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Monday, August 27, 2012

Crush

[Updated May 1, 2013}

At some point in time between Fool For Love and Crush, Spike began to acquire a very strong following among fans. He’d always been a popular, but secondary, character. Now many fans became fascinated by his story such that he became as important to them as, say, Willow and Xander were. Some fans were beginning to ship him with Buffy (Spuffy). Writer David Fury pissed off a lot of Spike’s fans by ridiculing the idea of Spuffy in public and with Buffy’s line in Crush about Spike being a “serial killer in prison”. Since Crush is so Spike-centric, it’s a good episode to examine in order to see what it tells us about him. I’ll start by discussing his role as the (other) vampire in love with a Slayer.


It’s an interesting dynamic. Buffy told Spike she never needed him in Checkpoint, only to take Joyce and Dawn to his crypt because, it turned out, she did need him to protect them from Glory. In Blood Ties we saw (1) Spike protect Dawn; but (2) help her break into the Magic Shop; for which (3) Buffy blamed him; only to realize that (4) it was really her fault that she hadn’t told Dawn; and (5) she then asked Spike to help her look for Dawn. Now, at the start of Crush, Buffy tells him to get lost again:
BUFFY: (frowns) What are you doing?
SPIKE: (frowns) Wha, what do you mean what am ... I ...
BUFFY: Here? At this table? Talking to me. Like we're some kind of talking buddies.
SPIKE: Well, I saw you ... sitting here alone. Thought, I don't know, you could, maybe do with a bit of, uh, you know, company.
Buffy raises her eyebrows at him. Spike frowns.
SPIKE: Suit yourself!
 

Given these apparent mixed signals, it’s not surprising that Spike’s confused. He’s incapable of understanding the context, namely that when Buffy asks for his help she’s not expressing romantic interest, she’s doing her job. If you want to say she’s using him, I probably wouldn’t argue. But because he’s a vampire, Buffy doesn’t see him as a suitable partner regardless of how her behavior might appear to him (see dialogue with Dawn quoted below). 

He doesn’t help matters by his actions in Crush. While there’s no denying the chemistry between JM and SMG, Spike’s behavior is hardly the stuff of romance. Although Buffy doesn’t know it, Spike was treating Harmony like crap. Well, ok, it’s just Harmony, but still. More significantly, and equally unknown to Buffy, he also went along with Dru when she killed the 2 people in the Bronze and he fed from one victim himself. This seems to have been part of his plan to make Dru trust him in order to get to Buffy, but letting 2 people be killed for that purpose further emphasizes to the viewers the difference between soul and chip. Spike can’t act on his demon instincts, but that doesn’t mean he can understand human ones.
The stake out was an obvious sham. Letting Dru tase Buffy and then tying Buffy up and threatening to kill her isn’t exactly a turn on.
His offer to stake Dru in return for Buffy’s agreement to “give him a crumb” is more interesting. In S1, Angel proved himself to Buffy by staking Darla. That differed in two important ways from what Spike did here. First, Angel didn’t demand anything in return. Second, Angel didn’t threaten to let Darla go free and have her way with Buffy.
If Spike isn’t doing anything in Crush to make himself attractive to Buffy (or any sane woman), why then is Buffy so concerned that there’s something in *her* that made her attractive to Spike? Obviously she’s insecure because Riley just left town, as did Angel before him. But there’s more: consider that Spike’s long-time girlfriend was Drusilla, an insane, cold-blooded killer (both parts of which are rubbed in our faces during this episode). Buffy’s concern must be in part based on a fear that Spike sees similar qualities in her: maybe she herself is becoming cold and predatory. Remember this dialogue from Buffy v. Dracula:
BUFFY: (gestures helplessly, gets up to pace) And then this whole thing with Dracula ... it made me face up to some stuff. (Giles looks concerned) Ever since we did that spell where we called on the first slayer ... I've been going out a lot. (Giles looks surprised) Every night.
GILES: Patrolling?
BUFFY: Hunting. That's ... what Dracula called it. (pacing) And he was right. He understood my power better than I do. He saw darkness in it.

