Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 3 Episode 9

The Wish

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Dec 08, 1998 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
730 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Wanting to be rid of Xander for good, Cordelia comes to the conclusion that Buffy is the cause of all her problems and makes a wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. A demon grants the wish and Cordelia's world suddenly changes.

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  • Hole in the story?

    First of all, I'd just like to say that I do love this episode. But after for about the third time, it got me thinking.. how did The Master rise in this alternate reality? In the last episode of the first season it shows how intent Buffy is on not going to fight The Master (because the prophecy said she would die). When she did go down to fight him he informed her that he would not have risen, if she had stayed away. Which then begs the question if the slayer had not been there on that night, what was it that allowed The Master to rise?moreless
  • The Wish

    When deciding what score to give an episode I factor in a lot of different things. An episode gets a perfect score because there are no critical flaws in it and it's just so good that I don't need to justify why it's perfect, it simply is. This episode is the exception to what I just said. Because the dreaded "reset button" is used I considered giving this a lower score. After all, none of the characters remember anything that happened afterwards thereby making that entire portion of the episode essentially irrelevant. At least that's what happens most of the time when the "reset button" is used. It happened more times than I can count (or that I'd like to admit I sat through) on Star Trek: Voyager.

    There are several things that make this episode different though. The first is that under three quarters of the episode takes place in the alternate reality; the first quarter is important and is remembered by all the characters. The second is that although none of the characters remember anything from the experience, the viewers do, and this is important because we learn vital tidbits about the main characters in the process. The third is that the series doesn't ever do this again. And finally, the fourth, is that this world, where Buffy never came to Sunnydale, is extremely interesting, entertaining, dark, and well done.

    This episode has two distinct 'sections' which are connected through Cordelia. Both of these 'sections' are, well, perfect. In the beginning we get some ultra light fun where Buffy slays a corny demon and the group continues their picnic like nothing happened; business as usual. It's here when Xander asks Buffy how she deals with the pain of lost love (and I think he also means life in general). She responds, "I have you guys." The slow dissolution of the Scoobies in the following seasons is why everything will eventually break apart. They don't feel like they "have each other" anymore which is why they keep secrets and grow increasingly separated. This happens to a lot of people when they go to college and out into the work world.

    I liked seeing Oz's rejection of Willow's plea for talk. Oz knows that Willow wants to talk with him about what she did so she can feel better about herself. He suitably replies to this by saying "that's not my problem." The scene at the Bronze picks up on all these points while Buffy, Willow, and Xander are moping around and chatting with each other. Xander's trying to move on as soon as possible, Willow feels horrible and wants to make it right with Oz, and Buffy is just kind of confused about everything.

    Cordelia attempts to slide back into her old persona again with ease. Happily, and a testament to her character's growth, this doesn't succeed. When unhappy and covered in trash Cordelia comes to the realization that all of her problems stem from Buffy. Anyanka is attempting to get Cordelia to wish something bad upon Xander, but instead ends up granting a different kind of wish. Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale in the first place in the hopes that she'd never get tangled up in the supernatural and end up getting together with Xander. She's obviously angry at both Willow and Xander, but by her reaction at the news that they're both dead we can see that she didn't really hate them. It becomes increasingly obvious to her that Buffy is not the cause of her pain.

    It's interesting that in the Buffy-less Sunnydale Willow and Xander are vampires. One might argue that Willow got bit during the events of "Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1x01), but remember that it was Buffy who told her to "seize the day" which was the reason she went out into the crowd in the first place. Nevertheless, it still makes sense that eventually one of these two would have been bit and then would have immediately went to change the other. Willow as a vampire is actually pretty terrifying. At first she comes off as a joke but we see her true colors when torturing Angel. Xander rubs off as very much like his human personality. He follows others' leads and works as an underling. Willow takes change and is a powerful minion under the Master. This fits with what we know of Willow's continually growing self confidence.

