Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 15

Buffy finds out more about the origin of the Slayer powers in Get It Done... and Sarah smacks herself repeatedly in the forehead for agreeing to watch this again.

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a big demony thing came out of Willow when she tried to do magic; Buffy said they had to become an army; Anya said that the First can be any dead person it wants; the First tried to get Andrew to kill everyone; all the Potentials turned up; Kennedy and Willow kissed; Spike has a soul; Principal Wood was kickass, and also the son of a Slayer Spike killed some decades ago. Whew. That was a super-long previously on.

The episode begins with Buffy walking through her house in the dark, looking at all the sleeping Potentials. She spots a girl huddled, crying, at the end of the hallway, and asks her if she’s okay, before being tackled to the ground by the first Slayer, who tells her “it’s not enough.” Buffy wakes up, freaked out, and the credits roll.

After the credits, Anya bitches to Spike about the stupidity of her decision to become human again, and they both complain about how Buffy’s house is full of Potentials (here’s an idea: DON’T LIVE THERE, THEN) and agree that getting drunk is the best way of coping. Anya awkwardly flirts, saying she thought Spike was asking her on a date, and then rambles on a bit about sex, because apparently Anya’s characterisation this series is “sex maniac” and that’s it. Sigh. Spike is relieved when a demon, citing D’Hoffryn, turns up to kill Anya, but it turns out to be too difficult to him to kill so they run away instead.

At Sunnydale High, all Hell is (almost literally) starting to break loose, as the Hellmouth beneath the school is making all the kids crazy and violent. Wood gives Buffy a gift – an emergency kit that’s supposed to be a Slayer heirloom, except he never passed it on after his mum died – and asks to see “where she works.” Back at Buffy’s house, Andrew greets them at the door, wearing an apron and an oven glove, wanting to show them the “big board” where he’s been plotting strategy; Buffy shoos him away and shows Wood, instead, the Potentials, who are doing army drills in the back garden. Buffy gets her melancholy on again, telling Wood that some of the Potentials will die, and that she won’t be able to stop it. Yawn. Heard it.

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Wood asks Buffy to show him “the vampire”, and in the basement, Anya and Spike are bickering over the fact that he didn’t kill the assassin and thus he might come after her again. There’s a really, really lame joke where Spike says he “beat off” the assassin, then realises that’s a euphemism for masturbation, and, ugh. Isn’t that a Xander joke, anyway? Wood wanders around the basement being weird, clearly accusatory, while Spike talks about all the people he’s killed. Oh, dear. There are a series of close-ups on their faces as they face-off; I actually really quite enjoy this plot strand and am impatient for the pay-off.

Later, Dawn explains to Buffy that she’s looked at some of the stuff in the Slayer kit, and there’s a big book that’ll need translating, but she’s cut off when she and Buffy walk into a bedroom to find a Potential hanging from the ceiling. The girl from Buffy’s dream, Chloe, has killed herself, and the First is ready and waiting to manifest as Chloe to gloat, and tell the other Potentials, who’ve all flooded into the room, that they’re next. This part is really, really creepy, possibly not least because Buffy’s so utterly cold about it, demanding a knife to cut Chloe down. Urghhhh. Goosebumps. I can’t remember if there’s ever been suicide in Buffy before, and I really don’t like it.

Something has just occurred to me: where the hell is Giles this episode? He wasn’t there, at all, was he? After First Date, considering the attitude Buffy’s about to take with everyone, he really needed to be around.

Buffy buries Chloe’s body… er, somewhere, not sure where, not sure if it matters … and then marches back into her house, still clutching the shovel. The Potentials are all crying, and Buffy takes this opportunity to deliver another one of those speeches that’s supposed to be rabble-rousing, but is in fact just really obnoxious. She tells them that Chloe was an idiot, and that it’s ridiculous that she’s having to use her Slayer powers to bury her rather than fighting evil. She tells them she’s been carrying them, that they all rely on her (well, after Showtime, wasn’t that the idea?) and that they need to pull their act together if they’re going to be an army. Kennedy interrupts to tell Buffy that she’s wrong, that Willow is more powerful than she is, but Buffy responds by saying that she’s the only one who can use her powers. Xander tries to lighten the mood by reminding Buffy that she’s talking to her friends here, but Anya says she isn’t friends with them, prompting Buffy to ask her what she’s even doing there, then. Dawn doesn’t speak up during this scene, and I kind of wish she would. Spike turns to leave, saying that Buffy’s “speechifying” isn’t for him, and Buffy turns on him, too, saying he was a better fighter before he had a soul. Oh dear. This is why Buffy shouldn’t be in charge.

