Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 7

Conversations with Dead People


Never Leave Me

Bring on the Night


Conversations with Dead People

The Metaphysics of and Moral Ambiguity in "Conversations with Dead People"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 7 BtVS/season 2 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

Willow | Dawn | Spike | Andrew | Jonathan | Buffy

On November 12, 2002, in Sunnydale, California, the dead spoke. So what else is new, right? Well, this time, it wasn't the dead at all.

The visitation: Willow is studying in the college library when she is approached by an apparition of Cassie Newton. "Cassie" claims to speak for the spirit of Tara. She knows many details of Willow and Tara's private life and tells Willow how Tara misses her and sympathizes with the pain she went through after Tara's death. Willow is moved, drawn in by Cassie's words. Then "Tara" warns her that if she continues to use magic, Willow will lose control and kill everybody; she must stop. This confuses Willow. Her experience at the coven taught her that she could not ignore her power, only make peace with it. She fears that she doesn't have the strength to give up magic without rebounding again, horribly. So "Tara" takes another tack. She tells Willow that there is one thing she can do to prevent losing control again--she must kill herself. Willow suddenly realizes this advice is not coming from Tara. She confronts the apparition in front of her and concludes it is a manifestation of the evil she and her friends have known is coming:

Willow: "From beneath you, it devours."
Cassie: "Oh, not it. Me."

"Cassie" opens her mouth, turns her body inside out, and disappears.

Poltergeists? Dawn is home alone when she hears thumping at the door. The stereo and television start to play, and she can't shut them off. Then she hears her mother's voice through a boom-box. The lights go on and off. Blood spatters on the wall. The furniture stacks itself. Dawn sees visions of a dark entity pinning her mother to the couch where Joyce died. It is as if a poltergeist is haunting the house. Dawn hears the knocking again. She asks the spirit to knock once for yes, twice for no. The spirit communicates that it is her mother and that she is not alone. Dawn concludes her mother wants to speak to her, but is being prevented from doing so by an evil spirit. The house shakes. Dawn opens the door to run away, then decides to stay. She performs a spell to bind the spirit. When the spell is complete, a glowing apparition of Joyce appears near the couch. She tells Dawn that things are coming, and that when they get bad, Buffy will be against her. Joyce fades, leaving Dawn in tears.

Dawn believes that the spirit of Joyce actually appeared to her. And she would, because she needs her mother, and because she worked so hard to talk to her. But the apparition's words sound very wrong for Joyce Summers. They are meant to make Dawn distrust Buffy. ...Although, that's not an especially difficult thing to achieve.

The spell to cast out a ghost: Dawn sits on the living room floor with white candles in front of her. She sprinkles ingredients from a bowl onto the ground. A force slams her back against the wall. She continues the spell:

I cast you from this place. It is your poison and your bane.

A gash appears on her face.

It is the skin that is cut from your flesh!

A strong wind blows out all the candles. The living room window shatters. Dawn stands up.

I cast you out with every prayer from every god that walked the Earth and crawled beneath.

She is thrown again. Her mouth is bleeding.

I cast you out with the strength of those who love me.

She stands.

I cast you out with the strength I have inside me! I cast you out into the void!

The wind stops. More blood spatters on the walls, then fades.

Dawn appears to perform this spell successfully. However, since it is not clear that an actual poltergeist has invaded the house, her "success" may have been staged by the real evil, who then appears to her in the form of Joyce.

Spike, soul and chip: In the Bronze, a woman approaches Spike. He invites her to sit down. Later, he walks her to her apartment, and she asks him to come upstairs, but he declines. Instead, he digs his fangs into her neck right there on the porch, drinks her blood, and lets her drop. Meanwhile, across town in the graveyard, the new vampire Holden tells Buffy that Spike is his sire. Spike still has the chip in his head, as far as we know. But he feels no apparent pain as he bites the woman. How is this possible?

Andrew and Jonathan are back in Sunnydale. They have been having nightmares about an evil that will devour the city from below. They've returned to the high school to get evidence of the evil, bring it to Buffy, and help save Sunnydale. At least, Jonathan has. When Andrew and Jonathan separate, an apparition of Warren appears to Andrew. Andrew believes it is Warren--dead Warren, who "planned" his death as part of a new nefarious scheme. "Warren" promises Andrew nothing short of godhood in return for his participation.

