Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 36

5.20 Spiral
5.21 The Weight of the World
5.22 The Gift

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 273-277.

This week’s Angel episodes are:

2.20 Over the Rainbow
2.21 Through the Looking Glass
2.22 There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 190-196.

Before I get on to Buffy, I have to say, “Numfar! Do the dance of joy!!” Seriously… best moment in the entire Whedonverse. Ever. As I explain in my book, the writers came up with an idea in the writer’s room about a guy doing a dance that continues on in the background while the dialogue happens in the foreground. Joss Whedon got up and began doing a crazy dance that was along the lines of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, and the other writers were laughing so hard they convinced Joss to play the part himself. So… Numfar is Joss. And he is HILARIOUS. I wish he’d made other cameos in his work.

But over to sadder times.

This week we come to end of my second favourite season after season 2, and once again (as with the end of season 2), I’m bawling my eyes out. I still remember the edge-of-your-seat suspense these episodes created when watching them live (you newcomers have the bonus of watching one right after the other… it took THREE WEEKS for us to see them all!)

This is the week where Buffy’s life finally gets to be too much. Everyone keeps looking at Buffy to come up with the decisions and answers, and Dawn doesn’t do much to help herself (like seriously, Dawn, Glory has just figured out you’re the Key and you run for half a minute and are so out of breath you need Buffy to CARRY you? What are you, three?!) and instead just does her part by screaming, “BUFFFFAAAAAYYYYYY!!!” as often as she possibly can.

Meanwhile the dude from Prison Break is heading up the rejects from the Renaissance Faire, and the Scoobies hit the road to try to escape. We’ve seen Buffy and the Scoobs react to impending doom in many ways, but so far running away hasn’t been one of them. But at this point, she doesn’t know what else to do. In hindsight, knowing what people probably already know about BtVS coming up (even if this is a first watch for them) they probably figured Giles would pull through, but I’ll admit, watching it live, I was convinced Giles was going to die. Buffy thinks so, too.

As I mentioned last week, this time through, season 5 is affecting me in a way it never did before. And I think a lot of that is, as Tanya Cochran outlines below, because I’m identifying with it so much more than I did before. In the last year or so, there have been many times where I’ve felt much like Buffy has – you fix one thing and another one is on top of it, and it just never stops coming. You can’t keep on top of everything and eventually you crumple. In “Spiral,” Buffy comes to that point. She’s tried to save Dawn for most of a year, while dealing with her mother’s sickness and death and Dawn’s impetuousness and friends pulling her in various directions and Giles trying to hone her talents, and it just gets to be too much. And in the end, life becomes too overwhelming and she



“The Weight of the World” is a fascinating episode in that we go into Buffy’s mind and, much like Joss did with “Restless,” he shows the complicated world of the subconscious. We see Dean Butler reprise his role as Hank Summers (showing he was on hand to play him for the funeral scene, but the writers wanted to convey that Hank is an absentee father, which plays into Buffy becoming a mom to Dawn more coherently) and we see that part of Buffy that’s a little girl, wanting to shirk her responsibility and just let other people take care of her. Part of her still needs that.

But Willow does her magic, and Buffy comes back out of it, just in time. Poor Buffy… my heart aches for her in this episode. She NEEDS the world to slow down a bit, she needs to take a breather, but she can’t because the world needs her. A Slayer’s work is never done… unless she dies, of course.

The only thing I don’t get about this episode, however, is why Spike keeps bringing things back around to Ben. Do you think maybe Ben has some connection to Glory?

And this brings us to “The Gift.” I used to watch that beginning and think Buffy was being unfair and not looking at the big picture – Dawn’s death would actually save the world by preventing the big whole from opening. If only Buffy would listen to Giles. But this time watching it, I’m a mother.

BUFFY: She's more than [a sister]. She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her ... and I feel closer to her than ... It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn ... is a part of me. The only part that I-

You tell ’em, Buffy. If the entire universe was going to be sucked into a giant black abyss and that could only be stopped by me tossing my daughter into it, then I guess the world would be sucked into that giant abyss, and I’d be pulled in with it, holding tightly onto my girl. Any mother can attest to the fact that a child is a part of you, and you feel an actual physical pain if something is wrong with them. Buffy feels that, and feels a mother’s love for her sister.

The one moment I want to talk about that isn’t covered below is what Giles does under the tower. I think that scene is absolutely brilliant. Giles is the adult in the group, the one who can step outside of his emotions and do what needs to be done. He knows Buffy is physically strong but can’t kill in cold blood. He, on the other hand, can. And the brilliance of this intense scene is HOW he does it. We’ve seen in the past that when things get rough, when Giles becomes flustered, he whips off his glasses to give someone a what-for. But in this case, he does the opposite. He calmly, coldly, takes his glasses out of his pocket and puts them on, as if to suggest he knows EXACTLY what he’s doing, and will do it with clear eyes. He means to kill another human being to save the world. That he does it with one bare hand shows that just as Angel is always battling a demon inside him, just as Glory hates the shred of humanity in her that keeps her from killing Buffy, just as Willow is trying to control a desire for darker magicks, and just as Spike is trying to bury the Big Bad so people will treat him like a man, The Ripper is lying just below the surface of Giles. We all have something dark within us… and for some people, it comes out more clearly than in others.

One production note: when the episode first aired, the WB aired a screen at the very end that thanked Buffy for its five years (this was where the show made the move to UPN; the story is all outlined in my book) and made it sound like it really WAS the end. It was a strange move, much like ABC running footage of rusted-out fuselage footage at the end of Lost, leading fans to the wrong conclusions about what it meant. Several fans thought the stories of it moving to UPN were wrong, and Buffy wasn’t only merely dead, she was most sincerely dead. They were wrong.

I will let the next two contributors talk about the ending of “The Gift,” but I just want to say I think it’s gorgeous and perfect. Many fans have told me over the years that they wish the series had ended there, and in Joss’s original vision, it did. He had a five-year arc planned out for Buffy, and it ended here. But I think of so many of the upcoming episodes that we would have done without – including the stunning conclusion to season 6 – and I’m glad it didn’t end here. But it’s beautiful and poignant and set to some of Christophe Beck’s best work. (If you’re a newcomer and loved the music as Buffy jumped, it’s included on the “Once More With Feeling” soundtrack.)

And if you can keep a dry eye when the camera closes in on Spike breaking down in tears, YOU HAVE NO SOUL.

OK, our first contributor is, once again, the wonderful Tanya Cochran, who has been covering so much of this Rewatch for me throughout the summer! Take it away, Tanya:

“’It just keeps coming’: Empathizing with Buffy”
Tanya R. Cochran

In “Spiral,” Buffy uses four words to summarize what her life has been like recently: “It just keeps coming.” I feel the exhaustion in her voice, and I empathize—deeply. A Big Bad who seems all-powerful, a broken intimate relationship, a violated and damaged friend, and a profound familial loss. It just keeps coming.

In these last few episodes of the season, Buffy puts up the best fight anyone could ask her to put up. At moments, she’s got the resolve we all cheer for: she swears that everyone is going to make it; Glory won’t win, even if the Scoobies simply outrun her. They will prevail, together. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, Glory snatches Dawn and Buffy slips into a catatonic state, an understandable retreat from all that keeps coming, that just won’t stop.

“I just wanted it over. This is . . . all of this . . . it’s too much for me. If Glory wins, then Dawn dies. And I would grieve. People would feel sorry for me. But it would be over. And I imagined what a relief it would be,” Buffy admits inside her head in “The Weight of the World.” Yet later, fully engaged in the fight again, at the suggestion that the only way to defeat Glory is to kill Dawn, our resolved Buffy reappears: no way! Dawn is innocent; Dawn didn’t ask for this. As exhausted as she is, Buffy will stand in the way of all that keeps coming. In fact, she will give herself over to it.

