“Older and Far Away”
Written by Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by Michael E. Gershman
Buffy is packing weapons for patrol while apologizing to Dawn about having to leave in the middle of dinner. Dawn wants to help set up for Buffy’s birthday party the next day once she gets back. When Buffy leaves, Dawn’s feeble smile vanishes.
Buffy encounters a really weird-looking demon on her patrol. It has the ability to appear and disappear, and when she finally stabs it with its own sword, it gets sucked into it. She didn’t see that, though, so she thinks it just ran away and she takes the sword with her. That’s going to end well.
The Scoobies are at the Magic Box. Xander wants to know if Willow’s okay with the idea of Tara coming to Buffy’s party. She is! Dawn arrives to crash there while Buffy patrols. There’s still no sign of the Trio. Dawn’s disappointed that nobody is free to go present shopping with her. She leaves, clearly resentful. When she gets home, apparently rather late, Buffy still isn’t there. She unloads a bunch of stuff she stole out of her pockets, then takes off her coat to reveal the leather jacket she also stole.
The next day at Dawn’s school, she gets summoned to the councilor’s office. The councilor is concerned about her falling grades and how distracted she’s been. She seems very earnest with her concern about Dawn, and she’s wearing a pretty necklace. Dawn resists opening up at first, but then she admits she wishes the people in her life would stop going away.
That evening, it’s party time. Buffy invited a work friend! Well. She’s not an especially close friend. Also, Anya and Xander invited a guy they know, whom Xander was hoping to stealthily set Buffy up with except that he forgot stealth is impossible when Anya’s in on it. Buffy is not pleased. Until Tara arrives! She hugs her. I love this friendship. Spike is not invited to the party.
Willow is upstairs getting ready, rather anxiously. Then she comes downstairs and Buffy abandons Tara so she and Willow can tensely greet each other. I like Tara’s outfit, but Willow’s looks a bit like she tried to make a tunic out of drapes.
Despite the tension, their brief conversation goes okay. Then Tara goes to the kitchen to get a drink. And then Spike arrives, still sporting a shiner from Buffy pummeling him. Also he brought Clem, the floppy-skinned demon from kitten poker. Xander introduces Richard, his pretty cute friend, who is definitely unaware of supernatural stuff and is therefore very weirded out by Clem. Xander shoves him at Buffy so she can go show him where to park his car, and they leave the room. Tara and Clem agree that Richard is (probably?) cute.
Dawn wants to do presents already, and Anya is treating her like a child who doesn’t understand grown-up conversations, which she does not appreciate. Elsewhere, Spike tries to persuade Buffy to go for a quickie even though this is Buffy’s birthday party and the chances of her being able to slip away unnoticed are very slim. Also, if *this* is Buffy’s 21st birthday party, then why were they serving her beer at the Bronze last episode? Spike ribs Buffy about Richard.
It’s present time! Willow got Buffy a back massager. Dawn got her that stolen leather jacket. Which conspicuously still has the security tag on. When Xander wheels his present out, Buffy carelessly sets the box with the jacket on Dawn’s lap, which makes her feel like she doesn’t care about the present at all (um, Dawn, if you stole it, that means you don’t care about it either). Xander’s present is an intricately carved weapons chest that he made himself. It’s awesome.
Sophie arrives. She is an awkward spaz with many food allergies. Anya feels the friend she and Xander brought is better, and I agree. Dawn closes the door behind Sophie, and the guidance councilor comes walking along the porch. Turns out, she’s Anya’s vengeance demon friend Halfrek, and that wish Dawn made is now granted.
Everyone seems to be enjoying the party. Except Dawn, who is merely pretending to enjoy it. Richard flirts with Buffy, and he’s really adorable and tentative about it. Spike mocks her, and she tries to get him away from her before anyone sees them. The only one who does is Tara, and Spike knocks it off, followed by probably my favorite Tara line ever. I love how a character who usually comes across as fairly timid is not cowed by Spike.
Later, in the kitchen, Xander and Anya are being disgustingly cute. Willow, Xander, and Anya think it’s time for a beer run, but nobody actually gets up to leave. In the living room, even later, Buffy, Dawn, Richard, and Anya play Monopoly while Xander, Clem, Tara, and Spike play poker. Buffy wants out from Monopoly, but the others protest. Dawn votes to turn this into a slumber party. Really? Are mixed company slumber parties a thing? I only ever had them with all girls, and my brothers only ever had them with all guys. Tara continues to be delightfully snarky to Spike. She is officially my favorite character of this episode.
It’s morning. Richard and Xander need to get to work. Dawn and Clem are watching cartoons. Buffy and Spike are playing cards. Looks like everyone else is asleep. Spike sneers at Richard for a bit, but everyone’s starting to realize there seems to be something of a Plot A nature stopping them from leaving. Spike starts making creepy insinuations about maybe eating Richard for breakfast, so Buffy tosses him into the foyer to demand he knock it off. She’s kicking herself for not kicking him out the second he showed up.
Willow finds Tara in the kitchen, having cereal. Willow needs to go to class, but doesn’t feel like it. Tara needs to leave, but doesn’t feel like it. Buffy is trying to throw Spike out, but can’t move any closer to the door. Neither can he. They all gather in the living room. Something’s keeping them in the house. They continue attempting to move towards the door. Nothing happens. Richard and Anya are both worried about their jobs, but Sophie is fine if she has to miss her Doublemeat shift. They pretty much all have places they need to be, and Dawn decides to take that personally. Come on, Dawn, it’s not season five anymore. You are no longer the center of the universe. Get over it. She storms off to her room.
Everyone follows her, because they think she might have something to do with this. She’s offended by that too, because she didn’t do anything. She screams at them to get out of her room, in much the same pleasant tones as in season five.
The phones aren’t working either. Buffy doesn’t get why Dawn didn’t talk to her about what was upsetting her, but Xander thinks it’s because Buffy hasn’t been available enough for that. Tara volunteers to try some magical diagnostic tests, but that’ll be tricky with no magic gear in the house. Yeah, about that...Willow kept a few things. Which makes Tara very disappointed.
Tara does the spell, which looks like she’s making brownies. Richard the Muggle is getting very upset and suspicious about all this. The only thing Tara’s spell succeeds in doing is freeing the demon from that sword. They’re all still trapped. Richard gets sliced by the sword, and then the demon vanishes. It reappears, tosses Buffy into Spike, and vanishes again.
Cut to that evening. They’re all still trapped. Richard is in bad shape. Sophie is quietly freaking out. Dawn is still being surly. The demon is moving through the walls or something. Maybe it’s trying to get out too and failing. Anya is getting claustrophobic, and she thinks Richard’s going to die. Xander manages to calm her down a little. On the way to get her some water, the demon appears again and attacks! Buffy and Spike fight the demon, but it melts back into the wall before they can get it. Xander gets a bad slash to the arm, which does not help Anya’s mental state.
Dawn is still being surly. Ugh. She says she didn’t want this to happen. She just feels incredibly alone. Downstairs, the Scoobies go over their options. Anya thinks Willow needs to step up and do some magic to get them out of this, since she’s easily the most powerful one in the group. Xander kind of agrees with her. Willow doesn’t want to because it’ll ruin all the self control she’s managed to scrape together in the last month or so. Anya starts getting in Willow’s face about it, but Tara gets between them and stands up for her. Willow is very touched and grateful, but Anya is still pissed.
The reason Dawn didn’t tell Buffy about her loneliness is that Buffy hasn’t been around much. Dawn mentions her guidance councilor, and Buffy thinks that’s suspicious. How is that suspicious? Buffy went to a guidance councilor she’d never heard of before she met with him, and that wasn’t weird. How is Buffy already theorizing that the guidance councilor is a vengeance demon?!
Anya is now ransacking Dawn’s room for clues about what Dawn knows, and in the process, she finds Dawn’s stash of stolen stuff. Much of which is from the Magic Box. Anya is angry/upset. Dawn flees. Buffy realizes that the leather jacket is stolen too. Anya’s trust in Dawn is shattered, and now she’s extra convinced Dawn had something to do with them all being stuck in the house. Buffy mentions the guidance councilor, and Anya asks about her pendant. Yep, that was Halfrek.
Anya yells for Halfrek and berates Dawn. The only way to break the spell now is for Halfrek to break it. As soon as she teleports in, the demon materializes and impales her. Buffy, Anya, and Spike all dogpile it. This is a very frustrating demon. Buffy finally stabs it with the sword, trapping it again, and then she breaks the sword over her knee. No more demon.
Anya tries to grab Halfrek’s pendant, but she wakes up and throws her across the room telekinetically. Nobody’s touching her pendant. She won’t make the same mistake Anya did. Everyone’s surprised she’s okay, but apparently vengeance demons are hardier than one little sword. Spike and Halfrek seem to recognize each other. Hahaha, so they didn’t just accidentally recycle the actress who played Cecily, then. William had a crush on a vengeance demon and went storming off into the night and ran into Drusilla because she rejected him. Whoops.
Halfrek informs everyone that the preferred term is “justice demon,” and that most of them don’t focus quite so much on scorned women as Anya did. Anya’s specialization is children with bad parents. She chastises all of them for ignoring Dawn, and she informs them that they should enjoy the rest of the time they have trapped there with her. Then she tries to teleport out but can’t. She is now trapped too. Bahahaha. She breaks it irritably, then goes.
Willow thanks Tara for standing up for her and for taking the last of the magic stuff with her. Willow is really worried that Tara’s mad at her for keeping some things. She isn’t. She’s proud of Willow, and she thinks Willow can make it without her magic gear safety net now. Willow looks very heartened by her confidence.
Xander and Anya are going to take Richard to the hospital, and Anya fully expects Dawn to pay for everything she stole. (Or...she could just give it back, right? She clearly wasn’t using it.) Everyone else leaves, except Buffy, who looks at Dawn before closing the door with her on the inside of it. Dawn smiles.
“Older and Far Away” is much less depressing than many of the S6 episodes leading up to it, but that doesn’t really make it more enjoyable. I mean, points for not making me want to curl up, sulk, and eat lots of comfort food as I bitterly long for the seasons where all of my favorite characters weren’t miserable husks of their former selves, but this episode is really annoying. Once again, the focus is Dawn’s teenage drama, and once again, that drama is written as if by adults who don’t get how teenage drama works, even though we know that’s not actually the case because they did very well with teenage drama when it was the older Scoobies going through it. It’s like they only pull Dawn out when her issues are affecting the rest of the characters. It makes her less sympathetic and it makes episodes dedicated to her much more obnoxious. I mean, this is Buffy’s birthday episode, and it ends up being all about Dawn. Also, the sword demon just looks stupid, so every scene he’s in is a bit ruined because of him. Like pretty much every episode of this show, though, there are some redeeming qualities. Xander’s present for Buffy was excellent, I kind of liked Richard and the way Anya and Xander were so keen for him and Buffy to get to know each other. Sophie was surprisingly entertaining with her social awkwardness. Buffy and Tara’s friendship is the best. I need more Buffy/Tara moments. And Halfrek is pretty funny. I love the new twists on what we knew about vengeance—sorry, justice—demons.
So I used to think that “As You Were” was the episode where Buffy hit bottom and started picking herself back up, but now that I’ve seen “Dead Things” and “Older and Far Away,” I think I was actually right last time about “Dead Things” being where she hits bottom. She’s already doing slightly better. She has a sincere, supportive confidante in Tara, she’s making a real effort to understand what Dawn needs from her besides keeping her fed, clothed, and in a house, and she’s actually having meaningful, positive interactions with her friends in a Plot B way. We haven’t seen much of that this season. She’s definitely improving, even if things are still difficult and Spike is still shoving the temptation right in her face.
Xander continues to be much more likeable than I would’ve expected after how angry he made me in a lot of the early seasons episodes. A beautiful, hand-crafted weapons chest, complete with CD holder? That is such an amazing gift. And if he wants to set Buffy up with Richard from work, does that mean Richard from work is actually a friend of his? DOES XANDER FINALLY HAVE A POST-JESSE MALE FRIEND?! Sorry. This is a big deal for me. I like Xander’s approach to trying to set Buffy up with guys much better than Willow’s. Xander might have literally pushed Richard towards Buffy, but Willow’s tendency has been to figuratively push the idea of dating on her, making Buffy feel bad until she’s willing to give it a shot. She did that with Scott and Parker, and even a little bit with Ben, that cute guy from Buffy’s math class who tried to ask her out that one time. (Ben is actually my favorite potential love interest for Buffy, if I have to pick a favorite after Angel.)
Anya does not react well to situations of slow-moving peril in which she feels powerless. She sees no problem with going through other people’s things or pressuring people to take actions they’re extremely uncomfortable taking. The way she acted with Willow wasn’t okay, and at no point does she seem to realize that and become contrite. Xander has focused a lot on attempting to show her how to interact normally with other people, but this seems like a much more important issue for them to discuss. Then again, it’s the sort of thing he’s done before too, so maybe it hasn’t occurred to him that it’s not okay to do that.
I think Dawn’s loneliness would’ve felt like a much more effective thing to hang a plot off of if there had been a few more instances of her trying to spend time with the Scoobies but getting blown off, and of her trying to hang out with her Muggle peers but failing to get much out of it because she’s so used to being around Plot A savvy people. The few glimpses we’ve had of Dawn are insufficient to make her as sympathetic as she easily could have been in this situation. Mostly, she just comes across as an irrational kleptomaniac who seems to want attention but sucks at asking for it and gets angry when she actually receives it.
Spike is getting more and more brazen with his behavior around Buffy. Trying to convince her to have sex right there in a house full of birthday guests? And being crass and unpleasant through most of the party? I love how he doesn’t seem to know how to react to Tara’s subtle defense of Buffy. She just kind of ruins his whole air of bravado and control, and it is fantastic.
Willow continues to do better! Yay! There’s perhaps a tiny hint of her old attitude of “I know best, and if people won’t accept that, then I’ll just do my thing behind their backs anyway while pretending to go along with what they say” in the way she secretly kept some magic gear. It feels consistent with her character, but I do think she has a point that they should have some magic stuff in the house just in case. It should just be in a safe place only Buffy and Dawn know about, so that they can control whether or not it gets used.
“A muscle cramp? In your...pants?”
“We do not joke about eating people in this house!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.