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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 7

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  • Sorry to everyone for how long this has taken me to do. It has ended up quite epic (by my standards) but I decided rather than take longer to edit it down further I'd just post what I'd written. So here are my thoughts on...


    7.13 The Killer in Me

    From the start of the season there's been a specific focus on learning from previous experiences, the 'lessons' of the past, alongside considering power and the connections between people. Consideration has been made at several points to the insecurities that can reduce self-confidence alongside a repeated use of warnings and hidden threats. This has played out in both BtVS and across in AtS.

    As I've said before, I'd never considered the air dates between the two shows before the S7/S4 combination, but had been recommended to for the crossovers of the season. It has been interesting still to see how the similar themes have been playing out within these oddly staggered combinations. With AtS looking a lot at a breakdown of dynamics and being pulled down from within, the thematic ties are often coming with contrasts too. But whether the groups are pulling together well at this point or not, the threats use the notions of the big bad literally hiding within the group, manipulating individual insecurities to weaken them, or benefiting from people's natural uncertainties and fears. And always, the significance of the past threads in and so affects how characters view their future. The last episode, Potential, really brought emphasis to the element of connecting past and present with what may come to pass when moving forward. That sense of considering what may be ahead from the choices made.

    It is interesting that two episodes of AtS followed Potential, before The Killer in Me aired. Both looked at not only learning from your past, but also considered the limitation of knowledge. This works alongside hidden threats and what you know, or think you know, from what you see. (Again, there's some emphasis here to the factors of perception, vision and sight, as a big, repeated theme.) Within this, the idea that not all knowledge can be gained from written records and also that memories can be fallible, even false or manipulated, makes the idea of knowledge and learning from the past even more complicated. Nothing is straightforward and what you even think you are seeing can turn out to be untrue (as the AtS group will soon come to realise when the truth of what has been happening among them finally comes out).

    Long Day's Journey really tackles a lot of this around The Beast's quest to blot out the sun (we'll come onto the symbolism of light soon enough). We see him tracking down and killing members of the Ra-Tet, removing elements from within them. This sits alongside the reveal that Angel has met The Beast in the past when he was soulless and now doesn't remember doing so. Awakening follows as the fang gang decide they need to remove Angel's soul (another inner element being withdrawn) to break the block on being able to access memories within Angel through his soulless-self instead. And, of course, there's the whole fantasy dream we then get in Awakening showing how much it would take for Angel to be able to achieve that pure moment of happiness again. Far more complicated now as the past, his history with everyone who matters to him, impacts his sense of happiness.

    Consequently, it is a complex quest that unfolds for him where all the individual dynamics between him and those around him are reflected from his perspective and are then fixed to his liking. We see his fantasy of how it could be against a fascinating view of what he feels the negative factors in all his relationships are. That it takes everyone coming together sits well within the overall notions of being stronger together and how the teams can empower each other. Even if, as depicted, it is to meet Angel's specific ideals at this point.

    This sense of getting to 'fix' issues that are preventing him from having the relationships he'd like flows beautifully now into The Killer in Me. We're still considering all the season elements of lessons, connections, dangers within etc. But now we're putting a spotlight on what can be holding people back.

    What Is Inside Comes Outside
    The title 'The Killer in Me' could certainly be a direct reference to the murderous sides our characters have shown in the past. In part there is that sense of insecurity and worry about who they have been and who they could be again. For Spike, as with Angel, there is a demonic element within him that has him capable of acting as a remorseless killer. With the loss of their souls this version of them is no longer held back by questions of morality. The drives for violence and blood remain even when souled, and they both feel this complicated sense of connection and separation from their pasts that makes the fear of being the person they were a genuine internal fear. With Willow, the loss of control which led to her hunting down and murdering as a vengeful act came from a very specific trigger with Tara's death. But she has struggled with control in other ways too and used her power destructively at other times.

    So, it would make sense if the title is looking specifically at that darker side and histories of the two characters that the episodes focuses on the most, Spike and Willow. Their senses of duality are certainly a key element for them both this season and coming to terms with their individual power involves accepting all aspects of themselves to better control it. I think it's layered in there for sure. But these connections aren't the same as what is holding them back.

    Both problems tackled in the episode, the hex on Willow and Spike's chip, are elements that have been done to them by others. But these outside influences are playing on their existing issues (oh how The First would approve). Facing your fears isn't ever easy. Even understanding them can be difficult let alone tackling them. But until Spike believes in himself and is in a position to control his own power (facing the potential danger he could be by his own choices with no trigger and no chip in play), and Willow stops holding back out of grief and worry of how she might lose control, it is their potential that is being killed. It's their abilities to move on with a greater, stronger sense of self that is reduced.

    These two factors in the episode - the results of Willow's combination of grief and guilt and Spike's malfunctioning chip (detriggering to come at a later point) - bring another tie to the title. There's the transformation into Warren as a self-defined representation of punishment for Willow's emotions that could take over her completely. Then there is also the physical reality of the chip firing, a technological bomb in Spike's brain. So, another potential tie to 'The Killer in Me' can be made and connected to that sense of what is limiting their potential as these inner issues become externally 'visible' when their danger manifests outwardly.

    Knowledge And The Senses
    Of course, we start with the 'previously on' that focuses on knowledge itself by giving us the key moments from the past. It provides context to what the episode will go on to show, but works as well for the thematic repeat of learning from our history. With a season so focused on learning, it isn't surprising when the idea of knowledge is raised. As the episode explores elements from within that need tackling for the characters to take important steps forwards, statements about what people 'know' happens repeatedly. In total, ignoring the previously on, 'know' appears in the transcript 33 times.

    Here are some examples of how what is known or knowledge is given focus:
    - The potentials need to go on the trip to know how to use their power
    - Buffy questions what Willow knows about the chip, but the information out there about a secret Government agency's plans is limited.
    - Buffy asks if she should play along on the phone to show she knows the flower shop is really secret ops
    - Willow doesn't know Kennedy is faking illness and what her underlying motivation is for her 'mission'
    - Kennedy questions when Willow knew she was gay, if her parents and her friends know as they are talking generally about getting to know a girl (but it's later stated that Kennedy doesn't even know Willow)
    - Kennedy says that she thinks Willow 'should know' just before she kisses her, but later is unsure what she knows about what happened after Willow changes to Warren
    - Andrew asserts he knows what The First made him do when he believes Warren is The First
    - Willow doesn't know what happened when she changed, but she does know she isn't The First and she knows where she is going to get help
    - Spike doesn't know if anything in The Initiative can help them
    - Andrew takes the call at Revello and asks if they know Robson
    - Anya, Xander, Dawn and Andrew discuss what they do/don't know as they question if Giles could be The First, then later Giles makes it clear Andrew doesn't know him well enough to be touching him
    - Amy confirms Warren is Willow at the Campus Wiccans meeting because she knows her. She later gives away to Kennedy that she is hiding something when she refers to her knowledge of Kennedy as a potential and then goes on to question if others know how weak Willow is.
    - As Willow flounders around saying 'her/him' in the final scene Kennedy says she's, "figuring the whole magic thing out."

    But, how sure can we be of the things we know and what we remember? As we've discussed before, memory is a tricky thing and isn't reliable. How we process now what we have experienced in the past is also influenced by the context of the present. And of course, the original memory itself will have been influenced by our reaction and interpretation to events at the time too. How we then look to gain a sense of surety about something isn't necessarily easy. Checking and consulting, gathering resources and opinions tends to be automatic ways we'll look to build confidence.

    With matters in the present, it also isn't unusual to see characters looking to what they can sense to question the truth in various ways. Sight and touch in particular are often used to decide what they can affirm alongside the idea of questioning knowledge. Reaching out to check something is real is an instinctive action for example, if we're unsure about what we're being told against what our eyes are seeing. These extra pieces of information feed personal experiences. Considering how the truth is queried works well when we're so often looking at hidden elements, uncertainties and dangers.

    As I rewatched this time, I started to notice the number of occasions that characters were doing this and repeatedly using their senses alongside the references to knowledge. This is just a quick run over the times I noticed what was 'seen' being referred to:
    - Spike hasn't seen the kitchen
    - Kennedy thinks her interest in Willow is easily understood -'have you seen you'
    - Willow makes reference to STSP with her, "I can't see you, you can't see me' spell"
    - Willow doesn't want to be 'seen' like Warren
    - Anya's suggestion what is being seen is a glamour, which is later discounted
    - Willow goes to see her old witchy friends.
    - The group questions what they've seen Giles touch
    - The witches talk of seeing a path
    - Amy claims to have come to really see herself after S6
    - She talks of seeing balance put right in the (supposed) attempt to help Willow
    - Whether people saw something is raised (both when Willow slaps Amy and about the creature in The Initiative).

    Then there are the times when the significance that touch can bring is raised. It is first mentioned when Kennedy is talking to Willow in the bronze about connecting with a girl. She considers what you can learn from what you see, interpreting body language and what you read in eye contact. But then goes on to think beyond that too, that, "if you can just touch her just once everything will be OK for both of you.''

    Now, in a season where the big bad can infiltrate your group, a great way to test what you know is to question what you see but also give consideration to what you can feel/touch. So from that first mention we also have:
    - Andrew's grasp at 'Warren' when he believes he's returned, and Willow's subsequent rejection 'bad touching'
    - Andrew and Dawn both touching 'Warren' repeatedly in fascination as they discuss what's happened to Willow
    - The questioning of whether Giles has been seen to touch anything and the eventual dessert pouncing he endures to cries of 'touch him', 'feel him'!
    - Willow feeling her face at first in horror and then at the end for reassurance
    - The caring touches Buffy gives Spike and in Kennedy's physical support of Willow at the end

    You could probably include all the times Spike grasps his head in pain as the chip fires too, as further indicating the significance of what is happening. And there are the times both Willow and Amy physically block Kennedy coming closer with magic, an interesting contrast in rejecting contact.

    There are also the times when verbal repetitions are used for assurance, or to check and establish what is known. Occasions with characters asking to be listened to and what is heard being specifically mentioned.
    - Giles repeats what he's heard the potentials were told about the vision quest
    - Buffy repeats Spike's first 'Ow' before asking what's wrong
    - Buffy implies she thinks something is going on between Willow and Kennedy by repeating 'delivering tea' (which Willow accuses her of making sound dirty)
    - Spike tries to get Buffy to listen when she is on the phone
    - Anya tells Willow (as Warren) they've heard all of The First's evil lies
    - Willow asks them to listen to her explain, which Andrew cuts off, 'No more listening'
    - Willow repeatedly asserts she's not the First, which Xander eventually repeats back, 'You're not the First'
    - As Kennedy finally states 'it's Willow', she confirms, 'I'm Willow'
    - Spike asks Buffy if she heard the noise and she agrees it sounds like something survived
    - The assurances on seeing Giles are all repeated 'touch him' 'feel him' 'me too'
    - The soldier asserts he's repeating Riley's exact words
    - Kennedy repeats to Willow that she said she killed 'her' not him and Willow then repeats again that she killed her

    StateOfSiege97 raised interesting points about our interaction and engagement with the world during the Normal Again review. And the senses generally are used at various points in the story to emphasise connections and interactions. For random examples, Buffy hearing everyone's thoughts, Oz scenting Willow on Tara, characters seeing revelations in dreams, joining hands to share power, or commenting on what evil tastes like. Our senses are a key factor in how we interact and assess the world.

    The repeated influence and use of the senses alongside considering the reliability of information and questioning the truth, made me wonder if there is a hierarchy that we naturally give to our senses. So, I had a very brief Google search around the idea, both as a scientific question, as well as a philosophical one. I can't emphasise enough the significance of 'brief' here. If anyone has previously covered such an idea and I'm failing to recollect that, I apologise and anyone with relevant knowledge please feel free to correct or expand.

    An article I saw in Science Daily reporting on research by the University of York suggested, 'The accepted hierarchy of human senses -- sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell -- is not universally true across all cultures'. In cultures that place particular value on aspects such as musical heritage for example, the ability to communicate regarding sounds can be greater.

    The hierarchy of senses quoted, as proposed by Aristotle, was described in a Discover Magazine article as valuing sight and hearing highest as they allow us to sense things from a distance. An advantage beneficial for survival. The emphasis on observation Aristotle provides was contrasted in an article on The Atlantic to Hobbes' later perspective focussing more on interaction.

    The impact to adding in additional elements that are 'sensed' can make experiences even more powerful. Taking Dawn's experience in CWDP for example, it was one that was incredible intense. Her perception at the time that it could have been her mum delivering her a warning, to protect her, is going to be greatly affected by how she felt emotionally on seeing her mum, on hearing her, as well as the experience of fighting back against dark forces to be able to 'win' that chance. Even though she couldn't touch her, the memory's intensity is amplified because of the numerous sensory elements of the experience and the physical nature of the fight adding to her perception it could be genuine and not a mere illusion. It's harder for her to dismiss.

    As we're considering a supernatural world where uncertainty and hidden elements 'under the surface' are often features and where problems can be represented as literal metaphors to face and fight, I found the idea that a specific hierarchy is certainly becoming more questioned, and in particular for cultural variations, especially interesting. Even though their senses can still be unreliable, even combined, the need and want to reaffirm the truth, to question direct experiences and check the information taken in through further interactions is logical and as a natural instinct it's a great element to include. Although some may feature more than others (particularly when checking the truth of an incorporeal evil!), it makes sense that it would be something you'd see underlined when the emphasis is on exploring as completely as you can what you know, or think you know.

    Becoming Enlightened
    Another factor that works with the revelations and progressions in the episode, is the use of light. Symbolically, light is used in the series repeatedly. Most obviously in a traditional symbolic representation: light and dark for good and bad. There are many times when life and death are emphasised by the use of light and dark colours too. But the use of light and dark colours can also be applied symbolically in respect of knowledge. As knowledge is often represented as light, the absence of light and darker hues can contrast as lacking awareness and being shut away from knowledge. This contrast even has well worn phrases based on it. Such as, 'shedding light on the situation'. Or, in opposition, 'being kept in the dark'. Consequently, the primarily muted and darker tones of the episode works well with the theme of knowledge and perhaps meets a visual idea of being constrained and limited.

    Willow is noticeably a splash of colour when most are in darker clothing or earthy or neutral hues. But I think that works for the element of passion tied to her journey in the episode. As well as for the connection to blood in her history with Warren and Tara. As it is a fairly deep shade it doesn't overly break the main use of neutral and darker colours.

    The overall darker, muted feel of course serves to add emphasis to the inclusions of light. The episode starts off indoors and then the majority of it passes during a single night. Buffy goes down to the basement to see Spike right at the start when the others are leaving for the vision quest and we have the first instance of the chip firing. The jump then to the evening let's us know the chip firing has been going on all day before Kennedy and Willow go out to The Bronze. But it isn't until the final scene of Act Four that we leave the night time setting.

    Until then, most of the lighting provided - at the bronze, in the rooms at Revello, the candles and glowing crystals at the wicca meeting, the brief flare of the orb in the failed spell, the campfire and the torches in the initiative - are limited or muted. Working with this sense of what is known being constrained. There is some bright fluorescent light in the gun cabinet when Willow/Warren goes to rebuy the gun, but as I'll cover later, I think this works with the tension at that point.

    Of the three story lines' conclusions, there is no significant use of light with the group checking on Giles/The Potentials. This works, as there was nothing to be realised or fixed. There's no danger within being dealt with there, just a fear being relieved. But with the other two plotlines, Spike/Buffy and Kennedy/Willow, we see two significant uses of light.

    Firstly, when the Initiative soldiers arrive they turn on the lights and it floods down on Buffy and Spike in stark contrast to the situation they were in. Their arrival signifies a potential solution. They are the ones who can give the answers needed.

    Then there is the moment when Amy transports Kennedy to Revello. There is a sudden jump to day here and it goes straight into the final scene with Willow that results in her revealing what she has been hiding, facing the truth herself. As well as, culminating with Kennedy's revelation of how she can help Willow break the hex.

    In the transcript I have, it suggests that it turns day when we see Willow storming down the street with the gun she's just purchased and when Buffy is told that she needs to choose whether to repair or remove the chip. But, it clearly is still night outside when Kennedy is talking to Amy and I think the magical transition to the backyard at Revello, for the scene to play out between Willow/Kennedy is supposed in itself to explain a sudden time shift. In the shooting script it is at this point that the set description changes from 'Night' to 'Dawn'.

    Okay, having considered the path leading into the episode, the episode's themes and foci and the elements used to place emphasis and give breadth to what is being explored, let's look through the events as the episode unfolds.

    **

    TEASER

    Giles' Contact Free Exit
    We start the episode with Giles fussing around Dawn and Buffy as he prepares to head off with the potentials for the same vision quest Buffy had in S5. As something that relates to their power, enhances understanding and provides clarity, this fits nicely beside Willow's and Spike's elements of the episode which provide the other two main storylines.

    It's interesting that a subtle emphasis is put on the slight distancing between Buffy and Giles at this point. As he questions if they'll be all right and Dawn points out it is only two days, Buffy responds that they've managed a bit longer than that. As he continues to fuss SMG gives a really subtle visual response as she calmly continues to sip her drink that seems to suggest there's some mild disbelief at him choosing to fret so much on this occasion. I have to say, the reaction isn't something noted in the transcripts or shooting script, so it is very much just my reading of the moment. But it pairs against her comment of them having coped before to be an interesting touch I think.

