Previously: Adam’s Demon Trojan Horse plan worked, but The Scoobies got their shit together and performed epic magics, ending with Adam death and The Initiative closing.
Sweeney: IT’S FINALE TIME! SEASON FOUR IS OVER VICTORY DANCE! (Almost. Full victory dance in the wrap-up post.)
K: Still. YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!
Sweeney: This finale is a weird one because we had our showdown with the big bad in the last episode, and yet, here we are, with another episode to go. Whedon has a whole. freaking. lot. of megaweird crazypants foreshadowing to do, and that’s probably a big part of why opinions are split on this episode. I’m stoked to experience it with the gift of hindsight for the first time. Granted, it makes for a hard episode to recap because of all the epic DAFUQery. Let’s see how this works out for us.
Lorraine: As the resident know-nothing-er, this will be interesting for me as I know that it’s full of foreshadowing but I still have no foresight. I’ll be over here putting around the episode!
Sweeney: Credits roll immediately after the “Previously on…” and we start the episode at the Summers home. This makes my heart happy, because this season is probably the one where we spend the least amount of time here, so I feel like we’re going home to when the show was good and will be good again. DEEP, I KNOW.
K: Yup. Now if only the Summers home came with a side of permanently bringing back Oz… SIGH.
Sweeney: Buffy is anxiously saying goodbye to Riley, who has to go be debriefed and might even get an honorable discharge due to his helping save lives and also in exchange for his silence. “It’s like you’re blackmailing the government,” says Willow. Riley gives her a But-I’m-Soldier-Boy look and she awkwardly adds, “In a patriotic way!”
K: He also makes a funny about the “Bay of Mutated Pigs.” As a history nerd, this made me smirk.
Sweeney: As Riley leaves, Joyce gives a pointed, “Finally” to meeting Riley and then I swear I had already typed that when she adds, to Buffy, “Did you notice how pointedly I said, ‘Finally?’” Yes, Joyce! I did! I totally did!
K: A+ for you, Sweeney.
Sweeney: The gang gathers around in the Summers living room for a celebratory, “Adam didn’t end the world!” movie night.
Lor: Adorable. Sure, this episode is about to head into crazytown, but it’s nice that they’ve gathered in friendship here for a moment. Sorry. My feels are showing.
Sweeney: This episode is a really great blend of layered stuff for obsessive fankids (and bloggers, huzzah!) to pick apart forever and ever and lolz for people who give no fucks about all of that, with these added dashes of feels for us. Everyone wins, in my opinion. Except for poor Kirsti who hates the crazy too much. Sorry, Kirsti.
Xander insists that they have movies to last them all night, since nobody can sleep after ALL THE ADRENALINE. Joyce smiles at this scene from seasons past (and future! Huzzah!) in her living room as she walks up the stairs. Naturally, they put a movie in and all fall instantly asleep, because conjuring ancient magics to rip out a cyborg demon’s uranium heart is exhausting.
We zoom in on Willow sleeping. She’s dreaming about a naked Tara who is concerned that Ms. Kitty hasn’t told them her name yet. Willow isn’t worried, though, because she always feels safe there. Tara warns that Willow doesn’t know everything about Tara (K: FORESHADOWING THE FIRST!), and that everyone is going to find out about Willow. We see Willow painting crazy symbols on Tara’s back. (L: Looks Greek-ish!) She doesn’t want to leave for drama class because it’s so bright and just outside the window it’s suddenly a desert and there is something super weird out there.
Willow is walking through school, and she passes Xander and Oz (!!) who talk to her awkwardly about drama class. Oz knows things because he has been here the whole time, calling back to Willow’s feelstastic line in his van about him always being with her. Xander talks about Willow doing spells with Tara and adds that sometimes he thinks about women doing spells together and then does a spell by himself. #awkwardxanderboner, but also LOL. Oz gives him the best, “Srsly?” face.
At drama class, they are about to do their first production and it’s a delightful callback to the episode where everyone lived their nightmares. In continued random character appearances, Harmony is there. Buffy, wearing a black wig and a flapper dress, tells Willow that she’ll be fine and nobody will find out about her. Riley keeps repeating how pleased he is that he showed up on time and got to be Cowboy Guy. I am amused by this caricature version of Riley. It’s only a slight exaggeration.
