Mon
Oct 14 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Someone had to guinea pig the meat suit”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, Tara

“Seeing Red,” by Stephen DeKnight

Love is back in business in the Buffyverse, because WillTara are a thing again! A happy, delighted, so-in-love post-coital thing. After the events of “Entropy,” they spent the night together, and now as morning comes they’re just catching their breath with a bit of shop talk.

What a contrast with Spuffy waking up in that broken house, huh?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, Tara Willow

By shop talk, I mean all things Buffy, and soon Tara is confirming Willow’s just-sparked suspicions about the spuffage. After a brief burst of “Why didn’t she tell me?” hurt feelings, Willow goes to see if Buffy needs support. And she may indeed, but she still hasn’t made it home. 

It’s not so unreasonable that both Xander and Willow are hurt by having been left out of this particular loop. The fact that even Dawn figured it out might make the sting even worse. But then Tara puts in an appearance, and that puts an end to all discussion of elder super-siblings, because Dawn is such a WillTara shipper. She is so thrilled at the prospect of possibly having this particular relationship back on its feet that she does everything short of tying the two of them together and putting on the Barry Manilow. Hooray for forgiveness and reconciliation!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, Tara Willow

For a change, Buffy’s reason for not coming home isn’t sex in a crypt, although Spike is at the heart of it in a way. Bury your troubles in work, is her apparent philosophy, so she’s busy breaking into Nerd Central. She emphatically does not admire the Trio’s collection of scantily dressed female action figures. She also grabs some of their papers as she pokes around the basement, all the while talking to them in case they’re hiding or invisible. But they’re not around. They’ve left a buzz saw deathtrap behind and scampered off.

It’s not a very effective deathtrap, unless the goal is to annoy. She gets away with documents, floor plans, CDs, and Klingon love poetry, then sets up a Scooby meet to pore over the loot.

It’s more of a mini-meet, really: her, WillTara, and Dawn. Buffy figures neither Xander or Anya is in the right frame of mind, and she doesn’t want to see Spike. It’s moments like this that make us miss Giles all the more.

(In point of fact, Anya’s having a drink with a betrayed woman and not even realizing that her renewed vengeance gig isn’t going well. She’s too wrapped up in her own troubles. She monologues right over her new target’s “I wish,” several times in a row.)

Elsewhere, the Trio is doggedly pursuing their latest plan. Using Andrew as bait, Warren tasers a Nezzla demon into unconsciousness before having Jonathan gut it and put on its skin. The whole point is the demons keep the mystical equivalent of a super-zorchy force field in their lair. Only they can pass through.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, the Trio

Who haven’t we seen yet? Oh, of course—Spike! With everyone else actively angry at him or wrapped up in their own relationship stuff, it falls to Dawn to show up at the crypt and ask the Bloody if he’s okay. He’s drinking—big surprise there. It’s a weird scene. She asks if he truly loves Buffy and ends up telling him, or perhaps reminding him, that his banging Anya turned out to be pretty darned hurtful.

By now, Jonathan has successfully retrieved the Orbs of Nezzla’Khan. Instead of using them himself, he foolishly hands them over to Warren, who promptly makes himself superstrong and invulnerable. There’s a great idea, right?

And have I complained about the Watcher’s Council lately? Oh, I know what you’re thinking—they’re not even in this one. But would it perhaps have been a good use of their time, over the centuries, to just maybe go round up some of these otherwise useless villain-tempting power-ups? They could chuck ’em into Mount Doom, or fire them into space or even give them to vulnerable nice people they like. Jenny Calendar, for example, or Faith’s original non-evil Watcher are two who spring to mind.

Right. Digression. Forget I said anything.

Buffy goes to Xander’s to see if they can talk sensibly about Spike. He’s living in sloth and depression, and appears to be even more upset about the Spuffing than he is about Anya’s one-off sexual indiscretion. The rapproachement doesn’t come off. They fight about Spike’s lack of soul and in the end, Xander walks out, even though it’s his own house. We get to see him walking the streets of Sunnydale, in a funk, while Anya dusts the Magic Box. He peers in on her, then walks on, off to the Bronze where a woman tries to pick him up... but he’s not having any. He’s just nursing his drink and, though he doesn’t know it yet, waiting for the Trio to show up.

(WillTara, I’m happy to report, are still in bed.)

At this point, there’s a bit of a jarring transition. In the midst of life and all this romantic turmoil, Buffy suddenly heads out on patrol. She gets bounced off a gravestone by a lucky—if easily toasted—vampire. This hurts her enough that she actually feels it, and heads home to shower off the injury.

It might have been more elegant for one of the Trio’s buzz-saws to tag her, just a little, but the upshot is she’s hurt and not at her spryest when Spike follows her into the bathroom and tries to apologize. 

This turns into him insisting she loves him and her saying he’s not trustworthy. 

Trust? Spike laughs this silly notion off. “Trust is for old marrieds.”

What interests me about the exchange between these two is that in the moments before Spike completely loses his mind and attempts to rape Buffy, she replies, as follows, to to his line about love being a thing that burns and consumes:

“Until there’s nothing left. Love like that doesn’t last.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, Spike

This passes for an admission, at least to my mind, that her feelings for him run very deep indeed.

But Spike isn’t listening. In the wretched-making scene that unfolds next, he tries to force Buffy to love him by forcing her to have intercourse with him. He’s angry, he’s desperate, and he doesn’t give up until she’s punted him into, and very nearly through, the bathroom vanity. 