I think there’s even more to this point, but that would take us into spoiler territory so I’ll leave it for Intervention.
Buffy also has serious Angel issues. She certainly doesn’t want a repeat of her experience with Angelus. For Buffy, the distinction between a soul and a chip is crucial even if Dawn doesn’t think so:
BUFFY: He's a killer, Dawn. You cannot have a crush on something that is ... dead, and, and evil, and a vampire.
DAWN: Right, that's why you were never with Angel for three years.
BUFFY: (quietly) Angel's different. He has a soul.
DAWN: Spike has a chip. Same diff.

Buffy has to believe in the difference. It would be impossible for her to go out every night and slay vampires if they weren’t inherently evil (see my long discussion of this point in my post on Amends). Worse yet, it would raise the question why Spike could choose to love her but Angelus couldn’t. I doubt she wants to face that possibility; that’s why she crushes Spike’s hopes at the end.
Enough of romance for now. Let’s talk about Spike more generally. I don’t want to leave the impression that only shippers were involved in the controversies about Spike. That may seem like I’m implicitly limiting Spike’s fan base to them or even dismissing them, when I’m not. For many of Spike’s fans, what was important was not that Spike was succeeding with Buffy, but that he was trying.
If you see Spike as Alex from A Clockwork Orange, then at this point it’s an open question which way the show will go. It could be the chip will enable his redemption, that he’ll gradually learn human behavior from his inability to give rein to his demon instincts. That, remember, was the idea behind the operant conditioning Alex received in the novel. Alternatively, it could be that the “soul canon” remains in effect, meaning that Spike can’t be redeemed without one, as Buffy suggests in her rebuke of Dawn.
The arguments about Spike’s path generated enormous controversy on the Buffy discussion boards. In fact, it’s not possible to overstate just how much controversy there was. I’ll give some very early, and relatively tame, contemporary examples across the spectrum of this debate:
“Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic but I'd like to believe that if he wants he can change. It doesn't have to be easy. … I always thought that Spike has the intelligence and imagination to be able to control his own actions. i.e.: Cogito ergo sum. I think I am good therefore I am good.”

“As much as I love the character I personally love him for his role as a villain and an Id without inhibition. … To me the chip does not equate with a soul a la Angel and I don't believe that the gang is at all being too hard on Spike. 

… Spike wants Buffy in my opinion because of his unlife-long obsession with Slayers and his doing her favors like watching Dawn and her mother or battling at her side are driven by the motivation to attain her love not by the motivation to do good. What alternative does he have? With that chip in his head he can't be the predator he was and he doesn't have the core group he once had with Darla Dru and Angelus. I believe that the Buffy lust stems from him needing something once again to save him from another mediocrity: life without evil. … What's changed is that he can't do the killing he'd normally be performing.”

“Spike is more than just an enemy. He is a brutal, mass murderer. Instead of visualizing Spike or some other vampire prostrating himself before you and confessing his love, visualize Jeffrey Dahmer confessing his love to you. Now ask yourself how you would feel about Jeffrey Dahmer. Would the idea that he loves you entice or repel you? Would it make your feel good about yourself that a cannibalistic murderer finds you attractive?

To me, the question is not "Why isn't Buffy nicer to Spike?", it's "Why didn't Buffy stake Spike a long time ago?"

To get a sense of David Fury’s view, and to have some fun with multiple levels of irony (some of which I’ll have to explain later), let’s return to the dialogue between Willow and Tara discussing the plot of The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
WILLOW VOICEOVER: I just don't see why he couldn't end up with Esmerelda.
WILLOW: They could have the wedding right there. Beneath the very bell-tower where he labored thanklessly for all those years.
“TARA:  No, see, it can't, it can't end like that, 'cause all of Quasimodo's actions were selfishly motivated. He had no moral compass, no understanding of right. Everything he did, he did out of love for a woman who would never be able to love him back. Also, you can tell it's not gonna have a happy ending when the main guy's all bumpy.”
 

