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Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wish

[Updated April 30, 2013]

On the surface, The Wish is a very entertaining episode with important things to say about the characters. The problem is that if you look at it a bit more closely, it suffers from a couple of significant flaws which lurk below the surface: (1) the episode leaves us believing that none of the characters actually learned any of those important things; and (2) the WishVerse creates major continuity problems. I’m going to explain below the existence of these two problems and offer a metaphorical reading which (mostly?) solves them, but first I need to talk about it just from our perspective as viewers.

The most important thing I have to say about The Wish is this: don’t let the apparent focus on Cordelia cause you to miss what I consider to be the most important point of the episode. The real point is not about Cordy, it’s about Buffy: what would she have been like if she’d never come to Sunnydale? Dead inside is the answer. That’s the Buffy we see in the WishVerse: a hardened killer with no emotional attachments. It’s the fate Buffy warned Faith against at the end of Revelations.
The teaser clues us in to this purpose:
“Xander:  So how come Faith was a no-show? I thought mucus-y demons were her favorites.
Buffy:  Couldn't reach her... again. She hasn't been hanging out much.
Xander:  I detect worry.
Buffy:  A little bit. Slaying's a rough gig. Too much alone time isn't healthy. Stuff gets pent up.”

Buffy’s worried about Faith’s isolation, so we see the impact of isolation in the remainder of the episode. The cause of WishVerseBuffy’s emotional deadening is that by never coming to Sunnydale she never gained her friends and Watcher. How does Buffy deal with the terrible things that happen in her life? “I have you guys”, as she says to Xander and Willow in the teaser. WishVerseBuffy tells us about Buffy, it tells us about Faith, and – what sets the episode apart – it uses Cordelia to tell us these things because it tells us about her in the surface plotline. Three birds, one stone.
The reason why the episode is told through the eyes of Cordelia at this point in time is that she’s a metaphor for Faith and Buffy because she feels that she has no friends. That makes her feel dead inside, which is one reason why she dies less than half way through her own wish. The episode accomplishes this in a very clever way, namely by putting us in Cordelia’s point of view in order to tell us about Buffy/Faith. That allows us to learn something about Cordy at the same time we’re learning about Buffy/Faith.
Ok, now let me return to the problematic aspects of The Wish. I said it above, but I’ll repeat it here: The “message” problem is that it doesn’t appear that there is one within the confines of the episode. We, the audience, learn important things from the events we see in the WishVerse, but the reversal of the wish, combined with Cordy’s reaction at the end, make it seem that she didn’t learn anything (and, of course, no other character could have either). This is, to say the least, unsatisfying.
I also mentioned continuity problems. The “continuity” objection to the alternate reality as we see it is that it’s impossible for Cordy to be there. The reason is that the Master must have risen at the Harvest because Buffy wasn’t there to stop it. When we saw the Harvest, Luke was busy devouring everyone in sight until Buffy interrupted him. And this is the key: the one he was about to drain when Buffy showed up was Cordelia herself. She would have died then.
There are other problems as well: Where’s Darla? Luke? Jesse? What happened to the Annoying One? Was Xander vamped before the SheMantis got him? Before he became a hyena with no one around to transpossess him? Was Willow vamped before Moloch seduced her? Since Xander had no interest in Willow at that time, when and how did he and VampWillow become a couple? Why didn’t Angel die when Spike restored Dru to health? How can Xander refer to Cordy as “an old crush” when he hated her long after Buffy came to Sunnydale?
I’m not saying that these problems are unsolvable. In any show with magic and an alternate universe, virtually anything is possible. I’m trying to explain the episode without resort to fanwanking on that scale. The way I propose to do that is to consider that the episode was told using the metaphor of a daydream, and the fact that we’re seeing a daydream necessarily means that it’s told from Cordelia’s (internal) point of view.
Before I explain what this means and how I see it working, I need to give a hat tip to shadowkat, whom I’ve mentioned before as one of the posters at ATPO. She was the one who clued me in to the importance of point of view (POV). I don’t believe she ever used it to analyze The Wish, so anything I say here is not her fault.
First I need to distinguish a related but different concept. When we watch a show or read a book, we necessarily interpret it through the lens of our own background and experiences. What we see may not be what the author intended. The debate about the extent to which our own interpretations are valid or even preferred over that of the author goes under the heading “authorial intent”. It’s a debate about the interpretations of people outside the confines of the show.
That’s not the topic I’m going to talk about here, though I’ll get to it later. What I’m going to discuss here is the POV of the characters inside the confines of the show itself, for example Buffy’s POV or Xander’s.
An important consideration in watching any TV show (or play or movie, or reading anything, for that matter) is deciding whose point of view the audience is supposed to be viewing the events through. BtVS is usually presented as third person, meaning it’s shown as if outside observers were seeing the events as they happen. But that doesn’t mean that what we see is the objective truth. As a general rule, works of literature tend to give us the story from the perspective of the protagonist – here, Buffy – no matter how “objective” the presentation may otherwise appear. We mostly see the events as she sees them, and we almost unthinkingly adopt her perspective on those events. If you have any doubts about this, just consider how the presentation might differ if told from the perspective of a vampire or demon.
There isn’t any rule that says we have to see the fictional world through the eyes of the protagonist – we could, for example, take Xander’s view of Angel in Becoming rather than Buffy’s. But most of the time, the natural inclination will be to see the world of BtVS through Buffy’s eyes. I myself lean very strongly to this way of watching the show, and I tend to interpret the events through a Buffy-centric lens. That’s consistent with what I called in the Introduction the Central Metaphor of the show: Buffy is us and we are Buffy.
If you’re like me and generally see the Buffyverse through Buffy’s eyes, it’s important to keep in mind that what we see isn’t necessarily objectively true (though it often is), but that it’s what appears to be true for Buffy. Thus, we may see Giles as occasionally (always?) stuffy because that’s how Buffy sees him. Similarly, we see Xander as loyal but self-righteous and judgmental, Willow as loyal and supportive, Angel as romantic, etc. All of these may be true from an objective viewpoint, but we don’t have to treat them as objectively real within the show, we just have to treat them as true for Buffy.
Sometimes, whether in a particular scene or in an entire episode, we’ll be shown events through the perspective of another character. This is usually obvious when Buffy isn’t in the scene, but sometimes it happens even when she is. As I see it, there are at least 6 episodes in which most of the events we see are interpreted through the eyes of a supporting character. I think arguments can be made for other episodes as well, but the 6 I have in mind –The Wish, Amends, The Zeppo, Doppelgangland, A New Man, and Storyteller – are the most obvious. Those who’ve seen the show can consider these episodes, particularly The Zeppo, and it’ll be pretty obvious what I mean.
Since The Wish is the first of these episodes, let’s talk a bit about what it means to see the world through the eyes of someone other than Buffy. One thing it means is that the episode plot tends to revolve around the supporting character rather than around Buffy. The episode may still tell us something important about Buffy, but it’s the other character who briefly takes center stage. It should be obvious that The Wish focuses very strongly on Cordy; she’s the (apparent) center of the story here.
Another key aspect of a character POV episode is that we see the world as they do or as they would like to see it. I made this point with respect to Faith’s view of men in BatB and Spike’s view of love in discussing Lovers Walk. His attitude towards love isn’t the only one possible, so we don’t have to treat his “love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood … blood screaming inside you to work its will” speech as expressing Eternal Truth. It just tells us about Spike.
The case of Spike in Lovers Walk is a good example of my point that there have been particular scenes in previous episodes when the show took us away from Buffy’s view and lets us see the world through the eyes of another character. Since this has been true from the beginning, I should explain why it is that I’ve waited until now to raise this point.
There are two important reasons. One is that The Wish is the first of what I’m calling POV episodes, in which the entire episode is (or seems to be) dedicated to the POV of another character, so it’s an obvious choice. The other is, as I said above, that I believe I can solve the “message” and “continuity” problems by analyzing The Wish with consideration of POV.
This brings us back to the point I made above regarding where Cordelia is in life at this moment. She made a courageous decision to date Xander publicly (BB&B), only to have him betray her in a painful way. Because of the social status difference between them, his betrayal is crushingly painful and makes her feel (and look) particularly foolish. She suffers the loss of the social network over which she’d previously reigned, leaving her now in a harsh, brutal social environment with no source of emotional support at a time when she really needs it. Not surprisingly, the world looks pretty bleak to her.
And that’s what we see in the world Anyanka creates in The Wish. Harmony defers to Cordelia because that’s how Cordelia sees what “should” be true. The Cordettes look up to her again, John Lee asks her out (after rejecting her in real life), but she has the Queen C status and leaves him hanging. Then everything goes wrong. She runs into Willow and Xander, who are bloodsucking fiends and kill her as a couple because she sees their coupling (so to speak) as having sucked the life out of her in reality. Giles is well-meaning but ineffective, almost a pre-Ripper Giles. Buffy is harsh and cold, which is how Cordy sees her. Oz kills Willow because Cordy expects that he’s as angry at Willow as she is at Xander. Xander kills Angel because Cordy knows he hates Angel. In short, the WishVerse is an extended metaphor of a daydream describing Cordy’s life as she imagines it is now, albeit with a moral lesson on her part gained during the course of her reverie:
Cordelia: Listen to me. We have to find Buffy. She'll figure out a way to save us. She was supposed to be here, and as much as it kills me to admit it... things were better when she was around.
***
Cordelia: No. No! No way! I wish us into Bizarro Land, and you guys are still together?! I cannot win!
***
Cordelia: (frantic) Giles! It's all my fault! I wasn't... I made this
*stupid* wish...
Giles: Come on. Please lie...
Cordelia: No! You have to get Buffy. Buffy changes it. (Giles lets go of her) It wasn't like this. It was better. I mean, the clothes alone... (Giles takes off his glasses) But people were happy. Mostly.


If that ain't a moral, Aesop should burn his stories.
So that’s the internal message. It’s not the only message, because we as viewers can see other ones, but it’s a message available to Cordy within the show.
Now let me talk about the mechanics of it. I’d describe the events like this. Anyanka created the WishVerse from scratch. We can think of it as either a separately existing world or, as I’d prefer, one existing solely in Cordy’s imagination, consistent with the daydream metaphor.
In either alternative, this WishVerse never existed before Cordy made the wish; Anyanka even characterizes it as a “brave new world”. In order to create that world, Anyanka needed information to create the inhabitants. She took that information from Cordy's view of them at the moment in time when Cordy made the wish. Thus, Cordy saw Xander and Willow as a predatory and evil couple, so that’s what they became in the WishVerse. Etc. As a result, the characters in the WishVerse do not represent objectively "real" characters in Sunnydale, but rather those characters as filtered through Cordelia's thoughts and impressions at that particular time.
There are some objections to my reading here. One is that I can’t account for the amulet if the WishVerse exists solely in Cordy’s mind. That objection is easier to solve if we see Anyanka as having actually created the alternate universe. However, I don’t think it’s a problem either way. “Smashing the amulet” just becomes a metaphor for Cordy waking from her reverie. Our imaginations are perfectly capable of such images. In comments a number of people preferred the idea that the amulet was real. I have some responses to that, but I can’t discuss them without spoilers for later this season and for S7. I will mention them when I can do so without spoiling.
Some people object that Cordy can’t die if it’s all in her head. But RealCordy didn’t die, only WishVerseCordy. We all are capable of imagining our own deaths and the consequences of that. One important consequence is that if the whole episode took place within Cordy’s mind, then Cordy could actually learn a lesson from it. That’s not possible if the WishVerse existed separately; once the amulet was destroyed, nobody could “remember” things which happened under its spell. Separate existence would not solve the “message” problem with the episode.
In addition, the consequences of the amulet’s destruction are consistent with the metaphor of a daydream or fantasy. Giles says that “'In order to defeat Anyanka, one must destroy her power center. This should reverse all the wishes she's granted….” That’s what happens when our daydreams end – the world goes back to what it was before.
There’s another potential problem which those who’ve seen the rest of S3 will recognize, but it involves spoilers so I’ll come back to it at the appropriate time. What I’d say about my interpretation is that it solves the continuity and “message” problems that are otherwise obvious given the facts we know. We don’t need to worry about what “really” happened in The Harvest or other episodes, because we aren’t seeing that “reality”. All we’re seeing is what Cordy imagines in her daydream; that’s the metaphor.
One final point. Giles took a great leap of faith when he destroyed Anyanka’s necklace. “Buffy:  You're taking an awful lot on faith here….  Giles: I have to believe in a better world.” He had no idea that the other world would be better, but he believed. Keep this in mind for the next two episodes.
Trivia notes: (1) The episode seems based on the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. Let me just note that I think this reinforces my interpretation of the WishVerse. (2) “Tears of a Clown”, Xander’s somewhat dubious description of Cordelia in the Bronze, is a song by Smokey Robinson. (3) This is the second episode (Halloween was the other) to refer to Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy, a P.T. Barnum attraction. Here, Cordy says “Buffy the dog face girl”. (4) The Master asked VampXander “What news on the Rialto?” That’s from The Merchant of Venice, Act III, sc. i. (5) The Master’s question to his demonic duo -- “You killed the girl who sought the Slayer?” – has the same rhythm as the old nursery rhyme “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”. (6) When Anyanka described the WishVerse as “brave new world” she could be referring to the novel of that title by Aldous Huxley. It’s also a reference to The Tempest, Act V, sc. i, which is where Huxley got the phrase. It’s a little unclear which reference might be meant. (7) local-max points out in comments that The Wish reinforces my point in Homecoming that Cordy’s role as Buffy’s shadow self has ended: “The episode also makes Cordelia's status as Buffy shadow fairly clear by having her displaced at the halfway mark within her own nightmare by Buffy. [This indicates] that there just isn't space in this tale for the two of them, and to some extent Cordelia's arc in BtVS is just to learn to get out of Buffy's way, so that Buffy can learn to behave better than Cordelia tends to.”

