“Never Leave Me” by Drew Goddard and “Bring on the Night” by Marti Noxon and Douglas Petrie
This phase of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh season is moving at breakneck speed: once again, with this episode, we pick up directly after what passed the week before. XandAnya, Willow and Dawn are trying to repair the damage from the First’s recent spooktacular visit to the Summers home. Instead of whistling while they work, Anya and Dawn are being vocal about their misgivings about Buffy’s “Let’s bring Spike home and not kill him immediately,” plan.
Elsewhere, the First is using Andrew as a reluctant agent, egging him on by appearing to be Warren and urging him to... well, at this point we aren’t sure precisely what the goal may be.
One of the things we do learn about the First, in case we all hadn’t processed it earlier, is that it can’t can’t take solid form. Andrew and Fake Warren compare this situation to its media antecedents, bringing up Obi-Wan Kenobi and Patrick Swayze in Ghost. They entirely leave out Al from Quantum Leap, so I am officially miffed.
Whatever Andrew may think of playing minion to insubstantial wickedness, he’s pretty sure he can’t bring himself to commit any more homicides. The First promptly does a quick-change into Jonathan, claiming that getting murdered was the best thing that ever happened to him. He also reveals that Jonathan, who was anemic, simply didn’t have enough blood to adequately marinade the Seal of Danzalthar.
Upshot: the evil plan requires more blood, but Andrew is having wee whiny qualms about sticking a knife in any more humans.
Elsewhere—back in her ruin of a house, actually—Buffy is tying Spike to a chair. They’re not in kinky Spuffy mode, alas, but he nevertheless tells her to make sure all the knots are nice and tight. She also sends Dawn over to Robin Wood’s office, to report her in sick, and phones the never-useful Quentin Travers to see if he knows where Giles might be.
Ah, those Watchers. Travers hangs up after promising to be all kinds of helpful, and then cheerily announces to his fellow wanky librarians that Buffy is out of the loop. Still, finding Giles would be good, he agrees. Who knows what he might be getting up to?
It isn’t long before Spike starts struggling with hunger pains, or bloodlust, or withdrawal. This effect, I like to speculate, is accentuated by his tendency to eat women who’ve been boozing it up. He’s not going to provide any information while he’s jonesing, though, so Willow heads off to the butcher’s shop to pick up some fresh blood.
In the school basement, meanwhile, it turns out that Andrew not only isn’t up to killing another person, he can’t effectively stab a piglet either. Off he goes, therefore, to buy meat and pig’s blood. He’s just leaving when he bumps into Willow. Remembering the black-haired berserker state she was in last time he saw her, not to mention her overpowering urge to rip the flesh from his bones, he flees for his life.
Andrew is no better at running away than he is at porcine butchery; she catches him. Then he alternates between begging for his life and trying to justify what happened to Tara. He proceeds to stick his foot so far down his throat that even though Willow starts out by protesting that she isn’t going to kill him, she’s got to be reconsidering.
Good wins out. She grabs up the blood—Hooray, free blood! More money for lattes!—and takes Andrew back to Chez Slay, where he joins in the “Tie a murderer to a chair day” theme party they’ve got going. They put him in one of the bedrooms and XandAnya start working “Good Cop, Bad Cop” on him. Hey, it’s a break from cleaning up wreckage.
One thin plasterboard wall away, Buffy feeds Spike the bagged blood. When he’s calmer, he says he only remembers flashes of his recent killing spree. And that he’s been losing time. He didn’t realize the Initiative chip had stopped working. He gives Buffy some details on how he got his soul back, at first laying it on heavy about the physical pain. Then he adds that all that was nothing compared to the suffering caused by his love for her.
She accuses him of self-pity, and they talk about how she used him to deal with her post-resurrection fit of self-loathing. He claims he understands her now. She’s rather cold as he tells her this... cold enough that I briefly found myself wondering if she was the First. But no.
Xander, still good copping, goes in and suggests that Andrew should be very afraid of Anya’s vengeance powers. We get a little subtexty as he talks about how she did in “some guy” by replacing his heart with darkness and despair. The strategem works—Andrew’s about to crack. Unfortunately, this is not what the First especially wants.
So, as Buffy has a quick check-in with XandAnya, it swings into disembodied action. When she comes back, Spike is talking to himself and having a little sing. The First is in the room now, disguised as another Spike. Acting under its orders, Spike asks for more blood, as a way of distracting her. Then he shatters the chair, oh so easily. Ropes? What ropes? He knocks her aside, then tries to grab and eat Andrew, the idea being to shut him up before he can spill all he knows about the Seal of Danzalthar.
(And also, maybe, to ensure there isn’t a single un-trashed room in the house. Evil can operate on many levels at once.)
Real Spike gets a little taste of Andrew before Buffy stops him. Then he’s horrified. Fake “Spike” is simply disappointed. What’s the point of being the source of all evil if you can’t even kill your own annoying toadie?
