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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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  • BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

    With plenty of advance, here's the thread for the S6 rewatch.

    As usual the list of those signed up for each review is detailed below, accompanied with a guide date for the weekend we anticipate they will fall due. Fingers crossed the new fortnightly schedule gives a more regular flow. As usual, I'll put in the links under the spoiler below as we go through the season when the reviews are posted.

    If you notice any errors feel free to shout out and I'll amend.

    In the meantime, if you haven't had the opportunity yet, don't forget to go and catch Dipstick's WOTW review. We'll then wait with eager anticipation for Max to take us to the season 5 finale! Meet you back here around 9 Sep. (N.B. edited to the 30th).


    *fortnightly weekend reviews* Fri date given as a guide

    6.01 : Bargaining (Part 1) - PuckRobin (30 Sep)
    6.02 : Bargaining (part 2) - KofC (28 Oct)
    6.03 : After Life - Stoney (11 Nov)
    6.04 : Flooded- Dipstick (25 Nov)
    6.05 : Life Serial - DoktorRock (27 Jan)
    6.06 : All The Way - Guy (7 Apr)
    6.07 : Once More, with Feeling - Aurora (26 Jan)
    6.08 : Tabula Rasa - Clavus (09 Feb)
    6.09 : Smashed - Stoney (23 Feb)
    6.10 : Wrecked - DanSlayer (09 Mar)
    6.11 : Gone - Tiny Tabby (23 Mar)
    6.12 : Doublemeat Palace - MikeB (06 Apr)
    6.13 : Dead Things - PuckRobin (20 Apr)
    6.14 : Older and Far Away - Rihannon (08 Jun)
    6.15 : As You Were - MikeB (22 Jun)
    6.16 : Hell's Bells - Sosa (06 Jul)
    6.17 : Normal Again - SofS (16 Sep)
    6.18 : Entropy - DanSlayer (19 Oct)
    6.19 : Seeing Red - Aurora (14 Dec)
    6.20 : Villains - Willow from Buffy (31 Aug)
    6.21 : Two to Go - KofC (14 Sep)
    6.22 : Grave - DeepBlueJoy (1st Oct)

    SEASON 1 thread
    SEASON 2 thread
    SEASON 3 thread
    SEASON 4 thread
    SEASON 5 thread
    SEASON 7 thread

    SEASON 6 episode links
    Last edited by Stoney; 19-10-19, 09:10 PM.

  • #2
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Season Six Rewatch
    “Bargaining Part 1”
    Part A


    Buffy was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. We saw her fall to her death. We saw her tombstone. Buffy Summers was as dead as a door-nail.

    Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Buffy was as dead as a door-nail.

    The Scoobies knew she was dead? Of course they did. How could it be otherwise? The Scoobies and she were partners for I don’t know how many years.

    There is no doubt that Buffy was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot—say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance—literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
    - With apologizes to Charles Dickens

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s original American network The WB certainly wanted to convince us of Buffy’s demise as Dickens wanted to convey the certainty of Jacob Marley’s death. The network touted “The Gift” as “the WB’s series finale”. The network thanked Buffy her five years of loyal service. The WB was more than happy to leave viewers with the impression that the Slayer wasn’t coming back.

    And yet starting in October 2001, we found a familiar set up in the WB’s Tuesday night timeslot. Yes, it was yet more tales of a young adult hero grappling with strange powers and a mysterious destiny. The hero had wacky friends. Oh, and the hero was drawn to a stranger with a dark past and a possibly darker future.

    If you noticed that I’ve been avoiding using gender-specific pronouns, that’s because this hero was not Buffy Summers. It was Clark Kent. The WB premiered a new show in Buffy’s time slot – Smallville, featuring the teenaged adventures of the boy who would become Superman. The show had a thing about the colourful garb of the comic books. The producers’ catchphrase was “No tights. No Flights.”

    Smallville owed a lot to Buffy. You probably know Superman’s basic origin – an infant rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton raised by a kindly couple. Smallville’s twist on the Superman mythology was that Clark’s rocketship did not come alone but was accompanied by a swarm of Kryptonite “meteor rocks”. Traditionally green Kryptonite just weakens and would eventually kill Superman. But on this TV show, the meteor rocks mutated some average humans, giving them super powers and bad attitudes. Much like Buffy’s Hellmouth, these meteor rocks gave Clark and his friends a number of “freaks of the week” to fight. Clark’s Willow-like friend Chloe kept newspaper clips of these threats on her Wall of Weird, housed at the high school newspaper office. They even stick a Scooby-Doo reference in the first episode.

    PETE ROSS: Clark, you’ll have to excuse our intrepid reporter. It seems her weird hour is on DefCon 5.

    CHLOE SULLIVAN: Just because everyone else chooses to ignore the strange things that happen in this leafy little hamlet doesn't mean that they don't happen.

    PETE: Now, you know we'd love to join you and Scooby inside the mystery machine for another zany adventure, but we got to hand in these permission slips before homeroom.
    Once the Buffyverse ended on TV Smallville received further transfusions of Buffyness. Buffy writers Drew Z. Greenberg and Stephen DeKnight worked on later seasons of Smallville. James Marsters also joined Smallville in season five as Professor Milton Fine aka the “Brain InterActive Construct” or as this evil alien computer was known in the comic books “Brainiac”. The season five episode “Thirst” (written by DeKnight) featured a blonde Kryptonite vampire named Buffy Sanders. Smallville executive producers said it was the worst episode they ever made.

    Smallville ran ten seasons and outlived the rivalry between networks The WB and UPN. In 2006, the struggling networks had merged into a new network called The CW.

    But back in 2001, the networks were at war. While WB was trying to forget about Buffy, UPN was promoting her debut on their network.

    UPN ran a series of ads touting the new season, but also dwelling on the fact that the titular hero was now dead.

    The E! entertainment channel featured a special the title of which declared “Buffy’s Back!” Apart from the Buffy cast and crew, the most prominent face in the special was “Wanda”, the writer of E!Online’s weekly column of TV spoilers “Watch with Wanda”. (Later renamed Watch with Kristin when the columnist started using her real name). Wanda/Kristin’s column was a popular source for spoilers when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on the air. I remember visiting her site regularly back in the day. The special gave audiences a sneak peak of the upcoming Buffy musical. But there would be one big narrative hurdle before they reached the musical episode.

    WANDA: She actually died at the end of last season. So things are looking a little dismal.

    JAMES MARSTERS: But no, she’s really dead! I mean, like, the worms are eating her brain. Like, she’s decomposing. Seriously!
    What a cheery thought, and delivered with giddy mania too.

    Sarah Michelle Gellar revealed that Joss Whedon had been planning Buffy’s death for three years, and she knew where the story was headed.

    But it was Alyson Hannigan who dropped the spoiler bombshell that surprised absolutely no one. Well, aside from the few people who only read press releases from The WB!

    ALYSON HANNIGAN: It’s great because it shows that she’s not totally, um, invulnerable. And it also shows that when you’re dead on our show you’re not always totally dead.

    JOSS WHEDON: Obviously we’re going to bring her back fairly, fairly, um, quickly.

    SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR: I just to have hope that like last time I’m coming back!

    JOSS WHEDON: I never give anything away if I can avoid it.

    VOICEOVER: Oh come on!

    JOSS WHEDON: The first episode deals with the idea of bringing her back and how it’s done, and what it feels like and what it’s like for her. And everybody else and how strange it is that she should be back. And that’s something that will bleed through the entire year.
    Alyson Hannigan then added she didn’t like knowing what was coming next, so she didn’t have to lie to the press.

    On the subject of lying to the press, Wanda concluded on what some fans might consider to be a whopper. “Buffy’s going to be a little bit older this season, she has a little more responsibilities this season, but overall the show’s going to be the same Buffy we’ve always known and loved.”

    You can view the whole Buffy’s Back Special here:

    Some UPN ads ran a similar tagline -- “Buffy Lives”

    The UPN wanted a big promotion for the launch of Buffy on their network. So, they asked the Buffy team to give them a special two-hour “event” that showcased Buffy’s resurrection. Originally the writers had intended to do two separate stories. Well, not entirely separate – in the way that “Tough Love”, “Spiral”, “The Weight of the World” and “The Gift” all carry on from each other. But it wasn’t going to be a proper two-part story either.

    The biggest narrative changes occur in part two beefing up the action things to be the proper climax of an event. But both parts were affected by this change.

    For viewers watching on October 3, 2001, the only evidence of there being a “Bargaining Part 1” and a “Bargaining Part 2” came in the separate writer and director credits. To us, it was just “Bargaining”. But UPN and syndicate channels did want a two-hour event every time they reran the episode. So, there are two main versions of this story. A movie-length version and two individual episodes. (There are yet further versions as various censors have edited out some of the scenes during Willow’s slaughter of the deer and later in her resurrection spell.)

    The DVD releases have the two-hour movie version. Online streaming services such as Netflix show the edited two-part version.

    When broken up into two hour-long (including commercials) episodes, both parts require opening and ending credits and their own “Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…” segments. But when shown as a single feature, “Bargaining” only requires one set of credits and one “Previously on…” segment. That means there’s extra space for more story. This extra footage comes in Part 1.

    This rewatch will look at the longer version but note where it differs from the shorter two-part version. Some of the extra footage are just longer establishing shots. Establishing shots that run so long I get the feeling they were done that way solely so they could be shortened for the two-part rerun version.

    David Grossman directed both halves of “Bargaining”. He was a Buffyverse stalwart having begun with season three’s “Enemies” and directing multiple episodes of the show’s remaining seasons, including “Tough Love”. He also directed four Angel episodes including the memorable “I Will Remember You”. (Well, memorable to fans. It was a bit forgettable to the character of Buffy Summers.) Before Buffy, Grossman directed episodes of Weird Science and Lois and Clark among many others. He’s also had a successful career after Buffy directing episodes of Desperate Housewives, Twelve Monkeys and Arrow.

    More controversially, the writing chores for part 1 fell to Marti Noxon. It was also Noxon’s first episode as executive producer, taking over many of responsibilities once handled by Joss Whedon. There’s an old tradition that the king could do no wrong. So, blame tended to fall on his advisors. So it is with Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon. A vocal contingent of fans blame her for all the failings of seasons six and seven. It’s an attitude mocked by her Twitter description “I ruined Buffy and I will RUIN YOU TOO.”

    But a certain segment of fans had Noxon in their sights long before season six. I found message threads from dated back to 1999, preparing to blame all the ills of the then upcoming fourth season on her expanding influence. Fans ran through a list of her episodes proclaiming many to be crap. And other fans jumped on the thread to defend her track record.

    When her promotion to executive producer was announced early in 2001, again fans combed through her past episodes to decide if she was worthy of the mantle. Some hoped the promotion would be a good thing as she’d spend more time in the day-to-day aspects of production and less time writing – a very backhanded compliment.

    I think her credits contain many superb episodes or episodes with memorable moments. She wrote “Surprise”, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “The Wish” and “The Prom” to name but a few of her episodes. Noxon also opened the previous season with “Buffy vs. Dracula”.

    Marti Noxon seemed to have more than her fair share of breakup episodes. She wrote the aftermath of Xander’s breakup with Cordelia, Angel’s breakup with Buffy, Oz’s breakup with Willow, and Riley’s breakup with Buffy. Her episodes also contain some of more bitter fights among the Scoobies, such as when Joyce, Xander and the rest criticize Buffy at her “Welcome Back” party in “Dead Man’s Party” or when the Scoobies must deal with Faith in “Consequences”. We see elements of that in this episode when Willow’s plan to resurrect Buffy is not met with universal acclaim. Love or loathe her, Scooby unhappiness is Noxon’s speciality. And that means Marti Noxon was a good choice to explore the feelings of the grieving Scoobies.

    The idea of death and resurrection has a long tradition in mythology and literature, and I’ll be discussing many such examples throughout this rewatch. Indirectly, the hype around Buffy’s death and resurrection owes a little to the Superman TV show before Smallville, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

    Back in 1992, Clark Kent was engaged to Lois Lane. He’d even revealed his secret identity. The writers and editors of DC Comics were fully committed to a Super-Wedding. And then it was announced a new TV series was being developed focusing on Lois and Clark’s relationship. Warner Bros. owns DC Comics – and the word from the TV people was to halt the comic book wedding. The folks planning Lois & Clark didn’t want the comics upstaging them. Wait a few seasons and the comic books and TV show could do the wedding together. Everyone wins. Well, everyone it appeared but the writers, editors and artists who had planned a year’s worth of stories around Superman getting married. Now they needed something to replace it.

    At every writers’ conference, someone would jokingly suggest “Why don’t we just kill him?” Desperate for ideas, they took this suggestion. They’d kill Superman, make everyone miss him, and then resurrect him. So, on Nov. 17, 1992, DC Comics published Superman #75 where Superman battled an alien monster named Doomsday to the death. They even printed a special version of the issue with his obituary in the Daily Planet, a memorial Superman black armband and all in a plastic bag that if left sealed would destroy the comic over time. Fans, of course, were cynical. They knew he’d come back.

    But the death of Superman got mass media coverage, and for the general public, it seemed as if DC Comics was really killing off their best known hero. Another popular news story at the time was how Superman’s early appearances were selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The general public came away thinking that the death was a big deal. And that comics could be worth a lot of money. So, people bought lots of copies. Stores would hide away copies of the comics cost $1.25 (or $2.50 if you wanted your special bagged, extra-morbid obit edition) new, and the week after they “sold out”, the stores would sell their extra copies for $50-$100. After all, if the comic book could increase that much in value in single week, imagine the long-term investment. (Top marks if you realized this was scam, and the comics would decrease in value once everyone figured this out.)

    In 1991 the Canadian music band Crash Test Dummies had written a song around Superman’s death and funeral. It seemed like this song was played on the radio and the popular video on TV constantly during that period:

    When I think about the idea of the Scoobies burying Buffy, that’s the song that runs through my head.

    Next DC published a run called Funeral for Friend. Superman’s fellow heroes mourned his loss and vowed to carry on the fight. Lois Lane and Superman’s adoptive parents grieved their personal loss. (In private. Like with Buffy, they kept Clark Kent’s death a secret. Clark Kent was missing in action, as were many in the climactic battle that levelled much of Metropolis.)

    After that, they put the comics on hold for three months – just to let the impact of the death sink in.

    When the comics started being published again, Superman still didn’t return. The death was too big, too popular. The resurrection story would need to be long and involved. Instead they brought in four possible Superman replacements:

    • A cold, dispassionate version of Superman who would kill his enemies, much like the popular anti-heroes in other comics (This was a Kryptonian computer program given flesh – essentially Superman without his humanity.)
    • A Cyborg who rescued newly elected President Bill Clinton and his first Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The cyborg’s face was 50% and 50% a metallic skull. The Cyborg claimed to be a rebuilt Superman, but it was a phony. The Clintons had endorsed a supervillain. I’m sure the Fox News of the DC universe had a field day with that.
    • A teenage clone of Superman who lacked the hero’s experience, maturity and strong moral upbringing. But this new Superboy stuck around and developed a heart of gold.
    • An African-American former weapons manufacturer who built a metal suit (similar to Iron Man’s) and carried on Superman’s good works. The Man of Steel – later shortened to Steel – was less like Superman physically but the most like him morally.

    In some ways, I think the Buffybot resembles these pseudo-Supermen. A copy of the hero was there, but it lacked what the real Superman had. The only really real Superman is really Superman. And he’s gone. Well, for a few more months. The really, real Superman returned in July 1993. He didn’t return with all of Buffy’s emotional hang-ups. Well, except for one troubling personality change – he had grown a mullet.

    The Death and Return of Superman had a huge impact on geek pop culture. It may be among the many death and resurrection stories that influenced Buffy’s death and return in Bargaining. I’ll be looking at several during the course of this rewatch.

    But whatever fictional deaths, destruction and mayhem the show’s writers may have drawn inspiration from, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s audience had a very real world tragedy in mind. The “white” version of the Bargaining script is dated July 18, 2001. The episode was filmed during the summer. Weeks after the episode was filmed, but less than a month before the episode aired, on September 11, 2001, terrorists had crashed aircrafts into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The world was in shock and mourning.

    In American culture, the 1990s had been a break from decades of living with fear and dread of nuclear war. The Cold War had ended. But now, here was a new threat. And not one so easily located on a map. As we mourned the dead, we wondered what would happen next.

    If the Scooby Gang were lost, afraid and out of sorts – viewers felt that even more strongly. The sense of loss was profound and all pervasive. A week after the Twin Towers fell, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine Graydon Carter had remarked “There’s going to be a seismic change. I think it’s the end of the age of irony.” Sentiments proclaiming the “death of irony” were common at the time. Of course, many took the announcement with a heavy dose of irony. And the years that followed have shown that reports of irony’s death were greatly exaggerated.

    And yet back in 2001, here was a show that prided itself on an ironic look at pop culture and genre fiction. And its central heroine, a wise cracking gal always ready with a pun, was dead. Here was a metaphorical death of irony. Even when Buffy came back, it was with a new sense of gloom and depression and hopelessness. Many fans judge the sixth season harshly, and while there are many reasons to do so, one reason might be that the show’s fictional despair piled onto our real-life despair.

    Audiences embraced the glimmers of hope offered in a pair of movies that premiered in the months following Bargaining -- the first Harry Potter film and the first Lord of the Rings film. Both films featured straight-up heroism (although JK. Rowling’s world did have some irony). Both tales contained sacrifice and loss, but there was also a profound sense of hope too

    I remember being very stirred by this exchange in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

    FRODO: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

    GANDALF: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

    The film’s lines were adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel – written even before spectre of World War II had loomed large. Filmmaker Peter Jackson moved the exchange from an early exposition chapter to later in the story -- in the Mines of Moria, shortly before the wizard Gandalf would sacrifice himself to save his friends. Gandalf the Grey fell into a great chasm. Fans of the books would know he’d be reborn in the following film/book The Two Towers.

    So, what’s in a name?

    The most obvious source of the title is from the Five Stages of Grief from Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s 1969 book On Death and Dying. The five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. A wag might comment that followed “Bargaining” was a season’s worth of depression, but that does a disservice to both the Buffy season and to the Kubler-Ross model.

    In the 2005 book On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (posthumously) and David Kessler clear up some of the popular misconceptions, misinterpretations and over-simplifications that had sprung up about this model.

    They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
    Tara says something similar when she opens up to Buffy in “The Body” and shares her own experiences with losing her mother.

    Kubler-Ross and Kessler continue:

    The five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everybody goes through all of them or goes in a prescribed order.
    Even a more nuanced understanding of the stages has led to doubt, discussion and debate in academic circles. And yet, the model provides a handy short-hand for television drama.

    On the titular stage, bargaining, Kubler-Ross and Kessler say:

    Before a loss, it seems you will do anything if only your loved one may be spared. “Please, God,” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others? Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”

    We become lost in a maze of “if only …” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what it was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening … if only, if only, if only.

    Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault with ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.
    That description fits this episode to a T. We see Willow reach out to a literal god to have a loved one restored to life. We see a soulless Spike devote his life to good deeds (and as we’ll find out in “After Life”, living endless fantasies of having saved Buffy). We see Giles stuck In the past – trying to pass on more training, breathing lessons for a machine that doesn’t breathe. Guilt weighs heavily on all the Scoobies.

    We see many conventional bargains made in this episode. Wilow sacrifices an innocent deer as partial trade to restore Buffy. Anya bargains with an occult-collector on eBay to acquire not only a sacred urn but also a crappy boy-band lunchbox for a “friend” (let’s call him X for short). And Xander (should we call him X for short?) fails to bargain with a homeless man to procure some malt liquor with an amusing name for our underage heroes. (If you’re confused by that last reference, it is only in the extended version of the episode.)


    The opening shots of this episode are reassuringly familiar. We see a vampire (one the script describes as “Sumo-sized”) running through a graveyard. The monster is not the hunter, but the hunted. For these brief few seconds, Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems like the same old show. The death of the titular character and the change in network were meaningless after all.

    But in a moment, we see things have changed. The monster isn’t being pursued by the heroic Buffy, but by another vampire, one apparently on the side of good. No, it’s not Angel. He’s still on The WB. It’s Spike… and he’s wearing the coat.

    Behind Spike, we see another monster-hunter, a blonde woman holding a stake. No, it’s still not Buffy. It’s Tara.

    And after Tara comes Giles … with an axe.

    It’s an unusual assortment of characters to begin the show with -- The least Scoobish of the Scoobies. Spike is still a soulless vampire with a metaphysical bent toward evil or amorality. Tara has been Willow’s plus one for much of the series, still not even in the opening credits. And Giles? Well, he’s one of the core four Scoobies, but this season he’s gone from the opening credits. And as a “Watcher”, his appearances as action man were rare.

    The season opens with Buffy dead, but by this season’s end, the first two Scoobies we see will also be dead.

    Yes, Spike continues his undead existence past this season and into the spin-off series Angel and the comic book seasons. But it is not the same Spike. When Spike gains his soul in the final episode of the sixth season, this version of the character effectively dies.

    Look at Spike’s first line in the episode.

    SPIKE: Come on! I'm never gonna get anything killed with you lot holding me back!
    Spike still views his human allies as a lease – holding him back from dealing out death. For all of Spike’s admirable traits in this episode, we still see the monster who wants to kill, even if supposedly in the name of good.

    Spike is eager to continue the chase, but his human allies have the right spirit, but their flesh is weak.

    TARA: (catching her breath) I thought ... the big ones tire more easily...

    SPIKE: No, that's over-the-hill shopkeepers.

    GILES: I'm fine. I just need to need to... die ... for a minute...

    Yes, Giles makes an ironic reference to death as he leans against a gravestone. The remark is a bit too on the money, drawing attention to theme of the episode with flashy neon lights.

    And now, we’ve arrived a moment that only appears in the extended version.
    SPIKE: (to Tara) It was that powder you blew at him made him rabbit off.\

    TARA: It's Sobri root, it was supposed to confuse him, but ... it just kinda made him peppy.
    Spike responds in tried and true fashion – an eyeroll.

    Tara tries to rationalize why her spell didn’t work.

    TARA: It's not supposed to mix with anything. Do you think he might be taking prescription medication?
    Spike responds with a look of utter disdain.

    The script translates Spike’s sarcasm into everyday English in order to ensure that look would be captured on screen.

    SPIKE: ("you're an idiot") Yeah. That must be it.
    Of course we expect Spike to be sarcastic. He’s evil after all. But it’s a little more surprising to see Giles join in.

    GILES: Good god, I hope he doesn't try to operate heavy machinery.
    Spike leans on the gravestone that Giles is resting against and they share a laugh. It’s an interesting bonding moment that is missing from the streaming and syndicated versions of the episode. Spike’s relationship with the Scoobies was not totally antagonistic.

    But this is a moment of male bonding – no girls allowed, as Tara stands off far to the side. She’s the butt of their joke. This is a troubling turn in a feminist series, to see a supporting female character belittled by the men. (Then again, the optics of the teaser – three white people hunting down a vampire of colour – is somewhat suspect. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always had that problem.)

    Besides, Tara’s spellcraft failure and humorous remarks aren’t exactly new. We’ve seen this sort of thing from the show’s other resident witch, Willow. In some ways, Tara appears to have taken on Willow’s traditional role.

    Kubler-Ross and Kessler speak of how roles shift after a tragedy.

    When a loved one dies, all the roles they fulfilled are left open. Some we consciously or unconsciously take on ourselves. For other roles, we consciously or unconsciously assign them to someone else, or someone may take them on. Still other roles may be left unfilled.
    If Tara has taken on Willow’s old role of kooky and not entirely successfully witch, what role has Willow taken on?

    We get our answer when a telepathic voice causes the Scoobies to snap out of their bantering rest.

    SPIKE: Yeah, we could all be in real-
    WILLOW: (telepathically) Guys, heads up.

    James Marsters’ face as he snaps to attention is priceless.

    And with this we return to moments also seen in the syndicated and streaming versions of the episode.

    The scene shifts to a crypt, and we pan and zoom to the woman standing on top of the crypt – Willow.

    And here we discover the role that Willow’s taken on in the aftermath of Buffy’s death. She’s no longer the kooky amateur witch. She’s no longer the best friend. She’s the boss.

    I notice that she’s wearing a heart necklace, with two strings hanging below. Perhaps they are heart strings – the chordae tendineae, the tendons that connect the heart and in popular mythology the location of the deepest emotions. Perhaps it’s a sign of her love for Tara or her love for the Scoobies. Willow has had a big open heart. Or maybe she’s taking over Xander’s role as the heart of the Scoobies.

    But the heart is blood red, a colour that hints to sacrifice that she makes later this episode. And we’ve already seen red associated with her dark side. But in this scene, Willow doesn’t look so much dark as tired. Very tired.

    And why not? If Willow were evil, she could ask the standard evil overlord question – “why am I surrounded by fricking idiots?”

    Willow isn’t only the spirit and heart of the Scoobies. She appears to be their brain as well. And her teammates are badly in need of a brain.

    Willow orders the Scoobies to direct the sumo-sized vampire toward the Van Elton crypt. The Scoobies probably mapped out the key spots of the graveyard (locations where the various Scoobies are stationed), but Giles, Spike and Tara all look dumb-founded.

    Tara asks “Is that the one with the cute little gargoyles?”

    Fortunately, as hapless as the Scoobies appear to be, their quarry is even more hapless. Despite running away from Spike and the gang at a fair speed, the Sumo-Sized vamp runs right in front of them. The vampire realizes the Scoobies are looking right at him, and so he does a slapstick double-take and about-face.

    And the Scoobies? They do not move. Not until Willow tells them what to do.

    WILLOW: (telepathically) Left, make him go left!
    Giles swings his axe…

    And it works. The axe hits the tree right in front of vamp, forcing him to run to the left.

    Of course, Giles could have just as easily planted the axe in the vamp’s head and end the threat.

    Still, it could have been worse. This isn’t the first time that the Scoobies have had to act without Buffy. Back in the season three premiere “Anne”, Buffy had run away to LA, leaving the Scoobies to pick up the slack. Like “Bargaining”, “Anne” opened with the Scoobies fighting vampires in a graveyard. The vampire runs away and Willow calls to Oz to stop him.
    Oz carefully prepares his shot…

    And then misses. The stake bounces off a tombstone as the vampire runs away.

    The graveyard scene in “Bargaining” has several callbacks to the opening episodes of season three.

    This time, the throwing weapon is more successful than Oz’s attempt three seasons previous. Then again, this vampire seems a little less capable than the one the Buffyless Scoobies fought in “Anne”. The sumo-sized vampire scurries away. Spike and others give chase.

    When the vampire reaches the dead end that is presumably the gate around the Van Elton crypt, he looks around utterly confused. And then he runs straight into a fist. A woman’s fist.

    Could it be?

    The vampire starts to get up, and we see the legs of his assailant.

    That almost seems like … no, she’s dead.

    But the camera pans up and it’s Buffy Summers that stands before him. Well, a character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar anyway.

    I wonder if the casual viewer would have wondered what’s going on here.

    Online comic book reviewers often worry if an issue is going to confuse new readers. Back in the day, TV shows with serialized storylines such as Twin Peaks were considered impenetrable to casual viewers. It’s a different world today. People can watch shows from episode one, thanks to streaming services like Netflix and DVD boxsets. TV is now made to binge watch. And as the Internet grew and changed, we got sites like Wikipedia and individual wikis devoted to Buffy, where fans can catch up with handy plot summaries.

    But back in 2001? The first season of Buffy wasn’t available on DVD yet in North America. (It was released in January 2002.) Even the UK which got early bird DVD releases would have to wait a few more weeks to see season – sorry, “series” – three’s DVD release. Wikipedia was less than year old, and not nearly as popular as it would become.

    Of course, there’s the “Previously on…” segments before the episode (which were left off the North American DVD releases), but there’s nothing about Buffy’s robotic duplicate in this episode’s previously on segment.

    Of course, regular viewers may not have realized it was the Buffybot. Maybe it was a flashback like the early Joyce scene in “The Gift”. Or a flashforward to when the status, as Buffy would say, was once again quo.

    Mind you, fans of the Watch with Wanda’s spoiler chats would have known what was going on. She spilled the beans on July 9, 2001 – nearly three months before the episode aired.

    In the first episode, I guarantee you see three things: (1) Buffy Bot fills in as town slayer and accompanies Dawn to parent-teacher meetings (and totally humiliates her). She "reports" to Willow. (2) Willow uses a spell to "bring back" some form of the real Buffy, which coincides with the arrival of this season's first big baddie. (3) Buffy watches as the baddie's gang tears apart Buffy Bot.
    The BuffyBot even gives a semi-successful Buffy-like witticism.

    BUFFY: Big, fast and dumb. Just the way I like 'em.
    There’s something disturbing in that line. I don’t mean a clue that we’re dealing with a robot instead of person. No, what I’m talking about is the cultural biases of the writer, director and producers.

    This vampire is one of the few Black characters we’ve ever seen in Buffy. An earlier Black vampire, season three’s Mr. Trick called out this problem.

    I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know, strictly the Caucasian Persuasion here in the Dale.
    And here we have a Black character being pursued and attacked by four white characters – three of them, by birth or by bottle, blond. That alone doesn’t look good. It brings up subconscious and I assume unintentional imagery of lynch mobs or concerns about institutionalized racism in policies such as stop-and-frisk.

    But the really damning thing is that aside from his skin colour, this vampire is defined by three things his size, his athletic prowess and his limited intelligence. This vampire appears to be one of the dumbest we’ve ever seen on the show. And all three of these traits were commonly used in stereotypical and offensive depictions of Black characters. I have to wonder – what the hell were they thinking?

    Part of me hopes that it was someone on the show actively trying to mock and subvert the all-white (until Robin Wood next season) dynamics of the show. But given the stereotypical treatment of the potentials next year, I kind of doubt it.

    Anyway, the BuffyBot knocks the vampire back down. She prepares to stake him, but the “Sumo-sized” vampire grabs her wrist and stops the BuffyBot.

    We’ve seen something like this happen before. A vampire got lucky back in “Fool for Love”, an episode when Buffy confronted her own mortality.

    Back then, the vampire just had a really good day. But this time, Buffy’s lack of success is meant to suggest that Buffy is lacking something, that special spark that is Buffy.

    The vampire then knocks the BuffyBot to the ground.

    Spike, Tara and Giles arrive just in time to see the vamp ATTACK BUFFY. They go at it, but this guy is an animal and Buffy's a little off her game.
    An animal? … Never mind, I’m going to let that one go.

    Anyway, Tara and Giles try to hold the vampire back, as super-strong, self-described “Bloody animal” Spike delivers some impressive-looking but less than effectual punches. The Buffybot is not the only one off her game.

    But the action shifts away from the … well … action to re-introduce two more Scoobies to their new UPN home.

    XANDER: Uh oh. Sounds like the other units are engaged...
    Xander deploys what he called Riley-Speak in last season’s “Checkpoint” episode. It points to his own magical and dreaming flirtations with the military life, and a love of action heroes.

    But of course, there’s something else going on here. The only two characters who are engaged – in an engaged to be married, not combat, sense – are Anya and Xander. They got engaged in last season’s finaleepisode, but didn’t get around to telling anyone. Writer Marti Noxon (or possibly Joss Whedon) ironically has Xander speak of engagement as a dangerous thing, and has him transferring it to others. As if he’s denying his own engagement.
    It’s a really clever introductory line. It establishes part of Xander’s character on one level, but also alludes to another aspect of him. And for the attentive audience members who caught the dual meaning, it plays with viewer anticipation around Xander and Anya’s marital status.

    I wonder if when Xander mentioned engaged if his mind wandered to his own engagement. He’s been doing his best to keep it a secret. Well, if so, it’s a good thing that no one else can poke around his brain, because otherwise he’d be….

    WILLOW (O.S.): Xander, Anya - stop!

    He and Anya stop alright. And Xander looks like he's going to have a heart attack. He hisses in a HUSHED tone-

    XANDER: Great googely moogely Willow you've got to quit doing that!
    … Busted!

    I like to think Xander’s over-the-top reaction is born of fear that Willow can also see what he’s been thinking. About his engagement to Anya and his misgivings.

    WILLOW (O.S.): I told you I was going to get the lay of the land-

    XANDER: But not the lay of my brain!

    ANYA: It is kind of intrusive. You could knock first or something.
    Willow says Xander’s name in admonishing way. He apologizes for speaking out loud, instead of telepathically. And then makes one of his famous pop culture references as a justification. “But I saw The Fury and that way lies spooky carnival death.“

    Xander is referring to the 1978 film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Kirk Douglas. It’s about young people with psychic abilities and a shady BlackOps government conspiracy. And yes, when the mental powers get out of control, there is indeed spooky carnival death.

    Here’s the trailer:

    It’s also yet another reference to death. There have been quite a few in this teaser.

    Willow shrugs off the attempt at banter and continues with the mission.

    WILLOW (O.S.): Xander! Vampire. Other side of that tomb. You can get the jump on him if you go the other way.
    And we see another vampire lurking behind the crypt right next to Xander and Anya.

    Xander says thank you in traditional face-saving, non-grateful way. “Well, why didn’t you just say so?” But of course Xander and Anya follow Willow’s instructions.

