Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Weight of the World

Summary

The minions are packing. Glory overhears them griping, but doesn't feel like killing them. She doesn't understand why. She's got the key and will soon return home victorious. But she's not happy. She turns to a bound and gagged Dawn. Meanwhile, Spike has hot wired Ben's car and they are all gathered around a catatonic Buffy. Willow tries to talk to her, but she doesn't respond. They don't know what to do. Spike tries shaking her, then slapping her. Xander pulls him away. They fight and Willow uses her power to separate them. She takes charge telling them Anya will take Tara, Xander will take Giles to the hospital, Spike will find Glory, and she will look after Buffy. Tara starts babbling. Spike asks what to do if he finds Ben. He realizes they don't remember that Ben is Glory. He tries to tell them but they cannot grasp it. He realizes Glory has worked some magic which prevents people from realizing her secret but being a demon he is immune.

A whole bunch of brain sucked guys are doing some construction. Glory, Dawn, and some minions (including a minion priest) enter. They go into another room. The priest starts anointing Dawn but Glory kicks them all out. Dawn wants to go home. Glory says she will, as the key she will be home in the lock. She starts talking to Dawn and actually being nice to her. Trying to calm her and make her feel better. Dawn is scared and crying. She tells Glory not to call her Dawnie. Glory says that hurt her feelings. That she's actually trying to comfort her and make her feel better and that's not part of what she does. Glory realizes she feels guilty and gods aren't supposed to feel that way. She blames Dawn. She calls back the priest and has him anoint her. She tells Dawn that her blood will allow her to open the portal and she's going to bleed her dry.

Willow is going to enter Buffy's mind in an attempt to snap her out of her catatonia. Anya points out it is dangerous for both of them. Willow finds herself in Buffy's childhood home with a young Buffy. Spike breaks into Glory's home to find everyone gone. He does locate Ben's room. Willow tells Buffy she has to come out, but she says it's a big day for her. Her parents arrive, carrying baby Dawn fresh from the hospital. At first, Buffy is jealous realizing she is no longer the baby. But soon she is asking if she can take care of Dawn. Willow sees an adult Buffy returning a book to a shelf. Next she is sitting by the fire from Intervention.

Giles is in the hospital and obviously has been patched up. Xander is there. He tells Giles what Willow is doing and also that all the brain sucked have left the hospital. Spike shows up and says Glory has left her apartment. He says he knows someone who might help them. He and Xander go off and say they'll meet Giles at the shop. He tells Xander about finding Ben's room. Of course, Xander doesn't remember Ben is Glory. Exasperated, Spike slaps him on the head and they both scream out in pain. Spike tries to explain again.

Glory tells her minions she can remember things Ben did. She talks to Dawn who can remember Ben turning into Glory. Glory realizes the cloak between her and Ben is fading. She pleads with her minion priest to help her. She is sharing Ben's feelings and thoughts. She momentarily transforms into him, but switches back and asks the priest for help again. He says this is the price she must pay for opening the portal. She's ready to kill Dawn right then.

Willow is at the fire with the guide in the guise of the first slayer. She tells Buffy her gift is death. Willow sees Buffy reshelving the book again. Then she sees her walking down a hallway. The minions stop Glory from killing Dawn, reminding her they will be trapped forever if she does. Glory stops and sends the minions out. She asks Dawn how people live like this, jerked around by their emotions. She thinks emotions are useless. Dawn says some people like them. Glory says she looks around and sees everyone doing things to kill themselves. She says the whole world is crazy and she's the only sane one. She asks Dawn to name one person who could take the world and Dawn says Buffy. Willow calls to Buffy to return, but she keeps going down the hallway and enters a room. Joyce's grave is in the room. Buffy says death is her gift. She walks to the bed where a weeping Dawn is lying. She tells Willow death is what she does. She starts smothering Dawn with a pillow.

