Episode Name: “Entropy.”
Writer(s): Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: James A. Contner
Quote of the Episode:
Buffy to Dawn: “True, but technically you’re one and a half.” – In reference to her only being created at the beginning of season 5.
Screenshot of the Episode:
This episode is packed full of emotions, complexities, and plot developments. Notably, the episode follows Anya, the renewed vengeance demon. She tries in vain to wound Xander and by getting his friends to wish horrible acts of mutilation on him. The vengeance comes to her in the end. The Scoobies discover that ‘The Trio’ have hidden cameras throughout Sunnydale to monitor Buffy and friends. Anya has sex with Spike on the table in the Magic Box, an act everyone, including Dawn, witnesses.
Things fall apart.
This season was despised by fans for its dark atmosphere and what was considered inaccurate character choices. Even I found it distasteful when I first watched it. It grew on me as I aged, my life experience provided perspective. Philosophically this season flourishes in the shadows of human nature, showing us the darker side of our emotions. From Buffy’s treatment of herself and Spike, to Willow’s plunge into addiction, Dawn’s kleptomania, and finally Xander’s weakness of character, we are overcome with tenebrosity. I believe the season has value, so please allow me to play Devil’s advocate, that we might identify the life lessons we’ve all learned the hard way.
This season saw the breakdown of several relationships. From Buffy and Giles parting ways, Dawn’s kleptomania and Buffy’s complete ignorance of the fact, Willow’s abuse of magic and Tara, to Xander leaving Anya at the altar. Although we are often taught from a young age that love conquers all, it won’t. This is evidenced by Xander’s declaration, “I wish we could go back to the way things were before.” A childish train of thought to be sure, but we’ve all felt this exact painful flood of emotions when our actions cause irreversible consequences. However, it is common with grief too, “prompt fruitless fantasies of turning back time,” according to Korsmeyer (2008).
Love is like fire, it’s hot and transformative. We often lose control of it, as it’s notoriously hard to handle, and it can be so easily extinguished. I don’t know any human who hasn’t suffered heartache in some way. It is part of our journey that we learn to heal ourselves and self-soothe, however many people never reach this stage in their development. We see Xander and Anya fighting, their love transformed. To self-loathing for Xander, and wrath for Anya. This is shown through Anya’s bitter exclamation, “Yes honesty now. Congratulations Xander. I wonder what the medal will say.” According to Korsmeyer (2008) when love is mixed with anger there is a certain vigour to it.
When I first watched this season, my anger was only directed at Xander. He was the sole villain of the piece, abandoning his love at the altar. My perspective has now shifted and although Anya was not to blame for the abandonment, her actions following the wedding-that-never-was are wrought with hypocrisy. According to Korsmeyer’s (2008) close scrutiny of Anya and Xander’s relationship, the love Anya feels for Xander is all consuming. She may have displayed affection for the other members of the group, but Xander was the only one she loved.
“…it would seem that although romantic love demands that we love only one person, forsaking all others, we may not properly be said to love truly if one person is all that we are capable of loving.”
Therefore it’s no surprise at her irrational behavior of engaging in sex with Spike on the table in The Magic Box. It really puts the nail in the coffin of Anya and Xander’s relationship. It also reflects the point made by Field (2013) that:
“As was hinted at the end of Hell’s Bells, Anya’s humanity (metaphorically, her adulthood) was fragile enough that it couldn’t withstand the crushing emotional blow of Xander leaving her at the altar.”
Her deep love transmuted to wrath, she has sex with Spike in The Magic Box, as vengeance burns in her heart. Of anyone she could have cheated with, Xander could not forgive her for cheating with Spike. However, Field (2013) again considers this to be a display of her need for affirmation from someone for her pain:
“…I saw her behavior as seeking validation for her pain. She didn’t really get that from the SG females, but she did with Spike. And when she did, she hushed his wish.”
While actions have consequences, all of our actions have intent. Anya’s decision to sleep with Spike was that, a decision. We call on the Law of Congruity here, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Xander leaves Anya at the Altar, so she seeks vengeance. She struggles to achieve this as no one will take her bait. Anya: “Didn’t I mention the whole, left me at the altar thing!?” We’ve all experienced the separation from friends when we break up with a partner. Although the gang is happy to have Anya back, they will not allow the anger to overtake them. This leaves Anya is desperate and alone.
Anya is dressed in red throughout this episode. A nod towards the colour of love, blood, and wrath. Spike is completely in black. This could be viewed as his lack of a soul. The reason why Buffy believes he couldn’t truly love her is that he is soulless. The love is only real for him. According to Milavec & Kaye (2008) their relationship was doomed regardless of whether or not Buffy terminated it:
“Buffy and Spike demonstrate the friendship of pleasure based on irrationality… Erotic love cannot survive on passion alone.”
The below scene, with Anya, Buffy, Spike, and Xander, speaks to the chaos the group has descended to. I noticed on closer inspection some nuances in Anya’s reaction to Buffy and Spike’s relationship. She displays clear grief and guilt at the realisation. I don’t believe she would have done what she did knowing Buffy and Spike had just parted ways. Her face of realisation and her soft, “Buffy,” shows her feelings are more complex than previously surmised.
Buffy also tries to mend her relationship with Dawn, yet she still misses the underlying reason Dawn strayed in the first place. Dawn is the only one in the group to be treated as a child, and it’s common for teenagers to want freedom and respect. This relationship is on it’s way to restoration, but only after Buffy realises Dawn’s needs.
Of course, the most heartbreaking moments come from beloved Willow and Tara. They meet in the hall of the University, they meet in the coffee shop, and they are on their way to reconciliation. Sadly we are witnessing some of their final scenes together. Tara’s declaration, “You can’t ever, put them back the way they were,” followed by, “can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now?” is tragically bittersweet. As the next episode is her last. We take this moment to consider if Tara had chosen to wait. Would she have lived? Could this be the Buffyverse punishing those who skip rehabilitation? According to Field (2013) Tara made the right decision leaving Willow, not because Willow was addicted to magic, but because Willow violated her mind and trust, in (and not exclusively) Tabula Rasa. “Tara left precisely because she understood she was being mistreated.”
This episode is the stirring of the pot, the beginning of the end. The remaining four episodes in this season showcase the villain within us all. Suddenly although Anya is the demon, her darkness is outshone by the monster Willow becomes. Her eventual descent into caliginosity was inevitable. Tara’s tragic death was the excuse that she could justify the abuse of power for.
She forgets that love is not resigned to the romantic alone, and we have responsibilities to all the love we feel.
Alison Krauss – “That Kind of Love.” Plays over the end of the episode.
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“Entropy.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6, episode 18, The WB, April 30, 2002.
South, J. B. (2003). “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale.” (Vol. 4). Open Court Publishing.
Field, Mark. 2013. “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality.”Amazon Digital Services LLC.
Achebe, Chinua. 1958. “Things Fall Apart.” William Heinemann Ltd. London.