Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wish   Rewatch 
June 10, 2015 9:03 PM - Season 3, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Stung by Xander's cheating and spurned by her old friends, Cordelia realizes her life would have been better if Buffy had never arrived in Sunnydale, and makes the mistake of wishing so in front of Vengeance demon Anyanka.
posted by yellowbinder (33 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
So many mixed feelings about this one.

On first watch, I thought this was going to be a Cordelia-centric episode, and I was terribly disappointed that it wasn’t.

On rewatch, even taking the episode for what it is, it just doesn’t do it for me. “Sunnydale is a better place because of Buffy” is such a “well, duh” kind of point to make. The more remote, all-business Buffy is a lot less fun to watch. Brendon and Hannigan have a fun dark energy in their scenes together as vampires, but that isn’t enough to carry the episode for me.

But. We wouldn’t have Anya or Doppelgangland without this episode, so I’m eternally grateful it exists.
posted by creepygirl at 9:16 PM on June 10, 2015


Anya! Evil Xander and Wllow! Puppy play! Anya! Both of Cordelia's school outfits! Larry as alternaScooby! Random girl Scooby with one line who we've never seen but who is also awesome! Anya!!!

My high school videotape of this was missing the cold open so the bright picnic fish monster scene is always jarring to me. Fun though!

I really just have one quibble... where's Darla?! Would have loved her here, although I do believe we are in the longest stretch of Darla-less Buffy.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:18 PM on June 10, 2015


On rewatch, even taking the episode for what it is, it just doesn’t do it for me. “Sunnydale is a better place because of Buffy” is such a “well, duh” kind of point to make. The more remote, all-business Buffy is a lot less fun to watch. Brendon and Hannigan have a fun dark energy in their scenes together as vampires, but that isn’t enough to carry the episode for me.

I see where you're coming from. It is sort of obvious, although I think it's one worth making explicitly is that Buffy makes things better. Too often in these kind of dramas where the hero necessarily has to encounter conflict it can begin to feel like Buffy is a bit of a conflict magnet, and if she went away maybe things would be calmer. In fact, in Gingerbread she expresses something similar herself. This makes clear that Buffy makes the world better (and she'll get another nod later in the series for ensuring that her graduating class has had the lowest death rate ever!)

This is a fun episode, with some neat ideas. Vampire Willow and Xander are terrific, and there's some fun to be had with Oz killing Willow, and Buffy coldly wondering through the ashes of Angel. I also think the epsiode is really bold in killing Cordelia so early, it's a nice move,although robbing everyone of the memory of this means that it loses some of it's power. This is, essentially, an episode without consequence, but it's a very well constructed one, so I'll forgive it.

-This epsiode actually, more than most, operates massively on coincidence. Cordelia almost dies, and is saved just in time by the one person who would recognise the amulet. And when she dies, Giles notices the amulet just in time (which, why does Anya give her the amulet anyway?). Then he almost dies trying to save people, and gets saved in the nick of time by Buffy who happens to have turned up
-Some shoddy continuity again, with an entire day passing (it's day time, then it's night time!) with no establishing shots, making the passing of time quite hard to follow
-There's a mention early on of Faith not hanging out so much
-Emma Caulfield gets to be in the credits! Man, Amber Benson had to wait two whole seasons before she had that happen!
-I love love love how on a rewatch you can see how utterly bored Anya is by Cordelia, and how she keeps going "still, don't you just wish?"
-Anya's knowledge of the human world will vary as the plot demands, but here she displays quite a lot of fashion knowledge at least
-How does everyone know that Xander cheated on Cordelia? Who told?
-Why aren't the students allowed to drive?
-They STILL hole up in the bloody library! Honestly they really do deserve to get vamped...
-Does destroying Anya's power source destroy every wish she's ever granted, or just the most recent one? I guess it has to be the latter, which doesn't necessarily make much sense
-Not only is Darla absent, but so is the Mayor, or Spike and Drusilla: maybe the former was killed by Angel again, and the latter came, got Drusilla's cure, and left.
-What on earth is the point of mass production when it comes to humans? Will it make one human's blood go further? It's a verrrry creepy image, but for a villain who was going to end the entire world at the end of season 1, way to dream low dude.
-I'm guessing the Master just dealt with all those world ending threats Buffy originally got rid of?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:14 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the Master just dealt with all those world ending threats Buffy originally got rid of?

