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There's been a lot of love on my f-list lately for The Gift. You know, the season 5 closer of that classic television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer?There is a whole bunch of really marvelous stuff in that episode. First among them is the wonderful riff on the St. Crispin's Day speech, perhaps my favorite moment ever between Spike and Giles:

GILES: "We few..."
GILES/SPIKE: "we happy few…"
SPIKE: "We band of buggered..."


There's the terribly sweet moment when Buffy and Spike head back to the house for weapons. There's the very cute opening with Buffy going back to basics protecting the hapless guy in the alley. Anya gets to shine in a way that just makes me wish she'd had the chance more often. Willow needing "courage" and Spike's response always cracks me up, as does the bit in the shop with the troll hammer. All those things are great — but it really isn't one of my favorite episodes. For late-season 5, I prefer Checkpoint, Intervention, and even Spiral to the finale.

I have my reasons. As a general rule, I don't count the episodes wherein my darlings die as "favorites". Since Buffy — the lead, the heroine, my girl — meets her end in this, I can't really love it. Also, Dawn being so thoroughly endangered is not enjoyable to me. But the real reason I'm not as enthusiastic as some is that I can't made sense of the ending.

Yeah, yeah. "It's Summers blood." "The monks made her out of me." "Death is your gift." "It's always gotta be blood." I get all that. But...Buffy's blood is NOT Dawn's blood. Buffy is NOT the Key. If she were, Glory could've gone for her, and she didn't. So I just don't buy that Buffy's literal life's blood is interchangeable with Dawn's, however much she might wish it. The ending that would have made sense to me is Buffy thinking she had figured it out and making the ultimate sacrifice...but being wrong. That she wasn't wrong is sort of unbelievable. I've read fic wherein Spike drains or almost drains Dawn to make the blood stop flowing, and I can see that. Buffy jumping? Very heroic and tragically beautiful, but not actually sense-making.

Also, if Buffy dying at this point had been the end of the series, I would not be such a fan. That's not a satisfying finish for me, not as the end to a hero's journey and certainly not a female hero's journey, since those stories are so rare. She comes back in 147 days, so it's moot and I won't belabor it. But I would have been very cross, and disagree with people who wish the story had ended there, just as I disagree — on different grounds — that the show should have ended at Graduation Day.

Obviously, other people have different opinions about this episode and every other thing to do with BtVS, and power to them. I'll just continue on preferring other things about the show.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebcake.dreamwidth.org/22546.html. Please comment here or there using OpenID.

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
zanthinegirl
Mar. 5th, 2012 08:03 am (UTC)
Excellent points.

I adore Dawn, but really very little about the whole "Key" arch holds up to serious thought. I've occasionally thought that the storyline/ sacrifice would make more sense if Dawn was Buffy's daughter instead of her sister. I'm also a sucker for fanfic that has that premiss, and I'm not a normally a huge fan of babyfic.

I was totally spoiled for the Gift when it aired; and I knew the show was coming back. Frankly I never really considered that Buffy's sacrifice would be permanent. I remember arguing with friends (IRL, I pretty much just lurked on-line in those days) about how they'd bring her back. It's really hard to separate that from the sacrifice.

The Gift makes a dramatic season ending, and it's very emotionally satisfying. But I adore season 6, and I love depressed and detached Buffy. I'm just thankful the story didn't end on the scaffold!
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
I suppose I was spoiled, but at this point it hardly matters. ;-)

I'm not sure if Dawn being Buffy's daughter would make the transfer of blood powers any more understandable to me, but I can see how it would emphasize the emotional side. (I have a soft spot for fic where Dawn is still a teenager, but they discover she is made up of Buffy AND Spike, presumably so she'll have more protectors.)

Maybe I just wasn't ready for Buffy not to be here?
ms_scarletibis
Mar. 5th, 2012 08:40 am (UTC)
No, I agree. Dawn's blood is Buffy's, but Buffy's blood isn't Dawn's. I found a lot of things problematic with that whole arc now that I've had time to think about it, but I can overlook a lot of the things that don't make sense. The plot holes were actually quite small in comparison to oh say "Chosen," which...is a finale I didn't particularly care for.

I think when some say that they wish the series had ended here is because they didn't care for the direction of s6 and beyond. That being said, I think there were a few gems in the latter two seasons, and without it, I wouldn't have gotten the brilliance of Ats 5, which is my favorite of all, so I can't complain :p
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
Heh. I've rewritten Chosen to make sense of the plot holes, so they don't bother me so much anymore. I'm actually okay with the mechanics of it. (Spike is so full of awesome that he can take out a whole city! Of course he is!) Certainly the plan was ridiculous and the amulet appeared out of nowhere, which was graceless but effective. But the "sharing of power" is a beautiful expression of how women work best, so I give that points on the feminism-o-meter, especially in comparison to the heroine dying alone and martyred.