    In the original shooting script Giles, in response to Buffy saying they'd coped longer, went on to list some of the issues that had gone wrong in his absence in the past (Buffy getting shot, her throwing everyone in the basement and trying to kill them, Willow turning evil), which Dawn adds to before Buffy tells him to just leave. Clearly some of this is supposed to be pressing on elements of the episode to come, but, as aired, it feels to press more to his fussing being felt unnecessary. Something which nudges towards the disruption and ruckles in their relationship dynamic, that will become clearer soon. With the scene then continuing to his pointed reveal of her description of the vision quest as having been Giles, "driving them to the desert, doing the hokey pokey until a spooky Rasta-mama slayer arrives and speaks to them in riddles," the element of his authority and role feels pointedly included. Even if lightly done. And of course, this gives one of several references to them driving out there, which we also find out Giles isn't doing this time. That then works with having asked Dawn to take out Vi's notebook for the later worries Giles could be The First because they can't remember him touching anything.

    It could have been that the original inclusion of past issues was there to suggest alongside the theme of learning from the past, that Giles is considering whether he should have left when things went wrong in his absence before. Or it could be to press that he is trying to get them to reassess their capabilities, in a more patriarchal view that possibly fits with his decision soon in going behind Buffy's back with Wood. I've no idea why they cut it, if it was because it didn't fit what they wanted or just for time.

    I did look through the shooting script against the transcript and aside from a couple of short cuts in the scenes, reorganising the order of scenes, and a general reduction on the described bloodiness of the chip firing, most of the changes do seem to be around what emphasis they are looking to press about the dynamics between people. I'll mention some as we get to them, but as always with the shooting script differences, it is pure speculation on why things changed. I've only done so this time because, in an episode that relies on the sense of connections between past and present and on character dynamics so much, it makes sense that they may have wanted to tweak the tone of some interactions after seeing how it played out. The potential of that as a reason that may have driven change at this point I think is interesting against what they opted to air.

    As another quick, random observation, although they talk about Kennedy supposedly having the flu, I think SMG sounds a little croaky in that opening scene and I half expected them to say she was unwell too.

    The Vampire Self-Isolating In The Basement
    As Giles goes, we move down to the basement with Buffy and find Spike, sat on the cot, wrists manacled and chained to the wall. In one of those shooting script shifts here they cut Buffy telling Spike, unconvincingly, that Giles said to say goodbye and his sarcastic response that he's sure Giles will miss him ever so. As it aired, Spike's remark that it gives them all a chance for a breather followed by Buffy questioning if he means from Giles, gives another more subtle nod to the tensions under the surface between Giles and Buffy. Cutting it leaves out drawing attention to the potential clash between Giles and Spike for now and keeps the emphasis on his hyper awareness of the potentials, or perhaps his personal sense of separation from others alongside a solidarity with Buffy, all of which the conversation will go on to cover anyway.

    The chat between Buffy and Spike starts by acknowledging the effect on Buffy of all the potentials having invaded her home. She talks of the responsibilities of being mentor, role model and life guide. We've already seen getting rest is difficult and Buffy has had points of exhaustion with the weight of everything pressing on her. Her home has been invaded by The First, but also by the potentials. The home as your 'safe space' is totally up in the air this season and whilst everyone is leaving Buffy has in many ways escaped to the basement as much as Spike has.

    There is a feeling perhaps of their relationship again being off to the side from the main group, but even with the basement setting (metaphorically often representing the subconscious or a place to bury things), the sense of secrecy and shame has in great part lifted with the general awareness of their interactions. In this way, Buffy's descent to join Spike feels more about going somewhere feeling vulnerable and tired is accepted, is possible. A space where she can be her integrated self, and it puts the emphasis on the dynamic between them as building that sense of mutual support and understanding.

    They fairly quickly establish that the restraints Spike is wearing are of his own doing. The conversation they have here exposes his concerns and greatly illustrates this issue of being held back. It is important for what follows that his concerns and emotional response to his situation is given some focus as it likely informs Buffy's thinking at the end of the episode when he is less able to converse and contribute. Her reaction here gives an indication of where her concerns are focused.

    The confirmation of what Spike doesn't have knowledge of, that he is isn't going upstairs to 'see' the effect of the potentials, draws attention to the strength of his self doubt and how much it is informing his choice here. His avoidance and withdrawal is taken a step further as the chains act as a metaphorical representation of the control he doesn't feel he has, but that he feels needs placing upon him. Basically, it shows how real a danger he believes he could still feasibly be and the worry this is causing. Which of course makes total sense. He's been made to kill against his will and without his knowledge or control. Self-doubt and fear here comes with having a moral conscience.

    So, it's understandable that he doesn't want to ignore the risk of the trigger. But is it fair to expect Buffy to be responsible for watching him if he's unchained? Is it an unfair imposition? In a way, yes, because he's adding himself to the list of responsibilities that Buffy has and being his support and safety net is yet another role in her long list. But in another respect, she has chosen to bring him into the home knowing that he has this trigger controlled by the big bad and can see that he is fearful of the chance it will be activated against his will again. So, in opting to offer him a roof it does feel like she is willingly taking on some responsibility to making sure he isn't a threat. But, still, Buffy does seem rightly disturbed by Spike's suggestion that this is the way it has to be for an uncertain duration of time.

    Perhaps it is the implication of her as his handler, with him being on a leash, like he's an unpredictable pet dog that needs further training. Dru's 'bad dog', the First's 'bitch', here now trying to be Buffy's 'good dog'. It's far from the first time an analogy to a dog has been used. Or it could just be that being directly faced with his lack of autonomy and fear, she's concerned, and it's right that this is something that she clearly feels needs fixing rather than dealing with by avoidance and cowering. Whether or not an element of wanting to be relieved of yet another duty plays into that too.

    Initially, Buffy points out that he has been in close contact with the girls and has been fine. But that shouldn't really make them feel reassured. It's obvious they don't know what purpose The First had in setting up the trigger in Spike and, as his attack on Andrew proved, it is capable of activating him even within Revello. The fact Spike feels like it is a background threat still when he has no control if it happens is totally logical. It is important though that Buffy clearly feels that under his own control he has proven himself somewhat, as this separates the two aspects that are limiting his confidence, trigger vs chip. Buffy's determination that they need to make sure the trigger is deactivated is right, but before they can start thinking this through, they get side tracked by the chip. Whilst the chip more directly limits Spike proving himself unquestionably through his own choices, considered entirely separately from the trigger it isn't an immediate pressing danger. Well, it wasn't, until now. As the chip starts it's random firing, with Spike clearly uncertain why it is going off, the urgency of one suddenly overtakes the other and we conclude the teaser with Spike's cries of pain.

    **

    ACT I

    Connections: Showing Care And Concern
    The exchange between Buffy and Willow in the kitchen serves to show the threads of connections between the characters and that care and concern are going to be driving motivations. As Willow asks after Spike and Buffy after Kennedy, they are getting a chance to reconnect with each other too through connecting over what is taking the focus of the other. But, whilst Buffy isn't trying to hide her care and concern for Spike, we can see Willow is somewhat reticent to admit any interest in Kennedy. Despite Buffy's constant teasing about 'taking tea'.

    One of the shooting script shifts happens here when Buffy and Willow talk about the chip. Originally, when Buffy raises the chip and Willow makes the connection to the chip firing, she starts to ask if Spike tried to do anything, which Buffy quickly assures her he didn't and they move on to considering something is wrong with the chip itself. Instead the canon scene has Buffy raise the fact that Spike was able to kill despite the chip when brainwashed by the trigger, Willow acknowledges he was under the control of the First, and then they move on to considering something may be wrong with the chip itself. The decision to change the brief suggestion Spike's actions may have caused the problem and instead focus on his recent killings not being his choice, and also that the chip didn't stop him when The First controlled him, better supports Buffy's base position that Spike controlled by Spike is not the problem. But also, that the issue they can't control, the trigger, isn't controlled by the chip either. Both of which are important points of view to understand she has for the choice put before her later.

    The thread of knowledge and past experiences is given another nice nod here as Buffy asks Willow if she remembers when things used to be nice and boring. Which of course she doesn't.

    As Willow arrives in her room to 'deliver tea', we see her belief Kennedy is ill is completely wrong as what she sees in reality is Kennedy well and getting ready to go out. The suggestion Kennedy begins that her changed appearance is a result of the lighting in there being so good, is another nice tie to the idea of the truth being related to light. It's also neat against her knocking over the lamp later when Willow turns into Warren and they've initially no idea what is happening.

    Instead of being upfront about what she's trying to do though, in trying to get to spend time with Willow, Kennedy then starts a weak attempt at subterfuge, claiming to have a mission she needs help with. The truth is quickly drawn out in the Bronze as the only thing that Kennedy's mission entails is getting to know Willow better.

    Getting To Know A Girl
    The first scene at the Bronze between Willow and Kennedy in Act I begins with the focus on the band singing, "So I can be happy again" and this segues into seeing Kennedy and Willow sat at the table with very obviously 'fun' drinks. It's clearly not looking like the mission is anything other than socialising. Willow of course quickly realises this and Kennedy has to finally come clean about wanting to share a drink.

    As they are finally being more open, Kennedy chooses to just be blunt and question Willow about being gay and try to very openly flirt with her. It's a hard contrast to Willow who still seems pretty insecure socially, and lacks confidence around her own sexuality, what she wants, or feels able to want. Along with the mix of references to knowledge, their pasts and personal experiences, this is the point when Kennedy's description of getting to know a girl veers very specifically into the importance of current interactions too and what you know being drawn from what you see in body language and what you can tell if you can touch. In many ways this isn't lacking truth in how the episode pans out as their kiss triggers Willow's change and the sequence of events that leads to the eventual deeper reveal of how she is feeling.

    As Willow is talking later about her past and her mum hardly ever having met Tara, she initially uses the present tense in saying that she and Tara, 'are kind of private'. Although she does self correct to 'were' this sense that there is an ongoing presence of her past relationship that lingers in a very real way for her is key to how she reacts to the kiss to come.

    As the scenes interchange between Willow and Kennedy and the progressing of the situation around the chip with Buffy and Spike, we see Willow relaxing and starting to enjoy her time with Kennedy and liking the attention. Although Kennedy's assertions of the things they have in common brings the lack of knowledge she has about Willow to the fore instead, her wish for them to share details of their pasts and her talking about what she sees in Willow here and now, why she is drawn to her, stands out. She is even just direct about magic seeming like, 'fairy tale crap' to her. Overall, it feels like they are starting to build some genuine foundations honestly. It is still hard to love the pairing though, as Kennedy's pushiness with Willow initially and her confidence here just emphasises Willow's uncertainty and, it seems, at this point, only questionable interest.

    But when they arrive back at Revello the relaxation has lifted and tension hangs as the inevitable moment of whether the evening will end on a kiss comes to fruition. In fact, although there is tension, it isn't the awkwardness or any desire to not be touched by Kennedy that leads into the change that occurs but the very opposite, the fact that the present for a moment entirely distracts Willow from the pain of her past. And it's within that distinction that the real issue of what is holding Willow back lies.

    Guilt And Ghostbusters
    When we first rejoin Buffy and Spike we have another minor shift from the shooting script. Originally, it had been intended that Buffy would make a quip about the difficulty in finding a clean towel as another light hearted jibe about being overrun by the potentials, before seeing the state of Spike which has her trail off and go to him with obvious concern,

    Buffy's coming down the stairs, holding a clean towel.

    BUFFY
    So, I had to dig a little bit for a
    clean towel, seems we've completely
    lost control of --
    She sees Spike, breathing hard, slumped against the wall, head in his hands. Looking bad.
    BUFFY (cont'd)
    -- the towel... organizing...
    system...
    (tender)
    Spike?

    She comes to him, he lifts his head. He's clammy, bleeding profusely now.

    As it aired, Buffy still seems openly concerned for him and the care and consideration isn't eradicated, she's clearly been keeping an eye on him all day, so it perhaps was felt that this was simply adequately shown with less.

    What the scene goes on to consider is what might be causing the chip to fire and what they are going to do to find out more. Their knowledge of the workings of the technology is clearly limited and this isn't something they have any present interactions with to help inform them. All they know for sure is that it keeps firing repeatedly.

    Buffy's suggestion that it could be related to the trigger or soul is soon undercut by Spike's line that perhaps he just, 'wasn't meant to last this long'. This is something that he uses as a casual reference to both of them surviving past the time they perhaps should have had. American Aurora talked about the disconnection from time that vampires feel in her review of FFL, and this would still be true even when souled. But the connection to the living that Buffy brings both Spike and Angel gives them a sense of time and the transitory experience of life more through her mortality than they would have themselves. The weight of shared experiences that has come from having both experienced death and resurrection, is now added to through the return of his soul too. This moment underlines that Spike feels understood by Buffy, feels connected to her, but perhaps also that he is considering that whatever is happening to him with the chip could finally prove fatal and he's feeling the weight of the time he has had differently.

    The idea of having exceeded his expiry date and reference to The Initiative's behavioural modification software clearly gets Buffy thinking of this problem instead as one of aging technology. The confirmation that comes at the end that the chip has in fact degraded certainly sounds like it is a matter of the materials wearing out. This could just be because it was a prototype, that it was never built to last an indefinite time anyway, or just that it failed. But in an episode that we'll see has a manifestation of guilt along with the sense of being punished, I can't help but also wonder if it's possible what has happened with Spike does tie the chip's degradation to the trigger and soul.

    Let's go with the assumption that the chip somehow works on the basis of Spike's conscious mind activating it through the knowledge he is hurting a human. The trigger cut out Spike's ability to control and choose his actions so it didn't fire and stop him when he was killing under the trigger because he wasn't aware of what he was doing or making that choice. But, he was literally present and eventually was able to recall flashes of the killings he had done. So, is it perhaps possible that even when he wasn't conscious and was unable to feel the pain, that the chip had been firing to some degree as he is able to gain recollection of the acts later.

    Perhaps also, in his less lucid state in the school basement, when he was looking more at judgment and self-punishment and was lost in uncertainty over reality, the memories and voices of his past victims may have been causing odd fluctuations in the chip too. Things that weren't registering as it firing, or flickers that he could have been putting down to his own confusion/distress, but because of how continuous it was, were simply leading to the chip breaking down further.

    As the chip is intended to work on short sharp shocks of pain that incapacitate an attacking vampire, there is perhaps the potential that's Spike's soul and actions when triggered have generated a constant sense of guilt that has somewhat led to the deterioration in the chip as the emotional impact does affect it. Eventually resulting in it continuously firing.

    That desire to be judged, the lack of self-worth, then contributes in a similar way to what we'll see with Willow and creates a self-defined punishment that ultimately manifests from guilt. I don't know if it is an intentional link in the writing, but it intrigues me as a possibility alongside Willow's struggle in the episode and it makes the reference to Ghostbusters ('who you gonna call') take on additional meaning. There's a need to break from their reactions to the ghosts of their past to be able to move forwards.

    Buffy's call, reaching out for help is done somewhat blindly, taking the chance on her past connections having ongoing meaning too. It's an interesting contrast to the repeated focus on finding confirmation of knowledge from what can be seen, felt and heard. That Spike is suffering another seizure in the background without her awareness as she is making the call could suggest that it is a pointless distraction, breaking from the current events. But the significance of the past runs through the episode. So, this link outside of their own personal experiences to one of the people that believed in the chip and the restraint it placed on Spike, to ones from his past who actually implemented the restraint arriving, brings an additional layer to the later scenes and choices.

    **

    ACT II

    When Seeing Is Hard To Believe In
    We join back where the action left Willow and Kennedy, and watch Willow realise that it is a visible change Kennedy is reacting to. I really like the flow from Willow's disbelief in seeing herself to everyone else's when she enters the living room. It's excellently done and the mix up of verbal and physical interactions and repetitions that seek to gain understanding and reassurance scattered chaotically over it all is great. The distrust, fear, anger and disbelief are all understandable and it takes a little time for things to calm down and everyone to be communicating successfully. I love Andrew's initial reaction and then switch. What is holding him back in not facing his choices is lightly touched on here and thematically appropriate for the episode, but it won't be dealt with yet.

    In some ways it is an odd mix of humour and alarm. They definitely play some comical beats around what are quite distressing situations. And this moment is the only time when most of the characters in the three main stories of the episode converge, with just Giles absent. The overflowing responses/issues works well for then heading towards breaking off again and the multiple storylines continuing independently. These aren't 'the group forms a team' issues. In fact, how chaotic it is here emphasises the more personal edge of what both Willow and Spike are going through. Willow doesn't want to be seen like that and prodded, she feels that it is something she has done to herself and that presses the issue of her control of magic again. So it makes sense that she wants to break away and deal with it more privately.

    We know of course that she is hiding some of what she is feeling. In the original shooting script Kennedy is about to talk about what they were doing when it happened and Willow cuts her off and stops them asking Kennedy. It's hard to tell how much she is consciously considering what her underlying response to having kissed Kennedy was yet and how it might be connected. Obviously, she isn't aware of the hex, but she is thinking it is something that has been triggered by her own subconscious. It is clear though that she is at the least uncomfortable in starting to explore the idea of her sense of guilt at kissing Kennedy around the others. Her covering suggestion that she may have turned into Warren because she feels guilty about killing him, might suggest that she has at least identified the sense of guilt that is involved. It's just not about Warren.

