Follow by Email

Thursday, October 25, 2012


[Updated May 2, 2013]

Smashed was very controversial when it aired, mostly because of the fact that Buffy and Spike went All The Way, and judging from recent internet debates about the episode it remains that way today. Given that, I might as well say up front that I think Smashed is brilliant – as in top 15 brilliant – and mostly because of the whole 4th act, including the ending. Regardless of what I think of Buffy’s choice to have sex with Spike, I think the portrayal is incredibly good. The house falling down is, of course, a metaphor (Joss added it) which should give some hint about the meaning of it all.

This probably counts as trivia, but a few years ago TV Guide did one of its “25 Best Of” articles. This article rated the “25 Best Sex Scenes in TV History”. The scene from Smashed was No. 1 (and see trivia note 21). IMO, it’s certainly one of the best dramatic scenes in the whole show, and that’s a very high standard indeed.
Those who weren’t part of online fandom at the time can’t even begin to comprehend the intensity of the Spike Wars which followed this episode. Lots of fans insisted that Spike was on the road to redemption and that he was good for Buffy. Rob from AtPO:
“I also don't agree that Spike is "evil." Whatever one's own opinion may be about Spike having changed since the series began, I don't think there is any doubt that now on the show, Spike's personality is a shade of gray, not black or white. The rule that all vampires are evil does not apply anymore, and I believe that makes Spike's story all the more compelling and fascinating. Even before he was "chipped," he was capable of more love and emotion than most other vampires, as evidenced by his love for Dru. This is a further extension of that.”

Others were just as adamant that canon hadn’t changed, that vampires were evil, and that Buffy had degraded herself by having sex with an evil, disgusting thing. As an example, here’s Malandanza from AtPO:
“There is something of the adolescent in Spike's passion for Buffy -- he is the boy in the locker room sulking because she won't "put out," throwing tantrums when he doesn't get his way (as in Crush and OMwF), manipulating her friends…, using and discarding poor Harmony to pass the time until Buffy comes to her senses -- all the while convinced that he is irresistible and she is just being coy. Under the "Big Bad" bluster there is a sensitive poet -- but dig a little deeper and you find that under the sensitive poet is a creepy, egocentric misogynist….
Idealistic? Spike? Machiavellian is more like it. He plots and schemes to gain Buffy's affections. He befriends Buffy's mother and sister and attempts to ingratiate himself (belatedly) with her friends. He systemically works on breaking up Riley and Buffy (playing Iago to Riley's Othello). … Spike isn't tilting at windmills -- he is the pragmatic vampire. He works steadily towards his goal of bedding Buffy….
Spike will not be redeemed -- he will never be a "real boy" -- he is not on the path of redemption, nor has he ever been. His past good works were for one thing -- to get Buffy. Now he had her, and everything's changed. I doubt we'll be seeing sensitive Spike any longer than we saw sensitive Parker.”

I’m quoting two very polite people from a very polite board; lots of Spike threads devolved quickly into screaming matches and nearly every thread eventually became a Spike thread. A little Wordsworth (describing the French Revolution) conveys the atmosphere:
“'Twas in truth an hour/Of universal ferment; mildest men/Were agitated, and commotions, strife/Of passion and opinion, filled the walls/Of peaceful houses with unquiet sounds./The soil of common life was, at that time,/Too hot to tread upon…”
Remember that Spike’s story continues to be that of Alex from A Clockwork Orange (see my post on The Initiative). The essential (heh) question with Spike is whether the chip is training him away from his violent tendencies such that he’s on a path to redemption, as he claimed in Tabula Rasa, or whether the chip simply restrains the violent actions of an unreformed criminal/vampire. The usual expression among viewers was the “soul canon”: was it still necessary to have a soul in order to be redeemed (Angel), or was it now possible to be at least on a path to redemption without one?
On one side there were Buffy’s own words: “SPIKE: A man can change. (She again stops walking and faces him.) BUFFY: You're not a man. You're a thing. … An evil, disgusting, thing.” There was also Spike’s insistence that Buffy “came back wrong” and virtually everything else he says in the fourth act. That wasn’t seductive, that was abuse – he was reinforcing her sense that she didn’t really belong in the world any more.
The redemptionists pointed in response to the alley scene, which I’ll quote:
Cut to an alley. The young woman walks along, still hugging herself, looking nervous. Suddenly Spike steps out in front of her. She screams.
SPIKE: That's right, you should scream.
She tries to get away but he moves to intercept her. She looks scared.
SPIKE: Creature of the night here, yeah? (indicating himself) Some people forget that.
He advances on the woman. She backs away, shaking her head fearfully, backs up against a wall.
WOMAN: Please.
SPIKE: She thinks I'm housebroken. She forgot who she's dealing with.
WOMAN: Anything you want, please-
SPIKE: Just 'cause she's confused about where she fits in, I'm supposed to be too? 'Cause I'm not. (pacing back and forth) I know what I am. I'm dangerous. I'm evil.
WOMAN: (scared) I-I'm sure you're not evil.
SPIKE: Yes, I am. I am a killer. (moves closer to her) That's what I do. I kill. And, yeah, maybe it's been a long time, but ... it's not like you forget how.
He gets up very close to the woman, who is panting fearfully.
SPIKE: You just ... do it. (nervously) And now I can, again, all right? So here goes.

