Jun 17 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Life Lessons on the Hellmouth

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining

“Bargaining” (P1 by Marti Noxon, P2 by David Fury)

Spike, Giles and Tara are chasing a vampire. Am I right in thinking there’s a combat trio you wouldn’t have guessed at a couple years ago? Actually, the whole gang’s out with them. There’s more than one vamp on the prowl, but they’re still just the story equivalent of an appetizer, a been-there, dusted-that prelude to get us all in the mood.

As Spike incinerates one vamp and the Buffybot skewers the other, we see what’s been up in Scoobyland over the course of the summer. The gang, led by Willow, is perpetrating the myth that the Slayer is still alive so that demonkind won’t come calling and Social Services won’t make off with Dawn.

Put another way: it’s been another Slayerless summer in Sunnydale. (I was hoping that phrase might make a good tongue-twister, but it’s actually pretty easy to say.)

The gang’s big problem at the moment is less about vamps and more about Buffybot’s tendency to say wildly inappropriate things. They have to send her off to the high school to be visibly alive and well and engaged in Dawn’s educational process. Willow is terrified she’ll screw up and it’ll all fall apart.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Dawn

She doesn’t—it goes well. But Buffy’s death has transformed the lives of the Scoobies. WillTara, for example, have moved into the Summers home and are raising Dawn, keeping the household and the ‘bot running. Is either of them still in college at this point? I’m not entirely sure.

Giles is trying to move back to England, leaving the store under Anya’s charge. She can’t wait, which indicates that perhaps she has forgotten what happened to all the other Magic Box proprietors. She would also very much like to announce her engagement to marry Xander, but he’s dragging his feet. This is weaselly and beneath you, Xander.

What of Dawn? You might say she’s going through the motions: getting to school, avoiding trouble, presumably shoplifting a little thing and a little thing there.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Dawn

Everything seems to be carrying on, except it isn’t. Dawn’s spending at least some of her nights tucked in bed with Buffy’s friendly electric ghost. In a sense, she and the rest of the gang are so busy holding together this illusion that Buffy’s alive and well that they’re buying into it themselves. They haven’t processed her death.

Giles, being older and possibly smarter, gets there first. He’s trying to train the ‘bot and they have a little heart to heart about how a Slayer’s death is built into a Watcher’s job description. (Death was her gift; death is his day job. He should’ve asked the first Watcher for a two-for-one deal on quest-y advice, don’t you think?) Buffybot asks why he’s still hanging around, and he realizes she’s got a point.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara

This is convenient, because the four cusp-of-twenty Scoobs are planning a big ol’ spell to raise their dead friend. It’s safe to say Giles wouldn’t be on board.

Just about the time the spell ingredients come together and Giles shuffles offstage—in a farewell scene that is both humorous and touching—the Buffybot gets herself damaged and a vamp figures out the truth.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara

Bargaining is, of course, one of the stages of grief. But what this episode is really about is denial. Buffy isn’t living on in the memories of her friends; her simacrulum is charging up in the bedroom. They’re doing everything they can to keep the idea of her alive until they can retrieve the real deal. They’re fighting her battles, raising her sister, inhabiting her home.

Willow is leading the crusade to raise her. Without her magical skills, it wouldn’t be possible. But it’s more than that. This project is her baby.

That’s not to say the others aren’t contributing. When Anya buys an Urn of Osiris on Ebay, they’re ready to go. At that point there’s one last “Should we? Really?” conversation. But Willow says they must: she says Buffy could be enduring Angel-style torment in a Hellverse somewhere. It’s a terrible prospect and it overcomes the others’ doubts, and even Tara’s religious objections.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Willow

The vamp who fought the Buffybot has, by now, informed the nearest gang of biker demons about the hoax.

Oh, wait, let’s stop there and ponder for a sec.

Biker demons! Led by a biker dude named Razor.

One can only imagine that there was a Mutant Enemy in-house competition whose purpose was to out-silly the Knights of Byzantium. I hope the winner got a big gift card from an appalling coffee franchise, or some other thing that they richly deserve.

Okay, where was I? Ah yes. Razor tells his demons to get on their zoomy zoom machines and make for the Hellmouth. They catch the ‘bot, damage her, and she obligingly runs to Willow for servicing. Hurrah, think the bikers, a chase! We love to chase things!

