Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Episode 7 “Once More, With Feeling”
OK, so as I’ve mentioned before, this was one of two Buffy episodes I’d seen before this rewatch. I had heard it was So Amazing and I watched it and was like, “eh.” The jokes weren’t that funny to me, the singing seemed awkward, and the much-vaunted final scene seemed more like two people chewing each other’s tongues than a hot kiss. (Don’t @ me, I’m just reporting how I felt back then!) After seeing this and “Hush,” I never considered watching Buffy again until this blog.
However, I had a feeling this time around I was going to be way more into it. Not just because what originally seemed to be a random kiss at the end has now been transformed into the Spike/Buffy consummation I’ve been dying for, but because I’ve changed a lot as a viewer. Buffy’s humor seemed too silly to me because I took myself too seriously; now I appreciate it much more. So let’s get to it and see if I’ve grown up enough to enjoy this episode!
When we see our characters, they’re all getting along famously, partly because Tara’s still under a forgetting spell. But Buffy suddenly finds herself out on patrol singing about how she’s really just going through the motions. She just wants to have feelings again. (Gee, who could make those feelings come rushing back?? I wonder…)
It turns out that everyone in town is singing their feelings, not just Buffy. As the gang try to figure out what kind of demon could cause this, they all accidentally reveal their feelings through song—Tara sings a sweet love song for Willow, but Xander and Anya sing about their second thoughts about getting married. Which is awkward since they hadn’t shared that with each other. Even more awkwardly, Buffy sings about how she doesn’t really care about any of this in front of the Scoobs.
Then unfortunately it turns out that the singing isn’t just a cutesy spell—people in town are singing and dancing so hard that they spontaneously combust. It’s a metaphor, obviously: there are a lot of feelings these characters are hiding that might combust if they came to the surface. Buffy seeks out Spike to see if he knows anything, and he gets all bitter at her for, essentially, colleague-zoning him. He sings a lovelorn ballad about how he doesn’t mean anything to her—but then she just happens to fall into a grave right on top of him, and let’s just say it takes her a suspiciously long time to get up. I think Spike is edging out of the colleague-zone!
A creepy red demon and his marionette minions kidnap Dawn to be his queen. When he finds out Dawn’s sister is the Slayer he gets even more excited, thinking he’ll see Buffy burn up. When Buffy comes to rescue Dawn, everyone else joins her just in time to hear her sing about how she was pulled out of heaven. Buffy makes a deal with the demon: he can take her in Dawn’s place if she can’t kill him. Instead, she starts singing so hard she might be about to combust—until Spike catches her and sings, “The pain that you feel you only can heal by living.” Dawn quotes Buffy’s good-bye speech: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Buffy seems convinced, but like she doesn’t know how to go back to living. And Willow is devastated to realize what she’s done. (It doesn’t help that Tara has figured out she cast a spell on her, so no one’s super pleased with her at the moment.)
The demon is about to disappear with Dawn to the underworld when it turns out that Xander actually summoned him, thinking that, I guess, song and dance would help him and Anya have a happy ending? Nice going, Xander. But it all works out: the demon decides he’d rather not have Xander as his queen, even though that’s usually the rule. Basically, heternormativity saves Xander. The demon disappears to hell, leaving the gang free to sing a big ensemble number. Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike head out to the alley, where Buffy sings, “This isn’t real… but I just want to feel…” and ATTACKS SPIKE WITH HER MOUTH.
Well, I was right. I loved this episode this time around. I guess it makes a big difference when you’re invested in the characters already. But also, it didn’t bother me that the songs were not necessarily masterpieces; the feelings behind them, and the way that they advanced various plots, really worked. Plus, you know, I liked the kissing.
Notes from a New Fan:
- There are often scenes that I’ve seen in fanvideos that are completely different than what they seemed when I couldn’t hear the dialogue (in the olden days of fandom in the early aughts, fanvideos didn’t include hardly any dialogue, so you could really kind of come to your own conclusions and they were often hilariously wrong). One of the most surprising ones is that Tara’s corset-and-brown-dress outfit here is not some kind of bit where she and Willow are going to a ren faire. She’s just wearing this to hang out at the Magic Box. What?!
