Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrecked   Rewatch 
January 27, 2016 8:51 PM - Season 6, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Amy introduces Willow to a magic dealer, and she can't get enough of his stuff. When her recklessness injures Dawn, she swears off the stuff. Buffy is scared of her own behaviour with Spike.
posted by yellowbinder (10 comments total)
And there we go. Three and a half seasons of character work flushed down the toilet. Since the conclusion of Season 2, the show has been carefully layering on Willow's addiction to magic. It was clear throughout that it was an addiction to power. Willow liked that magic gave her control in her life where she felt she had none, and she continually turned towards magic to solve problems which needed actual human effort. So what happens here?

Well they go to see this warlock, Rack (who Amy apparently knows about... how??), who provides more magical power. Which, fine, I can see why Willow might be drawn to that. What does this power involve? Oh, apparently hanging about in a powerless blissed out state like she's on drugs. Urgh. It's so lazy, and really unecessary, and what's more, seems to directly conflict with what happens at the end of the series. A much better bit of foreshadowing would be for her to act like Dark Willow, not drugged out Willow. Part of creepygirl's problem with the Willow Tara arc stems, I think, from this. Because, as creepygirl suggests, Willow's problem was that she was abusing magic to control the people around her, but here it's just because she gets all drugged up and irresponsible. Thus it seems like her quitting magic seems to be because she's just using it too much, and has no connection to what she was using it for.

The irritating thing is that I think this was fixable. Here's my rough draft of how it would go

Willow:Hey Amy I can't do any magic at all after last night.
Amy:Oh yeah after a big all nighter like that I'm always out of juice.
Willow:But I... there's got to be a way we can keep going?
Amy: Well... I heard about this guy... who could supply raw power. But...
Willow:What are we waiting for, let's go find him?
Amy:Wait... it's dangerous, I think there's a cost.
Willow:I don't care, let's go.

They find Rack, who gives Willow some raw power.

Willow::Oh wow, I feel... I can do anything.

Willow heads out and start's doing magic, fighting demons and destroying them.

She picks up Dawn as before, then suggests they go to Rack's, she get's flush with power again, but this time looks at Dawn.

Willow:Oh Dawnie, I can see you now
Dawn:What... I... can we just go home?
Willow:No I can see your energy Dawnie, I can release it, make you what you were, let me help you Dawnie!
Dawn:No, I... Buffy!

Buffy (who has been looking for them) bursts in at the nick of time, punches Willow out, Willow comes to her senses and weeps with a realisation.

I think something like this would have been better, and would have been far more fitting with Willow's arc. You wouldn't even need to modify any other episode!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:45 AM on January 28, 2016 [16 favorites]

We don't know what Willow's experiencing hanging on the ceiling, other than she's feeling really good. Presumably she's plugged into elemental forces and is having a more literal version of one of those "I can see everything, I AM everything" drug trips. For all we know she may feel incredibly powerful. A lot of drugs make you feel brilliant and awesome while you're really just sitting there drooling like an idiot and scrawling nonsense ideas in your notebook. I think the scene makes the drug metaphor pretty explicit, but I don't think it ruins Willow's arc at all.

I think the scenes with Rack serve to show that at this point she is losing control and while she feels powerful she is really very vulnerable. She's an addict, and Rack is the classic basement freak dealer/pimp type. Later when she goes dark, she becomes much more dangerous than Rack, killing him with horrifying ease.

I don't know if Amy knowing Rack from before is a problem in the story. I assume she knew him when she was a high school kid, pre-ratting. (If so, that just makes him even more sleazy and makes Amy's damage even worse.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:33 AM on January 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have so many things to say about the way Willow's story was handled and how disappointing it was, but it's mostly been covered. I just think she deserved so much more than the sloppy, silly way it was done. I am understanding with the "Willow is addicted to magic" storyline but these two episodes do not show why she was. It's just such a leap from the Willow who was trying to use magic to make things "better" (even if it was incredibly misguided) to the Willow who for "magic is drugs!"

I really feel like Willow got too powerful -- like possibly more powerful than Buffy -- and the show had to knock her down. Instead of a story where maybe she faced some darkness, she was taught to use her power responsibly, we get a story where she's punished for being powerful. I really hate that. (Especially in light of that Willow -- in Season 3 -- made the decision to stay in Sunnydale to help Buffy and to help people.)

Maybe it's just personal -- but I relate to a young woman who felt inferior to everyone around her but found a way to be their equal. I get why she abused that. I don't get anything else about the way her story played out.
posted by darksong at 8:27 PM on January 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I see Willow's arc as being not dissimilar in some ways to Lindsay's on Freaks and Geeks. She was a repressed, shy "good girl", then she reached a certain age and swung hard the other way, rejecting the person she'd been before and rebelling in a youthful, messy way. Lindsay didn't become a drug addict, her rebellion wasn't as destructive and (because the show was cancelled) her story ends before we could see how she grew up, but there are some parallels. I can relate to some of their mistakes.