Oh my god, I would watch the hell out of that show.

"This week, on Master Kills Theatre...."
posted by Mogur at 4:45 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does destroying Anya's power source destroy every wish she's ever granted, or just the most recent one? I guess it has to be the latter, which doesn't necessarily make much sense

Well, maybe when a wish is new it's not "set" in reality so much and it can be undone, but an older wish has had time to settle into reality and affect too many other things, so it can't be undone. Or maybe it has something to do with destroying the amulet while the current wish is in progress and its effects are still playing out.

I remember crushing on vampire Willow, and being freaked out by Anya's awful meat-face. I wonder if the writers had any inkling where they were gonna take Anya, or if they just saw how much fun Emma Caufield was in this episode and they were like, "Hey, you know that vengeance demon who got stuck as a teenage girl? Maybe we could do some more with her..."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:49 AM on June 11, 2015


I think the point of the episode isn't just that Sunnydale is better off with Buffy, maybe the biggest idea is that Buffy is better off with Sunnydale. She's cold and hardened without the Scoobies. This validates a lot of the broader themes of the show, importance of friends, your family can be whatever you want, etc., but also makes it clear that the Scoobies do make things better.

Anyway, alternate universe episodes are cheap and corny by definition, but I still love them in general, and this one in particular. It's weird to find the hypothetical changes in the lives of imaginary characters so compelling, since I'm free to imagine 'what if' on my own, but whatever. The best thing this trope is that you get to kill off characters, and they don't disappoint here killing off every major character except Giles and Oz.
posted by skewed at 10:47 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think skewed has it. AlternaBuffy has a completely different relationship with her watcher, has no friends or backup, does not take any time to think things through and come up with a plan, just dives in to start punching. A lot like Faith. All of this underscores the recurring themes of the show - "what can't we face if we're together?" and that research and planned, thoughtful action are much more effective than jumping in blindly. I think that it also foreshadows Faith's fate to a degree - Faith won't be killed by the Big Bad this season, but she'll lose her status as a Slayer of evil things, which is a kind of metaphorical death. AlternaBuffy's makeup and wardrobe are even Faith-like (heavy on the dark eyeshadow, singlets and combat gear). Her attitude definitely is.

Other things to love about this episode: Oz's beautiful, beautiful handling of penitent Willow. "I'm sorry you're having a hard time with this. But I told you what I need. So I can't help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself. And that's not my problem." I mean, I know it wounds Willow. But he is so direct, so clear. I have a big old crush on S3 Oz that suffers greatly in S4. (Don't worry Giles, you're still my #1 crush. Would turn for you any day.) I'm not a massive Cordelia fan, but I deeply admire her courage in this episode. Sometimes it's the little, petty things that are harder to face than the big ones.

And okay, I am going to have one gripe about the amount of blood in the human body and the varying lengths of time it apparently takes people to lose so much of it that they die in this show. Time and time again, we are shown vampires sucking on a human neck - perhaps getting the carotid? - for about two seconds maximum, then letting the lifeless corpse slump to the ground. And yet the poor sacrificial lamb has 8 spouts stabbed into her with blood pouring into glasses for a full ten dramatic seconds and appears to be alive through all of it. So either she had unusual amounts of blood (doubt it) or vampires, along with the lumpy faces, yellow eyes and fangs, also have a vacuum-suction superpower that is capable of sucking out 2+ litres of blood in a couple of seconds. Unless it's more dramatic for them to do it slowly, or the person they are sucking actually has a name.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:41 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just watched this again now. I don't know how many times I've seen this episode -- I've watched most of Buffy at least three times and in many cases twice that.