The gang hashes over what happened and Xander realizes that Spike is probably conditioned with a post-hypnotic trigger. Buffy orders research.
Over at the high school, Robin Wood finds Jonathan’s body in the basement. There’s still no word on the pig.
Robin’s coming late to the story, but he still gets a rather leisurely introduction. After all, we still don’t know at this point if he’s good or bad. The expression on his face doesn’t say: “Oh, what a tragic waste of human life!” But it also doesn’t say: “Whee! A delicious fresh corpse! Just what I needed for my latest necromancy spell and that pate I’ve been meaning to make.”
What’s his secret? It’s like they mean for us to wonder.
Having busted up the one surviving piece of decent sittable furniture in the Summers home, Spike gets downgraded to chains in the basement. Buffy comes to wash Andrew’s blood off his face, ever so gently, and she explains about the trigger. Spike says she ought to kill him. No? He tries to be extra repellent, so she’ll do it. He even accuses her of keeping him alive because she likes men who hurt her.
But Buffy declines. He’s alive because, essentially, he’s trying to be a better man. And she believes he can. This is a huge deal, for her and for him. She’s not returning his love, but she’s recognizing its effects.
That’s when the pile of rubble she likes to call a house gets attacked.
As Robin buries Jonathan’s body in an unmarked grave, outside of town (near some oil rigs, oddly enough), the Scoobies fight off the latest home invasion. Or try to. They save Andrew, but the baddies grab Spike. I feel Dawn makes out quite well in the melee, as such things go. When her luck runs out, Xander is very heroic in saving her.
The upside of it all is that Buffy recognizes their attackers—they’re the Bringers. Or the Harbingers. The First’s pals. Isn’t it nice having everyone on the same page?
Over at Watcher Central, they’ve also figured out that it’s the First who’s after them. After them in a big way, as it happens. The Harbingers are scoring wins, casualty reports are coming in and Quentin Travers is rallying the surviving troops for some strategic running away. We’re off to the Hellmouth, he announces gaily.
Then, fortunately for Buffy’s fraying nerves, if not the whole darned world, the London office blows up. Bye, Quentin and Company. I hope you left your personal fortunes to someone who could use them. Like, you know, Buffy Summers.
Down by the still-hungry Seal of Danzalthar, Fake Spike is having his deliciously corporeal Harbingers tie Real Spike to a torture wheel so they can bleed him. They carve runes in his chest and gravity does the rest. The seal opens, and out comes a supervamp.
Who says, basically: “Rrarr.”
Part two of this story, “Bring on the Night,” starts with an echo of its predecessor. Xander’s sweeping up glass in Buffy’s living room and wondering if he’ll be replacing the front window for all eternity. If he’d made it to college, he could have said something about Sisyphus. Everyone else is attempting to work their Google-fu on the First. All they really know is it tried to get Angel to kill himself. Nobody even mentions that it did so dressed as Jenny Calendar.
At some point Dawn takes time out to slap Andrew. I enjoyed this.
Buffy asks for a book and the person who hands it to her is... Joyce! Naturally, it’s a Fake Joyce. She tries being nurturing, but Buffy’s on to her game. Then Joyce says she can’t win.
Elsewhere, Spike is getting dragged around the Sunnydale Caverns of Evil (now under new management!) by the noseless vampire and taunted by Fake Drusilla. “Soon as the new moon comes, you’ll have your carnage,” she promises Noseless. In the meantime, she lets her new pet play with Spike.
When Andrew finally comes around, he’s a little boggled that Buffy saved him. The group tells him this is no random act of unconditional kindness. The point is that now he’ll spill his guts. He does, and even leads them down to the Satanic Manhole Cover, as Xander calls it. They find the First’s torture wheel there, all covered in Spikejuice and redemptive suffering.
Buffy orders the team to rebury the seal and they’re all leaving when they run into Robin Wood. Everyone’s got a shovel. They make strange excuses about the gardening gear, talk about work, and then go their separate ways.
Back at the house, Willow is trying a locator spell. It goes badly; she’s momentarily possessed, and then completely freaks out, for fear of reverting to evil. Two seconds later, Giles turns up, leading a trio of Potentials.
They’re through the door before anyone can hug or touch Giles. He explains that there were other girls, ones who were murdered by the Harbingers. Their Watchers are toast too, of course, and we flash back to the peril Giles was in when we last saw him. They don’t show how he escaped. We’re left to wonder if he’s actually, maybe, an Evil Giles.
The shape of the First’s plan begins to emerge. It is trying to wipe out the whole Slayer line, down to the last Watcher and baby Slayer. It wants their books, their spells, their weapons, every single world-destroying amulet, and the heads of Faith and Buffy, preferably on pikes. And they have a head start. Everything’s gone except a few files, and a couple musty tomes that Giles stole from London before the Watchers went boom.
Partway through this scene, Andrew chimes in with a dramatic utterance and gets gagged. I find myself incredibly annoyed by him. Tom Lenk does his best in this role, and I know there are people who like the character, but at this point he’s abrasive: weaselly, whiny, and a total waste of screen time.
