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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 7

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  • I just watched Beneath You again, and it never fails to amaze me how powerful I find that final scene in the church. I did a bit of film analysis on that scene years ago: Between the Shadow and the Soul: A Film Analysis of Beneath You and thought I'd share.

    Spoiler:
    I've been wanting to analyze a BtVS scene ever since I took a film analysis course and Marta's Meta Comment-A-Thon finally inspired me to give it a try. So here's my brief analysis of some of the technical elements of the final scene in Beneath You. (Here's a good reference for film analysis terminology.)


    Lighting: The scene sets the characters shrouded in darkness, yet they're well lit. This high contrast between the almost glowing figures of Spike and Buffy is established through high key lighting, where the windows on the sides of the church serve as pseudo-diegetic sources for light. No matter where Buffy and Spike stand throughout the scene, they seem to fall into the light. Save one exception: when Spike willfully crawls into the shadows to confess his darker passions, of death and sex ("I dreamed of killing you, I think they were dreams"/"Thinking of you and spilling useless buckets of salt"). When Spike finally confesses outright that he has a soul, upon saying the word "spark" after hinting at how he's like Angel, he finally walks back into the light. The scene juxtaposes light and dark at its most extreme, the contrast between the demonic and the soul.

    Color: Consider the lack of warm color in the scene, as it's primarily blue-toned, save for the few candles at the walls firing orange. This cool color palette complements the high contrast between the glowing white figures of Buffy and Spike (their blond heads, their pale skin) and the darkness that surrounds them. The spark within Spike is meant to "burn" yet the colors in this scene are lacking fire ("Ain't we in a sodding engine?); this color palette will be dramatically contrasted in Chosen when Spike finally feels his soul as he lights up to close the Hellmouth, his final scene with Buffy awash in warm warmth (bright white light creating warm oranges and reds).

    Costume: Buffy's clothes fit this blue color design. Perhaps more interestingly, Spike begins wearing this garish blue shirt which he sheds once he's in the church. Upon doing so, his costume fits the dichotomy of light and dark. Black jeans beneath (baser passions), his chest baring glowing pale skin (where the heart resides, the soul). He's as dramatically light and dark in body as he is in spirit, as the scene itself is lit. There's an irony here in how Spike's bleached hair, the bad boy persona, is this pure white color on top of his head -- within this color dynamic of light as good and dark as bad, the artificial color of Spike's hair seems almost like an indictment of his attempts to be bad. Even when he's bad, he's still coloring himself in good.

    Sound: So much of the sound in this scene is simply the characters talking. There's the ominous music playing softly underneath it all, the string instruments humming deeply. But it's the voices that really decorate the scene, as the actors sound as if they're whispering even as their voices remain clearly audible. And what's more, there's an echoing quality to their speech, a resonance that further builds the sense of emptiness surrounding them. They're surrounded by darkness and their voices echo. This effect makes the distance between Buffy and Spike seem even greater; they're alone even as they're standing together in the same room, even as they're speaking directly to each other.

    When Spike explains why he got his soul, "To be a kind of man," the music is briefly hopeful, the strings light and higher. Then the music drops back to the low ominous sounds as he says, "And she shall look on him with forgiveness and love" as he approaches the cross and lays himself upon it, foreshadowing his sacrifice in Chosen. To be human for Spike means to die as an immortal vampire consumed by fire -- his humanity is the fire which consumes him from within. It's not enough for Spike to simply have his soul, to suffer and burn within from guilt. The cool tones in Beneath You (from moonlight) of Spike's self-involvement and self-recrimination as he grapples with his newly restored soul will eventually give way to the warm fire of his soul in Chosen (lit by the sun) when he becomes a force for the good of others. The soul may be a source of light within, making way for conscience and guilt, but love is the source of warmth, bringing forth forgiveness and redemption.


    What struck me on this rewatch is the strength of emotion in that final scene. The acting is truly stellar. Sarah Michelle Gellar expresses so much, from the silent moment of revelation before she speaks ("You got your soul back") to the way she watches Spike approach the cross. She's confused, awestruck, even horrified by what's happening. Perhaps witnessing this extreme form of self-hatred strikes too close to home for her and what she was trying to leave behind last year. Like Lessons and the vengeful spirits, Beneath You is about the past still haunting them. They'll find a way forward, eventually, but it will be hardwon.

