Buffy 6×16: Hell’s Bells

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner | Director: David Solomon | Aired: 03/05/2002]

Anya says, “this is the happiest day of my whole life,” which is immediately followed by a burst of thunder from a storm outside — an obvious bit of symbolism that lays out what we’re about to experience. “Hell’s Bells” is an episode very firmly centered around characters. Its plot is so scarce it‘s almost not even there, which doesn’t bother me one bit. While I think several aspects of it could have been tighter, I find myself enjoying the vast majority of it. Xander’s decision to leave Anya right before the wedding is handled excellently — both the writing and the acting. Do I like the decision to split them up? Well, that’s a complicated question. I guess the answer would be “I’m not sure.” While, personally, I would have loved to see Xander work through his fright and get married anyway, I think he probably made the right decision. Willow sums it up perfectly: “I feel like I should be hating Xander. But I can’t. I just… I just hope he’s okay.”

For all the bits and pieces touched on, Xander’s really the focus of the episode. Right from the start we catch a glimpse of the now infamous Uncle Rory, whose failed jokes only succeed in making Xander annoyed. We’ve heard for quite some time about how bad his family is, but for the first time we see it first hand. Let me say that they definitely live up to expectations, which is not a good thing for Xander. Even catching the quickest glimpse of Xander’s relatives makes it clear why Xander has the committment issues he does. I mean, wow, those are some annoying people. I also love how Anya’s demons are, in general, so much more well behaved and polite about the entire ceremony. This just goes to show that humans can act like demons all the same.

There are two crucial moments for Xander here: the false vision and breaking up with Anya. The demon’s orb shows Xander his nightmare vision of his future with Anya. Buffy’s dead for good, he’s crippled, Anya hates him, they have kids who hate them, and then finally Xander gets so angry at Anya he acts out in violence. Real or not, this is what Xander’s been, mostly subconciously, nervous about all season. He had the jitters for months and kept waiting and waiting to announce their wedding. Then, in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] , many of these fears get sung out loud, except no one wants to directly address them in fear of what might happen if they go down that route. When fears and problems like these aren’t communicated before the wedding, good luck doing it after.

I believe Xander’s root fear is that he’s going to turn into his dad. Without a strong role model of a father, or a family for that matter, I completely sympathize with Xander’s concerns. He rethinks this wedding not simply out of his own fear, but also because of how that fear and how his past might end up hurting Anya down the road. Marriage isn’t something that should be treated lightly, imho, and I feel that, although extremely painful now, if Xander really isn’t ready yet, he made the right decision. It feels like too many people get married without knowing their partners or, more importantly, themselves all that well. Without that basic understanding of themselves, how can they ever hope to consistently communicate with each other?

The thing is, as extreme as some of Xander’s worries are (pushed to the surface by the phony vision), many of them aren’t so extreme; many of them really reflect how a lot of families, unfortunately, end up relating. We can also see a massive influence of Xander’s parents in his nightmare version of himself. To sum it up: he’s got issues! These issues should be fully recognized and worked out, on an individual level, before attempting a “for life” union with another person. Before you can share your life with someone, you’ve got to know yourself. On a side note, the acting from both Nicholas Brendon and Emma Caulfield was excellent in that phony vision sequence — I completely bought the situations that were seen.

What I’ve just got through saying is finally verbalized by Xander himself as he painfully breaks it off with Anya: “It wasn’t you. It wasn’t you I was hating. I had these thoughts, and… fears before this. Maybe we just went too fast … We can’t start over. If this is a mistake, it’s forever, and … I don’t want to hurt you. Not that way. I’m sorry. I am so sorry.” Xander’s talk with Anya at the end is potent because what he says is just so genuine. He’s not trying to be mean; he doesn’t want to hurt Anya. He does this because he’s simply and genuinely not ready for that kind of commitment.

When he looks back at this dad furious at his mom, likely drunk, Xander sees in himself the potential to be like that, and he doesn’t want to risk hurting Anya down the road. I think all of us have confidence in the guy, but that’s not what’s important. Like Xander says about marriage, “If this is a mistake, it’s forever. And I don’t want to hurt you. Not that way.” Essentially, Xander needs to find out what we already know about him. The only way to do this is to be alone with oneself, and find that peace and understanding within. The one thing Xander’s truly at fault here for is his timing. He should have have a serious chat with Anya about all this after Buffy died or, at the very latest, after “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] .

Moving onto Anya, I’ll say that even though she gets the brunt of the pain here, she’s not a complete innocent either, as this demon’s timely appearance proves. Anya’s hilarious, yet ultimately meaningful vows, say a lot about her. All throughout the episode she struggles to get her vows just right, which parallels how she’s struggled to become more human over the years. It’s sadly ironic how the moment she finally gets her vows worked out just right is when Xander leaves. I wholly sympathize with Xander, while still being slightly angry at him for him awful timing, and feel absolutely awful for Anya. One might be tempted to call this cosmic payback for all her years as a vengeance demon, but, innocent or not, I just don’t think she deserved this.