- Then there’s this scene where a bunch of regularly dressed college boys check Tara out, and Willow says it’s because she’s hot, which… she’s beautiful, but like, maybe they’re just wondering why she’s wandering around in a Sleeping Beauty costume when Halloween was last week? I’m just saying.
- I love that Tara’s love song with Willow gets so saucy! Willow disappears offscreen in the direction of Tara’s nether regions, and then Tara literally levitates. Nicely done, Willow!
- I bet Michelle Trachtenberg is a trained dancer, because her big musical number is a ballet rather than a song.
- Giles thinks that he’s standing in the way of Buffy growing up or investing in her life, which seems awfully self-centered, and also kind of judgmental. I mean she was resurrected from the dead four episodes ago!
- On the other hand, it’s really moving when he sings about how he wishes he could relieve her of her burden, and I love the choreography as Buffy fights on, oblivious (I guess Giles’ song is the only one that can’t be heard by other people?) and Giles stares sadly at her.
- On the other OTHER hand, I feel very annoyed by Giles refusing to help Buffy with this underworld demon who’s trying to kidnap Dawn because he wants to prove some kind of point to Buffy. It’s just so condescending! She’s an adult and a dang superhero, can’t she ask for help when she wants to? What does she have to prove to him?
- Spike’s song: “I hope she fries. I’m free if that bitch dies. … I’d better help her out.” Heh. That didn’t last long.
- Weirdly I didn’t remember anything from the first time I saw this episode about how Buffy had secretly been in a heaven dimension instead of a hell dimension, so I was still surprised by that revelation earlier this season. And I didn’t remember anything about Willow’s forgetting spell so I was still utterly shocked by Willow’s actions.
- The demon’s gone, so should the Scoobs be concerned that they’re all still feeling compelled to sing? Is that ever explained?
- Janes says that Joss Whedon wrote all the songs for the episode himself. I know I said I didn’t love them or anything, but they do come across as, like, real songs, and I’m very impressed he wrote them all!
Notes from a True Stan:
- This episode is ICONIC right from the opening credits. I’m not a fan of gimmick episodes (I thought “Hush” was overrated), and musical episodes in non-musical shows are generally disasters (Ally McBeal, anyone? [What?! No shit-talking the Ally McBeal musical, puh-lease —Nerdy Spice]), but this is just a huge accomplishment, top to bottom.
- I love Willow and Tara’s dresses in this episode–it’s like musical wicca chic.
- The subtitles tell me that when Buffy says she broke into song, Giles admits he started singing the night before, but he thought it was fine because he had his guitar, although “that would explain the backing orchestra I couldn’t see and the synchronized dancing from those room service chaps.”
- Anya’s got a pretty good rocker voice!
- I love that Alyson Hannigan hates singing so much that she requested to only have a few lines, but she’s had to sing in both of her major TV roles.
- TV censorship is so funny because it makes things so much dirtier. Like, Willow and Tara are barely allowed to kiss on screen, but they’re allowed to metaphorically give each cunnilingus and say “you make me come… plete”?? It’s like when Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wasn’t allowed to say “dude I’m so wet” on TV, so they “censored” it with “let me choke on your cocksuredness.” [Or “do you want your muffin buttered” in Mean Girls! The original “Do you want your cherry popped” would have actually been less graphic. –Nerdy Spice]
- It’s kind of a bummer to watch “I’ll Never Tell” knowing that the relationship implodes. It’s a great song, but I would like it better as a lighthearted commentary on normal wedding/commitment jitters, rather than a sign they’re doomed to fail.
- There’s Marti Noxon singing about the parking ticket! She’s so good!
- Anthony Head is the best singer and “Rest in Peace” is the best song, don’t @ me.
- The sexual tension when Spike reaches across Buffy to open the door is off the charts. And when he gets down on his knees and says he’s her “willing slave”? Oof.
- Why are these randos at a funeral in the middle of the night?
- Michelle Trachtenberg requested not to sing too much, which from the few lines we hear, was merciful of her. But she’s a trained ballerina, so she gets to dance, and it’s lovely.
- There are no consistent rules for whether the characters can hear each other singing–just like in a real musical!
- They should have given Giles a better song, but the 80s training montage is great. We love montages around here.
- Tara’s zigzag part is giving me such early aughts flashbacks.
