Crumbs: Reviews » Dramas » Buffy the Vampire Slayer » Season 3 » The Wish
Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
and analysis of what makes them
good, bad, irritating and enlightening.

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.


Episode 9 - The Wish

23 November 2013

Synopsis: Cordelia returns from her injury and tries to reclaim her former popularity. Harmony and that crowd mock her though and only new girl Anya is willing to hang out with her. Cordelia turns her anger on Buffy for bringing Xander into her life. She wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale and Anya grants the wish, revealing herself to be a demon. Cordelia now lives in a town dominated by the Master. She is killed by Willow and Xander who are now both vampires. Giles, Oz and a few others still fight on and spurred by Cordelia's words Giles calls Buffy in Cleveland. She arrives and with help from the tortured Angel heads off to defeat the Master.Anyanka in all her glory

The Good: This is a wonderfully memorable episode with a deeply satisfying conclusion. The story is built on two concepts which interlink in a brilliant way.

The first is just the fallout from Willow and Xander hooking up. Oz is being wise and zen and keeping to himself. Whereas Cordelia is deeply hurt and angry. She turns that anger on Buffy which in a twisted way makes perfect sense. Without Buffy's involvement in her life Cordelia would never have had to interact with Xander as much as she did. It also fit with Cordelia's emotional state that confronting Xander would have been too painful but to lash out at Buffy came easily to her.

The second concept is the idea that is the foundation of the whole show. That Buffy is an admirable super hero who stands guard over the mouth of hell so that the rest of humanity can rest easy. Buffy cannot do it alone though and with the guidance of Giles and the support of Willow and Xander, she stays sane and happy and able to fight on. The dystopia that Cordelia unleashes underlines this concept with a real flourish of imagination. It's such a clever melding of these two concepts because if Cordelia had wished for just pain to be inflicted on Xander the story wouldn't have been nearly as interesting.

Television shows are ideally set up for dystopian fantasies. The reliable structure of a world with its regular characters and scenarios being turned upside down is always going to be intriguing. The execution of the dystopian Sunnydale though was about as good as you could imagine. It began with hints of what had happened to the human population with a "Winter Brunch" being scheduled, bright clothes frowned upon and a parking lot with no cars in it. Soon we realise that no human can come out after dark because the vampires reign supreme.

In a way this episode is a wonderful companion to Season One by showing us exactly how horrible life would have been if the Master had risen. Xander and Willow are dead and their faces are now used by demons intent on evil. Angel is suffering even more than when he was on his hobo exile and Giles oversees a parade of misery and death. Even Buffy, once she arrives, is stern, bitter and negative. She is like a joyless Faith, living only to kill before she is killed.

In a twist that underlines the reality of this new world Cordelia is killed by Xander and Willow. Even though this is her episode, she is murdered half way through the story. It demonstrates the folly of her wish but it also has a more direct metaphor. In the real world Xander and Willow wounded her emotionally and physically in a way that devastated her. How could things get any worse? How about if they literally teamed up to end her life? It's a beautifully symbolic moment.

Much of the power of the episode comes with the first viewing. You can never recapture the intrigue of working out what has happened to the world. However the ending is still emotional to this day. The wonderful slow motion fight scene shows us Xander, Angel, Willow and then Buffy all dying. As Giles battles with Anyanka his certainty that there must be a better world than this is moving. Again it all hits the central emotional pull of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These people all work together to save the world and without each other things really would be a nightmare. Purely from a structural point of view, not many episodes will ever end as satisfyingly as this one does: Buffy and the gang are ok, the world is restored and even Cordelia is on her way to being healed. Not by a demon's power but just by living and moving on and realising that things really could be worse.

There were a few details worth pointing out too. In "Prophecy Girl" it was written that the Master would rise and the Slayer would die. The writers neatly fulfil that prophecy even in this alternate reality. You have to love the Master whose camp delivery is as entertaining as ever. He has several good lines, the best (and campest) of them being when he points out that his mass production device drains blood out of humans while they are still alive - "For the freshness!" The transformation of Willow into a leather clad bondage-style vampire was an impressive idea. All the little details of life in the new Sunnydale were well placed. The "Winter Brunch" is a sad replacement for whatever ball would normally have been held and dead humans must be incinerated to avoid any of them rising again. It was interesting (back in the real world) to see Harmony tormenting Cordelia (and picking on poor Jonathan). Yes it makes sense that now she is Queen Bee she wouldn't want to let Cordelia back in as a rival. But more than that Cordelia kind of deserves a little payback after she dismissed Harmony and went with Xander (216). I was pleased to see Cordelia favouring her wound throughout the episode.

The Bad: The only poor moment here was the opening one where Buffy is apparently attacked mid-picnic by a demon who looks like he was friends with some of the fish-men from "Go Fish" (220). After killing him she just goes back to lunch with Willow and Xander. There was no sense that they should hurry to cover up the body from being discovered or that they were shaken or hurt by this surprise attack in the middle of the day. It would have been better all round to just leave the demon out of it.

The Unknown: In an episode that was already full of ideas I don't seriously think any of these characters would have added much. However it does make you wonder what happened to Luke, Darla and Jesse in this universe.

It is interesting that at no point do Willow and Xander seem to think they could actually start a relationship themselves. That certainly puts their actions, during the cheating, in a certain context.

Best Moment: The final slow motion battle cut against Giles fighting Anyanka was brilliantly executed.