So the episode was very familiar to me because I totally don't feel about it as creepygirl does -- not that her opinion isn't valid, or anything. I can see, sorta, where she's coming from.

But I think this episode is a delight in every respect and, more importantly, it delivers on a lot of deeper themes, just as skewed and Athanassiel discuss. It's really not about Buffy making things better, but rather about the Scoobies all making each other better and, together, being something great that none of them alone could ever have been. That was an important theme of the entire show, it's obvious in many respects, but this episode does a very good job of demonstrating this.

And, yeah, so many nice touches. I recall Oz's response to Willow just stunned me when I first watched this episode -- it's just a perfect and clear expression of a fundamental relationship and emotional truth. If only we could be, and be involved with, people who are as clear-headed and emotionally mature as Oz.

Xander was so much more interesting as a vampire than he ever was as himself. And I have never hated Xander as much as many other people do.

There's a lot to think about in terms of what the vampire versions of WIllow and Xander reveal about their personality. Much later on the show, and on Angel, they explore the idea that vampirism doesn't so much completely alter someone's personality as it fully expresses some essential qualities of their personalities -- usually vices, and it turns those aspects up to 11. I don't think Whedon and the writers had this in mind as early as this halfway point of the series, but I do think you can make a case that it makes sense for these two characters.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:43 PM on June 11, 2015


I don't know if this is the right episode for it, but I've been thinking about some of the comments I've been reading about Xander.

When the show was on I seem to recall Xander being a very popular character, and these days I mostly hear people going on about how he's "the worst," etc. Maybe that's mostly a Metafilter thing, I don't know. But I definitely hear a lot of criticism of him in fandom these days, and it seems like it's kind of a given that he's just a jerk. (Funnily enough, towards the end of the show's run I remember hearing a whole lot online about how annoying Buffy herself was, but I don't seem to hear that much anymore. Maybe people were just fed up with her behavior in the later seasons, while these days they take a longer view of her character during the show's whole run.)

I don't think Xander's a jerk, or at least that he's not a full-time jerk. All of the characters on Buffy have their dark sides, even if they are mostly heroic, admirable people. A lot of Xander's problems strike me as pretty typical teenager stuff, or at least common teenage guy stuff that he's working through. The show is all about the supernatural as a metaphor for growing up, and Xander's problems reflect that.

I think Xander's flaws sometimes line up with the "nice guy" trope enough that maybe they seem especially grievous to the kind of people who are going to be Buffy fans in 2015. People are judging him against the way an adult man should behave, but Xander is only just becoming an adult in the last few seasons. Xander's early crush on Buffy, with his awkward flirting and sometimes-childish, sulky behavior in the face of her disinterest, is him being a kid. A lot of his mistakes come from being immature, and are no more "the worst" than Cordelia being a snide "mean girl" or Dawn being a bratty klepto. Kids are jerks, sometimes.

I feel like he gets singled out a lot these days for being a selfish douche, and I don't think that's totally fair. Under the right circumstances, he can be brave and wise and extraordinary. But he can also be a selfish douche. So can everybody else on this show.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:52 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


-How does everyone know that Xander cheated on Cordelia? Who told?

Theory #1: Xander went on one of his bizarre rants (about how unfair it was that he and Willow got caught cheating) in a hallway at school where other kids could hear them. He assumed no one would be paying attention, since no one pays attention to the Scoobies' not-particularly-quiet discussions in the hallways about demon-hunting. But the kids at school are much more interested in tales of illicit smoochies than he realized.

Theory #2: Shortly after the initial shock of seeing Willow and Xander together, Oz told Devon (who seems to be his only non-Scooby friend) what had happened. Devon, of course, thought the whole thing was hilarious and told everyone he knew, because he's just that kind of a doofus.

Those are the only avenues for the information I could come up with. Buffy's too classy to gossip about it, Cordelia would never want anyone to know, Willow actually feels really bad about it (and is really not interested in having the whole world know about her screwups), and Angel barely even talks to anyone except Buffy.
posted by creepygirl at 10:15 PM on June 11, 2015


(I should say that I haven't been taking part in any rewatch, so I'm basing my take on Xander on memory. Maybe his behavior does play very differently now than it did in 1990-something, but I tend to doubt it.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:39 PM on June 11, 2015


A lot of Xander's problems strike me as pretty typical teenager stuff, or at least common teenage guy stuff that he's working through.

