Mon
Aug 12 2013 1:00pm
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Wait. Martha Stewart isn’t a Demon?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow

“Wrecked,” by Marti Noxon

It’s the morning after, bigtime, for Spuffy, and it begins with Tara and Dawn waking up to discover that neither Buffy nor Willow has come home. The house is empty, and their improbably well-made beds haven’t been slept in. This is apparently unusual and worrisome, even though they could conceivably have been called upon for Slay duty.

In fact, though, they’re both slacking. Buffy is in the basement of a wrecked house, dealing with Spike’s post-sex happy dance. She’s not so delighted, and as he continues to warble the “Yay, we finally done it,” song, she ends up telling him he’s convenient.

“I may be dirt,” Spike ripostes, “But you’re the one who likes to roll in it.”

Ah, her shame is great.

I can’t help but be happy for Spike here. He’s gotten much of what he wanted, and he feels hopeful that he’ll get the real prize—Buffy’s heart—in time. And learning that she’s not an entirely straight-laced vanilla sex princess has clearly brightened his vision of the immediate future.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Spike

It’s strangely nice to see him happy.

I’m simultaneously sad for Buffy. Her sex life has been so messed up. There was the disastrous one-true-love coupling with Angel, then the one-off with Parker. Riley, as we know from his convo with Faith in Buffy’s body, really was a straight-laced etcetera.

Now she’s having naughty sex with a bad boy and feeling super-guilty about it.

And sure, there are reasons: there’s no love on her side, it’s a way of avoiding her feelings and, chip or no, the’s man got that lamentable chaotic evil alignment. But I wish she’d cut herself a break on the kinkiness.

Since everyone is agreed that the fifteen-year-old can’t be left alone in her own locked house, Tara stays yet longer and commences making pancakes. When Willow shows up, it’s awkward, naturally. It gets worse when Amy brags up Willow’s magical abilities in a big way.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow, Dawn, Amy

Buffy’s arrival gives Tara an opportunity to escape. Then everyone’s left floundering over why Buffy and Willow were out, and all the things they don’t want to share about the previous evening. They agree the important thing is Dawn’s okay, and she is very gracious about it all. (In many ways, this is a rocking Dawn episode.) She’s so nice, so very “don’t give me another thought,” that they don’t. Willow turns in and is surprised to find that she’s emptied her magic tank. She actually has to pull her curtains using arm strength. That’s not good and she knows it.

Over at the Magic Box, the search for last week’s diamond-snatching demon continues. The only visible progress since the last research session is that Anya now has curly blonde hair and an emergent case of weddingbrain. She’s bored by the research for the museum thieves, which is getting them nowhere, and far more interested in bridesmaid dresses. This leads to Buffy saying:  “Can I weigh in on me wearing larva?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Anya, Xander

I know a lot of you aren’t big Marti Noxon fans, but she can write a decent laugh line.

Xander expresses worry about Amy encouraging Willow to use even more magic: Tara at least had slowed her down. Buffy replies with a low-key defence of her friend which is really more about herself, and her continuing confused feelings about the night of raunchy passion with Spike.

Speaking of Amy, guess who is now trying to get Willow to the next exciting stage of magic abuse? She takes her to see Rak the dealer in his magical lair. He slurps a little magic out of her, and is all creeperlike and “oooh, you taste of strawberries” before he gets the girls well and truly stoned on magic.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow

During the trip, Willow has a vision, with a demon in it. She sees herself, with black eyes, just outside the magic shop. It’s her future. Does she also previsit her feelings in that moment? I wonder.

She wakes up at home, gets in the shower, and has a shocked, grossed-out cry. Then she encounters a box of abandoned Tara stuff and feels even worse. She lays out Tara’s clothes—we all remember her cuddling Oz’s jacket, right, after he left?—and makes an inflatable Tara-mannequin to hold her. It’s really sad.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow

By the time she gets up, Dawn is downstairs being cute with peanut butter based dinner options. Willow apologizes for leaving her alone and offers to take her for a fun night out. Dawn is so unabashedly delighted by this that it’s a little heartbreaking. They leave a note on the fridge and go.

Buffy gets back, and finds Amy is stealing things. She’s all twitchy and desperate. She spills her guts about Willow and Rak, and then she just spills her guts.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Amy

She’s right about Willow needing a fix, though. After having taken Dawn for a burger, Willow pumps her for info about Tara and then takes her to Rak’s so she can get a quick pick-me-up.

