Mon
Oct 7 2013 1:30pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: I’m lonely and drunk and you smell really good...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Spike Anya

“Entropy,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

Ah, springtime on the Hellmouth. Vampires flee in apparent terror, all thoughts of drinking the blood of the living forgotten as... wait! There isn’t a Slayer in sight! No Buffy, no friends, no ex-lovers or off-and-on allies, not even a plucky victim, a much-missed Watcher or a misguided, doomed cop. Instead we see the Trio, on quads. They are completely ineffective in catching the vamps, who nearly get away. The Sunnydale vampire population is becoming weaker and more prone to bolting without cause as time goes on, I think.

And for good reason, perhaps, because now Buffy does show up, as does Spike. Warren, showing true nerve if not actual courage, edges closer until he’s fray-adjacent, all so he can snatch a mystic disk off the ground. The disk, naturally, was the reason the three of them were chasing the undead in the first place.

It was nice of the vamps to drop the thing before it got dusted along with their clothes.

Spuffy doesn’t so much as notice the three villainettes. Spike is busy holding one of them above the fistfight while offering to help finish him off... if only Buffy will tell her friends about their affair. Sadly for him, she’s gotten a bit of self-esteem out of having been forgiven for trying to kill the gang.

“Sleeping with you? They’ll deal.” She says this so confidently I believe it.

Spike, reasonably enough, suggests that in that case they should sleep together again. But she says she doesn’t love him, dusts disposable vamp number two, and walks off.

Meanwhile, and as we all remember, Xander’s life absolutely sucks. He is drinking beer laced with self-pity and listening to sad music. Is it country music, the music of pain? I don’t recognize the band. We see that Anya is watching him from the bushes, but she doesn’t go to him. Her life, if we can still call it that, is even worse than his. At least Xander’s troubles are self-inflicted.

Speaking of benign not-quite-stalking behaviors, Willow is watching Tara. This time she actually approaches her after class, which makes it not creepy. She learns, as a result, that the woman she saw Tara with last week was merely a friend. They catch up on their various Buffy-inflicted injuries from the week before, and Willow gets up the nerve to ask Tara out for coffee. They burble cutely through the next stage of their reconciliation. Enjoy it, guys. That clock is ticking.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Buffy Dawn

Buffy, meanwhile, is living within the restrictions of her new no-sex-with-Spike lifestyle. She and Dawn are attempting to shop, but running up against the fact that little Miz Lightfingers stole stuff from all the stores they might potentially go into. But they’re hanging out, getting along, and apparently feeling comfortable about both Buffy’s fit of homicidal mania and how Dawn has taken responsibility for her thievey actions and may yet, one day, redeem herself.

Over at Trio Central, Jonathan is working on a spell involving the purloined magic disk. He’s being closely supervised by Warren and feeling testy about it. Who wouldn’t? The deal as Jonathan understands it is the latest scheme will make them all super-rich and then they’ll go their separate ways. Once again, he has failed to grasp Warren’s true nature.

Because down there in the fine print, what the deal actually says is that Warren and Andrew are going to get super-rich and then finish poor Jonathan off before the latest carton of milk expires.

Xander shuffles painfully home, where he finds Anya waiting for him. He grovels. He says he’s an idiot. He says he wants to make up for what he’s done and he loves her. So far, so good, right? Then, when she asks what happened, he sticks his foot in his mouth: he admits that he didn’t want to get married, and still doesn’t. That he’s not ready.

So not what she wants to hear.

Xander wishes they could go back to the way things were before they got engaged. Anya wishes he was never born. But when she wishes, she really wishes. With a vengeance, if you know what I mean. Of course you know what I mean!

Someone’s got her powers back. Um... yay?

In three thousand years of cursing, killing, and flirting with Dracula, Anya apparently never learned that she can’t grant wishes to herself. She gives it her all, coming up with ever more inventive attempts to kill Xander and watching them all flop. Finally she gives in, going off to Halfrek to complain about her performance problems.

Halfrek, who actually read So You Wanna be a Vengeance Demon? and every single page of the employee orientation and benefits plan summary before signing up with the D’Hoffryn-based franchise of Revenge Incorporated, explains there’s a loophole: Anya can try to get someone else to make the wish for her.

Over at the Summers house, Buffy is making wayyyyy too many pancakes and proposing pizza dates to little sis. Dawn says she’d rather come out on patrol. This gets her nowhere, but the argument stops short of becoming another Summers Sibling Screamfest. The answer’s no and that’s final. No surprise there, even if XanDillow were out patrolling at Dawn’s current age. Buffy’s so uptight about risking the kid’s life! She may be feeling better, but even so—what a killjoy! I feel sure that Spike would agree.

Anya, meanwhile, finds Willow and Tara having a great time at the coffee shop, talking about all the depressing episodes Tara missed, like “Gone” and “Doublemeat Palace.” When she appears, Willow gives her a ginormous and totally sincere hug. The two of them have come rather a long way, haven’t they? Anya, though, is hoping for rather more than a comforting squeeze. She darnwell wants a Scooby to wish Xander into a horrible screaming grave.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Tara Anya Willow

It’s a bona fide homicide attempt, all played for laffs. And it is a genuinely hilarious comic sequence, as she tries to get an “I wish” out of WillTara, Dawn, or Buffy.

The chuckles end when Xander interrupts her at Buffy’s.

Anya storms off and Buffy counsels giving her space. Xander, in frustration, kicks the Trio’s garden gnome. This sends the story spiralling off in a new direction, along with the cheap fragments of ceramic—they find the camera in the gnome’s head. Xander decides it’s Spike’s and Buffy duly heads off to the crypt to share the accusation.

“I don’t hurt you,” Spike says, and claims he’s a changed man. Buffy tells him he needs to move on, and he kicks her out. I’m always happy when he does this. It demonstrates self-respect.

And wow! It is really nice to see Buffy not depressed!

Anya has, by now, bounced back to Halfrek to hash over her second failure with the cursing. Xander’s friends like him too much to wish he’d get a lethal return engagement of the funny syphillis, or turn into a mad cow, or get devoured by demons. Hallie points out that she needs to find someone who doesn’t give a fig’s ass if Xander gets hurt. And look! Just then, Spike’s coming into the Magic Shop.