19 comments:

  1. Local max again.

    Wonderful review (I have been meaning to comment on all these, but have been busy of late -- I might go back and reply to earlier entries). I like the idea of the Wishverse as being culled from Cordelia's mind.

    The episode also makes Cordelia's status as Buffy shadow fairly clear by having her displaced at the halfway mark within her own nightmare by Buffy. Maggie referred to this as indicating that there just isn't space in this tale for the two of them, and to some extent Cordelia's arc in BtVS is just to learn to get out of Buffy's way, so that Buffy can learn to behave better than Cordelia tends to. (SPOILER) This is not so big a problem, since Cordelia will later be the female lead of AtS, in which she is not so narratively constrained, and this episode was written with that series -- and the fact that she will be learning many of these lessons again more explicitly there -- in mind. OTOH, how well Cordelia's story is dealt with in AtS is a point of contention, but I think it doesn't reflect badly on BtVS that around this point they mostly 'save' her story as an entity beyond being Buffy's shadow for that series, and give her an arc about accepting that Buffy is the 'real' star of the show, not her. (END SPOILER)

    I agree that the plot problems are dispensed with if we interpret the episode more as a dream than as a literal alternate universe. That said, I don't really think the continuity errors are that great. For one thing, I always took Xander's comment about having had a crush on Cordelia as being confirmation that on some level he did have feelings for her before season 1 began -- it's just maybe not something he dealt with consciously, and something he was only free to admit to himself when he became a vampire and thus no longer felt the same commitment to his human identity. Sort of like (SPOILER) William's mother being able to express her buried resentment easily after being turned -- the resentment was presumably there before, but buried.

    If there were no Buffy in WttH/The Harvest, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which Jesse was simply killed by Darla et al. Xander also suggests in The Harvest that Jesse would definitely be at the Bronze (due to his Cordelia interest), so it's not impossible that the vampire gang would have gone somewhere else without Jesse's recommendation. OR Cordelia could have left the Bronze before their arrival, not having been distracted by Jesse dancing. Xander and Willow could easily be sired during or shortly after the Harvest. Darla comes and goes as she pleases, generally, so why wouldn't she be gone?

    I mean -- these are 'fanwanks,' but I think they are also basically incidental anyway; there are a lot of ways I can imagine the story going to yield the Wishverse outcome.

    SPOILER It's a Wonderful Life as the inspiration for the episode makes it a nice companion piece to Amends' A Christmas Carol inspiration.

    FINAL SPOILER It's interesting that Cordelia's biggest POV episode in AtS is Birthday, which is another It's a Wonderful Life episode, this time with her playing both the 'Buffy' and 'Cordelia' roles, of the woman who didn't come into Angel's life, and as the 'star performer/popular girl', which is who Cordelia is in her fantasy (the most popular girl in of Sunnydale High).

