Mar 4 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Snuggling the Queller

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Buffy and Dawn are entertaining Joyce at the hospital, waiting on a surgery date while the Scoobies cover patrol. And by Scoobies, I mean just the starter pack: Xander, Giles, and Willow. They take out two female vampires in a battle which is both comic and an excellent demonstration of their years of experience and ability to do the teamwork thing. Sure, it looks bumbly, but could the three of them have killed two vampires, sans Slayer, in S1?

Afterward, Willow celebrates her two-kill evening while Xander continues to be the Chorus of Riley’s Damnation, pointing out that Iowa was supposed to come along and tip the odds in their favor by being soldierly.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

But Riley’s terribly busy getting, well . . . sucked. I’m sorry, but it’s true! By the dead she-vamps’ friend, or at least someone who shares their fashion sense. He’s gotten himself a comfy chair for his new self-abasement ritual. Every pity party is better with a little cushy upholstery, am I right?

And, perhaps since female vampires are getting thinner on the ground every second, he doesn’t stake this one the way he did poor double-doomed Sandy.

A BFF’s work is never done. Willow makes a care package run to the hospital the next day, bringing goofy presents and a bit of banter to the weary Summers women. By now, Joyce’s brain tumor symptoms are starting to make themselves known: she’s saying irrational things, in a clearly angry fashion. It’s all very disconcerting, and Buffy tries to soothe Dawn by telling her the doctor predicted this.

As they flee the unpleasantness, leaving Joyce to nap, they get accosted by the security guard Glory attacked in “No Place By Home.” Like all of Glory’s victims, he’s noticed that Dawn is bright and sparkly and only a reasonable facsimile of a human. He says so, too.

Buffy understands why the guard’s words are significant. Nobody else thinks much of it—he does appear to be very confused, after all—and when curly-haired Doctor Ben comes up to check on them all, still alive and mysterious in that ‘why hasn’t he been killed by something awful yet?’ way, it’s obvious he missed it too.

Dawn, meanwhile, is deeply and understandably unimpressed to once again be called not real by a person of questionable sanity.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Willow and Tara are together stargazing next, which is partly about Willow decompressing after seeing Joyce and even more about being sweet and romantic and cute together until they see a big meteor come crashing to earth. The meteor disgorges a monster, who beelines straight for the demented security guard and suffocates him. It is super convenient that the guard’s family has turned him loose in the woods to let nature take its course just as the demon’s looking for someone unstable to kill. But we’ll let that pass.

While that’s happening, Buffy and Joyce agree that two pointless days in the hospital, waiting for nothing to happen, is an appalling use use of their time. They beg the doctor to send them home for the two days before her surgery. “Only if we can pile immense responsibility on Buffy’s shapely shoulders!” replies the doctor. “Got any experience with responsibility, young lady?”

She allows as how she might be able to handle it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Meanwhile the gang, including Riley this time, go off to check out the space rock. They work out very quickly that it was a monster-bearing space rock, and from there Willow homes in on the dead guard’s corpse. She’s tired of finding the bodies, you guys. I can’t blame her for that.

Riley sends everyone off to hit the books and then secretly calls Graham while the monster blithely wipes out all of the patients in the mental ward.  Naturally, Buffy doesn’t quite get her family checked out of the hospital before the thing notices that Joyce would make a pretty decent dessert.

And so home they all go. The girls get Joyce settled and keep her from setting the kitchen on fire. She erupts at Dawn with the same stuff as the now-dead security guard: you’re not real, you’re a thing. Then she tells Buffy she’s fat. Everyone’s hurt and upset. Later, Dawn tells Buffy the ‘you’re not real’ thing has been happening a lot, which is good information but not immediately useful. (What would be useful at this point, in my opinion, would be for Joyce to not have a brain tumor.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Elsewhere, research is yielding knowledge: the group has realized the killer snot-monster from outer space, as Xander puts it, is a Queller demon. Riley Company, meanwhile, has found the bodies in the psychiatric ward and figured out where the Queller is going.

(It occurs to me the Initiative could have done worse than to have posted a permanent guard on the high school, various Slayer residences, and the Bronze.)

Early Buffy episodes combined excruciating real-life situations with monster stories, but those situations were high school awful: dates gone wrong, social humiliations, and mean principals. Joyce’s illness takes the real-life part of that formula but leaves out the intensely personal and very survivable scale of many teenage crises. This somewhat reflects the fact that awfulness, as we grow up, tends to take a more serious form.  Not all of us get into bitter showdowns over who’s going to be homecoming queen, after all, whereas nursing a desperately ill loved one, alas, is a pretty common experience if you live long enough.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

The drawback to this in a TV’s supposed to be entertaining sense is that sickbed vigils are less likely to be the sort of thing a person looks back at and laughs about later.

So caring for Joyce and Dawn in this episode is just a drawn-out marathon in rottenness for Buffy. It’s what she has to do, and she does it beautifully, but there’s little room here for a parade of yucks. Excluding a few low points—the day she killed Angel springs to mind—Buffy’s worst days slaying are practically heart and puppies moments by comparison.

Understandably, she melts down the first chance she gets, turning up the tunes and weeping into the kitchen sink, and this is so very true to life. It’s also damned sad. This episode opens the door a little further to that overbearing bleakness that crept over the latter portion of the series.