Yeah, I was a lot more tolerant of Xander on the first watch. Partly this was because I was younger then, and didn't have as much to compare him to, and partly (for me anyway) it's because I was involved with a guy who sexualised women all. the. time. I was so used to hearing tacky comments about women and their sexiness, desirability, etc that Xander's barely even registered. Oh yeah, I was also watching a lot of anime then and with various anime characters and their underwear fetishes, spying on girls changing, etc - yeah, Xander hardly registered.

My feelings are a lot different now. I'm older. I'm not in that relationship anymore. The men around me, both at work and my friends, are older and have grown out of a lot of tacky behaviour. I don't sleep with men anymore, and in fact my sexuality is pretty quiescent due to a range of circumstances, but which result in me thinking people kissing on screen (or in real life) is kind of boring. So there's all those things, which I completely agree are personal and subjective and biased.

But I'm also even more developed as a feminist, with an increased awareness of violence against women and the different ways (some) men's sense of entitlement, particularly with regard to sex and power over women's bodies, plays out in the real world - from MRA killing sprees to 4chan trolls and the ever-present litany of rapes and murders. And when I hear Xander spouting bullshit that clearly indicates he feels entitled to Buffy, to her sexuality, to objectification of her body; when he denigrates Cordelia with comments implying she's done the whole football team; when he spies on Buffy changing, comes close to raping her, casts a spell that has every woman in Sunnydale after him (which yes I know but there's a point at which he's loving it) and generally has nothing to offer the Scoobies except a useless desire to protect (useless because he's not very good at it) and a good line in snark, I really wonder why he's there. I don't like him. He's not funny. He's not evil, he's not abnormal. He's a very typical, sex-obsessed teenage guy and there is not a lot more to him at this point. I am not going to apologise for that not interesting me and for seeing his character as a weakness in the show. I am also not going to apologise for calling out that behaviour as inappropriate, tacky and worse. "Boys will be boys" is not a defence. And just because something is "normal" in a particular slice of society at a particular point in time doesn't mean that it's right, or that we can't look back at it later and see it differently.

(As a point of contrast, Oz is far more interesting as a character - both his personality and the role he occupies in the show as a Scooby who has a literally monstrous side. I would much rather Xander had died early and Oz had stuck around, but I understand Seth Green had other things he wanted to do etc. And Xander does start to become more interesting later. He just isn't now.)

On preview, given your update, Ursula Hitler, maybe go back and read some of the comments on previous episodes in S1 and 2. I think on the whole we have been pretty balanced about calling out Xander's behaviour but not turning it into a hate-fest either. And yeah, his behaviour does play very differently 20ish years on.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:58 PM on June 11, 2015


when he spies on Buffy changing, comes close to raping her,

Wait, what? I do not remember those things at all! Did he do that stuff when he was hyena'ed up or something? Because I have a hard time picturing regular Xander doing those things, and a harder time thinking I'd forget it.

And just because something is "normal" in a particular slice of society at a particular point in time doesn't mean that it's right

I didn't say his mistakes were right, and I don't think we were supposed to ignore all that stuff when it was new. Saying that Xander makes mistakes common to a lot of boys his age isn't the same as saying "boys will be boys". Like all the kids on the show, he matures during the run. In order to mature, he has to have some bad aspects to grow beyond.

Xander questions his own usefulness in the gang, but I think it's really impressive that he fights evil without super powers, magic or even super smarts. He's got nothing but moxie, loyalty and quips, and that turns out to be enough.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:24 PM on June 11, 2015


Like I said, go back and read previous comments if you're interested. The near-rape was hyena behaviour but the spying on Buffy changing wasn't.