The problem is, Tara’s description is totally wrong. Fury later admitted that he completely screwed up the message of the book in that dialogue. He wanted to make a point about Spike and his unsuitability for Buffy in order to set the tone for the episode, but the actual message of the story of Quasimodo is that his love redeems him. As Harmony would say, Oops.
There will be more fuel to this fire very soon. The Great Internet Spike Wars were just beginning.
Trivia notes: (1) When Xander called Spike “Evil Dead”, that refers to the movie and comic book series of that name. (2) Buffy’s general cluelessness during the conversation about Quasimodo prefigures her shock when Dawn tells her that Spike has a crush on her. (3) Charles Laughton starred in the 1939 movie version of Hunchback. (4) Buffy’s mention of the singing gargoyles refers to the 1996 movie. (5) Joyce ended up with two shipments of Greek amphorae, which were large storage containers used by the Greeks for olive oil and wine. (6) While waiting in the car with Buffy, Spike began to sing “I want to be sedated” by the Ramones. (7) Spike’s conversation with Dru summarizing her recent activities refers to 3 AtS episodes: To Shanshu in LA, The Trial, and Redefinition. (8) Harmony’s description of Dru as “Queen of the Damned” refers to the Anne Rice novel of that title and the movie made from it. (9) Harmony also referred to Dru as Morticia, from the 1960s TV show The Addams Family. (10) Buffy’s description of beating Spike up as “like third base” is American sexual slang. (11) Joyce’s recommendation to Buffy to “nip this in the bud” is an American idiom meaning “stop it before it gets too far”. (12) When Dru accuses Spike of taking her chair before the music stopped, she’s referring to the children’s game Musical Chairs. (13) He may have screwed up with Hunchback, but Fury does get one of the best of the show’s many Shakespeare references: “We can love quite well. If not wisely.” (Othello, Act V, sc. 2.) (14) During the fight in Spike’s basement, Dru grabbed Buffy’s face and looked into her eyes, apparently intending to hypnotize her like she did Kendra in Becoming 2.

30 comments:

  1. When I first watched this series in 2007, I immediately became a huge Spuffy shipper. I happened to miss much of the controversy until I got deeper into the fandom about a year later. My first watch-through is kind of a blur (I finished the first season in one day), but I'm trying to remember why I first became emotionally invested in the couple.

    I think it was the moment in Family when Spike helps save Buffy's life, despite his habits, intentions, and beliefs. Then, in a very Joss-Whedon tragic-romance kind of turn, she is literally blind to his gesture. It works on a metaphorical level, but the writers can't have been unaware of the emotional response it would elicit in the viewers. David Fury might openly mock the idea of Spuffy, but he can't pretend the show was doing nothing to encourage it.

    Which brings me to my point that I always felt a little jerked around by the writers when it came to Buffy and Spike. Or, as roommate used to put it "The writers have no love for the Spuffy fans." It wasn't that they ignored us, it almost felt like they were trying to torture us. I mean, I love Spike's character arch. I'm not saying the writers were making capricious artistic choices with no motivation (obviously everything was well thought out and created a fascinating character and story). It's just a small pet peeve of mine.


    SPOILER FOR THE COMICS
    This especially disgusted me in the comics, when we get a full-page spread of Buffy and Spike kissing, only to turn the page and find out SHE WAS JUST IMAGINING IT. While her and Angel have an entire issue of universe-ending sex.

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    1. You are not alone in your sense of this. Many (most?) Spike fans feel the same way.

      From my own view as not a shipper but as someone very interested in Spike's story, I found the writing confusing at the time. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it does seem clearer. But at the time I thought they would go in a very different direction.

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    3. I should have put a SPOILER FOR THE COMICS warning - but I can't edit the post. (Or delete it.)

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    4. Per Ivana's second comment, I've deleted her original one and am re-posting it here with a spoiler warning. Thanks for noticing the lack of a warning, Ivana, and no problem.

      FWIW, I agree with you on the proper goal of the writing.

