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.