Mon
Nov 4 2013 1:30pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Wanna Kill the World? Start with Xander!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Willow, Xander

“Grave,” by David Fury

The final episode of Buffy S6 picks up right where “Two to Go” left off, which is to say with Giles having poof! appeared in The Magic Box to confront Willow in the midst of her magic-fueled homicidal rampage.

Like so many others, Giles takes a crack at making Willow see sweet, sweet reason. She’s not interested: she wants to fight and taunt and fight some more. Blasting things into tiny pieces—whether it’s criminally inclined nerds or the affections of the people who love her—is pretty much her current raison d’etre. So she tells Giles he’s irrelevant, and brings up their earlier argument, the one where he called her a rank, arrogant amateur.

We knew that one had stung.

Angry banter aside, it’s a short, anti-climactic fight: he hits her with Mmm’cookie’s Glowy Doughnut of Stasis, lifting her off the ground and buying himself enough time to compare haircuts with Buffy and Anya before exchanging hugs.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Giles, Anya

Then, with Willow momentarily contained, Watcher and former Watchee head off to their favorite place, the danger room, to debrief. They leave Anya out front for no good reason—at this point, we can safely assume the store’s not open. Why not send her to check on the others? Or out for a nice espresso?

Giles reveals that it wasn’t the Watcher’s Council who noticed the Dark Power of Willow rising in Sunnydale. Those guys. Will we ever be rid of them? Fortunately, he’s been hanging out with a coven of witches and warlocks in Devon who are a bit more on the ball. They sensed the tidal wave of grief; then their seer realized Tara had died. They loaded up Giles with the freshest organic magics and sent him to California.

I can’t help feeling this should have been Giles’s reason for leaving all along. It might have been set up that way: once he’d realized Willow had taken up raising dead Slayers and other evil hobbies, he might have guessed it was only a matter of time before she went kaboom in some horrifying fashion. Removing himself to minimum safe distance and embarking on some fancy magical footwork could have been front-loaded as a strategy to save her... and the writers of this show are deft enough, I think, that they could have still pulled off Evil Willow as a surprise.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Willow, Giles

If the story had gone this route, there could have been so many interesting things to explore, stuff about Giles having to scale back on fulfilling his duty to Buffy and choosing to focus on Willow because he was responsible for her too. In a season about adult responsibilities, that necessity might have made an interesting story thread. Sometimes we have more duties than we can realistically fulfill.

Tara might even have asked him to do it, after the memory-wiping thing.

Armchair writerbacking aside, the utterly charming scene where Buffy fills him in on the year’s events in Sunnydale and gets belly-laughed out of her shame is adorable. In addition to imbuing Giles with Willow-fighting super-witchery, the Devon coveners obviously gave him the mighty power of the infectious giggle.

He apologizes for leaving and Buffy tells him he was right to go. She talks about not knowing why she clawed her way out of the grave—why she’s back—and how hard it has been. He has no answers for her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Giles

They’ve just worked their way back to the black-haired crisis at hand when it turns out vengeance demons are relatively easy to mind control, at least if you’re the seasonal super-secret Big Bad. Willow is loose, and angry, and rather keen to recross magical swords with Giles.

Speaking of swords, Jonathan, Andrew and their two borrowed blades (the ones they stole from the Magic Box) are busily fleeing on foot, under the nominal care of Xander and Dawn. Dawn wants to know just where they’re planning to go where they can hide from Willow. And if that’s pointless why don’t they just go back and fight? Xander spews up a reply that is all self-pity, on the theme of his continuing uselessness. She comes back with what is becoming her go-to goad: Spike would go back and fight.

Hey, it worked when she was trying to manipulate Clem.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Dawn, Xander

Xander has a better answer than Clem did last week. He hits Dawn with more information than she probably wants, by making a crack about Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy.