This is not one of those coy faux-rapes that television so loves to throw at us. It’s scary and ugly, and the script leaves no room for misunderstanding. He basically says: “You’ll love me when I’m in you.” It only fails because she fights him off.

At that point, way too late, he’s horrified with himself. Even if you do buy that Spike has steadily been becoming a better person, this is a profound failure on his part. It’s a moral lapse. It’s a total disconnect in terms of his emotional connection with Buffy: he utterly fails to hear her, or to show her anything resembling compassion. He acts, as Angelus often does, with complete and unabashed selfishness.

If he hasn’t been becoming a better person—if he truly is an evil, soulless thing, as Xander argues—can Spike truly be held responsible for this action? There have been plenty of times when these characters distinguished between the actions of Angel and Angelus, but Spike, so far, has never been anything but a demon wearing the face of William the Bloody Awful Poet.

Phew!

We all need to catch our breath at this point, and Xander’s been chilling out for awhile, so let’s head back to the Bronze. Warren is there chatting up a random attractive woman, and while he’s distracted Jonathan makes an attempt to get Andrew to side with him—to form an alliance before it’s too late. 

“Warren’s the boss,” Andrew simpers. “He’s Picard, you’re Deanna Troi.”

Soon ‘Picard’ has found an old bully from high school and is cheerily beating on him and every other fight-minded stuntman in the place. Xander tries to calm things down and gets taunted about Spanya and then face-punched across the room. Warren looks to be of a mind to kill him then and there when Jonathan intervenes, waving his watch and reminding everyone that the Trio has big plans elsewhere. 

The baddies bail. Xander goes back to Chez Buffy and finds her still reeling, in the bathroom, from Spike’s attack. Willow shows up, too—she has figured out where the Trio’s get rich scheme is likely to unfold next.

(I probably shouldn’t be wondering if Willow was just down the hall for that whole shower scene, and why she didn’t hear the screaming. I do know what she was up to, but still!)

Spike is reeling, too. I think this may be the first time it has ever occurred to him that he might be one profoundly messed up unlife form. He hits the crypt, tries to drink, and grapples with both the horrible thing he just did and the fact that he feels guilty about it. He doesn’t know why he did it, and he doesn’t know why he didn’t keep trying. Clem the flappy demon stops by (to watch Knight Rider!) in time to catch a major aria of confusion and resentment. It all culminates in Spike’s blaming the Initiative chip for all his problems. 

He’s not a monster, or a man. Darn this newfangled technology and the moral confusion it brings!

“Things change,” Clem reminds him, by way of being supportive. And, bless him, Spike remembers that things do change—especially if you do something to change them yourself.

Warren’s not so down with change. No, he’s running what is by now his standard playbook: breaking things and lying to his companions. He is about to pull off a massive armored car robbery, while Jonathan and Andrew watch impotently; Andrew is vocally coveting the orbs. Jonathan knows they’re never gonna get a chance to play with them. He’s doomed and miserable. He knows there’s no good outcome in their future.

Before they can grab the dough and run for the hills, Buffy arrives, feeling far less punched-through-a-gravestone and delighted to have an opportunity to smack the bleep out of someone invulnerable and deserving. Warren obliges her by providing violence, obnoxious sexist banter, things to throw and by claiming, prematurely, to be the guy who beat her.

Then Jonathan jumps Buffy, apparently demonstrating fantastic Trio team spirit. Warren cheers him on. Maybe years from now, he’ll wonder if he allied with the wrong partner-in-crime when he chose Andrew.

Or not. He won’t actually be wondering anything pretty soon, will he?

What Jonathan is actually doing is making a potentially long battle short by cluing Buffy in to the existence of the orbs. She tears them off Warren’s hip and smashes them. So much for super-strength: Warren flees with a jetpack, leaving Jonathan and Andrew to the tender mercies of the Sunnydale PD.

(Andrew is all brokenhearted, in a played-for-laughs gay way, that Warren abandoned them. I could have done without this.)

Just like that, we have reached the point in the season where everyone needs to be set in their final places for the endgame. The rape attempt sends Spike zooming out of town on a motorbike, apparently—based on his statements—so he can get himself dechipped. Warren’s still on the loose, leaving us to assume he’s got some major Big Baddery ahead of him. 

What of our gang? Season six does have echoes of season four, as you all have mentioned. The gang becomes alienated from one another once again, though in some very different and sometimes subtler ways.  Spike busted them up before the confrontation with Adam, but they pulled back together nicely. This time, Willow and Buffy have been on separate but parallel journeys, and the reconciliation process is happening in the same fashion. 

And so the newer, better WillTara are just climbing out of bed, after more robust celebrating of their relationship, and peer down into the backyard to see Buffy and Xander embarking on a genuinely affecting heart to heart. 

I love this scene. It’s an honest, grown-up conversation about their respective issues and the things that have come between them. They’ve set aside the defensiveness they brought to the earlier attempt to discuss things; they listen.

Then Warren shows up. With a gun. 

It turns out that he really doesn’t appreciate having a woman, Slayer or not, bust his magical balls. He fires a couple vaguely aimed shots as Buffy shoves Xander out of the way. In the process, he kills Tara instantly.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red, Tara Willow

Willow, who is allowed to be even more upset about this than all of us, gets her evil glowy-eyed thing on.

Buffy might still chill her out, though, if she moves fast. 

Oh, wait. Guess who else took a bullet?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seeing Red

Next: Dark Phoenix is Bored Now


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.

