Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 5




Tough Love


The Weight Of The World

The Gift


The Metaphysics of "Forever"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 5 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

The Ghora is a reptile demon with three heads. Ghora make their nests in caves that flank the sewers near the Hellmouth. Their eggs have life-giving properties, much like Mohra demon blood.

The spell to raise the dead: Dawn gets a spell book and some potions from Giles' shop and soil from Joyce's grave. Doc tells Dawn that she needs an image of her mother and an egg from a Ghora demon. The egg will give life to the person in the image. The soil may be necessary to point to the location of the deceased. Dawn draws a sacred circle in blood on a sheet on the floor of Joyce's room. She mixes the spell ingredients in a bowl. Then she places the bowl and the photo in the center of the circle. She repeats an incantation three times:

Osiris, giver of darkness, taker of life, God of Gods, accept my offering
Bone, flesh, breath, yours, eternally
Bone, flesh, breath, I beg of you return to me.

To reverse the spell, the spell-caster must destroy the image of the deceased. When a not-so-dead Joyce approaches the door of the Summers' house, Dawn rips the picture in half. Buffy opens the door. No one is there.

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Forever"

Buffy: Funeral arrangements, a grief-stricken and volatile adolescent sister, unpaid bills--life was easier for Buffy when all she had to do was save the world from unspeakable demons. Hank Summers, a man shown as a concerned father in Seasons 1 and 2, has left his daughters no way to track him down. Buffy decides she must remain stoic while she attends to her duties as the new head of the family. The work allows her to bury her pain and her guilt. But as Angel reminds her, Buffy has friends who can help her, and they don't expect her to remain strong all the time.

Dawn, however, does not understand Buffy's cold and distant reaction. Dawn is overwhelmed by emotion. She needs to be comforted and has nothing to take her mind off her pain. She decides to perform a spell to bring back the only person she believes ever cared for her. She breaks into a demon's lair with a single-minded efficiency reminiscent of her big sister, and refuses to believe--until the very last second--that the creature she has raised may not be (entirely) the mother she lost.

To her credit, Dawn does stop the spell. Buffy's control finally breaks. Buffy allows herself the grieving she needs, and this gives Dawn the emotional connection that she needs.

Willow has always been a softy. She doesn't like seeing people--and other things--in pain. She sympathizes with Spike's attempt to honor Joyce, and is so moved by Dawn's grief that she uses her telekinetic powers to draw Dawn's attention to a book, "The History of Witchcraft", that contains a section explaining the controversy over spells to raise the dead. It is unclear that Willow wants Dawn to raise Joyce. She may simply be trying to make herself feel better by "helping" Dawn, gambling that Dawn will not be able to get a spell to work. In her head, Willow knows that hurting is a necessary part of healing. But it's not an easy thing to accept in her heart.

Spike's desire to honor Joyce and alleviate Buffy and Dawn's pain seems sincere. He fights off a vicious Ghora demon not once but twice--the second time unarmed--in his desire to help. He also knows that Buffy would likely stake him if Dawn was hurt in a dangerous activity he helped her get into. But he also threatens Dawn's life to prevent her from telling Buffy about his involvement.

Living with a chip has lead Spike to some interesting deeds and emotions, and it's left the already morally ambiguous vamp a bit muddled and confused. He may be on the rocky road to redemption, but does he have the strength to stay on it? Both Xander and Dawn conclude that his actions are an attempt to "get in good" with Buffy, nothing more. And evil still has a strong lure. Spike may just get tired of people assuming the worst of him and conclude that well-intentioned actions don't pay.

Ben: Glory's minion Jinx tries to encourage Ben's interest in Buffy as a way to get information about the key. Ben refuses emphatically. He knows that many people will die if Glory uses the Key. Then he accidentally implies that the Key is in human form. Ben stabs Jinx in a panic and leaves him for dead. Glory's minions find Jinx and take him back to Glory, where he tells her that what Ben said.

The moral ambiguity of Giles

Ethical Quandaries in "Forever"

Raising the Dead: Why not?

Why is there such a firm stricture against bringing people back from the dead?

Tara argues that magic can't be used to alter the natural order of things. But Dawn points out that witches do this all the time. If other alterations--e.g., floating a pencil--are acceptable with good intentions, then bringing someone back must be as well.

Willow points out that reviving the dead may not be possible. But, Dawn argues, this is not the reason witches don't do it. Witches have, as Tara points out, taken an oath not to do it, which implies it is possible.