Watched as a trio, “Spiral,” “The Weight of the World,” and “The Gift” hurl us toward destruction only to make us feel what Buffy herself seems to feel, what Rhonda Wilcox in Why Buffy Matters describes as “both pain and ecstasy” (41). The pain of leaving loved ones behind, the ecstasy of letting the weight of the world go. The pain of confusion about what her life really means, the ecstasy of finally figuring that out. The pain and ecstasy of self-sacrifice, the death of “just a girl” who’s “a hero, you see. Not like us,” as Giles tells Ben.

But she is like us. That’s why we love her. That’s why we feel what she feels.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about narrative and cognition or “the brain on story.” That reading has helped me understand better than ever why Buffy matters to me, moves me, and betters me every time I (re)watch it: Buffy’s (fantasy) world is just as real and complex as mine (see Mar and Oatley). Sometimes, life just keeps coming. Sometimes, I just want it to stop. Sometimes, I just want to stop.

We hate to see Buffy let go of this life. Yet we love her for doing so. How can we not be grateful for her gift? As we watch, we, too, know pain and ecstasy: of losing Buffy yet letting her rest. After all, she saved the world—this world—a lot.

Works Cited
Mar, Raymond A., and Keith Oatley. “The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3.3 (2008): 173-192. Print.
Wilcox, Rhonda. Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. New York: Tauris, 2005. Print.

Thank you, Tanya! And next up is novelist Robert Wiersema, who joins us a second time after his first outing, covering season 3’s “Amends.”

"Our choices are given weight and meaning by the things that we sacrifice"
-- Bruce Springsteen

Buffy Anne Summers

Beloved Sister
Devoted Friend

She saved the world
A lot

Before I start -- or in lieu of starting, perhaps -- I would just like to point out my absolute folly, as far as this Buffy Re-Watch project goes.

Last fall, when I was invited to participate in the project, I threw my hat into the ring for two episodes, Amends and The Gift. I figured -- perhaps unreasonably -- that those were the two episodes about which I had the most to say (completely aside from the fact that the two episodes are in my personal Top Ten).

The folly is this: one of the reasons I thought I had so much to say about these episodes is the fact that they elicit such a primal emotional response (read: great heaving sobs). That response, though, clouds a completely rational exploration of the episodes, and not just because it's difficult to type while weeping.

The thing is? Rationality is overrated.

When I wrote about Amends, I wrote at length about miracles, with a sub-theme of sacrifice. Not coincidentally, in considering The Gift, I'll be looking at the nature of sacrifice, with a sub-theme of the miraculous.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

But that's why I wanted to write about Amends and The Gift: to my mind, they're opposite sides of the same coin, not only reckoning with the same concerns, but both touching, in a way that the series only rarely did, the Divine (as distinct from the magical).

For me, The Gift is an exploration, an exegesis, of sacrifice; in order to appreciate its depths, though, one has to go back to Amends (and further, to Becoming).

The pivotal moment of Amends comes when Angel, on a hillside overlooking Sunnydale early Christmas morning, waits for the sun to rise and destroy him. His belief is that the world is a better, safer place without him in it (there’s a certain validity to this conclusion). The Powers That Be have other plans for the vampire-with-a-soul, though, and snow begins to fall on Sunnydale for the first and likely only time, blocking out the sun and saving Angel's not-life.

The pivotal moment in The Gift comes late in the episode, when Buffy realizes there's only one way for her to save the world, one last time, and she whispers her last words to Dawn before leaping into the widening portal. Her sacrifice closes the portal and saves the world.

Two sacrifices: one foiled, one successful.

In Amends, Angel's planned sacrifice is ego-driven. In attempting to save the world from himself, he recognizes his humanity as his tragic flaw, and what the world needs to be protected from: "It's not the demon in me that needs killing," he tells Buffy. "It's the man." In accepting his humanity, the peril of his selfishness, his sacrifice is at once an embrace of the self, and a wholly selfless act (or intention, at the very least).

That dichotomy, that tension, between self-full-ness and selflessness is even more significant in Buffy’s sacrifice. The Gift marks the culmination of the one of the series' pivotal themes: the tension between Buffy as human being and her role as the Slayer. (This sense of culmination is one reason why, in darker moments -- ie, fifteen minutes into Doublemeat Palace -- I tell myself that Buffy ended at the close of season five, the following two seasons but a dream. Generally, I get over that feeling pretty quickly.) The role has traditionally subsumed those who bear the Slayer mantle. They lose a fundamental part of their humanity in the process of becoming the Slayer, and this loss, this subsumation by the role, is encouraged by the Watcher's Council, and by millennia of precedent.

Buffy has, from the very beginning, fought this loss. She has friends, family, lovers, a support system and a link to life and relationships which stands opposed to the Slayer's traditional distance. "You're just a girl," says the boy she rescues in the tease. "That's what I keep saying," she replies, sadly. So it has always been.

If we go back to Becoming, the finale of Season Two, one can see just how deeply this tension runs. In the final confrontation between Buffy and Angelus (a scene referenced in this episode), he mocks her with how he has stripped everything away from her. “No weapons... no friends... no hope. Take all that away and what's left?” Angelus taunts. Buffy replies, coldly, certainly, “Me.” She proceeds to kill Angel to prevent the rising of Acathla, despite the last-minute return of his soul. It's a beautiful, heart-rending moment, but it's pure Slayer. Buffy is forced to deny her humanity, her love, her desire in order to save the world.

With her sacrifice in The Gift, though, the two opposing forces reconcile themselves, if only for a moment, and it comes after Buffy has made it very clear that she is willing – nay, eager – to turn her back on her role as a Slayer if harm should come to Dawn. It is as if death is the only way the two worlds, the two opposing forces, can ever reach a balance. In sacrificing herself, Buffy is both Slayer (selfless, giving everything to save the world) and human (self-full, sacrificing herself so Dawn doesn't have to sacrifice herself). Make no mistake, though – the willingness doesn’t come easily.

That moment of balance, though, is only part of why the scene works, both at narrative and emotional levels. The other significant aspect is the willingness of the sacrifice Buffy makes.

That willingness is key to the nature of sacrifice, a fact that is often overlooked. Christ wasn't, after all, dragged kicking and screaming to Calvary; he went willingly to his death (one wonders if the decline of the old gods might have been due to the forced nature of the sacrifices to them). His death, to quote a phrase, was his gift…

One sees a similar example in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry (spoilers for the book ahead, highlight white space ahead to read it): Paul, a young man from our world, is drawn into Fionavar with several friends, each of whom has, it becomes clear, a destiny. Paul sacrifices himself willingly, and with his tears brings the world back to life. It's a sequence that destroys me every time I read it, and the echoes of it I bring to The Gift, lend the episode an additional power for me.

The idea of willing sacrifice was clearly on the minds of the writers of the last few episodes of season five.

One sees the idea in The Weight of the World, when Ben, after initially helping her escape, returns Dawn to Glory, despite knowing that he could save her. In helping her, he would have lost himself; this was a sacrifice he was, ultimately, unwilling to make.

Similarly, many of the other characters make sacrifices of their own in The Gift. Anya, for example, is willing to risk everything in this apocalypse owing to her love for Xander, rather than cutting and running in the face of danger as she has always done before. Spike sacrifices his desire for Buffy and accepts the reality of her not loving him, thanking her for her treatment of him and defending Dawn to the death, simply because he "made a promise to a lady". Giles sacrifices an aspect of his humanity, embracing his own internal darkness for the good of the world in his cold-blooded murder of Ben, to prevent Glory's return.

