Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Normal Again   Rewatch 
February 24, 2016 6:24 PM - Season 6, Episode 17 - Subscribe

When Buffy gets too close to the Trio's new hideout, they sic a demon on her whose venom makes her believe her reality is a delusion and she's been institutionalized for years.
posted by yellowbinder (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That ending always freaked me the heck out, but I guess by now, between Angel and all the spinoff comics and stuff, we can kind of assume this isn't all some madhouse fantasy Buffy's having. I got curious what Whedon had to say about it, and according to Wikipedia: "If the viewer wants," Whedon says, "the entire series takes place in the mind of a lunatic locked up somewhere in Los Angeles... and that crazy person is me." Although, "Personally, I think it really happened."

BTW, Deep Space Nine did the whole "you're just imagining the whole series and you're really nuts" thing first, and better. Buffy's version was good, but the DS9 version was some next level weirdness. I've always wondered if the Buffy creators were influenced by the DS9 episode, or if it was a coincidence.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:24 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Justine Larbalestier wanted this to be the final episode of the series: Instead I have taken to bitterly muttering about how much better it would have been if they’d finished in the Sixth Season, making "Normal Again" the final episode.

It's an interesting thought, because ending the series with the last scene in this episode would have been the stuntiest, Joss-iest thing ever. I think it would make a reasonable end to Buffy's Season 6 arc, with Buffy choosing her messy real life, with her crummy job, bratty little sister, and sometimes lousy friends, because she won't take the easy way out. Obviously Spike's and Willow's arcs would have been greatly diminished if they'd stopped there, but hey, Tara would get to live! But there are S7 episodes that I love, and I'm fond of the symbolism (if not the execution) of Chosen, so I'm glad they didn't stop here.

Buffy going after Dawn while hallucinating is super-scary. I'm also weirdly intrigued by this odd little bit of dialogue:

BUFFY: (frowning, shaking her head) We have to try harder, make things better.
DAWN: I'm trying.
BUFFY: Your grades ... stealing. (Dawn looking guilty) Willow's been doing your chores, hasn't she?
DAWN: What? No, i-it's ... it's the fever. It's cooking your brain.

Willow doing Dawn's chores seems utterly plausible to me. I can totally see her being desperate for a quick fix for Dawn's (understandable) resentment of her post-Wrecked. And I can totally see Dawn being immature enough to let Willow try to buy forgiveness that way.
posted by creepygirl at 9:34 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think what's really interesting about this episode is that it mostly concludes Buffy's arc for this season. After this, she will be essentially ok. There's heartbreak to come, but she's made the most important steps. There's a final bit of development with Dawn, but that's background stuff. Pretty soon, the plot will be all Willow, all the time.

I think on reflection I like this episode. I don't mind these alternate universe episodes, because the endings really don't matter. As Whedon says, this is all a made up story. There is no "absolute truth". All the writers are giving here is text to support a possible interpretation. And what the alternative universe gives Buffy is the big final push into facing what her life now is, rather than hiding away from it, something she's been doing throughout the season. Who does it come from? Her mother, of course.

"Buffy? Buffy! Buffy, fight it. You're too good to give in, you can beat this thing. Be strong, baby, ok? I know you're afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We'll always be with you. You've got ... a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself."

-I get Dawn's reaction in this episode, but supportive Dawn, who is coming soon, is so much more likable than upset Dawn.
-"You didn't say it was a glargl gash marnik!" "That's because I can't say..."
-"Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen." Except Oz, of course.
-"You left her at the altar but you still want to date." Seriously.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:35 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

One other thought that came to mind is the bit with Willow, Spike, and the antidote.

Willow asks Spike to make sure that Buffy drinks all of the antidote, and instead, Spike lashes out at Buffy, and makes his big dramatic exit before she drinks it all. Once he leaves, she dumps it in the trash.

Two thoughts come to mind:

1) When the woman Spike loves is suffering from delusions, he sees it as an opportunity to score verbal points, and doesn't bother to make sure that she receives the medical care she needs. If this is how his love for Buffy manifests, it's not a particularly impressive love.

2) There's a persistent fannish argument that the Scoobies were excessively mean to Spike. Here we see Willow treating Spike like he's just another one of the Scoobies, trusting him with an important task, and that trust nearly got her, Dawn, and Xander killed. (Good thing there was a well-timed hallucination of Joyce and an even more well-timed visit from Tara, or things could have gotten even darker this season).
posted by creepygirl at 7:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, the writers were walking a fine line with Spike, before he got his soul. On the one hand, he was one of the good guys. On the other hand, he was evil. They were trying to make him mostly good, with moments of shocking evil to remind you that he was still a monster. When he eventually tries to rape Buffy, I think the writers were basically pushing him to a point where his goodness and his evil became irreconcilable, where he had to choose good or evil and commit. He chose good, and probably that was mostly in hopes of winning over Buffy but I think he was also just sick of being conflicted like that. I think he did truly love Buffy, but at this point he still had plenty of evil in him and even when he later got a soul his love for her was still really messed up.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cannon Fodder-
Oz still loves Willow, he just can't be with her because his intense emotions for her trigger his change. I still believe despite everything they will end up together long in the future. (And hey....couldn't magic be useful making Oz safe?)
posted by miss-lapin at 9:13 PM on February 29, 2016

I’m trying to restrain myself to only commenting on these when I feel like I have a new angle, but I think Spike not staying to see she drinks the cup is less about him being evil and actually more about his feelings as William. Someone pointed out earlier in the rewatch that all of our vampires without souls are, in a sense, frozen as the worst aspects of themselves. Liam’s drunken carousing and lack of care for others’ feelings turned into Angelus’ desire to rip as much sensation out of life and not care about what happens or the humans he’s doing it to. Harmony’s status obsession and desire to be part of the in crowd has her trying to fit in as an evil villain cool-girl-girlfriend on Buffy, then finally as a “part of the good guys” and “vampire MLM” over on Angel.

And so we look at what and who William was. William was a man with hope and optimism and also a deep well of insecurity and fear and hopeless love for women. He is crushed when his first poetry recipient rejects him and he goes out and rejects that and gets vamped. And then everything he does is about loving Drusilla and later rejecting being cast off by her. And then everything is about Buffy, loving her and getting rejected by her and then rejecting being that person. He goes out and helps get the demon to make the cure and comes to give it to her and she just tells him to get out. His leaving there thus seems far more about William’s weakness and inability to handle rejection than it does Spike’s evil.

My theory about this season is really that Whedon and Marsters had different head canons about what was happening in Spike’s head, and that’s why the words are often mismatched with the acting.
posted by corb at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

BTW, Deep Space Nine did the whole "you're just imagining the whole series and you're really nuts" thing first, and better.

And to take it even further, in Deep Space Nine, BtVS is part of the mind of Benny Russell as well (or one of his colleagues at the magazine, anyway.)

(Because Armin Shimerman had recently started appearing as Snyder on Buffy while still playing Quark on DS9, in the all-time classic DS9 ep "Far Beyond the Stars," Shimerman is out of the Ferengi makeup as a leftist firebrand writer for the sci-fi/fantasy magazine, and there's an easter egg where his character gets notes back from the editor to the effect of "nobody will believe that a cheerleader could slay vampires.")
posted by Navelgazer at 2:40 PM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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