Teevee relationships are about as enduring as mayflies, and—as I mentioned not long ago—sometimes on even the best-written shows, the thing that causes a break-up can be pretty darned spurious. But one of the things Buffy the Vampire Slayer always did well was the post-romance aftermath. The characters of the Buffyverse don’t get over their failed love affairs quickly. They don’t all mourn the same way, and when they do it’s seldom pretty. We get everything from Buffy’s summer-long retreat to waitressing in L.A., after Angel’s death, to Spike’s drunken rampage over Drusilla. Now, in “Something Blue,” we get our first glimpse into Willow’s total inability to deal with loss and heartbreak.
The episode begins with her holding a vigil in Oz’s old room, indulging the idea that he might come back and just trying to hang onto the denial.
With her friends, she’s putting on the brave face, even making time for their concerns. When Riley invites Buffy out on a picnic, for example, Willow musters up the bestest of her best friend skillz, listening, supporting, eliciting important information about how Buffy likes Riley’s arms. (He likes that she’s unpredictable. Hasn’t he hit the mother lode?) Our Slayer does have reservations about the boy: he’s not evil and isn’t causing her pain. What’s to like about that? She isn’t sure she can deal.
Play and pain management both have to wait until after work, though: off they go to deal with Spike, who has less to tell about the Initiative than previously advertised. Willow suggests a truth spell and says she’ll do a components run. She’s got Buffy and Giles fooled. They’re all, “Whew, she’s better!”
It’s Spike who has to call horsepucky on that idea; he points out she’s hanging by a thread.
It’s true. Willow heads back to Chez Oz for another hit of maybe, one day. She finds his stuff gone, and loses it completely. She has a big cry, mopes all over Buffy’s picnic, attempts getting drunk at the Bronze, and finally realizes—in that habitual way she’s already developing—that magic must hold the answer!
And so, instead of doing a truth spell on Spike, Willow tackles an enchantment that, on paper, looks like it’ll do her will. According to the fine print, though, it only grants angry wishes. It doesn’t work on her broken heart, but when Giles turns up looking for motherwort and assistance, and tells her not to toy with the magics, she blinds him without so much as noticing what she’s done.
Confused but determined, Giles attempts the spell himself. Because of his failing vision, he can’t read it. He also inadvertently frees Spike
Willow, meanwhile, has gotten fed up with trying to act like she’s bearing up. She’s on a ranty, whiny tear. Her self-pity is at once utterly justified and—as such emotions tend to be—completely off-putting to her friends. She fixes Amy without realizing it, and then turns her back into a rat again. A random, impulsive complaint helps Buffy find Spike in mere seconds. She lashes out at Xander, telling him he’s a demon magnet and thereby making him into one. Then, even as Buffy and Spike yell at each other in the living room at Chez Giles, she utters the immortal phrase: “Why doesn’t she just go marry him?”
Poor Giles. His eyes are failing, but not fast enough for him to miss Spike’s proposal, bended knee and all. Not to mention Buffy’s enthusiastic, squeeful, Yes!
It’s obvious even to a newly blinded man that there’s bad magic on the loose. Spike recommends a general reversal spell and a run to the magic shop. Buffy goes, but gets distracted by wedding dresses. That, unfortunately, is when she runs into Riley. She tells him all about her big plans for her special day and gets him all kinds of confused and upset. It’s a bad stroke of luck… except for the part where Riley doesn’t seem to know that the guy he’s been calling Hostile 17, lo these couple of weeks, is going by the same moniker as Buffy’s “totally old” fiance.
(Imagine how it might have played out if Riley had known Buffy’s Spike was the same entity as Mad Scientist Maggie’s favorite chip-implant subject. You’d have the Initiative tracking Buffy to the townhouse. There’d be a threat of Spike maybe getting dusted in a fit of super-soldier jealous rage. We’d see Xander and Anya leading a trail of demons right into the military dragnet… the potential mess boggles the mind!)
But there’s nobody home at Chez Giles but the Scoobies: Xander and Anya find blind Giles there, drinking hard and trying to ignore Spuffy in a liplock. Xander asks to be blind, too. Then he flashes back to Willow’s comment. Thus prodded, Giles remembers her saying he can’t see and mentioning a spell attempt. Now they know who’s to blame!
But they aren’t the only ones. Remember D’Hoffryn? He’s the demon who recruited Anya and it’s clear to him that Willow would make an awesome replacement. (Which she would!) He carts her off to some nether realm where her friends can’t phone her, even if she had a cell phone, which she—and all of them—ought. It’s a quick interview. He offers her power, immortality and mayhem. She’s not interested. He mentions the pain and suffering she’s caused her friends.
Instead of embracing vengeance, at least this time, Willow gets herself returned to the crypt where her friends are losing a battle against all the demons Xander has attracted. She cancels her spell, dispersing their opponents and leaving Buffy and Spike to find each other joined at the lips.
They are, needless to say, horrified. How could such a thing happen? At least they can reassure themselves they will never kiss again.
In the end, by way of apology, Willow bakes cookies. Lots of cookies. Does she learn her lesson about turning to magic when she’s challenged? Oh, no. Does her capacity for nasty vengeance and deep, globally destructive mourning behavior diminish? No again. Redemption with Willow is all about the sugar high. But nobody knows that yet. Right now they’ve got chocolate chips and all’s right with the world.
And there is an upside to it all: Buffy decides to get over the bad boy thing. Unfortunately, she’s alienated the good boy. The only thing she can think of to get the Riley romance back on track is to tell him she was kidding.
Fortunately, Riley’s a credulous guy. You might say he wants to believe.
A.M. Dellamonicahas two novelettes 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.