Every mention of Spike in these past few episodes is essentially a way of reminding us that just because he’s across the International Date Line doesn’t mean he’s not still part of the story. And so now we go to Africa to see how he’s making out on the official Bitch is Gonna See a Change Quest of 2002. At the moment , he’s staggering around in the cave, punch-drunk and gloating about not having been killed, yet, by any of his mystical challengers.

Never gloat, Spike. It gets him a new test, one involving bugs crawling up his nose and into other orifices. I would be curious to see how he prevails over that one.

But we are left to imagine that fight, and we don’t see stage two of the CovenGiles versus Willow smackdown either. She has already given him a decent trouncing, leaving the Magic Box in tatters. Xander will be drywalling all summer at this rate. Buffy has to jump in to save Giles from a wayward bolt of magical lightning. All this accomplishes is that it puts Willow in a mind to get rid of her. She sends a fireball off to find Jonathan and Andrew, obliging Buffy to chase it.

Buffy, ever a slave to duty, goes. Willow resumes her alternating regime of thumping and ranting at Giles.

Giles still has a few mystic zaps of his own to offer, and lots of Watcherly advice. You’d think at this point Willow wouldn’t pay him any heed at all, but when he mentions that she’s burning out, again, this gives her a delicious, fantastic idea. Which is to suck him as dry as she did Rack.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Willow, Giles

This looks like it hurts Giles rather a lot. (It looked that way with Rack, too, but I didn’t care.)

Buffy, sprinting across town, catches the fireball at the graveyard—Xander had been trying to find a crypt where they could all lay low. She manages to save the Undeserving Twosome yet again. The fireball collapses part of the graveyard. Xander’s knocked out, and Jonathan and Andrew get an opportunity to sneak off. Buffy, Dawn and the swords fall into a deep coffin-studded pit.

The coven juice Willow has sucked out of Giles, meanwhile, has made her typically stone-y, and has also tuned her in to all the suffering in the world. Or maybe just Sunnydale and vicinity; I’m not so clear on the radius. Anyway, she’s not liking the paincast. When Giles tells her she can stop it, she decides the best way to do that is to turn the world off. She heads to the local Satanic temple, like you do. Fortunately, Giles is able to tell Anya where she’s going and what she’s up to.

Down in the graveyard hole, Dawn has had enough. She blasts Buffy about hiding the rape attempt from her. Buffy serves up her usual blah blah blah about being protective, and Dawn says hell with that. Unless she can make people like Joyce and Tara stop dying, she can’t be protected in any meaningful way.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Dawn

This is a fair point. It’s not as though Dawn has been prevented from seeing monsters, or corpses, or dancing demons or mystic texts. She’s been injured in fights, worked magic, staked vamps and lost loved ones. Chaos only knows what kind of germs she’s picked up in Rack’s waiting room. The only thing she has been prevented from doing is helping out.

Not that being allowed to help always leads to good self-esteem. Xander wakes up, still feeling useless, and is about to go looking for a rescue rope when Anya teleports in to update them all: Willow’s at Kingman’s Bluff, planning to burn the world to a cinder. Also, no magic or supernatural power can stop her. Also, also, Giles is dying.

Buffy, typically, figures she’ll ignore the no power can stop Willow prediction and starts working on a way out of the pit. Willow overhears her—like all temples of Proserpexa, Kingman’s Bluff has awesome mystic acoustics—and decides to give Buffy a gift. She can stay in the hole and die fighting weird earth monsters as the world ends.

Yeah, I know. Some present. The rationale is “I dug you out of the ground and now I can put you back.” 

The upside of this is that there’s an extra sword lying around, just when Buffy is finally ready to let Dawn wield one. This is good, because Xander has not gone in search of rope. He’s trotted off to Kingman’s Bluff, which is fortunately close by, or maybe he stole another police car. His plan: throw himself between Willow and the temple of the apocalypse.

