Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
Everyone is at Buffy’s house, and Riley will be going in for some kind of military hearing the next day. He’s confident in his chances, because Graham will be there to testify on his behalf and the evidence points very strongly to the administration being the ones at fault. Joyce is rather pointed about how happy she is to meet Riley after all these months of Buffy dating him. The core four get comfy in the living room, feeling too energized still from the enjoining spell to sleep. But then they immediately conk out once they start the first movie.
The camera zooms in on Willow first, and the music is really interesting. She’s dreaming about painting a poem by Sappho on Tara’s back, in Greek. They’re talking about Miss Kitty Fantastico. Tara implies that she has secrets from Willow. Also that Willow won’t be able to hide her real self from everyone forever. What’s that about?
It’s time for drama class. Outside Tara’s window is a desert in which something is lurking. And Miss Kitty is stomping along in the room, the camera making her look huge. And I really like Willow’s shirt.
Xander and Oz join Willow in the hall of one of the university buildings. Xander makes uncomfortable metaphors about spells, lesbian sex, and masturbation. I suppose that was supposed to be funny, but I just find it crass.
Willow arrives backstage for drama class. Everyone seems to be rehearsing for something, and Harmony is there. She doesn’t want Willow stepping on her cues. Buffy comes running up dressed like a flapper. Riley is extremely pleased that he gets to be Cowboy Guy. And everyone thinks Willow’s already in costume, which confuses her. She’s also confused and concerned that they’re apparently about to perform.
Giles is in charge of the show, and he starts up his pep talk (which mostly consists of more things that make Willow nervous and confused). Harmony keeps creeping up behind people and making chomping noises, but not actually biting them. Giles’s mildly annoyed reaction to this is hilarious.
During the speech, Willow notices something creeping around through the curtains. Also, Buffy is very happy about the musical numbers in the play. I’m going to have to watch Death of a Salesman now. All this stuff looks fantastic. Everything goes quiet, and there’s randomly a dude with an elegant arrangement of American cheese slices. Gross.
Willow wanders through the curtains until she runs into Tara, who only adds to Willow’s confusion. Meanwhile, the play has started, and it is fantastic. Tara thinks Willow will be in big trouble if anyone finds out about the real her. Meanwhile in the play, flapper Buffy does a long, angry rant at Riley about how men are just the worst, and I’m now very impressed by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s lung capacity.
Tara vanishes, and then daggers and clawed hands start piercing through the curtains around Willow. Buffy helps her escape into a high school classroom, asking her questions about what attacked her. She thinks it must be Willow’s fault she was attacked. And she also thinks Willow’s still in costume. She insists she take it off, and eventually rips it off. Willow’s cute outfit and haircut are replaced by her look from “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” The classroom is suddenly full of people, and she has to do a book report in front of them about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the class are Tara and Oz, both amused and scornful about Willow, and rather flirty with each other. Nobody wants to listen to her, and then she gets attacked by the thing. Nobody helps her. The thing seems to suck the life out of her, and back in reality, Willow is now twitching and gasping, still asleep.
Next, the camera moves to Xander, who wakes up. Giles and Buffy are also awake, and they’re watching a really weird-looking movie. Can someone whose watched Apocalypse Now tell me if it primarily features a dude in army gear walking on a treadmill in front of a greenscreen of jungle? They’re enjoying new car smell flavored popcorn, and Willow is still twitching and gasping. Xander’s the only one even a little concerned about that.
Xander goes to the bathroom. On his way there, he gets a very uncomfortable proposition from Joyce. Ugh, make it stop! Then in the bathroom, there are about twenty soldiers and scientists with clipboards taking notes while Xander pees. He decides to find another bathroom. Instead, he ends up in his parents’ basement. Someone’s trying to come down from the main floor, which seems to freak him out.
At a park, Giles and Spike are wearing matching tweed suits and swinging on a swingset. It’s so lovely to see Giles in tweed again. Buffy is playing in the sandbox, and she calls Xander her big brother. Giles will be training Spike as a Watcher because he loves him like a son. He watches himself in his ice cream truck from a distance. Xander’s worried about Buffy in that sandbox.
From here, with music that reminds me of Gladiator, we follow the Xander in the ice cream truck. Anya’s with him, and there’s an obvious greenscreen of passing streets behind the windows. Willow and Tara are in the back of the truck in much sexier clothing than usual. Ugh, can this not be about Xander’s sex fantasies? It doesn’t show them kissing, but we hear kissy noises and see Xander’s gobsmacked expression, and then they invite him to join them. Anya tells him to go ahead. WHAT IS THIS CRAP. Xander heads to the back, and ends up crawling through a tunnel that leads right back to his basement.
