Bargaining 2

Written by David Fury
Directed by David Grossman

Perri's Review | Lizbet's Comments | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

And the season premiere rolls merrily along, like a gang of demon bikers headed straight for Sunnydale (see how nicely I worked in that segue?)

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer... Well, she died. And everyone was very sad ('cause they haven't been watching the UPN ads), so they programmed the BuffyBot to pretend she was Buffy, but that only worked for a few months before the circuitry and the obnoxious perkiness gave her away. Giles went home to England, Spike is turning over-protectiveness into an art form, and the Slayerettes are bound and determined to bring Buffy back from the dead. Everyone caught up? Good. Why didn't you read the synopsis of Part I instead of making me do that?

They're in a circle around Buffy's headstone. It's full-on night, they've got the urn, and the candles are lit... No, wait, Anya's having problems with hers. They're racing a midnight deadline when Anya finally succeeds in lighting her candle. The ritual begins, and most of the work seems to fall on Willow, as she pours blood into the urn, and begins a chant to Osiris. She uses the blood to trace funky patterns on her face, as she asks the Egyptian god of rebirth to "Accept our offering. Know our prayer." She suddenly stiffens, her arms flying out, as bleeding gashes appear on her arms. Xander starts to jump towards his friend, but Tara holds him back. "She told me she'd be tested. This is what's supposed to happen." It's quite the gross test, with things moving under Willow's skin like those scarabs in The Mummy, but Willow grits her teeth and keeps going. "Here lies a warrior of the people. Let her cross over!" The thing under her skin moves up her arm towards her head, as Tara warns Xander, "If we break the cycle now, it's over!" And over it all comes a vague rumble... of motorcycles. Ridden by demons. Racing through the center of Sunnydale's downtown (such as it is), with the demons breaking windows, setting fires, and generally reveling in the destructiveness of it all, with no Slayer to stop them.

(Normally, we'd get opening credits here. I'm sure we will again.)

Willow keeps gamely calling on Osiris, under she suddenly falls forward, choking, and a big snake actually comes out of her mouth. "It's a test," Tara keeps repeating, over and over; wow, Osiris is a really strict teacher.

By contrast, it';s relatively peaceful in the Summers house. Spike is sprawled in an armchair, watching an old black-and-white Western on TV as Dawn sleeps on the couch. But the sound of motorcycles breaks the stillness, waking Dawn. Spike shoves her away from the window and goes to start checking doors. The demons meet their first resistance a few minutes later, in the form of the BuffyBot, who glares and informs a looting demon, "That doesn't belong o you. Put it back." He is predictably unimpressed. The demons converge on the hapless Bot, and take her prisoner with almost no effort. The leader slashes once across her chest, revealing the circuits. Injured, the BuffyBot fights her way free and instantly goes in search of Willow.

Who is done with the choking up of the big snake, and is now in the "lots of red and gold light swarming around her" stage of the spell. She actually seems to be getting somewhere, but that is, of course, when the BuffyBot comes staggering into the clearing, yelling for repair. With a gang of the biker demons right behind her. Everyone heads for cover except Willow, who's a little busy -- until one tire runs over the Urn of Osiris, shattering it. Willow screams and the light fall away from her into the ground, as she falls limply after it. Xander finally manages to break through he circling bikes to grab Willow's unconscious body; the two of them head off in one direction, as Tara and Anya try to take off in another. One demon grabs Anya and starts to ride away; Tara shouts a spell and Anya is knocked free in a flash of blue light. The two girls stagger into the woods together.

Xander finds something resembling shelter and tries to rouse Willow; she passes out again as he tells her it didn't work. And in the grave a little ways away, the red and gold lights that surrounded Willow now surround the desiccated body of Buffy Summers. They sink into her and she begins to reform until, with a painful gasp, Buffy takes her first breath since she... died.

The four Slayerettes somehow rejoin in the woods, but Xander's righteous freak-out is put on hold by the need to get gone. They split up again, Xander with Willow since only he can carry her; he tells the girls to meet them at the Magic Shop, and to call Spike and Dawn. The BuffyBot is already written off -- seriously, she's on the ground being mercilessly pummeled by demons, as few feet from where a completely freaked and newly alive Buffy pounds helplessly at the lid of her coffin. Willow comes around again as Xander carries her; he stops to try to fill her in, then has to stop her from going back to make sure the spell didn't work. "She's counting on us, on me!," Willow protests, still one-track mind girl. "I can't leave her there any more!" Xander finally has to tell her the Urn was broken, and Willow would begin crying if she had the strength. "It was all for nothing. Buffy's gone. She's really gone."