This strategy is so simple that Willow immediately deconstructs and mocks it. He’s essentially going to get in her way while professing his love for her. But even though she knows what he’s doing, she can’t quite lock him out. Instead of telling her to calm down, as everyone else has, Xander tries to accept the emotional space she’s in right now. Gonna end the world? Bad idea, but okay. I’m here. I love you.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Willow, Xander

As he delivers a touching monologue about their long, shared history, Willow rips some strips off him—pretty much literally. He keeps coming, like a sort of Hug-Terminator. He’s not even that eloquent, but he continues to stagger forward while expressing his affection for her. With each zorch Willow’s powers get weaker. She’s finally reduced to flailing at him with her fists and crying hysterically.

Her hair turns red and then it’s over.

The end of the fighting means, happily, that Giles isn’t as lethally damaged as previously advertised. He tells Anya the coven energy was booby-trapped with the power of goodness, like calcium-fortified milk. It tapped into Willow’s remaining humanity, enabling Xander to reach her. “He saved us all,” he concludes.

Way to save the world, Xander! Anya is impressed and gratified.

Seriously, though: you guys have been talking about this particular moment of heroism pretty much since S1, when Xander revived Buffy from her first death. We’ve come a long way, and so has he.

It is pretty obvious, I think, that only Xander could achieve this particular world-save. He’s not a parent figure, or a hero, or anyone Willow needs to rebel against. And he’s not merely a friend. Buffy’s original two high school buddies, the chosen of the Chosen One, have no other peers. They’ve been through exactly the same battles. She’s a serious magician now, but Willow and Xander started out in the same place, as geeky outcasts with no superpowers, ordinary, vulnerable people who got drafted into the fight against evil because when they met Buffy, the course of their lives was forever altered.

Down in the hole, Buffy dissolves into happy tears when it turns out she and the world aren’t going to die. She tells Dawn she’s figured out why she’s still here: to stop sheltering her, and to show off the world. She’s determined to see her friends happy and her sister a grownup. Everything is gonna get better, she vows.

This time when she crawls out of the graveyard, she doesn’t do it alone. Also, she’s quite a bit better dressed.

There’s a montage next: I’m pretty sure the music is Sarah McLachlan. The song lets us check in with all the paired BtVS characters, because this is a season ender that leaves them physically distanced, in twos: it’s Giles/Anya, XandDillow, Buffy/Dawn . . . and  hey, we even get a glimpse of Jonathan and Andrew, hitching a ride to Mexico with a scary trucker.

And then we go to the final pair, Spike and his green-eyed cave friend, who announces Spike has passed the required trials. (I still want to know what became of those bugs.)

“Give me what I want. Make me what I was. So Buffy can get what she deserves,” Spike says. We’re still allowed to believe, at this point, that this means the demon will zorch the Initiative Chip.

Instead, the green-eyed demon gives him . . . his soul!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grave, Spike

Ouch! Screaming ensues. And... credits!

Next: How many times do we have to tell you guys? Don ’t go (re)building the high school on the Hellmouth!


A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth 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
Sophist
1. Sophist
I’m pretty sure the music is Sarah McLachlan.

Yep, "Prayer of St. Francis".
Sophist
2. Dr. Thanatos
Cheesy as some people have said the ending of this episode is, I always found it fitting. These characters have been dealing with depression and loss all through the arc, Willow's most abruptly and traumatically (putting aside discussion of underlying addictive issues) and at the end what heals is not rationalization, explanation, force but support and love. And isn't that a nice way to end this bleak and sad season?
Sophist
3. JohnnyMac
I love this episode for the way Xander saves the day. He does it not by being the Chosen this or the super powered that or even by having some handy magic doohicky. Just by being the friend who will not quit on his friends. Ever.

I love your description of him as being "...sort of like a Hug Terminator".