Andrew and Jonathan go down to an area of the basement below the principal's office--the location of the Hellmouth. The apparition of Warren is with them, but Jonathan can't see it. Jonathan reminisces about high school. It doesn't seem as bad to him now as it felt then. And though Andrew tells him that no one from high school thinks about him they way he is thinking of them, Jonathan replies that he cares about them anyway, and that's why he's trying to help now. The two of them dig up the earth and uncover a large round metal disk with the shape of a pentagram molded onto it. On the pentagram is a goat's head with its tongue sticking out. Andrew stabs Jonathan. He falls on the disk. His blood seeps across it. The disk glows.

Although Xander is supposed to be the everyman in the show, the representative of the audience we all can identify with, perhaps Jonathan filled that role even more closely than we realise -- the perpetual outsider, hoping for a seat at the table, a chance to hang out with the Scoobies, much as we do every Tuesday night. ...It was Jonathan's curse that every time he reached out to to try to find a connection [with] another human being, it blew up in his face. Inca girl. Bossy Cordy. Superstar. The Geek Trio. The Geek Duo. The return to the high school itself. So perhaps it was appropriate that Jonathan died as he lived, alone and unremarked, but no the less the brave or decent than any Scoobie. ...though [he was] as flawed as any human, [he] always did the right thing in the end (Steve, 11/12/02 21:29).


Faith: You're still not seeing the big picture, B. Something made us different. We're warriors. We're built to kill.
Buffy: To kill demons! But it does not mean that we get to pass judgment on people like we're better than everybody else!
Faith: We are better!

While out on patrol, Buffy comes upon an acquaintance of hers from high school, Holden Webster. Holden went on to become a psychology major and did a one-year internship at the Sunnydale Mental Hospital. Now he's a vampire. It's Buffy's job to slay him. But Holden latches onto her statement that she feels "not so much connected". He begins to psychoanalyze her. And despite Buffy's annoyance with it, she confesses all to her vampire shrink.

She tells him how her relationships with men don't last. Holden suggests that it's not because Buffy is afraid to commit; heck, she's only 21. There's no rush. So why does Buffy feel her relationships with men are doomed? Some of this goes back to her parents, of course. Buffy blames her father for their divorce. But Holden doesn't believe that explains it all. He submits that the real culprit may be Buffy's attitude towards the men she's been with--she believes that they are not worthy of her.

And why not? She's the Slayer. Chosen by some powerful force to slay vampires, which, incidentally, she also tends to date. Why wouldn't she feel superior? Buffy is aghast at this. She knows she is a flawed individual. She knows she's treated people badly--her friends, Spike. But that's sort of the point. She's treated them badly because she felt superior to them. And because she hurt them in the process, she feels bad about herself. She feels she is the one who needs to be hurt, who isn't worthy of love. She has an inferiority complex about her superiority complex.

As this realization sinks in, the session comes to an end. Buffy raises her stake and kills her therapist.

"OK. But are you killing me because I'm evil or because you opened up?" --Holden

The existence of God: Does God exist in the Buffyverse? The jury's still out on that question. The Powers that Be that guide Angel's mission to help the helpless have never claimed to be gods, or, more to the point, God. Neither has anything else. So although supernatural beings of benevolence abound--Slayers, warriors, oracles, PTB's, spirit guides, and good demons--evidence for a single, all-encompassing force of Good is still slim. Buffy certainly isn't sure what to conclude. Her belief in the good fight comes from within.

Evil in "Conversations with Dead People"

From beneath you, it devours: The Evil that is haunting Sunnydale can take many forms, and It does--Cassie Newton, a frightening poltergeist, Warren, and perhaps Joyce Summers as well. But It is none of these beings. Whatever It is, It holds deep resentments, and wants to lash out at the Scoobies and destroy everything they hold dear. And though It seems to be giving them fair warning, It is really only deceiving them to soften them up for the kill.

Vampires and the clarity of evil: The birth of a vampire is a painful and disorienting experience for the vampire. But it does not take long for the confusion to go away, and to be replaced by a clarity about their nature, an assuredness that seems to come from a connection to something greater than themselves. Some vampires rise from the grave with this clarity, others require the taste of human blood before they achieve it. And each vampire understand this clarity in ways that are unique to the person that they were. But they achieve it.

Jesse: "Sorry? I feel good, Xander! I feel strong! I'm connected, man, to everything! I can hear the worms in the earth!"

Andrew Borba: "He is risen in me! He fills my head with song! You're the chaff, unblessed. I'll suck the blood from your hearts, he says I may!"