People definitely have different ideas about where the story should end. It all reminds me of the saying that any story can have a happy ending, so long as you end it early enough.
ceciliaj
Mar. 5th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
Ha, that is a good saying :).
beer_good_foamy
Mar. 5th, 2012 10:59 am (UTC)
I love "The Gift", and I can even roll with the whole blood nonsense (as long as I get to poke fun at it), but I completely agree that it would not have been a good ending. The end of Buffy's story shouldn't be that she sacrifices her life like every other thirteen-per-dozen hero. It wraps up the third act of her story, but it doesn't solve anything, it doesn't end the story, especially not the story they set up with s5. She needs to return and transcend her story, not be a victim of it.

I've read fic wherein Spike drains or almost drains Dawn to make the blood stop flowing, and I can see that. Buffy jumping? Very heroic and tragically beautiful, but not actually sense-making.

I've seen at least one fic where Buffy jumps... and it doesn't help. At all. She dies pointlessly, and the apocalypse continues until Giles kills Dawn. Suffice to say, it wasn't a very happy fic.
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I wouldn't have enjoyed a season finale where Buffy dies needlessly, even if the narrative would have been more understandable to me. Buffy-the-victim is pretty much never the story I wanted on screen. I can take darker stuff in fic, where poking at possibilities is just good, clean fun!

Carry on making fun of whatever you like, dear! Perhaps if I reworked The Gift in my own way, like I did with Chosen I'd be able to make peace with it.
beer_good_foamy
Mar. 5th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
One of the first fics I wrote had vamp!Dawn telling Spike that if he wouldn't have sex with her, she'd spend the whole day trying to explain to him how the blood sacrifice thing worked. Spike relented in about 5 seconds. After that, I pretty much had it out of my system.
rebcake
Mar. 6th, 2012 07:19 am (UTC)
I'd probably give in to vamp!Dawn myself. She's diabolical that way.
red_satin_doll
Aug. 10th, 2012 01:34 pm (UTC)
I love "The Gift", and I can even roll with the whole blood nonsense (as long as I get to poke fun at it), but I completely agree that it would not have been a good ending. The end of Buffy's story shouldn't be that she sacrifices her life like every other thirteen-per-dozen hero. It wraps up the third act of her story, but it doesn't solve anything

Yes to this, and thank you. I love watching the episode for a lot of reasons, and that last scene works on an emotional level - yes the waterworks come, even if I'm aware I'm being manipulated (and after the first time watching, that VO speech to Dawn seems, in hindsight, if anything, a preview of Buffy's awful speechifying in S7. Great hero, great warrior, not so good with the talking.) But I also LOVE Bargaining immensely, and S6 is my favorite because it's the one that touches me most deeply (and - the sex. Yes, please.)

But as much as I enjoy the episode - and Buffy's conversation in the training room is MUCH better written IMO than the speech on the tower - the whole blood thing? Huh? I thought it was about the mystical energy itself? And if blood was needed to open the portal why not leave the key as a ball of energy or turn it into something inanimate that CANNOT bleed? (I've read a suggestion that it's actually meant as a metaphor for menstruation, which may be silly - that never occured to me - but not terribly farfetched either. And if true - a bit icky IMO.)

She needs to return and transcend her story, not be a victim of it.
This is partly why I can't agree with folks who wish it had ended with the Gift, either. I love the season-long exploration of women's relationships with one another, (even the Bid Bad is in the form of a woman, a sort of hyper-metastasized version of early Cordy) and of domestic relationships, but the notion that the story would end with Buffy sacrificing herself to save her little sister struck me as being too much of a common trope - that women sacrifice themselves for their families, that they put their loved ones before themselves and that's just how it should be. That notion seems to me completely at odds with the subversive nature of the show's premise. If it had merely been about another female martyr - no thanks.

Over at ATV Club I have read multiple comments by people who wished it had ended with Graduation Day. Basically anything that happened after S3 was unfunny, poorly-written, and, oh yeah, too much of a certain character over the Core Four. I agree with the poster here who said that if it had ended there we wouldn't still be talking or writing about it. It's the sum total of the series, not so much the few disconnected moments, the darkness and the light, that elevate the show to art.

