"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Conversations with Dead People (#7.7)"
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29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

The Last of the Greats

10/10
Author: morphion2 from Australia
6 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The notion of User Comments for individual episodes of television series' seems at the outset an elaborate and nerdily elitist exercise. Of all the T.V. shows that I love, I'm pretty convinced "Buffy" is the only one this function of IMDb is really useful for. Insofar as you have to already be an avid follower of the show to appreciate them, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did harbor some of the most amazing and unforgettable singular works of serial narrative ever put on the small screen. It had, in my opinion, more truly great episodes than any other television series of its time (with the possible exception of "The X Files"). "Conversations With Dead People" was the last of them.

The episode is perhaps the most strongly themed of the entire show - while the motifs of loneliness and disconnection had been prominent in the series since the beginning of its sixth season, "Conversations With Dead People" is the only single episode to really commit itself thoroughly to these ideas and their bearings on 'our beloved characters'. From structure and form (five separate stories involving five separate people who never intersect or move from their isolated settings) to the focus of the dialog and nature of the narrative events, the episode concerns itself *only* with the very secret, deep and personal feelings of each of the characters, and the varying degrees of lonely pain that they experience. It's quite a daring and firm shift from action to meditation, and although Dawn's story involving a poltergeist preventing her from communicating with her dead mother has multitudes of violence, loud noises and explosions, the emotional need driving her character through the mess speaks for itself.

These defining, formal peculiarities aside, "Conversations With Dead People" also makes my top ten on account of two quite astounding performances: Alyson Hannigan as series regular Willow turns out one of her most amazing crying sequences, as she mourns openly to a ghost medium about the sudden death of her lover from the previous season. Deemed by fellow Buffy actor Tom Lenk as "one of the best criers in the biz", Hannigan makes good on that quote in this episode, creating some of the most real and heart wrenching emotion seen on commercial T.V.

More surprising though, is the thoroughly compelling performance of one-time guest Johnathon Woodward, as Buffy's undead, Freudian confidante and old, unremembered high school companion. Woodward went on to have cameo spots in each of Joss Whedon's television ventures, but he works enough magic here for all three: his comic balancing act between deep, three-dimensional character and mere physical opponent for Buffy's obligatory fights works splendidly with its own good-humoured ridicule.

Moreover, his remarkable psychoanalytical insights into Buffy, while making no sense by the principles of Vampirism that have been established in the show (Woodward's vampire seems, like James Marsters' Spike, to be some kind of miraculous deviation from the Vampiric model that classically has no human emotion), are dead on and as poignant as any comments made by any character in the history of the series. His compassionate yet matter-of-fact summation of her problem stands as one of my favourite lines of the show: "It all comes down to you feeling alone. But Buffy, everybody feels alone... Everybody *is*. Until they die." His and Buffy's incredibly short-lived relationship establishes such a strong bond so succinctly that for the first time, there actually is pathos in a no-name vampire's death. It's an inarguably bizarre usage of the standard Buffy-kills-a-newborn-demon-in-a-graveyard shtick, but also an incredibly successful one.

Although very clearly *meant* to be a different and radical take on the "Buffy" episode formula, "Conversations With Dead People" benefits beautifully from its very late status in the series by existing against all the expectations built before it. While there had been episodes earlier on in the show that had stood as pretty universally innovative television (that is, unusual for TV) this final-season oddball was able, due to the strength of the series' innovation up until that point, to get by on simply being unusual *for a Buffy episode*. It is perhaps more thematically impenetrable than most, but for the fans in the know, it's a goldmine.

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26 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Enter the First

6/10
Author: katierose295 from United States
6 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Conversations with Dead People" is the episode where the First makes itself known to the Scoobies. In one night Cassie brings Willow a message from Tara, Dawn sees her mother, Jonathan and Andrew come back to town and Buffy meets up with a former classmate-turned vampire, who tells her that Spike just sired him. This is a pretty important episode to the story arc this season and you really shouldn't skip it.