(Biker demon thoughts are remarkably easy to read.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara

Sadly, the pursuit leads them to the Scooby gang, who are just then kneeling over Buffy’s grave, spreading baby deer blood and chanting as Willow vomits snakes. The bikers attack; Willow collapses. Worst of all, the Urn of Osiris is smashed.

The gang is forced to flee and the ‘bot is too scattered to fight. As for Spike, he’s Dawnsitting. There’s no win to be had here.

But the bikers were just a hair too late. Down in her grave, we get a good look at Buffy, one that leaves no doubt that she’s dead, dead, dead and has been for 147 days. (It’s something in the decay around the nose.) Then she rehydrates, thankfully, and returns to life, the universe, and her grateful viewing audience.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining

But not the open air.

As Buffy starts pounding her way out of the coffin, the Scoobies, having given the spell up for failed, are still on the run from the biker hellions. Willow is deep in the throes of the post-resurrection wimpies, so Xander hauls her into the woods while sending Tara and Anya to the Magic Shop on another route. The idea is to meet up and call Spike and Dawn.

They give up the ‘bot as lost.  In a greater sense, they give up Buffy too, or begin to.

Actually, though, Spike and Dawn haven’t needed any heads up on the bikers’ arrival. Stealth is not what those guys are about.

Buffy makes it to the surface at last, finds her gravestone, and realizes where she’s been. Everything’s blurry and the dress she’s wearing is awful. She must be in Hell, she concludes: if anyone who loved her was here, they’d have buried her in Angel’s leather coat.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Xander, Willow

TarAnya make it to the Magic Box first. Anya worries about looters, and Tara sends a mote of magical light to guide Willow out of the woods. This interrupts Xander’s attempt to demand answers about the snake-vomiting. He wasn’t entirely keen on raising the dead, even the beloved Buffy dead, to begin with. Now he’s suspicious that Willow may have failed to mention some fine print within the spell.

Come on, Xander. Nobody actually reads the license agreement before clicking on “I Agree.”

Up to now, Spike’s aura of cool has been suffering. The gang is working major magic, while he’s babysitting. When he notices this, he does what any cool romantic lead type alpha male would do in his place—he steals one of the hellion bikes. I have to say, that little moment of awesome almost justifies the presence of demon bikers. And he and Dawn zooming away, her in the little kid helmet, is wonderful.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Spike, Dawn

Buffy is looking around Sunnydale by now, and what she’s seeing isn’t so wonderful. This is especially true when what she’s seeing is a gang of bikers quartering the Buffybot. They spot her, mistake her for a second robot and she flees... once again leading them right to the gang. Who says that thing doesn’t act just like her?

Not the gang. They also mistake her for the ‘bot, and treat her accordingly.

Before the reunion can get too cringey, though, Razor and his pals show up. They bop Willow and Xander in their respective faces and embark on a series of long-winded rapey threats, giving Buffy time to gather her combat wits.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining

While she’s laying into the hellions, Spike and Dawn find the bits o’ bot. Spike foolishly wanders off to pick up a spare leg, leaving Dawn to hear, from the dying ‘bot, that there was another Buffy on the scene. She figures out what this means very fast; she wants to believe, after all.

Buffy flees from her friends before the biker battle’s quite over. They’re left to kill Razor on their own—Tara! In the Alley! With a BattleAxe! Sunnydale would be a great place to set a CLUE rip-off. This gives both Summers women, Undead Buffy and Dawn the Key, time to make it to the tower where she died in the battle with Glory. Dawn tries to talk Buffy out of jumping off the tower again. When beseeching fails, she resorts to being in mortal peril.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining, Willow, Tara

This is easy, because the Sacrificial Ziggurat was not built to code. It starts to collapse in a scary, scream-inducing fashion. Buffy gets them both down, and Dawn is so very happy to have her sister back.

Meanwhile, Buffy, peering out from the crushing grip of her sister’s stranglehug, has a look on her face of “Could this possibly suck more?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bargaining

You all know the answer to that one.

Next: Re-entry


A.M. Dellamonica has tons 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. (Watch for the second Gale, too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

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Kit Case
1. wiredog
The only part of this season I liked, or remember, is the musical episode.

Which I saw the end of when I bought the DVD, because there was no warning in the tv guide that the episode ran long and I was taping it.
2. RishaBree
I fully expect to someday accidentally agree to sell my firstborn or buy a house. Note: that expectation is not enough to make me read before clicking the I Agree button.

