To Heaven and Back: The Return of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Paul F. McDonald - November 4 2001

"A man acteth according to the desires to which he clingeth. After death he goeth to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, he returneth again to this world of action. Thus he who hath desires continueth subject to rebirth."
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad -

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has always been a somewhat controversial show. For the most part, the controversy has centered around how good it is, and how - with a title like that - it has no right to be that good. However, it has drawn some negative criticism from certain conservative factions. Since the time of Socrates, apparently, there have been conservative factions gathering and endlessly complaining that some philosopher, group, band, movie, or television show is somehow corrupting society's youth. The latest diatribe erupted last year from the Parents Television Council, which ranked Buffy as the third worst show on TV, citing questionable examples of episodes containing sex and violence involving young people. Sarah Michelle Gellar, the actress who plays Buffy, took issue with them during an interview with Entertainment Weekly, protesting, "We're like the most religious show out there! We're more religious than 7th Heaven! We're Greek mythology - we answer the big questions! They just make me laugh so hard. I say, 'Come debate me. I want to see you bring your arguments to my face. Because you will lose - so quickly'."

Even a mere cursory glance at the series' last few episodes should make it obvious Gellar has a point. Last season ended with The Gift, the landmark 100th episode, which pitted Buffy against a powerful and psychotic Hellgod, not to mention a moral dilemma that carries a bit more weight and importance than those confronted by the Parents Television Council. The dilemma involved whether she should kill her beloved younger sister Dawn and save the universe, or protect her even if it meant sacrificing the same universe. A way around it wasn't presented until the final moments of season five, when Buffy realized she could take the place of Dawn and she did so, joyfully sacrificing herself so her sister could live on and grow up. And far from being a sleight-of-hand ratings stunt, the Slayer literally died, her body buried in a secret grave by her friends.

Behind all the metaphor and drama of the last season, a very powerful question was being addressed - namely, how does one live in a world where Nature demands killing and death all the time, yet still retain anything that even slightly resembles genuine humanity? This issue is even more important in light of recent events. Clearly, the answer to it and other vital issues cannot be given by the Parents Television Council or any like-minded organization, all characterized by a stubborn refusal or inability to deal with any kind of real moral dilemmas beyond whether or not a television show has too many bad words in it. No, only a modern myth like Buffy can probe the existential issues that delve into the very heart of what it means to be a human being in contemporary society.

At the beginning of The Gift, Buffy has been engaged in a five year war with the vampires and demons that populate her world. This war has involved constant sacrifice and loss for her and her friends, and she can no longer handle it. When confronted with the possibility that she may have to kill her sister - who also happens to be a mystical Key that can open up the doors separating dimensions - she admits she is thinking about quitting. Confessing to Giles, her Watcher, Buffy says that she doesn't understand. "I don't know how to live in this world, if these are the choices ... if everything just gets stripped away, I don't see the point." On the eve of her greatest battle, she is desperate and confused.

The situation is remarkably similar to the one presented in the Bhagavad Gita, which is to be found in the sixth book of India's national epic, the Mahabharata. It tells the story of a war between two clans of a royal family, and takes place on a battlefield. Overseeing the army of one family, Arjuna is filled with doubt and anxiety before a huge battle begins. Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Gita depicts Arjuna as being "overwhelmed with pity," having "tears streaming from his eyes," and a "mind heavy with grief." He does not know how to go on, and refuses to spill the blood of his kinsmen. He is counseled by his charioteer Krishna, and the poem becomes a long dialogue between the two, one essentially revolving around the issues Buffy faces.

