|Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 5 BtVS/season 1 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.|
The incantation to ionize the atmosphere: Xander deduces that the dart in Spike's back is a tracer put there by the commandos. In order to block its signal while Giles pulls the device out, Willow reads an incantation. In her right palm, she holds Tara's dolls-eye crystal.
Tropo, Strato, Meso Aero, Iono, Exo.
Then she reads the Latin and English version of the following:
Elements are brought to bear. Wind, Earth, and Water, churned amidst the Fire. Let the air be burned.
A jolt of static electricity bolts through the room, making everyone's hair stand on end.
Fury: A quick question: since Willow's spells are hit or miss, did her having Tara's crystal help her make the ionizing spell work? (DSP, Feb 8 21:36 2000)
Very astute, DSP ([BtVS writer David] Fury, Feb 8 21:47 2000).
The metaphysics of Xander:
His skills are fading with time, as would an actual soldier who hadn't kept up his training. However, once in a while a spark of memory or talent can provide helpful info (BtVS/ATS writer David Fury, Feb 9 11:59 2000).
Demons: we see two different species of demons in this episode.
Professor Walsh refers to them as belonging to the "Demon class, Polgara species", implying that either (1) there is more than one taxonomic classification for bad guys besides demons, or (2) demons are considered just another taxonomic class among those that classify the terrestrial animals.
Slayer fighting skills
Moral Ambiguity in "The 'I' In Team"
Maggie seemed open to having the slayer on her team at first--key word, "team". Maggie liked having control over her soldiers. She expected them to take orders with little explanation, and even kept tabs on them with a hidden camera. But Buffy's loyalties were "uncertain"--in other words, our rogue slayer questioned and challenged things instead of following orders. When Maggie senses that Buffy knows a lot more than she lets on about the Initiative's behavior modification project, and notices that Buffy has considerable influence on Agent Finn (leading him to take a peak into the classified research area when Buffy asks him what 314 is), she decides to put an end to the slayer threat. She was not evil in the anti-human sense but did have questionable goals in her research.
She seemed to have mixed emotions about Buffy's termination, it seems clear from her conversations with my namesake, that it wasn't something either one of them wanted to do, but they felt the security of the project was too important to let the Slayer get in the way. Buffy couldn't be controlled and there was no way to contain her without issues surrounding Riley's involvement (Angle Man, Feb 9 11:28 2000).
Buffy sometimes pushes her friends away when she meets other professional "fry-cooks", and it's understandable. Her friends can fight, but Buffy needs someone to share the pains and pleasures of her special calling with. The importance of this is brought home by the life-affirming erotic energy created when she fights side by side with her warrior peers--e.g., making love with Riley after battling the Polgara demon, sharing a passion with Angel for fighting evil as well as for each other, or engaging in a post-slayage dance with Faith. But we know from her break from the authority of the Watcher's Council that she is not going to fade into a camo-colored crowd and become just another soldier. This is both a strength and a weakness. It's necessary for her to be quick-thinking and to trust her own judgment; however, she needs to know when she must rely on the knowledge and judgment of others, and a blanket anti-authority stance won't help her do that.
Ethical Quandaries in "The 'I' In Team"
Should the gang trust the Initiative?
Xander wonders what the Initiative agenda is. Willow initially defends them by pointing out that they are anti-demon. Being anti-demon ain't what it used to be, though. Ex-demon Anya has problems with an anti-demon stance that can't differentiate the Polgaras from the Anyankas. Later, Willow echoes Xander's concerns to Buffy, asking what the point of neutering vampires and demons is, exactly. Is it to integrate them into human society? Or something else? Buffy is later convinced of their skepticism when Professor Walsh tries to have her killed. This does not prove the evil intentions of the Initiative, however. They are still a morally ambiguous lot.
Willow's lies of omission
The Metaphysics of "Goodbye Iowa"
The spell to detect demons: Willow creates a "map" of Sunnydale by putting string into a square with crystals at each corner. Tara and Willow make a supplication to the goddess Thespia:
Tara: Thespia, we walk in shadow. We walk in blindness. You are the protector of the night.
Willow: Thespia, goddess. Ruler of all darkness, we implore you. Open a window to the world of the underbeing.
At this point, the two witches are supposed to blow some sand into the square. When the sands mix, it creates a mist that will light up in different colors corresponding to the species of demons and their locations in the city. Willow blows her sand into the square, but Tara doesn't. She hides her sand under the bed and pretends to blow it. Willow has her eyes closed and doesn't notice.
Willow: With your knowledge may we go in safety. With your grace may we speak of your benevolence.
Willow opens her eyes to see that the spell has failed.
The metaphysics of Adam
Deep inside the Initiative's facility is a room behind electronic locks. Room 314 is the nursery of a Frankenstein-like creature who is part-man, part-machine, and part demon (well, lots of parts from different demons). In fancy scientist talk, he is a "kinematically redundant biomechanical demonoid" designed to kill demons and stronger than Buffy.
Its the military secret weapon lab in developing a super-soldier for multiple purposes (Roel, 12 Feb 2000 01:13).
Adam runs on an "autonomic power source" (which means it's part of his involuntary nervous system). It is not biological, but atomic--a small resevoir of Uranium 235 (an element used in nuclear warheads) embedded in his chest near his spine. The power source allows Adam to operate without eating, and, as Jonathan discovers when he anlyzes Adam's design schematics, he cannot be stopped unless it is destroyed.
Adam's identity crisis: Adam knows perfectly well what he is--a biomechanical hybrid of demon, human, and machine. Who he is is another question. He has a name and a mission, given to him by a scientist who thought of herself as his "mother". But he also has a "design flaw" that allows him to behave in ways contrary to the mission intended for him--being an obedient demon-hunting soldier. If he isn't who he was designed to be, then who is he? Who were the individuals (demons and human[s]) that went into making him up? Is he one of these individuals? If not, how much weight does each of those carry? Adam comes to a decision, finally, and that decision isn't good for Sunnydale.
Does Adam have a human soul?
Giles' tattoo: the mark of Eyghon
Moral Ambiguity and Philosophies Represented in "Goodbye Iowa"
Riley meets moral ambiguity:
"I thought I knew. But I don't. I don't know anything."
Nobody's perfect, not even in Iowa. But when Riley realizes Professor Walsh tried to have Buffy killed, and sees the slayer hanging out with Hostile 17, shooting the breeze with Willy the bartender, and finds his mentor Maggie dead of a stiletto wound, things seem even more gray than usual. Add in Professor Walsh's monsterific secret project, Riley and his buddies on super-soldier drugs, and a rather nasty withdrawal from those drugs, and his world isn't just askew, it's cock-eyed. He begins to wonder who he himself is. He has been the subject of behavioral, psychological, and chemical conditioning. Every one he thought was good is bad. Or is it that the ones he thought were bad might be good? Or maybe he's realizing how one and the same person can both evil and good at the same time.
Buffy meets moral ambiguity--again
The Initiative. Buffy was suspicious, but fell for it anyway. she so wanted it to be good. it was attractive, military people with the same goal that she has, protecting people. ... when we are younger, we recognize and run away from certain evils. they are easily identifiable, night and day.... then we encounter people who we want to believe in and are in jobs to protect us -- politicians, policemen, etc. -- and we discover that they are in it to ascend to their own personal higher plane, not ours. ...all of this growing up and recognizing badness (chemistry girl, May 10 08:44 2000)
|Forrest wanted to go out with Buffy when she was just another "mattressable" college coed. He found her tiresome when she was all his buddy Riley could talk about. When she turned out to be a skilled warrior with a mind of her own, questioning orders and putting herself at odds with Dr. Walsh, he called her a "supernatural freak" and questioned her loyalties. It's hard to judge him under the stress of Dr. Walsh's death and drug withdrawal, however.|
In his eyes, if Prof. Walsh tried to have Buffy killed, she had her reasons.... Plus, he suspected Buffy killed Maggie and of course he's going to be suspicious and hostile around her. He reminds me A LOT of Xander--generally easy going and laid back, but if someone or something threatens the people he cares about or his values he's not afraid to let you know it and is going to come up swinging (Nikki 21 Feb 2000 15:16).
It's not just Riley's world that's been turned upside down- it's Forest's world, too (even more so: Riley lost Maggie but Forrest lost Maggie and was losing Riley) ...that would tend to leave someone scared and wanting to re-assert control (Little Bam Bam. Feb 16 13:14 2000).