    In the shooting script, Buffy rushes quickly over to Spike at the moment that Willow comments on her already having her hands full. In the aired episode she turns to him but stays with Willow until she goes to leave moments later. I don't think they needed to make more of Buffy being torn and these two events as incompatible to deal with as a group that the scene hadn't already made clear. They also cut a few lines of Spike being very openly hostile when everyone gathered around him, clearly not liking being stared at. Perhaps they felt it was too aggressive towards the group when he is still greatly on the outskirts and at the moment the general withdrawal and focus on Buffy works better than outward hostility. But as aired it does miss the repeated emphasis to there being a very personal element to what is happening here for him too. Perhaps it was felt that Willow's reaction and withdrawal underlined that across the situations enough.

    *Double Filming*
    I read on the Amazon listing of the episode that each scene with Willow/Warren was filmed twice. Once with Alyson, and once with Adam. Not surprising, but what I hadn't known was at the start, when Willow is more herself, Alyson's version was done first so that Adam could look to emulate her more. The later scenes as Willow is 'losing herself,' Adam's versions were filmed first instead so that Alyson could look to mimic him more. As they were looking to match the gestures and movements, shooting took considerably longer.

    I have to say, the switches within the episode between Willow and Warren are done incredibly well and I really love how regularly they mix it up between the two within a single scene. The only 'glitch' that stood out to me at all without careful comparisons, was the position that the gun is held in the final act, when they didn't match each other so well. But generally, the attention to detail and approach they took to this element I think is a real strength of the episode.

    Getting Help
    So, the focus for both Spike and Willow, neither of whom can fix this for themselves, becomes about trying to access help and both go to look into it with an individual in tow. Kennedy and Buffy are trying to appear quite casual about the choice to tag along, but clearly are both doing so out of concern. For Spike and Willow, the relevance of their pasts is emphasised again as we venture back into the Initiative and go back to see the campus Wiccans.

    In the initial scene heading back into The Initiative we have one of the most inconsistent elements that needs a little twisting to make sense of. As Buffy and Spike approach a hidden entrance it becomes clear that rather than focusing on looking for information on the chip, 'files and stuff' as Buffy suggests they do whilst they are there, the original intention in returning is to find drugs that will help to deal with the pain of the firing. Why do they think they'll get something specific in The Initiative? Because Spike can remember being given them during his period of captivity,

    "Worked pretty good when the Initiative held me captive here. Every time I'd get a little...rambunctious, the chip'd kick in. I feel like my head was gonna explode. They'd dope me up, and everything would be all daffodils and teddy bears. For a couple of hours anyway."

    The search for painkillers is of course about coping with what is happening. But the suggestion that Spike was in The Initiative for a while and can recall multiple times he caused trouble and the chip fired enough for them to sedate him, doesn't really mesh with what we saw back then. In The Initiative, Spike is advised by the vampire in the next cell not to drink the blood packet that falls from the ceiling because it is drugged and that's when they'll take you to do experiments on. We next see Spike faking having drunk the blood and being unconscious so that he can surprise the orderlies when they come to get him and then he escapes. He is then later surprised by the chip firing when he goes to bite Willow and acts as if he has no previous knowledge of it. So, when did the experiences with the chip and drugs he refers to happen?

    We can perhaps roll with Spike having wider memories of being in The Initiative if we consider that he can have been affected by the experimentation so he didn't immediately remember. He clearly grabs an orderly by the throat and throws them away from him without the chip firing at the time of his escape. Although never suggested, the chip being activated and deactivated remotely may be part of the experimentation and be why this was possible. Once he'd escaped, they'd obviously reactivate it, but perhaps can't simply deactivate it again now because it is malfunctioning. So, it could be that when Spike is initially talking to the other vampire he is just forgetting the days of fighting to get free, being drugged and tested on because of the trauma of it all. But these memories come back to him at a later point.

    But, if they had tested the chip repeatedly, then why would Riley need to confirm to Walsh after trying to track and recapture Spike in the dorm rooms that the implant worked? At a stretch we could see it as them confirming it worked outside of controlled circumstances. Otherwise, it could perhaps be that these memories he has are false ones. Incidents his mind has created to fill the gaps between being captured and escaping. Possibly going in and out of consciousness after being tasered at the start of the previous episode and being drugged for the surgery left a confused swiss cheese of memories, at best. Having blank time when you know you were cut into must be unnerving. His current pain and struggles making him want to believe in something that might help could be enough to have prompted false recollections.

    Meanwhile, Willow's revisit with the campus Wiccan group starts with an interesting mirroring to Buffy's call in to The Initiative. Their connection in the past has drawn them back together, but time hasn't held them static since they've last seen each other and they can't be sure whether things are the same still. Even something known and 'old' can have elements that are unknown and new. I do like the touch that they still do the bake sale though. Not everything has to change.

    Amy of course, is another old acquaintance, but a new addition to the group and she stands up to vouch for Willow and address openly that they have a somewhat troubled history. Like with Willow's acknowledgement of having murdered Warren though, it is a simplification that isn't taking into account current feelings in response to the events of the past. Neither have moved on from elements of what they felt then (Willow's anger and Amy's jealousy), but at this point it hasn't been outwardly flagged that either are shielding their true feelings.

    We see Amy present herself as someone that has looked inwardly and changed. She even apologises for the past but without any specifics, just an acknowledgment of hitting rock bottom and then reliving all the crappy things you did. This seems plausible at this point. Even in line with the experiences we are seeing others go through in the season where revisits to the past are used as lessons to inform the present and move them forwards. As Amy goes to try to help Willow break the 'glamour' there's no reason to suspect her involvement. However, with the emphasis on touch when testing what is known in the episode, I like that her hands are held underneath Willow's but separate. That distance is maintained alongside the illusion that she's helping.

    In a room full of people that would understand it, I assume the spell that Amy tries does have some validity to it. It could simply be that she knows that it won't be able to break the hex, that it can only be fixed by Willow, and it is the hex's rejection of the attempt to force change that makes the orb burn. I doubt very much that Amy believed for a moment that it could work. It appears like the attempt somehow exasperated the situation for it to lead to Warren 'taking over' and slapping Amy, but this could just meet what we later understand about the potential progression that is happening within the scope of Willow's self-punishment anyway.

    England Calling
    Amidst the scenes of our two pairs questing for help, the foundations laid in the initial scene of the episode for the third storyline is also picked up now during this Act. After Spike and Buffy enter The Initiative, before going to the Wiccan meeting, we break to see what is happening with the remaining group members. Anya, Dawn, Xander and Andrew, gathered together in the living room, receive the call from Robson that raises the alarm bells of whether Giles has been an enemy within the camp all this time. After a brief debate about what they do/don't know for sure and the significance of interactions in the present, or the lack of them, the group heads off into the desert to find Giles to check he's not The First.

    I like how the scene starts off with a brief connection between Andrew and Xander over the new comic (I assume) of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. As Andrew is slowly starting to integrate himself, seeing similarities is a good way of bringing out moments that could feasibly work to reduce barriers somewhat naturally. Andrew plays as an interesting contrast to Amy in this episode and although he has to face up to the actions he's taken still, his overall wish is to lose the part of antagonist and get to tag along too. There is a feeling of past regrets rather than the burning resentment that Amy feels. Buffy's comment in Potential that Andrew is like a mushroom that picks up evil's flavour if he gets close suggests an opposite effect can be happening and emphasis goes again to connections in the present.

    It's interesting to consider that the brief glimpse we then get of Giles sat at the campfire afterwards doesn't really tell us much because there aren't details. Without any sense of what is happening, or understanding of how he is interacting with those around him, there's no way of gleaning information about him from just seeing him isolated staring into the campfire. Obviously, the ambiguity is very much intentional, but the underlining it gives through absence of others to the significance of people's connections and interactions with the world around them is neat.

    **

    ACT III

    Getting Lost
    The start of Act III follows on from the slap that was delivered after Amy's failed attempt to fix what is happening to Willow, and we see Willow fleeing with Kennedy chasing after her. The switching between Warren and Willow in this scene with Kennedy I particularly love. The inclusion of a couple of back shots of Willow even when it is just Warren speaking, gives a suggestion of a flickering identity that works so well with this idea that Willow is becoming lost and is literally turning into Warren. And it is here that we have the clear indicator that the issue plaguing Willow is not guilt from killing Warren as she suggested originally at Revello,

    "It's not a trick, it's not a glamour. I'm becoming him. A murderous, misogynist man. I mean, do you understand what he did? What I could do? I killed him for a reason."

    It's directly after this that she starts shutting down further from Kennedy, dismissing her chances of helping verbally and then physically. I do think there's a good argument that some degree of wanting to warn and protect Kennedy plays a part here in what Willow says. But there are potentially many factors influencing her as a fear of getting close to anyone, insecurities about her power, and self-judgment on top of the guilt and grief that is driving her could all be roiling together and leading her to push away. There's a lot to fear facing layered here and the barrier that Willow fiercely throws up stopping Kennedy following heads her back to her self-isolating response mechanism, similar to her withdrawal in STSP. It blocks the clear connection to the present, which leaves her engulfed in the emotions feeding the hex that ties to the past, and she starts to sink more into 'becoming' Warren.

    As Willow becomes overwhelmed and sinks to the ground in an alley, stricken by how things are going, it is the moment of a more marked shift. When she looks up as Warren and berates herself, "Look at me. Crying like a little girl," before walking off with purpose, this isn't a brief flash like the anger and slap. This is a more distinct shift to being/speaking/acting as Warren as it doesn't instantly break.

    As things continue to play out for Willow, we now have her scenes interspersed not only with Buffy and Spike's journeying in the Initiative, but also Kennedy going back to the campus lecture hall and speaking with Amy.

    It's neat that there is the focus on sound in the scene directly before with Spike and Buffy hearing a noise in The Initiative, just before Amy tries to warp her own interactions in the present in claiming she heard Kennedy say she was a potential slayer when they arrived. But it's a false assertion that Kennedy calls her out on. She's certain that's not how Amy knows who Kennedy is. Amy's, "Oops" is clearly an omission that she's been caught out here. We just don't know at this point what for exactly. But, with their history, the impression Amy has been tracking/watching Willow in some way, coupled with the change in her demeanour, makes it clear this isn't a friendly gaffe.

    The scene with Willow in the shop that closes this Act, is one of the only times when light is used significantly outside of the 'illuminating' moments in the two main storylines to come. I think it actually adds to the sense of uncertainty here, and tension over what is happening as the artificial light of the fluorescent display shines on Willow as Warren, as the acting out the past fully begins when 'Warren' goes to buy a gun from the same shop he bought from in S6. The use of light on that moment adds potential weight to the worry of whether this is now reality and truth being presented. Has Willow fully switched? Yet, as she stands and speaks to the shopkeeper, it is again Willow we see and the chance this isn't quite over yet remains.

    Revisiting The Past In The Present
    I can see some symbolic meaning in Spike and Buffy being able to re-enter The Initiative. Turning away from the past and possibly not even thinking about it doesn't remove its presence beneath you, acting as a foundation for where you are now. Obviously, we can see that the orders to fill The Initiative with concrete were not executed. So, like when the group returned to the blown up high school, it is a place of the past that can be literally revisited where some of the evidence of their history is still strewn throughout it. On top of that, what is down there isn't even dead. Even if it was closed off in a way that somewhat tried to bury it.

    They did make more of the grotesque array of bodies they found in the original shooting script though, and another sensory inclusion that emphasised interacting in the present as Spike comments on the smell, "You never really get used to that smell do you?" Again tapping at connection and understanding between Buffy and Spike too. Perhaps they felt more visuals on the bodies were overly grotesque and the recap of what was there and what had happened was just an unnecessary one. The assertion that they want to make it a brief stay, just from the unpleasant scene that greets them on dropping down into a moment of their own history though remains. It being somewhere they don't want to linger works with a feeling of having meaningfully left this behind, even though it still influences the present.

    Spike at this point is still focussing on getting to the lab to find painkillers rather than any information on the chip. This time the more exact and extensive knowledge of the layout than would perhaps have been expected from when he was captured, could have come in part from the final battle in The Initiative and the brief return in New Moon Rising too. The visual of the limited light from the torches and the surrounding darkness works well against the lack of certainty in whether they'll find anything to help and the absence of knowledge of the threats that might be lingering. Despite Spike's assurances he knows where to go, that feeling of getting lost in the past and it engulfing them somewhat mirrors what is happening with Willow.

    The demon that attacks Buffy and Spike quite logically decides, when Spike collapses with another misfire from the chip, that the one not fighting is a far easier prey. The idea of perhaps being consumed, again working alongside Willow's situation as Spike is dragged off. But, Buffy is still acting as Spike's connection to the present, like Kennedy is for Willow, and they're not down yet.

    Road Trip
    Again, we have the third storyline playing between the scenes with Buffy/Spike and Willow/Kennedy. This time the focus is on joining the group as they travel out to the desert on their mission to be better informed, to check in person whether what they fear is true.

    I had to look up 'Ghost' as a travel game, it isn't one I've come across before (but I'm going to give it a try now. ) Clearly, the name of the game is very appropriate in consideration of what is haunting the characters from the past and in wondering if they'll find that Giles has been killed. But also that element of building on each other's moves and playing as a family group underlines Andrew's wish to be a part of things in a cohesive way. Everyone else is distracted in thinking about what they might be driving towards.

    This element of fearing the future and what may come next is certainly an element that can play its part in not successfully managing to challenge what is holding you back. A factor that can readily be applied to both Willow and Spike of course but one that can also lead those that don't have an obvious skill or power to manage to question their role and place. Andrew raising the recent brush Dawn had with the destiny of a potential draws attention to this. But even without an outlined destiny, the four of them are still driving straight towards potential danger together to check on the others. Despite being, "Just a teenager, a powerful former demon and two big geeks."

    Andrew's next suggestion is to divert to a different distraction, the licence plate game. There are innumerable variations of what this game could be but generally they seem to be looking for what you can find or make from the licence plates you see. This time, an appropriately visual theme for the episode.

    **

    ACT IV

    Becoming Better Acquainted
    All three storylines are very much 'in progress' at the end of Act 3. Spike has been dragged off, Willow is reenacting Warren's actions of Seeing Red and the wider group are travelling to the desert. This final Act brings all three to a conclusion that starts with the most straightforward, as the group arrive at the camp and have their 'touching' reunion with Giles.

    With no hidden truth or significant importance to the moment, Giles is as he ever was, there isn't the illumination that will be included in the other two plotlines. Instead, the whole journey serves more to draw Andrew into the group a bit further and provide a lighter moment, which emphasises the affection held between the main characters. It also perhaps underlines the responsibility that has been taken on and the roles everyone is playing, even if it is within a comedic line about the abuse of power that could occur in such situations. I'll leave you to decide how funny you do/don't find that one.

    Military Medical Expertise Delivered
    Buffy of course finds and defeats the demon and recovers Spike, but he's clearly struggling even more from the effects of the chip firing, making no attempt to get up and hardly able to talk. It's now that we have the flooding of light on the situation as the people that can help arrive and bring full knowledge of 'behavioural modification software through the ages,' as well as the military medical expertise to investigate the chip. Obviously, the connections to the past that Buffy tried to call on did bear fruit (even if no flowers. ). A team of soldiers have been delivered to her to provide any help she needs for, "ass-face."

    I have to say, I do really like this small injection of humour here. The flick of Spike's eyebrow and Buffy's stare in response to this very serious military man repeating what he was told just makes me smile. It successfully gives Riley presence, even though he's only there in reference.

    The exchange that soon follows between the soldier and Buffy occurs with Spike lying on an examination table in the background. The soldier confirms the chip is degrading, it will fail and it will kill Spike. But all decisions regarding, "Hostile 17" are to be left in Buffy's hands. The use of The Initiative's tag for Spike here is a non-subtle underline to his past and who he was when this chip was first put in him. It's a reminder that it held him back, then. But that's the past. In the present things have changed and his connection to Buffy and hers to Riley leads them to this moment and the choice being given to Buffy of whether to have the chip repaired or removed.

    Should we be surprised that Riley defers this decision to Buffy? Does Riley even know that Spike has a soul? Is Riley working on the basis Spike won't be conscious or able to play a part in the decision? These aren't considerations that are even nodded to here as the choice is just placed at Buffy's feet, to be made with whatever contextual considerations she brings. On one level, as the Slayer, it is Buffy's role to decide on the fate of the vampires and demons she encounters. But this situation isn't that straightforward. Whatever he does or doesn't know about Spike, Riley does know that much. It isn't surprising that Riley doesn't seem to be allowing for Spike's involvement in the choice, likely still believing in the chip himself, but there is a degree of respect being shown here to Buffy I think. Possibly seeing that Buffy will be better informed than him in terms of the threats they are facing and how Spike may be helping. But, at the least, that he understands that the decision will most likely personally affect her too. If so, the latter stands as an interesting contrast to Giles' perspective to come.

    Buffy's position here is somewhat like a next of kin being approached in the hospital waiting room. The situation is creating a need for someone else to make the choices as they have to be made now. With their personal history it is realistic to think Spike would nominate Buffy in this situation, if he could. Since returning Spike has somewhat placed himself at Buffy's mercy, offering his help and asking for hers. Spike's belief in Buffy's judgement has been starting to give him belief in himself. So, considering Spike would be comfortable with Buffy being given the only vote here seems highly probable.