Most significantly, Buffy has to stop Dawn from sacrificing herself at the top of the tower. Knowing that the end of the world will be stopped only when her blood stops flowing, Dawn accepts her responsibility, and goes willingly to her death, only to be stopped by her sister.

At a narrative level, the emotional power of these sacrifices comes in the willingness with which they are entered into, and the result is a series of beautiful, haunting grace notes against the epic storytelling.

Taking a step back, however, it is in the willingness that the power of sacrifice comes overall. To give all, to volunteer to give all, is the most powerful choice one can make. It is the force of the willingness, not the sacrifice itself, which creates miracles (which brings me, parenthesis-wise, to this: Buffy's sacrifice makes limited sense at a rational level, given what we know of the world she inhabits. Her sacrifice shouldn't stop the breaking down of the walls; only Dawn's death should stop that. Sure, the writers attempt to ret-con the whole idea (the monks made Dawn of Buffy, so it IS her blood, dammit!), but was anyone convinced? No? Me neither. So, as in Amends, we're back to the miraculous. I'm fine with that).

I'm not just talking about large-scale, world-saving miracles. That willingness to sacrifice everything, to give oneself over to something greater, is present in our lives every day. Becoming a parent comes with it a sacrifice of what has come before (birth begetting a rebirth). Love of any sort requires a willing surrender to a force greater than the individual.

We feel the resonances of our smaller sacrifices when we witness acts of greater sacrifice, their force and our weakness. As human beings, we're not hard-wired for acts of unconditional selflessness on a grand scale, and our experience of our personal sacrifices reminds us of this natural smallness when faced with such outsize, heroic acts. Buffy leaping into the portal, and its underlying reasons -- to save the world, to save a loved one -- makes us ache with yearning to be better, to be stronger, to be braver, to be... bigger.

The knowledge that we never will be (and really, thankfully so) cracks something open in us. Our path to the divine, our apotheosis, will be slower, less sure; to be reminded that there is another way is to be reminded of our own search, its value, its significance, its scale.

Buffy tells Angel that she loves him, and asks him to close his eyes.

Angel waits for the sun, and he and Buffy feel the feathery brush of snow on their faces.

Buffy faces the leap into her own destiny, and in her last moments her thoughts are with the world, with her friends, and with her sister.

And at home we gasp, we breathe. We break.

And in being reminded of our smallness, we come away somehow greater.

"The hardest thing in this world...is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

Man, I’m tearing up again just reading that. Thank you, Robert!

Next week: We move on to season 6. The REST of us had to wait an entire summer, but you guys? Just a few days. Awesome. If you thought “The Gift” took people to a dark place, wait’ll you see what’s in store for our favourite Scoobies next. Yikes. Our host next week is the wonderful Elizabeth Rambo!

6.01 Bargaining, Part 1
6.02 Bargaining, Part 2
6.03 After Life

On Angel, we move into season 3 (my second favourite season of the series, alongside season 5):

3.1 Heartthrob
3.2 That Vision-Thing
3.3 That Old Gang of Mine


Marebabe said...

While watching “Spiral”, I was often reminded that, as gods go, Glory is pretty feeble. Sure, she can demolish a building and run super-fast. But it might be more useful to be impervious to speeding trucks and be able to keep Ben from barging in at inopportune moments. Of course, now that I think about it, the body-switching between Ben and Glory was the only thing that saved our heroes from certain annihilation on more than one occasion. So, Glory’s limitations were necessary plot devices that kept her from outright winning all the time.

The knights were attacking with all they had, shooting and stabbing blindly through walls. A lucky shot with any of their pointy weapons could’ve killed Dawn, but didn’t Glory need her alive, to be ceremonially killed at the proper moment? That didn’t make sense to me.

Poor Giles got skewered. I loved his “I’m proud of you” speech to Buffy. Nikki, was that one of the weepy moments for you? I’ll bet it was.

In “The Weight of the World”, I liked how Willow stepped up and calmly turned into a General! Way to take charge and deploy your troops!

Xander, helping Giles put on his jacket: “How ya doin’?”
Giles: “It only hurts when I answer pointless questions.”

More favorite dialogue, in “The Gift”:
Xander: “Smart chicks are so hot!”
Willow: “You couldn’t have figured that out in 10th grade?”

How was Giles able to fight? He’s still grievously wounded.

I liked when the “glorified bricklayer” picked up a spare.

I wish I’d been able to watch this episode NOT knowing that Buffy was gonna die. (Was there ever a more beautiful, swan-dive-y death?) Alas, this shocking surprise got spoiled for me AGES ago, just like Joyce’s death. I can only try to imagine how horrible and devastating it must have been for fans who saw this when it first aired. Wondering if this was truly the end of the series? HATING the thought of the hiatus to be endured until the start of the next season. Hoping and debating how (or if) Buffy could be resurrected.

At least SOME surprises remain surprises until their unveiling. In the Angel episode “Through the Looking Glass”, I was, of course, giggling with delight at Numfar’s Dance of Joy. But it was at the end of the episode, as the credits rolled, that I discovered for myself that Numfar was played by Joss Whedon! How unbelievably and incredibly AWESOME!! I then watched the dance scene a bunch more times. It doesn’t get old. :)

The Question Mark said...

"The Gift" gave us a heart-rending and very poignant ending to the season, and it had Joss Whedon written all over it. That would certainly have been a terribly sad ending to the series.
Clare Kramer did a great job this season as Glorificus. I love that character, everything from her name to her psycho-apathetic attitude. Funny stuff.

Over on Angel, I think the Peylos story arc is my favourite Angel plot so far. I love Lorne finally teaming up with the gang and traveling to this completely topsy-turvy world.
Princess Cordelia = HOT! I think we need an action figure of that, please, Hasbro!

I can't wait to see what's going to happen next! What I wanna know most of all is: for Season 6's Big Bad, who are they gonna get to top a freaking GOD?!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I realized watching this time that Buffy is very obviously carrying a Dawn dummy.

I loved the line "Bring it On" - featuring Clare Kramer.

This is Spike as hero. Easily forgiving Tara for burning him, stopping the sword with his bare hands, taking a knife trying to save Dawn, having great hair (okay, that's not heroic, but I love it.)

Joss usually stays away from Christianity on Buffy, except for the crosses. So how do the clerics and the knights explain that the monks could create human life without God? BTW, Marebabe, the knights were trying to kill Dawn. That was why they were chasing them.

I love Xander's act of kindness to Spike in giving him a light - it's rare.

I wonder how much more affecting these final episodes would have been (not that they weren't) if Dawn had been played by an actual little girl. And Nikki - watch Torchwood: Children of Earth. Bring kleenex.

When Glory yelled "get out, Get Out, GET OUT!" I realized that Dawn really is her key.

If they need the key's blood for the ritual, what would they have done if the monks had made the key in the form of a flower pot?

Would the hospital actually let Giles go so soon after he'd been skewered?

When the portal opens, "Chaos will reign on Earth" - I could hear Ethan cheering.

The fellow in the alley being attacked by the vampire (bringing things back to the beginning) reminds me of Xander.

I hear Nicolas Cage in Con Air. "Put the bunny back in the box."

One thing I love about Buffy - amid all the action there's those tender scenes with Xander/Anya and Willow/Tara.

Oh, Spike. You always make me cry.

This may not be my favourite season (for me, six, cause that's when an enjoyment became an addiction) but I think it's the best season finale.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

There is a Princess Cordelia action figure. I have one on my shelf. :)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Princess Cordy: http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Angel-Pylean-Princess-Cordelia-PX-Exclusive-MIP-/290520808862?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43a463bd9e

The Question Mark said...


