Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 7


The Killer in Me

First Date

Get It Done


Lies My Parents Told Me


The Metaphysics of "Potential"

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 7 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.

Proto-slayers may not have full slayer strength, but they are born with strength, speed and instincts greater than those of their peers. This comes in handy while training them for their potential role as the Slayer.

Slayer training: Buffy and Spike take the proto-slayers to the cemetery. Buffy gives them lessons in understanding vampire instincts and learning to listen to their own instincts. In a demon bar, she tells them about wringing information out of patrons. And in a crypt, she instructs them in the importance of fighting with a plan and recognizing weapons in the most ordinary objects.

Then comes the big test. Spike and Buffy lock the girls in the crypt with a vampire. The proto-slayers live to tell the tale, and bond over the mutual rush of slayage.

The potential locator spell: Willow's wiccan source Althanea tells her that there is another potential slayer, and that she lives in Sunnydale. Willow does a spell to identify this girl. The spell is designed to conjure up a brilliant light that will find the new potential and illuminate her with a glowing aura. Willow sits down in front of the fire place and throws various ingredients into the fire as she says their names:

To light the aura of the new:
skin of snake and chrysalis too.
To indicate the fresh reborn:
tumbleweed and rosebush thorn.

An egg that means the life to come
Take this, oh Spirits, and my spell is done.

A shimmering ball of light floats up from the fire place and hovers in the middle of the living room, reeking of burnt egg. When Dawn goes to open the front door to release the sulfery smell, the light gathers strength and rushes towards her, leaving a lingering glow on her chest. But Dawn is not the new potential. Unbeknownst to the gang, Dawn's school mate Amanda is standing on the other side of the door. She has encountered a vampire at the high school and, knowing Buffy's reputation, has come to her for help. Willow's ball of light in fact passed through Dawn and through the door to illuminate her. But the gang has other reasons for believing that Dawn is a potential. They believe that the monks "made" Dawn from Buffy. Dawn got Summers genes, Summers "blood" from her. It stands to reason that she might have got Buffy's slayer essence as well.

Whose death will activate the next Slayer? Buffy tells the potentials that her death could make one of them the next Slayer. But Buffy has died twice, and as far as we know, only her first death resulted in a new Slayer, Kendra. And Kendra's death activated Faith. So unless there is a third active slayer running around that we don't know about, Faith is the only Slayer whose death will activate one of the potentials. So why does Buffy say otherwise? Is she just trying to get the proto-slayers' attention by pointing out one very personal way in which "a slayers life is all about death"? Telling them that they will be called when some distant girl they don't know dies is less vivid, less real to them then telling them they will be called when she, Buffy, the person standing before them, dies. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Buffy's (third!) death will activate one of the proto-slayers.

I think the fact that the line is with Faith now isn't being ignored and won't be written away -- I think it's probably going to be important to the story and will resurface at a crucial point.

IMHO, the Scoobies do understand that the line isn't with Buffy, and at some point, even one of the SITs indicates at least being vaguely aware of the existence of another slayer ("Isn't there another slayer?" or similar); and what with all the succession talk, they're bound to put two-and-two together at some point. The fact that Buffy actually says things to the SITs that implies that the line is with Buffy is worrisome, but I think it's supposed to be worrisome. For example, maybe Buffy is becoming corrupted by the power of being the acting slayer. On the other hand, it could just be that she's keeping it simple for her students right now, and that she sees using the "if I die it could be YOU" tactic as helping her students get serious with their studies (yez, 1/22/03 11:26).

Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Potential"

Amanda met Buffy when she came in on Buffy's first day of counseling and told her that she was being picked on. But this spastic bean-pole of a girl didn't get sent to the counselor's office to get a pep talk on sticking up for herself. She got sent there for sticking up for herself, in a manner of speaking. She waited for her tormentor in the parking lot after school, jumped him, and slammed his face into the pavement. Now she's back to talk to Buffy about the relative perversion of being attracted to someone who picks on her--someone she picks on right back. Buffy identifies with this particular situation a little too closely, for obvious reasons. Her past intimacies with Spike are no secret to her proto-slayer gang, and it looks like Amanda is already following in her footsteps.

Dawn sees the potential slayers getting Buffy's attention, bonding like sisters, and being handed a special purpose in life even though some of them are just fifteen. It's a tough thing to watch when you've gone from being the Key that unlocks the dimensional walls to an ordinary girl in less than two years. Now she's just a spectator sitting on the sidelines, and she is naturally envious.

The reality of being one of these girls, however, is much different than the fantasy. When Dawn is lead to believe that she is a proto-slayer, the implications are almost too much to take in. All of a sudden, she has a destiny. She's part of something larger, greater. And she'll likely face a short brutal life with sharp, sharp knives. If she's lucky. Likelier still, she will face her death in the next few months at the point of a Harbinger's blade. So what does the newest "proto-slayer" do? She pulls a classic Dawn and sneaks out of her bedroom window and away from the safety of the Slayer's home.

Out on the street, she runs into Amanda, who has left a vampire locked in a classroom back at the high school. Full of her new-found purpose, Dawn decides that she'll "take this one". And she does pretty good, for a while. When the vampire jumps the two of them, Dawn takes charge. She hits the vampire with a fire extinguisher and leads Amanda to the science lab where they barricade the door. But the vampire soon breaks in. Dawn innovatingly uses the items in the lab as weapons, but finally she is pinned by the vamp. Amanda is too afraid to help. Then Harbingers break in through the windows.

