Buffy 6×02: Bargaining Pt. 2

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

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

While “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] succeeded by focusing on what life is like for the Buffyless Scoobies, part two struggles a bit because it spends too much screen time dragging out the lame biker demon threat. With that said, there’s still plenty of important character development and powerful images that keep this episode alive and darkly cracking. Most of the great material, and where most of the episode focuses, comes from a very new, very confused, and desparately saddened Buffy. There’s a lot of really fantastic subtle acting from SMG here, and even more in the follow up “After Life” [6×03] . Quick! To the heart of the review! Away!

Actually, before I begin I just want to express a grievance of mine in that a lot of people seem to talk about how many times Buffy dies and comes back like it’s ‘cool’ or something. I really hate this because it gives off a really bad impression to new viewers. Buffy does not die a lot. In my mind she only genuinely dies, in the permanent sense, once in the entire series: “The Gift” [5×22] . The “dead in the medical sense” is really overblown by people and makes it seem like Buffy dying is frequent and a joke. This annoys me to no end. Stop talking like that! It scares away new viewers and isn’t even really true.

With that said, Buffy’s alive! There are so many ways this could have been handled poorly, but “Bargaining,” “After Life,” and the rest of S6 are fortunately up to the chore of handling this realistically. Here in this episode Buffy goes through three distinctive states starting with shock, then moving into utter confusion, then finally the dead weight that is depression. Let me preface my feelings about Buffy’s mental state this season by saying that I’ve never been this depressed myself before, I cannot directly relate to her relationship with Spike, and I’ve never had reason to be quite that ashamed with my actions before.

I say all this because I still find all this subject matter utterly captivating and thought-provoking. To be able to get inside someone’s head during extremely dark times, see how they struggle, and see them find the strength to pull out of it is something that’s not only useful insight for me in case I ever need to help someone who’s like this, but also if I myself ever have a really bad spell in my life (which is doubtful the way I am, although one never knows where life will take them). Also, this is all just plain fascinating to think about.

As long as you look closely, which sometimes requires noticing some sutble material, S6 is as strongly written as any other season of Buffy after the first, with the notable exception of Willow’s characterization in “Wrecked” [6×10] . What’s especially true is that the writers still completely excel at showing me what’s inside the characters’ heads and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Buffy does some shameful things this season but, you know, I understand why she’s doing them and still sympathize while cheering her on to overcome very traumatic internal problems.

“Bargaining Pt. 2” begins a very long, very harsh road for Buffy to travel this season. As she’s ripped out of heaven and dropped into her body on Earth she awakens in utter shock, trapped in her own coffin with no light aside from the residue of the spell that Willow casted, and has practically no air. This forces her to horrifyingly punch her way through her coffin, crawl up through the dirt, exactly like a vampire, and then claw her way to the surface — all this nearly kills her immediately again. It’s at this point where a particular scene in “Nightmares” [1×10] becomes strikingly relevant: one of Buffy’s worst fears was being buried alive and having to crawl out of her own grave. Well, Buffy is now forced to live this nightmare for real, and it’s not pretty.

After her hand plunges from the dirt in her grave, she pulls herself out and in complete shock must stare at her own tombstone in the black of night. As she roams the streets of Sunnydale, in flames from the bikers, we get a visually impressive metaphor in that the literal burning is representative of hell itself. This is where Buffy thinks she is now, and I can’t blame her when considering where she was only minutes earlier. Buffy looks completely disorientated, confused, and scared. The little touches, like how Buffy is pained and incredibly reactionary to loud noises and any bright light, add a lot to the overall effect of these sequences. The overall imagery here is very impressive and actually makes good use of a gang of demons that just terrorized the town.

Buffy finally wanders herself into the demon crowd, 100% disorientated and still without any words, to watch the final embodiment of a care-free existence of herself very violently ripped apart into pieces all over the ground — another metaphor representing her loss of happiness and her mind being shattered into a ton of pieces. Welcome to S6 everyone! Some people fail to see that just because the later seasons don’t use the supernatural to create commentary on life in high school doesn’t mean it doesn’t make use of metaphor anymore.

Eventually Buffy bumps into the Scoobies for the first time since being back, and she pretty much doesn’t even recognize them. When Razor, the lead demon, starts making big threats Buffy steps up, takes a hit to her face, and then pummels him into the ground. The Scoobies are all excited by this behavior thinking that it indicates Buffy’s mentally back, but her lack of pun or any comment whatsoever when looking over Razor’s body signals something far scarier. The reason why Buffy fought was pure slayer instinct, nothing more. The Buffy of old is not back with a one episode trial and a cheery Ghandi quip (“Anne” [3×01] ) or an “I’m good” (“The Freshman” [4×01] ). Buffy is seriously damaged right now and it will take time to figure out just who this new person is. That person, alas, will never be the person she was pre-S6 which is exactly why Buffy is my favorite piece of ‘entertainment’ (it’s so much more than just entertainment) ever.

As Buffy’s memories start to flood her brain she finds her way back to Glory’s tower — the spot of her last memories on Earth. When she finally reaches the top of tower, there’s a quick and subtle moment where Buffy actually warmly smiles because she briefly replays the moment (with a reprise of the theme song) of complete clarity and purpose she reached in “The Gift” [5×22] . But this moment is short-lived when the reality of her current situation comes crashing down on her. Buffy wants that clarity of purpose back, so she places herself on the edge of the tower wanting to commit suicide to go back to the beautiful place she was at.

