Buffy 6×01: Bargaining Pt. 1

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 10/02/2001]

“It’ll be dark soon,” Xander utters as he and the remaining Scoobies watch Giles fly back to England. Understatement much? More than ever before, “Bargaining” joined with “After Life” represent one of the darkest group of episodes I’ve ever witnessed in my years of television consumption. And check out the load of symbolism crammed in these babies! Where does all this darkness stem from? First Willow, and then Buffy herself. What has been carefully crafted for four years now has finally arrived: Willow is a powerful witch whose hints of power abuse in the past is now fully manifesting itself. To bring Buffy back to life, for partially selfish reasons, Willow murders a young deer, taps into the most dangerous of magics, and nearly dies. Does a newly resurrected Buffy make anything better? Nope, it rather makes things much worse.

This opening three-part episode is a radical departure from what we’re used to seeing in a Buffy season opener. We were left with a bleak, yet poignant, finale with “The Gift” [5×22] and there was only one way that S6 could be successful in my mind: follow through. Back in S2, “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] left Buffy and us in a situation of sadness, self-analysis, and a bit of depression. When S3 began I wanted a deep look at some of these not-so-pleasant emotions over the course of a good many episodes. What I got instead was “Anne” [3×01] , a decent episode in its own right, but the complete opposite of what I wanted to see. Here in S6 I initially worried that it would suffer the same fate as early S3, but thank you Joss Whedon, you followed through this time! S6 is easily the darkest season of Buffy, and I feel it’s fairly easily the darkest season of all of Whedon’s shows, or any show I’ve ever seen for that matter.

What’s to gain from all this darkness is something I’ll thoroughly go into during the Season 6 Review. For now I’m going to jump into how it all began. Even though it appears on the DVD set as one episode, I’ve decided to split “Bargaining” into two parts mainly because there is a noteworthy quality difference in them (plus, there’s 22 episodes in a season, not 21). I really only have one major complaint with the first couple episodes, which I’ll discuss right now. Just how lame are those biker demons? Not only am I confused that they can get away with driving around on motorcycles in broad daylight without anyone caring, but where in the world is the Sunnydale police department? We see one police car destroyed on the street, and that’s about it. That department could have shot up that gang in seconds! This gang also has extremely cliched and silly dialogue. These are the primary reasons why “Bargaining Pt. 1” scores higher than “Bargaining Pt. 2” [6×02] . They’re hardly in the former, while they’re a big focus of the latter.

Since Buffy’s not even in this episode… she’s dead, I feel the immediate desire to talk about our new main character: Willow. Right from the opening scene in a graveyard can we see how consistently creepy she’s gotten over the summer, which is built on top of her magic run at the end of S5 to fight Glory. What was a new and big deal in “The Gift” [5×22] , telepathy, is now used by Willow commonly and even casually. It, of course, proves to be useful in this opening patrol, but Xander and Anya’s creeped out reactions remind us that the power itself is not indicative of good times. What’s more is that Willow’s been elected “boss” of the group (recalled in a hilarious scene), which makes complete sense in remembering the many times that, in Buffy’s absence (and even moreso without Giles around as well), she took control of whatever odd situation they were in and lead. Willow likes this feeling of power, which only goes to fuel her obsession with magic.

When the Urn of Osiris arrives Willow decides it’s time and is not entertaining any other opinions, even forcefully stating “no one’s changing their minds. Period.” Everyone else takes a step back with Xander leading the concerned front. He, functioning as the voice of reason, says “Whoa! Let’s apply the brakes and check the rear- and side-view mirrors here. This is deep stuff, Willow. We’re talking about raising the dead.” Tara jumps in and states, “It is wrong. It’s against all the laws of nature, and practically impossible to do.” It’s interesting to me that Tara is going along with this though. You’d think she would have put up more of a fuss. I get the feeling that Willow did a lot of convincing to get Tara reluctantly on board with this, and we find out later that she still left out some gruesome details.

I must point out how much I respect the episode for taking the time, in this same scene, to describe the particulars of the entire situation. Willow explains, “Xander, this isn’t zombies … This isn’t like Dawn trying to bring Mrs. Summers back, or anything we’ve dealt with before. Buffy didn’t die a natural death. She was killed by mystical energy.” This gives us a reasonable explanation to why resurrecting Buffy is possible, but doing it for Joyce (or any natural human death) is not. It also makes sense to me why Willow and the gang could convince themselves that Buffy might realistically be trapped in a torturous hell dimension. Lets think about this. The portal that drained the life out of Buffy was Glory’s portal to one of the worst hell dimensions known to exist, and she clearly died while inside the portal. That, with what we know about Angel’s experience in hell, combine to form enough evidence to support Willow’s line of thought. It’s only after Buffy’s back and they see her state of mind that Willow hangs onto this theory only to make herself feel better rather than thinking about the alternative.

All of this is setup for the massively disturbing scene where Willow, dressed in a starkingly contrasting bright white dress, murders a young deer with a knife to collect its blood for the spell to resurrect Buffy. Wow! Willow hs gotten deeply scary, even to herself while doing the act. This is not only shocking in its own right, but Willow doing it really socks me in the gut, forcing me to recognize how astonishingly different she is from the innocent, cute little Willow of S1-S3. This deeply dark place Willow has reached was so superbly developed over the seasons, though, that this is not out of character! Now that takes some serious long-term planning and writing skill to pull off! Major props to Whedon’s long-term vision for Willow. Exploring her darkness allows us to find out the remaining pieces of exactly who Willow really is, and to address those character flaws that began the series so subtly.