35 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Heartbreaking. Cliffhanging. Foreshadowing. The bathroom scene was upsetting and Tara's death was rending. I wasn't real concerned that Buffy was going to die here although being shot is never a good thing.
Willow.
Dianthus
2. Dianthus
So I got a little too opinionated towards the end of last week's discussion...and that's a fact.

There's been a power struggle going on btwn Spike and Buffy all season, and it reflects a larger theme of the series. The explanation requires some set-up, so please bear with me.

Parallels btwn Spike & Buffy:
They're both rebels
They're both unconventional
Parallels btwn Spike & Giles:
In A New Man Spike is the only one who understands Fyrall-Giles.
In Restless Spike is a Watcher-in-training under Giles (Xander's dream).

These two threads come together in Life Serial. Spike takes Buffy out for some 'research' (the poker game). Buffy sabotages his effort to learn anything useful and berates him for not behaving more like a Slayer.
She also says to him later (after their 1st kiss) "You know I was thinking about Giles."
We also saw a foreshadowing of their s6 relationship in Something Blue. Spike's love for Buffy brings out his better nature, but her love for him brings out her darker nature ("The Blood of the Innocent."). Buffy's darker nature also comes up in Buffy vs. Dracula. Dracula wants to corrupt and turn Buffy, so he urges her to embrace her darkness. Dracula may get all the press, but he doesn't get Buffy.
In Fool For Love, Spike mentions a Slayer's death wish. Spike is Death, and Death is Spike. Spike is sex and sex is Spike. Buffy's a little bit in love it...and a little bit in love with him.
In OoMM, she says to Riley: "If I wanted superpowers, I'd be dating Spike."
Buffy - the normal girl - wants Riley. Buffy - the Slayer - wants Spike.
Buffy is Spike's Girl, but she refuses to see it. She can't understand or accept the darkness in herself.
In both Passion and The Replacement, it's clear that being the Slayer is part of who she is. Spike sees that. He's been trying to get her to see it too. She won't. He listens to her (OMWF), but when he tries to talk to her (as in this ep) she won't listen to him. Time and again, she's shut him down.
How many times do we hear "Shut up, Spike." from her?
Yes, he's manipulated her for selfish reasons. Yes, he turns to force as a last resort. Yes, it's wrong. He knows it's wrong, and what's more, he cares.
Buffy:
"He knew it was wrong."
The Girl doesn't trust the Slayer, but the Slayer in the girl trusts the Slayer in Spike just fine. I think it's why they've worked so well together in the past (even before he was chipped). I think it's why she didn't want Xander to say anything about what happened. I think it's why she's still willing to take Dawn to Spike's crypt after this. She knows he wouldn't hurt Dawn.

This is all about Buffy coming to embrace her inner darkness. It's the only way she can make peace with her Slayerness and become a whole person. It seems, to me, she maybe finally comes to realize that's what Spike's been trying to tell her. The darkness isn't wrong or Evil.
It does run parallel with Willow's story. The magic isn't wrong or Evil either.
Buffy doesn't seem the least bit phased at the prospect of seeing Spike again in the next ep. She seems almost disappointed when she finds out he's gone. She doesn't even revoke his invitation to the house.
Constance Sublette
3. Zorra
Everytime I watch this episode it's Tara's death that tears me up.

Things are all on track again, finally. Then, stupids create kablooey, for which the rest of us suffer from, in some way and degree, forever. (No, Kennedy cannot take Tara's place, for me, not ever.)

Love, C.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
I think that's the intention with Kennedy. To have Willow's next girlfriend be someone crass and concieted, so far from the shy girl with no self-esteem we first met in Hush, that we wouldn't feel like Kennedy is replacing Tara.
Dianthus
5. GarrettC
I don't remember having bad feelings about Kennedy, except for that amazingly cheesy "oh my goddess" line she gets to utter, but I do remember thinking that her presence was necessary. Willow healing meant Willow being able to be with somebody else. She can't become Wicca Good Who Loves The Earth Willow if she doesn't get closure on the Tara situation. Now, there are other ways to get closure, but a new relationship is, narratively, the most efficient.

What I was constantly disappointed by, though, and the Kennedy relationship reminded me of it constantly for some reason, was the show's awful essentialism demonstrated by its refusal to deal with Willow's bi-sexuality. That her honest attractions to males was depicted as a switch that simply got turned off never stopped bothering me. She didn't have to get with another guy. That would have been sloppy and bad. But acknowledge the darn thing!
Dianthus
6. Dianthus
I liked Kennedy at first, but I got sick of her really fast. Obvs they wanted to show Willow w/ someone different than Tara, but Kennedy was an entitled brat who thought she should be in charge.
The "Gay now!" thing is kinda ridiculous. It's not like flipping a switch. I think they felt they had to have Willow with another woman 'cuz they were getting heat from the LGBT community for Tara's death.

I was very much a Willara 'shipper. I was almost as happy as Dawn to see them back together. I remember thinking at the time (as my heart sank through the floor for Spike and Buffy) 'Well, at least somebody gets to be happy.' Ha! Shows what I know.

