"Hell's Bells" is the sixteenth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 116th in the series. Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner and directed by David Solomon, it originally broadcast on March 5, 2002 on the UPN network.
Buffy and Willow are forced to confront the horror that is their bright green bridesmaid dresses and talk about the rehearsal dinner from the night before. It was explained that Anya's guests are circus people, which explains their very odd appearances; surprisingly, the Harris family bought it. Willow has the honor of best man and Buffy, Dawn, and Tara are bridesmaids. Anya hugs both girls in excitement about their gowns, which she of course loves.
Xander tries to get dressed with his family and Anya's demon guests invading his apartment. Xander's parents arrive: Mrs. Harris rants about not being in the wedding pictures, and Mr. Harris expresses his distaste for the circus people on Anya's side. Xander's cousin Carol asks Xander if Anya's demon guest Krelvin would be interested in dating her. Outside on the streets of Sunnydale, an old man appears out of thin air and walks off purposefully.
Buffy forces Xander into his cummerbund and works on his bow tie while offering her happy wishes to Xander on his special day. Tara and Willow button Anya into her dress while the bride-to-be rehearses her vows, excitedly talking about how happy she is. Xander's uncle Rory shows off his "date" to Dawn, but his date is actually just one of the caterers. D'Hoffryn arrives along with Halfrek and Dawn greets them at the door. D'Hoffryn hands a box with his tentacled wedding present to Dawn.
Dawn continues to mingle through the crowd and encounters Spike with a goth date. Finally ready, Buffy and Xander proceed toward the crowd of mingling guests while reviewing the tasks necessary to keep Xander's parents out of trouble. Xander greets people and is suddenly assaulted by people complaining about problems. Xander's drunken father offers a toast to the waiting wedding attendees and insults the demons on Anya's side of the "family." Clem and another demon talk about how annoying the man is, but before a fight can break out between Mr. Harris and one of the demons, Buffy pulls the drunk man away.
The old man in a trench coat drags Xander away from the others and explains that he is Xander Harris from the future, and the wedding cannot take place. As proof, he shows the younger Xander a crystal ball that will show Xander his future. In a vision, Xander sits watching TV, yelling at Anya while their son runs around teasing Anya's part-demon daughter. Anya explains that she's going to make money while he sits around wounded and worthless. An argument breaks out as they talk about how he got injured helping Buffy, although that didn't save her life. Xander then sees himself with Anya and their two now-teenage kids eat at a restaurant while the teens fight and Anya bitterly notes Xander's drinking.
Years later, in their kitchen, Anya yells at Xander for ruining her life and blames him for her misery. He yells back, raising a frying pan - but the vision of the future abruptly ends as he hurls the pan at her. Xander, shocked by the visions, is warned by the old man not to marry Anya.
Buffy finds Spike alone and the two talk about the wedding and Spike's attempt to make her jealous with his date. After he finds that his efforts worked, Spike realizes it's best to just leave and takes his date away.
Willow runs into Xander in the kitchen and offers the final "best man" talk then leaves him to practice his vows. Anya continues to go over her vows in front of Tara, who advises against saying "sex poodle." As the music begins, Buffy arrives to get Anya, but Willow pulls her out of the room and breaks the news that Xander is gone. Stalling while Willow looks for Xander, Buffy uses the excuse that the minister is also a doctor and the ceremony will be delayed while he performs an emergency c-section.
Anya tries her vows one more time while elsewhere, Xander walks away in the rain. Mr. Harris and Mrs. Harris head back to the bar, complaining about Anya ruining the wedding. Buffy tries to stall the crowd with charades and juggling as Dawn chats outside with a teenage demon and both compare their embarrassing family and friends. Impatient, Anya heads out towards the wedding crowd, determined to get on with the wedding. The news that Xander is gone is accidentally spilled to Anya as Dawn talks to the demon teen and Anya freaks out.
Mr. Harris and other demons begin to argue and then a huge fight breaks out between the two sides of the wedding guests. Tara gets caught up in the battle, but Willow rescues her. Cousin Carol directs Anya to the man in the trench coat and Anya talks to him about what he did to scare Xander off. She finds that the man is really a demon she cursed many years ago who seeks revenge against her. He showed Xander false images about his future to ruin Anya's wedding.
