Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Spiral

Summary

Glory has broken down the wall and is confronting Willow, Tara, Dawn, and Buffy. She learns Dawn is the key. Buffy grabs Dawn and flees. Willow uses her power to delay Glory. Glory crashes through another wall and runs after Buffy at super speed. Dawn can't run and Buffy picks her up and flees. Glory appears before them. But she's standing in the road and a truck hits her. Before she can recover, she turns back into Ben.

Dawn is telling the gang what happened. At first they think Buffy defeated Glory - but she reveals Glory was hit by a truck. She doesn't understand how that stopped her and Giles says the important thing is that they are safe. Buffy says they aren't. She says they've barely escaped being killed by Glory each time they've met and now she knows about Dawn. Anya says they should use a piano, a la Bugs Bunny. Giles wants to go to the shop, but Buffy says they can't beat Glory. She says they have to leave. She tells them to pack up and she'll find transportation.

Ben has changed into his clothes and a minion is beside him going on about the damage to the dress Glory was wearing. She tries to find out what happened and what he knows about the key, but he's not talking. She tries to convince him he should cooperate with Glory. The gang are waiting on the sidewalk for Buffy. Buffy pulls up in an RV, with the windows covered. Spike is driving. Giles and Xander want him out, but Buffy says they need him.

At the hospital, Dante is checking out Orlando (the knight of Byzantium brain sucked by Glory). He takes him to the woods where they meet with a general of their army and many other knights. Orlando, in his madness, reveals the key is a girl. The general orders his army to advance, knowing the slayer is protecting the key. In the RV, Anya is wondering if they are there yet. Dawn says they don't even know where they are going. Giles is now driving and Spike complains about how slowly he drives while Giles says the vehicle is underpowered. Xander has motion sickness. He and Spike quarrel and he goes to Giles who says Buffy has a point about Spike being useful if they have to fight Glory. Xander thinks she isn't thinking clearly. Willow is looking for spells without any luck. She's found some barrier spells which only work on a fixed locus, nothing to protect them while they are moving. Tara starts babbling and Dawn asks about food. Anya brings out a fry pan and a can of Spam. Tara opens the blinds and Spike's hand is burned. Willow closes the blinds and an upset Tara starts crying. Spike tells her it is ok. But Tara keeps talking about how the light is gone. Cut to the hospital where the other brain sucking victims are saying the same thing. The minions are casting runes and feel the time is near.

Dawn goes to talk to Buffy, who feels she is letting everyone down. Dawn tries to cheer her up. She says things can't get crazier. An arrow is shot into the RV. Buffy looks outside and sees the knights on horseback chasing them. She and Dawn rush into the other room as the attack continues. Spike says the vehicle is a weapon and Buffy tells Giles to aim for the horses. A knight climbs onto the roof and starts punching his sword through it. Spike grabs and holds the blade. Buffy goes onto the roof and fights the knight. Dawn bandages Spike's bleeding hand. As knights try to break in, Anya beats one down with a frying pan. Buffy defeats the knights on the roof and the road seems clear. But a knight comes up and throws a lance which wounds Giles. He crashes the RV.

The gang retreat to an abandoned building. Giles is badly hurt and cannot walk, he's bleeding badly. The knights attack with flaming arrows. A knight actually breaks in and attacks Buffy, but Spike hits him. Then Spike reels back in pain but Buffy is back on top of things and knocks out the knight whom Xander drags away. The general enters and tries to kill Dawn but Buffy stops him. Willow casts a protection spell and the knights are hurled away from the building, but they still have the general captive. Dante calls on his clerics to break through the barrier. They assure him they can.

Willow says the barrier may last half a day. Spike suggests they interrogate the general. He says they have to destroy Dawn. That even though she is human, she is still the key. He says god demands it. Buffy doesn't believe a good god would demand the death of an innocent girl. Tara suddenly gets worse, trying to get out and saying time. We see the other brain sucked victims in the hospital are acting the same way. They break free of their restraints, knock out the nurse, and flee. Orlando is acting the same way and Dante kills him. Buffy is tending to the injured Giles. He tells her she did the right thing, putting her heart first. He tells her she has made him proud. He is weakening. She tells Willow to make a door. She and Xander go talk to the knights. She wants them to allow someone to come help Giles. Dante doesn't want to and she's ready to fight him but Xander stops them. Xander appeals to their sense of honour and points out they have the general prisoner.