    The script had us go back to Willow for a second, but we don’t see that on screen: “Off Willow, who looks a little exasperated.” Perhaps it was unneccesary as Willow looks a little exasperated throughout this teaser.

    And now we join our other vampire battle, already in progress. The big, fast and dumb vampire shrugs off Tara and Giles and they go crashing to the ground. The BuffyBot looks on.

    The roboslayer rushes into battle. But the vampire easily lifts her up and swings her over his back, as if she’s a rag doll. Then the vampire weaponizes the helpless BuffyBot, by spinning her around and smacking Spike with the robot’s legs. Things do not look good for our heroes.

    The vampire then throws BuffyBot at Tara, but Willow sends out a telepathic warning to duck just in time.

    Giles picks up an axe and charges into battle, but the vampire turns the tables, pinning Giles to the crypt’s gate with his own axe. For all his goofy expressions and inability to talk, this vampire is doing very, very well.

    Rupert Giles, on the other hand, isn’t doing well at all. He chokes out a despair cry for help to an unlikely ally “S-s-spike!”

    And Spike comes to the over-the-hill shopkeeper’s aid. He jumps on the vampire’s back, trying to pull him off Giles. But the big, fast and dumb vampire just shrugs and elbows him off. Things look bleak for the heroes.

    Spike rolls his eyes upward. Then he takes one of those deep breaths that vampires are not supposed to have. Wait – is he relaxing?

    Willow is horrified. “What are you doing!? Help him,” she commands.

    Spike calmly lights a cigarette and replies “I did.”

    And then we see what Spike was really doing while on the big, fast and dumb vampire’s back. Spike used his cigarette lighter to set his opponent on fire. We see the flame spread up the vampire’s sweater, and then he’s engulfed in flames and finally explodes into dust.

    Spike goes over to Giles and literally offers him a helping hand by pulling Giles up right again. It’s an interesting moment, and not one mentioned in the script.

    But this temporary compassion turns to petty bickering – something that is in the script.

    GILES: You might have let me in on your plan while he throttled me.

    SPIKE: Oooh. Poor watcher. Did your life pass before your eyes? "Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, almost got shagged, cuppa tea..."

    Like a scolding mother, Willow cuts the bickering short. The Scoobies still have chores to do. She orders them to go help Xander and Anya over at Anderson’s Tomb.

    And they definitely need the help. The other vampire has Xander in a headlock.

    Anya tries to help, but she’s swatted aside.

    Then the re-enforcements arrive. Buffybot declares “I got it!” And she (it?) goes for the attack.

    Buffy’s attack forces the vampire to release her hold on Xander. He crashes onto the ground beside Anya.

    The Buffybot and the vampire continue to trade blows. They seem evenly matched at first, although the vampire gains the advantage. And then much like the other vampire earlier in the episode, this one picks Buffy up.

    Spike charges into battle, punching the vampire until he drops Buffybot. But the vampire bests Spike and knocks him to the ground, beside Xander and Anya.

    However, Spike’s distraction gave the Buffybot time to recover and stake the vampire.

    After Buffy dusts the vampire, she says

    BUFFY (cont'd) (to vamp): That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, Bingo!

    It’s certainly one of the more bizarre things that Buffy has said, but then as it is about to be finally revealed, this is not Buffy.

    This bizarre phrasing also unnerves the Scoobies. They can’t pretend that things are normal and right.

    Willow has now come down from her perch, although we don’t see her jump down as mentioned in the script. She’s helping the other Scoobies up.

    And even though the battle is done, people are still turning to Willow to solve things and be the brains of the outfit.

    SPIKE: What's with the Dadaism, Red?

    TARA: Yeah. She says that pie thing every time she stakes a vamp now.

    WILLOW: I don't know. I was trying to program in some new puns and I kind of ended up with word salad.
    And there it is,the first clear line that we’re not dealing with Buffy, but an artificial being – someone whose sense of humour can be “programmed”. Viewers who were familiar with season five would definitely realize that this was not Buffy, but the BuffyBot.

    There are yet more callbacks to season three’s opening episodes. First, there’s the imagery of the Scoobies thrown to the ground. The same thing happened in the opening of Marti Noxon’s “Dead Man’s Party”. Buffy returns to the Bronze just as the Scoobies (employing absurd code names like “Nighthawk” ) are trying to fill in as vampire slayers. The other Scoobies are all thrown to the ground. Buffy stakes the vampire and her friends look up – confused and amused, but appreciative that Buffy is back. Buffy responds with a strained , trying-to-hard but also very human quip of “Hey, guys!”

    Willow obviously perceives Buffy’s quips as an important part of her character. When filling in for the absent Buffy in the season three opener “Anne”, Willow greets a newly-risen vampire by saying “That’s right, Big Boy. Come and get it.” After the vampire gets away, Xander calls Willow on the absurdity of the line.

    XANDER: Okay, and the second problem I'm having . . . (turns to Willow) "Come and get it big boy"?

    WILLOW: (defensively) Well, well, the slayer always says a pun or a witty play on words and I think it throws vampires off and makes them frightened that I'm wisecracking and okay, I didn't really have time to work on that one but you try it every time!

    Right here, we see the problem with both Willow and the Buffybot’s punning “time to work on it” – something rehearsed, planned, memorized. Buffy’s witticisms were usually spontaneous. (Okay, really it was Joss Whedon and others trying to come up with gags that sound spontaneous.) Buffy was authentic. Willow and the Buffybot are trying to play a role.

    It’s a shame that Willow didn’t program Oz’s season three suggestion into the Buffybot’s repertoire of heroic puns.

    OZ: Uh, if I may suggest: 'This time it's personal.' I mean, there's a reason why it's a classic.

    XANDER: I've always been amazed with how Buffy fought, but in a way, I feel like we took her punning for granted.

    WILLOW: Xander, past tense rule.

    XANDER: Oh, sorry. I just meant we in the past took it for granted and, uh . . . we won't when she gets back.
    Back then, Buffy was gone in the sense of being out of town. Now, she is most definitely past tense. And will remain so for about another forty minutes. (Or about an hour if you’re watching with commercials.)

    Of course, the BuffyBot likes Willow’s pre-programmed puns. How could she not? The BuffyBot proudly declares “I think it’s funny.”

    And that seals the deal, she’s not Buffy. The Scoobies start talking as if the robotic Buffy isn’t there.

    WILLOW: It's a glitch, I'll fix it.
    GILES: We just can't have her messing up in front of the wrong person. Or wrong thing. We, we need the,the world and the underworld to believe that Buffy is alive and well.

    Ah, some things never change. We can always count on Giles to provide some much needed exposition. It’s a good thing he’s not going anywhere. What? Damn.

    Anyway, we now know that only the Scoobies know that Buffy is really dead. Well, the Scoobies and anyone who happens to visit Buffy’s tombstone. More on that in a while.

    But Giles is doing more than just filling the home audience in what’s been going on. He is acknowledging a fundamental truth. One that hits all the Scoobies during this scene.

    Giles is also demanding a lot of Willow. Fix the BuffyBot. She must be perfect. It’s a lot of pressure to put on Willow. After all, without Willow’s direction and leadership in this teaser, it’s likely the Scoobies would have been killed. Now she has to program gags into a robot. Way to delegate, Mr. Watcher. And you can hear the annoyed stress in Willow’s reaction.

    WILLOW: And I will therefore fix it. I got her head back on, didn't I? And I got her off those knock-knock jokes.
    BUFFYBOT: Ooh, who's there?
    Willow glares at the Bot – great, another thing she has to do. Giles rolls his head back in frustration and criticism of Willow. (He was far more supportive of the real Buffy when she didn’t get things right.)

    There’s tension in the Scoobies, and Xander reverts to his classic class-clown role.

    XANDER: You know, if we want her to be exactly-
    Even though the Scoobies were just talking about programming better puns into the BuffyBot, the last thing they want right now is one of Xander’s jokes. I’d be curious to know what he was going to say, but Spike cuts Xander off. A joke wouldn’t release tension – just heighten it.

    SPIKE: She'll never be exactly.
    XANDER: I know.
    Look at Xander’s face – all trace of humour gone.

    Tara tries to sum up what they are feeling her own word-salady way.

    TARA: The only really real Buffy is really Buffy.
    But Giles concludes her thought – not with the sesquipedalian loquaciousness of his usual exposition, but simply and bluntly.

    GILES: And she's gone.

    Anthony Stewart Head plays it as the reality is hitting him all over again as he speaks those words.

    The Scoobies had been walking alongside the BuffyBot. Now, they move ahead and they leave the BuffyBot by herself. She’s oblivious to the import of life and death. All she (it?) knows are memorized routines and jokes. She thinks this whole conversation is a part of the knock-knock joke.

    BUFFYBOT: 'If we want her to be exactly she'll never be exactly I know the only really real Buffy is really Buffy and she's gone' who?

    While the robot slayer might not receive an answer, her “Who?” question is answered for the viewers. We cut to the opening credits which features of montage of the very much alive Buffy.

    But more on the opening credits next time.

    I’d like to look at an aspect of this teaser.

    We see the heroes carry on without Buffy. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve seen it before in other episodes when Buffy has been out of town. But “Anne” and “Dead Man’s Party” were three years ago. That’s three years in which the Scooby Gang have evolved from emotional support to an effective fighting force.

    Back the beginning of season three, Willow could barely float pencils. At the end of season five, we saw her hold her own against a hell-god. While Giles, Xander and Anya’s abilities haven’t grown quite so exponentially, we saw their skills grow. I think only Tara has not slain a vampire at this point (and notice what’s changed when she finally does have her first kill.) And yet there is Spike. Spike’s fought multiple demons at once. He’s killed two slayers – fighters who are by definition more powerful than the average vampire.

    The night of the episode one fan wrote on

    However, if Spike continues to be no more effective a fighter than Xander and Tara, I just might call for his stakeage myself. Or at least, for him to go evil again so he can return to full competency.
    How strange that Buffy herself would make a similar remark the following season.

    The Scoobies of early season three were high school students. The Scoobies of early season six are not. So, why do they have so much trouble fighting two vampires? These are not super-strong and savage vampires like Luke from “Welcome to the Hellmouth”. They aren’t super-smart vampires like Darla. They aren’t the Lord of the Rings Uruk-hai rip-offs from season seven, the Turok-Han. No, these are two normal, non-speaking vampire extras. Spike should be able to defeat both by himself. So should Willow. And I wouldn’t really bet against any of the Scoobies normally.

    It reminds me of the season four episode “Superstar”. Jonathan recreated the world so that he was the best of everything. All of Buffy’s past victories (killing the Master, the Judge, the Mayor) were now Jonathan’s victories. Buffy’s ineffectualness was emphasized by saying she could handle at least two vampires.

    So, are the Scoobies under some kind of spell that robs them of their intelligence, their super-powers, their skill?


    The Scoobies have lost something much more precious. The heart and more centre of the Scooby Gang is gone. Without Buffy to inspire them to be their best selves, the Scoobies cannot compete.

    This idea of losing strength and hope when the leader dies or is absent was also explored in the 1980s TV series Robin of Sherwood.

    There is a tease of this in the second season episode “The Children of Israel”. The outlaws have split into two groups to cover each of the roads that sheriff may be travelling on. The plan is that whoever spots the sheriff will send a signal arrow to summon the other half of the outlaws. But the argumentative Will Scarlet is leading the Robinless group and he tells his comrades not to send the signal arrow. He wants to show Robin that they can have a victory on their own.

    TUCK: All of us? Against that lot?

    WILL SCARLET: Four or seven? What’s the difference?

    LITTLE JOHN: Robin.
    Will eventually wins them over. It does not go well. The sheriff is able to drive off Will and the outlaws. Tuck is seriously wounded. That was one battle. Soon the “Merry Men” (a term that only appears once in the series as a derisive remark from the sheriff) would have to do without Robin for much longer.

    While filming the second season, lead actor Michael Praed announced he was leaving the production to star in a laughably ill-fated Broadway musical version of The Three Musketeers. The show would have to carry on without a Robin Hood. Or would it?

    Robin Hood has changed many times over the centuries. He was a yeoman in the early tales, a description that could mean many different things, but roughly equates to a member of the middle-class. In the 16th century, there were references to Robin Hood really being a nobleman – the Earl of Huntingdon (or Huntington, depending on the tale.)

    In Robin of Sherwood, Robin of Loxley was chosen by the pagan god Herne the Hunter to be the people’s champion. Praed played Robin like a student protest leader. In the final episode of the second season, Praed’s Loxley sacrifices his life so that his wife Marion and his foster-brother Much can escape the sheriff’s clutches.

    Herne summons another to take on the mantle of the “Hooded Man”. This mysterious stranger rescues Robin’s band. At the episode’s end as the outlaws shoot flaming arrows into the pond as tribute to their fallen leader, this mysterious hooded man joins them.

    Viewers would have to wait a year to discover who this hooded man really was.

    The third and final season of Robin of Sherwood picks up right where the last one left off. Except this mysterious hooded man does not stick around. Instead he leaves his bow and arrow at Herne’s feet. He says farewell to outlaw life.

    After the opening credits, the story resumes a year later. We find out that mysterious hooded man was Robert, son of the powerful Earl of Huntingdon. We also learn that Robin Hood’s old gang had scattered during the missing year. (“Some say there was a quarrel,” as a village leader later tells Robert.)

    However, Robin’s widow Marion has been pardoned. She attends a party at Huntingdon Castle. Robert falls in love with her. So does a psychotic Marcher Lord Owen of Clun. Owen kidnaps Marion. And Marion’s father bankrupts himself in a failed rescue attempt.

    Robert decides he must gather Robin Hood’s old band of outlaws back together to rescue Marion. He finds Friar Tuck easy enough. But it’s harder to win over Little John – who wants nothing to do with his old life and certainly nothing to do with over-privileged nobles like Robert.

    LITTLE JOHN: You’re all the same, aren’t you? We saved Marion’s father once. Did he join us? No. We bought his way back into favour with King John. Were we pardoned? No. Did Sir Richard lift a finger to help us? We’re still looking over our shoulders, aren’t we? Still outlaws. Still on the run. And you come here?

    ROBERT OF HUNTINGDON: You believed in Robin, didn’t you?

    LITTLE JOHN: Yes, I did.

    ROBERT: Why?

    LITTLE JOHN: Because the fire burned bright in him. And for a while it warmed us all. Now he’s gone. And the fire went with him. It’s all over.

    Robert and Tuck eventually win over Little John and Much. When they find Will Scarlet, he’s an angry drunk. He not only doesn’t want to return to the old ways. He doesn’t think he’s capable of becoming the man he once was.

    ROBERT: Scarlet, we need you.

    WILL SCARLET: If we did get into Clun Castle, you wouldn’t get out.

    ROBERT: We must.

    WILL (to others): Doesn’t understand, does he? (To Robin and everyone). We’re not sharp anymore! Not like we were! I mean look at us! Look at me! Do you really think you would have beaten me if I hadn’t have been drunk? (To Little John and Much) Look at you two. Been sitting on your bums for a year looking at sheep! And Tuck! Been stuffing your belly full of venison and sleeping all day. We used to be fast! Fast as wolves. No one could take us. We could go anywhere. Do anything. We’ve lost it.

    ROBERT: No, Scarlet. Nothing’s forgotten. Nothing’s ever forgotten.

    WILL: What did you say?

    ROBERT: You heard me.

    WILL: No, it wasn’t you I heard.

    ROBERT: Does it matter?
    In Will Scarlet and Robin Hood’s first meeting, they bonded over shared tragedies. Both repeated the phrase “Nothing’s forgotten.” And Michael Praed’s Robin of Loxley had said in several times.

    So, Will does rejoin the outlaws. They rescue Marion. They give Sir Richard money to pay his debts. And the people of Nottinghamshire celebrated the return of “Robin Hood”. Soon even the band started to call Robert “Robin”.

    And yet in a later episode, when Robert was wounded, the outlaws started quarrelling again. It was as if they needed a moral centre, an inspiration – a fire – to be their best selves. And that was Robin Hood – whether Loxley or Huntingdon.

    Or was it? Perhaps it was the pardoning of Marion that truly broke up Robin’s band. They reformed to rescue her. And it’s only when she rejoins the outlaws full time that the outlaw band becomes whole again.

    But whether it is Robin of Loxley, Robert of Huntingdon or Marion of Leaford, the outlaws of Sherwood needed someone to inspire them. The Scoobies need an inspiration too.

    Buffy gives the Scoobies whatever it is they need to be that much faster, stronger, smarter. That ability to “go anywhere, do anything.”

    One of the tantalizing elements of those Robin of Sherwood episodes and with the opening of “Bargaining” is that we get glimpses of a missing time. We wonder what did our heroes do during that summer or year.

    That feeling also comes through in another famous literary resurrection – that of Sherlock Holmes.

    Sherlock Holmes was created by Arthur Conan Doyle and first appeared in the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual which featured Conan Doyle’s short novel A Study in Scarlet. Another novel followed and then Conan Doyle wrote several Sherlock Holmes short stories for The Strand Magazine. They were wildly popular. People lined up around the block to buy the latest adventure. Everyone loved Sherlock Holmes.

    Except for Arthur Conan Doyle.

    In the December 1893 issue of the Strand Magazine Conan Doyle killed off his creation in a short story entitled The Final Problem. In what was meant to be the final Holmes story ever, Conan Doyle added a wonderful new character to the canon Professor Moriarty, the so-called “Napoleon of Crime”. Moriarty was the archetypal Big Bad. Although not mentioned in any of the preceding stories, Holmes had been moving against Moriarty’s criminal gang for some time. Finally Holmes had obtained the evidence that would put Moriarty and his miscreants behind bars.

    However, Moriarty escaped arrest. Sherlock Holmes and his friend and colleague Doctor John Watson fled for their lives, with Moriarty following close behind. Finally, the chase led them to the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Watson is lured away, and when he returns, he finds a letter from Holmes. Moriarty had caught up with them. Watson, who narrates nearly all the Holmes stories, surmised what had happened.

    A few words may suffice to tell the little that remains. An examination by experts leaves little doubt that a personal contest between the two men ended, as it could hardly fail to end in such a situation, in their reeling over, locked in each other's arms. Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless, and there, deep down in that dreadful caldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time the most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of the law of their generation.
    And that appeared to be the end of the man that Watson said he “shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.”

    For years Conan Doyle resisted pleas to bring Holmes back. Doyle was more interested in writing historical romances. Readers weren’t.

    Finally Conan Doyle brought Homes back. Sort of. Conan Doyle published a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the most famous of them all, The Hound of the Baskervilles, serialized in the Strand Magazine between August 1901 and April 1902. Holmes wasn’t brought back to life. This was merely positioned as untold adventure from before Holmes’ death.

    And the crowd went wild. In 1902, he received a knighthood becoming “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”. The following year, “Sir Arthur” bought a motor-car, at a time when such a purchase was like owing a private jet.

    Whether through artistic impulse or through avarice, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought Holmes back for good the following year in a short story called “The Adventure of the Empty House.”

    In one sense, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a much harder task than Joss Whedon. There was no magic in the Sherlock Holmes universe. To quote from the later “Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” (which turns out not to be a vampire:

    “Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven through their hearts? It’s pure lunacy.”

    “But surely,” said I, “the vampire was not necessarily a dead man? A living person might have the habit. I have read, for example, of the old sucking the blood of the young in order to retain their youth.”

    “You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of these references. But are we to give serious attention to such things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.
    But then no ghosts or blood rituals were needed. Neither Dr. Watson nor the readers actually saw Holmes die. Dawn witnessed Buffy jump to her death. The Scoobies found her body. But Sherlock Holmes’ body was never found, and his death was the result of poetic conjecture.

    And so, it turned out that Holmes had won his duel with Moriarty. But when he realized that Moriarty’s men were still about, Holmes perpetuated the ruse of his death. Holmes spent the next three years travelling under various false identities, including that of the Norwegian explorer named Sigerson.

    But what of faithful old Watson? Like the Scooby Gang, he attempted to carry on the good work.

    It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes had interested me deeply in crime, and that after his disappearance I never failed to read with care the various problems which came before the public, and I even attempted more than once for my own private satisfaction to employ his methods in their solution, though with indifferent success.

    One investigation intrigued Watson more than all others -- the murder of Ronald Adair. Watson went to the scene of the crime. There, he bumped into a kindly old bookseller. This bookseller was Sherlock Holmes in disguise. Holmes followed Watson back to his lodging and revealed his true identity. And so, the crime-fighting partnership was renewed. Things were back to normal.

    Well, not quite.

    The second Sherlock Holmes story published concludes with Doctor Watson getting engaged to Mary Morstan. Many of the stories make mention of Watson’s marriage, including “The Final Problem” (which establishes that Mrs. Watson was away on a visit). But when Sherlock Holmes returns to Baker Street in 1893, Watson moves back in with him. Watson leaves again to get married a decade later.

    So, what happened to Mary Morstan? There’s one moment in “The Adventure of the Empty House” that alludes to this. Sherlock Holmes described his personal adventures over the course of a few pages. But of the major change in his life, Watson and Holmes only say this:

    In some manner he had learned of my own sad bereavement, and his sympathy was shown in his manner rather than in his words. “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson,” said he, “and I have a piece of work for us both to-night which, if we can bring it to a successful conclusion, will in itself justify a man’s life on this planet.”
    The probable death of Mrs. Watson is simply described as a “sad bereavement”.

    Of course, fans have supplied more details – in academic papers, fan fiction and professionally published fan fiction. People want to know what really happened to Watson’s wife. What other cases did Watson take on during the Great Hiatus? Where else did Holmes travel to undercover. (One fan novel has him coming to America and meeting up with Lizzie Borden.)

    So too, the Summer Without Buffy has sparked much speculation, fan fiction and even a few comic book adventures.

    I’ll be looking at each of the Scoobies and what they did over the summer over the next few parts starting with Xander.

    The 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer, featuring some obscure actress named Sarah Michelle Gellar, was about four teenagers haunted by a body. A death psychologically scars each of them. And so too each of our Scoobies are haunted by their experience of Buffy’s death.

    That cheery rumination will lead off the next installment – tomorrow.


    • #3
      Buffy the Vampire Slayer
      Season Six Rewatch
      “Bargaining Part 1”
      Part B

      Last time I explored the episode’s pre-credit teaser. This time I begin to look at act one. But there’s something to get out of the way first – the opening credits.

      Normally we just breeze past the opening credits, but there are a few notable changes this time.

      The credit order goes Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy … But wait, Buffy’s dead. So, the number one living character in the credits is Nicholas Brendon as Xander.

      I Know What You Did Last Summer: Xander Harris

      And let’s start with the Scooby who was designated “the heart” of the team back in season four’s Super Slayer Combo spell – Xander Harris.

      In “The Gift” we learned what Xander – what all the Scoobies – failed to do, which was to save Buffy and keep her alive.

      This loss might have affected Xander most of all, but not just because Xander had romantic feelings for Buffy. In the first season finale, Xander gave Buffy the breath of life and brought her back from her first death at the hands of the Master. In the third season finale, Xander was the “key guy” in leading an army of Sunnydale students against the Mayor’s monster hordes. And it was Xander who suggested the Combination Buffy spell that saved the day in the fourth season finale.

      And these great saves – and so many in the intervening episodes – may be how Xander defined himself. He was the guy who helped save the day. Except for the times he didn’t.

      Xander had a key role in the second season finale too, but it wasn’t quite a heroic one. He deliberately withheld vital information from Buffy – that Willow was planning to restore Angel’s soul. That lie, and the possible repercussions from it, were never again explored in the TV series, aside from one throwaway line in the seventh season. It showed that Xander could have a very dark side when he doesn’t get his way.

      And with Buffy’s death in “The Gift”, he most assuredly did not get his way.

      We also learn in “Bargaining” something else that Xander did not do. He didn’t marry Anya. He didn’t even tell anyone about his engagement. More on this later.

      So, what did Xander do?

      One possible answer can be found in the official – but not yet canonical – comics being published by Dark Horse Comics.

      The comics timeline lagged behind the TV show. They caught up to the summer of Buffy’s death in the spring of 2002, several months after her TV resurrection.

      The first of the comics set in the Summer Without Buffy was Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lost and Found, a special one-shot comic book (also subtitled The Death of Buffy). It was first published on March 13, 2002 – the day after that cheery episode “Normal Again” first aired. Lost and Found was written by Fabian Nicieza who was well-known (although not particularly well-liked) as the writer of the popular X-Men comics of the early 1990s. The artist (or penciller) was Cliff Richards who was responsible for many Buffy comics back in the old non-canonical days. Richards had been drawing the monthly Buffy comic for nearly two-and-half years at this point. The story is primarily narrated by Dawn.

      Dawn pegs Xander as Mr. Work.

      Xander’s at his construction day-job when a colleague unearths an artefact – an artefact that reminds Xander far too much of his night-job.

      Xander takes it back to the Magic Box to study.

      Of course, as always happens with ancient magical artefacts, wackiness ensues. The coffin was a prison for Veeya, a demon that was the offspring of a human and fertility goddess. She’s also an old friend of Xander’s secret fiancée Anya.

      A demon that feeds off the despair as a result of tragic loss? How convenient. Of course, the Scoobies provide a five-course meal for the demon. And Xander is one of her victims.

      That awkward moment gives Dawn the clue to defeat the demon. The demon can’t distinguish between the feelings that Xander has for Buffy and true romantic love. (Although Dawn notes that we humans blur such distinctions too. )

      The Scoobies switch from feeling sadness at Buffy’s death to the joyous happiness of having known Buffy in the first place. Veeya is defeated.

      Even rivals Xander and Spike worked together – leading to a WTF moment when the two men were holding hands as allies in their love for Buffy. Of course, it could also be read as a slightly offensive moment of gay panic or even an homage to the Spander fandom that was growing at the time.

      That odd couple’s relationship was very different in the comics that followed.

      The following month Dark Horse Comics published issue 43 of its monthly ongoing Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, the first part of a three issue story arc also titled “The Death of Buffy”. Cliff Richards continued to supply the art, along with inkers Joe Pimentel and Will Conrad. But the writer was Tom Fassbender, who had been the regular writer on the Buffy comic for just over a year.

      Fassbender’s grieving Scoobies were much darker, nastier and more disturbed than Nicieza’s had been.

      The comic picks up a “couple of weeks” after Buffy’s death. The Scoobies are doing their bit to fight the monster population of Sunnydale and failing. Even though the Scoobies have convened a meeting to talk about Dawn’s troubles at school, Xander can let go of his anger and resentment of how things have been going.

      Anger is an obvious emotion for Xander to feel. After all, we saw him punch a wall in reaction to Joyce’s death. And his temper was flaring up to pound some doctors as well. Xander grew up in an abusive home. He got a steady diet of anger from his father. We’ve seen Xander’s resentment of Angel and Spike in the TV series.

      What Xander did next resembles very much a scene in “Entropy”, an episode that aired a few weeks after the first issue of “The Death of Buffy” had been published. Xander tried to kill Spike.

      Xander got the upper hand again, and was about to deliver a killing blow when Willow burst in and stopped her best friend.

      It seems out of character for Xander to hate Spike that much, but I’ll explore some of the reasons why when I look at Spike’s summer without Buffy.

      Later the Scoobies discover the Buffybot. Xander agrees he can contribute to repairing the bot. This makes sense as he’ll give the bot a tune-up in “Bargaining”.

      Later in the story arc, Xander takes Anya out for dinner. But his anger and resentment are still present.

      And after this romantic date, Xander goes around to Willie’s Place to have another go at killing Spike. But this time his heart isn’t in it. (What was up with Xander, was that hand-holding moment haunt in his sleep?)

      And when Willow first proposes bringing Buffy back, Xander’s response is less than supportive.

      Fassbender certainly portrayed Xander at his absolute worst. But he left out one of the main canonical things we know that Xander did during the summer. And it’s something that goes all the way back to Xander’s first appearance.

      When we first Xander, he’s skateboarding to school. His first words are to tell extras that he’s “coming through”, but his first words to a regular character are to Willow.

      XANDER: Willow! You're so very much the person that I wanted to see! (gets up)

      WILLOW: Oh, really?

      XANDER: Yeah. You know, I kinda had a problem with the math.

      WILLOW: Uh, which part?

      XANDER: The math. Can you help me out tonight, pleeeease, be my study buddy?

      WILLOW: Well, what's in it for me?

      XANDER: A shiny nickel!

      Before they met a super-powered slayer and a book-learned Watcher, what were the dynamics of their group? Willow was the brains. Jesse seems even more the class-clown than Xander. Was Xander the brawn? Whatever the case, Xander looked to Willow as the one who could fix things. That changed when they met an actual superhero. But Willow still remained the super-brains of the operation – showing even more practical knowledge than Giles with her hacker skills. By the end of season two, Willow was on her way to gaining superpowers of her own – picking up magical knowledge. However, as she tries to use her knowledge to restore Angel’s soul, she’s critically injured and lands in the hospital. This triggers an emotional crisis in Xander.

      In “Becoming Part 2”, Xander eloquently talks about his need for Willow.

      Xander: Come on, Will. Look, you don't have a choice here. You gotta wake up. I need you, Will. I mean, how am I gonna pass trig, you know? And who am I gonna call every night... and talk about everything we did all day? You're my best friend. You've always...I love you.
      And the next season, Xander and Willow decided to explore those feelings in a less than platonic way. Unfortunately they were both dating other people at the time. When their secret smoochies were discovered, Cordelia was critically injured as a result.

      Willow and Xander grew more distant then. Willow said it was to show her fidelity to Oz. But also, people suffered when she and Xander got too close. And yet while we don’t get as many close scenes as early episodes, Xander still calls Willow his best friend in “Triangle”. He’s really torn when Anya and Willow do not get along.

      So, when Buffy died in “The Gift”, it’s only natural that Xander would turn to Willow, his childhood best friend, who was always there for him – aside from that one period of estrangement after he stole her Barbie.

      Xander promotes Willow to be the Scoobies’ new leader, even making a plaque that says “boss of us”.

      It’s a natural choice, but it’s also a change from how Xander once viewed Willow in contrast to Buffy. In the second season episode “Phases” Cordelia criticizes Xander “Because when you're not babbling about poor, defenseless Willow, you are raving about the all-powerful Buffy.” Back then Xander placed both Buffy and Willow on pedestals, but very different ones. He wanted Willow’s help, but he always saw her as someone needing protection.

      Now Willow is stepping into the all-powerful role. After she’s installed as leader, Xander is not going to Willow for help. She’s coming to him for help. And she’s giving him orders,

      Being a best friend and “boss of us” are very different propositions. It’s likely that Xander was more supportive of her leadership at first and that his feelings soured over time. The comic books aren’t much help on this score. They don’t depict the moment Xander elevated Willow to her role as boss. In the comics Willow is already giving orders and Xander is actively challenging them.

      In the comics, the gang seems mostly leaderless. But who would have taken charge of the gang after the last moment of “The Gift”. Who else is there? Tara was recovering from Glory. Spike was soulless, and a rebel more than a leader. Like Giles, Spike is too grief-stricken. That leaves only two people – Xander and Willow. And we already saw in “The Weight of the World” when Buffy was out of action, Xander deferred to Willow to do something.

      Rather than being promoted after weeks of leaderless activities, Xander may likely have given Willow an on-the-spot battlefield promotion to team leader. She could fix things – maybe not everything but at least keep the Scoobies running. Xander would be far too insecure to think of himself for the job. Xander’s often said he’s not smart like Willow. And he would have reasoned that the Scoobies would be more likely to listen to Willow than him. Xander expresses astonishment when the other Scoobies listen to him at all.

      Unfortunately we only really come in at the end of the arrangement, Willow’s final days as substitute Buffy. The relationship is already strained. Xander’s first words to Willow in this episode are to castigate her for getting inside his head. And when Willow announces that they’ll be bringing back Buffy tomorrow, Xander starts to look at Willow as if she’s Captain Queeg. (Captain of the USS Caine in the novel and film The Caine Mutiny.)

      The relationship between Xander and Willow helps shape this episode. And this season, if it didn’t get sidetracked in drug analogies and such.

      Speaking about Xander and Willow, let’s return to the Buffy opening credits where they have stood side-by-side for five seasons.

      The opening credit sequence goes Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield… Wait, what? Fans’ hearts skipped a few beats. Was Alyson Hannigan leaving? It had already been announced that Anthony Stewart Head’s Giles would be only a recurring character this season. Was Willow leaving too?

      Oh, wait. There’s Alyson Hannigan’s credit at the end. She’s got the starring/as credit that Anthony Stewart Head used to have.

      During her credit we see both scary, angry “I owe you pain”/”bag of knives” Willow, and the more traditional happy, smiling Willow. It signals Willow’s changing role throughout the season.

      Some fans were upset. Not just about Giles leaving the show, but that Willow had been moved from third position to last place. I can remember one poster (I wish I could find it) who was outraged at this slap in the face to Alyson Hannigan. This poster had to be assured by others that this was in fact a promotion and that Hannigan’s agent pushed hard for it.

      What I could find online were fans of the time arguing whether or not Alyson Hannigan deserved the special “and/as” credit. Some felt it was deserved because Willow was one of the breakout characters. Others thought she got the billing because of her success in the American Pie films. (American Pie 2 opened in August 2001 was the 2nd highest-grossing R-rated film that year. The production budget was $30 and it grossed $287 million worldwide.) Others were offended that anything as low-class as American Pie 2 could possibly affect the Buffy credits.

