Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 6 Episode 14

Older and Far Away

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Feb 12, 2002 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
449 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


Old and new friends gather at the Summers home for Buffy's twenty-first birthday party and it goes splendidly - at first. Feeling neglected by Buffy and the Scoobies, Dawn's wish to keep people from leaving her is answered by Anya's demon friend Halfrek, who binds the attendees of the party to the house. When Tara tries a spell to free them, she only makes the situation worse by accidentally releasing a demon trapped inside a sword.


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  • "Older and Far Away" represents an episode with good intentions that just aren't realized very well.

    I've scored it the same as "All the Way" because it shares many of that episode's problems: A focus on Dawn that doesn't really develop Dawn much, a plot that's fairly inconsequential, and a large part of screen time that just doesn't pay off in any kind of a meaningful way. Also like "All the Way", there's bits and pieces here that I absolutely love. It's rather unfortunate that the central focus isn't nearly as enjoyable as the surrounding material.

    Another sad fact is that anything following the scrumptious "Dead Things" is going to suffer in comparison. I'm not going to let "Older and Far Away" off the hook because of it though. Since, in theory, its intent is to largely focus on Dawn's issues, that's where I'll start my analysis. Although Buffy had a brief realization in "Dead Things" about her disconnect with Dawn, it's not until this episode where it takes center stage. I have to say that I like the idea of what's presented here and I love the continued follow-up from previous episodes.

    In an early scene, we catch Dawn asking the gang if anyone wants to go shopping with her for Buffy's birthday. The problem is that everyone's too busy to spend time with Dawn. I can't help but sympathize with everyone in this scene. The "adults" are too busy with real life and obligations, which causes Dawn to feel a bit rejected over it. I mean, true, the adults definitely need to attend to their priorities, but someone really needs to go out of their way to give Dawn a little companionship every now and then.

    With Tara never around anymore, Dawn's got no one to give her that little special nugget of attention. I really feel bad for Dawn here, even despite her inability to completely grasp the severity of the situations around her. Dawn explains her feelings out loud to Guidance Counselor Halfrek: "People keep... people have a tendency to go away... and, I miss them. And sometimes... I wish I could just make them Once again, I'm much with the sympathy. But still, that's no excuse for resorting to theft and lying, although I do understand the why.

    Further into the proceedings, Dawn postures that Buffy doesn't understand what it's like to be alone. Clearly she's not thinking hard enough. Manufactured memories or not, "Becoming Pt. 2" anyone? Dawn's being overly selfish here, no doubt about it. The selfishness may be rooted in something genuine, but it's still selfishness. This whole season is a time for her to really begin fully waking up to the adult world and its numerous complexities -- she's a part of it now simply by proxy of her relationship to Buffy and the situation around her.

    As the situation with the plot gets intense, more and more signs point to the fact that their situation of being stuck inside Buffy's house has something to do with Dawn. Eventually it reaches a boiling point when a desperate Anya starts digging through all of Dawn's things. I'm very pleased that Anya discovers all the little trinkets Dawn has stolen from the Magic Box for nearly a year now. This, of all things, would hurt Anya badly. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that Anya's not a lot more angry at her for the theft. When I think it about it some more, though, this is a testament to how much her relationship with Xander has affected her. Although Anya wants retribution, she's certainly not vengeful about it, which actively shows us the growth of Anya as a character.

    Although Halfrek's speech towards the end is a bit overwraught, she's not wrong. No one was noticing Dawn's pain because they were too busy dealing with their own. The episode's title fully manifests itself here: everyone's gotten older and feel much further away both from Dawn and, in reality, each other. This is unfortunately one of the inevitabilities of growing up -- old friends tend to get lives separate from their group, which ends up causing everyone to break apart. It's just a crappy situation all around, although I think just about everyone is a bit sympathetic to Dawn's pain. As Tara points out, "It happens. We all went through The episode ends with Buffy glancing at Dawn, who then throws back a genuinely warm smile. I loved the subtlety of this little moment and how it hints that their relationship, and things in general for Dawn, are going to improve which, more or less, in time they do.

    So, the primary focus of the episode definitely has its moments, but it's all a bit underwhelming. Things get especially rocky when the actual plot kicks in gear. First off, there's the overly hokey demon. Mr. Red Shirt gets stabbed right as expected, which leaves everyone all occupied by a boring plot, with a demon that exists only to prolong the episode and create non-existent tension. The episode tries really hard to play up the fear and claustrophobia, but all it succeeds in doing is making me wonder when we'll get another character moment. With a plot this uninspired, there's got to be some character relevance to back it up. Unfortunately, the episode doesn't have much.

    Although I found several things they did with Dawn inspired, there simply wasn't enough substantive material here to make an entire episode about. It's particularly bad when they go overboard with Dawn's angst. As expressed earlier, I have a lot of sympathy for Dawn's situation, but the way the scene in her bedroom plays out is just awful. Dawn comes off as far too whiny, in an over-the-top kind of way. Dawn's words and MT's acting in the scene are just atrocious. I rarely say that about this show, which makes it particularly stick out when it happens. Even so, I'm not going to let once bad scene spoil an entire episode for me.

    On a more positive note, there's a whole bunch of smaller moments that ended up allowing me keep the '.5' on the '6' that is this episode. I have to say, I just loved Tara in this episode. Everything she said and did made me smile, proud, and/or warm inside. It starts with some good continuity, with Buffy thrilled to see Tara showing up to her birthday. I love their new friendship, which is far stronger now than what they had before. Buffy tells Tara that she's alright at the moment even though she's still not at all better, let alone ready to openly admit her involvement with Spike.

    Continuing the Tara love is when Dawn's gift to Buffy, obviously a stolen one, is shrugged off by Buffy as seemingly nothing special the moment Xander rolls out his gift. Dawn deserved at least a hug and a heartfelt 'thank you' for the gift. When Dawn walks by Tara to shut the door, you can tell Tara can sense Dawn's sadness and you can feel Tara's sympathy for her.

    I nearly fell on the floor in laughter with how Tara treated Spike's delicious excuse for what he was trying to do with Buffy against the wall. "I had a, uh, muscle cramp. Buffy was Tara's barely-restrained-grin reaction is priceless: "A muscle cramp, in your... pants?" Spike looks terrified of her and I'm loving Tara for every moment of it. Tara's response to Spike out in the family room is also amazing, "How's that cramp Spike? Still bothering you? ... Maybe you, uh, wanna put some ice on I'll I can say is: grin.

    During a crucial moment, Anya is trying push Willow into using more powerful magic to get out of their current predicament. Xander, of course, backs Anya up, who does have a point: it is Willow's fault that she has self-control issues and can't use magic responsibly. Saying that now, though, doesn't help the current situation at all and puts Willow in a really awful, unfair situation. What happens next? Well, of course, Tara comes to the rescue and stands up for Willow! I just love Tara altogether in this episode -- she really steals the whole thing away from its intended focus on Dawn and ended up making the episode a frequent joy to watch. I'm very pleased to announce that Tara's really come into her own, and I'll always remember this episode fondly for it.

    One last little bit I found amusing is Anya's attitude towards Dawn. How very condescendingly funny she can be sometimes. This attitude has always remained the same in that she treats Dawn like a very small child. Although Dawn has every right to be completely frustrated at Anya because of this, I can't help but laugh at the way Anya talks. I just love it.

    So, the final verdict on this one is a mixed bag. There's a lot of material I really appreciated and enjoyed, but the poor use of the demon, some plot contrivances, the minimal and somewhat haphazard development of Dawn, and the overall failed attempt at producing any kind of real drama out of the situation just bring it all down. My biggest beef with it is simply that what it focused on wasn't nearly as good as it could've been. On the other hand, there's so much ancillary joy that the episode isn't a complete waste either. In a nutshell, it's a moderately important episode that has its moments but is plagued by a few serious issues.moreless
  • Submarine ep


    The Good;

    Everything with Halfrek who I really like for some reason. Clem really comes into his own as a character here for the first time. Tara and Willow start to get back together and I also adore Sophie. Once again contrast Tara standing up to Spike and Anya here with the shy girl in 'Hush', she really has grown tremmendously.

    The Bad;

    Note there's a Sunnydale High Razorbacks pennant behind Halfrek in her office. But Dawn doesn't go to Sunnydale High (yet). The potion that Tara mixes up to try to break the spell looks like she's trying to make a chocolate cake.