Anya says, “Okay. For the last time. ‘I, Anya, want to marry you, Xander, because… I love you and I’ll always love you. And… before I knew you, I was like a completely different person. Not even a person, really… and I had seen what love could do to people, and it was… hurt and sadness. Alone was better. And then, suddenly there was you, and… you knew me. You saw me, and it was this… thing. You make me feel safe and warm. So, I get it now. I finally get love, Xander. I really do.'” This wonderful speech sums up just how far Anya’s come, but also highlights where she needs to go. Her relationship with Xander took her from an ex-demon to a person. Now only she can make the change from a person to herself.

The old man/demon points out that Anya is “as vindictive as ever.” We know he’s so wrong, though, as we’ve come to be shown through Anya’s actions and growth. For example, Anya is very fair to Dawn in “Older and Far Away” [6×14] after finding out she was stolen from. Anya’s definately grown, but most of that growth is still entwined in her relationship with Xander. Since becoming human, she’s never figured out who she is, as an individual. Although I’m torn on the issue of whether they should have gotten married, I think I’ll settle on looking at it this way: I, personally, wanted to see them get married, and am very sad it never happened. But, from a character perspective, I think it’s more fruitful to have them not get married and figure themselves out first. As I’ve pointed out, they both have serious obstacles they must overcome before being ready for a successful marriage.

I found it interesting that D’Hoffryn is the one there for Anya at the end. When in panic, Anya returns to what she knows: vengeance. Only, as a surprise to her, she can’t do it anymore; she’s not like she was before knowing Xander — she’s changed. This arc for Anya will climax during S7’s “Selfless” [7×05] : Anya’s best single episode in the entire series, where she fully comes to the same realizations I’ve pointed out here.

Although the episode focuses on Anya and Xander, Buffy gets a few nice scenes, some of which reflect good follow-through from “As You Were” [6×15] . Buffy tells Xander how happy she is for him and how it gives her hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. But they don’t get married and the next episode is the gut-wrenching “Normal Again” [6×17] , so maybe it wasn’t the best idea to ride all her hopes on Xander.

I like how even though Buffy broke it off with Spike in the previous episode, she’s still a little hurt that Spike has a “new girl” (obviously just there to make Buffy jealous). I love how all of this is played lightly by both the episode and the characters. Spike and Buffy’s conversation is just lovely. Mature and lovely. Buffy really is “glowing,” radioactivity notwithstanding. Buffy also gives Spike the confirmation he wanted that she still cares about him.

Buffy tries to tell Spike that she “pretty much deserve[s]” Spike trying to make her feel bad a little, although Spike won’t have any of it. At the end of “As You Were” [6×15] Buffy finally stood up and told herself and Spike that not only was she hurting herself in this relationship, but she was using Spike in the process. Soulless demon or not, he didn’t deserve how she treated him some of the time. Spike says, “It’s nice to see you happy. Even them. I don’t see it a lot.” It can be seen here that they’re both hurt by the situation. Spike, especially, seems very unhappy — not necessarily at Buffy, but more at the situation they’re in. This is only going to get worse for Spike in the next couple episodes.

In conclusion, “Hell’s Bells” isn’t exactly a spectacular episode, but there’s not much I can find wrong with it either. The humor is mostly humorous, the drama is mostly dramatic, and the characters have fundamentally grown and learned things about themselves, painful as it is. Although it’s bit rough around the edges and a couple of scenes don’t quite work as well as intended (mainly involving some of the interactions between Xander’s family and Anya’s demons), I still really like this episode. I also find myself torn between what I want and what I think is best for the characters, which is almost always a sign of a show doing something right. Beyond the tough decisions, though, there’s not a lot of depth here, which ultimately ends up holding it back a bit as well. When factoring all this in, I’m thinking “quite good, but not great.”

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy and Willow sharing a special moment of hatred towards their brides maid dresses.
+ It’s just amazing to me how people like Uncle Rory manage to ever be allowed to speak, yet there’s people like him all over the place. Poor Xander!
+ Willow and Tara flirting while helping Anya get her dress on.
+ It’s D’Hoffryn!! He doesn’t even need to say anything at this point. Simply his presence is entertaining.
+ Spike’s date is hilarious. Just some random goth chick who likely has not the slightest clue what Spike is.
+ I love Xander’s reaction to the old guy claiming he’s him from the future. “Oh, from the future! For a minute I thought you were a nutball but now that you’re from the future-”
+ Willow and Xander’s interaction is also just… beautiful. I also love the nod to continuity with them in formal wear (see “Homecoming” [3×05] ).
+ Buffy’s excuse for Xander’s dissappearance? “The minister had to perform an emergency C-section.”
+ Clem raising his hand when Buffy asks if anyone is from out of town.
+ Dawn and the horn guy comparing how messed up each other’s families are. The mutual answer: “I guess they’re all pretty messed up.”
+ Willow wanting to cover the dead demon with flowers.

–Β The two “families” erupting into a big fight. This is a little over-the-top for my tastes, and felt unnecessary.


