Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3


Lover's Walk

The Wish




Lover's Walk

The Metaphysics of "Lover's Walk"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 6 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

The De-lusting Spell: We never do get to see this spell performed, but Willow puts, among other things, skink root and essence of rose thorn into a mixture which she brings to a boil, and she gives Xander a raven feather to hold (which, as the shopkeeper explains, tend to breed a little more discontent than canary feathers).

The Love Spell: We don't get to see this spell, either, but the ingredients include essence of violet, cloves, a set of runic tablets, and rat's eyes.

Chaos demons

Good, Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Lover's Walk"

Spike further blurs the lines between good and evil in the Buffyverse when he arrives back in Sunnydale a broken shell of a vamp. Drusilla has left him--he's "not demon enough for the likes of her." He calls a truce with Buffy to get what he wants once again, has an amiable chat over hot chocolate with Joyce, and even spouts pearls of romantic wisdom to his two worst enemies. But Spike is still a demon--he throws Willow around, threatens her and then Xander, kills the magic store merchant, and reminisces about a homeless man he and Dru killed together on a bench. His attitude in coming to Willow is not unlike when Xander approached Amy in BBB. Spike isn't just interested in getting Drusilla back, he wants revenge on her at the same time, to see her humbled for walking out on him. He finally decides magic isn't the way to go; torture is the way to Drusilla's heart.


I think Willow showed great courage when she was dealing with Spike in Lover's Walk. Spike was very menacing, and the situation could have turned ugly. Willow was obviously terrified, but kept her head and talked him down. Reason doesn't always get you out of trouble. Panicing will certainly make it worse, and Willow is to be commended for staying calm, and waiting for a chance to get away from Spike (NuPhalanx, 13 Jan 1999)

Although Willow never gets a chance to perform her de-lusting spell due to Spike's appearance, it is, for Willow, an early sign of her morally questionable philosophy of witchcraft. In her desire to "fix" her own emotional quandaries and relationships, Willow doesn't stop to consider the ethical implications of trying to control another person's feelings. It is tempting to want to make Xander's feelings "go away" simply because they are difficult to deal with. But they are Xander's feelings, not hers. Magic is also the easy way out when dealing with her own feelings. Although the reprecussions would have been few in this case if her spell had succeeded, Willow needs to learn to deal with her emotions, to own them and take responsibility for the actions she takes based on them.

The corrupt evil of the Mayor

Oz: werewolf or human?

Ethical Quandaries in "Lover's Walk"

Were Willow and Xander wrong to give in to their hormones?

When Willow and Xander try on their outfits for the dance in Homecoming, they see each other dressed to kill and hormones flare. Both were dismayed at their actions, but neither was quite ready to put on the brakes for the sake of fidelity to their respective partners. They continued their flirtation in Band Candy. While it might have been the candy on Xander's part, it wasn't for Willow; she was getting the attention of the boy she has always wanted. Willow almost confesses their illicit smootchies to Buffy in Revelations, then finds she can't. Both try to put an end to the tryst in Lover's Walk, but in a final "impending death" kiss, they are discovered by Cordelia and Oz.



I think all viewpoints regarding X/W are valid, glad to see I could cause some pain and dissention (joss, Nov 18 22:43 1998).

Philosophies Represented in "Lover's Walk"

Existentialism: While Spike is spying on him in the Garden Mansion, Angel is reading Jean Paul Sartre's La Nausee. "Nausea" is the reaction of Sartre's protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, to life, his environment, and the "human predicament" as Sartre sees it--that life is meaningless. In the novel, Roquentin lifts away the pre-conceived world-views that others around him hold and faces this "fact" dead on. According to Sartre, realizing that life is meaningless is supposed to supply an individual with freedom--if there is no meaning and purpose, there are no constraints. Angel's reading of "La Nausee" represents his struggle to come to terms with what, if anything, his return to the Earthly realm is supposed to mean. It is a step on his journey from his return from hell to the moment in Amends when he decides not to take his un-life.