I expect you'll be getting a lot of complaints about this season for the rest of this season. Honestly, I kind of like it, at least better than 1 or 7. Yes, it's dark and can be depressing, but Buffy's entire life is dark and depressing. This season is just the milage beginning to show.

With all that said, I hate this episode. It's ridiculous in every way.
Rob Rater
3. Quasarmodo
Not the Buffybot! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4. build6
(a) I was really, *really* disturbed when I saw Willow knife that fawn

(b) Nikki's Watcher raised her kid for her when she died, and Giles can't stay to provide support to Buffy's sister? pffft
Sean Dowell
5. qbe_64
I personally love season 6. With all the escalation season by season with the big bads I think it's perfect that the main nemesis is three nerds in season 3. (Plus it sets up Andrew as a character for season 7 who is awesome.)
Conceptually, I think "Normal Again" is one of the greatest the series has to offer, and brilliantly pokes holes at the ridiculous of the genre while acknowledging the disparity between this season and the ones prior.

Plus, Spike! Doing naked pushups!
6. build6
S6... if a theme of S6 is "real life" (dead end depressing job etc.), then it's fitting that the "big bad" is those 3. Because in real life you don't need people who are outright maliciously plotting things to really ruin things for you, could be just some selfish people faffing around that totally breaks someone's life (think drunk drivers).
7. Russell H
One line in particular in this episode, during the resurrection ritual, really struck me at the time, and still gives me a thrill whenever I watch: "Here lies the warrior of the people."

I think this was the first really strong, vivid image we get of the Slayer as a truly "mythic" figure, a genuine, powerful archetype, in the supernatural cosmology of the Buffyverse.
8. Robert Stadler
One of the most interesting things about these 2 episodes is the title. The Scoobies have made a bargain, but they don't really understand exactly what they've agreed to. My understanding is that they each have agreed to give up a life in exchange for restoring Buffy's.

I like the first 8 episodes of S6, since Joss Whedon & co make sure that they actually earn the right to return a character from the dead. And they give us a unique twist on the idea, where the character returned doesn't want to be.

It's only when the season starts the magic = heroin theme that it loses me.
Alyx Dellamonica
9. AMDellamonica
I've missed the endings of a few Doctor Who premieres that way--they run something like an hour and fifteen on the Space channel. But now my DVR is smart enough to adjust. Or something.

I don't remember this season fondly, but I expect to rediscover a lot of little wonderful moments in it, because I haven't rewatched it as often as I have S1-5.
Jack Flynn
10. JackofMidworld
Tara! In the Alley! With a BattleAxe! Sunnydale would be a great place to set a CLUE rip-off.
This was the first episode I actually watched of BtvS, so it holds a special, if sad and slightly creepy, place in my heart.
11. Gord
I know I am in the minority, but season 6 is my favorite.
12. ad
Mine too, Gord.
Constance Sublette
13. Zorra
Mine too.

Though Season 4 comes close.

Love, C.
14. Ithilanor
Season 6 isn't my absolute favorite, but I like it a lot; admittedly, in a rather masochistic way. This season's largely about dealing with grief and pain and the bad parts of everyday life; it's dark and depressing and it sometimes hurts to watch, but it's in a good way, if that makes any sense. The fact that Buffy's resurrection is not a happy-go-lucky, everything's all better, total reset button is a really good move.
15. Alex C.
I've always had somewhat mixed feelings about this season. Two of the things that I've read a lot of complaints about from some fans of the show - Buffy's depression arc, and the presence of the 'Trio' - are in my opinion hands-down two of the best things that ever came out of the series, particularly the former: watching as someone who has had to cope with depression, I thought that for the most part, the writing behind this character arc was excellent, and SMG's acting was downright brilliant on that front. And I don't think that anyone can deny that there are some utterly phenomenal episodes in S.6 - "Once More with Feeling" usually soaks up all the praise, but my opinion is that "Normal Again" is just as good, and "Dead Things" also makes it onto my list of genuinely great BtVS episodes.

Unfortunatly, if the season got those things very right, there were other things that it got very wrong, particularly Willow's 'magic addiction' arc, which I thought was poorly handled. And while S.6 contains some great episodes, it also has some very weak ones - with my particular peeve being the season final, which I thought was by far the weakest of any season of BtVS.