I don't loathe Xander and I don't think he's completely awful. His character definitely grows over the seasons. It's just taking him a loooong time to get there. I started out loathing Cordelia on the rewatch, but as she developed aspects of truth-telling to the point of insensitivity (Anya picks up this role later) she became a lot more enjoyable. And of course all of the characters have flaws. There are times I loathe Willow, who is practically my favourite, and Giles sometimes makes me so mad that I want to smack some sense into his stuffy British head even though I have a huge crush on him. But they are interesting and complex characters and just like I complain about Joyce being (largely) portrayed as a one-dimensional soccer mum, I'm going to complain about Xander being a one-dimensional sex-obsessed teenage boy who needs to do something else with his life than feel possessive and entitled to all his female friends and their sexuality.

As I recall, we haven't got long to go before we get to "The Zeppo", which definitely delves into other aspects of Xander's character. I think it's around then that he starts to become more than one-dimensional for me. He's never going to be my favourite and he doesn't have to be. But I guess my answer to your comment is that there for sure are some grounds for the criticism. I totally agree with you that all the characters have their flaws and don't worry, I'll comment on those too!
posted by Athanassiel at 12:14 AM on June 12, 2015


When the show was on I seem to recall Xander being a very popular character, and these days I mostly hear people going on about how he's "the worst," etc. Maybe that's mostly a Metafilter thing, I don't know. But I definitely hear a lot of criticism of him in fandom these days, and it seems like it's kind of a given that he's just a jerk. (Funnily enough, towards the end of the show's run I remember hearing a whole lot online about how annoying Buffy herself was, but I don't seem to hear that much anymore. Maybe people were just fed up with her behavior in the later seasons, while these days they take a longer view of her character during the show's whole run.)

I don't think Xander's a jerk, or at least that he's not a full-time jerk. All of the characters on Buffy have their dark sides, even if they are mostly heroic, admirable people. A lot of Xander's problems strike me as pretty typical teenager stuff, or at least common teenage guy stuff that he's working through. The show is all about the supernatural as a metaphor for growing up, and Xander's problems reflect that.


So I think if you were to read my comments on Xander this series you'll note me becoming increasingly down on him as time has gone on. I've always been a Xander apologist, and I still am, but there is a consistent pattern of terrible behaviour on his part. I think a lot of it is that Xander as a character at this point is seen as a joke and plot machine, a doofus and an idiot... Dracula's butt monkey. This means he engages in stupidly thoughtless actions, and often in painful behaviour. You're right as well that he is meant to be a typical teenager, and I think this would work better if he wasn't played by someone in his late twenties.

I think what Xander is at his best, as a character, is pure id, the "heart" of the Season 4 conclusion. He is driven by pure emotion most of the time, feeling rather than thought. This leads to his behaviour towards Angel, but also towards being the first to step up even when he has no physical capabilities to back up. He goes to save Buffy not because he thinks it will work, but because he just has to. In Season 4 and 5 the show will actually engage a bit more with who Xander is, and the Zeppo is a bit part of doing that: unliked Bothered, Bewitched and Bewildered, where he causes problems and doesn't really learn from them, he will actually solve the problems he created in the Zeppo.

But yeah, I could live without him calling Cordelia's outfit hookertastic (which he does in an upcoming episode), and falling asleep in the library, and... well there's a whole list. Which is why when we get to Season 6 and discover he's cast a spell leading to the death of several people it feels like more of a pattern of behaviour than a throwaway joke.

[As an aside, it's often a bit frustrating how for a show which is actually pretty smart, sometimes the writers are really lazy about thinking through the consequences of choices they've made, Xander knowingly summoning a demon as a gag being only one example of a whole host]
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:51 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I can see how the other Scoobs could have come down hard on Xander for summoning Trick. But I think the show handled it OK, that he had thought he was going to make things fun for everybody and instead it turned into a big musical nightmare. It came from a good if dopey place, and was more benign than a lot of other stuff he and the other Scoobies did. (It's not nearly as bad as the whole "kick his ass" thing, for example.) It's a throw-away gag that doesn't work very well when you think about it much, but it brought us Trick so I'm willing to let it slide.