- I love that Giles does this dramatic thing where he’s like “Buffy needs to fight this demon on her own, she’s leaning on us too much.” Like, sir, you guys brought her back to life because you couldn’t handle the demons on your own.
- Giles saying “Buffy needs backup” and Anya and Tara dancing behind her always makes me giggle.
- It’s such a devastating moment when Buffy sings that she was in Heaven–such a perfect eleven o’clock song! SMG has said in interviews that she wasn’t super comfortable with singing in this episode, but when someone suggested a voice double, she burst into tears because she didn’t want someone else to deliver Buffy’s emotional turning point. I’m glad she soldiered through it, because you can really tell it’s her voice, and that makes a difference.
- There are absolutely no consequences for Xander summoning this demon that killed people, but I’m not really mad about it. That also feels true to the musical genre.
Episode 8, “Tabula Rasa”
After the revelations of “Once More with Feeling,” everyone is reeling (no rhyme intended). Buffy is disgusted that she made out with Spike–or so she claims–and wants to pretend it never happened. Giles’ big ballad made him realize that he needs to go back to England for Buffy’s own good, which is ridiculously paternalistic and silly, but fine, whatever. And the Scoobies are super guilty after finding out that Buffy was in heaven, as they should be. “We were so selfish,” Willow says, despondent. “I was so selfish.”
Xander wants to do a book club, because that will make everything okay. Willow rightly points out that the situation requires a little more than that, but her solution is to wipe Buffy’s mind, which is a bit of an overcorrection. Tara freaks out at her, not least because she immediately understands that Willow wants to use the same spell that she used to make Tara forget their spat. Tara rightly says that Willow “violated [her] mind,” which is unforgivable, especially after what Glory did to her. (Wow, they never bring that up!) Willow protests that she “didn’t mean it,” like she’s a little kid. “I just didn’t want to fight anymore.” Willow’s behavior is unforgivable, but the fact that she doesn’t even understand why it’s wrong is downright scary. That’s the sign of an emotional abuser–she’s completely forgotten what it means that Tara’s supposed to be an equal partner. Tara is very eloquent in this scene, and she points out that Willow is using magic to fix everything, and everyone, to her liking, including her.
“I don’t think this is going to work,” Tara says, tearfully. Willow does the classic addict thing and says she can stop magic anytime. She offers to go a month without magic, and Tara downgrades it to a week, which is both generous and a sign that she really doesn’t trust Willow anymore at all. “Go a week, and then we’ll see,” she says gently.
Willow sees the writing on the wall, so the moment Tara is out of her eyeline, she starts using magic again. She performs an even stronger memory wiping spell for both Tara and Buffy, meant to erase all of their unpleasant memories. (“She’s a monster!” my partner cries–and he’s right!). But the spell goes wrong, as Willow’s spells are wont to do, and just as Giles is announcing to everyone that he’s leaving, they all pass out in strange positions, and wake up with no memories at all.
What follows is basically a twenty-minute farce. They all start trying to parse their identities and relationships to each other, with mixed results. Xander and Willow fell on top of each other, so they assume they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. Anya and Giles also wake up cuddling, they find receipts that confirm they run the Magic Box together, and Anya’s wearing an engagement ring, so they assume they’re engaged. (To be fair, that’s pretty convincing evidence.) Buffy and Dawn immediately annoy each other, so they correctly deduce that they’re sisters. The funniest part is when Giles and Spike realize they’re both British, and Giles says Spike evokes a distinct feeling of familiarity and “disappointment,” so they must be father and son. Ha!
Most of them have IDs, except for Buffy and Spike. Spike is wearing some demon’s jacket, and the demon’s name is Randy. “Randy Giles?” he yells at Giles. “Why not just call me Horny Giles or Desperate-for-a-shag Giles?” LOL. Buffy names herself Joan, and although we don’t condone Willow’s behavior, “Joan” seems happier and lighter than Buffy has all season.
They’re attacked by loan sharks who are trying to collect a debt from Spike (and are actual shark demons, which is a funny visual gag). Hijinks ensue. The demons say they want Spike, and the gang thinks they’re referring to the stakes lying all over the Magic Box–again, a fair assumption. While they’re running away, Buffy slays a vampire by instinct or muscle memory, and is utterly delighted. “I’m like a superhero or something!” Aw. It’s nice to see her happy.
