Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End of Buffy Season Six

There were three episodes left, and I asked tyranist that if the next one, "Villains," ended in a satisfying way, we could quit and leave the last two to next week. He agreed, and we pressed onward.

"Villains" was written by showrunner of Season Six, Marti Noxon, and picks up right where "Seeing Red" left off. Xander has called an ambulance to come get Buffy, with no idea that Tara is dead in Willow's arms upstairs. Willow calls on Osiris to bring Tara back to life, and a big disembodied image of him appears, telling her that because Tara died from human means (as opposed to Buffy, who died from magical means), he can do nothing. Willow becomes furious and sends Osiris away, then stomps downstairs.

Xander sees her and tells her what Warren did to Buffy, apparently not seeing her bloody clothes or scary face, and gets into the ambulance and rides off.

Later, I was surprised to find us in a jail cell, back with Jonathan and Andrew. I guess they still have a part to play in all this, for good or ill.

Warren comes into the demon bar and brags about having killed the Slayer, with a gun--something none of them ever thought of using. The vampires and demons all seem to know something he doesn't, and finally reveal that it was on the news that a small attractive blonde from Los Angeles but currently living in Sunnydale with a lot of scars and a healing factor was taken to the hospital, and is still alive. They laugh that it will be more fun to watch what the Slayer does to him than to kill him themselves.

Willow bursts into the Magic Box, going for the forbidden black magic books. When Anya tries to reason with her, she uses a spell to restrain her, pulls the books down to her, and begins to suck the knowledge directly from the pages onto her skin. It's not my favourite look for Willow, but her hair turns black and veins appear all over her.

Dawn comes home from school with no knowledge of what happened that morning. In a world without cellphones, she has no choice but to walk through the open front door, up the stairs, and into her mothers' room, only to find Tara dead on the floor.

Warren goes to visit Rack, the warlock who helped corrupt Willow a few episodes back, and offers him a thick roll of money to protect him from Buffy. But Rack tells him the real threat is Willow, who is rampaging through town looking for the man who killed her girlfriend. Rack has something that will help Warren, but he warns him that an enraged Willow is the most powerful force imaginable.

Said witch goes to the hospital, where doctors are doing what they can for Buffy, and tyranist marvelled that Xander is allowed to observe from behind glass. Willow dismisses the physicians and uses magic to remove the bullet from her chest and heal the wound. Xander still doesn't know why Willow has made this transformation, but he surely welcomes her aid in this situation.

Buffy recovers quickly and Willow leads them to Xander's car to go after Warren, who she can sense leaving town. Willow uses magic to make the car go faster, and Xander reminds her that she promised not to use magic anymore. Willow responds that Buffy would be dead by now if she didn't, and I guess you can't really argue with that.

Warren is on a bus in the desert outside of town (this seems to be the same place their RV was attacked by knights on horseback a season ago), and Willow stops it in front of her. Warren seems pretty terrified when she catches up to him, but to her surprise (and mine as well), he turns out to be one of his robots, "magicked" to give off Warren's aura.

Buffy and Xander see that she's only more angry now, and at last, she tells them about the bullet hitting Tara. Even so, Buffy and Xander tell her not to kill Warren, that there's another solution to the situation. But Willow is pretty driven and goes off to do the deed alone.*

Buffy and Xander plead with her not to kill Warren, because it's wrong and it will take her to a dark place from which she might never return. But Willow doesn't want to listen and shoves them away as she departs.

They go back to Buffy's house, where Dawn is still alone with Tara's body. I was going to say something about a fifteen year old not having the wherewithall to call 911, but I'll just let it go. Tara was way cool, and I'd mourn her too.

They call for an ambulance, or maybe just a coroner, and Tara's body is taken away. Then it's Buffy, Xander, and Dawn on the couch (IS it the same couch?), talking about what they should do about Willow. But Dawn thinks she should kill Warren, that he deserves to die, and she'd do it herself if she could. And gosh, it's pretty hard to argue with her logic. But maybe that's just me.

Xander agrees with her and says that Warren is just as bad as any vampire they've dusted over the last hundred and nineteen episodes. And Buffy says, "Being a Slayer doesn't give me a license to kill," as if she'd heard me make my James Bond comparison ("...licensed to kill who he pleases...where he pleases...when he pleases."), but she makes a pretty great argument too, about how Warren will pay for what he's done, but she won't let Willow destroy herself making it happen.