Though both of the young warriors long to quit and retire in peace, Krishna advices that "No one, not even for an instant, can exist without acting," and that neither action nor renunciation can provide any final answers regarding how to live in the world. Krishna, of course, is revealed to be God incarnate, and points out that if he stopped acting, "worlds would plunge into ruin; chaos would overpower all beings; mankind would be destroyed." This would also literally happen in the Buffyverse if Buffy refused to act. The solution posed in the Gita is simply to act when it is required, but do so with detachment. The dangers of enjoying slaying too much have been a constant theme in the series. The playing field is much larger than the individual person, and the person has to recognize this. The Indian epic states that when one knows wisdom, "you see all beings in yourself." Arjuna comes to this realization through Krishna, and Buffy through Dawn. Both are granted a vision of the whole, one on a battlefield in a stunning vision of the infinite universe, the other on a tower in a simple sunrise. Each act in the end.

In the case of Buffy, her final act, her gift in death, does earn her a blissful reward. Contrary to what some of her friends believed, even though she was killed by mystical energy, her essence - her soul - is not sucked into a demon dimension. Rather, as she confides to the reformed vampire Spike after she is resurrected through a spell, she was in an afterlife of peace and love. She believes she was in what she could only describe as "heaven." But she is brought back, and the consequences of that are sure to inform the rest of the sixth season. Certainly characters have traveled in-between demon dimensions before, but the task in front of Buffy now is how to recover from being torn from a dimension not of torment, but of paradise.

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

"Gilgamesh, why dost thou run about this way?
The life that thou art seeking, thou wilt never find.
When the gods created man,
they put death upon mankind,
and held life in their own hands."
- The Epic of Gilgamesh

Buffy's final words to her closest friends - Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara, and Giles - are both poignant and revealing. She tells her sister to let them know she's figured it out, and she's okay. She tells her that she loves them, and that they all "have to take care of each other." She admits there is nothing more difficult than living in the world, but turns it into an invitation for them to be braves, and lives for her.

There is a parallel between this and some of the last words spoken by Christ in the gospels, as he tells his disciples to "love one another as I have loved you." The Slayer who was full of love died so that others could live, but as it so often happens in the world of myth, the gift is not understood and ends up being rejected. Those called on to live, to continue their own hero journeys, each responded in different ways. Some dealt with it as well as they could, while others refused to deal with it at all.

In the larger context of Western civilization, Buffy's challenge to live brings with it profound implications. According to the beloved teacher and myth interpreter Joseph Campbell, this is indeed the great theme of the West, and the reason why the individual has taken on such celebrated dimensions in it. Buffy herself has always been the individual rather than the one who clings to whatever social nexus they find themselves a part of, the one Campbell defined in Creative Mythology as the character who has "the courage, namely, to affirm against tradition whatever knowledge stands confirmed in one's own controlled experience." The task confronting the Scooby Gang is to carve out their own identities in the wake of their bygone adolescence, as well as the passing of their devoted friend, but that task is largely sublimated by the Slayer's return.

Unaware of the plot to resurrect Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Dawn apparently handle her death better than the others. After some amusing incidents born out of his attempt to train the Buffybot, Buffy's robot replica, as well as teach it some Eastern philosophy, Giles finally summons up the courage to leave Sunnydale. While doubting his performance as a Watcher, he seems steadfast in his resolve to return to England and basically "get a life." This is what Buffy would want. As for Spike and Dawn, their relationship continues to unfold in its curious mixture of strange and sweet. Though on edge and depressed, Spike becomes something of a permanent babysitter for Dawn, an overprotective big brother who's dedication to her has only strengthened in the aftermath of Buffy's death. For her part, Dawn demonstrates powerful resolve, continuing to go to school and even - with the Buffybot's really enthusiastic help - attends a Parent-Teacher Conference. Despite trying to work a spell to bring Joyce Summers back to life last year after her sudden death, Spike and Dawn seem content to let Buffy rest in peace. When the Slayer does come back, Dawn insists that "You said to be brave. I've tried," and it is plain to see that she did just that.