It is also, in its way, kind of awesome, because it means that for a few short minutes, Dawn is the one on the hook for saving Joyce from the monster.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Ah, yes, the monster. Remember Monsieur Snot? Joyce is in bed a-raving and it naturally makes straight for her.

It’s not like Dawn gets to bust out previously undiscovered ninja skills. Her defence of house and parent are accomplished mostly through running, strategic door-slamming—Joyce’s bedroom may have as many as three doors—and, once again, unleashing the amazing and ear-splitting power of The Shriek.

Buffy stops crying. Buffy hears the ruckus. Buffy comes running to the rescue. And then here’s a weird thing: all this time, Spike has apparently been rummaging through stuff in the basement.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Okay, if I were a vampire in love with Buffy and not-so-subtly stalking her, I’d totally move in while the family was away. Hang out in her room, read her diary... that far I can go. But you know what? I’d hear it when they came home and started yelling, banging things around and bawling to the hits in the kitchen sink.

Not our Spikey. He pops up from downstairs with no apparent clue that anyone’s around, much less that there’s a battle going on. He gets attacked by the Queller demon, and in a quite-nice move, redeems himself by tossing Buffy the knife she uses to kill it. . .  all before Riley can show up, just a bit too late to get in on the useful suitor action.

Blame that on the blood loss, I guess.

If Initiative guys get wacky nicknames when they rejoin the fold, I think Graham and the others should start calling Riley ‘Afterthought.’ Or perhaps just “Tardyman.” “Lo how the mighty have fallen” is just a bit too much of a mouthful.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

About this time, we might all start wondering why it is that snot monsters from outer space are even bothering to crash into town to kill and not eat the mentally ill. To you I say: since when did monsters need a reason to come to the Hellmouth? No? Not convinced? Fortunately, Dreg is curious, too, and he asks the guy who knows. Hey, Ben, what’s the deal? Why are you summoning things that kill? Doesn’t that wreak havoc with your Hippopeacenik Oath?

Plus, also: Ben, you’re totally in this season for a reason!

Ben blames Glory without providing details and leaves Dreg to stew. Now we know he’s up to his eyebrows in villainy, he’s marginally less of a sore thumb.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

And then it’s surgery time. Before she goes in for prep, Joyce asks Buffy about her encounter with Dawn, and Buffy ’fesses up. No, she’s not really yours, she admits, and yes, I promise to protect her no matter what. It’s a sweet moment, as far as such things go and it’s where we end off as the whole Scooby gang watches Joyce get wheeled into the Queller-free bowels of the hospital for brain surgery.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Listening to Fear

Next: Into the Woods

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

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1. build6
random bits of "additional stuff" lesser shows wouldn't have bothered to pack in:

Willow - "Oh piffle who needs him when I'm dusting two at a time!" *stumbles because knees are weak*

Buffy to Spike - "Wait - are those pictures of me?" (before the demon attacks and she forgets completely (well, she's got a lot on her mind). Spike wasn't just stealing, he was stealing pictures for his little Buffy shrine)
Constance Sublette
2. Zorra
It's never good times for Buffy again after this episode, through the rest of the series. Sometimes I've thought that why the last episode which has scenes in the Bronze happens soon after also: kind of a signifier that Buffy's now moved into permanent after from all that was before.

It's that conversation with Joyce that convinced me her tumor was related to the Key showing. You just can't re-arrange such basic body and mind memory as conceiving, bearing, and childbirth of one of your children without severe impact, or so it seems to me, as a woman. What it would take to make one remember such deep, intimate details, details that never happened, would re-arrange everything as much as these events in a woman's body changes her body thereafter.

It doesn't matter that the Key wasn't made from Joyce's physical stuff. She was physically and emotionally re-arranged entirely. Presumably the examinations she undergoes pre-op and so on, told the medical people that she's a multi-partum woman, and that would certainly be entered on her information sheets that everyone in the hospital is looking at.

But that others don't see it that way is perfectly fine! It just works for me. :)

Loe, C.
3. Deni
Hey Alyx - found this through your twitter and am lovin it! I am rewatching Buffy too right now. Sure classic stuff!
4. Dianthus
Here we have a prime example of Spike learning his place in Buffy's life. He's not there to save the day and get the glory (no pun intended). He's there for the assist. As for coming up from the basement, where else would he come from?
That's when we get the money shot, a close up of his hand as he reaches out to her, and we stay in tight as she grips it. We've seen this before, btwn Willow and Tara when they were sharing power in Hush. We will see it again to greatest effect in Chosen.
Whedon has a thing about joined hands, like Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview With a Vampire) has a thing for bridges.
Dawn working to save Joyce here definitely argues against her deliberately trying to kill her mother. It may have been a result of Dawn's making, but not malice on Dawn's part.
Constance Sublette
5. Zorra
There have been no suggestions that Dawn deliberately tried to kill Joyce. Not any that I can recall, at least. Everyone understands as well as Joyce and Buffy do that Dawn herself is innocent. Innocent is used by them frequently in reference to Dawn.

Messing supernatually with a natural order always has reprecussions, doesn't it?

None of this changes the fact that the character of Dawn as portrayed by this particular actress is annoying to many viewers!