She begins to cry and the demon strikes out at her, prompting Buffy to get involved. Buffy starts to attack the demon and Xander arrives to help save Anya. Anya explains to Xander that he saw only lies in those visions, but Xander isn't exactly relieved. Buffy and Xander finish the demon off and the crowd cheers. Fighting continues, but Anya breaks it up and everyone returns to his or her seats. Xander and Anya talk privately before the ceremony and Xander explains that he can't marry her.
Motivated by the fear of turning into an abusive drunk like his father, Xander refuses to allow himself the opportunity to marry Anya and hurt her in that way. Tearing up, Anya tries to convince him otherwise but fails, and Xander leaves her. She then walks down the aisle alone.
Buffy, Willow, and Dawn sit around at the house and talk about what happened with Xander and Anya. They feel sorry for both of them and wonder where Xander is. Meanwhile, Xander checks into a motel by himself. Anya sits alone in the dark until D'Hoffryn offers her sympathy, comfort, and her job as a vengeance demon back.
- Willow considers wearing the traditionally burlap with blood larva for a bridesmaid's dress. Anya first mentioned this in "Wrecked."
- Anya's wedding dress is seen again in a flashback in the episode "Selfless," wearing it in the musical number "Mrs."
- Xander's uncle, Rory, scares a woman at the wedding by informing her that a moose head on the wall is stuffed incorrectly. In "The Dark Age," Xander mentioned that his uncle Rory is a taxidermist.
- In the wedding, Clem is sitting among Xander's guests. They recently met each other in episode "Older and Far Away."
- After Willow and Xander see each other in formal wear, she jokes that it's a good thing she realized she was gay. This refers to a previous occasion where she and Xander couldn't resist each other in formal wear and shared an illicit kiss ("Homecoming").
- Buffy will show her juggling skills again during her housewarming party in Freefall, Part One.
- Buffy displays fondness for Anya and Xander's relationship, stating that "it's like a light at the end of her long, dark, nasty tunnel." She had acted similarly protective of them in "Triangle," declaring that they "can't break up" and "have a miraculous love."
- After Willow expressed excitement in "As You Were" for seeing Tara at the wedding, their relationship indeed continues to mend.
- When fighting with the demon Stewart, Buffy rips her dress to enable her to kick. Buffy encountered the same problem in "Flooded" when fighting the M'Fashnik while wearing a long skirt, which she ripped with a letter opener.
- When Xander kills the demon, Willow asks "Is anyone else waiting for it to go poof?" This echoes her exact words from the opening of "The Wish," which was Anya's first appearance on the show.
- In her final scene in this episode, Buffy wears a t-shirt saying "I survived" with a picture of a winged creature on it. This could be a reference to the dragon we see in "The Gift."
- Anya becomes a vengeance demon again, after being stripped of her powers in "The Wish." She'll become mortal again in "Selfless."
- Stewart Burns
- Alexander Harris
- Anthony Harris
- Carol Harris
- Jessica Harris
- Josh Harris (Only in visions)
- Karen Harris
- Rory Harris
- Sara Harris (Only in visions)
- Hymen (Only mentioned)
- Anya Jenkins
- Tara Maclay
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Yekk (Only mentioned)
- Unidentified caterer girl
- Unidentified demon teen
- Unidentified tentacle demon (Hell's Bells)
- Unidentified vengeance demon I (Hell's Bells)
- Unidentified vengeance demon II (Hell's Bells)
- Wedding present
Organizations and titles
- Stewart Burns, smashed with a pillar by Xander.
Behind the scenes
- The title is the same as the AC/DC song "Hells Bells" (1980).
- According to Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Anya's reference to herself as a "sex poodle" was a reference to colleague Jane Espenson, who had been using the name herself.
- Amber Benson said in an interview to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine that "I'm the biggest klutz on the set. Remember Emma [Caulfield] in that wedding dress? I got that dress off of her at least four times, because I'd be following her and I'd step on the dress and she'd be pulling it back up. But she looked gorgeous in that dress."
- Sarah Michelle Gellar displays her real-life talent for juggling in this episode.
- On his previous appearance in the Buffyverse, in the Angel episode "I Fall to Pieces," Andy Umberger played the controlling surgeon Ronald Meltzer. In this episode, as D'Hoffryn, he tells Anya her problem was that he let Xander control her.
- Dawn: "I thought Xander and Anya couldn't afford flowers."
- Willow: "Giles sent 'em. Aren't they gorgeous?"
- Dawn: "Yeah. I wish Giles was here."
