In the sixteenth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander is distracted from his impending marriage to Anya when a mysterious man shows up, begging him not to get married. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Before I get to discussing some real shit, I would like to provide a list of all the wonderful moments in “Hell’s Bells” because I want to acknowledge that this is almost one of the nicest episodes in season six. Almost.
- You know, the bridesmaid dresses were kind of strange, but they grew on me as the episode progressed.
- THAT MOROCCO REFERENCE WAS FUCKING PERFECTION. No, like, you have no idea how incredible it is, OR PERHAPS YOU DO because my queer heart nearly exploded at the very mention of Marlene Dietrich. H E L P
- OH MY GOD, UNCLE RORY.
- OH MY GOD, XANDER’S PARENTS. While there is a part of me that wishes we’d seen them before season six (five and a half full seasons without one glimpse of the Harris family together???), there’s something totally effective about waiting this long to show us them. It hurts a million times more. We’ve already heard about his parents’ behavior, but seeing it is terrifying. Hell, I’d actually say the ending of “Hell’s Bells” wouldn’t work if it weren’t for this. We needed to understand that Mr. Harris was abusive and degrading towards his wife, and this episode really did a good job of that.
- I’ll ship Carol and Krelvin just for the hell of it. You can’t stop it.
- Seeing Buffy tear up in front of Xander was so sweet. Ugh, it got me thinking about how much those two have been through, and what beautiful friends they’ve become. Xander himself has changed SO MUCH since the first two season. Be still, my heart.
- You know, the ending to this episode hurts so much because Anya is just so terribly happy throughout this.
- Ugh, Tara and Willow flirting again? No, stop toying with my feelings, stop it.
- D’HOFFRYN!!!! If you watch the Mark Watches video at the end of the review, I actually didn’t immediately recognize him. Oh shit, I AM SO GLAD HE’S IN THIS EPISODE.
- Spike’s date is SO GOTH. I LOVE IT.
- YOU SHOULD HAVE TOTALLY USED “SEX POODLE” IN YOUR VOWS.
- Oh my god, a minitor. BUFFY, YOU ARE JUST SO PERFECT.
- While Dawn was comparing bad families with that one demon outside, I half expected Sokka to turn up and say, “Well, my girlfriend turned into the moon,” and then Zuko would pop out and say, “That’s rough, buddy.”
- I just realized that Anya says, “For the last time,” before reciting her completed vows to Tara. And it was the last time she’d say them. I’m sorry, I just had to point this out, IT IS BREAKING MY HEART.
- Okay, I’m pretty sure that someone shouts out “Deathwok Clan!” during charades, yes???? I SWEAR I HEARD IT.
Okay, there are three things we need to talk about aside from this.
Buffy and Spike’s conversation
No, seriously, it might be the most normal and human conversation that they’ve had since they first started some sort of relationship with one another. I think Buffy approaches Spike in a way that acknowledges that she broke up with him, that he might be hurting far more than he is. Still, I was shocked at how honest they were with one another. Spike openly admits he is trying to make Buffy jealous. But while it may have had that simple of an intent, it ends up serving a difference purpose: showing Spike that Buffy still does care about him. Both characters decide to do what’s both mature and best for the situation. Buffy doesn’t insult or degrade Spike any further, and Spike realizes it would be better if he didn’t stick around the wedding just so he can hurt someone.
Like seriously, that one scene was more healthy than their entire relationship.
I misread Xander’s fear the first time around. I thought the visions given to him were meant to show him a future where he was miserable and unhappy, that Anya wasn’t the right woman for him. I hated this because Anya was such a good fit for Xander, and I adored their relationship. But until the episode basically spelled it out for me, I couldn’t figure out why Xander was so afraid of marrying Anya. It couldn’t have been because Anya had been a demon before. I think Xander’s behavior in this episode and others in the past demonstrated his openness to the weirdness he was inviting into his life. He went out of his way to accommodate
He didn’t want to become his father.
I thought about what we saw in those visions, and they all continued the cycle that Mr. Harris started. Alcoholism. Neglect. Anger. Abuse. Domestic violence. Xander chose not to marry Anya so that he wouldn’t expose her to this possible side of him. It’s why he said that the truth behind the intent of the visions didn’t matter. What that demon showed Xander was the possibility that he would hurt Anya because Xander’s father hurt his wife.
Do I think that Xander should have walked out on the wedding? No. I think Anya deserved a chance to marry him, and the two could have worked on making sure that Xander didn’t imitate the image that his father had given him. But I am satisfied that “Hell’s Bells” at least gave us enough information to understand Xander’s flight. I still hate it, but at least I get it.
Ugh, I am so sad.
Throughout all of this, Anya does not once doubt that she wants to marry Xander, and the sheer irony of this is not made evident until the very end. Out of the two of them, Anya had a much better chance of becoming violent since she used to be a vengeance demon. Xander was so worried about his possible “future” with Anya and what he would turn into that he never stopped to think that breaking the heart of an ex-vengeance demon might be a REALLY FUCKING BAD IDEA. At the same time, I have to wonder how much of what happened to Anya is related to her past. This is the first time one of her victims got revenge on her. Did her victims deserve their treatment? I’m sure there were some. But how much of this is going to factor into her conversion back into a demon at the hands of D’Hoffryn? Will she only get revenge on Xander, or will she just return to her old job?
If this review seems a bit more chipper than it should be, it’s because I’m trying not to wallow in sadness. Like Buffy said, Xander and Anya were my hope, too. I did not believe that anything could have broken them apart. It was just gut-wrenching to watch Anya trudge down the aisle, tears on her face, knowing that she wouldn’t get Xander back. Hell, is she ever going to get him back? Can she ever trust him again? God, this is a chaotic mess, and it’s making me sad again. I’m gonna go hang out with a puppy.
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