Saturday, September 17, 2011

Classics: BtVS 5:22 - The Gift

Overall Rating: 10.0

So many wonderful things went so right with this episode and not a single thing went wrong.

Plot Synopsis:

Continuing in the grand Buffy tradition, the uber-bad of the season is put to rest, but the events are somehow more spectacular than in previous renditions and all of our heroes play to their strengths.  The highlights will tell more or less the full story and no synopsis does this episode justice.

The Skinny:

Three main things make this episode stand out as the best in Buffy franchise history:
  • As I briefly mentioned, everyone here plays to their strengths.  You don't bring down a super-strong hell-god without a little creativity and a whole series of tricks up your sleeve.  I personally love, for example, that Xander takes out Glory, at least for a few moments, with the use of a wrecking ball (!), that Willow's magical attack is to set things right for Tara (and also weakens Glory severely), that the BuffyBot is used as a diversionary tactic, that Spike is the one person strong enough to reach Dawn through all of Glory's minions, etc.  But when I say they all play to their strengths - I don't just mean in the final battle.  Scenes like Xander's proposal, Spike's final moment alone with Buffy, Giles' stern lecture about the things that must be considered in war (all highlighted), Buffy's last words to Dawn, and Giles' "she's a hero" moment with Ben - they all have the characters mastering strengths of character that we've only seen in brief glimpses in the past.  They all seem to find, in a time of crisis, an inner strength that is truly remarkable and fun to watch.
  • The atmosphere in this episode, while not unique to Buffy, is outstanding.  "Doc" has got to be the creepiest demon they've ever invented other than "The Gentlemen," for example.  This episode had the potential to be the series finale, so every character is given their chance to shine and the entire episode is filled with an air of finality that IS unique to the franchise (not even the actual series finale feels so satisfying as an ending).
  • I can't say that the actual nature of Buffy's gift was a big surprise.  I think a lot of fans (myself included) figured out when Buffy had her vision-quest that the First Slayer did not mean murder was Buffy's gift...but that her will to die for the people she loved would be.  However, the fact that the truth was evident to everyone but Buffy (apparently) does not diminish the power of the giving.  The Biblical parallels of Buffy's sacrifice (right down to the position of her arms as she falls into the dimensional rift) shouldn't be lost on anyone.  The one advantage good people always have over evil is that they love their fellow men well enough to go to any lengths to protect them, including to their deaths.
The bottom line with this episode is that it seems to bring out Joss Whedon's very best.  There's little doubt that he's their most talented writer (not to take anything away from Noxon and Petrie and their fellows on staff), but this is probably Whedon's finest script - I wonder if he would agree with my assessment, actually.  But it's not just the writing or the acting, which was also phenomenal.  Every camera shot is beautiful, every moment in the score is perfect for the mood of the viewer.  Even the decision to lead off the episode with a standard vampire dusting was brilliant (and gutsy).  Reminding us what Buffy has been all about before the action resumes seems all the more important given what Buffy chooses to do in the end.  There simply isn't a flaw to find.

Writing: 10.0

The highlights for this episode will be extremely tell me if you can find something about the writing that you don't like.

Acting: 10.0

It says something that I either nearly cried or actually cried at least six different times while watching this episode for about the fifth time.  James Marsters hammers home his scene with Buffy perfectly.  Xander's proposal to Anya was Nicholas Brendan and Emma Caulfield at their very best (and with the most believable chemistry of any couple that the Buffy franchise ever created).  Tony Head's mastery knows no bounds...and here, he has three separate moments to show just how talented he really is.  I could keep calling names or I could just say there simply wasn't a missed beat at any point in this episode.

Message: 10.0

Can there be a better tribute to the legacy of the slayer than to die in a manner that benefits someone you love (rather than in some meaningless brawl with a vampire in a back alley)?  Given the risks involved in her line of work, about the best Buffy could have hoped for would be to die in the manner of her own choosing, and this...was a very good choice.

