In the seventh episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, everything is Spike and everything hurts. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I can only think of one character who has a more depressing backstory than Spike, but that’s all I’ve got. (Spoilers for LOST: Wbua Ybpxr, jub nyfb unf gur zbfg gentvp punenpgre nep V’ir rire frra ba gryrivfvba. HUT FB FNQ.) The context I’ve now been given for his behavior and personality has drastically changed how I perceive his character, and I’m so impressed with how the show has done this and when it chose to reveal his actual story. Truthfully, I hadn’t given much thought to his character at all, and I certainly didn’t expect there was ever even a need to tell us a backstory for Spike. He just was who he was, and that’s a lot of the reason why this episode is so shocking the first time around. I so openly accepted the story that Spike had given us since his first appearance that I stopped engaging with it. Hell, I didn’t even remember that he’d boasted about killing two Slayers before. It was almost brand new information to me! And even after I realized that the bulk of this episode would deal with Buffy’s interrogation of Spike, I still didn’t think we’d actually see his past on screen.
I think that’s also because I thought this would be a Buffy-centric episode. Since this was about her quest to find out how Slayers die after her own close call (WHY DO YOU INSIST ON MAKING COLD OPENS SO TERRIFYING WHAT IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME), I just assumed that’s who most of the episode would be about. Plus, there parts of “Fool For Love” that dealt with Riley and Joyce (HELP ME TOO MANY JOYCE FEELINGS), and yeah. It was all a trick. Well, I mean, both those characters are clearly going to have larger parts soon, but it was a trick because THIS WAS ALL ABOUT SPIKE.
It’s hard to really convey the genuine surprise I felt when, in the midst of Spike’s first story, the episode flashed to London in 1880. And there’s Spike. With reddish brown hair. And spectacles. And he’s an utter goof, completely without the swagger, confidence, and irritation I’d come to associate with him. It’s Spike. How the fuck is this Spike? I thought. All the other vampires I’d seen in their human forms were somewhat like their demon side, but William… oh, William. The second I learned the real source of his nicknames, I just wanted to crumple into a ball and sob into my pillow. What an unreal moment in this show! In just a couple minutes, our entire view of a character is ripped out from under us, and suddenly, everything about him makes sense.
“Fool For Love” gives us a portrait of a person who is just that: a fool when it comes to love. William was a man who lived with his emotions just below the surface, and in a way, he always lived with a sense of hope that was never really fulfilled. Even if his peers poke fun at him and humiliate him publicly, you can still see the joy in his eyes when Cecilia is talking to him. He’s such a hopeless romantic that he can’t even recognize her disinterest and disgust in him.
And then she says he’s beneath her, and in a second, Spike’s entire characterization has a new context. It’s incredibly obvious that Spike has had feelings for Buffy for a long time, and I think that from the season two finale onwards, I could probably pick out every moment where this was hinted at. It’s easy to see why Buffy frustrates him so much, too. She treats him like an inferior, and she has no idea she’s hitting that specific emotional button every time she interacts with him. All it took for me to realize this was one sentence. Oh my god, this is such good writing.
As Spike’s past is further explored, I can see how he came to be who he is in the present. The persona of Spike is a violent reaction to William, and it’s how he came to be known for chaos. It makes sense that this would be the natural progression for him. I was a bit confused as to why Angelus was acting so strange, though. I get that he was concerned that Spike was being reckless, but wouldn’t Angelus appreciate the kind of terror that Spike was creating? I don’t get this. But I think I’m just reading into this too much because Angelus’s concern sort of directly leads into Spike discovering the concept of a Slayer. Perhaps that’s the point of it.
And that plotline also fits in unbelievably well with what we already know of Spike. His flashback doesn’t just show us how different he is, but how easily obsessed he can become over anything. That plays into Spike’s decades worth of Slayer stalking. Even if it’s kind of sad that we see them die, I was kind of excited to see other Slayers, and to find out they were still from all over the world and were women of color. (Which did make me miss Kendra a bit.)
I honestly feel that this episode comes together beautifully during Spike’s monologue about a Slayer’s deathwish. I don’t know that there is a better written monologue in the entire show, and the ingenuous choice to have Spike give it during both timelines is fucking genius. It’s unsettling and poetic. I can even see how Spike views himself as the one who is doing a Slayer a favor, giving her that peace and finality that she craves. I could see Buffy fighting it with every bit of strength she had, but I also couldn’t ignore that Spike seemed right. Hadn’t Buffy expressed a desire for peace and quiet many times before this moment? Oh god, what sort of foreshadowing is this? Like, is Buffy going to actually try to die? I DON’T GET ANYTHING.
But this isn’t enough for this show! At this point, I was emotionally exhausted by watching “Fool For Love,” and then Spike tries to kiss Buffy, and she pulls away and tells him he’s beneath her, and I am pretty damn sure I never want to see Spike cry for the rest of my life, please obey this command. It’s the same cycle repeating all over again, and that’s when I witness Drusilla breaking up with Spike and the Chaos Demon is just so perfect it hurts. No, seriously, he said it was all “antlers and slime,” didn’t he? He’s doing it all over again, and even Drusilla knew two years ago that Spike’s obsession wasn’t about the Slayer all along: it was about loving her.
I am left perplexed and intrigued by the way this particular episode ends. I am dreading absolutely every second of Joyce’s future story line, and a huge part of that is because I remember going to my room and breaking down into tears for over an hour after my mother told the family she had lung cancer, and I remember having a similar reaction to learning that my father had brain and lung cancer on top of Alzheimer’s. They’re leading to some big moment with Joyce, I can tell, and I don’t want to see it. I know it’s going to hurt watching it. Plus, how are they going to deal with Dawn being a part of it? She has no idea that Joyce isn’t actually her mother and I am already overwhelmed.
But I don’t know what to do with my feelings towards Buffy and Spike. It’s just too weird to me, yet I can’t ignore there was a brief moment when he was comforting her on her back stoop that I felt something. He had the capacity within him to be good, and I wanted to see that explored. But he’s a vampire and he most certainly has no soul, so it’s not like this is Angel part 2. Can this even work? Is this a thing the show is going to pursue? God, I am full of too many questions and feelings, damn it.
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