There’s still someone trying to open the upstairs door, and Xander is still afraid of them. He tries to get out another way, and bonks into the guy with cheese slices. He gets out and stumbles into the university, which has a green color filter on it. Giles starts explaining what’s going on, but then it turns into dubbed French. Something about how everyone’s back at the house and the creature won’t hurt him, but it’s not time for his idiotic games. Anya joins them, also speaking in dubbed French. They drag him away, with the help of some army guys. Now he’s living that weird movie from the beginning of the dream. And Snyder’s there. He says some weird stuff and rubs water on his head. He tells Xander he’s a whipping boy from a trash background.
When Xander stands up, he’s in the courtyard outside Giles’s apartment, and the creature from Willow’s dream is following him. He makes his way through the apartment, the university corridor, Buffy and Willow’s dorm room, a gap between the walls, and ends up back in the basement. He hesitantly starts climbing the stairs, but he’s still afraid of what’s at the top. His dad. Who starts laying into him for ignoring them all the time. Then he plunges his fist into Xander’s chest and turns into the thing from Willow’s dream and rips his heart out.
Real world Xander starts convulsing too, and then the camera moves to Giles. He’s wearing tweed again, dangling a pocketwatch in front of Buffy in his flat. She starts laughing. Then they’re at some kind of fair at a cemetery. Buffy is holding his hand and wearing overalls and pigtails, and Olivia is pregnant and pushing a stroller next to him. Buffy plays a Whack-a-Vampire game, hoping for praise, which Giles doesn’t give. Then she turns around with mud all over her face.
Spike gestures him over to a crypt. He follows him. Olivia is in there, crying. The rest of the crypt is in black and white, though, and Spike is posing for a bunch of cameras. Is this some kind of meta-commentary on how they primarily kept Spike in the show because of the fans? Giles finds Spike annoying and moves on, running into the cheese man, who is now wearing the cheese slices on his head and shoulders. He leaves the crypt and ends up in the Bronze. Xander and Willow are there looking through books for information about why they’re both about to die. Anya is onstage, doing terrible standup, but not really caring about the audience’s scorn. The joke then lands, and she’s very pleased with herself.
Giles starts singing! He gets up on stage and sings his exposition. This is amazing. They’re being attacked by an ancient, primal creature that was unleashed by their spell. Everyone in the audience holds up candles. Then the mike starts giving horrible feedback, so Giles follows the cord. It leads him backstage to a huge tangle of cords. He finds the pocketwatch in there, and then the antagonist, which looks like a black woman dressed in toilet paper, slices the top of his head off. He tells her he can defeat her because she never had a Watcher. Ooooh, she’s a Slayer!
Giles starts twitching. Buffy’s the only one left. In her dream, she’s at her dorm, and Anya is in Willow’s bed, trying to convince her to wake up. She doesn’t want to. But the primal Slayer is hanging from the ceiling, snarling at her. She wakes up again, now in her bed at home. Now she’s talking to Tara, who tells her she lost Willow, Xander, and Giles. The clock says 7:30, but Tara says it’s wrong. She holds out the Manus card. Buffy leaves to look for the others, and Tara tells her to come back before dawn. Or...Dawn.
At the university, she’s having little success finding the others, but she does find her mom, who’s standing inside the walls. Buffy doesn’t think that’s a great place for her to live, but Joyce isn’t worried about it. She suggests that Buffy break her out, but Buffy’s spotted Xander, so she follows him. She ends up in a military conference room where Riley and a fully human Adam are sitting in suits. They’re hatching a plan for world domination, using sentient coffee makers. Buffy doesn’t think world domination is a great ambition for her boyfriend.
Adam suggests that she and he have so much aggression because they’re not human. She doesn’t like that. The primal Slayer is behind her. Riley wants to get back to his government busywork, and Adam doesn’t remember what his name was when he was human. A voice over the intercom warns that demons are escaping. Riley and Adam promptly head off to make a pillow fort to defend themselves.
Buffy tries to call after them, because her weapons bag is there. But it’s full of mud. She squishes through it, then slowly rubs it on her face like in Giles’s dream. Also like in Giles’s dream, the image goes to a strange negative. Then Riley comes back, but he leaves again, calling her “killer.”
Buffy walks out of the conference room, and her surroundings slowly change to a sparse desert with many rocky outcroppings. The camera pulls out for a vast wide shot, and the Gladiator-esque music is back. Tara comes walking over to her. The primal Slayer is using Tara’s voice to speak. Buffy doesn’t approve. Oh, and the primal Slayer isn’t wearing toilet paper, she’s wearing spider webs! Much better. Buffy figures out that she’s a Slayer. She says she’s the first Slayer. Buffy looks down at the tarot cards, which are moving images of her friends. The first Slayer insists that to be a Slayer is to be alone and apart, but Buffy disagrees. She not only has friends, but she also has many elements of a normal life. She demands the return of her friends.
