In the eighth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies must deal with the uncomfortable possibility that Spike is killing again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
You know, as much as I liked “Sleeper,” I do feel like I’m seeing just a small part of the whole, and until I finish the season, I don’t know that I’ll truly appreciate what I just watched. That’s generally the case with anything that I do, for the record. I know that going back through Harry Potter for the Mark Reads Harry Potter books has given me a new love of the series because I pick up on so many things I missed on the first time around. So it’s always a partial detriment to my viewing experience that I write about these episodes unspoiled. In that sense, I can only react to the information I’m given, and sometimes, that means I just won’t get things. I can’t! It’s generally impossible for me to see the forest for the trees when I’m in the midst of a new show or a book.
What’s interesting, then, is how I was kind of prepared for this episode, as I correctly guessed that the Scary Evil Thing was manipulating Spike. OH MY GOD, WHEN DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN? But what I actually missed was the degree by which Spike was controlled. This episode’s title – “Sleeper” – is a hint towards that, one I didn’t understand until after the episode ended. In a sense, Spike was a sleeper agent for this… thing. God, DOES IT HAVE A NAME? I can’t even come up with a consistent one in these reviews. Anyway, this still goes to my point earlier: I feel like I’m missing something. If this episode is indeed suggesting that Spike was a sleeper agent for Totally Creepy Evil Entity, then… well, what activated him? That element of the metaphor isn’t here. Or maybe it is? Was it that music part where Spike Entity sang to him? I think it was there earlier, but I’m not sure. What is here in this episode is a very Machurian Candidate vibe in Spike’s actions. He goes out at night, he kills people at the bidding of Totally Creepy Evil Entity, and then he returns to Xander’s unaware of what he’s just done. That scenario is creepy enough as it is, but once you factor in the emotional complication that comes with it, this is a severely fucked up episode.
First of all, there’s a lot of similarities between what the Scoobies go through in “Selfless” and what happens here. Someone they know appears to have done heinous things, and Buffy might have to kill them. In this case, Xander and Buffy are reversed. Buffy doesn’t want to believe that Spike is capable of turning or killing humans, but Xander has to point out the facts of the situation to her. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and kind of agonizing to watch. Man, that Cassie Thing was right; the Scoobies were going to be put through some awful shit. And this is especially bad because Spike returned to Sunnydale as an attempt at redemption, and that Thing used him to take him on the exact opposite path that he wanted. Like FOR REAL, DUDE. That’s messed up! Again, that’s sort of the point of this show, to be messed up all of the time, but I actually felt bad for Spike in this episode. He is trying to do good, to right some of the things he did wrong, and now this happens.
I think Willow’s comment on what this Totally Creepy Evil Entity does is spot on, though. It’s acting to tear the Scoobies apart. Why else would it tell Dawn that Buffy wouldn’t choose her in the end? Why else would it use Spike in such a way that would get the entire group to turn on him? This is all part of the plan. I don’t know what The Plan is, however, though I think I’m getting a better idea of it. Distract and separate the Scoobies, and then… stuff? Evil stuff happens? At the very least, the Evil Entity expected Buffy to take a hardline stance on Spike, and it assumed Spike had no free will yet. Those are the two mistakes it makes, and that’s why everything falls apart at the end of “Sleeper.” I’d like to think that Buffy’s experience in “Selfless” caused her to think twice about killing Spike. Well, obviously that’s not the only reason. She has a complicated and painful history with him, yes, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel anything for him at all. But I think she was willing to discard her black-and-white Slayer code to give Spike the benefit of the doubt, to show the others that there is too much ambiguity and complexity around for her to stake first and ask questions later. At the same time, Spike resists the powerful influence of the Evil Entity by choice, and I think that’s a monumental character moment for him. We can’t forget that he chose to get his soul back. (That’s one of the main differences between him and Angel, for what it’s worth.) Here, at the end of it all, he chooses to ask for help. You can see the disappointment on Evil Entity’s face in that exact moment, too. (Er – actually, it’s on Spike’s face, but the Evil Entity’s appearance of Spike, and lord, this could get complicated fast.) Ultimately, I think that’s how Dawn is going to have to rid herself of the doubt that she has of Buffy. She’s going to have to choose to trust her, to believe that she didn’t see a manifestation of her mother. (Oh god, what if that was really Joyce? That would melt my mind, y’all. I CAN’T DEAL WITH ALL OF THIS AT ONCE.)
As if this episode wasn’t uncomfortable enough AS IS, then we have Anya. Oh gosh, you know, I totally get that Xander and Buffy were a bit stuck with Spike, but asking Anya to watch over him was super fucked up, right? I mean, surely Xander realized just how horrifically awkward that very idea was, no??? And she handled the situation as best as she could, bless her. I’m glad that the writers are keeping her involved in the show for the most part, but seriously, can something good happen to her? Maybe she can get a puppy? Wait, now that has me wondering where Miss Kitty Fantastico went. Where is she???
Anyway, I did like this episode a great deal, but it just left me wanting more. I need to see how this pans out! Plus, I’ve not commented on the one aspect of this episode that is THE MOST EXCITING THING: GILES GILES GILES GILES. I think I’ve figured out what’s going on with those cloaked figures. First of all, during that first scene in London, I actually thought that was Giles entering that apartment. It’s clear that the young girl was killed by those cloaky folks, so I started to wonder how they were all connected. But once Giles barged into the man’s apartment, I suddenly realized that Robson had to be a Watcher. He had to! I mean, he looked like one, right? But then… that doesn’t make sense, does it? Isn’t there only one Slayer? What do the other Watchers do exactly? Do council-y stuff? I kind of realized this wasn’t exactly clear. Anyway, so here’s my guess: the cloak-y figures are killing girls who might be Slayers? But how the hell can they know that? Oh god, that already feels like the worst theory ever, but it’s the only thing I can think of. Why else would they go after young women? ARGGGH ALSO IF THAT FUCKER CUT OFF GILES’S HEAD, I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THIS FUCKING SHOW, I SWEAR.
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