In the fifteenth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a surprise person from Buffy’s returns to Sunnydale and disrupts everything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I had an entire review sitting in my head, and it was going to be awesome, and it was going to talk about Buffy comparing Spike and Riley, and how she might like the idea of being with Riley because he represents normalcy and calm, but that’s just the idea of him, and if she thought about what Riley did to her, I think she would realize that pursuing him wouldn’t exactly be a good idea, and I was going to write about how comparing Spike to Riley certainly wouldn’t help her figure out her feelings towards Spike, and I’m positive it would just complicate things further, and I had this wonderful post in my mind that would have been beautiful and nuanced and then RILEY HAS A WIFE.
Oh. Oh. So yeah, there went all of my ideas in like ten seconds. I knew that this wasn’t going to unfold like I anticipated.
I liked “As You Were” for the most part, and obviously, the ending is a huge moment for Spike and Buffy. I need to spend more time talking about that, and I also want to talk about the beauty that is Xander and Anya, and I also need to talk about how this episode made me really happy for Willow for the first time in a while, and I also need to say that her offer to give Buffy support by hating Sam just for the hell of it gave me strength.
I also have to say that this episode wasn’t the greatest thing this season. Season six feels kind of erratic to me, and coming off of the past season, I suspected it would be hard to follow up that sort of storytelling with anything, and by and large, I’m enjoying this season. But there have been a few episodes scattered through this season that are strange, irregular, and have left me scratching my head. Like I said, I generally enjoyed “As You Were,” but it really only seems to exist so that Buffy finally has a reason to separate from Spike. As neat as it was to see Riley again, I just didn’t feel like this story mattered. Why did this episode even have to happen?
I don’t like using the word “filler” to describe songs on a record or episodes of television because it implies so much laziness on the part of the writer. And this episode isn’t lazy at all. It’s actually got a lot of great, necessary moments, but they’re so few that it feels like something is missing. To me, “As You Were” feels like filler because it’s a placeholder. The writers needed to have Buffy finally decide what to do with Spike, and this is how it happens. Otherwise, I don’t care about the demon in this episode, and the characters who aren’t Spike or Buffy don’t get the chance to grow or regress or do much of anything that isn’t them just reacting to what’s going on.
We see more of Anya and Xander freaking out about their upcoming wedding, which is apparently a week away. OH GOD, DOES THAT MEAN IT’S GOING TO BE IN AN UPCOMING EPISODE??? I’m so excited for A MOMENT OF JOY from this emotional mess of a season. Can there just be a demon slow dance scene? That’s all I want from life. Anyway, Anya and Xander argue a lot. It’s pretty much all they’ve been doing throughout this season. Oh, and there are a lot of chips. I will say that I really enjoyed their conversation in the bathroom, especially since Xander is able to define that he’s terrified of the wedding, not his marriage. YES. THIS IS A GOOD MOMENT.
Willow really doesn’t do much in this episode either, but I admit that it was nice to see her smile and be silly. We haven’t seen that much in this season, and her auto-hate offer to Buffy was just beautiful. Plus, that little smirk when Sam offered up a self-esteem for Willow was perfection. NOW DON’T LET IT GET TO YOUR HEAD, WILLOW. Wait, I must also give facial expression praise to Michelle Tractenberg, whose hate face was like oxygen in my lungs. You hold onto that grudge as long as you desire, Dawn. It gives me life.
And so now we’re left with Buffy, Spike, and Riley. Once I adjusted to the fact that Riley had a wife and that he was happy with her and that he had no intentions of coming back to Sunnydale to rekindle any sort of romance with Buffy, I started thinking about why the writers were bringing back such a large character to the show. Initially, as I said, I thought it was a way of merely contrasting Spike and Riley. But that’s too simplistic. I mean, you can compare the two of them, and basically you’d find out that Buffy really likes basic white dudes who are really self-involved. (Not all the time, but more so than not.) What Buffy does in this episode, though, is compare her own life to Riley’s. And I think that’s why she splits off from Sam and immediately goes to see Spike. It’s a familiar act, sure, as Buffy’s come to depend on Spike to make her feel better. This is no different. But I believe Buffy is so furious that Riley found someone else who is loving and normal that she goes to Spike and essentially tries to get him to be the same thing for her. That’s why she tries to discern how Spike feels for her. She wants to believe that Spike truly loves her, that he’s just as romantic and perfectly-fit as Sam is with Riley. But is that the case? Or has she been using Spike for temporary gain?
It’s a combination between this realization and the demon eggs that give Buffy the clarity that she has needed for so long. For most of this season, Buffy has been deceiving everyone and her self. She refuses to accept Spike for what he is because what he is doesn’t fit in to her narrow view of the world or morality. She hides her sexual relationship with Spike out of fear and terror, and this is the exact opposite of the Finns. Buffy can see that their relationship isn’t centered on lying to others or on lying to the other partner. At least that’s what I got out of Buffy’s conversation with Sam. So what is she supposed to do?
The bombing of Spike’s crypt lair was symbolic of what would later happen, and I didn’t expect to feel so sad at that final scene. I guess I was already a bit emotional due to Riley’s goodbye to Buffy. He gives Buffy the goodbye she deserved all those years ago: just because bad things happen, or just because you aren’t at the top of your game, or just because you make bad choices, none of that invalidates who you are. And Riley knows that Buffy is still that wonderful woman beneath all the trauma she’s gone through. Bad things don’t erase the good things. (Oh god, I am now full of feelings for “Vincent and The Doctor.” HELP.)
And it’s with this that Buffy goes to Spike and does what she should have a long time ago: admit that she is attracted to Spike, that his physical presence calms her and makes her feel good, but that she is using him just for that. She cannot love him, and it is unfair to him if she keeps leading him on. And she uses his name. William. Oh my god, way to punch me straight in the heart. Look at Spike’s face when Buffy says William. Look at James Marsters’s face acting. YOU LOOK AT IT. How did this show acquire so many good face actors???
It’s a heart-wrenching final scene. There was a possibility that Buffy and Spike could have been good for one another, but I much prefer honesty to fantasy. My god, the episodes following this are going to be sad, aren’t they? I legitimately feel bad for Spike at this point. How is he going to react to this? NOT WELL, I IMAGINE. Ouch, my heart. 🙁
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