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Positives and Negatives - S6

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  • Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
    I love the moment Willow screams when the Penis Monster pokes it's head up again.
    Oh yeah, Willow’s scream was awesome and kind of nostalgia-inducing. She hadn’t screamed like that in years!

    I forgot to mention, although I despise the addiction stuff in this episode, I did like Willow’s final moment with Amy. The “If you really are my friend, you better stay away from me. And if you really aren't… you *better* stay away from me.” was pretty badass.

    Comment


    • “Dead Things”

      Positive: The darker aspects of Buffy’s characterization are mostly very well-done. I think depressed!Buffy is at her most entertaining when she’s lowkey channeling Faith such as in this episode. Her compensating for her emotional despair with violence and aggressive sex is not only similar to Faith, but it speaks to some of the more repressed instincts of her character that we saw glimpses of in earlier seasons -- her and Angel fighting to satisfy their sexual tension in S3, her sneaking out of bed to hunt vamps in the S5 opener. The scene of her beating up Spike was not only well-executed but a great parallel to the church scene in “Who Are You?” Her breaking down and collapsing in Tara’s lap (“I’m wrong. Tell me I’m wrong, please!”) is also very reminiscent of Faith’s breakdown and collapse in Angel’s arms (“I’m BAD! Angel, please just do it...”).

      I really adore Tara. She’s always been one of those characters I could take or leave, but I am appreciating her more on this rewatch. A lot of people criticize Tara’s character this season for being too saintly, but I disagree. For one, she does have some flaws of her own -- she has bad posture, she is awful at articulating herself most of the time, and her beef with Willow about the magical decorations was just silly. But she’s also very sweet and brave. And most of all, Tara is consistently there for Buffy, Willow, and Dawn when they need her to be.

      Her grounded and stable nature is a really nice contrast to all of the other characters. The Scoobies are always in their own insulated bubble and Tara offers an interesting perspective that reminds me a lot of what made Cordelia so valuable to the series in the early seasons (as well as Spike and Anya, during their first seasons as regulars). In a season where the characters are making so many outrageous decisions, having a character like Tara who has her head on straight is a nice balance.

      The ending moment between her and Buffy is one of my favorites in the entire series. They could have gone the cliched route and given Tara this wise, well-articulated speech that would have provided the perfect comfort to Buffy and made her feel better. Instead, they opted for the more realistic (and infinitely more interesting) route. Tara has no idea what to say to the sobbing Buffy and the scene is all the better for it. She doesn’t need to say anything because there’s nothing that she *could* say, other than reassure Buffy that she is not a bad person. Tara does what a friend is supposed to do in that situation: she’s there for Buffy and allows her to vent and cry without judging her for her feelings or invalidating them. It’s a wonderful scene.

      Negative: Spike talks about eating a carpet decorator right after sex and Buffy laughs and is not the slightest bit repulsed.

      “Older and Far Away”

      Positive: This is a good (not great) ensemble piece and I love the premise. It’s a bottle episode, which is one of my favorite TV tropes. The writers trap the characters in the same location and allow them all to bounce off of one another. And as the strength of this series is due to the great character interaction, it makes for a pretty fun, albeit flawed in many aspects, episode. The Scoobies interact like real 20-somethings would at a party and I actually like the one-off characters. There’s a lot of good stuff here - the continued development of Buffy and Tara’s friendship; Willow and Tara getting closer again; Xander/Anya trying to play matchmaker for Buffy; Tara messing with Spike; Anya going stir-crazy was well-played by Emma Caulfield and I love the way Xander comforts her. To single out one interaction I particularly enjoyed:

      ANYA: “Buffy's making a new friend. A grown-up friend.”
      DAWN: “What, you mean the guy you invited to set her up with?”
      ANYA: “Nothing.”
      DAWN: “It's not like I don't understand why you invited him. I was there, remember? I can hear you when I'm in the room, you know? I do understand these things.”
      ANYA: (patronizing) “Yes you do!” (pats Dawn on the head)
      DAWN: “You know I'm in high school, right?”
      ANYA: (still patronizing) “Yes you are!"

      It is such a funny moment to me because Anya is essentially just being Anya. If Dawn were really as mature as she wants to be, she would have simply rolled her eyes at Anya like anyone else would and walked away. But being an insecure kid, she actually takes Anya seriously and continues to engage with her, only to get so frustrated.

      Negative: The episode itself isn’t that bad. However, it suffers from some terrible placement. I don’t think an episode has been this badly-placed since “Go Fish”. There is no follow-up to the events of “Dead Things” and the flow of the season is disrupted for many reasons:

      - First, where are the Trio?? One of the biggest points of the previous episode was showing that the Trio was a much more serious threat than Buffy (or the viewer) had initially pegged them to be. But here (as well in the next two episodes), they are nowhere to be found and there’s no reference to them or the mindf*ck and murder they committed. This is disappointing considering that they are the primary antagonists of the season. Imagine if “Innocence” happened and Angel disappeared for the next three episodes in a row. Or if “Consequences” happened and the next three episodes featured no Faith or Mayor.

