(Willow) “Wanna know what a bullet feels like, Warren? A real one? It’s not like in the comics.”
(Warren) “No. No.”
(Willow) “I think you need to. Feel it.” (“Villains”, 6.20)
(Buffy, holding up a gun) “These things? Never helpful.” (“Flooded”, 6.4)
(Buffy) “These things—never useful.” (“As You Were”, 6.15)
“Our villains this year were such shemps and the fact that he used a gun was something that we had talked about from the very beginning–In fact, in the fourth episode Buffy has the line, “Guns. These are never useful,” and she says it again in episode 15 and we put that in because we knew we were going to shoot Tara; not just kill her but shoot her because we wanted it to be the most mundane, appalling thing we could think of and not in any way relate to the grand mysticism and intense metaphor of the show and to make a statement about guns that is also good to be able to make.” (Joss Whedon, Panel Discussion at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences)
Joss Whedon has a reputation for not only being specific but a bit of a perfectionist and a self-styled control enthusiast. The issue of gun control was actually explored in this series long before season six. In the third year, the episode Earshot (3.18) concerns Buffy acquiring psychic ability as a result of a battle with a demon and she hears someone threaten to kill the entire school. The specific message of the episode-“Everybody Hurts”-to coin a phrase from REM-became the mission statement for the entire series thereafter. Jonathan Levinson, a student who was an outsider from the very beginning, represented the vulnerable part of each one of us at that stage of life. Shut out and tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, he decides to kill himself. Buffy finds him at the top of the tower and eventually talks him down.
(Jonathan) “Stop saying my name like we’re friends. We’re not friends. You all think I’m an idiot. A short idiot.”
(Buffy) “I don’t. I don’t think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you doesn’t it? You have all this pain and all these feelings and nobody’s really paying attention.”
(Jonathan) “You think I just want attention?”
(Buffy) “No, I think you’re in the clock tower with a high powered rifle because you wanna blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain.”
(Jonathan) “Oh, right. Because the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that’s a crippler.”
(Buffy) “You know what I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it, sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones…the guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling, the loneliness, the confusion. It looks quiet down there. It’s not. It’s deafening.”
Unfortunately, the episode was scheduled to air shortly after the Columbine shooting and because of the subject matter it was pulled and replaced with “Bad Girls” (3.14). It was a case of Whedon being so far ahead of everyone else that when the world caught up to his realization of what was actually going on, he was on to other things.
This is not the first time that the anger of the outcast was highlighted in a Buffy episode. In the very first season the next to the last episode “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (1.11) showed that, in Sunnydale,to ignore someone for too long might be a dangerous decision. I wrote about this in a previous blog in 2012 after the shooting in Aurora, CO. (https://hecaterising.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/the-anger-of-the-outcast-2/)
Warren Mears, the character who pulled the trigger that nearly killed Buffy and did kill Tara, which led Willow on a bender of such dark magic that she nearly destroyed the world, was first introduced in “I Was Made To Love you” (5.15), as a character who was not necessarily mentally ill, but had had entitlement issues of planetary proportions.
(Buffy) “…So you have girl troubles. They’re not talking to you. You’re not getting dates. You start thinking, ‘Hey, this isn’t fair.’”
(Warren) “Yeah, I felt like I deserved to have someone. Everyone deserves to have someone.”
(Buffy) “So, naturally, you turn to manufacturing.”
(Warren) “Kind of.”
(Buffy) “And how long did it take you to build that little toy?”
(Warren) “Oh, no. She’s not a toy. I know what you’re thinking, but she’s more than that.”
(Buffy) “Look, I’m sure she has many exciting labor-saving attachments.”
(Warren) “No, I made her to love me. I mean, she cares about what I care about, and she wants to be with me. She listens to me and supports me. I didn’t make a toy. I made a girlfriend.””
(Buffy) “A girlfriend? Are you saying—are you in love with her?
(Warren) “I really thought I would be. I mean she’s perfect. I don’t know I guess it was too easy and predictable. You know, she got boring. She was exactly what I wanted and I didn’t want her. I thought I was going crazy.”
