(To the tune of ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’)
Blink blink blink your eyes
While you watch the screen
Verily verily verily verily
‘Restless’ is but a dream
Not bad, huh?
WAIT! Please don’t leave! I promise I’ll stop….
It’s just that it’s true, right? Most of the episode—the last one of the fourth season of Buffy—takes place in dreams. And the song is about a dream. And sometimes I have dreams where someone sings the wrong words to a song I know. So I thought it’d be a good way to start. I mean, the first sentence is always the hardest, so I thought I’d try a song, just for something different, y’know? But I get it. I don’t have the greatest voice. That’s okay. I’ll stop.
Joss Whedon, he’s got a good voice. It’s a little low and gravelly, but in a nice way. Sometimes I think he’s got a bit of a lisp. I dunno why, but it makes me trust him. I know that’s silly, though. I heard about this other guy with a lisp—a big guy—and his job used to be beating people up, and he bit the ear off one of those guys, and that guy was just as big as he was! I don’t think I could trust a guy who bites off people’s ears….
Anyway, Joss, he’s pretty smart. He made this great TV show and one whole episode was all about people’s dreams. I know you already heard a little bit about it, but there’s more. Did you know he had to make up the dreams? But he didn’t just put anything in’em. He chose stuff that made sense for each person. He’s good at explaining that stuff, too. Like there’s this one part where Willow—she’s a witch, but a good one, and pretty too—is having this dream where she has to act in a play, but she doesn’t know the words, and all the other actors are in these weird costumes, and Willow’s really nervous and confused. Joss explains that right then, “Willow is feeling like she’s wearing a disguise, like she isn’t telling anyone her true name, like people will find out about her, and the mislead…” (that’s the thing that he uses to make you think it’s about one thing when it’s really about something else) “…is that what she’s talking about is her sexuality, but in fact what she’s talking about is the fact that she still considers herself to be a big nerd…” (00:06:25). That’s really smart, cuz it always seems like people are thinking about one thing when they’re really thinking about something else, and cuz nerds don’t ever get to have sexulty, so it makes sense that she wants people to think that’s what she’s talking about.
A little bit later, Willow meets her friend Tara—she’s pretty too—behind the stage between some red curtains in this spot that isn’t really there. I mean, it’s there in the show, but we have a stage at my school and mostly it looks like the one in the show, except there isn’t a place like the one between the curtains. That’s part of Willow’s dream that’s all made up. Joss explains this part really good, too. He says that a lot of people think the curtains are from some other show called Twin Peaks but they’re wrong. Here’s what Joss said is the truth:
The red curtains are a somewhat more literal image again of comfort and safety, the place where she feels safe, where she finds Tara between the red folds of the curtain. I’m not gonna explain anymore because children might listen to this, but I was being kind of vaguely literal and sexual there. At the same time, the idea that there’s this space where there shouldn’t be a space right next to where all this bustle is going on to me is extraordinarily dream-like. (00:08:20)
I guess I’m not sure exactly what he means this time. The way he talks about the curtains makes me think about the way I feel when I’m wrapped up in my blankets in my bed, but I’m not sure that’s what he means. I wanted to ask, but he sounded like he was blushing, so I thought I better not.
There’s lots of dreams in this episode, and he talks about all of them, but my favourite is Buffy’s dream. She goes all over, even out into the desert, and she fights this crazy lady and she wins…sort of. But before all that, she’s in her bedroom, and Tara is with her, and they talk about all kinds of things that I didn’t understand the first time, but then I peeked ahead at other episodes (just don’t tell, okay?) and then when I listened again it made sense. That’s why Joss is smart, though—he knew they wouldn’t make sense until people watched the other episodes but he put them in anyway because he already knew what was gonna happen in the other episodes even though people would have to wait like half a year to understand! Just listen to what he said, okay?
Buffy’s dream has a lot of references to Dawn and what’s gonna happen [in season five], not something I usually do, but we had made reference to her in the dream Buffy had at the end of…season three. So we made a lot of references to Dawn…[and] the idea that Tara would sort of be her spirit guide made sense because she didn’t have that particular relationship with Tara and Tara has a kind of good Wiccan mystical energy. (00:32:20)
Pretty cool, huh?
Later on he explains what the crazy lady was trying to tell Buffy and why Buffy is stronger than her.
We learn the point of [The Primitive]: that the Slayer must be alone, must be a beast by itself, and Buffy just won’t put up with that. That what separates her from other Slayers, what we learn, what’s the key to her psyche is that she’s not alone, that she has friends, that she has a life that the side of her that is Buffy is as important as the side of her that is a Slayer. That is, in fact, what makes her the greatest Slayer that’s ever been, and when she makes the poignant part about being alone, here comes the Cheese Man to say ‘Okay, it’s a dream,’ and Buffy’s had enough of this. (00:38:55)
The Cheese Man is my favourite, but I’ll save him for last.
So remember when I said Buffy only sort of beats the crazy lady? Well, it’s because they fight, and they’re both pretty strong, but Buffy’s starting to win when she decides she doesn’t want to fight anymore and tells the crazy lady to have a time out. But then the crazy lady sneaks up on Buffy and starts stabbing her, only it doesn’t even hurt Buffy because she knows it’s a dream now and just thinks the crazy lady is stupid and annoying, so she tells her to just go away and she does. Joss says some people wanted a big fight at the end. He says, “Some people found [the ending] somewhat anti-climactic; that was, of course, the point—that she defies the notion of climax, that she defies the notion of the tragic tale of the Slayer, and basically says ‘let’s just put an end to this.’ And the more mundane it gets, the closer she gets to waking up, which actually makes perfect sense” (00:40:40). I guess those people didn’t get it.
But the Cheese Man! The Cheese Man is the greatest! He even wears the cheese on his head, and he’s bald, so it sticks! The whole time I watched I tried to guess what the Cheese Man means. I thought maybe it meant the people dreaming were hungry. My friend thought they were lactose intolerant like him and they were dreaming about cheese because they couldn’t have any. I know lots of people wonder about this because Joss says people ask him “What is the meaning of the Cheese Man?” all the time (00:08:05). And you know what Joss says about him?
The Cheese Man: meaningless. Why? Because I needed something in the show that was meaningless, because there is always something in the dream that just doesn’t make any sense at all. In this case, it was the Cheese Man. He confounds everybody because of that, and people ascribe him meaning. This, to me, means that we’re being successful because this means they’re not worried about everything else, which means they sort of did understand most other things. (00:20:25)
I think that’s pretty cool because he’s right. There’s always something in my dreams that I don’t understand. Sometimes there’s lots of things. One time I had this dream where I was in math class and the teacher was asking everyone to say their times tables (even though we hadn’t learned them in real life yet) and everyone she asks starts singing the alphabet song…and she gives them a gold star! When it’s my turn I don’t sing the song because I know it’s not the right answer, but when I try to explain it to them they ask if I have a better answer, and when I tell them ‘no’, they say I better sing the song then. That dream makes me angry. Next time I hope I’ll dream that all of them have cheese on their heads. Even the teacher.
Dreams are weird sometimes.
Anyway, that’s all Joss said this time.
So I guess that’s it, then….
Blink blink blink your eyes
While you watch the…oh, sorry.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4, Episode 22, ‘Restless’ | Written & Directed by Joss Whedon | Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head