(Although it has occurred to me that what the show is currently doing is setting up the idea that being the sole guardian of the Hellmouth is a bad thing, and that power should be shared out, in preparation for the finale: more on this later.)

A mysterious locked box inside the Slayer’s emergency kit turns out to have a serious of “shadow casters” inside, which tell the story of the origin of the Slayer line. Naturally, everyone gathers in the living room to try it out, and things immediately become spooky. The puppets whirl, and the book that Dawn is trying to translate turns into English, and a huge black portal appears. Buffy jumps into it and a monster jumps out; all the usual fighters try to attack the demon but are knocked into walls and ceilings and things, so we know this demon is serious business. After battering everyone, the demon runs away, and the gang decides the only way to get Buffy back will be to re-open the portal and shove the demon back through it… somehow.

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Meanwhile, Buffy is back in the desert, and everything’s gone all grainy-looking; it’s supposed to recall the vision quest from season 5, again. (Incidentally, she’s dressed excessively warmly in this scene, for the desert and for Sunnydale’s California climate!) She approaches a trio of … um … tribesmen of some description, and has a chat with them that leads to them smacking her over the head with a club.

Back in Sunnydale, Willow, Dawn, Kennedy and Xander are doing magic. Willow chants inside a magic circle, but before long her eyes have gone evil black and she’s screaming. Uh oh.

Buffy is now chained to a rock, underground somewhere. The men tell her they’re bringing her some kind of additional power – the spirit that they used to create the first Slayer, which is some kind of demon power. Buffy refuses to take on the extra mojo at the price of her humanity, struggling and screaming as the smoke-monster thing tries to get inside her.

In Sunnydale, again, Spike’s putting on his trench coat and swooshing around being kickass. Er, but it turns out he stole that coat from Wood’s mum when he murdered her. Well, that’s a bit rude, isn’t it?

In the rest of the episode, Willow will manage to open the portal and Spike will manage to lay the smackdown on the demon, so that they can get Buffy back, and everyone will be better than they were before Buffy shouted at them, so that’s all nice and fluffy. It’s the bits with Buffy in the desert I want to talk about, so that’s what I’m going to do.

See, Buffy rejects the demon power, saying that she didn’t want to be “knocked up by some demon dust” and that the men “violated” the girl who became the First Slayer by doing what they’re trying to do now to Buffy: chaining her up and forcing her to take on a demonic spirit. Um, that’s the language of rape right there, and given how sensitive the series was being at the beginning of the season about Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy, this seems… odd, to say the least. Buffy wrenches free of the chains and fights off first the demon spirit and then the tribesmen, essentially by snapping in half a staff which turned out to be a key part of their powers, saying “it’s always the staff.” Not the most subtle phallic metaphor I’ve ever come across in my life, I have to say.

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I am not entirely comfortable with this version of the Slayer myth. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has some aspirations to feminism, giving the little blonde girl who always dies in horror movies the chance to fight back, on her own terms, but saying that the root of her power is thanks to a demon-rape forced on her by a group of men isn’t particularly empowering. I kind of get what the writers are doing here, bearing in mind the final episode – where the power will be reclaimed by and for women – but I still don’t like this retcon. I didn’t think that Chosen worked as a finale within the rules of the show (because obviously, some logic has to be suspended when you’re dealing with a world of vampires and demons) but it does tie up some thematic loose ends. Thing is, those loose ends have only recently been created, so it’s not very satisfying when you get to the end. Or, at least, that’s how I remember it, so I’ll have to see how it works this time around.

Right, so, yes, Buffy fights everyone, and ends up back in Sunnydale. Kennedy and Willow are on shaky ground because of how scary Willow got while doing her magics, while Buffy has… tucked herself up in bed, traumatised, because of what she saw. Which we get to see: a CGI vision of hell, featuring thousands and thousands of über-vamps. Meep.