Buffy the Vampire Slayer: An Analysis of Xander’s Dream in ‘Restless’

The ‘Restless’ analysis continues with a look at Xander’s dream.

The main theme of Xander’s dream is his fear that his friends are moving on and growing up without him, whereas for him, all paths lead back to his parents basement. This is demonstrated literally throughout the dream – no matter where he goes and how far he seemingly ventures, everything ultimately takes him back to the basement. His fears aren’t all that ridiculous, either – considering how uneventful his life has become in Season 4 in stark contrast to the adventurous lives of Willow and Buffy.

Not only is he afraid of not really going anywhere, but perhaps worse than that is the idea of ending up like his parents – specifically his father.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Giles’ quote at the start of the dream perfectly sums up Xander’s fears: “I’m beginning to understand this now. It’s all about the journey.” Xander is afraid that his journey isn’t leading anywhere.
  • The Initiative watching Xander in the bathroom is further proof that none of the Scoobies take the Initiative’s work seriously. Both they and Riley are not considered a serious threat by the gang, and are instead looked on more humorously, or like people in over their heads.
  • There is a constant theme of Xander moving but never really getting anywhere. Not only the ‘back to the basement’ issue, but the very obvious green-screen in both the ice-cream truck and jungle scenes is intentionally poor to symbolise this.
  • He is scared his friends are way ahead of him. Joyce even explicitly states that his friends are way ahead of him. In particular he is envious of Willow and her relationship with Tara. “I’m way ahead of you,” she says before kissing Tara for a ridiculously long time. Xander sees Willow as more sexually experienced than him.
  • Before he witnesses this kiss, Xander says: “People can’t do anything they want. Society has boundaries.” He is then interrupted by Willow doing what she wants, breaking boundaries, and kissing her girlfriend openly.
  • Even in his dream, where he could be anything, Xander places himself in monotonous jobs – for example, the ice cream truck man. He has significant confidence issues and fears about where his life is going.
  • To Xander, Giles treats Spike like a son, and is training him. Even the ‘villain’ of the Scooby Gang is doing better in life (or death, as it were) than Xander.
  • Buffy is playing in a sandbox. The camera looks down on her, and makes her look young and childish. She calls Xander ‘big brother’, to which Xander responds disappointedly. His feelings for Buffy are still there under the surface, though he is aware she sees him as nothing more than a friend – or brother. Perhaps Xander doesn’t have romantic feelings for Buffy anymore (not to the extent he used to), but the sandbox element could suggest he feels like he has to protect her.
  • Both Buffy and Willow say they are “way ahead of you” to Xander. It is those two in particular who Xander feels inadequate next to – perhaps because they went college while he didn’t, or perhaps because their lives and romantic relationships are simply more eventful.
  • Anya asks Xander, “do you know where you’re going?” – a question to which Xander doesn’t respond. Despite constantly trying to move forwards, he doesn’t actually know where he’s heading, and subsequently ends up not really going anywhere at all. At the root of it, he’s a clueless adolescent who’s terrified of the future.
  • Xander says, “You’ve gotta have something. Gotta be always moving forward.” – as if this is something everyone needs in life. He says this, but he doesn’t have anything, and isn’t moving anywhere.
  • Everybody else talking French in the hallways and Xander not understanding symbolises his feelings of being less smart than all of his friends, and his worries that he is going to be left behind.
  • Both Joyce and Willow have instances where their lips don’t move when they say sexually suggestive comments; this is to show Xander’s thoughts of women never saying what they are thinking – though also playfully refers to the fact he’s an adolescent male and, as such, his dream has such a heavy focus on sexual aspects.
  • Twice in the dream, Xander looks up the basement stairs, towards the most obvious exit, and says: “That’s not the way out.” His parents are up there, and he fears if he takes that route out of the basement he is simply becoming them. To live in the house would just be an extension of living in the basement.
  • My favourite exchange from the dream is Principal Snyder to Xander: “Where are you from, Harris?” to which Xander replies: “The basement, mostly.” It’s tragic that that is the most important place that comes to his mind, and is his immediate answer to a question like that. To him, the basement is all he is, and he doesn’t amount to anything more. Poor Xander.

Trivia: Spike’s comment about a ‘shark on land’ while wearing his suit is a hint to the suit-wearing shark-demon that the gang will face in Season 6. Similarly, Giles saying Spike is like a son to him foreshadows what will happen in Season 6’s ‘Tabula Rasa’.

Any other interpretations, comments, ideas? Post them in the comments below. I have to admit, I draw a blank when it comes to interpreting Xander placing himself in Apocalypse Now and the majority of his conversation with Snyder. Any insights in to that would make for an interesting read.

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