Highlights below the cut.


KID: Help me! Call the police!
VAMP: Get outta here, girl. (turns back to the kid)
BUFFY: (emerging from the doorway) You guys havin' a fight? 'Cause, you know, fighting's not cool.
The vampire turns to glare at her again.
KID: Get out of here!
VAMP: No. (turns fully toward Buffy) No, she wants to stay. I don't mind a little appetizer.
BUFFY: (small frown, walks forward) Have you ever heard the expression, 'biting off more than you can chew'?
The vamp frowns, shakes his head.
BUFFY: Okay. Um ... how about the expression, 'vampire slayer'?
VAMP: What the hell you talkin' about?
BUFFY: Wow. Never heard that one. Okay. How about, 'Oh god, my leg, my leg'?
The vampire growls and lunges at her. She ducks his grab, punches him in the face and kicks his leg. His knee buckles and he falls to the ground.
VAMP: Oh god! My leg! Uhh...
BUFFY: See? Now we're communicating.

BUFFY: Go through it again. Everyone looks nervously at Buffy. We see Willow sitting at the table on Xander's other side. Giles slowly removes his glasses.
Shot of Anya standing to the side.
GILES: The key was ... living energy. It needed to be channeled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy ... would flow into that spot, the walls between the dimensions break down. It stops, the energy's used up, the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back into her own dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on earth in the meantime.
Buffy looks grim.
ANYA: Um, but only for a little while, right? The walls come back up, uh, n-no more hell?
WILLOW: That's only if the energy is stopped. And now the key is human ... (looks over her shoulder at Buffy) Dawn.
GILES: (reads from book) "The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more." (removes his glasses) When Dawn is dead.

BUFFY: Pretty simple math here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?
GILES: If my calculations are right. But Buffy-
BUFFY: I don't wanna hear it. (turns away)
GILES: I understand that-
BUFFY: (whirls back) No! No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this.
GILES: (jumps up from the table, yells) Yes, we bloody well are! Beat. Everyone looks shocked by Giles' outburst.
GILES: (quieter) If Glory begins the ritual ... if we can't stop her...
BUFFY: Come on. Say it. We're bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister.
GILES: (whispers) She's not your sister.
BUFFY: (pause) No. She's not. She's more than that. She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her ... and I feel closer to her than ... (looks down, sighs) It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn ... is a part of me. The only part that I- (stops)
WILLOW: We'll solve this. We will. Don't have another coma, okay?
Buffy gives a small smile.
GILES: (quietly) If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death ... (looks up at Buffy) including Dawn.
BUFFY: Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her.
GILES: (quietly) You'll fail. You'll die. We all will. (turns away from the table)
BUFFY: I'm sorry.(wow)

SPIKE: Yeah. We get her on the ropes, we just gotta keep her occupied till it's too late.
ANYA: Okay. But I'm still not hearing enough ideas. She's a god. Let's think outside the box.
SPIKE: Why don't *you* go think outside the bleeding box. (LOL)
GILES: Yes, Anya, apart from your incredibly uninfectious enthusiasm, have you anything else to contribu-
ANYA: The Dagon sphere!
GILES: Sorry?
ANYA: When Buffy first met Glory, she found that magical ... (gestures) glowy sphere that was meant to repel Glory. We've got it in the basement. (everyone looks surprised) It might drive her away or hurt her. Ooh! Anya hurries over to a display case, gestures like a game-show hostess.
ANYA: And Olaf the troll god's enchanted hammer.
We see the hammer (episode "Triangle") on a shelf.
ANYA: You wanna fight a god, use the weapon of a god.
Buffy walks over to check out the hammer.
SPIKE: Uh, nah, that thing's too heavy to- (Buffy picks it up easily) Yeah. Good.
BUFFY: I like this. (to Anya) Thanks.
ANYA: Here to help. Wanna live.
XANDER: Smart chicks are soooo hot. (looking fondly at Anya)
WILLOW: You couldn't have figured that out in tenth grade?(LOL!)

