Feb 18 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Spiking Memory Lane

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Buffy is taking down the disposable demon of the week when it turns out he’s got a longer shelf life than most, and a wicked luck roll too: he sticks her with Mister Pointy and she ends up running for it. She’s good at running when she has to—it’s something I respect about her—but this guy gives chase. What’s his deal? Did he just eat a motivational speaker?

Fortunately, Riley saves the night (thanks, Riley!) and hauls Buffy home for first aid.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

She’s embarassed to have to admit to him that her enormous new ego-bruise and stab wound are both courtesy one lone vampire, not in any way special, with bad hair and a stink problem to boot.

Before they can really process this, Dawn bursts in to warn them that Mom’s on the way. They hide the medical supplies, Dawn inherits the chores Buffy can’t do until she’s healed, and Riley volunteers patrol. To his chagrin, Buffy asks him to take the Scoobies with him. For protection, presumably. Did she not see him just save her life?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

This leads into a comedy scene where Riley’s wearing dark clothes and blending in with the graveyard while Willow and XandAnya stealthily chatter and munch chips in his wake.

The real meat of “Fool for Love,” though, is its criss-cross flashback tie-in to an episode of Angel, “Darla.” On Angel, the flashbacks are mostly about Darla’s origins and Angel’s first (and quite unlovable) attempts to deal with getting all gypsy-cursed and soul-infested. On BtVS, the close call with Hair Vamp gets Buffy curious about how her predecessors have died. After checking with Giles, who reveals that Watchers are too bummed after the fact to make detailed records of how their teen charges got wasted, Buffy makes straight for Spike. He’s killed two Slayers, remember?

Of course you do!

Ah, Spike. He tells Buffy he was always bad, but it’s not true. We learn, for the first time, that he started out as none other than toffy, hobbit-haired William the Bloody Awful Poet. Soppy with love, mocked by his peers and super-keen on the word effulgent, lil’ Willie lays out his heart for the stomping by one Cecily Adams, (a.k.a. Halfrek the vengeance demon). When Cecily obliges by rejecting him—you’re beneath me, she says—he goes off for a blub and ends up being eaten and turned by Drusilla.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

While we’re all pondering whether this constitutes a good thing, the scene shifts back to the graveyard, where Riley and the gang have found Hair Vamp and his dauntingly large cadre of friends. We’ll kill them in the morning, Riley says. Mister Reasonable, we salute you!

Spike has a little fun extorting hot wings and booze from Buffy before getting down to business. He tells her about the fight with the Slayer he killed during the Boxer Rebellion. He’s broken his tale into a two-part lesson and the first big talking point is that the Slayer always has to reach for her weapon, whereas vampires have those delightfully pointy teeth at the ready.

(Can they not be extracted, I wonder?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Put another way, the nameless Chinese slayer was reaching for her stake when he grabbed and ate her.

With Slayer-slaughter comes external validation and acceptance from the group. Not only is Drusilla pleased and excited about the kill (and we mean excited in a Rah Rah Do Me, Big Boy way) but even Angel concedes that his grandvampy’s all grown up. It was, Spike reminisces, the best day of his life.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

This probably isn’t the best day of Riley’s life. Among other things, he’s proving himself to be a great whopping liarpants. Having ditched the noisy Scoobies, he has returned to the Hair Vamp’s tomb. The guy is counting his superpowered chickens, bragging about having killed Buffy before her death is truly hatched. Riley swaggers in with a quip, stakes him most efficiently, and grenades the rest of his pals into steaming undead fragments.

So, you know, maybe he really doesn’t need help from civilians?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Back at the Bronze, Buffy’s asking about the second Slayer, Nikki Wood. Spike’s only too happy to relive their 1977 fight in the New York subway system. The battle is cleverly intercut with his present-day narration, to Buffy, about how and why Slayers die.

So what’s lesson the second? Spike’s perspective on how he’s managed to kill both Slayers boils down to something close, in the end, to ‘they asked for it.’

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

So, okay. We’re talking about women who violently attack monsters, I know. It’s not as though the vampires are acting inappropriately, exactly, by defending themselves with lethal force. The fantasy situation and the real world don’t exactly overlap here.

But in light of events to come in the history of Spuffy, this hint of blame-the-victim is a little disturbing. Also high on my Ickometer is how Spike’s revelation—every Slayer has a death wish—segues into an a fervent expression of his desire to one day murder Buffy. And from there he segues to “Hey, wanna kiss?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Buffy, naturally, rejects him, flinging money and using the same words as Halfrek nee Cecily. “You’re beneath me.”

As I’ve considered “Fool for Love,” I’ve been thinking about the conversations we’ve been having lately, about whether it’s really possible for these Buffyverse characters to grow beyond high school, about whether Xander ever makes it out of the metaphorical basement. William the Bloody Awful takes his turning at the fangs of Drusilla as an opportunity for a total reinvention of himself. It’s a very different reaction to being turned than, say, Liam’s. If anything, Angelus is a more purely evil expression of who Liam already was. He’s just carrying on the carouse in progress with less booze and more homicide.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

But Spike gets himself a working class accent and a career goal of sorts—where he was going to be a gentleman poet, now he wants to become a hunter of Slayers. To cherry that sundae, he finds in Drusilla something he thinks is not only Reciprocated True Luv but also Forever.

In that “you’re beneath me” moment, Buffy flings him back to his origins: she takes it all away. It’s more soul-destroying (as it were) than losing Drusilla or getting chipped.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Little wonder that Spike goes in search of the nearest shotgun. In that initial moment of rage, he’s willing to risk the worst the chip can dish out to try to eradicate Buffy. Harmony is obliged to play the voice of reason here, reminding him that he had plenty of chances to kill Buffy before getting chipped. This gives us a chance to see Spike’s dumping at the hands of Dru, who in her wacky psychic way reveals he’s been in love with Buffy ever since they formed their anti-Angelus alliance in S2.

