Wednesday, March 6, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 19

Day 19: Favorite Spike-Centric Episode

This is tough.  James Marsters just does a damn good job playing Spike, during both comedy and dramatic episodes.  And the writers really take advantage of it.  I thought of three right off the top of my head but decided to go with my first instinct.
"Fools For Love"
Honorable mentions go to "Lies My Parents Told Me" (a great flashback/exposition episode for Spike) and "School Hard" (his first appearance with some great one-liners)

Again, a quick synopsis. This episode comes in the middle of Season 5.  At the start, Buffy is injured by a run-of-the-mill vampire while out on patrol and it really shakes her up.  She decides to go to the only person she knows who was there for the death of a Slayer to try and get some answers about how Slayers are killed.  That person is Spike, a vampire who killed two Slayers over his demonic tenure.  

This is the first episode that we really get to see Spike's feelings for Buffy.  And they start the way they will continue for the rest of the series, for the most part--his love for her is steeped in both tenderness and violence, never a good combination.  Passion, for Spike, is tied to physical fighting and pain.  The episode follows the inner conflict in Spike that is flitting around under the surface--he can't decide whether he wants to kill her or screw her.  This is somewhat resolved in the end of the episode when Spike goes to find Buffy, toting a shotgun and promising to kill her, but finds her sitting on her front porch crying because her mother is sick.  Instead of shooting her on the spot he sits down beside her to comfort her.  A lot of people would see this as the end of his internal conflict, but it isn't--their relationship is violence and passion for the rest of the series, in a typically unhealthy way.

This episode is also Spike's origin story.  We get to see who he was before he was a vampire--a sensitive, ineffectual poet who has been spurned by the object of his affections.  He is sired by Drusilla, a woman who he perhaps sees as a new object of affection and validation.  And then he goes on to commit violence against women as a vampire.  In fact, he is obsessed with the idea of bagging a Slayer.  

He kills two of them--one is a young Chinese woman during the Boxer Rebellion and one is an African-American woman in New York City--and genuinely enjoys it.  Again, violence mixed with passion.  The two are inextricable in Spike's mind.  This is also indicated by the fact that he throws Drusilla up against the wall of a burning building to have sex with her just after draining the Chinese Slayer.  He also says something unsettling while showing Buffy the fight he had with the African-American Slayer, Nikki Wood:

The first one was all business.
But the second - now she had
a touch of your style...
She was cunning, resourceful,
and oh, did I mention? Hot. I
could have danced all night with
that one.

He found this Slayer attractive and is satisfied by fighting her. He even refers to their deadly exchange of blows as "dancing".  Buffy notices his confusion when he is talking about killing his first Slayer, too, pointing out that he got off on it.  

Maybe, in some way, this makes Spike the ultimate "Nice Guy".  He was rejected by a woman in life so he goes on to violently get off on the death of women after his death.  I think it's more complicated than that, though.

I think this episode tells us more about Spike than any other one.  And it becomes the genesis of the Spike-Buffy relationship, a sort of "Eureka" moment for Spike, whether conscious or unconscious.  While I don't necessarily LIKE the messages of this episode, I think it gives a lot of perspective--as the Season 7 episode "Lies My Parents Told Me" also does--and it does not endorse this behavior from Spike.  We see Buffy repulsed by it, especially after they fight and he tries to kiss her.  At this point in her life, before her mother dies and Riley leaves and she dies herself, she has no intention or even notion of wanting to be with Spike.  And her disgust and shock is a good indication to the audience that what Spike did--and what he is trying to do--is not okay.  A complex subject and character handled fairly well by the writers.

Also, "Effulgent".  I laugh every time.    

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