[Score]

84/100

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55 thoughts on “Buffy 6×16: Hell’s Bells”

  1. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on June 9, 2008.]

    Emma Caulfield always makes me cry in this episode. Uh…in a completely non-wussy way…

    “It feels like too many people get married without knowing their partners or, more importantly, themselves all that well. Without that basic understanding of themselves, how can they ever hope to consistently communicate with each other?”

    Amen. I maintain that Xander’s initial proposal was, as Anya accused him of at the time, a romantic gesture brought on by the fact that he thought they might die. I don’t think it was as carefully considered as it should have been. Unfortunately, that’s a little too common even here in the real world and, while I’m certainly not against marriage, I feel that some people need to spend some more time getting to know both themselves and their partner before embarking on that journey.

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  2. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 9, 2008.]

    You think Normal Again is more painful to watch than this? OK, I must have issues then, ‘cos I think the opposite. I consider this episode more painful than any other in the entire series with the exception of _The Body_.

    (I suppose it depends whether you find social situations like weddings unpleasant in and of themselves. If I were really at a wedding like this one I suspect I’d be comatose by the end of it.)

    That’s not to say it’s not a very good episode: it is, definitely, you’re right there.

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  3. [Note: jun posted this comment on June 9, 2008.]

    She always looks so beautiful there at the end. And just seeing that dress puts “Mrs.” in my head, which is not at all a bad thing.

    I liked your review and agree with the score. One thing that personally bugs me about this episode is that the old guy’s eyes don’t appear to be brown. If I were Xander, I’d be, “How can you be me?! Your eyes are blue, dude!”

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  4. [Note: dimanche posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    And his nose is way too pointy to ever be Xander’s. It’s a dead giveaway.
    Er…

    I agree with your review, and your score, but you did leave out one of my favorite moments in the series:

    Anya: ”Okay. Blah, blah, blah, misogynistic. Blah, blah, ‘I do however entrust you … um, with my heart. Take care of my heart, won’t you please? Take care of it because, it’s all that I have. And, if you let me, I’ll take care of your heart too.”

    This quote breaks my heart every single time I watch this episode, especially now, knowing what’s coming. As you mentioned before, I believe that this too shows how far Anya’s come – she’s prepared to commit, and to love, and shows how far she still has to go – she needs to realize that she can be more than a wife, or as you said, she needs to make a transition from a person to herself.

    I have nothing more to add really. This is a good episode, and among the saddest in the ‘verse.

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  5. [Note: AnonDK posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    Am I the only one who’s not that tuned into how I look? I don’t know my bloody eye colour! I’ve convinced myself it changes.

    And Normal Again is more tragic if you consider the lengths Buffy goes to stay in another life that has her locked up: it clearly visualises how pathetic and unfulfilling her life has become. Unlike this episode, though, it ends with hope (besides that annoying, Dallas-style ending that people STILL think is genuine!)

    The only thing I disagree about Xander’s decision, besides the afromentioned keeping it too long, was leaving Anya to call off the wedding while he walked off. That was cowardly, and a little out of character as it’s not like Xander to abandon someone he loves to clean up his mess. The solitary walk down the isle is heartbreaking, though 😦 As is every other scene that follows it (I hate seeing Xander so lost and alone in that motel room, despite how much I hate him at that moment, which proves how much of a damn fanboy if nobody got that before…)

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    Great review, mike and I definitively agree with your score. Anya always makes me cry here. This episode shows how far she´s come, she finally knows love and knows what is to be human. Unfortunately, she finds out in a bad way, her walk down the aisle is just heartbreaking. As for Xander, I also blame him for his timing. In fact, I think Xander lets things fester for a long time, it´s like he doesn´t want to talk about things right away, in fear of hurting other people but by doing the way he does, it´s just much worse. Conclusion, this is a pretty good episode and, although painful, I really like to watch it.

    I just want to add one or two tidbits you forgot. One is the last scene with the girls and Buffy´s shirt says “I survived” that I think it´s very poignant considering her state of mind this season and another is Xander´s kids:Joss and Sarah, taken from Joss Whedon and SMG.
    kEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

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  7. [Note: dimanche posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    Joss and Sarah? Really? That’s pretty funny. I never noticed. A lot of stuff tends to go right over my head. That’s why I come here.

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  8. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    very effective review (and surprisingly quick) i think it capped all the major points except for one thats really been nagging me. it’s just that the demon is so lame! some of the interaction between it and anya was reminiscent of the troll and her in “triangle” and that really is the bottoms. plus when buffy starts beating it up and anya runs over to xander to tell him everythings all right (once more just like in “triangle”) you can feel the lameness flowing in. if the demon had been handled more effectively this would have been a better episode.

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  9. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    “One is the last scene with the girls and Buffy´s shirt says “I survived” that I think it´s very poignant considering her state of mind this season”

    If I remember correctly, the writer and director of the episode said on the commentary that they weren’t happy with that inclusion. I could have misunderstood as it’s been a while since I watched commentaries, but I tend to agree with them. Don’t you think it’s kind of cynical and self-centred? I’m not keen on it.