It’s vitally important to realize that her first unique sentence in this season is “Is this hell?” She continues to tell Dawn, who arrives behind her on the tower, “It was so… clear… on this spot. I remember… how… shiny… and clear everything was. But… now… now…” Now, nothing is clear: her purpose and her entire point of existing. Unbelieveable loss is all that she can feel now. This is why here, now, Buffy wants to be dead. As frightening and disturbing as this is, the episode does an excellent job of relating why Buffy feels this way.

After largely ignoring a weeping Dawn in a scene that should have been shorter due to MT’s acting limitations, Buffy temporarily snaps out of her suicidal bout when Dawn becomes in real danger. So, like she did in “The Gift” [5×22] , Buffy instinctively does what she needs to do to save her sister. They grab onto rope and fall down on the exact spot Buffy’s dead body lay in “The Gift” [5×22] . Glory’s tower then finally crashes to the ground (why didn’t it fall down before this?). Dawn’s all excited that Buffy’s finally back, but as the camera turns to Buffy’s face all we see is an utterly bone-chilling expression. Buffy is not okay, and is devastatingly sad.

Although Buffy got a lot of critical attention this episode, Xander actually had some pretty important things to say as well. Right after the spell got broken up in the woods, Xander starts pressing Willow for answers. He says, “How come you didn’t tell us how much- … What were we into back there, Will? … Do not get all avoidy on me.” In addition to this, he’s the first one to call them all stupid for what they did, which is appropiate, when he sees how damaged Buffy is. It’s good to see Xander stepping up and expressing a bit of anger at being kept in the dark about certain details of this spell.

The only real problems I have with this episode are its laggy pace and the silly demon bikers. They’ve got pretty bad dialogue as well, although at least it’s occasionally suitably gross. With Razor’s gang rampaging through town I have to wonder where in the hell is the Sunnydale Police Department? And no, that one destroyed cop car doesn’t count. Sure they’re inept, but they’d at least be out in force. If a town was this wildly under assult a swat team would be in there extremely fast as well. They could have still made this plot work if there’d been more demons in the gang with the police shooting a bunch of them up in the background. But the way things stand, this group just ends up dragging an otherwise strong episode down.

Well, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this one. When focused on Buffy, “Bargaining Pt. 2” is great. When focused on the demon bikers it’s, well, not. As a whole it’s still pretty good. Thankfully the follow-up we get in “After Life” [6×03] quickly washes any remaining negative feelings of the biker demons away.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Willow’s emotion when she thinks her spell failed.
+ Spike’s “looks like fun” when missing out on the demon carnage.
+ Spike stealing a motorcycle in the coolest way possible and then keeping it throughout the season.
+ Xander pointing out how badly he needs male friends.
+ Dawn yelling “the tower was built by crazy people and I don’t think it’s holding up very well.” ๐Ÿ˜€


[Score]

86/100

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56 thoughts on “Buffy 6×02: Bargaining Pt. 2”

  1. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on March 1, 2007.]

    First to comment for once!

    First off:

    with the notable exception of Willow’s characterization in Wrecked (6×10)

    Are you sure you don’t mean Willow’s characterisation in Two to Go/Grave? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Slightly more seriously, I’ve never seen much wrong with Willow’s characterisation in Wrecked, I think the drug metaphor is wildly unsubtle, but I actually think it makes sense in terms of Willow’s character, and her development for that episode isn’t at all bad.

    There’s a lot of really fantastic subtle acting from SMG here, and even more in the follow up After Life (6×03).

    Series 6 is an odd one for Gellar in that when she’s on form she beats her season 5 highlights, which is phenomonal, and when she’s off form she’s rather uninspiring and even occasionally terrible. I’d say that with the exception of Normal Again, Gellar’s never been more brilliant than in here and afterlife. It’s a subtle, completely physical performance that deserved an award.

    One of my favourite moments of Bargaining 2 is when Buffy falls back on her slayer instincts and attacks the bikers. It’s extremely powerful and moving, because it shows the only thing which is keeping her alive is those instincts at that moment. There’s no personal reason, no understanding, that is keeping her in there, just animal, primitive instinct. Gellar’s performance is just phenomonal there.

    After largely ignoring a weeping Dawn in a scene that should have been shorter due to MT’s acting limitations, Buffy temporarily snaps out of her suicidal bout when Dawn becomes in real danger. So, like she did in The Gift (5×22), Buffy instinctively does what she needs to do to save her sister.

    A know a lot of people criticise the scene with Dawn, but I actually don’t think Tratchenburg’s at all bad in that. It seems to meander at first glance, but at second I think that’s the point, neither Buffy nor Dawn have any understanding of what’s happening, and Dawn is really clueless of what to say.