Alyx, don't forget Angelus was the mutual enemy that brought Spike and Buffy together in the first place. They've gone out of their way to contrast Spike and Angelus. Spike wasn't in game face for any of it. He's done this, and worse, in the past, without a second thought.
Milton Pope
7. MiltonPope
Oh, look! Amber Benson finally gets in the opening credits! I've been looking forward to this for a long time!
I think Joss never made her an official regular because it would have cost money, and he always knew he'd get rid of her at some point. And...this was a terrific way to do it. I've seen a lot of criticism of Dark Willow as a character and storyline, but her trigger-point was done right.
Emma Rosloff
8. emmarosloff
I always think about an interview I read with James Marsters, where he talks about filming the bathroom scene, and how it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do, that the abject horror on his face in that scene is very real. He literally can't watch the scene. Not even the "previously on BtVS" bits and pieces of it played in other episodes -- he said that anytime he sees it on TV, he has to click away. It's just too hard for him, because it's so very far from the man he wants to be (which makes me love JM all the more, of course). He even bemoaned to the writers that sometimes they had no idea just what they were putting them through.

He also talks about how the idea for the scene actually stemmed from one of the female writers (might've even been Marti Noxon) -- from a point in her life when she'd just broken up with her boyfriend and tried to force herself on him in an effort to get him to see that he still "loved" her, but of course it didn't work. Apparently, they were trying to tell that story, but JM commented that it didn't work the same way with the sexes reversed. It ended up having a much more intense effect on the audience. To which I say... naturally.

I don't really have a desire to rewatch this episode. For me, it was the death knell of so many things. WillTara, for starters (and oh, how tragic that was!), but Spuffy, too. I shipped Spuffy so hard. I knew that Buffy would never, ever end up with Spike after this episode, at least, not in the way I would've wanted. And I couldn't really blame her. But still... I was so entranced by Spike and his journey, on the whole; I had a lot of trouble swallowing this. It's possible it'd make a little more sense upon rewatch; I mean, he is an "evil, soulless thing" after all, and that's what's always been so interesting about the choices he makes, but still, ugh.

I was also annoyed at how they left his whole "soul-searching" journey super ambiguous. I get that it was meant to amp up the drama (and it sure did), but by the final moment of season 6, I still wasn't sure whether he'd gone in search of his soul, or had it forced on him. Both are neat ideas, but neither were explicitly clear, and I found myself thinking he hadn't wanted it, but had gotten it anyway, which made me like him a whole lot less. When the truth was, he was after it all along.

I don't know, I guess I feel like, after trying to rape Buffy, the least they could do is show Spike's remorse (to whatever degree he could feel remorse). Give us that much, at least, don't paint him as a villain come again just to yank our chain. Show us that he feels fucking awful, and now he's going to great lengths to change. I would've been fine with that. With them being straightforward about it. It was a serious act, and it warranted a serious response. Instead we got a somewhat hammy "I'm going to go be evil again" series of scenes, purely to mislead us.

Anyways. I miss Tara already. Don't get me started on Kennedy. I didn't like her. At all. She had ZERO chemistry with Willow. They just felt so. Forced! I was willing to accept Willow moving on (although her and Tara were perfect, sigh), but what about another witch? Maybe someone from the group of Wicca who helped to reabilitate her back in England? Kennedy was lame, and I didn't buy her character's attraction to Willow for a second. Anytime they're on screen I just skip ahead, nowadays.

Dark Willow's pretty spectacular, though. Love Allison Hannigan. She does bad girl very, very well. I quote her all the damn time (bored now!). I still feel like her performance here is mirrored by Amy Acker's in Angel as Illyria (although I know Alyx has no love for Acker). Not that the plot/character arcs are at all the same, but they're both nerd girls gone so deliciously bad.

Slightly off topic, but I waited on Amy Acker the other day! I don't normally get starstruck, but I was giddy and nervous for most of it, haha. The majority of my co-workers had no idea who she was, but a few of them did and were just as excited. She was a sweetheart.
Dianthus
9. Dianthus
@8. It was Noxon's story, yeah.

Even tho' we've seen Buffy hand Spike his a$$ plenty of times, even tho' we know he's not stronger than she...of course this is gonna be seen as an attempted rape. It's a man trying to force himself on a woman. Duh!
I'm with you on ME's attempt to play coy about Spike's soul quest. It's a TV show, dammit, not a TV tell. I, too, thought it was a 'careful what you wish for' sort of thing on 1st viewing, rather than his goal all along. That should've been clear. OTOH, Spike wanting his soul kinda contradicts his needing one, IMO.

As serious as this is, I still don't see how it differs so much from the bad things the other characters have done. Characters who have souls. I don't see this as Spike is still Evil. I see this as Spike made a terrible mistake in a moment of weakness. Which is basically what happened to Noxon in RL.
Talking about this scene, Whedon referred to Spike having 'boundary issues.' Isn't projecting your own self-loathing on to someone else a 'boundary issue?' I guess not if he says it's ok, or if he represents an aspect of you.
This is like:
Spike forgot his place/needs to learn his place.
Setting up another Deus ex Machina for Chosen. They'll need someone to wear the stupid amulet, Buffy's already died twice, and Angel has his own deal in L.A.

They did serious damage to this character.

Also, no hotline for victims of domestic abuse after Dead Things. No rape crisis hotline after Seeing Red. I can't imagine how survivors must've felt. Trigger warning, maybe, a Viewer Discretion Advisory? Something. Telling your story the way you want is great and all, but these are real issues affecting real people. Way to be responsible, ME.
Alyx Dellamonica
10. AMDellamonica
Is posting the hotline number standard practice now? Was it then? I can't remember when that started to be common.
Dianthus
11. Dr. Thanatos
What comes to my mind after reviewing this is the chorus of fans over the years who keep yelling for the demons to stop coming up with bizarre mystical approaches to killing Buffy and just pulling out an Uzi.

