Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Gift
December 23, 2015 10:00 PM - Season 5, Episode 22 - Subscribe

The gang mounts an offensive to stop Glory from bleeding Dawn and opening a portal home. Buffy gives the world her heroic gift, Willow cures Tara, Xander proposes to Anya, and Giles ties up loose ends.
posted by yellowbinder (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This would have been a great end to the series if they hadn't been picked up for seasons 6 & 7. "She saved the world a lot" is the perfect epitaph. I love the music cue that they use for Buffy's final sacrifice. It's not uncommon for the room to become very dusty when watching this episode.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:53 PM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I remember getting through this episode and thinking that although I had disliked the fifth season, I was hopeful for the sixth. My understanding was that, while the ritual had failed, Dawn was still THE KEY. The ritual, as I understood it, would have killed THE KEY to open all of the doors between dimensions simultaneously, but now that the ritual had failed, THE KEY could still be used to open dimensional doors one at a time. Basically, I had some hope that Dawn was going to be used to tell some fun, interesting stories, instead of being Bumbles MacGuffin.

Sadly, they chose to just drop the MacGuffin part, while keeping the Bumbles. Dawn being the anthropomorphic personification of a powerful and potentially interesting supernatural phenomenon was not really ever brought up again.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:04 AM on December 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Death is still a shitty gift :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:28 PM on December 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

You forgot the Joel Grey twist/reveal. Shallow cuts, shallow cuts.

Unfortunately, this is too sad of an ending for Buffy and I would have been furious if the series ended like this with Buffy sacrificing herself for Dawn. Hell I would have sacrificed Dawn just to shunt her from the show.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:15 PM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

You forgot the Joel Grey twist/reveal. Shallow cuts, shallow cuts.

Huh, I guess I did. And to think that for years I'd been carrying around the idea that there was ever a hope of Dawn not being a waste of space!
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:44 PM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"The hardest thing in this world... is to live in it" is, for me, one of the best lines Joss has written, or will write.
It's perfect, simple, accurate and not at all silly.
posted by Mezentian at 2:56 PM on December 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would have been happy with this as an ending, especially with the previously on which I believe includes at least a frame of every episode to date.

I didn't mind Dawn this season when she had a purpose, but going forward she adds very little to the story/dynamic of the series.

As a meta note I've fallen off the rewatch this season, which sucks as it's one of my faves. I wanted to devote enough time to digest Restless, then started a new job and didn't manage to work it into my schedule. I'll be hopping back on for Season 6 next week, it's a year that I appreciate more every time I see it.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:02 PM on December 24, 2015

That line about the world. Every time. It kills me. It's so absolutely simple and brilliantly true.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:12 PM on December 25, 2015

I disagree; there was plenty worth liking in subsequent seasons and I think it would have been a detriment to not have them. But then I have found some things to like in the post-show comics so maybe I'm not your guy to ask.
posted by phearlez at 9:47 PM on December 25, 2015

I'm also glad that they made 6 and 7. Imperfect and sometimes frustrating, they were still great TV in my opinion. But this would have been a really breathtaking series finale. So many good arcs come to a nice end point. Buffy's great act of sacrifice, defining herself ultimately as a protector not a Slayer. Giles was wrong, and he ultimately accepts Buffy's decision and understands it. His role as Watcher/father is complete. Spike is selfless in his attempts to help, is distraught when he fails and Buffy dies. Willow ends up being a powerful confident leader. Anya has recaptured her humanity.

Giles explaining to Ben that Buffy can't kill him because she's a hero, "not like us" is great, chokes me up every time. It also justifies (for me) every stupid decision not to kill Spike and other dangerous beings. It's not the smart thing to do, it may not even be the morally right thing to do, but Buffy doesn't kill beings with a soul or even a psuedo-soul.

Of course, they kind mess up a lot of these themes over the next two seasons, but whatever.
posted by skewed at 9:04 AM on December 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah I was going to say skewed if you recall later Buffy will tell the principal if he pulls anymore personal vengeance shit she will LET Spike kill him and she also says she would let Dawn die if meant saving humanity so she makes a pretty radical shift in terms of what she is willing do between s5 and s7.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2015

Yeah, I guess every Buffy fan has to struggle with how to deal with the sometimes massive inconsistency in character behavior. I personally just give the show credit for its best material and pretend the rest doesn't exist. I can say Buffy was just making an empty threat to the principal to keep him in line, but she was obviously very serious about being willing to sacrifice Dawn, if necessary, and that's 180 degrees change that doesn't really have much development behind it. So... I dunno, land of contrasts.
posted by skewed at 5:49 PM on December 26, 2015

Buffy clearly changes between The Gift and Lies My Parents Told Me, but I don't think what shifts is her willingness to sacrifice Dawn.

