Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Bargaining   Rewatch 
December 30, 2015 9:05 PM - Season 6, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The Scoobies are getting by without Buffy, using her robotic duplicate to keep up appearances for the public and demon worlds. His watching complete, Giles departs for England. When a vampire discovers the Slayer is a robot, he lets the info slip to a demon biker gang, who decide to take Sunnydale for their own. Willow, aided by Tara, Xander and Anya, embraces some dark arts to resurrect Buffy.
posted by yellowbinder (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Giles leaving here is a terrible decision.

1) It's months after Buffy's death, so they know no new Slayer has been called by her death.

2) The group is being pushed to its limits by ordinary packs of vamps, even with the help of the Buffybot and even using Willow's magic to the point that it's "intrusive" to the other team members.

3) Willow is shouldering even more responsibility than Buffy was at the end of Season Five; she's assumed some of Buffy's duties--the leader of the group on patrol, she's helping raise Dawn. In addition to that, she keeps all of her Willow duties--big gun for magic, fixing the Buffybot.

4) Willow's having trouble making the Buffybot talk like Buffy, which is not too surprising given that it's a sex robot designed by some creepy loser who lived in his mom's basement. Giles tells her it's really important that the bot fool everyone--so he knows that disastrous things might happen if anyone knew Buffy was dead. And he acts as if all that's necessary to insure that the Buffybot run perfectly forever is to make sure Willow knows that it's important for it to run perfectly forever.

5. Willow's been really powerful at magic for only about a year. Before that it was as many failed spells as successful ones. She's mostly self-taught, or learned from Tara, (who was likely self-taught as well after her mom died.) The excuse that Giles uses to leave Buffy later--that he's taught her everything she needs to know about slaying--isn't even remotely true with respect to Willow and magic.

6. Giles has decades more education and experience fighting demons than anyone else.

7. Giles is the only one besides Buffy who has a sacred calling. Everyone else is a volunteer.

8. Giles is the only one who has ever gotten paid to fight demons. It must have been a really generous salary, or he's independently wealthy, because he was able to buy a BMW convertible and the Magic Box after a year of unemployment, and before his salary was reinstated the Watcher's Council. Everyone else (except Spike) is either working or going to school full time.

9. Xander and Willow have saved Giles' life on numerous occasions. (Anya, Tara and Spike may have as well, but I don't remember specific instances).

Giles looks at this situation, and decides to leave.

Not because he's going to break Faith out of prison (or kill her to call a new Slayer), or to bring in help from other sources, but for personal reasons. (He tells Buffy he met up with old friends, and made a new one while he was away.)

It's utterly indefensible to leave under those circumstances. The group needs more support in Buffy's absence, not less. He doesn't even wait for them to line up a replacement fighter. (And with his decades of training and life .experience, he's the one most equipped to find said replacement fighter).

The thing that kills me is that if Willow had been as "responsible" as Giles supposedly thought she was, she and the others would all be dead when the demon pack attacks the town shortly after he leaves. If they're pushed to the limits by ordinary vampires, there's no way they'd survive a massive demon invasion.

Maybe it's the effect of watching the show on DVD and seeing Bargaining immediately after The Gift, but it seems more than a little hypocritical to me--this was the guy who always pushed Buffy to make tremendously painful sacrifices to save the world, and he can't stick around more than a few months after she dies? However painful it might be to continue in her absence, the rest of the group was mourning her too. Spike, a soulless vampire, showed more loyalty to Buffy's friends than Giles did. And Giles owed them far more than Spike did.

I get that the writers had to deal with Tony Head's desire to spend more time with his family, but the way the writers chose to write his departure made Giles look really bad IMO.
posted by creepygirl at 5:25 PM on December 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I never was clear on what Head's situation was.. He wanted to leave the show, but did he change his mind? Or does he just not appear that much? I don't really remember there being that much less Giles in season 6 and 7.

And yeah, almost anything else would have been a better way to treat Giles leaving. Giles could have decided he needed to go on a quest to find the new slayer, or been captured, or he could have gone into a goddamned intermittent coma after getting bit by a whatever-demon.

As much as I like the best of the Giles/Buffy relationship, it's only because I am able to pretend arcs like this and the season 3 test he put Buffy through occurred in alternate universes.

