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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lovers Walk

[Updated April 30, 2013]

Lovers Walk is one of my personal favorite episodes. It has the return of Spike, no longer a metaphor, but a chaotic force as he blows into and out of town and tears the masks of deception off of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. He’s great in every scene: with Joyce in the kitchen; his “love’s bitch” speech; with Willow in the factory. The episode also has possibly my favorite scene with the Mayor and it has the PEZ witch.
But while it’s incredibly funny, the episode has a real bite to it. Xander and Willow get caught, er, “fluking”, and the repercussions are going to be with us for a while. Willow’s would-be attempt at “de-lusting” shows that she’s unwilling to do the hard work of dealing with her emotions. The spell was doubly wrong: she shouldn’t be using the dark arts for such purposes; and she didn’t have Xander’s consent to perform magic on him, a particularly egregious omission given his experience in BB&B. I think the point is to contrast her with Buffy, who does, with an assist from Spike, reach an understanding about her own desire and manages to control herself without any supernatural aid.
Spike’s words to Buffy and Angel obviously had an impact, but the opposite of the one we might expect. Instead of embracing Spike’s view of love, Buffy seemed to fear it and take it as something to avoid. Perhaps we can see the reason for this by comparing Spike’s view of love with that of Mr. Platt in Beauty and the Beasts:

Spike:  (faces them) You're *not* friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. (points at his temple) Love isn't brains, children, it's blood... (clasps his chest) blood screaming inside you to work its will…. *I* may be love's bitch, but at least *I'm* man enough to admit it.”
Mr. Platt:  Look, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's, it's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is, you can't stay lost. Sooner or later, you... you have to get back to yourself. …  If you can't... (inhales) Well, love becomes your master, and you're just its dog.”

The dialogue in Lovers Walk doesn’t reference Mr. Platt’s view, but we heard it just four episodes ago and Buffy surely remembers it. If Platt was right, Spike’s words aren’t a paean to love, they’re a big red warning light. Buffy may or may not want that kind of love (see below), but she’s mature enough to recognize that she can’t have it with Angel.
There’s another point worth noting about the speech. This is a paradigm case of the problem inherent in attributing the views of a character to the author. Spike’s view may or may not be true; it may or may not be that of Joss Whedon. But we can’t take his words as true in principle or even as true for Buffy and Angel, any more than we can the diametrically opposite view of Mr. Platt. All we really can know is that his words express how Spike himself sees love.
In S2 I made a big deal out of the fact that Xander and Cordy were a parallel relationship for Buffy/Angel, so I should note here that Cordy turns away from Xander in the scene immediately preceding the one in which Buffy tells Angel that she’s not going to see him anymore.
Trivia notes: (1) Spike knocked over the Sunnydale sign just as he did in School Hard. (2) “Cletus the slack-jawed yokel” is Cletus Spuckler, a character from The Simpsons. (3) The book Angel was reading by the fire is La Nausée by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I mentioned in my post on Lie to Me. In the DVD commentary for the Firefly episode Objects in Space, Joss says that La Nausée is the most important book he’s ever read. In my view, we’ll see the results of Angel’s reading beginning next episode and continuing through Gingerbread. (4) Weird Science – Buffy’s description of Willow’s failed love spell – was a 1985 film by John Hughes. (5) Charisma Carpenter actually suffered an accident very similar to the one which befell Cordelia in this episode. (6) The words we heard at the funeral while Buffy and Willow were talking are from the Wisdom of Solomon 1:14-15. (7) Buffy’s demand that Angel tell her he doesn’t love her echoes the same demand by James to Grace in IOHEFY. (8) The version of “My Way” which Spike sang at the end is by Gary Oldman for the movie Sid & Nancy.

4 comments:

  1. I too love this episode--I'm surprised no one has anything to say about it. In addition to the episode, I also love these thoughtful, in depth reviews. It's a treat to get home from work on Mondays and Thursdays and check the site.

    Spoilers to Follow
    One of the things I love here is the rich way this develops Willow's character--our sweet girl will do anything to avoid emotional pain, and this will become more tempting as she grows in witchly power.

    I am also wondering, having just rewatched Season 3, when Buffy and Angel become a couple/start hanging out again. They seem like a full on couple by Helpless and beyond, but I don't recall a scene where they discuss this, only scenes where they halt the relationship.

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    1. First off, thank you.

      SPOILERS

      I think the re-start of Bangel comes after/as a result of Amends, and I kind of see them reconnecting in their conversation in the park in Gingerbread. They appear as a full-on couple in The Zeppo.

      In fact, there's a hiatus on the Faith/Mayor arc during the middle third of S3. Part of that is devoted to Bangel, though I agree that there isn't a defining moment.

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  2. Spike is describing passion &/or obsession, not love. I like to contrast Spike's speech here with the one he makes to Buffy in Touched.

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  3. This is also one of my favorite episodes. The ending is perfect. Everyone is so sad and my heart is breaking for each of them in their close-up with the sad music. Then all of a sudden Spike driving fast and singing so loudly and off-key... I laugh every time. So many emotions!

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