Still, at the end of the day I'm always willing to forgive S.6 these flaws, firstly because in my view its strengths still outweigh its weaknesses, and secondly because it laid the groundwork for a lot of S.7. I view the seventh season of BtVS as being easily the most unfairly maligned of the entire series - contrary to the frequent criticisms, I would rate it as being just as good as S.2, and not that far behind S.3 and S.5 in my personal ranking.
16. Dianthus
*Alyx, I LOL'd to the idea of the writers competing to"out-silly" the Knights.
*It will come as a surprise to no one here that I love, Love, LOVE Spike doing his Old-West gunslinger act to snag that bike. I don't even mind him sitting for Dawn (except she really doesn't need a sitter). Domestic Spike is just one of his many facets. Can you imagine Angel in such a situation? Awkward doesn't even begin to cover it.
*IMO s6 is just too much: too much angst, too much nonsense, too much nihlism and negativity. 'Operatic' is the most diplomatic term I could employ, tho 'overwrought' feels more correct to me.
*For instance, Buffy leaves her dead end job the moment Riley comes a-callin'. We don't see her working again until the beginning of s7, and her money woes suddenly cease to matter IIRC. Did she get a big gubmint payout for service to a greatful nation? That seems...unlikely.
*Yeah, okay, it gets better in the end, but it's a long a$$ slog thru sucking mud to get there. Spike's redemption is the best thing to come out of it, but it's ironic too. This is meant to be All. About. Buffy, but it's Spike who (arguably) shows the most growth and transformation.
*Also, it seems to me Buffy's headstone would make it harder to pretend she wasn't dead. I understand that idea came down 'from on high' over at the WB.
Emma Rosloff
17. emmarosloff
I have a love/hate relationship with this season. Buffy being shoved back into her body is particularly exquisite torture, not to mention the dysfunctional aspects of her relationship with Spike and the dark spiral that ends WillTara. But the musical brings it all to a head so beautifully (even though it's only episode 7); its worth the rest of the season, no matter how grim things get. And like others have said, there are some excellent episodes outside of that; even just certain moments, burned into my brain. Good or bad, it sticks with you, and that says something.

Still, Buffy's stint at the Doublemeat Palace and Willow's addiction arc have always felt heavy-handed and hard to watch. Everything's just so shitty (that seriously felt like the best word choice here, lol). It starts to feel like watching a trainwreck. I do love that they didn't take the easy route with Buffy's ressurection, it's just... she's more than depressed. She's self-destructive. It's hard to watch her hurt/neglect the people who care about her. It's hard to watch them do the same thing back.

I'm not saying the writers' storytelling instincts were wrong, though... I just don't think they always got it right in execution. This first pair of episodes certainly sets the tone for the entire season. Bargaining is the perfect title; that it happens to literally apply makes it even better.

Though I've always thought it was weird that they didn't dig Buffy's coffin up, first... I mean, how were they supposed to know she'd risen? That would've been appropriately unsettling, but it was equally horrible that she had to claw her way out of her own grave.

And yes, much love for Spike, stealing that bike, carting Dawn around. Love that they add that bit to the intro, so we get to see it again and again!
18. Tirf
Oh dear, first time commenter.

This season. Love/hate is quite apt description. On one hand, the whole of season 6 just felt so much more.. mature. While in season 5 shit got real and the show went quite dark, season 6, I feel, took the next logical step and explored what happens when shit really had got real and the consequences of it. Darkness, depression, bad choices and addictions ensue. This I love. The Trio as a big bad I did enjoy. their motivations were so easily understandable, their casual disregard of the conventions of society made them incredibly scary to me, as they plummeted in their downward spiral. And how, in the end, sometimes, it's just circumstances and blind chance that is the true Big Bad.

And then, despite what I feel and think was the concept. What I see does fail, and does fail terribly in portraying that. This is without a doubt the season that had the largest disparity in the quality of the episodes in terms of writing. The gap between the worst and the best is enormous. Add to that that this season marked to me the point where I first began noticing how some things were really much dependant of the writer. Characterization fluctuated a lot, to the point that I just wish some episodes had never been made.

The worst gripe I have with this season, one I do think others share with me, is the mixing of metaphors, meaning magic-as-a-mertphor-for-gay-sex and magic-as-a-metaphor-for-crack and Willow-addiction arc. The addiction itself wasn't handled well enough, it felt way too heavy-handed, far too stereotypical and just plain unreal. Add to that the metaphors mixing, confusion ensuing. It was bad.

Yet. All said and done I would have to say it is one of the best seasons of Buffy. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is my second favourite season of all.
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica
Welcome, @tirf! We're always happy to pick up new contributors to the conversation.