Could Spike have pulled the trigger? He thinks so. Of course, it doesn’t play out that way. While he’s loading up and crossing town, Buffy is home learning that Joyce is going to the hospital overnight for observation and ominous tests. By the time Spike shows, she’s on the porch crying. He can’t even pretend to attempt the murder.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fool For Love

Instead, to her bug-eyed discomfort and astonishment, Spike does his best to make her feel better. For good or ill, that’s who he is.


Next: Tumor Tales

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.

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1. build6
one thing I've really loved about BtVS is how there's all these additional little things that are thrown in without fanfare - like how Spike's coat was actually taken from the 2nd slayer. I remember watching this the first time and going "oh!" out loud.

anyways - that Spike, when confronted with the evidence of Buffy's suffering, feels compelled to try to comfort her, is what convinces me of the "genuine-ness" of what he feels for her. The chip stops him from hurting people, but it doesn't give him empathy.
Jack Flynn
2. JackofMidworld
Just watched this one over the weekend. Maybe it's because I can't watch the old episodes without knowing how everybody ends up, but the end really got to me. A glimpse of the Spike to come, despite the ick of the whole "trying to kiss Buffy after explaining in gory pantomime how I slaughtered a future principal's mommy" thing. I chalked that part of it up to him equating violence with sex, something he'll be trying to sort thru for quite a while (forever, maybe?)
3. Dianthus
Spike isn't the only one who equates sex w/ violence. There's a book I read years ago, The Descent of Woman, that examins evolution from a feminine perspective. She devotes a whole chapter to the connection btwn sex and violence in our culture.
I've heard some argue that b/c Spike wasn't as evil as Angelus, b/c there was some goodness left in him, that he's somehow worse than Angelus. Not surprisingly, I disagree. I think Angel would've had a much harder time with it than Spike if he'd been the one to get chipped instead.
Some say that b/c William saw Dru's monster face, he knew what he was getting into. I don't entirely agree with that either. Dru doesn't obviously use her thrall on him, but she manages to captivate him all the same. I thought the scene where she literally snatches the word 'effulgent' out of William's thoughts very effective.
I think Spike had managed to decouple (ha-ha) sex and violence in his own thinking by the end of s7.
He isn't entirely wrong that Buffy gets off on the darkness just like he does, tho'. He's just more honest about it.
Faith had talked about slaying making you 'hungry and horny' and Buffy's reaction showed it to be an uncomfortable truth for her as well, since she's relegated to the role of Good Girl.
Spike is all about truth, to the point where's he's a really bad liar, and does more harm to them weilding truth in The Yoko Factor, but trips himself up with it as well.
5. Gardner Dozois
I didn't like the backstory they came up with for Spike in this episode--I thought it weakened the character by making him pathetic and ridiculous in his pre-vampire days, and as an explanation of the nickname "Spike," it's absurd. Also don't like that he's been putting on his working-class accent all these years, which means he's still an insecure poseur in spite of having become a vampire. I prefer the implicit backstory you can intuit from the way the character was when he first showed up on the series; when Giles mentions that he used to be called "William the Bloody," it was chilling--now, in retrospect, it's silly.

Two interesting things about this episode, which otherwise is another wheel-spinner as far as ghe Glory arc is concerned. One, Spike comes up with the answer to his chip, and the best way to defeat Buffy that they've carefully always steered away from, since the first season episode with Darla: you shoot her. You'll have a terrible headache, but she'll be DEAD, and dead lasts longer than a headache. That Spike can't bring himself to actually pull the trigger is the other interesting thing. We've had this discussion before, but that Spike can feel compassion for the emotionally suffering Buffy, and that he's clearly already in love with her, goes against everything we've been taught about vampires in earlier seasons. Before he gets his soul back (and the fact that he WANTS his soul back before he gets it is the most telling point of all), Spike shouldn't be able to feel either emotion. A very unusual vampire. Angelius before he got his soul back certainly wouldn't have been capable of either.
Alyx Dellamonica
6. AMDellamonica
Angelus definitely didn't have Spike's emotional range, ever. I'm with you there, Gardner. And though I laugh at poet Spike, and accept him, I too was sad that they'd taken the badassery out of him.

Sihiya, Build6 - I was also all "Squee, coat!" when I saw this the first time.

The ways in which sex and violence interconnect in fiction, let alone in the real world, are so complicated! It's PH.d. thesis stuff, really.
Marie Veek
7. SlackerSpice
Posting Spike's little speech for clarity's sake:

"And the thing about the dance is, you never get to stop. Every day you wake up, it's the same bloody question that haunts you: is today the day I die? Death is on your heels, baby, and sooner or later it's gonna catch you. And part of you wants it... not only to stop the fear and uncertainty, but because you're just a little bit in love with it. Death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp. That look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know: what's it like? Where does it lead you? And now you see, that's the secret. Not the punch you didn't throw or the kicks you didn't land. Every Slayer has a death wish."
8. RobinM
@5 Gardner: I disagree Spike didn't want his soul back he didn't realize that's what he was asking for when he said to be what SHE deserves not what I deserve. He wanted the ability to kill back especially Buffy.
Emma Rosloff
9. emmarosloff
Love love love this episode. One of my favorites. Forgive me for the length of this post, but I heart Spike, warts and all.

I loved Spike's backstory (riddled as it was with inconsistencies over the years). I was delighted to learn that he was a hopeless romantic in life (and later, a momma's boy) -- in my mind, his rein as William the Bloody was an attempt to define himself in opposition to the life that had rejected him (and to compete with Angelus. They had a younger/older brother dynamic).

