Review by Mikelangelo "MikeJer" Marinaro
Posted by MikeJer on April 17, 2006 (Updated: December 28, 2011)Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
This is a magnificent episode and is the most complex I've ever witnessed on television. The first time I saw it I had a mixture of confusion, awe, and intrigue. It wasn't until I rewatched "Restless" after I was finished with the series that I began to understand just how amazing this truly is. Since then, I've rewatched it countless times and each time I make a new connection or spot something I never noticed before. What's so special about this dream episode anyway? Some people think it's just an artistic gimmick. Others think it's great just because of the Cheese Man. Well, I see this as special because it's the nexus of the entire series. It is a character study of the core Scoobies (Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles), where their past, present, and future are seamlessly woven together to form textured perfection. We are reminded of where these character began, where they currently are, and where they are heading with truck loads of cryptic foreshadowing. That makes this an episode which caps everything that has come before it, and sets up everything that is to come after it.
One of the biggest reasons I love this episode so much is that it reminds me of the first time I played my favorite game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES). In that action-adventure game you go adventuring around a land with a story, dungeons, enemies, and so forth. One of the things that makes it unique is the amount of 'secrets' to uncover that can make your character more powerful and simply make the game more fun. This sense of wonder at looking all over the place for possible secrets always greatly appealed to me on a fundamental level that made all the early Zelda games so much fun. I get this same feeling when I watch "Restless." I love jumping in and trying to figure out all the secrets hiding in cryptic dialogue and stuff you have to "read between the lines" to understand.
The question remains, how am I going to tackle reviewing this? Well, I'm going to dive into the material and attempt to make a connection to everything except the Cheese Man, who Whedon has specifically stated "means nothing" except that dreams can be extremely weird. Some of these connections will be far-fetched while others, hopefully, will not. I need to fully admit that this episode has a complexity that is simply beyond complete comprehension, so I will undoubtedly still miss certain connections. I will be moving through the episode in chronological order, starting with Willow's dream. I hope you learn a lot of new stuff about this episode through this review. I hope I learn a lot of new stuff too! Shall we begin?
Before I actually start talking about Willow's dream, I'd like to briefly discuss the stuff before the dreams. I love much of the pre-dream dialogue between everyone including Riley's exposition and the meeting between him and Joyce. Here's some of those lines:
RILEY: Having the inside scoop on the administration's own Bay of Mutated Pigs is definitely an advantage.
Anyway, Willow's dream is the most confusing to me and contains the most dialogue that I'm not confident I have the correct meaning of. So keep that in mind. Everything seems to be pointing towards Willow's more confident persona and the overuse of black magic though. When it starts, we see all the Scoobies asleep, and now Tara is talking to Willow while lying on a bed. They are in Tara's dorm room.
TARA: I think it's strange. I mean, I think I should worry, that we haven't found her name.
Right away we can see them talking about Miss Kitty Fantastico, who likely represents the First Slayer (FS). Tara's statements suggest that they should be concerned because they don't know about anything about the FS yet. The FS represents the Slayer part of Buffy and all the darkness that follows it. When Willow says "she's not all grown yet," I think she's talking about Buffy's knowledge of her powers and how it will affect those around her.
TARA: You're not worried?
This just shows that Willow really does love Tara and that she completely trusts her. We heard her say that to Tara directly in "Who Are You?" (4x16), but it's reinforced here. This confession, of sorts, leads to this warning from Tara:
TARA: You don't know everything about me.
Here is more alluding to Tara's secret. We find out in "Family" (5x06) that she thinks she's a demon, and that it only manifests itself when she turns 20. It turns out it's just lies fed by the males in her family to keep the women in line. Willow asks her what her "real name" is. Tara's response is just saying that even though she's a demon, Willow still knows who she is as a person. The alleged 'demon' is not a factor in their love.
TARA: They will find out, you know. About you.
Tara is saying that her friends will find out about how dangerous the magic she's playing with is becoming. The response Willow gives shows that she's ignoring all the warnings and would rather not look to the future. Unfortunately I have no idea what to make of the talk about being late. But when Miss Kitty Fantastic marches towards the camera it appears to be an indication that the FS is on the hunt and marching closer to them. It's also important to take notice of the writing on Tara's back, which turns out to have some hefty foreshadowing:
While to the vast majority of the show's audience the Greek letters will be undecipherable, the inscription is an invocation to Aphrodite, which is responded to by the goddess's promise to make whoever the poet desires love her back in return "if she does not love, soon she shall love - even unwilling"(Bowman). The particular verse has special meaning for the pair - Sappho and Aphrodite as representative of their being lesbian and witches respectively, but also on another level because Willow in the future will indeed use magic to sustain her love with Tara (Bowman) (Laura Suisted, http://www.watcherjunior.tv/01/suisted.php, 2005)
After this we see Willow walking in a school hall where Oz and Xander are.
I think all this talk about drama class relates to her fooling herself into believing, or 'acting', that she's not tapping into dangerous magic. It also could mean that this new persona Willow's been actively building for herself since "Doppelgangland" (3x16) is just an act. That in reality, Willow is still that same shy girl from S1. Or it could be hinting at both. Oz describes drama class, or her 'acting', as tough. I'm not sure what he means by "been here forever." Does he mean he's been in drama class forever, or that he's been in the hallway with Xander forever? If it's the latter, that could represent how both Xander and Oz were often pushed to the sidelines for their protection. We then see Xander, very casually, tell Oz about Willow's spells with Tara. It's like it's no big deal to Xander, even though it's a huge deal to Willow. Xander's final comment, thinking about Willow and Tara doing a spell then doing one by himself, is likely what happened in "Once More, with Feeling" (6x07).
Willow is now at her drama class where a production already seems to be happening. Harmony runs up to her all excited and says "I love you." Is this implying some connection between Willow and Harmony? Maybe a vampiric connection between her and Vampire Willow, which in turn is foreshadowing of Willow becoming evil?