      SPOILERS FOR COMICS S8

      That's funny, because it was the complete opposite for me - I love that scene between Buffy and Spike in comic issue 8.37. It was so layered and wonderful and very, very shippy, with UST and suppressed feelings and misunderstandings, what with Buffy having romantic/sexual fantasy about Spike (with an entire conversation all in her head, ending with her daydreaming of them kissing and making love) while he was talking about something else, completely oblivious, and then convinced she must have been fantasizing about Angel. Whereas everything between Buffy and Angel in season 8 was just horrible and makes Crush looks like a beautiful Valentine episode - especially those pages and pages of really unsexy, ridiculous-looking sex, which was both dubious consent and universe-destroying, not to mention near character-assassinating. The only thing that destroyed Buffy/Angel even more in season 8 is the obviously satirically written "romantic" scene in 8.36 ("this is the bestest, weirdest, bestest day of my life"). I can't imagine why anyone would want for their ship what Bangel got in season 8. The relationship wasn't just portrayed as terribly destructive, but also as hollow and based on misguided illusions about destined love, and was made the subject of really vicious satire (I don't know how anyone can see the Whedon-written issues in the Last Gleaming arc as anything other than that). Season 8 convinced me that Joss has for some reason started to really dislike Bangel while he prefers Spuffy by a country mile, so I wasn't surprised when he recently said Spuffy is his favorite out of Buffy's relationships.

      As for the idea of being "jerked around", I don't see jerking around, I see an amazing story. But then, I wonder if I'm really a shipper; I am clearly invested in the relationship and the characters, but I am a fan of the show first, the characters second, and the relationships third; my primary interest in a ship is "is it a great story" and "does it show the feelings the characters have for each other and their dynamic in an artistically satisfying way" rather than "do the characters get to kiss/have sex/live happily ever after". I suspect this is also how a good writer thinks; I don't think that Joss' primary concern should be "am I keeping this or that shipper group happy" but "am I writing a great story". For this Spuffy shipper (?), the show was incredibly satisfying.

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  2. I'll probably have more substantial comments later, but for now I'd just like to note my favorite sign of Spike's cluelessness:

    BUFFY: You're like a serial killer in prison.
    SPIKE: Women marry them all the time!

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    1. I think the whole episode is hilarious, and that's one of the better lines.

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    2. To be fair, he realizes what he said just a second later and tries to retract it. He may be morally challenged at that point, but he's not stupid.

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  4. I don’t have a coherent argument here, in part because my own ideas about Spike are still in flux, in part because I don’t want to engage in long spoilers, but here are some thoughts:


    SMALL SPOILER FOR ANGEL SEASON 3, EPISODE 1

    The soul-canon seems to me, at best, a bit confused, especially, when we take AtS into account: Dru claims that vampires can love, and while we might not want to believe her, in Surprise, the Judge implies that she and Spike are tainted with the human qualities of “affection and jealousy,” that he could burn them—and only does not because Spike reminds him that they are the ones who brought him back to (un)life. They are never tested the way Angel is. Then in AtS, in the Season 3 opener, Heartthrob, Angel fights a vampire, James, who is willing to essentially commit suicide to gain the power he thinks will enable him to kill Angel—all to revenge his lover’s death at Angel’s hand.

    So it would seem that vampires—or at least some vampires—can love, or feel something like it—perhaps, to quote Dru, “quite well. If not wisely.” Perhaps love is in them always a disordered, possessive, overwrought, unbalanced and unbalancing passion—how else are we to explain Spike and Dru? We might not call that love in the sense of caritas, in its unconditional, selfless sense, but cupiditas—for St. Augustine, the former was love filtered through God, the latter was earthly love, more appetitive desire than love at all. But it is the beginning of a passion akin to love in philosophical terms. The question would then be where Spike goes from there.

    I’ve been silent a bit on your discussions of Spike and Anya and of Spike needing to learn to be human, largely because I was not sure of what I thought of them, Now, I think my ideas have crystallized: I do not think that Spike needs to learn to be human, which means, I suppose, that I do not quite buy the premises of operant conditioning. Or rather, I do not think that the problem is that Spike does not know how to be human: what the chip does, it seems to me, is create the space in which Spike can not so much learn to be human as come to desire to be human.*

    Love for Buffy—vampire-style love, that is, cupiditas—might then provoke his desire to be human, which might then bring him closer to human love, caritas, although in my mind it would always be an asymptotic movement without a soul.

