Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 6 Episode 14

Older and Far Away

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Feb 12, 2002 on The WB

Episode Fan Reviews (11)

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  • "I'm glad you're trapped – how else can I get anyone to spend any time with me?" - Dawn

    After last week's dark episode, this is supposed to be a light, jolly installment; another of Buffy's terrible birthdays. But there's a pretty ominous under-current: perhaps the title of this ep should have been Where The Hatred Is. So, Dawn, after being the centre of attention in Season 5, unable to be left alone, fussed over and spoilt, is now expected to be an adult whilst being treated as a child. Willow is on a 12-step plan, Anya and Xander have their grown-up lives, Buffy has her secret lives and Dawn doesn't seem to have any friends of her own age. She has to go shoplifting at the mall on her own. She steals a birthday present for Buffy - the ultimate attention seeking cry for help. Leaving the tag on the leather jacket was only an accident in the realm of the unconscious. Anyway, Buffy gives scant attention to her sister's girl bonding gift (or Willow's one of "instant gratification") and is more interested in Xander's hand carved weapons chest – she prefers her slayer present to her familial gift.

    Dawn may have no age-appropriate friends, but Buffy's circle of chums isn't growing either. The attempt to have a normal birthday with normal people goes wrong once again as Spike and Clem gatecrash, Halfrek's spell is cast and the red demon is released from his sword. But what were Xander and Buffy thinking of anyway – even without the spell/monster of the week, what are outsiders going to make of Xander's choice of present? The guest stars are a pointless addition: Sophie is unfunny comic relief and Richard is merely a Spike foil. His black eye reminds us of the last time Spike encountered the Slayer, but he, fool for love, doesn't seem hold that against her, preferring to hold himself against her. Back-in-black Buffy, despite her insistence that "I was insane to think you could ever just hang out with my friends", still prefers him to cute but gormless Richard, and Spike shows that he is more her kind of man when he helps her slay the red demon, even saving Xander from it.

    The episode begins to drag, yes it is supposed to reflect the boredom of being trapped in the house, trapped with each other, but it feels more flat and lifeless somehow than it needs to be. "We all have places we'd rather be", says Tara, and it starts to feel that way to the viewer also. Tara's snark to Spike is more annoying than spunky and Willow may have spent ages getting ready to see her ex, but she still chooses something dreadful to wear. The contrivance of Halfrek inveigling her way into a guidance counsellor's role is fairly ridiculous as is Buffy's deduction that Dawn made a wish to a "justice demon". The only good thing about this episode is Hallie herself with her agony aunt self righteousness ("the children need me") and PC speak, the nod to the fans as William recognises the woman who once made his heart effulgent, and being cursed by her own curse as her dramatic exit fails. We see the "very embodiment of be careful what you wish for" as the gang turn on Dawn, and now she has got them to herself, she doesn't want them. I'm not sure anyone would want them at this point, their anger at Dawn inadvertently making a wish to Halfrek, their self-righteous disapproval when Willow is woman enough to admit that she still had some magic ingredients left and then their bullying of her when she doesn't want to cast a spell. It's Tara's magic that goes wrong this time, not Willow's. Anya has an attack of claustrophobia and behaves badly whilst the rest of the Scoobs hate being trapped together against their will, like families everywhere. Anya and Xander are stuck together in their engagement, Spike and Buffy in their S&M relationship and Buffy with Dawn. The twin revelations of her sister's kleptomania and that Dawn feels exactly like Buffy - alone whilst surrounded by people - means that when the gang leave, feeling the dewy grass and the stars in the sky, Buffy has to face up to her parenting responsibilities; she can't go out, she has to stay inside with Dawn. All they have is "time, and each other."