Xander is convinced, and offers to go to the Magic Box to look for Willow, while Buffy goes elsewhere. Dawn wants to go with them, but Buffy won't put her in harm's way (which is completely understandable, even if it pisses Dawn off), and decides to take her to Spike to look after.

Which isn't quite so completely understandable.

No, no, I say when the show is great, and I've got to say when the show isn't. And this is less than twenty four hours after the whole attempted rape upstairs thing. Hey, I love Spike, as you know, and I've always been a fan of the Spike/Dawn relationship, but if Buffy thought he crossed a line when he tied her up and threatened to feed her to Drusilla, well, last night seems a good ways past that line.

Of course, the argument is that Spike's chip prevents him from harming Dawn, and I guess that's a pretty good argument, but it's just . . . it's just too soon, maybe. Or maybe it sends the wrong message, or maybe Buffy just came back wrong, I don't know. I'll let it go, but I don't know why they didn't just send to to stay at Janice's or somewhere comparable.

Buffy takes Dawn to Spike's crypt, but Clem is staying there instead. He tells them that Spike left town but doesn't know why, and Buffy leaves Dawn with Clem instead.

I don't know, folks. Clem seems nice, as harmless as can be, but he is a demon of some sort, and how much do we actually know about him? Enough to guess that he probably doesn't have a chip in his head to keep him from--

No, I'm just going to pretend that there was an episode--or a comic book--where Buffy encountered Clem's kind before, and Giles explained that that particular demon race is entirely benign and actually quite helpful for information-gathering, locating old manuscripts, and child care. So there, I'm fine with her leaving her sister with him.

We do get to see Spike in this episode, as he has apparently traveled to Africa for what he seeks. He goes into a cave with lots of violent drawings on its walls, and meets a deep-voiced, green-eyed demon there. Spike explains that "the bitch thinks she's better than me. Ever since I got this bleeding chip in my head, everything's gone to hell." Spike wants to return to his "former self," and is willing to undergo trials to achieve that.

Xander finds Anya at the Magic Box, and she is still pretty cold to him. She tells him she can sense Willow, as she has a thirst for revenge, and he realises she's a vengeance demon again. Buffy comes in and wants to know whose side she's on. She says something odd: "I'll help, but I'm helping Willow. She's close to him. He's in the woods."

In the woods, Willow is stalking Warren, all Jason-like. He pops up (also all Jason-like) and whacks her in the back with an axe. Not to belabour the point, but Willow rises back up, yes, all Jason-like, and keeps after him. He sends an exploding magic snitch after her, but she freezes the fire and walks on. He envelopes her in some kind of magical goo, but she sears through that and keeps coming . . . like the villain in one of those horror movies I've never seen.

Tiring of the chase, Willow commands the vines to ensnare Warren, and they hold him, spread-eagled, while she approaches. Warren's scared, but I am impressed by the nuts on this guy, as he continues to snark and insult her. I myself would have shat myself just from seeing her all-black eyes. But hey, that's me.

Willow realises that Tara wasn't the first girl he'd killed, and she conjures up his dead girlfriend Katrina, all pale and accusatory. And Warren still spits and snarls, even then.

Buffy, Xander, and Anya arrive at the woods, just as Willow takes the bullet she got from Buffy and magicks it into Warren's body, explaining how it will move around in there, hurting him until it finally reaches his spine. He pleads, and she sews his mouth shut. But now, it seems, Willow is more sad than angry, thinking about what the bullet did to Tara, and what that did to her.

Maybe that was telling, 'cause she starts to focus on her anger again, asking him if he can feel the bullet, and removing the spell so he can speak. He apologises and tells her she's not a bad person like him and that she'll lose everybody if she does this.

Willow sees her friend approaching and says to Warren, "Bored now," as the vampire Willow did. She casts a spell that tears all his skin off his body, then burns it into dust. She looks at her friends and says, "One down," then disappears in a flurry of smoke and lightning. The end.

I do want to say one thing that I found strange while watching this one. As much as I love Willow and found Warren to be alternately annoying and repellent, there were moments in this episode when I found myself wanting him to get away, to trick Willow or knock her out and make his escape. I asked my cousin about this and he told me I was a psychotic bastard who ought to have his skin ripped off too.

