Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Episode 1 “Bargaining, Part I”
Buffy is dead, and in her place, the Scoobies are attempting to slay vampires as a gang, including Spike, the newly restored Tara, and even BuffyBot. (Janes explained this to me: apparently no new Slayer was called during this death because each Slayer only spawns (so to speak) one new Slayer, and Buffy’s first death already led to Faith being called, so this slightly more real death doesn’t cause any new Slayers. I feel like this is not made clear enough in canon.)
Willow and Tara are back together now that Tara’s been restored to her mind. But they’re stressed because they’re also trying to convince the school that Willow is still under the care of her older sister Buffy. Seems somewhat risky, given that they erected a fairly conspicuous gravestone for her at the end of last season! Luckily, BuffyBot’s unusually direct yet peppy way of expressing basic truths gets everyone else talking and somehow she passes their Turing test.
Meanwhile, Giles has promised to leave the store to Anya but he’s not actually gone yet. This stresses Anya out because she wants to be the boss, but after a lot of dithering Giles finally leaves. The gang all bid him good-bye at the departure gate, which is how you know this episode is really old, like pre-9/11 old. And as for Anya, she’s secretly engaged to Xander but he doesn’t want to tell anyone yet. Just in case you thought Xander couldn’t get any worse.
We see that Spike has continued to honor his promise to Buffy to protect Dawn; he’s the trusted babysitter when the Scoobs go off and have secret meetings. The secret meetings turn out to be about a spell Willow’s working on: a spell that requires a special urn that they’re going to use to resurrect Buffy. Xander gets a little nervous when push comes to shove, but Willow is made of steel. She believes Buffy might be in some kind of hell dimension because she saved them all and is determined to rescue her. She even sacrifices a baby deer!
BuffyBot’s cover is blown when she short-circuits during a routine patrol fight with a vampire. The vampire passes the tip on to a gang of biker monsters (Spike later explains they’re called hellions) who decide to throw a party now that the Slayer is out of town. Just as Willow gets to the point in her resurrection spell where a snake comes out of her mouth and some Very Fancy Special Effects surround her with a red flame, BuffyBot navigates to Willow for help fighting the party of hellions. They interrupt the spell, Willow collapses, and the gang just barely escape. (Xander decides to be useful for a change and rescues the unconscious Willow.)
Notes from a New Fan:
- The first thing in the previouslies is Spike talking about loving Buffy… already looking forward to this season!
- Willow standing on top of the crypt sending thoughts to everyone’s mind is so intense.
- The Buffy who shows up to save the day is BuffyBot, isn’t it? They’re not gonna get me the second time!
- Spike’s summary of Giles’ life is “Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, almost got shagged, cuppa tea.”
- Willow mentions that she used to be obsessed with knock-knock jokes, and BuffyBot immediately goes, “Who’s there?” Hee! Reminds me of my toddler, who gets very excited about patting her head no matter what the context is where you say the word “head.” She’s just proud she knows something!
- Looks like the team is still not letting Dawn come along on the raids. Poor Dawn.
- Xander’s hair looks better, but he still sucks. He’s bragging about bringing tools to a house of chicks? Oh come on.
- “You know, Buffy… bot, maybe you should let the machine answer the phone,” Willow says. Are they calling her that to her face?! That’s hilarious.
- It must be so hard for them all to have this almost facsimile of Buffy, oof. Especially when she’s hugging Dawn. Poor girl.
- Anya and Giles get in a slap fight. And I’m on Team Anya, for the record. Giles tells Anya that some numbers look off and then says, “Pull the numbers again.” Um… that’s not how you talk to someone just because you pay them. Rude.
- I kept thinking Xander and Anya were about to break up so I’m vaguely surprised they’re still going strong at the beginning of the season. Or strong-ish… I guess it’s not a sign of being completely solid when you’re secretly engaged and only one of you wants to talk about it.
- Anya gets the magic urn on eBay. How modern!
- Haven’t we established from Doc that bringing back the dead is likely to not actually bring them back anyway? This spell seems like a bad idea!
- I wonder why Willow doesn’t involve Spike and Dawn in the resurrection thing. Why specifically would Xander and Anya “understand” better than those two?