    The only real problems I have with this episode are its laggy pace and the silly demon bikers. They’ve got pretty bad dialogue as well, although at least it’s occasionally suitably gross. With Razor’s gang rampaging through town I have to wonder where in the hell is the Sunnydale Police Department? And no, that one destroyed cop car doesn’t count. Sure they’re inept, but they’d at least be out in force. If a town was this wildly under assult a swat team would be in there extremely fast as well. They could have still made this plot work if there’d been more demons in the gang with the police shooting a bunch of them up in the background. But the way things stand, this group just ends up dragging an otherwise strong episode down.

    I hear a lot of people complain about the Bikers in B2, but I personally don’t find them too cumbersome. For one thing, although there’re more of them they suit the material more in B2 than in B1, for another some of the other material I find more dark and powerful than B1, which redresses the balance for me. However, I do agree with the criticism of Sunnydale’s police force – one can only assume that their emergency forces gave up a while back in all but on paper – after all, the tower’s still standing (which, by the way, has to be one of the most funny plot holes in the entire series).

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  2. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on March 2, 2007.]

    Agree that this is a good season opener although i must admit that i find SMG a bit below par this episode, she always reminds me of a caveman (though not in a beer bad kind of way!). I don’t mind the bikers – just one dimentional bad guys afterall. I agree that the scene with Buffy and Dawn at the tower is a laboured.

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  3. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on March 3, 2007.]

    I personally feel that Gellar’s performance is amazing considering that she only has about two lines of dialogue.

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  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 3, 2007.]

    I’m with DD here. I thought Gellar’s performance was perfect here, relaying to us *precisely* what’s going on inside her without uttering pretty much any words at all. The success of her performance here is taken to even another amazing level in “After Life” though.

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  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 3, 2007.]

    Aside from the former being more comical (for obvious reasons), I really don’t agree with you Billy, for reasons clearly stated in my review. If you care to elaborate why you feel the way you do, that would be pretty useful. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  6. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on March 3, 2007.]

    The idea of anything from Beer Bad being superior in any way to most episodes in anything but absurdist and guilty-pleasure comedy strikes me as hard to believe. But hey, to each their metaphorical-ape-man.

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

    And Spike didn’t take out his anger on and break down the tower because?….

    The camera work is excellent, they really convey the extent of Buffy’s disorientation through her PoV shots. Have to agree that SMG puts out a great performance here and is no cave-man simply having a very bad hair day.

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  8. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 13, 2007.]

    Listening to the commentary, I recall it being mentioned that this was supposed to be just a one-parter, but the network wanted the premiere to be a two-parter. I think this shows in the second part as to why it’s so laggy. Too much time spent on the demon biker gang.

    I have a special fondness for S6 because I HAVE been through a major depression and can relate to a lot of what Buffy goes through(Painful though it is to watch). Course, without the whole being taken out of heaven part. I really wish that they hadn’t had to drag this out to two parts, though, as I think it would have been much better as just a single episode. However, After Life more than makes up for its failings.

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

    I really don´t mind the bikers. What really fascinates me here is Buffy and how she´s feeling. Gellat is very good here.

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  10. [Note: jun posted this comment on March 11, 2008.]

    I just noticed that, in the scene on the tower, Dawn uses Buffy’s last words to her, after “I need you to live.” She says: “Live. For…” And it was going to be “me,” but the tower shifted and she didn’t finish.

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  11. [Note: Steph posted this comment on July 10, 2008.]

    Isn’t this also the episode of Tara’s first kill?

    She kills that demon who was choking Willow, I believe. I like Xander’s comment too.

    X: “Nice axing, Tara!”

    It’s been said that Willow is the one who is usually stuck physically protecting Tara the majority of the time, while Tara is there trying to protect Willow emotionally keeping her grounded (and not too caught up in her magic). It’s just a nice tidbit, to me, that Tara protects her physically for a change. (Except for the small balls of light and magics that Tara uses to help the gang from time to time, of course.)

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  12. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on July 30, 2008.]

    i think one of the reasons you must hate the biker demons too mike is that the biker demons create a definate reason that buffy NEEDED to come back where, as you put it, its a great plot development that the scoobies actually SHOULDNT have brought buffy back. however i guess the biker demons could have been defeated by a police force (though as you said they werent very present in the ep) or maybe the millitary. plus the demons suit the episode well and create a good version of hell.

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  13. [Note: Tony posted this comment on December 1, 2008.]

    I have to say I love the scene where Buffy is watching herself (the robot) get torn apart by the bikers. I can just imagine how awful that would be to see once you came from from heaven

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  14. [Note: Tara posted this comment on March 21, 2009.]

    One small touch that you didn’t mention but I particularly liked was that we see how blurred Buffy’s vision is when she’s wandering around the town. It’s a nice contrast to her statement referring to how clear everything was in The Gift. It’s also a subtle foreshadowing to her lack of focus throughout the Season; as she later claims, she’s just ‘going through the motions’.

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  15. [Note: Paula posted this comment on April 1, 2009.]

    Something I noticed this second time I watched the episode: apparently, they buried Buffy with the cross Angel gave her (back in “Welcome to the Hellmouth”) around her neck. They never really focus on it, but she does wear a largish silver cross here. Appropriate, somehow (although we haven’t really seen that cross outside of the opening credits since “Innocence”, I think).

    I wonder if Angel came over for the burial. Somehow I don’t really think Spike and Angel met at all between the AtS episodes “In the Dark” and “Conviction” (well, the very end of that one), though.