Actually, he told me that maybe I just didn't want Willow to make that final step into full corruption, that I had seen what happened with Faith, and didn't want Willow to go the same way.

"I hope you're right. I really do." But it could be that I somehow relate more to Warren than I do to Willow, or it could be that the episode was just structured that way (what with Willow becoming an unstoppable force of destruction), and everybody felt that to a certain extent. I don't know if tyranist responded that way, since he refused to talk about it, so I can only be honest in how I felt, and leave you poor nonexistent reader to judge.

So, my initial offer to tyranist was to stop after this episode, if there was reason to stop, but he probably had no intention of ever stopping, and we immediately went on to the next episode, the cleverly titled "Two To Go."

It was written by Douglas Petrie and picks up right after. Buffy, Xander, and Anya discuss what just happened and who the "two to go" are. Anya explains that Willow could only fly to the jail, but with her vengeance demon powers, she can just teleport there. Which she does. Buffy explains that Willow is different now that she's killed somebody, and won't stop until she kills Jonathan and Andrew too. Willow has smashed Xander's car so they can't follow her, and Buffy starts Jamie Summers running to get to them faster. Xander, feeling worthless as usual, is left there alone.

In their jailcell, Andrew and Jonathan bicker over whether Warren will rescue them or not, and trade really weak insults.** Then they sissy fight. Anya appears and updates them on the situation, then calls the guards to let them out. Sadly, a lot of this is played for laughs, and I wonder if I'm just weird for not thinking any of it is funny or appropriate, considering what's been going on. I guess there are different strokes for different folks.

As she's arguing her point, Willow arrives and begins taking bricks out of their cell wall while she stands outside. Andrew bawls that they don't deserve to die, but Jonathan is resigned to his fate, saying that they got into supervilliany and this is where it took them.

Buffy arrives and runs inside. Willow finishes with the wall, but finds the boys aren't there anymore. Their cell bars have been forced open. Anya is the only person there, and tries to talk to her, but Willow flings her aside like a valentine from Rish Outfield, and continues the hunt.

Buffy has Andrew and Jonathan on the street, and Andrew makes a Dark Phoenix reference, then Xander pulls up in a police car and they hop in. They don't get far before Willow appears behind them, standing on the hood of a semi truck which she's magically maneuvering. It slams into them a few times, but then Willow starts to weaken (Jonathan calls it "draining") and her control over the truck stops.

Two blocks away, in Spike's crypt, Dawn is bored in Clem's care. He offers to do whatever she wants, and she asks him to go with her to find Rack, the warlock Willow took her to once before. She thinks that Willow will either be there or Rack will know where she is, and she needs a demon to sense where Rack's place is. It's all very logical, really.

We also have our requisite Spike scene where he is undergoing some kind of trials, where he has to fight some hugely muscular dude with fiery hands. He is burned and bruised, but manages to knock the guy down and break his neck. That, of course, was only the first test, with more to follow.

Anya, Xander, Buffy, and the two remaining geeks go to the Magic Box, where Anya tries to find a book that can help them. There are some "anti-magic" spells, but they're written in a language Anya can't read. Jonathan offers to help, and Buffy stares him down, telling him she's not protecting him, she's just trying to keep Willow from crossing a line.

Xander asks Buffy what they're going to do if they manage to confront Willow, what they're going to say, but I don't think they know.

Dawn and Clem find Rack's place, but they're too late. Willow has already shown up and though she seemed the timid, unsure Willow for a second or two, stuck her hands into Rack and pulled out all his power, recharging her batteries.

Dawn sees Rack's dead body, and Willow is standing there, veiny and black-eyed. Dawn tries to talk sense into her, and Willow doesn't brush her off (as I would think would be natural), but rather, offers to end her suffering, turn her back into a ball of light, and relieve us all of her "constant whining." It's some of the coldest shit we've seen on the show, and Allyson Hannigan sells it completely. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I guess she's just that good.

At ye olde magic shoppe, Anya and Xander are trying to translate the anti-magic spells. Andrew tries to convince Jonathan to cast some spell to enable them to escape. He is a very whiny, selfish character, so much so that he makes Jonathan look heroic by comparison.