I don't think magic itself is portrayed as bad on Buffy, nor is it always bad when Willow uses it. By the show's end, she's apparently learned to use it in a healthy way. (And even if we're still seeing magic as an addiction metaphor, that might still track. You can be addicted to some things you can't or shouldn't ever give up completely, like food or sex.)

So I don't think the story was about Willow becoming too powerful and needing to be smacked down. It wasn't bad that she found her power. She handled it badly, and used it in increasingly bad ways for a while. She lost control and hurt herself and those around her, but ultimately she found her way back. That all works just fine for me, and I think the writing was great and Hannigan sold the hell out of it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:01 PM on January 28, 2016

She handled it badly, and used it in increasingly bad ways for a while. She lost control and hurt herself and those around her, but ultimately she found her way back. That all works just fine for me, and I think the writing was great and Hannigan sold the hell out of it.

And for the most part I agree. The frustrating thing for me is that up until this episode the writing has been gradual, convincing and moving. This episode, it feels sloppy. The problem being that there is essentially no difference between the magic sequence in this episode and any drug sequence in Trainspotting (well, except that Trainspotting is directed by Danny Boyle, so is obviously more visually inventive), and that's a shame. It doesn't feel like a logical progression to me, it feels like a discontinuity, and in the final three episodes Willow does not act like someone who's gone back to taking drugs, she acts like someone who's gone back to taking power.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:51 PM on January 28, 2016

Because, as creepygirl suggests, Willow's problem was that she was abusing magic to control the people around her, but here it's just because she gets all drugged up and irresponsible.

Yeah, I think it confuses the issues. I have had fans tell me that Willow couldn't help casting the memory spell because she was addicted to magic. *headdesk*

The addiction angle feels dull and totally predictable to me (right down to the creepy dealer who meets a bad end), so if I'd gotten a vote I would have dumped it in favor of laser-focus on Willow's issues with her need to control other people. With 20/20 hindsight about Season 7's plot (which the writers may not have had at the time), I would have killed Xander off (instead of Tara) to set off the Dark Willow plot, and have Xander come back as The First in Season 7. It would avoid the "dead lesbian" trope, and exploit Nicholas Brendon's talent for playing dark characters. And Willow's Season 7 arc would be a lot more about learning to make better decisions about using her power, and a lot less about what color her hair and eyes were.
posted by creepygirl at 9:42 AM on January 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

That's an interesting idea creepygirl. I would certainly enjoy evil Xander, although I think at this point Nicholas Brendon may have been having problems which precluded him having a larger role on the show. It would also require careful structuring to push Willow that far over the edge, probably would need to have her break up with Tara, again, then have Xander killed (also they would need a bit more character work. One of the big shames about the final speech Xander gives Willow is that while it's great, they haven't actually been that close since 3!)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I read that if Oz hadn't left the show, the plan would have been to stretch the Veruca arc over more episodes, go through endless drama there, and eventually have them them get back together...just in time for Oz to get shot as Tara does.
posted by Windigo at 11:55 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

On rewatch, this episode seems really like they’re trying to burn the characterization of multiple characters down, and I, again, can’t help but see the hand of Dark Whedon here. He wanted to try to get some funding money for anti-drug efforts, so now all of a sudden the magic maps completely onto drugs even though it never has before and Willow is so addicted she can’t even wait three hours for a “fix”. Whedon was angry people liked Buffy and Spike so he destroys the careful thing that’s been building for dozens of episodes about how Spike actually loves Buffy enough that he won’t hurt her in ways that matter, to throw in yet another metaphor about how once you have sex with someone they turn awful.

Someone was saying with the new revelations that Whedon has big incel energy, and episodes like this one really showcase it. The absolute hatred of girls going for “bad boys” and the need to tear it down is right on the nose.
posted by corb at 1:27 AM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

For me, the "magic addiction" storyline in these two episodes absolutely works, because it captures a feel that I haven't really seen done this well elsewhere, of how the irresponsible all-night partying and post-brerakup benders of one's twenties can look both from within (as we see things through Willow's eyes) and without (as we see things through Dawn's) and managing to get both of those simultaneously is thrilling to me. A lot of my teen years were spent around my older siblings in situations that felt a lot like this, and my twenties were basically that cycle that the older characters here are going through of gloriously-self-destructive-nights followed by feeling absolutely drained and then getting it together just enough to do it again. Willow crashing the car is an indelible moment in my mind because that moment and the fallout feels like something I lived over and over even though I never lived through anything like that, really. In any case, it works for me.

And the thing is, even in low-rent-Trainspotting mode, the magic addiction is still about Power. In this case, it's the fact that Willow felt restrained by Tara keeping her from indulging the way that she wanted to, and how to an addict, the upside of the breakup is that no one's gonna tell them what to do now. That, to me, is the other thing these episodes nailed - Willow isn't going on a bender because she's heartbroken (though that doesn't help.) She's going on a bender because she couldn't while she and Tara were together.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:07 PM on October 1, 2021

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