Jan 28 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: There’s Something About Riley

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

Shiny focused Buffy is standing on a tomb, listening to the worms turn in one of the many Sunnydale graveyards as part of her all-new, all-slay commitment to excellence. It appears to be working out: she leaps down and stakes a vamp before it can even clear a grave. But she's not alone out there this evening: before she can go for the double, Riley whales on and stakes a second fangy attacker. Then Spike attacks the third.

Once this last vampire is, like his predecessors, dust, Spike tries to whip up a little trouble in BuffRileyland. He can't help it: he's not a Riley shipper, and that's how he deals with his pain. But neither of the humans is looking for an argument, even one about whether Riley should be patrolling alone anymore.

(It doesn't hurt that Riley was very competent and still stronger than your average human when he staked Bachelor Number Two.)

Spike, foolishly, monologues as they walk away: “I will know your blood, Slayer. I will make your neck my chalice and drink deep.” And—as is usual when he gets all pronounce-y—physical comedy ensues. He stumbles into an open grave. Grab a clue, Spike. All that cheap talk is just summoning up the banana peels.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

Apres credits, Willow and Buffy are debating French history and the role of vampirekind therein. It's a scholarly conversation, one that thoroughly delights Willow, and it leads them, naturally enough, to the soon-to-open, under-Giles-management New Improved Boogety Boogety Box. Giles's investment is already evolving into the official Scooby batcave, becoming a true replacement for the lost lamented Sunnydale High library. And the gang's all there! Anya's checking stock, Xander's building shelves, and Tara thinks the store should do Tarot readings, though she doesn't believe she has the skills to offer them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

Best of all, Buffy gets a danger room!  She's lavishly grateful to the Scooby guy contingent for building it. Riley jumps all over her, hoping for a test skirmish. Did I mention he's having an attack of the peppies?

No so Spike. He's watching TV when there's a knock at the crypt. It's Harmony. She's afraid Buffy is after her and will do anything for shelter. Now she's officially an aspirant to the Slayer-slaying title, she's also trying to learn to smoke.

The two of them bat around the prospect of murdering Buffy. He's still chipped, so Harmony's the one who would have to do all the heavy killing. Spike agrees to help with the thinking, though.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

I am right now imagining that it could have been nifty if Harmony had been able to transform herself into a legitimate Big Bad. Unlikely? Yeah. Hard sell? Totally. Could Joss and Co. have scripted something convincing? I believe they had the core storytelling talent. Then again, could Mercedes McNab have carried a Big Bad role?

We shall never know. Buffy will always have bigger problems than Harmony. Next scene, for example, as Dawn is telling their mother that every kid's dream is to make the substitute teacher cry, Joyce flakes out, asks who the Hellmouth Dawn thinks she is and then underlines her point with a big old dish-shattering faint.

Buffy and Riley rush to the hospital. Dawn's waiting, and we meet Ben the intern. At this point, the first time, we probably thought: “That doctor's got a name! He's going to die horribly and maybe get turned to a latex-faced creature of the night!” 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

Ben lent Dawn his stethoscope, which leads to her discovering that Riley has an impressive case of tachycardia and some Initiative-induced nosocomephobia, too. He refuses treatment, claiming his racing pulse is just an unimportant side effect of his having been a military lab rat for Whedon knows how many months. Joyce shows up with an invoice saying “We don't know what's wrong with you but it's probably nothing, or possibly supernatural, please leave all your money behind before you leave.” They all go home.

See? Trying to decide between obsessing about why Mom fainted and obsessing about whether your boyfriend's heart is about to explode is a way bigger problem than the undead mean girl from your incinerated high school. Buffy goes with the (slightly less unsettling, but more immediate) concern for Riley's health. What to do? It's a thorny problem.