- Willow: "Me too. And I'm sure he'd much rather be here than fighting that nasty demon—"
- Dawn: "Da-e-mon. In England it's daemon."
- Willow: "Daemon, too right. But Giles's got responsibilities. And so Anya and Xander have flowers. And flowers. And more flowers. Ooh, it's going to be so pretty."
Pop culture references
- Willow questions if she shouldn't be "all Marlene Dietrich-y in a dashing tuxedo number." This is a reference to the film Morocco (1930), in which the actress performs a song dressed in a man's tuxedo and kisses another woman.
- Mr. Harris mockingly says to one of the guests, "I'm sure you come from a long line of geeks." This is a reference to the older definition of geek, that of a circus freak, particularly one who would bite the heads off of live chickens.
- D'Hoffryn greets Dawn mentioning Hymen, the god of marriage ceremonies in the Greek mythology, inspiring feasts and songs.
- Dawn tells Buffy that Spike's date is "a Manic-Panicked freak," in reference to the Manic Panic hair coloring brand.
- In Xander's vision, he mentions Anya owning a pink car after she says she's doing a make-over party. The cosmetics company Mary Kay famously gives a pink Cadillac XT5 to its "Top performing Independent Sales Directors."
- Thomas Wanker — original score
- This episode was nominated for three Emmy Awards, the most in the show's history:
- Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series
- Outstanding Makeup for a Series (Prosthetic)
- Outstanding Makeup for a Series (Non-prosthetic)
- Armenian: "ատանայական զանգեր" (Instructional Calls)
- Czech: "Pekelné zvony" (Hell's Bells)
- Finnish: "Paholaisen hääkellot" (Devil's Wedding Bells)
- French: "La Corde au Cou" (The Noose around the Neck)
- German: "Höllische Hochzeit" (Hellish Wedding)
- Hungarian: "Hell's Bells" (Hell's Bells)
- Italian: "Le Campane dell'Inferno" (The Hell's Bells)
- Japanese: "結婚式" (Wedding)
- Polish: "Piekielne Wesele" (Hellish Wedding)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "O Casamento" (The Wedding)
- Romanian: "Hell's Bells" (Hell's Bells)
- Russian: "Дьявольские колокола" (Hell's Bells)
- Spanish (Latin America and Spain): "Las Campanas del Infierno" (The Hell's Bells)
- David Solomon and Rebecca Rand Kirshner provided the audio commentaries for this episode.
- This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Xander DVD.
- A Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figure was based on Anya in this episode.
|D'Hoffryn: "Ah. Hymen's greetings."|
|D'Hoffryn: "Hymen, the God of Matrimony. His salutations upon you. May the love we celebrate today avoid an almost inevitable decline."|
|Anya: "What's wrong?"|
|Buffy: "Nothing. Nothing's wrong. It's just, um, the... The minister! He had to go perform an emergency... C-section."|
|Anya: "A C-section?"|
|Buffy: "Yeah. You know, he's not just a minister, he's a doctor. He's like, half-minister, half-doctor. A minitor. Not, of course, to be confused with a minotaur! Because he's all, you know, man, this doctor-minister-man. No bull parts, whatsoever."|
|Old Xander: "I'm you from the future."|
|Xander: "Oh, from the future! For a minute, I thought you were a nut ball, but now that you're from the future..."|
|Xander: "It's dead."|
|Willow: "Is anyone else waiting for it to go poof? Maybe we can cover it with flowers."|
|Anya: "I, Anya, want to marry you, Xander, because I love you and I'll always love you. Before I knew you, I was, like a completely different person. Not even a person, really. And I had seen what love could do to people. And it was hurt and sadness. Alone was better. And then suddenly there was you, and you knew me, you saw me, and it was this... thing. You make me feel safe and warm. So I get it now. I finally get love, Xander. I really do."|
- "Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 Episode 16: Hell's Bells Online (2002)." TV Guide. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
- Rebecca Rand Kirshner. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Sixth Season on DVD; DVD commentaries for the episode "Hell's Bells." [DVD]. 20th Century Studios, May 25, 2004.
- The Slayer Collection: Welcome to the Hellmouth. Titan Comics, August 19, 2015.
- Paul Ruditis and Allie Costa, The Watcher's Guide, Volume 3. Simon Spotlight Entertainment, July 2004.
- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Television Academy. Retrieved on June 29, 2019.