Willow then tells Dawn that the spells often backfire--they are possible, but they don't work well. This isn't a particularly dissuasive argument. Magic has its quirks and foibles, and it may be very difficult to reverse death, but it's got to work right sometimes. And if that's true, why not risk it? Maybe, just maybe, it will work in your own case. And if it doesn't, undo the magic. What's the harm?

Tara argues that that's not the point. Witches don't refuse to do it because it's difficult, they refuse to do it because it's wrong. That leads us right back where we started. Why is it wrong? Bringing back one woman who died young and who could give love and support to a Key and a world-saving Slayer would seem to do more good than harm.

The best arguments against raising the dead appeal to the wide-spread consequences of doing it. Interestingly, two such arguments appear in the shooting script but not in the final episode:

When Tara argues that "...witches can't be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons," she adds that "We'd manipulate the world until it came unglued." Most witches probably wouldn't do this, and spells like the one Dawn performs probably wouldn't do this. But life-and-death spells could upset the balance of the natural world in many ways. You just don't know they will until it happens. So when do you say "this time it's too dangerous"? Witches had to draw the line somewhere, and they drew it at forbidding spells that deal with life and death altogether.

There is a similar argument in Anya's statement that death is necessary to life. In the shooting script, Xander replies, "True. It would get kind of crowdy and stinky on Earth if nobody vacated." If reversing death was possible and permitted, the world would soon become unlivable. Everyone has someone they'd like to bring back. The death of one being creates room for a new life. What's more, we feed on the death of plants and animals when we eat.


The Metaphysics of "Intervention"

Incantation to invoke the Guide: Giles tells Buffy about a quest described in the Watcher's Diaries that helps slayers regain their focus and learn more about their role. He takes her to a sacred location in a nearby desert (it is close to the Hellmouth, he explains, because it balances the unholy force of that portal with a force of good). Before the slayer's quest, the watcher performs a ritual that temporarily turns over his/her guardianship of the slayer to a Guide. The Guide leads the slayer to a sacred place whose location is unknown even to the watcher. There the slayer seeks the Guide's wisdom.

Giles arranges twigs in a circle on the ground. He steps into the circle, jumps out of the circle, then jumps back in and shakes a gourd. Finally, he sits inside the circle and reads an incantation in Swahili:

Nilivyoahidi kulinda na kuongoza, nakupokeza. Mpeleke afike mahali pa usalama na ujuzi. Mpe anavyohitaji. Mwonyeshe njia.
Translation: That which I am pledged to guard and guide, I hand over to you. Lead her to a place of safety and learning. Give her that which she needs. Show her the path.

Buffy's quest: Buffy walks through the desert. A mountain lion appears and leads her to a stretch of desert that appeared in her dream in Restless. Buffy creates a fire and waits. The Guide appears in the form of the First Slayer. Buffy tells the Guide she is afraid she's losing her ability to feel love. The Guide replies that Buffy is full of love, but that since love brings pain, Buffy has pulled away from it. She counsels Buffy to risk the pain because the Slayer's strength comes from pain (presumably, the successful survival of it). She tells Buffy it's the Slayer's nature to risk pain. Then she adds two cryptic messages: "Love will bring you to your gift" and "Death is your gift."

Glorificus is a Hellgod who has been exiled on the Earthly plane. She has been trapped in the body of Ben, a "person" who should not ordinarily try to commit murder. But Glory knows she is losing control of him. He is getting away with behavior that interferes with her plans to find and use the Key.

The Buffybot: Spike gets Warren to make him a robotic Buffy replica that has Buffy's slayer skills and sense of duty and factual knowledge about Buffy's life and friends. The "Buffybot" spars with Spike, sleeps with him, and is programmed with "scenario responses"--specific ways of responding to Spike in particular situations that are catered to Spike's fantasies. The Buffybot tells Spike that he is evil and that she fears him but that she "can't resist" her attraction to him and his evil ways. She helps save Giles from Jinx and gets slammed into a wall, burning out her wiring. Further deeds of the BuffyBot

Evil in "Intervention"

Glory: Armed with the knowledge that the Key is innocent and newly human, Glory sends her minions to spy on Buffy's friends and family and find out who is new in her life that she protects. The minions see the Buffybot protecting Spike from other vampires and conclude that he must be the Key. They kidnap Spike and take him back to Glory. Glory realizes Spike can't be the key because he is not innocent. She tortures him for information about the Key. After Spike escapes, she takes out her anger on Jinx and Murk.

