We pick up where the last episode ended with Anya, Xander, and Buffy running through the woods. They realize Willow means to kill Andrew and Jonathan. Anya says Willow could only fly there, she can get there faster teleporting and does. Buffy tells Xander Willow has an addictive personality and killing has changed her. That even though they don't deserve to die, she will attack Andrew and Jonathan. They discover Xander's car trashed by Willow. Buffy takes off running, leaving Xander behind.
Andrew thinks Warren will rescue them and is convinced he is sending them secret messages and they just have to figure them out. They start fighting and Anya materializes. She tells them what happened. They call for the guard. Anya tries to get the guard to let them out, but he's not listening. She materializes on the other side of the bars. Willow arrives on the street below. A policeman tries to stop her and she puts him to sleep. She starts tearing apart the wall where their cell is. The guard tells them to stay there and rushes out. The police try to stop Willow, but are ineffective. Buffy arrives outside. Jonathan says they deserve to be punished because they were part of the team. Andrew asks Anya to teleport them, but she can't. Buffy breaks into the police station. Willow flies up to the hole in the wall and enters the cell. Jonathan and Andrew are gone, Buffy has pulled apart the cell bars. Anya is there and tries to talk to Willow. She knocks Anya out and screeches.
On the street, Xander pulls up in a police car and the four of them escape in it. Jonathan can't believe what has happened to Willow. They are rammed by a truck behind them. Willow is on top of it, controlling it against the will of the driver. Jonathan realizes Willow is draining. She runs out of power and the truck driver regains control, the gang escape.
Clem and Dawn are in the crypt engaging in a snack food taste test. Clem is trying to cheer her up and she says she needs him to help her. She needs a demon's assistance and says Spike would have done it. Cut to Spike in the cave. It's his test. A big guy approaches for a fight to the death. Only this guy has hands of fire. Dawn is making Clem take her to Rack's. He really doesn't want to go. She hopes to find Willow this way.
Anya, Xander, Buffy, Jonathan, and Warren are at the shop. Anya can no longer sense Willow, she's gone beyond simple vengeance. Andrew wants to summon a demon to kill her, but Buffy won't let him. Anya has a book of protection spells, but can't read them because they are in Sumerian. Jonathan wants to help, but they tell him to shut up. He says Willow is running out of power and will need to recharge. Buffy tells Xander that if Willow is running low, she will go somewhere to recharge. Cut to Willow entering Rack's. He's happy to see her. He says she's ripe, now. He asks her what she wants. She says 'just to take a little tour' and grabs him, sucking the energy out of him.
Clem and Dawn find Rack's place. Clem is still frightened and Dawn leaves him in the waiting room. She enters the other room to find Rack, hanging dead. Willow is there and now her face is marked up kind of like Rack's. Dawn realizes she's back on magic. She tries to leave, but Willow won't let her. Willow says she'd be happier going back to being a mystic ball of energy. Buffy bursts in.
Anya can't translate the book. Jonathan says he thinks it is Babylonian. Andrew asks why he's helping them. He wants to escape. Jonathan tells him to grow up. Xander tells them to shut up. Andrew says if Willow destroys them, she'll come after the gang next. Xander says Willow is their friend. Anya says Willow doesn't care if he lives or dies. Xander says that gives Anya and Willow something in common. Anya says she does care, she just doesn't know which she wants. He worries she'll take advantage of the situation to take vengeance. She says she'd love to, but can't hurt him. He says her being with Spike hurt. She says that was solace, not vengeance. She says she can't hurt him but it is all his fault. He agrees, saying he wasn't able to stop Warren. That he saw the gun and could do nothing. Anya says she was talking about them.
Buffy tries to get Willow to calm down. She tells Dawn to flee, but the door won't open. She tells Willow she has to remember she is Willow. Willow says she was always a loser. That people picked on her. That she's a junkie. That her only moments of happiness were with Tara and they will never happen again. She tells Willow there is lots to live for. Willow says Buffy hates it here even more than she does. She teleports them to the magic shop. This makes Buffy and Dawn dizzy. She attacks Jonathan and Andrew, but it doesn't work. We see Anya hiding and chanting a protective spell. The nerds try to flee, but she locks them in. They grab swords. She attacks again. Cut to Spike fighting the flaming fisted demon. He's got burn marks on his body. He finally manages to defeat the demon. He's told he passed the first stage of the test. Willow thinks the nerds have a protective spell on them. She uses magic to make herself strong and goes to beat them to death. Buffy tries to stop her and Willow sends her flying. Buffy fights back. Xander, Dawn, and the stooges flee. Anya stays to keep working the spell. The fight continues. Jonathan asks where they are going and Dawn says someplace safe. But Xander doesn't know where. The fight gets more violent. Jonathan needs to stop to breathe. Andrew wants to flee to Mexico. Xander says no. Andrew threatens him with a sword. As the fight progresses, Willow realizes Anya is there casting the protective spell. Jonathan threatens Andrew with his sword, telling him to let Xander go, that they aren't leaving Sunnydale. That they will do their time when it is over. Willow is choking Anya and stopping her from chanting. Buffy is out on the floor. She tosses Anya into the wall. Buffy scrambles up and Willow blasts her with magic. She says there's no one with the power to stop her. Willow is hurled across the room by a bolt of magic. Giles is there.
