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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
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    Sorry I'm lagging a little again, in part due to some frustrating disruption to my internet connection this week. Once the weekend has past I'm hoping to be able to put some time aside at the beginning of next week to read/respond to Two to Go before we hit the season finale. DeepBlueJoy has said that they are intending to post Grave on Tuesday. I can't quite believe we're so close to the end of S6 now!!

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    Bronze Party-Goer StateOfSiege97's Avatar
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    Apologies for all for being so late in this response:

    Deadlines, migraines, &c….

    And special apologies to KingofCretins: I very much
    found pleasure, gained insight from you review, very much
    promise soon response… (some of what I write below does
    involve your episode, but I wanted to respond to your
    thoughts in their fine specificity)… before I do so, however,
    I wanted to follow first upon the below, as obligation called…



    Stoney
    As always your thoughts to the effects of social pressure and normativity that thread within are excellent. I think there is an interesting aspect perhaps in AtS's consideration of being outside of society and then being thrown in that is shown through Connor's story which would be interesting to consider against normativity. A great deal of his individual struggles and relationship dynamics are affected so vastly by his inability to interact successfully and there is a great deal of damage done by his decisions and willing involvement in those that operate outside of what is accepted. I'd be interested as the two shows run on and we see his story unfold to hear any of your thoughts if you have any to share on such.
    Many thanks for your kind words—

    Unfortunately, I can offer little more than that, as it has been so very long since my last viewing of AtS… I would say that Connor’s problem stems not only from having been raised outside of society—but having been raised very strictly, suffering the imposition of his foster-father’s twisted laws, laws that militated against Connor’s integration into any social order, into his formation of any social relations… Not just with Angel, whom he was raised to hate on a personal level, if I remember correctly, but with others, those who may have been kind to him, sought to help him… He was raised not simply outside the norms of the society into which he found himself thrown—he was raised, shaped to feel himself in opposition to all he met, unless they were sanctioned by his foster-father (whose name I have forgotten.. ).




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

    Tasso’s wrenching tale of Tancred and Clorinda—

    My favorite chapter of the book (after the one on Freud, Lacan, and the Dream of the Burning Boy… )

    Love the connection you make to Spike and that general tendency in the Buffyverse for characters hurt the ones they love:

    “What the parable of the wound and the voice thus tells us, and what is at the heart of Freud’s writing on trauma, both in what it says and the stories it unwittingly tells, is that trauma seems to be much more than a pathology, or the simple illness of a wounded psyche: it is always the story of a wound that cries out, that addresses us in the attempt to tell us of a reality or truth that is not otherwise available. The truth, in its delayed appearance and its belated address, cannot be linked only to what is known, but also to what remains unknown in our very actions and our language” (Caruth).

    This seems to apply to both Buffy and Willow in S6…




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

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

    I don’t much believe in free will either—not if you mean the sort that is conceptualized as an attribute of the liberal subject (who was, historically, white, male, straight… ), along with self-presence, agency, and all related elements…

    But while I do not hold to that construction of free will, I do hold to desire and obligation to the other, do not believe that if we give that construction up, we are left with nothing but addiction and a vague grasp at some fiction of free will to guide us. A wide space lies between the two, and there extend the possibilities for thinking responsibility—

    I am thinking more of heteronomy than autonomy...

    And yes, the admissions that Willow makes are important—but so are the ones that she does not. When she goes to Rack’s, dragging Dawn along; when she drives the car crazily with Dawn in it, almost killing her—then she is out of control. When she mind-wipes Tara, she does not seem in the least to be. Yet she brushes away her responsibility for this in her conversation with Tara herself, fails to face it, as her repetition of the same action the next day demonstrates, as her “It’s not worth it. Not if it messes with the people I love” (emphasis added) demonstrates. And this is where she uses addiction as an escape from full responsibility—at least throughout S6….

    In a later post, you write:


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

    I cannot speak to Scarface—never one of my favorite movies, and it has been so long, but—

    I have never said that the metaphor does this (and perhaps you did not mean me here): I actually find the evasion of responsibility important as part of the exploration of Willow’s character and the entire S6 arc, which so much involves complex evasions by each of the major characters of aspects of themselves, involves ethical failures of various kinds. I do not think Dark Willow would have emerged had Willow not escaped into the addiction the illusion of addiction, had she come to a full thinking through of the violence she worked upon Tara, attempted to work upon Buffy—a thinking through of all the emotional issues that bred her deep fear of abandonment and her inability to bear emotional conflict, emotional pain. Nor do I think the exploration of her character ends there: S7, unfortunately, allows the Potentials to suck up far too much air, preventing the full elaboration of the way Willow learns to live with her power—something I would much rather have seen. That said, had she not found a way to do so, something we see her doing in snatches, she would not have been able to perform the Empowering Spell…


    And one last cluster of thoughts on this—

    I wrote in my first response to your post about how I have always seen Willow as the subversive voice of Love: the part of her that finds inner conflict and pain unbearable also calls for a world in which that Love would be allowed to express itself fully, cries out against both the social norms and the material forces that would constrain it

    The more I have thought about it, thought about it in relation to the aporia of power that you opened in your original review, the more I have begun to think that at the end of S7, Buffy finds a momentary passage through that aporia—and she finds it through Willow, with Willow: through, with not just Willow’s power as a witch but her power as subversive Love, that force of Love in her that fails to be satisfied with simply saving the world as it is, that seeks to change it…

    Willow: We didn’t just save the world: we changed the world. (Chosen)

    For as you write, Buffy has always held a certain line, and one thread of that line has been that while she has saved the world (a lot), she has not imposed herself upon it, has not sought to alter its futures, has left them to their indeterminacies. This has always been very important to me, has been part of her freedom and becoming, part of the freedom and becoming she has repeatedly, nightly gifted to those whom she has saved—

    But when she faces The First, she faces a force different than any other:

    The First does not want to destroy the world, nor does It want simply to rule it: It wants to change it, to enter each singular souled being, inhabit her, make her Its own, thus making Itself corporeal through this embodiment, making each being, in a perverse mirroring of Genesis, in Its own incorporeal image. The First, thus, would not rule the world: It would fully become it. Or the world would become, by embodying It, The First.

    Buffy has never faced before such ambition—

    To fight It, simply obliterating It, as she had previous Big Bads (except “life”/Life, with which she rather needs to learn to live…) will not suffice: incorporeal, beyond all forms of mortality, It will ever resist all death-giving strikes. Buffy cannot simply save the world from it—save the world in a manner that will leave the world unchanged, will not shape its future becoming…

    Buffy must, at least to some degree, change the world, change the configurations of the Power that have kept the forces of evil at bay, maintained the line between the natural and the supernatural, saved the world without it ever knowing it needed saving, saved it without leaving any noticeable trace (yes, there were some traces, deaths, destruction, but they could always be explained away by those charged, as Snyder was, with the task of maintaining that line, by those who never wished, as the Sunnydale population never wished, to know).

    This means that Buffy must learn a different relation to her own Power: no longer will she be able to say, as she did in Selfless, as she had implicitly been saying to the Potentials all season, “I am the Law.” Buffy will have to learn to impart her Power to others, far from easy for her, will have to allow that Power to become a connecting rather than a separating force—

    And she will have to learn from Willow, from Willow’s subversive Love, the Love that would undo all norms and laws—human and inhuman, natural and supernatural—to find its fullest expression. The Love that would change the world to assure its continuance. That would, as the Empowering Spell indeed does (as the comics explore), shift the lines between the natural and the supernatural, shift the world’s knowledge of its saving as much as it extends the Power of savage beyond “One girl in all the world.”

    In this, Buffy needs not simply Willow’s magical Power; she needs her Willow-Power—for I think that what has made Willow so powerful a Wicca has been that Willow-Power, the subversively loving force so singular to her. And had she not loved, known, worked with Willow for so long, Buffy would never have been inspired to imagine the Empowering Spell: she had realized from her conversation with the Guardian that the Potentials could become true weapons, but she would never have figured out how to make them so had it not been for her bond with Willow, for the affective webbing, the love, binding them each to, each through the other—





    The comments below come from two different posts, but I find them not only important—I especially love the first, on “the tragedy of becoming a demon or a Dark Willow,” love the relations you draw between Anya and Darla, for it gave me a greater understanding of becoming-demon, and without that, I would not have been able to write the words below—but connected, so I am putting them together, will respond to them together:


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

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

    I think this is the tragedy of becoming a demon or a Dark Willow. You get the super powers and get to enact the violence, but it comes at the cost of everything you hold dear. Once you're a demon, you no longer care about the other people who are like you were. They only remind you of your former pain - pain that you may no longer truly feel. It's more like a memory of a state you are desperate not to return to.

    ….

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

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

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

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

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

    For the most part, I absolutely agree with you about this, although I cannot speak to the “Angel and Faith” comic, as I stopped reading them before this arc: Willow never seeks power for its own sake, and when she does seek magical power, she does so to be useful, to assure herself a place in the world…

    Does not until, that is, until S6, in the wake of Buffy’s resurrection—

    (In the wake—I agree that part of her drive to resurrect Buffy is a drive to relinquish her place as the leader… )

    However, while Dark Willow on the show shows no sign of wanting to establish herself as a ruler, perhaps, there is this:


    Willow: Come on. This is a huge deal for me—six years as a side man…. Buffy, I gotta tell you now: the Slayer thing really isn’t about the violence—it’s about the Power. And there’s no one in the world who has the Power to stop me now. (TtG)


    Does she want to rule? Perhaps not. Not in the conventional sense that The Master, the Mayor, or Glory did. But she does take pleasure in her Power, in the fact that it exceeds the Power of all others, that no one, she thinks, can stop her from following, from fully expressing, her desires, even if that desire be—as was Angel’s desire at the end of S2—to destroy. For the desire to rule is not the only expression of Power possible—or, if it is, the desire to destroy any or all at will is a kind of ruling. Dark Willow desires to do as she will, do as she will without boundaries—social, ethical, material—of any kind. She takes absolute pleasure in torturing and skinning Warren, rendering him utterly vulnerable and impotent; she comes close to killing Dawn, shows an anticipatory pleasure as she approaches doing so; she is on the verge of killing Buffy, to whom she has always deferred, to whom she has always felt second, before the entry of Giles, again with pleasure. And then she desires to destroy the world, as Angel did—their motivations differ, though not as much as it may seem—once Giles doses her with the pain of the world…

    Although that is more complex, different, different in a way that calls back to your earlier comments about becoming-demon—

    I suspect you would read the above as part of the tragedy of Dark Willow’s becoming-demon, of her thus gaining ungraspable power “at the cost of everything you hold dear”—such that they only remind you “of a state you are desperate not to return to.” In many ways I agree: within this frame, we can read Willow’s attempted murder of Dawn, her approach to murdering Buffy as annihilations of hauntings by her former self…

    But to say this is not to deny Willow’s deep desire for that Power, the deep pleasure she takes from it: she may have been driven to acquire it out of pain, but that drive does not erase the fact that she wanted to be more powerful than anyone else, does not erase her murder of Rack to gain yet more power, does not erase the pleasure she takes in in nor her intended murder of Giles to gain yet more—

    Nor is this to say that something human does not survive in the demon; the affective relation to other humans dies, but the desire remains: Anya feels, as you point out, nothing for the fate of the women she revenges, but she feels a connection to their desire for vengeance—it speaks to her own, the remnant of her humanity. The same holds for Darla, for Dark Willow: something very personal, very human is at stake in her battle with Buffy, but had she prevailed, I doubt she would have felt a thing—save pleasure in, once more, her exercise of Power…

    However, when she steals Giles’ magic, she receives something more than his Power: he doses her with human feeling, a feeling that overwhelms her demonic lack of connection to human fate, human suffering, human finitude—

    Giles’ dosing has thus rendered her a strange hybrid, a mix of demonic power and human feeling—

    At first, she feels but the great anguish that infibres all possibilities of being human, feels each singular, embodied human suffering within her own body, suffers its infusion, its inhabitation, bone to synapse to spirit—

    And Willow has never been able to suffer inner pain, so such an influx—

    Of course her first impulse be to turn her Power to ending that pain, just as she turned to her far slighter magical powers in Ss3&4 to end her own pain and conflict: given the Power, the knowledge and the affect born of Giles’ magic, she would not be Willow were she not to seek to save the world from its suffering, even if the cost be complete human annihilation—

    But we know what happens: it is precisely this dosing, this return of Willow’s human feeling and capacity for human connection that renders her vulnerable, rends her open to Xander’s call of Love, to his saving…





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

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

    My dear American Aurora

    Thank you for this—

    I remember reading Goffman’s book in grad school, in poet Charles Bernstein’s class on Performance—

    I found it fascinating, true on many levels, but on others, on the most crucial, deeply problematic: as I wrote then in my response paper, Goffman writes as if all performance works upon the level of the Self, as you say, of the Ego, of Consciousness—he does not take the Unconscious into account, the way the Unconscious shapes all the Self does, overdetermines what you call the Self’s “manipulate[ions of] what others can know about us—our actions our appearance, our inner life—and how we control that information through silence, secrets and presentation.”

    And I do not think we can begin to think, understand, S6 without the workings of the Unconscious: the force of Buffy’s trauma and depression, which absolutely do not work upon her from the level of consciousness, within her control—how read her relationships to Spike and Dawn, the events of Normal Again, within Goffman’s frame?—; Willow’s violations of Tara, which are determined by her unconscious fears of loss and abandonment, combined with her inability to bear inner or outer emotional conflict; Xander’s leaving of Anya at the altar, which is, again, motivated by deep unconscious fears he barely realizes but cannot control or manipulate; Giles’ departure, which involves his investment in the Buffy he knew before her resurrection and his own unconscious drive to leave his parenthood behind, abandon the responsibilities to which he had committed himself; even Dawn’s unconscious call to Halfrek, which emerges from her unspeakable loneliness, a loneliness whose depth she cannot speak even to herself?

    (See above, my quote from Caruth on trauma… And Caruth aside, I doubt I would have been able to write the remainder of this post—or any of my posts, especially those on S6, without thinking the Unconscious…)

    I agree that the show is endlessly self-referential, but many of those references, as OMWF, its songs, make so clear, signify far beyond the conscious intention of the characters, their knowingness, as you term it, of themselves and their situations, never more so than in S6, a season in which, I would argue, the Unconscious surfaces, in modes beyond the characters’ control or full understanding, with a vengeance to determine so much of what occurs; a season whose resolutions emerge precisely from the characters’ becoming, at different points, conscious of the unconscious drives and coming, with greater or lesser success, to find a way to live with them….


    Last edited by StateOfSiege97; 30-09-19 at 12:47 PM.

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    As seems to be the norm for me lately, I've just made it before the next review.

    I apologise if anything is jumbled or straight out incoherent as I've been struggling with a head cold for a few days now.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingofCretins View Post
    The oddness (and uniqueness, since this is never used before or since) of this entrance seemed worth commenting on. It may have been just a function of a new network, I don't know, but I like to think it's actually meant to sell that this year-long recap is necessary and a lot to absorb because things have never gotten farther from where they started in any season. Buffy's return, Willow's fall, Tara's death, Giles' departure, Spike's... complicated, Xander floundering and Anya's relapse. It just stuck out then and sticks out now.
    In a season that leans so much on how past experiences feed into the current, it is interesting to look at the most recent events that have led to where the characters are now. The only other time I remember them emphasising the path to where things have gotten more extensively was in the teaser for The Gift. But then it was recapping the series so far rather than this focus on a single season, and for Buffy specifically. As you say, this really underlines how much has changed within the more recent period, and for so many of the characters. I think Giles' line "We can't ignore this kind of behavior. Something needs to be done before it spins out of control." really stands out amongst what they show. Despite some small steps that have been seen more recently, the strains and pressures have continued, still showing life as a struggle. The current events speaking to the truth of how things can still dramatically fall apart.

    Of course the teaser lacks the links back before the season to everything that came prior and how that influenced events from the very start too. Obviously what plays into where the characters have gotten to goes beyond the season itself. What I think is really interesting in this episode (and over in Benediction too) is that often references to the greater past are deliberately used as a distraction, a misdirection and a way to shield current emotions or hide intentions. And consequently the degree of truth in what is said varies.

    At the end of Villains everything is up in the air. That sense that there aren't any certainties when we've watched one of our heroes murder is unsettling for what could happen next. We very much left events 'in action' and after the recap of the teaser, we join straight back to where we were. These last three episodes really do feel like a group and I actually find it hard to watch one and not just press start on the next straight away.

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

    Actually more to say now, since Buffy opens the subject – she’ll just be more explicit later. This episode actually brings with it a noted departure from “Villains” on Buffy’s absolutism about the killing of humans. What was an absolute in 6.20 is now qualified in 6.21, the moment she tacitly agrees with Xander that Warren “maybe” had it coming but Jonathan and Andrew don’t. Later, she’ll spell this out very plainly to Jonathan, that she considers them the line Willow truly can’t cross without being lost, even though she knew Willow had killed a human in anger. Perhaps Buffy’s own willingness to do this in the past colors her on it? Or is she unconsciously conceding that the Slayer and the witch are still also only human?
    I think the context of the victim and the personal aspects here relate to how/why Buffy's stance shifts. There is a sense of wanting to move the goal posts. As WfB raised in the Villains review, the lines between the actions of heroes and villains and when it is acceptable to kill aren't always clear and although Warren may not have deserved to die, that the question of whether he did or not due to his actions is there and that colours things. By human laws Willow is a criminal, but Buffy and Xander display their individual subjectivity as to where the lines are. Where in the past murdering humans has seemed always unacceptable they find it hard to feel the same when they empathise with the murderer, love them still and don't want to lose them, and when they despise the victim. So the line is moved and the next murder is then the one that Buffy needs to prevent. This is also in the midst of events unfolding and moving the line helps and removes any chance of getting drawn down too much for having failed to stop Willow taking that first life too. Buffy so often processes things with an emphasis on a sense of her own failings but right now she needs to stay focused on trying to stop what is currently happening.

    I am disappointed that people have often reacted to Xander as though he is self-centered about his frustration that he can’t keep up with Buffy and Anya in trying to get to Willow, but it feels important. Buffy and Anya are already very tactical in their thinking; this is a strategy game, protect the payload, deliver Jonathan and Andrew out of harm’s way without getting anyone killed by Willow; Xander’s only real interest here is Willow’s well-being. Not to say Buffy is indifferent to Willow’s well-being by any stretch, but you can see immediately through episode she feels her mission strongly – she has the safety of the town to think of and the possible threat Willow might pose to think of.
    Another thought I’ve had for this rewatch? Destroying Xander’s car is kind of revealing of the end of the season. Willow is the smartest of them; she knows implicitly that the only person wrecking the car can stop from following her is Xander. It’s as if she knows where she is vulnerable. Or that of all of them, he’s the one she instinctively is still trying to keep out of harm’s way, out of her way. Or perhaps those are the same thing?
    Xander's comments on the sounds and smell, his very physical reaction in being sick and still wanting to be sick, I think is a really great way of showing how hard it is for him to process what he's just seen in connection to Willow. As they physically leave the scene his focus seems to be on this desire to understand what Willow is going through, what is happening. His frustration at his inability to keep up doesn't come over as self-centred to me, but very much about how deep his desire to help Willow is. I like your suggestion that Willow acts instinctively to keep him away from her and how this works against the season finale.

    Of all the plays on addiction that have happened in this season, Buffy declaring Willow as having an addictive personality and having just tasted blood is the one I've found most frustrating. As I've said before, I think the use of drugs/magic as a coping mechanism, as a release and for escapism works well enough, but really it is the abuse of power that runs behind it all. In part connected to wanting to meet expectations but also from enjoying exceling. That Willow struggles to resist using magic isn't about the addiction of magic as a substance abuse in and of itself, but it is a symptom of what is truly going on. Just as Buffy isn't addicted to a destructive relationship and sex, that is a symptom of her response to trauma that her disassociation and depression also connect to. The escapism and pleasure they get draws them but addiction isn't the underlying problem. To me an addictive personality would have struggled in the wake of giving up magic with resisting new addictive draws such as gambling, drinking, overeating or such. This isn't something that we saw with Willow.

    There is a sense of freedom I think in having acted outside of acceptable social boundaries that can make doing so again easier. In this sense I think you can connect the first act to subsequent ones, but not in the sense of having got the taste of blood and behaving like an addict about it. But I don't have an issue with another character trying to process and understand what someone is going through and the description feeling somewhat ill-fitted. Plus the disconnection in the group and their lack of understanding of what each other is truly going through has been an important feature of the season too. Something that plays again into the ways that misdirection is possible to shield intentions and emotions later, and yet how it doesn't work when Xander focuses on what is really fuelling what Willow is doing.

    But Anya sure as hell is worth it. I won’t lie, I think this might be my favorite Anya episode in the series. This is bigger to me, than “End of Days”/”Chosen”, and any number of other “Anya comes into her own” episodes. This is the S-tier along with “Selfless” IMO. But seriously, she is amazing in this. She is actually more calm and sober than we’re used to getting out of her in a crisis, none of the frenetic energy or comedy.
    I think Anya as a vengeance demon is far calmer now she doesn't have that fear of mortality anymore. I like how it contrasts to the ways that she has reacted when there have been threats when she was human. In this way we can perhaps relate the shift in her to the change in Willow as she closes off to herself too.

    But Anya isn't completely unaffected by those around her and her slightly distanced attitude of bluntly stating how/where she will help is somewhat exposed as one of the times when misdirection of emotions is used when she talks to Xander in the magic box. Her remaining concern for the lives of those she is continuing to live around certainly plays into her choices.

    Like I said, I don’t want to spend much time on the Trio boys, but I am always appreciative of Jonathan correcting Andrew – they did do something. Not even specifically engaging Katrina (whose murder in which they are legally principals), but accepting that from the very first day they decided to “team up and take over Sunnydale” and started acting upon it, they put themselves on this course.
    And this opens a great theme that runs in the episode that works alongside that 'what you have become' aspect in whether you feel remorse. Whilst Jonathan does own his choices in a way that Andrew is still trying to negate, specific remorse or regret for the things he has done still feels lacking. On hearing that Willow is coming and has killed Warren, and even whilst being able to face a sense of responsibility, his main concern is still turned to himself. As much as he comes to accept they have to face up to their choices, actual remorse at this point is limited.

    The aspect of remorse is more starkly considered in Benediction alongside vengeance. Remorse stays Angel's hand in getting retribution for Holtz having kidnapped Connor, but the desire for vengeance in Holtz runs beyond any sense of remorse he may have. In truth the 'blessing' that he seems to be giving to Connor to reconnect with his biological father is all a screen to hide the vindictive nature of his actions in continuing to seek further vengeance. This could be seen to tie to Willow's ongoing desire to seek retribution beyond the person that she has taken vengeance on so far, her lack of remorse for her acts up to this point. Both characters' loss and grief fuels their drive for vengeance. But whereas Willow's despair is all encompassing and prevents her currently from seeing any positivity in the future, she doesn't get held in stasis like that. Holtz has kept his rage and anger at Angel for so long it has entirely corrupted him. He didn't ever have a Xander to pull him back.

    Willow’s violent reaction to Buffy having helped Jonathan and Warren pretty thoroughly telegraphs that this episode can only end one way.
    I love the moment of the scream. It is one of the only times that Willow's calm focus breaks and some of what lies beneath all of this is exposed. As she experiences a loss of control in events, some of the fury that is driving her gets expressed, but that loss of control also relates to her grief at her inability to bring Tara back, and it is so visceral.

    I really love that this is probably the only finale-two parter that really puts Buffy and the Good Guys “on their heels”, they demonstrably have no idea what to do. Go through all the others, they have a plan. Sometimes the plan changes mid-stream, but they come up with an idea and execute it. Here, though, they are totally at a loss for what to do. Even the loosest shape of “protect Jonathan and Andrew” isn’t a plan, because… until what? Willow just calms down? Credit to Andrew is that he – because his life is on the line – is the only one who thinks in terms of “this won’t end until Willow is stopped from doing it”, but that’s nothing Buffy or Xander are mentally dialed into.
    I've never particularly thought of this. It's a great point and works excellently alongside the season theme of life itself being the challenge and their struggles with facing what is thrown at them.

    Jonathan’s brief aside about who Willow was what I was thinking of when I talked about this episode having the most poignant things to say about addiction, probably without meaning to. As he talks, you can see it settle on Buffy and Xander both that… she’s not that person anymore. Maybe hasn’t been for a while, but she’s not anymore. Maybe never will be again. Connecting her to that past is what Xander can eventually do to save her (and the world, but only by happenstance, he didn’t care about that), but the gravity of what has changed is unmistakable and its important to call attention to.
    Again this calls to the impact of experiences and how it feeds into who you become. Seeing a moment of considering the extent of change, hearing a perception of who she was placed starkly against her now is a truly great way of underlining this. We've said at varying points through the season that the comfort of the past is often sought, but you can't return to who you used to be and particularly after having gone through traumatic experiences. And yet, how she responded to events in the past and wanted to change herself ties to who she is. So whilst she can never literally be who she was, who she was is part of who she is. Considering the varied facets of people's personalities can often reveal very contradictory traits. The side of Willow that has acted as she is now, the dark!Willow side of herself, will always be there too and was potentially there before she acted this way.

    I really like the imagery of the broken bumper that they shed off the police car as they flee when Willow's magic runs down. The metaphor of the damage to something that is a defence works well alongside the depleted power. To get her armour back up again Willow needs to reinforce.

    Also, I hate this scene – the big “solution”, the “insight” Jonathan provide is… keep driving. They were doing that anyway. I guess this is to set up her needing more power, but if they wanted to make him be useful, come up with some suggestion that meant something.
    I think this just relates again to that sense of having no idea what to do.

    Not much to say about Spike’s scenes in the episode in general because the “big stuff” doesn’t happen in “Two to Go” anyway and also… in hindsight, can we all agree that the intentional vagueness is tiresome? Especially knowing in hindsight that the soul isn’t a doublecross? That said, Fire Fist Guy is actually a pretty great gladiatorial challenge for a vampire, that bit was clever.
    I think drawing the challenges over the two episodes gives a greater sense to them being really tough too. It's what The Trial lacks in AtS I think. I can see why some might feel that the ongoing vague talk drags somewhat on rewatch when you know it is being used constantly to hide the true intention. But in this sense it is just another example of someone presenting themselves one way to hide their emotions or as a defence mechanism. In that sense I think it works alongside the derogatory way the demon was talking to Spike and mocking him in Villains, that he would continue with bluster, sarcasm and bravado. There is some similarity between Spike and Willow in both the concealment and mislead of what they are feeling alongside preparing themselves for what they are about to face. This is emphasised by the part repetition in their lines just before their respective fights. Spike says, "Here we are now," when his opponent appears and as Buffy and Willow face off Willow says, "So. Here we are."

    I agree the fiery fists are a nice touch for a gladiatorial challenge for a vamp. There are of course symbolic ties to fire as purifying, as well as destroying. So the duality of destruction and renewal works really well for something that is placed as a 'to the death' challenge. One where the alternate to death is a stage towards 'restoration' that is a renewal of spirit/soul. And the baring of self too can be seen to relate to putting himself on the line to get what he believes will make him accepted. Although it remains concealed to the viewer at this point, there's an open vulnerability in having walked in there represented as he turns to face that first opponent. The later scorches the evidence of the potential cost he's avoided as well as of the achievement towards the objective.

    I love Buffy’s attitude toward Jonathan. I mean, as an aside, I love that they reiterate here that Buffy has (re)drawn the moral Rubicon for Willow around the nerds, as she says to Xander, but I also love that she doesn’t even pretend to have time for them as people. I feel like this is probably her most “Mean Girl” moment in the entire show in a way, the head-nod at Jonathan. It’s just so “bitchy popular girl” I can’t quite articulate why. I like it. It’s not how Buffy usually acts, and it really sells the rising tension and uncertainty she feels here, because this isn’t normal, any of this, not socially and not “professionally”.
    I do think this contrasts quite often to how Buffy approaches things. And yet it also reminds me of the general message in Earshot that people don't hear everyone else's pain, they don't care about everyone's pain because they are trying to deal with their own priorities. Events are in action at the moment and Buffy is quite clear on where some of her boundaries are and is definite on what are her priorities. It isn't about Jonathan and Andrew but is about Willow. So it fits with her focus in the moment, but also the impact of experiences again. When she went over to Jonathan after Superstar and offered him some understanding as well as censure it was different. Not only because it was post the threat posed, but because he hadn't targeted her, been a part of tormenting her for months, and he hadn't recently been working with the person who then murdered her friend too. That sense of focus and blunt dismissal alongside the lack of certainty definitely does add into the tension.

    I would really love to know how Alyson was being directed in this scene with Rack. Jeff Kober does this kind of stuff so, so well, but your eyes can’t leave Alyson. Is the idea here that she’s… kind of into it? Or just acting like she’s into it, that sense of “I’m a junkie who will do anything” to make him drop his guard? But does she need him to drop his guard? I don’t really feel like she would. Or are they letting slip that she really still is a junkie and it does kind of have a hold on her, the things he says?
    Interesting questions. I'd have to rewatch the scene but I always felt it was about her wanting him to come close and let his guard down. I like the notion that there is still also a web that he can weave around her a little too. Even though I don't see her as addicted to magic, she is using it as a coping mechanism to avoid facing issues and is more deeply in that here than ever before, so it makes sense that there would be an appeal in listening to him and feeling that sense of abandonment in it that is connected to him too.

    Regardless, it’s very satisfying to see her pay back this harassment, this rapey-vibe, with a penetrative act of murder (I have just stopped acknowledging any retcons on this subject – she killed him). And it’s also important to sell the “heel turn” here. She isn’t doing good and right things, not even if you are angry about Tara.
    I wish I could ignore the retcon to be honest, but I choose to accept all canon, though I didn't like it. I can't remember if/how they attempted to explain it, but to not lose the significance of what Willow did I would just assume that she totally believed that she had killed him, genuinely tried to, but he had some mystical protection in place.

    The theme of her being the predator now clearly carries on from hunting Warren down in Villains to tracking and attacking Jonathan and Andrew now. But it is definitely here too in how she turns the tables on Rack. It's a really intense scene and that sense of a premeditated attack on him is greatly why it feels the intent is to position herself as deliberately drawing him in this time. The fact that she even uses his own phraseology from Wrecked in telling him she's wants to "take a little tour." underlines her dominance now.

    … and he treatment of Dawn is meant to reinforce that. I will make no bones about it – she was going to do it. Dawn will announce that to the audience, but I understood it implicitly watching in real time. She. Was. Going. To. Kill. Her. Because she said a name. Because she showed compassion. These are things that must not go unpunished if you are Willow in this state, running on this power.
    I'm not so sure, but she certainly wanted to scare her and lash out at her because of showing compassion and the notion of openly dealing with her grief. This is after all what Willow is pushing down and the vicious way she responds deflects what Dawn is trying to do. The only reason I doubt it may have gone as far as killing Dawn, is that I think she would have just done it if it was what she truly unequivocally wanted to do. She flayed Warren when Buffy and Xander were there trying to talk her down to stop her because she wanted to and wouldn't be deterred. If she was certain she wanted to kill Dawn, she would have. But I do agree that the shut down she is in means it isn't definite that even those she cares for will be safe regardless.

    I won’t use this review to unpack how much of this really “is” Willow’s psyche coming out unchecked, her worst impulsive thoughts. It reminds me a little of the Angel episode “Eternity”, how Wesley acknowledges “… things were said” by pseudo-Angelus that had lasting, hurting value.
    The notion of duality is a fairly constant one in the shows and certainly is flagged strongly for Willow, Buffy and Spike in particular this season. I think it is fair to draw the comparison to Angel acting out as his unsouled self whilst still souled in Eternity as it is very akin to the balance that Willow and Buffy especially (and Spike in S7 when souled too) have to face in themselves in this season. Having a darker aspect to their natures emphasises the responsibility that comes with the power they hold and the possible abuse of such. I do give Willow a great deal of compassionate understanding because of how fuelled her actions are by trauma from losing Tara and her inability to face the grief and despair. But I don't think it separates it from being an aspect of herself that is at play and the problematic abuse of power as something that she needs to face.

    The idea of escaping the pain completely is part of what she is doing in shutting down and lashing out like she is herself. Perhaps part of the extremes she is going to is driven by the desire to go so far that she doesn't have anything to come back to, that she loses everything because she feels like she has. It is all incredibly self-destructive. And of course the removal of life as a removal of pain that she suggests to Dawn here is in fact what she then looks to do in an absolute way for herself and everyone in the next episode.

    I really like your observation about the exchanges between the characters in the Magic Box that follows. I agree that Xander genuinely feels a weight of responsibility. His openness about his inner emotions contrasts some to how Anya is still hiding somewhat with the assertion she would take vengeance on him despite having in fact stopped Spike from making a wish at the end of Entropy. It's important to her too to clarify again that what happened between them wasn't intentional vengeance but she still wants to lash out verbally at Xander. It's clear though, and despite the barriers that have come between them after all that happened to end their relationship, that they still care about each other. I find it interesting that you see Anya telling him to 'do something right' as a positive thing. I've always felt that it is somewhat harsh when he clearly is desperate to try to help, but I can see that it could feel like a push to go and affect things positively, having some belief that he can contribute.

    I think there is an interesting question raised about blame too. When do you stop tracing back blame and where does it truly rest? Those connections to the past that we're constantly seeing pave the way to current actions are often influenced by the actions and choices of others. We've raised before that we know Warren/Jonathan/Andrew were subjected to ridicule and bullying, were socially ostracised and there is an aspect of blaming those that distressed them for the choices they make in response. Taking responsibility for our choices even in context of what led to them is an acknowledgment of the possibility of other choices that were there at the time. In this way Xander puts too much blame on himself at times when it was reasonable to not have foreseen what could happen and not ultimately being responsible for the actions of those you are responding too. This is a trait Buffy often tends towards too and can get very mixed into how she feels about her duty.

    Buffy confronting Willow kinda breaks my heart, because there’s a secret in this scene that Buffy isn’t telling, but one second on that. Willow shifting between the third and first person is also its own sort of wrenching. But Buffy’s secret is this – she’s telling the truth. She knows what she is talking about, with the costs of grief and anger. But that’s not it – she’s telling Willow the truth about the value of living. She doesn’t have this epiphany in “Grave” about not wanting to die. She’s already had it. Maybe it was sitting up in that hospital bed with Xander and Willow, I don’t know. Maybe it was seeing Dawn stricken sitting alone with Tara’s body. But she isn’t wincing in regret when Willow mocks the idea that Buffy could actually mean any of this about wanting to live and there being things to live for because Willow is scoring points, it’s because she realizes there’s nothing she can say in this moment to make Willow believe that Buffy believes it.
    I really like this suggestion about Buffy's pov here. I think there is a note of guilt too in her response that she did feel as Willow is suggesting for a really long time and Dawn is there hearing all of this. But from the moment in Gone when she was scared to die Buffy has been making steps towards returning to life more fully. The choice to engage in life and the possibilities it brings was also taken more proactively at the end of Normal Again too. I can certainly see how the experience of waking in the hospital bed having been so close to death again could have layered in towards her determined choice to live that will come more openly in Grave. Perhaps even the exposure and open statement of how she did feel until so very recently in front of Dawn plays its part in pressing why it has to be Dawn that Buffy reengages with more definitively too.

    I agree the transition back to the Magic Box is great and really underscores Willow's power. Especially after Anya wasn't able to transport Xander and Buffy or Jonathan and Andrew earlier and had asserted that Willow would only be able to go airborne, 'a witch at her level'. Nope, incorrect.

    I warned you, I don’t have much to say about Spike. Har har there was more than one stage.
    I think this just serves to emphasise the arduous nature of the trials and the commitment he has to have to achieving his objective. It's also perhaps another attempt to bring a general question over the process Spike has entered into where he misunderstood "you'd never endure the trials required to grant your request" (Villains) as meaning that he would personally undergo more than one. He refers to it as a test at the start of the fight in this episode and was clearly thinking it would be singular when the demon was seeing it as a singular process with multiple parts. I find it amusing enough and think that the main point is to see that he doesn't back down or try to back out when more is required from him. In some ways I think that this reflects well to what we are seeing/will see further in Xander's tenacity in his continuous, determined attempts to reach out to Willow.

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

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

    I’m glad they didn’t go super-duper martial arts choreography with this fight. It’s kinda visceral. I’d rather them fight even dirtier, in fact. But that it’s all closed fists and broken furniture fits, because there is a thread of unresolved tension being worked out here.
    Yes and as much as Willow has put a spell of strength on herself that could have included an aspect of fighting skill to beat the guys to death with, the small touches of ability they include are enough for a magically gained skill, but for the confrontation to still carry a sense of grittiness that works with her inner turmoil under the calm demeanour.

    I think that Willow winning at the break of the fight is right too. The lack of holds barred for her and the mask of determination and tunnel vision she is displaying combined with her magical strength and self-given physical strength means that it is the way it should go. Again I'm not convinced that she would have gone for the kill in the end and the satisfaction of the clear defeat wouldn't have been enough (as the satisfaction of Dawn's fear that Willow clearly could do as she said may have been). I'm left feeling that if she was so set on murder she would have just gone to blast Buffy or Dawn exactly like she tried with Jonathan and Andrew. When she intends to kill the action is taken. Instead it looked more to me like she was checking Buffy was staying down, that she had indeed won. And twice we've seen her blast Anya out of the way, yet without killing her too when she easily could. I'm not saying that she isn't a real threat to her friends and that it shouldn't be questioned whether she will keep drawing a line. That she may feel the wish to kill is definitely questionable. But at every turn so far where she could have killed one of them with the power she has, she hasn't.

    I really enjoy this episode because of the confrontation between loved ones, I always think that adds a delicious drama in genre fiction. But it’s also because I believe it’s all “real”, that the stakes are life and death, that it works for me on that level. This is an episode that relies heavily on people coming to terms with their mistakes and their own attitudes in the wake of tragedy, and the hashing out that has to take place before life can move forward.
    I agree that a lot of the weight in this episode comes from people facing each other but what I find really interesting is also how they are still hiding and holding back. The whole 'addiction' as a motivator may appear to cover why Willow is reacting as she is, whilst how much avoidance of facing what has happened to Tara and since is layering up into the escalation too. Contrastingly Jonathan's determination they need to take responsibility underlines some of what is being avoided, but whilst he also avoids remorse. So much is still about surface impressions even as some resentments and issues are raised, some aspects are still hidden within. The clear metaphor in AtS's Benediction of the ocean having a whole world under the surface really plays to the depths of what can be happening within and that there are things that are still deliberately withheld or shielded against facing.

    Thank you King for a really interesting review that gave several new considerations about how the characters are responding to each other. It would be great if you were able to join us for the finale too. I'd love to hear your perspective on Xander in that ep as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by StateOfSiege97 View Post
    Unfortunately, I can offer little more than that, as it has been so very long since my last viewing of AtS… I would say that Connor’s problem stems not only from having been raised outside of society—but having been raised very strictly, suffering the imposition of his foster-father’s twisted laws, laws that militated against Connor’s integration into any social order, into his formation of any social relations… Not just with Angel, whom he was raised to hate on a personal level, if I remember correctly, but with others, those who may have been kind to him, sought to help him… He was raised not simply outside the norms of the society into which he found himself thrown—he was raised, shaped to feel himself in opposition to all he met, unless they were sanctioned by his foster-father (whose name I have forgotten.. ).
    Yes I completely agree that where and how Connor was raised is a major aspect of why he struggles as much as he does to relate in a healthy way and why he is as troubled as he is. It stood out to me in particular in this rewatch of Benediction how little the group questions the influence that Holtz may have had during Connor's childhood. Even though Lorne openly states that he was raised by a psychopath himself, the wish to believe in the easy eradication of the influence of Quor'toth that Cordelia then performs instantly clouds the point.

    Another point that brings such clearer understanding of Connor I think is raised by Fred's misconception that she understands how Connor feels having escaped a hell dimension herself. This works alongside Lorne's comment as neither bear a resemblance to his life from Connor's pov. That Connor doesn't remember ever being lost is such a huge thing. In this way he differs greatly from Willow who has also been set on taking vengeance and hunting down her prey, as Willow is turning away from herself in a way Connor doesn't have to.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Willow's relationship with power and agree that the pleasure of success and attainment is an important layer in her use and abuse of power. This desire to achieve and excel has been a constant for her as she has looked to be the person she feels others want her to be, which twists with and into the image she desires to hold too. And, as you say, the choices we make in our presentations of self are from both conscious and unconscious influences that reach back as well as form from the current.

    This reminded me of something I noticed in Benediction as the significance of names is pressed both when Connor insists on being called Steven as it is when the others on occasion still slip to calling him Connor. Connor denies Angel as his father, labeling Holtz as his father, at the same time as Angel is identified repeatedly as truly being so. I'm sure we have discussed in the past within the rewatch how the act of naming something can be seen as an assertion of power and dominance and the power and strength in words has been raised specifically in relation to Willow before too. Labels and naming state perceived relationships and names play a part in desired identities too (the obvious example of course is 'Spike'). This aspect stood out in Two to Go as well with the combination of Jonathan's comfortable simplification of Willow from the past as 'just Willow' against how Willow herself then talked of her past self with such a sense of separation and disparaging tone against the same name. Andrew earlier mocked Jonathan and tried to bully him as he was probably bullied many times in his past, "Shut up, Jerk-athan!" It works as well in the confrontation between Buffy and Willow with the references to being a slayer and not being a killer. Labels and names used revealing the varied perceptions and suggested facets of characters. The truth will often be an amalgamation of all of those, even though they can't all be equally at surface level at all times. Right now Willow is pushing down a part of herself and letting a destructive part that doesn't take responsibility for the power she has rule.
    Last edited by Stoney; 01-10-19 at 09:52 AM.

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    My apologies for the delay in posting, but life has a mind of its own. Thanks for letting me participate, and thanks for your patience,

    Blue
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    ______________


    Grave, Season six, episode 22, A review.

    This season… and this episode are about the same thing. Courage. Facing oneself and one’s demons. Growing up in the deepest sense. Finding meaning in the world.

    Like every other season of Buffy, it’s most intimately about the people. About fighting for things that matter. Unfortunately, after everything that they’ve lost in the last couple of years, even what matters comes into question. The ‘little big bads’ are three spoilt children. Warren is a sociopath. The other two are scared, selfish and broken and this is as much their journey as it is the Scooby journey.

    The uber big bad is Willow. She is as much a consequence as she is an active agent. I’ve heard it said that the season’s real big bad is ‘life’, but I don’t agree. The season’s big bad is the choices people have made; Willow and then Giles, primarily; Warren, Spike, Buffy and Xander, secondarily.

    Willow chose to raise the dead. Giles chose to do nothing after Willow brought Buffy back; proving that she was both incredibly powerful and utterly reckless. Then he compounded this by leaving them all to flounder. We learn about the coven in this episode, but it is likely Giles knew about the coven before. An opportunity missed.

    Warren chose to be a monster. He chose to kill, steal and corrupt those around him. He chose to inflict pain when things didn’t go his way. He chose to try to kill the slayer when she got in the way of his life of crime.

    In this season, the horrible things that occur are often traceable directly to choices. This isn’t always the case with life. No one chose for Joyce to die. People die. Things happen that are outside of our control and we react to them. This is the year of horrible choices, however. Bringing back Buffy is both the best and the worst of those choices, one with potentially world ending consequences. But that is a problem for another season.

    This episode is the endpoint for most of the other choices of this season.

    Buffy is unique amongst shows of its genre. At their best, any story, any genre story becomes special when the adventure and the journey are intriguing and involving, but they don’t rise past mere diversion unless there’s something more than good plotting and scary enemies that our ‘courageous heroes’ vanquish in the nick of time, almost losing all… What separates stories like The Lord of the Rings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer from their contemporaries, long forgotten, is how they affect and connect to us. In every generation, in every time, there are stories told, in modern times, books written, TV shows or cinema… and most of them are quickly forgotten.

    In Buffy, the adventure is fundamentally the vehicle for revealing and binding us to the people in the series and showing us not just who they are and why we love them, but connecting ourselves with the most fundamental parts of being human, of being alive. No more is this evident than in this season, where so much is stripped away, and so much is lost.

    In a very fundamental way, everyone is alone this season. We see it dramatized in Dawn’s meltdown and her grasping at things to replace the people who simply aren’t there. Mom’s dead. Dad’s somewhere with his whatever. Buffy’s lost and confused and broken, and now Tara’s dead. Isolation is the ongoing theme that she carries the banner for all season. But In this episode, what we see is people coming back together, remembering why they love each other, why they’re alive and why they fight.

    We value life not because we haven’t lost, not because of the things we have or the prestige or power we acquire. We value life when we find purpose. Most importantly, purpose is found in being a part of something. In loving and being loved.

    In knowing that what you do matters.

    Season six is a journey in the depths of the wilderness, and the cataclysm that is Grave is the culmination of everyone’s choices, everyone’s pains, everyone’s experiences over the year – and even over the series.

    Willow’s magic came from rage, power and vengeance… but these aren’t he most powerful forces in the universe, though they may well be the most destructive. What is most powerful and ultimately most useful in the world is love, connection, and the honorable commitment to fight against the forces of darkness, and for what – and who matters.

    __________________


    The opening scene… the arrival of Giles, and Willow’s reaction… that is priceless.

    I cringe a bit when both Buffy and Anya cling to Giles a bit, but this is their darkest moment and he’s just come to the rescue AND he’s someone they need and love.

    Part of me doesn’t want to buy Willow’s reaction in this arc, but I think anyone who’s lost someone to a sudden death – particularly one as violent as what occurred would be shattered. Willow is, in some ways, the most fragile ego in the series. Both Oz and Tara validated her as a person in a way that we do not see in anyone else. In spite of her brilliance, she’s still that little girl who wore ‘floods’ and whose mother bought her clothes a 12 year old would wear when she was well into high school. She had no self-confidence and no real self-concept. She developed power instead of self.

    Her spell when Oz leaves could just as easily have ended the world or the lives of any of her friends and she did it without any real cognizance of the seriousness of her actions. That no attempt was made to confront her about that is, in hindsight, a clear mistake, but whose responsibility was she? She was an adult in college, and usually also the smartest person in any room, something that breeds arrogance even if it doesn’t breed self-esteem.

    Therefore, in Grave, her ongoing magical psychotic break is utterly believable… and Allyson Hannigan’s performance is terrifying. In both instances, Willow has her ‘toy’ taken away, and her response is to have a world threatening magical tantrum. It isn’t about them, it’s all about her. For someone so very powerful, she leads a remarkably unexamined life. This allows her to delude herself that magic is ‘the’ answer, rather than being ‘a’ tool.

    From the very beginning of the series, she shows herself as entitled and no one stops her. She violates laws when she breaks into the computer systems of various entities. She is easily caught up in the flattery of the demon who calls himself ‘Malcolm’, because she wants to be someone, wants not to be alone. Where Xander shows up and does what he can because it’s the right thing to do and because he cares, we get the impression on more than one occasion that Willow does what she does to validate herself, or to receive validation from others.

    Xander is justifiably afraid of who he could become; and though it sadly leads to him leaving Anya at the altar instead of going into counseling; he’s self-aware enough to be afraid. Willow is never cautious enough to be afraid of her path, her power or her choices. It is why it will have to take nearly ending the world for her to see what she could destroy. For others to act.

