Mon
Feb 11 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Scoobies versus Maclays

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

WillTara are enjoying cohabitation, winding up what seems to have been a pleasant evening with a bedtime story about their cat. But Tara’s tempted to get a bit of a study on: she is worried about keeping up with Willow, magically, and being of some use to the Scooby gang. Willow assures her she’s essential, though, and snuggling wins out over hitting the books. 

Before they doze off, they pause to wonder if Buffy found anything on her recent mission. No? Maybe? She’d have called if it was Apocalypse time. Oh, wait, it’s only autumn. Things are only just gearing up. Zzzzzz.

This last bit is, basically, intended as a big clue to all of us that this story has picked up just after Buffy’s thumping at the immaculate, beastly hands of Glory. As you may recall, the two squared off at an old factory; Buffy fled with a informative (but, alas, terminally wounded) monk in tow and Glory collapsed the building atop herself.

Now Buffy’s home, telling Giles about the monk’s disclosure: Dawn’s a key and Glory wants her, bigtime. The Order of Dagon would therefore appreciate it greatly if she could find time within her busy Slay-schedule for keeping that eventuality off the table. They would appreciate it, that is, if they weren’t so very slaughtered down to the last sackcloth wearing man.

Giles, Buffy has decided, is the only one who gets to know the truth. I’m down with her logic on this one: they can’t tell Dawn, because she might freak out if someone shares the news that she isn’t a real girl, and the Scoobies can’t be told because it’d make them act weird. (Toward Dawn. Who would freak out. And maybe thereby learn the truth, and possibly freak out some more.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

What I love about this scene in rewatch is how obvious it is that Giles simply aches for Buffy as he learns about this freakish and thoroughly sucky situation. They didn’t cover this one in Watcher 101. She’s all attached to this new faux sister, to the extent that she remembers things about her that didn’t really happen. It’s a major mindbender, and we get to relate, because it’s more or less the same thing this retcon has done to us. Plus it’s damned good dadding on his part. If only we had a few examples handy of of bad dadding to contrast it with. Useful lessons might be drawn.

Buffy has had some time to process this new knowledge about Dawn. She’s come through the “Hey, that was my life and I was using it for stuff!” stage and now feels all protective and determined to do right by her metaphorical inner child. This means protecting Dawn from Glory. 

Which definitely requires that they find out who Glory darn well is before she comes Key-hunting.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

But first things (including the credits) first! The gang is pressed into service moving Buffy out of her dorm. They just moved her in, but what with everything that’s going on—and they only know the Joyce’s headaches half of it—she’s moving back home. Anya’s complaining about wasted effort and the men are goofing around and wrestling. They would be thoroughly adorbs if the term had been invented yet. Giles, now that he’s less of a deadbeat ex-librarian and more of a capitalist running dog, seems to be dressing slightly more dapper. (Do you agree, people who see in fashion? This is not always my strongest suit.)  

As for Buffy, she’s hurting from the experience of getting tossed around a concrete building like some rabid mastiff’s favorite chase-me chewtoy. Her soreness leads the group to discuss seeking out Glory’s weaknesses. That way, the smacking around can be repaid in kind. Tara makes a nerdy magic-themed joke. When nobody gets it, she takes off in a fluster. And, by chance, all Willow really sees of this is “Hey, Tara’s not here!” She promptly takes the opportunity to remind everyone they’re having a birthday party for her sweetie at the Bronze the next day.

Nobody remembers, but everyone says they did. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

Speaking of people who are far more forgettable than Amber Benson or her witchy alter ego, Doctor Ben’s at the hospital, briefly conferring with a buddy about the increase in mentally disturbed patients. His shift ends, he goes off to change and a creepy demon shows up. Oh, noes, is this where Ben meets his fate? He’s sure to die at the hands of something terrible, right? But apparently not right this moment, because Glory’s there too, hanging out in the locker room. She grabs the demon; we get to assume Ben is saved by clean living or plain good luck.

And before we can give that coincidence any attention, we’re at the magic shop, where Anya is excited because she has a place in the world now. Apparently it is better to run a shop than to have to shop, because Buffy and Xander are chewing over the Tara birthday. What do you get for the girl who has . . . gosh, what does she have? (Hint, you fools—she has a cat!) They are realizing they don’t know much about Tara. This, coincidentally, is how much Giles has learned about Glory.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

The trio reaches no useful conclusions about either project. Let’s check in on Spike, who is boinking Harmony while fantasizing about fighting Buffy. I’d like to think I speak for the group here when I say “YUCK.”

Back to the magic shop! By now we’ve totally forgotten Ben, and possibly Tara too, so it’s time for an abrasive young man to turn up at the magic store and kick off the plotty portion of the tale. Before anyone can figure out who the jerk is and what’s up with him, WillTara arrive and—awkwardness all around!—it turns out he’s Tara’s brother, Donny. He’s with the whole fam-damly, who’ve come in time for Tara’s birthday! Let joy be unconfined, am I right? Hey! That grouchy-looking submissive female in the back is Amy Adams.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

(Okay that’s just weird. Amy, you look so undergrown and constipated. Good acting, honey!)

