Xander is cleaning up the mess. The others fruitlessly research. Dawn slaps an unconscious Andrew, but he's not faking. Buffy says keep researching. Joyce appears to Buffy. Buffy thinks she's FE. Xander wakes her. He asks what she saw and she says nothing. Cut to Spike being dragged off by the ubervamp. Faux Spike says to kick him and morphs into Dru. Faux Dru says when night falls ubervamp can have carnage. Now he can have Spike. He begins torturing Spike.
Anya and Dawn throw water in Andrew's face, but he doesn't wake. Dawn suggests hot water and Anya says that's good thinking. But Buffy enters the room and they sit and pretend nothing is going on. Andrew wakes and Buffy says if he doesn't tell them where the seal is she'll give him over to the first. He asks the first what. They explain that's the evil and he says that's not a very good name for an evil and Buffy cuts to the chase and says where's the seal. He takes them to the school basement and shows them the seal. They see the frame with all the blood and realize FE used Spike to activate the seal. Andrew says he had nothing to do with it. Xander points out he killed his best friend and Andrew says Jonathan is in a place of joy now. Xander points out a fake ghost told him that. Buffy says they need to cover up the seal and they begin shoveling.
Leaving the basement, Andrew and Xander have a geek bonding moment, but Xander shrugs it off. Dawn asks Buffy what's next. They bump into the principal, who is carrying a shovel and presumably returning from burying Jonathan. They give him a confused story about Buffy being better, He says he found the shovel and was returning it. Buffy and Dawn say they were burying a time capsule for school. He says he needs her back at work and she promises to be there tomorrow. At home, Dawn continues to research and Willow is doing a locator spell. Buffy tells Xander that she felt FE and it was strong. As Willow begins the spell there is an explosion knocking down Anya and Dawn and some demonic force enters Willow and says they only make her stronger. Xander destroys the spell and Buffy runs to a crying Willow.
Buffy is going to find FE. She won't let Xander come with her. She opens the door to find Giles and three girls who enter the house. Giles explains the girls are slayers-in-training and the other s-i-ts and their watchers were murdered. FE intends to destroy the slayer line, eliminating slayers forever. Giles explains FE predates written history, hence the absence of records. He explains the council and its records was blown up. He has Annabelle hand over some books. He stole some of their files, including all he could find on FE. He said he realized it had to be protected and there was no time for debate which is all the council knows. Andrew shouts out it cost them their lives and Buffy asks Xander to gag him. Giles explains the first only appears in the guise of the dead and is noncorporeal. He says FE is what creates evil beings. It's the source. He says if the slayer line is destroyed the balance will be gone. That Buffy has to protect them and he doesn't know how to defeat the first. One of the girls, Kennedy, says how can Buffy protect them and isn't the hellmouth the most dangerous place for them to be. Buffy says they need more muscle and have to find Spike.
Spike is being tortured by the ubervamp and faux Dru. Faux Dru says he tried to enlighten Buffy and she doesn't like that. Buffy and Giles are looking for the spot where she found FE before. Andrew is talking to Xander. Willow is trying to organize sleeping arrangements. Dawn is working on food, only she burnt the mac and cheese. They eat cookies while Anya orders pizza. Buffy and Giles are in a deserted area and she falls into a cavern. It's the site where she saw FE before. She tells Giles to stay above ground and goes to investigate. We see something flitting about. Ubervamp attacks her. It's really strong. She stakes it, to no avail. She flees and makes it above ground when ubervamp is driven back by the rising sun. They return home to find the s-i-t up. Giles explains Buffy fought a Turok-han, a vampire precursor. He says they are a separate race from vampires. They realize it is likely an agent of FE. Giles tells Buffy to sleep, but she says she has to go to work. She tells the s-i-t to sit tight and she'll be back by sunset.
At work, Buffy has checked the basement and found nothing. Now she's looking up evil on the Internet, which gives her too many hits to be worth it. Wood comes up and she pretends she was searching for evil movies like Exorcist and Blair Witch. He says he doesn't like movies like that. That once you see true evil, you can never unsee it. She asks what kind of movies he likes and he says mysteries and smiles. Faux Dru tells Spike he has to choose a side. He says she's not really Dru, that the real Dru was crazier. She says he's right and starts acting even crazier. As ubervamp beats him, she tells him he has to choose a side. He tells her to get bent. Ubervamp beats him.