My other favorite bit from this was the ending; another of Whedon's patented switcheroos. Spike gets his soul back!?!? I did not see that coming! And now I have to wait until next season to see what it means? Oh, Whedon, you tricky bastard. Yet another example of why I watched this series all the way through. You could never be sure what was going to happen next.
Sophist
4. DougL
Are you going to move on to an Angel rewatch after the Buffy one ends or are you going to do Buffy Season 8?
Sophist
5. Dianthus
It came as no surprise to me that Dawn would have trouble believing Xander about the AR. Unlike the others, her experience with Spike has been overwhelmingly positive. Some people say she shouldn't idolize him, but it's perfectly understandable. For one thing, his was the first friendly face she saw at the top of Glory's tower.

In New Moon Rising, we were treated to Oz, returned from a trip halfway 'round the world (Tibet) to find a 'cure' for his wolfiness after he hurt Willow. In the end, though, it's not enough ('cuz the one thing that brings it out in him is her), and he lets her go.
There are other parallels made btwn Oz and Spike too. Most notably this:
Initiative Doctor (as he stuns Oz into his wolf form):
"See that? Transformation related to negative stimulation."

We get parallels between Willow and Spike, as well. Both of them wanted something from Buffy this season. Namely, recognition. Both of them will get what they want in s7. After she's called them out for not using their power in Get It Done.
Their power, like the Slayer's, is rooted in darkness. Spike - who's basically taking his own advice here - goes back to get his coat, then fights and defeats the exchange demon. Then, as if that weren't enough symbolism for you, he 'lights up' a cigarette.
Willow isn't quite as successful in her own challenge. She gets the job done, but she does go a bit black and scary in the process. Meanwhile, Kennedy is clearly not happy about having power sucked out of her.

The theme of addiction was clearly highlighted in s6, but only a great fool would argue that it's not part of the bigger picture. We've all seen Band Candy, Lovers Walk, and Beer Bad (three of my favorite eps). We all saw Giles and his friends summon a demon for kicks. We all saw Angel fall off the wagon in spectacular fashion. Plus, we've seen Spike engaging in other addictive behaviors like smoking and gambling.

"Bitch is Gonna See a Change Quest" FTW! I like it. Eddie Izzard, too.
Sophist
6. Dianthus
It came as no surprise to me that Dawn would have trouble believing Xander about the AR. Unlike the others, her experience with Spike has been overwhelmingly positive. Some people say she shouldn't idolize him, but it's perfectly understandable. For one thing, his was the first friendly face she saw at the top of Glory's tower.

In New Moon Rising, we were treated to Oz, returned from a trip halfway 'round the world (Tibet) to find a 'cure' for his wolfiness after he hurt Willow. In the end, though, it's not enough ('cuz the one thing that brings it out in him is her), and he lets her go.
There are other parallels made btwn Oz and Spike too. Most notably this:
Initiative Doctor (as he stuns Oz into his wolf form):
"See that? Transformation related to negative stimulation."

We get parallels between Willow and Spike, as well. Both of them wanted something from Buffy this season. Namely, recognition. Both of them will get what they want in s7. After she's called them out for not using their power in Get It Done.
Their power, like the Slayer's, is rooted in darkness. Spike - who's basically taking his own advice here - goes back to get his coat, then fights and defeats the exchange demon. Then, as if that weren't enough symbolism for you, he 'lights up' a cigarette.
Willow isn't quite as successful in her own challenge. She gets the job done, but she does go a bit black and scary in the process. Meanwhile, Kennedy is clearly not happy about having power sucked out of her.

The theme of addiction was clearly highlighted in s6, but only a great fool would argue that it's not part of the bigger picture. We've all seen Band Candy, Lovers Walk, and Beer Bad (three of my favorite eps). We all saw Giles and his friends summon a demon for kicks. We all saw Angel fall off the wagon in spectacular fashion. Plus, we've seen Spike engaging in other addictive behaviors like smoking and gambling.