Brother Donny’s arrival revs this week’s A story into high gear: Tara’s a demon, apparently, and the family has come to haul her home before she turns twenty and is thrust out of the demon closet in some unspecified but highly embarrassing fashion. They threaten her by saying the Scoobies will never accept her when they know the truth. Tara’s torn between wanting to think better of her friends and terror at possibly being the center of their attention for a nanosecond.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

This whole thing, naturally, is all a big code for homophobia. Pa Maclay is horrified that Tara’s living her witchy lifestyle in this unabashed and open manner—with another witch, no less!—and demands that she pack up her toys and come home to spend her days in domestic servitude to her male relatives.

Given the choice between living with Willow and drudging for misogynists, Tara responds by casting a little spell to hide her demonic aspects from the group. She wants to stay, even if it means a sixty percent chance, per week, that the demon of the week will randomly attack her in the third act.  The spell rebounds in a big way when the whole gang finds itself unable to see demons... just as Glory’s appointed hit squad arrives at the shop to kill them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

By now, though, Harmony has gloated to Spike about this whole Slayer-killing scheme that’s afoot, and he has headed out to drink in the carnage. So he says. Actually—since he is love’s bitch, after all—he helps. He buys the gang a second or two of important not-getting-killed before Tara shows and breaks the spell.

With the confrontation with the Lei-Ach demons (and their cute little supperating sores) over, the gang is free to take on the Maclays. It’s a nicely suspenseful throwdown: the Scoobies have never really given Tara any reason to suspect they’ll side with her. When the episode starts, she’s more aware than either Buffy or Xander about how tenuous her position among the cool kids is. And now she’s endangered them, and (suddenly, more importantly) Dawn. 

Willow protests that screwing up a spell is not a group-ejecting offense—she’d have to say that, wouldn’t she, even if it wasn’t her girlfriend who’d done it? This triggers a general spew of witchaphobic vitriol from Pa Maclay and his Pips. There’s a beautiful moment where Willow asks Tara what she wants and Pa says “That’s not up to you.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

“I know that,” she says in that rocking Willow-on-edge voice. (This isn’t something Willow’s always understood, I think. It’s a little gift from Oz and getting grownupper.)

It’s easy to forget that gay relationships on TV were in a different place a dozen years ago: less common, to begin with, and likely to be drawn with a cartoony lack of nuance when they did exist. It was all sort of: Look! Girls Kissing! The WillTara pairing was sincere and rare and not always easy, and for me it was a lovely thing to see on a hit TV show.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

The story in “Family” echoes the realities of queer life, which are such that many of us are still obliged to make choices between our families of origin and those we establish elsewhere. Seeing this play out on BtVS, demons and all, was significant to me. Lesbians on primetime didn’t happen when I was young and could have used them as role models. It has been so very cool to see them popping up, here and there, like little story wildflowers.

So, much as I enjoyed WillOz, and rooted for them, I can’t help being partial to WillTara... just because of that personal connection.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

My stuff aside, it’s so interesting that once Tara has said she wants to stay, it’s Buffy who gets to give voice to the group’s ruling on whether she belongs. The Scooby unity in this—the unanimous embrace of Tara—is just damned heartwarming. I see this less as Buffy deciding on the group’s behalf (though of course she is expressing Offishul Slayer Forgiveness, in a sense, for Tara’s having endangered Dawn) and more as her simply articulating what the gang has decided, without discussion and without reservation.

This being a Joss Whedon script, there are so many individual praiseworthy strokes. There’s sour-faced cousin Beth’s misery, fueled by the fact that she doesn’t have the guts to break away, as Tara has, and is going back to Yokeltown to be Pa and Yucky Bro’s butt-monkey. It’s an ingenious little touch.  And Spike! The fact that the whole ’you’re a demon’ thing is just a ruse on Pa’s part for institutionalizing some family sexism—and the way he both reveals this and claims to appreciate its evil—is likewise awesome.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

(I do sometimes stick on the fact that Spike’s chip is smarter than he is—that it can tell, as he cannot, that someone is or isn’t a demon. It also kind of makes me think Giles should hire him to sit in a concealed booth in the shop with a loaded harpoon pointed at the door. He could serve as a demon detector. Plus every time a human came in, it would hurt him, and he’d scream, and that would be so much more appropriate for the boogety boogety store than the bell that jingles cheerily when the door opens.)

Speaking of the store, let’s raise a little cheer for Anya, kicking off the whole ’what kind of demon is she?’ scene with a charming little ’some of us are productive members of society’ smile. Have I mentioned yet today that I adore Emma Caulfield and this character?

