Synopsis: Buffy returns home seemingly in shock. Spike is amazed to see her and then angry at being left out of the loop. Buffy goes to bed but soon appears screaming at Willow and Tara. The apparition scares them into calling Xander who then sees his own as Anya appears to cut her own face. The Scoobies gather and realise that in bringing Buffy back they’ve created a demon who hasn’t yet found a body to live in. They work out how to kill it as Buffy confides in Spike.
The Good: This was like part three of the Buffy resurrection story and was very good in that respect. We definitely needed to hear that she was pulled from heaven to explain her miserable appearance as she stares at the life she thought she’d left behind. The concept of returning from paradise to the everyday struggles of Earth is not something we can relate to directly but with a typically good performance from SMG and clear writing of the expectations of the Scoobies we were able to understand the basics of what she’s going through.
Buffy’s despair at being dragged home is an excellent payoff to the foreboding of Bargaining part one where it seemed clear that something bad was going to happen. Now we can see the whole story and how it has led to no good for anyone, at least right now. Willow crossed many moral lines to make this happen and although Dawn and others are thrilled to have Buffy back, Willow has allowed some darkness in. She clearly didn’t consider the consequences of her action fully (e.g. not digging up the grave) and appears to lie to Tara when the demon yells about the lamb she sacrificed. When the two of them cast a spell on that demon, Willow’s eyes go dark (as they did when she attacked Glory in 519). From Willow’s perspective though, she is the hero. She rescued Buffy from a fate worse than any they’ve faced before and all she wants is a big thank you. It’s a very intriguing and awkward position to put the Willow character in and it’s amazing to think that this story has been building since Jenny Calendar passed away (217) leaving an unfinished spell that Buffy’s best friend couldn’t help but carry out for her.
Meanwhile the writers have pulled off quite a fear by turning Spike into both a sympathetic character and Buffy’s confidant. The latter makes a lot of sense given the acknowledgment in “Fool for Love” (507) that only Spike understands death in the way the Slayer does. That is doubly so now and only Spike reacts to her as if she has been through a trauma, the others stand around waiting for her to begin quipping and smiling. Despite this new intimacy and Spike’s admirable guilt and honour over protecting Dawn, he is still a vampire. He is still unstable. It’s a delight to see this not be forgotten as he laughs hysterically in his crypt (looking fancy by the way) or when he admits that every night he saves Buffy in his mind. The creepy stalker is still in him.
The Bad: The initial apparition (in the form of Buffy) was pretty freaky and given the words she used, impactful. After that though the newly created demon became a plot device who popped in and out of the Scoobies quickly to forward the plot but never felt remotely threatening.
Anya has spent the first three episodes being a bit all over the place. The writers keep trying to make her the source of comedy in ways which don’t always click with her character. She tells Dawn she will soon have dry mouth after being possessed which actually seemed appropriate given she too had suffered the same experience. But she then adds that she means because of the fire Dawn just spat across the room which was just a cheap joke instead of insight.
The Unknown: It’s a slight surprise that Giles didn’t react with anger or more shock on the phone but we only got Willow’s perspective and doubtless his in person reaction will be worth the wait.
Best Moment: Buffy telling Spike that she was in heaven suddenly clicked everything into place from these first three episodes.
The Bottom Line: Another solid episode moving Buffy’s return forward with a real sense that the show has now changed.