“Let me get this straight,” wrote Takei on Facebook. “You cast a
white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This back-pedalling
is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots.”
In response to posts by fans, Takei claimed Marvel had “already
addressed the Tibetan question” by shifting the Ancient One’s home to
Kathmandu, Nepal, in the film.
“It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point
whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another
country,” he said. “So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that
they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they
believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should
be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”
As I was about to watch this episode, I wondered how I should go about recapping it. What should I talk about? How could I even begin to analyze a television masterpiece that has been analyzed and dissected to death? Is there anything left to say about Restless? The answer to all of these questions is “I have no idea.” But of course, I must try.
That being said, this recap will be slightly different from the recaps I usually write, at least format-wise. And maybe content-wise? I don’t know. You read and be the judge. (but don’t judge too harshly…) (also you’ll probably be reading things that have been said a million times before - a vague disclaimer’s nobody’s friend, you know?)
The episode opens with the “previously on” and cuts right to the credits. This is the very first clue that something is about to happen, that this is no ordinary episode. It’s a way to tell the viewer: “pay attention, you’re in for a ride.” When there’s no teaser in a show, you can’t help but think “oh oh, what is going on here?”. This is especially true for a show like BTVS.
We are used to BTVS’s season finales being all about the big fight. But we never get to see the aftermath of the battle. What do the characters do right after they’ve defeated the Big Bad? In this episode, we finally get a glimpse. They basically netflix and chill. And they’ve definitely earned it.
While Anya’s and Tara’s absences are not explained, Riley’s is. I guess this is because he was actually in the battle, and therefore deserved his chill time just like the Scoobies. Of course, plot-wise, Riley’s presence would’ve defeated the whole purpose of the episode (he would’ve been the only one awake and therefore would’ve tried to wake everyone up while they were in their dream state.) So very conveniently, Riley has to leave for some debriefing. Moreover, this episode - much like Primeval - was all about the Scoobies, so there was no reason for Riley to have a prominent role. So thank you, Joss, for ridding us from Riley - even if we still couldn’t get rid of dream-Riley.
I appreciate Joyce pointing out that she had “finally” met Riley - although I wonder if she actually even knew there was a Riley in Buffy’s life before this episode. I also think it’s a step up from her usual parenting ways to cut Buffy some slack. She’s not giving Buffy a guilt trip over her cutting her off from her life for the past year. She gets it, and accepts it. However, I wonder if Buffy ever regretted not having Joyce more involved in her personal life after what happens in season 5 - but I guess that’s a discussion for another season.
This is one of the cutest Scooby shots in the whole show, okay? The snoring!!!
Willow’s dream is as much about who she used to be as it is about who she wants to be/is trying to be/will be. We have witnessed Willow’s journey and even though she’s come a long way since Welcome to Hellmouth and her status as shrinking violet, she fears that deep down she still is that person. In her dream, her stage fright represents the idea that she’s just been pretending to be someone she’s not - the overconfident, open-minded, magic-savvy girl on campus. So Willow’s biggest fear is that her cover will be blown. It doesn’t help that she’s been called on her weaknesses throughout the season ( Buffy: ”Will, let’s be realistic here. Okay, your basic spells are usually only fifty-fifty.” - Spike: “And Red here (…) You can take the loser out of high school, but…(…) I just don’t want pity from geeks more useless than I am.”)
This will be part of Willow’s arc from here on until the end of the show. Willow will continue to struggle with who she was - or what others made her to be, and it will be one of the reasons she goes dark. ( ”I’m not your sidekick!” - “ “The magicks I used are very powerful. I’m very powerful.” - “If you could be … you know, plain old Willow or super Willow, who would you be?” - “Let me tell you something about Willow. She’s a loser. And she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college. With her stupid mousy ways.”)
The dream is also about her new-found sexual identity and love for Tara. Tara urges Willow to leave for class, but Willow argues that she doesn’t want to leave the literal and metaphorical cocoon of their relationship. (”I never worry here. I’m safe here.” “I don’t wanna leave here.”) I guess you could interpret this as Willow not wanting to face people’s judgement on their relationship. At the same time, it means Willow will always consider Tara and their relationship her haven. It makes sense, then, that once Tara is taken away from her, she goes off the deep end.
Quite aptly, the First Slayer tries to kill Willow by draining her soul (Willow was the spirit during the spell.)
TARA: They will find out, you know. About you.
BUFFY: Your costume is perfect. Nobody’s gonna know the truth. You know, about you.
WILLOW: The play’s gonna start soon, and I don’t even know my lines.
BUFFY: Why are you still in costume? (…) Willow, everybody already knows. Take it off. (…) Oh, for god’s sake, just take it off. (…) That’s better. It’s much more realistic.
TARA: I think it’s strange. I mean, I think I should worry that we haven’t found her name. WILLOW: Who, Miss Kitty? TARA: You’d think she’d let us know her name by now. WILLOW: She will.She’s not all grown yet.
Tara’s “secret” (revealed in Family)
TARA: You don’t know everything about me.
