Jul 29 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: It’s all fun and games when everyone loses their memory

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Scoobies

“Tabula Rasa,” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner

Spike and Buffy have kissed, and Spike for one wants to to know: where do we go from here? And—what a shock—Buffy would prefer to just forget about it. It was Sweet! And the end of his mystical kumbayayas. Her slayer lips definitely didn’t mean it and they won’t be going there again.

She’s just declaring that there won’t be a repeat performance when a shark-headed demon shows up in pursuit of some poker kittens Spike owes him.

Buffy joins the fray—though we can safely assume he didn’t really need the help—and Spike runs off. Just before the credits roll, she remembers that if she’d just stand back and let him get dusted, her crushed-out vampire problems would be over.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Spike

Which would be one problem down, ten or eleven to go. Back at Xander’s place, the four architects of Buffy’s resurrection from the dead are freaking out over having learned that they didn’t, in fact, rescue Buffy from a hell dimension. They’re all aboard the good ship Guiltypop, trying to figure out how they can make her life less painful. When Willow suggests her new favorite spell, Lethe’s Bramble, Tara vetoes the idea in a rage.

XandAnya flee to minimum safe distance as the argument unfolds. Willow tries to skate on taking responsibility for having brain-wiped her third true love. Tara, unimpressed, comes to wonder if the two of them are finished. In a panic, Willow promises to swear off magic for a week. That’ll do it, right? Easy peasy, everything back to normal?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Tara

We’ll see, says Tara, which rather leaves Willow reeling.

Elsewhere, Giles is hitting Buffy with the same emotional hammer, and it’s no empty threat: he’s on his way back to England for good. We’ve all been discussing how ill-timed and unfair this is. Buffy’s busted up and deeply furious, and rightly so. She doesn’t want to accept that Giles has the will and the power to take off. But what can she do?

Solve her problems with magic, that’s what! Willow’s feeling much more pro-active about keeping her loved ones in check and within arm’s reach. She plays at magical abstinence for all of a minute before slipping out the magic kit to get her Lethe’s Bramble on again. The goal is to make Tara forget she’s mad and make Buffy forget was ever in Heaven.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Giles

She whips up this little concoction just before they all zoom off to the latest Scooby assembly, whose sole agenda item is Giles’s departure.

Midway through, Spike turns up, seeking protection he really shouldn’t need from our good friend Jumpy the Sharkfaced Boy. Buffy breaks down when the discussion gets heated, just as the spell is taking effect. She feels like she’s dying. And poof! Everyone passes out.

Willow’s spell overachieved, you see—she left some extra bramble out and it all got zorched, taking the whole gang’s memories with it.

Some undefined period of time later, they wake up. They’re confused, fearful, and clumsy. One wee stumble at a time, they begin trying to sleuth their way into recovering their identities. XandAnya, WillTara and Giles have ID, so they mostly get their names right... though their relationships are all wrong. “Alex” and Willow find his coat on her body, and speculate about being a couple; Giles and Anya, seeing Anya’s engagement ring and papers showing they run the Magic Box together, assume that they’re plunging toward matrimony. Poor Spike has Randy written inside his goofy coat, and so they all figure he’s Rupert Junior, an ill-dressed human of British origin.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Scoobies Anya Giles

This last misunderstanding notches up the hilarious considerably, as Spike embraces his latest identity, railing at Giles for non-existent parental failures.

Dawn and Buffy—who has by now named herself Joan—use the power of annoyance to figure out that they are sisters, and the whole group moves from there to realizing that they really need a hospital. Which would be fine, except that by now Jumpy’s vampire minions have turned up, looking for Randy.

In the midst of all the s6 dourness, it’s the moments like these—the shot of the gang, Buffy included, shrieking in terror and slamming the shop door as they’re confronted with eeek vampires!—that stand out as the bright points. They’re delicious little sprinkles of wonder.

And, in this episode, the going gets even goofier. When the gang hears the vampires calling for Spike, they duly gather up the shop’s collection of stakes. Then the bad guys bust in, Joan dusts one—“Stay away from Randy!”—and she is completely thrilled to discover that she’s got superpowers.

Who wouldn’t be?

“Tabula Rasa” is one of the great Sarah Michelle Gellar episodes of BtVS. It has been so long since her character has had anything resembling an opportunity to be lighthearted, or pleased with her lot. As she shrugs off the weight of all her losses and her memories, both terrible and heavenly, and just revels in her strength and vampire-dusting abilities, it’s an immense contrast. She’s Buffy as she (often) was when she first got to Sunnydale: peppy, cheerful, ready for action.