Well, no, she's just really trapped, clawing at the lining of the coffin as Tara and Anya hide from their own branch of the potty-mouth Demon Patrol, who give up eventually and head back for the main streets. Anya freaks groggily about the magic shop getting looted, as Tara leads her deeper into the woods. Meanwhile, Spike is alternately ransacking the Summers house for weapons and yanking Dawn away from the windows. He tells her the demons are road pirates, who raid town and burn them down, hitting places they think are vulnerable. "You can't stay here," he finally concludes; the place is too indefensible. Dawn wisely protests leaving: "We need to wait for the others, we need to wait for Buffy!" Spike stares at her as what she said sinks in. "Bot. The BuffyBot," she amends finally. Spike takes her shoulders. "Look. Dawn. I get that you're scared, but I'm your sitter, so mind me. I'm not going to let those buggers lay so much as a warty digit on you." She finally nods and they head out. As Buffy's hand bursts through the grass over her grave, and she drags herself out into the night air.

Buffy makes her way to her feet, trembling and unsteady, then takes in the sight of her own grave. nothing else is any better; as she makes her way through the fiery ruins of downtown, she squints at the wreckage through a kind of mist, her eyes not quite focusing. A single biker comes through town, and lashes out in passing. Although he doesn't seem to do any damage, Buffy goes with the better pat of valor and faints. Tara and Anya come into the magic shop at a dead run, screaming their SO's names. The store is empty of demons and Slayerettes; Anya is gleeful over the former for a moment, then begins a freak-out over the latter. Tara, clearly close to freaking herself, tries to calm the other woman. "He's with Willow. If something happened, I'd know. And so would you." They embrace, then Tara has a sudden brainstorm. "Maybe they got lost in the woods!" she shouts. "Willow and I always know how to find each other." Anya looks on dubiously as Tara settles herself on a nearby table top and begins to chant. "With yoga?"

They're right, of course; Xander and Willow have been going in circles, following an airplane instead of the North Star. (The Delta shuttle from LaGuardia? No, wait, wrong coast. And wrong show. Moving on...) Willow says she can't walk anymore, she's too tired, and Xander takes the opportunity to nail her down about the risks of the spell she just cast. She gets avoidy on him, then suddenly spots a small, blinking blue light moving towards them from the trees. Xander goes into macho mode to protect her, and the light bops around his head, freaking him out. "Xander, it's not a bug," Willow finally manages to tell him. "It's Tara." She happily begins following the light, as a confused Xander trails behind. "And how long have you known that your girlfriend's Tinkerbell?"

Buffy has no such guide; she seems to be wandering aimlessly. Stopping for a brake against a parked car sets off the alarm, and brings out a resident with a gun. He fires into the air, chasing Buffy off, as Spike and Dawn trace their way through the bushes, trying to avoid the bikers. "It looks like they're just wrecking stuff," Dawn observes, before catching Spike's smile. "What?" she demands. "Nothing," he says hastily, "it just, uh... looks like fun." She gives him the Look that deserves, and he starts thinking about transportation, tossing Dawn a small football helmet lying nearby just before he stands in the middle of the street and clotheslines the biker that ties to run him down. Dawn jumps on the bike behind him and they take off.

Anya and Tara both jump at the frantic knocking on the front door of the Magic Box. "We've already been looted!" Anya yells through the wood. "Try the appliance store down the block, they've got great toasters." It is, of course, Xander and Willow, who stagger inside. Neither of them is happy that Spike and Dawn haven't been heard from. "Maybe they're on their way here," Xander says hopefully. "This place is NORAD and we're at DefCon 1. Okay, I so need male friends," he mutters when all three girls stare blankly at him. Willow is all for going out to fight demon butt; Anya points out the futility of four Slayerettes in varying bad shape against a cavalcade of demons, with no Slayer in sight. "She's not coming back," Willow says grimly, struggling back to her feet. "We failed. So, we're it, gang." As they begin to stagger towards mobilizing, Xander offers: "They can't keep it up forever. Maybe they'll get tired of this place and move on." He says this, of course, just the leader announces his intention to put down roots, buy throw pillows, maybe build a summer home, right here in jolly ol' Sunnydale. As the dazed and fuzzy Buffy watches, the BuffyBot is dragged to a huge bonfire in the middle of the street, her limbs chained to four different motorcycles. The Bot has just enough time to spot herself, standing on the edge of the crowd, before the motorcycles all head off in different directions, with the ensuing ghastly results. If Buffy wasn't traumatized before, that'll do it. She screams, and the demons advance on her. "Another one for the fire, boys. Chain it up."