The first Slayer speaks for herself finally, still telling Buffy she must be alone. The cheese man leans into frame, wiggling a couple of cheese slices. Buffy has had enough of this bizarre dream, and she’s going to wake up now. The first Slayer tackles her, and they fight. But then Buffy drops out of her fighting stance and says it’s over. The first Slayer tackles her, and they go tumbling down the sand dune. But Buffy still doesn’t want to play this game, and she jolts awake. Or not. The first Slayer starts stabbing her repeatedly, but Buffy isn’t impressed. She’s going to ignore her until she goes away. The first Slayer’s reaction to this is an extremely offended expression and stance, which is hilarious.
Buffy wakes up for real, and so do Willow, Xander, and Giles. They’re all a bit shocked. Later, they’re talking around the kitchen table about the first Slayer. Joyce comes down and offers to make them hot chocolate if that’ll help them recover from the dream attacks. Xander uncomfortably remembers the sexy Joyce from his dream. *eye roll* Buffy heads up to take a shower. She looks in her room on the way, remembering Tara/the first Slayer’s words to her. “You think you know...what you are, what’s to come. You haven’t even begun.”
In my opinion, there are few who can write dream sequences as well as Joss Whedon, and “Restless” is an excellent showcase of that. The sets joined together in a continuous maze, the minor characters sprinkled in, the weird image filters. And the way the dreamers seem to mostly play along with the inexplicable dream scenarios, not quite able to realize none of it’s real. It’s a fascinating look at each of the main four characters, and I don’t feel cheated at all that this is the season finale. It was a much more effective use of an episode than it would have been to make “Primeval” a two-parter. There’s also foreshadowing, but appropriately, it’s only in Buffy’s dream, since she’s the only one who sometimes has prophetic dreams.
Buffy’s dream shows us that she is fully aware of how crucial her friends and normal life stuff are to her effectiveness as a Slayer. She’s also worried that Riley will leave her for his military career if the hearing goes well. It seems fitting to me that, as the only Slayer in the group getting attacked by the spirit of a past Slayer, Buffy’s the only one who manages to gain any control over her dreams. She won’t let the first Slayer dictate how she’s supposed to exist as a Slayer. She won’t even entertain the idea long enough to argue about it. She merely stands her ground and forces herself to wake up.
Do guys actually have sex dreams about their friends’ moms? Wait, no, I don’t want to know. That’s really messed up. Let’s not focus on the sex-related parts of Xander’s dream. I used to just think the bit with Giles and Spike on the swings was random goofiness, but now I can see a connection between that and Xander’s relationship with his dad. Deep down, I think Xander might have been secretly hoping all this time that Giles would be a father figure to him, since his actual father is so terrible. Giles taking Spike under his wing instead of Xander effectively demonstrates his feelings of rejection that Giles has never extended that fatherly guidance towards him. And I think there must have been some tiny part of Xander that was holding out hope that Buffy would stop seeing him in a platonic light. This dream might be when he lets go of that, because he has to come face to face with the idea that she considers him a brother. The settings are particularly effective in Xander’s dream, always returning to the basement no matter where he goes. Even though I still don’t think it’s all that pathetic for a nineteen-year-old to be living at home (particularly if he’s paying rent) as it would be for someone Nicholas Brendon’s actual age at the time to be living at home, it does seem to be a major symbol of failure for Xander.
Willow’s fear is that this confident, capable person she’s become (both in a Plot B way and a Plot A way) won’t be enough to convince anyone that she’s not still the same timid nerd from high school. Can someone please explain to Willow that nerdiness doesn’t have to mean being a loser? Nerds are awesome. It seems that Willow hasn’t entirely rid herself of the mindset she had in “Welcome to the Hellmouth;” that of not being able to see why she would be of value to anyone.
Riley is in it for like two seconds in the waking world, but he seems very confident in his own future now, which is nice. As for the dream versions of him, it seems that Willow considers him the embodiment of manliness, both the good aspects of that and the ridiculous ones. And Buffy seems to think he still might not really pay attention to the shadiness of government organizations. He may not always side with her or rely on her like he does now.
Spike only appears in Xander’s and Giles’s dreams. For Xander, he’s part of the symbolism of how unimportant Xander feels. For Giles, he’s just ridiculous. And I think I’m going to stick with my theory that the black and white photo shoot is meta-commentary on Spike’s popularity with the fans.
Giles, unsurprisingly, sees himself as Buffy’s father. What’s strange is how impatient and dismissive he acts towards her. Also, I think it might’ve been more fitting if Joyce had been the one pushing the stroller next to him, not Olivia. Olivia never appears in the show again. If she’d come back in the last three seasons, then that would’ve been fine. I wonder if that was the plan. The fact that she’s pregnant in the dream does raise some questions. Was that just part of the domestic setup of the dream, or has something been going on between Giles and Olivia off-screen that we haven’t heard about?
“Come on, put your back into it! A Watcher scoffs at gravity!”
♪ “Xander and Willow, try not to bleed on my couch; I’ve just had it steeeeam-cleaned.” ♪
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.