Written by Steven DeKnight
Directed by James A. Contner
We pick up with Glory learning Dawn is the key. Willow does that spell to slow Glory down so that Buffy can run away with Dawn, and then she runs away with Tara too. But evidently Glory has super-speed, because as soon as the spell wears off, she’s a blur of motion. Dawn wasn’t built for distance sprinting, so Buffy picks her up and carries her while she keeps running. Glory catches them in less than a minute, but then she gets hit by a semi truck. Ben chooses that moment to regain control of their body. He’s now wearing a shredded dress in the middle of a huge traffic accident.
Dawn is telling the Scoobies of their narrow escape from Glory. They’re all slightly disappointed that Glory only stopped chasing them because a truck hit her. Anya thinks they should attack Glory with cartoon physics. Giles wants to do research and defeat Glory, but Buffy knows there’s no time. They have to run. Most of them aren’t thrilled with that idea, but what other option is there?
Ben is in his own clothes now, and a female minion is lamenting the state of Glory’s dress. She doesn’t understand why Ben keeps working against Glory. Ben has no respect for Glory. His whole life has been infected by her. He wanted to be a doctor to be closer to humanity, and to maybe come up with a drug cocktail to keep Glory dormant forever. His new plan is to get the Key first and kill her so that Glory can’t use her. That way he’ll be able to keep existing!
The Scoobies are on a street corner somewhere when a large, crappy Winnebago pulls up. Spike is driving. Nobody is happy to see him. Buffy feels like she has no choice but to work with him because he has super strength, so they can just get off her back about it.
A couple of Knights of Byzantium check their crazy comrade out of the hospital. Great! Those guys are back. They meet up with their general, who looks like he fell out of a low-budget King Arthur movie. Crazy knight babbles about the shiny Key girl. Crap. Now they know the key is a girl. And there are quite a few knights. They move out.
Giles takes a turn driving the Winnebago. Everyone is anxious. Spike regrets not getting a car with just room for him, Buffy, and Dawn. Xander is getting very carsick. Willow is trying to find spells that could help against Glory. Tara plays with the blinds, which lets the burning sunlight on Spike. She and the crazy people back at the hospital all start muttering about darkness, and the minions are confident that Glory’s victory is close at hand.
Dawn tries to cheer Buffy up where she’s brooding in the bedroom section of the Winnebago. She thanks Buffy for everything she does, but Buffy feels pretty crappy for running away. Buffy’s about to crumble under all this pressure. Dawn jinxes it by saying “at least things can’t get any crazier.” Her sentence is punctuated by an arrow piercing the side of the Winnebago.
The Knights have caught up and are attacking...on horseback. Buffy sighs. Giles tries to shrug off the knights by swerving uncomfortably close to the horses, but one knight gets on top of the Winnebago and starts stabbing his sword through the roof. Spike catches it before it goes through Buffy’s head (at least, I think that’s what that was supposed to look like, but to me it’s always just looked like he grabbed the sword so the Knight couldn’t pull it back up, because Buffy’s head wasn’t quite in range). Buffy goes up through the hatch to fight him off. She almost gets tossed off herself before she manages it. More Knights use grappling hooks and jump onto the side of the Winnebago. Anya beats them off with a frying pan. Buffy fends off the others on the roof. And she definitely uses deadly force. Good for her! This is definitely a situation where that’s necessary.
The Knights finally fall back. Except for one, who throws a lance through the windshield just when everyone is sighing in relief over their narrow escape.
Giles isn’t dead, just very stabbed. The Winnebago swerves off the road, Buffy gets thrown from the top, and it tips over onto its side. They make their way to a little abandoned truck stop in the desert, then do what they can for Giles and his horrifying stab wound. Their first aid skills are not good enough. Also, they have to deal with the Knights firing flaming arrows into their shelter. These guys are jerks!
Spike can’t help the fight without triggering his chip. The General comes in and is about to attack Dawn when Buffy fights him off. Willow puts up a barrier spell to keep the knights out. It’s like a force field. Unfortunately, the Knights have clerics with them who can work against the spell. The next move is to interrogate the general. The general doesn’t care that the Key is an innocent girl now. Buffy tries to reason with him, but he refuses to call off his men.
In the other room of the truck stop, Tara is freaking out. It’s time to go do something. All the other crazies are freaking out too. They break out of their restraints, knock out the nurse, and file out of the mental ward. The crazy knight wants to go join the fun, but one of his comrades mercy kills him before he can be one of Glory’s instruments.
Giles is still in very bad shape. Buffy feels like it’s her fault this is happening to him, but he’s proud of her. This is all very much like last words, but Buffy won’t let him die. She has Willow open a door in the forcefield. She and Xander go to convince the Knights to let them bring someone in to help Giles. They grudgingly agree because they’re all honorable. Then Buffy calls Ben! Ohhh crap. He arrives shortly thereafter (it’s the middle of the night now, incidentally) and starts working on Giles. He and Buffy flirt a bit (Spike is annoyed), but it seems he’s still planning on doing something about Dawn.
Ben gets Giles stabilized. Buffy apologizes for the weirdness. He doesn’t mind. Spike struggles to light a cigarette with his cut hands. Xander does it for him, and just in case it’s not clear, he reminds him he doesn’t like him. Neither of them likes holing up in a siege. Spike votes for making a break for Ben’s car—some of them will die, but the rest might get away. Buffy vetoes that idea. She doesn’t want to lose anyone. The general chuckles at her. She punches him.