Anya looks at the Bloody with that special look she usually reserves for hundred dollar bills. Ka Ching!

Hallie makes herself scarce as Spike asks for a numbing spell. Instead of numbing, Anya gives him Giles’s old bottle of Jack Daniels.

By now, Xander and Buffy have worked out the obvious: if Spike isn’t their stalkery cameraman, they can have three other likely suspects for the price of one. Willow’s trying to hack the camera to see if they can locate the Trio. Jonathan has finished the spell, and now the three are re-enacting the temple scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I sure hope they don’t end up digging in the wrong place.

What Willow discovers is that the Trio has cameras, cameras everywhere: at Xander’s construction site, at the Bronze, at the Doublmeat, and even at UC Sunnydale. And, inevitably, there’s one at the Magic Box.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Spike Anya

As all this is happening, Spanya are getting drunk, sharing their heartache, talking about how damned hard they tried, all for true love. Anya starts to get past her fury and talk about the misery, the rupturing hole in her self-esteem. In time, this leads the two of them to spanging like drunken, wounded, crazy people on a table in the store.

Thanks to Willow’s hacking acumen, Buffy and Xander see it all in grainy, throbbing black and white.

Buffy’s reaction clues Dawn in to the fact that her sister has feelings for Spike and has acted upon them. As they’re talking that through, Xander heads for the Magic Box with an axe.

A horrible XandAnya argument follows. He’s sickened because she had sex with the evil soulless thing. Spike takes the opportunity to point out that Buffy’s had a bit of that sexy soulless action as well. And oh, contrary to Buffy’s assertion in the early part of the episode, Xander really doesn’t deal. Instead, as she feared all along, he’s thoroughly grossed out.

Xander leaves, Buffy leaves, and Spike gets as far as saying something Xander-related starting with the words “I wish—” before Anya cuts him off. Then, having burned out her desire to kill the man she still loves, she goes inside and starts straightening out the Magic Box.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Anya Spike Xander

Who don’t we feel bad for here? Xander is just a big ball of unlovable mess at the moment, but he’s Xander after all. We’ll forgive him. Spike’s made a faint attempt to move on, as Buffy said he should, and it’s gone about as well as one of his crime schemes. Anya’s shattered, Buffy’s bruised... I know, let’s look in on the reconciling lesbians! That’ll be way more cheerful.

Because it’s so on, finally. Tara shows up in Willow’s bedroom. She’s tired of being strong and waiting to get back together the mature way. She wants to cut to the smoochies, and I am so on board. We need a little ray of relationship optimism, am I right? We want to see that people can mend. They can patch it up with a kiss and some cuddling. Everyone else may be falling apart, but at least WillTara can live happily ever after.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Entropy, Tara Willow

Right?

Next: A splash of red


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. (Watch for the second of The Gales, “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.

29 comments
Dr. Thanatos
1. Dr. Thanatos
Not a bad episode; I thought that the efforts of Anya to encourage wishing on her behalf was great farce, especially in light of fannish comments wishing horrible death on minor characters in TV shows (I'm looking at you, Wil Wheaton) and set up a light tone that would be knocked down with the upcoming betrayal.

And a light touch with a hint of tragedy is a perfect setup for next episode, which I do not look forward to with any relish.
Constance Sublette
2. Zorra
Except for the Dawn part, this was pretty terrific.

However, no matter how realistic this is in these circumstances, Xander being so righteous about Anya having consolation sex with a vampire infuriates me. He seems to have forgotten entirely the number of people whose deaths Anya's been responsible for over the centuries. So how exactly is Spike different from Anya?

It does feel to me this jealousy is beyond irrationally understandable. It does feel that it is really about Buffy, and when he learns that Spike's had with Buffy what he's always been yearning to have himself -- that Spike's managed to have at least a sexual encounter with both Anya and Buffy, he went around the bend.

Further, in these circumstances, it seems that everyone is being way too nice to Xander. Spike's the whipping boy, not for the first time, but this time, not for the first time, unfairly.

Love, C.
Marty Beck
3. martytargaryen
This episode is so true to (most) of the rest of the series, in that despite the painful moments, each character acts on clear motivations each step of the way.
Xander is completely irrational; Buffy totally misjudges her friends' reactions (particulary Xander); Spike is not going to recognize a MEH as far as Buffy is concerned; Anya's hurting and not understanding the hurt and just wants to lash out.
Good stuff.
I'm already tearing re. next week. :(

eta Thank you Alyx for the great posts each week; even if I don't comment much, I'm reading and enjoying.
Dr. Thanatos
4. Dianthus
Somewhat OT:

Yesterday I went to the 18th Annual Chumash PowWow down at Lake Cachuma. There was food, drumming and dancing, stuff for sale. I spent a couple of hours there.

@2. Yes! Thank you.

Honestly, Alyx, I really don't feel much sympathy for Xander here at all. His wounds are, as you say, self-inflicted. What's more, this isn't the first time we've seen this exact same kind of behavior. Character A says hateful, hurtful things to Character B. Character B loves Character A, but has gotten too close, so Character A makes with the harsh words to put Character B at a safer distance. IMO Xander's behavior is shameful and he can still go f*ck himself. Buffy's more low-key about it ('cuz dirty little secret) but she's almost as bad.

I, too, appreciate the little flashes of self-respect we see from Spike. It's one thing for Buffy to use him as a crutch, but she's already tossed him aside. Xander using him as a cudgel against Anya? That is not on.

This ep isn't a favorite of mine, but the scene btwn Spike and Anya is a gem.
"I have no dance."
Here we have the same guy with a different gal, and a radically different dynamic. This isn't about a power struggle, and Anya doesn't look down on him. The look they share after...it's clear they understand each other perfectly, and it's like an island of calm in a sea of chaos.
Jack Flynn
5. JackofMidworld
Everyone else may be falling apart, but at least WillTara can live happily ever after.

Oh, Alyx...that's just wrong!
Dr. Thanatos
6. GarrettC
I agree that it is exceptionally nice to see Buffy interacting positively with the world again. I know this was a difficult season for Sarah Michelle Gellar, but I do commend the writing team for insisting that her recovery had to be earned, on screen, over time. Despite all my complaints about the sadism of this season, Buffy's misery always seemed real and appropriate to me.

