Directed by James A Contner
At the Magic Box, Willow starts to recover from Giles' attack, but she is not interested in his attempts to help. He tries to keep her down, but she is persistent, attempting to invoke Asmodea, so he is forced to bind her physically and magically with his powers. Buffy and Anya hug Giles, who then offers his sympathies to Willow and then catches up with Buffy. Giles reveals that he was given power from a coven of powerful witches in England to stop Willow. Buffy admits that Willow was abusing magic before and she barely even noticed. She then tells Giles how everything has gone downhill since he left including her taking a fast-food job, Xander jilting Anya (who returned to being a vengeance demon), Dawn's shoplifting, and her sleeping with Spike. Giles's reaction is the last one she expected; he begins to laugh at the absurdity of so much bad luck. Buffy is shocked at first, but ends up descending into laughter too.
Meanwhile, Willow communicates with Anya telepathically and tells her how to end the binding spell. Buffy and Giles continue to laugh about the luck of their lives and then talk about Buffy's feelings about being alive in the world. Having heard everything that went wrong in his absence, Giles apologizes for leaving them in the first place, but Buffy insists that he was right and it was time she started acting like an adult. She admits that when he left, she still felt like she'd left an important part of herself in her grave and still doesn't know why she's back when it was apparently her time to die. Giles doesn't have a simple answer, so they return to discussing Willow and Giles explains that the coven is trying to extract Willow's powers without killing her. Willow appears in the doorway, holding an unconscious Anya, and reveals that she's free of the binding spell.
Giles once again attempts to bind Willow, but she casts a counter spell. Willow magically throws Buffy aside and sends weapons flying at Giles. He blocks them though and, with the Hammer of Govannon, sends her flying through a brick wall into the main room. Meanwhile, Xander and Dawn walk down a road with Jonathan and Andrew, talking about what to do next. Xander again rambles on that he believes how useless he is, that he's really a coward because he did nothing when Warren shot Buffy and Tara, and did nothing at the Magic Box to stop Willow. When a smug Dawn mentions that Spike would help out and not be afraid, Xander lets it slip that Spike tried to rape Buffy. Dawn does not easily accept that.
In the cave in Africa, Spike wins another round and asks for whatever else the demon can dish out. He gets it when his body is suddenly covered in beetles which begin to burrow under his skin, making him scream in pain.
In the Magic Box, which has been almost completely destroyed from the magical battle, Willow is confident in her strength and a weakened Giles tries one last attempt to hurt Willow by bringing up Tara and what her thoughts on the situation might be. Willow responds with a bolt of magic, but Buffy saves Giles from the blast, which destroys the store's upper level. Willow notes that Buffy only thinks she's saving Andrew and Jonathan when she can destroy them anytime she wants. To prove this, Willow creates a fireball that she sends off after them which will also kill Xander and Dawn, making it clear that she's doing it to get Buffy out of the store. Despite the obvious lure, Buffy rushes off to try and stop the fireball, leaving Giles to face Willow alone.
Willow lectures Giles while she slams his body repeatedly against the ceiling and the floor. He interrupts her with some magic, but she doesn't let that stop her. She sucks the power from Giles' body and revels in the overflow in her body. However, said power taps into the latent humanity still inside her; she sees all the pain in the world and, very misguidedly, decides she must end it all.
Xander, Jonathan, and Andrew try to break into crypts at the cemetery looking for a hiding place, but they're interrupted as Willow's fireball heads for them. Buffy races through the cemetery and tries to get everyone out of the way before they're hurt. After the fireball hits, Xander is knocked out, the ground shakes and opens up and Buffy and Dawn fall into a large hole. Andrew and Jonathan take the opportunity to escape and head for Mexico.
At the Magic Box, Anya finally comes to and finds a weakened, dying Giles on the ground. He can feel Willow's presence and knows that she's going to end the world. Buffy tries to climb out of the hole but struggles and tries to pull coffins out of the surrounding dirt walls to stack and try to escape on. After Xander comes to, Buffy sends him to find some rope to help them get out.
Dawn questions why Buffy didn't tell her about what Spike did and tells her sister that she can't protect her from the world. Anya appears in the hole and updates Buffy on the situation with Willow. On Kingman's Bluff, Willow raises the spire of a Satanic temple out of the ground to help her with her plans. Anya explains how Willow is going to end the world by using her powerful new-found magic to drain Earth's life energy through the effigy of Proserpexa; said energy keeps the planet intact, and with it gone, Earth will disintergrate causing the genocide of the entire human race. Nothing magical or supernatural (including Buffy) can stop her. She notes that Giles is short on time and leaves to return to him.
