Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4


The Freshman

Living Conditions

The Harsh Light of Day

Fear, Itself

Beer Bad

Wild at Heart
The Initiative

The Freshman

The Metaphysics of "The Freshman"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 4 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

The invitation to vampires: The campus vamps cull a few freshman every year by making it appear as if they left school. But how can they enter a college dorm room to steal all the student's stuff and leave "the note"? The invitation to vampires is sensitive to the occupant's rights regarding their living quarters. Dorms are somewhere between hotel rooms (accessible) and apartments (inaccessible) on the resident's rights scale:

A dorm room is not a private residence.... The student pays a room fee, but it is no more his or her "home" than a motel room... (Oct 6 14:27 1999) In Dorms your time there is completely dictated by the school, they tell you when you can move in, when you can move out, that you have to be gone by this time at the end of the semester, etc (Lovely Poet, Oct 6 14:14 1999).

On the other hand,

I was an RA in college and one thing students have is rights regarding their rooms. RA's can't just walk-in when they want to. They can never do that unless it's announced in advance (pre-break inspection) or they have a search warrant of some kind. What's more a dorm room is rented living space just like an apartment or a house.... (sofrina, 12 Oct 1999 13:58)

Good and Evil in "The Freshman"

Sunday and her lackeys: Every school has 'em. You start a new school, you get your desk, some blackboards and some mean kids. In this case, though, the bullies are vamps out for blood. Their predatory evil and the arrogance works for a while against the disoriented Buffy, but she's a freshman college student, not a freshman slayer. In the end, they're dust.

Buffy has always been an emotional fighter. Her emotions are what drive her. If she's confused and insecure, that's going to show through in her fighting (horizon, Oct 5 21:40 1999).

Xander gets the gang assembled to help Buffy fight Sunday, but not before doing a little slayer-support on his own. His honest and open admission of admiration for Buffy came just when she needed it most (Lovely Poet, Oct 5 19:21 1999)

Moral Ambiguity in "The Freshman"

Giles is a little dismissive to Buffy, but things aren't the way they were before graduation

I think the change in the relationship between Giles and Buffy is interesting and very real... the uneasiness and awkwardness and distance between the two works well and rings true for what happens when you "leave home" (DSP, Oct 12 19:34 1999).

Philosophies Represented in "The Freshman"

Freshman angst: In many ways, our environment helps define who we are and who we can be. If we feel comfortable in our surroundings, we are free to thrive and grow. If we are not comfortable, we're constrained by the ever-present need to rebel against or adjust ourselves to something essentially foreign to us. At UC Sunnydale, Buffy can't find herself in the college context and begins to doubt even the part of herself that she has the most confidence in--her slaying.

The best thing about this episode was the nature of isolation Buffy felt entering college and how diffrent relationships truely are. ...there was this uncomfortable sense of change and growth. ...in thinking of all the feelings/changes it implied and the difficult task of rebuilding a certain structure for all the characters and thier places in this new enviroment, it succeded extremely well (Ahriman, Oct 6 15:11 1999).

Buffy's awkwardness and lack of usually witty repartee was perfect to exemplify the confusion that can strike freshman. ...Do I think something like college jitters could rattle Buffy so much? Perhaps not alone, but combine it with the other things that happened before her first face off with Sunday and crew (Lovely Poet, Oct 5 19:21 1999).

When Buffy begins to integrate her new college life with the things that have defined her in the past--her friendships (Xander's pep-talk) and her slayer identity (responding to Sunday breaking her class protector umbrella), she gets her confidence back.

Living Conditions

The Metaphysics of "Living Conditions"

The Mok'Togar are a race of trans-dimensional demons (meaning, they make a habit of passing over from the demon dimension whence they came to the Earthly plane through an inter-dimensional whirlpool). They pass as human with a little disguise reminiscent of slave-driver Ken or cover their wrinkly skin and glowing green eyes in cloaks.