That said, one of the things that drives me nuts when I watch this episode is the Willow and Tara stuff, and I think it really finally hit me how much this bothers me as I was re-watching DS9 just recently.

Coincidentally, DS9 came up in last week's discussion (due to the similarities between "Normal Again" and DS9's season 6 episode "Far Beyond the Stars"). It makes me wonder what other parallels season 6 of Buffy has with season 6 of DS9.

In any case, as season 6 of DS9 winds down, a particular relationship gets better and better, such that the characters decide to try for children. As their happiness over this possibility peaks, one of the characters dies. Watching it this time, I knew what was coming. And because I knew what was coming, the escalation of the couple's happiness ended up feeling purely manufactured. That happiness did not exist because the characters or the story earned it. It existed solely because it would increase the dramatic contrast with the tragedy. The whole thing read to me as a cheap dramatic play at my emotions.

That's how I feel watching Willow and Tara here. Their happiness here only exists to make next week hurt more. It's cheap manipulation.

Does season 6 work without this tragedy? I don't think a case can be made that it does. Does the tragedy work without this episode? I think it absolutely does. I don't mind being asked to feel the pain, but I do mind the characters being maneuvered so heavy-handedly into their maxmimum-pain positions.
Dr. Thanatos
7. Alex C.
To me, this episode feels a lot like Intervention from S.5 - it's a late-season episode that doesn't really have much of a plot of its own, instead being devoted to showing the fallout and consequences from events of previous episodes, while moving the pieces into position for the events of future episodes. In neither case does that mean that the episode is an unenjoyable one though - on the contrary, I thought that Entropy was almost as good as Intervention, and for the same reason: they're both full of wonderful character work, from beginning to end. It also helps that Entropy is part of a back-to-back run of four really excellent episodes, from Normal Again to Villains, that do a fantastic job of breathing all the life back into this season that dribbled out during the trio (pardon the pun) of problematic episodes Older and Far Away, As You Were, and Hell's Bells. Season 6 of Buffy really is the Paradoxical season for me, in that it contains so many of both the strongest episodes in the series (including at least six of the eps that would make it onto my Top Twenty list) and the weakest ones.

I think that this is also something of a transitionary episode for the story arc of the season, which is another reason for the lack of a self-contained plot. As I suggested in the previous comment thread, Buffy's main arc for this season - her struggle to re-adjust to the world of the living after being dragged out of heaven, which was traced through the episodes Afterlife, Once More With Feeling, Dead Things, and Normal Again, and formed an important subtext for most of the episodes in between - has now been resolved, and I stand by my opinion that it was one of the best and boldest storytelling decisions that the show's writers made in the entire run of BtVS. For the remainder of this season, the focus of Buffy's storyline shifts to her relationships with those around her, particularly Dawn and Spike - the latter of which will be crucially important for setting up the events of Season 7.
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
I don't like the WillTara resolution, because it's rushed, as GarrettC said, to put the characters in position. I'd have been just as heartbroken, if they closed Seeing Red with Tara showing up to tell Willow she thought they should try to work it out, and then Warren shot up the place, killing her before they even GOT TO TRY! The loss of the potential for healing is even worse, IMO.

But I think the showrunners were trying to satisfy the fans who wanted to see WillTara as the realized, adult, sexual couple they hadn't been allowed to be portrayed as on the WB.
Dr. Thanatos
9. Alex C.
Some more of my thoughts about the particular characters, in this episode:

Buffy
For all that I loved the depression arc, it really is lovely to see our protagonist springing back to her old, perky self. She's spending lots of great quality time with her sister (I love all the Buffy/Dawn interactions in this episode - it's heartwarming to see them working through all the issues that have built up over the season, and being on good terms with each other again), churning out more delicious pancakes than anyone could eat (shades of the Buffybot), and most importantly of all, she's quipping again, enthusiastically. There couldn't be a clearer sign - she's back!

Obviously, apart from Dawn the main issues that she's having to deal with in this episode stem from the fallout of her relationship with Spike to date. Here I have to say that my sympathies are (almost) entirely with her. I know that some viewers (I'm looking at you, Dianthus) think that Buffy owes Spike something of a debt for the support that he gave to her earlier in the season, and for the ways in which she was often cruel to him, both emotionally and physically. I don't see it this way. I think that Spike took advantage of Buffy - while she was at her lowest point - just as much as he tried to help her, and I'm certain that she's telling the truth when she says that she doesn't love him. This more or less captures my thoughts:
Spike asks Buffy why she won't sleep with him anymore. Her response, "because I don't love you," says a couple things. First is that Buffy really doesn't love Spike right now, which I believe is true. Second is that she really isn't in a despression anymore, which was the main motivation to sleep with Spike in the first place... to feel something. As I've thought before, I really don't think Buffy can love Spike without a soul. Frankly, I couldn't love someone without a soul either -- just knowing that their capacity to love is limited and that they feel no remorse or regret for evil actions, even though those actions don't happen to hurt me, is a barrier I couldn't get by. I don't feel this is immaturity on Buffy's part, but actually her being very mature. Sometimes it takes time to learn that having that kind of wildcard for evil in your life doesn't exactly make the best long-term relationship, which is what Buffy truly wants with her lovers -- the hope for a partner that will be with her forever.

The moment Spike gets a soul, though, everything changes. It's at this point that Spike has the potential to genuinely be what Buffy needs and wants. The whole theme of the "potentials" in S7 really applies to Spike as well -- his potential to be a man worthy of true commitment, love, and selflessness. All of this outlines Spike's need for a soul if his relationship with Buffy is to continue. What's the only thing that will drive Spike to get a soul? Doing something horrendous to Buffy might just do the trick (I'm saying this from a writer's perspective here), hence "Seeing Red" (6x19).
I should note that although my sympathy is completely with Buffy in her attempts to handle her issues with Spike, that doesn't mean that she's entirely in the right, or that Spike is entirely in the wrong. She's right that the relationship that they had was very unhealthy on a number of levels, and she's correct (imo) to put her foot down in terms of making it clear to him that it's over. However, Buffy goes too far in that she's doing the emotional equivalent of trying to wind the clock back to the end of S.5, and pretend that the relationship didn't really happen. She might tell Spike that she doesn't care if the rest of the SG find out about them - but that's what anyone would say to a blackmailer: "Go ahead and publish!"

