“Wrecked,” by Marti Noxon
It’s the morning after, bigtime, for Spuffy, and it begins with Tara and Dawn waking up to discover that neither Buffy nor Willow has come home. The house is empty, and their improbably well-made beds haven’t been slept in. This is apparently unusual and worrisome, even though they could conceivably have been called upon for Slay duty.
In fact, though, they’re both slacking. Buffy is in the basement of a wrecked house, dealing with Spike’s post-sex happy dance. She’s not so delighted, and as he continues to warble the “Yay, we finally done it,” song, she ends up telling him he’s convenient.
“I may be dirt,” Spike ripostes, “But you’re the one who likes to roll in it.”
Ah, her shame is great.
I can’t help but be happy for Spike here. He’s gotten much of what he wanted, and he feels hopeful that he’ll get the real prize—Buffy’s heart—in time. And learning that she’s not an entirely straight-laced vanilla sex princess has clearly brightened his vision of the immediate future.
It’s strangely nice to see him happy.
I’m simultaneously sad for Buffy. Her sex life has been so messed up. There was the disastrous one-true-love coupling with Angel, then the one-off with Parker. Riley, as we know from his convo with Faith in Buffy’s body, really was a straight-laced etcetera.
Now she’s having naughty sex with a bad boy and feeling super-guilty about it.
And sure, there are reasons: there’s no love on her side, it’s a way of avoiding her feelings and, chip or no, the’s man got that lamentable chaotic evil alignment. But I wish she’d cut herself a break on the kinkiness.
Since everyone is agreed that the fifteen-year-old can’t be left alone in her own locked house, Tara stays yet longer and commences making pancakes. When Willow shows up, it’s awkward, naturally. It gets worse when Amy brags up Willow’s magical abilities in a big way.
Buffy’s arrival gives Tara an opportunity to escape. Then everyone’s left floundering over why Buffy and Willow were out, and all the things they don’t want to share about the previous evening. They agree the important thing is Dawn’s okay, and she is very gracious about it all. (In many ways, this is a rocking Dawn episode.) She’s so nice, so very “don’t give me another thought,” that they don’t. Willow turns in and is surprised to find that she’s emptied her magic tank. She actually has to pull her curtains using arm strength. That’s not good and she knows it.
Over at the Magic Box, the search for last week’s diamond-snatching demon continues. The only visible progress since the last research session is that Anya now has curly blonde hair and an emergent case of weddingbrain. She’s bored by the research for the museum thieves, which is getting them nowhere, and far more interested in bridesmaid dresses. This leads to Buffy saying: “Can I weigh in on me wearing larva?”
I know a lot of you aren’t big Marti Noxon fans, but she can write a decent laugh line.
Xander expresses worry about Amy encouraging Willow to use even more magic: Tara at least had slowed her down. Buffy replies with a low-key defence of her friend which is really more about herself, and her continuing confused feelings about the night of raunchy passion with Spike.
Speaking of Amy, guess who is now trying to get Willow to the next exciting stage of magic abuse? She takes her to see Rak the dealer in his magical lair. He slurps a little magic out of her, and is all creeperlike and “oooh, you taste of strawberries” before he gets the girls well and truly stoned on magic.
During the trip, Willow has a vision, with a demon in it. She sees herself, with black eyes, just outside the magic shop. It’s her future. Does she also previsit her feelings in that moment? I wonder.
She wakes up at home, gets in the shower, and has a shocked, grossed-out cry. Then she encounters a box of abandoned Tara stuff and feels even worse. She lays out Tara’s clothes—we all remember her cuddling Oz’s jacket, right, after he left?—and makes an inflatable Tara-mannequin to hold her. It’s really sad.
By the time she gets up, Dawn is downstairs being cute with peanut butter based dinner options. Willow apologizes for leaving her alone and offers to take her for a fun night out. Dawn is so unabashedly delighted by this that it’s a little heartbreaking. They leave a note on the fridge and go.
Buffy gets back, and finds Amy is stealing things. She’s all twitchy and desperate. She spills her guts about Willow and Rak, and then she just spills her guts.
She’s right about Willow needing a fix, though. After having taken Dawn for a burger, Willow pumps her for info about Tara and then takes her to Rak’s so she can get a quick pick-me-up.
This leaves poor Dawnie stuck waiting in Rak’s skuzzy outer room while Willow is having visions of being in space. (I’d say we’ve all been there, or somewhere like it, but I hope that’s not actually true of every single one of you.) Anyway, it’s awful, and boring, and stressful.
Buffy is now in hot pursuit of her sister, and has been obliged to turn to Spike if she’s going to find Rak. Why she didn’t tie a halter on Amy and drive her through downtown in search of him? Maybe she just wanted to see Spike again. But while they’re searching, unsuccessfully, they talk about the night before. Spike’s feeling pretty smug. He feels he’s gained exciting new insights into her character. Buffy claims that the only thing that’s changed is that she’s reached the pinnacle of self-loathing.
Willow finally turns up to reclaim Dawn, well after their movie is over. She’s all stoned and indifferent to Dawn’s distress, even though Dawn’s very clear about what’s wrong and how she feels. The monster from the stoner vision interrupts them just as Willow’s getting kinda mean. I’m grateful for that.
Since Willow thinks the thing is a hallucination, it falls to Dawn to kick him. And she does. Yay, Dawn!!
Willow throws them into a stolen car and attempts to flee. Instead they get into a big magic-drunken wreck and the monster catches up. (It took Don Draper of Mad Men multiple seasons to cover the addiction low points we’ve zoomed through in this episode.) Dawn fights hard, gets her arm broken and screams her head off. Luckily, Spuffy are within earshot.
Willow gets out of the car weeping and crying and trying to apologize. Dawn slaps her. Yay, Dawn again!
Then Spike takes the kid to the hospital. Having hit bottom, Willow pleads with Buffy to save her. She says she can’t help herself and begs for mercy.
We can see that Buffy relates, even as she claims to not understand. But Willow’s taking responsibility now. She admits that the trouble started before Tara left, and talks about how the magic took her away from her fears and feelings of inadequacy. She vows to give it up.
And, even though she doesn’t know it, Buffy’s vowing right along with her. They’re having a parallel conversation about doing the right thing, even if it doesn’t feel so good. But Willow’s the only one actually getting the support she needs to succeed. Secret vows lack accountability, Buffy.
The night ends with Dawn sleeping off painkillers, Willow sweating through withdrawal and Buffy in her bedroom, surrounded by garlic garlands and clutching a cross.
A couple weeks ago I asked how you’d take the addiction out of this story arc. That essay hasn’t gone live yet, so I don’t know your answers as I write this. But if a person were going to retcon the addiction story out of this season, “Wrecked” would have to be entirely gutted and rebuilt—and this current version of Amy the junkie would have to go along with it.
It seems to me that this could have been managed without a complete overhaul of much else.
One of Willow’s forward leaps as a witch came when she and Tara joined forces. What if not having Tara around anymore, to practice with, lessened Willow’s access to magic and the power it brought? It would add an interesting dimension to Tara’s departure. And just wanting the magic to be easy or accessible again could have been additional motive for Willow to de-rat Amy, and later to go to a slightly retooled Rak, someone who would give her access to a free-flowing source of power.
If that font or battery was somehow tainted—more explicitly evil magic and less like heroin—Willow could get into plenty of trouble without all the drug withdrawal story architecture.
Either way, she’s on the hard road to reforming herself, or so it appears.
Next week: Hide and Seek
A.M. Dellamonica has three stories up here on Tor.com, with two more on the way! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second Gale story too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)