Halloween Dos and Don'ts

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One thing I love about being a Cradle Catholic is that I grew up celebrating Halloween. You might be surprised to learn that Halloween is a Catholic holiday. As the Word on Fire website says, it’s time for Catholics to embrace Halloween. So here are some Dos and Don’t to make your Halloween a great one.

DO choose your costumes wisely.

In spite of the stereotype, there are great costume ideas for women that don’t involve dressing like a hooker. You can easily take advantage of the fact that Halloween is the eve of All Saint’s Day and dress up as your favorite saint. Plus there are awesome female characters to dress as like Supergirl, Peggy Carter, Katniss Everdeen, and the Crystal Gems from Steven Universe. Women don’t have to fall into the Princess/Slut complex on Halloween night. In fact, I see Halloween as an opportunity for girls and women to think outside of the box and be creative.

 

DON’T play around with ouija boards or try summoning rituals.

I avoid ouija boards like the plague. Granted, according to Ed and Lorraine Warren’s website, the real danger comes in when people invite ghosts or demons in, but the problem is that most people who play around with ouija boards or try summoning rituals don’t know that. They think it’s all just pretend or that the forces they’re summoning aren’t dangerous.

 

DO watch some awesome Halloween related specials!

One thing I love about Halloween are all the awesome Halloween specials on TV as well as the large number of Halloween-themed movies. I highly recommend The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Hocus Pocus. I also liked the Halloweentown movies from Disney Channel.  If you’re up for more PG13 material, I recommend the original Halloween movie and Wes Craven’s Scream series. Guilty pleasures include Rocky Horror Picture Show and Saw. They’re not family-friendly but Rocky Horror is a hilarious musical and Saw is a fascinating character study when you get past the “torture porn.”

One web series I recommend is Frankenstein, MD, a modern adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Right now, though, I’m getting into this cool musical series called Muzzled the Musical out on YouTube that I think is perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit. Check it out:

 

DON’T be afraid to scare your kids.

There are a lot of great family-friendly scary movies out there such as Coraline or Disney’s animated movie Sleepy Hollow. Scary things can be exciting for kids and, if done right, teaching kids to face their fears can help them deal with handling their problems on their own as they grow up. Scary movies can be like what the original Grimm Fairy Tales were, a way to teach kids that “dragons can be killed,” to quote Chesterton.

 

DO be safe if you decide on going out.

I’m gonna be spending Halloween Weekend with my friends on retreat. It’s my first time since college that I went out for Halloween. If you’re gonna go out with friends, make sure that your time out is a safe one. Don’t take candy from strangers at the bar. It might not be candy. Also, make sure that any candy you get while trick-or-treating is safe to eat. I have food allergies, so I can’t exactly have kit-kat bars. Get candy you know your kids can eat and google whatever candy you don’t recognize. If you’re handing out or making candy, print out small ingredient lists.

 

Have a fun and safe Halloween, y’all and pray for me and my friends while I go on retreat this weekend!

Once More With Feeling: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #1

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Once More With Feeling is an episode that a lot of fans consider to be their favorite and it definitely tops my list because I’m a sucker for a good musical. In fact, I got introduced to Joss Whedon through Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. I know most of the songs in this episode by heart and honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about this episode. For the most part.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! Don’t read if you haven’t started Season 6!

The episode starts with a short recap of everything that’s been going on up to this point. Spike is in love with Buffy, who only sees his feelings as obsession. Willow resurrected Buffy and Dawn has kleptomania. Xander and Anya finally announce their engagement while Willow and Tara are having problems due to Willow becoming too dependent on magic. The short recap ends with Willow deciding to use a spell to make Tara forget a fight.

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The opening is a unique one compared to every other episode. The theme song is played in an orchestral style instead of the usual rock and roll theme. The cast’s faces are shown on the moon with old Hollywood style font. I so wish Amber Benson and Anthony Stewart Head got a part in this opening but oh well.

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The episode starts with the episode title being shown on screen as the overture begins to play. Buffy wakes up as her alarm clock rings. Willow, Tara, and Dawn are seen getting ready, but Buffy stays in bed. Cut to the Magic Box later that day, where Xander and Anya are looking at a bridal magazine, Giles reminds Dawn to go do her homework, Willow and Tara are studying, and Buffy is drawing a white light surrounded by darkness in her notebook.

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The overture then leads into the opening song that Buffy sings as she goes on patrol, “Going Through the Motions.” This song is majorly clever with the words syncing with Buffy’s fighting and slaying. She saves some random guy and laments that she wants to be alive. (Reminds me of Matthew West’s “The Motions.”)

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The next morning, Buffy goes to the Magic Box after dropping off Dawn at school. Xander makes a funny doughnut joke that Anya apparently heard before. Then Buffy asks everyone if anyone burst into song last night and everyone starts realizing that they did sing in some shape or form last night. This leads into the next song “I’ve Got a Theory.”

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This is a funny song because the song is so self-aware. I mean, how many musicals sing about why they’re singing? Scrubs kind of did that with their musical episode, but this song, to quote Commentary the Musical, basically “breaks the ninth wall.” Willow thinks some kid is dreaming and everyone is “stuck inside his wacky Broadway nighmare.”

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Xander thinks it could be witches, but gets shot down by Willow and Tara. Anya thinks it could be bunnies, which is met with the sound of crickets. Then she gets this hilarious solo about why she’s afraid of bunnies. It’s hard rock bordering on metal and Anya even plays air guitar. It is awesome.

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Then when Giles and Willow sing about how they should get to work, Buffy sings that it doesn’t matter.

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It sounds motivating at first, but then you realize that Buffy is completely disconnected from this latest danger. And yet I love it because the motivation is still there. Buffy even jokes about how she died twice. The song ends with the Scoobies saying “There’s nothing we can’t face” with Anya singing “except for bunnies.” Then she wonders if they’re the only ones singing, but Buffy looks outside to a crowd singing about how the dry cleaners got the mustard out.

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Later on, Dawn comes in, excited about everyone singing. Willow and Tara decide to get out of the Magic Box to get some kind of volume or text in Buffy’s house while Dawn steals a necklace she spies lying on the counter. You can pretty much tell from the way that Willow and Tara are talking that they actually just want to be alone together.

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The two of them are seen walking in a park, where a couple of boys are checking Tara out. Tara jokes about suddenly wanting the boys, but Willow hopes that she doesn’t have to fight to keep Tara. Keep in mind, by the way, that Tara is under the influence of Willow’s spell on her. This leads to Tara singing her beautiful ballad “Under Your Spell.” I know that Tara’s outfit kind of looks like a Renaissance Faire number, but it looks good on her. The song is a sweet number and it would be a genuine one if you forget about the fact that Tara is actually under Willow’s spell. The two of them go back home to…well…you know.

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This is where the song loses me because the two of them are basically having sex under false pretenses. Joss Whedon even says in the commentary that this scene was basically porn. Back in the Magic Box, Xander takes note at Willow and Tara’s “get a roominess” while Dawn thinks that the whole musical extravaganza is kind of romantic and doesn’t think that anything can go wrong. Cut to a guy tap dancing so hard he spontaneously combusts.

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The next morning sees Xander and Anya enjoying a morning off of work. Anya starts singing “I’ll Never Tell” which turns into a duet with her and Xander. Their duet is sweet, but the cracks in their relationship also show. It’s also delves into their insecurities about the future. The song itself is reminiscent of Singing in the Rain’s numbers, especially when Xander and Anya collapse onto a couch laughing. Anya even tells Giles in the next scene that their song “is a retro-pastiche that’s never going to be a breakaway pop hit.”

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As Anya, Xander, and Giles talk about what’s going on with the spontaneous combustions, executive producer Marti Noxon gets a short solo in which her character tries to talk her way out of getting a parking ticket. Giles says that Buffy is looking for information from local demon haunts. Guess where she actually goes.

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Buffy asks Spike if there’s anything going on and Spike hates that she’s not coming to see him for, um, other things. At this point the two of them have a very strange friendship going on, with Spike being the only one that Buffy can talk to about being dead and hating her life because she longs for Heaven. Spike tells her to leave, knowing that he could break out into song at any minute. This, of course, leads into his awesome solo “Rest in Peace.”

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Now as you know, I have a Texas-sized crush on Spike and the actor that plays him, so even though Buffy is disgusted at the fact that she’s being serenaded, I’m slowly realizing what “Killing Me Softly (With His Song)” actually means. James Marsters, incidentally, actually has a band and some solo albums out, so he gets to show off his skills in this song. You may also realize that he’s not singing in a British accent. But who cares?!

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The only thing wrong with this song is that it’s the complete opposite of what Spike actually wants from Buffy. Yes, he’s sick of getting mixed messages from her, but you’re not helping things by singing a mixed message of your own, Spike. And come on, Buffy, he’s serenading you! Enjoy it!

"So, you're not staying then?" Not after what you sang to her, you moron!

“So, you’re not staying then?”
Not after what you sang to her, you moron!

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Back in Buffy’s house, Dawn preps to do math homework. Tara tells Dawn about a lead Willow got about some musical demon that got summoned. Dawn reminds Tara about the fight that she and Willow had the previous night and Tara genuinely forgets and decides to go to the Magic Box to look into the flower that she pinned on her shirt.

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Dawn takes the necklace she stole out of the jewelry box and wears it. She starts singing when some demons with puppet heads kidnap her. The next scene shows Michelle Tratchenberg in the Bronze, showing off her ballet skills as her attempt to escape her kidnappers is shown as a really well-choreographed ballet. Dawn slides over to the stage, where she meets the musical demon Sweet, who goes into a nice bluesy villain song, “What You Feel.”

