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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 6 Episode 3

After Life

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Oct 09, 2001 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
479 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

An unseen force is taking over the Scoobies one at a time. Could this possessing spirit be somehow connected to Buffy’s return from beyond?

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  • Brilliant!

    I feel "After Life" is a seriously underrated dark and haunting masterpiece. There's basically no action, so I can see why it doesn't appeal to the casual watcher. But, there is a load of excellent and important symbolism, one fantastic scene after another, juicy insight into the characters' thoughts, great acting, and a chilling, haunting atmosphere.
  • Season six still a little slow


    The Good;

    Buffy rediscovers her life and confesses to Spike the truth

    The Bad;

    Not bad but lacks lustre

    Best line;

    Anya (on a books and coffee joint becoming just a coffee joint) "It's like evolution only without the getting better part"


    Spike self-harms a recurring theme in the series.

    Kinky dinky;

    Xander says he feels the need for some 'vigorous doing'.

    Captain Subtext;

    Buffy glances at Joyce's picture. Was she with her in heaven? Dawn bathes and dresses Buffy although you wonder how she didn't notice her bloodied knuckles before? Contrast the hug Buffy gives Dawn in 'Bargaining' and the one she gives her at the end here, obviously she's adapting to life again and has rediscovered her love for her sister.

    Apocalypses; 6

    Scoobies in bondage:

    Buffy: 8

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 5

    Will: 3

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 4

    Oz: 1

    Faith: 3

    Joyce: 1

    Wes: 1

    Xander; 1

    Dawn; 3

    Scoobies knocked out: Anya, Dawn, Xander

    Buffy: 16

    Giles: 10

    Cordy: 6

    Xander: 9

    Will: 5

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 6

    Oz: 3

    Faith: 1

    Joyce: 3

    Wes: 1


    Dawn; 1

    Kills: 1 demon for Buffy

    Buffy: 96 vamps, 36 demons, 6 monsters, 3 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot

    Giles: 5 vamps, 2 demon, 1 human, 1 god.

    Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon

    Will: 6 vamps + 1 demon +1 fawn.

    Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human

    Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie

    Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans

    Xander: 5 vamps, 2 zombies, 1 a demon,

    Anya: 1 vamp and 1 a demon

    Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

    Spike; 3 vamps and 2 demon

    Buffybot; 2 vamps

    Tara; 1 demon

    Scoobies go evil: Anya (who is VERY Evil Dead when she's possessed) Dawn, Xander

    Giles: 1

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 1

    Oz: 1

    Joyce: 1

    Xander: 4

    Anya; 1

    Dawn; 1

    Alternate scoobies:

    Buffy: 6

    Giles: 3

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 2

    Joyce: 2

    Xander: 3

    Recurring characters killed: 10

    Jesse, Flutie, Jenny, Kendra, Larry, Snyder, Professor Walsh, Forrest, McNamara, Joyce

    Sunnydale deaths;


    Total number of scoobies: 6

    Xander, Willow, Buffy, Anya, Tara, Spike

    Xander demon magnet: 5(6?)

    Preying Mantis Lady, Inca Mummy Girl, Drusilla, VampWillow, Anya (arguably Buffy & Faith with their demon essences?), Dracula?

    Scoobies shot:

    Giles: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 4

    Riley; 1

    Notches on Scooby bedpost:

    Giles: 2; Joyce & Olivia, possibly Jenny and 3xDraccy babes?

    Cordy: 1?

    Buffy: 3 confirmed; Angel, Parker,Riley, 1 possible, Dracula(?)

    Angel: 1;Buffy

    Joyce: 1;Giles, 2 possible, Ted and Dracula(?)

    Oz: 3; Groupie, Willow & Verucca

    Faith:2 ;Xander, Riley

    Xander: 2; Faith, Anya

    Willow: 2;Oz and Tara

    Riley; 3; Buffy, Sandy and unnamed vampwhore

    Spike; good or bad?

    Spike hints at Darkwillow. His confrontation with Xander is entirely justified. Buffy starts once again to turn to Spike

    Questions and observations;

    According to Dawn Joyce used to say 'Wash your neck or plant potatoes'. Not sure if it's deliberate but Kristine Sutherland is from Idaho 'The Potato State' so maybe this is something she really did say? Here we have Dawn taking care of Buffy to a huge extent, emotionally and physically. Great scene where the rest of the Scoobs are crowding Buffy and she tells them all to back off.

    Spike claims to have clawed his way out of a coffin but we see no evidence of this in 'Fool for Love' or 'Lies my parents told me'.

    Marks out of 10; 6/10 the season still trying to find it's feet

  • The Jet-Lag From Hell

    After Life-An unseen force is taking over the Scoobies one at a time. Could this possessing spirit be somehow connected to Buffy's return from beyond?

