Buffy’s Round Table: Part 2

Scott Farrell Comments:

In the conclusion of her article, Ms. Riess looks at how the Buffy crew deals with the knightly virtue of mercy and forgiveness, and reminds us that a hero’s sense of courage, honor and resolve is established, in large part, through her (or his) choice of friends.

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Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends. — Jacques Delille 

Chivalry Through Thick and Thin

Buffy_Cover(Forgiveness is) a lesson that the characters put to good use in the last few episodes of the fourth season, a story arc that offers superb examples of the power of friendship on Buffy. Adam, that season’s superdemon “Big Bad,” strikes a deal with [the vampire] Spike (season 4, episode 20): if Spike can bring the Slayer to Adam — alone — then Adam will deactivate the chip in Spike’s head that prevents him from killing humans. Spike sets out sowing seeds of enmity among [Buffy and her friends]. This episode (called “The Yoko Factor” to allude to the Beatles’ final separation from internal divisions) shows how the insecurities and personal differences that have been festering all season come to full, destructive fruition for Buffy and her friends. Spike suggests to Xander that his friends really think he’s useless and that he should go off and join the army to do something with his life. He tells Willow, who has kept her growing relationship with Tara a secret from most of her friends, that Buffy and Xander have been gossiping about her forays into witchcraft and a lesbian relationship. He insinuates that they think Willow is “bring trendy” and going through “a phase.” Spike makes Giles feel as though Buffy doesn’t need or want him in her life anymore. Although the [characters] should realize immediately that Spike is playing them off each other by preying on their weaknesses and insecurities, they have drifted so far from one another that they immediately believe what he says. Their hurt feelings erupt in a terrible fight at Giles’s house, and Buffy summarizes just how severe things have gotten when she remarks that she is “starting to understand why there is not ancient prophecy about the Chosen One … and her friends.”

The next day, after a conversation with Spike, Buffy realizes the truth of his involvement in planting discord. She calls a meeting with Giles, Xander and Willow, who sheepishly come to understand that Spike has “made with the head games” (season 4, episode 21). [Buffy and friends] also acknowledge that defeating Adam is going to take all of their combined skills. “Hey, no problem!” jokes Xander. “All we need is combo Buffy. Her with Slayer strength, Giles’s multilingual know-how, and Willow’s witchy power.” Although he makes this suggestion in jest, the others realize that he’s on to something; and Willow crafts a complicated enjoining spell that will merge those qualities (along with Xander’s stout heart) into a single Buffy warrior. When the über-Buffy spell kicks in, Buffy is already fighting Adam and getting the worst of it. Things change immediately when she is endowed with her friends’ powers: she engages their abilities as well as her own and proves more than a match for Adam.

Friendship saves the day. “You could never hope to grasp the source of our power,” the über-Buffy tells him. Of course he won’t; he can’t. Adam has been created to be a mighty and solitary demon, almost a reversal of the Biblical Adam. In the book of Genesis, God creates the world, saving humankind for last, and regards it all as good. God realizes that no human being should be alone and creates Eve to be a helpmeet — the Hebrew actually means “an equal helper” — to Adam. Her name is derived from the Hebrew word for life, and the text explains that she is to be “ the mother of all living.”

In Buffy, by contrast, the psychologist Maggie Walsh has created her hybrid Adam out of demon and human parts; and her creature actually murders her immediately upon gaining consciousness (season 4, episode 13). Just before slaughtering her, he calls her “Mommy,” demonstrating a subversion of the Biblical order: she is the mother of her own destruction. This Adam will always be alone, because his goal is annihilation. Although he calls Riley his “brother,” he seeks to dominate and control Riley — not exactly a recipe for friendship. And so he has no experience to draw on when faced with the über-Buffy’s enjoined power. Her friendships have made her stronger than he could ever be.

As in most mythological sagas, Buffy is a heroine who both does and does not walk alone. She faces the lonely destiny of a Slayer, but she faces it with a stalwart gang of fiercely loyal companions. Our friendships enrich our lives immeasurably; we play off one another’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. As we progress in our spiritual development, we have to determine our levels of independence or interdependence and understand that the sum of our friendships is almost always greater than its parts. Buffy’s friends give her strength and courage, saving her life on numerous occasions and — even more than that — offering the kind of love that makes life worth living. As Buffy and [her friends] sing in the sixth-season musical episode (season 6, episode 7), “What can’t we face if we’re together?”

© 2004 Jana Riess

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This article is excerpted from the book What Would Buffy Do? by Jana Riess, ©May 2004, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint. The article appears here by express permission of the publisher and may not be reprinted or reproduced without permission.

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