“Selfless”, the seventh season Buffy episode, is quite the contradiction with the name. It’s all about Anya being a Vengeance Demon and not enjoying it, Buffy needing to do her job and kill her, Xander wanting to protect her and Willow getting D’Hoffryn involved. Everyone appears to be being ’selfless’, but is that really the case? Anya is hurt, she became a Vengeance Demon again, purely out of selfishness. She also took back what she did in the episode to kill an entire fraternity, to rid herself of the horrible taste of mortality she had left over from being human. Sure, she felt pain for the people she killed, but she did it for herself.
The only one that was really clearly selfish was Xander. He still loves Anya and doesn’t want Buffy to kill her, so he tries to find her to talk and figure out another way to resolve the pesky problem of vengeance.
Buffy claims to be doing this because it’s her job, because she is the law and she draws the line when no one else can. She’s overexpressing her power, and I felt there may have been some residual anger from when she had to kill Angel AND when she saw Spike and Anya together.
Willow was pretty clear with her selfishness as well. She reached out a hand to help Anya, but Anya didn’t need to be helped. She was doing what she wanted someone to do for her whenn she was falling off the edge less than a year ago. The fact was that Willow and Anya are two different people. Willow has an addictive personality and let the magic devour her and her anger took over. She felt no pain. Anya became a demon by choice. She was hurt and angry and turned to vengeance as solace. But later, she felt the hurt she was causing and was strong enough to give it up on her own, with no help from the Scoobies.
I loved the episode, though. With the song break from Anya in the middle after Buffy stabbed her with a sword.
Thematically, all the characters are extremely selfish. It’s a wonder they stayed friends for so long. In the beginning, while still in high school, Buffy protected her friends mostly selflessly. It wasn’t until she began realizing her power and importance that she began being selfish with it. She even said that if she had known then what she knew now, she would have sacrificed Dawn to save the world instead of herself. Each character in their development has a selfish streak, but that makes them loveable and easily relateable.