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Hilton Battle, who plays Sweet, is a Tony Award winning actor who tap-dances through this song with a devilish charm. Only problem with this song? Sweet assumes that Dawn summoned him and wants to make her his queen. Keep in mind that Dawn is 16 years old at this point. Sweet sends his minions to get Buffy cuz he wants to see her burn.

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Over in the Magic Box, Buffy’s training with Giles. Something to note, by the way. Anthony Stewart Head has his own music albums out so this number, “Standing” is his chance to show off his singing. He did it twice in Season 4 and I love this song. But I hate that Giles had to leave because Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave the show. I get that Giles thinks that Buffy is becoming too dependent on him, but on the other hand, Buffy needs Giles because she’s majorly depressed and can’t lose her father figure when she already lost her mother the previous year. If Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave, they could’ve killed Giles off. It would’ve made more sense than having Giles destroy Buffy psychologically.

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Tara makes her way up to the loft in the Magic Box and finds a book that shows that the flower she wore is Lethe’s Bramble, which is used for spells for erasing memories and mind control. Tara has handled abuse from her family before, so she hates that Willow is starting to abuse her. This leads into a duet between her and Giles in which the two of them sing about leaving the ones they love in spite of how much they want to stay. It really breaks my heart but I side more with Tara wanting to leave Willow.

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Spike comes in with one of Sweet’s minions who tells Buffy about how her sister is at the Bronze and how Sweet wants to take Dawn to the underworld to be his queen and then makes a run for it. Buffy expects everyone to back her up, but Giles tells her to go alone. Spike offers to help Buffy, but Buffy refuses it.

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This leads into my personal favorite song in this episode “Walk Through the Fire.” It’s an ensemble number that I love singing along to. I relate to Buffy wanting the fire in her heart to come back. The idea of walking through the fire is reminiscent of the idea of “If you’re going through hell, keep on moving.”

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Spike broods in an alley over his love for Buffy. He hopes that Buffy dies, but decides to go help her in spite of that desire. Yeah, his love is complicated and messed up. Just go with it.

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In the Magic Box, the Scoobies wonder if staying behind was the right choice. They decide to go to Bronze to rescue Dawn and help Buffy however they can. Buffy, however, thinks that she’s alone and she doesn’t want to tell anyone the truth about what actually happened to her.

This leads into my favorite part of the song. Everyone gets a line that builds up to the final chorus.

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Buffy kicks down the door to the Bronze, where she confronts Sweet. She makes an offer: “I can’t kill you, you take me to Hellsville in her place.” Sweet tells her to sing and Buffy starts her 11 o’clock number “Something to Sing About.”

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This song is another favorite of mine because Buffy is singing about how much she wants to live, but she has nothing to live for. In the midst of this song, Buffy finally reveals to everyone that she wasn’t in a hell dimension like she thought, but in Heaven. (Being Catholic, I of course refuse to believe that Buffy was in Heaven because Heaven is a one-way trip. The show didn’t exactly handle Buffy’s resurrection all that well, but since the show’s canon implies that Buffy was in Heaven, let’s just go with it for now.)

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Buffy starts dancing frantically in the hopes of burning up, only for Spike to save her from spontaneous combustion. He tells her that she just needs to keep on living, in spite of how hard life is. Dawn tells her sister “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it” and the number comes to an end.

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Sweet decides to take Dawn and leave because she summoned him, pointing out that she’s wearing his talisman. Xander reveals that he actually summoned Sweet and the demon decides to leave because he doesn’t swing that way. Now personally, I think that Dawn actually summoned Sweet and that Xander decided to cover for her, but that’s just my headcanon. Sweet leaves with one last parting shot and then everyone goes into the closing number “Where Do We Go From Here?”

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This song is a bittersweet one because they saved the day but the problems they have are still lingering in the air. In the midst of the song, Spike and Buffy leave as the rest of the Scoobies sing of how “the curtains close on a kiss not known…”

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Spike and Buffy meet outside of the Bronze. Spike makes a shout out to the Music Man and Buffy starts singing. The two of them go into their final duet in which Buffy pleads about how she wants to feel and Spike wants Buffy to make him feel, leading into the kiss that closes out the episode, curtain closing on them and all. (If I had it my way, Buffy would’ve sang “This can’t be real, I don’t know how I feel,” but I digress.)

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What can I say about this episode that hasn’t already been said? You can tell that the cast and crew worked really hard on this episode and in the wrong hands, it could’ve been disastrous. According to what James Marsters said, Joss Whedon has many talents, but he can’t play the piano so the cast was majorly scared of creating this episode. Miraculously, though, the music and choreography and cinematography all came together beautifully. It’s a great episode to sing along to, but not one I can show to casual fans.

I tried watching this episode back in my college days after becoming a fan of Joss through Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. But when I watched this episode for the first time, I didn’t know anything about any of the characters and I honestly wasn’t ready to get emotionally invested in them. Yet. In spite of that, Buffy lingered under my radar. I knew of the show and the characters, but I never dived into the Buffyverse until I felt like I needed it.

My friend Charles shared something on his Facebook that I feel relates to this episode and Season 6 as a whole:

Life is anything but certain and there are a few things that are. God often times reveal our true purposes in life along the way, only giving us hints here and there, but never really revealing the whole thing to us all at once. There is an important reason for this, for it is not through intellectual intuition that one can learn the answers to life’s greatest mysteries…but it is through experience.

Sometimes, God hides the answers to our greatest questions, because in His Infinite Wisdom, He knows we will not recognize the answers even if it were presented to us at face-value. It is only through experience, by living-out our daily lives, that we learn the “hidden clues” that bring us to the answers that we seek. This is the true nature of wisdom, learning something new from something old – of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. You do not need to know all the answers, just have faith that one day you will, and more importantly, that you will finally recognize them when they appear.

Season 6 of Buffy is an emotional rollercoaster. “Once More With Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa” were the calm before the storm. Buffy wasn’t going to get any answers to why she got ripped out of Heaven from Sweet or any Powers that Be. Her reasons to live were right in front of her but she didn’t recognize it because she was lost in her depression. It took her a whole season for Buffy to finally regain the will to live and Spike, being her mirror image, also seeks reason to live which culminates in him regaining his soul.

This episode encompasses Season 6 in a nutshell. The Big Bad wasn’t some demon who wanted to take over the world, but just life itself. And the answer to facing life? Just keep on living.

My 2-Year Buffyversary: Why Am I Doing the Countdown?

 

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So earlier this month, I said that I was doing a Buffy Countdown because I want to celebrate the show that changed my life two years ago.

It’s hard to believe how much has changed since then. I still feel like the two years after I graduated college were the worst years of my life. I know people like to make fun of the idea of a “quarter life crisis,” but for me, college was my dream. When college was over, I had to adjust to not having that in my life, not to mention dealing with the death of a friend who was like a grandfather to me. People with Asperger’s have a harder time adjusting to change than most people and for a girl who had no direction and lost her safety net, it was no wonder I suffered constant anxiety for two years.

The recovery from my anxiety didn’t actually start with Buffy. It began on a rainy March afternoon when I told God that I had enough of being a prisoner of my anxiety and asked Him to help me find a way out of it. It began with me watching Perks of Being a Wallflower and volunteering in my parish for Vacation Bible School. It began with me going to an Audrey Assad concert and my first Awakening retreat.

But when I had that anxiety attack that October night, I needed a major distraction. I knew of Buffy from vloggers, but I’ve never actually watched the show. Even though I was unaware of the show’s purpose, 23-year-old me needed to metaphorically kill the monsters that were plaguing my life.

"I want you to get out of my face!"

“I want you to get out of my face!”

When Buffy said “Slayers, every one of us” in “Chosen,” I felt like I became a Slayer in that moment. New friends into my life. I began to believe in myself in a way that I never did before. I met some of the actors from the show and learned to love most of the comics. (Screw you Season 8!)

One thing I didn’t expect, though, was that there were other people out there who saw a Catholic element in Buffy. Sure, my fellow Patheos bloggers saw some stuff, but the show isn’t fresh in their minds. Thomas Aquinas said that God likes working through secondary causes and I feel like that was the case with Buffy.

In spite of the fact that the show is created by a nihilistic atheist, I saw a fallen state of grace in the nature of the vampires in the show. Hell is the absence of hope and we, as human beings, are given the free will to choose to have hope instead of giving into despair. Spike’s entire story arc captures every sinner’s redemption story. It still pains me whenever someone tells me that the “Seeing Red” incident is unforgivable because Spike went to great lengths to earn redemption and forgiveness. If one good thing came out of that awful moment, it’s that James Marsters won’t do a scene like that ever again.

As much as I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from getting into that dark place, I learned so much from that time. I found that I can connect to others who’ve suffered the same thing. I learned that I wasn’t alone in how I felt.

So instead, if I had a TARDIS, I would just send a letter to my past self. It would probably go something like this:

“Dear Me,
“There is this thing in life called change. This change is going to come in many forms. Right now, I know that all you see is darkness and despair. Believe me when I say that it will change. God is going to change you and he will change your circumstances. You won’t notice it right away, but you’ll see it soon enough. You’ll see it when you find confidence and resilience you never knew that you had. You’ll see it when you go places you never would’ve dared. Most of all, you’ll see it in the joy that radiates from inside of you. That joy comes from the Lord. You’ve still got a lot of fight left in you.

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So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong? I know you are! You’re strong like an Amazon! So go slay your demons!”

