Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4



Something Blue



A New Man


The Metaphysics of "Pangs"

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.

Hus: The Sunnydale Mission was buried in an Earthquake in 1812. Xander breaks through the ground above it on a construction job and soon comes down with malaria, small pox, and syphilis. Later, a green glowing mist escapes from the ruins and floats to the UCS Cultural Center. When it encounters an early 1800's Chumash knife, the mist transforms into a Chumash warrior, who slits the throat of the Curator and cuts off her ear.

It is unlikely that the warrior is the ghost of an actual person. Rather, he is the embodiment of the Chumash's desire for vengeance spawned by the proximity of the Hellmouth:

The ritual to call forth the warriors of vengeance: Hus takes bones, bows, and arrows, and lays them on the ground, saying:

First people who dwell in the Mishupashup, hear me and descend. Walk with me upon the Itiashup again. Hear me also, Nunashush, spirits from below. Creatures of the night. Take human form and join the battle. Bring me my revenge!

The incantation appears to call forth both ancestral spirits and demons. The warriors appear in a cloud of green smoke and take up the weapons Hus has gathered from the Cultural Center.

Binding the Vengeance Spirit: Buffy stops the warriors by stabbing Hus with the ceremonial knife that originally embodied him. This causes Hus and the other warriors to turn back into the green smoke, which dissipates. It is unclear they have been "killed", they may just be "bound"--powerless to act on the Earthly plane.

Moral Ambiguity in "Pangs"

So, how long have you two been married? Anya, former avenging demon, becomes a nurturing "little woman" doting over a man ripe with some of the most communicable diseases known to humankind. At the height of his sickness and delirium, however, she takes issue with Xander's adamant opinion that "avenging demons should be killed!" "Sometimes vengeance is justified!" she remarks. "You know I didn't mean you," he replies.

Harmony vs VampHarmony

Ethical Quandaries in "Pangs"

Is symbolic revenge justified?

The Chumash were mistreated and their lands were taken from them. They have a right to revenge. Unfortunately, the Spanish and American settlers that were responsible for their demise are long dead; revenge isn't possible. Or is it? Can the descendants of the conquerors stand in their place?

Buffy is disconcerted that Hus is not "black-hat evil"--that he may have a justified reason for what he is doing. But what he's doing, Giles points out, is killing innocent people. Buffy agrees Hus must be stopped, but wants to find a "non-slayee way to do it". She's done this before--Buffy didn't kill most of her human villains, and deliberately let some less human ones escape (e.g., the Go Fish monsters and VampWillow).

Willow wants to redress the evils committed against the Chumash. But unless they pay compensatory damages to their descendants and pack up and leave en masse, this solution will not represent justice to Hus; he will continue his campaign. Giles argues that Willow's sympathy for the Chumash has blinded her to the fact that they must stop Hus. "Stopping" and "killing" are not the same thing, however, and he fails to make it clear that he understands this distinction.

Giles also argues that the situation is more volatile than Buffy believes it to be because "vengeance is a cycle"--it never stops. This depends on a big assumption, however. If each side sees any violence against them as calling for vengeance, even violence done in self-defense or in accordance with the other side's code of retribution, then vengeance does turn into an endless cycle; otherwise, it won't.

Spike chimes in with a few arguments of his own:

(1) "You won. You came in, and you killed them, and you took their land. That's what conquerors do. You don't see Caesar going around saying, 'I came, I conquered, but I feel really bad about it.'" In this argument, he has a point--"White guilt" does nothing for races who were wronged because it doesn't really change anything; the conquerors don't give up their privilege. Hus is out to avenge wrongs committed against his people, and no amount of hand-wringing apologies are going to change what happened in the past (or Buffy's Marie Antoinette-like comment that "you can have casinos now"). Since Hus has picked them as his targets, they had best prepare to defend themselves.

(2) On the other hand, his second argument, "The history of the world isn't about people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them, end of story," commits the naturalistic fallacy--"it happened, so it's justified". Facts alone do not decide right and wrong; facts and value systems both are required. Willow can still argue, "it happened, but it was wrong."

Vox on Is symbolic revenge justified? and Are the Chumash deserving of the land?

Something Blue

The Metaphysics of "Something Blue"

The "I will it so" spell: Willow sits on the restroom floor in a ring of burning candles. Inside with her are four pans representing the ancient elements. She says,

Hearken well ye elements, I summon thee now,

and puts some herbs in a bowl.

