Written by Rebecca Kirshner
Directed by David Solomon
Buffy and Willow are considering an incredibly hideous prospect, which turns out to be their dresses for the wedding. Also, just like in “The Prom,” the writers tried and failed to force an “it sounds like they’re really talking about monsters, but they’re actually talking about ugly dresses!” joke by having them say “arms” when they actually mean “sleeves,” but I’ve never heard anyone say “arms” when they actually mean “sleeves” ever, so it just ends up sounding really stupid. Willow is particularly indignant that she has to wear this dress because she’s the best man. She thought she’d be able to escape by wearing a tux. And actually, those dresses would be pretty okay if they just took off the ruffles and all the parts that are that weird grass green color and just kept the main gown part, which is a rather lovely midpoint between jade and forest green.
They’ve already made it through the rehearsal dinner, and apparently Xander’s family believed the story that Anya’s demon friends are “circus people.” Anya comes into Buffy’s room in a dressing gown, and she’s so touched by the sight of them in their dresses that they (or at least Buffy) get over some of their indignation.
At his apartment, Xander is looking for his cuff-links, and his potbellied Uncle Rory is being unhelpful by pretending to electrocute himself on the coffee maker. Xander’s parents come in, and Mr. Harris immediately scolds Xander for not being ready yet. Mrs. Harris is completely paranoid that she won’t be in any of the pictures. Anya’s friends and Mr. Harris majorly don’t get along, but Cousin Carol (who is wearing Xander’s cuff-links as earrings) wouldn’t mind dating Krelvin, a demon with what appear to be small tumors all over his face.
Somewhere in town, an old guy teleports in...with a fiery silhouette. Yeah, this won’t be a problem for the wedding. Not at all.
Buffy is trying to put Xander’s cummerbund on him, and she uses Slayer strength to get it on. Then she ties his bowtie. She’s very proud of him. She’s so happy for him she’s tearing up. Xander and Anya make her optimistic about life.
Willow and Tara are helping Anya into her wedding gown while Anya runs her vows past them. Willow and Tara seem pretty smiley and flirty with each other, too. The dress is really pretty, and Anya is giddy with excitement about getting to be with her best friend forever. Aww.
Uncle Rory has somehow managed to chat up one of the very young caterers. He’s horrifying. Nice continuity that they remembered he’s a taxidermist, thought. Dawn greets various guests, including D’Hoffryn. Halfrek, like Dawn, is wearing one of the hideous bridesmaids dresses. D’Hoffryn’s present is something with tentacles. Spike arrives, accompanied by a goth chick. He’s rather overly keen to show her off to everyone as his date. Clem and a guy with tentacles on his chin are having awkward conversation with some Harrises. Mr. Harris is getting drunk at the bar.
The creepy old guy from earlier is making his way through the crowd, searching for someone. Xander is all ready in his tux, and Buffy declares him ready to get married. They hug, and they go over some last minute things they need to watch out for. Dawn arrives to inform them about Spike and his skanky date. Buffy seems a bit bummed. Xander walks out into the crowd and gets surrounded by his family, and then it seems like there’s a thousand problems at once. He definitely looks overwhelmed. (Aren’t the best man and maid of honor supposed to take point on last minute problems so that the bride and groom don’t get swamped?) The creepy old guy pulls Xander aside and tells him he can’t get married! He claims to be Xander from the future, but that’s absurd. Xander has brown eyes; this guy has blue eyes and a much pointier nose. Noses might get bigger when you get older, but they don’t get longer and pointier, and your eyes definitely don’t go from brown to blue.
Unfortunately, Xander never took a genetics class and isn’t very observant generally, so he falls for it once the old man shows him an unpleasant montage of his supposed future, using a crystal that definitely isn’t the same prop they used as the Orb of Thesulah.
Meanwhile, Mr. Harris (drunk now), makes a toast to Mrs. Harris that’s heinously embarrassing. Buffy manages to distract him and one of Anya’s friends before they can come to blows. He keeps trying to proposition Buffy, but she remains determinedly cheerful while ignoring him.
The magic orb thing sends Xander into his alleged future. He’s a grumpy thirty-something sitting in a recliner while two kids (one who is clearly the product of an affair, since she seems to be part-Clem) run around arguing. It seems Xander can’t work anymore because he ruined his back helping Buffy avert another apocalypse (and it seemed Buffy didn’t survive that one), so Anya runs herself ragged bringing all the bacon.
Cut to even later, when Xander, Anya, and the kids (now teenagers) are at a restaurant. Things get very unpleasant, and most of that comes from Xander, who is acting just like Mr. Harris. Cut to an elderly Anya arguing with Xander (who, because of the way this magic works, I guess, still looks his same age). He blames her for his crappy life. It seems he let their marriage go to crap after Buffy died. The vision ends when Xander is about to take a frying pan to Anya’s head. Holy crap.
Back in the present, Xander is horrified and devastated. Mr. “I’m definitely you from the future, promise!” tells Xander the only way he can avoid that future is by not marrying Anya. There’s a clever transition from him saying “sometimes, two people...the only thing they can bring each other is pain” to Buffy running into Spike. She approaches him and is pleasant. So is he. Except for the part where he’s trying to be all cocky about his date so that she’ll be jealous. She can see right through that, and she admits it’s working just a little. She won’t change her mind, though. He offers to leave, but she says he has every right to be there. Does he, though? Who invited him? Xander hates him, or he would if he didn’t think he was too much of a joke to even deserve hatred, and he has only interacted directly with Anya a couple of times. Also, it’s the middle of the day. If it wasn’t raining, Spike would’ve been physically incapable of coming. He decides to leave anyway, and he tells her she looks happy. It’s the most pleasant and least destructive conversation they’ve had since...ever?
Xander is pacing in the kitchen of whatever venue this is, and Willow finds him. She’s proud of him and kind of amazed. He hugs her. He says he needs some more time to work on his vows, and she leaves him alone. Anya is practicing her vows some more, her hair and makeup now done. Tara has some polite suggestions about the vows. The music starts up, and Buffy comes to get Anya—except Willow grabs her to tell her Xander’s gone. Willow will go look for him while Buffy stalls. She awkwardly tells Anya there’s going to be a delay because the minister had to perform a c-section. *snort* Unsubtle Buffy to the rescue! Anya’s suspicions are quelled, and she practices her vows one last time.
Cut to Xander while Anya’s voiceover continues. He’s walking through the rainy town. Anya’s talking about how for the first time in over eleven centuries, she understands love, and that’s because of him. Cousin Carol is making eyes at Krelvin. The quartet keeps playing “Here Comes the Bride” whenever Buffy walks down the aisle have a word with the minister. Mr. Harris is still being a jerk, and the bartender is still defying express instructions not to serve him anything. Buffy’s next stalling strategy is standup? No, charades. Dawn and this horned demon teenager try to one-up each other about whose family is worse.
Anya goes marching out of the dressing room, Tara unable to keep her there. Buffy and Krelvin are now juggling, and the guests are applauding. (Really? Because I’d be super annoyed if I was watching juggling instead of the wedding I showed up for.) Dawn tells the horned demon kid about Xander taking off just as Anya walks past her. So now Anya knows. Crap. Anya has a very loud panic, and now the whole wedding party knows Xander’s missing. The Harris side and the demon side start actually brawling. Wow. Willow and Tara escape to the sidelines, flirtily. Anya wades through the brawl looking for Xander. Cousin Carol points out Mr. Alleged Old Xander.
Anya goes up to Mr. Alleged Old Xander to demand an explanation. Sure enough, he’s not Old Xander, he’s one of Anyanka’s vengeance victims, here to get some vengeance of his own. She turned him into a demon in 1914 because he cheated on his girlfriend. He’s gotten through the intervening decades by planning how to get back at Anya. Anya is reduced to tears when he tells her all it took to scare Xander off were a few fake visions of their future. Then he attacks her, but Buffy is there to save the day! And so is Xander! Anya tells Xander everything the demon showed him was fake. She still wants to have this wedding. Buffy strangles the demon with a veil and Xander crushes his head with one of those decorative half-pillar things. The wedding party all applaud.
Just when we think this wedding might actually be salvageable, Mr. Harris decides he’d rather have round two of the brawl. Anya yells for them to sit down and shut up, which they do. Then she talks to Xander a little away from the main room. Xander knows it was all fake now, but he doesn’t think he’s ready to get married. He finally admits to having fears and insecurities. Anya tries to talk him out of it, but he can see his dad yelling at his mom in the main room. He doesn’t want to do this if there’s even a chance that he’ll end up hurting her. So instead, he’s just going to hurt her in the present by taking this away from her. She walks alone up the aisle, and he leaves. The music starts up and everyone stands (someone fire that quartet).
Later, Buffy, Dawn, and Willow are wondering if there’s anything they can do, and why this happened. They just feel awful for both Xander and Anya. Also, Buffy’s shirt is really cool.
Xander is at a crappy hotel somewhere. Anya is alone in a dark room. D’Hoffryn offers her a tissue. She doesn’t want to cry anymore. He offers to make her a vengeance demon again.
So “Hell’s Bells” is a bummer. Such is the nature of season six. The level of allowable happiness for the entire group is much lower than it has been in previous seasons, so if Buffy and Willow have made it to the verge of stability and functionality, then that means Xander and Anya have to crash and burn. The idea that Xander is terrified of becoming his father works in theory, but the day of the wedding seems like a little late for us, the audience, to discover that. It kind of feels like the writers were trying to decide between shock value and a sense of inevitability with this wedding going wrong, and they opted for shock value. Inevitability would actually have been a much better choice, and I think they could’ve pulled that off by introducing Mr. and Mrs. Harris as actual characters much earlier than this. Possibly even in an earlier season, like maybe the one where he was living in their basement? On the plus side, I’m totally going to ship Cousin Carol with Krelvin. Who’s with me?
I like that Buffy is so supportive of Xander and Anya, even though she clearly doesn’t really understand them as a couple, but if she was using them as a shining example of how love can win in the end, then I hope she’ll still be able to walk without that crutch. What’s fascinating to me is her behavior with Spike. For the first time pretty much ever, she’s treating him like someone she respects. Like I’ve said before, I don’t believe Spike deserves anything but to be staked, so I don’t particularly like this development, but if it’s what she needs to do to keep herself from using him for sex, then I guess that’s still progress.
I wonder if Xander would’ve been able to talk to Giles about his fears of becoming his father, if Giles had still been around. He and Giles had so few one-on-one conversations, let alone ones that were positive, that I’m not sure, but I do think it’s a possibility. Apart from Giles, who isn’t even anyone’s biological father, Xander really doesn’t have any examples of good fathers. Willow’s dad is extremely aloof and not affectionate (at least, that’s how he seems, based on the two or three times Willow has ever mentioned him and the fact that he doesn’t appear in the one episode in which his wife does), Buffy’s dad has been completely AWOL for years, and Tara’s dad was a controlling tool. Maybe he really does believe, based on all that, that there’s no chance for him to be anything but some variety of horrible husband and father. I guess it’s too bad the Scoobies didn’t get to meet Fred’s parents.
Anya finally has an opportunity to understand the harm she did as a vengeance demon, but before she can feel guilty or remorseful about it, she’s feeling devastated about her botched wedding instead. So now it’s going to take even longer before we get a proper redemption arc for her. Bah. Karmically, it sort of makes sense for Anya’s wedding to be ruined when she still doesn’t feel bad about the way she spent 11 centuries of her life.
Dawn chatting with that horned kid was probably one of the funnier moments of the episode, and she’s still being a pleasant person to be around. Hopefully that will continue.
Now that Buffy has ended their incredibly degrading tryst, Spike can’t use his “isolate and sexually harass” tactics anymore. So instead, he tries to use jealousy! It isn’t very effective. But maybe if he acts like he’s capable of being mature and rational, she might be inclined to remember their time together in a fonder light, which would make it easier to get her back. (No, I don’t trust for a second that he’s genuinely pleased to see her looking happier now that she’s gotten shot of him.)
Willow finally seems to be over the last of her reservations about Xander/Anya, but only in time for them to implode. Oh well. And she’s being remarkably considerate of Tara. Maybe she’s actually grown up a little since S3, when she struggled to leave Oz alone long enough for him to decide he wanted to give her another chance. Good job, Willow.
“It’s nice to see you happy. You glow.”
“That’s because the dress is radioactive.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.