The Wish

The Metaphysics of "The Wish"

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Anyanka is a wrinkled and raw-looking demon. Dubbed "the Patron Saint of scorned women", she possesses great physical strength and the power to grant wishes. Appearing to a woman as the human Anya, her modus operandi is to bring out the hurt in the woman scorned, get her to make a wish (typically, no doubt, something disfavorable to the man in question), and then grant it. It seems that she must grant the first wish her target makes (otherwise, she would have waited for Cordelia to make a wish about Xander). Anyanka's power to grant wishes is directly tied to her amulet or "power center". Without it, she doesn't have that ability.

Anyanka's origins

"Your powers were a gift of the lower beings." --D'Hoffryn, Doppelgängland

1120 years ago, Anya was a human being with some magical abilities, similar to Willow. When she was dumped by a man she loved, she performed some vengeance spells with the aid of the demon D'Hoffryn. He gave her the amulet that turned her into a vengeance demon. This was probably her free choice, since he offered Willow a choice as well in Something Blue.

Giles: Anyanka raised a demon to ruin her unfaithful lover. The demon did her bidding - but then cursed her and turned her into a sort of... patron saint for scorned women. Apparently, the cry of a wronged woman is like a siren's call to Anyanka. (dialogue edited out of The Wish)

Summoning Anyanka: Giles has a large golden goblet with smoldering ingredients sitting on his desk. He pulls bits of an herb from a bushel and drops them into the goblet, saying:

The bizarro world

Creation of the bizarro world: Anya takes her pendant off and puts it around Cordelia's neck. Cordelia vocally wishes that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. Anya turns into Anyanka and says "Done", and it is.

Altered history: The alternate history was NOT another "dimension". Cordelia's wish destroyed the history of our Buffyverse as we know it and created a new history for the Buffyverse (like erasing a video tape by taping new material). This new history is essentially the same as the old history, except that Buffy never came to Sunnydale. We don't know much about the rest of the world, but bizarro-Sunnydale is rapidly going to the vampires. School is still in session, some businesses remain open, but a curfew keeps humans off the trash-filled streets and night-time entertainment is a thing of the past. Also, when Cordelia arrives with Anya's pendant still around her neck, she does not have her wound from Lover's Walk.

Cordelia's memory: In the bizarro-world, Cordelia's memory of the old Buffyverse history is intact because she was the one who was granted the wish, and a wish is only as good as the receiver's appreciation of it. This is part of Anyanka's modus operandi. No one (not even Cordelia) remembered what happened when the old history of our Buffyverse was restored--it was as if the bizarro-world had never happened (the tape erased again and the original material re-recorded). We are taken right back to the same moment Cordelia made the wish in the first place and time resumes its course from that point.

Reversal of the bizarro-world: Giles reads in his text, "In order to defeat Anyanka, one must destroy her power center. This should reverse all the wishes she's granted, rendering her mortal and powerless again." When Giles smashes the amulet, the old history is restored. Anyanka is turned into an ordinary woman and her powers are gone. Unanswered question: how were the other wishes reversed, especially those that happened in the more distant past? And if they were reversed, wouldn't that alter the old Buffy time-line in noticeable ways?

Pre-destination? Angel in the alternative history knows Buffy from when he glimpsed her calling as slayer in front of Hemery High in 1996. After that, he went to Sunnydale to work with her, but she never arrived. He tells her that she is his "destiny." There is no evidence that Angel was pre-destined to help Buffy, only that the forces of good (through Whistler) asked him to. He does do good in the alternative history (saving people from vampires), and is a prisoner of the Master as a result. And in both histories, he helps Buffy.

Good and Evil in "The Wish"

VampXander and VampWillow: Are vamps like their human predecessors? "The Master's most vicious disciples" don't seem very much like their human counterparts. The Scooby gang heroes vamped become walking embodiments of sadism and predatory evil. First they kill Cordelia while Giles watches helplessly. Later, when VampWillow can't hunt, she assuages her boredom by torturing Angel with matches while VampXander watches.

The Master is free, but he never opened the Hellmouth; the world, for what it's worth, still more or less belongs to human beings. What's up with that?

The Master's factory: Evil-as-order replaces predatory evil. A wooden cage of humans await an evil assembloodline--the victim is laid down, alive, on a long stainless steel pan. The pan moves along the conveyor to the blood-draining station, where four arms with needles on them extend over the victim. They plunge into her body, draw the blood from it, and then extract themselves. The pan with her corpse then moves along the conveyor for disposal. The Master defends his creation thus:

Poetic justice: Anyanka granted a wish so horrible that its victims found a way of reversing it that destroyed her power to grant wishes altogether. Bizarro-world Oz (cheated on by Willow in the normal Buffyverse) staked VampWillow with a broken piece of a wooden cage.

Moral Ambiguity in "The Wish"


"My claim to fame was to maim and to mangle. Vengeance was mine." --Anya

Although Anyanka's deceptive custom of coming to scorned women in the human form of Anya and granting their wishes wreaks havoc on unfaithful men, this "scary, veiny fairy" is the embodiment of moral ambiguity. The power of the wish has probably brought happiness to some of these women. However, the old adage, "be careful what you wish for" applies, because we never know what the secondary consequences of our wishes might be.

Anya was the equivalent of the genie or devil in every joke you've heard about a guy who gets three wishes. ... her ambiguity was used to inflict great harm and cause regret. Anya fed off of emotion (Sam Hain, Dec 9 23:41 1998).

The power of the Wish was a gift from "the lower beings", and it is doubtful they gave her these powers to right any wrongs. The destruction and chaos it caused was for their pleasure. And this was fine with Anyanka.


I thought the lesson of The Wish was not so much, be careful for what you wish, but friends count. My old paraphrase: "There are old slayers and lone slayers, but no old lone slayers." The teaser for The Wish has Buffy being strangled by the whatever monster. She's saved because Willow throws her the "knurf." Shortly after, Xander ask her how she handles the rocky road of relationships. Buffy answers, "I have you guys." Later, when the bizarro-Buffy starts off to the factory. bizarro-Giles suggests waiting for back-up. No, she works alone. Dies alone (wolfguard, May 22 21:53 1999).

Cordelia's memory: Cordelia retained no memory of the conclusions she drew about Buffy in the bizarro-world. In other words, she didn't "learn" anything from this episode. This is classic Joss Whedon moral ambiguity at work.


The Metaphysics of "Amends"

The First Evil
is a non-corporeal (non-physical) entity, neither monster nor demon--as if the concept of evil took the form of a being. It can take the form of any dead person, and appear to one person while being invisible to someone else. Because the First Evil is non-physical, it lacks the ability to attack physical beings like Angel and Buffy directly. It works instead by psychological means--temptation and taunting.

The First Evil returns

The Harbingers (or Bringers) are demon high priests of The First Evil. They have runes branded in their flesh where eyes should be, and their presence kills off life, such as the Christmas trees above their cave. In a book, Giles reads that they have the ability to conjure up "spirit manifestations" and set them on people to influence them (e.g., Daniel on a Sunnydale street, Jenny Calendar in Giles' apartment, and Margaret the maid in the Garden Mansion). It is likely, however, that the "spirits" haunting Angel are actually the First Evil itself.

The return of Angel: According to Giles' research, the First Evil is capable of bringing Angel back from hell. It also takes credit for doing so.

Buffy and Angel's dreams:

Psychic dreams? Angel has a dream where he sees the Harbingers in their cave. However, it is unclear that Angel himself possesses psychic abilities. The dream was probably brought on by the Harbingers themselves.

