Buffy 4×22: Restless

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 05/23/2000]


This is a magnificent episode and is the most complex I’ve ever witnessed on television. The first time I saw it I had a mixture of confusion, awe, and intrigue. It wasn’t until I rewatched “Restless” after I was finished with the series that I began to understand just how amazing this truly is. Since then, I’ve rewatched it countless times and each time I make a new connection or spot something I never noticed before. What’s so special about this dream episode anyway? Some people think it’s just an artistic gimmick. Others think it’s great just because of the Cheese Man. Well, I see this as special because it’s the nexus of the entire series. It is a character study of the core Scoobies (Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles), where their past, present, and future are seamlessly woven together to form textured perfection. We are reminded of where these character began, where they currently are, and where they are heading with truck loads of cryptic foreshadowing. That makes this an episode which caps everything that has come before it, and sets up everything that is to come after it.

One of the biggest reasons I love this episode so much is that it reminds me of the first time I played my favorite game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES). In that action-adventure game you go adventuring around a land with a story, dungeons, enemies, and so forth. One of the things that makes it unique is the amount of ‘secrets’ to uncover that can make your character more powerful and simply make the game more fun. This sense of wonder at looking all over the place for possible secrets always greatly appealed to me on a fundamental level that made all the early Zelda games so much fun. I get this same feeling when I watch “Restless.” I love jumping in and trying to figure out all the secrets hiding in cryptic dialogue and stuff you have to “read between the lines” to understand.

The question remains, how am I going to tackle reviewing this? Well, I’m going to dive into the material and attempt to make a connection to everything except the Cheese Man, who Whedon has specifically stated “means nothing” except that dreams can be extremely weird. Some of these connections will be far-fetched while others, hopefully, will not. I need to fully admit that this episode has a complexity that is simply beyond complete comprehension, so I will undoubtedly still miss certain connections. I will be moving through the episode in chronological order, starting with Willow’s dream. I hope you learn a lot of new stuff about this episode through this review. I hope I learn a lot of new stuff too! Shall we begin?

Before I actually start talking about Willow’s dream, I’d like to briefly discuss the stuff before the dreams. I love much of the pre-dream dialogue between everyone including Riley’s exposition and the meeting between him and Joyce. Here’s some of those lines:

RILEY: Having the inside scoop on the administration’s own Bay of Mutated Pigs is definitely an advantage.
WILLOW: It’s like you’re blackmailing the government! In a…patriotic way.

XANDER: Dinner is served. And my very own recipe.
WILLOW: Ooh, you pushed the button on the microwave that says popcorn?
XANDER: Actually, I pushed defrost, but, um, Joyce was there in the clinch.
RILEY: Well, you guys have fun tonight. (to Joyce) It was very nice meeting you.
JOYCE: It was nice meeting you…finally.
JOYCE: (to Buffy) Did you notice how pointedly I said “finally?”
BUFFY: (Innocent face) No.


Anyway, Willow’s dream is the most confusing to me and contains the most dialogue that I’m not confident I have the correct meaning of. So keep that in mind. Everything seems to be pointing towards Willow’s more confident persona and the overuse of black magic though. When it starts, we see all the Scoobies asleep, and now Tara is talking to Willow while lying on a bed. They are in Tara’s dorm room.

TARA: I think it’s strange. I mean, I think I should worry, that we haven’t found her name.
WILLOW: Who, Miss Kitty?
TARA: You’d think she’d let us know her name by now.
WILLOW: She will. She’s not all grown yet.

Right away we can see them talking about Miss Kitty Fantastico, who likely represents the First Slayer (FS). Tara’s statements suggest that they should be concerned because they don’t know about anything about the FS yet. The FS represents the Slayer part of Buffy and all the darkness that follows it. When Willow says “she’s not all grown yet,” I think she’s talking about Buffy’s knowledge of her powers and how it will affect those around her.

TARA: You’re not worried?
WILLOW: I never worry here. I’m safe here.

This just shows that Willow really does love Tara and that she completely trusts her. We heard her say that to Tara directly in “Who Are You?” [4×16] , but it’s reinforced here. This confession, of sorts, leads to this warning from Tara:

TARA: You don’t know everything about me.
WILLOW: Have you told me your real name?
TARA: Oh, you know that.

Here is more alluding to Tara’s secret. We find out in “Family” [5×06] that she thinks she’s a demon, and that it only manifests itself when she turns 20. It turns out it’s just lies fed by the males in her family to keep the women in line. Willow asks her what her “real name” is. Tara’s response is just saying that even though she’s a demon, Willow still knows who she is as a person. The alleged ‘demon’ is not a factor in their love.

TARA: They will find out, you know. About you.
WILLOW: Don’t have time to think about that. You know I have all this homework to finish.

Tara is saying that her friends will find out about how dangerous the magic she’s playing with is becoming. The response Willow gives shows that she’s ignoring all the warnings and would rather not look to the future. Unfortunately I have no idea what to make of the talk about being late. But when Miss Kitty Fantastic marches towards the camera it appears to be an indication that the FS is on the hunt and marching closer to them. It’s also important to take notice of the writing on Tara’s back, which turns out to have some hefty foreshadowing:

While to the vast majority of the show’s audience the Greek letters will be undecipherable, the inscription is an invocation to Aphrodite, which is responded to by the goddess’s promise to make whoever the poet desires love her back in return “if she does not love, soon she shall love – even unwilling”(Bowman). The particular verse has special meaning for the pair – Sappho and Aphrodite as representative of their being lesbian and witches respectively, but also on another level because Willow in the future will indeed use magic to sustain her love with Tara (Bowman) (Laura Suisted, http://www.watcherjunior.tv/01/suisted.php, 2005)

After this we see Willow walking in a school hall where Oz and Xander are.

WILLOW: Hey, guys.
OZ: Heard you’re taking drama.
WILLOW: Uh-huh.
OZ: It’s a tough course.
WILLOW: You took it?
OZ: Oh, I’ve been here forever.
XANDER: So whatcha been doin’? Doing spells? (To Oz) She does spells with Tara.
OZ: Yeah, I heard about that.
WILLOW: I’m gonna be late.
XANDER: Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell … and then I do a spell by myself.

I think all this talk about drama class relates to her fooling herself into believing, or ‘acting’, that she’s not tapping into dangerous magic. It also could mean that this new persona Willow’s been actively building for herself since “Doppelgangland” [3×16] is just an act. That in reality, Willow is still that same shy girl from S1. Or it could be hinting at both. Oz describes drama class, or her ‘acting’, as tough. I’m not sure what he means by “been here forever.” Does he mean he’s been in drama class forever, or that he’s been in the hallway with Xander forever? If it’s the latter, that could represent how both Xander and Oz were often pushed to the sidelines for their protection. We then see Xander, very casually, tell Oz about Willow’s spells with Tara. It’s like it’s no big deal to Xander, even though it’s a huge deal to Willow. Xander’s final comment, thinking about Willow and Tara doing a spell then doing one by himself, is likely what happened in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] .

Willow is now at her drama class where a production already seems to be happening. Harmony runs up to her all excited and says “I love you.” Is this implying some connection between Willow and Harmony? Maybe a vampiric connection between her and Vampire Willow, which in turn is foreshadowing of Willow becoming evil?

BUFFY: Ohmigod. The place is packed. Everybody’s here! Your whole family’s in the front row, (cheerful) and they look really angry.
WILLOW: There’s a production?
HARMONY: Oh, somebody’s got stage fright.

I think this could possibly be talking about how when Willow goes evil there’s going to be a packed audience of people watching the ‘show’. Her family looking angry is likely a tie to what we learn in “Gingerbread” [3×11] about Willow’s mother: she’s not too happy Willow is dabbling in witchcraft.

RILEY: Well, you showed up late, or you’d have a better part. I’m Cowboy Guy.

Haha. Riley has no specific name in this play. He’s just a trivialized piece in everything that’s happening, which we find out later is very much true in the real world.

BUFFY: (to Willow) Your costume is perfect. (Whispers) Nobody’s gonna know the truth. You know, about you.
WILLOW: Costume?
BUFFY: You’re already in character! Oh, I shoulda done that!

The costume talked about here refers to both Willow’s concealment of the dangers associated with her growing powers and, more importantly, the confident persona she’s created for herself during the last year. Buffy says that no one’s going to figure out how she’s still got that insecure nerd inside her. Then Buffy says that she’s already in character, which she has been for over a year now, and that she (Buffy) should have done that too. Now this is interesting, because Buffy is dressed in black and has black hair, insinuating that she’s dark and not doing a good job at concealing it. This could be a tie to her arc in S6.

RILEY: I showed up on time, so I got to be Cowboy Guy.

Riley reinforcing that because he came along at the right time in Buffy’s life, he got to be her boyfriend and go for quite a ride.

WILLOW: (to Buffy) I just think it’s really early to be putting on a play. I, I don’t even know what… (Eyes widen) This isn’t Madame Butterfly, is it, because I have a whole problem with opera.

This is obviously a reference to “Nightmares” [1×10] where the Scoobies are forced to live their greatest fears. One of Willow’s fears is stage fright in which she is stuck on stage and expected to sing Madame Butterfly. I think this is just a fun little reference.

GILES: All right, everyone! Pay attention! In just a few moments that curtain is going to open on our very first production. Now, everyone that Willow’s ever met … is out in that audience, including all of us. That means we have to be perfect. Stay in character, remember your lines, and energy energy energy, especially in the musical numbers!

I don’t how this relates to anything, except the obvious connection to “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] . Maybe it’s Whedon’s way of getting his writing staff energized for the next three seasons? I know…I’m stretching. 🙂

GILES: Acting is not about behaving, it’s about hiding. The audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive, so hide. (to Harmony) Stop that. Now, costumes, sets, um, the things that you, uh, you know, uh, you, um… you hold them, you touch them, uh, use them, um…
RILEY: Props?
GILES: (Points at Riley) Yes! It’s all about subterfuge. (To Harmony) That’s very annoying. (To everyone) Now go on out there, lie like dogs, and have a wonderful time. Now, if we can stay in focus, keep our heads, and if Willow can stop stepping on everyone’s cues, I know this’ll be the best production of “Death of a Salesman” we’ve ever done.

There’s a lot of really subtle awkward dialogue in that speech. It’s fun that Giles is the one who’s getting everyone in the play ready to perform, because he had that same job in “The Puppet Show” [1×09] during the Sunnydale High Talent Show. He says that acting is “not about behaving,” but rather hiding. This is really all directed at Willow, so I think he’s talking about what she is going to be doing in the future. Not behaving refers to doing way too much black magic against council not to, and hiding refers to the fact she denies the danger of what she’s doing. When he says the ‘audience’, I think that means the people who are affected by Willow’s behavior. Notice at the end of this dream Buffy tears off Willow’s clothes and the FS appears to suck her life-force out (and she was the ‘sprit’ in the joining spell they did in “Primeval” [4×21] ), which could be viewed as a form of eating her alive.

I’m pretty sure the whole ‘props’ exchange is a comment on how society still gives precedence to men over women to some extent. Harmony herself is in vamp face after this and keeps annoying Giles, which could be used to assist Giles’ comment on being “eaten alive” as well as being a literal interpretation of how annoying Harmony is to everyone. Anyway, Giles’ speech continues and he says some interestingly weird things like “It’s all about subterfuge” and “lie like dogs.” All of this is connected, once again, to Willow’s ‘hiding’ and ‘lieing’ to herself about her nerdy roots and her increasing use of magic. I’m a bit amazed by how much these same issues are being cryptically drilled into us during her dream, at least if I’m taking in any of this close to the way Whedon was intending to represent it.

All sound fades away (which is always a cool effect) and the Cheese Man appears for the first time. This guy rocks! I ❤ cheese. Willow then enters a hallway where she is surrounded by red curtains. These curtains look the same as the ones that she was performing by in "Nightmares" [1×10] , but here I think they represent love and desire — that's where she finds Tara.

TARA: Things aren’t going very well.
WILLOW: No! This drama class is just … I think they’re really not doing things in the proper way, and now I’m in a play and my whole family’s out there, and … why is there a cowboy in Death of a Salesman anyway?
TARA: You don’t understand yet, do you?
WILLOW: Is there something following me?
TARA: Yes.
WILLOW: Well, what, uh, what should I do? The, the play’s gonna start soon, and I don’t even know my lines.
TARA: The play’s already started. That’s not the point.

Hmm. Here, Tara seems to be warning Willow that the FS’s after her. Willow doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea of what’s happening. The comment Tara makes about the play being already started seems to go back to the fact that Willow is in the middle of her own deception. Willow says she doesn’t even know her lines, which means that she’s in this metaphorical play and doesn’t even realize it herself! The way she acts early in S6 proves this. This scene abruptly cuts into the play happening inside the dream.

RILEY: Why, hello, little lady. Can I hold those milk pails for you?
HARMONY: Why thank you, but they’re not very heavy. Why have you come to our lonely small town, which has no post office and very few exports?
RILEY: I’ve come looking for a man. A sales man.

I pretty much have no idea what this ‘play’ dialogue has to do with Willow, but it’s sure a good commentary on Riley. He’s the All-American cowboy who wants to come in and be the traditional gentleman, helping out the girls with the heavy lifting. Harmony’s response seems metaphorical for what Buffy does and never says in real life. Buffy can handle herself in this small town which many people seem to end up dying in, hence the “very few exports,” I’d wager. I think Harmony is being used as Buffy’s voice here, who is sitting casually on a couch behind Harmony. As for Riley’s talk about looking for a sales man, I confess I’ve got no idea. Color me clueless.

TARA: Everyone’s starting to wonder about you. The real you. If they find out, they’ll punish you, I … I can’t help you with that.

Now this statement’s a whole lot clearer. Tara’s suggesting that the people around Willow are beginning to worry about what she’s becoming. The fact she just recently fell in love with a girl probably falls under that category as well, but I believe the focus is on her use of magic. Tara warns her that if they find out they will “punish” her, which foreshadows the events of S6 is a huge way. At this point the scene jumps back into the dream play.

BUFFY: But what else could I expect from a bunch of low-rent, no-account hoodlums like you? Hoodlums, yes, I mean you and your friends, your whole sex, throw ’em in the sea for all I care, throw ’em in and wait for the bubbles, men with your groping and spitting all groin no brain three billion of you passing around the same worn-out urge. Men! With your … sales!

This speech from Buffy could mean a lot of different things. It could represent Willow’s subconscious opinion of men, which might be influenced by her emotional turmoil surrounding Oz’s abrupt departure and brief return. At the same time, this could represent how Buffy actually feels about men, which after Parker and the soon-to-be gone Riley could be so. Harmony is crying in the background, and the only thing I can think of that this could possibly represent is Buffy’s human half. I think Buffy, who’s dressed in black, represents the other half — the Slayer. That’s why Harmony is so sweet and Buffy is so forceful and hard. Some interesting evidence is that there’s also a dead guy dressed in black lying on the floor in between Buffy, the Slayer, and Harmony, the girl. This also could be foreshadowing how Buffy is going to close up even further emotionally after her break-up with Riley. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Buffy has been a lot more emotionally distant in her relationships since she had to kill Angel in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] .

BUFFY: Stay low. What did it look like?
WILLOW: I don’t know. I-I don’t know what’s after me.
BUFFY: Well, you must have done something.
WILLOW: No. I never do anything. I’m very seldom naughty. I, I just came to class, and, and the play was starting.
BUFFY: Play is long over. Why are you still in costume?
WILLOW: Okay, still having to explain wherein this is just my outfit.
BUFFY: Willow, everybody already knows. Take it off.
WILLOW: No. No. I need it.
BUFFY: Oh, for god’s sake, just take it off. That’s better. It’s much more realistic.
HARMONY: See? Isn’t everybody very clear on this now?

Buffy tells Willow she must have done something to make the FS want to come after her. She was the person who cast the spell to join all of them together in “Primeval” [4×21] . As usual, Willow refuses to take responsibility for her power and denies her involvement in a dangerous consequence of it. Then Buffy says the play is over, which I think means all her friends know about her problem (so S6 probably), and then “why are you still in costume.” Willow’s response is that the magic and her confident persona are just who she is now. When Buffy insists on removing her metaphorical clothing, Willow finally gets a bit panicy and admits that she needs it and that she is, in fact, just wearing a costume. This is interesting because it suggests that deep down Willow isn’t completely oblivious to her problems. Buffy says of a S1 Willow, “That’s better. It’s much more realistic.” I think a point’s being made here that Willow’s S1 personality is still very much who she is at the core and likely always will be. The shy innocent girl will always be a part of her (though a much less part later) throughout her life.

WILLOW: My book report. This summer I, I read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
XANDER: Oh, who cares!?
WILLOW: This book ha-has many themes…Help! Help me!

Here Willow says her book report involves the mystical, and Xander says no one really cares. It’s interesting how right after she says “this book has many themes,” she gets jumped by the FS, punishing her for the mention of magic. Willow is going to need a lot of help come S6. I will wrap up what I thought about Willow’s dream as a whole, as well as all the individual dreams, in the conclusion.


Xander’s fascinating dream is also pretty confusing in spots, but seems to have a clearer point to make than that of Willow’s dream, which can be looked at from so many different perspectives. As an example of this, Xander’s dream begins hitting right on his main ‘issue’:

XANDER: I’m awake. I’m good. Did I miss anything?
GILES: Not very much at all really.

One of Xander’s problems all season is that he’s felt useless and without direction. He asks if he missed anything, I think referring to in his life, and Giles responds that he hasn’t missed too much. Even though Xander needs to get himself in a better situation, he is still a teenager (19 I think) with a bit of time to work things out.

GILES: I have to say, I really feel that Apocalypse Now is overrated.
XANDER: No, no. It gets better.

I think Xander’s talking about how his life will get better, which it does in S5.

BUFFY: Want some corn?
XANDER: Butter flavor?
BUFFY: New car smell.
XANDER: Cool. (indicating Willow) What’s her deal?
BUFFY: Big faker.

Besides the very dream-like, and also quite amusing, talk about the popcorn being “new car smell” flavor, Buffy calls Willow a “big faker,” which is indicative of what one of the themes of Willow’s dream was all about. The fact that this comment is in Xander’s dream suggests that he, at some level, knows that Willow’s hiding her true self. This isn’t a surprise considering how long they’ve known each other.

GILES: Oh, I’m beginning to understand this now. It’s all about the journey, isn’t it?

This is a great comment from Giles about what the viewer of the series should be realizing by now. His comment not only speaks about the fact that BtVS is just one big journey through these characters’ lives, but also that this episode itself is a journey rather than an episode with a straightforward beginning and end — it’s, as Whedon says, a journey through the characters’ psyche.

XANDER: Well, thanks for making me have to pee.
BUFFY: You don’t need any help with that, right?
XANDER: Got a system.

I think this exchange could be referring to how Buffy is always saving and ‘helping’ Xander from being killed. Xander responds here that he doesn’t always need her help — he’s got a system of survival. Also, it’s hilarious; I love this exchange and laugh every time I hear it.

XANDER: Hey Joyce. Mrs. Summers. We’re not making too much noise down there, are we?
JOYCE: Oh, no. Anyway, they all left a while ago.
XANDER: Oh, I should probably go catch up.
JOYCE: I’ve heard that before.

I had no idea what to make of Joyce coming on to Xander and him digging it until I heard Whedon’s commentary. Apparently a lot of guys dream sexually about their friends’ mothers. I myself, thankfully, have not encountered this apparent phenomenon before.

XANDER: I move pretty fast. You know, a man’s always after-
JOYCE: Conquest?
XANDER: I’m a conquistador.
JOYCE: You sure it isn’t comfort?
XANDER: I’m a comfortador also.

Now these lines say a ton about Xander’s wants, impulses, and needs. The idea of conquest is often associated with us males. At a basic, primal, level most of us want conquest over ourselves, others, and especially females, both non-sexually and sexually. Conquest can also be easily replaced with ‘control’ with the point remained intact. Xander has a lot of these standard male impulses, but that’s not all there is to him. This is where him being a comfortador comes in. By saying this, he’s basically admitting the want of love and comfort that his parents never provided throughout his life.

JOYCE: It’s very late. Would you like to rest for a while?
XANDER: Um, yeah. I’d like you. I’m just…gonna go to the bathroom first.
JOYCE: Don’t get lost.

When offered a chance to rest, Xander says that he’d really like to, but that he’s got to go elsewhere first. Joyce is saying to not get lost in that exploration. After this he heads to the bathroom, his exploration, where everyone is staring at him and analyzing his performance, which is simply a metaphor for his life. He feels that everyone is watching him, analyzing him, and mocking him to some extent. Also, once again, this is simply completely hilarious. What’s even more funny is Whedon’s commentary on the scene: “I think that’s probably the best use of the Initiative we had all year.”

After this, Xander goes into another room and ends up finding himself in his dank basement. There’s some pounding on the door coming from the upstairs.