Buffy might say that she won't sacrifice Dawn, and she may end up not having to, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't do it in the end. As people have pointed out, Dawn would be sucked into a hell dimension along with everyone else, so there really is no saving her. Remember also that Dawn was pleading with Buffy to let her jump into the portal. Can anyone really imagine Buffy stopping her if there was no other option?

Yet another way to frame "Death is your gift": Buffy's death is a gift from the universe to her, one that allows her to escape the incredible trauma of having to kill her sister to save the world.

So what changes by Season 7? Not Buffy's willingness to sacrifice Dawn, but her ability to contemplate sacrificing Dawn.

Buffy has always struggled with her duties as a Slayer - it is, arguably, the defining motif of her character. In the pilot episode, she refuses the call until somebody dies. Throughout the series she asserts her right to an identity and life outside of slayerhood. When Giles lays out the options given to her by tradition and Watcher lore, she often rejects them and finds a better alternative. She refuses to confront the Master in Prophecy Girl or to kill Angel in Innocence, or to sacrifice Willow in Choices. She runs away to LA and turns away Lily's first requests for help.

Often these refusals pay off. Because she fights for a life outside slaying, she is not isolated like other Slayers: "A slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn't in the brochure." Because she doesn't accept the options given to her, she is able to come up with unconventional solutions like her decision in Chosen. She is able to stop the Mayor without losing Willow, and of course in The Gift she saves the world without losing Dawn.

But. When Buffy sees that a sacrifice is necessary, she has a remarkable ability to make it, even in the most painful circumstances. Once the AV Club is slaughtered, Buffy is willing to go to her prophesied death. Once Angelus kills Jenny, Buffy is ready to take him down. In the Gift, Buffy is worn down emotionally, and she pushes her refusal to the absolute limits. And just before she reaches that limit, before she breaks down and lets Dawn sacrifice herself, she finds that unconventional solution - a solution she wouldn't have found if she had accepted her duty even a minute before.

I don't want to dwell too much on seasons six and seven, as we haven't gotten there yet, but a big part of Buffy's journey is framed by this episode, by two lines:

"I don't know how to live in this world, if these are the choices."

"The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."

Buffy learns to live in the world when these are the choices. In early Season 7, she goes to fight Anya who has become a vengeance demon again. When Xander tries to stop her, she reminds him of how she once killed Angel, saying, "At some point, someone has to draw the line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the slayer is always cut off. There's no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don't apply. There's only me. I am the law."

In some ways, she swings too far in this direction, accepting too much of her duty, becoming "general Buffy". Buffy makes her statement about letting Dawn die during a conversation with Giles in which he's trying to convince her to sacrifice Spike for the greater good:

It takes more than rousing speeches to lead, Buffy. If you're going to be a general, you need to be able to make difficult decisions regardless of cost.

Have you seen me with those girls? (paces) I mean, the way I've treated my friends and my family and... Andrew. Believe me, I know how to make hard decisions.

Buffy has always known how to make hard decisions. She's also always refused to make them until she was convinced there was no other option. And these two things have always existed in tension. In The Gift, she denies her willingness to sacrifice Dawn, but I believe she would have eventually done so. In Lies My Teacher Told Me, she affirms her willingness to sacrifice Dawn and whoever else she has to, but she still refuses to kill Spike so long as there's another option.

To wrap up what has turned into an absurdly long post, I don't see these two statements as being in conflict, or an unearned change. It's totally earned. It's a fundamental part of Buffy's character arc, and I love it.
posted by galaxy rise at 10:00 PM on December 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

She is able to stop the Mayor without losing Willow

But at the cost of Larry and Principal Snyder dying, Harmony being turned, and however many other people being killed/turned/maimed in the melee of Graduation Day. If the argument is that Buffy's decision "paid off", I think it's fair to note that a bunch of other people paid the cost for that payoff.

Re: this episode. I think it's interesting that for the fight, Buffy uses items that were created/discovered from some of the worst excesses of the Scoobies this season: The Buffybot (out of Spike's gross desire for a sexbot), Olaf's Hammer (out of Willow's recklessness in testing a spell inside The Magic Box, plus the pointless Willow/Anya squabbling). Like even the dumbest things they do can sometimes contribute to the greater good.

The episode is really well-executed (as is the season as a whole), but for all of the missteps of Season 6 and Season 7, I'm glad it didn't end here. On a symbolic level, I'm much happier with Buffy finding a way to live in the world as something other than a sacrificial protector.
posted by creepygirl at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

If the argument is that Buffy's decision "paid off", I think it's fair to note that a bunch of other people paid the cost for that payoff.

