulatory function, and where the former appeared to be transferred, progressively, to the individual subject, who was now told to think herself set free, made ruler of herself. But, as Foucault warns us, “A normalizing society is the historical outcome of a technology of power centered on life…. We should not be deceived by all the Constitutions framed throughout the world since the French Revolution [sic.], the Codes written and revised, a whole continual and clamorous legislative activity: these were the forms that made an essentially normalizing power acceptable.” And while this gave us “The ‘right’ to one’s body, to health, to happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and beyond all the oppressions or ‘alienations.’ The ‘right’ to rediscover what one is and all that one can be”—these “rights,” too, served to make normativity acceptable. In this sense, Sovereignty, now, through biopower, much as it masks itself as individual freedom, is not that; it involves a more diffuse form of power that operates in complex, often indirect ways, along multiple trajectories, taking multiple configurations, all serving the dominant clustering of interests and forces. In this, it “is not the right to put people to death or to grant them life. Nor is it the right to allow people to live or leave them to die.” Lauren Berlant dilates upon the consequences of this: “Life is the a priori; sovereign agency signifies the power to permit any given life to endure, or not. But biopower, [Foucault] argues, which does not substitute for but reshapes sovereignty, is the power to make something live or let it die, the power to regularize life, the authority to force living not just to happen but to endure in particular ways. The difference between sovereign agency under a regime of sovereignty and under a regime of biopower, then, can be thought of as a distinction between individual life and collective living on, where living increasingly becomes a scene of the administration, discipline, and recalibration of what constitutes health.” And finally, to end with the long quotes, Berlant continues, “Biopower operates when a hegemonic bloc organizes the reproduction of life in ways that allow political crisis to be cast as conditions of specific bodies and their competence at maintaining health or other conditions of social belonging; thus this bloc gets to judge the problematic body’s subjects, whose agency is deemed to be fundamentally destructive. Apartheid-like structures from zoning to shaming are wielded against these populations, who come to represent embodied liabilities to social prosperity of one sort or another. Health itself can then be seen as a side effect of successful normativity, and people’s desires and fantasies are solicited to line up with that pleasant condition.”

    What does this have to do with BtVS? On the first level, we can look at the actions of those with power: Willow’s resurrection of Buffy seeks “to force living not just to happen but”—in her forgetting spell and in other expectations—“to endure in particular ways.” One can read Giles’ desertion in these terms, as well, for much as he appears to be abdicating power, he is actually deploying it, trying to force Buffy to endure as the Slayer whose former being he so admired and loved, whom he deemed healthy. Even more, the temporality of S6 is that of slow death, which is in itself biopolitical, but the characters, especially Buffy herself, cast its crises as the “conditions of specific bodies and their competence at maintaining health or other conditions of social belonging”—especially her own; in this, they show their interiorization of the logic of biopolitics and wield it against themselves, judging their own failures in its terms, as their failures to achieve normative health “or other conditions of social belonging”: Buffy’s trauma and depression, her “wrongness”; Willow’s misuse of magic, her seeming addiction; Xander’s inability to announce or, in the end, go through with his marriage to Anya; even Spike’s inhabitation of the liminal space between monster and man, into which he is forced as much by his feelings as by the chip; and countless other individual difficulties and grave errors. And in this, the characters—except, until the end, Spike—blame themselves for failing to achieve, as well, the fulfillments of progressive time, of the turn to health or social belonging as “a side effect of successful normativity”—for failing to “line up with that pleasant condition.” Thus Buffy, as American Aurora has so perfectly explicated, sees herself as caught between the possibilities of the heroic, moral slayer and the amoral, essentially inhuman lover of Spike, the one who gives herself over not just to sex without love but to attendant ethical lapses—I would argue, however, that here Buffy is deploying (with help from the show’s own puritanical sexual norms) a set of regulative norms against herself, drawing from the dominant biopolitical discourse and shaping it to fit the standards according to which she perceives herself to have lived before her death. What she loses in this self-interpretation and -judgment is the fact that she now lives largely according to neither (anti-) norm, lives largely between them, in the domain of slow death, whose asymptotic relation to death, whose lack of eventfulness—unbearable for one whose life has been defined by events—she seeks to efface through her recourse to terms that call forth wrongness and, with it, the logic of “health” and rightness, of progressive time. But what she actually must needs do, then, must needs find a way to do, is not to become once again the heroic Slayer she thinks she was—we ought to remember that her life then was always striated with a longing for the normal, that even after normality’s explicit thematization ended, related formulations surfaced, such as her fear in S5 that slaying was making her unable to feel, to love, was making her less human—that she must needs find a way to live an otherwise than in adherence to the normative that haunts her as a loss, must needs find a way to live in another relation to it, in another relation to the complications of the differing temporalities of her life. This means, as well, that biopolitics takes up the thematics of the normal as they have run across the entire series, helps us put their stakes and meanings and temporalities into relief—and question.

    Much of what I will write about NA will draw these matters out, but to complete setting up that explication in the specific shapings of life and time in S6:

    Buffy tells Tara, in DT, that the only time she feels anything is with Spike, but this is not quite accurate: as she confesses to the “dead man’s ear” in AL, she feels intensely upon her return to life—but does so aslant herself, as if out of sync with the time of her being:

    Buffy: I was happy—wherever I was… I was happy—at peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was alright… I knew it. Time didn’t mean anything. Nothing had form—but I was still me, you know? And I was warm. And I was loved. And I was finished—complete. I don’t understand theology or dimensions—any of it, really… But I think I was in heaven… And now I’m not. I was torn out of there, pulled out—by my friends. Everything here is hard and bright and violent: everything I feel—everything I touch… This is hell. Just getting through the next moment and the one after that, knowing what I’ve lost… They can never know—never.

    Everything here is hard and bright and violent: everything I feel—everything I touch…. This is hell: Buffy feels—feels the world pressing too closely upon her—it is, in that pressure, if anything, too present… And that presence, its pressure will but redouble with the entry of bills, with the call of obligations from family and friends, Dawn and Willow and Xander—a shaped and shaping pressure that forces Buffy herself to take shape again, to regain form, a form in which she can, perversely, no longer say that “I [am] still me, you know?” For caught in the density of the pressures of the world, the world’s thick, insistent presence, Buffy can, in her depression, but sink away from it, abscond through a downward spiral into absence—a literal de-pression, a new kind of dissolution—her response to finding herself unable to move through the world as she once did, move freely, or relatively freely, in relation to its regulative norms.

    Buffy walks through the world in dissolution, dissolution in the formless form of depression in part, too, due to the dissolution of a fundamental certainty, that of the boundary between life and death, of the certainty of the event that she had held death to be. This, as well, brings her into the temporality of slow death; in Berlant’s words, “While death is usually deemed an event in contrast to life’s ‘extensivity,’ in this domain dying and the ordinary reproduction of life are coextensive.” And that coextensivity leaves Buffy haunted, on the level of her very body, in the endings of her nerves, along the sinewy lineaments of her every move, through the muscle memory of her slayerness, by the ghost of the way in which she once could be in the world, could move and find something that she knew as life-building force, can know feel only as a slow plodding toward a death she cannot trust will ever come—or stay.

    Yet any simple return to that body, much as she partially lives in it, to the life it had, is blocked not alone by the fact of her resurrection and what it means. She finds it blocked as well by the agents of her resurrection, by the very members of the world who, as I will fully explicate below, gave her the power, helped her create the space to move in freedom—the friends who became her family, who wove her to the world and assured her survival, who helped her discover the freedom to be more than the normative, short-lived Slayer. For those friends become, upon her resurrection, themselves a normative force, begin to take the shape of a normative demand, another pressure upon her, a pressure furthering her depressive disappearance. They do not mean to do this, of course, but in resurrecting Buffy, as Willow and Xander and the others do, or in so desperately welcoming her return, as Dawn does, her friends and family meet her with expectations “to endure in particular ways,” expectations that she be a particular Buffy, the one they knew and loved—that that Buffy may not be the one whom they brought to life remains inconceivable to them. They do not greet her with an openness, an opening space in which she would be able to move into a new becoming, a becoming newly made by death and its undoing. Nor is Buffy alone in finding what had been lines and spaces of freedom become normative demands: with Life as the season’s Big Bad, this is something that all the major characters face—Willow discovers constraints in the power magic granted her, while Xander finds the bonds of marriage as Anya imagines it facing him—and then, even worse, the bonds of his possible imaginings of himself—and how they all deal with these constraints, or fail to deal, forms the arc of the season, the arc of their response to Life as slow death entrammeled in regulative norms of biopower.

