Mon
Jun 18 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

(Apologies for posting this out of order, everyone. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but as I was on the road and down with a cold a couple weeks ago, the odds seem good that whatever it was, it’s down to me. Sorry.)

In theory, things are bright for Buffy Summers as “Lover’s Walk” opens: she’s aced her SAT exams, to widespread (and perhaps slightly insulting) cries of “Holy s#@%!” There’s a slender prospect that she can get into a good school, one that places minimal value on death sports as an extracurricular, and that Faith could maybe hold down the Hellmouth if she does go off to get an education.

The Mayor’s not really on anyone’s radar yet, so everyone’s daring Buffy to dream: go to college, train for something other than monster population control, get a life that isn’t all about death, death, and the occasional evisceration. Joyce and Giles are united in urging her to get a start on a quasi-normal existence. In service of demonstrating this commitment to a proper work-life balance, Giles then breaks off the conversation and bolts to the woods, to camp, meditate, be unavailable, and get up to who knows what other fun Watcher stuff. Or maybe he’s just off signing the lease on the creepy hotel the Watchers use as a trap in “Helpless.” Other things that are good in the life of Buffy: her boyfriend’s back and while there’s already been trouble over that, the two of them are starting to move past the whole “you’re dangerous, Angel, and I had to put you down like a rabid dog” issue. Sometimes these long-running relationship struggles have to be set aside. They’re oh so very last year, after all.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

But the idea that everything is coming up Buffy is all vapor, really, and we see it as soon as Spike rolls into town, drunk as drunk gets and with no plan at all. “Lover’s Walk” is Spike’s lone S3 appearance and it’s mostly a comic romp. He’s been dumped by Drusilla and, when he realizes Angel isn’t as dead as previously advertised, fixes on the idea of taking revenge on his sire. Through it all, he’s substantially defanged: he’s looking to give Angel boils or bad cable service. There’s no sign of all of William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayerzzz. . .  at least not until a drive-by encounter with Willow gives him what seems, to his drunken, love-bruised heart, like a better idea: ensorcel Dru.

Willow is messing around with love spell stuff, of course, because of her guilt over her ongoing tendency to end up in cheaty-pants kiss-fests with Xander. This is pretty her first attempt on BtVS to use magic as an easy way out of a problem: she wants to do a “delusting” (I love that word) so the two of them can get back on the monogamous and narrow. But Spike overhears the words “love spell” and naturally thinks “W00t!” Soon he’s eaten the magic shop owner, bashed Xander on the head and made off with both kids. Even as the Mayor and his doomed assistant decide to have Trick run Spike out of town on the sharp end of a stake, he’s alternately menacing Willow and pouring out his troubles to her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

This scene, between Spike and Willow, is superfantastic. Still drunk, he swings wildly between pathos and menace. It’s always funny when he sucks a woman into comforting him, but at the same time it’s undeniably creepy: the quicksilver turns to genuine threat are frightening and Alyson Hannigan’s terror is absolutely convincing. When she finally stands up to him: “There will be no bottle in face, no having of me of any kind,” it’s cheerworthy. (Interesting, too, that little whiff of foreshadowing that Spike might be inclined to a little bit of rape.) Boundaries firmly established, Willow sends Spike off to the store to pick up supplies. Instead he goes to Buffy’s house. (Does anyone know why? I mean, I love the Angel-Spike-Joyce scene, but why is Spike there? There’s an implication that Willow’s spell book might be at Chez Slay, but it’s wafer-thin. She had a spell book in the chem lab.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

Anyway, Spike cavorts behind Joyce, having his drunken taunty fun, until Buffy shows and gives Angel his invite back. The three of them negotiate a truce: they will all go get the spell stuff, Willow will do her thing and Spike will release their friends. And then the Mayor’s welcoming committee shows up. Battle ensues! It’s a fun fight, or at least Spike thinks it is. When he’s not dishing out damage, he’s offering BuffAngel a few home truths: you’re incapable of being friends, kids, he basically says. Get over the big pretense. By now, the clouds have rolled in completely. Oz and Cordelia catch Xandillow mating in captivity, and when Cordelia runs away she ends up speared on a hunk of rebar.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale

Buffy decides Spike is right and that she needs to give Angel his walking papers. By the end of the episode everyone’s betrayed, alone, sad or on the road, drunk, and singing Gary Oldman. The moral here might be “don’t cheat on your significant other, or ally with the Slayer against them.” Or possibly “TV relationships never last, folks, so don’t get too invested.” Maybe it’s just “Tune in next week for another thrilling episode!”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale


A.M. Dellamonica has a short story up here on Tor.com — an urban fantasy about a baby werewolf, “The Cage” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. She also has a second story up here called “Among the Silvering Herd.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
13 comments
Gardner Dozois
1. Gardner Dozois
Spike's return to Sunnydale, crashing through the WELCOME TO SUNNYDALE sign and tumbling drunk out of his car, is one of the great BUFFY moments. And yes, the scene between Spike and Willow, with its split-second shifts between pathos and menace, is very fine, good acting on the part of both actors as well as good writing. Spike is also very funny here throughout. In fact, in many ways, this is Spike's episode, a bravura multi-layer performance that calls for the actor to shift between many different Spikes in the course of the hour. This is one of the best of the comic episodes, but it also has a serious undercurrent, and Spike's speech to Buffy and Angel about what their relationship is really like is one of the great BUFFY speeches. I also found it very funny at the end when Spike shrugs and says, "Oh yeah, they're in the factory," where Buffy had guessed the captives would be a half-hour before, to Spike's indignant insistance that he wasn't stupid enough to hold them someplace so obvious.
Gardner Dozois
2. Dr. Thanatos
When watching the scene with Spike and Willow, I can't help but see the foreshadowing of next season's laugh-riot encounter between them in Willow's dorm room where she tries to console him about how "this happens to every monster" "I think you're very scary" and "maybe you could try to scare me again in a little while."

I love these little scenes starting with this one in S3 and occurring more and more where Spike uses Scoobies (much more so than the Buffster) to help frame some of his best comedic moments...
Gardner Dozois
3. sofrina
some of the best lines in the series: "does baby like his supper?! does baby like his supper?! does baby like his supper?!" and "i may be love's bitch, but at least i'm man enough to admit it." not to mention the truly frightening threats to willow and his crying on joyce's shoulder about drusilla.
Alyx Dellamonica
4. AMDellamonica
And just that simple, plaintive, "I'm so unhappy!" One could almost feel bad for Spike, if one chose.
Constance Sublette
5. Zorra
Surely Mr. Trick would recognize immediately that in the realm of chaos the faux UK street punk is the uptown ruler -- need him gone asap.

The timing in the writing and the delivery throughout this episode is all spark and sizzle.

One has to feel that Cordelia has a right to at least some of her issues around all the Scoobs. In hindsight we see the slightest of hints here and there that some other things may not be going so well for our Cordelia, leading to the prom dress arc.
Jack Flynn
6. JackofMidworld
Alyson Hannigan & James Marsters seem to have some really great moments throughout the whole series. I know some people don't like season 4 but the two of them have some GREAT scenes in that season (I'm fighting to urge to make quotes and add spoilers here but "The Initiative" has one of my favorite BtVS moments ever!)
Gardner Dozois
7. Alfvaen
I confess that I laughed out loud when we had the transition from Cordelia-on-the-rebar to the cemetery and the funeral...and then the Scoobies walking by saying, "So Cordy's gonna be okay?"
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
There was a bunch of good episodes this season but Spike is great in this one. And how many eps do you feel sorry for Cordy at the end? At least in Buffy..in Angel, there were quite a few where she was victim of the week.
Alyx Dellamonica
9. AMDellamonica
I agree, John--Cordy's life was no picnic. Then again, who has it good on the Hellmouth, really?
Emma Rosloff
10. emmarosloff
I have to agree that Spike steals the show, here (although Alyson Hanigan is a champ, as always). He manages to be both pathetic and terrifying, and you believe him wholeheartedly any which way he turns. What I love so much about him is that he was never meant to be anything more than a Season 2 baddie... but people loved him so much that they kept him on. My favorite characters are the ones who develop organically... not just the actor's performance of them (although that's a big part of it), but how the character fits into the story. I really get the sense that Joss was figuring out Spike's story as he went -- I could be wrong, but it feels very 'What if this happened to him...' over and over, and yet at each turn James Marsters makes it work so wonderfully well. Even say... Willow's arc, as well played as it was, felt premeditated, but Spike's did not... there's something really neat about that, given how much he changes over the course of both shows.

Another thing I love about this episode is its continuity. This is something Buffy did a lot, an episode would have a theme, threaded throughout -- this episode is all about relationships in conflict. We manage to visit Spike and Drusilla's relationship, Buffy and Angel's, Xander and Willow's and their relationships with their signifigant others. And on every front there's a signifigant shift. That's good writing.
Gardner Dozois
11. Gardner Dozois
The actor himself has said that he never knew when he showed up for work in the morning which Spike they'd want him to play that day--evil menace, reluctant good guy, comic relief, Dawn's big brother, Buffy's stalker...
Gardner Dozois
12. Jezebellydancer
I thought Willow deliberately told Spike her spellbook was at Buffy's probably thinking that then Buffy would know what Spike was up to and come and save her.

I love Spike in this episode. This maybe the episode where I really fell in love with him.
Alyx Dellamonica
16. AMDellamonica
Jezebellydancer, you may be right. Usually, though, when it's a ploy it's more obvious to the viewer.

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