Control the outside, control within. Land and sea, fire and wind. Out of my passions, a web be spun. From this eve forth, my will be done. So mote it be.

She pours liquid from a goblet into the bowl. Energy moves from the bowl and inflames the candles until they brighten the entire room.

The spell is successful, but only works when she's emotionally upset and speaking metaphorically or sarcastically. Her eyes shine briefly with a blue light and what she says comes to pass.

Breaking the spell: Willow appears in a bolt of light in the crypt where her friends are and says:

Let the healing power begin! Let my will be safe again. As these words of peace are spoken, let this harmful spell be broken.

The truth spell: To get someone to 'fess up, you wave burning motherwort at them, and say

Enemy, enemy be now quiet. Let your deceitful tongue be broken. Let no untruths be spoken.

There's probably more involved than that, since Spike didn't spill the whole story about the camouflage guys.

The incantation to summon D'Hoffryn: Anya draws a circle around her self in the sand. Kneeling in the circle, she says,

Blessed be in the name of D'Hoffryn. Let this space be now a gateway to the world of Arashmaharr, where demons are spawned. We come in supplication. We bend as a reed in the flow of the... we come in the flow of the...

She can't remember all the words, and so is not able to summon D'Hoffryn.

Anya's Origins

Evil in "Something Blue"

The demon D'Hoffryn abducts Willow to Arashmaharr and makes her the same offer he made to Anya 1120 years ago. He's seen her anger at Oz's departure and the results of the spell she cast and assumes she performed the spell deliberately in her rage. He wants to develop her potential, create a being like Anyanka with incredible powers to unleash havoc on humanity. Since Anya calls his realm, "Arashmaharr, where demons are spawned," one can assume this is a regular habit of his--turning humans into evil demons. As such, he's a prime example of evil-as-corruption.

Moral Ambiguity in "Something Blue"

When Willow finds Oz's things gone from his room, neither drinking nor her friend's unsatisfactory sympathy dull the pain. So Willow turns to a spell to make her bad feelings go "poof". The effects of the spell on her friends gets the attention of the demon D'Hoffryn. But Willow's spell is not one of spite, only of grief, and she doesn't take up his offer. D'Hoffryn gives her an amulet to summon him anyway.

Willow is letting her negative feelings guide her actions too much. This was the second time she tried to use magic in a not so friendly way, only to have it blow up in her face. She is still insecure about her place with the Slayerettes, and thinks magic is the equalizer. ...To her credit, she turned down the offer to be a vengeance critter like Anya. ...Could this be how Anya got started? Could Willow, in a heated moment, decide to take up the offer? (NuPhalanx, Dec 10, 1999 5:08 AM)

The idea behind this ep was when a perfectly nice person is in a lot of pain, eventually they take it out on the people around them. ...It's not that the gang is insensitive, but when you're in pain you forget everyone else has problems too (joss, Nov 30 20:41 1999).

The moral ambiguity of Spike


The Metaphysics of "Hush"

Psychic dream: Buffy falls asleep in Psychology class and dreams that she is still in class. The dream segues into a kiss with Riley. Then Buffy hears a distant humming and goes out into the hallway, where she sees a young blonde girl (possibly herself as a child) singing:

Can't even shout, can't even cry, the Gentlemen are coming by. Looking in windows, knocking on doors, they need to take seven and they might take yours. Can't call to mom, can't say a word, you're gonna die a-screaming, but you won't be heard.

Riley touches her shoulder. When she turns around, she briefly glimpses one of the Gentlemen.

The Gentlemen's modus operandi, as Giles explains, is to enter a town, steal the voices of its residents, and take seven hearts out of still-living, conscious victims. These ghouls come in two varieties--the deceptively polite morticians, who dress in suits and carry doctor bags that contain their scalpels. They travel by floating above the ground and wear chilling grins on their faces. Aiding them are the straight-jacket wearing rigors, who traipse along like apes. They perform the muscle work--holding down victims and fighting off Buffy and Riley. The voices are not stolen simply to prevent victims from making noise, In the original fairy tale, the Gentlemen were killed when a princess was able to regain her voice and scream.

According to the buffy.com synopsis, the Gentlemen need seven hearts "to survive". However, this isn't made clear in the dialogue. Fan thoughts on "why take seven hearts?":

Maybe after a while they needed new hearts for themselves (Ryan, Dec 16 12:43 1999) [see also The Puppet Show].

