Two to Go/Grave

Season Six, Two Episode Season Finale

All You Need Is Love. What a long, strange journey it has been.

Two to Go/Grave: The Review

Great Circle

With the combination of Two to Go and Grave as the two hour long season ending show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer completes the metaphorical Grand Tour of the psyche of its title character. Begun in the first episode of the fifth season, Buffy vs. Dracula, and completed in last episode of the sixth season,Grave, the odyssey has chronicled Buffy's passage from late adolescence into adulthood in the form of a series of confrontations between Buffy and the reification of the more frightening contents of her own unconscious mind. Having been dumped without warning into a new world constructed partially from her own worst fears by the members of a monastic religious sect in the mountains of the Czech Republic, Buffy has faced everything from a deity who looked surprisingly like the alter ego that she might have been except for the intervention of another reality-altering event, her late-blooming slayerdom, to the very real issues of parental abandonment by death and desertion and an unexpected, unwed motherhood with all of the attendant long term trauma. The halfway point in the journey was symbolized by Buffy's death and her subsequent resurrection. Her transitional journey has been mirrored in the show's own metamorphosis from episodic to serial format, completed in the latter half of the sixth season. Neither change has been without pain and suffering, both for the hero and the viewers.

The change in format has been the sixth season's most problematical element, the one to which many of the season's defects can be traced. Only the all-encompassing thematic unity of the season can be counted as a benefit of the serial format. Viewed in its entirety, the season is a successful justification of the novelistic form, but the individual chapters in the novel have been generally unsatisfactory, even when viewed in retrospect as parts of the whole. The serial format has obvious attractions for the authors of the show - the freedom from the necessity of constructing a self-contained story for each episode being foremost - but the disadvantages are many, chief of which being that very lack of structure imposed by a self-contained story. More episodes than one cares to recall were simply a concatenation of events that formed a noisy background to the few interesting foreground moments, those usually involving the love/hate relationship of Buffy and that incarnation of her inner demon, Spike.

The noisiness arose from the often clumsy handling of the subplots that involved the more important supporting characters, Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya, and Dawn. Only Giles, who made any early exit from the series, largely escaped the clumsiness of handling that affected the other characters. The greatest amount of noise, however, was generated by the noisome Trio, that confederation of three parodic personifications of several aspects of adolescent male arrested development, Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren, the intrusion of whom made any episodes in which they appeared almost unwatchable. Dramatic flow came to a screeching halt whenever they appeared on the screen. Their single female counterpart, the always annoying Dawn, had a similar stultifying effect on any plot that might have made an ill-considered attempt to make itself known. Between them, Dawn and the Trio presented the viewers with the most unattractive preoccupations of self-absorbed adolescence, portraying everything that Buffy was trying to escape. Sadly, they also fractured the story with long digressions that served only as the dramatic equivalents of hair extensions, superfluous artifices that filled out the thin spots of many episodes.

After such a mixture of metaphors, BtVS brought the viewers finally to Villains, the sixth season's antepenultimate episode, in which all of the subplots were brought together. In true serial fashion, the viewers were presented with the open ended lead-out to Two to Go, as Warren met his comeuppance after having provided Willow with a free pass to flay and vaporize him by planting an ax ineffectively in her back. Apparently, the producers were mindful of the fact that Willow can only be taken to the Styx, she can't be made to drink, lest she become unsalvageable for the viewers. Had Willow killed Warren without that immediate legitimation, the producers would have had no moral escape clause. As it is, Willow, having been rendered effectively a victim of Warren in her own person, she was free to wreak whatever raw justice was in her mind already after Tara's murder.

Two to Go.

Two to Go somehow overcomes this unpromising source material. The first hour works, not because it is original - it consists largely of homage to various sci-fi movies, including Predator, Jurassic Park, and Terminator in the first few minutes alone (and Spielberg's Duel soon after), not because there is any doubt about Willow's ultimate fate - ME has stared into that abyss already in Villains and, as noted above, blinked, not even because the writing is especially witty - one of the better lines is actually borrowed from Becoming, Part Two ("I don't want to hurt you. Doesn't mean that I won't."), no, the hour succeeds because it is about something definite, a something other than whether the characters are merely happy or unhappy. The conflict is simple: Willow wants to kill Jonathan and The Other Guy, and Buffy wants to prevent her, and the conflict is almost constantly before the viewers. There are the inevitable diversions to be sure, as, for example, when Dawn once again throws herself needlessly into harm's way, but even that is redeemed to some extent when Willow gives vent to the universe's disgust for Dawn and its wish that she might be returned to her original state. Willow realizes that Dawn is merely a diversion, however, and quickly gets back to business. Speaking of redemption, Spike's trial of the heart is another diversion which quickly passes. The dramatic peak for the hour comes with the reappearance of Giles, wielding thunderbolts himself, characteristical aplomb intact.