    I've probably watched this final scene dozens of times. It still gets me: my heart's in my throat, my eyes tearing up along with Buffy. There's such intense vulnerability that the actors evoke. The changing pitch of Spike's voice, the worlds of emotion in Buffy's eyes.

    Truly incredible.
    Last edited by Emmie; 01-03-20, 01:18 AM.
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    • Really interesting analysis Emmie. As SpuffyGlitz's subject is film theory too I'm sure the break down of the visual of the scene will really appeal to her. I agree that the contrasts in the scene are especially striking and really pulls focus on the characters and draws you into the emotions of the moment. As you say, that sense of vulnerability is such a feature and that really feeds from how Spike was behaving in the previous scene and contrasts to his attempt to hide what has changed in him at the bronze. I don't think that visual mix and tone in the church would have worked as well with the scene as originally written (but I believe SpuffyGlitz is intending to consider a comparison of the two so I won't say more than that ).

      Just a quick update, in that I haven't heard anything from Metda yet about when the review for STSP can be ready for us to kickstart the rewatch again so I've sent them a message on another site to see if they are still available to review and if posting in the next two weeks is possible.

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      • That's really interesting Emmie - Thanks! The first shot we see in the church is of an icon above the door. It shows (I think) the Madonna & Child. It's lit with a warm key light that gives the impression it's glowing (and I think glowing is important because it's a term Spike uses to describe both Buffy and his mother. It's also the meaning of "effulgent"). The camera pans down from the icon, over an unlit area of the wall to show us Buffy entering through the door. As you say, she's wearing blue and she's lit with a blue light. I think the pan implies a connection between the two women. They're also connected through blue (I can't tell what colour Mary's wearing in painting but blue's the colour usually associated with her).
        The cool tones in Beneath You (from moonlight) of Spike's self-involvement and self-recrimination
        The Greek/Roman goddess Diana was a triple deity: Diana as huntress, Diana as the moon, Diana of the underworld (I quite like the latter in an episode called Beneath You). She was also the patron of mothers (or women in childbirth, which I presume is the same). Mary inherited this last responsibility.

        I fell into the moon
        And it covered you in blue
        I fell into the moon
        Can I make it right?

        Blue by Angie Hart - with input from Whedon. I wonder if there's some foreshadowing in this song.
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        • Wonderful TriBel ! I love how you've connected the blue coloring of the scene with the symbolic figures of Buffy and Spike. Buffy as Madonna, and Spike continues his Christ-pose.

          Also, love your point about glowing = effulgent. We'll hear it again in Same Time, Same Place ("What's a word means glowing? Gotta rhyme"). I tend to think first of the words in this show, but there's so much to unpack when it comes to how light and color are used for cinematic meaning.

          Buffy as Diana the hunter, the moon, of the underworld Also for Buffy as Mother... well she's about to be responsible for a lot of teenage girls.

          What does that mean if we continue the metaphor of Buffy as Madonna and Spike as Christ in this humanist tale where the jury is out on God existing?
          Last edited by Emmie; 02-03-20, 12:32 AM.
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          • What does that mean if we continue the metaphor of Buffy as Madonna and Spike as Christ in this humanist tale where the jury is out on God existing?
            It means we end up slap, bang, wallop, in the middle of Freud's Oedipal Complex. It kinda makes sense - as far as I'm aware, the actress who played Anne was deliberately chosen because she resembled an older Buffy. It also makes sense because Spike kills vampire Anne because she speaks/acts out the repressed fantasy Freud suggests is part of normal psychological development - sleep with the mother/kill the father (except the father's already dead. William was playing the father role - caring for Anne, escorting her to dances etc.). People tend to be repelled by the idea but it's nothing to do with sex as such. It's more to do with a repressed wish to be "the one" for, or "at one" with, the loved object. Again, makes sense because in S6, Spike wanted Buffy for himself. In Touched he tells her she's "the one." The "killing the father" - look at the tensions in the triad Buffy-Giles-Spike. In the final scenes of First Date, the mise-en-scene (costume and editing plus a sound bridge between the penultimate and final scene) suggests Spike's replaced Giles (Buffy's "father-figure"). Freud's really about psycho-social structures/dynamics rather than actualities (at least how I read him ). Make any sense? In addition - doesn't Giles play a "father/mentor" role for Spike in Restless? Then there's Tabula Rasa... Sorry if this sounds patronizing...I'm trying to keep it simple. After this, it gets complicated!