    What's truly the most shocking, though, is how different Buffy is. She is very battle worn, tired, humorless, and has that "death wish" that Spike says all slayers have in "Fool for Love" (5x07). She partially lets the Master snap her neck because she's so tired of fighting. The look on her face leading up to her death says everything. It shows that she is already dead on the inside. Buffy is not a 'special' Slayer in this reality. She fights alone and dies just like all the girls before her. The only thing that makes her unique is that she has to live in a world where the hellmouth is open. When I first saw this episode I found myself wanting to see more of this Buffy's life and how she got to the point she was at. There's a reason why we're seeing Buffy's story in the real world though: she's a unique Slayer there and that is part of what makes her so interesting. What we need to see in an episode like this is a glimpse at how all the main characters would have turned out had Buffy not arrived, and the episode does just that. We never knew pre-Sunnydale Buffy in the first place, so seeing more of her story in this alternate reality wouldn't be terribly interesting.

    The episode wraps up with a very chilling battle where Xander kills Angel (how ironic is that), Buffy kills Xander, Oz kills Willow, and the Master kills Buffy, all with beautifully haunting music running over top. Giles destroys Anyanka's power center in the middle of all this and reality is restored back to normal where we see Buffy, Willow, and Xander together and, more or less, happy. To sum this up, I got everything I needed to get from an episode like this. There was time spent dealing with the aftermath of the previous episode, a dark look into an alternate reality Sunnydale, lots of subtle character foreshadowing, and a beautifully chilling ending. Perfect, but I think you already knew that.moreless
  • What could have been?

    The Good;

    All of it! Just wonderful! Great reveal of Anya the demon and the action sequences especially

    The Bad;

    Surely in vampdominated Sunnydale people would prefer to let their kids drive home from SDH?

    Best line;

    Buffy; Your logic is not like our earth logic

    Character death;

    Everyone except Giles, Larry, Harmony and Oz. But then thankfully they're all alive again. Cordy's death is particularly disturbing. Of course the obvious question is what about all the people who died in the proper Buffyverse? It would have been a nice touch if Jenny, Jessie and Principle Flutie were still alive at SDH, if Nancy was actually Theresa from Phases. And of course if Buffy never died in the Master's pool then Kendra is still alive too


    VampXander is hit by Buffy's crossbow

    Tied up;

    Angel in chains

    Knocked out;

    Giles and Oz

    Women good/men bad;

    If anything with Vampwillow we see femalekind at it's worse. The way Harmony and co treat Cordy is horrible, you really feel for her but I guess it's revenge for her 'Sheep' speech.

    Kinky dinky;

    Where do you begin? PVC-clad VampWillow plays no-safety-word S&M sex games with 'Puppy' whilst leatherclad vampXander watches. Buffy thinks the hero worship that everyone shows her in Sunnydale is a 'get in my pants thing'.

    Calling Captain Subtext;

    vampWillow has obvious lesbian overtones (her killing of both Cordy and the Master's victim is almost akin to snuff). However she still digs Xander and Angel so it's still more than likely she's bi rather than gay.

    Guantanamo Bay;

    Plenty of torture but only by the bad guys

    Questions and observations

    Staggeringly brilliant in every way and anyone who doesn't think so should be locked up as a danger to themselves and others. Great ending too, cool, touching and funny, wonderful music. Plus Jonathon AND Larry, great.

    What is the Mayor doing in Master dominated Sunnydale? And the Initiative? Where are Darla and Luke, killed by the White Hat's? Where are Hank and Joyce? Who is the Watcher Giles talks to on the telephone? Wesley? Sam Zebuto (Kendra's Watcher)? Gwendoline Post? Giles refers to demonic activity in Cleveland which will be referenced in Chosen as Giles says there's a 2nd Hellmouth there (presumably inactive?) We always knew Buffy was an exceptional Slayer and that the Watcher's found her late but here we see that without Giles and the Scoobies' help she ends up battlehardened, emotionally cut off and with the Slayer deathwish, just like all the others. Interesting to compare 'The Wish' Buffy with Faith (and what's happening to her in the Wishverse?)

    And here's Anya, no sign as yet that she'll become a major character and appear in the opening credits.

    Now, where does the Wishverse lie in the continuity of things? I figure it's a dead end, a right angle to the real timestream that stops dead at the moment Giles smashes the pendant. Of course what happens if the Wishverse had continued? Well with all respect to Kendra I don't see her lasting that long leaving it to Faith to defeat The Master. So that would mean that Dawn is Faith's sister, Giles her Watcher, a grieving Joyce and Hank surrogate parents to both LeHane girls and Larry, Oz, Harmony and Amy as the Scoobygang? Would that make Spike the PTB's souled-vamp champion, just try picturing him and Doyle as a team. Interesting to wonder, huh?

