The Wish
Written by: Marti Noxon
Directed by: David Greenwalt
Air Date: Dec. 8, 1998

Anya! Oh my sweet, sweet Anya! How I’ve missed you. Its been far too long. In an episode devoted entirely to the aftermath of Xander and Willow’s kiss in the previous episode, “Lover’s Walk“, “The Wish” starts out simple enough. But it provides for some great laughs, some awesome action, and some wonderful sequences fueled by the age-old question: “What if?” In it we see death, we see evil versions of our characters, and we see one drastically different looking Sunnydale. All in all, “The Wish” succeeds by firing on all cylinders from the get-go and not stopping until its regrettably cheesy final seconds. And not only that, but it introduces – and retintroduces – some classic characters that I love dearly.

Emma Caulfield, the woman behind Anya, doesn’t get a lot of screen time in this episode, but what she has is memorable. I believe its only because I’ve seen the episode before and know what/who she is, but watching her try to pry an “I wish…” statement from Cordelia is hilarious and obvious. Cordy coming to the realization that everything was fine before Buffy came along is an accurate one, and the one thing she does wish for is a Sunnydale without her. The problem with this, of course, is that The Master was supposed to be around, before Buffy stopped it from happening. In Wishverse? You bet your ass Mark Metcalf is up and running in full costume and makeup, ready to ham it up like always. Its a nice treat that this episode comes so close after that horrid Buffy game on Xbox, allowing another glimpse into the life and times of The Master. He’s still one of my favorite characters in the show’s canon and, as such, it is always a treat to see him.

This episode basically gets at two major questions, tied to the same incident: would Buffy be better if she’d never come to Sunnydale, and would Sunnydale be better if Buffy had never arrived. The answer to both is as simple as can be: FUCK, NO! Sunnydale is a wreck, people are dying (even, in a stroke of writing genius, Cordy, leaving first-time viewers to wonder what it meant that the wish-maker had died!), there is a sense of dread and panic in everyone, and there is a factory that is now operational, sucking blood from living people to create a product. Its a hell hole, which – I guess – makes sense. Its a Hellmouth. Durr. As for Buffy, well… she’s looked better. Her attitude is vastly different, her face is battle-scarred, and her reluctance to work with others is a far cry from her normal universe counterpart. And, at the end of the day, without these things there as a support system (no mention of even her mother, by the way) she dies, just like was foretold in the prophecy from season one’s finale, “Prophecy Girl“. Watching The Master snap her neck like it was nothing is dark but awesome. Also, watching Angel get dusted? Equally awesome.

Once again I have to give credit where credit is due: Marti Noxon knocks another script out of the park, presenting an engaging alternate-universe story with enough story and drive to keep things interesting but never so much that we want or need to see more. And the directing of David Greenwalt is now starting to catch my eye. He’s clearly a man that knows how to use space, stage action sequences, and move the players in their scenes. I don’t talk about these aspects of the show that often, but I’m starting to pick up on the quality of the production a bit, seeing as how when the writing and the directing are shit, so is the episode.

I think the cast had a ton of fun on this one, too. Vampire Willow was likely a blast to play, and I’m assuming SMG had a good time playing the battle hardened version of herself that we get to see. Even Anthony Stewart Head’s turn as the abandoned Watcher is interesting, and showcases a bit of his character in the real universe a bit, as someone who is without a reason to go on if his life doesn’t have purpose. Here, his purpose is to protect and save the world, even if he doesn’t get to it side-by-side with the Slayer. While we don’t ever really get to see much of his days as “Ripper”, its nice to know that those days are past, and even without Buffy around, there is enough good in him to see the world needs fixing.

“The Wish” has very few flaws, and is the second in a trio of episodes that showcase how damned good the writing and directing and acting can be on this show. It also showcases just how far down the rabbit hole we can go, in regards to the mystical and the supernatural. We even got a sequence with a giant, nasty, super-ugly squid demon, in broad daylight, during the episodes opening moments. It brings everything to the table and then does tricks with them. It reminds us that Buffy is to Sunnydale what Batman is to Gotham; yes they are the reason some of the things that happen happen, but they are there to stop them, and a bevvy of other things, as well.

Now I’m wondering who would win in a brawl… oy.

Episode Rating: 94

Additional Notes:
-Willow’s “Nerf! Not nerf, knife!” is maybe the worst thing in this episode.
-The torturing of Angel, the “puppy”, is pretty damned dark
-We won’t see The Master again for quite some time. But when he
does show up, it will be a treat
-No Faith again, this episode. I forgot how long she was absent
do hate that The Bronze is such a central location, even for bad guys and the like. Seems like a stupid waste of possibilities, but ah well…
-The Master drinking from that tiny cup is priceless!
-Larry and Oz, teaming up as “The White Hats” is comical and awesome