Buffy takes off running, and manages to escape as the bikers interfere with each other. The Slayerettes, heavily armed, wander down the streets, with Tara trying to reassure Willow that the failure of the spell wasn't her fault. "Maybe it wasn't supposed to... Maybe we were in over our heads, invoking forces that we have no right to. Maybe Fate sent all that destruction down on us to stop us." Behind them, Anya is continuing the 'announcing the engagement' fight -- until something jumps down to the ground in front of them. Buffy slowly raises her head to look at the Slayerettes. Tara and Xander assume she's the Bot and Xander begins cracking wise, but Willow just stares. Then, finally, calls her friend's name. "Buffy?"

She runs and they take off after her, finally finding her huddled in a corner. She doesn't respond to them, and Tara is the first to notice that her hands are bleeding. It's Xander who figures it out, his expression sick. "Oh, no. How could we... So stupid! We brought you back to life, Buffy... but we left her. In her coffin." It sinks in, but the knowledge doesn't help. None of them can reach her (Anya's attempt at an engagement announcement notwithstanding), until Xander tells her, "You're home now." That seems to have an effect; her eyes move to him, then up and past him, as voice growls from behind them, "Yeah. Welcome home, Slayer." It's a demon, natch, and looking for a fight. He and Xander exchange the requisite baiting, and Willow casts a quick spell, which has... almost no effect, unfortunately. Knowing they're on the wrong end of this fight, Xander and Willow try to bluff their way out. "Look, we don't want trouble, you don't want trouble." The demon blinks at Willow. "Of course we want trouble. We're demons. It's really what we're all about." He backhands her across the alley, then sends Xander flying. Some more rather gross threats follow, until the demon asks, "So, who wants to go first?" It's Buffy who walks up to him, uncertain, but strangely focused. He tries the backhand on her, and she stares up at him, her lip bleeding. And when he swings again, she flattens him. "Does this mean we win?" Anya asks hopefully, just before the real fight begins. Buffy may not be in top form, but she still deals the damage.

Spike and Dawn's motorcycle hits the site of the bonfire, where they find the remains of the BuffyBot. "It's the machine, Dawn," Spike reassures her. "I know," she says quietly, but still kneels next to it, only to jump back as its eyes open. "Where did I go?" it asks in confusion. "I was here... here. Then I ran away. Not me. The other Buffy." Dawn's eyes get very big as the BuffyBot 'dies' mid-sentence; then she stands and starts running. She's out of earshot before Spike can turn around and notice that she's gone. Commence vampire panic attack.

In the Alley, Buffy is still holding her own against the demons, the Slayerettes pitching in where they can. Finally, all of the demons are down and they cluster around Buffy happily, assuming she's back She backs away, then dabs gingerly at her bleeding lip, as if surprised at the pain. Then she runs past them and away as they stare after her in worry and confusion.

Which is probably why they don't notice the demon leader waking up until he's on his feet. He attacks Xander as another comes up behind the fleeing Slayer; she takes him down easily, then stops mid-step, her attention caught by... the tower, rising above the skyline The place where she died. She takes off running as the Slayerettes gang up on the leader. He throws them off and Willow manages one spell, casting something icky that covers his face like glue.

Dawn comes around the same corner her sister turned a few minutes earlier, and spots the same tower that Buffy is now gazing up at from the base.

The demon gets his hands around Tara's neck, but another spell from Willow knocks him back. He throws Tara away and goes for the other witch, lifting Willow from the ground by her throat. She dangles helplessly until the leader suddenly stiffens and falls forward with a gurgle, an ax buried in his back. Tara stands over his body. "Nobody messes with my girl," she declares as she helps Willow up.

Buffy stands at the end of the catwalk she jumped from months earlier. Scattered memories flash before her eyes as she squeezes them shut, trying to remember. Her sister's voice echoes in her ear... then through the air, as Dawn steps out behind her. "Buffy?" She turns to face Dawn, who is caught between confusion and joy. "Is it you? I mean... really?" But this isn't the best place for reunions, she realizes quickly, as the tower begins to shift beneath their weight. Buffy turns back around to eye the ground consideringly, and Dawn screams, "No! Don't jump, Buffy, just walk to me! Please!" They're both caught on the edge of tears, and Buffy doesn't more. Dawn keeps talking. "I'm your sister. Dawn? We were up here together and then you went away. And you don't want to do that again. I don't know how you're back, but you are. And please, stay still."

