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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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  • I hate the episode Normal Again, not the truth of Buffy having been in a psych unit. I agree that it makes a lot of things fit way better. You tell your parents you are seeing monsters, they are likely to think you are mentally ill.

    OTOH, the Willow talk-down (Yellow Crayon Speech) by Xander does not bother me as 'the' ending. It rocks emotionally! The life meltdown of all the characters is the season's theme, and W & X is a reasonable conclusion to it. Maybe the only one. A human solution by our only "purely human" scooby to a human driven season with human caused events & tragedies. He reached her humanity with his humanity.

    Buffy hits things. Supernatural power. But.. It remains about her. Had she not surrounded herself with people - friends - she would be long dead. The world probably forfeit when Xander did not revive her and the master broke free.

    Her choices led directly to having a Xander who could talk a Willow down. I am sure there were other witches working with the council. None would have been INVOLVED with Buffy's life. For good and ill. As Spike said, there's always consequences.

    Willow drove the start of the season by bringing Buffy back by bad magics. It felt inevitable her huge magic abuse would end cataclysmically. It was only a matter of when.
    Last edited by DeepBlueJoy; 25-10-19, 12:14 PM.

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    • Originally posted by DeepBlueJoy
      OTOH, the Willow talk-down by Xander does not bother me. The life meltdown of all the characters is the season's theme, and W & X is a reasonable conclusion to it. Maybe the only one. A human solution by our only "purely human" scooby to a human driven season with human caused events & tragedies. He reached her humanity with his humanity.
      It does make sense within that theme and I get what they were going for. The conflict/Willow's rampage started out very 'human' and intimate when it was about Tara's death, but then they undermined that by making it about POWERRR and turning it into an apocalypse. A lot of the relatable, humanity-driven aspects of the Dark Willow arc were lost midway through when they turned her into a cartoon villain who just wanted to end the world. I said this in a previous post, but I think "Grave" would have been way more effective if it was about Willow trying to kill herself instead of the world.

      It's still a good scene with powerful acting, but it just doesn't hit me the way a lot of other great ones did for the reasons I've mentioned.

      Originally posted by DeepBlueJoy View Post
      I hate the episode Normal Again, not the truth of Buffy having been in a psych unit. I agree that it males a lot of things fit way better. You tell your parents you are seeing monsters, they are likely to think you are mentally ill.
      Yeah, and honestly, I certainly don't think Joyce (or Hank) was a bad parent for thinking her daughter was mentally ill and attempting to get her help. But the aftermath of the way that she apparently handled things afterwards -- never at all addressing this with Buffy and just 'forgetting' -- was pretty terrible (in addition to the fact that Buffy wasn't delusional at all). But why do you hate the episode, out of curiosity? The main criticisms I see geared towards this episode was the asylum twist and the ending, the latter of which I'm not that fond of but don't really *hate*.

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      • I really love the further ideas you presented of how things can be reconsidered from the early seasons in light of the retcon Andrew S. Especially that Buffy just not having actually used the term Slayer, having only talked about seeing a vampire, could have meant it wasn't something Joyce had heard before. I think I'd still tend to see it as having all related to having been called, her parents responses could have stemmed her talking openly pretty quickly before anything about slaying was talked about, but I can see how it would work if it came before her calling too as you suggested. The impact then with Joyce's reaction in Becoming puts so much more weight on why Buffy chooses to leave town. It really does work well.

        But so does the Xander and Willow ending for me. The distance between the group, their lack of attention to each other's problems over dealing with their own, has been a fundamental part of the season too. As well as the general emphasis on human problems as DeepBlueJoy mentioned. So whilst I do take your point that it doesn't feel built up to in the writing in the same way that Buffy's and Giles' reunion is, I think the distance is the point and in this way it was more believable for a connection that has a very long reaching history to be the one that could work. In combination with the important fact that Xander couldn't physically fight her and wouldn't even try to.

        I also don't think that trying to end the world was about power or that when Willow talks about power to Buffy it is really as it might appear in a mwahaha villainous way. Yes the abuse of power and Willow's desire to succeed and achieve are wrapped up in there and this will be a great deal of what she needs to face in the following season, but the seeming destructive focus on power towards the end of S6 seems something of a defensive distraction, shielding herself from dealing with her grief through it and in this way it is just continuing abuse of power as escapism, currently to escape pain. And in that way the application that noone should suffer like this is just an expansion and relates too to the lack of hope for her future that Willow is feeling alongside the wish to not deal with Tara's death and her anguish. There could even be some survivor's guilt mixed in too. So whilst I do think the jump to wanting to go apocalyptic is surprising, the mix of magic within her is driving her to extreme responses and I don't think it is stepping hugely out of the same issue Willow was operating under when she first went to find Warren rather than stay and deal with Tara's death.
        Last edited by Stoney; 25-10-19, 10:15 AM.

