Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | August 5, 2013

Podcast #120: Hell’s Bells

Here’s the podcast for Season 6, Episode 16 – Hell’s Bells

So Sad

So Sad

Download: Hell’s Bells

RSS Feed: The Buffy Rewatch

The next podcast will appear on Thursday 22nd August 2013 for episode seventeen of Season Six: “Normal Again.” That’s the one where something weird happens with Buffy (I know, I know but how do I describe that without spoiling anything?)

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  1. I was just thinking about this episode the other day and wondering when it was coming up. Maybe this was addressed in the episode and I missed it, maybe not. I was wondering if the demon’s poison causes crazy hallucinations or if it causes Buffy to experience her life in another dimension. We’ve seen that alternate dimensions exist and that people can travel between them. If it is an alternate reality, I don’t think I could blame Buffy for choosing to stay with her parents and live a normal life. But, Buffy being the hero that she is, she chooses the more difficult path that benefits others more than herself.

    I can see this being a bit of a reflection of when willow brings her back from the dead, but this time she has a choice. I think this topic was discussed on the podcast around the beginning of the season. Had Buffy been given the choice she probably would have left heaven to help protect her friends. Instead, she was just violently torn from heaven. Here, she is given the choice of a normal happy life with two loving parents or a world where demons run free on the earth and it’s up to her to save everyone all the time. She chooses to be strong and stay with her friends.

    Of course, if these hallucinations are just supposed to be hallucinations and nothing more what would have happened if she chose to stay with her parents? Would she just be catatonic in the world with her friends?

  2. I’m thinking back on your comments from Hell’s Bells regarding “nice demons”. I agree that from the viewpoint of Buffy, this is a fairly new concept. They have layered in some of this with things like Willy’s Place and Clem, but it’s subtle.

    I think the assumption is that people watching Buffy are also watching Angel, so by season six of Buffy they’ve also had over two seasons of Angel. The humanity of demons is not only a core subject for that show, it’s hugely important to some of the main character arcs. (There is a wedding in season 1 of Angel that features nice demons, and I see some similar ideas in Hell’s Bells)

    I’m not saying your reaction is wrong. A show should stand on its own. Just trying to explain what could cause this feeling of abruptness on Buffy.

    • I had the same thought, Jason – that at the time, Buffy viewers would sort of take for granted the ambiguity about demons that Angel had been introducing.

      On Buffy, though, I’m not sure. My guess is that demons who were friends enough with Anyanka to attend her wedding are probably not good or even neutral. Certainly, Halfrek and D’Hoffryn aren’t.

      On Buffy at this point, it feels like demons are still basically evil, but Buffy has spent so much time around them that she can socialize with them when she’s off the clock. Yes, she might well slay Clem if she catches him doing some dark ritual, but there’s always another Clem, so she’s willing to hang out with him and have a drink. He’s not harming anyone RIGHT NOW, and who else understands her?

  3. This is a great observation. And it would explain why some of us had a major problem with the humanity of the demons and others didn’t even register it as anything out of the ordinary.

    • That was meant to be in response to Jason Abels.

      Also I should clarify what I was saying when I said I felt bad for the wedding guests in Hell’s Bells. Obviously, I cared much more about Xander and Anya in their final scene than I did about anyone else.

      But you have all these people, most of whom you don’t know, flying into town for a wedding and then… it doesn’t happen. It was an idle thought that popped into my head when Xander walked off. “Oh but all these poor people made their way out to the wedding and now it’s not happening”

      I suppose that’s silly, but it’s a serious thought that I had all the same… Heh!

  4. I know the Buffy/Spike pairing isn’t for everyone, but I was surprised at how many people thought Spike was out of character in their scene in Hell’s Bells.

    I think this was probably the first time they’ve seen on another since she broke up with him, and it’s pretty obvious Spike went there with every intention of being obnoxious. But his date has disappeared, and with her his plan. Buffy acts friendlier than she’s been since before they began their sexual relationship, so he doesn’t have a defense mechanism ready.

    It’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen Spike do a quick about-face with Buffy. In Fool For Love, he went from intending to shoot her to asking “What’s wrong?” in a matter of seconds. In Once More With Feeling, he doesn’t know whether he wants to kill or save her first, but he wants both. I doubt he even knows which impulse will win in any given situation.