    Even the attempts of all her friends – people who would die for her, or who already have – mean nothing. The arrival of Giles is met with utter derision. We know from her reaction that she is off the rails entirely and it’s sad to see. It also makes Willow very unsympathetic. I don’t know if that is what the writer’s intent, but that moment shows a casual and contemptuous disregard of the entire situation.

    “Daddy’s home! I’m in wicked trouble now!”

    It’s a relief to see Giles. Both Buffy and Anya say his name with a degree of awe that is unexpected in both of them. One forgets just how powerful an actor Anthony Head can be when he’s there on a day to day basis. In this guise, particularly without his ‘mild mannered librarian’ glasses camouflage, he is actually frightening. In his first few moments, he hits all the right notes, and not in a trite way. He’s scary and that feels really good. It’s like fresh water. Then he’s sympathetic and comforting. His hysterical laughter… his and Buffy’s – it’s perfect – exactly because everything about the whole situation is so fraught and so utterly absurd as well.

    A moment that I really appreciate much more than I have before is his apology for leaving. It’s a small moment in the middle of a crisis and it’s easy to gloss over, but it is so needed. More than an apology, it is clear he’s realized that it was the wrong decision. I’m once more surprised and frankly a bit dismayed that Buffy seems to have accepted that he did the right thing. The reason? It really never could have been a reasonable choice to leave the planet’s champion, alone and broke with a child to raise; and with a serious case of PTSD caused by resurrection, digging out of her grave or losing heaven or, you know, all of the above!

    It barely made tactical sense that the council could expect what is basically slave labor from the girls that save the world, but to them, apparently, the slayer is entirely expendable, in spite of her role. Giles, however, should have more sense and more compassion. Anyway, that is a different discussion and I’m glad that the writers at least attempted to put a bandaid/sticking plaster over what is a huge wound in the fabric of Buffy the person, and yes, Buffy the series. It read as abandonment, pure and simple. It harmed the relationship between Giles and Buffy, and Giles and the rest of the group. It harmed or even destroyed how Giles is viewed by many fans, period. Giles’ rationale for leaving was poorly thought out, and never did make any sense, not even if the writers wanted everything to melt down, but Anthony Head needed to leave, and that was the best they could come up with.

    Giles’ admission that his leaving was a bone headed idea is therefore a relief. That sounds more like Giles. Adults ask for help. When adult problems lay us flat, smart people get help. Buffy tried. Giles left anyway. What is clear is that Buffy has learned coping skills from all that has happened, in spite of it being totally the wrong choice by Giles, in my opinion. I do think it’s also likely that it has reinforced the idea that everyone in her life, particularly the men, will eventually abandon her… again a different discussion.

    It seems to me that she learns the reverse lesson of what she’s tried to live her entire life as the slayer. We live or die on our own, we depend on ourselves. We are always, fundamentally alone and cannot depend on anyone. That is not a good lesson. No general or private can win a war. Wars require armies. We are not islands. We need love and family. Life lived alone is a poor substitute for the life lived interdependently. In fact, it is Willow’s inability to truly lean on anyone that isolates her so much she never really develops anyway of coping when she loses her ‘only’ people. She reacts badly when she loses Oz and then Tara precisely because she is fundamentally alone in a way that neither Xander nor Buffy ever really are. Willow’s identity is in others. So when she loses them, she loses Willow.

    We watch Buffy and Giles’ underestimation of Willow with growing unease… It is terrifying – and it reads exactly right. They want everything to be OK, or sort of OK, for the danger to be over. Of course, you don’t leave a powerful, completely unrepentant and probably psychotic witch unattended. Usually, I’d call this bad writing – generate danger by having your otherwise competent heroes do something utterly stupid. I don’t see that here. For them, even after all that has happened, she’s still ‘just Willow’. In their heads, they want to believe this can really be over.

    The moment Willow appears with her ‘prey’ Anya clutched in her claws, and drops her carcass is a shock to the system. We don’t know she isn’t dead. Willow has already killed two people. It’s never stated outright, but Dawn asks if Rack is dead and Willow doesn’t deny it. If Willow has killed Anya, we truly are in new territory.

    Then, she tries to kill Giles. Hurling knifes at someone is not destined to end well. She was trying to stop Buffy, which could have killed her, but Giles, she was simply trying to kill.

    ________


    Meanwhile we join those running away. Xander’s low moment of the episode is when he reveals his version of what happened between Buffy and Spike, and does it in the worst possible way. He tells Dawn his angry version of something he really doesn’t know all that much about, and something that is simply not his story to tell. He’s disrespectful of both Buffy and Dawn.

    “Sure, if he wasn’t trying to rape your sister.”

    NO, a world of no. It is, sadly, in character. He’s angry and he’s not guarding his mouth or thinking of who he’s expressing this rage at or to. It is inappropriate. And the timing could not be worse. He violates both Buffy’s and Dawn’s trust here.

    One thing really grates on re-viewing. That’s the scenes with Spike telling the demon that he wants to give ‘the slayer’ what she deserves… it sounds so not like Spike. Well, it sounds like a season two version of Spike, who’s going to get revenge for having feelings. Thing is, even then, Spike wasn’t ashamed of his feelings. That was Angel’s gig.
    Spike’s angry rants do work to misdirect, but it doesn’t feel right, particularly after the big reveal comes.

    We’re supposed to believe that he’s getting the chip out, but his reaction seems out of character for who he has become, and where he would be, especially after his own revulsion about his behavior back in Seeing Red. So, though it has theatre, it just feels a bit melodramatic and in retrospect, a bit clunky. When you don’t know what’s coming next, it feels head-scratch weird, but when you do, it feels totally off. These scenes are the weakest part of the episode and my least favorite.

    _________________


    Willow is drunk on her borrowed power. She accuses Giles of borrowed power, but she is the one who drained all the magic books. She accuses him of being jealous, but it’s projection. She craves more and more power, and it doesn’t take her long to take his as well. She’s the one who is stealing power – from books, from Rack, from Giles and probably from the Hellmouth too. When she steals Giles’ power, however, things change.

    Now Willow has empathy… the kind that makes you want to kill other people to end their pain. ALL the other people.

    The shift to the cemetery is just in time… for us see the arrival Buffy, who has been chasing Willow’s fireball. Thanks to her intervention, it misses the real villains and renders Xander unconscious and buries Buffy and Dawn in a hole.

    Using Giles as the narrator here is very helpful. We know he’d never lie. So when he says that Willow’s going to end the world, we know it’s true.

    I’m torn about Buffy’s decision not to tell Dawn about Spike. Truthfully, I don’t think she’s processed it yet, and with everything that has happened, I actually don’t blame her for not talking about it. There’s a clear, present danger. Survivors of domestic and or sexual violence don’t have an easy time talking about it. Then there’s the part where, in spite of the horribleness of the event, it is likely Buffy knows Spike’s intent was not to hurt her, though hurt her he most definitely did.

    It’s my opinion that his behavior was precisely to be expected of someone without a true moral compass. I think Buffy knows this. I don’t think she would even begin to have the words to articulate what happens. When she’s telling her tale of the last few months to Giles she says ‘and I’ve been sleeping with Spike.’ She does not say ‘Spike tried to rape me.’ In spite of how violated we see her react, I am not sure that’s what she thinks of the event. So, I believe her not telling Dawn was a valid choice – particularly as she’s been balls to the wall trying to learn how to parent, and parents tend NOT to tell their children about their personal lives. I would argue that telling Dawn should not be her first act in dealing with it. She needs counselling and support and she should have had a counselor, maybe even should have been able to talk to her friends, but Dawn was still a child. Down in the hole, it’s one more distraction in a situation that cannot really afford distractions.

    Dawn thinks she’s not a kid, and she’s right that Buffy cannot protect her from everything, but she’s not right that she needs to know everything.

    It’s all happening way too fast. The pacing here is perfect. Anya arrives. We know the end game. I love the interactions between Buffy and Dawn and Anya. It’s like a tennis match with explication and very bad news. The world is ending, and Giles might be dying. And no supernatural power can stop it.

    Of course, while Buffy was hearing the news, so was Xander. So he’s gone.

    The temple of plastic-orgy-creature is arising. What the heck were they thinking? It’s very dramatic, until you see the glowing plastic deity. It looks like Medusa Barbie with a flashlight behind it.

    Buffy never stops fighting. Even from the bottom of a hole, when she hears she can do nothing. That is her nature.

    When you’ve watched the series as many times as I’ve watched it, it all feels familiar, but the beautiful thing about this is that it has actually been a few years since I did a watch through of the entire series, and these ending episodes of season six episodes aren’t the ones I tend to rewatch for my fic. Thus, there’s both a freshness to the rewatch and along with a great deal of familiarity.

    Willow tells Buffy to go out fighting and everything speeds up even more.

    When Buffy asks Dawn to fight it’s a cute moment, but it reads a bit false because the Dawn that watched Buffy fight (as she says not that much later) is someone who wouldn’t just cringe and not pick up that second sword while she saw Buffy struggle. Summers women are made of sterner stuff. Remember ‘get the hell away from my daughter?’ Dawn would have grabbed the second sword right off the bat. Those swords were so awfully convenient. I mean, who lets their enemy wander around with swords… Dawn and Xander did not have swords. I see that as a minor plot hole. But of course, needed and accounted for. I always like that about Buffy. There’s usually an explanation for most of what happens in the show.

    Everything seems to be falling apart. The sisters are finally fighting together.

    I feel just a little sorry for poor Anya. Trying to comfort Giles, but utterly honest to the end, even when she thinks he’s dying. She is grateful he came, but she can see the apparent stupidity of his arming Willow with extra magic. It’s funny and touching and true to her character.

    One thing does work absolutely, however: the scene between Willow and Xander. This is probably her best acted episode, and maybe her best scene in the whole series, and it’s easily Xander’s second best scene in the series. (I believe his scene where he tells Dawn she’s extraordinary, is his best, by a long shot. In fact, I think it’s one of the top speeches of the entire series, period). In terms of world saveage, however, this is the second time his being merely human saves the world. The first was him giving Buffy CPR in season 1. If she had remained dead, the Hellmouth would have opened, and the Master would have remained free. That is the first time we see the true value of Buffy’s choice to have allies. This time, however, the world saving is directly in Xander’s column, with an assist from Giles.

    This is pure Xander and he’s just perfect. Funny, poignant, brave, full of love. We see his shock and emotional hurt when she actually lashes out at him. Then we see her shock at having caused him pain, and her rage and magics begin to fail her. He keeps telling her he loves her.

    Finally, it gets through.

    Finally, she lets go.

    Her hair bleeds from black to red and the demons vanish. It’s over. The victory has been won. The world is in tatters, but mostly, everyone is alive.

    Anya’s best line: “Why aren’t you dead? Why aren’t I dead?”

    It turns out there’s one more reveal. The magics Willow stole from Giles had a purpose. To get through to her.

    There are some who have difficulty with this ending. That the two men save the day. It is ‘Buffy’s show’; that a man saying ‘I love you’ is what it takes to bring down the ‘crazy lesbian’ strikes some as anti-feminist. But in my opinion, it’s fundamentally, much simpler than that. It’s two friends dealing with grief. It’s about one man having serious balls in the face of power he cannot hope to combat, and somehow remaining standing when it’s all over. It’s about love.

    _____________


    I love it when Anya learns that it’s Xander who has saved them all. Her bewildered, yet awed look is perfect. She and Giles have interesting chemistry. Just for a second.

    The little vignette with the two frightened fugitives in the cab of the semi is all we need. It leavens a lot of serious, earnestness with a tiny amount of necessary silly. Danny Strong totally sells Jonathan’s frightened deer in the headlights, and it makes us smile. It also sews up their arc nicely.

    I love the interaction between Buffy and Dawn after the world doesn’t end. It is complicated and it’s sweet. How much both of them have learned, and oddly, in spite of the misery, how much Buffy has healed. For the first time since she dug out of her grave, she’s looking forward. Still, we hear her wanting to see the joy of others. Nothing about her own. That is her cross to bear, however. Even with friends, she lives her life for the lives of others.

    The daylight is subdued. Like the dawn after a storm. Dawn and Buffy face the world, the beauty, and the hope. Together. The music that plays as they walk through the natural beauty is poignant and lovely and haunting. It is perfect too for what comes next. Rebirth.

    And then Spike. The powerful part of this scene is him getting his soul back. Still not really enjoying that ‘what she deserves’ nonsense. What could he possibly think she deserves? Not him, surely! And not revenge. Especially not once we learn the real reason for his trip. After all, he’s gone and gotten his soul in an overabundance of guilt… The only thing that makes any sense is that maybe his anger in the earlier scene is actually self-loathing… but it doesn’t read that way, so it is kind of a sour note in an otherwise amazing episode. Unlike a lot of people, I think he needed that soul and that the actions in the bathroom were exactly what it took for him to realize that… so that part I buy. We know in that instant that Spike’s soul is going to be a game changer.
    Last edited by DeepBlueJoy; 03-10-19 at 01:40 AM.

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  9. #845
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    Grave sucks ass.

    It's the weakest finale in the TV series, it might even be the weakest finale in the entire franchise (I mean, realistically, the coke-fueled conclusion to season eight is still the worst but whatever) and it's probably a good candidate for an episode where Buffy truly jumps the shark. Up until "Grave" the final arc is very personal affair. Murdered lover, vengeance, conflict between friends - it's human and tastefully restrained. Buffy and Willow are locked in conflict, wow, the show had not featured anything this personal since season two! And then Giles shows up and instead of actually resolving the conflict the show decides to sidestep it and ignore it just like it ignores its main character (seriously, why is Buffy even in this episode? She does nothing!) Suddenly there's an apocalypse and a big bad because it's a BtVS finale so there has to be an apocalypse and a big bad even if all those elements need to be introduced in the most clumsy fashion in the middle of the season's conclusion. It's basically Buffy cargo-culting itself. I don't understand it - the writers had twenty plus episodes to introduce the buried temple and Proserpexa, to mention the prophecy and the overseas coven and they didn't because?

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  11. #846
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    Have still to catch up with the amazing reviews, lagging behind but just jumping in to say...
    Quote Originally Posted by a thing of evil View Post
    Suddenly there's an apocalypse and a big bad because it's a BtVS finale so there has to be an apocalypse and a big bad even if all those elements need to be introduced in the most clumsy fashion in the middle of the season's conclusion. It's basically Buffy cargo-culting itself. I don't understand it - the writers had twenty plus episodes to introduce the buried temple and Proserpexa, to mention the prophecy and the overseas coven and they didn't because?
    Completely agree with everything you said about the prior episodes I had to respond about Grave though...

    Is it surprising we didn't know about Proserpexa before, though? Dark Willow is a font of new knowledge since she "consumed" those Dark Magic books in Villains, just two episodes back. The point of the finale I thought was Dark Willow's grief, the Temple of Proserpexa (with that Medusa-like figurehead and Proserpexa's onomatopoeic similarity to "Proserpina", the Roman goddess of the underworld) was only symbolic. I don't think the logistics needed to have been brought up/ 'built up' in prior episodes. I think it was probably meant to be done that way.
    ***
    Sidenote: it never bothered me how 'real' or 'fake' the set looks or if it seems theatrical: Marnie was one of Hitchcock's greats and the scene at Mark's office is supremely theatrical, melodramatic and the sets are 'fake' looking so often, but their psychological value is timeless:



    And then Giles shows up and instead of actually resolving the conflict the show decides to sidestep it and ignore it just like it ignores its main character (seriously, why is Buffy even in this episode? She does nothing!)
    I'm not sure the dynamic between Willow/ Giles/ Buffy/ the others could have been "resolved" in one episode so I'm kind of glad they didn't write away all of the conflict. Buffy's a hero but then heroes are human too, she does the most crucial thing (for herself). She's been flailing and struggling all season with her depression and she does what no one else could have done for her, she sees/ embraces the value in life. Either WfB or AA mentioned this in an earlier post (*sorry if I credited you wrongly!), that it's Dark Willow who makes her see this, and I love that.
    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 03-10-19 at 09:12 AM.
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    DeepBlueJoy, great review. I enjoyed it more than the episode. Granted, that’s not saying much as I really dislike this episode, LOL, but I did really like your review.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeepBlueJoy
    It’s a relief to see Giles. Both Buffy and Anya say his name with a degree of awe that is unexpected in both of them. One forgets just how powerful an actor Anthony Head can be when he’s there on a day to day basis. In this guise, particularly without his ‘mild mannered librarian’ glasses camouflage, he is actually frightening. In his first few moments, he hits all the right notes, and not in a trite way. He’s scary and that feels really good. It’s like fresh water. Then he’s sympathetic and comforting. His hysterical laughter… his and Buffy’s – it’s perfect – exactly because everything about the whole situation is so fraught and so utterly absurd as well.

    A moment that I really appreciate much more than I have before is his apology for leaving. It’s a small moment in the middle of a crisis and it’s easy to gloss over, but it is so needed. More than an apology, it is clear he’s realized that it was the wrong decision. I’m once more surprised and frankly a bit dismayed that Buffy seems to have accepted that he did the right thing. The reason? It really never could have been a reasonable choice to leave the planet’s champion, alone and broke with a child to raise; and with a serious case of PTSD caused by resurrection, digging out of her grave or losing heaven or, you know, all of the above!

    It barely made tactical sense that the council could expect what is basically slave labor from the girls that save the world, but to them, apparently, the slayer is entirely expendable, in spite of her role. Giles, however, should have more sense and more compassion. Anyway, that is a different discussion and I’m glad that the writers at least attempted to put a bandaid/sticking plaster over what is a huge wound in the fabric of Buffy the person, and yes, Buffy the series. It read as abandonment, pure and simple. It harmed the relationship between Giles and Buffy, and Giles and the rest of the group. It harmed or even destroyed how Giles is viewed by many fans, period. Giles’ rationale for leaving was poorly thought out, and never did make any sense, not even if the writers wanted everything to melt down, but Anthony Head needed to leave, and that was the best they could come up with.
    I completely agree with all of this. While I dislike the way that Giles is characterized for most of this episode (more on that later), I do like that scene between him and Buffy where he admits it was stupid of him to leave. The laughter, the familiarity and the open, honest camaraderie between the two of them... it added such a sense of comfort that has been missing for pretty much the entire season. It’s probably the best scene of the episode for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeepBlueJoy
    We are always, fundamentally alone and cannot depend on anyone. That is not a good lesson. No general or private can win a war. Wars require armies. We are not islands. We need love and family. Life lived alone is a poor substitute for the life lived interdependently. In fact, it is Willow’s inability to truly lean on anyone that isolates her so much she never really develops anyway of coping when she loses her ‘only’ people. She reacts badly when she loses Oz and then Tara precisely because she is fundamentally alone in a way that neither Xander nor Buffy ever really are. Willow’s identity is in others. So when she loses them, she loses Willow.
    I love this, particularly the part I bolded. You’re right that Willow’s belief that she is fundamentally alone and has no one to lean on is what drives her downward spiral(s). That’s why I find it believable that she would have a complete meltdown after Tara’s death.

    But what I don’t find believable is the fact that Willow would try to kill all of her friends (and then later the world). The homicidal behavior and relentless cruelty towards all the people who care about her just ends up making Willow appear incredibly unlikeable and like an enormous drama queen. It’s less about grief and more about the shock value of seeing Willow become a Big Bad. The last two episodes would have been way more compelling and Willow-sympathetic if it had been about the Scoobies trying to stop Willow from killing herself rather than from killing Andrew, Jonathan, and the rest of the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeepBlueJoy
    I love it when Anya learns that it’s Xander who has saved them all. Her bewildered, yet awed look is perfect. She and Giles have interesting chemistry. Just for a second.
    Agreed on Anya’s amazingly understated reaction to learning Xander has saved everyone. Emma Caulfield is amazing and I definitely agree with KingofCretins that she is the MVP of these episodes. Her chemistry with Giles is spectacular. And no, not just for a second. Sparks have always flown in their scenes together, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by a thing of evil View Post
    Grave sucks ass.

    It's the weakest finale in the TV series, it might even be the weakest finale in the entire franchise (I mean, realistically, the coke-fueled conclusion to season eight is still the worst but whatever) and it's probably a good candidate for an episode where Buffy truly jumps the shark. Up until "Grave" the final arc is very personal affair. Murdered lover, vengeance, conflict between friends - it's human and tastefully restrained. Buffy and Willow are locked in conflict, wow, the show had not featured anything this personal since season two! And then Giles shows up and instead of actually resolving the conflict the show decides to sidestep it and ignore it just like it ignores its main character (seriously, why is Buffy even in this episode? She does nothing!) Suddenly there's an apocalypse and a big bad because it's a BtVS finale so there has to be an apocalypse and a big bad even if all those elements need to be introduced in the most clumsy fashion in the middle of the season's conclusion. It's basically Buffy cargo-culting itself. I don't understand it - the writers had twenty plus episodes to introduce the buried temple and Proserpexa, to mention the prophecy and the overseas coven and they didn't because?
    Word to all of this.

    “Villains” and “Two to Go” had their flaws, but “Grave” is a complete trainwreck and might be my pick for the worst episode ever. The series just feels like a parody of itself in this entire episode. It’s hard to take anything seriously because it’s all just so ridiculous. It’s a terrible finale, which is unforgivable because the Buffy season finales are usually the BEST episodes. “Prophecy Girl”, “Becoming”, “Graduation Day”, “Restless”, “The Gift” – all 10/10 episodes. “Grave” on the other hand…

    It’s been years and I still don’t understand Giles’s plan to get Willow to destroy the world. Giles is a brilliant man but he is not this puppet-master, Dumbledore-esque figure that “Grave” tries to paint him as. It would have been far more believable if Giles had just come back with the intent to kill Willow point-blank. Not only does his plan make no sense, it’s extremely OOC. You expect me to believe that someone as extremely pragmatic as Giles would create a plan to dope an already-psychotic Willow up with magical energy in order to manipulate her into destroying the world on the off-chance that Xander – a person who Giles has NEVER shown any particular belief in or regard for – would save her?? Yeah, okay, Joss.

    I especially agree with how irrelevant Buffy is to the plot of this episode and it’s strange considering how active she was in the previous one. She and Willow were literally just in a fight to the death, but then Giles shows up and then Willow’s just like, Buffy, grown-ups are talking. Go play with this fireball, and sends her away. It’s very odd.

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

    At one point I was actually convinced that the scene of Willow raising the temple in "Grave" was meant to be a joke and I looked up the Shooting Script to confirm this. The score is so OTT, and the closeup shots are so dramatic and cheesy, that when it's finally revealed to be this little naff spier poking out from the ground, I was convinced it was the writer's having fun. So I was pretty dismayed when I read the Shooting Script and it was apparently meant to be played with complete seriousness.
    I think the score of these episodes play a big part in the cheesiness of some of the action sequences, but a lot of it I think is just the writing of the action itself didn’t play out very well. As you mention, BtVS always had a limited budget but still managed to create compelling, cinematic action sequences. I think back to the rocket launcher scene, the graduation day battle, or the Hellmouth battle and feel like the brilliance of those sequences was due to some great writing that made sure to emphasize character, even in the midst of all the action. To give a couple examples:

    In “Innocence”, Buffy defeating the Judge with a rocket launcher wasn’t just a concept that looked cool. It was also particular to a lot of the themes of her character (and to Xander’s, as it was his experience as a soldier that prompted the idea). The scene showed Buffy doing what she always does – defeating an unstoppable demon by finding a loophole in the rules and making her own in the process. That was then, this is now.

    In “Chosen”, the destruction of the Hellmouth and the town of Sunnydale caving in wasn’t just a cool visual, but a representation of Buffy finally freeing herself from that literal hellhole of a town where she seemed almost trapped. Likewise in "Graduation Day", with the high school - the center of everyone's hell for the first three seasons - being destroyed.