As a race of "regenerating demons", the Mok'Togar can grow back parts of their bodies that are dismembered (e.g., Kathy's "evil toenails". See also the Mohra Demons). While in non-demon disguise, the Mok'Togar can only recognize each other due to their lack of a soul. Kathy, a sort of run-away child of this demon race, intends to fool her elders when they come to bring her back by performing a ritual that will allow her to take possession of a human soul.

The ritual of Mok'Togar: Buffy recalls the real-life soul-sucking as a series of bad dreams. In one, a demon like the one who attacked her on campus forces animal blood into her mouth and puts a scorpion on her stomach, then proceeds to draw life energy out from between her lips. In another dream, the demon paints characters and symbols on Buffy's stomach in blood before draining energy from her mouth.

What was Kathy trying to steal from Buffy (What is a Buffyverse "soul")?

  1. The consciousness and personality? It is hard to see why Kathy doesn't have a soul already on this meaing, albeit a demon soul. Under this meaning, if Kathy were to steal Buffy's human soul, Buffy's mind and consciousness would enter Kathy's body. That does not seem to be what Kathy is after.
  2. The "life-force"--the energy that keeps a person alive? If Kathy was after Buffy's human life energy, Buffy would have ended up a lifeless corpse.
  3. The moral conscience? Given the equivalence of the word "soul" and the moral conscience in Buffyverse nomenclature, this is the likely candidate for what Kathy was stealing. Buffy began to show signs of losing her conscience--she became homicidally hostile towards Kathy and violent with her friends after Kathy's rituals began. However, if Kathy had succeeded in stealing Buffy's soul, it might have backfired on her. The minute she had it, she'd have felt obligated to give it back.

The spell to reverse a soul-transfer: Giles lights three tall candles and recites a supplication while Willow lights a small candle and burns incense.

Elders of the upper reaches, Elders of the lower reaches, Elders of the dry land, Elders of the river flats... Ancients, I beseech you. The soul abstracted, let it revert to its true seat. Let the unnatural vessel be emptied, let the essence be returned to its original host.

As Kathy tries to finish her soul-sucking, the life energy she has already taken flows back into Buffy's mouth.

Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "Living Conditions"

Although literally the roommate from hell, Kathy was not very evil. All she really wanted was to go to college among humans. Siphoning off Buffy's soul was not of the good, but it was a pragmatic need, not a predatory one. If Kathy can be accused of any evil, it is a human evil--selfishness.

Trust Buffy's judgment or stage an intervention?

When Buffy borders on Cordelia-esque her friends dismiss it at first as an only child's reaction to living in close quarters with a fastidious stranger. But when her hostility towards Kathy escalates to threats of homicide, they decide to restrain her. While the gang normally trusts Buffy's judgment as a slayer, they have good reason to doubt Buffy:

In this case, the gang is wrong and Buffy's spider-sense is working well, although it was  fueled by having her soul drained and just a bit of only-child brattiness.

The whole point of the ep was that with an insufferable roommate you become equally insufferable -- you become a parody of yourself. And the end was meant to drive that home (joss, Oct 12 22:40 1999).

Buffy's spoiled...no doubt in my mind, but... I think that a lot of her "spoiledness" stems ironically from her life as a slayer...a life that is rather giving in many senses of the word. ... [but] a lot of things revolve around her, her friends have sacrified and given up a lot in their friendships with her, and she's rather used to getting her way ...she may be spoiled, but she's not as selfish and/or self-centered as she could possibly be under other circumstances (Charity aka Taygeta, Oct 13 01:42 1999).

The Harsh Light of Day

The Metaphysics of "The Harsh Light of Day"

The Gem of Amara is a green stone set in a ring. It is imbued with a mystic power (via a spell?) that makes the vampire who wears it immune to the things that normally kill or harm them. The ring doesn't make the vampire all-powerful, however. Spike still got a fist full of Buffy before she pulled the ring off his finger and sent him running for the sewers.