    It’s worth noting that the demons in the series start being less threatening as Buffy herself becomes more morally grey. She doesn’t really know who she is, and without that certainty, she isn’t able to take a black-and-white view of demons anymore. The show is just following her point of view.

    At any rate, the scene worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

  5. More thoughts on Hell’s Bells:
    I think Cordia agreed with me, just undue emphasis on the word murder. If it’s plausible to think that Xander is afraid of becoming an abusive lout like his father, then the common end of that scenario is the death.of the abused spouse. (I think the official stat is 30% of female homicides are killed by a domestic partner.) Being attacked with a frying pan doesn’t seem like something you would just bounce back from! While that is definitely the worst case scenario, it does stand to reason that it would be part of his fears. If the visions were from Xander and not created by the demon, then my idea of intrusive, violent thoughts may not be so far off! I also disagree slightly with the idea that he is nothing like his father. The first couple of seasons, Xander is slightly misogynist. (Some would argue more than slightly, and he’s been compared to the classic “Nice Guy” trope a lot. Interesting blog post on that – probably contains spoilers – His dad is obviously very condescending toward his wife and women in general. So, I definitely think Xander has grown, and a lot of it was when he was dating Cordelia.

    As for the demons at the wedding issue, this is not the first time that demons have been in a grey area. I’m not sure if werewolves are considered demons, but Buffy and Riley get into a fight when she considers him a bigot for not accepting that some demons or monsters can be good. (New Moon Rising) I can’t remember exactly, but it seems to me that there was also an instance when the initiative was capturing “benign” demons and killing them, and Buffy had issues with that. I do agree that it seems strange that they would want to go to the wedding of two humans, but from Spike and Druscilla we’ve been able to see that demons can feel human emotions toward each other. I do agree about the Angel the show comparison though, as the setting has far less humans in it, which is understandable when you assume the type of company that Angel would keep. I watched those episodes in airing order, so I was alternating back and forth and that may have changed my view.

    As for Anya’s moral compass, I never had any confusion with the way she was characterized. Unlike Xander, she hasn’t had much character growth, and is more or less exactly the same. But I don’t think she feels bad about her vengeance days, I think she feels that it was justice served. She may have been a sociopath before she became a demon (which would explain why she thought it was okay to exact eye-for-an-eye revenge on her ex-lovers). It seems obvious to me that given her characterization so far her answer to D’Hoffryn would be yes. I definitely can’t imagine the alternative, where she would be alone and weepy for months. When faux-Xander tells her how much he’s suffered, it doesn’t seem like she feels bad for what she did. She feels bad that it didn’t take much convincing for Xander to run away.

    Back later with thoughts on Normal Again.