And they go after Amanda.

Dawn is stunned, even jealous as they surround Amanda to kill her. But Amanda hasn't been trained. Not like Dawn has. Dawn creates a fire ball with the lab equipment and they escape, Harbingers and the vampire hot on their heels. It's time, Dawn realizes, for Amanda to step up to her destiny. She tells Amanda that she is special, that she must face their pursuers, and hands her a flag-pole stake. Just then, Xander, Buffy, and the others arrive searching for Dawn. Xander sees Dawn give Amanda her weapon. And while the others fight the Bringers, Amanda slays the vamp.

Another proto-slayer has been yanked out of her ordinary life, and Dawn heads back to research land without a pause.

There's only one person around who can truly appreciate the significance of that small gesture, and that's the Zeppo himself. Xander applauds Dawn for the way she gave up the spotlight to Amanda, and for having the courage it takes to be just an ordinary human being in the Slayer's world. No one around them knows that that is perhaps the toughest job of all. It requires extraordinary bravery, the ability to think on your feet, and a willingness to do the job and rarely get the glory. And those are qualities Dawn has in abundance.

The Killer in Me

The Metaphysics of "The Killer in Me"

The penance malediction: Curses, also known as hexes and whammies, are spells that remain in effect long after the first time they manifest themselves. And their effects are often triggered over and over again by a specific set of circumstances. In the case of Amy's hex on Willow, the trigger is guilt. When Willow has intense feelings of guilt, her unconscious mind creates a "punishment" for whatever action she feels guilty about. When Kennedy kisses Willow, Willow feels as if she has betrayed Tara. She instantly takes on Warren Mear's appearance, and gradually begins to take on his personality as well.

It is highly likely that Willow's I-can't-see-you/you-can't-see-me spell was another manifestation of Amy's hex. So it is possible that there might be other incidences of the hex in the future.

Undoing the manifestation of Warren isn't as simple as a fairy-tale kiss. In Same Time, Same Place, Willow was only able to see the physical presence of her friends when she got over her fear of facing them again--facing her own feelings of guilt and her fear of rejection. Likewise, Willow turns into Warren because of her guilt over "betraying" Tara. When Willow gets past her guilt, the vestiges of Warren's appearance and personality disappear. Kennedy's second kiss helps Willow realize that she wants to move on, that it's O.K. for her to move on. But it is Willow's realization that reverses the manifestation (although it probably does not remove Amy's hex itself).

The First Evil? After Giles takes the proto-slayers on the vision quest that Buffy took two years ago, the gang gets a call from the Watcher Robson. Robson tells them that he was attacked by the Harbingers, and that the last thing he remembers before passing out was Giles at the end of a Harbinger's ax. It is possible that Giles was killed. And if that is the case, then the "Giles" the Scoobs have been interacting with for weeks isn't the real Giles. They head up to the desert to find out for sure. The very corporeal Giles is easily tackled onto the sand. Well, at least they know he's not the First.

Spike's chip is acting wonky these days. It sends searing jolts of pain through his head when he's doing nothing more violent than sitting chained to a wall. So what's the deal? Is the chip malfunctioning as a result of the First's manipulation, or was the First Evil able to manipulate Spike in the first place because the chip was malfunctioning? Perhaps neither of these is the case, but the second is a distinct possibility.

When Spike and Buffy break into the abandoned Initiative facility to find a drug that will help take Spike's pain away, they encounter a group of special ops soldiers. The medical experts in this group determine that Spike's chip has degraded. The Initiative never meant for their chips to be in operation as long as this one has been. Very likely, the chips were a temporary measure to control vampires in the facility while they were experimented on. But since the vampires were dusted after they lost their value as lab-rats, the chips in their heads weren't built to last.

Riley, who sent the special ops to Sunnydale at Buffy's request, instructs the commander to give Buffy a choice about what to do next. Fix the chip, or remove it from ass-face Spike's brain for good.

Moral Ambiguity in "The Killer in Me"

Kennedy: When the other proto-slayers head out on their vision quest, wily Kennedy remains behind to pursue her own mission--she's out to get the girl she's had her eye on. She pretends to have the flu, then rises out of bed fresh as a daisy and drags Willow to the Bronze for drinks and the direct approach. Willow has been trying to fly low and avoid Kennedy's gay-dar, but she hasn't succeeded. While Kennedy describes how she is able to pick another lesbian out of the crowd, Willow becomes exhibit A.

But this proto-slayer mission isn't as simple as Kennedy hopes it will be. The first kiss that should have produced a sweet Willowy smile instead turns Willow into the angry murderer Warren Mears. The terms of Amy's hex dictate that Willow's unconscious pick her own punishment. Becoming Warren is therefore, first of all, a manifestation of Willow's guilt. Willow has never let Tara go. And then for a moment, during the kiss, she did. She feels like she "killed" Tara--the Tara who is alive in her mind. So what is figurative in her head becomes literal in her body--she becomes Tara's killer.

Becoming Warren is also a manifestation of Willow's fear of her own capacity for evil, of the killer within. The longer she stays in Warren's form, the more like him she becomes. Frustration becomes anger. Tears become violence. And she blames her emotions on other people. She blames her transformation on Kennedy. She blames Kennedy for making her "kill" Tara. When she goes after Kennedy with a gun, she is in serious danger of avenging Tara's death with violence all over again.

But the forthright persistent Kennedy hasn't let Willow go through this alone up to this point, and she doesn't give up on her now. It isn't the power of magic Kennedy puts her trust in when she kisses Willow again, it's the power of Willow herself. She believes Willow can overcome her pain and guilt. Kissing Kennedy is accepting that Tara really is dead. And it isn't easy (the... er, getting past Tara's death part, anyway), but Willow manages to take the first step.

When the gang sees the very dead Warren in their living room, they not unreasonably assume it is the First Evil. Andrew confronts It, angry (perhaps at his own weaknesses?) at being manipulated into killing Jonathan. And Buffy is fists-first, questions later. But when she is able to knock "Warren" over, they realize "he" is not the First. And just in case they don't buy "Warren's" claim that "he" is Willow, Willow has plenty of Xander-stories from kindergarten to prove who she is.

Amy claims to be in recovery from her out-of-control days, but she is either lying, or doesn't really get the spirit-healing Wiccan ways of her friends. Because she's all about resentment--the exercise of power over another in the name of petty envy. Willow is a more powerful witch than either Amy or Tara--two women whose powers were their family birthright. But in Amy's eyes, Willow is weak--she gave into the dark side of witchcraft to a degree Amy herself never did. And what happens? Willow's friends forgive her and take her back into their hearts. Anyone who has experienced the loneliness Amy probably felt after three years as a rat would be envious and confused. But they might not all be tempted to use their own formidable witch powers on someone they once called a friend. And to brag about it afterwards.

First Date

Evil and Good in "First Date"

Andrew is approached by the First Evil, who is manifesting as Jonathan. It tries to convince Andrew to find the gun Willow bought and use it against the potential slayers. Andrew protests that he follows Buffy's orders now. But the First Evil's arguments for joining Its side are compelling--It will win against the Slayer(s), It will always exist in some form in the world. Best to join Its side and end up on the winning team. And Andrew seems to go along with the First's plans. But in actuality, he's told Willow and the others what the First wants him to do, and they have him wired while he tries to get information out of the First. It doesn't take long for the First to figure that out. But the result is the same. Andrew refuses to be manipulated. Back to the drawing board for the First Evil.

Moral Ambiguity in "First Date"

Xander's bad luck lust list

Willow: "How about yours, Xander. Is she evil?"
Xander: "Well, she's interested in me, so there's a good chance."

Xander has been trying to get back into the dating scene and finally gets lucky with an attractive woman, Lissa. He meets her while she's buying rope, and she wants the rope for a very specific purpose. His demon date takes him to the basement of Sunnydale High and hoists him over the Seal of Danthazar. She intends to raise another Turok-han in order to show solidarity with the First Evil. Xander manages to send Willow a text message on her cell phone, but he gets a stab wound before he is saved. Xander might not have had a successful date with Lissa, but he was successful at one thing--making Anya jealous.

Principal Wood: For months, he's been sitting above the Hellmouth's bidet of evil. On occasion, Buffy has found him skulking around the Sunnydale High campus doing un-principal-ed things. Buffy decides it's time to investigate the mysterious yet charming Principal Wood. But before Buffy can do any hands-on recon, Principal Wood decides to come clean with her. He asks her to dinner.

When they reach the alley-way entrance of the restaurant, Wood and Buffy are attacked by vampires. Wood fights off his fair share with skill. Over dinner, he tells her that he knows she's the Slayer. He maneuvered himself into the principal's office at Sunnydale High, and he maneuvered Buffy there, too. He wants to help fight the evil that's come to Sunnydale. Fighting evil is something of a family tradition for him. His mother was a Slayer who was killed by a vampire when he was four. He's been searching for that vampire ever since and has killed a lot of vampires in the process.

Later, Wood is approached by the First Evil in the guise of his mother. At first he ignores her. He will not be manipulated by Evil. But then the First gives him the one thing he's wanted all his life--the identity of his mother's killer: Spike. The First may not be his real mother, but It manages to wrestle a "thank you" out of him anyway.

Spike assures Buffy that he's OK with her "date" with Principal Wood, but when the gang needs to fetch Buffy to deal with the latest insurgency by the First, Spike's eager to interrupt. Buffy, Spike, and Principal Wood head to the school to rescue Xander. Wood quickly discovers that Buffy's friend is a vampire. And he sees the familiarity with which Buffy and Spike touch each other after the fight.

[T]here is definitely something Oedipal in Wood's interest in Buffy--using her as a substitute/replacement for his mother, one Slayer = another Slayer. And in this light, I suddenly think that his mistaking Buffy for Dawn's mother as his very first act on the show is significant. Now that we know his mother was a Slayer and he knew that Buffy was the Slayer before he came to Sunnydale, we can see that his instinctive equation is Slayer = Mother.

...Holtz's pursuit of Angelus is grounded in a parent's feeling for his children--and perhaps a projection of his own guilt at having been so focused on slaying vampires "out there" that he was not home to protect his own family--Wood's feelings about Spike are going to result from a son's feelings about his mother. Seeing Buffy as a mother-substitute makes her apparent preference for Spike--she goes first to Spike after the demon is slain, notice, not to Xander, the object of the rescue--a perfect Oedipal set-up--Spike is the father standing in the way of the son's fantasized union with the mother. It will also make killing Spike seem even more important since, as he was not able to save his real mother from Spike, he may well see killing Spike as an opportunity to "save" Buffy in the way he was not able to save his mother. Wood was 4 when his mother was killed--the Oedipus complex is supposed to emerge in boys between the ages of 3 and 5. Smack in the danger zone (leslie, 2/12/03 12:48).

