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June 24, 2003
by Daniel Erenberg

The legend is that Kristine Sutherland went up to Joss Whedon during the filming of “Graduation Day Part One” to tell him that she wouldn’t be able to be in too many episodes of season four because she would be house sitting for a friend in Italy. Joss replied that it was okay that she stay out of season four because it kept in with the whole theme, but, he said, she’d better be back for season five because he had to kill her. This just goes to show how far ahead the Joss Whedon planning process goes.

There’s another old Mutant Enemy legend that’s similar and even more surprising. Reportedly, about halfway through season three, Joss confronted Sarah Michelle Gellar with the fact that come season five, she would have an onscreen sister. This is why murky references to Dawn pop up as early as the season finale of season three, over a year before the character would actually be introduced, even a full year before Joss would meet the actress that would come to play Dawn Summers, Michelle Trachtenberg.

And so it goes. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of a very few shows on television that dare to delve into the thematic element of foreshadowing. And so this article acts as a handy dandy guide to my personal favorite usages of foreshadowing throughout the seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The biggie was the foreshadowing done during the big emotional Faith/Buffy dream sequence of “Graduation Day Part Two”. One purposefully cloudy, unclear line changed the show together. Faith said, “Little Miss Muffet counting down from seven three oh.” This line that resonated and wouldn’t be explained fully for another two years is such a layered line that it gets discussed in badly written essays about the television show it appeared in. First, the little Miss Muffet line is the first reference to Dawn. This was proved in the couple of season five episodes in which those that lost their minds due to Glory’s brain sucks referred to Dawn as such. One insane guy in “Real Me” says to her that he “knows who you are. Curds and whey”, an obvious reference to Little Miss Muffet. Then there’s the second half of the sentence, the counting down from 7-3-0 portion. This refers to Buffy’s death in “The Gift”. There are seven hundred and thirty days in two years, and two years later Buffy would die. This idea is even revisited in “Restless” when, in Buffy’s dream, she looks at a clock that reads 7:30. When she tells Tara that it’s getting late, Tara replies that “that clock’s completely wrong”. She’s referring to the fact that there are now only 365 days until Buffy’s death. It’s a rather brilliant moment.

There’s another cute use of foreshadowing in another Joss-penned episode called “Dopplegangland”. In it, Willow’s doppleganger acts “kinda gay”, as she puts it herself. When Buffy tells her that the vampire version of someone is nothing like the person it was originally, Angel begins to correct her to say that that isn’t true. Then Buffy shuts him up. This is clearly a reference to the fact that one season later, Willow would fall in love with Tara and become a lesbian. What seemed like a cute little joke one season was turned into full-fledged foreshadowing one year later.

Another fantastic foreshadowing in “Restless” was payed off in “Tabula Rasa” in season six. There’s a scene during Xander’s dream sequence in “Restless” where he sees Spike dressed up in tweed training to become a watcher. In “Tabula Rasa”, we once again get a glimpse of Spike in tweed, this time thinking that Giles is his father. And in that “Restless” scene, Giles tells Spike that he’s like a son to him. Joss has said on a few occasions that when filming “Restless” he never planned that, but I just think he’s being self-deprecating, because I noticed something that I’ve never heard mentioned before. In that same scene in “Restless”, Xander and Spike talk about a shark with fins but on land. Then in that same other episode “Tabula Rasa”, there is a big shark-man that calls himself The Land Shark. Hmm.

There are also less specific uses of foreshadowing in Buffy. These are interesting as well. For instance, there’s Willow immediately turning to dark magic to shield herself from pain in “Something Blue”, an idea that comes back to haunt the hell out of her in season six, and especially in the last three episodes of that year. Then there’s Tara’s sabotage of the demon location spell in season four’s “Goodbye Iowa”, which foreshadowed the fact that she actually thought she was a demon, which was revealed in Joss Whedon’s interesting season five Tara-centric “Family”. And, finally, there were the few season five glimpses of Dawn stealing stuff from the Magic Box, something that was dealt with a full year later in “Older and Far Away”.

More recently, I’ve become convinced that something in “The Body” was actually subtle foreshadowing. Anya has that whole brilliant speech about how she doesn’t understand the human perception of death. Two years later, she has a conversation with Andrew in, I believe, “End Of Days” that shows she’s beginning to understand. And then she dies in the last episode.