It’s here where a lot of the symbolism of this three-part opener begins — clothing playing a big role. Check out what Williow’s wearing during this episode. Before she stabs the dear she’s wearing a bright white dress. The act of murder then stains the remaining piece of her innocence with the red of blood. In her next scene we see her now wearing a red dress, symbolising that she, her conscience and hands, are now soaked in blood. When she performs the spell to resurrect Buffy it gets even darker as we find her wearing a black dress with red, blood-like, blotches all over it. In two quick strokes Willow’s wiped away her remaining innocence and fully embraced black magic. We see the full scariness of this new Willow after she recovers from her magic drain in “After Life” [6×03] , creepily breaking away from Tara and going black-eyed to corporealize a ghost. This pattern directly continues when she unleashes some verbal wrath on Giles in “Flooded” [6×04] .

But the final step in pushing her to this place is the spell to resurrect Buffy. This spell is undoubtedly the best creepy/cool mix I’ve ever seen witnessed on television, including all of Willow’s other spells. As swirling dark red energy wraps around a barely in-control Willow, which is very reminscent of how the Grim Reaper himself is occasionally represented in things I’ve seen, it becomes very clear that the rest of Scoobies had no idea of the black depths Willow was getting herself into to perform this resurrection. Only Tara seemed to know a few of the details, but still not very much. We see Willow’s arms being ripped open, a snake coming out of her mouth, and that this spell is taking a ton out of her — the whole process comes very close to killing her. The episode ends with her literally going unconcious from physical trauma. This represents fantastic use of the character development Willow has gotten to this point along with the entire reason I love this season opener: follow through.

As much as I hate to move on, I get to talk about Willow a lot more in the next couple episodes and there’s several other awesome things going on in this one. We find out that during the summer Xander convinced Anya to wait to announce their engagement. At first it’s very understandable, what with Buffy’s death and all, but after a while Xander should have had enough confidence in his decision to go public with it. He’s using constant excuses to keep delaying the announcement. Holding back this announcement is driving Anya nuts, but it’s not the only thing. With Buffy dead, everything’s changed. Giles is heading back to England, thereby leaving Anya in charge of the Magic Box, and has also been stalling. This leaves a conflicted Anya, who wants to run the shop herself but worries that with the imminent spell Giles should maybe stay.

Why is Giles still hanging around? This is a topic directly addressed when he and the BuffyBot have a little chat. It tells him “Every Slayer needs her Watcher.” He responds, a little sadly, “I just can’t help but wonder if … she would have been better off without me. Buffy … I did what any good Watcher would do. Got my Slayer killed in the line of duty.” Even though his primary relationship with Buffy was as her Watcher, he loved her like a daughter as well, which is why his departure from Sunnydale would force him to truly accept that she’s gone. After this chat with the BuffyBot he finally makes the decision to move on with his life, even though he will greatly miss the rest of the Scoobies.

All of this leads to the really touching scene at the airport where the Scoobies give Giles a proper send off. I love it all, from Anya’s bought manufactured apple pie (I can almost see her saying, “now that’s craftsmanship”) to Willow’s overblown “Bon Voyage” to Tara’s hilarious Sunnydale finger monster…”grr! argh!” Giles reminds Dawn, the closest remaining biological link to Buffy herself, that he’s only a phone call away. Willow even amusingly says, “Well, you should get going. Don’t you have a life or something?” His response, a throwback to his development in S4, “Um, well, I suppose that’s the question really.” They all warmingly hug him, and then he leaves. Wow, what a way to open a season! Buffy’s dead and Giles is not a regular anymore. As much as I love Giles, this once again proves Buffy‘s uniqueness as a show. Characters evolve, grow, and move on — nothing stays the same and each season has a new theme, focus, and tone. Sometimes this new place can take a while to adjust to, but its place as a piece of the whole picture is always firm in its importance.

The remaining important bit of character work involves Dawn, Spike, and how they both interact with each other and the BuffyBot. Dawn just outright misses Buffy. To prove the depths of her sadness, we see her touchingly sleeping next to the BuffyBot at night because even resting with something in the image of Buffy is more comforting that nothing at all. This is truly both sweet and sad; a poignant scene in which we’re relayed exactly what Dawn’s thinking and feeling without her even saying a word. This is definitely one of Dawn’s best scenes in the season. Spike’s reaction to the BuffyBot is the complete opposite of what it was when he initially got it. Now he can’t stand the thing and won’t even directly look at it. When it compliments his abs, he demands Willow get rid of all the remaining junk that he originally had Warren program in it, which also gets us briefly thinking about Warren, who plays a big role this season.

It’s also interesting to see the reactions of the Scoobies. When it runs up to Dawn and rigidly hugs her, we can clearly see how disturbed the entire group is. It’s moments like this that really go to remind everyone that the BuffyBot is not even a remotely close replacement of Buffy herself. Even so, it was formulaic enough to fool everyone at Dawn’s school.

As Spike later amusingly points out, “Yeah, [they] responded to BuffyBot because a robot is predictable. Boring. Perfect teacher’s pet. That’s all schools are, you know. Just factories, spewing out mindless little automatons. Who go on to be… very… valuable and productive members of society, and you should go. Because Buffy would want you to.” I hate to say it, but based on my own experiences in the public school system he couldn’t be more right, especially when talking about high school and, to a lesser extent, college/university. School’s all about going through the institution’s games to get your silly grade and is rarely ever about actual learning, but I’ll stop here before I go off on a tangent. For more on this subject, I direct you to the sublime movie Donnie Darko.

Another poignant scene involves Spike’s reaction to Dawn trying to get out of being babysat. He slams his hand down and, slightly choking up, says “No! I’m not leaving you… to get hurt. Not again.” This represents Spike’s utter devotion to the memory of Buffy, which began after the genuine “thank you” kiss in “Intervention” [5×18] . We know Spike’s a bit of a romantic, which stems from William’s poetry, so it makes complete sense that he’d have a real hard time moving on from something like this. Just remember how long it took him to stop moping over being dumped by Drusilla!

Anyway, I’m going to wrap this review up by mentioning the utterly frightening image of Buffy’s body being infused with life again from its corpsified state. In an episode filled with some extremely potent disturbing images and an overall excellent use of CGI (e.g. Willow’s resurrection spell), the final one manages to easily compete. This brief sequence is shocking and terrifying, plain and simple. The visual effect used is one of the most pheneomenal uses of CGI I’ve ever seen — it looks completely real, if such a thing was possible. All I can think about is how passionately I hurt for Buffy right now. As shocking as this scene is, I’m very glad it was shown to us in this kind of gruesome detail. How else would we have understood and, moreso, felt what Buffy’s feeling after this? Just implying it happened wouldn’t do the trick I’m afraid.

“Bargaining Pt. 1” is an excellent season opener, easily the best of Buffy and possibly the best of the entire Buffyverse altogether. It’s got so much character development, darkness, powerful images, and gigantically impacting events that its importance and value cannot be overlooked. The only thing holding it back from a P are the small bits involving the excessively lame demon biker gang. Ironically, how little they’re used here is also what raises this episode above it’s conclusion. However, great stuff! This is what I want from a season opener that picks up from the kind of devastating events of the previous season’s finale. Where “Anne” [3×01] failed, “Bargaining Pt. 1” succeeds.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ It being implied that Dawn stole Willow’s clogs.
+ The BuffyBot on ‘repeat’ mode when making sandwiches.
+ Everyone jumping at saying “no!” when the phone rings and the BuffyBot offers to answer.
+ Willow being able to repair the BuffyBot after “The Gift” [5×22] makes complete sense. Remember “Ted” [2×11] and the keeping of certain mechanical parts?
+ Tara’s little energy ball to separate Anya from one of the demon bikers.

– Seriously, how dumb of a girl must you be to walk alone at night in Sunnydale after this long? It’s so stupid that’s it’s silly, and the writers should know better.


Foreshadowing

* Right after Giles flies away to England, Xander says “it’ll be dark soon.” While in the literal sense he’s talking about it being night soon, the comment is also true of the rest of S6.


[Score]

95/100

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67 thoughts on “Buffy 6×01: Bargaining Pt. 1”

  1. [Note: Angelus posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    I like this epi too but whenever I go back and watch it I cant stand Tara’s dialogue in this one. She seemed out of character and silly. Her character should be the most sensitive to whats going on and she seems so HO HUM about it all.

    You wrote “It’s interesting to me that Tara is going along with this though. You’d think she would have put up more of a fuss.” COMPLETELY!

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  2. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 30, 2007.]

    I agree, great CGI during the spell and the resurrection, I’m surprised that you didn’t address the issue about Buffy actually being brought back, while I am by no means complaining, I am happy for two more seasons and think that Chosen is a much better series finale than gift, it seems to cheapen her death now that she has died twice and come back. well, at lest they didn’t resolve it in one ep like in WSWB (2×01).

    I really appreciate season 6’s uniqueness because the big bad is actually a member of the scoobies and not an evil creature that can be thwarted and killed with (relative) ease. I think this also goes much further with the friend-gone-bad idea that the Angelus arc did because his was an accidental conversion and he had no intention of ever going there, while Willow, though torn by grief and anger, on some level, knew what she was doing and chose to go down that path. This is a fascinating season and I cannot wait for the rest to be reviewed as I am looking forward to some great conversations and opinions. Keep up the great work!!

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  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on December 20, 2007.]

    Very good review, mike. Most of what you say is what I love about it too. I´ve never seen an episode like this before, intense and really dark. I also have to say that I love how they brought Buffy back and have to deal with the consequences all season. Great stuff.

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  4. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on March 2, 2008.]

    I’m so glad you scored this episode highly. I agree about the Biker Demons, they sucked. But everything else was top-notch. You’ve pinned down everything I love about the episode.

    I would like to point out how much I like that Scoobies can hold an episode (part 1) all by themselves without the lead character – it just shows you how good all the supporting characters are.

    As for Tara, there is certainly a change in character, but it wasn’t necessarily inconsistent. As lusciousxander said, Willow can do no wrong in Tara’s eyes (at this point). Willow had Tara completely under her thumb in their relationship, at least until a few episodes from now. It makes perfect sense that she’d agree to the resurrection since Willow was behind the wheel. (Plus, as pointed out by Mike, she very obviously wasn’t aware of the consequences that might entail.)

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  5. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 24, 2008.]

    i just loved how spike reacted to the buffybot when she complimented him on his abs. it just shows how much her trust has affected him. (its interesting to note that when physically closest (season 6) spike and buffy share hardly any trust or emotion but when completely platonic (late season 5, season 7) they are closer than ever before)

    one complaint ive had is that the scoobies went through all that trouble of acceptance of buffy’s death (burying her, creating a plan for life without her, living nearly half a year before her resurrection). i know they may have had to wait for the urn and keep low pro on her death but they could have found a less definate way of preserving her for her resurrection. P.S. if anyone who knew buffy saw her grave it might be a little giveaway.

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  6. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 19, 2009.]

    Perhaps someone can help me with this. When Buffy was clinical dead for a few moments in “Prophecy Girl”, this triggered the “awakening” and formation of a new slayer, Kendra. How comes it that now after Buffy’s definite death (as it seems) no new slayer was chosen? I know there is still Faith alive, though being on the loose, but she followed after Kendra died, with the other slayer, Buffy, obviously alive and in charge. So the pure fact that there was a slayer alive did not stop the coming of Faith as the successor of Kendra. Why is there now not a successor chosen for Buffy?

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  7. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on May 19, 2009.]