    There remains more to say, of course, but that belongs to later sections—and to discussions that extend beyond this episode, forward and back….

    One Final Theoretical Moment: Two Definitions
    To complete the explication of temporal modes—:

    Two words, words with precise definitions—Affect and Becoming—combine to adumbrate the shape of the final modality, so I thought it would be best to adumbrate it through them:.

    This word is often taken as a synonym for feeling or emotion, but that is exactly not what I mean by it. “Affect” denotes, instead, an ontological sensation distinct from a perception of sensation—that is, affect is autonomic, preconscious, prelinguistic, and impersonal. It is also relational—I have seen it described as a “betweenness”—that palpable yet ungraspable something that flows amidst us and all we meet—people and things, living and dead, organic and inorganic—all that emits world-making forces. Affect thus flows among, glancing upon, passing through, to create relations that cannot be reduced, defined into discrete relationships, but that precisely for this reason move through and against us, shaping, to give our being in the world, our sense of belonging or its lack. As Bruno Latour writes, in words that encapsulate, in many ways, Buffy’s state through much of S6, “to have a body is to learn to be affected, meaning ‘effectuated,’ moved, put into motion by other entities, humans or non-humans. If you are not engaged in this learning, you become insensitive, dumb, you drop dead”—and Buffy has dropped dead in a sense: her depression has left her affectless, unable “to learn to be affected,” to experience the touch and be set in motion by other entities, which is, for Latour, to be put in, ultimately, in ethical relation with the entities whom the world comprises.

    In these terms, one concrete way to think affect is to imagine entering a full room—a party or a meeting, any formal or vaguely formal gathering of people and things, say—where one is struck by a sense (there is not a proper English word for what I mean… as one of my professors tended endlessly to say, “It is perfectly clear in the German…”: Stimmung), a pressingly ungraspable, indefinable somethingness, an intensity at work between every one—person or thing—there, moving against and under their conscious knowledge even as it flows through their fingertips, directing the angle at which they hold their drinks; torquing the tone and sense of the words they utter, the energy they emit. And you know, as you enter, if you enter, without fully acknowledging it, perhaps, that this flow will envelop and enter you as well—no choice comes into play, here, and consciousness does no good—moving you into the unknown in ways that you will not, at the moment, be able to see, to catch, even as you will move it, set ripples running across it by your entry. Affect here has been created by the chance confluence of bodies and minds and moments and forces (power and its lack), has gained its considerable power from those unpredictable intersections, creating, thus, unpredictable effects, indeterminacies. And the only way to escape then is to become affectless, a track all too many people take—to, as Bruno Latour says, metaphorically “drop dead,” which occurs not only through depression but through more willful closings-off of the self to its, to the world’s, intensities, as we see the members of the Trio do, each in his own way, to his own degree.

    At the same time, none of this means that affect cannot be controlled and manipulated—when Lauren Berlant speaks of the ways in which biopower seeks to direct our fantasies and desires, she is referring, in part, to its manipulation of affect, since it is from affect, to a significant degree, that fantasy, with its opening to futurity, is born. Yet despite this susceptibility to external control, affect can serve as a powerful force of resistance to the regulative norms of given power, of sovereignty—be it that of the state or the self, which is, frankly, despite its pretensions to freedom, too often given to the disciplinary and regulative manipulations of hegemonic forces, led to the interiorization of regulative norms, mistaking them for modes of freedom and self-expression (remember what Foucault wrote, as I quoted above, about not being fooled by constitutions and rights… think about the delusions of freedom Facebook creates…). One way to think this is in terms of affect’s relation to temporality—I will fully unravel this next, but for now, let me turn, briefly, to Brian Massumi. To rely upon my memory, with help from Jasbir K. Puar’s discussion of affect, given that my copies of Massumi’s books are either still in boxes or somewhere on a ship crossing the Indian Ocean, making their slow way to me… First, to quote from Puar: “’The body,’ Brian Massumi argues, ‘passes from one state of capacitation to a diminished or augmented state of capacitation,’ always bound up in the lived past of the body but always in passage to a changed future.” This is why, in Parables of the Virtual (2002), Massumi connects affect to what physicists call a “bifurcation point”: that just-before of the event, that just-before determination, when futurity is fully open, when the truly new hovers, when possibility open looms (or, to be Dickinsonian, Possibility – !).—in passage to a changed future. Possibility – ! And then, then fall the cuts of emotion, identity, perception, language, abstract thought, naming, the personal… all these things are affect’s capture, its delimitation, the closing off of at least part—how much depends upon one’s openness, how committed one is to the concept of the self as given, autonomous, fully agential and free, how willing one is to see the self as an open, provisional assemblage with porous boundaries, made and making in relations with the world—of affect’s radical force into the particularities of the sovereign self (or the forces of power that would control or regulate it), bent on knowledge, defined and interpretable emotion, policing of bodily boundaries, clear expression of self, and mastery. The self of progressive time, the one who knows what is to come because the good is always already given, for whom Possibility – ! stirs only fear in its boundlessness….

    But one need not live, as I will show through Buffy’s becoming in relation, in her openness to the call of the other, her living into that other’s suffering, in such foreclosure. As Massumi, whose words will close this explication, says in an interview (collected in the book The Politics of Affect (2015)): “I use the concept of ‘affect’ as a way of talking about that margin of manoeuvrability, the ‘where we might be able to go and what we might be able to do’ in every present situation. I guess ‘affect’ is the word I use for ‘hope.’ One of the reasons it’s such an important concept for me is because it explains why focusing on the next experimental step rather than the big utopian picture isn’t really settling for less. It’s not exactly going for more, either. It’s more like being right where you are—more intensely.”

    The ideas that constellate into “becoming” emerged, first, from the work Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, drawing upon Nietzsche and Bergson, in A Thousand Plateaus (1980/brilliantly trans. 1987 by Massumi). There, they write that “A line of becoming is not defined by points that it connects, or by points that compose it; on the contrary, it passes between points, it comes up through the middle, it runs perpendicular to the points first perceived, transversally to the localizable relation to distant or contiguous points. A point is always a point of origin. But a line of becoming has neither beginning nor end, departure nor arrival, origin nor destination; to speak of the absence of an origin, to make the absence of an origin the origin, is a bad play on words. A line of becoming has only a middle. The middle is not an average; it is fast motion, it is the absolute speed of movement. A becoming is neither one nor two, nor the relation of the two; it is the in-between, the border or line of flight or descent running perpendicular to both. If becoming is a block (a line-block), it is because it constitutes a zone of proximity and indiscernibility, a no-man’s land, a non-localizable relation sweeping up the two distant or contiguous points, carrying one into the proximity of the other–and the border-proximity is indifferent to both contiguity and to distance.”

    The second time I taught D&G (as my students and I tended to call them), I assigned the chapter on becoming, from which I have taken the lines above; one of my then less-diligent students wrote in the required blogpost, “Going back to the concept of becoming and affect from a social aspect, our whole adult life is us becoming, and us being affected by out past experiences, the transitional time period from being a teenager to being adult is where the affect happens” (I can post this here because there is no chance that anyone will ever be able to identify the author… And if the author happens to read this—this person knows how highly I came to value the work she later produced, produced in her own becoming… ). When we began to discuss the blogposts in class, other students questioned these statements: they liked the connection between affect and becoming, but they felt that the author had confused a linear, progressive temporality, where the past determines the future, with becoming—most of them were not quite ready to offer their own definitions of becoming, but they knew it was not linear, predictable development over time, what we think of as teleology or “growth.”