Glory turns into Ben. He can remember Glory killing the knights and is traumatized by it. Dawn says he has to help her escape. The priest knocks at the door. Ben drags him into the room and knocks him out. He says he'll take Dawn as far as he can and ditch her before Glory returns. Willow is back with young Buffy. As her parents show up with baby Dawn, Willow sees Buffy reshelving the book. Doc, the demon who helped Dawn with the resurrection spell, is leafing through a book. Spike and Xander show up. Xander suddenly remembers Ben is Glory. Spike says they need help in finding her. Doc asks about Dawn, already knowing she changed her mind. He says he can't help them. But he acts strangely and Spike realizes he is lying. Doc attacks Spike with a sword and extends a huge tongue which knocks down Xander. He then grabs a small chest and hurls it into the fire. Xander tackles Doc. Spike gets the chest from the fire. Xander stabs Doc with the sword. They leave. Doc's eyes open.

Willow is pleading with Buffy to stop, telling her it isn't real and she didn't kill Dawn. Dawn and Ben are walking down the street. Dawn says she thinks they've been spotted. The duck into an alley and Ben looks out. Dawn hits him from behind knocking him out. She goes to run away but Ben has turned into Glory. Glory can't spill any of Dawn's blood, but she is ready to torture her. Only she turns back into Ben. For the next few minutes they keep switching back and forth and having a strange conversation with each other. Ben tries to cut Dawn and bleed her to stop Glory. But Glory knows he can't hurt anybody. She realizes he is scared of dying. She says if he lets her use Dawn, she'll use her god powers to make him immortal. He says he knows she can do it, but he couldn't live with himself knowing he had sacrificed Dawn. Glory says when you're immortal feelings like that melt away like ice cream. Ben grabs Dawn, says he's sorry, and they go to the waiting minions.

Willow is in the grave room again. She and Buffy walk into the next room to see another Buffy reshelving the book. Willow realizes something happened here. She asks Buffy to tell her what she is trying to convey symbolically. Buffy says the reshelving is the moment when she quit. That she felt Glory would defeat her and wanted it to be over. Wanted Glory to win and Dawn to be dead so she could put it behind her and relax. Willow says she's just feeling guilt, that it's a feeling not reality. That she has to come back to the real world. Willow leaves. Buffy calls after her. Back in the real world Buffy awakens from her stupor. She starts to cry. Willow comforts her.

Buffy, Willow, Tara, and Anya enter the shop where Giles has been studying the scrolls Spike and Xander brought in the chest. He tells them the only way to stop Glory is to kill Dawn.

Analysis

Guilt and madness are classic themes (Hamlet and MacBeth use them well). I like the fact that guilt works both for and against Buffy. And it really is doing the same thing: it immobilizes Glory and Buffy. Madness is treated in an interesting way. We see the mad Glory, the increasing mad Ben, and the mad brain sucked victims. And Glory has some interesting comments about insanity and the world.

Glory finds herself feeling guilty and realizes this runs counter to the very nature of godhood. A god, by definition, can't do anything wrong. So how can a god feel guilty. The presence of guilt is an indicator of humanity and humanity is an indicator of mortality. Guilt doesn't influence Glory to adopt a set of morals, the way it does with humans. Instead, it scares her because it means she is suddenly vulnerable. She can be destroyed because there is something human in her. Not something contained in Ben, but something which has infiltrated her very essence. For the first time since we met her, Glory is afraid. And fear makes people stupid.

Her immediate reaction is a stupid one, she blames Dawn. In a metaphorical sense, she's right. As the barriers between realities come close to falling (and Dawn is what keeps them separate right now), the barrier between herself and Ben begins to crumble. But that's not Dawn's fault - it's hers. And Glory won't accept that. She won't accept that Ben has become a part of her. She won't accept that her desperate need to return home and resurrect her reign as a hellgod is what causes this. In a moment of despair, she actually turns to the minion priest for help - a reaction that seems more Ben than Glory. The priest tells her it is the price she must pay, but as a god she doesn't feel she ever has to pay. She's ignoring the reality of the situation and that's a stupid thing to do. But she's so powerful that by brute force she continues to get her own way.