    However, during the Dark Willow episodes, most of the action sequences seem to mainly just be about the spectacle. I don’t think there’s anything particularly Willow-y about her raising a MacGuffin-y temple or taking apart a police station brick-by-brick or sending a floating fireball after Andrew and Jonathan, which is why sequences like these just don’t compel or impress me the way the others did.

    Hands down, the most unintentionally hilarious scene in the whole arc is when Willow is raising the temple and green blasts of energy start shooting out of her chest. Exactly what were those blasts supposed to do? And more importantly, why were they coming out of her boobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by vampmogs
    I also agree with you about how great this episode is for Anya. I also love the scene of her revealing herself to the prison guard and how little patience she has to come up with excuses or cover stories for what is happening. It does bug me that she seemingly forgets that she has supernatural strength and doesn't put up a fight against Willow but her powers have always been so inconsistent that it is what it is *shrugs*
    Wasn’t Anya supposed to be on some sort of vengeance demon probation that limited her powers, which is why she doesn’t get her super strength back until she started successfully granted wishes again in S7? I could be misremembering, but I recall that being explained (I think by Halfrek) in an early S7 episode.
    Last edited by Andrew S.; 03-10-19 at 09:43 AM.

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  15. #848
    Slayer Supporter vampmogs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew S. View Post
    Wasn’t Anya supposed to be on some sort of vengeance demon probation that limited her powers, which is why she doesn’t get her super strength back until she started successfully granted wishes again in S7? I could be misremembering, but I recall that being explained (I think by Halfrek) in an early S7 episode.
    Not that I can recall. I think you may be thinking of "Same Time, Same Place" where Anya stated that she was no longer allowed to teleport anymore unless it was for official vengeance business as punishment for her undoing her wish in "Beneath You." Possibly?

    I have to agree with others that "Grave" is by far the weakest season finale of Buffy. I think you can really, really tell it's the only finale not written by Whedon. Structurally it's a mess, some of the sequences are really goofy, Buffy is completely sidelined in her own show, and they do completely drop Willow's motivations from "Two to Go" which is really underwhelming. It has some bright spots here and there but overall it's really weak in comparison to Buffy's other finales which were always really fantastic.

    I actually love the moment of Buffy clawing her way out of her grave again. Symbolically it's a perfect bookend to "Bargaining II" but, man, is it lousy how she's literally sidelined, shoved in a hole, and made to fight these totally random and inconsequential dirt monsters in what feels like a total B-plot. What's worse is that anything I like about those sequences, like the grave parallel, was a last minute decision after Buffy was originally intended to be trapped in a sewer and they had to change the story due to production issues. The best thing about those sequences turns out to be sheer dumb luck which is depressing, honestly.

    I also agree with Andrew S how the conclusion to Buffy vs Willow is incredibly underwhelming. As is Willow's sudden total disinterest in Jonathon and Andrew. What happened to the "Why doesn't she just wave her hands and make us dead?" "Because she doesn't want you dead. She wants to kill you" justification in "Two to Go" when, here, she sends a fireball after them and never shows an interest in them ever again? And Buffy is sent scampering off after this fireball and remains sidelined for the remainder of the episode whilst Willow, Giles and Xander take centre stage.

    To be honest, I've also never been that thrilled with Giles' depiction in this episode either. I think there's some really interesting conflict to mine between Giles vs Willow but retconning Giles into a sorcerer so that he can battle Willow, despite showing very limited magical prowess ever before, makes the whole thing feel unearned. Yes, they came up with an in-story explanation for why he's suddenly imbued with magic, but he doesn't really feel like Giles to me here. Giles was not, and never had been, a Dumbledore-esque sorcerer teaching Willow in the ways of magic. Having Giles square off against Willow in a battle of magic feels very out of left field to me. And ASH gives a great performance as always but his portrayal towards the end of the episode (especially the "it was Xander. It was he who got to her in time. He saved us all") doesn't even sound like Giles.

    I agree with a thing of evil that the apocalyptic temple plot feels really silly and unnecessary. It does very much feel like a tacked on "this is BtVS and there's always an apocalypse at the end of every season so we better do one now" despite it having no place in the story at all. Willow's total and sudden personality shift after power-sucking Giles also feels really cheap and lazy in terms of organic character development and I get whiplash in how quickly she goes from 0-100 in the space of mere seconds. Not to mention that her line "Oh you poor bastards. Your suffering has to end" is not only pretty horrendous in itself but sounds nothing like something Willow would ever say. At this point she feels like a total cartoon character and not remotely like Willow at all.

    The scenes on Kingman's Bluff are a really mixed bag. In regards to the sequence itself, as I mentioned in my thoughts on "Two to Go", I was actually convinced that it was meant to be a joke when Willow raised the temple's head because it looked so ridiculous but the score was so grandiose and OTT. And I agree with Andrew S that the silly staging of Willow standing there whilst blogs of green shoot out of her boobs is just ridiculous looking. Likewise, does anyone else find it incredibly silly that Willow is supposedly channeling enough energy through herself that it will burn the entire world into a cinder and Xander can merely step in front of it and it just goes "poof" and leaves him totally unharmed? The whole sequence from it's effects, to it's staging, to it's concept, is just really poorly done.

    The actual scene between Willow and Xander on the other hand is great. I mean, don't get me wrong, as much as I hate Buffy being sidelined in her own show, the Core Scooby fan in me is really emotionally moved and overjoyed at an entire climax centring around my Willow and Xander. Especially in a season that has been pretty lite on Xander/Willow moments (but nowhere near to the extent next season will be). I did kind of hope that Joss had come up with something other than the yellow crayon story that speaks to a part of their history that had been mentioned, however briefly, before, but it still pulls at the heart strings. It is very Willow that she'd cry over the stress of having broken it and Willow's insistence that he'd want to die at her side is moving. I also have to give major, major props to both NB and especially Alyson Hannigan's performance in this season. Ally's face when she keeps hurting Xander and the moment she starts beating his chest with her fists just destroy me every single time

    For the most part I'm also a fan of the Buffy/Giles scene. The laughter felt really cathartic after the misery of this season and I do like Giles kind of laughing at the sheer absurdity of some of the plot points this season. I like Season 6 but it's depiction of depression and misery as a whole can sometimes feel like a Disney-fied version of life when factoring in how Everyone Is Depressed and Nobody Is Allowed To Be Happy all at the exact. same. time. I like when the writers can be self-deprecating and laugh at the story like that and they find the right balance between laughing at it without making a mockery of the season's arc. I do roll my eyes at Buffy's "It was my time Giles. Someone would have taken my place" because it feels like a precursor to the insanely annoying plot hole in Season 7 where the characters keep repeating ad nauseam that Buffy's death would activate another Slayer despite it doing no such thing in-between Season 5-6. Buffy, you were dead for 3 months, nobody took your place. I also find Giles' "the most adult thing you can do is ask for help when you need it" beyond aggravating because she asked for your help and you deserted her to force her into being a "grown up." What even!?

    I would never go as far to say this is the worst episode of the show. I don't "hate" it. I don't feel that really reflects how I feel about it. I'm just... perplexed by it. I'm perplexed by a lot of the sudden characterisation and plot shifts, some of the dialogue, some of the sequences, who Giles and Willow even are throughout a lot of it. It without a doubt feels more like fanfiction than any other episode of Buffy to me. I just wish Whedon had wrote it.
    Last edited by vampmogs; 03-10-19 at 12:06 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew S. View Post
    DeepBlueJoy, great review. I enjoyed it more than the episode. Granted, that’s not saying much as I really dislike this episode, LOL, but I did really like your review.
    Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew S. View Post
    But what I don’t find believable is the fact that Willow would try to kill all of her friends (and then later the world). The homicidal behavior and relentless cruelty towards all the people who care about her just ends up making Willow appear incredibly unlikeable and like an enormous drama queen. It’s less about grief and more about the shock value of seeing Willow become a Big Bad. The last two episodes would have been way more compelling and Willow-sympathetic if it had been about the Scoobies trying to stop Willow from killing herself rather than from killing Andrew, Jonathan, and the rest of the world.
    In EMT class (the provider security segment) we learned that suicidal ideation and homicidal ideation often go together. We learned this for our protection when we respond to a suicide call. In my experience as a provider, far and away my scariest single call was one particular deliberate overdose call. One of the few calls we rode to the hospital with multiple police in the ambulance with us, physically restraining the patient. A police car also followed us, AIR. It was also easily the LOUDEST call I've ever been on - all from the patient. The patient at times sounded and acted almost inhuman. Then for moments, spoke quietly, and that was in a way, almost more frightening. Everyone in the back of that ambulance felt unsafe, and that was with the patient restrained.

    In my viewing of Willow's behavior from the moment she fails to bring Tara back with magic, she appears profoundly suicidal. Recklessly disregarding her own safety, other people's and anything resembling rules or law. I also believe she's made a nearly complete break with reality. I think she's profoundly psychotic. Her reactions and the things she says are not remotely rational. This is just the psychological part of it.

    The fact she holds conversations with people and isn't dancing around in a circle naked, talking to herself, does not mean she isn't psychotic.

    Also, psychosis its own internal logic. It does not make sane sense, but it can be very motivating and can give a sort of order to actions.

    Then, add to that, the Hellmouth, the dark magics and you have someone who is being influenced, not just by grief and psychosis, but also being to an unknown extent controlled by the dark powers of the magic she's pulled from the books -- and that could only happen on the Hellmouth, a place that augments things like robots created there to the point they seem almost like real people.

    A lot happens in Sunnydale that could not happen elsewhere. This is directly because of the power of the hellmouth -- and that power is pure evil.

    When Willow's lips say: 'Willow doesn't live here anymore, it's possible she's actually being possessed, or at minimum controlled, by entities other than her own psychotic mind. She sucked in magics from black magic books and from Rack at a MINIMUM. She's wide open for anything that wants to come along for a ride.

    As for Giles' magics? They may have been the necessary anti 'magic psychosis' inoculation. Like a lot of psych meds, there can be side effects, which are as unpredictable as the individual that they're given to -- but there are patterns. One of the big things they make you watch for when you give antidepressants is suicide!* Why? Because the first thing that happens when someone takes the medication is that their mind is suddenly clear enough and active enough for them to actually put together an attempt. Often, before medication, a person is so depressed, they simply don't have the energy for suicide. Then the medication (at first) gets them to that in between place where they are still largely miserable, but functional enough to plan and execute a suicidal plan.

    I don't think Giles planned for her to be homicidal. He planned for the magics to get through to her. He could not predict HOW that would occur.

    *Remember suicide often comes with a side order of homicidal ideation... hence wanting wanting to end the pain... for EVERYONE including herself.

    It's part murderous intent, and part psychotic empathy.

    As for killing her friends? Most people, particularly women who kill, kill people they know and love. People tend to keep murder in the family.


    Blue


    Sources of information:
    EMT school, EMS volunteer
    Nursing school, RN at a psych hospital.



    PS: Losing the love of one's life is a profoundly life changing experience, and in the immediate aftermath one can feel almost invincible. After all, one has literally lost the most important person in their life. What else could they possibly lose when they've lost everything? It can lead to a sort of recklessness one would never have otherwise. Even if the person is otherwise NOT psychotic or suicidal.
    Last edited by DeepBlueJoy; 03-10-19 at 01:54 PM.

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    I'm being plagued by Internet connection issues at the moment and reading on my phone's really awkward. Hoping to read the review/posts and catch up early next week. I also want to re watch the ep again and give the Willow/Giles parts some more thought. Grave has been a favourite finale for me for some time but I think that's because of Spike being souled (I really enjoyed the trials and thought it was the right direction to go with the character and made a lot of sense that he would have gone to do that) and the ending with Willow/Xander is one I adore. In a season where the disconnection between the gang has played such a role in why things were so tough seeing Xander pull Willow back on the basis of their friendship is so perfect. The book ending of Buffy's emergence too is great. I think the split groups at the end works for there being an adjustment in their relationships to come following and with consideration of all that's happened. But I still found the laughter scene jarring (I didnt like that on previous watches) and I didn't enjoy the Willow/Giles aspect as much when watching it this time, possibly more critically than I have before. So I want to re watch and think it over and read everyone's thoughts and my tiny phone screen isn't conducive to that.
    Last edited by Stoney; 03-10-19 at 10:59 PM.

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    Wow, where do I start?

    If this post seems sparse, it’s because you’ve all said pretty much the key stuff that needed to be said. Thank you to everyone: BTVS fan, Aurora, thing of evil, vampmogs, Sosa, Andrew S, Spuffy Glitz, and Stoney. Stoney, your thoughts when your head is bunged up are still worth their weight in gold.

    I’m going to try to be coherent and present my ideas (thoughts is too strong a word here) on the wonderful reviews of Villains from WfB, TtG from King and Deep Blue for Grave. Since I regard these as a trilogy, I won’t be differentiating my jumble between clearly delineated episodes.

    So here goes, and hope this isn’t too muddled. Please bear with me.

    I have always loved Willow. If there is one constant that seems to be shared among fans in general, it’s definitely love for Willow. She does, as far as I can tell, seem to be universally adored.

    I did indeed adore her in the early seasons, and my love for her grew in Seasons 4 and 5. Around the start of season 6 I began to sense a shift in my feelings about her. I could relate to her desire to bring Buffy back – and btw Spuffy Glitz, that’s a brilliant analysis of the mythical sources of the fawn slaughter in Bargaining, thank you so much – no matter how wrong-headed it was, or how irrational her fear that Buffy might be suffering eternal torment. After all, how would anyone know what Glory’s powers of revenge might be even after her obliteration (or another demon/god might have carried out the assignment as retribution). I still admired her, but when she wiped Tara’s memories, not once but twice, and did it to Buffy and the rest of the group, without showing an ounce of self-awareness or even much remorse, beyond the pity party at the end of TR, my love started to change.

    I began to feel baffled and frustrated with her. AH’s stellar performance throughout the entire run of the show aside, I didn’t understand Willow’s motives or her behaviour from Wrecked onwards. For me, the Willow at the end of Grave is still sublime – as vampmogs and Andrew S say (I hope I attribute these remarks correctly) - AH wrings your heart with her grief, showing it as finally emerging as a force for healing. But she isn’t a character I actually like much at that point. It’s hard for me to pin down why. Perhaps it’s because I feel that her trajectory suddenly took a very strange turn at the end of Wrecked.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed watching AH. No matter what she does, I think she’s fabulous.

    So much has been said over the years about the magic addiction storyline. I’m not sure that anything I say will add meaning to the debate. Funny thing is, though, if Willow’s character had actually been allowed to develop from her hubris at resurrecting Buffy, if she had actually become out and out villainous without any excuse or get-out – she says in Villains that she’s not coming back – because she unashamedly didn’t see what she did was wrong and didn’t blame anything else but her own desire for power and control, I think I would have connected better to her. Liked her better. What a punch that would have packed, and the mileage AH would have got out of it…ah well. She still was great.

    By Entropy, when she told Xander and Buffy “hey I’m still me!”, for me it was too late to make her appealing again. Who was she? As Giles says to her in Flooded, there are people who can do what she did, but she wouldn’t want to meet them. Oh, wouldn’t she? Blue made a comment about how Willow’s intelligence would breed her arrogance, and now we see the consequences of this.

    If it had simply been her own human frailty and insecurity that fuelled her transformation to the Big Bad of the season, rather than the crutch of addiction and falling off the wagon, to me that would oddly have been more relatable. More convincing. Perhaps that says more about me than about her character or the story.

    But her line to Buffy about ‘Willow’ (referring to herself disturbingly in the third person) being a junkie, bleh. Ah well, bellyaching about the lack of power in the addiction storyline is pointless. I just have to live with what there is. (Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, but hey.)

    I do find it chilling that she wants to show off what she can do to Warren. She waits for her friends to catch her up (in a nighttime wood, symbolic), then demonstrates her powers to them in the most horrific way. She’s taunting them with her strength and their inability to process and deal with what she’s becoming. Frankly, she’s having too much fun. Willow is enjoying being a badass, as KoC says. And that is certainly one of her common traits with VampWillow. She sets out to inflict suffering and invests a lot of imagination into how she does it.

    In TtG, I wish I could read the same thing into Buffy’s response to Willow’s accusation of her hypocrisy that KoC does. I don’t read any epiphany about the beauty and value of life in that scene or any scene of the preceding episodes. I do see Buffy taking tiny steps to emerge gradually, as the season progresses, from her terrible depression, but the genuine revelation about life, for me, is still a long way after Grave. (I’ll come back to that point in a bit.) No, what I read in her face is that Willow’s remarks are hitting home.

    I loved Willow’s “Jonathan…Andrew.” It’s almost conversational. Utterly brilliant.

    Anyway, the fight between Buffy and Willow is for me oddly anticlimactic. It seems more like the kind of chick fight that almost developed between Kendra and Buffy in WML1. Not a clash of powers. Just some feeble wrestling contest. The best part was when Buffy channelled Spike, and said she would still hurt Willow, even if she didn’t want to. Yes, as others in this thread have expressed, she is a hero. She does what others can’t or won’t do. Including facing her dear but estranged friend. And realising that she may have to kill her, or (and yes, I agree, I think Willow would actually have killed Buffy if Giles had not intervened) or die herself trying to save the world. Again.

    And I did love Anya in this trilogy. At last she is more than the scorned woman and comic relief. I love her ambivalence about what side she’s supposed to be on, but her affection for Giles is real enough.

    Giles’ entrance? Oh boy, that is one of the best scenes in the whole series!!! But he was definitely acting on blind faith by thinking/hoping that dosing Willow with yet more magic would tap into her remaining humanity. Love will prevail, is that the message we take from this finale? The scenes with Anya are so lovely. When she helped him to his shaky feet in the closing sequence, I really hoped that actually the two of them would get together.

    But, yes, the most part of TtG and Graves episodes for me are a hotch-potch. And I am constantly disturbed every time I see Buffy telling Jonathan and Andrew that the line has suddenly been drawn at them. I can’t wrap my brain round this at all. Morally that statement and sentiment feel very wrong to me. I haven’t read an explanation anywhere that has changed my mind about it.

    Xander’s role in all this can’t be overstated, I think. He feels helpless, sidelined. All along this series (and particularly this season) he’s grappled with his inner fears and insecurities that he will turn into his monstrous father, that he can’t be the man Anya wants and needs him to be, that he can’t protect his idol Buffy from harm and hurt, that he has no special powers or abilities. That he can’t live up to Giles’ expectations as he sees them applied to Buffy and Willow. Odd man out.

    What he has is that he knows Willow and loves her. He has always loved her and always will, no matter what. Unconditionally. Does he care that she has killed? Yes. Does he mind? Yes. Does it matter to him? Not so much. But he’s counting on Willow also caring about him and loving him too. That might be the greater test.

    So in the end he saves the day. Stops Willow from destroying herself and everyone else. Well done, Xander.

    I agree with Blue that isolation seems to be the major theme this season. As opposed to the message that no man is an island, all the characters end up losing touch with each other along the course of the season. Not confiding in each other, for whatever reason. Isolation breeds fear. I think they’re also shown as being afraid of losing themselves. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, not knowing who they are to begin with? Having to rediscover and reshape their individualities.

    For me, as for others, a powerful moment in Grave was when Buffy clawed her way back out. In messages I exchanged with TriBel some time ago about Buffy’s journey, I told her I felt that it wasn’t only her grave she emerged from, but Joyce’s as well. That her long period of mourning – TriBel called it another name, a condition that arises when you’re not given the chance to grieve properly, but I’m afraid I don’t remember the term – was finally over. She can reclaim life with her sister at her side. TriBel if you’re reading any of this, please chip in!

    Vampmogs has said all there is to say about Dawn’s role and situation this season. I have nothing to add, except to say that whilst many feel she acted like a brat on many occasions, I could relate and feel for her. I too felt sorry for her in Dead Things when she was asleep and Buffy woke her up to deliver bad news. I can say that as a parent, seeing your child sleep arouses incredibly protective instincts in you. You don’t want them woken or disturbed in any way. Poor Dawn.

    As for Spike, well, definitely the whole series of trials and Spike’s braggadocio are the weakest part of the whole trio of episodes. JM carries it off with aplomb and charm because that’s what he does. But otherwise it made for frustrating viewing for this Spike fan girl.

    I had worked out he wasn’t going to get the chip out – too much emphasis had been placed on it in Entropy – but I thought he was going to be made human. I was pretty glad when the show ended with his soul being restored. What a fantastic ending to an otherwise mixed bag of an episode.

    I mentioned above that I felt Buffy’s revelation about how wonderful life is didn’t come before Grave, and I don’t think it happened here, either. Even with the sudden magical appearance of an arboretum.

    I think the epiphany starts here. I think it was a process that carried her through to the end of the series as a whole, when we see her smile hopefully at the realisation that she is not the only Chosen One. But that’s just my two pennies’ worth.

    I know there’s a great deal more to say, but I think others will say it better. Thank you again to everyone for all the thought-provoking comments. Even when it’s weak by its own standards, Buffy still stand head and shoulder above most other shows. Past and present.

    What a great story.
    You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeepBlueJoy View Post
    My apologies for the delay in posting, but life has a mind of its own. Thanks for letting me participate, and thanks for your patience
    Thank you for joining us with short notice and completing your review amidst personal demands and distractions, it's very much appreciated.

    This season… and this episode are about the same thing. Courage. Facing oneself and one’s demons. Growing up in the deepest sense. Finding meaning in the world.
    I love this. Spike's trials over the last three episodes really draws to the fore the notion that life can be arduous and difficult, that it can feel like we are being tested. And this is what the season has shown repeatedly. So the idea of finding ways to face the challenges, find resilience and courage, find a way to see what you want to reach for or become open to future possibilities, is all connected to how the characters find a way through. The sense of realising what matters, finding something they can connect to here and now, can see that they want to be a part of going forward, both in themselves and with those around them, is just so important at the end here. In many ways Willow's grief and the blank she feels towards the future is a loss of hope in the wake of Tara's death. So yes, I agree very much that the season is about the people and it is determination and their connections that gives them things to reach for. Putting a sense of courage to that alongside the theme of facing the trials of life is great.

    I’ve heard it said that the season’s real big bad is ‘life’, but I don’t agree. The season’s big bad is the choices people have made; Willow and then Giles, primarily; Warren, Spike, Buffy and Xander, secondarily.

    Willow chose to raise the dead. Giles chose to do nothing after Willow brought Buffy back; proving that she was both incredibly powerful and utterly reckless. Then he compounded this by leaving them all to flounder. We learn about the coven in this episode, but it is likely Giles knew about the coven before. An opportunity missed.

    Warren chose to be a monster. He chose to kill, steal and corrupt those around him. He chose to inflict pain when things didn’t go his way. He chose to try to kill the slayer when she got in the way of his life of crime.

    In this season, the horrible things that occur are often traceable directly to choices. This isn’t always the case with life. No one chose for Joyce to die. People die. Things happen that are outside of our control and we react to them. This is the year of horrible choices, however. Bringing back Buffy is both the best and the worst of those choices, one with potentially world ending consequences. But that is a problem for another season.
    It is an interesting perspective to consider the season with the choices being made as the key component. Whilst I can see your point that the issues the characters face can be tied to choices specifically, there is also a degree to which they are responding to the choices of others and the wider situations wrapped into it too. That is just part of facing what happens in life I think because the choices others make are also out of our control and part of what we react to. How well people manage their insecurities and darker desires, deal with their fears and also use their strengths are all just part of living. Yes the choices that are made can be connected to some of the problems quite specifically, but they rarely ever happen in isolation and what comes before informs and affects those making their choices in the present. Willow's choice to resurrect Buffy didn't happen in isolation or without the contribution of others. All the factors which fed into choices being made is incredibly layered and feeds back to their histories and experiences as well as from the current context. As such I just see them all as part of the complexity of their lives. So for me life itself as the challenge, the big bad of the season, works well, even if you look to focus on choices made within it.