BUFFY: Ohmigod. The place is packed. Everybody's here! Your whole family's in the front row, (cheerful) and they look really angry.
I think this could possibly be talking about how when Willow goes evil there's going to be a packed audience of people watching the 'show'. Her family looking angry is likely a tie to what we learn in "Gingerbread" (3x11) about Willow's mother: she's not too happy Willow is dabbling in witchcraft.
RILEY: Well, you showed up late, or you'd have a better part. I'm Cowboy Guy.
Haha. Riley has no specific name in this play. He's just a trivialized piece in everything that's happening, which we find out later is very much true in the real world.
BUFFY: (to Willow) Your costume is perfect. (Whispers) Nobody's gonna know the truth. You know, about you.
The costume talked about here refers to both Willow's concealment of the dangers associated with her growing powers and, more importantly, the confident persona she's created for herself during the last year. Buffy says that no one's going to figure out how she's still got that insecure nerd inside her. Then Buffy says that she's already in character, which she has been for over a year now, and that she (Buffy) should have done that too. Now this is interesting, because Buffy is dressed in black and has black hair, insinuating that she's dark and not doing a good job at concealing it. This could be a tie to her arc in S6.
RILEY: I showed up on time, so I got to be Cowboy Guy.
Riley reinforcing that because he came along at the right time in Buffy's life, he got to be her boyfriend and go for quite a ride.
WILLOW: (to Buffy) I just think it's really early to be putting on a play. I, I don't even know what... (Eyes widen) This isn't Madame Butterfly, is it, because I have a whole problem with opera.
This is obviously a reference to "Nightmares" (1x10) where the Scoobies are forced to live their greatest fears. One of Willow's fears is stage fright in which she is stuck on stage and expected to sing Madame Butterfly. I think this is just a fun little reference.
GILES: All right, everyone! Pay attention! In just a few moments that curtain is going to open on our very first production. Now, everyone that Willow's ever met ... is out in that audience, including all of us. That means we have to be perfect. Stay in character, remember your lines, and energy energy energy, especially in the musical numbers!
I don't how this relates to anything, except the obvious connection to "Once More, with Feeling" (6x07). Maybe it's Whedon's way of getting his writing staff energized for the next three seasons? I know...I'm stretching. :)
GILES: Acting is not about behaving, it's about hiding. The audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive, so hide. (to Harmony) Stop that. Now, costumes, sets, um, the things that you, uh, you know, uh, you, um... you hold them, you touch them, uh, use them, um...
There's a lot of really subtle awkward dialogue in that speech. It's fun that Giles is the one who's getting everyone in the play ready to perform, because he had that same job in "The Puppet Show" (1x09) during the Sunnydale High Talent Show. He says that acting is "not about behaving," but rather hiding. This is really all directed at Willow, so I think he's talking about what she is going to be doing in the future. Not behaving refers to doing way too much black magic against council not to, and hiding refers to the fact she denies the danger of what she's doing. When he says the 'audience', I think that means the people who are affected by Willow's behavior. Notice at the end of this dream Buffy tears off Willow's clothes and the FS appears to suck her life-force out (and she was the 'sprit' in the joining spell they did in "Primeval" [4x21]), which could be viewed as a form of eating her alive.
I'm pretty sure the whole 'props' exchange is a comment on how society still gives precedence to men over women to some extent. Harmony herself is in vamp face after this and keeps annoying Giles, which could be used to assist Giles' comment on being "eaten alive" as well as being a literal interpretation of how annoying Harmony is to everyone. Anyway, Giles' speech continues and he says some interestingly weird things like "It's all about subterfuge" and "lie like dogs." All of this is connected, once again, to Willow's 'hiding' and 'lieing' to herself about her nerdy roots and her increasing use of magic. I'm a bit amazed by how much these same issues are being cryptically drilled into us during her dream, at least if I'm taking in any of this close to the way Whedon was intending to represent it.
All sound fades away (which is always a cool effect) and the Cheese Man appears for the first time. This guy rocks! I <3 cheese. Willow then enters a hallway where she is surrounded by red curtains. These curtains look the same as the ones that she was performing by in "Nightmares" (1x10), but here I think they represent love and desire -- that's where she finds Tara.
TARA: Things aren't going very well.
Hmm. Here, Tara seems to be warning Willow that the FS's after her. Willow doesn't seem to have the slightest idea of what's happening. The comment Tara makes about the play being already started seems to go back to the fact that Willow is in the middle of her own deception. Willow says she doesn't even know her lines, which means that she's in this metaphorical play and doesn't even realize it herself! The way she acts early in S6 proves this. This scene abruptly cuts into the play happening inside the dream.
RILEY: Why, hello, little lady. Can I hold those milk pails for you?
I pretty much have no idea what this 'play' dialogue has to do with Willow, but it's sure a good commentary on Riley. He's the All-American cowboy who wants to come in and be the traditional gentleman, helping out the girls with the heavy lifting. Harmony's response seems metaphorical for what Buffy does and never says in real life. Buffy can handle herself in this small town which many people seem to end up dying in, hence the "very few exports," I'd wager. I think Harmony is being used as Buffy's voice here, who is sitting casually on a couch behind Harmony. As for Riley's talk about looking for a sales man, I confess I've got no idea. Color me clueless.
TARA: Everyone's starting to wonder about you. The real you. If they find out, they'll punish you, I ... I can't help you with that.
Now this statement's a whole lot clearer. Tara's suggesting that the people around Willow are beginning to worry about what she's becoming. The fact she just recently fell in love with a girl probably falls under that category as well, but I believe the focus is on her use of magic. Tara warns her that if they find out they will "punish" her, which foreshadows the events of S6 is a huge way. At this point the scene jumps back into the dream play.
BUFFY: But what else could I expect from a bunch of low-rent, no-account hoodlums like you? Hoodlums, yes, I mean you and your friends, your whole sex, throw 'em in the sea for all I care, throw 'em in and wait for the bubbles, men with your groping and spitting all groin no brain three billion of you passing around the same worn-out urge. Men! With your ... sales!
This speech from Buffy could mean a lot of different things. It could represent Willow's subconscious opinion of men, which might be influenced by her emotional turmoil surrounding Oz's abrupt departure and brief return. At the same time, this could represent how Buffy actually feels about men, which after Parker and the soon-to-be gone Riley could be so. Harmony is crying in the background, and the only thing I can think of that this could possibly represent is Buffy's human half. I think Buffy, who's dressed in black, represents the other half -- the Slayer. That's why Harmony is so sweet and Buffy is so forceful and hard. Some interesting evidence is that there's also a dead guy dressed in black lying on the floor in between Buffy, the Slayer, and Harmony, the girl. This also could be foreshadowing how Buffy is going to close up even further emotionally after her break-up with Riley. It's becoming increasingly obvious that Buffy has been a lot more emotionally distant in her relationships since she had to kill Angel in "Becoming Pt. 2" (2x22).
BUFFY: Stay low. What did it look like?
Buffy tells Willow she must have done something to make the FS want to come after her. She was the person who cast the spell to join all of them together in "Primeval" (4x21). As usual, Willow refuses to take responsibility for her power and denies her involvement in a dangerous consequence of it. Then Buffy says the play is over, which I think means all her friends know about her problem (so S6 probably), and then "why are you still in costume." Willow's response is that the magic and her confident persona are just who she is now. When Buffy insists on removing her metaphorical clothing, Willow finally gets a bit panicy and admits that she needs it and that she is, in fact, just wearing a costume. This is interesting because it suggests that deep down Willow isn't completely oblivious to her problems. Buffy says of a S1 Willow, "That's better. It's much more realistic." I think a point's being made here that Willow's S1 personality is still very much who she is at the core and likely always will be. The shy innocent girl will always be a part of her (though a much less part later) throughout her life.
WILLOW: My book report. This summer I, I read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Here Willow says her book report involves the mystical, and Xander says no one really cares. It's interesting how right after she says "this book has many themes," she gets jumped by the FS, punishing her for the mention of magic. Willow is going to need a lot of help come S6. I will wrap up what I thought about Willow's dream as a whole, as well as all the individual dreams, in the conclusion.
Xander's fascinating dream is also pretty confusing in spots, but seems to have a clearer point to make than that of Willow's dream, which can be looked at from so many different perspectives. As an example of this, Xander's dream begins hitting right on his main 'issue':
XANDER: I'm awake. I'm good. Did I miss anything?
One of Xander's problems all season is that he's felt useless and without direction. He asks if he missed anything, I think referring to in his life, and Giles responds that he hasn't missed too much. Even though Xander needs to get himself in a better situation, he is still a teenager (19 I think) with a bit of time to work things out.
GILES: I have to say, I really feel that Apocalypse Now is overrated.
I think Xander's talking about how his life will get better, which it does in S5.
BUFFY: Want some corn?
Besides the very dream-like, and also quite amusing, talk about the popcorn being "new car smell" flavor, Buffy calls Willow a "big faker," which is indicative of what one of the themes of Willow's dream was all about. The fact that this comment is in Xander's dream suggests that he, at some level, knows that Willow's hiding her true self. This isn't a surprise considering how long they've known each other.
GILES: Oh, I'm beginning to understand this now. It's all about the journey, isn't it?
This is a great comment from Giles about what the viewer of the series should be realizing by now. His comment not only speaks about the fact that BtVS is just one big journey through these characters' lives, but also that this episode itself is a journey rather than an episode with a straightforward beginning and end -- it's, as Whedon says, a journey through the characters' psyche.
XANDER: Well, thanks for making me have to pee.
I think this exchange could be referring to how Buffy is always saving and 'helping' Xander from being killed. Xander responds here that he doesn't always need her help -- he's got a system of survival. Also, it's hilarious; I love this exchange and laugh every time I hear it.
XANDER: Hey Joyce. Mrs. Summers. We're not making too much noise down there, are we?
I had no idea what to make of Joyce coming on to Xander and him digging it until I heard Whedon's commentary. Apparently a lot of guys dream sexually about their friends' mothers. I myself, thankfully, have not encountered this apparent phenomenon before.
XANDER: I move pretty fast. You know, a man's always after-
Now these lines say a ton about Xander's wants, impulses, and needs. The idea of conquest is often associated with us males. At a basic, primal, level most of us want conquest over ourselves, others, and especially females, both non-sexually and sexually. Conquest can also be easily replaced with 'control' with the point remained intact. Xander has a lot of these standard male impulses, but that's not all there is to him. This is where him being a comfortador comes in. By saying this, he's basically admitting the want of love and comfort that his parents never provided throughout his life.
JOYCE: It's very late. Would you like to rest for a while?
When offered a chance to rest, Xander says that he'd really like to, but that he's got to go elsewhere first. Joyce is saying to not get lost in that exploration. After this he heads to the bathroom, his exploration, where everyone is staring at him and analyzing his performance, which is simply a metaphor for his life. He feels that everyone is watching him, analyzing him, and mocking him to some extent. Also, once again, this is simply completely hilarious. What's even more funny is Whedon's commentary on the scene: "I think that's probably the best use of the Initiative we had all year."
After this, Xander goes into another room and ends up finding himself in his dank basement. There's some pounding on the door coming from the upstairs.
XANDER: I didn't order any vampires!...That's not the way out.
Now this is incredibly telling, especially since we already know who the one banging on the door is. When Xander yells about not ordering any vampires, he's really talking about his parents! He sees his parents as the real vampires, sucking the life out of his existence and happiness. That's why they are "not the way out" into freedom and happiness and why he keeps trying to get out of the basement, but inevitably ends up back there. All of this conincides with his feeling of failure.
XANDER: Hey, there you are.