Glory's rant against humanity and the useless drug of emotions is ironic. As a god, Glory constantly indulges her every whim. While she doesn't have emotions like love or fear or guilt, she does have emotions like anger, hatred, and desire. And she constantly gives in to them. Ben, who she thinks of as a meat puppet, actually exercises greater control. Glory argues that everyone is crazy, that the world is full of people trying to kill themselves or everyone else. That, by comparison, she is sane. But there are plenty of counter examples around her. None of the gang are the suicidal/murderous types she says populate the globe. Instead, they are always trying to help people. But, being evil, Glory can only see evil in others. She's blind to the good they do and the good in their nature. As the cloak fades and she has access to Ben's memories, some of that knowledge starts leaking in. And the light of that goodness is blinding and painful.

Of course, when Glory challenges Dawn to name one person who can take the world she says Buffy, an ironic choice since Buffy has withdrawn from the world. But even as she says it, Willow is working to draw Buffy back into the world. Xander and Spike are working to recover Dawn and defeat Glory. The world may be too hard for one person, even a slayer, but the weight of the world doesn't rest on her shoulders alone. It is a shared burden and if she lets it slip for a moment there are others there to grab on and hold it until she is ready to return. Glory sees a world where everyone is out for herself. But survival and sanity in the world depend on friendship and trust - something she is incapable of.

She offers Ben the thing she feels humans most desire - immortality. But at the price of his soul. The scene in which Ben and Glory keep seizing control of their body and engaging in a conversation with each other is fascinating. It's clearly meant to be a metaphor for mental illness, multiple personalities. But it's also a metaphor for the normal divisions every human feels within himself. We all have contrasting natures and desire. The human versus the demonic side. It's the battle Angel has with his vampiric demon. It's the battle Spike has with his chip. And it's the battle Buffy is currently fighting. Glory is obviously split, the audience has known that all along and now the gang finally realize it. But Buffy is also split. She has been saying this pretty well all season, ever since the key and Glory were introduced into her universe. She is split between the slayer and the human halves of herself.

Buffy retreats to moments in her past which seem important to her. Moments which have catalyzed around her feelings of guilt due to losing Dawn to Glory. What I find fascinating here is that the first moment is the arrival of baby Dawn. A moment which never really happened but the memory of which was implanted by the monks. Yet this false memory has very real influence on Buffy. This is the moment when she first took responsibility for Dawn. The moment when she promised to take care of her. It's the vow which the monks were relying upon to make her guard the key and the vow which leads to her emotional breakdown. The next scene is of the adult Buffy returning the book to the shelf, the instant in which she broke that vow. Not in any real sense, but in a metaphorical sense. For a moment, she wanted to give up her responsibility for Dawn. She wanted Glory to win and for all the pain and problems to be behind her. Life would be so much easier then.

This isn't the first time Buffy has wanted to give up. She tried this in Anne when the difficulties of being the slayer and a teenager were just too much for her. She seemed to have similar feelings in The Freshman, when she found herself incapable of coping with her sudden influx of problems. But this is far more serious. In Anne, Buffy fled from her home thinking her responsibilities could be left behind. She learnt she was wrong and accepted that she had to be the slayer. In The Freshman, she fled from the new world of the university to the old world of the Bronze and found Xander (who stands between the worlds of adulthood and childhood) who revived her spirits. But this time, she has fled from everything. She has fled from people, places, and even herself. This time she isn't willing to listen or talk or even try to get better.

While the murder of the knights by Glory was the immediate cause of Buffy's catatonia, the original cause was being told death was her gift by the guide in Intervention. Her moment of weakness while reshelving the book is activated by these words. This is why we see Buffy reshelving the book again immediately after the scene by the fire. She realizes that for an instant she thought of Dawn's death as a gift to herself (despite her denial in Intervention of death ever being a gift). Not only has she broken her childhood vow, but she did so for personal gain - for her own pleasure. And the powers that be, exemplified by the guide, know it. Buffy's flight into herself is an attempt to hide from the shame she knows must come to her. She realizes everyone will soon know her cowardice, much worse than simple failure. She fears their condemnation. And that is something she has never had to face before.