Oh! Look who’s missing from this warm fuzzy family bond-up.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

Poor Riley. Or not. He’s off drinking at Willy’s, with Sandy, the vampire that EvilWillow made way back in Dopplegangland.

He’s having some self-pity issues, because Buffy’s not confiding in him. He’s feeling taken for granted, but nevertheless manages to get off a zinger about vampires never being interested in his intellect. In time he pulls it together and shows up at the Tara birthday event, with an apology and a present. For this he gets a Buffy smooch.

But this is the one, the only Tara-centric episode, so to heck with Riley. It all ends with her and Willow processing the recent family drama and affirming their love. They dance, they float, it’s nice. If only it could last forever.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family

 

Next time, it’s Spike’s turn: A Tale of Two Slayers


A.M. Dellamonica has kaboodles of fiction up here on Tor.com! 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.

Now you can read her novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

34 comments
Mike G.
1. Mike G.
Sorta on-topic, even though he wasn't in this episode - the author who played Ethan Rayne passed away:

http://www.deadline.com/2013/02/robin-sachs-died-buffy-vampire-slayer/
Mike G.
2. huntece
loved your spike doorbell idea :P
Mouette
3. Mouette
This ep has one of my favorite moments in the series, honestly - when Buffy's standing in front of Tara, with the weight of Tara having just gotten them all nearly killed via anti-demon-seeing spell behind her and the Scoobies general discomfort with Tara surrounding them. Tara assumes that she's about to be kicked out, and Buffy does that "You want her? Take her." line.

And then turns around and goes Protector Buffy on Tara's relatives for wanting to take her away against her will. Of course the relatives don't know it, but having the freaking Slayer say you'll have to go through her to get to Tara is a pretty big deal. It's a moment of pure acceptance - maybe the Scoobies don't really 'get' Tara, maybe they're not all that close with her, but she is theirs. It's sweet and beautiful, and all the more so because you can plainly see how much Tara wasn't expecting that kind of treatment at all.
Mike G.
4. Veejay J
Season 5 really was the beginning of the end of the high quality of Buffy TVS as a series. And note that season 5 was the start of the heavy influence of Marti Noxon on the series.

"Family" was OK, but it certainly wasn't a good episode. Tara's family is too much of a caricature to be interesting and on top of that we learn practically NOTHING of Tara's mother which would have been a much more interesting storyline.

Season 5 was clearly marred by the additon of the annoying "Dawn" character. Total f-up by Whedon. Trachtenberg is a horrible actress and Dawn is written in such a clownish/whining way.

One of the other problems the series was sufferring was being tied to the same limited set of scene sets. How can you further evolve a series as great as Buffy if you're trapped in Buffy's house, The Bronze, UC Sunnydale, etc
Mike G.
5. Gardner Dozois
This episode is mostly a wheel-spinner in terms of the overall season arc, although it did serve to integrate Tara more firmly into the Scoobie gang, and there were one or two other bits that would later prove to be significant.

One thing that I find interesting on reading the rewatch that didn't strike me the first time I saw it (of course, because "Tabula Rasa" hadn't aired yet) is that Tara is later extremely indignant about Willow self-servingly using magic to affect her friends, altering their perceptions with a spell for her own purposes--and yet that exactly what Tara herself does here.

I disagree about Season 5--I think it was a good season, rivaling Season 3 with the Mayor, and certainly much better than the muddled Initiative season (even if it did have "Hush," one of the all-time best episodes, in it). Of course, I also liked Dawn, so I'd have to disagree there too.
Mike G.
6. build6
Amy Adams - one thing that amused me to no end (re-)watching Buffy is noticing the "walk on guests" who went on to star in various different shows (Dexter and Prison Break come to mind right now)

Sandy - does anyone else find her story really kind of tragic? She was a human until vampwillow turned her in Doppelgangland - so there she was, out at the bronze, trying to have a night out, then suddenly some evil vampiress comes in and turns her into one. And instead of running around hunting innocent people, she goes to a bar to try to find people who WANT to be bitten. And then she runs into a guy with issues that have nothing to do with her and she gets killed :-(

I liked season 5 and 6 best of all. But then I like Dawn too, so that discredits my opinion for a lot of people :-)

I think it's ok to have "slow" episodes. And some things have to be absorbed, how shall I say, subconsciously, for viewers - I do think Tara needed more "on-screen time", for her death to really have an effect later. If Jenny Carpenter didn't get featured as much, then when she got whacked it wouldn't be so much of a big deal. Tara needed a "back story" to be subconsciously accepted as a Real Person, and I think this episode serves that purpose - now we know "who she is". Without that, it'd be just "Willow's girlfriend. Oh look she died. Hrm she went crazy and wants to blow up the world?".
Constance Sublette
7. Zorra
Season 5 is a great season, in my sensibilities at least -- if you overlook Dawn. But then if wasn't for Dawn neither Joyce nor Buffy would die, and then what season 5 do you have?