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Screenshots are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

 

Retelling the Story: Dealing with Grief 2 Years Later

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Grief takes on different natures as time goes on. When I lost Fr. Keon two years ago, I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with things. Now, in honor of his talent at telling tall tales, I’m going to write a short fictionalized version of how I met Fr. Keon and how I said goodbye to him.

It began on a rainy afternoon in New York City. I was at my usual bus stop, waiting for the 7PM bus to take me back to my apartment in the Bronx. An old man sat next to me, reading Virginia Woolf’s Room With A View. As the bus came, I saw that he left his book on the bench as he went to get onto the bus. It was only 6:30, but I didn’t care. I grabbed the book and ran on the bus, chasing after him. I found him sitting at a window seat.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said after paying my bus fare. “You forgot your book.”

He looked up at me and smiled. I had to wonder how old this guy was. What was he doing out in the city so late? “Oh, thank you, miss. Would you care to sit down?”

I nodded and sat down next to him, putting my backpack in front of me. He took the book and put it in his lap.

“I don’t usually see you on this bus route,” I said. “What were you doing at Fordham University?”

“I used to teach there,” he said. “I was visiting some friends.”

“Oh cool!” I said. “I’m a student there right now. I take classes in the Manhattan campus but I live over in the Bronx.”

“What do you study?” he asked.

“I’m a theatre student. It’s a New York cliche, I know, but I want to make it big on Broadway someday.”

“Oh I love Broadway. I always see the latest plays.”

“But the tickets are so expensive.”

“Not if you have a press pass.” He took out his wallet and showed his old ID from the New York Times.

“You wrote for the Times?”

“Published a couple books, too,” he said. “You might recognize my articles from the op-ed section and editorials. I’m Fr. James Keon.”

“Monique Ocampo,” I said.

Fr. Keon lived in an apartment building for retirees with a bunch of other old men. It turned out to be in a nearby neighborhood from where I lived.

Before I knew it, Fr. Keon became an essential part of my daily routine. Even though he was retired, Fr. Keon still published collections of short stories and made an effort to go out into the city everyday. We would have lunch together whenever he visited campus and even got to see a couple of Broadway musicals together. My friends teased me about how I was going out with an older man, but I paid them no mind. Fr. Keon had a family, anyway. They just all lived in Canada.

It was during his latest trip to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago that I found out about his accident. He collapsed while walking on a bridge overlooking the falls and died in the hospital. Old age caught up to him. And yet it felt so sudden. Death always seems sudden to those who don’t expect it.

By that time, I was already in my last year of college. I begged and pleaded with the director and stage manager of the play I was in to let me go to Canada for his funeral, but in theatre the show must go on. We were performing Our Town and I played the role of the stage manager, the narrator of the play. When I waited in the wings, I watched my friends talk about the nature of death and wished that I was up in Niagara Falls to say goodbye.

I got my chance during the winter break. Canada was so cold, colder than New York. It was a weird juxtaposition. Christmas lights everywhere and yet I was there to say goodbye instead of saying “Hello” to family members.

I found his gravestone after asking the director of the local funeral home. He told me that a lot of people came for Fr. Keon’s funeral. He had a huge family, many friends, and fans of his writings, after all.

Standing by his gravestone felt strange. I couldn’t see his sweet smile or smell the tuna fish sandwich he always loved eating. I laid my card out at the grave. Inside, the card read: “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.”

I went out to the falls, which were still flowing mightily despite the temperatures being below freezing. It was a glorious sight to see at night. I looked up at the stars and smiled, knowing that my friend was now there.

The End.

 

The Gift: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #2

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It’s not easy for me to pick which episode of Buffy will go in the #2 spot. I reserve my #1 spot for the episode I can watch multiple times and still love no matter what. The #2 spot goes to my favorite season finale. Joss Whedon is amazing at making finales and all the finales to Buffy were great. “Prophecy Girl” was the big finish to a less-than-stellar first season. “Becoming Part 2” is #3 on my list for being the first episode that got me crying over the show. The “Graduation” 2-parter in Season 3 is the most solid season finale. “Restless” is the best absurd theater ever. “Grave” was just a big sigh of relief after the roller-coaster that was Season 6 and still left me crying in the end. And “Chosen” was a contender for this spot because of one majorly awesome moment that changed my life forever.

But the reason I picked “The Gift” over the other finales is because in spite of how it ends, I felt like everyone was at their best in this particular episode. Everyone felt in-character and I actually believed in a good future for everyone if one thing didn’t happen. But  that’s stuff I’ll save for fanfiction.

MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED SEASON 5, STOP RIGHT NOW! Also, Buffy fans, you’re gonna need tissues for this one.

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The episode starts out with a breathtaking 38-second recap of literally everything that has happened in the last five seasons before cutting to a shot of someone running down an alleyway. Joss Whedon said that the idea for Buffy was inspired by the thought of “what if the blonde girl who always ran away from the monsters only to get killed actually kicked the monster’s ass instead?” This opening scene shows a young boy running down an alleyway from a vampire, turning the tables on that classic horror movie trope. Then Buffy comes in with a nice opening snark and proceeds to kick the vampire’s ass and stakes him without too much of a struggle. Buffy’s actually surprised that the vampire didn’t recognize her as the Slayer and starts leaving. The boy is surprised that she was able to beat that vampire, saying “You’re just a girl.”

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“That’s what I keep saying.”

I should tell you right now that the Season 5 opening credits in this episode are my favorite. The only thing missing was a credit for Amber Benson. And no, her opening credit in a particular Season 6 episode does not count!

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Buffy returns to the Magic Box.  Everyone is figuring out how to stop Glory from using Dawn, Buffy’s little sister,  a ritual that would literally unleash Hell on earth. Dawn has the power to open up the portal to Glory’s hell dimension and her blood is what opens the portal. It would take Dawn’s death to close the opening and stop Glory’s hell dimension from bleeding over into Buffy’s world.  Xander asks why the ritual has to involve blood. Spike, ever the street-smart one, says that it’s always blood because blood is life.

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Buffy does not want to deal with the concept of killing her sister to save the world, even if Dawn isn’t actually her sister. Buffy points out that Dawn is a part of her because the monks created Dawn out of her. Giles reminds Buffy that if the ritual is complete, Glory’s hell dimension will bleed into Buffy’s world and that everyone will die. But Buffy, in spite of the fact that she loves everyone, loves Dawn so much that she doesn’t want to kill her.

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Anya decides that they need to stop Glory before the ritual and Spike asks Buffy “When you say you love us all-” only for Giles and Xander to tell him to shut up. It’s a relieving moment in a majorly serious episode.

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Xander contemplates killing Ben, but since Ben and Glory share a body, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll come around. In my honest opinion, Ben was never actually human. He was just a “host body” for Glory in the same way Professor Quirrel was the host body for Voldemort. The Scoobies decide that since the ritual needs to take place at a certain allotted time, Buffy can stall for time. Anya remembers the Dagon Sphere to make Glory weak and points out that they have a troll hammer that Buffy thankfully can wield. (In my honest opinion, I wish that the hammer was Mjolinir but that’s just the Avengers fangirl in me.) When they start wondering about how to find Glory, Tara, whose mind has been damaged from Glory stealing her memories, starts crying out about the “big day.”

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Over in the bad guy’s hideout, Ben gives Dawn a dress for the ritual. Dawn snarks at him and asks for Glory to come around. And since we’re talking about the Big Bad of Season 5, allow me to use this scene to gush about how awesome Clare Kramer is as an actress for making Glory my favorite Big Bad. Glory knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t care about unleashing Hell in order to get it. She’s hilarious and a total knockout when it comes to looks. She’s basically like a Bond villain only with super strength. You’d be surprised to find out that in real life, Clare Kramer is the nicest lady there is. I actually got to meet her in Comicpalooza and told her about how much I loved the show.

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The next scene in this episode finds Buffy taking her frustrations out on a punching bag. She punches the bag off the chain in a scene that Joss will later use for Captain America in Avengers when Giles tells her that stopping Glory is a matter of waiting for the right moment to strike. Giles says that sometimes saving the world comes at the cost of doing something bad, but Buffy refuses to consider it. The two of them sit down on a couch and think things over.

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Then Buffy breaks out into a heartbreaking monologue about how the burden of saving the world is taking its toll on her. She doesn’t want to save the world if it means losing everything that she loves. She laments about how the First Slayer, a spirit guide seen in a previous episode, told her that death was her gift and says that if Dawn dies, she won’t be the Slayer anymore.

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Dawn changes into the dress that Glory picked out for the ritual and gets taken by Glory’s minions to a tall tower overlooking a construction site.

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Back in the Magic Box, Xander and Anya are down in the basement, dressing up after having sex with each other. Xander finds the Buffybot while Anya looks around the basement for the Dagon Sphere. She finds a stuffed bunny instead and freaks out, since she has major bunny phobia. Xander comforts Anya, who tells him that before, she would run away whenever an apocalypse was coming around but since she’s a human and not a vengeance demon, she actually cares for Xander and wants to help save the world. This prompts Xander to propose to her. Anya rightfully thinks that he’s proposing just because the world is gonna end and Xander won’t go through with it. Xander insists that he’s proposing because he believes that the world won’t end and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Anya accepts on the condition that she gets the ring “if the world doesn’t end.” It’s at this point that I cry out “We could’ve had it all!” from Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Screw you Season 6!