I rather thought they needed them in the way that demons need to harvest organs - for consumption... (Jan 21 09:49 2000) ...often in fairy tales to make or break an enchantment, hearts had to be eaten (Wicked Queen orders huntsman to take Snow White out to the woods, cut out her heart and bring it to her in a wooden box so that she could eat it, for example. Why she wanted to eat it? Maybe to somehow acquire Snow White's beauty? Envy?) (Closet Buffyholic, Dec 16 10:10 1999).

When Buffy and Willow walk through town, they pass a group of worshipers, one who is holding up a sign reading "Revelations 15:1", a passage from the Bible.

Revelations, 15:1. "THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES. Then I saw in heaven another sign, great and awe-inspiring: seven angels with the seven plagues, for through them God's Fury is accomplished" (David Fan, Dec 16 10:34 1999).

Rev 15:1 ...may have been the "reverend's" interpretation of the 7 demons rather than Joss' point in the 7 hearts (Leather Jacket, Dec 16 11:32 1999).

The fact that we don't know why creeps me out all the more! And I'd be willing to be that's what Joss intended (MeeB, Dec 16 11:42 1999)..

Stealing the voices: At night after the residents of Sunnydale have gone to sleep, the Gentlemen use some mystical means not clearly specified to remove the "noise-making" properties of everyone's throats. These "voices" travel across the city and enter a distinctive-looking wooden box, which one of the Gentlemen closes so that the voices are trapped there.

Killing the ghouls: Buffy recognizes the box where the voices are trapped from her dream. When Riley smashes it at her request, the voices escape the box and snap back into the throats of their original owners. This allows Buffy to scream. The sound of a loud human voices causes the ghoul's heads to explode.

The traditional horror image of the victim screaming as she sees the monster for the first time is a weak one. I love the way Joss took this imagery and turned it around, so that even Buffy's scream had unbelievable power, and could kill (Safarigirl, Dec 14 20:53 1999).

Willow's emerging witchhood

Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Hush"


I thought it was interesting in Hush to see Riley and Buffy confront each other with rifle and crosbow--sort of old world meets new (Suzanne, Jan 19 08:22 2000).

Giles finds reference to the Gentlemen in a book on fairy tales. Un-Disneyized fairy tales were (often gruesome) stories of the evils human beings commit upon each other--murder, child abduction, slavery, theft--and the human folly that leads to them--naivete, vanity, envy, or greed. Fairy tale monsters, therefore, are allegories of human monsters, including sociopaths, killers, and psychotics. The Gentlemen's politeness, smiles, and neat clothing are characteristic of some of the most notoriously deceptive human predators. Their lack of apparent motive parallels the puzzlement we humans feel when faced with monsters of our own species. What drives a human being to kill children, or mutilate young women? It is our fear of this very real unknown that inspired many well-known fairy tales. Because of the mayhem they brought about while on their "mission", the Gentlemen are examples of evil-as-chaos.

Anya treats Giles' presentation on the ghoulish Gentlemen like a Saturday matinee, munching nonchalantly on popcorn while he puts drawings of people getting their hearts ripped out on the overhead projector.



The Metaphysics of "Doomed"

The Vahrall demons are green, three meters (!) tall, and weigh between 100-120 kg. They have spines across the back of their scalps, and clawed hands. They also give off chemical pheromones as they go about their business.

The ritual to open the Hellmouth: the apocalypse ritual du jour requires the blood of a man, the bones of a child, and a talisman known as "The Word of Valios". Willow finds the man--a dead student--in a dorm room. His chest has been carved with a symbol--an eye surrounded by emanating rays inscribed in a triangle. His blood has been drained from the wound. Once the demons have assembled the other ingredients, they chant around the Hellmouth, preparing to sacrifice themselves by jumping into it.

The ritual is thwarted when Buffy dives into the chasm where the portal will open (on a rope secured by Riley) and retrieves the third demon. Unanswered question: those pesky laws of physics still apply, most of the time, in the Buffyverse. So how did Buffy catch up to the demon?

Maybe Buffy caught the demon when it hit the "ground" (before it could get up and run to the actual portal). That would explain how she could get it knocked out, grab the talisman, and how Riley could know that it was time to pull her back up (jan 19 12:55 2000) ... I remembered the scenes from Season 1, with the Master in the portal... there was a floor of sorts there [under the library] (Leather Jacket, Jan 19 13:49 2000).