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Intervention"

Buffy is feeling uneasy about her Slayer role. She doesn't like how the killing is making her cold to the people in her life. She worries that if she becomes a better slayer, she will become a worse human being. Buffy goes on a quest to determine how to deal with her feelings. After getting a cryptic response from her guide, she returns home and is startled to find out that her friends couldn't tell her apart from a robot.

The Scooby Gang: After Buffy leaves for the desert, Tara puts a warning spell around Xander's apartment and the gang keeps Dawn there. When they see the Buffybot having sex with Spike and worrying about Spike's safety above Dawn's, they are concerned--grief makes people do uncharacteristic things. Xander accuses Spike of taking advantage of Buffy's confusion and grief. He calls Spike a monster and threatens to kill him. After Spike is kidnapped, Xander tells the gang they must find Spike before he tells all to Glory. They need Buffy's help, and begin an "intervention" with the confused real Buffy, confronting her about her strange behavior. Buffy, Xander, and Giles find Glory and help Spike escape from her.

Glory throws Spike around like a rag doll and tortures him for information about the Key. He lies about the identity of the key and then insults Glory so that she will use her strength to knock him so hard that his chains will break. Spike lands in the hallway and falls into an elevator shaft. After he escapes, Buffy goes to the crypt masquerading as the Buffybot. Spike informs her that he didn't tell because it would hurt the real Buffy if something happened to Dawn. Buffy kisses Spike and thanks him, then scolds him about the robot. Has Spike changed? Part of him wants to be the Big Bad--he wants the Buffybot to be drawn in by the evil part of his nature.

...whatever we may argue about souls and caring and compassion, Spike's got something going on there that just isn't your run-of-the-mill situation. Maybe the chip does change things, maybe not. Maybe it's not the same as having a conscience, but perhaps it's moot: even remorseless creatures can respect and care for something. In Spike's case, it's the Summers women (Solitude1056, 20:32 4/24/01).

...We know William was capable of a certain type of adolescent love, the kind that is expressed in Bloody Awful Poetry. Perhaps Spike simply never matured beyond that point. The lack of a soul would certainly hinder that sort of personal growth, since he never gets the physio-emotional feedback that the soul provides. If we accept that the chip performs the soul's function, at least to a limited extent, then perhaps Spike is picking up where William left off (Humanitas, 7:55 4/26/01).

Dawn the klepto

Tough Love


The Metaphysics of "Tough Love"

The protection spell: When the minion Slook reveals that Glory is going after Tara, Willow races to find her. She comes upon Glory brain-sucking her girlfriend, but can't get through the crowds between them. Willow begins a spell, but doesn't finish it in time:

By force of heart, and mindful power,
By waning time and waxing hour,
I echo Diana, when I decree,
That she I love must now be free.

Darkest Magick: The Earth quakes; day turns to night. The locks on Glory's door unbolt. Willow, eyes completely black, sails into the room, invoking the power of the gods:

Kali, Hera, Kronos, Tonic...
Air like nectar thick as Onyx...
Cassiel by your second star...
Hold mine victim, as in tar!

Glory is stopped in her tracks. Willow makes clear what she's there for: "I owe you pain!" She hits Glory with a bolt of energy, causes her mirror to shatter, and sends a dozen knives flying straight at the god, all with simple commands. She then incants:

Spirit of serpents now appear.
Hissing, writhing, striking near.

A snake coils around Glory's ankle. But the magic only annoys Glory and weakens Willow. Knowing she is defeated, Willow spits in Glory's face. Glory grabs her and prepares to stab her.

Ben is fired from his intern job for missing two weeks without explanation. His angry speech afterwards are the words of a human being possessed by a demonic god. He accuses Glory of undermining the "choices" he's made for his "life". But he's also talked about "cleaning up after Glory" his "whole life". Can Ben be blamed for such co-dependency?

Good and Evil in "Tough Love"

Glory listens to the monk's report about Buffy's friends and concludes that Buffy's newest friend, Tara, is the Key. Glory finds Tara at the fair. She squeezes her hand until her bones snap and threatens to kill the fair-goers if Tara screams. Then she licks blood off Tara's hand and realizes that Tara is not the Key, but "just another worthless human being." She threatens to brain-suck Tara if Tara doesn't reveal who the Key really is. When Tara says nothing, Glory attacks her.

When Willow attempts revenge, she ends up in at Glory's mercy. Buffy stops the god from killing her friend and Willow freezes Glory with an invisible barrier. Buffy and Willow escape. After she frees herself, Glory tracks down Willow and her friends at Tara's. Tara, now insane, can see Dawn for who she really is. She points at Dawn. "Look at that... Such a pure green energy." Glory now knows Dawn in the Key.