"Conversation With Dead People" is hard to explain. Basically, it shows five stories unfolding concurrently. There's Dawn, being attacked in her home by an unseen force. Dawn fights back, thinking that her mother trying to contact her and something evil is blocking the message. "Joyce" finally appears to her and warns Dawn that, when things are at their worst, Buffy will be against her. Meanwhile, Willow sees "Cassie." (The girl who died back in "Help") Cassie claims to have a message from Tara: Willow can never use magic again. If she does, she will wind up destroying the world. Willow buys it at first, but then "Cassie" suggests that Willow kill herself to make sure she can never hurt anyone. Knowing that Tara would never suggest such a thing, Willow demands to know who "Cassie" really is and what she wants. "Cassie" laughs. It seems that "Cassie" isn't Cassie, at all. Instead, Willow realizes its the evil "from beneath you it devours" thing (they don't know to call it the First, yet) And that it's coming after the Scoobies.

Meanwhile Buffy meets up with vampire named Webs, who she actually went to school with. As a human, he was a psychology major and he and Buffy have a long discussion about life and love. When Buffy mentions Spike, Webs claims that Spike is his Sire. That Spike bit and turned him just two nights before. Spike has been sitting at the Bronze talking with a woman all night. After he walks her home, though, he suddenly vamps out and kills her. Then there's the Duo. Jonathan and Andrew are back from Mexico and determined to do good now. At Sunnydale High, "Warren" appears to Andrew. He tells Andrew to kill Jonathan over the Hellmouth seal thing. "Warren" promises that it will allow all of them to become gods. Andrew kills Jonathan, but Jonathan's blood doesn't open the seal.

There are some really good parts to this episode. Buffy's conversation with Web is fun and also very enlightening. It tells you a lot about her character (According to our vampire shrink, she has "inferiority complex about her superiority complex.") Also, Joyce appearing and disappearing on the sofa where she died is really scary. As is "Warren" just standing by the door in the Sunnydale High basement. And I'm really glad to see Jonathan and Andrew back in town. (Even though "33.34%" of them were "flayed alive last time" they were here.) The two of them are so funny together, quoting Star Wars and deciding that they're heroes now. But, Andrew's blind devotion to Warren is so destructive and sad, that he can't break free. Jonathan can fondly reminisce about high school now and say that he still cares about all his fellow students. Andrew can't. He's far more bitter about his high school experiences. Warren was the only "cool" friend that he's ever had. The First, appearing as Warren, can manipulate him so easily. Andrew stabs Jonathan, wanting so badly to believe that Warren is really there and that he's doing the right thing. But, on some level, he already knows that he's made a horrible mistake. His obsession with and revulsion towards stabbing will follow him through out the rest of the series. My heart breaks for Jonathan and Andrew in that scene.

In order to make "Conversations With Dead People" fit into the larger story arc this season, you have to do some creative filling in the blanks. Personally, I explain it as the First targeting Willow, Spike and Buffy because it somehow knows that they will be its strongest adversaries come the season finale, "Chosen." It wants Willow to swear off magic or kill herself, thereby preventing her from joining in the final battle. And it wants Spike and Buffy to fight and kill each other. Either Buffy will kill Spike for feeding again, or Spike will kill her to protect himself. But either way, at least one of the strongest warriors will be gone. As for Dawn, I guess that this episode plays into the later showdown in "Empty Places." When the Scoobies are at their lowest, and turning on Buffy, the First must want Dawn to side against her sister. So, it has her "mother" warn Dawn that Buffy will turn on her. It's the only explanation that I can think of.

On the down side, how did the First move all that stuff around the Summers' living room to scare Dawn? And why did it want Andrew and Jonathan involved? As much as I like them, they are kind of screw ups. If you were an all powerful evil force, wouldn't you get some better henchmen? Maybe it has something to do with that knife. But, then why do the Duo have to have the knife? Couldn't the First just have Spike get it and then dump a dead body on the Hellmouth to open the seal? It seems like it would be a lot simpler. And I'm really sorry to see Jonathan die. He was a basically good person and right up until the end, all he wanted was to belong to the Scoobie gang. He really has one of the most tragic stories in all of the Buffyverse. Also, where was Xander in this episode? How can there be a BTVS without Xander, for crying out loud? It's just wrong.