    This is what D&G mean when they write that “A line of becoming is not defined by points that it connects, or by points that compose it; on the contrary, it passes between points, it comes up through the middle….” Becoming does not arise through its determination by what has come before, by the past, the given, which why it “is not defined by the points that it connects,” why “it passes between points.” We tend to think of temporal movement as emerging from the past, moving through the present, shaping the future out of the past—but such thinking renders the future already given, determined, renders true futurity, creation, newness, impossible. In thinking becoming, D&G are seeking the thought of possibility—Possibility – ! — of an opening to indeterminacy, the truly new, creation. Hence their insistence upon the betweenness of becoming, its non-determination by either of the points that it connects in time. Hence, too, their thinking of time not as the passage between a series of steps along a plotted path, passing from one event to the next, moving towards a known end—birth to death—but as a constant flux that has neither “origin nor destination.” Time itself, in this sense, is not the passage between events but eventfulness itself: “A line of becoming has only a middle. The middle is not an average; it is fast motion, it is the absolute speed of movement.” Time is sheer change, the production of differences, where differences must be thought in the positive sense, in terms of multiplicities, not in the negative sense, in terms of binaries and difference from the-same, where difference would always bear the determining shape of the same it negates, where it would take the shape of the predictable difference, which has always been the tradition in Western Metaphysics, rather than the unknown shape of Possibility – ! And it is as change, the making of differences, that “A becoming is neither one nor two, nor the relation of the two; it is the in-between, the border or line of flight or descent running perpendicular to both.” A becoming “is neither one nor two, nor the relation of the two” precisely because its differences resist reduction to difference from the-same—a binary relation in which the different is shaped by the same, determined by it, to be its negation, as in good/bad or man/woman—because, instead, differences proliferate into indeterminable multiplicities. Becoming is thus “the in-between,” resisting complete determination by either point of its eventfulness; and it is “the border or line of flight” in that the latter, the “line of flight,” designates, in D&G’s vocabulary, the escape from the given, from determinations, from what I have been terming the forces of regulative norms—a line of flight that opens futurity, creations unknown.

    D&G’s talk of betweenness, combined the connection my student made, indicate the imbrication of becoming and affect; indeed, affect does not simply enable becoming, open the body to its possibilities—D&G will write that “Affects are becoming.” Or, in more detail, to complete the passage from Jasbir K. Puar that I began in the section on depression, with which I will end this one: “Affect is precisely the body’s hopeful opening, a speculative opening not wedded to the dialectic of hope and hopelessness but rather a porous affirmation of what could or might be. It is thus not an opening toward or against or in relation to a teleological notion of time, prognosis time, or forces that simply resist or disrupt progressive time. Affect moves us away from terms such as ‘past,’ ‘present,’ and ‘future’ to reorient us around what Manuel DeLanda calls ‘non-metric time’: speed, pace, duration, timing, rhythms, frequency. Time becomes less an epistemological unit of organization and is instead thought of as ontologically irreducible, constitutive to becoming, a speculative opening—indeed, time in affective terms is becoming itself.”

    And it is into such time that Buffy must learn to live—something that will not fully come in this episode… But here, we will learn, ourselves the history of Buffy’s becomings, her periods of dropping dead in her blockages of affect, and her first shimmers of reopening….

    (More in about an hour… And that more will address itself directly to the episode...)

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    Fantastic SoS, thanks for posting. I'm really looking forward to reading your thoughts on the ep and am just providing a buffer so you can put up your next part as and when you're ready.

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    Default Normal Again, part ii

    The Opening, ACTS I & II: Almost to Elsewhere—Nearings, Resoundings, Returns

    OPENING—Almost, Too Close, Elsewhere

    We begin with Buffy on the hunt—but tonight brings difference: this is not the repetitive patrolling of the graveyard, the predictable policing of the vampire population that has characterized most of her work as the Slayer this season. No. She has a list, a list with many items crossed out in red, indicating a search in progress. Weeks may have passed since DT, but Buffy has finally, it seems, taken up the search for Warren and his pals, begun working into a heroic temporal arc, entered into “going through” more than just “the motions.”

    Cut to Jonathan, asleep before a screen, awakening to squirts of water, then the mean-spirited laughter of Warren and Andrew: “Your face is priceless!” the latter exclaims, while the former scolds Jonathan for sleeping on watch—“again.” As Jonathan complains about their living conditions, the close quarters, the immurement, he tells them “I’m going Jack Torrence in here.” This reference to the protagonist of The Shining lightly threads him to Buffy, who, in one of her crueler and more desperate actions, had typed a version of the repeated proverb that made up mad Jack’s great American novel into her social worker’s folder as a sign of that woman’s seeming mental disturbance. Threading Jonathan to Buffy as well, over this episode and historically: the threat of madness, the experience of depression, and the sense of outsiderness, of wrongness, as we will soon find Jonathan excluded from the inner circle of the Trio, a nerd among nerds—an outsiderness that will stem, in part, from his discomfort with the ethical trending of their actions and prefigure his turn against Warren, his awakening, in SR. But before the group tension can further manifest itself, Warren sees Buffy on the monitor and calls for Andrew to “play [his] little friend”—to summon a demon.

    Back to Buffy, who, it turns out, was nearing her goal—until they saw her first and dropped a distancing force upon her in the form of a waxy demon. Buffy quips and fights—well enough, if not masterfully—until it pokes her with a nasty-looking stinger.

    Her stinging spins us into an elsewhere, gives us a wan, bedraggled-looking Buffy struggling to get away from some orderlies who are holding her down, whose efforts are followed by a command to sedate her—then a poke with an ordinary-looking needle…. And a pan outward, to the hallway of a hospital ward, to distance-faced patients and nurses, ghosts absent to each other and themselves….

    Cut to the Credits….

    ACT I—Nearings, Missings, Slippages

    Buffy comes to, confused. Awakens, for a second unsure of what or where, of perhaps who she is. Awakens, unsure—an act that punctuates the season, forms part of its arc. Awakens, but incompletely, still haunted—as she has been all season, as she will be until she can fully awaken in Grave, find a way to live in the presence of her varying temporalities, including that of the past’s haunting, live them together, forming a different modality of time…

    The act the begins in Buffy’s distancing from both self and surroundings: much of its remainder comprises a series of nearings, some missed, mixed with further distancings and slippages—

    We begin with Willow at school, waiting for Tara, rehearsing opening phrases, all of which point toward progressive recovery, of love refounded and health re-established: a possible meeting for “coffee… gay love,” an announcement of the days (“insert number here”) that she has been free of magic. But as Tara nears Willow, she is also nearing, embracing another woman, kissing her cheek—Willow instinctively flees, leaving Tara to glimpse but her retreating back, to feel but worry of a chance, a nearing missed, of a possible misreading.

    Then the DoubleMeat—slow death in its most palpable form—where Buffy stares vacantly, infected by the demon’s juice, or the memory of its affects, or both…

    Over-voice of someone calling her name:

    Buffy first hears and sees this as a nurse—she is back in the asylum hallway, there, too, staring vacantly—telling her that the time for her drugs has come—

    Buffy then hears and sees this as the voice of her manager, Lorraine, calling out to her, telling her, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think that you were on drugs”—to which Buffy can only mumble a deadened “Okay… good,” her stare still vacant, as if she were speaking to the nurse, and turn back to the deep-fryer, from which she pulls, yet more vacantly, a basket of fries as charred as her mind seems to be.

    Then home, where Buffy, changed out of her uniform, comes down the stairs, manifesting a marked effort at energy, to find Willow at the computer.

    In this scene, we have nearings, the approaches of friendship, of comfort and acceptance and reassurance and honesty—none complete, but nonetheless nearing presence, nonetheless bespeaking presencing, the desire that moves it: Buffy seems, in her conversations with Willow and Xander, to be close to actually there, to be present, rather than masking absence with the appearance of presence, as she has been all season. (One of the remarkable aspects of SMG’s acting this season has been her ability to portray that masking beneath Buffy’s every gesture and expression.) Willow and Buffy discuss Xander’s possible actions—until Buffy asks why Willow is “all home, hearth, and DSL” rather than meeting Tara. When Willow details her attempt, Buffy first retreats a bit, falls into defeatism, with an “I’m sorry”—until Willow expresses an alternate possibility, and a sentence worthy of S2 Buffy emerges: “Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen,” accompanied by a reassuring touch. When Xander enters, the two women rush to meet him with relief and acceptance—“You don’t have to explain to us,” words of the unconditional—and with friendship-born skepticism and truth when he asks of Anya and expresses hope to repair the damage he has done. “She was a little—she was kind of broken,” Buffy tells him bluntly, and both greet his hopes not with blind acceptance but the askance they deserve. What we have here is the Scooby core tentatively returning to itself, at least nearing itself: their life may still be that of slow death, with its precarities and wearing out, but that includes the comforts of friendship and its givings: “We all screw up.”