Moral Ambiguity in "Tough Love"

Return of the Ripper: Giles finds a minion outside the door to his shop. He cracks the door against the minion's skull, pulls him in by his hair, and when Willow and Anya's backs are turned, does something to Slook that causes a loud crunch and makes the minion spill the beans about Tara.

As Willow and Tara are getting ready to go to a fair at school, they get in a fight. In the middle of it, Tara reveals that she is frightened by Willow's growing powers. Willow storms off, bitter that Tara doesn't trust her. Before the two of them get a chance to make up again, though, Tara is attacked by Glory. Willow wants revenge. Buffy tries to convince her that she doesn't have a chance against Glory, but Willow believes she might. She heads to the off-limits section of Giles' shop, gathers powders and potions, and breaks open a leather book on "Darkest Magick". Then the mightily pissed-off witch heads out to spill herself a few pints of god-blood. As Spike explains to Buffy, when it's someone you love, rational considerations like certain death don't matter. The only thing on Willow's mind is pay-back.

[in] the last bits of the argument ...Tara was talking about the "witch" thing, and Willow diverted the argument neatly into a discussion about her sexual preference, and by doing so could whallop Tara with self-righteous hurt... whereas if she'd dealt with Tara's actual intent - to speak of Willow's erratic & uncontrolled development as a witch - then Willow wouldn't have had as quick a defense. ...Willow's actions were definitely rash. She unnecessarily provoked Glory at a point when the Scoobies don't have all their defenses aligned yet. Glory coming a'knockin' at the dorm wall can be traced directly to Willow's sudden entrance into Glory's territory (Solitude1056, 18:01 5/06/01).

Buffy drops her classes to take care of Dawn. But the responsibility on her is bigger than an older sister caring for a younger one. She is the Slayer protecting the Key. If she fails, they might take Dawn away from her, and if that happens, she can no longer protect Dawn. Buffy's first response is to run to the only parental figure she has--Giles. Giles refuses to take on the responsibility for her; he tells Buffy to be firm with Dawn. Buffy next response is to over-discipline, ordering Dawn around and regimenting her life. Willow worries that this will make Dawn rebellious, and Dawn is on the verge of doing just that when Buffy finally explains herself.

Philosophies Represented in "Tough Love"

Anya is coming into her own as a human being, and in the process, embracing her own ideals: nationalism, agism, and, most importantly, capitalism: "A free market dependant on the profitable exchange of goods for currency. A system of symbiotic beauty..." Anya sees capitalism not just as the economic system in use by her country, but as a philosophy of life as well. This philosophy is similar to Ayn Rand's Objectivist ethics (thanks to L.D. Beers for pointing this out). In her Objectivist Ethics, Rand states, "The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice."

Masquerade's note: Of course, this principle only works well where justice already prevails, where one person or group entering a trade does not hold a power advantage over another person or group that they could use to coerce them into an unfair trade. But that's a discussion for another day.


The Metaphysics of "Spiral"

Stopping Glory: Willow clenches her hand into a fist. In Russian, she incants, "Air becomes fist!" Glory is blown back from Tara's dorm room.

The barrier spell: Willow's eyes go black with dark energy. She says:

Enemies, fly and fall...circling arms, raise a wall!

An energy wave explodes out, knocking the Knights off their feet. They are now unable to breach the gang's gas station refuge for at least half a day unless the Knights' clerics use some sort of counter-magic.

Dissipating the barrier: We don't hear all of this incantation, but it begins:

Hear... hear my plea... circling arms protecting me...

When Willow is finished, the barrier is gone.

Reconnecting the dead pay phone: Willow utters a brief incantation:

Discharge and bring life!

Buffy gets a dial tone.

For countless generations, Knights of Byzantium have searched for the Key in order to destroy it. No one knows where the Key came from or how it was created, only that it has the power to bring down the walls that separate Earth and the various demon dimensions. If that happened, the order of the universe would tumble into chaos. That is not the Key's sole use, however. The monks of the Order of Dagon believed they could harness its power for the forces of light. They hid the Key from the Knights. But then a new threat came along--the Beast, Glory. She wants to use the Key to return home and seize control of the Hell she was banished from.

Two Knights check their comrade Orlando out of the hospital. He tells their general, Gregor, that the Key is a "Pretty little shiny girl." Gregor orders them to advance on the Slayer, the protector of the Key. It is unclear how they know Spike's Winnebago is the Slayer's escape vehicle, but they attack it and spear Giles, who loses control of the camper. The Knights advance on the gang at an abandoned gas station. Gregor manages to get in the Slayer's refuge before Willow puts up her barrier. He is now the Slayer's prisoner.