Dawn suggests that she say something where the sekrit government listening devices will pick up the gist, and Buffy realizes this is a thoroughly outstanding idea. Does she thank her kid sister? No. But she tries it out, nonetheless. Soon Graham shows up, waving medical assistance at Riley, who fights him off, with bonus beatings for Graham's two Initiastooges.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

Reluctantly, Graham turns to Buffy. He tells her to bundle up Riley—since this is apparently beyond his abilities—and convey him to an operating theater. But Riley's hiding. Buffy then makes the mistake of asking Spike for help. 

What she says: “Here, defanged feral punk vamp, I offer you money. Please go find Riley.” 

What he hears: “Hey, there's a doctor in town who can de-chippify you!”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

So Spike zooms off to the neurology unit, where Graham is officially having a bad episode. He and Harmony grab the Initiadoctor and haul him off to an abandoned medical school to force him to restore Spike's homicidal mojo. 

Buffy doesn't know that. Down in the cave where she finally finds Riley, she learns he's afraid she won't want him anymore, once he's, you know, even more normal than ever before. She is deeply offended by this arguably true assertion, and tells him that if what she wanted was a monster, she'd be dating Spike.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind


She also points out she's gonna haul him to the doctor, like it or not. Sadly, of course, the doctor is busy performing brain surgery on Spike under duress. He has no clue how to get the chip out, so he's just faking it and hoping for the best.

On the face of it, this may seem like a dumb plan, but for once stalling works! BuffRiley show up, the chip's still implanted, and that's one saved doctor. (He was named, too, if you care.) Sparmony are forced to run for it. Riley goes under the knife.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

The outcome of the surgery is pretty much what Riley fears: he's a normal guy with a super-girlfriend and more stitches than ever before. When Buffy pecks him on the cheek and rushes off to check on her fainting mom, Graham takes a run at convincing Iowa he should return to the military fold.

Finally, for dessert, we get what looks like a very justified smackdown of Spike for his misbehavior. Buffy comes over to the crypt, all angry and ready to stake him. Spike rips his shirt off and begs her to do it, which leads, as it will, to kissing. She says she wants him. He says he loves her . . .

And then Spike wakes up, realizes just how very much he is, in fact, love's bitch, and we close on him bargaining with the universe: “No, please, no!”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Out of my Mind

“Out of my Mind” is one of those stories that is really just a collection of plot points connecting us to narratives in progress. Riley's meltdown throws a line back to season four, reminding us who he was and what he's given up; with Graham urging him to get a mission, and Xander gently trying to hint to Buffy that Riley is unhappy (all he manages to do is confuse Anya, in a very cute way) we can see his future coming together. Spike's doctor-menacing antics are similar. They are a consequence of the Initiative's activities in the previous year—and, of course, the chip is really the thing that gives him continued access to Team Slay. This is suddenly handy, now that he's realized he's in love with Buffy.

Finally, all this medical action introduces us to Ben, planting the seeds of his connection to Dawn. And at the center of it, tying it all together, is Joyce's collapse,  that first painful step down a very sad road.

Next: Where Little Siblings Come From

A.M. Dellamonica has kaboodles of fiction up here on! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales.

Now you can read her novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Gardner Dozois
1. Gardner Dozois
When we first were introduced to Ben, I thought he was going to be Buffy's new Love Interest, since Riley was clearly on the way out, which shows you how good a job they did faking me out.

Ironically, Riley IS too normal for Buffy; she really does "want a little monster in her man," as Spike tells Riley at one point, and before long she'll even be "dating" Spike.