One thing’s for sure. Nothing that happens in the Buffyverse is accidental. Joss Whedon is a very deliberate writer. And an unpredictable one, which reflects in the world that he’s created.

Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on

Latest Comments

As far as Willow's lack of Jewishness, there are plenty, possibly the majority, of Christians who don't read the bible and only rarely, if ever, go to church. They still call themselves Christians though, and no one berats them for it. Buffy and Xander act even less religeous than Willow, and they're still celebrating a major Christian holiday. So Willow isn't "devoutly" Jewish (and she never said she was devout) she's just a secular Jewish girl like there are millions of secular Christians in the world.

Posted by: Elley on December 18, 2003 02:30 PM

On Willow, actually, I think have to disagree with the item “Religion Freaky” stating that Willow showed signs of being a devout Jew. Instead, to me, Willow came across as a nit-picking hypocrite in season three’s “Amends” where she criticise Buffy and Xander repeatedly for asking her what she’s doing on Christmas.

Buffy: "What are you doing for Christmas?"
Willow: "Being Jewish. Remember people? Not everybody worships Santa."

How exactly is Willow devoutly Jewish? Sure she puts a stone on Tara’s grave, a Jewish custom, but that’s about it for Jewishness. Across seven seasons, she does not appear to follow any of the moral, dress, daily or seasonal observances, or dietary codes of any of the mainstream or fringe Jewish sects in the USA.

Willow doesn’t follow any Jewish mystical or magical tradition, e.g. Kabbala, Sefer ha-Razim, Merkaba etc. Instead, she practices a very Celtic-focussed magic.

And, by the way, if Willow is a devout Jew, she has an interesting approach to the Jewish rituals of atonement and repentance. Willow stalked and, with premeditation, cold-bloodedly and cruelly murdered Warren at the end of Season 6. She also killed Rack, most probably severely injured if not caused the death, of police during her destruction of the Sunnydale police station, and likely hurt people in the passenger bus she stopped.

Posted by: daryll on September 11, 2003 09:13 PM

JLC's comment on Willow's home life got me thinking about the rest of the Scoobies in that department. Xander, watch the wedding episode and that says it all. Dad has an obvious drinking problem. Given the kind of marriage his parents had I still think he should have talked to Anya. His insecurities about marriage wasn't something that happened the day of the wedding. That had been brewing for some time and he knew it. . Instead of dealing with it he ignored it. Xander was a character that for me had gotten extremely unlikeable in the end. Buffy, every man she ever cared about left her. Her dad, Angel, Riley, and then Giles. Irregardless of why in Buffy's mind all she cared about was the fact they left her. The only one who DIDN'T leave her was Spike. 147 days and he didn't leave. He counted the dam days. That still means something.

Posted by: Janine on August 28, 2003 07:30 PM

In the season 3 episode "Gingerbread" it was made obvious that Willow was neglected and ignored by her parents:

Willow: Mom?

Sheila: Willow, I-I didn't know you were going to be here. (to Buffy,
absently) Oh, hi, Bunny.

Buffy: Hi.

Willow: Mom, what are you doing here?

Sheila: Oh, well, I read about it in the paper, and what with your dad
out of town... (notices, surprised) Willow, you cut off your hair! Huh.
That's a new look.

Willow: Yeah, it's just a sudden whim I had... in August.

Posted by: JLC on August 27, 2003 12:05 PM

I wanted to give this some thought before I gave my opinion. I don't disagree that Spike probably liked the thrill of hunting and killing without the headaches. It's a fact he became loathed among his kind because of his association with the slayer but I stop agreeing at this point. If nothing else Spike is opportunistic. Slayer was dead. Faking it? I don't buy that either. I find it very hard to believe he would not take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself at the time. NO SLAYER. The chip wasn't stopping him from getting other demons to do the killing for him. Why would he not switch sides with Buffy out of the way? As the old man on top of the tower put it in season five, "There isn't a soul in you, why do care about these people?" Spike's reply "I made a promise to a lady." He kept his promise. There was and still is something going that's more than just silicon and wires. There are too many contradictions in Spike's case to what would be considered "normal" vampire behavior. It's easier for some people to say he was "faking" it than to admit to something that goes against his demon. Whatever it is that's happening with Spike, it's still happening and I don't think we've seen the final result yet.

Posted by: Janine on August 24, 2003 12:35 AM
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