While I agree that calling him "William the Bloody" because of his "bloody awful poetry" was downright hammy, I don't think the revelation that he was pathetic in life invalidates how much of a badass he was as a vampire. It does soften his "rein of terror" a bit, but I honestly think that makes him more relatable; easier to root for. He wasn't a drunken lout in life like Liam. He was, for all intents and purposes, a good person. It gives us context for his behavior at this point in the series.

We finally understand the one thing Spike has always wanted -- the love of a human woman. It gives his stalkerish obsession with Buffy a bit more depth. We can appreciate that his feelings for her might actually be rooted in the person he was, tangled though they are in his vampyric obsession with killing Slayers (and general souless creepiness).

At this point we're knee-deep in his (second) 180 -- the man inside is slowly starting to overcome the vampire. It's doubly compelling to see it framed in the context of his initial 180 -- the vampire overcoming the man. In both cases, the Spike that emerges is very different from the one he left behind.

It proves that he's capable of completely retooling himself if he's driven enough. This helps us appreciate why Spike can be so many given things at any point in time. Terrifying, snarky, pathetic, comical, creepy, endearing; you name it! He is monster and man both, in a constant state of flux. James Marsters totally sells it, too.

It isn't a perfect journey, by any means. He can never be William the man again. Once a vampire, always a vampire, soul or no... (although I guess there was the prophecy on Angel) and the things he's done to Buffy he can never take back.

But I think this episode was necessary to appreciate what put him on the path to redemption -- his very human desire to love and be loved in return, something he couldn't truly experience without his soul. He even admits (come the end of Season 7) that the night he spent with Buffy in his arms was the best of his life. That he's been everywhere, done everything, but he's never been close to someone, not like that. And that's all he's ever really wanted.

Buffy may have legitimate reasons to cut Spike loose at the end, but still... circle complete, I'd say. Angel's story is (on the whole) more loveless for a reason. Liam was not a good guy; Angelus was one of the worst vampires who ever lived; Angel exists purely to make up for those crimes. His soul really is a curse -- a curse on Angelus, who will always exist underneath.

In this episode we learn what kind of guy William was before he became a vampire, which is crucial to fully appreciating him as a character. I love how his poetry-spouting human self is juxtaposed with the Slayer-killing vampire he was and the lovelorn chipped vampire he is now. That they're all the same person (and that he continues to change), makes him truly captivating to me.
Leslie Arai
10. creepygirl
I spent most of Season 2 watching Spike be remarkably ineffective in everything he tried and thinking, "This is the badass Angel was so worried about?" Finding out that he's a bit of a loser hiding behind the Big Bad persona makes Season 2 Spike a little more interesting in retrospect.
11. Dianthus
@8. Spike could already hurt Buffy, and the folks of ME have confirmed that Spike went to get his soul. He did it as much for himself as for her.
You're most likely thinking of something else, but Spike takes a lot of flak for being Buffy's enabler in s6. Blaming the enabler/victim goes in and out of fashion.
As for the other, Buffy was playing with fire (Willow, too). Did she diserve it? Of course not. OTOH, should we blame the flame when she gets burned?
Bad Boyfriend Angel (Angelus) and Bad Boyfriend Pete (Beauty and the Beasts) were monsters who needed to be put down, whereas Bad Boyfriend Buffy was just misunderstood.
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
@11, So Buffy was out slaughtering innocent people now without remorse? Because while I agree that how Buffy treated Spike was wrong, but she does nothing that reaches to the level of evil perpetuated by Angelus, and Pete didn't just abuse Debbie, he was killing people, like the boy Pete thought liked Debbie, and the school counselor.

I am perfectly willing to debate the wrongness of Buffy's actions, but don't let hyperbole be your own worst enemy.
13. Dianthus
It's a matter of degree, but I think the analogy holds. Buffy is physically and verbally abusive. She still had her soul, she had a mother who raised her right. A mother who would've been appalled by her actions. It's clear in the alley scene (Dead Things) that she's projecting on Spike as she beats him into unconsciousness, but the wrongness of her actions is debatable? Plus, she does try to kill her friends and family in Normal Again.
The attempted rape is a metaphor for Spike's "boundary issues" - Buffy's inner Slayerness trying to take over. He needs to learn his place.
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
No, the analogy doesn't hold, because Buffy wasn't murdering innocent people to maintain her relationship or torment her partner. If Pete only hulked out on Debbie, and never murdered anyone, the analogy might hold, but he did, and there is no continuim on a spectrum there.

She tries to kill her friends and family while under the influence of a powerful drug that inhibits her capacity for rational thought, which is completely different than willfully and intenionally concocting such a drug and taking it.

She is forced to confront the darkness within her, and her response is to turn herself into the authorities, and wail on ther person who tries to stop her, which is now obviously the same thing as massacring your classmates and turning them into inflammatory messages, as well as KILLING the person who tries to make you "turn yourself into the authorities). It's obvious her actions towards Spike are all about her own self-loathing, and BTW, where did I say that the wrongness of that particular act was debateable. I said I was willing to debate the wrongness of Buffy's actions, and I certainly didn't say which side I'd come down on(actually I did, where I stated that her actions were wrong at the very beginning of the comment).

What I am taking issue with, is you equating her acts with some of the worst abusive acts shown on the show. Because there are lines, and while Buffy's actions are not admirable, she never crossed those.

