Undead visitors hint at the season's climax. Which side will Buffy choose in the final showdown? Rachel Lovinger sees some clues in the messages from beyond
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Credit: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Richard Cartwright

Undead visitors hint at the season’s climax

In ”Buffy”’s world, it’s rarely a good thing when deceased friends and loved ones come back for a chat. More often than not, the visiting spirit is an evil force that has taken the form of a familiar pal. This week’s episode, ”Conversations with Dead People,” has more than its share of these visitors from beyond who seem to deliver hints about the eventual showdown with the season’s Big Bad. It’s hard to say, however, if they’re giving important clues or merely increasing the mystery.

There isn’t much info to be gleaned from the recently-departed souls who visit Andrew and Willow. After all, Andrew isn’t even smart enough to tell that his visitor isn’t really Warren. Cassie, on her return visit, fails to convince Willow that using magic again will set her on an irreversible path towards killing everyone. We learn a few things from this: What seems to be Cassie is actually the same force everyone’s talking about when they say, ”From beneath you, it devours.” In fact, it also seems to be the same morphing spirit that tormented Spike in the season’s first episode. Whatever it is, it wants to finish the battle between good and evil, once and for all.

Then there’s Dawn’s visitation, which is different in many ways. For one thing, her confrontation is a lot more violent than the others (even taking into account the unfortunate sacrifice of Jonathan). Dawn has never looked so spooky as when she’s wielding that axe against the possessed electronics. Something is trying — REALLY hard — to prevent Dawn from talking with her deceased mother. When Dawn finally banishes that threat (with magic that she seems to have picked up overnight), Joyce is able to appear and disappear in a very different way than the other dead guests. Not just the glowing and shimmering. There’s nothing to indicate that Dawn’s mom isn’t exactly as benign as she seems. In fact, there’s a strong implication that this spirit is exactly who she appears to be. Which means that Joyce’s warning — that Buffy will be against Dawn instead of with her when things get bad — might be genuine, not just a demonic divide-and-conquer technique.

Buffy’s therapy session with her psychoanalyzing vampire buddy may offer some clues about the truth of this warning. Describing the duel between her inferiority and superiority complexes, Buffy admits that she considers herself unworthy of her slayer powers. When she says ”Honestly, I’m beneath [everyone],” it has an eerie echo of the Big Bad’s tag line about danger that comes ”from beneath.” Is all of this just an elaboration on the old ”the slayer is ultimately alone” theme, or is it a harbinger of more sinister developments? Maybe there’s a reason that slayers don’t usually survive past their teens.

It seems impossible that Buffy could become so removed from meaningful human interaction, so wrapped up in the power of her destiny, that she would walk down that path of corruption towards the ultimate evil that’s coming. But this show has done ”impossible” things before and made them work. A twist like this sure would make for an impressive end to the series.

What do you think we learn from this week’s conversations with dead people?

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