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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 3 - After Life

23 May 2013

They can never know

Synopsis: Buffy returns home seemingly in shock. Spike is amazed to see her and then angry at being left out of the loop. Buffy goes to bed but soon appears screaming at Willow and Tara. The apparition scares them into calling Xander who then sees his own as Anya appears to cut her own face. The Scoobies gather and realise that in bringing Buffy back they've created a demon who hasn't yet found a body to live in. They work out how to kill it as Buffy confides in Spike.

The Good: This was like part three of the Buffy resurrection story and was very good in that respect. We definitely needed to hear that she was pulled from heaven to explain her miserable appearance as she stares at the life she thought she'd left behind. The concept of returning from paradise to the everyday struggles of Earth is not something we can relate to directly but with a typically good performance from SMG and clear writing of the expectations of the Scoobies we were able to understand the basics of what she's going through.

Buffy's despair at being dragged home is an excellent payoff to the foreboding of Bargaining part one where it seemed clear that something bad was going to happen. Now we can see the whole story and how it has led to no good for anyone, at least right now. Willow crossed many moral lines to make this happen and although Dawn and others are thrilled to have Buffy back, Willow has allowed some darkness in. She clearly didn't consider the consequences of her action fully (e.g. not digging up the grave) and appears to lie to Tara when the demon yells about the lamb she sacrificed. When the two of them cast a spell on that demon, Willow's eyes go dark (as they did when she attacked Glory in 519). From Willow's perspective though, she is the hero. She rescued Buffy from a fate worse than any they've faced before and all she wants is a big thank you. It's a very intriguing and awkward position to put the Willow character in and it's amazing to think that this story has been building since Jenny Calendar passed away (217) leaving an unfinished spell that Buffy's best friend couldn't help but carry out for her.

Meanwhile the writers have pulled off quite a fear by turning Spike into both a sympathetic character and Buffy's confidant. The latter makes a lot of sense given the acknowledgment in "Fool for Love" (507) that only Spike understands death in the way the Slayer does. That is doubly so now and only Spike reacts to her as if she has been through a trauma, the others stand around waiting for her to begin quipping and smiling. Despite this new intimacy and Spike's admirable guilt and honour over protecting Dawn, he is still a vampire. He is still unstable. It's a delight to see this not be forgotten as he laughs hysterically in his crypt (looking fancy by the way) or when he admits that every night he saves Buffy in his mind. The creepy stalker is still in him.  

The Bad: The initial apparition (in the form of Buffy) was pretty freaky and given the words she used, impactful. After that though the newly created demon became a plot device who popped in and out of the Scoobies quickly to forward the plot but never felt remotely threatening.

Anya has spent the first three episodes being a bit all over the place. The writers keep trying to make her the source of comedy in ways which don't always click with her character. She tells Dawn she will soon have dry mouth after being possessed which actually seemed appropriate given she too had suffered the same experience. But she then adds that she means because of the fire Dawn just spat across the room which was just a cheap joke instead of insight.

The Unknown: It's a slight surprise that Giles didn't react with anger or more shock on the phone but we only got Willow's perspective and doubtless his in person reaction will be worth the wait.   

Best Moment: Buffy telling Spike that she was in heaven suddenly clicked everything into place from these first three episodes.

The Bottom Line: Another solid episode moving Buffy's return forward with a real sense that the show has now changed.

 

Cordia's Second Look
After Life
Season 6, Episode 3
Original airing: 10/9/2001

My Rating: 66

The Good: This episode is a great example of how the characters drive this show so much more than the action or the horror aspect. Buffy’s return to the land of the living leaves her and everyone around her confused, hurt, desperate, and unfocused. This experience has effectively changed Buffy’s relationship with every other character on the show.

Spike and Buffy were the stars of this episode, in my opinion. Their three scenes together were an awesome exploration of their relationship and how Buffy’s death affected both of them. The first meeting had several tender moments as Spike recognizes Buffy from Buffy-bot almost instantly, and then holds her hands on the couch. He also empathizes with her about having to break out of her coffin, something he has also experienced.

The second scene was Buffy reaching out to Spike. She goes to his crypt, perhaps in a quiet plea to spend time around the only other person who’s been through death and back. It also gave Spike a wonderful chance to open up and showcase some of his feelings in a completely pure and organic manner (see Favorite Moment).

Finally, we get the painful scene where Buffy admits to Spike she wasn’t in hell. In fact, now life feels like hell to her. And without even asking, she swears him to secrecy. This is a truly powerful and well done scene. It’s one that completely changed my perspective on the show when I first saw it. The knowledge that Buffy was forced back into her life of sacrifice and pain from an existence of pure love and completion is shockingly painful. It puts everyone’s behaviors in a different light, especially Willow’s.

If there’s a character to dislike here, it’s Willow. She’s presented as rather selfish in this episode with her desire to be thanked and her focus on wanting Buffy to experience the emotions Willow was expecting. She doesn’t know how to deal with the Buffy that came back and just wants things to be like they used to be. It’s a very naïve approach to the situation.

Finally, I enjoyed again seeing Dawn doing something other than whining and screaming Buffy’s name. She tries really hard in this episode to take care of and protect Buffy. I especially like her insistence that the Scoobies not overwhelm Buffy when they find her at the house.

The Bad: This episode did not need a villain. It was chockfull of awesome Scoobieness and Buffy/Spike yumminess. And yet, someone decided to shoe-horn in this weird, floating, guilt demon. I just don’t think it was at all necessary and it turned into more of a distraction than anything else. Its complete lack of a plan until it learns it should kill Buffy makes me question why it was throwing things at Willow and Tara and why it possessed Anya and Dawn. What was it trying to achieve if it didn’t know it needed to kill Buffy? This issue is never addressed and why should it be, when the demon doesn’t matter?

Favorite Moment: I would have totally chosen the last scene where Buffy reveals she was in heaven, if this was my first viewing. As is, I found myself really drawn to the scene where Spike tells Buffy how much he missed her and how he saves her every night in his dreams. It’s nice to see Spike have the opportunity to genuinely open himself up to Buffy. There’s no anger, demands, sarcasm, or wit in this monologue. He’s just telling her straight up how sorry he is that he couldn’t save her.

The Bottom Line: If you’re a fan and invested in Buffy’s return from the dead, this is a pretty darn good episode. Looking past the demon, it explored a lot of Buffy’s newly evolving relationships with her family and friends. I look forward to seeing how Giles handles all this too.

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Comments

  • I'm glad you found us again :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 23/05/2013 10:54am (4 years ago)

  • Hi. I haven't been here in a really long time, but I've had some free time and rediscovered this podcast. Anyways, I had to respond to a question posed by another listener (hopefully it has not been answered by someone else yet making this redundant). They asked why Spike's chip didn't go off when he pushed Xander up against the tree. If you look closely at his face in that moment, he winces in pain. It did go off. Ok, that's all for now. I might comment when I get completely caught up again.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Kari, 23/05/2013 5:55am (4 years ago)

  • I think season 6 is my favourite season and this episode was a strong one for me and it entrenched the atmosphere of distant buffy was from her friends. The 'distracting' demon worked for me because it left the scoobies too occupied and slightly self absorbed to acknowledge buffys problems, and not at all ready to admit they might have made a mistake. The way both buffy and spike act completely differently and honestly around each other than everyone else also hits home, building up buffys isolation. I just really enjoyed the atmosphere in this ep and the faux jolly attitudes of the scoobies made it seem all the more effective to me!

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Rose, 09/04/2013 3:25pm (5 years ago)

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