Xander seems pleased he found Buffy, but her reply isn't as comforting as he likely hoped. She insinuates that his friends aren't the ones who can help him now. This next step in his life is completely up to him -- he must make changes on his own.
SPIKE: Giles here is gonna teach me to be a Watcher. Says I got the stuff.
There's a few references to "Tabula Rasa" (6x08) here: Spike being a son to Giles and the shark on land. Spike says that Giles is going to teach him to be a Watcher. Amusingly, Giles inadvertantly helped him become Buffy's literal 'watcher', of sorts, in S7 by trying to have him killed against Buffy's wishes ("Lies My Parents Told Me" [7x17]). Xander responds with a comment about him being under Giles' care for a while (the first three seasons). He does have other stuff that's more important now: Anya, a stable job, and trying to get out of his parents' basement.
XANDER: Buffy, are you sure you wanna play there? It's a pretty big sandbox.
Xander now asks Buffy if she's sure the desert, that primal part of her, is where she wants to be, or 'play'. Her response proves that she already knows what is happening. Xander replies with a true sentiment of not being able to protect yourself from everything. Buffy says that's she's way ahead of him on that point and calls him "big brother." I wonder if the brother comment could relate to the fact that their relationship has moved beyond friendship and into the realm of family. Taking this even further, Buffy might come to see Xander as older and more mature than her, which is something that definitely happens in S6 (for a while at least). Xander in S7 is shown to really have his stuff together as well. Buffy herself still has along way to go before maturing herself, which is something that at this point in time is shocking to Xander because of the pedastal he puts her on.
ANYA: Do you know where you're going? I've been thinking about getting back into vengeance.
As he looks ponderingly outside his icecream truck at himself, analyzing his life as he does all so often, Anya comes into the picture and bluntly asks him the big question: "do you know where you're going?" She then says she misses and wants to get back into vengeance because she's been at loose ends since she was a demon. Boy is this true, as we see when she does return to vengeance (because of Xander) in "Entropy" (6x18). It's not until "Selfless" (7x05) that we see her loose ends extend far beyond simple vengeance. Anya states it being a big 'year' for it, but she doesn't go back to it until S6. I guess that plot thread got pushed back a year by ME.
XANDER: But...isn't vengeance kind of...vengeful?
There's lots of concern from Xander here over Anya's vengeance wishes. He says that people can't do whatever they want, because of society's 'rules'. This feels like it directly ties in to a conversation between Buffy, Xander, and Dawn in "Villains" (6x20) about society's rules and magical rules: they're different. Buffy determines law in the mystical, not the natural world. Before this train of thought gets too complicated for Xander, sex comes flying back into the picture. As we found out in "Earshot" (3x18), Xander can't go on for too long without thinking about sex.
TARA: We just think you're really interesting.
Not only is Xander's brain diving into the sexual, but a connection is also being made to his feelings of failure. Xander says he's "going places," but everyone always responds "I'm way ahead of you." Buffy said the exact same thing to him. Everyone's 'ahead' of Xander, or at least that's the way he feels. The prolonged reaction shot from Xander watching the two girls kiss is pure gold. Whedon said in the commentary that he wanted to hold it even longer but they wouldn't let him. haha.
ANYA: Oh, go on.
This seems like a big dose of foreshadowing to not only their break-up, but Anya's self-realization that she needs to find who 'she' is ("Selfless" [7x05]). I'm not sure if that correlates to "gesturing emphatically" though which, by the way, is a phrase I use all the time.
XANDER: Girls?...I know what's up there!
Girls, fear, and cheese all in about 15 seconds. It doesn't get any better than this people! This is when you unequivocally know you're watching a show by the genius that is Joss Whedon. Simply awesome! My God I love this series. Note that soon I will be revealing a secret about the Cheese Man that I don't think many (if any) people are aware of. So don't stop reading now!...Hey!...Come back!
GILES: Hm. Now, the others have gone on ahead. Now, listen very carefully. Your life may depend on what I'm about to tell you. You need-
I won't quote any of the French talk, because its translation isn't of any direct importance. What is important is the metaphor of Xander not understanding anyone. Everyone around him, including his friends, are all speaking a different language (college) and growing up while he's simply stuck in place (the basement) and can't figure out why. Right as this is happening, he gets dragged to yet another place and will end up back in his basement again.
SNYDER: Where are you from, Harris?
Now Xander's made his way into Apocalypse Now where Snyder asks some pretty solid questions. Right off the bat we get Xander's confession that he's from the basement and was even possibly born there.
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.
The mention of being sheparded makes particular sense here, as Xander's always been pulled around wherever the people around him direct him to go. Could Snyder be trying to say that Xander's current path is one of dead flowers and decay? I think I'm going to go with that interpretation. And how about Xander finally giving it to Snyder, just as he hoped he would way back in "What's My Line? Pt. 1" (2x09) when he said, "Well, I'm glad you feel comfortable enough to be so honest with me. And I can only hope that one day I'm in the position to be that honest with you."
SNYDER: Where are you heading?
Here Snyder brings the question back to the basics again. First it was "where are you from" and now it's "where are you heading?" Xander immediately jumps to the idea that he's heading towards girls. Snyder warns him that the time to fool around with his life is running out. It's interesting that Xander replies to this with denial. He claims that the girls are just an excuse to get away from what's after him. The truth is that what he can't fight is not only the FS, but also his parents. He's trying as hard as he can to get away from them.
SNYDER: Are you a soldier?
Now Snyder asks him if he's a soldier, which kind of goes back to how, earlier, he said he was a conquistador to Joyce. Here he simply responds that he's a comfortador, one wanting love of comfort. Snyder claims that he's neither of the two, but rather a "whipping boy" who was raised by terrible parents and who will rot away because of them if he doesn't escape. Then Xander gets a timely cramp and begins running frantically away again.
GILES: It's more serious than we thought.