Did Xander really watch Buffy changing her clothes? Which episode is that?! I can picture him glancing up at an awkward moment maybe, and then running in the opposite direction cursing himself for being a creep. But actually, like, Porky's -style leering at her through a peep hole or some shit? That sure doesn't sound like his style! And I don't think he can be held accountable for anything he did during the hyena-fication. I mean, they ate the principal! Safe to say Xander wasn't himself, just then!

Again, it's been years, so I'll concede that Xander may be a much bigger douche than I recall. And yeah, Nicholas Brendon always seemed about 10 years too old for the part, great though he was in it. (Charisma Carpenter and Emma Caulfield were always kind of hard to believe as teens too, but all of those actors were so good in their roles that we were all willing to overlook a few crows-feet here or there.) But even if Xander had douchey moments, I don't think he was a douche at the end of the day. I mean, come on: the yellow crayon speech?? He saved the world, with talking from his mouth!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:31 AM on June 12, 2015


Did Xander really watch Buffy changing her clothes? Which episode is that?! I can picture him glancing up at an awkward moment maybe, and then running in the opposite direction cursing himself for being a creep. But actually, like, Porky's -style leering at her through a peep hole or some shit? That sure doesn't sound like his style!

Yeah, or rather he tries. He, Willow and Buffy are in her room while she tries on clothes for a date with Owen (Never Kill a Boy on the First Date), he turns round, but notices a mirror and tries to adjust it to see Buffy. I believe he fails to actually see anything, but not really for lack of trying. He then tries to get Buffy to wear an ultra conservative outfit.

But yeah, I do end up liking Xander. He just makes it so damn hard sometimes!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:34 AM on June 12, 2015


Rather than reiterate my thoughts on actions while possessed I again encourage you to visit the discussion on these earlier episodes. I think you will find people are rather more nuanced than you might think.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:41 AM on June 12, 2015


Oh Oz. ~dreamy sigh~ Such an emotionally intelligent guy.

I once read a great Oz/Tara wishverse fanfiction. I wish I could find it.
posted by Windigo at 6:12 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which is why when we get to Season 6 and discover he's cast a spell leading to the death of several people it feels like more of a pattern of behaviour than a throwaway joke.

A lot of fandom immediately fanwanked that as him covering for Dawn, who actually did summon Sweet, in order to keep her from being Sweet's bride. I think it makes way more sense for Dawn to have done it. I don't think that's actually supported by canon but Xander summoning Sweet, at that point in his character development, just makes no sense.

For me the frustrating aspect of Xander's character is just his behavior but the fact that the show so rarely seems to recognize that it's wrong. He doesn't get called out for his creepy comments. It's not clear to me that the writers got what they were doing there. And when he does mature, he stops making those comments but there isn't a specific episode that I can remember when he has a revelation about what he's been doing wrong.
posted by chaiminda at 6:46 AM on June 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


"For me the frustrating aspect of Xander's character is just his behavior but the fact that the show so rarely seems to recognize that it's wrong."

Yeah, I think Whedon and the writers always liked Xander and basically saw him like Ursula Hitler does. But he's actually a pretty bad person. I originally watched this show as a late-30s feminist man. And I was somewhat in touch with the fandom. People didn't like Xander back then, too. It's not a recent thing. I do think that people are even less likely to apologize for Xander than they were then.

I don't hate Xander, exactly. I'm so disappointed in him that I get very angry with him. Because it's certainly true that there's a really good person in there -- to me, it's the person who talked Evil!Willow down. There are many other examples. He could have been his best self, but his insecurities and egocentricism conspire to make bad decisions that hurt other people that are all about him. There's a fair amount of narcissism in his personality, he tends to see the people around him in terms of how they affect his emotional state, how they are or are not meeting his emotional wants and needs. But I think this is a big part of what makes him a pretty "good" vampire. Like William , vampirism makes him into an evil, hurtful person, but also liberates him from his insecurities. We rightly feel a lot of contempt for the "nice guy" type because it's a person who works hard at a self-delusion that they're generous and caring when most of this behavior is narcissistic and manipulative and, in the end, doesn't really see the women they're fixated on as real people, just objects of desire. Vampire!Xander isn't hobbled by this pretense, he can just be his self-indulgent self, which is what Xander secretly wishes he could do, anyway.