My favorite part of the episode: Andrew talking to Warren. "One time you died and I became Mexican."

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Now We're Talking

9/10
Author: mabbott10 from United States
25 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the scariest episodes of the series ever!!! Basically, this covers 4 alternating stories all taking place at the same time. On one hand you have Buffy, engaged in a conversation with a former classmate turned vamp. Dawn is receiving messages that she believes are from her deceased mother, and Willow is speaking to Cassie, the young woman who died a few episodes earlier. Finally, you have Jonathan and Andrew returning to town on a mission which, unbeknownst to Jonathan is being directed by the apparent spirit of Warren.

From the opening moments (a haunting song) to the final sneer on Cassie's face as she takes on a Lovecraftian appearance momentarily, this episode grabs the story arc finally, and forces it into the forefront. Apparently, the First Evil has decided to make it his/her/it's business to destroy the Slayer once and for all and it's stepping up the psychological warfare as well. Dawn's scenes are particularly hair-raising! In fact, the final few moments of this episode were wonderfully nightmarish.

Great performances by all and some wonderful dialog. My one complaint would have been that as much as I liked Jonathan Woodward in this episode, it would have been nice for Buffy to have been speaking to an actual classmate from the first three seasons - just a quibble but I hate it when new characters are introduced just to be dispatched.

Final note **** spoiler alert **** don't get too attached to this level of story for the remainder of the season. For all intents and purposes, this was the last truly great episode of the series, mostly because the promise of this episode was never fully realized.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The One With The Dead People...

7/10
Author: Taylor Kingston from Australia
1 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I enjoy this episode, but it also bores me a bit. And I get upset when I don't see Xander, because he's like my favorite character. Other than Anya and Spike. Oh, and Anya isn't in it either. This episode is interesting. Especially because one of the characters, Holden, becomes a sort of key character in the spin-off, Angel.

In this episode, everyone is having a conversation with a dead person, hence the episode title. Buffy talks to a vampire that she used to know. Dawn talks to her mother. Willow talks to Cassie. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Andrew return to town to take care of some unfinished business. Buffy learns some interesting things about Spike, stuff she wish she didn't need to know. And Joyce and Cassie aren't the spirits of Joyce and Cassie. They're The First, playing a game on them, trying to convince them to do things. The writers wanted Terra to come back, but she didn't want to play something evil, so she opted not to.

Overall, I give this episode a 7 out of 10.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Pure brilliance!

10/10
Author: Joxerlives from United Kingdom
11 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Good; All of it, pretty damn amazing the whole thing. In a pretty intense and serious episode I do like Dawn's fun anchovies song and dance not to mention her marshmallow in the microwave (love to try that but then it didn't turn out too well for her)

The Bad; The only problems I have is that there's no Xander and that the Cassie role was so blatantly supposed to be Tara. If it is The First that visits Dawn it's actions seem remarkably tame AND it seems to be able to move stuff with it's will which it can't do later. Also why put on the big show, why not just appear to Dawn as it did to Willow and Andrew? Maybe it is Joyce but the First is somehow manipulating her and only allows it to put over what it wants Dawn to hear? If it is The First trying to mislead Dawn why does it try to get her to leave the house?

Best line; Holden; "Who knows, maybe I'll win?" Buffy; (almost pityingly) "No, I'm the Slayer. You're not leaving this graveyard"

Women good/men bad; We learn that Hank cheated on Joyce and that was the reason for their divorce.

Jeez!; Holden hitting Buffy in the face with the virgin Mary statuette. Dawn getting all cut up. Cassie/The First's description of how she imagined Willow committing suicide.