Anya and Buffy get up. Giles tries to talk to Willow. She reminds them of the argument they had and how he called her an arrogant amateur. She says she's turned pro. She prepares to fight him, but he magically binds her. Buffy asks what he's done and he says he's put her in a stasis field. He notices Buffy cut her hair and they hug. Anya comes over and points out she's blonde, that she coloured her hair again. They all hug. He tells Willow he's sorry about Tara. She says it won't hold her forever.
In the back room, Giles talks to Buffy. He tells her the council don't know what is happening but a powerful coven in Devon sensed the rise of a powerful dark magic. They told him about Tara, imbued him with their powers, and sent him to Sunnydale. She tells him about Xander and Anya, Dawn being a thief, her horrible job, and Spike. He bursts into laughter. Soon she is laughing too. Anya is cleaning up the mess in the shop. Willow uses mind control on her to get free. Giles and Buffy are now laughing about the time she thought she was insane and tried to kill the gang thinking they were figments of her imagination. He says he was wrong to leave, she says he was right, it was time for her to grow up. She says she took a long time to get over the feelings she had when she came back from the dead. She asks about Willow and Giles says the coven is working on a way to strip her of her powers without killing her. But even if they save Willow, he wonders how she will live with the knowledge of having committed murder. Willow enters, holding an unconscious Anya.
Willow magically knocks down Buffy. She hurls the knives on the wall at Giles. He blasts her through the wall. Xander is moaning about what a failure he has been. Dawn wants them to go back and help fight Willow. She says Spike would. He tells her about Spike trying to rape Buffy. She doesn't believe him. He says the only good thing Spike did was leave town. Cut to Spike defeating another demon. He's attacked by these huge bugs.
Willow tells Giles that nothing can hurt her now. She attacks Giles and Buffy saves him. She picks up a burning ball and tells Buffy she can kill the others any time she wants. She says the flaming ball will find and kill the stooges and anyone with them. She sends it off. Buffy runs after it. Willow is ranting at Giles, who she has suspended from the ceiling and then slams into the floor. She sends him up again and tells him he was jealous of her because she had the power. He attacks her and falls. He tells her she is running low on power. She grabs him and sucks the mystical energy out of him. She's enormously energized. She says she feels connected to everything. She can feel all the world's pain. She says the suffering has to end and leaves.
Xander and the others are trying to break into a crypt in the cemetery. The flaming ball comes at them. Buffy is right behind yelling at them. They jump out of the way and it makes a huge hole in the ground. Dawn and Buffy fall into the pit and the two swords as well. Xander is knocked out. Andrew and Jonathan take off. Anya finds Giles. He says he can see Willow. He says he's dying, that she's going to finish the world.
It's sun rise. Buffy is trying to get out of the pit. Dawn thinks there may be a tunnel to Spike's place, but Buffy doesn't want to go there. Dawn says it was good enough to take her there, even after what Spike tried to do to Buffy. She says she didn't tell her because she was trying to protect her. Dawn says she can't protect her from these things, that she needs to know. Xander shouts down to them. They tell him to get a rope. Anya teleports in. She says Willow is going to destroy the world. That she is at a satanic temple at Kingmans bluff. Cut to Willow raising a temple from the ground at the bluff. Anya tells them the followers of a demon intended to destroy the Earth using the temple but all died when it got swallowed up in the quake of '32. She says Buffy can't stop it. That Giles said no magic could stop Willow. Anya says she doesn't think Giles has a lot of time left. She goes back to him. Buffy yells for Xander, but he's disappeared. She tries to get out, saying she has to try to stop Willow. Willow hears her and says she should go out with a fight. She says she took her out of the earth and now the earth wants her back. These earth tree root type monsters attack. Buffy fights them, but there are too many. She turns to Dawn for help and gives her a sword.
