[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Douglas Petrie | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 05/15/2001]
Probing. That’s how I’d describe “The Weight of the World.” In what seems like padding and a calm before the storm, there is actually a lot of fascinating dialogue if you pay close attention. This is no action extravaganza or even traditional build-up, but rather an episode built on ideas and choices. Buffy faces a choice to remain in her catatonic state and disappear into a world of guilt and pain. Ben faces a choice of whether or not to kill Dawn to save himself. The Scoobies must choose what to do next now that their group is damaged and Dawn is gone. In the midst of all of these choices are the ideas which bind it all together. Ideas involving the true extent of humanity’s insanity and the fight that goes on within each one of us. I love episodes that give me a lot to think about and this one delivers, hence my love of it.
The Scoobies are in complete disarray with Buffy in a catatonic state, Giles badly injured, and Tara insane. With all of those people down Willow steps up to plate, magically splits apart a quarelling Xander and Spike, and scares everyone into cooperating. Willow being scary is not something we have really seen before. The creepiness that permeates her in S6 begins to surface here along with her now frequent use of magic. Neccessity is spurring it forward here, but she has no clue what all this usage is doing to her. For now, though, it proves useful as she mystically jumps in Buffy’s mind — something everyone says is extremely dangerous — to help her come out.
Once inside, we get thrown a series of interesting images and comments. Buffy’s taking the form of a child, which represents her desire to live her life again without the weight of the world on her shoulders — to return to simpler times where she can just be happy again. She appropiately says, “I like it here.” Then Buffy’s parents enter the room holding a baby Dawn, obviously together and very happy which has been one of Buffy’s wishes for a long time now, and Joyce asks Buffy, “Don’t you want to be the big sister?” Buffy’s response, “No, I wanna be the baby,” is so perfect to her character and makes complete sense in where her mind’s at. Back in “No Place Like Home” [5×05] she posed the question, “why can’t I ever be L’il Punkin’ Belly?” Buffy really wants to still be a girl with a loving mom and a dad. The world is forcing her to grow up and she’s fighting it with every last fiber of her being. This is a struggle that isn’t completely overcome until the immensely important “Normal Again” [6×17] , and I really sympathize with her every step of the way.
In this same scene we see Buffy ask to take care of Dawn sometimes, which shows that a part of her still wants to accept some of that responsibility. Willow then sees Buffy replaying the Spirit Guide’s message: “Death is your gift.” This leads to current-age Buffy, dressed in black, smothering Dawn with a pillow. This makes it clear that Buffy still sees that message as meaning that her ability to kill things is her gift. Willow’s trying to say that she’s not really sure what it means, but Buffy won’t listen.
Eventually after some prodding from Willow we get some clear answers as to why Buffy’s retreated into herself. We find out that recently, for a brief moment, it just hit her that “Glory will beat me. And in that second of knowing it, Will… I wanted it to happen … I wanted it over. This is, all of this, too much for me. I just wanted it over. If Glory wins, then Dawn dies. I would grieve. People would feel sorry for me. But it would all be over. I imagined what a relief that would be. I killed Dawn.” Buffy feels that her thinking she’ll lose made it happen — made her lose Dawn.
But Willow’s there to tell her it’s not over yet: “You’ve carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school. And I know you didn’t ask for this, but you do it, every day. And so you wanted out for one second, so what?” Succinctly put Willow. This manages to get Buffy out of her land of guilt, although it’s obvious from the moment she snaps out of it that she still has to expell her sorrow. Then, after all of this, she comes back only to find out that if Glory’s ritual starts, the only way to stop it is to actually kill her sister. Yikes.
On the other side of the fight we see a morally confused Glory and a morally compromised Ben, both negotiating and fighting with each other while Dawn’s caught in the middle. It’s interesting that in extended presence of Dawn the magic that separates Ben and Glory begins to dissapate causing short boughts of confusion and further insanity for Glory and loads of guilt and disgust from Ben. This is very cool and allows each to feel what the other is feeling. Glory feels guilty for what she’s doing and even tries to make Dawn feel better, which is completely antithetical to the definition of a hellgod. At this point Ben still isn’t willing to sacrifice Dawn to save himself. Glory just wants to physically rip Ben out of her and asks a minion to do as much. The minion tells her one of the things I love about this series, “You risk terrible magics in opening the portal. Nothing comes without a price. This is yours.” In Buffy magic always has consequences — a price.