Science vs. Magic

I loved the comparison between the Initiative and the Slayerettes. ...the Slayerettes were way ahead of the game. The members of the Initiative are beginning to remind me of Han Solo..."Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, Kid." (Sioned, Jan 19 12:06 2000)

The Scooby Gang is not married to the methods of old. Whatever it takes to get the job done is what the Scooby Gang utilizes. If a rocket launcher is necessary to kill a demon bent on taking over the world, then a rocket launcher will be utilized. However, if a vampire has to be taken down with a special sword, the sword will be located and used. ...In all cases, the nature, goal and ability of the particular opponent will be researched thoroughly. This doesn't mean that the research has to be archaic ('stina, Jan 21 19:30 2000).

Good and Evil in "Doomed"

The Vahrall demons: Because their purpose is to bring about Armageddon--the return of the demons to this reality and hell on Earth, these demons are examples of evil-as-corruption.

Is Spike still evil?

I don't think Spike is good. I think Spike is a bloodthirsty bully who wants to fight. He's now found out that he can fight, but he can only fight demons. So fight them he will (Leather Jacket, Jan 19 13:49 2000).

I don't think Spike is "good" now. ...They didn't restore his soul - they "neutered" him, so to speak. So, he's still a demon himself - he's just an impotent demon in that he can't bite and maim and kill like he used to. I think the scene where he tears into Willow and Xander shows what a cruel-hearted demon he is - he enjoyed destroying their egos - he knows they're at a fragile point in their self-identity, and he knows most (if not all) of what he said is pure crap, but he did it because he wanted to hurt them. Since he couldn't do so physically, verbally would have to do. That malicious smile he gives when he's walking away told the whole story for me (Closet Buffyholic, Jan 20 10:50 2000).

If you looked very carefully and didn't blink, you could see the balloon over Spike's head as he walked away from W&X - you know, the one that said, "There wasn't any part of that that wasn't fun" (Polgara, Jan 20 11:23 2000).

The good of Xander

Moral Ambiguity in "Doomed"

Spike's neutered status raises interesting questions about the morality of his actions--is he good simply because he does good acts?

Spike's behavior in the final scene [in Doomed] asks the question - which is more important - good thoughts or good deeds? Spike may become a rogue demon hunter, but his motives are far from pure. Need they be? (wolfguard, Jan 19 20:55 2000)

The experienced and pessimistic Buffy refuses to let commando-Riley help her prevent another apocalypse because his secret identity brings out her Angel issues. Riley's response: "Things fall apart Buffy. The evil--it comes and goes. But the way people manage is, they don't do it alone. They pull each other through." Duh, Buff.

The naive but gung-ho Riley:

Riley demonstrated a certain amount of Owenosity when it came to Buffy. Which could add to her freakingness. At least Riley has a lot more know-how and street smarts than Owen ever did (MeeB, Jan 19 13:28 2000).

She's definitely right about Riley being an amateur. He really has no real clue what he's dealing with and it'll probably take a gut-wrenching emotional loss for it to hit home to him. Right now it's fun and games, not the timeless war b/t good and evil (Miss H. Mouse, Jan 18 20:36 2000).

Ethical Quandaries in "Doomed"

Should Spike be staked now?


First, let us examine why Spike, or any other demon/vampire should be slain. One, because of the threat they pose to those around them. If Spike has been altered so he can no longer attack or feed off people, then he is no longer a threat to those around him. Two, because of their past crimes & misdeeds. ...a cost/benefits analysis can prove that an unliving Spike is more valuable then a pile of ashes. For example, his occult & supernatural knowledge can still prove a valuable resource which is why Giles consulted him in Hush. Three, because "they're Evil." This season especially has given us many examples of how demons are not solely evil, Spike's assistance with Acathla illustrates that there are definitely degrees of Evil, and that even evil can prove necessary to keep the world intact (Aiglos, Dec 15 21:38 1999).


Spike is right that he would drain them both dry if he could. why should anyone be nice to him? he's done horrible things, and he SHOULDN'T be alive. they should've just staked him after he gave them what little info he had on the Initiative. ...he's NOT nice, and deserves no nice treatment from anyone. Xander, as always, WAS CORRECT. spike is an evil vamp, and if he wants to die, then someone should help him (greengirl, Jan 19 11:39 2000).

A New Man

The Metaphysics of "A New Man"

The spell to turn Giles into a demon: we never see Ethan do this curse, but he no doubt bought the ingredients at the magic shop, whipped them up elsewhere, and slipped them into Giles' drink at the pub while he was in the loo.