Willow begins the destruction of the world. Buffy and Dawn fight together. Anya talks to Giles, who seems unconscious. She thanks him for coming but says in retrospect it might have been better if he hadn't. Xander interrupts Willow, she magically knocks him aside. Giles tells Anya it's not over. Buffy and Dawn continue fighting. Xander interrupts her again. He says she's his best friend and if the world is going to end he wants to be with her. He remembers the first day of kindergarten when she was scared because she broke the yellow crayon. He says she's come a long way and destroying the world may not be a good idea but he still loves her. He says if she wants to end the world she should start with him. She uses magic to cut him. He just keeps saying he loves her. Her power drains. She sobs. He holds her and tells her he loves her. Her face and hair return to normal. The monsters in the pit disappear.
Giles tells Anya that his plan was to let Willow take his power. That it had the essence of true magic which would tap into the spark of humanity left in her. That it gave Xander his chance and he saved them all. Buffy is crying with happiness over the world not ending. Dawn isn't sure she's happy. They hug. She tells Dawn the world is getting better and she wants to see it. She wants to see her friends happy and Dawn grow up. That she wants to show the world to Dawn. They climb out of the pit. Xander and Willow are still hugging. Anya helps Giles out of the shop. Jonathan and Andrew are in a truck with a rather scary driver. Buffy and Dawn walk through beautiful parkland. Spike has completed the test. He asks for what he wants, so Buffy can get what she deserves. He's given back his soul.
With the season coming to an end, I think it would be best to look at what's happened to everyone this year. How the characters have evolved and what plot points have been set up for next season. At the beginning of this season (in a two hour episode) we started with the gang in a cemetery (just as we ended with Buffy and Dawn in a cemetery in the closing two hour episode). Willow was using magic to guide the others in a battle with vampires. Giles and Spike were joking with one another. Xander and Anya were an engaged and happy couple. Willow and Tara were together and happy. Spike worked with the gang fighting demons and babysat Dawn. Buffy was dead. Warren was a guy who built robots, Jonathan a guy who was kind of funny and helpless, and Andrew somebody we had never heard of.
A season later, pretty well everything has changed. Giles left, returned, and left again. Xander announced his engagement and stood Anya up at the altar. Anya became a vengeance demon again and Xander proved he could be the hero saving the world when no one else could. Willow developed a magic addiction. Tara walked out on her, came back, and was killed. Willow became the biggest evil Buffy has ever faced and threatened yet another apocalypse. Buffy was resurrected and miserable. Spike and Buffy had an affair which consisted of sex and hatred. Spike left town, angry and hurt and becoming increasingly violent toward Buffy and got himself a soul. Warren showed himself to be incredibly evil and violent and was murdered by Willow. Jonathan demonstrated that he actually had some understanding of the difference between right and wrong and most of us can remember Andrew's name now.
There are two questions. One, did the changes in the characters evolve naturally through the season. Two, what does this mean for next season. The short answers are yes and a lighter, happier, but I hope very interesting Buffy.
Willow's descent into darkness is the final step in a long series. And even before those steps were visible, it was foreshadowed. The foreshadowing occurred in The Wish and Dopplegangland, the episodes which showed us vampire Willow - an evil and gay alternate universe version of Willow. It's strongly implied that vampires take on the personalities of the humans whose bodies they inhabit and that the gay and evil vampire Willow isn't all that different from the good, human Willow. That seemed a joke back then, but with gay and evil Willow almost destroying the world in this episode it becomes clear it was some very long range foreshadowing.
It's been pointed out to me that Willow's 'bored now' line in Villains was first said by vampire Willow. But even without that, the connection is pretty clear. Almost as clear is Willow's descent into darkness and attraction to dark magic. An early indicator was in Something Blue. Despondent over the loss of Oz, Willow uses magic to make herself feel better. This endangers the lives of all her friends and gets her an offer of a job as a vengeance demon. In Tough Love, when Glory eats Tara's brain, Willow responds by getting a book on dark magic from the shop and attacks Glory, again endangering her friends. Despondent over the loss of Buffy, Willow turns to black magic in Bargaining to resurrect her friend. In Flooded, when Giles warns Willow that she's messing with powerful magics she makes a not so veiled threat (one which she refers to when Giles returns in this episode). In All the Way, Willow uses magic to make Tara forget a fight they had. In Tabula Rasa, after Tara has discovered the spell and Willow has promised to give up magic, she uses magic again and once more endangers her friends. When Tara walks out, Willow uses magic to free Amy in Smashed and goes on a magic binge with her. That binge turns into a trip to Rack in Wrecked and the invocation of the demon which attacks Dawn. At this point, Willow realizes she has alienated and endanger all her friends. She agrees to give up magic, again.