(Buffy) “Really? You?””
And then we start to see the creepiness of the guy who can’t relate on a healthy level to anyone of the opposite sex and takes it to a truly dangerous level.
(Warren) ”She’s looking for me so my guess is she’s probably pretty close…April! April, are you there? If the batteries are still working and she hears my voice, then she’ll answer.”
(Buffy) “She’s voice-activated?”
(Warren) “Well, I made it so that if she heard me and she didn’t answer, it causes this kind of feedback.”
(Buffy) “Wait, if you call her and she doesn’t answer, it hurts her? You’re one creepy little dweeb, Warren.”
Ultimately, Warren loses his real girlfriend Katrina and the robot. The scene where Buffy sits by April until her batteries run down and she dies is one of the most poignant in the entire series.
In the next season, where Warren, Jonathan (The same Jonathan from the clock tower) and Andrew become obsessed with taking over Sunnydale, they accidentally kill Katrina after trying to control her mind and rape her and she shakes off the conditioning and tries to run.
Willow finally realizes that Warren’s real obsession is not love but control over women.
(Willow) “She wasn’t your first.”
(Warren) “Uh, f-first who?”
(Willow) “She wasn’t the first girl you killed.”
(Warren) “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
(Katrina) “I should have strangled you in you sleep back when we shared a bed. I should have done the world a favor.”
(Warren) “It’s a trick.”
(Katrina) “Why, Warren? You could have just let me go.”
(Warren) “Make it shut up. Make it go away.”
(Katrina) “It didn’t have to be like that.”
(Warren) “I’m not kidding!
(Katrina) “How could you say you loved me and do that to me.”
(Warren) “Because you deserved it, bitch!”
(Willow) “Because you liked it.”
(Warren) “Oh, shut up.”
(Willow) “You never felt you had the power with her, until you killed her.
(Warren) “Women. You know you’re just like the rest of them. Mind games.”
(Willow) “You get off on it. That’s why you had a mad-on for the Slayer. She was your big ‘O’, wasn’t she, Warren?”
Willow’s torture and murder of Warren is probably the very pinnacle of Dark Willow’s evil. She places the bullet that almost killed Buffy into Warren’s chest and explains what happens when a bullet hits a human heart.
(Willow) “It’s not gonna make a neat little hole. First, it’ll obliterate your internal organs. Your lung will collapse. It feels like drowning.”
(Warren) “Please, no.”
(Willow) “When it finally hits your spine, it’ll blow your central nervous system.”
(Warren) “Oh, please stop! God, please!”
(Willow) “I’m talking! The pain will be unbearable, but you won’t be able to move. A bullet usually travels faster than this, of course. But the dying—it’ll seem like it takes forever. Something, isn’t it? One tiny piece of metal destroys everything. It ripped her insides out….took her light away…from me…from the world. Now the one person who should be here is gone, and a waste like you gets to live. A tiny piece of metal. Can you feel it now? I said, can you feel it?”
In the next season, the issue is revisited when Willow kisses Kennedy and starts to turn into Warren and goes so far as to buying a gun in the same place that Warren did the previous year (“The Killer In Me”, 7.13).
The death of Tara was upsetting to most viewers, including this author, but it was necessary to make a point about addiction and loss and the way life hits you in the gut just when it seem like you’re getting on your feet again.
But Joss has always had a reputation for a fondness for the outsiders, the outcasts, the misfits of society. The ones who don’t fit in anywhere. That’s the reason that probably the first Avengers film was so popular because instead of seeing the characters as heroes we were seeing them as larger than life mirror images of ourselves. People who were extraordinary, beyond the norm. Trying to survive in a world that doesn’t easily accept those who don’t fit in. And it is this gift for precision that has helped him gather such a loyal fan base.
“With ‘The Body’ we did about 25 takes of ‘Is she dead?’ ‘Is she dead?’, and it was the last take and every time it was just, ‘Uh, just a little bit here.’ and ‘Just a little bit there.’ and I was so freaked out because there’s so much pressure but in the end the take that was picked; it’s all about trust.” (Michelle Trachtenberg, Panel Discussion at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences)