Jeff Jensen wonders if Buffy's gentle grace toward a troubled Willow is setting the stage for the day her own secret is revealed
Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar, ...
Credit: Buffy: Richard Cartwright/UPN

Buffy forgives Willow’s detour into dark addiction

To ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”’s long tradition of cleverly using the supernatural as real-life metaphor, add the Nov. 27 episode, ”Wrecked.” This time, magic was the metaphor, and addiction was the real-life correlation. The combination made for an emotionally-charged outing, and a distinct improvement over last week’s wandering, poorly-paced episode.

In ”Wrecked,” the magical substance abuser was Willow, whose growth as a witch and whose escalating use of more powerful magic have been smartly charted by the show’s writers over the past two seasons. Seeking a longer, stronger high from magic, Willow was turned on to a dealer of dark spells by former rat Amy. The scenes of Willow tripping out in the black magic crack house were genuinely sinister and effectively illustrated her downward spiral.

Willow has allowed something dark and dangerous to take control of her life. Yet I thought the addiction analogy could have used more of that kind of imagination. Willow’s junkie arc included all the clichés. In the end, a hopped-up Willow got behind the wheel while trying to elude a demon that her addiction set free. Alas, Buffy’s sister Dawn was in the car, too, and suffered a fracture in the inevitable crash. Finally, Willow’s reckless behavior had endangered someone else’s life, and forced her to at last acknowledge her addiction. Blah. [And can the show please give Dawn something else to do than just needing to be rescued every week?]

The scenes between Willow and Buffy that followed, in which Willow revealed a very warped sense of her own self-worth, were powerful, but I wanted more denial from Willow and much more anger from Buffy. The thinking here, I guess, is that Buffy would have been a hypocrite if she got pissed at Willow but didn’t acknowledge her own shameful sin: her sexual addiction to Spike. Perhaps Buffy was doing something more complex: By extending Willow more grace than she deserved, she’s setting a precedent for how she wants to be treated when her secret is discovered. Regardless, given how whimsically the Buffy/Spike thing has been treated, I thought it only cheapened Willow’s storyline by linking the two. Juxtaposing Willow’s cold turkey night sweats to Buffy’s sleepless night surrounded by garlic was an oddly comic note to end the episode on.

And as for Buffy and Spike’s foundation-shaking sexcapades, I loved the scratch marks on Spike’s back, and I laughed at how the show self-consciously tried to exploit as much of his sinewy, pasty-white physique as it could. Judging by the reactions of other ”Buffy” fans, this was exactly what everyone wanted to see — but I’m on the fence. Hasn’t Buffy already done the whole vampire thing? My big worry is that by giving into the temptation of pairing Buffy and Spike, the writers have let loose something that will prove detrimental to the show.

What do you think?

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