    Best line;

    Spike; "I had a muscle cramp, Buffy was helping"

    Tara; "A muscle cramp. In your pants? You might want to put some ice on that"

    Women good/men bad;

    Anya implies that Halfrek has 'daddy issues'


    Upsetting to watch Anya have her panic attack.

    Kinky dinky;

    Richard, the handsome guy Xander has set Buffy up with, even Tara thinks he's cute. Dawn not only in leather for the first time but check out her miniskirt, fishnets and knee boots at the party, Joyce's little girl all grown up! (Eliza Dushku always complained that she got a lot of fanmail from guys in prison and couldn't believe that they showed a TV series full of hot teenage girls to incarcerated criminals. You shudder to think what kind of letters MT must have recieved). Spike asks Buffy if she'd like to 'blow out his candle'? Willow's back massager present for Buffy is certain to provide 'Instant gratification for all aches' (anyone else think of Samantha and her 'back massager' from Sex and the City?)

    Captain Subtext;

    Clem also thinks Richard is cute. In many ways he comes to resemble Buffy/Dawn's gay/demon male friend. Tara calls Buffy 'Sweetie'. They also refer to telling everyone their big secret and deciding it's time to 'Come out'. They probably mean Buffy's affair with Spike but what really happened after Buffy collapses into Tara's arms at the end of 'Dead Things'? Might she have jumped on the sapphic bandwagon a few years before Satsu? Taffy anyone?

    Scoobies to the ER;

    Xander cut but Richard is the only one to go to hosptial.

    Missing scenes;

    Reputedly a scene was filmed where Buffy and Dawn run out of the house at the end but I prefer the subtle implication of the ending we have

    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: Buffy kills one demon

    Buffy: 103 vamps, 43 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, 1 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:

    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?

    Dawn in peril; 8

    Dawn the bashful virgin; 6

    Questions and observations;

    Another appalling Buffy birthday, if I was her I'd just hide under the bed all day and have Dawn bring me the occasional cup of tea until midnight. The title is a quote from Empire of the Sun (the book not the band) which Dawn is discussing in class at the beginning of the ep. Xander refers to Children of the Corn, Nic Brendon having acted in one of the sequals. Halfrek refers to vengence demons as 'justice demons' FYI. What does 'Total JD' mean?

    Spike and Halfrek, hmmmm? Question is did Cecilly become Halfrek as Aud became Anyanka? OR was there NEVER a Cecilly, was there only ever Halfrek?

    Subtle but very interesting final scene. Everyone leaves but Buffy and Dawn. They bid their friends goodbye then look at each other and smile. Because although they didn't want to be trapped there's no reason for them to leave because this is their house, this is where they belong together. Dawn wanted Buffy to spend more time with her and now when she has the option to leave she instead chooses to stay with the sister she loves and who loves her in return. Dawn is finally getting Buffy back in soul as well as in body.

    Marks out of 10; 8/10, really like this one

  • Panic House

    Older and Far Away-Old and new friends gather at the Summers home for Buffy's twenty-first birthday party and it goes splendidly - at first. Feeling neglected by Buffy and the Scoobys, Dawn's wish to keep people from leaving her is answered by Anya's demon friend Halfrek, who binds the attendees of the party to the house. When Tara tries a spell to free them, she only makes the situation worse by accidentally releasing a demon trapped inside a sword.

    Ehw! It's not that "Older and Far Away" is bad, it certainly had it's moments, but the problem is: It's a Dawn episode. Not that Dawn is a horrible character, it's just her particular arc this season is by far the weakest. Sure, Dawn got a lot of flake from the fanbase during the show's run but I never hated the character. Michelle Trachtenberg is a strong actress for her age and anything the writers gave her, she delivered it well. The fact is, Dawn got the short end of the stick this season as her loneliness/kleptomania arc just doesn't seem as strong or interesting as the rest of the characters this season. It's evident as the best parts of the episode exclude Dawn's plot. Also, I find it hard to believe that Dawn's pain is worse than EVERYONE else's pain! Buffy was just ripped from hell, Willow had a magic addictionetc. Give me a back!