I cheered when Buffy as spokesSlayer made it clear that Tara was one of them whatever they are. But it was no less than I expected of Buffy, the new girl at Sunnydale High, who chose to hang with Willow and Xander rather than the nabobbie gang. (Funny that, how Cordelia ended up hanging with them ....)

It was a pretty good ep, indeed. It's Tara's family that points to more of the fundie patriarchal woman-hating villains that start showing up.

Love, C.
Emma Rosloff
8. emmarosloff
Season 5 was definitely marred for me by the sheer amount of screen time Michelle Trackenburg gets (totally agree that she's a bad actress and the character wasn't written well). I disagree though that the epsiodes decrease in quality from here on out. Some of my favorite stuff is in the latter half of the show, as dark as it is (and uneven at times, I know). But I'll be the first to admit that Spike is my favorite character and he just gets better and better as the show progresses (in spite of some of the terrible stuff they have his character do).

As for this episode, seeing Amy Adams in it jars me everytime. She's such a big actress now and it's such a tiny role! But I guess you have to start somewhere. I do love getting a Tara episode, although I agree that her family dynamic is a little too heavy-handed. So symbolic it's almost painful... as someone once said about Dawn.

This episode is worth it though for the moment when Buffy sticks up for Tara. I always interpreted it as an expression of Buffy's love for Willow, though. Willow is her best friend, and if she's in love with Tara, that's enough in Buffy's book. That coupled with her general sense of justice -- she's not about to let Tara be dragged away against her will, as others have said.

You're totally right that it's all a metaphor for homophobia. I can't believe I didn't make that connection until now! It's awesome to see the show taking a stance here -- lesbian love (and witchy love) is totally OK. So deal with it.

I know though that the events of Seeing Red left a lot of Buffy viewers in outrage because it brought one of the only same-sex relationships on TV to an abrupt and brutal end. I also read somewhere that Amber Benson refused to do a reprisal of Tara for the episode Conversations With Dead People because she didn't want Tara portrayed as evil in anyway, for fear of cementing the notion some people had that her death was a negative statement about homosexuality.

I don't think that's true at all, but I do think it was an unfortunate side affect of Tara's death that their relationship had to end. I know that Willow goes onto be with Kennedy, but I kind of like to pretend that didn't happen because they had NO chemistry at all.

This episode is sending a clear message -- ALL love should be celebrated, and people should be accepted for who they are. And the ending is super touching and sweet.
Mike G.
9. build6
@8 -

no shame should *ever* attach to being pro-Spike :-P

"I am a Spuffy and I'm not ashamed!"

and I think you're absolutely right about the "transference of loyalty" - Buffy simply doesn't interact with Tara that much, and (although certainly Buffy's sense of justice no doubt would've come into play) it's very much a "if Willow says X then I say X" thing.

Kennedy - sigh. Y'know, for all this talk about rebooting Buffy, if they really had to reboot they should just pretend S7 never happened and start over again right after S6 (and do it right this time :-). I'm happy that the canonical S7 ending "freed" Buffy from her burden, but the whole of S7 just gave me the feeling that either the writers were out of ideas, or they were forced to do hasty rewrites for various real-world reasons (casting? scheduling? contract?).
Emma Rosloff
10. emmarosloff
@9 --

No shame here. Spuffy all the way. The next episode (Fool for Love) is one of my favorites in the entire series. I'm with you that I'd do some things differently in Season 7. I loved the ending to Season 6, but I was somewhat disappointed with the overall progression of Spuffy after that point. She's justifiably wary of him after Seeing Red, but that was pre-soul. The fact that she was in a relationship with him at all at that point should be pretty indicative of how strongly she feels for him (although I know their relationship was largely abusive and dysfunctional).

But come Season 7 I feel like he does everything in his power to redeem himself and ends up getting shortchanged for it. Buffy tells him she loves him just to appease him and doesn't try very hard when he elects to stay behind and watch the Hellmouth implode, which, if you think about it, he's doing because she doesn't love him the way that he loves her. Granted, Spike's always been obsessive, but I can't blame him for not being that inclined to stick around.

There are some lovely moments between them throughout Season 7, but not enough. Never enough! And Willow and Kennedy... ugh. That felt so unbelievably forced. I wasn't really ready for Willow to get over Tara, but I would've been on board if they'd found her another female love interest with real personality. Maybe another witch from the coven she studied with in her time in England.

Even Xander and Anya spend the entire season out of sorts, and then Anya dies. It's just not really a great season on the Buffy relationship front, overall. I thought the First was a compelling villain, though. And I enjoyed the resolution for the most part. Haven't really explored the comics though, I gotta say. I'd have trouble parting with the actors' depiction of the characters (particularly James Marsters as Spike).
Mike G.
11. Gardner Dozois
I didn't like Season 7. At all. Although I dutifully stuck with it to the end, it felt to me like the writers had been replaced by people who had maybe seen the show once or twice, and had no feel for it at all. Everything they did, and all the words that came out of their mouths, were just WRONG.
Leslie Arai
12. creepygirl
Like Gardner, I see a hint of hypocrisy from Tara's actions in this
episode and her general attitude towards Willow's use of magic in Season Six. Maybe she had a change of heart after this episode, but we never saw it on screen.

