Previously: Riley came to town and Buffy finally broke it off with Spike.
Sweeney: The episode begins with Willow telling Buffy how hideous something looks while lightning crackles. It’s just their bridesmaids dresses that they’re discussing. Willow is actually Best Man, though, which earns her some bonus terrible sleeve. Actually, it’s sort of a nice analogy for the way bridesmaids dresses work — your stupid dress highlights the special snowflake that is the bride. It figures, then, that the show’s eponymous character would have the less stupid of the two dresses. Willow’s thinking the traditional blood larva and burlap sounds less bad. No, Willow, it definitely doesn’t.
Kirsti: Oh God, the dresses. They’re SO AWFUL. Also, I’ve always thought that the tradition was “blood lava” because in non-US English, larva and lava are pronounced the same. I can’t decide if it makes less sense or more sense now.
Sweeney: They move on to chat about all the wedding stress. Anya brought lots of demons that are funny looking and Xander’s family is a bunch of miserable drunks. Anya enters in a white robe and looks at the girls and gasps. She says that they look so beautiful and hug them, adding that this is the happiest day of their whole life.
At Xander’s Gift Apartment, tons of guests are there and making things miserable. I don’t even understand this. MAKE YOUR GUESTS STAY IN A DAMN HOTEL. This is bananas. (L: And if they can’t afford to come and stay at an apartment? BEST. STAY HOME SEE YA LATER.) Cousin Carol wants to hit on one of the demons and also she’s wearing Xander’s cuff links as earrings. Xander loudly proclaims that now nothing on Earth can stop this wedding because clearly he’s fucking new in Sunnydale. With that we cut to a random man walking the rainy streets of Sunnydale. It’s actually not at all menacing except that Xander’s line + editing = this is a thing that will try to stop this wedding. Wolf howl.
After the credits, Buffy is wrangling Xander into his cummerbund. (Where’s Best Man Willow?) His recent stress eating is catching up with him, but Buffy manages to get it on him so the whole world won’t see the place where his shirt meets his pants. The day is saved! Buffy tears up because she’s so happy for them and how hopeful Xander/Anya make her see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Buffy tries to tie his bow tie and gets flustered and asks the big question I just asked. Xander says Willow has something important to do.
K: Happy crying – humany wumany. Another sign that Buffy’s heading towards being herself again. Not only is she Having All The Emotions, but she’s having them for people that aren’t her. Also, I was thrilled when she couldn’t tie a bow tie, because I NEVER UNDERSTAND WHERE ALL FICTIONAL CHARACTERS LEARN TO DO THAT.
Sweeney: That something is helping Tara as she gets Anya into her dress. While they do this, Anya is practicing her vows and asking them for advice. The vows open with Anya silliness about not obeying because that’s misogynistic, but go on to her sweetly asking him to take care of her heart. Willow and Tara make eyes at each other.
Once Anya is all buttoned in, they tell her to look at herself and Anya freaks out about how much she wants to see Xander and hates all these stupid traditions like not seeing him. She goes into excited puppy mode, flailing about how excited she is that she gets to be with her best friend forever. I want to awkward hug her so hard right now.
K: ME TOO. I love her for this, because this is the way things are supposed to be.
Lor: I’m cringing. She looks so damn excited. THIS CAN’T BE GOOD.
Sweeney: In the hall lobby we see lots of awkwardness between Dawn and the arriving guests. More of the same – Xander’s family is unpleasant and Anya’s guests are all demons, who seem really polite. Halfrek tells Dawnie to call her Hallie because they’re practically family now and Dawn’s sarcastic, “Hmm, great” is totes the best thing. Dawn also greets Spike who’s really showy with the punky girl he’s brought as his date. He doesn’t actually introduce her, just repeatedly points out that she’s his date. Dawn promptly excuses herself.
K: But seriously, why would Spike even be invited to the wedding?? Xander hates him with a fiery passion, no matter how many times he may have fought side by side with him, and I can’t see Anya going “You know, the socially acceptable thing to do would be to invite Spike, and to give him a +1 so that he’s not alone even though it’ll cost us an extra $100.” Course, it’s possible American wedding customs are different. In Australia, you generally don’t get a plus one unless you’ve been dating someone for six months and the bride and groom have met them multiple times…
Lor: We’ve seen that Spike is not above inviting himself. He started with a small party and perhaps graduated to a wedding! Good party crashing, bro.
Sweeney: Elsewhere, Clem is making nice with the humans because he’s adorable while Xander’s dad drowns himself in booze. Inside, Xander is ready to go and Buffy hugs him and says he’s one of the good ones. As they go to get him ready, with instructions to keep his parents away from the bar (too late), and Dawn appears to inform Buffy that Spike has arrived with “a total skank.” Xander excuses himself to go make with the meet and greet.
He is instantly accosted by ALL THE GUESTS because these people are all terrible. His mom complains about where the usher seated them and someone pinches his cheeks and then Dawn rushes up to say that one of Anya’s presents got loose. He’s dragged away from the many voices by an older man telling him that he can’t get married that day. This old man insists that he’s Xander from the future and he’s returned to warn Xander. He’s interrupted briefly by his drunk father making a toast. Future!Xander says he can prove who he is and pulls out a magic glowy orb which…doesn’t prove anything, but the two walk off.
The Xanders miss the tail end of his father’s awful speech in which he humiliates his mother. Clem and another demon are tired of listening to Shitbag Harris (hey-o crossover time!) and it looks like a fight is about to start. Buffy intervenes just in time, pulling Shitbag Harris away for a cup of coffee as he makes a lot of gross passes at her.
K: SHITBAG HARRIS IS THE ACTUAL FUCKING WORST. I manage to constantly forget about him because he’s only on screen in this episode, but holy crap. Hank Summers may be a shitty father, but at least he had the presence of mind to leave town forever and let Giles take over.
Sweeney: The Xanders go into a room so that Present!Xander can investigate Future!Xander’s glowy ball. He looks into it and is promptly sucked into it, blasting him into this hypothetical future. Xander is sitting in his chair shouting for Anya. His two kids appear and they’re pretty darn cute, even the daughter with the demon ears. Anya’s getting ready for work at her job she apparently hates because Xander doesn’t actually work now because his back is shot. Buffy’s also apparently dead at this point in this hypothetical future, and Anya blames Xander’s bad back on fighting alongside Buffy. Flash forward to them eating dinner in a restaurant with their now teenaged children. Xander’s drunk and tells the daughter to talk to her mother about the ear thing, to which she responds that she hates them both and knows Xander’s not her dad before storming out. Forward again and the couple is at home fighting about their failed (sexless) marriage. Anya says he wouldn’t come near her after Buffy died and as she shouts about hating herself for 30 years, he grabs a pan to throw at her.
K: NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.
Lor: Maybe he’ll feel bad about it later! JUST KIDDING. NOPE.
Sweeney: Before he sees how that giant bucket of NOPE ends, he’s blasted back to the present. Future Xander says that he doesn’t have much time, but that the only way Xander can stop this is by not marrying Anya. “Sometimes two people, all they bring each other…is pain.”
Aaaand with that we cut to Buffy spotting Spike standing alone so they chat. Spike asks if she’s met his friend. Buffy says it is making her a little bit jealous, though it doesn’t change anything. Spike says he’s sorry and then corrects himself with, “Well, GOOD.” Spike volunteers to just leave. He adds that it’s good to see her be happy because he doesn’t see it a lot and she’s glowing. Buffy jokes that it’s because her dress is radioactive. He asks Buffy to confirm that it does hurt before grabbing his date and leaving.
K: I actually don’t hate this scene. It’s almost a return to the way things were between them at the start of the season or in season 5.
Sweeney: Willow finds Xander pacing in the kitchen. She squees a little about seeing her bestie in his tux, joking that it’s a good thing she realized she’s gay, given their track record with being alone in formal wear. They hug and she asks if he’s ready for the long walk, but he says he needs a little more time to work on his vows. Willow says they can’t start the wedding without him and walks off, showing us Xander’s guilty face. YES, XANDER, YOU SHOULD FEEL LIKE UTTER SHIT.
K: He totally should, but it still gives me feels. (High fives the Xander Defence Front)
Sweeney: Elsewhere, Anya is being adorable, getting on and off her little bridal pedestal doing some more enthusiastic pacing as she finalizes her vows. Tara vetoes use of the words “sex poodle” in her vows. Anya flails when she hears the music start. Buffy pokes her head in the door to ask if Anya’s ready to go, and is immediately pulled back into the hall where Willow tells Buffy that Xander has gone missing.
After a Not Commercial Break, they agree that Willow’s going to go track him down and Buffy is going to stall. She goes into the room and tells Anya that there’s a slight delay and proves to be a terrible liar when her excuse is that the half-minister-half-doctor has to perform an Emergency C Section. She’s lucky Anya’s so literal (and jittery), so she accepts this. Buffy runs out.
Once Buffy goes, Anya turns around, takes a deep breath and says she’s going to go through her vows with Tara for the last time:
K: BRB, UGLY CRYING.
Lor: Having her say her vows while Xander walks through the rain could’ve been a little obvious, but credit to everyone involved: it worked for me.
Sweeney: Inside the hall, Buffy goes inside and the music starts as she walks down the aisle and she insists that it’s not what they’re thinking. Cousin Carol tears up because WEDDING. Right there with you, Carol.
Inside, Anya is pacing around freaking about the doctor/minister. It was very rude of him and that baby’s mother. At the bar, Shitbag Harris is getting more drinks and delivering some misogynistic babble about how “that Anya” made them pay for the whole thing and she’s now going to louse it up. Halfrek is annoyed when the vengeance-demon-making demon (D’Hoffryn) is worried about Anya.
Outside, Dawn is flirting with a cute demon guy with horns, talking about whose family is the most messed up. “I was briefly raised by a robot version of my dead sister,” is kind of a high card, though. (K: Not to mention the “I used to be a ball of green energy” card.) He says something about how lame everybody is so that we can cut to Buffy playing charades with the guests to stall.
Sweeney: Anya’s done waiting. Tara tries to stop her, but she heads out into the hall to say that if the minister isn’t there, then they’ll have to get married without one. Dawn confesses to the demon guy that it’s a secret, but the hold up is that Xander took off. Unfortunately, she says this as she’s re-entering the hall just as Anya is walking by. Anya asks what’s going on and Demon Guy excuses himself as Anya freaks out.
She says, “What do you mean Xander’s missing?” loud enough for all the guests to hear. Shitbag Harris starts to tell another stupid story, which is interrupted by Clem’s friend who almost fought him earlier. Shitbag Harris says that drinking is the only way he can deal with the pain of looking at his ugly face. Seconds later, the party turns into a full out brawl. Willow and Tara stand off to the side checking on one another.
Anya’s freaking out asking if anyone has seen Xander. Cousin Carol points out Future!Xander, and says she saw Xander talking to that old man earlier. Anya goes to him and asks what he said to Xander to make him leave. Future!Xander says it’s already done, adding that Anya is just as vindictive as ever. He says that Xander left because of her and when she says she didn’t do anything, he adds, “What about this?” and morphs into a very tall scaly demon.
After a Not Commercial Break, the brawl continues. Demon Wedding Crasher, as he shall now be known, says that he has waited a long time for this. She was a victim of her vengeance demon days – he keeps calling her Anyanka for anyone who is a little slow. “Chicago, south side, 1914.” He says some hussy summoned her and then he woke up looking like that, getting tortured in a demon dimension. Anya cry-whispers that she punished him. He hits her and Buffy sees from across the room.
Demon Wedding Crasher goes on to say that it was so easy to ruin her life — all it took was a few phony visions of Xander’s nightmare. Anya cries and DWC says he loves to see her cry.
K: OH GOD, SO MANY FEELS.
Sweeney: Just as his attack gets more serious, Buffy appears. Xander gets there just in time to serve as a distraction so DWC lets Anya go and he and Buffy can get to fighting.
While they fight, Anya assures Xander that the visions weren’t real and it’s all going to be OK now. Xander still seems hesitant. Buffy strangles DWC and Xander grabs something heavy to crush his skull with, before proclaiming it dead. The wedding guests stop fighting and cheer as the rest of the bridal party rushes up.
The peace is short-lived. Shitbag Harris manages to foul it up again, calling Anya’s guests freaks. Anya shouts for them to sit down and STFU so she can have her damn wedding. In the lobby, Anya and Xander are talking and she says it’s all over now, because the guy is dead and it was just smoke and mirrors. They’re ready to get married now. Xander, however, is not. He knows it wasn’t real, but it could be. Xander goes on to say that it wasn’t her that he was hating and he’s afraid that they went too fast. As Anya is trying to tell him to calm down and start over, he sees his parents fighting, adding that if this is a mistake it’s forever and he doesn’t want to hurt her that way. He drops her hands as he apologizes a couple times.
Anya cries, but collects herself enough to back inside and tell the guests that the wedding is off and asshole Xander can’t even stick around for that because fuck him. The music plays, thinking that the wedding is starting, but the guests quickly realize that Anya’s face reads more “my life is over” than “blushing bride.”