In the building, Willow activates the phone and Buffy calls for help. Ben arrives. He tends to Giles. Xander and Spike go into the room with the general. Spike tries to light a cigarette, but can't because of his hurt fingers. Xander lights it for him. He tells him cigarettes will kill him, then realizes Spike is already dead. He asks if his hands are ok. Spike says they should make a break using the general as a shield. He says some of them may die, but others could escape. Buffy hears this and says they will all get out. She tells them to check the supplies. She talks to the general who tells her about Glory. She ruled with two other hell gods in a demon dimension. But her lust for power and misery grew so great the other gods feared her. They fought and defeated her, barely. They expelled her to this dimension. She was imprisoned inside a human male and when he dies, so will she. It's her only weakness. He explains Glory can temporarily escape, but when she weakens she is forced back into her living cell. He explains the key has absolute power. That the monks thought they could harness its energies for good while the knights sought to destroy it. The key opens the gateways between dimensions and Glory would use it to return home. He explains all the gateways would open and the barriers between dimensions would disappear. Chaos would reign.

Dawn is upset to discover what she really is. She turns to Buffy and Buffy says she won't let anything happen to her. Willow is trying to feed Tara without much success. Anya offers to help. The general talks to Ben. He tries to convince him to kill Dawn. Ben talks to Dawn and tries to console her, telling her Giles' injury is not her fault. Suddenly he starts shouting and demanding they let him out. But before they can, he turns into Glory. Glory kills general Gregor. Spike and Xander attack her and she knocks them aside. The same happens to Buffy. Glory grabs Dawn and pulls her away from Anya. She rushes out and smashes her way through the energy barrier. Buffy tries to follow, but is trapped by the barrier. When Willow opens it for her, the knights have all been killed. Spike says they have to get Ben's car. Willow starts talking to Buffy, but Buffy just falls to the ground and says nothing.

Analysis

Watching this show, a couple of literary axioms came to mind. First, there's the rule of plotting that says first you get your character up a tree and then you throw rocks at him. Buffy was definitely up a tree by the end of the last episode. And some pretty big rocks were hurled this week. Second, there's the rule that the middle books of a series are inevitably the least interesting (consider the middle book of Lord of the Rings). While last week was a great episode, this second search for and flight of the key episode had little substance to it and served largely to tie up some plot points and move us to the ultimate conclusion. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't the deep, multilayered Buffy I most enjoy.

I do have one big problem and that's with the knights. On the positive side, I'm glad they showed up since in my review of Tough Love I was saying how handy they would be right now. But exactly where do a few dozen knights in armor hide? And how do you keep and maintain all those horses? Plus why have horses and armor in this day and age? A few guns, even just the simplest of rifles or shotguns, would have made their lives much easier. Now this actually got me to thinking about the knights and what they may really be. Like demons, they really seem tied to old fashioned methods of fighting. So maybe they are demons. Maybe the knights come from the demon dimension. The clerics mentioned the power of their god being greater than Willow's power. Maybe they are servants of one of the other hell gods who fought against Glory. And maybe the minions are servants of Glory, all from the hell dimension and all transported here by their respective gods to do their bidding. Maybe the monks were actually servants of the third god.

I was a little confused by Gregor's explanation of Glory and the key. Earlier, we were told, or at least it was implied, that Glory predated modern civilization. That she had been here for a very long time. But if she's been trapped in Ben, and he can't be immortal since we've been told his death will destroy her, then she could only have been here for a lifetime - and a pretty short one. All the history would have had to have taken place in the demon dimension, which would make some sense if my theory about the demonic nature of the minions, knights, and monks is true.

Glory has told her minions that they are running out of time. She had to find the key fast. I thought this was due to the need to perform some ritual at a specific time. But if that were true, Gregor would know this and he might have been willing to compromise at simply keeping the key away from Glory until the time had passed. But maybe Glory knows something the others don't. Maybe the amount of time left for Ben is short and so she needs to get out of his body quickly. Possibly sharing a body with a god, who is using it more and more frequently, is burning that body out. Maybe Ben is the character who will die at the end of the season, thus ending the Glory threat. Maybe death is the gift the slayer will bring him.

