Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Restless (Buffy episode)
Episode 22 of season 4, "Restless", follows the Scooby Gang's victory over the villain Adam by magically joining in "Primeval ". Like many other episodes in the series, its starting point are the unintended side effects of magic: The joining has summoned the essence of the first Slayer, and she is not happy how Buffy is handling the job.
Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles meet at Buffy's to relax with videos, one of them Apocalypse Now. They fall asleep before they even get through the FBI warning and are confronted by the first Slayer in their dreams. Because of the complexity of the dreams, only a very rough summary is given here:
Willow starts off writing in ancient Greek on Tara's back, then is faced with the opening performance of Death of a Salesman as part of a drama class she signed up for. Willow realizes with increasing uneasiness that she neither knows her lines nor her role. Buffy then takes Willow to stand in front of her old school class in her nerd clothes from the first season with Xander putting her down for her book review. She is killed by The First Slayer in the back of the stage.
In the longest dream, Xander finds himself the center of Joyce's attraction, then meets Buffy, Giles, and Spike in a playground where Giles tells him that Spike is being trained as a Watcher, switches to an ice cream truck with Anya where Willow and Tara make a pass at him in the back. Xander comes across Giles, who starts revealing the reason for the dream, but then starts speaking French. A reenactment of the Apocalypse Now scene with Walter Kurtz turned into a discussion between Xander and Principal Snyder follows. Finally, Xander is killed by the first Slayer who takes the guise of his father.
Giles starts out in a family scene with Buffy and his girlfriend at a fairground. Giles is quicker than the others to understand that something is wrong, and confronts Spike, who is posing for a photoshoots in his crypt. In The Bronze, he meets Anya failing as a stand-up comedian and Xander and Willow who warn him. He breaks out into song given suggestions how to defeat the first Slayer, but when the sound system breaks down, he goes backstage, where she scalps him.
In the final dream sequence, Buffy is woken by Willow in their dorm room, only to switch to her own room at home where she talks to Tara. At the old school, Buffy talks to her mother who lives in the walls, then meets Riley at the Institute. He has been promoted to Surgeon General and is drawing up plans with Adam (in his original, human form) for world domination. When Buffy finds her weapons bag, the only thing in it is mud, which she smears on her face. Transported to the desert, she finally confronts The First Slayer who uses Tara as her voice. The First Slayer tells Buffy that she cannot have friends and must work alone, which Buffy rejects. Both Slayers fight in the desert and then in Buffy's living room next to her dying friends until Buffy realizes that she can stop the fight mentally. The First Slayer vanishes and everybody wakes up when Buffy starts talking about hair care.
During the dream phases, the characters are able to communicate with each other to some extent and warn each other. Tara acts as sort of a guide in each dream — "I was borrowed", she tells Buffy. However, the most striking character of "Restless" is the Cheese Man who appears in all dreams, offers cheese slices to the dreamers and then vanishes. No explanation is given for his presence.
"Restless" continues the main themes each characters face during the whole series: Willow's fear of failure and struggle to leave her nerd-self's mindset behind; Xander's conflict with his dysfunctional family and his immaturity; Giles' fatherly relationship with Buffy, and Buffy's continued struggle with the question of how lonely the Slayer should and must be.
Various hints are given to each character about their future development, though in some cases their meaning can not be understood until well into the next season. Tara takes the role of an oracle here, for example telling Buffy to "Be back before dawn" (foreshadowing the appearance of Dawn) or warning Willow that they other characters are wondering about her "true self" (possibly Willow's magic addiction).
Through these hints, the episode manages to keep the suspense high at the end of the fourth season without resorting to a stereotypical cliffhanger, and could be considered more of the first episode of season five instead of the last episode of season four. The last words of the episode, a voice over from Tara, start Buffy on the next season's quest for her own identity, the quest that in the end will lead her to her (second) death.
Writing and Acting
"Restless" is one of the most complex episodes of the whole series with a wealth of self-references, quotes of things past and hints of things future as well as literary allusions. It is probably impossible to do the writing justice without a scene-by-scene, line-by-line analysis. While this is exactly what makes the episode so fascinating for hard core Buffy fans, it also makes "Restless" hard to appreciate for viewers who are not familiar with the fine points of the series.
Compared with the other two dreams, Xander's seems somewhat long and Giles's somewhat short. Giles, however, is quick to understand what the group is facing and has to be dispatched quickly: We cannot be sure that his claim "I can defeat you with my intellect" is not in fact true. In comparison, Xander's has more hang-ups to deal with and is also in no danger of defeating the First Slayer.
Quotes and Trivia
The Cheese Man reappears in a dream sequence in season 7, episode 16 "Storyteller ".
- Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
- Marc Blucas as Riley Finn
- Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
- Emma Caulfield as Anya
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
- Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
- Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
- James Marsters as Spike
- Seth Green as Daniel 'Oz' Osborne
- Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
- Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
The suite from "Restless" is included on the soundtrack from Once More, With Feeling
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