    Mike, great review again, and I’m very pleased with the score you gave it. I was worried you might’ve given it a lower grade because I didn’t know your stance on Anya/Xander breaking up. All I have to say is that I’m in the exact same position as you. On the one hand, splitting them up – especially at this time in such a depressing season – just *feels* like a mistake. On the other, it paved way for great character development, a great, melancholic story, and a climax to the issues of Xander’s commitment buried across the previous 3 seasons.

    One thing I was disappointed you left out: Tara and Willow’s flirting. By far my favourite highlight (tied with Anya’s endless vows) in a pretty depressing episode. It’s little buds like these being placed across the season that really make the end of ‘Entropy’ feel worth it.

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  10. [Note: Paula posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    At this point of watching S6, I was so focused on all things Spuffy that Xander cancelling the wedding at the last moment came as a very considerable shock. Had I been paying attention, of course, there would have been plenty of signs to see.

    I think that while Xander of course left it way too late (I think I’d die if I was the bride and got left on the altar like that, and I felt horribly sorry for poor Anya), I understand why he came to act like he did. I’ve been cursed (obviously not literally…) with a very low self-esteem, and I constantly find myself just having to pull myself together and do things in spite of feeling majorly insecure about my chances and abilities, both professionally and in my personal life. Because otherwise I’d never do or accomplish anything, and I mostly manage it all just fine, anyway. I think that up to the wedding, Xander was just plain willing himself to believe that it would all be all right. Not to mention that the closer the wedding got, the more unthinkable the idea of calling the whole thing off no doubt became. Right up until the moment he realized that he could not and must not go through with it.

    (I keep wondering, though, how the writers figured the relationship of Xander and Buffy this late in the series. As I understand it, they kept the door open to the possibility of bringing them together in S7 till quite late. So here, is the main technical reason for the Xander/Anya breakup to make it possible to get those two together? And what with Buffy’s death being mentioned in that fake vision of the future and all, are we really meant to think that the feelings he still has for Buffy are one of the reasons why Xander cancels the wedding, or was that just the way it came across to me?)

    I think it’s one of S6’s strong points that nearly all of the main characters make big mistakes, and both the reasons and the consequences are for the most part in plain sight. And thankfully, the series is at this point not at all forthcoming with sunny alternative scenarios where everyone acted in a sensible and responsible manner and everything came off just right as a consequence. What we get instead is how life works.

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  11. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    “(I keep wondering, though, how the writers figured the relationship of Xander and Buffy this late in the series. As I understand it, they kept the door open to the possibility of bringing them together in S7 till quite late. So here, is the main technical reason for the Xander/Anya breakup to make it possible to get those two together? And what with Buffy’s death being mentioned in that fake vision of the future and all, are we really meant to think that the feelings he still has for Buffy are one of the reasons why Xander cancels the wedding, or was that just the way it came across to me?) ”

    That’s a very interesting perspective – I never knew how seriously JW and co were considering spawning the Buffy/Xander relationship. It suddenly puts the first episodes of s7 in a new light. (I realise you yourself are sceptical about this, as I am, too. This is just interesting to mull over!)

    One thing that irked me was why Anya walked up the altar after Xander broke up with her. Why would she do this? :/

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  12. [Note: Moz posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    It’s great to see another review so soon, Mike! I generally lurk because I mostly agree with what you’ve said. But here, I think this episode deserves a slightly higher score, maybe 90 or something.

    This episode may not be ambitious or ‘spectacular’, but the character developments are brilliant. Regardless what you think about the Xander/Anya breakup, the whole season has been padding up to this point. Not only that though, there’s huge implication for the future. For that alone, I think it deserves a 90. I tend to think of it as something like “Wild At Heart” or “New Moon Rising”. Both of which you’ve given a 90.

    I don’t see the big fight at the end to be over the top or any of their interactions out of place either. I’m actually surprised that the fight didn’t happen sooner given how appallingly Xander’s family behaved. I would have found it jarring if the demons simply put up with it without any outburst.

    Just my 2 cents. πŸ™‚

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  13. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on June 10, 2008.]

    Just to attempt to answer wilpy’s question, “One thing that irked me was why Anya walked up the altar after Xander broke up with her. Why would she do this? :/”

    Speaking as a girl who’s played Maid of Honor on more than one occasion, I’ve seen completely rational women do very strange things on their wedding day. Something about that day ups the stress and freak-out level to monumental proportions for a girl (and sometimes the guy) so I have stopped trying to make sense of ANYTHING that a bride-to-be might do, especially if she just got left at the altar (never seen that happen, personally, thank goodness).

    And for an alternate reason: for dramatic effect. πŸ˜‰

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  14. [Note: Marshal posted this comment on June 15, 2008.]

    I’m ecstatic that the reviews are back and on a roll. Keep up the great work, and as usual I agree with the score to a T. This episode is numbingly true to life, and represents a very real fear of becoming like your parents. There was no way Xander was going to marry Anya in this episode, he has had far too much familial baggage weighing him down to step out from under that shadow.