Xander, standing at the top of the hole, overhears this and runs off. Willow senses Buffy's desire to stop her plans, and talks to Buffy telepathically; Giles can also hear her as she speaks. Willow wants Buffy to die fighting and creates creature-like earth elements for her to battle. Buffy tries to fight the elements as best as she can and, outnumbered, Buffy asks Dawn to help.
Willow begins her magic ritual on the cliff and the earth starts to shake all over town and ground begins to blacken. Willow is feeding power into the temple when Xander arrives. Finally breaking through his spiral of self-pity and feelings of cowardice, Xander jumps in the way, disrupting the flow of life-energy. He tries to reach her humanity through their friendship, but gets tossed around and magically injured. Giles stirs and realizes that there is still hope. After one of the elements attacks her, Dawn kills one, which she credits to watching her sister in action.
On the cliff, the wounded Xander talks to Willow, and appeals to her emotions by reminding her of her past. He reminds Willow of a time in their childhood when she broke a yellow crayon and cried, worried about anybody finding out it was her, and tells her that he loves her and he'll stick by her side no matter what she does because of how much her years of friendship mean to him. She uses magic to physically wound him every time he tells her he loves her, until he finally gets through to her and her powers drain away. Willow tearfully breaks down in Xander's arms as the dark magic finally drains from her, the black veins on her disappear, and she returns to her usual red-haired appearance.
No longer on the edge of death, Giles wakes up and tells Anya that the magic he received was intended for Willow to steal. It tapped into her remaining emotions and gave Xander the chance to reach her humanity. Anya is shocked to find that Xander saved the world. Back in the crypt, the Earth-creatures disappear, and Buffy starts to cry happy tears. Dawn questions whether instead she really wanted the world to end. Buffy assures that things are going to get better and she's now really ready to live. For the second time in a year, Buffy emerges from a grave but this time she feels truly alive. She helps Dawn climb out of the hole and the sisters check out the horizon while Xander continues to comfort Willow, Jonathan and Andrew hitch a ride toward Mexico, and Anya helps Giles to his feet and out of the wreckage of the Magic Box.
In Africa, a severely bruised and bloodied Spike lies on the ground of the cave as the demon approaches him and announces that Spike has successfully endured all the required trials to grant his request. Spike rises to his knees and again asks the demon to give him what he wants so he can, "give Buffy what she deserves." The demon places his clawed hand on Spike's chest and returns the vampire's soul.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Giles talking to Buffy in the training room.
- All Up to You: Xander saves the world while Buffy is otherwise occupied.
- Back for the Finale: Giles returns after his departure in "Tabula Rasa". (Anthony Stewart Head was spending too much time away from his kids and got a little freaked out.)
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Dawn and Buffy fighting in the hole.
- Batman Gambit: Willow steals Giles' magic from him, giving her enough power to destroy the world, but it also ends up connecting her with the suffering of all humanity. It is this empathy that leaves her open to Xander's appeal to their friendship.
- Battle Discretion Shot / Off with His Head!: Spike tosses a couple of demon heads at the foot of the Scary Cave Demon to show he's passed the first stage of the Trials.
- Big Damn Heroes: Xander confronts Willow.I saved the world with talking from my mouth. My mouth saved the world.
- Bittersweet Ending: Xander saves Willow (and the world) with his friendship speech, Buffy regains her desire to live, and Dawn proves to Buffy that she's more than Just a Kid in need of protection when it comes to battle, suggesting a healthy shift in their relationship. However, Tara is still dead, and while Willow no longer wants to destroy the world, she's still last seen sobbing into Xander's arms, with the viewer uncertain of how long it may take her to recover from the trauma of the last few episodes. Additionally, Xander and Anya are still broken up, The Magic Box has been wrecked, and Jonathan and Andrew, terrified of Willow's rampage, flee to Mexico (with Jonathan either ignoring the epiphany he had in the previous episode or deciding that Buffy's inability to stop Willow left him with no other option). Meanwhile, Spike reclaims his soul, but given how he last left things in Sunnydale, it's unclear where things might go from here now that he has it.
- Black Eyes of Evil / Evil Sounds Deep: A deep voice and Black Corneas Of Evil mark Dark Willow turning pro.