    This does somewhat ease the questionable element of him being placed in the position of having to face fears about his control and probably not having had a say in that. But Buffy must be thinking back to their conversation earlier in the basement and how Spike's lack of self-governance with the chip seems a totally separate element to the trigger and just adds in to the worries and self-doubts he has when he feels he's being artificially held back.

    Although Spike's comment about not being meant to last this long could be taken as fatalistic about what was happening, his wish to go and find some drugs to help manage the pain suggests he was looking to buy time. There may well have been some worry/doubt at their chances of fixing this because of the technology involved and that mixing with the emotional struggles since being souled to result in a degree of acceptance it might be just for him to exit if it comes to that. But Spike is a fighter and generally is determined to find a way through. Defeat is not the perspective you'd expect of someone who normally looks for a way to change things and strive for what they want. His, "maybe we can't wait" was certainly looking to take a more proactive approach than sitting on his haunches hoping the cavalry would come.

    I think from Buffy's perspective, as she pressed with Angel when he was feeling suicidal in Amends, ultimately she believes in fighting. The chip stops Spike's self-governance and feeds into his doubts. It sits beside the trigger that has him thinking in terms of himself as needing leashing. Buffy can sees both the trigger and the chip stop him moving forwards, being totally in control and able to find out who he can be now. But if he can be trusted now he's souled, the chip simply is irrelevant. So, for Buffy, the choice over the chip just comes down to how much she really does believe in him.

    It Turns Out Amy Is Still A Rat
    After Kennedy gets her second reminder that magic can put up barriers that can't just be punched down when Amy easily blocks her attempt to physically intimidate her, we finally hear about what prompted Willow's switch to Warren.

    Willow's assumption that she had done this to herself is partly correct. In putting a hex on Willow that ties to 'penance', there has to be a link to something that Willow herself feels she should be punished for. A perceived wrongdoing she feels remorse for. This belief in the appropriateness of being punished for it then becomes self-fulfilled. But there is that malicious element woven in that takes it beyond Willow's sense of self-punishment, as Amy has placed this hex on her out of jealousy and spite. Even if Willow's own subconscious is determining that literally turning her into Warren completes the duplicated murder of Tara, there's no escaping that Amy has put magical fuel in the mix which is prompting this inner turmoil to become an outwardly expressed reality.

    In the shooting script, Amy specifies that she put the hex on Willow months ago, "After that whole 'end of the world' routine." In the aired version she just states that, "The hex I cast lets the victim's subconscious pick the form of their punishment. It's always better than anything I can come up with." When she refuses to break it and Kennedy asks if she really hates Willow that much, we get Amy's explanation for how it's actually all about power. Another tick in the box for that season theme too. The resentment she feels for how easy Willow finds magic pours out and mixes in to her jealousy for how Willow is still supported and loved, forgiven of the things she did that gave in to evil and it feeds this desire to see Willow reduced. It makes sense then, that the hex was placed some time after Grave when Willow was being supported rather than pushed out and punished, as Amy felt she was.

    The idea that Amy is as bound up in jealousy over Willow's friendships as she is over Willow's power works well to the theme of connections and how Amy was pushed away in Season 6. After years of being trapped as a rat with Willow failing to return her to her human form, Amy's sudden return in Season 6 clearly was potentially traumatic. The descent she had into darker magic possibly in large part a coping mechanism for her too. In addition, as we saw with Willow's occasional morally questionable use of magic earlier in the series, Amy also gave indications of a developing careless and questionable attitude to magic and the misuse of such power in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. The idea she already knew Rack is not implausible. But, as someone who was misusing magic on a far less dramatic and apocalyptic level than Willow eventually walked, her resentment at feeling pushed away for being a bad influence works well. It is just a shame that Amy's path wasn't linked in more with Willow's this season I think and her story is dropped from here until the comics.

    *Comic Continuation*
    Although I do take as canon the later seasons of the canon comic continuation, one of my least liked elements is the inclusion of Warren. Forgetting Willow had killed him was hand waved in the letters by Joss as Warren having technically been dead for a second before Amy saved him by magically providing him skin, but she didn't tell him so as not to upset him. When Warren has a showdown with Willow and tortures her in The Long Way Home, pt IV we hear how Amy protected him back when he was flayed in Villains, and also hear Warren suggest he and Amy came up with the spell for Willow, 'and her girlfriend' here. Some summaries of this interaction suggest the intention was therefore to turn Willow into Warren, but I don't think that was specified. However, even without that specific intent, the idea of Willow's subconscious playing a reduced role in what passes here, undermines its impact somewhat for me. I prefer it as presented in the episode, where Amy didn't know what would trigger the hex and how Willow would punish herself, rather than targeting Willow and Kennedy deliberately and/or intending the transformation. But, unless I'm forgetting a later reference that gives more details, I can shrug at the claim to have been involved in Amy's hex as just Warren's attempt to take credit in an attempt to unnerve Willow more. Rather than have a good deal of the psychologically interesting element of the episode torn away.

    The first few pages of The Long Way Home, pt IV are spoilered here for anyone interested who hasn't seen them,
    Spoiler:





    Saved By A Fairy Tale Kiss
    It isn't that Amy can't necessarily break the hex, but she won't and her claim that the hex was just a game, that it isn't her fault if Willow is losing herself, brings the focus back onto the whys of the punishment that Willow's subconscious created. At this point, when we're going to examine and reveal the underlying issue, we have that timeframe shift that brings things out in the 'light of day' and our other moment of illumination. As Kennedy finds herself magically zapped into the yard of Revello, standing where Buffy stood when Warren came to shoot her and ended up killing Tara, the time shift also works for the sense of replaying the shooting in Seeing Red.

    Almost immediately, Willow strides into the garden, armed, accusing Kennedy in Buffy's place, "You think you can just do that to me? That I'd let you get away with it?" But the re-enactment is then broken, because Kennedy has a personal relationship with Willow and knows some of what is happening to her, so she instantly starts to try to unpick it and work out what is driving Willow's actions. She looks to calm her and reconnect with her.

    As Willow's words spasm between herself and Warren she reveals the real source of her guilt. The sense that in kissing Kennedy she forgot about Tara, and, even as brief as it was, that this step in moving on 'killed' Tara. The accusations that she flings at Kennedy, are in truth also, if not mostly, directed at herself too. We can see then, that Warren works as a representation of both a misogynist that can resent females sexually for the fear that Willow holds towards her own ongoing sexual desires, the possibility of moving on, as well as for the literal murder of Tara Willow feels forgetting her duplicated.

    Rather than Warren winning, it is Willow's despair and self-punishment, her intense guilt that is letting her worst realisation, of becoming him, happen. The admittance finally that in having allowed herself to respond to Kennedy, Willow felt like she'd pushed Tara's memory away, releases an emotional floodgate. Her sorrow and grief is being expressed again as the reality of her loss is shown and mixes with the guilt of taking that first step in moving on.

    The traumatic event of having seen Tara's life taken so easily by chance may have created a responsive sense of survivor's guilt in Willow that has made this moment so hard. This could be in terms of guilt for having survived herself, for having failed to save Tara or for not having prevented what happened somehow. Her begging for Tara to return feels like both a wish for things to have been different, but also a request for forgiveness now for starting to let her go. Of course she shouldn't condemn herself for thinking of it, even if she isn't sure what potential the relationship with Kennedy truly has. But even without the traumatic elements of what happened to Tara, moving on after a significant loss in itself can feel like a negative choice that is often hard to take.

    Of course, moving on doesn't have to stop grief and it doesn't have to mean forgetting in a negative way. So, it's at this point that Kennedy steps forward to reassure Willow that she didn't do anything wrong. Magical kisses, like in Fairy Tales, are often used to lift a curse where the curser makes the release something that is most unlikely to happen. The frog that gets kissed by the princess, for example. I think this simple suggestion that there isn't a need for guilt and the magic can be overcome, that Kennedy can reach out to Willow even when her worst sense of self is all that she can see, offers the support that allows Willow the opportunity to forgive herself. To see that maybe this isn't truly an act that deserves such extreme punishment. She isn't the one that truly killed Tara and she doesn't have to forget her.

    As they kiss again, we have another repetition as the camera circles them as before. Close in to underline the intensity of the moment again and allow for the transition between Warren-Willow to be directly linked to the moment with Kennedy again. We the see the initial disbelief that Willow feels in returning to herself, as her hands go again to her face, now for reassurance.

    There is something missing in the execution in this scene for me personally. I just don't get the feels from the emotional outpouring to Tara. Contradictorily, as the changes between Willow and Warren that build through the episode is generally one of my favourite parts of it, I think it is possibly the switch between Willow/Warren verbally and visually at this point that negatively impacts my connection to that fragment of the scene calling out in grief and guilt. I do still appreciate the culmination of what Willow has gone through and the meaning within it all, even if I'm not as emotionally hit by the moment as I think they want me to be.

    Such an emotionally fraught experience being met by such gentleness between her and Kennedy after is a great touch to back up the idea of being allowed to let it go, even if it is an intense pain. It dispels the anxiety further. Willow's brief glance up too, presumably to the window through which Warren's stray bullet was fired, almost brings a confirmation that she is back in the present fully in a way that allows her to then move forward in a literal sense again. Even if right now it is just to want to head in to rest and have some tea.

    And here the episode concludes. But I've just a quick further thought to add on to follow up...

    Redemption And The Small Matter Of Perspective
    Our social justice system works on punishment and rehabilitation. This doesn't necessarily facilitate forgiveness or aid self-forgiveness. In the supernatural world BtVS operates in, punishment for villains if often harsh, even pre-emptive. It stands out distinctly against the 'good' characters we follow who sometimes commit awful acts, even break laws, and don't face typical punishment. I like that Amy raises this sense of injustice in the episode and we can be left wondering if in taking Warren's life Willow already had 'become Warren'. She clearly doesn't regret the choice and so a moral question of redemption and judgment is layered in. This then relates back to the potential people have and the choice to change.

    If it is the abuse of her power, in and of itself, which Willow is facing, is it okay that she doesn't regret killing someone? Does it only matter how she uses her power going forwards and that she remains in control? Similarly for Spike, even though souled he didn't choose to commit the acts he did soulless, if what matters is his own internal control and choices which distinguish him from his past, and this is why his self-governance is key, is it okay to access the drives that were revelled in as a killer to use them under a banner for good? If they are both so insecure about the power they hold, can their control truly be sufficient and relied on?

    What often separates the bad guys and the good guys are their intentions though and what is seen in their responses to their pasts. This is perhaps why the story focus gives a different tone to those working on redemption and self-improvement and looks at the motivations behind their choices. In this way, Amy gives contrast as she's still stuck in the same negative cycle and the impression of self-reflection she initially gave, was an illusion.

    The emphasis on how people feel about themselves and how they can be impacted by others, weakened or strengthened by them, is definitely key. Willow and Spike's connections with their pasts touches to the themes of guilt, and desires for judgement and punishment and their current connections greatly impact their ability to move on from what is holding them back. Both Kennedy and Buffy's understanding, brings forgiveness and empowerment in the face of the struggles. The worth seen by others helps fuel their belief they can succeed. Events of the past are significant in how we respond to situations, but so are the connections with others and interactions in the present, and together they feed into the potential seen for the future.

    So in the final act, the episode finishes with a sense of relief from the group's desert quest, with a question mark over Buffy's choice regarding the chip, and with this sense of hope for Willow to be able to grieve but also live. The focus is definitely on connections and support. Yet there were also small hints at some points of disquiet gently brought in too. When we then consider the AtS episode that aired the day after, Soulless, this perhaps adds to those hints in nudging at what may be to come.

    The significance of 'light', the past, people's connections, knowledge and what is inside being revealed, all continues to be reflected in Soulless. But this episode also drew my attention to the power of words as a reoccurring theme that could be applied to both episodes and the importance of support against separation. The duplicated fear of the danger within is proven wrong with Giles, but the evil that truly has infiltrated the fang gang still is currently unseen. And as Angel, now unsouled, begins to try to undermine and manipulate the group, truth bombing and stirring trouble, this provides a clear contrast to the effect of empowering that BtVS is currently focussing on. It is interesting then to consider how the switch in Angel, souled to soulless, highlights how different perspectives can view the same things and respond in very different ways and for how connections can be used to weaken and challenge as well as strengthen and empower. Fractures may start to follow as dissent appears more clearly in BtVS too...

    Comment


    • Stoney
      Stoney commented
      Editing a comment
      Just a note to say I've just edited the final paragraph of 'Knowledge And The Senses' a little. I wasn't sure I'd really explained what I meant well as it was before. Possibly still haven't, but I'm going to stop trying at that now.

    • American Aurora
      American Aurora commented
      Editing a comment
      Rereading it and recopying now just to make sure I've gotten the final version!

    • debbicles
      debbicles commented
      Editing a comment
      Magnificent! Have copied it to have a thorough re-read. Thank you.

  • Stoney, this is a fantastic review!

    I hadn't even realized that Awakenings was right before The Killer in Me - fascinating that both shows were exploring the meaning of the soul - and the importance that goes along with that - at the same time.
    I hope to review your rewatch in the next week and then catch up with all the past rewatches!

    Love the concentration on the 'senses' and what they might mean. Interesting that you found the final Willow/Warren scene to be lacking in some way - I have to watch it again. What I found the most frustrating about the episode is the scene that NEVER WAS - meaning Spike's discovery that Buffy has had the chip removed. When I first watched the episode, I was waiting for it - and waiting for it - and shocked when it never came.

    Yes, I understand the idea of off-screen exposition, but Spike's been talking and agonizing about having the chip out for four years and discovering that it was finally gone would have been fascinating to watch.

    I think keeping it off-screen was a bizarre decision. And a slightly cowardly one since it feels more likely that the writers were afraid they couldn't dramatize such a moment properly rather believing the scene was unnecessary.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by American Aurora View Post
      Stoney, this is a fantastic review!

      I hadn't even realized that Awakenings was right before The Killer in Me - fascinating that both shows were exploring the meaning of the soul - and the importance that goes along with that - at the same time.
      I hope to review your rewatch in the next week and then catch up with all the past rewatches!
      True, the significance of the soul, underlined by its removal with Angel, sits against the removal of the chip in terms of the importance of the soul as a topic in and of itself.

      And thank you.

      Love the concentration on the 'senses' and what they might mean. Interesting that you found the final Willow/Warren scene to be lacking in some way - I have to watch it again. What I found the most frustrating about the episode is the scene that NEVER WAS - meaning Spike's discovery that Buffy has had the chip removed. When I first watched the episode, I was waiting for it - and waiting for it - and shocked when it never came.

      Yes, I understand the idea of off-screen exposition, but Spike's been talking and agonizing about having the chip out for four years and discovering that it was finally gone would have been fascinating to watch.

      I think keeping it off-screen was a bizarre decision. And a slightly cowardly one since it feels more likely that the writers were afraid they couldn't dramatize such a moment properly rather believing the scene was unnecessary.
      I'll be interested in hearing how the final Willow/Warren scene does or doesn't work for you.

      I agree it would have been a scene that it would have been great to see because of the significance of the choice. I think to have worked in Spike finding out about the chip removal in this episode it would have required events in that storyline to be shortened leading up to it considerably. To give the emphasis to the danger of the chip firing repeatedly, them needing to find a solution and it leading to the need for the chip to be repaired or removed being revealed, it would have been tough to keep all of that feeling as built up and also get the post operative reveal too. They may have been able to work it all if they'd lost some of the third storyline with Giles/the group maybe. Starting the next episode with it might have been a possibility too.

      Comment


      • Stoney, I really loved your review!

        Even though it has flaws, The Killer in Me is one of my favorite episodes. I wish that the show had done a lot more parallels between Spike and Willow because they are very similar in a lot of ways.

        What Is Inside Comes Outside
        The title 'The Killer in Me' could certainly be a direct reference to the murderous sides our characters have shown in the past. In part there is that sense of insecurity and worry about who they have been and who they could be again.
        Yes, they are connected not just because they were both killers in the past, but because they know that they have the ability and the temperament to kill again.

        Both problems tackled in the episode, the hex on Willow and Spike's chip, are elements that have been done to them by others. But these outside influences are playing on their existing issues (oh how The First would approve). Facing your fears isn't ever easy. Even understanding them can be difficult let alone tackling them. But until Spike believes in himself and is in a position to control his own power (facing the potential danger he could be by his own choices with no trigger and no chip in play), and Willow stops holding back out of grief and worry of how she might lose control, it is their potential that is being killed. It's their abilities to move on with a greater, stronger sense of self that is reduced.
        I hadn't thought of that before. Both are helpless like their former victims and suffer in a similar way. Spike and Willow are so afraid of what they might do that their punishments play on their fears not only for themselves, but those they could hurt and they end up being both perpetrator and victim at the same time.

