Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 6 Episode 16

Hell's Bells

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Mar 05, 2002 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
481 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The day of the wedding has finally come and Xander and Anya are preparing for the hoards of guests. While Xander's screwed up human family go head to head with Anya's demon friends, an unexpected guest approaches Xander to warn him that his life with Anya may not turn out to be the married bliss he has hoped for.moreless

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  • Hell's Bells

    "Hell's Bells" isn't exactly a spectacular episode, but there's not much I can find wrong with it either. The humor is mostly humorous, the drama is mostly dramatic, and the characters have fundamentally grown and learned things about themselves, painful as it is. Although it's bit rough around the edges and a couple of scenes don't quite work as well as intended, I still really like this episode. I also find myself torn between what I want and what I think is best for the characters, which is almost always a sign of a show doing something right. Beyond the tough decisions, though, there's not a lot of depth here, which ultimately ends up holding it back a bit as well. When factoring all this in, I'm thinking "quite good, but notmoreless
  • Worst Episode Ever

    My take on this is nothing to do with the morality or whether Xander did the right thing. It's simply one of those episodes that are plain silly. The Harris clan and the demons. OK, some can get away with the 'skin complaint' line, but others, particularly D'Hoffryn and Halfrec, just look so out of place it's ridiculous. Sorry, it's one of the worst episodes ever (including the return of Buffy's ex, along with the perfect wife, episode!) Demons should stay in the dark and not be at weddings. It was a ridiculous episode. Thankfully the conclusion to season 6 and the final season brought us back to what the programme did best - saving the world and all that!moreless
  • A Fine Episode, Ruined By The Last Ten Minutes

    There are two kinds of "bad" episodes of television. On one hand, there are episodes that fall apart on there own, due to poorly-conceived premises, or mishandled execution. Think "Beer Bad" or "Doublemeat Palace," two episodes which are really quite stupid, but also quite harmless in their own way. They come up, do their thing, and slink off in shame.

    Then you have episodes like "Hells Bells." This is the kind of bad which is less obvious, but is in many ways, much, much worse. This is an episode where a story arc goes so off the rails, so completely against itself, that it actually ruins the things that came before and after it. "Hells Bells" is a decent 30 minute episode, with a conclusion so heartbreakingly unnecessary and stupid that it actually threatens a huge chunk of the series as a whole.

    I'm referring too, of course, the Anya and Xander break-up. Before this, the episode is a mostly fine combination of tense, but still joyous excitement, mixed with some light humor. Anya practices her vows, in her usual off-kilter, but loveable way. Buffy and Willow joke about their dresses. Spike brings a sleazy looking woman to the wedding to make Buffy jealous. The Harris and Demon clans are dysfunctional.

    It's all well and good until an old man comes to the wedding, claiming to be Xander from the future, where Anya and him have become a cranky old married couple. It's everything (we assume) Xander fears, and it causes him to question his decision to marry Anya--even after he learns that the "future" Xander is really a bitter ex-philanderer that Anya had cursed.

    All well and good. But then Xander comes back from his long, dark night of the soul and decides that he can't go through with the wedding. And here's where everything falls to pieces.

    The problem with Xander and Anya's break-up isn't that it's sad. When Buffy killed Angel at the end of Season 2, or herself at the end of 5, the scenes were sad. But they made sense, and connected with problems the characters had been struggling with for seasons. They were genuine issues of contention that were released and resolved in a fury of emotion, and it was hard not to be legitimately swept up in their power.

    There is nothing genuine about Xander and Anya's break-up. For starters, by this point in the season, Xander has been pushed so far to the margins of the show, that it's impossible to discern his motivation for ending the relationship. Furthermore, in the preceding episodes, tensions in Xander and Anya's relationship have not only been attributed too, but also made to look like they were based off of fears of the wedding, rather than the marriage. This means that the two were never growing apart; they were stressed over a big day. And when Xander does go off to have his big revelation, we barely see him struggle with the question; he just kind of wanders off, and comes to this shocking revelation off-screen.