The shining moment of this episode for me is when Glory goes on about human existence. Here’s a grim and chilling look on our race: “People. How do they function? Here. Like this, in the world, with all this bile running through them. Every day, it’s… Whooo… you have no control they’re not even animals they’re just these meatbaggy slaves to hormones and pheromones and their, and their… feelings. Hate ’em! I mean really, is this what the poets go on about? This? Call me crazy, but as hard core drugs go, human emotion’s just useless. People are puppets, everyone getting jerked around by what they’re feeling – am I wrong? Really, I want to know.” Glory is right to an extent. Humans are often ruled by their emotions, often-times overly so. But as Buffy tells Kendra way back in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10] , “my emotions give me power. They’re total assets!” And Buffy was right. Without these emotions we’d live in a world that was excessively uninteresting… where life wouldn’t even be worth living.
Glory goes on to say, in her most potent piece of dialogue ever, “Funny, ’cause I look around at this world you’re so eager to be a part of, and all I see’s six billion lunatics looking for the fastest ride out. Who’s not crazy? Look around – everyone’s drinkin’, smokin’, shootin’ up, shootin’ each other or just plain screwing their brains out because they don’t want ’em anymore. I’m crazy? Honey, I’m the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind ’cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts. Name one person who can take it here. That’s all I’m asking – name one.” Wow.
Dawn claims Buffy can, but we can see she’s having all kinds of issues living in this world. But fortunately humanity is not as dark as Glory would have us see it. For all the awful stuff Glory talks about, which is unfortunately a part of humanity, there is an opposite in the positive. There are people loving, sharing, helping, and caring. People with joy in their lives and in their families. Sometimes it can feel the way Glory puts it — just watch the local evening news. But fortunately life is more a mix of the good with the bad, which is what makes living just so interesting.
All of this comes into play during the scene where Ben and Glory are frequently melting into each other. Glory is trying to negotiate with Ben, even offering him immortality, to allow her to bleed Dawn. Ben isn’t willing to kill Dawn himself before the ritual — he can’t bring himself to do that. But when Glory offers him immortality, and he knows she means it, he changes his mind and decides to cooperate with Glory. She tells him “When you’re immortal, all this crap you’ve been carrying around inside – the guilt, the anger, the crazy-making pain… it all just melts away, like ice cream. Trust me. When all this is over, I can set you up real nice. I’m making it easy. It’s you – or the girl.” Well, Ben finally decides to go with himself.
At this point, though, I must express some confusion as to what Ben’s options actually are. If he kills Dawn early then Glory will fade and he’ll have his life to live. If he lets Glory bleed Dawn he’ll cease to exist unless Glory hooks him up, which she offers here. But if he helps get Dawn get away from Glory wouldn’t that be better for everyone except Glory? Glory would fade, Ben would have his life, and Dawn would live. I’m confused as to why Ben never considered this option.
Anyway, I feel this episode is a real success. It gets us thinking about all the choices in front of all the players and the tough decisions they must all make. We get to see and feel what both the heroes and the villains are seeing and feeling which makes the final fight in “The Gift” [5×22] all the more powerful. “The Weight of the World” isn’t perfect by any means, and it can be a bit slow in places, but I think it succeeds at giving this entire situation more depth and perspective.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Spike hitting Catatonic Buffy claiming “Buffy likes it rough.” Xander doesn’t take kind to this behavior.
+ Spike desparately trying to get across the whole “Ben is Glory” topic. “Are you all very stoned? … It’s like a bloody sitcom.” Very funny!
+ Spike slapping Xander for his Ben/Glory stupidity.
+ Spike lighting a cigarette right next to a no smoking sign.
– The Doc is far too one-dimensional. He works for Glory but we don’t even really know why. Minor missed opportunity here.