        These two factors in the episode - the results of Willow's combination of grief and guilt and Spike's malfunctioning chip (detriggering to come at a later point) - bring another tie to the title. There's the transformation into Warren as a self-defined representation of punishment for Willow's emotions that could take over her completely. Then there is also the physical reality of the chip firing, a technological bomb in Spike's brain. So, another potential tie to 'The Killer in Me' can be made and connected to that sense of what is limiting their potential as these inner issues become externally 'visible' when their danger manifests outwardly.
        Ha, that's really good. I didn't think of the chip as an actual 'killer' in Spike. I really like your lists of all the times characters seek to 'know' things and how uncertainty plays into what Willow and Spike feel.

        But, how sure can we be of the things we know and what we remember? As we've discussed before, memory is a tricky thing and isn't reliable. How we process now what we have experienced in the past is also influenced by the context of the present. And of course, the original memory itself will have been influenced by our reaction and interpretation to events at the time too. How we then look to gain a sense of surety about something isn't necessarily easy. Checking and consulting, gathering resources and opinions tends to be automatic ways we'll look to build confidence...Considering how the truth is queried works well when we're so often looking at hidden elements, uncertainties and dangers.
        Yes, and we have to distinguish 'false' knowledge from real. Something that the characters in season seven have to grapple with because of the First. How can you tell if it's really Spike in front of you or it's the First? Since the First 'knows' all of Spike's memories, is he in some ways really Spike because he has all of Spike's memories? Maybe the terrible parts of Spike (or Buffy) that they don't want to face? Trying to define who they are when the First wears their faces and can mimic their past is a metaphor for the distance they feel from knowing themselves.

        The repeated influence and use of the senses alongside considering the reliability of information and questioning the truth, made me wonder if there is a hierarchy that we naturally give to our senses. So, I had a very brief Google search around the idea, both as a scientific question, as well as a philosophical one. I can't emphasise enough the significance of 'brief' here. If anyone has previously covered such an idea and I'm failing to recollect that, I apologise and anyone with relevant knowledge please feel free to correct or expand.
        What you've said about the senses is everything that I've read too. As you said, different cultures prize certain senses above others so that some have a more acute sense of smell or touch than Western culture. I imagine that witches, slayers and vampires have even stronger senses. Human senses are weaker than most animals because we have the intelligence to read our environment without certain heightened senses. Physical abilities through evolution match their environment.

        The impact to adding in additional elements that are 'sensed' can make experiences even more powerful. Taking Dawn's experience in CWDP for example, it was one that was incredible intense. Her perception at the time that it could have been her mum delivering her a warning, to protect her, is going to be greatly affected by how she felt emotionally on seeing her mum, on hearing her, as well as the experience of fighting back against dark forces to be able to 'win' that chance. Even though she couldn't touch her, the memory's intensity is amplified because of the numerous sensory elements of the experience and the physical nature of the fight adding to her perception it could be genuine and not a mere illusion. It's harder for her to dismiss.
        Yes, our brains are wired to believe things that aren't true to increase our ability to survive. I think the First plays on that very human trait. I like how you show that memory isn't just subjective but based on sensory experience that can trick us into believing something is true when it isn't.

        As we're considering a supernatural world where uncertainty and hidden elements 'under the surface' are often features and where problems can be represented as literal metaphors to face and fight, I found the idea that a specific hierarchy is certainly becoming more questioned, and in particular for cultural variations, especially interesting.
        Yes, how do vampires and witches sense things differently from others? And slayers, too? It's like Spiderman's 'spidey' sense that allows him to know when something is threatening him or someone else.

        Another factor that works with the revelations and progressions in the episode, is the use of light. Symbolically, light is used in the series repeatedly. Most obviously in a traditional symbolic representation: light and dark for good and bad. There are many times when life and death are emphasised by the use of light and dark colours too. But the use of light and dark colours can also be applied symbolically in respect of knowledge. As knowledge is often represented as light, the absence of light and darker hues can contrast as lacking awareness and being shut away from knowledge. This contrast even has well worn phrases based on it. Such as, 'shedding light on the situation'. Or, in opposition, 'being kept in the dark'. Consequently, the primarily muted and darker tones of the episode works well with the theme of knowledge and perhaps meets a visual idea of being constrained and limited.
        Yes, and it can also mean that senses are heightened because you have to reach out more through hearing and touch and that ends up sharpening the senses as your body tries to seek out what's hiding in the dark.

        It's interesting that a subtle emphasis is put on the slight distancing between Buffy and Giles at this point. As he questions if they'll be all right and Dawn points out it is only two days, Buffy responds that they've managed a bit longer than that. As he continues to fuss SMG gives a really subtle visual response as she calmly continues to sip her drink that seems to suggest there's some mild disbelief at him choosing to fret so much on this occasion. I have to say, the reaction isn't something noted in the transcripts or shooting script, so it is very much just my reading of the moment. But it pairs against her comment of them having coped before to be an interesting touch I think.
        I always felt that Buffy was having conflict with Giles long before Lies My Parents Told Me. In season six, Giles left because he wanted Buffy to be her own leader and now he's come back in a kind of patronizing way to 'take' over the training of the Potentials. It must remind Buffy of all the other ways in which Giles failed her and maybe she's seeing the Potentials as past versions of herself which ties into the memory theme that you talked about.

        Looking at SMG's annoyance, I think the whole scene was probably filmed or cut during the filming. Whether the cutting of past issues was maybe cut for time or it dragged, we still see her unhappiness with Giles that seems to come more from the cut lines than anything happening on screen.

        Of course, it's also meant to be a premonition that Giles might be the First, but they don't know that yet.

        As another quick, random observation, although they talk about Kennedy supposedly having the flu, I think SMG sounds a little croaky in that opening scene and I half expected them to say she was unwell too.
        She's croaky through the next three episodes, so I think she probably had a really bad winter cold. I think it would have been better if they had incorporated that into the plot since it's obvious she's not well.

        As Giles goes, we move down to the basement with Buffy and find Spike, sat on the cot, wrists manacled and chained to the wall. In one of those shooting script shifts here they cut Buffy telling Spike, unconvincingly, that Giles said to say goodbye and his sarcastic response that he's sure Giles will miss him ever so. As it aired, Spike's remark that it gives them all a chance for a breather followed by Buffy questioning if he means from Giles, gives another more subtle nod to the tensions under the surface between Giles and Buffy. Cutting it leaves out drawing attention to the potential clash between Giles and Spike for now and keeps the emphasis on his hyper awareness of the potentials, or perhaps his personal sense of separation from others alongside a solidarity with Buffy, all of which the conversation will go on to cover anyway.
        I wonder if they felt that they were giving too much away about what was to come. Or maybe it made Buffy/Spike sound too harsh or took away from her struggle to reconcile her relationship with the new people in her home.

        The chat between Buffy and Spike starts by acknowledging the effect on Buffy of all the potentials having invaded her home. She talks of the responsibilities of being mentor, role model and life guide. We've already seen getting rest is difficult and Buffy has had points of exhaustion with the weight of everything pressing on her. Her home has been invaded by The First, but also by the potentials. The home as your 'safe space' is totally up in the air this season and whilst everyone is leaving Buffy has in many ways escaped to the basement as much as Spike has.
        I like how you point out that the potentials and Spike relate to two different aspects of herself. One is about leadership and becoming a role model and the potentials lay all over the upstairs part of the house in a messy state, waiting for Buffy to bring them together as a fighting force. In the downstairs part of the house, Spike is chained in the basement in a similar messy state, waiting for Buffy to help him reconcile the gap between his old soulless demon and his souled self. They're two different sides of Buffy because she has to control them in two different ways.

        So, it's understandable that he doesn't want to ignore the risk of the trigger. But is it fair to expect Buffy to be responsible for watching him if he's unchained? Is it an unfair imposition? In a way, yes, because he's adding himself to the list of responsibilities that Buffy has and being his support and safety net is yet another role in her long list. But in another respect, she has chosen to bring him into the home knowing that he has this trigger controlled by the big bad and can see that he is fearful of the chance it will be activated against his will again. So, in opting to offer him a roof it does feel like she is willingly taking on some responsibility to making sure he isn't a threat. But, still, Buffy does seem rightly disturbed by Spike's suggestion that this is the way it has to be for an uncertain duration of time. Perhaps it is the implication of her as his handler, with him being on a leash, like he's an unpredictable pet dog that needs further training.
        I think it's a lot like her handling of Angel when he came back from the Hell dimension and he was also chained up. Her fears not only for the vampire she cares about but also knowing how dangerous he is and how her friends will react if they knew how close they were becoming again. Buffy always seems to keep her vampires close as if they were her dark little secret. It's this that worries Giles and probably widens the gap between them.

        I think this also connects later to Kennedy and how she lies about her illness so she can get out of potential duty and follow personal feelings. I wish they had made more parallels between Kennedy and Buffy's old behavior patterns.

        One of the shooting script shifts happens here when Buffy and Willow talk about the chip. Originally, when Buffy raises the chip and Willow makes the connection to the chip firing, she starts to ask if Spike tried to do anything, which Buffy quickly assures her he didn't and they move on to considering something is wrong with the chip itself.
        Willow's question almost feels like it's about the AR again. Just like Angel and Jenny, Buffy's friends have trouble seeing Spike in any other way afterwards. That could also be one of the reasons they cut it.

        As the scenes interchange between Willow and Kennedy and the progressing of the situation around the chip with Buffy and Spike, we see Willow relaxing and starting to enjoy her time with Kennedy and liking the attention. Although Kennedy's assertions of the things they have in common brings the lack of knowledge she has about Willow to the fore instead, her wish for them to share details of their pasts and her talking about what she sees in Willow here and now, why she is drawn to her, stands out. She is even just direct about magic seeming like, 'fairy tale crap' to her. Overall, it feels like they are starting to build some genuine foundations honestly. It is still hard to love the pairing though, as Kennedy's pushiness with Willow initially and her confidence here just emphasises Willow's uncertainty and, it seems, at this point, only questionable interest.
        I also find it hard to love the pairing because Kennedy seems so controlling. She's willing to lie to spend time with Willow. It's supposed to be romantic and like Buffy in her youth, I guess, but it comes off more duplicitous than it should because Willow is in such a fragile state. If Willow were more forceful, then they could have been seen as equals. But instead, it has a negative vibe to it. It's the complete opposite of Spike and Buffy as she tries to allow Spike the autonomy to be himself without both of them lying to each other anymore. Instead, there's a real sense of caring between the two that makes their relationship this season so real.

        Buffy's suggestion that it could be related to the trigger or soul is soon undercut by Spike's line that perhaps he just, 'wasn't meant to last this long'. This is something that he uses as a casual reference to both of them surviving past the time they perhaps should have had. American Aurora talked about the disconnection from time that vampires feel in her review of FFL, and this would still be true even when souled. But the connection to the living that Buffy brings both Spike and Angel gives them a sense of time and the transitory experience of life more through her mortality than they would have themselves. The weight of shared experiences that has come from having both experienced death and resurrection, is now added to through the return of his soul too. This moment underlines that Spike feels understood by Buffy, feels connected to her, but perhaps also that he is considering that whatever is happening to him with the chip could finally prove fatal and he's feeling the weight of the time he has had differently.
        This connects to what you said earlier about memory and how we see our lives. Spike sees his life as over. He's getting what he deserves. But the reason Buffy has lived so long is that she refuses to believe in prophesies and doom and gloom. Buffy looks at the long history of slayers in time like in Get it Done and says no.

        As the chip is intended to work on short sharp shocks of pain that incapacitate an attacking vampire, there is perhaps the potential that's Spike's soul and actions when triggered have generated a constant sense of guilt that has somewhat led to the deterioration in the chip as the emotional impact does affect it. Eventually resulting in it continuously firing.
        That's a great idea. If the chip works because Spike hurts someone, then maybe his private definition of hurt has changed. And so the chip is confused and starts to malfunction.

        We join back where the action left Willow and Kennedy, and watch Willow realise that it is a visible change Kennedy is reacting to. I really like the flow from Willow's disbelief in seeing herself to everyone else's when she enters the living room. It's excellently done and the mix up of verbal and physical interactions and repetitions that seek to gain understanding and reassurance scattered chaotically over it all is great. The distrust, fear, anger and disbelief are all understandable and it takes a little time for things to calm down and everyone to be communicating successfully. I love Andrew's initial reaction and then switch. What is holding him back in not facing his choices is lightly touched on here and thematically appropriate for the episode, but it won't be dealt with yet.
        The reactions to Willow's transformation are perfect. Everyone has their own feelings towards Warren that reflect how he was the Big Bad to some people, the Little Bad to other people and a potential love interest for Andrew.

        In the shooting script, Buffy rushes quickly over to Spike at the moment that Willow comments on her already having her hands full. In the aired episode she turns to him but stays with Willow until she goes to leave moments later. I don't think they needed to make more of Buffy being torn and these two events as incompatible to deal with as a group that the scene hadn't already made clear. They also cut a few lines of Spike being very openly hostile when everyone gathered around him, clearly not liking being stared at. Perhaps they felt it was too aggressive towards the group when he is still greatly on the outskirts and at the moment the general withdrawal and focus on Buffy works better than outward hostility. But as aired it does miss the repeated emphasis to there being a very personal element to what is happening here for him too. Perhaps it was felt that Willow's reaction and withdrawal underlined that across the situations enough.
        I like Buffy's torn reaction between the two. Spike's outburst there would probably have taken away too much from Willow's immediate problem, but I agree that we needed the group to pay more attention to Spike as well.

        Do you think this comes into play later in the next episode First Date when Buffy's attention is also divided between a wounded Xander and a wounded Spike? It seems like Buffy is constantly having to go back and forth between her daylight friends and her vampire friend because they have different needs and represent two different parts of her life.

        I think Willow has been very quiet for the first half of the season and this episode not only brings up what's going on internally with her, but allows her to finally realize some important things about herself that she's previously suppressed. Not since Gnarl has she had to deal with what happened with Warren and this brings up all those feelings that she's not worthy, that she's not being seen (which ties into what you said about the episode's emphasis on 'seeing') and she's not sure that she can come back from what she did.

        So, the focus for both Spike and Willow, neither of whom can fix this for themselves, becomes about trying to access help and both go to look into it with an individual in tow. Kennedy and Buffy are trying to appear quite casual about the choice to tag along, but clearly are both doing so out of concern. For Spike and Willow, the relevance of their pasts is emphasised again as we venture back into the Initiative and go back to see the campus Wiccans.
        I love that we see Spike and Willow go back to their past as they try to find the solution to their problems, accompanied by people who care for them.

        I agree that Spike probably has very fuzzy memories of his time in the Initiative and he's gotten a lot of memories wrong. I remember that he was mumbling to himself when he's first coming to in the Initiative about Buffy and maybe he was having memory lapses that only came back to him in the years afterwards. Or in dreams. It could also be false memories like you say.

        We see Amy present herself as someone that has looked inwardly and changed. She even apologises for the past but without any specifics, just an acknowledgment of hitting rock bottom and then reliving all the crappy things you did. This seems plausible at this point. Even in line with the experiences we are seeing others go through in the season where revisits to the past are used as lessons to inform the present and move them forwards. As Amy goes to try to help Willow break the 'glamour' there's no reason to suspect her involvement. However, with the emphasis on touch when testing what is known in the episode, I like that her hands are held underneath Willow's but separate. That distance is maintained alongside the illusion that she's helping.
        Yes, I like how Amy is the foil to both Willow and Spike. She's what everyone fears they are. She looks good and sounds good, but underneath, Amy is still scheming and plotting against those that she feels wronged her. I never noticed that Amy doesn't touch Willow when testing her, but it makes perfect sense that she's unable to make real contact with her.

        As Andrew is slowly starting to integrate himself, seeing similarities is a good way of bringing out moments that could feasibly work to reduce barriers somewhat naturally. Andrew plays as an interesting contrast to Amy in this episode and although he has to face up to the actions he's taken still, his overall wish is to lose the part of antagonist and get to tag along too. There is a feeling of past regrets rather than the burning resentment that Amy feels. Buffy's comment in Potential that Andrew is like a mushroom that picks up evil's flavour if he gets close suggests an opposite effect can be happening and emphasis goes again to connections in the present.
        That is such a funny line. But it's meaningful in how it reflects on Spike and Willow. Drawn to evil, they still have a chance to redeem themselves and Andrew is a different kind of foil who shows the process from bad to good.

        And it is here that we have the clear indicator that the issue plaguing Willow is not guilt from killing Warren as she suggested originally at Revello,

        "It's not a trick, it's not a glamour. I'm becoming him. A murderous, misogynist man. I mean, do you understand what he did? What I could do? I killed him for a reason."
        It's directly after this that she starts shutting down further from Kennedy, dismissing her chances of helping verbally and then physically. I do think there's a good argument that some degree of wanting to warn and protect Kennedy plays a part here in what Willow says. But there are potentially many factors influencing her as a fear of getting close to anyone, insecurities about her power, and self-judgment on top of the guilt and grief that is driving her could all be roiling together and leading her to push away. There's a lot to fear facing layered here and the barrier that Willow fiercely throws up stopping Kennedy following heads her back to her self-isolating response mechanism, similar to her withdrawal in STSP. It blocks the clear connection to the present, which leaves her engulfed in the emotions feeding the hex that ties to the past, and she starts to sink more into 'becoming' Warren.
        I think that Willow 'becoming' Warren is ironic because Warren is both villain and victim in Willow's mind. A lot like herself. Warren's reasons for villainy were a lot like Willow's too. They were both bullied in school and felt unloved and unwanted. And they both created bots to love them. Warren created April and Willow 'created' Tara when she changed her memories.

