6×07: Once More, with Feeling

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 11/06/2001]

Why is “Once More, With Feeling” so special? Is it the singing? I say ‘no,’ or at least mostly ‘no.’ I critique musicals as strongly as I critique movies or television episodes, so I must say that just being a musical does not make this a great episode. The attention, care, and effort put into it does. Although not my favorite episode of the series, it comes pretty darn close because of its endless rewatchability that is the result of vital character development, beautiful lyrics and cinematography, and the utter conviction of everyone involved. This is not about showing off and saying “hey, look at us! We made a musical!” It’s very clearly about one, and only one, thing: the characters. That is the reason why it so amazingly succeeds.

The plot device of singing out secrets is like any other great Buffy plot in that it uses the supernatural as a springboard to say something meaningful about the characters or life in general. Some great examples of this over the seasons include episodes like “Innocence” [2×14] , “Earshot” [3×18] , “New Moon Rising” [4×19] , and “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] . Especially like “Innocence” [2×14] , though, “Once More, With Feeling” takes the characters’ emotions and throws them all out into the open for all to see, which launches the season into a completely new place (after the small, but amusing, pause that is much of “Tabula Rasa” [6×08] ). The entire musical is also incredibly deceptive in its tone. Most of the songs appear very happy on the surface, but when paying attention to the backstory and lyrics you quickly come to realize just how dark the songs really are. So without further ado, lets get started!

An alarm clock rings. Buffy wakes up and instead of turning it off, opts to simply pick it up and give it a good distant stare… for an entire minute. Clearly, Buffy is having a hard time just finding the motivation to get up in the morning and live. This, of course, has been an issue all season so far and will play a huge role at the end of this episode. This beautifully shot opening sequence quickly jumps to night where Buffy’s doing her usual patrol (“Every single night, the same arrangement/I go out and fight the fight.”) until she begins singing all Disney-like. Ultimately every single word in this song is something we all have been able to piece together in previous episodes, but it’s liberating to hear Buffy finally specifically recognize her problems: “I’ve been making shows of trading blows/Just hoping no one knows/That I’ve been going through the motions/Walking through the part.”

“Going Through the Motions” is deceptively subversive to the surfacey, up-beat, and happy Disney-like quality that permeates the song. Ultimately, it tackles the major character focus of the episode: Buffy’s detachment from life and near-suicidal impulses — not the stuff Disney dreams are made of. It says a lot that when Buffy saves the Disney-like man tied up to the tree, his offer of romance for his rescue is greeted by “whatever” — indifference. Before this season, Buffy has never been indifferent to romance (“Nothing seems to penetrate my heart.”). At this point Buffy neither cares nor believes in it. In the end, all Buffy really wants right now is to feel again — “I just wanna be…. aliiive!”

When Buffy enters the Magic Box the next day, it’s fun to see her of all people surprised when asking everyone if they burst into song the previous night. This quickly leads to Giles almost impulsively jumping in with knowledge: “I’ve Got a Theory,” and it turns out that his theory was dead-on right. This is a great exposition song in that it explains what’s basically happening while also subtly revealing character issues. These issues include Buffy’s continued morbid sense of humor, Giles not initially buying Buffy’s fabricated optimism, and the wonderful subversion this episode has in spades. As everyone in the group sings their amusing theories, we see Buffy very quickly pull out of frame — she’s not partaking in the ‘fun.’ The crux of the song comes when Buffy finally does partake in the singing. She sings “What can’t we face if we’re together?” and we can see an extremely skeptical look on Giles’ face, like he’s not buying her optimism. Eventually she pulls him in, even though it’s clear Buffy is just singing what’s expected of her and not what she really feels. That comes out in “Something to Sing About.”

The next song, “Under Your Spell,” is the ultimate representation of disturbing subtext. Tara is literally under Willow’s spell right now and it’s incredibly sad to see her sing about the person who has had such a massively positive influence on her personality while knowing that her mind has been violated by that very same individual. Lines from Tara like “How you set me free/Brought me out so easily” reinforce just how much Tara has changed from the shy, stuttery, and introverted girl back in “Hush” [4×10] . The following lines show an amazing duality of meaning: “Something just isn’t right/I’m under your spell.”

This song also shows a duality in being heart-breaking. In one sense because Tara is so genuine in her intentions, and another because of what’s really going on in their relationship. When the song moves into the sexual I find myself surprised by just how much near-explicit sexual ‘singing’ Whedon got away with here. It’s very refreshing, though, mainly because Whedon is explicit while not being crass. This is a very insight-heavy song for Tara showcasing Amber Benson’s utterly beautiful voice. Awesome song, great voice, and fantastic character work.

“I’ll Never Tell” is a fun little piece that reveals the precise feelings both Anya and Xander have about their impending marriage. It turns out to have even more significance in retrospect knowing that their marriage doesn’t happen because of Xander’s fears, many of which are revealed here. This song also marks a turn in the episode from being subversive to more forthright about its intentions. Both Xander and Anya are very openly revealing their secret worries and fears to each other, which is in contrast to the hidden meanings of the previous songs.

This tells me that at first people aren’t singing away their secrets to anyone else, but rather expressing the surfacey positive things they all want to believe in (excluding “Going Through the Motions,” but Buffy was essentially alone during that song). Now the secrets are starting to pour out and it’s making everyone a little more jittery about it. After this song, we can see that Xander is getting a lot more concerned about summoning this demon when he hears Giles say someone got killed because of it. Xander even asks Giles for confirmation about this. “I’ll Never Tell” is not only relevant in its characterization, but also in its sense of fun. With lines like Anya’s “His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe,” one can’t help but squeal in glee.

“The sun sets and she appears. Come to serenade me?” Amusingly, the opposite ends up happening. I really love how hard Spike tries to kick Buffy out of his crypt before he starts singing to her, especially after telling her he’s immune. After Buffy begins to wonder why Spike wants her gone, he starts spontaneously singing and gets this “oh shit” look on his face. Right as this happens, we get Spike’s trademark multi-dimensional facial expressions. These range from being worried, after eyeing Buffy for interest as she just rolls her eyes, to embarassed to determined. I love it when this show uses eye contact and facial expression to convey meaning. I’m reminded of a fantastic scene during “Wild at Heart” [4×06] where an entire conversation was had without speech and then, of course, “Hush” [4×10] where most of the episode is without speech.

Spike begins the song by throwing his insight of the truth of Buffy’s situation in her face: “Whisper in a dead man’s ear, it doesn’t make it real.” This is all about how on the inside Spike is very tired of Buffy playing games with his love. She’s already using him and has been since she told him her secret in “After Life” [6×03] . Although Spike wants Buffy to “misbehave” (and knows she’s thinking about it), his love of her is proven again by showing that he will still kindly follow her into hell and back if she doesn’t, regardless of how she treats him. This is why he knows but can’t stop the fact that Buffy’s “got a willing slave.” He both wants her there and wants her gone until she reciprocates his feelings in some way. This entire song is perfectly summarized after its over when Buffy goes charging off and Spike says, “So… you’re not staying then?” Both funny and revealing.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Dawn’s entire arc this season is summed up by her brief singing at home: “Does anybody even notice? Does anybody even care?” All season long she plays a fairly important part in the lives of everyone else and I even sympathize with her. But I’m a little disappointed the writers didn’t try to have her learn from all this and go through an arc of her own. Instead all we get is the stealing thing. Sweet’s song, though, is actually a bit more revealing than one might expect which makes it even more of a shame the writers didn’t run with it. Sweet sings to her, “I know just what you feel, girl” right as they are dancing in a more mature manner. Dawn wants (and always has) to be treated like an adult, but as evident by her reaction to the more mature dancing, she’s not quite ready to be an adult yet. She wants that maturity, but almost knows she isn’t ready for it yet.

What Sweet’s song is primarily about, though, is an explanation on exactly what his power is. Sweet’s ability is to translate people’s emotional secrets into song and dance. But when someone is really having extreme emotional issues it ends up, in this case, literally making them dance until they burn up and die — engulfed by the flames of their own emotions. This is a classical BtVS situation where something real is represented by the supernatural in the form of metaphor, and it really works wonders here. The idea is that these people would have reached the boiling point anyway, but Sweet simply forces it out of them now with a supernatural twist. All of this makes Sweet’s song very relevant while already being fun to listen to.