      - The lack of follow-up to the Buffy/Spike alleyway scene is also very disappointing. When the writers include a scene of Buffy - who is not only the main character, but the moral center of the series - beating her love interest of the season to a bloody pulp, then you would think they would include some interesting follow-up to it and examine the consequences that this event had, not only on their relationship, but on Buffy’s psyche. Unfortunately, they don’t do that here. Buffy was completely disgusted with herself for what she did to him in the previous episode, but here she casually jokes about it and even threatens to do it again. There’s nothing between them but playful banter. He makes inappropriate jokes about eating her date and it’s not funny or cute but for some reason, Buffy entertains it. The episode adds no development to their relationship whatsoever.

      - And last but not least, the resolution to the Buffy-Dawn relationship goes nowhere. This is essentially a Dawn-centric episode. The main point of the episode is Buffy finally recognizing her sister’s pain and resolving to stop neglecting her. I have some problems with the Dawn-angst throughout S6 (even in this episode), but the scenes between her and Buffy near the end are genuinely compelling. The two of them fight with one another but they are essentially dealing with the same problem: emotional isolation. When Buffy assures her she is not alone, Dawn repeats the exact same words that Buffy herself said to Tara at the end of the last one: “Then why do I feel like this?” I always like the ending where everyone leaves but Buffy decides to stay behind with her. It is a sweet moment… that is completely undermined by the fact that Buffy is back to ignoring her again at the beginning of the next episode! So, what was the point of this one?!!
      Last edited by Andrew S.; 06-01-20, 12:18 AM.

      Comment


      • Dead Things is definitely one of the best episodes of the season and I loved it even more after reading PuckRobin's review in the rewatch. Is your negative a personal feeling about Buffy's response to what Spike says or something you feel is a negative in the writing? I think the moment is perhaps both illustrative of the distancing from herself/reality Buffy is doing in her mind when she is with Spike at times and also intended to show her sense of separation from her morality in doing what she is. That her response is so 'ooc' is reflective of her choices in having and continuing the relationship.

        I agree on your perspective on Tara's contrast in S6 being as a more stable character rather than as a saintly one. It fits with her taking Dawn out for a milkshake and trying to give her some continuity even after leaving the house I think. But she doesn't get things perfectly right all the time too, she can't bear to stay when Willow comes back the next morning and Amy talks of their exploits, abandoning Dawn in her distress. So I think it isn't done in a way that makes her too perfect compared to everyone else struggling with their emotional baggage. She was a character that I really had problems connecting to when I first watched the series but I have came to appreciate her so much more as we went through the rewatch and I considered her more closely. I love that you mentioned her bravery because I think her solid defiance in the face of Glory was a key moment for me when really looking at her my attitude towards her swung significantly.

        As for OaFA, I think Buffy having moments of realisation about herself but still then being unable to simply change her behaviour (regarding Spike and Dawn) gives greater weight to how much she is struggling to be honest and both were good choices. She follows up Dead Things by clearly considering whether she can openly date Spike. This seems to me a response which is considering how to break the negative bubble the relationship is. Can she 'come out'? But of course she realises by his inability to function in an appropriate or pleasant manner that he isn't a suitable boyfriend. Which of course she knew really, but it would have made life far simpler if he was and she could have. The light referencing to her own behaviour of the previous episode, especially his residual bruising due to the extent of the beating she gave him, is also a reminder that she is also not a good girlfriend in the relationship either. I think it is quite a subtle but intriguing follow up that explores quite a bit through her response to be honest.

        With Dawn it is an important step on the way towards fixing things and Buffy changing her choices. But, like with Spike, seeing some of what is doing wrong and acknowledging it doesn't make breaking her behaviour easy. She is just struggling too greatly for a moment of clarity to be all it takes. Likewise with The Trio, it really just indicates how deeply Buffy is being affected by all that she is going through that something so serious can occur and the response is missing or sluggish at best. That all these are questionable character choices in response to events/the situation is all part of understanding the depth of the issues and so the placement isn't a problem for me.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Stoney View Post
          Is your negative a personal feeling about Buffy's response to what Spike says or something you feel is a negative in the writing? I think the moment is perhaps both illustrative of the distancing from herself/reality Buffy is doing in her mind when she is with Spike at times and also intended to show her sense of separation from her morality in doing what she is. That her response is so 'ooc' is reflective of her choices in having and continuing the relationship.
          The negative is a flaw in the writing to me. While I like the idea of Buffy getting comfortable with Spike and them chatting amicably post-sex, I think hearing him say something like that would be one of those jarring things that would take her out of the moment - like the ‘only thing better than killing a Slayer is f-cking one’ line - rather than encourage it. Her laughter comes across as if hearing Spike reference that kind of thing is a turn-on to her, which is disturbing and not in the nature of her character. I mainly put it down as one of those many weird little moments in S5-S7 where they throw Buffy’s character under the bus a little bit in order to make whatever story they are trying to tell with Spuffy work. Similar to what they do with Cordy at times to make Cangel happen.

          Originally posted by Stoney
          The light referencing to her own behaviour of the previous episode, especially his residual bruising due to the extent of the beating she gave him, is also a reminder that she is also not a good girlfriend in the relationship either. I think it is quite a subtle but intriguing follow up that explores quite a bit through her response to be honest.
          To me, it doesn’t come across as a subtle or intriguing follow up so much as a backtrack. I didn’t need another reminder that Buffy is not a good girlfriend to Spike. That point has been reinforced in every single episode since they got together. They took Buffy’s character to a very dark place in the alleyway scene. And I don’t have a problem with them taking her to a dark place, I have a problem with the lack of *consequences* to it.

          Like I said before, Buffy has always been the moral center of the show (“She’s a hero, you see. She’s not like us.”). So to include a very tense and dramatic scene in which she viciously beats her love interest of the season to a pulp, only for her to briefly joke about it in the next episode and never mention it again comes across as lazy backtracking on the writers’ part. It frustrates me because it retroactively weakens what was a great and well-acted scene. Buffy’s beatdown of Spike ends up coming off as something that the writers included just to be edgy rather than a meaningful moment in the narrative because there are no emotional consequences to it. IMO, that incident should have been the catalyst to her breaking up with him instead of the lame and unnecessary Riley appearance in AYW.

          Originally posted by Stoney
          With Dawn it is an important step on the way towards fixing things and Buffy changing her choices. But, like with Spike, seeing some of what is doing wrong and acknowledging it doesn't make breaking her behaviour easy. She is just struggling too greatly for a moment of clarity to be all it takes. Likewise with The Trio, it really just indicates how deeply Buffy is being affected by all that she is going through that something so serious can occur and the response is missing or sluggish at best. That all these are questionable character choices in response to events/the situation is all part of understanding the depth of the issues and so the placement isn't a problem for me.
          The placement is a problem with me because the season itself, at least in the middle, is so aimless and lacking in character growth. It's the same stuff every episode. But it's especially problematic with OAFA due to the tone and content of the one before it. “Dead Things” reminds me of “Conversations with Dead People”. Both are great episodes that are later affected by the fact that the episodes afterward failed to provide adequate follow-up to a lot of its events. “Dead Things” was a dark and atmospheric episode in which a lot of ugly events happened that were unlike anything we had seen before in the series (Katrina’s rape and murder; Buffy and Spike at the end). Instead of providing interesting follow-up to it, the writers opted to do a comedic bottle-episode about Dawn - and then they erase the development that it gave Dawn by the following episode!

          Today I watched a mid-S6 episode where Buffy moped, then had sex with Spike, then Willow moped, then dealt with her addiction, then Dawn moped, and then ran out of the room. Do you know which episode I’m talking about? It’s hard to guess, isn’t it? Because I could be talking about *any* of them! That’s why the middle section of the season grates as much as it does. Very little happens and the little that does happen isn’t followed up on. It’s repetitive, aimless storytelling. It feels like the writers were just spinning their wheels and waiting for Joss to give them the 'go' on when to start the Dark Willow arc. I think this was the exact point of the show where SMG and Marti Noxon went to Whedon to expressed their concerns about the show's direction and you can definitely see why in these episodes.
          Last edited by Andrew S.; 06-01-20, 07:42 AM.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
            The negative is a flaw in the writing to me. While I like the idea of Buffy getting comfortable with Spike and them chatting amicably post-sex, I think hearing him say something like that would be one of those jarring things that would take her out of the moment - like the ‘only thing better than killing a Slayer is f-cking one’ line - rather than encourage it. Her laughter comes across as if hearing Spike reference that kind of thing is a turn-on to her, which is disturbing and not in the nature of her character. I mainly put it down as one of those many weird little moments in S5-S7 where they throw Buffy’s character under the bus a little bit in order to make whatever story they are trying to tell with Spuffy work. Similar to what they do with Cordy at times to make Cangel happen.



            To me, it doesn’t come across as a subtle or intriguing follow up so much as a backtrack. I didn’t need another reminder that Buffy is not a good girlfriend to Spike. That point has been reinforced in every single episode since they got together. They took Buffy’s character to a very dark place in the alleyway scene. And I don’t have a problem with them taking her to a dark place, I have a problem with the lack of *consequences* to it.

            Like I said before, Buffy has always been the moral center of the show (“She’s a hero, you see. She’s not like us.”). So to include a very tense and dramatic scene in which she viciously beats her love interest of the season to a pulp, only for her to briefly joke about it in the next episode and never mention it again comes across as lazy backtracking on the writers’ part. It frustrates me because it retroactively weakens what was a great and well-acted scene. Buffy’s beatdown of Spike ends up coming off as something that the writers included just to be edgy rather than a meaningful moment in the narrative because there are no emotional consequences to it. IMO, that incident should have been the catalyst to her breaking up with him instead of the lame and unnecessary Riley appearance in AYW.



            The placement is a problem with me because the season itself, at least in the middle, is so aimless and lacking in character growth. It's the same stuff every episode. But it's especially problematic with OAFA due to the tone and content of the one before it. “Dead Things” reminds me of “Conversations with Dead People”. Both are great episodes that are later affected by the fact that the episodes afterward failed to provide adequate follow-up to a lot of its events. “Dead Things” was a dark and atmospheric episode in which a lot of ugly events happened that were unlike anything we had seen before in the series (Katrina’s rape and murder; Buffy and Spike at the end). Instead of providing interesting follow-up to it, the writers opted to do a comedic bottle-episode about Dawn - and then they erase the development that it gave Dawn by the following episode!

            Today I watched a mid-S6 episode where Buffy moped, then had sex with Spike, then Willow moped, then dealt with her addiction, then Dawn moped, and then ran out of the room. Do you know which episode I’m talking about? It’s hard to guess, isn’t it? Because I could be talking about *any* of them! That’s why the middle section of the season grates as much as it does. Very little happens and the little that does happen isn’t followed up on. It’s repetitive, aimless storytelling. It feels like the writers were just spinning their wheels and waiting for Joss to give them the 'go' on when to start the Dark Willow arc. I think this was the exact point of the show where SMG and Marti Noxon went to Whedon to expressed their concerns about the show's direction and you can definitely see why in these episodes.
            I think it was SMG rather than Marti as she was running things while Joss was doing Firefly at the time.

            Regards Spikes comment Buffy laugh, you're right it was out of place but is it any different than Anyas In Into the Woods she talks cheerfully of making a guy combust and setting his village on fire. Then Xander goes an declares his love for her. Is that any different. Hell the episode Hells Bells is about one of her victims that Buffy arbitrarily kills !

            Comment


            • I do get what you mean Andrew S. and I can see the point of view, it just isn't how it feels to me. Buffy is trying to not think when she is around Spike so often and when she does she withdraws. Her acting in ways that she wouldn't normally is threaded through the whole season and it is just another example to me. That she treats Spike like he's not real and can be totally dismissive of his feelings/person and then behave as if she is wondering if they could be a real couple is all just part of the struggle and confusion in her reactions to her own behaviour. I do take the point that beating Spike could have been the catalyst to her stepping out of the relationship, but it is still giving her relief and she doesn't want to end it. In truth beating him when the relationship is a self punishment was likely very like the church scene with Faith as you say and again was self expression. PuckRobin looked at this too as I remember. The push/pull of her relationship with Spike and the violence was always a problem and he really genuinely doesn't care because he is soulless and doesn't have the same boundaries. That Buffy stays with him then and it is only when she feels a starker contrast against Riley's life later that she takes further stock and realises that she doesn't like what the relationship is doing to her is made more likely by there being a bunch of incidents through the time they are together where she has examples of really bad choices/behaviour to back up her feeling that it is something that needs to stop. That it should have already stopped. So it doesn't weaken any of it for me, it makes it all more intense and through this I think it gives greater weight to what Buffy is dealing with in her psychological response to the trauma of her resurrection and how badly she is struggling.

              Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
              Today I watched a mid-S6 episode where Buffy moped, then had sex with Spike, then Willow moped, then dealt with her addiction, then Dawn moped, and then ran out of the room. Do you know which episode I’m talking about? It’s hard to guess, isn’t it? Because I could be talking about *any* of them! That’s why the middle section of the season grates as much as it does. Very little happens and the little that does happen isn’t followed up on. It’s repetitive, aimless storytelling. It feels like the writers were just spinning their wheels and waiting for Joss to give them the 'go' on when to start the Dark Willow arc. I think this was the exact point of the show where SMG and Marti Noxon went to Whedon to expressed their concerns about the show's direction and you can definitely see why in these episodes.
              Again, although I understand what you're saying I really just don't see it that way. The season is so solid for me because things aren't fixed easily, don't change readily and it is what for me makes it look like they took the emotional problems the characters were going through seriously. It doesn't feel aimless and although I think they were heavy handed in the writing at points with the drugs analogies/metaphors, I can still see what they were going for and think it is an incredibly strong season start to finish. I think the gap between our points of view might be a bit too big to bridge.

              Comment


              • S6 improves on re-watches. The main down point for me is the Willow black magic stuff in the middle of the season. I like the idea, but think it ended off looking more cheesy and soapy than anything. It comes good by the end though. I love the Dark Willow trilogy at the end of the season. It's a good payoff to something set up all the way back in dopplegangland.