Spike gets his game face on as he fights the vampires and cries, “I’m a superhero, too!” Buffy screams and runs away, then tackles Spike (an excuse to straddle him, maybe? That sounds like my mind is in the gutter, but it’s a weirdly sexual scene). She explains that he’s a vampire, and he’s weirded out that he doesn’t want to bite her. “I must be a noble vampire,” he says. “On a mission of redemption, I help the helpless. I’m a vampire with a soul.” (If it wasn’t already obvious that this is an Angel joke, “we help the helpless” is the slogan of Angel Investigations.) “A vampire with a soul?” Buffy says. “Oh my God how lame is that.” Hee.
Giles and Anya stay behind to try to find a spell to defeat the vampires. Anya decides that she’ll just open a book and say a random spell, which is a terrible idea and probably could have ended the world. Luckily it only conjures a bunny–Anya’s worst nightmare. In an attempt to send them back, she just keeps making more bunnies. “Yes dear,” Giles says. It’s like they’re married already. At various points, she conjures a swordfighting skeleton and some monster, and Giles calls her a “lunatic woman.” She hits him with the spellbook because she feels “compelled to take vengeance,” and he brandishes his one-way ticket to England and says, “No wonder I’m leaving you!” No! I’m more invested in this fake relationship than I am in Anya and Xander’s real one! She begs him not to leave her and then they make out! Ew! I take it all back.
Meanwhile, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Dawn hide the sewers, and Tara and Willow have lots of sexual tension. Aw, I love the “they lose their memory and fall in love all over again” trope! Just as they’re falling in love, a vampire attacks them, the crystal gets smashed, and the spell is broken. Anya and Giles are mid-makeout and will clearly never look at each other again. Buffy wakes up mid-fight with a vampire, and you can see not only her memories but all of her pain and trauma come flooding back. Tara immediately knows what happened, and she and Willow wordlessly break up.
There’s a truly amazing ending montage (montage!) set to Michelle Branch performing “Goodbye to You” in the Bronze! Buffy’s sitting in a bar looking depressed when Spike finds her, Giles flies back to England, Tara packs up while Willow cries in the bathroom, and then we pan to Buffy and Spike making out! This montage blew my mind when I was eleven, and it blows my mind now.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Buffy is being weirdly mean to Spike after their kiss. I think it’s intended to sort of question the trope of “the lady doth protest too much,” but it really comes across as a sterling example of “the lady doth protest too much.”
- Also, though, Buffy’s 20. She had the most RIDICULOUSLY passionate kiss—so passionate it’s almost funny—and apparently it ended there, with no sex. I’m so curious about this, you guys. How did this scene actually end? I guess she probably pulled away and slapped him and walked off or something, but it seems so… inexplicable. Like when you’ve reached the level of horniness and restlessness that Buffy has reached here, to make out with an extremely muscular and high-cheekboned man and not take him home? That just seems like unnecessary self-torture.
- I notice that Buffy says killing Spike would “simple things up” whereas Xander says that being glad Buffy’s alive will “simplify” everything. I hate that Xander has a better vocabulary than Buffy.
- I think I hate Giles. I mean I loved his song in the last episode, and how much he obviously loves Buffy, but I hate that he thinks that he has to leave for Buffy to be strong. She’s the effing Slayer! She has saved the world a million times! You’re not holding her back from anything, you’re just making her life harder because you somehow think you’re important, but you’re not the main character! Buffy is, and she needs you for totally legitimate reasons, like being a motherless 20-year-old with home repair bills and a dependent minor sister who used to be a Key until five minutes ago! Ughhhhhh.
- It’s hard to tell if Willow is conflicted at all about using magic when she promised Tara she wouldn’t. I am conflicted. Should I see this as a moment where Willow is on such a self-destructive path that she just breaks her promise to Tara without thinking it’s wrong? I mean, she bothers to cast a spell on herself for the perfect v-neck distressed tee. That’s not exactly a moral imperative.
- “Is this some kind of psych test? Am I getting paid for this?” Xander asks. Hee. I got paid for a lot of psych tests at Xander’s age.
