In the seventh episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, four characters have conversations with dead people. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Okay, this is easily one of my favorite episodes of this show, and I’d like to break it down based on character to discuss it. UGH, I AM SO OVERWHELMED WITH EMOTIONS FOR WHAT I JUST WATCHED.
I think one of the many things that made this episode so enjoyable was the various tonal differences I could spot between the five revolving storylines that made up “Conversations with Dead People.” In particular, Buffy’s story was the funniest, a great example of how the writers for this show are able to poke fun at the supernatural and the fantastical while still developing the characters present in a scene. In that sense, it’s fitting that the vampire who springs up from his grave before Buffy was recently a psych major. It’s even more ironic given that Buffy is now a counselor at Sunnydale High, yet this is the closest she’s ever come to getting actual therapy. Over the course of their conversation (and their brutal fights), Holden gets Buffy to open up about the demons plaguing her over the past seven years of her life. (Get it? A demon getting Buffy to talk about her inner demons? Get it???????) The brilliance of this set-up is reflected in how these two characters talk to one another. This show has always had witty, rapid-fire dialogue, but watching Holden and Buffy talk was just endlessly fascinating. Holden was just discovering who he was, and while he does so, he learns who Buffy really is, too.
That’s a bit reductive of what happens, but this long conversation they have puts Buffy on the vulnerable side of things, and that’s what I ultimately love about it. Buffy has a complex about being the Slayer, but it’s so refreshing to see her sit back and examine what that actually means. I want heroes who are emotionally vulnerable and honest, or else I’m left with boring, cookie-cutter protagonists. This is a direct deconstruction of what makes Buffy who she is. Has her “calling” made her feel alone, or is she experiencing something common to human existence? Does she pull away from men because she feels they’re unworthy, or is it because she’s too good for them? Buffy’s emotional state is rather complex, so I was happy that this was outright acknowledged. While Holden is able to come to a somewhat simplified conclusion, Buffy tries her best to navigate the mess that her life has been, and through this, she’s able to accept what she’s done. She used her friends, she hurt them, she’s become distant and uncaring at times, she’s hurt people she loved, and she got hurt herself, too. She forgot how to live life at one point, and here she is, pouring out her heart to a recently-sired vampire, and perhaps life isn’t so bad, you know?
Oh god, I think I would have lost it if Tara had shown up in this episode. Willow’s ongoing struggle with her own guilt was exploited here, and this dialogue-heavy story showed me that she still isn’t sure what she’s supposed to do with herself. At least yet, that is. I was ecstatic to see Cassie return, though ultimately, I’m super bummed out that she can’t be a regular character. SHE’S SO FASCINATING. Her appearance here, acting as a conduit for Tara (INITIALLY, THAT IS, OH GOD) is just more evidence that Azura Skye should have been on Buffy way more often. Her direct and empathetic character is actually the perfect fit for the role she performs here. Willow is unsure she’ll ever be able to heal from the loss of Tara or what she did in response to Tara’s murder. And that’s precisely why Willow’s story is so infuriating in the end. Whatever this thing is – this thing that can assume the form of anyone who has died – it knew Willow. It knew what she’d done. And it used this against her. It teased her with the idea of talking to her lost love. And then it used her fear of killing again to exploit her. Whatever entity this is, it is fucked up. Like, it’s totally Satan, right? Or something like that? That thing Jonathan and Andrew (!!!!) uncover suggests that, right?
Well, I’m unprepared.
Oh god, THEY CAME BACK TO SUNNYDALE. I don’t feel like Andrew has changed much at all, but it was clear to me that Jonathan truly wanted to make amends for what he had done in Sunnydale. That’s why he wanted to notify Buffy about that thing in the ground below the principal’s office. (Aside: I still don’t think Principal Wood has anything to do with this. I base that mostly on the fact that I like him. WELP.) While most of Jonathan’s development happened offscreen in Mexico, we do see him come to his own revelation about friendship and happiness. The events of the previous year certainly turned him off to the idea of being an evil mastermind. Instead, he appears to be appreciating the life he has. WHICH IS WHY IT IS HORRIFICALLY IRONIC AND CRUEL THAT ANDREW KILLS HIM JUST AFTER HE HAS A CUTE MONOLOGUE.
Oh, christ. Why are you listening to Warren, Andrew? When has he ever done anything for you? Ah, so we see how this Totally Evil Being can influence people, but what did it promise to Andrew? I mean, this can’t end well. He spilled Jonathan’s blood on that seal. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, ANDREW?
Let me answer your question, by the way: no, the Scoobies will never let you join their group.
Dawn’s story is downright terrifying, and it reminded me that this show could be incredibly creepy at times. I picked up on a few visual references to Poltergeist in this episode (the banging, the stack of chairs), and that made me happy! But what I grasped from Dawn’s plot revolved around her growth as a member of the Scoobies and the emotional manipulation she just experienced at the hands of the Totally Evil Being. Without any other character around, Dawn was able to use magic to ward off that demon thing, and she defended herself. That is growth! She’s obviously picking up skills from the people around her, and now we get to see her use them on her own. (You know, I just noticed that none of the main characters interact with one another once in all of “Conversations with Dead People.” Huh.)
Unlike Willow, though, Dawn is unable to recognize that the vision of her mother is fake. I don’t believe for a second that that was actually Joyce; I think the Totally Evil Being is trying to tear apart the Scoobies through intimidation and manipulation. In Dawn’s case, this thing just put the idea that Buffy will become Dawn’s enemy into Dawn’s mind. Even if Buffy, Dawn, and Willow talk about what happened that night, I think Dawn will hold on to that thought in the back of her mind.
But then that has me wondering something else: why? Why did this Totally Evil being finally decide to make itself known to Andrew, Willow, and Dawn? What is it going to put them all through, and why? Even though I think I’ve generally figured out that this thing is some super evil demon source or something, I know that I’m entirely unprepared for where this is going. Goddamn it, WHAT IS THAT THING?
OH, FUCK, ARE YOU SERIOUS? I thought he was getting better!!! Now he’s siring people and eating them? Jesus, WHY? WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE THIS NOW THAT YOU HAVE A SOUL? Okay, the only possible explanation I can come up with is something I asked in my review of “Lessons.” Can that Totally Evil being influence Spike? It’s manipulating Andrew, that’s for sure, but is it also manipulating Spike? If so, how responsible does that make him for what he’s doing?
Ah, fuck, this is unreal. I loved this episode, but THIS SHOW CAUSES ME SO MUCH STRESS. I have no idea where this is going, and this scares me.
So… uh… where were they this entire episode? Conveniently written out? Weird.
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