The four who raised Buffy all have differing opinions on their monumental undertaking, but as a result of Willow's persuasion, they agree to do it. Though Anya is the one who finds the Urn of Osiris on E-Bay, she is actually following Buffy's wishes as well. Her continuous and often inappropriate nagging to Xander to announce their engagement is nevertheless symptomatic of someone willing to let go of the past. She says that while she misses Buffy, "life shouldn't just stop." Buffy no doubt would agree, and even died so that it wouldn't. Xander does not go along with her, pointing out that everything can be different if the resurrection spell works. Still, even he has major reservations about it, continuing to emerge as the voice of reason among the Scooby Gang. He confronts Willow and tells her that "It feels wrong." Tara, perpetually more in tune with the spiritual side of magic than Willow, goes further, stating succintly that "It is wrong." Yet, obviously influenced a great deal by Willow's arguments and rationalizing, she agrees to help bring Buffy back to life.

The dictate of the show has always been change, but it is incredibly difficult to reconcile some of the changes in Willow. At the beginning of season one, she is a shy, unassertive computer nerd who has frog fear, dresses in sweaters with cute animals on them, and can only make a few vowel sounds when she's around a boy she really likes. Flash foward to the beginning of season six, and she has become a confident, perhaps even manipulative, leader, a sorceress who undergoes all kinds of trials and tribulations to bring Buffy back, including coughing up a long serpent. Calling on Osiris, the Egyptian lord of the underworld, she is growing more and more powerful, though her resolve to bring back her friend is more frightening than it is touching. One cannot help but question what effect all the black magic is having on her. The inevitable comparisons with Dark Phoenix, a series of X-Men comic books featuring a mutant who became so powerful she turned evil and eventually had to sacrifice herself, are already being made. In his review of Bargaining Parts 1 and 2, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly drew the parallel, getting the sense that Willow is on a path to a very dark place.

The overriding factor that appears to be driving Willow to all these acts is simply guilt, though the source of it is unclear. Throughout the premiere, she insists that Buffy is "counting" on them, and that they have to save her. This of course contradicts the Slayer's final words. Yet Willow hypothesizes that she is trapped in a hell dimension, despite the fact that there is no evidence a person's soul goes there without their body, or that any such dimension is linked to the afterlife in the Buffyverse. She does not try to contact Buffy's spirit, rather simply insists that she must be brought back. The intense guilt she feels is inexplicable, but perhaps she is using that as a substitute for the normal grieving process.

Over the course of the series, it has become apparent that Willow does not handle loss well. Magic provides her with the perception of an outlet, and she uses it after Oz leaves in season four and it has near disastrous effects. Whatever happened over the last summer, Willow probably never dealt with her pain on any conscious level. The possibility of bringing Buffy back perhaps held her in a kind of emotional stasis. It is not until the ritual is over and the UrnoOf Osiris is destroyed that Willow realizes her friend is truly "gone" and she looks horror-stricken. Her psychological paralysis over the summer could help explain some of her actions and thinking.

In this state of mind, Willow is capable of things she normally wouldn't be. Her denial perhaps began in the moments after Buffy's death, and it has permeated much of what has transpired after it. There has been a lot of discussion concerning Willow's violent killing of the deer in Bargaining Part 1. She seems detached from the whole thing and suspiciously looks around after it is over. The tranquil scene of the green wood and the flowing river is in sharp contrast to the bloody sacrifice that goes on there. And whether it is intentional symbolism or not, the deer in practically all cultures is a very positive symbol of the regenerative powers of nature. And it is extinguished by Willow's hand.

Likewise, Willow's programming of the Buffybot may have had some subconscious influence on her. After it is damaged by a stray vampire, it returns to Willow and she tells it "I'm gonna make you good as new. I promise." One cannot help but realize these words are as much directed at Buffy as the Buffybot. And she is eager for praise where both are concerned, whether her actions are getting the Buffybot's head back on or raising Buffy herself from the grave. Yet she cannot program the real Buffy, even though she continually insists to the rest of the Scooby Gang that she's "okay," as if the resurrection spell was some kind of a science experiment she had conducted. It is also curious that Willow positions herself at the head of the table in the Summers' home, as if she has some latent need to usurp Buffy as well as control her. Over the course of just a few episodes, Willow lies to her friends, becomes increasingly arrogant about her powers, and even threatens Giles when he questions her methods.

