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Act III: Giles.

“The sleep of reason produces monsters.”

GILES:

You have to stop thinking. Let it wash over you.

St. Giles, for those of you curious enough to care, was a hermit saint, the patron of cripples, lepers, and nursing mothers, most often pictured with a staff, or a hind, and he was wounded once in the leg with an arrow (and if you want to go all Fisher King with that, feel free; I’ll sit here and watch). In olden times upwards of 160 churches and 24 hospitals were dedicated to his name in England alone. And Rupert, of course, is so stodgy it isn’t even listed in the handy Very Best Baby Name Book. To us, he’s the Father Figure, the Daft Professor, the Ex-Dangerous Guy, the Reserved Playboy, the Sorcerer, the Librarian of Leisure with a Penchant for Head Trauma. (You got that, right?) Sophos. The Mind. The third dream, and third to go in the spell—and while we’re at it, why don’t we back up to “Primeval” a moment and take a closer look? It’s the spell’s fault, after all.

Power of the Slayer and all who wield it,
Last to ancient First, we invoke thee.
Grant us thy domain and primal strength,
Accept us and the powers we possess.
Make us Mind and Heart and Spirit enjoined,
Let the Hand encompass us. Do thy will.

And does anybody know where I can get a Watcher’s Tarot? The “Spiritus” card Willow had looked like an odd variation of the World, or perhaps the Star. Xander’s was the Knight of Swords (though I’d have picked the Three of Swords, myself—the classic image of three swords piercing a heart, for those unschooled in the cards). Buffy’s “Manus” card doesn’t exist in any Tarot deck—though it was an airy card, full of clouds, and light. And Giles’s card, “Sophos,” looked an awful lot like the Hermit. (You know. That Led Zeppelin album cover.) (Needless to say, there is no Spiritus card, or Animus, Sophos or Manus, in the run-of-the-mill Tarot.)

What’s interesting about this spell is that it’s obviously one the Watchers have established as a way to back up the Slayer with extra firepower when necessary. (Is it always just three participants—Mind, Spirit and Heart—every time?) And yet the Slayer is about fighting alone. The power of the First—though she’s called to support this spell—greatly resents the intrusion. “No friends,” she says; “just kill.” The Watchers developed this spell in spite of the Slayer’s power. Not because of it. I mention this because it lends credence to my whack theory that the Watchers weren’t intended by the Powers That Be as a part of the Slayer’s efforts; they are a human reaction, grown up around it, to guide it, control it, and if need be, destroy it, to begin again.

What does this have to do with Giles’s dream? Which, by the way, I found the hardest of the four to interpret, though it was, I think, the shortest. (I haven’t timed them.) It has four basic set pieces, and begins with that very odd scene that’s really almost its own dream, apart from the flow of the other—very much in the manner of dreams. That wonderfully hokey circular wipe opens up on a pocket watch flashing, dangling before a wondrous first-season tweed suit, as Giles tells Buffy to stop thinking. Let it wash over her. “Isn’t that a bit old fashioned?” says Buffy.

“This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning, before time. Now. Look into the light—”

And Buffy laughs. They’re in his apartment, but far away from us; she’s sitting, he’s standing before her, and the apartment is empty. Stripped bare. Is he getting ready to move, perhaps? The Giles we know certainly doesn’t believe that men should think, and women feel—there’s something deeper going on here. Old fashioned modes of thought—the Council’s training—that he’s leaving behind? Moving on? Buffy’s certainly laughed his strictures off, from the start. His willful charge disrespecting his authority, yet again?

Whatever the watch is supposed to do, it isn’t working terribly well. Laugh and flash, and it’s over. On to the next.

We’re in a carnival in the graveyard, and Giles is on a family outing with Olivia and Buffy and an empty pram. (Hands up, who wants more Olivia?) Buffy is disarmingly childlike, eager to go train with all the wonderful games and rides. “She obviously hasn’t heard the fable about patience,” says Giles. “Which one is that?” asks Olivia. “The one with the fox and, um, the less patient fox.” Which goes over less well than Anya’s post-structuralist joke, later on. And can I say I’m still giggling over the Stake-a-Vampire booth? “I am a vampire!” Hee hee.

