Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most iconic television shows to ever grace people’s screens. It was truly a trailblazer of a series, and Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the embodiment of a powerful role idol for young women and men alike. When looking back on the series, though, there’s one episode that really stands out. On a personal note, I had to put the show aside for two weeks after this one, because my mind was so blown. We’re talking about Season 6’s “Normal Again.” It turns out the ending almost became canon and connected to X-Men. Here’s how.
The Season 6 episode “Normal Again” implied that Buffy’s whole world could all be a dream
To refresh your memory, Season 6 had a lot going on. That was the season when Buffy’s friends brought her back to life against her will after she sacrificed herself for Dawn. It’s also when Buffy and Spike get together, the musical episode happens, and Dark Willow is the Big Bad in the end.
“Normal Again” is Episode 17 and premiered in 2002. While Buffy is fighting off a demon, per usual, the monster poisons her with something that makes her have vivid, terrifying dreams. In these visions, Buffy is in a mental hospital, where the doctors and her parents (who are both alive) tell her she actually just woke up from a hallucination that she’s a vampire slayer. For six years, Buffy has imagined herself in Sunnydale, fighting vamps and demons, and that, in actuality, she’s stuck in a mental hospital.
Now, this seems like a very powerful spell or poison, right? Nothing too out of the ordinary compared to other obstacles Buffy has faced. Except, she starts to convince herself that the hospital is the real world and her life in Sunnydale is fake. And the real kicker? Buffy chooses to save her friends in Sunnydale, rendering her hospital self comatose, for good. The ending shot is of her parents grieving over their catatonic daughter in that hospital.
Joss Whedon almost made the X-Men’s Cyclops related to Buffy and would have confirmed Buffy was imagining the entire series
This episode is never brought up again. It’s never revealed if Buffy truly was making everything up and living inside her head throughout the series. The show also never reassures the audience that Sunnydale was the “real” choice.
While it can easily be pushed aside, it is something that can freak viewers out too. And at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, Joss Whedon, the creator and showrunner, revealed that he intended to make it canon that Buffy was hallucinating in the hospital during the whole series. And he was going to do it in an X-Men comic.
CinemaBlend reported that Whedon, who wrote parts of the Astonishing X-Men comics, said he wanted to make Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, related to Buffy Summers. They shared the same last name, and while he wasn’t going to explicitly name her, Whedon wanted to put a reference in there where Scott has a cousin in a mental institution. Can you guess why she’s in there?
Because she thinks she’s a demon hunter.
CinemaBlend reported that Whedon couldn’t find a way to put it in the comics. But this means fans were immensely close to getting a definitive answer to whether “Normal Again” was all a dream or not.
In the end, Whedon left it open-ended for the audience to choose
The director for the episode, Rick Rosenthal, said in the DVD commentary that the end of the episode was meant to make viewers think. They purposely left it open so that the viewer could decide if Buffy was real or not, within the show. And Whedon has always been a big supporter of “Normal Again” never having an answer.
How important it is in the scheme of the Buffy narrative is really up to the person watching. If they decide that the entire thing is all playing out in some crazy person’s head, well, the joke of the thing to us was it is, and that crazy person is me… Personally, I think it really happened.Joss Whedon, The New York Times 2003
Others who worked on the show, like Marti Noxon, were more on the side of denying that Buffy’s hospital hallucinations were real.
“It was a fake-out; we were having some fun with the audience,” Noxon said. “I don’t want to denigrate what the whole show has meant. If Buffy’s not empowered then what are we saying? If Buffy’s crazy, then there is no girl power; it’s all fantasy. And really the whole show stands for the opposite of that, which is that it isn’t just a fantasy.”
While it’s always fun to have a sort of interactive element with a show, “Normal Again” delivered the “what if” aspect so well that you truly don’t know what to believe. With the X-Men comic connection never made canon, you can just throw it aside as another demon’s trick.