XANDER: I didn’t order any vampires!…That’s not the way out.

Now this is incredibly telling, especially since we already know who the one banging on the door is. When Xander yells about not ordering any vampires, he’s really talking about his parents! He sees his parents as the real vampires, sucking the life out of his existence and happiness. That’s why they are “not the way out” into freedom and happiness and why he keeps trying to get out of the basement, but inevitably ends up back there. All of this conincides with his feeling of failure.

XANDER: Hey, there you are.
BUFFY: Are you sure it’s us you were looking for?

Xander seems pleased he found Buffy, but her reply isn’t as comforting as he likely hoped. She insinuates that his friends aren’t the ones who can help him now. This next step in his life is completely up to him — he must make changes on his own.

SPIKE: Giles here is gonna teach me to be a Watcher. Says I got the stuff.
GILES: Spike’s like a son to me.
XANDER: That’s good. I was into that for a while, but… I got other stuff goin’ on. You gotta have something. Gotta be with movin’ forward.
BUFFY: Like a shark.
XANDER: Like a shark with feet and … much less fins.
SPIKE: And on land!

There’s a few references to “Tabula Rasa” [6×08] here: Spike being a son to Giles and the shark on land. Spike says that Giles is going to teach him to be a Watcher. Amusingly, Giles inadvertantly helped him become Buffy’s literal ‘watcher’, of sorts, in S7 by trying to have him killed against Buffy’s wishes (“Lies My Parents Told Me” [7×17] ). Xander responds with a comment about him being under Giles’ care for a while (the first three seasons). He does have other stuff that’s more important now: Anya, a stable job, and trying to get out of his parents’ basement.

XANDER: Buffy, are you sure you wanna play there? It’s a pretty big sandbox.
BUFFY: I’m okay. It’s not coming for me yet.
XANDER: I just mean…you can’t protect yourself from…some stuff.
BUFFY: I’m way ahead of you, big brother.
XANDER: Brother?
GILES: Go on, put your back into it! A Watcher scoffs at gravity.

Xander now asks Buffy if she’s sure the desert, that primal part of her, is where she wants to be, or ‘play’. Her response proves that she already knows what is happening. Xander replies with a true sentiment of not being able to protect yourself from everything. Buffy says that’s she’s way ahead of him on that point and calls him “big brother.” I wonder if the brother comment could relate to the fact that their relationship has moved beyond friendship and into the realm of family. Taking this even further, Buffy might come to see Xander as older and more mature than her, which is something that definitely happens in S6 (for a while at least). Xander in S7 is shown to really have his stuff together as well. Buffy herself still has along way to go before maturing herself, which is something that at this point in time is shocking to Xander because of the pedastal he puts her on.

ANYA: Do you know where you’re going? I’ve been thinking about getting back into vengeance.
XANDER: Is that right?
ANYA: Well, you know how I miss it. I’m so at loose ends since I quit. I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance.

As he looks ponderingly outside his icecream truck at himself, analyzing his life as he does all so often, Anya comes into the picture and bluntly asks him the big question: “do you know where you’re going?” She then says she misses and wants to get back into vengeance because she’s been at loose ends since she was a demon. Boy is this true, as we see when she does return to vengeance (because of Xander) in “Entropy” [6×18] . It’s not until “Selfless” [7×05] that we see her loose ends extend far beyond simple vengeance. Anya states it being a big ‘year’ for it, but she doesn’t go back to it until S6. I guess that plot thread got pushed back a year by ME.

XANDER: But…isn’t vengeance kind of…vengeful?
ANYA: You don’t want me to have a hobby.
XANDER: Not a vengeance hobby, no! It’s dangerous. People can’t do anything they want. Society has rules, and borders, and an end zone. (hears giggling, turns) Do you mind? I’m talking to my demon.

There’s lots of concern from Xander here over Anya’s vengeance wishes. He says that people can’t do whatever they want, because of society’s ‘rules’. This feels like it directly ties in to a conversation between Buffy, Xander, and Dawn in “Villains” [6×20] about society’s rules and magical rules: they’re different. Buffy determines law in the mystical, not the natural world. Before this train of thought gets too complicated for Xander, sex comes flying back into the picture. As we found out in “Earshot” [3×18] , Xander can’t go on for too long without thinking about sex.

TARA: We just think you’re really interesting.
XANDER: Oh, I-I’m going places.
WILLOW: I’m way ahead of you.
XANDER: Is that right?
WILLOW: Watch this.
TARA: Do you wanna come in the back with us?

Not only is Xander’s brain diving into the sexual, but a connection is also being made to his feelings of failure. Xander says he’s “going places,” but everyone always responds “I’m way ahead of you.” Buffy said the exact same thing to him. Everyone’s ‘ahead’ of Xander, or at least that’s the way he feels. The prolonged reaction shot from Xander watching the two girls kiss is pure gold. Whedon said in the commentary that he wanted to hold it even longer but they wouldn’t let him. haha.

ANYA: Oh, go on.
XANDER: I don’t have to.
ANYA: I’ll be fine. I think I’ve figured out how to steer by gesturing emphatically.

This seems like a big dose of foreshadowing to not only their break-up, but Anya’s self-realization that she needs to find who ‘she’ is (“Selfless” [7×05] ). I’m not sure if that correlates to “gesturing emphatically” though which, by the way, is a phrase I use all the time.

XANDER: Girls?…I know what’s up there!
CHEESE MAN: These…will not protect you.

Girls, fear, and cheese all in about 15 seconds. It doesn’t get any better than this people! This is when you unequivocally know you’re watching a show by the genius that is Joss Whedon. Simply awesome! My God I love this series. Note that soon I will be revealing a secret about the Cheese Man that I don’t think many (if any) people are aware of. So don’t stop reading now!…Hey!…Come back!

GILES: Hm. Now, the others have gone on ahead. Now, listen very carefully. Your life may depend on what I’m about to tell you. You need-

I won’t quote any of the French talk, because its translation isn’t of any direct importance. What is important is the metaphor of Xander not understanding anyone. Everyone around him, including his friends, are all speaking a different language (college) and growing up while he’s simply stuck in place (the basement) and can’t figure out why. Right as this is happening, he gets dragged to yet another place and will end up back in his basement again.

SNYDER: Where are you from, Harris?
XANDER: Well, the basement, mostly.
SNYDER: Were you born there?
XANDER: Possibly.

Now Xander’s made his way into Apocalypse Now where Snyder asks some pretty solid questions. Right off the bat we get Xander’s confession that he’s from the basement and was even possibly born there.

SNYDER: I walked by your guidance counselor’s office one time. A bunch of you were sitting there…waiting to be shepherded. I remember it smelled like dead flowers. Like decay. Then it hit me. The hope of our nation’s future is a bunch of mulch.
XANDER: You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake.

The mention of being sheparded makes particular sense here, as Xander’s always been pulled around wherever the people around him direct him to go. Could Snyder be trying to say that Xander’s current path is one of dead flowers and decay? I think I’m going to go with that interpretation. And how about Xander finally giving it to Snyder, just as he hoped he would way back in “What’s My Line? Pt. 1” [2×09] when he said, “Well, I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to be so honest with me. And I can only hope that one day I’m in the position to be that honest with you.”

SNYDER: Where are you heading?
XANDER: Well, I’m supposed to meet Tara and Willow. And possibly Buffy’s mom.
SNYDER: Your time is running out.
XANDER: No, I’m just trying to get away. There’s…something I can’t fight.

Here Snyder brings the question back to the basics again. First it was “where are you from” and now it’s “where are you heading?” Xander immediately jumps to the idea that he’s heading towards girls. Snyder warns him that the time to fool around with his life is running out. It’s interesting that Xander replies to this with denial. He claims that the girls are just an excuse to get away from what’s after him. The truth is that what he can’t fight is not only the FS, but also his parents. He’s trying as hard as he can to get away from them.

SNYDER: Are you a soldier?
XANDER: I’m a comfortador.
SNYDER: You’re neither. You’re a whipping boy. Raised by mongrels and set on a sacrificial stone.
XANDER: I’m getting a cramp.

Now Snyder asks him if he’s a soldier, which kind of goes back to how, earlier, he said he was a conquistador to Joyce. Here he simply responds that he’s a comfortador, one wanting love of comfort. Snyder claims that he’s neither of the two, but rather a “whipping boy” who was raised by terrible parents and who will rot away because of them if he doesn’t escape. Then Xander gets a timely cramp and begins running frantically away again.

GILES: It’s more serious than we thought.
XANDER: Giles!
BUFFY: I can fight anything. Right?
ANYA: Maybe we should slap her.

As Xander runs from place to place in his life, we can overhear this little interesting discussion in Giles’ home. This feels very much like foreshdowing of the events of the final S5 episodes. In “Spiral” [5×20] we see Buffy running away from Glory, a being she can’t fight, and Giles getting jabbed by a spear. “Giles!” When Anya says “maybe we should slap her,” I’m reminded of Spike slapping Buffy in “The Weight of the World” [5×21] even though Willow is the one unconcious here. Anyway, after all this running, guess where Xander ends up? Correct! The Basement.

XANDER: That’s not the way out.
XANDER’S DAD: What the hell is wrong with you? You won’t come upstairs? What are you…ashamed of us? Your mother’s crying her guts out!
XANDER: You don’t understand.
XANDER’S DAD: No. You don’t understand. The line ends here with us, and you’re not gonna change that. You haven’t got the heart.

I think the moment when the door opens and Xander’s dad walks out is one of acceptance that he’s got to seriously make changes in his life. He repeats the phrase “that’s not the way out” again, which he needs to realize beyond his subconcious. Xander’s dad asks him what’s wrong with him and why he won’t come up and be a part of their disfunctional family. From what we’ve seen of Xander’s parents, if his mom is crying her guts out about anything it’s what a crappy husband she married. Then his dad repeats the thing we’ve been discovering about Xander this whole episode: “You don’t understand.” Think about that phrase literally: Xander doesn’t understand anything. His dad goes on to say life has reached its breaking point in that home, and that Xander cannot improve it. Then he gets his heart ripped out, which hints at Xander being the ‘heart’ of the Scooby Gang. Taken more literally, though, it represents the FS going after each part of the spell (“Primeval” [4×21] ) that was used in summoning it. Willow was the spirit and Xander was the heart.


We’ve made it to Giles! Are you still with me? Fortunately for my brain, Giles’ dream is relatively short and has a very sharp focus to it. There’s not a lot of ambiguity here, and this is made all the more evident from the first frame of the dream. It opens with a watch swinging back and forth, bringing the idea of the Watcher back into focus. Buffy is sitting on a chair and Giles, in full Watcher tweed, is talking to her as an instructor.

GILES: You have to stop thinking. Let it wash over you.
BUFFY: Don’t you think it’s a little old-fashioned?
GILES: This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning…before time. Now look into the light.

First of all, isn’t Buffy the cutest thing in the world right here? I absolutely adore her burst into laughter. An interesting fact I picked up from Whedon’s commentary was that in order to get SMG to laugh he spontaneously made funny faces behind the camera. Every time I picture that in my head I end up laughing too. Anyway, Giles tells Buffy to stop thinking (which isn’t going to ever happen); to let the hypnotization wash over her. This is kind of eerily reminscent to how Giles hypnotized her in “Helpless” [3×12] . Buffy’s response to this is spot-on to her character. She calls this “old-fashioned,” which is exactly what Buffy doesn’t represent as a Slayer and what makes her unique. Giles then continues his tradition while ignoring the fact that Buffy and her techniques are different. This flaw causes problems several times, including in “Helpless” [3×12] and “Lies My Parents Told Me” [7×17] .

BUFFY: Come on, come on! We’re gonna miss all the good stuff.
OLIVIA: Does she always want to train this badly?
GILES: Well, it appears she’s never heard the fable about patience.
BUFFY: Here, I want to, I want to!
GILES: Yes, go ahead … Buffy, you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind. Don’t stick out your elbow.

Here we see Buffy being looked at as Giles’ little girl. This representation is really sweet and shows how Giles looks at Buffy. It’s also very interesting that Olivia is in his dream as well. It appears there’s a big part of Giles that wants a tradition family of his own. Buffy’s his daughter and Olivia is his wife. Olivia says that Buffy wants to train badly, which I think is what Giles really wants — he desparately misses training and connecting with Buffy frequently, as a parent would miss spending time with their daughter. It’s obvious he misses the day when he felt Buffy really needed him around as a guiding figure. He also says that Buffy doesn’t have much patience, which is something he really does think about her. It’s interesting to note that the fake vampire Buffy throws the ball at is Count Drac who, of course, appears in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] .

GILES: I haven’t got any treats.
OLIVIA: For god’s sake, Rupert, go easy on the girl.
GILES: (to Olivia) This is my business. Blood of the lamb and all that. (to Buffy) Oh, now you’re gonna get that all over your face…I know you.
SPIKE: Hey! Come on! You’re gonna miss everything!
GILES: Don’t push me around. You know I have a great deal to do.

Notice that this entire first part of Giles’ dream is about Buffy. I think this shows that she comes first in his life. His personal wants and ambitions are only considered when she is taken care of. When he says to her, “I haven’t got any treats,” I feel that represents the role of the Slayer. She trains, she slays, she’s out there every night, and she never gets rewarded for her efforts and never really gets to be happy. Olivia seems to be the one representing Buffy’s voice in that she needs a personal life to survive. Being only the Slayer will kill her, and that happens from “The Body” [5×16] on including a literal death in “The Gift” [5×22] . Giles goes on to say that he’s the one who should be guiding Buffy. When he says “blood of the lamb” that likely refers to Buffy’s upcoming sacrifice.

There’s three visual hints that need to be talked about. First is the fact that Olivia is carrying a stroller, which reinforces Giles’ perception of Buffy as not only his daughter, but as a child. Second is the fact that Olivia is pregnant, which foreshadows Dawn. Third is when the negative image on Buffy appears and Giles recognizes it as the FS. That image and the mud represent the essence of the Slayer, the dark instincts, that reside within Buffy.

Spike tells Giles he’s “gonna miss everything” to which he in return says that he’s juggling a lot of different things, which is true. He’s got his duty to Buffy, his aspirations of a family and life, and his training as a Watcher all sending him conflicting desires, wants, needs, and messeges. It’s no surprise that Giles doesn’t want to be abrupty forced to make any decisions, hence the “don’t push me around.”

Also of importance in Spike’s crypt is what’s going on in the background. The baby carriage, which represents Buffy as a child, is knocked over and Olivia is crying. Here’s more foreshadowing of not only Buffy’s death in “The Gift” [5×22] , but also the complete loss of her childhood after being magically revived by Willow in “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] .

SPIKE: I’ve hired myself out as an attraction.
GILES: Sideshow freak?
SPIKE: Well, at least it’s showbiz.


As soon as Spike begins talking outside his crypt, take notice of the gnome lying to the right of his feet (there’s some more on the left as well). That’s the exact same gnome that Xander kicked and broke (screenshot on the left is from “Restless” while the one on the right is from “Entropy” [6×18] ), uncovering an Evil Trio spy cam on Buffy’s house. Where did Buffy go as a result of that gnome? To Spike’s crypt, which connects a lots of things. In that same episode, Spike and Anya are caught on camera having sex, making their former partners feel terrible, while here in “Restless” Spike says that he’s an “attraction” and Giles calls him a “sideshow freak.” Spike’s pleased it’s showbiz, which seems to be an attempt at making fun of carefree movie stars who can’t seem to ever have long or trustworthy relationships, let alone marriages.

GILES: What am I supposed to do with all of this?
SPIKE: You gotta make up your mind, Rupes. What are you wasting your time for? Haven’t you figured it all out yet, with your enormous squishy frontal lobes?
GILES: I still think Buffy should have killed you.

Giles is confused by the mess that he sees around him, and Spike gives it to him straight. He tells him he’s got to make up his mind about which direction he wants to go in his life. The question of ‘what’s taking so long’ is then posed along with a hint of which way he should go. Spike makes reference to Giles’ intellect, which traces back to his training as a Watcher once again. In a nice dose of foreshadowing, Giles then says “I still think Buffy should have killed you.” “Lies My Parents Told Me” [7×17] anyone? It’s also worth mentioning Spike’s poses. While I’m unsure of if any pose but the last represents anything directly relevant to him, the last does foreshadow. The pose is that of Jesus Christ on the crucifix, which directly ties into Buffy’s sacrifice in “The Gift” [5×22] , with her crucifix-like pose as she dives to her death, and also to Spike’s own sacrifice of his life in “Chosen” [7×22] .

CHEESE MAN: I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.
GILES: Honestly, you meet the most appalling sort of people.

Aside from the hilarious quote there, I have a (hopefully) big surprise. I don’t know of anyone else who knows about this, so if you did know about this and what I’m about to say is no surprise, then keep quiet and let me enjoy the fame (j/k of course)! I wish I could get a screencap of this for you, but alas I can’t find one. It turns out the Cheese Man is in another episode of BtVS besides “Restless.” He makes an extremely brief appearance in “Storyteller” [7×16] ! It’s in the middle of the episode when Willow’s using a charm to pull memories of the First Evil in Mexico out of Andrew. There’s a sequence of images that go by which mostly includes the Seal, an Ubervamp, and the likes. If you look really closely during this montage of imagery, the Cheese Man himself is slipped into just one frame, and a second later, it shows his plate of cheese too! Did this just make your day? Because it made my day when I first went “wait just a damn minute” and rewound my DVD to try to pause the exact frame. Joss Whedon, you kick ass!

GILES: I’m so sorry I’m late. There’s a great deal going on. And all at once!
WILLOW: Don’t we know it. Only at death’s door over here, look at Xander!
XANDER: Got the sucking chest wound swingin’. I promised Anya I’d be there for her big night. Now I’ll probably be pushing up daisies, in the sense of being in the ground underneath them and fertilizing the soil with decomposition.

All of the facets of Giles’ life are blending together here. We also get a bunch of exposition about everyone’s current situation. While this discussion is taking place, Anya’s doing a terrible, which makes it a highly amusing, stand-up comedian routine in the background.

WILLOW: Do you know this is your fault?
GILES: We have to think of the facts, Willow. I’m very busy. I have a gig myself, you know.
WILLOW: Something’s after us. It’s, uh, like some primal…some animal force.
GILES: That used to be us.
XANDER: Don’t get linear on me now, man.

Now here’s some more meat and potatoes. Willow tells Giles that what is happening is his fault, probably because he’s the one who came up with the idea for the joining spell in “Primeval” [4×21] . Giles reiterates that he’s busy trying to sort out his life, that he has things in it besides his Watcher duties. I think Willow represents Giles’ brain trying to work out what is happening, because she now realizes that some primal force is after them (which Giles recognized when he saw Primal Buffy). His response suggests he’s thinking that Willow is talking about the four Scoobies when they joined together, but Xander pops in and corrects him — it’s not as simple as Giles is making it out to be.

WILLOW: Rupert. You’ve gotta focus. You must have some kind of explanation. If we don’t know what we’re fighting, I don’t think we stand a chance.
GILES: (sings) It’s strange, it’s not like anything we’ve faced before. It seems familiar somehow. Of course! The spell we cast with Buffy, must have released, some primal evil that’s come back seeking…I’m not sure what…Willow, look through the chronicles, for some reference, to a warrior beast. I’ve got to warn Buffy. There’s every chance she might be next. Xander, help Willow. And try not to bleed on my couch I’ve just had it steam-cleaned. No, wait…

Willow, still representing Giles’ Watcher training here, tells him to focus in a way he might tell himself to focus. This is when he starts singing, which really displays his conflicting desires of wanting to be a father, a rock star, and a Watcher. Another tidbit I picked up from Whedon’s wonderful commentary is that Giles’ song here is what convinced Whedon that a musical is really a viable option and actually motivated the musical. The song itself it simply pure exposition relating to him putting the pieces together, and is quite entertaining exposition at that. Anthony Stewart Head has a wonderfully soothing singing voice.

GILES: Well that was…obvious. I know who you are. And I can defeat you…with my intellect. I…can cripple you with my thoughts. Of course, you underestimate me. You couldn’t know. You never had a Watcher.

After crawling back stage and following a wire, he finds a pile of tangled wires and his watch. This is extremely clever, because the tangled nature of the wires represents his confusion over what to do with his life while the watch is meant to give him his answer. That’s why he says, “well that was…obvious.” Giles is also, at this moment, completely aware of what’s hunting them (the FS in a really creepy slow-motion slide effect) and mentions her not having a Watcher. I think this helps validate the importance of his position as Watcher to himself as well. Also notice how the FS cuts open his head? Once again the connection is made to the joining spell — he was the ‘mind’.


Buffy’s dream is absolutely wonderful (not that the others aren’t). Like Giles’, this dream isn’t quite as cryptic as the first two. This one also has the most foreshadowing of all of them. We get strong hints about where Buffy and Riley are headed, Joyce’s tragedy, Dawn’s arrival, and more. But enough boring exposition from me! Lets get started! The dream opens with a shot of Buffy in her bed with the sun shining in through the window onto her. Anya is in Willow’s bed in their dorm room.