      But there was also a discussion around what the and/as credit should represent. For some it was merely a “and we’re lucky to have them in our show” acknowledgement. But others felt the role itself needed to be substantially different. The most often-cited role in this argument was Martin Sheen who played President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet in NBC’s political drama The West Wing. It’s third season began on October 3, 2001, the same night as “Bargaining”, except they side-stepped the proper season premiere to show a hastily made episode addressing the events of the 9/11 attacks. The usual credits had been replaced with phone numbers to make charitable donations. (What I remember most about this episode is that it perpetuated the anger-inducing persistent myth that the 9/11 terrorists had come into the United States from Canada. The fictional terrorists in the West Wing world crossed over the equally fictional Ontario/Vermont border.)

      Fans argued that the reason Sheen had this credit is that the West Wing was truly about the president’s staff. The president stood apart from the rest of the characters. So did Giles as the adult mentor of the teenaged Scooby Gang. And so do Clark Kent’s foster parents who scored the with and and/as credits over on Smallville.

      These fans pointed out that Willow was just one of the Scoobies – a well-liked, well-acted, important member of the gang, but not one who stood far apart. “it just looks goofy and awkward to separate her from the other scoobies like that. But I'm talking aesthetics, not contracts, foolish me.”

      There is another class of character that often receives the and/as credit – the villain. Of course back when “Bargaining” aired, no one saw Willow in that role, even though many had guessed where the season might be heading.

      Fans were also irritated that one other name was missing from the opening credits, but I’ll get to her in a moment.

      There’s one other curious element of the opening credits. It’s that dramatic pose of Buffy at the end. The one that always goes with the “Created by Joss Whedon” credit.

      This is not Buffy. It’s the BuffyBot from “The Gift”. Now this could have been a brilliant one-episode substitution to signify Buffy is temporary dead and that the Bot has taken her place. But it’s not. This credit lasts the whole season. And in season seven, the “Created by Joss Whedon” credit appears over an image of the First Evil impersonating Buffy.

      It’s probably just a coincidence. But part of me wonders if the person designing the opening credits is commenting on Joss Whedon’s changing role in these final two years. Or maybe the person designing the credits was saying that something about the show has changed. Maybe the message is “The only really real Buffy the Vampire Slayer is really the the WB Buffy … and she’s gone.”

      Now that the main credit sequence is done, we can dispense with our extended and likely tedious discussion of billing and return to the episode proper. We open with a familiar shot of the Summers residence at 1630 Revello Drive. Superimposed over this shot is the new Special Guest Star credit for Anthony Stewart Head. Sorry. We’re not quite done talking about billing yet.

      It was a little strange to see Anthony Stewart Head as just a guest star, even if a special one.

      There is a precedent for “special guest stars” appearing in the opening credits. In the 1960s sci-fi series Lost in Space the villainous character Dr. Zachary Smith was added to the show after the original pilot was shot. As a result actor Jonathan Harris would have to accept last place in the credits. Harris looked for a way to make his credit standout.

      Harris pushed to be billed as “Special Guest Star” in the opening credits – in every single episode. Harris rewrote his lines, transforming the character into a comic foil. Dr. Smith soon became Lost in Space’s main character, while still being billed only as a special guest star.

      Xander makes a Dr. Smith reference in the Buffy novel Child of the Hunt, but Giles doesn’t get it. He explains that growing up in Britain they had Doctor Who, not Dr. Smith.

      After the special guest star credits, we get the normal guest stars. There are only two. Franc Ross who plays Razor, leader of the demon biker gang, and Amber Benson “as Tara”.

      Yes. She’s still just a guest star.

      Some fans were not happy. Hell, 15 years later there are still fans not happy that Amber Benson is just a guest star in all her appearances except “that” episode. She’s not even a special guest star. “Oh, the pain. The pain,” as Dr. Smith would say.

      In a 2001 interview in Steppin’ Out, Amber Benson claimed that it was her decision not to be in the opening credits.
      Q: I heard that when Buffy switched over from the WB Network to UPN that the people at UPN bought the whole cast lavish gifts. True or false?
      A: Well I chose not to be a series regular, so I don't get the gifts or the big salary. But I also have the ability to go out and do movies in the middle of the season, which is really nice. If you give your heart and soul to Buffy, then you give your heart and soul to Buffy. But I didn't want to be in that place because my real love is film.
      Fans didn’t buy it. After all, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan had more successful movie careers while Buffy was on the air. So, there were other theories.

      There were rumours that it was about money. One poster said when James Marsters was promoted, producers discovered that they had to pay him for every episode whether he was in it or not. That seemed unlikely. Surely the producers would have known how those contracts work.

      More fans raised the possibility that Tara was going to die. Gossip-monger Wanda had started posting early in the season that another Scooby was going to die by season’s end. Many felt that the guest star credit marked Tara out for death. But other fans dismissed this as too obvious. And that it would send the wrong signal to kill off one of TV’s few successful lesbian couples. More on that later this season, I’m sure.

      So, now we’re done with the billing we can get back to the episode.

      We begin at the Summers residence. And yet, the first people we see there are not members of the Summers family.

      Willow is peaking under the bed, looking for her clog. She suspects that there is a clog eating monster under the bed.

      As Willow gets up, the script says “We see that Joyce's bedroom has been transformed - it's clearly now the domain of Willow and Tara. Full of all kinds of cool lesbo/witch stuff.”

      When I first read that description, I remembered Willow’s icy line in “The Yoko Factor” – “Witch stuff?”

      WILLOW: I think there's a clog-eating monster under the bed. It's really those lesser-known monsters that make living in Sunnydale so hard.

      TARA: I believe that that is a Dawn monster. She borrowed them yesterday.

      WILLOW: Dawnie? Hey, you up?
      Dawn’s room is connected to Willow and Tara’s master bedroom. This helps to establish the spatial relationships and also the emotional relationships. It should be clear to us that Willow and Tara are in what used to be Joyce’s room.

      Dawn’s room is different. It’s messy. And noticeably more pink. One of the things most clearly visible is a pink peace symbol. It’s a combination of the politics of flower children and the pastel colours of actual children. I wonder if it’s for a school project. Or if it’s the influence of Dawn’s mother – or her two new surrogate mothers.

      And as Willow turns away from Dawn’s room we get our first clear indication that Willow and Tara aren’t just crashing at the Summers residence temporarily. We saw Willow and Tara’s plush dog earlier. But it’s possible somebody might pack a toy animal for a weekend visit. The classier of what the script calls “cool lesbo/witch stuff”? That’s pretty hard to distinguish from the various items Joyce had from her gallery. As Giles mocked in “Dead Man’s Party”, “Do you like my mask? Isn't it pretty? It raises the dead!" But a large framed poster of orange cartoon cat? That doesn’t look like something from Joyce’s gallery and it doesn’t look like something one would pack for the weekend.

      As Willow and Tara proceed into the hall, we get a clear indication that the show has switched networks.

      TARA: You doing okay?
      WILLOW: Besides terror about today and a general feeling of impending doom? Swell.
      TARA: Breakfast will make all things better.
      WILLOW: Pancakes could go in bellies ...

      And there in less than eight minutes UPN has shown as many kisses between Willow and Tara as the WB had shown for over a season. Buffy’s old network was skittish about lesbian kissing. Their first on-screen kiss was in “The Body”, and done as this one to show emotional support. But there is a different dynamic at play here.

      Presumably Willow and Tara kissed all the time last season, and we were never privy to it. But perhaps the additional kisses mean that either their relationship is going really well – or that they want it to seem as if it’s going really well.

      Willow and Tara are sleeping in the bedroom of Dawn’s mother. Willow is searching for Dawn to talk about borrowing clothes. Tara will soon cook Dawn breakfast. They are acting as surrogate parents. Two lesbian witches raising a teenage girl. Back in 2001 this would still have been a radical idea. The 1989 children’s book Heather has Two Mommies by writer Leslea Newman and illustrator Diana Souza was prominent in the culture wars in the previous years. According to the America Library Association it was the ninth most challenged book between 1990-1999. A May 2003 Gallup poll had only 49% percent of respondents say that homosexual couples should have the legal right to adopt a child. 48% were opposed and 3% had no opinion. So, showing Willow and Tara raising Dawn would have offended a large portion of the audience. Especially when they were conspiring to keep Dawn from her father.

      Dawn obviously doesn’t have a problem with Willow and Tara’s sexuality. Her enthusiasm for their reconciliation in “Seeing Red” is infectious. But how does she feel about her mother being replaced – not by an older sister, but by two friends?

      According to the 2002 Lost and Found comic book written by Fabian Nicieza, Dawn felt like she was betraying Buffy by letting Willow and Tara stay in her mother’s room.

      Of course, a grieving teenager’s emotions would be complicated. We saw Dawn’s resentment of Buffy flare up last season. She must have expressed similar feelings toward Willow and Tara on occasion.

      There’s another issue that fans debated back in 2001. Are Willow and Tara paying rent? Those who believed they were freeloading off the Summers savings pointed out that they didn’t offer any money when finances were discussed in “Flooded”. The counter-argument runs that if Willow and Tara hadn’t been paying rent, Anya certainly would have made a pointed comment about it.

      But it goes beyond the issue of just rent.

      In season five and later in this season we see Buffy give up her normal life for Dawn. She quits school. She works dead-end jobs. Buffy sacrifices her hopes and dreams. But Willow and Tara both still go to college. And we don’t get the sense that raising Dawn has put them into any financial jeopardy at all. It looks like they are getting off easy compared to Buffy.

      I suppose the obvious reason why we don’t see Willow and Tara having quite the same life and fiscal hardships as Buffy is that is Buffy’s storyline, not Willow and Tara’s. To play the same story beats with Willow and Tara might diminish Buffy’s character arc. But by not depicting those issues, it does lend to the feeling that Willow and Tara are cuckoos in the Summers nest.

      Willow finds Dawn in the bathroom. She cheerfully but passive-aggressively hints that Dawn should return her clogs. You know, Willow has the mom routine down pretty well. Dawn denies having the clogs – maybe. She’s brushing her teeth and deliberately obscuring her response. Ah, just like a real family.

      Then these scenes of domesticity move to the kitchen. The BuffyBot isn’t in storage somewhere waiting for another battle. She’s making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (There was a time when you could actually take peanut butter sandwiches to school. I believe they’ve now been banned out of concern for allergies.) She’s not just a vampire-slaying tool. She’s part of the family unit.

      When Tara enters the kitchen and goes to the shove, she walks past the BuffyBot and says nothing. Although it looks like breakfast is already underway, so Tara may have said hi earlier. When Willow enters, she greets the BuffyBot.

      The BuffyBot responds with a supremely cheery “Morning!” (Something not in the original script, at least not the draft I saw on the internet.)

      It seems too perky and enthusiastic a response for the human Buffy. But for a moment, I wondered if the Bot was excited that she wasn’t being ignored. And then I remembered, that all of the Bot’s responses are programmed by Willow. If there’s an emotional response, it’s only the one that Willow thought the Bot should show.

      WILLOW: I was thinking we could go over your programming again.

      TARA: Again? You've done enough, sweetie. She's either ready to face this thing or she's not.
      Tara’s being a slightly overprotective girlfriend here. But she knows Willow and her tendency toward obsessive studying and perfectionism.

      Dawn comes in, and Tara offers her juice and says pancakes are on the way. “Funny shapes or rounds.”

      Dawn gives the answer that any kid trying to appear grown-up would. “Rounds are fine.”

      Dawn then asks a question, which Tara misunderstands but is very revealing in her answer.

      DAWN: Uh, what's up with the mega-witches?
      TARA: Oh, I don't know if you can call us mega, Willow maybe-

      It’s classic Tara to be insecure and self-effacing, but this seems a little forced. Like she’s trying to hard to be classic insecure Tara. It could just be natural defensiveness. She figures that Dawn might have uncovered the spell they are going to cast, and she’s denying it. But then she fingers Willow as a mega-witch. It’s almost like Tara is denying her own magical ability to disassociate herself from Willow.

      It turns out though that Tara didn’t know which witch was which. Dawn was referring to the sandWICHES that the BuffyBot was making. Tara is shocked when she sees how many there are.

      TARA: Oh! Oops, um ... she wanted to help, and I got her started, but then I forgot to un-start.
      Tara’s response works equally well whether referring to getting the Bot on sandwich-making duty or in teaching Willow spells, spells that Willow might be carrying too far.

      And with that, we hear a knock on the door and in walks Xander. If this were a 1970s American sitcom “filmed live before a studio audience” we’d hear cheers and applause at this point. And Xander actually seems to be playing to the crowd with a jokey and over-the-top innuendo.

      XANDER: (important voice) House o' chicks, relax. I'm a man and I have a tool! (sees Dawn) Tools. Lots of plural tools. In my toolbox.
      It wasn’t quite clear to me that Xander was walking back his phallic reference specifically because he saw Dawn instead of all the women’s faces. But Dawn is certainly amused by his face-saving efforts. It recalls the crush that Dawn used to have on Xander. In “Crush” Xander said “It's always been me! Big funny Xander!” But it was not just his sense of humour Dawn liked. In “Real Me”, she called out the fact that Xander treated everyone like an equal. And in this scene Xander is mocking and undercutting the sexist BS from macho men who might very well criticize a “house o’ chicks”. As much as Xander sometimes wishes there was a guy around to get his jokes, he’s not remotely threatened or disdainful of empowered self-sufficient women. Well, unless one of those empowered women proposes raising the dead.

      Xander might also be trying to play a bit of the clichéd dad figure for Dawn, to make up for her now deadbeat dad. Maybe Xander is trying to play a comically exaggerated version of his own father. Anthony Harris’s banter would be sexualized, but without the self-mockery that his son Xander has.

      Xander continues his faux-machismo with increasingly ridiculous expressions. “Ah! Sandwiches. Excellent. Men like sandwiches.”

      Willow is far too busy to be amused by big, funny Xander at this point.

      WILLOW: Help yourself. Really.
      Xander complies. Making the most ridiculous open-mouth display of sandwich eating ever.

      Willow remains all business.

      WILLOW: So what brings you so early, your macho-ness?

      XANDER: I brought that soldering wire you wanted for BuffyBot's tune-up
      Tara then scoops the pancakes onto Dawn’s plate. “You got funny shapes anyway. Sorry.” Like Tara was ever going to be able to make normal shaped pancakes. She’s got a funny-shaped view of life, and that’s one of Tara’s charms.

      Then the phone rings. The BuffyBot offers to get it, and the house o’ chicks say a panicked “No!” in unison.

      Willow looks at Dawn completely freaked.

      DAWN: Um ... it could be my dad. (to Willow) He said he'd call today.
      BUFFYBOT: I'll just say hello. He's my biological ancestor.
      BuffyBot’s manner – like Willow’s parody of the overly-literal Anya – fills no one with confidence. Willow takes the phone, and is relieved to find it’s Anya.

      Willow’s eyes grow wide. “Really? That's fantastic!” She then switches to a slightly more blaise tone. “Uh, Anya found that thing, for tonight.”

      Xander says in forced off-handedness “ Yeah? Great.” But the suspicious expression on his face shows he thinks it’s a much bigger deal. But he seems more concerned about what the BuffyBot might hear than what Dawn could learn.

      Willow shifts from the important to the trivial. She passes a message onto Xander.

      “And you're her sweet cookie-face.” She looks amused while saying it, but for a brief second Willow’s expression changes to “What nonsense did I just say?”

      Xander looks touched, but also plays too his over-the-top macho routine. “I go by many names.” He winks at the Bot.

      Dawn is confused. She asks “What’s tonight?” But her face says “Why are you all acting so weird?”

      Tara quickly lies. “Oh, just a Scooby meeting. Spike’ll be here with you.” And Dawn just seems to accept this. She doesn’t ask “if the meeting is so important, why is your most powerful ally on babysitting duty?” Then again, how many times have her and Spike been left out of meetings as Willow has planned Buffy’s resurrection? And Spike clearly needs no prompting to look after Dawn.

      When the phone call’s finished, Willow brings up a subject to Buffy … bot. It takes her a few beats to acknowledge that she’s talking to a machine. (Willow’s Buffy … bot isn’t in the original script online.)

      WILLOW: You know, Buffy ... bot ... maybe you should let the machine - uh, the other machine, answer the phone from now on. Okay?

      BUFFYBOT: Is my phone manner not correct?

      TARA: It's perfect. It's just ... we can't take the chance that Mr. Summers might talk to you and know something's wrong.

      XANDER: See, if he thought the real Buffy was gone, he could take Dawn away.

      DAWN: And I wanna stay here, with you and Willow and Tara. Understand?

      BUFFYBOT: (big smile) I do! I want you to stay here as well. You're my sister!

      Buffybot gives Dawn a heartfelt hug. Dawn accepts it, awkwardly, gratefully... The others watch sadly. They know it's a poor substitute for the real thing.

      No, she’s not your sister, BuffyBot. That’s the problem. You could say Dawn herself wasn’t really Buffy’s sister, but she was an insertion – not a substitution. In a way, the BuffyBot’s declaration and hug are as heartfelt and sincere as when the Bot used to declare “You’re the big bad Spike!” Both are the result of simple programming. Of course, some might argue that all human emotions are also the result of simple biochemistry, but genre shows thrive on telling us that humans have that little extra quality of imagination, inspiration, love that make us superior to vampires or bumpy-headed space aliens.

      Their lecture to the BuffyBot is also a lecture to the audience. We’re told that it’s Dawn’s choice to live in the house o’chicks and not with her father. And we learn that not even Buffy’s father knows that she’s really dead.

      That seems unfair. Not that Hank Summers would win father of the year award. Not that he should have guardianship of Dawn. But he’s not even allowed to grieve for his own daughter? The writers darkened Hank Summers’ reputation last season when he couldn’t even be reached about Joyce’s death. And that might have helped the decision. “If you didn’t care to know and act about that, why should we tell you about this?” But it’s still troubling. Hank is still apparently a better father than Xander or Tara’s dads are.

      And this exchange raises all sorts of questions around Buffy’s death. When did they decide to keep Buffy’s death a secret? Who decided that? Why? And if they were going to keep the death as a secret, why did they build a public tombstone with Buffy’s name on it.

      The real world answers to the last two questions are probably: “because having to deal with Buffy going through all the horrendous paperwork to legally bring herself back to life would consume all her time and we wouldn’t get to tell the stories we want to” and “because the grave made a dramatic shot last season and made the death seem real, logic be damned”. But what’s the in-story answers?

      Well, the answer to when did they decide is within a day or so of Buffy’s death. They’d had to have bribed some funeral directors, etc. to keep the death and funeral off of the books. I suppose it’s possible that Giles purchased a graveyard plot for Buffy in advance, knowing the usual fate of slayers. Xander used his super construction worker powers to fill in the final details on the tombstone. And they buried her by themselves in secret. However, they accomplished the secret burial, the fact that it was secret was an early decision.

      As for who decided to keep Buffy’s death a secret and why, I see two likely answers.

      1. Willow. Because she was already planning the resurrection and she knew that if everyone knew about Buffy’s death there would be no way that a resurrected Buffy could resume her normal life. (A reason that she’d share with the show’s writers.)

      2. Giles. Or at least the Watcher’s Council. Maybe it’s standard Watcher policy to keep the death of the slayer a secret. That allows time for the Watchers to train the next slayer. Or because Buffy’s identity was less secret than they’d have wished, maybe Giles wanted to keep the death a secret to protect Buffy’s family and friends. Or maybe he was keeping it a secret from the Watchers.

      So, why a tombstone? It’s obvious that the Scoobies would want to commemorate Buffy’s life and death. The gravestone is a place where they can grieve. A place where they can assure themselves that no matter what else happens, there’s a stone record of Buffy having lived and made a difference. If it was Giles and/or the Watchers who decreed that Buffy’s death be kept a secret, this marker becomes an act of rebellion, of defiance, of taking a risk and doing the human thing and let danger and tradition be damned. The tombstone could represent everything that Buffy stands for.

      It’s also a possibility – although very remote – that they did hold a public funeral. We see later this season that Willow has the ability to rewrite memories. When Willow rewrites Tara’s memories of their argument in “All the Way”, it’s a violation. It doesn’t seem likely that Willow would have used the spell on a larger scale before this, but then there may have been justifications.

      Imagine if the vampires who know that Buffy was the slayer sought revenge on Dawn and the other Scoobies. There would be motivation to protect the Scoobies and Sunnydale.

      Something similar has happened in comic books more than once. Perhaps the most fitting example comes a couple of years after “Bargaining” in Flash #200 from 2003.

      You might be familiar with the Flash from the TV version of the character – the super-speedster hero who in civilian life is a police forensic scientist named Barry Allen. The Barry Allen version of the Flash first appeared in 1956. But in 1985, the Barry Allen Flash was killed saving the universe during a major crossover event. And unlike Buffy he didn’t stay dead for merely a summer, but for over 20 years.

      In between Barry’s death in 1986 and his resurrection in 2008, the main Flash in the comic books was Wally West. Wally was Barry’s nephew by marriage and had been Barry’s occasional sidekick named Kid Flash. Wally put on his late uncle’s costume to honour Barry’s memory and ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten.

      Comic book geek Charles Gunn compares Illryia’s super speed to Barry, Wally and the original 1940 Flash in the Angel season five episode “Shells”. The Fang Gang didn’t get the reference. “Yeah, like she was pulling a Barry Allen. Jay Garrick? Wally— Like she was moving really fast."

      Barry Allen had a traditional secret identity, but when Wally became the Flash his identity (and posthumously Barry’s identity) was publicly known. For many years, Wally operated in the open as the Flash. Everyone in the DC Comics universe also revered the former Flash.

      But then came the darkest moment in Wally’s career. A supervillain named Zoom went after Wally’s family – his wife Linda and their unborn children. Linda had a miscarriage. Wally was devastated. He blamed himself for this tragic loss.

      And who should appear to console him in this time of loss – but Barry Allen. No, the previous Flash wasn’t back from the dead. Barry had time-travelled from a point a few weeks before his death to visit Wally on his worst days.

      And they weren’t alone. One of Barry’s best friends had been the superhero Green Lantern aka Hal Jordan. Hal had been killed a few years before, but he didn’t let death stop his crime busting career. Hal was a ghost – and a very powerful one at that. Hal’s ghost had been infused with the power of the Spectre, the vengeful instrument of God’s divine vengeance. That meant Hal was a super ghost and could work miracles.

      If you’re wondering how that final sentence ended – it would have been “not even you”. Wally temporarily forgot about his own superhero identity. When strongly reminded, people’s memories of the true history could be restored. So, the heroes could remember Barry’s sacrifice but without worrying if any supervillain was going to show up at the West or Allen family homes.

      So, just imagine a Sunnydale for a moment where Buffy is publicly buried. The town is attacked. Dawn’s life is severely complicated – taken away by her father, or attacked by others that know her sister was the slayer. And so, Willow and/or Giles erase the memory of Buffy’s death from the minds of the whole city. The grave remains, but no one else knows it’s there.

      Nah, it’s probably just simpler to assume that Giles bribed folks at the morgue, the funeral home and the cemetery.

      But to get back to the exposition and the awkward hug, it’s Xander who breaks the tension.

      XANDER: So. Excellent. We're agreed. Sit your robo-self down so we can get to work. We gotta fix up those fighting skills pronto.

      WILLOW: Actually, we have bigger worries than her fighting skills today.

      TARA: Way bigger.

      XANDER: I guess. Depends on how highly you prize punning.

      WILLOW: I'm serious, Xander. Buffybot is about to face her most dangerous challenge ever.
      I suspect any regular Buffy viewer knew they were going to pull a comic feint at this point, and show something not traditionally considered dangerous. Well, except by the TV show founded on the metaphor “high school is hell”.

      So naturally we find ourselves at….

      Well, actually this all depends on which version of the episode you are watching. If you’re watching the syndicated or streaming two-part version, you’d find yourself in Dawn’s classroom. But if you’re watching the DVD or a VHS tape of the episode as it first aired on Oct. 3, 2001, you’d find yourself outside the school first.



      We pan down from the banner to find Buffybot and Dawn wandering among a bunch of parents, teachers and students who are gathered in an open area of the school. There are many exhibits of student work on display - art and science projects and the like. Buffybot is taking all this in with good-natured interest, while Dawn looks extremely nervous.

      DAWN (to Buffybot): Okay. we'll make a quick lap so people can see you're here, then we'll-

      Buffybot stops at an exhibit, a student-made miniature city. It's all egg cartons and popsicle sticks. Another kid, a CUTE BOY about Dawn's age, also examines it ...

      The city is slightly more elaborate than the script describes. I see plastic containers of all sorts. I hope that structure is biodegradable. It looks less like how a child of the 21st century would imagine the future and more like the future of 1920s pulp magazine editor Hugo Gernsback, or the Word of Tomorrow at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Or perhaps Disneyland’s Tomorrowland – an exhibit once sponsored by that poisoner of the environment Monsanto.

      DAWN: Oh, um, this is our city of the future. I made the hover-cars. They're orange-juice cans, see?

      Dawn would definitely earn her Guide Scout (or Girl Guides as they are called in Canada) stars and badges for that creation. Or to go with a distinctly British reference, she’d get a Blue Peter badge. But there’s something even more remarkable than the skill of her craftsmanship.

      The city is white and grey. It’s bland, lifeless and antiseptic. Except for Dawn’s hover-cars which provide a splash of colour and life to this drab future society. Even when she’s trying to fit in at school, Dawn dances to beat of her own drum. She’s not an automaton. That was one of the defining traits of the Scoobies back in their own high school years, including Cordelia, they were not sheep.

      But the BuffyBot doesn’t understand what she’s looking at – not the model city, nor the specialness of Dawn’s colourful contribution.

      BUFFYBOT: They're very nice. But I-I still don't understand.

      TEACHER: We're reading Walden. This is, uh ... a kid's version of a utopian society. You'll notice there are no schools but an extraordinary number of pizza parlors.

      It’s a good thing that the teacher explained. No one would ever look at that structure and think “Walden”.

      As he’s speaking, Dawn has a smile on her face. She knows they really didn’t get the assignment as given. And when the teacher mentions the pizza parlours, Dawn gives a smile of bemused guilt.

      So, what about Walden? It is a memoir first published by Henry David Thoreau in 1854 and one of the cornerstones of American literature. Or perhaps I should say world literature, as even up here in Canada we studied it in school. It is Thoreau’s tale of transcendentalism, of his living in a self-made cabin in the woods near Walden Pond in Massachusetts for two years, two months and two days. Thoreau’s writings have inspired many movements from the left-wing hippie communes of the 1960s to the right-wing libertarian movements of individualism. But up until this episode Thoreau had never inspired pizza parlours made of milk jugs and egg cartoons. Thoreau wrote of simple meals with simple ingredients made through his own labours.

      This utopian city of the future is the polar opposite of what Thoreau wrote about. It is pre-made, synthetic, sterile and about as inauthentic as you can get. It is a simulacrum of life. And watching this city is another simulacrum of life – the BuffyBot.

      One of the things Thoreau called for was truth:

      Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices. I thought that there was no need of ice to freeze them. They talked to me of the age of the wine and the fame of the vintage; but I thought of an older, a newer, and purer wine, of a more glorious vintage, which they had not got, and could not buy. The style, the house and grounds and "entertainment" pass for nothing with me. I called on the king, but he made me wait in his hall, and conducted like a man incapacitated for hospitality. There was a man in my neighborhood who lived in a hollow tree. His manners were truly regal. I should have done better had I called on him.
      And yet what we see in this very scene is obsequious attendance. But not just deception to teachers and students, but the Scoobies deceive each other … and themselves. All the characters pay lip service to the future – moving forward with artificial sisters, weddings never to come, long-delayed flights and the like. And yet, these futures might as well be made out of egg cartons. The Scoobies pretend to be moving forward, but they are stuck in the past, anchored by the tragedy of Buffy’s death.

      Not that the BuffyBot would get this. I doubt Willow would have had a chance to program artistic appreciation or literary theory into her. Even simple things like metaphors confuse her.

      BUFFYBOT: I don't think I know of a breed of humans this small. Who's going to live here?
      And there it is, the moment that was Dawn was dreading. Obviously everyone will know that the real Buffy has been replaced by a robot. Or not. Most people wouldn’t think robot, but just “basket case”.

      The script says:

      A beat. The CUTE BOY shoots Dawn a look-"what's up with your sister?" Dawn realizes this has to be played off as a joke and starts laughing way too enthusiastically.

      Dawn’s fake laugh is even more suspicious than the BuffyBot’s remark. Dawn’s teacher Mr. Davis looks very awkward, almost beginning to try to join Dawn in a fake laugh.

      It’s unfortunate for Dawn. If we can assume this episode is set around when it first aired, Oct. 3, 2001, and if the writers had the foresight to know the pop culture months in advance, then Dawn would have had the perfect excuse.

      The second highest grossing film in the weekend before “Bargaining” aired was Zoolander, a comedy starring Ben Stiller which premiered on Sept. 28. Stiller’s idiot male fashion model character makes almost exactly the same mistake as the BuffyBot.

      If she had but known, Dawn could have passed it off as Buffy just loved that Zoolander film.

      Instead Dawn had to just bluff her way through.

      Ha ha ha! Oh ... god, she's always like this. Ha ha! Come on, wacky Buffy. See ya, Mr. Davis.

      As Dawn and her robo-sister walk off, the school bell rings. And we find ourselves returning to what also appears in the shortened version of the episode.

      Dawn’s teacher talks about the school as a place of progressive learning. It’s the kind of speech that would enthrall and inspire no kid ever. Even Willow would be conspiring with Xander to shoot a few spitballs at this point. But the BuffyBot sits enraptured, taking in every word. Dawn, however, is watching BuffyBot.

      Ms. Lefcourt talks of parents programming their children, rather like Willow does with the BuffyBot. It’s well-intentioned, but also off-putting. No wonder Spike criticizes this kind of thing later on.

      But we can't teach your child unless you do. As parents, you have a responsibility to create the right attitude. To teach them what school can mean-
      And there it is, the chance for a simple, clear definition. The BuffyBot has programmed knowledge about what words mean. Much to Dawn’s horror, BuffyBot raises her hand.

      BUFFYBOT: School is where you learn.
      Dawn looks up at her pseudo-sister, rolling her eyes for a fraction of a second. But Dawn has learned something since entering the class. She’s learned to stay silent. She doesn’t force a laugh. She just lets the chips fall with they may.

      There’s a pause. Will the teacher say anything? Is the deception over? No, because it turns out that the BuffyBot was in sync with the teacher’s script.

      Exactly. Parents let kids focus on school as a social experience, rather than a learning experience. We want you to get your kids as excited about education as they are about lunch hour-

      And here’s another chance for BuffyBot to jump in with a simple, declarative statement. “I helped make lunch today.” And BuffyBot lets the truth slip “I don’t eat, but Dawn takes one every day.”

      Dawn glances over, horrified. But she stays silent.

      So does the teacher. Lunchtime wasn’t part of Ms. Lefcourt’s script. But that doesn’t matter -- lunch is a part of the script of some of the parents in the room. They begin to complain that “something needs to be done about the quality of the food.”

      Dawn is relieved, and confused. But BuffyBot is a hit.

      This seems like as good a moment as any to pause and take another in-depth look at one of the Scoobies did during the summer without Buffy.

      I Know What You Did Last Summer – Dawn Summers

      Perhaps the most important thing that Dawn did upon Buffy’s death was to become human.

      Yes, she’s been human ever since the monks did their reality-altering spell back in the fifth season premiere. But once she discovered her magical origins, Dawn questioned her humanity. She declared “Blobs of energy don’t need an education” in “Blood Ties” and she made similar statements in “Tough Love”. Also in “Tough Love”, Dawn told Spike “I'm like a lightning rod for pain and hurt. And everyone around me suffers and dies. I ... must be something so horrible ... to cause so much pain ... and evil.”

      But when Buffy sacrificed her life for Dawn, Dawn was not an evil thing that brought pain and hurt.

      Buffy told Dawn “Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.”

      That wasn’t just an instruction to Dawn, telling her not to sacrifice herself. Keys don’t live. People do. Buffy was telling Dawn to live … as a human.

      And Dawn listened. With her death, Buffy gave Dawn the ultimate proof that Dawn was human now. The portal would only close with Dawn’s death. The only reason that Buffy’s death could close the portal is that the very human slayer Buffy and Dawn were connected. If Dawn had merely been a key, then Buffy’s sacrifice would have been in vain.

      And so as Dawn tells Spike in a later scene, she’s “not the Key anymore”. Dawn has embraced her humanity.

      That humanity is very much display in the comic book Lost and Found special, which was narrated by Dawn.

      The comic enhances what we see in the TV series about the special bond between her and Spike – the only one whose guilt and misery is a match for Dawn’s.

      It’s in this comic that we see – as I showed earlier – that Dawn feels guilty about Tara and Willow moving into Joyce’s bedroom.

      Unfortunately, just as the Scoobies blame themselves for Buffy’s death and blame themselves, the demon Veeya is unleashed – an entity that feeds on the pain of loss. Even before her release, Veeya tries to gaslight Dawn.