    Once read a great fanfic where all the Scoobys are vamps but this meant that the valiant Darla was the Slayer and The Mayor, Adam, a human Spike and Dru, Glory and the Nerds were all good guys and made up her alternate Scooby Gang. It says a lot for the depth of character Joss gives his villains that the concept actually worked really well, that they all could have been heroes if things had taken a different path.

    Actually Cordy has dated Jonathon before or at least let him buy her a muffin at the Bronze in Inca Mummy Girl. We hear the gang go on about how Faith has become more and more distant since the events of Revalations, Buffy has sympathy for her and we later see she wouldn't have been too different to her under other circumstances. You have to agree with Oz turning Will down, he's right as to her motivations. You note that although things are bad in SD the Harvest wasn't the end of the world it was advertised to be, the rest of the world goes on pretty much unaffected. How do they dispose of all the demon bodies they leave lying around?

    Legend has it there's a girl looking just like Faith amongst the prisoners at the Factory. Eliza Dushku however has stated at a convention that this definitely isn't her, she wasn't even on set that day. Popular explanation is that this is her stand in/stunt double earning some spare cash as an extra.

    10/10 and a whole lot more.

  • Great episode of Buffy. Its fun and interesting, but also dark.

    The wish is a very well written episode and its a dark look into what could have been without Buffy.

    Cordelia comes back to school after her injury and finds that things are very different for her. She no longer is miss popular and her old friends laugh and make fun of her. Feeling down she realizes that all her problems started because of Buffy and sheinadvertently makes a wish to the new girl Anya, who just happens to be a vengeance demon.

    Cordelia wishes Buffy never came to Sunnydale and soon finds herself in an alternate reality where vampires reign supreme, the master is still alive, and where Xander and Willow are super scary vamps.

    Now at this point they could have made this episode a typical alternate reality episode where the person throughout the episode learns just how bizarre their alternate reality is and then tries to change it. And in the beginning Cordelia does just that. But things take a turn for the worse when Xander and Willow kill her.

    I think that that was an interesting twist to a story idea that has been rehashed many times. The whole episode is well done. Xander and Willow are terrifying as vampires and its a good setup for Dopplegangland where vampire Willow makes a return.

    The alternate Buffy is also very interesting. She almost reminds me of Faith and I wonder if that's what the writers were going for. She's tough, scarred, and dark with none of the fun loving Buffy we all well...love.

    The end scene in the warehouse is well done. We watch as all of our favorite characters die. The part where Angel gets shot and says, "Buffy." as he turns into dust is sad, but also made even sadder because Buffy doesn't even care. She walks right through him as though he didn't matter.

    Well written episode, great to watch, and its interesting to see how much Buffy has done for Sunnydale.moreless
  • The Wish

    The Wish was a true Buffy the Vampire Slayer treat.! This episode was exciting because wa saw the return of Cordelia, introduced to a new cool girl who is not who she appears to be or should I say what. The story for this episode is Brilliant and ties in other story lines really well and I have a feeling it will play a part in the future as well. This episode saw the return of The Master, and in Cordelia's new world Willow and Zander are quite different but still hot for each other. This was good episode to show range of different versions of the various characters.moreless
Nicole Bilderback

Nicole Bilderback

Cordette #1

Guest Star

Nathan Anderson

Nathan Anderson

John Lee

Guest Star

Mariah O'Brien

Mariah O'Brien


Guest Star

Danny Strong

Danny Strong


Recurring Role

Mark Metcalf

Mark Metcalf

The Master

Recurring Role

Emma Caulfield

Emma Caulfield


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (15)

    • Nitpick: Shortly after Buffy's crossbow bolt hits Vampire Xander in the shoulder we see Xander and Willow together (when Willow says that the Puppy got out) and there is no visible injury to Xander's shoulder.

    • After Anya grants her wish, Cordelia's hairstyle changes. In the real world, it was teased up in the front, but after the world changes, it's styled so that she has a part in the front and is less voluminous.

    • Even in this alternate reality, the prophecy mentioned in "Prophecy Girl" is fulfilled: "The Master will rise, and the Slayer will die."