And I completely reject your rape metaphor. For one, rape has already been devalued enough in our society by people refusing to name rape as rape, and naming things that AREN'T rape as rape, so in good conscience, I don't use rape as a metaphor. In addition, where is that in the subtext, in Season 6, that Buffy's Slayer side is outta control and that's its represented by Spike? Season 7, yeah, Slayer Buffy is outta control, and that's not presented as a metaphor with the other characters. But Spike's attempted rape is what it is, a signifier of Spike's own boundary issues and the catalyst for his own personal growth(and I can tell you I HATE that too, ATTN WRITERS rape does not make you grow as a person!). It signifies, to Spike and the audience who refused to accept it, that while he may love Buffy, it is not the same love a person with a soul experiences, and that so long as he had no soul, Buffy could never love him.
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
I adore this episode so very much, because I love backstory especially when it informs the character. I disagree completely with Gardner, I loved the fact that Spike wasn't a badass, and thought it brought the character so much into focus. Hell, in "Becoming," Spike himself pointed out that vampires are all poseurs, constantly exaggerating their accomplishments and engaging in hyperbole and bullshit. By making him a wanker as a human, it makes that bit of self-examination more sensible, because he's lived it more than most vamps.

I also loved the crossover with "Darla," with each episode providing different focal points in the flashbacks. It especially is impressive to go from watching the Spike-focused Boxer Rebellion flashback and then to the one on the Angel episode, and only the second time do you realize that Angel has been be-souled.

I also really really was intrigued by the two Slayers we met, especially Nikki Wood (who wasn't actually named until "Lies My Parents Told Me" in the seventh season). That's mainly because I grew up in New York in the 1970s, and so was intrigued by the notion of a Slayer working then. Hell, that time period -- with the city's fiscal mess, infrastructure issues, skyrocketing crime rate, and more -- would be the perfect place for Buffyverse vampires and demons to function.

(Three Buffy tie-in writers did Nikki stories, including me, though they don't all quite match up. Nancy Holder did a Nikki story for one of the Tales of the Slayers anthologies, there was a Nikki story in one of the comics, and I did a novel called Blackout, which included both of Spike's fights with Nikki that we saw here and in "LMPTM," what kind of Slayer Nikki was, and also having Spike go to CBGB's in the hopes of catching the Ramones. Oh, and the July 1977 blackout that hit New York is part of the plot, hence the title.)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Constance Sublette
16. Zorra
I have always admired Spike's backstory as well as the Spike-Dru relationship.

He was a poet -- a bad poet in execution, but he had the sensibilities of a poet that includes a love of words in solitary state and words strung together to make language, i.e. content, and to do it imaginatively and filled with effect. Dru's got that in a most strange psychic state, that goes beyond her supernatural state as a vampire. Bloody William loves this -- this that is beyond anything he can accomplish with words or with language, with poetry. Plus the clairvoyance that goes with Dru's verbal abilities.

I confess to loving both Dru and Darla's backstories, and how their destinies get worked out on Angel. Being television, and not HBO or the then BBC kind, there wasn't a budget to make those historical segments' sets and costuming much more than cheesy. I thought they did a very good job with what resources they had -- though really? Angel's hair????? No matter the budgetary leaness, there is no excuse for Angelus's hair. None. (But it did seem the writers liked to humiliate his character -- a lot.)

As we also see even now, as with the Canadian Lost Girl, supernatural television on this side of the Atlantic doesn't do very well with period. (Well, for the moment let's leave out the adventures of young Merlin, shall we -- but they still have the budget to shoot a French chateau as a stand-in for Camelot).

For one thing the shows are set in the present, and the costume budget is for the bogies and bogels and x-terrestials, and the people you hire are the ones with those skills. For another, history isn't an everyday surrounding, and we don't keep things. Watching a television or film made in Spain, for instance, in the historical past, is so different. They have people all over who know what a 17th coach looks like, how it was built -- they have museums filled with coaches and carriages going all the way back. We don't, if only because our immigrants' history only gets started here in the 16th century. In days of Washington and Jefferson's Virginia youth and young manhood, they imported their coaches and carriages from England.

Anyway, I like this episode a lot.

Love, C.
Emma Rosloff
17. emmarosloff
@14: I agree that rape as character development is BS. I also didn't like that they kept it nebulous whether or not Spike purposefully went to get his soul back at the end of Season 6 (even though it kept up the drama). They made it look like he had a soul forced on him, like Angel, when in reality he was going through those trials to get it back. It made it seem like he did it out of a selfish desire for revenge. It wasn't painted as an act of contrition until later, and then I found myself wondering if Spike was just claining that because it was too late to go back. But someone here clarified that the writers made it clear at some point that he intentionally went back for his soul. He would've seemed like less of a d-bag if we'd known that.

I hate being jerked around, never moreso than after the events of Seeing Red. Perhaps the possiblity of what happened was effectively foreshadowed (Spike's had boundary issues since day one. How many times does Buffy tell him to go away?), but it still invalidated any progress he'd made as a character in one foul swoop. I would've liked it better if he'd had the urge and managed to repress it, only to leave for his "soul-searching journey" before he could succumb and to admit to her later that the very thought made him realize what a monster he was. That doesn't make him a saint, but it's much better than the fact that he tried to go through with it.

I wish his love for Buffy had been strong enough to keep him from doing it, even without a soul. Because that felt effectively foreshadowed, too, with all the good he'd been doing for her and her friends. And that it was love, or at least the desire to love (not simply remorse), that pushed him to get a soul. I feel like they built up Spike's behavior to this point where he could've gone either way -- full on monster or full on man. Instead, they tried to do both, and I would've preferred it if they'd stayed the course one way or another. It would've been appropriate if Seeing Red had marked the beginning of his downfall (I could've even accepted him as a villain after that point, as painful as it would've been). Instead, it marked the beginning of his redemption, but it was born out of such an ugly act. I didn't feel like it needed to be, when they'd laid the groundwork for him to do better.

I guess it was a far more bitter pill than I wanted to swallow.
Chris Nelly
18. Aeryl
I understand why fans felt upset about it, and while I wish it could have been done another way, I think too many fans were head over heels for Spuffy, not understanding that they shouldn't, cuz hello look at how terrible it is, that the writers felt they had to have unsouled Spike commit an irredeemable act, so they could redeem him with a soul. So while I understand it, I don't like it.