Willow is deeply self-controlled and afraid of her own power. Vampire!Willow just is -- and she also indulges in all the desires that Willow won't even acknowledge she has.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:52 AM on June 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Xander's greatest asset to the group is that he could absolutely be trusted. He was not just a friend of Willow, he was a best friend and outside of family there isn't a higher level of trust. He can be trusted.

Also he saved the World once.
posted by Bonzai at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2015


Willow trusted Xander to tell Buffy that she was trying the soul restoration spell again. Instead Xander told a lie that Buffy held onto for five years as That Awful Thing Willow said.

Everyone trusted Xander to stay awake while watching Oz, and Xander didn't even try to stay awake.

Cordy trusted Xander to stay faithful to her, and well . . .

Xander has some good points, but I would not rank trustworthiness as one that I associate with him.
posted by creepygirl at 9:53 AM on June 12, 2015


He was no Saint I'll grant 'ya. Maybe the trust was misplaced, you are making an argument. But when Buffy needed Dawn out of the city for the final battle she turned to Xander.

The fact that he fucked it up doesn't change the fact that Buffy trusted him right to the end. You make a good point that maybe she shouldn't have.
posted by Bonzai at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2015


My mental edit of Once More With Feeling has Xander 'fessing up to accidentally bleeding in the jewelry drawer while he was putting up shelves at the magic shop.

I really loved Xander when I was watching Buffy on first run; these days I still love him, but recognize that he is frequently kind of a fuckup. But he's a fuckup who never, ever stops trying to do better and stand by the people he loves, no matter how badly outmatched he is, and that makes up for a lot.
posted by nonasuch at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't buy the idea that Xander just sees the women on the show as objects of desire and nothing more. He would literally take a bullet for Willow or Buffy. Sometimes he gets caught up in his own bullshit and lacks empathy. I think he's a good kid and he regards the women in his life as worthy of respect, but he has occasional lapses into assholery.

It's weird that this episode out of all of them has kicked off a big Xander debate... but I suppose I'm hardly blameless for that!

I got curious about what was going on in those "canon" comic books that follow the series after it ended. (I tried to read them when they were first coming out, but reading the story in rushed, 12-page installments once a month made me nuts.) Let's just say that it goes in directions you would NOT expect. Buffy falls for Xander, for instance, but he's not interested because he's in love with... Dawn. I know! Ew! (I don't see how he could go from majorly freaking out that he saw little Dawny dancing from behind, didn't recognize her and thought she was hot for 3 seconds, to moving in with her in San Francisco. Come on, "Xawn" is just NOT happening!)

It's frustrating, because if this stuff is "canon" I feel somehow like I'm letting the Scoobs go off and have their adventures and I'm not paying attention. But on the other hand, 12-page comics where Xander and Dawn are shacking up? No.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:53 AM on June 13, 2015


They're not great. I've read the whole of Season 8, and there's some fun moments, but it's mostly a mess and doesn't really feel like the show.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:29 AM on June 13, 2015


Sounds a lot like season 7.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:01 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


My first impression of the comics was that they did capture the tone of the series really well. That gradually faded out and then there was cloud sex and I bailed.

I'm having trouble parsing my feelings on Xander. I think he was intended as a loser but mostly secretly awesome dude, an entry point of view character for a lot of young male viewers. I identified with him for sure as a teen. I'm not finding much to like on rewatch unfortunately. We've got The Zeppo coming up in two weeks, I'm hoping a positive Xander episode will help balance or at least clarify my feelings on him.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:57 PM on June 13, 2015


I don't think I ever disliked Xander nearly as much as many people did, apparently. He wasn't my favourite (pretty far down the list), but that was mostly due to the awesomeness of many other characters. I think Xander suffers from having to be a joke machine; some of the things he said that are largely flippant were accepted as funny in 1998, but much less so now, after we've thought things through a bit. I always felt his culpability in OMWF was more him drawing the short straw from the writers as anything else; it couldn't be anyone who'd seriously screwed up lately in particular (several characters) so it kind of fell to him. Even in the episode it's treated like an afterthought (a flaw in a mostly delightful episode).