Buffy is washing up. Her face and arm are bruised and cut. Joyce appears and asks what happened. She tells Buffy her friends expect too much of her. That she can't control some things. That the sun will set and rise no matter what she does. That evil is everywhere, that it is a part of everyone, that that is natural. The bell rings and Buffy wakes, she has drifted off while counseling a student who is now really upset at her. Wood sees this.
Giles is telling everyone the sun will set in 17 minutes. Xander, who has boarded up the house, makes jokes. Willow feels the s-i-t are scared and tells them everything will be alright. She apologizes to Buffy for her failure with magic earlier. She says Buffy needs helps and Buffy says she'll be alright, echoing Willow's words. The s-i-t ask for weapons. Buffy agrees. Andrew says he has a bad feeling about what is coming and they better untie him. Buffy asks how that will help. He says he knows she's thinking he's a bad guy but he says he's good again. She notes he was never good to begin with. He keeps prattling, but they all walk out.
Giles comes upon Buffy alone. He says they've done everything they can and she is calling the shots. One of the girls comes in to tell them Annabelle has run off. On the street, Annabelle is caught by ubervamp. Buffy finds her body. Ubervamp attacks her. She flees into a factory. She drops a load of pipes on him, but he's barely phased. She flees, he chases and catches her. He throws her through a wall and the ceiling falls in on her. Later, her friends are digging her out of the rubble.
Faux Dru tells Spike he's alive because she's not finished with him. He says he's out. She can't pull his strings any more. She asks what makes him think he has a choice. He says Buffy does, because she believes in him.
Giles says he doesn't know how they can plan. that they are back at square one. He says they don't know how to fight it. A badly beaten Buffy enters and tells them he's right. She says they don't know how to fight it and they can't run or hide. That they can't pretend it's not the end. She says before they dealt with beings who wanted to destroy the world. Now they are dealing with the reason those beings exist, evil. She says she is standing on the mouth of hell and it will swallow her and choke on her. She says the evil is not ready. She says they won't wait for the apocalypse, they'll bring it on. She says they have become an army and this is war. They will seek out their worst fears and cut out their hearts. They will hunt down the agents of evil and destroy them until FE reveals itself and Buffy will kill it herself.
One thought kept going through my mind as I watched this episode - what's up with Giles? He never explained how he escaped the attack of the Bringers. We saw some flashbacks, but no details. I kept wondering whether he was an aspect of FE. Is he dead and is this an illusion (we never see Giles actually touch anything although he does lean against the wall at one point) or is he brainwashed and under the control of FE (like Spike and Andrew)? Or has he gone the Gandalf route, returning from the dead changed and more powerful and more remote? That's the normal path for his character in an epic tale. Supporting that theory is the fact that the first confrontation with the ubervamp and Buffy ends when Buffy comes up into the sunlight with Giles there. Is the ubervamp recoiling from the sun or from a Gandalfian Giles. Also, the ubervamp doesn't kill Buffy in the second confrontation and seems to have left with no explanation. Possibly because Giles and the others were coming. Toss in Buffy's dreams of Joyce (is this the same Joyce Dawn saw and is she really Joyce or is she an aspect of FE) and the quite true comment that evil is everywhere and you have more than enough confusion to last through the holidays.
I was wrong about FE. I kept thinking of it as a being seeking to corporealize. It's a concept, the concept of evil. When it spoke about upsetting the balance between good and evil, it was serious. The ubervamp is merely one of its many warriors. It will never corporealize, so how can it be destroyed. Well, one thing to consider is why has it decided to move. I think Buffy has done something which scares it and led to this preemptive strike. And I also have to wonder why Spike is being kept alive and tortured and why his turning to evil seems so important to FE. I think FE is scared of Buffy's redemptive powers. When the slayers simply killed demons and were themselves killed, FE got to enjoy the chaos that it likes. It didn't worry about slain vampires because it had infinite resources. But if Buffy can redeem vampires, as she has redeemed Spike, then everything is different. Warriors are leaving the army of FE and joining the slayer's army. And that has to be scary. What is a leader without followers? So FE launches an attack and strives to reconvert Spike. It's a battle of fear versus love.