        As Willow becomes overwhelmed and sinks to the ground in an alley, stricken by how things are going, it is the moment of a more marked shift. When she looks up as Warren and berates herself, "Look at me. Crying like a little girl," before walking off with purpose, this isn't a brief flash like the anger and slap. This is a more distinct shift to being/speaking/acting as Warren as it doesn't instantly break.
        I think that this is a metaphor for Willow's fears that she was closer to Warren than she actually was. Warren had traits that were totally different from Willow. He actively hated women in a way that Willow never did. He was often cruel in a way that Willow never was except in her most emotionally darkest moments. Willow was a villain, but her actions stemmed from different emotional needs and attitudes towards the world. They both were arrogant, but Warren was naturally psychopathic in his obsessions and dismissal of people as human beings in a way that Willow was not. But maybe she fears that she actually was.

        It's neat that there is the focus on sound in the scene directly before with Spike and Buffy hearing a noise in The Initiative, just before Amy tries to warp her own interactions in the present in claiming she heard Kennedy say she was a potential slayer when they arrived.
        That is neat. I never noticed that before!

        But it's a false assertion that Kennedy calls her out on. She's certain that's not how Amy knows who Kennedy is. Amy's, "Oops" is clearly an omission that she's been caught out here. We just don't know at this point what for exactly. But, with their history, the impression Amy has been tracking/watching Willow in some way, coupled with the change in her demeanour, makes it clear this isn't a friendly gaffe.
        Amy's 'Oops' is as psychopathic as Warren's attitude towards people. Because of her tragic background, she doesn't seem able to see people as anything other than extensions of herself, as things to be played with. Which is what Dark Willow and Soulless Spike were like.

        The scene with Willow in the shop that closes this Act, is one of the only times when light is used significantly outside of the 'illuminating' moments in the two main storylines to come. I think it actually adds to the sense of uncertainty here, and tension over what is happening as the artificial light of the fluorescent display shines on Willow as Warren, as the acting out the past fully begins when 'Warren' goes to buy a gun from the same shop he bought from in S6. The use of light on that moment adds potential weight to the worry of whether this is now reality and truth being presented. Has Willow fully switched? Yet, as she stands and speaks to the shopkeeper, it is again Willow we see and the chance this isn't quite over yet remains.
        I love your connections to light and dark as meaningful metaphors for clarity and confusion. The division between them makes it hard to tell whether Willow has totally gone over to the dark side yet.

        I can see some symbolic meaning in Spike and Buffy being able to re-enter The Initiative. Turning away from the past and possibly not even thinking about it doesn't remove its presence beneath you, acting as a foundation for where you are now. Obviously, we can see that the orders to fill The Initiative with concrete were not executed. So, like when the group returned to the blown up high school, it is a place of the past that can be literally revisited where some of the evidence of their history is still strewn throughout it. On top of that, what is down there isn't even dead. Even if it was closed off in a way that somewhat tried to bury it.
        I wonder who left the Initiative untouched. Was there a secret government working alongside the open government that no one was aware of? The mystery of who was really running the Initiative and who Riley was really working for has never really been answered.

        I love your great comparison of the Initiative with the High School as an example of how the past is never dead. It's really spooky when Buffy and Spike walk with their small little light. Almost like dungeon crawling from a video game. But you're right that they're really exploring Spike's interior mind and his searching the past for clues to who he is.
        I had to look up 'Ghost' as a travel game, it isn't one I've come across before (but I'm going to give it a try now. ) Clearly, the name of the game is very appropriate in consideration of what is haunting the characters from the past and in wondering if they'll find that Giles has been killed. But also that element of building on each other's moves and playing as a family group underlines Andrew's wish to be a part of things in a cohesive way. Everyone else is distracted in thinking about what they might be driving towards.
        I agree that playing games makes for a tighter group. In my work, we had similar kinds of exercises to create a sense of teamwork. Even though they're all worried about what's to come, Andrew wants to be part of the team and tries to develop strategies to incorporate himself.

        With no hidden truth or significant importance to the moment, Giles is as he ever was, there isn't the illumination that will be included in the other two plotlines. Instead, the whole journey serves more to draw Andrew into the group a bit further and provide a lighter moment, which emphasises the affection held between the main characters. It also perhaps underlines the responsibility that has been taken on and the roles everyone is playing, even if it is within a comedic line about the abuse of power that could occur in such situations. I'll leave you to decide how funny you do/don't find that one.
        I really like the idea that Giles never reacts to their fears. It shows that he is unwilling to change or look inside at this point and leads to his actions behind Buffy's back in the episodes to come. But Andrew is coming into his own here despite being stubbornly annoying. He is starting to become one of the gang, someone they can trust and depend on. I also find him very funny and kind of sad. He reminds me of a relative I knew who just never fit in anywhere and always said awkward things.

        Buffy of course finds and defeats the demon and recovers Spike, but he's clearly struggling even more from the effects of the chip firing, making no attempt to get up and hardly able to talk. It's now that we have the flooding of light on the situation as the people that can help arrive and bring full knowledge of 'behavioural modification software through the ages,' as well as the military medical expertise to investigate the chip. Obviously, the connections to the past that Buffy tried to call on did bear fruit (even if no flowers. ). A team of soldiers have been delivered to her to provide any help she needs for, "ass-face."
        The name 'ass-face' is very Riley. Even when he's married and happy at his work and is even willing to help Spike, he has to make sure that Buffy knows what he thinks of him. It's all part of the macho war between Riley and his rival. He even instructs the subordinate to say 'ass-face' and Hostile 17 instead of 'Spike'.

        Still, he's willing to help Spike, which is something.

        Should we be surprised that Riley defers this decision to Buffy? Does Riley even know that Spike has a soul? Is Riley working on the basis Spike won't be conscious or able to play a part in the decision? These aren't considerations that are even nodded to here as the choice is just placed at Buffy's feet, to be made with whatever contextual considerations she brings. On one level, as the Slayer, it is Buffy's role to decide on the fate of the vampires and demons she encounters. But this situation isn't that straightforward. Whatever he does or doesn't know about Spike, Riley does know that much. It isn't surprising that Riley doesn't seem to be allowing for Spike's involvement in the choice, likely still believing in the chip himself, but there is a degree of respect being shown here to Buffy I think. Possibly seeing that Buffy will be better informed than him in terms of the threats they are facing and how Spike may be helping. But, at the least, that he understands that the decision will most likely personally affect her too. If so, the latter stands as an interesting contrast to Giles' perspective to come.
        I think that Riley always respected Buffy even when he was angry with her and felt that Spike in some ways was Buffy's 'project' just like he was Walsh's 'project' with the Initiative. He doesn't really see Spike as human, so I think he can't conceive of giving Spike the free will to make his own choice.

        Buffy's position here is somewhat like a next of kin being approached in the hospital waiting room. The situation is creating a need for someone else to make the choices as they have to be made now. With their personal history it is realistic to think Spike would nominate Buffy in this situation, if he could. Since returning Spike has somewhat placed himself at Buffy's mercy, offering his help and asking for hers. Spike's belief in Buffy's judgement has been starting to give him belief in himself. So, considering Spike would be comfortable with Buffy being given the only vote here seems highly probable.
        I think that the first thing Spike would do if asked that question is say no. I don't even think he'd want to give her the vote. Does Buffy believe this? I think so. That makes her decision even more meaningful. She knows Spike better than he knows himself.

        I think from Buffy's perspective, as she pressed with Angel when he was feeling suicidal in Amends, ultimately she believes in fighting. The chip stops Spike's self-governance and feeds into his doubts. It sits beside the trigger that has him thinking in terms of himself as needing leashing. Buffy can sees both the trigger and the chip stop him moving forwards, being totally in control and able to find out who he can be now. But if he can be trusted now he's souled, the chip simply is irrelevant. So, for Buffy, the choice over the chip just comes down to how much she really does believe in him.
        I agree that it's all about Buffy believing in Spike. I know that some people point out that Spike has a trigger (like Giles) and what Buffy does is crazy. But since Spike kills anyway when he has the chip, it almost seems like a pointless argument that is really about Buffy's judgment rather that Spike himself. How long should Spike and Willow pay for their crimes? How long should their punishment last and is there any way that they can be redeemed or forgiven?

        Willow's assumption that she had done this to herself is partly correct. In putting a hex on Willow that ties to 'penance', there has to be a link to something that Willow herself feels she should be punished for. A perceived wrongdoing she feels remorse for. This belief in the appropriateness of being punished for it then becomes self-fulfilled. But there is that malicious element woven in that takes it beyond Willow's sense of self-punishment, as Amy has placed this hex on her out of jealousy and spite. Even if Willow's own subconscious is determining that literally turning her into Warren completes the duplicated murder of Tara, there's no escaping that Amy has put magical fuel in the mix which is prompting this inner turmoil to become an outwardly expressed reality.
        I think Amy is a lot like Giles in his attitude towards Spike. There's no sense of a belief in redemption. There's just a lot of anger and jealousy that someone is getting the attention that they felt they deserved (for different reasons, of course.) But unlike Giles, who is also worried about the safety and well-being of the others and tries to have Spike killed due to a sense of moral compulsion, Amy is plotting to harm Willow solely because of personal hurt.

        The idea that Amy is as bound up in jealousy over Willow's friendships as she is over Willow's power works well to the theme of connections and how Amy was pushed away in Season 6. After years of being trapped as a rat with Willow failing to return her to her human form, Amy's sudden return in Season 6 clearly was potentially traumatic. The descent she had into darker magic possibly in large part a coping mechanism for her too. In addition, as we saw with Willow's occasional morally questionable use of magic earlier in the series, Amy also gave indications of a developing careless and questionable attitude to magic and the misuse of such power in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. The idea she already knew Rack is not implausible. But, as someone who was misusing magic on a far less dramatic and apocalyptic level than Willow eventually walked, her resentment at feeling pushed away for being a bad influence works well. It is just a shame that Amy's path wasn't linked in more with Willow's this season I think and her story is dropped from here until the comics.
        It really works, too. Willow feels she should be punished and maybe even her former treatment of Amy as a pet rat feeds into her guilt that she deserves everything she's getting. Amy is also resentful that Willow turned her back on magic for a time and then suddenly decided to destroy the world in a way that Amy would never have the power or willingness to do. But Willow is forgiven and Amy is still kind of an outcast on the fringes of the Scooby Gang. It's not fair in Amy's mind and she's going to make sure that Willow gets payback.

        It isn't that Amy can't necessarily break the hex, but she won't and her claim that the hex was just a game, that it isn't her fault if Willow is losing herself, brings the focus back onto the whys of the punishment that Willow's subconscious created. At this point, when we're going to examine and reveal the underlying issue, we have that timeframe shift that brings things out in the 'light of day' and our other moment of illumination. As Kennedy finds herself magically zapped into the yard of Revello, standing where Buffy stood when Warren came to shoot her and ended up killing Tara, the time shift also works for the sense of replaying the shooting in Seeing Red.
        Yes. It's the worst moment of Willow's life so far and she has to act it all out in the 'light of day' instead of a dark murky memory. Amy is making her relive that day as the person who killed her lover. It's really a terrible hex instead of a 'game' like Andrew's wild car ride.

        Almost immediately, Willow strides into the garden, armed, accusing Kennedy in Buffy's place, "You think you can just do that to me? That I'd let you get away with it?" But the re-enactment is then broken, because Kennedy has a personal relationship with Willow and knows some of what is happening to her, so she instantly starts to try to unpick it and work out what is driving Willow's actions. She looks to calm her and reconnect with her.
        I know that this scene should have made me feel good about Kennedy, but I felt again that she was too much in control. I would have liked the scene better if Kennedy had a softer, more quiet reaction as she realized what Willow was going through.

        As Willow's words spasm between herself and Warren she reveals the real source of her guilt. The sense that in kissing Kennedy she forgot about Tara, and, even as brief as it was, that this step in moving on 'killed' Tara. The accusations that she flings at Kennedy, are in truth also, if not mostly, directed at herself too. We can see then, that Warren works as a representation of both a misogynist that can resent females sexually for the fear that Willow holds towards her own ongoing sexual desires, the possibility of moving on, as well as for the literal murder of Tara Willow feels forgetting her duplicated.
        I can see that. Willow's guilt isn't just about betraying Tara, but also about her own sexual desires and how she's repressed them after Tara's death. Being Warren would also make her feel even more guilty because she's taking on his homophobia and misogyny and self-hatred that rivals her own.

        There is something missing in the execution in this scene for me personally. I just don't get the feels from the emotional outpouring to Tara. Contradictorily, as the changes between Willow and Warren that build through the episode is generally one of my favourite parts of it, I think it is possibly the switch between Willow/Warren verbally and visually at this point that negatively impacts my connection to that fragment of the scene calling out in grief and guilt. I do still appreciate the culmination of what Willow has gone through and the meaning within it all, even if I'm not as emotionally hit by the moment as I think they want me to be.
        I wish I felt more for the two during this scene, but I think that the character of Kennedy wasn't written well enough for me to really feel her sympathy for Willow's problem. My problem is that the death of Tara wasn't dealt with enough that I felt Willow could move on.

        Our social justice system works on punishment and rehabilitation. This doesn't necessarily facilitate forgiveness or aid self-forgiveness. In the supernatural world BtVS operates in, punishment for villains if often harsh, even pre-emptive. It stands out distinctly against the 'good' characters we follow who sometimes commit awful acts, even break laws, and don't face typical punishment. I like that Amy raises this sense of injustice in the episode and we can be left wondering if in taking Warren's life Willow already had 'become Warren'. She clearly doesn't regret the choice and so a moral question of redemption and judgment is layered in. This then relates back to the potential people have and the choice to change. If it is the abuse of her power, in and of itself, which Willow is facing, is it okay that she doesn't regret killing someone? Does it only matter how she uses her power going forwards and that she remains in control? Similarly for Spike, even though souled he didn't choose to commit the acts he did soulless, if what matters is his own internal control and choices which distinguish him from his past, and this is why his self-governance is key, is it okay to access the drives that were revelled in as a killer to use them under a banner for good? If they are both so insecure about the power they hold, can their control truly be sufficient and relied on?
        The punishment in Buffy is very pre-modern to me. Everyone is judged very quickly without a lot of thought depending on whether they're human or demon. What I like is how the characters grow out of that very medieval world view and realize that the world is created in shades of grey. Even with demons. It's hard to imagine Buffy being buddies with Clem earlier in the series like she is in season seven.

        Your thought about Willow already becoming Warren is really interesting. I think that both Willow and Warren are villains and victims of society and you can understand how Willow would also take on the psychopathic qualities of Warren after becoming Dark Willow. But there's also the point that Willow doesn't regret taking Warren's life even after being just Willow again that compares with Spike's attitude about Nikki Wood. I know that a lot of fans don't like this, but I think the show is being realistic about personal attitudes towards justice and guilt. Many warriors may feel terrible that they had to kill their rival, but that doesn't mean that they felt guilty about it. As Spike says, she was a slayer and he was a vampire. That's just the way it was. It's the way many Americans feel about the bombing of cities in World War II.

        Then again, what about the people left behind like Robin Wood who suffer the consequences? What about Willow's family and friends and even rivals like Amy? Do they have the right to inflict the same kind of justice on Willow and Spike for their murders?

        What often separates the bad guys and the good guys are their intentions though and what is seen in their responses to their pasts. This is perhaps why the story focus gives a different tone to those working on redemption and self-improvement and looks at the motivations behind their choices. In this way, Amy gives contrast as she's still stuck in the same negative cycle and the impression of self-reflection she initially gave, was an illusion. The emphasis on how people feel about themselves and how they can be impacted by others, weakened or strengthened by them, is definitely key. Willow and Spike's connections with their pasts touches to the themes of guilt, and desires for judgement and punishment and their current connections greatly impact their ability to move on from what is holding them back. Both Kennedy and Buffy's understanding, brings forgiveness and empowerment in the face of the struggles. The worth seen by others helps fuel their belief they can succeed. Events of the past are significant in how we respond to situations, but so are the connections with others and interactions in the present, and together they feed into the potential seen for the future.
        I agree that it's not just actions, but choices that make us the way we are. Amy and Wood are stuck in a cycle of revenge that doesn't allow them to move forward. We see Willow and Spike kind of unrepentant, but also trying to move forward and accept the moral ramifications of what they did and how it affected others.

        So in the final act, the episode finishes with a sense of relief from the group's desert quest, with a question mark over Buffy's choice regarding the chip, and with this sense of hope for Willow to be able to grieve but also live. The focus is definitely on connections and support. Yet there were also small hints at some points of disquiet gently brought in too. When we then consider the AtS episode that aired the day after, Soulless, this perhaps adds to those hints in nudging at what may be to come. The significance of 'light', the past, people's connections, knowledge and what is inside being revealed, all continues to be reflected in Soulless. But this episode also drew my attention to the power of words as a reoccurring theme that could be applied to both episodes and the importance of support against separation. The duplicated fear of the danger within is proven wrong with Giles, but the evil that truly has infiltrated the fang gang still is currently unseen. And as Angel, now unsouled, begins to try to undermine and manipulate the group, truth bombing and stirring trouble, this provides a clear contrast to the effect of empowering that BtVS is currently focussing on. It is interesting then to consider how the switch in Angel, souled to soulless, highlights how different perspectives can view the same things and respond in very different ways and for how connections can be used to weaken and challenge as well as strengthen and empower. Fractures may start to follow as dissent appears more clearly in BtVS too...
        I don't remember the episode that well, but I do remember Angelus taunting the others and going through their past actions to attack them in the same way that the First does in Buffy. I can see how this connects to The Killer in Me. I think that you're right in saying that Angel's switch from his souled to his unsouled self points out many of the same issues and the same fractures of important connections that are already showing in season seven and will finally erupt in Buffy when her own friends and family throw her out of the house.