 BEN: They, uh ... said you have to put this on ... for the ceremony.
DAWN: What if I don't?
BEN: Come on, just-
DAWN: What if I don't like the color?
BEN: Look, I ... I wish there was another way.
DAWN: And I wish you'd fall on your head and drown in your own barf, so ... (shrugs) I guess we're both disappointed. (BHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!  awesome!)
BEN: I think ... it'll be quick.
MINION: Actually, sir, the bleeding is quite a slow process to give the portal time to-
BEN: (annoyed) Thank you ... for the information. (to Dawn) I'll do what I can to-
DAWN: Change.
BEN: What?
DAWN: Change. Be her. I don't wanna look at you.
BEN: (shakes head) Dawn, I don't think you wanna-
DAWN: Be Glory. Be Glory. (yelling) Glory! Glory! Glory! (really strong showing for Dawn!)

GLORY: (picking at the hem of the dress) Don't be so hard on the boy. He just wants to live. Most guys would do the same. Besides, he's probably the reason your sis and her little cartoon pals are still alive. That little nagging pinch of humanity that makes me go for the hurt instead of the kill. (looks at Dawn) Lowering myself to trade blows with the Slayer when I should have just put my fist through her heart. Glory stands up and holds up the dress to look at it.
GLORY: It's gotta be Ben.
DAWN: Or maybe you just can't take her.
Glory tosses the dress to Dawn, who takes hold of one end. Glory is still holding the other end and she suddenly yanks on it, pulling Dawn to her feet. They face off.
GLORY: Hmm, funny thing. You've been here for a few hours now, and I haven't seen big sis galloping in to save you. She probably knows what a terrible mistake that'd be.
DAWN: She's not afraid of you.
GLORY: Oh no, sweetie baby. I'm talking about the ritual. 'Cause you know I bleed you, the portals open, but once you die they close. The faster you die, the better for your sorry species.
Glory puts her hand on the side of Dawn's face. Dawn looks scared.
GLORY: I'm bettin' Buffy knows that. Since she's not really your sister, I'm guessin' she isn't gonna show. And if she does...
Dawn winces in pain as Glory's fingers tighten on her head.
GLORY: might not be to save you.(oooooh the pure evil of it all)

BUFFY: This is how many apocalypses for us now?
GILES: Oh, uh, well... (sits, takes off his glasses) six, at least. (sits back slowly) Feels like a hundred.
BUFFY: I've always stopped them. Always won.
BUFFY: I sacrificed Angel to save the world.
Cut to close angle on Buffy's face.
BUFFY: I loved him so much. But I knew ... what was right. I don't have that any more. 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... (tearfully) I just wish my mom was here.
She gets up, walks a few paces away, turns to face Giles.
BUFFY: The spirit guide told me ... that death is my gift. Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.
GILES: I think you're wrong about that.
BUFFY: It doesn't matter. If Dawn dies, I'm done with it. I'm quitting.

GILES: (calling) Any luck? Have you found the Dagon sphere?
Pan down to the basement. Anya emerges from behind the stairs, wearing a bra, quickly putting on her blouse.
ANYA: (calling) Um, I'm sure it's here, just be a minute!
Xander emerges as well, fastening his pants.
XANDER: (calling) Yeah, we're on it! Let's look over here, where we didn't look yet.
Xander and Anya continue fastening their clothing. The angle is such that Giles can't see them.
GILES: (OS) Time is a factor.
ANYA: Yes. Yes. Not to worry.(LOL)

XANDER: Spike's sex-bot. Why didn't they just melt it down into scrap?
Anya moves away as Xander continues staring at the bot.
ANYA: Maybe Willow wanted it.
XANDER: (turns to her) I don't think Willow feels that way about, about Buffy. I mean, I know she's gone through a lot of changes, but-
ANYA: To study it.
XANDER: Right. Robotics. (embarrassed ) Science. (LOL!)
Xander moves to another pile of stuff and they both continue looking, separately.
ANYA: Pervert.
XANDER: Other pervert.
ANYA: And don't frighten me like tha-aah!
She shrieks as she sees something in another box. Xander comes over to look.
ANYA: God, who, who would put something like that there? Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke?
She picks it up. It's a small toy bunny.
ANYA: I mean, things aren't bad enough! (pause) This is an omen.
XANDER: Hey, hey, shh. (rubs her shoulders)
ANYA: No, no, it's an omen. It's a higher power, trying to tell me through bunnies that we're all gonna die. Oh god.
XANDER: No it's not.

XANDER: Anya ... you wanna marry me?
Anya stares at him a moment, then slaps him across the face.
XANDER: Can I take that as a "maybe"?
ANYA: You're proposing to me!
XANDER: Yes...
ANYA: You're proposing to me 'cause we're gonna die! And you think it's romantic and sexy and, and you know you're not gonna have to go through with it 'cause the world's gonna end!
XANDER: I'm proposing to you, Anya, because it's not.
ANYA: You can't know that.
XANDER: I believe it. I think we're gonna get through this. I think I'm gonna live a long ... and silly life, and I'm not interested in doing that without you around.
ANYA: (softly) Oh. Okay.
XANDER: (wide-eyed) Okay?
ANYA: Yes. (small smile) I mean, yes.
They both smile happily and look down at the ring. Xander begins removing the ring from the box as Anya holds up her hands. Then she stops him.
ANYA: After. Give it to me when the world doesn't end.

BUFFY: Will, what do you got for me?
WILLOW: Some ideas. (Buffy goes to sit on the stairs leading up to the loft) Well, notions. Or, theories based on wild speculation. Did I mention I'm not good under pressure?
BUFFY: I need you, Will. You're my big gun.
WILLOW: (alarmed) I'm your - no, I-I was never a gun. Someone else should be the gun. I, I could be a, a cudgel. Or, or a pointy stick.
BUFFY: You're the strongest person here. You know that, right?
WILLOW: (frowns) Well ... no.
BUFFY: Will, you're the only person that's ever hurt Glory. At all. You're my best shot at getting her on the ropes, so don't get a jelly belly on me now.
WILLOW: Well ... I, I ... do sort of have this one idea. But, last few days, I've mostly been looking into ways to help Tara. I-I know that shouldn't be my priority....
Buffy leans over and puts her hand on Willow's knee.
BUFFY: Of course it should.(awww)
Willow smiles gratefully. Buffy leans back.
WILLOW: Well, I've been charting their essences. Mapping out. I think ... if I can get close enough, I may be able to reverse what Glory did. Like, take back what she took from Tara. It might weaken Glory, or ... make her less coherent. Or it might make all our heads explode.

XANDER: I'm looking for something in a broadsword.
SPIKE: Don't be swingin' that thing near me. (Buffy takes the sphere from Giles, examines it)
XANDER: Hey, I happen to be-
SPIKE: A glorified bricklayer?
XANDER: (looks around at the others) I'm also a swell bowler.
ANYA: Has his own shoes.
SPIKE: The gods themselves do tremble.

SPIKE: Um, won't bother with the small stuff. Couple of good axes should hold off Glory's mates while you take on the lady herself. (opens the chest, begins taking stuff out)
BUFFY: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.
SPIKE: Yeah.
He takes a few weapons from the chest and walks back toward Buffy.
SPIKE: Hey. Always knew I'd go down fightin'.
BUFFY: I'm counting on you ... to protect her.
SPIKE: Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
BUFFY: I'll be a minute.
SPIKE: Yeah.
Buffy turns to go up the stairs. Spike watches her go.
SPIKE: I know you'll never love me.
Buffy pauses halfway up the stairs, turns back to look at Spike.
SPIKE: I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's...
Buffy gazes silently at him.
SPIKE: Get your stuff, I'll be here.