It’s hard not to wish Slayer Joan had lasted for three or four episodes. Alas, it’s not to be.

The team, amnesia despite, manages to fend off the first attack. The vamps back off, promising to return with reinforcements. Joan and Randy hare off out the front door to serve as a distraction, so the others can make for the hospital with Dawn and RupAnya can conjure bunnies in the Magic Box.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Giles Spike

(But first, there’s a tender father-son moment between Giles and Randy. Awwwww.)

The plan works beautifully until Randy ends up in his vampy game face, terrifying Joan. It turns out he’s a vampire with a soul! Or perhaps not. Jumpy’s still after him so they shelve the question and get back to the fighting.

Down in the sewers, Willow, Xander, Tara and Dawn are playing hide and seek with another disposable vamp, who seems eminently qualified to find them. WillTara are figuring out pretty quickly that they have major voova for one other. Upstairs, RupAnya have moved from conjuring bunnies to raising monsters, and from there to breaking up. It’s looking bad for their non-existent relationship, but they pull it out of the fire at the end, banishing the latest whatever-it-is, retrieving the engagement ring Anya has tossed away, and embarking on a major lip-lock.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Willow Tara

This is what WillTara are about to do, too, when Xander accidentally breaks the amnesia spell.

RupAnya are, of course, horrified when they find themselves embracing. Tara’s horrified too, though in a completely different way. Willow is (one assumes) mostly very sorry that she didn’t pull it off. And Slayer Joan is quite clearly shattered to have to let go of cheer and inexperience and once again come back from the depths to Buffy’s incredibly sucky life.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Giles Anya

Which is presumably why, as Giles flies back to England and Tara packs her things and Willow curls up on the floor of Casa Summers for a long cry, that Buffy ends up on the dance floor of the Bronze, sucking face yet again with Spike.

What I remember first about “Tabula Rasa,” of course, is all the comedy. Even though the humor is sandwiched between two slices of angsty pain, it’s the silly misunderstandings and the wacky joy of watching the Scoobies discover vampirekind, Buffy’s powers, and each other that make this episode so memorable.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Spike

But this is also the point where we start seeing the group—at least the young adult portion of it—buy into the idea of magic as an addiction. The structure of the WillTara fight is built around it: the whole ‘I can do without magic, I don’t need it’ declaration, for example, and the setting of a period of abstinence for Willow. Not to mention the fact that she’s flat-out lying (you all know the joke, right?) about giving it up.

Are any of you on board for the addiction part of this storyline? Does any of you like that it’s treated that way?

Because here’s the thing: I do very much like that the season ends in a Dark Willow vs. Buffy confrontation. I believe the trigger for Willow’s final meltdown, I enjoy watching her take out her fury on the Trio, and—like many of you—I love seeing how the world gets saved this time around.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Willow

From your comments, I’d say I’m not alone. So how much icky addiction stuff is Dark Willow worth?

If we were in a weird alternate universe where the bunch of us got to tweak the finer points of Willow’s Phoenix-y rise, what details would you change? Could it be done without resorting to the language of addiction and recovery?

Go ahead, second-guess the well paid Mutant Enemy writing team! What bits of this season do you think are broken? How would you fix them? I’m curious.

From my point of view, the first thing would be to shore up Giles’s ill-timed abandonment of  Buffy and Willow. They can’t make these bad choices if he’s present, maybe, but he’s lacking a believable reason to fly home. Any horrific family emergency or even a deportation would do.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tabula Rasa Spike

Next up: Ker-Smash!

A.M. Dellamonica has tons 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. (Watch for the second Gale, story too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
My opinion on the whole addiction storyline is that it's a red herring, it was ALWAYS a red herring, and the writers did NOT make it clear enough to the audience that the Scoobies were WRONG when they likened Willow's problems with magic to addiction.

If you view these episodes as the gang making a mistake about Willow's problem, it helps explain why going cold turkey didn't help, it allows you to see Amy's actions in a more evil light(her whole addict act in the kitchen was deliberate to get Willow in trouble with her friends, that had a nice bonus to getting them off track as to how to help her).

I don't have a problem with Giles' leaving, I just have a problem with how the show SEEMS to let him out of the consequences of it. I say seems, because it destroys him and Buffy's relationship, leading to LMPTM and the eviction, but there is never an in text moment where this is made explicit, and I think has prevented the audience from viewing Giles differently.

This abandonment changes the terms of their relationship, it is no longer the father/daughter relationship that has been cultivated, but this is never pointed out to the audience, many of whom continue to view him as a father figure to Buffy.
William Frank
2. scifantasy
So how much icky addiction stuff is Dark Willow worth?

This much is fine. Even the later scenes in "Wrecked" might be mostly okay by me, when it's just Willow enjoying the rush. After that...I'm done. Rack is too literally a dealer, and the "it's just sage" sequence with Amy is where I punch out for sure. It's where the "mistaken impression" rationale Aeryl@1 suggests fails. (I'm sorry, I can't buy that Amy was faking it to throw the Scoobies down the wrong path. Too much suspension of disbelief.)

The problem I see is making it literal: addiction to magic, in the "hooked" sense. As opposed to, and this is where I would have believed it, addiction to power and control. Willow feels her life spinning out of control. Solution: Bring back Buffy--she has literally conquered death! Except nothing gets better. But she remembers the power she felt at that moment. Fight with Tara? She can fix it! She has that power! Guilt over Buffy? She can fix it! And so on.

(Image of Willow as Fix-It Felix: bonus! Who's Wreck-It Ralph, then? Spike? Xander? Maybe Dark Willow, for symmetry...)

That's also more consistent with her actions at the end of the season. She goes Dark when her power can't fix the most important thing. Nihilism and's a bitch.

Remember the Tao of Peter Parker (who has already been name-checked this season)? This is the flip side. "Great Responsibility" doesn't mean you have to use your power. Sometimes it means you have to not use it.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
I don't think she was faking it to misdirect the Scoobies, I think she was faking it to get Willow in trouble. She broke in and made a scene about stealing magic supplies to get Willow in trouble.

That the gang took it as a literal sign of a literal addiction is just a bonus.
Alyx Dellamonica
4. AMDellamonica
I'm not sure I buy it, Aeryl. There's no good reason for Amy to want to get Willow in trouble with the gang at that point, and we never see any evidence that she was faking in that moment.

I'm on board for Willow having been addicted to power, rather than literally to magic, though.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
She was mad at Willow cuz Rack was throwing her over for Willow, she spelled it out when they interrogated her. Everybody just thought her anger was the addiction talking, not that the talking was her anger talking.

I'll agree this is one of those things that isn't apparent with what we know NOW, but how Amy was developed in S7, as bitter at Willow, and again in S8 where it's revealed HOW DEEP that bitterness goes, it makes sense.
Genevieve Williams
6. welltemperedwriter
I guess I'll have to watch it again. I remember taking the magic-as-addiction trope literally, possibly because it struck me as incredibly heavy-handed. It was irritating because it wasn't very interesting and seemed on the point of letting Willow off the hook for her behavior.
William Frank
7. scifantasy
Plus, and this may be a bit of telling tales out of school, but I seem to recall hearing that Marti Noxon (who was showrunning at the time, though I'm pretty sure the term "showrunner" wasn't nearly as well known as it is now) was working out her own issues with a friend's addiction through the writing, which adds to the impression that we were supposed to take it literally.
8. Ithilanor
I love this episode. All the goofiness with the cast, that great shot of them all freaking out in the door, the fact that Spike's being pursued by a literal loan shark...great stuff.

As for Willow's arc: I agree with scifantasy @2. Magic is just the means to an end. Willow has an immense amount of power, and it's going to her head, leading to all sorts of problems. I think that's the way to explore it, rather than "magic addiction."

I agree with Aeryl @1 about Giles - if he's going to leave, fine, make it count. It gets treated far too casually by the show, I think; as it is, Giles is abandoning Buffy at a time when she desperately needs support, but the show presents it as the right decision for him.

Final thought: Wow, this season would really benefit from being shorter. After this, we go into the Smashed/Wrecked/Gone trilogy, then "Doublemeat Palace" as filler, then "Dead Things" is where the Trio get really serious... and there's nine episodes still to go!
Jack Flynn
9. JackofMidworld
I almost always enjoy episodes where everybody gets to forget and be all brain-wipey and totally be a different character for an episode, and this was no different. Loved it (especially the father/son bits between Giles & Randy).