ANYA: Buffy! Wake up! Buffy, you have to wake up right away!
BUFFY: I’m not really in charge of these things.
ANYA: Please wake up. Oh please.
BUFFY: I need my beauty sleep. So stop it, okay?

Now, the first question that comes to mind is why Anya is in Willow’s bed. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for that. To me it seems that Anya’s words are referring to Buffy being in the grave — in heaven, hence why the sun is on her. Anya clearly wants Buffy to “wake up,” which means not be dead. Now, Anya is part of the group that helps bring Buffy back to life, but aside from that I don’t see a connection. Anyway, Buffy tells Anya in return that she doesn’t want to wake up and to frankly knock it off — in other words, “I need my heaven sleep, leave me alone!” Unfortunately for poor Buffy, they dont (“Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] ).

Take close notice of the FS in the screencap above. Of particular interest is the fact that she’s chained to the ground. If this sounds familiar, it should, because in “Get it Done” [7×15] Buffy meets the creators of the original Slayer. They created the Slayer by tieing her to the ground and essentially raping her with the essence of a demon. This image here is in direct reference to that history.

BUFFY: Faith and I just made that bed.
TARA: For who?
BUFFY: I thought you were here to tell me. The guys aren’t here, are they? We were gonna hang out and, watch movies t-
TARA: You lost them.
BUFFY: No. No. I think they need me to find them.

Right away a connection to the Faith-based dreams is made, which immediately brings up hints of Dawn’s arrival. Buffy knows they’re making a bed for someone, but not who. This is why she thought Tara was there. We can see that right from the start, Buffy’s somewhat in control of her dream. She speaks about hanging out with her friends and the movie gathering. It’s interesting that Tara is telling her she lost them, which connects with the FS’s later point about Buffy having to be alone. But Buffy resists, and claims that she does, in fact, need to find her friends.

BUFFY: It’s so late.
TARA: Oh…that clock’s completely wrong.

Buffy looks at the same clock from the dream she had with Faith in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] . Then the clock read “7:30” and now it says the same thing, which is why Tara says the “clock’s completely wrong.” I guess it wouldn’t make any sense if the clock read “3:65.” 🙂

TARA: (shows Buffy the Manus Tarot card) Here.
BUFFY: I’m never gonna use those.
TARA: You think you know…what’s to come…what you are. You haven’t even begun.
BUFFY: I think I need to go find the others.
TARA: Be back before dawn.

First I’d like to mention that from the commentary, it appears that Tara is the FS’s voice because Buffy doesn’t know her very well and also because she has that mystical vibe going for her. Anyway, Tara offers Buffy the Manus (hand) Tarot card. Buffy’s response is a bit confusing. Does she mean she’ll never be privy to a joining spell again? Tara responds with the greatest piece of cryptic dialogue “Restless” has to offer: “You think you know…what’s to come…what you are. You haven’t even begun.” When I heard this for the first time, I got the impression the series would take the road most genre shows would take: make Buffy more powerful physcially or give her new abilities. I love that they didn’t go that route. Tara’s cryptic comment turns out to mean that Buffy simply has no idea what the nature of the Slayer, herself, is really about. After this, Buffy continues to reject the notion of the Slayer and would rather go find her friends. Tara slips in “be back before dawn” as she walks out, which obviously infers Dawn’s imminent arrival in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] .

JOYCE: Oh, hi, honey.
BUFFY: Why are you living in the walls?
JOYCE: Oh, sweetie, no, I’m fine here. Don’t worry about me.
BUFFY: It looks dirty.
JOYCE: Well, it seems that way to you. I made some lemonade, and I’m learning how to play mah-jongg. You go find your friends.
BUFFY: I, I think they might be in danger.
JOYCE: I-I’m sorry, dear. Um, a mouse is playing with my knees.
BUFFY: I, I really don’t think you should live in there.
JOYCE: Well…you could…probably break through the wall.

As Buffy is looking for her friends, she notices that her mom is inside a hole in the wall. This is a very interesting metaphor for how their relationship is these days. As Faith pointed out in “This Year’s Girl” [4×15] , Buffy hasn’t been to see her mom much this year, hence why Joyce feels a bit like she’s been put in a wall and only has a little window to see Buffy and her life out of. As can be seen by their introduction here, though, they are still very amicable to each other. Joyce understands that Buffy’s doing the “college thing” and has broke away from her, but it’s obvious that she really misses Buffy. At first she says “I’m fine here. Don’t worry about me.” Buffy begins expressing concern for her: “it looks dirty,” which could be foreshadowing Joyce’s upcoming illness and death. But Joyce puts on her supportive mother face and basically tells Buffy to go on with her life (“you go find your friends”). Then when Buffy says “I really don’t think you should live in there,” Joyce finally gives us the heart of the matter, and that is Buffy could break through that wall if she really wanted to, but instead she goes wandering off and leaves her mother there. This feels very much like a commentary of their relationship during S4. Because when Joyce gets ill in S5, Buffy will be right there for her.

RILEY: Hey there, killer.
BUFFY: Riley? You’re back.
RILEY: I never left.

Buffy continues to look for her friends only to find Riley with a completely human version of Adam. Riley calls Buffy a killer, which immediately establishes her connection to the FS. Everyone Buffy is running into is trying to convince her that she’s not supposed to have friends, that she’s supposed to be a lone killer. But Buffy keeps rejecting these comments and continues to look for her friends. When Buffy expresses surprise that Riley came back from the government, Riley’s response perfectly states how he feels about Buffy. Riley has genuine love for her, and when he says that he “never left,” he’s saying that his thoughts were always there, with Buffy.

BUFFY: But how did the debriefing go?
RILEY: I told you not to worry about that. It went great. They made me surgeon general.
BUFFY: Why didn’t you come and tell me? We could have celebrated.
RILEY: Oh. We’re drawing up a plan for world domination. The key element? Coffee-makers that think.
BUFFY: World domination? I-is that a good?
RILEY: Baby, we’re the government. It’s what we do.

This chunk of dialogue shows that Buffy still has a lot of trust issues with Riley. She sees him as going off, being put in another position of authority, and not telling her about it — as in keeping secrets from her. After a very, very cute “we could have celebrated” from Buffy, Riley says that they (the government) want to rule the world. This is showing just how worried Buffy is that Riley’s still easily influenced by secret government projects. Riley’s final comment, and the hilarious pull in shot of the gun, is a knock on our government no doubt and how its focus might be better suited in areas outside of foreign policy. I’m not sure I completely agree with what Whedon’s trying to say here, but I’ll keep that to myself.

ADAM: She’s uncomfortable with certain concepts. It’s understandable. Aggression is a natural human tendency. (Looks at Buffy) Though you and me come by it another way.
BUFFY: We’re not demons.
ADAM: Is that a fact?
RILEY: Buffy, we’ve got important work here. A lot of filing, giving things names.
BUFFY: What was yours?
ADAM: Before Adam? Not a man among us can remember.

Adam begins to speak to Buffy and says some really interesting stuff. I’m pretty sure he’s speaking for the FS, who briefly appears behind Buffy, during this sequence. He claims that Buffy is uncomfortable with her Slayer nature, her naturally enhanced agressive tendencies. When he says “you and me come by it another way,” he’s directly referring to Buffy’s Slayer instincts and his own aggressive responses due to being mixed with a bunch of demons. In a nutshell, Adam says that humans are agressive by nature themselves, but both he and Buffy have gotten their enhanced aggressive natures through other, non-natural means, whether it be through science or magic. Buffy tries to refute this idea by saying her and Adam are not demons, but he’s not convinced — there is demon essence inside her, as we learn for fact in “Get it Done” [7×15] . Then Riley makes another jab at the government, insinuating that one of its main goals is to file things away and assign names to them — this definitely does happens, which makes the comment really funny. When Buffy asks Adam what his name used to be, he claims no one knows. This makes sense if Adam is really just speaking for the FS.

ADAM: This could be trouble.
RILEY: We better make a fort.
ADAM: I’ll get some pillows.
BUFFY: Wait! I have weapons!
RILEY: Thought you were looking for your friends. Okay, killer. If that’s the way you want it. I guess you’re on your own.

The fort/pillow talk is just hilarious — boys playing out their military fantasies. Buffy frantically claims she has weapons, then bends down and opens a bag only to find a big pile of mud in it. She looks confused, because she didn’t find her friends in there — which are Buffy’s initial weapons. But the weapon of the Slayer doesn’t come from friends, it comes from the demon within. That’s why she finds the mud there. The mud represents the primal nature of the Slayer — the dark demon roots. After her hesitation to give into that nature, Buffy revels in it and fully gives into it by putting the mud all over her face.

As Riley speaks to her she glances upwards towards him looking completely primal and ferocious. It’s very interesting that as soon as Buffy gives into her primal nature, Riley says “thought you were looking for your friends.” When in this state, Buffy doesn’t seem to care about her friends anymore. Then Riley calls her a killer, again, and basically says that the Slayer nature is too much for him so he’s taking off. That’s big foreshadowing of why he leaves in “Into the Woods” [5×10] . In that episode Riley says, “I wanted to know what you felt. I wanted to know why Dracula and Angel have so much power over you.”

After Riley walks away, Buffy gets up and walks outside into the desert, the same primal place she was ‘playing’ in during Xander’s dream. I just want to take a moment to say how utterly beautiful the cinematography, music, and Buffy herself is during this transition. This transition very much parallels the timeline of events to come in S5, with Riley leaving Buffy in “Into the Woods” [5×10] partially due to having some gut confusion with Buffy’s slayer nature and then Buffy finding herself in the desert on a quest to learn if that very nature is turning her “into stone” (“Intervention” [5×18] ). This ultimately brings her awareness that death is her gift, which plays out in the beautiful S5 finale “The Gift” [5×22].

BUFFY: I’m never gonna find them here.
FS/TARA: Of course not. That’s the reason you came.
BUFFY: You’re not in my dream.
FS/TARA: I was borrowed. Someone has to speak for her.
BUFFY: Let her speak for herself. That’s what’s done in polite circles.

Now this is fantastic stuff here. Buffy deludes herself into thinking she has no desire to tap into her Slayer instincts. But the FS sees through this facade and, speaking through Tara, says that Buffy didn’t really come out into the desert to find her friends — she came to discover more about her nature, which extends from the curiousity she had when she played in the mud and the sandbox. This topic is also the primary theme and launching point of S5. Right in the beginning of “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] we see her on the ‘hunt’, already further embracing her Slayer instincts. Buffy goes on to insist that the FS speak for herself rather than a through a conduit. It also amuses me that Buffy would say it’s not polite to speak through someone else, because the FS Slayer likely has absolutely no concept of what ‘polite’ even is.

BUFFY: Why do you follow me?
FS/TARA: I don’t.
BUFFY: Where are my friends?
FS/TARA: You’re asking the wrong questions.

Buffy asks the FS why she appears to be following her, but the FS isn’t following her. Then she asks for her friends again, and since this is something the FS has no concept of, there is no answer given. All the FS knows about is death and isolation.

BUFFY: Make her speak.
FS/TARA: I have no speech. No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute…alone.
BUFFY: I am not alone.
FS/TARA: The Slayer does not walk in this world.
BUFFY: I walk. I talk. I shop, I sneeze. I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There’s trees in the desert since you moved out. And I don’t sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends.
FS: No…friends! Just the kill. We…are…alone!




Now we get to the center of the story. The FS says that she doesn’t speak, has no name, only exists for death and destruction, and lives absolutely alone which obviously infers the same about Buffy. But Buffy still doesn’t buy it, even coming directly from the very first Slayer. She says “I am not alone.” The reply that the Slayer doesn’t fit in the human world is very interesting. By ‘walk’ I think the FS means that Buffy is not a normal human being and will never live a normal life. Buffy rejects this again saying that she has embraced the human world, is not primal, is not alone, and still wants her friends back. It’s worth noting that the FS has the last word on the subject — Buffy’s not going to be able to ever fully escape this burden. This is when the Cheese Man makes his final appearance (in this episode that is!) and convinces Buffy she’s had enough of this dream. Her and the FS then duke it out in a really cool fight and she is able to pull the FS closer to her reality.

BUFFY: Are you quite finished? It’s over, okay? I’m going to ignore you, and you’re going to go away. You’re really gonna have to get over the whole…primal power thing. You’re not the source of me. Also, in terms of hair care, you really wanna say, what kind of impression am I making in the workplace? ‘Cause-

Buffy’s approach to rid herself of the FS is to ignore her. That might be a temporary solution, but it doesn’t solve the conflict that burns inside her. She says that the FS is not the source of her, but to some extent it is. Obviously Buffy is a very unique Slayer, but that doesn’t mean she’s not still a Slayer. This is something she’s going to unfortunately learn the hard way in the next three seasons. I’d like to also point out how much I enjoyed Buffy waking up right when the conversation started to get really off topic: hair care. haha. That wraps up the dreams!


Before I discuss my closing thoughts about all the dreams, I want to take a moment to admire the closing conversation between the Scoobies. I love how they all sat around the table and discussed what happened. Some quotes I found amusing are:

GILES: Somehow our joining with…Buffy and…invoking the essence of the, the Slayer’s power was an affront to the source of that power.
BUFFY: You know, you could have brought that up to us before we did it.
GILES: I did. I said there could be dire consequences.
BUFFY: Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast.

WILLOW: The spirit of the first Slayer tried to kill us in our dreams.
JOYCE: Oh, you want some hot chocolate?

BUFFY: Ah, well, at least you all didn’t dream about that guy with the cheese. I don’t know where the hell that came from.

I also love the very final scene, when Buffy looks into what will likely become Dawn’s room. The repetition of Tara’s line, “You think you know…what’s to come…what you are. You haven’t even begun,” gets us perfectly prepped for the wonderful season to come. Why do I think S5 is wonderful? Let me just say that is has nothing to do with my opinion of Glory.

Alright, I’m going to now briefly summarize what was learned about our dear Scoobies. Willow’s dream is extremely cryptic and confusing, but the points being made kept leading back to the idea of Willow still being the nerd inside and that she continues to ignore important evidence to stop using black magic. What I found particularly interesting is the revelation, “No. No. I need it,” that some part of her knows exactly what’s she’s doing and she just chooses to repress that better judgement. I really feel through this dream we get a whole lot better handle on exactly the state Willow’s in when S5 begins, and we know that unless she does something to change her ways, she’ll end up in disaster. As we know, she chooses disaster.

Now Xander’s dream turns out to also be pretty focused. The major theme running through it is the concept of running away from the problem, his parents, but not permanently fixing the problem. As he runs, he keeps coming across all these confusing wishes and desires. We see him think about sex and girls, about wanting comfort and love, and also about analyzing his failures in life. He feels like everyone around him has moved on with their lives and that he’s not moving anywhere. The central point being made is that Xander has to get the hell out of his parent’s basement as soon as possible, and that he needs to learn to notice his positive traits (which “The Replacement” [5×03] does a good job at initiating).

The conflicts inside Giles are very clear. This year has been one of confusion for him. He isn’t sure if he wants to be a Watcher, a rock star, or a father. His dreams are simply meant to show him what his focus should be, and that is being a Watcher. Giles sees Buffy as not only his daughter, but also as a child. He appears to want a happy, traditional family of his own and we even see Buffy as his daughter and Olivia as his wife. This is foreshadowing of how utterly happy he is when Buffy asks him to be her Watcher again in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] .

Buffy’s dream is heavily focused on her nature as a Slayer. All the evidence around her is saying that she’s a killer and shouldn’t have any friends. However, she continually refuses this reasoning and stands firm in the position that her friends are her weapons, not the Slayer. What’s also fascinating is how for a moment, when putting the mud on her face, Buffy does give into her Slayer nature and seems to be completely embracing it. This is the moment Riley calls her a killer and says that she’s on her own. Buffy’s Slayer nature is the focus of S5, which ends with her death in “The Gift” [5×22] .

That’s it! I hope you got as much enjoyment and information out of this review as I did! This episode is just marvelous. As can be seen by the many pieces of foreshadowing I uncovered, “Restless” proves to be absolutely vital to the fluency of the series. Nearly everything, character-wise, that is to come is foreshadowed by this episode. Just like “Hush” [4×10] , “Restless” is not simply an artistic gimmick. This is the seminal episode of the entire series for the four core characters. Simply stunning.




196 thoughts on “Buffy 4×22: Restless”

  1. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on April 8, 2006.]

    Good review, just interesting how different people read different meanings.

    As far as the Cheese Man goes, Joss didn’t say that he was unimportant, he said that there was no connection to Buffy from him. He’s important in that he represents all those things in your dreams that make no sense, that aren’t related to anything. He’s important just because he adds that one undecipherable element that all dreams have.


  2. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 8, 2006.]

    Yes, that’s very true. I was simply meaning that he has no direct meaning in terms of the characters. I just changed it to be clearer in the review. 🙂

    Btw, Whedon’s specific words are “The cheese man means nothing. He is the only thing in the show that means nothing.”


  3. [Note: 20questionsgenius posted this comment on April 9, 2006.]

    Thanks Mikejer for an awesome review of “Restless”. My sister and I were excited to find it posted on Saturday. We watched it the next day to soak in all the new things we learned from the review.

    There were so many things that I didn’t really get or even know were meant to be symbolic or foreshadowing that make so much more sense now thanks to the review. Plus, after we watched “Restless” we watched “Storyteller” to see if we could spot the Cheese Man during the montage of images, and sure enough we spotted him and his cheese slices and got a big kick out of that.

    And I agree with you Fallen, that it’s very interesting how everyone can take a different meaning from the same thing. That’s what makes this show and in particular this episode so cool, it’s so multi-dimensional and the characters so multi-faceted that one could take a completely different meaning from the same piece of information and have it still be relevant.

    Also something I wonder about is why only Giles and Xander dream about Spike. Buffy and Willow have dreams with Riley in them but not Spike, Xander and Giles’ dreams don’t have Riley in them but they do have Spike. Not really that important I suppose and maybe it doesn’t mean anything but I’ve always been interested by that.

    Anyway great review, thanks for opening my eyes to new things in that episode.


  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 10, 2006.]

    Thanks for the comments 20. Your question of Spike and Riley’s appearances in only certain dreams is interesting. I thought about it a bit, but I honestly couldn’t make any solid connections. I think it’s possible that’s just the way the episode came out of Whedon’s fascinating brain.

    If you ever come up with a possible explanation, feel free to share it though! 🙂


  5. [Note: Noella posted this comment on April 11, 2006.]

    I still haven’t read through the entire review yet, but it’s really great to read your views. Give me something to think about. Personally though, I don’t think there is as much forshadowing in the dreams as you pointed out. Some things obviously like Dawn, but some things like Randy Giles =D was just a fun thing they put for fun.

    I saw Restless as more of a reflection of what the characters went through in season 4. And the idea of the Tarot cards: Willow was the soul; Xander the heart; Giles the brain; and Buffy the hands. That’s what the First slayer was after from each of them. And only Buffy was confident enough to break out of the dream.

    It really says a lot about the scoobies and their state at the end of that season. Willow was the always the one who was so sure about her purity and soul and yet after season 4, she has fallen. She’s afraid that people still see her as the old nerdy Willow, but she’s grown. She’s not sure about herself anymore.

    Same goes for Giles. He has always been the brain, but now Buffy doesn’t need his guidance. Xander was the heart of the group and his heart was ripped out not just but his father in the dream, but by his friends. They moved on, and he’s stuck. he’s afraid that they are looking down at him.

    Restless was definitely one of my favourite episodes of the season and a strange finale yet perfect at the same time. When I’ve had time to read through the rest, I wil post more =)


  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 12, 2006.]

    Thanks for the comments Noella. While agree that the writers just took advantage of little hints they planted in “Restless,” in retrospect it’s still foreshadowing in a way. I look forward to you remaining comments. 🙂


  7. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on April 13, 2006.]

    After reading the review i wanted to go back and watch it again. A cool reference i noticed that wasn’t in your review was in Buffy’s dream when Riley was sitting with Adam, saying that they had been busy running the world and “giving things names.”

    I liked that little biblical reference, as Adam (of the Adam and Eve genesis story) named all the Eden’s animals according to the Bible, and it also signifies what Buffy thinks of the Initiative: Big, tough guys playing God.


  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 13, 2006.]

    Interesting comment Ryan. I took that line to represent a jab at how governments (likely the U.S. in particular) spend their money and time on things that aren’t particularly important.


  9. [Note: Noella posted this comment on April 14, 2006.]

    Finally had time to finish reading the review. Don’t think I have much to add because I think you were spot on with your analysis. i must say that I never noticed the ugly garden Gnome that comes back in Season 6. =P


  10. [Note: Daniel Hathaway posted this comment on July 31, 2006.]