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    1. Thanks and some very nice comments yourself. Feel free to go back to previous episodes too.

      Maggie's point about the space in the story for both of them is a good one, all the more so given how I interpret the episodes from Bad Girls on.

      I think The Wish requires some fanwanking no matter how one sees it. I kind of like the daydream metaphor because I think it requires less filling and spackling, but I'm sure it could work other ways as well.

      SPOILERS

      I agree that The Wish is setting up Cordy for her role on AtS, just as later episodes will do with her father's tax problems. Similarly, I see Amends as setting up Angel's role on AtS. Both really have more to do with that show than with the main S3 arcs, which (IMO) get a bit overshadowed in the central third of the season.

      Joss must have felt very Christmas-y for an atheist that year, since you're right about the Christmas Carol inspiration for Amends.

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  2. Many thanks for the very elegant reading—beyond the solutions it creates for issues of continuity (they concern me only a little), it creates an emotional continuity for the episode, deepening its resonances forward and backward into the season (and further back into season 2, if you accept William B's reading of Xander's feelings for Cordelia, which articulates something I have always assumed about them).


    SPOILERS

    But I have problems with the amulet: my reading, and it may be too convoluted or situational, has always been that breaking the amulet during the wish, in the Wishverse, made it as though the wish had never happened. This is why Anya gets "stuck at Sunnydale High... flunking math"—that was what she was at the time of the wish, before she made it real—and this is indeed how we see her at the end of the episode, trying to make the wish real. (If the wish were just a daydream, we would not get that shot of her trying to make the wish happen and Anya would not be stuck as a human, would she?) Giles in the Wishverse conjures the amulet from post-Wish Anyanka—and that is how she appears to us at that point—and breaking it does not simply undo the wish but makes it as if it had never been.

    Thus, in OaFA, if they had been able to get at Halfrek's amulet and break it, Dawn's wish would have never been, Xander's friend (whose name I am forgetting) would not have been wounded, and no one would know about Dawn's kleptomania... But since Halfrek undid the wish herself, the curse was simply lifted, and all that happened during it remained as if it happened. The same holds for BY and S with Anya's spells (although we do learn that undoing spells is not always simple in the latter).

    What I like about this is that it, when combined with the other elements of your reading—your argument that Anya creates the Wishverse out of Cordelia's mind—gives nice sense of how a vengeance Demon works. I think it is fairly clear from the later episodes that the fulfillment of wishes does not always bring pleasure to the wisher: what she wants is not necessarily what she likes... There is a perversity to the manifestation of the Wish that I have always found interesting, for as the series progresses, it is not surprising, in retrospect, that Cordelia dies—or that Xander and Willow are together in her Wishverse—and this would be so because the Vengeance Demon pulls not simply from the Wisher's literal words but also from her thoughts surrounding them. That is what makes a good Vengeance Demon, what makes a wish exciting, in Anyanka's terms, something with the power to create a "brave new world." And that, we can imagine, was what Anyanka did when on her game... But in BY you she says she "embellished"—so perhaps Nancy actually only meant a little worm, even in her thoughts, and Anya, under pressure to please her community, goes for the Sluggoth—while with the girl from the fraternity, well, she was horrified by the literalization of her actual desires...


    Of course this leaves us without Cordy learning a lesson, but I am wondering if her humiliation was enough of a lesson, and the Wish its manifestation... I think I am not quite willing to consign the Wish to a daydream, as too much seems to point to it being real—perhaps your explanation of Anya's humanness, to which I assume you are referring when you mention other continuity issues, will convince me. I am in ambivalent, because I want to have it both ways, and I am almost convinced by the daydream, but not quite.


    PS Yes to the importance of Belief. I have been waiting to see what you would do with this. Till Thursday.
    .

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    1. MAJOR SPOILERS FOR S6 AND S7

      When Anya gets her vengeance on again after Hells Bells, we never see her with an amulet and the presence of one is never mentioned. I've never been sure if that's continuity or its opposite.

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    2. Ooops—the comment below was meant as a reply...

