Friday, 28 December 2012
BUFFY 5.22: THE GIFT
WRITER: Joss Whedon
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
Glory has Dawn and is having her prepared for the ritual bleeding which will open the portal, allowing her to return home but in the process dropping all the walls between dimensions, causing death and carnage on a global scale. If opened the only way to close the portal and thus save the world is to kill Dawn. Giles spells this out to Buffy in no uncertain words. But Buffy is resolute that nobody will be killing her little sister, no matter what, even if it means the end of the world. And she will stop anyone who tries. Thankfully the gang come up with a plan to try and prevent Glory from opening the portal to begin with hopefully bypassing the need for any Dawn killing. Using the dagonsphere retrieved from the monks who made the Key in to Dawn, plus Olaf the Troll’s mighty troll hammer, the Scoobies plan to keep Glory occupied and on the ropes until she misses her brief opportunity to open the portal.
Using poor Tara as an unwitting guide, Buffy and the gang follow the brain-sucked witch as she is mystically drawn towards the gathering of Glory’s disciples, all of them coming together at the site of the forthcoming portal opening. There, the Scoobies are met with the imposing sight of a huge tower especially built for the occasion. Meanwhile Dawn has already been taken to the top of said tower by the minions, where she’s been tied up and left ready for Glory to come and begin the ritual bleeding.
Battle quickly commences.
Using the Buffybot and the dagonsphere to confuse and distract Glory, Buffy manages to get part-way up the tower in an attempt to rescue her sister… only to be attacked by Glory. The two engage in a furious fight up and down the tower but eventually end up falling from it to then continue their fight back down on the ground. As they continue their fight, Willow sneaks up on Glory and, using a spell, manages to take back what Glory stole from Tara. This returns Tara to normal and also weakens Glory significantly.
Meanwhile Spike, Giles, Anya and Xander are pinned down by the mob. But Spike spies someone else up on the tower with Dawn. Turns out that nasty demon Doc is back. He’s armed with a knife and is looking to help Glory by starting the ritual. Willow, using magic, clears a path for Spike who makes a break for it and rushes to the top of the tower where he engages Doc in a brief but futile battle to save Dawn. Spike is quickly bested and thrown off of the tower. Wasting no more time Doc cuts Dawn, spilling her blood. And the portal begins to open.
Back down below, Buffy has finally bested a weakened Glory, pummelling her in to submission using the mighty troll hammer. Glory, defeated, turns back in to Ben as Buffy runs back up the tower to get to Dawn. As Buffy goes, so Giles comes to seemingly help a wounded Ben. But instead of helping Ben he smothers the young man, killing him, thus preventing Glory from ever returning.
Reaching the top of the tower, Buffy quickly dispatches Doc and goes to help Dawn. But Dawn refuses her help, saying that she has to die as the portal has already opened and the demon dimensions have already started bleeding in to our world. Buffy can see the portal, a growing ball of light just below them, and all the hellish creatures that are now coming through it. But even so, she stops Dawn from throwing herself off of the tower.
It is then that Buffy has an epiphany.
She finally works out what the First Slayer meant when she said that death was Buffy’s gift. Buffy also remembers that the monks said they made Dawn from her – flesh, bone and blood. The same blood courses through both girls’ veins. Summers blood - the key to everything.
Buffy makes a decision.
After whispering to a tearful Dawn, she gives her sister a kiss, then turns away, runs along the gantry and throws herself off of the tower, plunging down in to the energy vortex below.
A short time later, as the sun rises on a new day, the Scooby Gang back on the ground are devastated to see the lifeless body of Buffy who sacrificed herself to close the portal, to save the world, saving her sister too.
The final image of the episode is a lone headstone with the engraved legend reading:
Buffy Anne Summers
She Saved the World
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
Self sacrifice - especially for those you love; discovering who you really are and what meaning your life truly has, and learning how best to pummel a hell god in to submission using a really big hammer.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Glory, Ben, Doc, fate.
WHY IT ROCKS
It’s a Joss episode. It just does, okay?
The “Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…” – for this episode, the 100th, it is a super fast compilation of all the show’s key moments from episode 1.1 right up to date. This leads in to a boy running from a vampire…only to be saved at the last minute by Buffy who fights and then stakes the vamp. The disbelieving boy asks her how she can do that, because she’s just a girl. To which Buffy replies simply, “That’s what I keep saying.” This is a pre-title sequence, which in just a couple of minutes is a perfect summation of the entire show.