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Buffy goes to Willow and asks her if she is ready to help. Willow is the only one, at this point, that was able to hurt Glory with the power of her magic. Willow is more focused on helping Tara and thinks that if she can reverse what Glory did and get Tara’s memories back, it could weaken Glory. Willow is at her best in Season 5, in my honest opinion. She uses her magic to help others instead of using it as a quick fix to solve her problems. I have to give Amber Benson major cred for her performance in this episode because it’s not easy to act insane.

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Buffy takes Spike to her house. It should be noted, by the way, that at this point, Buffy has disinvited Spike from her house. So when she tells Spike to come in, it’s a majorly important thing. Buffy tells Spike to protect Dawn and Spike promises “til the end of the world.”

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Buffy goes up the stairs, but stops when Spike tells her that he understands that Buffy will never love him. (He’ll be proven wrong about that later.) He understands that he’s a monster, but Buffy treats him like a man. Which is surprisingly true. It’s one of the best Spuffy moments in the whole series. And yes, I am screaming at Buffy to kiss him at this point.

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As Dawn gets tied up at the top of the tower, the Scoobies assemble at the Magic Box. Willow tells Tara to lead the way. Buffy tells everyone that the mission is to stop the ritual from happening or else she’ll kill anyone who gets near Dawn. Giles and Spike leave quoting the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, only Spike says “we band of buggered” instead of “band of brothers.”

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Tara leads the Scoobies to the construction site and there’s a small funny moment when Willow says she needs courage and Spike offers his flask. It’s at this point that I realize that Spike has officially become part of the team, however reluctant an ally he is. It totally sucks at how everyone’s gonna treat him in the next season.

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When Glory finds Tara wandering onto the site, Willow comes in and performs the spell that helps Tara regain her memories. Glory starts feeling weak and needs a brain to eat. She finds Buffy standing and snarking at her.

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Buffy throws the Dagon Sphere at Glory, who crushes it in her hands. Buffy proceeds to kick Glory’s ass even as her minions pun about this being their day of glory  and the other Scoobies proceed to fight off the minions. Willow goes to check on Tara and the two of them have a beautiful exchange.

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I will always find you.

Who knew those words would be later used between Snow White and Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time? 

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Glory starts to get the upper hand and kicks Buffy’s head off. It’s at this point that we realize that the Buffy that Glory was fighting was actually the Buffybot. Then the real Buffy appears and hammers Glory Super Smash Bros style. (Incidentally, Clare Kramer has said that ” Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?” is her favorite line.)

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Dawn starts screaming for Buffy, so Buffy goes up the tower, with Glory following after her. I seriously love the fight scene in the tower because it’s different from all the other major fights in the series. It’s a a close-quarters brawl that really takes advantage of the tower setting, much like Hawkeye and Black Widow’s fight in Avengers. Unfortunately, Buffy and Glory get knocked off of the tower and Buffy loses her hammer.

"And the glorified bricklayer picks up a spare." He came in like a wrecking ball.

“And the glorified bricklayer picks up a spare.”
He came in like a wrecking ball.

Thankfully, Xander comes in with a wrecking ball that pummels Glory down.

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The Scoobies are cornered by Glory’s minions. Up on the tower, Dawn sees Doc, who once helped her acquire a magic spell in a previous episode. It turns out, however, that he’s one of Glory’s minions. Spike notices that someone is up there with Dawn. Willow communicates with Spike telepathically to go to Dawn and uses her magic to push Glory’s minions aside psychically. Spike confronts the Doc and the battle is unfortunately one-sided in the Doc’s favor. This is a usage of a trope called “The Worf Effect” in which a character who would usually have the upper hand in a situation is suddenly made weak for the sake of drama. Doc takes note that Spike doesn’t even have a soul and asks why the bleach blonde vampire even cares. To which Spike replies:

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“I made a promise to a lady.”

How can you say that Spike can’t love without a soul when you have something like that?! Seriously, it just proves my theory that the “soul” is just a lack of conscience and vampires are really just humans with majorly corrupted souls. Spike is selflessly putting himself out there to protect Dawn and all out of love for Dawn as well as for Buffy. Unfortunately, the Worf Effect gives Doc the upper hand and pushes Spike off the tower.

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Buffy hammers Glory so much that she reverts back to Ben. Buffy tells Ben to get out of town or else. Then Giles comes in.

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Take a note that Giles isn’t wearing his glasses. The show points out in an episode that Giles has a habit of taking off his glasses when he doesn’t want to actually acknowledge the reality in front of him. However, he chooses to put on his glasses as he smothers Ben and kills him.

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As the Doc cuts Dawn open, Buffy pushes Doc off the tower and Dawn starts bleeding, causing the portal to open. Dear God, I wish this didn’t happen. Glory is dead. Dawn’s blood shouldn’t have caused the portal to open. But it did anyway. Everyone braces for the end of the world.

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Dawn prepares to jump off the tower, but Buffy stops her. Dawn knows that she dies if she makes that jump, but the portal will only close with her blood. It’s at this moment that Buffy realizes that her blood and Dawn’s are the same and remembers what the First Slayer told her.

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As the sun rises, Buffy realizes what she needs to do. She turns to Dawn and tells her something we don’t get to hear until the end of the episode. She gives Dawn a loving kiss and runs to make a swan dive off the tower.

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Buffy’s death is shown as a struggle, followed by a sigh of relief as the magic of the portal kills her.

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Everyone gathers around Buffy’s dead body. We see Buffy with a look of peace on her face. Spike cries genuine tears over her death as do the rest of the Scoobies and everyone watching this episode.

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The last shot of the episode is of Buffy’s tombstone.

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Throughout this final scene, we hear Buffy’s last words to Dawn:

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Dawn listen to me. Listen. I love you. I’ll always love you. But this is the work I have to do. Tell Giles I… I figured it out. And I’m okay. 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.

Now this is where I dive into my own personal speculations with the show.

I never thought that death was Buffy’s gift. It’s the gift of every other Slayer, yes, but the show has gone out of its way to show that Buffy lived longer than every other Slayer because she had friends, family, and a semblance of a normal life. She had things to live for and her will to live outweighed the usual Slayer death wish.

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If you asked me what I thought Buffy’s real gift was, it’s love. It’s Buffy’s love that drives her to protect the world from evil. Buffy’s motivations throughout every single season were based on some kind of love, even if she was unaware of it. It was Buffy’s desire to live and accepting her role as the Slayer that gave her the upper hand in “Prophecy Girl.” Buffy loved Angel enough to let him go in the Season 2 finale, even though it crushed her. It was Buffy’s love for Angel that motivated her into fighting Faith. Once Angel’s life was saved, Buffy’s love for the world pushed her into taking down the Mayor in Graduation, Part Two. It was the combined love of the Scoobies that helped Buffy take down the Initiative in Season 4. Even though Buffy didn’t take down the Season 6 Big Bad, Xander’s love was a major factor in helping to save the world and Spike loved Buffy so much that he sought out his soul for her. In the Season 7 finale, it was Buffy’s love for the potentials that gave her the idea to share her powers with every girl in the world.

Buffy can’t ever be a normal girl but she can’t be a killing machine, either. It’s when Buffy embraces being a Slayer and being a normal girl that she is at her best. It’s Buffy’s love for Dawn that drives her to sacrifice herself, even if it has majorly bad consequences in the next season.

So yeah. As much as I’d love to fanfic the heck out of this episode and make it so that Buffy doesn’t have to die in the end, I still love “The Gift.” It shows everybody at their best and, in spite of Buffy’s death, still left me feeling hopeful.

Because Buffy was right. Life is hard. Just living day to day can be the hardest thing to do because we live in a broken world. And yet, through grace, we are given the gift to find the beauty within this broken world. Through grace, we are given the courage to try and make the world a better place.

Joshua 1:9 says “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed.”

Be brave. Live.

Screenshots are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

Pope Saint John Paul II: Marian Consecration Series

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I love Saint JP2. What can I say about John Paul II that hasn’t already been said? Well, what if I told you that he was a great devotee to St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration to Jesus Through Mary?

The story of John Paul II’s amazing connection with the Blessed Mother doesn’t begin with him, though. It began in Fatima, when Our Lady of Fatima revealed three secrets to the three shepherd children. Two of the secrets were about World War II and the rise of Soviet Russia and communism, which would spread throughout the world. The third secret, however, foretold of a bishop in white who would be shot and killed.

On May 13, 1981, 64 years after the first appearance of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope John Paul II was doing his weekly ride-around in the Popemobile through St. Peter’s Square. At 5:17PM, an assassin shot him. But as we all know, Pope John Paul II didn’t die that day. The bullet missed the main abdominal artery by an inch. In the saint’s words “One hand fired the bullet, another hand guided it.”

That hand, dear readers, was the hand of our Blessed Mother. Jason Evert said, in his book Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves that a group of Polish pilgrims took an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and placed it up for prayer. “A gust of wind blew it over and a bystander noticed the inscription on the back of the image…’May Our Lady protect the Holy Father from Evil.'”

While Pope John Paul II was in the hospital, he realized that he was shot on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and began to research the three secrets. The third secret was about him and Our Lady interceded to keep him alive. The great pope would show his gratitude to Mary by placing the bullet that almost killed him in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and consecrating the world to her Immaculate Heart. By the end of the decade, Soviet Russia fell apart as did communism’s influence over the majority of the world.

It’s no wonder that Pope John Paul II was so devote to Mary. His papal motto “Totus tuus” was inspired by St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration. The process of Marian Consecration is to completely surrender yourself to Jesus through preparation which involved a myriad of prayers to His Mother. Through the process of Consecration, we completely entrust Mary to prepare our hearts and souls in furthering our relationship with Christ.

In many ways, the Blessed Mother became John Paul II’s mother since his biological mother passed away when he was very young. St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary became one of the biggest influences in the young Polish pope’s life.

Pope John Paul II’s devotion to Mary would continue on to his last day on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, which was the First Saturday of the month. First Saturdays, for those who don’t know, are devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So like St. Joseph, St. John Paul II died in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

If you want to know more about Marian Consecration and Pope John Paul II, check out Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus through Mary With St. John Paul II.

Becoming, Part 2: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #3

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I just think…that when it’s all over, it just comes back in flashes, you know? It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories. It just all comes back. But Becoming Part Two? It was the first time that Buffy ripped my heart out and crushed it in front of me. I think part of me know the second I watched this show that this would happen. It’s not really anything the characters said or anything they did. It was the feeling that came along with it. And the crazy thing is, I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel that way again with any other show. But I don’t know if I should. I knew this show was going to break my heart into a million pieces and leave me begging for more, but I just thought “How can Joss Whedon break my heart when my heart has been broken in real life already?” Maybe he knew that when he started writing and directing this. All I knew was that I was never the same after this episode. I think that the worst part of watching this episode wasn’t Buffy losing Angel. It was when Buffy lost herself.

MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! Don’t read if you haven’t watched Buffy at all. Also: Bangel shippers, leave while you can. I’m not gonna be nice to Angel in this post.

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Becoming Part 2 picks up where the previous one left off, with the police catching Buffy next to her friend Kendra’s dead body. The police assume, from Principal Snyder’s testimony, that Buffy killed Kendra and proceed to arrest her. Thankfully, Buffy makes her escape, but now she’s become a fugitive.

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She appears in the hospital dressed like a conspicuous hobo and finds Xander. Willow is lying in a coma after Drusilla and her minions attacked the Scoobies and killed Kendra in the previous episode. Cordelia comes in and her genuine compassion is one of the few glimpses we get to the “real Cordelia” that will appear in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

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Speaking of the brooding blockhead, the next scene shows Angelus continuing to torture Giles for information as to how to open the statue of Acathla, an apocalypse demon.

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Although the show and the spinoff Angel has gone to great lengths to establish Angel and Angelus as separate entities, I never bought that for a second. (Neither did other fans.) The “soul” in Buffy is supposed to be a moral conscience, since vampires represent the unwillingness to change and become an adult. However, in the previous episode, we see that Liam, the human that Angel was before he became a vampire, is a careless womanizing slacker. When he gets sired by Darla, the nature of the vampire emphasized Liam’s lack of empathy for his family and turned Liam into a sociopathic serial killer.

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When Angelus gets cursed by the gypsies, he spends centuries wallowing in guilt and doesn’t make a lot of effort into saving anyone until some guy named Whistler comes along and shows him the Slayer who happens to be a very attractive young blonde Buffy, a popular girl at Hemery High School, sitting on the steps sucking on a lollipop.

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And what makes Angel lose his soul again? Sleeping with Buffy when she’s a 17-year-old virgin. Over a century of having a moral conscience and it’s having sex that makes him lose his soul. If you’re starting to hear alarms in your head that blare out: LOLITA COMPLEX! LOLITA COMPLEX! CREEPY STALKER IS CREEPY! Then congratulations, you just learned one of the many reasons I don’t ship Bangel!

Back to the episode.

Over in Buffy’s house, Joyce gets informed by the cops about how Buffy is wanted for murder. Buffy goes over to Giles’s apartment only to find a stranger there instead.

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Meet Whistler, Angel’s former “wingman” so to speak. It’s never exactly established who or what Whistler is. He says he’s an agent of the “Powers that Be,” a pantheon of “higher beings” that play a larger role in Angel than they do in Buffy. Whistler asks Buffy what she’s prepared to lose and warns her that “In the end, you’re always by yourself. You’re all you got — That’s the point.” Buffy rightfully storms out, frustrated, only to run into a police officer out on the streets. The cop starts approaching Buffy, but gets knocked out by a very familiar face.

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HELLO HOTTIE!

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So I bet y’all are wondering why the heck Spike is talking to Buffy when, at this point, they’re mortal enemies. Spike wants to help Buffy take down Angel and tells her that Angel has Giles hostage as proof. When Buffy asks her why Spike wants to save the world, Spike launches into a monologue that established the kind of villain he is. Most of the time, vampires talk about destroying the world, but it’s just a lot of hot air. Angelus, however, is the kind of vampire that actually wants to destroy the world without realizing that it would come at the cost of destroying a vampire’s only food source: humans. Spike also likes the world that we live in and on top of all that, he wants Dru to stop cheating on him with Angel, to which Buffy replies:

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The whole earth may be sucked into Hell, and you want my help ’cause your girlfriend’s a big ho? Well, let me take this opportunity to *not* care.

It’s kind of funny that Buffy is unsympathetic to Dru sleeping with Angel because, Angel essentially dumped Buffy for Dru after losing his soul. You’d think that Buffy would empathize with losing your ex to someone else. But again, Buffy is still under the belief that vampires are incapable of love. Oh well. That’s stuff I’ll save for when I’m writing fanfiction.

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Buffy and Spike make their reluctant alliance. Spike looks to the unconscious cop with the intent on killing him, but Buffy stops him. Oh Spike. Buffy already has you whipped and you’re not even in love with her yet.

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In the hospital, Cordelia leaves to get coffee while Xander makes a heartfelt plea to Willow, saying that he loves her. I really hate that they never actually played around with the Xander/Willow relationship and only used it as a pseudo-romantic conflict in Season 3. Either give these two a “just friends” level of closure or actually have them hook up and break up later. It’s not that hard.

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Willow starts waking up, thinking that the “I love you” she heard came from Oz. Thankfully, Oz comes in the room. Xander leaves as Willow and Oz have an adorable moment together. I seriously loved the Willow/Oz ship in all its adorableness. But you can never make me choose whether I love Oz or Tara more with Willow. Both relationships are important to Willow’s character arc.

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While Angelus continues to torture Giles, Spike and Buffy make their way over to Buffy’s house. Joyce asks Buffy who Spike is and the two of them lie about being in a band together. As they head towards the front door, a vampire attacks. It’s just awesome to see how easily Buffy and Spike work together when taking out the vamp and I’m so glad that Buffy ends up finally letting the secret of her Slaying life out to her mother. When I first watched this episode, I seriously liked the way that Spike and Buffy fought together and wanted more. What was this feeling, so sudden and new? (From a distance you can hear the sound of Spuffy fans saying “I ship it.”)

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Inside Buffy’s house, Buffy talks to Willow and Xander on the phone while Joyce and Spike make awkward (yet hilarious) conversation in Buffy’s living room. After the phone call ends, Buffy and Spike work out their deal in the living room while Joyce is still trying to process the fact that Buffy is a Slayer.

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Spike heads back to Angelus’s mansion while Joyce and Buffy argue over Buffy being a Slayer. Joyce is having a hard time accepting it and I’ll admit, it’s really bad timing for Joyce to find out that vampires exist and that Buffy is not a delinquent but a superhero, but the role of the Slayer is a metaphor for adulthood. Some parents out there do refuse to accept the reality that their children are growing up or only want their children to grow up on their terms. It makes Buffy’s monologue about how she wishes she could just be a normal teenage girl all the more heartbreaking.

Do-do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world... again.

Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or… God, even studying! But I have to save the world… again.

Joyce thinks that Buffy is going crazy, but Buffy assures Joyce that everything is fine and starts to leave. Then Joyce gives Buffy an ultimatum: “You walk out of this house, don’t even think about coming back!” Joyce obviously didn’t mean it. Most parents don’t actually kick their kids out of the house when their kid decides on growing up, but Buffy takes it seriously and leaves.

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It really, really sucks that Joyce lacks empathy for what Buffy is going through because I honestly feel that it’s out of Joyce’s character, or at least the way I perceive Joyce’s character. But this show goes out of its way to establish that the life of a Slayer is supposed to be a lonely one. And yeah, growing up sucks. But in spite of what the show says, we never have to deal with growing up alone. And Buffy isn’t alone.

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In the hospital, Willow decides that in spite of the fact that she got knocked out, she wants to try the ensouling curse on Angelus that she attempted in the previous episode. It’s established that the curse is powerful magic and Willow is not at 100%, but regardless Willow is resolved to do it because they could stop Angel from awakening Acathla. Oz and Cordy go to the library to get materials and Willow asks Xander to tell Buffy about what’s going on.

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Over in Angelus’s mansion, Giles does his best to keep calm even as Angelus continues to torture him. Spike comes in, keeping up the appearance that he’s still in a wheelchair from getting crushed by an organ several episodes ago, and asks Drusilla to try and get into Giles’s head.

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Buffy returns to the library to grab the sword that Kendra gave to her. Snyder comes in and expels Buffy from school. Buffy leaves with a snark and Snyder makes a call to future Big Bad Mayor Wilkins.

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Back in Angelus’s mansion, Dru uses her psychic powers to get inside Giles’s head and hypnotizes Giles into seeing her as his deceased lover, Jenny Calendar. Giles gets caught up in the enthrallment and reveals that Angel’s blood is the key to unlocking Acathla. Of course, Drusilla gets caught up in the moment as well and it’s not until she breaks character that her spell over Giles gets broken and Giles realizes that he’s been tricked.