Why did Tara sabotage Willow's demon-finding spell? The truth about Tara
I think we feel uncomfortable with Tara because she is so uncomfortable in her own skin. I think she is afraid of her own power (not just talking wiccan power) just as early Willow was. I'm interested to see what she will be, who she is, underneath the stammering and the intimidation.... But I like her because she sees how special and powerful Willow is ...and validates her Wiccan interests and talents (DSP, Feb 8 21:18 2000).
Am I the only one who has noticed that Tara is "a rat" spelled backwards? (MTVA, Feb 15 21:27 2000).
The wisdom of Xander:
Buffy: Military guys and scientists do not make out!
Xander: Well, maybe that's what's wrong with the world.
This Year's Girl/Who Are You
The Metaphysics of "TYG/WAY"
Return of the rogue slayer: While she's been in a coma, a nurse from the Watcher's Council has been keeping an eye on Faith. Who calls Buffy to let her know Faith is awake?
My guess was that it was the police. They knew that Buffy and Faith had run together in the past and they might have thought Faith had gone to see her old 'friend' Buffy (mudpuppy, Feb 23 10:27 2000).
The meaning of "5 by 5"
Body-switching: The Mayor left Faith a keen little device to use in wreaking her revenge on the gang. It is, in Willow's words, "a Draconian Katra", a stone (Willow and Tara's home-made version) or piece of metal (the Mayor's version) with a spell on it. When this talisman is pressed between the palms of two individuals (e.g., Buffy and Faith), a light flashes and the personality and consciousness of the individuals switch bodies. The device can be destroyed by crushing it.
Detecting the body-switch: As Tara explains, a person's life energy has a "flow" within their body, one that is normally coherent. Faith's life force is not the particular life force that naturally inhabits Buffy's body. It has been "forced in" and that throws Faith's life energy off--it "grates" and is "fragmented" in a way Tara can notice.
The Nether Realm: The demon dimensions are a physical place, as is the realm of the Oracles. The "Nether Realm", however, seems to be a purely spiritual place that one cannot visit in a physical body. As a result, only Willow's spirit can travel there. Going to the Nether Realm will tell her about what has happened to Buffy, although how it will do so is not clearly explained. Tara tells Willow she must enter this realm and "find Buffy there". What does this mean?
There is some indication that the Nether Realm might be a spiritual passage way that allows Willow to transport her own consciousness to Buffy's body--not in the way Faith did (a complete spirit-transfer, or transmigration), but in a way where she can keep part of her spirit connected to her own body back in Tara's dorm room, a phenomenon known as astral projection.
The passage to the Nether Realm ritual: The ritual involves a ring belonging to Buffy, although the way it is used isn't shown. Tara puts her thumb in a cup of liquid and dots Willow's forehead, lips, and chest (her chakras?)--this will ground Willow's spirit to her body while part of it enters the Nether Realm. Tara and Willow then sit side by side facing different directions and swing their arms in a semi-circle, creating a full circle around them that begins to flow with mystic energy as they recite the incantation of the ritual over and over:
The inward eye, The sightless sea, Ayala flows through the river in me.
Once they have a full circle, they begin to sweat and breath heavily and they clasp palms. Willow falls back on a pillow and her spirit enters the Nether Realm.
There is evidence that Willow briefly comes into contact with Buffy's body in her journey. At that moment, Faith (in Buffy's body) and Riley have just finished making love. Riley tells her, "I love you." There is no doubt that Faith is confused by this declaration for her own reasons, but in her confusion, she says, "Who are you? What do you want from her?" This is an odd way to put simple mistrust of a man whose identity she knows. It is possible that Faith is not talking to Riley, but to Willow's spiritual presence. On Willow's end of things, we see her enter her journey to the Nether Realm with a cry of ecstasy, an indication she may have contacted Buffy's body at the moment of orgasm.
Psychic dream Faith and Buffy are making Buffy's bed at home. Buffy says she has to go. "Little sis coming. I know," Faith replies. "So much to do before she gets here," says Buffy. Faith drips blood onto the bed. They both see Faith's knife protruding from Faith's gut. "Are you ever gonna take this thing out?" Faith asks. Buffy rips it out.
Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "TYG/WAY"
"You think you matter, you think you're a part of something, and you get dumped."