        Stoney, I really enjoyed your review. A lot to think about. I never thought The Killer in Me was that important of an episode, but you've really made me think about it in a very positive way and I really want to watch it again now!

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Tiny Tabby View Post
          I hadn't thought of that before. Both are helpless like their former victims and suffer in a similar way. Spike and Willow are so afraid of what they might do that their punishments play on their fears not only for themselves, but those they could hurt and they end up being both perpetrator and victim at the same time.
          I really like this, it is a great way to think of it.

          Yes, and we have to distinguish 'false' knowledge from real. Something that the characters in season seven have to grapple with because of the First. How can you tell if it's really Spike in front of you or it's the First? Since the First 'knows' all of Spike's memories, is he in some ways really Spike because he has all of Spike's memories? Maybe the terrible parts of Spike (or Buffy) that they don't want to face? Trying to define who they are when the First wears their faces and can mimic their past is a metaphor for the distance they feel from knowing themselves.
          This is excellent. I'd not considered how much it must feel like another invasion when The First can not only present itself as you but plague you with its knowledge of you internally at the same time as its external image is your own. It makes its barbs hit home so much more effectively when it can use some truth mixed in.

          Yes, our brains are wired to believe things that aren't true to increase our ability to survive. I think the First plays on that very human trait. I like how you show that memory isn't just subjective but based on sensory experience that can trick us into believing something is true when it isn't.
          Such a difficult thing to deal with against The First who tries to plague the characters with these false images and truths. It throws so much more uncertainty at everything when the very senses that you instinctively use to add validity to what you know can be giving you incorrect details. I really like the element of Dawn's uncertainty over her own experience in CWDP in this way, and how that niggling doubt can be playing into her actions and choices through the season.

          Yes, how do vampires and witches sense things differently from others? And slayers, too? It's like Spiderman's 'spidey' sense that allows him to know when something is threatening him or someone else.
          That's such a great point, that in addition, we have the amplified and specific supernatural senses at play. And you make such a fantastic point about the increased reliance on the senses, that goes with limited visual light.

          I always felt that Buffy was having conflict with Giles long before Lies My Parents Told Me. In season six, Giles left because he wanted Buffy to be her own leader and now he's come back in a kind of patronizing way to 'take' over the training of the Potentials. It must remind Buffy of all the other ways in which Giles failed her and maybe she's seeing the Potentials as past versions of herself which ties into the memory theme that you talked about.
          Considering how strange it must be to see Giles' interactions with the potentials is excellent. When we think back to when Kendra arrived - she showed such knowledge of the handbook and it flared Buffy's insecurities and an almost sibling jealousy over Giles' attention. How Buffy'll feel about the dynamic between them all now is already complex as it includes the context of the past abandonment by Giles alongside the grappling with a shared position of authority with the potentials. That it is all an invasion into her personal space and pressured expectations on her will definitely have raised tension from the get go too.

          She's croaky through the next three episodes, so I think she probably had a really bad winter cold. I think it would have been better if they had incorporated that into the plot since it's obvious she's not well.
          I'll be looking out for that now. It is surprising they didn't just add in a throwaway line as it is noticeable. Perhaps they didn't want to make it seem like it might be a plot point.

          I wonder if they felt that they were giving too much away about what was to come. Or maybe it made Buffy/Spike sound too harsh or took away from her struggle to reconcile her relationship with the new people in her home.
          There's certainly scope for a few ways the inclusion could shift the weight and I like your point in particular about how it might have taken focus off Buffy's adjustments with The Potentials.

          I like how you point out that the potentials and Spike relate to two different aspects of herself. One is about leadership and becoming a role model and the potentials lay all over the upstairs part of the house in a messy state, waiting for Buffy to bring them together as a fighting force. In the downstairs part of the house, Spike is chained in the basement in a similar messy state, waiting for Buffy to help him reconcile the gap between his old soulless demon and his souled self. They're two different sides of Buffy because she has to control them in two different ways.
          There really is nowhere for Buffy to escape her responsibilities, the emphasis within her own home makes it stark. There does come that feeling though that she is able to integrate when she goes into the basement, the area of the home that can represent the subconscious, even if it is also full of roles and responsibilities. Her discussing her issues with the potentials in a light hearted way does give a sense of being able to release and relax a little, even though she's still also on duty with the chained up vampire in the basement too.

          I think it's a lot like her handling of Angel when he came back from the Hell dimension and he was also chained up. Her fears not only for the vampire she cares about but also knowing how dangerous he is and how her friends will react if they knew how close they were becoming again. Buffy always seems to keep her vampires close as if they were her dark little secret. It's this that worries Giles and probably widens the gap between them.

          I think this also connects later to Kennedy and how she lies about her illness so she can get out of potential duty and follow personal feelings. I wish they had made more parallels between Kennedy and Buffy's old behavior patterns.
          Neat! I had never thought about the ties between Buffy and Kennedy and relating what Buffy is doing here to her past behaviour and Kennedy's is brilliant.

          Willow's question almost feels like it's about the AR again. Just like Angel and Jenny, Buffy's friends have trouble seeing Spike in any other way afterwards. That could also be one of the reasons they cut it.
          Yes, I took asking if he 'did anything' to be a reference to the attempted rape too. You're right, it would have emphasised the element of her friends struggling to move beyond the past which might have helped pave into Buffy's later separations. She isn't feeling like she has to hide that she is helping Spike, but she is still quite guarded about her personal feelings. Her own uncertainty of course plays into that, but her fears of how everyone will react definitely do too. Great point again that this also ties back to previous experiences.

          I also find it hard to love the pairing because Kennedy seems so controlling. She's willing to lie to spend time with Willow. It's supposed to be romantic and like Buffy in her youth, I guess, but it comes off more duplicitous than it should because Willow is in such a fragile state. If Willow were more forceful, then they could have been seen as equals. But instead, it has a negative vibe to it. It's the complete opposite of Spike and Buffy as she tries to allow Spike the autonomy to be himself without both of them lying to each other anymore. Instead, there's a real sense of caring between the two that makes their relationship this season so real.
          The comparison you bring to Buffy in her youth I think connects to part of why Kennedy's manipulations don't sit well and don't benefit from being contrasted against Spike and Buffy too. Trying to trick Willow and that pushy edge seem a little immature. It possibly is supposed to work with The Potentials as being these younger versions, but we know Kennedy is a bit older. I think perhaps it can be tied to her background though and having to possibly cajole for time and attention through her childhood. She was obviously very privileged in financial terms, but that doesn't mean that she got great examples of social interactions. I think she refers to herself as 'bratty' at least once, and this is a good description. Alongside seeing how everyone else is growing up, it isn't flattering her to seem held back in her dynamics like that.

          I like Buffy's torn reaction between the two. Spike's outburst there would probably have taken away too much from Willow's immediate problem, but I agree that we needed the group to pay more attention to Spike as well.

          Do you think this comes into play later in the next episode First Date when Buffy's attention is also divided between a wounded Xander and a wounded Spike? It seems like Buffy is constantly having to go back and forth between her daylight friends and her vampire friend because they have different needs and represent two different parts of her life.
          I think the cut section shows that Spike wouldn't necessarily want the group to be seeing him weakened and emphasises that what he is going through feels personal too, as it did for Willow when she fled. The underlining of his self conscious response and dislike to being watched that would have been gained by seeing his hostile response to the group gathering around him, would have again been drawing attention perhaps to the possible future splits too much for what they wanted at this stage. Instead, the focus keeps on Willow but, as you say, they also draw attention to Buffy being torn. Excellent catch that this element of Buffy not being able to run in two directions simultaneously is used again.

          I think that Willow 'becoming' Warren is ironic because Warren is both villain and victim in Willow's mind. A lot like herself. Warren's reasons for villainy were a lot like Willow's too. They were both bullied in school and felt unloved and unwanted. And they both created bots to love them. Warren created April and Willow 'created' Tara when she changed her memories.
          This is so good. Considering the ways, even subconsciously, that Willow can relate to Warren and how that might feed into her literal representation of turning into him. That element of being both villain and victim, as you say. And yes, I agree that Willow's fears of how the worst of herself might be like Warren, even though what she did stemmed from very different background emotions, plays a part. Kudos, I really like your ties here.

          Amy's 'Oops' is as psychopathic as Warren's attitude towards people. Because of her tragic background, she doesn't seem able to see people as anything other than extensions of herself, as things to be played with. Which is what Dark Willow and Soulless Spike were like.
          It is an unnerving shift and Elizabeth Anne Allen does the change in tone and demeanour so well. The casual disregard for the effect her 'game' can have and the possible consequences does relate well to the past actions and behaviour of the characters that we're seeing moving forward.

          But Andrew is coming into his own here despite being stubbornly annoying. He is starting to become one of the gang, someone they can trust and depend on. I also find him very funny and kind of sad. He reminds me of a relative I knew who just never fit in anywhere and always said awkward things.
          I think Andrew is definitely a marmite character that you either love or hate. I really like his inclusion and although, considering the things he's done, his integration into the group feels odd, it isn't actually a huge leap from other people's presence in the group. There's Spike and Willow but Anya too, who they are starting to pair Andrew against. As the group's biggest mushroom(!), he is a great example of the external influences on people that can help or hinder.

          I think that Riley always respected Buffy even when he was angry with her and felt that Spike in some ways was Buffy's 'project' just like he was Walsh's 'project' with the Initiative. He doesn't really see Spike as human, so I think he can't conceive of giving Spike the free will to make his own choice.
          It would be interesting to know if that is with or without knowledge of the soul. Of course, Riley would be bringing his own baggage about Angel and Buffy's relationship into his opinion on what difference that does make or not alongside Buffy's connection again to another vampire continuing. I think it is to his credit that he is looking past all of that to some degree in passing over the choices to Buffy. The sense that their relationship has also moved on too works with that. The 'ass-face' touch just brings some of Riley's personality in that makes the glimpse of these relationship moments and shifts have more presence, even in his absence.

          I think that the first thing Spike would do if asked that question is say no. I don't even think he'd want to give her the vote. Does Buffy believe this? I think so. That makes her decision even more meaningful. She knows Spike better than he knows himself.
          This is interesting, do you mean Spike would say no to having the chip removed or no to Buffy making his decisions for him generally if he was incapacitated? I think it is highly likely that his fears of failure and sense that he needs chaining (and punishing) could have led him to say the chip should be repaired. I can see that Spike might not want Buffy to have a say in this particular question, but I think in great part because it tests whether she does see potential in him and he'd fear finding out she'd pull back when the moment came. But generally, if Spike had to choose someone to speak for him in an undetermined medical proxy way, I think he'd defer to Buffy. In that way, it sits alongside Riley's acceptance of her decision, perhaps?

          I do think we saw in Buffy's response to his behaviour and fears right at the beginning of the episode that she sees the danger in the artificial controls and how it holds Spikes back. One of the reasons this episode is one of my favourites of the season is because of the significance of having Spike's chip removed. It is such a big moment for underlining how differently Buffy sees Spike now and the potential for them to move beyond where they had been.

          Yes. It's the worst moment of Willow's life so far and she has to act it all out in the 'light of day' instead of a dark murky memory. Amy is making her relive that day as the person who killed her lover. It's really a terrible hex instead of a 'game' like Andrew's wild car ride.
          Ah, great tie back between Andrew and Amy again, I love that.

          I wish I felt more for the two during this scene, but I think that the character of Kennedy wasn't written well enough for me to really feel her sympathy for Willow's problem. My problem is that the death of Tara wasn't dealt with enough that I felt Willow could move on.
          I can understand feeling that we aren't seeing Willow at a place that is easy to believe in as her being ready to move on. A little more time and thought into how she can start to do so and still be grieving could have helped. But I do think that it would be a really tricky balance to try to get and with Kennedy not being the easiest character to like, they made it harder.

          But there's also the point that Willow doesn't regret taking Warren's life even after being just Willow again that compares with Spike's attitude about Nikki Wood. I know that a lot of fans don't like this, but I think the show is being realistic about personal attitudes towards justice and guilt. Many warriors may feel terrible that they had to kill their rival, but that doesn't mean that they felt guilty about it. As Spike says, she was a slayer and he was a vampire. That's just the way it was. It's the way many Americans feel about the bombing of cities in World War II.
          Really interesting thoughts on the characters' attitudes to their actions that include both justice and guilt and that sense of being 'at war'. I hope you're able to join us for the discussion on LMPTM too.

          Tiny Tabby , thank you for such an amazing response and for all the additional factors you raised to delve into the episode/season even more. I really love the elements in particular about the connections Willow feels between herself and Warren.

          Comment


          • @Stoney: Buffy's position here is somewhat like a next of kin being approached in the hospital waiting room. The situation is creating a need for someone else to make the choices as they have to be made now. With their personal history it is realistic to think Spike would nominate Buffy in this situation, if he could. Since returning Spike has somewhat placed himself at Buffy's mercy, offering his help and asking for hers. Spike's belief in Buffy's judgement has been starting to give him belief in himself. So, considering Spike would be comfortable with Buffy being given the only vote here seems highly probable.

            Me: I think that the first thing Spike would do if asked that question is say no. I don't even think he'd want to give her the vote. Does Buffy believe this? I think so. That makes her decision even more meaningful. She knows Spike better than he knows himself.

            @Stoney: This is interesting, do you mean Spike would say no to having the chip removed or no to Buffy making his decisions for him generally if he was incapacitated? I think it is highly likely that his fears of failure and sense that he needs chaining (and punishing) could have led him to say the chip should be repaired. I can see that Spike might not want Buffy to have a say in this particular question, but I think in great part because it tests whether she does see potential in him and he'd fear finding out she'd pull back when the moment came. But generally, if Spike had to choose someone to speak for him in an undetermined medical proxy way, I think he'd defer to Buffy. In that way, it sits alongside Riley's acceptance of her decision, perhaps?
            Stoney, I meant that Spike would have said not to remove the chip at all. I don't think he would want Buffy to decide because he knows that she might try to do the morally righteous thing and take it out. So I'm not sure that he trusts her judgment where he's concerned. In that way, he's a lot like Giles. Spike is probably horrified that Buffy has forgiven him for the rape attempt and everything that he did before that because his soul is telling him things about himself that he never knew before. It must really be difficult to accept that Buffy has forgiven him for everything. I think at this point in season seven Spike still hates himself too much to believe her feelings are anything more than misplaced sympathy for a bad man.

            But I think that Buffy knows how Spike feels about himself and so she makes the decision for him because she is morally righteous and she cares about him because of what he did to make amends.

            I do think we saw in Buffy's response to his behaviour and fears right at the beginning of the episode that she sees the danger in the artificial controls and how it holds Spikes back. One of the reasons this episode is one of my favourites of the season is because of the significance of having Spike's chip removed. It is such a big moment for underlining how differently Buffy sees Spike now and the potential for them to move beyond where they had been.
            I think that when Spike found out, he probably looked at Buffy the same way that he did at the end of Never Leave Me when she says she believed in him. But there would also be a feeling that maybe Buffy has done the wrong thing and Spike doesn't deserve her mercy or any redemption. I think he still doubts himself like Willow does. It would have been better, I think, if they had shown this scene right after Willow and Kennedy to make the connection between them.

            Really interesting thoughts on the characters' attitudes to their actions that include both justice and guilt and that sense of being 'at war'. I hope you're able to join us for the discussion on LMPTM too.
            Yes, I want to comment more on the episodes because I'm really fond of the second half of season seven.

            Tiny Tabby , thank you for such an amazing response and for all the additional factors you raised to delve into the episode/season even more. I really love the elements in particular about the connections Willow feels between herself and Warren.
            I'm glad you enjoyed it, Stoney.
            Last edited by Tiny Tabby; 09-07-21, 10:26 PM.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Tiny Tabby View Post
              I meant that Spike would have said not to remove the chip at all. I don't think he would want Buffy to decide because he knows that she might try to do the morally righteous thing and take it out. So I'm not sure that he trusts her judgment where he's concerned. In that way, he's a lot like Giles. Spike is probably horrified that Buffy has forgiven him for the rape attempt and everything that he did before that because his soul is telling him things about himself that he never knew before. It must really be difficult to accept that Buffy has forgiven him for everything. I think at this point in season seven Spike still hates himself too much to believe her feelings are anything more than misplaced sympathy for a bad man.