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

    Paula, the cross Angel gave her is much bigger and thicker. However, I do agree that Buffy wearing the cross is very symbolic. They had her stop wearing one in college to show that she’d grown up and was past the high school innocence age. To me, Buffy wearing it here symbolizes innocence on Buffy’s part. Not the little-innocent-teenage-girl kind innocence, but rather I’m-so-confused-with-my-life-what-am-I-doing-here? kind of innocence.

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  17. [Note: After the Fall posted this comment on December 14, 2009.]

    Am I the only person who noticed the obvious difference in Buffy’s clothing, which as you said plays a big part in symbolism this season? When Buffy sacrificed herself in The Gift, she was wearing white, because everything was clear to her. Now back in the same spot as the last episode, she’s wearing black.

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  18. [Note: After the Fall posted this comment on December 15, 2009.]

    Also, I just finished watching After Life and I noticed that Dawn dressed Buffy in white. Could this mean that she’s pretending that Buffy’s better? I don’t know. Buffy later dresses herself back into black.

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  19. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on July 18, 2010.]

    Re-watching this episode, I wonder if the purpose of the biker demons was that they would create the most hell-like environment for Buffy to walk back into (i.e. fires, terrible noises, etc). Maybe this was to make clear the metaphor that Buffy was walking into what was for her a hell. Still, they maybe could have thought of something a little better/less lame that could have achieved that purpose! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  20. [Note: Seรกn posted this comment on November 9, 2010.]

    Mike, I love your reviews but I’m going to have to respectively disagree with your comment on Michelle Trachtenberg’s “acting limitations”. I thought both SMG and MT were phenomenal in this episode and MT showed lots of subtlety in her acting! I always feel myself get teary eyed when Buffy says “Is this hell?” and Dawn replies in a really hurt, confused voice “No” and also when her voice breaks when she says “I’ve TRIED (to stay strong)” For such a young age, I could really sympathise with poor Dawnie who is simply annoying and bratty most of the time.

    I do agree that the scene was a little dragged out but I think it worked to highlight the Summmers sisters confusion and shock.

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  21. [Note: Jenn posted this comment on November 11, 2010.]

    I always get really annoyed at Willow’s reaction to finding out that Buffy had to crawl out from her grave. She turns to Tara for her own comfort instead of trying to comfort Buffy. I don’t know why but Willow’s whole attitude about bringing Buffy back irritated the crap out of me. Especially later when she was upset Buffy hadn’t thanked her yet.

    This is my first comment. I’m loving these reviews, mikejer! I’m re-watching the whole series just because I found this site!

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  22. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 26, 2011.]

    The clothing-colour — or at least top-colour — thing is actually started at the end of _The Gift_, where as well as a signifier of clarity, you can also consider it a moral signpost. Glory’s wearing something very dark (though not quite black). The Buffybot shows up, wearing black (its original somewhat evil purpose) underlain with white (its new non-evil purpose). And then Buffy appears, wearing white (I think the only time she *ever* wears something that pure white on the show).

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  23. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 29, 2011.]

    And more nice clothing-colour symbolism I hadn’t noticed before. The Buffybot that is torn apart in this episode is wearing the same white that Buffy was wearing in _The Gift_, while Buffy is wearing a black outfit (and high-heeled shoes, in the grave, wtf?). Thus, the tearing-apart of the Buffybot can be read as the symbolic tearing apart of the clarity that she experienced in _The Gift_. (Also, of course, a happy (robot) Buffy is torn apart, leaving us with a nearly-suicidally-depressed one. That bit’s not so symbolic.)

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  24. [Note: carambolage posted this comment on August 1, 2011.]

    While I agree with you that this might be the best season opener, there were some minor things I didn’t like in this episode. The scene where we see Willow in the woods thinking the spell didn’t work out was shown right after the scene where Buffy actually comes back to life. Since the viewer already knows Buffy lives it doesn’t let you really feel Willow’s disappointment.

    Also, the biker demons really were corny. But somehow, metaphorically, they made it feel like hell. Burning things, all that chaos, violence, the symbolic, horribly violent execution of Buffy(Bot), the utterly abhorrent indication of rape (“We’re just gonna hold you down, enjoy ourselves for a few hours. You might even live through it, ‘cept that certain of my boys got some anatomical incompatibilities that, uh, tend to tear up little girls.”). Just imagine reborn Buffy being confronted with all this scary, earthly, dirty stuff.

    Anyway, although I might post this quite late considering your reviews being four years old, I really enjoy reading what you write. Thanks for the effort.

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  25. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 1, 2011.]

    No worries being late to the party, carambolage. I still visit my site daily and read every comment, thanks to the RSS feed. I’m glad you enjoy the site!

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  26. [Note: ShinyNorman posted this comment on August 8, 2011.]

    After watching this episode again, it is to me one of the most heart-wrenching. There are others, but this one kicks me in the gut. I’ve been through major depression. SMG portrays the utter disconnection with life and living. You literally can’t feel anything. You have reactions to things, and confuse that with emotions and feelings, but you’re not really feeling much of anything and simply reacting.