Edited at 2012-08-10 01:41 pm (UTC)
goldenusagi
Mar. 5th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
Pretty much why The Gift is not one of my favorites.
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
Okay. Not just me, then. Thanks!
treadingthedark
Mar. 5th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
I really agree. There are a lot of great moments in The Gift, but Buffy being able to jump in Dawn's place makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Never has, never will. The end.
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
Right. I'm sure it makes emotional sense or something, but I just don't get it. I'm glad that other people can squee, though. I like a squeeful world.
rahirah
Mar. 5th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
It's sympathetic magic. One of the major principles of sympathetic magic is that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. If you have fingernail clippings from someone, you can make a voodoo doll with them, stick pins in it, and the person the clippings came from will feel pain. If Dawn is drawn from Buffy in some fashion, and Buffy dies, then it's the metaphysical equivalent of Dawn dying.
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
Well, now you've got me wishing that Willow had mocked up a little Dawn voodoo doll for them to throw into the abyss, if that's all it would take!

I see what you're saying, but I just can't buy that you can make a voodoo stand-in out of another person, or another person's parts. I understand that sacrificing yourself for the sake of a family member has resonance (Hunger Games being the most recent example), but the way it played out in this doesn't work for me on the mystical level. Obviously, not everyone feels that way, and I'm happy they're happy.
molly_may
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
It would be in my top ten for all the scenes you list, plus the one in the training room between Buffy and Giles, which I think is such a powerfully written, directed, and acted scene.

I can buy the shared blood thing - I wish it were better set up, but I can go with it - but I would have haaaated it if this were the last episode of the series. It would have been the equivalent of saying that the best way a woman can be heroic is to sacrifice herself. I much prefer the "sharing our strength" ending of Chosen as a final message from the show.

just as I disagree — on different grounds — that the show should have ended at Graduation Day.

If the show had ended at Graduation Day (or The Gift, for that matter), I can't imagine I would still be talking about it today. It would just be a fond memory of a favorite show. The last few seasons is what puts BtVS into "obsession for life" territory for me.
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
I definitely prefer the message about women's power in Chosen. It's odd because it doesn't actually save the day or win the battle (the awesome of Spike does that) but it's so inspirational. Women helping other women to be powerful is what happens in real life and I love the metaphorical/mystical expression of that as a way to end the show. Not that it's not without it's problems. Great power comes with great respon...or is it that power corrup...um, there can always be more to the story.

Yeah, I'm just really glad it didn't end with a picture of Buffy's grave marker.
cindergal
Mar. 5th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
I adore The Gift, and have often said it would have been a better ending for BtVS. However, I'm sure that's only in retrospect - if it had actually ended there and I have never seen S6 & S7, I would have been really ticked off. ;-) (I don't hate the last two seasons, but I do have issues.)

The blood thing doesn't bother me, but then again I have to handwave a lot of the magic in the Buffyverse, so... *g*
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
I have to handwave a lot of the magic in the Buffyverse

Heh. Well, there is that. I'm usually okay with it when they say "this doohickey will accomplish X" and then it either does or goes terribly wrong. I sort of prefer when it goes terribly wrong, of course.

But "your blood is my blood — even though you are a ball of mystic energy that we've spent the whole season saying is unique — so we're interchangeable now" was just too much for me to swallow. Clearly not everybody needs to feel that way.

Yeah, I'd have probably pitched a fit if the last bit of Buffy we got was a shot of her gravestone. Grrrr. Also: what!? No Once More With Feeling? Would the show be the perennial sensation it is without the sing-alongs? Hard to imagine...
hello_spikey
Mar. 5th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
I've always felt killing a main character was a cop out for closure in heroic fiction any way, but, yeah, the whole rational for Buffy needed to sacrifice herself was so convoluted. How awesome and dark it would have been if she was wrong! (And Devastated!Spike would have to drain Dawn, or maybe StoneCold!Giles would be forced to push Dawn off the precipice. WOW dark dark dark)

But that would not have ENDED things neatly right where time ran out on the season.

Honestly, I do wonder sometimes about Joss' plotting ability. :P
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
Devastated!Spike would have to drain Dawn, or maybe StoneCold!Giles would be forced to push Dawn off the precipice

The pain! It would be awesome, but I'm really glad we didn't have to watch it play out in those ways. If there were fic, however, I'd be all over that.

