“Forever,” written and directed by Marti Noxon
There are no ‘previously on BtVS’ scenes last week, for reasons that are indelibly burned on our hearts. Only one thing happened and we all remember it, am I right?
So! “Forever” starts with a bit of a decoy action: Buffy’s in a room full of coffins, and we’re invited to imagine she’s doing something fun, like hunting bloodsucking fiends. Or... well, there’s not much in the way of other fun you can have in a room full of coffins. At least, not alone. I suppose nowadays if you had a good camera phone you could take some interesting selfies.
(And put them on the internets. And get denied gainful employment, later, as a result...)
Alas, what Buffy is actually doing is picking a box for Joyce’s eternal snooze. Dawn’s not so sure about her choice, and they talk about the unsavory prospect of her being in the coffin forever. Everyone who’s been there, done that will remember that funeral preparations are a enormous, depressing drag and nobody’s happy to be there. Everyone who hasn’t can take their word for it.
This message gets underlined with a grim Scooby meeting which is all about nailing down the final details. Joyce hated wakes, so there won’t be one. Dad Summers, we find out, is still absent and possibly in Spain. Giles is continuing to fill in as patriarch. Somehow it feels different, weightier. Is it just that the Scoobs really are too young to be without a parent figure?
The focus, though, is Dawn. She is feeling so alienated from Buffy that she asks if she can stay over at WillTara’s after the service. Buffy’s clearly surprised, but also can’t think of a reason to object.
As the Scoobies go their separate ways, Willow mentions she’s gonna stop by home and visit her mom. Xander’s saying he might just do that too when Spike shows up. He’s got flowers, because Joyce was nice and never treated him like a freak. The boys get into snarling at each other, and in the end Spike tosses the bouquet and walks away. We find out he didn’t leave a card—that the gesture wasn’t an attempt to score points with Buffy.
The burial itself is typically awful, and everyone is sad. Buffy and Dawn are still coping alone, even when they’re together. The most that can be said for this scene is that Xander’s extremely well dressed. Darn it, this show usually makes death more fun. Some of the casualties have been downright rollicking experiences.
Buffy is standing over the grave, through the afternoon and until sunset, when Angel arrives.
It’s rather lovely to hear the BuffAngel love theme again. Isn’t that odd? Especially in the episode after the episode with no music.
In a ‘wow, this is all so woeful’ way, I kinda love this graveside vigil and the Angel visit. Even though she knows how her mother died—knows there’s no real chance of vamping—there’s a sliver of this night spent by the grave, it seems to me, that is about Buffy waiting to make sure Joyce doesn’t come up out of the ground. Staying is also, obviously, a component of Buffy’s mourning process. Even so, it reflects that grim Hellmouth reality: so many of her beloveds have gone bad in one way or another that she pretty much has to make sure.
Problem is, she’s staked out the grave too early.
Anyway, BuffAngel spend the night under what looks awfully like their favorite graveyard picnic tree. She tells him she’s had many funereal tasks to fill the time up to now, but that tomorrow, normal life begins. She doesn’t know how to navigate an everyday existence without Joyce. Mostly, she’s freaking out about how to take care of her sister. It’s all very understandable.
This scene is also well-timed to show how completely Spike isn’t on Buffy’s romantic radar at this point. She’s needy, she’s single, and what she really wants is her first love back. In the end, though she’s incredibly grateful that he came to support her, she has to send The Broody One back to L.A.
XandAnya are discharging their painful emotions with intimacy, too. Afterward, we learn Anya has had some epiphanies about sex. It’s more intense because of Joyce, she realizes, and her heightened awareness of mortality. She mentions making life and Xander panics, but they talk their way past the implied threat of babies. It’s a lovely scene, a picture of what’s best about this relationship.
Dawn, of course, is mourning hard. Willow and Tara are trying to make her feel better and it doesn’t help at all. Willow mentions witchery and Dawn decides that’s the answer. Magic it better, she says.
Tara, moral authority on all things witchable, replies that this is impossible. “Witches can’t be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons,” she declares. She also says witches took an oath not to resurrect the dead.
Dawn, super-logically, points out that if there’s an oath then there is totally a spell.
And Willow—what a shocker!—is thinking it over. She sneakily pulls out a book on resurrection for Dawn before she goes off to class.