              But I think that Buffy knows how Spike feels about himself and so she makes the decision for him because she is morally righteous and she cares about him because of what he did to make amends.
              Generally Spike trusts Buffy's judgment though and has given himself over to it. The supplication in Beneath You asks for it from her while at the same time he doesn't feel he can or should, as he can't say forgive me because he feels it's inadequate. He wants to prove himself in actions and yet fears that he'll fail. I think that he wants Buffy's judgment because of what he did and fears it because she might not forgive him and yet also because she might. There is such a lot of self doubt and fears he's got to deal with, mixed in with self recrimination. But there's also starting to be some hope beginning to form, because she believes in him and that meant so much to him as well. It's such a contradictory mess of an emotional mix really. So, I can see both that he could in principle if asked have placed choices with Buffy, if he wouldn't be functional, as the only person he'd trust. But also, as you say, that he could have disbelief in her decision because she's choosing to give him a chance and is offering belief in him. In a self destructive way. And yet, there is that glimmer too.

              I agree that his starting position if he was asked himself would probably have been to have had the chip repaired. It's not that he thinks he'd choose to be a danger, but the fear of failure and losing control if he unleashes is huge. Which is why we'll see he's holding back. Buffy could definitely see this in the way he was talking in the basement about himself.

              It's an interesting element you mention, Buffy's sense of what is morally right when it comes to the chip. As we'll see in her conversation with Giles, this played a part in her point of view on it. It's consistent with the perspective of the soul as giving the capacity for choice. But those self doubts and fears are what is holding Spike back, and what the episode brings him towards moving past. The mirroring with Willow is great in this way as both characters needed that support and someone else's care and forgiveness to open the door. It works so well with the theme of empowering others.

              I think that when Spike found out, he probably looked at Buffy the same way that he did at the end of Never Leave Me when she says she believed in him. But there would also be a feeling that maybe Buffy has done the wrong thing and Spike doesn't deserve her mercy or any redemption. I think he still doubts himself like Willow does. It would have been better, I think, if they had shown this scene right after Willow and Kennedy to make the connection between them.
              He definitely still doubts himself and needed pushing. Him being incapacitated avoided his doubts playing a part and it would have been interesting to see his response. I think your suggestion he'd have been somewhat awed by Buffy's decision is very likely. I don't think he'd have been angry, just worried about failing. Which will lead us to the holding back. He might have told her it was a dangerous decision and it would have been better to have repaired it too. But I can picture Buffy just telling him that is just chaining himself and this isn't like the trigger, where his choices are sidestepped, that he doesn't need chains to be a good man.

              I suppose, because of the time jump from Amy's transportation of Kennedy, it could easily have been gone to as post operation. As we know what she is going to decide we can see the mirroring. As I said at the start of the review, it is Spike's chip that is the problem tackled in the episode. His belief in himself and facing the potential danger he could be by his own choices is to come, as it is for Willow. The hex and the chip were what others had done to them which were holding them back, connected to their fears, how they move on is what comes next. But that wouldn't have stopped Spike finding out in this episode. I guess they just wanted to leave the tension on the moment as to what Buffy's choice will be, the mirroring to be understood with hindsight. But it does come with the loss of that reaction scene.

              Comment


              • First of all, I am deeply sorry to be so late with my comments on Stoney ‘s wonderful review of “Killer in Me” and Tiny Tabby ‘s comments. Life has offered quite a few lemons over the past few months but lemonade is not what I’ve managed to make out of them, sadly. However, I hope everyone else is keeping well, keeping safe and looking after themselves?

                I’ve only a few thoughts to offer on this episode but I felt I should do that before I posted on “First Date”. Again, I’m aiming to do this as soon as possible, as I have prepared the first part, and want to finish the second part – sorry about that, folks, inflicting such torment on you! - over the next couple of weeks.

                I find the most chilling scene in KiM to be when Willow fetches up at the gun shop: by then, she is showing as just herself. No more apparent glamour, no hint that she’s changing into Warren. This is her. Is this the real Willow? Is this her dark heart on display here? When she left for LA in “Beneath You”, she said she just wanted to be Willow. She was also afraid she was not ready, really like Spike claiming he’s not nearly ready. She was worried she was leaving her treatment too early. This is a classic scenario for relapse.

                Like Stoney, and I suspect in common with many viewers, I don’t really feel convinced that Willow does feel any or much guilt over killing Warren – or Rack, either, who tends to get overlooked but as far as I could make out he was human, even if he was a deeply nasty piece of work who was into the sorcery (sorry, can’t bring myself to use the show’s favourite word for it!) enough that his dealership moved between the dimensions.

                As far as I can make out, what Willow does feel is, in my book, a more troubling emotion than straight guilt over taking a (2?) human(s?) life. When she says to Andrew in NLM – “Do you think I get any satisfaction from this?”, my initial reaction is, well, actually, Will, it’s not at all clear to me you didn’t derive satisfaction from killing Warren. And still don’t. It’s an extremely ambivalent statement. Whilst I find it more interesting to watch, as it’s more complex, I find that I feel emotionally disengaged from it. I’d personally feel more emotionally invested if I could sense deeper, less alloyed remorse from her. Willow is a murderer. D’Hoffryn recognises that the desire and thirst for vengeance reside permanently within her. We get only a couple of passing mentions of her killing spree – from Dawn in STSP, and Xander/Buffy and Willow herself in Selfless, and some others that I can’t recall at present. Any observations from Anya while she’s still a demon and D’Hoffryn on that subject seem to be discounted because, well, they’re evil.

                Willow made the deliberate choice to kill Warren. She said that unambiguously in Villains: she wasn’t coming back from that. She threatened Dawn with reversing the spell that bound her to human form. Now she’s seeking to keep a distance from those choices and actions, to build an inner firewall – if you like – between the Willow who went down that path, and the partially rehabilitated Willow she is now. She has compartmentalised herself and fears her inner darkness because she has no control over it. She hasn’t really owned it yet.

                So the kiss that changes Willow into Warren is the opposite of lifting a curse – it lays the hex on Willow. She starts to turn into what she fears and loathes. It’s Willow’s equivalent of Angel’s curse: one brief moment of happiness, forgetfulness of her burden, and she is transformed.

                As with Angel, who seeks to distance himself from the demon that dwells within him – with debatable success – and Spike who thought that regaining his soul would be the ticket to automatically raising the barrier to his becoming a man again, Willow’s attempts to deny the darkness within her make her vulnerable to attack. Like Spike when influenced by the First, she is triggered by guilt and rage.

                But I’m feeling less than clear that the guilt is over killing Warren. When she shouts out to Kennedy that she’s turning into a murderous misogynistic man, the man who unintentionally killed the love of her life – no apologies to Kennedy here – I think it isn’t because she feels the burden of guilt at having taken another life. It’s because she hates Warren, what he represents and still (I think) feels she’s superior to him and the remains of the Trio. She’s sunk in her own esteem, which I’m not sure was too high to begin with, by doing something Warren did first, namely kill his own ex-girlfriend.

                If Buffy is the classic inferiority/superiority complex, I can’t help but wonder how much more so is Willow.

                The rage she manifests stems, I think, more from the fact that Warren was responsible for randomly killing Tara and Willow herself was unable to twist Osiris’ arm to bring Tara back. This rage fuels her impulse to lash out for revenge – and how sad is it that the last spell she and Tara ever perform together is the blood spell in “Villains” – at how impotent she is to change the outcome. She claims to Kennedy that she killed Warren “for a reason”, which sounds like self-justification to me, not remorse. Or, if I were putting a charitable spin on it, because Warren murdered Tara.

                She becomes transformed into the instrument of Tara’s death, goodbye to you, Tara, goodbye to everything I knew. I think that’s why we don’t see Warren buying the gun, it doesn’t matter anymore what she looks like. She’s given up pretending she can keep Tara’s memory alive, even. She rages at herself and the universe.

                Regarding Amy, first of all, can I just say in defence of rats, I’m inclined to be fond of them. I mean, I’d not be too keen to encounter one in the bakery section, as happened to a shopper at one store of a major grocery chain here in the UK a few weeks ago – a rodent among the croissants is not my idea of a good start, middle or end to any day – but they do have their place in the natural order of things. Amy has built up a fine head of resentment and anger. I love Allen’s performance here, splendidly sinister and nuanced. Great fun to watch.

                Tiny Tabby commented on how Amy’s desire to lash out stems from a less moral compulsion: the desire to get her own back on Willow for turning away from her and magic, but without suffering any apparent consequences for her actions.

                And Amy’s quite correct that Willow does have the power, hidden under that demure deceptive façade. Her friends do love and support her, even after all she’s done. By contrast, Amy has been left out in the cold. Willow wanted to look after Amy only when she was a rat and couldn’t talk back, wanted to keep her company only when she was fun. When they’re both struggling, I suppose it’s part of the process that a recovering addict must steer clear of anyone associated with their old life who could pull them back into the old bad habits. Except that analogy doesn’t really hold up too well for me, because I don’t subscribe to the “magic is drugs” line the show tries to follow in S6. And to my mind S7 is not completely successful in shaking this line off, either, with the result that I find Willow’s redemption arc confusing and messy. And not in a good way.

                Willow brought Amy back, de-ratted her, then kept her distance after she discovered Amy wanted to live the high life. Whilst this self-preservation is probably necessary, it does seem a bit harsh on Amy, to me, anyway. Willow turns Amy away, and this is specifically referenced in the “previously on”. After that, we’re never shown or given to understand that Willow checks up on Amy’s welfare, which you’d hope might be the least she could do, given she resurrected her, as she did Buffy, and in light of Amy’s extreme misgivings about going back to her father.

                So what does Willow think she’s being punished for with this penance malediction? Not being sorry for trying to destroy the world, not that, as Stoney emphasises. No, it’s because she forgets Tara, in that brief instance when Kennedy kisses her. She fails to keep the faith.

                While rewatching this episode I kept wondering what all the shape shifting and the re-enactment reminded me of, and it struck me that thematically this episode may be Willow’s equivalent of S2’s “I Only Have Eyes for You”. With a murder on loop, the dead murderer’s guilt and the presence of two beings who can break the chain of ghostly guilt and anguish – Buffy and Angel – I do think it is worth considering. But I think one of the key differences, if not the key difference, between Buffy and Willow is that we see in IOHEFY that Buffy shoulders the entirety of the blame for Angel losing his soul and doesn’t forgive herself, whilst Willow seems curiously devoid of remorse. I don’t know, and I’d be really interested in what others think about this notion.

                Of course, in LMPTM, Spike seems to be completely lacking in remorse over killing Wood’s mother, but in BY, Sleeper and NLM it is made quite clear that he is in real torment over having so much blood on his hands. I’m struggling to find/recall the equivalent moment for Willow and I’d love to have it pointed out to me, if I’ve missed it.

                I still can’t quite work out why Kennedy’s last kiss breaks the hex. For me there’s so little emotional resonance between her and Willow that it strikes me as nothing more than a cliché.

                I can’t bring myself to like Kennedy as a character. I don’t want Willow to remain in perpetual mourning and misery. On the other hand, I feel this relationship was rushed. If it had been built up gradually from Kennedy’s arrival so that she and Willow formed an efficient fighting team, then discovered they had other feelings about each other, so that by the end of S7 she and Willow gazed at each other over the axe/scythe/doomsday weapon, with the hint that there might be more to come in the future, that to me would have been a much more satisfying development. Of course I’d actually need to like Kennedy for this scenario to work, so even that’s a non-starter for me. As it is, I can’t help but think Kennedy’s been introduced as the show’s apology for killing off their other much more beloved lesbian – see what we’ve done here, guys! We do love lesbians! Really, we do!

                Alas, our dear much-missed Tara. Kennedy is no substitute. She’s not even a remotely acceptable proxy.

                To me, Kennedy comes off as bratty – as opposed to ratty. Sorry. – self-absorbed and overly confident. In fact, she strikes me as being rather like Warren when he enters the bar in SR: aggressive and not in the least bit attractive. And when she says that magic is “fairy-tale crap”, I mean, come on, folks, this is a girl who knows vampires exist, for Pete’s sake. Why does it not occur to her that that is not the right thing to say? And she lied about being sick so she could hit on Willow, missing out on an important part of her training. Talk about hubris.

                So, moving on from my Kennedy rant, as Stoney has pointed out, what’s hidden is revealed, one of the other key themes for this season, the exposure of strange truths beneath the surface and the everyday mundane. I love her observation that trying to run away from the past doesn’t work, trying to hide secrets results in their biting you in the posterior. The past not only is hidden, it engulfs also. And in this context, I note that KiM occupies the same point in S7 that Dead Things does in S6. That deeply disturbing in so many ways, sometimes very sexy episode, Dead Things: the truth will rise to the surface, no matter what our attempts to hide it. Katrina’s dead body is washed up, Buffy can’t hide her relationship with Spike from Tara, the Trio are revealed as murderous and rapacious, under their goofy, boys will be boys and boys will have their toys veneer.

                In KiM, Buffy and Spike revisit the Initiative lab, which is supposed to have been concreted in. In there they find the solution to Spike’s firing chip problem, just not the way they expected to. The solution occurs through a surprise intervention: that of the original secret operation that brought about the whole messy venture in the first place. The spotlight is cast on our protagonists. The cure is found in the place that caused the illness.

                But this equally wouldn’t have happened if Buffy hadn’t been willing to set aside the hurt and humiliation she experienced the last time she saw Riley, and if Spike hadn’t trusted her as much. By confronting their buried past, together, they overcome a key element holding back Spike and go forward on a more balanced footing. Bit by bit, with Buffy’s help, Spike is recovering his sense of self-worth, his agency and his powers. By travelling to their buried past, they shape their future.

                Willow has faced the fact that Tara is really dead, there’s no bringing her back, and she can start to come to terms with that. I wish I actually felt that as keenly as I feel the closing of Spike’s Initiative chapter, but I’m sorry to say I don’t. Oh well.

                Bits and Bobs:

                I love the opening scene with Giles and Buffy. Poor SMG, she was so obviously suffering that day. I’d lay any bets that’s a real, hot soothing drink she’s cradling. I have a very silly general test of acting ability which I apply whenever I spot anyone carrying what’s supposed to be a full cup or mug, and it has to be said most actors I see doing this fail it. I’ve hardly ever seen anyone who handles any cup as if there’s actually anything in it. For some reason, barely anyone ever does. The only exceptions I’ve spotted so far are the cast of Buffy and the wonderful BBC sitcom “Ghosts”. Oh, and Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens”. Take a look next time. You’ll see.

                The scenes with Xander, Anya, Dawn and Andrew are amusing. There’s one lovely moment between Anya and Xander where they’re openly worried about Giles and the Potentials. I’d love to say I was clever enough to spot the misdirect over Giles at first viewing, but I’d be lying.

                Love all the scenes with Buffy and Spike. No shock there. They manage to share some quiet jokes, even while he’s in pain, and they sympathise with each other over everything from the state of the house to their presumptive expiry dates. Re: the chip and Spike’s recollections that don’t quite fit with what we saw in S4, I’ve no trouble believing the chip is a prototype and Spike the first test subject to escape into the field, and that maybe it wasn’t permanently activated until he got out. But it really is too bad the retro con is not thought out properly. Beyond that, I’m just pleased Riley’s involvement ends on an upbeat, amusing note. I think it’s funny how the brigadier (or whatever his rank) checks Spike out to see if the description of “ass-face” fits. Buffy’s resigned “of course” is beautiful.

                I have to confess I do also still find that joke about Giles funny, even if it is in very poor taste. Sorry. It’s ASH who totally sells it for me. What can I say, I’m a fan of many, though not all the “Carry On” films. The humour is too cringeworthy and un-PC in some of them even for me. But I still get a good laugh over “Carry On Screaming”, “Carry On Up The Khyber” and the rarely-shown “Carry On Spying”, featuring a shockingly youthful Charles Hawtrey who has a superbly whimsical moment in it and the late Babs Windsor in her first Carry On appearance. Film history.

                I love the campus Wiccans, and their bake sales. Good on them.

                And that’s really all I have to say, for the moment, about KiM. My apologies for holding the thread behind. And also for only managing to tag Stoney. I can’t get the tagging thing to work for Tiny Tabby. I keep trying but nada. Every time I’ve tried clicking on your name the whole paragraph it’s in gets deleted. I’m really sorry about that. Also I really wanted to make a spoilery comment but couldn’t get the dratted button to work. I am so low tech.
                Last edited by Stoney; Yesterday, 12:39 AM.
                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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                • debbicles I agree Willow's own fears about her power and her darkness, that she could become Warren are at play, not guilt. I don't think Willow regrets killing Warren and how much of that is her justifying her actions because he was an awful person/murderer/misogynist just like Spike tries to push aside guilt about Nikki because she was a slayer, I don't know, but I suspect a considerable amount. But it is like Buffy attacking Faith, the worry that in doing so you become as bad, you could become that person. And this is what the literal transformation shows.

                  I really love the point that the cure for Spike happened where the chip was implanted. Things coming full circle works against Kennedy's kiss fixing what the first one started. However we feel about her dynamic with Willow.

                  I'm going to be looking at cup holding from here on to see what you mean.

                  Thank you for your thoughts on KiM debbicles , I enjoyed reading them and look forward to your review of First Date.

                  --

                  For tagging to work you have to get the name exactly right and not let any punctuation attach to it. So it could be because you are missing the space between Tiny and Tabby and on one the capital on Tabby too. I'll try to edit your post and see if that fixes it. - EDIT: yep, that worked.

                  If the spoiler button doesn't work you can always type in the spoiler code around the text you want to hide. So, (ignoring the asterisk I've only included so it is a failed code and doesn't hide it) enter [*spoiler] before the text you want to hide and then [/spoiler] at the end.

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