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Buffy goes back to Giles’s apartment and asks Whistler about how to stop Angelus. Whistler tells her that Angelus’s blood doesn’t just open Acathla’s portal into hell, but also closes it. Buffy will need to kill Angel in order to either prevent Acathla from literally unleashing hell on earth or send Angel to hell and close up the portal to Acathla’s hell dimension. Buffy is resolved to do whatever it takes, thinking that she’s got nothing left to lose.

As she leaves, Whistler says:

Wrong, kid. You got one thing.

Wrong, kid. You got one more thing.

Buffy heads off to Angelus’s mansion and runs into Xander, who’s there to back her up. She tells Xander to get Giles out and get to safety. Then Xander tells Buffy about what Willow told him to say only to backtrack. When Buffy asks Xander about what Willow says, Xander lies and says:

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“Kick his ass.”

Now this scene is the first of many “base breakers.” The fandom is still divided over this scene even though it’s been almost a decade after the episode aired. Some people think that Xander lying to Buffy was justified. On the other hand, Ian AKA Passion of the Nerd points out that “Buffy trusts Xander and always expects the truth from him, especially given information that might affect her tactics in battle and Xander decides that he knows better than either of them. Nobody knew how the battle would play out and Xander’s decision actually limited Buffy’s options. Whatever his motivations for that decision, that is very simply wrong. He cannot elect himself commander.”

What do I think? All I can say about it is: NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Xander should not have lied to Buffy because this lie will have major consequences into the ending of this episode and will come again into play in Season 7. And it majorly sucks that Xander was never called out on that lie at all in this series.

Moving on.

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Angeuls’s ritual with Acathla is interspersed with scenes of Willow, Cordelia and Oz preparing the ritual of the ensouling curse. Buffy makes her entrance and starts fighting Angelus. Spike gets a couple blows at Angelus as well and then proceeds to fight Drusilla. Xander rescues Giles and the two make their way out after a comically relieved exchange. Angelus gets the sword out of Acathla and Dru is enjoying the chaos that will ensue only for Spike to knock her out by smothering her.

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Angelus and Buffy have an epic swordfight as Willow continues the ensouling ritual. The swordfight leads out to a courtyard where Angelus corners Buffy. Spike has Dru over his shoulder, sees Angelus cornering Buffy, thinks Angelus is gonna kill her, and decides to leave. If I had it my way, Spike would’ve at least tried to stop Angelus for the sake of wanting to be the one to kill Buffy, but that’s something I’ll save for a fanfiction.

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Angelus points his sword close to Buffy’s neck, flashing a Bond villain smile at her. “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons… No friends… No hope. Take all that away… and what’s left?”

Me.

Me.

She shoves the sword back at Angelus’s face, gets up on her feet, and kicks him in the chest in a moment that makes you go: “YES! KICK HIS ASS!”

 

The sword fight continues as Spike leaves Sunnydale with Dru and Willow finds herself overcome with the power of the ritual, speaking in tongues as she channels the gypsies who created the curse.

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Buffy finally corners Angelus at Acathala’s statue and just as she’s about to take a swing to kill him…

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Nope. Nope! NOPE! THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! WHY DID ANGEL HAVE TO GET HIS SOUL BACK NOW?!

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Buffy is shocked to see Angel re-ensouled. The two of them comfort each other and Buffy hugs Angel. However, as Doctor Who has established, “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way to hide your face.” In the hug, Buffy sees Acathla’s mouth open. Angel asks Buffy what’s going on as tears are streaming down her face. She tells Angel to close his eyes and the most tear-jerking music plays as Buffy and Angel share one last kiss before Buffy skewers Angel with a sword and sends him to hell.

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As the portal to hell closes and Angel gets sucked into Acathla’s hell dimension, Buffy breaks down in tears as another tear-jerking song plays. Buffy packs up, leaves a note to her mom, and gives one last look at her friends and high school before going off on a bus out of Sunnydale.

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It is in this moment that I felt like Joss Whedon ripped my heart out of my chest and crushed it in front of me. It took a whole month for me to get the nerve to get back to Buffy and watch Season 3. Partially because November was around the corner by the time I finished Season 2 and I needed to set aside that month for National Novel Writing Month and partially because I didn’t know how much more I could handle.

There’s a certain song that comes to mind when I think of this episode and the show in general. I’m just gonna leave you with this song and let you wallow in feels again:

 

Welcome to The Future: Back to the Future 30 Years Later

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Okay, so we don’t exactly have auto-drying clothes or flying cars. But as a fan of Back to the Future, I kind of think that there are things in our time that Doc and Marty didn’t see coming. Here’s a short list of things I love about 2015 that didn’t exist in the 80s. (Granted I’m not an 80s kid.) I’m gonna avoid the obvious Obama being President thing because Back to the Future had an African-American mayor. Having a black President wasn’t exactly an inconceivable thing in the 80s.

So without further ado, 15 Awesome Things About 2015 That Back to the Future Didn’t See Coming

1) Comic Book Franchises Being Successful

Back in the day, superhero movies and TV shows were laughable things. Special effects weren’t the way they are now and the costumes (from what I’ve seen) are even more ridiculous looking than the stuff Marvel ships out now. Hard to believe, I know. But I don’t think anyone back then could’ve anticipated the idea that comic book movies could actually be a lucrative success. We’re really blessed that Marvel has handled the comic book universe spectacularly well. Age of Ultron may have been problematic, but at the same time, it’s just amazing that millions of people can invest emotions, time, and money into these characters. The writing and direction for most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been amazing and I can’t wait to see what will come around next.

2) Technology becoming smarter and smaller

We may not have robot waiters, but smart watches are becoming more commonplace. With the rise of fitbit and similar devices that can track our health while working out, we have a whole new way of monitoring our well being. Also, even though we don’t have a Mister Fusion, we have electric cars and hybrids.

PCs have become slimmer, replaced by laptops or tablets. Walkmans have been replaced by smart phones that also function as portable music players. Not to mention the existence of blu-ray and DVD.

3) A change in popes

Back to the Future Part II came out in 1989, which was also the same year that the Berlin Wall came down. While most Americans credit the politics of then-president Ronald Reagan, Catholics know that Pope John Paul II had an equally prominent role in influencing the fall of communism as well.

I don’t think anyone expected Pope John Paul II to have such a long papacy in the 80s. Of course, none of us expected his successor, Pope Benedict XVI to abdicate the papacy. Also…

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5) The Star Wars Franchise

Granted the movie theatre in 2015 showed ads for “Jaws 19,” but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that Star Wars would’ve expanded beyond the original trilogy. Yes, the prequels suck, but Star Wars Rebels is doing really well (or so I heard) and, as of now, we have a brand new Star Wars movie coming out in December!

6) The rise of fantasy

Back in the day, fantasy was just “nerdy,” the stuff that Dungeons and Dragons games were made of. Either that or it was just for kids, because fantasy movies weren’t profitable at the time.  Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones are currently the three most successful fantasy franchises to date.

7) Social Media

It seems like hashtags are everywhere nowadays. Heck, hashtags have become a part of our vocabulary. We post, snap, and tweet every little bit of news and information and anything going on in our lives. Friendships have taken on a completely different nature. We can literally become friends with someone who lives on the other side of the world now and feel closer to them than with people who live down the block.

8) Musicals

In the 80s, the biggest musicals were Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables. But who would’ve expected musicals like Hamilton or Wicked to exist? Not to mention that musicals are a profitable movie genre. Pitch Perfect 2 beat Mad Max Fury Road in the box office and Chicago won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2002.

9) Awesome new cartoons on TV and in movies.

In the 80s, cartoons were created mostly to sell toys. Nowadays, good cartoons such as Steven Universe and Avatar: The Last Airbender focus on creating complicated characters and dramatic storylines that are usually seen in more grown up material.

The same applies to all of the Disney/Pixar movies. I don’t think anyone could’ve anticipated the success of animated movies such as Toy Story and Frozen. Heck, the Oscars created categories just for animated films and shorts because Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Oscar.

Even though animation is just a bunch of lines and colors, these lines and colors become characters we wish we were real and the stories of these characters are stuff that we can all relate to. Which is a heck of a long way from the soap opera-type storylines of Jem and the Holograms.

10) The Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. Twice.

Not twice in a row, but granted, winning at all is unbelievable enough! I think it’s telling that Back to the Future II chose to use the Cubs instead of the Red Sox for their 2015 World Series winners pick because I don’t think anyone could’ve thought that the Red Sox would win.

11) The rise of reality TV

Granted reality TV was just getting started in the 80s, with the premiere of The Real World on MTV. But now, reality TV has become such a part of the culture that people can be famous just for being famous. Whether or not this is a good thing is honestly debatable. But I do like cooking shows and Project Runway.

12) Doctor Who becoming the comeback kid.

During the 80s, Doctor Who wasn’t the phenomenon that it is right now. At the time, Doctor Who was really close to being cancelled. It was the era of the 7th Doctor and the BBC was run by someone who hated the show. I honestly don’t know how many Americans were familiar with Classic Doctor Who at the time being. I mean, cable was in its infancy in the 80s. There was an attempt to revive the show in the 90s, but it wasn’t until the mid 2000s that Doctor Who came back. By the time I was in college, the show exploded into a cultural phenomenon.

 

13) Strong female characters.

In the 80s, action movies were mostly a testosterone factory. Female characters in the 80s and a lot of 90s movies/shows weren’t as developed as men. They were either the damsels in distress or defrosting ice queens that needed men in order to act like actual human beings.