Love, C.
6. Dianthus
Annoying to many, including me, not necessarily b/c of MT's portrayal, but due to the way she's written. I think on some level, the writers were trying to suggest Dawn might be evil and a danger to Joyce, before we discovered otherwise. Hence her convo w/ Spike in Tough Love.
7. build6
@4 - I liked that bit where Spike gave Buffy a hand up, too. There were times when she wouldn't accept a proffered hand, and that she accepted it here says something about her conception of him, I think.
Leslie Arai
8. creepygirl
For me, Joyce under the influence of the brain tumor was one of the most distressing things that the show ever did. I think it's because Kristine Sutherland did such a great job making Joyce a warm and comforting presence on the show; it's just devastating to watch that personality get ripped away by her illness.
9. Dianthus
@7. Buffy taking Spike's hand here is pretty big (IMO), especially given her reaction to his earlier interference. There's an echo of this scene in Tabula Rasa, where she won't take his offered hand. It's right after their memories have returned, and I think it's more to do with that than with him.
@8.Joyce's death is absolutely the worst. I'm the only child of a single mom, and I don't know what I would've done w/o her, or would do now. It was inevitable, tho', considering Whedon's own loss. The scenes where Buffy sees herself arriving in time to save her are particularly painful.
10. build6
@8 - Indeed, Kristine Sutherland is GREAT. Not enough of her.

@9 - yeah :-( I'm not looking forward to the rewatch getting to those episodes.
11. Edgewalker81
No episode title, not even what season this is.

Honestly, it's not hard to put that information in. I can't believe how amateur this is.
12. Dianthus
@11. Wha? The link from Tor's mainpage gives the title of the episode.
13. wiredog
@12, the link from the blog page ( just says "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Snuggling the Queller by Alyx Dellamonica" with no indication of episode title, number, or season.

Not an issue for me, but, yeah, might be nice to have an indication somewhere in the blog post. That said:
@11: It's a blog post. Lighten up, Francis.
14. Edgewalker81
The Rereads on this very site give you the name of the book, the chapter, etc...

The site set a standard. I am just pointing out how this doesn't live up to it. It's well-written, but without that information, how are you supposed to go and watch for yourself?

It's a blog post, yes. It's also someone'es job.
Jason Parker
15. tarbis
Sunnydale's fine mental healthcare system where you can wander the streets until something eats you or be put in one large mixed gender room and physically restrained forever. Of course this is on Earth-Whedon where the only form of mental disorder is random grab-bag of symptoms from the schizo-types so it isn't like there is somebody with addiction issues or depression to be strapped down and killed by the snotty pillbug. (Although after hours of listening to the other patients they may have greeted death with relief.)

Now I can believe that all of Glory's victims would have the same disorder. They're all caused by having an other-dimensional being magically suck on their neurotransmitters and rip apart the pathways. Too bad the same disorder appeared with Drusilla (traumatic shock), Joyce (tumor), Spike (guilt complex aggravated by the First Evil), and River Tam (damage to a part of the brain related to long-term memory creation and emotion). The only one the writers have any case for when it comes to sharing symptoms with Glory's victims is Joyce. But the disconnected rambling delusional kind of ill is the only type Whedon can be bothered to write so it keeps reappearing and standing in for any disorder.

That isn't to say that I don't like some of the characters mentioned. In face I was willing to overlook Drusilla's illness making no sense when she was unique. However season five is stuffed full of disturbed characters and they all act like her. That’s too big to let slide.

It doesn't help that the kind of mental health care modeled on the show is a modern Bedlam. The queller was the best care they could expect. Not exactly an image that would encourage someone to seek treatment.

Sadly they really could have used other disorders to create interesting stories and metaphors. Tell me they couldn't have gotten a solid episode out of depression, bipolar, panic disorder, social phobia, or obsessive compulsive disorder (shoot, the particular compulsive might have been close to right). Instead we got babbling and hallucinations.
16. Dianthus
@13. Every Monday when AMD's new post is up, there's a link near the top of the Tor homepage, and it clearly gives the title of the ep under discussion. It doesn't stick around long, I'll grant you, but it is there.
@15. Testify! Except for Tara, Glory's crazies are plot pts only. Once her plot has run its course, those folks just...go away.
It's ironic this show is about growing up, since the grown ups in Whedon-world are either in on the evil plot or have their heads too far up their own butts to see what's going on around them.
A vampire wouldn't even need an invitation to get into a public place, like a school or hospital, but no one thinks to mount any sort of defense?
Look at Jenny Calander. She was a great character, don't get me wrong, but, ultimately, she was just too stupid to live.
OTOH, Whedon did liken Buffy's s6 malaise to clinical depression.
17. build6
@11, 14 -

(a) maybe these re-reads aren't right for you. maybe they're better for Buffy fans, who don't need to be told which season or episode it is because we immediately know, from context (or, frankly, catchphrases) which season and episode something is in. what I'm trying to say is that if there's an "in" crowd, you're not part of it.