The dialogue doesn’t really do justice to the amount of hesitation James Marsters showed on Spike’s face, nor to the tone in his voice. Spike fans insisted that his hesitation represented progress, that no other vampire would have conducted such an internal dialogue or even hesitated. Writer Drew Greenberg: “Does he want to bite the girl or does he want to want to bite the girl? He has to do a lot of convincing of himself. So what does that mean?” 

Those on the other side attributed his hesitance to the expectation of pain, not to any “moral” judgment; only the latter could lead to redemption in their eyes, and Spike didn’t show it.
I personally was of Rob’s view at that time, that is, the view that the “soul canon” was no longer in effect and that Spike’s actions during and after Intervention showed moral development.  To contrast my own view I’ll offer one more quote, this one from Traveler:
“When Spike first started going all ga ga over Buffy, I thought it was really funny. I had a little bit of sympathy for him, but I didn't particularly care to see them hook up. However, after he withstood torture on her behalf, I began rooting for him more and more. Since then, he has saved her life and the lives of her loved ones countless times with no expectation of reward. That plus he's a hopeless romantic. How can you not want to see someone like that get the girl?

So, OMWF should have been a wonderful episode for a Spike/Buffy shipper, because we finally get to see them kiss. The problem is Buffy's one little line, "this isn't real." In one move, Joss gave us what we wanted most and made it almost worthless. Buffy kisses Spike, but it doesn't mean she loves him.

Then, Tabula Rasa took things one step further. After this episode, I was fully convinced that Spike was on the path toward some kind of redemption and would eventually be someone that Buffy could truly love. At this point, my biggest fear was that Buffy would continue to abuse him.

And then came Smashed... which turned everything on its head. Spike tries to isolate Buffy by telling her that he is the only person for her. He immediately tries to kill a mortal when he thinks his chip isn't working. Finally, he tells Buffy that she isn't human and they have sex. But this sex isn't about love; it's about lust and power and control. Once again, the writers give us what we want and then make it worthless. No more redemption for Spike. No love between Buffy and Spike. In fact, it is as if the writers are telling us that Spike's love was never real. Buffy tells Spike that he doesn't love her; he loves pain. And Spike tacitly agrees with her! Indeed, he seems to be satisfied with the physical relationship, just as he was with the Buffybot. It's as if all the incredible things he did for Buffy, all the really beautiful ways in which he proved his love for her, were all a lie! All the growth and changes we've seen in his character were erased in one episode.”

So how should we interpret the fact that Spike can hit Buffy? Local-max offered this in comments: “I think that Spike's ability to hit Buffy is partly about his being able to affect her emotionally. In season five, he may have been able to sting -- but he couldn't really, really hurt her, and if he tried the "come back wrong" stuff then she would have, as she did in Fool for Love, get angry for a moment and then shrug him off. He can hurt her physically now because he can hurt her emotionally.”
As I see it, it’s a metaphor for how Buffy feels about herself: wrong. Staying on the metaphor theme, it seems pretty clear that the episode is paralleling Willow (Buffy’s spirit) and Buffy. Willow is abusing others with magic and throwing off restraints, reflecting Buffy beating up Spike and then casting off her own restraints. The scene in the Magic Box where Buffy, Anya and Xander talk about Willow makes this parallel express:
XANDER: Tara thinks Willow is doing too much magic. And she's not the only one. BUFFY: I know. But I-I think she'll be fine. You know, it's, it's Willow. She of the level head.
ANYA: Well, those are the ones you have to watch out for the most. Responsible types. BUFFY: Right, she might go crazy and start alphabetizing everything.
ANYA: I'm serious. Responsible people are ... always so concerned with ... being good all the time, that when they finally get a taste of being bad ... they can't get enough. It's like all (gestures) kablooey.
BUFFY: That's not true.
ANYA: Okay, not kablooey, more like bam. …
XANDER: It's gotta be seductive. (Buffy looks up in alarm at the word 'seductive.' Her eyes widen.)
XANDER: (OS) Just giving in to it. Going totally wild.

