*this was written before the viewing of “Tabula Rasa.”
At times, I appreciate that the entire cast and crew of Buffy are willing to do things that are daring and different. At other times, I wish that they would just knock the Emmy-chip off their shoulders and focus on the story. The excessive publicity and press for these “very special episodes” cheapens the impact of otherwise fascinating storytelling – in some cases more than others. “Hush” and “The Body” were both presented as special episodes, the former for a lack of speaking and the latter for a lack of soundtrack. This season’s Very Special Episode, the musical “Once More, With Feeling” was presented with an incredible flurry of press and publicity. Article upon article heralded the brilliance of Joss and the fantastic derring-do of the episode. But while the first two episodes fit into the arcs of their respective seasons and carried them along, OMWF abruptly cut into the flow of the current season and asked us to take a lot for granted. In “Hush” the Gentlemen were both compelling and terrifying, and completely possible in the Buffyverse. “The Body,”while not dealing with literal demons, touched many people on a much more personal level than any metaphorical demon could. Buffy’s quiet terror and numbness at facing a horror that she couldn’t fight with her fists – her mother’s death – was compellingly written and chillingly acted. Both episodes were extremely well written and thought out.
With the exception of the obvious work and care put into the songs, OMWF seemed poorly thought out and unfinished to a degree. Maybe it was over-hyped. Maybe I was expecting more from a project Joss had been talking about since before the end of the last season. Maybe I’ve just come to expect too much from a show that brought me “Prophecy Girl” and “Becoming 2” – two standout episodes that did not have a gimmick to rely on, just good, solid writing and acting. So maybe it was me. But there were too many things that seemed like after-thoughts: people burning up seemed to be tacked on to give the song and dance an evilness, a reason for it to be stopped. David Fury’s and Marti Noxon’s solos, while amusing in a “hahahaha, in-joke!” way, were superfluous and should have been cut for some much needed explanations during the finale. The demon fancifully spinning off into the night without a fight was anti-climactic and ludicrous, given his previous song and dance about wanting to see the Slayer burn. And Xander being responsible for the spell seemed like a half-baked plot contrivance.
Was there no other way for this to have come about? Xander Harris would not mess around with the dark forces. Not to find out if he and Anya would have a happy ending. I could almost accept Xander being the culprit if it had been revealed that he had done it in an attempt to cure Buffy of her detachment. This would have been almost welcome, as it would prove that Xander is not the unobservant dolt he has been portrayed as for the past few years. It would have shown that he was perceptive enough to realize that something was wrong and that he took the initiative to try to find a solution. Problem being, of course, that Xander still wouldn’t turn to magic. Xander isn’t a warlock, he doesn’t flippantly call forth singing demons or look for answers in Giles’ dusty old books–he turns to Buffy. Being unable to turn to Buffy, he’d repress it, or maybe go to Giles. I understand him not wanting to go to Willow, as she is more and more blindsided by the glory of magic and her inability to do wrong. But to randomly call forth a singing/dancing demon to find out if Anya really loves him? Ridiculous? Yes. Improbable? Completely. I’m sorry, but it cheapened the story and was an unwelcome distraction during the otherwise excellent finale. It would have made more sense to have the demon called forth accidentally by Dawn’s stealing of the amulet.
This plot device could also have shed some light on the character of Dawn. Where was her heartfelt solo, her heart’s secret? Everyone else, besides Willow, was given a chance to sing out their issues. Why was Dawn’s song interrupted after two lines? Could we at least have had some light shed on her raging kleptomania? Is she doing it for attention? Is it an impulse she can’t control? Did it start because she needed to feel like a normal teenager, and now it’s raging out of control? Is it even important? I have to assume after all of the references to it this season that yes, it is important. It would be a rather odd bit of character development on its own, yes? Yet after an entire episode of people freeing themselves of secrets, we are still left in the dark. I assume from the two lines she was allowed to sing that she’s doing it for people to notice, but why? She spent the entire last season being noticed, and bristled at all of the attention and babying. Shouldn’t she be tired of that? She seems to want more freedom–notice her slightly pissy response to Tara that a fifteen year old is quite capable of staying home alone for a half hour–so shouldn’t she be working to seem mature and responsible, rather than the exact opposite? In addition to this her sister, who she seemed to miss a whole lot, has just been brought back from the dead. I know if my sister were brought back from the dead, I would be doing my best to see that her already troubled life was made as easy as possible any way I could. This would not include shoplifting or lying and sneaking out and making out with vampires, like Dawn did in the Halloween episode.