Lor: I love it too. Soldiers and cowboys are in the same vein of all-American goodness that Riley represents. Riley was in the right place at the the right time for Buffy, and essentially got “cast” because of this combination of goodness and convenience. He isn’t a fit for her, though. It will be a nice role for him while it lasts.
K: Also, Willow makes another reference to season 1 by asking in a terrified way if they’re putting on a production of Madame Butterfly, because NOPE DON’T WANNA.
Sweeney: Even better? Giles is the director! Cutest.
K: Another season 1 reference?
Lor: Absolutely. But it also clearly speaks to Giles’s role in the series. Seriously adorable.
Sweeney: Agreed, says everyone except for Willow, who finds nothing adorable about what is happening. “Now, everyone that Willow has ever met is out in that audience, including all of us. That means we have to be perfect.” During all of this, Willow notices the thing she saw out in the imaginary desert skulking around backstage, but nobody else notices it.
Everyone else was too busy giggling at the absurd scene of director!Giles giving final notes as vampire!Harmony jumps around him like a dog, biting at him. It is ridiculous and illogical, and he adds that the production will be great if Willow will stop stepping on everyone’s cues. Poor dream!Willow.
Off to the side, a random dude with glasses whispers to Willow that he’s made a little room for the cheese slices.
Willow wanders through the curtains, which go on for a long time, and finds Tara, who says that things aren’t going very well. Willow keeps trying to make this class make sense, and Tara says she’s not getting it. Tara confirms that yes, something is following her.
Willow’s still worried about the play, which Tara says already started. We cut away to Buffy, Harmony, and Willow on stage. Back behind the curtains, Tara is telling Willow that when everyone finds out about the real her, they are going to attack and Tara won’t be able to help. Willow asks again about the thing that is after her, and we cut away to the play again. Back behind the curtains, Willow is still there, but Tara is gone.
Lor: I LOVE DREAMS so I can’t not comment on this stuff that’s happening on stage. When Riley comes out on stage, he offers to carry Harmony’s milk pails while Buffy lounges in the background.
The second time we cut to the stage, Buffy is giving an impassioned men-hating speech. This is still Willow’s dream, so it could very much be a reflection of her own thoughts, but how perfect that it is being delivered by Buffy, she of the worst luck with men?
Also, I think Harmony’s role here is to represent the light side of Buffy. I mean, she runs up to Willow and says, “I love you!” Then, on stage we see her responding to Riley in a very Buffy way. (I don’t need your help. It isn’t heavy. What are you doing in my town?) While Buffy is going off about men, Harmony is in the background crying. This theory is interesting when you consider the Giles directing scene. Giles loses a word and Harmony offers, “prop!” but he dismisses her. It isn’t until Xander offers the same word that he accepts it. Isn’t this what happens to Buffy all the time?
OR NOT. But maybe. Carry on.
K: Thinking too much about things: Lor does it.
Sweeney: To be clear: I am a big fan/supporter of this thinking too much about things. Not describing the scene on stage was an editorial decision because I once had a fantastical daydream about this post remaining under 5,000 words, which is long even by our ridiculous standard. Alas, my dreams are not prophecies and my daydreams are like the anti-prophecy, so we’re totes going to blast way past 6,000. Cute, me from the past. Cute. (K: Like how when Lor and I first started doing this, we had plans to cover three episodes per post?) With that, I have nothing to add besides a general nod of agreement and, “Here, here!” to Lor’s bonus DREAM! commentary.
A knife cuts through the curtains and things are attacking Willow, until Buffy appears, no longer in the costume. They emerge from the curtains in a classroom at Sunnydale High School. Buffy asks what Willow did to get something to come after her and also wants to know why Willow is still in costume so long after the play ended. Then she rips at Willow’s clothes and sits down. The classroom is filled with familiar faces laughing at poor Willow who is wearing stuffy nerd clothes from high school. At least, that’s the idea. Honestly, this outfit is a lot more attractive than many of the fashion choices Willow made this year, but whatever. Oz leans over to Tara and says he tried to warn her. Willow starts to read her book report (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe!) (L: BEST.) (We prophesied the end of the season with our list of non-sucking kids books!) as everyone in the room either laughs or looks bored.