The proof is in the pudding, or rather in the reaction that she has when she sees him with Anya over the Triocam. She might not love him at this point, but after being with him over much of the season, she's come away with a sense of him as a person in his own right, who she's powerfully attracted to, that conflicts with her (also valid) conception of him as a monster. That's a conflict that still has to play out - and is going to be even more complicated after the events of the next episode.

Spike
In some ways this is an episode where it is easy to view Spike in a sympathetic light (particularly in his encounter with Anya, and Xander's abuse of him at the end). But, to continue on with the issues outlined above, my sympathy for him is tempered - and not just by foreknowledge of what he's going to do in Seeing Red.

Probably the best thing that can be said about Spike in this episode is that he is sincere - something that rings through particularly strongly during his scene with Buffy in the crypt. As harsh as Buffy's reply that what Spike feels is real "for you" may seem however, she really does have a point. Spike might genuinely mean it when he says that "I don't hurt you", but that doesn't mean that he's right. No viewer can doubt that Spike loves Buffy, but his inability to connect with her on a human level has meant that he has hurt her in the past, often in ways that he doesn't appreciate, because he can't. He's still pursuing her in this episode - still trying to manipulate her, but with less success because she isn't as vulnerable as she was during her depression - because his fixation on her overrides whatever capacity he has to comprehend her feelings about the matter - and that's the central element that's going to lead to the tragedy of Seeing Red.

Another note of interest - during their conversation in the crypt, we once again get the key words, "No you don't" - this time coming from Spike rather than from Buffy (who used them in Dead Things).

Xander
Not sure I can add much more to what has been said about Xander at this point. His arc in this season really is a tragic one - even if it does have a really magnificent pay-off at the end of Grave.

Not unlike the Buffy/Spike dynamic (which has significant parallels as well as pointed contrasts with Xander/Anya), some of the words exchanged in this episode are devastatingly harsh, but have a strong ring of truth to them:

"No, the mature solution is for you to spend your whole life telling stupid, pointless jokes so that no one will notice that you are just a scared, insecure little boy!"

To defer again to another viewer:
Although I really do feel sorry for Xander having his world crumble down around him, Anya does have a valid point, which makes this a huge moment for him. It allows him to accept the situation he's in maturely along with being forced to take Buffy off the massive pedastal he has her on and recognize her as a flawed human being. Although rough for him now, it will end up bringing him even closer to her later. It's interesting that Anya doesn't even want Spike to wish harm on Xander any more after this. This entire scene is just phenomenal.
Anya
The character arcs of Anya and Spike reflect off each other in so many ways that their encounter at the Magic Box really did feel perfectly in-character, for both of them, and was one of the highlights of this episode.

In addition to the stuff that's already been mentioned, one of the most interesting points about their ability to relate to each other (which we've seen ever since that time they met at the Bronze in S.4) that struck me in this episode is that they share the inability to understand what it is that keeps the members of the Scooby Gang standing together, no matter what troubles come up between them - a key indicator that they both have a way to go on the path to rediscovering their humanity.

Anya's statement to Xander about why she slept with Spike is also with quoting:

"I was sad... and he was just... there."

The parallel with Buffy/Spike is glaring.

Dawn
Dawn was often rather hard to put up with in this season, to put it lightly, but I'll say again that I really loved her in this episode - especially with how understanding she was of Buffy after they witnessed Spike/Anya over the Triocam. The concluding episodes of S.6 generally mark a turning point for Dawn's character, I feel - leaving her a more mature person as we head into Season 7.

Willow / Tara
I can't really find much to say here, except to agree with the sentiments that have been expressed thus far. The sense of tragedy that one gets during a re-watch of this season is nothing if not potent.
Dr. Thanatos
10. Alex C.
Another noteworthy observation: "entropy" can be defined as "a gradual descent into chaos or disorder" - something that perfectly encapsulates what's happening to the Scooby Gang at the moment, even if they don't yet realise it.
Dr. Thanatos
11. Dianthus
@9. If I were to respond to this now, I'd end up saying something I'll regret. More will have to wait.
Jason Parker
12. tarbis
Random thought: How did the Trio get the camera inside The Magic Box and did the set department put the garden gnome on the lawn before this episode? Minor bits of fridge logic, but they do gnaw a little at the back of my mind.

The further away from the series I get the more I want to pull Tara aside and yell in her ear at the end of this episode. To summarize she is returning to the possessive, manipulative junkie who erased her memory twice and raped her at least once. The show, for its part, treats this return as a good thing, once again bringing Mutant Enemy's feminist street cred into question.

During Tara's sole focus episode it was made clear that she is used to an abusive environment, but digging out the cliche of abused people seeking abusive relationships is a bit too far to go. The whole mess between Willow and Tara would be sad and anger inducing even if Tara hadn't stopped in front of a window for pseudo-angelic backlighting.
Dr. Thanatos
13. Dianthus
Willow and Tara didn't want to wade thru all the unpleasantness that would come of slowly rebuilding their relationship the "right" way. They just wanted to dive back in to the good stuff. Ergo, they get to suffer a different kind of consequence. In ME parlance, they didn't "earn" their reconciliation.

Buffy and Xander both want to rewind their relationships to a point where those relationships worked better for them, regardless of the feelings of her/his Significant Other. Guess what? It doesn't work like that, Peaches.
They made their mistakes. They can't just go back and play pretend. Buffy and Angel tried that, and we all know how well it turned out.
IMO, their behavior is immature, selfish and cowardly.
Anya's using Spike? Maybe so, but she uses him far more gently. No rough stuff here.
Dr. Thanatos
14. Dianthus
Speaking of Anya, she's honest, for one thing, and she owns her sexuality. She's not caught up in the same Good Girl/Bad Girl bullsh!t as Buffy either.
Dr. Thanatos
15. Alex C.
@13. I strongly disagree on both counts.

Insofar as Tara's (brutal) death at the end of Seeing Red has thematic significance beyond simply being a necessary plot device to bring about the unleashing of Dark Willow (discussion question: is there anything besides Tara dying that might have pushed Willow to go that far off the deep end?), it has nothing to do, I feel, with their failure to somehow "earn" the reconciliation that they enjoy at the end of Entropy. If anything, it is the eventuation of the long-delayed 'blood price' Spike predicted in Afterlife, that had to be paid for the dark magics that Willow has been abusing for personal gain since the beginning of the season, and which has been consistently foreshadowed ever since she butchered the fawn in Bargaining. If we do insist on reading Tara's death as thematically as well as narratively ordained, it's Willow's sins, not her own, that are tragically being paid for.

