Restless [SPOILERS] • S04E22 • TPN's Buffy Guide

Coda is a musical term meaning the concluding passage of a piece, typically forming an addition to the basic structure ‘Season 4’’s arc ended with ‘Primeval’ putting the story and the themes to bed with varying degrees of success I had complained in the ‘Primeval’ review that some of the juicy character bits felt bypassed in the service of tying everything off What WAS there felt rushed or I wanted more of it ‘Restless’ is almost entirely an exploration of character through four consecutive dream sequences There is a narrative to give the episode some sense of imperative but it is basic and, ultimately, anticlimactic As dreams can be It’s such an unusual episode that I don’t think my normal essay format will be effective That being summary, analysis, conclusion A narrative summary of four dreams is pointless What matters in ‘Restless’ are the details The meaning is in the texture of the moments, and not in the events themselves So instead I want to do something I don’t, usually And go through it scene by scene, spending as much time as we have to on the details, themes and foreshadowing What I’ve ended with are essentially four essays, with a conclusion to try and tie them all together There is a LOT of foreshadowing future episodes – so many that if I used my usual approach of non-contextual spoiler cutaways, I think it would make this episode Guide feel psychotically disjointed But I respect that there are a certain number of you watching that have not finished the show yet To that end, I have created two versions of this video, a version that completely spoils future events and one that does not You are watching the spoiler version If you would like to watch the non-spoiler version, click on the link in the top right, or on the link in the description A few things I want to acknowledge before we go any further (I told ya this was gonna be a different kind of video) Every scene in ‘Restless’ is packed with detail, and writing this essay required a fair amount of research I’ve tried to cite my sources properly in the video description and, as always, I especially want to thank my friend, Mark Field, for his support, and his book ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Myth Metaphor & Morality’ Rhonda Wilcox also has a wonderfully detailed breakdown of the episode in her book, ‘Why Buffy Matters’ Both are linked in the description Second, ‘Restless’ is wide open to interpretation and reading Some of what I’ll present here I know was intended, as Whedon made a very thorough commentary track But some of the interpretations I’ll offer, may not have been Much of the foreshadowing I’ll touch on was probably not planned at the time ‘Restless’ was produced, The thing is, I’m not particularly worried about any of that ‘Buffy’ as a piece of art is completed and WE get to say what it means You may find my take compelling or not Either way, I invite you to leave your own in the comments below Third, I have said, once or twice, that the show’s feminism felt dated and less progressive today than it did at the time And in the review for the ‘Angel’ episode ‘War Zone’, I brought up why representation in art matters, but not just any representation To that end, I can’t go without acknowledging the First Slayer and Buffy’s hair care comment Quoting from her glowing article about ‘Restless’ in The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg put it best when she said: “There are certainly things that don’t hold up about [‘Restless’].” “A marker of the intellectual development of mainstream feminism in the decades” “…since “Buffy” arrived on television” “is that if “Restless” aired today,” “it would have been immediately taken to task for presenting the First Slayer as a savage, mute figure” “…who needs Tara to turn her thoughts into words.” “Let her speak for herself.” “That’s what’s done in polite circles.” These kinds of acknowledgments are not intended as indictments of the past but I think they have value when considering our present I’ll get into that more when we get to ‘Seeing Red’ Finally, a word of warning Writing this essay has altered my relationship with this episode in a way that I’m not going to be able to undo I have methodically worked through every shot, and decided what I think the Cheese Man is Why Cordelia’s outfit might be in Willow’s dream Why Joyce is in the walls and what it means when Buffy walks away Now that I THINK I know what these things are, they will probably never be anything else for me And I find that a little sad There is some joy in an impenetrable mystery – especially one as vibrant, and rich and beautiful as ‘Restless’ Unusually, the previously on for ‘Restless’ goes immediately into the opening titles No cold open This happens only one other time in the series and the intention was they didn’t want the post credits credits over any of the dream sequences The story opens by getting rid of Riley Already a candidate for best episode of the season The Gang has rented videos for the evening and Xander puts his bid in for ‘Apocalypse Now’ “Did you get anything less…” “…’Heart-of -Darkness’-y?” “’Apocalypse Now’ is a gay romp.” By the time the FBI warning scene is done Right off the bat, the Beck score combined with this push-in shot on Willow sets a haunting whimsical tone It’s very entrancing Willow’s dream opens in Tara’s bedroom, with her painting something on Tara’s back