(b) there's a polite way and a dickish way to do anything, and clearly you chose door number 2. I'm pretty sure we're ok with you closing the door behind you and not coming back.
18. build6
@15 - options for different kinds of mental illness - yeah :-\, there's a lot more stuff that could've been covered. which is one reason why season 7 was so disappointing, so much time wasted on standing around talking when there's so much more stuff that could've been done (an episode on OCD sounds really interesting).
Jason Parker
19. tarbis
I can see the links to clinical depression is Buffy circa season six, but the only time the series treated it as a mental health issue was in "Normal Again". Otherwise the malaise was lumped in with the 'adult life sucks' tone of the season.

Kind of like how no one thought to treat Willow's addiction issue (among her other issues) as a disorder. Maybe sent her to talk to one of the free counselors that every college provides.
Marie Veek
20. SlackerSpice
@19: Maybe because the writers figured "O NOES, WILLOW IS AN ADDICT" was enough? Either that or they couldn't come up with "magic addiction"-friendly reasons for her pre-"Wrecked" actions without touching on the original reasons.
Alyx Dellamonica
21. AMDellamonica
Edgewalker, I'm not ignoring you. I am, however, checking on some facts before I reply.

Build (and everyone) - I love it when you call out your favorite bits!


Many of you, but especially tarbis--yes. Mental illness on Buffy is definitely of a generic raving variety but I have to put in a pitch here for this being less a Whedon or Mutant Enemy fault and more of a generalized TV industry convention borne out of, perhaps, laziness or convenience. The eccentric-but-lovable patient is the preferred mode for many a TV show, and this is changing but slowly. But Homeland's been doing well with it, and there've been a few other shows lately too. You've probably seen more of them than I.
22. Dianthus
@19. Willow's "magic addiction" is another of my (many) bugaboos. Being addicted to magic is like being addicted to electricity (IMO). Giles - who knows from bad juju - should've taken Willow in hand a lot sooner, rather than taking the Just Say No approach.
As for Buffy, while it's true that going from child to adult can be painful, scary, and confusing, it can also be a time of excitement and discovery (like, for instance, the discovery of a vampire's latent humanity).
@21. I don't think I've watched that many shows dealing w/ mental health issues. There's still so much stigma there. If anything good comes out of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, perhaps it'll be a greater willingness to deal with, rather than ignore, them.
Marie Veek
23. SlackerSpice
@22: Agreed - probably immediately after "Something Blue" - considering that it nearly got Xander munched and/or killed who knows how many times over, and allowed Spike to get loose.
Leslie Arai
24. creepygirl
@23 I'll go even further and say that Willow should have had guidance in magic as soon as she started using it. Giles should have either mentored her himself or found someone suitable to be her mentor. Surely with the contacts he'd made over the years as a Watcher he'd be able to find someone to help Willow from the very beginning. If he was willing to use her as part of the fight, he should have been willing to make an effort to get her trained properly.

I mean, I can't imagine a responsible authority figure allowing a sixteen-year-old to teach herself to use TNT with just some vague warnings about how TNT is really dangerous and she should be careful. And magic is probably even more dangerous than TNT, and Giles had first-hand experience with how dangerous it was.
25. Dianthus
@24. Plus, Giles had all that time on his hands prior to buying The Magic Box, and Willow's 'Will Be Done' spell negatively affected him personally.
Willow's issues were more about the misuse of her power (IMO) but the show is pro girl power, so it couldn't really be about
girl + power = badness.
Marie Veek
26. SlackerSpice
@25: No, not if they had made it clear that it was Willow's tendencies to go for the Easy Fix Magic rather than work out emotional turmoil herself that was the issue.

Though a tiny cynical part of me wonders if the "magic addiction" thing was a saving throw for the writers to try and avoid acknowledging just how far down this path she was. That would involve admitting that she'd done bad things to her friends, whether by accident or Good Intentions™, and has had to deal with squat in significant consequences prior to Tara breaking up with her. (Detailing someone's car? Baking cookies?!) But God forbid one of the heroes have significant character flaws and/or do bad things for the reasons she did, so...
Jason Parker
27. tarbis
I think the raving crazy is a convention of serialized television, but not all television. Procedurals (mainly medical) built episodes around a variety of mental illnesses well before Buffy. Sitcoms had mental health issues crop up in character backstory (mainly addiction issues in the early '90s) and very special episodes (M.A.S.H. through the early '90s). Nice to know that serial television is finally getting there too.
The generic raving crazy wouldn't have been a problem with Mutant Enemy except they kept going back to the well. Keeping it to one generic television crazy, maybe two, a season can work without making the audience say 'wait a minute', but season five had too many with too much screentime for the viewer not to notice.

@Willow's mental health
Making Giles be Willow's magic tutor would have been bad television because it would have pulled mentoring (and screentime) away from the main character. Making Willow wrestle with the reason for her addiction could have been a good subplot. Willow was a control freak who had been convinced she was powerless. The second she got a taste of power she started using it to reshape herself and her environment. Magic was easier for her then doing real work. None of the characters were aware enough to notice so magic got the blame.
And I have to agree with the cynical part of Slackerspice in 26. The rule changes in "Wrecked" were probably put in to try to salvage a fan favorite character.
28. Dianthus
@27. I think it would've been possible for Giles to mentor Willow w/o taking the focus off Buffy, if they did it right.
@26. and @27. Yes! Magic was an easy fix for Willow and it's her Control Freak tendencies that were really the problem.
Of course, Spike's the scapegoat for Buffy's problems in s6 as well. Both of these young women were playing with fire, and when they get burned, it's the flame that was to blame.
One show I watched dealing w/ mental health issues was Monk (OCD). I thought they handled it pretty well.
The idea in BtVS seems to be that it's only the crazy people who can see what's really going on.
Michael Ikeda
29. mikeda
As far as the "magic addiction" is concerned, I've always thought that it was an analogy that Willow and her friends seized on because it fit some of what was going on. Especially since it probably was necessary for Willow to temporarily stop all use of magic at that particular time. What she needed to do next, of course, was figure out how to deal with the underlying issues. Which she didn't get around to until after the buried issues surfaced in an unpleasant way at the end of S6.