Regarding the other point, although the Buffy/Spike and Xander/Anya relationships strongly reflect off each other in a number of ways, as I said above, the contrasts between them are as important as the parallels.

As has been discussed in the previous comment threads, Xander does have a number of very valid reasons for not wanting to marry Anya, some of which he is completely oblivious of. If he had found some way to explain that to her, then all probably wouldn't have been well, exactly, but it would have been significantly improved. Unfortunately, Xander chooses this moment to indulge in some of his worst personal instincts. Asking Anya to come back into a relationship, purely on the terms that make him feel comfortable, after what he put her through, is truly reprehensible behaviour. Accordingly, Xander fully deserves the censure that he recieves in this episode, even if we choose to overlook the rank hypocrisy of his actions after seeing Spike and Anya, and then learning about Buffy.

Buffy and Spike by contrast, are in a completely different place to Xandanya, even if you can make some parallels concerning the emotional dynamics involved. Unlike Xander, what Buffy is demanding of Spike is not unreasonable: that he respect her desire to no longer be in a relationship with him. Buffy has every right to not want to be in a relationship with a man that she doesn't love (and a lot of good reasons not to love him), and she is under no obligation to disregard her own feelings just for the sake of his satisfaction. Spike might argue that he is so passionately fixated on her that he is incapable of 'moving on', but that's his problem, not hers. Out of the two of them, it is clearly Spike who has the far greater problem with maturity.

It is arguable that Buffy is somewhat harsh and unfair in the way that she treats Spike in this episode, but I would argue that she is not without reason for behaving that way. She made it very clear to Spike that the relationship was over back in As You Were - and she did it respectfully, and even kindly. Now that he's still trying to "woo" her back to him - in part with crude and half-serious attempts at blackmail - it's fair, or at least understandable, that she should drop the niceness out of her response to him.

It's also understandable that she should be skeptical about his claims that "I don't hurt you." Spike might honestly believe that, but many of his actions in the past say otherwise, and in the next episode he's going to confirm all of her worst suspicions about him.

Just as Tara's murder has thematic significance beyond being the narrative catalyst for Dark Willow, Spike's attempt to rape Buffy (it is not at all a coincidence that these two things happen in the same episode) has significance that goes beyond just being a plot device to drive him to seek the return of his soul.
Dr. Thanatos
16. Alex C.
@14. The latter part is a not insignificant problem all on its own.

Anya is so obviously the victim of appalling mistreatment in this episode, that it's easy to overlook what's being made glaringly apparent: that three seasons of forced socialization by living amongst humans has given her a moral compass that is dangerously faulty at best, even if it is more than what she had to begin with.

This is an area in which her arc is strongly related to Spike's. In her case, it culminates in the next season in the aptly-titled Selfless - easily one of the best episodes in S.7, imo.
Dr. Thanatos
17. Alex C.
The titular theme of entropy (i.e. the slow descent into chaos) is also very much relevant for the Trio, who are rapidly losing what little group cohesion they once had.

The ways in which their respective character arcs - Warren's progressive slide into increasingly naked depravity, the concurrent growth of Andrew's enthrallment to him, and Jonathan's belated resolve to act on his own conscience - play out over the course of the season still strikes me as an impressive, if low-key, feat of storytelling, and one of the most underrated aspects of S.6 as a whole.

Toward the end, Tara's words to Willow - “Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard. You can't ever ... (sighs) put them back the way they were...” - not only provides yet another reference to the 'entropy' theme, but also doubles as a reference to Yeats' "The Second Coming":
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”
Considering what's coming next, it's nothing if not highly appropriate - to say nothing of chilling.

The ways in which the writers of Buffy found ways to reference and invoke other media - everything from music to literature - was always one of my favourite aspects of the show.
Dr. Thanatos
18. Dianthus
Spike will make a terrible mistake in Seeing Red, but he will own it and use it as motivation to make an important, and unprecedented, decision. Spike is actually ready to deal with his "problem" before the others are ready to deal with theirs.
Buffy's behavior (presenting herself as an injured party) strongly suggests that she has feelings for Spike, feelings she's clearly not ready to deal with. Dawn noticed. Alyx noticed it too.
She's hurt by what she sees as Spike's betrayal (Whaaaa!). Never mind that he owes her nothing at this point. It takes stones, after all the crap she's given him.
Yes, Anya goes back to being a demon. So we're back to the question: how was she different from Spike? Why has she gotten to skate on her demon-y behavior?
Dr. Thanatos
19. Alex C.
@18. You are confusing the seperate issues of how Buffy feels about Spike versus how she acts towards him.

The fact that Buffy feels hurt/distressed when she sees Spike with Anya is a product of something that she openly and freely admitted to him at the end of As You Were: that she does "want" him, very much, in the sense of being attracted to him rather than loving him. In other words, your assertion that she's "not ready to deal" with these feelings is clearly at odds with the text. On the contrary, she displays considerable emotional maturity in not only being able to recognize and admit to those feelings, but by refusing to allow them to keep influencing her actions for the worse.

Buffy knows that her behaviour with Spike earlier in the season was wrong on a number of levels: wrong because she was using and manipulating him out of selfish motivation, wrong because it was an unhealthy and abusive relationship on both ends, and wrong because it had zero chance of ever leading to a 'happy ending' for either of them. That's why she ended the relationship, and it's why I think that she was right to do so. When Spike gets his soul back at the end of the season, the situation will be changed entirely, but until then, my sentiment is to applaud Buffy for refusing to allow her feelings to override her better judgement.

What is significant in this episode is that although Buffy obviously feels hurt when she sees Spike/Anya, she doesn't allow that to affect her response to the situation. When she goes to the Magic Box afterwards, it is only to make sure that Xander doesn't do something stupid - and if he had continued to attack Spike after her arrival, I think that it is safe to say that she would have stopped him. She never utters so much as a word of reproach to Spike (or Anya) about what happened, except to ask him whether he's "happy now" that he's been able to rub their secret in Xander's face at pretty much the worst possible time for him.