Glory was cast out of her dimension when her fellow hellgods feared she would attempt to seize complete control for herself. They banished her to the Earthly plane by trapping her in the body of a newborn human male. Ben did not come by his life in the normal human way--via genetic inheritance by human parents. He was created 25 years ago by the hellgods themselves to be Glory's prison. Nevertheless, he is a human man, and Glory is destined to die whenever he does. The hellgods hoped that Glory would be unable to take any actions in Ben's body. However, she has proven able to "escape" her prison (when she morphs into female form). Using her powers exhausts her, however, and forces her back inside Ben.

The Alignment is a special deadline by/at which Glory needs to use the Key. If she misses it, her opportunity will pass. The minion Gronx draws mystic symbols in blood on Glory's floor and encircles them in black candles. She casts runes onto the symbols. "The signs are in alignment," she says. Glory must use the Key at the appropriate time, and its power will be hers.

The wisdom of insanity: Tara and the other Glory-created crazies have special awareness of supernatural events around them. They sense the coming of the Alignment and its darkness and chaos. Tara becomes agitated. The hospitalized victims break free of their restraints. When Orlando has a similar reaction, his comrade Dante stabs him, apparently out of mercy. In the shooting script for the episode, it says Orlando's face "suddenly becomes sane" before he died.

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Spiral"

Buffy recruits Spike for extra muscle in fighting Glory. He stops a sword aimed at Buffy, tries to fight the Knights (making the chip kick in), shows sympathy towards Tara (he had a girlfriend who was a few marbles short, too), and tries to prevent Glory from abducting Dawn. But he also shows up in a stolen camper. What should we make of Spike now?

With no soul, Spike's only way to better behavior ...is for him to emulate what he sees. Often, he mirrors whatever he sees from the SG. Notice Dawn. She treats him with respect, and he returns the favor. Willow apologizes for Tara, and Spike softens. Buffy has started talking to him like a person, and he does the same. With Giles and Xander, who still treat him guardedly (with good reason), he is more sarcastic (rowan, 7:56:16 05/09/01).

Most [fans] look at Spike as an individual while ignoring his vampiric tribalism. ...In the Buffyverse, vampires are tribal, working together in groups, living together in "nests." ...And most seem obedient to other stronger vamps. Vamp leaders like the Master require absolute obedience. And vamp underlings seem to obey them while grumbling and plotting, just as Spike plots with Xander. ...The Scoobies are his new tribe, the only one he can join with that chip in his head. Just as he loved Dru as his "maker," and reluctantly accepted the authority of Angel[us] as the leader of his vamp group, Buffy is the leader of the only group of cosmological outcasts that he now fits into (darrenK, 8:08:47 05/10/01).

The good of Xander, Anya, and Willow

Buffy knows she can't fight Glory--strength and magic have both been tried. Both failed. She decides the gang must run. Her frightened friends put pressure on her to come up with a better plan, but she has none. All she knows is she will not lose anyone else like she lost Riley, her mom, and Tara. When she brings in Ben to care for Giles, however, she inadvertently allows Glory to kill Gregor and abduct Dawn. When Buffy is finally able to get through Willow's barrier, she finds all the Knights and Clerics dead. Buffy collapses into catatonia.

This season, Buffy has run into a whole bunch of things that she just can't slay. ...She's been trying to deal with these things in typical Slayer fashion: with action. But she's finding out that action won't help her. The 'spiral' of the episode title is her spiral into despair. Attack has failed, defense has failed, even flight has failed. When you've tried everything, and failed, and the stakes are so unimaginably high (the end of the world pales beside the deaths of your friends and family), What can you do? She can't run away physically, so she runs away mentally. This is not cowardice, it's simply being pushed beyond the breaking point (Humanitas, 15:26 5/09/01).

Buffy's human body count

Ben has spent his whole life trying to minimize the damage that Glory has done in his body--not an easy task for any mere mortal. But the time has come for him to do more than that. He knows at least two ways to prevent Glory from bringing chaos to the universe--kill himself, or kill Dawn. He refuses to do either. Ben may be an innocent creation of evil Hellgods, but co-dependency isn't possible this time.

Ethical Quandaries in "Spiral"

Which innocent do you kill to save the universe?