    But this is not going to happen on a conscious level: it is when Spike consciously tries to be human, to apply behavior he has seen, as in this episode, or when he does other things that he thinks are human-like to please Buffy (not feeding off disaster victims) that he fails most miserably (and comically). He is at his most human when he simply reacts to her, unself-consciously—when he responds to her need for help with Lei-Ach demon or with her family.

    I am far from a shipper—I am interested in Spike as a character in himself, and have been, at least since Becoming II. I understand those who are unwilling to grant Spike any credit, but comparing him to Jeffrey Dahmer seems to me to be a Xander-like simplification, just as it seems to me too easy to say that Spike can be good if he just wants it badly enough (I think he can approach goodness but not reach it through desire). I was taken to a degree by the middle position, but I think it is more complicated than that because the passion he feels, in itself, changes him—it is dynamic, even dialectical in its force.



    *I’m a lacanian… It will always come down to desire…

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    1. You raise a number of good points here which I really can't discuss without major spoilers for the rest of S5 and the ending of S6, so I'd like to postpone a full response until then. I'll limit myself to the less spoilery issues.

      I agree with your distinctions on the types of love applicable here, and would add that vampire love seems to involve a good deal of eros -- sexual passion -- as well. Maybe that's included in cupiditas; I can't recall offhand. In any case, I think vampires do love, but it's a selfish, obsessive love in BtVS.

      I'm not invested in any of the 3 attitudes I quoted, but the Dahmer comparison represents a common response both within the show and among the audience. If we see Spike at this stage as similar to Alex in A Clockwork Orange, then Alex was a rapist/murderer who engaged in violence for the thrill of it. That's Dahmer-like, I suppose.

      Where I'd disagree with that conclusion is its failure to distinguish Spike on two important grounds: (1) his love for Buffy. The Xander reaction leaves this out of the equation, perhaps even denies it entirely. I think it's important. (2) The chip, which I think creates possibilities which wouldn't otherwise exist. That's cryptic enought, I hope.

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    2. I understand about the spoilers—I actually had to take down my original post because one crept in... Very much looking forward to your eventual response(s).

      Yes, cupiditas includes Eros (this was Augustine's particular problem: much of the Confessions before his conversion is "Let me be chaste, Lord—but not yet!").

      Very much agree with your critique of the Dahmer-comparison.

      And yes to the cryptic point—

      I'll leave it at that...

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  5. SPOILERS FOR SEASON 7

    One last thought: I think the comparison of Anya and Spike you have made is useful, but only up to a point—Anya was a demon for far longer, and thus has greater reason to have forgotten human way… But even more, Anya, as we discover in Selfless, was a difficult human, not very different from Anya the recently ex-demon. Had Anyanka wanted to enter into social life because she had fallen in love with a man with a close-knit group of friends, she probably would have had to learn all the same things Anya does… Spike, on the other hand, does not need to learn much once he regains his soul, and that is not because he’s had a year of practice: he just knows (when the first is not controlling him… ).

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  6. Does the Dahmer comparison apply equally to Angel and to Anya? Perhaps Angel should get a pass because of his search for redemption - but for nearly a century he was simply restrained from killing as opposed to actively seeking redemption.

    Anya is even more complex as a character. The assumption seems to be that losing her power center and no longer having the ability to deal out vengeance in some way gave her a soul. Yet, much like Spike does with Buffy in season five, she makes Xander her moral compass. Once he rejects her, she returns to becoming a vengeance demon - which I think argues against her having a soul.

    I am not a Spuffy shipper, which I was at one point. I tend to ship Spangel because I find their long history - and potential future - fascinating material. But I do believe that Spike was a Spuffy shipper. From the time he had the dream which alerted him to his feeling, he tried to shape himself into the piece that would connect to hers in life's puzzle. It's the constant attempts from which he learns that are the source of incremental changes in his character.