Grave is Rupert's hour. The lamented Watcher, whose departure excised the calm center of Buffy's life, settles immediately back into his pivotal position, restoring the show's equilibrium. His forthright outburst of laughter at Buffy's recitative of woe, capped by her timidly frank admission of her affair with Spike, resolves at once the entire season's many protracted trivial turmoils. Perspective is Giles' special gift. Perspective is a product of thought, and Giles, as usual, has thought things through. He has a plan, and, like all good plans, it is simplicity itself, reinforcing the self-evident fact that the elaborate plans of super-villains must always fail by reason of their own silly elaboration. Whereas the Trio and Dawn personify immaturity, Giles is the personification of that indispensable quality that had been absent Buffy's life and the show, maturity. (Tara's brief stint as the Voice of Maturity notwithstanding.) Indeed, echoing Drusilla, with whom she had been allusively compared by Buffy earlier, Willow derisively points up this fact by applying Dru's term for Angelus to Giles ("Uh, oh, Daddy's back.") just in case the viewers don't get it. Dramatically, his return marks Buffy's and the show's graduation. Everything that follows demonstrates this triumphal advance. Xander, in a final homage to Star Wars, turns Darth Willow from the dark side of the Nerd with his unconditional love, something that he has been afraid to give. Anya has regained her respect for Xander, and her selfless behavior throughout the last two hours was signal.

Vengeance, Inc.

Although one cannot easily kill a Vengeance Demon, it was decidedly painful to see her tossed about like the proverbial rag doll, but equally gratifying to see her resilience of spirit and her willingness to place herself in danger for the welfare of another, all this while her precious retail career was being reduced to rubble.

Soul mates.

Buffy is reborn again from the grave, this time emerging in the bright morning light of Spring over Sunnydale rather than in the blackness of an Autumnal night illumined only by the hellish glare of Sunnydale in flames. The Spring dawn that had marked her death at the end of the fifth season is now replaced by a Spring dawn as she claws her way a second time out of the earth. Buffy is no longer pupil but teacher, as she leads Dawn into the world. And then there is Spike, whose primal scream ends the episode. One's immediate reaction was a satisfied chuckle as ME seemed to have returned to the ironical view of wish fulfillment. Treading on the heels of that reaction, however, came the rather firm realization that Spike has been royally screwed. While the audience had been shown and told repeatedly throughout the fifth and sixth seasons that Spike's aspirations were at odds with his potential, it was that very tension which made Spike interesting. He was, despite all of his noble qualities, evil. He could do surprising things, because they seemed impossible. His motives were always ambiguous. His reach exceeded his grasp. Now, however, given the real potential for goodness, it is no longer beyond his grasp, and drama flags. It is to be hoped that with the addition of the potential for goodness the potential for raging evil remains alive in Spike, not merely as an afterthought, fully under control, as it has become in Angel, but as a factor which attempts to drive his actions. Randy's unwitting summation of Angel in Tabula Rasa gives one little comfort in that regard, however.

In Sum.

That is all very well and fairly done. ME deserves credit for the final two hours of the season. Yes, taken altogether, the season justifies itself in its conclusion, but it was a very long season with a dearth of actual progress before that conclusion. For the most part, events that could have been portrayed effectively in an half dozen episodes were stretched out beyond their elastic limits, with the result that there were too many sagging gaps through which an embarrassing poverty of assets plainly could be seen. Thus, the viewers had to put up with the tedious recursion of the Trio's grooming behavior as they picked over the nits of fannish obsession. Thus, too, the viewers had to suffer Dawn's incessant "me" mantra. All this in an effort to fill in those long empty blank pages on which nothing was happening or even threatening to happen. With the exception of OMwF, there were no wholly satisfactory episodes until Villains set the stage for Two to Go and Grave. The interludes were too many and the drama too thinly spread. Part of the fault lay in the telegraphing of the main point of conflict at the very beginning of the season, as Buffy plaintively asked, "Is this Hell?" That made it all too clear that there would be no surprises awaiting the viewers. Buffy would necessarily resent her resurrection and much angst would ensue. Only the mutually abusive relationship between Buffy and Spike provided any genuine drama or dramatic metaphor, as neither was capable of growing without the violent struggle which they played out against one another. As Buffy struggled to find her place in the light, to answer the big "Why?", Spike struggled to retain his sense of himself in that grand scheme of things which had been so clear to him for so long, but which the magic of the monks and their reading of Buffy had altered irrevocably, finding himself attracted to the light in spite of himself. For Spike and Buffy, the question was whether he was clinging to her or holding her back. At the season's end, that question, which appeared to have been answered by their separation, remains the single truly interesting one. Yes, everyone wants to know how Willow will cope with the loss of Tara and her own bloody revenge on Warren, and some viewers want to know how Anya and Xander will sort out, and some few viewers actually might care what becomes of Dawn, but Spike and Buffy remain the battery of the show. It is to be hoped that it is energized by Bunnies.

Horace LaBadie

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