    Awww, it's feels good to be back writing Buffy reviews again! I've been meaning to finish my last reviews of Season 6 and 7, but never got the chance to and haven't written a review for Buffy since '08. Well, now being on Season 6 of by Buffy re-watch, I finally get a chance to and "After Life" seems like the perfect start. Just re-watching it, it's probably one of darkest (if not the darkest ever) episode of Buffy (and coming from Season 6, that makes it quit the standout!) What I love about it is that continues to unravel the consequences of Buffy's resurrection by showing just how disconnected she seems from the world, not just from her friends and Dawn. The scene where Dawn re-introduces Buffy back home is indication of not only how Buffy has changed but how much the world she once knew isn' t thesameanymore. The way she walks around the house and barely recognizes her own house is really sad. I have to say, Sarah Michelle Gellar reallyexcels during these first few episodes, showing Buffy's monotone and discomfort, even fear after she comes back. It's truly surreal and tragic. Another standout performance is James Masters. The moment Spike realizes that he's looking at Buffy and not the Buffybot is truly riveting stuff as well as Spike's sadness and anger when Xander confronts him after he sees her. Sure Spike is happy that Buffy's back, but he's not stupid and knows that bringing back Buffy was an awful thing to do to her, not to mention has dire consequences.

    The demon plot is actually pretty brilliant not only proving Spike right but by being the first consequence of Buffy's revival having on the Scooby Gang. By bringing back Buffy, they've created some sort ofincorporeal demon that terrorizes them, leading to some of the most disturbing and terrifying scenes of the series. The first being Buffy attacking Willow and Tara, pretty muchangry over what they had to do to resurrect Buffy (or more so what Willow had to do), then there's Anya gigging as she's cutting up her face and Dawn breathing fire at the Magic Box. Also, not really a moment involving the demon but the moment where Buffy sees all her old pictures turn to skeletons still gives me chills! While "Bargaining" introduced to a darker world without Buffy, "After Life" is really the episode thatsolidifiesjust howdark this season is and how far the writers are willing to go to show how dark the characters are becoming, especially Willow. The scene between her and Tare before they go to sleep is serious indication of how selfish Willow is becoming. She's kinda mad, even pissed off that Buffy hasn't thanked her for bringing her back, which is a pivotal moment for Willow. She's beginning to realize just how powerful she is and wants Buffy to be grateful for saving her when Buffy has saved Willow countless times in the past and never asked for a "thanks" in return. One of the most fascinating arcs of Season 6 isdefinitelyWillow's descent into darkness through her growing addiction of magic aka a metaphor for drug addiction. At this stage, everyone is pretty much in denial about it, especially Tara. When Xander confronts her about Willow not being to honest with them about the spell and the possiblerepercussions, Tara defends Willow without even thinking about it. But in the back of her mind, Tara has always known Willow's growing power was dangerous, like in "Tough Love" when they had their first fight yet Tara continues to deny the truth because she loves Willow and doesn't want to lose her. Luckily, Tara gets a true wake up call during the scene when they are doing the spell to make the demoncorporeal. It's another chilling moment as Tara sees just how powerful and horrifying Willow is becoming bycompletingthe spell on her own with ease. Black eyes and all!

    It's also intriguing seeing Buffy going to Spike for some sort of comfort, not once but twice. Spuffy is one of the developments this season that gets the most flake from fans, but after re-viewing this episode, I can see why. There are a lot of comparisons drawn between Spike and Buffy this episode, from them both crawling out of their own coffins to their bruised, bloody knuckles and lastly, their isolation from the rest of the world. Spike doesn't really right with demons or humans, he's simply just living his undead life a day at a time, which is kinda where Buffy is now at this point in her life. It makes sense that she would feel more open talking to Spike than her own friends. Spike opening up to Buffy about dreaming of saving her every night was touching. Buffy soon returns that openness with one of the mostdevastatingscenes from the series. After Buffy basically lies to her friends about being in a hell dimension to make them feel better (not to mention Willow), she soon after delivers the mostpainfulconfession of her life: " I was in heaven". It's a truly heart-wrenching development, beautifully acted by Sarah and I love how Spike is at a lost for words, who wouldn't be? Because honestly, she was betrayed by her friends in the worst possible way and nothing will ever make it right! "After Life" is a superbly dark,boldlymorbid hour that sets into motion the tragic character deconstruction that is Season 6 and shows that Buffy (both the character and the series) will never been the same...ever.moreless
  • After Life