    During Xandar’s “Pee” scene, I also think that this is alluding to just how disturbing he found Spike’s “assumption” that he was joining the Army.


  11. [Note: Daniel Hathaway posted this comment on July 31, 2006.]

    Snyder’s “Guidance Counselor” line in Xander’s dream is also a direct parody of Marlin Brando’s (sp) line in the scene they are parodying from Apocalypse Now. I remember this because I had to memorize that whole monologue from Apocalypse Now for my theater class in high school.


  12. [Note: Daniel Hathaway posted this comment on July 31, 2006.]

    Tara’s line “You think you know….what you are….what’s to come….you haven’t even begun” was repeated verbatim by Drac in the next episode. Right before Dawn enters the picture. Joss Whedon is GOD!


  13. [Note: Daniel Hathaway posted this comment on July 31, 2006.]

    I just finished your analysis. Brilliant to the extreme! You noticed many things that I did not, but in the course of reading I think I remember a few things that I noticed but you did not. I can’t remember too clearly right now. I need to go back and re-watch Restless, but my copy of Season Four is at a friends house right now. If you want to correspond and further analyse this brilliant contribution to the greatest show in the history of television, my email is MPerfectDrugJ@hotmail.com
    Thanks again, man!


  14. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on February 11, 2007.]

    This is a really indepth look at Restless, one of the most interesting episodes for analysis. Also one of my favourites. I’ve always taken Spikes comments about being a Watcher in Xander’s dream as alluding to the fact that he will become Dawn’s watcher in season 5 and Buffy’s psedo-watcher in seasons 5,6 and 7. I also think it is interesting that Xander sexualises every female he meets in the dream except Buffy who he subconciously knows is like a sister to him, despite all the unrequited love crap he carries around with him from the early days.
    I agree that Buffy has never looked prettier than in the opening frames of giles’ dream but have always interpreted the theme of his dream as how he is torn between his role as a watcher and moving on to find a life of his own. It also is a great representation of the song he sings in Once More With Feeling about wanting to be Buffy’s rock (like a father) but also the fear of him standing in her way.
    Great discussion!


  15. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 21, 2007.]

    I want to post somewhat detailed discussions of each dream, but I don’t want to go too long in one post. I’ll just post a separate comment for each dream, with this one as a kind of introduction. To begin with, I don’t pretend that all or even most of the insights in these posts are original. Some come from the DVD commentary, some from MikeJer and other comments above, some from things I’ve read elsewhere. One point I consider very important is that dreams are a person’s subconscious talking to itself. Therefore, the people who talk to you in your dreams are all really you, or aspects of you, no matter what familiar or unfamiliar face you assign them. Otherwise, familiar people are often chosen as props to represent ideas or concerns or sides in an internal conflict – by no means do they always represent their literal selves.

    There are two different things that are going on in all of the dreams in Restless, which complicates any analysis. On the one hand, there are the subconscious expressions of the hopes and fears and worries of each of the characters, and on the other hand there is the episode plot per se, with the First Slayer stalking and “killing” each Scooby in turn to free Buffy of their humanizing influence.

    I’d like to deal with the First Slayer strain in all four dreams here so that I can address the “character stuff” in the dreams without interruption. In Willow’s dream, the First Slayer’s habitat (the desert) is seen through a window. “It’s so bright,” says Willow, “And there’s something out there,” as we see flashes of a dark figure. Then a close shot of Miss Kitty Fantastico with hugely amplified footfalls, the kitten’s black-and-white markings neatly mirroring FS’s black-and-white face and body paint, emphasizing her predatory animal nature.

    Much of Willow’s dream is about fear, and the sense of being pursued fits in neatly, especially in her dialog with Tara. At this point, the closest we come to the who and why of the pursuit and attack is her exchange with Buffy near the end of the dream.

    BUFFY: Well, you must have done *something.* WILLOW: No. I never do anything. I’m very seldom naughty.

    It is at the moment of her most extreme vulnerability, when the course of her dream has stripped away all her defenses (and defenders) and let her to the place and state she fears the most, that FS attacks and chokes the breath (spirit) out of her, since she was Spirit in the combination in Primeval.

    At the very beginning of Xander’s dream, he notices the attack on Willow, but Giles and Buffy dismiss it (Buffy: “Big faker.”) so Xander moves on. The next hint of threat and danger in Xander’s dream is the first appearance of the basement, the “killing place” where Xander’s fears and insecurities reach their peak (like the high school classroom for Willow). The next FS related image is Buffy’s sandbox on the playground, which turns into the FS’s desert. This connects Buffy with the First Slayer and the threat she poses. In response to Xander’s concerns about her safety, Buffy responds “It’s not after me yet.”

    Later, in the green-and-orange high school, Xander catches glimpses of a dark figure following him. “It’s because of what we did, I can tell you that,” explains Giles, and he seems ready to explain further before he bursts into badly dubbed French. After the Kurtz/Snyder sequence, the FS surprises Xander outside Giles’s apartment and starts chasing him in earnest, from set to set. Inside Giles’s apartment, Xander passes Giles, Buffy, and Anya now addressing Willow’s asphyxiation with some concern.

    Xander manages to evade the FS until he finds himself back in the damned basement for the third time (third time’s a charm). This time he is trapped and has to wait for the FS in his father’s guise to come and rip his heart out (he was the Heart in the slayer combination spell).

    Giles starts figuring out the nature of the threat early in his dream, when child-Buffy getting cotton candy all over her face presents a painted visage symbolic of the FS’s. “I know you,” says Giles, with visual and auditory deja vu effect. But Spike and Olivia distract him with “life stuff,” and he completely forgets the FS until the scene at the Bronze, where Willow and Xander are in research mode using Giles’s books and his living room furniture.

    Willow and Xander bluntly (but cheerfully) inform Giles that they are dying and ask for his help. Giles sings the notorious “Exposition Song,” which, although the singing itself is fine, makes a pig’s ear of the threat analysis. This is in keeping with the way Giles has been lampooning himself throughout his dream by supplying his self actor with lines that are nothing but meaningless pompous blather.

    When the song suddenly and unexpectedly comes a cropper, Giles follow a trail of tangled cords backstage on his hands and knees (I forgot to note that in both Xander and Willow’s dreams, the FS drove them to their “killing place” through a long, narrow corridor). We get a pretty clear view of the FS jumping Giles with her saw-edged bone knife (I’m pretty sure it isn’t a stake on multiple reviewings). He reiterates that he knows who she is and claims that he can defeat her with his intellect, but actually offers no resistance of any kind while she slices his skull open (again, in keeping with the theme of uselessness throughout Giles’s dream). He proves that he actually does recognize her with his last words, as blood and brains (he was Mind in the combination spell) dribble down his forehead: “You never had a Watcher.”

    So much of Buffy’s dream is about her conflict with the First Slayer and the resolution of it that I’ll just leave her dream intact for analysis later. But through the other three dreams, the First Slayer’s MO is fairly consistant – she hangs back and tranmits only vague hints of menace while she orchestrates the Scoobies’ own fears and insecurities against them, until finally they come to the place where they have no defenses left and she can attack them openly. Buffy’s dream is entirely different – the First Slayer has no desire to attack Buffy, just to make her see that her friends and loved ones are holding her back from her true nature, that she’s better off without them.


  16. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 21, 2007.]

    WILLOW. By the way, MikeJer’s comment at the top of his analysis of Willow’s dream reminds me to opine that there’s probably no “correct” meaning for any of the words or images. Like real dreams, they can be taken many different ways and open up multiple opportunities for self-exploration.

    Willow’s dream begins in a dark, cozy, sexy room (apparently Tara’s room, judging from the Christmas tree lights) where Willow feels “safe,” almost immediately contrasted with the First Slayer’s desert, which is “so bright.” The thick maroon curtains and Tara’s bare back highlight the erotic imagery. It’s interesting to contrast Willow’s situation and surroundings at the beginning and end of her dream (before the actual attack). Here she is cool, sophisticated, attractive, and in control. She is the pen and Tara the paper, and Tara seems satisfied with her subordinate role. They are alone, happy and safe and sexy together. At the end, stripped of her “costume,” Willow is lit in harsh light, nerdy and awkward and powerless, exposed to the jeers of her unsympathetic friends (even including Tara).

    The metaphorical sex scene with Tara raises issues about their new relationship. I think the questions about Miss Kitty’s real name represent concerns about the exact nature and future of that relationship. I agree with MikeJer that Willow has intuited that Tara is hiding something, but of course that raises the central theme of the dream, the thing that Willow is hiding. Tara says “They will find out, you know. About you,” and it’s important to remember that everyone in your dream is you. This is Willow’s insecurity talking, not Tara as Tara. But it reminds Willow that she can’t live in Tara’s vagina – I mean, room – all the time, so she moves on to drama class.

    That Willow’s drama class appears to be at the high school, not the university (universities don’t have student lockers in the hallways) is a sign of bad things to come, since the university is where Willow is powerful and the high school is where she is everybody’s doormat. Oz and Xander appear twice in the dream, both times together in the same scene, and it’s clear that for the purposes of this dream Willow has them in a box marked, “The Boys” – the exes, the males she has loved. Gender roles are the big secondary theme of Willow’s dream. Joss admitted in the commentary that Xander’s aside to Oz about fantasizing two women doing a spell together and then doing a spell himself (a particularly crass sexual reference) was out of bounds for Willow’s dream because it’s Xander as Xander, not Xander as any part of Willow.

    I’m In A Play And I Don’t Know My Lines is a classic dream metaphor, usually interpreted as a combination of performance anxiety, general insecurity, and a sense of being unfairly judged by others. The last point is underscored as Willow is repeatedly told that all her friends and loved ones (“including all of us”) will be watching and will not be kind, which plays out in the classroom sequence at the end. The play itself is a mishmash of unmatching costumes and random dialog, having in common with Death of a Salesman only the words “death,” “sales,” and “man.”

    Both the themes of Willow’s dream, hiding/deception and gender roles, are brought up explicitly in the pre-play dialog. Riley is “Cowboy Guy,” which is pretty much “male-male-male,” and Harmony is a milkmaid with full milk-pails. Again, these are Willow’s images for stereotypical gender roles and not commentaries on Riley and Harmony as themselves, although Willow did choose them to represent these roles (Harmony was an easy choice as the selfish, helpless, useless female stereotype – Willow must still think of Riley at least somewhat as the cloddish goober she mentored in The Initiative). Buffy tells Willow, “Your costume’s perfect – nobody’s going to know the truth about you.”

    Giles, the male crush Willow has never entirely admitted to herself, has escaped the Oz-Xander shoebox to prance around as a tremendous poof (“poncy authority figure,” in Joss’s words). His speech reiterates the issues about hiding (“Acting is not about behaving, it’s about hiding. The audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive, so hide.”) and also hits the gender issue. He praises Riley and snubs Harmony (already established as official male and female respectively) for providing the exact same answer to his question. Also, Willow’s concerns about the First Slayer (she is much better at sensing her presence than Xander is in his dream) morph into Harmony in vampface comically trying to bite Giles, who just keeps snubbing her. Giles is particularly “poncy” in these moments, and I can’t help wondering if on a very deep level Willow is hurt that her crush on Giles was never reciprocated (even though she never expressed it) and is now him having reject the physical attentions of a female vampire as a way of speculating that he’s gay.

    Confused and frustrated (after her obligatory encounter with the Cheese Guy), Willow turns to Tara, now much less Tara as sex object and more Tara as touchstone and spiritual guide (a role Tara also plays in Buffy’s dream), although her path to Tara is still through a vaginal corridor of soft maroon curtains. To me, this hints that Willow thinks or expects or hopes that her new sexuality will bring her wisdom and power. The scenes with Tara sharing oblique interpretations and warnings with Willow are intercut with scenes of the “play.” Usually, these cuts seem to me to indicate an image or issue that the dreamer finds intolerable and obliterates in favor of something easier to digest (particularly near the beginning of Giles’s dream), but I think here the cuts are just the tradition TV way of indicating that two things are going on at the same time.

    The “play” takes the gender-role issue and runs with it. “Cowboy Guy” patronizes “Milkmaid” and then offers to hold her “milk pails” while the audience guffaws and Buffy (“Flapper Girl”?) lounges neaby, disgusted. Buffy is dressed in a 1920’s flapper outfit, all black with black hair, a theatrical “tough gal” image with no connections to Slayerhood but possibly to the “merry murderesses” in the musical Chicago. In the second cut, Buffy leaps into action as the voice of manhaterhood in a long speech she delivers as an angry torrent of meaningless, almost random words. Remember, this is Buffy as part of Willow, not Buffy as Buffy, and I think the lameness of the delivery of the speech indicates that Willow is not at all sure that she (Willow) really feels that way about men, although the visual suggests otherwise. The shot of the speech is amazing, with “Cowboy Guy” all steely and stonefaced in foreground, Buffy snarling and spitting away in the near middle ground, the dead “Sales-Man” (nobody we know) inert on the stage further back, and “Milkmaid” weeping uselessly into her hands in the background. Killer, victim, accuser, and mourner; cause, effect, reaction, and interpretation, all in one shot that never moves.

    All Tara’s hints are useless to Willow, possibly because Willow is still clinging to her deceptions (even with Tara – especially with Tara), and pretty soon she loses track of her. The vaginal maroon curtains of safety abruptly lose their safeness when the First Slayer’s jagged bone knife (phallic? okay, why not?) slashes through. As Willow thrashes around on the floor victim-like, Buffy (naturally) rescues her. Except that what Buffy actually does is lead her to where she’ll finally be humiliated and then slaughtered. Here Buffy is not Manhatergal, but the Cruel Truth. She quickly turns accusatory (“You must have done something”) and then strips Willow of her “costume” without the least shred of kindness or sympathy.

    And here we have what Willow has been running from, hiding from, hiding from Tara, hiding from everybody, all along – Season One Willow, in her Season One hair and her Season One “softer side of Sears” outfit. The nerd, the doormat, the victim, the nobody, shuffling her papers and stammering out her lame and childish book report to a classroom suddenly full of people. The choice of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was a beautiful throw-away – I guess they couldn’t find a book titled The Werewolf, the Lesbian Wiccan, and the Closet (as with Death of a Salesman, it’s the title buzzwords and not the contents of the original work that matter). Buffy smiles and maybe even gloats a bit over her handiwork. Harmony, Anya, and Xander sneer and jeer. Worst of all, Oz whispers “I tried to warn you” to Tara, who plainly shares his contempt for her now, and soon the two of them are canoodling and ignoring poor Willow completely. And then the First Slayer attacks and we’re back to the Tarot/joining spell plot.

    So in summary, there’s the theme of gender roles and sexual relationships, which are naturally rattling around in Willow’s subconscious now that she’s taken a same-sex partner. She’s unsure where it’s going to lead and what it’s going to mean to her and her relationships, particularly with Giles and Xander and Oz, or at least her memories of Oz. But the greater theme is Willow’s insecurity with her new-found power and coolness. It informs all the incidents in earlier and later episodes, going back at least to Becoming Part II, regarding Willow’s quest for personal power and how her fears and insecurities, rather than moderating or inhibiting that quest, have actually fueled it and drowned out the voice of her common sense against it. Fear (of losing Oz) drove her to the first glimpse we get of Dark Willow, the hair-raising curse she almost completed in Wild at Heart, for example.

    Willow sees Buffy in particular as the person who opposes her desire to grow and become powerful and important, at least now that Cordelia is gone (Willow doesn’t see Giles that way yet, but give it a season). This echoes conflicts in Fear Itself and elsewhere. The other role she chooses for Buffy, manhatergal, may foreshadow trouble she sees brewing between Buffy and Riley (especially since Willow chose Riley for the role of archetypal male). Finally, Willow fears losing Tara herself if she (Willow) can’t hold on to her assumed coolness and borrowed power. As it turns out, of course, the opposite occurs, but that isn’t really foreshadowed here, except to the extent that the harder we grasp the more we lose generally.


  17. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 23, 2007.]

    Excellent stuff LibMax. I don’t really have anything else to add except that I enjoyed reading that very articulately put analysis.


  18. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 24, 2007.]

    Thanks, MikeJer. More to come, starting with

    XANDER – Xander’s dream is the longest and most complicated. It has a lot of stuff in it, some of which I confess has me stumped. It includes more classic dream-analysis stuff and more we’ve-all-had-a-dream-like-that stuff than the others as well. Literal-minded Xander’s dream begins literally, in the Summers living room with Buffy, Giles, and a gasping Willow (see first post about the First Slayer’s MO). Apocalypse Now is playing, but it’s just a lame monologue by an actor in soldier drag walking straight toward the camera through fake foliage (in the commentary, Joss said he often has dreams in which movies and plays he really likes appear lame). Giles quickly identifies the principal theme of Xander’s dream; “I’m beginning to understand this now – it’s all about the journey.”

    Xander immediately raises the second theme when he declares that he has to pee. Urination in a male’s dream is usually interpreted either as a desire for emotional release or sex. In Xander’s dream, sex. Xander’s dream is full of sex. I’m sure we can all recall many Xander lines indicating that all he ever thinks about is sex (there are good ones in Innocence, Earshot, and Wild At Heart). So naturally the first person he runs into on his trip upstairs is Joyce. We don’t know how often Xander has sexual thoughts about Joyce. She threw herself at him (like every other female in Sunnydale) in Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, and just before the dream sequences in Restless, Xander said (referring to the microwave popcorn), “Actually, I pushed Defrost, but Joyce was there in the clinch,” which awkward phrasing might have started his mind wandering in that direction this particular evening.

    Even Joyce’s seduction addresses issues of Xander being confused about who he is and what he wants (conquistador, comfortador). Literal Xander breaks out of the ambivalent situation by heading for a literal bathroom for a literal pee, but then finds himself surrounded by the Initiative (scientists and commandos mixed). This is a version of the nakedness dream and indicates fear and vulnerability. MikeJer is right that there is also an element of being scrutinized and judged (though not as extreme as in Willow’s dream). The Initiative played no role at all in Willow’s dream, but Xander appears to still be worried about them.

    Xander’s escape from the Initiative takes him straight into his basement, locus of horror and despair, the place where the First Slayer will eventually kill him. The basement symbolizes everything that is wrong with Xander’s life, in a pretty literal way (because Xander is pretty literal) – the dead end, no prospects, no dignity, no independence. First he makes a joke about vampires, but then he gets to the point; “That’s not the way out.” Because one recurring pattern throughout the dream is Xander’s (failed) attempt to escape from that basement. There’s a hard cut, which I interpret as the dreamer’s reaction of “Oh, God, no, anything but that” (in this case, anything but the basement), which takes Xander to a playground.

    Buffy is playing in a sandbox, while Giles and Spike, in similar (not identical) brown tweed three-piece suits, swing on the swingset. Traditional dream interpretation identifies swingsets with motion, travel, change, progress, while a sandbox can symbolize either playful creativity or death and the grave. Nobody at the playground is very interested in talking to Xander. Giles snubs him almost entirely, with a huge fatuous smile on his face. To me, this sequence is about the Scoobies and how Xander feels unappreciated, but then why is it Spike in the tweed suit on the swingset? Where would Xander get the idea that Spike receives the respect and affection from Giles that he (Xander) doesn’t receive? Shouldn’t it be Willow on the swingset with Giles? I recall for example the exchange in Dopplegangland when the Scoobies are mourning because they think Willow has been vamped.
    GILES: She was truly the finest of us all.
    XANDER: Way better than me.
    GILES: Much, much better.

    Spike is moving along with Giles while Xander stands still. In a minute, Buffy’s going to say “I’m way ahead of you,” and later Giles will tell Xander “The others have gone on ahead.” Xander’s envy in the playground sequence is palpable, but he sour-grapes out, “I was into that for a while, but I got other stuff going on.” Which conjures up the ice cream truck, with Season Four Xander in his striped shirt and hat, serving the kiddies while Seasons One Through Three Xander watches from Scoobyland. Xander contines, “Gotta have something. Gotta be moving on,” which Buffy gently mocks with the shark reference, while Spike gets another gold star from Giles. Xander is concerned about Buffy’s safety (brief intrusion of the First Slayer plot), and gets “Big brother” back from her, which he takes as a rejection (brother = no hope of romance) while she stares at him as if to drill the “NO” right into his hindbrain.

    Season Four Xander’s starting to look good right about now, so the POV shifts, and Season Four Xander watches Seasons One Through Three Xander being rejected by Buffy, his head bowed like an employee being disciplined or fired. But Season Four Xander means Anya, and brutally direct Anya greets him with an immediate reminder of the primary theme of his dream; “Do you know where you’re going?” (remember, everyone in your dream is you). The ice cream truck is apparently moving, and Xander moves into the driver’s seat, but it’s also clear that the ice cream truck is moving by itself and not under his control at all.