That said, I think that it is reasonably well established that some types of Buffyverse magic ARE potentially addictive. That this possibility was set up in earlier seasons (e.g. "The Dark Age", "Band Candy") . That Rack's magic is one of those potentially addictive types. And that Willow was genuinely addicted to Rack's particular type of magic.
30. Dianthus
@29. I think it goes back to Whedon's issues with addiction, really. Vampires are addicts, Willow's addicted to magic, and Buffy's addicted to Spike.
The problem with the analogy is that, while you can be a recovering addict, you can't really be a recovering vampire. Not w/o going to extrodinary lengths, at least.
But now, in the comics, vampires have stopped killing people - playing by Harmony's rules. Why Evil vampires who enjoy being Evil would listen to a ridiculous bit of fluff like her, I really don't know. Yes, there's more than one Slayer, but odds still favor the vamps.
The comics undercut the series, nevermind that the series came first and was so much better.
31. Dianthus
Ok, so I just found out that Whedon & Co. have reached a startling conclusion (in the Willow comic mini) - magic isn't good or bad, it's how you use it. *facepalm*
32. Gardner Dozois
The Queller demon plot was silly, and really there only to inject a Monster-of-the-Week into the episode to give Buffy somebody to pummel. Otherwise, doesn't make a lot of sense; if Queller demons show up everytime someone goes insane, they're missing a lot of job opportunities. It was never clear to me if the Queller demon was summoned by Glory or at least her diseased Hobbits to clean up after all the brain-sucked victims that Glory was leaving all over the place, or if it just shows up on its own when a lot of people go nuts.

(It did establish the interesting fact that demons seem to be radioactive. And come from outer space. I have a feeling that somebody in the writing room had seen a movie about an alien monster coming down in a meteor from outer space, and just adapted it unconvincingly to be a demon to fit in better with the structure of the show.)

Mostly a wheel-spinner, although it does establish that Ben and Glory are connected somehow, and the character interactions are nice, especially those between Joyce, Buffy, and Dawn in the hospital, where they seem convincing as a family to me. Buffy taking Spike's hand is a subconscious indication that she's coming to accept him being around, and also how much he's changed. She never would have taken the hand of the Spike from his first few episodes.

I always wonder, does it make it okay (or more okay, anyway) or "normal" or more wholesome that Riley only allows female vampires to suck his blood? If he allowed male vampires to suck it, would that be, like, you know, weird?
33. Dianthus
@32. I thought it was pretty clear in the ep. that Ben summoned the Quellar to clean up Glory's mess. Besides, how can you resist a line like "It's a killer snot monster from outer space."
Otherwise, yeah. This ep. was no standout. I'm waiting for Triangle and Checkpoint. Both of those eps have strong Spike-related stuff (catnip to one such as I). And, of course, Intervention - a personal favorite.
Marie Veek
34. SlackerSpice
@33: Yeah, one of Glory's Scabby Hobbits explicitly asks him at the end of the episode.
35. build6
@34 - not just that, one of the hobbits-with-leprosy calls Ben *"Sir"*. I remember watching that for the first time and going "!!!!" (yes, exclamation points literally appeared around my head).

As I was watching this episode I was going "WTF?" (I mean, an alien from space?! What show am I watching?). But I think the demon is the "extraneous" bit for the payoff at the end, of making us ask "who and what is Ben, really?". So, I wouldn't call it wheel-spinning/monster-of-the-week if only because "this went somewhere important", i.e. we now know Ben's seriously deeply involved in everything. And that he's prepared to have people killed in order to "clean up Glory's mess". (plus it sets up the mechanism by which Riley leaves).

Ben... Ben's the anti-Buffy. He wants to do the right thing, only up to the point where it's too difficult/hard for himself. Then he'll do what's "expedient". Buffy goes into danger even knowing it'll lead to her death (not just end of S5 - fighting the Master right at the beginning also comes to mind).

Dianthus, re: comics - seriously?! omg. I've been sporadically hitting the comics because, well, I want/need more BtVS, but I've never been able to sustain reading them without wanting to stop after a few pages. What you're saying is making me feel... bitter, sigh. Oh, and Intervention is hands down my favourite Buffy episode of the entire series!
36. Dianthus
@35. I'm sorry, but 'bitter' pretty much sums up how I feel about the comics. I was excited when the first one came out, and I really wanted to like them. Unhappily, they just don't seem to have anything new to say. I wish things were different, but you know Joss, he's all about Death and Betrayal. Since he can't actually kill us....
As it is, I've read fanfic with more emotional depth and coherence.
Alyx Dellamonica
37. AMDellamonica
As it is, I've read fanfic with more emotional depth and coherence.

That's not surprising, really--there are some amazing fanfic writers out there.
38. Dianthus
@37. It's only surprising b/c I expected a lot more from the comics. I'd understand if they were the work of a bunch of no-talent hacks brought in for the sole purpose of milking a cash cow, but Whedon himself is still running the show.
I'm sorry I let myself get side-tracked during the discussion of FFL. I could've pulled out a bunch of good Spike stuff from there. Seeing Spike become Spike was pretty cool.
My main problem w/ s6 is that, given the gender role reversal btwn Buffy and Spike, and Buffy's misogyny, Spike is, in effect, the girl in their relationship. Nevertheless, all of that ceased to matter after Seeing Red, and then it was all about this awful thing Spike had done.
Chris Nelly
39. Aeryl
Willow's "addiction" is a classic example of the characters on a show saying something, and the audience assuming it was true. Just because everybody went through the motions of treating it like an addiction, doesn't mean it was. As a matter of fact, the end result of that season proves, Willow never addressed her real problems at all, by treating it like an addiction and going cold turkey. The addiction metaphor* was a dodge, by Willow and everyone else, so THEY wouldn't have to address the actual problem Willow had, control.

And I can completely support mikeda @29 that what Rack was doing to Willow(and what she imbibed from him later) was no good, and somewhat addictive(I also think Amy deliberately allowed herself to be caught with the exagerrated addict symptoms, to punish Willow for abandoning her).

As far as the comics one thing left out, is that the person Willow(unknowingly) quests with to learn that about her magic, is Rack. Which I enjoyed, as it brought the story full circle, IMO. Where she went off track in her belief about magic and its influence on her, is the place where she finally learns the truth.

*It's not really a metaphor, we'd just become so used to metaphors standing for real life, that we fell for the dodge hook, line, and sinker.
Chris Nelly
40. Aeryl
In regards to this ep, this was the second episode of Buffy I ever remeber seeing, the first being FFL. I vaguely recall seeing an early episode at a family member's house, where I learned Angel was a vamp with a soul, but I couldn't pinpoint which particular ep it was.

I enjoyed the hell out of it, not knowing much about the show. Snot demon that eats crazy people, J0yce scene with the Queller, which was by turns hilarious(to me, but I'm morbid as all get out) and terrifying. That powerful scene of Buffy crying in the kitchen was my first real insight into her vulnerability, and as I grew up in a house with a single mom I sometimes had to take care of, it really connected to me.

I never was able to catch the rest of this season, I was too busy being awesome(heh), but the next year, after my oh-so-together life kinda fell apart, when I heard "Buffy Lives", I knew I had to watch it, which I did, concurrently watching the reruns on FX. And S6 remains my favorite to this day, followed closely by 7. What Buffy was going through in S6 really resonated with me, as I surveyed the wreckage of my own life(and my own relationship issues resonated as well, probably why I never got on board with Spuffy and still don't ship in my shows to this day), and S7 when I had started to get it back together again, that scene of Buffy in Lessons, when she's getting Dawn ready for school, well that resonated with me as well.
41. Dianthus
I started watching the show from the beginning (no, I don't think that's any better or worse), and what clinched it for me was a cute, quippy blonde chick who kicked ass and took names. Buffy wasn't a victim or a damsel in distress, and that was great.
Buffy spends most of s6 in victim mode. It is only when she's fighting Spike off in her bathroom that she seems to remember who she really is. We know Spike's not physically stronger than she is, and we've seen her kick his "shiny white bum" plenty of times.
Buffy gets a series of wake-up calls thro' the season, b/c she's so caught up in her own misery that she can't see what's happening to the people around her. Willow has an accident, and nearly kills Dawn. Dawn is shoplifting. Spike is changing.
Again, we're looking at the same thing, but from different perspectives.
Marie Veek
42. SlackerSpice
@39: I've read a couple people online who said the same thing, though quite a few people seemed to be singing the "God what a shitty plot idea, were you guys stoned?" blues. And I gotta agree.

If the "addiction" thing was a dodge, then (as far as I can tell - been a while though) they don't seem to really follow up on it beyond the last few episodes of Season 6. After the end of "Seeing Red" did its game (and likely unintentional) best of kicking the addiction idea in the balls, and "Villains", "Two to Go", and "Grave" did the Macarena over its prone body*, Season Seven could have had moments of general (and preferrably on-screen) reflection on Willow's part that would lead her to the conclusion that "Golly, maybe it's not the magic that's the problem, it's the fact that I occasionally have the foresight and moral understanding of a dead squid."**

Instead, we got the gang worrying about her losing control of the magicks and 'going black', which makes sense in a few ways, but still avoids the original issue.