As Xander runs from place to place in his life, we can overhear this little interesting discussion in Giles' home. This feels very much like foreshdowing of the events of the final S5 episodes. In "Spiral" (5x20) we see Buffy running away from Glory, a being she can't fight, and Giles getting jabbed by a spear. "Giles!" When Anya says "maybe we should slap her," I'm reminded of Spike slapping Buffy in "The Weight of the World" (5x21) even though Willow is the one unconcious here. Anyway, after all this running, guess where Xander ends up? Correct! The Basement.
XANDER: That's not the way out.
I think the moment when the door opens and Xander's dad walks out is one of acceptance that he's got to seriously make changes in his life. He repeats the phrase "that's not the way out" again, which he needs to realize beyond his subconcious. Xander's dad asks him what's wrong with him and why he won't come up and be a part of their disfunctional family. From what we've seen of Xander's parents, if his mom is crying her guts out about anything it's what a crappy husband she married. Then his dad repeats the thing we've been discovering about Xander this whole episode: "You don't understand." Think about that phrase literally: Xander doesn't understand anything. His dad goes on to say life has reached its breaking point in that home, and that Xander cannot improve it. Then he gets his heart ripped out, which hints at Xander being the 'heart' of the Scooby Gang. Taken more literally, though, it represents the FS going after each part of the spell ("Primeval" [4x21]) that was used in summoning it. Willow was the spirit and Xander was the heart.
We've made it to Giles! Are you still with me? Fortunately for my brain, Giles' dream is relatively short and has a very sharp focus to it. There's not a lot of ambiguity here, and this is made all the more evident from the first frame of the dream. It opens with a watch swinging back and forth, bringing the idea of the Watcher back into focus. Buffy is sitting on a chair and Giles, in full Watcher tweed, is talking to her as an instructor.
GILES: You have to stop thinking. Let it wash over you.
First of all, isn't Buffy the cutest thing in the world right here? I absolutely adore her burst into laughter. An interesting fact I picked up from Whedon's commentary was that in order to get SMG to laugh he spontaneously made funny faces behind the camera. Every time I picture that in my head I end up laughing too. Anyway, Giles tells Buffy to stop thinking (which isn't going to ever happen); to let the hypnotization wash over her. This is kind of eerily reminscent to how Giles hypnotized her in "Helpless" (3x12). Buffy's response to this is spot-on to her character. She calls this "old-fashioned," which is exactly what Buffy doesn't represent as a Slayer and what makes her unique. Giles then continues his tradition while ignoring the fact that Buffy and her techniques are different. This flaw causes problems several times, including in "Helpless" (3x12) and "Lies My Parents Told Me" (7x17).
BUFFY: Come on, come on! We're gonna miss all the good stuff.
Here we see Buffy being looked at as Giles' little girl. This representation is really sweet and shows how Giles looks at Buffy. It's also very interesting that Olivia is in his dream as well. It appears there's a big part of Giles that wants a tradition family of his own. Buffy's his daughter and Olivia is his wife. Olivia says that Buffy wants to train badly, which I think is what Giles really wants -- he desparately misses training and connecting with Buffy frequently, as a parent would miss spending time with their daughter. It's obvious he misses the day when he felt Buffy really needed him around as a guiding figure. He also says that Buffy doesn't have much patience, which is something he really does think about her. It's interesting to note that the fake vampire Buffy throws the ball at is Count Drac who, of course, appears in "Buffy vs. Dracula" (5x01).
GILES: I haven't got any treats.
Notice that this entire first part of Giles' dream is about Buffy. I think this shows that she comes first in his life. His personal wants and ambitions are only considered when she is taken care of. When he says to her, "I haven't got any treats," I feel that represents the role of the Slayer. She trains, she slays, she's out there every night, and she never gets rewarded for her efforts and never really gets to be happy. Olivia seems to be the one representing Buffy's voice in that she needs a personal life to survive. Being only the Slayer will kill her, and that happens from "The Body" (5x16) on including a literal death in "The Gift" (5x22). Giles goes on to say that he's the one who should be guiding Buffy. When he says "blood of the lamb" that likely refers to Buffy's upcoming sacrifice.
There's three visual hints that need to be talked about. First is the fact that Olivia is carrying a stroller, which reinforces Giles' perception of Buffy as not only his daughter, but as a child. Second is the fact that Olivia is pregnant, which foreshadows Dawn. Third is when the negative image on Buffy appears and Giles recognizes it as the FS. That image and the mud represent the essence of the Slayer, the dark instincts, that reside within Buffy.
Spike tells Giles he's "gonna miss everything" to which he in return says that he's juggling a lot of different things, which is true. He's got his duty to Buffy, his aspirations of a family and life, and his training as a Watcher all sending him conflicting desires, wants, needs, and messeges. It's no surprise that Giles doesn't want to be abrupty forced to make any decisions, hence the "don't push me around."
Also of importance in Spike's crypt is what's going on in the background. The baby carriage, which represents Buffy as a child, is knocked over and Olivia is crying. Here's more foreshadowing of not only Buffy's death in "The Gift" (5x22), but also the complete loss of her childhood after being magically revived by Willow in "Bargaining Pt. 1" (6x01).
SPIKE: I've hired myself out as an attraction.
As soon as Spike begins talking outside his crypt, take notice of the gnome lying to the right of his feet (there's some more on the left as well). That's the exact same gnome that Xander kicked and broke (screenshot on the left is from "Restless" while the one on the right is from "Entropy" [6x18]), uncovering an Evil Trio spy cam on Buffy's house. Where did Buffy go as a result of that gnome? To Spike's crypt, which connects a lots of things. In that same episode, Spike and Anya are caught on camera having sex, making their former partners feel terrible, while here in "Restless" Spike says that he's an "attraction" and Giles calls him a "sideshow freak." Spike's pleased it's showbiz, which seems to be an attempt at making fun of carefree movie stars who can't seem to ever have long or trustworthy relationships, let alone marriages.
GILES: What am I supposed to do with all of this?