Faith is plagued by dreams in which she is a victim, first of Buffy's insensitivity and later of her murderous intent. Faith awakens from her eight-month coma to find herself alone in a hospital room hooked up to machines. After she discovers what has happened, and observes that life has gone on without her, Faith decides to get revenge against Buffy. In her mind, Buffy is a self-righteous, self-centered woman who easily forgets those she no longer needs (like Joyce and Angel) and who spurned Faith so she could keep the privileges of being the first-born slayer to herself.
While the snake didn't seem to bother the mayor, the initial look on Faiths face was of...confusion? It just seemed to me that the mayor played a major head game with Faith...leading her to believe that he was the only one she could depend on. (He did that last season too). Essentially told her that without him, she would be dead. That Buffy would do her in. Someone like Faith that has so many insecurities, who has already been emotionally and physically abused (by her mom) would be a prime target for that kind of brainwashing. She was desperately looking for someone to want her, need her, love her (Destiny, Feb 23 21:19 2000).
Does Faith have a point?
Faith justifies her behavior with what logicians call a False Dilemma--there are only two choices A or B. Since B is absurd, A is the way to go--there is no middle ground, no third choice. Either a girl acts like Faith does or she is "proper and joyless" with no sense of fun at all. Either slayers do anything they want or they uphold a rigid goody-goody sense of right and wrong. Either Riley wants to play sex games with her, or he is not interested in having sex with her at all. This logic begins to crumble after a day in Buffy's shoes. Faith is confused when doing a good deed (saving the vampire victim at the Bronze) brings her genuine pleasure. She's confused when Riley rejects her game-playing and makes love to her anyway.
We see the root of her evil--her envy of Buffy. All Faith ever really wanted was to be special--having another, more established slayer took that away from her. When she has an opportunity to shine as the slayer, she takes it, going to the church where the vampires are holding the parishioners hostage. She isn't redeemed yet, though. Before Buffy reverses the body switch, Faith picks a fight with her rival--or was she hitting herself? It was her own body she pummeled and cursed at.
lurkingb on Deconstructing Faith
Both Forrest and Riley are struggling with the disorder resulting from Adam's emergence. Only diff is Riley has the benefit of an experienced warrior's wisdom about heroism in the gray-zone: Buffy followed Council orders that she was "going to do anyway" and ignored the rest. When they asked for her total obedience, she quit. Riley has a choice between fighting demons on his own or making changes from the inside.
Spike: Reminding Giles and Xander of his evil nature was an unnecessary ego trip. For his own survival, he's played along with the white hats for months. If they're stupid enough to think he's really changed, why tell them otherwise? It's likely to get him killed. Unless, of course, he can get his implant removed. His truce with the gang is an uneasy one, born of necessity. Faith belittling him in Buffy's body has just reinforced his frustration.
Joyce seems to have finally embraced Buffy's propensity for violence. Buffy may not have been around a lot lately, but Joyce doesn't doubt she'll stop in for mom save-age. She tells Faith flat out that she hopes Buffy will kill her. And we learn where Buffy might have gotten the punning-under-pressure gene: "were you planning to slit my throat any time soon?" Joyce asks Faith.
The unstoppable killer cyber-demon hybrid thingie strikes again
Ethical Quandaries in "TYG/WAY"
What do we do with Faith?
Beating her up, as Willow suggests sounds emotionally satisfying, but Faith would recover, and so would the dilemma. Ignoring her isn't a good idea. While they have Adam to worry about, Faith is a potential danger, too. Giving her to the police is problematic as Buffy points out--though Faith is a human criminal, she is also a super-human girl. The cops could lose her quite easily.
Locking her up in the Initiative's facilities, as Giles suggests, may be an effective prison for a slayer, but the Initiative's goals are ambiguous--would Faith become an object of experiment? Giles also suggests the possibility of rehabilitation. Even if were possible, it is not the punishment some would seek.
What to tell Riley?
Riley's confused as it is--but you can't avoid telling him that Faith is as likely to punch his face in as punch a bad guy on his behalf. Evil slayers--what a concept for a guy whose world's been shaken to its foundations just days before. And talking about Faith's deeds means bringing up Angel. Well, that's a story for another day.