                The start of the season is strong too. There's a couple of underrated gems like Life Serial and After Life. Not too keen on the nerd trio as big bads. They have their moments though.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Stoney View Post
                  Again, although I understand what you're saying I really just don't see it that way. The season is so solid for me because things aren't fixed easily, don't change readily and it is what for me makes it look like they took the emotional problems the characters were going through seriously. It doesn't feel aimless and although I think they were heavy handed in the writing at points with the drugs analogies/metaphors, I can still see what they were going for and think it is an incredibly strong season start to finish. I think the gap between our points of view might be a bit too big to bridge.
                  I just think it's one thing for the characters to be in a rut, but it's another thing entirely for the narrative itself to be in a rut and the latter is what I feel is the case from about episodes 11 to 16. Even Whedon himself later admitted that they hit the same note too many times in S6. But yeah, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

                  Originally posted by BtVS fan
                  Regards Spikes comment Buffy laugh, you're right it was out of place but is it any different than Anyas In Into the Woods she talks cheerfully of making a guy combust and setting his village on fire. Then Xander goes an declares his love for her. Is that any different. Hell the episode Hells Bells is about one of her victims that Buffy arbitrarily kills !
                  It's not different, but somewhat more grating since Buffy and Spike had *just* finished having sex with each other. They were naked in bed with each other still recovering from their bliss and he talks about eating a decorator. That's some pretty weird idea of pillow talk and it's weirder that Buffy doesn't react to it as such. But yeah, I've never been all that fond of any of those moments with Anya reminiscing about killing her victims and it being played as cute, comic relief either.

                  “As You Were”

                  Positive: *scratches head* Umm... I’m glad Dawn got her goodbye from Riley. And Willow is adorable.

                  Negative: This is a Bottom 5 episode of the series for me. I don’t care about Riley or his Mary Sue wife. The writing in this one only emphasizes his worst qualities as a character. From his abrupt and cheesy entrance to his dry, pompous attitude whenever Buffy tries to crack a joke to his patronizing speech to her at the end, Riley’s entire presence in this one irritates me. It took every ounce of energy to prevent myself from falling asleep during his scenes. The excessive dragging of Buffy’s character to contrast how much her life sucks with how perfect Riley’s life seems to be was way too heavy-handed. But the *main* thing about Riley that bugs me here is that he never asks Buffy about her mother. It’s extremely OOC and annoying because Riley is totally the type of guy to see his ex and ask her how her mom is doing. The whole thing feels like a fic written by a Riley-fanboy and I don’t buy that his reappearance was necessary in order for Buffy to get out of her slump and end things with Spike.

                  Speaking of which, SMG’s acting was too flat in the breakup scene. Her ending things with him is supposed to be the culmination of the past seven episodes of Buffy/Spike material, but it just leaves me cold. Although I liked the shot of the light hitting her as she walked out. Also: the blouse that she wears in the scene is hideous!

                  Comment


                  • “Hell’s Bells”

                    Positive: I like the fact that the villain of the episode was one of Anya’s victims trying to get revenge. Although Buffy kills him way too quickly, it is probably the closest the show ever comes -- before “Selfless” -- to really acknowledging her past and the damage that she did as a demon. And as horrible as I feel for Anya at the end, there is a sense that she’s kind of getting her karma.

                    Negative: I don’t care about Xander’s family. They are caricatures instead of characters. In particular, Tony Harris - a character whom I had built up a really interesting view of in my head - is a complete joke. They had five and a half seasons and 100+ episodes to do an episode about Xander’s parents. But they only bring them in as one-note stereotypes to break up him and Anya and it’s really disappointing. If they absolutely HAD to break up Xander and Anya, then their breakup should have been due to their own individual flaws as characters, not due to the flaws of his parents.

                    “Normal Again”

                    Positive: This is one of my favorite episodes of the whole show and the best ep of S6 since OMWF. Not only is it the point where Buffy overcomes her depression and starts to get out of her rut, but the season itself gets out of its own rut as well.

                    A while ago, I went into detail in the S6 Rewatch thread about why I think the asylum retcon makes sense but one thing I didn’t mention was SMG’s performance. Her acting in the scene where Buffy tells Willow that she was once institutionalized is so damn good and it is a big part of why I accept that retcon. The revelation that Buffy was in a mental hospital comes out of the blue six seasons in and the writing fails to explain it properly, but she sells the hell out of it. Her reading of “Eventually, my parents just… forgot” destroys me every time I watch. If she had phoned her performance in during that scene, I would probably hate the retcon just like everyone else but she doesn’t. She takes me through all of Buffy’s emotions in that moment and makes me *truly* believe that she was in a mental institution. That is the perfect example of great acting elevating bad writing.

                    I also want to single out Spike, who I haven’t said many good things about but he is excellent here. I know a lot of people hate him in this episode for his scene with Buffy near the end but it’s one of my favorite Spike moments. His entire monologue was on-point, quoted for emphasis: “You're not drawn to the dark like I thought. You're addicted to the misery. It's why you won't tell your pals about us. Might actually have to be happy if you did. They'd either understand and help you, god forbid, or drive you out... where you can finally be at peace, in the dark. With me. Either way, you'd be better off for it, but you're too twisted for that. Let yourself live, already. And stop with the bloody hero trip for a sec. We'd all be the better for it."