Ethical Quandaries in "First Date"

To chip or not to chip?

When Spike's chip began to malfunction, the Special Ops commander gave Buffy a choice--have the chip repaired or have it removed. It is worth noting that in giving this decision to Buffy, these representatives of the military/government did not recognize Spike as a person with the right to make his own decisions about something that significantly effects his freedom. Spike is a demon, and demons have few rights among humans in the Buffyverse. It is unclear what Spike would have decided to do had he been given the choice. But Buffy chooses to have it removed.

Giles is concerned with her decision. The issue for him is how much of a danger Spike poses without the chip. Buffy points out that Spike was a danger even when he had the chip. The First Evil was able to manipulate him into killing and siring people. Giles replies that Spike may have been able to do this because the chip was not working properly then. A new or repaired chip might act as a restraint if the First were to try to activate Spike again.

Buffy, however, believes that Spike's soul will stop him. The logical reply to this is that Spike had a soul when he was being manipulated by the First, too. But Buffy's response would not change--she wants to put her faith in Spike's ability to fight this thing. And he would now be able to look for the signs of being manipulated if it were to happen again.

Giles believes that Buffy's amorous feelings for Spike are coloring her judgment. Things are dangerous enough as it is right now, and Buffy and the gang don't seem to be taking that seriously. By removing Spike's chip, Buffy is gambling with people's lives. And, indeed, Buffy is doing what she often does--putting the welfare of someone she is close to above the welfare of the many, and gambling that it will pay off. She wants to support Spike's right to self-determination. As long as he is "muzzled" by a chip, he doesn't have the ability to make choices about whether to fight or to give into his vampire instincts. Spike may be a demon, but he also has a soul, and in Buffy's mind, that gives him the right to chose.

Get It Done

The Metaphysics of and Good in "Get It Done"

The legend of the first Slayer

Ampata: They told her that she was the only one. That only she could defend her people from the nether world. Out of all the girls in her generation... she was the only one...
Buffy: ...chosen.
Ampata: She was offered as a sacrifice and went to her death. Who knows what she had to give up to fulfill her duty to others?

Back in the womb of time, the Old Ones walked the Earth. It was their home, their Hell. Then humans came. They spread across the deserts, the mountains, the plains. Their children made the Earth their home. So the demons killed them, or transformed them into demons with their blood. The humans seemed too small, too weak to survive.

Then a group of men created a warrior to fight the demons. They took a girl and chained her to the Earth. They beat their staffs against the ground. They set the Spirit of the Demon upon her. Its black energy writhed through the air like a snake. It became one with the girl. The girl didn't ask for this, but it became her sacred duty--she had the strength to slay the demons and protect her home.

When the girl died, the Spirit within her entered another girl, and then after her, another. In each generation, many girls were born with the capacity to hold the Spirit inside them; but only one girl was chosen to wield that Spirit and defend the humans in her village or her tribe. And sometimes, it was up to her to prevent the Earth itself from once again becoming Hell.

Psychic dream: Buffy has a dream in which she walks through her house, making a final nightly check of all the inhabitants there. She sees the potential, Chloe, huddled in the hallway, crying. But before she can talk to her, the First Slayer attacks Buffy. They tumble down the stairs. "It's not enough!" the spirit says.

The Hellmouth, like many things, has its cycles. Buffy's observed this portal to hell long enough to know that the energy it radiates tends to rise in the Spring and peak in May. Many Bads in Sunnydale have used this to their advantage. The Master was destined to rise in 1997, but when he tried to escape the Hellmouth in March, he didn't succeed. He tried again in May and escaped, killing Buffy in the process. The Mayor timed his one hundred days of invulnerability so that his Ascension would occur in May. The Alignment that would allow Glory to use the Key and return to her home dimension occurred in May. The First Evil may also be planning Its most focused attack on the Slayer in May.

The emergency kit: Principal Wood gives Buffy a bag that belonged to his mother, the Slayer Nikki. Buffy opens a metal box inside the bag. Within the box are metal "shadow casters". Xander sets a pedestal on the coffee table and lights a candle in its center. He puts the shadow-casters on the pedestal and turns it, throwing the shadow of each metal character against the wall as Dawn reads its part of a tale. The tale is the "myth" of the first Slayer. As the story unfolds, the shadows on the wall get bigger and animated. The pedestal starts moving on its own. The flame in its center grows into a large blue portal in the middle of the room. The Sumerian words Dawn struggles to translate turn to English. "You cannot just watch, you must see," she reads. "If you're willing to make the exchange." Buffy decides she must enter the portal against her friends' protests. She feels justified in leaving them to deal with the consequences. She jumps inside. The portal disappears. A large demon appears in the room. The gang tries to fight it, but the demon escapes.

The Shadowmen: At the other end of the portal is a desert much like the one Buffy walked in her dream in Restless. There, she encounters three men, guides who speak to her in Swahili. They explain to her that they have been waiting there since the time of the first Slayer. They tell Buffy that she is the last guardian of the Hellmouth. Buffy wants information from them about how to defeat the First Evil. But what they have to offer is power. They hit Buffy over the head with a staff, knocking her out. When she awakens, she is in a cave, chained to the ground. The Shadowmen reenact of the creation of the first Slayer, intending to give Buffy the power they promised.

If the text in the comic book Fray is accepted as canon, then the council of watchers evolved out of the original shamans who created the first slayer. Thus, Buffy turning the table of power on the shamans is a retelling of what she did in the episode Checkpoint (Robert, 2/20/03 11:50).