    Buffy fights the demons in Primal Slayer mode, I think. She dispatches them with deft and swift strokes. There is no play in that fight. I don’t think she realizes who the Scoobies are in the alley; she just recognizes who she the Slayer is. Reason is, on the Tower, she stands at the brink and the first actual words she says is to repeat what Dawn is saying to her. Dawn calls her name, and she repeats it under her breath, realizing who she really is, indicating that she had no knowledge of who she was since rising from her grave, she was so stunned. The metaphor of the fuzzy eyes not focusing is counterbalance to what she hears; she can hear what is going on, and reacts to that, but she can’t see well, and is confused by that. She doesn’t know who she is until the Tower.

    She leaves the demon fight in the alley and seeks out the Tower half-finished; she’s instinctive about finding the Tower. She knows underneath it’s where she came from (so to speak). On the Tower, she becomes aware of and recalls her final moments with Dawn. I have wondered if or whether she is instinctively connecting diving off the Tower as reuniting with Angel, whom she knows she sent to Hell while alive. It’s possible, and implied, but not resolved, that she is seeking instinctively to unite with Angel. Her first uttered words are actually “Dawnie, I have to,” and we see that she is become conscious enough to recall her death when she hears Dawn’s voice, her “trigger.” Dawn is her anchor in this world. The next words Buffy says are echoing Dawn standing behind her calling her name, “Buffy.” She whispers this in tentative realization that there is something there that is more than an apparition. She realizes she is hearing externally and not internally, which then prompts her to turn around and ask the ‘apparition’ the most existential question in the entire series: “Is this Hell?” People who go/have gone through profound suicidal depression realize this in the core of their being. Coming back from that is as traumatic as it is getting to that point.

    The Tower is a brilliant illustration of the struggle with profound despair. One side of you is Dawn, hopeful and pleading that you not go over the edge. The other side of you is disbelieving of pretty much anything, akin to profound resignation. The pain people see in suicidal depressives is their own pain, while the pain that you’re in is very very different; you’re not really scared, for example, while in those depths. There are other thoughts and insights that come about in that space, and these are very real things that persist and are not illusions or in any way wrong; you’re simply not the same person coming out as going in to that space. They’re not delusions, no matter what “sane” people may think. Buffy recovers from this Hell state in due time, but is left damaged by that recovery. She goes through grieving her own resurrection. We find out later that she was in heaven, which should serve to drive home that living in this world is toil and effort as well as traumatizing. This level of trauma is indescribable, and SMG for whatever reason portrayed this very accurately in my view. (Which poses some questions, doesn’t it?, regarding method acting, or….? Without casting aspersion or speculating invasively, even so that can be ascribed to the actor as much as to the writer and/or director โ€” mastery is nonetheless still mastery.) I see Buffy as damaged by the trauma of reintegrating, not the resurrection, and that she isn’t actually changed in her core being at all by the resurrection, since she regains her self and her lovingness, and “heals,” when in fact she grew even more as a being, actually. She ceases being, and fully becomes becoming.

    Willow is shown here as the brave and mature leader in this episode. All the Scoobies have to deal with their feelings of guilt and horror at recognizing the consequences of their act and desires. Buffy forces them to take responsibility, but she doesn’t guilt them about it. She is compassionate. Willow did not make a mistake, and her calculations in this episode are all very adult. It was not her fault the deus ex machina appears as the demons that crush the magic jar. Her responses to the spell that went awry, her responses to the chaotic situation outside once they regain the sanctuary at the Magic Box, and her realization that Tara is a hindrance to her development are all adult conflict responses. “Buffy isn’t coming back,” Willy responds to Xander’s plea that they need Buffy in order to go outside and find Dawn. She is nurturing, in that scene. Anya matter-of-factly analyzes the defense problems, but is at the same time harboring the human need for protection, which Xander cuts her down about. Willow knows that she is herself strong enough to not need Buffy, but the other Scoobies are too undermining of her. Tara (a strong personality) undermines Willow’s strength with her admonitions about what should be, the oughts of the situation. Willow did what could be done, and Tara tells her it shouldn’t be done, guilting her in the process. That’s a classic warrior/politician dichotomy between leaders, which paints the Willow-Tara relationship as another set of metaphors similar to but inverse to Willow and Oz’s responsibleness portrayals. The struggle between doing the right thing and doing the necessary thing is always present throughout the entire series, and for me is one of the core themes.

    I really have a difficult time with people applying so much logic to this series, or trying to make it logical sequentially. Theatre isn’t logical. Seamlessness is not the point with BtVS. Continuity isn’t flawed in this series at all, because logic here is subordinate to BtVS’ theatrical experimentations. Besides, it’s fantasy. Each one of the episodes is either a skit in itself or one act of the larger narrative. Each season is a closed narrative, or “volume,” within an overall project, which by necessity evolved. Criticizing the logic is understandable, but pointless. BtVS absolutely requires and demands willing suspension of disbelief, and I think the entire crew (cast, writers, direction, and techs) all successfully worked together masterfully, if not professionally, to keep the lesson/activity of demanding willing suspension of disbelief front and center in the project as a whole. I can’t understand why people are criticizing logic in in BtVS.

    I look forward to other comments.

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  27. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 18, 2011.]