    I think the consensus is that when Buffy died, the slayer line passed to Kendra, and then to Faith. So Buffy no longer affects the line- when Buffy dies, she just dies, and only if Faith were to die would another slayer be called. I believe there is some further discussion of this in Mike’s review for Potential in S7, and also some speculation on the Watcher’s Council using this fact to start a slayer factory.

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  8. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 19, 2009.]

    Thank you 🙂 This makes sense. It is a bit odd, though, that the council would not see to it that SOMEONE would take care of the Hellmouth, if even they only tell Giles to stay and “watch” so that the council might at least be informed what is going on (and have some kind of “Big Gun” near by), as I think they won’t nor want to rely on the Scoobies and the Buffybot.

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  9. [Note: Sam posted this comment on May 19, 2009.]

    Thank goodness the Scoobies revived Buffy when they did. When Buffy sacrificed herself to save the world, she left the Hellmouth without its natural guardian–someone to slay the vampires, demons and other supernatural forces of darkness that would naturally gravitate in its direction. Willow was a pretty powerful witch by this point, but even she would not have been able to hold off all the all-consuming tidal wave of evil that would head for Sunnydale once word got out that the Slayer was a robot… which was revealed in this episode.

    So if Buffy hadn’t been revived by the end of this episode, all the series regulars (except Giles) would be dead by the end of the next one… and the rest of the town’s inhabitants would have soon followed. It took a lot of guts to do what they did, but Sunnydale is safer for it, as is the rest of the world.

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  10. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 21, 2009.]

    Yeah, though they did not revive her for the noble cause in the first place but mostly for “selfish” reasons, i.e. to get their best friend back and because they need Buffy to tell them what to do.

    But what I don’t get is: Why is Giles leaving when there is nobody to guard the Hellmouth except the hapless Scoobies with their fragile Buffybot? Sure, Glory has been defeated, but
    a) he cannot have really expected that the Buffybot would fullfil the slayer’s tasks forever as it is prone to damage, as we see and he should be able to imagine, and
    b) he cannot have expected that the big trouble was over for good, as there was always a “successor” super-villain showing up after the last was defeated.

    But he’s leaving obviously without caring to make any arrangments that the Hellmouth is properly guarded, which, as Sam above said, would have get the Scoobies in quite a predicament had not Buffy been revived. Though we don’t know what the council has decided on the matter (I assume that they were informed of Buffy’s death? At least they should be), he should at wait until some precautions has been taken. Buffy is dead, so Giles’ particular “assignment” is over, but he remains the only person near the Hellmouth that is working for the council. We know that the council doesn’t appreciate the Scoobies, so I take it for granted that they don’t want them to be the responsible persons to take charge of it for the council.

    To sum up, I am a bit confused that Giles is leaving without any arrangments taken by either himself or the council to make sure that the Hellmouth-Watch is being properly kept up.

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  11. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on May 21, 2009.]

    I think a large part of his decision to leave had to do with grief over Buffy. Sure, he stayed for a few months after she died, but he’s constantly surrounded by people, places, and things that remind him of her. I think he just wants to get away from it all, to try to find some peace. And I also believe, because of his grief, he’s not exactly thinking clearly about the possible consequences his leaving might have.

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  12. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 21, 2009.]

    That’s a good point. Still I don’t think that it is in caracter for Giles to let grief overrule reason and thought in his decisions (as it is no rash action he’s taking), especially as it means to leave these friends of his and Buffy in a precarious situation (even if these demons had not shown up, sooner or later, probably sooner, something would have happened that the Scoobies couldn’t handle). I think it would be much more in caracter for Giles not to forget about it. Of course this is only a minor complaint. But even if he felt he could not stand it much longer I’d say that he would at least have waited until some solution had been found.

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  13. [Note: Sam posted this comment on May 21, 2009.]

    @Stilicho — I respectfully disagree with your assertion that the Scoobies revived Buffy for selfish reasons. I think they genuinely believed that Buffy was suffering an eternity of pain in an alternate hell dimension, and MikeJer clearly outlines the reasons why in his review. Sure, Willow started deluding herself about Buffy’s post-resurrection state afterwards to suppress her guilt, but that’s not what was motivating her here. If they didn’t revive her, Sunnydale would have been destroyed.

    Also, let’s think about what’s really selfish here. In the previous season, Buffy lost both her boyfriend and her mom in one year. That’s incredibly traumatic, to be sure, but I’ve known people who have gone through worse and survived. (Granted, they weren’t the Messiah.) I find Buffy’s decision to sacrifice herself in “The Gift” to be very selfish, because you know it’s half motivated by her feeling that she simply cannot go on living anymore. Buffy is certainly at less fault for this than the writers are, who forced her into that situation in order to use death and resurrection as the metaphor for the death of childhood, but it’s more than a little hypocritical telling someone you love that “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.” and then jump off a cliff right in front of her.

    What astonishes me is that this is still one of the best season openers–it’s gripping, shocking, dark as hell, and really potent. Yet, by killing off the heroine in the previous finale, the writers made a mistake they may not have realized would come to fruition. In every other Buffy season premiere, there is a hint of mystery and danger and comedy that left me wondering, “Wow, what new challenges and opportunities and surprises await Buffy and the Scoobies?” This season opener had no mystery. It left me wondering, “When is Willow going to use a resurrection spell to bring Buffy back to life?” It’s a good thing that the writers almost literally ended up turning Buffy into Jesus so that the metaphor works–otherwise, it would have been a bust.

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  14. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 22, 2009.]