    But of course, none of this matters, because this episode is not about Xander and Anya. It's about Buffy, and how she is not allowed to have a "light" at the end of her tunnel. Of course things have to get dark and dreary; this is Buffy Season 6, and that's what we do. Nevermind the strength of Anya and Xanders relationship for 3 seasons; this relationship will be shattered in one moment, one second of doubt because it's the more dismal option for the arc. Xander and Anya's relationship died for our plot.

    And in that moment of break, that second where Xander tosses all of his feelings and hopes and dreams aside for one single fear never truly confronted with until now, the entire Xander/Anya sub-plot of seasons 4, 5, and 6 collapses in an unsatisfying, unnatural heap.

    It's not that "Hells Bells" doesn't have its moments or isn't heartwrenching. It does and it is. But it cheats. It moves its characters like chess pieces, forcing their motivations and feelings out of place to create a radically different story. In the process, it shreds everything else. Ultimately, it's hard to think of a more cardinal sin for a show like this to commit.moreless
  • Happily ever after?


    The Good;

    Love Buffy's stalling (who knew SMG could juggle?). How beautiful is Anya in her wedding dress? Although her facemask makes her look like some sort of matrimonial superhero?

    The Bad;

    What a shame we don't get to see Xander and Anya's bachelor/bachelorette parties. Surely all of Anyanka's magic was undone when Giles smashed her necklace. By it's nature a depressing episode due to it's ending.

    Best line;

    Buffy; "So anyone here from out of town?"

    Women good/men bad;

    Anya's vows don't promise to obey Xander because he's not a sea Captain (Hello sailor!). Xander's dad has a nastily misogynist rant against his wife in particular and women in general.


    Xander killing Anya which thankfully isn't real

    Kinky dinky;

    Uncle Rory latches onto a nubile young waitress. Virginal Dawn is offered "Hymen's greetings" by D'Hoffryn. Dawn describes Spike's date as a '"Total skank!". Xander's dad likes Buffy's 'chassis' and wonders what's under the hood? Anya wants to be Xander's 'sex poodle'.

    Captain Subtext;

    Willow refers to noted bi actress Marlene Deitrich. Will says that Xander looks great in his tux but quickly adds that she realised she was gay. Halfrek and Anya seem to compete for D'Hoffryn's affection like two little girls with their father but he informs them 'I love all my demons equally'. Willow and Tara end up under the table together (and they haven't even been drinking)

    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:

    Buffy: 17

    Giles: 12

    Cordy: 6

    Xander: 11

    Will: 8

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 6

    Oz: 3

    Faith: 1

    Joyce: 3

    Wes: 1


    Dawn; 2

    Kills: 1 demon for Xander

    Buffy: 104 vamps, 55 demons, 6 monsters, 3 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot

    Giles: 8 vamps, 2 demon, 1 human, 1 god.

    Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon

    Will: 6 vamps + 3 demons +1 fawn.

    Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human

    Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie

    Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans

    Xander: 6 vamps, 2 zombies, 2 a demon,

    Anya: 1 vamp and 1 a demon

    Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

    Spike; 8 vamps and 4 demons

    Buffybot; 2 vamps

    Tara; 1 demon

    Dawn; 1 vamp

    Scoobies go evil:

    Giles: 1

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 1

    Oz: 1

    Joyce: 1

    Xander: 4

    Anya; 1

    Dawn; 1

    Alternate scoobies:

    Buffy: 7

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 3

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 2

    Joyce: 2

    Xander: 4

    Tara; 1


    Spike; 1

    Recurring characters killed: 11

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

    Sunnydale deaths;


    Total number of scoobies:

    Xander, Willow, Buffy, Anya, 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: Spike has a very goth date for the wedding, a parody of the Spikettes?

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

    Cordy: 1?

    Buffy: 4 confirmed; Angel, Parker, Riley, Spike. 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; 1 Buffy

    Spike; good or bad?

    Tries to make Buffy jealous but eventually leaves with some dignity

    Dawn in peril; 8

    Dawn the bashful virgin; 7 "Hymen's greeting!"