Not that I can’t see why she would be tempted to do so; her life is ridiculously sheltered. She’s no longer a ball of energy, she’s the sister of the Slayer. What good does locking her up and hiding her from the reality of her life do? She should be trained to protect herself. She should know how to use a crossbow, a stun gun, her elbow, anything. Instead, what do they do? Refuse to let her help in research. Leave her with Spike as a babysitter. Send her out of the room when discussing business. This is problematic for many reasons, and not just because it doesn’t make any sense. For the character of Dawn to become compelling she must be given more to do than give Buffy something to worry about each week. Like Buffy said, “Dawn’s in trouble, must be Tuesday.” Indeed. If they continue down this path with Dawn they run the risk of her becoming another Tara.
What do I mean by that? It’s simple really. When we first met Tara there was hope. She was a shy, slightly damaged young lady who had been studying magic almost her entire life. One would assume that she had power and knowledge, right? Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much from Tara, either magically or developmentally. She could have been a welcome addition to the Scooby Gang, but rather than fleshing her out as a compelling, 3-D character she was relegated to the role of Willow’s cheerleader. Once she officially coupled with Willow, she stopped being a person and became set dressing; she got lost in the shadow of the redhead. She seems to have stood still in the magic department while Willow’s power grew in leaps and bounds. Why? Was it a case of too many characters and not enough time to write for them all properly? Is this the lesbian-Wiccan equivalent of allowing Willow to wear the pants in the relationship? Was it conscious on the part of Tara, are there reasons we have yet to become privy to? If there are reasons, like her being afraid of what she saw happening to Willow and not wanting it to happen to herself, could we at least be given a hint that this is indeed what is happening? Because right now all we are left with is a young lady who has no life and no sense of identity on her own. She’s given it all up for Willow. A message I cannot stand behind.
As her love song so horribly suggested, she sees herself as nothing without Willow. I can’t tell you how much this “sweet” love song disturbed me, and not for the floating you complete me imagery. The only thing she can imagine people seeing in her is Willow? Willow completes her? If you ask me, Willow holds her down. A lot of Tara’s insecurity and the accompanying baggage could be pinned on what little we’ve seen of Tara’s family and how she was mentally held captive by the fears they planted in her, but shouldn’t Willow’s love release her from that hell? Shouldn’t it make her stronger and help her see the beauty and strength in herself, rather than cause her to lean on Willow as if she’s the second coming? Everything that comes out of Tara is about how smart Willow is, how great Willow is, how Willow will figure it out. Tara has a brain, one assumes. Could we see her use it? Every scene we have of them together is played out with Tara being submissive and insecure and deferring to Willow’s wants. Dear lord, she was vehemently opposed to raising the dead last season, yet she lets Willow talk her into raising Buffy, even though it very clearly made her uncomfortable and she thinks it’s against all the laws of nature? She finally stands up to Willow and confronts her abuse of magic and what happens? Willow erases the memory of the fight. Quite the ideal relationship, wouldn’t you say? But it doesn’t stop there. Tara finds out and what does she do? She sings a lovely song about how she wishes she could believe it had only happened this once so she could stay. Excuse me? Willow crossed a line much more serious than using your toothbrush or killing your goldfish. She took away your free will, she violated you, she stole your memories. She obviously didn’t value you enough as an individual or respect you enough to listen to your opinion and consider it valid. And why? Because Tara expressed her concern over Willow’s use of magic. Am I the only one disturbed by this blasé use of magic and Tara’s response to this major wrong? Tara should have confronted her right away upon finding out. And writers, it doesn’t matter if it was once. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, mental or magical abuse, it’s abuse.
