Saturday, March 10, 2012

Co-watchers assemble, and we're "Restless" (Buffy 4.22)

The finale of Buffy season 4 is a seminal episode in Whedonverse fandom. "Restless" comes at a pivotal point in the televised series. The last episode of the middle season points forwards, backwards, and towards itself all at once. Not to mention the fact that it is penned and directed by Joss "the god of us" Whedon. What follows is what happens when two PhDs feast on a text that just begs to be over-interpreted. Whether that counts as a DO or DON'T is really a personal preference.

We've both read our Freud. Be forewarned.

Willow's Dream:
Source Text: Death of a Salesman

Anxiety: Just like in season 1's "Nightmares," Willow-the-overachiever's insecurities center on performance. But whereas the first season was all about how sheltered and introverted Willow feared exposure, this dream highlights her uncertainty about her ability to deliver as a witch and own her love for Tara.

A poem by Sappho. Dreams ain't subtle.

Her family is "angry," and her "subterfuge" is wearing thin. When Willow is transported back to sophomore year to deliver a book report on The Lion, the [***] Witch [***], and the Wardrobe, she's not afraid of being a nerd, but of being alone and exposed and inauthentic.

Remember the softer side of Sears?

Desire: Willow wants to be special and self-sufficient. When the First Slayer attacks her in high school, her cries for help go unheeded. If she were a fully-fledged Wicca secure in her power (and her Spirit), she wouldn't need to ask at all.

Xander's Dream:
Source Text: Heart of Darkness

Complete with Snyder as Kurtz.

Anxiety: Xander doesn't know where he's going. He hopes to go "places," but there's always the threat that he will get "lost." Though he moves constantly in his dream, he always ends up back in his parents' basement--the objective correlative for his failure to grow up and be a man.

Would you look at that. A map.

His fear that everyone else is moving and he is standing still is also articulated (pun intended) through his inability to speak the language of adults (rendered in his dream as French, which seems about right).

Desire: Xander is the Heart (not of darkness, but of Eros), and his subconscious drive towards sex
with Joyce

Welcome to Cougar Town.

and with Willow and Tara

Boys can be so very predictable.

comes from the same place as his impulse towards forming a family very unlike his own (he imagines himself as Buffy's big brother). The basement, the unconscious of the house of our minds, is where Xander fears his heart will fail as the First Slayer attacks him.

Giles's Dream: 
Source Text: Fairy Tales

Anxiety: Giles, another nerd, is also consumed with performance anxiety. He and Olivia (remember her?) take a very childlike Buffy

Pigtails and everything!
 to the circus, and watch Spike put on his best vampire show.

And it is an extremely good vampire show.

And much like Xander, Giles can't speak, but rather sings his suspicions that the First Slayer is stalking the Scoobies through their dreams, due to their invocation of the enjoining spell. It's no "Behind Blue Eyes," but still impressive.

Enjoy it--we won't have any more of this until "Once More with Feeling."

Desire: To protect his Slayer, and he fears his Mind isn't enough.

Buffy's Dream:
Source Text: She's writing it as she goes along

Anxiety: Buffy is afraid she won't be able to be the Hand, that she's "not in charge" and won't be able to protect her people.

It's a big responsibility.

Her insecurities about her tactics, which lean towards the non-traditional (e.g., telling the Council to sod off), are highlighted by a fully human Adam and none other than Riley the douche. He dubs her "killer," brandishes a very phallic gun, and trades tips in patriarchal naming with Adam, who at least has the excuse of his namesake.

Not for nothing, non-demonoid Adam is a little bit hot.

Desire: Buffy wants to redefine her ancient calling. She is not the First Slayer, who has no voice and no friends. Our girl doesn't "sleep on a bed of bones" and cares about human things like clothes, and hair, and emotional connections.

Many Whedon scholars feel this portrayal is racist. They sort of have a point.
Tara warns her of the implications of her rebellion, but Buffy knows who she is and what she wants. Whether that will be enough to ward off the rage of the First Slayer remains to be seen . . .

Jenn and I vivisected "Restless" within an inch of its life, and we probably still missed plenty. This is an episode that gives as good as it gets. Though we have it on excellent authority that the Cheese Man means nothing.

Take it from us--this is a red herring.

Also, this is also the last you'll see of the rockstar ginger werewolf. At least he wasn't killed in some gut-wrenching way.

I love you, Oz!

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