But Buffy doesn't want to get "knocked up" by their "demon dust". She demands that the men stop. When they don't, she breaks her chains and subdues them. She breaks one of their staffs. The demon energy they tried to give her disappears, along with two of the men. "Tell me something I don't know" she says to the man who remains. He touches her temple and gives her a vision.

Later, Buffy questions her decision not to take the Shadowmen's power. She knows she needs something more than she has to defeat the First Evil, and the vision the Shadowman gave her convinces her of this more than ever. He showed her a vast army of Turok-han. If this army comes from the same place as the single Turok-han they fought, then indeed, something is coming from beneath them to devour.

The ritual of the reverse exchange: Buffy has disappeared through a portal that promptly vanished. It is the gang's job to get that portal, and then Buffy, back. Willow has to make up most of the ritual to do this based on the metaphysical principles of magic. She pours sand in a circle to create a barrier for the portal. Then she sits down in the center of the circle. She incants:

Via temporis
iam clamo ad te.
Via spatti,
te jubeo aperire.

Nothing happens. Willow turns to make a comment to her friends. Then power suddenly bursts from her, throwing Kennedy and Dawn back. Willow's eyes go black. She screams. She continues:

Via concursus
tempus, spatium
Audi me ut imperium

And still, nothing happens. Willow is holding back, afraid to risk the darkness that can come with the use of strong magic. Finally, in frustration, she relents. She reaches out and takes power from the two strongest people nearby her--Anya and Kennedy--and opens the portal. Xander pulls Willow out of the circle. Then they reverse what happened when Buffy disappeared through the portal. Spike throws the demon in, and Buffy returns. The portal disappears.

Moral Ambiguity in "Get It Done"

Spike: Anya is attacked by a demon sent by D'Hoffryn. Spike hits it, then gets Anya the hell out of there. Anya is not impressed by Spike's choice to flee rather than fight. And neither is Buffy. Spike admits that he hasn't been "relishing the kill" the way he did before he got his soul back. He wants to disassociate himself from "the old me", much as Angel does Angelus. When Buffy tells him she prefers the old Spike--the dangerous killer--Spike feels betrayed. He went out and got his soul for her. He is trying to become a better man for her. Spike is still trying to be what he thinks Buffy wants. And when Buffy disappears into the portal, he continues to do this. He will become the Big Bad again if it will bring Buffy back. He goes to the basement of the high school and dons his leather duster. Then he tracks down the demon that took Buffy's place and relishes the kill.

Buffy shows Principal Wood her operation--the compound for bunking, protecting and training potential slayers and her demon-fighting friends--a little place formerly known as "home". But Wood wants to meet "the vampire", so Buffy introduces them. Later, Wood follows Spike to the school. He sees Spike head out for his fight against the demon with a leather duster on. He asks Spike where he got it. "New York", Spike replies. Wood seems to know the significance of this. He also knows that Spike has a soul. Will this be a consideration in his decision about what to do about Spike?

Buffy knows the First Evil is coming, and she doesn't feel prepared. The potentials seem an inadequate army to her. Willow is unwilling to use more powerful magicks. And Buffy isn't happy with Spike's attempts to be a kinder, gentler vampire. She's feeling the strain of trying to protect all these people. And when one of the potentials, Chloe, kills herself, Buffy snaps under the pressure. She calls Chloe an "idiot" and "weak". She demands that everybody start using their strengths to help her. Willow insists that everybody is already doing that. But in Buffy's mind, it doesn't seem that way. Is Buffy's dressing-down of the others justified?

Buffy is dealing with a group of people who have a lot of growing to do and no time to do it. Spike needs to learn to balance his demon and his soul; Willow needs to find the limits of her control over her magic; all the potentials need to learn, not only to fight, but to deal with the stress of their situation. And here's 22-year-old Buffy having to worry about them all. That said, Buffy was still too hard on everyone. The potentials can't be blamed for their failure to do anything constructive because they haven't been given anything constructive to do, other than training. Willow's fear of losing control is a very rational one. And neither we nor Spike know what could happen if he really lets himself go (Gyrus, 2/19/03 8:39).

Were Buffy's words and actions hypocritical?

The issue is whether [Willow and Spike's] situations are symmetrical to Buffy's. After much thought, I don't believe so. Buffy did not ask them to gain more power. She didn't ask Willow to go drain another Rack, she didn't ask Spike to become an UberVamp. What she did was demand that they use the power they already have. This was no different than what Buffy demands of herself. Yes, Willow and Spike have powers rooted in darkness; we now know that Buffy does too. She controls that power in order to use it for good. She demanded that Willow and Spike do the same.

Whether she was wise to do so is a different question. I see Willow and Spike as both barely in control. Whether they are ready to use their power remains to be seen. OTOH, Buffy doesn't have much choice -- if they don't or won't use it, the battle may be over before it even begins.

...I have no doubt that we were meant to see [Buffy's] rejection of additional demonic power as the right choice. The metaphorical attempted rape was barely metaphor. No larger purpose could justify this. ...For this reason, I can't agree with [Shiraz'] suggestion that "it was the slayer's job to bring back the strength from the source of the slayer, the strength they all need to beat the First; without that there was no point to this little exercise." Her obligation ended when they chained her to the rock. Moreover, I doubt that the supercharging would have been effective. I don't see the FE as being defeated by Buffy having SuperSlayer strength (Sophist, 2/19/03 17:16).