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

    This is the ep that for me really started to kill the show. It was all the proof I needed that Joss and Co. have no idea whatsoever how to actually write a relationship that works and thus have to fall back on the cliche “we will break up every meaningful relationship ever one the show” factor. It’s not necessarily a bad episode on its own, but rather it’s the death of the one positive relationship on the show and the beginning of the end of the true greatness of the show as a result.

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  16. [Note: Paula posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    While I definitely don’t hate the rest of the show, I think Bill has a point of sorts. Joss seems to be notorious for never letting his characters have a good relationship for too long. If there’s no breakup, then someone dies. I first thought this was some sort of overall pessimism regarding relationships, but having read and listened to some of his commentaries, I gather it’s more about keeping things interesting instead.

    I think it’s pretty self-evidently far easier to make interesting television out of drama, conflicts and general unhappiness than about a bunch of happy and well-adjusted people enjoying thoroughly good life together. Then again, of course, there’s Addams Family. πŸ™‚

    I for one definitely don’t think that Joss and his writing team(s) have no shortcomings whatsoever. However, I still enjoy their stuff better than almost anything else on television. And anyone who thinks they could do better – hey, go ahead and do it, why don’t you?

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  17. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    It’s a shame their break-up taints the rest of the show for you, Bill. IMO s7 was great and only tripped up around the middle (as a few other seasons of BTVS do, strangely enough). I can never decide on whether Anya and Xander’s split was for the best or not. While I think they were better for it in s7, you’re right that it’s become Joss’s “thing” to never let characters or couples be happy. There’s something about Anya and Xander’s relationship that should’ve been untouchable. They were bizarrely the ‘normal’ couple of the show in the later seasons, and they truly were the light at the end of the tunnel a lot of the time. I think s7’s sense of hopelessness owed a lot to their split, and was a contributing factor to the general negative fan reaction.

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  18. [Note: mission posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    For most of the series, I think the writers do a great job of handling the fact that NB is actually 10 years older than Xander. In this episode, I don’t really buy it. Xander’s actions are somewhat understandable for a 20 year old, but I find them really hard to believe as played by the 30 year old NB. Part of what made Anya and Xander work was that at 28 and 30 it was easy for EC and NB to play a mature relationship.

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  19. [Note: Tic-Tac-Tic-Tac posted this comment on December 30, 2008.]

    Good episode of the season. Even if in the long run i don’t like the end result. The episode was just very good , irrelevant of that , i would certainly prefer at least one relationship to remain intact.

    As for whether Xander’s decision is wrong. It is wrong because it is made for the wrong reasons. Giving into fear , and paranoia. And that was after the marriage had already started.

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  20. [Note: Richie posted this comment on January 20, 2009.]

    No, they shouldn’t have split up!

    Aside from my own personal feelings, I reckon we needed a glimmer of hope in an otherwise very dark season, and it should have been Anya and Xander. Amid the chaos and death that is season 6 I really could have used a nice normal couple working through their problems, not just running away from them.

    Aside from that rather big minus point, I always rather enjoy this episode (especially SMG doing charades, cracks me up every time), although I agree with Mike that it misses the mark of greatness, but is not as far wide as some of the episodes in this season.

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  21. [Note: Chanah posted this comment on May 24, 2009.]

    Even though Season 6 is one of my favourites, I really wish they hadn’t split up, either. Granted, we wouldn’t have had ‘Entropy’ and ‘Selfless’, but what happened in the ‘real’ future, not the nightmare future Xander imagined? Xander lost an eye, and Anya was dead a year later. So keeping them together wouldn’t even have violated Joss’s ‘no happy relationships in the Buffyverse ever’ rule. It would have been one bright spot for season 6. The light at the end of the tunnel really would have been a light, and not, as Buffy said – a train. And hey – would anyone really have minded seeing just a little happiness this season?

    I love your reviews, btw!

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  22. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 15, 2009.]

    Mike, I would’ve given this episode at least a 90, if not a 95. The pace is great, character development is spot-on, the fact that the plot is minimal and more background-y stuff is the way it should be in this kind of episode, everyone was in character, there were some cute moments (Tara and Willow) and funny moments (Buffy’s charades) to balance the depression out, the relationship between Xander and Anya ended the way it should have, considering the path this past season has been on (not that I wanted it to end! Not at all- I personally hate that Joss did this), the continuity with Spike/Buffy was perfect (as was the semi-awkward conversation)- everything was great!

    The one complaint that you had- about the families fighting- I don’t have a problem with. The reason for this is: Joss tends to take real-life problems and express them in a magical/demon way. Like he did with Angel- after you sleep with a guy, he turns into an asshole, right? With Angel, he turned evil- a metaphor for real life. Here, Joss is doing the same thing. Many in-law families don’t get along. Here, one of the families is demonic. Therefore, when they don’t get along with others, it’s bound to blow up. Since they’re demons, it *actually* blows up and everyone starts physically fighting, as opposed to just yelling at each other. (Not that human in-laws don’t fist fight, but it’s more exaggerated with the demon family because that’s what Joss does.) IMO.