I am now imagining a scene where Angel babysits Dawn.
Jason Parker
20. tarbis
There is a lot of stuff to not like about these two episodes, but the top of my list is that it makes a terrible pilot. The show had moved to a new network that had access to new markets and potential viewers to replace the ones that show had been bleeding since the end of season three. So by what logic did Mutant Enemy use to decide that the first episode should have only ten seconds of the title character during which she would not fulfill the promise of the title? How hard would it have been to do the first episode of the season with Buffy back and then flashback to the resurrection in the second or third episode, after you've potentially hooked new viewers.

That said one of the things I didn't like is that Scoobies came off as really bad at vampire hunting in the opening. At the opening of season three the audience saw four teenagers without noticeable powers drop solo vamps. During season two the audience watched Giles go hunting on his own. In the opening of six two experienced human hunters, two witches, a vampire, a Watcher, and a robot are having trouble with a pair of vampires. Did everyone OD on stupid juice before going out that night or what?

The demon bikers were dumb, but oddly they made me respect the earlier big bads more. Saw what you like about Sunnydale in pre-one through five but demons generally stayed on the down low instead of raping and slaughtering people in the streets. The Watchers didn't even know about the Hellmouth until the pilot episodes. That tells me that Sunnydale works best with a big bad to cow the demons. Nobody is going to go big public stuff if the results are going to be the Mayor sending a hit squad or the Initiative capturing you or Glory ripping your head because her favorite store closed.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
I love this season. Part of it is that it's the first season I watched live, while catching up on the reruns on FX.

One thing to keep in mind, is that IMO, the whole magic=heroin thing, that COMES FROM the characters. It's the characters, attempting to make everything black and white and simple. They want to believe that Willow's problem is something they can just throw out of the house and act like it's fixed.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
Also, in re Buffy's gravestone. It's not in the cemetary, it's hidden, so it's not necessarily ANNOUNCING that she's dead if only 5 people know it's there.
23. Gardner Dozois
This is the season where, with a few bright spots, most noteably the musical, BUFFY stops being fun. It's often intense and compelling, sometimes so much so that it's painful to watch, but it's not FUN anymore, in the way some earlier seasons (or at least the majority of the episodes) were. The fact that Buffy is sunk in a zombie-like depression throughout, although realistic for her circumstances, doesn't help. The flareup of her dysfunctional relationship with Spike later comes almost as a relief--at least she's being fierce and angry, rather than sodden and dazed. Whedon--or rather, his writers, since Whedon was too busy with FIREFLY at this point to have a lot to do with the running of the show, which explains some of the inconsistencies in writing and plotting--also leans too hard on one of his favorite motiffs, everybody betraying everybody else and suffering for it, to the point where rather than the funny and quirky Scoobie Gang the supporting cast seems to become more like a group therapy circle where nobody actually talks to each other.

The demon bikers were VERY silly; it's a toss-up whether they or the Knights That Say Key were sillier, although since the bikers have a greater effect on the town as a whole, perhaps they have a slight edge. And speaking of which, where were the cops during all this? At this point, they've pretty much given up any attempt at pretending that Sunnydale has any normal support structure like an ordinary town. (They've made no attempt to tear Glory's ricketty tower down, after all this time? Can't they see it?) And where are the rest of the inhabitants? The only ones we see being terrorized or threatened or attacked are the Scoobies.

It's also absurd that Giles would take off for London at this point, not only leaving them in the lurch to deal with vampires and demons by themselves, but abandoning Dawn at a time when she'd need him the most.

Interesting to watch Willow becoming The Boss of the Scoobies, which she tended to do in emergencies when Buffy wasn't around, and her killing the deer is definitely a foreshadowing of the ruthless Dark Willow.

Spike babysitting Dawn seems perfectly comfortable and natural, and did the previous season as well. Even long before he gets his soul back, there's never a moment that feels like he may be a threat to Dawn in any way, and he'd clearly give up his life trying to protect her. It is interesting to picture Angel babysitting Dawn. Certainly he'd fight to protect her from monsters, as he would for any innocent, but it's impossible to imagine him having anything but a very strained and awkward relationship with her between bouts of combat, rather than the easy and comfortable relationship that developes between Dawn and Spike, where she almost seems to think of him as an uncle.
Kit Case
24. wiredog
Gardner Dozois @23
"BUFFY stops being fun."
Yep. That's why I stopped liking it. I stayed with it because it was still better than most TV.