What’s important here: Buffy stakes the vamp with a big yellow balloon, after Giles delivers a classic first season scolding about her technique. And “I haven’t got any treats,” he says, when she does.

“For God’s sake, Rupert, go easy on the girl.”

“This is my business,” he says. “Blood of the lamb and all that.” Buffy, meanwhile, has bought some cotton candy, which Giles is suddenly convinced she’ll get all over her face. But it isn’t cotton candy—it’s the grey clay, the warpaint of the Slayer. “I know you,” he says, and he overlaps with himself, saying it again. “I know you.” Because he does, on two levels. First: overt. This is his first clue that something’s amiss. The First Slayer, called on in the spell, is here. “I know you.”

But also—this isn’t Buffy he’s seeing. Not Buffy the person (the lamb who’s been sacrificed). This is Buffy the Vampire Slayer—the logical end of all his training, his “business.” What he would have made had things kept going; had he hewn to the Watcher’s Code. A Slayer, a machine; killing, friendless, alone. The path not taken. “I know you,” he says.

“Come on!” cries Spike, surrounded by garden gnomes. “You’re gonna miss all the fun!”

Distract him. He’s getting close.

Into the crypt, then. Quite the dichotomy here, of course—but what are the two sides of the dialectic? Spike, on the one hand, and Olivia, on the other; black and white, and color; glamour and snapshots and adulating crowds, and weeping alone with an empty pram turned on its side. Giles, it seems, is being offered a choice. “What am I supposed to do in all of this?” he says. “Make up your mind, Rupes,” says Spike. But over what? Between the glamorous world of magic and vampire slaying versus dreary quotidian responsibilities? Career and family? (“Too scary?” says Giles to Olivia, at the end of “Hush.” “Perhaps,” she says.)

If so, “yay” points for giving a male character this rather common concern, for once. But is it really that simple? Any number of things subvert this reading—

Giles, for instance, seems already to have made a choice. Or at least, rejected one option. “Don’t push me around,” he says to the weeping Olivia as he steps into the crypt. “You know I have a great deal to do.” (Or does he say it to Spike?) And if Spike is supposed to represent the slaying end of things, he’s an odd choice. He’s the vamp they haven’t slain, the vamp that can’t bite, the evil demon they’ve left alive because he’s become too human to them. The big pet dog who snaps if you aren’t careful. Not nearly as cut-and-dried—or black-and-white—as the normal slaying point of view. And Giles rejects this option, too. It’s cheap; it’s tawdry; Spike is a “sideshow freak.” This is, in the end, a false choice, and Giles realizes that (even as he worries over it). He rejects it, and moves on.

“I wear the cheese. It does not wear me,” says the Cheese Guy. But that means nothing. Remember?

Extra points—yes, that’s a Virgin Mary lit dimly behind Olivia. Other statues are scattered about, but I couldn’t make them out, and have no idea whether they’re there in the “real” crypt. And everyone remembers that persistent season four “spoiler,” perhaps my favorite red herring this year—that Olivia was either the mysterious “Professor of Demonology,” or a member of the leather-jacketed Black Ops team. Or both. One hopes that similarly false spoilers are already bouncing about for season five. (Joss and co. really ought to invest a bit more effort in distracting and misleading the spoiler hounds, in my opinion.) Giles certainly seems to think Spike is a poseur. And there’s a bit of self-deprecation, here—Sophos, it seems, isn’t entirely butch or masculine. “Enormous swishy frontal lobes,” as Spike says. (Giles’s unconscious in the form of Spike, that is.) And crypts are, typically, underground. Buried. Unconscious.

On to the Bronze.

Why the Bronze?

