Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by Marti Noxon
Buffy is walking through a darkly lit room full of coffins. But not because she’s hunting vampires; no, she’s picking out Joyce’s coffin. Giles, Dawn, and the funeral home guy find her in there. Buffy picks a coffin and they’re about to leave, but Dawn is worried Joyce wouldn’t have liked that coffin best. They have a rather depressing argument about it.
Buffy and Giles are discussing funeral arrangements at the Summers’ dining room table, where Willow, Xander, and Dawn are also eating. There won’t be a wake, because Joyce didn’t like them. Dawn is surprised to hear that Buffy and Joyce talked about funeral stuff before her surgery. The phone rings. Giles takes it. It’s not Hank, who apparently still hasn’t called his daughters. Dawn seems to be getting more and more upset while Buffy focuses on all the arrangements in such a weary way. Dawn asks Willow if she can stay with her after the funeral. Buffy seems slightly hurt and confused by that, but doesn’t object.
Xander and Willow head out, and they run into Spike, who’s carrying flowers. Spike liked Joyce and wants to leave flowers, but Xander won’t let him because he’s sure it’s another attempt to score points with Buffy. Spike throws the flowers down and stalks off.
Buffy’s sitting on her bed. The camera pans past her room down the hallway to Dawn’s room, where Dawn is also sitting on her bed. This is followed by a funeral montage. Dawn buries her head in Buffy’s shoulder when the first shovelful of dirt gets tossed over the coffin. After the service ends and most of the people leave, Tara and Willow go with Dawn.
Buffy stays there alone. Night falls. Then someone steps up beside her. It’s Angel! Buffy grips his hand without looking at him or speaking.
Willow and Tara try to be comforting to Dawn, but Dawn gets angry and indignant. Dawn wants to do a spell to bring Joyce back to life. From Willow’s and Tara’s expressions, that’s a very scary idea.
Anya and Xander are in the afterglow of sex. Anya thinks it was more intense than usual, after Joyce’s death, because she understands how it’s part of the circle of life. She wouldn’t be opposed to having kids with Xander someday.
Tara tries to explain to Dawn that you can’t bring someone back with magic. Willow doesn’t participate in this argument. Her perspective is less that you shouldn’t do it and more that none of the books she’s seen have a safe way to do it. Dawn moodily lays down to sleep and won’t talk to them anymore.
Buffy and Angel are sitting together at the base of a tree in the cemetery. Buffy has been running on autopilot since Joyce’s death. There was so much to keep her busy, with the funeral arrangements. But from here on out, she’s supposed to just go on with her life. That’s terrifying. She doesn’t know how to be strong in Plot B—that was Joyce’s territory. Angel is confident in Buffy. Another thing bothering her, though, is that she keeps torturing herself with the thought of how she might have saved Joyce if she’d just gotten home earlier. She thinks she’s a terrible adult—who is now wholly responsible for Dawn. Angel assures her that she’s strong, whether she feels like it or not, and she’s not alone. He offers to stay as long as she needs him. Forever would be her preference, but she knows that’s not a good idea. Buffy hesitantly moves in to kiss him. The Buffy/Angel theme plays! They get more and more into it, and then pull apart. She thinks it might be smarter for him to go back to L.A. He apologizes, but she doesn’t mean she didn’t appreciate his visit. She snuggles against him, relieved he doesn’t have to go quite yet.
Ben gets accosted by Jinx. He’s very fed up with getting accosted by Jinx. Glory ships Ben/Buffy, apparently, because that could be an easy way to get info about the Key. Ben still doesn’t want to do anything that might help Glory, but he accidentally reveals to Jinx that the Key is an “innocent.” Well that will certainly narrow the search down. Now instead of the Key being anything in the world, it has to be a person, and one who could be described as “innocent,” at that. Ben doesn’t want Jinx to tell Glory that, so he stabs him. Uh. Maybe make sure he’s dead before you run off.
Willow and Tara have to go to class, so Dawn can hang out at the dorm until Giles picks her up. Whoa, wait a second. That dorm room looks like the same one from freshman year, only it has one queen bed now instead of two twin beds. Did Willow just keep the room and change the furniture? Does Tara really still have her separate room? Bah. Anyway, Tara leaves the room first, which gives Willow the opportunity to sneakily yank a book farther out on a shelf by magic. It’s a book for Dawn to try resurrecting Joyce! Noooo, bad Willow.
Dawn opens the book and finds resurrection in the index. Later, she’s at the Magic Box, dusting (as a cover for finding items and books that will help with her resurrection scheme). Anya is annoyed that Giles wants to let her keep at it, until Giles gives her a stern look. Dawn asks, politely, if there’s anything Giles wants her to stay away from. The books and materials on the loft are off-limits. Giles offers to teach her how to ring up sales, which annoys Anya again. Then a customer comes in, distracting Anya, and Giles goes to the back room with some inventory. Dawn immediately climbs up to the loft and grabs a book and a vial, then makes it downstairs in time to avoid detection by Giles or Anya. Wow, she’s much better at being sneaky than Buffy.