The tower bucks and shudders and Dawn amends, "Or move, but towards me! Because the tower was built by crazy people and I don't think it's holding up very well." Dawn keeps yelling, urging Buffy to talk to her, and Buffy finally asks, carefully, "Is this Hell?" Dawn blinks as Buffy turns to her, repeating the question. "No! Buffy, no! You're here, with me. Whatever happened to you, whatever you've been through, it's over now!" She's started to walk towards her sister, but the structure can't take the weight. "We have to get off this tower!" Buffy is still oblivious, fascinated by the pavement, memories beginning to return. She talks quietly to herself, remembering. "You told me I have to be strong, and I've tried. But it's been so hard without you. I'm sorry. I promise I'll do better, I will. If you're with me. Stay with me, please. I need you to live. Live," she repeats throwing Buffy's own last request back at her. "For--"

The words are cut off with Dawn's scream as the first girder falls. As if suddenly aware of the danger, Buffy turns, shouting Dawn's name, and runs back to her little sister. It's too late for the stairs, and Buffy searches frantically for an escape route, finally locating a cable and pulley system. Grabbing Dawn, she leaps for the cable; they ride it halfway down until it stops -- then breaks off. They drop the rest of the way to the ground, landing hard. But this time, they land alive and together.

And have to scramble out of the way as the rest of the tower collapses. In the silence after the destruction, Dawn can finally stop to stare at her sister, huddled in on herself against the wall. "You're really here," she whispers, touching Buffy's cheek, then throwing her arms around her. "You're alive, and you're home." Buffy leans against Dawn, staring out over her shoulder as she repeats, "You're home."

Buffy is back, alive and completely traumatized. The BuffyBot, on the other hand, has gone to the great Salvage Yard in the Sky.

Anya and Xander really have to get around to announcing that engagement. Anya's going to drop-kick him soon, and I don't blame her.

The downside, of course, to the second half of the season premier being rather action-packed, is that there's not a lot of room for character stuff. But seeing everyone in the heat of the action does serve to remind us all of why we've been rooting for these people for the last five years.

Tara continues to amaze me simply by how much she's grown. She keeps Xander from interfering with the ritual despite her own fear, she calms Anya down, again despite her own fear, and she has the guts to slam an ax into a demon to save Willow without much more than a blink. Compare this confident, if still hugely reserved, woman with the terminally shy girl we met two seasons ago, and join me in marveling, both at her and at Amber. She's got one more huge step to make though -- learning to stand up to Willow. We'll see....

I think it's a good sign that, while Anya's reflexive concern is for the safety of her store, once she gets there, it's entirely overwhelmed by her fear for Xander. And her grip on reality remains unchanged -- of course they've got no chance against a biker gang (and why does it never occur to any of these people to call the L.A. gang for help? I know, I know, different networks, yadda yadda. It's still this little niggling annoyance...). But she's right there with them when then go out to fight -- you go, girl. But, um, traumatized people aren't generally receptive to engagement announcements, An. < shaking head > I'd be disgusted if I wasn't used to it.

Xander, on the other hand, does need to be drop-kicked, as I said. Mind you, I'm not entirely surprised that he didn't want to tell anyone -- he seems to have spent most of his summer concentrating on fighting, and bringing Buffy back, with no real room for any other considerations. In short, he's been too busy dealing with the past and the present to want to touch anything having to do with the future, particularly one without Buffy in it. Now that she's back, hopefully he'll start being able to deal, but I'd be more impressed if he'd been able to do so earlier.

Willow.... Willow continues to worry me. She's got herself all worked up about Buffy being trapped in Hell, to the point of hysterics and casting really painful and horrible spells -- with no evidence of said Hellness that I can see. Snakes coming out of your mouth, Will? I'll admire her devotion to her friend -- Willow is matched only by Xander in the loyalty department -- but it's spilled over to obsession, and that's never good. We'll have to see how well she can deal with Buffy coming back, as opposed to the idea of Buffy coming back.

Spike continues to be cute, attempting to protect Dawn, and it was way fun to see him kind of wistfully wanting to get in on the destruction and fun. He's still our bad boy, bless him.