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        • I hate the mind#*%& aspect of Normal Again - the possibility that BtVS was all a crazy person's fever dream really diminishes the 'heroic Buffy' in a way i do not like. The added aspect of woman power as the product of an unsound mind really bothers me. The 'Buffy tries to kill her friends' in reality time also brings Buffy down in a season where she is brought low early and often. Normal Again, like Doublemeat Palace feels like unnecessary roughness. Those join Gingerbread on my 'often skip' episode list in my rewatches.
          Last edited by DeepBlueJoy; 25-10-19, 12:15 PM.

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          • Originally posted by DeepBlueJoy View Post
            I hate the mind#*%& aspect of Normal Again - the possibility that BtVS was all a crazy person's fever dream really diminishes the 'heroic Buffy' in a way i do not like. The added aspect of woman power as the product of an unsound mind really bothers me. The 'Buffy tries to kill her friends' in reality time also brings Buffy down in a season where she is brought low early and often. Normal Again, like Doublemeat Palace feels like unnecessary roughness. Those join Gingerbread on my 'often skip' episode list in my rewatches.
            This is a common sentiment, one I covered in my
            review of the episode—

            Since I don't have the energy to summarize it all
            again in different words, and since much of what
            I say resonates with Andrew S' wonderful posts
            of trauma and related matters—

            And thank you, Andrew S, by the way, for the connection
            you draw between Drusilla and Buffy: I so stupidly
            missed it when writing the review—

            I will just post the final section of my review here, as it
            directly addresses your criticism:


            The Last Shot: Time & Becoming, from Asylum to Grave
            The final shot, from what I have heard, angered many viewers, for they read in it the implication that Buffy was still in the asylum, had, indeed, always been in the asylum, that Joss was telling us that the entire series—that the characters in whom we had become so deeply invested—was but a hallucination. This has always struck me as a far too simplistic, literal-minded interpretation. I remember that the ever-insightful Sophist, on his blog, argued that the shot emerged from the consciousness of ill-Buffy, who did, indeed, still exist at the episode’s end, as Sunnydale-Buffy had not yet taken the antidote—and that this shot emphasized the choice both Buffys made. On a pragmatic level, I find this explanation quite persuasive, although too focused upon the autonomous, agential self. I thus would argue for something more complex, argue for something imbricated with one of the aphorisms with which I began, Faulkner’s admittedly abused and oft-misquoted “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”—something that calls up, as well, Nick Cave’s “The past is the past—and it’s here to stay”: If Normal Again has given us anything to think, it must, in part, be this persistence, this non-linear duration and rhythm of the past. And following Faulkner’s logic, Buffy is, within the temporality of trauma, still in the asylum, will always be there, as she is still in the clinic to which her parents committed her—and on the front steps of Hemmry high, being called; still in her bathroom, facing and effacing herself, listening to her parents subject and objectify her; still facing the resouled Angel, then killing him; still about to make the leap that joined the temporalities and obligations of her life to save Dawn and the world—; and still awakening in her coffin, terrified, clawing her way out… Trauma never heals, not if we take healing, as its etymology implies we should, as a return to a past form, a normalization: its wounds remain, ever refuse erasure. There can be no return—no return as Buffy’s delusions promised—to a time and a self thought to be before. No “Normal Life” as her high-school-self dreamed. And to desire it is to fall, directly or indirectly, into the regulative norms that serve the interests of biopower, into the disciplinary and regulatory controls it exercises upon the self and the greater population, the self and population to which it then preaches freedom and responsibility, all the better to induce the interiorization of norms and the production of various modes of guilt, shame, and self-punishment—and the determination of the future by the past, the absolute rule of Newtonian cause and effect, the always already givenness of the future, the foreclosure of the new.

            Trauma is implacable, and it never heals—

            And yes, the last shot tells us that Buffy remains in the asylum, will always be there, as she is still in the clinic to which her parents committed her—and on the front steps of Hemmry high, being called; still in her bathroom, facing and effacing herself, listening to her parents subject and objectify her; still facing the resouled Angel, then killing him; still about to make the leap that joined the temporalities and obligations of her life to save Dawn and the world—; and still awakening in her coffin, terrified, clawing her way out…

            Still there, yet there elsewise—

            For what Buffy finds in the asylum, what her hallucinations give her in the true vision of Joyce, her true voice, is a return to the affect from which her resurrection—and perhaps, even before, Joyce’s death—had displaced her. The capacity to affect and be affected that abides in the heart of her living, her becoming into the world. And in S6, Buffy has just barely sustained herself as she has sought to move in that world, entrammelled as she has been within a multiplicity of cutting, blinding, binding temporalities. Then in her good-bye to Joyce, in her turn away, she makes, as well, a turn towards, takes an experimental step into being more intensely there, where she is, in Sunnydale, at that moment, in all its indeterminacy—

            This does not mean that steps do not remain: they come in saying no to Spike; in seeing Willow’s mistaken assumption of power, which gives her once more a vision of her own—although it also stops her from bringing that power fully to bear upon Willow, whom Buffy cannot kill; come, most of all, with Dawn, there in the grave to which Willow has condemned them in her ending of the pain of the world, there where Buffy, with Dawn, will find neither ending nor beginning but the opening of another temporality—

            Since her resurrection, if not since the death of Joyce, Buffy has sought, even in her absolute care for her sister’s life, her battle against its ending, a certain distancing from Dawn, has resisted the full weaving of Dawn within the lines of her self, as part of daily living-into. Passing the responsibility for Dawn off to Giles was her first strategy; then, upon his leaving, she turned to avoidance, peppered, briefly, with words of normative care, which Dawn immediately detected and rejected; then, in NA, more normative language, gleaned from the Doctor, and finally murder; and, last, nice sisterly activities—all of them, as Dawn pointed out, segregated from the center of Buffy’s life, her slaying—

            Buffy claims that she is but trying to keep Dawn safe, but as Dawn points out, given who Buffy is, danger tends to find her… This is a valid point, but it does not reach the center of Buffy’s resistance:


            Xander: Buffy’s always been different—
            (WSWB)

            Buffy [to Cordelia, who is changing in a broom closet]: You know what you were saying before? I understand… Somehow it doesn’t seem to matter how popular you are or how or what—

            Cordelia [shocked]: You were popular? In what alternate universe?

            Buffy [wearily]: In L.A… The point is, I did sort of feel like something was missing…
            (OoSOoM)


            A certain originary wrongness, one that brought differencing, brought questioning of the given, of norms, one that led her continue slaying even after the clinic, one that led her to Willow and, through Willow, back to slaying—slaying in the singular, ever-questioning, ever-shifting form that she would then live and die through it, enter its uncertain becomings—

            It is this—this wrongness and the power it bears—from which Buffy seeks to shield Dawn…

            But in doing so, she ends up not only shielding Dawn from herself but also shielding herself from her true obligation to Dawn, the obligation that cannot be contained by authoritative norms, by rules and cliché statements of care and responsibility, the obligation that can only be lived in the affective weaving of Dawn into the sinews of her daily living—and perhaps again dying—into the world, the risks of her becoming and the risks of Dawn’s own, risks that Buffy cannot foresee, cannot protect her from, must lovingly allow her to live into, live through her own becoming—

            A thing Buffy forestalls at every step in S6, up till the end, forestalls in not telling her about the AR, in insisting on lodging her with Clem, in….

            Until the grave—

            In her visionary shift then and there, in its thenness and thereness, in the very fact that she, this time, is not the one who saves the world, whose movements are determined by the arc of heroic temporality, what comes—

            What comes is not only an opening to Dawn, crucial as that is—


            “The past is the past, and it’s here to stay” (Nick Cave).

            “though there is no Course, there is Boundlessness – “ (Emily Dickinson).


            What comes is the experimental step enabled, most of all, by Joyce: a step out of the time of trauma, out of its determinations, a step into a living elsewise: the past is here to stay, but it need not stay as a past bound in a line to the present and then the future, as cause of a determined effect in the future, foreclosing possibility. Trauma can be lived as hereness, as affective betweenness, amongst the self’s multiplicities, interacting with each other and the entities that fill the world, that weave through the self in the speeds and slownesses, the rhythms and durations of non-metric time that carry the self into becoming—

            A becoming that renders ethics not a set of rules, of lines not to be crossed, but a movement of living into the world in its complexities, its constitutive obligations and offerings. That gives us neither the Normal nor the Again, for it undoes the terms through which both Buffy and Dawn seek to exercise the regulative norms lurking within them—for, indeed, becoming is precisely the undoing of such words, the force with which they seek to work over and through us, from without and within, is, rather, the giving of a grace born of both submission to the power within abiding and a living through the empowerment thus born of such submission’s giving, the obligations to others it weaves in and as the self, the freeing affectivity it sets coursing through this singular yet multiple self, sinew to synapse, its Boundlessness—



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