    This is where I start to despise Willow’s character. She stops being fun to watch and starts becoming ridiculously selfish. The way she expects Buffy to thank her in the next episode, and doesn’t, clearly bothers her.

    Such a shame.

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  28. [Note: keekey posted this comment on May 29, 2012.]

    This might have been obvious to others and/or was commented on before, but I just realized when re-watching that “depression” and then “acceptance” follow “bargaining” in the five stages of grief so the title to these opening episodes points towards Buffy’s emotional trajectory during the season.

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  29. [Note: Kimmi posted this comment on May 30, 2012.]

    I can actually relate to Buffy’s relationship with Spike. A while back I was not depressed but just at a kind of lower time in my life. I started seeing a guy for strictly sexual reasons who I felt bad for using from time to time but still did. He was below me like Spike is below Buffy. I know this is a hard thing to say, but in the end it is true. I eventually stopped it from happening and actually though of Buffy while doing it. It’s so strange to feel that connected to a character on a television show.

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

    On my fourth run through the series I am still crying at several points during this stretch of episodes. I don’t cry much outside of watching or reading (or dreaming) stories about others, and I suppose it’s one of the ways I judge the quality of a drama.

    I love thought-you-were-dead reunions. I’m not crazy about the later seasons of Lost, but there’s a fantastic scene where Sun and Jin are reunited after years apart. Here the reunion scenes are also excellent. I forget I’m watching a show and imagine how Giles or Spike or Dawn must feel at the first sight of Buffy. In real life, of course, no one comes back to life who’s and buried for months. The feelings we see acted out here have only been approximated in reality.

    I don’t know how many more times I’ll watch this series. If I reach a point where these four episodes (Gift -> After Life) don’t make me cry, then it’ll be time to quit for me.

    Like

  31. [Note: NewSpock posted this comment on August 19, 2012.]

    [quote]The only real problems I have with this episode are its laggy pace and the silly demon bikers. They’ve got pretty bad dialogue as well, although at least it’s occasionally suitably gross. With Razor’s gang rampaging through town I have to wonder where in the hell is the Sunnydale Police Department? And no, that one destroyed cop car doesn’t count. Sure they’re inept, but they’d at least be out in force. If a town was this wildly under assult a swat team would be in there extremely fast as well. They could have still made this plot work if there’d been more demons in the gang with the police shooting a bunch of them up in the background. But the way things stand, this group just ends up dragging an otherwise strong episode down.[/quote]

    Thanks, Mike, for noting this problem with the plot. I agree completely that it made no sense for these demons to rampage so publically. Run of the mill demons after all always seek to keep under the radar, so that the police-force, US-military… don’t get involved in full force.

    It was a bad choice which dragged the episode down and made it have less of an impact than “Becoming part 1/2”.

    Like

  32. [Note: Janice posted this comment on November 5, 2012.]

    Mike, on a personal note, I really appreciate your comments about depression, and how this season fascinates you DESPITE the fact that you haven’t (or hadn’t been at the time, I hope that still holds true) experienced major clinical depression. I find that for most people, depression is something they either have or have not experienced, do or do not understand, and it’s rare (in my experience) to find someone like yourself willing to cross that line, to try to understand what you haven’t experienced. So your words are much appreciated.And this review is just SPOT-ON, and I find myself agreeing with nearly everything you write (although I think that MT does the best she can here, under the conditions: the scene goes on a bit too long, and she is forced to shout at Buffy from a distance. I find that when people are talking about Dawn being “annoying” or criticizing MT’s acting, in many instances what they are talking about is when she is shouting (such as “GET OUT! GET OUT!”) and her voice sounds very shrill. (Compare that to her wonderful, subtle – and far quieter – performances in After Life, or the Body. If anything, I’d put the blame on the directors.)The demon bikers don’t bother me as much as they probably should because I am so fascinated by what’s going on with Buffy and the Scoobies here, although I agree that this ep is not as strong as Pt1. On the other hand, I agree with carambolage (upthread) that they really made this episode feel like Hell; and the “strong, earthy, dirty” stuff and the sexual threats of the bikers play an important part of the entire season and feel of a piece with it. And I can’t say enough good things about SMG’s performance in this episode. I really cannot. She has how many actual words of dialogue? I completely understand everything Buffy is feeling in this episode and it’s entirely through physical acting, through facial expressions and gestures. The mention some folks made of Beer Bad upthread is interesting (and amusing: BB > this ep? Different strokes…) I was rewatching BB not long ago, an episode I like quite a bit actually, and was surprised not just by how similar resurrected Buffy looks to caveBuffy, but by how much the destruction and fire burning inside the bar, the havoc that the cavemen wreak, visually matches the scenes on the bikers’ destruction of Sunnydale in here in Bargaining – to completely different effect.

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  33. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 5, 2012.]

    Great comment! I also happen to agree with you completely, even on “Beer Bad.” While I wouldn’t exactly call it a ‘good’ episode, I think it gets too much hate for one that has some nice character stuff and comedy in it.On being understanding about depression, I think that reflects the approach I try to take with my reading of characters in all the shows I watch. Sure, I have my own opinions and beliefs, but while I may act/feel differently than others at times, that shouldn’t preclude me from trying to understand their experience and take it into consideration when refining my own beliefs.But I wasn’t always this way. Reviewing Buffy throughout my 20s has done wonders for the way I process the world around me. In building the mental skill to analyze and understand the very likeable characters on this show, I’ve become better at understanding those in the real world too — particularly those that think and do things differently than me. In fact, that’s probably the greatest gift the show and this site have given me so far.