We are on pretty much the same page in terms of the importance of Spike's decision at the end of Seeing Red to seek the return of his soul, but differ in terms of why it is significant. I see it is the moment when Spike finally abandons a number of the delusions that he has cherished about both Buffy and himself - or rather admits to certain truths that he has refused to acknowledge until this point. Spike's capacity to delude himself up till this point has been a major component of his character, and we see traces of it even in that momentous decision. His resolve to find a way to "make" "things change" is laudable, but he fails to realize that even getting his soul back can only be an incomplete step in the right direction at best. That's what sets up his arc for the Seventh Season - and the most crucial one, imo.
Yes, Anya goes back to being a demon. So we're back to the question: how was she different from Spike? Why has she gotten to skate on her demon-y behavior?
I think that you're confusing the Scoobies giving more leeway to her than Spike (understandably, given how many more times the latter expressed his wish to hurt or kill them) with the show allowing her to "skate" on her past and present actions - which I don't think is the case at all.

Anya's temporary return to being a vengance demon does serve to illustrate, I think, one more reason why Spike had to get his soul back if he was ever going to have a genuine shot at 'redemption' (not exactly the best word to describe what his character achieves by the end of the show, but one that comes close enough to serve the point). It is in my view significant that in Selfless, Anya had to give up her powers (and therefore her capacity to do harm) voluntarily, rather than have them taken from her as they were in The Wish. When Spike takes his soul back, he is affirming the importance of personal choice to the ability of an individual to function as a moral being - something that we see recurring as a theme throughout all seven seasons of the show.
Dr. Thanatos
20. Gardner Dozois
Still not my favorite episode, although better than the dismal run of episodes just past, and it does set up nicely the events of the next episode.

It did seem to me that Xander was being rather self-righteous about Buffy and Anya having sex with Spike even though he was a ruthless killer, self-righteous considering his own relationship wih Anya, who has slaughtered, tortured, and mutilated thousands over the course of her thousand-year tenure as a demon, probably racking up a far higher total of victims than Spike did even in his bloodiest years. That didn't stop Xander from sleeping with HER. Xander and Buffy keep referring to Spike as a "souless thing" or a "souless killer," which leads us into a very blurry area. Did Anya NOT have a soul while she was a demon, and did she get it back when she stopped being one? If she DID have a soul while she was a demon, having started out as a human, after all, wouldn't that make it worse than being a "souless killer" that she slaughtered all those people? If she didn't have a soul, was she then responsible for her actions? An especially gray area since if she didn't have one, she actively CHOSE not to have one by becoming a demon.

All of which ignores the fact, usually skirted around by this show, that people who HAVE souls have been responsible for the killing of millions of people, as well as atrocities far worse than anything you see William the Bloody doing.
Emma Rosloff
21. emmarosloff
Screw Xander in this episode, seriously. Obviously he can't help the way he feels, but he can help what he says, and when he tells Anya that looking at her "makes him feel sick" I kind of just want to punch him. She has it right, at least. Where does he get off, judging her?

A part of me feels like Xander's reaction was amped up for the very same reason they ended on such a lovey-dovey WillTara note -- so that Spike's response (It was good enough for Buffy) would pack more emotional punch. It ends up feeling like a cheap trick, and while Xander has never been the most mature of folk, I still feel like his reaction could've been written with a little more finesse. He still could've reacted badly, very much in line with his character, without me feeling like he was being a chavuinistic d-bag.

The whole scene between Anya and Spike at the Magic Box is wonderful, though. They're both great actors, and I just love how their characters relate, here. "Of course they can't deal with us," Spike says. "We both should've been dead hundreds of years ago. And yet we're the ones who are really alive." They really are more alike to each other than to the other Scoobies. It's always fun when they acknwoledge it, no matter how sad the circumstances.

I kept waiting for a particular line of Anya's, but I guess it doesn't come till later. Still, I think she sums it up beautifully: "It wasn't vengeance. It was solace."
Dr. Thanatos
22. Dianthus
@19. So tell me, Wise One, what's Spike supposed to do, stand around like a stump, listening to Xander belittle Anya and himself? I don't think so. Spike wasn't trying to hurt Xander's tender fee-fees. He was drawing Xander's ire away from Anya and standing up for himself. IMO, he has far more right to spill these beans than Xander has to telling Dawn what happened in the bathroom.
Seems to me the parallels between out two couples are not accidental or coincidental. They are very deliberate, with echoes of one in the other. Buffy has feelings for Spike, no matter how much you, or she, may deny them.
She still hasn't shared her darkest secret with anyone else but Tara. She just wants to forget it ever happened and move on, like it (and Spike) are nothing. Still, the truth will out.
Spike makes a personal choice to go fight for his soul, while he is soulless. No one suggests it to him, or encourages him to change himself in any way. Buffy's already told him he'll never be nuthin' but bad. You insist he can't make choices w/o a soul, but getting that soul is a choice. His choice. A choice he makes, all by himself, sans soul. What part of this do you not understand?!?
Honestly, my head hurts and my desk has a crack in it.
Also, Spike has been part of the team for over a year by this point, the Big Bad bluster left behind in s4. Even Xander expressed sympathy for him at the end of Intervention.

@20. My point, yes. Thank you. Anya was a demon for over 1,000 yrs and caused all sorts of mischief, more (I should think) than Spike and Angel combined. We'll see how vengeance hurts the wishee, only to rebound on the wisher, and cause all kinds of collateral damage into the bargain.

@21. I'd never hated Xander before this, and I really didn't know how to handle it. The Zeppo is one of my faves, after all. I wanted to hurt him so badly for his spitefulness here, just like I wanted to stake Angel for causing Buffy so much pain. As for this Buffy, I just want to shake her 'til her fillings rattle. I was pretty much out of patience with her the 1st time I watched this. Subsequent viewings haven't changed that.
Dr. Thanatos
23. Alex C.
@22. Dianthus -

First things first. I think that you are getting way too worked up over this. Being emotionally invested in the characters and your interpretation of them is fine - Lord knows that I'm guilty of that myself. I get that Spike is your favourite character, and that colours how you see what happens in the show. But let's try and keep things in perspective, okay? As you yourself said, everybody is entitled to hold (and express) a different opinion.