We've discussed this before, but the fact that Spike falls in love with Buffy when he's still a "soulless" vampire turns everything the show had established about vampires on its ear, as does later Spike agreeing to help the Scoobies because Buffy would have wanted it that way, and agreeing to act as a protective Big Brother for Dawn, who he seems to develop genuine affection for (something else a soulless vampire shouldn't be able to do), as well as deciding he WANTS his soul back (rather than having it inflicted on him as a punishment, as Angel did) and going through a lot of agony and danger to get it. If, as the show had earlier established, the soul goes away when you become a vampire and you're possessed by a demon who possesses your memories, but you're not really you anymore, the "you" as you were being gone, none of this should have been possible. And it seems to me that Spike genuinely falls in love with Buffy, it's not just sexual attraction, as is demonstrated later when he has an opportunity to kill her but can't bring himself to do it, and later still when he changes the entire course and direction of his "life" (or unlife) because Buffy would have wanted it that way, at a time when she was dead and no self-serving calculation about her as a potential sexual partner could apply.
Gardner Dozois
2. adaptr
I remember when first seeing this episode that I could suddenly see where the whole Spuffy thing was going, and thinking: shirley they won't go there, will they ? They won't go there, won't they ? Oh please don't let them go there....

Boy, did they go there.

Not that the Spuffy relationship was all bad (it was certainly funny), but at this point, what we knew about Spike did not bode well for any future shenanigans.

'sFunny to look back and realize that Spike's vigil in S7 is still my favourite scene in the entire series.
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
I seem to remember somebody saying that becoming a vampire tended to bring out the extremist of whatever you were pre-undeath, and Dru specifically said that vampires can and do fall in love, although it never really seems to end well.

Wait...I was trying to remember when she said that, I thought it was season two but now I think that maybe it's later this season? Well, either way, we know that Spike's been in love with Dru for decades, to the point of trying to win her back with silly human wishiwashiness, and there were several vamps in Angel that brought quite a bit of love to the table, too. Plus, bloodsucker or not, I think we've all done something out of character in the name of love, right? Some of it could've been a mild reboot (a re-sandle, maybe?) of the vampire mythos, but, really, from a bloodsucking point of view, is trying to take care of your love interest's sister any worse than saying that you just love watching American Idol?
Gardner Dozois
4. Dr. Thanatos

Biting innocent young girls is one thing; plotting the destruction of the entire earth is henious.

But loving American Idol? Calling Mr. Pointy...
Emma Rosloff
5. emmarosloff
Not sure if Mercedes McNab could've pulled off a Big Bad role. Maybe Harmony develops some legitimate cred later down the line (in the comics), but the actress didn't seem to have the range. I did like that she got a chance to reform when she became Angel's secretary, though. That seemed more her speed.

On the BuffRiley front, I always loved the fact that Riley felt insecure in his masculinity around Buffy. It never felt cheesy or hard to believe that he was threatened by her prowess in battle. That's a testament to SMG, really -- she carries the role so well.

On the Spuffy front, I've always loved Spike, from the moment he arrived on the scene; even more once he's chipped. And as I've said in the past, I came into my first watch through of Buffy having only ever seen one episode of it -- the Musical. I remembered Spike's serenade and their kiss in the last scene, but I had no context for it. So I got to watch the show through this unique lens: however will these two end up coming together when they seem so diametrically opposed?

The chip was the beginning of my understanding, but this was another revelation moment. And even from here it's a long time (and a lot of heartache) before Buffy and him end up in that abandoned house, bemoaning the fact that they're too alike.

@Gardner -- You're right that Spike's entire trajectory flies in the face of the established canon. I won't dispute that, but I ultimately found his story much more compelling than Angel's for the very fact that there are so many shades of gray. As Buffy says at one point in S7: "You faced the monster inside and fought back."

Perhaps it's not so much that he developed a conscience, but simply that he still had his freewill and the capacity for strong emotion, even if that emotion was warped through his souless lens (as evidenced by how he ultimately treats Buffy pre-soul). The chip made him uncapable of harming humans, lulling him into a false sense morality, allowing him enough proximity to Buffy for his stalkerish obsession to tip over into the realm of love instead of hate. Which, when you're souless, isn't really so different.

He felt passionately that he wanted to kill her, and then that passion shifted inexorably toward wanting to love her instead. Until he got a soul, that was the extent of it, even as he started to ingratiate himself with the Scoobies, to protect Dawn, etc. All of that was in pursuit of Buffy's affection. Even the soul. It wasn't necessarily because he had an actual conscience.