Alonna, to her brother: "Don't be sad. I'm not... on this side there is no guilt, no grief ...I got the greatest guilt cure ever. I can free you!"

Spike: "Becoming a vampire is a profound and powerful experience. I could feel this new strength coursing through me. Getting killed made me feel alive for the very first time. I was through living by society's rules. Decided to make a few of my own."

Darla: "It all makes sense now, doesn't it?"
Angelus: "Perfect sense."

What is this thing they are connected to? This is unclear. But the effect it has on the vampire is clarity itself.

The vampire ...is not frightened of its condition. It has become something to fear, rather than something that fears. Without a human soul, it is now "connected to a powerful all-consuming evil that's gonna suck the world into a fiery oblivion." Most humans go through life completely unconnected and alone, so to suddenly be embraced by this powerful entity which is wired mystically to so many others, it must be incredibly seductive and alluring, not to mention secure and welcoming, especially for a psyche that just endured the trauma of certain death and yet still retains some resemblance of self-consciousness. ...After a bit of disorientation, a newly sired vampire soon grasps its place in the world on an intrinsic level (ZachsMind, 11/15/02 14:21).


The Metaphysics of "Sleeper"

Brainwashing: Spike heads out for a night on the town and feeds on a woman without any apparent pain. Before Spike ran into his victim, he passed a man playing the folk song "Early one morning" on a harmonica. Spike started humming along. Then he chatted up the woman, lead her into an alley, fed on her and sired her--a series of complex actions he had no memory of later. Spike's actions are entirely consistent with being under the influence of brainwashing. The sound of "Early One Morning" puts him in an altered state of consciousness, a state in which he is capable of acting and reacting in ways consistent with his personality and nature, but in which all the layers of self-reflection that would normally be there are repressed.

The Shape-shifting Evil (SSE) is clearly behind this new pointy-biteyness. And yet, if his ouchy response to hitting Xander was genuine, the chip is still functioning like it always has. How is the SSE overcoming the influence of the chip?

Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Sleeper"

The robed assassins: Robson, a Watcher in England, comes back to his office to find Nora, a teen-aged girl he knows, murdered on the floor. Figures in black hooded robes leap up behind him and stab him. Later, Giles appears at the door and sees the dead girl and the wounded man. The man says, "Gather them. It's started." Giles understands. Before he can do anything to help, however, the robed assassins appear again and swing an ax at Giles.

The Shape-shifting evil (SSE) can take the form of all manner of people, and does so in order to torment Spike. In the guise of Buffy, It goads Spike on as he feeds on a woman. In the guise of Spike himself, It reminds Spike of how the Slayer fits into Its larger plan. Which is what, exactly? The SSE has Spike turning people into vampires. Is there a purpose for these vampires, or is the purpose just to corrupt Spike, to bring him back into the fold of evil? And what about Buffy? The SSE's plans for Buffy are a ways off yet--there is an "order" in which these plans are to play out. Nevertheless, It is willing to let Spike and his vampire offspring "play" with Buffy a little to fuel Spike's vampire lusts.

The SSE clearly tries to deceive people by taking on its various forms. Does it try to deceive them by lying as well? Dawn ties herself in knots trying to determine if she really saw her mother or not. This is important to her because of what the image of her mother said to her about Buffy. Dawn believes that if the ghostly image was her mother, then it was telling the truth, because her mother would never lie to her. Conversely, Dawn also believes that if the ghostly figure was the SSE, It must have been lying to her because, well, "evil things lie". Willow points out that they cannot assume that everything the SSE says is a lie--it really depends on whether It stands to win more from telling the truth or from lying.

Spike: When Buffy finds the woman she saw Spike talking to dead of a vampire bite, she confronts Spike. But Spike claims only to have talked to the girl. Later, he pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. They belong to the woman he met in the Bronze two nights before. He flashes back to meeting her, and then to burying her dead body. He begins to suspect that some of what Buffy says is true.

In the Bronze, Spike is approached by a vampire who claims that he sired her. Spike dusts the vampire. He calls Buffy and confesses to "doing bad things", then takes her down into the basement of the house where he buried the bodies. The Shape-shifting Evil (SSE) uses the brain-washing musical trigger to encourage Spike to drink from Buffy and weaken her. When Spike tastes Buffy's blood, however, he snaps out of his trance, and remembers all his kills. He is shocked about the deaths that he's caused. The SSE then tells Spike that Buffy will kill him for what he's done. When Buffy sees Spike interacting with something she can't see, she no longer assumes he is crazy. She realizes Spike is her best shot to get more information about the Evil that's been threatening her and her friends.

