I don't want to save you from this future, Buffy. I want to show it to you.
The Temporal Event
Willow: "It's sort of the opposite of an echo."
"Echo is something you experience all the time. If you shout into a well or a canyon, the echo comes back a moment later. The echo occurs because some of the sound waves in your shout reflect off of a surface (either the water at the bottom of the well or the canyon wall on the far side) and travel back to your ears. The length of time between the moment you shout and the moment that you hear the echo is determined by the distance between you and the surface that creates the echo." - Here's a helpful graphic of how a sound echo travels.
Sequence of events:
- Sound waves are emitted from the person (point of origin)
- The sound waves bounce off a reflective surface (reflective frequency)
- The reflected sound waves return to the person (point of origin)
What is "sort of the opposite of an echo" for this temporal event?
- Temporal waves are emitted from this event. (point of origin)
- The temporal waves travel fluidly through time and are reflected at specific points along the chronological timestream into the past and future. (reflective frequency)
- The temporal waves then reverberate backwards to the source of the wave. (point of origin)
Because this is a temporal wave, these "ripples" create portals at the points along the timestream where the waves are reflected and reverse their trajectory. The portals create a pathway between the point of origin (the temporal event) and the point where the echoing wave are reflected.
Imagine the motion of these waves flowing outward from the central event, vibrating into the past and future until the waves hit the correct frequency at designated points along the timestream. As this frequency is reached and the portals are created, the timestream folds together like an accordian and bridges the time difference between these points (the origin and the reflective point) that share the exact same location.
This event is "completely fluid temporally, but deadlocked spatially." Meaning that this event reverberates throughout time, but it occurs in only one place - on the rooftop of 53rd and Lex. The time is fluid, the location is fixed.
Two Methods of Time Travel
There are two methods of time travel used in Time of Your Life.
Method #1 - Body exchange. This is similar to how Buffy traveled to meet the Shadowmen in Get it Done. She was exchanged for a demon stooge Future Willow sent back into the past and forcibly switched with Buffy.
Method #2 - Portals opened by the Temporal Event. This seemingly opens of it's own accord in Buffy's timeline during #19 and in Fray's timeline during #19.
How are these methods shown to be different?
1) Method #1 - the body exchange, is incredibly painful. Buffy explains the 'Pain. New pain. Most pain." Even the demon exchanged to bring Buffy forward hisses out, "Hhuurrrrsssss..." => Hurts.
2) Method #1 - instantaneous and no visible portal opens, the panel goes completely white and emits a 'Fwwit' noise.
3) Method #1 - is involuntary. Buffy had no choice in her journey. It more closely resembled her teleportation to Gigi's than her willingly walking through a portal or even being sucked into a portal like Willow in Long Way Home Part 3.
4) Method #2 - no incredible pain is evident with Buffy and Willow both crossing through the temporal portal.
5) Method #2 - a visible portal opens and it emits a yellow-ish light with no accompanying noise that Willow does not completely transfer her from the past, she merely reaches through the portal to pull Buffy back. Willow's lower half of her body is still in the 21st century while the upper half is in the 23rd and pulling Buffy back through.
6) Method #2 - was a voluntary journey. Buffy and Willow chose to enter the portal to cross the 200 years of time.
Willow: "Tonight. The princess leaves her kingdom for the forest of the now."
During this scene, Future Willow is holding a goblet with a strange mist within it. Willow is doing something magical with this goblet.
Buffy's time travel journey (not the time she travels) but the time spent in the future and the time she's missing from the past all occur within one 24 hour period. Between midnight and midnight, the magic hour.
Buffy's Present Midnight - Buffy, Willow and Kennedy are on the rooftop of the 53rd and Lex high-rise moments before midnight.
Fray's Future Midnight - Fray is lured to 53rd and Lex by the Watcher's Diaries.
Fray: "The books talk about this place. The last girl came here and was transformed, they says. They say the madwoman's power reached through the ages and changed her."
We know from Present Willow's interrogation of the demon "someone enlists our big ugly demon friend to take down the slayer. I'm guessing this was meant to draw her out." Who did this? Future Willow enlisted this demon to draw Fray to the rooftop and then exchange the demon to bring Buffy to the future. Take this further back though, because Future Willow ensured that Fray would *be* on this rooftop by planting that information in the Watcher's Diaries and then even further back, having the vampires reveal her identity to Fray in the flying car ambush. In order to manipulate Fray into hunting down the "madwoman", Future Willow allies herself with Harth who is Fray's obsession ("Where is Harth?!" with her eyes popping with rage). By allying herself with Harth, she's made Fray determined to hunt her down.
Fray discovers this Watcher library in Tales of the Slayers when she's led by the demon monkey Gates, who steals her scythe and leads her a merry chase here where she sits down and reads all the Watcher's accounts she can for the first time.