It's also fascinating to me how long Tara kept her supposed-demon heritage from Willow. If we go by airdates, it's been nearly a year since she first met Willow in Hush. That's a long time to hide what you think is your true nature from someone you love. And we learn in Season Six that Willow was hiding her true self from Tara as well, probably for the entire course of the relationship. It sounds downright lonely. I can't imagine how unhappy I'd be if I felt like I couldn't be myself in a long-term relationship.

It's weird to me that in many corners of fandom (not talking about anyone in this forum), Willow/Tara is held up as the one and truly perfect love for the ages or somesuch. I think there were serious problems with the relationship long before Willow got outright abusive in Season Six.
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
I personally would like to say that I am very glad Spike was not "rewarded" with Buffy's love after his steps at redemption. It would have played into the repugnant idea that romantic love is the hero's reward, that he is entitled to such feelings from the women around him, by virtue of being the hero. They avoided that trap with a woman heroine, having Buffy suffer the typical pitfalls of love, for the show to have turned around and fell into that trap with Spike, would have been a greater betrayal of the show's ideals than most any other act I can think of.

As far as the similarity between Tara's actions here and Willow's later, there is one fundamental similarity at root here, and that is trust. Tara performed her spell because she was unsure if the gang could accept her as she was. This mistrust is understandable, and makes her actions forgivable.

Willow performed her spells because she did not trust that she and Tara could move past their disagreement and because she did not trust that Buffy could overcome her depression from being pulled from heaven. Willow's mistrust is NOT understandable. She should have trust that her and Tara can overcome this, and she's seen Buffy overcome enough to have faith that Buffy can overcome this. So Willow's actions are not only bad because they are a breech of EARNED trust, but also because they demonstrate a lack of faith in people who have earned it.
Alyx Dellamonica
14. AMDellamonica
I'd like to think Tara panicked, did something she knew she shouldn't, and then got back on the ... gay and narrow. But you're right, there's no actual evidence for that.

I'm with the folks who preferred S5 to S7, and you can probably tell I don't mind MT's performance as Dawn that much, though I agree she didn't get enough interesting stuff to do.
Mike G.
15. Gardner Dozois
As I said last week, the only trouble I had with Dawn was that after her initial story arc, they didn't really have anything for her to do and her character had no real function in the show, other than being someone for Buffy to rescue. She was fine in her initial arc--but the character should have left the show with the end of that arc. One way to do that would have been to have it be Dawn who sacrificed herself to save the world, rather than Buffy; if it had been handled right, with Dawn returning to her "ball of magic energy" form afterward and going on to some vague afterlife, it wouldn't even have been a downer. I suspect that they didn't do that because, with the rest of our heroes having moved on to being college-age, they wanted to keep her around in an attempt to appeal to the teen demographic, whom they probably feared would lose interest in the show now that Buffy and the rest were out of high school. Same reason Batman has Robin.

If they WERE going to keep her, they should have done more with her. She's a magical creature created out of magical energy by magic--there's no way she should have become just an ordinary teenage girl. I kept expecting her to develop Powers, but she never did.

I still think it was faintly hypocritical of Tara to condem Willow for the same thing she did herself.
Mike G.
16. Dianthus
Spike does something good, but due to Tara's spell, Buffy can't see it. It's the mirror image of Buffy kissing Angel while he's in vamp face. She can't see anything good in Spike, or anything bad in Angel.
I much prefer s5 to s7. I hated Caleb, but not for the right reason. Like Tara's family, I thought he was cartoon-ish. I expected far more from the same folks who gave us the Mayor.
I was/am hugely disappointed that Spike's efforts got so little recognition in the end. He's Mr. Unique, Anomaly Guy after all. I realize he started as a villian, so a Hero's Journey wouldn't carry quite as much weight, but I would've thought it might at least reset him to neutral.
For a time, it seemed like he'd have to make such a journey for every victim. They kept repeating the theme in s7, and then again in AtS s5. Every time he was sent to a basement....
Sadly, Chosen was Whedon's idea of a Happy Ending. However, I don't think Buffy would've tried to deny Spike his sacrifice, as she'd made such a sacrifice herself. Death was her gift, one she gave and received in turn.
I think they missed a really good point here. Buffy's sacrifice is the sacrifice of our sister/mothers. This could've been "now it's time for the men to step up" and sacrifice for their women. As the author of The Feminine Mistake asserted, we can and should expect more from our men.
Mike G.
17. Gardner Dozois
I always thought that Caleb was shoehorned hurriedly into the plot because FIREFLY had been cancelled and Whedon wanted to get Nathan Fillian some work. Like most of Season 7, it was not at all convincing.
Emma Rosloff
18. emmarosloff
@13 -- I guess you're right. I seem to recall feeling as much about Spike come the end of Season 7, particularly after Seeing Red. That Buffy opens back up to him at all is pretty miraculous. I know this is me waffling back and fourth here, but I'm a sucker for a good, unconventional romance. And I sort of have a blind spot where Spike is concerned, because his character is just so captivating, flaws and all.