@adaptr: If you're referring to Spike's scene in the church when Buffy finds out about his soul, then yes, agreed, favorite scene in the entire series.
Constance Sublette
6. Zorra
" ... one of those stories that is really just a collection of plot points connecting us to narratives in progress."
I like these very much. For one thing they're necessary. Beyond that they throw surprise twists to us. And thirdly, it allows one to almost see the writing process for the seasonal arc -- which, as these are such talented writers, is anything to my mind than 'just' or 'merely.' That's where the real talent for writing reveals itself.

Love, C.
Gardner Dozois
7. Gardner Dozois
@5 You have a point, but it's clear that Spike develops a genuine Big Brotherish affection for Dawn, which you wouldn't think a soulless vampire would be capable of either. Plus, he continues to guard Dawn and help the Scoobies after Buffy is dead, out of love for Buffy and because that's what she wanted him to do, long after Buffy herself is gone and any possibility of being rewarded for his good behavior by getting to sleep with her is past. You would think that a mere sexual obsession would have left him once the object of his obsession was no longer even theoretically available.
Emma Rosloff
8. emmarosloff
@Gardner -- Well, my point was that it wasn't a mere sexual obsession (although yeah, there was that too). He went from "I want to kill her" to "I want to be in love with her", not merely "I want to have sex with her." There's a key difference there.

William was a hopeless romantic in life and that sentiment carried into his unlife. It was never only about sex for him. He always wanted a relationship -- he had one with Drusilla for at least a century and when she broke it off he fell into a rebound thing with Harmony almost immediately. Even though he didn't claim to "love" Harmony he still had a relationship with her (dysfunctional though it may have been) as opposed to just having sex with her. In part to get over Drusilla, but near the end there to play out his fantasies about being with Buffy. He even had the Buffy Bot built; yes, to have sex with, but also for a sense of companionship.

Through that lens I think his behavior after Buffy's death makes sense. At that point he'd made himself believe he was in love with her (whether or not he had the true capacity to be). That obsession fueled him. He wanted to be better for her and he'd convinced himself he'd failed her by letting her die, so he was trying to make up for it after she was gone.

I can see how that looks a lot like having conscience, particularly his brotherly feelings toward Dawn. But I still think it works with what we know of Spike. He is, after all, a fool for love. His seeming "conscience" is a direct result of his love for Buffy, which he's come to learn entails watching out for her friends and family. That he developed what felt like genuine feeling toward any of them just seemed like a happy accident.

This sort of gets to the heart of the matter -- what exactly constitutes a soul? I suppose empathy and a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong. "Love" doesn't necessarily need to involve any of those things though; I don't think his obsession with Buffy did when it started. It was only over time that his love for Buffy made him believe he had the capacity for those things (because he'd assessed that he needed them in order to be loved by her), so he acted that way, whether or not it was true. You know, fake it till you make it. That's what made his story so interesting.
Alyx Dellamonica
9. AMDellamonica
I would never say Spike's feelings for Buffy weren't genuine, Gardner--it's love, however funky or twisted, even before he's got a soul.

Lack of soul obviously isn't sociopathy... not all sociopaths are killers, and vampires clearly have an emotional range that includes love, remorse, and an ability to relate to the feelings of others.