    While all three nonhuman characters went through their Dahmer period, for some reason that label seems applied to Spike more often than the other two. Angel has his alter ego to deflect his on screen Dahmer actions (which are worse than Spike's but limited and regretted). Anya is treated more as a humorous side story than an actual serial killer. I think it's because the show really examines the initial darkness and the unexpected caring for Dru that gives Spike's changes a depth lacked by the others. He is shown as beginning at a darker place, and moving more surely and consciously toward what he sees as the light.

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    1. Anya's a difficult case because it's never stated expressly that she has a soul now. I think she does, but as you say she seems to look for guidance from Xander rather than being inner directed. Assuming Anya has a soul, but that Anyanka didn't, I would tend to see Anya as unlike Dahmer. I say this because I do think the show makes an intrinsic distinction about the importance of the soul (I explain this at length in my post on Amends). Anya has the ability to use her soul for guidance and she's learning, but hasn't yet gotten there. In contrast, a vampire who's neither chipped nor souled lacks the ability altogether (which is how we're apparently supposed to see Dahmer, I guess).

      As for Angel, that's really the whole question raised by the episode. It's what causes Dawn to say "same diff", while Buffy relies on the soul canon.

      MAJOR SPOILERS FOR FUTURE EPISODES

      I think at this point that we have to accept that the show itself opted for the soul canon (much to my regret at the time). This means that Angel was not like Alex/Dahmer. It also means that Spike wasn't either once he got his soul restored. The comparison really only makes sense when Spike is chipped, and even then Alex is a better example.

      A better comparison for Dahmer, or an un-conditioned Alex, is possibly Warren. Referring to chipped Spike as "Dahmer" has the flaws I noted in response to State of Siege above: it doesn't account for the chip; and it doesn't account for his love of Buffy. I included the quote because that sort of thing got said so often.

      As for Spike's journey, he's one of my favorite characters, and it's much more interesting to me than Anya's in part for the reasons you mention.

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    2. But Angel wasn't "simply restrained from killing" by having a soul forced on him. Nothing was restraining him from killing if he wanted to. Soul doesn't do that. Soul, in Buffyverse, is conscience. Angel didn't get his conscience by choice; but he stopped killing out of his own choice, because he felt it was wrong. He also felt guilty for the crimes he committed in the past. This is not Alex's case; it's the opposite of it.

      By having a chip placed in his head, Spike was merely physically restrained/conditioned not to kill. It had nothing to do with him feeling that killing people is wrong; he didn't express any remorse in season 4 or so far in season 5. He could see that an action of his might upset Buffy or Dawn, but he didn't see the actions themselves as wrong, and he lacked empathy for any of his victims - or generally; he might be able to care for a select few people, but he still thought the pictures of starving children were funny. Spike was not "good" because not killing people wasn't a moral choice he had made - and, like Alex DeLarge, he was treated as an animal in a muzzle and not as a being who can make moral choices. This is the crucial difference between the chip and the soul. Angel's soul made him a moral person (i.e. a person who had a conscience and moral compass; it doesn't mean that he always made great moral choices). Having a soul (conscience) doesn't make you automatically good; it just gives you the opportunity to make moral choices for yourself. Spike was, at this point, unable to grasp this higher form of morality; right and wrong were, for him, a matter of punishment and reward.

      While I don't agree with Fury's views that he used to express in interviews, Buffy was completely right to equate Spike with a "serial killer in prison": he wasn't reformed, just restrained.

      (So why did I like the idea of Spuffy at this point? Because I have a thing for challenging, edgy, risky storylines and relationships, and I saw a realm of possibilities in what they could do with this pairing - in addition to the chemistry which I saw since season 2.)

      Now, Anya... Anya is a whole different story, because she never actually shows remorse for her past crimes and still talks about them with fondness - she's no different than Spike, except for technically being human. And I'm afraid that the mythology falls apart when it comes to her. The writers couldn't even agree if she had a soul as a vengeance demon or not (Fury and Drew Goddard gave opposite answers to that question when asked in interviews).

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    3. I generally agree with your comment here. The nuance I'd give is the middle paragraph of my spoiler portion.

      Anya's lack of remorse was always a major problem for me too.