"Bitch is Gonna See a Change Quest" FTW! I like it. Eddie Izzard, too.
Sophist
7. Marla J.
I loved "the freshest organic magics." What a great line!
Sophist
8. Dianthus
@7. That's a good one too. Alyx had her mojo workin' on this one.
Sophist
9. build6
I'm a bit bitter at how S7 turned out... I liked this episode, but it isn't quite right as a "series end"; like, I could watch from S1-S5 and theoretically call it a day, but S6 points to more, but the "more" that was to come is disappointing :-(
Sophist
10. Alex C.
Another good write-up - thanks Alyx!
.......

Reading the Season 6 re-watch essays and accompanying comment threads has been interesting for me, if for no other reason than because it helped to clarify my thinking about what (to me) has been the most perplexing (in terms of my ability to form an opinion of it) of the seven seasons of BTVS ever since I first watched the show.

I'm now going to venture an opinion: the sixth season of Buffy is flawed but undeniably great television. None of the other six seasons, whatever their particular mix of virtues and vices, took as many daring risks and chances with the development of the characters and the direction of the storytelling as S.6 did - and when those risks paid off (as they often did) the results were frequently stunning in their narrative and emotional impact. On the other hand, an undeniable number of those chances did not pay off, and a lot of material was thereby delivered to the viewers who disliked this season to hold against it. At the end of the day though, I would echo a sentiment from the most perspicacious review of this season that I have read: regardless of whether you like or dislike this season, at the very least one ought to respect it for having the guts to do things with its central characters and story that very few shows lasting for an equivalent length of time would have dared.

Both of the last two seasons of Buffy come in for an unfair amount of criticism from the fanbase - unfair in my view, because despite their flaws, they're both still quite terrific chapters that do a great job of bringing the overall arc of the show to a satisfying conclusion. Much of the criticism that I've seen of S.6 and S.7 can essentially be reduced to an assertion that the show "came back wrong" after the end of the 5th season. My opinion is that this complaint misses the point. The show undeniably came back "different", but it was difference with a purpose. Insofar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be read as a show whose core premise boils down to a metaphor for "growing up", it can also be seen as having three distinct phases: the first season marked the "childhood" phase; the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th seasons were the "adolescence" phase; and the 6th and 7th seasons constituted the "young adulthood" phase. Watching the Scoobies cope with the challenges of entering into adulthood - and often failing miserably at them - sometimes made for very hard viewing, but I continue to think that the payoff is definitely worth it. "Earn their happy ending", the characters very much do indeed.
Sophist
11. Alex C.
Moving on to more specific comments, in my opinion there are two big things that were wrong with this season, and which have the effect of holding it back from the same level of greatness that was achieved by the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th seasons:

- Willow's "drug addiction" storyline

and

- the Problematic Episodes of the season.

I don't think that the first one requires much elaboration. The "magic is like drugs" aspect of Willow's character arc is arguably the most maligned aspect of S.6, and unlike most of the other common criticisms of the season, IMO this one is fully deserved. Making Willow a "junkie" for dark magic clashed badly with the previous depictions of magic on the show, and was generally quite heavy-handed and poorly executed. More critically, it also had a deeply unfortunate effect on the overall development of her character: it obscured the role that an unrepentant lust for power and easy solutions played in her fall to darkness (something that would have jibed very well with the arc of the Trio if it had been better depicted), and it also felt a lot like a moral cop-out by the writers, as if they were trying to limit Willow's responsibility for the consequences of her most grievous character flaws.

The use of addiction as a theme was very well done in the arcs of other characters, in part because in those cases the writers clearly knew how to restrict it to play an appropriate part in developing the story. With Willow unfortunately, the writers allowed a purely seasonal plot element to overwhelm one of the larger themes of her series-long arc, and her character suffered for it. The clearest indication of this is that the writers themselves obviously realized that they had made a mistake, because they spent a good part of the beginning of the 7th season doing their utmost best to excise it from the show: all talk of "addiction" in relation to Willow was banished except for a single oblique reference by Giles to the effect that it really wasn't that important anyway; and the other characters made a point of treating her as morally culpable for the actions she took. Whether it was enough to repair the damage remains a matter of opinion.