Is it that without the soul you have no way to resist your impulses? Some form of extreme uninhibitedness?
Gardner Dozois
10. Gardner Dozois
I dunno, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are, it's a duck. Sure looked to me like Spike developed a conscience--which if he was only a demon who was possessing the former William's body and had his memories, he theoretically shouldn't be able to do, according to earlier show mythology.
Gardner Dozois
11. Dianthus
Spike didn't have a soul (yet), but he still had a brain, and he was perfectly capable of using it. The chip suppresed his more violent impulses, so he had to rely on other means to get by. 'Going along to get along' was a huge part of that. Many violent offenders seem to have impulse control issues. Buffy tells Spike (in Crush) he's like a serial killer in prison.
I find great nobility in the idea that Spike would honor the memory of the woman he loves by caring for her sister, by keeping up the fight. I felt like he'd proved himself worthy right there. The soul and the sacrifice were just gravy (IMO). I agree he felt like he'd failed her, and that's partly why he takes her abuse in s6. One of the greatest of all the ironies is that, when Buffy does die, Spike will see it as failure, rather than triumph.
I have a hard time imagening Harmony as a viable Big Bad. I certainly can't believe other truly evil vamps would follow her lead. I'm not a big fan of the comix. I'm following them anyway (glutton for punishment). Giving the vamps a free pass has led to an even worse threat (zompires), so it was a really dumb idea all around.
Gardner Dozois
12. Dianthus
BTW, Buffy tells Riley if she wanted super powers she'd be dating Spike. Why wouldn't she want super powers? On some level, I've never understood that. She has super powers, after all. The super powers are metaphorical, but still, wouldn't she want an equal?
Gardner Dozois
13. MT O'Shaughnessy
@12 (Dianthus): For myself one of the aspects of the writing around Buffy that I rather enjoyed was that she wanted a relationship. And the constant conversation was around person vs their role in the world. She wanted a relationship formed with her, not with the Slayer. In a very real sense she understood that she needed some one to love her and be loved by her but who didn't necessarily have to live in the second part of her life..

Right or wrong the character as written often seemed to think that if she could find some one who wasn't part of all the Slayer side of existence it - the relationship - would be hers and hers alone.

Personally I never understood the need for the character to have a physical equal. It seemed like a fairly male response to a strong woman - she'd only be good to have a relationship if her boyfriend could beat up as much as she could.
Gardner Dozois
14. Dianthus
@13 (MT) - all I know is, if I had superhuman speed, strength, and stamina, I'd want a guy who could keep up. I s'pose there's an argument to made for having a relationship that had nothing to do with the slaying, allowing her to set it aside for a time, but there would be a lack of understanding, a chasm btwn them. It's not just physical. Spike understands.
Plus, it's simple biology. A woman wants a strong, healthy man for a mate. True, as a vampire, Spike's shooting blanks, but her best friend is a powerful witch. Also, if Buffy had to have a kid who looked like Spike, he'd do whatever it took to make that happen.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
@14 Wow, way to disappear the hundreds of thousands of women who willingly date disabled people. You may want that, but to posit that ALL women want that because SCIENCE is narrowminded.

Now I do agree that it is what Buffy needs and wants, but at the moment she doesn't want to admit it to herself, she is still trying for normal. After The Gift, when she becomes a self actualized adult, the desire for a normal relationship pretty much disappears. Buffy's desire for normal represents a childish desire for something she can no longer have.

As far as Spike, the best parellel I've ever read, is Alex from Clockwork Orange.
Jason Parker
16. tarbis
I'm not convinced that either the character of Buffy or the writers ever wanted her to have an equal relationship with the love interest.

Most of the romance plot with Angel was in first and second season when he was not much of fighter (and wore the stupid pink lipstick). Not to say there wasn't heat between them after he came back from Hell with combat skills, but it was a relationship that she had control of, which made him being the one to walk away hurt her more. Riley and Parker were Buffy looking for normal. Spike in season six was Buffy going for someone that she saw as morally inferior to act out her self-loathing. Season seven Spike might be a healthier relationship, but Spike himself is kept hobbled for a large chunk of the season with mental issues which make him the less functional of the pair. Also the relationship itself was moved out to the edge of most plots by the nature of the season long arc.

Part of it might be related to Buffy's superiority complex and immaturity. All of her relationships had to be about her which isn't uncommon for the 16-22 age bracket. Most of us were pretty to very self-absorbed in those years and not great at relationships.