I thought back to when I first watched this season and I have to admit, I didn't really have any issues with the whole magic-addiction thing. When I started from the beginning and watched the entire show, I actually like the way they did it, if only because if Willow kept dumping XP into magic, eventually they would've had to change the name from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Willow and the Slayer Gang or Buffy, Willow the Witch's Vampire Slayer. Rather than either A) letting Buffy get outshined by Willow's power, B) coming up with some sort of ridiculous reason that Willow can't use magic any more (stripping her power and making her 'normal' or kicking her off the show or something), or C) amping up Buffy's power to make her more/just as powerful as Willow, I thought this was a good way to have Willow tone down her magic use in a more 'natural' manner, one that made sense and fit into the world that Joss and crew had created. Also, I think that Dark Willow makes for an outstanding Big Bad.

That's my $.02, anyway...
10. GarrettC
@1: Considering Buffy's family history, Giles cutting out at this phase may make him more of an actual father figure to her than he's ever been before!

That's a bit dark, maybe.

@ADDICTION: I think what doesn't work is that what should be an analogy is rendered literally. I can buy that a dependence on magic is analagous to a dependence on drugs, but the show presents magic AS as a drug, complete with dealer, overdose, withdrawal, etc., and that doesn't make sense. Magic isn't a drug. Functionally, I'd even argue that Willow's use an dependence on magic is much closer in spirit to a technology addiction than anything else (and it would be in character!).

I'd even say that rather than being so ham-fisted and literal as they are about the drug line, it would be more compelling to simply have her addicted to actual drugs at that point (the magic takes a toll on her body, racking her joints with pain, she manages to land a prescription of vicodin from the doctor, and viola!). I mean, if you're going to be literal, you may as well be literal, darn it.

In short, I don't have a problem that they went there. How they went there just wasn't satisfying. You can only be so on the nose (and speaking on on the nose and this episode... an actual loan shark, eh?).

@TABULA RASA: I may have to re-watch, but this stands out from the times I've seen it, actually, as beingamong my least favorite episodes of the series. Right down there with Hell's Bells. And it shouldn't be. What season 6 needs is levity, and this episode gives a good 35 minutes or so of nothing but. And the series does great comedy.

But I couldn't buy it in this one. Just look at that first screen cap. So. Much. Ham. Hammy ham ham. Cheese ham. Hammy cheese ham. By Giles's eyeglasses, that's a lot of ham. I can't escape how artificial this episode seems to me (and it's not the premise... I REALLY LIKE "Spin the Bottle" in Angel season 4, which is more or less the exact same plot with minor tweakage). Nothing gets played straight from the moment they wake up to the moment the spell is broken, and so much of the charm in this series is its ability to play its own absurd scenarios, starting with the very title of the series itself, straight, whether for laughs or tears.

But not here. Cheese cheese ham blort spit take prat fall ham.
11. Dianthus
Well, I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I loathe the addiction to magic storyline. It's like saying someone's addicted to electricity or gravity or something. I couldn't agree more strongly with scifantasy. If it had been Willow's will to power, I'd be fine with it. As it is, it's ridiculously ham-handed.
Other than that (and Jumpy the Sharkfaced boy - YAY!), I really like this ep. I love how well they flip fron angst to the funny and back again. IMO, it's much better done here than in TGiQ (Ats s5).

It's great to see the old Buffy back, however briefly. Without all the baggage, Slaying and having Slayer powers are just pretty darn cool.

I got into a disscussion with another fan about Buffy naming herself Joan. Joan is, of course, a reference to Joan of Arc, Warrior Maid and martyr - her take. OTOH, Joan is a solid, sensible name that gets taken seriously (unlike Buffy) - my take. It's been a running gag throughout the show that Buffy's right about whatever (like Kathy the demon roommate), but no one believes her.

One of my favorite lines is Spike's:
"Hey, I'm a superhero too!"
Maybe not just yet, m'lad, but soon.

I'm of two minds when it comes to the scene with Spike trying to suss out why he doesn't want to bite Buffy. Kirshner takes a playful slap at Angel here, and ordinarily I'm all for taking slaps (playful or otherwise) at Angel. However, it comes at the expense of Spike recognizing his attraction to/love for Buffy, just as the attraction btwn Willow and Tara is clear despite the loss of their memories.
12. Gardner Dozois
This may be the last episode of this season that I actually ENJOYED. A few others were powerful--but "enjoyed" seems the wrong word to apply to them. There are some really great comic touches here, and I admire the audacity of having the loan shark be an actual shark, the kind of audacity they showed by introducing Dawn without a word of explaination for several more episodes, the kind you'd see less of as the show progressed.