GILES: Can you move?
BEN: Need a ... a minute. She could've killed me.
GILES: No she couldn't. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and ... make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that... (reaches into his pocket, takes out his glasses) and still she couldn't take a human life.
Shot of Ben listening.
GILES: She's a hero, you see. (Giles puts his glasses on) She's not like us.
BEN: Us?
Giles suddenly reaches down and puts his hand over Ben's nose and mouth, holding them shut. Ben struggles weakly as Giles keeps him still. Giles keeps his calm expression throughout.(WOW!!)

DAWN: (tearful) I'm sorry.
BUFFY: It doesn't matter.
Dawn tries to run past Buffy but Buffy grabs her.
BUFFY: What are you doing?
DAWN: I have to jump. The energy.
BUFFY: It'll kill you.
DAWN: (softly) I know. (Buffy staring at her) Buffy, I know about the ritual. I have to stop it.
The tower shakes underneath them, making them both stumble.
DAWN: I have to. Look at what's happening.
More lightning crackles, even larger than before. Buffy looks up. A huge dragon flies out of the portal and buzzes the tower, flying away as they watch.
DAWN: Buffy, you have to let me go. Blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it'll never stop.
Buffy stares at Dawn in anguish.
DAWN: (tearfully) You know you have to let me. It has to have the blood.
Buffy gets a realization look on her face.
Flash to Spike earlier in the episode.
SPIKE: Cause it's always got to be blood.
Flash to Buffy and Dawn in the hospital at the end of "Blood Ties." Buffy putting her hand to her wound, then pressing it against Dawn's bloody hand.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: It's Summers blood. It's just like mine.
Flash to Buffy earlier in this episode.
BUFFY: She's me. The monks made her out of me.
Flash to Buffy beside the fire in "Intervention."
FIRST SLAYER: Death is your gift.
BUFFY: Death...
Flash back to the present. Close shot on Buffy's face.
Buffy frowns. Turns around slowly.
Shot of the platform extending into the air. In the distance, holes seem to be opening in the sky. The sky is growing lighter as the sun tries to rise.
Buffy looks peaceful. She turns back to Dawn, who stares wide-eyed.
DAWN: Buffy ... no!
BUFFY: Dawnie, I have to.
BUFFY: Listen to me. Please, there's not a lot of time, listen.

BUFFY VOICEOVER: Dawn, listen to me. Listen.
Shot of Dawn still crying on the platform.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: I love you. I will *always* love you.
Shot of Buffy in the portal.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: But this is the work that I have to do.
Long shot of the portal as it shrinks to nothingness and disappears. The sun begins to rise.
Cut to below. Willow and Tara, holding each other up, walk forward. Behind them we can see Giles coming forward too, and Xander holding Anya in his arms. They all walk forward, staring at something we can't see.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay.
The camera pulls back and we see they're all looking at Buffy's lifeless body lying amid the debris. In the background we see Spike trying to come forward, falling to the ground as the sunlight hits him.
Cut to closer shot of Spike, his face bloodied.
Cut to closer shot of Willow and Tara as Willow begins to cry.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: And give my love to my friends.
Shot of Xander and Anya looking sadly at Buffy. Anya lowers her head to Xander's shoulder.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: You have to take care of them now.
Shot of Giles looking sad.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: You have to take care of each other.
Giles begins to cry. Cut to Spike with his hands over his face, sobbing.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: You have to be strong.
Cut to Dawn coming slowly down the stairs, holding her sides, spotting the others.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it.
Dawn begins to cry again.
Cut to Buffy giving her speech to Dawn a few minutes ago.
BUFFY: Be brave. Live.
Cut back to Dawn on the stairs.
BUFFY VOICEOVER: For me.(just wow)

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