“Yeah, I’m pretty spry for a corpse.” Buffy’s morbid sense of humor sure hasn’t lessened since her resurrection. Judging from Giles’ very concerned reaction, it seems clear he’s really not buying that she’s alright. He then asks her if she’s “spoken to Dawn about that incident at Halloween,” and she is quick to respond, “Oh. I thought you took care of that.” This is the moment when Giles launches right into song about his feelings for her. “Standing” is a touching song that, while simplistic in meaning, is complex in emotion. Simply put, Giles is torn in his fatherly love for Buffy. He says, “Wish I could slay your demons/But now that time has passed.” Giles wants to always be there to help Buffy fight her demons, but he believes that would impede her growth as an adult. There comes a point where you must let your children make their own mistakes, find their own way, and let the lessons and wisdom you’ve taught them help them the best it can. Even if you’ve raised them well, sometimes a child needs to see things for themselves before adopting a certain path.

Giles knows Buffy has it in her to get through all her troubles, but as long as he stays there to take care of everything for her, she never will. He sings this intention very clearly: “Your path’s unbeaten and it’s all uphill/And you can meet it, but you never will/And I’m the reason that you’re standing still.” This is the moment he really decides to leave town again, thereby forcing Buffy to face her inner demons and, hopefully, come out of it an adult. It’s really cool to have Giles see through Buffy’s ‘show’ of being fine. He sings it right off the bat of his song: “You keep pretending, but you just can’t hide.”

Ultimately this is a supremely tender and moving song of a father who has to let go of his daughter in the hopes that she’ll become a full-on adult. Whether this is a smart decision or not is debateable (I can think of some less extreme approaches to try first), but what’s not debateable is whether this is in character or not. It very much is in character for Giles and really lines up with his opinions on the subject heard in earlier episodes.

One moment in particular in “A New Man” [4×12] seems a lot more important now in which Giles tells Maggie Walsh, “Oh, uh, I think it’s best if-if. . . if we let a young person find their own strengths. If you lead a child by the hand then they’ll never find their own footing.” Walsh responds by offering another, completely valid, point of view: “She’s very self-reliant, very independent — which is not always a good thing. I think it can be unhealthy to take on adult roles too early.” Ultimately, here in S6, Giles’ plan gets the job done, but quite possibly with a lot more pain involved for Buffy than there may have needed to be. Then again, maybe not. It’s complex and there’s no easy answers.

The end of “Standing” leads directly into “Reprise” which combines Tara’s (who just found out Willow erased some of her memory) and Giles’ songs into one uber song. Since these two have the best singing voices, this combo makes for a real treat on the ears while also pulling the emotional strings. These are two people who don’t often talk much due to usually having very little in common. It’s been clear since S4 that Giles is shown to be consistently uncomfortable with the Willow/Tara relationship, something not uncommon from people of his generation. But here, now, all that is irrelevant as they do have something in common and share a very moving song together in which they both decide they need to leave their loved ones. This is obviously a big change in the season, but all the character work thus far has so naturally built-up to this it feels completely in character for all the people involved.

When Spike comes in with one of Sweet’s minions, Giles tells Buffy to face this threat alone. He has faith in her ability to get it done without any help, just like he sung. But, as “Walk Through the Fire” proves, if he stays around he’ll always end up helping her because he loves her so much. Willow suggests using a “confusion spell” which causes Tara to immediately jump on the “no” bandwagon. Thus begins my very favorite song of the entire episode. So much of what Buffy feels and what’s to come are sung out in gloriously dark song right here. She sings, “I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into it and it’s black/Why can’t I feel?/My skin should crack and peel/I want the fire back!”

Buffy can’t ascertain the specific reason why she can’t feel anything anymore and badly wants some of her old fire back. The lyrics here are very artistically written and SMG’s performance really gets to me. What’s most disturbing of all is that Buffy still has some suicidal feelings. Singing “To save the day/Or maybe melt away/I guess it’s all the same” proves she could care less about whether or not she wins the battle or dies… either resolution would provoke the same emotionless response out of her which, honestly, is deeply tragic and tear-worthy.

Spike’s feelings, on the other hand, are summed by this: “I hope she fries/I’m free if that bitch dies!/I better help her out.” He wants to simultaneously see her die and personally save her at the same time. Talk about a fascinating dual-complex at work here. Because he’s stuck loving her, though, he opts for, no surprise, trying to save her which he actually ends up doing. This part of the song wonderfully layers in all kinds of singing from just about everyone involved.

Buffy tries to hold onto her secret (“But why I froze, not one among them knows/And never can be told.”), Tara points out what’s finally becoming unflinchingly clear (“Everything is turning out so dark”), Spike can’t decide what he wants to do (“First he’ll kill her, then I’ll save her/No, I’ll save her, then I’ll kill her.”), Willow expresses that she feels she has nothing to sing (“I think this line’s mostly filler”) — a scary realization, Giles wonders what it’ll take to spark Buffy’s interest in life again (“What’s it gonna take to strike a spark?”) — an interesting comment when you think about why Spike gets a soul which he names a “spark,” and Sweet is letting us know that the Gang is not going to find what they expect when confronting him (“What they’ll find/Ain’t what they have in mind/It’s what they have inside”). This stunning ensemble piece leads directly lead to Buffy’s revealing song.

“Something to Sing About” is a fascinating philosophical piece about life. Right before the song begins, Sweet is surprised with Buffy’s attutide about life. He says, “Come now, is that really what you feel? Isn’t life a miraculous thing?” Buffy chillingly replies, “I think you already know.” In a way this song tells the story of Buffy’s life to date. Buffy begins with “Life’s a show/And we all play our parts/And when the music starts/We open up our hearts.” This is directly referring to her life ala S1-S2.

Buffy goes on to say, “It’s alright/If some things come out wrong/We’ll sing a happy song/And you can sing along,” which means that during that time period when something didn’t go right the group would make some jokes, pull together, and get through it. She then goes on to sing about some of life’s biggest cliches of which she clearly doesn’t believe are true after what’s her life’s been like: “Where there’s life/There’s hope/Every day’s/A gift/Wishes can/Come true/Whistle while/You work/So hard/All day/To be like other girls/To fit in in this glittering world/Don’t give me songs.” This is Buffy’s way of saying her life has proved time and time again none of life’s cliches are remotely true — that it’s actually something much more resembling a constant struggle.

What Buffy really feels is that “Life’s a song/You don’t get to rehearse/And every single verse/Can make it that much worse.” What she’s saying here is that as you get older each chunk of life can make you more and more miserable. Her ‘open heart’ has been largely shut down ever since “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] — just look at her relationship with Riley. Obviously this doesn’t speak to everyone, but it’s extremely true of what poor Buffy’s had to endure over the years and what a lot of people in their early 20s experience. I find this very sad, but also extremely fascinating to contemplate. Buffy goes on, beginning to get angrier, that her friends just don’t know what she’s been through and “why I ignore/The million things or more/I should be dancing for.”

The joy of living is that you know there is an end to it. If death didn’t matter, if we were all immortal, then the simple pleasures and experiences of life would be utterly meaningless — like how a vampire’s taste of food is but a shadow of what it is when being human… or alive. Buffy sums this up by singing, “All the joy/Life sends/Family/And friends/All the twists/And bends/Knowing that/It ends/Well that/Depends.” A quick side note: huge praise for Sarah Michelle Gellar this entire episode. This girl really gives this episode her all, and it is the biggest reason for its success (aside from the writing). Great job Sarah!