and Miss Kitty Fantastico on the floor attacking a ball of string The stunning image is an homage to the 1996 film that co-starred Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor called ‘The Pillow Book’ And the poem Willow is writing in Greek, is a poem by Sappho Sappho was a female poet who lived on the island of Lesbos around 6 BC Of the fragments we have of her poetry, many were about women’s love for women Which is how we get the term “sapphic” and “lesbian” The lines Willow has written read: “Aphrodite, on a many-colored throne,” “deathless, daughter of Zeus,” “weaver of wiles,” “I now beg you: don’t, my mistress,” “crush my spirit with anguish and torment.” “But, if ever you heard my voice before from afar,” “…come.” There’s also a pretty wonderful visual pun in this shot, which Tara makes clear “You don’t know everything about me.” The line is a callback to something unexplained earlier in the season, where Tara deliberately sabotaged a spell Willow was trying to cast We really don’t know everything about Tara yet, and so the writing on her back in a language unknown is a visual representation of us not yet knowing her BACKstory Tara also reveals what will be the continuing theme of Willow’s dream “They will find out, you know.” “About you.” This entire dream has a mislead in it, which is pretty effective when layered with the sexual metaphors that have been used throughout the season And we’re SUPPOSED to be reminded of Willow not wanting to share Tara with the Scoobies earlier in the season More subtle in the scene is the representation of Tara and Willow as yin and yang, which will occur again later in the episode Tara is lit with halo of light She is calm Peaceful Willow leans over her with a shadow across her face She is clothed, and Tara isn’t, foreshadowing the end of Willow’s dream, which, throughout she is unsure and anxious Willow describes Tara’s room as the place where she is safe Tara is the light, and Willow, the dark There has been some indication of darkness in Willow, and that she might need some sort of grounding influence In ‘Doppelgangland’, Vampire Willow had no soul In ‘Wild at Heart’, her relationship with Oz now broken, she nearly cast a spell of torment on him but stopped at the last minute And in ‘Something Blue’, lacking Oz, Willow’s amok spell gained her an open invitation into D’Hoffryn’s ranks as a Vengeance Demon Of course later, when Glory steals part of Tara’s essence we see the most frightening portrayal yet, of the dark when the light goes out But there is a stanza near the end of Sappho’s poem, a verse that Willow has not yet gotten to write, which in the context of Willow and Tara’s relationship is even more foreboding: For if she flees, soon she’ll pursue, “she doesn’t accept gifts, but she’ll give,” “if not now loving, soon she’ll love” “even against her will.” Seeing Oz in the following scene always makes me joyful, especially casual and drama free Oz I don’t think there’s any other character on the show that gives me the warm fuzzies in quite the way he does This scene essentially has two purposes First, as the dream is about identity and sexuality, the scene could be read as Willow doesn’t need the two men in her life now, that once rejected her And the second, is Xander’s joke “Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell” “…and then I do a spell by myself.” OK This joke is a bit polarizing in the fandom On one hand, I think it’s pretty funny and meta and I laughed the first time I saw the episode – especially given Oz’s deadpan, “Why are you…you?” expression Sex had been metaphorically shown through magic So having Xander in a metaphor-laden dream make a masturbation joke was funny On the other hand, Willow’s dream is supposed to be about HER and HER sexuality and the fears that arise when you’re having to find the courage to openly be yourself To include a male masturbation joke in the midst of those themes was probably in bad taste Not only that, but Willow has exited the shot when Xander delivers the line which, from a visual storytelling standpoint, breaks the narrative cohesion of the dream which has been tied to Willow’s perspective Something Whedon acknowledges in the episode’s commentary track Willow wanders backstage during the first performance of a play that she is a part of This is second time Willow’s dreams have been about drama [Child, through whose eyes the witchery is shining] But this time, the use of it has a different slant Where ‘Nightmares’ was more about general stage fright, the use of it here is centered on the idea of acting like something you are not “You’re already in character!” “I should have done that!” “Costume?” (“Did anyone see that?”) “Acting isn’t about behavior, it’s about hiding.” Tara’s comment about people finding out about her lead us to believe this may all be about Willow’s sexuality But Willow is already out with her friends, so the notion that she’s ‘hiding’ implies there is some other insecurity going on here The symbols in this scene are a little more ambiguous The play is supposedly ‘Death of a Salesman’, loosely about the death of a man’s spirit and hope who then kills himself Whedon has said that all of the outfits represent exaggerated gender roles and how dumb they are So Harmony as the milk maid “Why, hello, little lady.” “Can I hold those milk pails for you?” [audience laughs] Harmony: “Why, thank you–“

A cowboy Etc In every dream, though, I think we’re seeing people as the dreamer sees them Willow sees Riley as a dull white hat Giles as dashingly handsome Buffy is dressed as a 20s flapper and may represent a few different characters She might be Daisy Buchanan from ‘The Great Gatsby’, a beautiful but vapid socialite, whose decisions eventually lead to another character’s suicide The novel also fits in a bit with ‘Season 4’’s themes of meaning and identity being thrust upon you, rather than finding your own Another interpretation I’ve read is Buffy may be dressed as Velma from the musical ‘Chicago’ In the story, Velma is an attention-seeking murderer who ends up in jail With both interpretations there is the idea that Willow sees Buffy as a killer aaaaaannd somewhat empty headed “The non-violent approach is probably better here.” “I wasn’t gonna use violence.” “Was it wrong?” “Should I use the plural?” “No.” “But…you said,” “The cow should touch me from Thursday.”” “When in the real world am I ever gonna need chemistry…” “…or history…” “…or…math…” “…or the…English language.” [radio fiddling] “Eyes on the road!” “Eyes on the road!” “Just tell me I didn’t snore.” “Very discreet,–” The shooting script for the episode also describes the backdrop as lemon-yellow, a painted sunrise In other words, the dawn And in the scene transition, we meet that icon of the show: “I’ve made a little space for the cheese slices.” The Cheese Man MMmm…more on that later on And Willow proceeds into a narrow passage of curtains which…I mean-I-I…it could be an homage to ‘Twin– —it’s a vagina Whedon says so in the commentary It’s…a vagina hallway Tara appears again and restates the idea that Willow is hiding something of herself: “Everyone is starting to wonder about you.” “The real you.” “If they find out…” “…they’ll punish you.” “I-I can’t help you with that.” Willow’s dream culminates in a classroom, where Buffy tears her costume off, her cool gay college identity, to reveal who she truly fears she still is A hapless, insecure, scorned, lonely nerd wearing the same outfit she was wearing when she and Buffy first met Her book report is on ‘The Lion, (or Miss Kitty Fantastico), The Witch (Tara) and the Wardrobe, (her outfit she’s wearing throughout that hides the real her)’ And the shot of Oz and Tara talking (both of them looking absolutely fierce by the way) I think points to the fact that her dream really isn’t about sexuality That has been part of it as it is a part of her identity, but both Oz AND Tara find her worthy of abuse, meaning gay or straight doesn’t matter Either way she’s just afraid some part of her intrinsic being inevitably means she isn’t worthy of being loved Broadly, her wardrobe is tied to her magical awakening, and for the rest of the series Willow will struggle with an attachment to magic as the only thing that makes her special, and not that pained and lonely sophomore Anya’s line then “It’s exactly like a Greek tragedy.” “We should only be Greeks.” is more about the future of Willow’s arc than the present Having been reduced to her lowest point, the First Slayer attacks and attempts to murder her by sucking out her spirit The aspect of the enjoining spell she represented in ‘Primeval’ “Spiritus” “…Spirit.” “Animus” “…Heart.” In the transition to Xander’s dream, we see that somehow the Scoobs are crossing over to each other Xander could only be aware of Willow choking if remnants of Willow’s dream were seeping into his ‘Apocalypse Now’ is playing, only…not really And I love the bit with Xander remembering the movie better than it is Giles describes both ‘Apocalypse Now’ and the show itself: “Oh, I’m beginning to understand this now.” “It’s all about the journey, isn’t it?” Xander goes upstairs to pee and finds silky Joyce Honestly, I understand Xander’s unaddressed inappropriate sexual comments that bother people in the rest of the series But within the confines of his own subconscious, I find the sexualization considerably less egregious I can only speak for what it was like being a teenage boy because that was all I got to be, but it was a time of being CONSTANTLY flooded with sexual thoughts to the point of absolute annoyance “I’m seventeen.” “Looking at linoleum makes me want to have sex.” That being the case, a tour of Xander’s mind that didn’t contain SOME of that would feel a little off Plus, when he says, “You know a man’s always after–” –“Conquest?” “I’m a conquistador.” “You sure it isn’t comfort?” “I’m a comfortador also.” we get the idea that Xander’s understanding of sex and love is confused at the moment More on that shortly But either way, this is a wonderful exchange It’s beautifully shot And then it is immediately undercut by a symbol for sexual INsecurity -that being the firing squad of Initiative scientists evaluating him as he goes to the bathroom When he tries to find another bathroom he ends up in his basement, with a monster at the door Xander’s anxiety this season has been more out in the open than any of the other characters He feels pathetic Left behind Everyone else moving far past him And the basement is the symbol for that feeling His two lines here, “I didn’t order any vampires.” and “That’s not the way out.” setup the theme for his dream First, whatever is at the top of the steps holds the same status for him as any monster

And second, he won’t get out of the basement, the symbol for his self-loathing, by going the route of whatever is at the top of the steps Instead, he leaves and finds himself at a playground Spike has found a new father figure in Giles “I was into that for awhile, but…” “…I got other stuff going on.” So Xander used to be interested in having a Dad, but the cut to the ice cream truck, presumably with Anya in it, is to show us what other stuff he has going on The life he has managed to build Buffy and Xander’s exchange is kind of…lovely and painful As Xander tries to look out for her she uses the dreaded word: “I’m way ahead of you, big brother.” “Brother?” His torch never quite goes out and this a great moment showing him still having to deal with the fact that Buffy just doesn’t see him like that Something I think most of us have had to deal with at one time or another Buffy is also repeating Xander’s fear that everyone is ahead of him There is a ton in this little sequence that is revisited in the episode ‘Tabula Rasa’ in ‘Season 6’, Spike is pursued by a shark man “Gotta be with moving forward.” “Like a shark.” “Like a shark with feet and…” “…much less fins.” And when the Gang’s memory is wiped, Spike, while wearing the same suit he’s wearing here on the swings, believes he’s Giles’ son, Horny Giles There are two women in Xander’s dream that he does not sexualize The first is Buffy If these dreams do give us visions of how the Scoobs feel about each other, the fact that Xander has Buffy in a box could be a symbol of his unwillingness to see her as someone other than the girl who won’t love him back And the reductiveness of her playing a kids game suggests that he, like Willow, doesn’t really understand her They don’t know what it is to be the Slayer The super serious Beck music as the scene moves to inside the ice cream truck is GORGEOUS As Xander takes the wheel, Anya states the theme outright: “Do you know where you’re going?” The aesthetics of this scene are terrific and important Outside the windows is a very Hitchcockian projection style look for the traffic going by It was impossible to film classic movies inside a car so the production would project the footage of traffic on a screen behind the actors, adjusted for what angle the camera might be shooting them The Wachowski’s used the same technique for the sequence where Neo goes back into the Matrix for the first time, to suggest the unreality of it all now that he understands “I have these memories from my life.” “None of them happened.” “What does that mean?” “That the Matrix cannot tell you who you are.” The scene in the ice cream truck is the same The world outside what is in this truck for Xander feels blurry and unreal There is also, no engine noise added to the scene and the recorded audio between Xander and Anya is VERY naturalistic You can hear Anya’s voice echoing slightly off the metal of the truck “You don’t want me to have a hobby.” The effect is very surreal and claustrophobic He’s moving through his life but, in reality everything is static and a little suffocating THIS is the life Xander has built for himself Small and unremarkable, save for Anya, of course “I’ve been thinking about getting back into vengeance.” Anya brings up returning to vengeance and this triggers Xander looking for another way out Which brings Tara and Willow kinda Xander found out that Tara and Willow were gay two episodes ago and their look here in Xander’s dream represents him processing that information through what has probably been his only lens for two gay women so far pornography “Do you want to come in the back with us?” However, this shot again replicates the yin and yang, the darkness and light motif, of Willow and Tara from earlier Xander climbs in the back to escape the claustrophobic ice cream truck and ends up back in the basement As he hears the pounding of the monster at the top of the stairs, he has his run in with Mr. Cheeseman “These…” “…will not protect you.” He ends up in a very green hallway at UC Sunnydale with Giles speaking French to him (in French) “– the house where we’re all sleeping.” (in French) “All your friends are there” (in French) “…having a wonderful time” (in French) “…and getting on with their lives.” (in French) “The creature can’t hurt you there.” The idea, again, is that everyone is ahead of him More advanced Moving forward And the creature is going to get him because he can’t keep up with them The green, other than just looking insanely cool (I especially love the color contrast in the shot of Giles), works as a lead-in to the ‘Apocalypse Now’ section, Xander getting deeper and deeper into his own heart of darkness What follows is a shot for shot recreation of Willard and Kurtz meeting in ‘Apocalypse Now’, only instead it’s Xander meeting my sweet sweet prince, Snyder ‘Apocalypse Now’ is based on the Joseph Conrad book, ‘Heart of Darkness’, a fitting map for the dream of the Scoobies’ metaphorical heart In the movie, a man is sent up river to kill a high ranking officer that has gone insane and committed terrible crimes On the way up river, he witnesses the atrocities of his own people and that there is no absolute good No lesser of two of evils The choice…is absurd For Xander, that is represented by the fact that all roads lead back to his basement No choice matters Snyder did make an ‘Apocalypse Now’ reference earlier in the series:

“I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning.” “I love the smell of nepalm in the morning.” But this bit is more of a comic interlude, even if it does serve to show us that Xander believes authority figures think he’s worthless His attempt to escape from the First Slayer sends him on a mesmerizing chase through every facet of his personality, portrayed through a stunning single shot But all roads lead back to the basement And the monster at the top of the stairs, his father Who(m) he is terrified of turning into: “That’s not the way out.” The First Slayer, as his father, comes down the steps, reaches into his chest, and pulls his heart out Let’s unpack some of this First of all, the conversation with Joyce highlights part of Xander’s driving pathology “You know a man’s always after–” –“Conquest?” “I’m a conquistador.” “You sure it isn’t comfort?” “I’m a comfortador also.” This exchange is saying that Xander is subconsciously conflating sex and conquest with love and comfort, an idea that Whedon confirms in the episode’s commentary Clearly, he doesn’t get love and affection at home His desire for that (which he confuses as sexual) is what drives his journey into the Heart of Darkness: “Where are you heading?” “Well, I’m supposed to meet Tara and Willow.” “And possibly Buffy’s Mom.” And there were only two women he didn’t sexualize in his dream Anya and Buffy Anya because they’ve had sex and he still is in the basement, so he knows that relationship is a part of his ongoing reality and not a means of escape And Buffy, who has already turned him down That relationship is a closed door as a means of escape Ultimately, the dream leaves him only one remaining option And his father descending the stairs and rendering Xander heartless fulfills Xander’s worst fear of turning into him And that is why this is the most important episode for understanding Xander There have been many hints leading up as to what Xander’s homelife is like, some of which I touched on in my video for ‘Amends’ But THIS is his pain…laid…bare And I just cannot bring myself to hate him for what happens later in the series As much as I can see clearly when he is shooting himself in the foot, through ‘Restless’ I understand his baggage -and how someone who bears it might think they were making the right decision, even if all it lead to was them back in the basement “Animus” “…Heart.” “Sophos.” “…Mind.” Throughout the season, it’s clear that Giles has been feeling a little useless, from his awkward appearance at The Bronze to his drunken antics in ‘The Yoko Factor’ ‘”Bloody hell!” But his dream layers some complexity onto his emotions, indicating that he may feel a little more tangled The dream opens with Giles using a watch to hypnotize Buffy, the watch being a symbol for his Watchernessness and the hypnosis evoking his worst act as Buffy’s mentor – hypnotizing and drugging her in ‘Helpless’ “Don’t you think it’s a little old fashioned?” “This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning.” So this is simultaneously an indictment of outdated gender politics, where men control women, the Watchers Council, and the man that Giles had cultivated himself to be But there’s a final detail and that is Buffy’s unsettling laugh at the end of the scene – the meaning of which starts to come into focus in the graveyard fair An openly more childlike Buffy (the third Scooby to ascribe childishness to her) is pulling Giles and Olivia along And Olivia…is pushing an empty stroller The detail of Giles training Buffy to play the carnival game is adorable “I am a vampire!” And the name of the game is ‘Crack Drac’, referring to Dracula “–Rupert, go easy on the girl.” “This is my business.” “Blood of the lamb and all that.” “Blood of the lamb” is a reference to the Lamb of God, a term that John the Baptist used for Jesus when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, “…who takes away the sin of the world.” It’s a clear indication of Buffy as a Christ figure, who went to her death to save the world and then arose again and who will do so once more…in ‘The Gift’ Buffy turns and her face is covered in primordial mud “I know you.” (hazily repeated) “I know you.” Spike calls Giles into his crypt The scene is split between the goofy black and white distraction that is Spike, and Giles who barely notices Olivia weeping over the empty stroller So we have Giles’ feelings of uselessness clear throughout the season, his guilt over ‘Helpless’, and a feeling that his relationship with Buffy might have stolen a chance he’d had…at a normal life “What am I supposed to do with all of this?” “You gotta make up your mind, Rupes.” “What are you wasting time for?” “I wear the cheese.” “It does not wear me.” Joss said Mr. Cheeseman’s line here is him poking fun at ‘(The) Man in the Iron Mask’ “I wear the mask.” “It does not wear me.” Another cool transition into The Bronze These were possible because every set for the show was in the same warehouse lot They just opened the doors between them The Scoobs’ dreams are really crossing over now because both Xander and Willow have their First Slayer injuries Everyone is now aware that something is wrong There are many great details here, including the way in which Giles perceives Xander as deadpan and unfunny as everyone does Anya “Now I’ll probably be pushing up daisies,” “…in the sense of being in the ground underneath them and fertilizing the soil with decomposition.” And the oblique framing of Anya onstage is just marvelous “Something’s after us.”

“It’s, uh, like some primal…some animal force.” “That used to be us.” So Willow is referring to the First Slayer, which is after all of them And Giles says, “That used to be us(, Willow).” He’s talking about the power the four of them channeled for the enjoining spell in ‘Primeval’ Willow also refers to Giles as “Rupert” here, a casual intimacy she can’t refrain from while dreaming and maybe a hint at her crush Giles then wanders onstage and sings ‘The Exposition Song’ This could be read as a loose reference to ‘Band Candy’ and his Ripper days where he clearly had a vision of himself as a future rockstar At the piano is Christophe Beck, and the band members are the people who ACTUALLY play the Dingoes Ate My Baby song(s), Four Star Mary [–help Willow] [drums] [And try not to bleed on my couch] [I just had it steam cleaned] It’s significant here that Giles has ZERO problems stepping onstage to jam out Giles is an adult, and not particularly insecure about it He’s feeling conflicted about his life, not himself The First Slayer pulls the power Giles tracks it backstage to a tangle of wires on the ground, his feelings about his life, from which he pulls…the watch In the span of a few seconds here, are two of the most memorable shots in the series The first is the shot of the backlit Slayer, and the other is the HIGHLY unnerving image of Giles’ brain being removed while he speaks without his lips moving Yikes! And now that the First Slayer has taken from each Scooby the element they gave to the spell, and in the order that they occurred, The First Slayer moves on to Buffy As in ‘Fear, Itself’, Buffy’s general anxieties are that there is something in her that will always have her end up alone We’ll see that reflected throughout, including this very first opening scene, where Anya is in (the) bed next to Buffy and not Willow Throughout her dream, the Scoobs are distant or missing She wakes up again in her high school bedroom, with a dreamlike vision of Tara giving her guidance “Faith and I just made that bed.” “It’s so late.” “Oh…” “…that clock’s completely wrong.” THIS is a reference to the dream sequence in ‘Graduation Day’ “Oh, yeah.” “Miles to go.” “Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0.” The time represents several things having to do with future events in the series While I intend on doing a more thorough unpacking of the scene with Faith when we get to ‘Season 5’, at the time of the episode, there were 730 days until Buffy’s death in ‘The Gift’ And the 7:30 AM time is also significant because of the morning Dawn, Buffy’s sister in ‘Season 5’ Tara says the clock is no longer accurate and