In the room with the grave, Buffy says killing is what she does. And in Forever it was at her mother's grave that she confessed to Angel her sense of guilt and responsibility for Joyce's death. When she smothers Dawn she is acting out directly what she feels indirectly responsible for. In her catatonia, Buffy is giving in to her fears. She's trying to give up feeling guilty by pretending that she really is an emotionless killer - hence her bland response to Willow's pleas to stop smothering Dawn. If Buffy is just a machine, a meat slave as Glory would say, then killing isn't so bad. Like the Buffybot, she's just doing what she is programmed to do.

Willow counteracts this by forcing reality onto Buffy. She tells her she didn't kill Dawn, not literally or metaphorically. She forces Buffy to confront herself. She takes the killing Buffy into the moment of the reshelving. She gets Buffy to articulate her fears, to tell her in words what she has been symbolically communicating. When Buffy admits that for an instance she quit, it becomes possible for Willow to talk sense to her. The massiveness of her guilt (the grave, the murder of Dawn) is diminished into a small moment of weakness. A moment of humanity. She tells Buffy it is time to get back to the real world, to cope with what is happening and not wallow in her guilt. And she leaves, forcing Buffy to make a decision. Return to reality and possible failure with Willow, or stay in her safe realm of certain failure. Ultimately, it's an easy decision.

In a crisis, your real character comes through. And Spike's real character looks good. Rather than running away, and who could or would want to stop him, he's trying to help. He hot wires Ben's car. He tries to awaken Buffy. He tries to explain to them about Ben and Glory. He has the idea of going to see Doc. And he sees through Doc's pretense and seizes the box with the documents which explain, they think, Glory's weakness. With the exception of reviving Buffy, Spike pretty well does everything of significance in this episode. And he even manages to work with Xander.

It's interesting the way Willow steps into the power vacuum here. Everyone else who takes charge is unavailable. Giles is wounded and too weak to do anything. Buffy is catatonic. Tara, who usually exercises control over Willow if no one else, is brain sucked. Xander and Spike are both panicing. So Willow steps into the fray and takes charge. And everyone accepts it. Partly because they don't have a better idea, partly because she scares them, and mostly because after Buffy and Giles Willow really is the senior member of the gang. And in this episode she accepts the responsibility that conveys upon her. A responsibility she accepted in Tough Love for Tara and which she now realizes she has to accept for all of them.

Some quick final thoughts. The gang really ought to listen to Tara's babbling - it gives a lot of insight into what Glory is doing. Also, what are all those brainsucked guys building? If not being human means you can see through Glory's masquerade, then the fact Dawn could not remember Ben was Glory indicates she is completely human. Those monks do good work. How do the gang explain spear wounds and similar injuries to the people at the emergency room. I loved Spike lighting up right in front of the no smoking sign in the hospital. Did Doc really lose that fight with Spike and Xander or did he want them to get those scrolls? It looked a little suspicious to me.

Lines of the week:

"In torture, death, and chaos does my power lie." - Glory clarifying her political views.

"This body. It's just a rental, Dawnie." - Glory on being human.

"I'm not supposed to feel anything. I'm a god." - Glory on metaphysics.

"It's a big day for me." - Young Buffy on the day Dawn comes into her life.

"Can I take care of her." - Young Buffy taking the first step.

"It only hurts while I answer pointless questions." - Giles being abrasive.

"This is gonna be worth it." - Spike being humanly violent.

"Gods don't pay." - Glory with more metaphysics.

"How've you been?" - Willow trying to make small talk with the first slayer.

"I'm the original one eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind." - Glory on who's really crazy.

"You think only underworld bottom feeders worship the beast." - Doc revealing his loyalties.

"This was when I quit." - Buffy confessing.

Got a comment? Send me mail.

Go to more Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews.
Go to other tv reviews.
Go to my home page and get links to everything.