Willow's identity outside the Scooby Gang
Philosophies represented in "TYG/WAY"
Is Adam an existentialist character? Existentialism is about how individuals deal with the realization that there is no larger meaning and purpose inherent in being alive. If anyone fails to exemplify that prerequisite, it's Adam. As he says in Who Are You, he has been given a gift few other sentient beings have--he was born with a purpose already laid out for him, in virtue of being a constructed being. He has the freedom to reject that purpose, but he doesn't reject it, only perverts it beyond what his creators intended. His "design flaw"--what Dr. Walsh didn't anticipate--was the inheritance of violent tendencies from his demon parts. In his exercise of his own will, he may be seen as existentialist, or simply an especially nasty demon on a self-justifying rampage.
The Metaphysics of "Superstar"
Altered realities? Despite Buffy and Anya's struggle for an explanation, the events of Superstar did not occur in an alternate universe, nor was reality changed significantly. Only the physical manifestations of Jonathan's power--the posters, his house--and people's perception of reality were changed, altered by a spell.
The augmentation spell made everyone (in the world?) worship the ground Jonathan walked on, it gave Jonathan the skills and social savvy to live up to their worship, and it altered their memories of history; for example, some of Buffy's greatest victories (e.g., the Master, the Mayor) were remembered as having been done by Jonathan (while in fact, they had always been done by Buffy).
This means that events that occured in the episode, e.g., Buffy dealing with Riley sleeping with Faith in Buffy's body and the analysis of Adam's design really occured. Jonathan's memories of them might be fuzzy once the spell was removed (since his skills were gone) but they were not "undone" or completely forgotten.
Nobody's totally right. Except Johnathan -- that guy's got it WIRED! (joss, Oct 6 21:54 1998)
Why wasn't Adam's memory affected? This is never explained clearly (Adam has a vague uninformative story about being "more awake and aware"). Demons were obviously affected as humans were; for instance, the vampires believed in Jonathan's charisma. It might have to do with mechanical augmentation to Adam's brain. Adam's power source
Monsters: There's a drawback to Jonathan's spell--in order to balance the new force of good, an equal force of evil must be created. This brings forth the scabby big-armed beastie with a symbol on its forehead, a triangle with three lines criss-crossing within it. If the monster dies, the force of good loses its power, and the spell is broken.
Why does Buffy's attitude change? Adam's theorizing is more helpful here. He says Jonathan's spell is "unstable" and will lead to "chaos". The monster is this unstable force. As it makes itself known, those close enough to observe Jonathan's actions begin to question his charisma. Buffy sees Jonathan scared by the monster, Then Tara tells her that the beast that attacked her had the mark of the monster Jonathan said was harmless. Buffy begins to see inconsistencies in the history they believe and facts they can observe, like Jonathan starring in a movie without leaving town.
The confounding spell:
Sensus confundatur et aer oppleatur. Caligo absorbeat mentem obscuratam.
Translation: Let his senses be confounded and the air filled up. Let darkness absorb his darkened mind.
Tara raises her hands and a blinding mist comes forth from them, allowing her to escape from the monster.
Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Superstar"
|Jonathan can't be called evil for what he did. His motives are understandable even if his actions--manipulating people's minds and therefore their lives (e.g., the effect his super-hero status had on Buffy's self esteem as the slayer)--are not excusable. He imposed an order on people which, if they had known about it in advance, would have been against their will. He did it out of the moral weakness of pride--no matter how low his self-esteem, he tried to raise it at the expense of others. He redeemed himself at the end by taking Buffy to the cave where the monster was hiding, then pushing the monster in the pit and almost falling down it himself.|
The Initiative: The new temporary Initiative commanding officer, Colonel Haviland, arrives in Sunnydale (from Washington?) to do the internal investigation of Prof. Walsh's death and take command of the "Adam problem".
Where the Wild Things Are
The Metaphysics of "Where the Wild Things Are"
Apparitions: Between 1949 and 1960 Genevieve Holt ran a home for runaways, delinquents and emotionally disturbed adolescents in Lowell House. She abused the teens when they displayed sexual curiosity and behavior (including grooming themselves in attractive ways). None of the children died, but the energy of their repressed emotions and sexual urges was so powerful, these emotions were "embodied" in spirit form by the Hellmouth's energy and linger in the house even though the teens themselves have long since gone on to adult lives.