I couldn't agree with you more--it was great to see a cheerful Buffy ENJOYING being the Slayer and having superpowers again, being peppy and cheerful and enjoying the fight, like early-season Buffy used to do. It was actually a relief to see her this way--Hi, Buffy, welcome back!--and thus a corresponding disappointment to see her slump back into glum, depressed, morose, emotionally ruined Buffy again--a state she never really entirely recovers from in the entire rest of the series.

I also agree strongly with Scifantasy--this should have been about Willow getting too much power too fast and losing her head over it (something Willow was always inclined toward anyway), rather than "magic is an addictive drug," which was a line I thought was really stupid, and didn't enjoy at all. Scifantasy is right that she still could have turned into Dark Willow this way--she becomes accustomed to using her power to fix everything she doesn't like, and then when she hits something--Tara's death--that she CAN'T fix, it turns her. Too bad the show's actual writers didn't play it that way.

And of course, as we've discussed before, the REAL reason Giles leaves is because Anthony Head wanted to leave the show, but I find it difficult to believe the reason the character gives for leaving, considering the desperate state Buffy is in. I agree that if they didn't want to go so far as to kill Giles off, it would have been much better to find a reason to FORCE him to leave, deportation, death in the family, thrown into the Phantom Zone by the Trio, whatever, against his will.
13. Gardner Dozois
Some people here might find this of interest:
14. Dianthus
@13. Thnx for the link. Everybody (well, almost everybody) looks great.

The loan shark as actual (demon) shark - an homage to early SNL Landshark skit?

One other thing not of the good in this ep (IMO): why does such a pretty girl have such awful hair? Tara looks like she's got a dead squid on her head.

Once upon a time, there were Ganya 'shippers (based on this ep?). Anyone else feel for these folks? I think Ganya would've been all kinds of fun.

My favorite fanfic writer (rahirah, aka Barb C.) did a much better take on Willow's problems, IMO. Willow burns out her power with Buffy's resurrection, and makes a deal with/is tempted by the First.
Michael Ikeda
15. mikeda
I agree with Aeryl that the "addiction" frame is something the Scoobies latched on to because it fit SOME of what was happening with Willow.

I do think, however, that some forms of magic can be addictive. In particular, I think that Rack's magic is actually addictive and that Willow really was addicted to it.

(There is some precedent in BtVS for some kinds of magic being like a recreational drug. Recall Giles' description of the feeling of summoning Eyghon in "The Dark Age". And the candy in "Band Candy".)
Alyx Dellamonica
16. AMDellamonica
Good point about Giles and the 'high' of magic, Mikeda.

Gardner, I love that ham shot. It just makes me unbelievably happy.
17. Gardner Dozois
The complaint about the "ham shot" was GarrettC's, actually. I liked it.
18. Dianthus
@15. While you're correct, re: precedent, being like something isn't necessarily the same as being that thing. Plus, the addiction to magic storyline in s6 is more than just a frame the other characters use to understand what Willow's going through. You've got the scene where Willow is crying in the shower, for instance, or the scene where Rack refers to her as "strawberry" (street slang for a crack whore).
I do feel that the addiction thing is meant to give Willow a pass on her actions while she's "under the influence." IMO, she and Buffy both get an out 'cuz they're presented as helpless before the Sinister Attraction of their chosen drug.
I hate it 'cuz it's like the exact opposite of female empowerment. Spike is just too sexy for anyone's good, so Buffy goes back again and again, 'cuz she just can't help herself. Meanwhile, the magic has Willow completely in its thrall.
Bull. Also, too, sh!t.
Constance Sublette
19. Zorra
@4. AMDellamonica
I'm on board for Willow having been addicted to power, rather than literally to magic, though.
But isn't Willow's power exactly that? Magic? At least she believes it is. She panics at the slightest attempt to not have access to magic -- she's been getting there for a while now. We already saw it start in at least Season 5.

I've never had any problems with this magic - addiction stream of Willow's. Willow is very interested in having power. We see this already in the high school seasons, when she substitutes for Miss Calendar, and with the jock she tutors. When Buffy was in heaven, she was the central figure in the group, and called the shots. She liked that. What she didn't want, and obviously wasn't ready for was the responsibility that should accompany power.

