"That way lies spooky carnival death" : Xander's redemptive journey
through Season 6.
Xander Harris is Buffy: the Vampire Slayer's Everyman. He
is the character that viewers can easily relate to; the one "normal"
individual in the Scooby Gang. He lacks super strength, magical
powers or mystical energy, instead being lumbered with below-average
intelligence, bickering alcoholic abusive parents and a blue-collar
job. Buffy creator Joss Whedon has stated that he identifies
with Xander; yet in this current season, we see a Xander who has
clearly lost his way.
From being the Animus, or "heart" of the group in Season 4's Primeval,
the character of Xander Harris has been deconstructed into a man
with some serious behavioural problems. The unconscious abuser is
no less abusive; and the episodes of season six show us a Xander
who is clearly the abuser in his relationship with Anya. Hells
Bells highlights the similarities between Xander and his
father, and shows us the future that Xander will face with Anya
if he is unable to overcome his prejudices against difference -
in this case, against her demon nature.
Xander's tendency to blindly trust those he considers to be his
friends (a tendency mirrored by Buffy herself) may be his downfall.
Certainly, it led him into the morally dubious territory of Bargaining,
where he joins with Willow and their respective partners to resurrect
While Xander does show some reservations, these are clearly shown
to be prompted less by serious moral reservations about the sanctity
of life and death and more by Captain Fear poking his nose into
the resurrection issue. He bears the responsibility for leading
Anya, who would happily follow her Sweet Cookie Face to the ends
of the earth, into the danger. It may be significant that it is
Xander who, in Afterlife,
tells the Demon Ghost that the key to remaining in their dimension
is to kill Buffy, and that he receives a Limited Edition Backstreet
Boys lunchbox from his partner.
In Once More, With Feeling,
it is Xander who casts the spell to summon the demon Sweet and nearly
kills his friends. Several denizens of Sunnydale are killed by the
spell, and Xander has yet to face up to his responsibility in this.
Unless he can be redeemed, it seems that his role may be less the
Heart and more the Betrayer.
But the early episodes also show us Xander's path to redemption.
While he mocks Anya for her capitalist ideals, consistently fails
to even summon the courage to announce his engagement to his friends,
and later despises Anya for her interest in wedding preparations,
there is a sign of hope.
In his relationship with Spike, particularly as highlighted in
see the possibility that Xander may one day learn to cast aside
his prejudices. Even as he disregards Anya's informed opinion about
recovery from a hell dimension, he is able to recognise Spike's
pain, and maybe even empathise with it. In Once
More, With Feeling, he mocks Spike's singing, but we see
that Spike is in the Bronze, ready to prevent Sweet from taking
Xander back to his hell dimension. Later, in Older
and Far Away, Spike's metaphorical saving of Xander becomes
physical reality when he saves him from the marauding Sword Demon.
In Gone, Xander
is able to recommend - sincerely and "all kidding aside" - that
Spike get himself a girlfriend. His progress is rewarded in Hells
Bells when Spike agrees to attend his wedding. Even in Normal
Again, after indulging his prejudices and throwing a punch
at Spike, he is able to patrol with him and fight beside him, just
as he did during the 147 days of Buffy's death.
Xander has a number of personal issues to overcome before he can
be redeemed. These include moral cowardice and shortsightedness,
but chief among them is his disdain for demonkind. In building his
relationship with Spike, he may yet be able to heal his rift with
Anya, and redeem himself as the heart of the group; secure in himself
and without the unreasonable prejudice that is consuming him. If
he is to avoid the Spooky Carnival Death foreshadowed in Bargaining,
he must learn to accept help when it is offered, and respect all
creatures, not just those whose parentage or heritage matches his
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