  6. Hello Cordia and Robin! I have been eagerly awaiting your podcast for Normal Again for quite a few months at this point. I have read various reviews, etc, for Normal Again, and from that have gathered that much of the fandom is fairly split on their liking for this episode, and I may be in the minority in my opinion on it. I’m very curious to hear your two opinions, and also those of your regular listeners. Personally, I love this episode a lot. I don’t know if it’s actually one of the best episodes of Buffy ever, but it has a special place in my heart for some reason. I guess it seems to me that a lot of the arc of season 6 leads up to this episode. Buffy is torn out of heaven, and thrown back into a harsh, difficult world. She finds herself very much alone and in trouble, both in the real/adult sort of world as well as the demon-y world (not that the trio are generally especially threatening, but they still need dealing with). Her mother’s gone. Giles leaves. Willow isn’t in any place to be a support for Buffy. Tara is largely out of the picture. Dawn is having issues of her own, and is at any rate not likely to exceed her role of little sister. Her relationship with Spike is as close to comfort as she’s gotten, and that’s pretty fraught with emotional difficulty in and of itself. Then one day, she finds herself in doubt as to whether her life is real, or whether she has actually hallucinated everything we’ve seen on BtVS the last six years. The progression of how she comes to truly doubt her life’s reality seems well done to me (I think this is evidenced by so many fans wondering whether Joss meant to say that Sunnydale etc. is really just a hallucination of a mentally troubled Buffy). I so feel for her when she’s curled on the couch in the living room with the picture of herself and her parents. Willow comes to tell her that they’ve found the demon that stung Buffy, and in that moment I can totally see how Buffy would believe that this scenario just isn’t plausible. The sheer pain she’s experienced since returning from the grave seems to me to show in her face, and is juxtaposed against the happy picture of her former life in the photo, which seems almost within her reach, if she can believe it might be true.
    Buffy going on a quiet, solemn rampage against all her friends and preparing to let the demon kill them is fairly terrifying. It does seem a bit too convenient that Tara turns up just at the right moment, but that doesn’t bother me especially, since Tara does a nice bit of magic before Buffy is super creepy and grabs her ankle through the stairs. Yikes.
    I wonder if the white shirt Buffy wears in these scenes is meant to mean anything. I’m not sure exactly what it would, but I don’t recall her wearing it before or after, so I’m curious if anyone has ideas.
    For the record, I don’t think Joss meant that he sees the series as being a hallucination (for instance, why would the Angel show exist?). I just see it as a sort of exploration of how insane this series would sound if someone who hadn’t experienced demons and vampires were told about it, and how Buffy might react if she really began to question her life’s reality.
    I suppose I may identify with Buffy’s experience in some ways myself, since I have spent some time on occasion flipping between two perspectives, and finding each plausible, and weighing why I choose to go with one or the other (to name one example: belief in God vs atheism).
    I do get very annoyed with Willow and Spike towards the end of the episode, when both fail to make sure Buffy drinks the tea. I get that they probably don’t realize she might choose not to, but still! Spike gets upset, I know, but it’s still lame of him, and you might think that Willow would check back on Buffy after informing Dawn on the antidote creation success. Unless Willow did, and Buffy faked it since she’d already poured it out…well, I don’t know. I find it frustrating though!
    On the other hand, Spike and Buffy’s conversation in the graveyard I tend to enjoy; it seems like it’s along the same theme as their conversation under Spike’s rug, only without the post-sex setting of course. Just kind of casual and conversational. And then Xander pokes his big nose in there etc. Xander could stand to close his mouth from time to time, I find. Thumper’s (Bambi) rule comes to mind: If you can’t say something nice… But the concern of everyone for Buffy is nice, as is Spike’s parting comment about a cold cloth on Buffy’s head – though I have to wonder when she felt sick and he took care of her, or whether she just often enjoys a cold cloth on her head? Not sure.
    I have read some critiques about how mental illness/schizophrenia is handled in the episode, and I think they’re probably valid; however, it doesn’t interfere with my personal enjoyment of the episode.
    My favorite moment – definitely Buffy and Willow in the living room on the couch. It’s like a glimpse into their former relationship, only to me it feels hollow, like a shadow of how they used to be. They still care about each other, but the relationship isn’t what it was. I do wish we knew something about how/whether Buffy and Willow ever address the issue between them of how Willow brought Buffy back when Buffy might not rather have come back.
    My apologies…I’m afraid I may tend to ramble about this episode. I find it pretty fascinating. I apologize for leaving a massive comment for you guys to edit and so forth. I enjoy your podcast so much – I just listened to about six podcast episodes from season 3 today while doing a serious room overhaul, and it made for a very pleasant day. Thanks!

    • I like the thing about the white shirt. The fact that she’s wearing white in both realities kinda blends them together in a way. Cool catch.

    • I have my doubts that Willow and Buffy will ever revisit the bringing back from the dead thing as any more than a passing “oh, Buffy used to be dead” kind of thing. I mean, Xander tried to rape Buffy when he was possessed by hyenas, and she never brought that up again. Buffy having her choice taken from her is par for the course, starting with being called as a slayer at 15.

      • Very true, meags…I guess I meant more along the lines of whether Buffy and Willow discuss it off-screen. I suppose we could assume that they haven’t, because if they did it would be important and the writers would have shown us, but I don’t know whether that’s a completely solid reason. I mean, Buffy and Willow have had little mini-conversations about serious issues this season, like after Buffy was invisible and they sat on the curb together. I don’t think it seems impossible that they might have next wandered home together and had a nice talk. But then maybe there would be signs in their relationship of having had such a talk that we don’t see…anyways. I do agree with you that it’s unlikely they’ll actually revisit it on screen. Just wishful thinking, I guess.