    The 'trials of life' is a solid theme of the season I think, and what prior experiences affect our abilities to cope. Also, how our connections, or lack of them as the season leans to show, aids or hinders us. All the characters have gone through different trials and questions that have tested their morality and strength. And they've struggled with darker sides of themselves, weaker sides of themselves that are plagued by fears and insecurities and they've often felt isolated, finding it hard to understand themselves let alone explain to anyone else how they feel. There's been secrecy and shame as the pressure of what they want against what they expect themselves to be and what they feel others expect of them as well as the wider social 'norms', have pressed in on all sides and helped to keep them distant. Something which certainly has made it harder to deal.

    Spike of course goes through those theme underlining literal trials at the end on top of the experiences through the season in order to change his future. I think this was a fantastic inclusion and I really like how they draw it over the final trilogy of episodes as it gives them more weight. His need to change required a decision, a choice to do so, and he has repeatedly been a character who values being able to affect the world around him. Feeling completely impotent and torn down in Doomed was arguably him at his most vulnerable. So the fierce determination he applies to making a choice to change his future at the end of S6 is very much in character to me. He found he couldn't assert his will in the way he wished as he was able, so he looks to change what he is to continue to reach for what he wants. As with some things that soulless Spike does, this is a decision which is good and moves him forward in a positive way, even if there is a good deal of looking to prioritise his own wishes and desired sense of self woven in. Questing to win back his soul means he is able to gain a future full of more opportunities than he had before and that ability to engage more completely is really key and draws him alongside the other characters reconnections at the end of the finale. We've seen repeatedly across both shows in the latter halves of these seasons that having a soul, connecting to your humanity, is a fundamental part of having a future. In AtS's Double or Nothing Gunn couldn't have a future if he lost his soul because of his debt and Willow couldn't have a future if she didn't reconnect to her humanity now. Despite his immortality the same is shown to be true for Spike, questing for a soul is getting the chance at a future he'd rather reach for.

    How we respond to all the aspects of the context we live in, people/opportunities/challenges, our choices, are affected by our engagement with the elements of our life and openness to the potential it brings. Re-establishing connections and re-engagement in the potential of life is a major feature of the finale I think. Back in Bargaining we saw from the moment of her return that Buffy was struggling. Her distance to what was around her in After Life was stark as she walked around Revello with Dawn, and we were given the contrast to the hitchhiker demon that was becoming more solid and present as we saw Buffy's disengagement. I see Buffy's problems in relating to those around her, her depression, her disconnection, her relationship with Spike, all very much as symptoms and coping mechanisms in responses to the traumas that she experienced. And when she talks to Giles in this episode about not having felt real and questions why she is back it actually reminds me of the existential crisis Dawn experienced when finding out she was the key. An overall question about whether she belonged at all is very similar to Buffy's discomfort in attempting to step back into her own life in the wake of her death and resurrection. Everything had changed and it was a struggle to carve a new place for herself. It being in the shadow of who she had been and 'what was' before didn't make it easier but actually brought the sense of disconnection from self even more to the fore. It took a whole season for Buffy to reengage with her own life and get to the point where she was really actively choosing to look around her and be open to what life can bring.

    This episode is the endpoint for most of the other choices of this season.
    I think the experiences of the season affect every member of the group and so how it impacts continues on in the way they reconnect to each other and establish somewhat new dynamics because of all that has happened and how it has changed them. And they are all changed individually by the choices and experiences of the season. Willow, Spike and Buffy in particular have a different challenge ahead in accepting and balancing their dualities. Anya as well has fundamentally changed during the course of the season and is yet to face a lot of what that will mean for her.

    The sense that the season doesn't round up and conclude in the way other seasons have I think is a valid observation. But it makes sense as life isn't a challenge that gets beaten. It doesn't end but continues in light of all that has just happened too. As I've said before, I think it works really well that the group is broken into chunks at the end as it emphasises that what follows will be more adjustments to all they've just been through. The events of the season have brought us to here but from here there will be an impact on their senses of self and who they want to be. What their priorities are. And that feeling of the story being very much still in progress is emphasised by everyone being separated and how they will come back together being unknown for now. So it makes sense that the last two seasons feel to many very much like a pair in a way that other seasons haven't. They've gotten to a 'what now' point and so what follows directly responds to some of the struggles of this season. What has been achieved is greatly about having faced a time of trials and struggles, the inner demons as you say and coming out with a better sense of self and connection to the possibility in the world. But, as you rightly point out, there will be wider significance to the choice to resurrect Buffy that won't be realised until the following season. I love how the two seasons sit together and contrast and am really looking forward to exploring it all.

    We value life not because we haven’t lost, not because of the things we have or the prestige or power we acquire. We value life when we find purpose. Most importantly, purpose is found in being a part of something. In loving and being loved.

    In knowing that what you do matters.

    Season six is a journey in the depths of the wilderness, and the cataclysm that is Grave is the culmination of everyone’s choices, everyone’s pains, everyone’s experiences over the year – and even over the series.

    Willow’s magic came from rage, power and vengeance… but these aren’t he most powerful forces in the universe, though they may well be the most destructive. What is most powerful and ultimately most useful in the world is love, connection, and the honorable commitment to fight against the forces of darkness, and for what – and who matters.
    Yes! I think the ability to go through so much and still reach out and reconnect and look to change things is such an empowering aspect to the end of the season. Even though we don't see it play out in S6, the characters reaching these moments and the significance of the connections they are making after what they've been through is fantastic. You're right that it ultimately brings to the fore the sense of finding what is important and being strengthened by it and the courage to keep going that got them there.

    Part of me doesn’t want to buy Willow’s reaction in this arc, but I think anyone who’s lost someone to a sudden death – particularly one as violent as what occurred would be shattered. Willow is, in some ways, the most fragile ego in the series. Both Oz and Tara validated her as a person in a way that we do not see in anyone else. In spite of her brilliance, she’s still that little girl who wore ‘floods’ and whose mother bought her clothes a 12 year old would wear when she was well into high school. She had no self-confidence and no real self-concept. She developed power instead of self.

    Her spell when Oz leaves could just as easily have ended the world or the lives of any of her friends and she did it without any real cognizance of the seriousness of her actions. That no attempt was made to confront her about that is, in hindsight, a clear mistake, but whose responsibility was she? She was an adult in college, and usually also the smartest person in any room, something that breeds arrogance even if it doesn’t breed self-esteem.

    Therefore, in Grave, her ongoing magical psychotic break is utterly believable… and Allyson Hannigan’s performance is terrifying. In both instances, Willow has her ‘toy’ taken away, and her response is to have a world threatening magical tantrum. It isn’t about them, it’s all about her. For someone so very powerful, she leads a remarkably unexamined life. This allows her to delude herself that magic is ‘the’ answer, rather than being ‘a’ tool.
    Willow certainly is insecure in a way that Tara and Oz relieve through wanting to be with her. It was more of a mutual need between her and Tara I think, with Tara clearly feeling empowered and that she gained worth in Willow's eyes. I'm not sure that Willow has no self-confidence though, even if she definitely struggles with fears of failure. There's certainly an abuse of power that ties through Willow's story and the season explores this generally for other characters too. It couples in Willow's story to her sense of the expectations on her and also destructively draws into the pleasure and comfort she feels through achieving. I do think there is a natural desire to help and be useful and this is where I think Willow's sense of self and her confidence lies, and is why she turns to 'fixing' situations as and when she can. It appeals to her natural yearn to explore and learn, to do good, and against her fears of failure to use magic as a remedy. It's her fears and the abuse of power which are the underlying problems, magic is a coping mechanism. When her grief at Tara's death suddenly explodes the outlet it finds is in the desire for vengeance, and so the wish to turn away from her pain joins to form such a destructive mix. The impact of Tara's death is greatly in the violent shock of it I think and Willow's failure, her inability to do anything, meets a sense of emptiness in any future without Tara. Like Buffy describes the feeling of coming out the grave having left something behind, a part of Willow has been torn away with her loss and it's deeply traumatic.

    Xander is justifiably afraid of who he could become; and though it sadly leads to him leaving Anya at the altar instead of going into counseling; he’s self-aware enough to be afraid. Willow is never cautious enough to be afraid of her path, her power or her choices. It is why it will have to take nearly ending the world for her to see what she could destroy. For others to act.
    This is an interesting perspective. I think Xander's fears he will be like his father are greatly buried but the strength of it is why he responded with such horror to the visions in Hell's Bells. But there is something inherently destructive in what his fears are that perhaps leads his caution and insecurity. Willow's fears of failure are impacted through achievement and in being praised for attaining. She is greatly led by the positive response of others to using her power to help. I do think you're right that it lacks caution and fear of what such power could do if abused and her lack of fear has been brought up multiple times with both Oz and Tara worrying about her. But when you are used to succeeding and it being what is also expected of you and repeatedly outright requested of you, it must be hard to draw a line on what you should do when you can see what you could do.

    Even the attempts of all her friends – people who would die for her, or who already have – mean nothing. The arrival of Giles is met with utter derision. We know from her reaction that she is off the rails entirely and it’s sad to see. It also makes Willow very unsympathetic. I don’t know if that is what the writer’s intent, but that moment shows a casual and contemptuous disregard of the entire situation.

    “Daddy’s home! I’m in wicked trouble now!”

    It’s a relief to see Giles. Both Buffy and Anya say his name with a degree of awe that is unexpected in both of them. One forgets just how powerful an actor Anthony Head can be when he’s there on a day to day basis. In this guise, particularly without his ‘mild mannered librarian’ glasses camouflage, he is actually frightening. In his first few moments, he hits all the right notes, and not in a trite way. He’s scary and that feels really good. It’s like fresh water. Then he’s sympathetic and comforting.
    I don't find Willow unsympathetic I just see her as burying her emotions as she's so unable to deal with them. Very like Giles expresses to Buffy, I think the biggest worry is how what she is doing is going to deeply alter who she is and who she can be afterwards. She has to face the pain she is trying to cover but in doing so she will also have to face everything else eventually too. How well S7 deals with this we'll all no doubt be discussing soon.

    His hysterical laughter… his and Buffy’s – it’s perfect – exactly because everything about the whole situation is so fraught and so utterly absurd as well.
    This is one of my most disliked parts of the episode. I think it works in underlining that there hasn't been levity to help through the difficulties this season like there normally is because everyone has been dealing with their own struggles and shutting themselves off. It is jarring because it has been missing and in that sense it works as part of the reconnections happening. But it goes on too long for me. Just a simple outburst at first because of the unbelievable extent everything fell apart could have worked but the continued hysterics really strike me as forced. Fake laughter is really tough to pull off when it goes on and this pushes it too far. So overall it doesn't work for me and feels too awkward.

    But I definitely agree with you that his apology for leaving is a small moment that is very important and needed. I think Buffy's assertion that he did the right thing is what you feel when you are coming out the other end of something and accepting that all the aspects you have experienced have played their part in giving you the fortitude to get where you are now. In managing to get back a degree of her sense of self and the wish for belonging that she has, it will feel positive. She could question how well she would have done, how far she might have managed to get that, if she hadn't had to stand independently strong to do so. Would she have just looked to avoid engaging rather than only leaning for support. I don't think it's right and agree that she shouldn't have been left when she was traumatised as she was, but I can see why she could feel strong for having gotten herself through it despite being left. It is important though that Giles acknowledges that asking for help can be a very adult thing to do though. It's just a shame that he didn't understand that himself back then when she did exactly that and he chose to leave regardless.

    It read as abandonment, pure and simple. It harmed the relationship between Giles and Buffy, and Giles and the rest of the group. It harmed or even destroyed how Giles is viewed by many fans, period. Giles’ rationale for leaving was poorly thought out, and never did make any sense, not even if the writers wanted everything to melt down, but Anthony Head needed to leave, and that was the best they could come up with.

    Giles’ admission that his leaving was a bone headed idea is therefore a relief. That sounds more like Giles. Adults ask for help. When adult problems lay us flat, smart people get help. Buffy tried. Giles left anyway. What is clear is that Buffy has learned coping skills from all that has happened, in spite of it being totally the wrong choice by Giles, in my opinion. I do think it’s also likely that it has reinforced the idea that everyone in her life, particularly the men, will eventually abandon her… again a different discussion.
    I think it was vampmogs' who suggested early in the season that Giles leaving was in great part in reaction to having lost Buffy once and fearing going through that pain again. It makes sense to me that he, as with the others, is responding to the trauma of Buffy's death and can feel he should leave to help her be stronger, when really he is fleeing. It does read as abandonment and I think acknowledging that on his return is important.

    Abandonment, protection and 'parental support' were reoccurring themes through the season so I think it is a really good inclusion that it is directly addressed between Buffy and Giles and we do see a repeat here and in AtS of people considering fault, offering forgiveness and saying sorry. The changing dynamic between parent and child is a realistic part of growing up. The idea of Giles pushing Buffy away to strengthen her somewhat runs alongside the reverse idea with Buffy's overprotection of Dawn too. Both shield themselves as well through seemingly protecting their charges. In actuality both times it is through their connection and active participation in each other's lives that they strengthen each other. As both Giles and Buffy show, there are times when we can come to re-evaluate and reflect on our choices and amend our outlook going forwards. In both these relationships it plays heavily into the reconnecting and drawing together again that is such a central feature of the episode.

    In AtS's Tomorrow we see several examples of abandonment and protection too, but with a far bleaker air at the end. In the previous episode Holtz, who raised Connor, chose to abandon him to satisfy his desire for vengeance. As Willow was abandoning her friends for hers. We see now how Angel's desire to shield Connor from his upcoming confrontation with Holtz, greatly for self-focused reasons, rather than sharing the issue/his feelings with his son, enables Holtz's plan to set him up as his murderer. Holtz deliberately hides his intentions to use Connor's response to meet his own wishes. Both are abusing trust in their choices. We also see both Cordelia and Lorne, who had played surrogate parental roles with Connor as a baby, leave in the episode too. The damage of all of these negative actions is something that continues into the following season. And on the side lines Wes doesn't appear to be playing to Lilah's tune but using her whilst he broods over his isolation (but really considers the situation with Connor). It's hidden for now but he hasn't stopped caring about the group and that leads me to another reoccurring theme of the episodes.

    Alongside the parental themes there is also a sense of loyalty at play. We see it in the groups, in the varied relationships, and how they look to stand by each other. It stands out especially in how everyone tries to reach Willow of course but also in Anya still helping and sticking around. Her claim she would reap vengeance on Xander we know isn't true as she stopped Spike making a wish against him at the end of Entropy, so it seems safe considering her actions to see her as having residual loyalty and feelings for Xander, and for the others. And I do think loyalty plays into the way Giles and Buffy misjudge the situation in leaving Willow unattended too. I agree that they want to believe it is over, that she is currently contained, and that need to reconnect with each other and lean together makes them drop their guard when they shouldn't. This is very like Angel's wish to believe in Holtz's lie, his need to move on and be happy again, to take the promise of something he so desperately wants briefly papers over continuing threats. But it's their ongoing connections, Angel's to Connor and Giles'/Buffy's to Willow that makes them believe too much in these moments. They believe in the relationship they have and are showing an ongoing loyalty in the face of everything, despite everything. The awareness of others' feelings is clearly still somewhat questionable too. But this all couples with the courage you mentioned, the desire to fight for each other, and is what enables Xander to stand up in front of that effigy and finally succeed in reaching Willow. But those hidden intentions/feelings can be tricky and sadly loyalty is also what makes Connor take his vengeance on Angel, under the false belief that Angel murdered Holtz.

    The moment Willow appears with her ‘prey’ Anya clutched in her claws, and drops her carcass is a shock to the system. We don’t know she isn’t dead. Willow has already killed two people. It’s never stated outright, but Dawn asks if Rack is dead and Willow doesn’t deny it. If Willow has killed Anya, we truly are in new territory.

    Then, she tries to kill Giles. Hurling knifes at someone is not destined to end well. She was trying to stop Buffy, which could have killed her, but Giles, she was simply trying to kill.
    I'm still on the fence about how much Willow is truly trying to kill any of those she cares about. She had multiple occasions when she could have killed Anya in the last few episodes and she fails to kill both Buffy and Giles when she could have done directly now too. She's powerful enough to kill Jonathan and Andrew without even being there and yet Anya, Giles, Dawn and Buffy who are all stood directly in front of her she fails to kill repeatedly. In fact she even goes to the trouble of manufacturing a reason for Buffy to leave in this episode. It isn't until Xander stands in front of her, has no way to fight back with any supernatural strength and refuses to be pushed down or away, that she breaks down and stops. Now I'm not saying I firmly believe she wouldn't have killed the others, just that she wasn't necessarily going to. I appreciate the 'connecting/good' essence of magic she took from Giles breached her ability to cut herself off and that this was a significant part of what made her reachable. Although it turned her towards attempting to destroy the world and end everyone's pain, that was still an ongoing act of attempted suppression, just on a much grander scale. But the fact remains that she still didn't actually kill any of them face to face when she could easily have done so many times over.

    I see what she did as illustrative of her closing off her emotions/morality and it was definitely very self-destructive. So it makes sense that she was willing to put those she cared about at risk and was hurting and threatening them. And yes, I think she risked killing Giles when she threw the knives at him. But she doesn't attack them with the focused deliberate intention of killing them that she did with Warren and attempted on Andrew and Jonathan. The desire to kill them wasn't the motivation in attacking them but to hit out and push them away I think. For me there's poor justification for not one of them being killed if that weren't the case. Alongside her ability to continue to shut out the pain being strained, it still took Xander literally standing in her way unable to fight back but just offering her love and friendship to make her release her grief and stop. She had to stop fighting in a literal sense. The humanity was always within her, it was just pushed down, was held back. It wasn't as if the capacity wasn't there, she just wasn't connecting to it and needed to let herself again. When she was closing herself off I do think she would have been able to kill them indirectly, along with everyone else as she planned, but the times she was faced with them I think there's a fair argument to say that evidence supports she perhaps unconsciously held back.

    Meanwhile we join those running away. Xander’s low moment of the episode is when he reveals his version of what happened between Buffy and Spike, and does it in the worst possible way. He tells Dawn his angry version of something he really doesn’t know all that much about, and something that is simply not his story to tell. He’s disrespectful of both Buffy and Dawn.

    “Sure, if he wasn’t trying to rape your sister.”

    NO, a world of no. It is, sadly, in character. He’s angry and he’s not guarding his mouth or thinking of who he’s expressing this rage at or to. It is inappropriate. And the timing could not be worse. He violates both Buffy’s and Dawn’s trust here.
    When I first saw this I felt this was really poor of Xander because it's important that someone who has been attacked can choose who they share that information with, when and how. It's their right to do that. I still feel that is very important and I dislike that in his stress and frustration at what is happening he blurts it out to Dawn like he does. But I have come to understand it from his point of view a little better I think and I don't see it as him just acting in anger. It must be frustrating to see someone you love seeming to shrug off something so serious. When Buffy decided to take Dawn to Spike's before Xander expressed concerns and we do see that Dawn feels like she should have been told when she confronts Buffy later. In fairness to them both, Dawn knowing that Spike has done something that pulls into question his reliability is important. If she's being asked to rely on him, to trust him, how can that not be relevant to her too? But it is also private as well and, most importantly, not immediately relevant so it was very much avoidable at that moment.

    One thing really grates on re-viewing. That’s the scenes with Spike telling the demon that he wants to give ‘the slayer’ what she deserves… it sounds so not like Spike. Well, it sounds like a season two version of Spike, who’s going to get revenge for having feelings. Thing is, even then, Spike wasn’t ashamed of his feelings. That was Angel’s gig.
    Spike’s angry rants do work to misdirect, but it doesn’t feel right, particularly after the big reveal comes.

    We’re supposed to believe that he’s getting the chip out, but his reaction seems out of character for who he has become, and where he would be, especially after his own revulsion about his behavior back in Seeing Red. So, though it has theatre, it just feels a bit melodramatic and in retrospect, a bit clunky. When you don’t know what’s coming next, it feels head-scratch weird, but when you do, it feels totally off. These scenes are the weakest part of the episode and my least favorite.
    I do think the misdirect overplays it to heavily suggest he could be wanting to get the chip out. But I do think his aggression follows how he has been at varying points in the push/pull he has shown over his feelings and how it affects him. He has resented the hold it has on him and the confusion and uncertainty at different points, that he isn't accepted and wanted as he wishes to be. I don't think his behaviour after the attack was any different. In the scene in his crypt he is confused and struggling with what he had done, but also why he didn't do it. His revelation is that he can't walk the line, can't be a monster or a man and he needs to choose a side.

    Now the scripting they opt for is clearly to keep the audience guessing what he is doing or just believing he is going to have the chip removed. When you know where it is going it doesn't instantly make all that Spike says fall into place in an 'oh that's what he meant' way like it could (should?), but I think some overall resentment and him trying to psyche himself up to do the trials works well enough to shrug at the weakness in the scripting of the misdirect and accept it. The notion of Buffy getting what she deserves Jane Espenson has said, "when he says I want Buffy to have what she deserves, he means a lover with a soul" (radio interview on the Succubus Club, 5/22/02). I think it is important to remember that Spike is very driven by what he wants in all this and that is to be acceptable to Buffy. He doesn't contemplate that he should leave her alone because he believes in their connection and that he can be what she needs. He's trying to change in a way that means he won't be rejected any more and won't fail to walk the moral lines that Buffy needs him to be able to see. There's a lot of self driving what he is doing and a lack of consideration that Buffy may just not appreciate it or want him however he is. That is too far removed from what he wants to consider. And then there are the taunts from the demon about what he is reducing himself to by what he has asked for. His deep issues with his identity and how he is perceived go alongside all of this and push/pull again as his desire for love/to be loved are clashing with his desired image and wish to not appear weak. Mix on top his own probable fears of what is to come and it results in projecting resentment and bravado, with small flashes of uncertainty throughout. There is a slight softening given when he gets to the end and uses Buffy's name when asking if he is going to get what he came for.

    I don't think the mislead is great, but I think his mixed behaviour about it all fits pretty well to how he has been through the season. That he chose to go to actively assert his will and change things in a way he thinks could achieve what he wants is very in character. That he would conclude that having a soul would make a difference is also well set up over the season and from before in how he is consistently told that being soulless lessens him and in how he understands that Angel is seen differently. I think him becoming souled was very much the right direction to take him and I appreciate the importance of the soul as having a specific distinction for vamps in the verse and it is better for consistency in the mythology that Spike was found to be limited without one. So whilst I do agree with you that the scripting is problematic in that it doesn't suddenly work clearly in a different way once you know what is coming and against the confirmation that it was always what he sought, I still can't help but love the trials. The meaning/symbolism of him going through them to seek change and wanting to actively reach for a future he wants just works so well within the season and is so believable for him. Even that slightly angry and self-destructive recklessness of it, not to mention the romantic melodrama in what he is trying to do, it just fits him so well. I love the changes it brings to his character too, but that's yet another discussion for next season.

    Willow is drunk on her borrowed power. She accuses Giles of borrowed power, but she is the one who drained all the magic books. She accuses him of being jealous, but it’s projection. She craves more and more power, and it doesn’t take her long to take his as well. She’s the one who is stealing power – from books, from Rack, from Giles and probably from the Hellmouth too. When she steals Giles’ power, however, things change.