    After Life was a superb episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This episode had a great story that follows up the return of Buffy. With magic there is always a price and this episode shows the gang dealing with their price for what they have done. There were a lot of interesting interactions between the characters in this episode. We learned more about where Buffy has been, and how she really feels. This is a great episode that sets a tone for the episodes to follow. There were some haunting moments as a few of the characters got possessed and looked pretty scary. I can't wait to see how this season unfolds!!!moreless
  • "I think we screwed up; she's broken" - Anya

    This episode concludes what is essentially the three-parter dealing with Buffy's resurrection before we get onto the meat and potatoes of S6. It is very dark; almost every scene is set at night, reflecting the tone of the ep. Buffy, sensitive to light after so long in the grave, sits in the shade during the scenes shot outside, wearing black. Inside the house, she wanders around trying to see what has changed. Furniture has been moved out to accommodate Willow's stuff, Willow and Tara are in Joyce's room, Willow's laptop is on the dining table. Willow has taken over Buffy's life, just as she took over her death. Willow, on the other hand, is full of arrogance, impudence and carelessness. "We got you out, we really did it," she tells Buffy. The "fact" that the Slayer was in hell is repeated over and over without anyone actually asking Buffy about her afterlife. Xander, after listening to Spike's: "The thing about magic is that there's always consequences - always!" speech is more questioning of Willow (albeit via Tara) and asks if Willow could have known that something might go wrong, but no-one seems to question Willow's assertion that a heroine who had died saving the world would be in hell. Willow keeps assuring the gang that Buffy will be OK ("It's worked fine, it's all good"), whereas Anya and Tara are more perceptive and think that something is seriously wrong. The only negative thing Willow considers is "what happened was intense" – the spell was all about Willow. She goes on to say: "If things did go right, you'd think she'd be happier": Willow wants gratitude and more than that, she wants recognition. This is important when we come to the climax of the series when Willow complains of being "a sideman" to the slayer. She wants acknowledgment that she is powerful; she has become used to being the leader and part of her doesn't want to rescind this. She never admits that she could have been wrong. This tension between Buffy and the witch who ended her peaceful death, is played out at the end of the season.

    Those not involved in the spell connect better with Buffy. Dawn takes the mom role as she washes and dresses the beaten and battered Buffy and warns the gang to back off when they crowd her, wanting to quiz her rather than care for her. But even she tells Willow: "You can't give her back to me and then take her away again!" – Buffy belongs to everyone but herself. Spike understands immediately why Buffy's hands are bruised and bleeding and although his claim that he too clawed his way out of his coffin isn't corroborated when we see later flashbacks, his connection - his own bloodied hands and his own death and involuntary resurrection -makes him the ideal confidante, they are linked. Moreover, he is the innocent party in this episode, not having taken part in the resurrection and it's no wonder that Buffy turns to him, she doesn't owe him anything, she doesn't have to pretend with him. She seeks him and his crypt out, she is looking for dark and death. She notices his cut, just as he noticed hers. He talks to her rather than questioning her and he tells her that he still loves her, in his dreams: "Every night I save you." In this series where black and white turn the very greyest shade of grey and where humans can be very bad and demons good, Spike does, in a way, save Buffy. Willow's insistence that Buffy was in hell also leads the gang down the wrong track when the demon starts to attack them. As they research, Buffy wanders through the graveyard and at one point she is silhouetted against a statue of an angel. As Tara says about the sunrise: "I'm seeing it from the wrong side" – they don't realise that Buffy was in heaven, they're looking at the demon the wrong way. It didn't hitchhike from hell with Buffy, it was created by the spell: "A side-effect, a price". Willow may be playing the adult, leading the research, even as she admits that she's a "poor substitute" for Giles, not realising that Buffy wants her "dad" back rather than a learned person, but it's Xander who actually is the adult as he realises: "This spell, we did, it's having consequences". The demon reiterates the young people struggling to be adults theme of S6: "Do you know what you did? You're like children". It reveals to Willow and Tara what Willow did to the deer: "Did you cut the throat, did you pat its head? The blood dried on your hands, didn't it? You were stained. You still are." Willow lies once more and says she doesn't know what it means, but it could be read that Buffy is the innocent fawn in Willow's games:- "Did they even give you a choice?" the demon asks Buffy. Tara and Willow try to corporealise the demon with Wicca chanting until Willow goes black-eyed and bad; the black energy is still coursing her veins. Buffy fights the demon and wins but she still has a lot of demons to fight before the end of the series.

    After the struggle, Buffy is once again wearing light coloured clothes, standing in the bright sunlight with perfect hair making sandwiches for Dawn, remembering her responsibilities, playing the part. She has to make Dawn's lunch, she has to reassure her friends. She feels responsible for their happiness. It seems that there has been a payoff as she delivers her ambiguous speech: "You guys gave me the world, I can't tell you what it means to me." She has not said thank you but Willow, egotistical to the end, tells her that she's welcome. The gang hug but we saw the death mask photographs, the gang will be split by the end of the series.