Speaking of delightful episodes, I really do love this one. Even if some of that is because it makes me excited to watch Doppelgangland, which is the best ever.

Nerf! (Knife Herder?)

"How do you deal?" "I have you guys"" pretty much distills the episode. Watching this in tandem with the end of S4 or during S6-7 makes it a bit sadder.

I always assumed the thing about Xander and Willow got out because people went digging for information when Cordelia was out of school for a while due to rebar puncture and Xander wasn't constantly at her side. I'm not sure how they got the specifics, or maybe rumours were close enough. Come to think of it, given continuity, I'm kind of surprised that injury didn't come up in conversation when she was on "Angel," given other team members' similar area wounds and popped stitches and whatnot.

Hi Jonathan! Now I kind of want to see alternate universe Vampire Jonathan. Also read the backstory of alt-universe Larry and Nancy.

Oz really is fantastic in that scene with Willow trying to beg his forgiveness (even if Willow is my favourite). It's a great lesson about emotional boundaries, maybe even more valuable than any of the flashier stuff in this episode.

I guess in this universe, Giles talks to Cordelia as she regains consciousness instead of the other way around. It's too bad there wasn't a crossbow or something when he was locked in the cage. The "incinerator" line is very creepy. I guess it's in the school or something?

I always wondered if Oz was a werewolf in this universe.

The whole "characters killing their loved ones"/ Giles' "because it has to be" has made me tear up more than once. It's just so saaaaad...at least it's extremely temporary.
posted by ilana at 8:20 PM on June 14, 2015


Maybe Xander would piss me off less if Oz weren't right there as an example of how to be an interesting but also nice guy. He may be uncharacteristically mature compared to your average high school guy, but I would rather Xander as a main character were more like that and they had the sex-obsessed typical high school guy as a supporting cast member who leaves after a couple of seasons.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to double back to the thing about Xander being useful in the group despite not having superpowers or magic or whatever... it's something that really hits you when you play the (pretty good) Buffy video game, Chaos Bleeds. You play as Buffy and Faith and you have slayer powers, you play as Spike and you have vampire powers, you play as Willow and you have magic powers... then you play as Xander, and you're just a guy who can punch and quip. That's it! As his level begins, in a school overrun by vamps, you feel practically naked.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2015


I've been trying to describe Xander as "the friend I love and would take a bullet for, but who I constantly have to apologize for to others, just like all the time." The reasons I love Xander are the same reasons I hate him.His actions are just so "Nice Guy™" and cringe-worthy so often, but I know that I did that same shit all the time before I knew any better, and the show doesn't really paint him in a good light when he's like that. And when he's great he's exactly the guy I want. He's a guy whose worst traits all stem from his insecurities, and who becomes pretty amazing when he drops them.

I think it's interesting that Vamp!Willow and Vamp!Xander are together and both very, very confident. Even as freshly-made Vamps they are at the Master's side and talk to him as if they are equals. I realize that they hadn't really decided to put Willow's sexuality arc in place at this point, but she still reads as largely Bi to me, at least on the romantic side of things. (I'm straight and as such lack personal experience in these things, but I've had relationships with enough Bi women and been close with enough Lesbian women to have Willow read very much this way to me.)

So many of Xander's greatest moments are when he takes charge and owns it, and I think it's because when he's in that role he doesn't have any doubt or jealousy or pettiness about him. But then when he has no power or control he throws tantrums.

And that aspect, where he's maybe the only character whose flaws aren't played romantically,or for laughs, or as cute quirks, but just as they are, makes me love him. He's real enough that he's allowed to genuinely suck a lot of the time, and that's as real as the series gets.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 PM on October 12, 2015


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