Isn't there another blow-up in season 7 where he betrays her?
posted by skewed at 7:36 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Creepygirl, for once we are in total agreement. Alert the media!

Head wanted to scale his involvement way back, or maybe leave the show, I don't recall. In any case, they were going to have to deal with no Giles. But the way they dealt with it really clunked, it just felt like something the character wouldn't do. I love season six in general, but the stuff with Giles leaving just seemed weird.

Skewed, the alternate plots you came up with would have been better. They also could have trapped him in some other dimension or they could have come up with some apocalyptic threat that he absolutely HAD to deal with overseas or they could have had him transformed by a spell so another actor was playing him. I get what they were going for, that now the kids were grown up and Daddy wasn't going to be around to guide them anymore. I get how they thought Head leaving could be used to express the whole "being a grown up is hard" thing for this season. But Giles saying "you need to handle everything yourself now" in this context feels contrived and out of character and it doesn't make sense in terms of the threats they're facing and... argh!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:03 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really really hate the way Giles treats Willow in this season. Hate it. (I hate the treatment of Willow in this season, anyway.) Rather than Giles' using his experience and knowledge to teach someone how to use her power (and Giles, you know all about the seductive, dark side of magic!), he abandons her & then yells at her when she's enjoying being powerful (which is something Willow never really got to do growing up). I hate it. Willow clearly always identified with Giles -- outside of his relationship with Buffy, they were the closest.

I find season 6 to be a huge mess in general but I do like how dark this episode was.
posted by darksong at 11:17 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

And then he comes back and leaves again! I like seasons 6 and 7 more than most people and will forgive most of this show's missteps, but the way they handled Head's schedule was terrible and dumb.
posted by Mavri at 12:07 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the treatment of Giles in this and the next season is one of the worst things about both of them. Writers are often really bad at writing out characters, and to some extent, I sympathise: they wanted him to leave, but didn't want to make the show about him leaving. So many of the alternate plots proposed above would have consumed more screen time than they wanted. But yeah, they absolutely needed to handle it better, because he comes across as cruel and cowardly.

This episode though, is a good one. It's a promise of what's to come in this season, and that is that everything is hard, and that you have to pay a price to return people from the dead. That said, I think the writers play a couple of mean tricks to pile on the misery here.

1)Apparently after doing months of research, not one of them realised Buffy would be returned to life in her coffin? If you think about that even slightly, it's really quite stupid.
2)The biker demons turning up is one hell of a co-incidence. Also, while I know that no-Buffy does make demons lives easier, the reason demons skulk in the darkness is not just the slayer! Angry mobs exist! The police exist! I appreciate that they might temporarily lose control, but we don't even see a single person try to fight the demons here!

Still, I'll forgive a lot for the overall tone of this episode, which is moody and interesting, and really starts the show in a completely different direction. I think the change already happened in Season 5, but here it is permanent. This show simply isn't the show of 1-4. There will be a sense of humour, sure (and 6 is is a really funny season a lot of the time), but there's a level of doom and gloom that simply wasn't present before.

Also worth noting in this episode.. who is Spike? Here he seems verrrry human, full of guilt and determined to protect Dawn. Contrast this with his behaviour later in this season.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:11 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Apparently after doing months of research, not one of them realised Buffy would be returned to life in her coffin? If you think about that even slightly, it's really quite stupid.

Perhaps she wasn't supposed to. Willow is still mid-spell when the demon bikers run over her pottery and seem to interrupt what's going on. I think the bigger flaw is they don't underscore it by showing Xander and Willow need to skedaddle to safety, which would better excuse their not thinking about the possibility.
posted by phearlez at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think this whole season is really hamstrung by the fact that they decided they needed to make something depressing and mundane and awful happen to every. single. character. After a while, it just turned into sadism.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:24 PM on January 5, 2016

they decided they needed to make something depressing and mundane and awful happen to every. single. character.