Especially considering the worst parts of Spuffy were done by Buffy, it made more sense, thematically, to have her commit an atrocious act on Spike, that finally revealed to him that she cannot love a subhuman unsouled creature, that would have set him on the path. The ambiguity of the Spike's purpose could have been played up still, with the resultant payoff.

But I think they didn't because they were horrified that many fans wanted Buffy to be with Spike, regardless of his unsouled status, and could think of no better way to prove that he was, at that point, irredeemable.
19. build6
@4 - heh, I see what you mean. If he got that off Niki Wood, then by season 7 that thing's lasted him 20+ years. Considering he's supposed to be doing a lot of fighting... heh I read somewhere Angel's trenchcoat was $2000, if Spike's the same (ohhh wouldn't it drive him insane if Angel's coat was more expensive :-P), that's Good Value right there

@6 - haha!

@9 - Emma!! nothing you do out of the hearting of Spike requires forgiveness!!!

which leads on to...

@5 - I can understand why you're unhappy with how inconsistent/continuity-breaking it is if Spike can develop "feelings" etc. without a soul. I agree it doesn't quite make sense w.r.t. everything else we've seen about vampires, and saying "well Spike's special" isn't really an answer.

My thinking of it is (this is a bit retcon-ish I know) that technically all vampires *could* - just that they never reach a point where they even think about it or have a reason to change it.

I used to be vegetarian for one and a half years (I succumbed to lasagna in the end... don't ask). I still feel guilty if I think about the cute and fluffy past of anything I eat, so I deal with it by trying not to think about it. But it's just too tasty for me to be able to resist, and I definitely *felt* physically better after I restarted on meat. So I'm gonna ask you (unless you're vegetarian, in which case you win) - how do you justify the killing of and consumption of things that were alive? Mentally picture an adorable little lamb frolicking and gambolling ... then chopped up, eviscerated and then put on your plate with mint sauce. Justifiable? How?

"It's food"

And that's the complicating factor for a vampire. Going for pig's blood, rats etc. is the equivalent of going vegetarian (enforced vegetarianism in the case of both Spike and Angel, in fact). It's easier for us to point at a vamp and go "that's evvvvvilllll!!!!" because unlike them, we *don't* want to or have a hunger to kill anyone and drink their blood (right? Right?).

Hunger is a very powerful drive (only those who've never been on a diet don't know). And in situations where there's the pressure to, *people* eat people (I'm thinking about the failed expeditions for the northwest passage; donner party). I think for some sail-era shipwrecks the cannibalism didn't wait for the "food" to die first, unlike the Andean plane crash survivors.

So, for a vampire freshly crawled out of the ground, everything is different, and everyone is now *food*. It takes some kind of external stimulus to maybe start some re-evaluation (chip for Spike, soul for Angel). This kind of re-evaluation takes some time (and success is uncertain) and even if it happens, from the perspective of the victims, it doesn't make up for the couple hundred years of destruction and killing (if Buffy HAD hitched up with Spike and S7 ended with them together, the next time Buffy goes to Heaven there's gonna be two Slayers who're gonna be reaaally wanting to talk to her).

But that whatshisname vampire who talked to Buffy in S7 (googling... Holden Webster) - I think he did help her with the talking about her life and her issues. But it didn't stop him from wanting to kill her and drink her blood. If he'd been chipped/ensouled immediately, what would he have been like? Except for those who *wanted* to be turned, I'm thinking that though they need to be stopped, it's not ultimately "their fault" in a way.

Seeing Red - this is the fundamental objection to Spike. It's a very good thing that Buffy had the strength to kick him across the room to stop him, or else it wouldn't have been an attempt.

I think quite many (possibly all?) of you know of instances where some guy (and it's almost always a guy) somehow gets it in his head that some girl likes him, while the female side of the equation has NO AMOROUS INTENTIONS whatsoever? So she says or does X, but he hears and sees Y, with Y being "I want to marry or at least have sex with you! Maybe not now but definitely at some point!". These people can be hard to convince otherwise and one can only hope that the moment of understanding doesn't come too painful (for either party).

I don't watch that episode too much because the ending with Tara is too painful but that's how I see Spike in Seeing Red. It wasn't until Buffy whacked him across the room that he actually *understood* "No", and that Buffy actually, honestly, seriously, really meant "No" when she kept saying it previously. Because Spike is/can be stupid/blind. The only defence (and I do feel it means something) is that upon actually understanding, he stops, as opposed to "I don't care what you want, I have needs and I want it now!" and trying again (though yes it's a complicating factor that even though she's worn down, Buffy might've been able to stake him anyway. But I don't think his stopping is all about self preservation)
20. Dianthus
@14. A 'Bad Boyfriend' is literally a monster, per the show, unless 'he' is a she. Look at Warren too. He could've done the right thing, and turned himself in for Katrina's death. Instead, he frames Buffy, who then tries to turn herself in for something she didn't even do.
Look at what they're saying about victims of domestic abuse. Debbie was "broken," Spike's love for Buffy was "sick," and a dummy is "the thing you hit that doesn't hit back."
Also, it's not my rape metaphor. It's Whedon's. He talks about it in one of his commentaries (IIRC). Also, it was based on a real event in Marti Noxon's life, where she basically threw herself at a guy who'd rejected her.
Giles represents Buffy's Intellect, Willow her Spirit, and Xander her heart. We saw that in Restless. Spike comes to represent her Inner Slayer. He is her strength, the strength that carries her through her darkest days. Her ambivalence towards him mirrors her ambivalence to being the Slayer. He keeps her from dying, and she resents it.
Part of her self-loathing is misogyny (again, per Whedon). Buffy is the hater here. She admits as much in s7. Yet Buffy's misogyny is often overlooked (IMO) when the subject arises.
Emma Rosloff
21. emmarosloff
@18: I blame James Marsters. The guy oozes charisma, and as Spike he can be downright alluring, despite (rather appalling) evidence to the contrary. So much that Whedon couldn't kill him off because he was too popular, and that's saying something.