Moving on to the other, perhaps even bigger issue - the problematic episodes of the season. Every season of Buffy has a few poor-quality episodes, though opinion may differ as to exactly which ones they are. Since every season after S.1 easily outnumbers these with great- and good-quality episodes, this generally does not matter (much). What is unfortunate about the poor episodes of S.6 is not so much their presence as their concentration: they are all clustered together in the middle of the season, one after the other, in what is unquestionably the worst "episode drought" of the entire show outside of the first season. The effect this has is not good: it makes S.6 feel like a season that contains far more bad episodes than it actually does. Two things mitigate that effect however. The first is the presence of "Dead Things", an utterly phenomoneal episode made even more phenomenal by comparison with the episodes that come immediately before and after it. The second, which I have mentioned previously, is that S.6 is definitely the one season, more than any of the others, which is enhanced by watching the episodes in bulk.
Sophist
12. Alex C.
Over and above those criticisms, I will just say one more time that everything that this season got right, was so good that I would have forgiven it far worse shortcomings than it actually contained. Basically I include under this almost everything that happened to Buffy and Spike, both seperately and together, as well as Xander, Anya, and even the Trio. Buffy's arc in particular was the absolute highlight of the season, managing in one go to work through the issues of her death and resurrection, maintaining the gravity of the former and dealing beautifully with the latter; take yet another important step on her Hero's Journey; and lay the groundwork for her concluding chapter in the next season, wherein she finally confronts the isolation imposed on her by the burden of being the Slayer. Her relationship with Spike was also wonderfully developed, through all its twists and shocking turns - that will also culminate in some wonderful payoff in the next season.

I've gone on long enough now, so I'll wrap up this string of comments with a link to my favourite review of the sixth season - one that closely matches my thinking about almost all of the particular aspects of the season, and one that I highly recommend for a read.
Constance Sublette
13. Zorra
Giles reveals that it wasn’t the Watcher’s Council who noticed the Dark Power of Willow rising in Sunnydale. Those guys. Will we ever be rid of them?
Why, yes. Yes, we will. :)

Love, C.
Constance Sublette
14. Zorra
Giles reveals that it wasn’t the Watcher’s Council who noticed the Dark Power of Willow rising in Sunnydale. Those guys. Will we ever be rid of them?
Why, yes. Yes, we will. :)

Love, C.
Marty Beck
15. martytargaryen
Alex C. - I agree 100% with everything you said above. I was looking for the right words over the past three posts, and could never summarize the "unfairness" (as you put it) of the S6 criticism as well as you did here. Thank you.

I too enjoy MikeJer's write-ups, but am partial to Mark Field (aka sophist). I think they compliment each other well.
Sophist
16. Dianthus
@13. I like to think there was one survivor....You can learn a lot from Lydia.
Sophist
17. Alex C.
@15. martytargaryen -

Thanks! And I definitely agree with you about Mark Field's essays - they contain some truly outstanding analysis.
Alyx Dellamonica
18. AMDellamonica
Doug,

I'm afraid the answers are no and no again. I don't love Angel quite enough to do it justice, and feel it should be left to someone who has that pure pure love. And the group of you, I'm afraid, have convinced me that the comics shouldn't be read.
Sophist
19. build6
comics ... I've taken the plunge and both (a) regret it and (b) can't stop. It's like, "I'm contaminated anyway, I might as well go all the way"

And I guess my dislike of S7 is so great that the same philosophy applied here too - by having contaminated my Buffy experience by actually watching S7 (instead of stopping after S6 as was recommended to me by a Person I Should Have Listened To), I may as well have got into the comics (whereupon I discovered that yes, things actually CAN get worse).

(well alright S7 has its moments).
Emma Rosloff
20. emmarosloff
Not much to add except to say that I squealed like a schoolgirl when Spike got his soul back (I was seriously convinced they were about to turn him into a villain again).