Giles is confused by the mess that he sees around him, and Spike gives it to him straight. He tells him he's got to make up his mind about which direction he wants to go in his life. The question of 'what's taking so long' is then posed along with a hint of which way he should go. Spike makes reference to Giles' intellect, which traces back to his training as a Watcher once again. In a nice dose of foreshadowing, Giles then says "I still think Buffy should have killed you." "Lies My Parents Told Me" (7x17) anyone? It's also worth mentioning Spike's poses. While I'm unsure of if any pose but the last represents anything directly relevant to him, the last does foreshadow. The pose is that of Jesus Christ on the crucifix, which directly ties into Buffy's sacrifice in "The Gift" (5x22), with her crucifix-like pose as she dives to her death, and also to Spike's own sacrifice of his life in "Chosen" (7x22).
CHEESE MAN: I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.
Aside from the hilarious quote there, I have a (hopefully) big surprise. I don't know of anyone else who knows about this, so if you did know about this and what I'm about to say is no surprise, then keep quiet and let me enjoy the fame (j/k of course)! I wish I could get a screencap of this for you, but alas I can't find one. It turns out the Cheese Man is in another episode of BtVS besides "Restless." He makes an extremely brief appearance in "Storyteller" (7x16)! It's in the middle of the episode when Willow's using a charm to pull memories of the First Evil in Mexico out of Andrew. There's a sequence of images that go by which mostly includes the Seal, an Ubervamp, and the likes. If you look really closely during this montage of imagery, the Cheese Man himself is slipped into just one frame, and a second later, it shows his plate of cheese too! Did this just make your day? Because it made my day when I first went "wait just a damn minute" and rewound my DVD to try to pause the exact frame. Joss Whedon, you kick ass!
GILES: I'm so sorry I'm late. There's a great deal going on. And all at once!
All of the facets of Giles' life are blending together here. We also get a bunch of exposition about everyone's current situation. While this discussion is taking place, Anya's doing a terrible, which makes it a highly amusing, stand-up comedian routine in the background.
WILLOW: Do you know this is your fault?
Now here's some more meat and potatoes. Willow tells Giles that what is happening is his fault, probably because he's the one who came up with the idea for the joining spell in "Primeval" (4x21). Giles reiterates that he's busy trying to sort out his life, that he has things in it besides his Watcher duties. I think Willow represents Giles' brain trying to work out what is happening, because she now realizes that some primal force is after them (which Giles recognized when he saw Primal Buffy). His response suggests he's thinking that Willow is talking about the four Scoobies when they joined together, but Xander pops in and corrects him -- it's not as simple as Giles is making it out to be.
WILLOW: Rupert. You've gotta focus. You must have some kind of explanation. If we don't know what we're fighting, I don't think we stand a chance.
Willow, still representing Giles' Watcher training here, tells him to focus in a way he might tell himself to focus. This is when he starts singing, which really displays his conflicting desires of wanting to be a father, a rock star, and a Watcher. Another tidbit I picked up from Whedon's wonderful commentary is that Giles' song here is what convinced Whedon that a musical is really a viable option and actually motivated the musical. The song itself it simply pure exposition relating to him putting the pieces together, and is quite entertaining exposition at that. Anthony Stewart Head has a wonderfully soothing singing voice.
GILES: Well that was...obvious. I know who you are. And I can defeat you...with my intellect. I...can cripple you with my thoughts. Of course, you underestimate me. You couldn't know. You never had a Watcher.
After crawling back stage and following a wire, he finds a pile of tangled wires and his watch. This is extremely clever, because the tangled nature of the wires represents his confusion over what to do with his life while the watch is meant to give him his answer. That's why he says, "well that was...obvious." Giles is also, at this moment, completely aware of what's hunting them (the FS in a really creepy slow-motion slide effect) and mentions her not having a Watcher. I think this helps validate the importance of his position as Watcher to himself as well. Also notice how the FS cuts open his head? Once again the connection is made to the joining spell -- he was the 'mind'.
Buffy's dream is absolutely wonderful (not that the others aren't). Like Giles', this dream isn't quite as cryptic as the first two. This one also has the most foreshadowing of all of them. We get strong hints about where Buffy and Riley are headed, Joyce's tragedy, Dawn's arrival, and more. But enough boring exposition from me! Lets get started! The dream opens with a shot of Buffy in her bed with the sun shining in through the window onto her. Anya is in Willow's bed in their dorm room.
ANYA: Buffy! Wake up! Buffy, you have to wake up right away!
Now, the first question that comes to mind is why Anya is in Willow's bed. Unfortunately I don't have an answer for that. To me it seems that Anya's words are referring to Buffy being in the grave -- in heaven, hence why the sun is on her. Anya clearly wants Buffy to "wake up," which means not be dead. Now, Anya is part of the group that helps bring Buffy back to life, but aside from that I don't see a connection. Anyway, Buffy tells Anya in return that she doesn't want to wake up and to frankly knock it off -- in other words, "I need my heaven sleep, leave me alone!" Unfortunately for poor Buffy, they dont ("Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01]).
Take close notice of the FS in the screencap above. Of particular interest is the fact that she's chained to the ground. If this sounds familiar, it should, because in "Get it Done" (7x15) Buffy meets the creators of the original Slayer. They created the Slayer by tieing her to the ground and essentially raping her with the essence of a demon. This image here is in direct reference to that history.
BUFFY: Faith and I just made that bed.
Right away a connection to the Faith-based dreams is made, which immediately brings up hints of Dawn's arrival. Buffy knows they're making a bed for someone, but not who. This is why she thought Tara was there. We can see that right from the start, Buffy's somewhat in control of her dream. She speaks about hanging out with her friends and the movie gathering. It's interesting that Tara is telling her she lost them, which connects with the FS's later point about Buffy having to be alone. But Buffy resists, and claims that she does, in fact, need to find her friends.
BUFFY: It's so late.
Buffy looks at the same clock from the dream she had with Faith in "Graduation Day Pt. 2" (3x22). Then the clock read "7:30" and now it says the same thing, which is why Tara says the "clock's completely wrong." I guess it wouldn't make any sense if the clock read "3:65." :)
TARA: (shows Buffy the Manus Tarot card) Here.
First I'd like to mention that from the commentary, it appears that Tara is the FS's voice because Buffy doesn't know her very well and also because she has that mystical vibe going for her. Anyway, Tara offers Buffy the Manus (hand) Tarot card. Buffy's response is a bit confusing. Does she mean she'll never be privy to a joining spell again? Tara responds with the greatest piece of cryptic dialogue "Restless" has to offer: "You think you know...what's to come...what you are. You haven't even begun." When I heard this for the first time, I got the impression the series would take the road most genre shows would take: make Buffy more powerful physcially or give her new abilities. I love that they didn't go that route. Tara's cryptic comment turns out to mean that Buffy simply has no idea what the nature of the Slayer, herself, is really about. After this, Buffy continues to reject the notion of the Slayer and would rather go find her friends. Tara slips in "be back before dawn" as she walks out, which obviously infers Dawn's imminent arrival in "Buffy vs. Dracula" (5x01).
As Buffy is looking for her friends, she notices that her mom is inside a hole in the wall. This is a very interesting metaphor for how their relationship is these days. As Faith pointed out in "This Year's Girl" (4x15), Buffy hasn't been to see her mom much this year, hence why Joyce feels a bit like she's been put in a wall and only has a little window to see Buffy and her life out of. As can be seen by their introduction here, though, they are still very amicable to each other. Joyce understands that Buffy's doing the "college thing" and has broke away from her, but it's obvious that she really misses Buffy. At first she says "I'm fine here. Don't worry about me." Buffy begins expressing concern for her: "it looks dirty," which could be foreshadowing Joyce's upcoming illness and death. But Joyce puts on her supportive mother face and basically tells Buffy to go on with her life ("you go find your friends"). Then when Buffy says "I really don't think you should live in there," Joyce finally gives us the heart of the matter, and that is Buffy could break through that wall if she really wanted to, but instead she goes wandering off and leaves her mother there. This feels very much like a commentary of their relationship during S4. Because when Joyce gets ill in S5, Buffy will be right there for her.
RILEY: Hey there, killer.
Buffy continues to look for her friends only to find Riley with a completely human version of Adam. Riley calls Buffy a killer, which immediately establishes her connection to the FS. Everyone Buffy is running into is trying to convince her that she's not supposed to have friends, that she's supposed to be a lone killer. But Buffy keeps rejecting these comments and continues to look for her friends. When Buffy expresses surprise that Riley came back from the government, Riley's response perfectly states how he feels about Buffy. Riley has genuine love for her, and when he says that he "never left," he's saying that his thoughts were always there, with Buffy.
BUFFY: But how did the debriefing go?
This chunk of dialogue shows that Buffy still has a lot of trust issues with Riley. She sees him as going off, being put in another position of authority, and not telling her about it -- as in keeping secrets from her. After a very, very cute "we could have celebrated" from Buffy, Riley says that they (the government) want to rule the world. This is showing just how worried Buffy is that Riley's still easily influenced by secret government projects. Riley's final comment, and the hilarious pull in shot of the gun, is a knock on our government no doubt and how its focus might be better suited in areas outside of foreign policy. I'm not sure I completely agree with what Whedon's trying to say here, but I'll keep that to myself.
ADAM: She's uncomfortable with certain concepts. It's understandable. Aggression is a natural human tendency. (Looks at Buffy) Though you and me come by it another way.
Adam begins to speak to Buffy and says some really interesting stuff. I'm pretty sure he's speaking for the FS, who briefly appears behind Buffy, during this sequence. He claims that Buffy is uncomfortable with her Slayer nature, her naturally enhanced agressive tendencies. When he says "you and me come by it another way," he's directly referring to Buffy's Slayer instincts and his own aggressive responses due to being mixed with a bunch of demons. In a nutshell, Adam says that humans are agressive by nature themselves, but both he and Buffy have gotten their enhanced aggressive natures through other, non-natural means, whether it be through science or magic. Buffy tries to refute this idea by saying her and Adam are not demons, but he's not convinced -- there is demon essence inside her, as we learn for fact in "Get it Done" (7x15). Then Riley makes another jab at the government, insinuating that one of its main goals is to file things away and assign names to them -- this definitely does happens, which makes the comment really funny. When Buffy asks Adam what his name used to be, he claims no one knows. This makes sense if Adam is really just speaking for the FS.
ADAM: This could be trouble.
The fort/pillow talk is just hilarious -- boys playing out their military fantasies. Buffy frantically claims she has weapons, then bends down and opens a bag only to find a big pile of mud in it. She looks confused, because she didn't find her friends in there -- which are Buffy's initial weapons. But the weapon of the Slayer doesn't come from friends, it comes from the demon within. That's why she finds the mud there. The mud represents the primal nature of the Slayer -- the dark demon roots. After her hesitation to give into that nature, Buffy revels in it and fully gives into it by putting the mud all over her face.
As Riley speaks to her she glances upwards towards him looking completely primal and ferocious. It's very interesting that as soon as Buffy gives into her primal nature, Riley says "thought you were looking for your friends." When in this state, Buffy doesn't seem to care about her friends anymore. Then Riley calls her a killer, again, and basically says that the Slayer nature is too much for him so he's taking off. That's big foreshadowing of why he leaves in "Into the Woods" (5x10). In that episode Riley says, "I wanted to know what you felt. I wanted to know why Dracula and Angel have so much power over you."
After Riley walks away, Buffy gets up and walks outside into the desert, the same primal place she was 'playing' in during Xander's dream. I just want to take a moment to say how utterly beautiful the cinematography, music, and Buffy herself is during this transition. This transition very much parallels the timeline of events to come in S5, with Riley leaving Buffy in "Into the Woods" [5x10] partially due to having some gut confusion with Buffy's slayer nature and then Buffy finding herself in the desert on a quest to learn if that very nature is turning her "into stone" ("Intervention" [5x18]). This ultimately brings her awareness that death is her gift, which plays out in the beautiful S5 finale "The Gift" [5x22].