Xander asks Anya whose side she's on, that she won't turn on him like Willow will. They have an impassioned conversation where she tells him how much he hurt her and that this whole thing with Willow is his fault. Now, I don't know how in the name of Monica Bellucci's breasts you can make that claim, but Xander seems to think that she's right. He tells her that he just stood there, frozen, when Warren pulled the gun, and that he was as useless then as he is now.

Buffy enters and tells Willow to get away from her sister. Willow calls Buffy a "buzzkill" and, yeah, I'm starting to think that she's irredeemable. Buffy tries to reach her, to reach the Willow that she knows and loves. Dark Willow scoffs at that, reminding us of the mousy, picked-on Willow that was a loser in junior high, high school, and college . . . until she met Tara and became somebody in her eyes. "And that will never happen again."

Buffy says if she lets the magic take her over, that her world will end, and all the good in life that there is to live for--

But Willow reminds her that she hates this world more than anybody, that she is so unhappy that an insane asylum was a positive alternative, and that the only time she's really been happy was when she was dead. While she's talking, she transports herself, Dawn, and Buffy to the magic shop, then turns around and faces the two remaining Geeks.

She casts some purple plasma energy at them, but it is blocked. Anya is hiding in the corner, reading from the magic book, shielding Andrew and Jonathan. Willow tries a different tack, casting a spell on herself making herself insanely strong, and Buffy steps forward to fight her.

Xander takes this opportunity to get Dawn, Jonathan, and Andrew out of there. Anya says she has to stay to keep up the spell on Willow (which must mean it wasn't a protection spell at all).

So, Buffy and Willow fight, and I guess now is the time to mention it: I couldn't help but think about Darth Vader, and the enormous missed opportunity those damned Prequels were, at not only the corruption and fall of Anakin Skywalker, but the big, sad, epic battle between two best friends, Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin, that I had envisioned in--heck, that EVERYBODY had envisioned in their minds--since I read it in James Khan's novelisation of JEDI.

It's probably no coincidence that Andrew refers to Willow as "Darth Rosenberg" earlier in the episode, so it was probably in the back of Joss's or Marti's or whoever came up with this arc's mind, and it really is what EPISODE III should've been.

Heck, I'll take it a step further and say that this is the new benchmark as far as your Dark Phoenix/Parallax/Onslaught/Scarlet Witch/Malice stories go. As great as the Season Two "Angel becomes Angelus" storyline was (and it WAS great), this one feels so much more organic and grounded, so real that I can't really imagine anyone topping it. Hey, I'd hate to have to try.

Not that it's absolutely perfect (at one point, Willow says, "Get off, superbitch," which probably should've been snipped), but it does feel epic and lengthy and really hard.

Xander and the others stop while he tries to think of how to keep Jonathan and Andrew safe. Andrew has the idea of heading to Mexico, but Jonathan thinks they need to stay in Sunnydale and go back to jail. If they survive the freezing process, that is.

At some point in the fight, Willow discovers that Anya is there, chanting. She grabs her, knocks her out, and suddenly, she has her offensive powers again. She unleashes a blast of the magic at Buffy, slamming her lifeless to the floor, and then, a huge wave of green energy sweeps Willow off her feet. She looks up, bleeding, to see Giles standing in the doorway. The end.

Well, there's not really much I can say. I appreciate that, for once on this show, they didn't telegraph the surprise guest star in the opening titles. But you know, I'll bet Joss hates that as much as I do.

We didn't have to wait a week for the next--and last--episode, which is probably the problem with my generation. I mean your generation. 'Cause you guys really suck.***

And on we went to "Grave," the Season Six ender, written by David Fury. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the first season finale not written (and directed) by Joss Whedon.

Buffy and Anya come to, and Willow tries to stand, but Giles uses magic to knock her down again. She says that it's borrowed power, and none of this concerns him, but Giles tries to reason with her, tries to get through to her, that she concerns him. Nothing can reach her now, though, and she begins to repell his advances, so he creates a sort of stasis spell that envelops her.Buffy hugs him, Anya hugs him, and I wish I could hug him. I've missed Giles almost as much as I miss California. But Giles smells better. He explains that there's a powerful coven in England that sensed the rise of a dark power in Sunnydale, one fueled by grief, and that they transferred all of their power to him to do battle with it.