    What the fanficcers thought;

    What were the bachelor/bachelorette parties like? Try 'The Last Night'

    Questions and observations;

    We finally meet Xander's family. Unlce Rory is a drunken letch (Irish coffee for breakfast?) but quite likeable as is cousin Carol and her daughter, his parents by contrast are wretched. Dawn's notoriously big mouth once again makes an appearance. Is the demon right? He was a philanderer but that's hardly worthy of being tortured in hell dimension?

    Buffy wears an 'I survived' T-shirt in the final scene with what looks like a dragon on it? (although technically she didn't survive the dragon, she died and was brought back). What about Giles? Surely he at least sent them a card? What about inviting Tito or Oz or anyone?

    One interesting theory I did hear is 'Was D'Hoffryn behind it all?'. Did he secretly want Anya back in the fold and bring the demon to ruin her wedding deliberately?

    Marks out of 10; 5/10 not too good

  • Ghost of Future Problems

    Hell's Bells-The day of the wedding has finally come and Xander and Anya are preparing for the hoards of guests. While Xander's screwed up human family go head to head with Anya's demon friends, an unexpected guest approaches Xander to warn him that his life with Anya may not turn out to be the married bliss he has hoped for.

    The day's finally here! Anya and Xander's wedding day! But in typical Buffy fashion this season, it's a complete trainwreck. The build-up toward that moment is pretty hilarious, from Buffy and Willow's horror over their bridesmaid's dresses, to meeting Xander's miserable family to Anya's over the top demon clans, I especially loved the moment where D'Hoffryn and Halfrek arrive at the wedding with the wedding gift that moves once Dawn has it in her hand. Then you have Anya telling Tara her inappropriate vows and Xander's father shamelessly hitting on Buffy. All of it is good stuff, leading to the moment where Xander runs into what appears to be his future self. The vision of the future that Xander is truly disturbing, I have to give Nicholas Brendan and Emma Caulfield a lot of credit here, not just for the flashforward vision scenes but throughout the whole episode. It's probably the finest performances they've ever done on the series. I really felt sorry for both of them here. My favorite moment is without a doubt is while Anya once again goes over her vows, we see Xander walking alone through the rain. It's a heartbreaking image only to be topped by the revelation that this set-up was all a ploy by some demon from Anya's past seeking revenge.

    I have to say while Anya and Xander being forced apart was hard to watch but I have to admit, I wish it wasn't simply some demon of the week plot that was the reason behind it. I think thepossibilityof Xander's future self actually coming back and telling all his fears of marriage were right and he has to stop himself from one day hurting Anya would have added a little bit more weight to the episode. Maybe having a scene of future Xander telling Anya he's sorry and showing Anya before he left he was really Xander would have been a brilliant moment. But still what we got here was pretty tragic none-the-less, Xander breaking it off with Anya just hurts to watch, especially her walking down the aisle a complete mess. I also loved the rest of the gangs's reactions. All oft hem had so much hope for Anya and Xander, especially Buffy who was looking to them to find purpose in her life again by seeing how one day, these would be okay, but now it's not. I really don't blame Anya at the end when D'Hoffryn offers her to be a Vengeance demon again. It's dark ending, but not unexpected given the situation. Overall, Another strong character arc moving episode, while I still don't exactly like the "demon seeking revenge" twist, there is some strong performances from Nick and Emma as well as some genuine funny moments, like Spike's white-trash girlfriend as well as touching little moments like Willow and Xander's little talk before the wedding.moreless
Daniel McFeeley

Daniel McFeeley

Warty Demon

Guest Star

Rebecca Jackson

Rebecca Jackson


Guest Star

Mel Fair

Mel Fair

Tentacle Demon

Guest Star

James C. Leary

James C. Leary


Recurring Role

Kali Rocha

Kali Rocha


Recurring Role

Amber Benson

Amber Benson


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • When Xander is walking outside, it is raining. However, whenever the camera is pointed towards the door, sunlight is clearly seen. Sunlight is also seen when Dawn is outside.

    • When Xander thinks his uncle is getting electrocuted, he goes to pull out the plug and while doing so he touches his uncle. As a construction worker he should know that by touching someone under current you get shocked yourself.

    • The actor playing older Xander has blue eyes, while Xander has brown eyes. That should have been a tip-off to Xander!!!