Whether this parallel is intentional or not is not the point. It needs to be dealt with, and not by just having Tara fade away crying into the night. She needs to stand up to Willow. Please, someone, stand up to Willow. Willow has, slowly, been going down a path she cannot come back from, culminating this season in her threatening Giles when he confronted her over bringing back Buffy. I’ve been thinking a lot about Willow lately. Clearly, the Willow of today is completely different from the Willow of yesterday. I’ve lamented the loss of the once loveable redhead, wondering what happened, hoping they’d bring her back. The mourning is over, I no longer care. But, still…what happened? Over time, Willow has managed to make herself believe that everything she does is for the team, when in reality she has become increasingly “me” oriented. Why? Is this the normal progression of the character, or just a device to give me high blood pressure? Let’s look at her history, shall we? She was raised by professional parents who rarely listened to her. (Her mother did, in fact, attempt to burn her at the stake a few years back. That had to be a bit more traumatic than she let on.) She was a geek in school, relegated to the bottom of the social barrel. She could rarely do more in a demon situation than stand back and watch Buffy and the men go at it. But then, everything changed, she found magic and a whole new world opened up to her. She could fight back, she could make a difference! All of a sudden, for the first time in her life, it wasbabout Willow. What she could do. They needed her!
Really, who could blame Willow for reveling in this for a while? She had been ignored and put upon, and finally it was her chance to shine. But Willow, ecstatic over this newfound power, went too fast. Working without a rope she became enthralled by the magic, by the power, letting it control her. Her first major spell was an attempt to re-soul Angel—a spell I’m going to assume should never have been attempted by a young, inexperienced witch–which ended in her possession by an undefined source. This spell, I feel, was the beginning of the end of the Willow we knew. We already knew from Giles’ experience, documented in “The Dark Age,” that possession creates quite the thrill. Giles and his friends played with this power, with drastic results. I’m betting Willow, a girl who had never felt power, also became enchanted with this rush. From the moment she became possessed, Willow has been focused almost exclusively on magic. Where once she came to the aid with her computer skills and brainy know-how, magic became her answer for everything. Brainy, spurty-knowledge Willow disappeared more and more from view as she begged Giles to allow her to help with spells. When largely ignored by him she set off on her own with little-to-no guidance. For the record, I don’t count Giles occasionally clucking his tongue and telling Willow to be careful as guidance. I count it as negligence. Tell me, does this seem like the best way to learn about the dark forces?
So while the fault lies a little in everyone–the friends who allowed her to go on unchecked, the Watcher who should have attempted to guide her a little more, perhaps–ultimately the fault lies in Willow. Let’s liken her need for magic to someone’s addiction to heroin. People very easily fall prey to the euphoria heroin produces. To sustain the rush, more and more of the drug is needed. Eventually the addict is lost, a shadow of whom they once were, a slip of their former selves. Evil? Yes. But only so much blame can be placed on the drug. Heroin doesn’t jump into one’s veins on its own, it has to be invited in somehow. The addict needs to stand up and take responsibility for their life and actions, and not lean on the crutch of their addiction to get through the day. Know your limits, and recognize when you need help. Willow didn’t do this, and from her recent behavior it seems the rush is getting harder and harder to sustain. Is it too late for Willow? Will we ever see her again? Is she too far gone?
Is she too far gone? An interesting aspect of the recent musical was Willow’s lack of heartfelt singing. There was no solo, no joining in during Tara’s lovefest. One of her only lines during the catchy “Walk Through the Fire,” a song in which the other characters sang about their concerns for Buffy, was “I think my line’s are mostly filler.” Why? Because AH can’t sing? Well, since the tone deaf NB was given a song and dance number, I doubt it. If we try to look at it in the structure of the story, could it have been because Willow is too far gone, too emotionally detached from the world she holds less and less respect for, to realize that she’s not perfect? Or is she just innocently oblivious? Either way, I find it rather telling that she didn’t join in on Tara’s love song. Was there no need to let Tara know that she completes Willow, too, because as far as Willow’s concerned she doesn’t? Or was she just allowing Tara her solo in the sun? Can we trace Willow’s detachment back to her devastation over Oz leaving? She was so wrapped up in him, in his life, that when he left she turned heavily to magic to fill the void, to take away the doubts Oz’s leaving left her with. Did she swear to never be that invested in someone again? If Oz hadn’t left, would Willow be dancing with the darkness so readily? Could a little more attention from her friends, and a little more guidance from the only one to really have any experience with magic, Giles, have saved Willow from becoming the egomaniac she is today? More importantly, is she becoming our Faith of Season Six?
So many questions, so few answers. Let’s hope they come soon, before I start throwing heavy objects at the TV every time Willow walks into the room. I still don’t accept her character’s turn as a natural progression, but I’m willing to hold out for a few more weeks before I completely disown her. However, I fear for the future, I have an uneasy feeling that the redhead is only going to cheese me off more. Buffy is known for it’s plot twists that rarely mesh with my needs. The selfish bastards.