  7. I’ve been busy the last 3 weeks dealing with a broken laptop and taking care of stuff for a summer class, but I’m back again to comment. Yay! It’s good to be back. Cool story: I’m taking a Science Fiction in Film class, and I was talking to a classmate about Buffy after I noticed she was wearing a Sunnydale High shirt. Our professor overheard and joined in the conversation, saying he’s a fan of the show. He then proceeded to tell us that he had Joss Whedon as a TA when he was in college. Small world.

    On to Normal Again. I have to say that I love this episode. The part I find most intriguing is the idea of Buffy having previously been in a mental institution. It was blended into her story really well. It doesn’t seem at all out of place, and is perfectly believable. If you think back to seasons 1 and 2, it adds a level of depth to why Buffy wanted to initially give up being the slayer, and why it took her almost 3 seasons to tell her mother about her calling. It also gives some depth to Joyce’s early reactions to Buffy’s behavior, particularly the one in Becoming. Obviously the writers probably weren’t taking this into consideration when writing those episodes, but it is interesting to think about given this new information.

    Buffy’s revelation of having been in a mental institution provided us with a much needed Buffy-Willow moment. I can’t express how much I love their friendship, and that talk was nice to see. Also the earlier one where Willow tells Buffy about seeing Tara. They really haven’t had many best friend moments this season apart from the end of Wrecked, so it was nice to see some in this episode. I’ve missed them.

    I love the three way Buffy-Xander-Willow hug upon his return home. Very sweet.

    Willow practicing what she was going to say to Tara was sweet, but the smile to frown in less than 10 seconds upon seeing Tara with another woman was pretty heart wrenching.

    The return of Hank and Joyce. It was a nice touch that it is Buffy’s mom who ends up giving her the courage to go back to the Sunnydale reality.

    Did anyone else think of Adam from season 4 when they saw the demon’s skewer hand?

    References I caught:
    The ever creepy Jack Torrence from the Shining, Ken Russell, and Warren calls Jonathan “Spanky”, which made me think of the Little Rascals, but I’m not so sure that was an intentional reference. Or maybe it was. I don’t know.

  8. Some thoughts on Normal Again.

    – I wasn’t looking forward to rewatching this. I remembered it being really upsetting, and I was right. As a parent, I empathized with Joyce and Hank, and their situation was heart wrenching.

    – The harsh lighting in the mental institution scenes, SMG’s very effective acting, and the terrible choice of having to turn her back on her parents or her friends make this a very skillful episode that I probably never will watch again.

    – For what it’s worth, when I watch this episode, I think that the episode makes a better case for the institution being real than for Sunnydale being real. It’s really smart to have the therapist call out the various plot inconsistencies and metaphors as being the product of someone’s mind, but since those features ARE the product of the writers’ minds, it makes the case against Sunnydale very strong.

    – The worst part for me is Buffy telling her mother goodbye. By believing in Buffy, poor Joyce has said the one thing that is guaranteed to convince Buffy to go back to Sunnydale. Buffy hasn’t concluded that Sunnydale is real and the institution false, she’s decided that her friends are worth saving whether or not they are real. That’s noble, and it calls back to her decision to accept Dawn as her sister, but if Joyce is real and Sunnydale isn’t, then it’s also incredibly tragic.

    – It’s interesting that the nerds have been a fountain of metaphor-laden threats this season. They’ve zapped Buffy with a time loop that symbolizes the drudgery of a retail job, magic lint that symbolizes the disengagement of depression, and now this.

  9. Nothing on Normal Again, although to clarify my Marc Blucas story, I’m pretty sure that he showed up at Kevin Smith’s house around christmas time. I actually didn’t even know he was in Red State, I’ll have to look for that next time.

    Anyway, thought you’d like to know that I have finally found a podcasting buddy. The Digimon Rewatch will begin shortly. Still can’t find anyone to do The Yes, Dear Rewatch with me though 😦

    Also, my sister is trying to get into make-up blogging. I was wondering if you had any tips I could forward to her? Especially in regards to what kind of camera to get? also this question is more for cordia. Robin, you’re welcome to jump in. if there is a lot of stuff to say, you can email me directly as opposded to filling up precious podcast time with nail polish talk.