Now that Buffy’s alive again, after feeling that her life was complete, she feels truly dead inside. Nothing matters to her; nothing seems imoprtant anymore. Buffy was in a happy place and wanted to stay dead. But her friends didn’t let her… they pulled her out of that bliss which then forces her to face an existence where none of the unique things about life that she was singing about matter anymore. Whedon’s making a superbly strong case against resurrection in fantasy and sci-fi. When death is cheated, why is the fight against evil so important. People die, sure, but hey! They can just be resurrected! So who cares if you die? Death has become unimportant. Plus, this realistic depiction of the confusion and depression of coming back from that only hurts the resurrected person anyway. This is why I almost dislike the resurrection of Buffy.

With that said, the fact Whedon stuck to his rule of only supernatural deaths being resurrectable makes Buffy’s resurrection worth it… to get her to a place of depression unlike anything she’s ever experienced before. This is tragedy on the highest level, and it hurts me to see Buffy be put through this. But through this pain is where we find out what we’re really made of as individuals. This is where true character growth lies: through adversity, struggle, and pain. On the other side of this internal battle lies hope, happiness, and joy. Without one, we could not have the other. This is what makes life worth living. Buffy was cheated death, so now she must struggle to find the joy of life again.

This doesn’t happen by flipping a switch, but is instead a long, painful process of self discovery and determination. Buffy sings, “So give me something to sing about/Please/Give me something…” Now Buffy’s friends know what happened to her. Willow’s shocked and tearful reaction is potent (she almost looks like she’s about to throw-up in disbelief) and will only cause more problems for her as well. All of this is summed up succinctly by Spike saving a Buffy who gives into her suicidal feelings and nearly burns herself to death. He profoundly tells her, “Life’s not a song/Life isn’t bliss/Life is just this/It’s living/You’ll get along/The pain that you feel/You only can heal/By living/You have to go one living/So one of us is living.” Dawn adds to this by telling Buffy the very thing Buffy told her in “The Gift” [5×22] : “The hardest thing in this world… is to live in it.” This is what Buffy must deal with for the rest of the year and is what very clearly manifests itself as the “big bad” of S6.

A small touch I liked was how Sweet only bailed after Willow’s angry threat towards him. He says, “Mm, I smell power. I guess the little missus and I should be on our way.” Although he hides his fright, the quickness at which he gets out of there is very, very interesting. He likely knew if he didn’t vacate Willow would have torn him to pieces. The episode ends with a group singing of “Where Do We Go From Here.” The key line out of this song that interests me is that the Gang sings “Understand we’ll go hand in hand/But we’ll walk alone in fear.” That’s the journey of our lives, isn’t it? We all try to surround ourselves with friends, lovers, and companions throughout life and they are all valuable and healthy, but we’re all individuals and “In the end, you’re always by yourself. You’re all you’ve got. That’s the point.” (Whistler, “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] )

“The curtains close on a kiss, God knows we can tell the end is near.” Buffy has decided to latch onto the only spark of life left in her: desparation to feel through a largely lusty sexual attraction to Spike. This action is taken in the hope that it will make her feel again, which would make her depressive, suicidal feelings subside. This she directly sings to Spike: “I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into it and it’s black/This isn’t real/But I just want to feel.” This reasoning for becoming sexual with Spike largely accomplishes her base goal, but ends up having major unforseen consequences down the road. But for now, the curtains close on a completely desparation-filled kiss. “Where do we go from here” indeed. THE END. (sings) “Grr… argh….”


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The altered introduction (and ending) credits. I love Willow’s huge and way-too-excited smile.
+ Willow’s “Some kid is dreamin’/And we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare” reference to the kid in “Nightmares” [1×10] .
+ Anya’s rock song/rant about bunnies.
+ The Mustard Man! Go David Fury!
+ The police taking “witness arias.”
+ The cleaning guys with the brooms. Pure awesomesauce.
+ Giles sending Buffy “backup” in “Something to Sing About.”
+ Some of the editing during the completely out-of-place and contrived ‘night-time funeral’ in “Rest in Peace.”


[Score]

EXCEPTIONAL

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166 thoughts on “6×07: Once More, with Feeling”

  1. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    when I read the text I was a little disappointed, because I didn’t find the mustard man mentioned, and I got a very different take on “something to sing about”. but let’s discuss this in the forum…

    oh, and the “burst-into-flames-because-of-ones-emotions” thing was first used in “the witch” and has a very prominent source in Dickens’ “Bleak House”. But it’s a very well done addendum to the theme…

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  2. [Note: Tobias Drake posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    Willow’s singing being sparse, mostly reduced to backup singing and the “this line is filler” line, also works in tone with Willow’s own stage fright, brought up more directly in the episode “Nightmares” and again in her dream in “Restless”.

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  3. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    bookworm: I mention the Mustard Man in the “Other Pros/Cons” section. Also, “The Witch” doesn’t really deal with this topic. Amy put a specific spell on that cheerleader to cause her to “catch on fire” and it wasn’t really based on that particular person’s emotions. At least that’s the way I saw it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. [Note: Rick posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    I’ll disagree and say that the “filler” line has no character significance. I don’t believe Joss intended anything beyond pure comedy there. Well I could of course be wrong, I just don’t buy the connection.

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  5. [Note: rick posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    bookworm, if you didn’t like mike’s take on Something to Sing about, you’re definitely not going to agree with my rendition on the podcast!

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  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    Whether or not Joss intended the “filler” line to mean anything is debateable. However, at that point in the episode everyone was being very clear about what they feel inside (Sweet also tells us this). The fact that all Willow says is “this line is mostly just filler” very much makes logical sense, aside from just being funny. Willow genuinely does not think she has a problem at this point, so it makes sense she wouldn’t have anything to share about what she’s feeling. In her mind, she’s perfectly fine. I don’t see why you’d have trouble buying that connection Rick. Seems pretty intuitive to me.

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  7. [Note: Rick posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    I just don’t feel like there was an intended connection there. Well I agree Willow doesn’t think she has anything to sing or lament about, I don’t believe that the line “I think this line’s mostly filler” presupposes her oblivion. Rather, it strikes me as an excellent attempt at humor, as even Willow seems confounded as to why that line is in the song (outside of its usefullness as filler). So while the line may be representative of her not having anything better to sing about, I don’t think she is consciously aware of that, or that Joss purposely intended a link between the two.

    Very much enjoyed the review btw.

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

    ‘Filler’ rhymes with ‘Killer’ and Alyson Hannigan didn’t want to do that much singing so i have to say i agree with Rick – that its just a nice piece of humor. Great review though

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  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 2, 2007.]

    That’s hardly evidence of the contrary Tranquillity. There’s a ton of rhyming in OMWF. Just because it rhymes isn’t evidence either way you look at it.

    It’s not a big deal no matter what you believe, but that connection feels extremely logical to me.

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  10. [Note: monkeypants posted this comment on April 3, 2007.]

    I never thought of the connection before but it is interesting to think of now that you mention it.

    I’m not sure why it matters whether or not it was *intended*. (But my thoughts on this may just be due to too many college film classes.)

    On an unrelated note, I’ve always been curious about this: I don’t have the episode or the cd liner notes on me, so if someone can tell me I’m not crazy that’d be good. But I seem to remember that the actual song and the lyrics written in the soundtrack liner notes differ on Spike’s line in “Walk through the Fire.” I can’t remember which was which, but in one it was “First he’ll kill her, then I’ll save her” and the other “First I’ll kill her, then I’ll save her” Which is not a completely insignificant difference. Did anyone else notice this or am I hallucinating?

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  11. [Note: spygrrl76 posted this comment on April 5, 2007.]

    Great review mikejer!! I’m not normally big on reviews of the episodes because I feel like they usually end up as plain recaps (which I don’t need because I’ve watched the show) or reviews that don’t give any new insights. Neither is true with your review here (the 1st one I’ve read so far). A really excellent exploration of “Once More, With Feeling.” You definitely brought up some new thoughts and interpretations I hadn’t considered in addition to a well-disected analysis of the episode itself. I will definitely be checking out your other ones.

    Not to make the whole Willow “filler” line an overblown debate, I agree with those saying that more likely than not the line isn’t suppose to have any deep meaning aside from the comedic factor and that Alyson Hannigan asked not to sing a lot since she doesn’t like to. That said, mikejer I think your analysis/interpretation of the line is an excellent one. I can definitely see it having a deeper meaning about Willow’s character, intentional by Joss or not.

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  12. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 5, 2007.]

    I greatly appreciate the positive comments spygrrl. My “mission statement” of sorts is to offer reviews that have a combination of deep analysis and squealy fanboy glee, both while specifically avoiding it just becoming a recap of the plot. So, I’m quite pleased you think I’ve succeeded in that goal, at least for this review. If you continue to enjoy my reviews and this discussion, I highly encourage you to register on the forums and join that small, but flourishing community as well. There’s quite a few very fascinating and intelligent people there! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. [Note: Jerry Moanco posted this comment on April 8, 2007.]

    I have few comment on your account of the show and on your podcast, which is how I came to this website. (1) I wish you would provide more analysis of the show on the website, if only because you know BtVS so well. (2) The ending of “Once More With Feeling” is in someways the true ending of BtVS as an integrated show, the arc of the “chosen family” of the Scooby Gang. The refrain “Where do we go from here,” is in many ways an acknowledgment of an end, even a dead end. (3) I am always sad when it comes to the end of the song “What Can’t We Face Together.” Because it is an illustration of the fact that they are not together and, in many ways, will never be together again. This is even illustrated by the final camera movement of this song, which pulls into the group from the side, emphasizing their seriality (to use a Sartrean term), their apartness. (7) Finally, this, along with a few other shows, (for example, “Restless”) can be looked at as a kind hologram of the whole series. It is as if the episode is constructed to sum up the whole series, and in some ways to predict the future of the series.

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  14. [Note: Brian posted this comment on May 15, 2007.]

    Fabulous review, Mike!!! So many insights! So I hesitate to quibble. But I will. ๐Ÿ™‚ What’s up with not a mention anywhere of Marti Noxon’s fabulous performance as the parking ticket lady??? I mean, you even give David Fury props. Sure, he has a good voice, though he only had 5 words. But Marti rivals Amber for the best voice in the whole show! Hope to see you Saturday at Cafe Racer!

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  15. [Note: MrB posted this comment on July 22, 2007.]

    In other boards and locations, Xander gets a little ripped upon for calling upon Sweet.

    This is a case where in the story, someone had to do it and have the actual demon-calling not be important.

    It kind of felt to me that when writing the story, they drew straws on who was going to get stuck being blamed, and it was Xander.

    It felt pretty hokey, but it was just OK enough to wrap the story up and just deal with the emotional fallout in subsequent episodes.

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  16. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 14, 2007.]

    I love musicals, so I love this episode. I think I’ve probably watched it more than any other ep (besides FFL, I suppose).

    Standing actually made me cry when I first saw it. I’ve always enjoyed the relationship between Giles and Buffy. I understand the reasons why ASH left the show. And I know that, in the past, Giles has tried to take a “hands off” approached to dealing with Buffy (Usually without much success). But I feel his departure in S6 is very….callous? He leaves after Buffy’s been resurrected. He just found out that she was in heaven. He knows Willow’s doing crazy magic stuff. He knows Buffy’s in a financial (and life) crisis. He knows Xander and Anya will be preoccupied with the wedding. He knows Dawn is exhibiting rebellious behavior and that Buffy is not in any condition to deal with it. And he leaves??

    I understand the tough love concept and the whole throwing the baby bird out of the nest thing. But there are times when support is just needed, and it’s not a weakness to get help from someone. This is the toughest time in Buffy’s life, and it’s not a failing that she doesn’t know how to deal with it. She’s overwhelmed and needs help. But Giles decides that she needs to deal with it on her own without any parental-type support?

    That’s my take. I wasn’t happy with the reasoning behind his leaving. Though his return at the end of the season was met with massive cheers from me.

    Putting that aside, I don’t have much else to say that hasn’t been said about this episode. Except that the Spike/Buffy kissage at the end was the best on-screen kiss I’d ever seen. Yum.

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  17. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on December 30, 2007.]

    mike, I love all of your reviews but there are three in particular that really express the love I have for them: Hush, Restless and this one. You nailed everthing in this review right on and my love for this episode is eternal, a lot of what you said is what I feel is amazing. Every part of this episode is awesome, even the cleaners in the streets with the brooms. I just love the effort and the fact that they used a musical to express the situation of the characters, not just “another musical”.

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  18. [Note: Nix posted this comment on February 25, 2008.]

    Another sign that Buffy’s really depressed; the second time we see her (in the shop, still in the opening scenes), she’s drawing on a piece of paper… but if you look at *what* she’s drawing, it’s unadorned blackness.

    (A comic point you missed: the way Sweet’s minion’s line is introduced by a huge swelling film-music crescendo… followed by simple speech. It looks like Sweet’s minions can’t sing. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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  19. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on March 8, 2008.]

    GREAT analysis of the episode, Mike. Your analysis of ‘Something To Sing About’ was particularly good – you opened my eyes with that. I didn’t really look into it much before.

    ‘Walk Through The Fire’ is just a fabulous song. Its overlapping lyrics, its general sound, and its emotional power could fool me to think it was a missing number from ‘Rent’. I just love it.

    Another one I love is ‘Mrs’ by Anya, the ‘missing song’ from ‘Selfless’. It’s very cute. I’m so glad it was included, it was a wonderful surprise.

    Like

  20. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on March 8, 2008.]

    By the way, I personally really doubt that the “I think this line’s mostly filler” lyric was supposed to have any underlying meaning.

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  21. [Note: Robbie101 posted this comment on April 10, 2008.]

    I jsut saw this episode for the first time and thought it was awesome and really clever with the whole underlying subtexts thing!

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  22. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    that main demon guy, wots the name? class character. memorable. ‘say your happy now, once more with feelin…’

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  23. [Note: Jvamp posted this comment on June 22, 2008.]

    It’s been clear since S4 that Giles is shown to be consistently uncomfortable with the Willow/Tara relationship

    Where is this evident?

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

    jvamp: giles has shown a lot of uncomfortable facial expressions whenever something lesbianish has been brought up (his facial response to “im a breast girl myself” in life serial for example).

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  25. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 24, 2008.]

    Jaden, that’s just being south-eastern English. My dad’s just like that, only he displays similar facial expressions whenever heterosexual relationships are alluded to as well. ;}

    (Giles is horrifyingly similar to my father, if you ignore the subject of obsession being with demons rather than aircraft. Mannerisms, speech patterns, reserve, youthful tearawaying, sense of duty… even the glasses are the same. However my father has never become any sort of demon’s thrall. He was in thrall to a Morris Minor instead.)

    Like

  26. [Note: OJ posted this comment on July 15, 2008.]

    Am I the only one thinking this…

    I think there is so many references to Sweet being Lucifer himself. “My kingdom below”, “My name, I got a hundred” etc.

    Like

  27. [Note: Watcher posted this comment on July 16, 2008.]

    This is a very obvious notation but if you really think about the title “Once More, With Feeling”. It’s almost a summary of Buffy’s state at the time and what she needs to do get out of it. “Try it once more with feeling” and feeling is what she is trying to get back.

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  28. [Note: HarFang posted this comment on September 24, 2008.]

    Hi there! Great review. And I really think it doesn’t matter whether the scriptwriters intentionnally put a deeper meaning behind Willow’s line: now that it’s here, anything it can reveal about her (and I think Mikejer’s theory is consistent) is good for me.
    And a big THANK YOU for giving SMG the congratulations that she deserves. Her performance is often criticized, and she may not be the best singer on the set, but the fact that she really sings her guts out more than makes up for it. After all, there was a “stunt double” ready for the singing scenes, and she decided to do the job herself.

    Beyond that, there’s just one small detail that really makes me laugh every time, but nobody every mentions it so I thought I’d do it. Spike is the first who sets out to help Buffy. Yet during Through the Fire, he gets so carried away by his song and grand poses that after his (very cool!) jump over the fence, he ends up completely in the wrong place! Isn’t that totally in keeping with his habit of finishing his threatening speeches in some hole or other? Check his annoyed expression when he realises he’s reached a deadend -and this also explains why he barely makes it in time to save Buffy.

