In the ninth episode of the seventh season of Buffy, this is kind of a whimsical episode until everything gets so real and serious that I’m left speechless. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
See, I was laughing at this episode, and I was excited to see Anya and Xander getting along, and I was really touched that Buffy was still willing to help Spike out, regardless of their past, and this episode was just so pleasing to watch, and then FORTY MILLION THINGS ALL HAPPENED AT ONCE AND THIS SEASON IS SUDDENLY NOTHING LIKE I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.
Let me just state this definitely before I delve into “Never Leave Me”: I love this episode, I am totally on board with this season’s story arc, and some of my favorite acting just happened here. Ugh, I cannot wait to explode all of my feelings for that scene between Buffy and Spike.
Generally, the first half of “Never Leave Me” is really fun, even if all of the scenes with Spike are far more somber. Things pick up where the previous episode left off (EXCEPT CRUCIALLY IGNORING THE FACT THAT I STILL DON’T KNOW IF GILES HAS HIS GODDAMN HEAD WHY ARE YOU NOT SHOWING ME THIS), including glimpses of Andrew’s post-murder journey. The main problem facing both groups is an issue of blood: Jonathan’s death did not trigger the seal under Sunnydale being opened, and Spike is going through withdrawals after feasting on human for an untold number of weeks. I’m glad that the Scoobies also discuss the complicated logistics of Spike’s predicament because I admit that I don’t even understand what’s going on here. (Well, at the time I didn’t. THAT ENDING H E L P.) Is Spike too much of a risk? What exactly are they supposed to do with him? Even Spike himself, multiple times, tells Buffy that it’s best if she just stakes him. That doesn’t happen, though! (YET) (I mean, it might happen?) (Probably not, as I suspect Spike is too ~precious~ to the writers to get rid off) (Also, he’s never happy, and we all know that you only die if you are bringing people happiness on this show.) This allows the writers to have Willow and Andrew run into one another AND THEN EVERYTHING IS SO FUCKING WONDERFUL.
I love that they are both awful at threatening each other. I love that Willow resorts to terrible insults because she doesn’t want to use magic. I love that Willow brings Andrew back to the Summers house and XANDER AND ANYA INTERROGATE HIM ONLY USING KNOWLEDGE WEENED FROM WATCHING TELEVISION. The best part about that detail is that it is 100% believable. I mean, think about how much time they spent together as a couple watching bad television at Xander’s place. IT’S TOTALLY TRUE. I’d even say that television is what Xander used to help Anya understand human behavior. This is my headcanon, and you cannot take this away from me.
I do think Drew Goddard balances humor and horror quite well in “Never Leave Me,” and it’s also got some fantastic dialogue between Buffy and Spike. No, seriously, the meta implications of what these two talk about are incredible. A way to relate to each other’s self-hatred? A stinging condemnation of taking the easy way out? I LOVE ABSOLUTELY ALL OF THIS. This episode provided a moment where I understood why people shipped Spuffy. The dynamic between these two characters is so fascinating. I think it’ll be a long time before the two of them can just sit down and have a conversation that isn’t always brimming with awkwardness and anger. But that’s what makes this intriguing. And look, I’m still not the biggest fan of what the writers did to either character at the end of season six, but I appreciate what I’m seeing now. It wasn’t until Spike acquired a soul that he could truly comprehend the level of self loathing that Buffy was at after her friends stole her out of heaven. If there’s ever going to be a full redemption of Spike, he needs these moments of exposed truth.
But what precisely is the basis of Spike’s self-hatred? Does he hate himself for falling for Buffy? For attempting to rape her? For everything he’s done as a vampire? I suspect it’s a combination of all these things, compounded by the love he once had (or still has) for Buffy Summers. And then, for the first of TWO times in this episode, THE FIRST EVIL FUCKS EVERYTHING UP. Like, Spike and Buffy were having this moment, and it was very emotional, and they were bonding in some small way, and then the First Evil is all HAHAHAHA LET ME TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS SITUATION AND SING THAT GODDAMN SONG AND THEN YOU WILL BURST THROUGH A WALL AND TRY TO EAT ANDREW. Look, First Evil, you’ll get your business done either way. Can’t you respect an emotional meeting of the minds? Gosh, rude, First Evil. RUDE.
(OMG it has a name THE FIRST EVIL I can stop giving it arbitrary titles now.)
(What the fuck is Principal Wood doing????)
This same thing happens again down in the basement. If you watch the Mark Watches video for “Never Leave Me,” you’ll see that I totally fell for Spike’s trolling. As soon as he started talking about Buffy’s need for men to make her feel pain, I checked out. NOT AGAIN, I don’t want to hear this LA LA LA LA. But in hindsight, this entire conversation is clearly the First Evil affecting Spike. It’s trying to goad Buffy into destroying a very powerful (possible) ally. Even if that reading is just my own headcanon, it’s certainly possible that this is also Spike’s way of trying to find the easy way out of a painfully complicated situation. Instead of facing the guilt brought by his soul and work through this disaster with Buffy, he’d rather be staked. And then Buffy does something I respect and adore and it crushes my poor heart:
She tells him that she believes in him.
She tells him that deep down, she knows there is a good person within, that he can make moral choices, that he can fight the evil inside because he clearly traveled halfway ’round the world to do it once before. It’s not an outright confirmation of forgiveness on her part, but it is a statement of hope, one that Spike so desperately needs, and one that I need as the viewer. After Buffy went through her ugly existential crisis in season six, this is her accepting life and accepting the hope that Spike can have a life, too.
I love this so much.
AND THEN THE HARBINGERS ALL ARRIVE AND EVERYTHING IS REALLY STRESSFUL, BUT THE SCOOBIES TOTALLY KICK ASS, AND DAWN HAS LIKE FIVE LINES IN THIS EPISODE, BUT SHE THROWS A REALLY GOOD ELBOW AT ONE POINT, and then Buffy says she has fought these Harbingers before.
What? What??? I mean, okay… so are they those cloaked people from season five? Is my memory awful? PROBABLY! And in the efforts of not spoiling myself so I can figure this out on my own, I didn’t look at my old posts to verify what the fuck she was talking about. I can’t remember! Oh god, I’ve been watching this show forever and I can barely remember season one anymore. OH FUCK.
And then – then!!! – it cuts to the Watchers Council, and they name this villain as the First Evil, that it’s going to be their greatest challenge, and that they FINALLY should head out of their stuffy library office to actually help the Slayer.
That is, of course, when Joss Whedon and company decide to BLOW ALL OF THEM UP. ah haha ah h a;sfsf ;kj s;kfajdsf what the FUCK
But I am just completely and totally confused by that thing that is raised out of the ground after Spike’s blood is used to open the seal beneath Sunnydale High. Like, okay, is Spike not a real vampire? Oh my god, is that the FIRST VAMPIRE????? I CAN’T. I CAN’T. I CAN’T DEAL WITH ANY OF THIS. I mean, yes, I am so on board with this season, but WHAT JUST HAPPENED???
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