Screens: UPN

In Giles We Trust

All others pay for their magicks-abusing arrogance with an electric beating.

It's difficult to describe the joy with which I reacted to Giles's appearance in the doorway of the magic shop during Buffy The Vampire Slayer's sixth-season finale. I don't know that I can do justice to the sound I made using the QWERTY keyboard; "flaharl" is pretty close, but with many more Fs and Rs and rendered in a 72-point font.

For those familiar with the show, I probably don't need to explain further, and even those who didn't watch, or watch much, Buffy have absorbed that you can't spell "Rupert Giles" without "rules." Or shouldn't, anyway. By that point in Buffy's run, though, Giles had more or less effed off back to England permanently -- we hoped, at that time, to film a Ripper spinoff, though nothing came of that -- leaving the Scoobs to their own inconsistent and self-destructive devices. At the same time, Joss Whedon had kind of pulled a Giles on the show, focusing on Firefly and Angel and leaving the firstborn in the hands of Marti Noxon, which was great if you dug the Spike-Buffy stuff and decidedly less so if you didn't.

But TPTB did one thing absolutely right: they smartly stashed Anthony Stewart Head's special-guest-star chyron in the end credits, so nobody had any idea he was coming. I didn't, anyway, and he couldn't have arrived at a better time, because at the moment he showed up, this viewer was struggling with which unsympathetically smug and self-pitying female lead she'd prefer to see get all kinds of fucked up in a fight to the death: Dumpstersex McPoutypants, or Veins Shanahan. Buffy and Willow had each become increasingly tough to take over the course of the season, but at the time I gave a slight edge to Willow, whose grief rampage turned her into an annoying bully. In the scene in question, Willow is topping up after killing Warren and fatally sucking Rack dry of his magicks by throwing Anya, who's chanting a spell in an attempt to contain her, into a bookcase and snotting to Buffy that she gets the rush of Slaying. It's not about the violence; it's about the power.

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Willow punctuates this comparative inanity with fireball to Buffy's stomach and knocks her out, then smirks, "And there's no one in the world who has the power to stop me now."

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And then she gets a gutshot of her own.

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She squints at the doorway, looking a bit concerned for the first time in the episode, and sees Giles standing there.

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"I'd like to test that theory," he says, and it's a great snarky button for the first half of the finale -- but watching it again, I see everything else going on in his face.

Screens: UPN

Screens: UPN

He's angry with her, in a way, exasperated that he's had to come back and intercede, but there's also deep sadness, not just that it's come to this but for Willow's terrible suffering.

The hug between Buffy and Giles that follows shortly after this scene is lovely too, but it's everything about Giles and his return -- his timing; the way Head plays his entrance, not going too Stallone with it; and Noxon & Co.'s clever saving of his credit so as not to ruin the surprise -- that's bad-ass here. And almost everywhere else. Man, I wish that Ripper show had happened.

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