The general starts expositing on Glory. Her two co-gods banished her from their hell dimension because she was getting too powerful. They sent her to this dimension and trapped her inside the body of a mortal so that she would die within a human lifetime. That mortal is a male, and he’s her weakness. The trick is figuring out who this guy is. Dawn comes in asking for info about herself. The general doesn’t know how or when the Key was created, but it’s very powerful and tons of Knights have died in pursuit of it. He thinks the monks were fools to not simply destroy the Key. The general explains that the Key was made to open the gates between dimensions. That’s how Glory can get home.
Buffy cracks up. All Glory wants is to go home? Yes, but the problem is that when Glory uses the Key, it won’t just open one portal to Glory’s dimension, it’ll open all the portals and sort of mush every single dimension together. This is rather upsetting news for Dawn. Buffy consoles her and promises her she’ll keep her safe.
The general talks to Ben. He tells him Ben’s going to die if he works with the Slayer. He can save everyone’s lives if he just kills Dawn.
Dawn is sitting with Giles when Ben joins them. Dawn is back in blame herself for everything mode. Ben puts something in a needle, and there’s sinister music. Is he going to stick Dawn with it? No, it’s medicine for Giles. Then Ben drops the needle and starts freaking out. Uh oh. Here comes Glory. He demands that they let him back out. Too late. He turns into Glory. She immediately throws a hubcap through the general’s chest. Spike attacks her and she knocks him aside. The same thing happens when Buffy tries. Glory grabs Dawn and leaves, punching her way through the force field, which seals shut again behind them. When Buffy attempts to follow, the force field throws her back.
Willow takes the force field down, but by the time Buffy can get out there, Glory has slaughtered all of the knights and left with Dawn. Everyone wants to use Ben’s car to leave, but Buffy is so horrified by failing to protect Dawn that she has completely shut down.
Well things get just about as bad as they can possibly get in “Spiral.” It’s a rather stressful episode to watch. I think that means it’s good. You’re supposed to feel what the characters are feeling when you’re watching good television, and they certainly are stressed. They’re in possibly the direst situation they’ve ever been in, and it’s mostly devoid of plot holes. I’m not entirely sure why they needed to all run off in a single group going in one direction, though. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to break off in groups, or at least go in multiple vehicles that have actual horsepower? I mean, because actual horses can’t go much faster than thirty miles per hour, particularly when they’re weighed down by riders in full armor. And that must be one seriously crappy Winnebago, because those things are supposed to be able to go at least 60. So aside from the logistics of their flight, “Spiral” is pretty effective. In the midst of a horrible situation for the Scoobies, we finally learn more about Glory, including her weakness! Ben becomes a more complex character too, with a serious moral dilemma before him. By the end of the episode, Giles is close to death, Tara is still crazy, Dawn is in Glory’s clutches, and Buffy is catatonic. We’ve hit bottom. So now we get to go back up, right?
Buffy hates that her best solution is to run away, but the mark of a good leader is knowing which battles you can win and which ones you have to avoid because the risks are too great. Now more than any other time in the season, though, I wish she would’ve tried calling Angel for help. The corresponding Angel episode to this one involves his whole team traveling to a different dimension, so he wouldn’t have actually been able to help, but it would’ve felt much more like Buffy had exhausted all of her other options if she’d tried and failed to get a hold of him. And it would’ve made it a lot more gut punch-y when he got back from Pylea and learned what he missed.
Xander gets carsick! That’s new information. I’m not sure how I feel about him being slightly more friendly to Spike. On the one hand, they should’ve staked Spike ages ago. On the other hand, if he’s around, it’s probably best to make him feel included so he’s less inclined to betray them.
Willow can do force field spells! That’s awesome. I just hope there won’t be a situation in a future episode in which one of those would be the obvious solution to a problem. Despite the force field, though, this isn’t her episode to shine. That’s next time.
Anya’s attempts to make sense of their terrified flight into the desert are very endearing. If they’d just do normal things like obnoxiously saying “are we there yet?” then this could feel like an ordinary road trip. Aww.
Dawn is still inclined to slip into self-blame mode, but she’s also a very sweet source of hope and encouragement, which I think Buffy very much needs. It’s too bad being the Key doesn’t make her immune to the magic protecting Ben and Glory’s identity.
I really don’t care if it seems unfair of me to always assume Spike has ulterior motives when he seems like he’s being pleasant and accommodating, because until the show explains how he could possibly be anything but evil while he has no soul, ulterior motives are the only thing that make sense with the rules of the Buffyverse. So essentially, everything he does to help protect Dawn and not make a fuss when crazy Tara gets him sunburned is just him playing the long game of trying to score points with Buffy.
For a second, I could have sworn Giles was about to tell Buffy that he couldn’t be more proud of her if he was her father. You can sort of feel that sentiment hanging in the air between them. It’s very touching. But as much as I adore Giles, the part of me that is a merciless writer who plans to kill off several of her own characters sort of wishes they’d had the guts to actually kill him off. That would’ve honored the Giles we’ve known since S1 much better than his ridiculous notion in S6 that he has to leave the country so that Buffy can be a better adult.
“We should drop a piano on her! Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he’s running from that nice man with the speech impediment.”
“Yes, or perhaps we should paint a convincing tunnel on the side of a mountain.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.