    Comfort and giving bring us to Spike and Buffy in the graveyard, where tension—expectancy, its small dashing, admonishment, and Buffy’s flustered attempt to hide their closeness upon the appearance of Willow and Xander, Spike’s responding frustration—mixes with dense familiarity, their fall into easy conversation about the wedding, sitting together. Then the rise of repetition, when the conflict between Spike and Xander, threatens to break into banal violence. As Willow attempts to calm the men down, Buffy first pleads for a stop, then turns to flight, ricocheting back to the asylum just as Xander’s fist extends itself toward Spike, just as that banal violence explodes—

    There, in her cell, in a conversation between the bedraggled ill-Buffy, on the floor and wedging herself into a corner, and a psychiatrist, bending down over her in a most caringly paternalistic mode, the full nature of her situation reveals itself:

    Doctor: Buffy, can you hear me?

    Ill-Buffy: What is this?

    Doctor: Do you know where you are?

    Ill-Buffy: Sunnydale…?

    Doctor: No, none of that is real. You’re in a mental institution. You’ve been with us for six years. Do you remember?

    Ill-Buffy gives him a look of incomprehension, verging on horror, and shrinks yet further into the corner. The possibility of his words sends her fleeing back—

    Into the impact of Xander’s blow, as Spike tumbles backwards and over—

    Doubled over as if herself struck by Xander’s first, doubled over from the force of the hallucination and its meaning, Buffy finally attracts her friends’ attention, but their question of what has happened, the thought of telling, sends her into flight again—

    Ill-Buffy edges frantically yet further from the doctor, even as he assures her that it is “Okay”—

    Doctor: Look. Look who’s here—

    [Ill-Buffy looks up to see her mother leaning toward her, her father in the background—]

    Joyce: Buffy—welcome home, sweetie.

    Ill-Buffy’s face shows disbelief—distrust—with just a tinge of horror still—

    Fade out, end of act.

    ACT II

    Opening Explanations and Responses

    Back at the asylum. Ill-Buffy’s face opens out a bit: “Mom…?”

    To which Joyce responds, “Oh Baby, you’re really here—“

    Ill-Buffy’s face opens out a bit, but she never comes to full presence—and as the words flow, her expression indicates increasing distress, an unwillingness to trust, to believe—either what she sees or what it might mean. The Doctor tells her parents to talk to her, that their voices, in their sounding, “will ground her”—draw her forth into full being-there. But as Hank assures her how much they have missed her, his “Honey, can you hear me?” suggests her fading, a suggestion intensified by Joyce’s “Oh Baby, stay with us, please—“

    But ill-Buffy is gone, back to Sunnydale, where, head down, Buffy moans “No”—be it to the asylum and her parents, or her return away from them, or the violence she reappears into, unclear—

    As her friends cluster round her, she assures them of her well-being, despite her obvious distress; Xander bruskly brushes aside Spike’s offer of his crypt as a place of care with “She’s our friend.” And as he and Willow guide Buffy home, Spike can only say, with futility, “A little ice on the back of her neck… She likes that…” The last said to himself, a reminder of the secret intimacy now absent.

    Back at home, Buffy sits tensely in the comfy chair, Willow, Xander, and Dawn on the couch; while Willow and Xander listen attentively, showing concern and trouble, Dawn’s face is most often a mask, her stare focused less on her sister than on some distanced blank space, distancing. Buffy, for her part, attempts a nearing, a truth-telling, but it proves a struggle, as her face reveals, not just to tell but to remain in presence, there, for them….

    Buffy: I’ve been having these flashes, hallucinations, I guess. Then it was like—no, it wasn’t like—I was in an institution.

    [Dawn turns slightly to the side, fidgets, discomforted— remembering, as we will later learn, an earlier loss of her sister—]

    Buffy: They told me that I was sick—I guess, crazy—and that Sunnydale and all this, that none of it was real.

    [Dawn fidgets more, looks around… When the camera turns to her again, we see that she has grasped Xander’s arm for comfort… Her first turn to Buffy comes only when Buffy addresses her directly:]


    Buffy: Mom was there—

    Dawn: She was—?

    Buffy: Dad, too. They were together, like they were before Sunnydale.

    [Dawn’s face falls back into a mask…]
    Of course, we know that Joyce and Hank were falling apart before Sunnydale—that Buffy describes their presence as she does suggests the infection of the Sunnydale dimension with elements of the asylum—and an asymmetry between its Buffy’s world and that of the Buffy we have come to know…

    Willow takes charge, divvies up responsibilities, but this taking up of the task, of the finding of solutions, sends Buffy into flight—as it but recently has before. This time, however, she does more than go for a walk…

    Back in the asylum, ill-Buffy has remained lucid long enough to be brought into the Doctor’s office, where she crouches in a chair beside her parents.

    The Doctor begins to speak of recovery, and Joyce interrupts to ask, “Are you saying Buffy could be like she was before any of this happened?” To this, the Doctor begins a long excursus on ill-Buffy’s “undifferentiated type of Schizophrenia”—detailing the specifics of her delusion, ending with “Every time we think we’re getting through to her, more fanciful enemies magically appear…”

    The word “enemies” provokes an extreme reaction in ill-Buffy: up to this point, her face has been a shifting surface of emotions, as if she were struggling to remain present and understand what had happened to her, but now she becomes agitated, squirms urgently upward, saying “Enemies… Warren… Jonathan… They did this to me…”—her very voice a grasping. This could be ill-Buffy falling back into her delusion, driven by the Doctor’s words to make sense the only way she can—or it could be the actual Buffy breaking through the delusion, seeking to make sense of it and find her way out. Either way, the struggle is short-lived, momentarily stilled by the Doctor’s next words, in which he tries to quiet her, assuring her, addressing her for the first time in this scene: “Buffy, it’s all right. They can’t hurt you here. You’re with your family.” But the word “family” only further disturbs Buffy—whichever one is acting here, or both—provoking her to put her hands to her head and almost moan, as if in pain, “Dawn…?”—perhaps seeking her here or feeling her own abandonment of her sister, yet again. To Hank’s question, which shows the knowledge he and Joyce have taken the care to gather, their familiarity with the specifics of her delusions, “That’s the sister, right?” the Doctor responds with his own interpretation of Dawn’s appearance:

    Doctor [to Joyce and Hank]: The magical key. Buffy inserted her into her delusion, actually rewriting the entire history to accommodate a need for a familial bond….

    Doctor [continuing, turning to ill-Buffy now]: But that created inconsistencies, didn’t it? Your sister, your friends, Sunnydale aren’t as comforting as they once were, are they? They’re coming apart.

    Joyce [urgently]: Buffy, listen to what the doctor is saying. It’s important.

    Doctor [still to ill-Buffy]: You used to create these grand villains to battle against, but now, what is it? Just ordinary students you went to high school with. No gods or monsters. Just three pathetic little men who like playing with toys…
    We do not see Buffy’s reaction: we can only assume that she came to, fled back to herself, remained there with sufficient stability for Xander, Willow, and Dawn to think it safe to leave her and go about fighting the fight. The scene abruptly switches, instead, to the “three pathetic little men who like playing with toys.”

    But before we join them, some thoughts:

    The Doctor’s Version and Buffy’s Unconscious
    The Doctor is an unreliable interpreter—either that, or the version of Sunnydale he is getting is not a full and accurate one—or not the same one as that which our Buffy has been living. For did Dawn actually appear due to Buffy’s “need for a familial bond?” When she does, Buffy and Joyce are closely bonded. Moreover, Buffy did not “rewrite the entire history”—her memories were rewritten by the Monks, yes, but she became aware of this, as did the others, able to distinguish between what actually occurred and what she felt did. Notice, too, that the Doctor offers no details of the defining human crises of Buffy’s life: her parents’ divorce and Joyce’s death. From his perspective, it seems, as from Joyce and Hank’s, all was goodness, normality—the good life of the normative nuclear family—before the onset of ill-Buffy’s illness; as happens with Schizophrenia, it came out of no where, had no precipitating cause (save, we can assume, genetics—but there is also no mention of that). And her parents seem to have no understanding of why their appearance would be such a shock to ill-Buffy, so hard to accept, so impossible to trust—no sense that within the delusion, Joyce is dead, Hank off in Spain with his secretary, living the cliché. Finally, the “inconsistencies” the Doctor names, the fact of her delusions becoming less comforting, his focus on Warren and the others as the Big Bad—this is his reading of the surfacing of the temporality of slow death into that of the heroic, their intertwining, something that he has to efface if he is to maintain the normative line of interpretation of ill-Buffy’s fall into illness and her prior life, the possibility of her return to health, if he is to not see that the battle Buffy faces in S6 is not so much against the Trio as it is with—in, about being part of—Life.

    Of course, to speak of the Doctor not being aware of or effacing, suppressing, is to speak of Buffy herself doing so, following the workings of the demon juice. I will have more to say about this, about the Doctor, in particular, below. At this point, I must simply note, note and underline: it is not Buffy’s unconscious that is working here, creating the delusions, for the Doctor speaks too much in negations, in terms of what is not true or real, speaks to much in the language of norms. But in Jacques Lacan’s reading of Freud, the unconscious knows no negation: it knows contradiction for this reason, yet there is no word for “no” in the unconscious, which means that it does not know death, that it does not know norms of any kind—although it can know, through repression, the affects of those norms—including no normative sexuality or any form of sexual taboo. The significance is twofold: first, Buffy’s delusions are not a product of her unconscious but her preconscious, the part of her brain accessible to memory, to the conscious mind, even if only dimly or indirectly, the part susceptible to the workings of regulative norms, their interiorization; second, these delusions are not the expression of Buffy’s deepest desires, for such desires emerge from the unconscious alone. Thus in reading Buffy’s delusions, in reading all the Doctor says, the manifestations of Joyce and Hank, Buffy’s response, we must read them not as articulations of Buffy’s desire—they speak, instead, from a different part of her self, the part shaped by biopower and its regulative norms (and, as I will show below, by trauma). At the same time, this does not mean that Buffy’s responses to her delusions do not emerge from her unconscious, that her responses do not thus, to at least some extent, express dimensions of her desire, some of which she may recognize—and some of which may still, even at the episodes end, remain to her unknown, awaiting a later unfolding.

    “Three pathetic little men,” briefly—
    We find Jonathan inside, seeing Andrew and Warren return from a trip outside, something that intensifies his feeling of being an outsider within. And Warren further exacerbates this feeling by goading Jonathan, asking him if he thinks they are “plotting against” him, telling him he’ll be told what they’ve just brought “As soon as you stop being all freakazoid.” And when Jonathan tries to act on his own, to go outside, Warren turns paternalistic, condescending, speaking of safety and togetherness, taking Jonathan under his arm with what looks like affection but is more a kind of threatening repossession, a use of his bodily height and emotional sway. In this, Jonathan, whose discomfort and doubts have been growing at least since Katrina’s murder (although, in the moment, he quickly sunk away from his doubts as opposed to acting, sunk into following Warren), again acts as a faint mirror of Buffy, struggling to understand and return to something that would be herself (although Jonathan has a much fainter sense of self, save as a bullied loser…). But Warren reels Jonathan back in with a promise of the coming of progressive time to be achieved together, a time of event and change, a time that reaches towards the (anti-)heroic temporality about which Jonathan has always fantasized: “I know you’re antsy, but things are about to pick up, big time; we just gotta be careful… stick together.” In all of this, we can see the Trio, too, formed by the regulative norms of biopolitics—and dreaming of an escape from slow death through an accession to sovereignty and anti-heroic temporality. We can see them, too, as negative reflections of the Scoobies in terms of friendship—or, rather, their lack thereof, as Tiny Tabby and Puck Robin very finely demonstrated—and thus unable to give the comforting moments of release from the pressures of slow death that affection can provide.

    Finally, we should see them all, following Bruno Latour, as living outside their bodies, lacking affect: “to have a body is to learn to be affected, meaning ‘effectuated,’ moved, put into motion by other entities, humans or non-humans. If you are not engaged in this learning, you become insensitive, dumb, you drop dead” It is not that the members of the Trio do not feel emotions—we have seen them express anger, distress, and other feelings—but those emotions come to them through the suppression of the experience of affect that precedes them, the bifurcation moment, that opening to futurity and chance, to becoming and ethical relation that affect brings. There comes to them, thus, no learning to be affected, effectuated, by the entities of the world—hence their insensitivity, their dumbness, in Latour’s terms, their insusceptibility to change, despite all that they experience, and their immaturity. Jonathan is the minor exception, but it will take not just Katrina’s naming of her attempted rape and her death, will take also his sense of his coming exclusion, his realization of Warren’s complete perfidy, in the form of the larger, more ruthless man’s intention to keep the magic power-balls to himself and murder Buffy, to force Jonathan’s awakening. These events, on the other hand, especially the murder of Buffy, only awaken a bloodlust in Andrew, deepening his identification with, his crush upon Warren. Warren himself, in turn, through all they do, probably beginning with Katrina’s turn away from him, ending the relationship that might, in its affective force, have saved him—through all they do, especially the murder of Katrina, only hardens himself against affect at each moment, in every act, deepening his insensitivity, thickening his dumbness—his “big, meaty head”—, until he becomes so enwrapped in his narcissism he lacks all sense of his actual way of being in the world. This manifests itself in the wake of his murder of Tara, when he ventures into the underworld, Willie’s place and Rack’s, and introduces himself, “I’ve been heading an organization, The Trio, you’ve heard of us”—and cannot believe that no one has… “We were evil” he stresses to Rack, deeply offended when the warlock refers to him as a “kid”—and of course evil Warren was, but in a man-child, human way, compared to the likes of Rack or a vampire, evil in the affectless, human way that erupts a million times a day in the human world, carries nothing of distinction, merits nothing “super-villainous” to precede it as a descriptor. For countless humans close themselves off from affect, resist its learning—perhaps if they did not, violence would not be the endemic non-event it has become among us….

    Buffy, Willow, and Repetitions of Trauma
    We come back to Buffy herself, now on the couch, alone, the framed photograph from tWotW, of herself as a happy little girl with a happy, together Joyce and Hank, on her lap. She seems to be staring at it without quite seeing it or knowing what it means, lost in a past that in its absence draws her from the present to no certain place or time, haunted by the promise of her hallucinations, of that past’s recovery, of health—and perhaps by the unspoken trauma lurking underneath all that has not been said in the asylum, what cannot appear there. This is the temporality of depression, haunted, as we will learn, by that of trauma—not the only ones of which we know but also another, one that has been silently exercising a shaping force.

    Willow enters excitedly with the answer, the promise of a more immediate recovery; Buffy turns away, back towards—although not quite to—the photo, less disinterested in Willow’s news than unable to touch the possibility it offers… Or, unable to have any faith that this one level of cure will make a difference….

    What follows: a conversation that at once brings the friends closer through Buffy’s revelation, her honesty—and furthers the distance that has bloomed between them since the resurrection.

    Buffy: I feel so lost.

    Willow: I know. You’re confused. It’s the crazy juice inside you.

    Buffy: No. Even before the demon. I’ve been so detached…

    Willow: We’ve all been kinda slumming it.

    Buffy: Every day, I try to snap out of it. Figure out why I’m like this.

    Willow, [insistently]: Buffy, look at me. You are not in an institution. You’ve never been in an institution.

    Buffy: Yes… I have…

    Willow: What—?

    Buffy: Back when I saw my first vampires… I got so scared. I told my parents—and they completely freaked out. They thought that there was something seriously wrong with me, so they sent me to a clinic.

    Willow: But you never said anything…

    Buffy: I was only there a few weeks: I stopped talking about it, and they let me go. Eventually, my parents... just… forgot…

    Willow: My god, that’s horrible—

    Buffy: What if I’m still there? What if I never left that clinic?

    Willow, [insistent again]: Buffy, Buffy, you’re not. I’m so sorry you had to go through that—but it’s the past. You’ve gotta trust me. We’re gonna get you that antidote. Xander’s hunting the demon right now.

    Buffy: Alone? He can’t. It’s too strong.