The solution to the problem is simple either kill Ben and Glory dies, or kill Dawn and the key can't be used.... The problem with the simplicity of the solutions is that we then have to deal with conscience, on the part of Ben and Buffy. The Knights seem to have no problem killing a little girl to solve the problem as they see it as a step to save the world. Then you have to consider the fact that they have had no contact with Dawn and have no emotional ties. Ben wants to live, preferably at the expense of Glory. But after meeting and getting to know both Summers girls, can he kill Dawn? Then if you kill Ben to get to Glory can Buffy do the deed when Ben is basically innocent(mostly). ...how do you choose? Who is the sacrifice to save the world? (Rufus, 19:43 5/08/01)

Gregor believes that the Key must be destroyed because it is an instrument of chaos. Because it can function as a interdimensional portal/destroyer, nothing else matters--not the fact that it can be used for other purposes, not the fact that it is now human. The Knights back up their position with the claim that "God" has commanded the destruction of the Key, but Buffy has not been given any evidence of the origins of this claim.

...there just has to be some other potential for the Key, one that the Monks envisioned. ...but fear of the universe ending is a pretty good reason to be doing what they are doing, so one can hardly pin [the Knights] down as one of the 'bad guys' in all of this (OnM, 8:30:19 05/09/01).

Buffy wants to protect Dawn, an innocent human. It doesn't matter to her that the Key can potentially destroy all order in the universe, including herself and everyone she loves. She tells Gregor that no good "God" would demand that Dawn give up her life for something she has no control over--her identity as the Key. In Buffy's view, the solution is to destroy Glory. Gregor tells her how: kill Glory's human vessel.

Ben wants to live. "...would you die for them?" Gregor asks the intern. Ben replies, "It's my life. I'll do what I please with it." Ben knows that if Glory uses the Key, her "prison"--Ben's body--will be destroyed. If he destroys the Key, he can prevent this. Gregor wants this young doctor to kill Dawn. But Ben doesn't want to kill an innocent girl, and he doesn't do it when he has the chance to in the gas station. Ben is also not willing to kill himself. He hopes that somehow the situation can be resolved without his death or Dawn's.

The Weight of the World

The Metaphysics of "The Weight of the World"

The psychic spell: Willow lights candles and sits down on Xander's bed. Catatonic Buffy sits opposite Willow in a chair. Since Willow is not psychic, she must use advanced witchly powers to accomplish the link. Once inside, she interacts with Buffy in a series of repeating scenes that reveal the nature of Buffy's trauma.

Ben and Glory: The walls that keep the psyches of Ben and Glory separate are crumbling. Glory is beginning to feel merciful towards her minions and guilty about harming Dawn. One minute, Ben is traumatized by the deaths of the Knights, the next he is as self-centered as Glory. Glory's High Priest explains that Glory is summoning powerful magicks in preparation to use the Key. The mixing of their psyches is a side effect of these magicks.

Glory's summation of the human condition

Anointing the Key: Glory's high priest minion marks Dawn's forehead with ash and says in Czech:

At je Klic vynat z teto smrtelne podoby, budiz zruseno jeho prokleti ...
Translation: Let the Key pour forth from this mortal the Magicks be Undone, and ...

The rest must wait until Glory's in the mood.

Glory didn't have a lot to do with the Crazies she produced before now, but after Tara inadvertently led her to the Key, perhaps she sees the value in having them around. They are constructing a platform for her ascendency, and are in worshipful awe of her Key. The only reason Tara is not among them is that Willow has been giving her tranquilizers of some kind.

The memory mojo: Spike remembers Ben morphing into Glory while the others do not. Either a spell by Glory or some magic inherent in her god-trapped-in-a-mortal state prevents humans who witness the transformation from remembering it, even after they are reminded again and again. Since Spike is demon, he's immune to this magic. Once the walls between Ben and Glory start to fall, humans begin to remember that Ben and Glory coexist.

Good in "The Weight of the World"

Willow: After Buffy goes catatonic, the gang is unfocused and unsure what to do next. Willow takes charge. She seperates a brawling Xander and Spike with a one-word incantation and gives everyone instructions about what to do next.

Moral Ambiguity in "The Weight of the World"

Buffy is in a catatonic state--unable to sense or respond to the world around her. Willow enters her mind and finds herself in four different settings:

Willow points out that it's human for Buffy to want her slaying responsibilities (and hence her life) to be over, but that she can't let those feelings defeat her. She still has a chance to save Dawn and the world.

Ben's human empathy has made him unable to kill Dawn. But now he is starting to feel Glory's self-centered sociopathy, and Glory realizes this might make him capable of going through with it and trapping her on Earth. Glory offers Ben a bribe: if he lets her go through with the ritual, she will grant him immortality--he won't have to die when she leaves her mortal prison to return to Hell, and he won't have human emotional frailties like guilt when he becomes immortal. Ben, still influenced by Glory's psyche, accepts her offer and takes Dawn to Glory's minions.