she’s right As with own lives (this is all a metaphor for life itself, of course) the days Buffy has left are counting down One by one There is another Dawn reference on the clock The “O” and the “Y” have been covered up, with the AM underneath So if we draw a line between “S” and “N” and add the two acronyms together we get SUNAM Or Dawn And that is exactly what is on the card Tara hands Buffy upside down As Buffy leaves, Tara states Dawn’s coming outright “Be back before Dawn.” In the hallway, Buffy finds Joyce, living in the walls This is a wonderful visual and a reference to the scene where Faith taunted Joyce with Buffy’s absence in ‘This Year’s Girl’ Buffy’s new life has been blotting out her old one, in the case of the visual, literally covering over Joyce And on some level, Buffy senses her growing distance from her mother Though at the moment her mother suggests Buffy might break through the wall and bring her into her new life, Buffy has already ignored her and moved on to the next thing “Mommy?” The scene in the Initiative is about Buffy’s mixed feelings for Riley In ‘Hush’, during another precognitive dream she was having that Riley was in, at one point he turned into one of the Gentlemen In ‘Doomed’, Buffy insisted that any relationship between them was well… “It’s just doomed!” “Hey there, killer.” And here, she dreams Riley is sitting across the table with a now very human Adam making plans She never fully trusted him and still doesn’t And she also doesn’t think very much of his work “We’d better make a fort.” “I’ll get some pillows.” As with every scene in this episode, there are a few cool details here Earlier in the episode, Willow and Tara mentioned that they were waiting for Miss Kitty’s name to come to them “You’d think she’d let us know her name by now.” “She will.” Where Adam and Riley are in the midst of: “–important work here.” “A lot of filing,” “…giving things names.” This is a repetition of the conquistador/comfortador idea in Xander’s dream, as well as some of the magic versus tech, feminine versus masculine ideas from the season Lastly, there is Riley calling Buffy “killer” throughout the scene and Adam’s comparing himself to Buffy “We’re not demons.” “Is that a fact?” The distinction between a killer and a Slayer has already come up a couple times in previous episodes Buffy tried very hard to make Faith understand it and Faith didn’t really, until inhabiting Buffy’s body “I am NOT a killer!” “I am the Slayer!” Throughout ‘Season 5’, Buffy will grapple with what a Slayer actually is Dracula first raises the question and when the spirit of the First Slayer once again returns

and tells Buffy that “death is her gift”, she sadly assumes that to be a Slayer is to be nothing but a killer As for what Adam says here, in the episode ‘Get it Done’ from ‘Buffy Season 7’ Buffy discovers that the Shadow Men created the Slayer by forcing the power from a demon heart into her And since Adam has the power to see through realities “THESE ARE LIES!” perhaps the real Adam was able to see that in Buffy In ‘Get it Done’, Robin also gives Buffy his mother’s case which contains the artifact she uses to contact the Shadowmen Buffy looks down at her feet and finds a case there The primordial mud in the case is a symbol for the spell they cast in the aptly named ‘Primeval’ A spell which harnessed the true power of the First Slayer and channeled it into Buffy And, later, the power that the Shadowmen try to force upon her when she uses the bag to find them Riley returns in normal clothing and tells Buffy she is on her own “I thought you were looking for your friends.” “Okay, killer.” “If that’s the way you want it.” “I guess you’re on your own.” The wording is very specific If she’s FOUND Riley then he isn’t one of Buffy’s friends And this bit foreshadows Riley feeling alienated from her and leaving in ‘Into the Woods’ The scene transitions to the desert and the apex of Buffy’s anxiety The long crane shot revealing Buffy in the vast empty desert is an image signifying her loneliness and the way being the Slayer isolates her And here, in front of the First Slayer, we get clarity as to why this is happening The First Slayer is the Slayer power without humanity She has lost most of her identifying human characteristics No speech No name She is nothing but the act of destruction “Absolute.” “Alone.” And the entire episode has been about her attempt to strip those elements from Buffy that her make different Buffy looks down and is holding the tarot cards from ‘Primeval’, only now, the cards are images of her friends, finalizing the metaphor of them all representing some aspect of her personality And at the apex of her anxiety, confronted by the very thing she is afraid isolates her from everyone, Buffy makes a choice “I am not alone.” “I walk.” “I talk.” “I shop.” “I sneeze.” “I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back.” “There’s trees in the desert since you moved out.” “And