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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Restless

(Below is my original review written when season four aired. As time passed, I slowly realized that "Restless" was brilliant, and it became one of my favorite episodes. Near the end of season seven, I wrote a long (and I mean long) essay about it that got some attention. Link here. If you haven't seen the entire series, though, don't go there and spoil yourself! And now back to my original review.)

Giles: "Stay in character, remember your lines, and energy, energy, energy!"

This was either a really good episode or a really bad one. I'm still kind of floundering around about it. I always like Buffy the Vampire Slayer dream sequences, but this was way too much of a good thing.

In a nutshell: the spell that Giles, Willow and Xander cast to join with Buffy pissed off the source of the Slayer's Power, and the spirit of the First Slayer acted out this state of pissoff by chasing the four of them in their dreams. I think. Either that, or it was a long commercial for Kraft American singles.

In a football stadium: Willow, the Spirit of the spell, had a dream that centered on hiding her real self and her relationship with Tara. There were several references to names (the kitten not having a name, "have you told me your real name?", the Greek letters Willow was painting on Tara's back), mixed in with some standard anxiety dreams when Willow discovered that the drama class that she wasn't even taking yet was putting on a production of Death of a Salesman, and where she ended up stripped down to her younger self in front of a class of her friends who were all snickering at her. "The audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive. So hide!" Giles told the actors.

Xander, the Heart of the spell, had failure dreams relating to both his work life and his sex life. He kept encountering the women in his life and they were all trying to get him into bed, but he never got there; no matter where he went, he kept ending up in his parents' basement. His work failures were represented by the ice cream truck and by Giles training Spike, of all people, to be a Watcher. "Come on, put your back into it! A Watcher scoffs at gravity." The standard anxiety dream bit was peeing in front of the entire Initiative. The Apocalypse Now stuff would probably have been a lot funnier if I'd ever seen the movie.

Giles, the Mind of the spell, couldn't figure out what was going on even though he has "enormous swishy frontal lobes." My favorite scene was when Giles went up on stage at the Bronze and sang that he had to warn Buffy, while Xander and Willow were researching and simultaneously holding up their lighters. I also got a charge out of Spike "hiring himself out as an attraction," posing for tourists in his crypt. Giles getting scalped at the end fit right in.

Buffy was the Hands of the spell, and spent her dream looking for her friends – which didn't seem to include Riley. Does she distrust Riley, deep down? It seems that she might, or she wouldn't have seen him drawing up a plan for world domination with Adam, now would she?

This episode was extremely well written and there was a lot going on. There were a lot of guest stars wandering in and out – Snyder, Olivia, Harmony, Adam without makeup. There was a unifying plot. But did it all make up a good episode?

There have been quite a few outstanding episodes this season – specifically the Halloween episode, the Thanksgiving episode, and "Hush" – but other than that, this season has been something of a disappointment. The Initiative and Maggie Walsh had real potential as villains but that whole plot arc and Adam just fizzled out. Riley is an interesting character, but frankly, he could disappear tomorrow and I wouldn't miss him. The Buffy Powers That Be made the right move bringing Spike back into the cast, but they've underutilized him. Faith's return was interesting but it could have been better.

Maybe Buffy the Vampire Slayer is suffering mildly from growing pains and Chris Carter syndrome. It's still my favorite show, though, and I hope what Tara said to Buffy was true: "You think you know what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."


Riley: "Having the inside scoop on the administration's own Bay of Mutated Pigs is definitely an advantage."
Willow: "It's like you're blackmailing the government. In a patriotic way."

Xander: "Well, we got plenty of vids. And I'm putting in a preemptive bid for Apocalypse Now, huh?"
Willow: "Did you get anything less heart-of-darkness-y?"
Xander: "Apocalypse Now is a gay romp. It's the feel-good movie of whatever year it was."

Xander: "So whatcha been doin'? Doing spells? She does spells with Tara."
Oz: "Yeah, I heard about that."
Xander: "Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell, and then I do a spell by myself."

