Seeing Red (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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"Seeing Red"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Buffy6x19.jpg
Willow holds a dying Tara in her arms after she is shot by a stray bullet
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 19
Directed by Michael Gershman
Written by Steven S. DeKnight
Production code 6ABB19
Original air date May 7, 2002
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Villains"
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Seeing Red" is episode 19 of season 6 of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In North America, this episode was transmitted to UPN affiliates a week early by accident. Although none of them broadcast the episode by mistake, the episode was leaked onto the internet more than a week before it was meant to air. The episode was also noted for its extreme content, being the only episode of the series to air at an alternate time on the Canadian family network YTV.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Willow and Tara snuggle in bed together after their reconciliation, discussing the possibility that something is going on between Buffy and Spike. Tara confirms Willow's suspicions, adding that Buffy feels ashamed of her sexual relationship with Spike. Willow is hurt that she was never told, but simply puts it aside when she remembers what Buffy is going through. Willow goes to check on Buffy, but instead encounters Dawn in the hallway. When Tara appears wearing just a sheet, Dawn is thrilled to see they are back together.

Buffy meanwhile has decided to take care of the Trio once and for all and breaks into their lair, but finds the place deserted and dangerous traps waiting for her. She escapes, managing to grab a few items before large saw blades tear apart the house. Buffy, Dawn, Willow and Tara gather to go over those items, realizing sadly that the rest of the group won't be helping since they all have other priorities or lack interest. Anya sits with a young scorned woman who wants to wish vengeance on her cheating boyfriend, but Anya is too busy talking about her own relationship problems to notice the young woman's wish. Dawn visits Spike at his crypt, informing him that she knows he had sex with Anya and Buffy. She lectures him about hurting Buffy when he supposedly loves her and leaves him pondering the thought of how he shows his love to her.

Meanwhile in a cave, the Trio kill a large Nezzla demon who is guarding the Orbs of Nezzla'khan. Warren and Andrew make Jonathan wrap himself in the dead Nezzla's skin to cross a barrier that can only be passed by one of the demons, and as he fetches the orbs the other two conspire against him. Warren tests the power of the orbs and is pleased when he can easily kill another demon.

Xander, aghast that Buffy could have been involved with Spike, storms out of an argument with Buffy. He walks the streets alone, pausing briefly to secretly look in on Anya as she works at the magic shop. He ends up at The Bronze drinking away his sorrow over Anya and Spike, when the nerds enter. Orb-enhanced Warren hits on a former schoolmate's girlfriend, and when the woman's boyfriend steps in Warren fights off the boyfriend and several others with ease. Xander tries to intervene but is tossed aside.

Later, at home in bed, Willow reviews some files on her laptop, but is quickly distracted by Tara. Buffy, badly injured from patrolling earlier, runs a bath for herself to soothe her aching back. Spike shows up uninvited and tries to convince her that she loves him and just needs to admit it. She protests as he forces himself on her, his attempt to make her feel love for him again. With her back injured, Buffy barely manages to stop his advance on her. Immediately horrified by his behavior, Spike attempts to apologize, but Buffy knows he only stopped because she made him. When Xander notices Spike's coat on the stairs, then finds Buffy on the floor in the bathroom with a large bruise on her leg, he realizes what happened. His desire to go after Spike is thwarted when Willow and Tara arrive to tell Buffy they found plans indicating the Trio are planning to steal a large amount of money. After Xander warns her of Warren's new strength, Buffy rushes off to stop them.

Returning to his crypt, Spike thinks back on his attempted rape. He pours himself a drink, but when memories of the attempted rape haunt him he becomes so upset and furious that he crushes the glass in his hand. Just then Clem comes by, and Spike begins to wonder exactly what he is. He becomes distraught both that he attacked Buffy and that he backed off - something the pre-chip Spike would never have done. He questions whether his feelings for Buffy really are love. He realizes he is not a monster, yet can't be a man. Clem tells him that things change, and Spike suddenly gets an idea, and tells Clem that things do change... if you make them.

Warren overturns an armored car loaded up with money from a big weekend at an amusement park. Buffy shows up and fights him, but quickly finds herself outmatched against Warren's strength; Warren taunts Buffy with his supposed mastery. Jonathan jumps on Buffy's back and appears to be fighting her, but he quietly informs her that she needs to smash the orbs in order to defeat Warren. Buffy smashes the orbs on Warren's belt. No longer strong, Warren uses a hidden jet pack to escape freely into the sky. Andrew reveals he too has a jet pack, but when he tries to escape, he only knocks himself out on the overhanging roof above him. As the cops haul Jonathan and Andrew off to jail, the jetpack-less Jonathan realizes that the two were about to betray him. In jail, Andrew insinuates that he was in love with Warren.

Meanwhile at the city limits, Spike boards his motorcycle and leaves Sunnydale. He promises that when he returns, things will be different.

Willow and Tara get dressed and while hugging, Tara notices Xander and Buffy in the backyard together. Buffy and Xander begin to discuss Buffy's relationship with Spike, and the two make up and reaffirm their friendship. As the two hug, Xander spots Warren entering the backyard with a gun. Warren rants about his recent defeat and declares his intentions of revenge. He pulls out the gun, fires directly at Buffy, then shoots randomly over his shoulder as he runs away. Buffy and Xander topple to the ground as the window to Willow's bedroom is broken and a bullet strikes Tara in the back as she's facing Willow. The blood from her wound splatters on Willow's shirt. Tara stares at the stain and manages to say "Your shirt..." before she collapses and dies. Xander tries to staunch the bleeding of Buffy's chest wound, while in the house, Willow cries out as she holds Tara's lifeless body and her eyes turn magically dark red with pain and fury.