And, of course, the fourth act cuts back and forth between Willow/Amy and Buffy/Spike.
Why would Buffy react so strongly and be so disturbed when Spike tells her she came back wrong? Because of what happened in Forever:
BUFFY: You have no idea what you're messing with. Who knows what you actually raised, what's gonna come through that door!
DAWN: (tearful) No, I-I know. It'll be her.
BUFFY: No. Tara told me that these spells go bad all the time. People come back ... wrong.

When Spike proved that he could hit her, that also confirmed Buffy’s internal sense of feeling wrong now. “Rat. You? Dead.”, one of my favorite bits of dialogue in the series, pretty much describes it. That sense of being “wrong” was precisely the thing which released her remaining inhibitions about sex with Spike. If she’s already “wrong”, she no longer needs to do the right thing.
One more event contributed, IMO, to the sex. In the teaser Spike yelled after Buffy “It's only a matter of time before you realize I'm the only one here for you, pet. You got no one else!” Buffy started to approach Willow just after the teaser, which was brave of her in light of the way Willow’s spells have affected her in S6. Nonetheless she started the conversation, only to hear Willow tell her that “it's nice, having another magically-inclined friend around.” On top of all the rest, I think Buffy couldn’t be sure that Willow was really there for her any more (in metaphor, her spirit wasn’t there). It made Spike’s abuse seem true.
Willow, in turn, obviously felt the loss of Tara, despite the bold face she put on in The Magic Box, and, I hope, remorseful about Buffy too. She needed someone to be there for her, but didn’t think she could turn to Buffy. Drew Greenberg: “There’s this undercurrent of loneliness and sadness [with Willow]”. The sense of isolation each of them felt, combined with Willow’s obvious pride in using magic to de-rat Amy, therefore reinforced the downward spiral. In comments, local-max suggested that Amy’s release from her cage parallels Spike’s newfound ability to hit Buffy, and the impact is similar in each case. I’d add that Amy serves also as a metaphor for Willow deciding to release that part of her which she’s kept caged up all these years.
One final point to consider before getting to Wrecked. During their research, both Xander and Buffy praised Willow for hacking. “XANDER: All right, back to basics. A little old-fashioned state-of-the-art hacker action. BUFFY: That's great, Will, I haven't seen you do that in a long time.” It would be hard, in my view, to provide a convincing moral justification for hacking as opposed to Willow’s use of magic instead. There are some distinctions: hacking uses natural rather than supernatural tools; and the collateral risk to others is non-existent except in very unusual cases of hacking. Still, the failure of anyone to articulate any such distinction probably helps explain Willow’s path from hacker to magic.
Trivia notes: (1) The word “smashed” is US slang meaning drunk (or drugged). It usually has the connotation of being extremely drunk. (2) Buffy called Spike “Jessica Fletcher”, who was the detective hero of the TV series Murder, She Wrote. (3) Buffy’s “get your rocks off” in reference to Spike is sexual slang meaning an orgasm. (4) Amy turned herself into a rat in the S3 episode Gingerbread. (5) Willow’s spell de-ratting Amy was in Italian. A rough translation is “What was, is no longer. What was done, undo. The danger passed, the trial no more, set it right.” (6) Andrew’s descent into the museum using the harness mimics a scene from the movie Mission Impossible. (7) Jonathan tells Andrew that they’re not breaking into Langley, which is where CIA headquarters is located. (8) Larry came out as gay in Phases and he died in Graduation Day 2. (9) Amy’s “have you heard about Tom and Nicole” refers to the divorce of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. (10) Dawn drank her milkshake to wash down the Raisnettes, which are chocolate coated raisins. (11) Tara’s request that Dawn eat something that’s not “gummi green” refers to Gummi Bears. (12) The movie Tara and Dawn saw where all the inner city kids taught their coach a lesson was Hardball. (13) Warren’s “size is everything” refers to the 1998 movie Godzilla. (14) Spike’s reference to Warren as “nimrod” is American slang for a stupid person. (15) Andrew hadn’t seen Red Dwarf, which was a British science fiction sitcom. (16) The first band we see in The Bronze is Virgil. They later turn into the Halo Friendlies. (17) The name of the woman in the Bronze, Brie, was presumably a cheese joke based on Amy’s time as a rat. (18) When the obnoxious guy in The Bronze referred to Willow as “Ellen”, he was referring to Ellen Degeneres, who came out as a lesbian a few years before Smashed aired. (19) When Anya told Xander he was reading a “D&D manual”, she was referring to Dungeons & Dragons. (20) Xander called Spike “Captain Peroxide”, referring to the chemical used to bleach hair. (21) The ending scene, as filmed, had even more sex in it than the version shown on air and on DVD. You can see the original here.