      But when Veeya is at her full strength and attacking the Scoobies outright, it’s Dawn who figures out the demon’s limitations and comes out the way to defeat her.

      Dawn harnesses the positive memories of the Scoobies to defeat Veeya. It leaves the characters in a good emotional place.

      We see the backs of the characters as they “move forward … all of us … together … including you”, but not including Spike who was left out of this daytime gathering. It presages season six, where Spike has a secret relationship with Buffy – hidden from the daytime activities of the Scoobies.

      When Buffy Omnibus 7 collected the comics in chronological order, Dark Horse Comics put the summer 2002 two-part comic Willow & Tara: Wilderness (co-written by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden) between the various death of Buffy comics. In the story, Willow and Tara take Dawn on a road trip.

      It would make sense if this story happened while Willow and Tara were acting as surrogate moms to Dawn. But late in the story the characters mention not telling Buffy about this part of the trip. So, it clearly occurs in early season six -- after Buffy’s resurrection.

      Dawn’s time without Buffy was also explored in the three “Death of Buffy” issues running in the monthly Buffy comic book. Whatever peace of mind that Dawn had achieved in the Lost and Found comic appears to have been stripped away. All the characters are feeling more intense misery and despair than they did in the Lost and Found comic.

      It was mentioned in Lost and Found that the kids at Dawn’s school taunted her, calling her “gravestone girl” for visiting Joyce’s grave (and secretly Buffy’s grave as well). In the continuing “Death of Buffy” comics, Dawn fights back – viciously.

      Dawn is in trouble with Principal Richardson. As the comic claims it is only a couple weeks since Buffy’s death I assume it takes place toward the end of the 2000-2001 school year, and not at the start of the 2001-2002 school year. However, in the TV show episode “Tough Love” the principal was a Hispanic woman named Stevens. In the comic book, Dawn’s principal is a man named Richardson. Perhaps they couldn’t get the image rights to the actress and so recast the part of the principal. Or maybe they didn’t remember the TV principal and created one for the comics with the name and looks of Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson. (We’ll meet Richardson in another section.)

      Dawn lashes out at her surrogate parents Willow and Tara when they try to talk to Dawn about what happened at school.

      No, it’s not the BuffyBot who goes to meet with the principal in the comic. Instead it’s Giles who fills in for the absent Buffy. After that meeting, Giles has a talk with Dawn. She expresses her fondness for Giles.

      It’s an emotional moment. For Dawn anyway. Later in the comic we still see Giles pricing flights back to England.

      When the full-time BuffyBot is up and running, Dawn is resentful of it.

      Spike comes to Dawn’s rescue. She continues to vent her concerns about the BuffyBot to Spike. And then the two go for ice cream.

      Dawn seldom appears in the Death of Buffy comics after that point. She’s not present when Willow tells the gang of her plan to resurrect Buffy.

      When Buffy gave her final speech to Dawn in “The Gift”, she said “And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other.”

      In a sense, Dawn does fulfill that role. She does bond Willow and Tara, Xander and Spike together. Even if Dawn is perceived as the dependent, she’s bringing the Scoobies together. Except for that one thing. That one thing that Dawn is not allowed to be a part of. It’s hard to take care of the Scoobies when they are keeping secrets from her.

      I don’t think this will fit all in one post. So, I will break Act One of “Bargaining, Part One” here.


      • #4
        A little break between posts:


        • #5
          Buffy the Vampire Slayer
          Season Six Rewatch
          “Bargaining Part 1”
          Part C

          Welcome back as I conclude my analysis of act one of the episode.

          Now, if you’re watching the original broadcast or DVD version of the episode, you’ll see an overhead shot of the classic Sunnydale street intersection. A cynical person might think they included these few extra seconds knowing they’d be something easily deleted for the shortened syndicated release (to make room for the extra “previously on” and credit sequences required when shown as two episodes). But perhaps there’s a secret meaning in this shot that unlocks the secrets to the whole episode. You decide.

          Then we get a second, tighter establishing shot (or in case of the streaming and syndicated versions, the only establishing shot) of the outside of the Magic Box.

          Inside the shop we find three of the Scoobies working. Xander carries in boxes, Anya dusts the merchandise and Giles pours over the accounts. I’m reminded of a line from Thoreau’s Walden: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

          However, that desperation does not stay quiet for very long as Giles notices something.

          GILES (re: paper he's holding): Anya - this register report for January looks off. Let's pull those files again.

          Anya looks shocked. She stops dusting and goes over to him.

          If there’s one thing that Anya has defined herself by it’s her skill with money and her working gal status. Back in “Into the Woods”, Anya said “I've been very good for this store. If it wasn't for me, Giles would be a terrified old man staring at a quarterly tax statement and wetting himself.”

          And now here is Giles questioning her competence in the area that means the most to her. It’s a sneak attack of Pearl Harbor proportions.

          Anya asks – quite sincerely – “Are you mad at me?”

          Giles denies that he is. He’s clearly bewildered by the question. He’s like a clueless, out-of-it 1950s sitcom dad, totally oblivious that he’s deeply insulted his wife.

          ANYA: Well then why are you torturing me? You know, I used to punish people like this when I was a demon. I made them double-check spreadsheets for all eternity.
          Ah. It’s a form of torture I know well. I think I’d prefer the self-cannibalization vengeance Anya described back in “The Prom”.

          Giles still doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get what is specifically bothering Anya here, or what is underlying her feelings. There are two big changes that Anya is anxious about and the last thing she needs is this crap from someone she cares about.

          GILES: I'm sorry if you resent my thoroughness, but I won't feel comfortable leaving here until-

          Anya pulls something from one of Giles, boxes. A small carved statue.

          ANYA: You're taking the Ramadan Effigy?

          That’s right, Giles. You strike at Anya’s place of pride, and she’ll strike back at what you treasure, your collection of books and … stuff.

          Giles grabs it away from her.

          GILES: It's not inventory. It's part of my personal collection.

          Anya grabs it back.

          ANYA: Oh ho! Aren't you Mr. Dicey Semantics? So now you can just take whatever you want?

          I love Giles’s angry glares in this scene. It’s more comic genius from Anthony Stewart Head. But he’s not just jousting with le mot just. No, now the battle descends into pure slapstick. Giles and Anya flail about, slapping hands and waving papers. It’s behaviour straight out of Looney Tunes land.

          Fortunately, there’s one adult in the room who is above such petty behaviour – Xander Harris. God help us!

          XANDER: Okay. When I'm marvelling at the immaturity? Be scared. (to Anya) Anya. Giles is leaving the store to you when he goes. What more do you want?
          You really can’t figure that out, Xander? Really? Does Willow have to program some information into your faulty circuits too?

          But it’s the other guy in the conversation who vocalizes his resentment of Xander’s peacemaking efforts.

          GILES: I'm not *leaving* the store to anyone. I'm going to England. I'm not dead, I'm still a partner.

          ANYA: Silent oversees partner.

          XANDER: Who you should be very nice to, unless you want to end up working at Video Hut.

          Oh, first class there, Xander. It’s great that you’re teaching Anya how to function in mortal society, but there’s just a bit too much misogyny in that veiled threat. And Giles joins in, giving Anya a look that says “Well, are you going to start grovelling?”

          Anya complies. She twists her features into smile so forced and phony that it’s practically reptilian.

          Anya turns toward Xander, her phony smile still fixed to a face for a second. If looks could kill.

          I’m reminded of what Gloucester (the future Richard III) said in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3.

          Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
          And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,
          And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
          And frame my face to all occasions.
          I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
          I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk;
          I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
          Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
          And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
          I can add colours to the chameleon,
          Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
          And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
          Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
          Tut, were it farther off, I'll pluck it down.
          Not that Anya truly wants a crown. I think there might be another piece of jewelry she wants to wear openly.

          Xander isn’t quite done yet though. He follows Anya and reaches out to grab her arm.

          XANDER: What are you doing? What kind of gratitude is that?

          ANYA: (contrite) I know, I know. It's just ... he keeps saying he's going, and then he doesn't. And I keep almost being in charge, but then I'm not. And maybe he shouldn't be going at all, but we can't talk about that. And it all just leaves me with this stress and bossiness stored up, and it just ... leaks out.
          I know a lot of people criticize Anya, but aside from the forced smiles she has to adopt in this episode, she is a fundamentally honest character.

          Xander? He’s not quite so honest. And he offers up stock advice.

          XANDER: Just give it time, Ahn. This is hard for all of us. Just ... be patient.

          ANYA: I *was* being patient, but it took too long. I mean, I-I miss Buffy. I do. But life shouldn't just stop because she's gone. I'm sick of waiting to take over here, and I'm sick of waiting to tell everyone about us.

          And there it is. The other thing that is bothering Anya. And it’s expressed clearly, directly and openly. Xander, on the other hand? The script has him pegged.

          Xander's tone gets even more secretive.

          XANDER: We've talked about this We can't announce our engagement while things are so up in the air.

          ANYA: Why not? It's happy news. Happy news in hard times is a good thing.

          Xander responds “It is but…”

          And here’s another moment where the two versions of the episode diverge. The syndicated/streaming version of this episode cuts out a part of Xander’s response. It’s the most telling part.

          XANDER: It is, but ... If things go as planned - everything could be different. Let's just hold on.
          Really, Xander? And precisely how would Buffy’s resurrection affect your engagement? How would everything be different? I can see delaying the wedding itself until you know if you can give Buffy a wedding invitation. But what about Buffy’s death or life would affect honestly telling people about your engagement?

          Now, some might remember Xander’s past romantic feelings for Buffy.

          But I don’t think that’s quite it. If Buffy was alive and well, I don’t think Xander would delay the wedding because he thought he still had a shot with Buffy. He knows that Buffy is not interested in him romantically. She’s had many opportunities to date Xander and never taken them. (Well, not until the season eight comics, anyway.)

          No, Anya’s competition is not a living Buffy. Her competition is a dead Buffy.

          Xander has saved Buffy’s life in the past. And yet in “The Gift” Xander took a big step in cementing his relationship with Anya. And what happened? Disaster! Buffy died.

          It’s the same scenario in Xander’s nightmare future in “Hell’s Bells”. Xander chose a relationship with Anya , and Buffy died as a result.

          In “Afterlife” Spike talks about saving Buffy every night in his fantasies. I imagine Xander runs through similar scenarios – including “What if I were a little less devoted to Anya?” There are a thousand possible alternate scenarios where Buffy could have lived. And who knows maybe in some of those alternate scenarios, Buffy would consider a relationship with Xander. But those possible futures? They will never happen now. They’ve been cut off in their prime, just like Buffy herself.

          It’s not quite a matter of the road not taken. It’s more like the roads Xander never even had a chance to take. And that makes them linger in the thoughts more.

          If Buffy were alive again and in his life, just as a friend, those alternate scenarios wouldn’t haunt him so much. And clearly this has been haunting Xander for months.

          ANYA: That's what you've been saying all summer-

          XANDER: Please. Anya. We'll know more after we talk to Willow and Tara tonight.

          ANYA: Fine. Whatever. Just remember, this marriage thing was your idea. I didn't ask to be all crazy.

          Again, Anya is the most honest of the bunch. Even when she says “Whatever!” as if supposed to be no big deal, she says it in such a pointed and exaggerated manner. With her tone and body language she is telling Xander “my words are a lie.”

          I Know What You Did Last Summer: Anya

          In the 2002 “Lost and Found” comic we saw that the Scoobies encountered an old acquaintance of Anya’s demon days.

          The Death of Buffy story arc in issues 43-45 of the monthly ongoing Buffy comic establishes that it was Anya who was directly responsible for one of the key aspects of “Bargaining”. It’s non-canonical, but writers Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe chose to depict Anya as the one who came up with the idea of using the BuffyBot.

          It’s an interesting choice. Anya might see the straightforward substitution more clearly than the other Scoobies would. If you can’t have Buffy, perhaps the next best thing is the fighter that looks the most like her.

          Of course “The Death of Buffy” also depicts Anya doing exactly what she said she’d been doing in “Bargaining” – listening all summer to Xander’s excuses on why they cannot announce their engagement.

          One of the distracting things about the comic book is that sometimes the faces look so similar that it’s hard to tell the blonde women apart. Marti Noxon and David Fury feel that’s an problem in the episode of “Bargaining” too. Throughout the commentary track (to the point of obnoxiousness), Noxon and Fury talk about how irritating it was that Emma Caulfield cut and styled her hair to resemble Buffy so much. They’d joke about how it was Buffy … no, Anya … all through the commentary. It wasn’t a joke that improved with multiple retellings.

          And yet, the hair change actually makes sense in character. If Anya wanted to help fill the void left by Buffy, maybe she would adopt a similar hairstyle and colour. Maybe this change was meant in tribute to her fallen friend.

          And now we return to 1630 Revello Drive at nighttime. Dawn walks through the house complaining how her homeroom teacher had said "Your sister's an example to us all" and wanted to proclaim it “National Buffy Day.” She enters the living room and sees her babysitter Spike in a classic Spike pose. By that I mean his hand is around his own crotch.

          The Spike/Dawn relationship was a notable part of season five. But in the commentary track Marti Noxon and David Fury said they started to back away from it after seeing this episode. Michelle Trachtenberg is just a bit too mature to make it seem entirely paternal. But in dialogue at least Spike continues to pass on familial wisdom.

          SPIKE: Makes sense.

          DAWN: It does?

          SPIKE: Yeah. She responded to Buffybot because a robot is predictable, boring... A perfect teacher's pet. That's all schools are, you know, factories spewing out mindless little automatons—

          I love Spike at this moment. He’s not the Big Bad. Instead he comes off more like an aging hippie, justifiably but also slightly comically annoyed at the system but also mellowed a bit with age. He’s like the leftist uncle in a sitcom. It’s close to Marsters’ own roots as a left-wing type from Modesto, California.

          But then he catches sight of Dawn’s arched eyebrow.

          And he realizes that he’s not supposed to be the kooky, anti-establishment uncle. He’s supposed to be a positive role model for traditional values.

          SPIKE: -who go on to be very productive and valuable members of society. And you should go. Because Buffy would want you to.

          They both react a little to this mention of Buffy. Dawn tries to power through it.

          DAWN: Check. One mindless automaton coming up.
          At first Spike’s rapid change of message is funny – bringing back memories of the hastily Bowdlerized coal bin story in last season’s “Crush”. But then the mention of Buffy changes the tone and her absence pervades the room.

          The room is now tense. As the characters will be forced to sing in a few weeks “Where do we go from here?” Spike comes up with a classic night-in suggestion.

          SPIKE: So what do you fancy, bit? Game a rummy?
          A good choice. When I was Dawn’s age, or a few years younger, I spent much of my summers up at a trailer park. My friends and I would play rummy. But there was another fun card game we’d play that’s more appropriate to this episode. When our parents were around we called this card game “Cheat!” When they weren’t around we called it “Bulls---!”

          Dawn gives Spike an out, plausible deniability if he’d really like to abandon her as so many other parental figures have.

          DAWN: Willow and Tara said they'd be back early. You don't really have to hang. I mean, if you're bored.

          SPIKE: I'm not. And yeah I do.
          Spike is pretty forceful in his rejection. He grabs a chair so they can sit opposite each other for the card game. When he sits the chair down, it looks like it’s intruding in Dawn’s space.

          Dawn tries to reassure him, and to provide the home audience with some more exposition. No one is coming after her. “I'm not the key. Or if I am, I don't open anything any more. It's over. Remember?”

          What about Glory? Sure, she can’t use Dawn to tear apart spacetime and return home. But don’t they fear that Glory might seek revenge? Or do the Scoobies know that Ben and Glory (“Ben is Glory?”) are dead. Perhaps Giles covered up that he was the cause of Ben’s death, but to give the Scoobies peace of mind allowed people to discover Ben’s corpse.

          It doesn’t matter to Spike though. It’s never going to be over. He’s planning to re-live that terrible night for all eternity.

          He remembers all too well. Just talk of this past darkens Spike's mood. His failure to save her and Buffy burns at him.

          SPIKE: I'm not leaving you here by yourself. So forget it.

          DAAWN: I’m just saying -
          Okay, Spike is looking a bit too intense and a bit too creepy there.

          Okay, make that a lot too creepy and intense.

          Spike slams a deck of cards on the table. A little too harshly.
          SPIKE: No. I'm not leaving you to get hurt. Not again. (then) Now deal.

          Dawn takes this in. Really getting the depth of Spike's regret. She slowly takes the cards, starts to deal.
          Spike’s slamming of the cards was unsettling, but as his talks his voice softens. He truly cares for Dawn, but this is also a form of house arrest.

          And the scene shifts again. And yet again, the original broadcast and DVD version brings a longer establishing sequence. There’s about 20 extra seconds before the syndicated and streaming version picks up with the latest vampire victim.

          We see a woman close up shop. She looks almost like an adult version of Dawn.

          Walk down an alley.

          She looks around.

          There’s nothing there.

          She continues to stare into the darkness.

          And glancing around again, she then proceeds to cross the street.

          And it’s here that we are back in the syndicated/streaming version of the episode. Did those 20 extra seconds build tension and suspense? Or was it simply filler because the producers knew they’d have to cut footage for syndication. If the latter, it takes away slightly from the “event” billing of the two-hour version of the episode.

          We see more of the woman look around in fear. There’s an effective shot of her shadow projected on a brick wall.

          Apparently this woman is one of the people immune to Sunnydale’s selective amnesia when it comes to the forces of darkness. She knows something is out there. And finally she’s proven right when a vampire grabs her and goes to bite her neck. This is the classic horror set-up that Buffy usually inverts. Usually instead of an imperiled female victim, we find an empowered heroine. But Buffy's dead.

          But a perky voice interrupts the attack. “Don’t be scared.” The vampire breaks off his attack to look at his speaker. Buffy may be dead, but there is a substitute.

          And there’s the BuffyBot, delivering a promise to the woman and threat to the vampire in a pleasant and reassuring telephone manner. “I’m going to kill him.”

          The vampire hisses out “Slayer!” as so many of his kind have before. Except it’s not really a hiss, is it? It’s more of a croak. Maybe even a squeak. We aren’t dealing with a bad-ass slayer-of-slayers here. We’re dealing with a pipsqueak loser in a Hanson t-shirt.

          The script calls him a Shempy Vamp, an adjective derived from the screechy sounds of Shemp Howard, a member of the Three Stooges. Writers Marti Noxon and David Fury also compare this vampire to Ratso Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman’s classic con artist from the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy.

          Here’s a clip of one of Ratso’s most famous lines:

          BuffyBot tells the vampire’s victim “You can run away now.” The woman flees as directed. And then Shempy Rizzo decides the comment also applies to him and he tries to run away too.

          BuffyBot reacts to that… by rolling her eyes.

          Wait, what? The BuffyBot can recognize idiocy and roll her eyes at it? She couldn’t do that before. Willow must have done one hell of a programming upgrade.

          BuffyBot switches to attack mode. Vamp Ratso runs and pushes a garbage bin in BuffyBot’s way. She leaps over the garbage container, and delivers tough blows and kicks. I have to think that Xander also did that fighting skill upgrade.

          The Shempy Vamp grabs an alcohol bottle and in desperation smashes it against Buffybot’s forehead. She reels back, and Shemp looks in shock.

          BuffyBot has a gash across her forehead. But instead of blood flowing out, there’s a glowing blue light.

          The Shempy Vampire continues to watch, confused, amused and intrigued. He stammers out “You’re a machine!”

          BuffyBot responds cheerily “Thank you!” She’s proud of being a machine. I guess that whole secret identity programming got bashed out of her.

          Ratso runs away, constantly looking over his shoulder. He sees BuffyBot stride forward purposely … only to crash into a stack of barrels.

          She keeps walking into the barrels, declaring “Vampires beware!” (A callback to a line from BuffyBot’s first appearance in “Intervention”.)

          Ratso stops for a minute to take in the show. BuffyBot apparently sees the barrels as vampires, just as Don Quixote saw windmills as giants. As the real, non-barrel vampire finally slinks off, Buffybot tries to stake the barrels.

          Then, we switch to an establishing shot of Sunnydale at night. Noxon and Fury say in the commentary track that this is a rare glimpse of the real city of Santa Barbara standing in for Sunnydale.

          And then when see the exterior of Xander and Anya’s apartment, site of the Scooby meeting.

          Inside the apartment we find Willow looking over a small urn. Tara is sitting next to her, just offscreen. Tara says the “urn of Osiris”. Willow looks up. This is it – the fabled urn that can help restore the dead to life. “You really found it?” she asks Anya.

          I’ll discuss Osiris in later section, but this is yet another magical container in the Buffyverse. Willow’s very first spell was to contain Angel’s soul within the Orb of Thesulah. This time, Willow needs an urn, used to contain ashes, the physical remains of a dead person.

          Anya tells her, “It wasn't easy. I went through every supplier The Magic Box has.”

          And now Willow is really freaked out.

          WILLOW (alarmed): You used a Magic Box supplier? What if Giles finds out?
          That’s a disturbing reaction. They are keeping secrets from Giles? It’s one thing to cut Dawn out – she’s still young. You could argue there are reasons not to share all your plans with Spike, who after all does lack a soul (even he’s been doing his best to act like he has one). But Giles? With Spike and Giles missing from this group, they’ve cut off all adult supervision.

          But Anya puts Willow’s mind at ease. The Scoobies’ daddy doesn’t know what the kids are getting up to.

          ANYA: He's too busy not leaving to pay attention to me. Besides, I ended up getting it on E-Bay.

          TARA: (disbelieving) You found the last known Urn of Osiris on E-Bay?

          Tara can accept mystical urns that help overturn the natural laws of the universe, but finding such things on the Internet? That’s the really unbelievable bit.

          It’s a funny line, and Amber Benson has some fine eyebrow action going on there. But there’s something different in her performance in this scene. It’s not wallflower Tara, nor scared Tara, nor kooky Tara, nor supportive earth-mother Tara. There’s an unTara bitterness behind her words. Tara is tense, coiled, angry and keeping something bottled up. We’ll see more of this as the Scooby meeting goes on.

          The mixture of magic urns and eBay is one of Buffy’s strengths – that ironic blending of horror tropes with the absurdities of everyday life and pop culture. And there’s still yet more popular culture references to come in this discussion.

          Anya seems more excited to talk about her expert skills on the internet auction site. She explains she got it from a Desert Gnome in Cairo. “He drove a really hard bargain, but I finally got him to throw in a limited edition Backstreet Boys lunchbox for –“ Anya stops and smiles up at the person near her. Now Tara’s eyebrows arch even further in anticipation of the name about to be mentioned.

          But the moment doesn’t come. Anya spares her loved one from the open humiliation by concluding … “for a friend.” Yes, the vengeance demon is actually giving a lesson in mercy.

          Xander shrugs his shoulder in obvious relief, and then he quickly changes the topic from important topics like 1990s boyband kitsch to trivial concerns such as life and death.

          This might be a good time to pause and mention a little fashion point. Fans noticed that Xander and Willow are both wearing shirts with numbers on them, as does Dawn in a later scene. There was much speculation about what the numbers could mean. On the commentary track Marti Noxon insisted that it’s all just a coincidence – just a popular fashion choice the show’s designer pick up on.

          I can’t really comment on any supposed numerological means to these numbers. But the idea of a team wearing numbered shirts has a precedent. (Although notice that only Xander and Willow have numbered shirts. Their plus ones – Anya and Tara – are both wearing floral patterns.) Well, of course, it brings to mind many sports teams. But I’m also reminded of the 1970s Japanese cartoon Science Ninja Team Gatchman – which was later translated into English under the names Battle of the Planets and G-Force. This team of heroes wore bird-themed costumes when battling the evil forces of Galactor / Spectra, but in their civilian life they had t-shirts with their team numbers emblazed on them. Here’s G1 and G2 playing a game of ping-pong in their downtime.

          The narration for Battle of the Planets would describe G-Force as “Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!”

          Actually, there were quite a few arguments between their leader and the number two member. And in this scene, the Scoobies cannot be said to “act as one” either.

          XANDER: You got your somber on, Will. The urn not up to spec?

          Willow looks to Tara. They share an understanding.

          WILLOW: It's the one.

          She turns to Xander and Anya.

          WILLOW (cont'd): Which means it's time.

          Willow has an interesting expression here. In the teaser we saw Giles’ sense of resignation made manifest as he said the words “And she’s gone.” But here, Willow is solidifying what she perceives to be a positive thing in her mind. Her expression has traces of acceptance, humour, a positive determination and resolution. And we get a glimpse of the famous Willow resolve face. But here, her resolve face is set to stun, we’ll see her turn it up to heavy stun and then kill soon enough.

          The use of the word time freaks Xander out. So much so that he needs to sit down to take it all in. “It's time? Like, time time? With the…timeliness?” Surely I’m not the only one who sees the subtext of his engagement-avoidance with Anya in his reluctance.

          Anya asks Willow’s sure – she is. Tara gets in some Giles-like exposition about Mercury being in retrograde (meaning that’s there’s a ticking clock on this). Tara also asks if Willow has everything – just about.

          And Xander is more insistently trying to halt this.

          XANDER: But why the sudden rushy-rush? Did the bot blow her cover at school?

          TARA: No, she did great. She impressed all the teachers.

          XANDER: And they still thought it was Buffy?

          It’s a funny Xanderish quip. Buffy is – or was – really smart, but yes she didn’t impress that many teachers in her day. After all, Buffy was many things, but she was never a mindless automaton.

          Willow’s not in the mood for jokes though. She turns to face them even more resolved.

          Willow starts to lay out her battle plan – just as she had done in the teaser. “Tomorrow night. We'll meet here at—“

          Willow’s words are cut off – by her best friend. Xander is not joking now. He’s not being slightly hesitant. He’s directly challenging Willow’s leadership.

          XANDER: Whoah! Let's apply the brake and check rear and side mirrors here! This is deep stuff, Willow. We're talking about raising the dead.

          Xander is terrified – not only by the enormity about what they are talking about doing, but but he’s also scared by his best friend. Back in “Family” Xander said “With Willow it's like, she's got this ... whole new thing in her life. But she's still Willow, so I can always figure her out.” Now if Xander can still figure out Willow despite the new thing (resurrection magic) in her life, that knowledge shakes him to his core.

          When Xander shouted “Whoa!” Anya’s head turned from Xander to Willow. She wondered what Willow was going to do, who would win this power struggle. Always bet on the person with resolve-face.

          WILLOW: And it's time to stop talking. Tomorrow night, we're bringing Buffy back.
          Xander seems to almost be mansplaining magic to Willow. She’s well aware of how dangerous, terrifying, powerful and almost unholy this spell would be. And she’s accepted it. And everything that means. This is not some random aberration like “Dark Willow” here. This is no alternate personality. This is normal, regular every day Willow. And she means business.

          End of Act One
          More to follow.
          Last edited by PuckRobin; 10-10-16, 07:02 AM.


          • #6
            Great review so far!

            Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
            There’s something disturbing in that line. I don’t mean a clue that we’re dealing with a robot instead of person. No, what I’m talking about is the cultural biases of the writer, director and producers.

            This vampire is one of the few Black characters we’ve ever seen in Buffy. An earlier Black vampire, season three’s Mr. Trick called out this problem.

            And here we have a Black character being pursued and attacked by four white characters – three of them, by birth or by bottle, blond. That alone doesn’t look good. It brings up subconscious and I assume unintentional imagery of lynch mobs or concerns about institutionalized racism in policies such as stop-and-frisk.

            But the really damning thing is that aside from his skin colour, this vampire is defined by three things his size, his athletic prowess and his limited intelligence. This vampire appears to be one of the dumbest we’ve ever seen on the show. And all three of these traits were commonly used in stereotypical and offensive depictions of Black characters. I have to wonder – what the hell were they thinking?
            In all fairness to the writers, the script doesn't mention anything about the vampire being black so it's a bit of an assumption to say that the writers have these cultural or racial biases. They do describe him as being "sumo-sized", absolutely, but all that tells us is that they imagined the vampire being large or overweight. They never specify what race they wanted the vampire to be so that was a casting decision made independently by that department. Now, it could very well be that the casting department have their own cultural biases and hired this actor as a result of that (which would be terrible) but as far as the writers are concerned, who have no say in what actors are cast for minor roles, it was a bit of an unfortunate coincidence. There's really no evidence at all that they had a POC in mind when writing the script.

            I had never really thought about it until you pointed it out but I agree that it does evoke some pretty unpleasant imagery whether it was intentional or not. And even then, it absolutely does feed into the stereotype of overweight people being "dumb" and comical and that's something the writer's did explicitly mention in the script.

            I'm actually far more disturbed by their use of the word "lesbo" to describe Willow and Tara's room. Whilst I can't really blame the writers for some of the unpleasant and most likely unintentional racial connotations of the opening teaser, it's hard to defend them being blatantly homophobic in print. I mean, I haven't heard people use that word since early middle school so seeing grown adults type it out as if they're being ~edgy or something is pretty poor. I guess 2001-2002 really was a different time but I don't really think that shit would fly now. I don't think they're being deliberately homophobic but straight people should probably never use that word and the whole line reeks of entitlement as if they feel they're allowed to say those things because they're writing a lesbian couple and are more progressive.

            One thing I do want to mention since we're discussing the writers is that Bargaining has probably one of my least favourite episode commentaries on the DVD's. I haven't listened to it in a long time but from what I recall it basically consists of Marti Noxon being really sarcastic and putting down the episode to the point where David Fury sounds like he's starts to get irritated and defensive. It's a weird commentary. And I'm not a Marti-hater by any means but I find her attitude in that commentary really quite bizarre and it's kind of depressing as I actually love this season opener and I think both she and David did a great job. I get that some people get embarrassed and a knee-jerk reaction to that is to be very self-critical but I remember it being very awkward to listen to. However, as I said, it's been a long time since I have listened to it so I might remember it sounding far worse in my head than it actually is.
            Last edited by vampmogs; 16-10-16, 07:23 AM.

            ~ Banner by Nina ~


            • #7
              Buffy the Vampire Slayer
              Season Six Rewatch
              “Bargaining Part 1”

              PART D

              Act 2, part one

              We rejoin the Scooby meeting already in progress. Willow had procured the last-remaining urn of Osiris, a vital part of her spell to resurrect Buffy. Xander had suggested they slow down and take stock. Willow said they were resurrecting Buffy tomorrow.

              Now we find out that Xander isn’t the only one with objections. Anya jumps up to, as the song goes, “stand by her man”.


              Just where we left off. Deep cabal. Everyone sits up a little, fear and adrenaline pumping.

              ANYA: Tomorrow.

              XANDER: I don't know...

              ANYA: Discovery Channel has monkeys. And our tape machine's sorta wonky--

              WILLOW: Guys. I need you guys on board here.

              Willow is truly shocked by the objections. She moves toward the others.

              Previously I had mentioned how fundamentally honest Anya is. But she has to be lying here. She may have reservations, but they likely have little to do with a Discovery Channel program.

              Then again, apparently it’s a very popular channel in Sunnydale. In the “The I in Team” Buffy lies to the Initiative saying her understanding of Spike’s chip comes from seeing similar things done to gorillas and sharks on the Discovery Channel. In “Fool for Love” Spike asks Buffy not to describe the process of becoming a vampire in Discovery Channel like terms. And when a program on the witch trials of Salem is bothering Willow in “Intervention”, Tara recommends the koalas on the Discovery Channel as an alternative viewing option.

              With only four in the room, it’s looking like the two couples have aligned against each other. At least Willow knows that she has Tara’s unconditional support. She’s wrong.

              Before speaking, Xander looks to Tara -- catching her eye. Is this the first time Xander’s reaching out to her, or have they discussed their reservations privately before? Or maybe Xander isn’t looking for support, and just apologizing for the argument he’s bringing.

              XANDER: It just ... it feels wrong.

              TARA: It is wrong.

              Willow shoots her a look -- didn't expect that.

              Et tu, Tara?

              Morality is a big issue with all superheroes – Buffy included. Everyone’s filling in for the deceased Buffy in this episode, but at this moment we’re reminded of someone else who filled in for Buffy. Well, not so much filled in as forcefully took over Buffy’s body. When Faith possessed Buffy’s body, she mockingly practiced morality in the mirror. She repeatedly said some variant of “Because it’s wrong!”

              Eventually Faith did take that morality on-board and lived up to Buffy’s heroism.

              But now Xander and Tara (and to an extent even ex-murderous vengeance demon Anya) are playing the morality card. They are speaking to Willow as if she’s Faith. Some rogue bad girl slayer.

              Or even as Buffy spoke to Giles in “The Gift” when he recommended letting Dawn die. Or when Buffy broke away from the Watchers’ Council because they refused to help Angel.

              Wesley: Buffy, they're very firm. We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilization.

              Buffy: I'm talking about watching my lover die. I don't have a clue what you're talking about and I don't care.

              The people that Buffy admonished were dealing out death and destruction. Willow’s not doing that. Willow’s proposing to bring life. Just as Buffy argued for life over death. Willow feels she’s living up to Buffy’s ideals.

              Why can’t the people Willow loves see that? Do they see her as a villain?

              Tara elaborates on what she specifically means by wrong.

              TARA (cont'd): It's against all the laws of nature and practically impossible to do but it's what we agreed to. If you guys are changing your minds—
              I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge LocalMax’s superb analysis of Resurrection Ethics and about Tara during his rewatch of “Forever” and also the responses, in particular Dipstick’s.


