“Oh, breathtaking! It’s like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog.” – D’Hoffryn
It’s always kind of a concerning when your suddenly presented with the backstory of character more so if their death is seemingly forthcoming as is the case in this episode with Buffy feeling that Anya’s vengeance duties are getting out of hand, sets out to slay her.
For what was no doubt intended as a one shot character it’s something of a credit that Emma Caulfield has since her introduction in “The Wish” way back in season 3 that she has become such a beloved member of the team even if currently she seems to be at kind of a loss for things to do since the Buffy / Dark Willow brawl reduced the Magic box to rubble. On the more low key side of things is her return to working as a vengeance demon which in an interesting twist she now finds herself struggling to deal with the moral consequences of for filling the vengeance wishes of wronged women which forms an interesting evolution from her character, more so when we see how much she used to relish her work through the flashbacks to Sjornjost, Sweden in 880 were she turns her then boyfriend into who we saw Season 5. The other highlight seeing Anya being responsible for sparking the Russian revolution of 1905.
However by the time we reach modern day and a flashback to “Once, More With Feeling” which almost feels like a deleted scene despite Joss Wheldon taking a break from filming “Firefly” one evening to write her song about marrying Xander which could be seen as her “Somewhere That’s Green” moment and as such felt too much like filler especially with the song being a pretty unremarkable moment.
The fact that we are now being shown Anya’s backstory after all this time really makes you feel that this could be the end for her character adding a nice edge to her showdown with Buffy. Of course while the showdown is certainly an exciting and not to mention a surprising one considering how we are barely into the season for such a major moment it does come across that perhaps Caulfield was not as confident with the fight scenes especially against a seasoned pro like Gellar is at this point in the shows run.
While the episode might be more about filling in the backstory of Anya not to mention adding another name to the list of allies that Buffy has one point or another attempted to slay (Willow, Giles, Angel, Spike) it does finally break Anya away from the vengeance demon plotline which really has been going nowhere since she was welcomed back into the fold when Xander ran out on their wedding and while the plotline itself might have been spinning its wheels atleast it ends on a strong note as the usually playfully comedic D’Hoffryn shows us a surprisingly dark side.
Not a bad episode overfall especially for a flashback episode which historically have never been the high points for the show but thanks to the likeability of Anya it really comes together here, while putting to bed one of the weaker elements of the show.