In the twenty-second (and final) episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, well, I got everything wrong. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to read fan meta more than after this episode of this show. It’s been a few days since I watched “Grave,” and I’m no closer to possessing a coherent feeling on this story than I was in the moments after I first watched it. Every season finale prior to this one has left me feeling sad, elated, shocked, or pleased. Well, and some combination of that as well. But now I just feel confused, full of contradictory thoughts, and I think I need to try to sort them out. Let’s start with the negative so I can end with the positive.
- Okay, this is not bad writing or a real complaint, but The Magic Box. 🙁 🙁 🙁 I love that place! Will it be gone forever?
- All right, so I think I understand the entire point of Giles allowing himself to be drained of power by Willow, in that it intended as a way to get Willow’s remaining emotions to come to the surface, so that… nope. Nope! I can’t follow this logic. If some power that wasn’t magic or brute force could stop Willow, how the hell did the coven of witches know someone would be around to affect Willow that way? They couldn’t have known about Xander’s interference at all. So their plan was entirely based around the idea of hope. They had to hope someone could love Willow so much that they could stop her. That seems… unreliable? Right? Or, at the very least, it seems like a really risk shot at saving the entire world.
- I will talk later about how much I enjoyed the idea that giving Willow emotions was a FANTASTIC idea, but my god, I absolutely hated the execution of it. Like, okay, suddenly she feels there’s too much pain in the world since losing Tara, so she needs to take everyone out with her? I swear, for a show so genre-savvy and trope-aware, how did they miss the tropes I’ve discussed before or (warning for use of ableist slurs in the title and all over the article) Psycho Lesbian? Were they all truly not aware of this dynamic? Granted, this story arc started in episode twenty, but it comes to complete fruition here. I know that the writers probably did not intend to make it seem like they were punishing Willow for her sexual orientation. Hell, they’ve done such a fantastic job with Willow/Tara, and it’s a big reason why I appreciate and enjoy this show so much. But everything about this part of the plot is way too big of a leap to ask me to take, and it’s made even worse by the next part.
- Xander saves the world with a hug. (Before you get upset, this exact plot point appears on the Positive list because I simultaneously hate it and love it and I am a walking contradiction. I told you this episode sent me into a hot mess of emotions, so now you must deal with them.) The fact that a massively powerful witch can be taken down with a hug because Xander loves her is just… weird! It’s weird and kind of disappointing? I say “kind of” because there’s a part of me that also thinks it’s brilliant because FRIENDSHIP, but you’ll have to wait for that. What bothers me more about it is that yet again, the writers seem to be unable to think about the implications of what they’re showing us, nor the dynamics of the situation at hand. I want Xander to feel like he can contribute and save the world, but when you write a story where a lesbian loses her lover, loses her sanity, and must be saved from the brink of total destruction by the straight guy who has probably fantasized about her having sex with her (now-dead) lover, it’s going to feel INCREDIBLY FUCKING WEIRD TO ME. That’s not to say that I view characters or writing exclusively through a person’s sexuality, or that a character’s identity is the only thing worth paying attention to. It’s not! And the scene has way more context than that. But that doesn’t mean this subtext can’t be read from the text, either. Like, it’s even worse when you think that the dude has to sweep in and save the world because all the women are off either being apocalyptic, stuck in a hole (literally!!!), or consoling another man.
- Jonathan and Andrew get away, relatively unscathed. Aw, that sucks.
- Okay, I’ll take more about the MIND-MELTING Spike reveal in the second section, but let me tell you what sucks about it: IT’S A TRAP. So, yes, I’m a bit bitter that I totally fell for the misdirect the writers gave me over these last three episodes, but once I thought about it, I felt like Spike’s actions in Africa existed solely to trick us. He sought out his soul as a way to redeem himself for what he did to Buffy, SO WHY IS HE SO ANGRY ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME? Like, in what possible way would he frame his words so that it sounds like he’s going to get revenge on Buffy? I know Spike didn’t have a soul at the time, but I can’t believe he would operate with that sense of emotional detachment. Spike is more consistent than that. I mean, his lines totally make sense, but it’s the delivery of them that’s mystifying. Why say it like that except to act as a sleight of hand?