    @Sam – Ok, I see that I put that incorrect in the general sense, selfish is not quite appropiate a term for the group; I agree that they all really believed to save Buffy from a Hell dimension. Though I think that at least in Willow’s case there is some “selfish” impetus also, that she “wants to do this” to prove to herself (and the others) that she CAN do this. I am not saying that this her only concern, but I found her behaviour, as compared to Xander’s for example, quite disturbing, as she is not even ready just to listen to the cautious remarks Xander begins to make about possible troublesome outcomes of the ritual: I don’t get the impression here (my personal view) that it is only because Willow’s concern about Buffy that she is brushing aside all scruples. I think she knows that there might be dire consequences (also for Buffy!) but is putting this discomforting doubts away. She knows that Giles would not let her do this, so she does not tell him; in a way she wants to show that she can bring this situation to a happy solution, while Giles cannot. I find her behaviour quite strange, especially that she afterwards actually expects “Thanks” from Buffy and and praise from Giles, after his return. Stressing that I don’t want to say that there is no genuin and strong concern about Buffy’s fate present in her.

    You are right that for the rest of the group these observations do not apply, though I think that the fact that they readily concur to Willow’s plan and don’t attend to their inner, all-present scruples seriously might also have to do something with the fact that they simply need Buffy to hold everything together, and don’t know how to do without her. “Selfish” is perhaps not really covering this, I agree.

    In a way it is right that in Buffy’s sacrifice there is this selfish element that you describe. Still, the alternative would have been for Buffy to sacrifice Dawn, and it is very clear that Buffy is a caracter that could not do this. Her main motivation is NOT the fact that her live is so hard and she lost so much. She wouldn’t have done it only because of this; she was not to commit some sort of “ordinary” suicide because she couldn’t stand her life anymore. The fact that she feels worked over, upset and battered by her life is only the (necessary) underlying background that enables her to reach the decision to sacrifice herself in place of Dawn. I can in no way imagine that Buffy would push Dawn into death in order to close the gate. It would be Angel all over again (and Angel was, in some way, self-responsible for what happened, at least more than Dawn is – he was not completely innocent but she is), though perhaps even less thinkable because of the special connection between her and Dawn that is established regardless of the fact that she is not her “real”, mother-born sister. I ask myself what Buffy would have done had there been no other option. But it happens that there IS the other option because of their blood bond. That’s why she chooses this way, IMO.

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  15. [Note: Sam posted this comment on May 22, 2009.]

    @Stilicho — I totally agree that Buffy’s sacrifice was in character and not entirely selfish, but again, I blame the writers more for forcing her to do that (i.e. not getting to the top in time to stop Doc from slashing Dawn) than the character herself. “The Gift” is still a great episode.

    I also agree that Willow was bullying the others when not allowing Xander’s concerns to affect her at all, but I still think she was really scared for Buffy’s soul.

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  16. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 22, 2009.]

    @Sam: My personal view is that let her die and resurrect her is a clever (and necessary) move in order to exploit the “darker” potentials of the Buffy caracter, and to keep up the pace of caracter development of the series. I like the sixth season a lot and I don’t think it could be as compelling had it just been another “normal” season. Everthing and everyone takes new directions here (again) in a manner diffcult to establish had there not been an extraordinary event underlying, which is provided by Buffy’s sacrifice, death and pullout of heaven. It makes her subsequent feeling and behaviour patterns completely plausible; without this adding of some “extra-spice” it wouldn’t be as authentic; Buffy would normally not suffer depression that extreme way as depicted “simply” because her “usual” life sucks. There has to be more to account for all what happens with her during S6. Maybe one can think of other ways to provide the background for a season like S6, but I doubt that they would be equally effective.
    Agreed on Willow etc. 🙂

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  17. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 4, 2009.]

    Mike, is there a specific reason why you started to grade the episodes with more exact numbers, as opposed to the general multiples of 5 (70, 75, 80, etc)?

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  18. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 4, 2009.]

    By the time I got to S6, I had a much better grasp on my review style and grading system. Not being able to differentiate episodes of the same grade was beginning to bug me, so I decided to change it. Note that I’ll be going back to S1 and re-adjusting all the scores in this same manner after I’m done with S7. This way, everything will line up.

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  19. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    Thanks! I figured it was something like that. I like it much better this way- gives me more of a specific grasp on your grading system.

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  20. [Note: Blue Light J posted this comment on July 30, 2009.]

    I wonder if Willow had already started tinkering with Tara’s mind at this point; nothing big, just a little Jedi-like suggestion: “It IS a good idea to raise Buffy from the dead…”

    Like

  21. [Note: Blue Light J posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    And by the way, can someone tell me why Giles left for England (before Buffy was back, before he even knew Buffy MIGHT be back) without taking better care of Dawn? Willow is very clear to the Buffybot that they’re screening calls in case Hank Summers calls. Dawn says she’d rather stay with Willow and Tara. But is this enough? Should a 15-year-old girl be left in the care of two 20-year-old women who have no legal guardianship rights, especially when her “father” is somewhere in the world? It seems CRAZY that Giles would leave this all unresolved.

    Like

  22. [Note: After the Fall posted this comment on December 13, 2009.]

    I’m surprised no one mentioned this gem of dialogue:

    Willow: You used a magic box supplier? What if Giles finds out?

    Anya: He’s too busy not leaving to pay attention to me. Besides, I ended up getting it on Ebay.

    Tara: You found the last known Urn of Osiris on Ebay?

    Anya: Yeah, from this desert in Cairo. He drove a really hard bargain but I finally got him to throw in a limited edition Backstreet Boys lunchbox for…

    (Xander coughs)

    Anya: A friend.

    Besides that, great review. I am surprised you didn’t fully tackle the resurrection’s problems though…

    Like

  23. [Note: Alan posted this comment on March 11, 2010.]

    I wasn’t so impressed with this episode. I didn’t buy the rationalisation that Buffy could be brought back while it was evil and impossible to bring Joyce back, at least as a real human and not an animated corpse. However she dies, she was just as D. E. A. D.

    Also, the possibility of bringing back the dead is treated so casually. Surely this would be a huge thing in the occult world and a LOT of people with magical power and fewer scruples would be doing it all the time, if it were possible. But it’s treated like an obscure pastime, though you can get the paraphernalia for a few dollars on eBay.