  1. Great post, especially on the Spike stuff. The thing that is great about the Spike story is they really play it exactly both ways down the line. I mean, I tend to side with you and Rob -- but he's also really horrible here. He doesn't get it. He doesn't know why he shouldn't get to kill muggers. He doesn't even know why he doesn't want to kill the woman in the alley.

    Noteworthy: Spike and Amy manipulate Buffy and Willow, respectively, similarly, by playing on their insecurities. There is also a power struggle in both cases; Buffy and Willow have been, respectively, Spike and Amy's "jailors" in a lot of ways. Amy's being released from her cage is parallel to Spike's ability to hit Buffy again.

    "Gingerbread," the episode where Amy ratted herself, is the episode where Buffy and Willow were nearly burned at the stake for being "bad girls." "Something Blue," her last appearance, featured Willow's post-breakup blues and magic abuse, and Buffy and Spike obsessively involved. I think both are very relevant. "Gingerbread" suggests that as much as Buffy and Willow go wrong in this episode -- and they do! -- they also need to to some extent in order to escape the constraints that have been put on them by parent figures and the like, some of which aren't great.

    In the metaphor, I think that Spike's ability to hit Buffy is partly about his being able to affect her emotionally. In season five, he may have been able to sting -- but he couldn't really, really hurt her, and if he tried the "come back wrong" stuff then she would have, as she did in Fool for Love, get angry for a moment and then shrug him off. He can hurt her physically now because he can hurt her emotionally.

    Amy's priming Willow to start the magic rampage begins with her reminding her of her being bullied in school, and that, combined with the initial pushy, homophobic dudes, primes Willow to see everyone in the room as a potential abuser/bully. The pattern has a lot in common with (SPOILER) the movement from Warren to...the world, in the last couple episodes.

    Meanwhile, I like how the harsh two-way attacks in the Buffy/Spike fight (SPOILER) foreshadow, in different ways, both Dead Things and Seeing Red. A complicated, two-way street.

    I think that the gang's total inability to make a convincing case why magic is worse than hacking is relevant to the season's themes. Willow, like Buffy, has people telling her that the way she IS is wrong, in a sense, without being able to make specific points about specific bad behaviours rather than a general weirdness that she's not the girl she used to be and that makes them uncomfortable. Willow abuses those pretty much all around her, whereas Buffy only really abuses Spike (and even there, not as severely), so there is much more room for justifiably criticizing Willow. But the gang don't really do that, as you say. Hopefully I can continue to make the case that this has thematic and emotional purpose in the next episode(s).

    1. Thanks.

      That's a wonderful point about the parallel between Amy's release from her cage and Spike's ability to hit Buffy. I wish I'd thought of it. :)

      I agree on the ability of Spike to hurt Buffy emotionally.

      Your comment about Willow in the bar seeing herself as a victim and getting back at "them all" makes good sense in light of


      the bar scene in Seeing Red where Warren attacks his old high school nemesis and tries to display his "manhood".


      I think there are a lot of parallels between Warren and Willow to be made, even if they aren't explicit, like the fact that they both can be considered rapists, have issues with power and relationships, were bullied and vindictive(think back to Willow's line to Cordelia about how to save her document).

    3. I agree there are so many fascinating things going on in this run of episodes, that while they get a lot of flack for the introduction of the magic=drugs metaphor, they really are very brilliant.

      And the connection between Amy's last appearance and the actions of both Willow and Buffy, BRAVO!! That was a great catch.