    Now Willow has empathy… the kind that makes you want to kill other people to end their pain. ALL the other people.
    Other than the extent of the laughter scene, the other aspects of the episode that really didn't work for me on this rewatch start from Willow taking Giles' power. I don't like the effects they used to give a sense of Willow's senses being juiced up combined with her talking about dealers. Really I think the idea she's driven by addiction rather than using power to cope with her pain falls apart now (although I could argue that her reducing it to being a junkie is just another way for her to avoid the underlying reasons driving her still), but these in combination with the constant use of exposition that runs beside the action now frustrate me. Between Anya and Giles we are told so much about what we're seeing it disconnects me a little from feeling it with the characters. That Giles is able to just know/sense what Willow is doing too, even after she's drained his magic, just feels a convenient way to keep pouring out information at us.

    But I can see the effect of the magic that Giles has given Willow, magic that draws from a positive essence and on the connectedness of everything, can both overwhelm her and make it hard to keep pushing aside her emotions moving forwards. As you say, it presses her to want to end all the pain she's experiencing at first as that exaggerated desire to hide emotions and to still look to cope by cutting off her grief.

    In this way I think the temple, which is seemingly pulled out of nowhere, is a fair metaphor for darker urges and hidden problems. That it is something which has been hidden beneath yet there all along and not known of works with Willow's focus on the magic/vengeance as driving her rather than avoidance as a coping mechanism for grief and generally with the characters coming to learn and accept different sides of themselves and others through the season too. There is a general question of awareness repeated within the last group of episodes on both shows as hidden intentions, manipulation and misunderstandings have been constantly playing a part in the events unfolding. The focus now in the finales has greatly been on revelations and the characters coming to face their feelings and realise the feelings and intentions of others. I just wish the production/effects with the temple had been better. But the meaning that I can pin to it alongside a season of facing inner desires/fears, works well enough for me.

    I’m torn about Buffy’s decision not to tell Dawn about Spike. Truthfully, I don’t think she’s processed it yet, and with everything that has happened, I actually don’t blame her for not talking about it. There’s a clear, present danger. Survivors of domestic and or sexual violence don’t have an easy time talking about it. Then there’s the part where, in spite of the horribleness of the event, it is likely Buffy knows Spike’s intent was not to hurt her, though hurt her he most definitely did.
    As I said earlier, I think there is a solid argument that Dawn should know and appreciate that what she believes of Spike has been proven to be inaccurate. When she is being asked to rely on someone herself it is reasonable for her to have information which calls that into question. But as I said in the discussion about Buffy's decision in Two to Go, I think the pressure of the crisis they were in and in light of Dawn's traumatic experience in finding Tara, it made Buffy's decision to want to take Dawn to Spike and not remove another sense of her security from her at that moment understandable, even if it wasn't the best choice outside that crisis situation. I do also very much agree with you that Buffy is still processing it all herself, hasn't had time to really take stock over it too. In an ideal world she would get the space and opportunity to do that before she decides who she wants to/should speak to about it. But Dawn's frustration here really underlines that hiding it from her wasn't going to work as her operating with a false perception isn't good and it also keeps a barrier between them that reduces understanding of each other.

    It’s my opinion that his behavior was precisely to be expected of someone without a true moral compass. I think Buffy knows this. I don’t think she would even begin to have the words to articulate what happens. When she’s telling her tale of the last few months to Giles she says ‘and I’ve been sleeping with Spike.’ She does not say ‘Spike tried to rape me.’ In spite of how violated we see her react, I am not sure that’s what she thinks of the event. So, I believe her not telling Dawn was a valid choice – particularly as she’s been balls to the wall trying to learn how to parent, and parents tend NOT to tell their children about their personal lives. I would argue that telling Dawn should not be her first act in dealing with it. She needs counselling and support and she should have had a counselor, maybe even should have been able to talk to her friends, but Dawn was still a child. Down in the hole, it’s one more distraction in a situation that cannot really afford distractions.

    Dawn thinks she’s not a kid, and she’s right that Buffy cannot protect her from everything, but she’s not right that she needs to know everything.
    I can see your point about there being a reasonable barrier with Dawn and the pressure to parent Buffy is under. If it weren't for Dawn's own relationship and reliance on Spike overlapping it would be far easier to see it as something Buffy can just keep private. I agree that she needs time really and it doesn't seem fair that the situation is pressing this before she is wanting/ready to address it. I think telling Giles of the affair generally is her reporting about what happened during the year, as indicative of how things had fallen apart for her, rather than telling him about the attempted rape which was very much about Spike's failing rather than what she had been struggling with since Giles left.

    I agree that Buffy is working with the hard reality of Spike's moral limitation unsouled within her response to what happened. There was dubious consent and abusive behaviour from them both at varying points through their affair. Although the attempted rape was most definitely distinct and different in tone, I think that Buffy can see, even if she hasn't consciously thought through these things yet, that Spike in the moment couldn't. I do think she felt violated and that he tried to rape her, to force her to respond to him in the way he wanted regardless of what she was saying, but I'd agree that she sees what happened within the context of his soullessness. That her processing of that is still happening, and is no doubt very much pushed out of mind in favour of the more immediate needs/threats seems clear in her responses to Dawn. It isn't really the time, but is there as another example of Buffy drawing protective boundaries around Dawn rather than considering what better arms her to face the world herself. In the latter sense, knowing that Spike let Buffy down so significantly is important because it probably would (and will) impact on how Dawn relates to him. I think considering how close Dawn has felt to Spike within the time since Buffy died makes it important that she understands if something changes and creates a barrier. Just not necessarily immediately, when it is so soon and Buffy hasn't had much time to pause and consider it herself, that does feel unncessary.

    It’s all happening way too fast. The pacing here is perfect. Anya arrives. We know the end game. I love the interactions between Buffy and Dawn and Anya. It’s like a tennis match with explication and very bad news. The world is ending, and Giles might be dying. And no supernatural power can stop it.

    Of course, while Anya was hearing the news, so was Xander. So he’s gone.
    I love that he does that rather than focussing on trying to get Buffy out, that his connection to Willow and the friendship that she needs to feel again herself is exactly what drives him beyond other considerations to go and find her too. That this is a situation where fighting isn't what is needed makes Buffy's absence work. Fighting Buffy again would have just been another distraction from what Willow really needed, the inability to fight and so losing the ability to keep shutting her emotions out. The potential of being able to physically overwhelm her to stop the threat would have always driven Buffy to return to a physical confrontation and the inability to confront Willow on that level is what is necessary to breach the defence she's been using as avoidance.

    The temple of plastic-orgy-creature is arising. What the heck were they thinking? It’s very dramatic, until you see the glowing plastic deity. It looks like Medusa Barbie with a flashlight behind it.
    Yep, it isn't the best prop, even if we're going with the meaning and giving some slack.

    When Buffy asks Dawn to fight it’s a cute moment, but it reads a bit false because the Dawn that watched Buffy fight (as she says not that much later) is someone who wouldn’t just cringe and not pick up that second sword while she saw Buffy struggle. Summers women are made of sterner stuff. Remember ‘get the hell away from my daughter?’ Dawn would have grabbed the second sword right off the bat. Those swords were so awfully convenient. I mean, who lets their enemy wander around with swords… Dawn and Xander did not have swords. I see that as a minor plot hole. But of course, needed and accounted for. I always like that about Buffy. There’s usually an explanation for most of what happens in the show.

    Everything seems to be falling apart. The sisters are finally fighting together.
    I do agree that Dawn has grit and doesn't back down easily. The whole way she responded when kidnapped by Glory really showed her guts and bravery. But I do think that she has also consistently fallen to standing behind Buffy if she's there. Sometimes because she is pushed back out of the way (like trying to shield her from seeing what is happening in After Life) and that comes after her keyness is revealed and the threat of Glory gave a season of being treated as precious and needing protecting, so it is something that they are both having to shift in their dynamic. Consequently I think Dawn's sense of freedom to exercise that side of herself readily around Buffy does feel somewhat new and works with being given the go ahead to do so now.

    Totally agree that the swords are incredibly convenient.

    I feel just a little sorry for poor Anya. Trying to comfort Giles, but utterly honest to the end, even when she thinks he’s dying. She is grateful he came, but she can see the apparent stupidity of his arming Willow with extra magic. It’s funny and touching and true to her character.
    Ha, I can see that. I do find Giles' life supposedly hanging in the balance as an extra bit of tension woven in actually a bit frustrating. It's then so readily shaken off once the threat has gone.

    This is pure Xander and he’s just perfect. Funny, poignant, brave, full of love. We see his shock and emotional hurt when she actually lashes out at him. Then we see her shock at having caused him pain, and her rage and magics begin to fail her. He keeps telling her he loves her.

    Finally, it gets through.

    Finally, she lets go.
    It is just such an incredibly impactful ending and you do really feel both characters' feelings throughout. This coupled with Spike's soul being restored makes it a season ending that I can't help but adore.

    There are some who have difficulty with this ending. That the two men save the day. It is ‘Buffy’s show’; that a man saying ‘I love you’ is what it takes to bring down the ‘crazy lesbian’ strikes some as anti-feminist. But in my opinion, it’s fundamentally, much simpler than that. It’s two friends dealing with grief. It’s about one man having serious balls in the face of power he cannot hope to combat, and somehow remaining standing when it’s all over. It’s about love.
    I really like this.

    The little vignette with the two frightened fugitives in the cab of the semi is all we need. It leavens a lot of serious, earnestness with a tiny amount of necessary silly. Danny Strong totally sells Jonathan’s frightened deer in the headlights, and it makes us smile. It also sews up their arc nicely.
    There is definitely a note of 'what is to come' for these two though. Fleeing goes directly against what Jonathan said they should do in taking responsibility for their choices and so I think it is good that this isn't the last we see of them. Their season's abuse of power isn't left as the end of their stories. Yet another aspect for next season.

    I love the interaction between Buffy and Dawn after the world doesn’t end. It is complicated and it’s sweet. How much both of them have learned, and oddly, in spite of the misery, how much Buffy has healed. For the first time since she dug out of her grave, she’s looking forward. Still, we hear her wanting to see the joy of others. Nothing about her own. That is her cross to bear, however. Even with friends, she lives her life for the lives of others.

    The daylight is subdued. Like the dawn after a storm. Dawn and Buffy face the world, the beauty, and the hope. Together. The music that plays as they walk through the natural beauty is poignant and lovely and haunting. It is perfect too for what comes next. Rebirth.
    I hadn't especially thought of how Buffy is looking on to the future potential of others, but after a season of disconnection her desire to see what choices other's make and wanting to be a part of it is a really significant moment for her. In engaging with what is happening for those closest to her and wanting to actively participate in Dawn's connections to the world, she is wanting to be there more solidly going forward than she has managed since her return at the season start. And this is I think what is important about the season end, and for me why it doesn't matter that Buffy herself doesn't physically stop the apocalypse. From the moment she returned she has been able to go through the motions of slaying. It isn't in this way that she needed to find herself this season and to the extent that she had to reclaim that role for herself, her choice to save her friends in Normal Again was significant. But her acceptance of Dawn, fighting beside her and wanting to emerge from the grave with her is a greater victory for her personally to end the season focused on against where she individually began it. Now she wants to live, wants to share her life and enjoy the lives of others. And with an overall focus on reconnecting and drawing together, a victory that is one which is founded on the strength of love and friendship has greater reach than just Xander and Willow. They all came to try to get to Willow and fought together with love and resolve until one of them reached her. Yes it was Xander specifically, but their commitment and determination was that of a group that all cared.

    The imagery of the new day with the rising sun, greenery, flowers and blossom all speaks of renewal and life surrounding Buffy and Dawn as they emerge together and as Xander comforts Willow. It definitely sets up for a new period to follow for the characters in the wake of the season they have been through and then leads into the development for Spike as also setting up a new period for him too.

    And then Spike. The powerful part of this scene is him getting his soul back. Still not really enjoying that ‘what she deserves’ nonsense. What could he possibly think she deserves? Not him, surely! And not revenge. Especially not once we learn the real reason for his trip. After all, he’s gone and gotten his soul in an overabundance of guilt… The only thing that makes any sense is that maybe his anger in the earlier scene is actually self-loathing… but it doesn’t read that way, so it is kind of a sour note in an otherwise amazing episode. Unlike a lot of people, I think he needed that soul and that the actions in the bathroom were exactly what it took for him to realize that… so that part I buy. We know in that instant that Spike’s soul is going to be a game changer.
    I love this moment and it genuinely got me out of my seat the first time I saw it.

    I'd say that unsouled Spike does think that he is what Buffy needs, but he has finally seen that he failed to walk the line in a way that means she won't accept him as he is. So he's trying to fix himself to become acceptable to her. I don't think he goes to get his soul just out of guilt but out of a desire to solve what he thinks is stopping him being what Buffy wants and to end his constant struggle in trying to gauge where the boundaries are that he just can't see/understand. He wants to end the confusion that has seen him torn between love and resentment. As has been considered through the season, Spike responds quite aggressively when he isn't treated how he wants but also stays fixated on the one he loves and wanting to be accepted. We've seen his ability to swing between anger and adoration right back to Crush as well as through the season, most notably in OMWF and Smashed. I agree the soul is needed, there are many things that indicate his limitations through the season, but it was the attack in the bathroom which finally broke his belief in himself and was what prompted him to accept he couldn't manage to reach for what he wished for as he is, that he couldn't promise to not hurt Buffy and it be true. I honestly think that unsouled Spike thought that getting his soul would change the situation and fix the problem, that he would then become acceptable and offer Buffy what she wants and deserves. Which, yes, to his mind is him and his love. He doesn't really understand the difference the soul will make of course. When he is souled his perception of the relationship and most especially of himself is affected.

    The ties to rebirth and new chances really directs the tone of the reveal when Spike is given his soul I think. We've seen him undergo trials that symbolically promise to destroy or purify and which tested his commitment and determination for reaching his goal. In this way it truly resonates to not just the season's trials but the battle the group just took on and the determination they all showed and which had Xander stand strong. The insertion of the soul coming with a blinding light in the dark that fills him within again draws to classic symbolism of light and dark so often used.

    The final lines over the lyrics that have been talking of positive change, when Buffy and Dawn are walking together before it cuts back to the cave, talks of focusing on giving rather than on looking to receive. That in fact it is by the act of offering that we receive. Spike enters the cave looking to win Buffy's love, to become someone that she can love. I think this matches how he describes his intention to her next season. But as he doesn't view himself the same there is a lot more adjustments that follow as he and Buffy generate a new shared dynamic. In contrast it's one that looks to empower the other rather than take and through their mutual support what they build in the season strengthens them both. Again, no doubt another conversation to come.

    Thank you for reviewing the finale. I enjoyed running through the episode from another perspective and you've expanded my thoughts on it. I hadn't particularly considered before how much of a real threat Willow was to the gang when fighting them before, so that was really interesting and I'm sure it's something I'll consider again when rewatching next.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew S. View Post
    It’s been years and I still don’t understand Giles’s plan to get Willow to destroy the world. Giles is a brilliant man but he is not this puppet-master, Dumbledore-esque figure that “Grave” tries to paint him as. It would have been far more believable if Giles had just come back with the intent to kill Willow point-blank. Not only does his plan make no sense, it’s extremely OOC. You expect me to believe that someone as extremely pragmatic as Giles would create a plan to dope an already-psychotic Willow up with magical energy in order to manipulate her into destroying the world on the off-chance that Xander – a person who Giles has NEVER shown any particular belief in or regard for – would save her?? Yeah, okay, Joss.
    I didn't take it as that being Giles plan. I think the idea was definitely that she would take the essence of magic from him and that that would connect her to positive magic and so to her humanity again. It was just that her reaction to being overwhelmed with everyone's emotions led her instead to want to stop everyone's pain caused from living. That Xander was able to reach her was the idea, in that someone reaching out in friendship and love would work once she'd taken the magic. I don't think they were predicting that she would go to apocalyptic levels to try to block out facing grief/sorrow/loss etc before someone who cared about her was able to reach her.

    Blue I really appreciated your post about suicidal and homicidal ideation and the dark power that Willow has drawn into herself. Although I wouldn't say she is possessed or controlled (I think it is important to keep the character continuity in how Willow responds to events under the umbrella that it is a dark and extreme version of herself that has closed off from her own morality and emotional connections), but the suggestion that the darkness of the power she has taken in is influencing her and contributing somewhat I think is fair. It is also why the countering power from a positive essence that will draw forward her humanity was necessary. Through all the season I think the importance of people's response to their experiences and how affected they are by insecurities and doubts is huge. I do understand why some, as debbicles expressed, really struggle with who Willow becomes during this season. But for me one of the most excellent aspects of S6 is how it ties back and draws on the history of the characters, on traits that have been there from the get-go, and then into how the current context in light of difficulties endured, insecurities, fears and traumas experienced can affect you so greatly that you can seem to become someone you struggle to recognise. People are complex and layered, can seemingly swing in extremes when under pressure, but there are coherent ties throughout and the achievement of that in the characterisations of the season is a great part of why I love it.

    A brilliant example of these realistic extremes that can occur ties with your suggestion the magic she took from Giles triggered a suicidal response. I think that works really well with the loss of hope and future she will have been feeling after Tara's sudden death and that desire to end suffering (an idea that she had already expressed to Dawn in Two to Go). It all comes back around to trying to destructively cope with her grief and pain and that simply expands at first when she is connected to the additional magic. Psychotic empathy as you suggest.

    debbicles, I've never read it that Willow was taunting Buffy and Xander when she killed Warren. I don't think she was waiting for them but kept deliberately trying to leave them behind to stay shut off. I've always thought their arrival made her rush to conclude what she was doing as she didn't want them to try to stop her. She is closed off and calmly cruel rather than having fun I think. Although she is certainly getting satisfaction from using her power to do what she wants. But she seems to greatly try to avoid those that care for her as soon as they aren't supporting her plan to avenge Tara's death when she first tracks down the robot Warren on the bus with them. She is executing judgement and lashing out brutally in vengeance and in her grief, but I don't think she's directing it at her friends until they put themselves in her path and keep trying to stop her.

    Quote Originally Posted by debbicles View Post
    I loved Willow’s “Jonathan…Andrew.” It’s almost conversational. Utterly brilliant.
    Agreed, the delivery of it's just perfect.

    The idea that Buffy and Dawn are also emerging from the loss of Joyce together too is really interesting and I think it works well towards the suggestion we'll see in Lessons that Buffy is firmly in the surrogate mum role (hair and all ). I'm going to consider through S7 the suggestion that Buffy doesn't really feel the opportunities of life ahead of her truly, or perhaps just fully, until the end of the series.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and giving plenty to think about when watching. I'm sure every time I rewatch it is a slightly different experience from having heard how others view the episodes/characters. Looking forward to discussing S7 together too.
    Last edited by Stoney; 10-10-19 at 02:34 PM.

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    Default Unfinished Business... Normal Again—Again....

    First, to All—

    Apologies to King Of Cretins and DeepBlueJoy for not yet responding to your wonderful reviews:

    I am, alas, on a strict Monday deadline, and, more alas, behind…

    I promise words after it and the Melville conference for which it
    is promised have passed, for you each gave me much to think, as
    did those who responded—

    But—

    As we are at the end of S6, I did want to post this, even though it
    be a year late: Stoney wrote so marvellous a response to my review
    of Normal Again

    And although it has taken me a year to finish my response in turn,
    I feel deeply obligated to post it as a kind of poor, and violently
    belated, thanks—


    So, second—

    Dear Stoney

    At long last….

    Thanks, first, for all thought and care you placed into your response, which gave so much—

    Thanks, too, for the connections you draw to the parallel episode in AtS: although I won’t be able to comment upon them, as ages have passed since I last viewed any part of the series, I found illuminations in all you wrote…


    Stoney
    I will try my best to follow the theoretical considerations, although I have a tendency to misunderstand and question tirelessly, but please do not doubt my genuine interest (just my intellect, ha).
    And no, Stoney, you have no need to apologize for the level of your grasping: there are a few points towards which I will offer corrective readings, but beyond them, your understanding has been perfect—I doubt neither your intellect nor your interest in the least, am grateful for both….

    I won’t comment on everything you have said because most of it is simply so interesting and resonant with what I was trying to say—although you say it, often, more clearly... I’ve also, in the interest of finally getting this done, cut out a few—although not all—sections in which I was doing nothing more than echoing back what you said with praise… So aside from the moments I’ve noted above, I’ll focus on those points at which you draw out new ideas, those at which I need to further give clarifications, and those at which we are in disagreement, as you yourself note…



    Stoney
    I have to admit as someone who loves looking to a sense of progression for the characters through the verse, that belief in moving onwards and striving, I do tend to fall to thinking of it in linear terms with the passage of time. But when we are also always looking to the past to explain the present and how the characters are responding to what 'was' and 'is' simultaneously (and as the future is always a theoretical notion against the current 'now' being lived), I can see the idea of everything functioning in a truly linear can be questioned. So whilst a process and progress can occur that seeks and sees an improvement or realignment of issues faced, where you came from is always a fundamental part of where you are and where you will come to be.

    But what is deemed to mean improvement? What is sought and expected and how that is judged/measured obviously plays a really important part and comes back to the oft-repeated themes of roles with the internal and (understanding/perception of) external expectations.

    Power of course is so fundamental to the season and the information that you gave on Biopower and Biopolitics is really interesting. It did take me some time to absorb this and I (hopefully!) have come to a fair understanding of how it sees social structuring and individuality. With social structures which looked to format people en masse, an intrinsic part of accepting, allowing, people's individual power within and their right to self-govern, was the expectations of how they will choose to do so weighing upon them. That this actually negates true freedom, as regulations and norms keep the structure within which the individual is 'free' to roam. What is deemed to be the 'right' behaviour or wants affects your place in the wider structure, your acceptance, and so your perception of acceptable self and successful happiness leans to alignment.
    I understand the draw of progressive narrative—it is one of the pleasures of novel-reading and its relatives in television and film…

    And by putting linear temporality into question, I am not saying that the past has no affect upon the present, does not shape the future—

    What I am saying, first, is that this shaping does not take a purely linear form, where event a causes event b causes event c, then down the line: trauma offers an extreme version of the relations of temporal dimensions, where an event long past can endlessly erupt into the present, etch out aspects of the future, with far more force than more recent ones—and even without trauma, the influence of an experience depends not upon its immediate temporal relation to the present moment but upon its affective force, much of which we may not fully understand. Second, while the past, or, rather, the multiple pasts a subject has lived, exercise a shaping force upon the future, that force is never fully determinate. If it were, if we were in a world where all things occurred according to basic laws of cause and effect, we would be in the universe Newton envisioned: a world utterly determinate, a system ordered by the propulsive movement of progressive time, where effect flowed perfectly from cause and future from present from past; a system closed and ruled by a collection of laws never given to variation; their number, although not yet fully known, in principle limited and knowable; their nature, once known, such that the power of prediction would flow through human hands—we would, in this world, live no true future, for the true future requires indeterminacy. There would be, we would live, instead, only ever a return of the same, along lines always already given, be they known or not. And without a future, without indeterminacy, there would be—we would be given to live—no freedom.

    (This does not mean that there is no temporal linearity, that we can replace it with some other form of temporality, with multiplicity alone—to argue that would be to institute a new form of progressive linearity: first we had linearity, now we have this better modality of time, have progressed in our understanding… It is rather to complicate our conception of temporality, where linearity works transversally with multiple other modes of temporality, where we come not to a better understanding than the one linearity gave us, where we find time’s linearity threading through its multiplicities and back, such that the future shapes the past as much as the reverse, unravelling any determinate, unified, simple conception of progress… )

    Then, too, all that I am saying about time relates to your elaborations about power and social structure, since the draw of linearity, the immediate sense and comfort it gives, is part of the current social structuring of the normative self and the ideas of health through which it is given to see itself.



    Stoney
    The idea of 'becoming' is less intuitive for me. As I said before, I find myself drawn so much to the idea of these as progressive stories and that desire to look at 'now' against what came before, to understand the characters and what underlies the behaviour, their choices. I think I can reconcile this with the acceptance I have always held that an incomplete story may go ways that you didn't expect and that can then radically change your previous understanding and interpretation of what had come before it. Also, a seemingly complete story is something that a totally different experience may have you look back on and reconsider, alter your perception on too. Both of these have happened, and I do!