This episode is almost entirely focused on how intertwined everyone's lives are with Buffy, to the point that Xander and Willow are unable to move on without her. And that's both more and less true for Dawn. She's coping, in some ways, better than the other two -- she hasn't gotten obsessive (learned that lesson with Joyce) and she seems to be dealing with day-to-day fairly well, with the occasional slip that's to be expected from a grieving 15-year-old. But the second she has even the hope of getting her sister back, everything else gets ramped to the back of her brain. Rampaging demons out to destroy and kill? Doesn't matter; she'll abandon her bodyguard and go running off in search of Buffy anyway. She'll even climb back up to the site of her worst nightmares to try and talk her sister down. It's really a beautiful reversal of roles, as Dawn tries to save Buffy's life, and succeeds in finally pulling her back to reality through the sheer force of the bond between them. The same bond that sent Willow and Xander on their crusade to bring her back, but I can't help thinking Dawn's is a hell of a lot healthier.

And Buffy. Wow. Waking up in a coffin has to be right up there in her bad dreams (it was alluded to way back in the first-season episode 'Nightmares', when The Master closed her into a grave), and to have it come true -- snapped from death to life, then emerging from a grave into the burning ruins of your world.... Yeah, she's trauma girl, and wow, has she earned it. It's hard to tell just how much she's actually registering early on, before Dawn manages to break through to her, but there wasn't all that much that was good to register. The ol' Slayer instincts are still intact, and nice mindless fighting is always easier than trying to make sense of insanity, so that was a point in her favor. SMG's performance throughout both parts was excellent, transitioning from the perkiness of the Bot to TraumaBuffy without missing a beat or making one wrong move. The way she stood on the platform, staring thoughtfully down at the pavement as if contemplating what would happen if she did it again... < shudder > [This gets even more shudderworthy after you've seen 'After Life', if you hadn't already guessed the punchline of that episode. i.e., if I jump again, will I go back to where I was?]

Best Moments:
The spell. As much as I disapprove on general principals, the FX crew went to town and Allison sold it. Nice light show!

Buffy clawing her way out of the grave. I agree with whoever said this would have been cooler if we hadn't seen it on endless promos, but all of the scenes were still excellent, claustrophobic and panicked and... Yee.

Spike watching the demons loot. He's so cute when he's getting those old psychotic leanings... and cuter when he doesn't give in. And how cool was that in-the-middle-of-the-street game of chicken for the motorcycle?!?

The BuffyBot seeing herself. A trippy, freaky, sad little moment, just before she's destroyed.

Tara comforting Anya in the magic shop. These are two characters we've rarely seen together and that was a lovely bit of bonding.

Willow and Xander, et al, facing down the demon leader. Xander's swaggering, Willow tossing spells around -- wow, these two have come a long way from first season.

Tara axing the demon. I thought it was Spike, finally showing up (see below), but it was cool for it to be Tara.

Dawn talking Buffy down. I mean seriously, the entire last act was incredible -- well-written, well-performed, well-directed, edge of the seat, caught between sobbing and just not breathing drama. Fabulous.

Questions and Comments:
So, where the hell did Spike get to after Dawn rushed off? We've never seen him have a problem finding someone before, and it's not like the Summers girls or the Slayerettes were being indiscrete with their whereabouts.

It was nice to see the split-up retreat going as it did -- Xander and Willow stumbling along in the dark woods, just like old times. And equally cool to see Tara use that little glowy light -- the same spell Willow used to try to find her way out of the frat house way back in 'Fear, Itself.' Nice little bit of continuity.

I admit to a short but fairly severe wiggins watching the tower collapse (I've been eyeing the Sears Tower quite nervously for the last month), but I'm proud of Joss and company for keeping it in.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5. Significantly more fun than the first half, what with all of the neato-keeno fight sequences (and lots less boring exposition). And the higher percentage of Dawn certainly adds to the attraction -- Michelle T. is showing her chops and taking no prisoners.

Lizbet's Comments (Parts 1 & 2)

< grins gleefully > Hi! I enjoyed last night tremendously. It's something of a comfort to be reminded that Joss and Marti and David Fury et al can do a good episode without doing unanethizied delicate surgery involving the involentary removal of vital organs (ie: ripping my heart out). It *was* very good, and yet I didn't feel jerked around and dopesmacked by the end.