Doc is a demon and expert on magic--a witch doctor/warlock. He has a reptilian tail, a ten-foot tongue, and eyes that can turn pitch black. Doc tries to make people think he's a helpless, somewhat senile old man. Old he may be, but he is not senile or helpless. He is a follower of Glory and fights valiantly to keep an ornate box out of Spike and Xander's hands. When Xander runs him through with a sword, he doesn't stay dead.

Ethical Quandaries in "The Weight of the World"

Should Buffy kill Dawn?


...A base line of ...morality is that evil may not be done in pursuit of a good end. "Dawn's life versus the universe" is a child's question about ends and means. ...The answer is always the same when the question is expressed in that basic form: an innocent person may NOT be intentionally sacrificed even to save the universe. ...Now Joss knows all of this.Why, then, does he seem to be insisting on a solution to Season 5 that after WotW is being presented as a practical no-brainer on one hand ("Dawn has to die"), and a moral no-brainer on the other? (DEN, 7:05 5/16/01)


...If it does become necessary to kill either Dawn or Ben AND if Ben is truly an innocent in all this, ...the morality of the issue is clear: Dawn dies, Ben survives. Dawn's nature is the cause of the problem; killing an innocent to keep the key from being used is murder and, as I think we'll see, wouldn't keep the key from being used by someone else anyway (LoriAnn, 4:22 5/14/01).

Buffy Anne Summers
Beloved sister, devoted friend
She saved the world a lot

The Gift

The Metaphysics of "The Gift"

The ritual bloodletting: The Key is an energy whose power can break down the walls between dimensions. According to the ancient scrolls found at Doc's (probably the ones that helped Glory understand how to use Dawn as the Key), if the Key is poured into a specific spot at a specific time ("The Alignment"), hell will be unleashed on Earth. When the flow stops, the walls will come back up. The hot-spot Glory chooses as her portal is in mid-air above Sunnydale. The Crazies have built a tower with a plank that extends over the portal. Dawn is bound and standing at the edge of the plank.

Her blood is the key to the Key: "The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more." Blood is not only key because it is a liquid in the human body that can be "poured", but also because it the human liquid that is most responsible for our living functions. In "Blood Ties" Giles calls the Key "a living energy", which implies that this energy isn't just physical or mystical, but has properties similar to those that biological beings have. This would explain why it could be transformed into a human. It also means Dawn's power as the Key is contained in her blood.

Closing the portal: Once the bloodletting begins, it feeds the portal. The portal can stay open only as long as it has energy--it stops when the blood feeding it stops. Giles assumed this meant that only Dawn's blood could close the portal. But Buffy realizes that she and Dawn share the same "blood". Buffy knows (by her psychic intuition?) that the monks constructed Dawn from a "Buffy blue print".

...Dawn is energy...That energy has to be formed into a pattern: the Summers pattern, DNA. ...Buffy meant Dawn was her in two ways: 1)the same way she meant they had the SAME blood, Summers' blood; they're sisters and their DNA would be very similar and 2) she sees Dawn as the innocent part of herself, the best part, the human--not slayer--part, the part that doesn't have the weight of the world on its shoulders (LoriAnn, 14:28 5/23/01).

Buffy believes that if she can substitute her blood for Dawn's--feed the portal her own blood until her death makes her blood flow stop--the portal will close. The First-Slayer Guide's statement, "Death is your gift", confirms this for her.

The reverse brain-suck: Willow has researched what Glory did to Tara and has discovered that a reverse brain-suck will restore Tara's sanity and temporarily weaken Glory. Tara enters Glory's construction site while Willow mumbles an incantation. When Glory confronts Tara, Willow appears between them and shoves her fingers into both Glory's and Tara's heads. Energy runs along Willow's arms from Glory to Tara. The force of it sends all three flying back. Glory rises, mumbling like a Crazy.

Is Buffy coming back?

"...We did it. Feeling good. Killed the girl. Girl comin' back. A good thing? Nothing is simple in this life (joss, May 23 00:33 2001).

...as a general rule, the Hero's "death" is a spiritual rite of passage. It does not necessarily have to mean the physical destruction of the individual so much as the death of the old, immature self to pave the way for a spiritual transformation into something more advanced. ...Jonah spend three days in the belly of the whale... Well, in the Buffyverse all things are possible (Anthony8, 23:25 5/22/01).