This leaves poor Dawnie stuck waiting in Rak’s skuzzy outer room while Willow is having visions of being in space. (I’d say we’ve all been there, or somewhere like it, but I hope that’s not actually true of every single one of you.) Anyway, it’s awful, and boring, and stressful.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Dawn

Buffy is now in hot pursuit of her sister, and has been obliged to turn to Spike if she’s going to find Rak. Why she didn’t tie a halter on Amy and drive her through downtown in search of him? Maybe she just wanted to see Spike again. But while they’re searching, unsuccessfully, they talk about the night before. Spike’s feeling pretty smug. He feels he’s gained exciting new insights into her character. Buffy claims that the only thing that’s changed is that she’s reached the pinnacle of self-loathing.

Willow finally turns up to reclaim Dawn, well after their movie is over. She’s all stoned and indifferent to Dawn’s distress, even though Dawn’s very clear about what’s wrong and how she feels. The monster from the stoner vision interrupts them just as Willow’s getting kinda mean. I’m grateful for that.

Since Willow thinks the thing is a hallucination, it falls to Dawn to kick him. And she does. Yay, Dawn!!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Dawn

Willow throws them into a stolen car and attempts to flee. Instead they get into a big magic-drunken wreck and the monster catches up. (It took Don Draper of Mad Men multiple seasons to cover the addiction low points we’ve zoomed through in this episode.) Dawn fights hard, gets her arm broken and screams her head off. Luckily, Spuffy are within earshot.

Willow gets out of the car weeping and crying and trying to apologize. Dawn slaps her. Yay, Dawn again!

Then Spike takes the kid to the hospital. Having hit bottom, Willow pleads with Buffy to save her. She says she can’t help herself and begs for mercy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow, Spike, Dawn

We can see that Buffy relates, even as she claims to not understand. But Willow’s taking responsibility now. She admits that the trouble started before Tara left, and talks about how the magic took her away from her fears and feelings of inadequacy. She vows to give it up.

And, even though she doesn’t know it, Buffy’s vowing right along with her. They’re having a parallel conversation about doing the right thing, even if it doesn’t feel so good. But Willow’s the only one actually getting the support she needs to succeed. Secret vows lack accountability, Buffy.

The night ends with Dawn sleeping off painkillers, Willow sweating through withdrawal and Buffy in her bedroom, surrounded by garlic garlands and clutching a cross.

A couple weeks ago I asked how you’d take the addiction out of this story arc. That essay hasn’t gone live yet, so I don’t know your answers as I write this. But if a person were going to retcon the addiction story out of this season, “Wrecked” would have to be entirely gutted and rebuilt—and this current version of Amy the junkie would have to go along with it.

It seems to me that this could have been managed without a complete overhaul of much else.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wrecked, Willow

One of Willow’s forward leaps as a witch came when she and Tara joined forces. What if not having Tara around anymore, to practice with, lessened Willow’s access to magic and the power it brought? It would add an interesting dimension to Tara’s departure. And just wanting the magic to be easy or accessible again could have been additional motive for Willow to de-rat Amy, and later to go to a slightly retooled Rak, someone who would give her access to a free-flowing source of power.

If that font or battery was somehow tainted—more explicitly evil magic and less like heroin—Willow could get into plenty of trouble without all the drug withdrawal story architecture.

Either way, she’s on the hard road to reforming herself, or so it appears.

Next week: Hide and Seek


A.M. Dellamonica has three stories up here on Tor.com, with two more on the way! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales. (Watch for the second Gale story too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

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.

33 comments
Jessica Trevino
1. Ciella
I don't know if I'd take the addiction out of the story, but I think I'd change it from addiction to magic drugs to an addiction to power, which is essentially what's happening any. Willow was a meek geeky girl who had no power to make Xander love her, and then had no power to keep Oz around and is discovering more and more that she has power. I would have liked to see more of her subtly trying to take over the lives of the people around her (as with "Tabula Rasa") and realizing what that abuse of power is doing to herself and her loved ones.

I never actively disliked the addiction story line, but it is heavy handed and much too fast moving. People don't discover drugs one day and then leave their kids unattended at the dealer the next (at least I don't think they do).
Genevieve Williams
2. welltemperedwriter
I never liked the addiction-to-magic storyline because it felt like an easy out from the much more interesting, and longer-building, addiction to power. I might have felt differently if they hadn't, as both this essay and the first comment indicate, crammed the entire unhappy "Trainspotting"-style cycle into an hour's episode, but it feels rushed and unrealistic. I've known people with substance abuse problems and this element of the story just doesn't ring true. It felt like the writers were running out of ideas and looking for a quick fix, as it were.
William Frank
3. scifantasy
Like we said last time: the problem was how it was literal, nigh-chemical addiction, instead of the subtler power-addiction. (And yes, they slammed the whole thing through way too fast. Like, DARE-program "just say no because even one hit will mess you up for life" fast.)
jmb
4. jmb
I never minded the addiction/magic storyline. Willow's magic tended to come with "feel-good" side effects, particularly when it was the stand -in for lesbian sex. I can buy the idea that magic gives yuo some sort of high, and the stronger the magic, the stronger the effect.