Ethical Quandaries in "Sleeper"

Is Spike responsible for the death of his victims?

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul --William Ernest Henley Invictus

Through experiences with his chip and with the Scooby Gang, and now, due to the presence of a soul, Spike has learned alternative ways to respond to human beings beyond biting, violence, and general snarkiness. And yet there is no doubt that Spike bit ten people and turned them into vampires. So the issue here isn't whether Spike did the killing, but why he did it. Was it a deliberate act that he can be held responsible for? Or was he merely a puppet carrying out the commands of the Shape-shifting Evil?

Chiming in on the "mere puppet" side is the fact that Spike was manipulated into doing these killings by the Shape-shifting Evil (SSE) via brainwashing. He wasn't even aware of doing them. However, the SSE was not a total puppet-master guiding Spike's actions. The SSE simply created a situation in which the vampire instincts that are integral to Spike's nature were able to manifest themselves. The SSE didn't need to guide Spike's actions like a remote-control toy. Spike's had a century of practice killing human beings and siring them; he knows how.

On the other hand, Spike makes it clear, and Buffy is inclined to agree, that he would not have made the choice to kill these people if he'd been given one. It is no longer simply a matter of overcoming the chip; Spike has a soul now, and, he says, he can't live with the crimes he committed in the past, much less commit any new ones. No matter how practiced the actions are, they went against what he would have chosen to do if he were in his right mind. He therefore isn't responsible for doing them.

It's ironic. Ideally, the presence of a soul should empower Spike; it should give him the freedom to chose between good and evil, to become his own man, the "master of his fate." However, since Spike got his soul back, he has become less his own man than ever. Not due to the presence of a soul, but simply due to the bad luck of catching the attention of the manipulative SSE, who sees the potential of the demon still inside of him.

Does Spike's lack of culpability mean the Scoobies have no right to lock him up and prevent him from going out and killing others? Of course not. It simply means that locking him up cannot be construed as "punishing" Spike for his "actions". Locking him up is simply prudent; they need to prevent the SSE from manipulating Spike's instincts again.

Never Leave Me

The Metaphysics of "Never Leave Me"

The First Evil is an incorporeal entity--it can't take physical form. It must therefore work through intermediaries (like the Harbingers, or Andrew). It also does its dirty work through psychological manipulation, as when it tormented Angel, trying to get him to kill Buffy, or when it brainwashed Spike into killing people.

The Hellmouth is not a portal, it is a region where the wall between our world and the demon dimensions is thinner than usual. An unusual amount of mystical energy is concentrated in this area, which accounts for the inordinate number of odd happenings at Sunnydale High. The Hellmouth is also an ideal location for opening up a gateway to the demon dimensions, which is why so many Bads have tried to do so over the years. It is not clear whether these various openings all lead to the same demon dimension or to different demon dimensions.

The Seal of Danthazar a large metal disk that serves as a seal to a portal created at the Hellmouth. It connects the high school to one of the demon dimensions. Indications are that the Seal has been there a very long time, although it is not clear who put it there. Were they good guys, trying to keep something from entering our world? Or were they bad guys, trying to control the power of the Hellmouth for their own purposes? The necessity of death and blood to activate the Seal and a blood ritual to open the Seal seems to indicate the latter. Spike is tied to a wooden wheel, his limbs pulled in four directions. A Harbinger cuts mystical symbols into Spike's chest, then hoists him up in the air. The blood from Spike's wounds drips onto the Seal and is absorbed into the metal. The pointed tips of the pentagram on the Seal rise up one by one, forming a pyramid. The Seal sinks into the ground. Out of the hole it creates climbs a demon with vampire-like features.

Brainwashing is a non-magical form of mind control in which the victim is continuously conditioned over a period of time into certain beliefs or actions through the use of drugs, torture, psychological abuse, sleep deprivation, or the withholding of food or water. When Buffy found Spike in the basement in Lessons, he was behaving very much like a recent victim of torture. Once Buffy discovered that Spike had his soul back, she attributed his insane behavior to that, and likely, that was a contributing factor. Spike was probably not in the most coherent state of mind when he returned to Sunnydale. Regaining one's soul is a disorienting experience. The First Evil played on this weakness, turning Spike into something not unlike what is known in military intelligence idiom as a "sleeper agent": someone It can control for brief periods of time who will return to normal when the deed is done. When Buffy leaves the room where Spike is tied up, she hears singing through the door. The First Evil is playing Its tune again. Buffy goes back into the room. When her back is turned, Spike vamps out and snaps his restraints. He crashes through the wall and bites Andrew. Buffy is forced to knock him out and chain him up in the basement.

