[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 11/27/2001]
Between the wonderful Buffy/Willow parallels and the potently revealing Buffy/Spike scenes, you’d think we’d have the beginnings of a great episode. But oh no, it turns out those two pieces are the primary things keeping this episode afloat. Here lies, at least what many people consider, another major candidate for the title of “worst episode in the entire series.” Just like “Beer Bad” [4×05] , the ‘significant other,’ I can’t, in my right mind, agree with that assessment — there’s plenty worse than this in S1 (and “Where the Wild Things Are” [4×18] for that matter).
But I’m not going to stand here and simply defend this episode against all the bile thrown at it. Instead, I’m going to outline its strengths and very apparent weaknesses. “Wrecked” actually does earn some of the bile thrown at it, especially when it comes to how poorly Willow is (mostly) characterized in what begins here and is carried over into a few subsequent episodes. But I beg of all you, gentle readers, to please take a step back and be willing to see what “Wrecked” actually does right! Yes, there are things it does right, so let me jump right in to explaining them.
It’s the ‘morning after’ for Buffy and Willow and the fact that everyone is out of the Summers’ home besides Dawn and Tara solidifies, even further, how Tara is the only one fully there for Dawn when she needs someone right now. I really love the relationship these two have developed while everyone else is all caught up in their own shit. Speaking of being caught up, check out Buffy having a seriously hard time pulling herself away from Spike after an entire night of crazy sex times (to put it very softly). In what is likely the best scene in the episode, Buffy only notices that the house came down around them when she wakes up the next morning. There are cuts and bruises all over her along with, even more interestingly, Spike.
Buffy’s clearly completely disgusted with herself over her actions here, and she should be. Although she claims her reason for bolting right there is because she left Dawn alone all night, we can see that that’s not really the entire truth. This is made all the more evident when Spike grabs her and starts touching her (again, going with the subtle here). Buffy says “stop!” Spike simply responds, “make me.” What’s interesting here is that we all know Buffy could easily make Spike stop in this situation, but she doesn’t. Instead she gives into her urges and starts kissing him again. This is particularly important to take note of because it directly relates to Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy in “Seeing Red” [6×19] , of which I’ll definitely cover later.
Here, though, we quickly see that their kissing is becoming a lot more than that. Unfortunately for Spike he makes a big mistake by blurting out, “I knew the only thing better than killing a slayer would be-” This comment not only puts on display what we’ve known for a while is one of Spike’s perverted fantasies (i.e. wanting consensual sex with a slayer), but it also underscores Buffy’s current limit to the degradation she’s willing to be a part of.
Spike thinks that vampires simply “get you hot.” Buffy’s response, though, is both truthful, brutal, and actually quite mean: “A vampire got me hot. One. But he’s gone. You’re just… You’re just convenient.” Even though Spike’s still an fairly evil creature, I’ve got to sympathize with his reaction here. Ow. Spike’s been fueling this fire to an extent, but Buffy’s just being downright bad here — to herself and to Spike. Buffy is clearly trying to convince herself this isn’t big deal, but Spike doesn’t buy it for a second and calls what happened a “bloody revelation! … I may be dirt… but you’re the one who likes to roll in it, Slayer.” The acting in this entire scene is superb.
Buffy’s response here is also extremely foreshadowy of her actions to come. Although she is open to Spike about it now, it’s something she feels she can’t tell anyone else. It’s not until “Dead Things” [6×13] that she fully realizes the effect that using Spike for sex is having on her. Many people find the Buffy/Spike relationship as something awful but I, once again, feel the opposite. The reason why is summed up by Buffy and Spike themselves. Buffy tells him, “Get a grip. Like you’re God’s gift.” Spike’s reply of, “Hardly. Wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, would it?,” is extremely true, and is my entire point.
The fact that Spike is a soulless, murderous vampire yet Buffy has had and continues to have extremely rough sex with him translates to some extremely compelling television for me. Why is this so compelling you might ask? Well, it’s because it is completely believable based on the characters’ histories and the build-up that goes straight back to Buffy’s near suicide attempt in “Bargaining Pt. 2” [6×02] . Then “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] succinctly summed up the need for Buffy to feel anything to make her suicidal and depressive tendencies disappear. This is precisely why Spike himself says “wouldn’t be nearly as interesting” if he was “God’s gift.”
Through this physical relationship, it appears Buffy has largely accomplished her goal of feeling something other than the cold, but what’s left in its place is a huge emotional mess that’ll take a good part of the season to figure out and work through… as it should be. After all, how many people just ‘get over’ wanting themselves dead and/or having an addiction in just a few weeks? Exactly…
Later, while trying to find Dawn, Buffy tells Spike that their night together was the most perverse, degrading experience of her entire life. Even though that seems to be intended as an insult to Spike and an excuse for her to end it here, Spike’s response of “yeah, me too” instead diffuses her digust. Spike also tells her that he’s in her system now and that she’ll crave him for sexual pleasure. As we know, he’s not wrong here even though Buffy’ll never openly admit it.
As has been demonstrated by all the awesome I’ve just pointed out in regard to Buffy and Spike, “Wrecked” does an extremely admirable job of showing us the why and the how of this joining and is even willing to dig a bit deeper. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Willow. First I’d just like to make a mention of Tara. As Willow and Buffy straggle home, they find Tara and Dawn in the kitchen together. Amy essentially blurts out what Willow did the previous night, which completely spoils Dawn’s lie about Willow doing better. Tara just has to rightfully bolt at this point. Good for her!