    Loved this episode. Cried my eyes out.

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  23. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 15, 2009.]

    Emily: The complaint about the family fighting wasn’t regarding the metaphor, it was the over-the-top cheesiness of it. The tone of some of those segments just didn’t mesh well with me and I felt they started to become redundant by the end.

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  24. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 15, 2009.]

    Ok, I get where you’re coming from, Mike. I kinda agree with you, but I also thought it was stupidly funny as well:)

    Love your reviews, btw! Can’t wait to get to S7- it’s one of my favorite seasons!

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  25. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 22, 2009.]

    Why is Clem sitting on the human side of the aisle? I love that guy. Or demon, whatever.

    Also, I just realized that the only reason Spike can be at the wedding without arriving under a smoking blanket is the storm, but how did he know it wouldn’t be sunny that day? Did he just decide to crash the wedding when he looked out his crypt door and noticed it was raining? If not, how was he going to explain the blanket to his date?

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  26. [Note: Jeremy posted this comment on October 8, 2009.]

    Emotional episode but aside from that all I just didn’t like it. Certainly they needed a turning point for the relationship: something big, good or bad, to happen to one or both of them. But break them up? That’s a tad predictable (we knew SOMETHING had to happen and this IS Joss, relationship guru writing here so).

    It didn’t leave them anywhere new and made Xander’s character an even bigger pitfall (it did wonders for Anya though…this season at least, then it go boring again). Xander’s reasons for the break-up just don’t seem like a big enough deal for Xander to call quits over it and I bet if Anya hadn’t died in the finale he would have turned around and said “You know what? I think I was a douche back then, wanna get married?”.

    Joss may want to think he made things different but by sending them back to square 1 and starting them over but he just kept things exactly the same!

    And why, in so many posts, has noone said anything about that CORNY, LAMEASS DEMON!!! THAT WAS THE WORST RANDOM “I’M A DEMON, I’M HERE, I’M GOING TO KILL YOU ANYA, SEE IF BUFFY CAN STOP ME MOMENT” SINCE TRIANGLE!”. End rant =D

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

    It seems to me that Joss Whedon and his writers create tragic situations for most of the relationships in his works. Cordelia/Angel, Angel/Buffy, Cordelia/Doyle, Fred/Gunn, Fred/Wesley, Buffy/Angel, Xander/Anya, Tara/Willow, Oz/Willow, Buffy/Spike/ Buffy/Riley even Eve/Lindsey. Dollhouse had a similar circumstance. It gets really old. In the face of nightmarish circumstances, there is still joy. I wish that had been displayed more on Angel and Buffy.

    I did like the episode, but it was very sad.

    Like

  28. [Note: Alan posted this comment on July 21, 2010.]

    The relationship parts of this were all credible. Though I think Xander was being a wimp. If he was truly destined to be as big an asshole as his father, which is what he fears, then it’d be already obvious. That kind of meanness shows early; we’ve seen him in relationships before and he never went that way even when they failed. He’s obviously not that kind of person. But Xander sadly doesn’t trust himself.

    I’ve got a friend who was in a long-term relationship, living with a woman for over five years and finally decided to get married. A week before the ceremony, when all the dresses were bought, relatives had bought air tickets, he had a literal panic attack and called it off. But they stayed together and two years later had a quiet ceremony without telling anyone.

    My opinion: he, and Xander, should have gone through with it. There is never a “perfect time”. Life is short. Learn on the job. Delay having kids for a few years; and you can get divorced if it really doesn’t work out without too much damage done. But if you don’t formalise the commitment; after a while, the woman starts to feel they’re being used as a convenience and could be discarded if someone prettier and younger turns up.

    Continuity: Buffy having to use slayer strength to tighten Xander’s cummerbund — due to all the fast food he’s been stuffing himself with recently.

    typo: “Anya’s definately grown” -> “definitely”

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  29. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on December 18, 2010.]

    This is such a heartbreaking episode. It’s so hard to watch the end but in a good way because we only care so much since we love the characters.

    I agree with those here who said that they wished Anya and Xander didn’t split up. I think I said it in my comment from the previous episode that it would have been nice if ONE of the romantic relationships on Buffy worked out and this would have been a good one to do it. Although, there is something to be said that although the romantic relationships are a failure in this series, the friendships are so strong.

    On the other hand, I think it was more plausible for the ending to be the way it was than for Xander to have just been like “Ok, that was all fake, I’m fine now, let’s get married!”. It definitely worked better for the episode to have him back out and leave. Also, the episodes with Anya’s return to vengeance are so good that it makes the breakup worth it. But we’ll get to that when discussing later episodes.

    There are some episodes that make me teary eyed. This one makes me openly weep. Emma does a great acting job in this episode. I can feel her nervous excitement in anticipation of the wedding and her utter despair after it is over. And while I certainly understand Xander’s issues and I forgive him later on, unlike Willow, I can’t help but hate him a little at the end of this episode and that feeling lingers for a few more episodes. I know he is hurting too but I am still so angry with him.