    4. I think there are a LOT of Willow/Warren parallels.


      I think one of the big purposes is that when Willow kills him in Villains, she is really killing herself -- everything she hates about herself is contained in him, right down to abusing his girlfriend with mindwiping, and being a bullied, loser nerd. Villains is practically a whole episode constructed out of W/W parallels. (Favourite: Warren ditching his two best friends at the end of SR parallels Willow ditching her two best friends in Villains. Oh this show!) But that turns out not to be enough, and her rage is still uncontainable.

      I am a big fan of Willow's story this year, drug metaphors and all (though the drug things are NOT the main point, any more, frankly, than sex is the main point of Buffy/Spike).

    5. I agree with your reading of Spike’s ability to hurt Buffy—

      And beautiful, beautiful reading of Willow and Warren—

  2. Ah, why Joss is the Sith Master.

    He gives you everything you wanted, and in doing so, makes it painful instead of delightful.

    This episode again demonstrates that Willow's problem isn't necessarily with magic, it's with power. Given the power to do what she wants, make the world what she wants, she does with no regard to others feelings or to the potential consequences.


    I know some fans are surprised by the turn Amy took, but I feel the potential was always there(I think even the fact that she turned into a rat is intended as a metaphor for who Amy is. I.E. a rat is someone who abandons relationships for their own personal benefit, a traitor, which, in a sense, is exactly what she did in Gingerbread). She lived for years under the influence of her mother, and after Katherine was trapped in the trophy, she was given into the custody of her father, who seemed very permissive based on Amy's tales. I think we are meant to read this lack of stability as a factor into her behavior.

    Then there is the vengeance angle. At the moment, she seems overcome with relief at being freed from rat form. But how will she feel tomorrow or a week from now, when the enormity of what she's been through hits her? How will she feel as she sees Willow's continued magical aptitude? Will she feel that Willow neglected her, even unintentionally, and could have fixed her sooner? It's very easy to see how Amy could feel that Willow only fixed her when it was convenient for Willow.

    Then Amy introduces Willow to Rack. Some fans got upset, because how could Amy know Rack if she was a rat for years. So the implication must be that Amy knew him while she was still in school. Which is disturbing on many levels. And considering how it turns out, you can even read that Amy begins her retaliation on Willow with that very act, because while Amy acts jealous of the attention Willow is recieving, she also has to know that the reveal of this knowledge to her friends will have severe consequences for Willow, in addition to the supernatural consequences she's likely also aware of.

    (Amy's behavior in Wrecked is one of the biggest indicators of magic=drugs metaphor{twitchy, needy, stealing "supplies"} and I don't like it. I think this storyline would have worked better if it hadn't been so heavy handed with that metaphor, because I don't actually think that it's what they were going for. Of course if Amy getting caught was intentional to rat(heh) Willow out, it fuels the characters misunderstanding of Willow's true problem{power, not magic} so then it may not be so useless and pointless of a scene)

    So I was not surprised at all, heartbroken mostly, when Amy was revealed to be turning evil in Season 7, and completely gone over in Season 8.

    1. Great points about Amy. I particularly like the one about her being a rat.

  3. I think it's interesting to trace the Amy storyline...all the way from Witch through Season 7, you can see how her choices impact Willow's, and the ways that magic can go wrong...

    1. Absolutely, yes. I mentioned in my post on Witch that the themes or characters from that episode (No. 3 in the whole series!) would show up in every season, and Amy's story is critical to that.

  4. Thank you Mark for another great post.

    I came to Buffy in S4, so missed all of the BAngel shipping, and only picked up on S1-3 later. So for me, it seemed a very natural place to go to have the slayer and a vampire explore a relationship. I agree with Rob and your early thoughts about Spike, and for me a key position always was that Spike was on a PATH to redemption. He wasn't redeemed. Certainly not merely through his love (or attraction) for Buffy.

    I really had a difficult time arguing at cross purposes with people who wouldn't leave room to see Spike as a work in progress. I did agree that it was canon that a soul was required for 'redemption' but I also felt that there was enough ambiguity to explore the nature of various supernatural creatures. Two points I tried to make often: Angel himself (in Dopplegangland) seemed to have quite a few opinions about the nature of vampires (and therefore probably other supernatural creatures) that differed from the rigid views held by the Watchers Council.