Me want!

Page48 said...

3 great episodes wrap up my favourite season.

"Spiral": I didn't recognize dude from "Prison Break", but there was no mistaking "The Rose" from the dying days of "Alias".

Dawnie bandages Spike's hands. They had such a nice relationship in S5.

Willow: "Don't hit the horsies"
Buffy: "We won't"
Buffy to Giles: "Aim for the horsies". HA!

Xander lights Spike's cigarette. A rare moment of civility between those two.

The Monks are better mojo weavers than Glory. Spike buys into the whole Dawn spell but sees right through Glory's cloaking device.

"The Gift" is an awesome conclusion to the season.

Willow: "I could use a little courage" and without delay, Spike brings out the flask. He never leaves the crypt without it. And, why would he?

Giles would need a year to recover from that impaling. Well, maybe not Giles, but I would.

The brain-sucked crazies all have somewhere to be on this big day, but Glory is surprised to find Tara there.

"This will be our day of Glory". "Oh, most sweaty, naughty feelings causing one"...I love those wacky minions.

The scene with Buffy and Dawn high atop Glory's tower (got a building permit for that?) is one that has to be watched over and over, it's just that good. As Nikki's guest wrote (and as I hope all the Dawnie-haters noted), Dawn tried to slip past Buffy to make the same sacrifice that Buffy subsequently made herself. The Niblet was prepared to save the world...just the once.

Buffy's slo-mo run toward the portal, the 1 1/2 gainer off the high board, the music, it's all good. It's Buffylicious...and heart-breaking all in one.

shobiz said...

Nikki -- you just blew my mind. I don't know why I never saw it this way before, but you're absolutely right: Dawn is symbolically Buffy's daughter, not her sister. That makes The Gift SO much more powerful for me, as a parent myself. Thanks for the brilliant bit of insight. How did I not see it? And how brilliant of the writers to give Buffy the metaphorical role of parent through the invention of a magically generated "sister."

Nikki Stafford said...

Colleen: I realized watching this time that Buffy is very obviously carrying a Dawn dummy.

Trying to insert a joke about there being very little difference between Dawn and a Dawn dummy, but I'm too tired to come up with one. ;)

QuestionMark: Darnit, Colleen beat me to the revelation... I just read your post saying you wish there was a Queen Cordelia and excitedly thought, "There IS one!" but you already know that now. ;)

And yes, Marebabe, that scene totally makes me cry every time.

shobiz: Thank you for your comment!! It really wasn't something I noticed until now, and it's one of those times where I wish I could rewrite sections of Bite Me now that I'm a mom and have an entirely different perspective. ;)

Christina B said...

I was put through the wringer this week with these episodes!

I bawled with Buffy's death, I howled with laughter during Numfar's dance of joy, I choked up at Willow waiting in the hotel for Angel, I laughed through tears at Willow always finding Tara...What a week!

On Buffy--

LOVE the Ben is Glory bit. I cracked up at poor Spike having to go over and over it.

I was fine after Buffy's swan dive..until they showed Spike sobbing! Argh, that broke me!

On Angel--

I loved, loved, LOVED this trilogy of episodes! Best episodes yet!

Cool to see Jin (before Jin!) as a lawyer!
And I was SURE Angel was leaving that phone message for Buffy...turns out it was for Gunn. Bah. ;)

Numfar's Dance Of Joy...Oh. Em. Gee. I literally had tears running down my face, I was laughing so hard.
I watched that SEVEN times and even my boyfriend, who doesn't watch Angel (or Buffy), couldn't help but laugh as he turned from the computer to see what I was howling at!
I had NO idea that was Joss! Best scene EVER.

Speaking of Joss, was I PISSED with him at the end of 'Through the Looking Glass' when I thought Lorne was dead! Cursing and muttering to myself as I hit play on the next episode, and then apologizing to him profusely in my head as Lorne's eyes opened. ;)

You know, I said last week that I'd been hoping to see Willow in LA because Allison's name was in the opening credits...This was NOT what I meant! :(

I'm thinking next week's Angel is going to be heartbreaking.

Christina B said...

The knights wanted Dawn dead. They weren't aligned with Glory. They were fighting against the Key opening the rift...So they DID want Dawn dead and would have been okay with their pointy weapons killing her. ;)

Efthymia said...


"Don't hit the horsies!" - my thoughts exactly! (and reason #574232 why I love Willow); every time I watch scenes with people fighting on horses, it's the poor animals I feel most worried and sad about, because it's never them who decide to start fighting. Shame on you, Buffy...

I hate it when you know something's a HUGE mistake (like, say, inviting Ben over)!

"The Weight Of The World":

Bossy Willow! :) She's actually the strongest person around now, and by 'now' I don't mean now that Buffy is in a catatonic state, I mean in general; she has become even stronger than Buffy (a different kind of strength, of course), but I don't think the Scoobies realise that until this point where she takes charge.

And once again, Spike proves more useful than they give him credit for - although, to be fair, they can't realise his usefulness since they can't remember what he's telling them. Something about Ben...

I love the image of Spike smoking in front of the No Smoking sign - it's SO Spike!

"The Gift":

This is my favourite 'Previously on' ever!

Giles is right: if it wasn't Dawn, but a stranger, they would decide pretty instantly that their death would be a 'necessary evil' in order to keep the dimension walls from falling, and Buffy is being unreasonable - I do understand Buffy, however; if it was my sister, I wouldn't be thinking any more reasonably, and I probably would have decided as well that a world without her wouldn't be a world worth existing, anyway.

Oh, Spike, 'monster' is such a strong word... You should use words like 'different', or 'special'!

Joel Grey knows how to bring the creepy! At moments like this, I'm always amazed that this is the same guy who sang "Dirlididididee... two ladies" in "Cabaret"!

Giles is hard on himself. He IS a hero by killing Ben, and if it weren't for Doc, it would be this act that would have saved the world.
Having said that, I still feel that Ben is such a tragic figure. He's just as innocent as Dawn is, and he has suffered far worse than her.

I, too, had been spoiled on a lot of things before I watched BtVS for the first time, but whether Giles lives or dies after that accident was not one of them. What I felt during his "I'm proud of you" while lying severely wounded would probably be best described as sheer panic.
I also had no idea about Buffy's sacrifice at the end. I may have read something about Buffy dying, but I had assumed that they meant the momentary drowning in Season 1. Knowing there are two more seasons didn't diminish the impact Buffy's voiceover, Giles' and Willow's faces, Spike's breaking down (::hard sobs::) and that gravestone had on me.

"The Gift" feels like a perfect series finale, and a small part of me thinks that it would have been right for the show to have ended there, but the biggest part of me is happy it didn't, because -unlike many, many people- I love Season 6! And even though Season 7 is my second least favourite (after 4, of course), the final episodes and a certain character make it worth it.

[Boy, did I blab!]

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I remember around the time this aired there was much speculation (and fanfic)that Dawn was actually Buffy and Spike's (mystical)daughter and that's why they were so close to her.

Some people said Buffy and Angel's. Eww.

Verification word chillic. How C. Hillerup feels about Buffy/Angel.

StephenC said...

I can't do it anymore, I have tried my best all year to stick with the rewatch. And have been succesful.

But this week was the final straw.
I broke.
I'm nearly a season ahead already :(
(in Angel too)

Watched "the gift", and just kept watching. I couldn't stop.

Nikki Stafford said...