I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.” Her defiant proclamation is one of my favorite things in the series She claims her individuality Being the slayer does NOT define her In the second line, she is saying that she is not governed by circumstance She will adapt and fight whatever comes along And a fireman is very particular kind of hero, one that gets to go home to their loved ones But will, when necessary [walk through the fire] Trees in the desert refers to life, growth, cultivation and nourishment The opposite of the desert in which Buffy finds herself now And a symbol of her connections to the people she loves Her life is NOT simply about death And it’s the balance she’s achieved that, as Joss puts it, makes her the greatest Slayer that’s ever existed So enough of this fear “That’s it.” “I’m waking up.” ‘Restless’ is a work of art Now, other than a necessary narrative stopgap to prevent the Gang from resummoning maximum combo breaker Buffy anytime a very dark power is aboot to rise in Sunnydale, what can we take away from ‘Restless’? What does it all mean? One of the biggest themes of ‘Season 4’ has been fear ‘Restless’ shares the most in common with ‘Fear, Itself’ Where Gachnar the Dark Lord of Nightmares (he’s so cute!) externalized the Gang’s fears, ‘Restless’ takes us directly inside of them and shows us the colors these characters have decorated their anxieties with The moment the First Slayer harms each of the Scoobies is at the pinnacle of their worst fears Willow as the shy nerd she has been trying to get away from being mocked by a firing squad of her peers, and even unloved by the people she cares most for Xander being attacked by the father he doesn’t want to turn into Giles finding the pocket watch, simultaneously a symbol for his old identity and his greatest regret, atop a spool of wire as tangled as his feelings about his own life As I pointed out in ‘Primeval’, when Xander refused to get out of bed, Xander’s fear wasn’t really that Buffy and Willow might’ve been laughing at him and calling him useless His fear, was that they might be right And that is not an anxiety that Spike created, but one he capitalized on In that sense then, the only power other people’s judgement has over us is the power we defer to them by not knowing ourselves But Buffy’s dream goes differently There is just as much fear She fears her new life is having her lose touch with Joyce She fears Riley may not be who she thinks he is And throughout, as shown by the lack of Xander, Willow and Giles as well as the vastness of the empty desert, she fears that she is alone But when the moment comes where the First Slayer tells her what a Slayer is, and through metaphor what an adult is, Buffy says, “No.” “I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back.” “There’s trees in the desert since you moved out.” “And I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.”

I’ve said before that Buffy always chooses, but choice does not simply apply to the tactile minutiae of daily living, but to the comings and goings of our own inner thoughts Buffy’s journey to adulthood has involved her honing her own self awareness and understanding of herself But self-awareness really breaks through into true freedom when we come to understand that WE are NOT our thoughts, but the thing witnessing those thoughts inside our own minds And unexamined fear and self-hatred that lies dormant and ignored acts like a flaw in the prism we look through to see the world Fear is natural, and not a choice But what we do afterwards, IS To try and escape by chasing after something new over and over again, only to find ourselves right back to what we were running from To ignore it Or to distill the flaw in that perspective of ourselves, and to let it go “I am not alone.” It’s not always easy And sometimes when I feel horribly stuck inside a disempowering or self-hating perspective, finding my way back to the blank slate is a start Whedon has said that, in an episode full of symbolism and metaphor, he wanted one thing to be completely meaningless And that’s the Cheese Man He doesn’t Mean Anything And maybe, that’s the point Most of his appearances occur close to the pinnacle of each Scooby’s anxiety Right before Willow goes onstage Just before Xander’s father tears his heart out As Olivia weeps over an empty stroller And as the First Slayer proclaims, a Slayer is nothing but a killer He’s always kind of absurd right? Thing is, none of what we’re seeing in these dreams, with the exception of bits of prophecy, is real These, are the stories the Scoobies tell themselves And the archives of our minds are riddled with falsehoods and misinterpretations From an existentialist perspective, there can be as much actual truth and meaning divined from our fears and anxieties, as there can be from the universe itself WE give our fear power and meaning And just like Buffy, we always have the choice to let go, and wake up