The skulking thing appears again, attacking Willow, but nobody does anything. We see Buffy slump down in her desk as Willow cries for help. Back in the not-dream-world of the Summers living room, Willow is choking in her sleep.
With that, we pan down to Xander waking up to find Buffy and Giles still awake and watching the movie. All he missed was a bunch of massacring, says Buffy. Xander is insisting that Apocalypse Now gets better. He notices Willow sleep-choking and asks what’s wrong, but Buffy says Willow’s just a big faker. They eat popcorn and chat and Giles adds, “Oh, I’m beginning to understand this now. It’s all about the journey, isn’t it?” Xander heads upstairs to use the bathroom, aand this is about the time for me to pass the baton. Sorry, Kirsti.
Kirsti: Ugh, leave me with the Xander storyline why don’t you…
Xander heads upstairs and Joyce comes out of her bedroom wearing a slinky red nightie thing. Does it classify as a negligee? I’m unclear on the proper classification of such ridiculous garments. Xander says that he hopes they’re not making too much noise with the movie watching, and Joyce says that the others left a while ago. There’s some Mrs. Robinson seduction weirdness going on, and NOPE NOT OKAY MAKE IT STOP. Xander says that he needs to pee before any having of sex with his best friend’s mother, and heads into the bathroom. He lifts the lid on the toilet and then notices a bunch of Initiative style scientists and soldiers watching him.
Lor: Well, we all know that Xander has life-performance-anxiety issues and does often feel judged. Poor Xander.
K: True. He leaves the bathroom and heads across the hall to Buffy’s room. But it’s not Buffy’s room. It’s the Fruit Roll Up Basement. And something’s trying to get in the door from the main house. “That’s not the way out,” he says.We cut randomly outside to a playground in full sunlight. Giles and Spike – both in tweed suits – are on the swings, while Buffy’s in the sandpit. Spike says that Giles is going to teach him to be a Watcher, while Giles says that Spike’s like a son to him. Does this count as season 6 foreshadowing?
Sweeney: OH. I mulled this over for longer than I would like to admit before figuring out what you meant, because I feel like my future-memory has been getting progressively worse with each episode that we dissect. Anyway, this episode is fun because it leaves so much room for interpretation — whether things were planned up to a certain point or not. I’ve not heard any Joss commentary on this episode, so I’m sure everyone else will have their thoughts (ROT13 FOR SPOILERS, Y’ALL!) but I’m on the side of, “This one was retroactively granted foreshadowing points.”
K: Probably. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the future episode intentionally replicates parts of this one… (S: This is what I was suggesting, yes.)
Xander watches his ice cream truck driving self handing out ice creams to small children. Then he looks at Buffy with concern and asks if she wants to be playing in a sandpit that big. The camera pans out, and the playground sandpit has turned into a desert. “I’m okay. It’s not coming for me yet,” she replies. There’s some more conversation, including Giles telling Spike to “put your back into it! A Watcher scoffs at gravity!” (WTF?!), and then we cut across to Ice Cream Truck Xander. Because, sure. Why not.
Lor: There is lots of family talk here. Someone in the comments recently said something about how, yes, the Scoobies did stray from their friendship but that a big family theme that will start to develop in the upcoming seasons: Family is who you choose it to be. Buffy looks up at Xander and calls him brother, and it takes him by surprise. Xander admits that he wanted that fatherly guidance from Giles for a bit, but that he has other things to worry about now.
Sweeney: It’s said with only partial conviction, though. That is, he does have other things to worry about, but their “chosen” family is real enough to them that it’s hard to believe that he’d ever be completely apathetic towards approval from Giles. I dearly loved the “brother” line both for it being written in the first place and also for its execution. Lots of feels. This whole segment of the episode is pretty golden, and I could watch that gif all day.