* I apologize to everyone for exposing everyone to my inner Yahtzee
** And also for the run-on sentence. And the exaggeration about the squid. (But only a little.)
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
Giles tells her very explicitly in Lessons that the problem wasn't the magic but how she used it, but she wasn't ready to hear that yet, IMO. She still hadn't dealt with her own culpability, and doesn't until the comics.
44. Dianthus
@42. LOL! I love you, and I love this post.
Addictive behavior frequently results from some larger, underlying problem, and the unwillingness to deal with same, yes?
Aeryl, liking s6 and the comics puts you into the minority, and you're just gonna have to put up with the rest of us harshing your buzz. We're never gonna see eye to eye on certain things.
Chris Nelly
45. Aeryl
The comics, yes, S6 no. There are more of us than you realize. Most of us just aren't the vocal ones who screamed back at all the hate being thrown at it.
46. build6
Actually, me too - I'm not a big fan of the comics that I've seen so far (which is not that much, and from what I'm hearing I fear to tread any further*... ), but I, too, love S6. I'd rate S5 and S6 as my top and 2nd favourite seasons.

*: should it be "further" or "farther"?
47. Gardner Dozois
Re Riley and his little friend, it amuses me that, for the most part, male vampires suck female victims, and female vampires suck male victims. You couldn't make the sexual subtext to all this clearer if you tried.

I don't read the comics, and from the plot-descriptions I've heard here, I'm not eager to start.
48. build6
re: Giles potentially training Willow properly early on etc. - I like Giles very much, but that guy makes plenty of really bad decisions as well, so not catching Willow early isn't entirely an aberration - what comes to mind primarily is him deciding to leave in S6.

I mean, Buffy had just *come back from the dead* (and he just found out she'd been yanked out of *Heaven*!!), her Mom was still gone, there's all sort of real-world crap weighing down on her, and he decides to abruptly up and go?! At least ease into it or something wtf.
Bridget McGovern
49. BMcGovern
Just to respond to the earlier comments about including the episode title and other information--we've determined that it's an issue on the production side of things and it will be corrected, moving forward. Apologies to Alyx for the mix-up (and as a long-time, major Buffy fan, I feel I should second all the praise up above and in previous threads while I'm here--you're the best, Alyx! Thanks :)
50. Dianthus
I didn't say there weren't others who like s6. I know you're out there. A large minority is still a minority.
Everybody was making bad decisions in s6, b/c Buffy was messed up and so everyone else (as free-range parts of her) was as well.
OTOH, what does it say about Willow when unsouled, nominally still Evil Spike is ready to deal with his problem before she can deal with hers? Once again, we're dealing with a double standard (IMO).
Chris Nelly
51. Aeryl
What double standard? Your Spike-centric view of the show really messes with your perspective, IMO. I don't even know what you are referring to, but how Spike is just the BEST and everyone else the WORST permeates every discussion with you.

And no, a majority of the fans adore S6(and, like me, perfectly willing to admit it has problems), it's a vocal minority who hate S6, most of whom are part of the internet fandom. Just like its still a vocal minority in the US who still oppose same sex marriage, they aren't the dominant viewpoint, they are just the loudest.

Based on a lot of your comments, it seems like your biggest beefs is the show's feminist bent, and what you feel is a refusal to acknowledge the faults women have on this show(never mind that the gender ratio for baddies shows women as evil than men, but wev) and that the show isn't titled Spike The Vampire Slayer Slayer, and I don't know how to help you with that. And don't get me wrong, I adore Spike, but it's not his show. Plus you have this continued need to personalize all the problems you have with the show with Whedon himself(the addiction is cuz Whedon was an addict, daddy issues b/c he has daddy issues, Whedon's pouty over Marsters and won't bring him back), b/c which makes discussion over opposing viewpoints....difficult to say the least.
Bridget McGovern
53. BMcGovern
Aeryl and Dianthus (@51 and 50): Since it seems like things might be getting a little overheated, I just want to step in with a gentle reminder that we should try to keep things civil, as much as possible. Please keep calm and carry on, basically :)
Chris Nelly
54. Aeryl
I didn't feel my comments were uncivil or heated, but Dianthus, if you feel I have stepped out of line, I do apologize, my perspective on that is not what matters, but yours.

I would, however, ask that, in return, you stop appealing to authority(stating whose opinions are more popular) in an attempt to invalidate my argument. It's dismissive. People disagreeing with me doesn't harsh my buzz, but having my arguments dismissed out of hand does. If you disagree, fine, engage or not, it doesn't matter, it's a tv show that's been off the air for 10 years. But your comment was an unneccessary addition to the conversation, IMO, because it didn't engage, it was just deragatory.
55. Dianthus
@54. I'm sorry you felt that way. That was not my intent. I felt much the same in our disagreement over the comics.
I'm saying that objecting is not the same as hating, and as for everything you said in @51., you couldn't be more wrong.
I very much admired the feminist bent of the show, and I'm well aware that Spike has his flaws. Nor did I ever claim that Whedon himself was an addict. Are you suggesting it's not a running theme in his work?
My understanding of Whedon's history is that his father shipped him off to boarding school after his mother died. That's what I'm basing the Daddy Issues on (besides it being another running theme in his work). I'm not just pulling all this stuff out of my a** you know.
Chris Nelly
56. Aeryl
Well, you may admire it, but at the same time, in every discussion you point out that the women are never held to the same standards. I think that's a pretty serious charge to make, and it almost always relates back to the fact that no character is held to the same standard as Spike, who was a soulless vicious murdering creature for 200 years and has a lot to answer for. The only other Scooby member who is even close to him in magnitude is Anya, and the reason she is held to a different standard(by the characters mind you, not necessarily the writers) is Xander, the least feminist character in the group. So yes, in many ways, I feel your constant "But what about the menz(Spike)" to be kinda anti-feminist.

