Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | April 8, 2013

Cordia’s Review: S6, E03 – After Life

Cordia’s Second Look
After Life
Season 6, Episode 3
Original airing: 10/9/2001

My Rating: 66

The Good: This episode is a great example of how the characters drive this show so much more than the action or the horror aspect. Buffy’s return to the land of the living leaves her and everyone around her confused, hurt, desperate, and unfocused. This experience has effectively changed Buffy’s relationship with every other character on the show.

Spike and Buffy were the stars of this episode, in my opinion. Their three scenes together were an awesome exploration of their relationship and how Buffy’s death affected both of them. The first meeting had several tender moments as Spike recognizes Buffy from Buffy-bot almost instantly, and then holds her hands on the couch. He also empathizes with her about having to break out of her coffin, something he has also experienced.

The second scene was Buffy reaching out to Spike. She goes to his crypt, perhaps in a quiet plea to spend time around the only other person who’s been through death and back. It also gave Spike a wonderful chance to open up and showcase some of his feelings in a completely pure and organic manner (see Favorite Moment).

Finally, we get the painful scene where Buffy admits to Spike she wasn’t in hell. In fact, now life feels like hell to her. And without even asking, she swears him to secrecy. This is a truly powerful and well done scene. It’s one that completely changed my perspective on the show when I first saw it. The knowledge that Buffy was forced back into her life of sacrifice and pain from an existence of pure love and completion is shockingly painful. It puts everyone’s behaviors in a different light, especially Willow’s.

If there’s a character to dislike here, it’s Willow. She’s presented as rather selfish in this episode with her desire to be thanked and her focus on wanting Buffy to experience the emotions Willow was expecting. She doesn’t know how to deal with the Buffy that came back and just wants things to be like they used to be. It’s a very naïve approach to the situation.

Finally, I enjoyed again seeing Dawn doing something other than whining and screaming Buffy’s name. She tries really hard in this episode to take care of and protect Buffy. I especially like her insistence that the Scoobies not overwhelm Buffy when they find her at the house.

The Bad: This episode did not need a villain. It was chockfull of awesome Scoobieness and Buffy/Spike yumminess. And yet, someone decided to shoe-horn in this weird, floating, guilt demon. I just don’t think it was at all necessary and it turned into more of a distraction than anything else. Its complete lack of a plan until it learns it should kill Buffy makes me question why it was throwing things at Willow and Tara and why it possessed Anya and Dawn. What was it trying to achieve if it didn’t know it needed to kill Buffy? This issue is never addressed and why should it be, when the demon doesn’t matter?

Favorite Moment: I would have totally chosen the last scene where Buffy reveals she was in heaven, if this was my first viewing. As is, I found myself really drawn to the scene where Spike tells Buffy how much he missed her and how he saves her every night in his dreams. It’s nice to see Spike have the opportunity to genuinely open himself up to Buffy. There’s no anger, demands, sarcasm, or wit in this monologue. He’s just telling her straight up how sorry he is that he couldn’t save her.

The Bottom Line: If you’re a fan and invested in Buffy’s return from the dead, this is a pretty darn good episode. Looking past the demon, it explored a lot of Buffy’s newly evolving relationships with her family and friends. I look forward to seeing how Giles handles all this too.

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Responses

  1. If you need help finding outside references, look at Keith Topping’s books about Buffy and Angel. Each synopsis includes an exhaustive list of external references . I often do not know what they are, but he does an amazing job of identifying all of them. K Topping is British so he also comments on frustration between showing in uk vs us. Live the podcast. Will send substantive comments another time. One thing, listening to After Life, Willow is not very naive. Think about her “innocently” using computers in season one. She has no problem hacking and knows it’s wrong. She wants to be in charge and has tried since she was in HS and took control when she could. As soon as Buffy went comotose in season five she took complete control even separating spike and Xander with magic. I love Willow but think its surprising how much lee way the group gives her.


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