This is the season in which all of them give away their responsibility: Buffy wants to give it to Giles, Giles leaves her, Xander leaves Anya. I dislike more chiming in here about the awesomeness of Spike, as if he's the central figure, but finally, Spike is the one who doesn't.

Well, that's only my point of view on these matters, and does not negate anyone else's!

Love, C.
20. build6
@8, 14 -

I read a review once where the reviewer was really unhappy about the loanshark being an actual shark - I remember thinking that it was *obviously* a deliberate decision to emphasize the "humour" content of the episode (and it worked on me, I chuckled when I first saw him).

I liked how everyone behaved when "starting afresh" (esp. Buffy's innate cheerfulness/positiveness) - that without the burden of their memories (i.e. the accumulation of their past mistakes and grievances), they were their "essential selves" and it was great. And then it became sad.

(And again Spike doesn't "already know" how he ought to act - he tries to reason out how he "ought to act" and then tries to act that way. If being a vampire didn't automatically imply "being evil", what would Spike have been like even without the chip or a soul?)
21. GarrettC
That was me, yes, but it's not so much a complaint about the shot itself as what it can be seen to represent for me: That the episode doesn't really feel like an episode of Buffy to me, at least not tonally. The series has always gotten away with a little ham, but this episode is persistent about it. It just does so much differently from the core series. I've harped on the ham, but the acting, the costuming, the direction, the kind of self-reference, etc., in this episode are all functioning in different modes from what they do when I enjoy the show most.

It's not really unlike my feelings about season 6 overall: that it doesn't really feel like a season of Buffy anymore. What is this show that insists on comprehensive misery? It's why season 7, despite having too small a plot and too few "stand-alones" to support it, is such a relief. For all of its flaws, and there are lots, it's tonally Buffy again.
Michael Ikeda
22. mikeda

The candy in "Band Candy" IS a recreational drug. The fact that the origin of the effect is magical is irrelevant in that matter. And while Giles' remark in "Dark Age" that the summoning was "an extraordinary high" could perhaps have been metaphorical, I suspect it was at least partly literal.
23. Gardner Dozois
@21. I couldn't disagree more. My feelings are exactly the reverse. For me, Season Six still felt like BUFFY--bad BUFFY, perhaps, BUFFY not as good as it had been the previous season, generally disappointing BUFFY, but still BUFFY. It was Season Seven that felt to me like it wasn't really BUFFY anymore, a feeling that grew on me as the season progressed, to the point where I more or less gave up on the show, although I continued to watch unenthusiastically out of duty.
24. Dianthus
@20. It's my understanding that one characteristic held in common among many violent offendors is poor impulse control. In Spike's case, the chip imposes a type of impulse control. So, yes, in that regard it causes him to give more consideration to his actions.
However, I think Spike shows a fair amount of impulse control even before he's chipped when he goes to Buffy under a flag of truce. Also, when he holds off "sampling" in Triangle. The chip isn't even relevent there, 'cuz he wouldn't be hurting anyone. IMO, he does have some idea of how to act (William's memories), and he gets more cues from Buffy and the Scoobs over time.
It's kinda funny when you think about it. Spike gets the last laugh on The Initative, Riley, and Mad Maggie herself. Initially, the chip had one purpose, and one purpose only: making him easier to control. As it is, The Initiative is shut down and disavowed, Riley ends up authorizing? initiating? the removal of Spike's chip at Buffy's request, and Maggie is killed by her own creation.

@22. I'm not saying you're wrong. So much is open to interepretation that there really isn't a wrong or right. However, please allow me to remind you that magic was also used as a metaphor for sex; biting, too.

You have to give Tara props for leaving Willow. Boo-f*cking-Hoo, Weeping Willow, you brought it on yourself. OTOH, Spike can't leave. If he did, there's no story. Plus, then he's just like all the other guys who've left Buffy.
Chris Nelly
25. Aeryl
See, I don't like it when people hold that moment from Triangle up as if it's indicative of Spike's changes.

Just because the chip wasn't relevant in that scene, doesn't mean there weren't other behaviorial modifications in play, namely his desire to appear more moral in front of Buffy, in an attempt to win her affections.

He fails spectacularly of course, because he doesn't understand yet that morality is more than appearing to act right, it's also choosing to act right for the right reasons. And modifying your behavior to gain someone's affections is not a "right" reason, it's an ultimately self-serving reason, and it's one Buffy is not obligated to acknowledge.