    • Goof: When Harmony and the other Cordettes turn around and berate Cordelia for her comment about going to the Bronze, an overhead microphone can clearly be seen.

    • Nitpick: When Vamp Xander drops Cordelia's body after he and Vamp Willow kill her, there is no sound of the body hitting the ground, yet when Vamp Willow drops the key of the book cage on the ground seconds later, the sound of it hitting the ground is loud and clear.

    • Goof: When Cordelia is attacked by vampire Xander, as she is thrown down on the street you can see that she (actually her stunt double) has flesh colored knee pads covered by matching hosiery to help hide them.

    • Nitpick: When Harmony suggest dating Jonathan as a way of insulting Cordelia, she must not know that the two actually went on a date in the season 2 episode "Reptile Boy" (2x05).

    • Nitpick: When Cordette #1 is drained on the machine, we see a set of rather large looking needles impale her. They must be fairly big because they do drain the blood out of her fairly quickly. However, when they retract from her body, not only are there no bloodstains on her from the punctures, but her top doesn't even have any holes in it!

    • Goof: When Buffy stakes the vampiric Xander, it's pretty obvious that the stake hits him in the chest and the point slides down a bit.

    • Nitpick: If all of the Sunnydale residents know enough to wear dark clothes to not attract vampires, then why don't they know enough to carry around huge crosses like Giles does?

    • Nitpick: It would seem that Giles's book is mistaken. Destroying a vengeance demon's power source seems to most likely just revert the last wish they granted.

    • Goof: Notice that when Cordette #1 was put on the tray, her arm was folded across her stomach. The next time the camera is shot to look at her, her arm is lying down at her side.

    • Nitpick: In Oz's and Willows first scene, if you look behind Oz a couple of times, you can see the same student walk past them (white shirt, black bag), and once nearing the end of the conversation, although you can't see more than the shirt, it looks like the same student is walking past for a third time.

    • Goof: Cordelia cuts off the picture of Xander right up to his chin, but the picture we see burning is cut much lower so that you can see his chest.

    • Goof: During the scene when Cordelia has recently been put in the new reality, she is talking with her group of gal pals about going to the Bronze. A boom mic can be seen briefly during this scene above the girls.

  • QUOTES (19)

    • Anya: Nice purse. Prada?
      Cordelia: Good call. Most people here don't know Prada from Payless.

    • The Master: Hungry? I've lost my appetite for this one. She keeps looking at me, I'm trying to eat and she looks at me!

    • Oz: So Cordelia wished for something? If it was a long, healthy life, she should get her money back.

    • Cordelia: I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.
      Anya: Done.
      Cordelia: That would be cool. No, wait. I wish Buffy Summers had never been born.
      Anya: Done!
      Cordelia: And I wish that Xander Harris never again knows the touch of a woman. And that Willow wakes up tomorrow covered in monkey hair.
      Anya: Done!
      Cordelia: In fact, I wish all men, except maybe the dumb and the really agreeable kind, disappeared off the face of the earth. That would be so cool!

    • The Master: You killed the girl that sought the Slayer?
      Vampire Xander: It was too easy.
      Vampire Willow: I felt cheap.

    • Vampire Xander: Buffy? The Slayer?
      Cordelia: No, Buffy the dog-faced-girl! Duh! Who do you think I'm talking about?

    • Harmony: Oh, hey, it's garbage girl. Loved the look last night, Cor. Dumpster chic for the dumped.

    • Xander: Well, burial detail aside, does this cap us off for the day?
      Buffy: You got plans?
      Xander: I cannot stress enough how much I don't have plans.
      Buffy: No luck reaching Cordelia?
      Xander: I've left a few messages. 60... 70...

    • Anya: (about Harmony) If that girl had an original thought, her head would explode.

    • Willow: Isn't he gonna poof?
      Buffy: I guess these guys don't. We'll have to bury him or something. Ohh, makes you appreciate vamps, though. No fuss, no muss.

    • The Master: It is time to treat humans as - let's not mince words here - as the cattle they are!

    • Willow: Bored now...

    • The Master: Some claim that death is our art. I say to them - well, I don't say anything to them because I killed them.

    • Buffy: World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that.
      Giles: I have to believe in a better world.
      Buffy: Go ahead. I have to live in this one.