I agre that there probably should have been more build-up to the idea that magic is addictive; starting at the very beginning of the show. Of course, I doubt the writers envisioned it that way in the beginning. And that's the problem.

It very much feels like Joss, et. al. sat down and said "Oooooh! let's have Willow be the big bad this season. That would be so kewl! But we love her, so Buffy can't kill her or anything..."

They needed a way to have Willow do horrible big-badly things and still be blameless enough to be forgiven. So we get the it's-not-her-it's-the-addiction storyline.

That said, the stuff she does? Pretty standard addiction behavior. Leave poor Dawn in the waiting room? Every year we read about kids that die when their parents leave them in hot (or cold) cars to get drunk or high or gamble.
jmb
7. Evan H.
I never minded the story being about addiction, I just wish they'd kept it as subtext instead of turning it into text. A story about a witch struggling to control powers that she was coming to realize were damaging to her and her loved ones -- that could have been such a powerful, resonant metaphor for addiction, if they'd restrained their obviousness just a little. But a story where she goes to a magical drug dealer in a squalid part of town, gets high, abandons a child in her care, wrecks a car, and ultimately admits in so many words to being an addict and needing to go cold turkey? That's just Go Ask Alice with special effects.
jmb
8. Gardner Dozois
Most of what I could say about this episode I already said about last week's episode. I disliked the magic-as-addictive-drug arc, and agree that the power-is-addictive alternate arc that some of you are sketching out would have been much better instead. Evan H hits it on the head--it's lazy writing. All they had to do was take tropes already familiar (in fact, already OVER-familiar) from dozens of cop shows/soap operas and translate them into Buffyverse terms, so that heroin becomes magic; everything else stays the same.

It's becoming clear, and becomes even clearer in the next couple of episodes, that Great Sex isn't enough for Spike--he wants Love and Romance instead. What he REALLY wants is the approval of somebody he values--something he never got in his human life as William the Bloody Awful poet, the object of everybody's mockery and scorn.

You have to wonder if Amy is such a powerful witch that she can accomplish all of these marvelous things with a wave of her hand or a twitch of her nose, why she's so afraid of Buffy here. You'd think that she could transform Buffy into a rat without breaking a sweat.

Dawn shows herself to be level-headed, brave, and resourceful here--although as a sop to the Dawn-haters, I will admit that she becomes annoying in the last half of the season, when she insists on blaming Buffy for everything that's wrong in her life. That's pretty realistic for a troubled teenager, though.
jmb
9. Dianthus
Alyx, I like your s6 way better than what we got!

In last week's discussion, I mentioned certain parallels btwn Bangel and Spuffy. This is one of the big ones. Remember all the hurtful, hateful things Angel(us) says to Buffy? Here it's Buffy saying hurtful, hateful things to Spike. "Convenient" cuts awfully close to the bone.
OTOH, there's a big difference here as well. Not only is Spike still there when Buffy wakes, he tries to talk her into staying with him. Of course, she can't get away from him fast enough. Still, I give him some credit for using his words, and resorting to force only after verbal persuasion has failed him.

From 1001 Dreams: An Illustrated Guide to Dreams and Their Meanings, "a house is a symbol of the self, the house often more specifically represents the body. An abondoned house in disrepair may indicate the dreamer's neglect of physical or emotional health. At a mental level, a house all shuttered up can suggest that we are blind to what is going on in the outside world. [Empasis mine] Now that's how you do a metaphor, dammit! Powerful stuff, and it describes Buffy's situation to a T.
jmb
10. Rebcake
I agree that Willow's real problem is her thirst for power without responsibility, not addiction per se. However, it sort of works for me that she'd find a way of framing her problems that way so that she doesn't have to take real responsibility for them. "It's not that I'm a horrible person who hurts my loved ones without a care, I just have this condition." In perfect parallel, Buffy is trying to frame her problem as her attraction to Spike, when in reality it is her depression — her inability to fully engage with life.

When I look at the end of this ep, it seems clear that both women are lying to themselves, and are unreliable narrators for their own stories. The problem for some viewers is that there aren't enough cues that our protagonists are not giving us is the facts, ma'am. We're used to Buffy having some oddball insight that nobody agrees with, and yet is proven to be true. That's not happening here. I'm okay with the subtlety, but it does come back to bite the writers and viewers at various times when these things aren't spelled out. (For instance, was Xander correct when he told Buffy that she was making a huge mistake in letting Riley go? Buffy seems to think so, and so the viewers think that's what the writers want us to think, too. However, I know very few viewers who actually think that, so either the writers failed to convince us, or they knew all along that it was just Xander's opinion. I digress.)