Giles and Buffy arguing over killing Dawn and Buffy’s shocked reaction when Giles shouts at her.
Anya and Xander having comfort sex in the Magic Box basement.
Xander scaring himself when he suddenly uncovers the Buffybot stored in the Magic Box basement.
Anya subsequently scaring herself by uncovering a toy fluffy bunny in the magic Box basement.
Spike’s comment about Buffy’s speech not exactly being the St Crispen’s day speech, Giles’ reply and Spike’s follow up.
Xander and the wrecking ball
The Buffy vs. Glory fight up and down the tower. It’s very athletic with some great stunts and choreography.
Giles unleashes Ripper to chilling effect.
The sacrifice sequence as Buffy realises what she must do, with the slowly rising sun behind her and a tearful Dawn before her, followed by the act itself and the plunge in to the portal as overlaid we hear her earlier whispered message to Dawn.
Spike’s shattered reaction to seeing Buffy’s broken body on the ground.
The final shot: the headstone and its engraving.
Joss’s script. It brings together perfectly all the thematic strands of the show and of this season in to one perfect moment: Buffy’s realisation of who she truly is and what she has to do. It’s quite beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time.
The performances. All are at the top of their game here but once again SMG just kills it. The emotional weight and intensity of her performance is quite something. I always enjoy how Joss directs her. He likes tight close-ups on her face because he knows she sells inner turmoil and harnessed emotions so well - the look from deep in her eyes, the subtle twitch of a lip. Also worth noting is James Marsters who proves Spike is no mere monster on a leash. The last shot of him, collapsed, crying in to his hands over Buffy’s body is possibly the one single image from this episode that lingers.
Christophe Beck’s score is beautiful and emotional.
WHY IT SUCKS
Spike gets bested by Doc a bit too easily.
The battle on the ground is a bit small scale – only about a dozen or so minions and crazy people to fight.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Guy: ‘But... you're just a girl.’
Buffy: ‘That's what I keep saying.’
Buffy: ‘I'm counting on you to protect her.’
Spike: 'Til the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.’
Giles: ‘If the ritual starts every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death. Including Dawn.’
Buffy: ‘Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her.’
Buffy: ‘This is how many apocalypses for us now?’
Giles: ‘Six at least.’
Buffy: ‘Feels like a hundred.’
(An in joke as this is the 100th episode)
Xander: "Spike's sex-bot. Why didn't they just melt it down into scrap?"
Anya: "Maybe Willow wanted it."
Xander: "I don't think Willow feels that way about Buffy... I mean, I know she's going through a lot of changes..."
Anya: "To study."
Xander: "Right. Robotics. Science."
Xander: "Other pervert."
Buffy: ‘I sacrificed Angel to save the world. I loved him so much. But I knew what was right. I don't have that anymore. I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point. I just wish that... I just wish my mom was here.’
Xander: ‘Smart chicks are sooo hot.’ (looking fondly at Anya)
Willow: ‘You couldn't have figured that out in tenth grade?’
Buffy: "Remember: The ritual starts, we all die; and I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn."
Spike: "Well, not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?"
Giles: "We few, we happy few..."
Spike: "...we band of buggered."
Buffy: ‘Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will always love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.’
AND ANOTHER THING
In 2008 at the 60th Annual Emmy Awards, The Gift won the special audience voted award for the most memorable moment in TV history – Buffy’s end sacrifice – beating out shows such as The X-Files, E.R. and Mash amongst others.
Joss originally planned The Gift to be Buffy’s genuine finale because at the time the WB were dropping the show due to not being able to come to financial terms with the show’s maker 20th Century Fox. Thankfully though, midway through the season, rival network UPN made Fox a strong offer. They purchased Buffy and allowed it to run for a further two seasons before finally ending for real.
Here in the UK it was nearly impossible not to know what happened in this ep before it was screened. One national newspaper even ran a "Buffy Dies" special and Sky One kept on showing trailers featuring Buffy's grave, the first trailer running directly after The Weight of the World. Doh!
HOW MANY STAKES?
It’s a gift from Joss. 5 (out of 5)
And so ends my Buffy season five rewatch/review. On to season six sometime soon.