That night, she goes to the cemetery and collects some dirt from Joyce’s grave. Spike walks up. He’s onto her, but rather than trying to stop her, he offers to help!
Giles is at his flat, having a drink while listening to a record, specifically “The Brave Tales of Ulysses” by Cream—the same song he and Joyce listened to in “Band Candy.” Aww.
Spike is bringing Dawn to meet some guy called Doc who knows all about resurrection spells. He’s so insistent that he doesn’t want credit for bringing Joyce back that he threatens to have Dawn killed if she tells.
Glory is very impatient because Jinx is several hours late getting back. Two other diseased-looking minions haul him in. He’s still alive, because just as I suspected, Ben is terrible at follow-through when he’s murdering to keep his information secret. Glory is so angry to hear that Ben is responsible that she rips chunks of her hair out. Jinx tells her that the Key is in human form. She hugs Jinx, ecstatic. She orders the other minions to patch Jinx up so she can hear his wonderful story again.
Dawn and Spike arrive at Doc’s place. Doc looks like a little old grandpa, and he seems to have dementia. Spike explains why they’re there. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea to mess with resurrection spells, but he’ll give Dawn a tonic to help her through the grief! She’s still determined to bring Joyce back, so he grabs some hair from her head and flits away. Apparently, from the hair, he can tell that Joyce is a good candidate for resurrection. While he’s poking around, Dawn notices that he has a tail. He grabs a book that definitely isn’t the same book they used as Moloch’s prison book in “I Robot, You Jane.”
Nope! Definitely not the same book. One of the ingredients to the spell is the egg of a certain kind of demon, which has to be stolen from the demon’s nest. Doc also needs a photo of Joyce. He explains how the spell works once Dawn has all the ingredients. If it goes wrong, the failsafe is to tear up the photo. Doc warns Dawn that Joyce might not come back entirely the same. He gives them directions to the demon’s nest and sends them off, not charging them for the spell. He mostly seems nice, but it’s very unnerving how his eyes go all black (especially if you’re a Supernatural fan).
Dawn and Spike go down to the sewers. Spike doesn’t want to let Dawn come into the nest with him, but Dawn insists she can grab the egg while he distracts the demon. This demon is pretty much a dragon, but thankfully it’s not super huge. It does have three heads, though. Dawn grabs an egg and is ready to leave, but she trips and drops it when they’re on the way out. She goes back for another one. Spike fights the demon again and gets bitten on the side. He wounds the demon pretty badly. They leave.
Dawn is in her room. She has all the ingredients now, so she’s doing the spell, which calls on Osiris and requires her to smear her own blood in a circle.
Tara and Willow are sitting on Willow’s bed. Willow is writing a journal, and for some reason she thinks it’s important to include things like what she ate for breakfast. Really riveting stuff, there, Wil. Tara notices that there’s a book missing from Willow’s shelf. Willow pretends not to know anything about it. She’s extremely unsubtle, but Tara doesn’t seem to pick up on it. I can’t tell if Willow actually meant for Dawn to try resurrecting Joyce or if she just wanted her to read enough to see how difficult and dangerous it would be so that she’d give up. Considering what Willow’s going to do six episodes from now, I’m leaning towards the former, but the latter sort of makes sense in the present context. Willow and Tara call Buffy.
Buffy gets home in time to answer their call. But not in time to stop Dawn before she finishes the spell. Buffy is horrified at what Dawn has done, but Dawn refuses to back down. Buffy can’t stand the idea that Joyce will have come back wrong. Meanwhile, something that might be Joyce is walking towards the house. Dawn says she needs Joyce because she doesn’t have anyone else. Buffy doesn’t understand where this is coming from. Dawn has her! Dawn thinks Buffy’s behavior lately means Buffy doesn’t want her around, and that Buffy doesn’t care their mom died.
Buffy is horrified. She slaps Dawn, then breaks down crying because accidentally hurting her sister is the straw that broke the camel’s back. She explains that she’s been keeping herself so busy in a desperate effort to hold herself together, not to avoid Dawn or because she doesn’t care. She breaks down crying. She feels like she has to take on Joyce’s role, and she has no idea how to do it. Dawn understands now, and she starts crying too. She doesn’t want Buffy to feel like she has to do everything. The silhouette of the maybe-Joyce thing Dawn’s spell brought back starts cuts through the shadows on the living room curtains. There’s a knock on the door. Buffy has forgotten all her reasons for not wanting Dawn to do the spell, and she runs to the door to greet her mother. Dawn tears up the photo, and nothing is at the door. The sisters hug and sink to the floor, crying and holding each other.