We also don't see Giles' transformation take place. Over night, he turns into a Fyarl demon, a large, hairy species with horns like a bull. They also have a paralyzing mucous that shoots out through the nose, and aren't known for their intelligence or self-initiative.

Giles has their size, strength, language, and appearance. At first, he is psychologically human, with his personality and morality in tact. As time goes by, however, he begins to take on the psychological characteristics of the Fyarl demon, feeling rage and wanting to destroy things.

Telekinesis: There is no rose "spell", and that's the point. Willow and Tara intend to use their minds alone (no incantations or potions) to float the rose in the air, pluck off its petals one by one, and bring them to the ground. It's a test of "synchronicity"--the ability to work in harmony with each other. The experiment is cut short when the magick from Ethan's curse interferes, sending the rose hurtling chaotically through the room.

Written prophecy thwarted: Giles discovers a prophecy that says the demon Barvain will rise at the third new moon after the 900th feast of Delthrox. When he gets there, though, the Initiative soldiers have been and gone.

Slayer spider-sense

Evil in "A New Man"

Ethan Rayne: The evil magician and worshiper of chaos is back in Sunnydale to do what he loves best--bringing mayhem into Giles' life. But turning Giles into a demon isn't his only purpose for being in town; he's here to dig up information on "314". Though he tells Giles about it, it's unlikely he really wants to help Giles and the gang. It's more likely he is digging up information about it for a demon(s).

Good and Moral Ambiguity in A New Man"

Demons and evil:

Joss has been blurring the lines between demon and person since the second season--this may be a milestone in that progression. We already know that demons can possess human feelings (Spike, Dru, book-vamp Dalton), some are neutral or fight for good (Whistler, Doyle, the guy with the Books of Ascension) and some demons once were humans (...Anya, for example). All the demons we've seen in the past, however, seem to be accepting of, if not always content with, their demon state. [A New Man], on the other hand, suggests that not all monsters are really monsters (Kiera, Jan 19 20:31 2000).

Things have been a bit iffy for Giles since graduation, and being out of the loop on "the commandos" throws him completely. He allows himself to get drunk with long-time adversary Ethan Rayne and spills all to him about the Initiative. Self-doubt from the Ripper? One's 40's are hardly the "has-been" years, and Buffy still needs his guidance and skills.

Giles feeling left out and replaced and neglected are all so reflective of what a parent feels when their child has left the nest. It made perfect sense to me that Buffy would ...want to check out the source of the "bad magicks" with Maggie first and not think of Giles. I think you can read the Initiative as a metaphor/allegory for the experience of going to college (or out on your own) and being awed by all the newfangled things out in the Real World as compared to the smaller world of "home" and "family."

And your parents can suddenly seem like demons or alien creatures speaking in tongues when you are caught up in the rush of the newness and bigness of the world out there. The parent probably feels frustrated and unable to communicate anymore with his or her child. So when Buffy tried to kill the "demon" and then recognized Giles' eyes looking out at her it was a really effective way of showing the pull between strangeness and intimacy of parent-child relationships when the child is trying to strike out on her own and is coming into her own as an adult (DSP, Jan 25 22:54 2000).

The Initiative taps 911 calls for trouble with "non-human" causes, has keys to the businesses in town, can do a "lock down" of dormitory rooms, and arrests Ethan Rayne on the authority of the US military. What exactly did they charge him with (since they don't buy into that magic stuff)? Even though he is probably not a US citizen, big trouble can ensue imprisoning him without giving just cause. No doubt part of the reason they take him to a secret detention facility.

The military is forbidden by law from acting as a police force except on a military base and even there they have to turn them over to civilian authorities. Plus what crime did Ethan commit to get him arrested. Last time I checked turning someone into a demon is not a crime (DGH, Jan 30 12:44 2000).

Dr. Walsh

I find it fascinating that the character of Maggie has been imbued with what we stereotypically consider "male" traits: aggressive, tough, blunt, no nonsense, unquestionably in charge etc. Certainly Buffy possesses those traits but Maggie doesn't have the pretty pink outfits or silver nailpolish (like our Slayer) to "soften" any of those characteristics (DSP, Jan 25 21:05 2000).

Maggie may have authority over the soldiers in the Initiative, but there is a glaring absence of women in the Initiative facilities in anything but white lab coats. What's up with that? Women have been filling all manner of positions in the US Armed Forces, some of which put them in tanks, Humvee's, and ships that can come right in the line of fire. And these women are trained to use the weapons issued to them.

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