K: I’m guessing the “brother” thing also takes him by surprise because of all those times he wanted to get in her pants. Don’t mind me, I’ll be on my ottoman.
He walks from the sales window to the driver’s seat, and there’s some intentionally awful “no, really, this vehicle is moving” blue screening a la any Grace Kelly movie ever. Anya’s in the passenger seat, and the van is driving itself right up until Xander sits behind the wheel. Anya asks Xander if he knows where he’s going, then says that she’s thinking about getting back into vengeance, and Xander’s all “society says no.”
Lor: Um, if she turns back into a vengeance demon, I’m… not going to approve. I’m not going to approve VERY VIOLENTLY.
K: Then he hears noises, and looks into the back of the van to see Willow and Tara getting as making out-y as television would let them get in 2000. Which is to say, they almost kiss and the camera pans back to Xander as we hear face nomming sounds.
Lor: Um, Tara looks gorgeous.
K: Willow and Tara invite Xander to join them. He looks at Anya, who encourages him to go, saying that she’ll be fine because “I’ve worked out how to steer by gesturing emphatically.” She proceeds to do so as Xander heads into the back.
But the truck requires him to clamber over stuff, and then he’s back in the Fruit Roll Up Basement again. Something’s still trying to get in. He turns around, and the Cheese Man is there. “These will not protect you,” he says, gesturing at the cheese. (L: I got nothing.) Then we’re suddenly at a very green and purple lit version of Sunnydale High. He finds Giles and asks what’s following him. “It’s because of what we did, I know that,” Giles replies. He then tells Xander to listen carefully because he’s about to tell him exactly what to do.
Giles keeps talking and gesturing, but all we hear is some random guy talking in French. Anya approaches, and also starts speaking-but-not-speaking French. Xander’s all “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING” and they act like it’s a typical “Xander doesn’t understand” moment. They drag him off, and then all of a sudden he’s in camouflage gear with an Asian guy pointing a gun at him and marching him through a jungle. They head into a room where Xander’s forced to kneel on the ground. A voice in the shadows asks him about himself. I’m guessing it’s meant to be Apocalypse Now-y, but I’ve not seen it so I can’t be certain. The person in the shadows sits up, and it’s Snyder. “You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake,” Xander says.
Sweeney: All of the random blast-from-the-past appearances are wonderful because they not only remind us of where we’ve been, but add to the layers of interpretation to this episode, either as misdirection or guiding interpretations of all the prophesying going on here.
K: You say “wonderful”, I say “Ugh, get on with it, Whedon.” Potato, potahto.
Xander stands up, and is suddenly in the courtyard outside Giles’ apartment. The beastie thing is lurking behind a pot plant. He runs into Giles’ apartment and yells that it’s here. Giles, Buffy and Anya are standing around Willow, who’s still doing her choking routine. Anya suggests slapping her, while Buffy asks Giles if she can fight it.
Xander heads down the hall towards the bathroom and is suddenly in Buffy and Willow’s dorm. He hears growling sounds behind him and heads through Willow’s closet, and ends up back in the Fruit Roll Up Basement. The banging resumes. He heads up the stairs a little ways, and the door bursts open to reveal his father, who berates him for being ashamed of his family. Xander says that his father doesn’t understand, and his father stomps down the stairs. “The line ends here with us, and you’re not gonna change that. You haven’t got the heart,” his father says. Then he shoves his hand into Xander’s chest and rips his heart out. Xander looks up to see the beastie. Back in the living room, Xander gasps in his sleep. The camera pans in on Giles, and we fade to black.
Lor: AAAAHHHHH!!! Okay, so (1) – poor Xander keeps ending up in his basement no matter what. He’s certainly feeling trapped and after this reminder of just how sucky his home life has always been, I actually have Xander feels. YOU GUYS. XANDER FEELS. (2) – Giles says that whatever is after them is after them because of what they did and then beastie thing takes out Xander’s heart! IN THE SPELL LAST EPISODE, HE WAS THE HEART. And, back in Willow’s dream, beastie thing sort of drank up her life or… HER SPIRIT. Excellent.
K: And here I was, going for subtle implication… ;) After the Not Commercial Break, an off-screen Giles is trying to hypnotise Buffy with a pocket watch.