They pay off from Buffy's perspective, and in doing so encourage her to continue rejecting hard decisions until absolutely forced. I'm not arguing that they're always the best decision in a utilitarian sense.
posted by galaxy rise at 4:22 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Buffy of seasons 6 and 7 can't really be thought of as the same person who dies at the end of this episode. The resurrected Buffy no longer has any reason to fear death. She's been to heaven and back. That is a huge change in her perspective. The resurrected Buffy knows that Hell is right there on Earth everyday and that the most she can do is improve conditions a little bit one day at a time until she gets back to her well-deserved afterlife. Of course that girl would have reckless sex with Spike. Of course that girl would sacrifice Dawn or anyone else if she had to.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:24 PM on December 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Buffy might say that she won't sacrifice Dawn, and she may end up not having to, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't do it in the end. As people have pointed out, Dawn would be sucked into a hell dimension along with everyone else, so there really is no saving her. Remember also that Dawn was pleading with Buffy to let her jump into the portal. Can anyone really imagine Buffy stopping her if there was no other option?

I don't really see how this is supported by Buffy's actions. I mean, she wasn't even wiling to kill Ben. Sure, the smart move is to kill Dawn, but that doesn't mean it's what Buffy would have done. That's the whole point of the conflict between Buffy and Giles this episode. Giles ultimately accepts and admires the fact that she refuses to kill an innocent even while he's about to do so himself.
posted by skewed at 7:24 PM on December 27, 2015

She kills Angel at the end of season 2, even though she sees him as separate from Angelus and therefore innocent. She doesn't have a choice at that point - there's no time for her to bargain, to find another way. When Glory morphs back into Ben, the dilemma is no longer immediate. Buffy has time to think through other options besides 'kill the innocent', so she refuses to do so.

Giles is not always right about who Buffy is, what's best for her, and what she'll do in a given situation. That's shown to us over and over again. That doesn't mean he's not right in this case, or that your reading isn't valid. But I like my reading better. :)

re: no longer fearing death - is it at all clear within the narrative that Buffy will go back to that heavenly dimension when she dies? I don't think the Buffyverse metaphysics are clear on that - or on anything, really.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:49 PM on December 27, 2015

galaxyrise: love your post, and while I agree with your conclusions on who Buffy is in 6 and 7, it does make me sad.

Sometimes people wonder why Batman, or Superman have their golden rule about no killing. And from a utillitarian standpoint, it absolutely makes sense to kill the Joker or Lex Luthor. The decision to spare their lives undoubtedly leads to many more innocents dying. But the point is that to be the person who can make that compromise, who can break their own rules then you stop being the hero everyone needs, and start being the villain.

This is a terrific episode. I love the staging and framing of it, where we get Buffy winning against Glory (with tools that had been forgotten up until now, which I guess it one way to redeem forgetful writing!), but that not being the point. The fight on the structure is dynamic and fun, and adding a bit of verticality to proceedings really shakes things up. Willow and Xander have their moments, but this episode (and really, this season) is all about Buffy, and her final choice.

Would Buffy have let Dawn take the dive? I don't know, perhaps she would have, but the Buffy who survived wouldn't be the Slayer we know and love. In fact, she may well have been similar to the Slayer we get in Season 6, someone who feels disconnected from their own existence. But we'll get there.

-The moment where Spike realises he's lost is so, so good!
-The previously on intro is ssooooooo good.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:47 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think there are a lot of key differences between Buffy here and in "Lies My Teachers Told Me," some of which are due to resurrection, but most of which are due to the events of "The Weight of The World." Losing Dawn to Glory's clutches, and the guilt from momentarily having been willing to sacrifice Dawn to end all of this, made her catatonic. This episode is the couple of hours immediately following that breakdown, which she was only able to get out of by resolving not to make that choice. In this frame of mind, there was no way she'd be willing to sacrifice Dawn to "win" this one. Later, post death and resurrection, in different circumstances, that might be different.

Additionally, had this not been made as a series finale at the time, it wouldn't have been completely jarring for Dawn to have given a good speech to Buffy on the tower there before Dawn jumps. For Dawn to show heroic self-sacrifice at that moment could have worked, especially with the pointlessness of Joyce's death (as in her death didn't serve a higher purpose, not complaining at all about "The Body" obviously) being so thematically resonant over the season, Buffy having to accept her sister's death as the only option here could have been devastating, but effective.

My only real issues with this episode are 1.) That the Buffybot is acting, well, too much like Buffy in the moments prior to the reveal, and 2.) Why in hell is Anya holding the baseball bat like that? Come on!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:00 AM on September 30, 2021

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