Further to this point, Buffy says she doesn't love Spike. Does her saying it make it so? Maybe. Maybe not. See above re: unreliable narrator. Sex, kinky or otherwise, is no proof one way or the other. These discussions always devolve into people trying to define what love is, an undertaking guaranteed to result in disagreement. She clearly doesn't WANT to love Spike. I'm not sure I buy that there's NO LOVE on her side, though. Whether she wants to admit it or not. (I'm old fashioned enough to think that sex without love is perfectly fine, so I don't judge Buffy. Poor thing. She's one of those modern girls who thinks there needs to be an emotional attachment in the mix. Too bad her emotions are so detached at the moment.)

P.S. Love your unwritten implication that Riley is an "an entirely straight-laced vanilla sex princess". Hee.
jmb
11. Dianthus
Poor Buffy, indeed. Stuck in her role as Good Girl. Faith's the one who has sex w/o love. Aside from the meta of it, I never really understood where that came from. Joyce never struck me as that repressive, and they're not religious.

Spike has had decades to learn new skills and perfect his craft. For instance, he was turned in 1880. The first English translation of the Kama Sutra came out in 1883. Plus, his insecurities drive him to try harder.

If I may indulge in a digression of my own: Intentionally or not, it seems to me the way they set up Angel's curse implies that he is a selfish lover. I have nothing concrete on which to base this assumption. It's just, you know, his moment of perfect happiness. His change in attitude. That sort of thing. Plus, as Angelus, he broke Dru to the lash. She can't get off w/o a certain amount of pain. Angel even taunts Spike about not being able to satisfy her (s2). Mostly that's so Spike would stake him, but it seems, given her reaction, there maybe some truth to it. Spike raction makes it clear he's genuinely concerned that this is in fact the case. It makes sense that Angel would be better @ pushing Dru's buttons, since he's the one who installed them.

My understanding vis a vis Riley is that Noxon was hung up on him as the perfect guy for Buffy - never mind that he left her during an incredibly painful and difficult period in her life, inadvertently making it that much worse. They way she moons around after him in AYW is just pathetic.
Unsurprisingly, I'm not a fan of Noxon. She made a few comments back in the day that made it clear she didn't understand the importance of Buffy's relationship with Spike to Buffy's character arc. OTOH, I hold Whedon partly responsible for this. He should've made it clear to his writing staff. Otherwise, how could they effectively communicate it to the viewers? D'oh!
I firmly believe that Buffy has affection, if not outright love, for Spike. He comes to be one of her biggest supporters. He can make her smile when she's down ("knew I could get a grin"), and she confides in him. He listens to her w/o passing judgement on her (unlike the others), and he loves Dawnie almost as much as she does.
Plus, he is changing. She isn't conciously aware of it (to be fair, neither is he, really), but it must register on some level. I can't imagine she would've taken up with him otherwise. She's not well, and she's not making the best choices, but who's more qualified to help her navigate the darkness in which she finds herself? They're both groping (and I do mean groping) their way back to the light.
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
@8, Because Amy is faking.

@10, Exactly, the addiction "metaphor" was a head fake by the writers. The audience, not used to being unable to trust the main characters, bought it hook line and sinker. But they weren't supposed to. This is mainly the writers fault, they didn't telegraph it well enough.

But it was a fine line to walk. The characters accepted it, even Tara, who is supposed to be the reliable observer for the audience here. And with them accepting it, and no Giles around to correct them, the audience doesn't have any indicators that things aren't hunky dory, until scary veiny time.
jmb
13. Dianthus
As we've discused, Buffy can't see what's going on around her. This ep is a wake-up call for her. Even if she wasn't blinded by her own suffering, she didn't want to look too closely at Willow's problems, as they so closely mirrored her own. She has a wake-up call coming as regards Dawn, and a couple more regarding Spike.
If Willow's addiction was meant to be a head fake, I don't think the writers necessarily got the memo. There are aspects of it that are suggestive and have nothing to do with the other characters, like the scene with Willow crying in the shower.
jmb
14. GarrettC
@10 & 12: I believe it came up previously, but I would take the unreliable narrator idea with fewer grains of salt if it didn't rely so much on what the writers were intending to do. Authorial intent is a tricky thing, but ultimately what we have is the text, and the only true narrator in most (good) shows is the camera. Of course, Willow and Buffy do speak, and we have to decide what they mean when they do, but more often we just have the camera. And the camera explicitly shows Willow going to a dealer, getting high, and suffering physical withdrawals. At that point, intention is out the window for me. It's not even a metaphor. It's very literally a drug addiction, and no longer simply a matter of poor telegraphing. The camera isn't necessarily objective, but for it to be so unreliable that those images are all fake-outs would strain my ability to find any reliability in the show (of course, if this is all Psych Ward Buffy's delusion, then the show's reliability may be strained to begin with...).