He asks what's been happening to bring this all about, and Buffy tells him about Xander and Anya, about Dawn, about her and the Doublemeat Palace, and about her and Spike, and Giles laughs. He laughs long and hard, and I don't really know why or what, but okay. Giles apologises for having gone away, but Buffy thinks it was the right thing to do, that she had a lot of issues she needed to work through on her own. At the same time, she still doesn't know why she's there, why she came back from the dead, why it had to be her and not someone else. And I don't suppose there are answers to questions like that, are there?

I've been around an awful lot of people who know an awful lot of things, and I never cease to amaze myself at how little I really know or understand. Other people around me seem to struggle against ignorance, or avoid the very possibility of not having the answers in life, or coming up short. And maybe that's why I have been such a great failure, that I am content to announce to the world that I don't know, or can't achieve something.

I do hope that my ghost hangs around for a while, though, so I can torment everybody just a little longer, and see if they still claim to know . . . with me scratching at their ceilings. But I digress.

Willow uses a Jedi Mind Trick on Anya to get her to help her escape Giles's stasis field, and walks in on him just as he's telling Buffy that he doesn't know how to remove Willow's powers without killing her, and that even if he does, she might not be the same person anymore. Willow shoots her lightning at Buffy, then sends weapons at Giles, which he blocks. He then unleashes some kind of volley on her that sends her through the wall and across the next room.

Xander is leading Dawn, Jonathan, and Andrew around town, but bemoaning the fact that he's no good at anything. Dawn suggests they go fight Willow, but Xander dismisses that idea. When Dawn suggests that Spike would go back and fight, Xander tells her, "Sure, if he wasn't too busy trying to rape your sister." Dawn doesn't believe him, but when she searches her feelings, she knows it to be true. Why else did he leave town?

And speaking of Spike, he's just bested another couple of demons in his quest to get a . . . a revenge on Buffy. Then a bunch of CGI beetles start crawling on him (one goes in his nose--gross), so I guess test number three has begun.

The Magic Box lies in ruins as Willow and Giles have apparently been fighting for some time. And tyranist, horrified, rewound the tape to show me that there was a William Shatner book among the wreckage. I believe he was fully prepared to abandon "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" at that moment, like I abandoned the other show, but I sprang to life, explaining that Xander was probably reading one of the "Tekwar" books and left it behind the counter. Tyranist, apparently satiated, continued the episode. Whew.

Willow is a bit battered, but Giles is much more worse for wear. She heals her wounds, and tells him that nothing can hurt her, and he says he wonders what Tara would think of what she's become. She tells him he can ask her himself, and knocks him down again. Buffy gets in between them, and Willow creates a living fireball to track down Jonathan and Andrew, and kill them.**** She tosses it into the air and challenges Buffy to get there first. Buffy runs off, leaving Willow and Giles alone.

She thoroughly thrashes him, but he reminds her that she's weakened from expending so much energy. She agrees, and grabs him, draining out all his borrowed power into herself. Giles lies paralyzed on the floor as Willow revels in more power than any mortal should ever have. She's connected to everything, to everyone, and feels our pain and suffering. He tells her to stop, and she decides to make it stop. The world's suffering, that is.

Xander has led his little group to the cemetery, where they try to find a crypt to hide in when Willow's fireball appears in the sky. Buffy is close behind it, pushing Andrew and Jonathan out of the way before it hits. The ground begins to give way, dropping Buffy, Dawn, and the swords the Geeks were carrying in the last episode (I failed to mention them, sorry) into a underground burial chamber.
Xander is knocked out, and Andrew and Jonathan take off running.

Anya awakens and finds Giles on the floor, barely conscious. He explains that he thought taking his power would help reach Willow, but instead, she's gone away with a new mission. He can see where Willow has gone and that she's going to bring about the end of the world.

With the sun rising outside, Buffy tries to climb out of the hole they're trapped in. She is interrupted when Dawn asks her about Spike, and why Buffy didn't tell her what happened. Buffy explains how she's trying to protect her, but Dawn says she can't be protected from life, and needs to know these things.

