30 Day Challenge: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Day 26: Best Willow-Centric Episode

Note #1: Sorry this is late! I’ve been readjusting since Thanksgiving – long story – and part of that is getting my sleep schedule on track. That does not leave much time for doing much of anything other than work and rest, but … it’s a process. 

Note #2: Next month, I’m going to be doing a few supplemental Buffy posts, so be on the lookout for those, if for no other reason than to make me happy. And well, because you’re actually interested in reading my thoughts on a two-decade-old television series that, incredibly, remains relevant to today’s environment. 

Note #3: Today‘s challenge will be posted later today. It features Xander, so … be prepared for virtual eye rolls. 

But anyway, onto yesterday’s challenge: 

Like “Lies My Parents Told Me” and “Selfless,” my favorite – and in my opinion, the absolute best – Willow episode comes from the much-derided Season Seven. “Same Time, Same Place” sees Willow returning to Sunnydale after training with a powerful coven in England, but akin to Season One’s “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” none of her friends can see her (and vice versa) due to the wonky magic of the Hellmouth. Unlike Marcie from that first season, however, it’s not the actions (or lack of actions, honestly) of others that causes Willow to become invisible; it’s her own beliefs that put her in an alternate dimension where only demons could see or talk to her. She didn’t think she deserved any kind of forgiveness for her previous actions (you know, murder, trying to end the world, etc.) and expected to be treated as such. She subconsciously couldn’t face that sort of judgment, so poof. 

Her isolation was just so heartbreaking, even coming from someone who absolutely loathed how her character was handled in the previous season, and even though Anya is the person I identify with the most out of the entire Scooby gang, in “Same Time, Same Place,” I felt a familiar pull to her, especially considering the last few years of my life. She’d done things so beyond who she was that they were now a part of her, inexorably tied to her past and her future; she tried to burn bridges and push away even her oldest friend. She was fearful that those old habits would return and further damage her ability to truly heal, to truly be a part of a world she’d recently wanted to destroy.

I mean, that’s what really gets to me. Although I didn’t try to end the world, I slowly ostracized myself from my family and friends the longer I stayed in my abusive marriage. I was a shell of the woman I was before, and when I finally decided to leave, I didn’t know what I would be facing. My parents would have been justified in abandoning me; my friends no longer really knew me, and honestly, I didn’t really know myself. Worse, though: I didn’t trust myself. Still don’t, really. But I’m trying. I’m slowly letting myself become visible again, even if it’s painful and terrifying. 

“Same Time, Same Place” wasn’t a lighthearted romp – although it was hilarious to see Dawn paralyzed, and Anya was, of course, a delight throughout the whole ep – and it shouldn’t have been. It was a study on forgiveness, both from the outside and within, and it was handled beautifully … deftly, even. The subtlety in this episode (the entire season, really) almost makes up for the writers’ lack of such in the sixth season when it came to Willow. While Buffy dealt with teen issues (parental relationships, romance, popularity, etc.) throughout its run, it was very rarely so on-the-nose after-school special like it was with Willow’s addiction to magick. True to life, it did nearly destroy her and alienated her from everyone she knew and loved, but it was just so … blatantly metaphorical, maybe? But rarely do we examine what happens after, and that’s what this episode accomplished perfectly. 

With the help and love of her friends, Willow’s healing process had officially begun. 

Art Credit: Buffy Wiki, The TV Critic, Unwelcome Commentary

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