And of course, Xander as Hug-Terminator (which gave me a huge laugh) is a seriously touching moment. He's been called "the heart" of the group in the past, and never moreso than right here, when Willow's heart is broken and Xander is the only one who can soothe her.
Sophist
21. Dianthus
@19. Amen! I stopped reading s8 after the first few issues, but once they reintroduced Spike I got sucked back into it. I read all of s9 (which was moderately better) and Spike's mini-book (disappointing, but not entirely without merit). I even have some hope for s10. They've hinted that Dawn might actually be able to control her keyness, and for a continuation of Spike's evolution.
That's the big problem I have with the Cookie Dough business in Chosen: You're never really "done." I can understand why a young person might think this way, but Buffy thought she was done after her sacrifice, and she was proven wrong. Plus, she's got Spike's example right there in front of her. He's been mostly dead for over a century, but he isn't done either. Shorter version: you're not done until you're dead, and sometimes not even then.

@20. I was excited about it too. I still don't think a soulless redemption would've been out of the question, but that's not the way they chose to go with the story. They made a perfectly valid choice and it seemed very much in character. I can just hear Spike now: "If the Great Forehead c'n handle it, so can I!" I only wish they'd made his intentions clear from the get-go.
Of course he doesn't stop to consider the consequences. He's impulsive, which is not a bad thing, in and of itself. He wants something (Buffy's love/recognition) and when he wants something, he doesn't stop. Still, there's something else he wants, too, from long before Buffy was born: something effulgent. The soul makes it possible and that's his "big pay-off." He was never going to 'get the girl' (an outmoded and sexist concept to a self-professed Radical Feminist, I'm sure).
Sophist
22. Gardner Dozois
A good season closer, exciting and fast-paced, although I wouldn't put it up with the best of the season-ending episodes, like "Becoming" from Season Two or the Graduation from Season Three.

I liked Xander being the one to save the world (again!) and the way he did it, by making human contact with Willow, but, at the same time, I kind of felt that Buffy should have been the one to foil the world-ending menace, as she had foiled all the other ones. After all, it's her show, she's the main hero, the title character. She should have been the one to save the world--instead, she's totally irrelevant and impotent; from the moment she's shot, nothing she does has any significant affect whatsoever on what happens. Far from figuring out a way to defeat Willow and save the day, she's contemptuously dismissed to a meaningless side-action where nothing she does would have any effect at all on keeping the world from being destroyed.

So while I appreciate the Xander/Willow thing, it's too bad they couldn't have figured out some way to have their cake and eat it too. Have Buffy defeat Willow somehow, and then when faced with the possibility she might have to kill her, have Xander step in and talk Willow down and return her to humanity again. But that's not what happened.
Sophist
23. Alex C.
@22. Gardner Dozois -

I can see where you're coming from, and I remember feeling something similar to that the first time I watched this episode.

However, I think that the moment would have lost most of its power if Dark Willow had somehow been defeated before Xander talked her back into her senses. Having Willow return to her humanity when her only other option is to get killed by Buffy just doesn't have the same emotional heft to it as having her voluntarily abandon her wild attempt to destroy the world. I assume that the writers were probably thinking, too, that for the sake of the character it was necessary to have her not destroying the world be a (mostly) personal choice rather than something she was forcibly prevented from doing.

So while I generally have a very Buffy-centric view of the show, I actually don't mind too much that she was mostly side-lined in this episode. I see her arc in S.6 as having been basically concluded in "Normal Again"/"Entropy" - with her role in the remaining episodes after that serving as an extended coda, mixed with some set-up for the 7th season.

I think that "Grave" is a fairly good episode overall, but in my opinion it's probably the weakest season final in the series. Not coincidentally, I think, it's also the only one that wasn't written and directed by Joss Whedon himself.
Sophist
24. Gardner Dozois
I still think there would have been some way to write this that wouldn't have rendered your ostensible series hero completely irrelivent to saving the world. But it wouldn't have been easy, and there was a lot of lazy writing here, like the legend about the church where you can destroy the world that convienantly pops up at the last moment when needed.