- Black Magic vs. White Magic: Dark Willow's magic draws its strength from her rage. The magic she steals from Giles comes from love.
- Bookends: Buffy starts Season 6 by clawing her way out of her grave into the night, beginning a year-long Heroic BSoD. She ends the season climbing out of her hole into the light, having rediscovered the value of living.
- Broken Pedestal: Dawn's borderline hero-worship of Spike is completely broken when Xander lets it slip that Spike tried to rape Buffy a few episodes before.
- Contagious Laughter: Buffy and Giles can't stop giggling over Buffy's list of disasters.
- Continuity Nod: Willow brings up the argument she had with Giles in "Flooded". Buffy tells Giles of the events of "Normal Again". Kingman's Bluff is the same place Angel tried to kill himself in the Season 3 episode "Amends".
- Cooldown Hug: After her power and rage fade, Willow collapses sobbing in Xander's arms.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Giles pinned to the ceiling by Willow's magic.
- Cry into Chest: Willow cries into Xander's chest after his gesture of friendship combined with the magic she had stolen from Giles taps into her humanity, allowing her to finally let herself feel the grief she'd been suppressing and shed tears over Tara's death for the first time since it happened.
- Description Cut: "There's no temple on Kingman's Bluff." Cut to Willow pulling the temple spire out of the ground.
- Did You Get a New Haircut?: Giles, when he suddenly notices that Buffy cut her hair. Group Hug!
- Diving Save: Buffy to Giles and later the Duo.Dark Willow: You're always saving everyone. It's kinda pesky.
- Do Not Go Gentle: Dark Willow creates the dirt and root golems because she thinks Buffy deserves to go down fighting.
- Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: The Duo find themselves being eyed lecherously by a truck driver.
- Dramatic Thunder: Distant thunder is heard after Dark Willow absorbs Giles' magic.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Again. This time, by a grief-stricken, power-mad Willow who figured the best way to stop the world's pain was genocide.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Rather, Dark Willow feeling the pain of the world cannot understand a friend willing to sacrifice his life for her and willing to have no pain or regrets about the decision. It pulls her back from the brink as she realizes she can't kill Xander, though she tries to maim him.
- Exact Words: Giles told Anya that neither Buffy nor any supernatural force could stop Willow from destroying the world. He didn't say that a human force, like Xander's love and compassion for his friend, wouldn't do the job.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Willow's hair returns to its natural red color as she breaks down crying in Xander's arms.
- First-Name Basis: Willow taunts Giles by calling him 'Rupert', but switches back to 'Giles' when she absorbs his magic and suddenly starts to empathise with him again.
- Flechette Storm / Mind over Matter: Dark Willow sends Buffy's training weapons hurling at Giles, who blocks them with the training dummy.
- Friendship Moment: Xander saves the world with the power of his love for Willow and the depth of their friendship is enough to pull Willow away from some of the blackest magic EVER.
- From Bad to WorseAnya: Things just got a whole lot worse.
Buffy: How worse?
Anya: End of the world worse. Willow's going to destroy it.
- Geographic Flexibility: That arboretum next to the cemetery is new... then again, it is mentioned in previous episodes that Sunnydale has lots of cemeteries.
- Go Through Me: Xander stands between Dark Willow and the church spire.
- Gone Horribly Right: Giles lets Willow absorb his magic in an effort to put her in touch with humanity's pain. It works, but either because the world just sucks that much or because she's in no mood to think of the positives, decided to put an end to all that suffering permanently.
- Great Balls of Fire!: Willow conjures a homing fireball to attack Andrew and Jonathan, as well as Dawn and Xander, declaring that Buffy's attempt to hold her off means nothing and she can kill them anytime from anywhere.
- Group Hug: Seeing Giles hugging Buffy, Anya hesitantly points out she changed her hair too. Giles smiles and includes her in the hug as well.
- Gut Punch: The world is about to end, and the Scoobies are helpless to stop it. Cue a nonpowered Xander stepping up to Willow, reminding them of how they were friends in kindergarten. He says that he's earned the right for her to kill him first because he loves her and wants to take the brunt of her pain. What's more, she can sense he's not in pain now and means every word that he says. Willow tries, but her blows are reduced to giving him cuts and scratches, followed by her punching him ineffectively as he keeps reaffirming his love and their friendship. She's reduced to sobbing as he hugs her, and her hair turning red.