Whatever the consequences of all this are, Willow did not answer Buffy's call to live and take care of her friends. On the contrary, when all the truth is known, her actions may fracture them beyond the point of reconciliation. Out of all of them, Willow did not simply reject Buffy's gift, but actively betrayed it. As the old saying goes, decide to become a Christ, and there is always a Judas waiting in the shadows. Yet it is Willow's act that sets Buffy on one of the most difficult hero paths of all, that of the return. Having lost what Joseph Campbell called in his classic The Hero With A Thousand Faces "the bliss of the deep abode," Buffy is facing the call to adventure yet again. For as we have seen this season and as Campbell has written, "Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking on the door."

That Old Time Religion

Faustus: Where are you damned?
Mephistophilis: In hell?
Faustus: How come it then that thou are out of hell?
Mephistophilis: Why this is hell, nor am I out of it:
Think'st thou that I who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
- Christopher Marlowe
Doctor Faustus

It was promised by the show's producers that Buffy's transition back into the mortal coil was not going to be easy, and so far, that promise has been fulfilled. The literal rebirth and subsequent digging out of her own grave and trek through a terrorized Sunnydale would have been bad enough for Buffy, but the fact that she is torn out of heaven into such a situation makes it all the more traumatic. In the middle of that long night, when she finally asks Dawn in an impossibly small voice, "Is this hell?", her words carry even more resonance. The idea that everywhere is hell after one has seen heaven is an old one, as Mephistopheles comments in Doctor Faustus, "All places shall be hell that is not Heaven." That her friends "rescue" her from her eternal home is a most unexpected revelation, and adds a much more poignant side to the events surrounding her resurrection.

In her final moments of life in The Gift, Buffy clearly experiences something profound. It is a crystallizing moment for her, one in which she gains some sort of crucial insight into the problem of being. What that is never explicitly stated, though she remarks how "shiny" and "clear" everything was.

In the realm of healthy speculation, it can be cautiously asserted that she attains something like the state of enlightenment Zen Buddhists refer to as satori. It is largely ineffable, but it is conversely referred to as both the "pure mind" and the "no mind." Eastern scholar D.T. Suzuki, in an attempt to translate it into Western terms, once wryly described it as being with God before he said "Let there be light." And there has been some Buddhist imagery in the series before, particularly in the form of Buddha statuettes in the Magic Shop. This could easily carry over into The Gift, as Buffy dives into the middle of the world-threatening portal and closes it with her blood, much in the same way the Buddha sat in the Immovable Spot and eliminated suffering with a single finger touching the ground. Through both her actions and realization, Buffy perhaps becomes a Bodhisattva, a life-affirming lotus, extinguishing the whirlpool of samsara - or suffering - with her compassion for all beings.

Such a mystical realization makes the passage of the hero back into the world of common day all the more fraught with peril. It can render everyday life all but unbearable. This obviously contributes to Buffy's interpretation of this reality as hell, though she may never completely experience the moment - or even totally remember it - again. Clearly, when she goes up the tower in Bargaining, she has lost it, that pure mind, that divine epiphany, whatever it is. If she does go on to recover it, her reintegration into society will be to transmit what Campbell in Hero called the "ego-shattering, life-redeeming elixir" to the rest of the world. There will inevitably be a cost, as the traumatized Buffy has already seen, a "return blow of reasonable queries, hard resentment, and good people at a loss to comprehend."

The physical facts of Buffy's resurrection paint a very grim picture with no hint of triumph in it. Especially in light of Nightmares in season one when Buffy reveals a fear of being buried alive, the sight of her frantically clawing her way out of a coffin is quite unsettling. Pulling herself out of the earth, the audience can't help but recall vampires come out of the ground in the same manner. And indeed, Spike instantly recognizes what Buffy's bleeding fists mean when she returns home, drawing another parallel between the two, as well as the Slayer with the vampire world. It is not unlike a new birth, with all the pain that involves.