    • In the last scene with Anya and D'Hoffryn the camera moves to far right and the edge of the black cloth can be seen and part of the ordinary set past it. (Perhaps only in widescreen though)

    • In one of the last clips where Anya tries to come up with good wedding vows, Tara is sitting on the sofa right in front of Anya. For some reason, though, Tara is not visible in the mirror behind Anya.

    • It seems strange that Giles didn't come to Xander and Anya's wedding, but a cut scene from the episode explains why. Willow explains to Dawn in this scene that Giles paid for all the flowers because he was busy fighting a demon.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Willow: It's hideous! God... Buffy, look at its arms!
      Buffy: I know... but it's my duty. (we now see that they are looking into a mirror at the dress that Buffy is wearing) I am... Buffy the bridesmaid.

    • Anya: I, Anya, want to marry you, Xander, because I love you and I'll always love you. And before I knew you, I was like a completely different person. Not even a person, really. I had seen what love could do to people, and it was hurt and sadness. Alone was better. And then, suddenly there was you, and you knew me. You saw me, and it was this... thing. You make me feel safe and warm. So, I get it now. I finally get love, Xander. I really do.

    • Willow: I'll say this for the Y chromosome: Looks good in a tux.
      Xander: Your double Xs aren't doing so bad there either.

    • Dawn: (about Xander and Anya): I thought they were happy.
      Buffy: They were. I know they were. They were my light at the end of the tunnel... I guess they were a train.

    • Buffy: (to Xander) Look at you, Mr. About-to-be-married. You're glowing. Oh my god! Maybe you're pregnant!

    • Spike: It's nice to watch you be happy--for them, even--I don't see it a lot. You glow.
      Buffy: That's because the dress is radioactive.

  • NOTES (8)

    • Continuity mistake: In season three's "The Wish"- Giles clearly states that destroying Anyanka's power source (her necklace) will reverse the wishes she has granted. Well, this Xander impostor was cursed before the destruction of the necklace, so he should have been made human again. To this point, Anya has not been made a vengeance demon again, and even when she is, she does not have the necklace back as her power source.

    • The scene where Buffy and Spike talk at the wedding was written by Joss Whedon.

    • The name of Xander's future children are Josh and Sara, pretty similar to star Sarah Michelle Gellar and creator Joss Whedon.

    • A little something in the part where Buffy plays Charades, attempting to to entertain the crowd while Xander is missing. She makes horns with her fingers, and amongst the various guesses, you can hear someone shout 'Deathwok Clan'. A reference to Lorne's family from Angel.

    • On the DVD commentary writer Rebecca Rand Krishner says she wanted to play Spike's date.

    • At the end of the episode Anya is offered her old job as a Vengeance Demon back.

    • In an early draft of the script, Giles absence was explained as he was busy fighting daemons (Willow is specific about the spelling). As a compensation, he has paid for the flowers.

    • Willow tells Xander "It's a good thing I realized I was gay because...here we are in formalwear..." This is a reference to Willow & Xander's romantic exploits from Season 3 first realized while they were trying on their homecoming outfits in "Homecoming."


    • Willow: Shouldn't I be all Marlene Dietrich in a dashing tuxedo number?

      Willow is referring to the movie actress Marlene Dietrich (performed from the 30's - 70's). In many of her early films, Marlene would play sexually ambiguous characters and appeared in many scenes dressed in men's clothing.

    • Title: Hell's Bells
      Hell's Bells is an old AC/DC song. It was off the first record with their new lead singer, Brian Johnson, after their other lead singer, Bon Scott, passed away.

    • Dawn: (about Spike's date) A Manic-Panicked freak who he's, like, totally macking with...
      Manic Panic is a brand of temporary hair dye generally preferred by the alternative music crowd (goths, neo-punks, etc., you know who I mean) because it comes in a great array of brilliant, unusual colors. The magenta in Spike's date's hair, for example, would be a shade typically found only in Manic Panic and other, similar temp dye lines.

    • Visual: Short's Drugs drugstore sign in shot as (young, current time) Xander walks in the rain.
      The store's name and font used on its sign may be a play on Longs Drugs, a large drugstore chain in the U.S.