Previously: There were tears. Currently: Still crying.
Lorraine: Buffy appraises a bunch of coffins. Spooky music plays while she opens one up, but it’s all a bit of misdirection. There is nothing in the coffin. Buffy is here to pick one for Joyce.
Misdirection dictated that Buffy was doing all of this in the dark, in a room away from Giles, Dawn and the salesman. They enter the room now, and Buffy points out her selection. The salesman makes a skeevy comment about he can tell how much she care for the deceased based on her selection. It must be expensive. (S: Clearly. Such a skeevy and inappropriate comment and this guy needs a new line of work.) (K: Agreed. Creepy coffin salesman is creepy.) The group of them start to leave, but Dawn lingers. Buffy asks if she’s okay, and Dawn asks how they know that Joyce would like this coffin. What if she’d like another one better? She is the one that has to be in it forever.
Kirsti: Once again, this show is acting as a giant PSA for cremation.
Lor: Buffy wonders if it was smart bringing Dawn along. The salesman asks if they need more time, but Buffy decisively says that it’s fine. Her choice is made. Roll credits.
At the Summers’ home, Dawn, Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander are gathered around the dinner table, discussing funeral details. Joyce didn’t want a wake, as she felt that potlucks are depressing enough as it is. Dawn gets bristly about when Joyce said such a thing, and why she would discuss such things with Buffy and not Dawn. The phone rings, and B asks Giles to handle it, unless it is her father. It isn’t. Giles leaves the room to finish up the call, while the group all exposits that Buffy hasn’t been unable to get in touch with Hank Summers.
Sweeney: Who is, if nothing else, a consistent contender in Traumaland’s race for Most Negligent Parent.
K: I still maintain that he wins, hands down.
Lor: Buffy is still trying to figure out how to put the line about not having a wake on the program, when Dawn quietly asks what they are going to do after the service. She doesn’t want to come back home, and asks Willow if she can go to her place instead. Buffy gives slightly confused consent.
Next we see Xander and Willow leaving. Willow is going to stop by her mom’s house, which she’s been doing often, though Xander emphatically says he will not be stopping by his parent’s house, as they are scary. That’s the set-up for Spike to walk up with a bunch of flowers.
Xander is immediately defensive. Spike says he wasn’t planning on going in, and that this has nothing to do with Buffy. The flowers are for Joyce, because she was a nice lady, who never treated him like a freak. Xander doesn’t buy it. Spike throws down the flowers and walks away. Xander says, “The guy thinks he can put on a big show and con Buffy into being his sex monkey,” while Willow picks up the flowers. She points out that he didn’t leave a card.
K: BRB, having Spike/Joyce friendship feels.
Lor: The camera pans across the Summer’s hall, and we pass Buffy’s room where she sits on the bed, staring at nothing. The camera keeps moving past Dawn’s room, where she sits in a similar state. We pan into the next scene, which is the funeral service. There is a series of quick fades on each of the Scooby members as we hear the voice of the minister. Dawn flinches when the first shovel full of dirt hits the coffin, and I flinch because I’ve stood there before. I stood there and thought about the body of my loved one, in the dirt.
Sweeney: I’m glad we’re spending all this time on Joyce’s passing. As was pointed out last time, death almost becomes a trivial thing on this show, because of how often the Scoobies deal with it. I think it makes it all the more poignant for us to show all of their grief when losing one of their own. We saw a bit of this with Ms. Calendar, but her position in the group was a bit more complicated than Joyce’s. Anyone who has ever had the horrible experience of burying a loved one, I think, I can connect with all of this.
K: I, meanwhile, stop to be enormously grateful that Australia doesn’t do graveside funerals. Because I lose my shit at funerals enough already. Having to do it in the cemetery? NOPE x INFINITY.
Lor: We fade to just Dawn and Buffy standing by the grave, with Willow and Tara behind them. Dawn turns away and says something to Tara and Willow. Tara approaches Buffy cautiously, and says that Dawn is ready to go. Buffy gives them permission to take her, but plans to stick around. They leave.
Buffy stares at the grave and we watch her as daylight turns to darkness behind her. We cut to a shot of her feet by the grave. Another person joins her.
Flail seems like the wrong word, considering what’s happening at this moment, but it’s Angel, and he came and it’s crossover magic, and Buffy grabs his hand and then I start thinking about everything that’s been happening to him on his show, and I can’t even take it.
Sweeney: Given that the Bangel party generally consists of only me and sometimes you, I don’t even fucking care that everyone will shit all over this. THE BANGEL MOMENTS IN THIS EPISODE GAVE ME ALL THE FEELS AND HATERS GONNA HATE AND WHAT THE FUCK EVER. #teamfeelsforever
K: This is the sole moment in the entire series that gives me Bangel feels. Especially when it’s put into the context of what’s been happening over in Los Angeles. I also love that they don’t show him finding out about Joyce. He just turns up.
Lor: I love that Sweeney gave a preemptive WHATEVERFUCKEVERYTHING, and Kirsti showed up to be all, “no, but I kind of agree.” We’re so fun.
Over at the Bigger on the Inside Dorm Room, Tara and Willow are having a tough time comforting Dawn. Willow offers that things will get better, and Tara adds they know because they are witches and they know stuff. This sparks an idea in Dawn. She wants them to use their magic to bring back Joyce.
After a cut to black, we join Anya and Xander post-coital. Anya is on top. They make comments about how intense it was, but it’s sort of weird how unenthusiastic Xander sounds. I think it’s just a bad direction thing, but whatever. The point is that Joyce’s death got Anya thinking about life, and how they have the power to create it. She assures Xander that she doesn’t mean now, just that she feels more awake knowing that it’s possible. It’s a nice counterpoint to her freak-out about death last episode.
At Willow’s dorm, she’s doing a terrible job of explaining why they can’t resurrect Joyce. Tara is trying to go the, “it can’t be done,” route, and Willow keeps making comments about how it would be too difficult or that it would backfire.
Tara says Wiccans took an oath long ago not alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons. Dawn throws a little fit. Willow tries to comfort her, but she isn’t having it. Tara and Willow clearly aren’t seeing completely eye to eye and it’s a nice call back to way back when, when Tara fudged a spell so it wouldn’t work.
Back at the graveyard, Angel and Buffy are now sitting. Angel is leaning against a tree, and Buffy is sitting next to him, leaning against his shoulder. My heart squeezes a little and I try to remind myself about all the extra Cr he’s been adding to the Angel lately, but I can’t. Buffy says that the funeral was brutal, but she’s really more worried about the next day, and resuming normal life. Buffy doubts herself, her strength and her ability to be a grown-up. She recalls that she had to be told to give her CPR, and predictably can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if she had arrived home 10 minutes earlier. Angel does his best to give the called for, “give it time,” advice.
Buffy notes that it will be daylight soon. Angel offers to stay in town as long as she needs. Buffy replies, “How’s forever? Does forever work for you?” She sighs and faces him and acknowledges what a bad idea that is, mostly because she’s being very needy. Angel says he can handle it, and they kiss, softly at first, and then more passionately. They both pull away, and Angel apologizes. Buffy tells him not to. She’s happy he came, because she didn’t think she’d make it through the night. They lean against each other again, and sit for a while longer.
Sweeney: Yes to all of this. Their relationship ran its course and it’s fine that it ended, but I love all the feelsy first love stuff. None of this stuff was “They should get back together 4EVA,” so much as, “Yes, they were important to each other, so it made sense for him to come now.”
K: Team Heartless Cow loves that he came, but could have done without the face nomming. Especially when you take into account that the last time they face nommed, Angel was human and he’s the only one who remembers…
Lor: Ben leaves the hospital and one of Glory’s Flattery Demons is waiting for him. Flattery Demon has come to encourage Ben to cultivate his relationship with the Slayer, in hopes of finding the location of the key. Ben is having none of that, as the key is “innocent.” The Flattery Demon is all, “SKKKRT. SAY WUH,” and Ben doesn’t make it any better when he says, “the key isn’t human! SWEARSIES.” He almost says that. Anyways, in order to make sure Glory doesn’t figure out this secret, Ben stabs the Flattery Demon.
