In the tenth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow turns to increasingly darker forms of magic to cope with her life, and Buffy and Spike are both left confused about what they’re supposed to do with one another. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Oh, I really do love a story that parallels the path that two characters take. While “Wrecked” is hardly subtle in its execution, the episode takes the journey that Willow is on, and makes direct comparisons to what Buffy is going through in her relationship with Spike.
And holy awkward, this episode is just relentlessly uncomfortable. Both Buffy and Willow arrive home to find Tara and Dawn in the kitchen; they both attempt to deceive their friends about where they were and what they were doing. The main difference between Buffy’s and Willow’s story lines is that Buffy is the only one who succeeds in keeping her problems a secret. She not only lies, but she refuses to open up to anyone, either. (To be fair, after what Willow does in this episode, I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable being open with her.) Amy, on the other hand, completely spoils Willow’s attempt to be discreet, and then everyone knows what Willow was up to. (Except for Buffy, which is crucial to this story, since Buffy had no idea how bad Willow’s magical addiction had gotten.)
What follows, then, is a disturbing and frightening descent into addiction. Without anyone in her life to stop her, Willow just keeps going. Xander and Anya are right in their view of what’s going on with their friend. Willow is hanging around with Amy because Amy enables her. (Though I wondered why Xander and Anya didn’t do anything about this. They’re only in that one scene in the whole episode.) Bored by what she’s done magic-wise, she agrees to go see a powerful warlock named Rack, and that’s when this episode takes a nosedive into TERRIBLE DECISION LAND.
Look, I’ve known people who have become addicts. I spoke candidly about my first ex’s cocaine addiction, and I was once an alcoholic. This wasn’t fun to watch at all, so I’m not terribly interested in recounting all the twists and turns of Willow’s addiction to black magic. It’s awful, and once Willow involves Dawn in everything, it’s beyond uncomfortable. As you’ll see at the end of the post, I just started shouting at the screen in frustration. IT’S JUST ONE BAD DECISION AFTER ANOTHER. Oh god, I hated watching it. I hated watching Dawn wait in that room. I KNOW WHAT THAT EXPERIENCE IS LIKE. My god, it’s the worst. I hated watching Willow drive by using magic WHEN SHE COULD HAVE JUST DRIVEN LIKE A NORMAL PERSON. But that’s precisely how far gone she is. She relies on magic for things that have no need for magic. It’s a game to her at this point, and her refusal to face the loss of Tara or her own reliance on magic is what causes her to plunge even deeper.
And she continues to harm people around her. I won’t forget that. She can’t even see that what she’s doing has repercussions for those around her, and it’s unfortunate that it takes a horrific car crash and Dawn getting injured for Willow to finally see what her actions cause. I’m frightened by the future, and I admit that I don’t know where her story is going to go. I certainly want her to be able to stop using magic, but how long can she last? It’s so much of her life, and her conversation with Buffy at the end of the episode reveals that she feels like she’d be boring and unimportant without it. To her, it’s now part of her identity, and stripping yourself of something like that isn’t going to be easy.
That makes me wonder if Buffy will be able to pull off the same thing. She’s still confused, ashamed, and furious by the night she spent having sex with Spike. I admit that even I am confused by the events of this episode, and I don’t think I have been able to coherently organize my thoughts about all of this. I do get the sense that Buffy is bewildered by the attraction she feels towards Spike, and I still think that without an outlet, she’s letting this pain and frustration fester under the surface. Instead of facing these complicated feelings head on, she buries them. She either lashes out at Spike, insulting him in the process, or she is immensely hard on herself. She’s disgusted by what she did, and even more revolted because you can tell that there’s a part of her that liked it. You can tell from her conversations with Willow and Xander/Anya that most of all, she fears being judged. She is absolutely terrified of what other people will think of her being sexually active with a vampire. Well, Spike of all vampires, but you know. And I know that this is a heterosexual pairing, but my little queer brain can’t help but read a pretty fascinating queer subtext to this. I know that when I finally had sex with a dude for the first time, I enjoyed it while it happened, but was then revolted and ashamed after it was over. I told no one, and I berated myself for sinning, for doing something that was clearly so disgusting and unacceptable. You know, and I think anyone who was raised to believe that sex is a shameful thing might understand this, queer or not.
So I don’t know what to feel about this! I want Buffy to be happy, and if she ultimately chooses Spike to be happy, I’d want to support that decision. But I can’t tell if she is happy when she’s with Spike. I don’t know how much of her repulsed reaction is genuine and how much of it is her overcompensating out of fear. And you know who doesn’t make this any easier to figure out?
I admit that I liked the Spike in the episodes earlier in this season and the Spike I saw at the end of season 5 more than the Spike in “Smashed” and “Wrecked.” He’s prone towards a violent nihilism these two episodes, having given up the fantasy that Buffy will love him back in any sort of traditional way. And I do agree that it’s not exactly fair that Buffy is trying to figure out how she feels about Spike in the way that she is! But dude, for real, when a woman sets her boundaries, you leave her alone. Of course, this is like shouting into the void. Spike is a soulless demon, and he shows this more and more in the way he deals with Buffy. Now I’m even wondering if he really, truly “loves” her. Coming off of “Lullaby” on Angel this week, I know that Darla and Angel accept that a vampire can’t genuinely love anything, so I’m wondering where Spike fits in to all of this. His sense of morality is so skewed from what we accept as humans, and that means he doesn’t think he’s doing anything destructive or abusive to Buffy. And that’s not me excusing him for how he treats Buffy in “Wrecked.” I’m just trying to figure out what this is all supposed to mean.
I get that this is a story that parallels addiction. Willow’s story is far more explicit and dangerous, but the image of both women in bed, trying to cope with the decisions they’ve made, is haunting and upsetting. Buffy is trying to make the best decision for herself, but like Willow, I don’t think either of them are entirely certain they are doing things right.
God, where can things go from here? WHY DOES THIS JUST KEEP GETTING WORSE AND WORSE? I just want these people to be happy, but they just can’t seem to find it. ARGH ALL OF MY THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ARE JUST THIS GIANT, TANGLED MESS OF CONFUSION. I don’t know how to feel about any of this, and I am lost. Oh god, I bet that’s the point of all of this. Ugh, damn you, fictional worlds, for filling me with so many bewildering feelings. YOU’RE EVIL.
This episode also has a Mark Watches video attached to it. The fabulous Kelly sponsored this episode and the following two Buffy episodes as well! She is currently running an INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL Kickstarter campaign for her first novel, The Girl Who Would Be King. The Kickstarter ends next week, and you can preview some of it on her site! OMG. And now, on to the video for “Wrecked.”
The video commission for this episode is now archived on MarkDoesStuff.com for $0.99!
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