            I tend to think so much of the words in this show, but there's so much to unpack when it comes to how light and color are used for cinematic meaning.
            My background's Film Studies but I somehow ended up there after Literature so I agree - they blur for me. Though, TBH, I tend to get bogged down in theory and forget plot.
            Last edited by TriBel; 02-03-20, 12:40 AM.
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            • TriBel - Well, this seems like a perfect time to bring up Smashed...

              BUFFY
              When I kissed you ... you know I was thinking about Giles, right?

              SPIKE
              You know, I always wondered about you two.

              BUFFY
              What? (makes a face) Oh, gross, Spike! (Spike frowns) He left. I was depressed. Ergo vulnerability and, and bad kissing decisions.
              Back to Season 7, it's interesting to think how Buffy's relationships with Giles and Spike are also "about power" and who's willing to cede control to Buffy's authority in the end. Buffy has to let go of Giles in Season 6 and navigates a complex power-dynamic with Spike in Season 6 where she "behaved like a monster... [used him]... And at the same time, I let him completely take me over." By Season 7, Buffy's broken free of Giles and she's worked her way through the power-exchanges with Spike. Now she's back in control in the relationship and retained the moral high ground, and Spike readily falls in line with her leadership.

              From a macro perspective, I'm also considering how Madonna!Buffy and Christ!Spike in the metaphysical world building. I'm wondering how far it goes beyond queuing up Spike's sacrifice to destroy the Hellmouth and Buffy's moral authority as the Head of the New Slayer Church now that the Council's been blown up (say hello, matriarchy!).
              Last edited by Emmie; 02-03-20, 12:53 AM.
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              • I’d love to know SpuffyGlitz’s thoughts on this idea I’ve had (not that I’m claiming it’s wildly original).

                The last thing we see in BY is Spike on the cross. We never see him taken down or rescued from it. In fact, in the very next episode we hear that Buffy ran off because she was frightened by him.

                So he then spends the rest of the season metaphorically suspended, racked with guilt and contrition. It’s a very Hitchockian device.
                You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

                "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018

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                • Okay I'm just flagging up to everyone signed up to review (and for those generally wanting to join in the discussions) that as Cheese Slices has kindly agreed to join us and get us going again with STSP going up on the weekend of the 27th March, the dates have all been reworked for fortnightly reviews after that.

                  Please prepare your reviews so that they can be posted within the weekend that they are due. This allows a couple of weeks for people to read/respond/discuss the episode before we move on to the next. For ease of reference, spoilered below is the new scheduling for the season (as it appears on the first post of the thread). If anyone knows they will have a problem with their scheduled review weekend, please let me know. As always, links to the different reviews will be added to the first post of this thread, under the spoiler there, as they go up. Just to help you jump around the thread.

                  Looking forward to continuing.
                  Spoiler:
                  7.03 Same Time, Same Place - Cheese Slices (27 Mar)
                  7.04 Help - flow (10 Apr)
                  7.05 Selfless - Willow from Buffy (24 Apr)
                  7.06 Him - Andrew S. (8th May)
                  7.07 Conversations with Dead People - DanSlayer (22 May)
                  7.08 Sleeper - Tiny Tabby (05 Jun)
                  7.09 Never Leave Me - Sosa (19 Jun)
                  7.10 Bring on the Night - ghoststar (03 Jul)
                  7.11 Showtime - Clavus (17 Jul)
                  7.12 Potential - KofC (31 Jul)
                  7.13 The Killer in Me - Stoney (14 Aug)
                  7.14 First Date - debbicles (28 Aug)
                  7.15 Get it Done - BtVS fan (11 Sep)
                  7.16 Storyteller - PuckRobin (25 Sep)
                  7.17 Lies My Parents Told Me - MikeB (09 Oct)
                  7.18 Dirty Girls - Rihannon (23 Oct)
                  7.19 Empty Places - bespangled (06 Nov)
                  7.20 Touched - StateOfSiege (20 Nov)
                  7.21 End of Days - DeepBlueJoy (04 Dec)
                  7.22 Chosen - American Aurora (18 Dec)

