Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tough Love   Rewatch 
December 16, 2015 9:35 PM - Season 5, Episode 19 - Subscribe

Buffy drops out of college to take care of Dawn. After a fight over magic, Tara finds herself in harms way and Willow seeks revenge.
posted by yellowbinder (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This episode, and Weight of the World, set up what is to come in Season 6. Here we see Buffy taking on the role of single parent, explicitly giving up on dreams of anything approaching a normal life. I think Dawn as daughter (metaphorically) is key to the conclusion, I think as I think Buffy's sacrifice makes more sense from a parental point of view than a sisterhood one.

Another precusor to Season 6: we have Willow and Tara's first fight, where Tara exposes her worries about Willow's magic use. Here it is framed as a part of their relationship and Tara's insecurities; I quite like the argument about Tara worrying about Willow "going back to men". Their argument feels natural, and it's classic Whedon (and, to be honest, television) to have a couple fight just before one suffers a horrible fate, even if this one is reversable. This is Glory at her most scary, and finally, after necessary build up, she's going into a fully active mode.

I do think the show had to cheat a little to stop Glory hunting everyone down prior to this, but now she is fully in action she's terrifying and unstoppable here, which is absolutely needed to motivate the next episode. Even Willow's full on magical attack hardly gives her pause (fun question, could season 6 Willow have stopped Glory?)

-Oh hey Giles, when Buffy shirks her parental responsibility and then you set her straight... you remember how that works, right? Because you'll apparently have utterly forgotten this in Season 6!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:53 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Buffy is a big dummy about Willow's need for revenge as Spike so eloquently points out. Willow's plan starts off well, but I don't see what she could have had in mind after making a bad-ass entrance. I mean I'm totally down with, "I owe you PAIN" but "bag of knives"? Against a god?
posted by wabbittwax at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think Dawn as daughter (metaphorically) is key to the conclusion,

posted by phearlez at 8:10 AM on December 17, 2015

I like Tara and Willow's conversation/fight -- there is some honesty and pain there in a relationship that doesn't always ring true for me (part of that, I think, is probably the timidness with which the network let the show express their relationship. They always seemed sort of ... chaste, maybe?). I also love the dark desperation with which Willow fights Glory. It's out of anger and pain, yeah, but it's one of the first times we actually get to see how powerful Willow can be (... still angry about what the show did to Willow ...).
posted by darksong at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2015

I think it's particularly telling that Willow and Tara have their first big fight not long after Tara's long-term deception ended, and Tara has gained some confidence. Their relationship is most harmonious when one of them is being less than completely herself and/or lacking confidence (pre-Family, and the reconciliation at the end of Season 6, when Willow has repudiated magic, which is part of herself, and has suffered a crisis of confidence.) When both of them are being completely themselves, and confident, it's a recipe for fighting. Which is one reason that I'm not a huge fan of this relationship, aside from Willow's Season 6 abuse of Tara.

Another issue is that probably because of the way that they had to depict the relationship, it's magicmagicmagic and we don't get a strong sense of what either one of them appreciates about the other--Tara admiring Willow's intelligence or problem-solving ability, for example. Willow provides encouragement to Tara in her less-confident days, but Tara has outgrown the need for it by mid-Season Five. Tara is a calming influence on Willow, but Willow learns the hard way at the end of Season 6 that she has to learn to self-soothe.

The fight is interesting because on an emotional level, I'm on Tara's side. I don't like arguments with loved ones where my words are picked apart, and I'm constantly being interrupted. On the intellectual level, I'm on Willow's side. Tara isn't pointing to any specific behavior that she finds worrisome, just vague generalities about how powerful Willow's become. It's a lot easier to stop doing something than to stop being something, so I get Willow's frustration. (I also have the sneaking suspicion that Tara would not be happy if Willow were super-powerful, even if Willow were more responsible with her power. Which is kind of a problem.)

Long ramble about a scene that may interest only me:

On rewatch, I really love the scene after the Big Fight, where Willow's moping at the Magic Box. Giles tries to cheer her up, but he's distracted by an almost imperceptible noise. Nevertheless, he manages to deliver a comforting speech (albeit a bit perfunctorily), while sneaking towards the door, so he can quickly open it, and smack it closed on Glory's minion who's listening in. It's a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Giles. Then he gets a bit menacing when he's interrogating the minion, he tells Willow and Anya to get some twine, and while their backs are turned, there's a horrible cracking noise, and it's obvious he has done something quite unpleasant to the minion, off-screen. Anya asks what happened, and he makes some casual remark about the minion changing his mind (about not talking, even under torture.) Then the minion lets them know that Glory's going to target Tara, and Willow immediately springs into action.

I love scenes with Giles and Willow--there's a lot of conflict between them coming up, but I feel they're really more alike than different. They both have their reckless sides, and both of them are capable of torture and murder if sufficiently motivated. Both of them can turn aspects of their personalities on a dime. Willow goes from vulnerable teenager to decisive fighter the minute she finds out Tara's in danger. Giles goes from mentor/father figure to ruthless watcher as soon as the minion shows up. Then when Willow runs off, he's back in mentor/father figure mode again--he wants to go with Willow, even though at this point, she's a far greater threat to Glory than he is.

Re: the fight itself. My chief complaints are tactical. I wish she'd given some thought to what effect killing Glory might have on Tara. And like wabbitwax, I wish she'd had a better plan going in, because Glory was a legitimate target, and a lot of lives might have been saved if she'd been able to take out Glory here. I find it a bit irritating that the show wants to make it a Bad Thing that Willow went off-mission for personal reasons, when it was not a Bad Thing when Buffy did the same thing in Graduation Day. Protagonist Privilege is annoying.

Willow's pledge to care for Tara forever is meant to be heartwarming, but to me it's a bit terrifying. They're both so young that she could be signing up for six decades of caretaking. But then the show is really down on institutions, so the idea that a facility might be able to provide better care for Tara is a non-starter.
posted by creepygirl at 7:54 PM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Willow's pledge to care for Tara forever is meant to be heartwarming, but to me it's a bit terrifying. They're both so young that she could be signing up for six decades of caretaking. But then the show is really down on institutions, so the idea that a facility might be able to provide better care for Tara is a non-starter.

Well, you're not wrong, but this is surely a position young lovers have found themselves in before: Willow isn't the first person with a lover who has an early onset mental illness that leaves them essentially incapable to fend for themselves. It's pretty tricky to define what the "right" action is for anyone in that position.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:55 AM on December 23, 2015

Gah, I didn't mean to imply either decision that people in the real world make is wrong (but I can see how it could read that way.) It was mostly just thinking that any long-term commitments I might have made when I was Willow and Tara's age would have been a disaster within a few months. But other people are not as flaky as me.

Also, when I think about what else Willow's supposed to be doing from here on out, (Big Gun for magic, research, robot repair/reprogramming) plus somehow picking up all the caretaking skills for 24/7 Tara care, it feels like Willow Hypercompetency is on overdrive again. Or maybe she's casting spells to make the caretaking tasks go more smoothly when no one's looking.
posted by creepygirl at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2015

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