              As Willow raises the difference between Joyce’s death and Buffy’s death later in this scene, I’ll hold off on that for a moment. But I want to talk first about the laws of nature, Tara’s view of the laws and also the difference between these laws and the rules and guidelines that Buffy has broken over the years.

              What Wesley tried to defend in “Graduation Day” were traditions, laid out by men. Even the rules that govern when slayers are called, that Buffy and Willow subvert in “Chosen”, exist as Buffy says “because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule.”

              But Tara’s sense of wrongness isn’t from any man-made stricture. In “Forever” Tara talks of an oath developed by humans, but what that oath protects is something bigger.

              TARA: Because witches can't be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons. Wiccans took an oath a long time ago to honor that.

              Giles seems to believe in a similar sort of guideline when he criticizes Willow in “Flooded”:

              GILES: Oh, don't worry, you've made a deep impression. Of everyone here - you were the one I trusted most to respect the forces of nature.
              “Fabric of life” and “forces of nature” are words you’d use to describe Watcher bureaucracy or even normal human laws. The principles are broader, more universal.

              LocalMax brings up Tara’s views on resurrection magic as being both a result of her mother’s death and also Tara’s father telling her that she was a demon and that magic is demonic. Tara’s parents would have shaped her psyche and outlook – even if negatively in the case of Mr. Maclay.

              Imagine a young Tara finding precepts, moral laws that apply to people like her. There might have been a question as to whether young Tara was human thanks to her father’s master manipulations (still making him one of the most outright villainous figures in all of Buffy), but she was definitely Wiccan. And here was a pathway for Wiccans to do good in the world, a code that allowed them to not fall into the evils of a supposedly demon nature. This Wiccan oath might have been one of the few things to help Tara keep her sanity in such trying circumstances.

              Perhaps her mother believed it too. Did Tara have the means and opportunity to resurrect her own mother? I’m not sure. I can easily imagine a scenario where Tara’s mother issued a magical equivalent of a Do Not Resuscitate order.

              So, what is this oath? What are the laws of nature?

              The oath I’ve most commonly heard from Wiccans I know personally is the Wiccan Rede. There are some variants but essentially it is “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” In that it is similar to the Golden Rule. The phrasing seems to date from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s (even if the wording was influenced by Aleister Crowley and Francois Rabelais) – so it’s hardly the “long time ago” that Tara described. And while general guidelines to do no harm would likely include not tampering with the fabric of life for selfish reasons, it doesn’t explicitly say this. Nor do the longer versions that also surfaced in the 1970s.

              But as we do not live in the Buffyverse I would imagine that there is a Wiccan Oath in the Buffyverse that lays out the principles that Tara describes. It’s probably in Sumerian or Ugaritic or Bantu – or one of the other languages that pops up regularly in Giles and Wesley’s tomes.

              Dipstick raised a superb point about how uncomfortably close such strict dictates can come to real-world religious positions such as pro-life or anti-stem cell research. Dictates can override the concerns, needs and health of individuals for some nebulous principle. The parallel may be unintentional, but for a show that deals in metaphor as much as BtVS does – it’s important to be on the lookout for uncomfortable parallels.

              In “The Unquiet Dead”, the third episode of the newly-revived 21st century version of Doctor Who the Doctor and Rose defeat invading aliens. The aliens said their world was destroyed in the Time War. But they had a solution – they could possess and animate human corpses. The Doctor, an alien Time Lord himself, planned to help them. His human companion had reservations. “It’s not –“ “Not what? Not decent? Not polite? It could save their lives.” The Doctor compared it to recycling or having a donor card.

              This moral discussion was curtailed by the needs of science fiction action drama. Just like in the classic short story and Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”, the aliens were not all they claimed to be. They planned to come through in force. Not only would they inhabit the world’s cadavers, they’d kill the living population too. Of course, the Doctor then had to defeat the alien invaders.

              So, what was the episode saying? That donor cards were bad? But fans detected a far more uncomfortable metaphor in the episode. The alien Gelth were claiming refugee status. It turned out to be a trick, masquerading a conquest. So, was this dramatic storyline saying that Britain should turn back refugees? No wonder J.R.R. Tolkien disliked allegory so much.

              Arthur C. Clarke’s third “law” was “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” One can quibble if that’s true, but there’s something very scientific about the magic in shows like BtVS. There are rules. There are guidelines. There are structures. It doesn’t just run on dream-logic, usually. And so, it’s helpful to look at the debate over scientific advances to understand the moral dimension of Willow’s resurrection spell.

              While scientific ethics are at the heart of Mary Shelley’s 19th century novel Frankenstein, the real ethical concerns arose in the 20th century, over the devastating power developed in World War I and II. Nuclear power can level cities, or it can help power them – until the reactors meltdown and irradiate the land. Genetic therapy can prevent diseases, but it could also tend to scary eugenics that seek to eliminate diversity. The preservation of human lives can be a good thing, but as LocalMax suggested in his rewatch, it can lead a society where all resources migrate to the wealthy.

              Are objections to the resurrection spell like the religious beliefs of George W. Bush when he outlawed further stem cell research? Is it like the debate over the ethics of cloning? Perhaps. There are elements of both.

              But Tara and Giles’s concerns are even broader.

              The old gag goes that there are only two things certain in life – death and taxes. Of course, the taxes part is a joke. But that binary division between life and death seems a fundamental organizing principle of the universe. What happens if you magically reverse it? Be able to undo death and restore life? Could the fabric of the universe be threatened by such spells. Like a slow global warming effect. For each resurrection spell, maybe the fabric of the universe gets a bit weaker.

              And also, such actions as the resurrection spell could mean that the universe would end up being governed solely by the willpower of powerful individuals like Willow, who can restructure reality at will. How tempting would it be for those with power to just constantly work their will on others.

              Perhaps Tara’s oath serves as a sort of magical Prime Directive to use a Star Trek reference. Sometimes Star Trek’s non-interference directive can be seen to justify masterly inactivity, but at its heart, it’s about preventing the very powerful from playing God to the less powerful.

              Whatever the nature of these beliefs, they are a central part of Tara’s outlook on life, and it’s one she’s been able to bypass this summer. Tara has subverted her own beliefs to the benefit of the group. No wonder she’s been so out-of-sorts this meeting. But now, maybe what’s allowed her to bypass her morality is eroding.

              To repeat Tara’s final few words “but it's what we agreed to. If you guys are changing your minds—“

              What happens if the consensus shifts away from Willow’s point of view? Well, Willow doesn’t let that happen. She puts on her most serious resolve-face and orders:

              WILLOW: Nobody's changing their minds.

              And here we come to the biggest difference in the leadership styles of Buffy and Willow. When Buffy met opposition, she’d leave the group and do it her own way. Here, Willow needs to bring the group around to her side – by order if necessary.

              Part of the difference has to do with the nature of the task. Slaying, or hunting, can be a solo activity. But Willow’s ritual needs willing participants.

              Another difference has to do with how Buffy and Willow became leaders. Buffy is THE slayer (well, okay more of an “a slayer” after Kendra and Faith, but the show likes to forget about them except when a guest appearance has been booked). As the opening sequence used to tell us, Buffy is “The Chosen One”.

              Whereas Willow …. Well, that’s just what Xander objects to.

              XANDER: Excuse me. Who made you the boss of the group?
              That’s an open and direct challenge to Willow’s leadership. It’s a super tense moment, and of course it’s one defused by comedy. I expect that many quickly guessed the comic slapdown that Xander would receive from his friends.

              ANYA: You did.

              TARA: You said 'Willow should be boss.'

              ANYA: And then you said 'Let's vote' and it was unanimous.

              TARA: You made her that little plaque that said 'BOSS OF US,' you put on sparkles--
              So, it turns out that Willow is also a “Chosen One”, just of a different sort. Willow is not chosen by destiny or mystical prophecies. She was chosen by common consent of her peers, by popular vote. As authoritarian as she may seem at this moment, Willow’s status in the group is the result of democracy.

              In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio is the puritanical stewart of Olivia, the wealthy lady of Illryia. (Yes, Joss Whedon later borrowed the place-name for an Angel character.) He antagonized the other characters, and Maria seeks her revenge by sending Malvolio a false love letter, purporting to be from Olivia itself. The letter urges foolish behaviour in Malvolio. The most famous lines of that letter apply here:

              but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
              Some might say that being elected by the Scoobies meant that greatness was thrust upon Willow. But I think she has all three kinds of greatness. She was born great with a natural intelligence and aptitude for learning. She achieved greatness through her studies in computer sciences and magic. And the Scoobies thrust greatness upon her.

              So, Willow and Buffy are both chosen ones, in a sense. But given what Buffy had to put up with, and all of what Willow needs to deal with now, sometimes I wonder if they’d recite Tevye’s complaint to God from Fiddler on the Roof. “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?”

              For his part, Xander concedes his idiocy.

              XANDER: Valid points all. But we -- I mean, we were just talking then...
              So, wait a minute, Xander. Were you just humouring Willow all summer? How about Anya and the engagement? Cute little fantasies you’d never have to follow through on? No, I don’t think that’s Xander’s only worry here.

              This is a big step. Willow is talking about something far beyond the Spider-Man level of power that Buffy has. Or even Willow’s prior tricks. With resurrection, Willow is achieving power usually reserved for the gods. That’s a scary thought to contemplate.

              In the Bible, the miracle-working prophets Elijah and Elisha appealed to God to resurrect dead children. But it was God who performed these resurrections, not the human prophet. Although Willow is planning to appeal to the god Osiris, a lot of this resurrection comes as a direct result of Willow’s magic. That is a tremendous amount of power.

              Willow was afraid back in season three’s “Earshot” when Buffy temporarily gained telepathic abilities. Back then, Willow worriedly thought “She's hardly even human anymore. How can I be her friend now? She doesn't need me.” Does Willow think that Xander is feeling the same way she once did. Willow seems to address that very thought in her entreaties to Xander.

              WILLOW: I can do this, Xander. I promise. But not without you.
              Perhaps Willow is stroking Xander’s ego slightly – she does still need him. And also, she is appealing to Xander’s protective nature. (In “Phases”, Cordelia criticized him for his incessant fears over “poor, defenseless Willow”.)

              Well, if Willow truly needs people, then why are the Scoobies at only half-strength. Anya raises the point.

              ANYA: Should we maybe tell Giles? Now that we're really ready? It's not like he's going anywhere -- ever...

              WILLOW: No. No one else can know. Not Giles, not Spike, not Dawn. They might not understand—

              Willow shot that suggestion down awfully fast. And yet the Scoobies don’t really ask why.

              Sure, Dawn’s still relatively young. (Or as young as millennia-old, former blobs of green energy can be.) But Giles? Giles with his vast resources, knowledge and experience? What is it about life and death that Willow thinks the four of them can understand that Giles could not? He understands magic. He understands grief and loss. Giles loved Buffy as much as them.

              And yet there is Spike. It’s interesting that Willow turns to look directly at Xander when she says “Not Spike”. Is she acknowledging Xander’s dislike of vampires? Or is she acknowledging the bromance between Xander and Spike during that cigarette scene in “Spiral”.

              Sure, Spike doesn’t have a soul – he might not be able to firmly cleave good from evil, but Spike has lived for over a century. He went through hellish rituals to restore his then-lover Drusilla to health. What doesn’t Spike understand?

              Well, Spike guesses the answer in “After Life”. “Willow knew there was a chance that she'd come back wrong. So wrong that you'd have ... that she would have to get rid of what came back. And I wouldn't let her. “

              But is Spike really the only one to have guessed that?

              Tara surely knows Willow very well. And right after Willow gives her transparent lie for not wanting the others involved, Tara starts to say:

              TARA: And if something does go wrong--

              WILLOW: I'm telling you it won't.
              Did Tara guess precisely why Willow didn’t tell Spike? I wonder.

              Xander has similar fears. And he decides to switch to class clown mode to express them.

              XANDER: Scenario: We raise Buffy from the grave. She tries to eat our brains. Do we, 'A': congratulate ourselves on a job well done--

              Willow stops him right there.

              WILLOW: This isn't Zombies, Xander.

              ANYA: Zombies don't eat brains anyway. Unless instructed to by their Zombie masters. Lotta people get that wrong.

              I love that Tara bobs her head up in down, agreeing with Anya. It’s a cute moment of bonding between characters who are essentially the plus-ones at this Scooby disagreement. Of course, they are also the two people in this room who didn’t fight off the great zombie apocalypse of 1998 in “Dead Man’s Party”.

              As Marti Noxon wrote both this episode and “Dead Man’s Party”, I wonder if she was quoting a discussion on the nature of zombies that she once had with Joss Whedon, or perhaps with some fans critical of that earlier episode.

              The possibility of zombies was once again raised in “Forever”, also by Marti Noxon. She must have zombies on the … “Brains!” (As the zombies in 1985’s Return of the Living Dead were fond of shouting.)

              WILLOW: This isn't like Dawn trying to bring back Mrs. Summers or anything we've dealt with before . Buffy didn't die a natural death. She was killed by mystical energy.

              TARA: Which means we do have a shot.

              And Willow’s not throwing away her shot. (I believe there is a contractual obligation to sneak a Hamilton musical reference into every third article this year.)

              I wonder if this is how Tara accepts this in her mind. The mystical aspect makes resurrection easier. (We see a being -- either the god Osiris or just his personal assistant – refuse to help reverse Tara’s non-magical death later this season.) This whole scenario is outside of the normal fabric of life or “forces of nature”.

              But there’s a slippery slope to be had by thinking “this one time doesn’t matter”. We see Willow slip down this slope herself in “Villains” (also by Marti Noxon). There, Willow tries to extend the supernatural get out-of-death free card to death by gunshot.

              IMPOSING DEMON: You may not violate the laws of natural passing-

              WILLOW: How? How is this natural?

              IMPOSING DEMON: It is a human death, by human means.
              Although as Dipstick pointed out in her response to “Forever”, the Buffyverse hasn’t been entirely consistent on their concept of natural. In Angel season five’s “Time Bomb”, Marcus Hamilton confirms that the patent holder of cancer is a client of Wolfram & Hart. That feels like a cute joke at the expense of sincere world-building.

              Willow isn’t just using the mystical death as a justification for the ease or morality behind the resurrection spell.

              WILLOW: It means more than that. It means we don't know where she really is.

              XANDER: We saw her body, Will. We buried it.

              It’s an important, practical thought from the most human of all the Scooby Gang. Maybe it’s also the carpenter in Xander, one who works in a physical world – how things fit together in a tangible sense rather than a philosophical one.

              While mystical energy played a part in Buffy’s death, she did fall from a great height. And there is a real physical body. Even if Buffy hadn’t been killed, it might have damaged her severely. Faith was in a coma for months after sustaining fewer injuries.

              Willow seems to just dismiss the tangible reality of Buffy. Right to the point of not digging up Buffy’s coffin and having it ready to open if the spell worked. Did Willow think that Buffy would magically appear in front of them like Darla and Spike did when they were resurrected? Or like Angel who just dropped down from the sky in “Faith, Hope and Trick” – a naked Adonis with nary a scar for his suffering.

              I know Spike figures that Willow considered the possibility that Buffy might come back wrong.

              But just how wrong did she plan for? Was it just zombie, undead fury of vengeance wrong? Or did she consider the possibility of a very human but damaged Buffy? What about a Buffy with a broken back? Or a Buffy damaged from the head trauma of falling from a great height? When Wolfram and Hart resurrected Darla she came back with her syphilis intact. What if Buffy’s decomposition wasn’t reversed?

              The combination of advanced medicine and advanced weaponry led to many horribly wounded survivors in World War I.

              One example from modern popular culture is Richard Harrow, a World War I veteran in the HBO TV series Boardwalk Empire. Half of Harrow’s face was blown off in the war and he conceals the wounds with a crude approximate of a face. Harrow is treated like a freak by most of the people he meets.

              It’s like Willow is thinking of when Angel just dropped out of the sky back in early season three. Oh, and speaking of Angel:

              WILLOW (getting worked up): Her body, yeah, but her soul, her essence -- that could be somewhere else, trapped it some Hell dimension like Angel was. Suffering some eternal torment that we can't even imagine just because she saved us and I am not gonna let her... (near tears) ...I'm not gonna leave her there.

              Fans wondered why would Buffy – who dedicated her life to helping others – end up in hell? Well, Willow didn’t say hell. She said “hell dimension” – not a Biblical hell, but the demon dimension that Angel was stuck in. Sometimes the episodes said Angel was in hell, but when Giles talks about the place in “Beauty and the Beasts”, he refers to it as a dimension. Now, a dimension doesn’t say eternal struggle between God and the Devil to me. It says transporter accidents that have Kirk land in an alternative universe where Spock has a goatee.

              Or the multiverse of DC Comics where the 1940s and modern versions of heroes could meet by just vibrating their molecules really fast, or running on a special treadmill or again using a special transporter. Visiting different dimensions was a much celebrated annual event in the comics. (And the Flashes of two worlds visited each other even more frequently.)

              Or to bring it back to Buffy, the world without shrimp.

              It’s hard to imagine Milton writing poetry about shrimp-free dimensions. Now Spike and Angel talk about Hell in more traditional terms in the Angel season five episode “Hellbound”. It’s not a hell accessed solely by mystic portals, but a place that “always hungers for the wicked” and that Angel had but a short reprieve from.

              But that’s not the hell of Willow’s experience. She’s used to Giles describing hell as a dimension. She’s used to Buffy and Gregor describing Glory’s home as a “dimension of unspeakable torment” and a “demon dimension”. It sounds scientific, something easily categorized.

              However, whether one reaches this hell through immorality or through a mystical portal, Willow perceives it as a place of “eternal torment”. That sounds a lot like traditional hell – or rather traditional Christian hell. But then Willow is not a Christian.

              When the question is asked “Do Jews believe in hell?”, the answers seem to range from yes, no and perhaps most common of all, “sort-of, in a manner of speaking, but it’s not the hell you’re thinking of”. It’s rare for any belief system to be strictly uniform. There’s a wide-range of interpretation in both the original texts and later commentaries.

              There are references to afterlives in Jewish tradition, Sheol and the more unpleasant Gehenna are but two examples. Gehenna is the Anglicization of the Hellenization of the Hebrew Ge-hinnom or Gai Ben-Hinnom, literally the Valley of Hinnom or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, an actual physical location on Earth. In Rabbinical Judaism Gehenna serves as a place of torment, but a temporary one. It can be a place of cleansing before moving onto a better life or afterlife. The level of torment seems to vary depending on the tradition, but at least some point to a lake of fire.

              Generally, time in Gehenna is seen as temporary, but Daniel 12.2 says:

              And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.
              French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote “You have told me, O God, to believe in hell. But you have forbidden me to think...of any man as damned”. Just how many are condemned to everlasting abhorrence (or “contempt” as the King James Bible translates that passage) is a question. If not quite Teilhard’s empty hell, many Jewish scholars say that fate is reserved for a select few – King Ahab, Adolf Hitler and “people who talk at the theatre”. (Okay, not the last one – that’s Shepherd Book’s Special Hell from Firefly.)

              If Willow was raised to believe in any kind of eternal torment at all, it would have been a fate for only the absolute worst. And yet Willow believes that Buffy may be suffering this fate. And she has good reason to think that.

              Buffy died closing a portal to Glory’s hell dimension. It’s easy enough to imagine that as she died, Buffy’s soul was ripped from her body and flung into the hell dimension.

              What’s even more painful for Willow is the reason why Buffy is in the hell dimension. “Just because she saved us.” Willow feels it is in part her fault that Buffy would be in a hell dimension. Willow probably feels a similar guilt over Angel’s time in a hell dimension. After all, if Willow had only been able to perform the restoration of Angel’s soul a bit sooner, Buffy would not have had to send Angel to hell to close the portal in “Becoming”.

              Willow probably wonders, like all the Scoobies, if she had done things differently would Buffy needed to have sacrificed herself in “The Gift”?

              It doesn’t matter that Willow is in no way responsible for Angel’s exile or Buffy’s death. She feels she is.

              Willow makes a final plea to Xander:

              She collects herself, faces off with Xander.

              WILLOW (cont'd): It's Buffy.

              Who could say no to those tearful eyes?

              Certainly not Xander. He replies, “What time do we meet?”

              Willow’s ultimate argument doesn’t bring up the slayer’s usefulness in fighting the forces of darkness, nor the special circumstances that allow for a resurrection without ripping apart that fabric of life. No, Willow’s final appeal is a deeply personal one. It’s their friend, the person both her and Xander love – it’s Buffy.

              They want their friend back.

              In a sense, it is playing with the fabric of life “for selfish reasons”.

              Since this last scene brought up Tara’s moral code so often, this is a good place to take another interlude to look at her summer adventures.

              I Know What You Did Last Summer: Guest-Star Edition: Tara Maclay

              The first thing that Tara did in the summer without Buffy was get her life back.

              Last season, the hell-god Glory had drained the sanity – the very identity – of Tara right out of her. In the season finale “The Gift” Willow was able to poke her fingers into Glory’s brain and transfer the mental energy back into Tara.

              Tara looks into the eyes of her saviour Willow with relief and gratitude.

              It’s a profound moment for the relationship. The Scoobies have saved each other from physical attacks dozens of times over. But the restoration of sanity – of identity – feels much more profound. There are some parallels to the restoration of Angel’s soul (thanks again, Willow) but vampire souls are mere fiction. Mental illness is a real world concern, and Tara’s experiences remind us of that.

              As Tara is still in college – and apparently not retaking classes – in season six, she went back to UC Sunnydale and finished out the 2000-2001 school year. I wonder what her classmates thought of her absence. Did they know that Tara went crazy? Would they care? In the Sunnydale High years, we often saw the ordinary students’ perceptions of the Scooby Gang. Since the college years, we see little interaction between the Scoobies and the not-we.

              Would Tara’s admittance to the hospital after Glory’s attack on Tara’s sanity leave a permanent record? Would she be stigmatized for what Glory did? In a way, the question is moot. Sadly, Tara has no future beyond this season. No consequence can be long term, because Tara herself isn’t long term.

              As with the other sections, more details can be gleaned from the non-canonical Buffy comics.

              I mentioned back in the teaser that Tara seemed to have taken on Willow’s old role with some misplaced magic and humorous remarks. The 2002 Lost and Found comic tells us that she had training from an expert.

              Meanwhile in the “Death of Buffy” story arc in the monthly Buffy comic book, we learn that Tara helped out the Scoobies in their monster-fighting activities. One time, she saves Anya by staking a vampire in the back.

              Wait? What? In “Bargaining, Part 2” Tara axe-murders the demon Razor and says that he was her “first”. But this comic shows Tara slaying months before that. Well, that’s why the comics are considered “non-canonical”. Although usually that means that the TV show is free to contradict the comics in subsequent episodes. The comic books themselves are supposed to try to stay within the continuity of the show, and this issue contradicted an episode that aired several months before. And not just any episode, but one of the most important episodes to study when writing a “Death of Buffy” story.

              The “Death of Buffy” comics hew a little closer to the show in other aspects. They depict Willow and Tara moving into the Summers household and taking over unofficial and illegal guardianship of Dawn.

              Like “Bargaining”, the comic depicts Tara making pancakes for the young Ms. Summers.

              The reason that Dawn is hiding is that she is in trouble at school. She got into fights with other students.

              Willow and Tara host a Scooby meeting to discuss Dawn’s problems. But an increasingly angry Xander keeps steering the conversation back to their vampire-slaying problems. Tara tries to bring the subject back to Dawn, and at the same time Tara expresses confidence in the Buffyless Scoobies.

              Of all the Scoobies, it’s Tara who stresses the need to move forward.

              This resembles what Tara advised a grieving Dawn in season five’s “Forever”. “You make a place for her in your heart. It's sort of like she becomes a part of you. Does that make sense?”

              But the other Scoobies are not ready to move forward. When Willow obtains knowledge of a resurrection spell, she gathers the Scoobies (minus Giles, Spike and Dawn) together at a club (presumably the Bronze) and tells them all as a group.

              After Anya and Xander depart, Tara has words for Willow.

              Is Tara being too controlling or domineering of Willow? Perhaps. “The Death of Buffy” comics often show the characters in the worst possible light. But Tara also does have a reason to be annoyed with Willow.

              Tara has some strongly held beliefs about resurrection. Willow knows that. Does that mean that Willow needs to subvert her own beliefs to Tara’s? Not at all. And it’s not exactly what Tara is asking here. She wanted a little preparation, a heads up. By bringing up to the resurrection to the whole group, Tara feels ambushed.

              But Tara did agree to stand behind Willow. And she does. But she’s visibly not happy about it.

              Tara is in a bind, but not only because she wants to be a supportive girlfriend.

              Willow is quite literally responsible for the restoration of Tara’s identity. But now Willow is asking Tara to go against something fundamental to her old identity. Perhaps Tara feels that she’s not been restored as much as remade.

              As season six goes on we’ll see some unpleasant and abusive behaviour from Willow. She literally tries to remake Tara’s identity by causing her to forget arguments, to accept things. It’s a violation – and one that resembles Glory. Nothing that happened in the Summer Without Buffy seems to be on the same scale as Willow’s memory spells in “All the Way” and “Tabula Rasa”.

              But we do start to see a change in Tara early this season. Tara becomes more confident, more sure of herself, more assertive. The spectre of the old Tara is still in “Bargaining”, but we do see signs of a growing confidence.

              Maybe having every aspect of Tara’s personality stripped away and then returned, has given Tara perspective. She gradually is able to look at what she wants and say so, openly, clearly.

              In season four’s “New Moon Rising”, Tara avoided expressing her feelings for Willow, she was resigned to Willow going back to Oz. In “Family”, Tara was ashamed and acted in secret. It was unhealthy behaviour.

              But in “Bargaining” Tara is not the one acting in secret, Willow is.

              I’m going to pause for a brief commercial break. After these messages we’ll be right back.


              • #8
                Another break between posts...

                Life Without Buffy on UPN:



                • #9
                  Buffy the Vampire Slayer
                  Season Six Rewatch
                  “Bargaining Part 1”
                  PART E

                  Act 2, part two

                  And as we return to our rewatch of “Bargaining, Part 1” we see Willow returning home from the secret Scooby meeting.

                  Maybe she expected to see a sleeping Dawn curled up on the couch as Spike stared longingly at a picture of Buffy. Instead Willow finds Spike with the BuffyBot – a damaged BuffyBot. And Dawn is nowhere to be seen.

                  The BuffyBot excitedly says “Willow!”, shuffles forward, knocks over a table and walks straight into the living room door.

                  Willow freaks. “What happened? Where’s Dawn?”

                  Spike straightens the knocked-over flower vase, and reassures Willow. Dawn is upstairs sleeping. Whatever happened to damage the BuffyBot didn’t happen in the Summers home.

                  The BuffyBot sums up difficulties in her usual perky manner. “I think my feet are broken.”

                  Willow translates BotSpeak into standard technobabble and pronounces it a fault in the navigation system. Willow sets BuffyBot on the couch and prepares to examine her. She asks Spike to help by getting a flashlight.

                  Spike explains that the BuffyBot wanted to go out looking for Willow, but Spike kept her at home. He quips about the Bot’s tendency to bump into walls “I figured there are enough
                  things in Sunnydale that go bump in the night ...”

                  The BuffyBot disagrees and provides us some classic “As you know, Bob” exposition in the process.

                  BUFFYBOT: But my homing device locates you when I'm injured. I'm programmed to go to you.

                  WILLOW: I know. Still, just this once it was a good idea to stay put. Spike was right.
                  Of course, Willow knows that the BuffyBot is programmed to find her. Willow’s the one who programmed that command into the Bot. But it becomes a key plot point later in the episode that the injured Bot will seek out Willow.

                  Willow opens up the BuffyBot’s stomach – revealing circuitry that can barely fit in its casing.

                  I wonder if what we’re looking at is Warren’s original design or Xander’s patchwork repairs with whatever commonplace materials are handy. It doesn’t look like very sturdy construction. It’s hard to imagine that shell standing up to the rigours of Slayer-style combat. And it would be positively weird to be intimate with the Bot too, as that flesh is unlikely to act the way human flesh does.

                  Speaking of the BuffyBot’s original role as Spike’s sex toy:

                  BUFFYBOT: I'm sorry I questioned you, Spike. You know I admire your brain almost as much as your washboard abs.

                  To honour Buffy’s sacrifice, Spike’s been trying to be his best self. But this is just a painful reminder of the old Spike – a selfish stalker. The Scoobies may be dwelling on the past, but this is not a past that Spike’s wants to visit. He doesn’t want to remember a time when he just wanted to grab the slayer by… well, I don’t think I’ll resort to highbrow presidential language here.

                  Spike's face clouds at this. And it's a big, dark cloud.

                  SPIKE (to Willow): I told you to make her stop doing that.

                  Willow says she thought she had. She can see where this is going. Yet more work to do.

                  Spike tells her to fix it. Marsters does some excellent work here. He’s not normal funny sarcastic Spike, nor the angry temper tantrum Spike. This Spike is angry and ashamed, but he’s keeping it as controlled as possible.

                  Spike means business.

                  Willow complies with his request. “Sure. I mean I've got a lot of work here, but I'll see what I can do.” She just can’t say no, not matter how overburdened Willow is. And she can’t tell Spike why she’s so burdened at the moment because according to Willow he “wouldn’t understand.”

                  Willow has to do almost everything herself. But she asks Spike for one favour – to hold the flashlight. Too late, he’s already on his way out the door.

                  So, Willow now has to get ingredients for the spell, mentally prepare herself for a dangerous spell, fix the BuffyBot’s navigation system, rewrite the BuffyBot’s personality … and hold her own flashlight. Is there anything else that she can be burdened with?

                  Why, yes. The BuffyBot asks if she’s done something wrong, and then declares that Spike has stopped liking her.

                  Yes, Willow now needs to play best friend and counsellor to the robot.

                  WILLOW: That's not true. He thinks you're swell.
                  BUFFYBOT: Then how come he never looks at me anymore? Even when he's talking to me?

                  First of all, swell? Can you possibly come up with a less convincing word to reassure someone? It works in the classic Rodgers & Hart song “Thou Swell”, but it sounds forced and phony coming from most people in the 21th century. Then again, Willow does have that Clark Kentish personality – a geeky sincerity -- that can usually carry the word off. But this time, Willow is lying through the teeth. So “swell” seems especially hollow. Even the BuffyBot who usually takes things at face value picks up on it.

                  But where is the BuffyBot’s insecurity coming from? The robot doesn’t have actual feelings to hurt. These are programmed responses. I can’t imagine Spike asked for the BuffyBot to be like this for his old sex games. The real Buffy could be insecure in her relationships at times. Did Willow program in sequences to continue her best friend role with the robot? Or does the BuffyBot’s insecurities resemble Willow’s own? Did Willow put herself into the robot?

                  Willow takes some deep breaths as she talks to the BuffyBot . Yes, she have to play relationship counsellor -- on top of everything else.

                  WILLOW: He just gets cranky. Like vampires do. (then) Now just relax...

                  She says this next a little too intently. It's clear she's talking more about the real Buffy than the bot.

                  WILLOW (cont'd): I'm going to make you good as new. I promise I am.
                  “Just gets cranky. Like vampires do.” This episode is filled with secrets and lies. The Scoobies lie to each other and to themselves. But this might be the most hilarious lie of them all.

                  I notice Willow also shifts her gaze away from the BuffyBot’s eyes. Instead she’s looking at her lap … and laptop. Then again, whatever the BuffyBot has that passes for a soul would be stored in a computer file on the laptop.

                  Let’s pause here for another interlude to explore what the Scoobies did over the Summer Without Buffy. This time I’m going to focus on that cranky vampire.

                  I Know What You Did Last Summer: Spike

                  When we last saw Spike in “The Gift”, he was devastated as all the Scoobies were. When Spike saw Buffy’s corpse, he had a very human-looking expression taking it all in.

                  It’s as if Spike’s non-beating small heart (to borrow from Dr. Suess’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) “grew three sizes that day.” But Spike’s oversized heart was broken – utterly and completely.

                  Just minutes before Doc had said he didn’t smell a soul anywhere on Spike. And yet Spike is more demonstrably upset than all the other Scoobies. He buries his crying face in his hands.

                  Back in “Crush” Drusilla had said soulless vampires can know love. “Oh, we can, you know. We can love quite well. If not wisely.”

                  Drusilla paraphrases from Shakespeare’s Othello. (“Then must you speak / Of one that loved not wisely, but too well.”) But that expression was later used as the opening lines of a song by Robert Wells and Jack Segal which appeared on the 1964 Frank Sinatra album Softly, As I Leave You.

                  Here's to those who love not too wisely,
                  No, not wisely, but too well
                  To the girl who sighs with envy when she hears that wedding bell
                  To the guy who'd throw a party if he knew someone to call
                  Here's to the losers, bless them all
                  Here’s Sinatra’s recording of the song:


                  And Spike was a loser. Not just in love though.

                  Throughout season five Buffy had trusted him to protect Dawn. In “The Gift” Buffy said to Spike “I’m counting on you. To protect her.” Spike replied “Till the end of the world, even if that happens to be tonight.”