    And how is it that there is a grave, with a gravestone, in Sunnydale Cemetery, yet no one — school, her father — is aware that Buffy is dead? As at Joyce’s death more realistically, dead bodies cause a lot of official attention, paperwork, etc.

    And what the hell was that vampire doing in a demonic bikers’ bar in the middle of a bright sunny day? Looking for rough trade and a thrill of being crisped by the sunshine?

    Like

  24. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 11, 2010.]

    Alan: You’re right on the silliness of the demon bar. However, I’m not as concerned about your other points:

    *I can buy the explanation that only people killed by mystical forces can potentially be brought back, and even then at high risk. Sure it’s a writer’s trick to allow Buffy to come back, but at least it doesn’t give the writers free reign to bring everyone back willy-nilly — that would suck and take tension and consequence out of the show. I don’t think being killed directly by mystical forces is very common. Even in Sunnydale, a hub for supernatural activity, most of the deaths you see involve physical contact. What killed Buffy in “The Gift” was that portal thingy — it somehow sucked the life right out of her, mystically. That is a very unusual, very supernatural death. So although I agree that bringing her back is still a little unfortunate, I think they earned this action with what happens in S6.

    *As for the mechanism of bringing her back seeming so easy, I don’t know, it didn’t seem all that easy to me. It requires rare/risky ingredients, may only work on someone who died in a supernatural manner (also exceedingly rare), and it could very well kill the person that’s casting the spell. I’m not sure I’d describe all that as ‘casual’.

    *As for why no one is aware of Buffy’s death, well that’s somewhat explained away by why they repaired the BuffyBot. I agree it would have been nice for there to be a throw-away line about her grave being hidden by a spell Willow did or something, but that’s really the only thing that’s a little suspect, imo.

    Like

  25. [Note: AttackedWithHummus posted this comment on April 2, 2010.]

    Wow.

    This episode is so good. I agree, definitely the best of the season openers. (Although, to be fair, “Welcome to the Hellmouth” (1×01) didn’t really know what it was getting into)

    I’m in the midst of rewatching the series as I introduce it to a friend (we just finished “Hush” [4×10]) and I keep remembering awesome episodes and rewatching them as well. Every time I begin season 6 again I’m more and more struck by how downright horrendous Buffy’s position is here – even moreso with the next episode, especially the sequence atop the tower. This was so brilliantly executed (save for the immeasurably lame biker-demons) with the just right amount of darkness and foreshadowing. Joss Whedon & Co. have the ability to insert humour and mundane bits of reality without dumbing down or insulting the series and this episode is a wonderful example of that skill.

    Also, I just love Tara mirroring the “grr, argh” of the ending production monster from Mutant Enemy.

    Like

  26. [Note: AttackedWithHummus posted this comment on April 2, 2010.]

    Additionally, the scene with Willow murdering the deer is another step in her path towards darkness in the sense of willingness to kill innocents for what she views as right or required for one reason or another.

    Like

  27. [Note: Aisha posted this comment on May 26, 2010.]

    Has anyone brought this up? Why did the biker demons chase BuffyBot? She’s a robot. Knowing this, how much more damage to them can she possibly do?

    Also, this probably isn’t important, but was there a continuity issue with Buffy’s grave? Had no vampires or demons noticed that her grave was clearly marked with her name (in “The Gift” and “Bargaining Pt. 2”)? How did the BuffyBot passing as real Buffy continue for as long as it did? Never understood that.

    Like

  28. [Note: Kat posted this comment on October 5, 2010.]

    In response to Aisha, I’m pretty sure that even though her grave was marked with her name, it was pretty well hidden, somewhere that people didn’t really go. I mean, they never say, but it seems to be in the woods somewhere. And as far as the Buffybot passing as Buffy, aside from her friends and the occasional demon, Buffy didn’t have any real human contacts, so there wouldn’t really be anybody who would notice she was acting differently.

    Like

  29. [Note: Niko posted this comment on February 1, 2011.]

    I think a lot of Spike’s pain is coming from the fact that, had he stopped Doc, Buffy never would have died in the first place. This is very apparent during the cards scene with Dawn. He feels like everything is his fault, he promised to protect Dawn no matter what, and though he tried, he failed. The weight of the world is on Spike’s mind and his heart

    Like

  30. [Note: Brizon posted this comment on March 5, 2011.]

    @Blue Light J

    It may seem a bit crazy but there is no alternative. For all they know, Dawn still is the key, something evil may still want to use her or even kill her and her father wouldn’t be able to protect her. It’s about Dawn’s safety, in Sunnydale, she has one of the most dangerous vampires ever, a thousand year old ex-demon and at least one incredibly powerful witch to keep her safe.

    @Aisha

    The demons chased BuffyBot because that’s what they do, they love to wreck things and they don’t need a reason. They’re like dogs, something runs away, they chase it.

    Like

  31. [Note: luv2hike posted this comment on March 9, 2011.]

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with the “next slayer” question after “The Gift.” Comments 9-11 helped clarify this somewhat for me. Thanks.

    Like

  32. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 31, 2011.]

    The scene where Giles leaves gets me every time. Like a repeat of seeing everyone’s reactions of Buffy dying, it’s tough, especially when he’s saying goodbye to Dawn.

    Like

  33. [Note: keekey posted this comment on March 5, 2012.]