Willow’s and Tara’s relationship (from the poem written on Tara’s back)
For even if she flees, swiftly she will pursue; And if she does not receive my gifts, she will give; And if she does not love me, swiftly she will love, Even against her will. So come to my aid now, Release me from my grievous cares, fulfill as much As my heart yearns to be fulfilled: come, be my fellow-fighter.
Again, Xander’s dream reflects his past, present and future self. What connects all of his selves is his perpetual insecurities, feeling of inadequacy and lack of direction in life. Xander can’t help but compare himself to his peers, and he always find himself lacking. The basement - the place in his dream where he inevitably always ends up in - is his metaphorical and literal prison. He’s stuck in life - he doesn’t have a career (unlike dream-Spike who has become Giles’ apprentice,), a college education (unlike Buffy and Willow, whom he believes to be “ahead of” him), a steady job (he gave up becoming a watcher, apparently, to drive the ice-cream truck) or any kind of intelligence/skill (Giles and Anya speaking to him in French show how stupid he feels when he compares himself to the rest of the Scoobies.) It’s very fitting that Snyder gets a prominent role in his dream - Xander feels all his friends are moving forward and he’s still stuck in his high-school self, and Snyder never missed a chance to make Xander feel stupid and inadequate.
We also get a glimpse into Xander’s home life. And it’s not pretty. Domestic abuse at the Harris’s had been hinted at before, but it was never as explicit as it is in his dream sequence in this episode. Xander is again stuck in the basement, and he looks up to the door and understands he doesn’t want to perpetuate his family history. That doesn’t mean, of course, that said history won’t haunt him, as does his father in his dream.
There’s also an exploration of Xander’s fantasies, which is fitting for his character. This isn’t the first time - and it won’t be the last - he’s indulged in fantasies. He dreams that Joyce tries to seduce him, that Willow and Tara are putting on a show for him and asking him to join them (and they are portrayed pretty much like all lesbians are in porn targeted at straight males,) and that Anya encourages him to sleep with other women. In spite of the icky factor in his fantasies, they make sense. When Snyder asks him where he’s headed, Xander simply replies that he must meet Willow and Tara, and possibly Joyce. This means that since he doesn’t have a clear direction in life, he takes refuge in his fantasies - his fantasies are all he’s got at this point because real life has turned out to be very disappointing so far and he thinks he doesn’t have anything to look forward to in the future.
The First Slayer rips his heart out because he was the heart during the spell.
XANDER: No, no. It gets better. I remember that it gets better.
XANDER: That’s not the way out.
BUFFY: I’m way ahead of you, big brother.
ANYA: Do you know where you’re going?
WILLOW: I’m way ahead of you.
GILES: Now, the others have gone on ahead.
Giles and Spike in Tabula Rasa
GILES: Spike’s like a son to me.
The Shark in Tabula Rasa
BUFFY: Like a shark.
XANDER: Like a shark with feet and … much less fins.
SPIKE: And on land!
Anya becoming a vengeance demon again
ANYA: I’ve been thinking about getting back into vengeance.
Xander’s and Anya’s non-wedding (or his inability to start a family of his own)
DAD: No. You don’t understand. The line ends here with us, and you’re not gonna change that.
Once again, past, present and future are intertwined in Giles’s dream. Giles’s dream sequence begins with what he used to be - a watcher. In his dream, he tries to teach Buffy, but A) she calls his teachings “old-fashioned” and B) she laughs it off. I think this represents both how he feels about himself and how he perceives Buffy sees him. But if he’s no longer her watcher, then what does he have left? His role as Buffy’s father figure. Of course, being a father figure and being a father are not the same thing. And Olivia pushing the baby stroller (and later crying right next to it) represents the path not taken and his neglected/unfulfilled personal life. It’s easier to call your friends your “family” when you’re in your twenties than it is when you’re in your forties and with no actual family of your own. These are issues that Giles will struggle with throughout season 5 - when he comfortably slips back into his watcher role because it’s safe and it makes him feel validated - and season 6 - where he feels he can’t no longer put off having a life of his own to take care of someone who he thinks needs to take care of herself. (that’s a discussion for another time.) Giles is torn between his life with Buffy and the Scoobies and having a life of his own.
Spike’s and Giles’s antagonistic relationship is also explored in his dream.
Since he’s the mind of the Scoobies, Giles is the one who figures out exactly what’s going on - and in doing so, he performs (quite literally) the best exposition scene he’s ever done in the show.
Of course, the First Slayer chops his brains off.
GILES: Don’t push me around. You know I have a great deal to do.
GILES: What am I supposed to do with all of this? SPIKE: You gotta make up your mind, Rupes. What are you wasting your time for?
Giles becoming a watcher again
GILES: Buffy, you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind. Don’t stick out your elbow.
Spike as an “attraction” in Checkpoint
SPIKE: I’ve hired myself out as an attraction.
Giles trying to off Spike
GILES: I still think Buffy should have killed you.
Anya adapting as a human (and Giles’s role/support)
GILES: She’s doing quite well.
