The cast of Buffy is reunited in an Entertainment Weekly spread for the show’s 20th anniversary. Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz are on the cover, and if you squint, it’s not so far from the shots of them back in the day, right? When they appeared everywhere looking like they were dying to get naked?

(…Okay. It’s a little different. I love how they’re swathed in white now… it’s the more reasonable decision. Like that thing where your mother used to say, “Black is such an aging colour”, and you retorted “Yes, that’s the point, MOM.” I know it wasn’t just me…)

There’s a way better shot than this cover, of the whole cast in a graveyard, that I will savor in detail when I get my copy. Even though it makes me a little bit grumpy. I shouldn’t be, but I am. This kind of themed, glamorous, all-cast-on-deck shoot is commonplace these days, but I feel like it didn’t happen back in Buffy’s heyday. Yes, there were shoots with the hot young stars, but it was always about the young women, often in MAXIM-wear, and not the actual subject matter of Buffy. Even though the show was a success, there always seemed to be an effort to distance the beautiful, leather-clad, nubile stars from “Oh right, this is a barrier-crossing genre show that gives voices to unlikely people.” I know some people got it, but it’s rich to see SO much love given to Buffy now, given that it was highly sniffed at back in the day.

All that means is fans like me, who grew up on it, are the ones who get to make editorial decisions now. But it’s hard to let go of the bruise, because it wasn’t so long ago that saying you enjoyed BtVS was akin to admitting you had no taste – even though we fans knew better. It’s not unlike the dismissive way Big Little Lies has been written about, despite its A-plus-list stars, director, and writers, just because it has the audacity to be about the inner lives of mothers and women. Entertainment Weekly has always been supportive of BtVS, but sometimes I feel like it only got praise from other outlets once Joss Whedon became synonymous with the Avengers.

But! It wouldn’t be a reunion without some side-eye or lack thereof:

Watching the little featurette video I became struck by something. Who’s missing from this picture?

The correct answer is ‘A few people’. While Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted that Anthony Stewart Head was doing a play in London, I have found no such explanation for the absence of Eliza Dushku. Faith has always been my personal favourite, so I am bummed, but I sort of get that she wasn’t a core 7-year Scooby, so if Dushku couldn’t make the shoot, for example, I think the show must go on – and given that Dushku admitted she battled drug and alcohol addiction for years, maybe it was about self-care. 

But which cast member is missing from this picture even though we know they were there, because we saw them in the video? 

You guys.

Who gets the whole cast of BtVS together in a room and doesn’t include Xander?

Unfortunately, in this case, I think the answer is ‘The whole cast of BtVS”. I don’t know for sure what situation went down that ensured Nicholas Brendon wasn’t in the large cast shot, sitting on the other side of Alyson Hannigan as one of the core three. But we can safely assume it wasn’t another commitment, given that he showed up for the shoot, yet only appears ‘talking’ to Emma Caulfield and Joss. You can slice it any way you want to, but not being in the group shot means someone—or many someones—harbor enough bad blood that it was easier not to include him in the group discussion.

Which makes it like most families, I guess. Tricky stuff doesn’t go away just because time passes… or sometimes, someone you love disappoints you. So if you want to make sense of it, it’s another enduring Buffy lesson—you can love someone, and still realize you’re better off not being in the same room at the same time.

I’ll be over here trying to figure out which episode captures these twin emotions of nostalgia and nihilism… I know there is one.