    This episode has one of my favorite opening scenes. It’s such great segue between The Gift and everything that will unfold in Season 6. I’m always sort of ridiculously touched to see the entire team that rallied behind Buffy to save Dawn still together patrolling months later, trying to somehow fill the void left by Buffy’s death–the fact that six of them struggle to bring down two vamps Buffy would have quickly dusted underscoring how irreplaceable Buffy is. It’s also a really funny (albeit bittersweet) scene and so it stands out as this brief moment of lightness in a dark stretch of eps. I love the exchange where Tara wonders whether the vamp was taking prescription medication (thus interfering with her magic) and Spike and Giles laugh together about it (maybe the only time-and almost certainly the last time–the two actually share a joke, rather than one making a joke at the other’s expense). Also, I love how SMG plays the BuffyBot. She’s very funny and yet (oddly?) sympathetic at the same time.

    Like

  34. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on July 14, 2012.]

    Wow, when Giles tells Willow “I don’t know where to start”. I go right back from there to the early seasons, all the years quirky Willow has grown up helping Giles research, the glimpse of a picture of him in her locker, the moment when he thought she’d been vamped, and then found out she hadn’t…

    If nothing else, this is the sort of thing that makes S4-S6 (and yeah, parts of S7) the most satisfying in the series for me. It takes time to build the relationships to the point where the really deep stuff can go down.

    Like

  35. [Note: Shask. posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    I don’t understand why it is so joking that Willow kills the deer. People kill animals all the time. That doesnt necessarily mean they are in a “dark place” or something. First World problems, that is. But I do think its creepy how she avoids Xander and commands everyone that there’s simply “no way back”

    Like

  36. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    It’s not that she killed the deer that was so disturbing, in of itself, but rather the way she did it, all ritualistic and intimate, and the fact that Willow was the one doing the killing.There’s a difference between a hunter killing an animal at a distance for meat, and Willow bringing one close to her body and stabbing it do death. It’s disturbing because of the context. Contrast stabby Willow with softer-side-of-Sears Willow: yikes.

    Like

  37. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 7, 2012.]

    Not certain whether this has been mentioned previously but has anyone noticed that the power shot of Buffy at the end of the credits is Buffy being impersonated? Season 6 as the Buffybot and Season 7 is the First Evil being Buffy.Does it leave the impression on viewers that Buffy is somehow different after death? For me i love the shot taken from Anne but i was curious as to other fans considerations on this?

    Like

  38. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on April 14, 2013.]

    I completely agree with you, and it’s an implication by which I am haunted. To me, it’s a clear indication that Buffy isn’t the same, and neither is the show — and not necessarily in a “good” (positive) way.

    Like

  39. [Note: Henrik posted this comment on June 23, 2013.]

    Had no vampires or demons noticed that her grave was clearly marked with her name

    I’m on my first watch and has only seen the episodes once, but from what I understand no vampire or demon has any clue that “The Slayer” they speak of in hushed tones is a girl called Buffy Summers. Whenever some evil find out her identity, it’s a big deal in earlier seasons.

    Also, I disagree with the characterization of Willow in this review. “Willow likes this feeling of power” – nothing so far, remember I’ve not seen “future” episodes, suggests this. She is driven to this resurrection by two things: 1) her fear that Buffy is trapped in a hell dimension does not seem like a lie, she truly fears this and 2) her inability to cope with the loss of Buffy, the leader of the gang. To me it does not feel at all like she yearns for this power. She wants Buffy back partly to relieve her of this burden, partly because she hasn’t accepted that she’s really gone.

    I’ve read almost all reviews since late season 2 (when I felt I wanted to read more about what I’ve seen) and I always get mentally protesting when I read about Willow. She doesn’t get much slack. It’s often implied that she wants her magic powers for herself, that she’s addicted to it in it’s own right. When seeing the episodes without the benefit of hindsight I instead get the feeling her getting more powerful and researching spells is always done in a context of being more useful as they face bigger and bigger foes. She doesn’t fully understand the implications and danger she’s getting into but she doesn’t have any guidance in this territory – Giles isn’t especially powerful and his concern is always Buffy. I see Willow as the magical version of Faith. Willow could have used a watcher but this isn’t realized. I know stuff happens later although I’m thankfully not clear in the details, but up to this point I find she acts in good faith(!).

    In that vein, I don’t see Willow killing the deer (although a REALLY powerful scene) as any more morally wrong than what Giles do to Ben. They’re both acts done for, what they believe, the greater good.

    Like

  40. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 12, 2013.]

    I absolutely adore this review and agree with all of it, and admire your ability to break things down to their relative meanings. However, I disagree with your connection between this episode and “Anne.” The circumstances are completely different and I don’t believe this type of emotional conclusion was warranted for “Becoming.” I almost thought that the true loneliness felt by Buffy in “Anne” perfectly tied up from the prior episode, rather than something as recoving-emotions-heavy as this episode. Just my opinion, of course.

    Like

  41. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 20, 2014.]

    I was pleased to see that the show didn’t shy away from the needed sacrifice of the fawn for the resurrection spell. It was one of the most realistic depictions of magic in the series, although usually the slaughter of the animal would have occurred during the actual ritual and not before.

    Like

  42. [Note: Nix posted this comment on October 6, 2014.]

    Willow was certainly scary to Alyson Hannigan. On the DVD commentary, David Fury and Marti Noxon were in complete agreement that Alyson ‘pretty much fell apart’ filming the deer-slaying scene, even though ‘it was a pretend deer, and a pretend knife, and everything else’. So the expression on Willow’s face during the slaying scene — that’s not acting.

    It didn’t help that the deer was not exactly cooperating, so they had to do quite a lot of takes. (In the end the old ‘milk on hands’ trick worked, though acting a stabbing of a baby deer that’s just been licking milk off your hands must have made it even *harder*.)

    Like

  43. [Note: Nix posted this comment on October 6, 2014.]

    Looking at The Gift again, it’s pretty clear that the portal didn’t suck the life out of Buffy mystically — it electrocuted her (or whatever you call electrocution when it’s mystical lightning doing it). Look at her as she falls through it. She’s not going slowly limp — she’s in agony.

    Like

  44. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on October 6, 2014.]

    Willow resurrected Buffy because she needed her. The rest of the gang were more altruistic in their motives, but Willow always believed her power came from her relationship with Buffy. She was lost without her.

    Like

  45. [Note: guttersnipe posted this comment on October 14, 2014.]

    I love the Willow-Tara kiss at the start of this episode. It feels like a casual act of defiance (“we’re on a more permissive network now; look, a same-sex kiss in the first five minutes, ha ha!“).

    Like

  46. [Note: WillowHater posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    I hate this episode just because it turned my favourite character into my worst… I loved Willow until she killed that deer just to bring her friend back. And then she lied about it!

    Like

  47. [Note: unkinhead posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    Lol, I hope that’s a joke xD

    “Killed that deer *just* to bring her friend back”.

    You must hate me than, I would kill 1000 deer if it meant getting a family member/close friend back from hell (if that was actually the case)

    Like

  48. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on December 3, 2014.]

    Watching the episode again I noticed the spell Willow was doing was not completed when the bike rode over and destroyed the Urn. This is perhaps why we see the Buffy we do this season and that she isn’t the same Buffy as before because the spell wasn’t complete.

    Like

  49. [Note: Val posted this comment on December 9, 2014.]

    When the Scoobies have their meeting at Xander’s to discuss the spell, Xander is wearing a shirt with the number 13 on it and Willow is wearing a shirt with an 11. It drives me nuts, I keep thinking, “Where’s the 12?” But I guess the 12 is Buffy – just a little costume designer salute to the group being incomplete.

    Like

  50. [Note: RickyTVD posted this comment on January 2, 2015.]

    Does anyone know why Joss Whedon was less involved with Buffy S6? He didn´t write the premiere or the finale, when he usually did, he only wrote the musical episode.
    And also in S7, because he only wrote the premiere and the finale.He used to write more.

    Like

  51. [Note: Noah posted this comment on January 3, 2015.]

    Keep in mind that he still had final say on every script, and that he often re-wrote. He wrote the church scene in “Beneath You”; he wrote the Holden/Buffy scenes in “Conversations”; he wrote the yellow crayon speech in “Grave”; and certain moments in “Normal Again”, “Dead Things”, “Touched”and other important episodes sound like his work, or at least like he polished them up. The impression you get from listening to writer commentaries and interviews is that most of the important moments were re-written by Joss.

    I have to say, though, part of me wonders what it would have been like if he had taken Marti Noxon to do Firefly with and brought Tim Minear from Angel to run seasons 6 and 7.

    Like

  52. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on July 22, 2015.]

    Looking at this review again I realized a link between white clothes and blood between this and Seeing Red

    Like

  53. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 26, 2015.]

    It seems odd that they would have Giles leave in this one only for him to return to leave again. Did Anthony’s schedule force them to do it this way or was he only contracted for a certain number of episodes.

    Like

  54. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 4, 2015.]

    I remember at the time it being reported that he wanted far more time with his family and planned to do so. So they made his character ‘recurring’ which is just (I think) producer-speak for ‘we’ll get him when he wants’. They might have discussed it and how his reduced role would fit, and when they needed him.

    My take In-universe is that Giles thinks Buffy is gone for good and doesn’t have all that much anchoring him to the US as the kids are adults now and finding themselves. He knew that without Buffy his role in their lives would fade and preferred to do that on his own terms. Buffy’s resurrection of course brings him running, but then he fails to realise why exactly Buffy isn’t coping with her responsibilities and feels its his own fault. I did love his heartfelt admission when he returns to deal with Willow’s pain that he should never ever have left her (and them). I wonder if they’d have written most of the season the way they did, had ASH not made the decision to leave the regular cast. I’m 99% sure Giles would’ve noticed the danger with Willow, but I’m not sure what would’ve happened differently and what would’ve been similar.

    Like

  55. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on October 5, 2015.]

    I find it interesting that the final shot of Buffy in the opening credits from this point on is not actually Buffy (Buffybot Season 6, First Season 7). Seems like there could be some subtext there.

    Like

  56. [Note: MichaelJB posted this comment on November 9, 2015.]

    I find a strong connection in this episode between the BuffyBot, and the actual Buffy who will return. Specifically the idea of both of them “going through the motions.”

    Like

  57. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 21, 2015.]

    To add to my earlier point about Giles leaving or going I think it would have made more sense if Giles had left before the season had started and that the scenes with him in Bargaining 1 were a flashback. Cause the way it’s done here it’s just really awkward. It’s not like with Joyce in Season 5 as Mike said with her seeming to leave only to actually leave later because in that case she was actually dead and wasn’t gonna return except for manifestations.

    Like

  58. [Note: Samm posted this comment on December 21, 2015.]

    Not necessarily, i am sure Giles wanted to make sure everyone was functioning fine without Buffy and were able to deal with demons they came up against. Maybe he needed to help out financially for a couple things aswell.

    But he leaves because he isn’t really needed anymore, by the sounds of it they don’t hang out much with Giles, and Spike is the one protecting Dawn. So once everything was settled there really was no point in him staying.

    Like

  59. [Note: Nicole posted this comment on January 22, 2016.]

    I like Spike in this episode and Part 2. He is more caring and protective of Dawn. He feels sadness about Buffy’s death which is different from how he would have felt about her death in season 2. He has really grown since becoming part of the Scooby Gang. He is not longer the same vampire he was when he first came to Sunnydale. He seems like he is becoming more human. Also, I like James Marsters’ hair in these two episodes. I like how it is curly like his natural hair and not combed back like it normally is.

    Like

  60. [Note: Doyden posted this comment on June 13, 2016.]

    I thought the same about the hair ,I wondered if it was to show he wasn t bothering so much with his appearance, grief affects you like that it’s difficult to make the effort sometimes

    Like

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