In the twenty-first episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow takes control when Buffy slips into a catatonic state. Meanwhile, Glory and Ben vie for power over Dawn. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.Â
It’s not often that this show makes me stop and think about it, but “The Weight of the World” really centers on the reality of what Buffy Summers has had to deal with since the day Giles showed up in her life. She has had to carry the weight of a responsibility that would crush any of us, and it is a weight she has no choice in. I’m reminded of the finale of season one again, where Buffy begs Giles to remember that she is just sixteen years old. There’s a character to Buffy’s cyclical state of mind that reminds me of this. How can this one young woman be expected to handle all this stress, trauma, and pain? It really does feel like season five continues to deconstruct just what it means to be a hero, and this is a chance for us to acknowledge that our heroine is still human.
It was impressive to me to watch Willow fill in once more as the temporary leader of the Scoobies. I loved that scene in the beginning where she very calmed relegated the duties for the whole group before taking it upon herself to perform a very risky bit of magic to help out her best friend. (And on that note, good lord, Willow is seriously becoming one hell of a witch.) What struck me as the significant issue, though, was that Willow finally got a very intimate chance to experience Buffy’s internal monologue as the Slayer. I think it would be easy to go back and find any number of moments in the series where the Scoobies took Buffy’s powers and her role for granted. I imagine it was easy to do so. She healed faster than they did, she possessed an unworldly strength, and she was always so dependable. In an instant, Willow is inside Buffy’s mind, and she sees what is tormenting her: she failed.
And it’s not that Buffy has always won in the past. She has experienced a whole lot of loss and trauma over the last five years. But at the end of the day, we’ve seen time and time again that Buffy has always found a way to defeat her demons, literally or metaphorically. Yet now, she faced an invincible god and failed to protect her only sister, and that hope is extinguished. It was immensely powerful and sad to me that in the most mundane moment, while putting one of Giles’ books away, she gave up. For the first time in the show’s history that I can recall, Buffy resolved herself to total failure on a subconscious level. It made the words of the First Slayer all the more haunting. Buffy’s gift was the death of those around her. Her mother was gone, and she was helpless to stop that. Now Dawn has been stolen away from her and she’ll die, too. Who can blame Buffy for feeling this way? Seriously, look at what the writers have dished upon her plate over five seasons. When has she had a break? When was she ever allowed to stop? She had that one summer away in Los Angeles, and even that wasn’t uneventful. (HI ANNE I LOVE YOU FOREVER.) I know that this show has tunnel vision. It’s inherently always going to be about Buffy slaying. But I really enjoy that this season is giving us a chance to reflect on how taxing all this is on one human being.
Also, it was a nice reminder that WILLOW IS A VERY GOOD FRIEND TO HAVE. I’ve liked watching Xander grow over the course of the show, and he’s routinely been exactly the kind of friend that Buffy has needed in her life. But this was a great way to show us Willow’s fantastic ability to empathize with those around her, and she was best suited to help Buffy out of the rut in her mind. And I have to say it again: FUCK, SHE IS A VERY POWERFUL WITCH.
I have also noticed that season five has given us multiple stories that all deal with the experience of being human. Obviously, “The Weight of the World” focuses a lot on Buffy’s humanity, but multiple characters have all had to deal with theirs as well. There’s Anya’s ongoing foray into mortality; Spike is constantly coping with the line between “soulless demon” and “decent, moral creature”; Dawn had an entire episode devoted to her identity crisis upon learning that she was hid in a human body and that her nature is very not-human at all. But I was totally blown away by the other plot in this particular episode where the seams that separate Ben and Glory begin to increasingly fall apart. I had a moment of confusion when Glory asked about how Dawn was doing, and she appeared to genuinely care about her. It was such a jarring disconnect from how her character was written and portrayed in the past. It’s a fascinating parallel to Anya’s characterization, too, especially because Glory wants nothing to do with being human.
I really have no one to compare Glory/Ben to, and that is interesting to me as well. I don’t know that any other show could have pulled off a scene where two characters share the same body and argue with themselves for such an extended length of time. And bless Michelle Trachtenberg for being able to convey the perfect amount of shock and confusion over witnessing such an event unfold before her. Seriously, that girl can act, and I’m just so impressed by her.
I suppose I should have expected that in the end, Ben would side with his own self-preservation over saving Dawn. From the beginning, he has always fought against Glory because of his desire to assert himself as his own person. His exasperation with Glory was in part due to the fact that she wouldn’t let him have his own life. So what else was he going to do once he was presented with the chance to have a life separate from her? Of course, it’s entirely possible that Glory won’t live up to her word, but she has no reason not to. She needs Dawn, and that means she needs Ben on her side so she can begin the ceremony to open the portal to her hell world. GREAT. How the hell is this going to be resolved?
There really is a lot more to this episode that makes it one of the best of season five. AND MY GOD, THEY ALL HAVE BEEN SO GOOD.Â It was FANTASTIC to see the writers stick Xander and Spike together for the episode, especially they barely tolerate the existence of one another. I was also TOTALLY PREPARED for Doc’s connection to Glory. OMG I ACTUALLY GOT SOMETHING SOMEWHAT RIGHT. Whatever does his mean for the future of Mark Watches???? Probably that I’ll never get anything right for the rest of time, so allow me to bask in this moment.Â
Okay, the momentary basking is over because of the final line of this fucking episode. After Willow finally breaks through to Buffy, assuring her she has not failed yet and that her gift is not killing her sister, the box that Xander and Spike retrieved has given Giles the answer to how they can stop Glory from using the key to open every dimensional portal ever.
Buffy has to kill Dawn.
That’s Buffy’s gift. Her gift is death, and she must give that gift to Dawn to save the world.
Oh, fuck this. I don’t want to see this next episode at all. Goddamn it!
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