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  29. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 26, 2008.]

    Does anyone else ever wonder how “The Kiss” ended? ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Obviously abruptly and without any of the Scoobies seeing them or a lot of words if any exchanged, but as for the rest…)

    Like

  30. [Note: TBTF posted this comment on November 30, 2008.]

    I love this episode but I hsve to get one thing off my chest–JM seemed to completely give up on doing an accent during the songs, when I watch it I find myself shouting at the TV repeating the lines in a real ‘North London’ accent… Why couldn’t ASH gently correct him about his basic prononciation? But I digress, JM is too pretty to ever be mean to!

    The first time I watched this (having started avidly watching BTVS at the end of S6)I wondered about the ‘filler’ line and came to the same conclusion as you- Willow has no doubts about her choices so the singing can’t really affect her. I would love to see if Joss had written any songs for the character before AH begged out of singing.

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  31. [Note: HarFang posted this comment on December 10, 2008.]

    Does anyone else ever wonder how “The Kiss” ended? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Probably the same way as “Rest In Peace”, with Buffy suddenly deciding to change scenery and leaving Spike stranded there with the rising –music– “So you’re not staying, then?”
    Actually, I am more curious about how she managed to pull out of the other kiss in Tabula Rasa. Pure willpower? Total blindness?

    And even though I am not anglophone, I did notice that everybody’s accent (not only Spike’s) is incredibly emphacised when they’re singing. I guess that just as stutters will vanish when you sing, so will fake accents.(And since I’m talking about stutters, I read somewhere that Nick Brendon first became an actor to overcome his stutter. Well, that definitely worked because some of his lines in “I Have a Theory” and “I’ll Never Tell” are real tongue-twisters!

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  32. [Note: Adam posted this comment on December 29, 2008.]

    I love this episode. One of the best episodes (if not the best) musical ever on television. It is something I have watched many, many times, and it really still feels fresh and new everytime I watch it. All the songs from “Going Through the Motions” to “Where Do We Go From Here” all touch me in some way. This episode is just amazing and definitely my favorite episode ever of Buffy, or any other television show for that matter.

    Like

  33. [Note: Richie posted this comment on January 15, 2009.]

    Great review, you summed it up! I’d never paid the AH ‘Filler’ line any attention until now, so nice one for that, I’m still in the undecided camp for now…

    Having watched this episode more times than I’d like to admit, this time I finally nailed why Spike’s ‘Rest in Peace’ song feels all wrong – it’s the difference between his confidence as an actor and as a singer. You see this amazingly accomplished actor giving it his all (in the crypt anyway, as for the night funeral, WTF?) on the screen, but you hear a rather tentative singer doing his best but not exactly nailing it. It just spoils the whole song for me, shame.

    Aside form the above, great ep, TB and ASH have awesome voices, tonnes of character development, and hats off to JW for his songwriting ability – how talented is that guy!

    Like

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

    I agree that this episode is a classic because of how it fits into the story and things would not have been exposed unless it was forced. Ex: Buffy wouldnt have told her friends that she was in hell, etc.

    I’ve seen this episode so many times, it never gets old.

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  35. [Note: Ellie posted this comment on January 29, 2009.]

    I love how it wasn’t just a “musical episode.” It was worked into a story with a villian…and it was a great way to force Buffy to tell her friends what they had really done.

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  36. [Note: trippdup posted this comment on February 1, 2009.]

    JM was the front man for his band and still performs – I wouldn’t describe him as a “tentative” singer.

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  37. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on February 6, 2009.]

    It’s been specifically mentioned in interviews, etc., that Allison Hannigan’s “filler” line really does not have any meaning. She did not want to sing, so she asked for as few lines as possible. So they gave her a silly “filler” line.

    While I do love this episode, I find that the music is a little lacking. Whedon’s compositions become much better later, in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” This could be due to the fact he co-wrote them with his brother and his brother’s fiance, though. Or perhaps he just used the experience from this episode to hone his compositional skills a bit. Or maybe a bit of both. (I used to be a music major, so perhaps I am just over-critical when it comes to stuff like this.)

    Also, does anyone with the Region1 DVDs have problems playing this episode? I’ve never been able to get any DVD player to play this one. And I’ve even tried DVD sets that weren’t mine, just in case maybe mine was messed up.

    But anyway, I do have to admit that your analyzations are very interesting to read.
    They sum up a lot of what I feel about many of these episodes, but have trouble relaying. You also see some things that I never would have thought of, those some of those I do think might be a bit far fetched. haha But again, it really is a pleasure to read your assessments. 8)

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  38. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on February 7, 2009.]

    Oh, I just thought of the face that Joss may not have even written the musical numbers in this episode, which would definitely account for why “Dr. Horrible’s” music is immensely better.

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  39. [Note: thefloodsrules posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    Isn’t it pretty ironic for Buffy to sing the line ‘To be like other girls’? Didn’t she tell Jonathan in ‘Earshot’ that everyone ‘down there’ has their own problems, their own dark secrets? So in reality there is no such thing a a ‘normal person’. Depression makes people think that they are the only one, or one of the only ones, who experiences deep sadness, loss and pain.
    She died, she didn’t get amnesia.

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  40. [Note: thefloodsrules posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    Sorry, got carried away by other things… Anyway, this is how it was supposed to be; Didn’t Buffy tell Jonathan in ‘Earshot’ that everyone ‘down there’ have their own pain and problems, so isn’t it ironic that she sings ‘To be like other girls’?.
    Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚
    ps- i know that re-writing that disarmed the point i was making, but it doesn’t matter.

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  41. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 6, 2009.]

    @thefloodrules: But generally, other girls, i.e. non-Slayers, still don’t go through most of the shit she goes through. Also, people often don’t follow/listen to their own advice.

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  42. [Note: Ender posted this comment on September 24, 2009.]

    I absolutely love this episode. Joss is fantastic at taking things which would be simple gimmicks on lesser shows, ie the musical episode, the silent episode, the alternate reality episode (the Wish), and using them to construct his best work. Maybe it’s because I know very little about music, but I think all the singing was great. I didn’t have a problem with any of it, even BN and AH sounded pretty good to me.

    I only had one minor problem with the episode, which otherwise, I thought was flawless, and easily the best episode of the series. The problem I had, was that I just don’t buy that Xander would summon a demon so lightly. It is completely out of character, and I thought it was a lazy attempt at a twist in order to keep Dawn from being taken to the kingdom below. If they were going to use Xander this way, they needed to give him a credible reason for summoning the demon. The reason he gives is ridiculous and insults me as a viewer.

    Other than that, this episode was perfect in my eyes.

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  43. [Note: Kathy posted this comment on October 29, 2009.]

    At the end of Spike’s song Buffy and Spike fall into a grave, with Buffy on top(as she should be). This foreshadows the last shot of “Smashed”, when the building collapses and Spike and Buffy fall through the floor and land in the same position.

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  44. [Note: Person posted this comment on December 26, 2009.]

    The topics covered in this episode is what gave it a perfect score. It’s a beautiful epsiode, but…

    Personally, I thought many of the numbers were awkward. I guess I’m just not used to seeing my favorite characters burst out into song, but as I watched, I was kind of squirming and scoffing in my seat. Sarah Michelle Gellar hit me the most. I was okay with I’m Under Your Spell, but only “okay” with it. The dancing seemed cheesy and overworked, just seemed like an Overly campy broadway sitcom.

    But once again, There were goodies to it. When Buffy was singing to the scooby gang near the end about how the pulled her out of heaven, my heart dropped at Willow and Xander’s expressions. Especially Willow’s.

    This wasn’t one of my top favorite episodes. Sure, creative, but I still believe it to be kinda campy. This is OPINIONATED.

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  45. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 4, 2010.]

    Fantastic episode. I like the way it was done like a theatre production with characters looking at or towards the audience and the guys mouth moving in the henchman costume. Great songs written by the genius Joss Whedon and great story.

    My only complaints are that when Anya is singing, Xander is still mime talking until it’s his time to sing. Buffy looks right at Giles finishing his song and asks if he just said something…was she deaf the whole time? And Xander summoning Sweet. After six years he knows not to do it, which means he is sort of responsible for the death.