                  Later in the episode Dawn is trapped on the tower, menaced by Doc. Spike charges up the tower to rescue Buffy’s sister. Like a superhero Spike trades banter with Doc. But the flunky – played by Joel Grey – gets the upper hand and pitches Spike off the tower.

                  Twitter didn’t exist back in 2001, but if it had I expect there would have been animated gifs of Spike being thrown from the tower with the hashtag “You had one job.”

                  Spike agreed to protect Dawn out of love for Buffy. Not because he any hopes of obtaining her, but because even though he’s a monster, she made him “feel like a man.” Spike failed. Utterly and completely. And because he failed Buffy had to sacrifice her own life to save Dawn.

                  All the Scoobies blamed themselves for Buffy’s death, but Spike did most of all.

                  When “Bargaining” starts, we see Spike working with the Scoobies. In “After Life” Spike tells Xander “I worked beside you. All summer.”

                  Except both the official (but not canonical) comics and fan fiction agree that that’s not exactly true. They chronicle a period when the torch Spike carried (to quote Here’s To The Losers again) “must be drown in champagne.” Okay, not so much champagne as hard liquor.

                  In the Lost and Found comic special, Dawn says she’s a crutch for Spike because his misery most matches her own.

                  As you might recall from the previous installments, the plot of Lost and Found concerned a demon named Veeya who fed off the emotions of grief and loss. Veeya was set free in the Magic Box, surrounded by grieving Scoobies. But she left the Magic Box to seek out the one whose grief was greater than all other Scoobies combined – Spike. Veeya tried to push Spike toward committing suicide.

                  Spike might be ready to burn for Buffy, but the Scoobies aren’t willing to let Spike kill himself. Ironically Xander is the first Scooby to reach the crypt and shove Spike out of the sun’s harmful rays.

                  The story of the Summer Without Buffy continued in three issues of the regular monthly Buffy comic book, labelled “The Death of Buffy”. These issues were written by regular Buffy comic writers Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe.

                  The story arc begins with Spike drinking over the remains of the BuffyBot, contemplating his failures. Eventually Spike decides to lock the Bot’s remains away in a trunk.

                  At this point Spike is definitely not working beside the Scoobies. When Willow proposes adding Spike to the group Xander goes nuts and attempts to kill Spike.

                  One of the things that infuriates Xander is that while all the Scoobies cling to Buffy’s memory Spike is not honouring it. He’s trying to claim Buffy’s legacy without living up to it.

                  The Scoobies arrive to stop Xander. This leads to the discussion where Anya proposes using the BuffyBot to replace Buffy. The Scoobies don’t know where the BuffyBot is. But Spike does. He’s reluctant to tell them.

                  Willow’s argument to do it for Dawn affects Spike. He goes on to rescue Dawn.

                  After he has ice cream with Dawn, Spike goes to meet up with Clem at Willy’s Place. (Yes, the story is set before Clem’s first on-screen appearance in “Life Serial” although it is published several months after his first TV appearances.) But also frequenting Willy’s Place are some demons, brethren of Doc. They are badly in need of a witch. They place Spike under a charm spell so that he will bring a witch to them.

                  Several scenes in the “Death of Buffy” comic duplicate moments in “Bargaining” – far too closely for my tastes. One such duplicative moment finds the BuffyBot laying on the couch as Willow tries to fix her programming.

                  Spike explains that he was under a charm spell.

                  “A double-crossing little twit” seems pretty tame language to describe Doc. After all, Doc’s the one who threw Spike off the tower in “The Gift”. Doc is the one who bled Dawn and opened the portal. Doc is the one most directly responsible for Buffy’s death. You might think that the comic book was going to use the threat of Doc’s brothers for a redemption arc. But you’d be wrong. The comic doesn’t really take advantage of that opportunity.

                  Instead Spike just goes off to trade in magical objects.

                  Spike almost looks like he’s buying drugs. (That would certainly fit with the metaphor of magic equals drugs that runs through season six.) Spike’s little deal did not go unobserved, however. It appears that Xander has been stalking Spike.

                  After his confrontation with Xander, Spike goes to sell his magic weed to a red-robed, bandaged woman going by the bizarre name of Coma. Coma had appeared in Fassbender and Pascoe’s comic set in season five before Buffy’s death too. Like here, Spike had been going around Sunnydale procuring items in exchange for cash.

                  It’s a bizarre characterization of Spike that doesn’t quite fit with where the TV character was during late season five or early season six. The only episode that truly reflects the comic book characterization is “As You Were”. And Spike’s depiction as an arms dealer in demon eggs is so bizarrely out of character that some fans have decided that the whole Doctor subplot of “As You Were” was just a frame-up orchestrated by Riley.

                  Anyway, Spike hands over the goods, and in return he gets the cash and a piece of advice that would serve him well later in season six.

                  The Buffy comics are a great missed opportunity. In “Lost and Found” we see the Buffyless Scoobies begin to work together. But the “Death of Buffy” storyline by Fassbender and Pascoe reverses all that. We see the Scoobies at their lowest point after “The Gift” and things are set in motion to link up with “Bargaining” but we don’t really get to see the period in-between.

                  Spike helps out Dawn in the comics, but he’s hardly working beside all the Scoobies. In the opening moments of “Bargaining”, Spike doesn’t seem like an occasional ally. He is part of the team. Yes, he’s a bit caustic toward them, but not much more so than the other Scoobies are toward each other. Spike is trying to not only be a good man, but one of the team.

                  I don’t think Spike joined the Scoobies out of a sense of the greater good. Apparently without a soul the most Spike can manage is enlightened self-interest. (But then Spike is nothing if not a creature of exceptions, and Marsters plays him as such.) Spike is part of the Scoobies because he thinks that team dynamic is what Buffy wants.

                  Spike has remade himself time and again. From hapless middle-class (or upper middle class) poet to faux-working-class rebel to punk rocker. Scooby Spike is yet another persona.

                  And yet, he’s kept apart from the rest of the Scoobies. What did Spike think they were doing on nights he was baby-sitting Dawn? Were they social events that Spike was kept out of? Did he feel like the Scoobies were not treating him as a man in the way Buffy did?

                  When Spike does learn what Scoobies were doing in secret, he is hurt and betrayed. But that’s a story for another rewatch.

                  Let’s now return to the episode proper and check in on the other Scoobies.

                  The scene dissolves from Willow to the exterior of the Summers home. And then we return to the interior. Willow is semi-snoozing in bed, snuggled next to Tara. It’s amazing she’s been able to get in any sleep.

                  But the person not sleeping this night is Dawn. And when we cut to her room, we see Dawn is looking up at the ceiling. Or maybe she’s looking through the ceiling to the stars, to heavens, to her deceased mother and sister.

                  This scene plays out silently – and is all the more powerful for it.

                  Dawn gets up, wanders down the hall and pushes open the door to Buffy’s room. Sorry, BuffyBot’s room.

                  Dawn shifts in her place uncomfortably, screwing her courage to the sticking place.

                  And when we see her move forward. She looks down at the floor at a large generator. This is what powers the BuffyBot – it’s heart, so to speak.

                  The BuffyBot lies on Buffy’s old bed. Panels on her leg and her stomach are open, revealing the circuitry. BuffyBot’s eyes are open, but she’s not awake. She’s like a corpse made up at a funeral home.

                  Dawn approaches the bot slowly, much like she was obsessed with her mother’s body in “The Body”.

                  And then Dawn gets into bed with the BuffyBot, she rests her head on the robo-sister’s shoulder. The bot is silent. No awkward phrases. No robot expressions. Maybe just for once Dawn can ignore the circuitry and pretend that her sister is still alive. She draws comfort from a machine.

                  Dawn isn’t the only one to do this.

                  It’s daytime, and we get a rare glimpse of Santa Barbara – sorry, Sunnydale. It’s a lovely looking town when it’s not under demonic attack. It’s looking rather well populated for the crappy one Starbucks town that Xander claimed Sunnydale was.

                  The action shifts to the training room at the back of the Magic Box. It’s a classic training scene. Buffy is punching the padded targets on Giles’s hands.

                  “That was splendid,” Giles tells his young pupil. As always, he’s clearly winded from sparring with the slayer.

                  Buffy gets in a couple more punches, and then listens attentively to Giles. There’s an appreciative look in her eye.

                  Now, Giles dispenses some more wisdom. “Now ... try it again ... only this time, remember your breathing.”

                  Giles might want to remember his own breathing here. He looks like about three breathes short of a fatal heart attack. But then Giles is powered by self-delusion in this scene.

                  The slayer is an eager student, and she does what she’s told, comically so. Buffy sucks back an exaggerated deep breath.

                  She continues to punch Giles, employing the same highly artificial deep breathing.

                  Anya walks in and observes this sad spectacle.

                  Giles compliments Buffy, but moves onto the next lesson. “Good. Now, think of the breath as "chi." Air as a life source-“

                  Buffy’s been unusually compliant in this scene. No smart-ass remarks to Giles, no defiance, no distractions with the her personal life. This time, “she’s a perfect teacher’s pet”. Oh.

                  The BuffyBot may not have all of Buffy’s smart remarks, but she does stop her teacher with a logical objection.

                  “I don’t require oxygen to live,” says the BuffyBot.

                  And there it is, the absolute reminder that this isn’t Buffy at all, just a machine taking her place. In “Intervention” when the BuffyBot said “Should I start this program over?” It completely deflated Spike’s love-making mood. But Giles has a greater sense of denial. He just keeps up with the delusion.

                  GILES: Of course. Strictly speaking, but-

                  Now Anya moves into the room. She's not unkind when she says-

                  ANYA: Maybe you'd better stick to the standard drill. You don't want her to blow another gasket.

                  Anya is trying to be compassionate, but she concludes with a brief flash of that fake “I don’t want to work at Video Hut” grin.

                  Giles tries to persist in his self-delusion.

                  GILES: I'm testing her responses after her injury. I don't see how it can hurt to impart a little Eastern philosophy...

                  ANYA: I just think the concept of "chi" is a little tough for her to grasp. She's not the descendant of a long line of mystical warriors - she's the descendant of a toaster oven.

                  Strangely literal Anya is broadening her speech patterns slightly. Obviously toaster oven is not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufactured small home appliance. Still Anya is refreshingly blunt and saying the things Giles needs to hear.

                  In many ways, at this moment Anya is far more like Buffy than the BuffyBot is. The real Buffy would offer similar criticism.

                  But Giles seems bizarrely hung up on the BuffyBot’s physical resemblance and he ignores those around him who truly love and need him.

                  Instead, Giles goes for the classic response of all those who absolutely refuse to listen – rather than hear – but want to pretend they listened, while still being dismissive. “I appreciate your input, Anya.” It’s a phrase that has never, ever, been used to convey true appreciation.

                  But Giles does show appreciation … to his little fantasy. He notes the BuffyBot has responded nicely to their sessions.

                  The BuffyBot smiles happily. It’s her programmed response, after all.

                  Anya just gives up. “You’re the boss,” she says as Giles seems so fond of stock responses this morning. But then, because Anya is a human (currently), she adds a rueful “Still.”

                  Anya leaves Giles to continue his training sessions in peace. But reality is sinking in. Giles decides to call it a day, telling BuffyBot that her responses are fine. Of course, they are. She’s programmed that way.

                  Giles looks at the BuffyBot. He’s like a man coming out of a midlife crisis, seeing his far too-young crush as a pathetic last grasp at youth and relevance.

                  GILES (cont'd): Perhaps Anya's right. I'm trying to teach you as if you were ...

                  BUFFYBOT: A human?
                  BuffyBot says that helpfully. She’s not ashamed of what she is. She also reassures Giles that she likes his teaching. “Every slayer needs her watcher.”

                  Buffy – the real Buffy – had managed to get by without the council for nearly two years. The BuffyBot is programmed to mean what she says – a textbook definition of the Slayer/Watcher relationship. But it rings false to Giles.

                  And in this episode of dishonesty, he opens up and shares his true feelings with the robot. “I just can't help but wonder if she would have been better off without me. Buffy.”

                  The BuffyBot disagrees cheerfully, saying he was very helpful.

                  Giles doesn’t trust the BuffyBot now, just as he doesn’t trust himself.

                  GILES: Right. I was the perfect watcher.

                  Now bitterness creeps into Giles' tone.

                  GILES (cont'd): And I did what any good watcher does. I got my slayer killed in the line of duty.
                  It is an accurate, yet very cynical, description of a Watcher’s duties. It’s like if a cynic programmed the BuffyBot’s encyclopedic definitions. But the BuffyBot doesn’t get cynicism.

                  BUFFYBOT: Oh, that wasn't your fault.
                  GILES: Of course not. That's how all Slayer/Watcher relationships end, isn't it? She's gone. I did my job.

                  Giles repeats the “She’s gone” line from the trailer. It’s like a mantra, helping him to accept reality.

                  But the Bot is confused. If he’s job is over…

                  BUFFYBOT (innocently): Then why are you still here?

                  Giles takes this in. It hits hard. Why indeed?

                  The scene ends with the close-up on Giles’s face. He has no reason to stay in Sunnydale. Well, no reason aside from looking after Dawn, Anya, Willow … and the rest. But I’m not sure he would accept those reasons.

                  We leave this scene of quiet introspection and switch to its polar opposite – a place of loud bragging. It’s a biker bar. A demon biker bar.

                  We pan across the bar. The original broadcast/DVD version runs a few seconds longer. The syndicated/streaming version picks up the pan across the bar with a biker grabbing a woman. But both versions show the important parts of the scene. The script describes the bar as “ teaming with DEMON BIKERS (including some CHICK BIKERS).”

                  Seated at the bar area is a biker demon named Mag. If you didn’t know what the vampires of the show looked like, you might assume that he was a vampire. The demon has a nosferatu vibe to him. Pointed ears, pointed teeth and bat motif tattooed on his forehead. But this vampire looking demon also lacks a nose. And on his face are leather straps, hooked into the face by ring piercings. The demons of the bar wear jackets that proclaim them to be Hellions.

                  Seated next to this Hellion Mag is a true vampire. Well, barely. It’s the “Shempy” “Ratso Rizzo” vampire from earlier in the episode. He’s talking Mag’s ear off, bragging of his great battle with the robo-slayer.

                  Of course, Shempy is talking up his fighting skills. Mag can tell he’s full of it, and he cuts the story short by grabbing Shempy by the throat.

                  MAG: You lying to me?

                  Shempy scrambles, trying to win back his audience.

                  SHEMPY VAMP: I swear on all that's unholy! You haven't even heard the best part. I cut her, right? And she's, I don't know, some kind of machine. She's not human.

                  Mag, confused, releases the Shempy Vamp.

                  MAG: You're high.

                  SHEMPY VAMP: I'm telling you - it wasn't even the slayer, man. It was like a trick. A robot.
                  The syndicated/streaming version cuts Shempy’s explanation off with “She’s not human,” but the broadcast/DVD version includes all the dialogue above.

                  With that Mag drags Shempy to a booth at the other end of the bar. Seated at the booth is Razor, the leader of the Hellions, and one of those “chick bikers”.

                  Shempy starts telling hjs story again. Mag cuts him off. “The part about the robot.” Shempy resumes narrating his fight.

                  Mag stops him again. Razor doesn’t want to hear this. Mag summarizes for his boss. “He says the slayer's been replaced by some kind of machine-“

                  Shempy adds “And I kicked her synthetic ass. You shoulda seen the sparks ...”

                  Razor gets back to the important bit. “You're telling me there's no Slayer in Sunnydale.”

                  Shempy feeds into the mood, confirming that the town is wide open.

                  Mag adds “Nowhere like the Hellmouth for a party. There's all kinds of bad in that place.”

                  And now, Shempy makes his big mistake. He taps Razor on the chest. Like he’s a pal. Razor is no pal. But Shempy still tries to join the Hellions. Yes, he knows they hate vampires because of the whole “Sunlight issue”. A phrase that Shempy punctuates with air quotes, to seem even more losery than before.

                  Shempy continues his pitch. “As thanks for the 411, you could let me throw in with you–“

                  Those are Shempy’s last words. Razor grabs him by the throat and pops Shempy’s head right off. His headless corpses bursts into dust as it falls to the ground.

                  Like all henchman-slaughtering bad guys Razor can’t resist a final quip. “I’ll think it over.”

                  Razor tells the Hellions “Let’s ride.”

                  We see the demons – who have no problem with sunlight – get onto their motorcycles and ride off toward Sunnydale. The Scoobies are in trouble.

                  The name Hellions reminds veiwers of the most famous biker gang of them all – the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. The HA are linked to organized crime, although the group officially claims that any criminality is the result of individual, non-group activities of its members. Disorganized crime, then?

                  Popular culture sometimes depicts them as free-spirits, with deep codes of brotherhood and bonding.

                  The conflicting depictions confused one-time Toronto mayor Mel Lastman. (Think the joking hucksterism of Stan Lee – that was Lastman’s shtick too.) In January 2002, Lastman did a photo op with the leader of the Toronto chapter of the Hells Angels. Yes, a big city mayor was happily depicted hugging and shaking the hand of a man linked to various crimes, including the city’s drug trade.

                  Lastman was criticized by the Toronto Police Chief, the head of the police union and the mayor of Montreal (a Canadian city that has an even bigger problem with biker gangs). Lastman claimed he didn’t know that the Hells Angels were into crime. That excuse seemed unbelievable. Sure, the Hells Angels had only come to Toronto’s province of Ontario within the last year. But the gang was famous – notorious – the world over. So, Lastman arranged for another photo op. This time the mayor smiled as he pitched a Hells Angels t-shirt into a garbage can.

                  One of the people to criticize Lastman was a novice city councillor – Rob Ford. Yes, that’s future “Crack-smoking mayor” Rob Ford – also famous and notorious the world over. In 2013, Mayor Ford was embarrassed to find himself in a photo with Hells Angels members.

                  I wonder if Sunnydale’s former mayor Richard Wilkins III ever had a photo op with the Hellions. It seems unlikely.

                  Then again, what do the Hellions do all day? Sit around one seedy bar, just waiting to hear if the slayer is dead? Do they raid other towns? Has the Initiative tried to do anything about them?

                  The episode doesn’t give us answers. The Hellions are just a convenience to provide action in the much more importance story of Buffy’s resurrection. We’ll be getting back to the main story in the next rewatch chapter, coming soon.


                  • #10
                    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
                    Season Six Rewatch
                    “Bargaining Part 1”

                    PART F

                    Act 3

                    The third act begins in a beautiful sunlight glade. It’s the kind of setting one might expect to see in a film like 1938’s Adventures of Robin Hood where Sherwood Forest was represented by Bidwell Park in sunny California or maybe a Disney film – one in particular springs to mind.

                    We see Willow kneeling, spreading the herbs for a spell and chanting. The production team specifically had Willow wear white to symbol innocence. And in this peaceful, tranquil setting, it’s hard to imagine her as anything but innocent.

                    Adonai, Helomi, Pine... Adonai,
                    Helomi, Pine... The gods do command
                    thee from thy majesty...

                    Now there is a rustling in the woods. Something moving there.

                    WILLOW (cont'd)
                    O Mappa Laman, Adonai, Helomi ...
                    Come forward, blessed one, know
                    your calling...
                    Willow and Tara have invoked various Pagan deities over the course of the show. But this time, Willow invokes Adonai – one of the Hebrew titles for God. It’s an interesting choice, given the content of the scene to follow.

                    Willow is summoning a fawn, a cute little baby deer not unlike Bambi. The fawn appears from behind the deer and slowly approaches Willow.

                    The deer comes right up to Willow, and she touches the tender animal’s head. I expect some viewers have a warm fuzzy moment.

                    And then Willow does something shocking. This isn’t warm, fuzzy Willow after all, but cold, prickly Willow. She pulls out a knife.

                    She moves the knife toward the deer, and we see a series of quick shots.

                    Those watching the syndicated, streaming or British DVD versions might not see the shots of the fawn’s legs.


                    But at least my version of Netflix includes the few shots of the deer’s head bobbing into frame.

                    Some versions of the episode apparently omit this scene entirely, as it is to shocking in its gore.

                    You might wonder why I didn’t include some screengrabs of the truly gory bits. That’s because, gentle reader, I would need to be able to do screen captures of your imagination. Those images of the dagger piercing the deer’s side, the stabbing and the blood gushing from the wounds? Those moments aren’t captured on celluloid. Your mind connects the dots and manufactures the rest of the action.

                    And our imaginations can be far more gruesome than anything that would be shown on the 8pm timeslot on UPN. No Broadcast Standards and Practices department can censor our brains – yet.

                    Similar tricks were used to construct one of the supposed goriest scenes in film history – the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho.


                    We do see some blood after the killing of the deer.

                    Apparently we were originally going to see more blood on Willow’s clothes, but that shot of the blood on her hand is effective.

                    The shot pans up and Willow completes her spell.

                    WILLOW (cont'd): Adonai, Helomi, Pine... Divine creature, child of Elomina, accept our humble gratitude for your offering. In death, you give life. May you find wings to the kingdom.
                    Willow starts breathing heavily. Her heart is racing as she contemplates the horror of what she has done. What must Willow be thinking?

                    Perhaps like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth she thinks “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” or “What, will these hands ne'er be clean?” Willow’s blood-stained reminds me of the imagined spot that Lady Macbeth’s guilty conscience imagines.

                    Lady Macbeth’s husband – the titular Macbeth – also imagined a dagger before him, a symbol of his guilty conscience before another bloody murder.
                    Is this a dagger which I see before me,
                    The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
                    I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
                    Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
                    To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
                    A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
                    Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
                    I see thee yet, in form as palpable
                    As this which now I draw.
                    Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
                    And such an instrument I was to use.
                    Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
                    Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
                    And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
                    Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
                    It is the bloody business which informs
                    Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld
                    Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
                    The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
                    Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
                    Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
                    Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
                    With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
                    Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
                    Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
                    Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
                    And take the present horror from the time,
                    Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
                    Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

                    The way Willow’s head darts to the side, checking to see if anyone has seen her guilty deed makes me think that she doesn’t quite share Lady Macbeth’s sentiment “What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?”

                    She looks afraid that someone will see and judge her for this action, maybe her friends.

                    This moment is played as a darkening of Willow’s soul. In Walden, Thoreau wrote

                    "There is no odour so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life"
                    Nearly all religions have a history of animal sacrifice but for the most part, it is just that – history.

                    Animal sacrifice appears many times in the Hebrew Bible. Abel received favour from the Lord for sacrificing his first born of his livestock. (Crop farmer Cain was not so favoured.) The Lord sent a lamb to be sacrificed in place of Isaac’s son, further establishing a tradition of animal, not human, sacrifice.

                    But the tradition evolved that sacrifices of various kinds should only occur in designated places. For example, Leviticus chapter 12 says:

                    13. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest;
                    14. but in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
                    The place for sacrifice eventually became the Temple of Jerusalem. But the Second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. Without the temple, sacrifices are not be performed. Scholars look to passages in the Hebrew Bible such as “For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings” from Hosea to find alternatives.

                    Willow may invoke God by a Hebrew name, but the God of Israel would not look favourably on any sacrifice made in the woods outside Sunnydale.

                    Wiccans wouldn’t look to kindly on Willow’s activities either. While sacrifice is certainly a part of classical Paganism, modern neo-Pagans would be horrified by this as well.

                    This is an ancient practice that Willow is performing. She’s taking a life to offer in sacrifice for a life to return. Some might call that a trade or barter or … bargaining.

                    Willow returns to the Magic Box. She’s changed her bloody clothes. Willow’s replaced the innocent white clothing of the previous scene with blood red clothing. It was a symbolic choice on the part of the production. But the metaphor is somewhat lost as Willow had been wearing red in several prior scenes too.

                    Willow finds her special cabal of Scoobies waiting for her. Anya’s cleaning yet again. Tara is reading a book. And Xander is playing with a deck of cards. I’d like to think it’s a game of solitaire. The gang of Scoobies are together, but they are all doing solitary activities.

                    Tara greets Willow with a “Hey! You’re late.” Willow has a cagey response. “Oh, I had to get that thing.” It’s not a very sophisticated code.

                    Xander tells her that Giles isn’t here. “You can dump the cryptic.”

                    She puts her bag on the counter.

                    WILLOW: The last spell ingredient.

                    XANDER: Okay. Right. What is "Vino de Madre" anyway?
                    Willow turns and strides towards the others. She looks a bit serious and a bit freaked. She must be rattled that further questions will uncover what she did.

                    “Wine of the mother,” she answers. And she adds “Kind of... black market stuff.”

                    As she speaks, Willow changes from serious to phony casual. She shrugs her shoulders and swings her arms. Her deed was probably one of the most transgressive and transformative acts of her entire life, and she’s trying to pass it off as no big deal.

                    But Willow’s cover story still causes concern. I’m not exactly sure what Sunnydale’s black market is, but I imagine that it’s filled with “legitimate businessmen” that make Rack look saintly by comparison.

                    TARA: Black market? You didn't tell me that. You shouldn't have gone alone. It could have been dangerous.

                    WILLOW: Sorry. I didn't ... I was careful.

                    Alyson Hannigan has a whole arsenal of cute expressions. And this one look perfectly captures Willow trying to pretend to be classic Willow when inside she feels anything but the real, classic Willow. Her faux-charming smile punctuated her otherwise worried looks. And Willow’s words don’t put anyone at ease.

                    Anya says that the black market is all “all baby teeth and spooky fluids.” It’s not an incorrect description of the kind of things Willow obtained, although not by going through any third party.

                    “All I know is we have to have it to finish the spell. So, it’s good stuff in my book.” Willow’s trying to be casual while espousing an ends-justify-the-means philosophy. Tara looks really worried.

                    When Willow asks why they’re here in the Magic Box so early, Tara looks to Xander. Was she hoping he’d say something? Did they talk about their shared concerns over the spell?

                    But Xander just shuffles his deck of cards and gives a brief response.

                    XANDER: We weren't, but it felt too weird hanging out on our own.

                    TARA: It's better that we're together.
                    And now Willow does something that seems so forced to be condescending. She takes Tara’s hand and does a baby voice. It’s a tone that Willow’s taken at other times in their relationship, although most disturbingly when Tara’s mind had been shattered and reduced to a child-like level.

                    Anya asks if Tara would like to look at the money as it always calms the newly capitalist ex-demon. I think it’s a performance. Anya trying to be classic Anya to get a smile from everyone. It’s well-meant and both Tara and Xander seem appreciative.

                    Willow tries again to do the baby-comforting thing. “Tell the bats it's going to be alright. I promise. We couldn't be more prepared.” Given both the enormity of the task and how ill-prepared they truly are (like forgetting to get the coffin out of the ground), it seems patently not true.

                    Tara doesn’t look reassured.

                    I don’t think she’s just worried about if the spell will work. I’m sure she’s concerned about both the “fabric of life” but also the “selfish reasons”. And that Willow is hiding something. Something big. And something regarding the spell that troubles Tara so much.

                    Anya has found a distraction for the Scooby Gang – in the form of a letter.

                    Xander takes the letter and reads it aloud.

                    Or rather, that’s what Xander does in the broadcast/DVD version. In this original version, we continue to hear Xander’s voice as we see the reactions of the other Scoobies.

                    XANDER (reading): "I've gone. Not one for good-byes, I thought it best to slip out quietly. Love to you all, Giles."

                    Off their stunned faces.
                    Tara looks to Willow concerned. After all, Willow looked up to Giles. She even once confessed to having a crush on him. Willow looks lost at sea.

                    Anya, who has tremendous affection for Giles despite their bickering, looks withdrawn. And there’s also some guilt on that face. Did she push Giles into doing this?

                    Xander looks up from the letter with a “Well, what are we going to do?” expression.

                    But those reaction shots are lost in the syndicated and streaming versions. In the shortened version of the episode, Xander only reads the first sentence. And then we cut to the establishing shots of Giles in the airport as a voiceover of Anthony Stewart Head finishes the letter.

                    In the longer version, those establishing shots at the airport have no voiceover and we only hear contemplative music. We wonder what Giles must be thinking. Or rather we wonder what the hell he was thinking.

                    We see him here at the departure gate of Sunnydale Airport.

                    Perhaps he’s wondering about how good the leg room will be, will the airline food be passable, will he be seated next to a screaming child for 13 hours, etc. Or maybe he’s contemplating the letter he wrote. Maybe he’s wondering if the best way to really end his deep and personal relationship with the Scoobies was a “Dear John” letter. Perhaps he’s contemplating how cruel it was to rob them of even an opportunity to say goodbye.

                    Perhaps Giles is wondering if he’s just compounding the loss of Buffy – hurting the people who have looked up to him. Maybe he’s even thinking about the danger he’s putting the Scoobies in by denying them his knowledge and experience.

                    And then maybe it hits him for a second. What about Dawn? Her father left the family and avoided responding at the time of Dawn’s greatest emotional need. And then Dawn’s mother died suddenly. And then her sister died. Maybe he thinks about how all the parental figures in Dawn’s life have abandoned her. And that by flying back off to England, he’s not leaving how the heroic Buffy Summers left this world. No, he’s like the selfish deadbeat dad Hank Summers. Perhaps he thinks for a second about what a huge betrayal of Dawn’s trust this departure is.

                    Or maybe he banishes his guilty conscious by thinking “Coffee will make everything better.” And his mind turns to wondering if Seattle’s Best Coffee (a real brand – and not that bad) is really the best coffee from Seattle or if Starbucks is better. Although I gather at least some California’s would say that either Seattle brand is a pale imitation of California’s own Peet’s Coffee.

                    Of course, obviously Giles should be drinking Nescafe – or Gold Blend in the UK – as Anthony Stewart Head starred in a much-loved soap opera like series of ads for those brands in both the US and UK.

                    But whether Giles is contemplating the scum of his coffee or his scummy deeds, his thoughts are interrupted by a familiar voice.

                    WILLOW (O.C.): You really think we'd let you get away with that?

                    Giles turns his head to see … the Scoobies.

                    The gang’s all here. Well, aside from Spike. But as it’s daytime, that exclusion may be from necessity rather than inclination.

                    Giles smiles at his friends. While there is affection behind the smile, it also looks forced, phony and downright creepy at certain points.

                    But Giles reveals the reason for his awkward smile. It’s not that he doesn’t care about the Scoobies. It’s that he cares too much.

                    Giles looks up to see Willow, Xander, Tara, Anya and Dawn all lined up in front of him. He's touched, but contains it.

                    GILES: Well. I was trying to avoid a scene.

                    Willow holds up a hastily written sign with balloons taped to it. It has a big heart on it and it reads - "BON VOYAGE, GILES!" Says a little ruefully-

                    WILLOW: Like we'd make a scene.

                    There might be trace of the script’s called for ruefulness in Willow’s initial facial reaction, but mostly she does a good job at playing perky Willow – the one who bonds the Scoobies together with cookies.

                    He smiles, but they can see how difficult this is for him.

                    GILES: Not you. Me.
                    Yes, Giles because it’s all about you. I understand hidings one’s feelings. But leaving in the first place and the truly crappy way he did that is horribly selfish. Surely, Giles would have realized the effect his actions would have around him. Maybe he feels he doesn’t deserve the big send-off.

                    Willow’s smile turns to a frown and we pan across the sad Scoobies. Anya breaks the tension by announcing “We brought you lovely parting gifts.”

                    The phrase “lovely parting gifts” is a phrase popularized by the TV game shows of the 20th century. Sure, you might not have won that $64,000 prize or that new car, but here’s a cheap toaster oven or worse, a box of Rice-a-Roni or Hamburger Helper. Behind door number one was the love and affection of true friends. But Giles chose the box and now he’s being given cheap gas station trinkets. Thanks for playing, Giles.

                    ANYA: It's American, get it? Apple pie. To remind you of all the good things you won't be eating.
                    Although Anya’s original mortal self was born in Sweden, she regained her mortality in America. And in “Tough Love”, she proudly declared herself an American. And here she references a classic bit of American iconography – the apple pie.

                    “Apple pie” – the two words call up images of cheeseball Americana faster than almost anything else. There are the legendary tales of Johnny Appleseed planting apple trees across the nation. By the 19th century this pastry dessert was considered fundamentally American. “As American as apple pie” and “for mom and apple pie” were classic slogans.

                    But Anya is not holding up the classic American pie, the kind that graced Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving covers of the Saturday Evening Post or its All-American Cookbook.

                    What Anya is holding up is a pocket fruit pie – which has the same relationship to real apple pies that the BuffyBot has to Buffy.

                    But these knockoff fruit pies come with their own cultural baggage.

                    One popular maker of the kind of fruit pie that Anya is holding up was Hostess. Hostess was also famous, or infamous, for the Twinkies and Cupcakes too. During the 1970s and 1980s, Hostess ran one-page ads in comic books. The ads starred nearly every major, and a lot of minor, characters in comic books.

                    In Marvel Comics, you might find a fruit pie ad for Spider-Man. Riley compared Buffy’s strength to Spider-Man, and the hero is the subject of an extended discussion in flooded.

                    Over at rival publisher DC Comics, you might find the most famous female superhero Wonder Woman saving the day using fruit pieces.

                    And possibly most relevant at all for the Buffy characters, in the Harvey Comics you could find Wendy the Good Little Witch having her own fruit pie adventures.

                    But Hostess isn’t the only manufacture of fruit pies.