Coupla things I forgot to mention in my write-up: my husband and I went to see a special Gavin Friday extravaganza for Gavin's 50th birthday at Carnegie Hall, and Joel Grey came out to sing the opening number of Cabaret, which was fantastic. As soon as he hit the stage, I leaned over to my husband and said, "Shallow cuts! Shallow cuts!" He looked at me oddly and said, "WHAT are you talking about?" I sat back, shook my head sadly and said, "I am so disappointed in you."


Secondly, the line from this week was used as the title for the paper I gave with Matthew Pateman at Slayage last year:

'Oh, wouldn’t it be tragic if you were here being kinda silly with your comically paralyzed sister while Willow was dying?’ or ‘Excellent. Now. Do we suspect that there may be some connection between Ben and Glory?’: The tragic-comic / comic-tragic methods of miscommunication on Buffy

Marebabe said...

@Efthymia: You’re not the first person on this rewatch to mention the “Previously ons”. They’re not on my DVDs, and I wonder, are they included on Hulu or Netflix or something? How are you watching the episodes?

Quarks said...

When I was watching the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore near the end of the last 'Harry Potter' film, there was a moment where all I could think of was "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live."

Lisa(until further notice) said...

I adore scruffy haired Spike. It gives him a much softer look and fits with his increased vulnerability and true heart. I also like how he called Willow "Wil" just like he was one of the Scoobies. And she didn't object. Unlike Dawn who couldn't abide being called Dawnie by Glory.

Over on Angel, I'm glad Fred is here. I love how Angel can't stop looking at his reflection and basking in the sunlight. It makes him appear so innocent. Until he sees his REAL reflection. Very sad.

In "Spiral" I was very underwhelmed with the whole knights/horses/RV fight, and the whole time they were driving, all I could think of was Jesse and Walt in their methmobile out in the NM desert.

"The Gift" ending is heartbreaking. When Willow and Spike are in pieces upon seeing Buffy's body, I too was a wreck.

Anya shows her devotion to Xander by pushing him out of the way of the falling debris. She's a keeper.

So glad Tara's back.

Second favorite moment in "The gift" is when Buffy makes it up the tower to rescue Dawn and Joel Gray's character says, this should be interesting, and there's no fooling around. Buffy just flicks him aside and off he goes with nary a sound. Not much interest!

Missy said...

Dawn is the piece of Buffy she lost when she became the slayer...the little girl that needs her mommy.
She's right when she says that the monks made her out of ME!

My heart lies with 'Weight Of The World'
'Spiral' is fun and goofy and horrifying.
And 'The Gift' is that final note in a young girl's life ...in a beautiful story.

Why does my heart lie with 'WOTW',because we finally see Buffy break...the girl we thought was strong ..that was on top of everything ....that was destined to save the world....ALOT.BREAKS!

It's humanizing to see her that way...befor she was just a hero...a girl with super powers...that griped ALOT!Lol
And now she was willing to sacrifice...her destiny ,so that she could live again(through Dawn).


I <3 Fred.

Also who expected Willow to be in the Hyperion?

Efthymia said...

I bought my BtVS boxset (although it's not really a box, it's like a leatherbound book, which is awesome!) in Spain, and it's region 2 (which is all or most of Europe). It wouldn't be the first time region 1 (USA) and region 2 DVDs are different.
In general, you're lucky there are no 'previously on's in yours, because they are often kind of spoilery on what's to follow in the episode, but the specific 'previously on' in "The Gift" is great, because it's a montage of various scenes from all seasons so far.

Dusk said...

@Marebabe: I caught a rerun of The Gift a few months ago, the previously on-was Buffy's first breif introductions with Xander, Willow, Angel, Cordeliia and Mr. Giles, followed by a quick montage of an image from each of the other 99 episodes so far. Wikipedia says it's on the Region 1 Season 7 DVD, I don't know which disc though.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

It's an Easter Egg.


Nikki Stafford said...

Marebabe: This is from the transcript, to give you an idea (and it was also a moment, now I remember this, when I was watching it live the first time where you saw a summation of the entire series and I, too, was thinking, "Wait... IS this the final episode?!" )

GILES VOICEOVER: Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer...
Giles in the Sunnydale High library in "Welcome to the Hellmouth."
GILES: You are the Slayer. Into each generation a Slayer is born.
A series of scenes from "Welcome to the Hellmouth"...
BUFFY: Why don't we start with 'Hi, I'm Buffy.'
XANDER: Xander.
CORDELIA: Cordelia.
Shot of Willow at the water fountain.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: Willow, right?
GILES: Mister Giles.
ANGEL: Angel.
Giles thumping the book "VAMPYR" onto the library counter.
A quick series of scenes from the first season: the Master with the Anointed One; Buffy and Angel kissing; Angel vamping out, Buffy screaming; the possessed ventriloquist dummy; Buffy punching someone; Buffy dying; Buffy killing the Master, etc...
Moves into a series of scenes from the second season. They go by faster and faster. I can't possibly detail every one, but they include all the major demons and recurring characters: Spike, Ethan, Drusilla, Kendra, Ted, etc. We see Xander kissing Cordelia, Willow kissing Oz, Angel killing Jenny Calendar, Willow in the hospital doing the spell to restore Angel's soul, Buffy killing Angel.
Continues to a series of scenes from third season. Includes Mr. Trick, Xander and Willow kissing, Giles and Joyce kissing, Spike, Gwendolyn Post, Amy turning into a rat, Faith and the Mayor, Wesley, Vampire Willow, Angel feeding on Buffy, the climactic battle with the Mayor, the high school blowing up, Angel walking away.
Moving even faster, a series of scenes from fourth season. Buffy going to college. The Initiative. Kathy, Vamp Harmony, Oz, the Gentlemen, Anya dressed as a bunny, Giles in Mexican costume, Spike getting zapped, Willow and Tara doing a spell in "Hush," Giles as a demon, Adam, the Initiative, Faith waking up, Faith in Buffy's body, the destruction of the Initiative, Buffy/Xander/Willow/Giles doing their unification spell, the First Slayer, etc.
And finally a series of scenes from fifth season that go by very fast. Buffy and Dawn, Joyce, Spike, Glory, Riley, the helicopter taking Riley away, Ben morphing into Glory, the April-Bot, Joyce dying, Willow and Tara kissing, Glory taking Tara's brain, the return of the First Slayer, the Buffy-Bot, Willow zapping Glory, Glory tearing down the dorm wall, the fight between the Winnebago and the knights on horseback.
You should realize that all of the above flashes by much too fast to really see. The scenes from first season probably last for about ten frames each and by the time it gets to fifth season, they flash by two frames at a time.

So the sense of increasing speed and urgency carries us into an alleyway as the "previously" scenes meld into the episode. The camera moves down the alley as from the POV of someone running. Fast, urgent music.

JavaChick said...

Back when The Gift first aired, I didn't really read entertainment news and wasn't aware of all the fan discussion boards (oh how I wish I had known) so I had no idea what was coming. So Buffy couldn't possibly die. Not really. She's going to wake up. Any second now. NO REALLY SHE'S FINE. But she wasn't. And I was pretty devastated.

When fall rolled around and I saw the listing for Buffy Season 6 episode one I was confused but so completely thrilled. I remember telling my sister about it - this show Buffy that I loved and the main character died but somehow it's coming back this season! I was so excited. My sister was like 'Oh, that's nice for you.' See? I needed those fan boards.


Marebabe said...