I'd call it getting real and raising the stakes. Not so much literal end of the world stuff, but more real life, interpersonal drama. There were still plenty of supernatural metaphors going on (magic as drug addiction, for one) but in this season the gang faced growing up in a new and less fanciful way. The Trio have gotten a lot of crap, but I think they were kind of the ideal villains for this season. They were comic (and Warren could be genuinely chilling) but they were overgrown children, as sad as they were funny as they were frightening. They were all about self-justification and trying to take the easy way to get what you want, and that was stuff the Scoobies were very much wrestling with too. Buffy and the gang needed to grow up, and the Trio represented what happens when somebody doesn't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:24 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just finished, what a gut punch this episode is. Dark right from the very beginning. Even the lighting is so different, so much darker this season. While I think the season is a little heavy handed, I really do get it and identify with it so much more as I get older. The season definitely succeeds at its aims, although I can't say it's always fun.

Does anyone else remember the rabid fan theorizing when this aired about the numbers??? Xander, Willow and Dawn all wear shirts with numbers on them, and I definitely remember people wondering what it all meant until the costume designer or whoever commented on it saying it was just trendy.

The thing I really really hate about this season, and I've mentioned it before, is the final credits power shot of Buffy. It's the dang Buffybot, not Buffy! It really pissed me off the whole year, although it says a lot about the season that they couldn't find a good power shot of her. They change it again in the final season to a shot of The First Evil as Buffy. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Stray notions:

Yeah, Giles WTF are you doing.

Spike is so bittersweet in his protectiveness of Dawn, especially in their first scene together at the house.

I really enjoyed imagining being Xander or Anya or even Tara during the spell. Just hanging out while Willow bleeds out, spits out a snake, vibrates in red energy... you know, witchy stuff. Although it does get called out as pretty dark, whenever it cuts back to the ritual and something else weird is happening I giggled a little.

Love Random Vamps Hanson tshirt. Hate everything about the bikers, although the image of the Buffybot drawn and quartered is cool and brutal and terrifying.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd call it getting real and raising the stakes. Not so much literal end of the world stuff, but more real life, interpersonal drama.

But it was just SO. FUCKING. MUCH. Buffy gets: hell-based PTSD, massive self-loathing, desertion by father figure, unasked-for parenthood, a shit job, a horrible destructive relationship, and attempted rape

And the others get to split up: kleptomania, leaving/being left at the altar, actual permanent death, and heavy-handed drug addiction metaphors (which I particularly hated because it completely undercut the very awesome, seasons-long 'Willow is going mad with power' thing and replaced it with 'Willow is a sad junkie')

I don't actually completely hate this season. But they laid it on reeeeeeeeally fucking thick.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:00 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't actually completely hate this season. But they laid it on reeeeeeeeally fucking thick.

I would disagree if it wasn't for Hells Bells. Having Willow and Buffy's lives fall apart at the same time was a compelling idea, and actually mirrors season 4's plot arc (where they are both doing their own thing at the same time), but having Anya and Xander's relationship collapse too? It felt a bit much, and for the most part just added needless angst to an already miserable season.

That said, I like that they took the show in another direction. As I mention above, this show just isn't what it was, but that's because it's decided to be something different. In 7 they will almost try to go back to an earlier version, but then change their mind and go back to doom and gloom. Or not. Sevens kind of a mess. At least 6 has a strong thematic core (real life is tough, y'all!)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:09 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would disagree if it wasn't for Hells Bells.

Ha, I actually binge-rewatched Buffy last year and then stopped cold the episode before Hell's Bells. I wasn't even expecting to, but I just found I really didn't want to deal with it. (I'll probably hop back on for these threads, though.)

I've only seen 7 once, when it aired. I seem to remember the consensus being that it started out really strong and then foundered a lot.

And yeah, for all my bitching, I really admire shows that are willing to play around with their formats to keep from getting stale. A messy weird season is better than a boring samey season.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2016

Totally agreed on Hell's Bells. For whatever we might say about Xander (who I think really does become a lot more mature and less insufferable in seasons 4-7 than in 1-3) he and Anya are the healthiest lasting relationship on the show in a lot of ways (Tara and Willow are the sweetest, but their dynamic isn't necessarily great for either one of them, as we see play out this season, and Willow and Oz are great as high school crushes who handle their falling apart with true emotional wisdom and care for one another. Obviously every relationship Buffy has is a nightmare of terrible choices.)

But Anya and Xander support each other, are hot for each other, are there for each other and call each other out when they need it (and they listen to each other too!) They make each other better, and their break-up seems contrived as all hell. I love Season 6 but Hell's Bells pisses me right off.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:50 PM on September 26, 2018

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