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  7. I'm not convinced that Anyanka truly lacked a soul. Perhaps she merely had a demon "overlay." Or perhaps she just became less human-like over the last 1000 years. I like the suggestion above that Anya is like a foreigner in a strange land. The thing is that she never really fit in with most of society to begin with.

    SEASON 6 & 7 SPOILERS

    Consider her remorse in Selfless. She was a vengeance demon again, but she was having trouble doing her job. And that's how I see what she does: as a job. She's given extra power to do the job, of course, which just enables her already vengeance-prone personality to occasion terrific violence and mayhem. Note, too, that she doesn't directly kill people with her own hands, and she generally feels justified in her actions. So, can she be called a killer in the same way we describe vampires? I think that, just as was the danger with Willow in S6, she may have damaged her soul through her acts of callous revenge. Also like Willow, we see her struggle with the balance of power and control (hey! another hammer reference), especially once she decides to forge her own path. At that point, she has to learn how to find her own power center again--without magic or demon strength.

    And then, there is Spike. He's one of my favorite tragic and comic characters of the series (maybe in all of television). I was never a shipper, but I do find his arc with Buffy more interesting than Angel's. Xander's perspective of Bangel in The Zeppo pretty much says it all for me.

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    1. CONTINUED SPOILERS

      Another thought about Anya: She kind of mirrors Buffy's own struggle with maintaining her humanity and sense of self while being imbued with mystical demon energy to perform a deadly, sworn duty. Their jobs just fall on different sides of the moral debate. I don't agree with everything Anya says about Buffy's job in S7, but I think it comes from her own self-doubt...or, at least, provides insight into Buffy's psyche, if viewed metaphorically. Neither one "earned" their power; it was given to them. Naturally, Anya's viewpoint, especially in Empty Places, must also be colored somewhat by jealousy and spite.

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    2. It's an open point, I think, whether demons have souls (special demon souls, one would assume). In The Harvest Giles says that "The books tell the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon's soul." I'm not at all sure that's consistent with what we're told later, nor if it's true for other demons.

      In light of the importance given to Angel's human soul, I'm inclined to think that demons don't have one. They may have a demon soul, but not a human one. I therefore think that Anyanka was unsouled.

      All that is just logic, not text, so I think a reasonable person could take the opposite view.

      If you don't mind, I'll talk about your spoiler points in detail when we get to those episodes. It's hard to fit everything in to this comment box.

      Heh to your comment about The Zeppo.

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    3. I just saw your follow up.

      SPOILERS FOR S7

      I think that being on the opposite side of the moral divide is pretty critical here.

      Anya's comment about Buffy being "given" her power really bugged me in light of Get it Done.

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  8. I just re-watched this episode and don't have much to add to these great comments above. I started watching Buffyy during S6 and then worked my way back. While I have since watched the series straight through, I think this is why I was always much more interested/invested in the Buffy/Spike dynamic vs. Buffy/Angel. There's a scene in AtS where Cordy and Wesley do a fantastic, hilarious, and spot-on impression of how overly dramatic Bangel tended to be (the episode escapes me). Also in agreement with CM's comment about The Zeppo.

    To paraphrase Spike, it's like the writers wouldn't even give the fans a crumb when it came to Spuffy. Buffy is often spiteful toward him, and while it's not entirely undeserved, the way she treats him in S5 (which I would say is worse than she treats him in S4), doesn't seem in line with her personality and experiences to this point. Buffy is not a mean-spirited or spiteful person. Even when she's fighting Big Bads, she's often punning/engaging in banter. She doesn't seem to actively dislike, say, the Mayor, the way she does Spike. I think this is proof that she does have complicated feelings for Spike, and IS afraid this is an indication that there is something dark or "wrong" with her.

    Finally, I found the change in wardrobe for Spike to be very telling. When he's trying to have a friendly, normal conversation with Buffy at the Bronze, he's wearing a different (still leather) coat, and the rest of the outfit is very Riley-esque...and here again is an instance of Buffy being rather mean to him for no real reason other than what may be internal struggles with her own feelings. Spike, as usual, takes the rejection poorly, which to me is a reminder that just because chip doesn't equal conscience, he's still struggling with issues of identity. Then he engages with Drusilla, ties the girls up, etc...all back in his Big Bad leather duster.