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  30. [Note: Jonny posted this comment on December 20, 2010.]

    Great review, Mike. I love this episode, Buffy as bridesmaid was brilliant. Love the bit where she is entertaining the restless guests. Watching the scene where Anya finally get her vows right made me weep like a baby knowing what was ahead for her. I think they were right not to marry. I’ve been madly in love with someone it would have been a disaster to marry.

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  31. [Note: A posted this comment on June 5, 2011.]

    I hated seeing Xander leave Anya like that, but I was a little relieved that he did. The whole season we’ve been seeing that they’re not really ready to get married. There’s been hints going back even before OMWF-

    “Welcome to tonight’s edition of Go Money Go! I see it nightly.”

    “For the rest of your life.”

    [Xander looks panicked]

    also there’s moments in All The Way… et cetera.

    I think it was the best decision for the characters, however, it’s still sad to see.

    One thing I like about Whedon relationships is that they /do/ end, because that’s how real life works. You don’t stay with someone starting at sixteen or seventeen. You break up, you get over it, you date someone else. They all do .

    Like

  32. [Note: serenissima posted this comment on October 30, 2011.]

    i think xander did the right thing. he was right when he stated that there were ‘thoughts’ and ‘doubts’ for a long time coming; his reticence to reveal their engagement to the gang, for example, was only one in a very long list of signifiers that he was just not ready to get married, and DID only ask anya because they thought the world might end. the song ‘ill never tell’ also showed that, as close as they were on the surface and as much as they loved each other, anya and xander also had trouble communicating, which would have definitely led to martial issues down the line.

    i also agreed that they simply moved too fast; anya has only been human for what, three years? whose to say she wouldnt have wanted to experience more life in the form of a seven year itch? both xander and anya were relatively inexperienced in the ways of sex and life and real relationships; all they knew was each other. people tend to forget that, i think, and also to forget how young the Scoobies really are here; 21, 22 max. i kind of equate anya and xander to buffy and angel: first love, strong and powerful love that seems like the everlasting real thing, but, at the end of the day, just not quite ready yet for this type of commitment.

    its sad, because anya and xander were a beautiful couple, and after a few years of more serious dating, i think they could have tried again. *tear* 😦

    Like

  33. [Note: serenissima posted this comment on October 30, 2011.]

    and notice in my comment i didnt even mention his own issues about relationships because of his family, which is the big thing that most fans seem stuck on. even if he DID have more faith in himself and his relationship that they wouldnt turn out like his parents, there were still a PLETHORA of other reasons why they should not have gotten married.

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  34. [Note: Latecomer posted this comment on November 23, 2012.]

    Am I the only one who feels cheated that we didn’t get to see “Best Man” Willow “all … Marlene Dietrich-y in a dashing tuxedo number”? Can’t help feeling that Willow would have rocked that look! πŸ™‚

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  35. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 14, 2012.]

    It’s gonna be a long time before I get here in my rewatch but I just had to read it now because… oh man, what a tough episode. It makes me feel all sad just reading the comments. Lots of good commentary. I’m in the they should have gotten married camp. I hated that they didn’t!

    Like

  36. [Note: Joe posted this comment on January 13, 2013.]

    Am I the only one who thinks this episode was stupid? The plot was contrived. The breakup was just ridiculous. Maybe you have to be a chic or a wuss or an angsty 14 year old to buy into the whole ruined wedding super sad plot. I dunno. The only things I liked in this episode were Spike making Buffy jealous and the visions of the ‘future’. Had the visions been real instead of fake it would have still been contrived.. but would have made the episode a lot less stupid. Oh and also, are we supposed to feel bad for Anya? Didn’t she get what she deserved for what she did?

    Like

  37. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 12, 2013.]

    It’s interesting to see that Buffy and Spike relation is always at its best when there’s no sex: end of season 5, first episodes season 6.

    to 29 Alan “But if you don’t formalise the commitment; after a while, the woman starts to feel they’re being used as a convenience and could be discarded if someone prettier and younger turns up.” I know it’s late to answer, I’m not a feminist, but I totally resent that ! Sorry, totally out of topic but it made me jump when I read this and I’ll be short. I personally don’t believe that marriage is necessary to live a long and happy life in couple, but I respect its significance ! What you’re saying is that a man have to marry in order to satisfy a woman’s whim. Well, if you marry out of constraint, then why marry at all ? /end rant.

    I have to disagree with those who said that Anya/Xander was the perfect couple. Too many times we’ve seen Xander being ashamed of Anya’s comments. They were in love, I don’t doubt it for a minute, but none of them were ready for a lifetime commitment. Xander because of all his personal unresolved issues. Anya because she’s only learned one thing: to love Xander. Not once have we seen her show guilt over her past crimes. So, Spike’s crimes are – and they should be – despised, but Anya’s crimes are never mentioned (only by Willow, long ago). She wants this wedding, but she’s got no experience and does not know what a mortal life commitment truly means. In short, I liked Anya’s character because it added comedy, but I never bought her to be the one for Xander for obvious reasons ! I often parallel her with Spike, unfortunately her character hasn’t been developped as well. But when she meets Xander, she’s not a good person and she didn’t have the excuse of the soul: she just easily forgot how to be human when she became immortal. Xander is her moral compass, but she still struggles with the very concepts of morality, right and wrong. It will take a horrible reality check later on for her to start to grasp some of it.