Over at the season’s big storyline, where deities are waiting in the wings to kill Key-shaped teenagers and whoever else shows up, Ben the sometimes-benevolent doctor is being accosted by one of Glory’s minions. The Most Unstable One wants Ben to follow up on his attempt to date Buffy, as a means of learning more about the Key. Ben goofs and refers to the Key as an innocent. Jinx the Minion is no dummy, and Ben ends up stabbing him to protect Dawn’s secret. We give him points for doing the right thing, but must mark him down on the execution, as Jinx does not in fact die of his wound.
(We also wonder what the Hippocratic Oath says about doing harm to scabby demon minions, but that may be off point.)
Dawn has a snuffle through the resurrection material in the book Willow ‘gave’ her and then heads off to the Magic Box. She easily gets Giles to tell her where the potent (i.e. dangerous) magic stuff is kept and beelines for it. This is her first solo foray into stealing stuff from the magic shop and it goes well. She is on her way to becoming quite the thieve-y ninja con artist.
Next thing you know, she’s at the graveyard, getting a handful of dirt from atop Joyce’s grave... and Spike catches her at it. He has a bit of a gift for that. She thinks he’s going to rat her out, but instead he says he’ll help.
Is this the first time he calls her Little Bit? At all, or just to her face? I find this nickname very charming.
Always one to look a gift horse in the fangs, Dawn accuses him of doing it because he’s stalking Buffy. But he says he doesn’t like seeing the Summers women take it on the chin. And what’s she going to do? Nobody else is going to help her.
Elsewhere, Giles is having his own little Joyce vigil with the Cream album from “Band Candy” and a little alcohol. Glory’s non-punctured minions find Jinx in time to save his life, allowing him to gaspingly reveal that the Key is in human form. Glory is delighted. “The Key is in a flesh wrapper,” she crows. It’s all happy times in the land of the sanity-challenged deities.
By now, Spike has taken said flesh wrapper to consult with a guy named Doc on the whole resurrection thing. And, look! Doc is Joel Grey! Hi Joel Grey, I forgot you were in this one! He’s kind of insane but also, apparently, nice. He advises against raising the dead, but he’s less adamant than, say, Tara. Given a little encouragement, he rips out some Dawn hair and says Joyce has strong DNA.
He can see DNA. Don’t you wish you could see DNA? All we get to see is that he has a tail.
Joel gives them their marching orders: to pull off the spell, they have to steal a
plot coupon... er, an egg from a Ghora demon. They put it in a circle with a picture of Joyce and conduct the obligatory chanting. If anything goes wrong, they have to destroy the picture.
They go to the Ghora demon nest and Momma bird is bigger than Spike expected. She is also three-headed. Dawn shatters one egg and Spike’s obliged to save her when she dives in after a second. He gets extremely bitten. His motivations here may be a little murky, but we can’t doubt his commitment to this cause.
Then Dawn motors home with her magic zombie mom components and discovers that, fortunately, the incantation has an english translation.
Around this time WillTara are hanging out and Willow is journaling. (This is another reaction to Joyce’s death: she says she wants to remember every moment with Tara. Ouch! Is that foreshadowing? Kinda burns, huh?) Before we have a chance to get bummed about tragedies to come, Tara notices that the NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF WITCHCRAFT LITERATURE is missing from their bookshelf. Willow acts stupidly, ostentatiously, neon-sign of guilt here guilty... but doesn’t fess up. They agree they have to call Buffy.
On the upside, Dawn is doing the spell in her bedroom with the door open, which makes it easy for Buffy to interrupt her. Unfortunately, she’s already finished.
The sibling fight that perhaps should’ve happened before the funeral finally erupts. Dawn basically accuses Buffy of not wanting her and not giving much of a crap about the tragedy. As we all see Joyce shoes walking across the lawn, Buffy breaks down. She says all the same things she basically said to Angel, except first she slaps her sister and then she begins to cry.
There’s a knock at the door. Joyce is home. And Buffy can’t not hope. She rushes to the porch with another “Mommy!” But Dawn has figured it out by now. She tears up the picture, Joyce isn’t there when the door swings wide, and the show closes with the sisters clinging to each other and having a loud and necessary cry.
There will be fun next week, I promise.
A.M. Dellamonica has tons 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.