    And also I liked to reference an anecdote from Asimov, who in a discussion about the 'meaning of some work of literature' argued that the author doesn't always know the full significance of his or her own work, as so much of art transmits subconsciously or intuitively. And so he said the author wasn't necessarily the best source for an explanation of the text as 'he merely wrote it." (lolol) So, the comments and interviews, etc. regarding the writers' views didn't weigh heavily with me either.

    We haven't seen Clem in much yet, but we have seen demons in AtS, especially Doyle and Lorne, who I would argue represent morally developed nonhuman creatures that we are not told have souls. The nature of morality and 'humanity' is an issue that I believe, in the end, isn't (entirely) the matter of the soul, but the choices of the individual. And one key choice, I'd argue since way back in Season 2, was a choice to turn towards Buffy and away from Dru. Even Dru comments on it later, that Spike was never the same once he had met Buffy. So he is facing in a new, better direction in Sunnydale, on a new path. Quoting C.S. Lewis, who describes pretending and 'acting good' as real steps in moral development: "When you are not feeling particularly friendly, but you know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are... Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already." Spike thinks he's better than he really is. In Tabula Rasa, he thinks he's a hero, a good guy, a vampire with a soul. He needs to act the part before he becomes the real thing.

    1. I'm going to be talking about this issue throughout the season, especially when we get to the finale, so I'll hold off on the details. I certainly agree with you on the statements of the authors, and so does Joss.

      The whole issue raised by Spike and by A Clockwork Orange was fascinating to me and was one of the reasons I defended S6 at the time.

    2. Correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't watched the series in awhile, so I'm working solely from memory, but isn't it always specified as a human soul, referring to Angel's?

      The soul canon is a huge debate, but the way I always saw it, demons have souls, but they are demon souls. not human ones(in a sense, vampires are human bodies, metamorphosed into immortals that feed on blood and remotely possessed by a vampire soul, which is how its played out in the comics).

      So I see Lorne has having a demon soul, Anya too, which is why her transition to "human" doesn't take very well. She's mortal, but still possessing a demonic soul. S7 SPOILERS(Remember what D'Hoffryn says in Selfless, "The life and soul of a vengeance demon [to reverse the spell] which indicates that demonic souls exist).

      What the difference could be between them could be(other than an innate desire to priortize the well being of the creatures that share a soul with) that makes the human soul necessary for redemption among demons. Lorne doesn't seem to be in need of redemption, and he does have a conscience, as he's the arbiter of right and wrong on Angel more often than not.

      This distinction honestly creates more questions than it answers, but don't they always?

    3. Yes, I understand the "soul canon" to mean that a human soul is necessary (but not sufficient) for redemption. And while it's less clear, I also understood that demons have demon souls.

  5. Marvelous post—

    I’m glad you like this episode, as it has always been one of my favorites: the end, where the music and the crumbling house combine with SMG’s expression of intense desire with intense despair never fails to move me…

    (I will confess that I do not like the way the final act is cut: the moves to the Willow/Amy scene, to me, dilute the intensity of that between Buffy/Spike, but that is a small quibble… )

    As my previous posts would indicate, I side with you when it comes to Spike—

    I confess that my main response—aside from some dismay at some of his wretched behavior—was intense interest: some sort of relationship between them had been telegraphed for so long, and the way it played out here meant that it was not going to be cliché—and that Spike’s redemption, if it was going to go through Buffy, which I assumed it had to, was going to have to take an different path than any I could then anticipate.

    With regard to Willow’s hacking and the SG’s inability to articulate the difference between it and magic or the reason for their discomfort with the latter: this stems, largely, I think, from their inability or refusal to address the spell in TR. I’ll discuss this, and the following scene in which Buffy, Xander, and Anya discuss Willow’s magic use, in my post on Wrecked; for now, I’ll simply note that their momentary relief at seeing Willow begin to hack comes from a sense that they are seeing the Willow they once knew—shy, behind-the-computer Willow—as opposed to the one whom they fear to face. And that is a Willow—the spell-casting Willow, not the Tara-left Willow—whom even Anya won’t address.