Her return does not get any easier when she leaves her grave in the woods behind and staggers into Sunnydale. The town is under siege courtesy of a group of particularly vile demons, a biker gang that is wreaking all kinds of havoc breaking glass, torching buildings, and destroying property. Without the Slayer to oppose them, they have taken control of the town with very little problem.

The world Buffy returns to is a world ablaze, all shattered glass and jagged edges. Blurry-eyed and disoriented, she makes her way through a broken and bleeding landscape, one punctuated by destruction and violence. When she tries to rest and leans up against a car, a blaring alarm, angry shouts, and a loud shotgun blast greet her. Her passage continues until she runs into a demon horde who use their motorcycles to pull the Buffybot apart right in front of her eyes, and are eager to do the same to her.

This is quite frankly T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, the spiritual shipwreck of modern society. Thus the landscape is also evocative of Buffy's state of mind as she wanders through it in eerie silence. In Hero, Campbell speaks of Ovid's recount of myths in Metamorphoses, and how he tells "again and again the shocking transformations that take place when the insulation between a highly concentrated power center and the lower power field of the surrounding world is, without proper precautions, suddenly taken away." Buffy's exodus from heaven and subsequent reassertion into the world echoes such trauma perfectly. And as always when the hero appears or reappears on the scene, the enemy is clearly in the position of power, and has made the land its own.

Leaving behind the eternal and once again emerging on the temporal stage, Buffy has her work cut out for her, and will essentially have to learn to walk all over again. She is in uncharted waters now, having crossed not only the world divisions but the ones separating life and death as well. The destruction of the Buffybot is metaphoric of the dissolution of forms - the end of programmed predictability. That Buffy immediately seeks out the tower and yet fails to attain any bit of insight is also symbolic of this. The tower collapses, as all towers in myth inevitably do, and so there is no chance of recapturing whatever life-affirming bliss she found there. The tower had to fall for the same reason that Sunnydale High had to be blown up in Graduation Day - in order to bring to the forefront the idea that all paths to the past have been irrevocably severed, and there is absolutely nowhere to go but forward.

Yet to begin with, Buffy is arguably resistant to the idea. The moment she sees her friends, her immediate reaction is to run away from them. Both Xander and Dawn try to assure her that she's "home," but whenever the word is uttered, her facial expression is one of genuine horror. Indeed, she appears similarly distressed when Willow tells her the next day that "everything's normal." Only after it is established where Buffy's soul had found a new home do the terrible expressions on her face begin to make sense.

Legend and fairy tale are filled with stories of heroes who travel into the beyond only to encounter grave danger on the return trip. Campbell tells the story of Rip van Winkle in the section in Hero regarding the hero's return. Rip has had a very, very long nap, and is astounded by how much the world has changed since he fell asleep. When he goes back to his village, long beard and all, he is met by the people living in it, and is accused of being a Tory spy. Campbell writes how they "crowded around him, eyeing him from head to foot with great curiosity." The scene in After Life when the Scooby Gang comes back to the Summers' house to discover the now living Buffy there echoes this. They crowd around her, asking where she's been, what it was like, does she need anything, would she like a pizza, etc. Only Spike and Dawn seem willing to just let her be, Dawn telling the group twice to back off.

Campbell likewise writes of the Irish hero Oisin who came upon a cursed woman with the head of a pig. She insisted the spell would be lifted if only he would marry her, and he did so. From there, they went to Tir na n-Og, the Land of Youth, and ruled it for many years. When he finally returned after three hundred years and accidentally touched the soil of earth, he found himself to be a blind old man. Generally speaking, the more pleasant and harmonious the other world traveled to is, the greater the difficulty of the return to this one. Buffy and Oisin both pay a price for their transition back into the mortal coil. As Campbell explains of the Irish hero, this is so "Since his entire personality had been brought into accord with the powers and forms of timelessness, all of him stood to be refuted, blasted, by the impact of the forms and powers of time." This is likewise true of Buffy, for which forms and time have become a dimension of hell in their own right.