    So I think I'm understanding 'becoming' as almost the continuous in-process nature of being. As so many factors, 'parts' of what was can change in the progress to what will be, it's impossible to plot, to identify the changing differences and pull apart something that is inherently happening. We can pause and examine and draw thoughts, but have to accept that when something is still in progress what we were looking at can change drastically down a different path than it appeared to be on. With affect allowing for openness to all that could be, the next step can always take you into a different direction and engage in what passes next in some other way than was supposed, in a linear sense from any previous points seen or as they were understood to have been. I'll see as I read on and you apply these whether this is compatible or not I suppose. I'm quite happy to accept I may have got myself totally wrapped around it all, ha.
    My first knee-jerk response would be agree, in part, with your discussion of incompleteness, but also to say that you end by speaking of being, not becoming—yet then I have to correct myself, for, as physicist and theorist Karen Barad writes,

    There is no meaningful binary between being and becoming since time is not given. All being-becoming is always already a superposition of all possible histories involving all virtual others, where "histories" do not happen in time but, rather, are the indeterminate ma(r)kings of time. That is, the infinite alterity of being not merely includes others contemporaneous and non-contemporaneous with "its" time but also is always already open to remakings of temporality. Hence, all matter is always already a dynamic field of matterings. The play of quantum indeterminacies deconstructs not only the metaphysics of presence and the metaphysics of individualism but also anything like the possibility of separating them. The indeterminacies of being and time are together undone.

    What this means is that the way you speak of being and progress takes time as given, something there into which we live. Becoming erupts through the spacings, the points across which such given time is stretched to show that time is not given: it is made by events in their indeterminacies, what I called above their futurities. And in this way, time is always open to being remade, is never a progressive flow whose movement we can assume: Buffy’s life shows this so clearly in S6, for she assumed human life flowed from life to death, but her resurrection undoes this, shows the multiplicities of its layerings, its virtual possibilities and indeterminacies. Her resurrection is a radical rema(r)king of time, putting it in relation with other moments non-contemporaneous and contemporaneous, as we see in NA—in a more extreme way than most of us live, but not differently than we do. This is what I mean by calling becoming a “betweenness”: it cannot be retroactively integrated into the linear flow of progressive time as you seek to do, for it fractures the illusion of that time’s givenness, reveals the multiplicities of time’s movements and flows, the ways in which it is made, marked, by the what Barad calls the spacetimemattering of events: their materialization of events in—as—space and time, which makes space and time, as opposed to space and time being there, as Kant argued, waiting for them. This is not to say that there is no linearity, as I said above, for to replace it with multiplicity would be just another progressive conceptual movement… But it is to say that linearity is always already disrupted by lines of flight, eruptions of becoming that exceed the determinations of Newtonian cause and effect, linear temporality, where life and death, past-present-future are entangled, not mapped out in a line, and the indeterminacy opens into sheer Possibility—

    I am not sure that this will fully explain, but: I would say that the first thing to do is to give up the assumption that space and time are given, think of them as made by the mattering of the world, including the mattering done by of thought, made by meaning. Think how even memory is not just a subjective imagining of the human mind—in Karen Barad’s words, “Memory—the pattern of sedimented enfoldings of iterative intra-activity—is written into the fabric of the world. The world ‘holds’ the memory of all traces; or rather, the world is its memory (enfolded materialization).” In this sense, too, Buffy’s ethical actions make the world, her intra-actions with others form patterns of sedimented enfoldings of spacetimemattrings that shape the world, cause it to occur. We see this most graphically when she saves the world from Acathala and leaps to close the gap opened by Dawn’s blood, see there, too, how evil carries its own shaping force. But those extremes only underline the force each nightly slaying carries, the ma(r)king it performs, the worlding it spurs to becoming, even as it spurs Buffy’s own, in all its indeterminacy.

    Finally, it seems to me you are thinking the self in terms of pure identity: that the self is individual, ever reaching to become more truly its essential self. Yet becoming for Deleuze and Guattari is always relational: they think becoming in terms of becoming-woman, -animal, -impersonal, -molecular: identity is neither pure nor given nor made simply by the self in its own conscious making—it is relational, created through its affective touching of others, human and inhuman, contemporaneous and asynchronous to itself. Here, think of how the Scoobies become only in their relations to each other—and how their becomings are stunted in S6 when those relations are twisted out of touch: their relations allowed each the lines of flight out of the normative determinations into which they had been bound, allowed their creation—not always conscious or directed—of their singularities. There is thus a certain passivity in becoming, for it involves a receptivity, an openness to the other, as Buffy opens herself to the death and suffering of others in her slaying, a movement of self in relation to the other that makes her. This is very different from the neo-liberal notion of agency, autonomy, self-presence, and actively willing progression through life into which we have been schooled by the social structures—the biopolitical forces—into which we have been born in late-modern Western culture.

    Thus Buffy’s initial experience, on one level, of her Chosenness as wrongness: Chosenness is inherently imbricated with a kind of vitalism, with the energies of life, of life-giving force; at the same time, however, it is also inherently imbricated with passivity, not only because the Slayer is chosen rather than choosing but also because a crucial passivity adheres even in her acceptance of her destiny, her obligation. We see this in the first two episodes of the series, when Buffy first claims that she has renounced her calling, then takes it up—takes it up not consciously, in a moment of conscious, active decision; takes it up passively by acting in response to Willow’s own unconscious call. Buffy does not say to herself, “I guess I’ll be the Slayer after all.” She hears Willow’s unspoken, unwilled call and moves into action, not thinking what that may mean, not thinking the future implications, the self she may be taking up, or anything else. That such passive vitalism repeats itself in NA manifests the way in which it infibers Buffy as the Slayer and the singular self in her becoming. At the same time, such becoming, in its relationality, its passivity, its deviation from normative modes of being, attaches itself to her earlier trauma, her constitutive sense of wrongness: that wrongness, as I elaborated in my original post, emerged from her inability to conform to proper daughterliness, which involved the ability to actively “take responsibility” for herself in conforming to the norms imposed upon her—and her sense that in her failure to be able to do so, something densely bound to what she thought to be her self was what caused her parents’ divorce. Here, I would argue that much as Buffy seemed to fit the mold of popular upper-middle-class white girl, a passive vitalism lurked within her, even before her calling, a passive vitalism, a non-normative force, that told her, as she would say to Cordelia in OoSOoM, that “something was missing”—a something that whispered that she was not that proper popular girl, something that moved her, later, to a becoming that deviated from the destiny of the normal, normalized Slayer.

    At the same time, to say that there was in Buffy a passive vitalism is not to say that as an individual she held within her, from birth, something that determined what she would be, something she needed but time to realize—to say that would be to move back to strict linearity, neo-liberal conceptions of identity and progression, and their normalizing fellow-forces. I mean, rather, to say, that this passivity left Buffy open to indeterminacy in a way that resisted full acquiescence to normalization, that opened her to lines of flight—but also to say that that same openness to indeterminacy could have gone, at any moment, in any direction, including a closing down, under the pressure of her parents, into normativity, perhaps, had her Choosing not come—a Choosing that was itself a matter of chance, born of the death of the previous Slayer at just the moment that determined that Buffy would be the next Potential to embody the force (Canon is unclear about this process, but it has always seemed to me to be an intersection of destiny and chance). Hence, here again we have a kind of betweenness—the norms of daughterhood and those of Slayerness, the power of Slayerness and the call of its obligations, her passive vitalism—between which Buffy becomes. No one force, nor the ordered, linear combination of all of them would have led to Buffy’s movement through the world: it was the assemblage of these forces and her graceful, stumbling, backtracking, side-winding, giving between them.

    And we see this with other characters—not only the Scoobies but also Joyce; from what we see in much of the first two seasons and in the false version of her that appears in most of NA, the woman she becomes in S3-5 seems unimaginable. Here, too, however, here becoming, set off in part by her love for Buffy, its unconditionality even in the face of Buffy’s revelation of “who [she] truly was” [DMP], not perhaps also her divorce, that loss, allowed her to flow through the normative points that had determined the flow of her life, shaping, for so long. That shift, I mean, was not predictable—it was a line of flight, not a progression.


    And if you could bear with me a little longer on the topic of identity, with some more brilliance from Karen Barad:

    Even the smallest bits of matter are an unfathomable multitude. Each "individual" always already includes all possible intra-actions with "itself" through all the virtual others, including those that are non-contemporaneous with "itself." That is, every finite being is always already threaded through with an infinite alterity diffracted through being and time. Indeterminacy is an un/doing of identity that unsettles the very foundations of non/being…. "Individuals" are infinitely indebted to all others, where indebtedness is about not a debt that follows or results from a transaction but, rather, a debt that is the condition of possibility of giving/receiving.

    It is in this that Buffy’s Chosenness connects to all of us: as “individuals,” we are made through our intra-actions with others—not only those we actually meet, but with the virtual others whose possibilities touch our own, those whose times match our own and those whose times do not: their indeterminacies unfold our own across space and time, open out our alterity to, within ourselves, making and unmaking our being at once. This means that while we may not have been literally chosen to save the world as Buffy was, we have been virtually chosen to do so—therein lies our indebtedness to all others, “the condition of possibility of giving/receiving,” the very condition of our possibility in and of itself.



    Stoney
    This is great. That a lot of Jonathan's poor choices have originated from his sense of exclusion and depression is a really interesting comparison to raise between the characters. As Jonathan's increasing discomfort with the actions of the group starts to separate him we have Buffy's determination to return to a more morally strong self too. Of course Warren's desire to get Jonathan to return to his previous more relaxed perspective on their actions could be seen against Spike's desire to get Buffy to reconsider what she has/had too. The actual difference of course come from Warren's clear determination/intention to use and set up Jonathan with his moral capacities such that he has making a specific and conscious choice to act against someone else's best interests in favour of his own. Spike's inability to understand why his relationship with Buffy has to end, his lack of boundaries of what is acceptable within a relationship driving him, but not self interest that comes with a deliberate desire or conscious disregard towards hurting her.
    I very much like this comparison/contrast between Spike/Warren very much, find it offers insight on both characters, on what drives them, and on what limits Spike, his inability to understand the harmful nature of his relationship with Buffy—as opposed to Warren, who has no limits, rather a full understanding of what he seeks to do, of his boundless desire to control others, draw or force them serve his interests.



    Stoney
    This is a beautiful description of the tone that they convey here and for how it will build in with this question over what is real and where Buffy is truly present.

    It reminded me of some of the things that Local Max raised within his review of Listening to Fear, that those that are elderly or mentally ill are often shielded from view to suffer alone. In the hallucination absence is both there and not, with the most difficult aspect for Buffy to deal with, the inclusion of her loving, supportive parents who just want her to return to them, to get 'better' and come home. But the cost of which is both judgement on what is acceptable for her to 'be' and the loss of those she cares for. In Sunnydale we can see that this also relates to the fears/feelings that Buffy is containing and hiding from those around her too.
    Yes, I remember Local Max’s beautiful piece very well… And I love the way you put the contrasting isolations Buffy faces in the asylum and in Sunnydale: in both places, home has costs….



    Stoney
    Yes, the episode does work incredibly well to literalise Buffy's internal struggle of the season and highlight the overall path for her and others. Seeing her return to conscience here as still haunted and not fully awakened, struggling in those varying senses of presence and time is just excellent. As you say, the almost/miss of Tara and Willow's meeting, of their progress to recovery of love is a great follow up and the sequence of scenes, with presence and time varying in different roles/settings. This sense of being there and yet a connection being missed, being there only briefly, being just too late, or not being present (as we have with Anya) is used repeatedly alongside time as we see Buffy dropping in and out of both realities, blending the two. It's another time the medley of the meats and their natural separation and original incompatibility feels relevant.

    I think there is a note of understanding from Buffy over Willow's pain/jealousy that calls back to her own response on seeing Spike with his date in Hell's Bells. But again it is something that she can't voice as the relationship's 'wrongness' puts her off still and now that it has passed she is attempting to put it behind her completely, trying to push away any ongoing presence for her that she acknowledged to him she feels and that we see at times like this. That it is only in the past is something that she tries to assert during Spike's appearances, despite some of her own responses, as much as he tries to challenge and refute it.
    I love the way you make all the connections in the first paragraph, the way you express the connections, ending with the DM medley…. And I very much like, as well, the connection I missed to Buffy’s jealousy over Spike’s date in HB—and her inability to express it, as she cannot express so much, allow its presence…. This despite, as you note, the play of presence and absence when they meet, which you contextualize in a way I failed to do—



    StateOfSiege97
    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.

    Stoney
    With the escapism that plays such a key part of the choices that Willow and Buffy make to deal with their problems, it's interesting to see the Drs suggestion of the reduced comfort ill!Buffy is finding in the life around her and the suggestion her battles are becoming less grand/heroic. As you say, he focuses on the heroic battle/slow death rather than the challenge Buffy is really facing, what the escapism is about and which the hallucinations themselves now represent, engaging with life itself. In truth in the real world Buffy is starting to take steps towards engaging more, even if at this point it's somewhat unrealised, and take less comfort from escapism which she had mostly been using Spike for until so recently. The battle with The Trio as a human threat rather than supernatural in nature also represents facing 'life', rejoining her friends/family and engaging with the world rather than losing herself in the mere motions of battling the supernatural in the season. The hitchhiking demon of After Life is very representative of the positioning of the supernatural elements to the season as she focuses on life struggles/challenges. Redefining herself, combining the pressures/aspects of varying areas of her life and coming to terms with all that she has been through could draw Buffy to a new sense of wholeness, rather than avoidance which leaves her static and fails to make her 'better'.
    Actually, I was saying that the Doctor does not focus on slow death at all, that he reads over it by focussing on Warren and the Trio only to the degree that they do not involve Buffy in a heroic battle—so as to not see that Buffy’s real struggle is with RL, of which slow death is a part. Of course, the Trio is part of that as well, given, precisely, that they are not supernatural threats, as you point out, but the way in which the Doctor analyzes them is to deny their importance and the importance of the struggles Buffy is facing—it is his way of denying the validity of Sunnydale as a whole. That said, I do not think that wholeness is what Buffy seeks, as that is a concept of biopolitical “health”—and becoming and affect speak of a kind of hope, as I wrote above, that is betweenness, a middleness that resists the completion of the “whole,” is always open to the indeterminacies of becoming. That quibble aside, I love your reading of the Natural/Supernatural, their shifting relations to each other, and the role the Hitchhiking demon in AL….



    StateOfSiege97
    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 too 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 episode’s end, remain to her unknown, awaiting a later unfolding.


    Stoney
    I confess I find this a little confusing. So are you suggesting the hallucinations draw more from what Buffy can have as fleeting thoughts about her life, such thoughts as an outsider looking on her could think, influenced by and judging within social norms? Such as, seeing her life in the dark, slaying and fighting as unhealthy, that she is struggling with her responsibilities to Dawn along with trying to keep her safe/contained and that she's somewhat lost with no active adult role model in her life. So her hallucinations makes her identity as the slayer a literal illness, which as a consequence removes Dawn and so the responsibilities of her, and it brings back both parents that she 'needs' as representations of regulation and structure behind any sense of self-governance? Yet this doesn't mean Buffy's deepest wishes are for Dawn to disappear, for her mother to return and to go back to a time before Sunnydale. It just takes that she is unsettled in her roles and the expectations on her, consequently the desire to conform, the emotional benefits to feeling that 'healthy' affirmation places weight on that against her sense of wrongness and traumatic experiences? That she does miss her mum and wish for that affection and reassurance again is part of why the delusions are drawing her and are so confusing, some of it does align to deeper desires. But those desires don't only align with what the hallucinations offer. So her desire to also connect more with her slayer side for example is part of what also draws her back out of the hallucinations too.
    A stranger looking in would not be able to see your deepest but still accessible memories—nor would she be able to see the very particular ways in which biopolitical norms shaped your consciousness, and all those things occur on the preconscious, not the unconscious level of the mind. Nor are we fully aware of the shaping of our preconscious, for we can rarely gain a vision of the whole at once: we tend only to see it in pieces—think of it in terms of the way your memory works, of whether you can ever grasp the whole of it at once, even though you have access to various parts of it at any single moment. In the same way, you may be able to apprehend certain workings of biopolitical norms upon you, but only with tremendous psychic work will you be able to fully comprehend the whole of their shaping.

    So what I am saying is that Buffy’s deepest desires cannot involve the erasure of Dawn, because that would require negation, and the Unconscious knows no negation, has no word for “no.” Her hallucinations derive from her preconscious, from the part of herself that is formed by the negations enacted by biopolitical norms, which are full of negations. Does this mean that Buffy does not long for her mother? No. But in her Unconscious, her mother is not dead, because the Unconscious does not know death, so it cannot yearn to bring her back to life. Buffy’s deepest desires involve a longing for life, the longing she expresses at the end of the episode—not the desires she follows in following the orders expressed by her parents and the Doctor to do “whatever is necessary”: to kill her friends and Dawn, which is also a negation. So yes, she has desires working on two levels, but what I am saying is that her deepest desires are not those expressed by the vision of the clinic—we only see them in that final scene, where the true Joyce comes and speaks to her of life, expresses trust in her, urges her to live. In the same way, the desires expressed in the majority of her hallucination—the desire to return to a time “before Sunnydale,” are not even accurate representations of her experience, because we know from Becoming1 that that time was far from perfect, that the fight her parents have after her calling is not their first fight, that Buffy had been for a long time the false object for the unspoken conflicts between them. This means that the parents Buffy hallucinates are not her actual parents but a normative version, a dream of a normative life—yes, one without Dawn, as well—but this is not an expression of Buffy’s deepest desires. They are an articulation of depressed, traumatized Buffy’s desire to find a normative form of herself, even if it not bear any relation to her realities, even if it be just a dream drawn out of her preconscious imaginings of possible pasts.

    (I realize that I am leaving out the Death Drive here, but going there would take pages to draw into the analysis… )


    —————————————————————————


    Note: I am here putting all your comments and questions about the truth of Buffy’s recollection of her previous institutionalization together, separated by ellipses, so that I can respond to them at once, rather than repeating myself or jumping back and forth between ideas:


    Stoney
    Although I hadn't thought this before when watching the episode, I wondered this time when Buffy revealed the news she had been in a clinic to Willow if she might have been confusing the event that got her in the institution in the hallucinations, or some such other muddle of reality and hallucination. When she speaks to Dawn shortly afterwards and accuses her of getting Willow to do her tasks it seems as if Dawn is confused and alarmed at what she is saying, at her behaviour. It feels as if Buffy is getting somewhat more erratic and untethered. I'm not sure that she isn't almost hallucinating in the present too by this point, her mind throwing out facts that aren't based on her original reality. As you say, her suggestion Joyce and Hank were together before Sunnydale implied their relationship broke afterwards, although we know that isn't true. It all feels a little ambiguous. So, I'm intending to consider as I read your thoughts on the episode how, or indeed if, the accuracy and truth of this memory affects how it is used, or if it could have been a false/warped memory.

    …..

    I very much agree about the depth to which this would oppress Buffy and deeply affect her. But it is why it is such a hard retcon to take on top of the idea that it wouldn't be recalled instantly by either/both of them as soon as Buffy was talking in terms of vampires again in S2. There was no longer a need to suppress and forget then. Yet instead Buffy says this in response to Joyce's denial in Becoming pt2, "Open your eyes, Mom. What do you think has been going on for the past two years? The fights, the weird occurrences. How many times have you washed blood out of my clothing, and you still haven't figured it out?" She tells her mum how lonely it is, how dangerous. Then when Joyce said it is insane, that Buffy needs help, Buffy simply tells her, "I'm *not* crazy! What I need is for you to chill. I *have* to go!" That there is not one mention of the clinic then or on her return is so hard to believe if it were literally true.

    I remember once someone suggested that the memory of the clinic was actually something that the monks had included in Buffy's history rewrite. This then works past the early season continuity issues. A theoretical purpose to that I could see being to encourage Buffy to look to protect the identity of her sister, to keep the truth secret from everyone. Buffy's memory and experience of it all, her emotional connections, would be as meaningful and real to her as those of her sister. Personally I prefer to think that the monk's changed very little and as vampmogs suggested once, that this is why Dawn feels like she is always ignored and Buffy is saying she seems more annoying recently. But I'm not this as one addition in fact would disrupt that and I prefer it for the benefit to continuity tbh.

    Whatever is the truth, it being part of the monk's spell, a blending/mix with the hallucination that's part of the poisoning, or a literal part of her past forgotten by her parents and deeply suppressed by herself, I think how it overlays her insecurities and fears represented by the AU world is what matters. In all cases, that the feelings of isolation, of wrongness and not meeting the ideals she should are felt so keenly and run deeply.

    ….

    So yes, this is where the reveal of that additional trauma, that the rejection of who she has become and the desire to erase that change by her parents is so significant. But I just don't think the Buffy we see in S1 comes over as that deeply hurt and nervous about the risk of being caught and rejected again. There isn't a sense of tension and fear there when she addresses it again, finally and very directly with Joyce in S2 either. The hurt from the breaking down of the family unit and the ties that were likely made to the additional strain her calling brought I think are evidenced and work with the early season dynamic between her and Joyce very well. But the layers brought in from the clinic being true, I just don't think are there. If it were then Buffy also 'forgot' until the hallucinations stirred the memory back, suppressed the memory to the extent that it was hidden from her too and that isn't how she presents it to Willow, it is that 'they' forgot, not her. I just think seeing it as part of the hallucinations or as an aspect of the monk's spell works better for continuity. The general pressure to keep her identity as the slayer a secret alongside fears of rejection/disbelief if she tried to raise what she is going through to seek the comfort she wishes she could when first called resulting in a sense of isolation and being 'wrong' work well anyway I think. There is still trauma there between being called and the ties she makes to the family falling apart as she fails to be what they want/need, can't tell them what is happening and, as Buffy indicates in her conversation to Joyce in Becoming pt2, starts to possibly feel some resentment/hurt that they don't notice what is happening to her too.

    If I am forgetting a later reference and confirmation of her time in a clinic or if taking that we never see her retract what was said to Willow as the unspoken confirmation, then I do agree the ways in which you are tying it to an even deeper sense of wrongness would be true. But how it functions in the episode I don't think needs it to be true, she just needs to feel it, and I don't think it establishes a new facet to Buffy's character that she didn't already feel and already have exposed in her relationship to social expectations, her sense of otherness and her inability to turn to her parents. And it creates those problems in continuity that are hard to brush aside.

    • First, I do not think that Buffy is hallucinating when she speaks to Willow: although she was lost, displaced from any certain location in space or time before Willow enters, when staring at the photograph, as she and Willow converse, Buffy becomes more and more present, is moved to presence by her desire to make sense—to Willow and herself—of her detachment, of the reason why she is “this way.” Willow’s repeated focus upon the immediate problem of the demon only moves Buffy to become more focused upon that “why”; thus by the time she comes to the reveal, she is insistently, if tearfully, present. Throughout their conversation, Buffy gives no impression, as she does in her conversation with Dawn, of being on the verge of falling back into the asylum or having its words flow into the ones she is speaking to Willow before her, nor is she speaking in non-sequitors, making little sense, grasping at words.

    • Second, I cannot accept the thesis about the monks: I see no reason to bend the general interpretation, offered by vampmogs, that they altered as little as possible, no reason to extend their workings upon memory to include this event—absolutely no textual evidence suggests so grave an intervention upon their part, so traumatic an inscription within Buffy’s memory, so extreme a lack of trust in her that the monks believed that they had to resort to such measures. It requires far too much speculation for the sake of surface continuity.