These apparitions are hence not ghosts--the spirits of dead human beings. However, having spirit form, they can possess humans (e.g., Julie, who cuts off her hair), and objects (e.g., the "G-Spot" in the wall that gives party-goers happies when they touch it). Giles calls the apparitions "poltergeists", but twice we've seen poltergeists equated with ghosts. "Poltergeist" seems to refer to any kind of spirit, whether it is an apparition or a ghost, whose telekinetic tendencies tend to cause mayhem).
Bringing forth and binding the apparitions: The traumatic repression of sexual feelings is what created the apparitions in the first place, and what they seek is sexual release. Buffy and Riley's excessive sexual activity hence brings them forth. The couple is then trapped by the same power fueling rampant sexual activity throughout the house. The increased sexual activity stokes the fire that sustains the haunting. Since Buffy and Riley initiated the cycle, it is their activity that must be stopped in order to break the cycle.
Note: If rampant hormones are all that is
needed to free these apparitions, then surely this has happened
before. Lowell House has been a college residence for forty years.
The spell to bind the apparitions: In order for Xander and Anya to stop Buffy and Riley, the apparitions must be kept temporarily at bay. Tara, Willow, and Giles sit down at a table with a candle in the center. They take hands, forming a circle. They do not appear to be performing a pre-written spell. Their words are more like impromptu therapy.
Tara: Children of the past. Spirits of Lowell. Be guided by our light. Come forth and be known to us. (The apparitions appear). We implore you. Be still.
Giles: Find it in your hearts to leave our friends passage.
Willow: Transform your pain. Release your past. And get over it.
Tara: Find here the serenity you seek, the peace you--
The table blows away as the spirits return to the house to fight Xander and Anya's encroachment on Riley's bedroom.
Xander had much ...to be afraid of and still stood tall without any weapons or supernatural power. xander was doing it to protect a friend (greengirl, Apr 25 21:36 2000).
Evil and Moral Ambiguity in "Where the Wild Things Are"
Sex in the Buffyverse
[WTWTA] wasn't really about th' sex, it was about the fallout from ignoring your friends -- i.e. the ignoring of people NOT having sex 24-7 (joss, May 4 18:12 2000).
Genevieve Holt: Abuse often masquerades as concern and love, but it is still abuse. Mrs. Holt thought she was "saving" the teens' souls, but she was in fact repressing their natural PTB-given instincts. Her beliefs by themselves are merely misguided. Her methods of enforcing her beliefs on others are not excusable.
...people like that old woman are zealots using their religion for their own personal war on something, but unfortunately, less intelligent people start equating them with Christianity (MeeB, Apr 26 14:30 2000).
Anya needs a different perspective on romantic relationships than she's gotten from one thousand years as a vengeance demon, and Xander is her ambivalent teacher, instructing Anya in communication, sensitivity, and relationships. The boy with sex on the brain now has a frequently available, enthusiastic partner, and though she accuses him of insensitivity to her other needs and qualities, Xander is doing an admirable job of dealing with a woman who's coming from further out in left field than other women seem to.
Giles the lost boy: Since the gang graduated, Giles has had difficulty deciding what his relationship to the young adult Scoobies is. Is he an authority figure or just one of the gang (the "book guy")? His idea of an entertaining evening is different from theirs, but he seems to wish it wasn't so. Giles not only tells the gang where he is going to be, but his resigned, "it couldn't possibly be of interest to you" is practically an invitation. Yet he seems surprised when they show up. Maybe it was acoustic-guitar man's choice of songs.
Spike and the slayer
The Evil of Adam
Ethical Quandaries in "Where the Wild Things Are"
Responding to hurt and betrayal in relationships: what's justified?
"First there's the love and the sex, then there's nothing left but vengeance. That's how it works."
Would Anya really eviscerate Xander if she had her powers back? If her conversation with Spike in the Bronze is any indication, the answer is no. The thought is probably tempting, but she wants to be with him, and he can't be with her if he's a pile of ashes. The ex-demon is learning that despite everything she's seen women's lovers and husbands do over the centuries, the women may have regretted the extreme actions they took in response to it. This does not mean that women and men should not stand up for themselves in relationships. It is important to deal with hurt and betrayal. However, all relationships have minor bumps as well as the love and the sex, and good relationships try to ride the bumps as smoothly as possible.