                    He read her like a book! That is a classic 'Spike = truthteller' moment right there. He is trying to manipulate her and put her down at one of her worst moments, but his words taken on their own are 100% correct. I also love the way Marsters plays the scene and the layered way in which he conveys Spike’s frustration. His frustration is not only due to Buffy denying him what he wants but it is also the kind of frustration that comes with seeing someone you love treat themselves so badly. At this point, the person who is making Buffy miserable is Buffy. She is torturing herself unnecessarily and she needs to make a *choice* instead of letting her martyrdom aggravate things even further. I’m over it, Spike’s over it, and Buffy herself is over it which is why she ends up pouring out the antidote.

                    Negative: Buffy’s attitude towards Spike in the cemetery scene grates. The two of them were getting along perfectly fine and having a nice conversation, but then Willow and Xander show up and she starts talking shit about him. Like, I get that she’s conflicted about their relationship but that kind of behavior just comes across as fake and annoying. Buffy is doing everyone - Spike, her friends, and most importantly, *herself* - a disservice by acting like that. It reminds me of the moment in S1 where Cordy humbly thanked the Scoobies for saving her from Marcie, only to turn around and bash them when her boyfriend showed up.

                    And while the last two acts are still damn good and my favorite parts of the episode, I wish SMG had played it differently than she did. Buffy essentially goes barking mad after pouring out the antidote. I think it’s the closest we ever come to seeing a soulless version of her (aside from “Living Conditions”, a comedy ep). This is a Buffy who has fully convinced herself that killing her friends is the right thing to do and will solve all of her problems. While Gellar’s zombie-like, disoriented portrayal of Buffy worked really well for the first half of the episode, the sequence where she goes through the house attacking her friends would have been much creepier if she was acting like her normal self, just a little more ‘affected’.

                    In my perfect version of the episode, Xander would have walked into the kitchen and saw Buffy apparently back to normal. She’s washing dishes and making quips, but just as he starts to notice that there’s something a bit ‘off’ about her -- boom! -- frying pan. Lines like “What's more real? A sick girl in an institution... or some kind of supergirl chosen to fight demons and save the world? That’s ridiculous!” would have had more impact if Buffy had been laughing her ass off or grinning maniacally while saying it, truly thinking the whole idea was preposterous instead of it being played like she’s still trying to make up her mind about it all.
                    Last edited by Andrew S.; 08-01-20, 05:51 AM.

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                    • I think Hell's Bells is all about Xander's own individual issues. Yes it resides in his problems that have originated from his upbringing and the doubt he has about himself because of fearing he will be like his father, but that is still about him, about the person he is because of his past. It sits so perfectly against the AtS storyline where we see Wes taking poor choices that betray the very people he is trying to protect and are so linked to his own fears of failure and self doubt that greatly come from his upbringing too. I absolutely love how this group of episodes sit together between the two shows.

                      Honestly at the end of NA I think Buffy still has to be conflicted for her doubt about what she is doing and switch back to herself later to work. She's trying to deny her real self, her Sunnydale self, and kill it through the act of rejecting her friends, through killing them. That she's closed off, withdrawn and talking more matter of factly is her as a sane person rejecting something that isn't supposed to be real. If she was acting like herself she would have been engaging in the fake world of Sunnydale still and it would have looked like she really had gone insane, rather than was trying to make herself accept none of it was real I think.

                      I know we're disagreeing often but I am really enjoying reading your posts and thinking about the episodes from a different point of view. And I do agree about accepting the retcon of Buffy's time in the institution. StateofSiege totally sold me on it back when when we discussed it in the rewatch and she did such a fabulous job of applying it back into what we saw in the early seasons and as a newly understood layer to the trauma Buffy is suffering in the season.

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                      • Yeah, it was never impressed upon me that Buffy HAD made up her mind. It was more or less what she wanted to think. She's trying to convince herself and that's how it's played. If she actually had made up her mind about it, there would have been no struggle in the "real" world.

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                        • Hells Bells is one of my least favourite episodes of S6. It's just so "blah", IMO. I hate the stupid world-building with Anya's family ("circus freaks" and the fact that the Harris family can go toe to toe with a room full of demons and apparently be a-ok), I think it was a poor decision to omit the explanation for Giles' absence, it doesn't actually make sense that Spike was invited, the fight sequence between Buffy and Stewart is awfully choreographed, and I'm so worn out by this point that Xander leaving at the Anya just feels predictable and trite. Like, of course Xander dumps Anya at the altar because nobody is allowed to be happy. I'm just numb to it now.

                          I agree with Andrew S that I like the idea of Anya's victim coming back for his revenge. But considering what she did to him (change him into a demon and then banish him to endure agonising torture in a hell dimension just because he cheated on his girlfriend) there's something really unpleasant and unsettling about the way he's just ruthlessly killed off and everyone cheers. I'm not condoning what he did in this episode but he has every reason to despise Anya and he is the way he is because of what she did to him. At the very least, Buffy should have felt some conflict about having to take him out and the applause at his demise is pretty sickening. I think I'd actually have preferred that Xander is too shaken to marry Anya not because of his own self-doubts in the end but because he can no longer ignore Anya's past and her total lack of remorse.