    These are only small complaints and this episode still remains my second favourite episode of “Buffy”.

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  46. [Note: Gus posted this comment on January 9, 2010.]

    Nathan.Taurus, I wondered about Buffy not hearing Giles singing too but I’m thinking it is more of a symbolical thing. From the beginning of the season it’s clearly visible from the reactions of Giles that he’s pushing Buffy to be more independent but she just remains oblivious to his attempts. I think that line “did you say something” just after Giles devoted a whole song to his inner struggle shows that she doesn’t want to face her responsibilities with her sister.

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  47. [Note: purple posted this comment on February 5, 2010.]

    One part that was hilarious was during ‘Walk through the Fire’, and Spike is jumping overs fences and walking to the Bronze. He then jumps over a fence and sees that it’s a dead end.That was a really funny moment.

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  48. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on February 23, 2010.]

    I just remembered a bad line that Tara says to Willow while they are out before “Under Your Spell” kicks in. Tara tells her “I’m cured, I want the boys.”

    This is only a line, but the wording of “I’m cured” means that homosexuality is wrong and can be dealt with in some form. I know this wasn’t supposed to be seen in this way, but remember the stink that came from ‘Seeing Red’ from some lesbians who read too much into it.

    A series like this has a lot of subtext going on and even when it doesn’t (Willows “filler” line) fans still sometimes look too deeply into what is not there.

    The “cured” line could just have easily caused another shit storm.

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  49. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on February 23, 2010.]

    Nathan, I see what you’re saying, but I’m Tara was clearly joking about being cured and just teasing Willow. As such, there is an implied understanding between the two (and us, the viewers) that homosexuality is not, in fact, a disorder or sickness.

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  50. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on April 22, 2010.]

    I can’t stop watching this episode! Great analysis. I wanted to add that the look on Willow’s face after finding out that Buffy was in heaven was not only a look of utter disgust and disbelief, but she also seemed to be extremely angry at Sweet for being the reason Buffy’s secret came out. I almost feel as if Willow was mostly angry about the fact that she had to hear such a depressing truth, maybe even moreso than feeling bad for Buffy herself. I got the feeling that Willow just wished that this truth had never been revealed, so she could go on thinking that the magic she did was good. She doesn’t ever want to face the fact that magic always has consequences. This makes sense given how selfish she’s becoming as the season progresses, leading to her turn to the dark side.

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  51. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 1, 2010.]

    I just realized I didn’t comment on this episode. It truly is fantastic, although I’d rank it behind two other “Buffy” episodes (which I’ll share once I’m finished with the series). Every song was amazing, and what’s important is that it advanced the characters in meaningful ways as well. Incredible stuff.

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  52. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 4, 2010.]

    Also, I never got the impression that Giles was at all uncomfortable with Willow and Tara. What he was uncomfortable with was all of the other characters talking about their relationships in front of him (Xander and Anya, for instance). I don’t know exactly where he gave you that impression, since I never noticed anything of the kind.

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  53. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 7, 2010.]

    By the way, I would put Giles’s decision to send Buffy alone to face this unknown demon in the small “con” category. It was a really dumb thing to do, and Giles wouldn’t have risked Dawn’s life in an attempt to make Buffy “grow up”. Fortunately, he quickly realized his mistake during “Walk Through the Fire” (a wonderful song).

    Aside from that, the only complaint I have is Anya’s bunny song. It was just completely out of place and too weird. But since it lasts about thirty seconds, I’m not going to make a big deal about it (especially since the rest of the episode is so brilliant).

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  54. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 8, 2010.]

    After rewatching it, it wasn’t so much what Giles did that bothered me: it was the fact that the other Scoobies didn’t even raise an objection. That felt out-of-character to me. Again, a very small complaint (since it was quickly redeemed in “Walk Through the Fire”), but an issue nonetheless.

    Note: I adore this episode. I nitpick because I care.

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  55. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 13, 2010.]

    Again, Xanderยดs trait of “seeing only what he wants to” comes to play: he summoned the demon because he thought there would be only music and dancing, and happy endings, he never thought of any badness that could ensue.

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  56. [Note: zealeus posted this comment on July 9, 2010.]

    One thing I loved was a small reference to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. During the indoors scene where Tara and Anya were dancing with Buffy (I forget which song exactly), there’s about a 5 second break in the normal music where they started dancing all funky- a dance sequence straight out of the monsters from Thriller. Makes sense to homage a music video based on monsters during a musical episode on a show about monsters.

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  57. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on July 10, 2010.]

    spike’s voice is awesome in rest in peace but you could hear when he put his vamp face on but not when it disappeared anyone agree

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  58. [Note: Steph posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    Just throwing my two cents in, I also agree with the comments about Giles not necessarily feeling uncomfortable around Willow/Tara anymore than the other relationships. He seems uncomfortable when anybody displays acts of smoochies/love talk/ etc. in front of him. I’m remembering a scene from “Where the Wild Things Are”, where Riley and Buffy are acting REALLY comfy-cozy on the couch lounge. When they leave, Willow says: “They’re probably goin’ to…”, Giles interrupts: “Yes!, thank you, Willow. I did attend University in the Mesozoic Era, I do remember what it’s like.” The way he interrupts her with his “Yes” makes it seem like he’s uncomfortable discussing that sort of topic. Another example is when Xander tells the gang that him and Anya are engaged, then they start kissing. Giles takes off his glasses to wipe them and Buffy says something like, “Is THAT why you’re always cleaning your glasses, so you don’t have to see us?” Giles: “Tell no one.”

    It’s not a big deal or anything, but I never saw Giles being uncomfortable about the Willow/Tara situation or just Tara in particular. Just some examples of why: I always thought Tara and Giles got along really well. I remember scenes where Giles mentioned researching with just Tara at the Magic Box. Also Tara and Giles both shared deep interests/concerns about Willow delving into dark magic more than the other Scoobies do. So much so, that when Willow and Tara fight on top of the balcony at the Bronze in the previous episode, “All the Way”, Willow even THINKS that Tara and Giles were talking about her magic issues to each other behind her back. Plus in “Family”, I thought Giles was going to punch Tara’s dad in the face. He got all Ripper-mode and protective over Tara when her father threatened to physically take Tara with him. That added with Tara hugging Giles goodbye in “Bargaining Pt. 1”, and Giles was completely comfortable hugging Tara. All in all, I’d say that Giles got along with Tara as much as he did with Anya at least.

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  59. [Note: Steph posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    I know Mikejer never said anything about Giles not liking Tara, I just mentioned a few of those scenes because I never got the feeling that Giles was uncomfortable around the Willow and Tara relationship or just Tara in general.

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  60. [Note: DeadLego posted this comment on August 5, 2010.]

    absolutely amazing review. Truely insightful views on both the show and on life and especially depression. And reading the earlier comments don’t worry about thanking me for this comment mike, or they’ll think you’re hitting on me! (i am a girl.)

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  61. [Note: David posted this comment on August 14, 2010.]

    I finally got the chance to sit down and watch this episode, and despite a few not-so-memorable musical numbers, it was simply magnificent. Joss managed to keep things lively and fun (watching Xander and Anya dance was hysterical) while pushing the plot and characterizations forward. Tonally, this had to have been one of the most difficult episodes that Joss created, but I think he pulled it off beautifully.

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  62. [Note: Rose posted this comment on November 21, 2010.]

    Thank-you Mike for your (once again) brilliant, in-depth, insightful reviews. This is one of my favourite Buffy episodes, not only for entertainment value, but also because of the wonderful character interactions. I greatly enjoyed your take on it, especially your analysis of (all!) the lyrics.

    I think my favourite part of the entire episode is the look that Spike gets on his face after he starts to burst into a random rock-ballad, in front of Buffy.

    Thanks again for the fabulous review!

    Like

  63. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 6, 2010.]

    First, thanks for all the comments everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Second, to all the comments regarding my interpretation of Willow’s “filler” line, I wanted to add that I agree it likely wasn’t intended that way. However, that concept doesn’t at all reduce the validity of an interpretation (imo).