Back in Intervention, Spike seemed to be really brave. But that pales in comparison to what he does in this episode. Glory was torturing him and she likely would have killed him. But all Spike had to lose then was his increasingly unbearable demonic existence. FE is intent on not just torturing him but on breaking him emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. And now Spike has a soul which is at risk. He has a chance at salvation which FE may be capable of taking from him by ending his life before he can atone for his sins. At the same time, FE offers him a way out. Give up his hard fought for and painful to have soul and rejoin the ranks of evil. He'll be damned, but he'll be out of pain. Spike not only decides to risk siding with the forces of good, forces which have largely rejected him, but he hurls his rejection in FE's face leading to more torment. Spike is like a martyr professing his faith before his pagan torturers. Buffy has said she believes in him and he believes in her. He has faith in his saviour and nothing FE can say or do can take that from him.
The parallel between Xander and Andrew is being emphasized a lot. I have to wonder whether this isn't in some ways similar to the parallel between Spike and Angel. We encountered Angel after he became good and Spike while he was still evil. So we tend to think of Angel as better than Spike because he has always been good for us. But Angel became good accidently and Spike sought out a soul in order to make himself worthy of Buffy. We've always seen Xander as good (with a few lapses like lying to Buffy when she was pursuing Angelus and walking out on Anya on their wedding day). We've always seen Andrew as evil. So even though they have a lot in common (both are followers and both are geeks who love comic books and sf and know Klingon), we perceive one as much better than the other. I think this parallel is meant to emphasize and comment upon the Angel/Spike parallel and to remind us that there is hope of salvation for everyone. Buffy keeps Andrew alive not just because he is useful but because, like Spike, he has a soul and can still be saved.
In addition to a Xander/Andrew parallel, there is also an Andrew/Spike parallel. Both have always been evil, so far as we've seen, and both are victims of FE. Both have spent most of the last couple of episodes tied up and both have been tortured - Andrew lightly by Anya and Dawn and Spike horribly by ubervamp. Anya is the agent of Buffy the way ubervamp is the agent of FE. Only Buffy has made Anya better, like Spike she has foresworn her demonic aspect, and FE has raised a vampire worse than vampires. Back in Buffy Vs. Dracula, Buffy was worried about what she was becoming, that the violence which was part of her job had come to dominate her personality. That was a concern which dominated much of that season But Buffy has conquered the violence. By becoming a saviour in addition to a slayer, she has combined violence with love offering salvation to the demons. That victory on Buffy's part must terrify FE which can counter violence with violence but has no parry for salvation.
At the end of the episode, Buffy realizes that the community she has formed (of friends, slayers in training, and saved demons) is the army of good. It is an army capable of violence as great as the army of evil but also capable of converting evil to good. FE expends its energies trying to convert good to evil in Spike. But so far it is losing. Buffy has scored all the victories which gives credence to her argument that her power and the power of her army is greater than that of FE. The apocalypse she promises is one wherein evil will be vanquished, not good.
I'm almost annoyed at principal Wood. I wish they would just let us know if he is evil or good. Apparently, we do learn in a couple of episodes, but I'm finding the waiting irritating. The smile on his face when he tells Buffy he likes mysteries is interpretable in conflicting ways. He could be a good guy enjoying the secret he is keeping from her which he knows is harmless. Or he could be a bad guy enjoying his secret knowledge and knowing he is ready to attack and destroy Buffy. I've suggested Wood might be a watcher, but it occurred to me he might also be a member of the Initiative or some similar government/military group.
Some quick final thoughts. You can make a lot of Lord of the Rings analogies to this show. Andrew as Gollum, Xander as Sam, Willow and Anya as Merry and Pippin, and Giles as Gandalf. For the record, I think all of those are accidental and don't mean a thing. Both stories are following traditional epic archetypes. It's interesting that everyone (Joyce, Xander, Giles) keeps telling Buffy to get some sleep and she hasn't slept at all. I wonder whether her sleeping is an important plot point and another sleep will give her a prophetic dream. Each brief nap has caused some kind of visualization. It's interesting that warehouses and factories in Sunnydale are rarely locked or guarded.
Lines of the week:
"I'm doomed to replace these windows for all eternity." - Xander on his fate.
"Anya gets to hit him." - A slightly jealous Dawn.
"Get bent." - Spike choosing sides.
"Evil is a part of us." - Joyce with a true statement.
"We're with the slayer, safe as houses."
"You see the house we're in." - S-i-t on the sense of safety.
"You can't pull this puppet's strings anymore." - Spike being a man, in every sense of the word.
"She does. Because she believes in me." -Spike on what makes him think he has a choice.
"There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil. And that's us." - Buffy on how they will win.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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