Here it finally happens: the scene from Wizards where the great mystical hoo-hah pulls out a Glock and blows away the villain who is spending time trying to cast a complex spell. A bullet can't be beaten off with a stake, or deflected by using the Weekly Mystical Gizmo Of Doom; and perhaps the writers had this in mind when they decided Warren would pull an Indy vs Swordsman thing here. And the twist: guns can go wrong and give collateral damage.

We weep for Tara, of course (although freeing her up to write the interesting Calliope Reaper-Jones books may be karmic goodness) but in the current climate of hardcore NRA vs hardcore guncontrol rhetoric, is the message of "guns can damage innocent bystanders at a distance much more easily than, say, a sharpened piece of wood" more appropriate than ever?
Dianthus
12. Alex C.
Great write-up, Alyx.

To be honest, I'm struggling a bit to come up with something to write about this episode.

A number of the previous episodes in S.6 were notable for the way that they raised the emotional intensity to a fever-pitch, but Seeing Red manages to dial it up still further.

In terms of its relation to the over-arching storylines of the rest of the show, Season 6 was probably most important for the way that it dealt with two of the biggest elements of the plot: the evolving relationship between Buffy and Spike, and Willow's growing magical power and her capacity to abuse that power. Needless to say, neither of those things are ever the same again after what happens in this episode, or the ones that immediately follow it.
Dianthus
13. Dianthus
@10. No, it's not standard.

@11. Guns are bad, kids. Of course, there was the scene where Buffy tosses the guards gun aside and we hear it go off. That's not irresponsible.

I guess the idea here is that Spike's wrong to try taking Buffy's light (since she's withholding it from him), so he needs to go get his own.
Jason Parker
14. tarbis
This is one of those episodes that makes me shake my head whenever anyone mentions subtle writing on this show.

The source of our villain’s power is a pair of orbs that hang from bag near his waist. Once these orbs are crushed and the villain powerless he reacts like a child, running away followed by angry lashing out. Not hard to spot the gelding imagery here.

Meanwhile the reconciling lovers get soft music, soft lighting, and not a harsh word in their exchanges. Every camera angle and interaction with other characters sets them up as a good, an ideal, and something that the audience must root for or consider themself monstrous. Sledgehammer like emotional manipulation of the viewer on the Willow and Tara front right up until the end.
Constance Sublette
15. Zorra
@6
.... Kennedy was an entitled brat who thought she should be in charge.
Exactly. Many of us have exactly zero tolerance for brats. Particularly not for brats who think they know what they do not know and should be running everything though they have exactly zero experience in anything.

IOW, Kennedy is unlikeably. Whereas Willow is so often very likeable, faults, flaws and all, because her redeeming qualities are so very redeeming.
Dianthus
16. Dianthus
@14. Amen. It's downright schizophrenic at times. Here Buffy's a literal 'ballbuster.' OTOH you've got the depth of Spuffy.

@15. Part of the problem with the Kennedy character and the Kennillow 'ship involves the actress playing her (don't remember her name; too paralyzed by not caring very much to look it up). It's my understanding she wasn't comfortable playing gay. The PtB prob'ly hadn't decided she'd be the one when they cast her, or maybe they didn't care. It's too bad. I felt no chemistry there whatsoever. Wasn't crazy about Robin and Faith either.
Dianthus
17. Sophist
Iyari Limon is bisexual. She said so in an interview on AfterEllen.com.
Dianthus
18. Dianthus
@17. Well, so much for my contribution. I got nuthin' then. Maybe she's just not that good. Can't say I've been following her career.
Jason Parker
19. tarbis
@16. I never found Spuffy to be deep, but I also wasn't the market they were targeting with that plotline. You can love it all you care to but my preferred Spike was closer to the inspirations for the character like "Near Dark" and "Lost Boys."
Dianthus
20. Alex C.
Okay, now I have a two cents to add.

In reading these re-watch essays for the 6th season of Buffy, and occasionally re-watching some of the episodes in question myself, I feel like I have a far better handle on why it is that this season is such a controversial one with fans. A lot of different answers have popped up about what people think is "wrong" about this season compared with the rest of the series: the bleak and depressing tone, the poor quality of a number of the episodes, some questionable storylines (particularly the much-maligned take on magic-as-addiction), the decision by the writers to push the envelope in terms of depicting things like depression, addiction, rape, and violent murder without the layer of supernatural metaphor that blanketed such things in previous seasons, and so on. All of these are at least partly valid criticisms, and have recieved plenty of hashing over in the previous comment threads.

Lurking underneath these however, is what I now think is a much deeper issue - that a lot of viewers respond negatively to the major over-arching premise/theme of the season, which is: that all of the major characters (basically, the six who appear in the title credits) are forced in various ways to confront the worst aspects of who they are, and in some way come to terms with that. I think this is why a lot of people get the sense that there are similarities to Season 4 - the major theme of that season was about discovering identity, and that was what created the tensions between the Scoobies then. The payoff to that season however, was that they largely discovered positive aspects of themselves. This season, obviously, revolved around precisely the opposite - delving repeatedly into the negative aspects of who Buffy, Willow, Spike, Xander, Dawn, and Anya are as characters.