- There’s some riffing about zombies which reminds me that Buffy hasn’t really done a zombie episode yet, right? That seems like a big miss! I mean, they had time for an episode about being possessed by hyenas, which is… certainly a bigger leap. [There was Dead Man’s Party in season 3! But it’s not super memorable. –Janes]
- Willow says this isn’t like Dawn bringing Mrs. Buffy back because Buffy was killed by magical energy and didn’t die a natural death. Also they don’t even know where she is. Although they do know where her body is, her soul could be somewhere else–according to Willow.
- Poor Spike nearly bursts into tears when the BuffyBot compliments his washboard abs because it reminds him of how he’s in love with real Buffy and she’s dead. I mean, I guess it serves him right for ordering up a BuffyBot to begin with, but it is sad.
- BuffyBot asks why Giles is still here if his job is done. Ouch.
- While trying to train BuffyBot to breathe while fighting, Giles tells her to think of her breath as “chi” and then claims to be bringing “Eastern philosophy” to his training. Which is sort of like putting Nutella on an Eggo and then claiming to be bringing Italian cooking to your kitchen.
- We learn only when Giles talks to BuffyBot (who he presumably feels he can confide in because she’s not human–which will be a theme of this season, now that I’ve watched a bit more of it) that he feels guilty for sending Buffy to her death in the line of duty. Um, I think she pretty much did that herself… Giles was trying to get her to kill Dawn! Why does Giles always take all the credit for everything?
- Ooh, Willow has to stab a BABY DEER for this spell? That’s even darker than Amy the Rat!
- I notice Willow’s wardrobe has a lot less in the way of kindergarten teacher-esque appliqués this season. Do you think Allyson Hannigan staged a rebellion and demanded to look slightly less embarrassing? I can just imagine the negotiations after she got famous for American Pie: “I get an ‘and’ during the credits and ALSO a new wardrobe.”
- Ugh, I hate how TV characters always leave without saying goodbye. Does anyone do that in real life?
- Is Giles really leaving the show? I was shocked when I thought he died, and I’m even more shocked now because, like, Buffy is (obviously) coming back! But then why would the show bother with all the sad music as he hugs everyone? Hmmm. I’m putting my money on… Giles comes back in 3 to 5 episodes. Maybe Anthony whats-his-face had to shoot a movie or something.
- I really appreciate how Willow and Tara are like other big sisters to Dawn. Watching their relationship develop has been one of the main pleasures of the Dawn saga. (Also Spike’s relationship with her is sweet, of course.)
- Willow puts on a sexy off-the-shoulder witch dress for the ritual. There definitely must have been a wardrobe rebellion from Alyson Hannigan.
- Question. How come a snake comes out of Willow’s mouth when she does the resurrection spell, but that didn’t happen when Dawn resurrected Mrs. Buffy? [I think it’s because Dawn isn’t a real witch, so she did a janky reanimating zombie spell while Willow actually brought Buffy back to life. I wondered that too, though! –Janes]
- Question 2. If this Warren guy can make a bot that fights demons almost as well as Buffy, why don’t they just get him to make a bunch? I get it, I mean, robot armies are dystopian, but maybe it’s OK when you live on a Hellmouth? Hmm, do I sound like a fascist now?
- Oof, Buffy wakes up and is now legitimately buried alive. Shouldn’t the pals have at least checked just in case the spell worked?! Seems like a fairly major oversight.
- Also, how long has it been since Buffy died?! She looks like she’s been decomposing a while.
Notes from a True Stan:
- This group slay is… kind of a great set-up? I know Buffy can slay a group of vampires by herself, but this goes to show that she really doesn’t have to! Even when she comes back, they should just keep the Buffybot and continue this telepathic strategizing, so Buffy doesn’t completely burn out again.
- Spike describes Giles’ life story as: “Cup of tea, cup of tea, almost get shagged, cup of tea.” LOL.
- Sorry to all the Tillow fans out there, but Willow and Tara’s coupley talk is kind of gross. “Pancakes could go in bellies”? Are they five?
- So Buffy’s dad is calling, and he doesn’t know that Buffy’s dead. But he presumably knows that Joyce is dead by now, and he’s fine with his 20-year-old daughter taking care of her 15-year-old sister all by herself? He’s the worst.
- I LOLED at Giles and Anya’s little slap fight. So good.