There are times when you have to go with your instinct and times when you need to sit back and think. There are also times when the fight or flight instinct says flight. Buffy chose flight here and it was the right choice - they had no chance against Glory. But once they were in flight, it was time to start thinking and analysing the situation. And that's something that didn't happen. In the van, they didn't spend any time developing strategy. When they captured Gregor, his interrogation was haphazard and Buffy never really attempted to put together what he said with the facts she knew. There was no attempt to pool information or use the information they had effectively. For example, knowing Glory had a human half Buffy never considered who were the new humans in town who acted strangely and might be connected to her. She never considered how Ben had been around Glory at least once, in the hospital, and had escaped unharmed. And Dawn, apparently, has never remembered or explained what she saw when Ben turned into Glory. That last point really bothers me. What was going on there? I admit putting it all together would be tough, especially if Dawn actually doesn't remember what happened. But they should at least have made an attempt.

Oddly, Buffy starts thinking when she wonders how they could have escaped, since the truck would not have slowed down Glory. And Giles, the normally contemplative one, says it doesn't matter how. I think this is the moment when things start to really go badly for the gang. Neither Giles nor Willow, the two big thinkers in the group, are thinking. Willow is too concerned about Tara to think about anything else and Giles is too focussed on the immediate danger to Buffy and Dawn (and attempting to cheer up Buffy) to think clearly.

Buffy is clearly depressed. When Dawn speaks to her, all she can do is focus on her failure. She's managed to keep Dawn safe while a crazed god is pursuing her. A pretty big feat. But Buffy just sees herself as running away when she should be the one doing the chasing. Dawn realizes what she owes to Buffy, but Buffy just can't see this as enough. She talks of all the tragedies that she has faced in the past year: the coming of Glory, the departure of Riley, the madness of Tara, and the death of their mother. I think the order here is interesting. Glory comes first as if she is the cause of everything that follows. She surely made Tara mad, but the rest is Buffy's guilt complex. Buffy feels she wasn't there for Riley (she says so to Giles in Intervention) and perhaps she blames Glory for distracting her. She also feels had she been home earlier she could have saved her mother (something she tells Angel in Forever) and she wonders whether her mother knew she loved her (something she mentions to Giles in Intervention), again the time she spent pursuing Glory stopped her from being with her mother. The order also seems to be in ascending importance. The loss of Riley hurt her, but the damage to Tara is far more permanent. And her mother's death cannot be reversed.

It's also interesting that this scene happens immediately after Tara sought to find the light and then claimed it was gone. Buffy has moved into the darkness. She's so obsessed with the peril of Glory and all the terrible things that have happened that she can no longer see a glimmer of light in a dark and sad universe. Also, the light which Tara lets in burns Spike, the darkest of the characters. Yet he says it's alright. He even encourages Tara to let in more light. As Buffy falls into darkness, Spike continues his voyage to the light.

The roles of Buffy and Dawn are briefly reversed when Dawn discovers exactly what the power of the key is. Devastated she turns to Buffy for consolation. All Buffy can do is promise to protect her. Of course, that is all Buffy has ever done and it is exactly what the monks wanted her to do. But a few moments after saying this, Dawn will be taken from Buffy by Glory and she will have failed in her only responsibility and fall into an even deeper depression.

Buffy has always had mixed feelings about her role as slayer. These were addressed in Anne where Buffy seemed to accept that the role was something within her. But in Intervention that ambivalence rose again. She questioned whether the role was not eroding part of her humanity, turning her into a killing machine. Feelings which she first began articulating as early as Buffy Vs. Dracula and which were alluded to in Restless. Giles recognizes that Buffy is torn between heart and head - between her feelings as a person and her duties as a slayer. Part of his function this season has been to help Buffy resolve these conflicting parts of her into a single unity - a stronger person and a stronger slayer. And Buffy knows he is the person to help her because she has expressly turned to him for this help.

Giles tells Buffy she is everything he could have hoped for. He starts to say watcher, but changes the word to I. Close to death, Giles wants to let Buffy know how he really feels. The relationship of slayer and watcher long ago turned into daughter and father. And he wants to make sure that she knows her father is proud of her. Having lost one parent, Buffy is faced with the danger of losing another and once again puts her heart ahead of everything. Fear of Giles' death leads her to a treaty with the knights and the invitation to Ben. And, of course, that means letting Glory into their camp and giving her access to Dawn. This seems to be worst possible thing to have done. But now Buffy knows Glory's deepest secret and, thanks to Gregor, she now knows how to kill Glory - kill Ben. And Ben has probably saved Giles' life.