    As Jim Emerson (editor of Roger Ebert’s site) said in an interesting essay on Donnie Darko (bold added by me for emphasis):

    [quote]This interpretation of “Donnie Darko” may not be one some fans of the movie prefer, but it is just one of many. Kelly, to his credit, acknowledges that the movie is open to different interpretations, but the movie he describes on the DVD commentary track seems to me (and other fans of the film) perhaps the least interesting of all possible readings.

    Well, a movie exists independent of its maker: All that matters is what’s in that rectangle on the screen, no matter whether it was put there on purpose or not. As the saying goes: Trust the art, not the artist.[/quote]

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  64. [Note: Paula posted this comment on December 7, 2010.]

    Feeling like a complete moron here for not realizing before that Buffy and Spike first kissed (not counting Intervention, obviously) right where they first met, back in School Hard

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  65. [Note: Paula posted this comment on December 7, 2010.]

    …and not counting Something Blue either. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sheesh, how many pre-S6 Spuffy kisses am I forgetting here?!

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  66. [Note: IRIS posted this comment on December 7, 2010.]

    Paula,

    It’s been a while since I watched School Hard, but I don’t recall a Buffy/Spike kiss. When did it happen?

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  67. [Note: Paula posted this comment on December 7, 2010.]

    Iris, I meant they kiss here in Once More, With Feeling in the exact same place where they first met back then (in the alley behind the Bronze). Sorry about the unclear phrasing, English is not my first language. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  68. [Note: IRIS posted this comment on December 7, 2010.]

    Paula,

    Actually, now that I re-read your post, I see what you meant. It wasn’t unclear at all, I just misread it. BTW – I didn’t make that connection either. Very perceptive of you!

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  69. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on December 17, 2010.]

    This is really a great episode. I always cry a little bit during “Walk Through the Fire”. The part that sticks out the most to me in the episode was the great job of showing emotions from Willow during “Something to Sing About”. You can see her face going from just watching Buffy to getting confused as the message of the song starts changing to utter disgust/horror at the revelation that Buffy was torn from heaven. Just brilliant.

    I think what I loved best about this episode is that when I first heard that there was going to be a musical episode, I expected it to be campy and fun but I never really expected that the episode would have such a major impact on the plot of the show. I guess I should have known better than to underestimate Joss.

    I think my favorite comedy moment from the episode is when Giles tells Anya and Tara to backup Buffy. Talk about double meaning.

    I also want to give total props to SMG. She obviously isn’t a singer but that didn’t detract from the show at all for me because of her acting.

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  70. [Note: Rahel posted this comment on January 1, 2011.]

    I’m really surprised everyone is taking Xander’s statement that he summoned Sweet at face value. It seems much more plausible to me that he’s covering for Dawn (and maybe, in his mind, for Anya – he may fear that she’s behind the summoning, since the necklace is from the magic shop and to some extent, he still doesn’t trust Anya). That’s much more in character for him than doing something so stupid and *not telling anyone* when people started dying.

    Btw, mike, great reviews! I’m rewatching the whole series again (2nd time, although some episodes I’ve watched much more. Like OMWF), and this is a much more layered experience than the first time, among other reasons because of your reviews.

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  71. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on January 1, 2011.]

    Yeah, I’m with Rahel on this.

    This was in the middle of Dawn’s klepto fase, right?

    And why would Xander with his six year of demonexperience summon a demon?

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  72. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on January 1, 2011.]

    Rahel, I’d like to agree with you, but a moment in the season 7 episode “Selfless” seems to indicate that he actually did summon Sweet. There’s flashback to OMwF, specifically to the first night of the episode, and Xander is drifting off to sleep mumbling “just … want … happy … ending.” Which is what he says at the end of OMwF in defense of having summoned Sweet.

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  73. [Note: Emmybecca posted this comment on January 31, 2011.]

    I always did think Xander summoning the demon was completely out of character and just a convenient plot device. It never occurred to me that he could be lying, but probably not given fray-adjacent’s post above.

    Otherwise this really is a fantastic episode. The use of a musical episode isn’t detrimental to the show at all, in fact it supports and strengthens it. Major plot progressions, character development, underlying intentions, fears and reasonings all explored, and all made more powerful due to the medium. Song bringing out true feelings is clearly not a new concept (and he takes it further in Angel, but let’s REALLY not go there). The timing within the series, the secrets and needs of all the characters at this point, mean it completely integral to the plot arc, using it to its full potential.

    The lyrics are spectacular – this whole thing is one humungous quote-a-thon. And of course the usual mix of darkness, humour and bathos is there by the bucketload.

    I’m not obscenely musically educated, but I know a little and I was very impressed with the score – he sweeps through musical genres, from power ballads and cute 30s ditties, to rock, to soft but menacing swing jazz with tap dancing. Intricate and unexpected intros, beautiful harmonies, he plays around with his own set up, and does it all perfectly as far as I’m concerned. Then the different, personal refrains from the various characters all suddenly and seemlessly melting together out of the blue.

    What makes me sure of JW’s prowess is that he is actually gently, but lovingly mocking the entire genre of musicals. Anya’s obsession with who gets the ‘breakaway pop hit’, the extras getting way too over-excited about the tiniest of things (mustard, sweeping etc), the impassioned plea for salvation (from a parking ticket), Anya saying ‘it’s like there were only 3 walls’. And this even gives another context for Willow’s filler line – I took this to be purely comedic, but I appreciate the point that art exists independent of its maker.

    There are also references to various other musicals / dances – the thriller dance and the very Disney opening song and the handsome rescuee already mentioned. The workmen /sweeps are very Mary Poppins, the mustard shirts are very Oliver, and Tara and Willow’s duet always reminds me of Hair – there’s a particular song set in a park that has very similar choreography (it’s all about circles/spirals). Giles suggesting they lie down if they hear any inspirational power chords, and Anya’s disappointment with her ‘retro pastiche’. In the fire song, when everyone finally goes after Buffy, it seems very Les Mis to me – Jean Valjean etc. And I swear Sweet’s puppet boys do an attempt at three stooges at one point.

    I only just started purposefully looking for these little homages, but I suspect there are tons more. Perhaps even Spike’s horrendously contrived night funeral attack is a reference to something…I hope so as it’s probably the only way I could forgive JW for this bit!

    And a training montage! That isn’t hokey! Now that’s just plain incredible!

    And finally to the performances, which are really stunning. He has worked to each actor’s strengths (another demonstration of his talent), ASH, AB and EC are all excellent of course, and JM in his indie rock way (Spike in a red shirt…mean anything?). But kudos to NB’s dancing and tongue twisters, and especially to SMG for taking this on herself – and to whoever worked with her. She’s no trained singer, but her songs were powerful and real emotionally, and I’m incredibly relieved they decided not to dub her.

    My fave bits:

    Tara’s jazz hands, and that she actually wears eye liner

    Dawn “I gave birth to a pterodactyl” Anya “Oh my god, did it sing?”

    Anya stealing Xander’s line, and her firm yet supple…tight embrace

    The actually quite filthy lyrics at the end of ‘Under Your Spell’

    And of course, the genius that is “Or maybe midgets”

    Like

  74. [Note: SpikeFan posted this comment on April 29, 2011.]

    Wonderful episode… Top 3 in my book. That kiss at the end was amazing (sorry to sound like a fangirl). So full of desperation. SMG singing was such a wonderful surprise and her saying “I want my fire back” was layered so deeply into this season. The singing allows for so much of the subconscious plot of S6 to come to the surface. People’s secrets are out and they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Willow’s face alone can speak for the utter realization that maybe some things shouldn’t be altered with magic (even if it brought us a wonderful S6 and S7!!!!)

    Like

  75. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 14, 2011.]

    After reading your review Mike it has made watching ‘under your spell’ even more creepy and the very explicit and hid so well as romantic ‘pornagraphic’ bit at the end actually tantamount to date rape. She has affected Tara, erased her memory and then has sex with her when she would most certainly not have had she known what wilow had just done to her.