Can You Take Me Higher?

"Our birth is but a sleeping and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar. "
- William Wordsworth
Immortality Ode

The idea of an afterlife has always been rather ambiguous in the Buffyverse. There have been ghosts around before, but no definitive resting-place for the dead had been established. The concept of the soul has been of great importance in this cosmology, chiefly because of Angel. Vampires in the Buffyverse can claim a person's body, but not their spirit. Angel is a good vampire only because gypsies cursed him and restored his soul. Traditionally, the soul in the Buffy mythos was more a person's conscience or guiding star rather than an immortal spirit that faced either salvation or damnation after death, but that has apparently changed.

The fact is, Buffy's soul, her essence, experienced an afterlife, and that afterlife she characterized as heaven. There have been many discussions about what actually constituted her experience. Fortunately, it was vague enough o allow for multiple interpretations. There were no billowy clouds or pearly gates or angels with harps, rather, just a plethora of pleasant sensations. She reveals to Spike she was simply in a place where she was at peace, and that she had felt loved and warm.

Several of her statements are very interesting, such as her remarks that "Time didn't mean anything" and "Nothing had form." Most people think of eternity as a very long time, but as Campbell pointed out in The Power of Myth series, eternity does not reflect time at all. Rather, it is a dimension of reality that shuts out the very notion of time. William Blake established the same idea a century or so earlier, writing that "eternity opens from the centre of an atom." It is a timeless moment, and that is apparently the idea Buffy is trying to get across. Likewise, while she is apparently able to maintain some aspect of her personal identity, her heaven is also unique in that it lacks any semblance of forms.

It is not inappropriate to speculate that, based on her last few moments of life and the look of absolute peace that passed across her face when she dies, that she in fact creates her own afterlife. Such an idea can be backed up with a certain number of arguments. For one, real world near death experiences have hinted that whatever dimensions might lie in the great beyond are malleable to whatever expectations might be informing them. There are plenty of reported incidents where the person approaching death sees visions reflecting a particular religious system, usually the one they adhere to. In the case of Buffy, who by her own admission doesn't understand "theology" or "dimensions," she would experience a purely formless version of heaven, entering it with no preconceived ideas.

In the East, in particular, this would make a certain amount of sense. Both Hindus and Buddhists believe the feeling of their final thoughts absorbs a person after they die, so Buffy would naturally have experienced an extraordinarily peaceful afterlife. Not to mention, Eastern religions also often boast a multiplicity of hells, not unlike the Buffy cosmology. It is also worth pointing out that in the original Buffy movie, the Slayer is reincarnated over and over again, though this is not the case in the television series. Still, Buffy remarks about how she felt "complete" and "finished," so even if rebirth is a reality in the Buffyverse, she had completely fulfilled her development on earth and would not have had to return in any case. If her heaven was in fact a reflection of the love in her own soul at the moment of her appointed death, it makes her return even more tragic, for it is very possible that she might never find her way back there again.

Touched By A Slayer

"The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

There is a nice shot in After Life when the newly risen Buffy is out on patrol, and she is walking through a cemetery. She is passing by a statue of an angel, the camera pans by her, and for a moment, it looks as if she has grown wings. It is bittersweet nonetheless, for while she was once truly a heavenly creature, now she only has wings of stone, and is bound fast to earth. After enjoying the full embrace of bliss and eternity, she is once more stationed on the precarious edge of the Hellmouth, a caged soul caught in the harsh world of time and forms.

Yet her return has been made by others before, and there are still things to hold her to the world. For instance, their positions and rolls now reversed, Dawn and Buffy face off once again on the tower in Bargaining Part II. With a haunted, desperate look about her, we can only assume that Buffy has ascended the tower to commit suicide, to try to reclaim what she has just lost. Staring at the concrete far below with wistful eyes, she only responds to Dawn when she is threatened by falling debris, not even responding as she is implored to "live" again herself. Buffy has returned to what Campbell called those "self-terrorized beings who live in fright of their own nightmare," and her concern for her sister allows her to make a willing return for those beings still in need of help. This is the point at which the Bodhisattva turns away from the inner world of paradise to the outer world of suffering, deliberately acting out of compassion for another.

Where this return will end is difficult to determine. For now, Buffy will confront the normal pressures and responsibilities of a grown-up, with all the lunch-making, house payments, and leaking water pipes that encompasses. The theme of season six is simply "Oh, grow up," and no doubt those who do will be distinguished from those who don't. The geeky Trio of self-styled super villains who are causing trouble for Buffy bring this point home. They still apparently live in their parents' basements, and go about robbing banks and striving to turn life itself into a series of role-playing games, rather than facing the genuine struggle that it is.

As for the principal characters, all of them have certain problems to overcome as they actively embark on the road to adulthood. Xander has to deal with his engagement to Anya. Spike has to grow out of his role as a vampire who once fed on humans. Perhaps Willow has one of the most difficult journeys, her reliance on magic allowing her to cross one line after another, until she finally casts a spell on Tara at the end of All The Way to make her forget about an argument they have had. Taking away Tara's free will could have devastating consequences, especially since she is the only magic-user around that might be able to get through to Willow. With all the evidence seen so far this season, Tara's suggestion that The Powers That Be might have allowed the demon bikers to wreak havoc on Sunnydale in order to stop the resurrection spell may be quite accurate.

Still, this is first and foremost Buffy's journey through young adulthood, and in the end she will have the most difficult trials to face. She will again have to find her place in the world, the old one being metaphorically washed away in Flooded, hence Xander's comment about rounding up two of every animal. The old world of adolescence has been destroyed, and the new phase of life now being confronted will require that the waters recede and a new one be created. The image of water flooding the basement of Buffy's house is actually a frequent dream sequence, water symbolizing the deeper levels of the psyche. In his Dictionary of Symbolism, Hans Biedermann explains "[Water] is the fundamental symbol of all the energy of the unconscious - an energy that can be dangerous when it overflows its proper limits." This is what is happening in Flooded, and after existing in the tranquil heaven of pure consciousness, now Buffy has to once more find balance between the conscious world of surface light and the unconscious one of cavernous dark. That she uses a hammer in The Gift to defeat Glory corresponds to the Platonic idea of a hammer as a dispeller of night and an object evocative of the sun. All the hard knocks she receives on her re-entry into the mortal world are thus symptomatic of the fate of all light-wielding visionaries coming into a world grown comfortable with blindness.

Writer and producer Marti Noxon has hinted in various interviews that perhaps there is more to the role of Slayer than any have really imagined. If this is so, Buffy is a vessel for some truly infinite potential rather than just a destroyer of the forces of evil. She has never been a typical Slayer as it is, and maybe the emphasis on the easily-programmed Buffybot is meant to further establish this. Spike tells Dawn that the Buffybot was so popular at PTA because schools are basically factories churning out "mindless automatons." Nietzsche would have agreed with him on this, once writing that "The aim of institutions - whether scientific, artistic, political, or religious - never is to produce and foster exceptional examples; institutions are concerned, rather, for the usual, the normal, and the mediocre." Buffy, both the character and the television show, has never been usual, or normal, or mediocre, and has many times dared to trespass on the forbidden ground of the exceptional. If there really is more to being a Slayer than staking vampires, I wouldn't put it past this one to realize that the two worlds are in fact one - that the "kingdom" is within her - and maybe even break all the rules once and for all by establishing a little bit of heaven at the very mouth of hell.

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