    • Angel: The Master rose. He let me live...to punish me. I kept hoping maybe you'd come. My destiny.
      Buffy: Is this a 'get in my pants' thing? You guys in Sunnydale talk like I'm the Second Coming.

    • Xander: Okay we kissed. But I know that was positively the last time we were gonna kiss.
      Willow: Darn tootin'.
      Xander: And they burst in, rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean, this is really all their fault.
      Buffy: Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.
      Xander: Mine's much more advanced.

    • Angel: So what's the plan?
      Buffy: (Hands Angel a stake) Don't fall on this.

    • Giles: Cordelia Chase, what did she wish for?
      Anyanka: I had no idea her wish would be so exciting. Brave New World. I hope she likes it.

    • Anyanka: You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?
      Giles: Because it has to be.

  • NOTES (12)

    • Music:

      Cordelia leaves the Bronze -- "Get Out Of My Way" by Music House
      Vamp Willow and Vamp Xander enter the Bronze to see the Master -- "Dedicated To Pain" by Plastic
      While Buffy, Willow and Xander watch Cordelia at the Bronze -- "Tired Of Being Alone" by The Spies
      Cordelia makes wishes at the end of the episode -- "Never Noticed" by Gingersol

    • Anya/Anyanka's origins were included in the original script, but they were eventually cut from the episode. And while we learn about them piece by piece over time, her origins aren't fully shown until Season 7's "Selfless" (7x05).

    • This episode is number six in Joss Whedon's list of his top ten favorite episodes according to The Last Sundown featurette in the season seven DVD box set.
      In a later list which is exclusive to the Australian Chosen Collection Box-set, this episode is placed as number five. However the episodes on this top ten list were not ranked, but rather put in order of which episode aired first, so that does not mean that this is his fifth favorite episode, it is just a favorite episode that is placed fifth in air-date order.

    • Nancy notes that vampires are attracted by bright colors. Although this hasn't been mentioned before, it probably holds true in the "real" world as well.

    • We see Cordelia's bedroom for the first time in this episode.

    • Charisma Carpenter admits that this is her favorite episode.

    • In the alternate world, Giles makes reference to another Hellmouth in Cleveland. One would be mentioned as existing in the real world in the final episode of the series.

    • The names of the Casting Directors are: Anya Colloff, Jennifer Fishman, and Amy Britt. Conincidently, there have been three cast members or reoccuring characters named Anya, Jenny, and Amy.

    • Originally, Emma Caulfield was not cast as Anya, and Anya was not meant to be a recurring character. The original actress did not take the part because it was only slated for two episodes at the time ("The Wish" and "Dopplegangland") but they decided to keep Anya around longer.

    • Nicole Bilderback, Cordette #1, also appears in Bring It On with Clare Kramer (Glory) and Eliza Dushku (Faith).

    • Cordette #1 (the girl who is drained on the machine), Nicole Bilderback played opposite Seth Green in the 1998 movie Can't Hardly Wait.

    • In the October 1, 1999 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Todd McIntosh, the makeup supervisor, said this was his favorite episode.


    • Evil Xander: Oh look, it's the White Hats.

      This is a reference to the early silent cowboy movies where the good cowboys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black ones. White Hats has since become a synonym for good guys.

    • Buffy: You take an awful lot on faith here, Jeeves.
      Jeeves is a character created by the British humorist P.G. Wodehouse. Jeeves is the manservant to bumbling Bertie Wooster. When Wooster gets into trouble, Jeeves gets him out of it.

    • The Master: What news on the Rialto?
      This is a quote from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

    • Anyanka: I had no idea her wish would be so exciting. Brave new world.
      The phrase "brave new world," comes from The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1, by William Shakespeare.

    • Cordelia: No, Buffy the dog faced girl.
      In Halloween Cordelia talks about confronting Jo Jo the dog faced boy. Here the reference is revived.

    • Buffy: No, I'm a free-agent. I promise.
      Buffy announces her independent status with a reference to professional athletes who are not currently under contract. Free-agents can go to a new team without a trade.

    • Anya: Thank God there's actually one other person in this town that reads W.
      According to its publisher W is "the fashion magazine for the discerning woman".

    • Cordelia: Most people around here can't tell Prada from Payless.
      Payless ShoeSource is large discount shoe store.

    • Anya: Nice bag. Prada?
      Prada is an high end designer label.