Spike continues to show his good side here. While the pressure is clearly getting to him, he's still fighting the good fight. When Tara opens the blinds and burns him, he's actually really nice about it. He realizes she didn't mean anything and he tries to calm her. Of course, having been with Dru all those years, Spike is used to being around crazy people. Spike also proves Buffy was right in bringing him when he grabs the knight's sword and holds it until Buffy can get onto the roof and fight him. But the biggest moment for Spike this week had to be Xander helping him light his cigarette (it also led to the line of the week). While Xander won't outright say he's coming to appreciate Spike, his actions and his almost jocular statement of hatred plus his actual concern for Spike's wounds show a real growth in this relationship. He even, for a moment, seems to forget Spike is a vampire and warns him against smoking. And Spike seems to be suggesting he's ready to die at the hands of the knights if it means the others might escape.

Xander seems to dislike Spike more than any of the others and the fact that he is more than tolerating him now bodes well for Spike's future. I think Xander, as the character who seems to understand relationships the best of the gang - he has the most successful relationship of them all - realizes that the Spike/Buffy pairing isn't really all that weird. And since he once lusted for Buffy, he's somewhat jealous of other suitors - we've certainly seen those feelings before. Xander realizes they have all only had unconventional relationships. He's dating an exvengeance demon and previously dated Cordelia (both relationships stunned and amazed his friends especially Willow who dislikes Xander's girlfriends much in the way he dislikes Buffy's boyfriends). Willow dated a werewolf and is now in a lesbian relationship. And Buffy dated a vampire with a soul and a secretive operative for a government demon hunting organization who turned out to be blood brother to a cyborg with apocalyptic intentions. Looked at in that context, a vampire with a chip in his head and a liking for poetry doesn't seem such a bad catch.

Obviously Ben was considering killing Dawn when he was tending to Giles. He had implied he was willing to do that when talking to the minion earlier. But, as she predicted, he really cannot bring himself to kill an innocent human. The general encourages him to kill Dawn but that encouragement may be what stops him. His reply to the general is similar to his reply to the minion, it's his life and he'll do what he wants with it. But I think he was also concerned that his own life might be in jeopardy. Both the knights and Buffy have good cause to kill him. So his decision to enter the building and put himself at their mercy was a very brave one. Even though he may have been considering doing a very bad thing when he was in there. Of course, had he confided the truth in Buffy, things might have gone better.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked Anya's weird take on Bugs Bunny and the nice hunter with a speech impediment. And Glory getting hit by the train actually was exactly like one of those cartoons (more a Road Runner than a Bugs feature but it could have happened in either). However, Glory was standing in the road for a long time and the truck driver would have seen her and honked and swerved. Dante killing Orlando to stop him from being controlled by Glory was a great moment and beautifully underplayed. And I was really glad to see he hadn't been forgotten and the knights actually came to get him from the hospital. It's interesting that Glory is surrounded by male minions and we see Ben have a prolonged discussion with a female minion. Also, it seems the minions make up for their toadying to Glory by being sarcastic with Ben. I think Dante signs himself as Dante Chavalier - which is accurate if not true. Some of the things the brain sucking victims were saying (like about the light being gone) reminded me of Glory describing what it was like to be brain sucked in Tough Love. This made me wonder whether Glory, jailed away in Ben's mind and body, wasn't in some way affecting the actions and speech of those she had brain sucked. Does blood loss bother vampires? Spike certainly seemed in a hurry to bandage his hand. I liked Spike's look of dismay when he saw Ben with Buffy. It's ironic that the child Dawn handles the pressures of being the key so much better than Buffy handles the pressures of being the key's guardian.

Lines of the week:

"I really hate it when people touch my things." - Glory having a big problem distinguishing between people and things.

"It always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment." - Anya on the usefulness of pianos as weapons.

"You mean her divine failure." - Ben on why he exists.

"Cold draft of paralyzing fear." - Anya putting into words what they all feel.

"Squeeze until it bleeds." - A minion on what they have to do.

"It just keeps coming. Glory, Riley, Tara, Mom." - Buffy on how life doesn't let up.

"At least things can't get any crazier." - Dawn being very wrong.

"Aim for the horsies." - Buffy getting practical.

"Not a piano, but hey." - Anya on the uses of frying pans.

"She will never know the taste of your heart." - Dante saving his friend from Glory.

"You're everything a watcher... everything I could have hoped for." - Giles letting Buffy know she has met all his expectations.

"You know those things will kill you. Oh...right." - Xander being nice and then realizing cigarettes and vampires do mix.

"Little Ben finally did something right." - Glory actually pleased with Ben.

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