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    3. (Spoilers cont'd)

      Mark, a very nice reading overall. But like SoS, I'm also having a hard time accepting the wish as a daydream or some other internalized manifestation of Cordy's subconscious. It seems to me (and I'm willing to suspend until more of Anya comes up), that such a reading sort of undermine's Anya/Anyanka and the journey of her character in later episodes. It's much easier for me to accept that D'Hoffryn would reinstate her powers WITHOUT the amulet (for whatever reason, perhaps as part of some sort of VD trial period) than it is that Anya didn't perform some sort of real act of Vengeance for Cordy in The Wish.

      Could it be possible that Cordelia does experience the events of The Wish, but because of Giles's smashing of the amulet, they are whisked away, and yet, in some small sense, they remain sublimated in her subconscious? So that she does "learn a lesson" (although I'm not sold that such a lesson is necessary for the episode's success), albeit one that she's unlikely to remember in her conscious mind. Seems this sort of thing happened on Star Trek and other Sci-Fi shows on occasion.

      It will be helpful to watch Cordelia's behavior over the next few episodes to see if there's any noticeable shift in her demeanor towards the others, particularly Buffy.

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    4. SPOILERS

      One way to think of it is that Anya did perform an act of vengeance by triggering Cordy's reverie. It's possible that Cordy could have stayed forever lost there. She was rescued from that fate by Giles' leap of faith.

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    5. This seems a little too convoluted to me—and when you have to get to such convolutions to create continuity for a reading, I begin to get nervous... The more I think about this, the more I think that Cordelia's public humiliation, with the Wish as its outward manifestation for the viewer, is sufficient lesson for her... with the possibility, as Aaron suggests, that there might be some residue—not in her unconscious, since that does not know death or negation—but in the depths of her conscious mind. I agree that we will want to watch Cordelia to see what affective force the Wish may or may not have had upon her.

      On another note, if it were to be Giles' faith that rescued her, that would have to be Giles as the manifestation of Cordelia's faith in herself, no? As this is all in her mind...

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    6. Not necessarily Cordy's faith in herself, but simply faith that the world can be a better place (as I'll explain in my post on Amends). That's kind of Giles' raison d'etre -- he's sworn to protect this sorry world.

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    7. (Late to the party, I finally started reading these reviews this weekend and am catching up. Sorry for the length!)

      Continuity issues never bothered me with this episode, and I think possibly because I always internally viewed it the way Mark lays it out here, although I didn't consciously realize it. It's easy for me to reconcile the idea that the WishVerse is Cordy's daydream, but I definitely subscribe to the idea that it is a real, physical alternate universe. If Anyanka wasn't there, it would have lived merely in Cordelia's head, but Anyanka was there thus it became a parallel reality, but then it was overturned within it's own universe, going back to being merely in Cordelia's head to everyone else except Anyanka.

      I also didn't mind the ineffectual feeling this episode ends with, even though most people rail against stories that end up being all in the character's head, stating that it feels like a waste of time, because it's not the end. If you take it as an episode in and of itself, it's unsatisfying, but in the larger scheme of things, it's just one episode of a season of a series.

      SPOILERS
      The ramifications of this episode are so exciting, even though there is still some rough logic to it. First of all, Anyanka. Everyone always says, "No one remembers the message of this episode!" Well, Anya does. That doesn't seem important at first because she's initially just a MOTW. But she becomes so much more. Then there is, of course, Willow's doppelganger. To me, though, the most important thing about this episode is that for the rest of the season, people watch Buffy doubting her place in Sunnydale and her effectiveness as Slayer and go, "No, everything's different with you around! We just saw it so-and-so episodes ago!" I think that IS the point of The Wish, the fact that the characters have to learn the hard way what the audience already knows. It reminds us that, hey, they're IN the show, not watching it. They don't have the same perspective as us. And it's almost flipped in Enemies, where we see that we don't have the same perspective as the characters.

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  3. Hmmmmm... I had not noticed that... Now I am even more wavery.....

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  4. I should say that I'm being somewhat more cryptic than necessary in my responses here. Basically, I see The Wish, Amends, and Gingerbread as expressing a common theme which I plan to explain in Amends (warning: long post). I'm trying to answer very good questions without spoiling my own post. If that seems too close to the vest, say so and I'll lay it out here with a spoiler warning.