    Willow: It’s alright. He’s got help.
    On one level, Willow is absolutely supportive, caring. But on another, she brushes past Buffy’s attempt to discuss her current depression and its cause, which Buffy frames in normative terms, in terms of her need to “snap out of it.” Note the steps:

    Buffy says that she is lost, and her tone clearly implies that more than her current hallucinations are behind her displacement—

    Willow immediately delimits the lostness to the influence of the “crazy juice inside” Buffy, to something that she can fix—

    Buffy presses: no, it began before the demon—

    Willow switches tactics, broadens the problem inflecting Buffy to one coursing through all their veins, lifting the blame from Buffy and closing off, again, exploration of her particular lostness—

    Buffy tries again, speaking of her daily attempts to find herself, to effect a change—

    Willow shifts tactics once more, brushing away the “everyday,” Buffy’s insistence upon her displacement’s duration with a focus back upon the immediate present; speaking with urgency, demanding that Buffy cease staring into space and look at her, she utters pronouncements designed to reassure, work as a kind of scientific proof: “You are not in an institution. You’ve never been in an institution.”

    Buffy then drops the bombshell, divulges the information she long withheld from her best friend, withheld even during their years of great closeness: “Yes….”

    And from Willow’s shocked “But you never said anything”—as if that fact somehow holds a kind of truth value, or should, given their friendship, the story follows, punctuated by Willow’s expression of sympathy. But when Buffy expresses fear of her commitments duration, of the presence of the past, Willow follows again with Newtonian logic, the of a clockwork universe in which time is well-behaved, in which the past, present and future know how to remain in their proper places.

    (One might, as an aside, expect better of Willow, as she has surely studied quantum theory—but perhaps in giving up magic, she lost physics as well… She does, after all, explain in GiD that magic works off physics…)

    Willow thus seeks to relegate Buffy’s clinic experience to “the past”—as if knowledge and language could force events to lie like stones in the year they befell—

    Or perhaps they are like stones, but stones roll, dead as they may be, and as Melville writes of the stones of Palestine, which have for millennia there abided:

    Behold the stones! And never one
    A lichen greens; and, turn them o’er—
    No worm—no life; but, all the more,
    Good witnesses.


    Life stones may not carry, but trauma—they are its witnesses….

    Willow, however, cannot think such temporal complexity, at least not now, must keep the periods of time’s passage radically separate. She thus jumps from her insistence upon the pastness of Buffy’s actual asylum experience to her curing of the present one: “…but it’s the past. You’ve gotta trust me. We’re gonna get you that antidote. Xander’s hunting the demon right now.”

    the past—

    Right now—

    And Buffy gives up trying to speak of the temporal intertwinings and dissolutions, turns rather to the most immediate danger that Xander has placed himself in for her sake…

    Here, Willow remains, still, afraid of the discussion Buffy attempts to open, possibly feeling her own responsibility, unable to bring it to the surface, for she has no quick solution for it now—now that she has renounced magic and the prospect of simply wiping Buffy’s mind. And in insisting, even after Buffy’s revelation, that Buffy’s time in the hospital is “the past,” Willow tries to hold to progressive, linear time, the time of solutions and cures, to shy away from the past’s persistence, its ever-surfacing in and shaping of the present and future—in Buffy’s life, Buffy’s mind, and, perhaps, her own. Buffy, on the other hand, remains haunted by the past, finding, perhaps, in it, the answer to her question of why she is “like this”—a possibility that presages her dreadful solution to come. A solution that is underlined by her parents’ earlier response: they “just… forgot”—they did not want to know, that is, want to know Buffy herself. Once they had their proper daughter returned to them, they suppressed all in her that did not fit their normative mold, impressing upon Buffy her previous and possible future wrongness to them—and its consequences—silently demanding that she oppress those dimensions of herself that could not shape themselves into their regulative norms. And while they comfortably forgot her time in the asylum, it could not but haunt Buffy, linger as a threatening knowledge of what her fate would be if they were to know, if she were to allow but a wisp of her actual self to float free…

    This helps explain the asymmetry between Buffy’s history and her fearful interpretation of it: in the first, it was her parents who judged her crazy and committed her—until she stopped talking about vampires, until she returned herself to normative daughterhood; in the second, it is Buffy who fears that she is crazy, that her parents were correct, that blocking truthful self-expression was not the answer—or, at least, not something she was able to do—, that she has remained in the asylum, is there now. What lingers between these versions, born of the first and birthing the second: the trauma of her commitment, of her trusted parents’ regulative determination and betrayal, combined with the sense of wrongness it brought her—unintentional, well-meaning, and loving as Joyce and Hank’s decision may have been—, as it intersects the trauma of her resurrection and the sense of wrongness it has brought her, the sense of wrongness and the sense of betrayal, this time by those she now most deeply trusts, her chosen family, Willow and Xander—unintentional, well-meaning, and loving as their decision may have been.

    Hence Buffy’s inability to believe in Willow’s optimism, her promised cure: not only does it address only her most present ailment, but Willow herself turns away each attempt Buffy makes to speak about that ailment’s connection to her continuing distress, her depression and trauma, involving, as they do, the recent past of her resurrection. Hence, too, the failure of Willow’s insistence, her “but it’s the past. You’ve gotta trust me,” to convince, inspire hope—even if the hallucinations end, Buffy knows, her time in the clinic will not. Hence, thus, the logic of the demon juice, the logic of the form taken by the delusions it has induced: on an affective level, Buffy has never left that clinic, for she remains haunted by its trauma; she has never worked through it, as her inability to ever speak of it shows. And on that affective level—on the level of her betrayal by those whom she has come to most trust, a betrayal that repeated the one her parents committed when they first sent her to the clinic and then… forgot, a betrayal, that is, by the family she made to replace the original family that betrayed her—the resurrection returned her to that clinic…. Only now, the trauma of the event, accompanied by its affective force, renders her case far more severe, so severe that nothing as simple as not talking (much as she tries this) will deliver her from its walls—

    Spike and Xander, Redux—
    Willow’s reassurance carries us to the scene, to the demon hunt, with “help”:

    Xander and Spike, unhappily paired in hunting, briefly:

    Driven by loss and pain and an inability to understand, as well as the moral incapacity to maintain the boundaries he would wish to hold, Spike seems less and less able to hold to secrecy, more given to the revelation that he knows Buffy dreads, the one that will, for her, constitute a betrayal. But Xander, still, cannot quite see what is clearly before him, so that Spike can easily backtrack into vague references to “alternate realities” and goading about Anya—until the demon comes and the two are forced to fight together, with and not against each other, for Buffy’s sake, for the promise of her return…

    (The Spike-Xander interactions doubtless deserve more attention than I can give them, presaging Entropy and SR as they do, going back to each man’s romantic troubles, linking them, but perhaps someone else… )

    Buffy, Dawn, the Asylum, and Language Bleeding—
    The next scene gives us Dawn and Buffy together, alone, for the first time—

    Note that while Buffy has been able to near herself to Willow and Xander, this has not held for Dawn. Here, as Dawn nears to comfort her with tea, Buffy can barely look at her sister, turns away, cannot meet her eyes, merely tries, unconvincingly, to assure Dawn that she’s fine…. And as Dawn protests, Buffy falls into the language of health, the words of the Doctor bleeding into the series of non-sequitors she utters:

    Buffy: I should be taller than you—

    Dawn [smiling, attempting cheer]: Maybe you’re not done growing…

    Buffy [struggling]: We’re falling apart. We have to try harder, to make things better—

    Dawn [pleadingly]: I’m trying—

    Buffy [insistent, even as she struggles to remain present]: Your grades… stealing… Willow’s been doing you chores, hasn’t she?

    Dawn [protesting, attempting deferral: It’s the fever: it’s cooking your brain.

    Buffy [still struggling to find words to hold herself there, to forestall flight]: We have to deal with these things—
    [emphasis added]
    And with those words, the impossible task they hold, the task of taking up life as slow death, precarity, predictable, repetitive crises and wearing out, Buffy flees—

    Before taking up that flight, I would note that Buffy here adopts not only the language of the Doctor—“We’re falling apart”—but the language she herself deployed in TL: when first confronted with Dawn’s transgressions and her own responsibilities for her, Buffy took up the normative language of parental authority, of charts and graphs and chores and gold stars, took them up in place of what Dawn most deeply sought, which was felt connection, a connection Buffy still cannot give, has not been able to give since her return, if not since Joyce’s death, despite the temporary resolutions of Forever and O&FA; this stems, in part, as we will discover in the next episode, from her determination to keep Dawn away from her life as a Slayer, on the pretext of defending her—but as Dawn herself will point out, given that Buffy is the Slayer, Dawn is constitutively exposed to danger, and Buffy’s futile attempts to shield her but serve to wall off from Dawn the most essential part of her life. As Stoney pointed out, it will only be in bringing these threads of her life together—it is only in realizing, that is, the possible imbrications of the temporalities of the heroic time and slow death that Buffy will learn to live again in either, will learn, even more, how to create another modality of time, will through this learn to give Dawn the care she so desperately desires.