At the Bigger on the Inside Dorm, Tara and Willow are headed to breakfast and class. Dawn says she was planning on sleeping (in her clothes.) some more and Giles was going to pick her up later. She is very frosty with poor Willow, who really wants to help. As she leaves, Willow kind of half-accios a book; it slides forward on the shelf.
Dawn notes this and goes to pick up the book once the girls are gone. History of Witchcraft. She looks at the table of contents and quickly locates the section on resurrection. She reads through it for a second and it appears that Dawn has got another idea.
Later, at the Magic Box, Dawn is doing some distracted dusting and poking around some book. Giles and Anya insist that she doesn’t have to do that, but Dawn sads that being useful helps keep her mind off of things. Giles is okay with that, though Anya is twitchy for a second about someone doing her job. Dawn asks Giles if there is anything she should know, like for instance where all the dangerous books and potions are. Giles, bless his heart, actually points her in the right direction.
Sweeney: We know Giles was watching a bit of TV when he first became unemployed. DID YOU LEARN NOTHING, GILES? Amateur hour over here.
K: I, on the other hand, mostly had a little flail moment over the fact that Giles has a Restricted Section in the New New Wiggins Library.
Lor: Probably won’t cage any baddies or werewolves we miss so so so much, but it is a nice call back.
Of course, the second no one is looking at her, Dawn heads up to the restricted section and steals some things.
That night, Dawn is by Joyce’s grave. She’s got her magicks book out, when Spike finds her. He tells her that if the spell calls for anything more than dirt, she’s in zombie territory. Dawn stutters, but Spike knows what’s she’s doing; the book she has is infamous. Dawn begs Spike not to tell, because she has to get Joyce back. Spike: I’m not going to tell, little bit. I’m going to help. Preemptively score another for The Misguided Things Spike Does.
After the break, Giles is at home, in the mostly dark, playing a record and sipping on a drink. A quick look into what song is playing leads me to the discovery that it’s the same song Giles and Joyce listened to in Band Candy. Grief in all forms.
Sweeney: FOREVER AND EVER. ALL THE GRIEF.
K: I actually have Tales of Brave Ulysses on my iPod and I can’t listen to it in public because FEELS.
Lor: Spike and Dawn walk together to see a person who Spike says knows all about resurrection spells. Dawn looks troubled, but Spike tells her not to worry. She says he doesn’t have to be nice to her, as she knows that he’s only doing all of this to get in good with Buffy. He proves her wrong when he says that Buffy is not to hear a word about this. So, if he doesn’t want credit, why is Spike helping Dawn? “I just don’t like to see Summers women take it so hard on the chin, is all.”
Sweeney: This line was precious. We established earlier that this is partially about Joyce, but his motivations are also a bit about Dawn, too. I love that he is protective of her for her own sake, not just Buffy’s.
At Glory’s place, she’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jinx, the Flattery Demon who we saw get stabbed. One of her Flattery Demons calls her, “your new and improvedness.” Yes.
Anyways, Jinx is helped in just a second later because apparently when Ben was all, “NO ONE CAN KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW,” he stabbed him but didn’t actually wait around to make sure he actually died despite being a medical professional. RIGHT.
Sweeney: He only stabbed him once. Do it or don’t, Ben. You can’t halfass a demon murder. COMMIT.
K: Agreed. Way to fail, Ben. You’re a doctor. You should be good with a scalpel and knowing where to stab!
Lor: At first, Glory literally pulls out her hair in frustration, seeing that Ben stabbed Jinx, but then she’s back to being elated when she hears the key is a person.
Spike and Dawn arrive at the magic guy’s house. Dawn’s a little put off, because it smells like grandpa. Magic Guy comes creeping out from within his house, and it’s clear from the start that, to borrow a Kirsti thing, he’s got a few kangaroos loose, um, up in his head. I don’t think I got that completely right, but you know what I mean.