Now, I certainly agree that the addicted to power and generally lying to herself and others reading is both far more palatable and more in-line with Willow's long-established character flaws. And I certainly agree that it may have been the direction the writers were going all along... until they used the camera to show Willow going to a dealer, getting high, and suffering from physical withdrawals. It's simply too explicit when the primary narrator we have to rely on is the camera.

@8&12: Amy could also recognize that Willow is Buffy's friend, has some obvious stability problems, and could literally flay her with her mind if she tried that rat trick with Buffy again. I mean, you don't have to be afraid of Buffy to be afraid of Buffy.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
I just think it's a little silly that this ONE facet of magic is introduced, it contradicts everything we've learned about magic before this point, (and runs directly counter to the positive images of magic=gay sex), our self deluded characters latch on to that facet as if it solves the actual problem. and suddenly the audience believes that this supercedes everything we've learned about magic prior to this point.

I mean, yes, I get it they went beyond metaphor to establish that what Willow was doing with Rack was analogous to drugs. But the fact that the characters extrapolated that to mean ALL magic was addictive, doesn't mean the audience is necessarily supposed to accept that, and we aren't(I didn't).

Now, like I said, this is partly the writers fault, I think they were trying to lull the audience into a false sense of security, to feel that things were being dealt with, so they wouldn't see the plot coming.

In addition, someone brought up Normal Again. Why do people think this is hinting that the Buffyverse "isn't real"? When she flashed back to that final scene, she was still under the influence of the demon. She had disposed of the antidote, she only defeated the delusion through sheer force of will, but she wasn't cured. She even telegraphed it, before the scene change, by grabbing her hoodie and closing her eyes, just like she did before the other delusions took over.

But this time, what she saw in her delusion, was that the fake Buffy had accepted her "delusion", that was all. It's not supposed to indicate anything else, IMO.
Jason Parker
16. tarbis
It doesn’t help that the “rules” of magic were never consistently explained which left them open for changing. This was a show that couldn’t keep bloodlines, dates, or basic geography straight. The Buffyverse didn’t run on rules, it ran on narrative. If the story required ignoring existing facts then the facts got ignored instead of the story changing.

If there was someone in the writer's room who thought the addiction was a fakeout then it seems safe to say that they didn't sell that version to anyone else working on these episodes. If a writer thinks they're subverting an afterschool special, but the actors, director, and editor think they're making a regular afterschool special then the end product is a regular afterschool special. The addiction storyline was an afterschool special (and a particularly unsubtle one at that).

Random thought, is it just me or are Giles and Xander the only members of the core four that know how to drive? The last time (Band Candy) we saw Buffy drive she was terrible at it and the audience hasn't seen her behind the wheel since. This was the first time the audience saw Willow drive and she got into a drunken wreck with a stolen car. Weird little detail that makes negative sense in a small southern California town.

@11- About your digression, it is worth noting that Angel's moment of perfect happiness was far enough into the afterglow that Buffy was asleep and even his moment of perfect despair was a few minutes after the sex itself. That suggests the moment of perfect whatever is not triggered by the sex so much as what he thought about afterward. Angel is a reaction to both Liam (selfish frat boy type) and Angelus (Liam turned to 11) who is more self-reflective and less of a dick then they were. So two out of three got to be selfish lovers and the last one gets to be guilty about it.
Alyx Dellamonica
17. AMDellamonica
I have to admit I tend to usually go with what the writers put down. (With a few notable exceptions, such as my being unable to really believe it was Xander who summoned Sweet, although there is no evidence anywhere in canon that he didnt.)

The gang is treating this like an addiction and later there is some acknowledgment that they were oversimplifying, but I don't think that we're supposed to just assume they're entirely wrong-headed in their approach to Willow's problem at this point. What with Rack and the withdrawal, it quacks too much like that duck.
Chris Nelly
18. Aeryl
Willow drove back from LA in Dirty Girls(in Xander's car).

To an extent, I feel it was supposed to feel like an afterschool special. The audience to an extent was supposed to feel "problem solved". But it was a lie, it was always a lie, but it was a lie they tried very hard to sell.

I'm babbling, so there's that.