Xander awakens and tries to find rope to pull them out. Anya also appears (through her demon powers) and updates everyone on Giles and Willow's plan: she's unearthing a Satanic temple on a ridge overlooking town (maybe the same one where Angel went to watch the sunrise in "Amends?"), and is going to channel the earth's lifeforce through a demonic statue there until everything blinks out. Anya tells them that no supernatural force can stop Willow now, then remembers that Giles is dying, and teleports away to be with him.

Buffy chooses to ignore what Anya/Giles said and struggles to get out and stop Willow. Willow pauses and turns the ground around Buffy into man-like creatures to stop her. Buffy fights them, but she hands Dawn a sword to fight at her side. Dawn is actually pretty good, but the monsters keep coming.

Anya tells Giles not to die, that it was good of him to come, although in retrospect, he probably shouldn't have, since Willow is now ten times as powerful as she was. Willow begins her end-of-the-world spell and earthquakes begin all over town. She's funneling this cool green light into the statue, which I guess is Mother Gaia's lifeforce.

That is, until Xander steps into the beam. "Hey, black-eyed girl," he says, and she tosses him away from her. But then, she hesitates. It's just a little thing--a sign of regret for hurting Xander?--but Giles smiles and says, "It's not over."

Willow starts the spell again, but Xander gets up a blocks it again. She tells him she'll kill him and he says that she's his best friend, if he's going to die, he wants it to be there, beside her. She scoffs at him, but he tells her about the first day of kindergarten, how she broke the yellow crayon and cried, and that he loved that Willow and he loves scary, veiny Willow too. She strikes out at him with her magic again and again, but he keeps getting up, and telling her he loves her. And every time he does, her power gets weaker.

Finally, she has no power left. She hits him with her fists, and he hugs her. She weeps. Her hair turns red again. The monsters fighting Buffy and Dawn disappear. Giles recovers.

He tells Anya that he intentionally let Willow steal the magic he had been endowed with. It was the purest kind of magic, not the rage-filled kind she had been running on, and it allowed her to feel again. It was Xander, he tells Anya, that got through to her in time, and saved us all.

In their hole in the ground, Buffy and Dawnie realise that it's over, that the world didn't end, and Buffy cries. Dawn doesn't know if Buffy is happy or sad. Buffy tells her she's happy, that she's going to make everything right again, that instead of shielding her sister from the world, she's going to show it to her. She helps Dawn climb up to the surface and a Sarah McLachlan song plays (I didn't know this one, but it's apparently called "Prayer of St. Francis") as we catch up with our characters: Willow and Xander on the hill, Jonathan and Andrew leaving town, Giles and Anya stumbling out of the magic shop, Dawn and Buffy in the cemetery.

And Spike in Africa. He's beaten and bloody and is told that he has endured the required trials. He demands what was promised him, "so Buffy can get what she deserves," and the demon says, "Very well. We will return your soul." The end.

So, thus ends Season Six, that most reviled of "Buffy" seasons. I don't really have much more to say, really. A lot of it was unpleasant, and while my niece has been eager to devour as much BTVS as she can when she comes over, I've been really hesistant to show her more episodes from this season. I wonder how much of it I'd like to revisit in the future, or if I'll simply skip around.

Regardless, I've got to say that this whole Dark Willow arc was simply fantastic. If the show does lose its spirit and fun and sense of positivity, it's all worth it for these last six episodes, all of which were pretty darn great. I know very little about Season Seven, but I want desperately to know if Willow is going to be alright, if Giles sticks around for longer this time, if Anya and Xander have a shot at getting back together, and just what the hell Spike with a soul will be like.

Because I can't help myself, I will tell you what I find out. Though I hope not in as much detail as I have these past couple.

Well see,

Rish "Dork Willow" Outfield

*Actually, there's this great line, where Xander says, "You said it yourself, Will: the magic's too strong. There's no coming back from it." And Willow says, "I'm NOT coming back." Really good stuff. As if you didn't know.

**Listening to Andrew talk, I have to wonder if that's how lame I sound talking about organic webshooters and midichlorians. No wonder I got beat up so much.

***Apparently, this episode and "Grave" were shown on the same night when it premiered. So there may be hope for your generation after all.

****It's crazy, but I got a laugh when Willow refers to "Jonathan and the other one," since the joke has always been that nobody knows who Andrew is, so I guess I open to some levity in this after all.

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