    --Allison

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    1. Minor amendment to my post above- when I said Buffy doesn't seem to actively dislike the Mayor as she does Spike, maybe a better way of putting it is to say she just seems to have to work much harder to "prove" she's disgusted by/dislikes Spike?

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    2. I think the reaction of viewers depends a LOT on when they began watching. Those who started later tend to prefer the later episodes. It's not a hard and fast rule, but it does seem generally true.

      That's a good point about the way Spike's dressed. I'm sure it's not accidental.

      SPOILERS FOR S3

      I'm less sure the comparison to the Mayor accurately reflects Buffy's feelings. She had no personal interaction with him until Choices. While she knew he was a black hat, she only found out he wasn't human after Willow took the pages from the books of Ascension in that episode.

      A better comparison would be Faith. Buffy came to dislike Faith quite a bit, and to show it openly, but Faith gave her some good reasons to do so. I'd say she treated Spike more like she treated Faith, though she was willing to give Faith more chances because of the soul.

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    3. Do you still see Dru as a representation of Buffy's id at this point? I know she hasn't appeared on the series in quite some time (since Becoming 2?), but if you still see her that way it's interesting that Buffy's desire was almost killed when Spike offered to stake Dru, but ultimately lives to see another day.

      --Allison (I've got to make an account so I stop commenting as anonymous!)

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    4. Interesting question. Until you asked, I hadn't considered it. It works perfectly well, so I don't see why not.

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  9. My first comment on this site! I just re-watched this episode this weekend after discovering the Buffy fanfiction, community, discussions and these blogs after a first re-watch two years ago, and I have to say this episode just surprises and mesmerizes me. None of the characters' reactions makes sense to me - except maybe Dawn. If she represents what you say she does (and maybe part of the fanbase in that instance)she finds Spike cool and she is just very naive about it all. The episode demonstrates just that. But apart from her, Xander just laughs about it! (As metaphorical heart, I guess maybe it's a laugh of unbelieving and ill-at-easiness). While Joyce and Willow react with horror when they're usually the ones quite ok with Spike. As "spirit", Willow's reaction probably speaks to Buffy's fear that this kind of love/ obsession would turn negative, abusive - cf. Angelus- and their point of view is kind of proven in the episode. But it misses the big part of it: Skipe's reaction. Why doesn't he follow Dru? Why doesn't the chip work when he drinks - even if the girl is dead, it is still weird to me-? It just shows then the chip in itself might have been the trigger for the changes (might) but it wouldn't be enough on itself to change his path. It's the love for the slayer that does. So then why doesn't Buffy dust Spike? The blood is very visible on the corner of his lips and she seems afraid (probably echoing the words of Dawn earlier). Why doesn't she bother to also follow Dru who killed loads of people on that train? The only character we don't know his opinion on this is Giles (the mind), but he did make it clear in season 4 - that it could be the opportunity for Spike to do good. And I guess that might be why Buffy doesn't dust him, though it's not super clear to me.
    This episode really leads to loads of questions and does answer some but they can be very much misleading. I think that contrary to what Buffy says, she recognises that he has changed - but without a soul it will never be enough. And as the slayer, in a way Spike has become her responsibility... though she negates it at the end by willing him out of her life.
    So I'm not too sure about that conclusion.

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    1. Welcome! I think you're key point is right: it's Spike's love for the Slayer which changes him. Buffy's failure (refusal?) to slay him after this episode seems to me explicable only on the assumption that his love/obsession for her created the space for moral development. Had she known that he fed from the girl after Dru killed her, I'm not sure she'd have let that sway her judgment.

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    2. But we could assume that she knows , no? (based on the blood on Spike's lips, what Drusilla says and her own reaction). It's probably up for doubts and negotiations!

      I wonder how much it is love for Buffy or love for The Slayer that is the factor for that redemption quest. Another similarity with Angel... as you say.

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