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                  • Hey, everyone! I wanted to post this here because I feel I owe the thread a direct update -- really sorry for the lack of word from me. I've not been frequenting the site for a while now owing to personal difficulties I've been facing in RL for months now, since around the start of 2020 (I’ve shared in confidence the reasons with Stoney and flow, who have been incredibly kind.) I see there's been a complete overhaul of the site itself in the meawhile! Getting used to the new navigation, but I’m so glad it's stayed alive, will gladly donate anything I can to keep it thriving, as this is my favourite online Buffy forum ever - I love this community so much. I’m trying to get back to an earlier equilibrium and being more active on the site again.

                    Most importantly, best wishes to everyone during the current Covid-19 pandemic.. I hope everyone can stay safe during this bizarre, unsettling time!

                    I'm looking fwd to the rewatch continuing and I’ll be placing the remainder of BY in spoilers hopefully soon (without interfering with the next review's date, but I will check with Stoney first.)

                    And I’m really looking forward to replying to some of the awesome responses/posts on this thread -- Stoney, American Aurora, SoS, flow, vampmogs, WfB, Tiny Tabby, Cheese Slices, HardlyThere, debbicles, Pricey, apologies to everyone else I haven't mentioned - and a very warm hello to Emmie! So glad you've enjoyed my thoughts so far (I love the article you wrote on the church scene in BY! Really eye-opening and fascinatingly insightful!) This forum has really inspiring reviews that drew me to it in the first place, and I am absolutely loving your thoughts on this episode (and in general), as well as in relation to the character dynamics! Fab analysis of the colour schematics and the character journeys! I'll say more in my response but for now, just want to say how much I appreciate all your posts! And a general hello to everyone, including Rihannon! Really looking fwd to Cheese Slices ’s review of STSP next! All good wishes to everyone on the forum, I hope everyone stays fine.
                    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 20-03-20, 02:41 AM.
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                    • Stoney
                      Stoney commented
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                      Yes, fantastic to see you back with us SpuffyGlitz.

                    • debbicles
                      debbicles commented
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                      Fantastic to see you back, just ease yourself in. If it’s worthwhile it’s worth waiting for. And I second the best health wishes to everyone on the forum.

                    • Emmie
                      Emmie commented
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                      Glad you're back and thank you for the warm welcome to the discussion!

                  • SpuffyGlitz, it’s so wonderful to see you back! I can utterly relate since I was equally swamped right in the middle of Seeing Red by numerous personal and professional problems. I’m excited that the rewatch is starting again and I hope to finish Seeing Red in the Season Six thread and get caught up on all the rewatches In the next three weeks now that I’ve got nothing but time. In particular, I can’t wait to dive into your incredible review - there are so many things I loved about it. Your review is an embarrassment of riches and surely one of the best reviews ever on Buffy Forum!

                    But don’t just post in a spoiler - I think you made placeholders for the last parts of your review and it would be great if you could not only post the last part in a Spoiler Tag wherever we might be in Season Seven but also go back and put it in consecutive order where you left off if you can fit it in case anyone is just strolling through the thread and comes upon your review - they might not know that Stoney starts each thread with links to all sections and miss your analysis of THAT final scene. Something I’ve been looking forward to for some time!

                    I wouldn’t worry about interrupting the rewatch thread too much - we always have a little back and forth as some people come late to the party and respond to two or three rewatches in a row. Since we’re not quite past Beneath You, it’ll be great to discuss how the last part of your episode connects to the next and so on no matter when you feel ready to jump in again - I like the all encompassing thoughts about Season Seven just as much and I love how you tie Beneath You to so many other episodes.

                    Hope things are better and come back soon!

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                    • I agree that placing the missing parts where you had the placeholders so that it falls in alongside your earlier parts would be ideal. You can then just post a link back to them as a current 'new' post in the thread. If this is done either before STSP is posted (due the weekend of 27th March) or directly after that is put up, I don't think it really matters. Before would be great as we have a week now before STSP is due, but as there will obviously be an overlap of discussions between the two please just don't stress about that at all if it isn't possible. As they are consecutive episodes I'm really not worried about that degree of crossover of discussion between the two eps.