  10. Would like to point out that, if the mental institution stuff is real, then that means any scene that Buffy is not involved in is also a fabrication of her mind. The trio scenes come to mind, where they summon the monster to attack Buffy and later when Warren comments on her freaking out. Also the Xander-Spike monster hunting scene. Heck even little scenes like Tara walking into the house while everyone else – including Buffy – is in the basement.

    Not saying it’s impossible that the mental institution is the true reality, just highly unlikely.

  11. The line that struck me in Normal Again is: “your friends, they aren’t so comforting anymore are they?”
    It’s exactly what viewers of the show are ttthinking at this point. Everyone is lost or a mess and at their least likable.
    This episode wouldn’t have been so poignant or believable in any previous season.
    I really loved it.

    • I love/hate that line so much too…it’s so sadly true.

  12. The first time I watched this episode was around the same time you guys covered “The Wish” on the podcast. Originally I much preferred “Normal Again” to “The Wish” when it comes to alternate reality Buffy episodes so I remember being a little harsh on “The Wish” (I’ve come around on it), but I thought it be interesting to revisit both episodes and see which one holds better.

    For me “Normal Again” still edges out “The Wish” though. There is an obvious impermanence to the universe of “The Wish” even though it seems to be more real than “Normal Again”‘s alternate world in that we know Vampire Willow and the whole reality does exist. “Normal Again” is unclear whether it is Buffy’s creation or not. However there is something so dreary about “The Wish” that is clear no real time is going to be sent there, it’s also jumping from one fantastical setting to an even more fantastical setting. It’s harder for me to relate to the world of “The Wish” than it is for me to relate to a world where Buffy is a just sick girl. That’s the real strength of “Normal Again” that is explanation for this universe is so plausible. I don’t think Buffy is really a sick girl in a mental hospital but the episode makes me believe she could be and that has much more of an impact.

    It’s not just the reality itself, I love how “Normal Again” acts as a commentary on the show. The fact that Dawn’s creation was a very starling moment that harshly rewrote the show’s history. The fact that Buffy is fighting people like Johnathan, Warren and Andrew when she used to fight gods, it’s also kind of a nod from the writers that they get it. The villains are not impressive and may not even work as well this season. In fact the whole explanation kind of just captures all plot holes with the explanation that it is just Buffy’s mind.

    The other thing that gives “Normal Again” the edge is that is so much scarier than “The Wish” due to the realism. Sure the fact that Dawn refers to a reality where Buffy has lost six years of her life and is insane as her ideal reality is a little fake but so are Dawn’s abandonment issues. The fact it is so easy to buy the alternate reality being real that it does become terrifying when Buffy sets out to kill everyone it becomes so much more scary when there is an actual moment when you think she might do it. Obviously I know Buffy is not going to let her friends die (though I wouldn’t mind a lightly mauled Dawn at this point) anymore than I think the world where Buffy never came to Sunnydale is going to the world of the show permanently. However there the argument is so convincing made that Sunnydale is fake that its easy to forget while watching the episode that everything with return to the status quo by the end of the episode more or less. It’s also the closest we will ever get to an evil Buffy and it’s a truly terrifying image. Sarah missed her calling as a serial killer in a horror movie.

    The one thing that “The Wish” has over “Normal Again” by leaps and bounds is that is a much stronger ensemble piece. Sure Xander is there being upset that Cordelia is angry at him for cheating on her and really feels like he is entitled to apology because “God Cordelia you almost died and I broke your heart, move on already!” But there is a much sturdy hand on the wheel when it comes to the ensemble and as good as “Normal Again” is it just a Buffy episode. Obviously the focus should be on Buffy and while the changing dynamics of the Trio is interesting (in theory). I much rather have seen a scene where Willow and Xander (and Dawn I guess) discussed not being real. And as unbearable as douche Xander can be Dawn is so close to be sympathetic in this episode and they managed to screw it up. Her learning that she doesn’t exist in Buffy’s other reality should upset her but she’s upset in the wrong direction. Calling it Buffy’s ideal world is a big part of the problem but it’s more directing her anger at Buffy. Instead of being upset that it trudges up her feelings about being confused about her identity and reality. It be much more interesting to see Dawn struggle with not being real than be angry at Buffy for not loving her. WHEN BUFFY JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE TO SAVE HER LIFE!