    So, to be frank, this is the first time I felt really sorry for Anya, because before that, she only made me laugh and usually for the wrong reasons (her terrible inadequacies). Also, Xander can receive the prize of the worst timing breaking ups king: Valentine’s Day (Cordelia) and his wedding !

    Like

  38. [Note: none posted this comment on October 15, 2013.]

    I still don’t get why Wedon decided to do such things with the wedding. there was no sense to wait for 16 episodes and suddenly cancel it. it looked really weird. To add more sadness to 6th season? that was too much even without it. To show that there can’t be any normal life in Buffyverse? we all knew it. To show that anya and xander are not soulmates? it didn’t work, people still like this couple even in 7th season. to show xander’s undevelopment?
    it looked like inappropriate drama.

    Like

  39. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on October 15, 2013.]

    But it was building since the beginning of the season. So it wasn’t exactly out of the blue. The events at the wedding were perfectly natural to the flow of the series. And as for your opinion of this being too depressing, I guess I can’t argue with you on that one. It is, after all, like I said, your opinion.

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  40. [Note: none posted this comment on October 15, 2013.]

    i just don’t see the point to try everybody hate xander.
    he was a good friend in 6th season, helped Dawn, got a job promotion. why did they decided to show his unconfidence again.
    and yes, it was too depressing, then goes ‘normal again’, then killing tara, before it-depressed buffy, addicted willow. there was need to show a light (‘Buffy tells Xander how happy she is for him and how it gives her hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel’)

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  41. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on October 15, 2013.]

    I don’t think it was the writer’s intention for us to hate Xander. They did, however, want to show us that, in the present state of things, Xander’s decision was not very smart, but that, in the long term, his decision was ultimately for the best. If he and Anya had married, with the doubts that they had not yet resolved, they would probably have ended up being worse off later on.
    And I can see where you’re coming from on the sixth season being pretty depressing, but, THAT’S WHEDON FOR YOU!!! πŸ™‚

    Like

  42. [Note: NJ88 posted this comment on March 15, 2014.]

    It’s actually one of the few episodes that I struggle to watch. The episode in general I find entertaining, but I really dislike watching the breakup. While I understand where it’s coming from, I still cant help but feel like having them end up married would have been for the best. That’s probably me being biased as I really did love the Xander/Anya pairing, but either way, I hate seeing it.

    Like

  43. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on August 20, 2014.]

    I agree, one of my least favorite episodes. I don’t like the breakup, can’t stand Xander’s dad or all the silly rubbery demon guests.

    I think it’s also that it’s hard to see Xander looking like this. Even outside of the vision, he looks like a has-been, thick and tired and well on his way to becoming his dad. It reminds me of certain friends of mine that were already aging fast in their mid 20s. Could he have really been the goofy, skateboarding, high school Xander only five years ago?

    Like

  44. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on September 26, 2014.]

    Also funny: who knew that SMG could juggle so well? (as well as J. August Richards in Angel’s 3×07: “Offspring”).
    Xander and Willow are also very loveable together in their scene.
    Willow to Xander: “My little Xander”.

    Like

  45. [Note: Keith posted this comment on September 26, 2014.]

    You may already be aware of this, but the somewhat cruel irony is that Nick Brendon had a pretty serious alcohol problem during the run of the show; he checked into rehab soon after the show ended. Real-life him was becoming his TV show Dad. It also might explain his haggard, aged appearance, although he was pushing 30 when Season 6 was filmed, so it could just be a simple case of him looking 10 years older than his character because, well, he was 10 years older than his character.

    Like

  46. [Note: Courtney posted this comment on May 10, 2015.]

    As much as I wasn’t a fan of them at the end of their relationship, I actually liked Riley. I just wanted her to tell him that she showed…. even if they weren’t getting back together, I just felt it was a loose end that never got tied up. Just for closure you know?

    Like

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

    Looking over some material about this again I realized one of the reasons it’s problematic is that we essentially were following this plot thread for a while waiting for a particular result only for them to switch gears near the finish line. While this isn’t a bad thing character wise it does feel kinda frustrating after all the build-up. It’s a similar problem with Supernatural Season 8.

    Like

  48. [Note: Val posted this comment on August 19, 2015.]

    Having been in a wedding that ended with the bride alone at the altar, I can tell you that everything about this episode rings all too true. One of the worst days of my life, and I was just a bridesmaid. I felt like just like Willow at the end. It was horrible. I don’t find anyone’s behavior in this episode to be a stretch or hard to believe.

    Like

  49. I’m not usually the type to get emotional over a show, but wow am I down after seeing this. I’m rewatching Buffy and Angel, and both shows were so dark at this point. Come on, Joss, lighten up! Sometimes good things happen to people too!

    Like

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