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18 June 2014
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Episode Guide
Hell's Bells


Pain, pain, go away. Can't those crazy kids from Sunnydale have some fun just for once? Life isn't all misery, you know. Perhaps Xander's future happiness lies elsewhere, but I can't see that a little wedded bliss would have harmed the show at this point.

There is much to enjoy in the episode - Buffy's party tricks; the rekindling of the Willow/Tara romance; Anya's increasingly bizarre wedding vows - but much of it is also unnecessarily ugly. The name-calling at the expense of the demons and Xander's grotesque, drink-fulled family are both disappointing.

Still, the performances, especially from the normally underused Nicholas Brendon, were all first rate, and a reminder of how much we emotionally invest in the Scooby Gang each week without realising that they aren't our real buddies.

Those bridesmaids' dresses were truly evil, by the way...

And so to one of Season Six's big events. Xander and Anya are getting married. The happiest day of their lives. Or at least it would be if this wasn't Sunnydale and we weren’t mired down in the most depressing of Buffy seasons ('a long, long nasty tunnel' as Buffy calls it).

While the plot of this episode - Xander travels back in time to warn himself of the mistake he is making; oh no its not him, just a past acquaintance with a grudge against Anya - is hardly groundbreaking, some of the little touches make up for the dearth of material.

Xander's family is every bit as bad as he has described them (and huge!) Nicholas Brendon and Emma Caulfield do some nice work in the flash-forward scenes, and there are some lovely moments between Willow and Xander.

The episode as a whole is an uneasy mix of farce, sentimentality and the serious. Strangely it’s the serious that seems out of place - Xander's final decision being the biggest misfire. The farce and sentimentality work best and this reviewer, for once, would have preferred the satisfaction of a happy ending.

Out of a soapy season, Hell's Bells has to be the sudsiest episode. Anya and Xander's wedding could be straight from Albert Square - apart from the demons - although I'm sure Pat and Pauline would do their best.

The daytime melodrama feel of this episode leaves all the Scoobies following deeply uninteresting and predictable sub-plots. Ex-lovers thrown back together? Check. Dumped boyfriend trying to make ex feel jealous? Check. Dollops of tear-soaked cod-profound justifications? Check.

Rounding it all off you've got the soap opera cliché par excellence - being jilted at the altar. Did the script get mixed up with the Passions slush pile or something?

Out of the whole episode, the only thing I liked was Anya's crowd of demon relations. The downbeat, sympathetic portrayal of these hellspawn was touching and funny, sadly unlike the episode as a whole.

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