Is Principal Wood a "sleeper", too? When Principal Wood heads out of his office late after work, he doesn't go directly to his car. Instead, he stops, gets a blank look on his face, and heads down into the basement, directly into the room where Jonathan lies dead on the Seal of Danthazar. He takes Jonathan's body out to an empty lot and buries it. Is our nice Principal Wood cleaning up after the First Evil voluntarily? Or has sitting above the Hellmouth done brainwashy things to his mind, too?

Evil in "Never Leave Me"

The First Evil has declared war on the Slayer and her friends and on the Watcher's Council. The Harbingers wipe out Council records, kills Watchers, and destroys Watcher Headquarters.

The Watcher's Council blew up. They all died (Drew Goddard [Episode writer], Dec 5 5:26 2002).

Before his death, Watcher leader Quentin Travers states that the Watchers will be heading for the Hellmouth (Sunnydale), which is an important front in the First Evil's battle against the forces of Good. It is likely that the few Watcher operatives that remain will go there. Back in Sunnydale, the Harbingers break into Buffy's house. The gang fights them off and manages to kill one of them, but the First Evil's hench-demons achieve their aim--they kidnap Spike. Buffy looks at the dead demon that remains and recognizes it for what it is. She now knows they are up against the First Evil.

Ethical Quandaries and Moral Ambiguity in "Never Leave Me"

Should Spike be staked now?

When Spike comes to after almost killing Andrew, he begs Buffy to slay him. Anya has already voiced a similar argument; if Spike is capable of, and actually is killing people, shouldn't he be slain like any vampire? (And lest you think Anya is being a tad bit hypocritical here, recall that she didn't object too loudly when Buffy came after her, either).

Buffy, however, has already concluded that Spike is being manipulated by some external force, and now she suspects who it is--The First Evil. She points out he is not responsible for the deaths he caused while under the influence of the First's mind control.

But Spike is not only worried about what he might be manipulated into doing against his will, he is worried about the demon still inside him doing as it pleases. He is worried about behaving the way he did before the chip was implanted, before his soul was returned. He tells Buffy about some of the torment he put his victims through back in the day.

Buffy insists that even before he got his soul back, Spike was capable of fighting his demonic urges. He fought at her side for a year or more. And then, she points out, he went seeking his soul--he chose to fight the monster inside of him. She believes he can overcome whatever temptations haunt him now.

Buffy: the abuser and the abused? Spike tells Buffy that she falls for vampires who will end up hurting her (like himself or Angel) because she needs the fuel of that hatred to be the Slayer--to do her job and kill vampires. Buffy denies this. Is there any truth to Spike's claim? Buffy certainly had trouble killing both Spike and Angelus. Was it lingering feeling for them, or was it the continued need for the hatred they inspired in her? Certainly, Buffy showed something resembling hatred in her abuse of Spike during their short-lived affair. But Spike believes that came from Buffy's own self-loathing. She took the hatred she felt for herself out on Spike because it was easier to hate an unsouled demon than herself. Whatever the truth is, being a Slayer is a morally complicated position to be in. Killing sentient beings on a nightly basis requires finding some justification, some motivation, lest you think of yourself as a monster. And if a Slayer starts to see demons as people, justification and motivation become that much more difficult to find.

The Moral Ambiguity of Xander and Anya

Bring on the Night

The Metaphysics of "Bring on the Night"

The Turok-han, also known as the "Uber-vamp", is an animalistic "killing machine" that, according to Giles, is "to the vampire what the Neanderthal is to humans". Neanderthals are widely believed to be an evolutionary "cousin" of human beings. They used tools and had some linguistic capacity (how much is a matter of debate). Neanderthals and homo sapiens (humans) descended from a common ancestor (our common evolutionary "grandparent"). However, while human beings continued to reproduce and evolve, the Neanderthal line died out thousands of years ago.

The creatures we know as "vampires" are human-demon hybrids. The original "vampire" was created when a demon bit a human thousands of years ago, mixing their blood. If the Neanderthal-human analogy holds true, then this demon who created the original vampire was not a Turok-han, but a closely related demon species to the Turok-han.

The Turok-han is similar to the vampire in that it must avoid sunlight and appears to drink blood. Unlike vampires, however, the Turok-han does not die by a stake to the heart.