K: A few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, Lor. You were almost there!! Also, Magic Guy is JOEL GREY which causes me to fall somewhere in the middle of excited flailing and cowering in terror. Because he’s always awesome but SO CREEPY OMG.
Lor: Spike explains that Dawn’s mother died. Magic Guy says that they don’t want to mess with this stuff, though he does offer some tonics to help the grieving. Nope. Dawn wants to mess with the magicks. Magic Guy pulls a hair from Dawn’s head and presumably examines it, proclaiming Joyce’s DNA strong. It’s an interesting little bit, considering Dawn is only sort of a person. Dawn watches as Magic Guy pulls out a big book, and she also catches sight of a tail poking out from the bottom of his robe.
Magic Guy explains that the resurrection spell requires an egg of a Ghora demon. Dawn also needs a picture of her mother. It is to be placed in a sacred circle and a certain incantation must be said. The only way to reverse the spell is to destroy the image of her mother. Magic Guy warns that it’s a tricky spell, and can only offer that Joyce will still “more or less” be her mother. Dawn takes it. She thanks the Magic Guy, who refuses her money, and just asks that she keep in touch. As they shake hands, Magic Guy’s eyes go all black. Dawn pulls away and they leave. Magic Guy’s smile drops.
Spike and Dawn locate the Ghora demon. Spike wants to go in alone, but Dawn says she needs to grab the eggs while Spike distracts the demon. She heads off ahead of him, and he laments to himself, “Well, what do you know. Bitty Buffy.”
K: I loved this moment of Dawn not being a total wet blanket and actually being a Summers.
Lor: In the cave-ish thing, the Ghora demon sleeps. Spike starts making a ruckus and the demon wakes, revealing that it has three heads and that our besties the Bad Special Effects Guys have come out to play. Spike is swinging an axe at the Ghora heads while Dawn sneaks behind them and grabs an egg. Spike buries the axe in a Ghora neck, and takes off running, behind Dawn. But Dawn drops the egg on the way out. Spike tries to get her to leave, because now he has no weapon. Dawn doesn’t listen and runs back down to grab another egg. Spike resorts to throwing stones, and the Ghora bites down on Spike. One can imagine it would be very tempting to nibble Spike torso. He manages to wiggle free, grab the axe again and strike. This time, Dawn and Spike make it out with egg intact.
We cut to the Summer’s house at night, and Dawn is building her sacred circle, picture of Joyce in the middle, and cracked egg off to the side. She chants, “I beg of you, return to me,” and we cut to black.
Tara and Willow banter in bed. Willow’s started a journal, as she realizes that time is passing her by and she wants to remember it. Tara notes, just then, that the History of Witchcraft book is missing. She figures right away that Dawn took it. Willow gets nervous and twitchy. She’s a terrible liar, but lucky for her, Tara doesn’t seem to notice. Willow thinks they should call Buffy right away.
Buffy arrives home and the phone is ringing.
Upstairs, Dawn is still magic-ing it up, when Buffy busts in on her. B demands to know what she’s done, but Dawn just runs out, saying that Joyce is coming. Buffy conveniently grabs the photo of Joyce and runs after Dawn. Back downstairs, Buffy tells Dawn she has no idea what she’s messing with and what could be coming back, but Dawn refuses to reverse the spell, and grabs the picture of Joyce out of Buffy’s hands. We cut to a shot of zombie!Joyce’s legs walking across the graveyard and Dawn’s voice continues, “I’m not like you, Buffy. I don’t have anybody.” She has Buffy, but she doesn’t feel that way. Ever since Joyce died, Dawn claims that Buffy hasn’t even looked at her. Buffy hasn’t even cried. All Dawn has seen is Buffy running around, handling things like a big chore.
Buffy slaps Dawn across the face, and is immediately horrified that she did. Dawn and Buffy are both tearful as Buffy tries to explain that she’s been working because once she stops, it’ll be real, and Joyce will be gone.
Buffy: And I’m trying. Dawn, I am, I am really trying to take care of things, but I don’t even know what I’m doing. Mom always knew.
Dawn: Nobody’s asking you to be Mom.
Buffy: Well, who’s gonna be if I’m not? Huh, Dawn? Have you even thought about that? Who’s gonna make things better? Who’s gonna take care of us?
Buffy: I didn’t mean to push you away, I didn’t. I just, I couldn’t let you see me.
As they keep talking, crying, we see a shadow move past the curtains in the background.
Sweeney: This episode and the zombie stuff gives me the genuine, “I’m scared now,” creeps. It’s all very well paced, IMO.
Lor: Agreed. I was both terrified of seeing Joyce, and hopeful that I’d see Joyce.
Someone knocks on the front door. Buffy turns toward the noise and asks, “Mommy?” She moves toward the door, but Dawn quickly picks up the picture of Joyce and tears it in half, before the door is opened and we see what’s on the other side. There is nothing there. Joyce is dead. Forever.
Sweeney: I love. love. loved this. All the feels for Dawny this episode. You guys keep telling us that elsewhere in the fandom people rag on her and fuck all that noise. While I do understand where Buffy was coming from this episode, this episode was a perfect demonstration of how much Buffy tends to shut her out. Dawn’s feels were every bit as legit as hers. What’s more, I also adore the fact that Dawn ultimately tears the photo because it’s proof of my new pro-Dawn mantra against these haters I have never actually engaged with, BUT: she can and will step up when Buffy actually opens up to her. Dawn acts out because she is shut out. For all of Buffy’s, “What do I do?” in the end, Buffy was ready to accept that zombie as mom when she knocked on the door and Dawn was the one to recognize that this was a foolish thing that she did because she was grieving. LOVE.
K: A+, Sweeney. The Buffy shutting everyone out thing was shown brilliantly in the Space Cockroach episode – she does all her crying while doing the dishes and blasting music in the middle of the night. She knows it’s her job to be the strong one, to fight the things that others can’t. Having Dawn be the strong one, even for a little while, is perfect.
Lor: And on that note, Buffy turns toward her little sister, she says her name, and breaks down in tears. Dawn rushes forward and hugs her, offering a small, “it’s okay.” They sink to the floor, holding each other, and sobbing.
Most of the sobbing is theirs. Only a little of it belongs to me.
Lots to say about this episode. First, reader Jojo unwittingly pointed out in the comments a little early about the little scene with Giles mourning being a brilliant addition. I’d only add that over the last two episodes, we’ve been shown glimpses of how much this death has affected everyone, and how they are dealing with it. Anya, thinking about life. Willow visiting her mom and starting a journal. Spike, bringing flowers. Giles, listening to a song that reminds him of Joyce. Dawn, looking to take matters into her own hands. And Buffy, never stopping, until there was nothing left to do.
Sweeney: Somebody mentioned wanting more scenes from other characters and I disagree. I loved everything we got from the grief of people who aren’t Buffy and Dawn, but I also think it was right and fitting that Buffy/Dawn were the focus. I once read an article about “the ring theory” and circles of grief when someone has a terminal illness, where proximity to the person who is ill constitutes how far in/out your circle is. The logic is that you pour love IN to the center and dump feels OUT to the outer circles. (Which is to say that you can’t say something like, “I couldn’t stand to see her like that,” to someone in a more inward circle than you — you “dump” feelings out.) I love that we observed everyone sticking to that philosophy across these two episodes. The quiet moment with Giles is especially potent because we see him being so strong and supportive the rest of the time.
Lor: I mentioned it already, but I loved that Angel showed up. I love him, the character for doing it, and I loved that he was the one that talked Buffy through a sort of transition point. We saw the sky darken behind her, and she said that this is it– there is no longer a road map. She’s been thrown into adulthood all at once and in a way she probably never expected. Angel felt like a good person to hand hold her through that. And in the end, he left, because he’s one other thing left in her past.
A very good follow-up to an extremely good episode.
K: Meanwhile, I’ll be over here burning effigies of Hank Summers.
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: So, the Buffybot is a thing in S05 E18 – Intervention.