Bargaining – Part 2
Season 6, Episode 2
Original airing: 10/2/2001
My Rating: 67
The Good: I really appreciated how Buffy’s return was handled in this episode. She’s lost, disoriented, confused, shocked, and scared. All things might reasonably be if awakening from a five month rest in a coffin buried six feet down. I like the blurred shots from her perspective to show how confusing the world is to her. I wonder if she recognized the Buffy-bot, or thought she saw herself being torn apart. All in all, I think it makes exceptional sense that she ends up on the top of the tower contemplating ending it all again. Her heartbreaking situation is compounded by her confession to Dawn that she thinks she’s in hell. Especially when everyone keeps telling her she’s home. Buffy’s the kind of person who, despite saving the world a lot, might think she would go to hell. Might even expect it.
I also really liked the in-between bits of Buffy’s journey through the town. All the fires and the screaming demons would seem quite hellish. And her encounter with the Scoobies felt a bit like people looking in on a zoo creature. There’s a wonderful, feral element to the presentation that helps express Buffy’s situation. What I really, really liked, was how Buffy didn’t snap back fully to being Buffy. She steps up to fight the demon when she has to, but she runs away again afterwards. And her face certainly looks less than thrilled to be home when Dawn is hugging her at the end of the episode. I say a strong kudos to how Buffy’s return was done.
Season Six has already shown us it intends to be darker and bloodier. We get more of that here with knives and poles going gruesomely into demons. I think it sets the tone well for this to be a season that really focuses on darkness in a way the show hasn’t yet. It was touched upon in season five with Dracula’s appearance in the opening episode and the many appearances of the First Slayer, but it feels like it’s going to be even more open to exploration in this season.
I enjoyed the Scooby stuff as well, except for Anya (see The Bad). Xander, Willow, and Tara all had strong moments to show off their resourcefulness, care for each other, and willingness to take on anything to protect the legacy Buffy has left behind. Spike got to shine as Dawn’s protector, going about it in his rather rough manner.
And Michelle Trachtenberg got to do something other than scream Buffy’s name, although she did do that at the end. From her conversation with the limbless Buffy-bot to her pleading on the tower, she portrayed her denied hope for Buffy to be alive very well. She’s shocked and disbelieving, but wants to so badly, she can’t help but literally run off into the dark to find Buffy. And Buffy’s decision to stay and help Dawn fits perfectly with all of her protectiveness from the last season. She threatened to kill anyone who tried to hurt Dawn (S5E22), so she certainly can’t leave Dawn to die on a collapsing tower.
The Bad: My main complaint in this episode is Anya. I’m generally a fan of her quirkiness and not-quite-human understanding, but harping on her engagement to Xander is starting to feel really, really scripted and non-organic. Her concerns in the last episode seemed justifiable, but by now (and in the midst of a demon invasion), it just seems beyond petty. She’s more worried about her store and the engagement, then about Xander, Willow, Buffy, or the destruction of the town. While I think her characterization as someone who doesn’t get the niceties of human society is really fun, she hasn’t been this emotionally cold since her introduction in season three and it really doesn’t fit her anymore.
Favorite Moment: I liked quite a few things in this episode, but I definitely noticed the Buffy-bot and Dawn scene the most. I was completely impressed with the presentation of limbless Buffy-bot. It was super well done and also worked as a wonderful way to pass off the news of Buffy’s return to Dawn.
The Bottom Line: This episode was far from perfect, but I really appreciated the show taking the time to begin fully exploring Buffy’s return and what that would mean to her psyche.