@Efthymia, Dusk, Colleen, and Nikki: Thank you all for your responses posted this morning! My vacation ended, and I’m back to work today, and I’ve been kept so busy all day that I first got to check Nikki’s blog at about 3:45 p.m. I totally get that the “previously ons” can tend to be spoilery. I have sometimes felt that I was getting too much information just from the still photos on the menu pages for episodes. Colleen, I’m so glad to know about that Easter Egg site! I’m bookmarking that for future use. I can say with complete confidence that I never would’ve found the series recap hidden in Season 7 without such clear instructions. (Maybe someday the manufacturers of DVD sets will get over the compulsion to hide valuable content. When I pay full price for something, I want the full, complete deal!) And Nikki, your detailed rundown of the series highlights was AWESOME! Thanks for that. :)

Dusk said...

I started college this week, this is the first chance I got to read through the analysis properly.I read the comments and I'm down in the spoiler forum, but I just got busier too!

Biggest shock was Xander actually purposing to Anya, love the scenes of them in the basement and how they talk around sex to still make it on air.

The rest have covered my other thoughts.

Also happy Fred is here now on Angel, even though I have mixed feelings on the Pylea arc, and didn't like having the last note of the season be about another show.

Suzanne said...

This is my first chance to post a comment since the week has flown by so quickly. Just a few quick points!

Great reviews and comments this week -- I am enjoying this rewatch so much. Thanks Nikki and thanks to all of the guest writers.

Season 5 is awesome. The characters develop so much. As Nikki mentioned, Buffy acts like a mother to Dawn for many reasons, and as a mother myself, I can totally relate to her strong will to protect Dawn.

Spike really changes from complete "monster" to a lot more "man" in this season. I think his sensitive heart has always been something that would allow him to become a man (even without his soul) if given a chance. His love for Buffy seems to have enabled him to really become who he is meant to be.

As for Angel, I cannot express enough how much I adore the Pylea episodes. I have read that some of the original fans of the show didn't like these episodes when they aired. Is this true? If so, I can't understand it. The first time I watched them last year, I laughed so hard I thought I would never stop. This time, I still laughed a lot, but I also noticed the depth of Angel's character development in his scenes with Fred. It was really heartbreaking to see the way that he was so upset about his friends seeing the real monster inside of him.

Lastly, Cordelia was amazing in these episodes, too, and it was easy to see why she loved the way that Gru viewed her. He seemed to see the real Cordy in a way that Xander was never able to see.

I could say so much more, but much of it has already been said. :)

Blam said...

I can't believe that I haven't posted here in over a month, but as I scroll through the text file in which these words are being typed before they're entered online the evidence is convincing. The file has (at times voluminous) notes, which include reactions to comments, for every single Rewatch week of Season 5, as well as languishing stuff from odd Rewatch weeks of every past season.

Sigh… Once again with the "Grr!" and the "Arrgh!"

I'll just zip through my favorite as-yet-unquoted lines from this week's episodes plus some very brief remarks before moving on to replies to Nikki's posts and other folks' comments.

Buffy 5.20 "Spiral"

Anya: "We should drop a piano on her. It always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment."

How totally heartbreaking is the way Tara just keeps looking with loving confusion at Willow?

Buffy 5.21 "The Weight of the World"

Willow: "Hey! I know you! You're — You're the first, original Slayer who tried killing us all in our dreams! (pauses) How've y'been?"

Buffy 5.22 "The Gift"

Willow: "Don't have another coma, okay?"

Buffy: "This is how many apocalypses for us now?"

Giles: "We few… We happy few."
Spike: "We band of buggered."

Yay to the return of Christophe Beck!

Angel 2.20 "Over the Rainbow"

Wesley: "And we didn't merge into a freakish four-man Siamese twin!"
Gunn: "That was a risk? How come nobody told me that was a risk?"

Yay to the arrival of Amy Acker!

Angel 2.21 "Through the Looking Glass"

Cordelia: "If you ever figure out how to get us out of here, I want you to find me a dimension where some demon doesn't want to impregnate me with its spawn. Is that just too much to ask?"

Angel 2.22 "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb"

Fred: "We all got our demons."

So what did all of you first-time watchers think about the three tomes depicting Wolf, Ram, and Hart?

Blam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blam said...

@Nikki: So… Numfar is Joss. And he is HILARIOUS. I wish he’d made other cameos in his work.

He did show up on Veronica Mars, of course… And by the way? If he ever does another live-action (or even animated) project set in Buffy continuity and SMG doesn't want to and/or can't play B, I totally want to see Kristen Bell as a Slayer.

@Nikki: The one moment I want to talk about that isn’t covered below is what Giles does under the tower. …

I really liked what and how you wrote about this scene. You should talk about this stuff professionally-like.

@Nikki: It was a strange move, much like ABC running footage of rusted-out fuselage footage at the end of Lost, leading fans to the wrong conclusions about what it meant.

Wait… So the four years of Buffy after the Master killed her at the end of Season One weren't just a dream that she had from purgatory?

@Nikki: And if you can keep a dry eye when the camera closes in on Spike breaking down in tears, YOU HAVE NO SOUL.

I'm not sure if that makes ironic sense or no sense at all, but what actually chokes me up is the headstone itself in all of its sad awesomeness.

VW: exess — 1. A former girlfriend. 2. Too many former girlfriends.

Blam said...

Yay! Blogger's screwing with my posts, so I know I'm back...

VW: gyrat — Twirling vermin.

Blam said...

Great writeups, Robert and Tanya! I especially liked the juxtaposition of "The Gift" and "Amends".

@Robert: … she whispers her last words to Dawn before leaping into the widening portal.

Fun fact: Bill Murray whispers exactly the same words to Scarlet Johansson in Lost in Translation.

@Robert: Angel's planned sacrifice is ego-driven. In attempting to save the world from himself, he recognizes his humanity as his tragic flaw, and what the world needs to be protected from: "It's not the demon in me that needs killing," he tells Buffy. "It's the man."

Hmm… Is this the difference between Angel and Spike? We've talked before about how, despite Giles' Season 1 description of vampires as demons that inhabit a human's dead body and possess his/her memories, it seems very much like a vampire is instead a bloodthirsty, amorally inclined being with its former human qualities not overwritten but heightened.

Liam was a lout; Angelus was/is a super-strong, vicious, murderous lout; the dichotomous, nearly unique being that is Angel is Liam aware of everything that he did as Angelus, which lout or not almost no human could bear and of course for which he would want to atone.

William became liberated as Spike and — not unlike Jonathan in "Superstar" — turned into the bully that many of the formerly bullied would be tempted to become in his position, but is clearly still a romantic.

VW: pectup — Work those chest muscles.

Blam said...

@Robert: Buffy has made it very clear that she is willing – nay, eager – to turn her back on her role as a Slayer if harm should come to Dawn. It is as if death is the only way the two worlds, the two opposing forces, can ever reach a balance.

In a way it is. Buffy is also eager to turn her back on her role as a Slayer, by leaving town, lest harm come to Dawn, yet of course it's as the Slayer that she can also best protect Dawn (as both a human Sunnydale resident, and, in the considered opinion of the monks, as the Key). Then again, Buffy leaves Dawn and everyone else vulnerable to all of the Hellmouthy evils by giving her life to save them on this particular day, which is a bit of a Catch-22, but so it goes.

Death is every Slayer's gift, of course, almost axiomatically, not just in the killing-bad-things sense but the sense of self-sacrifice that Buffy came to accept, because if a Slayer is killed in battle she has by definition (harsh and "Watchers Council" as this will sound) failed in her duties but also carried them out by dying and thus activating the next Slayer.

@Robert: One sees the idea in The Weight of the World, when Ben, after initially helping her escape, returns Dawn to Glory, despite knowing that he could save her. In helping her, he would have lost himself; this was a sacrifice he was, ultimately, unwilling to make.

I just wanted to say that I never really saw that on-screen. I mean, I heard what Glory said to him in trying to convince him and later experienced the results of his change of mind when he brought Dawn back, but I didn't feel any moment when he gave in to her argument in the writing or the acting; there was just the before and the surprise-turnaround.