Good and Evil in "Amends"

The goal of the First Evil is temptation to evil. The apparition of Jenny tempts Angel with the "peace" and simplicity of becoming Angelus, and freedom from a literal eternity of guilt and pain as a vampire with a soul. The way to this peace is the even more pleasant prospect of "taking" Buffy--making love to her, feeding from her, and killing her. Angel decides to die rather than give in. This decision is motivated in part by feelings of worthlessness--he has been reminded of the sort of human he was prior to vamping, and wants to be neither Angel nor Angelus. This wasn't the First Evil's plan, but "it'll do"---if Angel won't go bad, he might as well kill himself so he can't do good.

The First Evil's purpose was to destroy Buffy. This could be accomplished best by Angel returning to the fold, giving into his killer instinct, and sucking Buffy dry. However, if Angel had killed himself, Buffy would have been wrecked emotionally. We saw Buffy's reaction to Angel's presumed "death".... To have him suddenly gone again, forever, after already having to go through it once, would totally wreck Buffy. So, either way, the purpose of ruining Buffy would be accomplished (Jade, Dec 17 17:47 1998).

Should Angel have died?

The Snow: Buffy tries to convince Angel to live as a vampire with a soul and do good, rather than to kill himself. But Angel seems determined to incinerate at sunrise. Just as Buffy gives up, it begins to snow. As the weatherman reports, "an extreme cold front has sprung up out of nowhere around Sunnydale"--one that will block out the sun all day.

Unanswered question: who or what caused it to snow?

This serves Evil well, as his damned soul and demon remain intact and the world is still allowed to sit on the brink of destruction, as this mentally unstable person remains on Earth as a tool for manipulation by Evil. If Angel had killed himself, then Evil would have lost its new-found tool...that rare mystical mistake which tilts the scales in favor of Evil (Shalazar, Dec 16 18:35 1998).

So, if we're going to take the big guy's word for it, the Powers that Be prevented Angel from killing himself by keeping the sunrise from coming, and are likely the ones who brought Angel back from hell.

Moral Ambiguity in "Amends"

: Amends is one of the few episodes where souled Angel directly distances himself from his demon, when he says of Angelus' deeds "It wasn't me." But how accurate is this claim? The demon is still inside him, part of his identity. Buffy gets an eyeful of his past in Angel's dream of a kill made in the early 1800's. And he is in touch with the demon part of himself when he comes on like Angelus later in Buffy's bedroom.

Is Angel an existential character?

Willy, bar tender and snitch


The Metaphysics of "Gingerbread"

The Hansel and Gretel demon
takes the illusory ("veiled") form of two children--Hansel and Gretel of the fairy tale. In its true appearance, it is a single giant demon with sharp bottom fangs and red eyes. The gang discovers that every fifty years going back as far as 1649, identical murders--two children found dead with a mysterious mark on them--have occurred, each time in a different town. The original deaths are the only real ones: a cleric near the Black Forest found the bodies of Gretel Strauss, 6 and Hansel Strauss, 8. The others have been created by the demon.

Mental influence: Joyce discovers the dead children in the park with a wiccan symbol on their hands, and becomes deeply concerned about other mysterious deaths in Sunnydale. The demon takes advantage of this and elevates her pain to a hysterical level by "haunting" her with images of the two children, who urge her to "hurt the bad people the way they hurt us". When Buffy tells her mother that witches may be responsible, Joyce starts the vigilante group MOO, Mothers Opposed to the Occult, and orders a raid on the school to weed out the kids with an interest in witchcraft. Eventually Willow, Amy and Buffy end up being taken by their own parents to be burnt at the stake with Giles' books as kindling.

Lifting the demon's veil: Cordelia shreds wolfsbane, crushes satyrian root, and adds a toad stone into a mixture. Once Giles is in the presence of the demon, he recites a German incantation:

Ihr Goetter, ruft Euch an! Verbergt Euch nicht hinter falschen Gesichtern!
Translation: You gods, I call upon you! Do not hide behind false faces!

He then tosses the bottle with potion at the children's feet. As the potion begins to steam around them, the children embrace and morph into the demon in its true form. This negates the mental whammy on the adults of Sunnydale.