Kinky dinky; When confessing to Holden Buffy says that during her sex with Spike she felt she deserved to be punished which explains some of the violent/S&M nature of their relationship. Buffy says she hates the way vamps equate sex, pain, death and love but then as Spike said, they are evil, they should be treading on the darkside. Looking back on her previous boyfriends Buffy observes she sure can pick them, every one a doomed romance. There were rumours at SDH that Buffy was dating a really old guy but did this mean Angel or Giles? ("Older man, very handsome, likes it when I call him daddy") Holden says he is 'chatting Buffy up'. Spike effortlessly picks a hot blonde up at the bar the actress going on to play Senator Perrin's wife in Dollhouse. Buffy refers to Spike 'taking me over completely' and 'doing such things to me'. Holden refers to guy talk in 'nailing a girl'.

Captain Subtext; So if Spike sires his blonde after picking her up in a bar does he do the same thing with Holden? Buffy confesses she feels superior to her friends and lovers but feels guilty about it. This suggests that Faith is actually the ideal girl for her as they're equal in every way. Scott Hope, Buffy's boyfriend from season 3 has now come out of the closet which must be a relief for her as it means their break up wasn't her fault. But apparently he told everyone she was gay which given her track record with guys might be the best option for her? Note that Jonathon and Andrew actually want to be part of the Scooby gang which Andrew at least will achieve.

Missing scenes; Supposedly we were to see Xander visited by Jesse and Anya by Halfrek but they couldn't get the actors which was a great shame.

Recurring characters killed: 13 byebye Jonathon, with us from the untransmitted pilot who came good in the end.

What the fanficcers thought; Loads of fic where Joyce's real ghost visits both Dawn and Buffy, how wonderful if we could see the mother we loved and lost again if only for a minute. Interesting to see Dawn in Ash from Evil Dead mode, once read a fic where Tara's family are actually Texas Chainsaw Massacre types and kill everyone in the season 5 Scoobies except for Tara, Riley, Willow and Dawn. However in the follow up story Tara and Willow resurrect Buffy and she finds that Dawn has now turned into a combination of Ash/Lara Croft (but still has both hands). Meanwhile Faith defeated the First and shared her power with the Potentials but was presumed to have perished in the collapsing Hellmouth. But whose is that gorgeous female hand holding a scythe breaking the surface at the Sunnydale crater...?

Questions and observations;

I take it that the Dartmouth Holden refers to is a college in the US rather than the town in Devon? By the commentary we know that it isn't really Joyce who visits Dawn but her warning that Buffy wouldn't choose Dawn in the end turns out to be prophetic. Dawn's battle with The First(?) references The Excorcist, Die Hard (glass in feet), The Shining, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, Highlander and especially the Evil Dead films . Andrew says he found Klingon easier to learn than Spanish but then as an artificial language it would be simpler. 'Insane troll logic' again. Kit from 'Lessons' recurs although off-screen. Someone in the Summer's house likes Mariarchi music as it was also on their radio in 'Quelled'. Lovely music at the Bronze, is that the same band as in Dopplegangland? Is Jason Wheeler the guy who won the class clown award in The Prom? Holden has studied 2 years of Tae-Kwan-Do which is SMG's martial art. Buffy refuses to commit on the God question despite the effects of crosses and holy water on vamps. Considering how much real horror there is in Dawn's life you'd wonder that she watches a horror film? JE refers disparagingly to Charmed on the commentary. Holden refers to the SD mental hospital which was presumably built after season 5. Buffy still suffers from the Slayer death-wish to a degree to judge from some of the things she says.

Marks out of 10; 9/10, only failing to be 10/10 due to no Xander and no Tara. This one I watched 4 times, twice with the commentary.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

realised something about this episode that annoyed me!!

10/10
Author: jordan oneill (brother2satan@hotmail.com) from United Kingdom
5 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really enjoyed this episode the whole opening and closing with that nice song and seeing the characters about there business without words how they deal with there own little encounters alone and don't interact with any other characters through out the episode.