The First Evil: The last time we saw Giles, his neck was at the business end of a Harbinger's ax. Now, suddenly, he is at Buffy's door in one piece bearing proto-slayers. Or is he? "Giles" tells Buffy what he knows about the First: It rarely shows Its "true face". Instead, It appears in the guise of people who have died (this is why It can appear as Buffy. She isn't dead, but she has died). In those forms, this incorporeal creature manipulates Its victims and uses intermediaries to bring about Its goals. For example, the First Evil appears to Spike in the form of the undead Drusilla and uses the Turok-han to torment him in the hope of crushing Spike's spirit and destroying his willingness to help Buffy. Could The First be manipulating the gang as well? Presuming "Giles" is telling the truth about the First (and there is past evidence to support the picture he paints), it is possible that the real Giles died at the hands of the Harbingers, and that the First is now taking his form to manipulate Buffy towards some as-yet unknown purpose.

Psychic dreams: Buffy has two dreams of her mother. In the first dream, Joyce tells Buffy that she can't defeat the First Evil if she doesn't get some rest. Then she tells Buffy she needs to wake up. In the second dream, Joyce makes a complex argument about the nature of evil. Is this The First Evil in the guise of the departed Joyce trying to discourage Buffy, or is this Buffy's own psychic-dream wisdom telling her something vital about how to defeat the First? In the end, Buffy is not discouraged. She tells the others that they are more powerful than evil, and that they will continue to confront the First Evil until it "shows Its true face". Then she will destroy it.

Proto-slayers: Around the world at any given time, there are dozens of girls who have the potential to become the next Slayer. The death of the active Slayer triggers the activation of Slayer powers in one of these Potentials, making her the new active Slayer. Now the Potentials are being killed off by the Harbingers. It is part of the First Evil's plan to destroy the forces of Good. If all the living proto-slayers are killed, followed finally by the death of the active Slayer, it will not matter if new potential Slayers are subsequently born. There will be no one to trigger these girl's powers.

Buffy realizes that she has witnessed the death of several of the proto-slayers in her dreams. Now the few remaining girls are being gathered in Sunnydale where Buffy can protect them.

The locator spell: Willow lays a map on the dining room table. Anya sets candles on it. Willow intends to locate the First Evil. She prepares a bowl of special sand and sprinkles some on the map. The map explodes in a swirl of mystical energy. Anya is thrown against the wall. The energy enters Willow's body through her nostrils. A large apparition looms out of Willow's head, then goes back inside her. Willow collapses. Buffy is zapped by a bolt of electricity when she tries to help. The entity brought forth by the spell is the First Evil. The First appeared as a looming apparition once before--to Buffy in the Harbinger's cave in Amends (see also End of Days). However, the First does not normally have the ability to zap Buffy directly. Willow's spell might have given It a limited capacity to affect physical objects. Xander ends the spell by smashing the bowl of glowing sand against a wall.

Vampires and drowning: If vampires don't breath, why is The First Evil trying to torment Spike by having his head held under water? Apparently, the original intention for this scene that Spike was having his head dunked in holy water. So just imagine the smoke and blisters. Ouch.

Evil and Good in "Bring on the Night"

The First Evil

"Fact is, the whole "good vs. evil, balancing the scales" thing? I'm over it. I'm done with the mortal coil. But, believe me, I'm going for a big finish." --The First Evil

The First Evil is killing off proto-slayers. It has destroyed the Watcher's Council. And now It is coming after Buffy and her allies, one person at a time. It is already working to win Spike to Its side by wearing down his faith in himself. And It has brought out the fear and insecurities of two formidable foes--the powerful witch Willow and the resolute proto-slayer Annabelle. In the past, the raison d'être of the First was to spread evil through manipulation and torment--to beat the forces of Good in a game of one-upmanship. Now it wants to obliterate them once and for all.

Moral Ambiguity in "Bring on the Night"

Willow wants to help Buffy fight the First, but she is afraid to use her witch powers to do so. Her "dark side" has already re-emerged once since her rampage last Spring, and she doesn't want to risk it getting out again to be manipulated by the First Evil.

Annabelle: When the fight against the First Evil begins to look hopeless, proto-slayer Annabelle flees Buffy's house. The girl who instructed her fellow Potentials to trust in the Slayer doesn't trust Buffy in the end and falls into the clutches of the Turok-han. Buffy pursues, only to find Annabelle dead. She fights the Turok-han. It defeats her, but doesn't kill her. The First wants Buffy alive, for the time being.