- It’s weird that Tara just says matter-of-factly that it’s “wrong” to bring Buffy back, but it’s “what [they] agreed to.” She was so vehemently opposed to bringing Joyce back–I wish we could see why she changed her mind.
- Or actually, since the whole magic thing is destined to break up Willow and Tara anyway, why didn’t they just make this a huge point of contention in their relationship? Why not just have Tara be super against it, and then Willow just shrugs and says, “I’m doing it with or without you, and you can either help me survive it or not.” That would have been some great foreshadowing.
- I also agree with Nerdy Spice that the whole Slayer line thing is not at all clear enough. If they explained to the audience that there won’t be another Slayer called until Faith dies, leaving the world functionally Slayer-less, their decision to bring Buffy back would be much more sympathetic. (But maybe the writers didn’t want the decision to be sympathetic.)
- Is Buffybot sentient? April seemed somewhat sentient, so the Buffybot must be, too, right? Anyway, I love her. It’s so heartbreaking when Giles tries to teach her about “chi,” and when Dawn sleeps with her at night.
- There’s apparently a hierarchy in the demon world–the biker demons call vampires “blood rats.” I kind of wish they’d explored that more!
- Willow killing that baby deer is some bad juju! It’s so interesting that she doesn’t tell anyone else in the gang about it, either, and that she doesn’t warn them how ugly the ritual itself is going to get. She clearly knows this is dark magic, and doesn’t care.
- How could they not dig up her grave?
Episode 2 “Bargaining, Part 2”
Buffy wakes up six feet underground, and is forced to dig herself out of her coffin. It’s viscerally horrifying. She gasps when she sees her own gravestone, and then walks around Sunnydale in a daze. It’s quickly devolved into a postapocalyptic landscape–stores are looted, demons are throwing beer bottles at windows, cars are on fire. Those biker demons work quickly!
She comes across those biker demons, who are celebrating their efficient destruction of Sunnydale by destroying the Buffybot. They chain her limbs to motorcycles, then start the engines and tear her apart, Hitcher-style. I know she’s just a robot, but it’s surprisingly sad and disturbing! Buffy doesn’t even understand what’s going on, and she screams as her own limbs seemingly get torn off her body.
The demons see her, and she runs away. She runs into her friends almost immediately, but they think it’s the Buffybot, even though she’s wearing different clothes and is obviously dirty and feral. She looks like Angel when he came back from the Hell dimension, but they still take quite a while to put it together. When they do, they get all freaked out that she won’t immediately talk to them. Like, give her a second guys. Xander sees the blood on her hands and realizes that they left her in her coffin. They’re all devastated, as they should be.
The biker gang arrives, and they can tell Buffy isn’t feeling too well, so they start beating on Buffy’s friends and threaten to rape the women to death with their “anatomical incompatibilities.” (Wow this is really on UPN now, isn’t it?) Buffy finally comes to life and easily beats them all, even with bloody knuckles and an impractical funeral dress. There isn’t any triumph in it though–at one point all of the demons start beating on her at once with baseball bats and it almost looks like she might just give up, but then she kind of explodes from the scrum and keeps going. (This might be the only fight on the show where the demons don’t politely wait their turn.)
Her friends are all like “you’re back” yay! While she has a bloody lip and is clearly still traumatized. Nice. She runs away from them, because they’re the worst.
Meanwhile, Spike is taking care of Dawn at Buffy’s house, and he’s super invested in keeping her safe after what happened in the season finale. (Aw.) When the bikers come, he puts her on his motorbike and drives away, but then they stop so Dawn can have a very sweet and sad goodbye with the Buffybot. “Where did I go?” Buffybot asks, referring to Real Buffy, and somehow Dawn puts it all together, even though she had no idea anyone was doing a spell. She also easily follows Buffy’s “trail” of dead demons and finds her at the tower where Buffy died. (I didn’t know it was so close? I don’t get Sunnydale’s geography at all.)
Buffy stands alone on the tower where she jumped and remembers the season five finale when everything was prettily lit up by the sunrise and the portal, but now it’s all dark and dirty. She’s contemplating jumping again when Dawn finds her and begs her not to. The tower begins to fall apart, and Dawn begs Buffy to come towards her so they can get down. “The tower was built by crazy people and I don’t think it’s holding up very well!” Dawn yells. Hee.