And as far as the comics, I wasn't trying to denigrate your interpretation, but offer instead a different metaphorical lens to examine through, which might have enhanced your enjoyment of them. I love them because they get to go places that the show never got to explore, it's even more explicitly feminist, and I feel it is a thematic exploration of a topic near and dear to me, the feminist backlash we are living in right now. But, hey, YMMV. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything of value to them, or that people who do find value are "broken".

Everything I've heard Whedon say about his father, is that he was great and he has mad respect and that's why he chose to do the same thing as him, write movies and TV. I think the daddy issues are so constant, are because the show is about examining patriarchy(less so than Dollhouse), and the best representative of patriarchy, is the patriarch, no more no less. And I think the addiction threads come from the same place. The societal structures we have in place, are no good for most the people who live in it, but we continue to perpetuate sexism, racism, bigotry, these poisons that are killing us.

Our experiences inform us, but they do not define us, and to write off the complicated themes of the show as Whedon dealing with his own shit, is a disservice to the show. I think it's a shallow reading, when the show is so much more deep than that.
Chris Nelly
57. Aeryl
So yes, in many ways, I feel your constant "But what about the menz(Spike)" to be kinda anti-feminist.

Having said that, let me also say that since you say I am wrong in my belief, I will extend the good faith to take you at your word. I do realize that sentence kinda sounded like "Nu-Uh", so I just wanted to make that clear.

And that's not to question your statements about his history w/his father either, I may have misheard the interview, it was YEARS ago, so I don't have links to back it up. Even if he does have issues, like I said, I don't think that's always means it a primary driver. I don't think it's any question that men who've been damaged by father figures are more open to examining male centric hierarchies(while not being completely exempt from perpetuating, somewhere Whedon fails occiasionally*cough*Firefly*cough*), which is the overall goals with most his stuff, maybe not The Avengers, but I'll not begrudge him commercial success, he had the chance to do something awesome, and he took it.
58. Dianthus
Even in your apology, you're mischaracterizing some of what I'm saying, and still trying to score points (IMO), but whatever. It's all just words on a screen, innit?
Anya was a demon for a lot longer than Spike and Angel combined. We saw how her wish rebounded on the wishee in s7. We saw some of the collateral damage she caused in a flashback.
I do not begrudge Whedon his success.
Elevating one gender above another is what got us to this pass in the first place.
Chris Nelly
59. Aeryl
I actually did a rundown once, and the distribution of baddies by gender, is pretty much even, 75 women and 74 men spread out over 144 episodes. This is somewhat subjective, counts recurring ones, and includes eps with multiple baddies counted individually(Spike and Dru, Faith and Mayor) or together(like The Trio, Frat Boys) and excluding eps without a clear defined villain and lesser villians(Gorch & Co in Bad Eggs & Homecoming).

And you're completely right about Anya, but again, the main reason she's given a pass, is because she's Xander's girlfriend. Think about this, more time was spend discussing Willow's lesbianism, than Xander's choice of an unrepentant mass murderer(though Xander defenders will say that was likely because his friends didn't feel that he could "better", and in some ways, it's true), and a hell of a lot more time was spent discussing Buffy's choices. So there are many ways that the shows fails to hold men to the same standards it held its women characters to as well.

The show has its flaws all around. I personally can't stand the way it refused to hold Giles accountable for his betrayal of Buffy in abandoning her in S6, I get that Head had to leave, and I don't blame the actor, but that doesn't mean the character shouldn't have to deal with the emotional fallout, but apology aside, Buffy shouldn't have let him off the hook, but after Hank abandoned her, she was always afraid to push back. And then he did it again in the comics! Do ya think the space frak would've happened if he'd just told her? "Hey, if you start glowing, don't have sex with any of you're exes? OK?" It's almost like because she let it slide that night in the Magic Box, he never truly repected her again. And I hate that it was done to Giles.
Alyx Dellamonica
60. AMDellamonica

I want to echo BMcGovern in asking everyone to keep it civil. We all have great love for and other strong feelings about BtVS and we're not always going to agree. You know that, I know that, and it's a good thing. That said, I want everyone to feel as though they can play here.

I have a link to a Joss Whedon quote which seems on point:

It says "All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet--it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you."

So much of Buffy is perfectly constructed that it's easy to imagine that every element--and audience reaction thereto--was thought out in china-fine detail. But no. We cannot know what personal issues any of the BtVS writers may have, or how they mix into their screenwriting. What we all get to work with is what we see on the screen.

Oh! and BMcGovern has also posted about the episode titles. I wanted to add a note about this: several rewatches ago, you all asked me to be attentive to listing these at the top of each article, and I started doing so.

What I didn't do was ensure they had actually started to appear there.

I have some qualities which I'll shorthand as absent-mindedness. I noticed an essay with no title header recently, but before doing anything about it I resolved to make sure I wasn't the source of the glitch. (There are few things more embarrassing than going to someone and saying "Heyyyyy, UR doing this RONG!! What? Oh? I'm doing it? I thought... hmmm. How'd that happen? Um, sorry!")

So I was in the midst of checking my back-ups and following up on this when Edgewalker got confused. For that, and my role in it, I do apologize.

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