- Maybe Xander follows the vampire into the sewer because he’s lost all his memory and doesn’t realize he’s bad at fighting. On the other hand, in regular life he still doesn’t seem to know he’s bad at fighting.
- Of course it’s Xander who steps on the crystal and breaks the spell. Of course.
- It’s weird that the cute little cartoon villain shark who’s been pursuing Spike says at the end that he’s fine without the baby kittens Spike owes him. Couldn’t you have said that forty minutes ago and saved poor Spike all this trouble?
- According to Wikipedia this is really Michelle Branch singing “Goodbye To You” at the Bronze. Wow, what a score! It’s really good! Janes sang a [different] Michelle Branch song in her middle school talent show and was also really great.
Notes from a True Stan:
- “Time is what turns kittens into cats,” says the loan shark. So wise.
- Tara exposits that Buffy could have been in one of a “zillion” heavenly dimensions, which is an interesting cosmology.
- I feel like I’ve addressed this in other recaps, but Giles’ reasoning for leaving is so dumb! Buffy is a traumatized 20-year-old who’s functionally an orphan–it makes sense that she would lean on her father figure, and it also makes sense that she would not be fully ready to parent an obnoxious 15-year-old. Giles should have just said he was happy in England and needed to live his own life. Better yet, they should have gotten him back together with Olivia from “Hush,” and said he was going back to be with her. Any of these things would make more sense than his condescending, self-serving excuses.
- I so want Willow’s power to just change my outfit at any time. Can you imagine never having to get changed again?
- What was Willow’s plan with Buffy? Tara’s one thing, probably no one would remind her that she and Willow were fighting, like Dawn did the first time around. But was Willow going to tell everyone that Buffy would forget being in Heaven? How could she have kept that a secret from Tara?
- Giles: “I run a Magic Shop? How… progressive of me.” LOL.
- I like that they reference Buffy never getting her driver’s license! I also don’t have my license, so this is very validating for me.
- This episode is super light on plot, even by Buffy’s standards – we’re halfway through the episode and the memory loss plot is just getting started!
- I got so excited when I saw Michelle Branch, and my partner asked who she was, so I sang a lick of every song she’s known for and this is how I discovered I still know all the lyrics to every song in “The Spirit Room.”
Episode 9 “Smashed”
As it tends to do, Spike’s love for Buffy has also made him unwise, to the point where he even tries to help Buffy fight a couple human muggers (which causes him a huge migraine). He wants to talk, but Buffy insists their kisses meant nothing, and won’t happen again. She punches him and tells him he’s an “evil, disgusting thing”–but in the course of this fight, he realizes it doesn’t hurt him to punch her back, despite the anti-hurting-humans chip planted in him by the Initiative last season. Ruh-roh. Spike makes Warren take a look at his chip and Warren confirms the chip is still functional, which means whatever hurts Spike whenever he hurts humans is somehow not registering Buffy as human. Did Buffy come back wrong?
The Three Nerds have a plan, “phase one” of which involves stealing a diamond of some sort (in the course of which they frost up a security guard with a defective freeze ray gun). Willow uses magic to figure this out, even though everyone knows the magic is why Tara left her. Willow also uses magic to turn Amy the Rat into a human again. Which distracts Buffy from confessing her whole Spike problem. And distracts Willow from mourning Tara, because Amy wants to go out clubbing to avoid answering any hard questions from the people she hasn’t seen in three years. Amy is even more into using magic to solve interpersonal problems than Willow, which is sometimes terrible (Amy almost bewitches a gorgeous woman into hooking up with Willow) and sometimes a little more forgivable (the women teleport two creepy/aggressive men in the dancing cages).
Tara and Dawn get together for a much more boring outing, going to the movies. Tara tells Dawn she’ll always be there for her, and even though she still loves Willow, she doesn’t know if they will ever get back together. God, I hope they don’t—for Tara’s sake. Dawn tries to Parent Trap Willow and Tara, but since Willow’s out all night clubbing with Amy, it doesn’t even work.