“Is this hell?” Buffy asks.
Dawn tells her no, but Buffy doesn’t seem to believe her. “You told me I had to be strong,” Dawn says. “And I’ve tried. But it’s been so hard without you… I need you to live.”
Dawn screams as the tower starts to fall apart, which wakes Buffy up when nothing else will. Buffy grabs Dawn and jumps onto the pulley and they fall, terrifyingly, all the way down. The tower collapses, Dawn hugs her and says, “You’re alive, and you’re home.” Buffy does not look happy to be alive or home.
Notes from a New Fan:
- I am even more incredulous that Willow et al. didn’t check to see if the spell worked now that I’ve had five more minutes to think about it. Buffy is buried alive, a completely foreseeable consequence of being raised from the dead but not exhumed! WHY DID THEY NOT CHECK?! How did they think she was gonna come out?! (Janes, after I said this out loud: “What if she had died?” [laughs hysterically])
- Dawn parks her entire upper body in the window, not even behind one of those gauzy curtains, to watch the hellions marauding through town. Smart move, Dawn.
- Spike is such a responsible babysitter now that he even gives Dawn a helmet for their getaway ride. How love can change a fellow!
- Xander tries to navigate him and Willow home using the North Star, but it turns out to be a blimp. Meanwhile, Willow successfully gets them home using a cute little firefly thing that Tara creates with magic. Score one for the power of the feminine!
- Anya yells, “Already been looted, sorry!” when someone knocks on the door of the Magic Box. Hee! Nice try.
- Ugh, Xander uses military jargon, presumably from that one time he turned into his Halloween costume, not from actual expertise, and complains that he needs “male friends.” Shut up, Xander.
- One of the strangest, most affecting, most horrifying parts of this whole show is watching the resurrected Buffy approach a gang of hellions and just watch as they rip an ally apart. Even if that ally is just the “obscene” BuffyBot. Seeing Buffy so confused, so inert, is scarier than any demon.
- Xander’s the first one to realize what they did, leaving Buffy alone in her coffin. Yikes. You know what you did is really bad when even Xander can grasp that it was wrong.
- What’s so amazing to watch about this fight is how Buffy is obviously spiritually destroyed but how she rises to the occasion anyway. It’s more impressive than any of her other feats, even sacrificing herself. (As she herself said, The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.)
- Jesus, there’s a horrifying thing this hellion says about rape that I really wish I’d never heard. I’m not even going to write it down. Thanks, I hate it.
- After the fight, Xander says, “Whoa. Whoa.” to the resurrected Buffy, like she’s a nervous horse. Shut up, Xander.
- I love the cheesy actout where the hellion wakes up and extends his blade-claws. It’s so network TV!
- Hey, what happened to that one winged demon who came in through the portal before Buffy jumped into it? Is that going to be a thing, all the demons that came through the portal? Seems like maybe not?
- How did Dawn not die from falling the last two or three stories after she and Buffy were temporarily caught by that pulley? Did Buffy catch her or something? Does she have Buffy-like superstrength?
- OK, Buffy’s been back for a whole episode and she and Spike haven’t seen each other yet? I legitimately cannot wait to see what his face looks like when he sees her again. The show was probably purposely drawing this out!
Notes from a True Stan:
- Remember in “Nightmares,” when Buffy’s worst nightmare was being buried alive? Apparently that was SMG’s worst nightmare too!
- Seriously though, it makes no sense that the Scoobies don’t dig up her grave. Even if they thought the spell didn’t work, what was their plan if it did work? They were just going to let Buffy lie in her coffin until they dug her out? Why didn’t they dig up her grave before performing the spell in the first place??
- “It’s gone,” Xander says of the Buffybot. “It”? Show some respect!
- It’s very sweet when Tara hugs Anya and strokes her hair and um… do they have better chemistry than Tara and Willow?
- Anya tries to “cheer Buffy up” by announcing her and Xander’s engagement, which is kind of hilarious, but Xander stops her. It’s also a little annoying, because this is obviously the wrong time, but why is Xander being so squirrely about it!
- “It was so clear,” Buffy says on the tower, “I remember how bright and clear everything was.” This is so sad, especially knowing that she’s probably talking about heaven as well as the moment of her death.