The protection spell: Amy, Willow, and Michael, now a practicing witch coven, perform a protection spell for Buffy as a birthday gift. With black robes that cover their heads, they sit around a square on the floor that is covered with burning candles. Michael puts a string of beads in a human skull. Amy picks up the skull and takes it over to the other side of their square. She hands Willow a small bowl of a bubbling liquid. Willow pours the liquid into the cauldron in front of her. At the center of their square is the protective wiccan symbol.

Animal transformation: In Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, Amy used a supplication to the goddess Hecate to turn Buffy into a rat. She uses this spell again to turn herself into a rat to escape being burnt at the stake. Unfortunately, as a rat, Amy can't seem to do a spell to return herself to human form.

Good and Evil in "Gingerbread"

Mob mentality: Since the demon uses some kind of mental manipulation, it is not clear that its adult victims are merely weak and impressionable, although a certain level of repression and gullibility seems to be part of living in Sunnydale. By the end, Joyce seems to have forgotten her crusade and Mrs. Rosenberg forgets Willow's confession about her involvement in the occult. On the one hand, this is good, because Joyce revealed to everyone at the city hall that Buffy was the slayer. On the other hand, waking up to the evil around them would be a good thing.

Demons: When Willow tells Buffy that the wiccan symbol found on the children's hands is harmless, Buffy concludes that Willow and her friends have been set up. The demon has co-opted Hansel and Gretel, a tragedy associated with witches, to foster hatred and persecution in peaceful communities by creating a paranoid, hysterical self-righteous mob that turns human against human. This makes him a prime example of both evil-as-deception and evil-as-corruption.

Buffy and the good fight: Joyce points out that although Buffy can bring the culprits who killed the children to justice, she can't bring the children back. She can slay vampires, but new vampires take their place. In response, Angel reminds Buffy of her own words to him in Amends--it's important to keep fighting even though we never win; because we don't fight to win once and for all, but because there are things worth fighting for. Buffy has saved the entire world more than once, but her smaller contributions are significant too. In this case, justice is poetic--she uses the stake she was to be burnt to death on to impale Hansel-and-Gretel demon.

The deceptive evil of the Mayor

Moral Ambiguity in "Gingerbread"

Buffy killing humans: When Giles suggests the murders could have been done by a cult as a ritual sacrifice, Buffy is deeply offended that humans could have done it. She "could you also find a loophole in that 'slayers don't kill people rule'?" Buffy doesn't seem ethically conflicted about killing human beings, she seems genuinely ready to kill them.

During MOO's raid on the school, Principal Snyder leads the unnecessary search and seizure of the student's lockers which gets Amy and Willow in trouble and gets another "tingly moment" when policemen take Giles' books away. Granted, he may be as under the influence of the demon as are the other adults, but he enjoys his actions a Principal Snyder-kind of way.

When witches are harassed by other students at Sunnydale High, it's Michael who really gets picked on. Is this because he is adopting a way of life normally associated with women?


The Metaphysics of "Helpless"

Cruciamentum: Cultures built around war often give their young soldiers an initiation or rite of passage to prove their worth. The Watcher culture is no different. If a slayer reaches her 18th birthday, she must prove that she can think on her feet and fight by her wits as a normal girl. The watcher is required to administer injections that take away her powers and send her to a house specially prepared for the rite. All the escape routes have been blocked and she is trapped inside with a vicious vampire she must defeat.

Dampening slayer powers: Giles hypnotizes Buffy and injects her with an organic compound of muscle relaxants and adrenal suppressors. The temporary effect of this mixture is to dampen Buffy's strength, coordination, and ability to call upon her training, with only a sudden dizzy spell as warning.