- Also, Spike, you almost raped Buffy. I don’t think she is going to want a relationship with you when you get back to Sunnydale.
- GILES GILES GILES GILES GILES. Everything is Giles and NOTHING HURTS.
- oh my god HE CAN DO MAGIC OH MY WHAT IS LIFE.
- BUFFY AND ANYA HUGGING GILES AND EVERYTHING IS PERFECT.
- Look, I think that what every person in the Buffy fandom needed at the end of season six was Giles laughing at their pain. I think it is absolutely one of the most brilliant writing choices in the whole show, and Anthony Stewart Head knocks it clean out of the park. It’s this fantastic nod to how absurd the stories told over this season have been, and it’s a chance for the audience to step back and laugh at how ridiculous this has been. No character could have pulled this off except for Giles, especially since he’s been away for so long.
- Watching both Buffy and Giles admit how hard things have been and how they feel personally responsible made my heart grow twenty times larger. I missed their interactions so much.
- Xander is the hero in the end, but I think Giles is the real hero all along, and his willing sacrifice, which nearly killed him, is just goddamn beautiful. Yes, as I said above, it’s complicated and nonsensical, but I can’t deny that Giles purposely baited Willow in order to get her to take his powers from him, and he did this out of hope that it would help save the world. I love you, Giles.
- Oh god, Dawn’s entire monologue about how Buffy can’t protect her from the world… DAWN. DAWN. I have so many lovely feelings about her character, and that was such a huge moment for her. And while the writers have been kind of sloppy with Dawn, I do like how this arc comes to a close in “Graves.” Buffy finally includes Dawn in the way she has always wished to be included, and I am just so in love with this dynamic. IT IS SO WELL DONE.
- Xander saves the world. I have grown to like and care about Xander a great deal, even given his deplorable behavior since “Hell’s Bells.” I didn’t expect to like him so much, but that’s the beauty of his character growth. So I cannot deny that it also made me extremely happy to see the one person who constantly doubts himself and his self worth do something EXTREMELY WORTHY. And I am also a fan of the simplistic brilliance of what takes Willow down: friendship. Yes, it’s cheesy, but cheesiness isn’t inherently a bad thing at all. I often think something being cheesy means it instills good feelings in us, and we’d rather have something cynical given to us. But this show has always been about friendship in a way, especially in terms of how the Scoobies have come together as a family.
- DO YOU SEE HOW CONFLICTED I AM?
- I don’t always need things to be subtle, so I just completely loved the parallel from the beginning of the season to what happens at the end of this episode: Buffy climbs out of a grave. She does so willingly, with an appreciation for life, in the broad daylight, and with her sister at her side. It is honestly my other favorite moment in this episode alongside Giles’s laughing spell. Poetic, haunting, and very emotional to watch.
- Spike is seeking redemption. Yes, his writing is weird, especially since he is FURIOUSLY SEEKING REDEMPTION! I AM THE ANGRIEST SEEKER OF REDEMPTION EVER! But if you were going to try and make me feel better about Spike, you have to have that moment of self-reflection, where Spike thinks about what awful thing he did, and then you show him acting on it. My god, HE SOUGHT OUT A SOUL. Holy shit, this changes so much! Now, I don’t want the show to ignore the past when it comes to Spike’s story in season seven, but I admit that I’m interested to see where this goes. I’m probably ruining this, but WRITERS. DON’T FUCK THIS UP.
So that’s where I stand. It’s why I so desperately need to read the comments more than ever! It’s been such a treat to read so many different interpretations of the same episode, but I really can’t figure out if there is a singular thing I feel for this finale. Not that I should only feel one thing, but the same scene can inspire two totally different emotions in me. I suppose that’s pretty cool, but I mostly feel bewildered. Ultimately, I did like “Grave,” and I’ve mostly enjoyed season six. It’s been fascinating to see all these characters struggle with life and what it means for them, so on that note, I’m satisfied with the stories of Giles, Buffy, and Dawn. I miss Xander and Anya being together, but most of all, I miss Tara. God, I miss her so much, and I hate knowing that she won’t be in season seven. Yes, I’m still mad, and no, I refuse to let go of this. Let me keep this rage forever.
Oh god, only one season left. 🙁
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