                    In “Passion” Willow says she goes to Xander’s house every year to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. When the Peanuts/Charlie Brown special aired on CBS they were sponsored by Dolly Madison. Willow and Xander would have seen ads for Dolly Madison fruit pies.


                    And look who Dolly Madison put on the apple fruit pies:

                    It’s Linus van Pelt. Linus is the most philosophical and book-learned of the Peanuts gang. It’s Linus who can recite passages from the Bible and other works by memory. He’s their go-to guy for exposition.

                    Sound like anyone else we know?

                    Giles tucks the pie into his jacket pocket as Anya makes her dig at the quality of English food. His smile is so strained as to be sinister.

                    Next Tara offers her gift, a little pink rubber monster on her finger. “And a monster. Sort of a Sunnydale souvenir we thought. Grrr. Argh.” She bobs the monster across her face.

                    On the subject on monsters Marina Warner writes….

                    Nah, I think we all know what that finger puppet represents.


                    Giles murmurs thank you as he takes the finger puppet from Tara. Or at least that’s what he does in the original broadcast and DVD versions. In the shortened syndicated/TV version, we skip past the next few moments.

                    As Giles looks down contemplating the finger puppet that symbolizes five seasons of Big Bads, Xander speaks up … with an apology. He doesn’t have a gift.

                    I wanted to buy you a can of Olde English 800. 'Cause, you know, England and you... And 'cause it sounded really funny at the time but the guy who lives in the box in front of the store wouldn't buy it for us.
                    This reminds us that after all the Scoobies have been through, they still aren’t even legal drinking age in California. And Giles is just abandoning them to their fate.

                    Olde English 800 Malt Liquor isn’t English – it’s American, first sold in 1964 and produced by the Miller Brewing Company since 1999. The pie, the monster and the planned purchase of Olde English 800 are all things that stand for something else – all substitutes.

                    Dawn feels the need to explain the nature of the gifts – “we got your presents at the gas station. We were kind of in a hurry.” She sits down beside him and hands him an envelope.

                    We never get to see the card close up. Dawn tells us they made it in the car over which is why the letters are all shaky.

                    I don’t know if they physically made the card itself or just wrote messages in an existing one. But whatever they wrote in the card affects Giles. It’s not just cheap products purchased from a gas station standing in for other things. The card comes directly from the Scoobies and is an expression of them.

                    “This is … impossible, really,” says Giles of feelings deeper than he’d care to admit too.

                    And look behind Dawn … it’s Spike. He came after all. Well, no, it’s not. Apparently James Marsters’s stunt double was drafted to be an extra in the airport.

                    Willow speaks. She tells Giles both what she feels and what she wants him to believe.

                    We just wanted you to know that ... we'll miss you. Uh, but we'll be okay. (softly) We'll miss you, but, (very softly) we'll be okay.
                    The script put the lie (“we’ll be okay”) before the truth (“we’ll miss you”). Is Willow lying? Well, her facial expressions suggest she is far from okay.

                    As she has done many times before, Anya lightens the mood with her over literal speech patterns. I’ll take really good care of your money.

                    This causes Giles to let loose a genuine, broad smile – threatening to betray even more emotion.

                    Giles looks down in contemplation for a moment, and then he looks up again. His mood had brightened. A weight has been lifted.

                    However, it’s too late. We hear a boarding announcement over the PA system. Giles gets up and collects his bag. He turns back to the Scoobies. “That’s me.”

                    Apparently it’s also Spike – not really again. But the Spike lookalike appears to be headed back to England with Giles.

                    Willow takes in how they barely even had this quick farewell. “We just made it.” “Just,” Giles agrees.

                    The Scoobies shuffle uncomfortably. No one knows quite what to do. And then Giles steps up and takes some of the responsibility he should have assumed much earlier.

                    “Well, if we’re going to do this. Let’s do it properly.”

                    Giles and Xander pause awkwardly – they consider a handshake. Willow looks on, breaking into a smile when she sees that Giles has decided to go for the hug. “Good for them,” her face almost seems to say.

                    It’s hard to imagine Xander hugging his own father this way. Of the three core young Scoobies, Xander has shown the least outward affection for Giles. And yet Xander probably needed a surrogate father most of all.

                    Now Willow is looking freaked again. The emotions are a little too intense. Can she get through a hug with Giles? And also, maybe she’s weighing an equation in her mind. Is it more important to keep her secret (about bringing Buffy) or should she spill the beans and stop Giles from leaving.

                    Anya throws herself at Giles with lightning speed. There’s a big goofy grin on her face. The Giles/Anya friendship seems so unlikely, and yet it works marvellously.

                    Giles also shares a sweet hug with Tara – yet another Scooby who desperately needed a better father than the one she was born with.

                    And then Giles turns around and sees Dawn – still one more Scooby that Giles has been a surrogate parent for. They hug.

                    And Giles reassures her “I’m just a phone call away … If you need anything. You must promise me.”

                    Dawn looks up at him with big tear-filled eyes. I wonder if Hank Summers said something similar when he abandoned Buffy and Dawn to run off to Europe with his secretary. There’s something about Dawn’s expression that says to me that she’s had this conversation before.

                    Her tearful eyes say “Yes, there is something I need. I need you not to go away.”

                    But Dawn goes for the polite lie. She gives Giles her promise. “I do. I promise.”

                    Giles cups Dawn’s chin in his hands. As if to say “That a girl.” He seems almost self-deluded about the emotions in play.

                    And then Giles has to deal with what the script calls “the hardest goodbye of all”.

                    “Willow,” Giles says. They embrace.

                    It’s a longer, more complicated embrace than the others. With Buffy dead for the moment, Willow is the best representation of the Scoobies. (Perhaps even when Buffy was alive, she’d have been too.) The shot goes wide – to show the whole gang. This hug is the one that represents Giles’s goodbye as a whole.

                    “I don’t know where to start,” Giles tells her.

                    “Maybe you shouldn’t,” Willow replies.

                    The hug turns into a handshake. It brings the goodbyes full circle to that awkward “handshake or hug?” moment that Giles and Xander had at the beginning of the goodbyes.

                    “I’m trying to be all stiff upper-lippy,” Willow says employing a British cliche. The 1939 vintage “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster had been rediscovered about a year before this episode aired. The craze for that poster hadn’t quite hit the US yet or I’m sure Willow would have said that too. Judging from what we see on screen, Willow is failing to keep her lips stiff. Or maybe it’s her chin that’s wobbling.

                    Giles removes his glasses. Anthony Stewart Head loved to play with his glasses on set. It was a prop he used to bring physicality to his performance. I like to think this time he removes the glasses because the lenses are getting fogged from the tears forming in his eyes.

                    Giles looks at them all, just as torn as he feared he would be. Willow sees this, bails him out.
                    WILLOW: You'd better get going. Don't you have a life or something?

                    GILES: I suppose that's the question, isn't it?
                    To be or not to be, Giles? Well, with all the references to death and life in this episode, that’s very much the question.

                    Willow tries to give a playful punch, almost sounding like a clichéd TV parent herself offering canned reassurances.

                    However, Giles is being far from reassuring. It’s a tense moment – everyone is struggling with keeping their upper lips stiff. Why would he raise the spectre of his midlife crisis now. It will just freak them out.

                    Just look at Willow who can barely stand as the smile comes and goes from her face. And Tara is so concerned she can’t even keep her smile on straight.

                    Giles turns around and says as his final (for a couple episodes) words “Just be careful, please.”

                    As he leaves, we pan across the Scoobies sad faces. They aren’t planning on being careful at all. Rather they are solemnly swearing to be up to no good.

                    We get our final look at Giles as he goes through the boarding gate.

                    And with this, Giles truly goes from a regular character to a recurring one. Other characters have come and gone, but Giles is one of the “Core Four”, more central to the show than Riley or Oz or even Angel was. And Giles’s departure is the least explicable of them all.

                    Oh, I understand why actor Anthony Stewart Head would leave. I have a much harder time believing that Giles would abandon the Scoobies. Maybe if there was urgent trouble back in England that needed his attention, but even then the Scoobies would likely follow him to help out.

                    Giles has had a somewhat strange relationship with the Scoobies since “Graduation Day”. It feels like his role as adult mentor was not required once Buffy came of age.

                    Usually older mentors are written out more dramatically. King Arthur’s Merlin is imprisoned in a cave, rock or tree. In the classic continuity of the 1930s to the mid-1980s, Superman’s foster parents died (due to illness) when he reached adulthood. Obi-Wan Kenobi was killed in action, and Yoda died of old age. Harry Potter’s Dumbledore was killed too.

                    And yet, death was not a viable option for Giles. For one thing, it would be harder for Anthony Stewart Head to make as many guest appearances as he’d have liked. But also, the show already had Buffy deal with the death of a parent. Killing Giles too would recycle the same story beats.

                    And yet Giles has to leave the series. And so, he abandons the others when they might need him most. It feels like something that Giles, the idealized father figure, would never do. And so, it appears that we don’t know him as well as we thought we did.

                    It’s time for another interlude where I explore what the Scoobies did in the Summer Without Buffy. And so, in this antepenultimate in the series, it’s time to turn the spotlight on the character who would actually use a word like antepenultimate.

                    I Know What You Did Last Summer: Special Guest Star Edition: Rupert Giles

                    All the Scoobies feel some degree of guilt for having failed Buffy. But at the end of last season, Giles did worse than just fail Buffy. He betrayed her.

                    When Buffy had lost her mother, Giles turned away from his role of a surrogate father. But there were more betrayals to come. Giles actually suggested letting Buffy’s sister die in order to have the world. It’s a trope of action fiction that the leader leaves no man behind. But now, Giles was advocating to let a 14-year old girl die ... for the good of the world.

                    It drove a wedge between the slayer and her watcher. Yes, Buffy said she understood Giles’s position, but she also threatened to kill any Scooby who hurt Dawn.

                    While Buffy was giving her all – quite literally – to save Dawn, Giles was betraying Buffy’s ideals yet again. He killed a human for the greater good. Okay, a human that was co-habiting with an evil hell-god, but it’s still not an action that Buffy wouldn’t approve of.

                    Buffy died when Giles turned his back on her ideals. That has to weigh on his conscience. If he believes in the possibility of an afterlife, Giles might wonder if Buffy was looking down on him from the Great Beyond and judging his actions. Through sympathetic magic, Giles might wonder if his betrayal of Buffy’s ideals weakened her at a critical moment.

                    Or less supernaturally, Giles might wonder if his position drove Buffy to give her life to save Dawn.

                    Whatever the case, Giles had become something he had often fought against. He became a watcher.

                    Yes, Giles started the series as a watcher. He explained his role in the first episode, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”.

                    GILES: A, a Slayer slays, a Watcher--

                    BUFFY: Watches?

                    GILES: Yes. No! He, he trains her, he, he, he prepares her--

                    BUFFY: Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead! Prepare me.
                    But the relationship evolved.

                    In “Innocence”, Giles didn’t sound like someone who merely trained or prepared the slayer. He sounded like a surrogate father.

                    Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did. A-and I can. I know that you loved him. And... he... has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months a-are gonna, are gonna be hard... I, I suspect on all of us, but... if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is, is my support. And my respect.
                    Giles’s role as watcher and surrogate father came into conflict in the third season “Helpless”. The Watchers Council demanded he administer the Cruciamentum, a barbaric test where the watcher secretly drains the slayer of her abilities and send her to fight a powerful vampire as a mere human.

                    Giles initially complied with the watchers, but he eventually told Buffy. She was shocked. She asked “Who are you? How could you do this to me?”

                    Later, the head watcher Quentin Travers gave his assessment of the test. Buffy realized that Giles was not a monster, but the other watchers were.

                    Travers justified the necessity of the test. “We're not in the business of 'fair', Miss Summers. We're fighting a war.”

                    Travers fired Giles because he had a father’s love for the slayer, which was useless to their cause. As Buffy heard Giles’s true feelings stated plainly, she regained respect for him.

                    In “The Gift”, Giles was still acting out of love for Buffy. But he had also embraced the Machiavellian ends-justify-the-means practice of the watchers.

                    Giles had embraced the dark side of the watchers, just as his role as a watcher came to an end with the slayer’s death.

                    So, after Buffy was dead, what did Giles do next?

                    Well, the first thing was he had to deal with the body.

                    Oh, I don’t just mean Buffy’s body. I mean Ben’s.

                    Did he dump it in the river, as Faith had tried to dispose of the deputy mayor’s body? Did Giles leave it where it lay? Did he attempt a cover-up so that Ben appeared to be killed by other means – falling debris, or perhaps by one of the people Glory had brain-sucked?

                    As I said earlier, I believe Giles covered up only the cause of death. I think he’d want to give the Scoobies peace of mind that Glory wasn’t coming after them while also giving them peace of mind that he was still the same old Giles.

                    By the time “Bargaining” starts, Giles has clearly fall into a rut. He vacillates on whether or not he should leave town. He trains a robot in some hollow pantomime of the standard slayer/watcher relationship. Giles is stuck in the past. And you might argue that return to England is just retreating further into that past.

                    The Buffy comics set during the summer of Buffy’s death give us a few glimpses of Giles was up to. Or rather not up to.

                    The Lost and Found comic depicted Giles as practically shell-shocked.

                    True, a demon that feeds off grief would affect him slightly – but he was already fairly apathetic to begin with. He found he no longer cared about one of the things Anya cared about most – money.

                    In the “Death of Buffy” storyline running in the monthly Buffy comic, Giles acted as surrogate parent. Yes, Willow and Tara were Dawn’s main surrogate parents. But when Dawn got into a fight at school, two 20-something friends of the family hardly had gravitas to meet with the school’s principal. As the BuffyBot had not been repaired yet, it was Giles who met with Principal Richardson.

                    As I mentioned back in the Dawn section, it’s not her principal from the TV series. But then as now, Buffy comics were published by Dark Horse Comics. Here’s a picture of Dark Horse founder and publisher Mike Richardson.

                    Giles continued his parental duties by passing on some wisdom to Dawn.

                    That might give Giles a reason to stay. But no, even though the story is set relatively early in Buffy’s 147 missing days, Giles is already contemplating flying back to England.

                    But then, Giles’s Summer Without Buffy is best defined by what he did mere hours before her return. He left.

                    And as we return to the episode, we see Giles’s plane depart overhead. We hear Willow speaking off-screen. But what she says depends on what version of the episode you are watching.

                    We see the Scoobies standing outside of Sunnydale Airport. But the original broadcast and DVD version begins the scene about 25 seconds sooner.

                    WILLOW: (off-screen over departing plane) There he goes.

                    XANDER: It’s a good thing. My face hurts from all that faux smiling.

                    WILLOW (distressed) It was right, though, wasn't it? Giving him the no-tears send-off ... We don't want him going off all worried about us.
                    That’s confirmation – although none was really needed – that the Scoobies had been lying in the previous scene. Their smiles were too forced, and didn’t stay in place as long as they’d have liked. They all dropped character and showed some of their genuine sadness. Still, even if they weren’t entirely successful, the Scoobies are on their way to becoming accomplished liars.

                    Anya punctures Willow’s fear with a dash of fatalistic realism.

                    “He’d still be all worried,” says Anya. “Just eight hours ahead.”

                    And it’s here that we sync back up with the syndicated and streaming versions.

                    Willow asks “What’s he going to do over there by himself?” (Which is the shortened version is the line delivered over the shots of the departing planes.)

                    She’s concerned that Giles will be all lonely. He never talks about anyone in England.

                    Tara offers the laughably bizarre statement. “He won't be lonely. He lived there before, remember?”

                    Dawn tries to be hopeful. “And I'm sure we'll talk to him all the time. Right? It's not like he's...”

                    Dead, Dawn? Yet another reference. Dawn’s voice is really high-pitched here, like it’s just breaking or a slightly younger child. She’s likely remembering Hank Summers, who also left for Europe, promising to call all the time.

                    Tara has taken Dawn under her wing, supporting her. And Tara promises Dawn that they’ll call him tomorrow.

                    Tara and Dawn walk ahead and leave the other Scoobies to discuss their plans. Xander and Willow regret the timing – Giles leaves before they “do that thing tonight.”

                    Anya pipes up “Maybe we should have told him. What if it works?”

                    “He’ll come back,” Willow responds. Neither seems entirely certain of the spell working.

                    Xander looks at the sky.

                    XANDER: It'll be dark soon.

                    WILLOW: Let's get Dawn home. I want to go over everything one more time. Nothing can go wrong tonight.
                    Willow, have you forgotten the ultimate jinx? Wishing for nothing to go wrong in an adventure series is tempting the sadistic gods (otherwise known as writers) to make sure everything goes wrong.

                    And with that, we leave Sunnydale Airport and day behind.

                    We see Sunnydale at sundown, and then the scene transitions to a hilly road outside town. The Hellions ride past the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign. It’s not the same sign that Spike used to crash into.

                    At this point though it’s hard to say who the bigger threat is – the Hellions or the Scoobies themselves.

                    Our heroes have gathered at Buffy’s grave. Willow holds the urn of Osiris and the others have lit candles. Well, Anya’s isn’t lit yet.

                    Tara asks for Xander for the time. It’s a minute to midnight – they need to hurry to start the spell.

                    Willow snaps “Come on, Anya. Do you have it?” just as Anya is finally able to get the candle to stay lit.

                    Willow tells them to start the circle. The Scoobies kneel down. Willow pours the fawn’s blood into the urn of Osiris. (Blood, as Spike said in “The Gift” is life. Although he was just quoting Dracula.)

                    We see the Egyptian hieroglyphics on the urn. It makes sense. Osiris was an Egyptian god. More on him next time.

                    WILLOW (cont'd): Osiris, keeper of the gate, master of all fate, hear us.

                    Now she dips her finger in the blood mixture and anoints herself with it. Forehead, cheeks ... In the light of the candle, the effect is somewhat nightmarish...

                    It’s Anya who appears to be most closely watching Willow. Anya dabbled in much darkness during her days as a vengeance demon. She must know how dark this spell is, and that a heavy price must be paid.

                    WILLOW (cont'd): Before time and after, before knowing and nothing...

                    Now WILLOW'S VOICE changes, growing LOWER, OTHERWORLDLY.

                    WILLOW (cont'd): Accept our offering. Know our prayer...
                    Although Willow’s tone of voice suits the scene, there are no otherworldy effects put on the voice.

                    Willow pours blood on the grave. And then the bad stuff starts to happen.

                    We hear slashing noises and see Willow’s arms tear open.

                    Xander watches in horror. He calls out the name “Willow!”

                    Tara stammers out that Willow told her she’d be tested. “This is what’s supposed to happen.”

                    WILLOW: Osiris! Here lies the warrior of the people! Let her cross over!
                    “Warrior of the people” is an interesting way to describe Buffy. But it’s accurate. And it might be a necessary part of the ritual. If the code is not to tamper with the forces of life for selfish reasons, then invoking the warrior of the people would curry more favour with the gods. They aren’t bringing back someone who is loved by just a few, but a warrior who can help all the people. It seems less selfish.

                    The gods respond with a further test. Lumps form underneath her arm. They appear to be like beetles – likely the scarab beetles held sacred by the same Egyptian people who once worshipped Osiris. Scarab beetles were the symbol of Khepri, sometimes viewed as one of the manifestations of the sun god Ra. The beetles represented the early morning aspect of the sun. Perhaps not quite appropriate for a nighttime scene, but resurrections could represent the same sort of rebirth as the dawn sun brings.

                    The beetles crawl up to Willow’s neck.

                    XANDER: She needs help!

                    TARA: Xander. She's strong. She said not to stop, no matter what. If anything b-b-breaks the cycle now - it-s over-
                    Although Tara stands up for Willow’s wishes, Tara is obviously terrified. This is a crisis of faith for her.

                    As for Willow, she looks determined to not to give up until she brings Buffy back.

                    In the first couple of episodes of season six Willow undergoes scary trials in order to bring Buffy back. But there’s an emotional cost to these trials. In the final episodes of the season we’ll see another character – Spike – go through demon trials almost as horrifying. But whereas Willow is in danger of losing her soul to the dark forces she summons, Spike regains his soul at the season’s end. The season begins in a dark place, but ends with light regained. Perhaps this season beginning/ending symmetry is yet another bargain.

                    Now the Scoobies hear a loud rumbling. It’s a lot like thunder, but even more like the sound of overly loud motorcycle engines.

                    Anya asks “Oh god, what is that noise?”

                    Sadly, the answer is something far less interesting and far more banal than what’s happening in the graveyard.

                    We cut to the main strip of Sunnydale. We see the Hellions drive by the familiar haunt of the Espresso Pump.

                    One of the demons practices wheelies for kicks.

                    The Hellions surround a couple on the street. Anyone living in Sunnydale should know by now that strolling around the streets of midnight unless you posses super powers is a real bad idea.

                    One of the Hellions drives right into the Espresso Pump, knocking over the tables.

                    Other Hellions smash car windows with baseball bats. Or through garbage cans through shop windows. It’s all pretty petty human scale vandalism. It’s not the grand end of season menace the slayer usually has to face.

                    One of the bikers has some Molotov cocktails. He throws one into a sporting goods store and rides off. Another demon throws a flaming device right at the camera.

                    It’s a cute effect that suggests we’re only cutting to a commercial break because the camera has been destroyed.

                    End of Act Three

                    Well, there’s only one act remaining and it’s an extra short one. I should finish this up by Saturday morning.

                    Last edited by PuckRobin; 21-10-16, 07:34 AM.


                    • #11
                      Hey PuckRobin. I loved your Dickensian opener and you know I adore your other comic book references. Who knew superman would ever have a mullet!!

                      My free time is a little patchy at the moment, the children are off school here this week, so I hope you don't mind my responses starting before you have finished and coming in chunks as I go through the different parts you have posted individually. I normally prefer to edit my post after reading through the whole of a review in case I am just making a comment you later make yourself (it happens to me a lot ), so I apologise if there is a lot or a little of that in my responses to your first part.

                      Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                      UPN ran a series of ads touting the new season, but also dwelling on the fact that the titular hero was now dead.
                      The EC ones were really odd, like she didn't really pull off the delivery of her own character, very strange.

                      In some ways, I think the Buffybot resembles these pseudo-Supermen. A copy of the hero was there, but it lacked what the real Superman had. The only really real Superman is really Superman. And he’s gone.
                      Yes, we are seeing the grieving that the scoobies are going through and, as evil stops for no slayer, the ways in which they are coping in a practical sense without Buffy. It isn't new of course, Anne gave that glimpse and it has a similar tone, as you go on to compare. But there is a finality and heaviness to it now when they know that Buffy is gone and is not just AWOL. Substitution is such a reoccurring consideration in the series and here, especially with the Bbot and Willow's role, it is front and centre, but it also continues through S6 as a familiar coping mechanism.

                      On the titular stage, bargaining, Kubler-Ross and Kessler say:

                      Before a loss, it seems you will do anything if only your loved one may be spared. “Please, God,” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others? Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”

                      We become lost in a maze of “if only …” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what it was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening … if only, if only, if only.

                      Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault with ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.
                      That description fits this episode to a T. We see Willow reach out to a literal god to have a loved one restored to life. We see a soulless Spike devote his life to good deeds (and as we’ll find out in “After Life”, living endless fantasies of having saved Buffy). We see Giles stuck In the past – trying to pass on more training, breathing lessons for a machine that doesn’t breathe. Guilt weighs heavily on all the Scoobies.

                      We see many conventional bargains made in this episode. Wilow sacrifices an innocent deer as partial trade to restore Buffy. Anya bargains with an occult-collector on eBay to acquire not only a sacred urn but also a crappy boy-band lunchbox for a “friend” (let’s call him X for short).
                      Interesting information about the stages of grief and how 'bargaining' links for the episode. I'd say that Spike's bargain is his help in exchange for inclusion. By playing an ongoing role in the group he gets direct access to Dawn, has the salve of being relied on and in the acceptance to him supporting them he can feel he is trying to protect Dawn and better fulfilling his promise than he had managed in The Gift. That guilt rearing its ugly head as you say. I'll get into the truth and misconceptions of this in After Life.

                      Yes, Spike continues his undead existence past this season and into the spin-off series Angel and the comic book seasons. But it is not the same Spike. When Spike gains his soul in the final episode of the sixth season, this version of the character effectively dies.

                      Look at Spike’s first line in the episode.
                      SPIKE: Come on! I'm never gonna get anything killed with you lot holding me back!
                      Spike still views his human allies as a lease – holding him back from dealing out death. For all of Spike’s admirable traits in this episode, we still see the monster who wants to kill, even if supposedly in the name of good.
                      Interesting catch about this first line and I feel it really starts to point at what will be reoccurring aspects of the season for Spike and raises important questions about his path that Smashed and Seeing Red will, in particular, look at. How much of his behaviour is dictated by the chip now and how much is he able to make a personal choice about how good/evil he is? Is he just held back by the expectations of the humans he is trying to integrate with? He curbs his negative comments on school later with Dawn because it would be what Buffy would want for her. Are his choices merely affected to the same degree as everyone interacts with others or is his demon still dictating part of his opinion/choices in a way that is inhuman? What is his choice and what is forced upon him? What is he capable of? I said in S5 that it was greatly about the potential for Spike whereas S6 is greatly about limitations. As Max brilliantly pointed out, this was actually introduced at the end of S5 as Spike's 'rise' to goodness is limited and we saw him fall from the tower. All of this will continuously play out across this season, especially clearly raised when the chip fails and then when he fails his own expectations again with the attempted rape.

                      I really enjoy the opening patrol scene and the banter within it. It tells us so much, some of it a little heavy-handed perhaps in raising themes and showing the group dynamic. But there are some more subtle pieces of information we can pick up on too. As you say, we are given the impression from the banter that Spike's relationship with the scoobies has developed, isn't merely antagonistic. So his continuing 'tousled-bed-hair' look works alongside emphasising (at this stage) the softer human side he displayed to us increasingly from Intervention, the 'real' actions that Buffy responded to when he was allowed back into the fold. Perhaps it is an aspect which has become a more open/active element of his persona as he continues to integrate more with the humans, or it could be also indicative of him maybe not taking as much care/attention about his appearance in his grief.

                      Also, Tara's magic credentials being a part of her role here too helps to pull us back to 'know' her again rather than staying fixed with the mind-sucked version we've spent the most time with recently. Seeing her independent of Willow draws her forward as a character in her own right too I think.

                      She’s the butt of their joke. This is a troubling turn in a feminist series, to see a supporting female character belittled by the men.
                      I always struggle to have a problem with things like this unless it is a reoccurring issue with no balance and I don't feel that is the case in this way on BtVS. But then I never registered any issue with ethnicity representations on the show, so it could be that I'm not personally sensitive to these issues or that I'm just not as aware as I should be.

                      Kubler-Ross and Kessler speak of how roles shift after a tragedy.
                      And of course this isn't something that is new to us/them, having seen/experienced such drastic changes in roles that were necessary with the loss of Joyce's during last season.

                      The scene shifts to a crypt, and we pan and zoom to the woman standing on top of the crypt – Willow.
                      How the heck did she get up there then?! I don't think she is supposed to be at the floaty level yet.

                      Willow isn’t only the spirit and heart of the Scoobies. She appears to be their brain as well. And her teammates are badly in need of a brain.
                      It doesn't make much sense why Spike didn't just continue chasing the vamp in the first place when he was right behind him. Xander and Anya are off alone together so it isn't that they want everyone to all stick together at all times. Perhaps Willow dictated the groups and wanted Spike sticking with Tara as extra protection??

                      I think the extra 'pep' that Tara inadvertently gave him is probably supposed to explain the difficulty they have in taking him out.

                      I like to think Xander’s over-the-top reaction is born of fear that Willow can also see what he’s been thinking. About his engagement to Anya and his misgivings.
                      Ha, it could be panic from what the mind invasion could pick up on, I'd never considered that.

                      My appreciation of Xander's character has probably benefitted the greatest from this rewatch and one of the things I like about him the most is that his bravery isn't attached to fearlessness. I like seeing that he'll jump or squeal if caught unawares, and yet it doesn't stop him being someone that also instinctively steps forward to defend people.

                      And then we see what Spike was really doing while on the big, fast and dumb vampire’s back. Spike used his cigarette lighter to set his opponent on fire. We see the flame spread up the vampire’s sweater, and then he’s engulfed in flames and finally explodes into dust.
                      It is a great little moment to emphasise that Spike is helping but is emotionally somewhat detached still I think. The vampire could snap Giles neck before the flames take hold, but Spike is happy to stand back to see his contribution play out the way he has visualised it, which includes him being cool, nonchalant. This and the following bickering informs somewhat in extension to the earlier joint teasing of Tara by the Brits, we understand it hasn't all changed completely. There is a limitation (that word again) to Spike's integration still and we'll see the truth of that later this episode and it'll be voiced out loud in After Life too.

                      Willow has now come down from her perch, although we don’t see her jump down as mentioned in the script.
                      I'm not surprised!! I can just picture AH stood up there and her face when they said, "Now jump down"... -"Er, no."

                      Right here, we see the problem with both Willow and the Buffybot’s punning “time to work on it” – something rehearsed, planned, memorized. Buffy’s witticisms were usually spontaneous. (Okay, really it was Joss Whedon and others trying to come up with gags that sound spontaneous.) Buffy was authentic. Willow and the Buffybot are trying to play a role.
                      Great link back between the bot and Willow, nice.

                      The Scoobies had been walking alongside the BuffyBot. Now, they move ahead and they leave the BuffyBot by herself. She’s oblivious to the import of life and death. All she (it?) knows are memorized routines and jokes. She thinks this whole conversation is a part of the knock-knock joke.
                      I really like this. The Bot's imperfection is unsolvable due to her intrinsic lack of connection to any felt meaning in life or death. It is an even more extreme disconnection than a vampire has with their bad fashion sense and, as Aurora considered in the Fool for Love review, through their immortality somewhat detaching them from time. The bot is programmed and doesn't 'feel' or have any emotional responses or motivations that aren't built into her by someone else. She is a puzzle that can be pulled apart and rebuilt, the complication is finding and fixing glitches and attempting to make her simulate being real, not in having to interact with a thinking/feeling being.

                      But in contradiction to that, her presence as a substitute affects their emotions as she reminds them of what they have lost and the lack of Buffy's true presence. I really liked your consideration of inspirational leadership with comparison to the loss of their leader in Robin of Sherwood. As we've discussed together before, I'd definitely say that Jason Connery continues to emphasise what a poor substitution can be, even if he did rally the men eventually, so I like the idea that it was Marion's return that truly reunited them.

                      More soon.
                      Last edited by Stoney; 23-10-16, 01:12 PM.


                      • #12
                        Some fun trivia before the final post...



                        • #13

                          You scored: 13 / 15

                          You scored 195 points.
                          The average score for this quiz: 9 / 15
                          Wow, and I haven't re-watched this yet--albeit some were lucky guesses.

                          To begin, the timeline makes sense if Buffy was dead for 147 days and doesn't make sense if she was dead only 3 months.

                          Second, I assume that both Spike and Giles considered and/or reasoned that there was a good possibility that Buffy's soul went to heaven and that is a main reason while neither tried to 'bring her back'.

                          Third, something drastically changed for Buffy regarding Buffy/Spike. In "The Gift" (B 5.22), she tells Spike she expects him to die trying to save Dawn if necessary. Buffy essentially commits suicide rather than allow Dawn to die. Suddenly, "the only person [Buffy] can stand to be around is a neutered vampire who cheats at kitten poker!".

                          Fourth, Willow in BtVS S5 hurt a god. Willow's magic use had been very helpful to Buffy and to the world. It makes sense that Willow would become addicted to the power that magic gives her.

                          Fifth, Willow's magic use and Buffy/Spike aren't comparable.


                          • #14
                            Buffy the Vampire Slayer
                            Season Six Rewatch
                            “Bargaining Part 1”

                            PART G

                            Act 4

                            We return from the commercial break still in darkness. But then the camera pans up and we see the darkness was actually the back of Buffy’s tombstone. In front of the tombstone, the Scoobies continue to perform their ritual.

                            WILLOW: Osiris! Let her cross over!
                            Osiris was an Egyptian god – one of the most famous of all. Among his various roles, he’s the god of the underworld. Osiris knows all about death and resurrection, as he was once killed and resurrected himself.

                            The myth of Osiris – like most myths and legends – varies considerably with each telling of the tale. (The continuity differences between the original Buffy movie with Kristy Swanson and the TV series with Sarah Michelle Gellar are trivial in comparison to mythology.) When Greeks like Herodotus and Romans such as Plutarch retold the Osiris myth, they added elements of Greco-Roman mythology that would not be found in the original tale. But I’ll try to give the basics.

                            Osiris was the brother and husband to the goddess Isis. He was also the brother of Set. Set murdered Osiris, and later desecrated his body – scattering into many pieces. Isis searched and collected the various pieces. (Later Roman retellings suggest there was one important piece missing.) Isis used her magic, taught to her by Thoth, to bring Osiris back to life. That’s right – Isis was in many ways, a witch.

                            Osiris returned to life, and gave Isis a son, Horus, who would go on to do battle with Set. But Osiris himself did not stay around. Instead he went to dwell in Duat, the realm of the dead. From there Osiris, along with other gods such as Anubis, would sit in judgment of the newly arrived souls. Unworthy souls might be shredded.