Lor: This right away reminded me of Helpless. Also, Buffy starts giggling in this scene and SMG looks fantastically adorable.
K: I think it stands out because we so rarely see Buffy laugh. She smiles, she smirks, she puns like a champion. But laughing? Not so much.
Sweeney: This. But she’s precious when she does, though! It’s telling that this is happening in the Giles dream, though, and in keeping with the family theme at play. It’s the more idyllic phase at the beginning — which is how the other dreams began as well (worth noting that Xander’s happy place was reality, sitting on the couch with his friends) — and for Giles it’s a happy, laughing, child-like Buffy. Innocent and still able to be protected.
Lor: Excellent observation. Then, for Willow, her idyllic happy place was simply with a naked Tara. Legit.
K: Then we cut to the cemetery at night. Buffy’s in overalls and pigtails, dragging on Giles’ hand while his girlfriend, Olivia, pushes an empty stroller. They walk towards a carnival-style stall and Buffy yells that she wants to do it. It’s basically throwing balls at a fake vampire. She throws the first, and misses wildly. Giles gets exasperated and tells her off. She pouts, then tries again. This time, she hits the vampire and a man hands her a stick of fairy floss. “Oh, now you’re going to get that all over your face!” Giles crankies. She turns around and her face is covered in grey mud. The colours in the image invert quickly before we cut back to Giles. “I know you…” he says as his face blurs a little. “Hey!”
Lorraine: Spike appears and calls Giles over, and so we leave behind this look at what his family is. Giles walks into a TARDIS crypt and inside, Olivia is crying off to the side while Spike announces that he’s hired himself out as an attraction. Why yes, Spike. You are often reduced to the comedic relief, but you are so pretty.
K: I’m interested in whether or not there’s meaning behind Olivia’s crying. Because she was pregnant and pushing a stroller outside. And now she’s crying over the stroller, which is tipped over. Randomness? Miscarriage? Or Giles’ subconscious fears about never having a proper family? What say you, Traumateers?
Lor: Spike’s portion of this scene is shot in black and white. In between talking to Giles, he’s striking some very exaggerated poses while a gathered crowed oooh, aaaah, and take pictures. Giles looks at crying Olivia and wants to know what he’s supposed to do with this. Spike tells him he’s got to make up his mind, stop wasting time and figure it all out. “I still think Buffy should’ve killed you,” Giles says and it’s funny because (1) ANYONE could kill Spike at this point. He can’t stop them. and (2) – NOPE. Because he’s the attraction, guys.
Sweeney: YES. It’s another ultra meta layer to this, because this bit was the show talking about itself.
Lor: Cheese Man shows up to be a man with cheese.
Giles walks from the crypt and into The Bronze where he is suddenly consulting a book and apologizing to Willow and Xander for being late. He says a lot is going on, and Willow is all, “UH, DUH.” She points to Xander’s chest wound as proof. Xander says he promised Anya he’d be there “for her big night,” but now he’ll probably be dead.
We see now that Anya is on stage trying to tell a joke, but she bumbles around the set-up. Why yes, Anya, your lack of social skills are also often amusing. I wonder if this whole ex-baddies as entertainment links Anya and Spike somehow. Don’t answer that.
Willow says that this is Giles’s fault, but he says that he’s been busy with a gig of his own. Willow says something primal and animalistic is after them. Anya finishes her joke and the audience, Xander included, laugh appreciatively. Willow, calling Giles Rupert, calls his attention back and says they need to focus and figure out what they are fighting against.
AMAZINGLY, this sends Giles into a musical number, in which he figures out that the spell they cast with Buffy must’ve released some primal evil. Way ahead of you, Singing Giles. I figured that out during Xander’s dream. THIS WHOLE SONG IS THE ACTUAL BEST so I’m super sad when it suddenly cuts out.
K: My favourite line is “And Xander – help Willow. And try not to bleed on my couch, I just had it steamcleaned.” Because it’s totally something Giles would petulantly say in reality. But in a dream, he sings it. Awesome.