    • And surface continuity is part of what I think is at stake for you—the continuity of linear time that sees each event as the cause of another in the immediate future—and the effect as itself the cause of another effect, &c.—, that sees time moving progressively… But linearity is not the only modality of time in which we live, as I have argued above—and it does not govern the temporality of radical psychic states such as trauma or even those of mundane psychic actions such as repression. And repression and trauma will shape events following Buffy’s institutionalization.

    • By raising matters of repression and trauma, I am also raising the other issues that I think are at stake for you: the idea that memory can be recalled with a certain ease, no matter how deeply buried in the unconscious, by something like a mention of a similar event, as well as the assumption that trauma always works in a linear fashion, that one experiences trauma and then acts as if one has been traumatized. But neither repression nor trauma works this way.

    • To take repression first: Buffy says “they… forgot.” By this, she means that her parents repressed the entire event of her confession to them of her calling, their institutionalization of her in response, and the two events’ aftermath. Repression is not a simple sort of forgetting, nor is it a wilful one: it occurs when—I shall have to summarize, as my books are stalled in the Oakland port by some perverse customs agents, leaving me unable to quote a precise definition—the psyche finds an action or set of actions too painful to bear for some reason; it therefore pushes the memory of these actions into the depths of the Unconscious, and, once there, this memory will remain fully barred from re-emergence into Consciousness, will meet censorship any time it rises. No simple mention of a similar event, no direct question, or anything as straightforward as that will jar it loose—its unearthing requires tremendous psychic work. At the same time, the repressed, as Freud says, always returns—but it does so indirectly, not through memory of the event but through, for example, unknowing repetition of its actions or other indirect manifestations. I know this through readings in psychoanalysis, of course, but also through experiences of my friends, through my mother’s amazing capacity for repression, and through my own repression of one event in my childhood: I have an extraordinary memory, but 18 hours of my early girlhood are simply gone—I only know what happened through what my sister told me years later…

    Joyce and Hank repressed their institutionalization of Buffy and the events that led up to it for two reasons, I think: first, they were so invested in the idea of a perfect, normal daughter that they could not bear the memory of her deviation from that form and the role they may have played in it; second, for Joyce at least—and I suggest this based upon the fully accepting mother she later became, as well as her expression reading Buffy’s note at the end of Becoming2—part of her may have suspected that Buffy was speaking the truth and thus could not bear the possibility that she had betrayed her daughter so dreadfully.

    We see the effects of this repression in S1-2: first in the ease with which Joyce forgets all the vampiric and other weird events that touch her—not that she fully represses them, for she vaguely remembers Spike when they meet in Becoming2, but she does show a marked ability to shove them out of her mind, to not think about them, their implications, what they might tell her about her daughter. Rather than interpreting these events in themselves, putting them together to understand them, she repeatedly refers to the books that she has read, self-help books on mothering that are always normalizing, that tell Joyce that her daughter is potentially normal—just irresponsible or given to bad behaviour, and thus open to correction—and not dangerously other, terribly wrong… Or not wrong at all, just different, just other, where difference and otherness have to be thought in non-binary terms.

    Thus, second, when Buffy finally confesses to her mother, Joyce expresses sheer confusion, initially, rather than recognition: Buffy’s words do not provoke her to put together all the weird pieces her mind has gathered and dropped over the last year, to allow Buffy’s words to reveal their meaning—she does not want to know. Instead, Joyce but stares in disbelief. Nor does she seek to know, allow the pieces to fall into a pattern, as she sits on the couch, waiting for Buffy to finish her conversation with Willow and Xander. Joyce’s next reaction—a reaction that begins her fall into a repetition of her repressed response to Buffy’s earlier, repressed revelation—involves attempts to reason Buffy’s slayerness away or blame it on external factors, for although she must by now realize, on some level, that Buffy is far from a proper girl, one fitting normative expectations, she is far, still, from accepting this, so she seeks explanations that will locate the source of Buffy’s claimed identity outside her, turn it into something she can choose to discard, as if such discarding would return her to her true, proper self, one in line with the parenting books: “Honey, are you sure you’re a Vampire Slayer? I mean, have you tried not being a Slayer? It’s because you didn’t have a strong father figure, isn’t it?” And when Buffy closes off these attempts with her definitive statement—“It’s just fate, Mom. I’m the Slayer. Accept it.”—Joyce’s next move is to turn to authority, to call the police to clear Buffy’s good name, to remove any public stain. Then, when Buffy quashes that suggestion, when Joyce, in response, feels her authority slipping, especially after Buffy’s dismissive “Just have another drink,” Joyce’s anger rises, driving her to assert her parental authority, demand explanations, but to do so in a tone that does not promise acceptance: “Don’t you talk to me that way! You don’t get to dump something like this on me and pretend it’s nothing!” And when Buffy tries to brush her off with the excuse of lacking time, Joyce becomes yet more authoritative, more insistent: “No. I am tired of ‘I don’t have time,’ or ‘You wouldn’t understand’—I am your mother, and you will make time to explain yourself!” To which Buffy says, simply, “I told you: I’m a Vampire Slayer.” In response, Joyce’s unknowing fall into repetition deepens: first, she says, angrily, “Well, I just don’t accept that!” Then, after Buffy gives her the “Open your eyes, Mom” speech, Joyce goes further, first by making a demand, “Well it stops now!” Then, in response to Buffy’s pain-drenched explanation, her expression of longing to simply be the normal daughter Joyce desires, her “No, it doesn’t stop—it never stops. Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys, or—god!—even studying. But I have to save the world—again.”—in response to this, to Buffy’s exposure of vulnerability, Joyce’s completes the cycle of repetition with words that not only refuse any recognition of, any response to the specificity of what Buffy says, the pain she expresses, the self she exposes, but also effectively deny the validity of Buffy’s own words, the very existence of the self Buffy has risked giving her mother to see: “No. This is insane. Buffy, you need help.” But where Joyce here repeats her past actions, Buffy does not, proves herself no longer the scared girl who faced her parents with tales of vampires: “I’m not crazy. What I need is for you to chill. I have to go.” Joyce attempts, ineffectually, to assert her authority, to over-power Buffy’s self-assertion, prevent her from leaving, so when Buffy then asserts—reveals—her Slayer strength, pushing her mother aside and walking to the back door, Joyce goes beyond repetition, makes the pronouncement that the younger Buffy always feared would come were she, upon release from the clinic, to fail to meet her parents’ normative standards once again: “You walk out of this house—don’t even think about coming back.”

    The reason I have gone through this well-known scene in such detail is to show how Joyce engages in repetitive erasures of Buffy’s words, the denial of what she seeks to say about herself, her deepest nature, the explanation she seeks to give about all she has been doing. Turn by turn, Joyce turns all Buffy says away—as she had once before. And Buffy’s revelation provokes this repetition rather than a recall of the repressed memory because that is how repression works: the event will surface as repetition because the repressed recurs—but only in a repressed form. It can only be fully recovered by willed psychic work or shock, and Joyce is clearly not ready or willing to uncover her past doings at this point. And Buffy does not mention it because she realizes this, both for reasons that I will explain below and because, at this point, she simply does not have time to dig into the past: she has to save the world, so trying to make her mother remember what she did before, which she knows will take tremendous effort and possibly hours, if not weeks—this is not the occasion for such work. At the same time, I think that, retrospectively, we can hear an echo of the past in Buffy’s “I’m not crazy. What I need is for you to chill. I have to go.” The echo comes not only in her insistent “I’m not crazy.” but in her “What I need is for you to chill. I have to go”—in the difference between now and then, in what she is asking for.

    • No, Buffy does not seem terribly traumatized in S1—but the idea that she must be, if she had recently experienced trauma, is based upon a linear conception of trauma, as I noted above, the notion that trauma automatically leads to immediate symptoms. Much trauma works this way—but not all trauma does. And Buffy’s certainly could not, for one of the conditions of her return from the clinic was that she do so as a proper daughter, a normatively behaving girl. And normal daughters do not suffer from trauma—had she done so, Buffy would have manifested precisely both the events that her parents had repressed and some of the behaviours that they had sought to suppress in demanding her normativity. Nor is such a demand—the suppression of trauma’s effects as part of the infliction of trauma—that unusual: it happened to me, as it happened to two of my friends, as it has happened to others in the literature in trauma theory that I have read—and I checked with my person, who has significant experience treating victims of trauma, to make sure of this, and she confirmed it. The combination of that demand and Buffy’s recognition of her parents’ repression of the entire event prevents her from ever mentioning it—she knows that doing so is both forbidden, on one level, and useless, on another. That said, we still see it ripple across Buffy’s face in WttH, in her conversation with Principal Flutie, as one of the myriad emotions that move over her face, as her realization that she must, again, at Sunnydale High, present herself as a proper, normal girl. Then, too, in Nightmares, we see it indirectly, in her fear that her father has rejected her, that he left her mother because of her, that he essentially loathes her for what she is, all of which is a resurfacing of the trauma of the clinic, the basic fears it bred in her. And we see it in S2, in her face in Becoming2, as she walks out the door, having heard her mother utter the words she has feared since her release from the clinic—not that that was the only reason that Buffy ran away, for the causes were multiple, but that this was the final, decisive one, given the resonance it carried.

    Did Buffy’s running away finally lift Joyce’s repression, provide the shock that did so? Or did her thinking over the long Summer of Buffy’s absence do it? Perhaps. That she does not mention it suggests that it is too painful for her at first—and that then, after DMP, after that argument and reconciliation, it is not necessary—although, even after that, it still takes her a few episodes to fully accept Buffy’s Slayerness… Then Gingerbread suggests lingering doubts, surfacing through the spell, doubts that are not resolved until Helpless… But beyond this, Buffy knows how much pain it will cause her mother to bring up the past, and being Buffy, she is loathe to cause it, knowing that her mother seeks now to accept her for who she is—even if this leaves the past shame and wrongness not fully resolved.

    • Finally, the reveal of the clinic episode explains why Buffy’s hallucination takes the form it does: the demon’s juice causes hallucination, perhaps even hallucinations of insanity, but there is no sense that it necessarily makes her hallucinate insanity within an asylum with her dead or absconded parents there—with Joyce not being the one who died but Joyce of S1 and S2 and before—, hallucinate exactly the situation that Buffy takes on. It seems more likely that the juice draws from the memories—from the past experience, particularly from any traumatic or related memories of its victims—to construct the specific hallucination that each given victim experiences. In Buffy’s case, it thus draws from her past experience in the clinic, her trauma then, to give shape to her current hallucination: that is the only way to explain the specific form it takes.

    • I thus see no problems with continuity—certainly none so great as to call upon the monks, a call that has no textual grounding, certainly none that cannot be resolved through a reading that brings the psychic complexities of repression and trauma into play.




    Stoney
    I really like this summation of how Buffy's connection to her family/friends and her openness to caring about those in the wider world is integral to her ethics. And yes even though she has moments of questionable moral certainty at points in the season and fears how she may have come back wrong, this still comes forth to draw a line between her and Warren, between her and Spike. Whilst one lacks the capacity to understand the morality Buffy is operating within, the other actively chooses to ignore them. The distinction of the soul feels smaller when looking at Warren except when we consider that he understands his choices and Spike can't see what the problems are, his ethical grasp as you say, lacks.
    This states perfectly one of the crucial distinctions at play in the episode and the season—especially the last line, especially when we then look forward to the choices Spike and Warren make in Seeing Red.



    StateOfSiege97
    This is why Spike, who lacks all capacity for ethical grasp, for becoming as change into futurity—the vampiric body being constitutively incapable of accepting the new, for the grasping by obligation—


    Stoney
    Do you mean here that when Spike seeks change because it is to further something specific, that he is reaching for something to attain a specific goal rather than an openness to change by being capable of connection to all around him, to be affected by it? I can see then how the temporal displacement Buffy experiences in her post-resurrection depression distances her for a while from being touched by the world around. She's aware of the similarity of course to how Spike is disconnected from change into futurity, his lack of connection to time, which Aurora talked about way back in FFL. And even if it isn't an openness to affect with the wider world, it is through his relationship and desire to 'live' by a mortal's side that a connection to time and his desire for change is tied. Even though it's to a certain goal rather than to overall affect and becoming.

    So if I'm following you, when Buffy is going through the motions of her life, shut down from having that connection to affect, her submission and release in her sexual relationship with Spike opens her to be affected again. This relates, as you say, to the connection she has to the wider world when she submits to her power and saves whoever is at risk, offering them the gift to continue in becoming. In fighting for an overall possibility of living, even with the potential of her own death there is a strange connection to time and the future that doesn't feel linear but a moment which serves openness to affect and becoming for everyone. Without restriction or any attempt to determine and regularise what life saved should be used for and so circles back into Buffy's connection and affective openness.
    Exactly. And then, the thing that happens with Spike is that, although he has had moments that made him aware, at least momentarily, of the chance of change as utter openness—such as that at the end of Fool for Love of which I wrote elsewhere, when Buffy’s opening to his vulnerability, her lack of cruelty and dismissal, shows him a possibility other than that which he had experienced with Cecily and Drusilla, as well as, moments before, Buffy herself—he has never—yet—fully embodied that chance. I do not think that the vampire body, as a living-dead body, is capable of such an experience of such chance, such futurity—not even Spike, who holds within him, as the Judge attests, a certain residue of humanity, of William. And it is precisely that resistance to futurity that leaves him, in his lack of a soul, resistant, as well, to the ethical call of the other, his affective engagement with the world. But strangely, almost impossibly—and I think this comes from the confluence of that residue; the affective force of his love for Buffy, delimited though it be in his soulless state; and the trauma of Buffy’s death, which also alters his affective relations to time and the world (something I’ll explain in my response to Aurora’s brilliant review of Seeing Red, as I have it half written—it started out as a response to her response to AYW, but it became so much about SR that I decided to save it until she had posted her own brilliant thoughts about the episode)… But strangely, almost impossibly, through that confluence, Spike becomes, in the wake of the AR, its complexities, the complexities of his response—he becomes able to open himself to chance and the affect of the world, for that is what choosing to seek his soul involves: just as Buffy has no idea what will come from turning away from, saying good-bye to Joyce, from drinking the antidote, she makes the choice to do so because taking what I have called those “experimental steps” is her only way to become affectively engaged in the world, to submit to its call, that ethical obligation—just as Buffy steps, so does Spike, in seeking his soul, take that experimental step into the world, into affecting and being affected. Yes, it begins with a sense of his obligation to Buffy, but that first ethical move, he knows he has no idea where it will take him, what it will mean for him. This is affect as non-metric time and as, in Brian Massumi’s words, hope.



    StateOfSiege97
    What further enables Buffy’s openness, her learning to be affected in her affecting, her submission, are, as I have indicated above, her friendships: unlike her obligation to the nameless others whom she saves, unlike her unbound sexual relation to Spike, her friendships do extend beyond single affective encounters—but unlike romantic relationships, at least as Buffy conceives them and the show displays them, friendships are not bound to progressive time, do not drive to an end, lack meaning in this sense. They are shaped, rather, by the non-metric temporalities of duration, rhythm, and speed and slowness.

    Stoney
    So do you see distinction between Buffy and other slayers in the performance of their duty, with others being controlled and directed by the council and restricted in their own individual connections to enduring relationships, friendships, combine to actually serve to restrict their connection to their power? And in particular friendships, which are a dynamic which weave together but have no sense of sought trajectory so are almost representative of being open and affected.
    Yes, very much so: we see it first in Kendra, who seems to be the perfect Slayer in a sense, in the Council’s sense—she follows the Handbook, after all: she has no relations at all, save with her watcher—no family, no friends… Yet her slaying begins to develop as her connection to Buffy develops—although it never goes far enough, has enough time or space to do so, before she encounters Drusilla, is murdered by her… Faith is more complex, because she is less given to follow any rules, but between her indoctrination by the council, her loss of her first Watcher, whom she did seem to trust, whose loss must have been traumatic and guilt-inducing; her experience with Gwendolyn Post—all layered upon her childhood abuse, which also turned her away from all trust of others… But what is the thing that she most longs for—even as she rejects it from Buffy herself? Recognition. Connection: “You get the Watcher, you get the Mom, you get the Scooby Gang—what do I get? Jack squat!” (Enemies) And what does she value most from the Mayor? Recognition. Connection: “I’ve got someone” (Choices). But much as the Mayor cares for her, his love holds a certain instrumentalization: “This isn’t a free ride, young lady.” He expects her to behave, just as the Council did all its Slayers. Thus his love births no ethics in Faith—not only because it asks her to kill but because it seeks her normalization in the Mayor’s terms. Faith makes her ethical turn only once two things happen: as, first, she lives in Buffy’s body and experiences slaying as Buffy does, as a gift, experiences the dissolution of self that comes to Buffy in slaying, in saving unknown others; as, second, she receives the gift of Angel’s love, which comes without conditions, with boundless understanding—yes, he does want her to turn herself in, on one level, but he allows her to come to that decision on herself, in her own time, never tells her that she must, never sets expectations as the Mayor did. All of which is to say that Faith comes to ethics akin to Buffy’s only through relations akin to those through which Buffy lives—first, foremost, through life in Buffy’s body. And this keeps her alive. Finally, we have Sineya: we know little about her, but we do know one of the few lines that she utters: “No friends!” And we know Buffy’s response, her refusal, her insistence that she will live in the world—and it is this insistence that is crucial to breaking Sineya’s hold upon the entire group who had worked the Enjoining Spell, the spell that, joined with Restless, symbolizes the crucial role that friendship plays in Buffy’s survival and the ethicality of her slaying, their inextricability.




    StateOfSiege97
    Buffy, depression, a slim dense book on trauma, the reverberations of affect—all the entities, but still something lacking for their full effectuation, my articulation by their differences: “An inarticulate subject is someone who, whatever the other says or acts, always feels, acts and says the same thing (for instance, repeating ego cogito [I think] to everything that affects the subject is a clear proof of inarticulate dumbness!). In contrast, an articulate subject is someone who learns to be affected by others—not by itself. There is nothing especially interesting, deep, profound, worthwhile in a subject ‘by itself,’ this is the limit of the common definition—a subject only becomes interesting, deep, profound, worthwhile when it resonates with others, is affected, moved, put into motion by new entities whose differences are registered in new and unexpected ways. Articulation does not mean the ability to talk with authority… but being affected by differences” (Bruno Latour).

    Stoney
    I love this and how it speaks to the interaction with the world that you have been threading through the review and its relevancy to the season. For Buffy to return to herself inherently had to be bound by a return to her family/friends and their connection to her life. True of NA as it will be true to the season end too, also reflected with Willow's connection to Xander breaking through her blind focus and Spike's needed connection to morality to be able to be affected by the world around him.
    And I love how you then thread my point about Buffy through the season ending, the Xander-Willow relation, Spike’s decision—I had not thought it out this far… that you did adds much to my understanding of how the season as a whole works.




    StateOfSiege97
    What comes is the experimental step enabled, most of all, by Joyce: a step out of the time of trauma, out of its determinations, a step into a living elsewise: the past is here to stay, but it need not stay as a past bound in a line to the present and then the future, as cause of a determined effect in the future, foreclosing possibility. Trauma can be lived as hereness, as affective betweenness, amongst the self’s multiplicities, interacting with each other and the entities that fill the world, that weave through the self in the speeds and slownesses, the rhythms and durations of non-metric time that carry the self into becoming—

    A becoming that renders ethics not a set of rules, of lines not to be crossed, but a movement of living into the world in its complexities, its constitutive obligations and offerings. That gives us neither the Normal nor the Again, for it undoes the terms through which both Buffy and Dawn seek to exercise the regulative norms lurking within them—for, indeed, becoming is precisely the undoing of such words, the force with which they seek to work over and through us, from without and within, is, rather, the giving of a grace born of both submission to the power within abiding and a living through the empowerment thus born of such submission’s giving, the obligations to others it weaves in and as the self, the freeing affectivity it sets coursing through this singular yet multiple self, sinew to synapse, its Boundlessness—


    Stoney
    In accepting and understanding where she has come from Buffy can be what she is, a complex combination of experiences, roles, ambitions, weaknesses and strengths. She can engage and connect with all that is around her and the potential in living. I love your point that in doing this both the 'Normal' and the 'Again' are gone as becoming undoes both.

    Yes and no—I would say more that in accepting the multiple temporalities of her lives, Buffy can enter becoming, a pure future neither predicted nor promised by them: the space of both her ethical relation to the world and, precisely in her Chosenness, her freedom—


    With more than multiple thanks, Stoney, for your wonderful response, for all it illuminated, for all its affective force, for all it gave me to more fully think, understand—


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    Thank you SoS for taking the time to consider my thoughts following your review. I do think I'm getting a better grasp of the ideas you presented, particularly of how trauma can erupt and influence and how passivity can be what allows changes and movement. I think I tend to look at what has happened, view with hindsight to where things have gone, and so look to make connections based on that to understand the characters in terms of how their lives unfold, rather than trying to view it in a way that looks to constrict what could be or struggles with openness to indeterminacy as you describe it. Perhaps I've misrepresented my focus in terms of linear progression in a way that has presented it as more rigid than I feel it is.

    Thank you for clarifying about the Drs dismissal of Warren and the Trio and about the hallucinations against the idea of Buffy's deepest desires. I particularly liked how you described them as, "an articulation of depressed, traumatized Buffy’s desire to find a normative form of herself, even if it not bear any relation to her realities, even if it be just a dream drawn out of her preconscious imaginings of possible pasts."

    Regarding the truth of the time in a clinic before. I agree with you about the monks spell and do prefer to think of it as altering as little as possible. Also, I wasn't meaning to suggest that Buffy is hallucinating when she speaks to Willow, but that she is mixing reality and hallucinations she has experienced when she talks about her previous time in the clinic, not that she is currently caught in one. This is somewhat overridden anyhow by my further consideration of what you went on to describe about Joyce's repression against Buffy's responses in the early seasons.

    I do understand what you are saying about trauma and repression not working in a linear way. I think my desire to understand the paths of the characters as they have occurred may sometimes misrepresented my interest in progression as I really don't refute these kinds of events from occurring, that something could be deeply repressed or not readily recalled. I think what I had found difficult to consider was more the idea that everyone had equally repressed it and didn't raise it when relevant circumstances arose in those early seasons. So I really appreciated your consideration of why individually that could well have been the case and within context of the pressures of normativity around them all. Suggesting Joyce was falling to repetition and continued repression in her response to Buffy in S2 and then also how Buffy's suppression was part of the trauma of her experience in needing to seem 'normal' to get to return from the clinic was great. In finding the continuity in understanding differently how Buffy was responding that includes the truth of her earlier time in the clinic, could even be considered in some of her other scenes/responses in those early seasons that you suggested, really works for me. It isn't the notion of things being linear that I'm looking for. Or a sense that progression has to follow a straight path. It's an understanding of the throughlines in the character's stories and your suggestions of how to read Buffy's and Joyce's responses in light of the revelation about the clinic I thought was excellent. As I said before, I think(!), I really did appreciate and value the ties that the revealed past gave to Buffy's hallucinations, the deepening of the meaning in the episode against them and with her sense of wrongness and desire to be 'normal'. If continuity works I'm all for taking on an adjustment in understanding and I am thoroughly won over. A huge thanks for all your time and thought on this.

    I really liked your thoughts on how the Mayor sought to normalize Faith even as it appeared to be giving her what she sought in recognition and connection and how her experience in Buffy's body combines with the freedom and love offered by Angel for her to begin to find friendship and then an ethical presence in herself instead.

    Huge thanks again for taking such time and care in going back over my responses and really helping to draw deeper understanding. Please just imagine me nodding along to the points you raised/reconsidered/clarified that I haven't specifically referred to here.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the remainder of the season and as we start S7 too!
    Last edited by Stoney; 11-10-19 at 01:43 PM.

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