And I think it would have been helped, if after Willow was "all better" there should have been someone(and again, this is where a split screen phone call with ASH would have been great, and helped the audience feel like Giles didn't forget they existed when he hit Heathrow) had expressed some skepticism about Willow's recovery. And of course, if that had been done, the characters could have ignored him, because poo-poo Giles, you LEFT US.
jmb
19. Dianthus
@14. I heartily concur.

@15. IIRC* the last scene from Normal Again is psych-ward Buffy saying "Good-bye." It's suggestive, is all. It's entirely possible that both time streams are 'real.'
It's Buffy's Heaven. No harps 'n' halos (too conventional), but she's got both her parents, there's no Dawn, all her inner demons are just that, and everyone's focused on her.
*I loaned out my s6 DVDs and never got 'em back.

@16. There's a saying: Consistency is the hob-goblin of small minds. So not a problem here. Whedon's a Big-Picture guy. For him, details are just things you trip over on your way.
For instance, in FFL, when Spike and the others are hiding-out in the mine, the screen reads 1880. It was meant to read 1888. They're hiding out 'cuz of something ourageous Spike did that made London too hot for them.
Let's see...what was going on in London in 1888 that outraged the citizenry? Could it be the Whitechapel murders of one Jack the Ripper? A Jack the Ripper who was never properly identified? Much like my earlier digression, it's entirely circumstantial, but I think they intended to suggest that Spike was Jack
As to the other, there's nothing really rational to it, it was just a feeling I got, based on presentation. I liked Angel well enough at the start, but after he got his own show, I got really f*cking tired of hearing how Good and Great and Noble he was. Especially in light of the developments with Spike. Spike runs rings around the Big Lug, laughing all the while.

@18. Whedon specifically said there would be no Very Special Episode of BtVS in s6. A duck may not be what you wanted, but a duck is what got.
treebee72 _
20. treebee72
This comment thread basically expands on my one sentence opinion of this season: Great ideas - really, really bad execution.
jmb
21. Moniquena
@19 I COMPLETELY agree with your assessment of Angel on AtS. (They really should've had Angel dream that Spike was dancing circles around him. that wouldve been hilarious) It's kind of like Whedon just completely gave up on the show as being more than a way to make more money. Except with Season 5 when it was the only thing he had going on.

The guy's got issues besides Angelus, and I feel like the writers all oohing and ahhing over him being noble stunted his ability to deal with them.


@15 Normal Again kind of pissed me off. It was like the writers were giving each other a pat on the back for sifting through Buffy and their real world and unintentionally smacking all the fans in the face. I feel like this whole season was a smack to the face. Except for Xander and Willow at the end :)

@18 having Giles or Tara say something would've definitely added more depth to the addiction storyline. It would also bring home this period in their lives. They may be entering the adult world, but that doesn't mean they know what they're doing in it.

Spike is so happy in this episode and I can't help but smile about it. He's just so giddy! He knows what he wants, and he's just made a major step in getting it.
jmb
22. GarrettC
Too many @numbers to keep track of! So just generally...

"Normal Again:" I don't think the episode makes it clear which version of reality is "true," and I don't think it needs to. The way I approach ambiguity is that when two possibilities exist, I get to choose the one I like better and discard the other. I'm not forced to stand in maybe/maybe not limbo. I get to choose! In other words, acknowledging the existence of another possibility does not need to stop me from believing what I like.

In this case, I choose Buffy-verse over ward-verse because I like it better, but I could have just as easily gone the other way (and maybe Psych-Ward GarrettC does!).

Mostly, when I mentioned it I just wanted to say Psych-Ward Buffy because it sounds like the name of an action figure. An action figure that I would purchase.

And by way of segue...

Now that I think about it, the Psych-Ward Buffy reality solves all of the show's major continuity problems....

Aside from certain season 6 developments, those discontinuities represent by far my biggest gripe about the show. How hard is to remember Spike saying, "You were my SIRE!" in HIS FIRST SCENE OPPOSITE ANGEL IN THE ENTIRE SERIES? Or to just have a page distributed to the writers that just lists the characters' ages (like Spike's!). Or, anything whatsoever to do with Spike's history.

I believe Joss sort of addressed the issue in his commentary on the series finale. IIRC, he's talking about why suddenly the potentials can handle several hundred UberVamps on their turf when Buffy could hardly handle one on hers. His response was basically, "the strength is a metaphor."

Which, metaphorically, is fine. But narratively, it's negligent. Wouldn't it be just as easy and metaphorcally apt to have Willow's spell unleash not only the original potential, but also some other potential that even Buffy had never had access to?

I hate narrative negiligence. To me, it's not a small minds problem. It's a can't-be-bothered problem. And when you're as openly adulant of your fans as Whedon & Co. are, and those fans are invested in the narrative of your product, you should be bothered not to do things that make that narrative self-contradictory.