@Robert: Taking a step back, however, it is in the willingness that the power of sacrifice comes overall.

For another Angel episode in this vein (no pun intended), see "The Trial" from the first half of Season 2. Giving up and giving in, especially in the name of saving a particular loved one who is (a very strange form of) family (Darla; Dawn) is a theme common to Angel and Buffy's concurrent 2000-2001 seasons.

VW: sailati — 1. The yachting class. 2. Italian ice cream... on a boat!

Blam said...

@Robert: Buffy's sacrifice makes limited sense at a rational level

I don't know. There's ret-con and then there's destiny and/or the mysterious workings of the universe, which admittedly brings us back to your suggestion of the miraculous. If Buffy's death was foreshadowed in some strange fever dream two years before it occurred, with Dawn's arrival hinted at even then and reinforced in "Restless" (although you could maybe chalk that up to the monks already working their spell and influencing Buffy's subconscious), then it stands to reason — insofar as we reason mystical, fantastic stuff like this — that the Powers That Be or whatever had already ordained or at least allowed for this turn of events, so that Buffy's substitution was less deus ex machina [Ha! Keep the god out of the machine!] than expectations if not prophesies fulfilled.

Blam said...

@Page48: the 1 1/2 gainer off the high board

Which is a bookend of sorts to the Gaynor that began this past season of Angel. 8^)

@shobiz: I don't know why I never saw it this way before, but you're absolutely right: Dawn is symbolically Buffy's daughter, not her sister.

Goodness knows I don't mean to say that I'm more insightful than you or Nikki, but the only reason I don't really think of "Buffy : Dawn :: Mother : Daughter" as subtext is because to me it's practically text after Joyce's death. I guess that just goes to show you how certain things jump out at certain folks and others don't; I've picked up on lots of stuff I'd missed or never considered during this Rewatch.

@ChristinaB: And I was SURE Angel was leaving that phone message for Buffy...turns out it was for Gunn. Bah. ;)

Me too. Bah, indeed; humbug, even.

Blam said...

@Efthymia: Bossy Willow!

I'm not entirely sure why, but that totally strikes me as a horse name. "And down the stretch it's Bossy Willow by half a length…"

@Lisa(UFN): all I could think of was Jesse and Walt in their methmobile out in the NM desert.

Ha! I love me Breaking Bad, but I didn't go there because I have first-hand RV experience of my own.

@Efthymia: the specific 'previously on' in "The Gift" is great, because it's a montage of various scenes from all seasons so far

I wish the per-season DVD sets had the "previously on" openings as an option; I'd watch them for big episodes. The Supernatural DVDs let you set them on or off — I came to the series late, then after catching up had to drop out mid-season a couple of times because I got lousy reception on the local CW station — and I've always watched the "previously on" stuff for the season premieres and finales. I've recommended Supernatural here before, mostly during Lost talk, but I'll do so again now for any new Buffy converts looking for a creative, grounded, wrenchingly character-oriented, truly great "fantasy" television show to jump into after this Rewatch.

VW: nownin — Very brief introduction of the erotic diarist.

Marebabe said...

I had a "yippee!" moment just now. When I saw that there were now 36 comments under this post, I thought, "Can it be can it be?" I quickly scrolled to the bottom, noted the Blammish saturation, and mentally hyperventilated. (Yes, that is indeed possible.) I just wanted to register my delight and anticipation. I'm about to go on my morning break, and then it'll be time to READ! :)

Blam said...

@me: Death is every Slayer's gift, of course, almost axiomatically, not just in the killing-bad-things sense but the sense of self-sacrifice that Buffy came to accept, because if a Slayer is killed in battle she has by definition (harsh and "Watchers Council" as this will sound) failed in her duties but also carried them out by dying and thus activating the next Slayer.

Not that Buffy's death falls into this category, since her momentary death at the end of Season 1 activated Kendra, whose death activated Faith, who last we saw her on Angel at this point in the Rewatch was still alive (that's not spoilery, like I'm saying she'll die; I'm just saying that's all we know "now"). Buffy lives and dies outside the line of Slayer succession.

VW: Clola™ — Clam-flavored cola. [Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.] [Uh... But don't try it.]

Blam said...

@Marebabe: I quickly scrolled to the bottom, noted the Blammish saturation, and mentally hyperventilated.

You're such a sweetheart.

I briefly fronted a band called The Blammish Saturation after college, by the way. Would that we had lasted long enough to open for Deflated Ghost Chicken... 8^(

Blam said...

And now I can't get BNL's "The Humour of the Situation" out of my head.

Nikki Stafford said...

@Blam: So awesome to have you back. And I and my fellow bandmates in Deflated Ghost Chicken would have LOVED to have you guys open for us! ;)

Marebabe said...

All righty, then! Back from lunch, things are pretty quiet around here. Time for a little Buffy-immersion.

Actually, the first item has to do with Angel. Yes, I really enjoyed the revelation of the three books, Wolf, Ram, and Hart. No, I did NOT see that one coming. I liked how very cleverly it was hidden in plain sight, as it were, because in America we typically refer to a male deer as a buck or a stag. (I actually wasn’t sure of the meaning of ‘hart’ until I looked it up. I had a vague, incorrect notion that it was another name for a doe.) I am looking forward to learning all there is to know about the law firm of Wolfram & Hart!

I swear that if I ever join the horsey set, I’ll have a frisky mare named Bossy Willow.

I was very intrigued by your brief discussion of Slayer succession, because I’ve already scribbled down some notes about it for next Tuesday’s rewatch. Specifically, I noticed the complete absence of a new Slayer following Buffy’s death. I’m real fuzzy on how much time has passed between episodes, but you stated that “Buffy lives and dies outside the line of Slayer succession.” Tell me more! (Next week.)

I loved hearing about your post-college band. *sigh* Bands never last, do they? (Well, except for the Rolling Stones, I guess.)

The naming of bands, both real and fictitious, is a fun pastime for geeky wordsmiths. My 81-year-old Mom is especially good at it. I don’t think she’ll ever top her personal best, “Pig Iron” for a heavy metal band. A true classic! (“And now, back from their tour of Ivy League schools, put your hands together for the GEEKY WORDSMITHS!!”)

And my favorite of today’s verification words is ‘gyrat’. Nice.

Nikki Stafford said...

Excellent question on Slayer succession, Marebabe, and one I will definitely address for you in the next episode, because it was a really difficult thing for fans to get their heads around and led to a lot of arguments on forums. Basically Slayer succession is this: There can be only ONE girl chosen at one time, not two. So when Buffy died in "Prophecy Girl," way back in S1, that was it for her. She is no longer the active Slayer. She doesn't lose her power or anything, but she's no longer it. Instead, the active Slayer became Kendra. Then Kendra died in Becoming, Part 1, and Faith was called. Until Faith dies, she will be the active Slayer. Buffy can die a thousand deaths and it won't bring forth any other slayers.

Of course, the Slayer succession rule has often led to the obvious fan question, "So... why don't they stop Faith's heart and then bring her back to life so they can have another Slayer? And then stop THAT girl's heart and bring forth another until there's a whole freakin' army of them?"

Joss thought that was a good question, so he'll address it in an upcoming episode, but until then, Faith is our gal, and because she's a little, um, locked up right now, Buffy has to fight the good fight in her place. But with Buffy dead at the end of The Gift, and Faith in prison, there is no active Slayer.

Marebabe said...

Wow, Nikki, thanks for the awesome and succinct download of information about the Slayer Rules! You’ve answered ALL my questions (for now). Probably by this time tomorrow I’ll have a bunch more, but for now, I’m good!

