In the first episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I have tried to think of a summary for this episode that isn’t massively spoilery, and then I just get sad. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
The void that Buffy has left behind in Sunnydale is horrifically painful.
I enjoy that the first half of “Bargaining” does not ignore that each of the Scoobies is their own person, that people learn to cope with grief in loss in their own ways, and that above all, they had to find a way to move on. Is their system perfect? No. Well, Willow can now telepathically instruct the Scoobies, which is both creepy and beautiful. That’s beside the point. They had to find some way to keep going, and no matter how much it hurt to accept that Buffy was gone, they did it. They found a way to move on.
And yet, there are constant reminders that Buffy Summers is dead. Watching “Bargaining, Part One” is agonizing at times, both for the surreality of the Buffybot and in the small moments when the various characters realize that their best friend is never coming back. Knowing that eventually Buffy would have to come back in some form didn’t make these moments easier. It was not joyous to watch Tara, Willow, and Dawn interact with the Buffybot in the kitchen. Was I glad they were finding a way to cope? Of course! That still didn’t change the strangeness of the moment, and you can tell the characters knew things felt off. This wasn’t Buffy making sandwiches for lunch. Every error the Buffybot made was a reminder that she was just a mechanical copy. My god, that is just so heartbreaking to me.
It’s a delicate situation, too, because the Scoobies have chosen to hide Buffy’s death. In hindsight, it makes sense. First of all, Dawn would definitely be taken away from them if anyone found out about Buffy. But there’s another ramification they considered: they would be set upon by the worst demons and vampires ever if anyone ever discovered that the Slayer was no longer in Sunnydale. That’s what eventually sends the demon motorcycle gang to the city to wreak havoc. But it has another affect, and that’s preventing people from fully moving on. Even if they’ve replaced Buffy with the Buffybot, have they all truly let go of Buffy? You know, I’d argue that without the Buffybot, I don’t know that Willow would have so readily pursued resurrecting her best friend. It might have still happened regardless, but every day, these characters all see someone who looks just like their best friend.
I think that this is also why Giles chooses to leave. I can’t believe this is what opens season six. Giles is leaving?!?!?! NO, MY GILES, NO, YOU CANNOT DO THAT. And as much as I don’t want it, I have to admit that if there was every going to be a time when Giles should leave the Scoobies, this is it. What can he offer the group? What fulfillment can he gain from staying? His training session with the Buffybot exemplifies all of the problems with him staying. (It’s also one of many moments where characters engage with the Buffybot and are left feeling unsatisfied and hollow.) He has been trying rather hard to treat the bot as if it’s human, and his role is pretty pointless once he realizes this. But even more depressing is his epiphany that he can’t come up with a reason for staying. He has done what he was supposed to, and like all Watchers in the past, his Slayer died. It’s the end of the road, so why should he stay in Sunnydale? So he decides to leave Sunnydale indefinitely.
Oh god, I hate it. Not that it’s bad writing, but I just hate him leaving. I hate that he tried to do it quietly, and I hate that I had to watch him hug all the Scoobies goodbye. They made him a sign!!! THE WAY HE LOOKS AT DAWN, AND THEN THE WAY HE LOOKS AT WILLOW and he just has a million things to say to this brilliant, radiant woman he has watched grow up, and there’s nothing he could say in even five minutes that would make him feel like he communicated his love and respect to her, and can you tell that I am overwhelmed by feelings for this scene? Yeah.
Giles has left Sunnydale. Damn it.
There’s a direct contrast to all of this, and that’s in the form of Willow. She’s perhaps the only character in “Bargaining” aside from Anya who is very, very certain of what role she is playing. She’s a very natural leader, for sure, but she’s also a powerful witch who is becoming more and more willing to do incredibly dangerous and reckless things to get what she wants. The fact that she lied to the gang about how she got the vino de madre was another sign that Willow is entering some risky as hell territory. Also, that might be the most disturbing scene involving Willow yet? No, it definitely is. Okay, so Willow’s story arc this season is just going to keep going in this direction, right? Like I said in the opening, there’s now a void without the Slayer around. Willow looks like she is purposely filling that vacancy with her own powers. Shit, what if she becomes more powerful than Buffy?
I think it’s entirely possible, especially given what we witness from Willow in this premiere. Not only has Willow taken control of leading the Scoobies, but she has taken it upon herself to find a way to resurrect Buffy Summers. I’m generally not the kind of fan of sci-fi/fantasy who gets caught up in the details or logistics of the way these “magical” things happen. I liked the acknowledgment that this was not going to be like “Forever,” when Dawn tried to bring back Joyce. (I miss you, Joyce Summers.) And I’m willing to accept the notion that because Buffy died due to mystical energy, she can be brought back as her whole self. I guess I just don’t think about these sort of things as dealbreakers because I care more about the emotional element attached to them. It’s why I still was able to like the ending of LOST and why I also liked Prometheus and all its problems. So I enjoy this explanation of how Buffy can be brought back because of Willow’s reason: she doesn’t know where Buffy’s soul went.
Now that is a horrifying idea, and it’s one that I never gave a moment of thought. Where is Buffy??? Where has she gone? What’s it going to be like for her to return home? Oh god, there is so much the writers can use for this season, and it’s barely starting. So I like that this is the impetus for Willow’s ceremony. She can’t live with the thought that, like Angel, Buffy was sent to some demon dimension and is suffering for eternity. It’s an entirely different context than what Dawn did with Joyce, and it gives Willow’s behavior a much more human side. I think that’s necessary because when she actually begins to call upon Osiris, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? I am constantly impressed with how much realness the writers are able to create when we see Willow try out some stronger act of magic. Here, she’s conjuring up something dark, possibly evil, and certainly the most violent thing we’ve seen yet. Still, I appreciate that this is an act of sacrifice. Like Buffy sacrificed herself to save Dawn and the whole world, Willow allows herself to suffer in order to end Buffy’s possible suffering. It’s a beautiful, gut-wrenching parallel, and even if Willow is seeking out something a little darker than she’d like, I respect her for doing this.
AND THEN EVERYTHING IS RUINED BY DEMONS ON MOTORCYCLES. God, I hope they don’t last longer than the next episode. They look great! But they’re really boring. Can we have more of the vampire wearing a Hanson tee? Oh, he’s dead? Well, shit. At the very list, we get a cliffhanger that’s pretty fascinating: Willow’s ceremony worked, right at the moment when the motorcycle gang has kidnapped the Buffybot and Buffy wakes up in her coffin. Oh god, her body had actually decayed, and now she’s back. She came back to life.
How the fuck is this going to be resolved???
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