    Like

  76. [Note: jonas posted this comment on June 26, 2011.]

    My favorite episode – never tire of it. Love the review.

    I just want to say I don’t understand any of the negative/quasi-negative reactions to SMG’s singing voice. Every time I hear it, it strikes me as one of the most lovely voices I’ve ever heard in song. There’s a vulnerable sweetness to her voice that really moves me. I realize she doesn’t have the training similar to Amber’s, but I find it beautiful. I would much rather hear her sing than a great number of popular, successful female vocalists.

    And No, there’s no “Omg! I’m so in love with SMG” crush influence here, for the record.

    Also, the Xander hokeyness is difficult for me each time I watch it. He is seen throughout the episode being just as baffled about the situation as anyone else which just makes his line of explanation strongly fail. For me, this parallels the Xander-reaction-to-Anya in the final episode badness. No problem with Nick’s performance, just the un-naturalness of both situations.

    All in all though, this episode is so fantastic that I feel it makes other shows AND especially all other musicals pale in comparison.

    Like

  77. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 27, 2011.]

    Nathan.Taurus@53, Buffy not hearing Giles singing is a classic thing done in all sorts of musicals: half the cast can be singing away and the other half completely ignore the content of what was sung and it has no effect on the plot other than to tell the audience what’s happening. This is further indicated by the cuts away and by the fact that Buffy is in slow motion while Giles is not: clearly they’re somehow separated from each other here. (And the song is *about* separation, and he’s just about to go away, so there’s even a reason for this structure).

    Like

  78. [Note: PippaHall posted this comment on August 7, 2011.]

    What I liked, was that Tara – despite the fact that she’d just realised that Willow had erased her memories – went to comfort Willow after Buffy sang that she’d been ripped from heaven. A nice example of Tara’s kindness.

    Like

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

    Was great to see Willow suffering for her poor decisions. All her denial in previous episodes has come back to bite her in the ass.

    Like

  80. [Note: Me posted this comment on September 30, 2011.]

    Re, Every episode that you “try” to psychoanalyse (Typing long words does not a psychiatrist make.) I stumbled across this unfortunate page whilst I was looking for intelligent opinions and analyses. However, I must admit that you have been very helpful, you have given me numerous examples of excessive pronouns, unnecessary opinions, textbook gratuitousness and banal “commentary?” Thank you.

    Like

  81. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on September 30, 2011.]

    @’Me:’ There was almost some constructive criticism somewhere in that comment, but it all got washed away in a wave of irony in its most concentrated form. So thank you, too, for a good laugh. โค

    Like

  82. [Note: meh posted this comment on October 23, 2011.]

    There’s a bloober in this one, which I love. During Something to Sing About, Amber Benson fuddles up the dancing a little and turns the wrong way, and then you can see her laughing for a fraction of a second. I wonder if there’s an in-universe reason for it?:)

    Other than that, one of my favorite episodes, which, like you said, is made better by the fact that it is utterly re-watchable. I listen to the soundtrack on my bike rides

    Like

  83. [Note: Dave posted this comment on January 1, 2012.]

    Gotta feel bad for Spike. Someone with a largely non-existent moral compass being jerked around is not good for anyone. Something the younger, Slayer-minded Buffy would have thought about before engaging in anything remotely lust based with a Vampire who loves her.

    Like

  84. [Note: Rob posted this comment on January 18, 2012.]

    I love the Yma Sumac reference. Every so often Buffy will make some reference that’s surprising considering her age (Macho Man?), but for Spike a 50s-60s reference isn’t surprising.

    Like

  85. [Note: BGAP posted this comment on March 11, 2012.]

    This is the most entertaining episode of BtVS for a broad audience. (except for those few who hate musicals) I even let my 11 year old daughter watch the first couple of songs. She loved the bunny part of “I’ve Got a Theory,” and recognized Anthony Stewart Head from her favorite show “Merlin.” “Wow, Uther has a great singing voice!” she said with amazement.

    Like

  86. [Note: keekey posted this comment on March 11, 2012.]

    Definitely agree, BGAP! Although my husband hates musicals (and he likes Buffy but doesn’t love it) and even he really, really enjoys this episode.

    One thing he doesn’t like about musicals is that people often break into song for no apparent reason and so he likes that, in this episode, the singing is due to a spell and almost everyone is kind of mortified about the fact that they’re suddenly serenading each other with their innermost feelings.

    Like

  87. [Note: Tim posted this comment on May 7, 2012.]

    I recently read an interview with Whedon where he said that one thing he wants to do in the future is produce/write a musical. Now that he is a mainstream success, this seems like a very real possibility and I am VERY excited.

    Like

  88. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on May 18, 2012.]

    Was I the only one who thought of THE STEPFORD WIVES in episodes 6-8, with Willow as one of the evil husbands trying to create the “perfect” (read: compliant) wives*? Or that Willow didn’t consider that Tara already had experience being brainwashed by her biological family?

    On a more positive note, someone on TV Tropes reminded me that Willow could reasonably have reminded Tara of the time she/Tara used magic to hide something (which turned out to be fake anyway, but that’s not the point) from the Scoobies, and they almost died because they couldn’t see the demons attacking them, but that either: that was the line Willow wasn’t willing to cross and risk hurting Tara that way, or Willow had so thoroughly forgiven Tara that she/Willow didn’t even remember it happening. Either way, Willow still loves Tara completely, even though she’s getting worse at showing it.

    *which I just realized, by typing this sentence, connects her with Warren!!!

    Like

  89. [Note: Candice posted this comment on June 24, 2012.]

    Once More With Feeling has a special place for me because it’s the first Buffy episode I’ve ever seen. I saw it at a Buffy Sing Along at a local theater and I fell in love with the music. I didn’t understand anything about the plot or any of the characters, but I could tell that whatever the back story was it was really intriguing and I wanted to know more about what was happening. After they stopped having the sing-alongs for legal reasons (which still bugs me to this day), I went online and found OMWF and watched it a few more times. It’s this episode that caused me to start watching Buffy as a series starting from Season I. I wanted to work my way up to OMWF so I could finally understand what they were all singing about. I discovered an incredible show in the process. Now I just watched OMWF because I finally reached it in the series sequence and it some ways it was like I was watching it for the first time. For the first time I finally understand the back story and plot of the episode and how the characters feel. I never realized the song Give Me Something to Sing About was so deep, and when Buffy sang I live in Hell because I’ve been expelled from Heaven, and saw her friends faces with visible shock and hurt written all over them, I found it incredibly sad and moving, and I couldn’t believe it I started crying! It’s funny because I thought it was largely a peppy musical, but here I was in tears now that I fully comprehended what just happened, what she revealed, and all the events that led up to this. In some ways I find this episode even sadder than The Gift. Did anybody else cry during this scene in this episode?

    Like

  90. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on June 26, 2012.]

    Hi Candice! I too have teared up once or twice during that number. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting performance is (unsurprisingly) outstanding — she conveys so much even while she’s working so hard on the singing and dancing!

    Like

  91. [Note: George posted this comment on July 25, 2012.]

    @Me, wrong episode perhaps? While the guy has a tendency to needlessly overanalyse certain episodes, or forget to actually convey an opinion due to a myriad of embedded quotes, this post wasn’t one of them. Aside from the fairly off ‘Giles being uncomfortable around Willow/Tara’ thing (rather, Giles has simply always been uncomfortable with the scoobies’ public displays of affection/intimacy), the review was mostly well thought out and written.

    Like

  92. [Note: TheShanshuProphecy posted this comment on October 16, 2012.]

    I thought this read more as a re-cap than a thoughtful review – the descriptions/commentary don’t go past the obvious – perhaps that is because the episode is so self-explanatory & consequently difficult to write about and I have to admit that I am yet to ever see a good review of OMWF so, it’s nothing personal to the reviewer. This is hands-down my all-time favourite episode & I can re-watch it over & over (the only part I FF is Dawn’s awful (and contrived) dance with the puppet guys – ugh. As noted in this review, the strength comes from character dev & contribution to narrative – and the end kiss of Spike/Buffy – finally.

    Like

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