    Anya raises Anya issues. She talks about “getting back into vengeance” as “a hobby,” and in a minute Xander will call her “my demon” instead of “my girlfriend.” She plays with a lollipop, a potent sexual image, except A) she never unwraps it, and B) she never puts it in her mouth, indicating something missing (commitment? mutual understanding and respect?) from their sexual relationship. Vengeance demonhood being the more comfortable of the two issues Anya has raised, Xander pontificates on “rules, and borders, and an end zone.” Which naturally conjures Willow and Tara in the back of the truck.

    Someone clearly took the phrase “lipstick lesbian” uber-literally, and stacked “too much eye makeup lesbian” on top of it. Willow and Tara are dressed and made up for a porno film, Willow stroking Tara’s upraised thigh. After repeating the stinger, “I’m way ahead of you” (as MikeJer pointed out), Willow coos, “Watch this.” And we watch Xander watching that, in extreme closeup, torn between lust and revulsion, while the Foley artists go to town with the smacking and slurping. Then Tara lusts, “Do you want to come in the back with us?”, a single-entendre so crass I’m amazed the censors let it get by.

    Anya tells him to go, “I’ll be fine. I think I’ve figured out how to steer by gesturing emphatically,” which she proceeds to demonstrate. This could be a comment on Anya’s arrogance and lack of connection with reality, except that everyone in your dream is you, Xander. Xander lumbers into the back of the truck, and the girls are gone, of course. I don’t know why this was the only appearance of (non-dying) Willow, Xander’s best friend in the whole wide world, in Xander’s dream. The truck goes on and on, and we see a toy or candy witch (Willow?) on the shelf in the background, followed by a panoply of skulls and other monsters (danger symbols) and finally a sticker that says “sheep” (I don’t get that one), and lo, Xander’s back in the damned basement again.

    The knob on the upstairs door rattles as it did before. “I know what’s up there,” says Xander, but does he? Danger and death I’ll give him, since he mentioned vampires before. He might also know that it’s his father, something worse than death (turning into his father, that is). He hasn’t spotted the First Slayer yet, though, so I’m thinking he hasn’t tumbled to that part of what’s up there. The Cheese Guy shows up again, and it’s interesting that in Willow’s dream he talked about making a space (almost a hiding place) while in Xander’s dream he talks about protection just when Xander needs it most. Xander reacts more calmly this time and exits the basement through an actual door.

    Which leads to the high school, but it’s all green and orange with weird music in the background (Joss said in the commentary that he often has dreams with similarly distorted color schemes, although I can’t find any particular significance to it in the dream interpretation literature). Xander weaves through the crowded hallways and catches glimpses of the First Slayer stalking him. Agitated, he encounters Giles, who is calmly munching an apple. In dream interpretation, eating an apple indicates desire and/or satisfaction, often sexual. That’s Giles, not Xander. Or it could be that Giles just needs something to distract him so that he doesn’t focus entirely on Xander even when he’s talking directly to him, continuing his dream-long snub.

    Anyway, the First Slayer plot intrudes again (see first post) as Giles and Xander discuss the danger. Giles seems on the verge of explaining everything when he suddenly shifts to badly dubbed French, which of course Xander doesn’t understand. MikeJer neatly summed up how this symbolizes Xander’s inability to understand (in general and Giles in particular) and his sense of being left out. So up walks the other person Xander can never understand, Anya, who bursts into badly dubbed French of her own. The two of them grab him and soon the whole crowd (including Initiative commandos) is manhandling Xander and turning him upside-down, which Joss said in the commentary was an homage (ripoff) of a similar moment in Apocalypse Now.

    Which brings us to the extended Apocalypse Now parody, with Principal Snyder filling in for Colonel Kurtz. Many of the frames and much of the dialog mimic the original Brando scene (I’m told). Snyder picks up the “Where are you from? Where are you going?” motif, interspersed with long-winded expressions of contempt for students in general and Xander in particular. Yet again, everyone in your dream is you. Referrring to Xander’s origins and family, Snyder/Kurtz for the first time introduces that aspect of the symbolism of Xander’s basement – that Xander is destined to become his parents, to be a drunk and a loser and every other bad thing he associates with them. Xander is still mired in that same fear in Hell’s Bells, which I think is not foreshadowing so much as just character continuity. Xander snarks back at Snyder/Kurtz at first, about how glad he was that the real Snyder was eaten by a snake, but he is eventually reduced to whining about a cramp.

    Standing up, Xander finds himself in the patio outside Giles’s apartment, where the First Slayer jumps him, and he starts a mad dash through sets that are conveniently conjoined on the Buffy lot (Giles’s apartment interior, Stevenson Hall, Buffy’s dorm room) and then a closet that leads to a long crooked corridor, first lined with lath and then with brick (the most literal of the long, random, and pointless journeys in his dream), leading – where else? – back to the basement of doom. “That’s not the way out,” Xander repeats, and this time clearly there *is* no way out. The rattling and banging on the upstairs door resolves itself into Xander’s father, who bursts in. As in Willow’s dream, the most horrible fear (for Xander, that he will turn into his father) is saved for last, though hinted at earlier.

    “What’s the matter with you?” bellows Dad, and suddenly the issue isn’t where Xander is going or why he isn’t going anywhere but what is fundamentally deficient about Xander as a human being. “You won’t come upstairs? What are you – ashamed of us? Your mother’s crying her guts out!” Here the standard guilt trip implies that Xander hasn’t even got the right to want to be different from his parents, along with some extra unpleasant images of physicality (and everyone in your dream is you). “You don’t understand” is Xander’s very last attempt to defend himself, the stereotypical adolescent argument, and his dad has the stereotypical response; “No, YOU don’t understand!” followed by “The line ends here with us,” a line with many implications. The basement, or Xander’s family itself, are the “end of the line” for Xander. He is of their line (lineage), and there is also the implication that Xander won’t procreate and by extension will never experience love or marriage. Also, there’s the straightforward death threat. Then Dad/First Slayer makes reference to Xander’s heart, and we’re back in the First Slayer/combination spell plot again.

    Xander’s dream is full of images of random wasted motion, journeys to nowhere that always end up back in his basement, because his life is similarly going nowhere. Other people move, get ahead, make progress, and he doesn’t. Practically everybody in his dream insults, snubs, or rejects him, and again everyone in your dream is you. His dream is full of sexual encounters that are never fulfilled, never lead to satisfaction, not even with Anya (and he doesn’t even get to pee). He’s still clearly hurting over his failure to interest Buffy romantically, and he feels unrespected and unappreciated by Giles (and, by extension, by the whole Scooby gang) in spite of the rapprochement in Primeval. I still can’t figure out why he’s jealous of Spike.


  19. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 24, 2007.]

    GILES. Giles’s dream is the shortest, and the one I think I “get” the most thoroughly, being a middle-aged single male librarian myself. Make of that what you will, in light of what follows.

    Xander’s dream was full of (unfinished) sex. Willow’s dream began with sex. Giles’s dream begins with – carefully sublimated metaphorical sex. Sorry, but I’m really sure about this. We’re in Giles’s living room with all the furniture cleared away except a single chair for Buffy, who Giles is hypnotizing with his watch (a clunkily obvious symbol for his role as her Watcher – later, Giles will say of the watch, “Well, that was obvious”). Buffy is skeptical, but Giles instructs her not to think, to “let it wash over you,” and we can continue to give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives the game away with “This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning, before time.” Women and men? Not students and teachers, not Slayers and Watchers, but women and men. So tell us, Giles, how exactly have women and men “behaved” together since before time?

    Buffy isn’t having any. “Don’t you think it’s a little old-fashioned?” she asks, and the key word in that sentence is “old.” A few seconds later, she is laughing directly into the camera, beautifully and angelically, but laughing. Poor Giles. It’s an ugly scene with uglier implications – notice that it’s the watch, his Watcherhood, that he is using to try and lull Buffy and stop her from thinking, also the reminder of the way he betrayed her in Helpless. Painful, horrible, intolerable, and here’s that hard cut that I interpret as Giles the dreamer forcing a change of imagery at all costs. We dwell a little too long on a topiary elephant, or rhinoceros, or some powerful animal with a phallic protuberance of some kind, and then we’re at a carnival. Giles is now Daddy, not humiliated would-be lover, and Buffy is his little girl, done up in overalls and ponytails to be about ten years old. Daddy needs a Mommy, and so Olivia is drafted into service, both pregnant and pushing a baby carriage so that there can’t be any mistake. See, Father and Mother and Daughter, perfectly innocent, we obviously need to get our minds out of the gutter.

    So on with the carnival! Buffy wants to play Stake The Vampire, and Daddy Giles indulges her. When she misses, all he offers is criticism; “Buffy, you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind – don’t stick out your elbow.” This is only the first in a long string of slightly snooty, slightly mean, utterly empty and pointless and asinine utterances that are going to come out of Giles’s mouth through the rest of the dream. He’s really ripping himself to pieces here. Actually, it’s not Giles’s first bloviation – I forgot the particularly pompous and pointless fable “about the fox and the slightly less patient fox.”

    When on the second try Buffy “stakes” the vampire (Dracula? I wonder if it isn’t Angel, given that this is Giles’s dream and given what follows), Giles has nothing to give her (“I haven’t any treats”) and continues to be useless and unsympathetic, the principal theme of his dream. Olivia calls him on it, reminding us that she’s still there and still “Mommy,”but this only provokes another bit of pompous and hostile drivel from Giles. He fusses at Buffy about getting the cotton candy all over her face, which invokes the slayer-paint-color-negative image that is his first clue and first foray into the First Slayer plot. But then he is distracted by Spike clamoring for his attention from what looks like a cave entrance but turns out to be the doorway of his crypt. And no, I can’t guess what all those garden gnomes are there for, except possibly to indicate the “crowd” that is waiting to see Spike “perform.”

    Inside the crypt, everything is black and white. And, while Spike is the center of attention with oohs and ahhs and flashbulbs popping, it develops that forcing Olivia (‘s image) into the role of Mommy is going to have consequences, or at least raise issues Giles didn’t want to raise. Olivia lies on a mausoleum and weeps, no longer pregnant and with the baby carriage on its side and clearly empty. Will Giles ever “settle down”? Will he ever find love (or find love again, now that Jenny is gone – mercifully, he pressed Olivia and not Jenny into his dream)? Will he ever have children of his own? “Don’t push me around,” says Giles-the-jackass, nose in the air, “I have things to do.” Again, remember that it is Giles the dreamer who is mercilessly portraying himself as such a useless ass.

    Meanwhile, Spike has apparently hired himself out as a sideshow freak (“Well, at least it’s showbiz”). This sequence may highlight some of Giles’s lingering concerns about Spike, whether he’s really harmless or whether he might be up to something nasty. Spike alternates between vicious and “safe” poses, and anyway they’re all poses. Or is it Giles himself who is “posing” rather than making realistic choices and getting on with his life? Everyone in your dream is you, and the “martyr” pose Spike finishes with could certainly be a cruel jab at Giles’s continuing to hang around (“like a big loser,” as Cordelia put it) after he has been fired as Watcher and Buffy no longer needs him (from Giles’s point of view).

    Over these visuals, the dialog addresses themes of Giles’s dream, with Spike as truth-teller as MikeJer pointed out. “What am I supposed to do with all this?” (i.e. his life, or what’s left of it), complains Giles. “You gotta make up your mind, Rupes,” replies Spike. “What are you wasting your time for? Haven’t you figured it all out yet, with your enormous squishy frontal lobes?” This reference to Giles’s brain reminds us of the First Slayer plot as well as Giles’s intellect, of which he seems to be making very little use at the moment. Giles can manage only the mean-spirited, “I still think Buffy should have killed you,” which, literally, is possibly a good point, except that the delivery makes it merely a pissy rejoinder (it is now that Spike pulls the Christ-on-the-cross pose). Cue the Cheese Guy, who demonstrates that he too can be pretentious and obtuse (“I wear the cheese, it does not wear me”), but Giles tops him with “Honestly, you meet the most appalling sorts of people.“

    And now Giles is at the Bronze, except that it has his living room furniture and books in it, plus Willow and Xander who are fairly cheerfully combining research with dying. He greets them with a stuffed-owl-ism (“I’m sorry I’m late – there’s a great deal going on – and all at once!”) and, when informed of their imminent demise (these kids who look up to him as a father figure and depend on his wisdom and guidance), trots out another; “We have to think of the facts, Willow. I’m very busy. I have a gig myself, you know.” This was in response to Willow saying, “Do you know this is your fault?” which has implications for the First Slayer plot (the combining spell was Giles’s idea) as well as Giles’s guilt response whenever something happens to one of the kids (everyone in your dream is you, especially the people who tell you it’s all your fault).

    The acting/posing/performing motif that began with Spike carries on through this exchange with Anya up on the stage, horribly botching an old joke as a stand-up act. This may be an expression of concerns that Giles has about Anya (like Xander, wondering if she’ll ever learn to act human), but again everyone in your dream is you. The laughter and applause that greet her dreadful performance put the enthusiastic response to the “Exposition Song” into perspective, in any case.

    And now it’s Giles’s turn to perform. The “gig” he has turns out to be the “Exposition Song,” which has full instrumental backup and throughout which Giles works the microphone and the audience acts out various rock concert cliches (including the dying Xander and Willow). Giles (ASH) sings very well, but as exposition and explanation (which Xander and Willow practically begged him for), the song isn’t much use. Giles has connected the attacks to the combination spell, which is accurate if not exactly helpful, but then offers some nonsense about a “warrior beast” (after he’s already seen Buffy in Slayer-Paint and said, “I know you”) and dumps the rest in Willow and Xander’s lap for further research. Giles is black-comedy callous about their condition, instructing Xander to “try not to bleed on my sofa, I’ve just had it steam-cleaned.”

    Then the song ends abruptly, in “No, wait” and microphone feedback. Both Giles’s performance and his exposition come to an awkward and untimely end. He follows the mike cord to the floor and crawls backstage following an increasingly thick tangle of cords that leads him down a “corridor” of amps like Xander’s hallway and Willow’s curtain aisle. He ends up finding his watch, the one that began the dream (“Well, that was obvious”) as the First Slayer creeps up above him. Giles says that he knows who she is, and threatens her with his intellect, which he keeps yapping about rather than actually using. Unlike Willow and Xander, he doesn’t even make token efforts to resist as the First Slayer kills him, preferring to prove that he really did know her with the line “You never had a Watcher.”

    I think the principal theme of Giles’s dream is uselessness. Beginning at the carnival and continuing to the end, he cruelly lampoons himself as a cold-hearted, mean-spirited, pointless, useless snob, an endless source of empty blather and a know-it-all who has nothing useful to contribute. Seem harsh? Go through a transcript of Giles’s dream sequence and read Giles’s lines, one after another, and see what he’s saying about himself. The on-screen delivery only emphasizes the point. He’s clearly punishing himself, for not “being there” enough for Buffy and the other Scoobies, for every little error of fact and judgement over the last four years, and possibly for impure thoughts at the beginning of his dream. I don’t think I’m the first person to point out that intensely moral and decent people often tend to give themselves nothing but pain and grief over their (sometimes exaggerated and sometimes imaginary) shortcomings.

    The other theme is “Where to from here?” This isn’t about randomness, wasted motion, and spinning his wheels like in Xander’s dream, but about Giles’s real options and what, if anything, he’s going to do with them. It’s addressed most directly in the crypt sequence with Spike, but Joss pointed out in the commentary that we see Giles trying on roles throughout the dream: Daddy, teacher/mentor, husband and father, poseur, surrogate father, exposition guy, and lounge singer/rock star. He ends up with the watch, Watcher, which was “obvious.” But like any father whose child is growing up, Giles’s role in Buffy’s life is diminishing, and he’s trying to confront what else he might do, who else he might try to be. Except not an authority-abusing pederast. No, no, no, no, certainly not that. Perish the thought. Not a topiary elephant or rhinoceros, either. Poor Giles. I wonder how much easier it would have been for him to be surrogate father and authority figure to Buffy if he hadn’t had that deeply buried (and, of course, never expressed) crush on her.


  20. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 28, 2007.]

    BUFFY – Buffy’s dream is fundamentally different from the others in a few ways. The First Slayer is not trying to stalk and kill Buffy, she’s trying to convince Buffy to let go of her family and friends (and her hold on the sunlit world generally) and accept the classic role of The Slayer: destruction, absolute and alone (“No friends – just kill!”). So the First Slayer appears earlier and more often and her agenda and point of view are woven through the dream – less of Buffy’s personal worries and hangups, although they’re certainly in there too. Almost half of the dream is a confrontation between the First Slayer and Buffy.

    Also, as The Slayer, some of Buffy’s dreams are prophetic (mentioned in Welcome to the Hellmouth, Surprise, and many other places I’m too lazy to look up). I’ve been reluctant to look for explicit foreshadowing in the dreams of the other characters (and MikeJer has covered those possibilities very thoroughly in his review above), but I think there is definitely foreshadowing in Buffy’s dream, at least regarding events that will unfold in Season Five. In many ways, as MikeJer and others have noted, Restless is more the first ep of Season Five than the last ep of Season Four. In some ways, it’s almost a two-parter with Buffy vs. Dracula.

    Buffy’s dream begins in bed in her double room in Stevenson Hall, with Anya anxiously calling to her from Willow’s bed. Right away (as MikeJer pointed out) we wonder why Anya is in Willow’s bed. I think it is partly to emphasize from the very beginning that the First Slayer has banished Willow, Xander, and Giles from Buffy’s dream, now that she has “killed” them. Also, as everyone in your dream is you (although Buffy’s dream is more “objective” than the others, many characters represent themselves or some other non-Buffy voice), I think Anya makes her only appearance in Buffy’s dream to represent Buffy’s badness alarm (instincts, anxieties, call it what you will). Buffy tries to ignore it (her), but flashes on the First Slayer, and then finds herself in her bed at home.

    There is a scene with Tara, acting as touchstone and spirit-guide as she did in the middle part of Willow’s dream. Later, Tara will explicitly become the voice of the First Slayer, but it’s not clear here whose side she’s on in this scene. She raises the issue of Buffy’s ignorance of slayerhood, which would be a FS issue, but also Dawn, of whom the FS would not have approved. “Tara” does distract Buffy from going after her friends for a while, but she doesn’t try to stop her from doing so when she (Buffy) makes up her mind. Tara offers Buffy the Manus (hands) card, which Buffy refuses – I speculate that the FS wants Buffy to restrict herself to the physical violence of The Slayer and leave spirit, heart, and mind alone, also that Buffy isn’t looking for a fight just now, she’s looking for her friends. I’ve never entirely understood the clock – 730 days (two years) from Graduation Day Part II as the remaining span of Buffy’s life? (I think that was MikeJer’s conclusion above). Ultimately, I think Tara represents Buffy’s own prophetic power in this scene, but with a lot of influence from the First Slayer.

    Now Buffy’s in the high school, looking for her friends, but she finds her mother instead. Joyce is walled in and visible through a ragged hole that shows only her face. I agree that this represents Buffy’s sense of isolation from her mother (the college (building) is literally coming between them here), but I also think it rather bluntly foreshadows Joyce’s death in Season Five. A wall that separates loved ones is a frequent dream symbol for death. Also, “It looks dirty” invokes the grave (“dirt nap”), and “A mouse is playing with my knees” is a ghastly bit of worms-crawl-in-worms-crawl-out imagery. Joyce tells Buffy to go find her friends, which in this context (both the FS context and the Joyce-deceased context) is Joyce telling Buffy to choose life, which Joyce will do again, even more ironically, in Normal Again. At Buffy’s insistence, Joyce speculates that Buffy could break through the wall, but Buffy is distracted by a momentary glimpse of Xander and chases after him (in The Body and afterwards, Buffy will never entirely stop blaming herself for her mother’s death).

    What Buffy finds is not Xander but Riley, surrounded by trappings of The Initiative and a pre-Adam Adam. Interesting that the First Slayer has allowed both Joyce and Riley to live (pretty sure Joyce isn’t upstairs being slaughtered in her own dream right now, to judge from her post-dream demeanor) and to appear in Buffy’s dream. Perhaps she can’t touch them because they weren’t involved in the joining spell, but I think it’s more likely that the FS can use her own and Buffy’s prophetic power to see that neither Joyce nor Riley will be a long-term threat to Buffy’s embrace of primal slayerhood, for reasons laid out in the dream itself (Joyce will die, Buffy and Riley will break up).

    As noted above, I see Buffy’s dream as more “objective” than the other three – Riley here is Riley-as-Riley, or at least Riley as Buffy sees him (possibly with some prompting from the First Slayer). His dress, demeanor, surroundings, and dialog emphasize all that was foolish and dangerous about The Initiative, which mesh neatly with feminist critiques of stereotypical maleness. The hubris (“We’re drawing up a plan for world domination”), the preoccupation with names and titles as a way of controlling things and assuming dominance (“They made me Surgeon General,” “We’ve got important work here, a lot of filing, giving things names”), boys-with-toys technology (“coffee-makers that think,” and the shot of the gun on the table), and the general know-it-all condescension (the way Riley calls Buffy “Baby,” for example, and Adam’s “She’s uncomfortable with certain concepts”). By the end of the scene, after a calm (female) voice intercoms that “The demons have escaped – please run for your lives,” Riley and Adam are reduced to silly little boys making a pillow-fort, making useless little-boy plans that will only get themselves and everybody else killed.