The Bronze, of course, is where the kids go. Giles doesn’t really feel he belongs there, any more than Xander feels welcome on the UC Sunnydale campus. He’s been once or twice in real life, and felt uncomfortable; when he played his first gig, he chose the Espresso Pump, for “adults.” Yet in his dream, this is where he goes to connect with the others, to figure out what’s going on, to make a plan; this is where all his books are. And he does connect. He almost figures it out. There’s Willow, “at death’s door,” and Xander with the “sucking chest wound.” He knows.

Another possible exception alert: could this somehow be Willow and Xander appearing in Giles’s dream? How else would he know? But it’s common for things happening in the real world to impinge on our dreams—the ring of the alarm clock becoming a fire alarm, say. Giles could certainly have registered Xander’s and Willow’s physical reactions. And he’s smart enough to figure out the connection between the parts they played in the spell, and the manifestations of the First’s attack. So no. I don’t think so. And Xander does go quite the distance for a punchline, but he rarely over-explains as much as he does the “pushing up daisies” line.

Besides. Anya’s up on stage, telling that strange joke. “Quiet! You’ll miss the humorous conclusion.” (Stop talking. Stop thinking.)

“Do you know this is your fault?” says Willow.

“We have to think of the facts, Willow. I’m very busy. I have a gig myself, you know.” He’s being defensive, yes; it is his fault this happened, and they’re all in danger. But at the same time he’s resentful. He can’t always take all the responsibility. He can’t always be Support Guy, Back-Up Man, Father Figure. He’s got a life too, you know. Honest.

At least he doesn’t let his insecurities get in the way of Figuring It Out. There’s a “primal, animal force” after them, Willow says. “It used to be us,” says Giles. “Don’t get linear on me now, man,” says Xander. And Anya finishes her joke. (Distraction.) “Rupert,” says Willow, “you’ve got to focus.” (When has Willow ever been brave enough to call Giles “Rupert”?)

Linear? “There’s an awful lot going on. And all at once,” Giles said, when he first came in. And dreams do tend to happen all at once, and only get sorted into a linear narrative after the fact, when we try to make sense of them. It “used to be us.” Referring to the power the First has drawn from them?

Who cares. Giles is singing. He is the most awake and alive here, singing, the closest to putting it all together. (How rational is song? Well, are we talking Britney Spears, or Steven Sondheim?) Up go the lighters; the audience loves it. But at a crucial moment, he’s distracted; the feedback messes him up, just as he’s at the epiphany (“No wait—”), and he tries to sort it out, following the microphone’s cord backstage (behind the curtains) and straight into the First’s trap. He knows the jig’s up when he finds his watch. (The time that’s run out? The Watcher’s discipline he abandoned in the dream’s prologue, that Buffy laughed off? A gift from admiring fans?) He missed the big picture by focussing on the details; the duck, it seems, was the one who’d been speaking all along.

“Well, that was… obvious…” says Giles, terrified. He tries to buck himself up—”I know who you are.” (What I tell you three times is true.) “I can defeat you with my intellect. I can cripple you with my thoughts.” But he doesn’t. He can’t. She attacks; one more head-wound for the Retired Librarian.

“You couldn’t know. You never had a Watcher…”

Giles’s dream is the shortest, yet the hardest to interpret. There’s a lot in here, not just about him, but about the Watchers, and the Slayer. And it’s interesting—Tara, it’s supposed by some, projected herself into everybody’s dreams. I don’t think so—she isn’t herself in Willow’s dream, and she certainly isn’t in Xander’s. And she doesn’t appear at all in Giles’s dream—despite the fact that he’s the one who comes closest to figuring out the truth. And unlike the others, he’s never chased by the First; she doesn’t appear in his dream at all until the very end, when she strikes. She crushes Willow’s spirit, and betrays her; attacks Xander’s heart by disguising herself; and she tricks Giles, out-thinking him into her trap. (“Well, that was obvious…”)

Buffy? Well, there’s every chance she could be next…

  1. k    Sep 29, 12:48 PM    #

    Pretty sure Spike says “squishy” frontal lobe, not “swishy.”


  2. Kip Manley    Sep 29, 01:00 PM    #

    Perhaps. —But “squishy” itself is neither all that butch, nor masculine. The point totters, but it (mostly) stands.


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