Buffy’s Season 4 finale ‘Restless’ is one of the series most unique episodes. Breaking the trend of an explosive finale, ‘Restless’ instead shows us the dreams of each of the four core characters, and provides the best opportunity in the series to examine the characters most private thoughts and feelings.
The episode is crammed full of foreshadowing, symbolism, and layers of meaning. If you haven’t seen ‘Restless’ – expect to be very confused in the following paragraphs. And what are you waiting for? Go and give it a watch!
Rather than one enormous post, I’ll split up my thoughts on each of the characters dreams in to four separate posts.
Where better to start than with the most substantial dream – Buffy’s.
The primary theme of this dream is Buffy’s sense of loneliness; that she doesn’t belong with her friends because of her slayer powers. There’s also a ridiculous amount of foreshadowing future events – storyline wise, this would be because the slayer is known to have prophetic dreams.
The following points on Buffy’s dream are a combination of my own interpretations, discussions with other Buffy fans, and Joss Whedon’s own audio commentary and interviews based around the episode. Let’s get started:
- Anya lives in Buffy’s dorm room, not Willow. This is demonstrating the distance that has grown between Buffy and Willow throughout Season 4. Throughout her dream, Buffy has no interaction with her friends – she is the slayer, and is alone.
- “Faith and I just made that bed” is a call-back to the dream in the Season 3 finale, ‘Graduation Day’. Even back then, they were unknowingly preparing the bed for Dawn’s arrival. Buffy says she thought Tara was there to tell her who they are making the bed for – and she was, though Buffy doesn’t hang around long enough to find out.
- Tara offers Buffy tarot cards; she is offering her magic. Buffy refuses, saying she will never use those – ironic considering she used a spell to defeat the big bad in the previous episode.
- Buffy’s bedroom clock reads 7:30, to which Tara comments the time ‘is completely wrong’. This is another call-back to ‘Graduation Day’, with 7:30 counting down the number of days until Buffy’s death at the end of Season 5.
- Tara’s line “Be back before dawn” hints the arrival of Buffy’s sister, Dawn, next year.
- “You think you know. What you are… What’s to come. You haven’t even begun.” This repeated quote will be said again by Dracula in the opening of Season 5, and is not only said to Buffy but to the audience, as well. Season 5 will mark the beginning of a dark descent for Buffy’s character involving depression, detachment from her friends, rape attempts, and even her own death. The episode even ends on this quote – I think as a way of telling the audience things are about to be shaken up significantly.
- Joyce lives inside the walls of the university. She tells Buffy she’s learning how to play Mahjong and is making lemonade; Buffy’s stereotypical view of her Mum showing us she doesn’t think of her too often. When Buffy asks if her Mum is alright behind the walls and whether she needs help, Buffy has already left by the time Joyce replies: “You could probably break through…” – this foreshadows Buffy’s eventual guilt at not helping her Mother, and the fact she will fail to prevent her death.
- Riley says he has to make a pillow fort when an alarm goes off – demonstrating how Buffy doesn’t take him or his work seriously, and knows he is too normal for her.
- In her exchange with Adam, Buffy says they aren’t demons, to which Adam replies: “Is that a fact?” Buffy is uncomfortable with her nature, and the source of her power. She worries her and Adam come from a similar source.
- Riley says they have important work to do, including ‘giving things names’. To me, this is a callback to Willow’s dream in which Willow is not concerned with giving her and Tara’s relationship a name or label. In contrast, Buffy and Riley consider labelling their relationship as important work, and have a need to define what they are.
- Riley refers to Buffy as ‘killer’ rather than ‘Slayer’. This is a constant internal dilemma for Buffy, who struggles to differentiate between the two words throughout the entire shows run. He then walks away and leaves her – foreshadowing his departure next year.
- The bag Buffy finds in the Initiative is supposed to be the same bag that will be shown to us in Season 7, belonging to Nicky Wood. Slayer prophecy dreams, and all that jazz.
- Finding the tribal paste in the weapons bag again references Buffy’s fears of just how primal and dark her powers are.
- Buffy’s confrontation with the first slayer refers to her internal conflict to feel comfortable amongst her friends, and not superior to them. The first slayer says, “I live in the action of death. The blood cry. The penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute. Alone.”
- The first slayer says, “the slayer does not walk in this world,” to which Buffy replies: “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. Now give me back my friends.” This fantastic quote is Buffy saying that a lot has changed since the time of the first slayer, and having her friends around her is what Buffy makes more powerful than any other Slayer before her. Whilst this conflict of loneliness seems to be resolved in the dream, it will continue to be an issue of Buffy’s for the remainder of the show.
Trivia: They wanted Angel to be the figure in Buffy’s dream who spoke for the first slayer, told her the clock was wrong, gave her prophetic warnings etc, however actor David Boreanaz was unavailable so they used Amber Benson as Tara instead.
I could write about this dream alone so much more in-depth, but in the interests of keeping this post from going on for miles and encouraging discussion, that’ll do for now. Any more thoughts, interpretations, insights? Post them in the comments below.