    1. Thank you. I really like your point on the unwillingness of the SG to address "spell-casting Willow".

  6. I have your posts from Season 5 still echoing in my head, so my first-blush interpretation of why Spike could hurt Buffy was that she’s basically abandoned Dawn, her inner child/humanity/non-Slayer side. (I completely understand why the Buffy/Dawn relationship “reset” in Season 6 but at the same time, it makes me especially sad that Buffy doesn’t seem to try to reconnect with the sister/child who meant so much to her, aside from a few tender moments early on. I know a lot of people hate Dawn, but I think she’s demonstrated that she’s smart and strong enough to be there for Buffy, and she really, really just wants to be loved, after being in some sense left behind by five parental or quasi-parental figures now in Dad, Mom, Buffy, Giles and Tara.)

    More than anything, though, this episode really highlights why it’s a bad idea to be best friends with your metaphorical spirit! You’re always having crises at the same time, so you can’t really call each other on your BS. “Sorry I didn’t tell you guys my scary boyfriend was back from hell.” “It’s OK, I can’t judge, I’m secretly smooching Xander.” >>> “Wow, Willow is getting seduced by magic.” “Hey, it’s not so bad, I can’t judge, I’m secretly smooching Spike.” :) :) :)

  7. Heh. Almost but not quite in both cases.

  8. Mark, first off, I'd like to apologize for dragging you back to this site years after you finished it. But on this rewatch, I just enjoyed watching Seasons 1-4 and so sped through them without much to say. But Season 5, and now especially with Season 6, my frame of reference on the whole show is shifting and morphing dramatically - I think due to the fact that I'm now watching the show after having come out of a significant state of depression and looking back on it from a much happier state now. I'm watching Buffy's journey through this season, and it is resonating so deeply and painfully with me that I can barely stand to watch it. Viewing this episode last night and watching the final sequence with Buffy and Spike in the collapsing house has struck such a painful nerve in me, just thinking about it this morning almost moves me to tears.

    First of all, let's look at Spike. Within the space of 2 episodes, Spike goes from saving Buffy from dancing herself to death while her friends watch her burn... to attempting to bite an innocent girl when he thinks his chip has malfunctioned. The first act is completely and utterly selfless: he didn't have to be there, he didn't have to stop her, and he knows that everybody else in that room hates his guts and would stake him in an instant. And yet - that's what he does. To play Devil's Advocate, it's completely possible that everyone else in the room is under Sweet's thrall and CAN'T move to save Buffy -- and furthermore, it's possible that Sweet ALLOWS Spike to stop Buffy purely because he knows that will be far more entertaining and painful to everyone than just letting her burn up right there.

    But in any case, Spike saves Buffy. He has known her for almost four years now, and he's seen her save the world time and time again... survive where everyone else has failed... beat every obstacle that she's faced... AND now, she's come back from the grave. In Spike's mind (and that's where the chip is), she is definitely NOT human - she is BUFFY. She is better than human.

    And in the simplistic programming that we've seen in the show so far, that equation is just "Buffy > Human" and so the chip is doing it's job and he can hurt her, just as she can hurt him.

    To a demon soul, pain is just another color on the palette, and so when Buffy transitions from violence to sex, his initial surprise fades away quickly and he is there for her.

    Because nobody else is. In ONCE MORE, nobody else sings to her. Tara and Willow sing to each other, Anya and Xander sing to each other, Giles sings to himself... but Spike sings to her. He is the only person she knows who feels strongly enough about her to sing the depth of his emotions to her - and when everybody else is willing to see her dance herself to death, he is the only one who stops her, and sing to her again.

    Spike is the only one who patrols with her, Spike is the only one who truly listens to her, Spike is the only one who does not judge her when she talks, and since she's returned to life, he is the only one who actively seeks her out. Her ingrained training says that demons are disgusting, awful things -- but she feels like a disgusting, awful thing lately. And she just wants to feel.... something.

    And so the house comes down. The fragile shell that Buffy has tried to build since she's come back from the grave... the outward appearance that she's tried to hold for her friends so that THEY will feel better... it totally collapses. And all that's left is Buffy and Spike connecting in the only way that they understand, deep in the basement.

    Ok, I'll stop there - I have a lot more to say about souls and comparative relevance... but damn. This show. So incredible.

    1. First, no need to apologize for coming back here. That's why I maintain the site. I really do appreciate the comments.

      That's a great description of the "falling house" metaphor. I saw it that way, but I never put it into words quite like that.

      And yeah, S6 is really powerful. As you know, I don't like the story line that begins next episode, but S6 is in many ways the best season other than that. Not only are there such great individual episodes (and I count Smashed in that group), but the season theme is incredibly moving.