Meanwhile, Buffy valiantly tries to pretend that every conversation doesn’t make her want Spike. But just as Anya mentions “being bad” and Buffy practically salivates, Spike calls and asks her to meet at the cemetery. Buffy refuses—but she’s obviously tempted, since she hears double entendres in everything Spike says. Spike finds her anyway as she heads to her patrol, and taunts her that he can hit her now because she came back “wrong.” They start fighting and end up in an abandoned old building. They taunt and hit each other, getting closer and closer until finally, Buffy basically mauls him. They end up slamming into the wall, kissing so furiously the building begins to break down. Next thing you know, they’re having sex right there against the wall. And since they both have superstrength, the whole damn building falls down, and Buffy and Spike fall with it, kissing in a giant cloud of dust.
Notes from a New Fan:
- OK, I can’t believe the Hulu summaries are calling Amy “Amy the Rat.” That’s hilarious. Poor Amy.
- The closed captioners caption Willow as “[speaking foreign language].” To be fair to them, I wouldn’t want to write out, “Chokey fu, noney poo, chokey fu” either.
- Isn’t it kind of sad that we have never seen Willow even trying to free Amy the Rat before now? Shouldn’t that have been, like, higher on the list?
- Theory: Buffy is wearing her hair in pigtails partly to convince herself she’s too innocent to make out with Spike.
- So, to kiss someone that you know is in love with you and then call them an “evil, disgusting thing” is pretty cold. It seems like Buffy is, basically, trying to convince herself (as Spike says). On the other hand, we know that Joss actually thinks Spike is a “thing”–so—maybe this is a sort of meta-fiction where Joss is trying to convince himself that Spike is a thing and that Buffy really doesn’t want to make out with him? Nevertheless, it has the odd effect of making Buffy seem more evil than Spike because she’s the one deliberately being cruel to him. [Eh, I don’t blame her. She’s severely depressed and traumatized, and he gives as good as he gets. He’s also cruel to her–he gleefully tells her that she “came back wrong,” which arguably makes her vulnerable enough to want to sleep with him. I don’t think that’s an accident. Even if the rest of the season didn’t go the way it does, he never exactly lacks agency in this relationship. –Janes]
- Amy wants to make her father forget that she disappeared for three years, so she won’t have to answer hard questions, and instead suggests they go clubbing. Wow, she’s like Willow but even more avoidant!
- I love that Warren doesn’t know what Spike’s chip is, but he says that it works fine because the signal is still coming through. This is sort of like saying your computer works fine because the screen is on. Like… you need to confirm a little more than that, dude.
- Xander accidentally does research in a D&D manual. Wow, things are really falling apart without Giles. (Just realized that basically the exact same thing happens in Stranger Things this season!)
- Look, what Willow is doing is not cool. She’s messing with human beings for her own pleasure or utility. But it’s easy to see how it happens—and how fun it must feel to finally be free from what she saw as Tara’s unnecessary judgment, to the point where she stops using her own judgment.
- Buffy and Spike are fighting, but when Buffy taunts Spike for making “moon eyes” at her, he still says, “I’m in love with you.” He’s not super great at taunting, poor guy.
- [SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF SEASON 6] Update after watching ahead and finishing season 6: This blog post gave me a helpful summary of the fandom arguments that I missed at the time, and they sound epic; rightly so! The ending scene is extremely complex and defies easy interpretation. Personally, I land somewhere on the left-of-center when it comes to Spike apologia: I can’t watch Spike’s arc leading up to this moment and think that vampires are still canonically 100% evil. To my view, it’s impossible to interpret all of Spike’s choices as purely selfish or evil, since we know that most of what he did for Buffy he did while believing there was no hope she’d ever reciprocate his feelings. But I do also believe that Buffy reaching out to Spike here is more a product of the damage done to her by her recent trauma than the product of something good or pure between them. Still, this scene makes a lot more sense if it’s about two damaged people finding real comfort and some form of (flawed) love in each other, than if it’s about a woman doing something purely self-destructive with a non-human “thing.” It seems Joss was trying to subvert the “bad dude wins woman over by waiting RILLY patiently” storyline, and as a feminist I understand why he would want to. But as an adult human with eyes in my head and a basic understanding of the complexity of human nature, I have to say the power of the trope (and the chemistry) severely outmuscles the power of the subversion.