Regardless of what one thinks of this theme as a storytelling decision, the fact remains, I think, that the writers consistently did a very impressive job in making sure that they (almost) never broke the laws of in-universe gravity by having the characters behave in ways inconsistent with what we have previously seen on them. On the contrary, arguably the most disturbing thing about S.6 is just how consistent what we see of the characters is with their past depictions. We've known for a very long time that Buffy could respond negatively to her 'issues' (especially when they involve dying) by becoming emotionally withdrawn and kind of a bitch; that Willow could be manipulative, possessive, and abusive of power and other people; that Xander was carrying around a ton of negative baggage in terms of his emotional relationships, and was capable of expressing this in ghastly ways; that Dawn could be petulant, attention-seeking, and prone to stupid teenage antics; that Anya's emotional maturity was fragile at best; and that Spike, whatever his good aspects, was essentially morally depraved.

In S.6 these tendancies, for so long overshadowed by the characters' more sympathetic qualities, are brought to their logical culmination. As such, even their worst moments almost never feel out of character, and this episode is as good an example of that as any: no matter horrifying it was to watch Spike trying to rape Buffy, I recall feeling an awful sense of being unsurprised when I first watched it - arguably something like this ought to have been expected in light of the way that their relationship played out over the rest of the season.

And therein lies the problem, I think, for a lot of viewers. After spending more than five seasons in their company, the natural tendancy of the audience at this point is to like the Scoobies - the biggest strengths of the show come from its ability to elicit emotional reactions to the characters from the audience, and we wouldn't have stuck around this long if that wasn't the case (Lord knows that it wasn't the quality of the plotting or worldbuilding that kept the show alive for seven seasons). Therefore, to be confronted with the spectacle of our beloved characters behaving in ways that show them up to be distinctly unlikeable people in certain ways - something made very clear in the ways that they alienate each other as well as segments of the audience - is naturally quite disturbing.

So does that ruin the series, as some disenchanted fans claim that it does? I don't think so. I'll admit that S.6 is not my favourite season of Buffy (its main saving grace despite its flaws, I think, is the sheer number of outstanding episodes that it contains), but I still think that it plays an invaluable role in the over-arching story of the show. The characters get taken to some very dark places, but for the most part they come out stronger for it. Buffy's seasonal plotline is in my view the best example of this - I've written multiple times in the previous comment threads about my appreciation for the Afterlife-OMWF-DT-NA-Grave arc that is traced around her coming to terms with her resurrection, and becoming stronger for it. Many of the others don't quite get their payoff until the seventh season (this is particularly true of Spike and Anya, as well as Willow), but in general the same pattern plays out - the Scoobies ultimately become far stronger for what they go through in this season, which readies them to face the challenges of the next season.
Dianthus
21. Alex C.
@2. Dianthus -
So I got a little too opinionated towards the end of last week's discussion...and that's a fact.
No worries - we all get a little over-impassioned sometimes.

And, you make some intersting points.

But... I still completely disagree with the overall thrust of your interpretation of the characters and the story.

Mostly, because of this:
This is all about Buffy coming to embrace her inner darkness. It's the only way she can make peace with her Slayerness and become a whole person. It seems, to me, she maybe finally comes to realize that's what Spike's been trying to tell her. The darkness isn't wrong or Evil.
This, especially the last part, is basically the complete antithesis of what I think is the main 'point' of the way that the story, and particularly the character arcs of Buffy and Spike, play out and are resolved.

What we see time and again over the last three seasons of the show is that "embracing her inner darkness" is the precise opposite of what Buffy needs to do to achieve her ultimate triumph. Indeed, every time that she turns inwards on herself, and acts in tune with the darker aspects of her personality (which are definitely there), it almost invariably presages disaster of some kind, or brings her to the edge of defeat. By contrast, time and again it is her ability to reach out and form and reform connections with others - to embrace the light, not the dark - that strengthens her and enables her to triumph.

And it's the same with Spike. He spent an entire season trying to convince Buffy to join him "in the dark", but she refused to do that. Then he tried to force her to join him... and he suddenly realized that he doesn't really want to be in the darkness either, not anymore. ("It won't let me be a monster. And I can't be a man...") So instead, he decided to join her - in the light.

I see this as the central aspect of what happens to Buffy and Spike in Season 7 - and it is the main reason that I love the last season of the show, despite all its other flaws.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
I love S6, because of the exploration of the character's darker natures. But then again, my favorite Whedon show is Dollhouse.
Tom Smith
23. phuzz
I saw the picture for the article and thought "that kinda looks like where Tara was shot, but nah, it's just a flower or something on her shirt and she's doing her concerned face".
Then I realised how well I'd blocked this episode out of my memory :(
Constance Sublette
24. Zorra
I'm not one of those who dislikes season 6. Instead, it's season 6 that makes the entire run of seasons so interesting, those before it, and the one that comes after it.

I just ... wish ... it was Anya not Kennedy ... who survives. Anya earned her survival with the Scoobs. Kennedy did not.

Not that we all get what we earn or deserve as Gandalf will tell us. :)

Love, C.
Dianthus
25. Dianthus
@21. Buffy vs Dracula suggests otherwise.
Dracula echoes the First Slayer (thru Tara) when he says:
"You think you know what you are. What's to come. You haven't even begun.
Buffy tells Giles:
"Hunting. That's what Dracula called it. And he was right. He understood my power better than I do. He saw darkness in it. I need to know more. About where I come from, about other Slayers. I mean maybe...maybe if I could learn to control this thing, I could be stronger. I could be better."

Part of Buffy's growth as a person is facing the intense and sometimes frightening desires that make the grown-up world more complex and more confusing than childhood.

Buffy and Spike, in Dead Things:
Spike: "Come on, that's it, put it on me. Put it all on me. That's my girl."
Buffy: "I am not your girl! You don't have a soul! There's nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never be your girl!"

She's found her darkness - but she refuses to see it. She doesn't understand or accept it. She hates it. Or, maybe she loves it, and hates herself for doing so.

Then there's Fool For Love:
Spike: "Don't you ever get tired of fights you know you're gonna win?"
Angel: "No. A real kill, a good kill, it takes pure artistry. Without that, we're just animals."

In Dead Things:
Spike: "...I've never been with such an animal..."
Buffy: "I'm not an animal."

The animal inside exists, and it shouldn't be repressed. It needs to be acknowledged, accepted, and integrated into the self. Buffy and Angel cannot win against Spike. He wins if they refuse to fight him. He wins if he bests them in a fight. He wins if they best him. He wins if they fight him at all.
Buffy and Spike won't consumate their relationship until the chip no longer prevents him from winning a fight, until he taunts her, exactly as he did Angel, into pinning him to the ground and giving him what he wants.
So long as they attempt to deny and reject the animal-like part of themselves (the Spike within) they can't win against him. It's not about how he wins; it's about how they lose. You can exert no control over what you deny.

@24. I would've taken Amanda over Kennedy...almost anyone really.
Dianthus
26. Alex C.
@25 Dianthus -

We you're going wrong, in my opinion, is that you're confusing the presence of elements of darkness in Buffy with the role that they play in the arc of her character over the last three seasons of the show.

All of the examples which you cite actually underline this very point. Buffy's central arc in Season 5 revolves around her confronting and rejecting the things that Dracula and Spike tell her in BvsD and FFL - just as she rejected what the spirit of the First Slayer told her in Restless. What she learns from the spirit guide in Intervention is that love is what lies at the heart of her power - love for her fellow humanity. She proves it in the final episode of the season, when she reaffirms her moral principles by refusing to kill Ben, even though doing so also means letting Glory live. And her final act of that season is to sacrifice her own life - all for the sake of love.

We see the same thing again in Season 6, with Buffy's triumph necessitating her rejection of what Spike spends the season telling her. She spends the season struggling to break free of the possessive hold that death and darkness have over her, thanks to her longing to return to the paradise she was in before her friends dragged her back into the world of the living. Spike undermines her in this by tempting her, again and again, to give up on that. In the end though, she beats him, and what he represents. She ends their relationship in AYW, and walks out of his grave... into the sunlight. It's a very deliberate bit of imagery that is played out again in the final episode of the season, when she and her sister drag themselves out of another grave - into a beautiful, sunlit world that she declares her intent to embrace.

In comment #2, you note that there is a "power struggle" between Buffy and Spike in this season. I think that's right - and Buffy wins the struggle, hands down. She walks back into the light, and Spike is left to realize (particularly after this episode) that being in the darkness isn't really what he wants anymore - he's prepared to follow her, instead of the other way round.

In the end, mastering control of the "animal within" is what Spike has to do before he can self-actualize as a person. That's a huge part of his character arc in Season 7 is all about - but it begins in Seeing Red, when he is utterly stripped of his ability to delude himself about the true consequences of refusing to control oneself.
Part of Buffy's growth as a person is facing the intense and sometimes frightening desires that make the grown-up world more complex and more confusing than childhood.
This is true - but what you're missing is that Buffy grows and triumphs as a character by not just facing those desires, but controlling them instead of allowing them to control her - and she refuses to let them make her lose touch with the things that make her a hero.
Dianthus
27. Alex C.
@26 - cont.

To further expand on the point about Spike, we have actually already seen the "animal within" issue raised in connection to him, by Adam and Drusilla:
From 'The Yoko Factor':
ADAM: You feel smothered. Trapped like an animal, pure in its ferocity, unable to actualize the urges within... Clinging to one truth like a flame struggling to burn within an enclosed glass... That a beast this powerful cannot be contained. Inevitably it will break free and savage the land again... I will make you whole again. Make you savage.

From 'Crush':
DRUSILLA: I don't believe in science. All those bits and molecules no one's ever seen. I trust eyes and heart alone. And do you know what mine are singing out now? You're a killer. Born to slash and bash and bleed like beautiful poetry. No little tinkertoy ever could stop you from flowing. I can see it. Little bit of plastic spiderwebbing out nasty blue shocks - and every one, is a lie. Electricity lies, Spike. It tells you you're not a bad dog. But you are. You're my bad dog and you bite.
It ought to be fairly obvious that the audience is emphatically not supposed to accept the opinions of such figures as Adam and Drusilla as representing the unvarnished truth or right side of the matter. Spike is predisposed to agree with what they say about him, and that carries over into a lot of what he says to Buffy in S.5 and S.6 (it's arguable that Spike projects his self-image onto Buffy far more than she does to him). But that doesn't make it right.