Lor: Giles follows his microphone cable backstage until it leads to a big cable pile. Underneath it there is a pocket watch. When he looks up, the Primal Beastie is above him and Giles repeats his line from when Buffy had gray goop all over her face, “I know who you are.” INTERESTING.
The Primal Beastie lowers itself onto Giles who says he can defeat PB with his thoughts and intellect. The PB slices Giles’s head open (the mind) as he says that it is underestimating him. “You couldn’t know. You never had a Watcher.”
So the Primal Beastie is some sort of Slayer! Probably. Giles convulses in his sleep and drops his glasses as we cut to black.
After the cut, it’s time for Buffy’s dream! She’s in the Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room and we hear Anya begging her to wake up. “I’m not really in charge of these things,” she says sleepily. (S: This throws a wrench in my happy-beginnings theory. I’m standing by it anyway, because Buffy’s dream is a bit different in a number of ways.) Anya insists but Buffy wants to keep sleeping. She rolls onto her back and we see that hanging about her is the Primal Beastie (Probably Slayer). She startles “awake” to find herself in her bed at the Summer’s home.
We swtich POV’s and Buffy is standing and looking at the bed. She says she just made the bed with Faith. Tara asks for who they made it. I just looked at the beginning of that recap I linked, and while I can’t remember details of the Faith-bed-making-dream, apparently it insinuated that Buffy has a little sister. Kirsti non-confirmed confirmed that. I also know that Michelle Trachtenberg will eventually be on this show because pop culture told me so. I THINK I JUST SPOILED MYSELF.
K: Jeez, Lor. Did River Song teach you nothing??
Lor: She taught me find a Doctor and MARRY HIM.
Buffy says she thought Tara would tell her who the bed was for. Buffy asks where the rest of the Scoobies are and Tara says, “you lost them.” Buffy thinks they need to be found. She sees that the clock says 7:30 and comments on how late that is. Tara says the clock is completely wrong (K: FORESHADOWING THE MILLIONTIETH), and instead hands her the Tarot-y card depicting the hands that was used in the binding spell last episode. Buffy glances at it and says she’s never going to use it. Tara says that Buffy thinks she knows what’s to come and who she is, but things haven’t even begun.
We see that now the bed is made. Buffy insists that she needs to find her friends. Tara says, “be back before dawn.” BECAUSE OF MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG, YOU GUYS. Sorry. I’m just kind of excited that I know one thing.
Sweeney: LOL. When you first mentioned that you spoiled yourself, though, I just wanted to skip to that gif. Sorry, Lor. You think you know what’s to come…
Lor: Buffy is walking through school, looking for her friends when she notices a hole in the wall. She peaks in and see Joyce. Buffy asks why she’s living in the walls, and Joyce insists she’s fine there. She’s made lemonade and is learning to play Mah Jong. No mention of how the whole gallery thing is going. Joyce sends Buffy off to go find her friends and then starts giggling when a mouse crawls over her. Buffy says she really shouldn’t be in there, but catches sight of Xander nearby. Joyce says Buffy could probably break through the wall, but Buffy is already walking away.
That was heartbreaking. Could they have depicted their crumbling relationship in a more creepy way? It reminded me a little of Dennis being paved into the wall by his mother in Angel. Also, I do not want to know what this means for Joyce and Buffy’s relationship in the upcoming season. NO. DON’T TELL ME. LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.
K: Foreshadowing the millionty first??
Lor: Buffy has presumably followed Xander, but is now walking into a white room where Riley in a suit sits at a table with another man. Riley greets Buffy with a, “hey there killer,” and goes on on to tell B that they made him surgeon general. Seems he didn’t say anything sooner as he’s been busy drawing up a plan for world domination that involves coffeemakers that think. Buffy doesn’t think that sounds like a good idea. Riley spins around in his chair as the ominous music crescendos and the camera pans in a stylistic way that reveals a gun, on the table, pointed toward Buffy.
At this point we see that the other man at the table is Adam. It’s Adam all human with no demon parts. It’s so weird to see him this way.
K: Especially as he’s kind of attractive… Oh wait. I just looked him up on IMDB and not so much.