- Another note on Spike’s morality. Janes points out that being good and kind to one person that you love is something even the least evolved humans can do, and not really a proof of being good. Goodness attaches more to being kind to people where their pain doesn’t hurt you—people you aren’t in love with. I agree with that, but I think there are many humans who stay for a long time at this point on the moral development spectrum—the point where you care about hurting people you care about, but you don’t care about hurting someone in the abstract. It’s not a good or admirable place to be, but it is absolutely human, and shows that you have the capacity for empathy even if you’re not using it. So all signs point to Spike being not an evil demon but a bad person. And in Buffy’s universe even a bad person deserves a certain consideration, because when you’re bad, you inherently have the possibility of being good.
- Regardless of how you interpret Spike’s morality or humanity or lack thereof, one thing is really clear to me: no moral stain attaches to Buffy’s actions when she has sex with Spike (the way she treats him when they’re not having sex is actually mean and cruel enough to make me uncomfortable, even though of course Spike has done much meaner and crueler things in his [un]life). Fictional men have been having sex with bad women since storytelling was invented, without ever being considered less heroic. Even if Spike is dyed-in-the-wool, 100% evil, if she wants to have consenting sex with him (and Spike is pretty clearly giving enthusiastic consent!) that doesn’t make her bad, especially in a situation where he for whatever reason is the only person who provides comfort while she’s in a traumatized state.
- On the other hand, the essay offers an alternate explanation to this too: “That sense of being “wrong” was precisely the thing which released her remaining inhibitions about sex with Spike. If she’s already “wrong”, she no longer needs to do the right thing.” And… yeah. If Buffy tells herself something’s wrong with her, she has freedom to do this thing she believes is icky and beneath her. But again, from my generally sex-positive 2020’s viewpoint, it’s generally a good thing when a grown woman has sex she wants to have with a consenting partner, so hard to root against her overcoming her inhibitions, even if it’s sad to see her punish herself so much for them.)
- Wow I wrote a long essay, oops! Tl;dr filming a sex scene that hot and then convincing your audience that it’s purely bad news would be a feat of storytelling that I am not convinced even Joss can pull off. As you can tell, I am not convinced it is purely bad news.
Notes from a True Stan:
- After interfering with Buffy’s patrol yet again, Spike says, “Remind me not to help you,” and she replies, “More often?” Seriously, she’s told him to stop getting in the way so many times, it’s becoming a motif.
- I love that Amy is finally de-ratted! It’s one of those little gags that you hardly ever think about, but is super dark and tragic when you do think about it. Like when Oz noticed the cheerleader statue’s eyes moving.
- Amy thinks only a few weeks have passed, and wants Larry to ask her to prom. Willow has to break it to her: “One, Larry’s gay. Two, Larry’s dead. Three, high school’s kind of… over.” Aw. Poor Larry. I was surprised at how sad I was when he died.
- It’s very telling that the second Spike thinks his chip has malfunctioned, he tries to kill an innocent girl. The writers were telling us that Spike is definitely still evil at this point, even if almost no one was listening.
- I hate to say it, but Tara is much more interesting when she and Willow are broken up. It’s sweet that she’s such a mother figure to Dawn, and she and Buffy develop an interesting camaraderie. Basically, she’s interesting when she’s interacting with anyone who’s not Willow, which is kind of sad.
- When Amy spells a hot girl so she’ll want to hook up with Willow, and Willow demurs very mildly that she’s not ready, as if the only problem with this scenario is that she’s not over Tara, and not that it would be rape. And I like to think the writers are aware of this, considering that they call out Warren’s brainwashing magic as rape later in the season.
- I like the meta-commentary that the Trio’s antics are “lame.” I like that the Trio actually is lame! It supports the interpretation that depression/addiction are the Big Bads this season.
- The scene in the Bronze where Willow and Amy are spelling everyone is very WandaVision–if you look closely, everyone is partying and dancing but also looks kind of confused and upset.
- Spike’s chip not working on Buffy is clearly a contrivance to allow them to have super-hot, rough sex, but the contrivance is deployed very well. It makes sense that the chip would be confused by resurrection, which goes against science, and it lends credence to Buffy’s feeling that she “came back wrong,” which is a great metaphor for depression.
- And also, yeah, this sex scene is super hot. There should be more sex scenes that literally flatten buildings.