One upcoming twist, the inevitable leaving of ASH, is not a natural progression of the storyline, no matter how much they try to make it be. It’s not like it’s Oz or Riley leaving, it’s Giles. I’m sorry, but I need more than a half-assed reason along the lines of him thinking he’s in the way of Buffy’s growth. She was a normal girl who was called at the age of 16 to be a Slayer, to fight for the world on a nightly basis with no regard for her own life. She’s lost her mother. She’s died twice. She has been saddled with a younger sister by The Powers That Like To Fuck With Slayers. Known more commonly as “The Powers That Be.” So she expects Giles to step in when it comes to disciplining Dawn. So what? As the Slayer, I think she’s entitled to a little slack here. Her life bites. Her “sister” Dawn was an orb of energy, and no matter how many fake memories were planted and no matter how many new ones have been created, it remains that Dawn is not supposed to be there. She’s real, she’s human, an extra burden, a perk, a sister–whatever you want to call her, it doesn’t matter. She could have been placed just as easily under Giles’ care, or Willow’s. She should be everyone’s responsibility, not just Buffy’s. And let’s not forget that Dawn is, ostensibly, 15. She’s not a child and responsibility for her life and actions need to be laid squarely on her shoulders as much as possible.
But no matter how much it irks Giles or chaps his hide that Buffy turns to him when it comes to matters of the non-slaying life, Giles has no one but himself to blame. He put himself into the father position. He ignored his Watcher training and became emotionally invested in his Slayer. And now he’s just going to walk away, because she’s not stepping up to the plate and standing tall when it comes to Dawn? Because she turns to him, her mentor, when she needs help? Traditionally, Slayers have fought alone and had an impersonal relationship with their Watcher. Giles and Buffy changed all those rules, for better or for worse. So now Giles is tired of it, and wants to return home. He expects his slayer, who was just brought back from the dead, to adjust to this after six years? This little twist is as improbable as Xander calling forth the demon. I can’t blame ASH for wanting to be home with his family, but I can be rather annoyed at what it’s doing to one of my favorite characters. And, dammit, I am. The inconsistency is more than a little jarring.
But he’s leaving. It can’t be stopped. Where does this leave Buffy? Watcherless? On her own, with only the unobservant Xander, the money-grubbing Anya and the psychotic Willow to guide her? This makes the kind of sense that doesn’t. She’s the Slayer. She fights. She goes where she is told. By her Watcher. Watchers may be a man-made institution, but they have worked themselves into quite the corner. I don’t know how the earliest Slayers managed to keep the world out of hell, but present-day Slayers need their Watcher – no matter how sadistic the council is. A Slayer is trained in combat, not research and lore. She’s not an expert at portent reading, demon identification, prophecy calculations and the like. Leaving Buffy so she can learn to stand alone – something Giles has attempted to do time and time again rather unsuccessfully, mainly because it makes no bloody sense – not only puts Buffy at risk, it puts the world at risk. Apocalypse anyone? Sure, Buffy may have stopped five or six of them in her time, but she never uncovered a single one on her own. Will we be seeing a replacement? Since Giles is officially a Watcher again, I would assume that he would have to report the abandoning of his post to the Council, or will this be glossed over? Are we to believe that our beloved Scoobs can step in and fill the shoes of people that are specifically trained for this? Buffy can’t walk away from her role as the Slayer, hell, even dying doesn’t give her a “Get out of slaying free” card, and at one point we were led to believe that Giles had little choice in the matter,either. What’s changed? Death is the only way out for Buffy, Well, supposedly. Why should it be any different for our dashing Watcher? I don’t want to encourage the death of that stalwart Brit, but it would make a hell of a lot more sense than the cockamamie crap we’re being expected to swallow. And besides, think of the angst! Buffy could be devastated! Again! She could do that eye thing she’s so darn fond of! A lot! And, if you really wanted to spice it up, it could somehow be the fault of Willow! Either the result of a magic-filled anger fest or a spell gone awry as they fought evil! Either way, angst! And the audience is given something a lot more compelling than “Goodness, if I never leave, how will Buffy learn to chastise Dawn properly?”
Oh oh oh! And then, sometimes, Dead-Giles could come back and Buffy could talk to him, and he could spy on her, and she could cry on his shoulder and…and…oh. Sorry there, got stuck in a Roswell moment. Won’t happen again. But, still…nah