    Lastly to wrap up a very long comment that will be promptly chopped up, I wanted to touch briefly on Spike. I appreciated that he was back to being manipulative and is delusional about his relationship with Buffy. She certainly was never happy with Spike and never could be despite the connection they share. I believe she is telling the truth when she says she hates him and if not him certainly what he is, Buffy can never be happy with someone who is inherently evil. I think it be a much interesting end to the season if Spike becomes the Big Bad somehow of season six. The reverse of Angel if you will a tamed vampire who becomes evil again because Buffy STOPS sleeping with him.

    P.S. I thought it was interesting that Buffy has schizophrenia in the hallucinations because I recently learned that a common symptom is not feeling or showing any emotion. Considering Buffy’s behavior all season this had to be intentional. (Cordelia also references schizophrenia in “The Wish” but that’s really not relevant.)

  13. I remember first watching this and being horrified by the suggestion that the world of the show was “not real” – amazing upsetting I found that concept (as they are not real anyway – I do know that) but I think it’s an indication of how strongly I felt about the show and the character of Buffy in particular.

    I’m sure that English graduates or some academic could help me out in struggling to express the concepts of the relationship you have with a fictional character and how it feels when you have the rug taken from under you as you find the character has been created by another character. I don’t know but definitely weird and makes this episode really stand out.

    I used to feel that the last scene is a definite pointer that Sunnydale is a fiction in Buffy’s head and the whole series just a creation of insane Buffy but I’ve been persuaded by a few commentaries I’ve read that argue otherwise. One point is that Sunnydale Buffy has not yet taken the antidote when we see this last scene. Also that if you extend that argument then Buffy has to fabricate the Angel series as well which seems unlikely. I also thought the asylum looks too old fashioned with it’s leather restraints and the like – which is hopefully an indication that it’s an hallucination and not just a cliche image of an asylum.

    • Both shows existing as a product of her imagination would be a great explanation for any inconsistencies between the two of them. Of course, that’s only if you believe there are inconsistencies.

      I’m on your side, though. (Which is not to say that I don’t think there are any consistencies. I just don’t want to believe “it was all a dream” so to speak)

  14. References:
    Warren references Ocean’s Eleven when Andrew says they need 8 more guys for the vault heist. (Assuming it’s a heist? Why else would they need vault schematics? I don’t remember, so hopefully that’s not a spoiler.)

    Everyone else has said much more thoughtful things about the mental illness portion of this episode than I can, so I’ll just say that there was a graphic novel about Buffy’s first time in an institution called Slayer Interrupted. It took place shortly after the events of the movie. It was written post-Dawn and so there is some rewriting of history where it turns out that Dawn read Buffy’s diary and told their parents. Of course, the institution has demons in it and Buffy needs to save the day.

    Also, Joss doesn’t think the whole thing is a hallucination. Read this fantastic article, which also talks about what a soul is:

    I thought this episode was decent on rewatch, and I’d love to read some good criticism of it. I’ve found some on, but who knows when I’ll have the time to actually sit and read through it all.

    • Thanks for the link– I hadn’t seen it before. If anyone reads it, you should know there are a couple of significant spoilers there.

  15. Oh, one more thought. It’s worth noting that Buffy was SO excited about the wedding last week, and seemed to have so much of her faith in the world riding on Xander and Anya’s happiness. Having that hope dashed in such an awful way would make sense to feel like a last straw to Buffy, whose own world feels so messed up already. So then, if the Sunnydale world is one in which she’s unhappy, her friends aren’t really there for her, *and* her friends that she loves very much are unhappy (cause they are all really in a bad way: Willow and Xander are very much at low points, Dawn is angsty and stealing stuff, Giles wasn’t happy in Sunnydale and therefore left)…it’s easy to see how she could conclude there’s nothing good in that world. If Xander and Anya had been blissfully happy newlyweds, I don’t think I would buy her choice in the same way I do the way things stand.

  16. I came across a meta for Normal Again that said that the doctor in the alternate reality is a stand-in for Spike, based on the fact that Riley called him “The Doctor” just a few episodes ago in As You Were. (Wish I could remember where I saw it, but I don’t).