    Back in the asylum, it is clear that Buffy has been speaking aloud to Joyce and Hank. To this, Joyce becomes insistent:

    Joyce: You don’t have a sister.

    Ill-Buffy: Dawn—

    Joyce: No, honey. Say it. It’ll help you believe it.

    Ill-Buffy [with effort, reaching, not quite successfully, for firmness and belief]: I don’t have a sister.

    Ill-Buffy [then backtracking, more softly but still with a certain firmness]: I know, I didn’t grow up with her, these monks…

    Hank: It’s your mind, playing tricks on you.

    Joyce: You’re out little girl. Our one and only. We’ve missed you so much. Mom and dad just want to take you home and take care of you.

    At this promise—a promise of safety, of belonging, of no longer feeling out of place, of being free of the responsibilities she finds beyond her, free of the temporality she cannot make sense of, at this promise of being truly home, which Buffy herself has not felt for so long, ill-Buffy reaches out, attempts to touch—

    Only to find herself touching Dawn, from whom she recoils—and a following shot will show their hands next to each other, perhaps lightly, accidentally, touching—but not holding…

    For as Buffy’s words to Dawn bled through to her parents, so has ill-Buffy’s words there bled through to Dawn, who says, deeply hurt and accusatory: “I’m not even there, am I?” Buffy tries to protest, but Dawn continues, “You said it a second ago: you don’t have a sister—“ As Buffy reaches again for protest, Dawn presses on, “It’s your ideal reality, and I’m not part of it.”

    That this is not Buffy’s ideal reality we know, much as it may hold things, such as Joyce, for which she deeply yearns—and at this moment, it has clearly offered her something, home and seemingly unconditional care (once she wills her way back to health), for which she as deeply longs—but that Dawn would see it this way bespeaks her own sense of having been always and already excluded from Buffy’s care since her return and the death of Joyce. So as Buffy again attempts protest and explanation, Dawn abruptly, angrily, turns away, announcing that she is going to finish her chores…

    We cut to the basement, with Xander, Willow, Spike, and the demon, whom Xander and Spike are trying to bind to a pillar. Once successful, Willow provokes the emergence of the stinger, breaks it off, and orders Xander to the Magic Shop for supplies—“for medicinal purposes only,” she promises. “No magic”—a reassurance she still must offer. Spike says he’ll stay there, watch over the “wax job,” and Xander utters a predictable warning about Buffy….

    Buffy & Spike: Truth Athwart, Resolution—
    Hours later, back in Buffy’s room, seemingly the next day. Buffy seems not to have moved. Willow enters, flushed with happy making-happen, the antidote in hand, tells its story of failure and success, gives its promise: all-betterness. Buffy’s response, which wavers between an absent effort to thank and a truly grateful awe, remembering Willow’s constancy: “You never stop coming through…”

    Spike enters, asking after Buffy, and Willow leaves Buffy in his care, instructing him to make sure that she drinks all of the antidote.

    As with Dawn, Buffy is in a haze, and as with Dawn, Buffy cannot bear Spike’s nearing, reaches for distance, struggling with words: “You have… to leave me.. alone…: You’re not… part… of my life.”

    This sets Spike, in his frustration, hurt, incapacity to comprehend, and exhaustion, spinning into a combination of tough love and spite, his words working towards, against, and athwart the truth:

    Spike: Fine, then. But I hope you don’t think this antidote’s gonna rid you of that nasty martyrdom. See, I figured it out, luv. You can’t help yourself: you’re not drawn to the dark, like I thought—you’re addicted to the misery. It’s why you won’t tell your pals about us—might actually have to be happy if you did. They’d either understand or help, god forbid—or drive you out, where you can finally be at peace, in the dark—with me… Either way, you’d be better off… But you’re too… twisted… for that….

    [Spike turns to leave, then turns back]

    Spike [more quietly]: Let yourself live, already… And stop with the bloody hero trip, for a sec. We’ll all be better off for it. ‘Cause I’m done with it. You either tell your friends about us… Or I will—
    Spike leaves. Buffy stares at the empty space he has left behind. Struggles with her thoughts. Attempts the antidote. Looks down at it. Then pours it out, not looking. And for the first time, she knowingly, consciously, allows herself to spin out of the present, to return to the asylum, to the promise it holds….

    At the asylum:

    Ill-Buffy is in bed, looking exhausted, worn, drawn. The Doctor stands to one side, her parents to the other; as she speaks, joy suffuses on the faces of the latter.

    Doctor: Buffy—

    Buffy [her voice slightly shaky, but her intention clear]: I don’t want to go back there. I want to be healthy. What do I have to do?
    Fade to black—


    If Buffy cannot near Dawn because she cannot fully live into the responsibilities of their relationship, the temporality it bears, the same can be said of her relation to Spike—

    And Spike is both right and wrong in his words—

    His soullessness prevents him from understanding depression, causes him to read it rather in rather biopolitical terms as an “addiction to misery,” a selfish taking of pleasure in one’s own suffering—

    But on a certain level, Buffy is “too twisted” by it to “let [her]self live”—

    That statement must, of course, be here understood outside of Spike’s moralizing tone, given that depression is, from one angle, precisely a temporal twisting that renders the self unable to let her self live, unable to give to herself in that way, to give to her self the affective learning, the becoming into time that would be life—

    Yet it must also be understood as emerging from the thick complexity of Spike’s love, from the extent to which that love stakes itself upon Buffy’s becoming, the fullness of her living into the world—

    And in relation to this—and to the above—Buffy’s understanding of Spike’s words must be understood, in turn, in terms of her sense of Spike’s own wrongness, the way it has called to her own, made possible their relationship, the one she here seeks, as she has so insistently sought, to excise from what she deems her life, to assign to what she deems the death still dwelling within her, her inhabitation of a space liminal to the human, as her wrongness has, primarily, settled there since her resurrection.

    Their relationship may have always already faced foreclosure, faced limitations, due to Spike’s lack of a soul—

    Yet it faced limitations, too, due to Buffy, due to her grounding it in her sense of their shared wrongness, grounding it in what she felt absolutely foreclosed love, even as she knew Spike deemed that same ground to be, rather, a shared darkness, a darkness destined to give birth to their love. Hence the further feeding of Buffy’s wrongness and the self-loathing it entails: her knowing use of Spike in her self-loss, her play at submission; her refusal to name their relation, much less tell her friends of it; her refusal to grant him even nonhuman status, her reduction of him to mere thingliness, inorganic, seemingly inert matter—all of which culminates, first, in the desperately cruel violence of DT and, then, in her final rupture of the sexual bond between them.

    At the same time, leaving Spike has provided Buffy no solutions, no ability to “snap out of it,” treating as it did the symptom but not the cause, failing to reveal “why [she] is like this”—

    And even more—

    Running counter to all those foreclosures, to the toxicity of their relationship, which American Aurora, Puck Robin, and Stoney, in particular, have so finely explored, it is exactly Spike’s soullessness that creates through their connection an unpredictable giving, a giving that subtends the self-punishment and self-loathing it intensifies within Buffy, the self-flight it enables, the sense of resurrectional wrongness it renders ever more palpable:

    This is why Spike’s words hit at something that so deeply unnerves Buffy, for it is not as much his threat to tell that drives her to pour out the drink, much as it may seem to be. Rather, it is the rest of what he says and what lies beneath what Buffy tries to say, the truth that lies in both: the fact that Spike is part of Buffy’s life and not just her deadness, that she does feel for him, that she cannot, much as she tries, relegate their relationship to the merely physical, cannot delimit her wrongness to merely their relation—or save whatever good she sometimes finds insinuating itself beneath the bare surface of her skin for those she counts as part of her life, segregating it away from him. The very fact that their relationship, their “this” as she will say in DT, was limited by Spike’s soulnessness gave her something she had not known: not just a new way to experience her power—in the direct sexual pleasure of giving and receiving pain—but a new experience of the powerlessness of orgasmic self-shattering, of the suspension and loss of self in pleasure that need not be bound back, in its passing, to a final meaning, to endless commitment to the other, to an end in the progressive time of normative love. The show, of course, in the puritanical moralism about sex that American Aurora has so perfectly explicated, seeks to obscure this aspect of sex by boxing sexual submission, passivity, self-loss into the category of badness, of depressive S&M and the backdoor balcony encounter in DT, by focussing upon the immoral use of power, the commission of physical violence in the Buffy-Spike relationship. But at the same time, by emphasizing the release that Buffy finds in sex with Spike (again moralized), it also forces to the surface, as never before in Buffy’s sex life, the self-loss of orgasm, even if it does not show that moment. And in doing so, it cannot completely obscure the crucial giving of that momentary giving over to passivity that she there finds, its giving to her in this time of lost wandering in the realm of wrongness. And it is precisely because that self-loss occurs with soulless Spike, with Spike with whom she does “not have a thing… [has] this—that’s all,” with whom she has a connection that escapes all names, that deserves only the vaguest of pronouns; one that creates new temporal rhythms of speed and slowness, duration and release, which thus does not drive to an end beyond that of orgasm itself; one that in this way opens her purely to affecting and being affected; one that through these qualities evades all gathering into final sense despite—because of—the intensity of its sensations—it is precisely in this sexual submission, which, in all its dimensions, resists circumscription into normative love, that Buffy is able to touch, without yet knowing, to refind an essential part of herself and her power, part of the ethics of her becoming.

    What exactly this is—that explication will have to wait until the next two acts. For now, I will only point out that this mode of connection is, of course, not what Buffy believes a relationship should be, hence her self-punishment for it, her sense of its immorality, its wrongness, of its confirmation of her wrongness, her sense that it is “killing” her, the imperative that she end it. And on one level, it is right that she do so, for she knows that it is not, either, what Spike seeks himself, which is why she feels that she is “using” him—nor is this connection something that Spike himself can understand, ethics being beyond him, hence his insistence that the feelings she denies, the feelings to which she will finally, if only partially, admit before the AR, must be love…Thus, for more complex reasons than I can here fully explore, the AR. I will now only suggest that he is not completely bound up in wrongness: what moves him towards Buffy is a kind of love—only not the kind of love that he seeks, for it is not a love strictly bound to him, for all that he called it forth, given that impersonality infibers its deepest core, directs the fullest gestures of its expression, the becoming it brings to Buffy—and that it will affectively bring to him, to one who, as a vampire, would seem to exist outside the possibilities of becoming.

    Four more thoughts:

    First, as I hinted above, Buffy is not, during her relationship with Spike, aware of this dimension of it: the paradoxical nature of what happens between them determines that she cannot be, given her depression, her embinding within her sense of wrongness, Spike’s own inability to understand her or, as he will later say, from what I understand (I am behind on the comics, hoping to catch up), to truly love her. At the same time, despite Spike’s wrongness, the power of it pull, I would argue that that alone is not what draws Buffy to him: the affective intensity of her sexual experience would not be possible were it made simply of their wrongnesses speaking too each other (if they could, without another fact as a catalyst, even thus speak)—nor, I think, would Buffy find her attraction to Spike quite so disturbing, indeed disgusting, were it based merely upon his wrongness. She is drawn to something else in Spike, something in his yearning for humanity—the residue of humanity in him that yearns for surfacing fullness, the humanity that will surface, finally, after he does the unspeakable, after he crosses his own set boundary and hurts her through the AR, which sends him in search of his soul. That such residue holds a place within him—infinitely small though it may be—was confirmed by the Judge, who determined, with his own disgust, that Spike and Drusilla carried the “stink of humanity.” And that tiny spark of life in Spike also calls to the spark of life in Buffy, the spark that lies somewhere deep, thickly swathed in folds of depression and trauma and slow death. It is this combination, the possibility of love utterly shadowed by its impossibility that affects Buffy so fully, gives her the speculative opening to regain connection to herself—even as it prevents her from being open to its affective force, living into its becoming, as it occurs.

    Second, nothing that I write here, much as it moves in a differing direction, ultimately, then, moves against much of what has been written by many of you, especially American Aurora, Puck Robin, and Stoney. The difference lies not in my lack of agreement, it rather lies in my vision of another dimension of the Buffy-Spike relation, one that subtends—runs athwart—those elements upon which you have so finely elaborated, a dimension that rather than disrupting those elements moves through and against them, forming with them a more densely complex constellation of forces and modes of relation—a dimension that, indeed, I would not have come to apprehend had it not been for your insightfulness.

    Third, having just read the opening three sections of American Aurora’s response to DT, I can only redouble my insistence on this point, although I have not the energy—nor dare take the space—to incorporate my thoughts upon it into this post…. I would only point out that what happens with Buffy and Spike in terms of bondage and sexual submission before orgasm, in BDSM play, has nothing to do with actual BDSM, which is a deeply ethical practice, one that requires that each partner becomes ethically responsible for the other. And the undertaking of such obligation does not involve anything as simplistic as the submissive’s bare abdication of agency—a thing which would only be thinkable if one were to hold to a non-problematized notion of agency, a concept that is itself problematic, given that agency, as it has been historically deployed, refers to capacities of the neoliberal humanist subject, at once grounded in an anthropocentric conception of movement and entailing, as part of its grounding conceptualization, the separation of homo sapiens into the human, the not-quite-human, and the nonhuman. But even setting this aside, the ethical relation that characterizes BDSM cannot gather force between Buffy and Spike, given that Spike is incapable, as a vampire, of entering into such relations, of undertaking such obligation—given, too, that Buffy seeks from him not obligation but escape from herself in her submission, as American Aurora writes. This is exactly why Spike, in his wrongness, draws her own. I would add that this becomes yet more clear in the final third of DT, when Buffy reveals herself as the true Domina in the relationship and beats Spike so badly that it takes him, even with his enhanced vampiric healing powers, days upon days to recover—beats him and leaves him weak and bleeding in the alley—beats and leaves him bleeding in the alley not in an act of generosity but in one of instrumentalization, of use, which brings her, once again, closer to Warren than any other character in the episode.

    Fourth, and most to the immediate point of our episode. Before the becoming of which I above write can come into force for either Buffy or Spike, they must both endure the suffering and violence of NA—and its aftermaths: Spike must speak and Buffy must hear and pour out the antidote in response. Since Buffy does not yet understand this aspect of her relationship to Spike—or, frankly, of her slaying, although it has haunted her since its fullest manifestation in The Gift—at this point, rather, because the pleasure and self-loss has come to her through S&M, through, that is, a direct relation to her power, and because, as I will show below, Buffy unconsciously deems her power to be imbricated in her wrongness, this sexual “thisness” works as but a further confirmation of a darkness within her. If Buffy fears revelation of her “this” with Spike, it is less the thing itself, much as she very much fears that, too, than of the darkness that it holds—the very darkness whose reverse image she will reveal in this episode, in her effort to kill her friends. And it is this fear that drives her away from the antidote—ironically, as that drive will lead her into its mirrored enactment, a kind of loss of self in the seemingly endless ecstasy of normative daughterhood, of the curing of wrongness through a turn to health, to an idealized home.

    And it is that very fear of what she fears to be her inner darkness, of what she deems to be her wrongness, what it is bound to, that lies behind her words: “I don’t want to go back there. I want to be healthy. What do I have to do?”

    To which we must ask: What does “healthy” mean, then? What does it require? And what and whom must it cost?

    Apologies, yet again, for the delay: my hemiplaegic—paralytic—migraines decided to exercise their visitation rights today, natch... They more than slowed down the final editing of this sections, have left me utterly tapped... So I fear that the final section—towards which, I know, I have been deferring all the most important points—will have to wait until tomorrow. But I do promise it to you then—and I promise that it will draw all and all together.....
    Last edited by StateOfSiege97; 18-09-18 at 05:03 AM.

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  29. #515
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
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    Another buffer for you. Thank you for keeping with us through the literal headaches SoS.

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  31. #516
    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
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    StateofSiege, holy moly, I am in awe! Just fantastic!

    Hoping you feel better soon and eagerly awaiting your next post!

    Stoney, that was also a hell of a post on Hell's Bells. I can't wait to respond to Sosa's exquisite review soon!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 18-09-18 at 08:06 AM.

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