In fact, to reiterate a couple of points, that's more or less the essence of the revelation that Spike has in Seeing Red:
Back then it was all so clear: Spike's primal killer instincts were merely restrained by the chip. (Although it's significant that both those speeches were by other people trying to manipulate Spike, not his own words). Now, though, he's not complaining about being unable to rampage and kill, which is a fairly simple problem. Instead, he's torn by unfamiliar emotions and problems he can't see an answer to. The problem is not that he can't hurt Buffy (and anyway, he clearly can hurt her): he's complaining that hurting her makes him feel bad.
Dianthus
28. Alex C.
Interestingly enough, in the original script, Spike's dialogue in the scene in the crypt extended past "If you make them..." to include this:
SPIKE: She thinks she knows me. She thinks she knows who I am. What I'm capable of. She has no idea. I wasn't always this way. It won't be easy, but I can be like I was. Before they castrated me. Before... Then she'll see who I really am.
Presumably it got cut out because of the (somewhat questionable) decision to make Spike wanting his soul back a plot-twist.

Another commenter also came up with words that I think express quite well my feelings about the soul issue:
See, I think there are fundamental differences in interpretation because I think the point of the Crypt scene in Seeing Red is to show that Spike really never comprehended the difference in a real way. That's the point of being soulless. It's not that they cannot intellectualize the difference between right and wrong, it's that they cannot FEEL it. The significance of the crypt scene, and what spurred him on to Africa, is because for one moment he glimpsed what he didn't understand (it's the old you don't know what you don't know... until of course, you're faced with your ignorance). Spike THOUGHT he was as good as souled, but he was confronted with the dichotomy of the AR. It violated the promise that he had intended to keep, that he meant to keep, and that meant something to him... and he didn't even feel the point where he crossed the line. When he, in shock, was forced back to look and to realize, he finally "got" that he was missing something, that something was wrong. And it was wrong because he's in such confusion. A vampire SHOULDN'T care. A vampire DOESN'T care, and yet this wasn't something he had intended. He loved her. He really truly loved her and he would never have intended that, but there it was. And he wanted to change that, to fix it.

The point, to me, was that he finally "got" that without the soul he was missing an internal boundary so in a very visceral way (instead of an intellectual one) he didn't "get" the difference between right and wrong. He might well be able to read the labels between "this is right" and "this is wrong" but he couldn't FEEL it and know it on a gut level until he had the epiphany... and that was in the wake of "the incident."
Alyx Dellamonica
29. AMDellamonica
Tarbis, I would never say the orbs were subtle.

Alex C: ...the most disturbing thing about S.6 is just how consistent what we see of the characters is with their past depictions...

I think this is an excellent point. Does it ruin the show, you ask? No--there is merit in the character journeys as you describe them. I'd still argue, though, that the fun factor is significantly decreased, and that the loss of that sense of joy is, overall, a detriment to the show.
Michael Ikeda
30. mikeda
Personally, I've always liked Kennedy. She's a strong, self-confident person with a personality that reminds me (and I think also Buffy) of S1 Buffy. And she's exactly the sort of person S7 Willow needed in her life.
Dianthus
32. Dianthus
Dru is a Seer. She understands that Spike has feelings for Buffy long before he does. She leaves him because he's "no longer demon enough" for her. He will never again be the demon he was.
In Lovers Walk we have Angel, Buffy and Spike standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the magic shop. One of these things isn't like the others...yet.
Foreshadowing Spike's journey, we see him hunched over in pain, hand to his head (a pose that will become familiar).
"Oi, my head. Think I'm soberin' up."

Subtext becomes text in s7. The Slayer origin story makes it clear that the Slayer's power is rooted in darkness. It's true Buffy rejects taking more power for herself. However, she will choose to share her power with the Potentials.
Plus, she calls Spike out for holding back and tells him she needs him to be the Spike who tried to kill her when they met. He needs to reclaim that part of himself because it's what makes him more powerful. That's why he goes to get his coat. A coat: something you can put on or take off as needed.
In the end, it's about a Sacred Marriage, the reconciliation of two seemingly irreconcilable things. There's dark and light in all of us. It's a fundamental aspect of human nature.
Dianthus
33. Alex C.
@32. Sorry, but I think that you're taking a few good points and stretching them way too far, in an effort to support an interpretation of the text that contradicts what we clearly see elsewhere.

Buffy does reject the chance to gain more power for herself in Get It Done, and what's important to note is the reason for that: she refuses to accept power that will come at the expense of her humanity.

Power and humanity are the key themes that the main arc of S.7 revolves around, as embodied particularly in the character journeys undergone by Buffy, Spike, and Willow. The series ends with a resounding triumph for humanity, with the light vanquishing the dark, not reconciling to it. If you have any doubts about this point, one need look no further than the symbolism surrounding those three characters in particular in their triumphant moments: the glow of white light that bathes Willow as she channels the power of the Scythe, so different from the darkness that previously signified her using powerful magic; the rays of light that burst from Spike as he channels the power of his soul through the Amulet, sacrificing his life for the sake of the world - the ultimate mark of just how far he's grown as a character; the flames that engulf his hand, and Buffy's, as she finally tells him that she loves him (a key moment of resolution for her series-long character arc, imo); the sunlight shining down on Buffy as she stands with her friends and allies, her lingering smile the perfect close for the show...

It's not exactly subtle stuff, but it works very well for me. As I've said before, the 7th season has its flaws, but it does an amazing job of giving the show a satisfying conclusion.
Alyx Dellamonica
34. AMDellamonica
I agree. For all that there will be many little complaints from me about S7 as I move into watching those episodes, I loved where "Chosen" took us.
Dianthus
35. Alex C.
To make an incredibly nerdy comparison, I think that the 7th season of Buffy is kind of analogous to the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy: it's obviously a weaker production in a number of respects when compared to its predecessors, but its strengths still outweigh its weaknesses, and it manages to hit all the right notes in bringing the main arc of the saga to a close.

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