    Like

  34. [Note: Great Whazoo posted this comment on November 17, 2012.]

    One of my favourite plot consistencies has to do with Anya’s fascination with hair styles! I always thought it was one of her funniest quirks, different hair for every episode but I like her direction so far this season… I believe both her & Buffy ‘s hair is at it longest in the series during this episode. No big plot direction but one for the crew & stylists! Willow’s hair has gotten shorter each season. Any relevance? (doubtful)

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  35. [Note: Juan posted this comment on December 21, 2012.]

    Foreshadowing or Overanalysis: When at home with Dawn, Spike was sleeping while on TV there is an old fashioned, black and white film about medieval knights (they are charging on horse) Later in the episode he basically comes to protect a damsel in distress. And he does it compelled by an oath given to a dead love. And our brave knight in bright armor (or black coat) does it riding a motorbike that got in a duel. Maybe this does not make any sense but I think there may be a connection. (Maybe unintentionally)

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  36. [Note: WilFred posted this comment on June 5, 2013.]

    I always wondered why they didn’t open Buffy’s grave and coffin before (trying to) bring her back to life. Was it because they didn’t really believe it would work?

    But then, if they had opened the coffin, we wouldn’t have had that wonderful Spike-moment in After Life when he sees Buffy’s hands. His face right after he says he had to claw his way out of a coffin as well is when I went from just liking him to absolutely loving him.

    Love these reviews as well. Even after watching BtVS twice (for now) they make me see certain things in a new light. You make me adore this series even more. Thanks!

    Like

  37. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on September 20, 2013.]

    I truly believe that the final scene on the tower is one of the saddest, most relatable moments of the entire show. Sure, no one here has died, gone to heaven, and come back to life, but if you think about it, we’ve all had to tear ourselves away from the blissful moments of life (heaven, in this instance) to confront its cruelties and hardships. Watching the part where Buffy recalls the moment of clarity she had before her death and then giving a look of pure pain when reality descends upon her touches me in a way no other episode of television has (with the obvious exception of “The Body”). This episode isn’t perfect, but it packs a powerful and effective punch right to the gut.

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

    I believe at least once you hear police sirens in the background. But what can the police really do? It’s been shown that some demon’s aren’t killed by bullets and if I’m a cop I’m definitely not getting into hand to hand combat with these creatures.

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  39. [Note: Pamela posted this comment on August 21, 2014.]

    The brief quite scene between Buffy and Spike in the house as he was examining Buffy’s injury to her hands was a subtle sign that Buffy’s death made it easier for her to relate to Spike. Her well meaning friends were noisy and intrusive, much like life, while Spike was quiet and still. It’s no wonder Buffy and Spike got deeper into each other than what was good for them.

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  40. [Note: Buffysummers posted this comment on November 1, 2014.]

    This episode breaks my heart. I know exactly how it feels to go through severe depression, and SMG plays it perfectly! One thing that kind of bugged me was how Xander didn’t seem all that upset that Buffy was dead. Don’t get me wrong, I do think he was sad. But I don’t feel he was as sad as he would be if Willow had died. I thought he would show more emotion for her being gone since he had once loved her and she was his best friend. Although in some episodes I feel like maybe he never stopped loving her. Anyways great review, I love reading your reviews after watching an episode!

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  41. [Note: RadioWitch posted this comment on February 1, 2015.]

    I’m quite grateful for the reviews on this site, for the insight, detail, and patience involved in exploring the Whedonverse. I was lucky enough to view BtVS and Angel the Series as the shows aired originally, and there is something to be said about the anticipation that dedicated viewers felt then…sometimes having to wait weeks between episodes. I say “lucky” now, but at the time it often felt maddening. Thanks to DVDs and Netflix, I’ve watched all of the seasons of both shows multiple times since their respective finales. In all of the intervening years, I’ve probably made the biggest about-face regarding Season 6 of BtVS. At the time, it provoked much outrage and upset over inconsistent character arcs and spotty plot points. Perhaps because I have experienced major depression since then (I’m in my 40s now), or maybe because I am Wiccan myself and went through a grief-triggered “dark” period (in my 20s), I have a greater appreciation for Season 6 now. I can’t say it’s my favorite season, but I find myself connecting with it more. I have introduced several people to both shows in the last few years, and it is amazing to witness such a profound impact some episodes may have (e.g., The Body). I have been so pleased to find this site and realize I’m not the only person still enjoying and/or re-discovering both series after all of this time. Incidentally: For those of you familiar with the concept of Tarot cards, whenever I watch Bargaining 2, The Tower card comes to mind as Buffy and Dawn reconnect there. The Tower card portrays the same catastrophic portents of things to come in Season 6: chaos, crisis, disruption, disillusionment, downfall, destruction, revelation, transformation, and ultimately, liberation. I thought it was an interesting thematic coincidence.

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  42. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on April 5, 2015.]