Here’s where the positives start to disappear though. Amy describes Rack to Willow, and it’s already far too obvious that this episode’s plainly and openly about drugs. My problem with this is twofold. First is that “Wrecked” is just so damn heavy-handed and un-subtle in its approach of the topic. Second is that, even if this was an episode that subtly paralleled drugs via addictionish magical symptoms and nothing more, the episodes that follow it prove to be this one’s utter downfall and skid Willow’s character development right off course from the promising direction it was headed.
Instead of continuing the theme of control and power that Willow had started way back in the beginning of the series, “Wrecked” derails that course and tries to launch a new idea that Willow’s problem all this time was a simple substance abuse, which is honestly a much less interesting problem even if it was protrayed better. Even though the end of the season and S7 largely correct this flaw, it doesn’t alter the fact that the middle of S6 suffers because of it. This, in reality, is “Wrecked”‘s biggest fault, and it’s a big one at that.
The ‘drug’ scenes here are simply heavy-handed. The down and out people waiting for the dealer to give them the goods, the crazy psychadelic trips, the spinning, the wacky music, etc. All way overdone. You know something’s wrong when Willow’s crying in the shower and I simply don’t care because of how poorly what she went through was handled. Additionally, Amy later scavenging Buffy’s house for magic weed? Come on… how much more over the top do we really need to go here? Oh yeah, a car crash with Buffy’s little sister!
The ‘withdrawl’ scene at the end is just another over-the-top touch. If we have to see this detour in Willow’s character development, couldn’t it at least be something unique to magic rather than treating her situation as if she was on actual drugs? Buffy and the garlic gloves are much better, but I’m a little confused on whether garlic would do any good anyway. We’ve never seen garlic mentioned or shown to do anything to vamps before.
Even though the Willow thread was handled extremely poorly here, there’s still some great dialogue in the conversation between Buffy and Willow towards the end. Willow finally admits that the reason Tara left was because of her magic overuse. It’s also here, where we finally get an awesome piece of truth about what Willow’s problem truly is: “I mean, if you could be regular Willow or super Willow, who would you be? … Who was I? Just some girl. Tara didn’t even know that girl.” See, now that’s more of what I’m looking for! Willow’s magic use was always a cover for the insecurity inside her — something that gave “mousey” Willow power. Tara didn’t, in fact, ever know Mousey Willow, which is why her admission of that is so refreshing to hear. For proof of this, please direct your attention back to the Buffy character bible that is “Restless” [4×22] .
I just wish the rest of Willow’s material in this episode was as interesting as this brilliant flash of insight. At least we’ve got Buffy, who when Willow goes on about what she’s done lately, shows realization via her eyes that she’s done personally disgusting things as well (although not nearly as bad as what Willow’s been doing). Willow’s comments about being free of herself exactly reflects how Buffy feels about sex with Spike — her ability to get away from her resurrection depression. It’s even more interesting to me that even though Buffy is the one to give Willow the pep talk, she herself ends up enjoying the freedom of being ‘gone’ in just the next episode. Clearly Buffy recognizes her problem, but can’t stop until well after she, too, bottoms out like Willow. It’s an unfortunately truth in life that realizing you have a problem is a long way from actually doing something about it.
Before wrapping this review up, I just want to mention that the Magic Box sequences researching the stolen diamond go on for too long. The endless research of something obviously not in the books they’re looking in gets pretty boring after so long. Although I like that Buffy would rather sit and stare aimlessly at books than go to Spike for help at this point. I also like how she makes a ton of excuses for Willow’s behavior that, as I’ve already pointed out, very clearly — and she knows it — parallels herself.
Overall, this is a very problematic episode that still has some really good material in it. Although I understand why people have problems with it — and valid problems they are — I do not understand why everyone just calls it a lost cause altogether. Big problems? Yes. Still some great scenes mixed into it? You bet! It’s those handful of quality moments that really keep this episode from diving into the nebulous wasteland that is the D-range. It really doesn’t deserve an F either because, although it failed at part of what it was trying to do, it succeedly wonderfully at the other. I only give out F’s when everything fails. For all of “Wrecked”‘s problems, it still has great Buffy/Spike interaction, a great Buffy/Willow scene, and solid pacing (sans Magic Box scenes). All those large pluses have to count for something, don’t they?
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Dawn saying Buffy looks all “sore and limpy.” Poor Dawn’s left all alone and doesn’t have a clue what’s going on around her other than things keep getting worse.
+ The idea that too much magic causes its user burnout.
+ The entrance to Rack’s place is pretty neat.
+ How scared Rack is when sensing the amount of pure power Willow’s accumulated and doesn’t even know she has yet.
+ Willow magically re-animating one of Tara’s outfits. Very touching!
+ Dawn making peanut butter and banana quesadillas. Awesome!
+ I love the subtle “hungry and horny” reference Dawn unknowingly makes: “[Buffy’s] such a pig when she kills things.” It gets us thinking about Faith, which is particularly important, thematically, in “Dead Things” [6×13] .
+ Buffy turning around while Spike puts his clothes on. I love Spike’s comment about having her “blushing eyes.”
+ Cool effect of Willow magically scorching the demon.