    And then the coda. Buffy joins Spike in the shade and tells him that she was in heaven, and was "torn out by my friends". Heaven was knowing that everyone she "cared about was alright". There were no demands on her, she was at peace, was "finished". And then she walks out back into the sunshine, into the bright, hard, violent world and life that she has to live.

    The mystical side effects of the spell are dissipated (until S7 at least) but the emotional ones are not. As the demon said, they are stained, the nadir is a long way off yet.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Goof: In the bathroom when Dawn is cleaning Buffy up after her ordeal, she tries to fasten one button at the bottom of Buffy's shirt. Then Buffy turns to leave the bathroom before Dawn can finish and we can see Buffy's shirt part as she turns toward the door. Yet, in the very next scene in Tara and Willow's bedroom, Buffy is shown coming through the doorway with that same one button fastened.

    • Goof: When Anya comes in with the coffee and Dawn is possessed and breathes fire onto the books in the right hand corner you can see the flame thrower.

    • During this episode, Spike shoves Xander against a tree while he yells at him for not informing him of the Scoobies' plan to bring Buffy back. On close examination, Spike can be seen to wince from the pain the chip inflicts for his actions, but he is so angry he does not care.

    • Nitpick: When Willow resurrected Buffy in "Bargaining", she was tested. When she was tested, she was cut on her arms... but where did the cuts go?

    • Nitpicks: When the gang all get back to Buffy's house Willow contacts Giles in London, but he had only caught his plane that afternoon so not enough time would have passed for him to have landed in London. Also character-wise, Giles would have immediately caught another plane back to America when he heard the news, not stayed in England for a few days.

  • QUOTES (18)

    • Xander: (to Spike) Look me in the eyes and tell me when you saw Buffy alive, that wasn't the happiest moment of your entire existence.

    • Dawn: You remember what Mom used to say? "Either wash that neck or plant potatoes." Yeah, I never thought it was funny, either.

    • Buffy: Wherever I was... I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time... didn't mean anything... nothing had form... but I was still me, you know? And I was warm... and I was loved... and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or... any of it, really... but I think I was in heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out... by my friends. Everything here is... hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch... this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that... knowing what I've lost...

    • Anya: (After Dawn has just recovered from being possessed and breathing fire) You might experience some dry mouth.

    • Spike: I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her. If I'd have done that, even if I didn't make it, you wouldn't have had to jump. But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again, and do something different. Faster, or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways. Every night, I save you.

    • Spike: I was going to go inside, but I overheard you and the super-friends exchanging a special moment, and I came over a bit queasy. Say, aren't you leaving a hole in the middle of some soggy group hug?

    • Dawn: Are you okay?
      Buffy: I'm going to start charging money for every person that asks me that.

    • Anya: So now what? We have to talk in some sort of anti-demon secret code?
      Xander: Ood-gay idea-yay, An-yay.

    • Dawn: Xander, drive faster.
      Xander: I can't.
      Dawn: I could drive faster and I can't drive.
      Anya: She's right. You're like a snail. A snail who's driving a car very slowly.

    • Anya: Technically, that's not a price -- that's a gift with purchase.

    • Tara: I like sunrise better when I'm getting up early than when I'm staying up late, you know? It's like I'm seeing it from the wrong side.

    • Spike: It's hard to get a good night's death around here.

    • Anya: I found one of those 24-hour places for coffee. Remember that bookstore? Well, they became one of those books and coffee places, and now they're just coffee. It's like evolution, only without the "getting better" part.

    • Buffy: Tired.
      Anya: Yeah, I mean, jet lag from hell has got to be, you know, jet lag from hell.

    • Buffy: How long was I gone?
      Spike: 147 days yesterday. Uh, 148 today. Except today doesn't count, does it?

    • Spike: You scared me half to death. Or more to death.

    • Xander: We made a demon? Bad us.

    • Spike: That's the thing about magic. There's always consequences. Always!

  • NOTES (3)

    • Anthony Stewart Head does the "Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer" voiceover.

    • Linda Hoyle, who played the role of the demon in this episode also had a part in season three. She did the voice-over for Emma Caulfield as Anyanka in the season three episode "The Wish". Since Emma actually played the role and Linda Hoyle only did the voice, she was not credited for the role.

    • When Buffy is patrolling in the cemetery (right before the possessed Dawn does her freak out) if you watch it is made so that Buffy looks like she has angel wings, a hint that she was in heaven!