Willow has told Kennedy more than once that Kennedy doesn't know what it means for Willow to use magic now--that magic of great power takes Willow dangerously close to her dark side, the side that is willing to use whatever means necessary to get what she wants. When the gang decides magic is the key to getting Buffy back, Kennedy joins them in pressuring Willow to do the honors. So Willow does. And Kennedy finds out exactly what this means. Willow borrows Kennedy's power to finish the spell. The experience isn't "cool". It just hurts. Kennedy decides to shy away from Willow for the time being.


Evil in and the Metaphysics of "Storyteller"

Hell's a-busting out all over: Wackiness is ensuing at Sunnydale High. Shy girls are becoming invisible, stressed-out boys are exploding, and the on-going battle of the high school's pecking-order has become a literal war. Buffy explains to Principal Wood that the Hellmouth is just doing its thing--only more so. The Hellmouth is a region where the the wall between Earth and the demon dimensions is thinner than usual. It regularly radiates mystical energy. This energy has a tendency to transform the intense feelings of people in proximity to into reality. Buffy's seen it many times before--steroid-using jocks becoming monsters, high-school dates coming literally from hell. But these things don't usually happen all at once. So what makes now special? Well, there's a hole in the Hellmouth. As sometimes happens, someone used this mystical region to create a portal to the demon dimensions. The Seal of Danthazar is the cork in the bottle of this portal, and it's leaking.

Activating the Seal of Danthazar: Although Jonathan's blood didn't open the Seal of Danthazar like Spike's blood did, it wasn't an example of Andrew's incompetence. When Jonathan died, his blood seeped over the entire Seal, causing it to glow. What his blood did, in essence, was activate the Seal, making it ready for the ritual with Spike that brought forth the Turok-han. The First Evil brought Andrew and Jonathan out of Mexico specifically for the purpose of activating the Seal. In the form of Warren, it promised Andrew a future as a god if he would procure a special knife and "drive the words" on that knife deep into his friend over the Seal of Danthazar. The words, which are in the ancient demonic language of Proto-Tawarick, say, "The blood which I spill I consecrate to the oldest evil."

This talismanic knife may have amplified the magic which activated the Seal, but why bring Andrew all the way up from Mexico to perform this ritual murder? It is possible that the First used the corruption of Andrew to make Its magic even more powerful. Andrew is someone who would ordinarily never kill anyone, much less a friend. But he is also easy to manipulate--which is the First Evil's most powerful weapon. Getting someone like Andrew to voluntarily commit murder may have been just the ticket to releasing the power of the Seal.

Deactivating the Seal of Danthazar: The blood of Jonathan spilled by Andrew's hand activated the Seal of Danthazar. The tears of Andrew deactivate it again. It's not clear that tears (as opposed to other bodily fluids) are metaphysically required to deactivate the Seal, but on a moral and symbolic level, there is a symmetry to this magic: an act of evil that spilled blood activated the Seal, and an act of contrition that spilled tears deactivates it again. To get genuine tears and genuine contrition, however, Buffy needs a little subterfuge.

She lures Andrew down into the high school basement by claiming that his knowledge of Proto-Tawarick is required to deactivate the Seal. But that's not what Willow's research revealed. Once down in the basement, Buffy tells Andrew that only his blood can deactivate the Seal--and that she might, in the process, end up killing him, if that's what it takes. Again, not the truth. Frightened that he is near the end, Andrew starts crying. He confesses that he killed Jonathan and that some part of him knew reality from fantasy when he did it. His tears fall on the Seal. It stops glowing. Above ground, things go back to normal at Sunnydale High.

Vampires and video tape

Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "Storyteller"


"I document, I don't participate."

Andrew doesn't want to face up to the role he played in the First Evil's plans. He fancies himself the story-teller, not the story, an outsider to the events going on around him. But his camera is a shield. He is a murderer, and he became one because of his tendency to slip easily from reality to fantasy. He turns the people in Buffy's house into characters in a story. He rewrites the death of Jonathan more than once as if the past were mere words on a page. If life is just a story, then he can't be held responsible; he's just following a script. But underneath it all, he knows the truth. So Buffy tells him a couple stories of her own to bring him face to face with reality.

Buffy asked Andrew if his blood and his death would redeem him, to which he tearfully answer no. The message is that Andrew cannot redeem himself. None of us can redeem ourselves. If we get any redemption, it is from God (or whatever passes for God in Joss' mind).

...Once we have reached the conclusion that we cannot redeem (or save) ourselves, all that is left is to admit (or confess) to our sins, ask for forgiveness, and then move on to do good works (Robert, 2/25/03 20:30).

It's been a year since Xander left Anya at the altar, and the ex-couple's feelings are a little confused. Xander still believes that stopping the wedding was the right thing to do, but he didn't want that to end their relationship at the time. Anya ended their relationship, but she still gets jealous when Xander dates someone else. They still love each other--that hasn't changed. But neither of them is sure that that love means they have a future together. The round of true confessions leads them right back where they started three and a half years ago--in bed. And this time, it would appear that Anya's original plan to "put Xander behind her" actually works. Figuratively speaking, of course. One imagines they were face to face for the actual event itself.