Writing[edit]

The episode continues the emphasis on the consequences of actions. Spike takes the time to explain to Dawn that what he and Anya did was wrong. Also, guns make another appearance on the show.

By the end of the filming of Tara's death scene, Gellar and Benson were crying.[1]

In the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences panel discussion that took place between seasons six and seven, Alyson Hannigan revealed that getting the shot of Tara's blood spraying onto Willow's shirt was incredibly difficult. Because they only had two shirts, the wardrobe department kept washing the shirts but did not have time to dry them, so the shirt was wet in most of the takes. Hannigan joked that when they finally got the take she wasn't sure what she was doing acting-wise, she was just concerned with, "Was that blood good? OK, good. Let's move on."

In the DVD commentary, James Marsters said that filming the scene in which Spike attempts to rape Buffy was one of the hardest he ever had to do. He has since said that he will never do such a scene again. That scene has also generated controversy between fans and the writers,[2] but writer Jane Espenson says that moment was necessary to set up a powerful motivation for Spike's quest to gain a soul.[3] As James Marsters points out, "How do you motivate him [to] make a mistake that’s so heart-rending that he’d be willing to do that?"[4] Marsters would later say in 2012 that he understood the idea to have come from "a female writer, [who] had a situation in her life where she was and her boyfriend were breaking up and she decided if she just made love to him one more time, that they wouldn't break up. She ended up trying to force herself on him and decided to write about that. The thing is, if you flip it and make it a man forcing himself on a woman, I believe it becomes a whole different thing... I'm not really sure it expressed what the author was intending and on that score it was not successful." [5]

In her essay on sex and violence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gwyn Symonds calls the scene itself "technically and emotionally intricate" in that, unlike most depictions of attempted rape, it "encourages a complex audience engagement with both... the perpetrator and the victim."[6] The action was "very carefully choreographed" according to James Marsters,[4] with the camera alternating between close-ups of Buffy and Spike separately to reinforce the audience's shifting empathy with both Buffy and Spike.[6] Writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner agrees that the viewer "could feel how [Spike's] very innards were twisted into this perversion of what he wanted," and she found that experiencing the scene from his perspective was additionally disturbing.[7]

This is the first and only episode where Amber Benson (Tara) appears in the main title credits, and is also her death episode. Joss Whedon had long wanted to kill off a major character the first time they joined the main credits. Originally he indicated that he wanted Eric Balfour who played Jesse in Welcome to the Hellmouth, and The Harvest to be added to the beginning credits to add the shock that a main cast character could die unexpectedly. But due to budget constraints he could not be added at the time.

Cast[edit]

Starring[edit]

Guest starring[edit]

Co-starring[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

  • "It's Klingon. They're love poems." — Xander talks about an alien Star Trek race.
  • Clem suggests that Spike use a wet cloth to cancel the effects of his chip, a reference to Total Recall.
  • Warren says to Andrew "Just stay frosty.", a quote from the character Cpl. Hicks, in the 1986 film Aliens
  • The figurine Buffy looks at with disgust in the Nerds' lair is a model of Vampirella, a sexy comic book figure who kills vampires.
  • Andrew calls Jonathan a "skin job," a reference to the film Blade Runner.
  • The saws in the Troika's lair were placed like the ones in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Andrew references Star Trek: The Next Generation while speaking to Jonathan "Warren is the leader. He is Picard, you are Deanna Troi - get used to it Betazoid"

Continuity[edit]

Arc significance[edit]

  • The Trio's skinning of the demon foreshadows Warren's flaying by Willow. Also, Andrew calls Jonathan a "skin job," a reference to the film Blade Runner. This theme also appears in the season 7 episode Same Time, Same Place.
  • This episode takes a violent turn along the season's plot and sets the stage for its final episodes. The Trio has appeared thus far to be the Big Bad, but they will be no match for Dark Willow.
  • Willow's withdrawal from magic fails spectacularly when she loses the love so recently regained. She will complete her turn to the dark side.
  • Spike leaves Sunnydale in this episode, for reasons that will be revealed in the season finale.

Timing[edit]

  • From Tara's gravestone (shown in the Season Seven episode "Help"), the episode's final scene (and her death) occurs on May 7, 2002.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC: Amber Benson web chat, retrieved 6 September 2007 
  2. ^ Symonds, Gwyn (March 2003), "Bollocks: Spike Fans and Reception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer", The Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media 2, retrieved 6 September 2007 
  3. ^ "Transcript of a Jane Espenson Interview by the Succubus Club", Slayage, 22 May 2002, retrieved 6 September 2007 
  4. ^ a b Bernstein, Abbie (June–July 2003), "Blond Ambition", Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Official Magazine (8): 18–23 
  5. ^ 411mania Interviews: James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), 10th March 2012
  6. ^ a b Symonds, Gwyn, ""Solving Problems with Sharp Objects": Female Empowerment, Sex and Violence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer", Slayage, 11-12, retrieved 6 September 2007 
  7. ^ Rand-Kirshner, Rebecca ( 2003) in Life as the Big Bad: A Season Six Overview in Special Features, Season 6 DVDs Collectors Edition, Disc 6. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

External links[edit]