This episode was a great opening to the rest of the season which pretty much follows the same story no more episodes cutting away from the season story arc and opening a whole load of worms for the next episodes, I enjoyed Andrew and Jonathon talking about how they really wanted to be part of Buffy's gang and Jonathon's little speech about how he misses high school and misses the people that never cared or noticed him I like how it shows how he's grown up and and gotten better adjusted even tho the world was about to fall apart he was content which is great giving that 4 years prior he tried to kill himself, Dawn taking on a monster and saving the day in her little story was great how she didn't leave the house and wanted to stay to save her Moms spirit shows how she has drastically matured since season 6, the spike revelation was fantastic especially how they delivered it with Holden giving the news in a way that makes the audience come to the same conclusion at the same time as Buffy, Genius! A few problems with the episode I read that originally they planned to get Tara to visit Willow instead of Cassie but decided against it because the writers didn't want the evil villain to be the last time we saw Tara which I thought was a huge mistake it would be awesome to see them go to that extreme and seeing Tara evil like in the video game would be awesome. Also they wanted to get Jesse (Eric Balfor) from the 1st two episodes to visit Xander, his best friend who died at the start and was never mentioned again which I think explains Xander's prejudice against vampires how he never warmed to Angel or Spike, having him return would be awesome and i would have loved to see that scene would be so interesting because Xander doesn't get that much male fellow characters that are the same as him, Giles-too old Spike-too...well spike, I didn't like how they killed Jonathon with all he's been through over the Series I think he deserved to get a better exit like giving his life to save another you know something heroic or at least have Buffy and her crew Mourn him even a little I think he deserved that, Something occurred to me in this episode when Buffy was saying to Holden how she's sorry but she can't let him leave, she can be very prejudice you know for a woman who seems so quick to forgive her friends when they kill people Willow, Anya, Spike, Angel, Faith and Andrew she kills vampires as soon as they rise people that were innocent victims she doesn't give them a chance just kills them because there vampires and in her eyes all vampires are evil, Kinda like Hitler and the Jews in that respect I'm not saying that she should set them all free because yeah a lot of them will kill but her ethnic cleansing isn't the answer these things haven't killed anybody (yet) maybe never even harmed anybody but she will protected her friends that have put more people in the ground than Smallpox.

Don't get me wrong i love Buffy Its been my favourite show since i was 7 and always will be but you get older little things seem to occur to you that haven't before.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Conversations With Dead People is MUCH better than the usual BtVS conversations with live people.

8/10
Author: s k from United States
9 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The best episode so far in an otherwise disappointing Season 7.

The intro scene, playing Angie Hart's "Blue" -- is a nice touch, and something that had been missing from too many previous episodes this season.

Fascinating exchange in the graveyard between Buffy and a vampire -- a former high school classmate of Buffy's, Holden Webster. Buffy lies down in the cemetery while the guy, Holden, psychoanalyzes her. At one point he says to her: "Buffy...I'm here to kill you...not to judge you". That's pretty funny. Additionally, her disclosure -- "I didn't want to be loved...I wanted to be punished. I wanted to hurt, like I thought I deserved.", right after she acknowledges that Spike loved her, in his own sick, soulless way, is arguably the most insightful and honest thing to ever cross her lips. It sheds a tremendous light onto the whole "rape" scene in "Seeing Red". The problem with Buffy's great insight is it's followed almost immediately by another disclosure -- that she feels both inferior AND superior to her friends/lovers. And that strikes at the heart of the problem with the Buffy character in general -- she's not of/in this world in ANY way. She is totally alone. But instead of really projecting that image of The Slayer, the series tries to make her all cutesy and lovable. And that thin veneer rubs off very quickly.

The other sub-plots of this episode include:

1. Andrew and Jonathan return to Sunnydale and uncover the Hellmouth seal, after which Andrew stabs Jonathan.

2. Dawn sees a vision of Joyce in the living room after she appears to have vanquished some sort of demon spirit. Joyce tells Dawn that Buffy will not choose her at some point down the road, for some unnamed task.

3. Willow encounters Cassie in the college library. At first it seems as if Cassie is acting as a medium to communicate messages from Tara to Willow. Then Cassie tells Willow that the best thing for her to do is to commit suicide so she can be with Tara and not destroy the world. Cassie then states that SHE'S the "thing beneath" that will devour everything.

All in all -- THIS is what makes the BtVS series interesting. And THIS is what's been missing for quite some time now.

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