- Healing Factor: Willow instantly heals the scratches and bruises Giles managed to give her.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Xander manages to talk the real Willow out of her black magic-induced big badness.
- Immune to Mind Control: Anya claims this of vengeance demons. Of course, since Willow successfully brainwashes Anya into freeing her from the binding spell, it's either an Informed Ability, or Willow's just that strong.
- Implied Death Threat: Giles asks what Tara would think of how Willow is acting. Dark Willow says, "You can ask her yourself."
- It Only Works Once: After Willow brainwashes Anya into freeing her from the binding field Giles placed her in, Giles tries it again... only for Willow to dispel it with a wave of her hand.Willow: Fool me once, shame on you.
- Is That the Best You Can Do?: Willow to Giles, and Spike to the demon.
- Just a Kid: Another Buffy/Dawn argument on the subject of Buffy's over-protectiveness. In the end Buffy accepts that she got it all wrong."I don't want to protect you from the world. I want to show it to you."
- Love Makes You Evil: Willow feels everyone's pain and decides to destroy the world.
- MeaningfulEcho/Once More, with Clarity!: After finishing his trial, Spike repeated the same like he said when he first entered "to give the Slayer what she deserved." It took on a new meaning when we learned that he was talking about getting his soul back.
- Mercy Kill: What Willow was trying to do except on a global scale.
- Mind Control: Willow gets Anya to free her.
- Morality Chain Beyond the Grave: During their fight, Giles wonders aloud what Tara would think of Willow's current rampage. Willow responds with the Implied Death Threat above.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After hearing of everything that's happened in his absence, Giles has a moment of this, remarking that perhaps his leaving the Scoobies was a mistake after all.Giles: Can you forgive me?
Buffy: For what?
Giles: I should never have left.
Buffy: No. You were right to leave. We're just... stupid.
Giles: I know you're all stupid. I should never have abandoned you.
Buffy: No. Giles, you were right about everything. It is time I was an adult.
Giles: Sometimes the most adult thing you can do is ask for help when you need it.
Buffy: Now you tell me.
- My Greatest Second Chance: Xander blamed himself for Buffy and Tara getting shot. He more than makes up for that by bringing Willow back to the good side and thus saving the whole world.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Lampshaded.Anya: In hindsight, it would have been better if you (Giles) didn't come back and Willow would never have taken your magic and become like ten times stronger. That would've been a plus.
- Also applies to the supercharged empathy and sense of connection Giles tricked Willow into absorbing, which caused her, in her extremely troubled state, to feel the entire world's pain so keenly that she felt the need to use her enhanced power to Mercy Kill the planet. Fortunately, it also left her open to Xander's yellow crayon speech.
- The NicknamerXander: Hey, Black-Eyed Girl. Whatcha doin'?
- Non-Protagonist Resolver: Buffy is stuck in a cave with Dawn fighting off creatures as Willow attempts to destroy the world. It ultimately ends up being Xander who saves everyone by bringing out Willow's humanity through a speech touching on their friendship throughout the years.
- Off to See the Wizard: Willow gleefully says, "Fly my pretty, fly!" when she sends her ball of fire to seek Andrew and Jonathan.
- "Open!" Says Me: Spoofed; Xander is shown kicking ineffectually at the kind of crypt door that Buffy kicks open as a Running Gag. "Ow! Ow! Ow!"
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Dark Willow does this with Anya's unconscious body.
- Pet the Dog: After defeating and immobilizing Willow, Giles tells her he was sorry to learn of Tara's death.
- Platonic Declaration of Love: Xander delivers one of these to Willow while trying to convince her not to destroy the world, saying, "But the thing is, yeah, I love you. I love crayon-breaky Willow and I love scary veiny Willow." It works.
- Power Glows / Supernatural Gold Eyes: Spike getting his soul.
- The Power of Friendship: Xander's friendship is what eventually brings down Dark Willow.
- The Power of Love: Xander saves the world from Dark Willow by standing in front of her and telling her repeatedly that she is his Best Friend Forever and he will never not love her (albeit non-romantically) no matter what she does. An alternate reading is that Xander is reminding Willow of who she really is by presenting her with the most powerful (surviving) figure in her "real" life and her connection with him. He was sort of "bringing her back to herself".
- Xander: Guess what, I still love you.
- Razor Wind: Dark Willow slashes Xander's face and chest.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dark Willow to Giles.