    How much of this is about The Initiative and how much is about Riley? The very sad thing here (sad for their continued relationship, which I know a lot of people hated) is that Buffy is viewing them as one and the same at this point in her dream. Adam, however, has a different point to raise. We see him completely human to emphasize that he wasn’t a demon, but a person to whom demonic characteristics were added, and he implies that Buffy is the same.
    ADAM: Aggression is a natural human tendency. Though you and me come by it another way.
    BUFFY (with the FS looking over her shoulder in frame): We’re not demons!
    ADAM: Is that a fact?
    Adam can’t tell Buffy what his human name was, which seems to imply that demonic power and Buffy’s own power are beyond the control of the human/male impulse of naming names. The whole issue of the demonic nature of the Slayer power was definitively settled in Get It Done, Season Seven, but I think Joss and the other writers always thought of it that way, or at least starting some time in Season Two (increasingly frequent incidents of Buffy being cruel, “dark,” a bully, ruthlessly dictatorial, dangerous when provoked, and entranced by violence for its own sake are peppered throughout, starting with When She Was Bad).

    Trying to help/rescue The Initiative clowns, Buffy fumbles in her bag for weapons. She had no such bag earlier in the dream or at any time in real life (we will see the real bag for the first time in Get It Done) – the duffel she used in Helpless was very different. Also, weapons? If a weapon is an object you hold in your hand, The Initiative always had better weapons than Buffy, and in fact there’s a pistol on the table right behind her. The “weapon” Buffy is really looking for, the only thing that will help her fight whole echelons of demons, is her Slayer power, represented as primordial mud. Here the First Slayer is directly tempting her again, and this time she gives in, smearing the mud on her face in imitation of the First Slayer’s paint (“I know you,” said Giles to that exact same face earlier in his dream).

    And now we have a different Riley, casually dressed and free of Initiative claptrap (and Adam). “Thought you were looking for your friends,” he says accusatorily. Then, “Okay, Killer, if that’s the way you want it, you’re on your own.” And then, before Buffy can respond, he leaves. I think two things are overlaid here. Riley as Buffy’s better (human) nature is reminding Buffy to look for her friends and not just be a killer (this is the closest the First Slayer will come to success in Buffy’s dream, and Riley ruins it). Also, Riley as Riley is rejecting Buffy’s darkness and power and tendency to isolate herself, and leaving her before she has a chance to “clean up,” which foreshadows issues and events of Season Five, as MikeJer pointed out. The two things together lead to the conclusion that Riley was good for Buffy while he lasted, but they split up when they couldn’t find what they needed in each other. The way Riley keeps calling Buffy “Killer” echoes the First Slayer’s agenda – it’s what she wants Buffy to hear, and to be.

    So Riley’s gone, Joyce is dead and buried, Dawn doesn’t exist yet, Willow and Xander and Giles are breathing their last. The First Slayer is now ready to confront Buffy directly, which means the desert (which we will see in real life during Buffy’s vision quest in Intervention). Now Tara explicitly speaks for the First Slayer, who claims to have no speech (not quite true, as we will see). She makes her demands: that Buffy must abandon her friends and family and “polite circles” and cease walking in this world, that Buffy must emulate her, the First Slayer. “I have . . . no name [just like Adam]. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute. Alone.”

    [Just as a side note here. One of the many times Buffy vs. Dracula echoes Restless is in Dracula’s castle when he’s lecturing Buffy on the darkness of her power and how it makes them alike and “Alone. Always alone.” I love the way Rudolph Martin drama-queened that line, taking his accent over the top to make the word “alowen.” It undercut both the heavyness of the themes and the pretentiousness of the character (Dracula) with just the right touch of humor.]

    Anyway, back to Restless, the word “alone” strikes a chord in Buffy. She conjures a Tarot card (notice that neither the FS nor “Tara” gives it to her this time) with an image of the Scooby gang back in the Summers living room watching TV. So if the combining spell started all this trouble, the implications and symbolism of that spell and the reunion in Primeval that made it all possible have given Buffy the answer she needed – “I am not alone.” And in that answer is her strength to defy and defeat the First Slayer, even now when things have gone so far. MikeJer mentioned earlier in his review how the Scoobies have always been Buffy’s strength, also mentioned in the show in School Hard, The Yoko Factor, Fool for Love, and many other places (usually by Spike, who doesn’t appear in Buffy’s dream at all).

    With a little help from the mere recollection of her friends, Buffy enlarges her defiance. “I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze. I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There are trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.” Buffy is asserting her humanity here, her right and intention to go on living in the sunlit world. She can help people in ways other than violence if given time and a chance, the world has changed for the better, and anyway she isn’t and won’t be the solitary killer the First Slayer wants her to be. She ends this counter-ultimatum with, “Now give me back my friends!”

    The First Slayer is outraged into utterance, “No friends – just kill! We – are – alone!” showing that she lied earlier about having no speech. The Cheese Guy chooses this moment to toss a straw on the camel’s back of Buffy’s annoyance, and Buffy declares the discussion and her dream to be over (for the first of four times). The First Slayer responds by attacking her (Tara is gone now), and I think the only thing the fight accomplishes is to establish is that Buffy and the First Slayer are evenly matched in combat even though Buffy makes space in her life for life and for her friends. Many of the moves are reminiscent of Buffy’s fights with Faith, particularly the one in Graduation Day Part I, but that may be because there are only so many ways to choreograph combat between two young women of similar size and equal prowess.

    “It’s over,” announces Buffy in a lull in the fight, “We don’t do this anymore.” In reply, the First Slayer drags her rolling down a hill of sand, at the bottom of which Buffy cries out “Enough!” and finds herself on her living room floor, but without the scar on her forehead, which lets us know that she’s still in her dream even before the First Slayer renews her attack. The First Slayer has clearly given up on persuasion because now she has the serrated bone knife of I-mean-business out and stabs Buffy repeatedly with it (Buffy, not the floor, as the sound effects make clear). But because we are now in Buffy’s world (her home) with her friends around her and her Mom upstairs, the First Slayer has no power at all over her and the stab wounds only annoy.

    For the last time, Buffy announces that the dream is over, and goes into detail. “I’m going to ignore you, and you’re going to go away. You’re really going to have to get over this whole primal power thing. You’re *not* the source of me.” The First Slayer just glares, outraged and frustrated, and then when Buffy starts to snark at her about hair care, the dream is suddenly really over, as if the First Slayer had had enough and sent Buffy back to reality with one swift kick.

    “You’re not the source of me,” said Buffy. A little Initiative-like hubris of her own? The First Slayer hadn’t actually said anything about being the source of Buffy, and it’s an interesting choice of words. Looking backwards from Get It Done, are we talking about the First Slayer here, or the source of the First Slayer’s power (and every subsequent Slayer’s power)? The girl from before time, or the demonic essence that was poured into her? It’s an important difference.

    If the entity that stalked and “killed” Willow, Xander, and Giles, and tried to persuade Buffy to let them stay dead was the First Slayer or the spirit of the First Slayer herself, then her main motive seems to have been envy, mixed with a certain I-know-what’s-best quality that we may have noticed in Buffy herself from time to time. According to this interpretation, the combination spell rubbed the First Slayer’s nose in the fact that Buffy has all those things she didn’t have (friends, freedom, a life), and that’s what brought on the retribution.

    But if we’re talking about sources and not spirits here, the source of the First Slayer and slayers generally is that demonic ichor we see in Get It Done. That’s different because the First Slayer, brutal and inhuman as she was, was a force for good – not so the demonic power that was forced into her. If it’s the demonic power that’s doing the talking (and killing) throughout the dreams and not the First Slayer herself, then the motives get nastier. Again, it’s been established that Buffy derives needed strength and support from the Scoobies. What if her inner darkness was deliberately trying to take that power away, to make her defenseless? Remember, shorn of her powers in Helpless, Buffy defeated the vampire (although Giles had to save her from the second vampire she didn’t know about). The only time we saw her utterly defeated was in The Wish (Prophecy Girl doesn’t count, as it didn’t “stick”). If the entity using the image of the First Slayer in these dreams got its way, wouldn’t Buffy quickly have become the bleak, hopeless, cheerless slave to duty we met in The Wish, lugging around a death wish (a la Fool for Love) the size of Kansas?

    I think the fact that the “First Slayer” lied (through Tara) lends credence to the second interpretation. Also, when we meet the First Slayer again in Intervention, she’s much more understanding and much less my-way-or-the-highway; but it’s kind of cheating to interpret an episode based on another episode two seasons later. One could also argue that the First Slayer (or the spirit of same) had simply learned that you catch more flies with honey.

    Either way (especially the second way), Buffy’s dream raises scads of Season Five issues, especially the repeated line, “You think you know . . . what’s to come . . . what you are. You haven’t even begun.” This line is echoed again, verbatim, in Buffy vs. Dracula, and is the detail that most makes me think of these two episodes as a two-parter (separated by a season hiatus). One could be nasty and say that Joss and co. had just given up on Season Four as a bad job and decided to get on with Season Five an episode early.


  21. [Note: WorldWithoutShrimp posted this comment on July 28, 2007.]

    Very insightful analysis, LibMax! You had several interesting points which have put the episode in a new light for me.

    Also, thanks, mikejer, for the most in-depth episode review you have done (and you have done many in-depth reviews)! Great stuff. “Restless” is awesome, but everyone here knows that…


  22. [Note: Nix posted this comment on August 16, 2007.]

    LibMax, nice stuff. I think you’re reading too much sex into it and possibly overinterpreting here and there — I’d say it’s extremely misleading to emphasise the `everyone in your dream is you’ thing in a *fictional* dream, which have long been vehicles for authors to insert foreshadowing and things the dreamers can’t directly know — but that’s part of the fun!

    A few points:

    Giles eating the apple: think Biblical (there are several Biblical references in here). It’s the fruit of the tree of *knowledge*. (Other such references: Adam, of course, and the `giving things names: `not a man among us can remember’ what his name was before it was Adam, and Giles’s `blood of the Lamb and all that’, which interacts interestingly with the crucifixion pose of Spike shortly afterwards and of Buffy at the end of _The Gift_.)

    The First Slayer’s expression after Buffy declares `you’re not the source of me’ isn’t glaring to my eyes; it’s a quizzical look: `is that so?’

    _Intervention_ is not two seasons after _Restless_, it’s less than one season: and interpreting _Restless_ in the light of much later episodes is definitely acceptable given the amount of foreshadowing strewn through _Restless_.

    I haven’t yet found anyone who claims to know what the sheep sign is about, or the `oh, I’ve been here forever’ comment from Oz.

    Your interpretation of swing as progress indicator is interesting: I wonder if Spike is on the swing (partly) as a signal that he’ll experience a huge amount of character growth in the next few seasons.


  23. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 17, 2007.]

    Part of my emphasis on the dreamer in the dream (everyone in your dream is you) comes from the audio commentary to Restless on the DVD. Whedon talks a lot about what the dreams reveal about the characters dreaming them, and doesn’t say much about foreshadowing (except regarding Buffy’s dream). There has been a lot of foreshadowing in Buffy’s dreams in other episodes of BTVS, but Buffy is The Slayer and has prophetic dreams as part of the package.

    The apple, interesting idea. Then it would represent not forbidden fruit but knowledge per se, in this case the knowledge that Giles has and Xander doesn’t (in Xander’s view). That fits well with some of the other things going on in that part of Xander’s dream. Another idea I had since I last posted is that there is a moment when we see Giles with the apple in his mouth, obscuring his face, while he is helping to turn Xander upside-down. The image recalls Magritte’s famous painting Son of Man, in which Magritte used the apple to evoke secrets and other hidden things.

    You’re 100% right about Intervention being less than a season later. I still don’t agree about foreshadowing outside of Buffy’s dream; however, in this case we’re talking about something that was in Buffy’s dream. I’ve got to say that, between the explicit emphasis on the prophetic nature of Buffy’s dreams in other episodes and the DVD audio commentary on Restless, I don’t see much support for the idea that Whedon views dreams generally as prophetic or intended Restless to conform to that literary tradition.


  24. [Note: BreakAtmo posted this comment on October 22, 2007.]

    I love this ep as well, the detail in it is beyond compare. In the vein of Joss-made episodes, this is one of very few works that I think may trump Out of Gas, and is at the very least as good as it (although, OoG may have the edge as a standalone ep, as Restless relies a lot on foreshadowing – and yet, OoG also contains a fair few flashbacks, so there you go).

    I couple of things I wanted to note, both about Giles, strangely. The first point I saw on a board, the other I noted myself. On a side note, I haven’t been able to go through all the comments here, so if what I say is already here, I apologise.

    1. Giles says, “A watcher scoffs at gravity!” Note that near the end of S6, when Buffy fills him in on all the hell that they’ve been going through, his response is to laugh his head off. Could one say that it is here that he ‘scoffs at gravity’ – specifically, the gravity of the situation?

    2. Not foreshadowing, just a little something I noticed regarding Giles’ death scene. For those who’ve watched ‘The Puppet Show’ recently, did anyone see that this is, in fact, not the first time that we’ve seen a scalping attempt on Giles, behind a theatre stage, due to his high quality of intellect?


  25. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 8, 2007.]

    Amazing review, mike. You analysed perfectly. Everytime I watch this episode, there´s something I always notice and something else to say. I love all the dreams, but personally I love Buffy and Xander´s dream. Buffy´s dream reminfs me of what S5 is gonna be, and everywhere Buffy goes, they all tell her the same thing, that she´s a killer, she´s not supposed to have friends, family, a life but Buffy denies that. But Buffy has the dark side that FS/Tara tells her. I absolutely love the scene in the desert where she holds a card that shows her true strenght: her friends and btw, the shots at the desert are wonderful and the last scene with her looking at the soon to be Dawn´s room is beautiful.
    Xander´s dream is very focused, since the beginning of the season, he´s been very lost and without ant direction and away from his friends that are at college. I love how he´s always trying to move forward, to keep track of his friends but always ends up in the basement. Amazing.
    One more thing, when Xander meets Buffy in the sandbox, he says that she can´t protect herself from some stuff. I don´t know why but that always reminds of Joyce. It´s true that Buffy is the slayer and she hunts things and demons, but she can´t protect herself from something like a natural death and that´s what happens to Joyce.
    Restless is a masterpiece.


  26. [Note: Nix posted this comment on January 11, 2008.]

    I just spotted the sticker that says ‘sheep’ in another ep. In _Passion_ we see it in Willow’s bedroom, at the top of her noticeboard. So I guess it makes sense that Xander would pass it when he was heading towards Willow and, er, thinking of bedroomy things.


  27. [Note: Nix posted this comment on January 26, 2008.]

    ‘Nobody knows what you are… not even you.’ — The Mayor to Faith, _Graduation, Part 1_.

    (It may well just be coincidence, given how the search for identity was a big part of S3…)


  28. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on February 26, 2008.]

    This is such an excellent page, I love re-reading it. Everybody has fascinating insights.

    Mike, regarding the very end of your review, I think the room Buffy looks into at the very end was her own, not her future sister’s bedroom. I interpreted this final scene to be very symbolic. Take into account these things:

    >The camera angle and positioning: In the foreground is Buffy’s bed. We’re all hopefully aware that beds are comfortable places, and not just in the physical sense. They’re where we can unwind after a hard day’s work, contemplate on things in our life, and put our minds at ease. The way Buffy’s bed was the visual focus of this final, pivotal scene, suggests the bed had meaning: Buffy’s comfort zone. This comfort zone could mean either or both of 2 things: her carefree human side, or her blissful ignorance about her true Slayer nature. She continues to dwell in both of these across the following 3 seasons, but never to the same extent she did in the first 4. This is represented in Buffy’s literal positioning in the scene – in the background, by the threshold, far away from the bed. She stands awkwardly, a lone figure, near the hallway. She’s got other responsibilities and is forced to approach new territory. We see this materialise just 5 episodes later when the truth about Dawn is revealed, and she is plunged into ‘motherhood’ and responsibility. Obviously Buffy retained her sisterly bond with Dawn for the rest of the series, but through season 5, she became more and more like Joyce (a mother to Dawn). Joss ran with this idea when Joyce died.

    > The literal darkness of the room: most probably representative of the dark years ahead. It’s not a stretch if you consider other seasons (mainly 6) use light symbolically. Also, why use dark blue lights and risk annoying shadows when you could just as easily light a set normally? I think the darkness of the bedroom was definitely there as another piece of symbolism.

    >Tara’s voiceover message: “You think you know what’s to come… what you are… you haven’t even begun”. Great line. Arguably the most important line of the entire series, at least in relation to the childhood/adulthood groundwork of the show. It also poses a great philosophical question: do we *ever* know these things? If we ‘begin’ to understand who we are and our place in the world, do we complete this understanding? Do we ever really become ‘baked cookies’ (‘Chosen’)? Interesting stuff.

    Besides the line’s monumental importance and poignancy (hence why it was repeated a bunch of times in this episode and ‘Buffy Vs Dracula’), I think it was included in this scene to show us that, even though the dreams have ended, the surrealism of this episode isn’t quite over yet.


  29. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on February 26, 2008.]

    Just thought of something: has anyone made the connection between these two lines before:

    > Restless: “You think you know… what’s to come. What you are. You haven’t even begun.”
    > Chosen: “There’s that word again. What you are. How you’ll die. Alone.”

    Both lines are said very pointedly, and at crucial times in crucial finales. Both lines also include the concepts of “what” Buffy is (even said the same: “What you are”), and what her inevitable path is. It’s like The First’s line in ‘Chosen’ comes full circle and answers, in a sense, the question that the ‘Restless’ line proposed.

    (This just makes Buffy’s realisation in s7 about everybody being alone seem all the more important to the great scheme of things, as opposed to just her character…)


  30. [Note: Nix posted this comment on February 26, 2008.]

    That’s more of a connection than you mentioned: the First Slayer in _Restless_ and Dracula in the following episode also harp on aloneness. (‘We. Are. Alone’ forced out of the one, ‘Always alone’ in a comical accent from the other).


  31. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 20, 2008.]

    i have to say i REALLY didnt like this episode. at all. if theres one thing i hate its symbolism and this episodes full of it. and this has nothing BUT symbolism. i know characters are important but character situations and plots are what the characters are there for and without them all there is is a bunch of aimless actors. this episode has no excitment, thrill, emotion, humour (well maybe spike the sideshow and anya doing jokes at the bronze)or utter importance. all it does is forshadow the hell out of us and tell us stuff we already know. i was EXTREMELY dissapointed that they went and made this sorry excuse of a story the season finale as primevil though a little rushed had a very good summarising tone which was ruined by this episode. i think i change my mind on other episodes like life serial and where the wild things are because unlike this borefest i can actually be moderately entertained by them (they HAVE a plot, something to focus on. i would rather watch something cheesy and lame than listen to how since willow’s name starts with w she must a witch as that starts with w too!


  32. [Note: DarkAvenger posted this comment on July 25, 2008.]

    Jaden ive got to say that youre dead wrong. i think its important that a show can look its characters in the eye and justify who and what they are as well as whats to come from them. people (mostly my friends) often ask me why i think buffy is so much better than other serieses like harry potter etc. the reason is that buffy is a show thats driven by its characters whereas harry potter is one thats driven by its plot. in buffy episodes are created around characters so the episode is in much based on their personlality whereas in hp characters are fitted into plots to fit a role (jk has even admitted she has used her characters for the pure purpose of advancing the plot). my only complaint is the timing of the episode. im not so sure that a character de force (is that how you say it?) was the right send off for a season, even one as flawed as 4, and should have been done before the yoko factor in order to have a more tension filled gap between seasons 4 and 5.


  33. [Note: Tony posted this comment on August 1, 2008.]

    I’m kinda upset they didn’t include Jenny’s character into this episode. It would have been cool to see her again more than Olivia.


  34. [Note: Steph posted this comment on August 2, 2008.]

    I agree with Tony. I would have much rather seen Jenny in Gile’s dream instead of Olivia. It just made more sense to me that Giles would have imagined a family with her.


  35. [Note: MissKittyFantastico posted this comment on August 3, 2008.]

    Tony and Steph–

    Robia LaMorte, the actress who played Jenny Calendar, became a born-again evangelical Christian sometime after season two of Buffy. She returned as The First (in Calendar form) for “Amends.” Apparently, she was quite upset to find that she’d been asked to play what she considered the equivalent of Satan for her guest appearance. This is certainly why she never appears as The First again, and probably why she never came back onto the show in any way. I definitely agree that it would have been amazing to see Miss Calendar in Giles’ dream, and it would fit better consider she was his one true love, but I think using Olivia here may have been Whedon’s only option. A pity, since she was just a throwaway character introduced to let us know that yes, a fussy British librarian can have a sex life.