Blam said...

@Marebabe: The naming of bands, both real and fictitious, is a fun pastime for geeky wordsmiths.

You don't say. 8^) I came up with about a half-dozen as a running gag in my rather lengthy, bronchitis-inflected post on this year's Oscar telecast — and, wouldn't you know it, most if not all of them would make fine horsey names too.

Blam said...

I always found it a bit odd that the old, Giles-narrated opening began "In every generation, there is a Chosen One..." Because, really, there's just always a Slayer. It's not like one dies and the next is born; she's "activated" mystically from amongst the potential Slayers out there, as we learned when Kendrah, de Minnasohtin Oirish Jamehkin Vampayah Sleyah appeared. In the movie, from what I recall, it did seem like more of a once-in-a-generation thing, which was brought home by, again if I recall correctly, Kristy Swanson herself playing the ancient Slayer whom Buffy saw in her dreams, as if the Slayer essence was passed down from one Chosen One to the next in some reincarnationy way. But it's also best if we not talk about this too much until even later in the series, lest those of us rewatching come up against questions that we don't even want to say whether or not we can answer because that ambivalence itself could be spoilery. And yes, I know I brought it up.

VW: holose — Epic prostitution fail.

Marebabe said...

Waitaminute! D’you mean that, if I’d been paying attention, I would’ve seen Kristy Swanson’s name in the credits as the First Slayer?! I guess that’ll teach me NOT to get lazy about looking for names I recognize in Buffy and Angel credits!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I can vouch for that being the way the Slayer succession works - I was in the room at Comic Con when Joss explained it!

Blam said...

@Marebabe: Waitaminute! D’you mean that, if I’d been paying attention, I would’ve seen Kristy Swanson’s name in the credits as the First Slayer?!

Uh, no. I just wasn't being clear enough. I meant that in the 1992 BTVS feature film, which starred Kristy Swanson as Buffy, Swanson also played the Slayers of past eras (like the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, if my memory holds) in Buffy's haunting dreams about her legacy as the Chosen One.

VW: loqui — Positions of talkativeness.

Christina B said...

So I'm guessing from all these Fred comments that she sticks around awhile, huh? ;)

Blam said...

@ChristinaB: So I'm guessing from all these Fred comments that she sticks around awhile, huh? ;)

be. 8^) I wouldn't have posted my comment in the non-spoiler section if Amy Acker weren't in the opening credits come the next week's batch of episodes.

VW: thloge — Die-hard student of God and religion (slang). "You hear that dude goin' on about the role of the redactor in crafting what we now consider the canonical Genesis? Man! Guy's a total thloge!"

db said...

I’m new here, but I have been reading through past posts and trying to catch up – 9 months in. I’m also new to posting publicly. This is my maiden voyage!

Just in the nick of time for Season 5, which is my favorite. The rest come in second.

Especially because of the way this season and Angel 2 work together. The dark, very dark places both take me to – well, I guess that says everything about me.

But also – the way in which the dark is both lightened and twisted by the moments of hilarity and fun.

While redemption may be the central theme in the buffyverse -- For me, mortality and death are certainly as powerful, perhaps more powerful, and certainly connected to the (im)possibility of redemption.

Pondering what immortality really provides those who are experiencing some variety of it. Angel, Spike, Glory… Ben.

This time I noticed how Anya’s extraordinary speech in The Body and actually mirrors the pathos of Glory’s evaluation of “the whole mortal coil”.

Both of them are exhausted and drained by mortality. Neither sees the point.

Watching Joyce die throughout this season and culminating in The Body, (the most amazing hour of TV yet) was crucial and painful and it did evoke memories of deaths I have suffered, but for me it is Buffy living through this -- and then choosing not to… that represents the real agony.

For all her bravado and even arrogance, as Spike notes: she has always been a little in love with death. Whether that is represented by Angel, Spike, marching off to her prophecied death with the Master – and foolishly facing him again in The Wish. I think that this attraction to death is trauma-driven – more on that below.

db said...

But, besides death, redemption and passion – the buffyverse is one of the best ongoing representation of the varieties of madness. Whether that is Drusilla… Glory, Tara, role-playing rejects, Buffy… For all of these great characters, their madness began with a severe traumatic event that we can track and watch resonate throughout the series.

In the WOTW – watching Buffy’s utter failure to cope and her retreat into catatonic stupor was more powerful, for me, than the immediate aftermath of her mourning for mother.

Also, I’d like to point out that Angel, in this case, is wrong. She cannot and does not cope. (Does it bother anyone else that Angel can be so comforting and reassuring when he has barely recovered from one of his darkest periods – and this without (technically) losing his soul.)

When I watch toddler Buffy relive the false memory of her mom and dad come home with baby Dawn, at this exact moment, I recall Cordelia’s hilarious opening episode line: “What is your childhood trauma?”

This season provides the answer – Buffy’s trauma is not only not getting to being a Dawn but also having to take care of her – and all the innocents. Dawn is the childhood that was sacrificed to her destiny to be the chosen one, the slayer. Cordelia’s line only attains resonance and depth at the end of season 5.

That’s mythos, not logos. (With great appreciation to all the thoughtful commentators on this season)

Mythos is what I call Pateman’s elegant notion of involution – intensities flowing through the text in all directions. Connection that is made through emotions, ethical issues, character, with time frame of events and logic clearly a secondary matter.

Mythos and logos are two different things. Mythos is what holds Buffy together. When I try to tell someone about Buffy who is not familiar with it – and it ends up being more a logos discussion, (this happened and then that happened and there’s this curse) it always sounds absurd. I tend to end the plug with a lame: don’t overthink it.

Mythos has a different kind of continuity, cohesion and meaning which does not rely on trying to figure out the rationale of the slayer line, what are Buffy’s powers, whether the curse makes sense, why Buffy’s blood closes the portal. I want to say – it works because it has to, the internal drive of the narrative demands it, not logic, but mythos.

I also believe that the Buffy mythos is specifically post-traumatic and that the traumatic nature of Buffy’s calling (and hence the traumatic nature of our present-day world – whether that be the horrors of high school as hell or the uncanny prescience of Buffy in representing our unique historical traumas in eps like Earshot and The Gift – and soon, in Season 6) impacts and shapes Buffy’s particular movement of mythos. And that is the essay I have been working on.

db said...

Before we leave season 5, I wanted to comment on Willow and Tara’s kiss, which many of us find extraordinarily moving. The genius of Buffy, what makes it TV with a soul – ensouled TV -- is that the first kiss that we are invited to see is not the one charged with eroticism, although that is not absent, but charged with love, caring, compassion, support. It is not the kiss that initiates a sexual relationship between them, but the one that, in the context of grief and loss, provides succor and comfort while acknowledging that this has developed in and through an erotic relationship. IMHO that is why this is one of the most important kisses portrayed in the media.

Blam said...

Welcome aboard, DB!

I like very much your mythos/logos talk as well as the notion of trauma in Buffy. The English word "trauma" comes from a Greek word meaning "wound" [Hi, Efthymia! Uh... Not that you're wounded, just, y'know, Greek...] but it also feels so apt that people frequently, and understandably, say in error that it comes from the word meaning "dream" since in German "traum" does mean "dream"; it's just that the German "traum" and English "dream" are derived from a common-sounding root. Anyway, PTSD's unfortunate prevalence as a topic in modern society (not that talking about it is a bad thing; I mean that the reasons we need to do so are, to use a wholly deficient word, sad) reminds us that trauma is at least as often a psychic or otherwise intangible event as it is a physical one, a dichotomy also appropriate here.