Sweeney: I didn’t look him up on IMDB, but I will +1 that he was attractive for the hot second he was non-demonically on screen.
K: Thank you for confirming that it wasn’t just me.
Lor: Adam says that Buffy has a hard time with certain concepts and that aggression is a natural part of human nature, though they come by it a different way. The Primal Beastie (Probably Slayer) is now standing behind Buffy as she says that they aren’t demons. “Is that a fact?” Adam asks. This shit is cray.
Riley interrupts to say they’ve got a lot of work to do filing and naming things (more commentary on Whedon’s opinion of government, I’m sure) when Buffy asks Adam what his name was before Adam. He says no one can remember. (S: This is a thing that I liked. Names and origins and whatnot all being interesting foreshadowing fodder.) (K: Foreshadowing for Angel, too.) Suddenly the room is washed in blue light as a voice over a PA system announces that demons have escaped. Riley and Adam stand, recognizing that this could be trouble. Riley suggests making a fort, and Adam walks off to grab pillows.
Buffy sees that at her feet is her bag of weapons. She tries to call out and tell them as much, but she doesn’t get louder than a whisper. She opens her weapons bag and their is some gray Gak looking stuff in there which she decides to play with at a time like this. OH I SEE. Her hands are now covered in that gray stuff Giles saw all over face earlier. And just as I finish typing that, Buffy starts to cover her face in the Dark Side of the Slayer Gak. I’m just calling it that for clarification purposes.
Riley comes in and sees that she’s all covered in Dark Side of the Slayer. He says that if this is the way she wants it, he’s leaving. BYE RILEY. CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE.
K: Foreshadowing the millionty second!
Lor: Buffy walks along and she’s soon back in the desert as the soundtrack changes to a woman wordlessly crooning along to mystical music. Buffy thinks she’s never going to find her friends in the desert. Tara appears and says of course she isn’t. That isn’t the reasons she came. She probably came to keep playing in that big, dangerous sandbox, yeah?
Tara explains that she was borrowed for Buffy’s dream because someone has to speak for “her.” As Buffy says “she” should speak for herself, we see the Primal Beastie (Probably Slayer?) walking just behind her.
K: Fun fact? The internet tells me that Angel was originally meant to be the spirit guide type, but Whedon drained the crossover magic fairy dry in the previous few episodes and they had to make do with Tara instead. Which I’m kind of grateful for, to be honest.
Sweeney: I dig all these random haven’t-seen-you-in-a-while appearances and he would have been another one for that. It’s also weird, though, that they intended to pick someone who Buffy is close with and swapped out for someone who is, at present, mostly on the periphery. Like, they couldn’t have Angel and then they couldn’t disproportionately bulk up one Scooby’s screen time, and Spike would be and even weirder choice, so all right then, Tara it is! Just seems odd.
Lor: In that regard, I think Tara makes more sense. If someone was going to appear in your dream as the voice of a primal, magical force, why not the girl you don’t know to well who is already shrouded in that mystery and mysticism?
Sweeney: A fair point. All right, show. You win.
Lor: Buffy asks the PB (PS?) why she follows her. Tara answers, “I don’t.” Buffy asks for her friends, but apparently that’s the wrong question. Buffy wants PB (PS?) to speak for herself but Tara answers that she has no speech or name, and that she merely lives in terrible stuff like death, blood cries, penetrating wounds and destruction. It sounds pretty miserable. When Tara says, “I am destruction, absolute. Alone.” Buffy guesses, “the slayer?” She answers, “the first.”
Knowing that the Primal Beastie is speaking through Tara makes me realize that perhaps she’s been using other characters to speak all along. Most notably, Adam, as he told Buffy that their aggression comes from something other than human nature and that he has no name.
Sweeney: YES. In a sense, she was speaking through all the characters the whole time. But yeah, this suggests that any outskirts character was likely a First Slayer Microphone.
Lor: Buffy looks down in her hands and there is a Harry Potter-esque moving picture in which she sees her friends sitting around her living room. She says she’s not alone. The Primal Beast Now Definitely a Slay… OH FUCK IT. What do we call this thing? The First Slayer? Cool.