Then Tara dies. We've already seen that every time Willow loses someone she resorts to magic. That when her happiness is threatened, she uses magic. That the magic has become increasingly blacker. This time, in Villains, she goes whole hog. Once again she goes to the shop, not merely taking a book, but absorbing all the dark magic in the place and turning herself dark. She murders Warren with her magic. Echoing, as I noted above, vampire Willow - the sadistic killer of the alternate universe. In this episode, she kills Rack (admittedly not much of a loss) and threatens Dawn and Buffy. She fights Giles (living up to her earlier threat). She attacks Anya and Xander. She has gone from accidently endangering her friends to deliberately attacking them. And her intention is to kill them and then Jonathan and Andrew.
What saves her is Xander - the only normal human in the group (and his victory makes a nice counterpoint to the way Buffy and Anya both rush off to save Andrew and Jonathan leaving him behind in the opening sequence). Giles says (or at least Anya tells us he said) that magic or the slayer can't stop Willow. But human feelings can. That's what Xander evokes (aided by the time bomb of the good magic Willow sucked out of Giles). He rechannels Willow's grief from rage to sorrow. Her world destroying anger is turned into human tears. He does this by reminding her of the most human and most heroic of qualities: the ability to love and forgive. These were the finest qualities in Tara and they are what Willow has completely lost and, more importantly, felt were lost to her. Willow was sunk in despair, feeling the world was horrible and could get no better. She wanted to end the pain by ending the world. Xander lets her know love still exists and with it the potential for happiness. That drains the black magic from her and makes her human once more.
This is great development. In hindsight it all makes perfect sense. It almost seems inevitable (although if you think about it you realize that it is the result of a series of bad decisions on Willow's part which could have been changed). The cure also makes sense. Xander, unlikely hero that he is, has always had the innate ability to help others when they are at their lowest ebb. This was what endeared him to Anya (note that she mentions his proposal in The Gift the action which comforted her as they faced that apocalypse). In The Freshman, he gave courage to Buffy. But ever since The Zeppo, we've known there was something heroic and ultimately very good in Xander. It's important to remember that Xander was also a vampire in the alternate universe. But he has made better decisions than Willow, for the most part. He hurt Anya terribly, but he has really tried to be a good friend and to do the right thing. In this episode, he ultimately risks his life to save Willow - his friend. And it's significant that his goal is to save her, not the world. He brings a human focus to the apocalypse. Just as Buffy sacrificed herself for Dawn, he's willing to sacrifice himself for Willow.
You have to wonder where the Xander/Willow/Anya relationship will lead. We know Anya is jealous of Willow, she revealed that in Triangle and Willow's dislike of Anya and her relationship with Xander has been highlighted in many episodes. This season, Xander committed to Anya and then abandoned her. But he's committed to Willow at the end of the season. His feelings for Willow, and hers for him, caused the breakup with Cordelia way back in Lover's Walk. Will his devotion to Willow end his relationship with Anya? And will it help Willow heal?
The conversation between Anya and Xander suggests a breakthrough in their relationship. She admits she still cares for him and that she can't hurt him. More importantly, they actually talk about her having sex with Spike. Xander rescues Willow from the darkness by talking to her and telling her he loves her. I think this scene foreshadows that and also shows how he can rescue his relationship with Anya. They have to keep talking. Xander makes the mistake of withdrawing from the conversation, of thinking about himself and his sense of guilt. He starts talking about not being able to stop Warren, when Anya is really talking about him abandoning her. Of course, the two events are conjoined. He failed to be there for all the women in his life: Anya, Buffy, Tara, and Willow. This is what ultimately inspires him to go to Willow at the end. He has to make up for that failure, to be there at least once. He has to pull himself out of the pit of despair he has fallen into. This peeks in his conversation with Dawn when all he can do is talk about what a failure he has been. Ultimately, he comes through. Will Anya realize that in being there for Willow he was also trying to be there for her? Will she realize he has done what she told him to, he's done something right?
Way back in season 2, before I started writing these reviews, Spike had revealed that he actually liked the human world. Unlike many other demons, he wasn't eager for an actual apocalypse. His strange love/hate relationship with humans and his often antidemon behavior has been seen in Lover's Walk (where he revealed his poetic and romantic side), in Something Blue (remember his saying Giles was like his father-in-law and his general sappiness), in Crush (where he reveals his love for Buffy and his willingness to destroy even Dru for her), in Intervention (where he is willing to be tortured and die for Buffy), and in the many instances where he joked with the gang, fought with gang, and just plain was nice (especially to Dawn). You saw it when he brought flowers because Joyce died in Forever and spoke about why he liked her. You saw it when he fell to the ground weeping when Buffy died in The Gift. Yes, he's a demon and he drinks blood. But he likes people, he likes being with them, and he has real feelings. And if we can accept demons like Clem (who seems a perfectly decent fellow with a skin condition), why can't we accept a vampire with some genuine human feeling.