As I say, it was a satisfactory episode, fun to watch, but I'd agree that it was probably the weakest season finale in the series. I'd rank them 3, 2, 5, 1, 4, 7 (which I wasn't crazy about either), 6.
Alyx Dellamonica
25. AMDellamonica
That's an interesting challenge, Gardner: how to give Buffy something more meaningful to do while leaving Xander to 'save' Willow.

In the five seconds I've been thinking about it... if Willow had been drawing on Dawn energy, rather than Satan Church, maybe there could have been some need to choose involved, so Buffy was saving the world by saving Dawn. That's imperfect, because saving Dawn was what she did last year.

The other possibility would be to capitalize on Willow's having brought Buffy back from the dead, instead of making a smart remark of it. Telling Osiris he could have her back, forcing her to fight him... there might be some plot to be worked there.
Sophist
26. Dianthus
@24. You raise an interesting point. We've gone from s2, when Buffy was all she had (A: "What's left?"/B: "Me.") to s4 with an enjoining spell (everyone gets to play), to s6 when Buffy's pretty much irrelevent to the actual world-savege. It leaves us to wonder what, if anything, they're trying to say here.

One thing I do like about this ep: they acknowledge the absurdity of it all when Giles busts out laughing ("A Watcher scoffs at gravity."). The 'over-the-topness' of this season put the teenage angst years to shame. There's good and bad in everyone. I can't remember ever having such a hard time assimilating that idea. I think that's really the reason why I dislike this season. I certainly don't have a hard time watching characters I like do bad things - I'm a Spike fan, after all.
Sophist
27. Alex C.
@26. I think that's overstating it. Buffy doesn't play any meaningful role in saving the world this season, but it comes in between her two big world-saving moments in the 5th season (which had her fight with Glory, and her sacrifice at the end), and the 7th season, where she orchestrates pretty much everything that happens in "Chosen", much in the same way that she did in "Graduation Day". As far as the "hero is the one who saves the world" principle goes, Season 6 is the exception that proves the rule on Buffy.

In terms of her over-arching character journey throughout the show, the 6th season is far more overtly focused on Buffy's internal conflict than any of the others. That's why I don't think that it matters too much that she didn't really do anything to defeat Dark Willow. The fact that she was able to fully come back to herself, after an entire season of struggling with the challenge that she gave to Dawn in "The Gift", seems to me a victory just as sweet as watching her pummel another Big Bad with her fists.
Sophist
28. Alex C.
@24. Gardner Dozois -

Actually, although I agree with you that the writing in this episode weak in a number of respects, I didn't think that the satanic temple that can destroy the world was particularly egregious. Yes, it popped up at the last moment, but lets face it - every season finale of the show does that with some plot device or another. "Becoming" had the Acathla demon, "Graduation Day" had the poison Faith used on Angel, "Primeval" had the enjoining spell, and "Chosen" has the amulet Angel gives to Buffy and she gives to Spike. The only season final that doesn't do this is "The Gift", which had Olaf's hammer, and the Dagon Sphere, both of which were at least introduced earlier in the season, but played no other role than their use in the final.

As has been said several times before, the plotting on this show is not exactly what you would call sophisticated, but I don't mind that. The plot is there to service the development of the characters, and it usually does that very well.
Jack Flynn
29. JackofMidworld
Tomorrow's the first 'real' session of an RPG campaign a buddy of mine's running. By the (un)luck of the dice, I'm going to be playing the Xander of the party (which would be great, save the fact that it's a 7-member party with one GM, so the RP opportunities will likely be few and far between). I'm going to try and rememer this ep as the brightest "even if you're the 'weakest' in the group, doesn't mean you're the weakest in the group" moment that'll make it worth not rerolling the character.

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