Anya's origins

Evil in "The Harsh Light of Day"

Spike is once again the nasty vamp we knew before the organ fell on him in WML. He slams around his minions (including girlfriend VampHarmony), sinks his fangs into a victim behind a dumpster, and doesn't compromise an inch with the slayer.

Undefeated evil

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "The Harsh Light of Day"

Making assumptions

"Did he play the sensitive lad and get you to seduce him? It's a good trick, if the girl is thick enough to buy it." --Spike

They saw each other "moderately incessantly" for a week. Parker asked Buffy about her interests, and talked to her about loss and the choice to live for today. And Buffy made a choice, confident of what she was doing, at least that night. When Parker gave her the cold shoulder afterwards, and Buffy found him giving his dead-dad line to another girl, she felt duped.

Was Parker a Poophead? Or were there just mixed signals? One of the greatest contributors to differences of opinion and differences in ethical viewpoints is different starting assumptions.

Parker's actions were not wrong. Buffy's assumptions were. She needs to take responsibility for that, but at no point does she say 'I should have gotten to know him better' or 'I should have been clearer about my expectations' or 'I took the whole thing more seriously than I should have'. I'm not saying she shouldn't be disappointed that reality didn't match up with her fantasies. ...Spending time together for a week, even if you mix in coffee and dating nervousness, does not a relationship make. I also find nothing wrong with someone turning on the charm when they pursue me for sex, and don't assume it's anything more than sex when it happens. Sex can be about something more, but that doesn't mean I should expect it to be so. Buffy was a victim of her own romantic fantasies, not a victim of Parker. ...it wasn't Parker that hurt Buffy, it was Buffy that hurt Buffy (Joe Beason - Oct 20, 1999).

Buffy hurt herself & Parker helped - a LOT. He was not clear to her in any way that his intention was to have "fun", just once. "You have no idea what it's like to finally find someone who really understands" is not an intro to "I'd like to have sex with you when it suits me without having to be nice to you." It's not his fault that she was so naive. But then, if she wasn't so naive, why bother playing her like that? Maybe because nobody else would buy that line of crap... I don't think that, given the situation, her expectations were utterly in the realm of fantasy, just somewhat unrealistic. And i don't think her reaction was unjustified, considering his approach. If she had only met him at the party, that would have been a different story (tessera - Oct 20, 1999).

Parker's defense


Buffy reminds me of child prodigies who can often be overly developed in one area but completely under developed in others. I think her strength as slayer/fighter of demons and vamps and monsters comes out in times of great "end of world" crises, and if the personal crisis overlaps with a world crisis she can deal much better (Angel/Acathla). What happened with Parker OTOH was very much removed from any kind of "end of world" crisis and in the absent of that familiar framework, Buffy showed herself to be naive and vulnerable and woefully insecure when it comes to sex and men. I actually quite like this contradiction (DSP, Feb 7 13:37 2000).

Sex in the Buffyverse

While Buffy wakes up to find the guy gone again, Anya discovers that sex isn't the ideal method for "getting a guy out of her mind". In fact, the only people who really seem to be enjoying their sex lives these days are the vampires, and it's really only the sex that Spike enjoys with Harmony.

Fear, Itself

The Metaphysics of "Fear, Itself"

The ritual to summon Gachnar: This Gaelic demon (see below) is brought into being in a three-part ritual:

  1. the mark of Gachnar is drawn. It is a circle within a circle, with runes spaced within the outer circle (the frat boys paint the circle on the floor).
  2. a drop of blood is sprinkled on the symbol (Oz inadvertently flings his blood onto it). At this point, Gachnar has the ability to distort matter and reality in the dwelling where he is being summoned. He turns fake objects into their real counterparts (e.g., spiders, bats, cobwebs) and brings forth the deepest fears of those in the frat house.
  3. the mark of Gachnar is destroyed (accomplished when Buffy punches through the symbol), and Gachnar rises out of the broken symbol.

Gachnar has little physical power but a lot of psychological power (see also the First Evil). The action-figure-sized "Dark Lord of Nightmares" is much more dangerous in his half-manifested state (2). You know the drill: when you face your fears, they're not as big as you imagined them to be. It is unclear how Gachnar embodies the fears of those he torments. It may be a form of telepathy, or it may simply be an ability to manifest what is in someone else's mind without knowing what it is.

The Guiding Spell: This short incantation conjures an emissary from beyond the Earthly plane to light the way for travelers who have become lost or disoriented:

Aradia, Goddess of the lost, the path is murky, the woods are dense, darkness pervades. I beseech thee... bring the light.

A green floating dot appears and (ideally) takes the traveler where they asked to be lead.

Willow's werewolf scratch

Werewolf scratches will not turn the scratchee into a werewolf. Bites, folks. Bites do it. (Need a little wolf saliva mixing in with the blood, you see.) ([BtVS/AtS writer David] Fury, Oct 26 23:24 1999).

Good and Evil in "Fear, Itself"

Gachnar: What the frat boys brought forth is a classic example of evil-as-chaos. Chaotic evil is a relatively weak form of evil that enjoys turning its enemies own deficiencies against them. Gachnar is inadvertently summoned, wackiness ensues, and his victims became the authors of their own demise. For another good example, see Ethan Rayne's visits to Sunnydale.

The good of Giles

Moral Ambiguity in "Fear, Itself"

When Buffy is in the land of not dealing, she tends to hide behind her slayer persona in a loner-hero kind of way (e.g., WSWB, The Prom). She aims her angst at beasties that, as Giles points out, she's not likely to encounter on Halloween, instead of the real source of her troubles--boys and college classes. When Buffy does encounter Gachnar, her other telling tendency--impulsiveness--comes out full-blown. Luckily, this time, the repercussions were small. It is interesting how her fear of the futility of finding lasting male love was manifested by her fear of the futility of fighting evil as the slayer.

Willow has the witch-basics down--levitation, charms, glamours. She is now contemplating the next level--transmutation and conjuring. Gone are the days when Willow was content to be a "slayerette". Her growing witch powers are making her want to be, and feel she is, Buffy's equal in fighting the supernatural. But when Willow's "simple" incantation goes awry, we see that she both fears and desires these powers at the same time.


Oz's sense of isolation was the most poignant part of this ep. ...The show has hinted at Oz's bitterness and a sense bewilderment at his lack of control. But this one went a long way towards showing Oz as more than just sweet and unflappable. The scene in the tub where he's chanting "I'm not gonna change!" was heartbreaking.... (sofrina, 10/27/99 7:46 AM)

The Zeppo: Xander continues to feel left out of the gang now that he's non-college guy. This manifests itself as invisibility. Unlike Marcie's invisibility (IG), Xander is neither heard nor felt, either. This fear isn't new to him. He is still working out his normal-guy role in his supernaturally-talented circle of friends.

Anya's big fear isn't snakes or unbeatable foes or losing control of herself. It's bunnies. The things of nightmares and scary Halloween costumes.

I think Anya's fear was being separated from Xander and trapped in the person of something cute and fuzzy. I think it's an appropriate fear for Anya to deal with because she ...has lost her demon powers (DeMoriel, Oct 27 15:45 1999).

Beer Bad


The Metaphysics of "Beer Bad"

Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalysis divides our personalities into three parts--the Ego, Id, and Superego. The "Ego" refers to the rational part of our minds, the part that gets information from the world that we need to know and forms logical conclusions based on that information. The "Id" is our infantile, animal-like side, the side that tells us what we want--food, shelter, sex, etc. Like an infant, it only knows that it wants and is incapable of following rules or restraints. This is the job of the Superego, which reminds us of Society's expectations and the rules and goals which individuals have developed for themselves. In short, the Ego tells us what is, the Id tells us what we wish for, and the Superego tells us what we should wish for. In an integrated personality, the three work together to satisfy the individuals' needs and help them get along with others.

Cursed Beer: A variety of colored potions simmer in flasks, then blend and go down a tube into the beer keg. It is likely that this is just an otherwise innocuous chemical mixture that turns beer-drinkers into cavemen when commingled on the good ol' Hellmouth. The other possibility is that those flasks contain skunk root or eye of newt and the chemistry set was cursed with the appropriate incantation.

We are Devo: After the first round, the beer makes Buffy and the frat boys unable to respond to anything but the simplest stimuli--food, beer, music, and other people. Over the course of the next day, they gradually become pure Id (e.g., Buffy stealing the sandwich without guilt). The next round of binge drinking causes them to physically mutate into Cro-Magnon, an early variety of homo sapiens colloquially known as "Cave Men". The Cro Magnon were not gibbering, territorial monkeys like the frat boys, but this is a vengeance spell, after all. Despite their limited mental capacity, the Cro-Mags obviously retain some memory of their current lives; they just can't make sense of most of it. Buffy, for instance, remembers her negative feelings towards Parker. She also remembers her name, and can use at least some of her slayer skills.

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Beer Bad"

Jack: It was irresponsible, as Xander pointed out, but you can't totally blame the pub owner for just wanting to bring the pretentious college boys down a peg. They can talk in big, big words, but after a few hours of trickle-down beer economics and pseudo-relativist drivel they end up saying nothing of significance and aren't much different from a group of red-neck guzzlers they would vocally disdain. As long as no one got seriously hurt, why not turn them into grunting cavemen for a day? There's something satisfyingly poetic about it.

It is a bit puzzling why Buffy's Id would send her towards the fire, rather than away from it, especially since she declared it "bad". Of course, we know she has slayer instincts deep, deep down, but this is the same girl who has been moping for weeks over a boy her Ego tells her is a jerk. In some ways, Buffy's Id is a lot smarter without her Superego (with all society's expectations for dating and sexual behavior) interfering. Her instincts have it right--save bad boy from fire, but don't let bad boy's swarmy apology get too far past his lips. He meant it tonight, but will claim differently in the morning. Best *Thud* since Tom in Reptile Boy.

The image of the cave man with a club in one hand and the hair of the woman he's dragging back to his den in the other is probably a myth reconstructed out of the past by an archeology plagued with an incomplete data record and sexist assumptions. However, a little role reversal could count as poetic justice of a sort. Parker Abrams' behavior certainly fits the stereotype of the male philanderer. A low-brow cave-woman Buffy knocking him a couple times in the noggin', responding to emotions she can only feel but not understand, falls more or less into the "he had it comin'" category.

Ethical Quandaries in "Beer Bad"

He said, She said: Willow vs. Parker on negotiating sex

The issue between Willow and Parker really isn't whether or not sex ought to be a recreational activity of two acquaintances sharing one night. Willow readily agrees that consensual casual sex can be O.K. The issue between them is what needs to be said between the two parties involved before  doing the deed.

Willow argues that the mutual decision to engage in sex assumes, at minimum, respect between two people. Hence, if someone intends only a one-night stand, the responsibility is on that person to say so, not on the other person to ask if that's true.

Parker responds that taking the time to give a sober explanation of one's intentions negates what is most enjoyable about sex--the passion that fuels it. Without prior negotiation, it is wiser for both partners not to assume anything about what the act of sex signifies--certainly, neither should assume it means there is or will be a relationship.

To his credit, Parker gives a (less-than-convincing) apology for misleading Buffy. But then he starts giving his smooth "we're connecting" lines to Willow. Willow calls him on the way he uses deception--the promise of longer-term intimacy--to get the one-night stand to happen.

Wild at Heart

Metaphysics and Moral Ambiguity in "Wild at Heart"

The animal within: Oz thought he had a little condition that interfered with his life three nights out of the month, but that was manageable with a cage and a sympathetic girlfriend. But hints of his wolfiness started to surface in his human life. The two states of being (human and werewolf) are not completely unconnected.