                            But just summarizing the basic mythology does not give the full scope of Osiris’s influence. He was a central figure in Egyptian belief – in Egyptian life. Osiris was at the heart of a belief in life after death. And it was his story that served as the basis for many funerary rights. Osiris was embalmed, wrapped in clothes – he was the first mummy.

                            Osiris was also associated as a god of vegetation – the yearly death and growth of plants were emblematic of the cycle of death, life and rebirth.

                            There were rituals held in Osiris’s name – like the passion plays of latter Christianity.

                            Osiris was so central to Egyptians understanding of death that often Egyptians would append the name of Osiris to the name of the deceased, to say that the dead person was now safe with Osiris.

                            Osiris is mentioned in the many spells, prayers and incantations contained in various texts such as the Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead was translated to English and widely distributed during the Victorian era. It had a fundamental impact on mythological writers such as James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough.

                            The rediscovery – or plundering – of Egyptian pyramids captured the popular imagination. There was a bit of Osiris and ancient Egypt in the secret societies, religious moments and yes the horror and adventure novels of the time.

                            The beetles had been moving underneath Willow’s skin in the previous act begin to cluster by her neck and throat.

                            Willow starts to choke. Will the cost of resurrecting Buffy be Willow’s own life?

                            The Scoobies are freaked. They are all horrified. Every fibre in Tara’s being says she should save her girlfriend, stop the ritual. And yet, how horrified she may be, Tara continues to respect Willow’s wishes.

                            Willow falls to the ground and begins hacking up … something.

                            We see a very phallic snake emerge from Willow’s mouth.

                            And the snake lands on the ground writhing.

                            Tara repeats to herself. “It’s a test! It’s a test.”

                            Snake or serpents are a powerful symbol in world mythology.

                            In Western civilization, we’re probably most familiar with the serpent in the book of Genesis that tempted Eve with the knowledge of good and evil. This spell, this ritual, could be seen as Willow’s corruption in the pursuit of knowledge.

                            Christians later associated the serpent of the Hebrew Bible with Satan, the ultimate embodiment of evil.

                            There are villainous snakes throughout work mythology. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, has passages offering protection from snakes.

                            And yet, snakes are not uniformly evil.

                            In the Bible, both Moses and his brother Aaron are able to transform their staves into snakes – as a demonstration of magic.

                            More importantly, snakes stand as a symbol of rebirth. Snakes are famous for being able to shed their skin, emerging anew from its old decaying skin. It’s easy to see how such a potent image seared itself into humanity’s collective unconsciousness.

                            One common magical symbol is the Ouroboros – the image of a snake biting its own tail. It has its roots in Egyptian lore, in a tale highlighting the union of Ra and Osiris (yes, him again). It carried over into Greek mythology, and then through the Renaissance and into the modern era.

                            It symbolizes eternity – the circle of life, death and resurrection. It is a sign of alchemy – the art of change. Alchemy lies at the heart of modern magic and science, subjects both dear to Willow’s heart.

                            And now once again we come to a point where the two main versions of the episode diverge. If you’re watching the feature-length version that first aired on October 3, 2001 or watching the DVD version, you’d see a scene with Dawn and Spike. If you’re watching the two-part version of the episode in reruns or on streaming services, you’ll find the same scene in early in part two, just after Buffy shreds the roof of her coffin.

                            We find Spike in the Summers home, dozing off in front of the TV after a gruelling night of, well, I guess more games of rummy. Dawn is asleep on the couch nearby.

                            The script just identifies the film as “an old movie”, and none of the online guides provide any clarity. I think it might be the 1961 version of El Cid though. If that’s the case, it’s an appropriate choice as the real-life El Cid would switch sides – fighting both Muslims and Christians, just as Spike himself has switched sides. Also, at the end of the film when the Cid is killed battle, his dead body is propped on his horse to trick the foes into thinking he’s still alive and leading the charge, a ruse similar to that of the BuffyBot. Whatever the film is, the warriors on the TV resemble the Knight of Byzantium – a signifier of the conflict over Dawn’s safety, a conflict which claimed Buffy’s life.

                            On TV we see charging hordes. Spike is woken by up the sounds outside – motorcycles, smashing windows, etc. It’s a different charge.

                            Spike goes to the window. He sees the bikers riding on the lawn of neighbours’ homes. Garbage is strewing on the lawn. It’s an unpleasant site, but still just petty vandalism.

                            Dawn joins Spike at the window, curious as to what’s happening.

                            Spike pulls Dawn away. He orders Dawn to “Stay away from the window.”

                            But Spike himself does not charge headlong into danger. Instead he says he’s just going to check the rest of the house. He tells Dawn to stay put.

                            Now, this is where the scene occurs in the script, in the Marti Noxon half of the episode. And there are some parallels with the scene that immediate precedes in in the original broadcast/DVD version.

                            Both Spike and the Scoobies witness danger and they do not get involved. However, in the case of the Scoobies, they let their friend Willow remain in danger from the spell. Spike doesn’t get involved in the outside world at this point, but he is extending protection to Dawn.

                            Now both versions of the episode sync up again as we continue to witness the widespread pillaging of Sunnydale.

                            One of the Hellions – Mag from the bar -- smashes the window of an electronics store and proceeds take some DVD players. It is as I’ve said many times before, small-time villainy. There’s no grand scheme, no planned Armageddon or such. The Hellions are even less ambitious than the Trio who face Buffy later this season. Oh well, at least the vampire didn’t steal the cheap calculators on display.

                            Then again, it benefits the show to have the Hellions be so bland and unambitious. If they actually had schemes that involved collecting mystic artifacts or summoning ancient demons, it would pull focus away from the Scoobies and how they handle Buffy’s death and upcoming resurrection. Season four started with the uncomplicated vampire Sunday, so the episode could spend more time on how Buffy adjusts to college life. (Another example of this would be the shop window dummies turned killers, the Autons which were used both in the 1970 reboot and the 2005 rewatch of Doctor Who as generic wallpaper villains.)

                            The Hellion’s thieving is interrupted by a perky but slightly cross voice which says “That doesn’t belong to you.”

                            “Put it back,” the BuffyBot scolds the Hellion. She sounds like a mom speaking to a child who was just caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

                            The Hellion screeches “an eerie, high pitched wail”. It’s not unlike the sound the Nazgul make in the Lord of the Rings films.

                            These other two Hellions stop what they are doing and pay attention.

                            Now, look at these two for a minute. I’m reminded of the old Sesame Street song. “One of these things is not like the others.” The Hellion on the left looks far less demonic than the others – like a vampire or even a human. Is he just the gang’s mascot? We’ll never know.

                            The Hellions gather around and circle Buffy outside of the cinema. It’s playing the stupid Ashton Kutcher movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?” You can imagine some of the Sunnydale residents asking the same question after this night’s pillaging. Apparently Sunnydale doesn’t get the latest movies as it was in theatres in December of 2000. Oh, and it features the original Buffy Kristy Swanson.

                            Razor says “Slayer. I've been hearing interesting things about you.”

                            The BuffyBot confirms that “Yes, I am interesting.” She then asks if the Hellions are Razor’s friends. He says they’re his boys.

                            And the BuffyBot is still in annoyed mother mode.

                            BUFFYBOT: Good. Tell them to get on their loud bicycles and go back to wherever they came from.

                            Razor flaunts his knowledge of the robot’s true nature. “Or what, you’ll electrocute us?”

                            He punches BuffyBot and some Hellions grab her arms and hold her in place. The script says “Razor reveals the reason for his moniker when he raises his hand and FOUR SMALL SWITCHBLADE-STYLE CLAWS SPRING FROM HIS FINGERS ...”

                            Except, these aren’t really razor blades are they? Surely, if Razor named himself after his claws, he should have gone with a name like Freddy Krueger Rip-Off, as they resemble the famous glove of the horror icon from the Nightmare on Elm Street film series.

                            Freddy… sorry, Razor slashes at BuffyBot’s shoulder, revealing her robotic nature.

                            “You’re nothing but a toy,” Razor says. “A pretty toy.” He moves closer to her, like he’s a sexual predator. “Wanna play?”

                            BuffyBot knees Razor in the crotch.

                            And then BuffyBot executes a perfect backflip. Not only does she flip free of the demons holding her, she also kicks Razor again.

                            It’s pretty impressive fighting and gives the BuffyBot some of the real Buffy’s agency. Well, maybe not agency – as the reactions are merely programmed. But if that’s the case then it’s the BuffyBot’s programmer, Willow, who deserves the credit.

                            The BuffyBot acknowledges Willow’s importance as she rejects Razor’s offer to play. “I would, but you injured me. I have to report to Willow.”

                            BuffyBot continues to thrash the Hellions. It’s the most impressive fighting we’ve seen this episode. She punches and kicks her way through the biker gang, and then runs off in search of Willow.

                            Razor is on the ground, and tries to regain control of his troops.

                            “Get her!” Razor shouts to his troops. The Hellions jump on their bikes and follow the BuffyBot. And as we know, BuffyBot is headed straight to the Scooby Gang. Uh oh.

                            And we rejoin the Scoobies at their graveyard ritual. Xander, Anya and Tara look concerned.

                            The camera pulls out and we see why they’re concerned. Willow is engulfed in swirling red energy.

                            We see just how much of a toll this spell is taking on Willow.

                            The script says;
                            Willow is bucking in the middle of a crackling RED SWIRL OF ENERGY. It's clearly draining her life-force, taking everything out of her... But still, she shouts-
                            WILLOW: Osiris! Release her!

                            The swirling red energy seems to be doing more than draining Willow – it’s consuming her. It looks like fire.

                            Perhaps the most immediate association with fire are the reputed fires of hell. Yes, the ninth circle of Dante’s hell is frozen and covered in ice. But usually when we think of hell and Satan, we think more of Heat Miser than Snow Miser.

                            I discussed earlier why Willow might think Buffy was in hell. It’s outside of Willow’s religious background, but there is another famous resurrected figure who is supposed to have ended up in hell – Jesus Christ. The Biblical passages referring to it are oblique at best, but there’s a long-standing tradition of the Harrowing in Hell. According to this tradition, Jesus spent three days in hell rescuing the souls of the worthy.

                            The hellish flames not only suggest that Willow is in contact with the hellish dimension where Buffy is supposed to reside. It suggests the forces which she channels are hellish, demonic, evil.

                            But fire has other associations than the strictly demonic. It also suggests purification. And rebirth.

                            One of the most famous creatures of rebirth is the Phoenix. When I reviewed “Tough Love” I talked about the Phoenix of the X-Men comics, a hero/villain who has had her fair share of death and resurrection. When the comic book Phoenix uses her abilities, the fiery image of a great bird forms around her. (When Phoenix is corrupted, she becomes Dark Phoenix. The Buffy characters explicitly refer to Willow as Dark Phoenix later this season.) But the comic book phoenix is named for the mythological character.

                            According to Greek legend, the mighty bird the Phoenix is killed when it is consumed in flame and reborn from its own ashes. Greek historian Herodotus attributed the Phoenix to Egyptian lore. And yes, there is a similar creature in Egyptian lore, the bird Bennu – the herron-like bird that was also said to be the ba, or personality/soul, of the sun god Ra. And yes, the Bennu was also associated with Osiris.

                            Another thing to notice is that red flames also illuminate the floral pattern of Willow’s dress. Flowers and other vegetation are another symbol of rebirth. After all, flowers are part of the natural cycle.

                            But something which is not natural comes running out of the trees. It’s the BuffyBot – calling out “Willow! I need service!”

                            The Scoobies turn their gaze away from Willow and toward the BuffyBot.

                            I wonder if just for a second they thought it might have been the real Buffy – resurrected through the power of Willow’s magic. But no.

                            The BuffyBot turns around and looks behind her.

                            And we see what she’s looking at – the demon bikers are right behind her.

                            One of the Hellions has his bike jump in the air, like he’s Evel Knievel (or possibly a really demonic ET).

                            Tara, Xander and Anya stand up and get out of the way of the marauding bikers. Of all the things that could possibly go wrong with resurrecting someone from the dead, an attack from a demon biker gang seemed pretty unlikely. Then again, forget it, Jake, it’s the Hellmouth.

                            The Scoobies and the BuffyBot dodge the bikers as they encircle the ritual.

                            But Willow does not stop. She ignores the pain. She ignores the distraction. Nothing matters except bringing Buffy back.

                            The Hellions continue circling Willow who is bursting with red energy.

                            But one of the bikers gets too close to the urn of Osiris. He rides right over it, shattering the instrument of Buffy’s resurrection.

                            Willow screams “No!” in horror at what’s just happened.

                            As the spell’s red energy fades and flows into the group, there’s a curious momentary effect. A skull is superimposed on Willow’s face.

                            I wonder if this spell was meant to be a straight trade. Was Willow offering up her own health and life force – allowing them to flow into Buffy.

                            But the spell appears to have ended prematurely. The red energy is gone, and we’re left with an exhausted and powerless Willow.

                            And this is an exhausted and powerless Willow in the way of bikers that would have no problem running over her, just like they ran over the urn.

                            And it looks like the demons might be interested in Willow – although not for her magical abilities. When Mag spots Anya and Tara he says “Look what I found.” He seems more interested in the women as objects. Back in the bar, Mag had said there was all kinds of bad in Sunnydale, but he seems mainly interested in DVD players and girls.

                            Xander makes a dash away from the other Scoobies, through the crazy bikers in order to save his best friend – “poor defenseless Willow”.

                            He gets to her in time. As Xander helps Willow up a Hellion rides by. Xander and Willow fall out of harm’s way.

                            As Xander helps Willow up again, he orders the others to go. With Willow out of it, it looks like Xander is now the “boss of us”.

                            Anya and Tara make a mad dash into the woods.

                            They are followed closely by Hellion known as Mag.

                            Mag grabs Anya and swings her over his motorcycle.

                            Tara casts a spell, forming a ball of blue energy in her hand. She shouts “Dissolvo!” which is Latin for release.

                            Back in the teaser the characters talked about how Tara’s miscast spell had just made a vampire peppy. But this time, the spell works.

                            Anya is knocked off the bike and falls safely to the ground.

                            It’s as if something’s changed. The Scoobies are working a bit more as a unit. Tara has the strength to cast a spell correctly. What could have changed in the last few minutes to make the Scoobies that much more effective? Oh yeah. Right.

                            As Tara and Anya dash away from their demonic attackers, Xander cares Willow into the woods.

                            When Xander feels they are safe from the Hellions he sets Willow down. Xander asks if she’s okay.

                            She opens her eyes, looks at Xander and asks what is to her a more important question. “Did it work?”

                            Xander looks like a stake has been driven through his own heart. He doesn’t try to lie or cover up or hide the truth. He works shocked anew as he accepts that their friend Buffy truly is dead. All their plans appear to be for nothing. “I’m sorry,” he tells Willow.

                            It’s a terrible thought that they might have come all this way and failed at the last moments.

                            Willow passes out from the terrible truth.

                            Truth is something that’s been in short supply this episode. Characters have deceived others and themselves. Secrets have been kept.

                            Also, we saw a fracturing of Willow and Xander’s friendship. He semi-playfully criticized her in the teaser. Later in the episode, Xander openly challenged Willow’s authority. But here in the final moments of the episode, that bond begins to be repaired. We’ll see a similar pairing of Willow and Xander in the season finale “Grave”.

                            Xander holds Willow somewhat like the Pieta – the famous statue that shows the crucified Jesus cradled in the arms of his mother, the Virgin Mary.

                            One of the earlier plans for the episode actually featured the characters venturing into the underworld. They wouldn’t be the first to do that. In Sumerian mythology, Inanna descended into the underworld. In Greek mythology, Orpheus journeyed to Hades to rescue his wife Eurydice. The god Hades allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice back to the land of the living but on one condition. He could not look back upon her until they were safely out of the underworld. But when Orpheus reached the world of the living, he turned around thinking it might be a trick. He saw Eurydice vanish.

                            In some early versions, Eurydice was indeed a mere apparition. But in Virgil’s telling, the resurrection was genuine. It was only thwarted by Orpheus’s lack of faith.

                            Maybe Xander lacks a bit of faith when he so hastily said “Sorry” to Willow as if the spell failed.

                            Before we get to the final few shots, let’s take a break for yet another look at what the Scoobies did during the time without Buffy. I have yet to cover the Scooby who had the biggest role.

                            I Know What You Did Last Summer: Willow Rosenberg

                            So, what did Willow do last summer? The short answer would be --- everything.

                            It’s partly Buffy’s fault.

                            She’s the one who talked up Willow’s abilities in “The Gift”:

                            BUFFY: You got anything for me?

                            WILLOW: Some ideas -- well, notions, or theories, based on wild speculation. Did I mention I'm not good under pressure?

                            Buffy sits by her.

                            BUFFY: I need you, Will. You're my big gun.

                            WILLOW: I'm your -- I never was a gun... someone else should be the gun, I could maybe be a cudgel, or pointy stick ...

                            BUFFY: Willow, you're the strongest person here. You know that, right?

                            WILLOW: Well, no ...

                            BUFFY: Will, you're the only person who's ever hurt Glory. At all. You're my best shot at getting her on the ropes so don't get a jelly belly now.

                            Not that Buffy was wrong to say any of that to Willow. She is their big gun. Willow’s the smartest and most powerful of the Scoobies. She might tie with Buffy and Xander for most determined, but she’s still up there on that score too.

                            Willow has long had a dual approach to what she is capable of.

                            When Buffy first goes to speak with Willow in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, she says “why” rather than “hi”. She has a hard time believing that Buffy would speak to her. She’s got the same reluctance to ask people out on a date. (Although we could now imagine that was Willow in deep denial about her own sexuality.)

                            But there’s also a side of her that takes immense, and justifiable, pride in her abilities. Yes, we’ve seen Willow grow in both confidence and power over the course of the show, but it’s right there from the start. After her initial awkwardness in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, she excitedly tells Buffy “Oh, I could totally help you out!” In “The Harvest”, Willow does a humble-brag about her ability to hack into the city’s computer system.

                            Right from the start though, we do see that a lot of Willow’s self-worth is tied up in her ability to help people. But linked as it was to the approval of others, her self-worth often lacks the “self” part of the phrase.

                            America Aurora did a wonderful job exploring Willow’s personality in her rewatch for “Spiral”. I hope I’ll be able to add to that discussion without too much repetition. Aurora talked about how Willow helped people, but I want to explore Willow’s other side, the one that knows she’s smarter than almost anyone else.

                            We know that Xander nominates Willow for leadership during the Summer Without Buffy. And we’ve seen traces of her leadership style before. In “Earshot”, Willow takes charge of investigating who the potential mass-murderer at Sunnydale High might be.

                            She hands out the list of FBI profile questions, like as if they are homework assignments. The teacher aspect is emphasized when she tells the Scoobies to write neatly and label their worksheets. We also see she needs to snap at the gang to “Shut up!” and tell them to do it “Today, people!”

                            Some of those FBI questionnaires help to illuminate Willow’s personality in “Bargaining”, the summer preceding the episode and season six.

                            Willow confronts Jonathan, and says:

                            WILLOW: Fantasies are fun, aren't they Jonathan?

                            JONATHAN: I guess.

                            WILLOW: We all have fantasies where we're powerful and respected. And people pay attention to us.

                            JONATHAN: Maybe.

                            WILLOW: But sometimes the fantasy isn't enough, is it, Jonathan? Sometimes you have to make it so people don't ignore you. Make them pay attention. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

                            Willow really did Jonathan the idea for his spell in “Superstar”, didn’t she? (Although both episodes were written by Jane Espenson.)

                            But surely Willow has these same fantasies. And now, with her elevation to leadership, she is powerful and people are supposed to listen to her. But we can see in “”Bargaining” and the comics set in the summer beforehand that she really struggles to make herself heard.

                            In “Earshot”, Oz is tasked with interrogating the basketball jock Hogan, and this questionnaire also comments on Willow’s character.

                            OZ: Do you ever feel that you've created a false persona for yourself of the guy who does everything right, and how much of a strain does that put on you to maintain it?

                            HOGAN: Huh. Wow. I guess... moderate strain? Is that a good answer? I want to get this right.
                            Willow is hyper-concerned with how people view her. And with Buffy’s death she’s got a lot to live up to. Buffy told her that she was the big gun. And so, Willow has a lot to live up to. She wants to be seen to live up to Buffy’s high standards. To do everything right.

                            And this has made Willow into a liar. Or if you’d prefer to go with the metaphor from “Restless”, Willow is an actor.

                            We see Willow has to keep secrets. She keeps Dawn, Spike and Giles out of her resurrection spell plans. She hides her sacrifice of the fawn from everyone. If Willow has doubts about the spell working, she doesn’t express them.

                            Part of Willow’s lies are about trying to maintain the image of the good girl. She doesn’t want Giles disapproving of her. Or any of the Scoobies really.

                            Not only does Willow have to keep up appearances, but she has to do everything – run the Scoobies, run the Summers household, go to school (which I’m sure pleases her parents in the five annual minutes they notice her existence), do advanced robot repair … and I feel like I’m missing out on a few things.

                            There must be points where the burden is overwhelming. Where she feels like someone else could or should do a better job. But she was appointed leader by Xander, she was made the big gun by Buffy herself. Wouldn’t be it an insult to all of them if she just quit, or even just admitted that there are a few hours of the day where she can’t do anything?

                            On the evening before Willow’s most fiendishly complex and dangerous spell ever, when she should be marshalling all her inner resources, she still agrees to help reprogram the BuffyBot to suit Spike’s needs. Willow weakly tries to say she’s busy but lets that go. It’s against Willow’s nature to let anyone down.

                            So, if Willow’s going to pass the mantle of leadership, of big gun-ness, to anyone, there’s only one person she can reasonably choose – Buffy herself. Buffy would be the only acceptable choice to take over.

                            Besides, Willow probably feels that people are judging her for not bringing back Buffy already. Willow scored a major victory in “The Gift” -- she restored Tara’s sanity. Willow might think the others are looking at her and thinking, “If you had the power to help Tara, why can’t you help Buffy?”

                            Of course, none of the Scoobies really think that way. But when you’re insecure and have low self-esteem, you imagine people judging you far more harshly than they actually would.

                            We’ve seen how Buffy had to deal with her responsibilities for five seasons up to this point. Buffy can tell characters such as Giles when she feels like she just can’t handle it. She tells Willow this on occasion too. It was only a few episodes before that Buffy went into a catatonic state over not being able to handle everything. But Willow might see herself as inferior to Buffy. Willow would hold herself to a standard she expects no one else to live up to.

                            I included a few pages from Flash comic books in one of the earlier installments of this rewatch. The best-known character to use the superhero alias “The Flash” was Barry Allen. But when he was killed in action in 1985, Barry’s former sidekick, Wally West aka Kid Flash, assumed the Flash identity to honour his uncle’s memory.

                            When Wally was the Flash, he was burdened by the feeling of not living up to Barry’s legacy. When it came time to retell Wally’s origin story in the anthology comic book Secret Origins, writer William Messner-Loebs used a framing device in which Wally was telling the story to a psychiatrist. Wally expressed his fears and doubts, and the psychiatrist exposed Wally’s faulty reasoning.

                            The shrink told Wally that he once kept someone from taking a bottle of pills. The knowledge of that one good deed got him through bad days. Wally had saved so many lives (and if you count the alien invasions, it would have been billions of lives, multiple times over.). He figured Wally was suffering from imposter syndrome. In trying to fill Barry’s void, Wally felt like a fraud.

                            Willow felt like a fraud back in her dream in “Restless”. Imagine how she must feel substituting for Buffy.

                            Now, I’d like to turn my attention to the comic books again. They provide very little insight into Willow’s time as Scooby leader, but they at least show some of the strain she was under during the Summer Without Buffy.

                            Willow is not the central character in the Lost and Found one shot. We see a brief shot of Willow and Tara moving into the Summers household. And Willow plays a classic role from her days as Buffy and Giles’s sidekick – she volunteers to do research.

                            We see a lot more of Willow’s responsibilities in the Death of Buffy storyline that appeared in the monthly Buffy comic book.

                            Willow helps fight the monsters.

                            She takes phone calls from Dawn’s school.

                            Willow and Tara need to provide parental guidance to Dawn.

                            And on top of this, she has to stop Xander from killing Spike.

                            It seems like things might get a little easier when Anya comes up with the idea of using the BuffyBot as a stand-in for Buffy. But this just brings more work for Willow.

                            And she needs to constantly maintain the BuffyBot:

                            And again…

                            And that last scene brought a new challenge. Or as business gurus like to rename challenges – an opportunity. Spike had confessed that he betrayed Willow to Doc’s demon brethren. They need a witch to help destroy a scroll. Willow decides to pay Doc’s brothers ahead of schedule with a request of her own.

                            It feels like a massive cheat to me that Willow just asks and the spell is there. What about her summer of research? False leads, etc. And it’s unsatisfying that it comes from a similar source as Dawn’s resurrection spell from “Forever”.

                            Still once Willow has the spell, she goes to the Scoobies – well, some of them – with her grand plan.

                            The Scoobies are not exactly supportive.

                            The comics really give no sense of when Willow become “boss of us”. She doesn’t seem in the leadership position there, but logically I think Willow most have ascended to that role much earlier.

                            But for Willow, it never stops. When she leaves the unsuccessful Scooby Meeting, she runs into Spike’s old contact Coma (such a ridiculous name). It turns out that destroying the scroll released a blue, flaming bird that consumed Doc’s brothers.

                            Of course, Willow is guilt-tripped into destroying the creature. Her battle with the demon is juxtaposed with Willow’s attempt to convince the Scoobies to resurrect Buffy.

                            I’m always a bit concerned about just showing complicated comics panels ever since a time on the campus paper where I interviewed some indie comics creators. My editor – also a comics fan – arranged the interviewers in comic book-style panels. Everyone on staff who knew comic books could follow the flow of the panels. Everyone who did not read comic books was completely lost as to what’s going on. Ever since then I’ve never taken it for granted that people can follow a comic book – especially when taken out of the full context.

                            What happens here is similar to television. Imagine the voiceovers from a quiet scene being played over top of a mostly silent action scene. This is something like that. The dialogue from the quiet scene (where Willow convinces the Scoobies) is mostly in narrative captions. Willow’s the main speaker and her dialogue are in purple boxes. The orange box is Anya’s dialogue. The blue box is Tara speaking. And Xander’s line is in the green box. I hope that’s clear.

                            Willow defeats the demonic bird, and then she wins over the Scoobies – mostly.

                            As I’ve said before, the comics were a mixed opportunity. It’s like they tried to link the first few weeks after “The Gift” to the beginning of “Bargaining” without giving a real thought to what happened inbetween. We never get a chance to see Willow as a true leader. We never see the team follow her lead, and then start to fracture. We don’t see her work to integrate Spike into the Scooby fighting force, but keep him separate from the “Bring Back Buffy” club. We never get to see the emotional toll that keeping secrets places on Willow.

                            It’s like the comics went from the start soup to the dessert without ever giving us the fine meal. I’d love to see how Willow balanced the demands of leadership. From what we can see in “Bargaining”, she’s not the clichéd teacher of “Earshot”. But did she start the summer out with lesson plans? Or did she give the Scoobies more free reign. Willow must have been plagued by the constant quest “What Would Buffy Do?” Did she try to act like Buffy at points?

                            But no, the comics cut right to the chase.

                            What’s the most important thing that Willow did in the summer without Buffy?

                            She brought Buffy back.

                            Speaking of which, let’s return to the episode for its final few moments.

                            We pan down from Willow and Xander to the underground. We see inside Buffy’s coffin.

                            We pan across her decayed hand.

                            This is not a pristine corpse.

                            Hamlet once asked a question we might ask ourselves:

                            How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot?

                            First Clown
                            I' faith, if he be not rotten before he die--as we
                            have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce
                            hold the laying in--he will last you some eight year
                            or nine year: a tanner will last you nine year.

                            Why he more than another?

                            First Clown
                            Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that
                            he will keep out water a great while; and your water
                            is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.
                            Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth
                            three and twenty years.
                            Buried in a coffin, it can take decades for the body to fully decompose. But it’s can only last a year or so at most before appearing mostly skeletal.

                            We see Buffy’s decomposing face. It’s starting to look skeletal. Her nose has caved in. Parallels the look of the Hellions – most of whom also lack noses.

                            We also see the swirling red energy from Willow’s spell cover Buffy’s corpse.

                            There’s a long-standing religious debate. If the Apocalypse ever does come, what happens to us? Some traditions believe we will be only resurrected in spirit – new bodies crafted from our souls. But other traditions believe in resurrection of the flesh.

                            In this episode we see flesh resurrect.

                            The body is rapidly healed.

                            As the spell finishes we see the pupils return to Buffy’s eyes and she breathes once again.

                            Buffy’s back to life and she seems to have her wits about her. She turns her head from side to side, frantically trying to make sense of her surroundings.

                            Her surroundings are six feet under the earth in a coffin. Buffy is terrified.

                            And we cut to blackness.

                            If you’re watching the two-part version, next comes the ending credits.

                            We’ve reached the end of part one.

                            Well, almost. There’s one last Scooby to profile.

                            I Know What You Did Last Summer: Buffy Summers

                            I won’t step on future episodes by discussing where Buffy’s soul was during the Summer Without Buffy.

                            But her body?

                            We don’t know if the body was embalmed. But it was placed in a wooden coffin and buried deep in the earth. All of these methods would have slowed the rate of decay.

                            And yet we can see bones have become more prominent. The colour of her skin has changed. It’s likely her internal organs would have decayed – starting with her acidic intestines.

                            According to James Marsters in the Buffy Lives special, “the worms are eating her brains.”

                            So, we know what she did in the summer. Buffy was dead. Dead as a doornail.

                            Now, what she’ll do now that she’s been restored to life? That’s someone else’s story to tell.
                            Last edited by PuckRobin; 24-10-16, 02:02 AM.


                            • #15
                              First off, my apologies to Local Max for missing out on a response for the absolutely brilliant rewatch of The Gift. It was a truly fitting end to a terrific Season 5! Thank you!

                              PuckRobin: awesome start to Season 6 with your in-depth analysis of Bargaining! I loved your thoughts on the title and the stages of grieving and how this all tied into the comics that bridged the summer between Buffy's death and resurrection for all of the other characters and how they dealt with their own demons. I particularly enjoyed how you called out Giles' and Spike's journey, since they both had to deal with being compromised during the battle with Glory. Giles' failure was moral in his acceptance of Dawn's death as acceptable collateral damage to saving the world and his murder of Ben. Spike's failure was physical in overestimating his own capabilities when it came to Doc...

                              Your image research is fabulous, as well, and I now think that it is not by chance, that the demon Veeya who haunts all of the characters in the comics looks the way she does:

                              She is the embodiment of what Buffy is becoming in the ground under Sunnydale and what Willow seems to channel at some point during her spell. I had never connected the dots on this until you walked me through the images and screencaps.

                              Staying on screencaps: I love how you connect Willow's spell with Spike's trials and show how the test of the beetles really book-ends the two scenes. Willow takes her first step on the road to darkness that will eventually engulf all of the characters, Spike sets his feet back on the journey to light when he makes his choice to be tested. In this there is also a great contrast between Willow vomiting out a serpent and Spike ending up with light-rays streaming from his face (also anticipating the end of his journey in Chosen). Again this was something I'd never consciously noted or connected before.

                              It also suddenly makes sense why Spike would go to Africa of all places to win back his soul, something I'd always wondered about. After all, there are spiritual places aplenty in North or South America, and then there's always Tibet, but if Willow opens the can of worms (sorry, Urn of Osiris) with an Egyptian spell, then it makes sense that Spike puts the lid back on it in Africa (maybe even somewhere in Egypt...)

                              I wish I had the time to pick though so many of your insightful quotes, but have just been really squeezed for time these past few months, so I wanted to single out one really powerful observation:

                              There’s a long-standing religious debate. If the Apocalypse ever does come, what happens to us? Some traditions believe we will be only resurrected in spirit – new bodies crafted from our souls. But other traditions believe in resurrection of the flesh.

                              In this episode we see flesh resurrect.
                              I had never really thought about this as a choice where the writing team would have had alternatives, such as clothing Buffy's spirit in a new vessel born from Willow's spell. Instead it seemed to me to continue the creepy vibe we explored in Season 5 with Joyce's brief resurrection. Of course her fighting her way out of the grave also connected her in even more ways with her chosen prey - vampires - and fueled her fear that she was becoming more and more demonic herself.

                              However, on reading your comment, I am now thinking that it foreshadows and explains a lot about Buffy's journey in Season 6 as well. She is pulled back into her corrupted flesh and consequently, while all the characters fail in one form or another during the Season, she succumbs to what I would judge to be the most physical, the most flesh-bound of the traditional deadly sins: Lust in her surrender to Spike, Gluttony when she gets blind drunk and then proceeds to feed herself and her family on junk food to the point where she even smells like an old grease trap and Sloth, which was a very medieval way of judging a condition that nowadays has physicians reach for their prescription pads for antidepressants.

                              Other characters like Willow, who go for Pride and Wrath seem to fall prey to the temptations of the mind rather than the body, but given Buffy's experience here her choices make so much more sense to me.
                              Smile, listen, agree - and then do whatever the f**k you wanted to do anyway... (Robert Downey jr.)