When Principal Wood stands on the Seal of Danthazar, his eyes go white. He turns to Buffy and angrily tells her that he knows that she's "screwing that vampire" and calls her a "filthy whore". It's the Hellmouth's energy effecting him of course, but if it's effecting him like it has everyone else, then it's turning his feelings into reality. Is Wood "possessed" by a distrust of Buffy and a desire for vengeance? He's working with Buffy to save the world, but he's aware of the Slayer's connection to the vampire that killed his mother. And though he's fought at Spike's side, the temptation to stake him can't be too far below the surface. Rioting students block Wood's wood until the influence of the Hellmouth is damned up, but that only puts off Wood's confrontation with Spike for another day.

Principal Wood seems undecided, in his cooler moments, about whether to take vengeance on Spike. Should he do it? This question hinges on several issues:

(1) Is Souled Spike responsible for the actions of the soulless demon Spike?

(2) If (1) is so, is Spike entitled to the chance that Buffy gives Andrew--to confess his sins and go and sin no more? Or does he deserve to die for what he did to Nikki and others?

(3) If Spike is entitled to a second chance like Andrew, will he take it? Will he recognize his culpability in his crimes (assuming he has any)? Will he continue to fight for good?

(4) And regardless of whether he is entitled or not, might it be prudent to keep Spike alive so that he can help Buffy fight, if he is willing to?

Lies My Parents Told Me

The Metaphysics of "Lies My Parents Told Me"

The First Evil: Deactivating the Seal of Danthazar has made things quiet again at Sunnydale High, but it's the calm before the storm. The seers of the Westbury coven tell Giles that the First Evil is gathering Its forces. War is coming.

The Prokaryote Stone is a talisman that performs a "magical" form of psychotherapy. It enters the cerebral cortex through the optic nerve and unleashes memories that are subconsciously effecting a person's behavior. The First Evil brainwashed Spike to kill on command. Giles hopes this talisman will reveal the trigger that sets Spike off, and then disarm it.

The gang chains Spike to the wall in the basement. Willow approaches him, incanting:

Kun'ati belek sup'sion
Bok'vata im kele'beshus
Ek'vota mor'osh boota'ke

The stone grows soft and worm-like. It crawls into Spike's brain. There, it triggers three successive visions of the past, but not all at once. The first vision occurs while the stone is still inside Spike. The other two happen after the stone drops out. During the visions, Spike is essentially disabled and unaware of the outside world.

Uncovering Spike's trigger

Memory 1: Spike sees himself as the mortal William reading a poem to his sickly mother, Anne. Anne praises his poem. She tells him he needs a woman in his life. He replies that he has a woman in his life, meaning her. He wants a wife, but he swears to always look after her. She sings "Early One Morning" to him.

This song is the trigger. Back in the present, Spike vamps out. He grabs Buffy's neck, then hits Dawn. The chains hold him back from doing anything else. The stone comes out of his eye. He tells them his mother used to sing the trigger song to him as a child. He is reluctant to tell them more than that. The stone has focused in on the starting point of his trauma.

Memory 2: While still in the basement, Spike remembers bringing Drusilla home after she made him into a vampire. VampWilliam tells Dru of the havoc the three of them will wreak--"you, me and mother." He tells his mother that he is a vampire. He tells her they will be together forever, then embraces her and turns her into a vampire, too.

Later, Principal Wood takes Spike to a shed at his home where the walls are lined with crosses. He goes over to a computer and calls up the song "Early One Morning". Spike vamps out. Wood attacks him. Spike has his third memory.

Memory 3: VampAnne cruelly mocks her son, saying all the things she wouldn't say in life. She tries to stake him. VampWilliam ends up staking her instead.

While Spike is having this memory, he is helpless against Wood. But the after-effects of the stone have done their job. Spike has relived the trauma that allowed the First to trigger violence in him. He has carried VampAnne's words inside him for over a century. They are probably what motivated the upper class VampWilliam to become the cockney Spike in the first place--a rebel who didn't care about anything but "fists and fangs". But Spike now believes that these were the words of the demon his mother became. He believes his human mother loved him with all her heart.

Spike plays "Early One Morning", but the song no longer has the power to trigger him.

The Invitation to vampires

[J]ust how did William get back into his house after his vamping? He'd still need an invitation. See Angel needing his little sister to invite him into the house in "The Prodigal", for instance. I got the impression Mrs. the Bloody hadn't seen her sweet little boy since he died, so she couldn't have invited them in. Perhaps a servant? That would have explained the smell of viscera about the place, come to think of it (Honorificus, 3/26/03 12:48).

Evil, Moral Ambiguity and Ethical Quandaries in "Lies My Parents Told Me"

Vampires and their human predecessors

In life, Anne doted over her son William. But vampire Anne does not carry that love into demonhood the way her son manages to. William's mortal devotion to his mother becomes a vampiric devotion. Demonhood brings another side out of Anne. Anne's son was something of a shy mama's boy who enjoyed his mother's company sometimes to the exclusion of the girls he was supposed to be courting. It took an aggressive vampire like Drusilla to get this boy a mate. And even then, William wanted his mother at his side.

Anne's fear of being cruel in life made her bury any unkind feelings she had towards her son. But as a vampire, she is free to feel them. VampAnne mocks his poetry, taunts him for hanging on her apron strings, and implies that his devotion to her is really sexual desire. She rejects him as a companion in death.

Dancing with the Slayer

"You know I love you... but I got a job to do. The mission is what matters."