Now, on to addressing your specific points...

Where you're going wrong in your interpretation of what's happening here (in my opinion) is this: Buffy does not deny that she has feelings for Spike. She isn't eager to advertise that fact to her friends, for a variety of reasons (mostly because, regardless of what she says to Spike at the start of the episode, she must have suspected that they'd react badly, partly because being secretive about her innermost feelings is one of Buffy's defining character traits). But she doesn't deny it to herself, or to Spike for that matter - as I noted in a previous comment, she admits as much to him at the end of As You Were, in the same scene where she breaks off their relationship. That scene offers fairly definitive proof that, contrary to your above comment, she does not think that Spike is "nothing" - on the contrary, it was her recognition of him as a person in his own right (take note of the moment when she called him "William") for the first time, rather than simply as a "dead man" whose company she found bearable after the pain of being resurrected, that gave that scene (the highlight of an otherwise mediocre episode) a lot of its power, imo.

Here's the key thing though. Having "feelings" for a person, or being attracted to them is not always the same as loving them, and it definitely doesn't always mean that they'd make a good romantic partnership. Buffy knows that Spike loves her (although she correctly does not trust him to always express that love in healthy and respectful ways), but she doesn't feel the same way about him, and she's self-aware enough to understand that her experiences with him over S.6 took her to some very dark places, and helped bring out some of the worst aspects of who she is as a person. (Being forced to confront the worst parts of who you are is obviously a major seasonal theme, and one that touches on all the Scoobies, with the pointed exception of Tara.) The fact that she earnestly seeks to move past this, and get on with her life in ways that emphasize the best aspects of who she is (which is what we see her trying to do with Dawn in this episode) is, in my view, a very admirable moment for her character.

The question of when exactly Buffy's feelings about Spike began to change to the point that she did start to love him is an interesting one, and will doubtless play out in the discussion of Season 7. Obviously the primary enabler of the sea-change in her feelings toward him was the revelation at the end of Beneath You (note the suggestive reference to that line from Fool for Love), but the issue of when the change began to occur is left more ambiguous. Personally I believe that Sleeper contains the key moment for the shift in their relationship, but that is merely my interpretation.

Getting back to this particular episode, and your above comment, please note that I never suggested that Spike was wrong to reveal his relationship with Buffy, even if it does hurt Xander. And - this is important - neither does Buffy. She does ask him if it makes him happy to have made good on his threat to expose the secret, in a tone which suggests that she is not exactly happy about how things turned out. But the important thing is that she doesn't ever reproach him - nor does she ever give verbal expression to the fact that it distressed her to see him having sex with another woman. Unlike Xander, whose reaction was disgusting on a number of levels, Buffy is never a hypocrite in this episode.

This gets at the core of why my sympathy lies strongly with her rather than Spike, in their respective efforts to deal with the tangled mess of issues that they have created together over the season. If Buffy does not want to be in a relationship with Spike (a desire which, we have seen, she has a number of very good reasons for), regardless of whether or not she has feelings for him, then that is entirely within her rights. Under the surface, she has a whole mess of emotional reactions to the twists and turns that her love life has taken recently - but unlike Xander and Anya in this episode - or Spike in the next episode - she doesn't allow those reactions to compel her into destructive behaviour. Hence why she, in my eyes, comes out looking by far the best of the four at this particular point in the series.

Concerning the issue of Spike's decision to seek the return of his soul, I think that you are misunderstanding my point about why I see it as significant. Vampires in the Buffyverse, who are for the most part portrayed as intelligent creatures (or at least some of them are...) are perfectly capable of making 'choices' in the sense that their thought processes (usually) govern their actions, e.g. "Which human am I going to eat for dinner tonight?" "What style of long dark coat should I wear today?" "Should I try and fight the Slayer, or just run away and hope that she doesn't chase me?" - that sort of thing.

The outcomes of their choices can be good or bad, but what remains constant is that because a vampire has no soul, they are incapable of being motivated by what we would refer to as 'moral reasoning', as well as a sense of empathy for one's fellow humanity (because they aren't human). The fact that they might, under particular circumstances, be induced by alternative motivations to take the same action that a morally-centered person would have does not change this fact (Spike's actions in Intervention are an excellent example of this point).

The story of BtVS, throughout all seven seasons, is very strongly reflective of an existentialist worldview - one can find references to such littered throughout the show. This is not really a matter of moral positioning - the show never definitively comes down on the side of any of the differing shades of morality that exist between the main protagonists, ranging from the relatively absolutist position often taken by Buffy, to the more pragmatic stance frequently represented by Giles in the later seasons (though Buffy's status as the story's main hero does tend to privilege her position). Rather, the true purpose of it is to underline that any sort of self-actualization is impossible if one is incapable of appreciating the significance of the choices that one is faced with and makes. For Spike, whose entire character arc revolves around a journey to self-actualization (in my view), the importance of this point can scarcely by understated.

There are a whole bunch of issues caught up in Spike voluntarily attempting to get back his soul back, but imo what they boil down to is that his decision comes from being able to appreciate the ways in which his status as a vampire inherently limits him as an individual - an appreciation that it is only possible for him to form because of his unique set of circumstances. If I am often negative about many of his character moments in S.6, it is because I feel that recognition of the ways in which prior to getting his soul back he is a limited and negative individual in many ways is crucial to the strength of the moment when he does manage to break free of those limitations - and his struggle to realize himself in the period that follows. I do want to emphasize that despite the many harsh things I have to say about him, Spike is still one of my favourite characters, and I consider his arc to be the second most interesting one in the show.
Also, Spike has been part of the team for over a year by this point, the Big Bad bluster left behind in s4.
That's pushing it too far, I think. Spike stops trying to actively harm or hurt members of the SG after the beginning of S.5, and he helps them out from time to time, but it is a long step from there to being "part of the team" (think about how they responded to him in I Was Made to Love You). Even after S.5, although the different Scoobies vary in the degree to which they tolerate Spike (ranging in attitude from Dawn to Xander), neither he nor they ever shake the sense that he isn't really "one of them" - something that lasts well into S.7.
Dr. Thanatos
24. Alex C.
@20. Gardner Dozois -

I don't think that the show skirted around the issue - not entirely anyway. Particularly as it advanced, there were a number of human antagonists that the heroes faced off against, who get at this question front and center - think of Ford, Ethan Rayne, Maggie Walsh, Ben, and the Trio (particularly Warren).