Part the First: You go, girls. Willow was more focused than I've seen her in a long time (although I never objected to her as much as many did in the last couple of seasons. I wonder if that's related to the fact that I never identified with her as closely as many did in the first few seasons). While I was gagging on witchcraft = animal sacrifice, I rationalized it as an example of A) Magic being *very* dark'n'dangerous in this universe and B) Willow getting Way Over Her Head. But the rest was beautiful, and Aly played every bit of it to the hilt. With the extreme focus on Willow and Tara's relationship, Willow and Buffy's relationship has seemed to fall by the wayside. It was nice to see a reminder that Willow is Buffy's best friend, and loves her dearly.

Someone found Tara a backbone! Or maybe she always had it, but it somehow sprouted a voice over the summer. Or maybe the writers just finally figured out how to intergrate Tara's character with the rest of the cast better, something that they never figured out how to do with Oz. All the same, I was cheering when Tara was taking charge, making decisions, comforting Anya, and killing demons. Whoo-whoo-whoo!

Poor Anya. I get the impression that while she does know a lot of the Rules of Behavior now, she doesn't *get* them. So while she understands that Xander doesn't want to talk about their engagement, she doesn't understand *why*. But rather than being fixated on herself (which is what I've seen a lot of people accuse her of being), she *is* genuinely trying to help by spreading happy news. She's not wrong (okay, telling TraumaBuffy (name gratitously stolen off of the 11th Hour msg board) was a bit pointless). But it's more indicative of her desire to help others, rather than to make everything be about her, her, her. (The blonde Farrah hair HAS GOT TO GO, though.)

Dawn is dealing far better than I thought she would/could, between losing her mother and her sister in a very short amount of time. It probably helps that she has Willow and Tara living with her, and Spike is 24/7 emotional support (he may not be stable emotionally himself, but...) Cuddling with the BuffyBot was sad without being pathetic; Dianne was pointing out that Dawn couldn't really convince herself it was Buffy (what with the blinking lights and recharging cords and everything), but it was something of a Whatever Gets You Through The Night thing. And talking TraumaBuffy off the tower was seriously cool and emotionally wonderful. Go Michelle!

Giles...? He's *GONE*? I was under the impression Tony was going to hang around for about six eps. < SNIFFLE > Sweet sendoff pointing up that yes, he's got a relationship with *all* off them. And I loved that the last hug was with Willow, who he's known the longest (longer than Buffy, even; Willow was telling Buffy about how cool the new librarian was in WttH...) Want. To. See. Ripper. NOW!!!!!!

Poooooor Xander. His only male support will be... Spike. < snerk > He needs Riley back or something. Although I got the NORAD and we're at DevCon 1 ref just fine. Otherwise, he's the Xander we finally got back last season; sweet, goofy, and with a spine of steel and a soft head.

Spike... looks good in black leather. And on motorcycles. And rrrrrowr. And he's not over Buffy's death. At all. His reaction to the BuffyBot hitting on him was perfect, and I was wincing even as I snarked, "You're the one who had her built, dude." But his massive overprotectiveness of Dawn was adorable. And, oh, yeah, the demons trashing the house bit. He's Bad. Gittit?

There was a lot of similarity between Buffy's Return From The Dead, Angel's Return From Hell and Darla's Return From Wherever She Was. The whole dazed-and-confused thing held for all three. I would have liked to understand why Buffy's vision was blurred and her hearing muted... was she not entirely healed yet? Was she so overwhelmed that some of her senses partially shut down? (That happens to me when I'm overwhelmed.)

Joss promised that this wouldn't be a cheat, and it didn't feel like one. It also wasn't a long protracted torturous experience, for which I'm grateful. Dealing the with repercussions should take them through until about mid-season, whenever the Big Bad of the season really kicks into high gear (and one wonders exactly what the Big Bad this year will be).

I don't know if it was the new station, or what, but last night seemed *very* violent. Everything from the "testing" of Willow to the graphic portrayal of Buffy's corpse to the creep-worthy threats that the Head Demon was making about "playing with little girls". Yeeeeee. However, I've talked to a couple of people, and it seems to be only me.