Buffy: "Want some corn?"
Xander: "Butter flavor?"
Buffy: "New car smell."

Anya: "You don't want me to have a hobby."
Xander: "Not a vengeance hobby, no! It's dangerous. People can't do anything they want. Society has rules, and borders, and an end zone."

Snyder: "I walked by your guidance counselor's office one time. A bunch of you were sitting there, waiting to be shepherded. I remember it smelled like dead flowers. Like decay. Then it hit me. The hope of our nation's future is a bunch of mulch."
Xander: "You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake."

Giles: "What am I supposed to do with all of this?"
Spike: "You gotta make up your mind, Rupes. What are you wasting your time for? Haven't you figured it all out yet, with your enormous squishy frontal lobes?"

Bald man: "I wear the cheese. It does not wear me."
Giles: "Honestly, you meet the most appalling sorts of people."

Tara: "You think you know what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."
Buffy: "I think I need to go find the others."
Tara: "Be back before dawn."
(Note from later on: this is an obvious reference to a character introduced next season.)

Riley: "They made me Surgeon General."
Buffy: "Why didn't you come and tell me? We could have celebrated."
Riley: "We're drawing up a plan for world domination. The key element? Coffeemakers that think."

Willow: "The First Slayer. Wow."
Xander: "Not big with the socialization."
Willow: "Or the floss."
Giles: "Somehow our joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer's power was an affront to the source of that power."
Buffy: "You know, you could have brought that up to us before we did it."
Giles: "I did. I said there could be dire consequences."
Buffy: "Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast."

No rating for this one because I can't decide on a number,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. Wow. Tripppppyy!

    I went and spoiled myself because I couldn't resist reading your later take on this episode.

    If all this was foreshadowing and that thought out, I am very impressed....see, LOST??...it could have been done (yes, I am one of "those" not-so-happy-with-the-ending-fans)

    Even though I now know a few things that I probably should not, I have no idea how we get from point A to point B...and I am looking forward to finding out.

    I can see why most folks put this season as their least favorite (I can't say yet), but there were some outstanding episodes in there!

  2. Your note at the top interested me. The first time through the series I so disliked this episode that I have never watched it again. I watched it again today and was amazed at how much more I liked it and how much more I got out of it.

    One thing that really stands out is how well each of the dreams mirrors the person having it. And, I loved the guest spots and where they appeared. Why would Xander dream about Snyder?

    From the perspective of someone who has now seen the entire series, the foreshadowing is tremendous. I will stop now, but all kudos to Joss and the writing staff. Truly remarkable job.

  3. For ChrisB:
    Xander's dream was about failure and Snyder was always putting them down in high school so if anyone was going to say those lines it had to be him. At least that's how I would interpret it. I agree that this is an amazing episode especially when rewatching it after you've seen the entire series. Love this site and all you who contribute!

  4. I missed the "of" in "all of you" at the end...I hate when that happens!

  5. The first thing I thought when I finished the last episode was - the next one is the cheese episode, yeah! The cheese guy emphasized that these dreams were as you say 'stream of consciousness' but connected by cheese! I've always loved this episode and the foreshadowing in it. I just thought the writers and the actors must have been having a blast. There could have been lots of way to introduce the first slayer and to highlight the undercurrents in our characters but of course Joss did it in an unbelievably clever way. The heart, the spirit and the mind were vulnerable on their own but they are the power of Buffy. They keep her tied to the world and to things other than just being a killer (but I bet killer's sneeze too.)

  6. It is so much more enjoyable than the first time I watched it. I absolutely agree that it's easier to appreciate with a knowledge of later seasons.
    It is just so well crafted, ranks up there among the best episodes.

  7. Great direction and set design, impressive how they moved in and out of the "rooms" in the dreams... !

  8. Seconding Hugo's comment. Such a good freaking episode.. wish I had something more to add.

  9. Anonymous, I didn't let your comment go up because it includes a fifth season spoiler. We're pretty serious here about not spoiling future episodes.


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