And seeking an alliance with Buffy in Becoming isn't impulse control, it's, again, self-serving. Happy Meals with legs, Dru without the complication of Angelus.

Spike doesn't act in an altruistic manner because he's becoming a better person, he acts in an altruistic manner because he's looking to be rewarded for it. And I despise that in people AND fictional characters.

Spike doesn't become a moral agent until he gets his soul, and while he is changing, they are not changes of quality or morality until then.
26. Dianthus
@25. Bloody Hell! I'm not even talking about morals or morality! I'm talking about impulse control. Spike was capable of controling his more violent impulses even before getting chipped when there was something in it for him. I have stated repeatedly that he went to Buffy under flag of truce out of good old-fashioned self-interest.
Spike is fully capable of reason and intellectual understanding. He has a latent capacity for good that comes closer and closer to surfacing as his violent tendancies recede.
I mention the scene in Triangle specifically 'cuz the chip plays no part in his decision not to sample from the injured. That comes from inside him, and I don't care what motivates it. It is in and of itself an impressive display of self-restraint for a vampire. Buffy, naturally, judges him by her own moralisitc standards. Would he have been so circumspect if Buffy wasn't there? We can't know for certain, but she was and it played out as it did.
Later on he will come to realise that "ok" isn't good enough and he is motivated to act. That too comes from inside him, not because he's gotten any encouragement from the others, or he's trying to score points. He knows he has to change, so he does. It's as simple as that.
27. Dianthus
Warren - Willow - Andrew - they all have souls. How moral are their actions? A soul is no guarantee of morality in the Jossverse.
I do believe, given enough time, Spike could piece together something resembling a moral code through reason and logic. Buffy doesn't have to be his conscience, either. He'd just have to ask himself what she'd do in a given situation, or how she'd feel about what he was doing. His ability to think and feel, his intuition, his BS detector - I think he has the tools he needs.
Even so, he ends up undertaking a Hero's Journey, and I certainly can't fault him for it.
Alyx Dellamonica
28. AMDellamonica
@Zorra - yes, there is definitely a power addiction going on with Willow. And yes, many peeps, I agree that there are moments when it looks more as though the Scoobies have decided to call her issue an addiction because that's the easiest way to understand it.

But the shakes and Rack the dealer, and the dosing by Amy, later, do make this literally drug-like, too. If the idea was to have the Scoobies misread or mislabel what was going on, I'd have to argue that it was done very clumsily.
Michael Ikeda
29. mikeda

I think much of what's related to Rack's magic look literally drug-like because Rack's magic literally IS an addictive drug.

But that's not all of what's happening with Willow and ultimately not even the most important issue.
Chris Nelly
30. Aeryl
Which is why the judgements those people face are harsher(I'm of the view staking a demon puts it out the misery, so no harshness there) because they have and the capability of knowing better . Their actions aren't moral, they are immoral. Spike isn't capable of either. That does not mean we can't judge him, or his actions, they are just not under the same metric.

Also, while Spike makes decisions without the GOAD of the chip, doesn't mean that the chip is irrelevant. Spike would never have taken the time to figure out an ethical code without it. And again we don't see him trigger the chip unless it's intentional, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant, it means the chip has done it's job.

And you're right, Spike could possible develop into a more ethical actor without Buffy. But that's not the scenario the show has given us, it has given us a Spike who's only impetus to develop into a more ethical actor, is to earn the love of a good woman. And there is so much wrong with that, I can't even.
31. Dianthus
Who's saying we can't judge Spike's actions? What angers me is the idea that his good actions aren't credited as such b/c he's not doing them "for the right reasons." He's a vampire (implied evil). As such, he shouldn't be doing the right thing for any reason. I personally don't give a rat's a$$ why he does the right thing. What matters to me is it's Spike, doing the right thing, and good for him.

"The chip has done it's job."
I believe I said exactly that in an earlier post. The chip prompted him to modify his behavior. Once that's done, it becomes less and less relevant to his story. I've never said that the chip wasn't relevant in starting that process. It was, obviously. I'm getting really, really tired of seeing my arguments misrepresented this way.