Buffy’s dream mostly centers around her identity as a slayer and how different she is from those before her as well as her journey from here on. Throughout her dream, Buffy’s main goal is to find her friends. They are, after all, one of the reasons Buffy’s different from all other slayers - she’s not (at least literally) alone. At the same time, much like in the dream, she will often consider them a burden as much as one of her strengths.
As regards her relationship with Riley, I think the fact that most of the things he said in her dream were non-sensical represents their inability to communicate properly and to be open with each other. Their relationship was always physical with not much underneath.
Buffy is confronted with the nature of her powers as a slayer - the primal, killer instinct that comes from demons. Time and again, as she’s repeatedly done so far, she challenges these notions. She won’t be defined, she won’t be ordered around - she’s the one calling the shots and deciding what it means to be a slayer. Slayernes might have been thrust upon her, but Buffy chooses how to define it, how to make it her own. And her fight against the First Slayer (which is so awesome, btw.) represents her fight against the Council/the traditional views regarding Slayerness. She will continue to explore what it means to be a Slayer throughout season 5 and season 7. Her journey, after all, hasn’t even begun.
Since she’s the Hands, the First Slayer tries to defeat her in battle. But Buffy’s strength as a Slayer doesn’t come from her fighting skills - it’s her challenging nature and her determination not to be ordered around and manipulated and her sass the things that ultimately make her win the battle. It’s all about the girl, not the Slayer.
TARA: You think you know … what’s to come … what you are. You haven’t even begun.
RILEY: Hey there, killer.
BUFFY: I am not alone.
BUFFY: I walk. I talk. I shop, I sneeze. I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There’s trees in the desert since you moved out. And I don’t sleep on a bed of bones.
BUFFY: Faith and I just made that bed. TARA: For who?
TARA: Be back before dawn.
Buffy’s death (reference to Faith’s in 3x22 “counting down from 7-3-0″ - that is to say, 730 days or two years to Buffy’s death in 5x22 - now, a year later, the clock is “wrong” since there’s only one year left before Buffy’s death…)
BUFFY: It’s so late. TARA: Oh … that clock’s completely wrong.
JOYCE: Oh, hi, honey. BUFFY: Why are you living in the walls?
RILEY: …if that’s the way you want it. I guess you’re on your own.
“Death is your gift”
TARA: I am destruction. Absolute … alone.
Buffy going after (and rejecting) the source of her power in Get it Done
BUFFY: You’re *not* the source of me.
Their conversation after they wake up - in which Giles explains that their “joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer’s power was an affront to the source of that power” - pretty much sums up why they could never use that spell again. Otherwise, they would’ve used that spell every time they had to face a Big Bad from then on. And there wouldn’t be any more stories left to tell.
Buffy admits she’d never given any thought to the fact that once upon time there was a Slayer who was the first of her kind. This is one of the reasons she will try to learn more about the source of her powers throughout season 5.
And just if we hadn’t caught on the fact this was very important information, the episode ends with Buffy going to her room and recalling Tara’s words in her dream: “You think you know what’s to come, what you are, you haven’t even begun.”
I think it’s an understatement to say that Restless was a bold choice for a season finale. One of BTVS’s trademarks had always been (and would continue to be) its epic end-of-season final battles against the Big Bad. I mentioned on my previous recap that it made sense to deviate from the standard season finale in this particular season - considering the main arc had been messy at best and boring at worst. Would you want season 4 to be remembered by Primeval, Adam and the Initiative, or by Restless?
I didn’t talk about the Cheese Man before because he doesn’t have any meaning himself in each of the dreams. Personally, I’ve always interpreted him the way Joss intended him to be interepreted - he’s that one random thing that pops up in your dreams and makes you go WTF? but also “Oh right, this is a dream.” There are a lot of shots in this episode that embody that oniric quality, but none of them drives the point home as much as the mere presence of the Cheese Man. (I know a lot of people ascribe him some deeper meaning, I’m just not one of those people.)
More importantly, he serves another purpose, and this is why I think Restless is a masterpiece in characterization. Joss argues that if you’re trying to make sense out of the Cheese Man, that means that all the other things he included in this episode about these characters already made sense to you. And that’s a testament to how well written his characters were, as well as how well written this episode was in particular. Even if it’s all just a dream, everything just makes sense, or if it doesn’t, we can read into it and understand how it will make sense in the future. We know these characters, we know their weaknesses and strengths, we know what makes them tick and what scares them we know the show often foreshadows events to come and we know it pays off to pay close attention. So if you’re only looking for meaning in the Cheese Man, that probably means you’ve been paying attention all along to everything else and you don’t need anyone to break it down for you.
This episode is rich in foreshadowing. Some things were clearly intended as such in their conception - the hints at Dawn’s arrival and Buffy’s death. Others, it’s not clear whether they were originally intended to be foreshadowing or if the writers decided later on to retroactively turn them into a prediction of things to come. Either way, it works. This episode encompasses both the past, the present and the future of the show’s characters and events, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. One of my favorite episodes ever.