    There’s a parallel there that works for me. The doctor is trying to separate Buffy from her friends, just like Spike’s been trying to do pretty much all season. Buffy is tempted in both realities, but she ultimately chooses her friends both times by asking for the antidote, and by breaking off the relationship.

  17. Hey guys, sorry about the absence, I hit a snag with my own personal podcast dreams and spent far more time than was reasonable brooding over the issue. fortunately I have since pulled myself together and transitioned my dreams from audio to visual, going for a written blog instead of a podcast. A little shameless self promotion you can find the introductory post at with the first episode soon to follow . For those looking for something spoiler free I would point out that I’m going to save spoiler content for the end of each post in order to keep it safe for first time viewers.

    On to my thoughts. Between my own absence and yours I have caught up with you guys at this point, and with over half of my second favourite season to speak about, I’m going to skip over a lot of things I think are important, and do my best to suppress my inner fan girl from arguing with your critical ways. Mostly.

    I love this episode but most of the wonderful things about it have been said so I’m just going to share a bit of trivia about how this episode turned me off of anything remotely spoiler related. The episode description UPN put out a week before the episode came out said that Xander summoned the demon. I spent almost my entire first watch trying to figure out if there had been a mistake or if UPN had actually spoiled the end of the episode for me. From when Buffy walked into the Magic Box, to the moment she walked out into the Ally, I was more occupied with that episode description than the awesomeness of the episode itself. Eleven years later and the wound still chafes.

    This episode has a well hidden Buffy first. If you go back the scene when Amy is watching TV and Buffy comes in to talk about blue Gatorade, there is a commercial on TV for the Double meat Palace.

    I want to preface this next comment by pointing out that I follow shows such as True Blood, Game of Thrones and the Toronto based show Lost Girl. With all that in mind I want to say that the look of lust, confusion, worship disbelief and plain and simple awe on Spikes face in the moment they… interlock, is by far the Hottest moment I have ever seen on TV.

    Just have to call out one of my top three favourite Buffy quotes.
    “When…when did the building fall down?”
    “Hm? I don’t know, somewhere between the first time and the, huh.”
    Wrote that from memory and haven’t seen the episode in a while so its probably not verbatim but the sound she makes there, I just love it.

    The way I see it the ending of this episode marks the beginning of Buffy’s healing process. Since she came back Buffy has been struggling to feel any emotions at all, and to this point the only ones she has been able to touch have been un-healthy lust and self loathing. Suddenly she is in essence removed from the world, free to interact within it with no fear of observation or repercussions. To borrow a page from Maggie Walsh’s book she surrenders to her id bowing to her base instincts and drawing that surrender the first shreds of actual pleasure she has experienced since coming back into the world. It is like an emotional high, every act she gets away with driving her to further extremes until Spike finally sends her away, ending the cycle and forcing Buffy to start drifting back down to reality. Her encounter with Dawn slams her down the rest of the way. When she gets the call from no one. No one she knows, and learns she could die, she is surprised to realize she cares, but is still to emotionally stunted to properly react to the situation.

    Dead Things
    I absolutely love this episode and the strong feminist message it brings. Katrina represents the female audience of this show. She is a normal girl with no super powers to turn to, but is still able to stand up for herself. When she says her line about them all being a bunch of little boys playing at being men I get chills up my spine every time. Unlike many of the victims in this show she does not huddle up in a corner and hope for rescue, she stands up to herself. She demands the respect owed to her as member of the human race. Now obviously this all gets under-cut when she takes a champagne bottle to the side of the head in order to attach an actual threat to Warren, but I think the message in that scene retains power non the less.

    As for Buffy in this one I’m on team Dawn, she was leaving. Every ounce of progress she had made towards re-claiming her self was lost when she thought she had taken a human life. Yet again she lacked the emotional stability to handle the situation so, as she has done time and time again, she decided to run, preferring prison to emotional difficult emotional growth.