Wrong or not, the Bad Man Redeemed by the Love of a Good Woman trope has been around for ages. The Angel and the Bad Man with John Wayne is just one example I can think of off the top of my head. BtVS didn't create it. Were they right to go there? I dunno. It doesn't really bother me, so I don't see the problem. Is it because they're promoting the I can change him idea?
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
I don't judge Spike's behavior, for the most part, because without the ability to make choices, you don't have choices. So everything Spike does is wrong. I can't seperate his actions, from the bad motives behind them. His motives can never change until he gets a soul, and he is allowed the agency to make choices. To judge Spike would be like judging a dog that gets hit by a car while running after a ball. The dog is not a creature that is always capable of making informed moral decisions, and neither is Spike.

The chip never loses relevance, because the journey wouldn't have begun without it. If they chip was out tomorrow, Spike would revert. This has been established. It never loses relevance, it's the only thing, other than Buffy, which is a bad thing, KEEPING him on this path. The chip is actually now more a hindrance to Spike, because it's an artificial modifier of his behavior, and he cannot move beyond the boundaries it's created for him to become a true moral agent.

"The Bad Man Redeemed by a Good Woman" doesn't bother you and that's fine. It BOTHERS me. It bothers me BIG. I cannot count the lives and dreams I've seen destroyed by gullible women believing their love will make a man better, that it will make him get a job, or stop hitting her. It's a poisonous idea that is endemic in our culture, it's anti-feminist, so yes, it bugs me to see it perpetuated by a group of writers that claims to care about empowerment. If they were doing it to invert the trope, that's one thing, but they are not. Instead, Spike's love for Buffy is what redeems him, and it makes me want to vomit.

So yes, the reasons WHY Spike behaves as he does are WAY more important to me than his actions.
33. Dianthus
I could not disagree with you more strongly on your first point. Spike does make choices. He's not an animal, and that's what separates him from other vampires. He chooses to go to the Scoobies for help, believing they ("the goody good guys") will actually help him. He chooses to endure torture rather than give up Dawn to Glory, and he chooses to go after his soul.
I don't believe it's a given that Spike would revert to his bad old self w/o the chip. The changes began there, but he is learning thru his interactions with the Scoobies and internalizing those lessons. My understanding is that Spike going for his soul wasn't even part of the original plan for his character once they made him a regular. That only came about on account of the AR.
I do agree that the fallacy behind I can change him thinking is very dangerous. However, I don't think that's entirely where they were going with Spike's redemption. It's about integration; Buffy embracing Spike (her Inner Slayer/Inner Darkness). Sending him for his soul actually weakend this theme, 'cuz in the end, Spike changed so Buffy didn't have to.
The other is, I think, an unfortunate side-effect. This kinda goes back to my point that Whedon's primarily concerned with his own issues (like loss and abandonment) as opposed to Womens' Issues. Bad boyfriends do make an appearance, but they're just monsters like all the rest, and her own bad behavior is basically excused. Plus, Spike readily forgives her after getting a taste of self-loathing for himself.
34. nomoem
This re-watch is a long time past but since I've been skimming it over the past few weeks, I thought I'd make a few comments....

I don't really buy the whole addiction thing b/c I think that addictions tend to be symptoms of deeper mental health issues in general.

When thinking of Willow here, I'm reminded of the moment all the way back in Welcome to the Hellmouth when Buffy talks to Willow at the Bronze. Buffy spots Giles upstairs and tells Willow that she'll be back to which Willow responds "You don't really have to."

This is the beginning of plot point one for that episode, where Buffy abandons her resistence to being the slayer to save Willow. Buffy, of course, saves Willow. And, from that point forward, you can almost see a whole bunch of trying-to-keep-up-with-the-slaryer baggage starting to accumulate around Willow, leading up to this story moment.

This also contributes, I think, to the number of 'interventions' between the gang and Buffy, including the final one in S7.... the gang want to be (and believe) that they're equal partners in the enterprise but there is really only one slayer.

I'm not a general shipper, but this is one area that I agree with the spuffites* -- Spike gets that Buffy is special and learns to behave that way.

Part of how he learns to behave that way post-chip, is that he experiences pain whenever he attempts to harm humans. This is basic punishment therapy where a negative action (harming humans) results in pain and we are to a certain extant hard-wired to avoid pain.

* The primary reason that I'm not a spuffite is because I think that Angel leaving for LA, getting his own series, and never having any real consistent development is something of a revenge against the popularity of the bangle popularity. **

** Shipping him off to LA and never having any consistent development while Spike has the opportunity for consistent development rigs the game.***

*** In case, you're wondering I'm a Pratchett fan paying homage with my footnotes.

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