I can, for instance, respect the efforts of the writers to do something daring with the narrative in season 6, even if I don't enjoy it and disagree with some of those decisions. At least they're pushing the show and themselves in difficult directions. I cannot respect the lack of effort of the writers to keep some of their most basic continuity straight, or to apply narrative solutions to metaphor problems.
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23. GarrettC
I don't, however, think that the different sorts of magic (and therefore the different magic metaphors) is self-contradictory. We know that a particular kind of magic represents LGBT sexuality. But we also know there are different kinds of magic, and always have been.

What about Amy's mom? What about a bunch of the stuff to do with Dawn in season 5? The simple breakdown is "light magic vs. dark magic: (which is made explicit through Willow's hair...). Light magic can be sexy goodness without dark magic playing the same role. The show had long since set up at least the idea that magic wasn't all the same.
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24. Dianthus
@20. Hello there. You've pretty much wrapped it up in a bow. Well played!

@21. One of the most frustrating things about the cancellation of AtS is that I think they were just about to actually deal with some of Angel's issues. It's likely Spike was there to aid Angel in his integration just as he aided Buffy in hers (only w/o the mind-blowing sex).
A happy Spike is indeed a wonder to behold.

@22. LOL! I was just thinking about the scene where Spike gives his age as 126. The math simply doesn't work. When questioned about it, Whedon's excuse was being bad at math! Dude, it's simple subtraction. Get a friggin' calculator. Geez.
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25. Moniquena
@24 So we'd have to wait until season 6 to actually see some insight and growth into Angel's actual character instead of just his dark side? Not buying it...

Anyways, back to this show! If the writers had come up with a different angle, like Rack being the guy Amy learned from since her mother's trapped in a statue, and him being all nice and sweet and smooth about giving away his magic (I'm guessing that's what it was Willow got high off of, I never understood that part) because he doesn't use it, then I think it could've worked. He could've been a pre-school teacher or something! And the magical highs could've been explained away as the magic settling into Willow's system. Don't have Willow crying in the shower. Amy shoving Willow toward Rack could've been explained as Amy getting revenge for Willow never really trying to de-rat her after the first attempt instead of Amy acting like a junkie. Willow acting like it was an addiction so she doesn't have to take responsibility would've still worked for the no where to be seen build-up to the finale.

It's this episode that really makes it look like the writers don't know what they're doing with Dawn. She's pretty mature in this episode, and then she's blaming Buffy for every that's wrong in the next! She was almost purely for plot last season, and in season 6 where the characters are used as metaphors, we don't really get to see her actually become a person until season 7.
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26. Dianthus
To go back to AtS for a moment, I really think they might've had some idea of fixing Angel (not that they've done so in the comix). S'posedly, they were gonna go back to Pylea. Would've been interesting to see Spike there, and if it would've had the same affect on him. Even money says maybe not.
Also, part of me wishes they'd gone ahead and given Spike the shan-shu. As he didn't know or care about it, it would've come as an unhappy (?) surprise for him. His constant p!ssing and moaning would've made Angel's pettiness more understandable, if not downright sympathetic. It makes me laugh every time I think of it.
Of course, the howls of outrage from certain factions could've been heard from space. I don't follow sports, but I am familiar with the concept of an upset.
I also would've liked to see more Spike/Lorne interaction, and a pony!

Back to Dawnie...it certainly would've been interesting to see what else they could've done with her supernatural origins. Her just hanging around as Buffy's bratty kid sister was a huge waste of an opportunity.
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27. jmb
@26 Oh yeah - Dawnie. She is written much younger than she really is. Which makes her esp. annoying in this season.

That said, her life rather does suck. Her sister dies. Her sister comes back, but is really absent emotionally. Her father figure leaves. A major person goes crazy with magic. Because of this, another major person/mother figure leaves.

And, of course, the suckitude will only get worse...

She's essentally being used as a whipping horse for "bad stuff happens" but she doesn't really seem to exist outside of this box.
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28. Gardner Dozois
As I've said before, the problem with Dawn was that she outlived her storyline, which really should have ended with the end of the Glory arc with her sacrificing herself instead of Buffy and going off to some vague mystical glowly reward/transcendence in her true form, so that the audience didn't feel bad about her "death." But not having done that, they really didn't know what to do with her afterward. I agree strongly with Dianthus--there's no way that a creature created by magic out of pure magical energy should have ended up as just an ordinary teenage girl. I kept waiting for her to develop Powers, for her true supernatural nature to begin to shine through--but it never did, thereby wasting a WHOLE lot of story possibilities/opportunities. Very disappointing. I think that those who dislike Dawn might have liked her better if she had some true function in the show other than being somebody for Buffy to rescue.