I’m not a fan of the Shondaland TV shows, but I will admit that she’s great at creating complex and realistically flawed female leads. But honestly, I prefer Agent Carter and Buffy because Peggy and Buffy are complicated and flawed heroes as opposed to anti-heroes. Complex and flawed female heroes can also be seen in Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. 

The only exceptions to the 80s movies sausage fest were True LiesAliens, and Terminator 2. Now what do those three movies have in common?

 

14) The highest grossing movies of all time are…

Pocahontas in Space

and

A love story that takes place on the most famous sunken cruise liner of all time.

Both written and directed by James Cameron, who also wrote and directed those women-empowering 80s movies mentioned before.

 

15) The rise of the supernatural

Who’d have thunk that vampires, zombies, werewolves, and everything that falls under the category of “horror” would become popular? Interview with a Vampire came out in 1994 and started a vampire craze that still continues on today. The most popular shows right now are The Walking Dead, Teen Wolf, Supernatural, Scream Queens, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries, all of which revolve around the supernatural.

In the 80s, supernatural things were the stuff of “so bad it’s good” B movies. But now, like with other genres, writers have created characters that are complicated and flawed and compel people to sympathize and relate to them.

 

If I missed anything, feel free to comment!

Fool For Love: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #4

 

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I. Love. This. Episode. It’s my favorite episode of Season 5 (my fave season) even though it doesn’t involve the Big Bad, because it shows Spike’s backstory, establishes a majorly important theme, and captures the nature of Spike and Buffy’s relationship. If you ever wonder why the heck I ship Spuffy, this is one of the episodes I would show you.

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The episode starts out with  Buffy fighting a really badly dressed 80s vampire. Buffy does her usual snarking but right before she gets to staking, the vampire ends up staking her in the gut instead. Buffy punches the vampire in the face and removes the stake from her gut as she runs. 80s vamp catches up to her and you’d think Buffy is on the ropes, but Riley ends up saving her.

 

 

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Again, apologies to Marc Blucas, but you can pretty much replace this scene with any other character and it would’ve been the exact same thing. Buffy isn’t usually the damsel in distress but given that she had to deal with a major stab wound, you can allow Buffy to be vulnerable for a bit. I am gonna do my best to be nice to Riley, but I’m not gonna make any promises.

 

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Riley patches up Buffy back in her bedroom. Riley asks Buffy if there’s something special about the vampire who got her, but Buffy says it was just a regular vampire. Dawn and Joyce come in and Dawn covers up for Buffy. Buffy shows the wound to her sister and makes her promise not to tell. Riley decides to take over for patrol. Buffy accepts under the condition that he takes the rest of the Scoobies with him.

 

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I won’t go into detail on the scenes with Riley’s patrol because honestly, this is not what the episode is about. The scenes where Riley goes after the 80s vamp and his friends establishes how Riley’s “demon hunting” style is different from Buffy’s. Riley was trained in the military, so he uses guerrilla tactics and some major overkill. Buffy  in contrast, has a more improvised style. Yes, she does research but she usually thinks on her feet.

 

 

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Said “thinking on the go” applies to the next two scenes. After pouring over tons of Watcher Diaries with Giles, Buffy laments that the Slayers’ final battles were never recorded. Giles says it’s because the Watchers found themselves unable to detach from the pain of losing a slayer. Pop quiz: Who in this show has killed two Slayers and lived to tell the tale?

 

 

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Right on cue.

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Buffy and Spike go out to the Bronze to talk about the two Slayers that Spike killed in exchange for cash. He tells Buffy that it’s not about the moves and demands that she order a plate of buffalo wings. I know Spike is coming off as a jerk in this scene, but, well, Buffy is acting equally jerkish to him. And as sad as it is to say, Buffy is not gonna get any easy answers from Spike. Spike brags to Buffy that he was always bad. We’re about to find out, however, that Spike is lying.

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The flashback shows a very adorable William Pratt working on a poem. He sees a beautiful woman named Cecily walk into your typical Victorian England party and goes to talk to her. He finds her with some of his “friends,” ask him about some strange disappearances happening in London. He tells them that he prefers to think of things of beauty, referring to his poem. The upper crust frenemy reads the poem out loud and, well, it’s bad: “My heart expands, ’tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.”

 

 

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It might just be my long experience with my own bad writing, but it wasn’t actually bad. Regardless, everyone starts laughing at William’s couplet, so he takes his poem and follows Cecily to a sitting room. Before he leaves, though, we find out that William was called “William the Bloody” because of his bloody awful poetry and not because he was already some kind of pugilist or serial killer. The upper crust bully who read the poem says that he’d rather have a railroad spike through his head than listen to that awful stuff. He’s gonna regret those words.

 

 

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William goes to Cecily inside a sitting room. Cecily asks if the poems are about her and is aghast to find out that they are. William professes his love to her only to get shot down. She says “You’re nothing to me, William. You’re beneath me.”

 

 

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William leaves the party sobbing, tearing up his poem as he walks. He crashes into a trio of very well-dressed aristocrats. (Spoilers: The aristocrats are Drusilla, Angelus, and Darla.) He ends up inside of a barn where Drusilla ends up finding him. William mistakes Drusilla for a pickpocket, but that’s not what she has in mind. William is intrigued by her, but, well, Drusilla has a way with getting what she wants. And, well, you know what happens after she starts biting his neck.

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Spike explains the allure of becoming a vampire over a game of pool. My personal theory about vampires in the Buffyverse (and in general) is that vampires are human souls corrupted to varying degrees by the demon that takes over their bodies. And not all vampires are the same.

 

 

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This is clearly shown when Spike joins Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. Angelus and Darla aren’t exactly keen on Spike because “William the Bloody” (which has now taken on a more sinister tone) likes starting riots for the sake of, well, having a riot. Angelus, for those who don’t know, is a lot like a stylized serial killer. He likes playing mind games and putting a lot of thought and effort into the way that he kills people. Spike, on the other hand, is a rough-and-tumble kind of vampire. And yeah, David Boreaneaz’s Irish accent sucks. (Apologies to the David Boreaneaz fangirls.)  The two vampires start fighting and when Angelus starts realizing that Spike has a point on the appeal of the rough-and-tumble fighting style, he tells Spike that he’ll probably end up killed by an angry mob or the Slayer. Now usually, vampires go running from the Slayer. Spike is a unique vampire because he actively seeks out Slayers. The first lesson that Spike tells Buffy is that she always needs her weapon at the ready. He then starts telling the story of his battle with the Chinese Slayer.

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Way back in the days of the Boxer Rebellion in China, Spike fought a Slayer named Xin Rong whose swordfighting skills gave Spike the scar on his eyebrow. The fight scene is amazing, like something out of, well, a really good action movie. But ultimately, Spike gets the upper hand and kills her. Drusilla comes in very turned on by the fact that Spike killed a Slayer. Spike tells Dru that the blood of the Slayer is a powerful aphrodisiac and shares the blood with her. Then, well, you can guess what happened after that. Even if they are vampires, they are also very much in love.

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The two of them meet with Darla and Angelus out in a town square and Drusilla announces Spike’s latest victory. You might notice that Angelus is a bit odd in this scene. Let’s just say he’s not himself right now.

 

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The shot of the Whirlwind doing a slow walk through the town is nothing short of epic, especially for fans who’ve wanted to see Darla, Angelus, Drusilla, and Spike all together. And Spike says that the night he killed the Chinese Slayer for the first time was the best night of his life. Buffy is disgusted that Spike and Dru got off on the kill, only for Spike to snark back “And you haven’t?” Incidentally, another Slayer would say something about how slaying gets a girl “hungry and horny” but I digress.

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Spike tells Buffy that the one thing all vampires hope for is one good day and that Buffy is starting to think that she’s invincible. Buffy says that she can handle herself. Spike points out the wound in Buffy’s gut and they take things outside.

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Buffy starts sparring with Spike and Spike tells Buffy Lesson Number Two: Ask the right questions. It’s not “Why did he win?” It’s “Why did they lose?”

 

 

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Cut to the 1970s where a very cliche disco track plays over 1970s Spike’s battle with the New York Slayer, Nikki Wood. The flashback is interspersed with Spike and Buffy’s sparring in the alleyway. Spike explains that Nikki was more cunning and resourceful, similar to Buffy.

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“I could’ve danced all night with that one.”

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“You think we’re dancing?”

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“That’s all we’ve ever done.”

 

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Spike points out that the only thing about the dance of the Slayer is that the Slayer dances with death and it never stops. He knows that sooner or later death will catch up to Buffy. Every Slayer eventually has a death wish. What makes Buffy different, the reason she’s lived longer than most Slayers, is that she has ties to the world.

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Spike makes one more intimidating glare to Buffy, boasting to her that when she gets that death wish, he’ll be there to grant it.

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You can tell by Buffy’s face that Spike really got under her skin this time. And, well, even if Spike wasn’t a potential love interest, I would’ve been okay if Buffy died by Spike’s hands because he is a worthy opponent.

But…

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DAMMIT BUFFY HE WANTS TO KISS YOU! KISS HIM, YOU IDIOT!

Okay, I am gonna save the feels for later. Calm down.

 

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Buffy shoves Spike away and tells him that he’ll never get to her and says

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“You’re beneath me.”

Now, I’m not sure if Buffy knew how much hurt those words had on Spike. The episode never shows how exactly Spike told his origin story to Buffy. But she knew that they would hurt. I don’t blame Buffy for wanting to have the last word because, let’s be honest, Spike scared her. But I end up feeling sorry for Spike at the end of this scene instead of siding with Buffy and usually I am on Buffy’s side.