- Red Herring: Spike meant to get his soul back, not lose his Restraining Bolt. Confirmed by Word Of God after many viewers assumed that the demon had double-crossed Spike.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: When Buffy cries Tears of Joy that the world wasn't destroyed, Dawn mistakenly believes that Buffy wanted the world to end, leading to this:Dawn: Wait. Is... is that happy crying?
Buffy: Yes, dummy. You think I wanted the world to end?
Dawn: (uncertain) I don't know. Didn't you?
- Rule of Symbolism:
- One of the Trials involves Spike being covered in scarab beetles, which were sacred to the ancient Egyptians who associated it with the sun which brought renewal, rebirth, and more importantly resurrection. During mummification a stone scarab was placed over the heart of the mummy to ensure the eternal endurance of the human soul as the person made the journey into the Afterworld.
- It's possible to read some Christian imagery of the finale, in which a simple carpenter saves the world through love and forgiveness followed by a "resurrection" from a grave. The soundtrack's use of Sarah McLachlan's setting of the Christian "Prayer of St. Francis" ("It is by dying / That we are born to eternal life") would seem to underline this symbolism pretty strongly.
- Rule of ThreeBuffy: Giles!Anya: Giles!Dark Willow: Daddy's home. I'm in wicked trouble now.
- "Save the World" Climax: The Scoobies must have gotten used to that by this point — although this one's more personal then normal.
- Saying Too Much: Xander mentions Spike's Attempted Rape of Buffy to Dawn.
- Shock and Awe: Willow shoots lightning, among other things.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Duo do a runner for Mexico.
- Talking the Monster to Death: Or in this case, talking the insane all-powerful witch back to sanity.
- Tears of Joy: Buffy cries these tears to the shock of Dawn whom thought she'd wanted the world to end as she'd spent the season in a walking depression as she coped with being alive again.
- Tempting Fate: Anya telling Dark Willow her mind control mojo won't work on her.
- Tension-Cutting Laughter: Buffy lists all the ways the Scoobies have stuffed up since he left, ending with "And I'm sleeping with Spike." She then looks nervous as she waits for Giles to tear strips off her...only for Giles to burst into laughter. After a moment Buffy can't help but join him.
- The Three Trials: Though there may be more than the three we see off-screen.
- That Man Is Dead: When Xander tries to talk down Willow and uses her name, she snaps, "Don't call me that!"
- This Is Your Brain on Evil: Willow when she absorbs Giles' magic. "Woah! Who's your supplier?"
- Took a Level in Badass: Buffy looks surprised when her little sister decapitates a dirt golem.Dawn: What? You think I never watched you?
- Trailers Always Spoil: The previous episode ended with Giles catching Willow off-guard and preparing to challenge her to a magical battle. The DVD's teaser for this one shows Willow triumphant and a bloodied Giles defeated on the floor.
- Trash the Set: After a Battle Discretion Shot Willow and Giles are shown facing off in the wrecked Magic Box.
- Walk-In Chime-In / That Woman Is DeadGiles: Willow has killed a human being. How will she be able to live with herself?Dark Willow: I wouldn't worry about that. Willow doesn't live here anymore.
- Weapon Twirling: Dark Willow lifts the training weapons off Buffy's Wall of Weapons using her telekinetic powers. Before they fly at Giles in a Flechette Storm, the knives and one of the axes twirl in mid-air.
- Wham Episode: Willow traps Buffy and Dawn in a pit, rendering them unable to stop her from destroying the world. Xander ends up being the one to make Willow turn good again, only for her to start breaking down in tears. On top of that, Dawn finally proves herself to Buffy, Andrew and Jonathan flee to Mexico, and it turns out that Spike left to Africa so he could get his soul back. And the episode ends with him doing just that.
- Wham Line:Spike: So you'll give me what I want. Make me what I was. So Buffy can get what she deserves.Demon: Very well. We will return...your soul.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Dawn asking Buffy why she let her go to Spike's after his Attempted Rape of Buffy.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Willow, Destroyer of the World.
- You Are Worth Hell: Platonic example, since Willow is a lesbian and their hookup in season 3 went badly. Xander goes to Willow, injured and deeply in pain, and tells her that he loves her as his best friend. He says that if she's going to end the world, then start with him because he loves her enough to have earned that. Willow cannot believe that a friend would sacrifice himself and feels no pain about the decision. She ultimately can't bring herself to kill Xander because his empathy overrides all of the pain she feels, and slowly reverts back to redheaded Willow.