In the last episode of this season, Dawn is forced to pick up a sword and begin fighting monsters, and she's actually kind of good at it. In the middle of the fight, there's a moment when she strikes a pose with her sword in the EXACT same posture as Buffy with her ax in the credits, and I sat bolt upright at home and said "Ah ha! DAWN the Vampire Slayer!" I was sure at that moment that that was the way they were going to go, with Dawn taking over from Buffy apart from perhaps an occasional guest appearance--since there were rumors at that point that Sarah Michele Geller wanted to leave the show, it made perfect sense. But that never happened either, and Dawn went back to being a whiny ordinary teenage girl.
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29. GarrettC
agree strongly with Dianthus--there's no way that a creature created by magic out of pure magical energy should have ended up as just an ordinary teenage girl. I kept waiting for her to develop Powers, for her true supernatural nature to begin to shine through--but it never did, thereby wasting a WHOLE lot of story possibilities/opportunities.
Actually, for me, this was one of the few things I thought they really, really, really did right with Dawn. There was a lot of season 5 that was asking questions about whether Dawn can really be Buffy's sister, whether she's real, whether she deserves to exist in girl form, etc., and the ENTIRE POINT of Buffy's sacrifice at the end of the season was that our titular character was answering those questions.

Buffy died to affirm that, yes, Dawn IS her sister, yes, Dawn IS real, and yes, Dawn DOES deserve to exist in that form. When Buffy died, she said, "Here, Dawn, I want you to have the chance to actually be what you appear to be, because after everything, I do genuinely love and care for you."

So, for me, making Dawn be anything except a regular person would completely undermine the significance of Buffy's sacrifice at the end of season 5.

Which is why I don't care to read seasons 8 or 9. Also, THE HELL DAWN AND XANDER GET TOGETHER WHAT THE HELL? GAH!
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30. GarrettC
That last bit was supposed to be white texted. It previewed fine. Not sure what happened....
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31. Dianthus
@29. I don't think exploring Dawn's supernatural origins would've automatically undermined her relationship with Buffy or Buffy's sacrifice. They could've played it low-key for the first part of the season, dropping a few hints here and there, only to have it blow up later. Imagine if Dawnie had been the season's Big Bad.
Alternatively, they could've gone all out, and dealt with what it meant for Dawn to be a regular person after she's outlived her 'purpose.' They teased us with the posibility that she was a Potential, of course, but that was just another fake-out.

OTOH, I completely agree with you, re: "Dander." It really gets my dander up as well.
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
FYI, For the Red Shirts, you have to preview first, then change it to white text, then post.

If you take the Black, you can edit posts.

I'm not bothered by Dander, it was telegraphed in Dawn's very first episode, and it demonstrated beyond a doubt that Xander's finally over Buffy, hence, no more demonic girlfriends.

I also agree with GarrettC about Dawn's normalness. She filled the role Willow used to have, before she got all jacked up on magic. BTDT.

To me complaining about Dawn's normal humanity, is like saying you think Avatar Last Airbender would've been better if Sokka had been a bender too. It ignores the importance of the Every(wo)man in the story(look at the SW prequels).
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33. Dianthus
@32. We already have a regular, well-established Everyman character: Xander.
I wasn't actually reading the comix when Dander came together, but it's my understanding Xander had been involved with a Slayer who was killed, and then got involved with Dawn in the very next issue. Some folks thought it was Too Soon. Me, I just don't care for it.
I once saw a video clip featuring NB & JM on a panel. Fans had informed NB of the development and he happened to mention it. JM's head snapped around and his expression was clearly "Da Fuq?"

Also, too, the nonsense with Dawn in s8 says to me that they really had no idea what to do with her. When Whedon said she'd be experiencing "growing pains," I hoped he meant it had something to do with her supernatural-ness. Instead, it became just another anti-drinking PSA. Meh.
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
Yes, we had an EveryMAN, but we lost the EveryWOMAN at the end of S2.

I like what they've done with her in S9, it makes sense that it would be a part of the consquences of S8. Better that than having ANOTHER Willow arc, which is pretty much what people want.
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35. Dianthus
Oh, yes. Now I'm convinced. I bow to your superior intellect. Whatever.
Actually, I would've liked to see what they're doing with her now a lot sooner. In fact, I've read fanfic (RIP, Nan Dibble) that used a similar-ish idea to great effect. I think most of that material came out before the show even ended it's run.

A new issue (the penultimate issue of s9?) came out just recently. The last post over at the Dark Horse website, re: Buffy is dated 7/11/13. It's now been over a month since then. There wasn't so much as a snarky review. Hell, there wasn't even a snarky review for the previous issue. It certainly seems like people are losing interest.

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