Oz isn't the type to stray--he is a gentleman who loves and respects Willow. But he is not all Oz these days. Veruca brings the Oz-wolf out in Oz in a way he can't deny. Yet when Buffy asks him about "two wild dogs", Oz claims not to know anything about a second werewolf. Why would he lie? To protect Veruca? This seems unlikely. At worst, Buffy would shoot Veruca with a tranquilizer dart, or lock her up. If Oz had told Buffy the truth, they could have avoided killing Veruca to save an innocent. If Oz had told the truth, any long-term decisions about what to do with the wolf-woman would have involved Veruca's input, and would not have included her death. Oz didn't tell somebody, as Willow pointed out, because there was a much more appealing way to stop Veruca from doing harm--lock her in the cage with him over night.

Bad mojo: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and when Willow discovers Oz and Veruca, naked and entwined on the floor of his cage, she summons the power of the worst minions of hell to feed her vengeance curse--to give the betrayers a life of misery in which they will never know love again. In the chemistry lab of UCS, Willow mixes herbs and powders. She has a flame burning in a bowl nearby:

I conjure thee, by Barabas, by Satanas, and the Devil. As thou art burning, let Oz and Veruca's deceitful hearts be broken.

She puts the herb mixture in the bowl, which stokes the flame.

I conjure thee by the Saracen Queen, and the name of hell. Let them find no love or solace, let them find no peace as well.

At this point, Willow is making nearby beakers float. She prepares to throw a picture of Oz in the fire.

Let this image seal his fate, not to love, only hate.

When she looks at his photo, however, her hatred isn't enough to finish. But that was a little too close for comfort.

Ethical Quandaries and Philosophies Represented in "Wild at Heart"

Is the morality of the predator a justified way of life?

This morality holds that what is natural is morally correct--it is wrong to impose any external human value systems on animals acting on their instincts. Therefore, Veruca should be allowed to run free as a wolf, even if people get hurt, and killing Willow is justified because it is a natural act when an animal fights their rival to win a mate, regardless of the outcome.

We've seen precedents to Veruca's "do what comes naturally" morality:

Oz chooses to impose human moral strictures on his werewolf side. No one is forcing him into a cage, no one is telling him, "don't hurt anybody". He is doing and saying these things for himself. Veruca, however, believes Willow is the "reason" Oz does not think as she does--he is giving into human morality because of his hormones. If Oz weren't "Willow-whipped", Veruca concludes, he would share Veruca's animal morality.

Veruca goes further than merely letting her werewolf side run free for three nights. She embraces the belief that the wolf side is the real her, present all the time behind a human disguise. If this is true, then according to her predator morality, she should also give in to her animal instincts the rest of the time, too.

Reason will not change Veruca's mind, because she already has her reasons. So Oz treats her like an animal--he seduces her to get her inside his cage, and he kills her to protect Willow. It is interesting that he makes up his mind to incapacitate or kill Veruca while still human. Oz begins his attack on her before the transformation is complete, and so essentially gives his human goals to the werewolf. The werewolf may have helped him make up his mind about Veruca's fate, but Oz did it out of love for Willow. The werewolf neither recognizes nor cares for Willow, as evidenced by how he turned on her just before Buffy arrived and tranquilized him.

Sententia on Is Oz responsible for killing Veruca?

The Initiative

The Metaphysics of "The Initiative"

Behavior Modification: for the behaviorist, psychology is the scientific study of observable behavior, rather than mental activity. Behaviorists study "stimulus and response conditioning": observable increases or decreases in the frequency, duration or variety of precisely defined behaviors (responses) due to particular changes in environmental stimuli.

The Principles of Operant Conditioning

Desirable behavioral responses are strengthened through positive reinforcement--presenting a reward (stimulus) when the desired behavior is displayed, or negative reinforcement--removing an undesirable stimulus when the desired behavior is displayed. Positive reinforcement would be Giles giving Buffy a cookie when she does her slayer job well. Negative reinforcement would be Giles not letting Buffy go out with her friends to the Bronze until Buffy finishes training and patrolling for the evening.