First Slayer says that slayers don’t walk in this world, but Buffy says she does. “I”m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There’s trees in the desert since you moved out. And I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.”
K: Probably for the best. That sounds hella uncomfortable.
Lor: I’m adding this bit in right before post, just because I’ve seen the Angel finale now too, and it is also mentioned that he doesn’t really walk in the world either.
Buffy demands her friends and the First Slayer speaks and says that there are no friends, just the kill, so this bitch does speak. Rude to pull Tara all up in this dream. First Slayer says that they are alone and just then the Cheese Man pops in to make this a nightmare and wiggle around slices of American cheese. I HATE American cheese.
Buffy does too, apparently, because she decides that she’s waking up.
Sweeney: Good call, Buffy, because fuck that fake non-cheese ridiculousness. Let this be added to the list of pressing issues this blog takes a firm stance on, like the evilness of cats: American cheese = awful.
Lor: The First Slayer attacks her and the sound cuts out for a second as they grapple in the sand. Buffy says it’s over and FS pushes her down a sand hill. In the middle of the roll, Buffy cries out, “enough!” and wakes up on her living room floor. The First Slayer is still there, though, and starts stabbing her with a knife. Buffy just looks at her all, “bored now.”
Buffy says she’s going to ignore her, as she isn’t the source of her. As she climbs back on the couch she starts being cheeky about hair care and in the middle of her speech wakes up. For real this time. As if the First was all, “OH FFS. HAIR CARE? OKAY. FINE. WAKE UP.”
A beat after Buffy, the Scoobies all stir and look at each other.
Gathered around the Summer’s kitchen table, the group rehashes: The First Slayer, who was not big on socialization or floss. Giles says that joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer’s power was an affront to that source. Buffy says a little warning would’ve been nice and Giles says he did warn of dire consequences. “Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast.”
Joyce comes down and guesses that she missed some fun. Willow explains that the spirit of the First Slayer tried to off them and Joyce is all, “needs more
alcohol hot chocolate.” An acceptable substitute. Giles asks if B is okay and she assures him that she is, though the dream was intense. She heads off to take a shower as she says that at least the Cheese Man didn’t appear in their dreams. They look at each other all, “freakin’ cheese man.”
I guess I’ll say now that I loved this episode. I think that here, so close to the direct middle of the series, we get a look at the past, present and future of the Scoobies in an artistic way. Part of the reason that season 4 was awkward was that it was so transitional. It suffered in some of the same ways that middle chapters in a book, or the second book in a trilogy can. This episode regrouped.
We saw Willow where she started as the nerdy, shy high school girl, where she is, discovering her relationship with Tara, and magic, and where she’s headed, toward this dangerous and murky future as she struggles with hiding her true self from herself and others, and playing with magical powers.
We saw Xander where he started in a household of abuse and neglect, where he is, feeling stuck, judged, unappreciated and neglected in a basement, and where he’s going as he struggles for control of his own life, finding a way out, and contending with his relationship with Anya.
We saw Giles where he started as a Watcher and father figure to all, where he is, juggling his desires to recover his close relationship with Buffy, to have a family, but to also have interests outside of Watcher duties, and hopefully where he’s headed to in balance between those things.
And finally Buffy. Her dream was much more self-aware from the beginning. Buffy is good at dreaming. She was mostly set up for what is to come: the end of her relationship with Riley, the arrival of Michelle Trachtenberg, and what I’m assuming will be her struggle with the First Slayer, and perhaps even the darker side of herself, or of slaying in general.
K: Mostly, I saw foreshadowing and too many metaphors and now my head hurts. But sure. What Lor said.
Sweeney: This post was impossible to write because of all the things we’re not supposed to discuss.
Lor: Upstairs, Buffy peers in her room at her bed all made, and we hear Tara’s voice again telling us that we have no idea what’s to come and that I probably shouldn’t have spent all that time trying to figure it out because we have no idea what we’re in for.
Or really, I have no idea.
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: NOT SEASON FOUR. Does anything else really matter? Join us as we put The Initiative behind us in S05 E01 — Buffy vs Dracula.