Good and Evil in "The Gift"

Since Glory has only a limited time window in which to perform the ritual, the gang's plan is to distract her with every weapon they have. Giles uses the scrolls to calculate when the Alignment will take place. The gang realizes that Tara is feeling an urge to join Glory's Crazy minions. They let her go and follow her to Glory's construction site.

Willow starts the assault by surprising Glory with the reverse brain-suck. A weakened Glory gets back up to find Buffy behind her. Buffy tosses the Dagon's Sphere at her. Glory catches it. Its god-repelling energy weakens her further. She manages to crush it in her hand. She attacks Buffy and knocks her head off, only to discover she's been fighting the BuffyBot.

The real Buffy whacks Glory with Olaf's Troll hammer. Then she heads for the tower, fighting off guard-minions, with Glory on her heels. Glory manages to knock Buffy off the tower, but Buffy grabs her and they fall together. When Glory gets up, Xander smacks her with a wrecking ball. Buffy then hits her continually with the Troll hammer until Glory's "nagging pinch of humanity" makes her unable to handle anymore abuse. She morphs into Ben.

Buffy knows killing Ben will kill Glory, and that not killing him means Glory will be trapped on Earth until Ben dies. But she doesn't kill him. She gets his promise to stay away from "me and mine" and heads for the tower. Giles approaches Ben after Buffy leaves and suffocates the weakened man until he dies.

TVGO: Does Ben's death mean Glory is dead too?
Whedon: Yeah, it does (Joss, as told to M. Ausiello, tvguide.com, May 24, 2001).

Willow sees Doc on the platform. She uses magic to send Spike a covert telepathic message to go after Doc. Because he is a vampire, Spike must respond to her outloud. Willow and Tara use telekenesis to separate the group of Crazies guarding the tower. Spike reaches the top and battles Doc, but Doc manages to throw him off the platform. Doc then cuts Dawn's skin along her ribs. Her blood flows down to her toes and off the platform onto the portal. Bolts of energy start shooting from the portal, bringing demons in from other dimensions. One bolt sends concrete and metal crashing down on Xander. Anya pushes him out the way and takes the brunt of it.

When Buffy gets to the platform, Doc flings his knife at her. She bats it away, knocks him off the tower and unties Dawn. Dawn tries to throw herself off the edge to close the portal. Buffy stops her and dives in instead. The portal flares briefly, electrocuting her, then contracts out of existence. Buffy's dead body hits the ground below the tower.

...Dracula tells Buffy that her power is rooted in darkness, destruction, death. And for a time this seems true. Buffy hunts in the dark. She revels in the kill. And then grows troubled by this hardening of her soul. And yet in the end, her power is rooted in life, love, and light. Death is Buffy's gift. Not because she is a dark hunting slayer in the night. Nor because death a final gift of peace. But because her final gift, her death as a sacrifice, is a gift of love. She dies not in darkness, but as the sun rises for a new day (fresne, 9:03 5/23/01).

Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "The Gift"

Giles loves Dawn, but he knows that her death will prevent countless deaths. It is a sacrifice he is willing to make: "I have sworn to protect this sorry world, and sometimes that means saying and doing... what other people can't. What they shouldn't have to."

Buffy is determined not to kill Dawn, even if the cost is the death of everyone, including Dawn. She sacrificed Angel to save the world, but Angel had some culpability in his fate; Dawn is a complete innocent. It goes against everything Buffy stands for to kill an innocent in cold blood. But she will kill anyone who tries to sacrifice Dawn--except the one person who actually attempts to do it--Dawn herself.

Xander suggests killing Ben to stop Glory, but the same argument holds for him as for Dawn. Ben is not a complete innocent; he is helping Glory in exchange for his own survival. But Buffy and the gang don't know this. Based on what they know, Ben is an innocent victim of fate as well.

When the time comes, Buffy does not kill Ben. But Giles knows they must kill Glory to prevent her from finding some other evil way home and to prevent her from taking revenge on Buffy and her friends.

... As much as I don't like the idea of killing someone now because of their potential for evil (as the Knights intended to do to Dawn), in Ben's case, it's a lesser of two evils. To prevent the great risk of later harm, harm must be done now. Giles made that choice. ...he had to be judge, jury, and executioner to relieve Buffy of the responsibility later ...Yeah, it was an ugly choice and an ugly consequence, but in his place? I would've done it, with just as little satisfaction as Giles himself displayed (Solitude1056, 16:19 5/23/01).

Anya's Bunnyphobia

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This page last modified 11/25/01

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