The Bottom Line: The fact that I can still get emotional about the ideas in this episode is amazing. What's more amazing in a way is that those emotions are directed at a concept rather than a character. The concept is that a gang of good people can make the world a better place. The fact that Giles inherently believes that that is possible, despite the misery he lives in, is very touching. In a way this episode sums up the whole success of Buffy as a show. People who are somehow moved by the idea of real goodness triumphing are drawn to the show and in many cases remain so affected years later.


Cordia's Second Look
The Wish

Season 3, Episode 9
Original airing: 12/8/1998

My Rating: 88

The Good: This is a brilliant "What If?" episode. Sunnydale without Buffy is just as despondent and depressing as Buffy without Sunnydale. The episode perfectly hits on why Buffy is such a successful Slayer and why the show is so great in general. It's all about the people. Seeing beloved characters morphed into shadows of themselves is heartbreaking. Willow and Xander are soul-less vampires, Giles never became a Watcher, and Buffy is disenchanted with life in general. The relief I feel at the end of the episode when everything is back to normal is almost palpable.

The setup for the story is so well done, it's almost effortless. A demon who grants wishes to scorned women takes advantage of Cordelia's anger to twist the world into this horrible shadow of itself. Cordelia blaming everything on Buffy makes altogether too much sense. We've seen her constantly frustrated by Buffy's presence and how her life has changed completely since she fell in with the Scoobies. Last episode, she even declared with a huge grin how great Buffy's SAT scores were because it meant Buffy could leave Sunnydale and never come back. This long-seated jealousy and frustration with Buffy has come back time and again in many forms; their battle for Homecoming Queen, Xander's latent and continuous crush on Buffy, and even Cordelia's jealousy over Angel from the first season. I love when the show ties realistic motivations to the story line and they do that brilliantly here.

The creation of the alternate reality is just as fully realized as the characters. No one wears bright colors, everyone is terrified of the night (even the teachers running home directly after class), and it looks as if a tornado has hit parts of the town. The Bronze has naturally become a vampire hang out, while the library is still a place of relative safety. The little touches are the best, though. Cordelia is invited to a brunch, instead of a dance. Her clothing is a source of discussion because of its bright blue color as opposed to the cut or material. The teacher mentions a monthly memorial which means everyone has the day off school. It's these things that pile up to the point where Cordelia finally realizes life with Buffy is better than no life at all.

It's also a fantastic move to have Cordelia killed off first. Her sudden death in the middle of the episode by both Xander and Willow is extremely abrupt and piercing. It makes the alternate universe feel more real and dangerous when one of the main characters is offed like it's no big deal. I love the little moment where Xander clutches Willow's head as they feed. In death, they finally get to have a real relationship.

It was wonderful to see the person Buffy would have been if she hadn't come to Sunnydale. She's lost her quippy nature and is purely interested in killing as many vampires and demons as possible before they kill her. There's no mention of who her Watcher is, but she berates Giles when he dares to dream of a better world. It's a very depressing look at the other extreme which goes beyond even the wild and uncaring nature we've seen in Faith.

I also liked that Giles is relatively unchanged. He's fighting vampires with a dedicated group of students and trying to make the world a better place. And, of course, he saves the day. Even in an alternate reality, he's basically the most bad ass.

The Bad: The main question I had, was why anyone stayed in that town. I should think most of the citizens would flee during the day. The show failed to mention if just Sunnydale was overrun with vampires, or if the rise of the Master had altered the world at large. We know Buffy is fighting demon activity in Cleveland, but it doesn't explain if that's run of the mill stuff or the symptom of a bigger problem.

Favorite Moment: The slow-motion fight scene at the end of the episode is just brutal. We see almost all of our beloved characters murdering each other. The worst part to me is Buffy's complete dispassion throughout. She walks right through Angel's ashes and doesn't even look at Xander when she stakes him. Every time I see this scene, I end up in tears.

The Bottom Line: This was a very fun episode that saved itself from being depressing by righting all the wrongs in the end. I loved it.



Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.

Post your comment


  • I really enjoyed this episode. While I was re-watching this ep and when I was listening to you guys talk about it the thing that I could not get out of my head was a quote from Becoming (2) by Angel "no friends no hope take all that away and what's left?" I felt like this episode was the epitome of that. Buffy is alone she has no one that cares for her and she cares for no one. I felt like this was an amazing what if episode that I really enjoyed watching. I don't know if it is one of my favorite episodes because it is outside the story line so when I re-watch favorite episodes I kinda forget about this one which is strange because it is so good.

    Viewer score: 89 / 100

    Posted by Coryann, 22/11/2013 10:54pm (7 years ago)

  • One small comment I'd like to make about this episode is that this show was so ahead of it's time that they were doing alt timelines before they were cool

    Posted by David Lopez, 31/10/2011 5:15am (9 years ago)

  • So the first thing that popped out at me while watching this episode was that The Master was loose without Buffy having gone to free him. I thought about that for a little while and settled on the fact that this is an entirely different universe, which isn't bound by the rules and prophecies of our universe. I've talked to a lot of people who thought that thought Cordelia was just sent back in time which isn't the case.

    Deciding whether this episode should stand with all the past and future greats is always tough because that infamous "reset" button is pushed and our characters know nothing of what happens in the Wishverse. Yet, at the same time the entertainment factor is so high. Seeing a battle worn slayer, one who fights alone like all the slayers before her, was a definite treat. In the end I have to say the memorability of this episode shoots it past almost every episode in season 3.

    A question I think that deserves to be asked is was this universe destroyed when Giles crushed Anya's power center or does it still exist alongside the many other unseen universes we know to to be in existence?

    And it wouldn't be a proper comment from me until I mention how well done and haunting the score was. Especially when the wish was coming to a close.

    Posted by RevenentThings, 28/10/2011 2:20pm (9 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments