Honey, we need to talk about the invitations. Now, do you want to be "William the Bloody" or just "Spike," because either way, it's gonna look majorly weird.
(Ed. note: This Buffy post is part of an ongoing rewatch of the series I've been writing for Persephone Magazine. Obviously this post picks up in the 4th season. If there's interest, I can certainly continue cross-posting.)
Something Blue! Something Blue! Ever since this season started, I’ve been looking forward to rewatching this episode. It ranks fairly high in my personal pantheon of "favorite Buffy eps." It’s not the most heartrending or philosophically deepest, but it does show off something that I think the series does particularly well – tempering deep heartache with comedy, without cheapening either emotion.
We pick up the show a couple of weeks after Oz’s departure. Willow has been letting herself into Oz’s room and sitting among his things. Everything is just as he left it. Clearly, she thinks at any minute he’ll walk back in. It’s clearly this hope that’s keeping her moving; her friends think she’s "getting over" her heartbreak, though Spike, now a series regular, notes that Willow is hanging on by a thread.
That’s a thread that snaps when Willow returns to the band house one night to find it completely empty. All his stuff has been packed up, his posters are off the wall, and the t-shirt that Willow held of his – and we, know how that goes, holding on to a lover’s clothing, which smells of Oz – are all gone. Oz sent for his things, but didn’t bother to contact Will at all. She melts down.
Our heartbreak never happens at a convenient time. As much as we may want or need it, other people’s lives go on while yours has ground to a halt. Xander is just getting started in his relationship with Anya, so his tolerance for his friend’s moping is limited. Buffy is distracted by Spike’s appearance in their lives, trying to get to the center of the military mystery, and having to run out in the middle of Willow’s neediest moment to go recapture the vampire after he gets away from Giles.
Because Willow is Willow, and she’s a girl who desires power and is at the same time afraid of wanting it, she sneaks into the bathroom in the middle of the night and casts a rather impressive sounding "as my will be done" spell. As you do.
That’s the heartbreak. The rest is comedy gold. Gold!
Will’s spell doesn’t work quite as she expected to. She thinks that she can use the spell to force herself to get over Oz, but geeze, even my old Silver Ravenwolf teenaged witch paperbacks told me that you can’t spell yourself in that way. Come on, Will! Instead, she curses Giles into blindness when he expresses concern over her spellcasting when emotionally unstable, which leads to Spike getting free in the middle of her Buffy sleepover, which leads to Willow accidentally cursing Spike into running into Buffy. She accidentally turns Amy back into a human being for two seconds, and then back into a rat because she was looking in the wrong direction. Pissy over Xander’s relationship with Anya, Willow calls him a "demon magnet," turning Xander into a literal demon magnet, which makes his life only slightly more dangerous than it usually is.
But of course, the real kicker and the solid meat of the episode is when Willow utters that grade school comeback about Buffy’s preoccupation with Spike, “Why doesn’t she just marry him.”
Oh, Willow. Thank you for that one.
Seeing Buffy and Spike play grab-ass is one of the great joys of season 4. They plan their nuptials (“Wind Beneath My Wings” is the first dance), argue over Buffy giving up her job (“Let's see — do I want you to give up killing all my friends? Yeah, I've given it some thought.”), and paint their cake topper to make the groom look less insipid (fangs and blood trail). Buffy freaks out Riley, who is seriously sniffing around boyfriend territory, by telling him she’s getting married to some guy named Spike a couple of days after their picnic date. Giles can’t even see what’s going but looks like he’s ready to poke out his own eyes to keep it that way, while Xander flails around in that way he does.
Willow’s mucking about brings her to the attention of D’Hoffryn, Anya’s old demon boss. He likes a good vengeance-ing and senses potential in Willow (and boy, howdy was he right, season 6 Big Bad). D’Hoffryn offers to raise Willow to vengeance demon status, a role she’s quick to refuse, though if she changes her mind, she can just give him a quick chant. Sent back to Sunnydale, Willow quickly reverses her spell and sets about making non-magical amends, baking cookies and swearing to get past her grief the old fashioned way. Lessons are learned! Next week is “Hush”!
I’ve come a long way in appreciating season 4 in the years since it aired. It wasn’t a particularly well received season at the time – Adam as the Big Bad was rather particularly loathed and it seemed stuffed with Monster-of-the-Week episodes. But much like season 6, there’s a lot of meat on its bones if you can look past what you expected from it. Six and 4 share a lot of similarities because they’re both about transitioning to different phases of your life. 4 in moving from the sheltered teenage experience to the freedom of adulthood. Six is moving from your youth to darker, harder points, with the loss and misery that often accompanies it.
There’s mirrored scenes – look at these two between Willow and Giles. While the stakes are raised in season 6, Giles scolds Willow for inappropriate use of magic – foreshadowing Willow’s impulsiveness and overreliance on magic, and her tendency to go for the biggest, most impressive spell around:
Willow: I know. I-I've been off. I-I even tried to do a spell last night. To have my will done? I was hoping it would make me feel better. But it just went ka-blooey.
Giles: A spell? I don't think it's wise for you to be doing that alone right now. Your energy's too unfocused.
Willow: Well, that's not true. I said I was off, not incompetent.
Giles: I only meant that you're grieving, and it might be wise if you took a break from doing spells without supervision.
Willow: So I get punished ‘cause I'm in pain?
Giles: It's not punishment. I'm only saying this because I—
Giles: Do you have any idea what you've done? The forces you've harnessed, the lines you've crossed?
Willow: I thought you'd be ... impressed, or, or something.
Giles: Oh, don't worry, you've ... made a very deep impression. Of everyone here ... you were the one I trusted most to respect the forces of nature.……
Giles: If I had been, I'd have bloody well stopped you. The magicks you channeled are more ferocious and primal than anything you can hope to understand, and you are lucky to be alive, you rank, arrogant amateur!
How being a Slayer influences Buffy’s personal life:
But I can't help thinking — isn't that where the fire comes from? Can a nice, safe relationship be that intense? I know it's nuts, but.. part of me believes that real love and passion have to go hand in hand with pain and fighting.
Giles and Spike, father-son duo:
Spike: What you want is a general reversal spell. Gonna need supplies.
Giles: Are you.. helping me?
Spike: Well, it's almost like you're my father-in-law, in'nt?
Giles: And you do inspire a, um ... particular feeling of ... familiarity and ... disappointment.
Giles: Older brother?
Spike: Father. Oh, god, how I must hate you.
Willow, fountain of vengeance:
D’Hoffryn: The pain and suffering you brought upon those you love is inspiring. You are ready to join us here in Arash Ma'har.
Willow: Oh, God. But I didn't mean to!
D’Hoffryn: But you did. This is the result of your power. You will make a fine vengeance demon.
Dark Willow: Wanna know what a bullet feels like, Warren? A real one? It's not like in the comics.
And of course, Spuffy:
Buffy: I know! It's crazy! I mean, we fought for all these years, and then.. Sometimes you just look at someone, and you know.. You know?
Buffy: I think maybe we fought because we couldn't admit how we really felt about each other.
Riley: Can we start again?
Buffy: You'll really like him. Well, nobody really likes him..
Riley: I just need to clear a few things up..
Buffy: I don't even really like him..
Buffy: But.. I love him. I do.