If I had written it, I wouldn't have had him do what he did in Seeing Red. Not that I disagreed with it's plausibility, but I preferred the Spike at the beginning of Season 6, who clearly cared for her and had taken to protecting her friends out of that sense of love. I loved the idea that he could be redeemed to a point where she could actually love him, but I know that's not the direction they chose to take. Sometimes I forget how doggedly he stalked her, too. I wouldn't want to purport that she owed him anything in the end, which I'm realizing is what it sounds like, lol. That was just me projecting, wishing for a different outcome and a way to make it feasible.

As for Tara's use of magic versus Willow's, there's totally a difference. Tara may have messed with the Scoobies minds a bit (with disasterous results, I'll give you that), but she never fullblown altered their memories the way that Willow did.

Tara was trying to keep them from finding out something about her (something they didn't yet know), whereas Willow was trying to keep Tara and Buffy from remembering things about themselves, emotions personal to them and crucial to their lives at that point. In Buffy's case, Willow couldn't bear to see her suffer, but it was selfish because Willow felt like the suffering was her fault, so she wanted to find a way to fix it and appease her own guilt. In Tara's case, Willow couldn't accept that magic was tearing the two of them apart and she effectively chose magic over Tara when she made Tara forget their fight. If she loved Tara at all, she'd allow her her own feelings, no matter how difficult they were to deal with. Same for Buffy.

I will say that I think it's a missed opportunity that Willow never mentioned Tara's slip up here when Tara and her were arguing over magic. It would've been a good chance for Tara to fess up to her own failings, but also to highlight the differences.
Marie Veek
19. SlackerSpice
@13: Not to mention that Willow's spells were partly fueled by a belief that She Knows Best. (See also the attempted anti-love spell in Lovers Walk.) Tara shouldn't be angry at her over what she thinks is nothing, Buffy should be happy, she shouldn't be alone, so let's just do a spell and fix it. (Not helped by the Scoobies not really confronting her about it until Wrecked, just in time for the writers to turn her into an addict.)

Tara, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any illusions about what she's doing, and maybe on some level she agrees with Beth that it's proof that she really is a monster.

Also, considering Willow's response to Tara's anger over the Lethe's Bramble spell was to wait a night and try to do it again to her *and* Buffy, whereas Tara probably would have gone with her asshole family rather than hurt people all over again...

So maybe not so hypocritical - at least not to me.
Mike G.
20. Dr. Thanatos
a) I don't sweat Tara reading Willow the riot act. How many of us as parents have told our kids "Don't make the mistakes I did?" Does that make us hypocrites? Or merely wanting someone to learn from our errors?

b) Gardner, I agree that Dawn may have been retained for demographic reasons. But I wouldn't invoke Batman. As Drew Carey once observed, Batman keeps a teenage boy in a cave; and I'm not sure that's the demographic Joss was going for.
Constance Sublette
21. Zorra
Gardner --
... if it had been handled right, with Dawn returning to her "ball of magic energy" form afterward and going on to some vague afterlife, it wouldn't even have been a downer.
She could have hung out with Cordie in the where-ever she was for a long time on Angel! Best place for both of them, and they should stay there!

Love, C.
Mike G.
22. Gardner Dozois
Actually, I thought an interesting use for Dawn in the following season would have been to have her develop Powers, and, since she's an unstable teenager mentally, be unable to handle them and become Evil, so that Buffy would have to fight her. Since in her heart Buffy still thinks of her as her sister, even though she consciously knows better, and they share all those false memories (which she knows are false--but they still share them), that would be a real conflict for Buffy to have to deal with, particularly if she's faced with the choice of having to destroy her.

Better than what they did do with her, anyway, which was basically--nothing.
Mike G.
23. Dianthus
BTW, this is pure (comedy) gold:
Plus it’s damned good dadding on his part. If only we had a few examples handy of of bad dadding to contrast it with. Useful lessons might be drawn.
Mike G.
24. build6
my take on the "Tara hypocrisy" issue -

leaving aside the "sometimes people do things they *know* are wrong because they're desperate" factor, there's a question of the *purpose* of the spell - I don't think Tara meant it to be a "long term" thing, but rather she was fully expecting to leave with her kin (I'm not gonna use "family" :-), she just didn't want the gang to know her as a demon (i.e. what they've been fighting against full time). Sort of a "hiding her secret shame" thing, as opposed to "bending others to my will".

I mean, she'd grown up all along "knowing" that she was half demon, and that she'd, I dunno, explode upon reaching a particular age, so her going off to college etc., she was probably looking at as a "a short escape into happiness" kind of thing, before she had to go back into the misery she was "fated" to. And if she had to leave anyway, it may be a little selfish, but it's not THAT terrible to try to hide why - imagine getting rejected by Willow (and the others) - "omg! you're a filthy demon? get away".

@14 - do you mean preferring S5 to S7 as a "series ending"? I can see how *aesthetically* S5's ending was better... but it would be *unbearable*. The only redeeming thing about S7 for me was that it ends on a more-or-less "up" mode for Buffy.

(ok that and the sleeping in Spike's arms :-)

I gotta head out and when I get back I'm gonna spam you guys about Dawn and Spike :-)
Leslie Arai
25. creepygirl
My first reaction to the idea of Dawn sacrificing herself at the end of Season Five was that Season Six would have been really different because the resurrection spell set up Buffy's and Willow's arcs so well. But then I started thinking that if Buffy had survived, she'd still have plenty of reasons to be depressed--losing her Mom, losing Dawn, her messy breakup with Riley, medical bills coming in with no help or support from her deadbeat dad, and she's expected to keep on saving the world, no matter what it takes.

And Willow, by the end of The Gift, can reach inside a hellgod's mind and not only survive, but extract someone else's mind and restore it to them. That's an amazing amount of power for anyone to have. She wouldn't need to raise the dead to be at risk of getting arrogant and abusing her power.

The main differences that I think would result from Dawn sacrificing herself is that 1) there wouldn't be as much alienation between Buffy and her friends, if there weren't guilt/resentment resulting from the resurrection spell 2) Buffy's financial situation would not be quite so dire, since she'd have a few more months to figure out the best job she could manage within the constraints she has as the Slayer.
Jason Parker
26. tarbis
The show needed an episode centered on Tara. It needed an episode that fleshed out the character of Tara and gave her some depth. It needed to reassure the audience that the Willow and Tara relationship had some staying power.
Unfortunately this episode only provided two out of three. At the end of it Tara's personality wasn't any deeper and her main story hook (the demon mystery) was gone. Tara remained more a collection of attributes than a rounded character. Sad really because those attributes could have been the base for a great character. (A problem with almost every character brought in after Season 3.)
Alyx Dellamonica
27. AMDellamonica
Tarbis, I'm not sure I agree Tara's just a collection of attributes. She's not an in-your-face type, but with the exception of the spell she performs in this episode, under immense stress, I think she's remarkably consistent and believable.

Dianthus, I never tire of being told I'm funny. Thank you.

Gardner, having an Evil Dawn who was significantly different from Angelus and Dark Willow would have been interesting... I'm trying to think what form that might have taken and so far all I'm coming up with is the ultimate super-powered obnoxious kid sibling.

Emma, I agree that if Willow had raised this spell of Tara's in an argument it could have made for some powerful couple processing--I wish it had happened!
Mike G.
28. Gardner Dozois
This is completely metaphysical, of course--metaphysics: if you had a brother, would he like noodles?--but my guess would be that if they had done the Evil Dawn line, they WOULDN'T have done the Dark Willow line. Two Scoobies in a row turning Evil and misusing their magic powers would have been too much.

I don't think there was ever really any chance they'd do Evil Dawn, though, because under the circumstances they had to assume that the last episode of the season would be the last episode of the whole series, and they needed Buffy to die to wrap that up satisfactorally, and to set up the "surprise" of Buffy coming back in the next season if it turned out that the series was picked up by another network--which was up in the air at the time.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
I know there are a lot who feel its only logical that Dawn would have powers, but I always liked that she represented the not-Slayer part of Buffy, always there to pull her back when her Slayer duties call her to sacrifice her humanity.
Jason Parker
30. tarbis
Tara left the impression that she never had a goal or even a defining quirk and that left her flat. She seemed to be the character that got shuffled to the side easily precisely because she wasn't doing anything. In the end she spent a third of season six has a cameo and three or four episodes of this season being Whedon-style-disturbed (which is a whole other axe to grind) that is no way to round out a character. A character is rounded by their actions and agendas not by hanging out in the background.
Other people's read on the character may vary, but on rewatching Tara feels more like a puppet controlled by the writer then a breathing character. Still the series wasn't written for rewatching, it was written for watching.

On a different subject I would have liked to see them reshoot the end of five with Dawn sacrificing herself. First, it would have meant that the show's premiere on a new network could have involved the title character. (Gee, do you think that might have helped their ratings?) Also in my personal vision of that story they could have had Dawn and memories of Dawn fade in and out for everybody except Buffy, who gets to interact with Dawn in a limited manner so that Michelle's contract isn't blown. The season could have been about Buffy achieving the positive goal of recovering her sister instead of reacting to an outside threat.
Mike G.
31. Dianthus
They are actually (finally) dealing with Dawn's supernatural origins in the comix. Magic no longer exists in the world, and Dawn appears to be dying from the lack. Unfortunately, the comix are le suc.
Alyx Dellamonica
32. AMDellamonica
I hope you'll grind that Whedon-style disturbed ax when the time comes, Tarbis. I call this 'winsomely TV crazy.'
Mike G.
33. Sian
I am late again, but I'm going to say my piece anyway.

First, I have great love for Tara. I think she's excellent. She's shy, quiet and reserved but she gets going once she gets comfortable (and I can identify with this), and she's full of heart and plays the mother role. And, of course, I love her for Willow and Tara. I always like a background character that you are still made to care about and who plays a key role, even if it doesn't get a lot of screen time.

I could analyse Tara in much greater depth. But that's all on paper and I increasingly find, each time I rewatch, that it doesn't really come through on screen. I've probably spent just as much time reading and thinking about 'Buffy' as I have actually watching it, and so my understanding of Tara has developed outside of what's actually in the episodes. And I think that's okay, because I think that's the point of a good show. But I'm more and more dissatisfied with Tara's presentation on screen and have to agree with the people above who say that she's just a collection of attributes. Or perhaps a collection of attributes that just about manages to hold itself together in the form of a person.

I think this is highlighted by this episode. As others have said above, her family seem like caricatures. It's a waste of an episode. On paper, it has such great potential: A secret that’s been hinted at for a year. A controlling and patriarchal family to contrast with the Summers family and with the Scooby family, both big themes. An insight into the background of newish and not much explored character. And so on. (Something I feel would also be interesting to explore is the way that the Scoobies view each other, particular the core four and how they treat others. There’s the obvious Anya/Spike comparison, and then there’s the way that people desperately want to be a part of it – Tara, Jonathan, Andrew, kind of Spike. Buffy’s judgement is final.)

But the story has so many flaws and the potential is not fulfilled.
- Why would Tara believe her family? She often shows a good knowledge of magic and the like, so couldn’t she test it? Perhaps it’s a can’t-shake-off-what-you’re-always-told thing, but it makes it very confusing, linked with the below
- Why would Tara want to hide the demon part of herself from her friends? If she truly believed there was an evil demon in her, why wouldn’t she take herself away? I don’t think this little bit of selfishness matches up with the rest of Tara’s presentation.
- What is the metaphor they’re trying to show? Is it homophobia? In which case, it doesn’t make sense that they told all the women this. Is it a bad, controlling family thing? In which case, it’s poorly formed and, as others have said, the family are like caricatures.
- Tara has never shown that she has any problems with her sexuality, with practising magic, or with being independent. She’s nervous, but lots of people are nervous – there’s nothing to indicate she thinks she’s doing anything wrong or that she has any doubts. If she truly thought this was all mixed up with being half-demon, then surely she would?
- This is all we ever learn about Tara’s family, but there’s so much more to be said. It really needs fleshing out.
- There is nothing in the episode that makes Tara any more like family to the Scoobies than she already was. She’s family to Willow, sure, and she has already shown a motherly role towards Dawn, but her status with Buffy, Xander, Anya and Giles is the same at the end as the beginning – they like her but don’t know or understand her. Buffy’s declaration that she is family is empty. To me, it just seems like rhetoric and Buffy-speechifying to get rid of people who are clearly not nice, or, at best, she does it for Willow. This would be interesting if that’s how they’d intended it, but it wasn’t, and this conclusion to the episode (followed by the happy ending at the Bronze) confirms the feeling the whole episode gives me, which is...

They had some great ideas for Tara. They’d clearly though about it, as it was set up the previous season. The whole thing ties into the theme of family. But it’s like they suddenly decided they couldn’t be bothered and they wanted to get all of this out of the way in one go, and they didn’t have much time to do it well. It’s got so much potential and they just don’t follow through. The whole episode is both obvious and in-your-face whilst still being confusing and it serves to push a point and tie up Tara things quickly. There’s no subtlety or depth. It’s shoehorned in. It all ends up meaning nothing.

All in all, it's a really disappointing episode (but one I really want to like), and one I'd always rather read about than watch.

As for Tara being hypocritical, I disagree. This is the one time she does such a spell, which she clearly does in a moment of panic and desperation. She regrets it and, as someone said, she'd have gone willingly rather than do it again. She learnt her lesson. Willow, meanwhile, has always done self-serving spells and never learns, because she can't even see it's wrong. That's what Tara tries to tell Willow, and she can't see it. It's not at all hypocritical.
Alyx Dellamonica
34. AMDellamonica
Sian, these are great questions and analysis. And I agree, one lapse doesn't really make you a hypocrite so much as just human.

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