    Your comments about Giles’ minor “crush” on Buffy were something to think about. I’d actually just rewatched Restless last night before I proceeded to spend hours reading reviews of different Buffy episodes, and I distinctly thought that the first scene of Giles’ dream had a sexual undertone to it (and remembered I had thought this the first two times I’d seen it), and then wondered if I’d gone insane. Since Whedon was playing around with the idea of Xander being attracted to Joyce as well, I could see him exploring a reversed Oedipal theme (the father wanting to sleep with the daughter, rather than the son wanting to sleep with the mother). However, I really don’t think this is a prevalent dynamic in the Giles-Buffy relationship, and I don’t in any way want to destroy anyone’s image of the Giles-as-mentor image. I love Giles, and I’m so glad Buffy got a real “father” when her mother was being a bitca for a couple seasons and her biological father wasn’t doing his job at all.


  36. [Note: Adastra posted this comment on August 12, 2008.]

    A fantastic episode, and this review way really, really, really helpful, thank you so much for it!

    However what confused me a little is your reference to a clock from the dream with Faith in Graduation Pt.2. I’ve been rewatching the dream scene numerous times, but I can’t seem to find that clock. At which minute/second does it appear?! Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place?


  37. [Note: Innuendo posted this comment on August 14, 2008.]

    I think you misunderstood part of the hallway exchange in Willow’s dream (Where Xander tells Oz about her doing spells with Tara, etc). I always saw it as a pretty obvious reference to how Willow and Tara’s spells are used as a metaphor for sex throughout the season, and pretty obviously so. The writers poke fun at this through Xander’s comment about him thinking about two women doing a spell, then doing one by himself. It’s not a reference to OMWF, it’s a masturbation joke.


  38. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 20, 2008.]

    S, are you actually reading any of the reviews? If you are, then it’d be nice if you substantiated your comments with actual evidence to support your positions. Just saying an episode “sucks” while providing no reason why gives your opinion next to no credibility.


  39. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on December 22, 2008.]

    “Poor Giles. I wonder how much easier it would have been for him to be surrogate father and authority figure to Buffy if he hadn’t had that deeply buried (and, of course, never expressed) crush on her.”

    He does?????


  40. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on December 22, 2008.]

    “If the entity that stalked and “killed” Willow, Xander, and Giles, and tried to persuade Buffy to let them stay dead was the First Slayer or the spirit of the First Slayer herself, then her main motive seems to have been envy, mixed with a certain I-know-what’s-best quality that we may have noticed in Buffy herself from time to time. According to this interpretation, the combination spell rubbed the First Slayer’s nose in the fact that Buffy has all those things she didn’t have (friends, freedom, a life), and that’s what brought on the retribution.”

    I don’t think I agree with this. I think that the First Slayer knew what she was talking about when she said that “we” or all Slayers are alone. In fact, she might as well could have been speaking for all individuals. After all, no matter how many people you surround yourself with, you’re always alone.

    I also feel that the First Slayer ended up being proven right in episodes like “The Gift” and “Empty Places”.


  41. [Note: Paula posted this comment on January 7, 2009.]

    Just re-watched this on my second round of the whole show and after the just plain dumb ending of S4’s largely just plain lame actual major Big Bad plotline, I’ve got to hand it to Whedon – this episode is awesome.

    There are any number of details in each Scoobie’s dream that can be interpreted in a number of ways and infinitely argued about, but I just love this combination of “dream reality”/”dream logic”, insights into each character’s mental state at this time and foreshadowing. And while I don’t necessarily count this among my top favorite Buffy episodes, I do think it may be the single most impressive example of Whedon’s writing skills within this show. This sort of stuff is not easy to create.

    (I wonder whether the idea of doing an episode like this may have stemmed from those enigmatic and foreshadowy Buffy/Faith dreams in “Graduation Day” and “This Year’s Girl”, which I also like very much.)


  42. [Note: Paula posted this comment on January 8, 2009.]

    I don’t know if anyone’s pointed this out here before, but I think there may be a pretty simple (at least partial) explanation for Willow’s “they will find out” fears all over her dream. It’s “impostor syndrome”, the irrational nagging feeling that one is actually a fraud and has achieved all their success by sheer luck or deceiving others, and the similar fear that everyone will “figure it out”. This is a pretty common thing among successful women and young academic people, so Willow is actually pretty close to the textbook example, too.


  43. [Note: Exit8buffy posted this comment on January 16, 2009.]

    Before reading this page, I thought this was the most boring episode ever. Now I have a new outlook on it and I’m going to watch it again to see if I can make the same connections.


  44. [Note: Suzanne B posted this comment on January 29, 2009.]

    I don’t think anyone has pointed this out, but in Xander’s dream, Snyder says,” I remember it smelled like dead flowers. Like decay. Then it hit me. The hope of our nation’s future is a bunch of mulch.” He basically is saying Xander, and teenagers in general, are decaying. Then, in Giles’ dream Xander says,” Now I’ll probably be pushing up daisies, in the sense of being in the ground underneath them and fertilizing the soil with decomposition.” I don’t know if that has any significance or not, I just thought it was interesting and no one has mentioned it.


  45. [Note: Ollie posted this comment on April 14, 2009.]

    I know this comment is late, but I really enjoyed this review, so I had to comment.

    First off, MikeJer, I have to say I’m extremely offended by your suggestion that Willow decided to become a lesbian because she hates men. First off, nobody “chooses” their sexuality, it’s a ridiculous notion and implies that we could “choose” to be straight, the reasoning behind many a bigot. Secondly, not all lesbians hate men, that’s a dumb stereotype. And thirdly, you strongly imply that lesbianism is a “second choice”, if it doesn’t work out with men then lesbianism is the next best thing, implying that lesbianism is inferior to heterosexuality.

    Self-righteous complaining, aside, lets get to the actual episode. I don’t believe that there is anything remotely sexual and/or romantic in the Buffy/Giles relationship. I believe that scene was symbolic of what Giles perceives as Buffy’s rejection of him as a mentor, calling him “old-fashioned” and laughing at him. Also, as noted before, the scene is reminiscent of “Helpless”, a turning point in the life of Giles as a watcher/mentor, in which he is rejected as a mentor by the council, and stripped of his responsibilities. Note the shortness of the scene and the abruptness of its end, symbolising how Giles’ time as Watcher was cut down so early and abruptly.

    Also, a point to make about Xander’s dream. We’ve established that it’s largely about sex, but it’s also interesting to note that Xander lusts entirely over completely unobtainable women. Joyce – friend’s mom, Buffy – little sister figure, Willow and Tara – lesbians. The one women who is available, Anya, is more or less ignored by Xander, who seems uninterested in her and even calls her “my demon”. He then leaves her to pursue an unobtainable desire, a common theme throughout Xander’s relationships. Take Cordelia for example, he finally gets to go out with the beautiful prom queen, but ignores her emotionally, flirts with Faith and chooses Buffy over her, and cheats on her with his best friend (who has a boyfriend – doubly unobtainable, triply after Willow comes out). Naturally, chasing these unobtainable women gets him absolutely nowhere.

    Corridors represent self-discovery, I’m sure of this. Giles follows a tangled mass of wires (his conflicting life options) down a corridor and at the end finds an answer, discovers his calling in life – the watch, ie. Watcher.

    Buffy’s only has a little bit of corridor where she finds Joyce in the wall. If the wall represents Joyce’s death, then Buffy discovers more responsibilities. And though the corridor is short, it does lead to her showdown with the First Slayer, where she discovers more about her Slayer roots. Also, note that the episode ends with Buffy standing in the middle of the corridor, with Tara’s voiceover warning that there will be a lot more to discover about herself.

    Willow’s self-discovery seems to be dealing with her sexuality. She leaves her male ex-lovers at the side of the corridor, as I’ll go into more detail about later, and goes down the corridor on her own. Only at the end of the corridor does she find Tara, the person she loves. However, she then gets pulled out of the corridor and into the classroom, perhaps implying that she is someone else than the shy, nerdy Willow but hasn’t had a chance to fully discover herself yet.

    Poor old Xander however discovers absolutely nothing. He follows lots of long corridors that take on a meandering, random, pointless journey and always lead back to the basement, where he learns nothing about himself. Just like in his own real life.

    As for the cryptic comment by Oz – “I’ve been here forever.”, I have a few different interpretations but they all seem to conflict with each other, so pick your favourite. First interpretation, taking the line on its own – the location is the College, a place where Willow feels cool and accepted. The line could simply mean that Oz has always been cool and accepted, wherever he is. Second interpretation, looking at the rest of the dialogue – Willow’s line beforehand puts it in an entirely new context. They are talking about drama class, ie. putting on a front to hide your real self. Willow is surprised that Oz puts on a front, as her always seems so self-assured. Oz, however, claims to have been taking the class “forever”. This could be an allusion to Oz’s wolfiness. Earlier in the season he talked about the wolf always being inside of him, and Veruca tells him that he is the wolf, and his human face is just a front.

    Third interpretation – Oz is standing in the corridor with Xander – both are ex-love interests, now both rejected in the corridor. If the corridor is self-discovery, Willow has discovered that he has been there “forever”, because Willow knows, on some level, that although she cared deeply for, even loved Oz, she was never truly *in* love with him, because she’s a lesbian. He was always destined to end up standing at the side in the middle of the corridor, leaving Willow to go and discover herself. The subject’s definitely on her mind at that point, it’s mentioned in the very next line.

    A slightly irrelevant side-note – I watched Amends today and noticed a bit of foreshadowing where Oz asks Willow “Have you ever had a dream where there’s a play, and you don’t know your lines, or even the plot?”

    Anyway, I just have to say this – Restless is a truly wonderful piece of writing. And I haven’t even seen anything past season four, so it’s brilliant even without the foreshadowing. This episode, Hush and the Faith two-parter is the reason that season four, even with a dull love interest and big bad and a half-baked arc, is still absolutely amazing television.


  46. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 14, 2009.]

    Ollie, thank you for the comment — there’s some good observations there.

    I just wanted to jump in and point out how confusing Willow’s sexuality is displayed in the later parts of the series. You’re right: no one chooses their sexuality. But early in the series, Willow is clearly attracted to men. She dreams about hooking up with men, and she clearly enjoys physical contact with them. With Tara, we are lead to believe this is a “one special person” type of situation, but then towards the end of the series it’s put out that she just a full-on lesbian now. Either she’s bisexual or it could just be the writers not being clear enough on the entire situation.

    Now, with all that said, I found the text that I think you were referring to and, you’re right, I was out of line there, and was overly blunt and unsubstantiated. I will change it, because I don’t actually believe in what I wrote. My apologies for any anguish caused to you.


  47. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on April 28, 2009.]

    Rewatched this again yesterday and I feel amazed by it each and every time.
    Just some more thoughts:

    Willow´s dream: Oz says “I´ve been here forever”. I take that comment as Willow telling us that Oz will always be a part of her. It doesn´t matter how much she´s changed or where she´s heading, he will always be a part of her, he was her first love. That connects directly to “New Moon Rising” where she tells him that there will always be a part of her waiting for Oz.

    Xander´s dream: Right before FS/his dad rips his heart,his dad tells Xander that he doesn´t have the heart to change things. Again, that makes me think of his problem this year, he feels inadequate and fears he doesn´t have the heart to change his life. He still doesn´t trust in himself.

    This is really a masterpiece.


  48. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 15, 2009.]

    I would like to add a detail for those who are interested. As Mike pointed out, the text Willow is writing on Tara’s back is from an antique poem, Sappho’s Hymn to Aphrodite. Sappho lived during the 7th/6th century BC on the Island of Lesbos and was one of the most famous poets of antiquity, though the Hymn to A. is (I hope I am right here) her only work that has completly come down to us, preserved through citations. It expresses the desire for help in a “broken heart case”. The invocater is Sappho herself, as it turns out. She calls upon Aphrodite to help her, as she has done in the past; the theme is about past incidents in which A. brought a reluctant lover back to S.

    Willow has nearly completed the first to verses. In Greek, as follows (I use capital letters like Willow and add apostrophes for clearness; unforunatly greek script is not available here; transcription used is CHI=X, OMEGA=W, THETA=TH, ETA=H):



    No more space then on Tara’s back… it translates roughly about as follows:

    Throned in splendor, deathless, O Aphrodite,
    child of Zeus, charm-fashioner, I now implore you,
    Don’t crush down my spirit with pains and torments
    I beg you, Lady

    Before, when ever you heard my far-off cry,
    You listened, and you came, as once
    When you left your father’s house
    Yoking your chariot of gold (…)

    (There are various translations that differ greatly at parts.)

    Later on, Aphrodite asks Sappho about her worries:
    “Who this time am I to persuade
    to your love? Sappho, who is doing you wrong?
    Though she now escape you, she soon will follow;
    though she take not gifts from you, she will give them:
    though she love not, yet she will surely love you
    even unwilling.”

    I love the episode, and the many thoughts about it brought down to “virtual paper” here and shared!

    A. promises that the lover will soon know love as intense as that suffered by the poet, and so the poem ends on a more hopeful recognition of the goddess’s power to resolve the pain of love.


  49. [Note: kim posted this comment on May 17, 2009.]

    I love reading analysises (sp?) of Restless. it is without a doubt a masterpiece of the buffyverse.

    I always thought the fact the bit where Spike was involved in Xander’s dream, and Xander says “I was into that for a while” he is talking ABOUT Buffy TO Spike (meaning he was romantically interested in Buffy) , but of course she rejects him again with the “Big Brother” comment.

    anyway, interesting 🙂


  50. [Note: O_Hai posted this comment on May 21, 2009.]

    So that was mind-blowingly awesome. I knew Joss Whedon had talent, but what he did here was extraordinary.

    Did anyone else think of David Lynch when they finished this episode? Everything about this episode reminded me of Lynch: dreams within dreams within other dreams; the use of sound and music, and the overall mood of the dreams; cryptic dialogue and wacky situations; all of it was beyond intoxicating. If you haven’t seen any of Lynch’s films, look to MULHOLLAND DRIVE or INLAND EMPIRE, and you might understand what I’m talking about. (And prepare to be both baffled and mesmerized.)

    I’m not going to try to analyze the whole episode, but I will say this is beyond incredible.


  51. [Note: Gurdev Singh posted this comment on July 24, 2009.]

    Loved reading your review! And looking at more recent comments, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s still obsessed with BtVS.

    Perhaps when Buffy says to Riley in her dream: “Wait, I have weapons!”, the reason her voice is all hoarse and whispery is to foreshadow her break-up with Riley, where she was too late and powerless to stop him because he could no longer hear her voice over the helicopter noise?


  52. [Note: excel52 posted this comment on October 28, 2009.]

    One thing I noticed in Xander’s dream was that every time he entered the basement, he was wearing a different outfit; I think this might be a comment on how he keeps trying to reinvent himself(bartender, delivery boy, granola salesman, etc.) but nothing sticks. He just ends up back in the basement again, doomed to live out the same life as his parents. Another thing worth noting is at certain points, when Joyce and Tara speak, their lips don’t move-possibly symbolizing either their deaths(foreshadowing) or Xander’s view of them as sex objects(psychology). This also happens at the end of Giles’ dream-could the original plan have possibly been to kill Giles by series end? Yet another (I know) is the brief conversation about sharks during the playground scene; I think this is alluding to the fact that Xander is more than he seems, that he’s got a lot going on under the surface;this comes from the popular image of sharks only showing their fins.


  53. [Note: Rest In Peace posted this comment on November 1, 2009.]

    One thing I noticed in Giles’ dream during the scene at the Bronze is that Xander is the only one in the group (Giles, Xander, Willow) who gets distracted by (laughs at) Anya’s stand-up routine. I think this could be interpreted as Xander is the only one of them who enjoys Anya’s antics and/or gets distracted from the bigger issue going on because of that.


  54. [Note: Rest In Peace posted this comment on November 1, 2009.]

    Also, about the “…You meet the most appalling sort of people” quote by Giles, I think this could show that Giles is aware that Spike is evil and has evil friends, even if none of the other members of the Scooby Gang remember this (think As You Were in season 6). Remember, Giles was aware that Buffy was depressed during the early episodes of season 6 (OMWF) and wasn’t fooled by Willows insistence that she wasn’t getting more dangerous and going more into dark magic, despite the fact that the rest of the gang was. Just another thought.


  55. [Note: Nix posted this comment on November 1, 2009.]

    Rest In Peace: Yes, Xander laughs at Anya’s joke, but his laugh is so obviously faked that even *I* could spot it. He’s obviously doing it to make her feel good (and who else would do something like that?)

    I also find it very hard to believe that anyone in the Scooby Gang has forgotten that Spike is evil at this point. He betrayed the lot of them in the previous episode!


  56. [Note: Rest In Peace posted this comment on November 2, 2009.]

    Looking back, the Xander laugh is definitely faked, but he is still distracted from the bigger issue (which – if you think about it – shows even more about his character).

    About the Spike issue, you may be right about the Scoobies knowing that Spike is evil right now, but around the time that he realizes his love for Buffy I think they begin to forget. So maybe I’m wrong, but it could show that Giles is more perceptive than the rest of the group, because he was the only one of them who dreamed about it.


  57. [Note: Jess posted this comment on December 17, 2009.]

    Thank you for this brilliant review of Restless. You covered practically everything.

    One of the symbols that I always thought was in Restless was the light on Tara when Willow opens the window. It seems to me that this represents/foreshadows what Glory does to Tara in S5, what with the glowing light generated by Glory’s brain-sucking, as I call it. However I’ve never seen this mentioned elsewhere, so maybe it’s just me.


  58. [Note: Nick posted this comment on December 17, 2009.]

    I’m still reading this, while watching the episode again, but I just finished the Willow dream and I wanted to comment. I think your analysis of Harmony as Buffy is intriguing, and I see no reason why she couldn’t represent Buffy for the whole of the dream. Harmony is a relatively useless character, so her inclusion in the dream at all, along with all these essential characters, seems to need some ulterior motive altogether. Anyway, love your reviews, they really make rewatching the series a new experience. Thanks!


  59. [Note: Cat posted this comment on December 26, 2009.]

    OK, firstly, must say that both this review, and all of the well written and thought out comments have been incredibly insightful! I have only one little thing to say, and it is far fetched, but judging from this page, far fetched is loved here!

    In Stilicho’s comment – the translation of the text on Tara’s back included –

    Before, when ever you heard my far-off cry,

    You listened, and you came, as once

    When you left your father’s house

    Yoking your chariot of gold

    when you left your father’s house‘ could be referring to Tara’s family, her ‘evil’ father, and how she ‘escaped’ from her own father’s house.


  60. [Note: Shawnie posted this comment on April 14, 2010.]

    So, I just saw this episode for the first time on LOGO this week. (I know, I’m a bad fan.) I have to rewatch.. and reread here.. but I thought Willow was back in high school for the play, hence Harmony being present, and being mean to Willow. I also think Harmony can represent what Buffy would be like if she weren’t the slayer.


  61. [Note: Josh A posted this comment on April 30, 2010.]

    Ok. To those who hate symbolism, how can you possibly enjoy any kind of masterpiece, whether it be film, tv or especially books? Symbolism and metaphor are two of the most common and powerful literary tools available to creators…they give stories resonance. How could you ever truly care about a story or characters if its simply action? All great stories stories need great characters and resonance to be truly great…anyone can think up a mystery or plot and expand it over 22 seasons. Truly great writers combine this with character advancement and metaphor to create a masterpiece, such as btvs.

    Unless you just hate the really corny metaphors from the first couple of seasons, in which I understand, b/c personally I can barely watch the first couple of seasons. Still, those episodes unique and more inventive than most stuff out there. But to disregard ALL symbolism or any other literary tool is to do yourself a great disservice in terms of enjoying any kind of great literature.


  62. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on April 30, 2010.]

    great review! regarding Giles and Spike in Xander’s dream, I wanted to add my own interpretation – that Giles training Spike to be a watcher may foreshadow the close relationship Buffy is going to form with Spike over the rest of the series. Giles and Buffy have a very special relationship, and so this could foreshadow Buffy and Spike’s very special relationship. Spike’s journey teaches Buffy a lot, and so perhaps that is what is meant by watcher here.


  63. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 24, 2010.]

    What can I say? Unique, stunning, and brilliant. As much as I’ve loved a lot of the show’s other episodes to this point, I’m not sure any of them compare to this.


  64. [Note: Maggie posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    THANK YOU so much for this! You pointed out soooo many things (although there are a few things you got wrong 🙂 ) that I never noticed before. I absolutely love this episode and can watch it over and over again. It’s gotta be at least in my top 6 Buffy episodes.


  65. [Note: Jason posted this comment on August 28, 2010.]

    Maybe I’ll re-watch this episode when I’m done with the series.