Willow is already aware of Fray's Watcher library and is no doubt responsible for the upkeep of these accounts and also for their alterations. She is connected to the books that lead Fray to the madwoman and 53rd and Lex. This library is connected to the demon monkey, Gates, who deliberately brings Fray to it in Tales of the Slayers. Gates *belongs* to Willow.
Willow arranges for Fray to be on the rooftop of 53rd and Lex, then uses Saga Vasuki to bring her past self and Buffy to the rooftop of 53rd and Lex 200 years in the past. The Buffy-Demon body exchange that Future Willow mystically causes occurs exactly 24 hours before the temporal portal will open between Buffy and Fray's time.
Buffy and Fray fight and eventually realize they need to find out what's really going on. They go to Gunther for answers and then Buffy finally begins to realize "her failure". This is the beginning of what Willow wanted.
Future Willow: "It's starting. She's starting to feel the weight of it. Of the world's loss. Of her failure."
This demonstrates two things: 1) Willow is still strongly connected to Buffy the way she was in Long Way Home when she channeled her power into her "best friend" and 2) Willow wants Buffy to see this future and to understand how the Slayer line has faltered.
Willow's brought Buffy to the future to make her realize this. When Buffy is asking Fray about how many slayers there are in this future world and how they're organized, in the background are fliers on the brick wall that say three times in big, bold red: "THIS WARN YOU". This future is a warning to Buffy that will guide her actions when she returns to the past.
Willow then has Harth send his vampires on raiding parties in the Uppers, which is unusual as "lurks don't usually track that high". This draws Fray and Buffy to the attack where Fray dives in while Buffy follows the lurks back to their headquarters. Willow is lying in wait for Fray, she was *expecting* Buffy to follow the lurks while Fray saved the innocents. This allows Willow to show Fray a disturbing vision of Buffy returning to the past and destroying the world as Fray knows it. Willow and Fray become uneasy allies in this moment.
Fray jumps Buffy while she's distracted talking to Erin and they tie her up in the Watcher Library. When Buffy wakes up, she sees Future Willow for the first time. Future Willow explains what will happen if Buffy gets back in time to go through the portal to return home, so now Buffy *knows* how to get back to her time. Seemingly out of nowhere, Gates unties Buffy. But remember that Gates is tied to the library and the library is tied to Willow. Willow *tells* Gates to untie Buffy so she can escape.
Meahwhile, as Harth arrives with his gang ready to kill everyone he taunts Willow for being to weak and unable to stop his army by herself. She smiles and taunts him, "Don't plan to." Gunther arrives for revenge because Willow made sure Harth would be neutralized by sending him to attack Gunther in #18 - "Harth, you should be careful when you choose your enemies." Now Harth is out of the way. Buffy is running to return to 53rd and Lex, Fray is there waiting for her to begin the battle royale and Willow is waiting and watching.
Buffy wins the fight and turns to the opening portal only to be blocked by future Willow. Willow can't let Buffy through "not just yet...you're not done here." Buffy tries to talk Willow down but then reminds Willow that she's "not stupid" because she finally understands what Willow meant about the important thing about death being "who kills you." Buffy asks Willow "why does it have to be me [who kills you]?" And Willow merely answers that "it's a long story." Buffy stabs Willow with the Scythe and a huge explosion of lighting and magic BOOM! into the air. Present Willow comes halfway through the portal blindfolded to pull Buffy back into their Present time.
So why does it have to be Buffy who kills Willow? Willow has to die in this manner because her death is the temporal event that creates this portal that exists immediately before and after the release of huge amounts of energy. Remember that the temporal event has to happen on the rooftop of 53rd and Lex. The event is "deadlocked spatially" and this huge release of energy flows through time, creating the portal that bridges the timeline between Buffy's Present and Fray's future. Willow has to die to create the temporal event that sends Buffy back to the past. Buffy going to the future causes Fray's future to come into being.
Future Willow: "What happens in your time will cause your time to come, do you see?"
Buffy coming to the future is what causes the future to come into being. Buffy seeing the future causes the future to occur. Future Willow couldn't just send Buffy back with the body exchange form of time travel because the ripples of the temporal event already existed in Future Willow's past. The Temporal Event had already happened just as it was being made to happen.
Fray and her sister embrace as they realize their world hasn't ended. But the question of whether her world is really still the same has been expressed by Buffy herself: "So what: Future? Alternate, much cooler universe?" But then she answers her own question: "No, yeah, Willow gave that lecture -- this is a future thing."
So which is it? Is Fray's future still on the same timestream as Buffy's present? I think yes. But it's open for debate. We don't have that answer yet, but I believe we *will* as Season 8 continues.