    The episode itself is pretty good, but there are two things… well, three things I hated about it :
    1) What the f*** is all this Osiris ritual about when Dawn just had to steal an egg in a nest and light one or two candles to resurrect her mother in season 5 ? (even if she didn’t eventually – we can assume she succeeded because we saw Joyce walking)
    2) Other people said it before me, but… bikers ? WHY ? WHYYYY ? They must be the most annoying demons I’ve seen in the series, with Balthazar and on or two other exceptions.
    3) The final scene, although moving, is reeeeeally long and repetitive. I’ve seen quickier in The bold and the beautiful.

    Oh, and :

    4) I will miss Buffybot.

    Like

  43. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on April 5, 2015.]

    Awe man you almost had the opportunity to use that four things and a lizard line from Doctor Who’s Blink.

    In regards to your first point Dawn’s ritual was only going to succeed in bringing back a zombie Joyce since they establish from Forever onwards that you can’t be brought back from a natural death. Since Buffy’s was supernatural Willow was able to use this funky ritual to bring her back to life.

    Second point is pretty fair.

    Not sure if your referring to the end of the first part or the two parter as a whole. Netlifx divided the two story into two halves and the rest tend to have it as a single episode. I’m going to presume your referring to the very end with Dawn and Buffy in which case your criticisms would be fair.

    Losing Buffybot does kind of suck. Maybe they could have had her be in more episodes but whatever.

    One criticism I brought up in a previous thread was why they had Buffy’s name on the tombstone if they were going to pretend she was alive. Some have said that it was in a weird location so nobody would find it but I’m presuming they would have needed to get somebody to engrave it right, unless Willow did some magic. Plus wouldn’t it be better to just have a rock or something to lead you back to the body or mark the spot as opposed to risking that somebody would see it

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

    I think you raise an interesting point here about depression – like many people I know what it’s like to need something, anything to cling to. And I do agree, S6 does well to portray depression realistically.

    That doesn’t stop it being awful, though. I have never had my mind changed by any rewatch of season six – I always, at the end of ‘Grave’, think ‘thank you Joss for that Dark Willow arc!’ It very nearly comes close to being a total loss to me, but Willow and her grief pull it out of the fire from being a thing of truly awful pointlessness. I don’t see why a season with no villains, no decent supernatural plotlines until episode 19/20 (on a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer), horrifically heavy-handed drugs metaphors, self-referential humour, an unbalanced cast and far too much focus on uninteresting aspects of that cast gets so much praise from certain quarters…I think in this case, ‘the fans’ were correct. Thankfully it gets better, but never feels like it did in seasons 2-5.

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  45. [Note: MichaelJB posted this comment on November 12, 2015.]

    There’s a piece of dialogue with the BuffyBot that speaks volumes to me:
    BUFFYBOT: Where did I go?
    DAWN: What?
    BUFFYBOT: Where did I go? I was here. Here. But then I ran away.
    DAWN: I-I don’t…
    BUFFYBOT: No. Not me. The other Buffy.

    In my experience, this encapsulates one of the most bitter, sad, and challenging parts of depression: the self-awareness. People who are going through serious depression don’t choose to be sad – we remember what it was like before, and more than anything, sometimes more than life itself, we want to go back to that. But we can’t. If we view the BuffyBot and the real Buffy as one metaphorical entity, we see that “The other Buffy” – the old, happy or at least coping Buffy – is gone. The new, traumatized, confused, and alone Buffy is who remains.

    Like

  46. [Note: EmilieL posted this comment on December 5, 2015.]

    I get the fact that since Joyce died of natural causes she couldn’t be brought back “normal” and was brought back as a zombie unlike Buffy but…in Season 2 “Some assembly required” Daryl is brought back by his brother and seems rather, normal? Well as “normal” as his brother Chris, and Eric. He is kinda crazy but I don’t think his crasiness is due to his resurrection, and if it is, what’s Eric’s excuse?
    Same for Jack in “The Zeppo”. I mean the guy still goes to school and all…
    What I mean is that Jack and Daryl died of natural causes, weren’t zombies (the kind of zombies we see in “Dead’s man party”)and they seemed to act like their old selves…
    It can be a bit confusing.

    Like

  47. [Note: Samm posted this comment on December 5, 2015.]

    The Zeppo does bring some inconsistencies in terms of bringing back the dead. But they were still dead when they were brought back, not actually alive. And as they weren’t alive long in there zombie form we don’t also know the many things they couldn’t do either. But it’s clear that they were never healed from the injuries which killed them, and is more of a parlor trick than actual Resurrection.

    In this episode we have them questioning will they bring back Buffy exactly as she was, so it is clear they didn’t want to bring her back like Joyce or the people in the Zeppo. But actually her in every sense.

    Like

  48. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on January 27, 2016.]

    I noticed that the review numbers didn’t really start to get out of intervals of 5 until around this point (1 and 2 were redone so they don’t count). Any particular reason you decided to get out of the trend.

    Like

  49. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on September 11, 2016.]

    Apropos of the date: it strikes me as uniquely ominous that the turning point of the show– where Buffy is thrown headfirst into the terrifying and chaotic world of adulthood– happened in the summer of 2001, and revolved around a crumbling tower.

    Like

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