The whole issue of the 'soul canon' was predominently metaphorical in its effect on the story. If you think about it too literally, then it doesn't hold up so well - but I never had any problem with taking it for what it was.
Dr. Thanatos
25. Alex C.
@22. cont.

To further expand on one of the points made above, Spike's decision to seek the restoration of his soul is a 'choice' in the sense that he consciously undertakes the endeavour, and persists in it through all the hardships that ensue until he gets what he asked for. However, in a more meaningful sense it is actually no real choice at all, because he makes it at a time when all other alternatives (from his perspective) save one have been rendered completely intolerable to him. That is the entire point of his conversation with Clem in the crypt: that Spike realizes, for the first time, the nature of the trap that he is caught in. He can't let go of Buffy without causing himself terrible pain, but he can't be with Buffy without causing her terrible pain. This is one of the delusions that I referred to above: Spike's belief, which he can no longer sustain after Seeing Red, that he can be with Buffy without hurting her, sooner or later. He doesn't want to be a monster. But he can't be a man.

The logical response to being trapped in such a cruel paradox might have been to seek out oblivion, but Spike doesn't work that way. Instead he seizes on the one desperate option that he might have left to escape from the trap, by changing the terms of the equation - by changing himself, in the only way that he knows a vampire can change - the way that Angel changed.

Crucial to all this in my interpretation is that Spike doesn't really understand what getting his soul back will do to him (finding out is a big part of what his S.7 arc is all about). He doesn't know (nor, arguably, does he care) what all the implications will be - he just knows that he can no longer stand for things to remain as they are.
Dr. Thanatos
26. Alex C.
EDIT for comment #23:

The final sentence of the 9th paragraph should read:

"For Spike, whose entire character arc revolves around a journey to self-actualization (in my view), the importance of this point can scarcely by overstated."

Overstated, not understated. Typo - my bad.

In fairness, that reply turned out to be way longer than I thought it was going to be when I started typing it.
Dr. Thanatos
27. Dianthus
This is about more than whether or not Buffy owes Spike anything, or not wanting to be in a relationship with him. One sure-fire way to negate a blackmailer's power is to come clean. Personally, I don't think her private life is anyone else's business, but it relates to a meta thing. She needs to be honest, not just with Spike, not just with herself, but with her friends.
It's not just about what she feels for him, either, but why. There are the obvious reasons, but it's the less obvious ones that really matter.
It's understandable that she wants to put the whole messy business behind her, but it isn't that simple.
Spike's reveal at the end has nothing to do with his earlier threat. He's responding to the situation at hand.
If Spike thinks that having a soul would've kept him from hurting Buffy, then he really is delusional.
Dr. Thanatos
28. Dianthus
Spike is not blameless in this mess. That's never been my argument. However, I'm more sympathetic to him b/c he's working at a disadvantage. By the same token, I'm more critical of Buffy. Also, I do feel that Spike comes in for more than his share of the blame. He is her "whipping boy" to borrow Zorra's term.
All the way back in s2, before she'd even heard of Spike, we saw this same type of behavior from her after her first death. She challenged Angel to a fight and tormented Xander with a sexy dance. With Spike, she can do both. Whatever she might've learned from that experience is not on display here.
More recently, in Life Serial, Spike invited her to try on his world. Taking part in the poker game wasn't about the game, or winning kittens (yeah, yeah "... eat this kitten!"). It was about gathering intel.
He's trying to help her find out who's responsible for her problem du jour. She makes this impossible with an ineffectual effort at kitten rescue. Furthermore, she's the one who advocates violence as a solution. Spike is about listening for information.
I certainly don't need you to tell me that Whedon & Co. are pushing an agenda. No sh!t. They made a concsious decision to go with the 'soul canon.' It's my tough luck to disagree with them.
Dr. Thanatos
29. Alex C.
However, I'm more sympathetic to him b/c he's working at a disadvantage.
And Buffy isn't?

It seems to me that you are overlooking what is undoubtedly the central aspect of her entire character arc in this season: that she is suffering from depression as a result of her resurrection, and as a result she enters into a relationship with Spike as a way of coping with it - a mistake, as he ends up hurting her far more than he helps her. This is the crucial subtext for much of Spuffy in S.6, and it is why I tend to see her transgressions against him as more forgivable than his against her.

I don't buy the idea of Spike's actions in Life Serial as being helpful to Buffy - quite the contrary. Throughout the season, his attempts to entice her into joining him "in the dark", just like his manipulating her to think that being resurrected made her less human somehow (arguably the cruellest thing that he did to her) - are all symptoms of why Spike becomes part of the problem for Buffy in this season, rather than the solution.

It is for precisely this reason that I find it impossible to sympathize with Spike over Buffy in this situation, because, no matter how much one might empathize with the anguish that he goes through, the fact remains that she clearly has the right of the issue. In his current state, Spike is incapable of offering her a relationship that would be emotionally positive, healthy, and fulfilling for her - and because she recognizes that, she refuses to give in to his enticements for another time, irrespective of the fact that she still feels drawn to him on some level. It is a very courageous action that she takes, in its own way - that is my view of it.
I certainly don't need you to tell me that Whedon & Co. are pushing an agenda. No sh!t. They made a concsious decision to go with the 'soul canon.' It's my tough luck to disagree with them.
That is indeed "tough luck". The 'soul canon' is more than just a plot device - particularly as it relates to Spike, it's an expression of the worldview upon which many crucial elements of the show and story are built.

I'm getting a fairly strong impression that a lot of your unhappiness over the way that this issue is handled in the show stems from the fact that you have a particular view of the character, which is contradicted by the directions that the writers decided to take with many aspects of that plotline.

That's fine - as we've agreed several times now, you are perfectly entitled to hold your own opinion. But that doesn't negate the validity of the vision that the writers had for the story, however much one might quibble with certain aspects of their execution of it. Personally I think that the Buffy/Spike relationship as it is in S.6 is an excellent component of the story, both for the way that it jibes with the arc revolving around her struggle with depression, and for the way that it helps to set up the narrative of the (hugely underrated by many of the fans, I feel) seventh season.

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