What is it they say? Guys want a good girl who's only bad for them. Girls want a bad boy who's only good for them. Such is the case with Spuffy. On a logical level I completely get it -- he's a creep! He stalks her, he obsesses over murdering her... and even when that obsession morphs inexplicably into love, his creepy behavior doesn't change. He forces his way into her life, wearing her down until he literally has her right where he wants her. He's controlling, manipulative and absuive. He tries to alienate her from her friends. All of that is plainly horrible.

But given that he's a souless vampire, it makes a little more sense. Fool For Love serves to soften him even further when we learn that his behavior is a result of becoming souless -- he wasn't a creep in life (although he was a bit obsessive, in a far less harmful way). It makes him more redeemable on the whole.

Even without a soul, he fights to keep her and her friends safe. He takes countless beatings on her behalf. He looks after her mother and little sister. He understands her pain and doesn't expect her to be above it. He's not afraid to set her straight when it's called for. And he's determined to do better, to be better, for her. To overcome the monster inside of him.

I'm not trying to justify the bad with the good, just point out that all of that tangled up together is what makes him so compelling to me. Not to mention Spike's undeniable animal magnetism, which kind of erodes all logic. Fitting that he's a predator. I suppose that could be part of the point they were trying to make in Seeing Red. Although it could be argued that Spike and Buffy played both roles (predator/prey, dominant/submissive... similar deal) over the course of their dysfunctional relationship. And Buffy was plenty absuive, even when he was not.

I actually really like the idea of Buffy committing the atrocity -- I honestly think she had grounds to flip out on him after all he'd put her through. Sure, they duke it out in Smashed, but she's obviously not giving it everything she's got (and we all know how that ends). I could've seen her pulling out all the stops; the scene in the alleyway multiplied tenfold. Evens the playing field for all the grief he's caused her. At which point he'd skulk off to go soul searching and come to terms with the role he played in bringing her to that breaking point, and what he could do to redeem himself for how he's treated her. He had plenty to atone for before Seeing Red. If the attempted rape was a ploy to pit us against him, it was an awfully cheap shot.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
@20, I get the feeling that there is something about where you are coming from that you aren't writing in your comments, because they feel incomplete. I just feel like I'm not getting your point, because you are kind of all over the place.

Yes, that is what a "Bad Boyfriend" is but you still have not justified to me why Buffy qualifies, and I don't understand why your comment about Warren is an attempt to make that connection. Warren is a murderer, Buffy is not, she doesn't qualify. And I don't get what the comments about Debbie, Spike and the dummy have to with qualifying Buffy as a murderer either.

Regardless of whether Spike's attempt is reflective of a real life attempt and Whedon's intent was to use rape as a metaphor, I still reject it. You just don't do it. Rape is not something victims overcome to become stronger. Committing a rape does not all of a sudden make you want to become a better person. Perpetuating these tropes is harmful to actual victims, and so I will reject regardless of authorial intent.

I still don't buy that Spike represents Buffy's Slayer side, the show has always used women as a foil for Buffy's Slayer. Spike can at times represent her darkness, but if you think a person's darkness comes from special powers, you have not been paying attention to this show.
23. Dianthus
In Normal Again Buffy is under the influence, not of a drug, but of a demonic toxin (IIRC). Buffy has some monster inside her, and almost kills those closest to her. It's only temporary in her case. They almost go there, but then they back away.
'Under the influence' is a big deal. Angel is Angelus under the soul's influence. Buffy almost kills her friends under the influence. Spike kills again under the First's influence. In the comix, Angel is indirectly responsible for more deaths (including Giles's) while under Twilight's influence. It goes back to the addiction metaphor Whedon likes to bang away at.
Angel/us, Pete, and Warren are all Bad Boyfriends. Killing Katrina was an accident, but Warren chose to do the wrong the thing by framing Buffy for her death. Maybe he doesn't literally become a monster, but he definitely becomes evil.
The attempted rape is to show how much Spike has changed, or more to the point, it's his response that really matters. We see it in his face, after, and Buffy later realizes that he knew it was wrong (and cared, and felt remorse). Deny it all you want, that doesn't change anything.
I suppose it's possible a woman would might use rape as a metaphor, but I think it highly unlikely.
Presumably, all male vampires are serial rapists as well as serial killers. We will learn that Spike's done it before and on AtS we see Angelus coerce a serving girl at a fancy party where he's aping the gentry (in more ways than one).
Buffy spent months blowing hot and cold towards Spike. She initiated most of their sexual encounters. She told him to move on, but then presented herself as the injured party in Entropy. Spike initially went to talk to Buffy. It's not like he jumped her in a dark alley with malice aforethought. He snapped. It's no excuse. I was "shocked and disappointed." In one terrible instance, their funniest, sexiest, most playful character could no longer be any of those things.
I watched all seven seasons of BtVS, all five of AtS, and Firefly on DVD. Pain forges strength. Power comes from darkness, not the other way around. Buffy needed to integrate her inner darkness (which she had tried to deny) to be a complete person, and Spike was instrumental in that.
Constance Sublette
24. Zorra
Spike tells Buffy that in her is the place that wants to know death. Not quite that though. Here is the quote of what he says to her in this episode about death: "You want to know what comes after, where it leads."

He also tells her the time comes when that will happen because she wants it. But right now she's still connected to this world, her mother, her sister and her friends. But the time will come.

What Spike did not understand that this time, this desire and this need can be caused by all sorts of things, and at the end of this season, it comes to Buffy. It's to save all that she loves, it's to save to the world, but it's also because she's tired of this and wants to know what comes after.