I don't watch much TV.
25. Alex C.
@ #23

I disagree that the light-hearted, 'fun' spirit of the series from the first five seasons disappeared with the beginning of S.6. If you really want to mark the point when the series began to get progressively 'darker', then I'd put it in the last quarter of S.5, beginning with "The Body". Even so, although Season 6 undeniably went to some very dark places, I think that it had more 'fun' in it than some people give it credit for. As well as "Once More, with Feeling", "Life Serial", "Tabula Rasa", and "Gone" all measure up quite fine for light-hearted moments in my opinion, even if there is often a bitter edge to them. It's only in the second half of the season that the dark/dreary atmosphere reallu takes over to the point of becoming stifling at times (in the entire run from episodes 112 - 122, the only episode that sort of comes close to being 'light' is "Entropy", and that one had plenty of heavy stuff in it, to say the least). To an extent, this pattern was repeated in the 7th season, which became progressively darker after "Showtime", following a misleadingly 'light' start to the season, in some ways.
26. Dianthus
@17. Heavy-handed and hard to watch. Exactly!
@18. Welcome. Don't be shy.
@21. It's not just Willow's problems. The Gang needs Buffy to be okay, so they can be ok with what they did. OTOH, Spike knows she's not ok, and he's ok with that.
It must be exhausting for Buffy. It's her trauma that really drives this season, and the worst of it was totally avoidable.
@23. You complete me.;-)
@25. Gone may have a few light-hearted moments, but overall it's as dark as anything else in s6 (IMO). Inviso-Buffy goes slamming into Spike's crypt, where Spike is innocently watching TV, slams him up against a wall, and rips his shirt open - all before he realizes it's actually her. Imagine the outcry if their genders were reversed. Then, later, he's telling her to leave, and that's when she resorts to "cheating." It just skirts the line of being non-consensual.
Even more than the events of Seeing Red, you've got a fair amount of rape-y threats and imagery, btwn Buffy and Spike; btwn Willow and Tara.
Jack Flynn
27. JackofMidworld
I can honestly say that if the writers had just had Buffy get over everything and be hunky, dory, and happy-happy within an episode or three, I never would have been inspired enough to make me go back and start from the beginning. Of course, I do have a tendency to brood in dark corners, so it's possible that the darker tint to this season drew me in, too.

Speaking of brooding, Angel watching Dawn? Gods, I only wish I had access to the "alternitaverse episodes" - you know, how the Scoobies remember things happening with Dawn around. Think about it for just a sec...Did Xander try to eat her when he was a hyena-boy? How did a tween Dawn react to Ted? What costume was she wearing when Ethan's costume-magic went wild? How did she react when Buffy became Anne for a summer and did that make things better or worse for Joyce? The mind positively boggles!

Oh, and welcome to the party, Tirf!
Marie Veek
28. SlackerSpice
@37: I'm pretty sure there's fanfic somewhere that covered the subject.
29. Dianthus
@27. A speedy recovery? No. I wouldn't buy it either. OTOH, the writers seem to be outdoing themselves in another area: piling on. Everything and everyone is pretty much as bad as can be, and just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. There's an absurdity to it IMO. They even acknowledge that towards the end of the season.
Speaking of fanfic, one of my favorite writers goes AU after The Gift. In her story, Willow brings Buffy back using the same spell Wolfram & Hart used to bring back Darla. Buffy suffers less trauma that way, but she still suffers, and it takes time for her to readjust. There's no self-loathing, and no misogyny directed at Spike.
@28. I haven't seen much fanfic of that sort out there, but maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.
Alyx Dellamonica
30. AMDellamonica
I am determined to find the fun, when and where it can be found. This week (because I'm a bit ahead of you all) I'm watching "Life Serial," and there's definite fun to be had there.
31. Dianthus
@30. Thank you.
Speaking of fun...
If you scroll down in the comments, you might read some familiar sounding arguments.
32. GarrettC
Since this seems to be the "what do we think of season 6" place, I hate season 6, but not for many individual reasons. I hate it as a sum of its parts. I don't believe that "everything goes badly for everyone all the time, unless things going good in the short term can make them worse in the long term" is good storytelling. I think, in fact, that it is bad storytelling. It's not only oppressive, ubt it fails to shine a light on anything resembling what I would call life. It's griefsploitation. Buffiem for a Dream, as it were.

Most of the individual things that do go badly, I think represent functional conflicts and plot points in and of themselves. Certainly, Buffy's emergence from depression NEEDS to be earned. That is non-negotiable. The rest is negotiable. I can accept some of it happening. I can not accept ALL of it happening.