I like “Forever,” and not just because Angel’s in it and Buffy is implied to have spent an entire day with him offscreen somewhere. But really, it’s very nice that Angel’s return to sanity on his own series happened in time for him to comfort Buffy after her mother’s death, and I like how clear it is that they both wish they could stay together but accept that the circumstances keeping them apart haven’t changed. (I would like it better if someone would be like, “Hey, you know, Angel, maybe there’s a way to fix your curse so you wouldn’t lose your soul if you were happy. How about we look for that so keeping Angelus at bay won’t require your eternal misery?” But I guess I can’t always get what I want.) I’m pretty sure I remember a DVD commentary or an interview with Marti Noxon about how despite everyone’s talk about resurrection spells being notorious for going wrong, she deliberately shot it to be ambiguous as to whether what Dawn brought back was a zombie or just a perfectly normal Joyce. I don’t think that ambiguity really comes through, though. This isn’t the first time the show has done resurrection magic. Aside from the full-on rotting, shambling zombies in “Dead Man’s Party,” we had Jack and his undead buddies in “The Zeppo,” who were all casually murderous psychos, Ampata from “Inca Mummy Girl” who had no qualms about killing people to keep herself from reverting to mummy form, and we also had Daryl Epps in “Some Assembly Required,” who was totally fine with having his little brother murder a girl so he could have his Bride of Frankenstein. Even Forrest, after being brought back as a Frankencyborg by Adam, was much more murderous and violent than he ever was as a human. We have yet to see someone brought back from the dead and not be really messed up. So there was never any doubt for me that it was a good thing Dawn ripped up the photo and ended the spell. Meanwhile, the plot of Glory’s search for the Key advances because Ben is an idiot. I mean, come on! He’s a medical intern! Shouldn’t he know how to deal a fatal blow?
I feel so much sympathy for Buffy. Most people don’t have to become competent, fully independent adults (with dependants) by the time they’re twenty. It’s a gradual process that spans your time at college and maybe beyond. But Buffy’s only a year and a half into college, her dad’s completely out of the picture, and now her mom’s dead, leaving her to be the legal guardian of her teenage sister. She has neither a job nor any real job skills since she’s been so busy saving the world every other week. Somehow, she has to figure out how to be responsible for everything. She can open up to Angel and she can rely on Giles for a lot of assistance, but she still has to abruptly shift into the role of provider, not just protector. No wonder she breaks down at the end and just wants her mom back. It is interesting, though (and very delightful to my Buffy/Angel shipper heart), that Buffy confides so easily in Angel about all her emotional burdens. She really never did that with Riley. Angel is still the only person she can let herself be fully vulnerable around.
I like Xander’s protective older brother vibe as he blocks Spike from going near Buffy. Protective older brother Xander is much better than jealous jerk with a crush Xander.
Bad Willow! Very bad Willow! We do not help fourteen-year-olds attempt resurrection spells! But really, is anyone surprised that Willow would do this? She’s proven over and over again that she has very little respect for the idea of people needing to take the time to go through emotional pain. And her near-genius intellect makes her feel like she knows better than the laws of nature; that they’re just one more thing she can hack her way through. Helping Dawn with her goal to resurrect Joyce, even in such a small way, is a very significant stepping stone that will lead Willow to “Bargaining” in S6.
Anya’s had a rather profound emotional arc this season. First, she had to face and accept her own mortality. Then, she found a place where she could fit into society and contribute to it, and she enjoys it. Then, she experienced death in the form of a person she knew and liked. Now, she seems to have fully accepted the cycle of mortal life and the ways mortal society works. If only she could have an arc that would help her understand how horrible her actions as a vengeance demon were...
Dawn is such a teenager. By which I mean that she has, like most teenagers, that unfortunate combination of arrogance and paranoia that allows her to assume that everything people do around her, they’re doing about her. Buffy’s determined business can only be about her wanting to avoid Dawn. To any other observer, it’s pretty clear that Buffy is running on autopilot because she doesn’t know how else to avoid falling apart.
This is one of those episodes that bugs me when it comes to Spike. Spike is a soulless demon, and therefore his spectrum of motivations can only run from pure evil to mere selfishness. But wanting to pay his respects to Joyce doesn’t fit very easily into that spectrum. Despite his protests to Xander, I do think it’s possible that he was hoping Buffy would catch a glimpse of him leaving those flowers, so that she would think he was trying to quietly pay his respects. I mean, if he really wanted to be anonymous about it, then he could have waited until Joyce was in the ground and left the flowers at her grave. As for him helping Dawn with her spell, it seems that Spike embodies our selfish and reckless desire to bring back a dead loved one, if there was a way to do so. I wouldn’t consider any part of Spike enabling Dawn to be noble or good.
Giles spent the first half of the season being Buffy’s Watcher again, but it was more a partnership of equals who respect each other than it was for quite a while in the early seasons. Buffy was largely in charge of determining the intensity of the training. Without Buffy showing him how much she values his guidance, he wouldn’t have bought the Magic Box, which anchored him more firmly to Sunnydale (unlike Riley, who tried to use Buffy as his only connection to the town, which inevitably failed). In the last few episodes, Buffy’s dynamic with Giles has shifted more and more towards the father/daughter one again, which coincides in S5, as it did in S3, with Hank Summers failing in his role of actual father.
“We can always use a hand!”
“But you have a hand! A paid hand. A hand that isn’t the hand of illegal child labor.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.