At the beginning of season 6, the darkest one of all, in which for quite some episodes Spike is her comfort -- a comfort, perhaps like cutting, not healthy, but a comfort for all that -- we know where her death sacrifice led this worn out Slayer. But her friends could not let her go, so she is returned to the hell that this life on earth is when without hope.

This is a lot about why this episode works so well for me. Death is Buffy's element. How often does she die in the series? How many does she send to death? Her great love scene, which is in this season (Angel, there for her, in the night, in the cemetery, after Joyce dies), takes place in the cemetery, where so much of her life is spent. She see the return to an earthly existence by so many creatures, and it is not a good thing. Yet her friends did that to her. If she got some relief from knocking down buildings with Spike, I'm not going to condemn her. Ultimately too, he will make the ultimate sacrifice. But then, he's Spike, with a bit of the Trickster in him, and he comes back too. But not to Buffy. No one comes back to Buffy.

I don't count the comic books. Buffy is season 1 - 7 as far as I'm concerned. Period. :)

Love, C.
25. build6
@24 Zorra - yeah I'm with you re: not including the comics. I think BtVS is one of those things that are "greater than the sum of its parts" - there's more to it than just "The Story". The casting was *perfect*. The actors are more than just conduits for the writers/story. Without them it's not "Buffy".
26. Dianthus
Buffy's return in s6 is what's known as a reluctant return in terms of the Hero's Journey. Spike's return in s5 of AtS is similar (if not as dark). I'm not condemning Buffy, per se. I'm condemning what I see as a double standard.
Spike didn't need to draw Buffy away from her friends. She tells him, point blank, he's the only one she can stand to be around, and it's no wonder.
I'm conflicted about the comix. Whedon considers them canon, but 'Buffy wakes up and Spike walks out of the shower' is starting to sound like a better alternative. I'm compelled to follow them anyway, for my sins.
Alyx Dellamonica
27. AMDellamonica
KRad, I didn't know about "Blackout." How cool!

I know canon and the ME writers have said Spike was deliberately seeking the restoration of his soul, but I'm with those who find this a cheat. As Emma says, what was on the screen when he was going through the trials was about revenge, and the look on his face when he got his soul had no element of "Yay, mission accomplished!"

I understand the official story, but as a consumer of the narrative, I find the "I meant to do that" completely unconvincing.

(What you say about the rape and the unredeemable act seems pretty valid, Aeryl. But it seems like something that could have been done better.)
Michael Ikeda
28. mikeda

Actually I don't think what we see in S5 is really consistent with Spike wanting the chip out.

To begin with (as pointed out above) he doesn't NEED to get the chip out to get revenge on Buffy. He can already hurt her with the chip in.

And he certainly doesn't need to go all the way to Africa and endure a bunch of supernatural trials to get the chip out.

Getting his soul back, on the other hand, is something that could require a quest. Especially if he doesn't want Angel's loophole.

And thematically, the chip is a medical device which one would expect to be removed surgically. Ensoulment is a supernatural event which must be done supernaturally.

(As far as Spike's air of disgruntlement is concerned, he doesn't particularly LIKE that he needs to get his soul back. He just knows that he can't balance between "man or monster" any more, he has to come down on one side or the other. And whether he likes it or not he doesn't want to be a monster.)
29. Gardner Dozois
I always took it for granted that Spike wanted his soul back, and it never even occurred to me that he wanted it back for revenge. Why would he? Even chipped, as pointed out above, he's perfectly capable of hurting or even killing Buffy, if he's willing to pay the price, and was even before she "came back wrong"; after she did, and he could fight with her without setting his chip off, there was even less reason for him to go through all that to get his soul back for revenge.

Besides, Spike was always prone to the grand, dramatic, self-sacrificying-- yes, poetic--gesture. At the end of Buffy, he sacrificies himself to destroy the forces of the Hellmouth. Later, in ANGEL, after he's been physically reborn, he fights for the privilege to be the one to save the world by drinking a mystic potion that will do that at the cost of costing him "unending torment." It turns out to be Mountain Dew, but he didn't know that when he defeated Angel in a fierce battle to be the one to sacrifice all to save the world again.
Chris Nelly
30. Aeryl
I bought the fake out about the chip, for a time. I though he was setting himself up to the Big Bad for the final season, which made sense to me, after the reprisal of other earlier troublemakers as villains in S6. But when he got his soul, I completely understood that he wanted, and that my suspicion of Spike's story for S7 had to change. I loved it, and it's in the tradition of what the show did with its characters and challenged expectation(though I understand how it could feel tired).

And Gardner's right, that is a gesture that is completely like Spike, he was always for dramatics, even if he eschewed tradition(School Hard).
31. build6
@26 Dianthus - yeah I guess one line of reasoning is "if Whedon says so then that's that". But then what comes to mind is Lucas - when he ended up in a situation where all the input was his own, what did you get? Things were better when it wasn't a one-man show.

@28 Mikeda - I hadn't thought of that, it makes a lot of sense (I'd been unhappy before about how everything seemed more consistent with "Spike gone sulky and really bad").
32. Dianthus
So killing thousands of innocents is redeemable, but one attempted rape isn't? That so doesn't work for me. Fortunately, it didn't work for Buffy, either, since s7 was about forgiveness. They forgave each other their trespasses, which is why they are still my OTP.
I give credence to what Whedon says b/c he was the one robbing this train. It doesn't mean I necessarily agree with him. I happen to think he's wrong, or at least misguided, about a lot of things.
For instance: Anya's past misdeeds. She was a demon far longer than Spike and Angel combined, and did a lot more damage, but she pretty much got a pass for years. Most of the speculation as to why suggests it's b/c she's a girl. I think it's b/c she didn't fall into the same addiction paradigm as the vamps. People were just as dead, but it didn't seem to matter as much.
Chris Nelly
33. Aeryl
@33 It doesn't work for me either, but talk to the fans that were in love with the idea of Buffy being with an unrepentant mass murderer, because that's who the writers wrote that scene for.