K: Someone needs to have a serious talk to those musicians, because JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, PEOPLE.
Sweeney: That night, Buffy, Willow, and Dawn are talking about it at Chez Summers. Fitting that Buffy would be the one to point out that Anya wants to be alone right now. Dawn says she thought they were happy and Buffy says that they were, repeating that they were her light at the end of the tunnel. Willow says she feels like she should hate Xander but she can’t. Don’t worry, girl, I can. Dawn wonders where he is.
Segue to him arriving at a shitty motel somewhere, being shown to his room. Anya, meanwhile, is still in her wedding dress, sitting in the black void where D’Hoffryn hangs out. She says that she’s so tired. D’Hoffryn says he’s sorry, but it’s because she let Xander domesticate her. As a vengeance demon she would have crushed him and it’s time she got back to what she does best. Roll end credits.
It’s frustrating because their S5 relationship was actually pretty cute. You saw some of the good they did one another. S6, unfortunately has been a long drawn-out build up to this moment. It helps that they haven’t had too many scenes together, but nearly all of their S6 scenes were about setting the stage for this moment. All of that makes this even more frustrating from Xander – it was an endless reel of him making the wrong choice over and over and over again.
Of course, while Xander has been making some terrible choices leading up to this epic moment of sads, Anya has choices to make going forward. We’ve already seen that grieving, angry people are not the best bed-makers. For now, though, many, many feels.
K: SO MANY FEELS OMG. I was thinking as I was watching this that it would be interesting to know if things would have been different if their wedding had just been the Scoobies in a park somewhere with Giles officiating rather than the full-blown, stressful invite-every-family-member-ever routine. Yes, Xander’s been having doubts for a while. And kudos(-ish) to him for not going through with it and then asking for a divorce two months later because WHOOPS MISTAKE. I just can’t help but wonder whether things would have turned out differently without his family and Anya’s demon friends around…
Lor: I have lots of different feels about this episode. First, I think it was relatively well done, and will end up a highlight in an otherwise sloppy season 6. Even so, this episode had just a touch of that characteristic slop: the full on family brawl was a bit much. We as the audience understood the tension between the two families without having it pushed quite so violently in our faces.
Second, this hits me with the wealth of complicated emotions that Spuffy has been trying, and failing, to inspire in me. I’m sure there will be people who feel more for Anya or more for Xander, and I can sit back and understand the feels on both sides. Selfishly, I wanted them to get married. I wanted them to work, and to also be MY light at the end of this bleak season 6 tunnel. I wanted them to be my reminder that sometimes happy things happen in Sunnydale. Realistically, they should not be getting married if either of them is not ready. I feel for Xander and his Childhood Trauma and his inability to overcome it and let himself try for his happy ending. I fault him for letting it get to this point. I feel for him because I think he does love Anya and these are self-issues.
Anya… wow. I’ve hated her at times, laughed at her, laughed with her, and she’s given some of the best and insightful moments of the series. She’s a human now, but she was brought over reluctantly. She’s never truly expressed remorse or regret over her demon days, but at the same time, she’s tried to assimilate. Her vows mentioned that she wasn’t even a person before Xander, and I think this is the reason Anya wasn’t ready for marriage either. Her whole identity, it seems, relied on Xander. The Magic Box came in and helped, but her capitalistic mind was often looked down on by Xander. Her whole morality was based on Xander. He told her right from wrong, and often in condescending and mean spirited ways. There is only so much that love can change you.
I will super mad at Anya if she chooses the vengeance demon path again, but that last shot? Her face as she’s in her wedding dress, surrounded by darkness and looking at the demon who started her journey to this moment? UGH. She has not only my brain feelings but my heart feelings.
Sweeney: Yes! That’s a beautiful shot and that’s an interesting point about Anya’s identity. She got so fixated on the idea of marriage in part because it could mean, to her, that she was doing “PERSON” right. Checking off the boxes, in a sense. She clearly wasn’t ready. It’s also worth nothing that Xander’s repeated “wrong choice” wasn’t necessarily “staying engaged” so much as his inability to talk about any of this with Anya. (Which is, itself, a very bad sign.) Still, I’m in full agreement on the many, many heart feelings for Anya right now.
Next time: Buffy’s in a psych ward because S6 is all about destroying you emotionally. Get your heart feelings on with us on Buffy the Vampire Slayer S06 E17 – Normal Again.