In 1977 New York, Spike finds himself a Slayer to stalk, fight and kill. He and Nikki battle while her four-year-old son Robin hides behind a bench and watches. Just when it looks like Spike is about to take a bite of his mother, a trash can falls down beside Robin. Nikki butts Spike with her head and throws a stake at him and misses. Spike gets away. Nikki praises Robin for staying low just like she asked him to. But they can't go home--it isn't safe there anymore. She takes him to her Watcher Crowley's house and then goes after Spike. When she finds him on a subway, he gets the advantage and kills her.

Back in the present, Spike tells Wood that he was not the center of Nikki's world. Wood insists his mother loved him, but Spike's words feed his fear that Nikki cared more about "the mission" than she did him. Did she?

"Could Nikki have quit and survived?"

I'd say no -- she'd be dead (and probably by Crowley's hand) if she ever did try to quit. I'd also say she either was pregnant or already a mother when she was called -- the WC would have probably whisked her off for an abortion (was it legal in NY in the 70's? Not that that would matter to the WC) (Malandanza, 3/26/03 9:44).

Nikki was a dedicated Slayer. Nikki loved Robin. I think she went after Spike because she imagined Spike feeding off a young couple in Central Park, or a passenger waiting for the Lexington Avenue subway line at 59th Street. ...Tired and heartsick as she was, she could do no less. She was killed in the line of duty. She should not be judged a failure as a Slayer or a mother or a human being for this (cjl, 3/31/03 8:19).

Should souled Spike feel guilty about Nikki's death?

In his argument with Wood , Spike dismisses Nikki's death as just the "game" between vampires and slayers. Both of them went into the game knowing the rules; she lost, everyone else's life goes on. Cold vampire logic. But later, Spike stops himself from killing Wood "because he killed Wood's mother". In doing so, he acknowledges that his victim's life meant something more than the kill.

Both Buffy and Spike seem to separate the souled being (whether human or vamp) from the unsouled being (pure vamp). Spike isn't willing to see that Vamp!Anne's resentment and cruelty came from Anne herself, and not the demon. Of course, Anne with a soul was a kind, gentle woman who would never say any of those things -- but without a soul, she had no constraints. She could be cruel with impunity. Same with Spike. Just because he has a soul now doesn't mean the killer within is gone. As wrong as his vendetta is, Robin is correct in saying the man who murdered his mother, despite having a shiny new soul, "that man still exists". Like Angelus tells Faith, he's always in Angel. Deep in. Same goes for Spike (Scroll 3/26/03 00:32).

Yes, all the elements of Killer!Spike still reside within him. Yes, he has William's soul. The corporate being, however, is now something different from either Soulless!Spike and William. Just as Angel is different from Angelus or Liam, though he has elements of each. In a very real way, the Spike who killed Nikki ceased to exist when he regained his soul. So Buffy was right, if you take it that way. But Wood was also right, from another pov--what Spike was continues to inform what he's become, and always will (HonorH, 3/26/03 2:18).

Should Spike die Now?

In First Date, Giles told Buffy that Spike was still at the whim of the First's trigger--that he could still kill. Buffy insisted that Spike has a soul, and should be treated with respect. So when Giles demonstrates that the trigger is still active, Buffy unchains Spike anyway, and Giles continues to wonder whether Buffy can think straight when it comes to Spike.

Later, Wood pulls Giles aside. He points out that the First Evil is only waiting for the right time to use Spike's trigger against them. Something needs to be done, and Buffy doesn't seem willing to do it. Giles soon realizes that Wood has a personal vendetta against Spike. But Wood believes that's irrelevant to the larger issue. He knows that Buffy sees Spike as an asset in their fight, but he believes just the opposite will prove true. He asks Giles to keep Buffy away for a few hours while he "takes care of" the "problem" of Spike.

Giles takes Buffy out on patrol. He tells her that as a general, she needs to learn to make the hard decisions. Buffy replies that she's already been doing that. And she has. She tells Giles that she would let Dawn die now if it was necessary to save the world. She agrees that anyone could be expendable in this war. But Giles isn't convinced she's willing to extend this to Spike.

In the meantime, Wood is carrying out his vengeance. He tells Spike that he doesn't want to kill him, that he wants to kill "the monster who took my mother away from me". But just like Daniel Holtz, he doesn't have the monster in front of him. He has the monster with a soul. And while Holtz chose to torment Angel on just those very grounds--taking his son away from him, an act that Angelus would never have cared about--Wood wants to fight the demon clean and pure. So he pulls the trigger. He plays the song that will bring out Spike's monster.

When Buffy realizes that Giles is stalling her, she runs to Spike's defense. And though Spike doesn't need a defender, Buffy isn't happy with Giles or Wood. She sees Wood's actions as motivated purely by revenge. In her mind, Spike is not the danger Wood believes him to be. She tells Giles that Spike is vital to the success of her mission. And "the mission is what matters."

[T]he instant the Council is destroyed, Giles appears to--perhaps almost unconsciously--adopt some of their worst traits, chief among them being the tendency to value their own, abstract opinions over the experiences of the persons actually doing the work. ...Maybe Buffy was wrong to stop Spike's "cure" where she did and trust that it would all turn out okay; maybe she should have been willing to push him further when he refused to get into the source of the trigger. ...but Giles is [getting] carried away by ...the feeling that now he can get it done the way it should be done.

...the relationship between Buffy and Giles has changed ...Now Buffy is the General, and she outranks him, but he does not seem to realize this; for all his insistence that Buffy needs to stand on her own two feet, now that she is actually doing it, he can't adjust to the change in their relationship; he may not even realize (until this episode) that there has been a change (leslie, 3/27/03 10:31).

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