I've talked about the parallel between Warren and Spike, but not the one between Jonathan and Spike. Like William, Jonathan was a dweeb. He was ignored or mocked by everybody. Then he starting dabbling in magic and made himself powerful. Or at least he felt so. His life has been constantly tied to Buffy's. In Earshot, she saved him from suicide. In The Prom, he gave her the class protector award. In Superstar, he tried to take her place and she ultimately had to save him. In Seeing Red, he saves her life. And in this episode, he begins to take personal responsibility. He stops Andrew when he threatens Xander and says they have to accept their punishment and go to jail. He wants to help Buffy. Like Spike, he tries to make himself better and seeks her approval.
There's a nice parallel between Willow pointing out how unhappy Buffy is, how she lies to her friends, tries to kill them, and has sex with Spike just so she can feel something and Buffy telling Giles these same things. Willow raises these specters of the past to depress and upset Buffy. Giles laughs at them and defuses them. He removes the pain from the memories. He gives Buffy the one thing she most needs, forgiveness. He tells her it is ok to need help.
Buffy's journey from the grave to life seems almost complete. She can now laugh at the horrors of this past year. She can start focusing outward rather than inward. Her deepest secret (Spike) is out in the open. The gang is reunited. Most importantly of all, her relationship with Dawn has finally matured. She went from older sister to mother substitute to partner in the war against evil. She finally let Dawn fight by her side and together they succeeded. She knows she can get on with her life, that she doesn't have to dedicate herself to protect those around her. They are strong enough to protect themselves and to help her when she needs it. As Giles points out, sometimes the most adult thing is to ask for help.
The episode ends with Buffy telling Dawn she's happy to be alive. With Xander and Willow hugging and working their way through the grief. With Anya helping Giles. With Buffy and Dawn walking through a beautiful pastoral scene. With Spike regaining his soul. Buffy says she wants to see her friends happy and Dawn grow up to be beautiful and powerful. I'm taking that as prophecy. I think next season we'll see all the characters rebuilding their lives rather than heading toward apocalypse. Whether Spike ends up with Buffy or not, now that he has a soul actual happiness is possible for him. Although he'll have to go a long way to make up for the attempted rape, both to Buffy and Dawn. Rumour has it the coming season will be the last and seeing it end not with the almost destruction of the world but with these characters starting the next stage of their lives would be very nice.
Some quick final thoughts. How does Buffy arrive at Rack's just in time? Did she figure out that a recharging Willow would head to Rack's? If so, how did she find the place? Did she meet Clem in the waiting room? Did Clem go looking for her and tell her what was happening? That last explanation would clear up most of the loose threads here. Especially the fact that Clem just seems to disappear for the rest of the episode. Was the truck ramming the car supposed to remind us of films like Duel? If so, it worked. I've noticed most people seem to think Spike has gone to Africa. I don't see how he could have gotten there so fast. I'm betting on south or central America. Okay, am I the only one really annoyed that nobody would let Jonathan help or would really listen to him. He actually knows a lot. Also, was Willow actually channeling Rack there? Her conversation with Dawn sounds an awful lot like Rack. Come to think of it, it sounded a bit like Warren as well.
Lines of the week:
"You are sadness personified." - Jonathan with a dead on characterization of Andrew.
"Rack's not partial to the floppy-eared." - Clem's worries.
"You're ripe." - Rack taking the whole child molester metaphor way too far.
"You've never had any tiny bit of sex, have you?" - Xander analyzing Andrew.
"The annoying virgin has a point." - Anya agreeing with Xander's analysis.
"I care if you live or die, Xander. I'm just not sure which one I want." - Anya letting Xander know she cares.
"That wasn't vengeance. It was solace." - Anya on being with Spike.
"That will never happen again." - Willow realizing she can never be happy.
"Bad move, bad move, bad move." - Spike on grabbing a flaming fist.
"Go, do something right." - Anya giving Xander direction.
"When this is over, you and I are going back to jail to do our time." - Jonathan stepping up.
"There's no one in the world with the power to stop me now." - Willow pushing it.
"Mexico, huh?" - Jonathan not quite pulling it off.
"You think I never watched you." - Dawn letting Buffy know she has the moves.
"Give me what I want so Buffy can get what she deserves." - Spike's request.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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