Yeah, I don't know if I can point fingers at Joss' poor plotting, due to 4 of them pointing right back at me. It wouldn't have taken much to set this blood thing up adequately, but Joss is entirely too smitten with the surprise twist. It obscures the point he's trying to make, I think, as we saw with the whole soul quest deal. It's true that we're all so sneaky and able to ferret out plausible storylines in advance, but that doesn't mean he needs to go with the patently implausible ones, does it?
(Deleted comment)
rebcake
Mar. 5th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I think I would have been placated by a reality wherein bleeding Dawn at the correct time and place actually caused her "energy" to start flowing and be freed from the shell (which would then be destroyed/drained/deflated). I can't see the energy just stopping when she does. I do enjoy fic wherein Dawn survives and retains her Key powers, though. I'm less excited by the "oh, it's gone now — she's normal" tack the show seemed to take. Energy doesn't work that way!

I can suspend my disbelief pretty far, but this was too much. Either Dawn is unique or she isn't. Make up your minds, writers!
(Deleted comment)
rebcake
Mar. 6th, 2012 07:24 am (UTC)
Yeah Joss keeps insisting that Dawn is "normal" now, which makes me think we might get some Keyness again at some point! *fingers crossed*
kats_meow
Mar. 6th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)
I absolutely loved "The Gift," though I was spoiled for Buffy coming back in Season 6 or else I would've cried bitter, unhappy tears as I did about OTHER things. But that doesn't mean it made total sense or I can't poke it with a pointy stick.

I remember when I was watching it live, the Mr. was watching with me 'cause we only had the one TV at the time and no DVR (ah, memories). I remember him saying, "Aw man, because they did the blood sisters routine in the flashback, THAT means they have the same blood?!" ::shrugs::

I always took it as that Dawn was not a real sibling but an actual piece of Buffy whirling around, going back to that convo with the dying monk ("She's not my sister?" "She doesn't know that.") and reiterating to the beginning of The Gift (Giles saying "She's not your sister," and Buffy saying, "She's more than that...she's me.") And that when Buffy jumps in and the portal is closed, that's the "proof" of how their blood was one and the same.

Yeah, that's all I got ;)
rebcake
Mar. 6th, 2012 07:32 am (UTC)
They really did try to push the parallels between them, which I got, like an anvil. I just can't get past the Dawn=Key, Buffy≠Key part of the equation. I'm sure the fault lies with my lack of imagination, but there you have it.

Oh, well. There's naked Spike on the horizon, so all is well.
samsom
Mar. 6th, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)
Also, if Buffy dying at this point had been the end of the series, I would not be such a fan.

Thank you. I love The Gift for all the reasons you mentioned, and I thought it was very poetic, Buffy's jump - kind of brings home Spike's assertion that no matter what, friends, family, someone who adores and loves her just waiting in the wings, the Slayer is, ultimately, alone - but if the series had ended with The Gift, it wouldn't have sat right with me in the least.

We have so few female heroes on a Hero's Journey, it wouldn't have been right to end Buffy's in death when so many other, male, journeys get to end in...something other than death.
rebcake
Mar. 6th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
We have so few female heroes on a Hero's Journey, it wouldn't have been right to end Buffy's in death when so many other, male, journeys get to end in...something other than death.

Word. Fortunately, we got more!
angearia
Mar. 15th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
SHARED BLOOD ICON

I think for me the issue is that it's not about the Key energy stopping flowing, but simply the blood itself. So the blood is made from Buffy's blood and yeah, by making the Key out of Buffy, the magic that applies to the Key's form then ropes Buffy in as bizarre loophole.

rebcake
Mar. 16th, 2012 06:09 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know this isn't really a problem for lots of people, but for me the bizarre loophole is bizarre.

It's weird. I can suspend my disbelief for robots, hellgods, and troll hammers, but not for "their shared blood means the slayer can fill in for the key".

I think it might have something to do with my preference for prose over poetry, actually. I like lots of poetry, but it doesn't trump prose for me. Beauty, emotion, and metaphor are nifty, but I lose interest if the metaphor is off.
boot_the_grime
Mar. 16th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
I like The Gift as an episode and season finale, but I would have HATED it as a series finale, and I think it would have sent a terrible message and been a really defeating ending - the ultimate fate of the female hero is to die young as a martyr, like most of the Slayers before her.

Graduation Day also wouldn't have been a good ending. But I don't know as many people who claim that it would be, compared to those who insist that "it should have ended with The Gift", which has almost made me resent the episode, even if it's not its fault since it was never intended as a season finale.

I'm not one of those people who are satisfied with Chosen as the ending either - I have lots of problems with it, and I'm glad there are comics to continue the story - but it serves as a better series finale than The Gift, even if (unpopular opinion) Chosen is a really flawed episode that I would rate 3.5 stars out of 5, if I'm feeling generous and allowing its great parts and its intentions to make up for its many flaws and clumsy execution.
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