- I also love that Buffy only has a few lines of dialogue this whole episode. This might be SMG’s best acting yet–she looks so traumatized and haunted.
- Season six seems to get better every time I watch it, and I think it will be the same this time around. This premiere is so heartbreaking.
Episode 3 “After Life”
Buffy’s been resurrected, and she arrives home in Dawn’s care, looking fragile, traumatized, and distant. Not to mention the fact that she woke up to being buried alive, so her hands are a wreck from clawing her way out of the coffin.
The Scoobs follow her there, but Spike gets there first, and gets a shock when he sees her. This scene is completely worth the wait: he falls speechless when he realizes she’s not the ‘Bot. He’s the only one who realizes why Buffy’s hands are cut up, and he gets this soft smile on his face, but then leaps into action to try to bandage her up. While Dawn runs off to get said bandages, he sits facing Buffy and holds her hands gently in his and asks her how long she was gone “where you were.” She says, softly, that it was “longer” than here. She’s shy with him, but somehow less withdrawn than with Dawn. But he runs off when he hears the Scoobs coming, so the lovely moment is cut short. Buffy withdraws again, going to bed. On his way out, Xander finds Spike weeping out in the yard, and they fight: Spike is mad he wasn’t in the loop, and about the risk that Buffy might have come back wrong.
Then strange things start happening. Buffy hallucinates that her entire photo board is covered with grinning skulls; Willow wakes up to see a phantom Buffy standing over her bed saying horrible things to her and Tara and accusing them of being bitches and having blood on their hands. When she calls Xander for help, Anya starts laughing demoniacally and cutting her own face, so, that’s pretty weird. Finally, Dawn gets haunted and sets the library on fire, but the gang puts it out.
Anya theorizes that it’s a hitchhiker who came with Buffy back from the hell dimension where everyone assumes she was. The gang tells Buffy their theory, but promises her that they’ll fix it and everything will be fine. Giles is on his way back, but till then, the gang just researches on their own. Buffy—who’s still totally withdrawn and not-smiley, presumably because she’s traumatized from her time in the hell dimension—pretends to go on patrol, but instead she shows up at Spike’s lair, where he tells her he’s sorry he didn’t save Dawn, so that she wouldn’t have had to jump. And that every night he imagines saving her. She’s still pretty disengaged, but it’s a lovely scene, and James Marsters kills it.
Willow finally figures out that the haunting is “thaumogenesis,” that the price of the spell was a demon they conjured. But they can’t undo the spell, because that would undo Buffy’s resurrection. Willow says that it can only live if it kills the original spell subject, at which point the demon takes over Xander’s body, says “Thanks for the tip,” and goes off to hunt Buffy. Good job, Willow. (Anya blames Xander for this, but for once I have to say this really doesn’t seem like Xander’s fault.) Anyway, the demon tries to psych Buffy out by convincing her that she doesn’t belong here so it can successfully wrap her in its ghostly fingers and (I guess) kill her, but Willow and Tara cast a spell to make it more embodied so Buffy can actually fight it. Once the spell works, Buffy beheads the thing just as Xander, Anya and Dawn show up. Yuck!
Things go back to normal. Sort of. Dawn goes to school. Buffy is still visibly traumatized, but she thanks her friends for bringing her out of hell. Only when she’s alone with Spike—the only person who can ask her if she’s OK without annoying her—do we find out the truth: actually, she was in heaven, and was ripped out of it by Willow’s spell. But she never wants anyone to know because they’ll feel bad. DARK.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Xander says condescendingly that he’s going to protect the “ladies” with his ear for danger, at which point the hellions totally surprise him. Heh.
- Love this shot of the two sisters standing outside their house, so uncanny. It’s so symbolic of their alienation from everything that used to keep them safe.
- The credits are weird in season 6. The last shot of Buffy is kind of dour. [It’s also not even Buffy, it’s the Buffybot! I always hated that. –Janes]
- I love Dawn standing up for Buffy and telling everyone to back off. A little role reversal.
- And for once, Xander is useful: he suggests getting Buffy some pizza. Look, if I had been brought back from the dead, I bet pizza would actually be pretty welcome.