                          It's just an episode that leaves me really cold. Almost none of the execution works for me and I rarely am compelled to rewatch it.

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                          • Andrew S
                            I'm glad to see someone sharing my opinion on Spike for this episode; I was always worried that my Spike goggles were too tightly screwed on my head x)
                            It also shows that their relationship is very much a push pull between light and dark on both sides. Interestingly, there is a tiny moment in that scene where he tries to come closer but a streak of sunlight prevents him; it's as symbolic as it gets. Spike is actually willing to go towards "light" for her, but he's missing a piece to make it truly work.

                            In that vein, your first negative is right on the nose, I think. Arguing that Spike's frustration is only because he can't have Buffy anymore paints a very incomplete portrait of his emotional state, imo. The way that he is constantly being dismissed in pretty much every way plays a huge part in his growing bitterness.

                            Also agree with you about the retcon; I think it works very well because SMG does make it work. Not to take anything away from the writers, but I'm always amazed at how much the greatness of the show is owed to the actors' performances. They truly don't get enough praise.
                            What a challenge, honesty
                            What a struggle to learn to speak
                            Who would've thought that pretending was easier

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                            • “Entropy”

                              Positive: Dawn’s incredibly understated reaction to finding out about Spuffy. Willow, Xander, and Anya are so shocked and speechless, but Dawn isn’t even surprised about it. In general, I don’t think Dawn gets enough credit - in-universe AND out-of-universe - for how much she understands her sister, despite their age difference and Buffy’s determination to keep as much as possible from her. Dawn is perceptive enough to not be surprised by the revelation that Buffy and Spike have been sleeping together. In "Dead Things", she knew that Buffy turning herself in was less about doing the right thing and more about escaping her life again. And in the previous episode, she correctly deduced that Buffy *preferred* the asylum over her normal reality. Dawn is awesome and I’m glad they start using her more in these episodes.

                              Negative: It’s weird how Anya makes multiple (admittedly, pretty funny) attempts on Xander’s life and it’s played for comedy. Yet two acts later, Xander tries to kill Spike and it’s played as serious DRAMA.

                              Originally posted by Stoney
                              I think Hell's Bells is all about Xander's own individual issues. Yes it resides in his problems that have originated from his upbringing and the doubt he has about himself because of fearing he will be like his father, but that is still about him, about the person he is because of his past. It sits so perfectly against the AtS storyline where we see Wes taking poor choices that betray the very people he is trying to protect and are so linked to his own fears of failure and self doubt that greatly come from his upbringing too. I absolutely love how this group of episodes sit together between the two shows.
                              But Xander’s past and fear of his father is barely sketched out, which is my problem. In “Hell’s Bells”, Tony Harris wasn’t the terrorizing figure of Xander’s nightmares so much as an embarrassing clown. He puked in Buffy’s purse! If Mr. Harris had been introduced earlier and the relationship between him and Xander had been explored with real depth, I’d be saying something different. But it’s hard for me to take Xander’s daddy issues seriously when the show doesn’t take Xander’s daddy issues seriously.

                              And at the beginning of the season, it seemed that Xander’s problems with the engagement were more due to his own immaturity (“When are you gonna grow up, Xander?!”) than his issues with his parents. They should have devoted an episode to Xander and Anya and let their issues (both as a couple and as individual characters) take the forefront instead of keeping them in the background and wasting all that time on magic!crack. That way, their dramatic breakup would have felt more natural instead of like another lame attempt to add more misery.

                              However, I do like and agree with your comparison of “Hell’s Bells” and “Sleep Tight”. I’ve always thought Xander and Wes had a lot of similarities so yeah, I agree the episodes are good companions to one another.

                              Originally posted by Stoney
                              Honestly at the end of NA I think Buffy still has to be conflicted for her doubt about what she is doing and switch back to herself later to work. She's trying to deny her real self, her Sunnydale self, and kill it through the act of rejecting her friends, through killing them. That she's closed off, withdrawn and talking more matter of factly is her as a sane person rejecting something that isn't supposed to be real. If she was acting like herself she would have been engaging in the fake world of Sunnydale still and it would have looked like she really had gone insane, rather than was trying to make herself accept none of it was real I think.
                              But she IS insane. She’s trying to kill her sister and friends. Sane people don’t do that, LOL. Buffy *was* insane during that episode, so my point is they might as well have gone all the way with it. Her temporary insanity was a result of both the demon’s poison and Buffy consciously choosing to reject her own reality and the people in it. The switch back to herself could still work in the scenario I described. I could imagine Buffy briefly coming back into lucidity and looking guilty/sad/unsure at the sight of Willow’s and Xander’s tied-up, unconscious bodies in the basement, before forcing herself to revert back to her creepy, faux-perky persona and cheerfully calling out: “Dawn!” Then, going back upstairs to do the same thing to her little sister. And of course, the climax - Joyce’s speech and Tara coming to the rescue -- would have been the exact same.