    I would not say that I can solve all the potential plot problems of The Wish, which I think are there in some fashion no matter how we interpret it. What I do think is that I can explain where Joss was coming from; as usual, he leaves us to do the dirty work of making the plot coherent. :)

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  5. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet it...I'd say in the Jossverse, bet AGAINST the protagonist being a reliable narrator.

    Not saying the spoilery stuff, but I think that BtVS, especially when viewed in conjunction with Firefly, says that not only can someone simultaneously be a Hero and a Great Leader AND an asshat sometimes, but that may tag along on the same chromosome, so to speak.

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  6. It is a bit self-indulgent to throw out this minor thing after all that great discussion, but there is an (I assume unintended) horrible pun in:

    "WishVerseBuffy tells us about Buffy, it tells us about Faith, and – what sets the episode apart – it uses Cordelia to tell us these things because it tells us about her in the surface plotline. Three birds, one stone."

    given that "bird" is sometimes British slang for "girl".

    (Which may make you feel compelled to re-write the line.)

    JEL

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    1. That was definitely unintended, even though I recognize the slang (Spike uses it). I think I'll leave it as playing off the cliche.

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  7. Interesting thoughts on this episode. I like the idea of it as a daydream metaphor. From what I've heard about a few future episodes, the idea of a "daydream" is more consistent with the show overall than "alternate universe" is, though maybe I'll be proven wrong about this.

    I'm also glad that you previously stated that Cordelia stops functioning as a metaphor for Buffy's shadow-self. I was wondering, when Cordy continues beyond this series, will she still function as a metaphor for Buffy on this series? That would be cool.

    I wonder, then, if there's something to Buffy's *former* shadow-self making the wish in this episode. I think had this wish happened in season one or season two, Buffy would have needed to understand the lesson. Here, Buffy's heart, spirit, and brain do not need that lesson though. As Buffy recently underwent the process of individuation, Cordelia is now isolated from Xander, Willow, and Giles, to reinforce the metaphor that Buffy's shadow-self is no longer a part of her as a person.

    Regardless, I'm interested to see how this fits into the overall context of the season.

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    1. "I wonder, then, if there's something to Buffy's *former* shadow-self making the wish in this episode."

      This is a very interesting thought. We can imagine that Buffy herself might have made such a wish at some point. At some level, she must know that if she hadn't, her life would have been very different. I think we'll see her recognize this soon.

      BTW, I'll be on vacation for the next two weeks. Go ahead and post your thoughts (Patrick or anyone else), but I may be slow to respond.

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  8. (I'm so late to the party, the building was demolished and I'm left wondering why there's a gas station there instead of a party. Hopefully I can justify that with something worth reading.)

    About Trivia Note (6), I'm going to go with Huxley, final answer. The Master's plan to create a blood-extraction factory may be an allusion to the factory that artificially grows and conditions humans in Huxley's Brave New World. The metal conveyor belt, in particular, might be a reference to Huxley's conveyor belt that gestates embryos.

    Furthermore, In Brave New World, humans have become nearly indistinguishable from a consumer good -- after all, the process of producing a person is portrayed as nearly identical to that of factory production. Throughout the novel, Huxley shows the resulting commodification and dehumanization of humanity that this technological revolution entails.

    There are (at least) a two ways in which that relates to this episode:

    -In the WishVerse, the Master is similarly trying to make human blood an efficiently mass-produced commodity.

    -Buffy's lack of an emotional core results in a kind of anonymization of the people she's saving. She doesn't care to learn Giles' name (calling him Jeeves instead), and writes off Cordelia's claim that she knows Buffy as being "probably just a big fan" before even seeing her face or hearing more about who Cordelia is. Buffy has an emotionless, mechanistic view of her duties as a Slayer, not a personal one. These themes are explored further in later episodes of Buffy, like Once More With Feeling. (SPOILER for Once More With Feeling) The song "Going Through The Motions" portrays this view as well. "Nothing seems to penetrate my heart...", and so on and so forth.(END SPOILER)

    Thanks for the great posts, I can't wait to see what you write about some of my favorite episodes coming up.

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    1. You may be late, but I'm sure you're right. :) Good explanation; I'll modify the note.

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