The writers on the other hand could never allow any love interest to be Buffy's equal. First off it would move the focus of the show and make the title character less special. Second, any actor whose character equaled the lead for importance would be in a position to ask for more money. Third, Joss finds more drama in unhappy relationships which means the happy ones can't last for too long.
Gardner Dozois
17. Dianthus
Biologically speaking, a strong, healthy male is more likely to produce strong, healthy offspring. That's not to say there aren't exceptions to every rule. The advacement of disabled people is a fairly recent development in terms of human evolution.
This series is, in part, about empowerment. I just don't find it empowering that Buffy should have to hold back any (good) part of herself. She feels the need to hold back with Riley. She doesn't have to hold back with Spike. Plus, she can talk to him about things others wouldn't understand/accept.
Elevating one gender above another - women are "tougher" than men -is how we got into this mess in the first place. I don't think it's very helpful.
Maybe a guy who's more secure in himself wouldn't have the same issues Riley has. He wouldn't have to go "cheat" on her with vamp whores.
Emma Rosloff
18. emmarosloff
@16: Agreed that Joss never likes his characters to be happy in love for long. I also feel like he had it out for Spike (the character, not the actor) even though James Marsters brought a lot to the show by the end of it (and was the only reason Angel got a 5th season).

I'm not sure where I read this (I think it was in an interview with James Marsters), but Joss never wanted Buffy to have a relationship with a vampire. In his mind, vampires were a metaphor for all the teen issues Buffy had to face (no surprise; Joss loves to illuminate subtext).

For her to feel romantically toward one would definitely complicate that metaphor (although I've always loved how well they pulled off her "mosnter in her man" fetish). Joss had to be talked into her relationship with Angel, and I think the popularity of that choice annoyed him because he was forced to diverge from his original narrative.

Obviously I'm just speculating, but I've always gotten this sense from Joss that he loathes being beholden to anyone when it comes to his story. So if ever he's forced to make a choice he doesn't want to, he gets a little vindictive. I'm sure after Angel left he thought "never again" on the vampire-love-interest front, only for Spike to come along. We all know that Spike was supposed to die after a few episodes. In the interview with James Marsters he was chuckling about how Joss kept insisting that he would kill off Spike, that he wasn't going to bow under the weight of his popularity.

Spike lucked out when Cordelia left, because Buffy needed someone to regularly call her on her BS. But beyond that, I can't help but wonder if (in some small part) Spike and Buffy's twisted relationship is Joss's way of sticking it to the viewers. A "this is what you wanted, isn't it?" kind of thing. I mean, I'm not saying their relationship didn't make sense in context or that it wasn't riveting, but I remember watching the Season 6 finale (Spike getting his soul), thinking there'd be a lot more movement on that front in Season 7. It would've been nice to see them actually come together (more than they already did). That would've been gratifying to me, to appreciate how far both had come as characters that they could be in a functional relationship together.

A part of me knew it wouldn't happen though, after the events of Seeing Red.
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica

That's so interesting--I've never heard that he didn't want any Buffy/vampire relationships!

I can't imagine ever being sold on Spuffy being a healthy relationship. But I always take the position that the right writer could do anything.

Tarbis, you're pointing out something I've seen in a lot of shows, books and films with women warriors: the romantic interest is somehow a problem. The Riley characters who are equal, or not so equal, seem disappointing. The super-lovers, like Angel, restore things to the dynamic we're more comfortable with, where the guy somehow has an upper hand.

Dianthus, I'm with Aeryl. Just because the land of TV can't deal with athletic women having partners who can't out-prowess them doesn't mean that's our destiny.
Jason Parker
20. tarbis
I'm not sure the problem of unequal love interests is a unique to women warriors. Possibly it is a structure issue that sticks out more when the show has a female lead. It seems to be a problem with any show that has a lead character. Of course it could be that writers are less likely to fridge a male love interest and end up pumping power levels to keep them alive.