Vampires and drugs: Kralik is being fed pills in large quantities. It is not clear what the purpose of these drugs are, but it is clear the vampire is addicted to them, or believes that he is. We have seen other examples of vampires being influenced by chemical substances. A summary of fan speculation on the purpose of the pills:

Good and Evil in "Helpless"

Zachary Kralik: Like Drusilla, Kralik's evil is influenced by the madness his mortal predecessor displayed (see also Andrew Borba). The mortal Kralik murdered and tortured over a dozen women and was committed to an asylum for criminally insane. Now vampKralik is to be part of Buffy's Cruciamentum test. But Kralik frees himself from his straitjacket and chains, turns one watcher into a vampire, and kills another. His goal is to vamp the slayer. He kidnaps Joyce to entice Buffy back to the house where the test was to occur and sadistically taunts them both.

Moral Ambiguity in "Helpless"


Yes, his job told him to do one thing, his heart another. But when your job has you doubting yourself, that is the time to make the right decision...like when your company tells you to burn some files, or....dump some toxic waste...do you use the excuse...I was just doing my job! Lame excuse, and I think he knew it, and came right in the end (Clattering, Feb 14 20:39 1999).

The moral ambiguity of the Watcher's Council

Ethical Quandaries and Philosophies Represented in "Helpless"

Giles' moral conflict: the ethics of the warrior vs. the ethics of the care-giver

Warrior ethics sees morality as a set of abstract ideals of behavior or character which an individual must adhere to impartially across situations: e.g., honesty, truthfulness, justice, courage and self-control. Under this morality, caring for one individual above others is often trivialized as undue softness, sentimentality that leads to unclear thinking, or unethical favoritism.

The under-emphasized care-giver morality, on the other hand, holds that there is more to morality than following an abstract set of principles. Under the care-giver morality, people are motivated by feelings such as love, affection, compassion, sympathy, and empathy towards those they have close relationships to. The danger of impartiality (from this point of view) is that it can make us neglect the special duties we have to our family and friends--responsibilities that demand emotional attachment.

Quentin Travers argues that the purpose of the Cruciamentum is to test the self-reliance and resiliance of the current slayer:

They are waging a war. Yes buffy is fighting it but buffy is a soldier in the war. The soldiers are expendable. The generals must focus on the bigger picture. One girl's life does not amount to much when the world's at stake. The watchers would probably prefer if the fate of the world didn't depend on a young girl but they deal with what they have. They keep an emotional distance because to do otherwise would put the world at risk. It's not the individual slayer that matters it's the war. Do the watcher's wish otherwise that they could raise an army? most likely, but as the the credo goes only one girl in all the world who has the strength and skill.... The slayer is indestructible, one dies another called and they keep coming. War is not a time for sentiment. just because buffy didn't volunteer to begin with. it's clear that she voluntairly continued to risk her life (Angle Man, Jan 20 19:52 1999).

Travers tells Giles that if Buffy is as good a slayer as Giles says she is, she has nothing to worry about.

It is unclear if Giles would have gone along with the Cruciamentum test had it not gone awry. But it did. And while Travers is content to let the test play out in its new form, Giles is not. "This is not business," he says, stating not only his opposition to the Travers' "big picture" view of slayers, but also embracing the care-giver morality. From this point of view, the likelihood of Buffy's death from the test is no small concern. Giles' moral imperative now is to save Buffy and salvage his relationship with her: "Whatever I have to do to defeat Kralik and win back your trust I'll do."

From the Watcher's Council's point of view, Giles' decision arises merely from lack of objectivity, rather than Giles' adoption of a different moral standard: "Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father's love for a child. That is useless to the cause." He is relieved of his duties as watcher. In the end he is left with only his duties as care-giver, tending Buffy's wounds.

Amother example of the ethics of the care-taker and the ethics of the warrior: Buffy vs. Xander in "Selfless"

Are feelings antithetical to objectivity?

What is objectivity except the ability to see things as they really are? And who is more objective--the dispassionate outsider, or the emotionally involved insider who is more familiar with the situation? Travers denies Giles the right to have a say in whether Buffy is tested or not because he is "too close" to the situation. Is this a viable argument?

Pictures are copyright © 1998-1999 The WB Television Network
Screen shot credits
Translations are by Alexander Thompson
This page last modified 8/10/03

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