 

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Spike gets a shotgun at his crypt and plans on killing Buffy once and for all, but Harmony (Spike’s really lame “girlfriend”) points out that he won’t be able to kill Buffy because of the chip in his head that prevents him from really killing people. And she yells that even before Spike got the chip, he was never able to kill Buffy even though he had plenty of chances.

 

 

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Cut to a flashback with Drusilla, who still sees Buffy in Spike’s life. She’s cheating on him with a demon with antlers because she still sees Spike as covered with the Slayer. This flashback, by the way, takes place in Rio, where Spike and Dru went to after Season 2. The aftermath of this argument would lead to Spike appearing in Season 3’s “Lovers Walk.”

 

 

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The episode ends in Buffy’s house, where Joyce is packing for an overnight stay at the hospital. Joyce explains that she’s getting a CAT scan for whatever she has in her head. Buffy heads out to the back porch, burdened with the knowledge that something is wrong with her mother and that there’s nothing she can do about it. She starts crying as Spike slowly walks towards her, gun in hand. He starts arming himself when Buffy looks up at him with tear-filled eyes.

 

 

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Instead of killing her, he asks Buffy “What’s wrong?” She replies that doesn’t want to talk about it, so Spike goes to sit next to her, setting his gun aside to comfort her.

 

 

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Even though the two of them never exchange words, this final scene captures the nature of the Spike and Buffy relationship. In spite of Buffy not wanting to open up to Spike, Spike will always be there anyway because, unlike all the other vampires in the show, Spike has some levels of empathy.

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In several interviews, James Marsters has confessed that in spite of what Joss laid out about vampires being soulless, he always played Spike as having a soul. Spike having at least an echo of a human soul is clear in this episode. As I said before, I always interpreted the nature of the “soul” in vampires to be like souls of humans in a completely fallen state. The nature of the vampire brings out a person’s dark side and the human soul is still part of the vampire, but in a corrupt form. Humans, after all, are capable of horrific deeds in spite of the fact that we are created with souls.

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Buffy and Spike’s “relationship” from Seasons 2-7 takes on different natures. I’ll explain more as to how in another post. In Season 5, Spike is in love with Buffy, and yes, in spite of his idiotic actions in later episodes, I do think he’s in love and not just obsessing. He just acted in a very misguided manner because in my honest opinion, vampires don’t exactly lack souls as they do a moral conscience. The only reason he acts so rude to Buffy is because she’s acting rude to him. And yes, there is still a part of Spike that wants to kill her. But Spike fights against that nature more and more as the series progresses.

 

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I know I’m probably sounding like a blind fangirl here. I understand that some people see Spike as an evil being whose actions in Seasons 4-5 are like a criminal in a straitjacket, being forced to do good against his will. And well, a certain episode in Season 6 doesn’t help things. But when you look at the scene at the end of the episode, you can see that Spike hates seeing Buffy crying. And I think it’s because there’s still a part of William in Spike that empathized with Buffy’s sadness.

 

 

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It says a lot about James Marsters’s performance that Spike was able to capture the hearts of at least half the fandom. Spike wasn’t supposed to be sympathetic and yet he changes way more than Angel does. And Angel was given his own show. Five whole seasons of Angel and the brooding blockhead is still a brooding blockhead. By Season 5 of Buffy, Spike became complex and layered. It’s really no wonder why I have a Texas-sized crush on him.

 

 

 

So if you’re a Spike fan like me, check out this episode. It’s actually a good standalone compared to the rest of Season 5. It shows the stakes that Buffy has to deal with and, as I said before, shows the complicated nature of the Spike/Buffy relationship.

Screencaps are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

 

The Body: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #5

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS SHOW ENSUE! Also, if you’re a long-time fan of the show, there will be feels. Get tissues.

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“The Body” is the episode that I wish could’ve won an Emmy. Unlike most of the episodes here, this one is an out-and-out tear-jerking, dramatic episode. There isn’t any musical score in this episode, but to me, this episode didn’t need it. Music was necessary in “Hush” because it basically narrated throughout the silent parts. But this episode didn’t need music because the acting and story pretty much told you how to react. Lazy movie writers often use musical score as a manipulative way to tell people how to feel about a scene. Heck, even the theme song playing feels jarring compared to the silence of the rest of the episode. So yeah, in spite of what one of my friends said, I don’t mind the lack of musical score in this episode. The sounds of fans crying their eyes out is enough.

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The episode opens where the previous episode left off. Buffy returns home to find that her mom received flowers from a guy named Brian. She calls to her mom about picking up Dawn from school and then looks into the living room to find her mother on the couch, lying down, staring at the ceiling. If you’ve ever watched NCIS or any crime-scene procedural, you already know what happened to Joyce. But that doesn’t make the fallen expression from Buffy’s face any easier to take.

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After the opening, we see a flashback to Christmas dinner. It’s the last time that this show would make a reference to Christmas, by the way. It’s a happy memory, with Anya telling Dawn about what Santa Claus is really like and Buffy joking about Giles and Joyce staying away from the band candy. When it cuts back to Joyce’s blank expression and Buffy trying to wake her mother up, it’s really upsetting.

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Buffy calls 911 and tries to administer CPR to her mom, not accounting for the fact that her Slayer strength made her break one of her mom’s ribs. When Buffy gets off the phone with 911, she makes another call to Giles. The paramedics come in. Buffy explains that Joyce had a brain tumor that was operated on. Joyce starts coughing and regains consciousness and you think everything’s gonna be okay, but it’s just a cut-away daydream. The paramedics tell Buffy that Joyce is dead due to an aneurysm or a complication from the surgery. They plan to call the coroner’s office to take the body. What’s interesting is that the paramedic’s face isn’t shown as Buffy is looking at him and his tone is seriously cold.

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Buffy wanders around the house and vomits in a sitting room between her living room and kitchen. She looks outside to her backyard and the camera shows the despondent expression on her face. The only sound we hear is the windchimes until Giles comes in. When he finds Joyce on the floor, he goes to her until Buffy yells: “We’re not supposed to move the body.” There’s complete silence as Joyce’s body is taken out.

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Cut to Dawn crying over a boy teasing her. She and her friend complain about a mean girl who’s spreading rumors about Dawn. Dawn heads into art class, where there’s a class on negative space. The camera makes use of negative space throughout the episode. She starts making conversation with the cute boy next to her when Buffy comes in to deliver the bad news. Negative space is used again as Buffy takes Dawn out to the hallway. Instead of the scene being shown in close-up, we watch the scene through the window of the art classroom and the camera pans to show Dawn’s drawing of the statue, which looks like those dead body outlines from CSI.

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The next scene shows Willow and Tara in their dorm room. Willow is trying to decide what to wear. Xander and Anya are on their way to pick them up. Willow breaks down in tears, leading Tara to comfort her with the very first on-screen kiss between the two lovers. Now please don’t fire up the comboxes about LGBT issues. Willow and Tara’s relationship is a major part of this series and no matter what my personal feelings are about gay marriage, I loved them as a couple. And I’ll give Joss credit for showing this kiss as a completely natural thing between Willow and Tara and not just a thing for Sweeps Week.

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Xander and Anya arrive. Anya has no idea what to do. Willow, Xander, and Tara wonder if Joyce’s death was caused by the Big Bad of season 5, Glory, but that’s not the case. Xander blames the doctors for not taking care of the post-surgery complications. Anya keeps asking questions that make everyone uncomfortable, but she’s at a loss at understanding how she should deal with everything. Her monologue is one of my favorite moments in this episode because in spite of the fact that Anya’s a former vengeance demon, the things she said are very similar to what it feels like to experience loss for the first time.

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Xander punches a hole in the wall and the scene ends with a bit of comic relief as Xander, in his usual comic relief fashion, jokes about the hole in the wall. The gang all heads out as we see a police officer putting a parking ticket on Xander’s car.

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At the hospital, the doctor tells Buffy the results of the autopsy. Joyce died of a sudden aneurysm. Even if someone was with her, it would’ve been too late to do anything. There’s a quick scene that shows what might’ve been, but it was just another daydream, another empty wish. The doctor gives Buffy and Giles paperwork to fill out and leaves. Xander, Anya, and Willow all try to find words to comfort Buffy, but decide to go off to find Dawn, who went off to the bathroom. Tara, who lost her mother in the past, is the only one who stays with Buffy. Tara tells Buffy about how she lost her mother and says that she can help if necessary. Buffy asks Tara if her mother’s death was sudden. Tara says “It’s always sudden.”

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The last scene of the episode focuses on Dawn in the morgue, looking at her mother’s body. A vampire comes to life. Buffy rescues Dawn from the vampire and the two of them look at their mother’s body. My friend Welshy says that this last scene felt completely unnecessary and I can’t help but agree with him. Yes, this show is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer but aside from the fact that I wish Spike was in this episode to see how he handled Joyce’s death, there was no need for a vampire to come into this episode. This entire episode feels the most realistic and the vampire attack in the end just felt out of place.

“The Body” is a seriously wonderful episode in how everything was written. For me, it portrays how everyone tries to cope and deal with actual death. I don’t know how other people deal with the death of a loved one who died of old age or of cancer or some other kind of slow death, but for me, my first loss was sudden. In spite of the deaths and supernatural stuff that happens in Buffy, there were only two deaths in the show that made me cry. This was one of them. I don’t want to talk about the other one. And don’t guess in the comments either or I’ll be seeing red.

This is not an episode I recommend to casual viewers and most Buffy fans still have a lot of feels when they watch this one. But it’s a mark of a good show when the audience is affected so much by the death of a beloved character.