Principal Wood finds Buffy and Dawn in the basement of Sunnydale High carrying shovels. He has a shovel as well. But while Buffy and the gang were burying the Seal of Danthazar, Buffy finds Principal Wood's explanation for why he has a shovel a little puzzling. Later, he tells Buffy (rather mysteriously) about his own experience with evil: "Once you see true evil, it can have a serious after-burn. And then you can't unsee what you saw." The motives behind Principal Wood's actions remain as mysterious as always, but we can add another theory to our list: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Philosophies Represented in "Bring on the Night"

The nature of evil

"Evil isn't coming. It's already here. It's always been here."

Buffy is about to take on an entity that claims to be the origin of Evil, the thing that invented Evil. If this is true, one might think that if Buffy could find a way to defeat this creature, Evil might be vanquished from the universe once and for all. But it isn't quite that simple, as the image of her mother points out to her in a dream. Dream-Joyce argues that evil is inherent in all of us. It is part of nature. The First may very well be the starting point of all the evil in the world, and It may well encourage evil whenever possible, but it doesn't follow from this that destroying the First will destroy all evil. Evil has taken on a life of its own independent of its maker, and could very well survive the defeat of the First Evil. Why? Because evil is self-perpetuating. It brings benefits to the individuals who chose to commit evil actions.

But what is an evil action, anyway? Elsewhere, I define evil as "the willingness to destroy good or valuable things". This definition is entirely dependent on what counts as "good" or "valuable". In other words, it doesn't tell us much until we define these other terms. And the definition of these terms will change depending on who is doing the defining. What harms one being benefits another. For example, we call predatory vampires "evil" and kill them, but the human blood they feed on gives them an advantage--it helps them live. For vampires, draining a human being of blood is a good thing. Therefore, they will continue to do it. Not for the sake of the First Evil, but for themselves.

What about a less ambiguous case--harmful actions that seem to serve no beneficial purpose for the evil-doer, for example, vampires who maim or kill without feeding? Even when there is no apparent purpose, this behavior is not the random, unthinking act of a robot. These acts have a purpose. Some vampires maim and kill humans purely for the pleasure of doing so. And they will continue to do so as long as it gives them pleasure.

But there are also cases where harm is brought about by purely mechanical, random causes, such as natural disasters. Many people call earthquakes, tornadoes and other acts of nature "evil" because of the wide-spread suffering and loss of life they bring. The destruction of the First Evil isn't going to change the laws of nature that bring about these disasters. If these events are indeed "evil", then this form of evil will survive the death of the First.

Why bother trying to kill the First Evil, then? If it won't defeat the things that humans consider "evil" once and for all, what's the point? Buffy is fighting the First in order to restore the balance between good and evil. What the First intends to do is wipe out the champions of Good--those who fight evil on behalf of humans. Buffy must make sure that these Champions remain to counter the evil that confronts humankind.


The Metaphysics of "Showtime"

Beljoxa's Eye is a demonic oracle that exists in a dark, windy dimension. It cannot see the future, but it can impart wisdom about the past and present. Only demons can pass through the gateway to Beljoxa's dimension. Because Anya is an ex-demon once again, she cannot gain entrance by herself. She uses her contacts in the demon world to help her and Giles get in. Her old acquaintance Torg produces a small sharp talisman from under the skin of his hand and raises it towards the back of the alley where they are standing. He incants:

Ek'vola mok't
Beljoxa do'kar

A portal opens in a bloom of mystical energy. Giles and Anya pass through it. There, they encounter a large, grotesque demonic eye that is covered in other, smaller eyes. Beljoxa's Eye floats in small spheroid cage suspended on chains.

Torg has no heart, six spleens, two stomachs and a weird growth on his face. Like many demons, he lives something resembling an ordinary human life in the city on the Hellmouth. Three generations ago, he and Anya spent one night together, and now Anya offers him another roll in the hay if he will open the gateway to Beljoxa's Eye for them. Torg balks at the idea of sleeping with a human, so Giles threatens to sic the Slayer on Torg's clients and his place of business if Torg does not comply.

The First Evil: Beljoxa's Eye tells Giles and Anya that the First Evil has been around since before the universe was born and cannot be killed. But it has never attacked the Slayer line until now. The "mystical forces" surrounding the Chosen line have been irrevocably weakened by Buffy's death. Was this Buffy's first death, or her second? Her first death was the death that created a second Slayer. However, if her first death had weakened the line, the First Evil would have attacked it before now. Buffy had an encounter with the First before her second death and sent the First scampering away. It seems that Buffy's second death is the problem. Anya blames the Scoobies and herself for what happened, because they brought Buffy back.