    Anyway, Idefinitelyliked the interaction with the other characters, especially Tara. It's a true testament to how much the character has grown immensely since Season 4. I loved her awkward welcome with Willow, it was so cute with Willow's over-politeness and Tara's nervousness, but I loved the moment where she stood up to Anya when she pushed Willow to use magic to help the situation. This wasn't just a big moment for Willow, it was for Tara as well. She now doesn't back down when situations get chaotic and will stand up for people like they once did for her. I also loved the scene toward the end where Tara really shows how proud of She does that not only for Willow but for Buffy when Spike continues to force himself on Buffy. Tara telling Spike to put some ice on his cramp in his pants was priceless. I also like the small guest characters in the episode like Sophie (who was awkward/borderline anti-social) Richard (who makes a hilarious assumption that Clem obviously doesn't have a skin condition) and Clem himself who just has so much charm despite lookingcreepyas hell. The demon attack moments were intense and I did like the effect of it popping in and off from the walls. But I have to say again, that Dawn's part of in all of this is weak. She comes off whinny and selfish, especially when the gang confronts her is she's behind all this. Sure it's a big assumption but Dawn acting like a brat didn't help matters. I don't blame Buffy for walking away when when Dawn gave her attitude about "caring". Dawn should be the one who should be one caring and supporting her sister during what she's going through. Not that Dawn should have her own problems, but she doesn't seem to be putting things into perspective, but considering she's a teenager, I'll give her a break I guess.

    I loved Halfrek'sappearance toward the end, especially that little moment where her and Spike recognize each other. Nice touch there writers! Of course the moment she realizes she's stuck too is priceless. But in the end, I still feel the episode was uneven, sure there is plot movement with Dawn as the gang discovers her stealing ways and the moments with Anya and Xander were touching, but I still feel "meh" after this episode. Fair but almost forgettable.moreless
  • Older and Far Away

    Older and Far Away was a superb episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and this episode continued the tradition of Buffy's Birthday Bash going wrong. This episode touched on a few characters story lines bringing some plots full circle. Dawn's theiving ways are discovered, Willow admits to keeping a few magic supplies, and Buffy is fighting Spikes advances. It was really nice to see Tara again this episode is the begining of her and Willow making up. This episode showed Dawn in her most annoying form, whining about every thing and every one. I see this episode as a spring board to the rest of the season. I can't wait to watch what happens next!!!!!moreless
  • Dawn accidently makes a wish to a vengeance demon, Halfrek and makes everyone at Buffy's 21st birthday party can't leave the house.

    Older And Far Away was a great episode. There was no action this episode because nobody could leave the house but not that's not point. The characters are stuck inside the house and you get to see more of Dawn whining which is usally bad but not in this episode. In this episode Buffy and her friends find out that Dawn has Kleptomania and has been stealing stuff. The great thing about the season was she didn't get caught in the first episode she stole something. This was a long story arc which was cool. You get to see more of Halfrek in this episode which was cool and at the end of the episode she appeared into the room out of no where and couldn't leave was funny. It was a great ending to this episode.moreless
Laura Roth

Laura Roth


Guest Star

Ryan Browning

Ryan Browning


Guest Star

Elizabeth Cazenave

Elizabeth Cazenave


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 (9)

    • In Buffy's final fight against the demon, when Spike pulls the demon back, a hole can be seen in the wall from the sword, but when the demon goes into the wall, the hole is gone. The hole reappears when Buffy puts the sword in.

    • During the scene in which Xander and Anya present their gift to Buffy, the song "Pictures of Success" by Rilo Kiley plays. One of the more explicit lyrics of the song has not been censored, and though the song is playing softly, the explicit lyric is still audible.

    • When preparing for her evening patrol, Buffy packs a whole bag of supplies (stakes, crosses, holy water). When she goes on her patrol, all she has is a huge axe which she couldn't have packed and the bag of supplies is never seen.

    • When Spike opens the front door at the end of the episode his reflection can be seen in the frosted glass next to the door.

    • At the end of the first confrontation with the demon in the living room Buffy is on the floor with Spike standing to one side, arms and legs apart and shifting back and forth. In the middle of this scene the shot cuts to a quick closeup of Spike and he is standing still and relaxed.

    • When the demon is first released from the sword and the fight breaks out, Buffy is pushed into Spike knocking him down in direct sunlight which is pouring in from the windows. He stays there for a fair amount of time without any smoke or flames...