    On this note I’m going to pull up a soap box real quick. Media today has completely accepted the fact that we live in a rape culture. Shows like Two and Half Men feature an almost weekly occurrence of Charlie getting some woman to drunk to make think things through and taking her home, while the people around him make it a joke. Less obviously in an episode of The Big Bang Theory (does this need a spoiler alert?) the character Amy Fara Fowler, who is a bit of an outcast, jokes that she once fell asleep at a frat party and woke up in the morning with more cloths on, implying waking up missing clothing is not only the norm, but a sign of acceptance. There are examples of this everywhere and it is so refreshing to know that their are people like Joss out there who are willing to point out that rape is rape, no matter how you dress it up or how many laughs it can get it. Even back in season four when he allowed his show to make a joke of it between Spike and Willow, he ended the scene with Willow taking back her power. Longer than I meant to be. Sorry. Done now.

    Older and Far Away.
    I like the teaser for this episode. We get to see our slayer back to herself for the first time when she sees the demons sword and I love when she flips on a dime from Slayer to Buffy.

    We also get to see Anya face yet another major human emotion she probably hasn’t felt even in her original life, and as it turns out she is claustrophobic. I love the way they used her personal growth moment as a way to elevate the tension in the house, because honestly a demon trapped in a house with a slayer a vampire and a few seasoned scoobies isn’t that big of a threat. Unless your trying to date the slayer I guess.

    You said it was strange that the spell appeared to change part way through when they went from not wanting to leave to not able to leave. I always saw it as they where never able to leave, but during the party they all chalked it up to a lack of real desire to do so. It was not until they where willing to miss things like work and school that they realized the over staying of their welcomes was an external issue.

    Well I think that’s enough from me. I believe I have missed the recording for Normal meaning these will be read on Entropy so I Will save my comments for both of those episodes until Seeing red, after that I will at last be on the same page as you guys. I have to say it is a little bitter sweet. I had gotten used to always having a next episode, I’m going to miss it.

  18. This was such a great episode, or it would have been if we didn’t have creepy Buffy trying to kill them all, that bit I thought was not well executed.
    What I did like was the idea that Buffy could just be a schizophrenic person with the idea of living in this world full of supernatural beings. The bit where she asked Willow What if she never left was a really ‘Whaaaat?’ moment, but wait. What if she never left, what if she was just a girl in a mental asylum- get ready for the mind bends.
    I really liked the final scene in the hospital where Buffy decides to return to Sunnydale. She turns her mum’s idea on its head, when it comes to family; the Scooby gang are the ones who are now here for Buffy, in both worlds so why wouldn’t she choose them?
    I also liked how they basically used Buffy as a show-runner; she needs a familial figure so she creates Dawn etc. Also like the idea that Buffy had a clear moment last year- the period where she died. All in all a good episode with a few flaws- 61.
    (Don’t have enough time to make this a voicemail Sorry!)

  19. The more I think about it, the more I feel Xander’s intense fear at the thought of loosing control and hurting Anya is justified. It goes even beyond his parents’ horrible relationship. Throughout the series Xander is surrounded by friends in relationships that in which one partner looses control and emotionally harms the other, be it a literal loss of control (Angelus, Oz) or a downward spiral such as Riley’s bitejob phase or Willow’s addiction to dark magicks. As someone who has mainly been surrounded by bad romantic relationships throughout my life, I can relate to Xander’s fear that he won’t be the exception to the apparent rule.

  20. Normal again is a very cool episode. I’ve always loved these kind of stories and the infinite possibilities your given by navigating the mind of a delusional or mentally ill character. It’s very impressive how in 45 minutes, the writers have managed to turn this series on its head and quite possibly changed the perspective of all viewers. Much like opening up this show to parallel universes, there is no way to truly come back from this flip side of Buffy just being a patient at a mental institution. I mean this in that, once you’ve presented this theory, and expanded the realm of possibility, you can never truly disprove its existence. Therefore, we now have two legitimate fictional stories linked by one constant, Buffy (Much the same, Cordelia was the constant between the two parallel universes from The Wish). It would be very interesting to learn what the institution side of Buffy would have displayed during event like being killed by the Master, or the doctor’s take on some of her other creations like new slayers. I also really appreciated the take that this gave her a chance to actually say goodbye to her mother, which actually quite beautiful and sad. In a way, it’s like she’s making sure that in that reality when her mother loses her, she gets to say goodbye to Buffy. And now I’ve lost my train of thought…

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