Giles restates the First’s limitations: being non-corporeal, only being able to appear as someone who has passed away (loophole there on Buffy, since she’s died twice). It’s not evil, he tells them, so much as it is the source of evil.
As for the Slayettes: Kennedy is freaking out, Molly’s not far behind her, and Annabelle is trying for a Teacher’s Pet award by sucking up to Giles and Buffy bigtime.
With all that going on, it’s something of a relief to return to the comparative peace and quiet of the source of all evil’s hideyhole, where Noseless is drowning Spike and FirstDrusilla is attempting to school him on how crazy babbling really should sound. His Gibbering William persona has nothing on her. I really enjoy seeing Juliet Landau again in this episode.
One of the few things that are likeable about Giles’s absences is that it’s becoming traditional, in a way, for him and Buffy to go off together and debrief whenever he comes back. She isn’t sleeping with Spike this time, so today’s reunion isn’t quite the laugh riot that the last one was. Still, I enjoy seeing them connect, and bask in each other’s company and their mutual affection.
Back at home, logistics are being tackled and sleeping arrangements negotiated. Kennedy is deciding that she will be Willow’s roommate, while the others are figuring out how and how much and what to feed the Potentials.
Next, Buffy and Giles return to the Christmas Tree lot from “Amends” and find the tunnel entrance. Soon enough she’s scrapping with Noseless. She stakes him, and he responds with the ancient vampire equivalent of “Oh, Pshaw. This little thing?”
The fight goes badly, but because Buffy is smart, she runs... and manages to escape, too, if only because the sun is coming up.
She and Giles head home, where Giles balks at telling her about Noseless in front of the potentials. Buffy argues they don’t have time to be precious, and so he says the thing’s proper name is a Turok-Han. Basically they’re ubervamps—even Buffy uses that term.
Now it’s Giles, rather than Xander or Fake Joyce, telling her she should sleep.
Instead she goes to work, where Robin Wood catches her trying to look up evil on the internet. She claims to be looking for horror movies, and he says he prefers mysteries. They don’t get into the obvious but awkward question of what they were each doing in the basement with shovels the day before.
Back at the Fake Drusilla, the First is trying to woo Spike over to the side of evil and he’s not going for it.
Buffy, who is seriously sleep deprived and almost as bruised as Spike after her go ’round with Noseless, dozes off. Once again, she sees Joyce, who argues that Buffy needs to rest and heal. She’s kind and lovely and tells Buffy that Evil is everywhere, and therefore unstoppable. On that cheery note, Buffy wakes to find she fell asleep during a student conference.
That evening as they wait for sundown, the Slayettes kick up about whether or not they’re ready to weapon up and join the fight. Kennedy is especially unhappy about being unarmed. Snotty little Annabelle, who had previously been all “Obey the Slayer,” runs away... right into Noseless’s stinky grey maw.
Buffy finds her body fast enough, and Noseless is waiting. She’s still horrifically outmatched, and so leads him into a construction site. He follows. She drops a flat of pipes on him, which would be sufficient to profoundly overkill any ordinary vamp, but no. He’s fine, and ready to resume the pounding. It’s Buffy versus Glory all over again. He pulps her, and then declines to finish her off, opting instead to go back to the caves for more Spike abuse.
“Do you know why you’re alive?” Fake Drusilla asks Spike. “Because I’m not done with you.”
The two of them argue about whether Spike has any potential to be good. Buffy’s belief in him is the only thing sustaining him.
And speaking of belief, Buffy finds herself home, hurt, and listening as a worried Scooby gang talks about whether she’s going to be entirely useless against Noseless and his kin. If there’s a vampire out there who can’t be defeated by a Slayer, aren’t the rest of them toast?
But no. Buffy tells them they’re going to fight and win. “There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that’s us. Any questions?”
These episodes do a lot of heavy lifting. They set out a basic structure for the rest of the year: Buffy becomes leader of a small but growing army of Potentials. Giles returns, for good or ill Andrew joins the fold, the Watchers’ Council and any help it might offer are taken off the table. Finally, Spike is given a chance to willingly rejoin Team Evil. Refusing, and suffering as a result, is another key step in his redemptive journey.
We see that Robin Wood isn’t the kind of guy to pick up the phone and call the Sunnydale P.D. when he finds an anemic alumnus cooling in the basement with a fatal knife wound.
The introduction of a vampire Buffy can’t easily defeat, on the other hand, isn’t really a new development. She has long since grown beyond the point where a purley physical challenge is significant: we expect her enemies to be brawnier than she is at this point. It does, however, make things tricky when she’s got all those Slayettes to keep alive, not to mention a soul-addled vampire to rescue.
But that’s a story for another day, isn’t it?
Next: Eye of Beljoxa, Tongue of Newt
A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth of fiction up here on Tor.com! 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 of The Gales, “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)