Potential slayers continue to arrive in Sunnydale seeking safety from the Harbingers. Rona is greeted by Buffy at the bus station, but when Eve arrives, she is not as lucky. Her Watcher was supposed to inform Buffy about her arrival, but the Watcher was killed. A member of the Westbury coven, who have been helping the gang locate Potentials, tells Willow that the new proto-slayer is waiting for them in a Sunnydale motel. Buffy and Xander go to get her and discover a dead girl with a familiar face. The person they think is Eve isn't the real Eve.

The protective barrier: When the Turok-han forces its way into the Summers' house, Willow incants:

Caerimonia, Minerva
Saepio, Saepire,
Saepio Impedimentum!

A force field goes up. Willow's eyes are black.

Telepathy: Over a year ago, Willow developed the ability to project her thoughts into the minds of others and to read their thoughts. While the proto-slayers discuss their doom, Buffy gets Willow's attention with a covert telepathic message. Willow calls out to Xander the same way. The three of them leave the dining room and meet in the living room. There, using Willow as the telepathic intermediary, the three silently develop a plan for defeating the Turok-han.

Evil and Good in "Showtime"

The First Evil: The proto-slayers are staying at Buffy's house. The most cynical of them is Eve, who incites the other girls' fears about Buffy's ability to protect them from the Turok-han, about Spike's loyalty to Good, and about their own abilities. Later, when the proto-slayers are training together in the basement (or is it fighting each other?), Buffy comes down and confronts Eve. She reveals that "Eve" is really the First Evil, masquerading as the dead proto-slayer. It has been in their midst for days. The First threatens to sic the Turok-han on them, then disappears. The proto-slayers are frightened and demoralized, just as the First intended. They gather up in the dining room with Buffy, Willow and Xander. They don't see anyway that they can be protected. As they fight, Willow silently leaves the room, followed by Buffy and Xander.

The Turok-han: After dark, the Harbingers surround Buffy's house to prevent those inside from escaping. The Turok-han arrives and forces its way inside. It does not need an invitation to come in. Willow puts up a mystical barrier. But it won't last long. Buffy instructs everyone to escape out the back. The gang and the proto-Slayers fight off the Harbingers and head out into town. The Turok-han soon finds them. Buffy tells the proto-slayers to go with Xander and Willow while she leads the ubervamp away from them. Xander takes them to a basement construction site that is lined with scaffolding and flood lights. There, the group discovers that Buffy has lead the Turok-han right to them. Buffy lights up the arena. Willow gets the others to climb the scaffolding. Buffy faces the Turok-han.

"I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about,"

she says. She and the Turok-han fight.

This is all part of a plan that Buffy, Willow and Xander developed telepathically. They wanted to bring the proto-Slayers and the Turok-han to a place where the proto-Slayers could witness Buffy defeating the ubervamp once and for all. They want to restore the girls' faith in Buffy and in themselves. Buffy grabs a length of wire and yanks it around the Turok-han's neck. She pulls hard until the wire goes through its neck and beheads it.

Moral Ambiguity in "Showtime"

Willow: When Buffy asks Willow to put up a magical barrier between her household and the Turok-han, Willow is anxious. She disappears into the front hallway to test her fears against her powers. Suddenly the proto-slayer Kennedy appears. Willow has been sleeping on the floor to avoid being in the same bed as this beautiful and persistently friendly young woman. Methinks I smell a slight case of attraction here! Kennedy observes Willow's powers and tries to make light of Willow's fear of her own darkside. Willow sets her straight on this--the First knows Willow's dark potential, and since It could not talk her out of using her powers, It has been trying to get her back in touch with that darkness. Willow is afraid that if she uses magic, the First will somehow twist it to Its own ends.

Spike is still tied up in the Harbinger's cave with the First taunting him. He dreams of escaping, of encountering the real Buffy, but when he opens his eyes the only Buffy in sight is the First. The First wants him to lose faith in himself and in Buffy, and therefore in any belief he has in Goodness. Later, an image of Buffy comes towards him, carrying a knife. Spike defies It because the incorpreal First cannot hurt him. Buffy cuts his restraints. It is the real Slayer, who has saved him just as he hoped.

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This page last modified 6/19/03


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