- I was wondering why Spike wasn’t in the loop but he explains it when he yells at Xander: that Willow knew she might come back wrong and Willow would have to kill whatever came back, and Spike wouldn’t let her.
- Also he’s definitely wiping away tears when Xander finds him, right? AWWW.
- This episode is scary! Anya cutting her face and laughing demonically is really scary.
- “I think we shouldn’t have brought Buffy back,” Anya says calmly. Heh, she’s such an asshole sometimes. (In an enjoyable to watch way.) Then later, when she suggests Buffy is going crazy, she actually picks up on social cues and breathes out, “No, you’re fine.” Hee!
- Spike is so gentle and timid around Buffy. I really love that.
- Willow says that if they undo the spell it will undo the spell–meaning I guess that Buffy would be sent back to a Hell dimension.
- I like that Buffy tries to punch this thing that is obviously a ghost. Did she think punching it would work? I guess she has to try something, but it’s so funny.
- The actual fight between Buffy and the demon is pretty anti-climactic. Which is fitting because that’s really not the point at all.
- Group hug between Buffy, Willow, Xander! Love it.
- Wow, I was totally shocked by this revelation about where Buffy really was. Even though once she said it I realized I had probably seen it before — possibly in the previouslies for Once More With Feeling, which I watched once out of curiosity and didn’t particularly like. Anyway, I was reacting to all of this with total credulity, believing–as you’re supposed to–that Buffy’s withdrawn behavior is because of how intense the trauma was from her time away from this dimension. And then you realize the trauma is that she’s back on Earth. It’s horrifying! But she’s also so strong while she talks about it. Especially when she mentions “getting through the next moment.” Because you know she will. She’s always done what she had to do, no matter how painful. And she finally experienced the reward for that, by going to heaven, and now she has to do it all over, basically, and she doesn’t flinch or try to escape, she just faces it. I think it’s one of her most heroic moments.
- I think the saddest part of Buffy’s confession to Spike about being in heaven is when she says, “I was finished.” It’s like she had spent so long and given so much to be the Slayer and when she was dead she could stop self-sacrificing—only to be brought back, to give more.
Notes from a True Stan:
- The tone of this season is already grittier, with more attention to psychological detail. The camera focuses on Buffy’s knuckles, her sensitivity to light, her hypervigilance–she clearly has PTSD. Even the introduction to the monster-of-the-week is more psychological–we see the pictures in Buffy’s room suddenly turning to skeletons, but since it’s from Buffy’s perspective, we’re meant to doubt whether she’s imagining it or not.
- Spike has a million emotions cross his face when he sees Buffy for the first time–disbelief, happiness, horror. James Marsters is such a good actor.
- Spike counted the days that Buffy was gone! Adorable.
- More seriously though, their relationship immediately feels more intimate in a way that’s totally organic. When Spike sees the wounds on her hands, he immediately knows what happened to her, and they have a nice bonding moment.
- There’s a moment of foreshadowing where Willow mentions Angel being feral when he got back from a hell dimension, and Tara goes, “But Buffy’s not like that.” I see what you did there.
- Okay, I’m about to go on a rant about the Scoobies’ behavior, and I fear it will be long. Even if Buffy had been in hell rather than heaven, their behavior would be wildly insensitive. They keep peppering her with questions and saying, “Be happy! We brought you back!” even though she’s clearly traumatized (not to mention that they never properly apologized for burying her alive!). They’re honestly never there for her when she goes through a crisis–they’re good friends in the sense that they help her save the world when they don’t have to, but on a personal level they consistently suck. They attacked her after she killed Angel, they attacked her when Angel came back, they criticized her parenting after her mom died, and now they expect her to just come back and be fine and solve all of their problems. They’re so selfish! No wonder Spike is the only one she can trust.
- And then Willow has the audacity to expect a thank you! I can’t even.
- Anya asking Xander to play a word game while he’s dead asleep and describing the rules in great detail while he continues sleeping is hilarious to me for some reason.
- Anya cutting up her face is TERRIFYING. I’ve seen it so many times, and every time I literally gasp and cover my mouth.
- On the flip side, I always laugh when Dawn breathes fires and goes “RAWR” like a cartoon dragon.
- There’s a really cool shot in the cemetery I’ve never noticed before, where Buffy has angel wings.