"Since when does Willow do telepathy????? And since when can the rest of the gang pick up on it like a phone conversation????? It is one way to get out of getting your butt kicked in a fight, be the one to coordinate actions."
"Since the season finale -- she started doing it during the big fight with Glory and her minions, shocking the heck out of the people she was projecting to. And I like that they're clearly still not comfortable with it, even though they've presumably had the whole summer to get used to it. They're definitely headed for some serious consequences of Willow's increasingly reckless magic."
"I'm thinking the consequences of having to face down Spike and Giles' reaction will be worth watching. Not to mention Buffy's once she has time to regroup. And that's before any "cosmic" consequences." -- Judy, Valerie and Deb

RE: Willow and dark magic
"So dark, I noticed, that Willow didn't even want to tell her nearest-and-dearest, i.e., Tara, what she was up to. I was pleased that she at least looked very disturbed by the killing. She's _doing_ black magic, but she's not entirely happy with the fact that she's doing it. But I'm getting more and more scared that when the crash comes--and oh, BOY is it coming!--it's going to be very traumatic, and painful."
"You know, killing the deer didn't really bother me. It didn't seem all that different from people shooting deer during hunting season, except that it was so young. Actually, I thought it was *much* better than killing a deer for a trophy, because she was doing it to save a life, and she honored it in gratitude. To me it equals a hunter killing an animal to feed a family--no worse than eating a hamburger, which they all do anyway. Now, killing a deer for a revenge spell, that would be a different matter entirely.." -- Maureen and Amparo

"At the same time, tho, the sacrifice of the fawn in and of itself wasn't necessarily "black magic". Heavy-duty, yes, and obviously something she wasn't comfortable with; but I'd put it more in the category of *old* magic, in the sense that power is power and good and evil are in the heart and intent of the magician."
"Oooo, excellent point, and Dianne actually pointed that out when we watched it. I was just twitching because of the "witchcraft=animal sacrifice=satanism aspect of it all. And it had nothing to do with the local news breathlessly promoing an upcoming story on Goths and witches and Your Teen."
"[That] may be what can save Willow, that she used the blood for a good, or at least well-intentioned, purpose.... It was Osiris's choice whether to send Buffy back or not: the spell said "let her pass" --- and that could've been to let her pass onto the Other Side, or pass the wards of the worlds and come back to life in Sunnydale. I'm thinking that the vessel getting broken when the ritual was mostly over was part of the reason why she was so out of it as well; she might not have been meant to re-awaken in her coffin, if the vessel was still intact. -- Valerie, Lizbet and Kiki

"I need to rewatch, preferably with captions, but if that incantation wasn't in Hebrew, it was gobbledygook created to sound just like it. Especially when she was doing it in English in between each line. (And can I tell you how much I *love* it when they do that? Not only does it give us a good compromise between having something mumbo-jumbo-y and still have the audience understand the meaning of the words being said, but it also makes sense from a magic-system standpoint. A particular deity may need to be addressed in a certain language, but repeating it in the vernacular helps Willow focus her will through the words she understands.) Certainly couldn't miss that every time the translation said "Gods", the line of the ritual before it said "Adonai". I need to get a transcript and find out if maybe it isn't an adaptation of something from the Old Testament, in Hebrew -- there's certainly no shortage of animal sacrifices there! It'd have to be an adaptation, or else Willow's translation was, because I would expect Hebrew sacrifice prayers to be directed to God, not to the spirit of the animal being sacrificed; but I latched onto it anyway as *finally* maybe Willow is doing something with her Jewish heritage. Maybe not something her parents would approve of, but still. :-)" -- Valerie

"Now, being Mythology GeekGirl, I have no problem (in theory) with the sacrifice itself. So why did Willow hide it? Well, her friends, for the most part, *do* think in terms of black and white magic. They're not (with the possible exception of Anya) going to say "Oh, you're walking an awfully fine line there, so make damn sure your intent is utterly pure"; they're going to say "You killed a deer? A BABY deer???" I think she was more afraid of their reaction than of the act itself being wrong/tainted/whatever." -- Valerie

"As a side note, I'm *positive* Anya knew what [Latin name that currently escapes me] was, but that she bought Willow's "black market" explanation for where it came from. And, for once, didn't feel the need to elucidate further -- not because she was concerned for Willow's cosmic balance, but because she clearly found the subject of "icky bodily fluids" distasteful and wanted to get off the topic. *g* Loved that." -- Valerie

"The sacrifice scene was incredibly well-presented -- all that bright light and ethereal music, and Willow looking positively angelic, and then the cute little baby deer, and then *foom*. And yet, as she continued the ritual of thanking the critter's spirit, etc., it *didn't* disturb the sanctity of the scene for me. But it was still a nice solid dramatic twist, even though I was expecting it as soon as she started invoking the "blessed one". They've still got it." -- Valerie

"What bothers me isn't the sacrifice itself; as Amparo pointed out, Willow did thank the powers an the deer for its sacrifice. However.... she called it the 'Chosen One' or something similar; I'd have to rewatch the tape to be sure I'm remembering it right.I have a horrible feeling she might have sacrificed a *sacred* animal for the ritual, and possibly not gotten clearance for it beforehand. That would explain Anya's surprise and her acceptance of the e-bay/magic-shop explanation for where Willow got the blood. Wine of the Mother = Blood of an avatar of a goddess? You'd need something like that, I'd think, in order to bring someone back--- otherwise Willow could have just gone to a butcher shop and asked for deer's blood, you know. Yeee. Someone who wasn't good, or as skilled at magic like Willow--- they couldn't have gotten close to the fawn; but she did, she called it, and then she killed it. That's a kind of desecration... < sigh> And I couldn't possibly be more worried about the consequences for her."
"Hmmmm... This is an interesting thought. My take on it was that it was sacred *for* the ritual Willow was doing. The invocation of the "blessed one" was right in step with shamanic traditions. The deity sends the particular animal, which is identified for that reason as the avatar/manifestation/aspect/embodiment/incarnation/whatever-word-you-want-to-use of said deity. It is still an "ordinary" animal (which a non-believer would say just happened by as a coincidence), but it *is* often also the deity in question. But since this is Buffy, and they love to take traditional archives and give them a quarter-twist to the have just as much chance of being right about the nature of this ritual as I do. That uncertainty is going to keep us going for a little while longer, methinks. :-)" -- Kiki and Valerie

"she's dealing with heavy-duty power, and it's dangerous in the sense that it means, not that she's doing "black magic" in the time-honored and yawnworthy Hollywood sense, but that she's placed herself in the position of bargaining with unimaginably powerful entities with their own agendas. Much, much more interesting. And much more potentially destructive." -- Valerie

"That spell never *really* got finished, did it? What if Buffy's not _entirely_ back? Or missing a vital element... or two? She looks completely healed (although she looked far too much like Cave Buffy for comfort), and she seemed to have all her Slayer-powers, but she didn't seem to be remembering any sort of after-life. Her asking Dawn if Sunnydale was hell (a question many have asked... ) really startled me. She obviously remembered dying, and where she died, but not anything after that. Traumatic amnesia? Or some parts of Buffy's Brain (and *there's* a bad movie title for you) are still stuck in limbo? I'm guessing we'll find out soon." -- Maureen

RE: The head demon's threats/language
"*That* surprised me a bit -- it seemed more sexually graphic than we're used to hearing on the show, although they managed to evoke quite an "ewwww!" word-picture without actually _saying_ anything censorable. Gotta give the writers kudos for that, anyway!"
"I usually have a good "sense" of what's standard on a show, and some of this seemed just a step beyond. Not in a bad way, and perhaps indicative of UPN being less of a "teen" network than the WB. It actually was all incredibly effective in upping the wig factor, so serious props." -- Maureen and Lizbet

"[Buffy] started out having to break out of her grave (which, at least a few years ago, was her worst nightmare -- as Jack said, "Now check your face."), and then found nothing but demons, fire, and screaming wherever she went. If I were Buffy, I'd bloody well think I was in some hell or other too! And by the time the gang found her, she was probably pretty damn certain of it, which would make them not really her friends but demons impersonating them to torment her. So when she finally found her voice to ask Dawn, it made perfect sense to me."
"Yup. < shudder > Or, as Dee pointed out (she was actually thinking during all of this, I was burrowing into the couch and going, "yieeeee," so I'm reduced to quoting her constantly) rising and finding the world in the exact same shambles she left it in; that her sacrifice had done nothing." -- Valerie and Lizbet

"My guess is that on some spiritual/mental level, being trapped in that vortex for however long it felt like would be similar to physical sensory deprivation and then being overwhelmed, too. I can't imagine that it was a place that a human spirit was supposed to dwell for *any* length of time. No wonder everything was fuzzy for her; she was still getting her spirit readjusted to having a body again. The last thing she remembers is jumping into the vortex -- disoriented doesn't begin to cover it." -- Kiki

"It will be lovely to have a serious plotline with Willow (serious as in big, not serious as in the opposite of funny) that doesn't involve her love life. When was the last time we had a truly decent Willow ep. Doppelgangland? Xander seems to get one/two a year."
"True. She hasn't been having as many conflicts as Xander; he had that whole getting-a-career, getting-out-of-his-parents'-basement thing last year, as well as finding his place as the Zeppo among the Scoobies. She's still in college, she's involved with Tara, she's still doing witchcraft -- but there's no conflict there. It's time for her to look at herself and wonder what she's doing with her life..." -- Lizbet and Kiki

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