    • When Richard was stabbed, obviously it went deep enough to rupture a major organ. Yet he lives for several hours while trapped in the house without so much as a band-aids worth of medical care.

    • When Tara casts the "Release" spell, why is Spike getting ready to rush for the door, in broad daylight, without a blanket or any protection?

    • When Buffy pulls Spike away from the group after he joked about eating Richard you can see his reflection in the hall mirror by the door as he passes it.

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Halfrek: (about Dawn) It doesn't change the fact that this girl was in pain, and none of you could hear it. I could hear her crying out everywhere I went in this town. It was unbearable. And none of you knew. You people deserve to be cursed. Enjoy your time together. From now on, all you have is time.

    • Dawn: I'm glad you're trapped. How else can I get anybody to spend any time with me?
      Buffy: Dawn... If you want us to spend time with you-
      Dawn: I don't. Get out.
      (Buffy stares at her.)
      Dawn: (shrieking) Get out, get out, get out!

    • Anya: (about Dawn) I think she's possessed.
      Xander: She's a teenager.

    • (Buffy and Spike both decide he should leave the house)
      Buffy: I'm actually trying to move right now!
      Spike (somewhat alarmed): So am I...

    • Spike: Me either. Besides, Richie, you can't skip breakfast, growing boy like you. Me, I used to love breakfast. In the old days, I probably would have eaten by now.
      Buffy: Of course, with that new diet of yours, you want to be careful what you try putting in your mouth now, Spikey.
      Spike: Yeah? I don't know. Tummy's making all kinds of gurglies. Maybe I ought to just feed on whatever's around... even if it doesn't go down well. You, uh, work out?

    • (While playing Monopoly)
      Anya: Yeah! Come on Buffy, stay. I wanna bankrupt somebody!!

    • Spike: (to Buffy) So, you ever think about, maybe, not celebrating your birthday? Just try it, I mean.

    • Buffy:I should have thrown you out the minute you got here. I was insane to ever think you could just hang out with my friends.
      Spike: And I was insane to think.... No wait, you were right. You're insane

    • Tara: (innocently) How's that cramp, Spike? Still bothering you?
      Spike: What? Oh, yeah.
      Tara: Maybe you...uh...want to put some ice on it.

    • Spike: I had... a... muscle cramp. Buffy was, uh, helping.
      Tara: A muscle cramp? In your... pants?
      Spike: What? It's a thing.
      Tara: Right.

    • Tara: I thought vengeance demons only punished men who wronged women.
      Halfrek: Oh, that was Anya's little raison-d'être. Most of us try to be a little more well-rounded. And actually, we prefer "justice demons", okay. FYI.

    • Tara: So is Spike coming?
      Buffy: No. He may be a chiphead, but he still doesn't play too well with others. Anyway I'm not ready to...
      Tara: come out.
      Buffy: Yeah, I'm all stay inny.

  • NOTES (4)

    • Featured Music:
      Pictures Of Success by Rilo Kiley - Played softly while Buffy is opening her presents.

    • The plot for this episode cleverly blends motifs from Luis Bunuel's film The Exterminating Angel (where party guests are mysteriously unable to depart) and Jean-Paul Sartre's play Huis Clos/No Exit in which, famously, "Hell is other people" trapped together forever.

    • In a tidbit of possible coming events, Spike and Halfrek seem to know each other and she calls him "William". Kali Rocha played human William's love interest Cecily in last season's 'Fool For Love'.

    • While Anya claimed that cursing unfaithful men was all that vengeance ("justice") demons did, Halfrek tells us that they actually try to be more well-rounded. Despite this claim, Halfrek specializes in protecting children and punishing parents. Dawn's pain was palpable to her throughout Sunnydale, giving her reason to act on Dawn's behalf once she got Dawn to make a wish.


    • Xander: And now we can't leave. The only thing missing is a cornfield. There isn't a cornfield, is there?
      A reference to the classic The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", where an eight-year-old boy with god-like powers isolates an entire town from the rest of the world on a whim. If someone irritated him, he would banish them to "the cornfield".

    • Title: Older and Far Away
      The title is a quote from the novel Empire of the Sun.

    • Dawn: Foxy Brown T-Shirt
      Foxy Brown is a 1974 blaxploitation film starring Pam Grier.