The one thing I really hate individually is Hell's Bells, because I don't believe that Xander is functioning in character (1: We have "Once More with Feeling," and we know what Xander's anxieties about the marriage are, and "abusive husband" is not one of them, and 2: it completely undermines most of the growth that had been written into his character and their relationship to that point--notably undermining virtually all the meaning behind his proposal), and I don't believe the show ever corrects or makes up for the mistake of breaking up the wedding. It's the only point of drama in this season that I think was both negotiable and purely manufactured. It was also a badly written episode.

Similarly, I tend to enjoy individual episodes from this season, but I can't string them together. The center does not hold for me.
33. Dianthus
@32. Testify! It's not so much cursing the darkness as the bad storytelling. Whether or not Whedon's presence/attention would've made things better is debatable, but I wish he'd at least spelled things out for the writers rather than leave them to flail about on their own. Marti Noxon once said that Buffy was only involved with Spike 'cuz the sex was so good (or words to that effect). To me, this suggests that she really didn't have a full understanding of what their relationship entailed. Why should she? Not like it's pivotal or anything!
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
We have "Once More with Feeling," and we know what Xander's anxieties about the marriage are, and "abusive husband" is not one of them

I'm curious about what you think Xander's constant disparagement and belittlement of Anya qualifies as, if not abuse. It's only verbal and mental abuse, but speaking from my own personal experience, and that of others, that tends to be how they start. And Hells Bells explicitly demonstrates that those behaviors are learned from his father, who treats his mother the same way.

I feel people are a little too willing to give Xander credit for growth he hasn't shown yet. We, the audience, know he is capable of it, because we've been shown more of Xander than the other characters have seen, but he really never demonstrates this growth until after everything with Dark Willow, which of course why he gets the short shrift in S7, his arc is done.
35. Dianthus
It wasn't even Hell's Bells that angered me so much as Entropy. Jilting Anya is one thing (a terrible betrayal of her trust), literally adding insult to injury is another. I never hated Xander so much as I did then, and I didn't know what to do with it. How dare he and Buffy present themselves as the inured parties? Makes me wanna hurt people!
36. GarrettC
I do believe the show had the opportunity to make Xander's verbal disparagement of Anya and his family history enough of a thing that Hell's Bells could pay off, but I don't see where they did. And I don't deny that Xander treats Anya in ways that are troublesome. But the key for me is that he's not actually anxious about them, however real the problems are. He's not worried about his potentially abusive actions until the very moment it's required by the plot for him to leave her. Xander being worried enough about this stuff to take that kind of step is not set up, and shouldn't have been paid off without it.

My point with Once More with Feeling is that "I'll Never Tell" exposes their anxieties. That's the entire point of the episode and the song. The stuff that Xander is aware of, the stuff that actually worries him, is that he won't measure up. He won't be successful and she won't be satisfied. Never once does he describe any fear that he might be like his father. And if it's not a fear we see him having--particularly in the episode when people sing about their hidden, pent up emotions--then its use in Hell's Bells isn't earned.
Vicki Smith
37. EclecticMayhem
Add me to the list of people for whom S6 is the favourite. And I still maintain that - irritating as The Trio are - they are NOT the 'Big Bad' of S6. WILLOW is the Big Bad of S6.
Chris Nelly
38. Aeryl
@36, I feel that it's earned from 6 years of history, but YMMV. There's also a lot of disparagement of Anya in the actual song, about her being greedy, needy. Also, don't forget, his second verse is cut short by Anya, so who knows what it would have contained. And I personally never accepted his proposal as honest, I think it WAS because he thought they were gonna die and he wouldn't have to go through with it.

And his anxieties were VERY present in those visions. He was shown to still be in construction(never that successful), Anya was having affairs(thinks he's ordinary).
39. Dianthus
@38. Just 'cuz he still in construction, doesn't necessarily mean he isn't successful. Construction can be very lucrative, if you're in a union. The visions he has in Hell's Bells result from magic used by Demon Guy bent on a little vengance of his own, IIRC. Who's to say he's not directing/influencing what Xander sees? Maybe he creates that anxiety? Once it's in Xander's head, he can't shake it.
I could forgive Xander having cold feet. It's his decision not to go thru with the wedding, and then, especially, his lashing out at Anya in Entropy that really grates my cheese. He comes off as such a d'bag in that scene. Buffy's not as bad, but her, too (sorta). They have absolutely no business trying to present themselves as the injured parties and they get no sympathy from me!
Chris Nelly
40. Aeryl
I agree with you about Entropy.