                              It’s still a great sequence as-is and one of my favorite episodes, I just think they could have capitalized on the maximum creepy factor a bit more.

                              Originally posted by Cheese Slices View Post
                              Andrew S
                              I'm glad to see someone sharing my opinion on Spike for this episode; I was always worried that my Spike goggles were too tightly screwed on my head x)
                              It also shows that their relationship is very much a push pull between light and dark on both sides. Interestingly, there is a tiny moment in that scene where he tries to come closer but a streak of sunlight prevents him; it's as symbolic as it gets. Spike is actually willing to go towards "light" for her, but he's missing a piece to make it truly work.

                              In that vein, your first negative is right on the nose, I think. Arguing that Spike's frustration is only because he can't have Buffy anymore paints a very incomplete portrait of his emotional state, imo. The way that he is constantly being dismissed in pretty much every way plays a huge part in his growing bitterness.
                              Agreed. While Spike is a manipulative bastard throughout many of these episodes, I like that he doesn’t actually *want* Buffy to be miserable. His concern about her immature attitude and kicking her out of his crypt in “Gone” as well as the scene between them at the wedding were also good moments for him. I think he does want Buffy to be happy and embrace who she is - just with him.

                              Originally posted by Cheese Slices
                              Also agree with you about the retcon; I think it works very well because SMG does make it work. Not to take anything away from the writers, but I'm always amazed at how much the greatness of the show is owed to the actors' performances. They truly don't get enough praise.
                              Absolutely. I think all of them have their moments of less-than-stellar acting at one point or another, but they are all still amazingly well-cast and incredibly in-tune with their characters, which is what makes the show watchable even at times when the writing is poor. Like, even if I feel Willow is acting out-of-character in a particular episode, Alyson Hannigan will still imbue her with a particular Willow-ness that still makes me recognize and have some level of affection for her. I think this is the biggest thing I missed when reading the comics. It is also why even the weakest episodes of the TV show are still miles better than the weakest comic arcs. The actors really do inform the characters and the way they are perceived.
                              Last edited by Andrew S.; 13-01-20, 11:40 PM.

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                              • I love what you say about Dawn and agree that her perception and acceptance sometimes really stand out.

                                Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
                                But Xander’s past and fear of his father is barely sketched out, which is my problem. In “Hell’s Bells”, Tony Harris wasn’t the terrorizing figure of Xander’s nightmares so much as an embarrassing clown. He puked in Buffy’s purse! If Mr. Harris had been introduced earlier and the relationship between him and Xander had been explored with real depth, I’d be saying something different. But it’s hard for me to take Xander’s daddy issues seriously when the show doesn’t take Xander’s daddy issues seriously.
                                I can't agree on this as we've seen Xander struggle for multiple seasons in the fallout to the childhood that he had. The implication that Tony Harris was physically abusive at times towards his mum also raises questions about the level of fear that Xander lived under. And there is something tragically sad about seeing the person that generated such misery and self doubt as the fool they are because that doesn't mean that they aren't still the bogeyman to the child that lived in the abusive, negative environment they created. And surely it could actually makes Xander's fear of clowns have another layer to it!

                                I think that Xander's fears about the engagement, about growing up and taking responsibility still link back through to what he has been brought up to feel is the role and responsibility of a 'man'. Again, I can see the points you are raising but it just isn't how I feel about it.

                                But she IS insane. She’s trying to kill her sister and friends. Sane people don’t do that, LOL. Buffy *was* insane during that episode, so my point is they might as well have gone all the way with it. Her temporary insanity was a result of both the demon’s poison and Buffy consciously choosing to reject her own reality and the people in it. The switch back to herself could still work in the scenario I described. I could imagine Buffy briefly coming back into lucidity and looking guilty/sad/unsure at the sight of Willow’s and Xander’s tied-up, unconscious bodies in the basement, before forcing herself to revert back to her creepy, faux-perky persona and cheerfully calling out: “Dawn!” Then, going back upstairs to do the same thing to her little sister. And of course, the climax - Joyce’s speech and Tara coming to the rescue -- would have been the exact same.
                                But she isn't actually insane, she's suffering from a demon poison. Once Buffy is trying to accept that Sunnydale isn't real then acting in a way to fool or pretend with the make believe characters (as she is trying to see it) would have been her actually behaving in an insane way. And we know that she isn't literally insane but poisoned. To be accepting that Sunnydale is in her imagination she has to stop interacting with them as if they are real, that is the whole message the Dr is giving her, that she has to break away from engaging in the 'fake' world she has created. If she then enacted that by play acting with them to trap them it wouldn't have followed what she was theoretically doing in response to the hallucinated medical advice. Yes she could have been shown to tip into a more literal insanity as she struggled to draw the lines but for me it would have lost a lot of impact of her reengaging with her friends if she hadn't tried to switch off from them completely.

                                Agreed it is one of my favourite episodes too though, but then S6 is my favourite season and there are none that I don't find some merit and enjoyment in watching. Although that's true of the entire show and why I love it so much.

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