BUFFY: I'm never gonna find them here.
Now this is fantastic stuff here. Buffy deludes herself into thinking she has no desire to tap into her Slayer instincts. But the FS sees through this facade and, speaking through Tara, says that Buffy didn't really come out into the desert to find her friends -- she came to discover more about her nature, which extends from the curiousity she had when she played in the mud and the sandbox. This topic is also the primary theme and launching point of S5. Right in the beginning of "Buffy vs. Dracula" (5x01) we see her on the 'hunt', already further embracing her Slayer instincts. Buffy goes on to insist that the FS speak for herself rather than a through a conduit. It also amuses me that Buffy would say it's not polite to speak through someone else, because the FS Slayer likely has absolutely no concept of what 'polite' even is.
BUFFY: Why do you follow me?
Buffy asks the FS why she appears to be following her, but the FS isn't following her. Then she asks for her friends again, and since this is something the FS has no concept of, there is no answer given. All the FS knows about is death and isolation.
BUFFY: Make her speak.
Now we get to the center of the story. The FS says that she doesn't speak, has no name, only exists for death and destruction, and lives absolutely alone which obviously infers the same about Buffy. But Buffy still doesn't buy it, even coming directly from the very first Slayer. She says "I am not alone." The reply that the Slayer doesn't fit in the human world is very interesting. By 'walk' I think the FS means that Buffy is not a normal human being and will never live a normal life. Buffy rejects this again saying that she has embraced the human world, is not primal, is not alone, and still wants her friends back. It's worth noting that the FS has the last word on the subject -- Buffy's not going to be able to ever fully escape this burden. This is when the Cheese Man makes his final appearance (in this episode that is!) and convinces Buffy she's had enough of this dream. Her and the FS then duke it out in a really cool fight and she is able to pull the FS closer to her reality.
BUFFY: Are you quite finished? It's over, okay? I'm going to ignore you, and you're going to go away. You're really gonna have to get over the whole...primal power thing. You're not the source of me. Also, in terms of hair care, you really wanna say, what kind of impression am I making in the workplace? 'Cause-
Buffy's approach to rid herself of the FS is to ignore her. That might be a temporary solution, but it doesn't solve the conflict that burns inside her. She says that the FS is not the source of her, but to some extent it is. Obviously Buffy is a very unique Slayer, but that doesn't mean she's not still a Slayer. This is something she's going to unfortunately learn the hard way in the next three seasons. I'd like to also point out how much I enjoyed Buffy waking up right when the conversation started to get really off topic: hair care. haha. That wraps up the dreams!
Before I discuss my closing thoughts about all the dreams, I want to take a moment to admire the closing conversation between the Scoobies. I love how they all sat around the table and discussed what happened. Some quotes I found amusing are:
GILES: Somehow our joining with...Buffy and...invoking the essence of the, the Slayer's power was an affront to the source of that power.
I also love the very final scene, when Buffy looks into what will likely become Dawn's room. The repetition of Tara's line, "You think you know...what's to come...what you are. You haven't even begun," gets us perfectly prepped for the wonderful season to come. Why do I think S5 is wonderful? Let me just say that is has nothing to do with my opinion of Glory.
Alright, I'm going to now briefly summarize what was learned about our dear Scoobies. Willow's dream is extremely cryptic and confusing, but the points being made kept leading back to the idea of Willow still being the nerd inside and that she continues to ignore important evidence to stop using black magic. What I found particularly interesting is the revelation, "No. No. I need it," that some part of her knows exactly what's she's doing and she just chooses to repress that better judgement. I really feel through this dream we get a whole lot better handle on exactly the state Willow's in when S5 begins, and we know that unless she does something to change her ways, she'll end up in disaster. As we know, she chooses disaster.
Now Xander's dream turns out to also be pretty focused. The major theme running through it is the concept of running away from the problem, his parents, but not permanently fixing the problem. As he runs, he keeps coming across all these confusing wishes and desires. We see him think about sex and girls, about wanting comfort and love, and also about analyzing his failures in life. He feels like everyone around him has moved on with their lives and that he's not moving anywhere. The central point being made is that Xander has to get the hell out of his parent's basement as soon as possible, and that he needs to learn to notice his positive traits (which "The Replacement" [5x03] does a good job at initiating).
The conflicts inside Giles are very clear. This year has been one of confusion for him. He isn't sure if he wants to be a Watcher, a rock star, or a father. His dreams are simply meant to show him what his focus should be, and that is being a Watcher. Giles sees Buffy as not only his daughter, but also as a child. He appears to want a happy, traditional family of his own and we even see Buffy as his daughter and Olivia as his wife. This is foreshadowing of how utterly happy he is when Buffy asks him to be her Watcher again in "Buffy vs. Dracula" (5x01).
Buffy's dream is heavily focused on her nature as a Slayer. All the evidence around her is saying that she's a killer and shouldn't have any friends. However, she continually refuses this reasoning and stands firm in the position that her friends are her weapons, not the Slayer. What's also fascinating is how for a moment, when putting the mud on her face, Buffy does give into her Slayer nature and seems to be completely embracing it. This is the moment Riley calls her a killer and says that she's on her own. Buffy's Slayer nature is the focus of S5, which ends with her death in "The Gift" (5x22).
That's it! I hope you got as much enjoyment and information out of this review as I did! This episode is just marvelous. As can be seen by the many pieces of foreshadowing I uncovered, "Restless" proves to be absolutely vital to the fluency of the series. Nearly everything, character-wise, that is to come is foreshadowed by this episode. Just like "Hush" (4x10), "Restless" is not simply an artistic gimmick. This is the seminal episode of the entire series for the four core characters. Simply stunning.
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