Undesirable behavior responses are weakened through punishment--presenting an aversive stimulus or removing a rewarding stimulus when the undesired behavior is displayed. The first kind of punishment is zapping Spike with a painful electric shock when he tries to bite people. The second is refusing to feed a vampire prisoner blood packets until he stops trying to escape.
If Spike was "fixed", how did he fight his way out of the Initiative?

...This was one of the great foul ups in Buffy history. ...Spike was hitting everybody -- in the initiative, in the dorm hall, it was insane. ...We couldn't reshoot most of it so we edited it so that all he did was throw people, not punch them, and when he did punch someone he went "Arrgh my head" and whatnot (Joss, Jan 29 17:18 2000).

Vampire physiology

If Spike's temperature is room temperature, then how would his image stand-out to an infrared scanner? (wolfguard, Jan 21 17:51 2000).

How old is Spike?

Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "The Initiative"

The limitations of behavior modification

It doesn't make criminals any less "evil"...in Clockwork Orange, Alec still wanted to engage in acts of random violence, he just couldn't. I guess it's the old question of what the criminal justice system is supposed to achieve...are we punishing the criminals for what they've done, or are we protecting society from people who have shown themselves to be a danger to others? Well, probably both, but if it's mostly the latter, one could argue that rendering them harmless, even if it doesn't make them any less "evil" inside, is more humane than locking them up permanently, and it achieves the same goal of protecting the populace. If punishment is the primary goal, than death or imprisonment might still be considered preferable (Mircalla, Nov 17 22:01 1999)

Sexual violence: It's another cute Spike and Willow moment until we stop thinking of him as the emotionally sensitive vampire we think we know and look at the situation from another perspective. A man enters a woman's college dorm room, threatens her, and when she tries to run, he throws her on the bed, turns up the stereo to block out the sound of her screams, and then attacks her. The only thing that saves Willow is Spike's Clockwork Orange impotence. From this point of view, Willow's need for reassurance about her desirability is not so funny. A vampire's bite is about predatory violence, and in this case, revenge. To think of it as sexy is to equate all such attacks with the more benevolent moment from Graduation, and to forget how even then Buffy had to coerce Angel to feed on her and that she almost died as a result of it.

Wimpy Buffy?

...her real strength lies [i]n helping others. Buffy has been whiny and off balance all season. It now becomes clear why: ...She doesn't have the self confidence to defend herself from verbal or emotional abuse, whether it's a jerk-off teacher kicking her out of class, a &*%$# guy using her and tossing her aside, or her loathed enemy throwing verbal barbs about her love life. Buffy was forced to grow up quickly when she gained her slayer powers, but those powers did not come with emotional and mental maturity built into them. She is still only 18 and uncertain of who and what she is. But she does know one thing well. How to fight for others. When she stood up to Maggie for Willow, I cheered. Buffy's fight is for the underdog, and she was definitely in her element (Sioned, Nov 17 09:15 1999).

Giles and Xander: more alike than different?

The Initiative: good, evil, or amoral?

The moral ambiguity of Riley

Philosophies Represented in "The Initiative"

Post break-up blues: If anything qualifies as the bona fide "meaning of life", the spice that makes day-to-day existence worthwhile, it's the company of those we love and who love us. People who find such love are, to quote Doyle's cliché, the luckiest people of all. But what happens when that love is gone? In an existentialist universe, there are no guarantees beyond the physical laws that bind us, and love, as wonderful as it is, doesn't have a power equal to gravity. So why not, as Willow suggests to Riley, just forget it at the outset? Why put yourself through that kind of pain, becoming a broken, hollow mockery of the human condition? Such reasoning assumes that love will inevitably fail, and that outcome is not guaranteed in an existentialist universe, either. The only good advice is another cliché--"take a chance."

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