                      So pleased to have you back with us again.

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                      • HI everyone, I hope you are all well and keeping your cool, for those who are under lockdown like yours truly
                        It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me, mainly but not limited to actually catching the damn virus, and I've been very busy balancing both work and study. Thus I might need additional time for the review, though I'll try to power through it tomorrow night. If I do need the delay, will it be too bothersome ? I'm really sorry to be all bail-girl, but it's going to be a little complicated to do something decent otherwise. Let me know if you're okay with it.

                        Oh, and welcome back SpuffyGlitz !
                        What a challenge, honesty
                        What a struggle to learn to speak
                        Who would've thought that pretending was easier

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                        • flow
                          flow commented
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                          I'm so sorry to hear you've been ill. Please take care of yourself and get well soon!

                        • SpuffyGlitz
                          SpuffyGlitz commented
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                          Hey Cheese Slices! ) First of all, take really good care— this is such a difficult time and I hope you're doing better. I am *really looking fwd to your review, but no rush or pressure of course <3

                        • American Aurora
                          American Aurora commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Cheese Slices,

                          I’m sorry that you’re suffering from this awful thing - hopefully you’ll feel better soon and the symptoms abate quickly. Having spoken with someone on the phone who has just tested positive for the virus, I know it’s stressful to deal with something like this. Take care of yourself, try to slack off work temporarily and take Vitamin C (which seems to have a beneficial effect if you have it). Really excited to see your review whenever you’re feeling better!

                      • Originally posted by Cheese Slices View Post
                        HI everyone, I hope you are all well and keeping your cool, for those who are under lockdown like yours truly
                        It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me, mainly but not limited to actually catching the damn virus, and I've been very busy balancing both work and study. Thus I might need additional time for the review, though I'll try to power through it tomorrow night. If I do need the delay, will it be too bothersome ? I'm really sorry to be all bail-girl, but it's going to be a little complicated to do something decent otherwise. Let me know if you're okay with it.
                        Hey Cheese Slices. How horrible to have actually caught it, and I imagine pretty alarming. I hope you didn't fall for a very negative experience and assume that you are reasonably well again now?

                        Seriously, it doesn't come across as if you are just bailing on the original dates. It's totally understandable that this has thrown things out of whack for you and as you were jumping in and looking to produce a review at very short notice for us in the first place, there is no problem with giving you some more time. As this is a restart point it won't disrupt anything and just causes an initial reschedule that we can then aim to stick to. So, would it be better to simply push the dates on a week or two to just give you clear breathing space and a new date to aim for? In the circumstances I think it is more than justifiable. I appreciate that you want to produce something that you are happy with and really am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the episode.

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                        • Originally posted by Stoney View Post

                          Hey Cheese Slices. How horrible to have actually caught it, and I imagine pretty alarming. I hope you didn't fall for a very negative experience and assume that you are reasonably well again now?

                          Seriously, it doesn't come across as if you are just bailing on the original dates. It's totally understandable that this has thrown things out of whack for you and as you were jumping in and looking to produce a review at very short notice for us in the first place, there is no problem with giving you some more time. As this is a restart point it won't disrupt anything and just causes an initial reschedule that we can then aim to stick to. So, would it be better to simply push the dates on a week or two to just give you clear breathing space and a new date to aim for? In the circumstances I think it is more than justifiable. I appreciate that you want to produce something that you are happy with and really am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the episode.
                          Thank you (and everyone). I'm feeling better, it's mostly down to coughing now.
                          And that would be perfect ! I think one more week is enough, but really it's up to you. Just let me now when you've settled for a date.
                          In the meantime, everyone take care
                          What a challenge, honesty
                          What a struggle to learn to speak
                          Who would've thought that pretending was easier

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                          • Originally posted by Cheese Slices View Post
                            And that would be perfect ! I think one more week is enough, but really it's up to you. Just let me now when you've settled for a date.
                            In the meantime, everyone take care
                            Glad to hear you are feeling a lot better.

                            I've moved the dates on by two weeks so that there isn't any pressure. Also, I thought that as there was the chance that we would be finishing BY as well as discussing STSP before Help, the extra space would probably be useful anyway. So, if you do find that you have STSP ready for next weekend, then please do post, but don't worry if it takes you through to the following weekend.

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