For Anya, I agree, but at the same time, I felt the general consensus was that since she was now mortal, justice was served because she would eventually die(and once she became immortal again, Buffy began contemplating having to kill her), and she was NO LONGER doing these things, so it would be unjust to kill her and deny her an attempt at redemption(which is what her often neglected arc was all about). It's the same thing that kept Spike alive for three years, that he was NO LONGER doing these things(for whatever reason).
34. Dianthus
What I mean is, I don't see how you can single out one awful thing from all the rest, and say "everything else, sure...but not this." Either he's redeemed, or he isn't.
I guess I was one of those fans, then. 'Ok' Spike was my favorite incarnation of the character, and some of my favorite fanfic centers around Buffy and dechipped/unsouled Spike as a couple.
OTOH, I think Spike's evolution was the best thing to come out of the UPN years. You just don't see character development like that in most TV shows.
With Anya, the thing is, even as a human, presumably with a soul, she was still proud of what she'd done, and the only one even slightly bothered by it was Willow, and only then b/c she was worried about what Anya might do to Xander (ironic, that, considering what Xander did to Anya).
Chris Nelly
35. Aeryl
Is it canon that Anya has a human soul? I never thought she did, I always thought she had the soul of a demon and only lost her immortality. Because in Selfless, she says to D'Hoffryn that for the soul of a vengeance demon, the wish can be undone. And Doppelgangland makes it pretty clear that the only thing stopping her from continuing on her way as a vengeance demon is her lost power center. I always felt viewing her not as human, but as a mortal with a demon's soul, explained why she was never really remorseful over these things at first(I think it's fair to say by S6 she's able to feel remorse, which is why her return doesn't work for her).

I was uncomfortable with Spuffy, but I only caught up w S4 of Buffy where Spike is reintroduced AFTER I had seen S6 where all I knew about the show was that Buffy died, Willow was gay, Dawn was The Key and Spike was in love with Buffy. So while Spuffy was HAWT I saw it as very scary and unhealthy.

As far as singling out Spike's actions in Seeing Red, I do believe there is a visceral difference in watching someone do something evil, and hearing about it. That last time we saw Spike(prior to that ep) do something pretty fucking evil is in Crush, IMO. I think that because Spike hadn't been a serious threat, even to Buffy after her resurrection, for quite some time, people had a tendency to forget what he was capable of.
36. build6
(very) long article about a sex offender/sex offences that I think is worth reading and is sort-of relevant
37. Dianthus
I'm not 100% certain Anya had a soul, but the others seemed perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones until she went back to being a demon/hurting people.
Spuffy isn't for everyone. It's messy and complicated; even dysfunctional for a stretch. OTOH, the Spuffy thread on the Dark Horse message board is up to 463 pages, while the Bangel thread is only in the 200s.
I agree there's something about watching a story unfold that gives it more immediacy. That's partly why I find Spike's story more compelling than Angel's. What gets to me, tho', is the idea that the soul and the sacrifice still aren't enough somehow.
38. Dianthus
@36. Read the article. Powerful stuff. Unfortunately, I don't think it's relevant to the discussion b/c Joss & Co. were more focused on the drug/alcohol addiction metaphor. Spike "got clean" and manages to stay that way, while Angel relapses from time to time. Spike was ready to change, Angel wasn't.
I'd like to think that, had they known about this other case, they never would've gone where they did. They opened a big ol' can of worms in s6, then dropped it and ran, yelling "Ew, worms!"
39. build6
yeah I agree they went in a direction there that they probably regretted afterward

(I do think it's relevant though in that it shows how grave the whole thing is and therefore where they went with it. Part of the problem I think is the "fiction" v. "real life" thing - Spike isn't that "terrible" because "he" didn't reaaaallly kill all those people etc.; the problem with the attempted rape in S6 is that it hits too close to home/real and so where you fall on the divide between ok/not-ok is at least in part decided by where you stand on the fiction/nonfiction (I think this is subconscious). Vampires don't *really* exist so everything done by a "vampire", even in fiction isn't as disturbing - and this is my problem with Andrew. This guy (through a combination of being tricked/stupidity) stuck a knife in his friend Jonathan and *let him bleed to death* and then a few episodes later is "ok" for everyone to include him in their gang? I can envision people who WOULD do something like that and so it crosses into reality in a way that prevents me from accepting that, well, Andrew becomes accepted).
40. Dianthus
@39. Oh man, do NOT get me started on Andrew (bleah!). I know there are people out there who like him, and I'm a Spike fan, but I can't stand that little weasel.
I tend to agree on the fiction vs. real-life thing. Joss & Co. were/are telling a story. Here they put a new twist on an old trope - bad man redeemed by love of a good woman, only it's his love for her, rather than her love for him.
Spike was changing in itty bitty ways b/c of the chip, he didn't even realize it himself at first, until all those little changes led him to one big change. Even with very little encouragement from the others, he realized he had a problem, and he went out and fixed it. That's why he's my hero.
Alyx Dellamonica
41. AMDellamonica
Mikeda, Gardner (and everyone who is in the Spike did mean to get his soul back camp)--I will watch with fresh eyes when we get there.

And I am loving that you are all so thoughtful and passionate about this, and have so much to back up your positions! It's really fun watching the group grapple with canon and the story.
Michael Ikeda
42. mikeda
build6, Dianthus

For most of the time that Andrew stays in Casa Summers, it isn't so much "ok to include him in the gang" as "we'd better keep him where we can watch him".

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