    For now I’ll just say: If anyone else out there was bored out of their minds by “Restless”, you weren’t alone. I usually find extended dream sequences to have all the pretension and heavy-handedness of an ’80’s video. A cheap contrivance, a substitution of two-dimensional cut-out symbols for real emotional complexity. There are a few exceptions (like the Circe section of Joyce’s Ulysses). For me, this was not one of them. Beautifully done, but yawn and blech.

    Very good season overall though, and on to season 5! 🙂


  66. [Note: mordcordy posted this comment on September 1, 2010.]

    when the first slayer feeds on willow, her face goes veiny before she ‘dies’. how very cool to foreshadow us what willow will become.


  67. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on September 5, 2010.]

    did anyone notice tara was almost in every dream at least buffy’s and willows’s and why wasoz in willow’s dream ame thing with harmony to. Ilove the thought of people taking pictures of spike and him being giles son and him swinging but i don’t get buffy being zander’s little sister


  68. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on September 8, 2010.]

    @yippers6: I think the comment what Buff said to Xander being way ahead of you “big brother is about the love she feels for him, it’s a brother-sister love, not a romantic one. In the ep. S1-Witch, this was already made clear.


  69. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on September 11, 2010.]

    The Good:

    – The return of Oz. Even though it was only in Willow’s dream. Seeing Willow circa S1 again:)

    – ‘Death of a Salesman’ is different.

    – The true strangeness of dreams by having a man with cheese slices in all the dreams.

    – Xander running through the sets to show the viewer what connects to what.

    – Anya and Giles dubbed in French.

    – Giles singing again.

    – Riley: “Let’s build a fort.” Adam: “I’ll get some pillows.” Hilarious. Coffee makers that think.


    – Xander has no romantic feelings toward Willow yet dreams of a threesome with her and Tara.

    Facts: The dreams go for around 34:42 in total broken down as,

    Willow – 8.47

    Xander – 11.30

    Giles – 5.38

    Buffy – 8.47


  70. [Note: Liz posted this comment on November 23, 2010.]

    I think that everyone pointing out Willow’s mistakes and such before the play begins symbolizes season 6 when she brings Buffy back to life: everyone’s confidence in her drops. It’s interesting because the two people(besides Spike) who have discussed Willow wrongly resurrecting Buffy and punishing her with the most impact was Buffy and Giles, who reminded Willow not to “step on her cues”. Giles had called her a rank amateur and Buffy’s reminder was shown through the pain she was going through.


  71. [Note: Neil posted this comment on January 16, 2011.]

    Anyone who doesn’t like this episode just does not get the show or what Joss was trying to to do on TV.

    Oh and Amber Benson looked stunningly beautiful in this episode.


  72. [Note: Brooke posted this comment on January 26, 2011.]

    One point that is not made during this analysis is Buffy’s apathy to Willow’s distress. Buffy sits and looks bored as the First Slayer pounces on Willow and sucks the life out of her. I believe this is a wonderful foreshadowing to season six. In season six, Buffy is too wrapped up in her own problems and her own apathy towards existence to realize that Willow is drowning in the dark arts.


  73. [Note: A posted this comment on April 21, 2011.]

    “It could represents Willow’s subconcious opinion of men, which is why she decided to become a lesbian.” <- This was the only line that really annoyed me. Seeing as you don't /decide/ to become lesbian. You just are.

    I've seen theories that the cheese man represents Buffy.

    Willow- "saved some room for the cheese"… that Buffy still needs Willow, even though Willow oftentimes seems to feel that she doesn't.

    Xander- "these will not protect you" – reference to his lost eye in season seven? Dunno…

    Giles- "I wear the cheese. It does not wear me." I think that might go back to the whole thing about him being BUffy's watcher and who has the authority in that relationship.

    Though I know Whedon said the cheese man means nothing. Just passing on the insighfulness I've shamefully stolen from bloggers….


  74. [Note: Mash posted this comment on May 5, 2011.]

    When Buffy first came out, I was quite young but was an avid watcher [no pun intended]. I stopped watching after the S5 ending because I thought it was enough and ended so well. Now, older I’m trying to re-watch the series and finally see S6 & S7 [saw the 7th but still not the 6th though I generally know what happens].

    Anyway, a few interpretations that I’m reaching after reading this super long page of interpretations.

    1. TARA: If they find out, they’ll punish you, I … I can’t help you with that.

    I’m starting to think that the last bit, “I cant help you with that” is kinda foreshadowing Tara’s death. Tara dies and literally cant help Willow when she is later punished for killing people, etc.

    2. Someone on this page wrote that sandboxes are used to represent the grave in dreams, perhaps foreshadowing [more foreshadowing of] Buffy’s death?

    3. I clearly recall reading somewhere that in the start of the series, Willow was never meant to be gay. Her gayness was only developed from the “great chemistry” between Alison & Amber as actors. I know there is that line from Doppleganger that refers to Willow being gay, but I think Josh said it was an accident [again, I say this based on something I read]. So this explains her sexual discrepancies [I just think of Willow as bisexual and call it a day].

    4. Giles’ crush on Buffy? I sooooo dont want that to be true. I dont want diss the person who made that interpretation, but I dont like it when the heroine gets all the flipping sexual attention from every straight guy to ever be on the show [Buffy is a cutie but come on]. Plus, I am firm in the belief that Giles is like a father to Buffy [recall Buffy asking him to give her away & how touched he was].

    5. Person who made the link between Oz’s “the wolf is inside me all the time” and the play’s symbolism of being something youre not/facade – LOVE IT.


  75. [Note: Pilot13 posted this comment on May 8, 2011.]

    Amazing review/analysis of this episode. Restless is definitely in my top 5 buffy eps given how strange and layered it is. I love how on the face of it it’s a semi re-hash of ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Fear Itself’ delving into the core four’s psyche’s, yet it’s littered in layers of foreshadowing the future and allusions to earlier shows.

    I did notice though that you never mentioned how in Xander’s dream Joyce, Tara (and I think Giles too but I can’t quite recall which line/s) will speak with v/o but their mouths do not move. Easy interpretation (at least for the first two) is how Xander is attracted to the two women but knows they are unobtainable and their lusty come ons are unassociated with the reality. He still can’t mentally reconcile the words with the people.

    But I think it’s because of their inevitable deaths in the show. Towards the end of the show in particular they make a lot of how ‘perceptive’ Xander is. How he sees more than he should and it costs him an eye. In Giles’ case it makes sense too given the events of the canonical season 8 books, but that last bit is arguably a bit of a stretch but perhaps they had intended to kill him on the show. Might be a reference to season 7 when the scoobies believe (for about five minutes) that he is in fact dead and the First is impersonating him.

    Also in Oz’s enigmatic ‘I’ve been here forever’ line, it might be because of how he’s always filled a void in Willow’s life, but given his place in the corridor with Xander (her other male ‘ex’) it might highlight how inevitable Willow’s coming out was. He was always going to be in the corridor, in Willow’s past, because she would eventually have to move on once she finally figured out she was gay.

    Anyway, great review/analysis. Thanks.


  76. [Note: NeverEver posted this comment on May 29, 2011.]

    Also I didn’t read this in any of the other comments but Faith mentions making the bed for “little sister” in her coma/dream sequence with Buffy if I’m not mistaken.


  77. [Note: Jessi posted this comment on June 2, 2011.]

    I love this episode, and this review was very well done (though I don’t agree with everything you said, but that’s the best part about things like this, they offer many interpretations and meanings). I have a few of my own that have not been mentioned yet that I noticed and thought were interesting:

    – I keep seeing people say Willow “developed” into a lesbian, but we see heavy forshadowing (or at least that essence and tendency inside her) in Dopplegangerland. Willow is conserned that Vampire Willow may be a lesbian and Buffy assures her it’s just the demon part, but Angel starts to say that traits that were there when human tend to be brought out as a Vampire, before he gets cut off for Willow’s sake. Even if this was not ment to forshadow, it is a brilliant and awesome addition to what ended up happening, so we can say that it really was in Willow the whole time.

    – In Xander’s dream, I think it’s interesting that she points out that everyone has left, and his main goal (even though sex seems to be an emminent option)is to catch up to his friends. This to me shows his true heart, and that belongs with his friends and the people he loves.

    – The stuff with Giles and Spike on the swings, I see this more as Xander seeing himself as being less important then everyone, and now even Spike seems to have a bigger role in the group already and (Xander believes)has become more important then Xander.

    – “A Watcher Scoffs at gravity” Possibly that there are no limitations when it comes to the kind of things they deal with everyday (no matter how bleak it looks, they somehow end up getting through it together)

    – When Xander is talking to Buffy in the sandbox, I always thought he was refering to her heart; she can still get her heart broken no matter how strong she is (not just romantically either).

    – When the Ice Cream truck is moving but he is not driving, I see this as a direct correlation to Xander’s life; it keeps moving forward without him and without his control over any of it.

    – Buffy with the tarot card: when she refuses it, I think she’s refusing the first slayer’s power, or entirely her role as a slayer; she just wants to be normal, which is emphesised when she immediately starts to look for her friends again.

    Again, just my take on a few thinks, I loved this episode and I really enjoyed reading everyone else’s interpretation as well!


  78. [Note: Susan posted this comment on July 5, 2011.]

    I have rewatched the entire Buffy saga, from the first year through the seventh, many, many times and loved nearly every bit of it. I love the characters and their development throughout the series, the fantastic acting of the major characters. I love the writing, most of the plotlines, all the witty dialogue, the clever storylines, and on and on. I have laughed and cried with the characters and practically jumped out of my seat on occasion, but I have to say that every single time I have watched this episode I have a difficult time staying awake. Not one other episode, including the really lame ones like Where the Wild Things Are, I Robot, You Jane, and Superstar has ever had this effect on me. I just find this episode extremely boring no matter how well done or symabolic it is. I’ve read the review and all the comments several times, and find it fascinating that this episode was able to spark such thought. Last night when I tried once more to get involved in what was going on the thing that came to mind was The Emperor’s New Clothes. Was all the symbolism really there? For the most part season four is my least favorite of all the seasons although a few of the episodes are in my personal top ten list (Pangs and Something Blue in particular). And there are many, many top notch moments throughout all the episodes. Despite the lameness of the season arc I thought that Primeval summed it up and brought it all to a decent conclusion. To me, in my own very personal and humble opinion, Restless was very anti-climactic.


  79. [Note: Erin posted this comment on September 3, 2011.]

    I have a rather far-fetched reason of why Anya was sleeping in Willow’s bed. In ‘Tough Love’ (S5) when Glory sucks Tara’s brain and Tara has to spend a night at the hospital, Willow says something like, “I don’t know if I can sleep without her.” And Anya says, “You can sleep with me…Ok, that came out a lot more lesbian than it sounded in my head.” Probably a ridiculous ided, but it came to mind.


  80. [Note: Lunatic on a pogostick posted this comment on September 15, 2011.]

    Just a few random notes that i thought were interesting.

    Willow’s Dream – When giles says “acting is not about behaving its about hiding” speaks heavily to the idea that that williows new confident persona,which she derives from the use of magic is an act that she clearly uses to hide the possible fundamental aspect ofs her personality and character she dislikes that still exsist and maybe always will. Such as her nerd-iness and being weak when it comes to letting people walk all over her.

    Xanders Dream – After Xander goes to the toilet and Joyce tells him “they have already left” could be about how he feels he has been left behind by the group in general.Throughout his dream everywhere he goes leads back to his basement which i think is a clear indicator to how he is lost and directionless in life currently.

    His conversation with buffy where she refers to him as big brother might also be an indication that xander realises the oppturnity for a romantic relationship with buffy isnt really feasible but that there relationship has or will become something just as strong and powerful,which one would say it cleary does in later seasons.

    Giles – “dont you think its a littel old fashioned” Points out the fact that giles was after all trained as a watcher and has much more traditional views and conflicting opinions on how slaying should be done to buffy.(Pointed out by Lies my parents told me). I just thought it was interesting how it points out the generational gap that always exsists between child and parent no matter how close they are.


  81. [Note: snowflakesaway posted this comment on October 27, 2011.]

    This is just a random note on the whole Anya being in willow’s bed. I think this is a reference to “Living Conditions” when Buffy had a demon roommate.


  82. [Note: Alanthir posted this comment on December 29, 2011.]

    Great review, maybe I could give you one or two hints about the Willow dream.

    Focus more on one very soecific thing. The Madame Butterfly expression ist not just pure reference to season 1, it´s a reference for Willows whole development. Madame Butterfly is very much about feminization, that´s the whole point in it to be honest.

    So all this things about the men in Willows dream give more of a sense. Oz and Xander, the two men Willow has been in love with, are standing in the floor, Oz expresses that it´s for a long time, because both are bond to Willow for a long time and have been the goals to access for her in big parts.

    The saying about drama class represents two things. First is the more obvious, the one that Willow is pretending to be something and acts mostly for herself. The second one is Willow non confidence about her own sexuality. At this point she´s fallen in love with a girl for the first time. This is a very bewildering act, especially for a teenager (even if grown to the early twenties so far). Willow can´t be 100 percent secure about herself in this, it all can be a part of her “acting” especially if you think about how much wicca is a feminine thing and witches often characterized as strong women with lesbian tendencies. That´s why she needs to know how much she is in love with Tara mostly for herself and “uses” her as her guide between the red sheets.

    Also the cowboy part that comes next is very important for this. A strong man will give help to a woman who don´t even needs it. It´s the role society sees overall, but Willow is willing to break out of it (and she does), that´s a big part why she´s going the way to dark Willow, she fears to be dependent of men. This is a very big part in Season 5 and 6, you will recognize she´s turning apart from every man in her inner circle, even Xanders advices and sayings will be turned down by her more and more eagerly (mostly by pure ignorance) and that´s also the way Xander breaks through to her in 6×22, by being there for her but not advising, accepting her as the strong women she is also as the nerd she was without ever thinking she needs his help.

    The saying by Tara that something is already hunting her is directly drawn upon Giles and also Buffy (her without even knowing). Buffy is the Slayer, but not ready to be like the first one but the First Slayer is hunting her like prey at the moment. The consumption from the inside is a very good analysis by yourself, Willow is much like the first Slayer (who has many dark flaws) when she´s getting dark Willow. Pure feminine energy to strike down evil (men). So it´s not buffy who is totally consumed by the FS, it´s Willow, without even being the Slayer herself.

    Hope you understand what I tried to say here and please excuse poor wording or spelling, I´m not a native 😉


  83. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 29, 2011.]

    Thanks for the comment, Alanthir. I had no problems understanding you, btw. Interesting points, too. What you’re saying largely makes sense — it’s definitely something to consider the next time I watch “Restless.” 🙂


  84. [Note: nitramneek posted this comment on February 16, 2012.]

    Once again Mike a fantastic review. It certainly gives thought a seven course meal. Now, about the cheese man, I know in interviews Joss has stated that the cheese man means absolutely nothing. I would tend to agree with him, but I ran into this site called “beautiful monsters” and the article is titled “an analysis of cheese as metaphor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” As Oz would put it “actually,it explains a lot.” If this analysis is true it would not only make Mr. Weadon the biggest fibber in the ‘verse, but it would also elevate not only this episode as well as BtVS as a whole as pure genius. The sites URL is http://www.stonesoup.co.nz/ecoqueer/archives/003318.html. Mike, i would really lie your opinion on this matter. Just thought I’d pass it along, just another tidbit added to pile.


  85. [Note: BGAP posted this comment on February 27, 2012.]

    This one topped “Passion” to become my favorite episode of the series, so far, and it’s the first one I had to watch again right away. (I’m streaming the entire series on Netflix and just started season 5) While it doesn’t quite achieve the mastery of the best work of David Lynch, there is enough great material for hours of discussion and interpretation.


  86. [Note: Helen posted this comment on March 18, 2012.]

    I’ve always interpreted the scene at the beginning of Giles’s dream when he says “This is the way men and women have behaved since the beginning….” as revealing the inherent sexism of the Slayer-Watcher tradition. Even though the Slayer is a woman, she is still controlled by the mostly male-dominated Council. Buffy breaks this cycle, but Giles still is shown to have very old-fashioned ideas. I never considered it to have a sexual connotation, especially since nothing that we’ve seen from Giles points to these types of feelings for her.

    The first time I watched this episode without reading a review, I thought that Spike was in Xander’s dream just for the humor of it. Now though, I’m pretty sure that he was on the swing and considered “almost like a son” to Giles to show Xander’s fear of being replaced as the male, and son, in the group. Like Willow and Buffy, he considers Giles to be almost a surrogate father, and in some ways, I feel like Giles reciprocated. This relationship was always shaky since Xander felt like he wasn’t good enough, but he was the closest thing to a son Giles had in the series. When Buffy calls him “Brother”, it further emphasizes their family ties. However, Spike was also British and interacted with Giles a lot during this season so Xander might have been somewhat jealous and protective of his place, explaining his treatment of the vampire in the later seasons.

    My favorite Riley scene of the series has to be his role of a cowboy in “Death of a Salesman”. He just looks so clueless, cute, and happy!

    This episode might just be my favorite ever, next to OMWF. Thanks for the detailed analysis MikeJer!


  87. [Note: Really? posted this comment on March 28, 2012.]

    I love this series, but seriously this episode was boring nonsense. It was artsy for the sake of artsy, with no true substance.

    I have been reading your reviews while rewatching the series and it doesnt suprise me that you love this episode. I think you read way more into these dream sequency scenes than are actually there and this episode is clearly pandering to those who inject deeper meaning into the symbolism than is actually present.

    Oooh.. let’s explore everyones psyche. Willow has grown since being a nerdy girl into a confident young woman? Wow, how deep. They haven’t been beating that over our heads for the last 4 seasons at all. It’s such new territory, let’s really get in there and explore that.

    I could go on with Xander and his fear of aimlessness and much more, but I don’t care too. I’m not trying to change any minds, just give a voice to people like me who love this show but hate this crap.

    Hush deserved a perfect score. This episode did not.


  88. [Note: ket posted this comment on April 9, 2012.]

    Did anyone else notice that Xander was worried about being there for Anya’s big night? This seems to foreshadow his cold feet at their eventual wedding.


  89. [Note: Alex posted this comment on April 24, 2012.]

    ‘Really?’, I kind of agree with you. I don’t feel as strongly as you and wouldn’t say I ‘hate this crap’, but I just don’t get why so many people love this episode as much as they do. In theory, I think it’s pretty cool to have an episode of Buffy that’s so weird and different. But when I watch it I honestly just feel kind of bored, and a bit like I’m missing out on some big secret, since so many other fans apparently love this. I also agree that this episode really lends itself to endless analysis, and it seems to me that some people read much more into it than is really there.

    I think I’ve just read too many comments from people saying things like ‘casual viewers will hate this, but TRUE Buffy fans will love it’. Like you can’t really love the show unless you love this episode. Sorry, but I just don’t. I was sort of intrigued the first time I watched it. But I’ve never been particularly enthused about watching it again.


  90. [Note: nk posted this comment on April 24, 2012.]

    I never exactly disliked this episode – and even if I had, I admire Joss Whedon’s writing enough to forgive him an occasional indulgence – but I’ve really grown to appreciate it over time (kind of like Season 4 in general). In most shows an entire episode like this would probably bore me to tears, but the Buffy characters are complex and likeable enough that seeing their dreams just about works for me, and it really does add an extra texture to the entire Buffy story.


  91. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on May 20, 2012.]

    unfortunately, i don’t have the dvd’s is there episode commentary on this episode??? does joss himself every explain the dreams?


  92. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on June 11, 2012.]

    ‘Really?’, I understand this episode seems so boring. When I first watched it, it seemed very boring until I began to see why it was so significant. I even feel bored watching it sometimes, it’s certainly not an episode you’d watch frequently but it offers so much insight into this show. That’s what is so brilliant about this episode!

    Many writers, including Whedon himself, have said many times that there is A LOT of hidden meaning and symbolism in this episode, though some people may read into it a little too much.

    I think this episode also repeats what has happened, not only in the fourth season but also in every season before it. This is how this episode sums up what the show WAS and IS all about. Then we get A LOT of foreshadowing which lays out what the rest of the series is SUPPOSED to be about, most specifically season five.

    This episode is essentially the backbone of the series. Granted the episode itself may go way too deep into the characters of the show, but it’s the sort of airy mystery to it that appeals to many fans, and distracts many fans from many of its boring qualities.


  93. [Note: Ida posted this comment on June 17, 2012.]

    There’s not much more to point out now after this long review and 100 comments, but there is one little thing I would like to point out. Xander is initially worried about Willow in his dream, but Giles and Buffy doesn’t care about his opinion and just continues with watching the movie. Later, when he walks trough Giles’ house, they all seem concerned and say “This is more serious than we thought” rather than “Maybe Xander was right” or something down that line. This emphasizes how Xander feels ignored by the Scoobies and that his opinion is worth nothing to them.

    And thanks for the review, I enjoyed it as always!


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