I'm just responding to the assertion that Xander's anxiety about his marriage with Anya isn't earned my own perceptions.

Construction can be lucrative. But look at their house, and the crappy table they are sitting at. All those visuals, like Xander in the hard hat, played into Xander's already existent anxieties, such as believing he's never going to be more than he is. S7 puts paid to the perception, with the shiny new car and shiny new suit. But he didn't believe in his capabilities.

They do get sympathy from me, and they were injured. They weren't the ONLY injured parties in that scene, but their pain was real and honest. It was their own damn faults, so my sympathy only goes so far.
41. Dianthus
@40. Gotta disagree with you on that last point. For one thing, Spike and Anya had no idea they were under surveillance. More importantly, Buffy and Xander were taking them for granted. If they were "injured" then the wounds were entirely self-inflicted and I say screw them!
Weren't we s'posed to be angry at Spike doing the same to Harmony?
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
@41, Big difference though. Spike didn't actually care about Harmony. Xander and Buffy both cared deeply for Anya and Spike.

I agree that the damage was self inflicted, but that doesn't mean they don't get my sympathy.
43. Dianthus
"Xander and Buffy both cared deeply..."
They got a pretty cr*ppy way of showing it. No. Spike and Anya owed them nothing at that point. Buffy had already broken it off with Spike, and Xander betrayed Anya. IMO their behavior was both stupid and childish.
44. jmb
I think I know where the demons bikers come from. They are Reavers from Firefly. They're using the Reavers leitmotif. And color scheme.

I found them less laughable than the Knights that say Key. Which isn't saying that much...
Alyx Dellamonica
45. AMDellamonica
The Biker Reavers might have been more laughable if they'd lasted longer.
Chris Nelly
46. Aeryl
@43, Where did I say that Buffy or Xander were owed anything by Spike and Anya? All I've said is that their pain was real, that Anya and Spike hurt them. And again, that is NOT Spike and Anya's problem. That still doesn't take away that they cared for those individuals, and the fact that they turned to one another for comfort and healing was hurtful to Xander and Buffy.

Yes, Xander may have aborted the wedding, but at the beginning of this very episode, he was pleading for her to take him back. He still loved her, and wanted to continue their established relationship.

And Buffy's feeling for Spike were always complicated by his lack of soul, but that doesn't mean she didn't have them. You can love someone, and still feel they aren't right for you and break things off. Now, you can be upset when/if they move on, but you can't take it out on them, and I DON'T SEE where Buffy did that, get angry at Spike and then take it out on him(in this episode). The ONLY reason she's there, is to protect Spike from Xander.

I don't see how you can criticize Buffy in this episode. She didn't behave stupidly or childishly. She saw the man she cared for engaged in sex with another individual. Her face tightened up, she felt sorrow, then she immediately went into "Save people" mode, trying to head off Xander before he could hurt Spike or Anya.
47. Procrastigator
This season is the source of a major plot hole that bugs me to this day: where's the new Slayer that should have been raised when Buffy died this time?

If a Slayer was chosen when Buffy was barely drowned in Season 1, surely by the time she's buried and decomposed a new one should have arisen? And the show can't wiggle out of it by saying since Faith is still alive no new Slayer arose, because Faith herself became a Slayer when Kendra died but Buffy was perfectly alive.

And it seems unlikely that because Buffy was once dead she stopped counting in the slayer replacement line, since she is still very much targeted as the Slayer in all ways mystical (visits from the first Slayer, for instance).

So for these last two seasons, until they awaken all the potentials, I'm always wondering where the hell that third slayer is.

One good way to go would have been to say that since Dawn was made from Buffy's blood, the PTB considered that Dawn being alived acted as a facsimile Buffy, but in that case surely the blood link should have provided Dawn with potential Slayer status at the very least, which we know isn't the case and is even the subject of a misdirect in S7.

Therefore it seems the writers just suffered a major world-coherency blindspot, or worst chose to sweep the whole thing under the rug because it didn't serve their narrative needs. Which wouldn't exactly be unheard of, but this is a pretty huge case.
Chris Nelly
48. Aeryl
@47, I always felt the Slayer line ran through Faith now. Buffy's death has already called one, so pre-Chosen, Faith would have to die to call another Slayer.

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