Beta couples always appear more equal than whoever the lead character is matched with that season on any show. Similary if the show starts with two main characters they can get together during the run and remain equal.

@18 I think I remember that interview. If I remember it right Marsters had the impression that Joss didn't like him much either because so many people considered the Spike character to be cool. Maybe a little bit of "why can't I be cool like my creation" coming through on Joss's part. Although I'm not sure how many details fo the Spike/Buffy relationship can be hung on Whedon. My impression from interviews was that he was breaking the season long stories, but wasn't acting as day to day showrunner on Buffy after season 5.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
Joss fridged Paul Ballard on Dollhouse, but I can't think of another example. If he hadn't come up with a way to ditch Riley, I imagine he'd have done it to him first.
Gardner Dozois
22. Dianthus
I knew Joss hadn't originally planned on putting Spike and Buffy together as a couple. Given Joss's use of vampirism as a metaphor for addiction, that's understandable.
OTOH, I see souled Spike as Buffy's equal and opposite; the dark, negative, feminine moon to Buffy's bright, positive, masculine sun.
It doesn't get much more metaphorical than that.
Plus, I think Tara had it right. She was really the only one who encouraged Buffy to be with Spike if that was what she wanted. Everyone else was telling Buffy what she should want.
I was/am very frustrated by the idea that Spike could undertake a Hero's Journey, that they could learn to forgive one another, leading Spike to make the ultimate sacrifice, and yet he's still being punished for something he did pre-soul. Especially considering that, in the comics, they've gone back to the unrequited love trope, wherein he has feelings for her and she's ambivalent (at best) towards him.
As for Joss and his issues, I think the man needs help. He's made bank on it, but still. He himself is happily wedded and bedded.
Emma Rosloff
23. emmarosloff
@22: Totally agree with you that I felt like Spike deserved better in the end. Particularly if Buffy could love Angel, who was far more sadistic without a soul (and never, ever would've sought one out on his own). Nor would he have developed a conscience like Spike did. They even address this in the last season of Angel, where Spike admits that his rein of terror as William the Bloody was really an attempt to keep up with/compete with Angelus -- Angelus wanted a partner in crime, and Spike didn't want to live in his shadow. They sort of had an older/younger brother dynamic.

There's also the prophecy referring to the vampire with a soul. Angel and Spike duke it out over an artifact that they think pertains to the prophecy (although it ends up being a red herring), and Spike wins. Angel admits that he must've wanted to become a man again more than Angel did. And we all know that if Spike became a man, he could actually be with Buffy (whether or not she wants to be with him).
Gardner Dozois
24. Dianthus
I thought perhaps we might see some movement in this area, but it seems to have been merely a momentary triumph of hope over experience. I just wish they'd quit jerking us around.
I could understand Buffy's doubts in the series. Now, not so much. It's really not a good look on her.
Gardner Dozois
25. Gardner Dozois
After all he'd been through, I think it would have been a justified ending if Spike won Buffy back after he'd gone through such torment to regain his soul, and that they ended the series together as a couple, perhaps going off together, but that kind of ending is just not Whedonesque; not enough tragedy. Besides, they wanted to spin Spike off into ANGEL, a show which badly needed the ratings boost that they probably hoped spinning one of BUFFY's most popular characters into it would provide, and they must have figured that the best way to do it was to have him die in one show and be reborn in the other.
Alyx Dellamonica
26. AMDellamonica
Good points, Tarbis--I've never heard the term 'fridged' before!

There are some recurring motifs in Joss stories that I wish were otherwise, Dianthus, but I think most writers have some unresolved 'stuff' that tends to come out in their products, so I'm hesitant to get down on the Whedonly one for that. (Glass houses, you know.) Especially since, overall, he has given me so much fannish joy.

As for Spuffy, I've never been fully on board for team Spike. It'll be interesting to see if that changes during this rewatch.

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